Archive for May, 2010

BBQ and a few wines with friends

May 27, 2010 2 comments

Adi Hadean cooked in Bucharest last SUN his famous BBQ’s. The event was hosted by Verde cafe, a very friendly and homey place on str Domnita Ruxandra and was an “all you can eat” event. I became a fan of Adi’s food instantly as all I ate was extremely tasty: both the meat and the vegetables. Everything was paired with some lovely wines we managed to bring with us from home. It was a good thing we brought our own stuff as, unfortunately, for the moment Verde Cafe has only 3 wines listed on their menu. And those are not inspired choices. So the wines we had:

Monty’s Hill Chardonnay 2008 – This wine was one of the 3 choices from their menu. I will not comment the wine as I could not drink more than a sip. Better don’t order it.

Maurel 2008

In my opinion was the wine of the meal. A white clear almost oily deep gold color wine. The nose is not a bomb but you can still feel white flowers, tropical fruits and a little bit of oak, everything nicely balanced. In the mouth the wine is concentrated, round, lovely mouth-feel, with almost a creamy structure on the palate, nice acidity balancing dried stone fruits and a nice honey flavor(which I like a lot in a white wine) with a medium plus  aftertaste. Lovely wine. Very good+

Le cabernet sauvignon by Comtesse du Barry

This is an everyday red wine that is selling for 30 RON at Le Manoir. The wine has a clear red color. The nose shows red fruits. In the mouth the wine is light to medium body with red and a few dark fruits with a short plus aftertaste. Not very complex, more like a uni-dimensional wine. Good

Dourthe No 1 2007

This is a bigger wine with a deep dark red color. The nose is more complex with some nice greenness, asparagus, green bell pepper and ripe red fruits. In the mouth the wine is round, medium body with a nice structure, ripe red fruits and hints of vanilla, finishing with a medium aftertaste. The wine is a successful example of a nice Bordeaux at an affordable price. 55 RON at Le Manoir.Good+ to Very good

Ceptura Clasic – Rose de Ceptura 2009

This was preferred by most of the girls at the table. I am not a fan of Rose’s but the wine has nice aromatics of red fruits and floral flavors. What troubles me is the high alcohol level for a wine that is supposed to be consumed on a hot summer day: 14.4% alc. So based on the reaction of friends from the table this will become a blockbuster rose this summer.

If you hear about a cooking event with Adi, don’t think twice before booking a seat as you will not be disappointed by the food and you’ll probably end up like me: wanting to taste again and again his food.

Thanks for reading…

Categories: Bordeaux, Romania, Spain

2000 Grof Degenfeld Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos and Clos Marie cuvee Simon 2007

I had these two wines on SAT together with some tasty home cooked French food and very nice company. I hope our guest, Alecsandra, had a good time and enjoyed the wines and the food as much as I did.

The menu,with one small exception, was home cooked with ingredients brought from my recent trip to France: duck prepared in two different ways.

We started initially with some old fashioned foie-gras and confiture d’oignons paired with a 10 years old Tokaj Aszu 5 Puttonyos: a marvelous combination.

2000 Grof Degenfeld Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos

Price: 18-20 EUR

The wine has a beautiful clear gold-amber color. The nose shows apricots, lychee, caramel and pineapple. In the mouth the wine has a nice acidity, is unctuous on the palate, medium plus body with discreet orange cream, lots of dried apricots, honey, caramelized pineapple and some fresh grapefruit notes. The aftertaste is long with beautiful caramel and fresh fruit. Excellent+

The next dish was a tasty salad with smoked duck breast, ruccola, cherry tomatoes roasted in olive oil, nuts and peaches. Continued to serve the Tokaj together with this dish and it paired nicely.

The next dish was a little more complex: medium-rare magret de canard, baked baby potatoes with rosemary, grilled baby garlic and blueberries gravy with 3 spices.

For this dish, choosing the wine was initially a challenge, as I wanted to try the Clos Marie cuvee Simon 2007. Fortunately after 3 h in the decanter the wine proved to be a perfect match.

Clos Marie cuvee Simon 2007

Price: 22-25 EUR

This wine is produced in Pic Saint Loup, an area in Coteaux du Languedoc AOC. One of my all time favorite producers comes from this region being considered the Cru Exceptionelle of the AOC – Chateau de Cazeneuve with its two top cuvee’s: Roc de Mates and Sang du Calvaire. Both these two cuvee’s, selling for 21 and 35 EUR, could be found in Bucharest in a store on Calea Dorobantilor.

