Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Tale of Two Zinfandels

Brought home a couple of bottles tonight from a hard day (yeah, right!) of tasting wine. These are two Zinfandels that we have added to our line-up this month. The Steele came in last week and the Fiddletown arrived on Monday. We re-introduced Steele to the Kansas market last fall and we have done quite well with their Pacini Vineyard Zinfandel (Mendocino) and their Writer's Block Zinfandel (Lake County). So we registered another one of their single vineyard Zins earlier this year. The Fiddletown is a new brand for us.


Dinner tonight was ground turkey mixed with a little bit of breadcrumb, seasoning and reconstituted sundried (actually, oven-dried) tomatoes from out garden. I grilled them over charcoal and then served them on onion rolls with a sundried tomato Dijonnaise. A perfect pairing with both wines.

The 2010 Steele Catfish Vineyard Zinfandel, Clear Lake hails from a vineyard planted in 1901. Yeah, that's over 100 years old. A field blend with small amounts of carignan, alicante bouschet, cabernet sauvignon , petite sirah, and cinsault. The old vine nature of the rugged, briery, brambly fruit is readily apparent. Tons of spicy raspberry and blackberry here. The wine is aged in what the winery refers to as "hybrid barrels" where the staves alternate between French and American oak. The smoky, vanilla notes from the French staves are nicely balanced with the Bourbon-like qualities from the American oak. Overall, a very nice package that toes a fine line between rustic and polished with restrained 13.8% alcohol and moderate tannins. Retails for about $20 and worth every penny of it.

The 2011 Fiddletown Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel, Amador County pours a slightly darker color than the Steele. Everything about this wine is just a little more than the Steele. More color, more alcohol, more fruit, more oak. Creamy blackberry and blueberry in the nose with a touch of residual sugar and noticeable alcohol (14.5%) on the palate. Turns quite oaky on the finish. While the wine displays a good level of extraction, the acidity keeps it from wading into that overripe/raisiny territory sometimes found in Amador County Zinfandels. Aged in a combination of French and American barrels. Retails for about $18. 

These are two excellent wines that are reasonably priced for what they represent. Your favorite of the two will probably just come down to a stylistic preference. In case you haven't guessed by now, I sell both of these wines in the great State of Kansas.

Friday, February 7, 2014

2013 Blue Plate rosé, Lodi

We've done quite well with the wines from Picnic Wine Company over the past year or so, particularly the Chenin Blanc, their first commercial release. Later additions to their line up included a Grenache and a Grenache rosé. Today we got a sneak peek at their 2013 rose; scheduled for release later this spring.

Unlike the 2012 rosé which was 100% Grenache, the 2013 Picnic Wine Company Blue Plate rosé, Lodi is a blend of Grenache and an unspecified amount of the obscure Flora grape. A genetic cross between Gewürztraminer and Semillon, Flora delivers a distinct floral spiciness on the nose as well as a mouth-coating waxiness on the palate. From what I understand, Schramsberg and Picnic Wine Company are the only two wineries who get fruit from the one vineyard still planted to Flora in California. Combined with the crushed raspberry and herb of the Grenache, this blend produces a stunning dry rosé with wonderful acidity and an long, minerally finish. I really can't wait to get this one in the warehouse and then get it circulating throughout Kansas! Quite a nice little summer sipper for $12, this should accompany all forms of salads, cold seafood and light pasta dishes as well as a sunset on the back porch.

Disclaimer: I am the wholesaler for Picnic Wine Company in the State of Kansas.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

2011 Groundwork Grenache

Been working hard and selling lots of wine as of late. After listening to all the nay-sayers tell us that January was going to be a horrible month, it turned out to be pretty damn good. In fact, our gross sales in January were about the same as November and December. Granted, we put a lot of wine on sale in January so our net might not be as good as it was late last year, but we certainly didn't mail it in like others suggested we do. So I've mostly been drinking leftover bottles of wines I've tasted on retailers and restauranteurs. As well as a lot of new samples from wineries that I'm not at liberty to reveal yet. But when my wife told me she bought some salmon for dinner tonight, I thought it would be a good reason excuse to pick up a bottle of red.

The wines of Sans Liege are relatively new to the Kansas market. I saw them start to pop up here last summer or so. I actually wanted to bring them into the Amphora (now StemTime) fold at one time, but I was a little scared off by some of the higher price point wines. They have since signed on with another distributor here who has a done a good job in placing them throughout the market.

