Monday, May 31, 2010


Avalon Napa has always been one of my favorite go-to wines when a customer was looking for a Napa Valley Cabernet (but didn’t want to spend $25+ for a really nice bottle). I remember that while enjoying my first Avalon Napa I thought it was a straight California Cabernet, but after a bit of research I discovered that it was 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Merlot with a tiny (4%) hint of Syrah. I LOVE blends! They truly give you the best of each of the varietals – and none of the ‘bad’… For instance, a straight Cabernet unblended, is very tannic and often described as astringent, or having a ‘black tea’ aspect. While Merlot on its own can be (at times) too soft, too fruity, too round, and for many Cab drinkers, Merlot is just a bit too “too.” But, when you bring these grapes together in the bottle you create a marriage of the structure, power and firmness of the Cabernet with the silky, supple fruit of the Merlot – Ahhh, a marriage made in Napa! But, what of the Syrah? What does it bring to the bottle? I’m glad you asked – Syrah is one of the four most tannic (and acidic) grapes produced today, but when judiciously blended, it imparts a whisper of spice and blackberry to the mix – and what marriage doesn’t need a little spice?! $16 @WM

Hey, it’s not just me… Even Parker likes it:
Rating: 87 “Sweet aromas of blackcurrants, smoke, damp earth, licorice, and spice. Medium bodied and pure... It has been at least twenty years since I have had a Napa Cabernet this good for under $15 a bottle.”
—Robert Parker (August, 2008)


Friday, May 28, 2010

Don Martino Reserva Malbec

The world of wine is just as quixotic as the fashion world, but instead of fishnets and platforms, what’s hot and what’s not in wine often revolves around the economy and media – remember Sideways and what it did for Pinot Noir (and to Merlot?).

Right now, Malbec is the new Pinot Noir, consumers can’t get enough of this juicy red from Argentina. We have an entire bay, 20 facings, devoted to Malbec – that’s more than Merlot, more than Zinfandel, and more than Pinot Noir - Malbec is HOT!

Entry-level Malbec makes an enjoyable wine, generally distinguished by plummy dark-fruit flavors, subtle tastes of the earth and good acidity, all of which makes it a worthy food wine. Use it in your marinades, sauces and gravies, but save a little for the cook!

Today we'll focus on an upscale Malbec with plenty of acclaim in the industry – Martino "Reserva" Malbec - 2003 - 91 Points, Wine Enthusiast Magazine and 2003 - 91 Points, Wine and Spirits Magazine. Our staff previewed this wine at one of our beverage meetings and it was the overwhelming favorite of the 12 wines tasted that day.

The winemaker tells us that the Martino "Reserva" Malbec comes from the his favorite block at the Eastern end of the Vina Violeta property. Grapes from this end produce a wine with a bit more structure and concentration. The wine also sees twice as much time in oak, adding a soft, seductive vanilla note. Use your Vinturi aerator, or decant for about an hour before enjoying this big guy!

91 Points, Wine Enthusiast Magazine “Very nice and controlled, as a maturing high-end Malbec from a good vintage should be. It’s full of ripe and classy fruit, leather and hints of finely aged gouda cheese. The palate is chewy but not thick, with balancing acidity and tannins. The fruit quality is up there, and thus the flavors of blackberry and cassis mixed with coffee and cream work wonders. Drink now and over the next year or two.” - M.S. (1/31/2009) - 91

$27 @ World Market

Find it ~ Buy it ~ Try it ~ Love it!
Salud` KathyD

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Meet 337’s Little Sister – Born in France, Raised in America

The 181 merlot clone traces its origins to Pomerol in Bordeaux, where it was valued due to its suitability to the red clay soils of the region. The red soils of the Clay Station Vineyard in Lodi are similar to the red soils in Pomerol, making 181 the perfect clone to grow rich, luscious merlot.

A classic Bordeaux-style Merlot, 181 is bursting with plush tannins and notes of black cherry, stone fruit and spice. Flavors of currant and spicy cedar end with a lingering, luxurious finish.

This Merlot is SEXY! Plush and Sumptuous, Yet Well-Behaved... Darn!  Merlot is back, but she never left...  She remains the 3rd most popular varietal in America.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pick a Number... 337 Cabernet Sauvignon

So, what’s with the numbers?

Not all Cabernet Sauvignon vines are created equal.Throughout centuries of cultivation Cabernet Sauvignon vines have experienced several natural genetic mutations, creating “clones” that are known for their specific traits.

The 337 Cabernet Sauvignon Clone, when grown in ideal conditions, produces a wine that is bold, but luscious, with notes of spice and dark berries. Supple tannins and a lack of vegetal flavors result in a moderately ‘softer’ wine than most other Cabernet Sauvignon clones can achieve.

Named for the French vine clone, 337 is an alluring expression of a California Cabernet Sauvignon with prestigious Bordeaux roots. The vines are cultivated for structure and flavor in the cobblestones of Lodi’s Clay Station Vineyard, making a wine that exudes seductive aromas of mocha and dark cherry. An explosion of spice and blackberry unwinds to a velvety, luscious finish.

Salud` KathyD

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sauvignon Blanc ~ Perfect Summer Sipper

Usually at this time of the year a wine drinker's fancy turns to a glass of something crisp, clean, cool and refreshing, at least mine does!

Normally I head for the New Zealand aisle to hunt down something truly iconic (and delicious!).  But, instead, this past week I cruised on over to the California SB aisle and sidled up close and personal to Robert Mondavi's Napa Valley Fumé Blanc. Why deviate from the wines that the Kiwi's are famous for and that I usually love?

