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FOOD
September 10, 2008 | S. Irene Virbila
Adam Tolmach and his wife, Helen, have been making wine in the Ojai valley for more than 25 years. Known for their splendid Syrah, they also produce a very pretty rose. The 2007 on shelves now is a blend of mostly Grenache with some Mourvedre and Syrah and a touch of Sauvignon Blanc. A dry rose is such a versatile food wine that most of it goes to restaurants, but you can still find it in a handful of local shops. The blend is seamless and delicious -- a little strawberry, a little raspberry, something earthy in there too. It's brilliant with goat cheese, with frittatas and omelets, with salads and smoked fish.
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FOOD
July 2, 2003 | S. Irene Virbila
German wine labels are long-winded, admittedly, but German wines are almost the perfect whites for Southern California's climate. This one is worth seeking out for summer drinking. A Riesling from Weingut Monchhof, which has made wine in the Mosel village of Urzig for more than eight centuries, it tastes like a tropical fruit from an island not yet discovered. There's something complex and marvelous, really a sort of alchemy at work, in the Erdener Treppchen Kabinett's exquisite balance of sweet to tart.
FOOD
August 20, 2008 | S. Irene Virbila
A gorgeous Sauvignon Blanc from Napa's Gamble Vineyard, which is planted to vrais (true) Sauvignon Musque de Loire and Preston Sauvignon Blanc clone. Pale gold, with a scent of ripe pears, honey and flowers, the 2006 Source Napa Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and clean, with a bright citrus zing and a light touch of oak -- perfect for summer drinking. The wine is the project of Bill Davies and Tom Gamble, who grew up in the business (Davies' family made wine and the Gambles farmed grapes)
FOOD
August 27, 2008 | S. Irene Virbila
I opened a bottle of Atalayas de Golban the other night to have with a rack of lamb. The combination of Tinto Fino (the local Tempranillo) and lamb is classic and sublime. And this Ribera del Duero from Madrid wine merchant Miguel Sanchez and winemaker Bertrand Sourdais is a beauty. The grapes come from Sanchez's second property, Atalayas de Golban (his first is Dominio de Atauta -- famous and much more expensive). Atalayas comes in at a terrific price for such a graceful and irresistible Ribera del Duero.
FOOD
November 24, 2011 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times
2009 Domaine de la Janasse Côtes-du-Rhône Villages "Terre d'Argile" Loving this Côtes-du-Rhône Villages from a vineyard next door to the Domaine's Châteauneuf-du Pape vines in Courthézon. No simple red, Domaine de la Janasse's cuvée "Terre d'Argile" is a blend of 55% Grenache with lesser amounts of Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvèdre. The scents of dark berries, earth and something wild and smoky are all right there. The color is intense, the flavors rich and deep. A beautiful bottle for wood-grilled or roasted meats, a burger or a pastrami sandwich.
FOOD
July 28, 2011 | S. Irene Virbila
Say what? A Sauvignon Blanc from Burgundy? Under $15? I was skeptical. But when I tasted the 2009 Saint-Bris from Domaine Bersan, I understood why Saint-Bris is the only appellation in Burgundy where the required grape is Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp and bone dry, Bersan's Saint-Bris has an enticing minerality and a light touch of citrus. Perfect summer drinking at an incredible price for the quality. Bring on the oysters! Serve it as a cool refreshing aperitif or with smoked salmon or a whole grilled fish.
FOOD
November 25, 2010 | S. Irene Virbila
  Like their brethren here, sommeliers in France are making their own wines. One is Marc Besnardeau, a Paris sommelier, who married Mireille Farjon and became a vigneron . Her family estate, Domaine Les Grands Bois in Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes, has vines that are 30 to 60 years old, which give the estate's wines a depth they wouldn't have with younger vines. Its Côtes du Rhône "Cuvée Les Trois Soeurs" is a blend of two-thirds Grenache with one third Syrah and Carignan. The 2009 has that spicy, sauvage character of reds from the southern Rhone, richly perfumed and full-bodied, tasting of wild berries and herbs.
FOOD
March 5, 2008 | S. Irene Virbila
Enrico Scavino is some kind of genie with grapes. In good vintages and indifferent ones, this Barolo producer makes exceptional wines. But give him a really good vintage and even his so-called lesser wines such as this Dolcetto d'Alba stand out. Fresh and loaded with ripe, sweet fruit, the 2006 has all the right stuff: character, balance, terroir and sheer deliciousness. A Dolcetto like this is perfect with bruschetta, or pour a glass with a plate of salumi and cheese. It's great with a hearty bean soup, with pasta and chicken fricassee, too, and, well, just about anything.
FOOD
March 4, 2010
Here's a lively, fresh Pinot Grigio from the vineyards of the Alto Adige region of Italy, near the Austrian border. Scented with flowers and sweet grasses, the 2008 St. Michael-Eppan Pinot Grigio comes from a great little cooperative in the region. I'm taken with its bright acidity and touch of minerality, along with its notes of pear and ripe apple. Pinot Grigio is a tremendously versatile white wine that can go with all sorts of dishes. Minestrone and other rustic vegetable soups, pasta dishes, grilled fish and scampi come to mind first.
FOOD
October 21, 2010
  This year's Beaujolais Nouveau is about to be sprung on the public with much hoopla. While the festivities are fun (not to mention a great marketing ploy), there's more to Beaujolais than Beaujolais Nouveau. Namely, Beaujolais Villages, and even above that, the crus. Here's one from the stellar 2009 vintage that has all the right stuff ? complexity, finesse and structure, and a taste of earth and blackberries. Though it's 100% Gamay, the terroir comes through so clearly that if you tasted this blind, you might think it's a Burgundy.
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