Wine Review: 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon by Altue, Chile

Tonight’s occasion: 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon by Altue, Chile.

We are truly living in a golden age for wines in general. I am sitting here contemplating the finer points of a great little wine from lesser known corner of the world in Chile and thinking to myself, not only is the wine well made, it is one hell of a steal. Mere decades ago, such a moment would have been highly unlikely.

Pleasant nose with plum, cherry, oak, earth, and at least one other floral note that combines to create a subtle butterscotch twist (for lack of a better descriptor). Once opened I detect a hint of minerality. This all carries forward into a mild mannered body with oak and vanilla more pronounced and fruit diminished. Minerality carries forward to the body as well. The body is light and understated for a Cabernet Sauvignon. None too acidic. It reads like a big California Pinot Noir. After about an hour the body develops a noticeable buttery caramel character. The finish is graceful and quickly fades away with a suggestion of tannin. Once opened, the cherry is more pronounced in the finish.

Overall this is a smooth wine. I love noticing the terroir in a wine. This tells me that little has been done to the wine in the way of altering its expression. It is an honest wine. Approachable. It is not overly complex. At 13% ABV it is also not a laborious, exhausting affair either. You can open a bottle and slowly follow it through your evening without suffering from palate fatigue. This is a fantastic EDC wine (EDC = Every Day Consumption). For the price Casemates Wine is offering it presents great value for the price. This is a great way to stock up your cellar.

Gary Farrell, Russian River Valley

Gary Farrell was my first stop as I wandered through Russian River Valley in search for Pinot Noir that I felt was representative of the region.  Before I continue, I feel I must inform you that their tasting is by appointment only. This creates an atmosphere of calm and serenity devoid of any noisy crowds and distractions. Combined with the hilltop view of the valley below it creates an environment ideal for focus and reflection on what you are tasting. I think for the discerning palate this presents good value as you explore this region and what it has to offer. I will surely make an appointment on my next visit to this region.

The grounds were impeccably maintained, minimalist architecture and clean balanced interior decor really complemented the overall energy and experience. The staff were very warm and courteous and although I did not have an appointment they did go out of their way to at least get me a sampling of two of their Pinot Noirs from the region. They also offered to add me to their up-coming wine tour/tasting session however I was pressed for time. Very gracious indeed.

That being said, I was perfectly content sampling two of their Pinot Noirs as this would give me and quick idea of the caliber of the wines on offer. I must say, I was not disappointed. I instantly thought to myself, “this is what I came here for”. Rich, layered, complex, structured Pinot Noir. Further review of their menu revealed more Pinot Noirs from some of the most coveted vineyards all up and down the West Coast. I selected one of their Pinot Noirs from the Russian River Valley which I will be reviewing tonight and will post my thoughts.

Have you visited this winery? What did you think?

Gracianna Winery, Russian River Valley

This weekend I finally got around to exploring the Russian River region. After a weekend of camping in Bodega Bay with friends it seemed only fitting that we make a slight detour through Russian River on our way back to Sacramento.

I have had some amazing Pinot Noir from this region and I was eager get out there and get a sense of what it is about. I wanted to personally see what it is about this region that produces such great Pinot Noir.

As I meandered through the winding back roads sometimes almost getting lost, I wished for something off the beaten path. Small, family owned and operated wineries. No sooner than the thought crossed my mind, I noticed the sign to Gracianna Winery. I did not recognize the name. It did not show up on my google map search. I thought to myself, this could be precisely what I was looking for.

The grounds were neat, uncluttered, minimalist and generally understated. The Winery sits lower in the valley and is very easy to completely overlook. As I pulled up I had no expectations whatsoever. I merely wanted to taste some Russian River Pinot. The tasting room is one of the more interesting ones (read cool) I’ve seen in a while. It is and indoor/outdoor setup, welcoming you in one side and leading you to a terrace/patio and into the vineyards where your detailed tasting happens among the vineyards.

On the tasting menu were the following wines with some of my initial notes.

  • 2018 Arozza Rosé – Rose was delicate, smooth and buttery.
  • 2018 Sauvignon Blanc – Oakey, smooth, mild acid, hint of citrus, gentle overall.
  • 2015 Chardonnay – Beautiful, delicate, buttery great floral notes, complex.
  • 2016 Pinot Noir – More Burgundian style, crisp clean nose, subtle oak, subtle acid, hint of spice, delicate balance. What I was looking for.
  • 2014 Pinot Noir – More of a big California style Pinot albeit restrained. Once opened huge earth/terrior dominates the nose, beautiful, perfect balance of jammy fruit, berry, bold tannin for a Pinot especially from this region. Rich. Should lay down a little more to fully develop. I will have to revisit this.

It is difficult to do an in-depth tasting on site while tasting other wines. So I picked up a bottle each of the Pinot Noir, one of which will be tonight’s occation and will post my thoughts shortly.

The Tasting was conducted by staff with extensive knowledge on the wines and the region at large. This really helped guide the tasting and added great perspective. The tasting was occasionally punctuated by the owner Trini who’s warm lively energy I found very reassuring as he shared the history of the winery going back generations. Equally impressive was his son’s ventures into viticulture and enology. This family is truly all about the love and passion for making great wines. It was a truly special and personal experience.

Thank you Trini, Fernando and the entire Gracianna Family. I look forward to seeing you all gain.

Accessories: Stemless Aerating Wine Glasses

Hi Folks! I’d like to say a little about this not so little accessory I have been using for a while now (at least 6 months). I want to talk about the Stemless Aerating Wine Glass by Chevalier. I’m extremely skeptical when it comes to wine accessories as I generally find them wholly ineffective and unnecessary. They very often come across to me as expensive gimmicks designed to fool your better judgement and generally take advantage of inexperienced wine enthusiasts.

