JuiceCowboy’s round-up of wine reviews for this Week:
SF Chronicle’s Bargain Wines, Mercury News’ Aussie Icons, Australian Wine Review from Vinography, Robert Parker’s Wine Of The Day, A port and a Red Blend from Wine-Lover’s Page…
SF Chronicle’s Bargain Wines: A mixed bag of values for fall
by Leslie Sbrocco, Special to the Chronicle
Drinking wine is all about enjoyment and this week’s picks pack loads of pleasure into every bottle.
For wine as fresh as it comes, kick off with two new Southern Hemisphere releases. A shining example is the 2004 Veramonte Casablanca Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($10). Chile’s Casablanca Valley is located a mere 22 miles from the cooling breezes of the Pacific Ocean. This location produces a white that is crisp and tangy with balanced notes of herbal aromas. Year in and year out, Veramonte is one of the best Sauvignon Blanc values on the market…
…If you’re looking for a unique wine to drink with dinner, seek out the 2004 Hope Estate Hunter Valley Verdelho ($9) from Australia. Hunter Valley is north of Sydney and is known for whites like Semillon, but Verdelho is one to watch. Don’t recall seeing many Verdelhos on store shelves? You’re right. It’s known primarily as the white grape responsible for producing fortified wine named Madeira in Portugal. Varietal bottlings are few and far between, which makes this one even more special. It is aromatic with spice and floral notes and a creamy texture, but still manages to remain zesty and bright.
Maturity has its virtues, too. The 2001 Barton & Guestier Pouilly-Fuisse ($10) is toasty and nutty with a smoothness that comes from a few years in the bottle. Pouilly-Fuisse is a highly regarded appellation in southern Burgundy in France planted exclusively to Chardonnay, and this Chardonnay has character. Try it alongside salmon and couscous topped with mango chutney.
Mercury News Aussie Icons: 140-year-old vines produce Aussie icon
Special to the Mercury News
The shiraz vines at the famed Hill of Grace vineyard are gnarled and stooped from 140-plus years of cold winters, the occasional drought and their yearly task of producing purple clusters of fabulously concentrated fruit. The oldest block, known as the Grandfathers, survived when shiraz went out of fashion and a resulting government action in the 1980s prompted many of their ancient brethren to be ripped from the ground. All the while, the small Lutheran church from which the vineyard takes its name has stood watch over these dry-farmed centenarians.
It’s hard not to feel at least a little awed by their tenacity. And by the fact that these venerable vines produce a wine that’s an Australian icon, probably the country’s second most sought-after wine, after Penfolds Grange. But while Grange is a blend from throughout South Australia, Hill of Grace shiraz is very much a reflection of this quiet place in the Eden Valley and these twisted old vines…
…My tasting centered on the Eden Valley wines, several of which are named for various Henschke ancestors. (Although the rest of these wines aren’t as rare as Hill of Grace, you may have to hunt for them.)
The 2003 Tilly’s Vineyard ($20), a white blend based on semillon and chardonnay, is crisp and minerally, with nice richness and some herbaceous notes. Semillon stands alone in the 2002 Louis Semillon ($27), which is smoky and rich, with firm acidity and some minerality. The 2003 Julius Riesling ($30) is much tighter than most Aussie rieslings, with bright lime and mineral flavors. It will reward several years of cellaring.
The 2002 Henry’s Seven ($32), a blend of shiraz, grenache and viognier, is fragrant and bright, with flavors of raspberry and strawberry, a hint of white pepper and medium tannins. Grenache is the leading player in the 2002 Johann’s Garden ($38), a ripe, easy-to-drink wine that’s dense and peppery, with lots of blackberry fruit and supple tannins. The 2001 Keyneton Estate ($45) is a cab-shiraz blend that’s vivid and concentrated, with juicy cherry and raspberry and firm structure.
As for the top wines, the 2000 Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon ($100) displays lots of dark-toned cherry and berry flavors with a note of olive. The tannins are firm but approachable, but this is one for the cellar. The 2001 Mount Edelstone Shiraz ($80) is also very tight, with blackberry, spice, hints of eucalyptus and olive and a supple texture.
Australian Wine Review from Vinography: 2003 Alice White Shiraz, South Eastern Australia
[JuiceCowboy: This review doesn’t have many wines reviewed but does give good advice to follow for reading wine labels. Worth the time!]
