Bodegas Castano Hecula 2013

W Hecula 2013Monastrell (Mourvedre) from Yecla, Murcia, Spain

An Eric Solomon Selection

100% mourvedre (monastrell)

14.0% alcohol

Purchased: 12 November 2017  –  $10.99

Opened: 3 March 2018

els:  9.0/10

Wine Advocate:  91

Guia Penin:  88

Cellar Tracker:  87

The Murcia Region of Spain, located in the Segura River basin in the southeastern part of the country with the Beltic Mountains in the central west, the coastal Mediterranean plain to the southwest and the central high plateau to the north and east. Yecla, 45 miles northwest of the Mediterranean coast, is a small Denominación de Origen (DO — Designation of Origin in English) food and wine region in the northeastern corner of the Murcia Region which takes it name from the eponymous small town of 35,000 people. Yecla enjoys a mixed Mediterranean-continental climate; dry with rare freezes and large swings in the daily temperatures. It is mainly noted for its Monastrell wines and is entirely surrounded by the other notable Monastrell regions of Jumilla, Almansa and Alicante.

The DO classification is Spain’s second highest, DOC being the highest, in terms of quality for wines and food. In 2003 Spain added the DO Pago designation applicable only to single estate wines.  A classification that allows wineries some latitude in production and grape usage, slightly mimicking Italy’s Super Tuscan designation.  Currently there are 2 DOCs (Rioja and Priorat), 69 DOs and 14 DO Pagos in the country.

Yecla vineyards, dating back to the seafaring Phoenicians, are mainly planted in red grapes with Mourvedre vines being the most common. Syrah, Grenacha, Merlot, and Petit Verdot are also grown but in lesser amounts. Currently there are about 26,600 acres of vineyards in the Yecla area with approximately 75% of that existing under the DO designation. This constitutes only 1% of the total grape acreage planted in all of Spain. The Yecla wineries produce upwards to 9,000,000 liters of wine per year, of which 95% is exported out of the country.

Mourvedre is the 9th most planted grape in the world, by acreage, and is the 6th most common in Spain. It is one of the primary grapes for GSM blends, Grenacha and Syrah being the other 2, and is only occasionally bottled as a single grape wine. Spanish wine makers also use this grape, along with others, such as Grenacha and Tempranillo, for making sparkling roses or cava roses. It is a black-skinned variety that is believed to have originated in Spain but is now found throughout the world, especially in France, Australia, US, and South Africa. Spain produces the lions share of this grape with France coming in a distant second; all other countries place as a comparative after thought. The grape has bold flavors of blackberries, tobacco and black pepper.  In cool climates the grape takes on notes of red plums.  It is a full-bodied wine with high tannins and medium high acidity allowing for a long shelf life.

The Bodegas Castano is the best known and largest winery in Yecla. The family run operation traces its roots, in the area, back to the 1950s but it wasn’t until the 1980s they started bottling their own wines. Starting in the early 2000s the family steadily upgraded their winery and cellars including temperature controlled fermentation and smaller tanks for selective vinification. Their vineyards and winery occupy about 16,000 acres with Monastrell grapes planted on a little less than 1000 of those acres.

Only 2 of the 8 Castano vineyards grow the grapes for the Hecula wine: the higher altitude Las Gruesas and Pozuelo. The 400 acre Las Gruesas vineyard at roughly 2600-2800′ above sea level has organically poor, clayey to gravelly limestone soils with 35 to 60-year-old vines. In addition to Monastrell grapes, red varieties of Garnacha, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc are also grown. The 100 acre Pozuelo vineyard at approximately the same elevation as Las Gruesas has similar soils but not as rocky. Its vines are slightly  older with some in the 80-year range. This vineyard grows, in addition to Monastrell, Garnacha Tintorera, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Macabeo and Tempranillo grapes. The growing season diurnal temperature range in the area is 50-85ºF with rainfall ranging from 0.25-2.0″ per month.

