Tag Archives: Marques de Murrieta

commentary recap


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“I love it when a plan comes together.”  An infamous line from an 80s TV show us dorky high school guys loved to quote.  In case you’re wondering, it was the A-Team.  And the character who said it was Hannibal Smith.  I’m finding my groove at PS, though I’ve a lot more to digest before my new boss, Mary, heads out to my favorite wine region, Washington State, to participate in the 2012 Road Trip WA Wine.  It’s a cool travelling shindig that let’s you hang out with some of Washington’s top winemakers.  She’s gonna have a blast.

Meanwhile, our badass wine staff is firing up the social media machine with our SM exec Tiernan Hogan back from sabbatical.  Another step in our plan for total global domination has been taken…

Wine Reviewed: 40 wines, 2 beers and 2 spirits

Wine of the Weeks: There were a lot of AMAZING wines but for me, those Domaine Eden reds kicked major ass!

Good news in the wine biz: My boss’ trip to WA comes on the heels of Washington State declaring this vintage almost perfect!  Plus Michel Rolland joins forces with Montesquieu Wines and Water to Wine to aid in efforts to provide clean water in Africa.

Bad news in the wine bizWhat Happened to New Zealand Pinot Noir?… it is definitely weird that NZ PN has pretty much evaporated on the shelves.  Lettie Teague examines this fairly ignored category here in the U.S.

Disturbing news in the wine biz: The French can be so testy when it comes to foreigners buying vineyards.

On the homefront: I am still adjusting to a more regimented schedule at work, which is good, believe me.  My wife is slowly noticing the difference, though I am still shifting into a-hole mode more than I should.  But it’s coming down.

I’ve been a lot less stressed as of late, and I have renewed my ambition to take the CWE (certified wine educator) and CS (certified sommelier) tests next year.  (NOTE:  I had planned to take the CWE this month but my recent life change put that on hold until next year, definitely.)  I’ve been thinking of going back to restauranting, serving part-time to get my on-premise groove back, and as my old cover band talks about a reunion (it’s been over 20 years since the original five of Perfect Tommy played together), I have been contemplating picking up my microphone and singing again.  This time, no talk of record deals – just going out to have fun, sing some songs, and get back on stage again.

Who knows?  This OND season promises to be busy, crazy, but a helluva lot of fun.  And no driving a beat-up Chester van around town this time!

What is on my playlist?: Lacuna Coil, Joe Bonnamassa, Oranthi, Halestorm, Ten Years, Tedeschi-Trucks

What wine(s) is (are) impressing me right now at the store?: Leonetti Sangiovese 2009, Cadence Coda 2008, Cousino-Macul Sauvignon Gris 2010, Marques de Murrieta Finca Ygay 2005

Recommended reads, blog or otherwise:  Just wine mags.

What’s on tap for this week?:  More tales from the Fabulous Maher Boys, some off site tastings, a visit from our friend Antonio from Altos las Hormigas, and kicking off Party Source’s new Friday in the Aisle Tastings!  Total domination, yo!


commentary recap


This week has been nothing short of what I believe warp speed is like.  For all you non-Trekkies out there, warp speed is what the starships travel at to get through large expanses of the universe in extremely short amounts of time.  It was as if I blinked once on Tuesday last week, and one more blink – BOOM!  It’s April 3rd!

In my professional life, I am trying to mend fences as it were, and putting to rest a lot of low-self-esteem demons.  I ran into a former colleague and still, good friend at the store over the weekend, and squashed the tales from certain folks that this person moved on because of me.  Now, I realize I can be a royal pain in the ass most of the time, but knowing that this person quit because of something I did has really haunted me.  The reason for this person’s departure was in fact, what makes most of us move on – money and opportunity.  A huge sense of relief hit me all day after talking with this person.  I have felt like a world-class prick for what has been going on 5, maybe 6 years.  And come review time, it has been eluded to me that I made this person head for the door.  Which has made the current situation with my current partner in the department all the more problematic.

