Wine of The Week

Finding a sense of place in Ribera del Duero

Posted on: Friday 4/20/2012 11:24am

Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Over the last decade or so, many critics have alluded to a trend in the wine world where wines are produced to a standard referred to as an "international" style.

This trend results in a noticeable homogenization of many red wines that, regardless of country of origin or varietal, taste the same.

Winemakers appear to be focusing on producing wines with clean, fruit-forward flavors and finishes that are big, bold and one-dimensional. While the movement towards this style has definitely helped to improve the quality of wines, it apparently has come at the expense of removing a sense of place and time that the soul of a wine can - and should - convey.

At a recent tasting of Spanish wines from the region of Ribera del Duero, I was pleasantly surprised by how many of the wines actually tasted "of a place."

Located in Gumiel de Mercado, a small village in the western region of Ribera del Duero, is the Arrocal winery. Just ten years old, Arrocal has already grabbed the attention of consumers and critics alike. The 2009 Arrocal Finca la Mata spends just about 18 months in oak barrels and has a pronounced dark fruit characteristic on both the nose and in the mouth, including blackberry, black raspberry and Rum cherry notes.

The lengthy finish leaves both a charming and rustic impression that features a touch of saddle leather and earthiness. $19

Tempranillo flourishes in Ribera del Duero, where it is also known as Tinto Fino or Tinta del Pais. It takes on a particularly brooding characteristic in the 2007 Bodegas Cepa 21. Made exclusively from tinto fino, the red cherry and floral violet nose leads to a very well-balanced palate featuring flavors of black cherry, dark plum and black currants.

The fourteen month aging in French and American oak barrel contributes to the structured finish where notes of vanilla and toasty oak linger. $25

Bodegas y Viñedos O. Fournier produces three distinct wines, including the 2005 Bodegas y Viñedos O. Fournier Spiga, whose Tempranillo fruit is harvested from vineyards located at 2,600 feet. It is aged approximately 12 months in both new and used oak barrels and features charming flavors of red plum, dark strawberry and pomegranate that glide across the tongue on a mellow chassis and leads to a soft, laid-back finish. $24

Bridging the gap between traditional and new-world is the mother-son team of Bodega Martín Berdugo, located in the Aranda de Duero region. Even the label on the 2006 Bodega Martín Berdugo MB is a homage to new (top half) and old (bottom half). The tempranillo features both ripe flavors of big red fruit and subtle earthy tones on the beautifully structured palate.

Additional notes of leather and tobacco combine on the long and elegant finish, supported by sweet, ripe tannins. $30

Eduardo Garcia, the son of legendary winemaker Mariano Garcia (Bodegas Mauro), is reaching for the stars at Bodega Los Astrales, where his 2009 Astrales, made from organically farmed Tinta Fina, displays an expressive nose of black fruit, roasted coffee and red floral notes.

Flavors of dark cherry, black plum and smoky oak are supported by soft tannins that provides round mouthfeel and lets the notes of mineral and vanilla shine through on the silky finish. $65

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

D.C.'s wine season: Expand your palate

Posted on: Friday 4/13/2012 2:14pm

Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON - I think the best way to learn more about wine is to taste more wine.

During the months of April and May, the D.C. area is filled with opportunities to taste a variety of varietals. If you're looking to expand the horizon of your wine palate, you're in luck because wine season in Washington has officially begun.


Wine Spectator Grand Tour Wine Tasting - Friday, April 27 at 7 p.m.

Where: Ronald Reagan Building at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20004

What: One of the most prominent wine tastings in America makes a stop this year in Washington. The Wine Spectator magazine is sponsoring a tasting that features over 200 wines from 21 different countries that includes rose, white, red, sparkling, fortified and dessert wines. Winery representatives will be on hand to pour wine and answer questions. Many will also offer tastes of their high-end wines. Tickets are $200.


13th Annual Heart's Delight Wine Tasting and Auction - Wednesday, May 2 through Saturday, May 5

What and Where: If you're looking to drink well while doing good, then the four-day long Heart's Delight Wine Tasting and Auction is an ideal way to mix philanthropy and fun. It begins on Wednesday with the United States of Wine celebration on the rooftop of 101 Constitution Ave, NW. The evening will showcase some of the best wines in America, many of which will be presented by owners and winemakers themselves.

