Reinaldo DeLucca and his uniquely Uruguayan wines

“I hope you brought your camera because the cafe we’re going to for lunch is very interesting. ” I could say the same about Reinaldo DeLucca, the very interesting winemaker of his eponymous Uruguyan winery. When I mentioned I was going to Uruguay to try their wines, my trip was usually met with incredulous looks and much shaking of heads, especially in Argentina, but I had encountered much the same reaction in the UK before I left. Needless to say, I was full of trepidation when I boarded the ferry for the short 50 minute ride across the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay from Buenos Aires. What would I find? Would there even BE wineries? Would the wine be drinkable even? Happily, I found not only wineries that had been founded as far back as the 19th century but a variety of wine styles and some rather avant garde winemaking but more on that later. First my lunch with Reinaldo. Reinaldo’s family has been making wine since the 30’s and he grew up in and around the vineyard. He possesses an impressive amount of degrees, Univ. of Uruguay, Masters from Penn State, Masters from Montpellier, PhD from France as well, he’s no country rube.  He’s also spent considerable time in wineries around the world, including a stint at the Viña Mina winery in Israel. This guy gets around! He counts France as one of his biggest influences in the vineyard. We were lunching at Los Porros, a tiny stucco building built in the 1800’s in a one horse town somewhere in Uruguay. Other then adding electrical wiring, I think the place has pretty much stayed the same. Gustavo, the proprietor, could be found wandering around, sitting and chatting with regulars ( and everyone but me seemed to be a regular, and a man) I felt like I was in the Godfather or something. The cafe was more like his personal living room then a restaurant. I loved the decor, a mishmash of vintage...

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Charles Smith, winemaker and Winesleuth hair twin

I met my hair twin the other night at Hawksmoor Steakhouse in London. We weren’t exactly hair twins, he’s blonde and I’m not but we both have wild and curly hair and we both like wine a lot! My hair twin in Charles Smith, ex-rock band manager and “2009 Food and Wine Magazine Winemaker of the Year” for K Vintners of Washington State. Charles has quite a reputation as a innovator, marketing genius, and is never afraid to speak his mind, his opinion of European wine drinkers – they’re “pussies” if they look at the back label see 15.5% alcohol and deem it too much for them without even trying it first. Luckily or unluckily, depending on how you look at it, I didn’t realize the alcohol content until late in the evening while chatting to Charles. His wines are extremely well balanced. I would never have guessed that they contained so much alcohol, no hint of a burn or alcohol on the nose, just  full bodied wines with refined tannins. If you start reading ingredients on a wine label, then his wines are not for you in Charles’ opinion. He does acknowledge that his wines “are not for everybody, they never are, it’s all about the individual”.  Charles picks the grapes when they are ready and not beforehand and if they have 15% alcohol so be it.  He wants to produce wines that reflect not only the region but also the vineyard where they are grown. To him, the most important thing is to produce balanced, soft, round and integrated wines. To drink his wines, you need food that’s going to stand up to it and Hawksmoor did an admirable job of serving up Porterhouse and Rib-eye steaks to match the wines. We had a selection of K Vintners wines, the 2008 Northridge Syrah from Wahluke Slope, the 2008 Morrison Lane Syrah, Walla Walla Valley and K Vintners 2008 Creator ( a blend of cabernet and syrah), Colombia Valley. Each wine was unique...

