Wine Reviews: Bodegas Numanthia

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 01-24-2015

If you know Toro, you know Bodegas Numanthia. This estate’s bruiser reds have received praise from many respected voices in the wine world. And, when you taste the wines, it’s easy to understand why they engender so much excitement.

These wines come out slugging. They’re not shifty boxers, they’re fat heavyweights who lean on their opponents and knock them out with single punches to the temple. The intense power and concentration in these wines demands attention. But by their nature, they lack the finesse, sleekness, elegance.

So, I tasted these three wines sighted, and then left them for 24 hours before re-tasting. All three are incredibly young, and they showed much better after being open a full day, when they started to calm down (relatively speaking).

I appreciate these wines. I admire the guts and glory approach. In this weight division, Numanthia is a titleholder. And in these cold winter months, decanting one of these bad boys by the fire sounds great.

If you want to experience all the brute force, drink the Termes now. My personal preference would be to cellar them all for at least three years, the Termanthia much longer.

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Wine Reviews: Tasty Values from Bulgaria

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 01-17-2015

Bulgarian’s Thracian Valley is home to a wide array of wines that can be as impressive as they are inexpensive. “It’s no longer that crap they used to sell to Russia by the millions,” a Bulgarian vintner once told me.


I recently tasted through the lineup from a relatively new project called Parallel 43, a Virginia-based importer and wholesaler focused on promoting Bulgarian wines. It can’t be easy trying to convince consumers to drink Bulgarian Mavrud, but, for the adventurous and value-minded, there’s a lot to like coming out of the Thracian Valley.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

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Wine Reviews: Zinfandel

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 01-10-2015

I know conventional wisdom is to pair Zinfandel with the grilled foods of summer. But Zinfandel also works perfectly for these short, cold days here in the mid-Atlantic. Sure these wines are rich and fruity, but the good ones provide a lot of other elements to contemplate. And when I pour a quality Zinfandel for my casual wine drinking friends, the results are near unanimous excitement.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind. Read the rest of this entry »

Much Love for Mendocino – Malbec

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 01-03-2015

If you’ve ever read an article about Mendocino wine, it probably falls into one of two standard formats: “Anderson Valley Pinot is Really Good” or “Apparently They Grow Something Other Than Weed in Mendocino — Who’da Thunk It?”

Yes, Anderson Valley winemakers are producing some amazing Pinot Noir, not to mention Chardonnay, Syrah, sparkling wine and more. Yes, Mendocino County is home to some sublime marijuana. But the land itself is too massive and varied to be pigeonholed.

Mendocino County is a place that demands awe and thought — same goes for the wine. It’s more remote, more rugged, more untamed. The redwoods are bigger and the turns more vertigo-inducing. We’re talking further north, past the exits most tourists take into Napa or Sonoma. But to miss out on Mendocino is to miss out on some exciting wines and some stunning country.

On one of several Mendocino trips, I spent some time with my brother and his in-laws in Potter Valley, a relatively remote appellation that is home to a bunch of unique Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. One day I got up well before dawn and drove through the redwoods and mountains toward the ocean. I explored some of the many pristine, empty and frigid surf breaks on the Mendocino coast and surfed until I couldn’t move my lips. On the way inland, I stopped to warm up at a few wineries, including Yorkville Cellars, located in the rocky hills of the Yorkville Highlands appellation.

Rennie Vineyard. Used with permission: Yorkville Cellars

Rennie Vineyard. Used with permission: Yorkville Cellars

Here, just north of the Sonoma County line, Yorkville specializes in Bordeaux varietal wines and blends, producing a diverse array of bottles for a total of some 1,000 cases each year. I enjoyed the wines thoroughly and have fond memories of the visit.

Several years and Mendocino trips later, I was excited to receive four sample bottles from Yorkville Cellars: all Malbecs, all from the same vineyard, all completely different styles. These four Malbecs all hail from the Rennie Vineyard, located at 1,000 feet above sea level, which is planted to all the main Bordeaux varieties, plus Carmenere. Despite my love for Mendocino wine, I’d never tasted a Malbec before, but I was pleasantly surprised by these. And I think producing four takes on single-vineyard Malbec speaks to the unique and adventurous spirit of many Mendocino winemakers.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2013 Yorkville Cellars Malbec Brut Rosé Rennie Vineyard
SRP: $36
Bright cherry-copper colored. Nose of white cherries, roses, chalk and sea breeze. On the palate this is fresh and bright and tangy yet it shows a rounded texture. Flavors of cherries and wild strawberries play off of chalky, floral and oceanic elements, with hints of toasted biscuits. A very pretty bubbly, and a great pairing with sushi. One of the more distinctive interesting domestic sparklers I’ve tasted in a while.

2013 Yorkville Cellars Malbec Vin d’Une Nuit Rennie Vineyard
SRP: $22
A bright strawberry color with a slight fizz. Nose: white cherries, wild strawberries, a bright sea breeze and seashell note as well, some roses. Bright and tangy on the palate, a clean feel but also bursting with fruit (strawberry, white cherry, McIntosh apple). Crisp, clean, would cut through all sorts of food, provides a lot of refreshment, but also some ripe fruit. Herbal, oceanic and mineral elements add complexity. You don’t see many of them, but I’m thinking this Malbec rosé idea is working. This one gets about 20 hours of skin contact.