The Monastrell grapes are hand harvested, destemmed, sorted, fermented, and macerated at 77ºF in stainless steel tanks for 10 days. The wine then spends 6 months in half new, French and American oak barrels at approximately 64ºF. Production is limited to approximately 12,000 cases. This is an Eric Solomon Selection, slated mainly for export to the US.

A medium to dark ruby-red wine with a light purple rim. Aromas of black fruits and pepper. Full-bodied and nicely balanced.  The tannins are thick and chewy with a very easy acidity that produces a long-lasting finish.

Enjoy this wine with a Spanish dish of Chicken Paella. You will need a cup of vegetable oil, 1 green and red pepper diced, 3 breasts of de-boned chicken; each breast cut into 4-6 pieces, 3 cups of white rice, 6 cups of chicken broth, 8 ounces of peas; canned or fresh, 1 small onion chopped, 2 tomatoes diced, 1 clove of garlic or 2 teaspoons, salt and pepper to taste,  and parsley.  Heat half the oil and put the chicken into a(n) (iron) skillet. Cook for 15 minuets or until brown and remove to a holding dish. In the same skillet with the hot oil, cook the chopped onion for 5 minutes, add the diced tomatoes, and cook for an additional 5 minutes while mashing the tomatoes. Strain the mixture through a colander and add the solids to a paella cooking pan; woks work great.  Add the rest of the oil, plus the cooked green pepper and chicken. Stir the mixture to avoid further browning of the chicken.  Add salt, pepper and broth.  Keep hot but do not boil.  Add garlic and parsley to the cooked rice.  Add the rice, peas, and red pepper to the paella pan containing the chicken after the broth is reduced by half.  Cook for another 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, cool for 5 minutes, and serve.

An outstanding wine at an unbelievable price. Drink this year but likely good until 2020-2023. Decant and aerate for one hour, or more, before drinking.

$8.95-15.27 wine-searcher.com

Falesco Tellus Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

W Tellus 2013Cabernet Sauvignon from Montecchio, Terni Province, Tiber Valley, Umbria, Central Italy, Italy

100% cabernet sauvignon

13.4% alcohol

Purchased: 6 March 2017 – $14.99

Opened: 18 Feb 2018

els: 8.9/10

James Suckling: 92

Wine Advocate: 90

Wine Spectator: 88

Cellar Tracker: 87

Umbria in central Italy is one of the 20 political regions and also one of the 20 wine regions in Italy.  This land-locked area is one of the smallest wine regions, 15th by vine acres planted, and 17th by wine volume produced, in Italy and is totally eclipsed by its larger and more famous adjacent northern neighbor: Tuscany.  This wine region maintains 4 levels of quality: DOCG, DOC, IGT, and table wine. The region grows Sangiovese and Sagrantino in profusion but recently, better known, non-indigenous grapes have successfully taken root in the area such as: Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine region is famous for its Orvieto wine, a sweet or a dry white wine blend of lesser known grapes such as: Procanico, Verdello, Grechetto, Canaiolo Bianco, and Malvasia Toscana.  This wine is named after the town of its origin, which is also the home of Nobelist: Enrico Fermi.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross, believed to have occurred naturally sometime in the 1600s in France, between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. It is now the most widely planted grape in the world. In terms of acreage planted in this grape, Italy has the 8th largest plantings in the world, behind Argentina and ahead of South Africa. A thick-skinned grape that’s relatively easy to grow and maintain, exhibiting high tannins and acidity, along with cool climate-grown aromas of peppers and currants.

Brothers Riccardo and Renzo Cotarella, founded the Falesco winery in 1979 near the southwestern edge of the Umbria region. Falesco provides wines to Leonardo LoCascio Selections, a Winebow Group company that imports and distributes the family’s wines in the US.  The winery produces 4 IGT wines: Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a white blend. Additionally it produces a DOC white blend based on the Trebbiano grape.

