September 29, 2008
Cielo Malibu Estate Wineyards
2006 Malibu Rouge
Saddle Rock-Malibu, CA
The glamorous, sun-kissed beaches and hillsides of Malibu, California, are best known for their celebrity residents, from Mel Gibson to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. But what most people don’t realize is that, in addition to providing a private haven for the world’s biggest celebs, Malibu has provided a nurturing environment for grapes since Catholic missionaries planted the region’s first vines centuries ago. Among the handful of vintners making big business out of Malibu’s coastal growing climate is Cielo. A relative newcomer, this blossoming boutique winery is making some big waves on the Southern California wine scene. Cielo’s five-acre hillside vineyard produces Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, and its Malibu Rouge is a blend of all four varietals. The wine is light in color and body for a blend of such big grapes. However, the bright acidity—a distinctly Malibu characteristic—helps add structure and a pleasing bite. Up front, there is cherry, ripe tomato and a hint of mesquite. As it crosses the palate, the wine seems to grow in flavor and complexity, and by the end, Rouge hits you with delicious blackberry, black currant, pepper and clove. It is the right sort of red for the transition to autumn. Serve it with pasta and the last of the summer’s tomatoes, or pair with a spiced fall stew.
Other Red Blends we have tasted
Check out our guide to California
For more information, visit www.cielofarms.com
September 22, 2008
V IS FOR VIVID
Bunnell Family Cellar
Columbia Valley, WA
Capping his winemaking career that includes stints at well-known wineries such as Beringer Vineyards, Kendall-Jackson, and most recently, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Ron Bunnell now makes wines with his wife, Susan, their children—Amelia and Alex—and Susan's mother, Paula. The Bunnell Family Cellar, located on a hillside at RiverAerie—the family’s seven-acre farm along the banks of Washington’s Yakima River—produces an assortment of handcrafted Rhône varietals. Using Syrah, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Cinsault and Grenache grapes from local growers, the Bunnells make their wines in small, open-top fermentors. Their 2006 Vif ("Vif" being a French word for lively and vivid), is a proprietary blend of Rhône varietals, and is reminiscent of the Rhône Valley’s country wines. The 2006 vintage was aged for eighteen months in American and Hungarian barrels in the winery’s underground barrel cellar, with only 307 cases eventually being made. This red blend reveals cinnamon and clove on the nose, and bright red fruit flavors on the palate with a long raspberry finish.
Other Red Blends we have tasted
Check out our guide to Washington
For more information, visit www.bunnellfamilycellar.com
September 15, 2008
BAY STATE BUBBLY
2003 Brut Cuvee RJR
Although Westport Rivers specializes in New England sparkling wine, the winery, a family-owned operation founded in 1982, has also found success with Massachusetts-grown Riesling, Pinot Blanc and award-winning Chardonnay. Westport River’s owners, the Russell family, also operate Buzzards Bay Brewing and own over 300 acres of farmland. Their mission, beyond creating world-class wines and beers, is to preserve and educate the local community so that Southern Massachusetts’ residents will be able to eat locally and eat well for generations to come. This bubbly from the Bay State is a little outside the norm of our Wine of the Week, but it is also way outside the norm of American sparkling wines. Its whopping case production of 3,800 is nearly double that of the wines we typically feature. However, its production and distribution are limited enough to make it one of those special little finds worth seeking. A blend of 63 percent Pinot Noir and 37 percent Chardonnay, Cuvee RJR is a fine expression of the quality of New England fruit. It is the wine Westport Rivers credits with putting their winery “on the map,” and to the rest of the U.S., it is an emblem of the sophistication to which East Coast winemaking has risen. A thick mousse, bright fruit, lively acidity and a mere hint of toast make RJR the sort of wine you don’t want to put down. It is crisp enough to awaken the palate at brunch, a smart choice as a palate cleanser, yet big enough to serve with dinner or a late-night plate of cheese. And with a price point under $30, RJR is a wine you can afford to serve at any and all occasions.
Other Sparkling Wines & Champagnes we
Check out our guide to Massachusetts
For more information, visit www.westportrivers.com
September 8, 2008
EXPENSIVE, BUT WORTH IT
Pine Ridge Vineyards
Napa Valley, CA
The year 1983 marked two major milestones for Stacy Clark. The vivacious blonde graduated from U.C. Davis with a degree in Fermentation Science, and took a job as enologist at Pine Ridge Vineyards in Napa Valley. She had no idea that she would be still be working there twenty-five years later, the last twenty as the winemaker. She is celebrating both anniversaries by releasing her 2005 Fortis, which means wine lovers around the world get to join the party and toast her longevity with her delightful creation. This is the third year Clark has made this ultra-reserve Cabernet, and it appears that the third time is indeed the charm. Although last year’s blend did not have enough of the particular varietal to qualify as a Cabernet, this vintage is 83 percent Cab, 9 percent Merlot, 4 percent Petit Verdot, and 4 percent Malbec. While the Pine Ridge winery is located in the Stag’s Leap District, their holdings incorporate a number of other Napa Valley AVAs. This allows Clark to pick and choose the estate fruit (which is hand-harvested at night) from their best blocks in Oakville, Rutherford, and Carneros to get the optimal ingredients for her “tête de cuvée.” The wine was aged in French oak barrels for 18 months, and 2,200 cases were bottled in March of 2008. After a complex nose that includes toffee and pomegranate, the first taste reveals how well-balanced, structured, round and smooth this wine truly is. The creamy texture helps the tannins to blend in as opposed to leap out from the glass, and leaves us wanting more. Enjoy it with grilled lamb, hard cheese, or savor it by itself. If you can, try to keep another bottle around to toast Clark’s thirtieth anniversary at Pine Ridge, but that is no easy task.
Other Cabernet Sauvignons we
Check out our guide to Napa Valley
For more information, visit www.pineridgewinery.com
September 1, 2008
A CULT DOWN UNDER
Barossa Valley, Australia
In a region like the Barossa Valley, competition among Shiraz producers is stiff. But Groom Wines’ latest release is definitely a standout, even among names like Elderton and Grant Burge. While the winery is a relative newcomer, owner Daryl Groom is no stranger to Barossa Valley fruit. Groom was the chief red wine maker for Penfolds from 1984 to 1990, meaning he was the man who made the world’s most highly touted Shiraz: Grange. Groom moved to the United States in 1990 to work with Peak Wines—the owners of Geyser Peak among other wineries. Today, he continues to work with Peak as Vice President of Winemaking and Operations in addition to running his namesake boutique winery. Groom and his wife Lisa plan on producing wines from both American and Australian fruit, but for now offer a Barossa Zinfandel, an Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc and the aforementioned Barossa Valley Shiraz. With its beautiful structure and minute case production, Groom’s 2006 Shiraz could become Australia’s next cult wine. A nose of black cherry, currant and cocoa precedes a fruit-dominated palate with dusty tannins and pleasantly biting acid. Underlying masculine notes of leather and anise add complexity. Groom’s is an extremely restrained Shiraz by Australian standards, allowing the region’s sunlight and soil to shine rather than relying on the winemaker’s imprint. In the glass, it is positively the essence of Barossa terroir and pairs well with the region’s German immigrant cuisine of smoked meats and schnitzel.
Other Syrah/Shiraz we
Check out our guide to Australia
For more information, visit www.groomwines.com
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