Now, I have talked about how rough I have been on Shannon, and indeed it’s true.  It has been a really difficult adjustment.  I’ve worked in family businesses before, and have never seen them go anywhere but down.  Yet my attitude has become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, and quite frankly has made me pretty tired of it all.  So I have made some considerable efforts to meet Shannon half-way, and with any luck, I think we will finally start making for a good team professionally.

Sometimes I can be a real stubborn prick (just ask my wife).

Wine Reviewed: 39 + 1 bourbon.

Wine of the Week: TIE:  Marques de Murrieta Rioja Reserva Finca Ygay 2005 and Vina Ventisquero Cabernet Sauvignon Grey Single Block 2009.

Good news in the wine biz: The folks over at VinTank have compiled the list of the 9 most important wine bloggers at this very moment – a list I am fairly certain will never boast my name.  Big cheers though for the mention of my West Coast wine brother, Jameson Fink, who was singled out as the one to watch.  Check out his blog at http://jamesonfink.com/.

Bad news in the wine biz:  The vine shortage in California may mean higher wine prices.  But then, this news story may be the product of a Republican writing staff, I don’t know.

Disturbing news in the wine biz: Actually this doesn’t fall under DISTURBING so much as SURPRISING, Banfi Vintners is expanding their international wine empire with the announcement of their impending acquisition of Kenwood Vineyards of Sonoma County.   After having been at this so long, this merger shouldn’t really be that much of a shock, but like a five-year-old at Christmas time, these news announcements never fail to surprise.

On the homefront: It seems like every morning, my wife and I talk about the same thing – what she did the night before in her sleep.  For those of you new to the Grape Tree, my wife deals with a number of health issues, and as part of her treatment, she has been prescribed many pills.  This in conjunction with a lifelong problem with sleep (sleep walking, apnea, fitful dreams, talking in her sleep, etc., etc.) makes for quite the interesting night on an almost-regular basis.

Last night wasn’t particularly event-filled; about all she really did was carry on as if to be in an argument with individuals who, in her words, “had British accents.”  99% of every night at the Keith house consists of only my wife and I, and the high energy play of 6 hyperactive cats (as well as our office, which hosts our two “old lady” cats who no longer like to socialize with their brethren).

She has seen doors that aren’t there, heard partying that wasn’t ever there, had conversations at length with people from all over the world, and tried to wander around the house as if she is foraging through the forest.  At times, it can be downright hysterical.  Other times, like when she has fallen down the steps (I’d estimate 10 times, half of those ending in a concussion, broken bones, or in one nasty case, 15+ stitches in her mouth) as well as falling in the bathroom and breaking the toilet once.

I sometimes think I am constantly being tested by the Man Upstairs on my endurance and patience, because though I project myself as being a patient man, sometimes I am far from it.  My wife has so many bruises and scars from falling down between nocturnal restroom visits, or falling off the bed in fits of unconscious panic, yet when I recount her bedtime shenanigans, she almost always finds them hilarious.  And she has given me carte blanche to retell those tales to you.  I think she’s gonna be sorry.

What is on my playlist?: I heard this band Halestorm on the radio the other day and I have become an instant fan.  They are simply awesome!  And I’ve been listening to old Flatt and Scruggs; reminds me of my Grandpa Keith playing banjo on his patio, which was on the other side of the lake from my house growing up.  The sound of summer coming…

What wine(s) is (are) impressing me right now at the store?: Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009 (I am just as surprised as you are about this admission) and Roederer Estate Brut Rose Anderson Valley NV (a gorgeous pink sparkler from California).

Recommended reads, blog or otherwise:  Picked up FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS by Hunter S. Thompson again.  Just started rereading it.  A truly hilarious read.

What’s on tap for this week?: I have absolutely no idea, but isn’t that for the best?

wine reviews


We had but one lonely appointment booked in the Studio for #WineWednesday, as I – flying solo – met up with HG Money and Roland Herrmann from MMD for a bit of international flava:

Scharffenberger Brut Mendocino County NV.  Grade=Outstanding.  Wonderful cuvee blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, showing off creamy lime mousse, green apple skin, and a hint of buttered brioche.  A terrific value in Sparkling wine.

