Fontodi Syrah Colli Toscana Centrale IGT 2013

Estate: The Fontodi estate has been in the hands of the Manetti family since 1968. The family has been strongly connected to the Chianti region for centuries, producing Tuscany’s famous “terrecotte” tiles. Located in the stunningly beautiful hills of Panzano, the 130 hectare estate [70 of which are vineyards] is certified organic. Inspired by nature and sustainability, the estate is committed to maximizing “the internal resources of the estate, thereby reducing the need for any external input”.

Philosophy: “Respecting the environment means wines that are better, purer, and a truer expression of the grape and the territory.”

Winemaking: Grapes are hand harvested from the Case Via and Pecille estate vineyards, both with a south exposure. Fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeasts for 3 weeks, aged in Troncais and Allier barrels, 50% new for 12 months.

Tasting Notes: Inky violet in colour with intense dark fruit, gamey and meaty aromas. Layers of rich blueberry, blackberry and black pepper are framed by solid tannins and fresh acidity. Smoky earth and peppery spice linger between each plush sip. Powerful, muscular and with a bold alcohol content, yet maintains such an approachable, easy drinking character that the bottle empties rather swiftly.

100% Syrah
Colli Toscana Centrale IGT
Estate Bottled by Azienda Agricola Fontodi
15% Alcohol
€36 [Average price, I paid €48 in a restaurant in Florence.]
Enjoy now thru 2022

The Ripper & Basalt Block: A Study in Hope Estate Shiraz

A study in Shiraz; from the same vintage and producer, one ripe and jammy, the other savory and mineral driven. Both are excellent, approachable and tremendous values within Australian Shiraz.

Estate: Hope Estate was founded by Michael Hope in 1994, with a goal of being able to focus all his time and passion into winemaking. Beginning with 30 acres of vines in Broke in the Hunter Valley, over the years he has been able to obtain unique vineyards throughout Australia, such as 200 acres of the famed red basalt soil at Fordwich. In 2006, Michael purchased the Rothbury Estate, a 420 acre winery in the heart of Pokolbin. Renamed Hope Estate, it has become an icon, symbolizing the best in Hunter. It is a premier destination with an amphitheater that hosts legendary bands, a brewery and restaurant.

Hope Estate ‘The Ripper’ Shiraz 2014

Winemaking: Grapes are from estate vineyards on the west coast of Australia, in the cool hills of Donnybrook. Aged for 12-15 months in 50% French oak/50% American oak. “The Ripper” is an Australian term for “great”.

Tasting Notes: Deep red-violet in colour, with alluring aromas of chocolate, cherry, plum, allspice and a trace of forest floor. Ripe raspberry, cherry, blackberry, dark chocolate and a hint of grilled pepper are framed by solid tannins and good acidity. Vanilla, toasted oak, earth and black pepper comprise the lengthy, plush finish.

100% Shiraz
14.5% Alcohol
$18 [average price]
Enjoy now thru 2024
Rated 90 points by Wine Enthusiast

Hope Estate ‘Basalt Block’ Shiraz Hunter Valley 2014

Winemaking: A single vineyard wine, grapes came from the ‘Basalt Block’ vineyard located in the Broken Back Mountains in Hunter Valley. The Mountains were formed by volcanic activity, leaving behind red soils rich in basalt. Aged in new and old French hogsheads [slightly larger than a standard barrel, holding between 225-250 Litres] for 13 months.

Tasting Notes: Inky garnet in colour, with engaging, predominately savory aromas of clove, flint minerals, black pepper and cherry. Silky layers of cherry, black cherry, blackberry, red currant and crushed black peppercorn align with fresh acidity and dry, firm tannins. Smoky minerality, black cherry, and toasted oak linger between each velvety sip.

100% Shiraz
13.5% Alcohol
Hunter Valley
$14 [average price]
Rated 88 points and ‘Best Buy’ & ‘Year’s Best Shiraz’ by Wine Enthusiast

Samples submitted for editorial consideration.

