Perfect Pairing: Textbook Malbec and Steak.

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Few things, among the simple meals I consider comfort food, provide pure pleasure such as a juicy slab of steak accompanied by a bold and tannic red wine. Particularly if the red wine is a fine textbook Malbec from Argentina. Malbec hails from Bordeaux, where is one of the six grapes permitted to be part of a Red Bordeaux blend. However, after the phylloxera epidemic of 1850 hit the region, Malbec almost disappear and became less popular in Bordeaux. These days Malbec has found a new home in Cahors and all the way to Mendoza, Argentina, where it is now the prominent grape in both regions. Unlike the tried and true Old World Vs New World wine comparison from Cabernet Sauvignon to Syrah to Pinot Noir, Malbec provides one of the few examples where one could draw stark distinctions between wines of the same grape, made in different places. But these disctictions are not derived from terroir alone. While Cahors sticks to tradition producing wines with a more austere flavor profile, brooding fruit, tannins and minerals, Argentina produces more opulent wines, intense, fruit-forward and spicier. A key factor in these differences is the climate. Mendoza enjoys more days of sun and drier growing seasons, resulting in riper grapes than those in Cahors. Now, the proof is in the bottle. This Malbec comes from Bodegas Dominio de La Plata and this 2010 BenMarco is what I consider a textbook Malbec because it represents an unresolved tension between Old and New Word style. Opens up with lush aromas of vanilla and oak, highlithed by hints of earth, black currant and spice. Finishes long focusing on the tamed tannins. The wine is unfiltered and furnished with about 12% of Bonarda. Paired deliciously with a marbly Rib Eye and green beans sautéed with garlic. Bought at Pops Fine Wines in Easton, MA, for $22.00.

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Fine Wines from Il Veneto: Prosecco and Valpolicella.

Prosecco

We started the night with a glass of Prosecco from Tentua Santomé. This particular bottling is made with grapes sourced from DOC Treviso, in Veneto, Italy. The wine offers aromas of honeysuckle and pear. The flavor is vibrant on the palate, rounded with additional flavors of braeburn apples and honeydew. Finishes distinctive with equal parts of tanginess and residual sugar.

Italian Night.

Ripasso

The origins of Ripasso date back to 1964 thanks to Masi Agricola, a mid-size and yet influential Veneto producer. Masi developed a technique by which Valpolicella wine was refermented on the Amarone pomace, or the pressed skins left over from Amarone production. The resulting wine was given additional complexity and elegance, effectively making it a ‘baby Amarone’. And just to be precise, the Valpolicella AVA require the use of least 85% of corvina, corvinone and rondinella and up to 15% of molinara, rossinognola, negrata, trentina, sangiovese, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc may be included. Of course, this initial Ripasso technique is analogous to re-using ground espresso coffee beans for re brewing a batch of drip coffee. These days however, making Ripasso does not involve refermenting Valpolicella wine with skins left overs. A more modern technique has been adopted by which the wine is refermented using grapes especially semi-dried for this specific purpose. The results of this new approach are the same, imparting complex aromas and flavors and creating a more elegant wine. The aromas of this Cesari Ripasso are filled with cherry and leather. The flavors echo the aromas, finishing with firm tannins and a touch of wood from twelve months aging in slovenian oak. Quite good.

A Ripasso Wine

Mara – Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso

Bosan Amarone Della Valpolicella

Amarone, of acclaimed famed worldwide, is also from Il Veneto and it is one of my favorite wines. Amarone wine is made using the quintessential Appassimento process, or raisining of the grapes. Appassimento, literally means in Italian “raisining“, which is a process of semi-drying grapes. This process is very likely an ancient Roman technique. Originally, grapes were dried to concentrate flavors and elevate sugar level to make sweet wine. In fact, in Il Veneto this sweet wine is called Recioto. At some point it was discovered that occasionally the wild yeast would ferment all sugars into alcohol, creating the predecessor of Amarone. Contrary to popular belief, Amarone wine is actually an invention of the 20th century.
This particular rendition of Amarone consists of 80% Corvina and 20% Rondinella. The wine is concentrated, full-bodied with a lovely mixture of dried fruits, nuts and spice upfront aromas. The flavors are congruent with the aromas, delivering a medium to full-body mouthfeel. It finishes long and focused on the dried fruits and spice, a testament of its three years in French and Slavonian barrel–not to be confused with Slovenian Oak though.

