For Thanksgiving dessert I opened this chilled bottle of sweet Bordeaux nectar. It was spectacular to say the least. Medium gold with shimmering legs in the glass. The nose had pronounced aromas of honey, apricots, candied tangerine and crystallized mango. Super unctuous, sweet, waxy – flavors of apricot, marmalade, tangerine, honey and that telltale Botrytis note. Medium acidity and full body. The finish is very long and the sweetness coats the mouth. This is one of the best Sauternes I have ever come across. For $30 per half bottle this is a must-cellar wine for short to long term enjoyment. 96 points from me and 5 if not 6 stars. Salut….
It’s Thanksgiving and I am pouring this Cabernet Sauvignon. But here’s the kicker, this wine is so unique that it doesn’t even look like a Cab. Blended with Cinsault and Carignan it always shows a very pale reddish orange hue in the glass. It looks like aged Burgundy. The nose is as expected- full of earth, stewed cherry, forest floor, strawberry, red licorice, pomegranate, dried cranberry, meaty, farmyard….. Wow. The palate is super smooth. Slightly tart, it has very fine-grained tannins and complex flavors of red fruit, oaky notes of toast and layers of tertiary flavors like farmyard, stewed fruit, dried fruit and meat. The body is light to medium and the finish is long. Another spectacular bottle of Lebanese decadence that will drink well forever. The last ’98 Musar I had was in Magnum, this one a bit more developed but showing no signs of throttling back. Read about my last tasting here. This truly is a remarkable wine that gets 94 points. At $80 it is a 5 star treat. Salut….
My friends Arty and Keef opened this bottle for a pre-Thanksgiving drink. Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon this Napa jewel has Merlot and Cab Franc blended in as well. Deep ruby in the glass the nose gives me currants, black cherry, charcoal, plums, black currants- a pretty complex set of red and black fruit aromas. Super smooth on the palate with lithe tannins and easygoing acidity that makes for a great mouthfeel. Red and black fruit flavors, charred oak notes, chocolate powder and a medium finish with super fine-grained tannins. Yummy stuff to drink till 2027. 92 points for this $65 wine makes it a 5 star treat. It needs a Filet or some other lower fat cut of meat. Salut….
For a while now I have been studying wine, taking courses and really immersing myself into tasting the stuff. When I got to the Port section I realized that much like Sherry- there is so much to learn, so many different styles, so many different flavors. I bought three basic types to compare- a Ruby, a Tawny and a Late Bottled Vintage (LBV). I will explain all three for the newbs.
Ruby Port is where it all starts. A short fermentation to get between 5-9% ABV and then the wine is fortified, stopping the fermentation and leaving a sweet wine with lots of unfermented sugar. The resulting wine will be have approximately 20% ABV and will be matured in old oak vessels or stainless steel, to minimize oxidation. Once matured this Ruby Port is bottled and sold. Some wine is left to age further and is bottled with a vintage date several years after vinification. This is an LBV. Some Ruby Ports, in exceptional vintages, are further aged after vinification and bottled by the third year. These are Vintage Ports that don’t get produced every year. They will last for decades in bottle and will usually need decanting.
Tawny Port is an oxidized version of Port that has been matured in oak barrels called Pipes. They are tawny in color, versus ruby- how bout that? After tasting three different styles (I did not get a Vintage Port btw), I can say I prefer Ruby over LBV and my least favorite is Tawny. I will confirm my opinions again and again as I love Port and will find other brands. Here are the tasting notes, Salut:
DOW’S FINE TAWNY PORT
Semi opaque, almost red in color. Nose is medium intensity with aromas of dried cherry, dried red currant , sweet prune, red licorice and old oak. The palate is sweet but not as unctuous as I was expecting. The flavors are of medium intensity and mirror the nose with the addition of almonds and some green bitterness. The tannins really grip the top of my gums- they are very well integrated. Acidity is good and balances the whole package. I’m not sure that this is my favorite style of Port but it’s a new experience that I’m enjoying. 89 points. $18
SANDEMAN FINE RUBY PORT
I know it says ruby, but it really looks purple in the glass. I would say it is deep, ie. opaque. The nose is sweet with stewed plums, smoke, cooked blueberry, chocolate, and cigars. The palate is sweet, no doubt. The acidity is quite high and the tannins are medium. This wine has a medium body and the alcohol is high for a fortified wine (19.5%). The flavor intensity is medium (+) and I get the cooked blueberry, stewed plums and chocolate with some smokiness. The finish is long and satisfying. This wine is drinking nicely and may age a bit longer. I would say I prefer this style over Tawny port, it is fresher and more fruit driven. 91 points. $17
DOW’S LBV 2015
Deep purple in color, it has a nose of stewed blackcurrant, prunes, raisins, cooked plums and blueberry pie. The palate is obviously semi sweet with good tannic structure, juicy acidity and full body. The heat from the 19.5% ABV is noticeable initially, but it blows off after a while. The flavors correspond to the aromas but there is a bitterness that bothers me on the mid palate. It’s the same sensation I get when biting into an unripe, green almond. The finish is mid length and chock full of luscious stewed fruit. A nice bottle worthy of 90 points. $26
On a recent trip to Canada I purchased this Icewine. It is made from the Vidal grape which is a hybrid varietal made by crossing Ugni Blanc with Rayon D’Or. The berries are allowed to fully ripen and once the temperature gets really cold (-10C) the fruit is harvested and pressed immediately. The grapes tend to be sweet as a result of over-ripening and when they are pressed, the frozen water inside the grape remains whilst the sugar is run off resulting in a very sweet nectar that is fermented into a low alcohol (9% or so) wine. This winery is well known and their wine is delicious- dark gold and almost syrupy in the glass. Aromas and flavors of apricot, honeysuckle, apricot and banana. The wine tastes very sweet with low alcohol. It is full bodied, unctuous, waxy and paired well with desserts of carrot cake and Key Lime pie. I was a bit rushed in tasting but the next bottle will get the full treatment. I paid $50 for this 94 point bottle that gets 5 stars. If you like sweet wines, this is a must-try. It is unlike a Sauternes as it does not have the Botrytis nuances- instead it is more fruit focused and leans heavily on the sugar content to deliver a delicious treat! Salut….
