A vinous cocktail of Chambord, Creme Yvette, and Morello cherries. A viscous wine with a glass-and-teeth staining hue of carmine. Sweet cherry and mocha notes rise over the huge weight of this wine, to finish with decently delineated tannin and a splash of cranberry and sage. Very nicely done.
A Rhone-style blend from South Australia: Marsanne , Roussanne and a dash of Viognier. Aromas of fresh pear, ginger and almond, followed by mineral and melon on the palate. Medium bodied with a zesty acidity makes this a fun and easy bottle. It also offers enough complexity to keep any wine lover interested for a bottle or two.
Those sweet sweet bastards at the Wine School just finished up another stellar night. I you weren’t there, you missed a great First Friday. Your loss, but at least I can give you a peak the wine list. These are the six wines you need to buy right now. All are priced around $15, and effing delicious.
1. Thorn-Clarke 2011 Mount Crawford Riesling, Eden Valley, (AUS)
No sweet Riesling here. South Australia’s Eden Valley offers a style that is bone dry, steely, mineral driven with bitter lime and racy acidity.
2. Apex Ascent 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley (WAS)
A rarity, for sure. We’re used to Bordeaux red varietals from this central Washington region, but not often do we see crisp whites such as this. With Ripe citrus fruits and blossoms, this is a clean, lean wine that’s simply refreshing.
3. Framingham 2008 Pinot Noir, Marlborough, (NZ)
Marlborough, on New Zealand’s South island is The Burgundy of the south. World class pinot noir such as this can be had at a fraction of the price of it’s northerly cousin. Kirsch cherry, cinnamon, and earth make this a nuanced beauty.
4. Mantellassi 2009 Morellino di Scansano, Tuscany (IT)
Still the same sangiovese grape as chianti, but this coastal region to the west, called the maremma, makes for a much riper juicier wine. Expect raspberry, cherry preserves, cedar and tar.
5. L’Ecole No. 41 2006 Merlot, Columbia Valley, (WAS)
Merlot in this rustic, powerful style is what the Columbia valley is staking its current reputation on. Chocolate, sweet spice, chewy tannins and tobacco.
6. Avalon 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, (CA)
Cab is king in napa and Avalon makes cabernet sauvignon its sole specialty. Depth and concentration with blackberry, nutmeg, and a cool, earthy mineralty. This is a leaner, subtler version of the norm with lower alcohol and a finer line of acidity to keep the wine’s composure.
Here are the top eight wines available in the PLCB stores in the good state of Pennslvania. Even if you don’t live here, these are worth seeking out.
Primo Estate 2006 La Biondina, Adelaide $12
Grotto fresh! A simple and fun wine without any pretense. Think of your glass as one giant melon-baller and the wine is a big ripe… you get the idea.
To add to the “its so trashy its cool” vibe of this wine, it is made from Colombard (you’d typically find the grape in a $5 gallon jug, not in a fine wine.) The aromatics of cilantro and nectarine vault this wine and its quick zig-zag of minerality really turns this into great pleasure.
Villa Mt. Eden 2001 “Grand Reserve” Zinfandel, Sierra Foothills $12
In our never-ending search for a great $10 Zin, we turn our attention to Villa Mt. Eden. While this notable producer is mostly notable for not being notable in recent years, they certainly have produced a fantastic bottle for under $15.
This is a Chairman’s Selection here in Pennsylvania, so the price is right. We wouldn’t recommend this wine if it retails for more than $14 in your neck of the woods.
A nose-full of raisin and vanilla launches into a cloud of alcoholic berries that trail off into a disturbingly piquant finish. From a technical side, I would say this wine was acidified post-fermentation. Tartaric extract, anyone?
William Estate 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $13
Who can say no to a solid Napa Cab for under $15? Sure, its a connect-the-dots style of wine, like most of the national brands are.
However. However. However.
When a Cabernet connects the graphite-bell pepper-cola dots together, it is a Cabernet worthy of your attention. Its built on a structure that is both vague and rich, much like Prince Charles of Wales. Enjoy it as such, Camilla.
Meulenhof 2005er Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese, MSR $17
A good bit of balance of acidity and sweetness is a pleasure I recommend seeking out. A good Spatlese from Germany is one of the few places it can still be found, but they often demand a high price tag.
Anytime a lovely one comes in under $20, I make sure everyone knows about it. Make sure to grab a bottle or two.
A flash of white pepper and fire on the nose which cedes to a more general citrus aroma. On the palate the push-and-pull of ripeness-versus-freshness is invigorating. The best of these will feel like an ice cube exploding into blue flames on your tongue. This isn’t nearly that intense, but quite a bit of fun.
Mollydooker 2006 “The Boxer” Shiraz, South Australia $20
I was arguing with a one of my students (who is now working with the great Steven Tanzer), who vehemently hates this wine.
Honestly, I think he may hate it more than pan-roasted bunions for breakfast. I understand the sentiment. Anyone who looks to Europe as the template for wine must recognize this as a heresy. There really isn’t much that seems like wine here.
It is an empty shell, gutted of terroir and varietal character, into which is filled with a torrent of viticultural techniques. It takes the Yellow-Tail model and pushes it into the height of fine-wine-making. Soulless but endlessly delightful.
It’s a reverse-osmosis left-handed Dorian Grey, if you will.
Caves des Saumur 2005 Reserve Saumur $8
For those of you who were horrified of “The Boxer” this will be your salvation. A very pretty Cabernet Franc with a gentle perfume of rosemary and bell pepper.
Light and fresh and gentle, this Saumur evokes bing cherries and rhubarb with just a whisper of herbs.
Chateau Fuisse 2003 VV Pouilly Fuisse $30
If you are a Burgundy fan with a wine cellar, make sure to buy six for your cellar. This is a classic that will have a minimum of a 10-year lifespan.
The Pennsylvania price is about $20 less than anywhere else in the world.
Peique 2005 Tinto Mencia, Bierzo $13
A true delight, Mencia is an old relative in the Cabernet family. It sports dark fruit and saddle wood notes, but is also delicate and earthen. This wine sees no oak, so it retains a youthful (perhaps joven?) personality despite its moderately tannic framework. Completing this pleasure cruise is a preponderance of creamy blackberries on the attack and the finish.