The vineyards are located about a half mile east of the Tiber river and 4 miles west of the Apennines Mountains. There are 925 acres planted with various grapes which produce 2.6 million bottles of wine every year. The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are grown on 25 acres of calcareous clay at 990′ feet above sea level. The growing season diurnal temperature range is 55-85ºF.  Rainfall is plentiful during the growing season ranging from  1.5-5.5″ per month.  Occasionally, there may be a few days of snow in January or February but it doesn’t accumulate and it shouldn’t have any lasting detrimental affects on the vines.

The grapes are picked in early September then fermented and macerated for 15 days in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then racked into oak barrels for malolactic fermentation. A final 5-month racking, before bottling, occurs in new, 60-gallon French oak barrels. The winery targets a production of 80,000 bottles for this wine. These are young vines and 2013 was the first crop and vintage for the Tellus, a Latin word for Earth, Cabernet Sauvignon label. Not a bad first effort.

A ruby-red wine with a garnet rim. Aromas of blackberries and plums, with a hint of vanilla and spice. A medium-bodied wine with mellow tannins. A very nice, medium finish.

A good wine at a fair price. Try with a traditional Umbra dish of truffles pasta. An easy dish of fettucine, shallots, heavy cream, truffle shavings, truffle butter and butter.  Add some spicy meatballs on the side to complete the meal. Drink now, but should last until 2020-2023.

$10.89-21.99  wine-searcher.com

Two Hands Bella’s Garden Shiraz 2013

W Bella Garden 2013Shiraz from Barossa Valley, Barossa, Australia

100% shiraz

14.5% alcohol

Opened 21 Jan 2018

els: 9.4/10

James Halliday: 95

Wine Advocate: 94

Wine Spectator: 94

Cellar Tracker: 93

German immigrants brought the wine industry to Barossa Valley in 1843 and its reputation in the wine trade has waxed and waned through the years, along with the world’s perception of Shiraz. In the late 20th century the valley once again saw its fortunes on the rise and today it rates along side McLaren Vale as South Australia’s premier wine regions.

The Two Hands winery came into existence in 1999 with the single aim of producing the best Shiraz from the best regions of Australia. By 2003 the company had put down roots in Barossa Valley and their Shiraz Garden series wines were in full bloom. The series is currently a collection of 6 Shiraz wines, each sourced from a different growing region in South Australia and Victoria.  The different region’s grapes are prepared and processed in exactly the same manner at their Barossa Estate so that the 6 separate Shirazes’ character becomes a definite reflection of their distinct terroir.

The Barossa Valley vineyards grow in a hot and dry continental climate and receive a scant 6 inches of rain during the growing season. Growing season temperatures peak in the high 80s°F during the day and dip into the low 50s°F at night. The soils tend to be clay and silt with some sand aiding in the drainage. The grapes are de-stemmed, crushed and fermented in open fermenters. After 2 weeks the wine is racked to barrels for malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged for 18 months in new and old French oak hogsheads (59-66 US gallons) and puncheons (132 US gallons).

The wine has a deep and dark purple color with a lighter purple rim. Dark fruits and berries wind their way through your nose and palate, interacting with the perfect balance of acidity and tannins to produce a long and satisfying finish.

An outstanding dinner wine.  My wife and I drank this wine over a delicious meal that started off with warm sourdough bread dipped in a mixture of salt-basil-pepper and olive oil, followed by two small, lightly spiced crab cakes, just to keep our appetites in check until the next course made its appearance. Our entrees consisted of a medium-rare filet mignon and a medium lamb loin, both served with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled, whole baby carrots.  We finished the repast with a slice of lime cheesecake topped with blueberries and unsweetened whipped cream. The Shiraz made it all simply divine and so decadent. This wine should last for many years. Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$49.99-79.99  wine-searcher.com (~ $70.00 at the restaurant)

 

Wirra Wirra Church Block CSM 2013

W Church Block 2013Other Red Blends from McLaren Vale, Australia

50% cabernet sauvignon

37% shiraz

13% merlot

14.5% alcohol

Opened 10 Jan 2018

els: 9.2/10

Australian Wine Companion:  94

James Suckling:  92

Wine Enthusiast:  91

Wine Spectator:  90

Wilfred Wong:  90

Vinous:  89

The McLaren Vale wine region is centered around the eponymous small town populated with approximately 4000 people, located 20 miles south of Adelaide in South Australia.  The wine growing region, triangular in shape, is less than 20 miles in length and 8 miles in width, nestled between the Gulf of St. Vincent on the west-northwest and the Willunga Fault and scarp, known as the Sellicks Hills Range, along its southeastern edge. McLaren Vale grew famous with its Shiraz wines but today its 88 wineries produce world-class reds and whites; including Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Mourvedre, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc. It is not uncommon to find 100-year old vines in McLaren Vale vineyards.

