Monday, April 24, 2006

The Wonderful World Of Gallo!

I was recently at a tasting for work, yes it's terribly taxing, and was surprised to find out that all of the wines at the tasting were under the long reaching umbrella of Gallo's portfolio (we're talking about the big colorful beach umbrellas not the little one's for a rainy day). Many people don't realize how many popular wines on the grocery store shelves are owned or partly owned, by the company that is the E & J Gallo Winery. Please don't take this the wrong way, I am not bringing this out into the open to make my readers see how vast and controlling this company is in the wine industry. But I won't hide the fact that I did feel rather duped in thinking that some of these wines were from independent family owened wineries. I wonder if you knew that all the wines below are in Gallo's portfolio of wines? These are only some of the mid shelf wines.

So now that it's all out in the open, I just want to commend Gallo for making so many great wines, many of which are much more than just quaffable. Below are a couple of reviews from wines that I got to take home after the tasting and have opened in the past couple of nights.

Rancho Zabaco, Sonoma Heritage Vines Zinfandel, 2003
This was one of my favorites at the tasting. It retails for around $15.00 in Georgia and at that price its still a good valued Zin. One thing that Gallo can do well is blend. 82% of this wine is Zin from all over Sonoma County, 11% Petite Sirah (a common companion to Zin) from Sonoma and Paso Robles, 3% Tempranillo from Paso Robles, and 2% Syrah from Sonoma. All of these wines have come together from across California to make a blend that is very welcoming to the palate with soft acidity, medium alcohol for a Zin (14.2%), and a nice thick body that covers the whole palate and slides all the way down your throat in a long finish as if it's saying "C'mon, you know you want more". All of these things make this wine great with food or just to have on its own while typing up a post for your blog. Now, mind you, I have had better Zins and there are things that are lacking in this one. This wine doesn't shout out to me "I am Zinfandel from California in all of my splendor". It's just a good Zin. If given to me blind, I may have a hard time guessing what wine it is. But that is why Gallo excels in this price range. They make wines that are fantastic value and always pleasing to almost any consumer.
In this wine you will find a soft tannin core with strong aromas of cherry and strawberry KoolAid, with hints of tobacco. The acidity is there but soft on the palate, it's not puckering. There is none of the hot spicy heat that you find on a lot of California Zins with their 15% and higher alcohol that make them difficult to pair with almost any entree. A good, solid, clean, immensely enjoyable wine. I give it an A-.

Da Vinci 2004 Chianti
This wine retails for around $10.00, a great price for a decent Chianti. It's of course, another Gallo wine and a great table wine. You may think that Gallo is just trying to make a buck off of the upcoming movie, "The DaVinci Code" but they actually purchased this winery well before the book became popular and the winery has been in existence far longer. DaVinci has a few different tiers in their portfolio, this one is the lowest. Now, does it taste like a normal Chianti? No not really. Does it please the palate and make you think "wow, what a great wine for $10, yes. The answer to that question is always yes when we're talking about a Gallo product. Chianti usually has a dusty quality that some people dislike. You will not find that in this wine (Chianti Snobs Need Not Apply/Drink). This wine is made to distribute in vast quantities for the American consumer. For that reason it is an old world wine with a new world flare. It is made from the same grapes as other Chianti,(Sangiovese, with some Cab and Merlot) but it is much riper in style, left on the vine longer, and made to drink now. You will find lots of fruit forward characters, strawberry and plum come to mind with a decent structure and not a whole lot of tannin. It is true to cheaper Italian wine style in that it is very food friendly with sharp acidity and a somewhat lower alcohol at 13%. Great with tomato based sauces.
I give it a B.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Great New Website for Winos

I found a link to this great new website from another wine blog called Fermentation. The California Wine Web will keep you updated on the world of wine in the Golden State. It gives lots of wine reviews and has a great searching tool to find reviewed wines. I think its a great site, check it out.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Solaris 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Here is a wine that was given to me by a distributor. I know why he gave it to me. It's one of those wines you keep around to take to a party or give to someone to make them feel special. I have read some good stuff about the Solaris Pinot Noir but I have to say that this wine didn't fair too well in my palate.

Color: Translucent, burgundy-purple, very clean.
Nose: Dusty cherry, berry characters with some tobacco aromas. The wine doesn't change munch after being open for thirty minutes.
Palate: Quick Finish, lots of tannin, a bit harsh and a bitter kick. Decent acidity but the mid-palate is gone. Nothing there.
Overall: I didn't like this wine much and for the ultimate test, I gave some to Ana (she'll drink anything) and without me saying a thing she said "What did you bring home this time? This isn't very good", Then she finished the glass. She's not a lush, she's just a good Irish lass that can't leave a full glass. =)
I give it a C+

Montes Alpha, 2002 Syrah, Colchagua Valley, Apalta Vineyard

I pulled this wine off the rack because I have been drinking a lot of white lately and needed to give my tastebuds something heavier.

