Primus

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No, I am not talking about the rock band or the God like entity form Transformers; I’m talking about Veramonte “PRIMUS, The Blend 2009,” from Colchagua Valley, Chile.  Some of you might recognize Primus from its spot as number 95 from Wine Spectator’s 100 Best for 2012. 

            This wine will be of interest to all the fans of The Prisoner; Agustin Huneeus’ family owns vineyards in California that include the Quintessa and Prisoner brands.  The Huneeus family founded Veramonte in 1990, and the winemaker for this bottling is Cristian Aliaga, who has a passion for making inexpensive yet high-quality wines.  Primus sells for under $20. 

            We have potent chemistry going on here; the blend is 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Syrah, 25% Carmenere, and 18% Merlot.  The grapes are handpicked, double-sorted, and fermented with the skins, which gives the wine its beautiful deep purple color.  Then, it sits for 14 months in 25% New French Oak barrels, which means that 25% of the wood used in the barrels is new.  If “BOLD” is not a frequent part of your wine tasting vocabulary you might want to sit this one out.  This is a powerful wine. 

            The nose is strong and enjoyable–be warned my strong sends some of you running from the room–spicy with lots of black fruit.  The taste was wonderful, with strong, well-behaved tannins.  I’m not saying you would need to let it breathe or decanter as I’m not even sure it would help, this is a muscular wine.  Red berries splash across the palate, and again the spice.  The French Oak gives the Primus a nice finish.   

            This wine rocks hard like its musical name-sake, but with more focus than the funky jives of Les Claypool.  An excellent value, you can drink it any time from now until 2015.  With 16,000 cases made you should be able to put down the Pork Soda and find your own “Primus” to enjoy. 

Post Script; the Story “Wine Goes off the Deep end” got several responses.  A woman wrote that the Spanish white wine “Sketch” made by Rias Baixas has always been fermented and aged under the sea.  She included a link to wine folly.com which talked about the process. It was a great read check it out. 

            I also heard from a Bourbon aficionado that Trey Zoeller maker of Jefferson’s Bourbon has a new Bourbon called “Ocean” which is aged on a refitted 120 foot Russian fishing trawler.  I understand the bourbon was hauled around the Caribbean for a few months in oak casks.  The whiskey turned almost black, was hugely spicy with lots of licorice and nutmeg, oh and tasted great!

 

Torremoron

IMG_0312 - CopyOh the weather outside is frightful, but the wine I’m sipping is so delightful, I’ve really got no place to go, so pop the cork, let it snow, let it snow!

Yes folks, so far I have survived the great blizzard of 2013. The official Griffy accumulation was 31 inches, if anyone is keeping score, which is really not a great accomplishment considering I’ve survived the Greater Blizzard of 1978, the many blizzards of 2011, and record annual snow fall of 1990-something. The bottom line is that no matter the media hype, snow happens, and it gives us a great excuse to stay inside and drink wine.

I spent this storm sipping a bottle of Torremoron Ribera Del Duero Tempranillo 2011. The label is wine geek heaven: Name of the wine (Torremoron); Wine Region (Ribera Del Duero, Spain) Grape (100% Tempranillo); wine description, age of the vines, soil, elevation, and climate. The yellowy-orange label features a big red M overlaid with a T, classic branding. Despite reading like a parts catalog for an automotive repair company on the surface, inside the bottle is a really good wine for $11.

Torremoron, is a very successful little cooperative located in the town of Quintanamanvirgo (population 106). Bodegas Torremoron has been running since 1957 and has 300 members that control some 500 acres of vineyards. You don’t have to be a math whiz to figure out that it’s a lot of folks with small parcels of land. These are some really old vines, with some reaching up to 120 years of age. Everyone in this town is in the wine business and has been for generations.

The wine is a bright purple color, a joy to look at in your glass when held up to the light. The nose is light by my taste, but has a nice old-world earthiness with red berries. The taste–Ah, now we’re talking–the wine reminded me of a Zinfandel, less body maybe, but excellent flavor. This wine is all about the fruit. It is not aged in wood, but rather in stainless steel, and it makes the finish smooth and memorable. The wine displays great character, a unique interpretation of the Tempranillo grape, and is a remarkable value. If you want to buy a case, feel free, the wine should last two to three years without a problem.

Would a wine snob drink this wine? Probably not, and they’d be missing something. This is an honest wine, made by honest down-to-earth folks. It’s a great example of an artisanal, handcrafted wine rather than a commercial wine with no personality or soul. I suggest you find it, buy it, and enjoy!

Mouton Cadet

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Inspiration, I have found, comes from many places and in many different forms.  Recently, a reader of Griffy on Wine e-mailed me saying, “Griffy, do you have any new $10 gems that you could recommend?” 

