Savvy marketing or a good end cap occasionally turns my head to a wine that wouldn’t normally make my dinner table. The 2014 Chianti Classico Riserva Conti Torraiolo is the latest example, an old world red from the Tuscan region. It was positioned to grab shoppers’ attention and that’s why I’m coming to you now to talk about this easy-drinking red.
Italy’s Chianti region includes multiple districts, including the Chianti Classico subregion, and its best wines come from hilly areas (colli or colline in Italian) where the terroir has a strong hand in shaping the wine. Further research shows that only the Chianti Classico carries its own DOCG distinction, owing to the high quality of wines produced in this region—which lies between Sienna and Florence. (With a sigh I think again of our postponed Italy trip and the opportunity to drive through all the winding hills from Florence out to this countryside…) The soils of Chianti Classico are galestro: a soft, clay-like soil that enables the wines produced here to have high acidity and noticeable tannic structure with a medium body.
Towns in the region include Greve, Radha, Gaiole, and Castellina, and top producers include Badia a Coltibuono, Brolio, Ruffino. That’s the company kept by this 2014 Chianti Classico Riserva from Conti Torraiolo, which we finished last evening.
I found the wine to be pleasantly fragrant, light cherry and leather, when poured in the glass. It’s 100% Sangiovese. The Torraiolo, however, was thin and underwhelming. I can appreciate that Chianti Classico can be a total powerhouse, but that’s not the case here. The 2014 Chianti Classico Riserva by Conti Torraiolo accompanied a mixed salad and (delicious!) crab cake dinner, and that meal called for (if you’re pro-red as is this taster) a lighter bottle that would play well with the tastes of the arugula and dill… the Torraiolo didn’t really do that.
It was okay, but only okay. The price should have offered a clue of this, but perhaps I was all caught up in Christmas shopping and missed the sign. Enjoyed this opportunity to taste and comment on a new wine, but this first experience with the 2014 Chianti Classico Riserva, Conti Torraiolo does not need a repeat. Happy holidays and thanks for reading!
This reviewer is often biased toward new world Cabernet Sauvignon, and each new vintage released by my favorite Napa, Sonoma, and Paso Robles-area winemakers brings me great joy. Discovering (or rediscovering) their nuances is the perfect example of wine therapy. Recently, however, I had the pleasure of the 2018 Mazet de la Palombiere and now this 2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon. Both are flat-out excellent!
The 2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon tastes way beyond its price point. There’s an earthy, layered undertone just below the dark cherry and plum surface of this wine. It has great legs and an even finish that begs for your next taste. The deep burgundy colors and gentle aromatics ensure this 2019 makes for a great tasting experience.
Ours came in the context of late Saturday dinner. Charcoal-grilled chicken (nice marinade!) plus peppers, zucchini, and portobello mushrooms served as the backdrop for this Cabernet Sauvignon. It took a while for the coals to provide a suitable bed for the foodstuffs, but they’re probably still going now so that’s a strong alternative to propane.
A quick word on the winemaker, who sounds to be growing increasingly hot too. The Vellas family, which has been making wine for four generations, has accumulated properties throughout the Languedoc-Roussillon and Roussillon regions of France. The 2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon is produced near Montpellier in Mas du Pont. Its fruit comes from regions such as Costiere de Nimes, Coteau Varois, Oc, Saint-Guilhem, Grès, Saint Drézery, Muscat de Lunel, Languedoc, Pic St. Loup, and Faugères.
My wine budget for this month is already spent. If it wasn’t, though, I would be right back to the wine store to grab another case of this. The 2019 Vellas COQ Cabernet is really that good. Enjoy!
The 2018 Mazet de la Palombiere Cabernet isn’t a wine you’ll recognize by name. It might catch your eye on the shelf, though, a really cool bottle and label that draw you in for a closer look. Great packaging and presentation do a lot for us as wine consumers!
Honestly, that’s not how I came to this wine. About a year ago, the tasting banks at my favorite wine store were concealed by numbered aluminum sleeves–all set up to promote a blind taste testing to see who among their consumers could identify the latest Silver Oak Cabernet release. These events are assuredly a big draw for the store and I personally love ’em. If you take a moment to browse Notable Wine Tasting Experiences here on Notes you’ll see this isn’t the first time I’ve joined in such fun.
At not ONE of these tasting events have I been able to identify the flagship wine, whether for Caymus, Belle Gloss, or Silver Oak (which I’ve tried on two separate occasions). I learn something every time, however, so I’m always grateful for the opportunity.
This last time I thought the 2018 Mazet was Silver Oak. Positive. I would have bet a small sum that I was right and had finally developed a palate sensitive enough to pick out the big $90 wine from the also-rans. Chuckling I tell you I have missed yet again, but the wine I thought the best taste / most worthy of the big price tag was the $12 Mazzet. Boom! Just blew your mind, didn’t I?
The 2018 Mazet Cabernet Sauvignon is full of dark berry flavors; black cherry and plum in huge helpings. There is a bit of tannin presence here but the berry really offsets it well. This fan of new world Cabernet appreciates what’s in the mix here for the Manzer. It’s produced in France, and more specifically the Cabardès region that’s part of the Languedoc-Roussillon appellation. A little research shows me the Languedoc-Roussillon AOC has for years provided cost-effective wines for Parisian cafes and big international companies to bring to wine drinkers globally. Its soils are limestone and even gravel in places; the grapes hang from old wines and grow in a climate that’s dry and windy enough to support non-chemical wine growing. We’re chalking up more points here.
