Sunday, 5 September 2010

Weekend wines - a young Amarone and an aged Californian Pinot

Once again, it has been a week since I blogged, as I've been a bit too busy doing various things. I have more posts to add over the next few days but, meanwhile, here are my notes on a couple of really lovely wines we have enjoyed this weekend.

Giuseppe Campagnola Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005
This is a wine which I found at a local bin-end supplier a year or so back. I bought (and sold) a couple of cases, but kept half a dozen by for myself. This is the second one we have opened this year and it really is a lovely drop, considering I paid considerably less than a tenner a bottle. The Amarone style is (in general) peculiar to the Valpolicella region of Italy, and is made from grapes which are harvested fully ripe, then air-dried on straw mats for several months after the harvest, before being fermented in the normal way. The resulting wines tend to be rich and quite alcoholic - and often very powerful. But a good one will also be fruity and retain a healthy level of acidity. And this one really does fit the bill. It is a model of restrained power, with fresh red cherry and black fruit flavours, soft tannins and delicious balancing acidity. In fact, it is almost elegant, with a lightness of touch which belies its 15% abv. It isn't particularly complex (yet - though it will gain plenty of that over the next 5 to 10 years) but it is so lovely to drink now. Indeed, it went brilliantly with a dish of lambs liver, sausage, garlic and onions, braised in a good half-bottle of red wine, accompanied by garlic and mustard mash. A lovely combination!

Lynmar Quail Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 1994 Russian River Valley
I picked up a case of this for a relative song at auction a while back and shared a few bottles with friends. A couple of bottles drank previously have been good, but this was sensational. The cork was worryingly saturated (and yet quite brittle) but the fill was high. The colour is a lovely pale ruby, with amber glints, and the nose is simply sublime. The first thing you smell is old, polished leather shoes, but it quickly opens out to reveal a dazzling array of aromas including wild strawberries, clotted cream, freshly-squeezed oranges and balsamic vinegar. There are also some savoury/beefy notes, forest floor and a touch of oak vanillin (which seems like French, rather than Californian oak).The palate is a riot of sweet Pinot fruit and again a certain savouriness, which is very welcome and adds to the complexity. And over the next hour it just gets more and more alluring, with those glorious red fruit flavours augmented by soft citrus, meat stock, cinnamon and clove, with meltingly soft grape tannins and excellent acidity. It caresses the tongue and keeps you coming back for more. This is Russian River Valley Pinot at its most expressive and sublime, and a great bottle of wine for an early Autumn Saturday evening. I had a feeling that it would go beautifully with a lemon-infused roast chicken, but that was on the menu for Sunday, so it had to match our traditional Saturday home-made pizza - and did so, admirably.
Incidentally, I was out on the patio yeaterday morning and just happened to see these beauties soaring overhead...........

Buzzards are by no means uncommon in this part of the world, but more often than not I tend to spot them soaring over the local airfield or the golf course. And in my experience, they tend to hang around in pairs, so it was a treat to see three of them together. Magnificent creatures, and great to see them thriving here in the frozen north.

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