…However, I was unable to get my (lazy) hands on a bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz which is what I wanted to review. I know, I know! The stuff is everywhere, but today it wasn’t at my local grocery store. I wanted to review it and talk about how their massive marketing and advertising campaigns related to the quality of the wine. Instead, however, I ended up with this bottle of Alice White Shiraz, and instead of a lesson about marketing, this entry is going to be about how to be an intelligent wine consumer, even if you’re buying wines under ten bucks.
HOW NOT TO BUY VALUE WINES
Don’t just pick your wine by the label. I did.
Listen, I do this sometimes, like everyone else. We tend to think that most wines under ten bucks at the grocery store are sort of all alike, and therefore we just pick something that looks interesting, which means basically the one whose label catches our eye. This wine of mine has an appealing label with a nice blocky red pattern, and look it’s got little kangaroos, too! While it’s fine to reach out and reward an innovative firm by placing a nicely designed bottle in your basket, there’s something you MUST do first.
I want you to read the label. Yes really read it, front and back. I didn’t, and suffered the consequences.
Let’s take a look at Alice’s label shall we? We’ve already established that it looks nice. And here it says on the front Shiraz, South Eastern Australia.
This is your first critical judgment. Do you know where South Eastern Australia is? Have you heard of it before, sort of in the same way that you have heard of Napa or other regions like that?…
…In this case, the answer is definitely NO….
Imported by Alice White. Gonzales,CA. Bottled By Alice White. Woodbridge, CA.
This is not real Australian Shiraz. Sure, sure, it is made, per U.S. Law, from no less than 75% Shiraz, and those grapes have come from somewhere in the half a million square miles that make up South Eastern Australia, but think about what actually happened to them in order for them to end up in the bottle that I’m holding here….
Robert Parker’s Wine Of The Day: 2003 Bonny Doon Clos de Gilroy
Rating: 87 points, Varietal: Grenache (a dry red table wine)
A wonderful value, the 1,200 case 2003 Clos de Gilroy exhibits a medium ruby color along with copious quantities of strawberries and cherries in a seductive, sensual style. Medium-bodied and soft, it is undeniably a vin de plaisir.
Est cost: $12
A port and a Red Blend from Wine-Lover’s Page
Dark ruby in color, with warm, plummy aromas, a hint of raisins and a dash of spice; floral and peppery notes on the nose carry over to the palate with a burst of fragrant pepper and bright red fruit. Full bodied, tart and somewhat tannic, with an intriguing minerality lurking behind the forward fruit and peppery spice. Powerful alcohol (14.8%) leaves a distinct warmth in the finish. Made by a California producer and bearing no regional appellation or vintage, it’s described as a “Rhone-style blend,” with Syrah, Carignan, Grenache and the less characteristically Rhonish Sangiovese and Zinfandel. US Importer: (Oct 29, 2004)FOOD MATCH: Good with hearty seasonal fare, it made a fine match with a shepherd’s pie variation, ground lamb and earthy Swiss cheese on a bed of mashed potatoes and cauliflower. WEB LINK: http://www.pietrasantawinery.com
This non-vintage Ruby Port is made in the style sometimes called “Vintage Character” because its full and tannic structure emulates that of the more pricey, ageworthy vintage wine. Very dark purple in color, almost black, its aroma focuses on black fruit, plums and prunes. Sweet fruit, tart acidity, alcoholic warmth (this fortified wine contains 19.5% alcohol) and smooth but substantial tannins come together on the palate in a dessert wine that’s bold but not as fierce or unapproachable as a youthful Vintage Port; there’s not a lot of complexity here, but good balance and assertive Port character make it a pleasant, warming glass on a mild autumn evening. Made from six Port-grape varieties, hence the name: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Amarela and Tintao Cão. US Importer: Premium Port Wines Inc., San Francisco. (Oct 31, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Testing Port’s affinity with cheeses, I served it with both a cave-aged Swiss Emmentaler and a Vernières Roquefort. It worked well with both, bringing up the creaminess and an attractive appley-nutty quality in the Swiss and an almost “meaty” salty character in the blue-veined French cheese.
WEB LINK: http://www.premiumport.com/grahams.cfm