COLPETRONE MONTEFALCO SAGRANTINO


Amici e vini sono meglio vecchi.  (Old wine and friends improve with age)… An Italian proverb.

Trying new wines can be “the best of times” or “the worst of times.”  For a dedicated aficionado of indigenous grapes and the wine that results from their vinification, each bottle is fun and layers on another experience. But for casual enjoyers - those comfortable within their known taste zone – tasting a purchased bottle of wine made from a never-heard-of grape is entered into more cautiously. In real world speak, that means the bottle most often goes untried.  Pity.  A door remains closed that may have opened delights. 

From my outlook, tasting wines made from grapes unknown is always a thrilling and mind opening experience but I respect that everyone’s palate is both personal and correct for the person possessing it.  Perhaps I can add value to this blog by describing some of these grapes and lead you down the road that as Robert Frost said was the less travelled because, indeed, it may make all the difference.


Sagrantino is the grape.  It is indigenous to Montefalco. Montefalco is in Umbria in Italy and the best place for growing this grape. No matter who produces wine made from Sagrantino, if you enjoy sweet or exclusively fruit-forward wine, these wines will prove unpleasant.  If, however, you enjoy wines of different character and you enjoy matching such wine with different foods, or even the seasons, you should consider adding some Sagrantino to your racks.

But add it considerably in advance of when you plan to enjoy it.  Referring to the quote above, Sagrantino improves with age.  In its youth, tannins are concentrated. It’s not uncommon for Sagrantino to open beautifully at eight years of age and improve even further during the next five years. As Cabernet Sauvignon can be bold, powerful, concentrated, masculine and age- worthy so can Sagrantino be.   Fortunately, for us, Colpetrone (the producer) makes Sagrantino in a more international style, meaning you can enjoy it earlier; not meaning the wine made from Sagrantino by Colpetrone has sacrificed its typicity.  

Even so, Colpetrone’s Sagrantino will reward you for patience. With time in the bottle, polymerization binds pigmented tannins into larger particles that will collect as sediment and the juice softens.  In the U.S., winemakers are sensitive to consumers thinking anything but the clearest wine must be a fault. Much of what is produced here has been filtered and fined to such clarity and, being drunk young, has become what many people take as a standard.  Problem is, it is the tartrates and phenolics in wines that develop the aromatic compounds that form bouquet, build taste and develop the varietal’s character.  

This 2009, ten years from vintage, still benefited from air.  Decant for an hour or enjoy the next day after opening.  Full bodied, like a Cabernet Sauvignon, but not fruit forward, it exemplifies “old world” style in fruit being present but subdued as part of a seamless composition. Tertiary notes of chocolate and smoke add complexity.   Its nose offers earth but lifted by lavender. Brambled berries reintroduce the forest element.  Sour cherry and dried cranberry on the palate, some balsamic and dried strawberry linger into a long finish accompanied by a hint of leather and nutmeg. Fruit becomes more pronounced the second day with lots of blackberry, black raspberry and black cherry joined by strawberry (jam) on the nose.  The wine is less edgy and its tannins softened.  Strawberry (jam) also becomes more evident on the palate. But either day, the wine’s acidity provides a somewhat tangy finish making it also food friendly. 




Keep a few bottles aside.  Taste them along the way and enjoy the changes within each bottle.  Fire up the grill on a cool, summer night and pair this wine with grilled meats and game.  Braised meats can warm up the kitchen in the cooler months and Sagrantino from Montefalco will pair nicely then also.  Aged cheeses do well as will red-sauced pasta and pizza.  If you’re lucky enough to have a black truffle on hand, enjoy this wine’s earthiness against some crumbled truffle on the pasta.  Thin sliced Italian beef with green peppers on an Italian roll may look less worthy than a magazine photo but will go together nicely regardless.  

Salute!
……………… Jim

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ETC:
The Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG requires 100% Sagrantino grapes be used, with 37 months aging before release, of which at least 12 months are in oak barrels and 4 months in bottle.  Colpetrone ages its Sagrantino 12 months in oak barrique and another 26 months (minimum) in bottle before release. The grape is noted for its thick skin which naturally develops tannin.
ALC: 14.5%
Imported by: Vias Imports, Ltd., NY, NY.
ARP: $23.

