Friday, February 26, 2010

The Friday Lineup™

A weekly commentary on selected wines tasted.

2008 Hayman & Hill Santa Lucia Highlands Reserve Selection Pinot Noir ($18). If you think of a bowl of tomato soup as great comfort food, as I do, then a glass of well-made but simple Pinot Noir in the Burgundy style is a comfort wine. Although it comes from southern Monterey County, this California Pinot is such a wine, much like ones made in good vintages from the less-familiar vineyards of the Cote d’Or. It’s a light wine, but certainly not short on the palate – mellow cherry and cola flavors with a touch of creaminess and a smooth finish. That’s it. But I’ve bought cases of wine such as these from Burgundy (and from Sonoma County back in the day when extract wasn’t important) and opened bottles a decade or two later that were as comforting to savor as – another analogy – a mild cigar. Buy.

2007 Frank Family Napa Valley Chardonnay ($33). Redolent with stone-fruit flavors like ripe apricots and dark peaches and savory spices like those found in Southern Rhone whites. Quite enjoyable.

2007 Blackstone Monterey County Riesling ($12). Acceptable citrus flavors, but sugary and dull in the finish. Pass.

2007 Chaddsford Portfolio Collection Pennsylvania “Due Rossi” ($25). Pennsylvania’s Chester County continues to show that it can produce very good reds – generally blends – from Northern Italian varieties. This one is 80% Barbera and 20% Sangiovese, and winemaker Eric Miller has put together a full wine with dark, smoky berries, ripe cherries, warm oak and a hint of typical Sangio citrus notes in the finish.

20007 La Linda Mendoza Malbec ($10- $12). Very nice wine that seems more Northern Rhone than Bordeaux in its style and flavors – a dark black raspberry core of flavor wrapped in rich earthiness. Excellent for winter meals. Buy.

Until next time...

Roger Morris

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Recent Glimpses of Emilia-Romagna

I traveled to Bologna last week to take part in the annual Vini ad Arte program in nearby Faenza and to barrel sample the delicious 2009 Sangioveses di Romagna. I'll be writing several articles about the wine, food, art and people of Emilia-Romagna, but here is my own "sample" - a few advance glmpses of what I saw and did:

With Gian Alfonso Roda, president of the Enoteca Regionale Emilia-Romagna, I got to taste a cross-section of the wines of the region in the Enoteca's castle headquarters in the little hill town of Dozza - from semi-sparkling Lambruscos to Albanas in table wine and passito versions to the Gutturnio blends of Barbera and Bonarda to Pignolettos. The Sangioveses would come later. I'm the kind of drinker who likes a large variety of wines, which means that I enjoy the diversity of E-R. It can be confusing, however, as Roda notes: "For the novice drinker, Emilia-Romagna is a little like the Forrest Gump movie - it's like opening a box of chocolates when you're not sure what you'll get."

Then there are the Dozza walls. About 50 years ago, the town of Dozza, with its stone and stucco walls and narrow streets, started a Biennale competition (the next is September 2011) in which artists from around the world execute permanent paintings in all styles and subjects on the outside walls of the locals' bedrooms and dining rooms (see below). I found it fascinating walking around, and I hope I get an invitation to come back in a 18 months. :)

Third, I got a cross-section of the region's cuisine with three pasta dishes - the passatelli ("a handful of grated bread crumbs, a handful of parmigiano reggiano and an egg" in brodo with some grated nutmeg) of Ristorante Canè in Dozza, the signature tagliatelle bolognese ("no onions, no tomatoes, no garlic") at Daniele Minarelli's Osteria Bottega in Bologna and the uovo in ravioli (an orange-hued yoke ravioli with lots of cheese and truffle slices) at the elegant San Domenico in Imola.

Then there was the diverse array of ceramics from around the world - holy and profane, ancient and modern, utilitarian and whimsical - at the International Ceramics Museum (top) in Faenza (yes, the word source of faience ceramics).

Finally, there were the tastings of barrel samples and old bottles of Sangiovese di Romagna put together by the Convito di Romagna, headed by Enrico Drei Donà, pictured below at the family estate. It is my belief that Romagna is proving itself the fourth region of great Sangiovese, moving up to conversing terms with its more-famous Tuscan neighbors.

