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

Friday, January 31, 2014

Why Wine Tasting Notes are Important and Useful

"Tasting notes are just self-indulgent. I really don't see any use for them except stoking an author’s ego or a publication’s collective ego" ~ Eric Asimov 

I being the contrarian that I'm known to be, I take great exception to his wild-eyed assertion. Do I think he was speaking to me directly, nah of course not, it's highly likely he has no idea who the bleep I'm. But that said, the tasting notes I write are not here just for my own self-indulgent purposes; my gawd if that was the case, I wouldn't even bother to keep a blog or tweet, instagram and/or FB. If you've read this blog for even a short amount of time, then you'd quickly realize it's nothing of the sort suggested above. 

The guy makes his living, 'writing' and writing a tasting note is part of the wine review process. For him or anyone else [other wine writers] to suggest that writing a tasting note about a wine sent for the review process or simply encountered by whatever means is a bad-thing. To me that statement is near the withering heights of hypocrisy. Please, oh-please give me a break!

My intended purpose [for writing a tasting note] is to encourage exploration of the wine world and exuberance for said discovery. Secondly, it's an effort to help [assist] keep folks from being locked into drinking the same wines over and over by suggesting alternatives. There's a huge wine-world out there and the tasting notes I write are nothing but a mere sign-post on the highway, pointing the way to exploration.

Now to the reason I think tasting notes [such as the one I'm about to write below] are very helpful, and not only those which I write, or type out via various social media platforms I use daily. The wine which appears in today's review is the type of wine which if it had the tasting note I'm about to write would have been so very helpful to me and anyone else considering purchasing it.

The 2011 Rasteau, Domaine la Soumade,"Cuvée Prestige" which I uncorked a few weeks back, is a beast of wine. So much of a beast in fact that it's highly advisable that you uncork one day and drink it the next. That's right just uncork it, and leave it slowly develop overnight in your pantry, that's how I handled it and it worked out quite nicely. This not the first time I've had to do that, and I'm certain it won't be the last. Further, I'm not sure even a few hours in a decanter would have been sufficient enough for that wine to open up properly. 

Don't get me wrong, because when I say it's a 'beast' I don't mean that in a bad way. It's just that this wine is no where near 'approachable', in the mere moments after it has been uncorked. The tannins are huge and bracing, it's not a wine for the faint of heart, it's more akin to drinking French Roasted coffee from a French Press black. If you've done that recently or its a vivid memory from the past you mostly likely don't recall that experience fondly. 

Are you starting to see why a tasting note like the one I'm writing at this moment would have been helpful for this wine? This wine is the poster boy for, "Why Tasting Notes are Helpful". If you still don't get it or see my point, then there's sadly no hope for you and the reason that wines in can and wine filled bags in a box are still a big hit. But for everyone who 'gets-it' please feel free to continue reading. 

Here comes the awful tasting note part of the article; so if you find this makes you squeamish please look away it will be over very soon. Here's the score for this wine 91 points, you'll find it sells for $28 most places. 

Talk about brooding, this wine took two days to fully unwind. A deep, dark color in the glass rushes to meet you at the door, like an armed man waiting for the thief behind the door. This inexpensive Rhone Zone gem; will wow the palates of the more discerning and veteran wine drinkers, while easily scaring away the uninitiated. A wine beaming with flavors of espresso, near ripe blueberry and blackberry fruit, dark chocolate, finely ground dark rich earth and tar. You can truly taste the terroir, a wine with real soul and substance. I can't wait to sample the rest of their line-up. 

Domaine La Soumade in the commune of Rasteau, produces this wonderfully expressive cuvée prestige, a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre. I thought that perhaps, the percentages were a bit skewed, considering its muscular profile, but no I'm wrong. I just didn't expect a Grenache to be this big, it's a smoky, meaty wine offering generous dark fruits, pasted over taught tannins and plumed with enough acid to carry the generous fruit.

A wine like I've said which requires loads of patience if you’d like this wine sooner rather than later. Frankly, I’d recommend purchasing it, throwing it into a deep dark hole of your cellar and throwing away the key for quite some time, this puppy is really meant for long term aging. Until next time folks remember life is short, never stop exploring. Slurp long and prosper cheers!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Rhone Zone: E. Guigal 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape

"The best Châteauneuf-du-Papes are among the most natural expressions of grapes, place and vintage. ~ RP

Another brilliant 2007 Rhone Zone gem that could have you wanting to high five the Pope and possibly have you considering becoming a convert? Now, okay maybe that last bit is a stretch, but a high-five at the very least is in order, right?