SIngle Vineyard Amarone

Bosan Single Vineyard Amarone

Il Bosco Amarone Della Valpolicella

This version of Amarone is almost identical to that of its cousin Bosan Amarone. Same grape composition, 80% Corvina and 20%. But Il Bosco spent only two years in barrel. One could argue that this is a baby Bosan.
Obviously, being a younger wine than its predecessor, Il Bosco is a bit more rustic. Intense aromas of currants and herbs. On the palate, the wine is also intensely flavorful, loaded with notes of blackberry and raisins on a tight and yet elegant tone. Finishes with well integrated tannins. Perfect for Risotto Al Funghi. Cheers!
Il Bosto
Another single vineyard amarone

Jema Corvina

My favorite wine of the night. Made of 100% Corvina. This is a wonderful wine that offers a complex array of aromas and flavors. It opens up with aromas of dried cherries and cedary oak. On the palate, the wine offers notes of prune, cherries and minerals. Full-body and fully flavorful. Finishes long, balanced and oaky undertones. The oak notes come from aging in French oak for 18 months. A truly fantastic wine! Think of meats, charcuterie and aged cheeses.
Saluti per cento anni!
Jema
What a beautiful Wine!

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Exceptional Value from Columbia Valley in Washington State


I think this wine might be the value of the year so far. At a first taste, the wine opens with lush aromas of black fruit, tobacco and spice. On the palate, the wine is firm, rich and intense, with layers of black cherry, earth and cedar flavors. A wine exhibiting these characteristics in itself is a terrific wine. Now let’s consider this: The price of this wine was $11.00 upon release. I actually bought it for $10.00 at Woodman’s in Madison, WI. This bottle was part of a horizontal taste of international wines from the 2007 vintage that I conducted last Sunday for a group of wine enthusiasts. Among these fabulous wines were Beringer Napa Valley Cabernet, Allegrini Veronese, Joseph Phelps Le Mistral and Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec from Mendoza. The average rating for all the wines was 90 points taken from scores of Magazines ranging from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast to Wine and Spirits. Our wine enthusiast friends could not agree on which wine was the best and for good reasons. Every palate is different, we all know that our genes control the process of degustation and ultimately the selection of wines we like. However, the we all were able to agree in monetary terms. The Columbia Columbia Crest Grand Estates was the clear winner given that it was the only wine under $20.00, let alone it only costs $10.00!

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A Gem from Spain: Abadia Retuerta Selección Especial

A Gem from Spain: Abadia Retuerta

This wine hails from Castilla y León, by El Duero region in Spain. However this is NOT a Ribera Del Duero! Instead, the village Sardón del Duero has lent its name to this wine which is produced just outside DO Ribera del Duero by Abadía Retuerta. After opening, the wine is restraint at first, but it gradually shows off its charming side. A classic old-world style with subtle flavors of blackberries and minerals. With additional aeration, it comes out of its shell exuding wild herbs and vanillin scents, gaining power and texture with every sip. The exact composition of Selección Especial varies from year to year, but one can find in different ratios traces of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes. Further flavors are enhanced by 16 months of aging in French and American Oak barrels. Purchased at NH Liquor Outlet for $22.00. One would be hard-pressed to find a bottle from the fantastic 2003 vintage. But essentially any vintage of Selección Especial would satisfy old-world palates.

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Fruit bombs also count!

Fruit bombs also count!

Consider this 2006 Napa County Merlot a fabulous one. This Merlot from Folie à Deux is fruit-centric, like many of its Sonoma Valley counterparts. This incantation is well-balanced and loaded with cherry and blackberry scents. On the palate, the wine remains fruit-centric showcasing notes of red plum and red cherries. The tannins are subtle and yet polished. Finishes with good length, perfect for grilled meats, grilled mushrooms and mild cheeses. Folie à Deux typically produces excellent wines sourced from Sonoma Valley, particularly from Alexander Valley. This Napa version is not only rare, but a true gem! I bought this bottle at Stop One Liquors in Pawtucket, RI for $19.00.