Wine Review: Michael Mondavi Family Estate "Animo" Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

2010 is the first vintage of this single-vineyard, cab-based red from Atlas Peak, and a highly successful inaugural effort it is. Sourced from a 15-acre parcel and located between 1270 and 1350 feet in elevation, this is a wine produced in a run of less than 900 cases and that promises to be among the more in-demand new releases of the year. I strongly recommend it.

Michael Mondavi Family Estate “Animo” Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Atlas Peak
83% Cabernet Sauvignon / 17% Petit Verdot
SRP $85
Web site: Click  here

Aromas of cedar, sandalwood, pencil led, spice, and currants are both exotic and classic all at once: Beautiful. Flavors of currants, cedar, a bit of coconut, pencil, and charred sage are buttressed by tannins that are still a bit drying at this stage, but that promise, with the balanced acidity, to allow this excellent wine to age for another decade and a half. The finish hints at lavender and violets, as well as black currants and oak that still will absorb for another couple of years. Delicious, honest wine. One for the cellar. Drink 2015 - 2028+.


Wine Review: Quinta da Romaneira "Sino da Romaneira" Tinto 2009

Quinta da Romaneira "Sino da Romaneira" Tinto 2009
Douro Valley, Portugal
30% Tinta Roriz / 25% Touriga Nacional / 25% Touriga Franca / 20% Tinto Cão
Web site: Click here

Aromas of sweet, fresh purple berry fruit, plum, black cherry and currant are joined by spice and a hint of tobacco. This is a rich well of aromatic complexity that leads to flavors of blackberry, black currant, and a bit of cafe mocha and spice. Structured by maturing yet still quite present tannins, this mineral-tinged wine is brightened up with a nice hit of balancing acidity and finishes on a note of black tea and flowers. Well made, velvety in texture, and still with plenty of pleasure left to give. Drink now - 2020.


Pinot Grigio that Challenges Conventional Wisdom

Poor Pinot Grigio: When crafted with care and attention to detail, and from fruit that hasn’t been overcropped, it has the potential to be stunning. The problem is that, over the years, it’s become synonymous with insipid, mass-produced plonk that rarely rises to the level of interesting, much less inspiring.

But all hope is not lost. Producers like Silvio Jermann, Cantina Terlan and Elena Walch, among others, are not just challenging what has unfortunately become received Pinot Grigio wisdom, but they are doing so with style and substance to spare, crafting bottlings that are utterly delicious.

I recently received samples of two standouts from Elena Walch, and recommend them strongly: They’re not only delicious on their own terms, but they also just may change your perception of Pinot Grigio in general.

Elena Walch Pinot Grigio 2013, Alto Adige
Bright aromas of hard apple and Seckel pear are framed with a distinct minerality and a hint of lime and lemon. On the palate, this is bracing, with slate-like minerality joining fresh squeezed lime and a hint of lemon verbena, and the finish speaks of slate, granite, springtime flowers, and citrus. Vivid, brisk, and detailed. Drink now - 2016.

Elena Walch Pinot Grigio “Castel Ringberg” 2012, Alto Adige

Almost white-Rhone-like on the nose, with wax, apricots, heady stone fruits and a subtle sense of spice, as well as a background note of warm mineral. On the palate, this has weight-giving depth to its lemon-juice-brightened flavors of hard apricot and peach, crunchy apple, and a touch of honey on the finish. Layered and elegant with muscle pulsing through it. Drink now - 2018+.


A Cognac-Cask Reposado from Herradura

Like most things in life, too much of a good thing can all too easily devolve into being…well, a bad thing. Remember the dark days when the quality of a Chardonnay was, in the popular imagination, inextricably tied to the amount of oak it had been subjected to? That unfortunate decade when overripe fruit was ritually flogged into some sense of perceived submission at the hands of overzealous winemakers responding to the overwhelming (yet inexplicable) yearning for a beverage that tasted more like a liquefied popsicle stick than wine?

Yeah, I’ve tried to blot it all out of my mind, too.

But what does all of this have to do with the tequila under consideration today? Nothing, thankfully. Because just like wine, spirits, too, can find themselves thoroughly overwhelmed by wood, losing most of the character that made them so special in the first place.

This tequila, however—part of Herradura’s excellent “Collectión de la Casa”—gets it just right, and could easily serve as an example for other producers who dream of spicing things up with their spirit but don’t want to jump the proverbial shark.

Which is something that Herradura doesn’t have to worry about: The deft touch exhibited here is calibrated finely enough that the tequila itself is still the driving force behind each sip; the oak simply helps it all along, imparting even more character, and an unexpected twist, on a spirit that you may not have thought needed the extra Cognac-cask prod, but that absolutely benefits from it.

Tequila Herradura Colección de la Casa “Cognac Cask Finish” Reposado Reserva 2013

Aromas of caramel and green herbs, all edged with a hint of clove and a subtle whiff of saffron, lead to butterscotch, pepper, and apricot mingling with crème brûlée and a lingering note of cedar. Well-crafted, and a nice addition to any tequila collection.