A Special Day Deserves Some Special Wines

December 25th, 2012

It’s seems a bit odd to have a wine column on December 25, but rest assured I was prepared far enough in advance to avoid writing it on Christmas Eve.

Because it’s a special day for many, I think a Christmas column calls for some special wines.

nullProsser’s Mercer Estates Winery currently offers a full complement of red and white wines, including several reds that I’ve really enjoyed this holiday season.

My favorites include their 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $24). The tannins are a tad gritty for starters but soften nicely to reveal a lengthy, gorgeous layer of black cherry and espresso underneath.

Also notable is their 2008 Merlot (about $24) with lovely cherry and vanilla aromatics, dark berry flavors, a touch of black currant and toasted oak on the finish, and just the right amount of tannins in the background for added character and depth. This wine really is the complete package for merlot drinkers.

Another real treat is the 2009 Anthem (about $40), a Bordeaux blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, and petit verdot. This full-bodied red is perfectly balanced, with a bouquet of vanilla and butterscotch, understated blackberry flavors and a slightly plush, yet structured finish.

Winemaker Chris Gorman from Gorman Winery in Woodinville has been earning acclaim for his red wines as well. In a word: they’re BIG!

His 2009 Zachary’s Ladder (about $30) is a blend of syrah, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot. Compact blackberry and black currant converge with chewy red cherry flavors, chalky tannins and a touch of white pepper and rose hips on a lingering finish.

nullGorman’s 2009 Evil Twin (about $65), is a super-splurge, 95-point Wine Spectator choice. This 70/30 combination of syrah and cabernet sauvignon explodes with robust aromatics of dried cherry and ripe plum. It’s quite dense and I’d give it at least a good two hours of decanting before serving. The payoff: intense notes of black cherry and bittersweet chocolate that are perfect for balancing out the wine’s monstrous 15.2-percent alcohol content.

Look for these wines at Purple Smile Wines in Fairhaven or order them online at the winery’s web site.

Finally, for a change of pace, try the J Vineyards & Winery 2005 Vintage Brut (about $49). This Russian River Valley sparkler has all the components of classic Champagne, with textured layers of baked bread, toasted hazelnut and lemon chiffon, and a crisp finish of Granny Smith apple.

Try These Red Wine Selections from Oregon and Washington

December 18th, 2012

It’s red wine month, a self-proclaimed title I’ve given to December. Why? Because it’s a great time to hunker down as we get ready for another cold, gray winter and warm up with a nice glass or bottle of red wine.

Today I’ll give you a few more recommendations from Oregon and Washington wineries and next week we’ll take a look at some “splurge” red wines as we approach New Year’s Eve.

If you’re talking Oregon red, then you’re talking pinot noir. And the Willamette Valley is about as good as it gets domestically for this much sought-after varietal that’s been called everything from finicky to voluptuous.

nullThe Willamette Valley Vineyards 2011 Whole Cluster Pinot Noir (about $22) is a good example of a pinot noir that won’t break the bank while still showing plenty of character.

2011 was not a particularly good year for Oregon wine grapes because of cooler and wetter than normal conditions. But this wine offers layers of cranberry, raspberry, a trace of black cherry and surprisingly mile acidity along with a whisper of smokiness on the finish. It’s an excellent choice with a salmon or duck entrée.

And who says Oregon can’t make a decent red wine other than pinot noir? Try the A to Z Wineworks 2008 Night and Day (about $15), a blend of syrah, merlot and three other red varietals. Plenty of lovely dark berry aromatics lead off, with complex flavors of dark fruits, anise, currant, dried herbs and a dusting of tannins on a slightly earthy finish.

Another red blend, this one from Washington, really impressed me during a recent tasting. Beautifully crafted by winemaker Victor Cruz, the Cañon del Sol Winery 2009 Red Wine (about $21) combines 65-percent syrah, 25-percent merlot and 10-percent cabernet franc. There’s a whiff of caramel on the nose, black plum and mocha flavors on the palate and a gentle swirl of crème brȗlée and butterscotch on a lengthy finish.

Finally, be sure to include Washington malbec on your list of red wines to try. A case in point of this up-and-coming varietal is the Seven Hills Winery 2009 Malbec (about $25) from Walla Walla.

This wine brings to mind wild blackberries; not the plump, ubiquitous roadside variety, but those harder-to-find petite, wild field blackberries. Add to this a faint trace of orange citrus on the finish for a bit of lift and you’ve got another outstanding effort from winemaker Casey McClellan.

