Castiglion del Bosco Dainero 2012

W Dainero 2012Merlot from Riparbella, Pisa, Tuscany, Italy

90% merlot

10% sangiovese

13.5% alcohol

Purchased: 6 March 2017  –  $16.99

Opened: 28 Feb 2018

els: 8.5/10

James Suckling: 92

Wine Spectator: 90

Cellar Tracker:84

Tuscany, a central Italian region bounded by the Tyrrhenian Sea on the west and the Apennines Mountains on the east, is a name synonymous with Italian Renaissance art, ancient history, landscapes of exquisite beauty, and wine. Its wine history dates back to the enigmatic but successful Etruscans in the 8th century BC, growing rich by trading their wine with the Gauls to the north and the Romans and Greeks to the south and east. The aura and renown of Iron Age Tuscany wine secured its perpetuation through the endless generations of Romans, Christian monks, Florentine merchants, Medicis, Hapsburgs, Bourbons, Bonapartes and todays modern Italians. Good wine and time immemorial happily going hand in hand.

Tuscany has the third highest quantity of acres planted in vines in the country but because of its extremely poor soils and the wine makers emphasis on lower yields, it is only sixth in volume, producing just shy of 300,000,000 liters of wine in 2016. The area has a plethora of DOCG and DOC wine regions plus 5 IGT sub-regions that will bewilder even the most diligent and attentive of students and that’s before the Super Tuscans enter into the smorgasbord of categories; all with their rules about grape varieties and percentages spread over a bursting profusion of wineries and vineyards. The better known regions include: Brunello di Montalcino producing rich, full-bodied sangiovese wines; Chianti and Chianti Classico producing the famous medium-bodied wines; and Bolgheri, the region that first produced the well received Super Tuscans.

Merlot is the 3rd most planted grape in the world and 5th most common in Italy. It is one of the primary grapes for Bordeaux blends and is very popular as a stand alone variety. It is a dark blue to purple grape with a soft, velvety structure with medium tannins and low acidity, producing dark fruity flavors.

Sangiovese is the most planted grape in Tuscany and all of Italy, deriving its name from the Latin for the “blood of Jupiter”. It is possible that this grape dates back to the time of Etruscans and is closely related to the Ciliegiolo grape. A sangiovese wine has an earthy cherry flavor that readily acquires a taste of vanilla and oak after aging in barrels.  The tannins are not too strong but the acidity is high.

The Castiglion del Bosco traces its heritage back to 1100 AD when the castile was built and in the 13th century the family owners added stone walls around the castile. Skipping forward a few years to 1967 the estate joins with a few other local families to found the Brunello di Montalcino wine association. Brunello eventually becomes one of the first Italian wines to be granted the DOC and DOCG categories. Massimo Ferragamo, in 2003, purchased Castiglion del Bosco to add to his winery in Riparbella. By the end of the decade he has added guest villas and a golf course to the Castiglion del Bosco estate.

Dainero is produced from the grapes grown at Castiglion del Bosco’s 25 acres of vineyards at Riparbella, less than 8 miles from the western coast and just north of the Bolgheri wine region. The vineyards are located within the wide-ranging Toscana IGT appellation. The vineyards enjoy an Mediterranean  to a sub-continental climate with cool ocean breezes drafting over the 1475′ above sea level west-facing, vine-covered hills.  The iron-rich, alluvial, clayey soils containing metamorphic gravels and pebbles, ensure that the vines are well-drained, healthy and stable. The vineyards are planted with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. The diurnal growing season temperature-range for the vineyards is 50-85ºF with rainfall averaging 3-4″ per month.

The Merlot grapes were harvested during the first part of September while the Sangiovese grapes were harvested during the last part of this month. The grapes are processed at the Castiglion del Bosco cellars. After sorting the grapes they are gravity fed into steel tanks and fermented for 15 days at 82ºF .  The wine spends 6 months in French oak barrels, 30% of which is new and 70% old.  The wine then spends 6 months in the bottle before it’s marketed to the public.

A ruby-red wine trending towards purple with a tawny rim. Aromas of black fruits, currants, and spice. A medium to full-bodied, balanced and structured, but somewhat thick in the mouth.  The tannins and acidity are working well together producing a slightly sharp and long finish. I rated this wine at 8.5/10 mainly because I believe it is past its prime, not as clear and crisp as it should be.  The wine likely peaked about a year ago.

