Sunday, August 29, 2010

Vini La Quercia Wines

Excellent Montepulciano d' Abruzzo Wines: DOC and DOCG

Earlier this month we purchased three different wines from Wines from Italy, a specialty importer of well crafted Italian wines. All of these wines are made by Vini La Quercia in Morro D'Oro, a small town located in the heart of the "Colline Teramane" in the province of Teramo, Abruzzo. "La Quercia"'s vineyards are located on sunny hills between the Adriatic Sea and the Gran Sasso mountain. Their location, land and elevation allows the optimal climate and conditions for ideal grapes cultivation that helps them create excellent wines with unique characteristics. La Quercia is a small estate winery that takes pride in producing great wines that are a good reflection of Abruzzo. Abruzzo is about two-thirds mountains and one-third hills. It is east of Rome from the center of the Italian Peninsula to the Adriatic coast. It has four provinces; Chieti, L'Aquilla, Pescara, and Teramo. The main grape varieties are the white Trebiano and the red Montepulciano. There is a town in Tuscany called Montepulciano that should not be confused with the grape variety. All three wines we tried were made from the Montepulciano grape and each represents a different style or “level” of wine.

The first wine is the Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, DOC, 2008. This wine is made without the use of oak barrels and is released and often enjoyed while young. This wine has a deep purple color and a pleasant nose of black fruit, wet rocks and spice. This is a medium bodied wine with rich dark berry flavors, crisp acidity of cooked cranberries and abundant gripping tannins that cloak the tongue. A good “food wine” that can pair well with a sharp cheese or a bowl of Pasta Arrabiata. Available for about $14.

The second wine (tier) is the Primamadre, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, DOC, 2007. This wine is also 100% Montepulciano, aged in oak barrels for about 6 months. The Primamadre is a bigger wine then the first, with rich berry flavors accented by spicy oak, licorice, flint and black pepper. This is a medium bodied wine with a dark ruby/purple color, sweet tannins and ample acidity. The flavors are bold and concentrated elevating this wine above the everyday pizza wine. Available for about $16.

The third wine (upper echelon) is the Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Colline Teramane, Primamadre, DOCG, 2005. Though the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo variety of grapes is grown all over Abruzzo, it is in the hilly territory of Colline Teramane, in the province of Teramo, that it bears its best fruit. Thus, when the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo appellation DOCG was created in 2003, the sub-zone of Colline Teramane was designated for special wines that qualify for the DOCG status. This is a special wine that proves that big, bold, quality wines can be made from the Montepulciano grape in the Abruzzo region. This wine is aged for two to three years total in steel vats, oak barrels and the bottle, before release. This wine has a dark purple color with a ruby rim. Full bodied with impressive concentration; there are gobs of spicy black fruit, mineral accented dried strawberry and cherry and long chewy finish. With a nice mixture of quality fruit, smooth tannins, crisp acidity and toasty oak, this wine should cellar well for another 10 years. We enjoyed this wine with some delicious Sicilian-inspired food at La Medusa, in Seattle. This wine is available for about $22.

All three of these wines, from Vini La Quercia, are very enjoyable and great with hearty Italian fare. This winery is proving that like Tuscany and Piedmont, Abruzzo has some great red wines worth seeking out.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Montebuena Rioja, 2009

It strikes me funny that we are already drinking a Rioja from the 2009 vintage…. wow, these grapes were picked just 10 months ago! The 2009 Montebuena is 100% Tempranillo that sees no oak. In the glass it has a dark ruby/purple color and is nearly opaque. This young wine shows a appealing bouquet of blackberry, fig, leather and baking spice. On the palate it is packed with ripe blackberry, concord grape and black pepper. This is a medium bodied wine with a rich mouth-feel, good concentration, and a nice balance of spice, acidity and gentle tannins. This is the first wine we have tasted from the 2009 vintage in Rioja, and we are excited to enjoy more like this in the near future. We bought this lovely value wine from northern Spain at Pete's Wine Shop, in Bellevue, for about $13.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hanna Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, 2001

Hanna Winery is located on a hilltop overlooking estate vineyards in the Alexander Valley near Healdsburg. Years ago, while traveling throughout the Sonoma and Napa wine districts, we stumbled across this winery for an early morning tasting spree. It was barely 11:00 am as we droving toward Calistoga. Their pretty Mediterranean styled building caught our eye and we decided we would take a look around and maybe taste one or two wines. Back in the car, an hour later and six tastes happier, we continued on our journey having discovered one of our favorite wineries in the Alexander Valley. Hanna makes a variety of wines both from the Alexander Valley and form the neighboring Russian River Valley. We are particular fans of their Cabernet Sauvignon and have purchased a few vintages to cellar and enjoy throughout the years. Last night we pulled this 2001 Cabernet from our cellar and brought it to the Purple Wine Bar and CafĂ© in Bellevue. It was a special night out as both my mother and brother are here for a visit. In the glass, this wine shows a deep, dark ruby/purple color and is nearly opaque. A heady bouquet evokes ripe red berries, plums and mocha. This is a full bodied wine with a mouth-feel that is smooth, seductive and almost viscous. On the palate, ripe black fruit, espresso, licorice, spice and mocha commingle to create a luscious and balanced wine. There are abundant smooth and well integrated tannins and the acidity level is relatively low. The finish is fat and creamy with a touch of spicy oak. This is a mature wine, but no way is it beyond it’s peek; cellar-aging has shown to be a beautiful thing. These Hanna wines are our “special occasion” wines that never fail to deliver.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Renegade Wine Co. Red Wine, Horse Heaven Hills, 2008

Many wineries in Washington State have developed second and third labels that allows them to bring different wines to market that can widen their public appeal. Sometimes these wines are at a lower price point and sometimes they represent wines of a different style from their primary label. The Renegade Wine Co. is the second label from Sleight of Hand Cellars from Walla Walla, Washington. This Red Wine is made from grapes coming exclusively from the Horse Heaven Hill AVA and specifically from the Canoe Ridge Vineyard. This wine is a blend of 39% Cab, 39% Cab Franc, 13% Grenache, 9% Syrah. I really like this wine. The color is a dark red with a purple hue. There are lovely aromatics of raspberry, plum, violets and dried earth. This is a medium bodied wine with flavors of black and red fruits, licorice and sage. The finish is long and harmonious complete with dusty tannins and a nice minerality. The flavor profile is delicious and a welcomed change from your typical $10 Washington State blend. If you come across this great "value wine" from Horse Heavens Hills, snatch up a few bottles.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Acacia Pinot Noir, Carneros, 2006

Acacia vineyards are set just two miles from San Francisco's San Pablo Bay, in the heart of Napa Valley's Carneros wine region. This wine growing region enjoys the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean and summer fog, making it an ideal growing area for Pinot Noir grapes. This 2006 Carneros Pinot Noir has a translucent ruby color with a crimson rim. There is an expressive bouquet of red plum, raspberry, violets, leather, cinnamon and earth. This is a medium bodied wine with crisp red berry flavors blended with flavors of citrus rind, coffee and toasty oak. This wine shows nice acidity that is balanced by smooth tannins and earthy overtones that reveal a rustic, elegant profile. We don’t drink many Pinot Noirs, but truly enjoyed the nice effort by Acacia. Enjoy this wine with a nice salmon dinner. This wine retails for about $24.