With the exception of our friend Jason up in Syracuse, it sounds like we all tasted some pretty good juice last week.
Bryan Callandrelli: Miles Wine Cellars 2006 Cabe
After a lighting-fast flight through Miles Wine Cellar's selections, I found this 100% Hungarian Oak cabernet franc to be a steal at the festival price of 2/$20.
With aromas of blackberry, pepper and leather this wine had most of what I look for in this grape variety. Although neither a voluptuous or entirely rustic example of cabernet franc, this one brought solid fruit and lively acidity where it was needed, my dinner table.
In my opinion, Hungarian wood just seems to play nicely with cabernet franc.
It's cheaper that French oak but doesn't give you the vanilla blast you get from American oak. Perhaps that's why this wine was so affordable.
At $10, this wine was the perfect fit for my wallet.
Evan Dawson: Tenuta Friggiali 2001 Rosso di Montalcino
This is why wine is so much fun. This wine, at eight years old, is simply nothing like it must have been in its youth. Check out the description from Spectator's James Suckling, who gave this wine 79 points on release six years ago: "Light and simple, with berry and cedar character." Rosso di Montalcino is often described as Brunello's little sibling, and bright cherry and red fruits are common. With this wine, those flavors are gone entirely and the secondary tier has taken over.
Now this wine is all about tar and Tuscan earth, and the fruit is markedly darker and more figgy. It is much more interesting at this age than a typical Rosso di Montalcino. But of course, it was a clear risk to be a dead wine. Rossos are not built to age forever, but at $19 it was a risk worth taking. And that is the adventure of wine: Take a risk and discover that some "drink now" varieties can hang in there longer than expected, showing you an entirely new side.
Finger Lakes wines, are you listening?
Jason Feulner: Las Rocas Vina Viejas de San Alejandro 2005 Garnacha
The jam and currant, with a touch of cinammon, showed a great deal of potential but I could not get past the overcooked finish.
I'd like to try this wine again at a much cooler temperature to see if that makes a difference.
Sasha Smith: Castell-Reynoard 2005 Bandol
The night’s first wine, a 2006 Terre d’Ombre from Domaine de Terrebrune ($18.99), one of the vineyards I want to visit, smelled like fried pancetta sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and black pepper, with a few raspberries thrown in there for good measure. Despite the full-throttle nose, the palate wasn’t crazily intense, and the wine was only medium-bodied.
The next red, a 2005 Castell-Reynoard ($22.99), had a more muted nose and a softer, velvety mouthfeel. We also tried a 2008 rosé from Castell-Reynoard ($19.99). The nose was intensely herbal – the wine would have been a great match for the tomato tart we made, had we not downed the bottle prior to dinner — and the color was a lovely, salmony hue. I liked it, but in my book $20 is a lot to pay for a pre-dinner rosé and I doubt I’d buy it again.
Lenn Thompson: Thierry Puzelat 2006 Touraine Gamay "Pouillé"
No, I'm not a viticulturalist, so it's possible that I'm off base here and it's hard to ripen or very susceptible to one or many vineyard maladies common in the East. Or maybe wineries don't think there's much of a market for gamay-based wines.
Regardless, this Loire red is a thing of beauty, with fresh, snappy red cherry and raspberry fruit, forrest floor earthiness, Dr. Pepper and even a little barnyard funk.
Best of all, I think I paid $16 and I have two bottles left in the cellar. They won't last long.