Archive for the ‘Review red wine’ Category

Teeth-Staining Intensity from Purple Wine Company

fourYour wine can be purple in your glass.

Your hands can be purple after pouring bottle after bottle.

Your teeth can be purple after sipping too much Petite Sirah.

Or your Wine Company can be Purple.

Derek Benham founded Purple Wine Company in 2001, after selling a value-oriented brand called Blackstone that he had co-founded. I’m sure you remember Blackstone: it produces a wine that has been, at times, America’s best-selling Merlot.

So the guy knows how to make wine, and how to make money with wine.

Enter Four Vines. This wine company was founded in 1994 by three folks who wanted to focus on making Zinfandel: big, bold, kick-ass Zins from the best Zin regions in California. Christian Tietje built the Four Vines brand with two under-$15 labels and three region-specific Zins. All were highly-rated and regarded as good values.purple

And now Four Vines is part of Purple Wine Company, purchased by Derek Benham about two years ago. I recently had the opportunity to taste those three appellation Zins, as well as a new PWC wine called Cryptic.

I started with Four Vines “Biker” Zinfandel Paso Robles 2009, because Paso Zins have always gotten my vote for the Best in Varietal. This one is made with fruit from two vineyards in West Side Paso Robles, including one of my all-time faves, Dante Dusi vineyard. West Side Paso is heaven for warm-climate grapes, with hot, sunny days and very cool nights that produce intense flavors and good structure. Calcareous soils (that means chalky/limestone-y) also keep yields low and flavors concentrated. Read the rest of this entry »

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Figaro Tinto 2009 Calatyud: Fine Wine, Finer Price Tag

operaAll I wanted was a cheap and cheerful little wine to perk up my Marinara and Meatballs, and what I got instead was a ton of history. There’s so much packed into this deceptively simple bottle that I don’t know where to start.

First, we have “Figaro:” when I say the name I conjure up visions of a big, bearded baritone belting out, “Figaro, Figaro, Fiiiiigaro”….

Then there’s “Aragon”, or “Zaragoza,” the Spanish province that contains the Calatayud wine region. I see images of medieval knights and ladies, and it turns out there were more than enough epic battles here. Romans, Moors, and half of Europe tried to invade it, and during a particularly memorable (and bloody) siege in the 1800′s, almost every man, woman and child in Zaragoza died rather than surrender to the invading French. Wow — these are some fierce folks…medieval

Then there’s the winery that created this wine, Bodega Niño Jesús. Really? Doesn’t that translate to “Winery Baby Jesus?” I just don’t know what to think about that…

Here’s what I know about my little bottle of history:

  • Figaro Tinto 2009 comes from the wine region or D.O. called Catalayud, which sits on the River Ebro in the northeastern quadrant of Spain.
  • The Continental climate borders on extreme: the summers are hot and dry and the winters are cold. In a single day, temperatures can swing 30 or 40 degrees (F).
  • The vineyards where these grapes are grown sit on south-facing slopes above the river (to catch all the available sunlight, right?). And they’re at elevations of up to 2,500 feet, which gives the fruit more intense flavors and good natural acidity.
  • Finally, the soil is loose, gravelly and really lousy for growing anything else, which makes it just perfect for wine grapes!

Catalayud shares these characteristics with just about every significant wine-producing region in the world. Here’s what makes Bodega Niño Jesús different: it’s a cooperative of about 150 growers tending vineyards with an average age of 30 years. These aren’t really old vines, but they’ve at least grown a beard by now, and contribute more complex flavors to the fruit. The grapes in Figaro are 100% Garnacha (Grenache), which in warm climfigaroates has a fruity, sometimes fleshy style. And significantly, this bottling is from the 2009 vintage, which in Europe was one of the best in memory.

Finally, I’m getting to the wine: Figaro Tinto is simply a killer bottle of wine, and tastes much better than its humble price. I paid $8 for it at Total Wine & More, and I was hoping for something with just enough fruit and acid to balance my Marinara sauce (homemade, thank you). What I got was bright, tangy red and black cherry fruit with a hint of spice and a well-balanced finish. When it hit the tomato-based sauce, both wine and Marinara got up and danced: the fruit became softer and more intense and the sauce turned sweet and savory.

I was in wine-and-food heaven, and all it took was a 10-spot. I will cheerfully buy this wine again, and I’d suggest you take it for a test drive, too, especially if you have pizza, red pasta or any Mediterranean specialty on your menu. And be sure to let me know what you think… Cheers!




