Non-California

Review: 2013 Tapiz Malbec

I got this Malbec at the BevMo 5 cent wine sale. I’ve purchased it a couple times, so I definitely keep coming back.

It’s sour, tart and has a long finish. The bottle says it ends with a violety flavor–a common characteristic of some Malbecs, but I didn’t taste the flowery perfume. To me, it smelled and tasted like black cherry and a lot of it. It’s a full-throttle kind of wine, so you taste a lot of fruit at the outset and all the way through.

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Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Tapiz
  • Type: Malbec
  • Origin: Mendoza
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Price: $20 (for two)
  • Alcohol content: 12.5%
  • When to drink: With steak, chimichurri and the World Cup playing. Vamos Argentina!

Review: 2013 J.L. Quinson Cotes de Provence Rose

I experimented a bit with this wine. I had brought a pretty good roe from Trader Joe’s, 2013 La Ferme Julien Rose, to a picnic–mostly because it was hot and I thought a rose would be refreshing and because it has a screwtop, which is perfect for al fresco drinking. My friend brought the 2013 J.L. Quinson Cotes de Provence Rose and mentioned that while browsing the wine aisles at Trader Joe’s, she came across both wines, but landed on the latter.

In light of this lovely coincidence, we sipped from both bottles, comparing the two.

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The Cotes de Provence, with its salmon color in the glass, smells like strawberry and is much drier than the La Ferme Julien Rose. To me, it tasted like light grape skins–it’s not too fruity– but it had a nice pep to it due to the acidity. It also wasn’t too flabby, a refreshing characteristic for a cheap rose.

Overall, I prefer the La Ferme Julien, but you can’t go wrong with either one on a hot summer day (they are both the same price).You can see my review for that wine in a previous post.

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: J.L. Quinson
  • Type: Rose
  • Origin: France
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Price: $5.99
  • Alcohol content: 12.5%
  • When to drink: On a hot summer day, al fresco, while discussing vacations abroad or daydreaming about crystal clear waters off the coast of Croatia.

Review: 2012 Planeta Syrah/Nero d’Avola

Tangerines! That’s the first thing I thought of when I sipped this rose that look more orange than pink. I’ve been on a rose kick since I had the La Ferme Julien Rose and decided to order a glass of this sucker after waiting in a very long line at a pizza place that was having a Pi Day deal ($3.14 for a pizza) only to get out of line in frustration and hunger and go to a fancy Neopolitan pizza joint across the street.

I had this lovely pizza with mascarpone, mozzarella, roasted fennel and onions. Yum! I also had a glass of the 2012 Planeta Syrah/Nero d’Avola. Now this is a blend of Syrah, which is a varietal you probably recognize, and Nero d’Avola, a varietal I had no clue existed.

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Nero d’Avola is largely grown in Sicily (which is where Planeta is based) and also goes by the name Calabrese. It comes from a dark grape (nero means black) and according to wine-searcher.com “younger wines show plum and juicy red-fruit flavors, while more complex examples offer chocolate and dark raspberry flavors.Nero d’Avola typically has high tannins, medium acid and a strong body. However, it can also be very smooth if grown at higher elevations where the air is cooler and alcohol levels are restricted.”

This orangey wine, due to its citrus flavors, reminded me of brunch. It’s tart and slightly tingly from the acidity. After it warms up a bit, it makes your tongue want to rub up against the roof of your mouth because of the lingering flavor, kind of like a dog licking peanut butter off a spoon.

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Planeta
  • Type: Syrah/Nero d’Avola blend
  • Origin: Sicily
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $8 for a glass at Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana in Pasadena
  • Alcohol content: unknown
  • When to drink: I imagine drinking this during a summer lunch featuring lots of Italian antipasti dishes at a garden cafe–in Sicily preferentially–but your hometown will do. 

Review: 2013 Trapiche Alaris Malbec

OK, I only have a few more Malbec posts from Argentina. So bear with me! I mean, you have to drink Malbec when you’re in Buenos Aires and we drank a lot.

Dialing back the clock a bit, we drank this 2013 Trapiche Alaris Malbec on our second night in Buenos Aires. It was actually our first try at Malbec on the trip and the journey to find it tested our resolve!

We started out the evening with craft beer and then headed to a 9:30 p.m. futbol game for a team my uncle wasn’t too happy we went to see. Buenos Aires has many soccer clubs, but only one game was on during our vacation and it was at the River Plate stadium, which is one of the biggest in the city. But most of my family are Boca Juniors fans, who rival River Plate, so they were disappointed when I told them my fiancee and I cheered for the team they detested. But for us visitors, all the teams were the same, so we didn’t mind.

1966720_10102350613628294_841957291_nGetting into the stadium was crazy. There were about 80,000 people crowding the streets, which had been closed off for security. Guys and girls were separated for security and nothing was allowed in: no Chapstick, no Purell, no lighters and one girl had to leave her favorite necklace behind that had a little tiny whistle–whistles are contraband. We went with a tour group to the game and I’m glad we did because you need club tickets to get into the stadium and it would have been quite difficult to figure out the security system and lines without our helpful guides.

