Before we get to the wine reviews today, I wanted to remind readers to check in over the next several days: I’m heading to Austria for a trip sponsored by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, and will be touring and tasting in a number of the country’s most exciting regions, with a focus on Burgenland and Carnuntum. This trip constitutes a part-two of sorts to the one I attended in 2009, and, if the first one is any guide, I expect it to be a seriously eye-opening--and palate-tingling!--experience. Stay tuned for news, tasting notes, photos, videos, and more from one of the most exciting wine-producing countries in Europe.
In the meantime, while I finish packing my bags and gearing up for the jet-lag, take a look at the tasting notes for wines I’ve enjoyed recently, and which I definitely recommend you give a try.
Dow Vale do Bomfim 2008, Douro
Lots of primary cherry fruit and cherry-creme on the nose, limned by licorice, chocolate, and spice. Really jumps from the glass and possesses a bit more punch than expected: I like it a lot for that. On the palate, that cherry and spice follow through, with the spice picking up some real speed and character along the way and lingering through the finish. Surprisingly complex given the wildly affordable price point, and the quality of vineyards, as always, comes through. Drink now - 3 years.
A notably sweet pear and citrus nose, with hints of orange, orange blossom, and something that reminds me a bit of bubble gum, define the nose. Interesting, unexpected, and pleasant. On the palate, it shows similar sweeter fruit, with a perfumed twist to the mandarin-orange oil. A hint of honeysuckle emerges on the finish, which is crisp and mouthwatering and tinged with a sense of minerality. Drink now, preferably with a plate of sliced ham, a scattering of olives, and a hard cheese.
Kutch Pinot Noir 2009, Sonoma Coast
A gorgeously translucent garnet color presages a nose of utter classicism: Cherries and sous bois just after a rain and a touch, a flutter, of cola, though this isn’t sweet so much as it manifests its savorier notes. There’s also creaminess and a touch of brown spice to the nose. I could smell this for a long time and be perfectly happy. On the palate, it’s an amazing pleasure to drink, and owes more, perhaps, to Burgundy than it does to its Sonoma Coast brethren. It’s a food wine at heart, and plays up its beautiful mushroom and sous bois notes here with elegance and restraint: A California pinot for francophiles. With air, hints of tiny fraises de bois, spearmint, and maybe even some chamomile peek through, lending the wine balance and an alluring sense of complexity. This is, in the very best sense of it, a thoroughly grown-up wine, confident enough to eschew flash and find its footing, instead, in far more restrained, seamless, and classic notes. Excellent now, but will be even better in 3 - 4 years, and continue to improve until around 2020. Delicious, mouthwatering, and screaming for food.
Kutch Pinot Noir 2009 “McDougall Ranch,” Sonoma Coast
On the nose, this wine is practically vibrating with intensity, which is incredible given the detail and nimbleness of the aromas: There’s nothing plodding here at all. Like some sort of California Echezeaux equivalent, it’s singing with high-toned cherry and spice, a hint of licorice, sage, and violets. The oak, which still needs to be absorbed more fully, lends it all a nice vanilla and brown-spice character, and the 40% stem inclusion adds an almost birch-like note. On the palate, its youth becomes readily apparent: This is still fairly tightly wound, with a serious tannin structure kept fresh with well-calibrated acidity, but it’s clear that this is a wine for the cellar. There’s some sous bois in here, as well as pronounced spice and ripe black and red cherry, a touch of dried garrigue spice, and a seam of appealing minerality. It’s all quite mouth-watering despite the youthful tannins, and the cedar- and sandalwood-tinged finish drives along for a solid 45 seconds. Best from 5 - 14 years. This is going to be excellent. It already is.
Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2009, Carneros - Napa Valley
A very subtle nose of creamed fig and pear, as well as something a bit floral, quietly come from the glass: This is a confident, grown-up chardonnay, content to express itself without relying on too much flash. With air, the wood comes out a touch; this will integrate nicely with some more time in the cellar. There’s really pretty sweet fruit on the palate--ripe green apples, fresh figs, white peach--all punched up with fresh acidity and honey blossom, and carried on a texture that manages to gingerly coat the tongue while at the same time remaining lithe. Fascinating juxtaposition, and fabulous to drink. It’s all still tightly would, however, and will be best from 2 - 8 years.
Argyros Assyrtiko 2009, Santorini
Really appealing almond-apricot nose, with a high-toned citrus component. The perfume is subtle, but present nonetheless, and lends this wine’s aromatics a real sense of depth. There’s a touch of white flowers, too. On the palate, this white is crisp and mineral: It tastes of the sharp sun slanting off the Mediterranean and, with its lemon and mineral notes, begs for seafood, especially something oily like sardines. The finish shows a bit of that slightly underripe--and very appealing--apricot, too. A dangerously gulpable wine, and a great go-to for summertime fish preparations.
Spirit of the Week: Brugal Ron Añejo, Dominican Republic
For all the focus on single-malt Scotch, small-batch Bourbon, artisanally distilled gin and the like, rum still suffers from a bit of an identity crisis among far too many consumers. This, perhaps, is a result of the highly successful marketing of a handful of mammoth brands whose focus on the lifestyle aspects of the spirit eclipse and often overwhelm discussion of the rum itself. This is unfortunate, because good rum has the potential to be one of the most enjoyable, evocative spirits around.
I recently was sent a sample pack of Brugal Ron Añejo, a blend of 2- to 5-year-aged rum the color of a beautiful whiskey. From the moment you pour it into your glass, it becomes apparent that this is a rum that, while well-suited to high-end cocktails, is also fantastic to sip on its own. Aromas of coconut, chocolate, and dried tropical fruit drift from the glass and perfume the air around it. When you swirl and really focus on the rum, a spine of aromatic brown spice and vanilla emerges, lending it a sense of aromatic structure and throwing the sweeter tones of the nose into sharper relief. On the palate, tongue-coating but never viscous, there is a savory caramel and coconut character, as well as something that reminds me of a not-sweet root beer, that are flat-out irresistible. On the finish, there is a hint of saltiness that works in gorgeous opposition to the sweeter tones of the nose. It lingers on pleasantly, gradually growing more subtle until it finally recedes into a delicious memory. Excellent rum, and a spectacular value.