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The Best of the Pacific Northwest: Sineann Abondante 2009


Peter Rosback of Sineann Winery

How does this guy do it?

How does he produce so many great wines in such a  dizzying variety of styles. How can one guy be responsible for all these:

A) Incredibly rich Old Vine Zinfandel;

B) Crisp and snappy New Zealand Sauv Blanc;

C) Bold but elegant single vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs; and

D) Intense but polished Washington State red blends.

And did I mention this guy has earned several boatloads of 90+ scores for all these disparate styles??

His name is Peter Rosback, master of Sineann Winery. He’s physically located in the Chehalem Mountains AVA near Newberg, Oregon, but his grapes come from all over the place. He’s one of the new breed of winemakers who doesn’t rely on owning acres of vineyards to produce estate-grown wines, but sources grapes from the best vineyards he can lay his hands on. Peter uses fruit from vineyards in Oregon, the Columbia Valley, and even Marlborough, New Zealand. (Yes, he flies halfway around the world to make his Sauv Blanc!)

It’s a smart approach these days, when you have to be a retired football star or race car driver to be able to pony up the multi-$100,000 per acre it takes to plant your own vineyards, and then pay vineyard workers and winemaking staff for seven or so years before you can actually sell any wine. Instead of owning land, Peter locates pedigreed vineyards and then “works closely with” (read, “drives crazy”) his growers to produce the best fruit possible. It’s a way of doing business that allows Peter tremendous flexibility as a winemaker, while still maintaining control over his product.

But if you could say there’s a signature style to all of Peter’s wines, it would probably be intensity of fruit and concentration of flavors. Aha! That’s one of the things Peter creates in the vineyards. He works with his growers to reduce crop yields way below most premium or super-premium wines: he goes as low as one ton per acre. Trust me, that’s LOW! (A premium Napa Valley grape grower might harvest two and a half to three tons per acre).

abondanteSo why does he do it? The short answer is that reducing the number of grapes each vine produces greatly increases the concentration and intensity of flavor in every single grape. And believe me, it shows in Peter’s wine.

So let’s get to the wine. I recently went nuts over the Sineann Abondante 2009, a red blend made with fruit from vineyards in the lower Columbia Valley. Now I have to admit that I ordered this wine without ever tasting or even reading about it: I just figured that I’d love anything from the winemaker who’d made the amazing Sineann Resonance Vineyard Pinot Noir (with scores in every vintage hovering near the mid-90′s).

So I poured Abondante at a wine and food pairing dinner, where I’d made an admittedly wild-ass guess about how the wine would taste and pair with my food. Truthfully, I just wanted to drink it. The wine is an intriguing blend of grapes grown in the Columbia Valley. There is Merlot from the Hillside Vineyard, Cabernet Franc from the famed Champoux Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon from the Hillside Vineyard and Zinfandel (yes, Washington State Zinfandel) from vineyards that are reputed to be the oldest in the Pacific Northwest.

Wild, huh?

And it does honor to its name. “Abondante” means “generous,” and those abundant flavors jump right out of the glass. There’s rich berry fruit, which may be contributed by the old vine Zinfandel. There are floral and herbal notes (maybe from the Cab Franc?) as well as some plum and pomegranate. All of this is wrapped up in soft tannins and a round ripeness, but not jamminess, that smooths out the finish.

That’s what I liked best: intensity without weight. The fruitiness and structure all danced happily together, creating a very lithe and refined wine that just happened to be rich in fruit flavors.

This wine was kick-ass. And the good news is that it worked perfectly with Beef Filet Medallions topped with Gorgonzola and a Red Wine Reduction. Who would have thought? Like I said, I just wanted to taste the wine…

Try hard to find a bottle of 2009 Abondante, although it’ll be tough given Sineann’s small production and the ridiculously low price for this wine ($30 in my state). But do your best, because you’ll go nuts like I did… Cheers!



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Meet the Temecula Valley: Wiens wines

vineyardsHave you ever heard of Temecula wines? No? That’s what I thought…

American wine drinkers (at least those who live east of the California state line)  have never heard of the region.

Which is really ironic, because the Temecula Valley lies just a stone’s throw from where the whole California wine thing got started — sometime around 1820.

Wine grapes were first brought to California by Spanish missionaries, who built a string of missions along the California coast to bring Christianity to the heathens. Remember that thing about the swallows coming back to San Juan Capistrano? Well, San Juan Capistrano was the first mission, and it was built a mere 18 miles west of present day Temecula. The good monks grew Mission grapes and made sweet, fortified wine for communion (or whatever…).

