Wines of the Week

wineby Andrew Chalk

2011 Carmen Carmenere ‘Gran Reserva’, Apalta Vineyard, Colchagua Valley $15

The problem with Carmenere is that it is difficult to ripen.That leads to wines characterized by green pepper aroma and taste characteristics. Plaudits to Carmen at having avoided this this problem in 2011 and producing a wine with just enough green notes to contribute breed and structure without the negative side effects.

This wine has a an opaque ruby color. Smoky coffee, clove, black pepper, raspberry and black cherry aromas and bouquet. The mouthfeel is full of luxuriant tannins, complex fruit flavors confirming the nose, medium acid and a medium long finish.  

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Drink now or keep just 5 to 7 years (although I am not sure it will improve).

A very good wine that may be too soft for the fattiest and most heavily salted red meats but consider it with leaner cuts like filet mignon, veal and game. Good value.

2012 Krone Brut $20

A true traditional method (the same method used in Champagne and formerly known as ‘Methode Champenoise” before legal changes in Europe protected that term) sparkling wine made from the same grapes as Champagne, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (no Pinot.Meunier). Little wonder that it is a stylistic ringer for a Champagne. More surprising is the refined yeastiness and semblance of age beyond that declared on the bottle. I daresay that it would fare well in a blind lineup of major houses’ entry-level bottlings.

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Very good value. This wine is essentially a Champagne at 50% off.

2012 Franciscan Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA. $28

Dark ruby color. Nose of blackberries, green peppers, black cherry, tomato leaves.

Palate: Expansive cassis fruit. Medium acid. Soft chewy tannins. Medium plus finish.

In an area where Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are more expensive than just about anywhere else in the U.S. Franciscan continues to be an example of value. This is very typical of Napa Cabernet, without the triple digit price tag that is so common.

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Drink now. Either quaff it or pair with barbecue or steak.

2010 Bodegas Bilbainas ‘Viña Pomal’ Reserva Rioja, Spain. $21

A really traditional example of Rioja wine making. It is dark raspberry in color. The nose is somewhat closed-in despite being the oldest wine in this review. Will keep another decade without trouble. We had it with Indian at Samudraa where Vijay Sadhu eschews stereotypical Indian dishes for preparations complex and intense with spice and herbal notes from all (coastal) regions of India and as far afield as Malaysia (roti canai), Singapore (mussels in coconut curry broth) and Thailand (drunken noodles). The single-vineyard Vina Pomal wine worked with this range of flavors because it is low in tannin and the raspberry flavors are so clear.

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Personally, I would keep this wine for another 5-10 years rather than opening it now.

2011 Garofoli Piancarda, Rosso Cònero DOC, Italy. $16

An unusual wine in this market. This is a 100% Montepulciano grape from the Marche region of Italy. Look for ‘Marche’ for an indication of value

This is a very tannic, chewy wine that expresses earthiness, forest floor and herbs rather than the forward fruit one finds in New World reds. Either keep for 3-5 years or moderate the tannins by serving it to accompany tart cheeses, fatty, well seasoned red meat or pasta with alfredo sauce (believe it or not!).

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Good value.

Disclosure and procedures: Some wines sent by vendor(s) at no cost to reviewer. If a local reseller is named after a price quote is the one who, on wine-searcher.com, had the lowest price. Wines sent by vendors may not be reviewed and will not be returned.

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