The Wirra Wirra winery was established in 1969 by Greg Trott and others, out of the ruins of the 1894 winery started by a gentleman delightfully named, Robert Strangways Wigley. Greg Trott’s first Wirra Wirra labeled wine was the 1972 Church Block CSM, named after a vineyard adjacent to a small church.

The vineyards of McLaren Vale are subjected to a Mediterranean climate with dry summers and wet winters, perfect for growing red wine grapes.  Rains bring between 20 and 30 inches per year; the rains peaking in the southern hemisphere May to September winter.  Growing season temperatures range from daytime highs in the mid-80s to night time lows in the mid-50s degrees Fahrenheit. Frost and snow are almost unheard of anytime during the year.  The soils are generally well-drained, thin loamy sands with clays and clayey limes underneath.

This wine has a brilliant ruby-red hue with a narrow pink rim.  Redolent of black berries and plums. An intense taste of red fruits with lasting tannins, and a very long, balanced finish.

An outstanding red wine at a great price.  Serves well with beef and lamb. Tastes great by itself.  Tannins suggests that this wine will serve well for many years to come. A very versatile wine. Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$14.99-21.99  wine-searcher.com

Rutini Malbec 2013

W Rutini 2013Malbec from Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina

100% malbec

14.0% alcohol

Opened 15 Dec 2017

els: 9.0/10

Cellar Tracker: 92

Wine Spectator: 91

Wine and Spirits: 89

Wine Enthusiast: 88

Felipe Rutini was born in 1866, into a winemaking family in the central Italian agricultural Province of Ascoli Piceno, which is less than 20 miles west of the Adriatic Sea. He graduated from the Royal School of Agriculture as an agricultural technician in the city of Ascoli Piceno. Disillusioned with the Italian unification and the constant wars in Europe, he made his way to Mendoza, Argentina at the young age of 18 and a year later founded the La Rural winery in the district of Coquimbito, currently located in the southeastern portion of the Mendoza metro area. People definitely made their mark earlier in life during the days of horses and steam.

His sons, after their father Felipe Rutini’s death in 1919, took over the winery and were the first to plant vineyards in the Uco Valley, around Tupungato, in the year of 1925. The winery eventually established two more vineyards in the southern portion of Uco Valley in the San Carlos Department. All 3 of these vineyards: Gualtallary, The Consultation, and The Altamira; totaling approximately 620 acres, are a source of grapes for this Malbec. In 1994, the Rutini winery and vineyards were sold to Argentinian investors including the wine makers: Nicolas Catena and Jose Benegas Lynch.

The vineyards are situated 3100 to 4100′ above sea level in the shadow of the Andes Mountains and the 21,500′ Tupungato volcano. The soils are well-drained, alluvial to colluvial, rocky sands to loams, one to four feet thick. Temperatures reach into the 80s during the growing season days and dip into the mid-50s at night.  Rain varies from 1 to 3.5 inches per month.

The grapes are manually harvested and the wine spends 12 months in new French and American oak barrels. Later vintages are stored in new and second use oak barrels.

It is a dark plum-colored wine with blackberry and earthy aromas. Huge tannins and shanghaied acidity produce a long grope of a finish. I drank a bottle of this wine several years ago and it was mediocre, plain and uninteresting, at best.  It has aged well in the bottle and exhibits a greater punch and grab now. Also it was about half the price a few years ago, re-enforcing the maxim: buy early, drink later. Serves well with red meat.