Thursday features a series of intimate wine dinners in embassies, restaurants and private homes, each pairing a special chef and winemaker. Friday is the exclusive black-tie Vintners Dinner at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium featuring the First Growth Wines of Château Mouton Rothschild. The fundraiser culminates on Saturday, with a seated tasting where Chateau representatives from Bordeaux will share wines from the 2009 vintage.

The post-tasting reception features food prepared by some of the nation's top chefs and wines from around the world as well as live and silent auctions where guests may bid on exclusive travel opportunities, dining experiences and rare and exceptional wines. The Grand Tasting and Reception will be held at the Omni-Shoreham Hotel - 2500 Calvert Street, NW Washington, DC. Tickets range from $200 - $1,000 depending on the event(s) you want to attend. For more information, click here.


Wine Riot - Saturday, May 5

Where: DAR Constitution Hall, 1776 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006

What: In 2008, Tyler Balliet and Morgan First set out to create a fun event where people could learn about wine in a festive environment. Wine Riot, now in its third year, is the perfect place for both the curious novice as well as the growing oenophile to explore over 250 wines from around the world. Ms. First and Mr. Balliet have conjured up a team of fun-loving wine experts to both entertain and educate attendees, all wrapped up with party music, photo booths and temporary tattoos. This truly is a wine Riot. There are two sessions; 1-5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m. Tickets are $50 per session.


Taste of Greece - Saturday, May 12th 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Doukénie Winery, 14727 Mountain Road Hillsboro VA 20132

What: If you're looking to explore the local wine scene, then consider joining the Bazaco family at their Virginia winery. This is a family-centric fun day featuring an authentic Greek menu and music. Enjoy outdoor wine tastings, Mounted Horse Games, face painting and educational seminars and tours regarding the importance of terroir. General admission is $25 per person, children and designated drivers $10. Rain or shine. Call Maria at 540-668-6464 for additional information.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Passover and Easter Wines

Posted on: Friday 4/6/2012 2:10pm

Scott Greenberg, wtop.com

The Jewish tradition of Passover and the Christian celebration of Easter usually fall within close proximity of each other, but this year, the first night of Passover begins tonight and Easter Sunday is just a couple of days behind it.

And while both of these holidays have significant meaning in their respective religious histories, both have one thing in common; copious amounts of food.

Like any important gathering that involves family, friends and food, wine plays an important role. So the wine you pour for your particular celebration should be as joyous as the occasion itself.

Passover Wines

For proper observance, the four cups of wine that are served during a traditional Seder meal should be kosher.

Who knew that the famous Bordeaux region produced a Kosher wine? Well, the 2009 Bonfils Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux, France offers a refreshing white wine that features flavors of green melon and tropical fruits. The bright acidity and palpable note of lime at the end provides a crisp finish. Perfect with Gefilte Fish. The cost is around $13.

From the Tuscany region of France comes the 2009 Gabriele Chianti. This wine is made exclusively from Sangiovese and sports a fruity nose of dark strawberry and black cherry. The well-balanced structure supports ripe flavors of red berry fruit and earthy notes all the way through the soft, pretty finish. Pair it with roasted veal. The cost is around $15.

Easter Wines

Every family has their own main course tradition, including ham, turkey, rib roast and spring lamb. In addition, a plethora of diverse side dishes can end up competing for space on the plate and the palate. Picking a versatile wine that pairs well with the main attraction is the key to success for any Easter dinner.

I like to start festive occasions with sparkling wines, like the non-vintage Gruet Brut Rose from New Mexico. Made from chardonnay and pinot noir, the floral bouquet is filled with scents of strawberry and raspberry fruit. On the palate, medium-sized bubbles carry flavors of ripe cherry, plum and strawberry. Hints of apple and vanilla climb in on the crisp, sprightly finish. The cost is around $15.

The 2010 Henri Bourgeois La Porte Sancerre from the Loire Valley in France is produced from sauvignon blanc and is both vibrant and fruity at the same time. It offers up invigorating notes of green apple and lemon zest up front and chalky mineral notes on the crisp, lively finish. This is an excellent choice if seafood is your center piece. The cost is around $22.