Well, though quite by accident, yes! 

The accident started by reading an article in the Hartford Courant.  Now the Hartford Courant is the oldest continuous running newspaper in America, and is about as left wing as you can get.  Me, I’m just slightly right of Attila the Hun.  For years Josephine and I have had a running battle with me canceling our subscription in protest and her renewing it for the coupons. 

However, in this edition the Flavor section had a story about Baron Philippe de Rothschild.  Rothschild is an icon in the wine industry.  He was the first of the great houses of Bordeaux to bring bottling in-house. This eliminated the possibility of the bottlers counterfeiting his pricey wine.  Knockoffs have been a problem since Thomas Jefferson was buying wine.  Shortly after the Second World War, Rothschild started having famous artists design the Mouton Rothschild label for each vintage.  Picasso, Chagall, Miro, Warhol and Dali have all done labels for Rothschild, their payment coming in the form of a case of wine.  Until then wine bottles resembled tombstones or legal documents, Rothschild was the precursor to the hip bottle labels of today.  He was one of the first French winemakers to recognize that  places other than France had good wine and winemakers, and in 1979 partnered with Robert Mondavi in California to create Opus One.  In 1997 Rothschild teamed up with Conchay Y Toro of Chile and Almaviva was born. 

But the Baron’s biggest accomplishment for us budget-conscience wine drinkers was the marketing a second label, lower quality (but good) wines under another brand name.  The idea, originally, was to use up the 1930 vintage which was not considered to be good enough for the Mouton name.  Instead, it became one of the most recognized wines in the world: Mouton Cadet. 

For $18 I got two bottles of Mouton Cadet–one white and one red–and tried both at a dinner with some friends.  The white was a good blend of 65% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Semillon and 5% Muscadelle.  I’m not a white wine guy but this was as good as any white I’ve tasted and better than most.  It went very well with the shrimp and scallop casserole for the first course.  A very light taste of apple and pears highlighted the flavor of the shrimp and the scallops didn’t hide it.   

The red was a little light for me, a typical Bordeaux red.  The wine had only a hint of a nose, taste of light red fruit, and not much of a finish.  For the price it was an okay wine, and to be honest I wasn’t disappointed, but not blown away either.  I paired with pasta with tomato sauce, grilled vegetables and shrimp.  The sauce won the taste contest.  The blend was 65% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc.  For my own tastes, if I was the winemaker I would have reversed the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon mix, which would have produced more taste horsepower.  Then again, that isn’t was Bordeaux is all about. 

On the label of the Mouton Cadet is printed” le vin, il nait puis il vit mais point ne meurt en l’homme il survit.”  After working hard with an online translator I discovered that it roughly translates to, “Wine is born, it lives, but it does not die. It survives in man.”  I think this is a fitting tribute to a man who gave so much to the wine world, Baron Philippe de Rothschild passed away in 1988 at the age of 85, but he lives on in his wines.

Laya

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Bodegas Atalaya Almansa La Atalaya 2009: a.k.a. Laya.  I purchased this wine when I was going through my “Spanish Phase,” and after recently sampling the bottle, I’ve decided I’m not over it.  Spanish wines offer outstanding values and ever increasing quality that is hard to match anywhere.  So, this bottle was already in my cellar when Wine Spectator came out with their 2012 Top 100 list, which has this wine at number 54. 

The wine is from the Almansa region, which is between the high plateau of La Mancha and the cooling effects of the Mediterranean in the southeastern corner of Spain. The Gil family Estates bodega sits at about 2700 feet on limestone soil.  The winemaker is a Spanish-born, Australia-trained Fran Gonzales. 

The wine is a blend of mostly Garnacha Tintorera with a smattering of Monastrell. Aged in French oak for 4 months, the wine is full-bodied, which I like.  This is a great wine to enjoy with friends during loud political conversations.  I paired with pasta with meat sauce and grilled sausages.  It was like watching a cherry red corvette in my glass, the color was very clean and bright. The nose was intense and expressive.  I know I might lose some of you here, as my “intense” sends some of you running from the room, but that’s the way I like my wines.  As for the flavor, it is nice right from the bottle, and the Monastrell does a fine job of softening the Granacha.  This wine is a little on the sweet side for me, a bit of a fruit bomb, but wimpy wine drinkers are advised to approach with caution.  This is a youthful wine with an enjoyable long finish. 

So what we have here is an old world wine blended with new world techniques and vision that offers better-than-average value.  Yes, you can get a wine this good from California, but it will cost you about twice as much.  I think I paid about $12 to $14 for this wine.  With 10,000 cases made you should be able to find your own bottle of Laya to explore.  Let me know what you think.