Notes from my latest tastings:
Brancaia TRE 2010 IGT Rosso Toscano, $23: This blend of mostly Sangiovese with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon has that earthy, spicy, serious styling you expect in Tuscany. Spicy, smoky, earthy oak and dusty tannins embrace the dark berries, dark plums, dark coffee, dark chocolate notes. This red will wake up every taste bud and make a great pairing with robust pasta dishes. The line is new in the U.S., though it has been around for 30 years in the hills of Tuscany. It was founded by the Swiss couple Brigitte and Bruno Widmer and is managed by daughter Barbara Widmer today.
Matchbook Syrah Dunnigan Hills Calif. 2010, $16: This is an earthy, rustic, robust Syrah bolstered with some Cabernet Sauvignon, designed to lift up a varietal that never really hit its stride in California. It’s all about dark berries, plums, cherries and dusty cocoa-powder tannins. A wine to pair with charred steaks, robust beef stews and venison. Matchbook is made by Crew Wine Co., established by John and Lane Giguiere in 2005 — the Giguieres have been fixtures in the Dunnigan Hills near Sacramento since the early 1980s with brands such as R.H. Phillips and Toasted Head. The Matchbook name is derived from John Giguiere’s childhood fascination with setting things on fire such as his father’s wheat fields.
Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, $28: Built like tank — this baby has the fruit, acidity and tannins to age gracefully– and even stay fresh days after you open the bottle. Janet Myers continues the winery’s tradition of blending the Cab out of separately vinified lots from various sections of the Oakville vineyard — actually about 200 different lots of wine. The final blend was aged 20 months in oak — a quarter of the barrels new, which infuses more spice and smoke into the wine. Swirl and savor the aromas of dark plums, dark berries, cocoa, toasted oak and vanilla. One of Napa’s more affordable beauties.
Franciscan Estate Chardonnay Napa Valley 2011, $18: Firmly structured with lots of smoky, spicy oak and a big kiss of tart green apple, ripe pear, lime and minerality — this is cooler-climate Chardonnay with a Carneros stamp all over it. It’s a sipping wine — a lovely full-throttle dry white to enhance seafood, roasted chicken and pork, or to simply savor with almonds and creamy double-cream cheeses.