Red Blends

Unti Vineyards, Petit Frere 2004

by Tim Elliott on March 1, 2007

Unti winesUnti Vineyards is the kind of winery I really like. Located in the Dry Creek Valley AVA of Sonoma County, they have a couple vineyards planted with some of my favorite varietals: Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Petite Sirah and Barbara. They also grow Rhone varieties like Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. Most of their wines are made in the single varietal model but Petit Frere is a Southern Rhone-styled blend. Like a lot of wineries I tend to like a lot, they spend more time making sure the grapes are right in the vineyard and then make their wines in a minimalist style. The result is very pure fruit and nicely complex wines for their price points. Plus they are great people and have the best stems I’ve ever seen in any winery tasting room.

Unti Vineyards, Petit Frere, Dry Creek Valley 2004 ($16) – A blend of 40% Grenache, 37% Mourvedre and 23% Syrah. Purple in color with aromas of blackberry, lilac and licorice. Earthy and bold in the mouth with black cherry and black pepper flavors finishing with medium-firm tannins. It also has nice acidity for food. A very nice pasta wine and good value.

14.5% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 86

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Winecast 71 – Iberian Wine

by Tim Elliott on January 20, 2007

Ryan and Tim in the studio

I’m back and starting my third year of podcasting with the longest Winecast yet, a discussion and tasting of four wines from the Iberian peninsula with Ryan Opaz of Catavino.

Show Notes:

00:21 – Welcome and introduction
01:10 – Your Iberian wine questions with Ryan Opaz
26:17 – Don Olegario, Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain 2004 ($19)
30:27 – Sociedade Agrícola Casal do Tojo, “Lisa”, Terras do Sado, Portugal 2004 ($11) +
36:07 – Bodegas 3 Suenos, “Sexto”, Terra Alta, Spain 2004 ($10)
41:39 – Caves do Salgueiral, “Andreza”, Douro, Portugal 2003 ($14) *
46:22 – Save The Duero and wrap-up
51:49 – Contact Details
52:04 – Next show theme

* = Best of Tasting
+ = Best Value

(Production Note: Unfortunately I set the gain too high on this recording and could not filter out this background noise out due to GarageBand’s ducking feature. I recommend listening on speakers and not headphones as a result. Lesson learned; my apologies.)

Copyright 2007 Acan Media, Inc. Licensed to the public under

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WBW 29 – Biodynamic Wine

by Tim Elliott on January 17, 2007

Wine Blogging Wednesday logoThe theme this month for Wine Blogging Wednesday is biodynamic wine, chosen by Jack and Joanne from Fork and Bottle.

When I first read about the theme, I really didn’t know much about biodynamic agriculture or how it differed from organic practices. A quick read of an excellent series on the subject by Jamie Goode brought me up to speed. Without getting to far into the details, biodynamic farming is a philosophy as much as it’s a process. Quite similar in many ways to organic farming, biodyamics is based upon the teachings of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner who outlined a method for the farm (or vineyard) to be a self-sustaining ecosystem in the 1920′s. Chemicals are not permitted and a series of steps, known as preparations, are employed to get the soil ready to sustain the crop. There’s also some business about the “rhythms of nature” that reminds me of some Jerry Brown speeches back in the day. So it’s kind of like organic farming on steroids with some new age philosophy thrown in for good measure.

As it relates to wine growing, there are many vineyards around the world who subscribe to the philosophy of biodynamic agriculture but not necessarily pay the fees to be officially certified as such. One of those vignerons is Helen Durand who is the owner and winemaker of Domaine du Trapadis in the Southern Rhone and follows a 200 year family tradition. Longtime readers will remember I reviewed a wine made by this producer back on WBW 19, but I thought I would try the latest vintage here and elaborate on how the grapes were grown and the wine produced.