This wine is ready to rock soon as you uncork the bottle, it's dressed to impress. Loaded with under brush and piped with wild black licorice, the kind you'd likely encounter traipsing around on a local San Diego hiking trail, on a warm sunny San Diego day. 

Here's what I found, roasted, but not overly ripe dark plum and ripe cherry which all quietly play bass in the background, while tar, figs, more underbrush and other spices jam on the sax to a harmonious beat that will have your toes tapping. The tannins are as tame as a tabby and so well integrated, there's nothing but wine drinking pleasure here.

I'm awarding this wine the highly coveted "drink now and drink often" designation. While it sells for $47 at some wine stores, the wise vinosapien shopping around the internet can find this bad-boy selling under $40, making a very nice wine to uncork with family and friends on any weekend.

A bit of history: The name Chateauneuf-du-Pape means 'new castle of the Pope' and refers to the fact that the town. A great spot to set up shop, located just north of Avignon, and was chosen as the new home for the Pope's court way, way back in the early 14th century. 
"Robert Parker love him or loathe him [you decide] commented on Marcel Guigal that "In the past 20 years I have spent visiting wineries and vignerons, I have never seen a producer so fanatical about quality as Marcel Guigal."
While many folks familiar with the Rhone Zone, adore and admire longingly what some call the prestigious Northern Rhone regions, like Hermitage. The truth is the north only accounts for about 5% of all production of the entire Rhone Zone. The remaining 95% is made in the south under far-less-prestigious and lesser known names. Now that said, the south does have some of its own red-carpet walking prestige; it’s known as Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards are farmed organically or biodynamically, and the region's abundant sunshine and frequent wind (called le mistral) practically preclude the need for treating the fields with herbicides or pesticides.
The wines themselves are equally pure, their flavors rarely masked by aging in new oak." ~ Robert Parker
Whether you agree with Mr. Parker or not, like or don't like his use of the 100 point scale, I think we can all agree on one thing he's knows CDP like the back of his hand and has some very good insights into this region. 

This wine has everything the average vino-sapien is looking for via earthy, mineral-driven nuances, [you literally taste the vineyard dust] 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, that will make you sad once you've poured the last drop from the bottle. 

Even the garden variety wine-twirler will immediately "get" this wines easy going, yet very sensuous personality. This is the style of wine 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.

If you've never taken a visit to the Rhone-Zone via bottle, plane, train or automobile; than this folks 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. My score on this wine is 94 points, the kind of wine to purchase by the caseload. It’s an easy, fun and flavorful thrill ride, so very much worth the price of admission. Until next time folks, sip long and prosper cheers!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fié Gris and Me

"The wine cup is the little silver well, where truth, if truth there be, doth dwell" ~ William Shakespeare 

Folks who know me, understand that I'm not a big fan of Sauvignon Blanc, but to be fair I rarely even think about uncorking a white wine. I do however love all types of Sauvignon Blanc as a go-to ingredient for various recipes. That said, every once in a great while, I'll reach for a white wine and often it's something like a Grenache blanc from Paso Robles or the Rhone and possibly even a random Riesling [the wine that supposedly goes with everything].

Last night was one of those moments, as I was preparing Katie Lee's easy-breezy [so simple even a vinosapien like me could prepare that] Sole Meunière Recipe [seen below], while the Prez was giving everyone "the same old song and dance" via the State of Union Show. I sadly opened/uncorked my very last bottle of 2010 Fié Gris I had stashed in the cellar, so now it's time I look for a refill. 

This Recipe below turned out perfectly, and the resulting sauce was in a word "wow" and I know that because the ever fussy [discriminating] Mrs. Cuvee asked for a second helping, that's how I know I've hit the proverbial home-run. A fact that further demonstrates that if I can prepare this dish, anyone can. Sadly, tho she is still not sold on the beautiful qualities of Fié Gris like I am. Btw, if you save room with dessert FG goes great with toasted marshmallows.


One of the big wine [surprises] discoveries for me last year is a great little wine called Fié Gris, [Éric Chevalier] a wine which to me is the poster boy for "esoteric". And for me to be crazy [wonderfully excited] about any Sauvignon Blanc, it would appear that it has to be French, and it's typically a Sancerre which captivates me so often. Now enter Fie Gris [Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Vin de Pays du Jardin] I really dig this description below.
"Long before there was Sancerre and/or Pouilly-Fumé, certainly long before Marlborough or perhaps even Sauternes. And long, long before there was even Sauvignon Blanc in the New World, storytellers and wine historians say, there was Fie Gris." ~ North Berkeley Imports.
The following was my tasting note from last year. Nothing has changed, this a wine with real soul and substance. The nose on this wine grabbed my attention immediately; very smoky very [gunflint], bell-pepper, loads of wet-stone, infused with just a twist of lemon peel and not fully ripe plums. On the palate, vivid acid, but still a lush full bodied mouth feel, smoke from a distant fire, herbaceous, wet-stone fruit, making for a wonderfully terroir-driven wine experience not to be missed. 

