Life is better on the corner, the place where great wines meet reasonable prices!




Thursday, March 26, 2015

Rhone Zone Spotlight: 2010 Clos Saint Michel CDP


“If you only drink the same wines that everyone else is drinking, than you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ~ A wise Vino-Sapien

You're now traveling through another wine country destination, a destination not only of sight and sound but of the vine; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of export. That's the signpost up ahead — your next stop, the Rhone Zone. —Rod Serling

Isn't that how Mr. Serling introduced the second season of the Twilight Zone??  For some a timeless show which [in many respects] was way ahead of its time. It was a show which made many take pause and perhaps even some thought about this mortal-coil that we all tread upon. Okay yes, I took some artistic-license with the opening monologue [so sue me] but I did so for a very good reason.

That reason, to transport you ever so briefly to another time and place. One you may have no doubt heard of before, but one you may not have had that much experience with on a regular basis. The boundaries of export, meaning as a serious wine shopping kinda guy, I don't see as much vino from the Rhone Zone as I would like to see in the US wine market place [with a few exceptions of course]. But when you have a chance explore, explore this vast and luscious wine landscape.


The Rhone Zone: This is one area of France which is fast becoming one of my all time favorite regions and not just for the red wines either. Because I find the white wines from this exciting region to be every bit as fantastic as the reds. It can be thought of as split up; with south and north, each has its own climate and interesting topography.

The North: It's hilly, is influenced by a turbulent, strong wind, called the Mistral and according to their strict wine laws, there a good number of the northern appellations that can ONLY be planted with Syrah. Within the borders of the North you have the Cote Rotie, where up to 20% of the Syrah can be juiced with Viognier [syrah-perfume]. They also have a super-star[think Jerry Maguire] within its borders, named the Hermitage home to some of the world's finest wines, where bacon fat and pepper aromas are coaxed from steep hillsides.

It's also home to some big red monsters who lie in wait in the Coronas appellation, dark, rich, brooding wines who bite at the heels of their neighbor in Crozes-Hermitage which produces a lighter more subtle style of vino, where rich raspberry, earthiness and silky tannins dominate the more value oriented red wines from the north.

The South: Is by contrast to the north, considered the "flat-lands". The weather there, tends to be much warmer and the vineyards rise out of landscape typically covered by some strange stones called "galets" which make a significant contribution to the "uniqueness" and great quality to Southern Rhone wines. 


The Southern Rhone is home to the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape [new castle of the pope]. These wines typically are GSM blends, but can be blended with up to 13 different grapes, but Grenache is the kingpin grape here. This is the place you will find bottles brandishing a lavish Coat of Arms just above the label, indicating that these wines are Estate grown. They also have a super-star in their midst, known as Chateau de Beaucastel.

The Murkey Middle Lands: This is the place where you have a blending of both regions, known to many as Cotes du Rhone encompassing the dual Rhone's largest production areas, producing a broad range and styles of wine. While the Villages designation on the bottle will typically mean, the wines lean toward a higher quality standard.

If you've never taken a visit to the Rhone-Zone, as I like to call it; than folks this is your ticket to ride. A wine that will come out, shake your hand and you'll become fast friends. It will leave you wondering why you had not met sooner. Even the garden variety wine-twirler will get this wines easy going and easy to get along with personality. It's a wine that's easy as a Sunday morning, and is easy to please even the fussiest wine snob.

You'll find in this wine, a style which makes food pairing choices so easy and wonderfully fun. I can't imagine too many things that would not pair well with this wonderfully well-made wine from a stellar vintage. In this blend you'll be greeted by forty percent Grenache, which blazes the trail like an elephant through the tall grass, followed by equal percentages of Mourvedre and Syrah expressing vibrant blueberries, blackberries, olives and a meatiness which are caressed by underbrush tones; this wine is both complete and delightfully complex at the same time.