If there is time

Pinot noir is a wonderfully versatile wine, capable of swinging from salmon to duck without breaking a skin. One of the most versatile of the proverbial grape bunch is the 2010 Saint Innocent Pinot Noir Villages Cuvee from the Willamette Valley of Oregon. The dark color of this pinot belies its delicate nature. The perfumy nose is full of strawberry, raspberry and red plum scents.

The wine has a bigger feel in the mouth thanks to fruit driven flavors of red cherry, plum and strawberry. Gentle notes of vanilla glide in on the back-end and contribute to a lovely, silky finish. Perfect with either ham or turkey. The cost is around $35.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

2009 Red Burgundy is bliss in a bottle

Posted on: Saturday 3/31/2012 8:44am

Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

Great vintages in Burgundy, France happen about as often as getting your passport renewed, so they are celebrated with the appropriate pomp and circumstance reserved for coronations and State dinners.

The 2009 vintage is being referred to as a vintage of "nines," alluding to other great vintages that occurred in '59, '69, '79, '89 and '99.

This exceptional vintage proved especially beneficial for the exceptionally finicky pinot noir. While chardonnay - the other "sanctioned" varietal of Burgundy - performed well, it's the red wine counterpart that is stealing the show with exceptional balance, bright flavors and remarkable aging potential.

Of course, when wonderful vintages like this come along, demand goes up and prices head towards the stratosphere. However, there are still some great values to be had by both major négociants and smaller producers.

One of the most well-known families in Burgundy is behind the value-driven 2009 Maison Joseph Drouhin Bourgogne Laforet. Aromas of raspberry, cherry and red currant have a delicate attack on the nose and are repeated on the palate as well. A touch of strawberry and clove appear on the light-bodied, charming finish. This is a crowd-pleaser and a great alternative to heavier red wines. $15

Made from fruit sourced from the villages of Ladoix and Auxey-Duresses in the Cote d'Or the 2009 Champy Bourgogne Pinot Noir Signature is a delicious entry-level wine. With scents of red fruit and dried cherries on the bouquet and flavors of fresh strawberry, raspberry and red cherry on the palate, this wine is fun and easy to drink. The abundant acidity keeps the fruit in balance on the medium bodied finish. $20

The 2009 Domaine Dublere Savigny Les Beaune Les Planchots du Nord is produced by local ex-pat Blair Pethel. The grapes for this wine are literally grown in the backyard of the Dublere winery and much of the fruit is used in this stunning wine, which sports a pretty nose of cherry, red berry, clove and cinnamon. The vivid flavors of cherry and wild strawberry shine across the tongue and are joined by wonderful mineral notes on the long, graceful finish. $30

The Premier Cru (1er Cru) designation is the second highest classification of quality in Burgundy, and the 2009 Louis Jadot Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Couchereaux is certainly worthy of the distinction, delivering wonderful depth with perfumed scents of strawberry, sweet cherry and violet on the nose and rich flavors of plum, strawberry and clove in the mouth. The impressive finish remains charming and graceful thanks to the great balance between acidity, fruit and soft tannins. $46

Drinking like a wine twice the price, the 2009 Remoissenet Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Les Serpentières runs to the bigger side, featuring scents of ripe black cherry, smoke and mushrooms on the floral nose. Layered flavors of dark plum, ripe strawberry and cocoa coat the tongue with richness and balance. The elegant finish ends with a distinctive toasted cedar note. $50

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Chile Meets Bordeaux in Lapostolle

Posted on: Friday 3/23/2012 6:31pm By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

What if you could get the experience of a world-famous French winemaker and the deliciously ripe fruit from Chile in one bottle of wine? And get it at a great price, too? You’d have a winning combination. You’d have the wines of Lapostolle Vineyards. Lapostolle was founded in 1994 by Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle (of Grand Marnier fame) who clearly recognized the potential Chile had for producing world class wines.