Roederer Estate Brut Rosé Anderson Valley NV.  Grade=Outstanding.  Beautifully-crafted pink sparkler, showing strawberry mousse, vanilla cream, hints of pomegranate, dragon fruit, mineral and creamy butter cookie.

Pazo de Barrantes Albariño Rias Baixas DO 2010.  Grade=Outstanding+.  Crisp, light and dry with bright yellow citrus fruit, mineral and slight herbaceousness.  Very nice.

de Ladoucette Les Deux Tours Sauvignon Blanc Loire Valley 2008.  Grade=Very Good.  Declassified Sauvignon Blanc blended from vineyards in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé.  Still quite crisp, showing lemon verbena, melon, white grapefruit and chalk.

Domaine Ott les Domaniers Rosé Cotes de Provence AOC 2010.  Grade=Outstanding.  Fleshy pink wine, dry with strawberry, pomegranate, watermelon and slight mint and sweet talc undertones.  A blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah.

Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba DOC 2008.  Grade=Outstanding.  Well-made, medium-bodied red with fleshy, inky red and purple fruit, fragrant floral notes, rich earth and zesty spice characters.

Marques de Marietta Rioja Reserva Finca Ygay 2005.  Grade=Amazing.  A gorgeous blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo, aged nearly 2 years in American oak, this dense, bold red displays black cherries, black currants, cedar, tobacco and sage, finishing up with underlying characters of bitter cocoa, cloves and caramelized vanilla.

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2008.  Grade=Outstanding.  This Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon blend gives you heaping helpings of blackberry and black cherry fruit aromas and flavors, touches of black truffle, black olive, black pepper and slight hints of rosemary and cedar.

wine reviews


So not to delude myself into believing that my Top 50 will in any way rival the pomp and circumstance of Wine Spectator’s soon-to-be-revealed Top 100, coming out Monday, November 22nd, but my list isn’t a big bunch of politics, it’s merely a list of the wines that kicked my ass the most over the past year.  And it has grown from 40 to 50 this year due mainly to the increase in the amount of wines I kept track of over the past 12 months.

This year has been the first I have really compiled tasting notes, and my best guess is that I’ve come close to around one thousand wine reviews, so in some ways, I can really understand how difficult it was for Spectator to put their Top 100 together; they review thousands upon thousands of wines each year.

Exactly how did I arrive at my Top 50, then?  I chiefly used the rank of “Amazing” to start the list, and in just a matter of simple subjectivity, I ranked them into this set of my (heavy emphasis on the word “my”) best 50 wines of 2010.  It was really, really hard, because there were many, many wines that impressed me – many of which I could only place in the context of the voluptuous Christina Hendricks (forgive my weak moment of female objectifying).  And in looking at the final 50, I was a bit shocked to find that there were NO Australian wines, and only 2 French.  I don’t really know why.  I did try some amazing wines from Chris Ringland and Hewitson, as well as one of my favorite Bordeaux producers Chateau St.-Georges.  And the weirdest things were all the Napa Cabs that landed in here – I have not been known to be big on Napa reds.  Yet when it all shook out, this is the way it played out (in descending order):

50.  Hacienda Araucano Clos de Lolol 2008.  One of three wines I tasted during the last Wines of Chile Blogger event back in October, this amazing red blend from the Colchagua Valley in Chile is incredible.  Syrah, Cab, Carmenere and Cab Franc.  I only wish this was available to us.

49.  Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville 2006.  Never let it be said that I can’t find something cool from a winery that has unfortunately become synonymous with grocery store wines.  This stunning Cab was a remarkable find, brought in courtesy of our good friend Dr. Gonzo.  It sold out as fast as it came in.

48.  Domaine Bachelet-Monnot Maranges Rouge La Fussiere 2007.  Our friends at Vanguard out of Columbus are bringing this beauty into the area, a remarkable single-vineyard red Burgundy that doesn’t break the bank. 

