Friday, May 29, 2009


Portuguese Douro with 14% alcohol. Made from 38% Touriga Nacional, 26% Tinta Barroca, 20% Tinta Roriz, 14% Touriga Franca, 2% Tinto Cao.


Dark red color with smooth tannins. Blackberry and raspberry upfront with black currant and bright berries on the mid-palate. Finishes with fresh juicy plum flavors.


90 PTS
Great tannins, great price ($15), great vibrant fresh fruit, all around great wine. This is a home-run for the price and can compete with all varietals, countries of origin and quality in this price category.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


14% alcohol. Made from Nebbiolo grapes.


Transparent red, amber color with brown edges on the rim. On the nose, asphalt and heavy oak. Black currants and black cherries dominate the palate with black cherry candy on the finish. Smooth, with good weight and balance.


A very good Barolo but the entry price for this wine might make it a tough one to recommend. I'm a big fan of Pio Cesare although I yearned for a bit more complexity from this effort.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


14.5% alcohol. From Duckhorn Wine Co.


Beautiful ruby color with purple highlights. Spiced raspberry and cherry nose with damp musty floral notes. There's also some dark chocolate shaving on the nose. Cherry cola, mocha, smoky oak, and bakings spices on the palate. Some gaminess on the back end with sweetness at the core. Extremely soft and silky.


92 PTS
This is exceptional Pinot Noir. Not quite as profound as the 2004 which I adored with its gobs of cinnamon flavors, but really well made. Retails for around $55 making this a very expensive offering but it is a standout wine.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


From Toscana, Italy with 14% alcohol.


Red-black color. Extremely dry but silky smooth. Nose of sweet blackberries and cassis. On the palate this is a black currant bomb. Tremendous black currant flavors with mocha, plum, baking spices and oak on the mid-palate. The finish gives way to blackberry, fig and prune with some bitter tannins and tart fruit.


91 PTS
Hardcore Cabernet Franc fans will rejoice over this little gem. Definitely not for everyone but wine geeks will dig this effort. It has enough power and elegance to please.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Last week I had the privilege of sitting down for lunch with Andrea Cecchi, fourth generation family winemaker for Cecchi Family Estates. Andrea, who shares management responsibilities with his brother Cesare, is driven by tradition and the pursuit of excellence.

For more than 100 years, Chianti Classico wine has been at the heart and soul of Cecchi. Cecchi has four estates located in the Italian winemaking zones of Chianti Classico, San Gimignano, the Maremma, and Umbria, but the Sangiovese grape is clearly the cornerstone of his heritage.

Not too long ago when people thought of Sangiovese, they thought of stereotypical wicker basket Chianti. Today, those images are a thing of the past and may not even register in the minds of the new, young wine generation.

Andrea Cecchi has a great understanding of the constantly changing wine demands of consumers. As we tasted countless bottles over lunch, the one thing that he seemed to be most concerned about was how he could make each one of them better. "The future should not be a repetition of the past, but an improvement over it," says Cecchi.

We started out with two signature white wines, the first being the 2008 CASTELLO MONTAUTO VERNACCIA DI SAN GIMIGNONO from Tuscany. Made from 90% Vernaccia di San Gimignano and 10% complimentary white grapes, the wine was straw-colored with floral aromas. Pear flavors were backed by good minerality and acidity with subtle hints of oak. The use of stainless steel and the allowance of only 30% of the wine in oak, helped keep the wine crisp and fresh allowing the fruit to trump oak. With a suggested retail price of $15, this is an 87 point effort and a unique white to experience. The alcohol content is 13%.

The 2008 LITORALE VERMENTINO was the second white wine poured. Made from 85% Vermentino and the rest complimentary white grapes, the wine was light gold in color with an intense floral and tropical fruit bouquet that reminded me of Torrontes. Crisp and fresh with minerality and a little more of a dynamic style than the Montauto, I found this to be an 87+ point wine. Both whites seemed to yearn for food where their acidity would allow them to show their best stuff.

