6.30.2012

Wine column no. 35: Fill your glass without emptying your wallet

They say you get what you pay for. That's why it's a shocker to pay less than you should for something that's better than you expect.
What we mean by this is that Winetree's got two 2009 red blends that are downright steals for under $15.
The first is a Californian from LangeTwins Winery in Lodi. The 2009 Gen 5, recommended by Tim Wilkins, has Cabernet Sauvignon written on the label, but it's actually more than that. This affordable work of
art is actually a fusion of 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 8 percent Merlot, 4 percent Petit Verdot and 3 percent Malbec.
If that combination of varietals sets your head a-spinning, don't worry, because your head will be nodding "Yes!" once you taste this in your glass. We got red fruit, with some minimal sweetness, and some earth, in a way that's very distinctive for such an inexpensive wine.
Those who like Apothic Red would likely be a fan of this wine, which is both fun to drink and great with a steak.
So what makes this wine with 13.9 percent alcohol so good? "Agriculture is the core of who we are," according to the company run by actual twins, Randall and Brad Lange, on their website at
www.langetwins.com.
"For five generations, our family has been growing sustainable winegrapes in the Lodi Appellation, and in 2006 we opened a winery to showcase our passion for growing winegrapes – because great wine starts in the vineyard."
The 2009 vintage is also a wonderful creation by a relatively young winery whose owners made a career of managing vineyards. LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards is the company's first step into crafting
wines made solely from its estate vineyards. But the Lange twins have technology and expertise on their side, too. This wine was made by David Akiyoshi, a 25-year veteran of winemaking from Robert Mondavi, and Karen Birmingham, a former winemaker at Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi. We couldn't find much information about Birmingham. But lots could be said about Akiyoshi, a restaurateur in Lodi who also graduated from the University of California, Davis. But what we liked the most was this: Akiyoshi believes that wine and food are made for each other.
So take that, $100 bottles that overpower the meal, or that, worse, are a complete flop. Here's a red wine that you can pair with beef or chicken, and that's so good the bottle insisted it last three days.
As for the other steal, the one that we hesitate to talk about lest it disappear completely, that's the 2009 Sicoris made by Castell del Remei. Castell del Remei's origins date back to 1780, which is the first year there is documentary evidence of vines planted on the estate.
This Spaniard from the Costers del Segre designation of origin is a blend of 37 percent Garnacha, 28 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 23 percent Tempranillo, 7 percent Merlot and 5 percent Syrah. Like the Gen 5, the grapes used to make this wine were sustainably grown, and you can tell: It mingles red fruit with an ending spice, some tannins and an overall fun feel. This is wine that makes you smile, and not just because it's loaded with 14.5 percent alcohol.
"Sicoris embodies what Costers del Segre and Castell del Remei hold dear: Our diversity leads to complexity," according to www.smswine.com. "We aren't held captive by a sole source of personality in the vineyard, village, elevation or soil."
That means, the website went on to say, that this is a wine that's equally at home with food or just alone in your glass.
As complex as this wine is, don't think it has to be matched with something you've spent hours toiling over in the kitchen. All we did was pop this open alongside a vegetable pizza, and it worked fine.
Meanwhile, the curious may wonder what the "sms" is in that website we mentioned above. It stands for Steve Miles Selections. Miles has more than 30 years of experience in wholesale management and wine imports, and when he formed his wine importing company in 2006, he did it with three ideas in mind.
First, the wine has to be a good representation of the variety of grape used to produce it. Second, it has to be a true representation of the place where it was made. And third, it must be an overachiever in the price to value category.
"Our ultimate goal is to provide a high quality, unique selection of wines with excellent value regardless of price point," Miles said on his site, and we'd say the Sicoris is exactly that.
So throw away that old adage -- and all the cynicism it implies -- that you get what you pay for. Sometimes you get more than you pay for. And thankfully for all of us, Gen 5 and Sicoris are ready to give it to you.

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