47.  Marques de Murrieta Rioja Reserva Ygay 2005.  Sheena, Queen of the Covington jungle, brought this in with the rep from MMD.  A very impressive Rioja, I hadn’t had this one in quite some time (I think Murrieta was still with Wm. Grant then).

46.  Emiliana Coyam 2007.  The 2nd wine from the Wines of Chile Blogger tasting, this blend of Syrah, Cab, Carmenere, Petite Verdot, Merlot and Mourvedre really set me for a loop.  Emiliana is one of the biggest organic producers in Chile, and this powerful red is definitely a jewel in their biodynamic crown.

45.  Bodegas Benegas Lynch Meritage 2005.  An absolutely amazing Bordeaux blend from winemaker Federico Benegas Lynch and enologist Michel Rolland, I would have to say this is one of the biggest surprises I’ve stumbled upon this year.  Brought to us by local distributor Martin Rezejl of Martin & Co.

44.  Glenelly Grand Vin de Glenelly Stellenbosch 2007.  Our local Cape Classics rep Zingo brought this in, a brand new winery represented by the preeminent importer of South African wines.  Shiraz, Cab, Merlot and Petite Verdot come together for a seriously kick ass red blend.  One of the best values on this list!

43.  Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay Mount Carmel 2008.  I find it unbelievably hard to like Chardonnay, much less love one, mainly because it seems that every winemaker makes a Chardonnay and most of them are relatively the same style – flabby, oaky, and boring.  Greg Brewer dropped in to show off his wines, and this one was very fruit-forward, with subtle minerality and amazing balance.

42.  St. Supery Cabernet Sauvignon Dollarhide Vineyard 2005.  The irony here is that I am still a bit peeved at St. Supery for dropping the ball on October’s Twitter Tasting with our store, that doesn’t stop me from including this extraordinary single vineyard Cabernet into the mix.  It just showed remarkably well when our friend and RNDC/Cumberland rep Jen brought it by.

41.  Burly Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006.  I am a huge fan of the Burly Cab, and the 2006 vintage continues to win my support.  I tasted this at the Cincinnati International Wine Show, and was as impressed with this vintage as with the 2005.

40.  Waters Interlude Columbia Valley 2008.  New pal Jaime from the Sorting Table introduced us to this amazing blend from, you guessed it, Washington State.  The honeymoon is definitely not over, as I was once again impressed by this blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot.

39.  Pagos del Moncayo Garnacha Campo de Borja 2008.  So the Grenaches of the Campo de Borja region in Spain continue to rock, with this first of two from my good friends at Axial Wines and Kevin and Kyle and all at San Francisco Wine Exchange.  Rich, dense and multifaceted.  A beautiful wine!

38.  Seghesio Zinfandel Rockpile 2008.  Seghesio is tough to beat when it comes to Zinfandel, and this stunning example from the venerable Rockpile Vineyard.

37.  Honig Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2007.  Michael Honig has been a friend for a long time, and I have always been a fan of his wares.  This particular vintage of his Napa Cab though, was just an out-of-the-park home run.

36.  Farina Amarone della Valpolicella 2005.  I renewed my long love affair with Italian wines this year, for no other reason than that is the way the pendulum swings in my cranium.  At RNDC’s Trade Show, I tried this awesome Amarone at the Banville & Jones table.  One of the best I’ve had in a long time.

35.  San Patrignano Montepirolo IGT 2005.  On the recent road trip to DC with Dr. Gonzo, we met Simona Rossi from San Patrignano, and tried the Montepirolo – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy.  This Bordeaux blend, tasted blind, would be on par with Chateau Lynch Bages or Chateau Leoville-Barton.

34.  Airfield Estates Bombshell Red Yakima Valley 2008.  The wines of Airfield were my first big get from my trip to Washington last year, and this dynamic red blend is a real standout, both for its value and for its contents.  It is just a very impressive red for under $20.

