January 5, 2009

December 2008 Wines of the Month

December Wines of the Month

December is much like November in that I wanted to stay "home" as much as I could.....do you know how hard it is to find good wine that is unusual under $15 that is from the United States?

It's really hard....especially whites (I'm convinced it is easier to make good inexpensive reds than it is to make good inexpensive whites).

So, I strayed for the Tier One white!

Tier One

Aresti Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (Chile) $11.99 - This is a cross between a big, pink grapefruit/gooseberry New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a more lemon citrus, freshly mown grass, tropical fruit Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc! Great value as well! Medium-bodied wine with subtle white stone fruit (peach) and melon aromas. The flavors show a lot of peach, melon, tropical fruit, some minerals and a little herbaceousness and pepper. The finish is dry, with a slight peppery spice to it that has hints of nuts. Food pairing - Wonderful wine for a party with or without food. Scallops, lobster, shellfish, fish, poultry dishes.

Easton* Amador County “H” House Red Lot # 0102 (California) $9.99 - Tasty little everyday red! Blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Smooth and easy with lots of ripe dark fruit. Not tannic. Drinks soft and easy. Perfect wine to just relax with and enjoy. A tiny family owned winery. The Wine Spectator & Hugh Johnson rate it the Sierra Foothills’ best winery! Sustainable agricultural. Solar-powered winery. Food pairing - grilled meats, pizza, a picnic, etc. Drinks great on its own!

Tier Two

Benton Lane* Pinot Gris Williamette Valley 2007 (OR) $18.99 - FABULOUS - one of Oregon’s best!
Family-owned and started winery! Steve and Carol Girard set out in 1988 to make the best Pinot Noir they could....being from California, they started there and quickly realized that it was too warm....so, they headed north to Oregon! They bought the land that became Benton Lane.....along the way, they planted Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc.....I'm glad they did!

Aromas of pears, apples, minerals, vanilla & nutmeg. Flavors of pears, minerals and Granny Smith apples. Refreshing. Rich. Tasty. Long, clean, pleasing finish. Certified sustainable agriculture. Certified Salmon Safe winery – drink their wines & help preserve the Pacific Northwest salmon fishery! 2,912 cases made. Family-owned. Food pairing - shellfish, creamy pasta dishes, light appetizers, spicier foods & sipping on its own. Food & Wine, “Best Buy”

Spann Vineyards Charbono* 2005 (California) $23.99 - Another fabulous, rock-solid wine from Peter and Betsy Spann!
Spann Vineyards is one of these little wineries that without people like Jack Scully at Easterly Wines in Belfast and yours truly at Freeport Cheese and Wine, you just wouldn't know!
Full-bodied, rich, well-balanced. Aromas and flavors of blackberries, plums and herbs. Lots of similarities to the Piedmont grape Dolcetto in terms of flavors (lots of fruit), but this is a much BIGGER wine than Dolcetto. Somewhat rustic in texture with firm tannins and bright acidity.
If you lay this down for a few years (3-4), you'll have a PRIZE!
Charbono is the grape. One of the rarest grapes in California, Charbono is only grown on a handful of acres, mostly in Napa. Long thought to be related to Dolcetto Nero, DNA testing shows it is the minor French grape, Charbonneau, from the Savoie region near the border with Piedmont. Aged 30 months in neutral French oak. Organically farmed. 150 cases made. Food pairing – Goes well with big, rich dishes – lamb, steak, roast beef, hearty mushroom dishes, etc.
Tier Three
St. Innocent is one of the best wineries in Oregon! Period!
This winery helps set trends and standards not only in Oregon and the USA, but across the globe. Great, great winery! Hand-made wines - total capacity is about 6,500 cases a year. Sustainable farming practices. Dedication. You can't get any better!

St. Innocent* Chardonnay Freedom Hill Vineyard 2006 (Oregon) $26.99 - A knockdead “Burgundian” Chardonnay from Oregon. I love this wine! This is GREAT Chardonnay! Aromas that definitely showcase minerals….paired up with ripe pears, green apples and honeydew melons. The flavors mirror the aromas. The wine is lush in texture and feel. It’s just beautiful. You can drink this now and it tastes great, but this is a wine you should buy a few bottles and hold them for 4-6 years – it’ll gain complexity and depth (and it is already pretty complex and deep!). The vines are a Dijon clone, #76. In early years in Oregon, the wineries planted the “Wente” clone from California and it just did not produce good wine in Oregon’s cooler climate – so in the 1990’s, St. Innocent and others replaced the “Wente” clone with several Dijon clones. This clone produces a Meursault-like Chardonnay – darker fruit with lots of minerality and soft, velvety textures in the mouth. The winemaker really believes this clone captures the “terroir” of the Freedom Hill Vineyard – showing the wines minerality and fruit without hiding it behind toasty oak. The grapes are whole cluster pressed. The wine undergoes malolactic fermentation (with this wine, the impact of malolactic fermentation is small, because the wine doesn’t have a lot of malic acid present at the beginning, so this is not a hugely “buttery and creamy” Chardonnay) and is aged “sur lees” for 12 months in used French oak barrels (used barrels impart little-to-no “oakiness” to the wine). The “lees” are the yeasty residue given off by fermentation that precipitates and settles on the bottom of the barrel – it adds richness and softness to the wine. 336 cases made. Drink through 2013.

St. Innocent* Seven Springs Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006 (Oregon) $47.99 - This is just a superb wine – this is Oregon Pinot Noir at its best! Wonderful aromas of cherries, black raspberries, baking spices, dark wet earth & violets. Medium-to-full-bodied. This is a deep, rich, refined, elegant wine. Flavors of red & dark berries, a touch of spice & brambles. Drink now through 2018. Worthy of aging – flavors will evolve. This tiny winery specializes in single vineyard wines that show the distinctive terroir of the area. 1,288 cases made. Food pairing - Great with poultry, game, rich mushroom dishes & meals with wild berries & earthy flavors. Robert Parker, Wine Advocate, 92 points