A Couple of Chards

This time last year I wrote about 2 Chardonnay’s battling it out. Tasting those wines side by side proved to be an interesting experience. Recently, I had another chance to taste 2 more Chardonnays side by side, this time it was a blind tasting so only their “fruits” of their labor could influence me.

“Brand X” Chardonnay (Napa Valley) 2011: You’re immediately hit on the nose with smoky oak, and butter. If you concentrated enough you could almost get vanilla, and a hint of rich cream. Medium to full body, with concentration, this extends itself with flavors of citrusy honey, vanilla, and minerality. Sounds good eh? Nope. It was not balanced well – It was hard to get past the smoky oak and butter in the aroma and flavor. The finish was long but I wanted it to go away – Basically a buttered-popcorn campfire in your mouth. I guess you could skip the butter and pour this over your lobster…   
Robert Mondavi Chardonnay (Napa Valley) 2011: Unbelievably vibrant aromas of sweet citrusy juice, honey crisp apple, and honeydew melon. A Lighter body wine with elegant flavors of pear, crisp minerals, and lemon-lime. The finish is long that made you yearning for another sip. It was delicious! You can easily drink this with or without food (paired with tilapia, grilled shrimp, or roasted chicken).

I don’t normally give any wines bad press, I only write about what I like. In all seriousness I sincerely respect wine makers and what they do and that’s why I decided to leave the vineyard name out of the first Chardonnay and name it “Brand X”. Here is the catch; “Brand X” is a $40 bottle while Robert Mondavi’s is $19 proving the fact that cost does not guarantee you what you’d like. Listen to your taste buds, they know!
Sláinte! TCW 

Warre’s Optima 10

Fortified wine is a desert style wine with a lot of residual sugar. This is typically served as an after dinner drink but can be versatile. Some can be too dismissive with fortified wine stating they are too sweet but paired with the right items, they will be fantastic, i.e. (but not limited to) dark chocolate, select nuts and cheeses, sausages, or my favorite, a cigar. The key here is to balance the sweetness.    
Port Wine is a style of fortified wine, traditionally from Portugal. Although there are different styles of Port; Ruby, Tawny, and Vintage, I’ll be writing about one of my favorite Tawny Ports. Tawny Port is a blend of barrel-aged Port wine and released as 10, 20, 30, and 40 year old wines.

Warre’s Optima 10 is a perfect example of a delicious ten year old Tawny Port. Bottled in 2012, this revealed aromas of plum, orange rinds, cinnamon, and hints of lavender. Optima 10 offered flavors of dried fruit, honey, and some toasted nuts. Delicious, complex, flavorful, smooth, balanced, and a long lasting finish. This is not your typical Tawny Port. From glass appeal, aromas, flavors, all the way through the finish it is absolutely beautiful – A perfectly tuned orchestra in your mouth! Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. This is widely available at restaurants and retail wine shops and is moderately priced. I strongly encourage you to taste this if you haven’t already.

Sláinte! TCW

Mario Monticelli and his Meritage

2009 shown
Mario Monticelli is a soft spoken, very modest, and easy-going Winemaker. Although incredibly knowledgeable he downplays his brilliance. I have to admit, I was a little star struck when we conversed. I mean he’s from Trinchero Napa Valley – a rather reputable vineyard from St. Helena, California. Over time the vineyard expanded and really started developing their niche in the marketplace. Fast forward Mario Monticelli makes some remarkable wines today. 
I recently attended a wine dinner at Zeal’s in Schaumburg featuring the mastermind of Chef Vince and Trinchero Napa Valley wines. Although I was lucky enough to taste several of Mario’s wines my favorite (and his) is the Meritage.

Trinchero Meritage, 2010 ($50) is an artfully blend of Bordeaux varietals including 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petite Verdot, 8% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc. The aromas in the beginning are a perfect fusion where California meets France, juicy ripe blackberries and deep French oak. As it opens up the blackberries became preserves, I started to detect black pepper and over time I noted blueberry pie, cinnamon and possibly nutmeg. The wine is super balanced with smooth tannins and a long finish. It’s a true “Napa Valley” wine, big, rich, and chewy! Again, as it opened up the flavors became a little sweeter and the wine softer.

Like Mario’s personality his Meritage is inviting and incredibly approachable – down to earth! Yet you can cellar this bottle for another 6 plus years.  We drank several glasses of his wine together and nattered like “wine geeks”. Alas, he had to depart but his closing remark to me summed everything up about his wine and personality “If I didn’t have to leave with my associates right now I’d have a drink with you at the bar!” Sláinte, Mario!

Skip the A.B., love the C

Ever hear the term “ABC” for wine? It stands for “Anything but Chardonnay”. So in context I’ve heard “ABC” being the answer when one was asked what type of wine they like. Don’t get me wrong, there are regions, grapes, or vineyards I don’t care for but I don’t limit myself. I enjoy many wines from even the most obscure grapes and from the most obscure countries. So when I hear that term I cringe.

Chardonnay can be outstanding but the grape itself is fairly neutral. The flavors generally are derived from terroir and oak. Team that up with the many different styles to vinify Chardonnay. The results are several different tasting profiles from lean and crisp all the way through rich and buttery. 
Gary Farrell Chardonnay, 2011 from California’s Russian River Valley is an excellent Chardonnay and represents what the beautiful Chardonnay grape can do! Alluring aromas of star fruit, kiwi, and lemon peel, followed by delicious flavors of lemon oil, tropical fruit, honey, and a hint of pineapple.  It was rich and creamy, (texture from extended less stirring during malolactic fermentation), complex yet super balanced! This wine had me thinking about the aromas/flavors days after.

So yea, I guess I’m an “ABC” kinda guy – All ‘bout Chardonnay! It’s getting warmer out, perfect for whites and what better way to bring on spring than to pop open a tasty white like this Chardonnay!
Sláinte! TCW

Take a moment

When enjoying a brilliant glass of wine my perspective can change. Moments move in slow motion. My senses are magnified. I experience each and every detail about the wine, the food, the music, and the people around me. Life is absolutely amazing. But don’t worry, I’ve only had one glass.

At times I get too caught up to really live life; worrying about my kids, my job, stressing out that I may never having enough time to get things done that I absolutely “have” to do. But this is what great wine does:  it takes you to another place, to another state of mind. And recently, La Rioja Alta S.A. “Vina Ardanza” Rioja Reserva 2001 took me to just such a moment.

This is a classic, but powerful Rioja from Haro in the Rioja Alta. The blend is mostly Tempranillo, with 20% made up with Garnacha gown in the Rioja Baja.  It is a beautifully colored wine with aromas of spice, wood, earth, fig, and an intoxicating balsamic. There is an intense acidity, balanced perfectly with rich fruit, and dusty complexity that transports you away.
Next time you need to take five, take a peek through your cellar, wine cabinet, or nearby fine wine retailer and find a bottle that can take you there.
Sláinte! TCW (with help from The Broke Wino)