So fast-forward to modern-day Southern California. The region is now known for congested freeways and movie stars, but some savvy winemakers have discovered that the Temecula Valley has conditions that are amazingly favorable for high-quality wine grapes. Check this out:

Temecula sits on a plateau at about 1,400 feet elevation, snugged up to a higher mountain range. Mists linger until mid-morning, helping to cool the region. Cold air also gets sucked in from the Pacific Ocean through gaps in the coastal mountains, creating ideal micro-climates for high-quality wine grapes.


The four Wiens brothers, plus mom

Is this ringing a bell? Does this sound like the conditions that make Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Barbara such great regions for wine grapes?

On top of the above, the surrounding mountains create “rivers” of cold air that drift down over Temecula, creating a double cooling effect.

But wait — that’s not all! Because the area is further south than, say, San Francisco, the vineyards are closer to the Equator and receive more radiant heat. So OK, we have that wonderful “warm days, cold nights” thing happening, plus relatively little rainfall during the growing and harvest season. Soils, too, are well drained, producing clean, pure varietal flavors.

So this looks like a recipe for great wine. It makes me wonder why all of us non-Temeculties  took so long to discover this little wine region. My excuse is that I hadn’t tasted any of their wines — at least until a few nights ago, when a friend brought over a bottle from Wiens Family Cellars. Not being one to turn down free alcohol, we popped the cork and… enjoyed!

We were drinking Wiens 2008 Tempranillo-Petite Sirah. That’s an unusual (or even unheard-of) blend. Who ever thought to combine this Spanish grape with California’s big, bold, dense, brooding varietal?

But I gotta tell you — someone should have thought of it sooner. My first sip was enough to make me say, “Of course!” It’s a great idea to use the bright fruit and crisp acidity of Tempranillo to tame the often-too-heavy Petite Sirah.

When I poured the Wiens, the color looked very “Petite.” It was opaque and red/pourple, and I geared myself for a big, big wine. The nose, however, showed some bright cherry up front, followed by some heavier caramel and dark berry notes.

The palate was a happy marriage of both grapes. I loved how the acid from the Tempranillo cut the heaviness of the Petite Sirah, and made this a pretty decent food wine. I got more complexity, too, as it sat and breathed, with nice brambly notes, mocha and vanilla creeping in.

Wiens Tempranillo-Petite Sirah is a well-made wine, and it’s fun to drink. It’s kinda pricey at $50 a bottle — I assume that’s one of the unfortunate repercussions of operating a small-production facility in a place like Temecula. But I wish the folks at Wiens the best — they’re doing a good job and helping to put the Temecula Valley on the wine map. I’ll tip my hat to the ghosts of San Juan Capistrano, and say, Cheers!

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Gold Rush Wine: Sobon Zinfandel


Meet winemaker Paul Sobon

If I asked, “What do you know about California’s Amador County?”, a history buff would say, “It’s Gold Rush Country.” The average wine drinker would say, “Huh?”

That’s a pity. Amador County was not only home to folks like John Sutter, who launched the Gold Rush when he found gold in Sutter’s Creek, but to some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in America. And those vines make some mighty good wine…

Those vines were probably planted by European immigrants who came to California to strike it rich. A few did, and many more didn’t. But they left a legacy — Amador’s old Zinfandel vines — that we’re still enjoying today.

Amador County, lying east of Sacramento in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, turned out to be a wonderful place to plant grape vines. The soil, the warm days and cool nights of this micro-climate, and the positive effects of elevation produce intensely flavored, well-structured wines.

I rediscovered Amador recently when I met Paul Sobon, second-generation winemaker and owner of Sobon Estate and Shenandoah Vineyards. His parents, Leon and Shirley, bought land in the Shenandoah Valley appellation 35 years ago. They purchased the historic D’Agostini Winery a dozen years later, and continued to produce killer Zins, as well as Rhone varietals.

I recently tasted the Sobon Estates 2008 Fiddletown Zinfandel. I expected a big, port-like fruit bomb. What I got instead was great fruit with great balance. This, to me, is as good as Zin gets…

The fruit for Sobon’s Fiddletown Zin comes from the Lubenko Vineyard, which sits at 1900 feet elevation. The vines were planted in 1910, which makes them mighty old vines.  I figured they’d bring some great flavors to this wine.