The region had grape vines originating from pre-phylloxera rootstock (phylloxera is a small insect that is deadly to grape vines) that had been brought to Chile from Bordeaux in the 1800’s. Alexandra’s goal was to incorporate high-end French winemaking practices with the ideal climate of Chile to produce high-end quality wines.

Her dream became a reality when she convinced world-renown French wine consultant, Michel Rolland, to join the inaugural winemaking team. This blending of talent, grapes and terroir led to the new mantra for the project; “French in Excellence. Chilean by Birth.” The “Casa” series are wines made from younger fruit sourced from the Rapel and Casablanca valleys and tend to emphasize a brighter and more vibrant expression. The 2009 Lapostolle Casa Cabernet Sauvignon is fermented in stainless steel and aged for just under a year in neutral French oak barrels. Scents of red currants and cedar wood waft on the bouquet and join flavors of plum and black cherries on the mid-palate. Subtle notes of vanilla mark the smooth finish. $10

The 2011 Lapostolle Casa Sauvignon Blanc is fermented and aged exclusively in stainless steel tanks, giving the wine a pure fruit core. Grapefruit and nectarine aromas dominate the nose while full-bodied flavors of green melon and tropical fruit – thanks to a touch of sémillon – coat the palate. Touches of lemon/lime citrus provide bright notes on the crisp finish. $10

The “Cuvée” series are wines that are produced from single vineyard estates under the organic/biodynamic program. The grapes are harvested by hand and then vinified using only wild yeast, with no filtration. The 2009 Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Carmenère is an excellent example of Chile’s “home town” grape varietal, showing off an elegant nose of red plums, black cherries and cardamom spice. In the mouth, the wine is well-balanced around a core of black fruit and tobacco flavors. There is a slight green leaf/herbaceous note on the structured finish that turns a touch smoky at the end. $19

The ultimate expression of Alexandra’s vision is expressed in the 2008 Lapostolle Clos Apalta, a blend of carmenère, merlot and cabernet sauvignon sourced from 60 to 100 year-old pre-phylloxera vines from the Apalta vineyard in the Colchagua Valley. All of the carmenère and cabernet sauvignon berries are all hand-picked and hand-sorted. The wine is made with minimal intervention so that the vivid and intense flavors of black cherry, black plum, red currants and roasted espresso shine through on the elegantly balanced palate. Buoyed by sweet tannins, the richly structured finish shows of hints of cocoa and coffee and persist for over a minute. $65

New Zealand's Cloudy Bay Vineyards

Posted on: Friday 3/16/2012 6:34pm

Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

I am not one to often disagree over simile, but when Captain Cook, on his 1770 voyage to New Zealand dubbed the inlet at the eastern end of the Wairau Valley, "Cloudy Bay," he definitely got it wrong. Good thing, too, since Cloudy Bay is both a wonderfully sunny place to grow grapes and home to Cloudy Bay Vineyards.

Cloudy Bay Vineyards was established in 1985 at the northern end of the South Island of New Zealand, in the Wairau Valley of the Marlborough appellation. The Wairau Valley enjoys the longest hours of sunshine in the country and maritime influences provide cool, clear nights. This combination results in ideal conditions for growing cool-climate grape varietals. In addition, the porous soil of the valley floor allows water to drain away, leaving behind minerals and nutrients for the vine roots.

The Marlborough region is blessed with a unique terroir and a cool maritime climate that results in large diurnal swings in temperature (the difference between daytime highs and nighttime lows). These conditions are the foundation for producing the classic expression found in the 2011 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks, prolonged exposure to yeast and minimal intervention by the winemakers combine to yield a wine full of aromatics that include mango, guava and lemon/lime citrus scents. The weighty mouthfeel is slightly atypical for a sauvignon blanc, but the juicy flavors of grapefruit, tropical fruits and nectarine are hallmark traits of the varietal. Abundant acidity and mineral undertones combine on the crisp, refreshing finish and would be a brilliant pairing with fresh oysters. $20

A judicious use of oak is used in the barrel fermentation of the 2007 Cloudy Bay Chardonnay . Most of the wine is allowed to go through malolactic fermentation. This secondary fermentation leads to an appealing mix of ripe citrus, white fig and toasted hazel nuts on the bouquet and creamy flavors of grapefruit, nectarine, green apple and roasted nuts on the well-balanced frame. The light touch of oak highlights notes of baked bread on the medium-bodied finish and would pair well with Pasta Primavera or roasted halibut. $28

