Had the chance to attend the “yes, you really just got tenure” celebration for one Dr. Chris Sullivan not long ago. One of the partygoers was his neighbor John, who is affiliated with Banfi wine importing. Banfi, in addition to their own Italian wines, imports and/or manages a portfolio of 25+ new and old world wines. You’d probably recognize some of the wines: Bolla, Mont’Albano, Riunite, Little Black Dress, Trivento, and a number of others.
John and I got drawn into a fairly extensive conversation that started with wine and went considerably, and pleasantly, afield. As the Sweet Partner in Crime and I were starting to wind down, John graciously offered us a couple of bottles to sample. Here’s what he put into our hands:
Concha Y Toro 2009 Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon – Concha Y Toro is a Chilean winery known best for reasonably priced, solid wines. I’d not had a chance to try the Gran Reserva series. Cracked, poured, swirled, and was rewarded with a nose of smoke, cedar, dark fruit and a little alcohol. The flavors were quite soft for a young cabernet. Plenty of blackberry and cherry on the palate followed with some easy-access tannins. The finish is reasonably gentle and balanced, with tannins building after a few drinks. I could certainly see this as a quality porch wine you’d crack with some friends. With food alongside, we had it with some “mini meat loaves” and rosemary potatoes and it went along quite nicely. I think any kind of roasted meat would work here, especially if you go light on any sauces. At $15, quite a decent bottle.
Rainstorm 2009 Pinot Noir – Rainstorm is made by VinMotion, a “Pacific NW winery.” VinMotion used to be Washington’s Pacific Rim Wines, but has expanded its reach with Banfi’s assistance with Rainstorm, which focuses on Oregon pinot noir and pinot gris; and Sweet Bliss, a series of “sweet wines” that includes a red, a white, and a rosé. Having just returned from Oregon, I had a reasonable idea of what an “Oregon pinot” would taste like (even though there’s an incredible amount of variation – but that’s for a future column). Oregon pinots tend to be a little pricier, and I was concerned with an $18 pricetag that I might be pouring a pinot that would be a little overly fruit-forward and high-alcohol for “Oregon style.” I was glad to see that the winemakers did their collective homework. Within this funky bottle lies a line with a slightly fruity, semi-smoky nose. Rather than being fruit-forward, the flavors are restrained but emerge quickly after a couple of sips. I wouldn’t call it “elegant,” but there’s much more subtle licorice and blackberry flavors than the cherry attack you’ll see in many inexpensive pinots. Finish is gentle and a little smoky. At this price point for a decent, relatively uncomplicated Oregon pinot, it’s surprisingly good. I’d give it a whirl again if I were in the mood for such.