VALDESPINO PALO CORTADO SHERRY


“He who never made a mistake, never made a discovery”… . Samuel Smiles

So many sherries, so little time, it’s important that I get to one of my favorite styles: Palo Cortado. I was never a fan of White Zin, but there’s no denying it was hugely popular and still has fans.  Did you know that it was an accidental discovery”?  Same with Molten Lava Chocolate Cake.  Same with Palo Cortado Sherry!

Palo Cortado begins as a Fino but during the aging process, the flor doesn’t develop as expected so the wine (after biological aging) continues to age oxidatively. Today, circumstances providing for this can be encouraged, but the result will be the same: a sherry that is somewhat lighter in color than Oloroso, but much darker than a Fino, yet with the full body of an Oloroso and bone dry.



Expect notes of burnt/bitter orange and dried fruits (apricots), caramel and almonds/walnuts. Most recently, I enjoyed this Bodegas Valdespino Palo Cortado Viejo C.P. and found it gave me all that and more with smoky notes of vanilla extract, baked apple and brandied raisins. There’s a hint of caramalized banana as in “Bananas Foster” but emphasizing the bubbling mixture of butter, rum and dark brown sugar minus the sweetness.  “Viejo” (meaning old) is fitting giving that the Palomino vines used by Valdespino are 25 years plus in age and the average age of the wine in bottle is 25 years also. The vineyard (Macharnudo Alto) is a single vineyard at high elevation and on prized soil (albariza) that is light and high in chalk content lending intense minerality and is the best for growing Palomino grapes. During aging, the wine is refreshed with Fino “Inocente” and Amontillado “Tio Diego” (flagship wines of the estate).



You’ll find Valdespino Palo Cortado an excellent pairing with Jamon Iberico, aged Manchego cheese, almonds and hazelnuts (put these together for a charcuterie board). Consider also aged Comte and Cheddar. Good too with roasted chestnuts, pates and smoked meats and some roasted root vegetables. Also good against Jerusalem artichokes with dip (though I’m not a fan of that veggie) and (God forgive me) “Bridge Mix” chocolate candy).  Most Somms may disagree, but I find it wonderful with grilled shrimp spiced and prepared with diced sweet onion and fresh garlic. (Each time I served this wine with grilled, spiced shrimp, everyone loved it). Serve the wine just slightly chilled. 93 points Robert Parker Wine Advocate,  96 from Wine & Spirits Magazine. ALC: 20%.  My bottle imported by Cream Wine Company. (Chicago, IL). For more information on this and other sherry styles, see:  https://www.winemizer.net/2018/11/sherry-simplified.html
Salud!

…………….. Jim

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JERMANN PINOT GRIGIO


“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” …. William A. Foster

Soft, watery, flat, without character, thin.

Zingy, zippy, mouthwatering, with typicity.

That is the obverse and the reverse of the wine coin.  Winemakers, we know, make wine.  And like coins, countless denominations are made across the globe.  But whereas governments can just continue minting non-precious metal coins (what choice do you have?), wineries are often pressured into responding to demands.  Varietals that have captivated the palate of the international marketplace are nudged into quenching the world’s thirst. But varietals are precious. There are no shortcuts to climate, soil composition, yields per acre/hectare.  Wineries not profitable in such a competitive marketplace don’t long remain in business. And the lure of profit is strong.  Sometimes, compromises in quality get made. And winemakers are given suggestions regarding the “facts of life.”  And those “facts” sometimes translate into overproduction.

If you’re of the age to remember the Merlot of California in the 80s and 90’s you’re of age also to remember Sideways (the movie released in October 2004) and what happened to the sale of Merlot afterwards.  It hasn’t happened yet with Pinot Grigio, but it looks to be in the beginning stage.  Too much Pinot Grigio I’ve tasted recently has been of the first type: soft, watery, flat, without character, thin.