Enjoy Zins? Consider Renwood Winery

December 11th, 2012

If you like zinfandel, you have to consider Renwood Winery.

Renwood is located in the heart of California about one-hour east of Sacramento in the Sierra Foothills of Amador County. If you’re familiar with Amador County, you know that this part of California has earned a reputation for producing zinfandels that are among the best in the country.

Many of Redwood’s wines are produced from over 400 acres of estate vineyards located within the county, and although the winery produces a number of other wines in small quantities such as barbera, viognier, and pinot grigio, the focus as of late has been on what I think the winery does best: zinfandel.

nullAs the result of its recent acquisition by an Argentinian concern that specializes in the ownership of vineyards, wineries and olive oil plantations, Renwood now utilizes the expertise of winemakers from Argentina, Italy and the Napa Valley. With a background this diverse, it’s no wonder the winery now produces a complete line of zinfandels that are almost certain to please every taste preference and budget.

I’ve done some power-tasting of Renwood zins as of late, and although it’s difficult to choose a favorite, I’ve narrowed it down to my “top five” based on character, flavor profile, and value for the dollar. Here are my choices:

Red Label 2011 California Zinfandel (about $15) – This tasty “everyday” zin opens with fragrant aromatics of raspberry and vanilla. Juicy strawberry and blackberry flavors hit the palate with a big, round finish of blackberry framed by a hint of tartness.

Black Label 2010 Premier Old Vine Zinfandel (about $20) – There’s a base of red cherry and plum for starters, with a plumper, underlying layer of rum raisin with hints of spice beneath. Decadent and delicious.

White Label 2010 Fiddletown Zinfandel (about $23) – Beautiful flavors of Ligurian cherry and black plum melt into a silky finish with a touch of chocolate. Overachieving, gorgeous and well worth the price.

Black Label 2010 Reserve Dry Creek Zinfandel (about $25) – Sweet alfalfa and wild berries on the nose with plenty of bright red fruits on the palate. The nicely structured finish displays a bit of brambly berry and a dusting of tannins.

White Label 2010 Timberline Zinfandel (about $40) – Compact layers of chocolate cherry with nuances of black licorice and dried herbs highlight this outstanding zin. It’s the perfect juxtaposition between yummy and elegant.

You’ll find Renwood wines at area Haggen stores and if not in stock, they can be special ordered.

Warm Up With A Red Wine During December

December 4th, 2012

I’m officially declaring December to be “red wine month.”

With winter on the horizon and the prospect of even colder weather ahead, December just seems like the perfect time to enjoy a glass of red wine.

I’m not saying you should abandon all plans to serve a chilled white wine this month. But if you think about yourself with a good book, a warm fire or a bowl of hearty stew, a glass or bottle of robust, flavorful red wine could be just thing to complete the picture and take the edge off a cold winter’s day.

Today I’ll start you off with a few red wine recommendations from local wineries, and during the next several weeks offer plenty of other suggestions from Washington, Oregon and California.

San Juan Vineyards has a couple of big, bold reds among its current releases. Try the 2009 Red Wine (about $14), a well-priced blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese. It’s dark and brooding with compact flavors of espresso, black currant and dark plum and it begs for a pairing of pepper-encrusted beef.

Another candidate for a beef entrée is their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $19). Aromas and flavors of black cherry, blackberry and touch of anise lead off, followed by a nicely structured, slightly woodsy finish.

nullBellingham’s Dynasty Cellars has a trio of truly remarkable red wines that are running in short supply but still available and highly recommended.

The 2008 DC3 Meritage (about $25) is loaded with intense dark berry flavors and hints of baking spice that melt into a pliable finish with nuances of black olive and toasted oak.

Powerful, yet gorgeous, the 2008 DCC Les Collines Cabernet (about $33) displays dark, inky overtones of black cherry and coffee followed with a lovely bit of milk chocolate on the finish and flawless tannins.

And the 2008 DCQ Red Wine (about $35) is a four-varietal red blend that includes cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, cabernet franc and zinfandel. This is another dense wine with chalky tannins that’s perfect for the cellar or enjoyable now with venison or lamb.

Finally, be sure to try the Dakota Creek Winery 2009 Petit Verdot (about $35) with beautiful flavors of black plum and dark berry that melt into a big, round finish with just enough texture to remind you that you’re drinking petit verdot.

This limited-supply wine, along with the 2009 Petit Sirah, will be featured at the winery’s Christmas Open House celebration in Blaine on December 7, 8 and 9.

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