….I wish there were some sort of amazing punchline, but alas… 
Hosted a large family barbecue this weekend and the food was as varied as the company and the wines.  The first mentionable was the eggplant involtini stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella.  Lightly coated in marinara, if there is a better pairing for a Chianti Classico,  I’ve not met one.
Tenuta di Arceno sits in some of the most attractive Chianti country near Berardenga.  The stylistic interpretation here is one with a slightly more modern take.  The Chianti’s of Arceno typically incorporate substantial portions of Merlot and/or Cabernet and this one is no exception.  The 2010 Chianti Classico is 80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot and is a pretty violet color in the glass.  Right from the bottle the aromas are exuberant with berries, leather, and flowers.  On the palate, the wine is polished and classy. Nothing rustic about this Chianti Classico. The solid core of ripe berry fruit is framed by slight mocha and a twinge of bitter black olive on the finish. I was curious to observe this black olive component after originally spotting it during the Blind Chianti Report  I did earlier this year.  That said, this little streak, which some may not like, melted away with the succulent eggplant. And there ends the lesson. Chianti Classico is simply at its best on the table.  It’s only a part that needs to be married before it truly excels.  This pairing was very nice indeed.  90 points.  About $20.  Disclosure:  This was a distributor provided sample.

Berardenga Chianti Classico – At right, Eggplant Rollatini

Next was some grilled marinated flank steak.  I didn’t have time to put a lot of thought into how to marinate these two steaks, so I “winged it” in every sense of the word.  I used a little Maggi’s, a little Stubb’s Chipotle BBQ sauce, some salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and a little Worchestershire.  They sat for maybe 30 minutes and were pretty darn tasty.  We opened the 2008 Snowden Napa Cabernet, “The Ranch” –  What’s not to like about this?  It’s everything I’ve come to expect from this classy producer.  The Snowden Ranch is located on the Eastern Hills of Napa Valley overlooking Rutherford.  The property is simply spectacular and Snowden will be the subject of a “SideTrip” article later this year.  The 2008 is deep purple in the glass.  The aromas pour forth with no decanting.  Violets, black plums, and hints of leather and licorice.  On the palate the wine is refined and muscular.  The black fruits are coated in dusty minerals and leather, spice and licorice notes are persistent.  The tannins are present, but in check right now and melted away with the meat. This is going to be a beauty to age.  92 points.  About $40. 

2008 “The Ranch”

Now for the horse.  It’s funny.  This story is about a wine I discovered during a business lunch.  A local Inn was serving this by the glass and it was delicious.  Back then, there was little of this made and most of what was, found it’s way into restaurants.  Finding it at retail was a challenge.  I managed to track down a few cases and enjoyed the wine.  It was a great value for the $10 price.  The wine was a pure Washington State Merlot, made on an abandoned Horse Farm, and is called “14 Hands”. Suddenly the wine disappeared from the market and when I inquired with the retailer  I was told the wine was being “re-branded”.   I smelled a skunk. 
A few months later the wine emerged with a new label, and a new price – Now about $13.  Unfortuantely, subsequent discussions with the retailer indicated that the owners were unhappy with the “niche” identity of the wine and wanted it to be more in the mainstream and be more expensive. They didn’t want the “14 Hands” label to be thought of as a “value” kind of wine.  The wine started showing up at retailers everywhere!  That means one thing: either purchased grapes, or more vineyards coming on line and unfortunately, in this case,  that’s bad news. 
I tried the 2010 – 14 Hands Merlot yesterday and I simply do not enjoy this wine any longer.  It’s blackish red, it’s got a pure, sweet aroma of candied fruit, vanilla, & mocha.  In the mouth, the flavors follow the nose with monolithic, candied, almost artificially ripe fruit. I don’t know if this is the product of mass production or younger vineyards producing inferior grapes due to the production expansion, but this is simple, jammy, low acid wine even by Washington’s standards.  I didn’t shoot the bottle, but this is a stock image of the 2010. 

No Trifecta Here:  This one didn’t Win, Place or Show.

And so it goes…….

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