Category: Beverage Reviews



 

2012 Fattorie Melini Terrarosa Chianti Classico

It’s not exactly big Chianti season, but it’s what I was in the mood for, so there you have it.

Sangiovese and Merlot from vineyards in the Sienese region of Chianti Classio.

2012 Fattorie Melini Terrarossa Chianti Classico DOCG 13.5%

A: Medium black-cored ruby no signs of oxidation

N: rich, plummy/black cherry, slight vanilla, dried violets

T: full and soft, plum and cherry front- to mid-palate

F: fairly soft tannins, licorice, mint, subtle dried violets

 

It’s Chianti, all right, but nothing special. 

Super-easy-drinking but there is little here to excite to sustain interest. What makes the best mid-priced Chianti exciting is overt secondary characteristics. Those are here—suppressed and obscured by a new-world ripe, plummy fruit—but not present enough to keep me interested. Don’t get me wrong, this is plenty tasty. For $20 I want more depth and engaging character.

 


Isn’t she lovely?

 

Perennially one of my favorite rosé producers of recent years, Château Gaillard is a wonderful small biodynamic wine producer from Touraine focusing entirely on Sauvignon Blanc and Gamay Noir. This “gris” is actually made exclusively of Gamay Noir.

Appearance: copper-cored salmon

Aroma: fairly closed watermelon, fresh-cut grass, tarragon

Palate: watermelon rind, strawberry, delicate nondescript floral herbaceousness

Mouthfeel: creamy/silky with cut of acid throughout 

Finish: a bit of heat showing through a surprising touch of chalky tannins on the long, generously fruity finish

I’d normally prefer something a bit more crisp and refreshing on a hot summer day, but this is quite nice. It lacks the intensity of prior vintages but the complexity makes up for the softness.

 


Infinito? Sadly, finito.

 

My wife, Linda, made sure to stop off for two rosés on the way home after closing her shop this evening. We always crave rosé in the summertime and try to sate that craving every chance we get. With a dinner of locally farmed veggies in a slightly spicy Moroccan Ras el Hanout/coconut milk sauce, crisp but fruitful rosés fit the bill.

After a nearly two case binge on 2014 Zeni Bardolino Chiaretto last summer (last-year’s favorite), I thought that her purchase of this Santi Infinito, also a Bardolino Chiaretto, was a conscious decision, but it was simply a happy accident. This presents an opportunity to compare producers and vintages. 

Similar color and visually evident body-weight indicate, perhaps, a similar handling. Those attributes, sadly, are where the similarities end.

Wow! This is a different beast, entirely. The brightness and vibrancy of last-year’s Zeni is nowhere to be found here. Nor is the amazing tangy fruit length. Admittedly, last-year’s Zeni was an incredible outlier of the region’s production, so any comparison is unfair. It has been years since I have tasted the Santi rosé, so I have little basis beyond tasting prior vintages for understanding whether this is a function of vintage, yield, or winemaking choice—though, my suspicion is a combination of all with a heavy lean toward the latter. 

  • Appearance: pale, shimmery beet juice/peach skin pink
  • Aroma: subtle mineral-tinged strawberry 
  • Palate: big shot of up-front acidity that masks shallow peach and strawberry fruit which all drops off the palate almost instantaneously 
  • Mouthfeel: creamy richness that supresses the acidity and gives the impression that rich fruit is to follow…but it just isn’t there
  • Finish: non-existent 
Oh, well. Not a bad wine, but a wine wherein the most interesting thing is the front label’s curious use of an accent grave in (an also curious use of the quasi-French) “rosè”.

Lots of words on the label. One word in the bottle: “savor”.

 

As one who tastes tons of stuff it is somewhat rare that a product screams to me at first taste. This one has called me to action twice. Once to order a case into a shop I consult for regularly and again, several months later to buy for myself.

The sales representative for the local distributor that handles this product brought this by the shop for me to taste back in November and, despite my initial ambivalence (it is “only” Irish whiskey, after all), I immediately exclaimed, “This is one of the finest whiskies I have ever put to lip!”. Through the holidays (and months after) I hand-sold (read: proselytized) customers and friends to this stuff as a can’t-lose proposition. 

But time has a way of seeding doubt—founded or otherwise. I just was no longer sure that I read this right the first time. So, I finally broke down and bought a bottle for, um, further empirical study from the comfort of my recliner. 

Current analysis: this is one of the finest whiskies I have ever put to lip!