The good stuff started with the nose: it jumped at me out of the glass, with blueberry compote and raspberry liqueur. Doesn’t sound very restrained, does it? But remember that I said this wine was balanced, not tame.

The wine in my mouth exploded with essence of blueberry, followed by round mocha notes. A few minutes later some black raspberry joined the party. Just when I was thinking that this was way too much fun, the acid kicked in, knocking the heat off the back end and allowing the well-integrated oak and tannins to carry the finish.

Not bad! I never thought Sobon Fiddletown was too jammy or port-like. It was big, for sure, but didn’t overwhelm my senses. I’m glad, though, that I tasted a 2008 — I think the three or four years of age gave it time to grow up and settle down.

Paul Sobon makes well over a dozen wines, so make it a point to find some. The price points are good (the Fiddletown goes for around $20 and many are closer to $10). And don’t forget his Cal-Ital varietals: they’ll knock your socks off, too, and you can read what I wrote about them here. Cheers!



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Pine Ridge Killer Reds

pine rSorry it’s been awhile. If you’re in the wine retail business, like I am, your life gets put on hold for a few weeks when ‘Tis The Season for the holiday shopping and drinking frenzy. Thank God that’s over…

So meanwhile back at the ranch — I finally have time to write about two killer reds I tasted during an online TasteLive session in December. Pine Ridge Vineyards, one of the Stags Leap District’s most classic wineries, sent me two of their Cabs — the Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2008 and Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District 2008. We (a motley crew of wine bloggers) and winemakers Michael Beaulac and Jason Ledbetter connected online, and we got some great input on where these wines come from and how they’re made.

Pine Ridge owns vineyards in four Napa appellations. Michael and Jason talked about their unique characteristics, and explained what grapes from Stags Leap, Rutherford, Oakville and Howell Mountain bring to their party. It was a blast to pick out those characteristics in the wines we tasted.

We started with the Napa Valley 2008 Cabernet, which is a blend of fruit from Rutherford, Oakville and Stags Leap. Before I fill your head with lots of technical mumbo-jumbo, let me say simply that this is a kick-ass bottle of wine. Rich fruit and sweet oak make it positively hedonistic — and there’s nothing wrong with that!

But to get technical again… Beaulac explained that the 2008 growing season gave winemakers the conditions to create softer, lusher, enjoy-it-right-now kind of wines. He used 60% Rutherford fruit that gives intense, rich, palate-coating flavors; 30% Oakville grapes for bright red fruit flavors, good acidity and structured tannins; and 10% Stags Leap for chocolate and mocha notes with fine tannins.

The result — there’s blackberry jam on the nose, with vanilla and mocha sneaking in behind. The palate shows plenty of blackberry fruit, balanced by good acidity and well-integrated tannins. There’s good depth and concentration, and this oh-so-yummy “sweet” finish.

Michael and Jason shared some interesting information on this wine’s creation. Each appellation lot was fermented and aged separately, and then “assembled” to spend another year getting to know each other. They used only American oak barrels: they say Napa Cabernet needs American oak to impart volume and texture. I guess that explains all that sweet vanilla I enjoyed.

So let’s move on to number two — Pine Ridge Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. Again, to cut to the chase — lush, powerful and balanced. Michael used only Stags Leap fruit from a vineyard that stresses the vines to produce thick-skinned grapes with intense color, cocoa powder and mocha flavors, and fine-grained tannins.

Wow, does it ever. The nose knocked me out first: there was sweet blackberry and mocha that morphed into pomegranate and blueberry, and I could have sat with my nose in the glass all night. Michael called this “volatilizing aromatics,” and I’m all for that…

The palate was a bit of a surprise. I didn’t get a big fruit bomb, but instead a (relatively) light touch with power behind it. I tasted dark berries and dark chocolate, with more juicy red fruit on the end. I got well-integrated, fine tannins for a long finish that didn’t “bite.” Again, there was intensity without jamminess or “heat” — my kind of Cab. And the oak used in the Cab is all French — for this wine, Michael wanted to emphasize elegance.

The Stags Leap is 0nly 91% Cab: the balance is Merlot and Petit Verdot, also grown on the Stags Leap property. At 14.7% ABV, you might expect some heat, but Michael explained that 14 – 15% adds to the mouthfeel as long as it’s balanced by good acidity. When asked how this wine will age, Michael offered that seven years is the optimal drinking point for a Napa Cab. At that stage it should show some maturity but still retain some of that bright California fruit that we love to enjoy.

