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Oct 1, 2007 05:55 PM

I recently bought some red wines that I am unfamiliar with- who can help?

I was feeling adventurous, and here is a list of (widely varying) wines that I bought without knowing much about them. I would love to hear about their histories, as well as both flavor descriptions and suggested meal pairings. Thanks!

1. Avignonesi/Capanelle: 50 % 50 (2000) A Tuscan blend of equal parts Sangiovese and Merlot. By far the most costly of this bunch.
2. Frecciarossa: Uvarara (2005). An IGT from Lombardia, the name means "strange grape", and I'd like to be prepared for it!
3. Galiciano: ALAIA: Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon (2004). A Spanish blend of Prieto Picudo, Tempranillo, and a touch of Merlot.
4. Stormhoek: Pinotage, Western Cape, South Africa (2005). This is the only wine with a screw cap that I have ever bought.
5. William Fevre: Gran Cuvee Carmenere (2005) from Chile.
6. Maryhill: Winemaker's Blend (2005). Washington State blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc.

I realize this is somewhat of a motley crew- but what can I say, I like to take risks... all comments are appreciated!

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  1. I used to have William Fevre in high regards based on his Chablis.

    But now that I read: "Our wine production is limited (an average of 600,000bottles per year)" in his Chile's website

    I'll start having second thoughts.

    1 Reply
    1. re: RicRios

      >>> I'll start having second thoughts. <<<

      Ric, that makes no sense to me . . .

      A 50,000 case per year winery IN CHILE: a) has nothing whatsoever to do with his production of Chablis in France; and b) would be considered "one of the smallest medium-sized producers" if the winery were in the Napa Valley . . .


    2. 1. Avignonesi is one of Tuscany's top producers. In this case, this wine is ajoint venture between them and Capannelle, a top producer in Chianti. Think of this wine (as compared to a regular Chianti) in the same way you'd think of Pomerol to a Bordeaux. See;50-en... and

      2. Frecciarossa is actually "Uva Rara" -- meaning "rare grape" -- and that is the actual name of the grape variety. It's most commonly associated with Oltrepò Pavese. Fairly tannic, deep in color, a bit of spice . . .

      3. I'm not sure about the "Galiciano" (as the wine is not from Galicia), but the producer is Dehesa de Rubiales. The name of the wine is Alaia. The blend is 50% Prieto Picudo and 45% Tempranillo, 5% Merlot. Tannic, spicy, leathery - it's not a wine for everyone, but it's quite good.

      4. Talk about a wine that's not for everyone! Pinotage is it!!! I haven't had the Pinotage from Stormhoek, but think pencil box, lead and bitter tannin. When Pinotage is good, it can be excellent . . . there's just one question: when is it good? Stormhoek, OTOH, strikes me as a VERY commercial venture . . .

      5. Carmenère is THE great grape of Chile, and one of the original SIX red grapes used in Bordeaux. Think Cabernet with a twist.

      6. Maryhill Winery is less than a decade old, and produces 55,000 cases of wine a year. I haven't had any wine from them, but the Columbia Valley is a superb area for traditional Bordeaux varieties.

      Hope this helps.


      1 Reply
      1. re: zin1953

        Thank you, Jason, for that excellent run-down of these wines. The reason why I spelled Uva Rara as one word is that it is written that way on the bottle. Also, I know that it means "rare grape" (actually, I do Italian translation for a living), but the consultant where I bought the wine kept referring to it as "strange grape", so I thought perhaps it was an industry term (even though I knew better, technically, than to call it that). I am very excited about the 50%50- Avignonesi is one if my favorite Italian producers, though its been a while since I favored Tuscan wines. I have never seen this one before, but it looks like a keeper. I figured the Alaia might be a good way (on a budget) to introduce myself to Spanish wines, which I know nothing about. Ditto for the Carmenere, which I knew was big in Chile, although I have little experience with Chilean wine, either. I really wanted to try a Washington red, and to be honest, I was looking for a less expensive bottle that would be indicative of that region. The consultant pointed me to Columbia Valley wines- I hope I picked a good one for that price range. As for the Pinotage... I take it you are one of its many detractors. I am somewhat prepared to dislike it, which is probably the wrong way to approach any wine... but I at least want to give it a whirl. Stormhoek is simply a producer that I have heard of (I actually I heard that this particular bottle got rave reviews). Like I said in my OP, I was feeling adventurous :) Thanks again for your feedback. I'll post again after I have some feedback of my own.

