Carignane

WBW 71 Wrap-up: (Mostly) New World Rhones

by Tim Elliott on March 22, 2011

It has been nearly three years since I last hosted Wine Blogging Wednesday but my choice of theme was easy. Wines made from Rhône varieties are among my personal favorites and I was hoping to learn about many more new wines from participants this month. There were 25 bloggers posting reviews from all over the world. Thanks again to all who took the time to participate and here they are in the order I learned about them:

  • The first post came two weeks early from Karla at Sol Wine & Film. An overview of the Curtis Winery of Santa Ynez Valley in California, the subject fit the theme perfectly but somehow didn’t mention WBW. But Karla used the WBW hashtag so is included in this roundup.
  • New entrant Rags, the Kenyan Wine Brat, posted his video review of CrossRoads Winery Syrah from Texas. While he is no Gary V, his use of “refrigerator smell” to describe the Syrah near the beginning made me think of the famous New York Jets fan. Nice start, man; looking forward to more!
  • Next up was Lisa from Wine Muse posting a review of a 2009 Rutherglen Estates “Shelley’s Block” Marsanne Viognier from her native Australia. Made from 70% Marsanne and 30% Viognier, the wine sounds wonderful and a great value at $15AUS.
  • Joe the Suburban Wino posted a long and somewhat rambling post about Rhône styled wines that begins with a rant about how difficult the circumflex over the “o” in Rhône is but then uses that word about a hundred times. No review here but there is some serious Rhône knowledge thrown down within Joe’s hilarious rant prose.
  • Another video review was posted by Aleksi who selected two wines for his tasting. The first is the Bellingham, The Bernard Series, Grenache Blanc Viognier (no vintage mentioned) which proved to be an interesting wine despite some metallic flavors. His second selection seemed more successful, 2006 Spinifex “Papillon”, a red blend made from Carignan, Cinsault and Granache.
  • Next up was Bob from 2001 Bottles – A Wine Odyssey with a 2006 Church & State “Coyote Bowl” Syrah from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. It’s not surprising to me that such a nice Syrah could come from Canada as most of the best examples of this variety come from cooler sites. Also tasted was 2009 Twisted Tree Rousanne/Marsanne which was also a winner.
  • Richard, The Passionate Foodie and next month’s WBW host, tasted a 2007 Sutton Cellars Carignane “Piferro Vineyard” and found it to be an, “easy drinking wine, but with appealing character, and would be an perfect pairing with burgers, pizza, or even pasta.” Count me in to pick up some of this to try soon.
  • First time WBW participant Jason from The Ancient Fire Wine Blog was next with a 2007 Penfolds Bin 138 GMS blend. Made from Grenache, Mourvedre and Shiraz, the wine proved to be, “assertive, but not abusive.” Hope to see you next time, Jason!
  • The VA Wine Diva was next with a trio of Rhone-styled wines from Virginia. The first was a 2009 Veritas Vineyards Viognier which was overall a nice wine marred a bit on the finish with a touch of heat. This was followed up by an earthy and leathery 2005 Ingleside Vineyards Syrah. The tasting was capped off with a 2008 Pollak Vineyards “Mille Fleurs” fortified Viognier dessert wine.
  • Andrew from Spittoon, the bloke who got me first into WBW back when he hosted, was next with a 2009 See Saw Shiraz-Mourvèdre. Although information about the wine was hard to come by, it proved to be a winner for under £9.
  • Matt posted next over at A Good Time With Wine tasting a 2007 Liberty School Cuvee, a blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Viognier. Although Matt prefers the leaner French style in his Syrah, he did like this California wine.
  • Next was Magnus posting a bi-lingual review of a 2007 Annie Camarda Syrah from Washington State, quite a find in his native Sweden. And the wine was, “Well balanced, big and juicy with a nice acidity that bring excitement and sophistication – this is good and I am willing to buy me some bottles for the summer as well as for the future.” Magnus was the only person this month to accompany his review with an Iron Maiden video, a trend I’d like to see continue ;-)
  • Ryan from Catavino in Spain posted next tasting a 2006 Cellar Malondro red blend. A blend of 50% Garnacha and 50% Cariñena from D.O. Montsant, I recalled my trip to the region in 2007 which Ryan commemorated with an archive photo on the post.
  • Next was Michael, The Wine Undertaker, who tasted a 2008 Sterling Vineyards Roussanne from Carneros. The wine was the first taste of Roussanne for him but will not be his last given how well this bottle performed.
  • Colin from Grapefan passed along a tasting note on Adegga as he took a week long vow of no wine. The wine sounds like a winner, though, a 2006 Syrah from Napa Valley’s Hyde de Villaine.
  • Frank from Drink What You Like posted another Virginia Viognier, this time from Jefferson Vineyards. From the 2009 vintage, the wine sounds very interesting and one Wine Blogger Conference attendees will no doubt taste as it’s made in Charlottesville, the site of the 2011 event.
  • Next up was Sebastien at downcellar who posted a pair of Mourvèdre from the New and Old World. First was a meaty and dark Spice Route Mourvèdre from Swartland, South Africa. The Old World entry is a 2007 Juan Gil Monastrell from Jumilla, Spain. Both sound like excellent examples of Mourvèdre from outside The Rhône.
  • My own entry was next, a tale of two Rhone-styled wines from California. In the end, the Steele “Writer’s Block” Roussanne delivered the goods for a steal of a closeout price.
  • William from Simple Hedonisms was next with a review of Wesley Ashley “Intelligent Design Cuvee” Red Rhone Blend. The blend of Carignane, Grenache, Cinsault, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre sounds outstanding.
  • Next was Remy at The Wine Case who posted a nice write-up of a 2009  Edmunds St. John “Wylie” Syrah. The effort from this venerable producer of California Syrah proved very nice but made Remy wish he had a bit more patience to see what the wine would evolve to with further cellaring. That’s why you buy more than one bottle, man ;-)
  • Andrea from Wine Skamp posted next with a review of 2008 Santo Cristo Garnacha, a decent sounding quaffer from Spain’s Campo de Borja.
  • Megan was next from the Wannabe Wino blog with a review of a 2009 Hahn GSM blend which sounded like another winner from California.
  • Rain followed next from Teach Us Wine with a cautionary tale to always check the seal on your bottle particularly if it’s a screw-cap. Her tale is full of fail but I’m sure she will come back strong next time.
  • On Wine Blogging Thursday, WBW founder Lenn Thompson posted his entry; a well-chosen 2005 Doon Vineyards “Cigare Volant.” And it seemed worth the wait.
  • And last, but certainly not least, the fabulous Thea posted her entry at Luscious Lushes, a tribute to winemaker Kevin Hamel. She pulled a bottle of 2002  Hamel Wines Syrah, Westside Hills from her cellar to share but also recounts experiences with the 2001 vintage and some other favorite Syrah’s.

