Trendy new wine ideas may really be old hat

February 25, 2019

Tired of paying big bucks for Pinot Noir? Take a look at Mark West, who produces several bottlings of PN. Mark West Black Pinot Noir 2016 is being heavily touted and advertised, so I decided to sample some. This is a very nice bottle of entry-level PN. You can find it under $12, 87 points McD. Dark cherries, blackberries, and plums on the nose. Smooth. Dark fruits and toasted oak with a mocha and barrel spice finish. The wine was produced using the saignée process. Saignée means that part of the juice is removed prior to reintroduction to matte (skins, seeds and stems), causing color and tannin elevation. Black PN is another of those “trendy new ideas” that have been around since the Pope lived in Avignon. Mark West also produces a Willamette Oregon PN 2013-15. Although it is OK, it is also close to $20, not a great QPR. The Mark West California 2015 PN is an excellent buy under $12, 89 McD. I think it is a better value than Paul Hobbs Crossbarn PN 2016, 88 McD, about $28. Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County PN 2017 shows strawberry and blackberry with subtones of pie spice (clove and anise) aromas, round palate, well balanced, needs some time in cellar. If you can find the 2014, it is drinking beautifully now.

Southwind Vineyard and Winery in southern coastal New Jersey near Vineland has been shuttered. Here’s the announcement: “I fought the law and the law won! As per CCHD ordinance, I can no longer manufacture wine on the premises! The winery is officially closed as of Jan. 1, 2019. The estate is still open for hiking, camping, yoga and music concerts! Thanks for your support!” This is a darn shame. I have met these folks at several events. Really nice hardworking people. They made a nice Cabernet named Hunter Pace Cab Franc, a couple of sparklers and Rosé.

Louisa, a sharp-eyed knowledgeable reader, emailed me to say Primitivo is not the same as Zinfandel. Thank you, Louisa. Did a little research and learned from Dr. Vinny, one of my go-to guys: “Genetically, these two grapes are extremely similar – it took some DNA fingerprinting to figure it out – but Primitivo and Zinfandel are actually both clones of a Croatian grape called Crljenak.” Primitivo and Zinfandel have been considered synonyms by most for years, but U.S. labeling laws don’t allow them to be used interchangeably. However, due to different labeling laws in Europe, they may. Masseria Li Livelli Orion is an 88-point fine example you can find well under $15. Dark ruby, lovely cherry and pie spice nose with orange peel accent. On the medium, well-balanced palate, look for blackberry and more spice notes. Slightly elevated acidity will keep this fresh for three years or so.

Finally found an issue of Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez that I agree on. She claimed at a committee hearing last week, to wit, after a bunch of minorities have established the drug trade, instead of the federal government entrapping and tossing them into prison for selling dime bags, pills, oils and doobies, they are making a bunch of stockbrokers and Canadian white guys rich. Those with long memories or a good hard drive will remember the other Prohibition. Oddly, fed gov was involved in that also. Who knows, maybe 30 or so years from now we’ll get a hyphenated American drug smuggler’s son as president. Old Joe was Irish-American, right?

If you are looking for value, keep your eyes peeled for wine from the Alentejo region of Portugal. It is a hot, dry region best known for reds. Herdades is the Portuguese word for wineries. When you are checking labels, Alicante Bouschet, a varietal cross of Petit Bouschet and Grenache, is noted for its massive structure and firmness. It is a red-fleshed teinturier (coloring) grape, nicknamed Tinta de Escrever (“writing ink”) for its ability to produce inky-red wines. Following are a few labels to search for: Mouchão Red 2013, SRP $60; Dona Maria Grande Reserva 2012, SRP $45; Herdade dos Grous Moon Harvested 2017, SRP $25; Rocim Alicante Bouschet 2016, SRP $20; Esporão Vinha das Palmeiras Alicante Bouschet 2013, SRP $45; and Herdade de São Miguel Alicante Bouschet 2015, SRP $23. Look for more info on these next week.

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