This wine from Clos Saint Michel, CDP has everything the average vino-sapien is looking for via earthy, mineral-driven nuances, [you literally taste the vineyard dust] light engaging aromatics which draw you in for the first slurp. A food friendly wine with a gentle verve of dark and red fruits pulsing through its soul. After the first splash you're enthusiastically greeted by a generous nose; freshly picked blueberries, wild flowers and a hint of black olives. A dense ruby to simmering blackberry color core, expanding to a slightly paler rim. This wine is seamless, finely knit tannins, effortlessly woven into the fabric of this southern Rhone stunner and while it's not inexpensive, it's well worth the price of admission. Until next time folks here's to exploration, slurp long and prosper cheers! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Wine of the Week: 2010 Mario's Vineyard, Trinchero Napa Valley

Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are... ~ RW Emerson

As many of you may know or have heard; I've stepped from behind the keyboard and onto the playing field as it was. Not only do I make recommendations from the lofty ivory tower of my blog, twitter, vivino, delectable; [soapbox] but I also take those opinions to the sales floor, where I get to mingle with fellow vinosapiens and the purveyors of fermented juice much to the delight of both. I do love this journey I'm on, and I look forward to even more exciting adventures in the wine business. I have gotten my bearings and its full steam ahead.

Honestly, I have far less time to write, but there are days like today, where I have the luxury of extra time to string together a few words and share with you a truly remarkable wine I happened upon languishing on my stores shelves. It was purchased [current sale price $32] a couple weeks ago, and allowed to properly rest in the cellar before being uncorked and its beauty revealed. It's a wine which comes from a great family who've I've not met, and whose property I've only driven by in the past.


The reason I'm compelled to share this wine with you via my long overdue wine of the week column is simple; with so few 'Napa' wines hitting the mark so surely, this folks is a textbook example of how it's done right. I dropped this bad boy in the decanter, and spilled a few ounces into a proper stem as well. Tasting this wine is a pure pleasure, it reminds me of a left bank Bordeaux; lean where it should be, vivid acid taming abundant fruit, tannins finely honed over time, and the wonderfully stunning minerality is found in abundance.

The finish is long and lasting, and its memory is still in my thoughts. The structure of this wine could easily go another 10 years. Plums, cocoa dust, blackberries, cassis, cedar and dried underbrush. You can spend more, but you honestly won't get more, until next folks remember life is short, so sip long and prosper cheers!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wine of the Week: 2009 Chateau Franc Mayne, Grand Cru Classe, Saint-Emilion

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant." - Robert Louis Stevenson

You know what they say, "you can spend more, but you will not always get more", never have words been more true or oh-so accurate, as in the case of this gem. I really had a hard time wanting to post this article, seeing I really didn't want the word to get out about this amazing juice, but I'm in a sharing mood for the moment. Since returning from my trip to Bordeaux in 2013, I've been smitten with its flavors and finesse. It offers so many different expressions; and it would seem to me that those expressions are timeless, but they're also evolving and until you take the time to slow down, taste its textures, flavors and breath in its aromas, you may have a hard time understanding what it is, I'm attempting to communicate here.

I know that for me personally when I was first exposed to wine, I was not ready for Bordeaux, I needed easier to understand wines, which required little thought or contemplation. In fact, I often thought, "sheese, what is all the fuss about anyway?” I just didn't get it and I frankly didn't want to back in the day, when I didn't have much of a collection to speak of. But now, you'd be hard pressed to drag me away from Bordeaux tasting, or any opportunity to make a few new discoveries. I'm like a kid in the candy store; there are so many new wines and producers to discover, and the older the wine, so much the better in most cases.

Both Pomerol and Saint Emilion [right bank] has really caught my eye of late, and I believe to the surprise of both Mrs. Cuvee and I, who had figured ourselves for more of a left-bank leaning inclination, but we have found the opposite to be true. Not that we'd kick a left bank gem out of bed, but our preferences seem to lie on the right bank. 