M. Durand believes in letting the vines and land speak for themselves, so no chemicals or artificial fertilizers are used in the vineyard. This philosophy extends to the winemaking process where the grapes are hand harvested and not destemmed before fermentation. Cultured yeast is not used, preferring the wild yeast of the vineyard. The wine is fermented and aged in individual variety lots before blending and bottling without fining or filtering. No oak barrels are used in the aging of this wine so the maximum expression of the fruit and site is preserved. I know of no better definition of terroir than these practices.

Domaine du Trapadis, Cotes du Rhone 2004 ($15) – A blend of 60% Grenache, 13% Carignan, 10% Syrah, 10% Cinsault and 7% Mourvedre.

Garnet in color with aromas of black raspberry, licorice, earth and cloves. Rich and rustic black cherry and raspberry fruit flavors with black pepper, tar and firm tannins. A typical Rhone blend for everyday drinking that presents a lot of complexity for the money.

In short, a real wine made by real people.

14.5% ABV
Composite cork closure
Score: 87

Chateau Camensac 1995

by Tim Elliott on December 27, 2006

Christmas dinner in our family is centered around a standing rib roast. To match with this meat, I almost always grab a Cabernet; not sure why, but this seems to be the classic accompaniment. Perhaps it’s the English origin of our tradition, where “claret” is often served with this entrée.

This year’s selection is the last bottle of Chateau Camensac 1995 that I picked up on sale a few years back for around $20. The Chateau is in the Haut-Médoc and was named a Fifth Growth in the 1855 Classification. Like a lot of Bordeaux estates, Camensac fell onto hard times for much of the 20th century but has made a resurgence of late and now employs famed consulting winemaker Michel Rolland. The blend is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot aged in one and two year old barrels for about 20 months before fining and bottling. A little over 20,000 cases are produced each vintage.

Chateau Camensac, Haut-Médoc 1995 ($25) – Medium garnet in color with no browning at the rim. Blackberry, chocolate and pencil lead aromas. Nicely balanced black cherry and currant flavors finishing fairly long with plush tannins. Elegant, understated and at it’s peak now. I’d say it should hold for another 3 or 4 years before decline. A nice value in aged Bordeaux if you can find it under $30.

12.5% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 89

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Jim Neal Wines, Chariot, “Diana” 2004

by Tim Elliott on December 3, 2006

One of my most popular posts/reviews here was for Jim Neal’s Chariot, “Diana” 2002, a blend of Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc (although I bet there’s a bit of Petit Verdot in the lastest release). In fact, Mr. Neal himself posted a comment to my last review. I’ve been looking forward to tasting the next release, but somehow missed the 2003 vintage; when I found the 2004 on the shelf the other day, I picked up a bottle to see if this blend was still bringing home the taste and value.

Jim Neal Wines, Chariot, “Diana” 2004 ($12) – Inky dark purple in color with aromas of cherry liqueur and black pepper. Soft and rich in the mouth with boysenberry jam, blueberry and spicy pepper finishing with moderate tannins. Not as complex as I remember the 2002, but still mighty tasty and an excellent value. I’m a sucker for these fruit bombs; YMMV.

14.2% ABV
Synthetic cork closure
Score: 89

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This bodega has over 200 hectares of vineyards in the Castilla y León region of northwest Spain. Castilla y León is the largest region of Spain and the largest in the entire European Union. It was formed in 1983 but the tradition of viticulture goes back to the middle ages. Aside from wine, Castilla y León is known for it’s castles which rival those of Bavaria.

Bodegas Abadía Retuerta, “Rívola”, Sardon de Duero, Castilla y León 2003 ($14) – A blend of 60% Tempranillo and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep ruby in color with pronounced aromas of vanilla, blackberry and clove. Raspberry and blackberry fruit with black pepper, spice and dusty tannins complete the package. Nice rich mouthfeel. Might have a little too much wood for some, but it took me back to wines I loved in the past with such a defect and was much less noticeable after some air.

13.5% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 87

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