A Fun, Dashing Trio of Washington State Reds from Rock Star Winemaker Charles Smith

Winery: Renowned, self-taught pioneer winemaker Charles Smith is the founder and winemaker behind Charles Smith Family wines. His “kick ass attitude and bold packaging has earned him the moniker ‘rock star’ of Washington State Syrah”. With his many diverse brands [K Vintners, Wines of Substance, Sixto, Charles & Charles, Secco and Vino] he is able to offer a wide variety of wines varying in cost from budget friendly to highly rated, single vineyard Syrahs in the $100 range. Within all of his labels, Smith strives to craft sustainably farmed wines that “are full of flavor, balanced, and true to place of origin”.

Created in 2006, the Charles Smith Wines label was themed as “The Modernist Project”. Focusing on how people tend to drink wine today, which is immediately, the goal is to create approachable wines “to be enjoyed now, but with true typicity of both the varietal and the vineyard”. A fantastic concept; a Syrah that tastes like a Syrah from Washington State!

Modern with a sassy edge, Charles Smith labels are renowned for their clean black and white artwork created by Charles Smith and artist Rikke Korffsure. Super eye catching and easily recognizable, the style has become synonymous with K Vintners and Charles Smith.

Philosophy: “It’s just wine, drink it.”

Charles Smith Wines ‘The Velvet Devil’ Merlot Washington State 2014

“Truth in a name: Velvet.”

Winemaking: Grapes are sourced from the following sustainably farmed vineyards: Sundance, Art Den Hoed, Goose Ridge, Weyns, Hawk, Oasis and Purple Sage. Whole berry fermentation with partial native yeasts. Aged for 10 months on the lees in 30% new French oak barrels.

Tasting Notes: Bright garnet in colour with aromas of cherry, warm summer woods and crushed black peppercorn. A spicy edge to the ripe, plush fruit [think blackberry, cherry, wild strawberry]. Appropriately named, velvety tannins fuse with summer woods and spice on the lengthy, plush finish. Fantastic on its own, versatile at the table.

94% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc
13.6% Alcohol
$12 [average price]

Charles Smith Wines ‘Boom Boom!’ Syrah Washington State 2014

“I can tell you this. It is the best Boom Boom! thus far.”

Winemaking: Grapes are sourced from the following sustainably farmed vineyards: Art Den Hoed, Pheasant, Weyns, Arete and Gamache. 30% whole cluster fermentation together with the Viognier. Aged on the lees in old oak barrels.

Tasting Notes: Red-violet in colour with aromas of wild berry jam, vanilla and crushed pink peppercorn. Exuding fruit & spice, with cherry, black cherry, blueberry, plum, vanilla and a trace of roasted herbs wrapped around a pepper spice backbone. Silky tannins compliment dark chocolate dusted fruit on the woodsy finish. An elegant edge to the well balanced fruit and spice, each glass will disappear rather swiftly.

97% Syrah, 3% Viognier
13.5% Alcohol
$17 [average price]

Charles Smith Wines ‘Chateau Smith’ Cabernet Sauvignon Washington State 2014

“If you like Cabernet dark and rich, this is your sexy beast.”

Winemaking: Grapes are sourced from the following sustainably farmed vineyards: Art Den Hood, Hawk, Roza Hills, Wahluke Slope, Don Talcott and Clifton Bluff. Whole berry fermentation with native yeasts. Aged on the lees for 10 months in 40% new French oak barrels.

Tasting Notes: Red-violet in colour with inviting aromas of roasted jalapenos, cherry, fresh herbs, vanilla and toasted oak. Plump cherry, blackberry and red currant fruits are balanced by a bright acidity. Velvety tannins underscore earth, tobacco and pink peppercorn. The rich fruit follows thru to the plush, lengthy finish, joining vanilla and subtle toasted oak. Well structured, with a robust character, an engaging companion to a wide variety of dishes.

96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot
13.5% Alcohol
$19 [average price]


Samples submitted for review purpose.

Domaine Font-Mars ‘Clémence’ Rosé Pays d’Oc 2015

Processed with Snapseed.

Estate: Jean-Baptiste de Clock preserves and continues on with his family’s winemaking traditions that began all the way back in 1679. Domaine Font-Mars is located in the Languedoc region of southern France. The limestone clay soils of the vineyards are known for their fossilized dinosaur eggs: “The dinosaurs, did not set on their eggs, but hid them in river-banks, and incubated them in heaps of fermenting vegetation, which gave off the required heat. It is in respect to this touching past, that we name property of FONT-MARS, the soil of dinosaurs.”

