Wine Reviews: Valentine’s Selections

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 02-04-2023

Six more weeks of winter is the call. And it seems the groundhog ritual came up right this time, as much of the country was hit with a solid burst of cold air. I’m looking forward to spending some time outdoors this weekend (I love the cold), slow-cooking some pork, and popping some Rioja or a red Burgundy while catching up with friends. I hope your weekend is full of some warmth and wintry deliciousness as well.

Credit: Catena Zapata

With Valentine’s Day on the way, some of you may be stocking up, buying gifts, or just looking for something fun or exciting to open. So, this week I have a round-up of recent samples for your consideration. From bubbles

I love Malbec from Argentina, but not as much as Laura Catena. Her family’s estate, Catena Zapata, has been producing thrilling Malbecs from high elevation sites for many years. Laura recently published a book, “Malbec Mon Amour,” with oenologist Alejandro Vigil, a love letter to wine and the Malbec grape that combines beautiful writing with maps, photos, history, geology, conversations, and travel writing. It’s enjoyable and easy to breeze through, but also packed with detailed information and insights, and contains such an awesome introduction from Laura Catena that I have to share: “To the land of Mendoza and its inhabitants. And to the bees, owls, skunks, insects, plants and microbes whose generosity allows us to grow vines year after year.” I just love that. This book would be a great gift for lovers of Malbec, Argentina, or wine in general.  And I’d highly suggest reading it while sipping some Catena Zapata wines, three of which are featured this week.

I’ve also included some bubbles (of course) of the value-driven variety, and some German pinks because, well, it’s always a great time for rosé. And I have a few Italian reds to warm things up just right.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2019 Catena Zapata Malbec Catena Alta Historic Rows Argentina, Mendoza
SRP: $58
Deep purple with a suave, juicy nose showing blackberries, black cherry and currant jam, along with complex tones of tilled soil, mint, leather, black pepper and mocha – a lot going on. Suave feel on the palate with smooth tannins and crisp acidity. A nice mix of ripe blackberries and tangy blueberries and plum pie, along with cool elements of potting soil, anise, tobacco, mint and tar. Very pretty mouthfeel and the nuance in the earthy, rocky, spicy stuff is delightful. Drinking great now but will have a lot more to show in three to five. (93 points IJB)

2019 Catena Zapata Malbec Nicasia Vineyard Argentina, Mendoza, Valle de Uco, Altamira
SRP $100
Dark purple color. Dark but inviting aromas of black currant jam, saucy dark plums, roasted figs, with all sorts of non-fruit goodness going on: rocky earth, potting soil, violets, mint, mocha, etc. Grippy but fresh on the palate, the acidity is so lively, and the wine gushes with lush but precise plums and cassis. The mineral, iron and earth tones are delicious, supported by tones of dried violets, chewing tobacco, nuanced oak and vanilla also accent the wine well. This wine does a great job expressing that deep, vibrant, stony Mendoza Malbec mystique. Keep this one buried for three or four years, or just go hedonistic and share with a friend and a really good cut of meat. (94 points IJB)

2020 Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino Argentina, Mendoza
SRP $100
Dark purple color. Deep, concentrated aromas, but there’s so much life in here as well, with tart blackberries, plum sauce, complexities of eucalyptus, spiced black tea, black pepper, violets, dark chocolate, iron and pencil shavings. The palate shows gorgeous focus and concentration, with fine-grained tannic structure and racy acidity. Tart currants, black cherries, laced with smoky earth, dried roses and violets, clove, eucalyptus, mint, even some soy and mushroom hints. The mouthfeel and complexity are just lovely. Lots of aging potential here, or give it air and sip over two days and I can’t imagine someone not loving this. (94 points IJB)

2020 Bertani Ripasso della Valpolicella Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella, Ripasso della Valpolicella
SRP: $32
Vibrant ruby color. Young but expressive on the nose with currants, dark plums, raspberry jam, with complex tones of rose petals, anise, bay leaf, paprika and leather – lots of cool, savory, inviting tones. Bright acidity and dusty tannins, it’s balanced well and accessible but solid. Tart red currants and fig paste fruit blend with mulling spices, pepper, clay, fallen leaves and anise. Fresh, forest-y, savory, and a ton of fun. This baby Amarone packs a lot of punch and depth for the price, and is a pleasant accompaniment to any cold evening or braised meat dishes. (90 points IJB)

2019 San Felice Chianti Classico Il Grigio Riserva Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico DOCG
SRP: $26
Deep ruby color. The nose shows stewed plums and bright currant jam, along with spiced tea, charcoal, chewing tobacco and some floral potpourri. The palate sports dusty tannins and fresh acidity on a well-balanced frame with juicy black cherries and tangy red currants. The fruit is tossed nicely with violets, tar, library dust (in a good way) with light roast coffee and earthy vibes. Accessible but nice complexity, this is a delightful wine to open with your best homemade pasta dish. (89 points IJB)

2018 Reichsrat Von Buhl Rosé Sekt Brut Germany, Pfalz
SRP: $43
Deep salmon color. The nose is bright but deep with watermelon, white peaches and lemons, along with rose petals, white pepper, mint and basil tones, with chalky, biscuity goodness. The palate is crisp and taut but shows nice depth and texture. Watermelon, raspberries and lemons, with honey, biscuits, chalk dust, crushed limestone, with floral and flinty tones. Crunchy, vibrant and lively, offers a lot of complexity and it’s a ton of German Pinot sparkling fun. (90 points IJB)

2020 Meyer-Näkel Rosé Spätburgunder Ahr Rosé Germany, Ahr
SRP: $30
Medium salmon color. The aromas show juicy raspberries and tart white cherries, along with plenty of white flowers and chalk dust, some honeysuckle, crushed limestone and flinty elements. The palate is super racy, but the texture shows pleasant creaminess throughout, with raspberry, white cherry and watermelon fruit. Focused, bright, with complex tones of sea salt, chalk dust, limestone and dried white flowers. A delicious and versatile German rosé that would please most any palate. At the price, and considering this will age, I’d but a six pack in a minute. (91 points IJB)

N.V. Vilarnau Cava Brut Reserva Spain, Cava
SRP: $15
Rich yellow color. The nose sports yellow pears and apples, with white flowers, biscuits, chalk dust, some nougat and graham cracker crumbs, too. The palate shows a creamy texture with crisp acidity, and flavors of pears and yellow apples, drizzled with lime. The subtle notes of brioche, honey and almond add a pleasant depth, and the finish is chalky and salty. Really solid for the price. Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel.lo. (87 points IJB)

N.V. Vilarnau Cava Brut Reserva Rosé Spain, Cava
SRP: $15
Light salmon color. The nose shows crunchy McIntosh apples, watermelon, over some sugarcane, hay, honey and yellow flowers. Bright, tart and crunchy with red apples, watermelon and lemon, with some talk, floral perfume, white pepper, and honeysuckle. Fun, fresh, a solid value, crowd-pleasing Cava. Garnacha with 15% Pinot Noir. (87 points IJB)

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