      2. Vin, one thing I note about most of these wines is that they are all quite young... even the 2000 Tuscan... 7 years isn't alot of age for quality sangiovese/merlot...

        So, most of these will probably benefit from serious decanting, IMO, if you intend to drink them now.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Chicago Mike

          Thank you for the tip. In my limited experience, I have, indeed, found that waiting a few hours after opening a bottle helps a lot with the younger reds that I have been drinking lately. I do not own a proper decanter, but plan to buy one soon. I intend to hold on to the Tuscan- when would you estimate to be a ripe time to open it (meaning peak)?

          1. re: vvvindaloo

            When you want to aerate a wine, a pitcher works better than most decanters, which are usually designed to reduce exposure to air. If there are fruit flies around you'd want to put some mesh or cheesecloth over the top.

            Though personally I have rarely found a young wine that was to my taste improved by aeration.

            Robust old wines sometimes need 15-30 minutes to open up and reach their full bouquet ... but unfortunately delicate old wines sometimes need only 15 minutes to lose what bouquet they have left. So generally unless I know the wine well I'd rather watch it evolve in the glass.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Well, a pitcher I do have. On a couple of occasions, I actually liked a wine much better on the second day than the first- the first day it was punchier, sharper... and the next it had smoothed out. This is why I wrote that some of the younger reds taste better several hours after opening (even if the wine stays in the bottle). Those were much more robust wines than the ones listed above, though. Since none of these here are old wines, do you think that all of them would benefit from aging? I'm sure the Avignonesi can wait a long time under proper storage conditions, but the rest? Thanks again to everyone for all of your valuable assistance.

            2. re: vvvindaloo

              Assuming you store it reasonably well I'd guesstimate the peak to be from 15 to 20 years after harvest.... I would look for it to start drinking nicely in 10 to 12 years from harvest

              Also, don't shell out alot for a decanter, any CLEAN glass pitcher or carafe will do,.... I personally like wider-mouthed ones rather than the ones with the fat bottoms and thin necks.... The real key is that it has to be 100% clean with no residual soap scum or odors, perfumes, of any kind...

              1. re: vvvindaloo

                Most super-Tuscans are made to be drinkable on release (in this case four years after the vintage) and peak within one to four years after. Looking at Wine Spectator notes on past vintages of the 50 & 50, they said the 1995 would be best between 2000 and 2004, the '97 and '98 in '03-08, the '99 and 2000 "after 2006."

                I'd drink it soon. Could always buy another to lay down if that seemed like a good bet.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I did some superficial research. Wine Advocate # 158 (Apr 2005) says to drink between 2004 and 2015... I am not a subscriber to Spectator, so thank you for their input.

            3. Seems the Maryhill blend has won a few awards:

              I went a couple years ago to Mt. Hood and tasted a lot of local wines, including Maryhill which is located very close by. But I must say I wasn't superimpressed with their stuff at the time. That said, the whole area near the Gorge (as we call it) is quite new to winegrowing in general unlike the whole Columbia Valley. I talked to a local who was looking to planning to open a winebar in Mt. Hood and he said that most winemakers in that area (there are like three) are still figuring out how to do things, figure out their soil and grapes.

              But please, report back and let us know how it tastes! Could be the next big thing.

              9 Replies
              1. re: iwantmytwodollars

                Will do! I'd also appreciate any recommendations you have re: Washington State wines. Thanks.

                  1. re: zin1953

                    Red: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese
                    White: Riesling, Semillion, Gewurztraminer

                    I'd also love to hear how these wines stack up against their counterparts from Oregon (unless Oregon's strong suits are completely different). Thanks!

                    1. re: vvvindaloo


                      Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah; red Bordeaux blends.
                      Whites: Riesling, Semillon; white Bordeaux blends.


                      Reds: Pinot Noir.
                      Whites: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris.

                      * * * * *

                      The climate and soil types are VERY different. Most of the grapes grown in Oregon are grown in the Willamette Valley AVA, WEST of the Cascades. Most of the grapes grown in Washington are grown in the Columbia Valley AVA, EAST of the Cascades -- much hotter and drier; it's a desert.

