Category Archives: wineries

Closure kerfluffle

The Italian winery Allegrini, a reliable go-to for quality wine from the Veneto region, has announced their plans to close their bottles of Valpolicella Classico DOC with screwcaps this year, according to a Wine Spectator Online article. Unfortunately, because of silly Italian wine regulations restricting what wines can get what kind of closure, Allegrini will have to de-classify their wine to a mere Valpolicella, an appellation with less restrictions (and thus usually lower quality).

Franco Allegrini comments in the article that he’s not sure in screwcap closures are better for wines meant to be drunk young, like their Valpolicella, but that they have to use much less sulfur in the wine when they use screwcaps. This reduction of intervention would generally be thought of as a good thing, and it’s a shame that the Italian wine regulators are so hidebound to their outmoded traditions that they can’t see the advantage of modern closure technology.

Allegrini will probably get less for their wine, bottling it with screwcaps as Valpolicella, than they would bottling it with corks as Valpolicella Classico. Co-owner Marilisa Allegrini thinks this will actually help, rather than hurt, the wine’s sales, considering the dollar’s activity these days.

Funny old world in which, when your country’s wine laws work against you, it can actually boost your sales.

Tasting Wichita Falls Sangiovese 2004

Wichita Falls Sangiovese 2004Oregon family came to visit for Easter weekend, and bought some Texas wine for us all to enjoy together! I had never tasted this one, which they picked up at Specs for about $15.

Bright, clear red in the glass with soft corners. Rusty strawberry aromas, with some crushed strawberry leaves as well.

On the palate, hot strawberry syrup and some tart cranberry edge and some dirty green notes. Kind of a lipstick sidebar there in the attack (which is to say, at the beginning of the flavors when you taste). Not terribly acidic, but decently balanced between acid and tannin. Very competent other than the chemically floral note.

Wichita Falls is located far to the north of me in Texas, almost in Oklahoma. Most of the truly great grapes being grown in Texas right now are from the northern growing areas, especially around the Panhandle plains. Wines with the Wichita Falls label are from 100% Texas grapes; the winery also produces wines under the Gates label, which are blends of Texas and California fruit.

Alton Gates and his wife Lana founded their Wichita Falls Vineyards & Winery in 2002, having begun planting vines they bought in California back in 1997. Armed with only a few oenology classes from Grayson County College and a Texas-sized sense of adventure, they now produce about 15 wines between their two labels. They currently grow Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Ruby Cabernet, Zinfandel, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. Typical for Texas, their most popular wine is a sweet red blended from Zinfandel, Cabernet and Sangiovese.

Their straight Sangiovese is varietally correct, though, and a very drinkable wine that would pair well with pasta or barbecue chicken. If you’re in Texas and you can find it (again, Specs y’all), I recommend giving it a whirl.

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

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