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As regular readers know, I am not an avid writer of tasting notes.  Though I do tend to take extensive tasting notes in my notebook and in Evernote, I’m not a big fan of posting those tasting notes here (despite that being one of the original intentions of this blog).  Instead, I prefer the longer, op-ed style posts, which better suits my personality.

One of my New Year’s blogging goals was to post more of my personal tasting notes along with some background and basic vitals like blend, alcohol and winery Twitter handle.  This is the beginning of a series I’m calling ‘from the racks‘ posts that will feature reds, whites and sparkling wines that we (wife, wine group, random friends and I) taste over the course of the month.

From the racks…

Linden Vineyards 2010 Claret
USA, Virginia, Front Royal
46% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc.
13% abv | $24
LindenClaretProduced by one of Virginia’s wine pioneers, Jim Law.  I’m often asked for winery recommendations from friends and those visiting the Northern Virginia/DC area — Linden is always at the top of the must visit list.  2010 was a notable year for reds here in Virginia and the Linden Claret is one of the best 2010s I’ve tasted.   This wine opens with ripe plums, spice and cherry with hints of mineral.  Flavors of spice, stewed blackberry, and sweet tobacco on the palate complemented by minerally acidity and a lengthy black fruit finish.  Planning a visit to Virginia?  Add a visit to Linden to your list (check website for hours).
Find this wine via Wine-Searcher.

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Shinn Estates Vineyards 2009 Merlot
USA, New York, Long Island, North Fork
98 % Merlot, 2% Malice
13.5% abv | $27 (wine received as sample)
On Twitter: @ShinnVineyard
Shinn2009MerlotI first tasted this wine a few weeks ago at Jancis Robinson‘s American Wine book release event at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. One of the few North Fork wines I’ve had (one would think my friend Lenn Thompson would have sent me a few bottles of his local wines ;) ), this Merlot sets a very high bar for Long Island wines and for Merlot in general.  More impressive is the fact that this is Shinn’s entry-level Merlot.  Delicious — aromas of black cherry, plum, cocoa powder, vanilla-blueberry pie with flavors of plum, dark berries and mushrooms.  Notable but not overwhelming tannins and acidity that ensures this wine will still deliver in the next five years.   At the high end of my Merlot budget, but a fantastic wine worth a few slots in one’s wine rack.
Find this wine via Snooth.

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2010 Two Shepherds Syrah/Mourvedre
USA, California
50% Russian River Valley Syrah, 50% Mourvedre.
13.8% abv | $32
On Twitter: @2ShepherdsWine
TwoSheps2010Started by corporate tech dude by day and founder of the Simple Hedonisms blog, William Allan has become one of California’s most heralded Rhone Rangers since Two Shepherds’ inaugural 2010 vintage.  The name Two Shepherds is a combination of ‘Shepherd of the Palate‘ and ‘Shepherd of the Grape.’ I first met William a few years ago at the home of writer Marcy Gordon in Sebastopol, CA, at a Virginia wine tasting that I helped organize (he graciously provided the stemware for the tasting) and reconnected in Portland last summer to taste Two Shepherds.  Of the wines I tasted last summer, this was my favorite, even more so than the wildly popular Grenache Blanc.  Unfined, unfiltered and fermented in neutral oak with native yeast and aged ten months in neutral oak as well.  A beautiful wine, lots to unpack here — dark cherry, fresh blackberries, lavender, hints of herb blend, and gamey notes.   Nice acidity with violets and dark berry finish.

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Rodney Strong 2010 Pinot Noir
USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
100% Pinot Noir
14.5% abv | ~ $21.99 – $24.99 (wine received as sample for review)
On Twitter: @RSVineyards
Rodney Strong PinotThis is a solid wine in the sub $25 Pinot category and widely available throughout the US.  I’ve been a fan of Rodney Strong wines for their quality, price points and consistency.  Liked this 2010 but looking back over my notes, gave higher marks to the previous vintage.   If you can find the 2009, go with that one over the 2010.  This is a blend of nine different Pinot clones.  Ruby in color, this wine opens with aromas of vanilla oak that quickly opens up with black cherry, sage, cinnamon and red berries with hints of rose petals.  In the mouth, flavors mushroom, sage, spice and cherries lead to a medium red berry finish.  Also, I highly recommend their Rockaway, Single Vineyard Cab for that special steak night.
Find this wine via Snooth.

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2008 Cantine Riondo Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC
Italy, Veneto, della Valpolicella
15.5% abv | ~ $28    (wine received as sample for review)
AmaroneValpolicella is considered by many as one of the most prestigious winemaking areas in the Veneto region of northeast Italy.  Amarone wines consist of three primary grapes — Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara. In order to concentrate sugars, aromatics and flavors, grapes for Amarone wines are dried after harvest over the course of a couple months on a straw surface in a warm environment. I don’t drink much Amarone (seems to be a trend with needing to expand) but this bottle made me want to try others. Brick in color, this wine offers aromas and flavors of dried cranberry, vanilla, raisin, plum and spice on the edges.
This wine is available at Wine Chateau (on Twitter: @WineChateau).