Responsible winemaking? Big, fruit-forward flavor? This one has it all. Tip of the cap to Nicolas Vellas for a really great wine at an even better price. Started out looking for silver but happily stumbled onto gold. Grab a bottle of this (several if you can!) and you’ll thank me later. Cheers!
The 2017 Malbec Reserva is a palate cleanser, a little respite from the California Cabs and Syrahs that have dominated Notes in these recent “post-Italy” weeks. This Argentinian wine was produced in the Uco Valley of the Mendoza region by the Los Haroldos family, who profess to have over 80 years of experience in the field.
It’s fine overall, an accessible cellar defender that’s just right for a weeknight glass or two. Like most Malbec wine, this Reserva is deep red in color—nearly violet—and well saturated with notes of dark cherry and black raspberry. This Los Haroldos offering is bold yet still has a balanced finish.
Ours accompanied seared flank steak (yes I remember the marinade and okay fine I’ll omit those details here…) and summery salad consisting of yellow pepper, red onion, Romain and mixed lettuce greens, corn, and red potato. Really fun-looking presentation and excellent backdrop for the Malbec, which always pairs well with foodstuffs that include a kiss of spice. Ridley was certainly a fan and sat close by, where he could presumably offer support for any bites that needed his oversight.
According to the smart guys, this 2017 Malbec Reserva has “Complex aromas of berry, cherry, plum, and raspberry flavor as they combine with wood notes, especially chocolate and vanilla.”
The 2017 provided a good value and you’d be okay with it too if you pulled the cork on one. Hoping you’re all staying safe and be well!
This is a bottle, according to my best source at winestore, that far outperforms its modest price tag. He’s a huge advocate and claims to put away a case of this himself each time the store orders more. I usually select wines for different reasons but that was one of many compelling reasons that the 2017 Orlaida came home with me yesterday.
The 2017 Orlaida comes from the Gil Family winery in the Jumilla region of Spain. The grapes are grown more than 2,000 feet above sea level in the area of Cornudella de Montsant, where the soils are supposed to be reminiscent of pro-Priorate terroir. The wine is a blend of Garnacha and Carinena grapes, dark fruit flavors with just a hint of spice in its underpinnings. I’ve heard others talk of a vanilla note or too in the Orlaida, but here in the 2017 I don’t detect that at all. I’ll tell you that what I like about Syrah wines is what I enjoy about this Orlaida…
The 2017 Orlaida accompanied Mexican-spiced shrimp tacos, with guacamole and spicy cabbage slaw. Though you’d probably offset the spices of this meal with a clean white, I generally eschew whites in favor of reds—as here. I thought the smoky flavor of the shrimp paired nicely with this Spanish red and would encourage you to do the tacos or the wine when you can. Made for a great Saturday bite and hopefully does the same for your table or family too.
This is essentially the first Moscato-style wine reviewed in Notes, so base any next steps accordingly…I am researching the muscat grape as we go along here so thanks for accompanying me on this journey. Long-time readers know I’d normally drift more toward a red for a Saturday night, yet it’s great to have an open mind and to celebrate someone else’s taste…particularly because my favorite wine is usually “any wine that’s shared”.
Okay, with that said, Vice Meets Virtue is a semi-sweet spritzer with a little nod toward Chardonnay and carries notes of citrus and pear. By contrast to a high-tannin red, it is crazy light and crisp. It’s not quite a Prosecco but within hailing distance if that makes sense. One of the reasons we’re drinking Vice is because they proudly tout “no sugar added” and in part because the brand name is…well…spot on. Vice and virtue? Nodding. Sounds perfect.
This muscat reminds me of a Riesling…while it is far less sweet than that grape, both wines are summer-facing in my humble opinion. The word muscat is the Italian name for Muscat Blanc, a grape that extends out into sparkling, still, pink, red (aka “black muscat”), and muscat dessert wines. The Vice Meets Virtue I’d classify in the sparking category and has only about 50% of the calories of a red, and low alcohol (5.5% vs. 13% ABV in a regular wine) content for sure. Worried about a hangover after a day of poolside drinking? This might be a way you stack the deck in your favor…
My local wine store had Vice Meets Virtue in limited quantities, so I’m not sure how easy it will be for you to put your hands on one. More important? Focus less on the specific wine and more on having an open mind for new things and celebrating shared experiences.
The 2016 Waccamaw Proprietary Red Blend is a delicious red wine, a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Toriga, Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, and Cab Franc–and I guess shows my blended state of mind this weekend after the 2016 Sheriff last evening. It’s affordable, layered, and fruit forward in a very generous way. Whereas I recall the Syrah textures and blackberry flavors of the Sheriff, my memory of the Waccamaw ties it more closely to black cherry notes. More of the Zin and Cab I think?
My friends at Winestore liken the 2016 Waccamaw Proprietary Red Blend to the Banshee Mordecai, and I think the Waccamaw is far and away the better option. The Banshee always seemed to need time to open, but the Waccamaw was ready to go right from the time of uncorking. It was better than the Rockus Bockus red blend that I’d sampled recently too.
A great value and I should have purchased more of these when I was last in my favorite wine store. Sorry for the short review, folks, and I look forward to expanding further on the 2016 Waccamaw Proprietary Red Blend when I get my next one.