I first wrote about Jermann (on my Facebook page) in July of 2018 when I paired it with a luncheon menu of Haddock steaks prepared with a lemon-caper sauce.  Tasting it again a month later, I was still impressed.  Hired to pour this (and other wines) at an event last week, I tasted it again.  Three times at bat. Three home runs. And my opinion was not unshared. The retailer’s stock of this wine was sold out an hour before the 4-hour event ended. That’s a considerable endorsement given the wine’s ARP of $23, higher than most PGs, but also an endorsement of the American consumer’s palate when many PGs are available and priced at under $15.  Let’s consider why that may be:

The winery’s estate vineyards are in Friuli Venezia Giulia in Italy’s north-easternmost region. This is the fifth smallest region in Italy, but despite its size, the region spans a wide variety of climates and landscapes.  From the mild-oceanic in the south to the Alpine-continental in the north.  The hilly area, just south of the mountains and along the central section enjoys a more temperate climate. However, even within this smaller area, there is considerable diversity of terrain.  Walled by the Alps on the north, the region is exposed to air masses from the east and west and from the southerly “Sirocco” blowing in from the Adriatic Sea and capable of bringing heavy rains.  The Jermann winery is tucked into the hills of Friuli Venezia Giulia below the Dolomites with two vineyards: (1) The Rutters Estate in the hilly Collio sub-region where vines are cooled by the Bora wind off the Adriatic Sea promoting grapes with perfume and zesty acidity due to diurnal temperature drops. Soil here is predominantly marlstone and sandstone belonging to the Flysch formation from the Eocene era that gave rise to a rocky substrate and later formed the characteristic “ponca” (marine fossils from the sea bottom brought to the surface by the same tectonic movement that created the Alps).  It is chalky and mineral rich.   (2) the Villanova Estate in the Isonzo sub-region where vines are grown in a permeable gravel, clay and sand soil and where the temperature is moderated by proximity to the sea and the lower Alps.  Clay in the soil here promotes body.

Too much body and the wine becomes too fleshy and flat – no zest!   Not enough body and the wine cracks from its own astringency; is thin and bony.       

Grapes are picked at dawn to preserve freshness and are partially vinified on the skins, then aged in stainless to maintain freshness and aromatics.  In the glass, it shows deep lemon-green.  Most people enjoy aromas of white peach, but (for me) it was lemon first, then fresh cut apple before the peach.  All of this carried onto the palate.  As the wine is allowed to warm, you’ll enjoy a faint suggestion of pineapple.  A curious vegetative note announces too, which I likened to lemongrass and enjoyed.

Of course, all impressions are personal and correct for those experiencing them.  I have to mention, a common one is pear. Others get green apple and a note of tangerine. One mentioned hazelnut; another banana.  But the most common is pear. Any impression is valid for the person experiencing it and if enough people experience the same impression, it’s sufficiently valid for me to mention it too.  But, personally, it’s the finish of this wine that is the “closer”.   Whatever impressions you’ll experience, this wine has concentration and a depth of flavor that is missing in many of the varietal’s companions today.  It offers a racy acidity balanced by fruit that carries throughout the tasting and into a finish I think long for a white wine.

I wrote previously about another Pinot Grigio that I found to offer excellent value in comparison to others within its price category and being priced lower than Jermann.  But if you’re willing to step up some in complexity, I think you’ll find the step up in price worth it.  Sometimes you get even more that what you pay for.

Maybe it’s because this area in Italy (like Alsace in France and other areas worldwide) is multi-cultural; the Friuli Venezia Giulia region being influenced by its history of Austrian, German and Slovenian winemakers.  How people impact the vines (tending & managing) is part of terroir also, as much as where the vines are grown (that part of terroir most people have come to accept).  In a pour into your glass of Jermann’s Pinot Grigio what you will recognize is its uniqueness – a character harder to describe than to appreciate.  One sip and you’ll recognize quality.