As we moved on to red wines, I asked Andrea what made him become a winemaker. Although wine was the family business, his father never pushed him to follow in his footsteps. One of his earliest and most impressionable memories as child on the Cecchi estate was the smell of the fermenting grapes. That unmistakable signature aroma that never left him is perhaps what gave birth to his passion. As he did when he was a boy, he lets his children today take part in the grape crushing, and so the family tradition continues.

We tasted a few signature Sangiovese based wines like the VAL DELLE ROSE and the BONIZIO and even a terrific 2004 TENUTA ALZATURA SAGRANTINO DI MONTELFALCO which exhibited wonderful tannins underscored by black fruit, leather and spice.

Perhaps the two most interesting wines were the 2005 RISERVA DI FAMIGLIA CHIANTI CLASSICO and the 2007 NATIO CHIANTI. The Riserva di Famiglia is relatively new to the US marketplace. Made from 90% Sangiovese and 10% Colorino, the wine has aromas of violets, black fruit and spice with a more modern expression of earth and ripe cherry fruit on the palate. It retails at around $28 a bottle and has an alcohol content of 13.5%.

The 2007 Natio Chianti is Cecchi's new organic, vegan friendly (no animal products are used in production) wine. Natio, Italian for "native," is produced from organically grown, indigenous grapes and made from 90% Sangiovese and 10% Colorino as well. Robust with black fruits on the nose, good acidity and smooth tannins, this terroir-driven offering retails for around $13 a bottle. The alcohol content is around 13%, and it is also a new US debut.

Chianti remains one of the great value opportunities in wine during this tough economy. The quality, low alcohol and ability to compliment food extremely well makes them terrific buys.

As lunch came to an end, Andrea Cecchi said that his vision is to continue to expand upon the history that is already such an intrinsic part of his business. While other winemakers are chasing what's popular or creating over-the-top high alcohol reds, Cecchi continues to put his faith in his terrior. He believes one of the keys to great wine is to "control production" and to refine traditional techniques. That is his way of constantly responding to the ever changing wine world. He recognizes that his Chianti wines could be improved by longer finishes and believes he can make them even more accessible and easier to drink. Ultimately, he strives to capture the purity and essence of the vineyard so that it can be passed into the bottle and directly on to the consumer with as little manipulation as possible.

Monday, May 04, 2009


From Maule Valley, Chile with 12.5% alcohol. Made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc and aged in stainless steel tanks.


Pale yellow color with citrus, gooseberry and grass on the nose. Grapefruit, gooseberry and citrus on the palate. Sharp acidity upfront and on the finish. The alcohol is also showing through on the back-end.


82 PTS
I've been a huge fan of Palo Alto's Reserva Red wine. The 2005 vintage of that wine was so exceptional that it was my value wine of the entire year. I still treasure the last few bottles that remain in my cellar and I'm thrilled that Wine Specator is finally noticing it and giving it very good reviews. To say that I was excited to try their Sauvignon Blanc would be an understatement, but unfortunately it did not live up my expectations. The fruit here pretty much dissipates on the palate leaving citrus and acidity behind. There's just not enough depth. Definitely serviceable, but for $11 a bottle you can find superior Sauvignon Blanc that will bring some excitement to the table.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


From Casablanca Valley, Chile with 14% alcohol. Organically grown grapes fermented in stainless steel tanks. 50% of the finished wine was aged for 5 months in French and American oak barrels.


Transparent, light yellow color with faint apple-pear on the nose. Hints of tropical flavors and some nuttiness and light oak on the finish but the fruit is subdued. Clean and not your typical over-oaked Chard. Round and some good acidity on the back-end.


85 PTS
This is an easy-drinking Chardonnay for those looking for clean, round and smooth with little to no oak. However, it is very basic and simple and does not offer too much depth or complexity. Retails for around $11.