2009 Bordeaux vintage is a splurge

Posted on: Friday 5/18/2012 6:34pm

Scott Greenberg, wtop.com

One of the things that really sunk in about the past decade in Bordeaux is that for the first time in recent memory, Bordeaux did not experience any "off" vintages. Not a single one.

Of all the good-to-great vintages, 2009 seems to be the best of the bunch, with a perfect combination of a gentle, cool winter, a warm spring and an even rise in temperature throughout the summer months.

As a result, both red and white grapes developed beautiful flavors that made spectacular wines. The bad news; wine prices for this vintage have pushed the limits of most consumer's budgets. But, as with all things Bordeaux, buying these wines now to enjoy five to ten years down the road could actually be a tasteful investment.

Let's start with the best value of the vintage, the 2009 Chateau Meney from the Saint-Estèphe appellation features all the things I look for in a Bordeaux wine, including scents of black fruit and earth on the nose. The palate reveals straight forward flavors of black plum, dark currants and cedar. The medium-bodied frame displays a touch of licorice and abundant acidity provides a solid finish. $39

St. Julien may be the smallest of the four famous appellations of the Haut Medoc, but it is known for producing some big Cabernet Sauvignon based reds, like the 2009 Gloria. It sports a charming nose of red plum, orange peel and earth. The firm tannins hold the abundant red and black fruit flavors in place like a traffic cop, allowing the flavors to stop on the tongue long enough to back up for the next sip. The linger finish offers up a touch of spice and minerality. $49

Rochet takes its name from the rocks that are found in the limestone subsoil that creates the landscape of the vineyards found on the property of Lafon-Rochet in the Saint-Estèphe appellation. The 2009 Château Lafon-Rochet, is made up mostly of cabernet sauvignon with a quarter of merlot and then smidges of petite verdot and cabernet franc blended in. The nose is full of bright cherry and smoky cedar that leads to flavors of dark black fruit, plum and dark cherry on the beautifully balanced palate. Soft tannins hold up the long finish where hints of earthy minerals linger for over half a minute. $55

Rauzan-Ségla, located in the Margaux appellation, has always been known as a high-end "Second Growth" Bordeaux property, but they really stepped up their game - and the quality of their wines - when the House of Chanel took over as new owners in 1994. Since then, pardon the pun, they have been making fashionable wines. The 2009 Château Rauzan-Ségla, cabernet sauvignon based wine has a healthy dose of merlot blended in and has a nose that shows off scents of violets and red cherry. The charming mouthfeel is delicate but delivers plenty of dark and red fruit flavors across the entire palate. A touch of Indian spice and minerality on the long, clean finish is charming and memorable. $99

I have had the pleasure of knowing Daniel and Florence Cathiard, owners of the lovingly renovated Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte, for over a decade, so I am thrilled that their 2009 Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte is getting so much attention. Flavors of dark plum, smoky cassis, blackberry jam and roasted coffee all compete for space on the palate, but it is the remarkable balance between tannins, fruit and acidity that makes this a near-perfect wine. The seductive and delightful finish persists for well over a minute, leaving an indelible memory on the tongue. A genuine splurge at $179

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Mother's Day 2012 food and wine gift suggestions

Posted on: Friday 5/4/2012 8:05pm

Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

I know that the old adage about gift giving is that it's the thought that counts, but this Mother's Day mom thinks it would be wonderful to receive a tasteful gift. After all, if you have a mother who loves to cook - and occasionally enjoys a delicious glass of wine along with her culinary efforts - then you'll love the idea of pairing cookbooks and wine.

And if it really is the thought that counts, chances are good that thoughtful spouses and children will reap the benefits of mom's kitchen creations.

These suggestions actually came from my wife, so I know what she'd like to take for a taste drive this Mother's Day.

  • "Taste Buds and Molecules: The Art and Science of Food, Wine, and Flavor" by Francois Chartier ($37) - What's the first thing you do when you are served a glass of wine or plate of food? If you're like me, you inhale deeply. The sense of smell is integral to the sense of taste. You can't fully appreciate one without the other. This book discusses "the basic aromatic compounds responsible for taste at a molecular level" to enhance your understanding of food and wine pairings so you may broaden the flavor combinations in your cooking.