Cin-Cin!
………….. Jim


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TECH SPECS & ETC.
Jermann:                                             https://www.jermann.it/
Distributed by:                                    Lux
                                                            https://www.luxwines.com/collection/jermann
Varietal:                                               Pinot Grigio, 100%
TA:                                                      5.6 g/L
Ph:                                                       3.20
RS:                                                       4.0g/L
ALC:                                                    12.5%
Rating: 
James Suckling:                                   91
Robert Parker’s W.A.                           90
Wine Spectator:                                    90


GERARD BERTRAND “THOMAS JEFFERSON” CREMANT DE LIMOUX BRUT ROSE

“Too much of anything is bad. But too much Champagne is just right.” … F. Scott Fitzgerald

I enjoy Champagne. You might say I LOVE it.  But Champagne, by definition, is only made from the grapes of that region within France.  It excludes Crémant (also French).  It excludes Metodo Classico. It does not allow Cava.  Nor is Sparkling Wine allowed membership.  It is - that of Champagne which I crave - expensive and, so for me, not presently allowed as an everyday enjoyment. But to do without “tasting the stars” is inconceivable. 

Then again, some of the best French food is of the bistro sort.  And some of the most enjoyable French wines are those of the Loire.  “Relaxability”.  Casual but elevated.  And so comes Gerard Bertrand of the Languedoc-Roussillon in the south of France.  Blending Chardonnay (70%), Chenin Blanc (15%) and Pinot Noir (15%), with the first and last grapes mentioned being those used in Champagne and with the wine being twice fermented in the bottle (as in Champagne) but with an ARP of only $20, there are differences and differences both to be appreciated.

I’ve enjoyed other of Gerard Bertrand’s still wines before.  So did Thomas Jefferson who stocked his cellar with sparkling wines (Crémant) from the area (Limoux) in Southwest France.  In fact, Limoux was the first area in France to work with sparkling wine.  And it was Don Perignon who learned from the monks there at St Hilaire Abbey about making such wine.  It is that area in Southwest France, where the technique of making sparkling wines was first perfected.   

Of course, the climate is different in Southwest France than that of Champagne in Northeast France.  But Bertrand’s vineyards are maintained in the highest elevations of the area with cool nights assuring the cleansing acidity in the grapes that is so necessary for making quality bubbly.

All the tech aside however, always it comes to what is inside the bottle and I can tell you this.  My son and his significant other joined me for dinner.  I put together a simple meal plan, casual – but elevated. It began with an appetizer of slices of organic tomato, buffalo mozzarella, fresh leaves of basil and a reduction of balsamic di Modena.  Altogether, there were to be five courses and five wines.  I expected to put aside several bottles for enjoyment later. I was wrong.  The Gerard Bertrand “Thomas Jefferson” Crémant De Limoux Brut Rose remained on the table in a chiller and was quickly emptied.  That’s a strong endorsement – not just my opinion.

Casual, but elevated. And so quickly emptied.

 
Apparently, by unanimous agreement.

Salmon-pink in the glass, it produces fine bubbles and a delicate mousse. Its texture is rich and surprisingly creamy.  Aromas of red fruit (strawberry and raspberry) seduce. On the palate raspberry carries over from the nose. The strawberry is elevated with notes of cream.  Toasted bread from lees aging adds complexity.  But for people put off by Champagne with pronounced notes of yeast (brioche etc.), this is not that. Casual, but elevated, the wine’s components work in synergy and balance; each element contributing unobtrusively toward a whole that is pleasing.  Citrus is joined with floral notes.  Fruit is evident and creamy, but the wine has spot-on acidity rendering a crisp finish that lasts. 

Against the creamy soft Buffalo Mozzarella, the wine matched in texture while also serving to cleanse the palate of that richness.  Dinner aside, it’s great to enjoy by itself.  Chocolate dipped raspberries would be fun. Brie cheese a natural. Ham croquettes, prosciutto, smoked salmon, sushi, mushrooms stuffed with crab, devilled eggs finished off with caviar, pates, tapenade, salad Nicoise. The acidity of a Rose Crémant makes it naturally food friendly. Gerard Bertrand makes it affordable.    