Winemaking: The 55 hectares of vineyards are sustainably farmed. The Syrah grapes are grown in vineyards with clay and chalk soils.

Tasting Notes: Super pale coral in colour with aromas of pink grapefruit and chalky minerals. Straightforward and pure with tart, wild raspberry and chalky minerals melding into a cleansing grapefruit finish. An edgy, tart gal that makes your mouth pucker.

100% Syrah
Pays d’Oc IGP
Bottled by GFA Font-Mars
12.5% Alcohol
Enjoy now thru 2017

Montes Trio Tasting: Three Diverse Wines to Enjoy All Summer


Estate: Montes was established in the late 1980’s by four wine professionals with the goal of crafting “Chilean wines a quantum-leap higher in quality than the standards” that were currently in practice. Founder and winemaker Aurelio Montes professes “80% of good wine comes from the vineyards and only 20% from the cellar”. With that in mind, the estate not only employs sustainable viticulture, they also aim at conserving the environment. Currently they have conserved 400 hectares of indigenous forest in the Maule region, along with protecting biological corridors that enable the natural development of both plant and animal life. Preservation of the environment has resulted in the estate [including both farming and winemaking activities] to be Carbon Neutral as the forest absorbs all of the CO2 produced from both agricultural and winemaking activities. [Certified Sustainable, Carbon Neutral and Fair for Life]

Philosophy: “To make wines of the highest quality while caring for the environment and our people and developing a sustainable culture in every phase of production.”

The following 3 wines are wonderful companions to summer activities, from patio sipping to barbecues to quiet dinners.

Montes Spring Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from vineyards with granite and clay soils located in the Leyda Valley. The Sauvignon Blanc is unique in that it is harvested 21 days earlier then normal. Similar to Beaujolais Nouveau, it is the very first Chilean Sauvignon Blanc to hit the shelves each year.
100% Sauvignon Blanc
12% Alcohol
$16 [average price]

Tasting Notes: Pale straw in colour with sunny aromas of lemon, white flowers and grass. Bright and crisp, with fresh tropical fruit [pineapple, kiwi] gliding over an herbaceous, lemon drenched backbone complimented by a food friendly acidity. Lemon and lime notes linger on the zippy finish. A perfect pairing with salty foods, it was fantastic with buttery popcorn.

Pairing suggestion from the Winery: Sushi, ceaser salad, ceviche, shellfish, veggie pastas, lemon chicken.


Montes Spring Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2016

The Montes ‘Alpha’ line was the first premium Chilean wine. The line is also noted for its sustainable dry farming method developed by Aurelio Montes, where “nature waters the vines. If rainfall is insufficient for vine growth and development, the winery supplements with minimal irrigation to compensate for the difference. The result: 65% less water usage, and lush, elegant wines.” Grapes for both the Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are sourced from the Colchagua Valley vineyards, specifically from the Finca Apalta and Marchigüe properties.

Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Winemaking: 55% of the wine was aged for 12 months in French oak barrels.
90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot
14.3% Alcohol
$16 [average price]

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with tempting aromas of wild berry jam black pepper and hints of vanilla. Silky layers of fresh blackberry, raspberry, nutmeg and vanilla laced oak evolve into a dry, baking spice and crushed white peppercorn finish. Well balanced and silky smooth, this is a fantastically versatile Cab that can be paired with just about any dish, or lovely sipping on its own. [I paired with a super dense, creamy alfredo pasta topped with peppery grilled tempeh.]

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Dishes with red sauce and mushroom sauce, all red meats.


Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Montes Alpha Syrah 2013
Winemaking: 55% of the wine was aged for 12 months in first and second use French oak barrels.
90% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Viognier
14.5% Alcohol
$16 [average price]

Tasting Notes: Inky red-violet in colour with aromas of blackberry, blueberry, vanilla and spiced oak. Dark berry jam flavours saturate the core of caramel laced peppery spice and velvety tannins. Jammy fruit and spice notes carry thru and are joined by toasted oak on the lengthy finish. Concentrated and velvety, this is a plush Syrah that can make the transition from dinner to dessert. [I paired with cheese manicotti dinner and then followed with a dark chocolate and hazelnut bar dessert.]

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Chinese dishes, pasta, all meat, especially red meat.


Montes Alpha Syrah 2013




Samples submitted for review purpose.