Category Archives: wineries

Tasting Veramonte Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Veramonte Rsv SB 07Trying to clear out the fridge, readying the kitchen for the remodel, so thought I’d cook an old stand-by on Sunday, greek chickpeas with spinach. This is a great, cheap, quick meal that I can just eat forever. Served it on brown rice with petite peas, topped with feta cheese.

On the way back from the grocery store (just for the feta, I swear) I stopped by World Market, having been told one too many times that they have great prices on wine. They were having a tasty little sale on about 50 wines, 10% off when you buy 4. The selection is just as I recalled it being, rather pedestrian, but with a few interesting points. They did have a neat selection of Texas wines, impressively.

I picked up a South African Chenin Blanc for $8.99 and this Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc for $9.99. Also a lovely throw pillow for half-price. I won’t be reviewing the latter. I was on the fence as to which wine to drink with dinner; the Chenin Blanc would have the roundness and body to stand up to creamy flavors like chickpea and feta, but the dish is really lemony, with tomatoes and spinach, which made me lean in the direction of the SB. As it turns out, the pairing couldn’t have been better.

Almost completely clear in color, maybe only slightly straw-tinged. Bright, zesty aromas of passionfruit, grapefruit and melon. Hints of floral notes and a big grassy shalamazzama. Driving, intense acidity on the palate with steroid-pumped lemons and grand swaths of green grassy flavors. And, oddly, you know that strangely mellow bite of a really unripe banana? That, too.

Greek chickpeas with spinachThe wine went well with the chickpeas; the spritziness met the lemon in the dish, and the herbal character winds up around the spinach and shows it how to jig. I had expected some trouble from the feta, but it all came out very nicely, as did the creamy flavor of the chickpeas. We stay with an overall lemon flavor, very pleasant, after the jubilee’s all done.

Veramonte is a Chilean winery, founded in 1996 by Agustin Huneeus. You may recognize him as the founder of Concha y Toro, Franciscan, Estancia and Quintessa. All now belong to large corporations except for Veramonte and Quintessa. Veramonte is a really reliable, inexpensive wine brand that nearly always delivers. Their Sauvignon Blanc is well-known and quite delicious all the dang time. One thing about wines from the Southern Hemisphere to keep in mind, especially in the case of Sauvignon Blanc which you almost always want to be young, is that they’re on the opposite seasonal schedule from us northerners. Thus if you’re shopping for Chilean SB in February of 2008 in Texas, 2007 is just right. 2006 will do, 2005 is a bit past it, and 2004 is OK only in a pinch.

In any case, I’ve spent $10 a lot worse this week, and so will you, unless you spend it on this lovely, wrought-iron delicate Sauvignon Blanc.

Tasting Yarden Odem Vineyard Organic Chardonnay 2005

Yarden Chardonnay 05I received this wine as a sample for tasting. I’ve had Yarden before and enjoyed it, but that was a long time ago – before I had really started learning about wine.

Bright gold in color. Nose of butter, honey, hazelnut and cream. Woodsy on the palate, with candied apple, tropical flavors and rounded creamy tones. Slight bitter astringency from oak tannins, a hint of copper penny minerality and a lingering finish of Golden Delicious apple.

Yarden and pork loinI was hoping that this might pair well with maple-glazed roast pork loin with rosemary that I had planned for that evening, and I whipped up some creamed spinach and creamy polenta with garlicky mushrooms. I rarely prepare Cooks Illustrated recipes, as they are usually complicated despite their relative perfection. This pork loin, however, looked quite simple and seemed to result in a minimum of pans to clean. Of course, I mucked that up for myself by making those two side dishes, but there you are.

Pork Loin dinner plateThe Chardonnay took the pork easily, and the rosemary was felicitous, but the maple syrup glaze brings a candied element to the wine. The wine was divine with the creamed spinach; creamy flavors met buttery wine, and the spinach tasted clean but without bitterness. The polenta was an interesting pairing; the oak tannins quarreled with the corn flavors, but the parmesan was oddly OK with it all. It was kind of like the stereotypical Italian family, where yelling is the norm but no one takes it wrong.

The Galilee region of Israel is the northernmost wine appellation in the country, and the coolest growing region. The Odem Vineyard has been farmed organically since 1998, and is located at an elevation of slightly under 4,000 feet.

