Sella & Mosca Sardinian Wines

What comes to mind when one reads the word, “Sardinia”? Sardines? That island where Napoleon was exiled? (Actually, he cooled his heels in Elba.) Anything?

The difficulty of mentally associating much of anything with Sardinia is understandable—it’s a distant and difficult to characterize place. Officially a province of Italy, Sardinia is the second island in the Mediterranean Sea. The Italian constitution gives Sardinian considerable liberty to run its own affairs.

Less than 1.7 million people live on its 9,300 square miles, scattered in cities and small towns. Sardinia’s weather is sometimes tropical; palm and olive trees grow there, and turbulent storms blow in from the sea. But snow also falls in the highlands. Film stars sometimes holiday on Sardinia’s beaches, but the island also is spotted with a slew of NATO bases and installations, to the ire of some locals.

The cultural is similarly hard to peg for outsiders. Italian is the official language and is widely spoken, but there is a native Sardinian language which is more Latin-esque, and comes in varying dialects. Spaniards, Italians, Greeks, and various Africans all have landed on the island over the centuries. Unlike neighboring nations, Sardinia is more matriarchal than patriarchal. Women tend to be more educated than men, but the residential literacy rate is nearly 100 percent.

One unsurprising fact about Sardinia is that it, like its continental neighbors, makes wine. Lots of it.

Yet, Sardinian wine can be difficult to find in the United States. That is because much of the wine made in Sardinia is sold there or in Europe. Palm Bay International of Port Washington, New York imports Sella & Mosca wines. And America’s strong dollar might well induce more bottles to our shores. Which would be a good thing, since the wines are good and the atypical grapes give the palate something new.

So, suffice to say that when I recently had the chance to sample Sardinian wine I had no idea what to expect. The omnipresent Cabernet Sauvignon grows there, but most of the wines came from grapes  —Vermentino, Torbato, Carignano, Cannonau — that were at best vaguely familiar.

The eight wines…. Was it eight? Senator I cannot recall…. Anyhoo, the eight wines I tasted were produced by Sella & Mosca, Sardinia’s largest winery, which was founded a century ago. And I like everyone of them.

The two whites, La Cala Vermentino ($14) and Terre Bianche Torbato ($21) , were any interesting case in contrasts. La Cala has apricot and floral notes and was creamy in the mouth. Terre Bianche tasted of orange peel, apples, and was crisp. The latter was especially tasty with briny oysters.

The Sella & Mosca reds were very different from the fruit bombs one tends to find on American store shelves. A three-year old Terre Rare Carignano ($15) was a little dry, and showed blackberry and earth notes. Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva DOC was wonderfully musty—it was the taste equivalent of stepping into an old cellar where mushrooms were growing. Giovanni Pina, Sella & Mosca’s winemaker, outdid himself with Tanca Farra Alghero DOC 2011. This $27 bottle of wine blew me away as it balanced the rich fruit flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon against the earthy and leathery notes from the Cannonau grapes.

Finally, the high-end ($65 and up) Marchese di Villamarina DOC (2010, 2009, and 1999) offered a Sardinian take on Cabernet Sauvignon. Again, what one got was not the uber-tannic, fruit-forward cab model. Rather, the Marchese wines all showed modest fruit and interesting baking spices and tobacco notes. I was impressed, but I’m not the only one. Critics have deemed Marchese vintages excellent.

The next time you are perusing the drinks aisles or at a restaurant, look for one of these wines. I think you too will be impressed.

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Got the Wine Blahs? Try Another Grape

Romance WinesI admit it—I keep a box of Pinot Grigio in the fridge. I also have various Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons, and Pinot Noirs on my wine rack. These are my House wines, the wines I sip (or gulp) after a day at the office while I corral my children to the dinner table.

Most of these wines I pick up at the grocery store on Saturday mornings, when I am loading up the cart with diapers, peanut butter, bananas, and the other staples of life. From  month to month, the wine brands I buy change, but the grapes frequently remain the same. This is not unusual—most wine consumers tend to settle on brands and grapes. “Give me the Chardonnay” is one of the most uttered sentences in modern America.

It’s cliche but true—variety is the spice of life, and these days there is no excuse for mindless repetition. Try a different grape. The market offers an incredible array of wine options at prices that hedge risk. Pasqua Sangiovese runs $10, and is a long way from the dreck that used to come in the straw basket clad bottles. It noses of blackberry, vanilla, and leather, and it paired well with bacon pizza. Continue reading “Got the Wine Blahs? Try Another Grape”

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Coleccion Pardal Consecha Tempranillo 2012

Source: AlcoholReviews.com
Source: AlcoholReviews.com

Do not buy this wine.

We got a case of it via a Groupon or somesuch, and it is quite bad. We’ve opened multiple bottles and all of them are the same dreck-quality.

A green pepper flavor predominates, making the blackberry and other notes very difficult to enjoy.

Unless you pair Pardal Tempranillo with rich food, you likely won’t be able to drink more than half a glass.

