Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Lineup: From Montefalco to Mendoza

A weekly commentary on wines tasted, usually both solo and with food.

The Ruca Malen winery and vineyards in Mendoza.

Wines of the Week

2005 Cantina Novelli Montefalco Sagrantino ($41). Sagrantino has traditionally been made as a very assertive wine that opens up about as quickly as a clam, but, increasingly, vintners have tried to tame this Umbrian red into a more-open style that still preserves the raspy, gritty characteristics of the original. Novelli is a good example of the more-accessible style - nice, light red fruit flavors, very drinkable, yet with that typical Sagrantino tightness in the finish. It's a great red sauce wine, because it can balance the tomato's fruitiness while matching its acidity. If you haven't tried a Sagrantino, this one is a good place to start.

2009 Ruca Malen Mendoza Chardonnay Reserva ($18). This is a well-priced Chardonnay that fits the niche of having a little oak while maintaining the crispness and minerality of a stainless Chard. A touch of creaminess, moderate fullness with light apple and peach flavors make it a versatile wine at the table.

Label Notes: I had the opportunity to taste these wines at the table this week with people from the winery - Ruca Malen winemaker Pablo Cuneo and Novelli's export director Giulia Luccioli. Both labels are new or recently reintroduced to the U.S. and will not immediately be available in all markets.

Cuneo is a very passionate winemaker who barely pauses to eat as he explains in detail his vineyard and winery practices in making very good Chardonnays and Malbecs. Luccioli is equally passionate about the Novelli wines, chiefly the Sagrantino and a Trebbiano Spoletino, made from a clone that Novelli has rescued from obscurity with the help of the University of Milano.

Wines of Interest

2008 Peter Lehmann Barossa Shiraz ($15). This is the style of Shiraz I like - more earthy than in-your-face fruity, with good cherry-flavors, but dried cherries. It almost has some Cab Franc characteristics with its caky texture and flavors. Very drinkable.

2007 Sumptary Amador Zinfandel ($14). Not a world beater, but one of those Zins you love to uncork and be greeted with rich, creamy, black raspberry flavors. A bit hot in the finish.

2009 Valckenberg Dornfelder ($12). Sweet, fruity red tables wines is not a category I normally put to my lips, but this German is a little different because it closes so cleanly. Would I regularly drink it? No. But if I had a friend or relative who loves sweeter wines with their meal, I would take this along as a house gift that I could share.

Until next week...

Roger Morris

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