Tuesday, April 24, 2012

2004 Martinelli chardonnay, Three Sisters Vineyard, "Sea Ridge Meadow"

I purchased this wine in April 2007 for $56.  Both Parker and Tanzer gave it a 94 score.  I pulled the cork two nights ago and was amazed at the youthful freshness of this 7+ year old wine.  Beautiful yellow color without a trace of oxidation.  The aroma was astonishingly complex and made you think the wine had been bottled a year ago.  This wine of course is a "true" Sonoma Coast wine: the vineyard is only two ridge lines from the Pacific Ocean, as contrasted with the silly Sonoma Coast AVA which is so huge as to be meaningless.  Martinelli calls it "Three Sisters" because the three Martinelli sisters decide when the grapes will be harvested.  Good job there ladies!  I am finding with increased frequency that chardonnay from this region is almost as fine as the legendary pinot noirs and Martinelli does an exemplary job with both.  Another "island in the fog" chardonnay from this producer is their Charles Ranch bottling and it is a winner also.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

2009 Gotham shiraz, Langhorne Creek

This Aussie red wine once again shhows that there is a lot of good wine at very reasonable prices to be found in today's market. If you like rich, ripe shiraz/syrah aged in American oak, this is your cup of tea. There doesn't seem to be any residual sugar and the tannins are held in check. The finish is amazingly long for a wine in this price bracket. I think it will be even better with a few more years in your cellar to round off any rough edges. The price at the World Market in Tucson was $11.50, making this a real bargain.

2009 Louis M. Martini cabernet sauvignon, Sonoma

My previous review of a cab from this producer was the 2006 version. Although 2009 was not an outstanding vintage for this varietal in Sonoma County, Martini obviously has reliable grape sources. This is a delicious wine that makes no pretenses, it simply delivers accurate varietal flavors in a very balanced package. Good acidity and fine-grained tannins will see this wine nicely through several more years in your cellar. But why wait, it is drinking beautifully right now. This wine has widespread distribution. I bought my bottle at a grocery store in Tucson for $16.

Friday, February 3, 2012

2010 D'Arenberg "The Hermit Crab"

This Aussie white wine is a blend of 68% viognier and 32% Marsanne. I reviewed the 2008 version about a year and a half ago and I find this one to be a worthy successor. Nicely structured with a medium-full body, soft acid (but it is not flabby), and perhaps a touch of residual sugar, which does not detract from this style of wine. A very easy-drinking wine that will match up with a wide range of foods.
This wine has wide distribution and you should be able to buy it for under $15. I would consume this wine within the next 12 months.

2008 Beringer "Alluvium Blanc", Knights Valley

I have been a fan of this white wine for a number of years and I have become used to paying well over $10 a bottle. I did a real double-take when I saw this wine selling for under $6 at the World Market in Tucson. When I noted the vintage was 2008, I then suspected this was a market "dump" of an over-the-hill white wine. I bought one bottle to test my theory...the next day I rushed back to the store to buy two cases!
This wine is a blend of sauvignon blanc, semillon, chardonnay and viognier. Usually this sort of blend has a short life span, but Beringer can be relied on to craft a wine that does not fall apart a year or two from the vintage date. This is a substantial wine, full of rich flavors and complex aromas. This wine goes amazingly well with Asian dishes. I note on my World Market receipt that I received an additional case discount, bringing the bottle price down to $5.29!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

2009 Martinelli pinot noir, Zio Tony Ranch, "Grace Nicole"

This is another in a long line of successes with this varietal by a family who started farming in Sonoma County well over 100 years ago. They make exemplary syrahs, zinfandels and chardonnays, all estate grown, but my soft spot is for their splendid pinots. This one is from the Russian River Valley AVA and it displays the typical Martinelli lush, ripe fruit flavors and perfectly focused sweet cherry and wet earth aromas. This is a wine that deserves serious contemplation.

All of Martinelli's single vineyard wines are allocated. This one retails from the winery for $60. The Wine Spectator recently reviewed California's 2009 vintage, which was particularly successful for Sonoma pinots. They gave this wine a 95 rating.

