January's Classic Wine Selections
This month we're highlighting an old favorite zinfandel from one of Jeff's favorite zin producers, a luscious Spanish blend, a fantastic white from Sicily, and your choice from an assortment of amazing sherries.
First off is Ridge's entry level Three Valleys ($22), a primarily zinfandel based blend (74%) Three Valleys is Ridge's proprietary name for their only bottling whose character is determined by blending wines from multiple vineyard sites. This year almost two thirds from Lytton Springs and two adjoining Dry Creek Valley vineyards, a third from Nervo, Mazzoni, Buchignani, Carmichael, and StoneRanch in Alexander Valley, and a very small amount from Pagani in Sonoma Valley. These were combined during a series of blind tastings, creating an appealing wine that is clearly greater than the sum of its parts. Three Valleys represents the blending of vineyardswinemakingat its finest. Zinfandel fruit determines the wine's varietal character; old- vine carignane contributes its own bright fruit and acidity; petite sirah and syrah add peppery spice, depth of color, and firm tannins; grenache brings briar fruit and lively tannins.
We fell in love with the 2005 Bodegas Navarro Bernya $22.50, an organic Monastrell (Mourvèdre) - based blend. Inky purple. Explosively aromatic nose offers a seductive bouquet of blackberry, pungent flowers, oak, spices and minerals. Red and dark berry flavors display impressive depth and purity, building in sweetness with aeration. Supple tannins add gentle support but don't distract from the deep berry flavors. Finishes silky and persistent. Gorgeous! The soft creamy palate created by unbelievably fine tannins is enhanced by the touch of acidity provided to keep your tastebuds alert. It reminds me of when I first bit into a chocolate truffle, as the texture was so creamy, so delicate, yet so intense, my knees buckled. Add the smoky vanilla aroma backed by dark luscious red fruit and you have a beautiful marriage!
Grecanico is one of Sicily's great white wine varietals, and we found the di Giovanna Grecanico ($19) to be a stellar example. Grecanico flourishes in Sicily due to an inherent ability to retain acidity despite searing temperatures.Lemon green in appearance with aromas of pineapple, mango, hazelnut and lavender on the nose. Medium-bodied on the palate with generous flavors of mandarin and passionfruit nicely balanced by a streak of lively acidity.
Set up in 1729, Alvear is one of Spains most prestigious and internationally acclaimed Bodegas, established in Montilla, Spain (next to Xerez). Todays Alvears are the eighth generation and all of their wines are made from Pedro Ximenez grapes, even their Fino. Due to regulations we are not allowed to call these wines, Sherry, but they carry the same varieties, and of course the word Amontillado originated from Montilla. Alvear is famous for their intensely sweet wines, where the grapes are spread out on grass mats to toast in the autumn sun, which dries the grapes until they are nearly raisins. Later, when they are crushed, the grapes will give a dense, raisin juice must, which will be vinified and aged to produce the luscious Pedro Ximenez wines. In 1999, Alvear Pedro Ximenez was voted by Spains wine critics as the best wine in the country, beating Artadi 1995 and Vega Sicilia 1981.
Here's the lineup, from dry to sweet:
Fino en Rama $17 Fresh pale color, baked bread yeastiness, bone dry and savory. Pair with shellfish, cheese, olives, and salads.
Carlos VII Amontillado $24 Dry wine, with chesnut brown color. Well-developed bouquet, nutty and dried fig flavors. Silky dry with a long finish. Pair with nuts, smoked foods and cheeses.
Asuncion Oloroso $24 Dark hues, rich amber color. Deep raisiny aroma, silky on the palate, with a dry, full, long finish. Pair with desserts or as an aperitif.
Pedro Ximenez 1927 Solera $19.50 Deep mahogony color, chocolate, prunes, fruity fragrance. Raisiny in the mouth, smooth texture. Sweet, with plenty of character. Pair with blue cheeses, ice cream, or fruit salad.
Pedro Ximenez Añada $28 Amber col,or, clean, light, raisiny with a pleasant fruitiness. A great dessert wine that pairs with pastry.
Solera Cream $24 When an Oloroso is sweetened with some sweeter Pedro Ximenez, it becomes a cream sherry. Full, but soft aroma, full flavor with a clean finish. Serve on it's own as a liquer, or with patés, coffees, nuts or pastries.