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February 7, 2014 | By S. Irene Virbila
If you're one of the impatient ones, and have to have a bottle of Brangelina's latest rosé from Provence right now, you'll have to jet over to London or France. That's right. The first bottles of 2013 Château Miraval Côtes de Provence rosé will be sold first in France and England. There's been a waiting list for the wine since last year and the people on it were notified by email that they could sign on Thursday and buy one case of six bottles each. Just in time for Valentine's Day. Go to the website and you'll be informed very politely, in French, that the reservation list for the first bottles of the 2013 vintage is now closed.
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FOOD
April 19, 2014
Southern Italy is full of undiscovered gems with tremendous quality for the price. This Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (not to be confused with the much pricier Vino Nobile di Montepulciano) from the Masciarelli estate is one such wine. The vineyards are worked organically, the way the family has always done it. Made from the indigenous Montepulciano d'Abruzzo grape, the 2009 Masciarelli "Marina Cveti" is rich and full-bodied, tasting of crushed blackberries and cherries, with a touch of tobacco and earth.
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FOOD
October 14, 2010 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times
  In the Loire Valley, Chenin Blanc produces some fantastically alluring wines, among them Savennières from a small appellation in the Anjou region. I've always loved Château d'Epiré's crisp, minerally Savennières, but the 2009 "Cuvée Speciale" is something else again. Two things make it different from the regular cuvée. The vineyard's soil is black slate and, instead of the stainless steel owner-winemaker Luc Bizard uses for his regular Savennières, for this one he uses the traditional chestnut foudres , or casks.
FOOD
April 12, 2014 | By S. Irene Virbila
The second vintage from Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's wine estate in southeast France is a spectacular rosé from an unspectacular year. Made by the Perrin family of the renowned Châteauneuf-du-Pape estate Château de Beaucastel, the 2013 Château Miraval rosé is elegant and fresh, with a scent of wild strawberries. I could drink this very serious rosé all summer long. Quantities are limited, though, and this one may be gone even before summer gets here. Have it with radishes and butter, with toasts spread with tapenade, crudités, grilled salmon or a simple roast chicken.
FOOD
April 12, 2014 | By S. Irene Virbila
The second vintage from Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's wine estate in southeast France is a spectacular rosé from an unspectacular year. Made by the Perrin family of the renowned Châteauneuf-du-Pape estate Château de Beaucastel, the 2013 Château Miraval rosé is elegant and fresh, with a scent of wild strawberries. I could drink this very serious rosé all summer long. Quantities are limited, though, and this one may be gone even before summer gets here. Have it with radishes and butter, with toasts spread with tapenade, crudités, grilled salmon or a simple roast chicken.
FOOD
April 20, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times
When I set out to study wine, it wasn't obvious how to do it or where to go. I'd worked in a wine shop in San Francisco one summer when the proprietor was away and the wine clerks in charge opened fabulous bottles to taste - all summer long. Wine and food writer Colman Andrews had told me about the master of wine program, but at the time it was only in London and you had to be part of the wine trade to participate. Now the word "sommelier" and the profession have entered the popular imagination - there's even a documentary, "Somm," that is ready to hit the theaters.
FOOD
February 9, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times
This fresh, fruity red is from rising star Arianna Occhipinti, who released her first wine in 2004, when she was 21. In Sicily, Frappato, pronounced frah-pa-to, is usually used to lighten inky Nero d'Avola, but Occhipinti makes a pure Frappato with the freshness and liveliness of a good Beaujolais under her secondary Tamí label. I love its spunky notes of black cherry and other dark berries accented with lavender and spices. She's committed to natural winemaking and farms her vineyards in eastern Sicily biodynamically.
FOOD
March 29, 2014 | By S. Irene Virbila
This is why Rioja is one of the best values in red wine right now. Where else could you find such a distinguished red from the 2001 vintage for less than $35? This isn't something a shrewd wine merchant put away for a few years but the estate's current release. And what a mature beauty it is - aromas of dried cherry and rose petals, flavors of dark berries and tobacco, ripe tannins and a long, inviting finish. A seamless package. It will go well with just about anything, but I'm thinking lamb - a roast or chops.
FOOD
October 26, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila
If you think you don't like off-dry Riesling, open up a bottle of this lovely floral Riesling from a Mösel estate that goes back to 1177 and has been owned by the same family since 1804. The 2011 Mönchhof Riesling's honeyed sweetness is balanced by a racy acidity and an earthy minerality. A touch of bitterness pulls it all into focus. The more you keep drinking, the more you'll find in the glass: white peaches, honeysuckle. And this Mösel Riesling is a great value. Open a bottle to accompany a fiery chicken or beef larb . It goes with Thai or any spicy Asian cuisine too. I'd try it with lobster or grilled prawns, and with Chinese noodle dishes.
FOOD
February 19, 2014 | By S. Irene Virbila
From the legendary Quintarelli estate in Valpolicella, here's a lovely and surprising white wine scented with white peaches and lime. With its minerality and bright acidity, this could be the Veneto's analogue to Grüner Veltliner. Perfect for impressing a wine geek. It's terrific with oysters and chilled shrimp, and a great choice with a frittata or omelet. It works with asparagus too. And, of course, it would be ideal with sushi and Thai food. Region: Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy Price: $38 to $40 Style: Crisp and minerally What it goes with: Chilled shellfish, omelet and frittata, sushi, Thai food Where to find it: John and Pete's Fine Wines & Spirits in West Hollywood, (310)
FOOD
March 29, 2014 | By S. Irene Virbila
This is why Rioja is one of the best values in red wine right now. Where else could you find such a distinguished red from the 2001 vintage for less than $35? This isn't something a shrewd wine merchant put away for a few years but the estate's current release. And what a mature beauty it is - aromas of dried cherry and rose petals, flavors of dark berries and tobacco, ripe tannins and a long, inviting finish. A seamless package. It will go well with just about anything, but I'm thinking lamb - a roast or chops.
