COPPOLA DIAMOND COLLECTION CLARET CA 2011
Produced by the Francis Ford Coppola estate, Coppola Diamond Collection Claret California 2011* is a Bordeaux-style blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petite Verdot, 3% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc. With the dramatic flair of old Hollywood, the bottle comes wrapped in gold netting. At $17, Coppola Claret is a more interesting wine than the price tag would have you believe. It’s a fun wine with notes of juicy black cherry, cassis, blueberry, violets, anise, cocoa and baking spices. Most importantly, Coppola Claret makes a perfect pairing with chocolate. Coppola Claret will make a great Oscar viewing party wine. You and your guests will enjoy it paired with anything chocolate.
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Close your eyes and imagine yourself standing in a vineyard at the edge of a Mediterranean island. The sun is bouncing brightly off thick, leafy green canopies shading many rows of vines. Those vines are the only thing separating you from the vast blue, sparkling sea. All you need is a glass of wine in your hand, and you have just imagined paradise. Well, this is the reality for Leo Gracin.
During my Croatian vacation, I visited Leo’s winery—Gracin—in Primosten, Croatia. As Croatia has gained more American travelers in recent years, its wine industry is also seeking to gain more traction with American wine drinkers. Croatians have been making wine for centuries, and most winemakers have inherited both their vineyards and winemaking processes from their ancestors. Most, if not all, Croatian wineries produce very small lots of wine. However, the industry is beginning to see some growth. Like Krolo Winery, Gracin is a leader in the Croatian wine industry, using modern winemaking techniques and marketing to produce and distribute wines that pay homage to the varietals that are indigenous to Croatia.
With equipment acquired from Croatian-born Mike Grgich, Leo makes three wines out of his house: Rosé, Babić and Tirada Babić. Both Babić and Tirada Babić are made primarily from the varietal Babić, a wine varietal indigenous to Croatia and ideal for growing in the hot sun and poor soils on the coast of Primošten. The Tirada is classic old world wine. It has lots of acid and notes of dried herbs, black cherry, and prunes. The old dirt earthiness in the Tirada reminds me of Greek wine. My favorite wine of the Gracin lot is its Babić. Gracin’s vines are just 4-7 years old, so most of the grapes used to make its Babić are sourced from Primošten growers with 60 year old vines. Babić is aged in a combination of Croatian and French oak, new and used. High in both alcohol and acid, Babić has great complexity with juicy black fruit, spicy black pepper, baking spices, fennel, sweet licorice and figs. It is blended with a bit of Plavac Mali which rounds out the texture.
These Croatian wines were a delight to discover for their unique character. For more on the Croatian wines I discovered in my travels, click here.
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CHATEAU SAINT-ROCH KERBUCCIO MAURY SEC 2011
Chateau Saint-Roch Kerbuccio Maury Sec 2011 is rich and layered with black fruit notes, violets, white pepper, charcoal, leather, fresh herbs, licorice and baking spices. The blend is 40% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre and 30% Grenache. Saint-Roch Kerbuccio makes for a great winter wine to enjoy by the fireplace or with red meat. Highly structured with plenty of acidity and plush tannins, this wine held up over several days. As time went on, Kerbuccio’s fruit notes got juicier, its spices became more playful and its structure softened.
CHATEAU SAINT-ROCH CHIMERES COTES DU ROUSSILLON VILLAGES 2011
Chateau Saint-Roch Chimeres Cotes du Roussillon Villages 2011 is a juicy blend of 40% Grenache, 30% Carignan, 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre. Saint-Roch Chimeres is distinctively juicier and more approachable than its counterpart, Kerbuccio. It is less dark and brooding than Kerbuccio, but packs plenty of spices, fresh herbs, and minerality. Great value wine that makes a versatile food pairing. We enjoyed it with vegetable lasagna and meatballs.
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Last summer, I had the pleasure of traveling to Croatia where I spent most of my time on the beach or dining on local seafood with a glass of Graševina. I managed to take a day off from the beach to visit two Croatian Wineries –Krolo Vinarija, located inland Croatia, and Gracin Vinarija, located seaside.
My visit to Krolo Winery began with lunch at a restaurant in Trilj where we dined on the local delicacy: frog legs. This town is known for its frog legs fresh from the Cetina River. We enjoyed our frog legs both ways –breaded & fried and grilled with prosciutto—along with a bottle of Krolo Chardonnay. The frog legs were delicious and paired nicely with the Chardonnay. Krolo Chardonnay is 14% alcohol, but I couldn’t tell because its high acid balanced out the alcohol so well.
Krolo Winery is located in Croatia’s Dalamatian region, perfectly situated where the inland continental climate and the Mediterranean climate from the Adriatic Sea collide. Dalamatia is the birthplace of Crljenak Kastelanski aka the “Father of Zinfandel.” Crljenak Kastelanski is the gem of the four wine varietals produced by Krolo Winery. Crljenak is one of those wines that once the cork is popped, the wine is gone before you know it. It’s both easy and interesting to drink. Research has determined that Crljenak is the same grape as Zinfandel. Krolo Crljenak Kastelanski tastes much like a California Zinfandel except that it is more soil driven with better acid and alcohol balance than the average California Zinfandel.
Krolo is a small family owned winery, led by the winemaking and direction of Dražan Krolo. Dražan’s winemaking style is to create wines that are approachable and affordable. Certainly, Krolo wines achieve that goal. Though Dražan seeks to make new world style wines, his wines maintain some of the old world acidity and rustic qualities that make Croatian wines distinctive. In that regard, Krolo wines are as delightful as my visit to the Krolo Vinarija.
Stay tuned for more about my visit to Gracin Vinarija.
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2011 was one of the best years for Port we’ve seen in my lifetime. It is already being compared to the legendary 1963 and 1945 vintages. The 2011 vintages ports were released last year. If you come across any, snatch it up! But, don’t get too excited …you can’t open it …yet. When it comes Port, your patience will be greatly rewarded. All vintage Port, and especially this stellar 2011 vintage, should be cellared. Ideally, you should give it 30 years of ageing to reach its peak level of complexity and elegance. Certainly, the 2011 vintage Ports are delicious even now, though they are more bold and jammy than they will ever be as they evolve through their lifecycle.
Prior to the release of the 2011 vintage Ports, I had the pleasure of tasting through several Symington Family Port vintages going as far back as 1955 and proceeding through the 2011s. By example, a comparison of Cockburn’s 1955 Vintage Port and Cockburn’s 2011 Vintage Port was stark. Both were stellar wines, but the flavor profile changed significantly over the 56 year spread.
Cockburn 2011 Vintage Port has notes of raisin, violets, licorice, black tea, black cherry, and granite. By comparison, Cockburn’s 1955 Vintage Port has notes of caramel corn, coffee, tobacco, dried mango, apricot and canned peaches. I love the 2011 vintage, but the 1955 vintage has evolved into magnificence.
In addition to Cockburn’s 2011 Vintage Port, a few of my favorites from the 2011 vintage are:
I love the texture of Quinta do Vesuvio –it lies down on your tongue like a soft pillow. It is dense and rich with notes of violets, blueberry, anise, honey, cassis and figs.
Dow’s is fresh on the front of the palate with beautiful minerality. It has notes of sweetened black tea, dark chocolate, green figs and leather.
Taylor Fladgate is so juicy with great acid balance. It has notes of black fruit, plum, violets and smoked figs.