Sante!
................. Jim

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NOTE: The monks of St. Hilaire discovered the first “wine with bubbles” in 1531. The vineyards used in making Gerard Bertrand’s Thomas Jefferson Rose are on the foothills of the Pyrenees where the grapes benefit from cool conditions.  Wine is blended together and then transferred to barrel for 8 months.  Imported by Wine West, LLC (Sausalito, CA).  ALC:12.5%

CROATIAN WINE: POSIP


Wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy!” … Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin: A Founding Father of the U.S., inventor of the lightening rod, swim fins, bifocals, the glass harmonica and many other things was also a prolific writer. He co-owned a newspaper and had been a member of the “Committee of Five” that drafted the Declaration of Independence.  He authored, under a pseudonym, “Poor Richard’s Almanack” in 1739 and the book sold 10,000 copies yearly through 1758.  Napoleon thought so well of it that he translated it into Italian.  Later, it was translated into French and then Slovene, making it truly an international best seller. Mostly, the book consisted of sage advice, jokes, puzzles, household hints and even hoaxes.  It was entertainment mixed with common sense.    

I like to think wise Ben had common sense in mind when he wrote that statement regarding wine being constant proof of God’s love.  Was it not so, how then to explain why so many varietals were created?  My latest experience in this regard was with POSIP, a grape indigenous to Croatia and used in making white wine.  In body, it reminds me of a Marsanne-Roussanne blend, but its aromas and tastes are different.   

Medium lemon-green in the glass, its aromas are mild with an impression of undiscerned acidity – lemon?  This is softened with additional, but faint notes of lychee and tropical fruit. Together, these work to peak your curiosity unless you’re committed to drinking only international varietals and being content with eating the same thing for dinner every night.  The palate offers lemon, but more as lemon-cream.   There’s a note of hay and a hint of almond.  Allow a sip to warm in the mouth and grapefruit develops.  Others get green apple.  A see-saw of contrasts keep the experience entertaining.


The most recognized area for growing this grape in Croatia is in the Dalmatian region, on the Southern island of Korcula. Croatia is east and just across the Adriatic Sea from Italy and its history of viniculture goes back more than 2,500 years.  But suffering the destruction of war, many vineyards were destroyed. And under communism, wine making became state run and yield (not quality) was the yardstick. Then too, almost all the wine was consumed locally.  Today, tourists are amazed at the quality of wine being made in their family’s home land.  Adapting European Union standards, modernizing equipment, free to run and profit from family ownership, Croatia is making world class wine though still not recognized as it should.  Consider that in the 4th edition of The Oxford Companion to Wine, Posip is given all the attention of one sentence.

There are currently over 300 geographically defined wine regions, and a strict classification system to ensure quality and origin in Croatia.  But Croatia ranks 30th in wine production by country and much of Croatia’s product is still consumed locally.  And like other Eastern European countries, its language can be challenging for people unaccustomed to seeing a row of consonants strung together along with the use of umlauts and other special characters.

Still, you may be more familiar with some wine from Croatia than what you realize.  Zinfandel, that grape so enjoyed from California that we assumed came from Italy as Primitivo because the Italian Immigrants brought it to that coast in the 1880s – guess what?  Later testing (1994-1998) conducted by Dr. Carol Meredith (a professor in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California, Davis) identified it as Crljenak Kastelanski (I left off a special character above the “a” in the second word). The grape is also known in Croatia as Tribidrag, I’ll assume because it’s easier to for rubes like me pronounce.


Back in 1959, Mike (Miljenko) Grgich now of Grgich Hills Estates in Rutherford California (who produced the award-winning wine Chateau Montelena Chardonnay) for the Judgement of Paris in 1976 thought that Zinfandel and Plavac Mali of Croatia were identical.  He was from Croatia and remembered working with those vines. In 1990, he returned to Croatia, looked again at the vines and reassured himself that “Zinfandel” was not the American grape of barbecue fame, but a treasure from Croatia.  Of course, no one believed him.  In 1994 he returned, bringing whole clusters, leaves and canes to compare.  In 1998, he and Dr. Meredith got together; Dr. Meredith went to Croatia herself and returned with cuttings of 150 plants.  It was discovered that Zinfandel and Plavac Mali were not the same plant.  But Mike was close.  Plavac Mali was an offspring of Tribidrag and “Dobricic”).  A connection was established, but until 1998 when near the port town of Split on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, nine Tribidrag vines were found which DNA testing determined to be a 100% genetic match to Zinfandel. 

