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

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wine of the Week: 2007 Poggio Basso Chianti Classico Riserva

“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.” – Arnold Bennett 

Many times in the course of selling wine to the public; I find that the average vino-sapien is quite opposed to change. Far too many folks from my perspective seem to want/need the same "Wine-Experience" over and over. When I do offer an alternative; like the wine you see in the picture above, they run-away away shrieking in horror [just a slight bit of exaggeration, but you get the picture].

And why? Oh-because some folks simply can't not imagine taking a wine-risk. They run willy-nilly back to the comfort of the same formulaic brand they've become use to and know well. That fact is one of the saddest things I hear coming from the lips of folks who I know dig wine like I do; but they're just too scared or far too comfortable to venture through the door of discovery. 

Hell, they won't even dip a toe in the pool; especially if the price of the wine veers over their perception of the reasonable-range. For crying-out-loud people it's just a bottle of wine, not a life-time altering event. But maybe, just maybe it could be, hmm ponder the possibilities. 

I popped the cork on this rustic beauty just last night a delicious classic style of Chianti Classico; which went [paired] amazingly well with a gorgeous classic Margherita Pizza Mrs. Cuvee and I dined upon last night.

The wine was the perfect accompaniment, just playing some nice base tones in the background, while at the same time enhancing the epicurean experience. The wine sells most places for a SRP of $20 and I gave it a score of 90 points making it a QPR star.

It’s sad, but most folks have almost knee jerk reaction to Chianti. The first thought which comes to mind, is that of the wicker basket bottles. But don't let that false perception stop you. Because like we say about women here in America, "you've come along way baby" the same can be said about Chianti Classico. These wines have evolved far past the point of the simplistic table wines of the seventies. 

I'd anyone to just take the time to investigate what Chianti has to offer the average vino-sapien. Many will find many good to very-good producers; who I know if given the chance, will help change many minds and hearts about these very tasty, yet truly authentic Tuscan wines.

The Poggio Basso is a well executed wine with has "classic" written all over it, 100% Sangiovese goodness from the first splash in my glass to the very last drop. A stinky nose, which made me think rich dry earth, cracked, sun-beaten leather and fruit all, came together at some point. After the first splash, polished tannins and dried fruits reminding me of dark plums dark red-cherries and, yes you could taste the pit.

A small factoid about Italy’s most planted grape known as Sangiovese. It’s a small [smaller the better] dark-berried grape and, one that has really become synonymous with the majority of the red wines from the Tuscany region. But of course not everyone plants the same clone of Sangiovese, so that said never forget clones matter.

Weighing in at just 13% abv and nicely textured, this wine made for the perfect food pairing partner. While we chose pizza, I could imagine seeing this wine pair nicely with large variety Italian recipes. Okay I'm done pontificating so until next folks remember, life is short so sip long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Travel Tuesday: The Frugal Wine Taster

”The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. ~ Benjamin Franklin

The voyage of discovery is a fun experience in and of itself, but add to fact, the discovery of finding great new wines makes the trip all the merrier. But for many the cost of wine-discovery can add up quite quickly, so many opt to just stay home and drink the same wines they have always enjoyed. 

But what if I told, there was a way to get some complimentary wine-tastings in a great location known and loved by many, called Sonoma County. Would you hoot, would you holler or perhaps just load up the wine-wagon with friends and family and make your way out to wine-country for the weekend

I'm thinking that you in fact would find a-way to free-up sometime on that busy work-free weekend. So here's the good-news; Visa Signature and Sonoma County Vintners offer cardholders the following year-round benefits at over 60 select Sonoma wineries:* 
  • Two unique complimentary tastings per cardholder
  • Savings on wine purchased same day in Tasting Room and non-wine purchases
  • Savings on Reserve tastings and special wine-and-food pairings.
  • Complimentary tasting details and benefits vary by winery and you may wish to call ahead to confirm winery benefits.
So if you happen to have a Visa Signature Card* then you are luck; as any cardholder is going to be able to get a sip of the good life for free. Yep you heard me right "free", however see their website for complete details [because restrictions do apply]. 
To make this great offer, even easier there's a printable map which directs you to all the participating wineries. With over 60 included on the list; I'm pretty sure you'll find one that floats your boat. After quickly perusing the list; I see many of my favorites like Rodney Strong, Roth, Rued, Seghesio and Twomey Cellars to name a few.