The game was amazing. Spectators were bopping around and singing fight songs all night. There was a team band in the bleachers that led the songs and only home team fans were allowed in, so there was a sea of red and black shirts throughout the stadium.

After the game, we got back to the hotel after midnight and quickly dropped our stuff and went in search of a wine bar around 1 a.m. We didn’t know exactly what we were looking for, but earlier that evening we had passed by a street lined with shops and restaurants and figured that would be a good place to look. On the way we stopped and watched the tail end of a Carnaval event. So much pink! So many drums!

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Then we got lost on our way back to the restaurant street. Once we found our bearings though, all the restaurants were closed! I was so surprised because Buenos Aires nightlife goes deep into the morning. We were sad and defeated. I wanted wine! Despite the whomp whompiness of that moment, we decided to push on. I’m glad we did, because like an oasis in a dessert, a few blocks away we found a circular plaza lined with bars.

Too bad the Malbec menu wasn’t too selective–these weren’t fancy bars, so all the wines were pretty cheap. We ended up getting a 2013 Trapiche Alaris Malbec.

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Later my cousin told me the deep purple Trapiche was considered a so-so wine in Argentine and that’s how we felt when we drank it. But my other half and I still stayed out until the bar closed around 3:30 a.m. drinking the cherry-licious wine, talking and making googly-eyes at each other.

The Malbec had a warmness to it and left a dry, leathery feeling on your tongue. It almost felt like it was making my tongue sweat, it activated my salivating glands that much. It did have an alcohol tinge, which could have been from the quality or the youth of the wine. I mean it was a 2013 wine and we were drinking it in February 2014.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Trapiche Alaris
  • Type: Malbec
  • Origin: Mendoza
  • Price: It was probably about $9 for the bottle after conversion
  • Alcohol content: 13%
  • When to drink: I wouldn’t recommend buying this one, but it was fun to top off our night with a cheap bottle of Malbec amidst a crowd of bar-goers.

Review: 2012 La Ferme Julien Rose

Simple, but good. Those were the first words out of my mouth when I sipped the 2012 La Ferme Julien Rose while watching “True Detective” and twirling some spaghetti squash with pesto and peas onto my fork earlier this week.

It was such an easy-drinker I had to refrain myself from finishing more than half the bottle on my own. I believe my other half was skipping out on wine that night because he had to work late into the evening. The kind, generous fiancee I am, I twisted back the screw top and put some of this dry, fruity rose back in the fridge so he could enjoy it, too.

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And enjoy it he did. The next night we finished off the bottle I picked up at Trader Joe’s.

Grapes for La Ferme are grown on vines that sit atop the slopes of Mont-Ventoux in the Rhone Valley in France by the Perrin family. The Perrins are known for their Roussannes as well as their collaboration with Tablas Creek in Paso Robles.

This cherry blossom pink wine doesn’t smell like much at first, but the aromas come in the longer it’s out. It has strawberry flavors in there, but most of the fruitiness is muted. It’s dry, but not too dry. On a 1 to 10 scale of dryness, with 1 being really, really dry, I’d give this a 4. There’s not a leathery feeling on the tongue, in fact the wine is pretty refreshing. Some may call it watery, but I disagree. I think it has just the right amount of lightness. It’s cool and refreshing.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: La Ferme Julien
  • Type: Rose
  • Origin: Rhone Valley, France 
  • Price: $5.99
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • When to drink: On a hot, hot summer day, possibly while switching off from lounging in a beach chair to hitting a slip and slide.

Review: 2006 Montecinco Malbec

Back fresh from my trip to Buenos Aires, I have several stories to share about the many Malbecs I consumed. Let’s start with a traditional tale and then I’ll walk you through my more spontaneous discoveries in future posts.

In search of a traditional steak dinner–I’d heard so much about how at the very best restaurants they cut steak with a spoon that I had to try this tender meat–my love and I ended up at Don Julio, on the recommendation of the receptionist at our very stylish hotel.

Wine bottles cover the walls at Don Julio in Palermo as white tablecloths dress the tables. There’s even a thin mini-table that sidles up next to each diner’s table to add a little extra elbow room. Classy!

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Flipping through the wine list, I wasn’t quite sure what to order. I have had many Malbecs before, but the familiar labels weren’t popping out at me. I decided to go with one of the oldest bottles on the menu, because, well I could never do that in my price range in the U.S., but in Buenos Aires, the exchange rate was in our favor. Like savvy travelers, we converted our money on the street-aka at the Dollar Blue rate–and got $12 pesos for $1, making everything extremely affordable, even a fancy steak dinner.

I ordered the Montecinco Malbec from 2006, which by the way is I think, the oldest vintage I’ve had.

