Rodney Strong Vineyards and I have a love affair going back to the 1970s. I remember buying 1975 Sonoma Vineyards’ (the former name of Rodney Strong’s winery) Petite Sirah by the case from Dick Lavender – he of the old Fowler’s off West Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. This ridiculously affordable red – I think it was $4 before case discount – was so satisfying, round and chewy, it fit the bill for a relatively poor musician still living in New York City. I stocked up on trips home for Christmas!
Petite Sirah is still made by the eponymous winery, but these days their most sought after and featured wines are three single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon-based reds; these are named Alexander’s Crown, Rockaway and today’s offering, Brother’s Ridge. Made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, this vineyard is located at the very northern end of the Alexander Valley. Although very warm weather predominates here, the Brother’s Ridge vines are situated from 400 to 1,000 feet above sea level, allowing the famous Sonoma nighttime breezes to keep ripeness in check. This would be a superb gift for the wine collector in your life.
Inky black saturated color. A firm, profound and concentrated nose with explosive blackberry, licorice, cigar box and sage elements. Just shy of over-ripeness, it presents considerable fruit in a dried, quasi-reduced sense. Dry flavors suggest black cherry, cola and loamy earth with an herbal and minerally finish. Strong (no pun intended) flavored with firm tannins, the wine is a beauty, but only beginning to show its considerable stuff. Needs three to four hours aeration now, or hold for up to 12 years from the vintage date.
Ferrari is Italy’s oldest producer of dry sparkling wines (established in 1902) made by the true Champagne process that includes a second fermentation in the bottle. This produces a tight, intense bubble and deftly balanced flavors. Grown on the Alpine slopes of the northern Italian region of Trento (with vines up to 1,900 feet above sea level), the Lunelli family crafts these sophisticated wines, now into their fourth generation of committed wine stewards. This non-vintage rosé spends several years aging on its lees (sediment) before final filtration and dosage occurs. Sets the bar very high indeed.
A clear salmon color. A bouquet of rose petals, ripe raspberry and red currant, with notes of bready yeasts, licorice and a suggestion of eucalyptus. Medium-bodied with strawberry and grapefruit flavors converging on the focused yet frisky palate. Crisp finish, excellent length and delightful energy. (A blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay) Drink now-2015.
Now that the Douro region of Portugal, once only famous for Port wines, produces delicious table wines from the same grapes, it’s hard to believe that it didn’t happen sooner! With the exception of Barca Velha, a delicious and expensive table red, my first dry wine experience from the Douro region was called Duas Quintas. Made by Port house Ramos Pinto, I remember that its initial vintage (1990) did not sell well in our market. Being offered from our local distributor on close-out, I bought all of it for my retail shop! I was fascinated by the richness and lush quality of this red and, even at full retail price (then about $10), it was a bargain.
Today, Portuguese table wines abound in all price ranges, and one of the medium-priced stars is Prats & Symington’s Post Scriptum. This is a very cute name for the second label (hence the P.S.) of their superstar wine Chryseia. From a partnership between Bordeaux wine consultant Bruno Prats (He the former owner of Chateau Cos d’Estournel) and Charles Symington’s extensive Portuguese holdings, this P+S offering seems to get more distinctive with each passing vintage.
Deep plum color with brick-red highlights. Saturated fruit impressions on the nose, with ripeness tempered by structure. Notes of blackberry, mulberry, cola and currant fill this sinuses. Has a mouth feel of crushed berry compote, with coffee and chocolate elements and a lightly chalky finish. Tannins supply “cut” and ageability. Open a few hours ahead if serving tonight. Drink now-2019.