Well that was the perspective I took when I first spotted this particular accessory over a year go. I held off for at least 6 months before ordering one myself. The short version of this story is: it is way more more effective than it looks. For once I found a wine accessory that actually lives up to and exceeds it’s promise.

Over the last 6 months I have done side-by-side tests with all manner of wine aerators and decanters. The best case scenario has been, this glass gets you an hour head start out of the bottle. The worst case scenario is still a 15 minute head start compared to decanting. I am not exaggerating my estimates. At first blush it looks ridiculous, over-the-top and unbelievable. Then you pour your first glass an it hits you.

This has become an indispensable tool in my wine evaluations and reviews, instantly unlocking all the flavors and layers hidden within each vintage on demand. I highly recommend this wine glass for anyone who has any appreciation for wine no matter how sophisticated or unsophisticated.

You can find this accessory on Amazon.com. Just follow the links below:

Wine Review: 2013 La Stupenda, Barbera by Peterson

Tonight’s occasion: 2013 La Stupenda, Barbera by Peterson, Mendocino, California. Courtesy of Casemates who invited me to review tonight’s offering. I am writing this as I begin my review. My initial impressions right out of the bottle are very dark and inky for a Barbera. Barbera typically run on the lighter, ruby side of the spectrum like a classic Sangiovese or Pinot Noir. The twist-off held a very tight seal all these years and despite its journey. Making the first pour I got hit with big spice and a hint of raisin. I typically don’t care for raisin in my wines however I am pleased to confirm this rapidly dissipated. This tells me the wine is very much alive.

I was met with a medium-to-big nose, full of subtle oak, hint of berry and at least another floral note I cannot pinpoint (lavender comes to mind, not sure why), perhaps you can help me here. A hint of minerality come through after a few hours. The attack is fairly fruit forward but restrained. Up front, as with most Barbera, the body comes with noticeable spice and acidity which easily gives way once your palate adjusts after a few sips.

After about 15 minutes the body quickly becomes buttery smooth, adding the faintest hint of caramel into the mix. The finish, without doubt is a big one, starting out hot and spicy and as it opens, develops more tannic grip albeit restrained. This is by any account a big Barbera especially at 13.9% ABV. For a single VARIETAL Barbera, it is surprisingly layered, complex and balanced. A testament to the winemaker’s craft. I can appreciate its richer tone as I feel in this case it balances out the acidity typical of the varietal. Once opened up the acidity is quickly tempered by a creamy buttery expression.

This wine shows great maturity. This Barbera is well built. It commands your attention. It is aging much more gracefully than a typical Barbera. I feel like it’s time is now. It’s a somewhat different take on Barbera from a region off the beaten path that has had time and patience to fully develop. I think it presents a tremendous value. Please visit Casemates to take advantage of this deal before it’s gone. Fred and Jamie Peterson, after twirling it for a couple hours now, I like it! Estupenda!!!

How to stock your Wine Cellar – Casemates

Ladies and Gentlemen. Today I’d like to present to you, Casemates.com. I often get comments about how my wine enthusiasm must be expensive to maintain. Well the truth is, it really isn’t that expensive. One of the main reasons for starting this blog is to show you and any aspiring winesnob that your love for wine does not necessarily have to be an expensive one. You do not have to spend a lot of money to enjoy good, great and sometimes exceptional wines.

Enter Casemates. They play no small part in my overall cellar strategy. This group dates back to mid 2000s. I discovered them when they ran Wine Woot and very quickly came to rely on them for great wines at great prices and sometimes ridiculous bargains. They now play a key role in stocking my cellar with great EDC (Every Day Consuption) wines. While the wine deals they feature are often inexpensive, this is no indication of their quality. It is not uncommon to find deals ranging between $80-$180 per case. Some of these wines have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with wines in my reserve that are 3-5 times the price. There are few things sweeter to a winesnob than opening a bottle with friends and watch their surprise when hear how little it cost. We are truly living at a great time when great wines are well within reach and Casemates is playing a key role in that respect.

Moving forward I will try to highlight deals on wines I am familiar with. If you have any questions or would like my feedback on any of their offerings, please feel free to reach out to me on Instagram (@winesnob.blog). You can also follow Casemates on Instagram (@casemateswine).

This post is not sponsored in any way by Casemates. As with all my content, it is a pure reflection of my personal experience, opinion and my desire to support those who’s work I appreciate.

Reserve: 2012 Touriga – Nacional by Quinta Dos Carvalhais

Tonight’s occasion is a 2012 Touriga – Nacional by Quinta Dos Carvalhais. Touriga has been a mystery varietal for me for a while now. It is an obscure grape from Portugal. The closest varietal out here (common in California) I can think of is Cabernet Franc. Most Touriga read very similar. Like Cab Franc, they aren’t overly complex but what they do, the do exceedingly well. This one came out swinging and needed to open up. The nose is surprisingly subtle with 2 or 3 hidden floral notes I cannot pinpoint. Licorice, vanilla, and jasmine come to mind. Once opened up, the body becomes elusive and finish completely dominates. My kind of wine. This wine is still young with a hint of green. Get this and forget about it for another 5-10 years.

We did a side-by-side with a Touriga based Red blend by the same winemaker. It’s a bit more of a bargain, definitely more of a pleaser too. A fantastic second bottle with lots of fruity oak/vanilla, jasmine, fuller body and much more subdued tannins. Makes perfect sense for this 57% Touriga Nacional. The only way you’d be able to stomach a 2017 Touriga Nacional is if you blend it down. Nonetheless both fantastic wines in their own right. However my heart is with the 2012 Touriga. It is so much more mature and an hour after opening, it really dominated our tasting.