2013 Antica Corte Amarone, Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore

Notes has recently covered several different Valpolicella Amarones for your edification, and this one should be rated highest on that list, just ahead of the Vella Maffei and the Juliet (I have the Montessor ranked as the weakest of the set despite its ambitious price tag). This 2013 Antica Corte Amarone was a very generous birthday gift that managed to sit undisturbed over these last two months until I decided to unveil it with a tip of the cap to my brother on his own birthday.

2013 Antica Corte Amarone, Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore, Valpolicella, Italy.

2013 Antica Corte Amarone, Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore, Valpolicella, Italy.

I had stored this beauty at 55 degrees since bringing it home from the store; some knowledgeable sites counseled at storing Amarone at that temperature while others implied no hard and fast storage requirements. I did not decant the 2013 Antica Corte, as I was in a rush to taste once I realized it was was wine thirty and into happy hour. On this occasion I had the Amarone in a Cabernet Sauvignon glass–not quite the norm but the wine played in this stemware very well.

This Amarone comes from Verona, which is about 90 minutes east of Venice, and grapes for it are traditionally harvested in October from the most matured grapes (e.g., Corvina, Molinari, and Rondinella) in the region’s vineyards. They are dried during the winter almost into “raisin” form, a period of about 120 days when the grapes will lose 30 to 40 percent of their weight. This obviously intensifies the concentration of flavor and sugar content, which results in higher alcohol levels in an Amarone. Since the winemakers use much more fruit to make an Amarone (approximately 2x as many grapes as normal wines, with >45 days of slow fermentation), price tags elevate in similar fashion.  The 2013 Antica Corte Amarone is aged in Slavonian oak barrels for 36 months and the end product is spectacular.

A bottle this delicious is perfect to enjoy with friends, in part to share in the richness, and also so they get a sense of what you consider the ‘good stuff’. This evening the 2013 Antica Corte accompanied a mixed green salad, accented by fresh cucumber, onion, carrots, and radishes, a baked potato, and thick-cut steaks fired on the grill. After a week of poor eating on the road it was a “Welcome Home” treat to be sure. It poured not like the jammy juice of a Petite Petit or Cabernet Sauv, and not the thinner red of a Pinot Noir–it’s truly a ruby red somewhere in the middle of these extremes. It smells a bit like spiced cherry, like a kicked up box of raisins with all the right scents turned up for your senses. It’s so good that I just stopped writing for a second to go back for another whiff.

I understand that it’s a treat to drink Amarone, and I thank my mother for gifting the 2013 Antica Corte Amarone and making this experience possible for me. May you find great occasions (or any/every occasion) to enjoy one yourself–I know you’ll be glad you did.

2015 Sauvignon Colombard, Domaine de Ballade

Different tastes for the palate this evening, including a curry-style catfish made with coconut milk, potatoes, carrots, and fennel, and this 2015 Sauvignon Colombard from Domaine de Ballade. This grapefruity white sounded delicious when described by the staff at my Winestore and it was just as they advertised–a fresh and lemony taste that went just perfect with a hot June evening.

2015 Sauvignon Colombard, Domaine de Ballade, Gascogne, France.

2015 Sauvignon Colombard, Domaine de Ballade, Gascogne, France.

It’s affordable too, and would go on my ‘buy again’ list without any fuss. When you open the 2015 Sauvignon Colombard you immediately get a whiff of (of course, fresh flowers…it’s a damn white) citrus fruit but it is neither tart like a Sauv Blanc or sweet like a Riesling. It’s gentle and enticing, and I found myself going through multiple pours as I tended to the night’s culinary arts.

“On the palate, shimmering creamy citrus notes dominate, with a crisp acidity and a cleansing finish. Enjoy over the next three years, by itself or with all sorts of salads and seafood.”

I heeded these recommendations to a positive outcome. Know that the 2015 Sauvignon Colombard is the brainchild of winemaker Christian Morel and a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (70%) and Colombard (30%) grapes that are aged 5 months in stainless steel tanks. Grab one when you see on the shelves–it’ll be good to have on hand for a summer occasion, planned or unexpected.

 

2012 Pinot Noir, Ancient Oak Cellars

It’s National Wine Day and just taking a moment to commemorate. Here is the 2012 Pinot Noir of Ancient Oak Cellars–you’re always on solid footing with a Russian River Valley Pinot, and this is a refreshing, light beverage after all the big red I’ve sampled as of late. Hope you’re celebrating with a favorite and readying for the long holiday weekend…

2012 Pinot Noir, Ancient Oak Cellars, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.

2012 Pinot Noir, Ancient Oak Cellars, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.

…and excuse the brevity on this one. Notes will revisit this delicious wine again soon and share a full run-down. Enjoy the day and thanks for following!

2012 Juliet Amarone della Valpolicella

I opted to go back-to-back on Amarones, both purchased at different times from different purveyors but the grapes hail from the same Valpolicella region. This one is the 2012 Juliet and a step up in class from the 2013 Montresor I finished last Sunday.