Another stunner from Bordeaux, a wine with true soul and substance. If you'd a taste of true Saint Emilion style and class, this is your ticket to ride. From one of the more recent great Bordeaux vintages, this bottle of Chateau Franc Mayne over delivers at the unassuming price of $45, you simply cannot get this quality from California in that same price range, a brilliant canvas of taunt tannins, painted w/ blackberries, dry earth, and ripe dark plums, and slightly dry taste of the skin. For best results, I'd recommend decant an hour or two before hand, as it evolves wonderfully with the proper amount of air. The finish is long and lasting, one you will not forget too quickly either. Until next time folks remember sip long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

About San Diego: Top 10 Wine and Dine Spots

You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Andre Gid

Those little, yet delightful new discoveries which have been under your feet all along, can make it all the more exciting once you uncover them, even as you step unto the shore of the unknown. As I was leaving one of my favorite places to dine in San Diego, known to many locals, and conveniently tucked away, just west of the airport, is Island Prime. If you've not taken the opportunity to dine with them as yet, make plans to do so soon, the food, wine list and service are as delicious as the view of downtown San Diego. I had the good fortune last year to hang out with a new friend; from Wente Wines where we had a grand time discussing everything from wine to sports. On the way home, driving along the harbor, something which greets many visitors leaving the airport, billowing clouds forming overhead caught my eye. So I just had to stop along the waterfront to snap this picture with my iPhone

This picture you see above is just a snapshot of San Diego, my hometown, where I grew up and where I live, work and play. Did I fail to mention also to eat and drink well? If so let me set the record straight, I do my fair share of both, whether it's dining out or a casual meal at home. That said, when it comes to the Wine and Dine 'scene' here in San Diego; I believe I've a pretty good grasp of its top wine and dine destinations, one I'd like to share. Also if I may be so bold, the place where you can find the very best fish tacos in San Diego  period, end of story. 

I was asked back in July, by the Grape Collective to come up with a top ten list of places I frequent and would recommend to thirsty vino-sapiens and hungry carnivores. So I did just that, and you can check out that list I came up with here.  That said, I desired to do more than a quickie post, and instead do somewhat a bit more elaborate. So I decided to give that list a quick shake, then add some and remove some names, you understand, some quick editing as it were, so here it's enjoy.


1. ENO Pizzeria & Wine Bar, Address: 1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118 Grab a slice, grab a glass and breath in some fresh ocean breezes, because you're just steps away from the beach. As you can see I still managed to keep Pizza in the lineup, what is a great wine and dine list, without a little pizza? 

2. The 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro, Address: 897 South Coast Highway 101, (760) 942-2104 If you want to have a tasty, wine paired meal or just want to grab a bottle to go, this is one of my top choices. 

3. Splash Wine Bar, Address: 3043 University Avenue, (619) 296-0714 A great place with small bites, and wine on tap, in fact over 80 different selections to choose from, and you choose the pour size, not the server. Quick, quiet [relatively] and comfortable found in city central North Park, where the locals go, who know what's up. 


4. Island Prime, Address: 880 Harbor Island Drive, (619) 298-6802 Like I said, this is great place for the views, especially in the evening, the food is very good, the wine list is well thought out and diverse, the service is always very good. Located just moments west of the Airport. If you're leaving terminal two, just head straight through the light, and once you see the water, hang a left, it is just at the end of the jetty. 

5. TJ Oyster Bar, Address: 4246 Bonita Road, (619) 267-4577 Now if you the very best fish tacos in all of San Diego, this is the thee place to go. Don't be taken in by any pretenders to the throne, boys and gurls, because this place is the real deal!  Seating is very limited, each taco is prepared once it's order, seating is limited, the line is always out the door and yes you can suck down a cold cerveza to take a bite out the warm sunshine. 


6. The Wine Vault and Bistro, Address: 3731 India Street, (619) 295-3939 Another great wine and dine spot in San Diego, it's a very popular location for vino-sapiens. Because this place is a one stop shop, they really do it all. If you want to arrive early for your dinner reservations, ask Chris to make you his famous and favorite Martini, the 409. You can also buy bottles to take home, if you happened to like a bottle of wine you had with dinner. 

7. The Barrel Room Vintage Wine Bar and Bistro, Address: 16765 Bernardo Center Drive #1, (858) 673-7512 I really do love this place as well, if you just want to grab a glass of wine and relax with friends, they have a cozy area just to the side of the bar to hang out. If you want a bottle of wine with dinner, great, because unlike most places, the mark-up is just $5 above the retail prices of their attached wine shop. Great food and great service. 

