Dona Paula Winery a Fine Example of Good Wines From Argentina

April 27th, 2008

The Mendoza region of west central Argentina is considered by many to be the country’s premiere wine grape growing area and is home to over 1,000 wineries.

Lately I’ve enjoyed a number of wines from Doña Paula Vineyards, an Argentinean winery that typifies what you can expect from the region – reasonably priced, well-balanced wines with good character and a nice measure of fruit flavors.

Doña Paula currently bottles its wines under two labels; the top-of-the-line Estate label, priced at about $12 to $14 a bottle, which utilizes lower yields and longer aging, and Los Cardos (meaning “the thistle”), a second label that doesn’t compromise on quality despite a slightly lower price of about $9 to $11 a bottle.

Here are my notes on a few of the winery’s current releases:

Los Cardos 2006 Chardonnay – Slightly citrusy to start, with apricot and apple flavors in the mid-palate and a touch of toasted oak on the finish for added depth. For a chardonnay at this price it’s really quite complex.

Los Cardos 2006 Syrah – Packed with plum and black cherry flavors with a scant bit of spice on the finish. Because the wine is still fairly young it’s a bit tannic – a minor quibble that should be easily resolved with additional cellaring time to allow it to become more plush and well rounded. In summary – fine now, but great aging potential.

Doña Paula Estate 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon – Lovely aroma of blueberries and violets followed by restrained dark fruit flavors and a finish of sweet, toasted oak. An excellent food wine to pair with beef or barbeque meats.

Doña Paula Estate 2006 Malbec – Generous, mouth watering dark plum and blackberry flavors followed by hints of anise and pepper. Gentle tannins and a silky finish make this an instantly enjoyable red wine.

All of these wines should be available locally at the Community Food Co-Op, Food Pavilion, and Haggen stores. If not in stock, they can be special ordered upon request and on hand for you to enjoy within three to five days.

Chuckanut Ridge Wine Co. Pulls Out a Few Wines From the Vault

April 25th, 2008

nullI recently got word from John Powers of Chuckanut Ridge Wine Company that he stumbled upon a few of his earlier releases and was featuring them at his Bellingham tasting room. Visions of Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone’s vault and finding nothing initially flashed through my head, but this is clearly not the case. Power’s finds include some pretty awesome stuff; namely his 2004 Bad Bunny Cabernet/Merlot blend, 2004 Porteus Cabernet, 2003 Syrah and 2004 Merlot.

They’re all drinking really well right now, but I particularly enjoyed the Cab and the Syrah. These are big, dense wines that have lots of dark fruit flavors and are incredibly long on the finish. The only bad news is that quantities are small…less than 10 cases of each remain, and when they’re gone, they’re gone.

Stop by the tasting room at 1017 North State Street in Bellingham and give them a test run. There’s also a full line up of other red and white wine current releases to sample and purchase. Current hours are from noon to 8:00 pm, Thursday through Saturday. Phone (360) 527-0900 for more information.

Argentina’s Mendoza Region Ideal For Growing Grapes

April 20th, 2008

Think back about 15 to 20 years ago to the wine section of your local grocer (or wine shop, if it even existed). Sure, there were domestic wines from Washington and California and most likely a pretty decent selection of wines from Europe. Outside of that, there was probably little or nothing.

But times have changed in the wine industry and the world is a much smaller place. Now it’s easy to find a variety of choices from wine-producing areas such as South America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in addition to a much broader range of American and European wines. Great news for consumers? You bet.

nullArgentina is one of the countries that has recently exploded in terms of availability in the United States, and the bulk of Argentinean wines – estimated at somewhere between 60 and 70 percent – are being produced in the country’s Mendoza region. Mendoza is located on the mid-western coast of Argentina, close to the Chilean border (a country that is doing nicely with its own wines as well). This area has an environment that’s ideal for growing grapes – over 300 days of sunshine a year, low annual rainfall, dry winds, and warm days with cool evenings.

If this sounds familiar, look no further than Eastern Washington’s wine country for a similar climate. The only major difference, of course, is that because of Argentina’s location in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are reversed, and grapes are generally harvested during our springtime months of March and April.

For years, Malbec was the principal wine grape in Argentina, and the country is still doing such a good job with this varietal that it’s arguably among some of the best in the world. But today you’re also likely to see other varietals such as sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, syrah and cabernet sauvignon on the shelves of US grocers and wine shops.

Better still, the prices of these wines are incredibly reasonable; many falling within the $10 to $20 a bottle price range. With prices like this and increasing consistency among many wineries in Argentina there’s absolutely no reason that you shouldn’t be giving them a try.

Next week I’ll give you a few recommendations from Doña Paula Estates, a winery located in Argentina’s Mendoza region that I think is producing some very nice wines.

Wine Class at BTC

April 19th, 2008

2:00 to 5:00 pm – Pairing Food With Wine. Explore the basic elements of taste for food and wine and take the guesswork out of your wine purchases when planning for meals, dinners out, or social occasions. Click on the Wine Classes Page for more information.

Sangiovese Makes For a Great “Food Wine”

April 13th, 2008

This week we continue our look at sangiovese, the primary grape used in wines from the Chianti region of Italy.

Sangiovese tends to be a bit on the acidic side, which is not necessarily a bad thing, because this allows the wine to hold its own against a wide variety of foods.

A prime example would be tomato-based pasta dishes, which are frequently paired with sangiovese in Italy. While the high acid content in tomatoes can cause most wines to fall flat on their face, sangiovese actually compliments this food by softening the astringency factor. This allows the wine’s other flavors – usually smoke, spice and nuances of dark fruit – to really shine through.

Sangiovese also matches up nicely with lighter beef dishes (think veal scaloppini) and even pairs well with pastas prepared in a heavy cream sauce such as fettuccini alfredo.

nullA couple of recommendations: The Banfi 2004 Chianti Classico (pictured at left, about $15) is a perfect example of the type of sangiovese enjoyed in Italy. I’d call this an elegant Chianti – relatively low in alcohol (12.5 percent), reserved sultry flavors of anise, leather and smoke, and a trace of dark cherry and pepper on the finish. I’d like to think of this wine as the quiet, sagely Italian patriarch seated at the dinner table. It doesn’t interfere with the meal by offering up unsolicited advice, and yet without it, the dining experience would be incomplete. Nice stuff.

“Americanized” versions of Chianti, as I like to call them, tend to place slightly more emphasis on sangiovese’s fruit flavors. Walla Walla’s Yellow Hawk Cellars 2004 Sangiovese (about $18) is an excellent example, with a good dash of bright, red cherry flavors prevailing over the wine’s spicy and smoky notes.

Also worth noting is the Cavatappi Winery 2006 Sangiovese (about $13) from Eastern Washington’s Wahluke Slope region. Although it’s still drinking a bit young, this is a sturdy, well-priced sangiovese that will pair well with heavier foods such as baked salmon or aged cheeses. Both the Yellow Hawk and Cavatappi wines are currently available at the The Vines wine shop, located at 1319 Cornwall Avenue in Bellingham.

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