Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Geographically Speaking - Edna Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast '11

I have a problem with the entry level "California" designation that first started appearing on the retail shelves some years back. I guess when fruit from Napa, Sonoma and other small viticultural areas reached a price that made it difficult to sell everyday wine for reasonable prices, producers began to source fruit from areas not known for quality grape growing. That would most likely be the vast central valley of this amazing state. So at that point you now had wine grapes coming from the same agricultural area that produces your melons and artichokes. This vague descriptor is now the most common statement of origin on everyday domestic wine and it is a legal designation. Well for me, the "California" AVA certainly doesn't carry the same cache that a "Napa Valley", "Sonoma Valley" or any of the other 105 California AVA's carry. Even the somewhat vague "North Coast" designation tells you that the grapes didn't come from the central valley.

So when I went looking for a sub $15 bottle of Cali cab the other day, it wasn't easy to find one that didn't have that rather generic sounding geographic origin on the label. Then I spied the 2011 Edna Valley Vineyard Central Coast Cab on sale for $9.99. Eureka! At least now I had a bottle that was from a real wine area - the beautiful Central Coast. California's Central Coast AVA is the 4th largest with an even million acres under vine according to the Wine Institute. Some of California's most amazing wines are produced here from the likes of Ridge, Calera, Qupe, Ojai and Justin to name a mere handful. And I've always loved Bonny Doon whose flagship Le Cigare Volant bottling, a Chateauneuf du Pape look alike, was always one of my faves. Of course, the Central Coast has many official sub-zones but I'll take a "Central Coast" designation on my $10 cab over a "California" one any day.

So I took home the Edna Valley cab at gave it a try. If there's one big pet peeve of mine it's cab that doesn't taste like cab. Sometimes true Cabernet Sauvignon varietal character is vinified right out of the wine, either with too much wood or with too much ripeness on the grapes, leading to very high alcohol levels. That's not the Case with Edna Valley's beautiful entry level cab. It's got beautiful aromas of black cherry, currant and typical cab earthy/herbal qualities. The palate is medium bodied and balanced at 13.8% alcohol, with dark fruit flavors supported by earth and leather notes. It finishes long with good balancing acidity and soft tannins. This wine is an excellent value. Bottoms up!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Italy's East Coast - Saladini Pilastri Rosso Piceno 2011

The everyday Montepulciano we pour at both Nomad Pizzas in Philladelphia is by far our most popular by the glass pour. Yes we have a decent Cab (yawn) and a Pinot Noir (very good but with pizza?). We also have a Malbec (a fave of the customers but not me) and a Nero d'Avola (I like this too). The Montepulciano d'Abruzzo from Masciarelli outsells the others by about 2 to 1 easy. And why not? It's got complex aromatics, good fruit and some terroir to boot - and it goes great with Tom and Stalin's true to type Italian Pizza.

There are a lot of Montepulcianos out there on the retail market but there aren't a lot of great ones in the everyday category. I'm talking $9.99 per bottle, my kind of Tuesday night wine. In my home state of New Jersey we have a ton of choices in every price range, but in Pennsylvania, not so much. The biggest problem is that restaurants in Pennsylvania have to buy from the state at full retail. It's quite a challenge trying to find quality product to pour by the glass that you can make some money off of.

But I didn't start this post to bitch. I started it to turn you on to another great everyday red from the East coast of Italy. The Saladini Pilastri Rosso Piceno wowed me from first sniff to last sip. Rosso Piceno is the largest of the DOCs in the Marche, just north of Abruzzo. Unlike the Masciarelli, which is 100% Montepulciano, this beauty is only 20% Montepulciano and 80% Sangiovese. It's made with organic grapes and spends a short 4 months in French oak prior to bottling. Medium ruby in color, it's got beautiful soil driven aromatics that feature a distinct mineral quality, bright smoky cherry fruit, licorice and leather. In the mouth, there's excellent acidity, with the cherry fruit shining brightly on the medium bodied palate with mineral and brown spice notes on the back end. It finishes long with some drying tannins. Imported by Michelangelo Imports, this is a fantastic $9.99 everyday red. Bottoms up!