Wine Ratings

Posted by Keith Wallace

Clos du Val Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley (Cali)

For 40 years, this vineyard in the valley has been bottling top-notch Cabernet Sauvignon and their mature craftsmanship shows. The same winemaking finesse shows in this bottle, too, so it’s surprising that this is only their second vintage of Sauvignon Blanc.  Pineapple, guava, and wet grass aromas kick things off. A slick of mineral turns into a range of citrus notes with a long finish of fresh and zippy white fruit.

Owner  John Goelet has been amassing a small but respectable international wine company. Since founding Clos du Val with Bernard Portet, his company Goelet Wine Estates now owns not only Clos du Val but Domaine de Nizas (FR), Taltarni (AU), and Clover Hill (NZ). All outstanding wineries in their own right.

TerraNoble Gran Reserva Carmenere, Colchagua Valley (Chile)

Carmenere is the Bordeaux grape that disappeared from all of  France, only to resurface in Chile in the late ’90s.

It’s no shock that the grape had disappeared. Carmenere is a bastard to grow and even harder to ferment correctly. It has a bad habit of turning out green and vegetal in all but the most experienced winemakers. But when made correctly, it can produce sublime wine. This is one of those bottles.

Aromas of fresh fig, sage, and burnt cedar rise from the glass. On the palate, the texture is of silk and satin. Rich notes of black fruit and polished tannins turn this wine into a  deeply pleasing textural experience. A note of mineral and crushed black pepper in the mid-palate keeps this wine in balance.

The price of this wine currently is a ridiculous $13 in the PLCB system. For this level of quality, one should expect to pay at least $25.  The winery is owned –in part– by several bigwigs in Chile’s utility market. Perhaps they don’t hold TerraNoble to a bottom line?  Because this wine tastes like they spent more money to make it than they are charging for it.

Quinta de Foz de Arouce Tinto, Beiras (Portugal)

Quinta de Foz de Arouce is a winery located in no particular region and grows a local grape very few people have ever drunk. Their wines are amazing.  Their importer (WineBow) has a fantastic write upon them, which I will share with you here:

Foz de Arouce has a long history of winemaking that can be linked to the legend of the Arab King Arunce, who built a castle in the region to protect his daughter, treasures, and, of course, his wine. Today, the fourth Count of Arouce, João Filipe Osorio, lives nearby in his 16th-century family home, overseeing one of Portugal’s most consistently top-rated estates.

A dense and powerful wine with gritty tannins that shows a wine that is meant for the wine cellar, not easy sipping.  The wine is layered with floral and red fruits rising to the top with coriander and allspice notes balancing out a high note of white flowers and cranberry. Composition: 80% Baga and 20% Touriga Nacional, aged in old oak for 8 months.

Valdez Landy Vineyard Petite Sirah, Russian River Valley (Cali)

Valdez Family Winery is both a great winery and an archetypal American story. In the
“up by the bootstraps” vein.  To support his extended family,  Ulises Valdez started working in California vineyards at 16. In about a year, he founded a vineyard management company, and within a year after that, he had built it into a flourishing business. The company has been going strong for twenty years when he founded his own wine label. In 2010, he and his family opened up their own brick-and-mortar winery 2010.

Valdez is well known for their Petite Sirah, and this bottle is a great example of why.  A colossal tugboat of a wine. Built of chocolate and baking spices, this wine rides over a bed of black pepper in a thick river of dark fruit. Very pretty, very lush, very rich.

Tukma 2010 Gran Corte, Calchaquí (Argentina)

Tukma is the new project by José Luis Mounier. he is a remarkable winemaker. He doesn’t claim to be a  biodynamic winemaker, nor are his wines are listed as organic…, but he is, and they are. He is known largely for his magnificent work with the grape Torrontes and is single-handedly creating a name for that varietal.

He is also making some fantastic red wines these days too. The Gran Corte is largely Malbec, with some Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon blend for added structure. Like all of Salta vineyards, his are high altitude. Over 1700 meters above sea level, to be exact, over one mile high.

This is a beautiful wine, especially the unexpected aroma of fresh wildflowers.  Flavors of mocha, burnt sage, and eucalyptus overlay a layer of plush tannins and juicy cinnamon.  Fresh blueberries pop into the finish. The result is a fantastic wine with a flamboyant but balanced personality.

Château d’Or et de Gueules 2011 Trassegum Red, Costières de Nîmes (France)

A lovely diversion from the typical Cote du Rhone. This bottle is half Syrah, with equal parts Carignan and Mourvedre in the blend.  Notes of balsa wood, licorice, and maraschino liqueur fold into dark fruit, dried plum,  and fennel pollen. We have reviewed this wine several times in the past. The winery takes its name from the winemaker’s family coat of arms from the gold and red stripes.

Vignamaggio 2009 Cabernet Franc, Tuscany

One of the things that surprised me about Tuscany is how well Cabernet Franc grew there and how much winemakers loved it. It doesn’t sell well, not nearly as well as the traditional Chianti Classico or the modern Cabernet Sauvignon-based Super Tuscans. That’s usually enough for wineries to give up on the grape, but they keep on growing it. I, for one, am thrilled they are.

Vignamaggio is an ancient estate in Tuscany, right in the Classico hills between Greve and Lamole. It’s one of the most beautiful estates I have ever seen and famous for being the birthplace of the Mona Lisa, despite it not being true (she was born in Florence on Via Maggio)

This estate produces excellent Chianti bottles, but this Cab Franc is the shining star in their portfolio. Aromas of creme de cassis and bay leaf lead into smoke and ocean air. Flavors of dark chocolate and juicy blackberry wind through a leathery note and a long spice-filled finish. Full-bodied and taught with round tannins.

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