In 1989, Cloudy Bay decided to produce their first pinot noir, and the winemaking team has been obsessed with the varietal ever since. It is the only red wine varietal in the Cloudy Bay portfolio and they believe it is the only red grape wine that grows flawlessly in the Marlborough climate. The 2009 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir is painstakingly crafted from 40 unique plots from 25 different vineyards. Thoughtful blending of the lots leads to a wine with enticing aromas of red berries, boysenberry and baking spices. The delicate palate sports lovely flavors of red cherries, red plums and cinnamon that flow into a well-integrated finish that highlights earthy notes of dark strawberries and mineral undertones. This lighter-styled pinot would pair beautifully with grilled salmon or roasted pork loin. $38

Te Koko is the indigenous name for Cloudy Bay and is characterized by the vineyard as the "wild child" of the portfolio. It is a full-bodied alternative styled sauvignon blanc that undergoes both barrel fermentation and malolactic fermentation, inoculated with wild yeast. It is then bottled aged and released as a fully matured wine. The 2006 Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc delivers a rather intricate and intense bouquet combining lemon curd, acacia flowers and ripe peach. In the mouth, complex flavors of orange blossom, tropical fruits, white peach and grapefruit attack in waves and layers. Notes of ginger and spice, underlined by vibrant acidity, dominate the clean, balanced finish. The complexity and depth of this wine would make it an excellent choice to enjoy with poached lobster or steamed mussels. $42

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

German Rieslings of The Mosel

Posted on: Saturday 3/10/2012 9:39am

Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

Some of the best values in the wine world are German Rieslings. Not only are they delicious, but many of these wines languish away on retailer's shelves, due, in part to their confusing labels that are written in imposing gothic script. Eventually they get marked down in order to make room for the next vintage.

I am a fan of Germany's wonderfully aromatic Riesling wines from the Mosel River region. These wines are produced in a variety of styles that range along a continuum from crisp and dry to sweet and bright. The vineyards are usually found along the steep river valleys that feature sheltered slopes, each with their own unique terroir. Much of the mineral laden soil is covered with slate which absorbs the sun's heat during the day and gently radiates it back into the vineyards at night. And as an added bonus, flavors of slate and mineral can be underlying characteristic trademarks of these wines.

One of the best values for a genuinely delicious Riesling is the 2010 St. Urbans-Hof Riesling Estate Bottled from Mosel. It is loaded with notes of bright Gala apple and ripe peach fruit, dotted with notes of baking spice and slate on a broad, tangy body. The wine is crisp and the flavors are well-delineated from start to finish. The finish features more undertones of steely slatiness. $16

The term Kabinett in German literally means cabinet and is used as a category of wine that is made from fully ripened grapes of the main harvest. These wines are generally lighter in style. The 2009 Margarethenhof Kabinett from Mosel is on the lighter side of most Kabinetts and is just slightly sweet (lieblich). It features an aromatic honeyed nose, with concentrated flavors of white fig, ripe peach, nectarine and apricot. The wonderfully tangy citrus notes on the end provide a crisp and refreshing finish. $18

The German word Auslese is used to denote that the grapes originated from a "selected harvest." It applies to a riper category than Kabinett as the grapes are hand-picked from very ripe bunches in the vineyard. This category of Rieslings is usually made in only years when the weather has been warm, such as in 2009 when the 2009 Leonard Kreusch Auslese Mosel was produced. Featuring aromatic scents of gooseberry, green melon and gardenia, the wine dives into a pleasant-yet-unusual creamy mouthfeel that sports luscious flavors of white raisin, mango and ripe fruit cocktail. A mere hint of slate on the slightly sweet finish is a reminder of its pedigree. $19

One of my "go to" Riesling wines if from a producer that I fondly call "JJ." The 2008 Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett form Mosel has a vibrant bouquet of white flowers, ripe pear and tropical fruit aromas. The mineral undertones support flavors of honeyed peach, baked apple and ripe nectarine. A hint of lime sherbet is punched up by the mouthwatering acidity on a finish that coats the palate and leaves you anticipating your next sip. $32

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

The wines of South Africa

Posted on: Friday 3/2/2012 6:15pm

Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

Located at the tip of the African continent, South Africa is home to some of the most diverse vineyard lands in the world.

