South America Valleys Produce High Quality Wines

September 22, 2010

Alamos Torrontes

A review of several recent releases from South America.

The valleys east and west of the Andes Mountains are a treasure trove for lovers of high-quality, value-priced wines. While both areas have produced wines for centuries, investment and extensive modernization have led to vastly improved quality during the past several decades.

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Bennett Lane: Napa Newcomer Nails Cabernet And More

August 25, 2010

Bennett Lane Winery

A review of the terrific wines produced at Napa’s Bennett Lane Winery.

What do NASCAR and wine have in common? The answer lies near the northernmost aspect of Napa Valley at the Bennett Lane Winery.

Located just a couple of miles past Calistoga, Bennett Lane was established in 2003 by Randy and Lisa Lynch, who came to the area a year earlier looking for a second home surrounded by some vineyards. They were planning to live there part-time and sell the grapes rather than actually make wine.

But their timing was a bit off since the California wine industry was in one of its periodic downturns, making it not the best time to sell grapes. Entrepreneur Randy Lynch saw the situation as an opportunity rather than an obstruction. So they purchased a winemaking property, renamed it Bennett Lane, and focused their efforts on Cabernet Sauvignon.

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The Magic Of Trimbach Wines

July 15, 2010

Trimbach Frederic Emile

A review of several of the excellent wines produced by Alsace’s Maison Trimbach.

If wine is truly poetry in a bottle, then the Trimbach family qualifies for a literature prize. Scions of a winemaking tradition that goes back 12 generations, current owners and brothers Jean and Pierre have maintained the characteristic Trimbach style of expressive, dry, food-friendly wines that often approach the profound, while grooming their children to continue the legacy. Easily among the top tier of Alsatian wines, Trimbach whites are also some of the world’s greatest, as recently recognized with Pierre’s award as one of the 10 best winemakers on Earth.

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Summer Is The Perfect Season For Sippers

June 24, 2010

Bombay Sapphire

Some summer drink suggestions including cocktails, beer and wine.

The noted philosopher Robin Williams once declared: “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party.’ ” Sounds like an ideal excuse to try new drinks and to invigorate some old favorites.

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White Is One Of Summer’s Genuine Pleasures

June 23, 2010

Kunde Sauvignon Blanc

Summer white wine suggestions including Sauvignon Blanc, Spanish whites, Chablis and Pinot Gris.

White wines, served with the lighter warm weather fare or sipped solo as the sun sets, come in a wide range of flavors and styles. Every wine-producing area creates worthwhile whites, making summer a perfect time to explore new varietals and regions.

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Varietals Make South African Winemakers Shine Brightly

May 26, 2010

Rust en Vrede

A review of some South African wines courtesy of the “Drink Well, Do Good Tour.”

As host of this year’s soccer World Cup, South Africa is showcasing its first-rate vineyards and wineries. The South African wine industry traces its beginnings to its first harvest and crush in 1652. Not long after the British acquired the colony, production surged; the wines were popular in 19th century Great Britain. But a change in British trade regulations devastated South African wine imports and the industry remained essentially moribund until the end of apartheid. The subsequent lifting of trade embargos and ending of consumer boycotts renewed interest in South African wines, resulting in increased investment and modernization of facilities and techniques.

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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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