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FOOD
August 20, 2003 | S. Irene Virbila
Rioja is most identified with the svelte reds made from the Tempranillo grape. A small amount of white wine is made there too. And an even smaller amount of rosado, or rose. Bodegas Muga, a top Rioja estate founded in 1932 and best known for its flagship Rioja, Prado Enea, makes a rose that is a stunning bargain at about $6. Pale salmon-pink in color, it's dry and fruity with a light scent of strawberry and the barest hint of oak.
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FOOD
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.
FOOD
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
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.
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.
FOOD
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.
FOOD
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
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.
FOOD
March 18, 2009 | S. Irene Virbila
To find a fresh, crisp, minerally Gavi for less than $20 is something of a miracle, especially one as good as this one from Castellari Bergaglio. The Cortese di Gavi grape doesn't always produce such a beauty, but the Castellari family is picking its grapes from a vineyard that's more than 80 years old. The "Rovereto" has definition and grace, and goes down easy with chilled shellfish or a seafood platter. Pour it for a seafood risotto or a plate of spaghetti with clams. It loves grilled fish.
FOOD
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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