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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Even More Dessert Wines To Please Your Palate

December 10, 2009

Quady Essensia

Part 2 of a look at dessert wines including Tokaji, Quady Essensia, Niagara Peninsula Ice Wines and Tawny Ports.

Last week, I wrote about the legendary dessert wines from the Sauternes region of Bordeaux, France and the traditional off-dry Moscato d’Asti wines of Italy. But wine growing regions around the world have created unique methods dedicated solely to the art of producing these wines.

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How Sweet It Is: Dessert Wines – Part 1

December 3, 2009

Chateau La Tour Blanche Sauternes

Part 1 of a look at dessert wines including Sauternes and Moscato d’Asti.

Americans have a notorious sweet tooth. We crave doughnuts, candy bars and nearly every conceivable flavor of ice cream. So it’s surprising we have pretty much ignored dessert wines. These sweet wines have a higher residual sugar after fermentation than “dry” wines. When integrated with other distinct flavors and appropriate acidity for balance, the best sweet wines move beyond cloying and syrupy to rich and profound. Or just simply delightful and refreshing.

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No Whining Here: Gift Ideas To Please Wine-Lovers

December 2, 2009

Tesseron Cognac

Some holiday gift ideas for the wine-lovers on your list.

Holiday gift suggestions for wine-lovers can range from the functional to the extravagant. Glassware is always appreciated and the lightest stemware I have ever used is from the Ravenscroft Crystal “Invisibles Collection.” Nearly weightless, these hand-blown lead-free crystal glasses come in a variety of shapes to enhance the flavors found in specific varietals. The web site (www.ravenscroftcrystal.com) also contains other gift ideas such as wine accessories, decanters and glassware specific for spirits.

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