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Looking for a Top Notch Wine Without Spending a Fortune?

Sometimes you just want to open up a really nice wine, but you don’t want to spend a fortune. Am I right??? That’s the perfect time to crack open a 2nd label!!!

Top wineries and chateaux blend together their best grapes’ juice to produce their best possible wine for the Grand Cru or “first wines”.  What do they do with the remaining juice???  Many of them make a second wine. Usually made by the same winemaker in pretty much the same way as the winery’s famous wine, the big difference is that the juice for the second wine is often from younger vines or the second press. Although these wines may not be as complex, balanced and sublime, they ARE a lot less expensive!  It’s a great way to try big name Bordeaux or other famous wines without the big time price tag.

One of my favorite wines out of Napa is Dominus. Yes, they have a second wine! It is called Napanook and is an estate-bottled wine from the iconic Napanook Vineyard in Yountville. And it is wonderful!

Christian Moueix (of Château Pétrus fame) and his Dominus team have been making this second label since 1996. Although it is made to drink young, it is a complex and age worthy wine that can be cellared for years.

The other night I cracked open a bottle of the 2012 Napanook. This purple colored wine has blackberry, black cherry and leather on the nose. The palate bursts with the dark fruit and has some licorice and baking spices. The blend is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot, and the results are lovely! Although this wine is drinking very well now, I’m thankful to have a couple more bottles of the ’12 to see how it evolves.

So … if you’re looking for a fabulous wine from a top-notch producer but don’t want to go crazy with the price, remember to look into a second wine. Dominus’ “Napanook” is a great place to start!

This Maroon is 5 … Stars!

My husband and I cracked open a bottle of Napa Cabernet the other night and after the first sniff and taste we both exclaimed “WOW!!!!”

Having never tasted a Maroon wine before, we were certainly impressed from the start. After reading that Paul Maroon’s neighbor and mentor is Robert Craig (who produces one of my favorite Cabernet Sauvignons in California) I wasn’t surprised that I was so impressed by this 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Maroon Wines.

100% Cab Sauv from the Maroon Vineyard in the Coombsville AVA, the nose explodes with coffee, toffee, black cherry and ripe plum. On the palate is this fabulous chocolate covered toffee! Yum. The black cherry is there as well, with some ripe plum and just a tad of spiciness. This wine is very well balanced and is drinking beautifully now, but still has time for the cellar.

Although I obviously believe that what is INSIDE the bottle is what matters, I love the simple, elegant label that is … maroon in color, of course!

Paul Maroon purchased his 35-acre vineyard located in what is now the Coombsville AVA in 1990, with the 2000 vintage being his first release.  The Coombsville AVA was officially designated in 2011 and is one of the rising Napa sub-appellation stars for Cabernet Sauvignon. Wines like this 2009 is a great example of why this area is definitely going to go places!

For more information on Maroon Wines, here’s their link: https://www.maroonwines.com

Can You Say … Sciacchetrá???

In a land of pretty little villages nestled among the mountains of the Italian Rivera is a lovely wine bearing a very fun name … Sciacchetrá!

The Cinque Terre (which translates in English to “Five Lands”) is a delightful grouping of five seaside-fishing villages with cliffs, hills and vineyards! The people of Cinque Terre (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) have been making wine here for about 1000 years.

The picturesque vineyards are planted on steep slopes overlooking the sea. Working these terraced vineyards is no easy task, as machines can’t be used. Modern technology, however, has made work for the modern man a little easier than for their ancestors in the years past. Cinque Terre now has a monorail system. These small trains can transport tools, grapes and people up and down the steep hills, which undoubtedly ease some of the strain of vineyard work and harvest.

This DOC in the Liguria region of Italy produces white wines, using the Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino varieties. Most of these wines are light and easy drinking, and pair well with local dishes of fresh fish, salads, pasta with pesto and many types of cheeses. The Sciacchetrá (pronounced SHA-KEH-TRAH), however, is the true star of the region.

While visiting the Cinque Terre a couple of weeks ago my husband and I discovered Vineria Santa Marta, a cute spot in the village of Vernazza, and plunked down for a tasting.

The 2015 La Polenza Cinque Terre is a blend of Vermentino, Albarola and Bosco. It is fresh and lively on the palate and a great everyday drinker.