Seems like a pretty good deal for the wandering wino and great way to kick-off what might otherwise be just a dull weekend. So your get your empty glass over to Sonoma and give those wines a swirl. 

The weather is perfect right now and again it's a great time to hang in Sonoma County. While you're there, I would recommend having lunch or dinner at the The Girl and the Fig a fun gastronomical experience not to be missed. So until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

Wine Enthusiast 4-Pc. Fusion Infinity Pinot Noir Wine Glass Set

Monday, April 15, 2013

Get in the Gap: 2011 Bruliam Gap's Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” - Winston Churchill

I'm fortunate to work at one of San Diego's very best and newest wine shops, located what I like to say is a "stones-throw-away" from the beach in the Bird Rock area of La Jolla, the shop is called Bird Rock Fine Wine. If you've not been there and you consider yourself a keen vino-sapien, than you owe it to yourself to stop by for visit.

I say fortunate because I've been able to give up writing about or have the need to accept samples for my blog. I get to taste so many different wines week to week, that I honestly have enough material for hundreds of reviews. To be quite honest it's greatly liberating to say the least; I write about the wines that come into the shop [or the wines I buy] as I see fit, without a need to worry about agendas.

But as quickly as that was said, in the course of #WineStudio and/or #WineChat activities wine samples will be accepted via Protocol Wine Studio for the purpose of exploring the wines provided by guests appearing in either of those venues. I hope folks will continue to join us via twitter on either of those nights for our fun, fasinating and to me very informative conversations.

Now about the wine in today's spotlight from a producer I've long admired and one I think everyone in the wine-community should know about and support via wine purchases. They're a relatively new producer known as Bruliam Wines, where indeed as their motto indicates "Wine is Elemential" an idea tasted in each new release. You may also be surprised to find out that 100% of their profits goes to charity, if you'd like to know more than I'd encourage to find out more here.

Having spoken with many winemakers this year and last up and down the west coast, I've come away with one conclusion that 2011 is going to be tough vintage for many producers. If you recall here in San Diego, 2011 was the year we really did not have a summer. For the most part it was cloudy and gray for nearly the entire year. As the 2011 vintage starts to make its way to the shelves of your favorite wine store, this will mean that the average vino-sapien should be paying closer attention to the critics to find the diamonds in the rough.
Which is why I wanted to highlight this bottle for you, because this folks is one of the gems from 2011 that should score for your own cellar. The Gap’s Crown, a Sonoma Coast vineyard which also supplies Pinot Noir to top producers like Kosta Browne and others.

In fact winemaker Michael Browne [of Kosta Browne] stated that the fruit from this vineyard  [Gap's Crown] site is "the backbone" of their Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. A vineyard easily located in the "Petaluma Gap" of Sonoma County; which in fact was reported to have sold earlier this year. It sold for an aveage of 100K an acre, an incredible threshold to have reached in so short of time and, key indicator of just how valuable this vineyard is now and will continue to be in the future.

So even in tough vintages like 2011, it's still entirely possible to make fantastic wines, but with an entirely different expression than what you may be use to in the warmer years. A "different-expression" is what you'll find in this Bruliam 2011 Gap's Crown Pinot Noir, an elegant, but at the same time powerful expression of Pinot Noir. I'm giving this wine 93 points, it's an outstanding representation of the quality this vineyard has to offer.

Lovely floral aromas stream easily from the glass, this is a richly textured wine, beaming with bright red-berry fruit, a hint of tea leaves and well rounded tannins. It's a wine I'd lay down for bit, as you wittle away some the 09's you may have socked away already.

Kerith Overstreet [winemaker], did a masterful job in this effort and, it was great seeing her again at Bird Rock Fine Wine the other day. Presently there are two of her other wines on the shelves, one is amazing Rock Pile Zin, and from what I hear, that is the last of the lot to be found anywhere.

