Once again, no New York wines in this lot. This week we have Italy, France, California, Portugal and Australia represented.
Never let it be said that we don't drink a wide array of wines from around the world.
Bryan Calandelli: Vallarom Vallagarina Merlot 'Vigneto Belvedere' 2007
Northern Italian wines are always tempting and this Vallarom Vallagarina Merlot looked interesting especially after I noticed the importer is local to western New York. Portovino Buffalo, NY specializes in small batch unique offerings from all over Italy. Many of these include red blends that throw indigenous grapes into the mix.
This is actually a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Lambrusco Foglia Frastagliata (Not related to the Lambrusco of Emilglia Romana). It’s meant to be a fruit forward style wine since it is not aged in oak.
Aromas of plum and blackberry dominate the nose of this wine. There’s also a candied grape flavor in there, which I thought to be unusual. What made this Merlot stand out though was its sandy mouth-feel, a rustic component that I always appreciate. Its finish is clean and fresh with a nice balance of acidity and fruit unobstructed by oak.
All in all, this is a distinctive wine from an ambitious local importer that I’ll be following in the future.
Evan Dawson: Jerome Chezeaux 1999 Premier Cru Nuits-St.-Georges and Calera 2000 Reed Vineyard Pinot Noir
The Burgundy was an absolute steal for the price, and a Rosenthal import to boot. The Calera was my first taste of this already iconic American producer. The results were surprising.
You would never have guessed the Calera to clock in at 14.5 ABV. The higher alcohol is a function of its California roots, but it was like satin sheets in the mouth. We loved the stewy, mushroomy nose. The Burgundy was suffering from just a touch of VA, but not enough to obscure its beauty. It was just a bit chunkier in the mouth, but classy nonetheless. I was surprised to give the edge on this round to the American Pinot, but I suppose it's not that shocking; Calera has earned fame for more than three decades as one of the most fastidious adherents to Burgundian tradition. Cheers to Tom and Susan Higgins of Heart & Hands for sharing this bottle -- Tom spent time training at Calera before bringing his Pinot mission to the Finger Lakes.
Jason Feulner: Broadbent 10 Year Old Malmsey Madeira
Madeira was the drink of choice in colonial times (the signers of the Declaration of Independence toasted with it to note their achievement). Alas, the wine fell out of favor in the last hundred years and only in the last few have some producers tried to reproduce the glory days.
My first crack at this type of wine, the Broadbent is a serious attempt that fell short of some Ports I've consumed but still impressed with layers of figs and nuts wrapped in notes of honey.
Sasha Smith: San Pietro 2006 Lagrein
I love Lagrein, especially in the middle of the summer. When it’s sticky and sweaty out, I imagine that I’m drinking this wine after a long hike through the Dolomites in Alto Adige, where this wine hails from. Instead, I had this wine on Saturday night at Sorella, a wine bar on Allen Street that specializes in Northern Italian food and wine.
This 2006 San Pietro Lagrein had the earthy/floral nose and refreshing minerality that make this varietal so appealing – and so versatile with a wide range of food. The five of us ordered everything from anchovies to skirt steak, and the wine somehow worked with all of it. Versatility is an underrated virtue in wine, and this Lagrein (which retails for about $15), would be a good value go-to bottle for anyone’s cellar.
Lenn Thompson: Robert Oatley Vineyards 2008 Rose of Sangiovese
Last Thursday night, Nena and I tasted three wines from Robert Oatley Vineyards as a part of TasteLive.com. I don't have to tell you that I'm not a huge fan of Australian wines, but two of the three (a pinot grigio and this rose) actually impressed me. The cab-merlot blend was largely what you'd expect an Aussie red to be, overblown, fruity etc. It did have a bit of earthiness to it, but not enough that it's not instantly recognizable as Aussie.
This rose, which is 100% sangiovese and made via the saignee method, stood out for me and a lot of the other participants. Sure, there was red fruit here -- mainly dried cherries, cranberries and strawberries -- but there was a savory herbal (Nena thought almost eucalytus) edge that I loved. Great acidity framed these flavors very well. As you can see, the bottle was empty by the end of the evening. This is the first TasteLive wine that I plan to order more of, in fact.