2012 Juliet Amareno della Valpolicella

2012 Juliet Amareno della Valpolicella, Italy.

This 2012 beauty encompasses several different varietals, including Corvina (65%), Corvinone (10%), Rondinella (20%), and other varieties from the territory (5%). The grapes (after a fall harvest) were naturally dried in a fruit cellar for three to four months, and vinification you almost know by the Amarone–according to the winemaker, soft crushing was performed on the destemmed grapes in January and February. Fermentation lasted about 30 days, and aging was conducted 20% in steel and 80% in wood for 18 months. Two thirds of the wood consisted of American and French barriques, half of which are used for the second and third time, and one third in large barrels.

That’s a whole lot of detail on the setup, but let me tell you the resulting product is really strong. You can see plainly its deep red color, and its smell is just as rich. Cherries and spices are easily detected in your glass, and there’s a pungent raisin vibe to the 2012 Juliet Amarone della Valpolicella as well. It’s got a full body, which is not to say that it’s heavy. It even has a little kiss of dark chocolate to it and makes you want to swirl and really enjoy its mouthfeel.

The food? We’re looking on pan-fried fingerling potatoes, asparagus tips, and roasted pork with a mustard pan sauce. Let me tell you it came out great–an easy recipe, a rewarding beverage, and a good evening. Really glad to share that I’ve got three more of these Juliet’s on hold (Juliet…I get it now…from a winery outside of Verona, Italy?) and will keep you posted on its profile.

 

2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery

I deserved this bottle. Yeah, I said it. I was bone weary last night, the final day in a work week that included late nights, crazy travel, and unyielding deliverables, but not too tired to take a moment to savor one of the finer things in life. Because that’s what a Buena Vista bottle is–it’s a “stop and smell the roses” event each and every time.

West Coast client deliverables meant I got a late start on this 2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, but it also meant I was ready to fully immerse myself in the experience by the time I got to pour and enjoy a glass. Made the deliverable, confirmed with the client, and here we go. I’ve had a couple Buena Vista Karolys before, and this one was equal to the previous.

2014 Karoly's Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The 2014 is delicious. It needs a moment or two to breathe, but when it does you can really pull on the black cherry or blackberry scent. There is a smoke of some kind here too…not quite earthy or a spice but an accent that I can’t quite isolate. It is full, it is robust, it has a great finish. If you drift toward Cabernet Sauvignon or other big reds in your wine tastes, you’ll dig the 2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah. If you prefer lighter Pinot Noirs this might not quite be your bottle–but you’ll be missing something fun!

Okay, a quick summary of the foodstuffs: What you see here is a seared chicken dinner and a creamy couscous with an olive and raisin sauce. The chicken came out great (for a change!)–pulled from the heat while cooked through but still juicy. The couscous was a blend of cool (that’s from the verjus blanc and creme fraiche plus celery) and hot, courtesy of red pepper flakes. I’m not sure a full-throated red was the right pairing for this dish, but I figured the best of both worlds was a suitable strategy regardless. Here’s how the Buena Vista folks describe the vino:

“Our 2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah offers seductive aromas of black cherry and dark chocolate with hints of anise. Upon the palate, flavors of blackberry pie, brambles, and a slight touch of granite are well-balanced with good density and a juicy structure.”

Can’t tell you what ‘brambles’ taste like, or if this 2014 Karoly has such flavor in it, but the black cherry I can very much confirm. This wine is aged 17 months in Hungarian Oak and I’m glad it escorted me into the weekend.

2015 The Prisoner, The Prisoner Wine Company

Much like California Cabs, Napa Valley red blends have a special place in my heart. Given its reputation among wine aficionados and critics, The Prisoner had been on my target list for some time. I know friends have enjoyed immensely and I wanted to understand if the hype was real or just noise.

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2015 The Prisoner, The Prisoner Wine Company, Napa Valley, California, USA.

You know The Prisoner is the real deal after your first tasting. The scent is full and fruity, a mixture of cherry and chocolate, and no overpowering tannic notes. I did not decant the bottle and it seemed very stable as I smelled and poured. There’s some hint of spice and vanilla in the glass, but it was understated in comparison to a mass market Cab that I was drinking recently–in that wine the vanilla was out and in front of the grapes in a way that seemed artificial instead of innate. Not sure that makes sense as I write it, but by contrast The Prisoner seemed more nuanced.

Zinfandel is a big part of this red blend, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Charbono, and no wonder the winery sources grapes from 80 different Napa locations to make their wines. Chrissy Wittman, winemaker at PWC since 2016, is now responsible for the legacy of The Prisoner, and after my first exposure to her work, I’d say its reputation is in good hands.  This is a really enjoyable wine and I’d feel lucky to continue drinking The Prisoner again in the future.

Unless it’s gifted to you, you’ll need to buck up for The Prisoner, and you can find it listed at $47 on the winery’s website. (I paid considerably less, courtesy of my favorite local wine store…) It’s a great drink, one that makes your evening special as soon as you uncork it. But if you’re on a tighter budget and looking for a similar tasting experience, I would suggest you pull a bottle of the Jeff Runquist 1448 that Notes recently covered. Their impact on your taste buds will be very close, but The Prisoner makes a greater impact on your wallet so you have to bear that in mind too.