As it turns out, Zinfandel was not Plavac Mali but it was indigenous to Croatia and itself a child of Tribidrag.  Subsequent historical research has shown that Croatian Zinfandel, a.k.a. Tribidrag was planted as far back as the 15th century.  What the Italians call Primitivo is also Zinfandel, having originated from the Croatian Tribidrag and imported to Italy some 200-300 years ago. 

We began with Posip and that developed into Plavac Mali.  Croatia produces some international varietals, but the most fun can be had with indigenous grapes of which they have many.  For Posip, consider PZ  Posip Cara. Mike Grgich has opened his own winery in Croatia (making both Posip and Plavac Mali). Consider his offerings.  Korta Katarina winery, Intrada Krajancic Winery, Sain-Marelic Winery (lots of special characters missing in my spelling) and Kunjas Winery all make delicious Posip.

Plavac Mali (like Zinfandel) is a red wine as is Dobricic (a parent of Plavac Mali).  None of these wines will be alien in character.  In fact, as with Tribidrag (a.k.a. Zinfandel), you’re likely already familiar with the variety. And as with any wine, you may favor one producer over another. No, your largest challenge may be in tracking down an outlet for these wines.  Ethnic stores or on-line are likely the best route.   But for me, the route less travelled has made all the difference.

Wise man, that Ben who seemed to appreciate the gift of different grapes.  Be like Ben!

Zivjeli!
……………… Jim

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KENDALL JACKSON VINEYARD ESTATES ALISOS HILLS SYRAH


“There is truth in wine, but you never see it listed in the ingredients on the label” — Josh Stern


I’ll get to that quote later. For now, let’s talk about the wine. More specifically, let’s talk about the winery, Kendal Jackson / Jackson Estates and the wine: their Alisos Hills Syrah.  The estate is grand: near the vineyards are rows of walnut trees and areas in which organic produce is grown and used in preparing dishes made in their kitchen.  

Sitting outside under a patio umbrella and enjoying a glass while also enjoying the view is a joy anyone experiencing will want to experience again. Problem is most of us don’t visit vineyards. We don’t tour wineries. Problem is, Kendall Jackson, as a brand, is so available it’s become commonplace in our minds and, in the process, devalued.  We want something different, something exotic or assumed to be expensive - especially when entertaining - perhaps to impress?  And perhaps it’s true that “success breeds contempt.”  Yet the brand being as successful as it is speaks to the fact that lots of people are buying it.  So is it an issue of image regarding how we project ourselves when discussing the wines we admit to drinking?  Gee, you’d think 1976 would have erased all that nonsense.  Quality has always been about what’s inside the bottle; not the front label on it.


I’m proposing that we remove that veil of snobbery that we wear in public and let the truth of the marketplace’s private reality be admitted.  This is some delicious wine.  And that it’s commonly available and at budget friendly prices should be celebrated, not secreted.  

One of the Walnut Trees
The "Mizer" with Chef Matthew on the
patio in Oct. 2014

Syrah is noted for being high in tannins and low in acidity.  But with site selection, blending and meticulous vinification by Kendall-Jackson (and six years from vintage), I found the tannins silky and with sufficient acidity to make the wine food friendly and its pairing versatile.  In cool months, it begs for beef stew or braised beef.  Great with lamb and Osso Bucco, it can also be casually enjoyed with sausage and barbecue or grilled steaks.  Enjoy it with smoky blue cheese melted on a hamburger, or alone against an English styled Cheddar.

Inky purple in the glass, the wine gifts aromas that (for me) are strong with blueberry and black plum, then blackberry and cola with spicy hints. Complexity, I find, starts in vineyard selection.  And while the wine is 100% Syrah, grapes are selected from special blocks
Alisos in the Glass
within two of their many estate vineyards: (1) In the upper Southeast corner and a separate Southwest facing bench of the Barham vineyard having mixed soil of clay, sandy loam and gravel.  Clay brings density and structure to the grapes.  The lightness balancing this is from the very sandy soil of (2) the upper Northeast beach corner of the Neely Vineyard. These cool coastal vineyards of Santa Barbara are dotted with warmer blocks that hold heat better than others – ideal for Syrah.  Alisos Hills is a blend of those special blocks.  Grapes from these two vineyards grow at elevations of 700 to 1100 feet from “mountain” tops, ridges, hillsides and raised bench land.