Pic Saint Loup is the name of a mountain (658 m alt), 20 km north of Montpellier, which is central to the small adjacent wine region. Chateau de Cazeneuve is a small producer and its wines are the favorites of quite a few Michelin stars chefs. Clos Marie was created in 1994 , beginning with 8 hectares, 75% of which were uprooted and replanted. It is today a 20 hectares vineyard, all bio dynamic.

The Simon 2007 cuvee is an opaque dark red/purple wine. If I am not mistaking this is a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache. The nose is quite tight even after 3 h in the decanter showing discreet flavors of ripe red fruits, olives and cocoa. In the mouth the wine is medium to full body, with dry tannins, ripe red fruits, smoke, licorice, white  pepper and cocoa. There is certainly a meaty character here. Initially the wine showed a certain heat from the 14% alc, but paired with magret de canard the wine showed nicely balanced and came more as a Bordeaux. The aftertaste is medium and dry. This wine benefits a lot from pairing with food. Good+

Thanks for reading…

Solaia 2000, Majorum 2006 and Gerard Bertrand Le Viala 2005

May 24, 2010 4 comments

It is always nice to end a working week with a great and relaxing dinner with friends. Plus this week we celebrated my wife’s name anniversarry so more reasons to party. Therefore FRI evening we had a lovely dinner in good company with our friends: Calin and Annemarie and in the company of some impressive wines.

Solaia 2000

Price: 120-150 EUR

Solaia, which means “the sunny one” in Italian, is a 10 ha southwest facing vineyard planted 351-396 m above sea level on stony calcareous soil of marl and friable albarese rock. It is located at Santa Cristina, cheek by jowl with the renowned Tignanello vineyard, in the Mercatale Val di Pesa zone of Chianti Classico.

Antinori first produced a single-vineyard wine from this site in the 1978 vintage, but this was a limited release in Italy only. Because of the “non Chianti” grapes used (the Cabernets), Solaia was classified as a lowly Vino da Tavola di Toscana rather than DOCG Chianti Classico. Solaia is a blend of 80% Cabernet and 20% Sangiovese.

Initially, the 2000 Solaia was considered over priced for what it was. Now, 10 years later from the vintage, the wine evolved nicely. The wine is very Bordeaux style. The cork was almost entirely wet so I have some doubts about how well the rest of the bottles will be preserved, even though, no doubt, the wine can last more years.

The wine has an opaque dark red color with orange rims showing signs of maturity. The nose is complex, sweet initially, evolving during 4 h between earth, leather, plums, green bell pepper, asparagus, dark cherry, dark chocolate. In the mouth this medium body wine has a velvety mouth feel, nice acidity, a very nice structure with plums, earth, sour cherry, leather. The wine has a long aftertaste with lovely sour cherry and dark chocolate finish.  The wine shows a lovely complexity starting initially with a sweet nose and finishing in a lovely bitter aftertaste. The wine had quite a lot of sediment. Excellent

Pouilly-Fume, also known as Pouilly Blanc Fume and Blanc Fume de Pouilly, is one of the Loire’s most famous wines, perfumed dry whites that epitomize the Sauvignon Blanc grape. Sauvignon here is often called Blanc Fume, because wines made from this variety when grown on the predominantly limestone soils, with some flint (silex), supposedly exhibit a “smoky” flavour, or whiff gunflint (pierre a fusil). The wines are certainly perfumed, sometimes almost acrid, and it takes extensive local knowledge reliably to distinguish Sancerres and Pouilly-Fumes in a blind tasting of both. Pouilly-Fume is arguably a more homogeneous appellation than Sancerre. Unlike that of Sancerre , the Pouilly-Fume appellation applies only to white wines. The best Pouilly-Fume (such as the range produced by Didier Dageneau) is perhaps a denser, more ambitiously longlived liquid than Sancerre, for drinking at 2 or 6 years, rather than one or four(there are also exceptions). Some producers began experimenting with oak for both fermentation and maturation in the mid 1980s and the wines of the region have become more complex. Pouilly-Fume’s minimum alcoholic strength is 11 per cent. In the 1970s and 1980s, Puilly-Fume was much favoured by fashion, and the total area planted with Sauvignon increased considerably. In the mid 2000s, it totalled about 1000ha.

