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Great Values


Tim Thornhill

Former Houstonian Tim Thornhill, COO of Parducci/Moniker.

Tastings With Republic, Chamelion And More Winners With Dinner

By Denman Moody author, The Advanced Oenophile

I: The quality of Rioja wines started accelerating in the ’90s, and they are still on a roll. In a recent tasting hosted by Republic National Distributing Company, here are my favorites, all recommended:

Bodegas Palacio, Milflores Blanco 2013 $15; Glorioso Crianza 2010 $16.50; Bodegas Ontañon Crianza 2011 $16.50; Bodegas Antaño Reserva 2007 $13.50; Montecillo Gran Reserva 2007 $32; Marques de Riscal Proximo 2010 $10; Marques de Riscal Reserva 2005 $20; Artadi Viñedos y Vinos Viñas de Gain 2011 $26; Artadi Viñedos de Viños Tempranillo Valde 2011 $26; Palacios Remondo Blanco Placet 2011 $40; Palacios Remondo Propiedad 2010 $42; Bodegas Faustino Gran Reserva 2001 $34; Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2007 $36; Torres Altos 2012 $15; Bodegas Valdemar Finca Alto Cantabria Blanco 2012 $17; Bodegas Valdemar Gran Reserva 2005 $32; Viña Equia Crianza 2009 $13

II: Recent tasting of selections from Chamelion Distributors, my favorites, all recommended:

Small Vines Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2013 $46 and Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2013 $48; Hugo Family Cellars Grenache/Syrah “Misceo” Napa Valley 2010 $28; Muscardini Cellars Fortuna Red Blend BWise Vineyards $55 and Chamizal (88% Zinfandel/12% Petite Sirah) 2012 $48; Trombetta Family Wines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2012 and 2013 $42 each; Macauley Chardonnay Russian River Valley Dutton Ranch 2013 and Petite Sirah Napa Valley 2012 $42; Saffron Fields Pinot Noir Yamill Carlton 2012 $48 and Heritage Clones 2013 $48; Zyme, II Bianco Veneto 2014 $25; Paternoster Aglianico Del Vulture Synthesi, Basilicate 2011 $24; Saddleback Chardonnay Napa Valley 2013 $27 and Rancher Red Oakville Napa Valley 2012 $27; Fort Ross Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Sea Slope 2012 $34; Nimrod Kovacs Furmint (primary grape of Hungary’s Tokaji) 2011 $23

III: Recently tasted winners with dinners — three Whites and six Reds:

Truvée Chardonnay Central Coast 2014 —The debut wine of Robin and Andrea McBride, sisters who grew up apart in New Zealand and California, and were reunited by their father’s last wish. This is the best-value Chardonnay I’ve tasted from the Central Coast. Flavors of citrus and “delicate notes of tropical fruit.” Fried shrimp with tartar sauce. Great value. $15

Moniker Chardonnay Mendocino County 2013 — From the owners of Parducci Winery, and primarily from the Estate Vineyard along The Russian River Valley. An addition of Viognier and French oak aging really perks up this wine with charm and approachability. Bright and refreshing. Sliced turkey sandwich. Underpriced. $16

Miner Chardonnay Napa Valley 2012 — “Crisp apple and ripe melon fruit with subtle citrus flavors.” Interesting by itself, it blossomed with Alaskan Cod with tartar sauce. Full and rich. The 2011 Miner Chardonnay Napa Valley Wild Yeast is also a great find. Perfect with La Vista’s crab cakes! $32 and $48 respectively.

Chateau Artix Minervoise 2011 — Perfect example of my comment in The Advanced Oenophile that the Languedoc area is a treasure trove of excellent wines — mostly reds — for under $20. Deep color with alluring nose and depth of flavors, primarily from Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Beef stew. $15

Justin Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles 2013 — Attractive bottle design. A class act with blueberries, spice and everything nice. Perfectly ready to drink with lovely fruit and supple tannins. Flank steak. $26

Experience Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 — Artisticly alluring label, which I admired for some time before opening the bottle. Rich taste of blackberries, black currants and baking spices, excellent balance and long finish. From sight to smell to taste to finish, all components in harmony. Bacon cheeseburger. $28

Brandlin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 — Cuvaison purchased the Brandlin property high up on Mt Veeder in 1998. The Brandlin Famiy had been farming there since 1926! Beautiful raspberry and black cherry flavors with tender tannins. For a treat, visit www.brandlinvineyard.com and click on the short video. The message is short but sweet. Great wine at the right price. Rib eye. $60

Guarachi Family Wines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Sun Chase Vineyard 2013 — As a wine importer, Sam Guarachi has always dreamed of his own “hand-selected, ultra-luxury wine from California.” Here it is!! Rich, enticing and redolent of black cherries. Roasted duck with cherry sauce. $60

Cenyth Sonoma County Red 2010 — One of the top winemakers anywhere is Piere Seillan, who makes, among other wines, Verite, which sells for $390 a bottle at release. This is the first release for his daughter Hélène. It is a right bank Bordeaux look-alike with 54% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Franc and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark ruby color with lovely fruit flavors with a hint of spice and white pepper. I’m guessing her dad was her mentor here, as this first effort is beguiling and first-class. Veal Marsala. $60

By the way… here’s what I will be enjoying on New Year’s Eve: Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Champagne, always outstanding and in the top two or three non-vintage sparklers. Tasting more like a late disgorged top-of-the-line $100+ wine, this has long been one of my favorites. $65

The McBride sisters, owners of Truvée Wines.

The McBride sisters, owners of Truvée Wines.

Hélène Seillan of Cenyth.

Hélène Seillan of Cenyth.

Dave Miner, founder/owner of Miner Family Winery.

Dave Miner, founder/owner of Miner Family Winery.

Travis and Catherine Vale of Experience.

Travis and Catherine Vale of Experience.


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