Syrah is noted for being high in tannins and low in acidity.  But with site selection, blending and meticulous vinification by Kendall-Jackson (and six years from vintage), I found the tannins silky and with sufficient acidity to make the wine food friendly and its pairing versatile.  In cool months, it begs for beef stew or braised beef.  Great with lamb and Osso Bucco, it can also be casually enjoyed with sausage and barbeque or grilled steaks.  Enjoy it with smoky blue cheese melted on a hamburger, or alone against an English styled Cheddar.
Loin Lamb Chops, Baby Broccoli,
Fresh Herbs and Alisos

Just as good with Split Peas soup with
diced bits of smoked Ham Shanks
On the palate, the wine is smooth and luscious and super “malo-mellow”. Medium plus bodied but rich and palate coating enough to be considered full. Black cherry, vanilla, dark chocolate; hints of blackberry and currant and baking spice and herb notes.  Dry, but fruit rich, yet restrained and in balance, its only threat is its roundness and easy drinking quality which makes it too easy to enjoy.    

And finally, to that quote:  As only one among a very few wineries, Kendall-Jackson makes a practice of providing information about each wine on its back label. Imagine!  No stories about why a wine is named after a neighbor’s pet bird or other similar nonsense.  Useful information. Respectful of the process, as we should be of this wine.
The Back Label of their Los Robles
Pinot Noir

Cheers!
…………….. Jim

Back Label of 2013 Alisos


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TECH SPECS:    
Kendall-Jackson Vineyard Estates                 https://www.kj.com/
Varietal:                                                          Syrah, 100%
Vintage:                                                          2013
Source:                                                            Los Alamos, Santa Barbara County
Appellation:                                                    Santa Barbara County
Vineyards:                                                       Barham and Neely
Elevation:                                                        700-1100 Feet
Aging:                                                             13 Months, 88% French Oak (34%) New 1
ALC:                                                               14.5%
TA:                                                                   0.57 g/100ml
pH:                                                                   3.75
ARP:                                                                $37.00 U.S.
Current Vintage:                                              2019
   1  Changes are made as needed for vintage. 2016, for example, was 11 Months, 100% French and 28% new.

Note:   This wine was previously labeled as “Highland Estates.”  Names are changed to confuse the                innocent,



FRANCIS COPPOLA SYRAH-SHIRAZ DIAMOND COLLECTION GREEN LABEL


“Some people have such good taste they can’t enjoy anything.” … Marty Rubin



As a person reaches a certain age and prepares to write the final chapters of his life’s story, certain deeply meaningful, philosophical questions remain not only unanswered but ever more troublesome -- such as: “Why does a blowing fan attract dust instead of blowing the dust away?”  (I found the answer to that one). But here’s one that lingers: “Does a winery’s success breed contempt or are people just not being honest”?

Take your pick from any of the large wineries whose presence is well established in grocery stores. Today, I’ll be “picking” on Francis Ford Coppola: a wine theme-park offering tours but also lodging, bocce courts, swimming pool, cabanas, an outdoor stage and restaurants on-site in the Geyserville, Sonoma winery grounds where I visited. Lots of movie memorabilia (including the car used in the making of “Tucker” and items from “Godfather”) in another building so large it has an elevator. Pasta & expresso machine, oh my! There’s so much going on, one wonders if there’s any room for the wine (there is).  But go online and look for critics’ reviews of Coppola’s “Diamond Collection” wines and you won’t find much.  The glitterati of wine writers have little to say about this price series.  With some exceptions, wine bloggers also seemingly avoid such less expensive labels.   