                      The exception is the Walla Walla Valley AVA of Eastern Washington, which DOES extend into a small portion of northeastern Oregon. Here you can (and do!) get some great Cabernets and Merlots, but few really consider it as "Oregon" wine -- it's really "Walla Walla Valley" wine . . . .


                      1. re: zin1953

                        Thanks again, Jason, for all of your valuable knowledge, and for taking the time to help me out. I have just recently begun exploring Pinot Noir, and I like it more and more. I am looking forward to trying the Washington Bordeaux, in particular. I have tasted Syrah from all over the world during the past two or three years, and have decided that I can do without it.... and don't even get me started on Australian Shiraz!

                        1. re: vvvindaloo

                          Washington is, IMHO, an outstanding place for Cabernet and Merlot, with a richness and depth not often seen in California. (Both regions are capable of producing excellent wines, but Columbia and Walla Walla are as different from Napa and Sonoma as night and day.)

                          Some names to look for in terms of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and/or Bordeaux blends include (but by NO MEANS is limited to): Andrew Will, Betz Family, Cadence, Canoe Ridge, Chatea Ste. Michelle, DeLille Cellars, Dunham Cellars, Hedges Cellars, Januik, L'Ecole No. 41, Leoneti Cellars, Matthews, Northstar, Pepper Bridge, Quilceda Creek, Reininger, Sandhill, Seven Hills, Waterbrook, and Woodward Canyon, to name but a few.

                          For Syrah, Cayuse, Columbia Winery, DeLille Cellars, Glen Fiona, Isenhower Cellars, K, McCrea, Sequel, Syncline, and Thurston Wolfe, among others.

                          For Sémilion, Sauvignon Blanc, and/or white Bordeaux blends, Chinook, DeLille Cellars, L'Ecole No. 41.

                          * * * * *

                          For Pinot Noir, stick to Oregon.

                  2. re: vvvindaloo

                    Last year did a trip to walla walla...great place for a weekend, couldn’t do all the wineries of course but here some recommendations and notes.

                    Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot are big there. In general, very extracted wines…dye your tongue / teeth purple kind of extraction. Syrah very Rhone like with lots of spice. Cab and Merlot bigger and more fruit forward.

                    My favorites were Cayuse (Syrah), Waterbrook (Cab / Syrah), Northstar (Merlot), Spring Valley (Syrah) and Ash Hollow (some funky whites). – many more too many to list. Woodward Canyon, L’Ecole, are others widely distributed .

                    Suggest going to for a map

                    Many of the wineries have tasting rooms downtown. Good deli’s and a few good restaurants… I like 26 Brix (though it has changed hands recently I hear) and Whitehouse Crawford. The Marcus Whitman is a very nice hotel in downtown.

                    1. re: earl

                      Thank you for the terrific link (the site is really quite thorough), as well as the food recommendations. I can't think of a better vacation than one centered on good food and wine!

                      1. re: earl

                        26 Brix did not change hands, it closed and reopened with a different menu/emphasis. Unfortunately, it was a littleahead of the times for WW originally. Add Saffron and T. Maccarone to the list as well.

                  3. Forget Jason on the Pinotage, he's not tasted the Stormhoek. You won't find any heavy tannins on it, and you should drink up soon as it is a wine made for drinking within 2 years.

                    Stormhoek have a 'Freshness Indicator' on their bottles and the 2005 Pinotage suggests drinking before January 2008.

                    Stormhoek have generated enormous publicity for what is a small new winery by using blogging and Facebook. They sent out bottles to bloggers without condition which generated a buzz when they in turn blogged about it.

                    The 2005 Stormhoek Pinotage won the London International Wine and Spirit Competition 2006 Trophy for Best Pinotage.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Gussie Finknottle

                      Thanks, GF! I knew I had heard something somewhere about Stormhoek... though I am not so sure that Facebook is necessarily where I would go to find wine tips. I did notice the "freshness indicator" on the bottle, which I thought was pretty cool, actually (for a "newfangled" idea, if you don't mind those sort of things). However, I never actually checked out what it recommended- now I know to drink it soon! What should I eat with it?

                      1. re: vvvindaloo

                        The Nando's chain haveit on their wine list - they specialise in peri-peri chicken - so any casual dish or spicy food. Its an easy going wine..