If you live in San Diego and you'd like to taste some of wines dicussed in this article, than you my friends are luck. They're having a Spring Release party, so if you're interested there's still time to register for this fun event coming up next month.

The price of wine will depend how many cases of it's purchased and/or deals that may have been struck, but remember no matter the price you pay, 100% of the proceeds go to charity. Until next time folks remember sip long and prosper cheers!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Burgundy Uncorked

Burgundy makes you think of silly things, Bordeaux makes you talk of them and Champagne makes you do them. ~ Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin 
When I purchased these wines the other day [the one you see pictured above and the one just below] Ken, the store owner asked me if I had an addictive personality. I hastily replied "no not really, but why do you ask" he said "because once you put two feet inside the door of Burgundy, it's hard to find your way back" a word to the wise, perhaps.

His question did give me some pause, but I assured him that, "no-no I'm just an explorer on the vine-covered trail" and that this excursion would be no different than any of many others I've taken before. But his admonition got me thinking, are those possibly famous last words [gulp] in light of having been awe-struck by both bottles in very different ways. I'm already considering replenishing those two bottles.

The 2009 Les Longeroies seen above is the third wine from Marsannay, which I've experienced in just the last few weeks. This bottle while not expensive, a mere $27 was no slouch in the delicious category. A wine boasting of the rich, ripe fruit [but not flabby] many of wines of this vintage experienced, a wonderfully terroir-driven wine, that while very exuberant in style, it had a nice counter balance of acidity driving the wine home. I scored this wine 90 points, it's highly recommended.

The color of the surprised me a bit, thinking it would look lighter, but in the glass it looked like a ripe summer plum. Mrs. Cuvee and I paired this beauty with a freshly baked Shepard's Pie, our ticket to tasty town.
As you can see from the map above both wines are from nearly both ends of the Burgundian spectrum Marsannay in the north and Chassagne-Montrachet in the south. In the southern end of Burgundy is where you [surprisingly to some] find the majority of the white-Burgundy coming from and in the north is where most of the red-Burgundy is found. It does seem a bit counter intuitive, but nonetheless that is the case.

As many of already know Chassagne-Montrachet is in the Côte de Beaune and, is famous for its great white-wines [Chardonnay]. The most famous of these is of course Montrachet, known to many as the king of white wines, seeing these wines can fetch some lofty prices.

While 60% of the production is white-wines, that leaves a good percentage red-wines [Pinot Noir] produced here that cannot compete with their northern neighbors. But while they may not be able to compete, these wines are no slouch, especially in great vintages like 2009 and 2010. Of course, that fact will greatly benefit the average vino-sapien looking for reasonably priced Burgundy.

To find a Chassagne-Montrachet rouge is pretty rare in the first place and the price was pretty uncommon as well [under $25]. Seeing most of the white wines bearing this appellation name typically sell for prices much more than what I paid for the bottle you see pictured below.

This [2010 Chassagne-Montrachet] wine was very light in color, more like a light cranberry/strawberry. The nose jumped from the glass right away, fresh summer strawberries, raspberry puree, rich-earth, dried-florals and even a whiff of rhubarb. I didn't want to take my nose away even to grab my first slurp, but I resisted, dove right in and wow everything I experience in the nose exploded across my palate like a broad-side from a pirate-ship of old.

This wine danced to the tune of sweet cherry-pie and threw in some crushed stone just for good measure. I was completely taken by this wines power and strength, but I was done in by its finesse. Wow, what a thrill ride where the price of admission, has you saying like a six-year at Disney-Land "can I do that again, can I huh, please". My score for this wine is 92 points.

I didn't have to spend to much coin either, both wines make for quite the amazing tasting adventure, one I would highly recommend you taking soon yourself. Mrs. Cuvee was out of town, so yes I took one for the team and finished the bottle. I paired this wine with baked-salmon, a freshly chopped spinach salad and a mushroom risotto. 

Until next time folks remember to slurp long and prosper cheers!