Well, it might be because two weeks ago I traveled through the Napa/Sonoma wine country and enjoyed one of the best Sauvignon Blancs that I have had in almost a decade - you got it... The Mondavi Napa Valley Fumé Blanc, although I think the one we tried during our trade tour tasting and dinner was the '08. (Yep, just checked the menu for that evening... 2008). It was paired perfectly with little appetizer tasting spoons that were filled with a bit of goat cheese, fresh herbs and lemon zest drizzled with citrus vinaigrette. My mouth waters at the memory!  But, that's the thing about Sauvignon Blanc (a GOOD one, anyway)... They make your mouth water at the first sip.  It's that bracing acidity that zings across your palate and readies it for whatever delectable morsels are to come. SB is a great food wine, it can handle the creamiest sauces, and the tartest vinaigrette, during the same meal.

During our tasting and dinner at Mondavi, I related to Inger (Inger Shiffler, Senior Wine Educator at Robert Mondavi) that I usually shy away from domestic Sauvignon Blanc due to the presence of oak, vanilla and all the rest of those warm climate, barrel fermented or aged nuances that come along with the oak. I went on to tell her that in four years at World Market I hadn't actively hand-sold a domestic Sauvignon Blanc due to my feelings about the oak - the Mondavi Fumé Blanc included... She was surprised and delighted that my mind had been changed by one sip of her beautiful wine, how could I NOT love it? Aromas of guava and lemon-lime, rich mouth-feel, zesty on the tongue and a long, silky finish. Ahhhh. Love at first sip!

Since returning to the store, I have purchased half a case for my personal cellar and sold several bottles each to three customers, I guess I'm trying to make up for lost time!


Salud` ~ KathyD
 2007 Robert Mondavi Napa  - 92% SB and 8% Semillon - read below for reviews and winemaker's notes:
*****Be on the lookout for an '08 or the '09 if it's out, Sauvignon Blanc is always at its most refreshing in its youth, but my 2007 is still excellent! KD

91 points and an Editors' Choice from the Wine Enthusiast: "Always one of Napa's best Fumé (Sauvignon) Blancs, Mondavi's basic bottling is so good, it tastes like it has some grapes from the famed Tokalon Vineyard. It's a rich, pure wine, brimming with gooseberry, fig, green melon and white pepper flavors, accented with zesty acidity. Great food wine, and a bargain at this price." And, according to Wine Spectator: "Zingy and refreshing, offering a light-bodied, mouthwatering version of lemon-lime, pear, quince, mineral, slate and herb flavors that are focused and intense. Drink now." (Tasting Highlights, 05/09)

Cline Cashmere 2008

Ahhh, I love our Beverage meetings! I always come away with a new favorite, or having experienced a renewed appreciation for a forgotten wine sampled long ago.

My selection today is from Cline, a great producer in California who consistently turns out wines of high caliber and extreme ‘drinkability’ at value prices.

At yesterday’s meeting we sampled about 10 wines - the one that my tasting notes reflected as standing head and shoulders above the others was the Cline Cashmere, a wine that we have carried for many years.

A southern Rhone-styled wine out of California, the Cashmere pays tribute to the Chateauneauf du Pape region with its traditional CDP blending of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.

I must admit to having a secret love for this blend of grapes; GSMs have long been at the top of my favorite’s list and when I saw the Cashmere was on the table for the meeting I danced for joy! (Well, not really, but I was dancing inside!) My very detailed notes on this wine are copied below:

“GSM ~ Cline Cashmere ~ YUMMY!”

Okay, so I’m not Robert Parker; I’m just a person who loves wine and although I appreciate a wide variety of styles and varietals, having a GSM just floats my boat.

The deep color, huge aromatics, beautiful fruit and rich mouth-feel are compelling; the wine ends with some soft, yet firm, tannins – it all comes together in a wine that you just can’t put down. Glass, after glass, bottle after bottle, you’ll love this wine and wish you had bought more!

Read the accolades for the Cline Cashmere, and the winemaker’s notes below.

$13.99 p/bottle

Size Does Matter: When it comes to wine glasses, bigger is better!

In the market for some new stemware to enhance your enjoyment of your wine experience? Not really?
Maybe you think any old glass will do the trick, after all - it's just a beverage, something to quench your thirst or wash down your dinner. If that's your thought process, I beg you to indulge me by reading onward!

Riedel, the Austrian maker of varietal specific stemware, travels the world over giving glassware seminars to wine industry professionals. During the course of the class each participant sits at a table with one bottle of Syrah and four types of wine glasses before them: a heavy restaurant or bar red-wine glass with a thick rim at the top; a smaller wine glass suitable for a generic white wine; the appropriate Syrah glass – large with a deep, wide bowl and a narrow opening; and a plastic tumbler that one would get at an outdoor pool party or 4th of July gathering.

A three-ounce pour of the Syrah goes into every glass, participants are then asked to evaluate the aroma of the wine in each glass and then the flavor of the wine. The restaurant glass is first, swirl then sniff - this wine smells floral, with strong alcohol aromas. The white-wine glass is next: swirl then sniff – lighter floral, a touch of red fruit and also high alcohol aromas. The Syrah glass is third: swirl then sniff – big red red fruits and berries followed by chocolate, some spiciness from the barrel and a deeper expression of the Syrah grape. Lastly, the plastic tumbler: swirl then sniff – hmmm, sniff some more, swirl some more, sniff some more – there are no aromatics from this glass. Its physics, in wine vessels with wide openings the aroma is diluted instead of being captured in the narrow opening of the glass.

Why is aroma so important? 80% of what you taste is in the smell… If you smell nothing, you will taste nothing. The larger the glass, the more surface area inside for the wine to cling to when you swirl, the more aromatics you will experience, therefore the better your wine will taste! Try it for yourself, I think you’ll agree – Size does matter!

Salud` !


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