Majorum 2006

Price: 50-60 EUR

The wine has a deep clear yellow-gold color. The wine was chilled initially too much at 4 Celsius degrees and as it got warmer the nose has evolved considerably. Initially the nose shows only mineral flavors but after a while it reveals very intense aromas of tropical fruits, a touch of honey, white and yellow flowers. In the mouth the wine is very thick, quite long, mouth-filling, off-dry(no residual sugar), very complex and with multiple layers: notes of honey, nuts and tropical fruits. Medium plus aftertaste. This is a memorable white wine. Excellent

Gerard Bertrand “Le Viala” 2005

Price: 30 EUR

Gerard Bertrand is an ex-rugby international. He has a sizeable operation, with some 250 hectares of vines spread across some fine Languedoc terroirs. In addition, Bertrand operates in partnership with 40 growers and 10 coops in the region. Expansion here has been quite recent, with the development of the brand at Château l’Hospitalet (in the La Clape region of the Languedoc) in 2002. La Clape property has 52 hectares of vines and is now the showpiece of the operation. Also, Bertrand has 110 hectares in the Corbières, 50 hectares in Minervois la Livinière, and 40 hectares at Cigalus (this wine is classified as Vin de Pays d’Oc). The range of wines produced is extensive and is stratified into six lines, designated both by AOC and also by grape variety. ‘Parcel’ sits at the top, then there are the ‘H’ range and ‘Properties’ range at the next level, then ‘Terroir’ and ‘Collection’ just below them, then ‘Classic’ at the bottom.

The wine has an opaque dark red-purple color. The nose reveals red fruits, strawberry, ripe dark cherries, dark pepper, all covered by a nice lactic flavor. In the mouth the wine has firm tannins to ensure a further 5-8 years aging potential, a medium plus body, nice velvet structure with plums, earth, mocha, a lot of fruit to balance the 14.5% alc and to make this a juicy wine. The wine finishes in a medium dry aftertaste. Very good

Thanks for reading…

Categories: France, Italy

M Chapoutier Cornas Les Arenes 2007 and Pouilly Fuisse Domaine Valette Tradition 2005

Cornas is a wine appellation in the northern Rhone with the potential to provide serious challengers to Hermitage on the opposite bank to the north. Cornas was renowned in the era of Charlemagne, and in the 18th century, but many of the terraced vineyards on its steep south-facing granite slopes fell into decline in the early 20th century. The appellation experienced a revival of interest in the late 1980s with the arrival of ambitious newcomers prepared to reestablish the terraces needed for high quality vineyards, so that by the mid 2000 there were almost 100 ha of vineyards in the production. Starting with the early 1990s new techniques have been used: new oak and destemming, an anathema to Auguste Clape, the standard bearer during the lean years of the 1970s. Perhaps because Clape’s very traditional wines demand considerable bottle age, Cornas gained a reputation as a long-living wine, but the likes of Thierry Allemandm, Eric et Joel Durand, Vincent Paris and Domaine du Tunnel are making a much more luscious style of Cornas.

Many of the best slopes such as Les Renards in the south are well sheltered from the cold north winds and enjoy some of the best positions in the northern Rhone. Cornas can provide some of the most satisfying red wine drinking, and offers a much more uniform and dependable quality level than the elastic St Joseph appellation to the immediate north.

M Chapoutier Cornas Les Arenes 2007

Price:42 EUR

The wine has a clear dark red/purple color. The nose reveals a mix of red fruits, light dark cherry,  black pepper. In the mouth the wine is medium body, initially over powered by alcohol, but that faded away during the tasting, with rich red fruits, sour red cherry, licorice; the wine is silky on the palate. The wine is drinking nicely already and finishes in a short to medium aftertaste.I don’t think that this wine justifies its high price. Good+

I also tasted a Chapoutier Crozes Hermitage 2007 that was selling for 30 EUR that I found better than the Cornas. I liked the red fruit and dark chocolate aftertaste in the wine.

My general experience with Chapoutier wines has not been very successful so far. I tasted: Chateauneuf du pape La Bernardine 2005 and 2006, Belleruche 2006, Coteaux du Tricastin 2006,  plus a couple more and now Cornas and Crozes Hermitage. I didn’t find the wines appealing at all. Certainly not for the prices they sell for. Perhaps the premium cuvee’s are justifying their cost, but I’ll not venture to try them on my expense.

Pouilly Fuisse is an important white wine appellation which commands the highest prices in the Maconnais district of Burgundy. The appellation, restricted to the Chardonnay grape, includes about 850 ha in the communes of Fuisse(the most powerful wines), Solutre(the richest wines), Vergisson(most minerality) and Chaintre(the softest wines). There is no concept of Premier Cru vineyards in this appellation but Pouilly Fuisse may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard. A popular myth is that the soil beneath the crags was enriched by the remains of animals driven from the top of the cliff by Stone Age hunters. The wines are full body and ripe but do not usually attain the elegance of the finer wines from the Cote de Beaune. Normally bottled after a year’s barrel maturation, they are capable of aging well thereafter. Prices can vary a lot depending on the demands of major export markets in a given year.