Enjoy this wine with a dish of spaghetti and Italian sausage.  A platter of hard cheeses would also do this wine justice.

A good wine that you shouldn’t spend more than $10 on. Drink this year. Decant and aerate for one hour, or more, before drinking.

$9.99-20.24 wine-searcher.com

 

Chateau Ampelia Castillon-Cotes de Bordeaux 2011

W Ampelia 2011Bordeaux Red Blend, St. Philippe d’ Aiguilhe, Castillon-Cotes de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France

95% merlot

5% cabernet franc

13.5% alcohol

Purchased: 24 April 2014 – $17.99

Opened: 14 Feb 2018

els: 8.9/10

Wine Enthusiast: 92

Cellar Tracker: 89

Wine Spectator: 88

The Despagne family has been making wines in the Saint-Emilion AOC  for more than 200 years. Today Francois, a seventh generation descendent of the Despagne family, is currently manager, since 1996, of Grand Corbin-Despagne winery and founder of the Chateau Ampelia in 1999. Breaking with family tradition the new winery and vineyards are located to the east, and adjacent to Saint-Emilion in the Castillon-Cotes de Bordeaux appellation 1.5 miles west of Saint-Philippe-d’Aiguille, and a little more than 4 miles north of the Dordogne River. This AOC was upgraded from Bordeaux Superior in 2008 and the area includes about 230 families working, on average, 25 acres of vines; predominately Merlot (70%), but also Cabernet Franc (20%), and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%).  Vines in this area date back to at least the 2nd century AD when the Romans planted Vitus Biturica, an ancient cousin of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

Merlot, the most planted grape in France, in known for its mellow and rounded flavors and is often blended with its close cousin: Cabernet Sauvignon and or its parent: Cabernet Franc, to soften them up. Cabernet Franc is a black skinned grape that imparts a peppery character to Bordeaux blends.

The grapes are harvested and sorted twice, once in the vineyard and then again at the winery. They are crushed, de-stemmed and fermented in temperature controlled, concrete and stainless steel tanks.  The post-fermented juice is racked into French oak barrels, one-third which are new, and allowed to age for 12 months before being blended and bottled.

The wine has ruby-red color with a garnet rim. A bouquet of cherries, plums and cedar with a hint of pepper. On the palate the wine is medium-bodied with soft tannins.  It has a pleasant, medium lasting, and soothing finish. Not overly bold but a refreshing wine.

A good wine but hard to find and a little expensive for the quality. Pair with a snack of soft cheese and berries.  Drink now, but should last for another year or two.  Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$22.37 wine-searcher.com (limited availability)

 

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

Highway 12 Highwayman Proprietary Red 2012

W Highwayman 2012Other Red Blends from Sonoma County, California

Proprietary red blend:

     cabernet sauvignon

     cabernet franc

     merlot

14.8% alcohol

Opened 2 Dec 2017

els 9.1/10

Highway 12 is a North Coast, Sonoma County winery producing 3 brands of differing quality wines from the vineyards of Sonoma and Carneros regions: Highway 12, Carneros Highway, and their flagship wine: Highwayman.  The Highwayman lineup includes 1 white and 4 reds: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and 2 red blends.  Their Proprietary Red was the initial wine in this lineup with the blend of grape types and percentages changing from vintage to vintage.  The 2013 vintage is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot as opposed to this 2012 vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.

Highwayman, the wine, commemorates the fabled gentlemen robbers of days gone by, who relieved, accessible and unguarded, or guarded, travelers of their possessions on the desolate stretches of road in many a nation’s country-sides. In California, a highwayman was known as a road agent, the most famous of which was probably Charles “Black Bart” Boles, a bandit with a particular affinity to Wells Fargo Coaches and their money boxes. He plied his trade of questionable legitimacy for 8 years during the late 19th century, along the deserted roads of northern California.  Black Bart, always armed with a shotgun but never fired during any of his roadside capers, acquired his name by leaving snippets of rhyming poetry at the scene of his crimes. Below is a sample of his poetry that he left at a robbery in 1877, with a slight, germane, editorial modification:

I’ve labored long and hard for (wine and) bread,
For honor, and for riches,
But on my corns too long you’ve tread,
You fine-haired sons of bitches.
 