Israel, of course, has been making wine since time immemorial. One big blip in this millenia of history was when Baron Edmond Rothschild aided a group of Jewish immigrants to Israel in 1882 by sponsoring their attempt to found a winery. They struggled for a while, but in the end Rothschild built two wineries in Israel. His son donated the wineries back to the growers cooperative in 1957.

Israeli vineyards started modernizing in the 70s, and now owe more to California than they do to France; this Chardonnay is certainly testament to that.  Golan Heights Winery, which produces Yarden as well as two other labels of wine in Israel, is one of the houses that’s lead the charge to bring the entire industry up to world standards.  I’d say they’re there.

Tasting Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

Found this wine at the Cowboy Steakhouse in Kerrville, a city I rarely visit except during the Folk Festival. Fredericksburg is really my Hill Country dining destination of choice, but when I saw in Kerrville’s dining brochure that this restaurant had the most extensive wine list in the Hill Country, I just had to go.

Truth in advertising, y’all. I could have been more impressed by the food (my strip steak was correctly cooked to temp but could have been more much flavorful), but the wine list at the Cowboy Steakhouse is really impressively extensive. According to their website, they’ve got over 600 labels on the list, and that’s quite plausible based on the list I saw. They also have multiple verticals (a collection of the same wine from many different years), some dating back to the 80s. The Ferris family has been in the restaurant business since 1977, so I suppose all that collecting could have happened slowly and over time. At least I hope so, or I hope they have pockets as deep as Micheal Bloomburg.

Leeuwin 97 CSAfter dithering extensively over the pages and pages of wine available, I found a 1997 Cabernet from Leeuwin Estate in the Margaret River district. They make the best Australian white wines I’ve ever tasted, but I confess I had never been blown away by their Cab. Nonetheless, I was excited to find this aged red on the wine list for only $59.

Great deep black ruby in color; little no brick red on the edges. First up in the glass, menthol, redfruits, pine tar and cassis show in the nose. The palate showed great smooth raspberry jam and a hint of red Swedish Fish. The finish of green tobacco and cigar box is remarkably smooth, with rounded, soft tannins.

As it opens up, a musky limburger aroma shows up and the menthol strengthens into eucalyptus and cedar. Some green olive scents are evident, as well. The palate develops into licorice and coffee, with kirsch, graphite, green pepper and black olive. The flavors are exceptionally well-integrated. With steak, even the smooth tannins recede, and a cocoa-cassis syrup element peeks around the corner.

Leeuwin Estate was part of Robert Mondavi’s  attempt to break into the Australian wine region in 1972.  Dennis and Tricia Horgan founded this winery, located in arguably the best wine region in the country, with Mondavi’s guidance.  They have three labels: “Siblings,” meant for drinking young, “Prelude,” meant for drinking within a few years of release, and “Art Series,” meant for aging.

The winemaker’s notes predict an aging period of 7-10 years, but the 1997 Leeuwin Cabernet Sauvignon is in its prime at eleven years and counting. If you can find any (and it looked like the Cowboy Steakhouse had about 10 bottles left), I suggest you run, don’t walk, for a corkscrew.

Label image lifted from http://www.leeuwinestate.com.au/

Tasting Pellegrini Family Vineyards

I heartily recommend the Saturday tastings at the Austin Wine Merchant. They’re free and feature interesting, stylish wines that you probably haven’t heard of or tasted before. I have a slight infatuation with the shop right now, I’ll admit, which will likely fade as I start putting out my wine shop feelers closer to my new workplace, Anderson and Mopac. Yes, I know: Grapevine. We’ll see; I could have been much more impressed the last time I was there.

I tasted 6 wines at the AWM last Saturday, all from the Pellegrini Family Vineyards in California. Robert Pellegrini and Moreno Panelli were there, representing the winery, as was Alison Smith of Texacali Wine Company, who represents Pellegrini in Texas. Ali is a fellow blogger, writing about her experience running her small wine sales and marketing business at the Texacali Wine Trail. She’s a charming woman who reps an interesting portfolio, and it was a pleasure to meet her.