FOOD
February 19, 2014 | By S. Irene Virbila
From the legendary Quintarelli estate in Valpolicella, here's a lovely and surprising white wine scented with white peaches and lime. With its minerality and bright acidity, this could be the Veneto's analogue to Grüner Veltliner. Perfect for impressing a wine geek. It's terrific with oysters and chilled shrimp, and a great choice with a frittata or omelet. It works with asparagus too. And, of course, it would be ideal with sushi and Thai food. Region: Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy Price: $38 to $40 Style: Crisp and minerally What it goes with: Chilled shellfish, omelet and frittata, sushi, Thai food Where to find it: John and Pete's Fine Wines & Spirits in West Hollywood, (310)
NEWS
February 7, 2014 | By S. Irene Virbila
If you're one of the impatient ones, and have to have a bottle of Brangelina's latest rosé from Provence right now, you'll have to jet over to London or France. That's right. The first bottles of 2013 Château Miraval Côtes de Provence rosé will be sold first in France and England. There's been a waiting list for the wine since last year and the people on it were notified by email that they could sign on Thursday and buy one case of six bottles each. Just in time for Valentine's Day. Go to the website and you'll be informed very politely, in French, that the reservation list for the first bottles of the 2013 vintage is now closed.
FOOD
December 14, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila
An easygoing Piemontese red from the underappreciated Dolcetto grape, which is sort of the younger cousin of Nebbiolo. Bright and polished, the 2012 Elio Grasso Dolcetto d'Alba tastes like sweet fresh cherries and plums. It's a really pretty wine, with a minerality that gives it depth. Delicious with a salumi and cheese plate, or with crostini topped with chicken livers or beans. I love it with grilled sausages too, and pasta with meat sauce. Region: Piedmont Price: $15 to $19 Style: Bright and polished What it goes with: Salumi, cheese, crostini, grilled sausages, pasta with meat sauce Where to find it: Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, (949)
FOOD
October 26, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila
If you think you don't like off-dry Riesling, open up a bottle of this lovely floral Riesling from a Mösel estate that goes back to 1177 and has been owned by the same family since 1804. The 2011 Mönchhof Riesling's honeyed sweetness is balanced by a racy acidity and an earthy minerality. A touch of bitterness pulls it all into focus. The more you keep drinking, the more you'll find in the glass: white peaches, honeysuckle. And this Mösel Riesling is a great value. Open a bottle to accompany a fiery chicken or beef larb . It goes with Thai or any spicy Asian cuisine too. I'd try it with lobster or grilled prawns, and with Chinese noodle dishes.
FOOD
August 3, 2013
The Chianti region is large, and while the wines from the Classico region are the best known, for price and quality, look to the lesser-known Chianti Rufina, a small area in the northeastern corner of Chianti proper. Selvapiana is one of the best estates in Rufina, turning out first-rate Sangiovese-based reds. I've been buying its Chianti for years, keeping it on hand for pasta nights and grilled skirt steak or chops. A deep ruby in color, the 2010 Selvapiana tastes of bright cherries and plums, but a touch of earth gives it some weight.
FOOD
July 22, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila
The biggest champion of Barbera was the late, great Giacomo Bologna of Braida in Barbera d'Asti territory. His "Bricco dell'Uccellone" was as big a leap as Gaja's Cabernet "Darmagi" at the time. Braida, a Barbera specialist, also produces "Montebruna," a young, easygoing Barbera with bright, pure fruit, round and soft on the palate, and just enough tannins to give it some grip. the 2011 Montebruna is almost violet in color. It comes from a vineyard in Rochetta Tanaro and is lighthearted enough for pasta dishes.
FOOD
May 4, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times, This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
I could drink a bottle of this Morgon "Côte du Py" from Jean Foillard every week with the greatest of pleasure. How beautiful is the bottle, with its red wax seal? The wine itself is soft and unctuous, tasting of prunes and dried cherries, a voluptuous cru Beaujolais made with painstaking care. The organically farmed vines from the famed "Côte du Py" range from 10 all the way up to 90 years of age. This is a very serious Gamay. It's beautiful with grilled sausages, stews, a simple roast chicken or duck.
FOOD
July 22, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila
The biggest champion of Barbera was the late, great Giacomo Bologna of Braida in Barbera d'Asti territory. His "Bricco dell'Uccellone" was as big a leap as Gaja's Cabernet "Darmagi" at the time. Braida, a Barbera specialist, also produces "Montebruna," a young, easygoing Barbera with bright, pure fruit, round and soft on the palate, and just enough tannins to give it some grip. the 2011 Montebruna is almost violet in color. It comes from a vineyard in Rochetta Tanaro and is lighthearted enough for pasta dishes.
FOOD
June 22, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times
The stunning Côtes du Rhône "Petit Ours Brun" (little brown bear) tastes like a youthful Cornas. The grapes come from a parcel that winemaker Matthieu Barret calls "no man's land"; it lies just between the official boundaries of Cornas and St. Joseph. The wine is 100% Syrah from 40-year-old, low-yielding vines. Oh, and it's also certified biodynamic. The taste is cool fruit, earth, bruised blackberries and that indefinable wild quality that makes Syrah from this part of the Rhone pure magic.
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