Domaine Valette  – Tradition 2005

Price: 25 EUR

The wine has a clear emerald gold color. The nose is pretty tight with little butter and some mineral flavors. In the mouth the wine is rich, full body, with mineral notes, toasted almonds, hazelnuts, everything dominated by honey flavors  and a creamy texture; everything is nicely integrated. The aftertaste is medium to medium plus leaving more honey behind. I liked this wine a lot. Very good+

Information about Cornas and Pouilly Fuisse is courtesy to “The Oxford companion to Wine” – Jancis Robinson

Thanks for reading…

Categories: France

Wetzel Alexander Valley vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

May 12, 2010 4 comments

The largest and most fully planted of Sonoma county’s many vineyards valleys, Alexander Valley takes in the Russian river watershed upstream of Healdsburg north all the way to Sonoma-Mendocino county line north of Cloverdale. If the general history is long, with vines dating back into the 1850s, the particular history of noble varieties is – a few rare plantings excepted- as short here as almost everywhere else in California. Gallo’s acquisition of nearly 600 ha since 1988 in Alexander Valley alone signaled a new era for both Gallo and Alexander Valley.

Alexander Valley is noteworthy among other Sonoma county appellations for the fleshy voluptuousness of its wines. A wide range of grape varieties is grown at least passably well, which has distracted from the question of what the district does best. Cabernet Sauvignon has gained a certain currency, with a signature note of chocolate warmth and agreeable mouth-feel. Chardonnays also tend to bold statement and ample girth. These varieties, market driven, dominate plantings. Most of its substantial plantings are on a broad and nearly flat valley floor very nearly bisected by the river, but some significant ones creep into the east hills.

The 2007  vintage had early bud break and a fairly mild summer growing season with a burst of heat in AUG followed by a cool Sept. This seemed to set the stage for a textbook perfect harvest; then came rains in late Sept and Oct so results were mixed, especially for Cabernet Sauvignon on the North Coast. The advice is to hang on to the Cabernet.

I have just received this bottle as a gift from a relative in the US so I decided to try it. I had this wine on a TUE evening together with a quick vegetarian meal. I try to eat vegetarian food a few days per week, as much of a burden as that might feel. So a tasty cheese pie with mushrooms with garlic and a capresse salad seemed a good replacement.

Perhaps not the best dishes to pair with a Cabernet but it was nevertheless a tasty dinner.

The wine is a Bordeaux blend: predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with small parts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. I was expecting a fruit bomb as usually this is the norm for Californian Cab’s, but I was pleasantly surprised how elegant this wine is.

The wine has an opaque dark red/purple color. The nose is sweet with hints of dark red fruits, tobacco,  blackcurrant, discreet green bell pepper, violets,  spices. In the mouth the wine is juicy, a very nice silky mouth-feel, with good flesh, a medium to full body wine; blackcurrant, dark cherry, black pepper, earth are nicely balanced by the integrated oak. There is however a warmth feel on the back-end even though the wine has only 14% alcohol. The wine has  the typicality of the Alexander Valley having a long aftertaste with sweet tannins and bitter dark chocolate that remains in the mouth for a long time. Lovely, I liked this dry wine a lot. As far as I understood, the wine has a price level of $20-24. For this price the wine is amazingly good, nothing is over the top; with time, I am sure the alcohol will integrate completely and the heat will vanish. As for now the wine is Very good+.

If you have the possibility to get this wine, you will definitely not be deceived by its quality. Please try it.

Thanks for reading…

Categories: USA

PASANAU Finca la Planeta 2004 Priorat

Some of Spain’s most inspiring red wines are made in Priorat, an isolated DO zone in Cataluna inland from Tarragona. Its Spanish rather than native Catalan name is Priorato. In the 1990s, a true revolution engulfed the region, where production methods for Priorat had barely altered since the 12th century when the Carthusian monks first established the priority after which the wine is named. Priorat is one of the world’s few 1st class wines to be made from Garnacha (Grenache), together with some of the unfashionable Carinena(Carignan). The age of the vines and concomitantly extremely low yields, which average just 5 or 6 hl/ha, undoubtedly contribute to the intensity and strength of Priorat. Under the hot Mediterranean sun, grapes ripen to a potential alcohol of up to 18%, although in the 1990s this was steadfastly reduced.