But more about all of this later. I'll keep you posted as articles appear over the next several months. For more on the region, go to

Until the next time....

Roger Morris

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Friday Lineup

A weekly commentary on selected wines tasted.

2008 Monte Carbonare “Suavia” Soave Classico (about $27). Soave is going through the same transition that Chianti did 30 years ago – having people discover that in spite of the lower-quality examples that we generally find in America, there is some really good stuff being made in this region. And this is one of them. Suavia has strong lactic and minerally qualities, tastes a bit like a cross between an un-oaked Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc, although the grapes are 100% Garganega. Lively fruit and acidity. Quite good. Buy.

2008 Ruffino Chianti ($9). As defense secretaries and football coaches like to mutter, “It is what it is,” and this Ruffino is a simple, inexpensive Chianti. Nice cherry flavors and a tin-cup minerality with a touch of the Sangiovese raspy finish. Yet why does it remind me more of a simple Beaujolais than Chianti? Consider.

2006 Cuvelier Los Andes Grand Vin ($40). This Malbec-dominated wine comes from the family which owns Château Le Crock in St.-Estephe and it a part of the Michel Rolland-led Clos de los Siete compound in Mendoza. The breeding shows. The Cuvelier family and Rolland were both raised in the grand Bordeaux blending tradition, and this blend of Malbec (70 percent) and 10 each of Merlot, Caberet Sauvignon and Syrah is delicious. It has loads of stuffing, but it is approachable now – dark fruits, chocolates, earthiness, dusty tannins. Buy

2008 Alice White Southeast Australia Shriaz ($7). Some good fruit in the front, but the finish is too earthy and gawky for me. Pass.

2008 Ruffino “Lumina” Pinot Grigio ($11). It’s enjoyable – fruity with dried spices around the edges – but tastes a tad sweet and artificial. You can do better for the same price. Pass.

2007 “Red Guitar” Old Vine Tempranillo/Garnacha Navarra ($9). I really like this wine and kept coming back to the open bottle. Lots of ripe, rounded fruit, moderately complex, deeply satisfying. Buy.

2007 Think Tank “La Encantada” Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($60). In limited distribution. This is a big wine with concentrated black raspberry flavors, yet the taste is more Burgundy than new world. Nice chalky finish with good acidity and a long finish. Very nice wine, though I should warn that the concentration will be too much for those who like lighter Pinots. Buy.

Until next time...

Roger Morris

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Friday Lineup - Bordeaux Style

It is true that I have been drinking wine in Bordeaux for the past several days, although not to review them, as I normally do in The Friday Lineup. Instead, I was on assignment to work on a half-dozen articles - but that doesn't mean I don't have some reader recommendations.

First, get ready for the 2009 vintage when it comes up to buy on futures this summer. I tried several 2009s, both the components and the blends, at several wineries, and what I tasted was uniformly good. It's been touted as the best since 2005. We're still six weeks or so away from primeurs - the big 2009 vintage tasting - so the blends that have just been put into barrels will taste even better when they are formally presented to the wine world. Balance is the key to this vintage, although those who wring their hands over alcohol will pay too much attention to what's on the label and not in their mouth. Anne-Francois Quie of Chateau Rauzan-Gassies calls 2009 a "winemakers vintage" in that there were so many options. "There was no rushing or disasters at harvest, so we could make choices."

Second, pay more attention to the Cotes de Castillon, the wine region east of St.-Emilion that occupies the same plateau as that stellar app. The wines are similar in composition and style to St. Emmy, but are much more reasonable in price. I visited four chateaux which sell to the U.S., and I can recommand all of them - Clos Puy Arnaud and Chateaux Castegens, de Pitray and Poupille.

Third, if you visit Bordeaux, take time to go Margaux gourmet with a tour set up by women at four chateaux who call themselves Les 4 Margalaises. The chateaux are Rauzan-Gassies, Kirwan, La Tour de Bessan and Prieure-Lichine, and the tour includes a lot of background on Margaux that I found fascinating, even after many visits there. Plus you get to drink and nibble at each chateau and experience a gourmet lunch at one of them.

Next week, we get back to our regular programming of wines to consider, buy, try and take a pass on.

Until next time...

Roger Morris