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FOOD
November 16, 2005 | S. Irene Virbila
This Viognier is a beauty. It carries a scent of white peaches and flowers. It's all silk in the mouth, soft and lush with a bright point of acidity that keeps things interesting. It comes from Southern, not Northern, Rhone, specifically from the Cotes du Rhone Village of Beaumes-de-Venise, better known for the sweet Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise than for Viognier. But this remarkable Viognier "La Tabardonne" from Domaine Saint-Amant blows most Condrieu -- the famous Viognier of the Northern Rhone -- out of the water.
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FOOD
August 13, 2008 | S. Irene Virbila
I poured this light, lively red from Piedmont at a dinner party recently and every single guest messaged me the next day to ask where to buy it. Not many retailers stock the 2006 Marchesi Alfieri Sansoero Grignolino, I'm afraid. But they should, because this is a perfect summer wine. Made from the local Grignolino grapes, Sansoero (named for the hill where the vineyard is located) smells like violets and lavender. It's full in flavor (wild strawberries, raspberries) with smooth tannins and a lovely, bitter-almond finish.
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.
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
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.
FOOD
November 14, 2011 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times
Don't recognize the Beaujolais cru called Régnié? That's probably because it's the youngest, established only in 1988, and not as well known as Morgon or Fleury. Vines grown in sandy soil produce a wine that's round and supple, with light, graceful tannins. Burgaud's Vallières comes from 50-year-old vines. The result is an elegant, refined Beaujolais that hints at Burgundy. Vivid and quick, it is Gamay at its best with tastes of cherries and sweet spices. And it's a terrific value.
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
February 23, 2012 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times
  The Antinori family now counts 26 generations in the wine business in Tuscany, Italy. That's quite a history. But in the Napa Valley, it's much shorter. Though Marchese Piero Antinori bought an estate on Atlas Peak in the 1980s, the family produced its first wine, a Cabernet, only in 2001. The 2009 Antica Chardonnay is one of the finest Chardonnays I've tasted recently from California. I love its minerality and bright acidity, the light touch with oak. Each sip reveals something different - citrus, smoke, stone.
FOOD
December 2, 2010
  2009 Verdad Albariño, Sawyer 'Lindquist Vineyard' Albariño isn't a grape that's much grown in California, but winemaker Louisa Sawyer fell in love with the Spanish white and planted some in the cool-climate Edna Valley vineyard she owns with husband Bob Lindquist of Qupé. The grapes are certified biodynamic. Her 2009 Verdad Albariño is palest gold and has a delicately floral aroma. Crisp and minerally, it has more body than some Spanish Albariños, plus a lovely finish.
FOOD
February 9, 2012 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times
This is the first vintage for Jack Hammer Wine Co., and they've come out with a terrific Pinot Noir for the price. The grapes come from all three Central Coast counties - Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara - and the juice sees some aging in old French oak barriques . The result is a delightful Pinot Noir with bright fruit flavors, gentle spice and round, smooth tannins. It goes down very easy and marries with all sorts of dishes. Drink it with hors d'oeuvres and vegetable dishes, with grilled salmon or duck breast.
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