Poor, stony soils derived from the underlying Slate and Quartz, called locally llicorella, support only the most meagre of crops. Mechanization is almost impossible and many steeply terraced smallholdings had been abandoned in recent years as the rural population left to find work on the coast. The success of the new wave Priorat is slowly reviving the vineyards, however.

The region is dominated by Co-operatives but there is an increasing number of well-equipped estates, traditionally led by Scala Dei. In the 1980s, Rene Barbier, the scion of the Franco-Spanish wine-making family, recognizing Priorat’s potential for top-quality red wines, located some particularly promising vineyard sites, renamed Clos. Such French vine varieties as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and some Pinot Noir were planted. A group of private growers took over. The wines of Rene Barbier(Clos Mogador), Costers del Siurana(Clos de l’Obac), Alvaro Palacios(Finca Dofi, L’Ermita), Mas Martinet(Clos Martinet) and Clos&Terrasses(Clos Erasmus) had won worldwide acclaim by the late 1990s. Complex blends including small proportions of French varieties, careful wine-making, and aging in new French oak barrels were the key innovations. Scala Dei joined in this quality drive, with other small estates jumping on the bandwagon by the mid 1990s. By the mid 2000s there were more than 50 bodegas in Priorat. The wines must reach a minimum alcoholic strength of 13.5% to qualify as Priorat. /*/

I am a big fan of wines from Priorat and Montsant. Montsant is an area within Priorat DO that started to produce outstanding wines. I had several bottles from these 2 regions lately so I will start to post tasting notes about the rest shortly. For now:

Pasanau Finca la Planeta 2004

Price level: 22-25 €. Alcohol – 14.5%. Purchased from Madrid, Spain.

80% Cabernet Sauvignon 20% Grenache, very atypical Priorat wine.

The wine is opaque with a dark purple color and Port like appearance. The nose is sweet with nice minerality, pleasant greenness and spiciness, pencil, graphite, very discreet dark red fruit and nicely integrated oak. A very complex nose. In the mouth the wine is thick, very full body, with creamy texture, dark chocolate, coffee, dark cherries, tobacco, red currant, mineral notes, firm tannins on the back end. The wine has a beautiful long aftertaste with flavors coming back over and over again. Very impressive wine. Due to its low price level I consider this wine Excellent. This wine can easily compete against 40-50 € wines.

I had this wine together with home made whole duck roasted in honey crust and then boiled in orange juice in a cooking bag in the oven. Made it crispy on the outside and juicy inside, preserving all those meat juices. I used the duck fat to roast celery, potatoes, pineapple, garlic and carrots in a tray in the oven as well. The result is pictured below.

I served the duck with St Dalphor dark cherry jam(high fruit content spread). The dish with all those big flavors from the duck fat, the sweet-salty roasted pineapple, the melted garlic, the juicy meat texture and the wine made for an amazing rainy SUNDAY lunch. I wish you were there…

* Information on Priorat is courtesy to “The Oxford companion to Wine” – Jancis Robinson

Thanks for reading…

Categories: Spain

Aalto PS 2006 and Franz Hirtzberger Federspiel Riesling 2008

May 7, 2010 3 comments

I firmly believe that drinking an impressive wine is a celebration in itself. Combined with a special occasion, like the anniversary of a dear friend, we have the x-ray of a perfect event. Last evening I had a lovely dinner with my good friend Dan, celebrating his birthday at a restaurant in Piata Operei – Trattoria Roma. Dan is a wine lover as well, so the meal was accompanied by two amazing wines: Aalto PS 2006 and Franz Hirtzberger Federspiel Riesling 2008. We had a very tasty three course meal together with the two wines we brought in.

I am an advocate of pairing wine with food and I also try to have at least two wines with my meal when time allows. Please do not get me wrong, I am not saying you should drink 2 entire bottles. Alcohol consumption should be treated responsibly, but having 2 glasses of wine, each from each bottle, is more than enough to have a memorable dinner.

Franz Hirtzberger Federspiel Riesling 2008

Franz Hirtzberger, top Wachau producer with 20ha, is one of the seminal figures in a new generation of Austrian winemakers. His winery, located above the village of Spitz, lies on the Danube at the western end of Wachau. 2008 was a nerve racking vintage that could produce outstanding results in the hands of the most careful producers. Protracted cool and rainy spells in Oct and Nov made harvesting very difficult in Lower Austria and in the Burgenland, but in the southern regions, the autumn was more clement.

I have mentioned in a previous review of another Riesling the wines classification in Austria and you can read them here. Federspiel (named after a falconry device) is allowed 11.5% to 12.5% alcohol, roughly equivalent to Kabinett.