Is it that the winery, being so well established, has become too common a name for people to spend time writing about it, or is it disdain for the brand’s association being a “grocery store” wine?  The reality supports neither but also doesn’t explain it.  As with other California wineries, Coppola is somewhat of a “winery within a winery.”  And, as with those other wineries, Coppola makes world-class, highly rated wine but in limited production and available only at the winery, or at fine restaurants or to club members. You may come across a review of Coppola’s “Archimedes” ($120) or “Eleanor” ($80) – neither of which you will find in grocery stores. Both these wines are incredible.  And though they score well (my opinion) in the value to price category, they’re pricey enough to be removed from the “everyday drinking” category (at least for me). 

It was while pouring wine at retail events that I came across Coppola’s “Diamond Collection” series:Twelve wines, none single vineyard, all priced for everyday consumption and all with the simple California appellation. For some, that’s another issue – no AVA, no sub-AVA, not all the grapes being from a south facing slope on a particular hillside at a particular elevation.  But as with Champagne and some scotch for example, blending is an art too.  An art that allows the artist to knit together a sum greater than its parts. 


Coppola’s Syrah-Shiraz (different names for the same grape) is that. And with an average retail price of $14 (U.S.), it’s even more than that.  A blend of 99% Syrah and 1% Petite Sirah (percentages may change with vintages), people note aromas of wild berries and pomegranate spiced with a hint of tobacco leaf.  Others note plum and clove, mocha and toasted oak.  For me, it was deep rich fruit with raspberry and blueberry preserves being dominant and enticing. On the palate, dark cherry in a silky-smooth wine with very subdued tannins and well managed alcohol that generates no “heat” on the palate.  Sweet vanilla balances bittersweet chocolate. Some plum carries onto the palate from the wine’s aroma.  Other tasters note some smoky bacon and fig and cassis and caramel.  Some note white pepper, others black pepper.  I note that we can complicate things, but – in order to do so – the wine must be good to start with.

The wine is medium bodied and if there is any potential drawback to it, it is that it so easy drinking and enjoyable. Definitely “new world,” it is fruit forward, but not jammy.   Though some tasters commented on “earthy notes,” I found them subtle and without mushroom.  Not that such are bad things. Most of my cellar is “old world” and ageable.   This is wine that knows its market and is simply and unapologetically delicious, easy to enjoy and in good balance.

A Magnum! Who says
the best things
come in small
packages?
A benefit that comes attached to such “wineries within wineries” that also make “grocery store” wines is that the same skill and concern that goes into making their top priced labels goes into those labels also (in this case, the “Diamond Collection”).  In fact, such is a common practice in Bordeaux, though the Chateau name may be different enough to be confusing.  In the U.S., wineries may do the same by using the number #2 preceded by the first letter of the first name of the winery or they may use a play on the name of their winery along with a related image.

Although some varietals included in Coppola’s “Diamond Collection” series have been rated highly or have won GOLD at various San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competitions, the series itself doesn’t get the attention it deserves.  Maybe it’s that “grocery store” thing.  Maybe it’s low price doesn’t build the wine’s cachet among the glitterati. Maybe there’s more to Rubin’s quote that I realized.  I’ve tasted several varietals among the “Diamond Collection” series with the Syrah-Shiraz being the most recent.  (They are not all at the same price point as the Syrah-Shiraz, though all are inexpensive).   And should someone make a disparaging comment when you offer them a glass of this “grocery store” wine, don’t reply in kind. Be kind: pour them a taste.

Cheers!
………………. Jim

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ETCETERA AND TECH SPECS:

Francis Ford Coppola Winery               https://www.francisfordcoppolawinery.com/
300 Via Archimedes,
Geyserville, CA 95441
(707) 857-1471

Blend:                                                   99% Syrah 1% Petite Syrah, Generally from Paso Robles
                                                              and Monterey.
Appellation:                                          California
Aging:                                                   French oak, 12 Months
ALC:                                                     13.5%
TA:                                                        .64g/100 ML
pH:                                                         3.62


Included in the 12 shown on Coppola’s web site for the “Diamond Collection” are Claret, Pavilion (a Chardonnay), Oregon Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay (not the Pavilion), Red Blend, Malbec, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir (not the Oregon), Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and the Syrah-Shiraz.