Saturday, August 31, 2013

Two Riojas from Bodegas Franco-Espanolas

These were certainly some of the most unique samples I've been sent in the past year. I've always loved wines from Rioja and think the region has gotten a bad rap over the years. Sure, the wines can get distinctly "New World", with uber-ripe fruit and heavy doses of Americna oak, but there are always gems at great price points if you look hard. As always, I recommend chatting up your local wine shop owner. Chances are they've tasted through the available Riojas and can steer you in the right direction.

2011 Bodegas Franco-Espanolas Royal Viura: A 100% viura is rare..unless you're in Rioja! This one has beautiful aromas of melon, subtle tropical fruits, and a zingy lemon-curd thing going on. I was really groovin' on the bouquet. Tasting it brought a smile to my face. So much crackling acidity mixed with ripe citrus and apple. Really an excellent example of viura. I swear this needs jamon iberico or some tomatoes rubbed on fresh bread. The finish lasts a while, with a minerally/saline note carrying it to the end. Highly recommend. 12% abv. $10 SRP.

2004 Bodegas Franco-Espanolas Rioja Gran Reserva: A blend of 80% tempranillo, 10% garnacha, 5% mazuelo, 5% graciano. Opens with aromas of sun-dried tomato, barnyard, red cherry, and baking spices. There's definitely some oak in play but it integrates well. Smooth entry on the attack, with dried fruit and coconut flavors coming through, before it dries out with sundried tomato and tobacco. As it opens up, more barnyard and allspice notes come out, so drink it quickly! A nice, solid, drinkable Rioja for a very reasonable price. Firm tannins beg for some grilled meat. 13.5% abv. $20 SRP.

Who says you have to spend a bundle to get quality wines from Rioja? Both of these are perfectly serviceable, weeknight-type wines that you can be happy about serving to friends and family. I would suggest keeping an eye on vintages for the white Riojas though, because you want to buy the freshest you can. Viura can oxidize a bit and turn boring if it's not fresh.

These wines were samples for review purposes.

Beau Carufel

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Austria's Answer To Summer: Gruner Veltliner

Austria is another country known for cool, refreshing whites. From Gruner Veltliner to Riesling, the whites are renowned for bracing acidity, fresh flavors, and food-friendly natures. That first sentence alone should tell you I'm pretty excited about the country and wines they produce.

I was sent two samples from producer Laurenz V, both Gruner Veltiners, both under screwcap. The test was to see how these wines stacked up compared to other awesome summer whites from Alsace and Vinho Verde.

Let's quickly trace the history of this producer. Laurenz V (pronounced Laurenz Five) stands for five generations of the Laurenz Moser wine family. As of now, there are sixteen generations of history from this producer, according to my press materials. WOW. Also of note is the fact that Laurenz V. only produces Gruner Veltliner.

2010 Laurenz V. Charming Gruner Veltliner Kamptal: Gorgeous nose of orchard fruit, limestone, and lemon juice. Jazzy acid across the palate with flavors of citrus and stone fruit exploding all over the place. Very complex and layered, with minerality coming through across the finish, drying everything out and readying your palate for the next sip. Highly recommended. $29.99 SRP. 13.0% abv.

2011 Laurenz und Sophie Singing Gruner Veltliner: Smokey flint and citrus open, with a ripe, sweet pear/apple aroma taking over. Similarly fruity and friendly on the palate, with ample ripeness yet less acidity than the Charming. This is perhaps less complex but in terms of sheer enjoyment and hedonistic goodness, maybe a better wine. Highly recommended. $15.99 SRP. 12.0% abv.

Hard to deny that these are two outstanding wines. The layers and complexity of the Charming bottling are impressive and surprising to me. On the other hand, the Singing is so fun and inviting, it may need the Charming name! I was impressed with the quality of these wines, and while $29.99 isn't cheap, a quick query showed prices between $17.99 and $25.99.