2012 Yorkville Cellars Malbec Rennie Vineyard
SRP: $30
Deep ruby color. Nose is bold and inviting, blackberries, dark plums, boysenberry, some light roast coffee. On the palate this is bright but fleshy, with fine lightweight tannins and brisk acid. The blackberry, dark plum and blueberry fruit is tart and fresh, giving the wine a light presence, but there’s depth in here as well. Pure fruit, laced with notes of cocoa dust, dried rose petals, rose hips and balsamic glaze. Fresh and juicy and open for business. 17 months in seasoned French oak. As deep and loamy as a Mendoza Malbec, but with more bright, high-toned floral notes.

2013 Yorkville Cellars Malbec Sweet Malbec Rennie Vineyard
SRP: $22
A very light red color, like strawberries and cherry juice. On the nose, I get candied apple, sweet roses, cherry cola and raspberry jam. Full-bodied with a chewy mouthfeel, slight acid. Flavors of Thanksgiving spiced cranberry sauce, caramel apple, roses and clover honey, also some underlying dusty-earthy notes.  A juicy and rich presence but the flavors show nuance. Still cool and refreshing, but perhaps this style doesn’t lend itself to those more complex elements in the Rennie Malbec. A Malbec rosé with 10% alcohol and 7% residual sugar, cool fermented with no oak. I could see this being a huge hit at holiday parties.

There’s much more to love about Mendocino wine country, which I hope to explore in future posts.

Wine Reviews: California Pinot Noir

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-20-2014

Lots of winemakers from across California have praised the 2012 vintage. The more Pinot Noirs from 2012 I taste, the more I understand their excitement.

This report features a few exciting wines from 2012, as well as some from the leaner, tangier 2011 vintage, and a pair of late releases from 2009.

All these wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind unless otherwise noted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: New Zealand

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-13-2014

I don’t pay nearly enough attention to New Zealand wines. I’m only one person, and wine has many worlds in which to lose oneself. But I need to lose myself in New Zealand more often.

I’ve enjoyed many a New Zealand Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and the national staple variety, Sauvignon Blanc. The latter of which is a hit with pretty much every casual wine drinker I know, and I usually spot at least one Kiwi Sauv Blanc per house party. They’re inexpensive, tasty and almost always reliable. No wonder they’re all over the place.

This report features a range of wines from New Zealand, all of which were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

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Wine Reviews: Grab Bag of Italian Reds

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-06-2014

Every time I sit down to taste Italian wines, I think the same thing: Why don’t I buy and collect more Italian bottles? Sicily, Veneto, of course Tuscany, there are so many exciting wines and only one lifetime.

But now that it’s cold outside and dark by afternoon, and I find myself at home cooking a lot of hearty fall fare, vino rosso is a no-brainer.

This grab bag report focuses on a few interesting reds from Sicily, Tuscany and Veneto. All these wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

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Wine Reviews: Hourglass

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-29-2014

Hourglass 2012sNapa producer Hourglass has been turning out some exciting Bordeaux reds for years now, but in 2012 they really nailed it.

I recently tasted through Hourglass’ 2012 Cabernets during a group video chat with Jeff Smith and winemaker Tony Biagi. 2012 was Tony’s first full vintage for Hourglass, although he finished up the 2010s and 2011s after taking over from renowned winemaker Bob Foley. Tony arrived at a great time, as 2012 provided a consistent growing season and resulted in wines that show balance and depth. Biagi and Jeff Smith compare 2012’s tempered growing season to the much heralded 2001 vintage.

Hourglass reds are sourced from two vineyards, the Estate and Blueline. In the late 60s, Jeff’s father bought what would become the Estate vineyard, a six-acre site two miles north of St. Helena. A big fan of Zinfandel, he began growing his own, a lot of which went into Caymus’ wines. After his father passed away, Jeff replanted to this vineyard to Cabernet in the early 90s, and Hourglass pressed its first Cab in 1997. The project got off to a great start, as the wine garnered critical acclaim and Hourglass shoved its way into the crowded lineup of premium Napa Cabernets.

Hourglass acquired the Blueline Vineyard in 2006, and the vineyard team replanted many of the blocks in 2007. The 22-acre vineyard (south of the town of Calistoga) is planted to all five Bordeaux varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Malbec. (The Blueline Cab Franc, Merlot and Malbec from 2012 are also very well done.)

Jeff said he aims for “structural integration” in his reds. “The Holy Grail of Napa Cabernet,” he said, is harnessing that ripe fruit without giving up freshness, acidity and minerality. He wants ripe fruit without the wines “losing their tensional edge.” These 2012s have plenty of tension, not to mention fruit and staying power. I found all of these wines to be much more expressive on day two.
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Wine Reviews: Stinson Vineyards

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-22-2014

Stinson Vineyards is one of many small Virginia producers deserving some attention. For a handful of years now, Stinson has been putting out a bunch of exciting bottles that will challenge your conceptions about Virginia wine.

The wines are made by Rachel Stinson, who was interviewed here on Terroirist. “My ultimate goal is to make good, clean, commercially viable wine,” Rachel said. I think that’s a great way to describe them.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Cali Cabs & Merlots

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-15-2014

Since our last report on California Cabernets, we’ve received a lot of goodies, and some solid Merlots as well. Unsurprisingly, Napa steals the show, but this report features some impressive wines from other regions as well.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind. Read the rest of this entry »