— Black Bart, 1877.

Fortunately for all of us, highway robbery is now practiced by a better class of erudite individuals.

This wine has a black ruby-red hue, aromas of sweet black and blue berries, with whiffs of spicy herbs and earth, producing an enjoyable, full-bodied, long finish. It exhibits a powerful but balanced and delightful taste of chewy tannins and fruit. Perhaps a tad heavy by itself, better if served with a medium rare rib-eye.

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

$19.38  wine-searcher.com

Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) Reserve Speciale Bordeaux

W Lafite 2015Bordeaux from Bordeaux, France

60% merlot

40% cabernet sauvignon

12.5% alcohol

Opened 30 Nov 2017

els 8.5/10

Decanter 86

Reserve Speciale Bordeaux is from a family of wines created by Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) to provide, in their terms, “wines ideal for everyday drinking and more accessible than the Grands Crus” which they brand as “The Collection”, and includes the Legende, Saga, and Reserves brands; all three of which, bottle both Bordeaux reds and whites.

The family name of Lafite can be traced back to a Pauillac French monastery in the 13th century but the legendary winery took root with the planting of the vineyards by Jacques de Segur in the 1670s. Londoners, surprisingly enough, where the first to sing the praises of Lafite wines, which made their way to that city by way of British corsairs seizing the French merchant ships and confiscating their wine in the early 1700s. French nobility took notice of Chateau Lafite’s wine after Richelieu introduced it to King Louis XV; quickly becoming the “Kings Wine”; served at the tables of the 18th century French aristocratic rich and famous. After the French Revolution the Chateau changed owners several times until Baron James de Rothschild purchased it in 1868 and it has remained in the family ever since, with the minor exception of a German expropriation for a short time during WWII.  In 1995, the winery began selecting grapes for their “accessible” line of wines from  the region’s Bordeaux, Medoc, and Pauillac family, and non-family owned vineyards; to become part of the Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), “The Collection”.

The Reserve Speciale Bordeaux is sourced mainly from vineyards in the Entre-Deux-Mers (between two tides) wine region; situated between the tidal rivers Garonne and Dordogne. This is the largest sub-region of Bordeaux but less than half the acreage is planted in vines with the rest being generally forested.  This region produces only white wine that can carry the AOC Entre-Deux-Mers.  The reds are sold under various Bordeaux labels.

This wine has a clear ruby-red color, redolent of red berries and spice. Very smooth, not bold, with a quick finish.  A nice, inexpensive table wine that doesn’t overly impress but will pair well with cheese and friends.

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

$10.00-16.00  wine-searcher.com

Susana Balbo Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

W Balbo 2014Cabernet Sauvignon from Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina

95% cabernet sauvignon

5% merlot

14.3% alcohol

Opened 21 Nov 2017

els 9.2/10

James Suckling 93

Wine Advocate 91

Vinaceous 91

Susana Balbo’s winery, established in the stunning, idyllic eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains, within the viticultural region of Uco Valley, which lies southwest of Mendoza, Argentina; is surrounded by 52 acres of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot vines; produces 4 brands of wines with distinct and complex personalities that appreciate long, secluded years in their bottles: Crios, Ben Marco, Nostros and Susana Balbo Signature.

The vineyards are at an average elevation of about 3800 feet above sea level where the

W Balbo Winery

The Susana Balbo Winery and Vineyards. Photo by Susana Balbo Winery.

steppe climate provides a large swing in growing season temperatures ranging from daytime highs in the mid 80s to night-time lows approaching 50 degrees Fahrenheit, with arid conditions that receive a paltry 1 to 1.25 inches of rain per month. To compensate for the semi-desert conditions and the well-drained alluvial soils of Uco Valley, the vineyards are drip irrigated from the Andes’ snow melted water to provide just the right of amount of essential moisture to produce these flavorful wines.

The grapes are hand-picked and fermented in concrete vessels and finished with 13 months in 70% second use and 30% first use French oak barrels.  The wine has a clear, bright ruby color with aromas of black berries and a very subtle hint of mint and earth. A long, full, dry finish with close to perfect tannins. Wonderful.

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

$20.99 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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