Color: Dark purple with browning edges.
Nose: Ripe berry characters with walnuts and a dark chocolate bouquet and peppercorns.
Palate: Very ripe, over-extracted, lots of tannin.
Overall: This wine is falling apart early. The fruit in the nose is nice but the tell-tale sign of not holding its age is in the mouth. The tannin is sticking around but the body and flavors are diminished. This is common with overly ripe wines that are popular among today's consumers. The wine would have been better a year ago perhaps. I give it a B.
(sorry for the bad quality of the picture)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Here's one for all you Pinot Lovers

I have a back-log of bottles to write about so I thought I would pick my favorite Pinot Noirs that I have had recently and write about them. The first two are from a Pinot tasting my group did and the last one was a special bottle I opened while my mom was in town. All great bottles of wine.

MacMurry Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 2004.
$15.00 (cheaper in CA)

This was a great wine, I chose it as 1st in our Pinot Tasting. It's a typical Sonoma Pinot Noir with lots of Cherry fruit but it has a complexity that puts it above the rest.

Color: Deep garnet, red color. This wine and the 1st place wine overall (see below) both had a darker, richer color than the other pinots in the tasting.
Nose: As I said above, the typical Cherry aroma with strawberry and and a tart rhubarb character combined with an earthy dusty character. The oak showed through in well integrated vanilla and spice characters, not an overly toasted character that you can get from some poorer made pinots.
Palate: Like other Pinots from the region this is a big one in the mouth. Covers the whole palate and lingers long enough to have a drunken conversation and then recall what you were just swishing in your mouth. The tannin is noticeable but not overextracted. The finish is smooth and isn't too hot. The alcohol is 13.5% and the wine holds up to it well. Some Pinot Noir producers mistake the varietal for Zinfandel pump out 15% alcohol Pinots that are flabby and taste like cherry cough syrup. Thats a no-no. Pinot should have a finesse that makes it food friendly social.
Overall: Great wine A- excellent value, will go well with anything off the BBQ, try chicken, or Salmon, and lighter meats like my favorite, lamb.

RVTZ Cellars, 2004, Maison Grand Cru, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir.

I rated this Pinot lower than the rest of the group mainly because its spicy kick from the 14.5% alcohol but it came it 1st for the whole group. It was a very good wine.

Color: Also very dark, typical of a good pinot from the Russian River Valley.
Nose: Beautiful. Cherry, floral violets and rose petals, vanilla and a pipe tobacco, very much a California Pinot.
Palate: Its a biggy with a long finish too. Like I said, a bit too hot on the finish for me but it has smooth tannins and a nice viscosity.
Overall: I had this wine at 2nd place behind the MacMurray Ranch but the group loved it. I think more because of the riper characters. I really liked too and give it an A-, if it had a little less EtOH, I would give it an A.

720 Wine Cellars, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2003

This wine is a bit harder to find. I got it from a friend up in Corvallis Oregon, after a night of drinking some great Pinot Noirs. This one was one of my favorites. The case production is minute, winery is bare-bones, and you can taste every bit of it in the wine. If you are interested in this wine you can buy it online or by phone from Avalon wine shop in Corvallis, ask for Chris, tell him David sent you.

Color: Dark, holding up well with a few years under it. Not necessarily as dark as a Pinot from Sonoma but not the light washy color either.
Nose: Amazing. I put this wine in a decanter and it changed every twenty minutes. It was awesome. IT started out very ripe; cherry, strawberry, raspberry, sweet vanilla. Then as it got some air it started getting more interesting. The earthy-mushroom notes that I love in Oregon Pinot started coming through backed up by oak and vanilla spice.
Palate: This wine never stopped. It kept delivering on the palate too. Soft tannins were plentiful, giving a long smooth finish. Alcohol is at 14% and the wine backs it all up well. The acidity was great and made it very food friendly. I had it with shepherds Pie made with minced lamb.
Overall: One of the best Pinots I have had in a long time. If the winery keeps it up, its wines will start to cost much more than $18.00. Excellent value. A+


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Is there light at the end of the tunnel for Georgia and Moldova?

I read in the New York Times today a very interesting article regarding wine in Georgia and Moldova. Apparently last week Russia banned wines from Georgia and Moldova to be sold in Grocery Stores. This “Wine Blockade” does not make Russia look good in the face of the World Trade Organization which they are trying to join. Putting up a trade block on the main export from two of your old satellite countries may not be the best way to get into the WTO. Georgia and Especially Moldova have a fairly large wine industry supported mainly by domestic consumption as well as export to Russia. This wine blockade is leaving some producers baffled and looking for a reason. But what if some good can come out of all of this? What if their surplus (wine that would have been sent to Russia) is exported to the U.S. or other world markets? With surplus comes cheaper prices which may be the tool that these two countries need to break into the bigger markets. I for one would like to see any wines from Eastern European Countries, they are a hard find right now. This may change things, time will tell.