Lord Lieutenant Kinahan’s 10-Year Aged Single Malt Irish Whiskey is phenomenal. Sure, it lacks the hedonistic richness of top Bourbons, or the complexity of secondary characters of the best of Scotch, but this is not a whisky concerned with subterfuge. This is all about the purity of the malt expression in tandem with the simple, enriching expression of the Bourbon barrel oak. 

 

46% abv, 100% malted barley, 10 years in 100% used Bourbon barrels. 

Appearance: medium golden-honey yellow with greenish edges

Aroma: red cherry, orange peel, and red apple skins in baking spices

Taste: pretty much a reflection of the aromas but with a lighter fruit expression and pronounced sweetness; a pleasant dusty, feedbag maltiness; and a long honey, green oak, and cinnamon fade

Mouthfeel: a slick, creamy entry and a long, pleasantly hot finish even with a small, melted cube of ice 

 

Overall, I adore the purity of malt expression with the oak components rising through on the back-palate. This is an Irish whiskey that straddles the line between Bourbon and an unpeated Highland single malt. Suffice it to say that I really enjoy this.

 


ommgot3erSpring is coming.
Winter is a technicality. It hit the mid-6o’s here in Baltimore today and I figured I better get the last of the winter in now. Thus, I cracked open this dark saison from Ommegang. Coincidentally, this particular bottle was packaged on February 22, 2015—a year and six days ago. Ommegang first released these beers to coincide with seasons of the Game of Thrones TV series, but this one comes to me late. To be fair, it was colder this time last year and it is always a bit colder up in Cooperstown where this is brewed, so this would be a pretty good late-winter beer as a matter of style.Now, I know this beer pretty well.

Always a fan of Ommegang, I brought this in on draft for our growler program in the store I worked in when it was first released in the winter of late-2014/early-2015. I remember liking it a lot more then. Perhaps it was simply the newness of it back then. Perhaps it was colder (the beer this time, not the weather) as, today, I am pouring this five-ten degrees warmer than I should be per bottle instructions. Perhaps it was the wonder of draft presentation. Whatever the case, it is solid and inoffensive, if not particularly engaging.

Poured from a cork & cage finished 750mL bottle.
Lots of billowy tan head with a deep walnut color. The nose is decidedly high-toned—almost orange zest—with fresh rye bread and toned-down cinnamon/nutmeg aromas. These character are reflected on the palate along with licorice, pecan, and finishing with slightly astringent dark-roasted coffee. Acid is high (as expected from a saison) but tinged in a acidic coffee kind of way. Perhaps due to its temperature, it is showing a hard metallic edge, too. None of these perceived negatives undo the beer, though. It is just fine and there is nothing particularly off-putting. It is simply solid and that’s about the best I can say about it.

I have noticed my tastes changing toward lighter, crisper styles of late and I am drinking this by itself when it begs for food. But on a cold winter day with a plate of barbecued ribs or a hearty root vegetable stew, this would hit the spot. I just might be more inclined to share this one than others.


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Origin: Era Valley, Chianti Superiore, Tuscany, Italy

Composition: 80% Sangiovese, 20% Canaiolo

Appearance: deep black-cored violet

Nose: closed dried lavender and rich licorice

Palate: black cherry reduction sauce, delicate baking spice, back-palate acidity followed by a long sweet anisette/lavender finish

Mouthfeel: pretty full-bodied for a Chianti, sleek front-end with velvety tannins

Matteo Cantoni visited my old wine shop a few years ago and gifted me with this signed bottle. No sense in not giving it the treatment it deserves: sharing with my wife on a snowy day off at home over a dinner of mixed left-overs and scrounged possibilities (pumpkin soup, grilled cheddar cheese sandwiches, chili, and thick-cut potato “chips”–all homemade, of course).

This is just lovely. The dark richness is a testament to the Cantoni family’s commitment to the Canaiolo grape and attention to detail in the vineyard and winery. Showing about as spot-on as it could right now. The balance of rich, dark fruit, back-palate acidity and velvety tannins shows what an incredible value this was at about $17 upon its release. You could probably get away with a few more years of cellaring with this, but it is drinking so well now, why wait?

Day 2: flintiness comes on strong. Nice to see some of that rusticity show itself, but the fruit is still super-ripe and lush. Better day on two, I’d say.


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A delicious, modern-style, juicy Cab made by my friends Charles and Tony in a home winery. Loads of ripe cherry and plum with a toasty caramel undertone. Medium-full bodied with a silky texture. Proof that lovely fruit is grown in Maryland and skilled amateurs are capable of wonderful things.