An outstanding wine. Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$32-40  wine-searcher.com

Michel Gassier Cercius Rouge 2013

W Cercius 2013Rhone Red Blends from Cotes du Rhone, Rhone, France

85% grenache

15% syrah

15.5% alcohol

Opened 7 Dec 2017

els 9.0/10

RP 91

Cercius, from the Latin term for a wind between north and west, is a delightful vieilles vignes (old vine) Cotes du Rhone blend from the Plateau de Domazan, located about 8 miles west of the Avignon; the 14th century Papal seat which was then part of the Kingdom of Arles within the Holy Roman Empire.

Wine was likely grown and produced in the Rhone Valley as far back as the 6th century BC, believed to have been established by either the Greeks or Persians, with the vineyards and wineries maintained until the end of the Roman Empire in the late 5th century AD. It wasn’t until the late Middle Ages when the Avignon papacy re-established the Rhone area vineyards and wineries, mostly for their own use, beginning with Pope Clement V around 1309.  The rest, as they say, is history.

The 80-year-old plus vines are nurtured by clayey limestone soils topped with a layer of pebbles which contend with blustery, northwest winds, traveling over and down the 6000 foot peaks and slopes of the Central Massif, blowing into the  Michel Gassier’s Rhone Valley vineyards, proudly defying Mother Nature’s blustery assault at 500 feet above sea level.  The growing season climate for the area provides for hot days above 80 degrees Fahrenheit and cool nights with temperatures dipping into the mid-40s to low 50s.  Rainfall averages 2.5-4 inches per month.

The grapes are hand harvested, destemmed, allowing natural yeast fermentation in concrete tanks for 6 months.

The wine exhibits a deep ruby-red color; a wonderful aroma of lilacs, violets and sweet fruits. It’s well-balanced and full-bodied and the finish is long and satisfying.

An outstanding wine. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

$12.99  wine.com

 

Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot 2013

W St Michelle 2013Merlot from Columbia Valley, Washington

89% merlot

11% syrah

13.5% alcohol

Opened 14 Nov 2017

els 8.7/10

Wine Enthusiast 89

Chateau Ste. Michelle, the oldest winery in Washington, traces its beginnings back to the end of the prohibition era in the mid-1930s, with the formation of the Pomerelle Co. and the National Wine Company. These two companies merged in 1954 as the American Wine Co., and in 1967 initiated a premium line of wines known as Ste. Michelle. In 1972 a group of investors bought out the American Wine Company and renamed it Ste. Michelle Vintners. In 1974 the company was bought out by Altria. In 1976 Ste. Michelle Vintners built a French style winery, about 15-20 miles northeast of Seattle, in the Woodinville Tourist District, and changed its name to Chateau Ste. Michelle.

W Columbia Gorge

Columbia River Gorge by etliebe.

Today, Chateau Ste. Michelle consists of 2 wineries, the Chateau in Woodinville which makes the company’s white wines, and its reds are made at the Canoe Ridge Estate winery in Eastern Washington.  The vineyards on the Canoe Ridge Estate were planted in 1991 with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Syrah grapes on the steep sloping, arid hills of the Columbia River Gorge. The winery followed in 1993. One interesting aspect of this vineyard is that the grape varieties are grown from their own vinifera rootstock, apparently indifferent to the phylloxera aphid.

The alluvial soils of Canoe Ridge Estate are well-drained, thick Pleistocene cobblestone, sandy silts at approximately 900 feet above sea level, deposited on top of the eroded Miocene Columbia River Basalts.  The April through September growing season sees highs of about 90 and lows of 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  Rain is sparse, averaging from 0.2 to 0.75 inches per month during the growing season.  Hard freezes during the winter months are rare.

This wine has a clear garnet to ruby color, subtle aromas of strawberry and dark berries, with a touch of vanilla. A medium body with a medium finish. The tannins are smooth and easy. A nice wine but rather unadventurous, timid even.  Best served as a sipping wine along with small berries and nuts.

A good wine. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

$16.99 wine.com

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