Full Disclosure: Neither of the wines above was given to me as a sample, both were paid for via my own funds.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Travel Tuesday: The Ten Top Reasons to Visit Bordeaux

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

A timely travel article written by guest contributor; Pascale Bernasse, president of French Wine Explorers and, a great source for planning authentic wine and culinary experiences in France. You can also follow them via twitter @FrWineExplorers

The Bordeaux region famously well known for its fine wine, it also offers so much more. The summer travel season is nearly upon us, so we'd like to give you our top ten reasons to plan a tour to Bordeaux and find out why this region is so much more than just grapes to glass.

1. Try the wine: Bordeaux produces many types of wine, from dry whites to dessert whites, reds, rosés, and even effervescent wines (crémant). Some of the most prestigious estates of the world are located in Bordeaux. The region does not only produce grand crus or expensive wines; in fact, those wines account for only 2% of the overall production of the region! So there are many opportunities to discover a few new favorites to add to your cellar.

2. Visit the city of Bordeaux:The city of less than 300,000 people is easy to navigate and is one of our favorite cities in France. The historic center boasts 18th century architecture and rivals Paris for the most historical monuments in France. A Unesco World Heritage Site with over 340 historic monuments, a city center that is modern and clean, and plenty of great restaurants and shopping make Bordeaux attractive for all.

3. Visit St. Emilion: The picturesque village of St. Emilion is located on the Right Bank of the Garonne. Merlot is king on the Right Bank with the appellation of Saint Emilion and its satellites, Pomerol and Lalande-de-Pomerol. Saint Emilion has some of Bordeaux’s oldest vineyards, producing well-structured wines with great character from a judicious blending of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes. And you can discover the lovely medieval village of Saint Emilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its monuments, many shops and galleries (including some of the region’s best wine shops).

4. Sip and Spa: Indulge in a vino-therapy spa set to renew and relax. Vino-therapy is a beauty therapy process where the residue of wine making (the pips and pulp) is rubbed into the skin. The pulp is said to have excellent exfoliating qualities and help reduce the problems associated with ageing.

5. Try the whites: If you say Bordeaux to most folks right away they think of red wines, aging in barrels sitting in great Chateaus. But don’t forget about Sauvignon Blanc, it is the primary grape variety for the dry white wines of Bordeaux. Sauvignon Blanc is also sensitive to noble rot, so it marries well with Semillon in the great sweet wines of Sauternes. It produces wines which are crisp, clean and medium-bodied.

6. Go to school: There is no better way to discover the culinary delights of Bordeaux than a hands-on cooking class. Different options are available, from a 2 hour class at the Pressoir d'Argent with a Michelin starred chef, to a full week of discovering the markets, vendors and creations that are unique to the area, such as canneles, a sweet brioche style pastry, or the entrecote a la bordelaise, grilled steak topped with a reduction of red wine sauce.

7. A different perspective: Imagine cycling amongst picturesque routes dotted with vines, stopping along the way to take a break from biking and unwind while savoring your new wine discoveries. The area is relatively easy to ride which is practical for the weekend rider and tours lasting 2 hours to a week are available.

8. Go to market: Something for every taste; try the Capucins, where restaurateurs and caterers shop with the locals in the heart of Bordeaux (T-Sun 6a-1p). And in Libourne near St. Emilion; holds a great open-air market of fresh produce on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sunday. This market (and the indoor market featuring specialty goods) has all the charm of the outdoor farmers' markets found in Provence.

9. Life’s a beach: The Dune of Pyla, the largest sand dune in Europe, is located about 40 miles from Bordeaux, in the Arcachon area. Climb the top of the dune and revel in the amazing views of the area. The Dune of Pyla is also famous for paragliding and the multicolored sails floating in the sky are worth the detour.

