In preparation for Open That Bottle Night (live, only on Palate Press; Saturday, February 26 from 7 pm - 10 pm EST), contributing editor Howard Hewitt shares some information on the bottle he plans to open for the event.
A cheerful bright cherry aroma wafts up from the glass at first. After the wine opens a bit, deeper cherry aromas and flavors carry an undertone of tobacco and earth. Tannins are moderately woody, in a pleasant way. This wine is good to sip on its own; it also works well with pasta with a fresh tomato sauce, liberally sprinkled with freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
For a second-generation winemaker, following in your father’s footsteps may well mean doing your own thing. Chuck Ortman made his name in California by mastering one of the state’s most widely planted varieties, Chardonnay. His son Matt is taking a different route, building on the family tradition with sparsely planted sangiovese.
An everyday Tuscan Frescobaldi. Benefits from air, so open an hour before dinner, or swirl a lot in the glass at first. Pleasant, mild aroma with notes of cherry and caramelized fruit, opening to plumminess in the flavor. Not super-fruity—a touch restrained, with tannins adding structure. As the label says, best with stronger foods; I liked it with slivers of Romano cheese.
This is not a wine: this is an icon of Maremma Toscana! The grapes are mainly from old Sangiovese clones, with high density planting and extremely limited production, which give the wine ruby coloration in the glass, and a bouquet of dark flowers (violet) and spice (pepper, cinnamon, cloves) but also with a nuance of chocolate. In the mouth it is fresh, with good acidity, still fruity, with smooth tannins. A very elegant and drinkable wine, perfect with grilled red meals.
A lovely Chianti Classico from a difficult year, this shines with bright acidity and cherry flavors. A hint of raspberry along with the cherry at the attack blends smoothly into darker blackberry flavors through the mid-palate. Tannins are smooth but slightly drying, leaving a sensation of soft suede sprinkled with black pepper. It clearly has years of cellar life remaining, the acids and tannins still actively at play. This comes a bit more dear than a typical pizza Chianti and is worth holding for something else, but if it is all you have for pizza you will not be disappointed. Save it, if you can, for pork cops or real italian braciole (not the involtini misnamed in the U.S.).
This red blend is a real Frankenwine, lots of different parts sewn together creating a bit of a monster. Candied cherry shines through on the nose from the Sangiovese, but on the palate the Syrah blasts its way to the fore. Smoked meat, blackberries, and sage are there, but they're fighting it out with the Cabernet's blackcurrants and black cherry from the Merlot. Tannins are powerful to the point of harsh. Acids are just as big. The two together, along with the kitchen sink blend, make for an aggressive mouthful of wine. It might settle down settle down and knit together in five to ten years, but right now if you put it in your mouth it just tries to fight its way out to look for a village to burn and a kid to throw in the river.
Bright, medium-deep intensity, ruby with some purple. On the nose, dark fruit, bramble, blueberry, black cherry, raspberry jam. All fruits are on their way to being cooked, but not stewed. New oak, baking spice, vanilla, some herbs—but not prominent. Dry, medium+ body, medium intensity. Fruits confirmed: black cherry, raspberry, plum, jam. Toasted oak, vanilla, cinnamon, and coffee on the palate. Medium acidity, medium tannin, medium alcohol, medium-long finish. The spice from the oak and some fruit linger. In summary, this is a fairly decent table wine, especially given the price. The finish is really good for a wine that might be presumed to be "low quality." No doubt this is mass-produced, but is an excellent every day wine. I'll definitely buy again.