33.  Melville Pinot Noir Small Lots “Terraces” 2008.  Winemaker Greg Brewer’s other winery, this Melville bottling is one of the best Pinot Noirs I have had this year.  I was just blown away by this wine.

32.  Pacific Rim Riesling Oregon Dauerhauer Vineyard 2007.  I had this side-by-side with their Wallula Vineyard from Washington State, and while I initially felt partial toward it, the Dauerhauer pulled me toward it later on, and I found it reminding me of a Trocken style Kabinett from the Mosel.  Very impressive, drier style.

31.  Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir Clos Pepe 2008.  I found a lot of great Pinot Noir from California, with the LWC Clos Pepe arriving here in NKY at long last.  A big, powerful Pinot Noir, this one reminded me a lot of the Papapietro Perry PNs we’ve been big fans of at DEP’s (unfortunately we cannot get them anymore around here). 

30.  Flowers Pinot Noir Andreen-Gale 2006.  I haven’t dealt with Flowers since working at the late Chateau Pomije in Cincinnati some 9 years ago and I was ecstatic when SWS picked these up.  The Flowers Andreen-Gale is in league with Loring and some of the other more difficult-to-come-by PNs from California.

29.  Soter Brut Rose Oregon 2005.  Tony Soter rocks, pure and simple!  This gorgeous sparkling rose is just a real sexy beast.

28.  Niepoort 10 Year Tawny Port NV.  I am a sucker for port and I don’t think there is anyone house better than Niepoort.  This 10 Year Tawny is just liquid sex, and after a glass of this, I just want a nap.

27.  JRE Zinfandel St. Helena 2006.  When we were introduced to winemaker John Eppler of JRE a while back by friend and customer Larry Hermes, we were very excited to bring his wines back into the market.  Granted, the wines are hard to sell because they have been passed back-and-forth between so many distributors in recent years, and they just don’t get much in the way of critical attention.  Nevertheless, this Zinfandel is full-bodied, concentrated and complex for an amazing glass of wine.

26.  Roccalini Barbera d’Alba Superiore 2007.  This brand new Piedmonte producer comes to us from good friend/social media sardonist Terry “Strappo” Hughes of Domenico Selections.  This is one of the most phenomenal Barberas I have come across since my first introduction to La Spinetta years ago.  Winemaker Paolo Veglio is one to watch in the years to come, mark my words.

25.  Pfaffl Gruner Veltliner Weiviertal 2008.  Strangely enough, I didn’t give as much love to the white wines as I did to the reds this year, yet this single-vineyard bottling from Austria’s Pfaffl family is a stunning GruVe, a true testament to the amazing wines coming out of this oft-overlooked European region.

24.  Graham’s 20 Year Tawny Port NV.  Did I say how much I love port?  This was just sex heaped on top of sex in the glass.  A temptress, a seductress, a chanteuse – just intoxicating in more ways than one.

23.  HDV Belle Cousine Red Los Carneros-Napa Valley 2006.  This Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend, again brought in by good friend Jaime from the Sorting Table, is powerful, luxurious and incredibly concentrated.  You don’t often think of HDV as being a Bordeaux-style winemaker, yet they really turn in an All-Star effort here.

22.  Otto Bestue Santa Sabina Somontano 2008.  A remarkable blend of Cab and Tempranillo, this superstar from importer Axial Wines is bold, dense and rich, a terrific, full-bodied Spanish red.  You should see this wine in our stores very soon.

21.  Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon Cold Creek Vineyard 2006.  It’s a single vineyard Washington State red wine, what more do you want me to say?  I love this wine!

20.  Duval-Leroy Le Femme Tete de Cuvee 1995.  This is truly one magnificent example of how Champagne should be.  Creamy, layered, exorbitantly sexy sparkler.

19.  Buccella Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2007.  What is up with all these Napa Cabs?  Although really not where I find my palate playing around in, this ethereally dense and concentrated Cab is heavy on sex appeal and even more on power and grace.  An absolute treat!