10. Eat like the natives: Bordeaux has many wonderful Michelin starred restaurants, such as Cordeillan Bages in Pauillac, Hostellerie de Plaisance in St. Emilion, Le Chapon Fin in Bordeaux, and low country favorites such as La Tupina in Bordeaux and Le St. Julien in St. Julien. Beef, lamb, duck, foie gras and seafood are local specialties and are perfect with the wines of the region.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Wine of the Week: 2009 Jean Noel Gagnard: "L' Estimee"

"In vino veritas," or "There's Truth in Wine,” is referring to the often confessional loquacity of the intoxicated. ~ Pliny the Elder
Well the plain truth is this, at the moment I don't have a drop of vino flowing through my system. But that will change very shortly as it's nearly time to jump into the #winestudio to taste a gem from Croatia. Now that said a word about this wine of the week, wow! No really that was my first impression, a wine with serious substance.

Soon as you pop the cork it's ready to come out and meet you, shake your hand, wearing a beret, poodle by its side, blowing dust off the bottle, saying "Welcome to Burgundy". All of that without the long plane fight or the need to have your passport stamped.

Can uncorking a wine really say all of that? Perhaps not, but I'd really like to think it's so in some odd esoteric fashion or manner. Meanwhile back at the review, this wine really is quite tasty. I was all about-it, soon as I got a splash of it in my mouth, this wine has a core of terrific energy. 

Beautiful aromas easily escaping from the glass, revealing a very pretty nose, with notes of freshly farmed earth, red rose petals and ripe red Washington state cherries. On the palate ripe cherry, plum and a rich earthy quality, nice weight, structure; plays a compelling note from the first slurp to the last drop.

This great wine comes to you from the amazing Chassagne-Montrachet region in Burgundy. It is a village in the
Cote de Beaune sub-region of Burgundy which has its own communal appellation, which was established in 1937.

In my opinion, a remarkable amount of wine for the price, a fine example of plush red Burgundy I'm scoring 90 points and highly recommending that you give it a swirl for yourself. 

If you'd like to know a little more background about the driving-force behind  Domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard (Chassagne-Montrachet) label than meet Jean-Noël’s daughter, Caroline Lestimé who has taken over day-to-day running of the domaine since 1989, you can read her full story at here via the Burgundy Report. They did a great in-depth review of Caroline, the winery and the many other wines it produces. You now also follow her on twitter, @LebonVinBlanc.
If you are thinking that you'd like to score this wine for yourself, feel free to reach out to the folks at the Protocol Wine Studio. or even any other tasty selections from Domaine Jean-Noel Gagnard. They would be glad to assist you in finding out how to get a few bottles for your own cellar. So until next time folks remember to sip long and prosper cheer!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Just another Marsannay Monday

"What's in a name, that which we call a rose? By any other name would smell as sweet" ~ Shakespeare

It will be a bummer to have left the Burgundy region, five weeks hardly seems long enough to even begin to scratch the surface but it has been a fun trip via Wine Studio. 

But of course stay tuned as Wine Studio jumps into a five-week jaunt through the wines and vineyards of the Croatia wine scene, with the many nearly unpronounceable names. It's a very good thing that I won't have any funny failed attempts at pronunciation, thankfully and, may I even say mercifully I only have to type the names of these interesting wines.

But before we jump into the next segment of Wine-Studio, I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the great wines we've have experienced on this great journey through what was touted as "fringe" Burgundy.  The wine you see in the picture above is from Marsannay and if you click the link I've provided you can get a fantastic 180 glimpse of this amazing region

The Marsannay Rose from Bruno Clair, which you see above, is a serious wine. But it does not take itself too serious when it comes to fun summer-time sipping. This wine shows plenty of intensity and generosity on the palate, it will wow you great depth and balance. Baskets of mouth-watering, ripe summer strawberries, rich with minerality, earthiness, await the thirsty vino-sapien with each sip, slurp and maybe even the eventual gulp.

Clair is best known for his tantalizing red-wines among Burg-hounds, but the truth be known, even his whites and the featured Marsannay rose are equally deserving the attention of even the garden variety vino-sapien. 

So put down those common everyday mass produced screw-capped domestic rosé wines and step-up to wine with real soul and substance; while at the same time knowing it won't break the bank either. 

If you're interested in acquiring this wine for yourself and I highly recommend that you do, than please contact the team at Protocol Wine Studio and they'll be glad to assist you. Until the next time, please remember sip long and prosper cheers!

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