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Milford Beacon
  • Wine Talk: New Souverain maintains value legacy

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  • It is one thing to have a thirst for fine wine, quite another to support the habit.
    If money were no object, a top-notch Barolo or perhaps a grand cru Burgundy would do nicely as my house wine. That’s not very realistic, however, because I, like most everyone else, have a limited budget for wine. Thus my never-ending search for value wines that deliver outstanding quality at a modest price.
    Value is relative, of course. I was recently impressed with the 2010 Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County cabernet sauvignon, which took a platinum award at the 2014 Winemaker Challenge International wine competition. At $27 retail, it compares favorably with cabs that cost twice as much. That’s value in one sense, but even at a modest $27 it would be difficult to open a bottle every night.
    For most of us, a great everyday wine shouldn’t cost more than $15 a bottle. With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised at a recent tasting of Souverain, which you may remember as Chateau Souverain.
    “Chateau” was dropped from the name after the parent company sold the winery’s beautiful digs in the Alexander Valley to Francis Ford Coppola. The wines are now produced at a production facility in Asti, not too far from the old chateau.
    Souverain has been off the radar for several years, but is once again asserting itself with a new label and an effort to regain some of the visibility that was lost with the sale of the chateau and its attractive tasting room.
    The old Chateau Souverain was renowned for value. The new Souverain is maintaining that legacy, largely due to the skill and dedication of winemaker Ed Killian, whose career spans both iterations of the winery.
    I tasted six wines with Killian, four of them priced at $15 retail or less. The Winemaker’s reserve chardonnay ($35) and cabernet sauvignon ($45) are superior Alexander Valley appellation wines that are competitive in their price range, but the four that carried the “North Coast” appellation — merlot, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc — were very solid wines that displayed exceptional quality for the price points.
    Given that the suggested retail prices — $15 for the reds and $13 for the whites — are just that, suggestions, it stands to reason that clever wine consumers will find all four wines for even less if they shop around.
    And remember this: The more you save, the more you will have left over in the budget to spring for that occasional Barolo or Burgundy.
    Best Value
    Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer’s enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
    Souverain 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, North Coast ($13) — This is a delicate, refined sauvignon that exhibits aromas of citrus and stone fruits with a soft, rounded texture on the palate. Grapes were sourced from vineyards in Sonoma County, Napa Valley and Lake County, hence the North Coast appellation. The style is graceful and easy, and the price is easy on the wallet. Rating: 89.
    Page 2 of 3 - Souverain 2011 Chardonnay, North Coast ($13) — This lightly oaked Chardonnay is a gem at the price. Beautifully balanced and modest in alcohol (less than 14 percent ABV) it shows a hint of lemon oil on the nose, with aromas of baked apple and pear on the palate. Probably one of the most sophisticated California chardonnays you are likely to find at this price point. Rating: 88.
    Souverain 2011 Merlot, North Coast ($15) — The cool growing season didn’t seem to hold back this delicious value Merlot. It delivers layered red-fruit aromas with a hint of spice and a core of sweet fruit and supple tannins on the palate. Easy to drink now, and a steal at the price. Rating: 88.
    Souverain 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast ($15) — Winemaker Ed Killian did an admirable job with what was a difficult challenge in the cool, wet 2011 vintage. Cabernet sauvignon ripens later than most other grape varieties and caught the autumn rains that bedeviled many vintners. The result for Souverain was a cabernet that’s not the usual fruit bomb. Though lighter in body than in a normal year, this vintage yielded a solid wine that shows like young Bordeaux, with an herbal note that complements the wine’s sweet red fruits and spice. Rating: 87.
    Tasting Notes
    Patz & Hall 2011 Pinot Noir, Chenoweth Ranch, Russian River Valley ($58) — The Chenoweth Ranch is often among the most powerful of the Patz & Hall Pinots, but in this cool, wet vintage it leans more toward elegance than richness. Lovely strawberry and raspberry aromas dominate on the nose, with the fruit profile going slightly darker on the palate. An earthy nuance adds complexity, and the wine is firmly structured, with a bit of grip on the back end. Rating: 93.
    Dry Creek Vineyard 2010 The Mariner, Dry Creek Valley ($45) — This latest release of Dry Creek’s red meritage, The Mariner, is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Immediately accessible and appealing, it delivers a delicious core of red and black fruits, with sweet, supple tannins and a long spicy finish. It dazzles with flavor and elegance rather than heft and power. Rating: 92.
    Black Kite 2011 Pinot Noir, Stony Terrace, Anderson Valley ($55) — This is one of the more delicate of the Black Kite Pinots, a result no doubt of the exceptionally cool growing season. Winemaker Jeff Gaffner has crafted a light-bodied wine that is full of flavor, which is no mean feat. On the nose the wine shows fragrant red fruits and hints of earthy forest floor, and it delivers the same on the palate. Good now, this vintage of Stony Terrace has a gentle bite on the finish that should smooth out over the next year or so in bottle. Rating: 91.
    Thomas Fogarty 2012 Gewurztraminer, Monterey County ($19) — Producing a pleasing dry gewurztraminer is not as easy as it might seem. The tendency of the grape variety when fermented to dryness is to turn bitter, so dry gewurz is tricky. Thomas Fogarty manages to avoid that pitfall, and it’s 2012 Gewurztraminer is a stunner, showing notes of spice, honeysuckle and rose petal, with excellence freshness and balance, and nary a hint of bitterness. Serve with spicy Asian cuisine or just sit back and enjoy as an aperitif. Rating: 91.
    Page 3 of 3 - Calera 2013 Pinot Noir Vin Gris, Central Coast ($18) — All that’s missing is a warm summer day and an umbrella. Calera’s Vin Gris of pinot noir is a delightful, fresh, fruity rose of pinot that should be required sipping at grillside as we welcome the change of seasons. Notes of fresh strawberry on the nose deliver on the palate. Yummy stuff. Rating: 90.
    Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru.
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