Our journey into red plonk territory wasn’t nearly as successful as the whites were. Of the four wines we tasted, just one was worth buying– the Brigaldara Valpolicella Classico 2014. But even there, the vote was a split decision. Gary liked it enough to buy again, Lisa would drink it again if placed directly in front of her.
Can anyone out there in VinoDuo land recommend an under $12 red worth drinking? Drop us a line and we’ll do a taste test and report back.
The Livermore Valley wine region of Northern California could be deemed the Anti-Napa, with its less than pristine wineries, few luxury B+B’s and minimal foodie culture. What the Valley does have, however, is a low-key vibe, family-owned wineries and one big-name draw–Wente Vineyards. Founded in 1883 and now run by 4th and 5th generation family winemakers, Wente produces more than 800,000 cases a year, dwarfing all other Livermore Valley producers combined.
VinoDuo has visited Wente twice, most recently a year ago March. We flipped for the 2012 Sonata, a Syrah-Cab Franc blend and the 2013 Serenity, a deep, complex wine made from Syrah, Grenache, and Counoise grapes. Sonata and Serenity are “small lot” labels, with prices in the $50-$60 range. That’s a bit out of the VinoDuo buying budget so we recently purchased Wente’s Charles Wetmore 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($25/bottle) to try out on some Napa Cab-loving friends. The wine is 77% Cabernet Sauvignon with small contributions of Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, and Merlot.
The nose served up an interesting combo of tobacco and florals, with sumptuous flavors of plum and cherry. Our friend the Napa Snob loved it at first taste but thought it died on the finish, while Gary agreed with the winery’s tasting notes that it had a “long smooth finish.” The bottle disappeared very quickly as it paired nicely with the homemade grilled steak and chicken fajitas. For $25, the 2013 Charles Wetmore Cab is a strong contender for a great weekend wine value. If you see it on a local wine list, don’t hesitate to order it.
The Wente Charles Wetmore 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon retails for $25 and is available throughout the US.
Gary is the Italian red wine lover of the Duo. Amarone, Barbara d’Alba, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and Barolo take up a lot of room in our wine cellar/crawlspace, and with good reason. Gary is also an expert pizza chef and eggplant parm maker, and there’s nothing better than drinking lusty Italian wine with home-cooked specialties.
Barolo is a particular favorite; one of two great wines made from the Nebbiolo grape in the Piedmont region [the the other is Barbaresco.] We bought a few bottles of the 2011 Vietti Barolo Castiglione last year after sampling the 2009 at the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival. While the 2011 ages in our basement, we enjoyed a sneak preview of that vintage at our favorite Italian restaurant La Campania in Waltham, Mass.
We ordered a 1/2 bottle of the 2011 Vietti Barolo Castiglione to pair with the world’s best veal chop and beef tenderloin. We recall a medium nose with some cedar, tar, and barnyard and luscious flavors with notes of intense dried cherry, plum pudding. The wine is rich, full-bodied and well-balanced with pronounced-but-tame tannins.
Understanding that 1/2 bottles age a bit more quickly [something about physics and oxygen, Gary told Lisa] we plan on cracking open the full bottle of the 2011 next year.
The 2011 Vietti Barolo Castiglione retails for about $50.