Originally founded in 1652 by the Dutch East India Company as a replenishment station for Dutch merchants sailing to and from India, Cape Town, South Africa, became a bustling trading port. A vibrant wine industry quickly followed.

The first vineyards were planted in 1655 and began producing wines from Cape grapes a few years later. Within a couple of decades, South Africa began to produce wines of international distinction.

Varietals include chenin blanc (the most popular), colombard, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, pinotage and shiraz.

The wine industry today is an interesting mix of old and new, taking advantage of classic Old World style charm while using modern winemaking techniques that produce New World fruit-centric styles.

The combination of styles - combined with the unique and varied terroir of the different regions - results in wines that run the gamut from simple yet charming to powerful yet elegant.

The Stellenbosch region is home to over 80 wineries that are scattered throughout an area that reaches from lush inland valleys to slopes that run down to the sea. It is also the region where the 2009 Raats Chenin Blanc is produced. The tantalizing nose sports aromas of honeysuckle and pear scents. Flavors of ripe pear, peach and nectarine are supported by bright notes of citrus fruit and abundant acidity. Hints of minerals are found on the pretty finish. $24

Paarl is one of the oldest winemaking towns in South Africa. Lately winemakers, such as Black Pearl, have been concentrating on shiraz and other hearty reds. The 2006 Black Pearl Oro is a blend of shiraz and cabernet sauvignon and has a distinctive bouquet of Thin Mint cookies and ripe blackberries. The extra-rich mouthfeel supports luscious flavors of blackberry, black plum and dark chocolate on the front of the palate and notes of black pepper and cinnamon on the long, lingering finish. $17

The Constantia region was home to the first vineyards of South African wine and today is tucked into the suburban landscape of Cape Town, and it still receives a lot of attention from the local population. One of the most noted wines that are exported to our area is the 2009 Groot Constantia Sauvignon Blanc. Fans of a grassier style of sauvignon blanc with enjoy the nose of green grass and citrus fruit. Flavors of green melon, white fig and tropical fruit are accentuated on the palate by the crisp, citrusy acidity. Grassy notes pop up on the tangy finish. $18

From the Wellington region comes the hearty 2006 Eventide Cabernet Sauvignon, with a jammy bouquet of blackberry, dark cherry and black currant. Soft tannins support ripe flavors of blackberry, dark plums and cocoa on the front of the tongue while notes of roasted coffee and vanilla linger on the medium-bodied finish. $15

I don't think you can talk about South African wines without mentioning pinotage. This hearty red grape was created in 1925 by crossing cinsault (a Rhone Valley staple) with pinot noir. The resulting varietal is, to my way of thinking, "pinot on steroids." The 2008 Simonsig Pinotage from Stellenbosch offers plenty of black cherry jam, sweet plums and Asian spices on the palate and just a touch of spicy cedar on the lengthy finish. $18

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Argyle makes wines with soles

Posted on: Saturday 2/25/2012 10:53am

Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

Texas native Rollin Soles is not your average winemaker. First of all, he began his winemaking journey in Switzerland, on steep vineyards at the foot of the Alps. Then he set his sights on producing wines in Oregon, well before the state was known as a winemaking powerhouse.

Rollin believes that, "if you love where you live, you will nurture the land and make the best wines the land can produce." His vision was embodied in 1987 when he co-founded Argyle Winery in the beautifully sculpted Willamette Valley in the northwestern region of Oregon. And from the beginning, Argyle has been dedicated to practicing sustainable agriculture and ecological stewardship.

Rollin's philosophy has paid off. His sparkling wines continue to set the standard for domestic bubbly, and Argyle's still wine collection of riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir represent some of the best values in Oregon.