The wine has a clear gold color and an oily appearance in the glass. The nose shows flavors of honey, minerals, already discreet petrol aromas, white flowers and pears. In the mouth the wine is medium to full body with pears, green apples, nice minerality, everything wrapped into a beautiful very high acidity. Loved it. The wine finishes with a medium mineral aftertaste. That high minerality makes this a very good wine.

We had this wine with mussels in a white wine sauce. Not ideally as the wine was heavier than the food but a very nice pairing.

Aalto PS 2006

Bodega Aalto was founded in 1999 by Javier Zaccagnini, formerly director of the Consejo Regulador de Ribera del Duero for 6 years, and Mariano Garcia, who was head winemaker at Vega Sicilia from 1968 to 1998. Aalto wines are the product of 100 ha of vines, comprising more than 250 parcels spread out over the various terroir’s of DO Ribera del Duero. No parcel is more than 3 ha, and no vine is less than 40 years old. The standard cuvee is named simply Aalto, with the bodega’s top wine called Aalto PS- Pagos Seleccionados (selected parcels). Tinto fino(Tempranillo) is the only grape used for the wines. Until 2005, wines were made at a rented winery facility in Roa, but Aalto is now based in a winery at Quintanilla de Arriba. The basic wine undergoes malolactic fermentation in steel vats, but for Aalto PS barrels are used.

Aalto PS 2006 spent 30 months in new French oak and is made from vineyards planted in the 1920s or earlier. The wine has an opaque dark/purple color. I just love the smell of a Spanish beast locked in a bottle. The smell of the wine simply fills up the entire room with its aromas. The wine is thick, leaving many lazy legs coming down after swirling the glass. It has a very sweet lactic nose with pretty much all the specter of the wine aromas: ripe dark fruits, blackberry, blackcurrant, blueberry, ripe dark cherries, floral flavors: violets, spices, thyme, rosemary, cigar box, earth, mushrooms. It is the most complex nose I smelled so far. In the mouth the wine is full body, almost Port like, it creates a creamy mouth-feel. The wine is impressive, showing real finesse with over ripe, but not jammy, dark berries: blackcurrant, blackberry, tobacco, violets, chocolate, cocoa, mocha, even meaty everything wrapped in a sweet vanilla flavor from the oak. The wine shows immense balance and depth with layers and layers of flavors. When you have this nose and the mouth-feel you would expect the wine to finish with a sweet sensation. But that’s where this wine gains in complexity and surprises: the wine finishes in a very, very long aftertaste with a beautiful pure dark chocolate bitterness that stays with you forever.

If I may turn a negative into a positive and use the words of some of my readers, this wine is decadent, pure obscenity, that good it is. The best wine I had this year. Excellent+

This wine has a price level of 65-70 EUR in Spain, so next time you visit Spain make sure to break the piggy bank and buy one of this bottles.

You can serve this wine with any big food. We drank this wine with our next two courses: penne with beef, sour cream and tomato sauce and the last course: rare grilled beef with mushrooms and grilled vegetables. Perfect match.

I wish my good friend Dan Happy Birthday and best of luck and thank him for sharing this amazing Spanish red.

Even 4 h later, the wine was still fresh on my memory and I could really feel that amazing smell while watching the markets in the US falling sharply. Strange how the memory works when you are on the right side of the trade.

Thanks for reading…

Categories: Austria, Spain

1st of May at Crama Stirbey – part II

May 5, 2010 9 comments

You can read the first part of this post here.

Their red wines spend between 12 to 24 months in old and new oak. I tasted:

–          Novac 2006, Negru de Dragasani 2007 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 were aged in 300 and 400 l French and Romanian oak barrels. Not my favorites.

–          Merlot 2006 –  spent 14 months in 2 years old oak.

–          Merlot Rezerva 2007 – had a long maceration on the skin, spent 2-3 months in tanks and another 24 months unfiltered in new Romanian oak. My favorite of this flight.

–          Feteasca Neagra 2008 – produced in limited quantity, spent 14 months in 300 and 400 L oak barrels(2 years old). The wine has 14.9-15.1% alc and already shows a nice balance.

What worries me is that most of the Feteasca Neagra wines I tasted in the last 4 months had over 14.5% alcohol which I find disturbing as all of these wines don’t have enough body and fruit to sustain that alcohol. Both Messrs. Marc Dworkin(Enira) and Oliver Bauer(Stirbey) talk about the big potential of this Romanian variety which, so far, has not produced any outstanding wines.

Usually the Romanian producers do not limit the yields, the result: thin, light body and very unbalanced wines. Perhaps in the near future the Romanian producers will have an epiphany and we, the consumers, will have some pleasant surprises.