18.  Casas del Bosque Gran Estate Selection Private Reserva 2007.  The third in the triumvirate of amazing wines I tried during the last Wines of Chile event, this brawny red blend of Syrah, Merlot and Pinot Noir (WTF?) that was shockingly great.  Its presence on the palate was remarkable and its finish unreal.  If only I could figure out how to get this wine in the NKY area.

17.  Longboard Cabernet Sauvignon Rochioli Vineyard 2005.  This is a bit of cheating really.  I tried this under-the-table bottle at the Tramonte & Sons Trade show, a wine that Longboard no longer makes (due to no longer working with the Rochioli Vineyard), yet this super-treat was extraordinary.  Still showing amazing depth and complexity, this is one I will remember for a long time to come.

16.  Mauro Veglio Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 2005.  Funny the amount of Italians on this list this year, until I stop to think about how it was Italian wines that drove me head-first into this career path.  This astonishing 2005 Barolo from standout producer Mauro Veglio is probably one of the best of the 05’s I was able to try this year.  Just unrelenting depth and concentration.

15.  Tenuta de Trinoro Le Cupole IGT 2006.  This unreal “Super-Tuscan” blend from one of the most interesting winemakers in Italy right now – Andrea Franchetti – is pure Bordeaux, primarily Cab Franc, making this a Tuscan Chateau Cheval Blanc.  Just amazing juice.

14.  Arizona Stronghold Mangus Cochise County 2008.  This is a pretty ballsy statement here for this wine, coming from Arizona and all, but my rock ‘n’ roll hero, Maynard James Keenan and his winemaking mentor Eric Glomski, turn out a “Super-Tuscan” styled blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that is very impressive.  Take note, Arizona is making serious wine and I am not laughing as I say this.  I am dead friggin’ serious.  This wine kicks ass!

13.  Columbia Crest Red Private Reserve Walter Clore 2005.  Yes, more Washington wine.  Yes, this is from Ste. Michelle & Estates.  And yes, this wine is friggin’ awesome.  A marvelous Bordeaux-styled blend.

12.  Rudi Schultz Shiraz Stellenbosch 2006.  All I can still say is “Damn, that’s good!”  This powerful Shiraz takes back ownership of the name co-opt by Australia for their Syrah and gives it rightfully back to the Cape.  Out of this world good.

11.  Alto Moncayo Alto Moncayo Campo de Borja 2007.  Another amazing Grenache from Spain’s Campo de Borja region.  Phenomenal!  I revisited this wine recently while breaking bread with the winemaker, Pedro Llanas, ad our good friends at Cutting Edge Selections. 

10.  Tolaini Picconero IGT 2006.  This delicious Super-Tuscan red yet another project for enologist/wine whore Michel Rolland (he gets around as much as a well-employed porn star).  All Bordeaux varietals – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc – come together to just kick ass and take names.

9.  Mazzoni Rosso Toscano IGT 2006.  Yet another Super Tuscan for the list – this Sangiovese/Merlot blend was introduced to me at the RNDC Trade Show earlier in the Fall of this year.  Voluptuous black fruited deliciousness.

8.  Cruz de Piedra Capricho Calatayud 2007.  More Grenache!  This was my favorite out of all the wines presented to me by Axial Wines – big shout out to Louis Geirhaerdt! – and it has finally landed in our stores.  Plush, luxurious presence on the palate, spicy notes and lots of sexy fruit from beginning to end.

7.  K Vintners Syrah The Deal Columbia Valley 2007.  One of my souvenirs from my trip to Washington state last year, I pulled this one out for a dinner date with my lovely wife of 10 years, Jenifer.  It was big, enrapturing and full of concentrated, multilayered fruit – it just kept going and going, long after dinner.  Stunning!

6.  Palazzo Cabernet Franc Napa Valley 2006.  Scott Palazzo came by our store back in the Spring with his two amazing wines, and of course, he had me at Cabernet Franc.  First created for rock star chef Thomas Keller as a house red, the overwhelming success of this wine allowed a putz like me to carry in our humble little stores.  To quote our main man Alfonse, it’s a friggin’ rock star!

