When it comes to wine, winter doesn’t have to be any less fun than summer.
We just take it all inside, off the patio and deck, to the warmth of the hearth and home.
‘Tis the season for Malbecs from Argentina, Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile, and Chianti and red blends from Italy — heat, spice, herbs, berry flavors, violet colors, and other wonderful characteristics.
Several months ago, my friends from Creative Palate Communications, Jane Kettlewell and Mary Kate Corcoran, sent me a shipment of new bottlings to sample. The agreement is that I will write about the wines I find enjoyable, of good quality, and represent a value for consumers.
Recently, I completed the tastings, a task made easier with the assistance of the Wine Goddess (my wife Mary Lee) and the Wine Butler (Michael Pigeon) and his wife Judy. All wines were sampled with food, usually simple pasta dishes, pizza, or meats cooked on the grill.
Here’s our top selections:
• Decopas Malbec 2013, Argentina, $12 — A new Malbec makes its debut from Mendoza, one of South America’s best wine-growing regions. It’s good to see the inky, violet color in the glass, a testament to Malbec’s intense fruit flavors. The art-deco label shows a couple dancing and having a good time, and who can blame them if they’re drinking this smooth, 100 percent Malbec? The tasters all agreed the big plum and cherry flavors were bright and beautiful. A bargain for the price. Went well with bacon-lettuce-and-tomato cheeseburgers.
• Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec, Argentina $17.99 — You’ve got to love what the producers have done with this Malbec blend over the past six years. It’s quality has gotten better (a solid 88 points from CellarTracker), while its average price has fallen $4 a bottle. A rich dose of Cabernet Sauvignon gives this a richer, full-bodied feel. Chocolate, blackberries and earthiness coat the palate. You’re talking a good pairing with grilled steak and baked yams. Want a special treat? Drink while listening to the Three Tenors sing “Nessun Dorma.”
• Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013, Chile ($11) — One of the steals of the season. Wine Enthusiast magazine selected the 2012 Casillero for its “Top 100 Best Buys of 2014”, ranking it 64th on the list. It rated 88 points. The 2013 vintage offers the same deep, dark plum flavors and velvety smooth finish. Undeniably a Concha y Toro all-star. Pair with a juicy T-Bone steak or top sirloin.
• Capezzana Barco Reale di Carmignano, Italy, ($12) — A year ago I wrote about the Capezzana Estate Winery which has a history of innovative wine-making dating back 450 years. Here’s a Sangiovese-dominant blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Canaiolo, Cabernet Franc) that delivers outstanding Tuscan value and taste. We had it with a thin-crusted pizza smothered in sausage, black olives and tomato slices. Perfetto!. Snuggle on the couch, watch “The Godfather” and drink like the Corleones!
• Castello di Monsanto Monrosso Chianti, Italy ($9) — Chianti producers are moving closer to a 100 percent Sangiovese while creating a higher-priced “Gran Selezione” quality distinction from blends like this one (10 percent Merlot). Don’t be fooled. While an inexpensive Chianti, Monrosso isn’t cheaply crafted. This estate makes great Chianti at several levels, and this happens to be its first tier. Drink it with antipasto, grilled meats, meatball/sausage sandwiches, and burgers and you’ll be gushing that you paid less than $10 a bottle.
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