Wines are listed in order of tasting: Continue reading

Winebat Tales: Australia

This was my first Winebat blind tasting since I started coming off of the cedar fever, and at the end of the night I didn’t think I was really 100%, olfactory-wise. Damon really Brought It as far as wines in this tasting, and none of them really blew me away.

Since we were tasting wines from a region, rather than a single varietal, we did a flight of whites and a flight of reds. This was a neat exercise in blind tasting to detect varietal, and I did medium-OK considering my nasal handicap. Wines listed in order of preference within each flight: Continue reading

Tasting Tablas Creek Vermentino 2006

I got a Tablas Creek VINsider club membership for Xmas from my beloved this year, and couldn’t resist opening one bottle of the six right away, because I’m undisciplined like that.

Tablas Creek VermentinoPale straw in color. Very, very green on the nose, with a slight copper penny whiff of mineral, and lots of lime zest and honeydew melon.

Lovely minerality and acid on the palate, with prickles on the sides of my tongue. Delicate herbal flavors of chive and thyme, with lemon/lime-coated honeydew and green apple. Exceptionally refreshing and well-balanced. A great quencher of a wine, with lots of style. Yum.

Tablas Creek Vineyards was founded in California’s Paso Robles region by the Perrin family, famous winemakers of Chateau de Beaucastel, the iconic Chateauneuf de Pape, as well as other great Rhone wines, and Robert Haas, a highly influential American importer. They imported all their vines from the Rhone, and all of their wines are made from estate-grown fruit. They also farm organically and have a minimalistic approach to winemaking, meaning they try to fiddle with the wine to the least amount possible. General Manager Jason Haas has a blog, and posts interesting stuff a couple times a week on average.

The grape Vermentino is best known as an Italian varietal, grown all over the country but with distinction in Tuscany, Liguria and Sardinia.  It’s thought to have been brought over from Spain in the Middle Ages.  In southern France, the same grape is called Rolle, and vinified in Provence and Corsica, the latter of which is really well-known for its great Vermentino-based wines.

When Tablas Creek was purchasing vines from the Perrin’s source in France to import to America and grow in Paso Robles, the nurseryman recommended that they also purchase some Vermentino, as he thought it would thrive in the rocky, limestone-rich soils (which makes me wish some Hill Country winery would plant them some Vermentino.  Spicewood Vineyards?  Are you listening?).

Tablas Creek originally tried to blend the Vermentino into their other whites, but the wine was so distinctive that they ended up bottling it by itself.   They bottle all their Vermentino with a Stelvin closure (which is a fancy kind of screwcap).  The minerality makes it a great pairing for shellfish and the citrus and herbal qualities make it a natural for Mediterranean cuisine as well.  A little pricey at $21 or so, the wine was impressively well-made and it was interesting to taste a US Vermentino, for sure.  If you’re into obscure varietals and you don’t mind plunking $20+ for a light, refreshing, sporty white, this is your bottle fa shizz.

Wine Blogging Wednesday #41: Friuli Whites

I really didn’t want to get a Pinot Grigio for this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday tasting of Friuli-Venezie Giulia whites, hosted by Fork & Bottle. I know that if they make Pinot Grigio well anywhere in Italy, it’s in Friuli, but still. There are all these other interesting white wines coming from this region, not the least of which is Tocai Friulino. I’d been reading all about them in Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy, the book we’re reading right now in our Wine Book Club. And then, two things happened.

Italo Cescon Pinot Grigio 2006First, I decided that my unreasoning, stubborn resistance to Pinot Grigio, even when I knew it would be well made and really interesting to drink, is unnecessary and stupid. Great wine is great wine, no matter how many people make plonk from the same grape all over the place. Second, I saw this adorable bottle with its cute little twig wrapped up in ribbon and a strong recommendation from the wine buyer at Specs. Cute, almost definitely good, and cheap? Italo Cescon Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave DOC 2006 here we come!

The twig, by the way, called a tralcetto in Italian, is attached to the bottle as a tribute to patriarch Italo’s grandmother Anna, who had a practice of keeping a bit of dead grapevine in her pocket after harvest as a remembrance of the vine’s rebirth in the spring. Or at least, that’s what the back label said.

Anyway, here goes tasting wine with one nostril tied behind my back: Continue reading