2007 Tenuta delle Terre Nere, "Santo Spirito"

If you are searching for something really different in a red wine, this is a good one to try. Proprietor Marc de Grazia produces this wine from grapes grown on the slopes of the Sicilian Mount Etna. The wine is almost 100% Nerello Mascalese, a relatively obscure varietal native to Sicily. When you pour some in your glass, the light red color would cause you to anticipate a lightness in flavor and structure. But this is a powerful and tannic wine, built to age for a decade or more. De Grazia also produces a similar wine called "Guardiola."

I purchased this wine from the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA for $40. Parker (Galloni) gives it a 93 rating. The 2008 vintage of these two companion wines has now been released and they sell for the same price. Parker (Galloni) gives them 95 ratings.

2008 Turley zinfandel, Howell Mountain (Dragon Vineyard)

If you like your zins to be inexpensive, light-weight and fruit-driven, you would be well advised to avoid Turley zins. This concentrated, mouth-filling wine is sourced from old vines, which in itself is somewhat remarkable since most old vine zins in Napa Valley have long ago been pulled out and replaced by Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine displays a dark ruby color with intense aromas of spice box and red berries. The flavors are rich, ripe and long. The acid and tannin structure means this wine should age well for five years or more.

This is one of Turley's allocated wines, but given the state of the economy, it should not take you very long to get on their list. The price was $45 and I have no problem with that given this wine's fine quality. Parker rated it 93-95. Tanzer gave it a 93.

2009 Russolo "Doi Raps"

This white wine from Friuli is a blend of pinot bianco, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc. According to the folks at the Wine Exchange, Russolo, after the harvest, leaves two bunches ("Doi Raps" is Friulian for "two bunches") on each vine to further ripen for up to six weeks. These super-ripe grapes are fermented separately and the result is a wine that is chock full of aromatics and flavor. You can tell sauvignon blanc plays a role here but it is a supporting role only. This is a fascinating wine that can hold its own structurally with the biggest of white wines. The Wine Exchange sells it for $17.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

2008 Hartford zinfandel, "Highwire Vineyard"

Hartford winery is one of several premier quality boutique wineries which were owned by the late Jess Jackson. This operation has been quietly cranking out top-notch zinfandels, pinot noirs and chardonnays from vineyards located in the Russian River Valley AVA and on "true" Sonoma Coast ridgeline locations. They regularly produce several old-vineyard zins and this is always one of their top efforts.

This full-throttle zin has intense wild berry and spice aromas laced with (but not overwhelmed by) oak. This is a big mouth-filling wine with a finish that is almost endless. The wine has limited availability in the retail market but you can purchase it directly from the winery. Their wine-club price is $55. Now that's a lot of money for a zin, but in my opinion this wine ranks along with zins from Martinelli Jackass and Turley Hayne vineyards, and you will pay similar prices for those benchmark zins.

2008 Bridlewood Winery, viognier "Rseseve"

This wine demonstrates how great bargains in quality wines can be found in today's economy. This Santa Ynez winery sells their 2009 version of this wine online for $25. The Lukas Superstore location in Kansas City at 135th and State Line carries the 2008 vintage for $9(!). This is a quality white wine at a near giveaway price. They even gave me a case discount.
I initially bought one bottle to see if perhaps it had already gone over the hill, a problem you often encounter with this varietal. But such was not the case. This wine is fresh and focused with good acidity and a delicate but complex aroma profile. What a great summertime poolside wine!

2008 Martinelli pinot noir "Moonshine Ranch"

No doubt about it, I am a real fan of just about everything this venerable wine-making family makes. They make benchmark chardonnays, syrahs and zinfandels, but I am a pushover for their pinot noirs, whether they come from their "true" Sonoma Coast vineyards or, like this one, from Russian River Valley origins. Every separate vineyard has its own clear varietal identity, but they all share a seamless focus in their aromas and flavors. This one has intense black cherry and strawberry aromas with just a touch of damp earth. All of their wines reflect Martinelli's philosophy of picking fully ripe fruit, which means they will be high in alcohol. But you will not detect that in the aroma or the flavor.
This wine costs $60 and I think, given the quality, it is a fair price. All of their single vineyard wines are allocated, but the waiting list to get on their allocation mailer should not be excessive. You can reach them at (707) 525-0570. Their website is martinelliwinery.com.