Ghost Pines wine a good value

March 20, 2013 

In the early 1960s the Louis Martini family purchased some land in eastern Napa Valley that had a stand of Gray Pines, also called Ghost Pines, which are supposedly only found in California. Several years ago, Louis Martini, in a joint project with the Gallo family, began producing a line of wines called Ghost Pines that are a good value and retailing in the $15 price range and are easy to find in both wines shops and grocery stores.

The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon has a deep garnet color, with an aroma of dark fruits. I could taste a combination of white pepper and black cherry on the finish, and I found it to have some significant tannins. The 2010 Merlot has a hint of mocha on the front end, followed by some bold, black fruit flavors. I also thought that this wine was tight and tannic so it should age well.

What is meant by the words "tight and tannic"? Several years ago, while visiting a winery, we were told to pick some Cabernet grapes that were growing next to the parking area. I still can feel just how quickly my mouth dried and my lips puckered when taking that first bite out of one of the grapes. That dryness was caused by tannins, which are generally found in the skins of grapes commonly used to make red wines. In most circumstances, the tannins are transferred into the finished product by leaving the skins in contact with the wine during the fermentation process. Tannins are also found in grape seeds, but are much more harsh and astringent than that found in skins.

As wine ages, the tannins will begin to soften allowing the wines

natural fruit flavors to become more evident. When one refers to a wine as tight -- it means that the tannins are so strong that they override and/or suppress the other flavors contained in the wine. In many instances, a tight wine ages very well.

The 2010 Ghost Pine Chardonnay should delight those who prefer this varietal to be buttery. It was obvious that the wine came into contact with oak during the aging process. I thought that the 2010 was light-straw colored and had citrus on the nose, followed by apple and pear flavors. The finish was quite dry, but still somewhat round -- meaning that it contained a decent amount of acidity. I was somewhat surprised at how well this Chardonnay paired with poached lobster tails covered with a garlic butter sauce and roasted red potatoes, mainly because it is not a real creamy and buttery wine. I also think this Chardonnay would be nice to drink poolside on one of our typical hot summer Florida afternoons.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines.

His column appears weekly. He can be reached at jimrawe@gmail.com.

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