Our final wine at the 22nd Virtual Wine Tasting event was the capstone of our Italian themed night. We had tried three new-to-the-group varietals so I wanted to circle back to familiar roots with a Sangiovese from Brunello. The tasters got the usual cherry and tar that we expected plus black and white pepper, iron, brine and (unfortunately) stewed prune and stewed apricot which told me the wine was already fading fast. On the palate this fear was confirmed by the light-bodied nature of the wine that had low to medium tannins, medium acidity and a short finish. The flavors we got were cherry, briny salt and iron. I was hoping for some leather, tobacco, dried herbs- alas it was not to be. A massive disappointment for me personally as I always hope for 1 home run wine per tasting. At $70 this 90 pointer only gets 2 stars from me. Drink now if you have any. Salut….
Third up in the line at our 22nd virtual wine tasting even twas this Aglianico. Opaque with thick legs that showed off the 15% ABV. On the nose the panel got blueberry, violets, tar, charcoal, black raspberry, tarry smoke, forest floor, black licorice and pencil lead. One person noted it to be Port-like. On the palate it was a tannic beast. Almost searing even with 9 years of bottle age. It’s difficult to discern flavors when all you can sense is the astringency covering even square inch of you gums and teeth but we did manage to coax anise, blackberry, cherry, smoky tar (or tarry smoke!) out of the glass. As mentioned- super tannic, it had medium acidity, medium body and a medium finish which made it a 92 point wine in my book. After some decanting time it softened up quite considerably and came into its own. At $40 it is an interesting way to discover the varietal from Campania, which is due east of Naples. 4 stars with a drink by 2030 window. Salut….
I wanted to introduce our virtual tasting group to this varietal- Barbera. Unfortunately it was quite tart and that threw people off. It is an opaque wine which conjured up ideas of a brooding, tannic wine when quite the opposite was discovered. The group noted aromas of tar, cherry, cherry coke, luxardo cherries, coffee, tobacco and cola. The flavors we encountered were sour cherry, Dr. Pepper, tobacco, red currant and raspberry. Medium bodied, it had a short finish and was tart the whole time. 90 points for this $40 wine made it a 3 star effort. I subsequently drank it two nights later and it was far better, perhaps worthy of a bump in score. Drink till 2028 with something like breaded veal cutlets or an Alfredo dish, staying away from high acid foods with red pasta sauce. Salut….
Kicking off the 22nd Virtual Wine Tasting was this Friulano. Gold in color it had a beautiful look in the glass. We tasted it at room temp and chilled. Here are the notes I cobbled from all the input.
Room Temp- Nice nose of green pear, lime, florals, green apple, grapefruit and peach. On the palate the group got peach, florals, green apple but no varietal bitter almond. I was disappointed about that. Light to medium bodied, this relatively low acid wine had a short finish, getting 90 points from me.
The chilled version had florals including honeysuckle, some vanilla, almond and a salinity like sea air. No one got grapefruit on this nose. The palate did however get grapefruit from someone in the group. Green apple, almonds, tart fruit and a saline minerality showed. I thought the chilled version was better and gave it 91 points. For $24 this is a good intro to the varietal. 4 stars from me! Salut….
This Bordeaux blend consists of 40% Semillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Muscadelle. It is a medium gold in the glass and the 12.5% ABV leaves barely a sheen of watery legs in the glass. On the nose it has all the makings of a classic Sav Blanc- gooseberry, cut grass, cat’s pee and pineapple with some waxy notes from the Semillon. The palate is refreshing with medium acidity, light weight body and fresh flavors of gooseberry, pineapple, honeysuckle and that waxy note I got on the nose. The finish is medium in length and is a touch tangy from the acidity. I like this lightish wine that sports good fruit-forward notes with a nice mouthfeel that is easy to drink. I would pair it with fresh seafood, lighter chicken dishes and salads. For $15 it is a good one to stock up on for the short term, 88 points. 3 stars from me. Salut….