Campana Ranch and Winery

As you approach the Campana Ranch Winery you know it is going to be an unusual experience. You confront the gate: fresh eggs, keep the gate closed for loose horses, and the name. It is a ranch and winery. The wife does the ranch and Steve Baker does the winery. He retired from corporate wine and started his own. The first wine was 2012. So it is not a winery that has been around for a long time. The afternoon I was there they were hauling hay, which he left to talk about wines.

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Zeni Amarone della Valpolicella docg Classico 2013

Amarone blends deserve their place among the Great Big Reds. We enjoyed this one very much.

For those who haven’t come across amarone: it’s a north Italian blend of light red grapes, but they dry the grapes before fermenting (!!?). It’s wine made from raisins, so a lot of the water is gone but the sugar remains. This gives them high alcohol, 15% in this case, but frequently even more.

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Bonny Doon: Care for some Aliens with your Wine?

Note: this article is about visiting Bonny Doon’s Tasting Room. We’ll review some of the wines in the near future.

Not your grandmother’s tasting room (Though Grandma may enjoy it!)

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Bonny Doon’s wine tasting room offers up hearty notes of extraterrestrials, with hints of Banana slug, spaceships, and a lingering aftertaste of philosophy and fishnets. This fantastical winery is the brainchild of Randall Grahm, a philosophy major turned winemaker, on a quest for the perfect Pinot Noir.

As the designated ‘Millenial’ of Great Big Reds, Bonny Doon was my favorite tasting room I visited on our most recent trip, and well, really, my life.

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Pino Doncel Black Changed My (Wine) Life

Dark flavors for dark times

Pino Doncel Black — monastrell/mourvedre, syrah, and 20% petit verdot — was there for me when I needed a dark, earthy wine in the under $15 range. ($12 on sale at Calvert Woodley in Washington, DC.)

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Yes, 20% petit verdot won me straight away. My first bottle I was struck by the tannin, but now I hardly notice. I get the lush, rich feeling that I like (14.5% alcohol) and this strong darkness.

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It takes a lot to get me to postpone drinking my hot-climate shiraz favorites. Pino Doncel Black is a lot.

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The winery is in Jumilla. It’s a family-run bodega, founded in 1914.

To me, this seems like an upgrade over pure Monastrell. And if you’re going to blend, blending with petite verdot beats blending with grenache any day.

Canals Canals 2012 Brut Cava

Great Big Cava

This is a brut rose cava made from 60% monastrell (!!) and 40% garnacha. Some people we know are prejudiced against rose because it seems like watered-down red. But if you think of it as flavored-up white… that sounds better! (‘Cava’ is the Spanish term for sparkling wine made with the same process that the ‘Champagne’ region of France uses.)

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We think of champagne and champagne-oise as honorary Great Big Reds. The bubbles stand in for richness, and the acidity distracts less when the wine is cold and the mood is celebratory. Also, rose champagne-oise is colorful because the grape skins were left in the mix longer, and that results — all other things being equal — in more flavor than white. In this case, 60% monastrell probably adds a lot more flavor than they would have gotten from another grape.

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