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2007 Bodegas Alto Moncayo Garnacha
Spain, Aragon, Campo de Borja
100% Garnacha
16% abv   | ~ $39 (wine received as sample for review)
Alto Moncayo Grenache

Old vine Garnacha made by Australian flying winemaker Chris Ringland.  Not surprisingly this wine is big, rich, ripe, and round.  Blueberry, black cherry, blackberry, spice and smoke throughout.  Not typically a fan of these big ‘uns but the tannins and acidity keep this wine between the beacons. Delicious.  The retail price for this particular wine is all over the map — pick up a couple bottles for your racks if you can find around $35.
Find this wine via Snooth.

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2009 Expedition Cabernet Sauvignon by Steve Matthiasson
USA, California, Napa Valley
100% Cabernet Sauvignon
14.5% abv |  $39 (wine received as sample for review)
On Twitter: @MatthiassonWine (Expedition label not on Twitter)
ExpeditionCabThis Cab was made by friend, uber-viticulturist, and one of Food & Wine Magazine’s ’2012 Winemakers of the Year,’ Steve Matthiasson, for Vinifera Wine Company as part of their new program that showcases wines from different regions and winemakers under their Continental Expedition label.  I first met Steve and his wife Jill in 2009 over a dinner of crab cakes and lamb at their home in Napa and have been an evangelist for Matthiasson wines since.  (Steve’s Matthiasson Napa Valley White is one of my favorite white wines ever.)   Steve’s motivation for this Cab was to capture the whole of Napa Valley (to the extent possible) by blending Cabernet grapes from 27 different vineyards throughout the valley.  This wine offers stewed dark berries, plums, sage, sweet tobacco, forest floor and hints of black tea.  The use of oak is noticeable but not overpowering, inflecting hints of vanilla aromas and flavors.  This wine made a fantastic pairing with (charcoal) grilled steak.This wine is available through Vinifera Wine Company’s Expedition program.

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Tarantas Monastrell
Spain, Jumilla
100% Monastrell (100% organic)
14% abv | $11.99 (this wine received as sample for review)
On Twitter: @NaturalMerchant
tarantas-monastrellKnown in Spain as Monastrell, but called Mourvedre throughout the rest of the world. Also known as the ‘M’ in GSM, when blended with Grenache and Syrah.  Grown in the Jumilla region — one of Spain’s fastest growing regions — Monastrell makes up 80% of all vineyard land of the region.  I tasted this wine some time ago with our wine group but unfortunately the photos from that afternoon and a bottle pic of this wine were victims of my technological ineptness — all photos from that entire weekend were somehow deleted (operator error is the likely culprit).  Dark purple in color, this wine offers abundant dark fruits, spice and violets on the nose with flavors of blueberry pie, cinnamon and hints of cedar.   A solid value at just $11.99.  This wine and other Tarantas wines are imported and distributed by Oregon based Natural Merchants and widely available at Whole Foods Markets throughout the US.

A little off topic — for those looking for consistent, solid QPR Cava, check out the Tarantas Sparkling Cava also available at Whole Foods throughout the US.  It’s one of our favorite value sparkling wines.

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2010 Schild Estate Barossa Valley Shiraz
Australia, Barossa Valley
100% Shiraz
14.5% abv | $ ~ $22  (wine received as sample for review)
Schild Shiraz from Wine Chateau - JAN2013I’m generally not a fan of big, over-extracted Shiraz (or, she-raaaz as the locals pronounce it) typical of Australia, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.  I recently returned from a visit to Australia where I noted a number of vintners pulling back the reins of the high alcohol fruit-bomb style.  This particular Shiraz from the Barossa Valley is an example of this more restrained style — still big and fruity, but not over the top.  Wine Spectator ranked this #30 on its annual list of top 100 wines of 2012.  Fans of Australian Shiraz won’t be disappointed by the ripe plum and cherry compote, blueberry-vanilla pie, spice and black olive undertones.  Great mouthfeel, lengthy finish of blueberry-black licorice and spice.  This wine was quite popular with our friends the night we opened.
This wine is available at Wine Chateau (on Twitter: @WineChateau).

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2010 Donkey & Goat Five Thirteen
USA, California, Sierra Foothills, El Dorado
47% Grenache, 21% Syrah, 16% Mourvèdre, 10% Counoise, 6% Cinsault
14.1% abv | $32 (was a little priced at restaurant)
On Twitter: @DonkeyandGoat
Donkey and GoatDonkey & Goat wines kick ass! Really. Natural wines (whatever that means these days). Wild yeasts. Unfiltered. Delicious. The name Five Thirteen is derived from Donkey & Goat blends using up to thirteen of the grape varietals traditional to Chateuneuf-du-Pape.  This particular wine includes five of those thirteen grape varietals.  I enjoyed this bottle of Five Thirteen a while ago over dinner at Range with Aaron from Hogs Head Wine and intended to write about Donkey & Goat after a recent visit to Northern California.  Alas, the 9-5 schedule left no time for wine during that trip so these few sentences will have to suffice for now.  A delicious wine with notes of violet, rose petals, sage, and spice around a leather-cherry core. Exceptionally good wines.
Find this wine via Wine Searcher.

Would be curious to hear feedback from readers who have tried any of these wines.  From the Racks — Sparkling Wines (including Franciacorta, Cava, California, Virginia and New York) next week.

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