A Dramatic Transformation For One California Winery

May 5, 2010

Zaca Mesa Winery

A look at the Zaca Mesa Winery.

Once known only for characterless, cheap and cheerful quaffs, the Zaca Mesa Winery now produces incredibly flavorful wines from varietals like Syrah, Roussanne and Viognier. Located in California’s Santa Barbara County, specifically the Santa Ynez Valley, Zaca Mesa planted its first vines — a mishmash of varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Merlot and Zinfandel — in 1978. In the ensuing years, the number of original investors dwindled, leaving the Cushman family in charge since 1988. With the realization that the location is best suited for the classic “Rhone” varietals — Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsaut, Roussanne and Viognier, new vines and a new winemaking team — the quality of the Zaca Mesa wines has increased significantly.

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Value-Priced Wines Come From Around The World

March 31, 2010

Greg Norman Estates Shiraz Cabernet

A look at some wine values from Chile, Australia, Spain and California.

Underlying every wine purchase is the question: Is this bottle really worth the price? Does some fundamental aspect of the $200 Cristal Champagne make it better than a $15 Spanish sparkler? Maybe to a hip-hop artist, but to most of us, discovering pleasurable wines that cost considerably less is more pleasurable. Fortunately, many of the world’s wine regions still produce reasonably priced wines. Each of the following recommendations costs $15 or less.

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Sicily’s Wines Are Well Worth Sipping

February 24, 2010

Planeta Syrah

A review of several wines from Sicily including Planeta, Cottanera, Tenuta Rapitala, and Morgante.

Sicily has a long history of winemaking, mostly from indigenous grapes like Nero d’Avola and Grillo. The island’s complex geology, a combination of volcanic and African soil types, has led many producers to make wine from better known “international” varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chardonnay. The results of both approaches have shown steady improvement.

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Musings on Food and Wine Pairing

February 11, 2010

DC wine &food festival

Wine and food pairing is not very complex.

We all know the rules. Wine and food are meant to compliment each other. But the complexity of multiethnic cuisine and the subtlety of much of modern gastronomy have invalidated the traditional convention of “red with meat and white with fish.” There is really only one iron-clad rule: Drink what you like! Don’t be swayed by scores, prices or the presence of animals on the label.

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Planning Ahead: Suggestions For Romantic Sipping

January 27, 2010

Palazzo Montanari Amarone

Romantic wine suggestions for Valentine’s Day

Indulge your beloved by sharing a bottle of wine or other fine libation on Valentine’s Day. California’s full-bodied Terra Valentine Spring Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($38), with richly spiced dark currant and blackberry flavors that finish with cedar, chocolate and caramel, is an excellent choice. Or, sip the more hedonistic, highly regarded Mollydooker Carnival of Love McLaren Vale Shiraz 2007 ($90), with big mouth-filling blueberry, exotic spice and dark plum flavors that seem to linger forever.

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A Glass Of Red Warms Body And Soul

January 6, 2010

Phekps Insignia

Reviews of red wines from Phelps, Castello di Amorosa, Quivira, Frei Brothers, St. Clement and Tempra Tantrum.

Winter weather is best faced with a glass of red wine. Properties like Joseph Phelps Vineyards provide the comfort of consistent high quality. Its flagship Joseph Phelps Insignia 2006 would make a wonderful gift since it needs a few more years of bottle-age before its complex, spicy earthy blackberry, licorice and cherry flavors fully develop. Made from Cabernet Sauvignon (95 percent) and Petit Verdot (5 percent) exclusively from its estate vineyards, it will drink beautifully for at least 20 years.

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Wines To ‘Steak’ A Claim With

January 29, 2009

Buccella Cabernet Sauvignon

Wines perfect to pair with a grilled rib-eye.

One of the ways we coax our son to visit us from college is to prepare his favorite meal: a grilled rib-eye steak prepared with CharCrust Hickory rub. And now that he is 21 years old, we also have to find the perfect wine to match the steak. Rather than figuring this out for myself, I solicited expert advice from the folks responsible for the wines at several of Washington, D.C.’s finest steak restaurants.

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The Land Down Under Produces Wonderful Wines

December 19, 2007

A review of some recently released Australian wines.

Look to Australia when choosing a wine to complement a winter meal or for snuggling beside a cozy fire. Many of the latest Australian releases have a remarkable complexity along with their characteristic bold fruit profile. While some (like the 2006 Craneford Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2006 Oliverhill Petite Sirah) require several years of cellaring to achieve their peak, all the wines listed here are drinking perfectly now.

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Fine Kosher Red Wines

September 13, 2007

Teperberg Family Estate

A review of some recently released kosher red wines.

Kosher wines can satisfy a discriminating wine drinker and accompany any dish from brisket to blintzes. They continue to gain the approval of wine critics and their growing sales indicate increasing consumer acceptance. Kosher wines are produced all over world, including California, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Israel. In France some of the most prestigious wine producers are making kosher wines. “If the French masters of the art of winemaking have accepted kosher wine into their ranks then Kosher wine has truly arrived,” declares Martin Davidson, spokesman for Royal Wine, a leading importer of kosher wines and owner of California’s Herzog winery. Davidson believes that, “the Jewish community has fortunately graduated up to complex and sophisticated wines…Consequently, a better-educated buyer can now refine their appreciation in viniculture, knowing there is enough fine wine out there to accommodate a demanding and discerning palate.”

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