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It was unlike any Malbec I had had before. It won’t wow you at first sip. This is a wine you have to sit on for awhile. At first, my dining partner didn’t like how thin the wine tasted, but it grew on him after the wine’s flavors developed over the course of dinner. The cherry red wine tasted of plums, currants and even cigarettes–it’s that dirty, smoky feel– and developed a bit of a tang after it sat open for awhile. I liked it, but if you’re looking for a chewy, fruity bomb, this isn’t it.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Montecinco
  • Type: Malbec
  • Origin: Mendoza
  • Vintage: 2006
  • Price: about 200 pesos, or roughly $16 with Dollar Blue exchange rate, $27 at the traditional rate
  • Alcohol content: 14.4%
  • When to drink: This wine is meant for meat. Drink it like we did, with a big hunk of Bife de Lomo (tenderloin) topped with chimichurri.

Review: 2012 Ceibo Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon

If I had to pick one word to describe this Malbec, it would be tart. The wine has a lot of structure and a zesty flavor at the end, but I felt like the tart, pomegranate flavor was distracting. There’s also a flowery essence to the drink, which I tasted, but my fellow drinker did not. Overall, I’d skip this wine if you’re going down the aisles in search of a new Malbec to try. I think I’ll probably use the leftover wine in the bottle for cooking, perhaps for an Arrabbiata style red tomato sauce.

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Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Ceibo
  • Type: Malbec (70%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (30%)
  • Origin: Mendoza
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: Gifted
  • Alcohol content: 13.8%
  • When to drink: I can’t think of an appropriate situation for this one because I didn’t like it much.

Review: 2012 Jarenincan Crnko

Bet you can’t say that five times fast.

I bought this Slovenian white blend of riesling and dry muscat hoping to drink it with a delicious meal featuring lemon garlic cod and jasmine rice, but I decided to bring this table wine to a pre-New Year’s Eve party since it’s 1-Liter size and bottle cap top make it difficult for individual consumption.

OK let’s stop right there. Yes, this wine has a bottle cap on it.

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Not a screw top and not a cork. Weird, huh. It’s the wine of the people over in Slovenia, served in every country tavern and in every household, so I guess the bottle cap blends well with that scene.

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That’s not the only thing weird about this number. It’s lemony and zesty and reminds me of the idea of an alcoholic Fresca.

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Great for easy drinking, I decided to bring it to the pre-party because I knew it would be low-key, great for a crowd and a nice, light precursor to the Old Fashioneds and other bourbon/whiskey cocktails I’d ride for the rest of the evening, which by the way was filled with beautiful views of Los Angeles and sparklers!

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The wine is hand-picked from a family vineyard in northeastern Slovenia that features fossil-rich soils. The blend changes from year to year, according to the folks at Vintage Berkeley.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Crnko
  • Type: blend of riesling and dry muscat
  • Origin: Slovenia
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $15
  • Alcohol content: I left the bottle at that pre-New Year’s soiree and forgot to write this down!
  • When to drink: Tuck this in a picnic basket as you head out to the park on a summery day with your friends, a croquet set and this amazing lemon-feta dip.

Review: 2011 Bodega Navarro-Correas Malbec Collecion Privada

Malbec is one of my favorite wines. Originally a French grape, Malbec has become synonymous with Argentine wines as the country hosts most of the acres the purple fruit is grown on.

Malbec is usually a smoky, spicy wine that brings on the fruit flavors right away–usually cherry, plum, or blackberry. Some Malbecs can smell like blueberry if they’ve been aged in oak for a year or so.

The 2011 Bodega Navarro-Correas Malbec Collecion Privada is one of those. Forty percent of the bottle is aged in French Oak for 12 months, bringing on that blueberry smell.

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The Argentine wine seems to fill up your mouth, but it’s not overwhelming on the tongue thanks to its silky finish. It tastes like plum and has a violety flavor, which I felt left a perfume-like residue on my tongue, although I was the only one in the dinner party who sensed that. It’s not super complex, but it’s likable.

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Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Bodega Navarro-Correas
  • Type: Malbec
  • Origin: Mendoza, Argentina
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Price: $8
  • Alcohol content: 13.9%
  • When to drink: If you want to share a bottle of Malbec with a friend who is not a fan of smoky bold reds, pull out the Bodega Navarro-Correas Malbec to ease them into it. After that, bring on the spice and spend a few bucks more on Fournier Urban Uco Malbec/ Tempranillo blend ($10).

Malbec from India?

Yep!

A two and a half-hour drive outside of Mumbai lies more than a half dozen wineries in Nashik producing fermented deliciousness made from 25 grape varieties including Malbec!

According to a New York Times article published this week, the wine region sprouted up more than a decade ago when Sula Vineyards, the first one there, took root. Rajeev Samant, the owner of Sula Vineyards, originally planned to grow mangoes on his family’s land in Nashik, but he decided on wine grapes instead. Good choice! Although I do love mangoes!

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Sula Vineyards has grown substantially over the years, attracting 150,000 visitors last years, up from 5,000 when it first opened. Samant has added a large tasting room, a resort with an infinity pool and a spa. Now there are a handful of other wineries nearby, too.

What are some other off-the-beaten-path wine destinations? Let me know in the comments!