Tonight's bottle of 2011 Sans Liege Groundwork Grenache, Central Coast has a rather transparent color; much lighter than the Grenaches I'm used to seeing from Paso Robles and Santa Barbara. Offers up some nice strawberry, tart cherry, licorice and cola notes on the nose; most of which follow through on the palate. Tart and tannic in the mouth, I was hoping for a little more richness here. Long, acidic, tart red fruit on the finish with just a hint of charred oak. Overall, I wasn't terribly disappointed by this wine, but I wasn't thrilled, either. Normally priced at $20, I'm glad I only paid $14 for it at one of my retail accounts. Although it was a bit tart and acidic on its own, it paired quite nicely with tonight's broiled salmon with mashed sweet potatoes and roasted asparagus with Parmesan cheese. If you're tempted to try one of these, I would definitely recommend it with food.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

2011 Colonia las Liebres Bonarda


Dinner tonight was a delicious spinach risotto topped with grilled Italian sausage. Not having any Italian wine in the cellar, I went for something that I was hoping would be pretty rustic. And I wasn't disappointed. I recently purchased the 2011 Colonia las Liebres Bonarda, Mendoza as a part of a mixed case of inexpensive wines; all of which were new to me. Very, very dark in color, the wine has beautiful aromatics of grapey blackberry preserves, bay leaf, leather and a whiff of alcohol. Thick and rich on the palate with considerable black pepper and moderate tannins. 100% stainless steel fermented and aged, so no hint of oak.A very nice wine for about $12. I wouldn't hesitate to buy this again and pair it with anything off the grill.

Originally a French grape known as Douche Noir, it is hardly grown at all in France now. Bonarda is most widely planted in Argentina today where it is second only to Malbec in acres. The grape is also grown in California where it is most commonly referred to as Charbano.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2010 Backsberg Chardonnay

I've had a fair amount of South African Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blancs over the years, but I don't think I've ever had a South African Chardonnay until tonight. For some reason, I expected this to be on the lean/tart apple/unoaked end of the Chardonnay spectrum. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the 2010 Backsberg Chardonnay Western Cape (South Africa) to be a very pleasant, medium-bodied Chardonnay with plenty of creamy apricot aromas and flavors. Nice acidity and balance. Long finish. I don't know how the current vintage (2011) of this drinks, but a year in bottle certainly hasn't hurt it at all. This wine is partially fermented in oak and stainless steel.

And oh, my, was it good with dinner! Pan-roasted chicken breast with braised fennel and brown rice. 

While my company distributes Backsberg wines in Kansas, we do not currently offer this one in our portfolio. It was a Christmas gift from the importer. But after having tasted it, I might have to inquire as to getting it registered in Kansas. Price unknown, but I suspect it would retail  for something less than $15.

Monday, December 16, 2013

2012 Graffigna Elevation Red Blend


Really enjoyed a bottle of 2012 Graffigna Reserve Elevation Red Blend, San Juan (Argentina) tonight with some chukar and pheasant breasts I pounded and cooked as if it were chicken Parmesan. A blend of unspecified percentages of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Bonardo, and Tannat, the wine is inky-black in color. Black fruit, graphite, black pepper and tobacco aromas. The fruit on the palate is a bit tart, but there's good depth and spice in there. Turns a bit green and stemmy on the finish, but for $11 I can't complain too much.

I'm quite familiar with Graffigna's Malbecs and Pinot Grigios as they were always good sellers when I was working retail a few years ago. But this is a new wine; at least it is to me. Pretty sure this will be a regular next spring and summer when the weather is warmer and red meat is on the grill on a regular basis.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

2011 Laudun Cotes-du-Rhone Villages (blanc)

It's been a pretty "meh" week or so as far as wine is concerned. Decent, yet uninspiring bottles of 2010 Caligiore Bonarda, 2011 Joel Gott Alakai red wine and 2010 Ancient Peaks Renegade left me satisfied yet wanting for more. Which wine finally answered the call and responded to the challenge? A white Cotes-du-Rhone? Seriously? Why, yes!

The 2011 Pierre-Henri Morel Laudun Cotes-du-Rhone Villages (blanc) is a simply stunning blend of 70% Grenache Blanc and 30% Bourboulenc. Rather pale in the glass with brassy highlights. The nose is a complex, never-ending melange of lime, white peach, pear skin and fennel. On the palate, there is more green orchard fruit as well as gardenia and candle wax. No surprise that the acidity here is mouth-watering with an impossibly long, minerally finish. What a treat! And all this for about $15. A tremendous value that deserves another visit with something other than a bowl of chicken soup.

Now it wasn't "just" a bowl of chicken soup. It wasn't from a can or made from a box of chicken stock. A few weeks ago I has to dispatch a half-dozen chickens who had outlived their usefulness. They were from our original flock from nearly 3 years ago and had stopped laying eggs for nearly a month. It's never pleasant to part with animals you have been around for a few years and this was no different. But these were farm animals who were no longer pulling their weight so it was time to cull them from the flock. These older hens make a delicious, rich, sticky stock that you'll never get from a can or box. But unfortunately the meat is very tough and still inedible; even after spending the day in a crock pot. So I ended up with a delicious broth made with onion, carrots and celery but no meat. All was fine until I got to the noodles. I learned an important lesson tonight in that you can't put fresh-dried pasta noodles in a crock pot for 30 minutes and expect good results. The noodles turned the entire concoction gluey and starchy and nearly inedible. Next time I will boil the noodles separately and add them to the finished soup.