Glen Ellen Proprietor’s Reserve Zinfandel

Glen Ellen Proprietor’s Reserve ZinfandelA question I get questioned each now and then is, “Is any of the wine in those huge bottles any excellent?”
The small answer is, “yes, some it it is excellent.”  But not all of it.  Some folks submit to bottles that are 1.5 liter and larger as “large format” bottles.  And in some suitcases, very excellent high-end wine goes into large format bottles.  But most of the 1.5 liter bottles you see on store shelves are going to be the cheap stuff.  And, yes, even some of that is decent.
So, that brings me to Glen Ellen Proprietor’s Reserve Zinfandel.  And I find myself wondering, is the wine in this 1.5 liter of cheap zinfandel any excellent.  By cheap, I mean $9.99 for 1.5 liters — which is the equivalent of two standard size wine bottles.
Glen Ellen is a bargain-priced mark produced by Concannon Vineyards.  Since Concannon is known to produce some excellent wine, that’s a excellent sign.  It’s an “ancient vine” zinfandel, which is another excellent sign.  But it is Concannon’s entry-level mark, so it’s made with the less desirable fruit — the better fruit going to their premium marks.  As always, there’s only one way to find out if it’s any excellent, taste it.
But previous to we get to tasting it, a comment about opening it.  This wine is sealed with a synthetic cork.  I despise synthetic corks.  It’s just a private preference thing, though.  I don’t have any research to show that synthetic corks are any worse than additional closures (although I’m sure a name has researched it).  I just don’t like them.  If you’re not going to give me real cork, I’d rather have a screw cap.  I know some consumers poke fun at the screw cap, but to me they’re better than a plastic synthetic cork.
Now that I have that out of the way, on with the tasting. Read more

Portuguese Table Wine

I’ve been wanting to try some Portuguese wines for some time now and today the theme is Portuguese Table Wine hosted by Catavino.  That gives me the extra motivation I need to stop delaying and try some Portuguese wine!
I in fact have a sliver of a connection to Portugal as I supposedly have some Portuguese blood in me. It’s pretty diluted to be trustworthy… nonetheless, I embrace it.
That’s one of the reasons I’ve been wanting to try Portuguese wines, another is the fact that when I read reviews in various wine publications the list of highly rated value wines from Portugal seems to keep getting longer and longer.  So I make notes of all the fantastic values that I read about and head off to the wine shop and walk in circles tiresome to find these fantastic wines…  Where are they?!  I’m off to another wine shop… same thing… and another…
I had a devil of a time finding Portuguese wine, much less finding some not from Douro. The few Portuguese wines I found were usually mixed in with Spanish wines. One shop I was in even has a sign that looks something like this:
SPAIN & Portugal
It seems that the wine distributors in my area (Cincinnati, OH) are doing a piss-poor job at bringing in Portuguese wine. And I reckon they are missing a huge opportunity. Everyone likes a fantastic deal, and from what I’ve read there are lots of fantastic value wines available from Portugal. If I knew the business of wine distribution I would do it myself.  If anyone knows the folks at Cutting Edge Selections make the suggestion as I reckon they are probably the ones who would go after this market.
The Tasting
After much searching I was able to pick up two bottles from producer Sogrape Vinhos.  One of them I thought was mediocre, but the additional bottle I thoroughly loved.
The first bottle I tried was Vinha Do Monte 2001 ($10.99) from the Alentejano province.  This wine is a blend of Aragones, Trincadeira and Alfrocheiro Preto grapes.  All of which are new to me, so I did a small digging:  Aragones it seems is either another name for Garnacha or Tempranillo (I’m not sure which to believe); Trincadeira is an indigenous Portuguese varietal that grows best in dry, hot regions and typically produces flavors of jam, red plum, cinnamon and clove; Alfrocheiro Preto is another indigenous varietal thought to be related to Pinot Noir.  Alfrocheiro Preto is typically grown in Dão and is attributed to producing flavors of mint, flowers, black currants and fresh strawberries.
The Vinha Do Monte has an fascinating nose: strong floral and vanilla with earth and cherry undertones. The palate brings out the cherry a bit more with plum and vanilla riding shotgun. It has a very warming mouth feel with a rather high acidity that is just slightly out of balance. It’s a small bitter on the back of the tongue. The end is long but rather uninteresting.  In general it’s an OK wine, but not fantastic.
Wine: Vinha Do Monte
Varietal: Blend of Aragones, Trincadeira and Alfrocheiro Preto
Vintage: 2001
Alcohol: 13.5%
Rating: 82
The second bottle I tried was Grão Vasco 2004 ($6.99) from the Dão province.  This wine is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Jaen, Alfrocheiro Preto and Tinta Pinheira. Touriga Nacional is a varietal used extensively in Port wine that has characteristics of strong tannins and concentrated black fruit.  Jaen is a rather bland grape with low acidity that is often used to balance tannins from additional varietals.  Tinta Pinheira, also known as Rufete, is another varietal used in Port that oxidizes easily and adds candy-like fruit flavors.
Overall, I found this to be a very enjoyable wine.  It has a nice smoky, leathery and floral bouquet.  Cherry and pepper on the palate with a silky mouth feel.  It isn’t terribly complex, but it does have surprising concentration for a $7 wine.  It always makes me pleased when the less expensive wine is my favorite.
Wine: Grão Vasco
Varietal: Blend of Touriga Nacional, Jaen, Alfrocheiro Preto and Tinta Pinheira
Vintage: 2004
Alcohol: 13%
Rating: 89

We were also found by phrases: Read more