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Bombshell red,Washington State wine

The London International Wine Fair is always so much fun because you never know what you’re going to find. Back when I lived in the States, I was familiar with Washington state wines. I knew they did aromatic whites such as riesling, pinot gris and other cool climate varietals but my general impression was of a state of wet coniferous forests, rugged coastline and Seattle. I had no idea where, exactly, they grew the grapes. I visited the Wines of Washington state stand while I was at the fair and was pleasantly surprised to discover that Washington does not only some fabulous whites but also some very elegant and well balanced red wines. I came across Airfield Estates solely because the Bombshell Red, Vineyard Salute caught my eye. It’s retro 1940’s style lable, imitiating the mascots that were often painted on the nose of WWII bombers was a definite attention getter. Airfield Estates is located inland in the very dry Yakima Valley and varietals such as syrah, cabernet, merlot and cabernet franc have settled in quite nicely there. I had a quick tasting with the importer of Vineyard Salute, Sheryl Janosky of Janosky & Strenge at the fair. Click to find out more about the wine and it’s history. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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…and now for something completely different-German syrah, Knipser 2003

Does this look like a German wine to you? Doesn’t look like the pale, watery German reds I’ve met in the past but this was no ordinary red, it was a German syrah. The Wine Rambler had done it again, surprising me with a German red the likes of which I had never encountered before, a lovely syrah from the Pfalz, better known for their flinty rieslings then supple reds.   The Knipser brothers have been experimenting with syrah since 1994 when they decided to plant the vine in their vineyards in the Rhineland-Palatinate. The wine is considered experimental because German wine laws are even more dictatorial and martinet about what types of grapes grow where and, since syrah is not considered an indigenous varietal, it falls outside of the wine laws of Germany. Hence the term experimental, although if this is an experimental wine. I can’t even imagine what a non-experimental wine would taste like. The Knipsers  have been using barriques since the 1980’s so they know a thing or two about oak and it is clearly evident in the Knipser 2003 syrah. The oak is so finely integrated that it’s difficult to know where the oak ends and the fruit begins. The wine was decanted for about half an hour before we tried it but it was starting to open up nicely and got progressively livelier as the night wore on. The syrah was matured in French oak barrels for 20months and it was apparent on the nose, a toasty vanilla scent with a black fruit profile slowly revealing itself with each sniff. After a bit of time, caramel, cocoa, green peppers and licorice also started to show thru the toasty mist. On the palate, supple and smooooooth….full bodied, which despite the colour was still a surprise. I just couldn’t get over the fact that this was a German red wine. I’ve had Austrian reds before but nothing prepared me for the depth of this wine. Tasting it, baked fruit at first, followed by...

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Valdivieso Fireworks

Alcohol and a river cruise? Seeing as I’m somewhat prone to seasickness, I was a bit hesitant but since it was on the River Thames, I thought, what the hell. Valdivieso Wines of Chile and Bibendum joined up to host a cruise down the Thames for Guy Fawkes Day this week and what a cruise! Valdivieso was founded in 1879 and the first wines they produced were sparkling wines, so it was onlyfitting that we started off the night with their Extra brut. As we boarded the Silver Sturgeon at the Savoy Pier we were greeted by trays of the Valdivieso Firecracker, a cocktail of brandy, fresh morello cherries, cinnamon liquor and Valdivieso Extra Brut sparkling wine. Fantastic! It   was so easy to down a couple of those before dinner. Valdivieso were showcasing their Reserve wines for us and we sampled the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc ’06, Reserve Viognier ’07, Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ’06 and the Reserve Syrah ’05. Notice how they prefer to call it Syrah as opposed to Shiraz. The whites were superb. I found the Reserve Sauvignon blanc ’06 to have plenty of tropical fruits on the nose and palate as well as a lovely herbaceousness to it, with a well rounded, almost silky body but with a crispiness to it that didn’t let me down at dinner. The Reserve Viognier ’07 was also well done. A fabulous floral nose, quite aromatic on a full bodied but not oily wine. The winemakers produced a well balanced wine with the ability to cleanse the palate while at the same time not losing any of the fruit characteristics of the varietal.  Both of these wines were great on their own but they really rose to the occasion with the fish pie served for dinner. The reds were no less impressive, although I thought the Reserve Syrah 05 was the standout of the evening. Chile is really beginning to make a name for itself with syrah and based on this liquid elixir, I can see why. A wonderfully spicy nose up front, typical black pepper notes...

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