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April 15, 2009 | S. Irene Virbila
When I tasted this wine and then looked at the price, the two didn't match up. This gorgeous and elegant red from Terra de Verema in the Vilella Baixa del Priorat region of Spain could easily cost twice the price. Instead, for about $30, you get a stunning Carinyena (Carignan) with a touch of Garnacha and Syrah. Spicy and lush, the 2006 Triumvirat is beautifully balanced, even elegant. And it's smooth as silk, almost Burgundian in style.
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April 22, 2009 | S. Irene Virbila
Hail the 32nd vintage(!) of Brander Sauvignon Blanc. Made from fruit grown in the Los Olivos area, the 2008, like all the vintages before it, is a summer classic. Crisp and minerally with a touch of grapefruit rind and grass in the perfume, this is a California Sauvignon Blanc that's closer to Sancerre than some of the overly oaked fruit bombs around. And at under $15 -- sometimes well under, it's a basic for warm-weather drinking. Owner and winemaker C.
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March 4, 2009 | S. Irene Virbila
What a little beauty of a Syrah from Jonathan and Susan Pey of Spicerack Vineyards. Their "Punchdown" Syrah comes from two cool-climate sites on the Sonoma Coast. Rich and spicy with scents of cassis, black pepper and wild herbs, this is an elegant, moderately priced Syrah, a great buy for the price and a California Syrah that plays well with food. Open a bottle for some grilled or sauteed calves' liver, a pasta with chicken liver or gizzard sauce, some lamb chops or a simple roast chicken.
FOOD
March 26, 2003 | S. Irene Virbila
Get this affordable Barolo from a famous producer while you can because you'll never see it again at anything comparable to this price. This is a village wine in the sense that it's not from any single vineyard. And yet it is very much a high-class Barolo. Its perfume carries the classic hint of cedar and sweet Asian spices. In the mouth, it's soft with medium body and dusty ripe tannins. Ready to drink now, and like most Barolos, it's a great food wine.
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January 29, 2003 | S. Irene Virbila
Wines from Joel Gott, the small Napa Valley producer, have a cult following. This well-crafted and sensibly priced Zinfandel is made from a blend of grapes from six vineyards in Napa Valley, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Amador and a vineyard in Lo- di that was planted in 1918. Deeply stained with red, tasting of dark berries, cherries and plums, it has an unusual elegance, but it's no lightweight. It's definitely got some power and spice.
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January 15, 2003 | S. Irene Virbila
In the Veneto area of northeast Italy, Allegrini has a long track record of making great Amarone and delicious Valpolicella. La Grola is this family estate's most prized single vineyard. This wine grabs you with its soft, lovely bouquet of cherries and follows through with a taste of ripe dark fruit. It has a lush and velvety texture and smooth tannins. Immensely appealing and satisfying, La Grola is a wonderful red with food.
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May 10, 2006 | S. Irene Virbila
A wonderfully appealing red from a family-owned Piedmont estate, Sassisto is a blend of Barbera with 10% Nebbiolo. Old vines mean concentration and heft. Beautifully balanced, it's warm, earthy, very Piedmontese. And an attractive buy. It's great with salami and prosciutto, pasta dishes and a classic braised stinco di vitello (veal shank). -- S.
FOOD
September 9, 2009 | S. Irene Virbila
Catherine and Pierre Breton make some of the finest Bourgueils I've ever tasted, and they make them at several levels. This one is called Trinch!, the French word for the sound of two glasses clinking together. It's a good name for a Cabernet Franc that is so accessible and easy-drinking. Made from grapes that are grown biodynamically, the 2008 Trinch! exudes youthful Cabernet Franc character and Loire Valley terroir. Vibrant with pepper and smoke and ripe berry flavors, it's best served slightly chilled in this weather.
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January 7, 2009 | S. Irene Virbila
How can you not like a wine that exhorts drinkers to "laugh more -- flirt often" on the back of the bottle. That's Lane Tanner, Santa Barbara winemaker extraordinaire, talking. She herself has been flirting with Pinot Noir since 1984 and knows quite a bit about this seductive, yet difficult grape and all that's showing in this latest bottling of her basic Santa Barbara Pinot. Ripe and supple, it exudes class and, well, a certain sexiness.
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March 12, 2003 | S. Irene Virbila
In this hilly area west of Florence, winemakers have been including a little Cabernet in the same basic Sangiovese- dominated blend as Chianti since at least the 18th century. That's what gives Carmignano a darker tone than Chianti or a pure Sangiovese. And that's why it's one of the four great denominazioni of Tuscany. Italian wine aficionados have made Piaggia's something of a cult wine. The 1999 riserva is, hands down, the best in the Carmignano appellation.
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