5.  Tarrica Wine Cellars KODA Dessert Wine NV.  Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, because this is Mad Max Beyond Pleasuredome in a glass.  Chocolate-infused wine is like lying naked on the beach in Santorini in a throe of passion with your lover, where the minutes and hours and days lose all meaning.  You don’t make love to this wine, it makes love to you.

4.  Chalk Hill Red Wine Estate 2007.  $&%@!  Damn this wine is amazing!  Just rolling, thunderous processions of black fruits, chocolate and spice, in a never-ending parade of palate satisfaction.  When our good friend and RNDC/Barkley rep Lou brought this in, we damn near mugged him to keep the bottle for ourselves.  It was friggin’ phenomenal.

3.  Selene Chesler Red Napa Valley 2005.  As most of you have heard before, Mia Klein is my Eric Clapton, and with this dazzling Bordeaux blend, I continue to be in awe of her and her kick ass assistant Tracy Hall!  The fact that Cab Franc plays dominant here is all the more a winning point with me.

2.  Bookwalter Conflict Conner-Lee Vineyard 2007.  John Bookwalter sent us a bottle of this first effort and we all couldn’t wait to open it up.  It was like friggin’ Christmas in the Lightning Closet as we poured this predominantly Merlot into our glasses.  Holy Shit! was one of the first exclamations to be heard.  This wine was out-of-this-world good!  And the critics soon followed suit, finding this amazing red blend one of the finest of the 2007 vintage.

1.  Terre Nere Etna Rosso Guardiola 2008.  I am going all obscure on all your asses here with this extraordinary red wine from legendary Italian importer turned vintner Marc de Grazia.  This wine is 100% Nerello Mascalese, a grape native to the Italian island of Sicily, where at the footsteps of the still-active volcano Mount Etna, grows some of the most incredible red wine you could ever imagine.  Like a cross between Grand Cru Burgundy and Barolo, this red shows power and grace, depth and class.  Simply the most incredible wine I had all year – and there were 3 other single vineyard Etna Rosso reds I tasted alongside this that were just as good.

So there you have it.  My Top 50.  You may or may not agree with some or any of them, but as I said before, these are MY CHOICES.  There are MY OPINIONS.  Nothing more.  Thanks to everyone and all the wines, wineries, sales reps, importers and brokers who graced the barrel top in 2010.  Looking forward to more fun in 2011.




Finally getting back on task, the last time we talked about Spanish wine, in commemorating Spain’s victory at the 2010 World Cup, I mentioned the wine regions Bierzo and La Mancha, two up-and-coming regions whose wines are not to be missed.  This time, I want to mention two more great, young wine producing areas, as well as talk about what could arguably be Spain’s most recognizable area, Rioja.

But first, let me spend a bit of time on the wine region Rueda D.O., which is located in the provinces of Valladolid, Segovia and Ávila, in the region of Castile-Leon.  There are but 52 vineyards residing within the D.O., with only 8,000 hectares under vine.

While there is significant land dedicated to Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Grenache (Garnacha), here the region is chiefly known for its white wines, comprised from grapes such as Verdejo, Viura (also known as Macabeo in other parts of Spain), Sauvignon Blanc, and Palomino Fino.  Its continental climate with slight maritime influences lend to the whites sometimes emulating those of Graves in Bordeaux and the Anjou in the Loire Valley.

Some great examples from this region include the wines of Telmo Rodriguez, Jose Pariente, Bodegas Naia and Jorge Ordonez’s new project called Shaya.

Next, the Montsant D.O. is a terrific appellation to check out if you want to know more about Priorat D.O.Q., but can’t afford to do so.  Priorat (which I’ll get to next time) is often very pricey, and also very difficult to come by.  Montsant, many wine geeks refer to the wines from this area as “the poor man’s Priorat”, actually surrounds the entire Priorat D.O.Q., and its reds are primarily of the same composition as Priorat.