In the afternoon we moved to the terrace and had a vertical tasting of Merlot 2004-2009 and Merlot Rezerva 2007:

2004 – was completely closed on the nose and taste. It seems the second day the wine opened and became more approachable. The winemaker advises to decant this wine for 12 h before serving.

2005 – had a bad weather. The 2005 vintage was considered the worst year out of the five tasted. The wine, however, is already drinking well. The wine is very Bordeaux style with a green nose: green vegetables, asparagus, green bell pepper and spices. The wine is very nicely done with no green tannins. In the mouth it has nice acidity, a medium body, with spices, asparagus, discreet dark fruits. The wine finishes delicate with a spicy medium aftertaste. My favorite wine of the vertical. This wine is already very approachable and doesn’t need any long decanting.

2006 – already shows integrated oak, good fruit and balance.

2007 – this was the most difficult wine to taste. The wine has a strong astringency in the aftertaste, really unpleasant. Perhaps after a few years in bottle the wine will be more approachable.

2008 – according to Mr Bauer this vintage evolves better in the bottle that’s why 2008 spent the least amount of time in oak.

2009 – this wine just finished fermenting 3 weeks ago and was in oak barrels for only 1 week. It was more of an academic exercise to taste such a young wine and see an initial phase in the wine evolution.

The vertical tasting finished with a very interesting sweet Tamaioasa Romaneasca 2007 “Stafide” from Magnum,  made from dried grapes only.

2007 was such a hot year that the grapes just dried on the vines without any sign of noble rot. The dried grapes were picked from the 6 ha they have with Tamaioasa Romaneasca. 35 women manually picked only the dried grapes using pincers. This process took 3 days, collecting these jewels each grape at a time. They produced only 70-75 l of this wine with 12% alc and 120g of sugar. The wine was bottled manually and unfiltered. The winemaker feared initially that because of the high sugar levels the wine will not ferment, but the result was a success. A very nice pairing wine to a good cigar.

Do not confuse this wine with the regular sweet Tamaioasa Romaneasca they sale, as this 70-75 l of wine produced is not available. If you are fortunate enough to be invited at Crama Stirbey for a special event, you will probably have the chance to drink this wine.

Both Oliver and Raluca Bauer are warm and welcoming persons so I strongly encourage you to visit Crama Stirbey. Go ahead taste their wines and you will find out how wonderful they are. I end this article with a picture of a beautiful sunset at Crama Stirbey.

Thanks for reading…

Categories: Romania

1st of May at Crama Stirbey – part I

May 3, 2010 5 comments

I spent a lovely 1st of May attending the 6th year celebration from the rebirth of Crama Stirbey. There were far more people than I expected: 320 persons. I enjoined the event as it felt like the 1st day of summer with sun and a pleasant temperature. It gave me the feeling of a rustic celebration but made in an very classy and elegant manner, almost like the time stopped and I traveled back in the past being invited at a royal anniversary from hundreds of years ago. The hosts were baron Jacob Kripp and baroness Ileana Kripp-Costinescu and the celebration was organized with class, being a real success. It was such an antithesis between the image of this party and the 1st of May that all the media channels presented, broadcasting from the seaside, mountains and all other regular barbecues. But, hey, one can make his own choice how to spend his time. If you attended the party you probably know what I am talking about, if not I am really sorry you missed such a great event.

Crama Stirbey is located near Dragasani and they produce wine from International grape varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Romanian grape varieties: Feteasca Neagra, Feteasca Regala, Tamaioasa Romaneasca (here Tamaioasa comes in two different styles: the usual sweet wine as it is known in Romania and the second produced dry) and local grape varieties: Cramposie Selectionata(dry white), Novac and Negru de Dragasani(both dry reds). What is remarkable about the winemaker, Mr. Oliver Bauer, is that he insisted in maintaining these local varieties, rather than planting Chardonnay or any other International grapes. Therefore they kept the old vines and also initiated a plan to replace some parts of the vineyard with new ones. They are using the Guyot double cane training on the old vines and probably for the rest.

Developed by Jules Guyot in 1860, both the double and simple forms represent the most conservative style of cane training possible. It is the least complicated concept for growers to learn and, providing the number of fruiting canes and the number of buds on them are restricted, Guyot is the easiest means of restraining yields. Even when growers abuse the system, it is still the most difficult vine training method with which to pump up production. This system is commonly used in Bordeaux, where the number of canes and buds are restricted by AOC rules. Guyot is also used for some of the finest wines throughout the wine-making world, both Old and New.