  • "The Mom 100 Cookbook: 100 Recipes Every Mom Needs in Her Back Pocket" by Katie Workman ($17) - The 20 chapters are categorized by dilemmas, with 5 solutions per dilemma, in which a mom may find herself such as a potluck, lunches to stay or go and bake sale. The recipes have sub sections labeled "make ahead", "cooking tip" and "what the kids can do" to engage them in the process. The photographs are plentiful, colorful, and inviting.

If you want to keep mom's palate cool this Mother's Day, think Prosecco. The Italian sparkling white is vinified and carbonated in stainless steel tanks, which keeps the wine fresh and bright. The Non-vintage Soligo Prosecco Brut from Veneto, Italy has loads of floral notes on the bouquet and delivers flavors of crisp apple, ripe pear and tangy citrus with polish and panache on the palate. The medium-sized bubbles do a wonderful job of cooling off the tongue and make a great way to start off any meal. $20

Of course, every mom likes getting flowers on Mother's Day, but I prefer my flowers in the form of rosés, like the 2010 Soter North Valley Pinot Noir Rosé from Oregon. Wine maven Tony Soter co-ferments pinot gris with his estate grown pinot noir grapes to produce a wine that is full of strawberry and ripe watermelon aromas. The palate favors juicy flavors of strawberry-rhubarb, ripe peaches and a touch of orange marmalade and pomegranate on the sensational finish. Perfect with soft cheeses and summer fruits. $25

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

A little of this, a little of that

Posted on: Sunday 4/29/2012 8:39pm

Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Leaves sprouting on trees, cherry blossoms in bloom and enough pollen in the air to fill a stadium all combine to announce the arrival of spring in Washington. But in our household, there is a different harbinger that heralds the arrival of the vernal equinox; wine samples. A lot of wine samples.

Each spring, we are inundated with wine samples from PR firms, winemakers and vineyards from around the world. They keep showing up every day and multiply in numbers like a pair of rabbits in a Fibonacci sequence.

So each week, we dutifully open the boxes and attempt to categorize the wines into groups or themes. The problem is that sometimes there are a few really interesting wines that don't fall into any specific topic or theme. That's when we decide to talk about a little of this, and a little of that.

One of the oldest vineyard sites in Australia is home to Chateau Tanunda. Their 2010 Chateau Tanunda Grand Barossa Riesling features flavors of lemon, lime and pineapple that blankets the tongue from front to back. Bright acidity keeps the fruit in balance on the refreshing finish. Hints of tropical fruit and just a whisper of sweetness on the finish makes this wine a good choice to pair with spicier fare. $14

According to the label, locals call the area where the 2010 Ca' Montini Pinot Grigio Trentino "Valfredda" which means cold valley. This cooler climate allows the fruit to mature more slowly and develop into a wine that possesses a lovely nose filled with scents of tropical fruit and lemon-lime citrus. Bright flavors of mango, papaya and topical fruit echo the nose and leads to a long finish with lively acidity. Chill it down for a wonderful aperitif on a warm summer evening. $15

Bordeaux wines do not always have to be expensive to be enjoyable. The 2008 Mission St. Vincent Red Bordeaux Blend Reserve is case in point. With pleasant scents of blackberry and earthy spices and flavors of black plum, cassis and espresso, it is just the right everyday wine to serve with beef stew or soft cheeses. $20

Another delicious value from Italy is the 2007 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso ($23). This medium-bodied red wine is a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Sargantino grapes. Juicy flavors of red plum, dark strawberries and ripe black cherries hit the tongue upfront while waves of dried herbs and vanilla coast in on the charming finish. Perfect with antipasto or hard cheeses. $23

Not every big red wine in California comes from Napa Valley. The 2010 Gnarly Head Authentic Red hails from Lodi and is a hearty red wine that possesses generous flavors of black cherry, blueberry and mocha notes on a well-balanced stage. Characteristic black pepper spice plays out on the powerful finish. Try it with barbeque ribs. $12

The 2003 Taltarni Cephas from Victoria, Australia is a big wine looking for a cold night. A blend of mostly shiraz with a touch of cabernet sauvignon, it is a rich, decadent red wine with loads of blackberries, dark plum fruit and cassis upfront. Dried herbs and a hint of black pepper are featured on the long, impressive finish. Perfect with leg of lamb. $35

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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.)

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