At around $75, Pine Ridge Stags Leap is a bargain compared to a lot of premium Napa Cabs. I’d go grab a bottle, if I were you… Cheers!


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Cool, Cooler, Coolest Pinot Noir

rrvLots of wine drinkers know Benziger Winery. This family-owned operation that sits on the slopes of Sonoma Mountain has been known as a leader in organic and bio-dynamic winemaking. Their Chard and big reds are the wines we see out there in the market, so I was surprised to receive a set of four Pinot Noirs.

From Sonoma Mountain? Of course not. Pinot needs a cool climate in order to thrive, like the climate in — hey, the appellations on these single-vineyard Pinots are Russian River and Sonoma Coast! That’s two of California’s best AVA’s for great Pinot Noir.

We tasted them recently, while listening (through Twitter TasteLive) to winemaker Rodrigo Soto. He took us through the tasting in a way that really showcased their unique character — their terroir.  We tasted from furthest inland, almost at the eastern edge of the Russian River AVA,  to just five miles from the Pacific coast.

Our first wine was Signaterra San Remo Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2009. Not only was this my favorite of the tasting, but it had a unique quality that made this Pinot irresistible. The nose showed tart fruit aromas — rhubarb, cranberry — with a little floral note. The palate started off with red berries, but I was immediately distracted by the quality of the mouthfeel. This wine just glided over my palate. As the berry flavors turned more complex, with some smoke and “meat” coming through, the whole thing was gently seducing me.

Now I know Pinot is supposed to be “velvety,” but this one set a new standard. Winemaker Rodrigo Soto credited 25% whole-cluster fermentation with creating “a different tannic structure.” With this method, an entire bunch of grapes goes into the fermenter instead of (crushed) skins and juice. He said it affects the flavors and the finish, creating the elegant mouthfeel I enjoyed so much.

Moving further west in the Russian River, we tasted Signaterra Bella Luna Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009. Yields are kept low in this bio-dynamic vineyard and whole cluster fermentation is used again. But the nature of this wine was very different. A cooler climate produces a more austere, earthy Pinot, and one that took longer to open. In fact, when I revisited it the second day I tasted the deep berry and smoke that I’d missed first time around.

The Sonoma Coast Pinots, grown just a few miles from the cold Pacific, were bigger, brawnier, and needed time to show their stuff. De Coelo Quintus Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2009 leads with a nose of black cherries and licorice, and a good deal of natural acid keeps the fruit clean and bright. Rodrigo explained that he tries to maintain the distinctive nature of each vineyard’s fruit by using native yeasts in his fermentation. That means the winemaker can’t alter the flavors through the use of selective yeast strains, and it’s a practice he applies to all his wines.

De Coelo Terra Neuma Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot 2009 is leaner, more peppery and meaty. I got the chalky minerality that Soto looks for in order to “lift up the wines and give them personality.” Acid levels promise good cellarability for both these wines, and Rodrigo guess-timates that coastal Pinots with the acid and tannin structure of these two can easily go seven to nine years.

It was a rare opportunity (and a real blast) to see how vineyard locations just a few miles apart can produce such different wines. Of course, having the winemaker handy to explain his approach sure adds to the experience. Maybe you can stop on down to Benziger and get a first-hand taste yourself. Cheers!


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Elderton “Friends” Cabernet: Bold and Elegant

edenWhen I see an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon coming my way, especially one with “Barossa” on the label, I’m tempted to jump fast and high to get out of the way.

It’s not that I don’t like Australian wines — I love many of them. But unless I’ve got a 16 ounce Rib Eye nearby, an Australian Cabernet can be just too big for my britches: the big, jammy fruit and high alcohol needs a lot of beef to tame it.

So I was pleasantly surprised recently when I uncorked a bottle of Elderton “Friends” Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. I already knew the Elderton winery by reputation — they’ve won a boat-load of awards over the years for their Barossa wines, and have made a name for themselves with reds and whites from a sub-appellation of Barossa where some good friends (like in the name, right?) own vineyards.

Eden Valley is a different beast than the hot, dry Barossa Valley floor. The Eden vineyards are scattered up the hillsides, at elevations of 1200 to 1500 feet. So what does this do? The elevation creates cooler temperatures, and combined with more minerally soils, it produces grapes with more acid and structure. And of course, acid and structure act to balance big fruit.

