Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Segura Viudas, Under the Wire, and Shafer Vineyards

New Year's Eve probably sees the most sparkling wine consumed when compared to any other day of the year. Sparkling wine is associated with celebration and luxury that originates from the parties of the royal courts and aristocracy of Europe beginning in the 18th century. The popping of the cork and the bubbly effervescent can be very symbolic of abundance, joy and a good time. Though the idea of going out and partying like we did years ago has been replaced with putting the kids to bed, curling up on the couch, and then going to sleep before the clock strikes midnight, the sparkling wine still found its way into our wine glasses this New Year's Eve and New Year's Day!

Segura Viudas Gran Cuvée Reserva
Cava is Spain's answer to France's Champagne. Typically, Champagne is produced from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Cava sometimes uses those cultivars, but more typically the Spanish Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo are the components. This newly released Segura Viudas Gran Cuvée Reserva (12% abv, Sample $14) is composed of Macabeo and Parellada with a touch of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir rounding out the blend. Situated between the regular Segura Viudas line (~$9) and the premium Reserva Heredad (~$20), the Gran Cuvée Reserva is a good way for consumers to get a bit more out of their sparkling wine for not much more money. It's not going to be confused for $50+ Champagne, but it is a very nice wine in its own right. It is light yellow in color with bright aromas of crisp yellow apple and lemons. The citrus and apple flavors follow on the palate and are joined by a touch of yeast and berry flavors. It's not exceptionally complex, but it goes down quickly and smoothly. This is a good wine and a good value.

Under the Wire 2012 Brosseau Vineyard
Now, people generally don't turn to California when they want to climb the sparkling wine ladder, but Morgan Twain-Peterson and Chris Cottrell are building a new ladder with their Under the Wire label. Inspired by the grower-producers of Champagne, these two are making an interesting lineup of single-vineyard sparkling wines from around California. The 2012 Brosseau Vineyard (13.5% abv, Purchased $45) is the second release from this site. Brosseau Vineyard is planted at 1800' on limestone and granite in the remote Chalone AVA not too far to the east of Monterey. This 100% Chardonnay with only 3 grams of dosage is definitely in a different category when compared to the Segura Viudas. It is a light golden color, but with a big complex bouquet. Ginger, orange marmalade, lemons, toasted sourdough all generously reveal themselves through both the nose and palate. We left the bottle half full to try on the second night and it was even better with 24 hours of air. This baby of a wine is rich, yet elegant. Definitely top-notch sparkling wine that would belong on a table with top Champagne.

Even though I could be happy only drinking sparkling wine, the steak we had for dinner on New Year's Day called for something a bit bigger. The Shafer Vineyards 2012 One Point Five (15.5% abv, Sample $80) certainly fit the bill. This Cabernet Sauvignon (actually 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot) comes predominantly from the Stags Leap District in the Napa Valley. Shafer is one of the most revered Napa wineries and their Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most sought-after 'icon' wines in all of California. Though Shafer produces Chardonnay, Syrah and Merlot, it's their Cabernet Sauvignon for which they're best known. Named for the generation-and-a-half team of Doug (Rest in Peace) and John Shafer who gave rise to Shafer Vineyards success, the One Point Five is the second Cabernet Sauvignon in Shafer's wheelhouse. Compared to the $250 Hillside Select, the One Point Five is a downright steal at only $80. For those that want their red wines as dark as possible, the One Point Five abides; it is an opaque, glass-coating deep purple. You just can't help but smile as you stick your nose into the glass to take a sniff. The aromas of cassis, blueberries, blackberries, shaved graphite, rosemary, and white and purple flowers seamlessly continue into your mouth. This is without a doubt a big, bold wine, but it is still so smooth and elegant. There are tannins, but they don't attack your tongue as much as add structure to the abundant fruit. Though the One Point Five does not have the big tannin structure of the Hillside Select, I actually prefer the One Point Five to its more expensive sibling because I usually find it fresher, brighter and more enjoyable. Don't let the high alcohol scare you away; there isn't a hint of it anywhere on the nose or palate. It is not bogged down with weight of oak and massive ripeness that I sometimes find with the Hillside Select. If you have the 2012 One Point Five, there is no reason to not enjoy it now, but if you decide to hide it somewhere it will still be singing beautifully for years to come. And for those of you interested, you can read my interview with Doug Shafer from back in 2013 in Decanter.

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