Send it back to Spain, Stefano, Inc. of Cabin John, Maryland! (Rating: Not Good)

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Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon (2010)

Freemark Abbey Cabernet SauvignonDrink, Memory:  2010 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon
by B.D FischerThreeStrangeThings.com

Wine is inextricably bound up with memory.  This is partially because wine itself is memory—terroir is nothing but the circumstances of creation, like your parents’ blind date a dozen years before your birth.  In this analogy the Clef du Vin is Match.com.

My weekday watering hole is a superlative hotel bar across the street from my office.  In their denial of memory hotel bars are ideal places to drink—you will never meet these people again.  And they are even better than pre-9/11 airport bars in that, while the prices also tend toward the exploitative, the quality of the booze and mixology is higher.  Deb, my Stetson’s Sherpa, makes an Old Fashioned that will reduce you to tears.  And they have an excellent wine list.

On a recent Thursday I found myself on a stool soon after open, alone save a refugee from an orthodontic conference at McCormick Place.  He made a poor first impression, with an explicit joke about the stages of marital sex to the assembled throng of bartenders, hostesses, and managers, some of them young and female.  The rank smell of good old boy; he turned out to be from Dallas.  I’ve lived in Dallas, and this is a terrible sign.

But we were alone at the bar, and I was only pretending to edit a 600-page data dictionary.  What could I do?  I put my papers away and sidled next to him, Deb’s Old Fashioned in hand.  He was drinking Budweiser and preparing to order a steak, well done (shudder).  We began discussing Dallas strip clubs, which are legendary.

Then he ordered the sublime bottle of wine that is the subject of this review, and after it was delivered, opened, and poured he alternated swigs of Bud all the while.  This is a story of redemption, but I’ll never forget him going back and forth between this $92 bottle of wine (~$44 retail; Excellent) and the long tall pint of the crappiest beer on Earth.  The conversation shifted to my new marriage, then the poetry of country music, then his shocking admiration for hiphop, for Kanye West.

He called for Deb to pour me a glass from his bottle.  I told him about my novel.  He told me about the death of his teenage son.  I could fairly see the bouquet rise from the glass.  Life with his wife has become unbearable in the aftermath.  Cloves, coffee, cinnamon, Earth.  The love of a good woman.  The feeling in the mouth of endless ascension.  Tannins like silent fireworks.

I had forgotten how great a great California Cab can be.  Still two generations on the locus of wine’s central debate/complaint, and I think my position is well known.  But this past cannot blind us to the present.  We tottered off our stools and I embraced my new friend.  And he retired to his room, staggering only slightly, and holding the last glass in the bottle.

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Villa Bellangelo Pinot Noir 2012

Bellangelo Pinot Noir 2012Oh, Central New York.

I wanted to like this $18 wine more than I can say.  I spent six years in CNY, including many a fall afternoon on the shores of the Finger Lakes, throwing Frisbees in stinging needle rain that were blown behind me by offshore gales.  It is where I consumed my first ice beer and smoked my second joint.  Central New York is the kind of place where the haze of nostalgia descends while you’re still living there.

And so I had high hopes.  The only other New York wine I can remember specifically was a very fine Konzelmann (technically Canadian) Riesling, $10 for icy striations of glassy sweetness.  And if it could present a solution to the Pinot Problem, its tendency toward tantrum and disappointment even, perhaps especially, in Burgundy, well, I would swell with pride.  N.B. that I have been back to CNY exactly once since 1998.

The verdict came on the pour.  It was juice.  Lovely ruby juice that caught the light, but juice.  On the nose, straight-up cherries and rhubarb, perhaps a hint of strawberries, but in the mouth … nothing.  Some bright acid.  No tannins to speak of.  None of the joining of hands and deep chant of the Côte-Rôtie.

If, like me, one of the first great wines–the first bottle over $50–you ever consumed was an exquisite Pommard on the February shores of the Gulf of Mexico, the ongoing exploration of New World Pinot Noir is an endless disappointment.  I have never consumed a good value Pinot from California, not even my precious Paso Robles.  Oregon/Washington and New Zealand deliver at price points above $30, but even then they are just a faint echo of Burgundy, the Kingdom Come to France’s Led Zeppelin.

And so I think it is time for a new Pinot Paradigm.  Gone should be the defining expectations of the Mâconnais, the crystalline delicacy that made Paul Giamatti so insincerely insane.  We don’t need to confuse it with Gamay or Barbera but the fact is that the angels rarely sing.  In discussions of wine, the only categorical imperative is to face reality.

And so on the cultish scale, this is a very poor wine indeed.  Hell, they make Merlot, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat!  I can’t imagine who they’re trying to fool.  But under the new Pinot Paradigm, I enjoyed it very much with spicy goose sausage chili and a kale salad in a ginger-sesame dressing.  It is overpriced, but this bottle was a gift for a weekend watching a beautiful black labrador for a friend and so it is difficult to downgrade on ducats.  Consider this more of a rating for the concept of crappy New World Pinot.  But “crappy,” like all the categorical concepts, is relative, and an adjustment of the mind to open new vistas of wine is a small price to pay. (Rating: Good)

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