Rollin has a passion for proving that Oregon can make top notch sparkling wines. His mission is accomplished with the 2008 Argyle Brut, a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay from the Knudsen and Lone Star Vineyards in Willamette Valley. The fine bubbles carry scents of pear, apple, vanilla and yeasty bread on the bouquet. The beautifully balanced wine displays precisely delineated flavors of ripe pear and apricot. The citrus-centric finish is delicate and crisp, and the touch of toasted brioche adds a nice layer of richness. $27

The term "Nuthouse" originated from Argyle winery's origin as a hazelnut processing plant. The 2008 Argyle Nuthouse Chardonnay actually has a prominent nose featuring hazelnuts along with peach and pear scents. The creamy mouthfeel is filled with flavors of pear, green melon and white peach up front and notes of baking spices on the crisp finish. $33

The entry level 2010 Argyle Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is actually a cuvee from some of Willamette Valley's finest vineyards, including Lone Star, Stoller, and Knudsen. The nose features dark strawberries and ripe black cherries while the palate reveals flavors of dark raspberries, cherries and red plums. The medium-bodied frame is well balanced and has enough acidity to hold the flavors together on the earthy finish. $25

Moving a notch up the pinot scale is Rollin's 2009 Argyle Reserve Pinot Noir which combines finesse with muscle. Scents of spice box, cinnamon and cedar fill out the nose. Flavors of dark cherries, plums and ripe strawberries soak the front and mid palate while lovely earthy notes of black tea fill in the superbly balanced finish. The touch of mineral-oriented black cherry on the back of the tongue definitely leaves a powerful impression. $40

Legend has it that the spirit of Lena Elsie Imus, who died by her own hand in 1908 in the former Dundee City Hall building, still roams the halls of what is now the tasting room for Argyle Winery. I don't know about ghosts, but the 2008 Argyle Spirithouse Pinot Noir is frightfully good, with aromas of cedar wood, cigar humidor and spice box. The wine unfolds in layers on the tongue, beginning with dark plum up front, luscious red cherries in the middle and ending with a dominant mark of wild red berries. Notes of vanilla, bramble and earthy nuances highlight the charming, lush finish. $75

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

The Sicilian wines of Planeta

Posted on: Friday 2/17/2012 6:36pm By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

Sicily has long been known for being the Italian crossroad of both ancient and modern culture. The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, separated by a narrow strait of water from the “toe” of southern Italy, Sicily has been home to settlers from ancient Greece, North Africa and various European countries, including, of course, Italy. But what many people don’t know is that it is also home to some of the most remarkable wines in Italy. And lately, many of those wines bear the name Planeta.

In a word, Planeta wines are environmentally friendly and delicious. What’s not to love?

The 2010 Planeta Carricante is a white wine that hails from the Sambuca di Sicilia region where the Planeta family has owned the vineyard since the 17th century. The nose sports a very fragrant bouquet of citrus fruit and white flowers. Flavors of green apple, nectarine and roasted almonds are balanced by bright acidity and abundant minerality on the crisp, bone dry finish. $40

The white Fiano grape for the 2009 Planeta Cometa Fiano comes from the Menfi region, located on the southwestern coast of the island. The maritime influences and chalky soils contribute to the fragrant nose of guava, kumquat and apricot. It has a distinctly tropical fruit palate that includes papaya and pineapple on the front of the tongue and notes of pear on the mellow finish. $40

From the Vittoria region comes the 2010 Planeta Cerasuolo de Vittoria DOCG. Cerasuolo means “cherry color” in Italian and that’s just what the wine looks like. Aromas of cherry and strawberry fill the bouquet while charming flavors of strawberry, pomegranate and red cherry fills the entire mouth on a simply-but -delightful frame. Just a touch of truffle on the medium-bodied finish adds to the amiable appeal of this wine. $22

The limestone and tufa content that make up the soils of the Noto region also contribute to the wonderfully flavorful 2007 Planeta Sant Cecillia Nero D’Avola. Nero d’Avola is to Sicily what Chianti is to Tuscany and the flagship grape produces a wine with a heady nose of dark plum, cocoa and leather. Chewy flavors of dark cherry, black plum and tobacco are nicely integrated on a full-bodied frame. The nicely balance finish is long and smooth, with just a whisper of smokiness on the tail end. $40

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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