Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wine Review Wednesday: Idiosyncrasy and Refreshment

This week, we feature three very different wines, and hopscotch around the globe in the process. From California to Chile to Australia, Wine Review Wednesday this week is all about the kind of crystalline expression and idiosyncrasy that make wines like these such a joy to drink.

ForeFront by Pine Ridge Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2009

With 50% of its fruit from Sonoma, 32% from Napa, and 18% from Mendocino, this bright, springlike Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect antidote to the encroaching wintertime blues. Super-fresh aromas of subtly spicy white-berry fruit, sun-warmed hay, and grapefruit pith lead to a nicely concentrated palate whose flavors maintain that brightness while also turning a bit darker. A real sense of minerality comes through, as does not-too-sweet orange and more of that spice from the nose. Beautiful wine, amazingly complex for the money, and rich enough to work well as the days grow shorter and colder.

Santa Carolina “Coastal Hills” Syrah 2009

From Chile’s exquisite Maipo Valley comes this beautiful, deep-cranberry hued red. The nose is all creamy, expressively brambly berries, wild strawberry, and plum fruit edged with a note than reminds me of grilled beef with some sort of creamy peppercorn sauce. It’s impossible to smell this wine and not get hungry. On the palate, the sweetness of the cherries is kept in immediate check with flashes of pencil lead and cedar. The balance between ripeness and earth, between fruit and terroir, is wonderful here. Really well-made, and a pleasure to drink.

Xavier Flouret “Waroo” Shiraz 2009

The nose on this Shiraz, coaxed to life by winemaker Bernie Stanlake of Fonty’s Pool, is as alive with peppercorn as any I’ve smelled all year. In fact, considered blind, I’m not sure I’d ever guess this is from Australia. Then again, many of the best producers there are working diligently to educate the wine-drinking public that Australian Shiraz doesn’t have to be a fruit bomb. With air, sparks of iron, black cherry, subtle black plum, and oregano come out. All of that follows through to the palate, too, where it’s joined by macerated black cherries, blackberries, hints of dried figs, and herbes de provence. Balanced, spicy, and expressive in both the fruit and terroir departments: This is the new Australia. This is deeply satisfying Shiraz.


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