So let’s taste Elderton Friends Cab. The color was as purple and opaque as I’d expect, but the nose was relatively delicate. I got mint and eucalyptus right off the bat, with dark fruit notes chiming in. Blackberry and dark chocolate were up front also.

The palate was multi-layered and delightful. The fruit came first, with blackberry and sweet black currant opening the door for gentle mint. There was a peppery note too, and all of this was wrapped up in soft tannins. But it didn’t finish there — that Eden Valley acid lifted up the finish with a bright end-note, and made a package that was bold and elegant at the same time. No jamminess here — just rich, bright fruit.

The Elderton “Friends” series (there’s a good Shiraz, too) represents a good value. At just under $20, you’re getting big wine without a big price tag. Cheers!


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Pepper and Spice, and Everything Nice? Winzer Krems Zweigelt

austriaOK, I’d like to lay a bet. I’ll bet that if I took any given group of, say, 20 American wine geeks, only one of them would have any clue what ZWEIGELT is. Or maybe none of them!

It sounds like a German sausage. Or maybe a German automobile — “The new Zweigelt goes from 0 to 60 in 4 seconds and gets 40 miles to the gallon on the Autobahn.”

So what is it? Well, Zweigelt is the name of a grape grown in Austria. It’s a hybrid, created by crossing Blaufrankisch (a German red grape that’s not exactly a household name, either) with Saint Laurent (I thought it was a river, not a grape). Zweigelt, or Blauer Zweigelt, was engineered to thrive in Austria’s relatively cool climate.

I recently came across Winzer Krems Blauer Zweigelt St. Severin 2010, and explored it with some trepidation. Without any context clues except “cool climate red wine,” I was surprised to see the wine pour out deep burgundy colored and almost opaque. This was way more extraction than I’d expected, almost like a Petite Sirah.

The nose was also intriguing. I got some tart cherry fruit, but the really obvious aroma was black pepper. And I mean intense black pepper. This wine could make you sneeze! There was also a note of tar (yes, like in “road tar”). Read the rest of this entry »

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Finca Los Maza Reserva Malbec

mazaI thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

When I saw the price on the wine I drank last night, I really thought someone had switched the price tag. “This wine cannot be this cheap.”

But it is. The wine I’m ranting about is Finca Los Maza Reserva Malbec 2008, and the quality/price ratio here is crazy.

First, Los Maza comes from Mendoza, Argentina, now the Motherland of Malbec. The grape is native to France, where it was one of the varietals blended to make red Bordeaux. Malbec was brought to Argentina by immigrants, and thrived in the warmer, dryer climate.

Mendoza is like heaven for wine grapes. The Uco Valley, where Finca Los Maza grows its fruit, has a desert-like climate and sits at somewhere around 3,600 feet elevation. This cools the temperatures and creates a dramatic difference between daytime and nighttime temps,  allowing the fruit to develop structure and complexity. The sunlight is also more direct, ensuring that grapes will fully ripen, and snow melt from the Andes mountains provides plenty of water to irrigate the vineyards. The result, according to Juan Tonconogy and Alex Campbell, is “intense wines with great personality and quality.”

Alex is the third generation of the family that planted vines here close to a century ago. Juan and Alex’s new company has acquired additional vineyard sites, and blends grapes from different lots to achieve the style they’re looking for.

For me, their style is all about power. But it’s power with depth and elegance to back it up. I saw the power as soon as I poured my glass. The color was purple/garnet and opaque, suggesting plenty of extraction. I cheated and looked at the technical notes, and sure enough, these grapes enjoyed 30 days of maceration. Trust me, that’s a lot!

The nose offered berries on steroids, with dark fruit, vanilla and maybe a shot of espresso.

But the palate blew me away. I tasted rich, powerful dark berry fruit with plenty of depth and concentration, followed by chocolate and vanilla that lingered on the finish. There was also a purity that I liked: the structure and acid kept it from sliding over into jammy or blocky. I guess that’s where the power and elegance meet and marry.

So my guests and I (they also enjoyed the wine plenty) were playing the, “How much do you think it costs?” game. I was hoping for $20, but realizing that it could run closer to $25.

Good thing I didn’t bet on that, because I would have lost big. Los Maza Reserva Malbec goes for $12. Yes, $12! This is insanely good wine for the money. And it’s a versatile wine. You could drink it with tangy cheese, grilled meats, red sauce, or beef, beef, beef the way the Argentines do.

However you plan to drink it, just grab a bottle. Or two. Or three. You won’t be disappointed. Cheers!



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