8. Jaynes Gastropub, Address: 4677 30th Street, (619) 563-1011 Another North Park gem, not to be missed, the food is eclectic, the well-stocked bar is always buzzing and wine list is top notch. Do not miss an opportunity to dine here, and hang with the locals, guaranteed to be tourist free. Feeling a bit cramped inside; ask for a table in the seemingly secret back patio, a very comfortable spot to laugh loudly, pop some corks and raise some glasses.


9. Urban Solace, Address: 3823 30th Street, (619) 295-6464 This place is near a San Diego legend, again a favorite with the locals, a central city, North Park gem. Grab a bite, sip some wine, raise a glass to toast and enjoy a great evening dining out in one of San Diego's hot-to-trot dining destinations. 

10. The Smoking Goat, Address: 3408 30th Street, (619) 955-5295 And last but certainly not least, and as you can see from the address, this delicious dining location is found in North Park. A pretty good wine list, could use a bit more imagination, but the food is very good, the menu well thought out and the service will keep you coming back for more.  

That's all for today folks, there will be more Champagne in the next post, so keep that glass full, and remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Wine of the Week: 2010 Big Basin Vineyards, Alfaro Family Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains

“If we sip the wine, we find dreams coming upon us out of the imminent night”  D.H. Lawrence

Mr. Lawrence may say sip, but honestly I prefer to slurp. With that awful picture planted firmly in your mind, good [late] afternoon to you all, and welcome to my Wine of the Week. I discovered this gem last night during #WineChat, where there was a grape discussion about the fantastic 'juice' being poured in tasting rooms all over the Santa Cruz Mountains. If you've not been to the area before, may I highly suggest you do so soon. 

I swooned [no not kidding] with delight over the three different selections of Pinot Noir, being poured, tasted and discussed last night via #winechat. That's not something I usually do either, typically I'll find at least one wine in a tasting like that to make me wanna 'crinkle' my nose and sigh. But these wines wouldn't allow me to have any of that last night, instead my palate was doing the happy dance.

Sad to say and hard to admit, but this was my first experience with this amazing example of Santa Cruz Mountain AVA Pinot Noir, it was a sheer pleasure. The nose straight from the bottle was complex yet very inviting perfume, cranberry, brown sugar, wet-earth and loads of baking spices. After the first pour a bright colored core of strawberry and red raspberry invite the first sip. Diving into the glass, inviting aromas of baking spices, a slap of of new summer cherries, wild cranberries and sandalwood. 
"The steep hillsides, cooling ocean breezes and fog, and mountain soils promote the development of color and complex flavors." Bradley Brown
On the palate a truckload of finesse coupled together with opulent fruit, which hangs nicely on a canvas of firm acid and delicate tannins [texture baby]. This wine is sleek and elegant showcasing a mix of dried cherry, strawberry jam fused with a touch of spice and toasty oak nuances, leading to a sumptuous, long lasting finish. I cooked up a little wild-caught sockeye salmon action, with my special recipe and some other tasty fixin's [which you see below]. Then Mrs. Cuvee and I were off to the pool don't you know, we were "Swimming in Pinot Pairing Paradise" [the title for my new book].  
We believe in and employ sustainable and organic farming practices." Bradley Brown
This is the type of quality juice that has me wanting to oddly jump inside the bottle to slurp up the remainder and I do that via what I call bottle tipping. What is that you ask, oh that's simple that's just me laying the [nearly empty] bottle on its side which causes it to pool, so I may get those last few precious drops into my glass. Oh by the way, it paired oh-so marvelously with our Salmon-Bake. To say this wine was good would be a vast understatement, because it did in fact "wow" my socks off


They [the winemaking team] at Big Basin, go through a lot of effort to make their wines stand out and stand out they do, at least speaking for what must be one of their flagship and/or signatures Pinot Noir selections. It is an allocated wine [lucky wine club members only] and is very also a super-small production, just 22 cases or 6 barrels produced. I scored this wine 93 points and highly recommend you give it a swirl!

Hopefully there still a few spots open on their allocation list, if not there's always the waiting list, I wish you good luck. Personally, I think it's worth the effort. Okay folks that's all I've got for today, until next time remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

Full Disclosure: The wine in today's review was sent as a sample.


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