Go Austria!! A worthy challenge to Alsace and Vinho Verde, and further proof that cool, crisp whites are the perfect summer wines.

Thanks to Folio for sending the samples!

Beau Carufel

Friday, August 9, 2013

Pueblo Del Sol Tannat

This is another producer whose wines I've reviewed before. Last time I had the Pueblo del Sol was a few years ago and it was just the tannat, this time I have the rosé as well to taste. Also, last time I tasted it head to head versus an inexpensive California Cabernet in my Barbecue Showdown blog. This time it was tucked into a flight of mixed reds and whites and tasted multiple times over the course of several hours.

Pueblo del Sol is produced by Juanico winery of Uruguay. Down there, tannat is king! Here in the United States we don't have a lot of exposure to the grape, which has origins in southern France's Madiran region. Some people in California make one, as do a few in Oregon.

2011 Pueblo del Sol Tannat Rosé: Red cherry, albeit subtle, is the first thing I thought of. Bear in mind I don't have a lot of experience with Uruguayan tannat, especially in rosé form. Also, notes of melon. On the palate it's a bit sweet and a bit tart, nicely balanced. Be sure to serve this very cold so as to highlight the acidity though. By the way, it pairs well with a mozzarella, pesto, tomato, prosciutto, salami panini. Just saying. Recommended. $10 SRP. 13.% abv.

2010 Pueblo del Sol Tannat: Pours a dark, dark purple in the glass. Smells like purple fruit, think plums and cocoa dust. Nice minerally thing, like crushed up gravel. Juicy as all hell on the palate, with ripe plum and blackberry, tar, and well-integrated wood flavors. This is a delightful, fun, unique wine that should be enjoyed with food. I'd love one of those Argentine steaks and a big glass of Pueblo del Sol Tannat. $11 SRP. 12.5% abv. Highly Recommended.

These two wines qualify as QPR winners, and I'd suggest buying several bottles of each to have throughout the summer. They're versatile, food-friendly, and very wallet-friendly.

Thanks to the fine folks at TasteVino Selections for sending me more tannat samples! It's always fun to step away from the traditional grapes and explore something more unique.

These wines were media samples.

Beau Carufel

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Paul Dolan Vineyards Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc

I've written about Paul Dolan Vineyards many times over the course of my blogging career. The wines are almost always excellent values while tasting freakin delicious! Certainly you could do a lot worse at their modest price points.

I confess though, that these wines have sat in the sample rack for damn near one year. It's my own fault so I feel bad. A big apology to Fineman PR for not getting to these sooner!

These wines are from Mendocino County, north of the more well-known Napa and Sonoma areas. Mendocino boasts conditions that are right for several different kinds of grapes, from pinot noir and syrah to sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio. As far as I know, all of their vineyards are either organic or biodynamic, and they even produce certified biodynamic wines. No small feat in this age of fertilizers and chemicals.

2011 Paul Dolan Sauvignon Blanc Potter Valley: I picked up a lot of citrus and melon notes right away, all nicely balanced and in tune with each other. Lively acidity carries the citrus notes across the palate while the summer melon flavor helps give some body. All in all, a clean, simple sauvignon blanc that would pair beautifully with fish and chicken in the summer. $17.99 SRP. 13.5% abv.

2010 Paul Dolan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino County: Lots of herbs, soil, wood, and cassis aromas. While this smells young, it also has impressive complexity for a $25 California Cabernet. I like the firm, drying tannin and how it balances the ripe blueberry/blackberry flavors. More of the dusty soil flavors come through too, as well as a bittersweet chocolate thing. Needs time to open up but once it does, I think this will be a QPR winner. $25.99 SRP. 14.5% abv.

I think the Cabernet is my preferred wine of the two, it's showing more complexity and depth, and it's got such a similar flavor profile to the Paul Dolan wines I've tasted in the past. This is one you might want to consider stocking up on, as it will continue to drink well for the next ten years or so.

These wines were samples for review.

Beau Carufel