Found in the province of Tarragona, a more southwestern region, there are only 50 vineyards currently inhabiting this area, with only 2,000 hectares dedicated to vineyards, producing 7 million liters of wine.  The principle grape varieties included Cabernet Sauvignon, Cariñena, Garnacha Tinta, Garnacha Peluda, Merlot, Monastrell, Picapoll, Syrah, Mazuela and Tempranillo for red, and Chardonnay, Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo (the aforementioned Viura in Rueda), Pansal and Parellada for white.

Some of the most notable wines of this region come from Capçanes, Celler Can Blau and Venus La Universal.

And then of course, there is Rioja, which could possibly be most wine drinkers’ first exposure to Spanish wines.  The Rioja D.O.C. (Denominación de Origen Calificada) is named after the autonomous community La Rioja in Spain, which also encompasses parts of the provinces of Navarra and Álava.  Rioja is also divided into the three subregions of Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa.  There are around 1200 vineyards within the region, producing over 278 million liters of wine from over 63,000 hectares of vines.

Some of the top bodegas in Rioja include Muga, Marqués de Murrieta, LAN, Cvne, Benjamin Romeo, Finca Allendé, Marqués de Grinon, Campos Viejo and Artadi, just to name but a few.  In fact, I hope to have my tasting notes from the Campos Viejo Tempranillo Rioja 2006 up in the next day or two. 

Coming up this week as well, more Spanish primers, plus a report from Vanguard’s trade show in Columbus, a Duval-Leroy seminar at Cincinnati restaurant Hugo, and the usual tasting notes from this week’s cavalcade of sales reps.

wine reviews


Our SWS/Crane rep (and the Queen of the Covington Jungle herself) Sheena came by with her boss, Harold, and Roland from Maisons, Marques and Domaines:

Pazo Barrantes Albariño Rias Baixas 2006.  Grade=Outstanding.  Surprisingly fresh considering its age, it drinks like pear eau-du-vie and a roasted pear stuffed with marscapone.  Very nice.

Fleur du Cap Chardonnay Western Cape 2009.  Grade=Average+.  Decent Chardonnay with some malolactic to round off its crisp, tart apple and pear notes.  Has a fleshy stone fruit texture and some nice acidity toward the finish.

Les Domaniers Coteaux du Provence Rosé 2009.  Grade=Outstanding.  Lean and bracing, this inexpensive blush from Domaine Ott shows off some crisp watermelon and light strawberry notes.  Lots of acid on the finish.  Very refreshing.

Delas Cotes du Ventoux Rouge 2008.  Grade=Outstanding.  Impressive value, this red Rhone blend displays youthful red and blue fruit aromas and flavors, some tannic backbone, savory spices and tilled earth notes.  I like this one a lot for the money.

Delas Merlot VDP 2007.  Grade=Outstanding.  A real surprise, this Merlot has a lot of presence on the palate, with some juicy dark plum and black cherry notes, a hint of wood and earth, some mineral characters, and a jammy blackberry compote on the finish.

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Douro Tinto 2007.  Grade=Outstanding.  A blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca and Tinta Roriz, this red possesses juicy red and black fruit notes, zesty spices, and vanillin oak.  A nice intro to Portuguese still wines.

Fleur du Cap Pinotage Coastal Region 2008.  Grade=Outstanding.  Pinotage is never for the faint of heart, and this one shows off its brawny, fleshy dark fruit qualities, robust tannins and roasted game notes.  Earthy, minerally and jammy with some savory cherry and mulberry demi-glaze characteristics.  Needs a nice steak off the grill.

Marques de Murrieta Rioja Reserve Finca Ygay 2005.  Grade=Amazing.  Gorgeous, predominantly Tempranillo blend, this is Rioja at its best, with its black raspberry, cherry cola, mulberry, espresso and bitter chocolate notes, some sublime minerality, peat, and smoky oak characters.  Its full-bodied, dense, and seductive.

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