The average age for the vines is 30-35 years old so the vines are not being prone to suffer of hydric stress in hotter years. They have some small parcels of Sauvignon Blanc older than 50 years old. For the old vines the average rootstock number is about 3500, for the newly planted 5500. The yield per ha varies between 3,500 – 5,500 kilos from one year to another, with an all time high of 7000 kilos per ha of Cramposie. The winemaker admits that his goal is to harvest maximum 1 kilo of fruit per vine. For maturing they use four different types of oak: French (usually old oak from Grand Cru’s from Bordeaux), Austrian, Hungarian and Romanian (Transylvania). Their goal is to use only Romanian oak.

Mr Bauer is firm about the use of oak for the wine aging: oak is just a tool that should not be overused and the wine should be made in the vineyard.

I tasted 7 whites, 1 rose, 6 reds, all their current releases and in the afternoon did a vertical tasting of their Merlot 2004-2009.

The whites are all dry, unless specified:

–          Cramposie Selectionata 2009 – this is an easy going white with light body, very aromatic.۫

–          Tamaioasa Romaneasca 2009 (dry) – dry Tamaioasa has peach flavors similar to the sweet wine. These 2009’s wines are lighter in body than 2008’s, almost watery like, which I didn’t like.

–          Feteasca Regala 2009 – a lively wine with good acidity.

–          Sauvignon Blanc 2009 – very delicate with nice floral and mineral flavors.

–          Cuvee 2007 – this is a blend of Feteasca Regala and Cramposie. Last time I tasted this wine last summer, in 2009. Since then the wine gained more in complexity showing greater flavors and a nice medium- aftertaste. For 29 RON(7€), the ex cellar price, this is a serious competitor to any 30-50 RON(7-15€) Romanian white wine.

I want to talk more about their two top white cuvee’s: Feteasca Regala Genius Loci and Sauvignon Blanc Vitis Vetus. These 2 cuvee’s are produced in very limited quantities: about  3000 bottles each. Both wines are fermented with in house yeasts, therefore the winemaker takes a higher risk and so far the reward is amazing. For the rest of the wines they are using controlled yeasts.

–          Sauvignon Blanc Vitis Vetus – made from a parcel of 1.2-1.4 ha of 50+ years old vines located on a hilltop just next to the actual building where the wine is made. This wine was not offered for tasting at this event, but I remember drinking it last year and was more concentrated and complex than the regular Sauvignon Blanc.

– Feteasca Regala Genius Loci 2006 and 2007 – according to Mr Bauer, Feteasca Regala is a grape that needs hotter weather to fully ripe. In 2007 there were more than 3 months of constant 40+ Celsius degrees, so they have been able to achieve the full potential of this indigenous grape.

FR Genius Loci 2006 spent 14 months in Romanian oak. The 2007 spent 22 months in oak. I think this is the very first Romanian white wine that undergoes such a long aging process in oak. Frankly speaking, I do not know any other white wine to spend so much time in oak. The result is EPIC.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the very few guests to do a comparative tasting of the Genius Loci 2006 and 2007. The 2007, already bottled, will not be released on the market sooner than July 2010, and even that month is still under question mark. Mr Bauer confessed on making a big mistake by releasing the GL 2006 too early. This time he decided to let the wine overcome the bottle shock and also let it evolve more prior to release.

Genius Loci 2006 has a nice acidity, lovely flavors of honey, white flowers and a medium to long aftertaste. A very good wine. One of my favorite whites for 2009.

Genius Loci 2007 is a big wine. It has a clear gold color. The wine was bottled unfiltered. There are tartaric crystals in the wine, commonly referred to as “wine diamonds”. There is another interesting correlation between wine stones and the quality of a wine: the longer the grapes hang on the vine, the more wine acid will accumulate in the grape, and it is this wine acid which is the building block of wine diamonds. Furthermore, the more time the wine is given to ferment, the less wine diamonds will fall out during fermentation, but the more they will instead build up later in the bottle.

In other words, wine diamonds are an indicator that the grapes ripened for a long time, and that the winemaker fermented the wine slowly and with great care. Both are important precursors to crafting high quality wines.

GL 2007 has an extremely complex nose with lots of honey, flowers, spices and mineral flavors. In the mouth the wine is full body, highly concentrated, almost oil like, with the same flavors of honey, mineral,white flowers and spices. The wine has a nice long aftertaste finishing spicy and leaving you with a desire for more. This wine is already Excellent, but I believe in 2-3 years will become Exceptional.

Part II available here.

Thanks for reading…

Categories: Romania
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