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Origin: Pauillac (Medoc),Bordeaux, France

Composition: 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc

Appearance: deep red-black with a black core and burnt orange/sepia edges

Nose: toasted nutmeg, kirsch liqueur, rye toast, freshly oiled leather

Palate: dusty leather, cigar box, ripe but buried kirsch liqueur, and substantial iodine at pop-and-pour — fruit really comes to the fore after an hour in glass, leather softens to licorice-y tones

Mouthfeel: medium-full bodied, silky, with sleek front-to-back acid and fine-grit tannins

I chose this wine from the cellar of the shop I used to manage (Wine Underground in Baltimore, MD) as a holiday bonus in 2010. This was stored in the natural temperature/humidity control of that cellar with its 14″ thick stone walls from 2002 until 2010 and followed into my wine fridge for the remaining three years.

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This is the cork. No prettier could be expected of this bottle at 11+ years. After bottling.

It’s easy to aggrandize and mythologize a Bordeaux, so I’mma do it:
Still showing a touch young, but, man, this beauty is opening up rapidly in my glass with the dense kirsch-y fruit unfolding over the once-dominant secondary oak characteristics noted above. Just gorgeous dried black cherry fruit now lying on a chaise of leathery spice. The acid is present from front palate to back, but plays like a flute line weaving through the French horn, viola, and cello of the fruit, spice and leather. The overall texture of this wine has softened and plumped nicely, too, into lush and warming — much like the syrupy kirsch liqueur that makes up the fruit palate. About an hour-and-half in and the fruit is dominant and sweet and baking spice has become the key secondary component.

This is pairing wonderfully with our locally-farmed New York Strip steak with garlic butter and parsley-ed potatoes. Iron and iodine. Cherry and red meat. Leather and garlic. Baking spice and butter. Marriages made in my mouth while I preside and abide.

I will likely nurse this for a few hours before moving on to my New Year’s bubbly and may have updates to follow.

Happy New Year, everyone! May 2014 bring you and yours health and joy.


Kinda on the fly and in a hurry, but here goes…

Origin: Princess Anne, Maryland, USA

Composition: 100% Heyser Farm Spencerville Red apples

Appearance: foggy green-tinged straw yellow

Nose: ripe red apples, ginseng, honey

Palate: same as nose, super-clean, dry, and crisp

Mouthfeel: round front-palate with a lean, but long and fruitful finish

This is a cider I have been in love with for a couple of years now (a consistent gold medal winner at the Maryland Governor’s Cup wine competition). Not easy to find, even in our immediate market, but well worth going out of your way for. Crisp and refreshing for the Summer, but not un-shy at 8% alcohol. A fine breakfast cider that pairs well with a mixed-veggie frittata and potatoes.

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That’s how you spend a day off.

 

 

Origin: Barossa, Australia

Composition: 66% Syrah/19% Grenache/8% Mourvèdre/7%Viognier

Appearance: ruby-violet with a black core and slightly bricked edges

Nose: eucalyptus, brambly blackberry, licorice

Palate: ripe mixed berries, tobacco, espresso bean, menthol

Mouthfeel: medium-full bodied with mouth-filling richness up-front, overall silkiness, wee mid-palate acid, and chalky tannins

Knew I was grilling a sirloin steak and wanted a wine built to handle it. Stopped by my old shop and found this bottling that I brought in a couple of years ago and pegged it as just right (also, at a price I was willing to spend $40–sorry St. Joseph, top-shelf Argentine blends, and vintage Rioja Reserva).

Twisted the screw-cap, set to grilling, and waited. About an hour later, sirloin topped with blue Stilton; grilled radicchio; and grill-sautéed green peppers, onions, and baby bella mushrooms were on the table next to a deep, dark glass of this Aussie classic.

Taut upon release and hiding under Stelvin closure, this wine has really come around. The nose and palate showed an almost Port-like something that had me a touch worried in conjunction with the slight bricking, but it turned out to be just the stewy fruit common of Barossa. The crush of ripe berry fruit was kept in check by a delicate mid-palate acid and the cooling menthol edge on the finish. At a stated 15% alcohol, this could have easily been boozy, but was quite well-balanced and surprisingly light and drinkable.

The pairing was on the money, too. The balance was apparent in not dominating the (admittedly, strong) flavors on my plate. The fruit and acid played beautifully off the fattiness and char of the steak and intense flavor of the Stilton. The radicchio and mixed veggies brought out fruit sweetness in the wine.

Next thing I knew, the wife and I had killed the bottle as we cleared our plates. No palate fatigue. No fullness after a glass. No concern about paying the price of over-indulgence. Just pure satisfaction.

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