So that’s it. I count 25 bloggers and 28 wines tasted. Most of these were red but 8 whites were also reviewed. If I somehow missed your entry, please let me know in the comments and I will update this post.

Thanks again to Lenn for letting me host once again. And without further ado, I pass the baton to Richard from The Passionate Foodie for a very special edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday next month.

Top 5 Underdog Wine Varieties

by Tim Elliott on February 12, 2011

There are a lot of wine grapes that don’t get their due but there are five that I think should get some more respect. And I’m going to do something about it by not just pointing them out here but also reviewing wines made from these grapes on the blog and podcast.

Some Underdog WinesThe wine world has become so fixated on Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that other grapes that make distinctive wines seem to get lost in the shuffle. Sure, there are hundreds of wine varieties and they can be difficult to remember but by going outside the lines a bit in a good wine store you can find some great wine experences and values.

So here are my top 5 underdog wine varieties for your consideration:

  • Aglianico – Italy has hundreds of great wine grapes but it seems only a few make the worldwide stage. And as great as Nebbiolo and Sangiovese are, there are equally interesting wines made from many other grapes in the country. One of my favorites is Aglianico grown mostly in the Basilicata and Campania regions (a few are also growing this variety in California). This is an ancient grape prized in Roman times as Falernian, their equivalent to First Growth wines of France today. And it’s easy to see why this was so popular back then as the wine today is very fragrant and earthy with plum and chocolate flavors, supple tannins and plenty of acidity to match with food.
  • Torrontés – The white signature grape of Argentina, this variety is set to do for whites what Malbec did for reds in that country. A fusion of the characteristics of Viognier, Muscat and Gewürtztraminer, Torrontés makes a statement all it’s own. The dry and aromatic wines made from this grape in Argentina make a great pairing with spicy Asian foods and seafood. I really think this is a breakout variety that could develop a mainstream following soon.
  • Charbono – A variety with a bit of an identity problem, this grape grown in California is not related to the variety grown in Italy of the same name (which is actually Dolcetto). But it is the same grape known as Bonarda grown in Argentina. DNA testing confirmed it was actually the obscure Corbeau grape found in Savoie. Whatever it’s called, the wines made are big, tannic and fruit-forward similar to Barbera with a bit more earthiness and acidity.
  • Palomino – The white grape of Sherry, Palomino can be made in many styles from the fresh Fino, to nutty Amontillado to rich and dry Oloroso. It can also be sweetened to make those Cream Sherries that used to be so popular back in the day. Sherry seems to be mired in the “acquired taste” category here in the U.S. but I’m hoping to find some examples to review here that might change your mind.
  • Carignan – Probably the most popular grape in my roundup, Carignan (also spelled Carignane) is grown around the world and makes hearty, tannic wines of deep color. A classic workhouse grape, Carignan gets little respect on it’s own but when blended can produce wines of great distinction. There are several styles of these blends but the most successful seems to be the Rhône style with Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre or the “Mixed Blacks” style popular in California where Zinfandel and Petite Sirah are often included and co-fermented.

So there you have it, five grapes that deserve more respect. I’ll be featuring these in reviews and podcasts over the next several months. And be sure to add your own underdog wine varieties in the comments.