The 2014 Luciano Capellini Cinque Terre is made up of 75% Bosco, 5% Albarola and 20% Vermentino. This wine is a bit more complex and lush on the palate. It was a great companion to the breads and pesto we tasted.

We then tasted the Polenza Sciacchetrá. Oh my! I’m so thankful that we had the opportunity to taste this special wine. Very difficult to find in the states, this wine is made from sun-dried grapes that become raisin-like. Normally drunk with cheeses and desserts, this “sweet” wine isn’t too sweet to my palate. The delicate kiss of sweetness quickly turns to a soft coating of loveliness and finishes dry. The acidity balances this wine out perfectly and I absolute adore it. I was excited to buy a bottle and wish that I could have brought home a case … or more!

The Cinque Terre is a delightful place to visit, but for me the highlight was its wines. What a pleasure to try wines so unique that, unfortunately, are hard to find here at home.

What’s my new favorite Italian word? Why Sciacchetrá, of course! Not only is it fun to say, it’s fun to drink!

 

Where Were YOU in 1980?

Drinking a great old vintage of wine can be a lot of fun, and can also take us back in time. I love thinking of the grapes growing and the people who picked them. I also think of the winemaker and his or her challenges during that vintage. It’s also enjoyable to think about what I was doing that year. How old was I? Where was I living? What was I doing?

Last night my husband and I invited some friends over to share a bottle of 1980 Opus One. Founded as a joint venture between Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild and renowned Napa vintner Robert Mondavi, Opus One’s goal was to create a Bordeaux style blend based on Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The other four Bordeaux varietals (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec) are also used. They use grapes from some of the most well respected vineyards in Napa. The winemaking, however, is modeled after the techniques of Bordeaux. This happy marriage produces some of Napa’s finest wines, and is known as being America’s first ultra-premium wine.

Interestingly, the 1979 and 1980 vintages were unveiled together in 1984 as Opus One’s first release. The co-winemakers were Lucien Sionneau from Château Mouton Rothschild and Robert Mondavi’s son Tim, who founded Continuum Estate (also an ultra-premium wine) with his sister Marcia Mondavi Borger in 2005.

I was very excited to experience one of the first vintages of such an iconic winery!

I feared that the 1980 might have TOO much age on it, but my fears were unfounded. There is still some of the fruit, but it has developed into a lovely and well evolved complex pleasure! On the nose are leather, cocoa and some green pepper. On the palate are dried plum, cherry and earth, and the finish is long.

What was I thinking about while drinking this wine? I was thinking about the fact that I was just beginning my senior year of high school when the grapes were being harvested and that I was almost done with college when it was released. While sipping we searched some facts about 1980 and found that it was a leap year, the number one song was “Call Me” by Blondie, “Dallas” was the top show on TV and “Kramer vs. Kramer” won the Oscar for best picture.

We also learned last night that the 1980 Opus One is drinking beautifully and we are all going to search for more!

Homework for Rioja!

While planning an upcoming trip to Spain, I decided to crack open a bottle from one of the regions I’ll be visiting … Rioja!

The bottle I selected is the 2009 C.V.N.E. (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) Rioja Imperial Reserva. Founded in the year 1879 in the town of Haro, Rioja by two brothers, CVNE is still controlled today by the direct descendants of the founding family.  The “Imperial” product operates as a winery within a winery, and was given its name because it was originally exported to the United Kingdom in imperial pint sized bottles. This is a very well respected wine from Rioja; the 2004 vintage was named the #1 wine of the year in 2013’s Wine Spectator Top 100.

This 2009 is a blend of 85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano and 5% Manzuelo. Decanted for about an hour before pouring, on the nose is dark cherry, chocolate, tobacco, some licorice and a lavender note. On the medium bodied palate are stewed fruits, especially currant and plum, some spice and well-balanced tannins.

One of the many things I love about the wines of Rioja is that they aren’t released too early. The Reserva level wines require at least one year of aging in oak (both American and French) and two years in the bottle before being released. This ’09 was actually aged for 2 years in oak and 2 years in the bottle. Therefore, although this is still a young wine and will get even better with a few more years in the bottle, it is drinking very well right now.

Am I excited about visiting Rioja? I sure am! I’m also excited to do some more homework on this region and the others I’ll be visiting. See … homework CAN be fun!

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