I've not sure ever tasted a wine similar to it, but there's something familiar about it. I found it to be a very exotic wine to be sure, but nonetheless extremely captivating, inviting sips at first, then slurps and finally even a big gulp [oh-my]. 

Until next time folks remember, while we recognize that convenience is an important factor in the fast turn-around bottled [#wine] segment. It's my contention that good food & good wine should not be the rare commodity, but rather it should be a model which we strive to live-by!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Rise of Commodity Wines?

"We needed to recognize that convenience is an important factor in the fast turn-around bottled [wine] segment." ~ Carlos de Jesus

Convenience is one of the biggest factors driving many consumers to make the choices they do each day. Whether it's wine or cheese, convenience will be part of the equation. Think about American cheese for a moment, as we've come to iconically understand it, bright yellow, and often comes wrapped in an odd type of cellophane. 

While it may conveniently lie across a freshly grilled burger or a sandwich, neat, no-fuss and no-muss. However, if you want to dial-it-up a finer cheese experience, to serve guest, then you're probably not thinking of convenience or commodity cheese. It's a safe-bet that fromage frais will be on the shopping list. Many commodity wines also fit nicely into the convenience category; they're simple, ordinary, monolithic and sadly formulaic.

Many of you know Jamie Goode [who pronounced the death of wine-blogs] writing for the Wine Anorak, has introduced a new multi-part series tracing "The Rise of the Wine Brands" oh-my another vast red-wine conspiracy. 

"There are two genres of wine. On the one hand we have wine as a commodity: grapes are grown, crushed and made into wine, which is then sold cheaply and consumed uncritically. In this case, the consumer views wine in much the same way as they would treat flour, milk, fruit juice or instant coffee." and on the other hand Read More:  

A sad but true commentary on what makes up the largest segment of the wine industry, commodity wines. When attempting to understand the difference between commodity wines and fine wines; the following answer to a Q & A makes the point in spades.
"Several years ago, when I was very young, I was in the U.S. and pouring wines in a wine shop. One guy came up to me and said, 'Is your wine better than Lambrusco?' I said, 'I hope so.' He tasted the wine and before he was leaving he said: 'Believe me, Lambrusco is better.'  ~ Marilisa Allegrini is a sixth-generation member of top Valpolicella wine producer Allegrini Estates"
While it may be useful to remember that the vast majority of wine drinkers here in states are drinking bulk juice or commodity wines as their everyday go to choice. I believe it's also important to understand that those same folks are not reading wine-blogs or any other wine related publication for the most part, if at all. They don't know or care who Robert Parker is and they only have a slightest bit of understanding when it comes to the now hated [by some] 100 point scale. 

As you read through some of the articles, you can kind-of start to see a dividing-line. On one hand you have the "bulk-wine [commodity/value] drinkers and the other side of the equation the "interest" or "terrior" drinkers" [Mr. Goode]

Here's another article [via the Drinks Business] confirming the desire of many to consume commodity/value styles of wine. Read More:
“Americans can't get enough of moscato, and there’s a rosé renaissance is in full flow, and the red blends boom is big news in 2013, according to the latest U.S. sales analysis.” And yet the highly homogenized styles of Chardonnay is still riding a growing wave of consumer demand.
A report compiled from a 2011 Top Ten [value] Wine Brands [even tho two years old, the only thing that may have changed is the position of the pieces on the chess-board] confirms there's definitely a rise in the preference for commodity wines.

So did you think commodity wines are done pushing the limits of absurdity? Nope, it appears they're just getting started, so move-over beer in a can and wine-bag in a box, here comes Winestar. The place where commodity wines meet vending machine convenience. 
“We are targeting a specific market and season: young French consumers who are bypassing wine shelves and instead plucking off cans of fizzy drinks and juices to wash down their picnic meals.” 

But so what? Honestly, for me personally I'm not really panicked or even remotely worried by these trends. Like some seen sporting tight-fitting tin-foil hats who see a vast red-wine conspiracy to limit the choices of the average vinosapien on the vinous super-highway. To that notion, I say balderdash! From what I've seen [with eyes wide open] there are so many choices out there for the adventurous vino-sapien, it would take a lifetime or more to explore them all. 

It's my contention that good food and good wine should not be the rare commodity, but rather it should be a model which we strive to live-by. Sadly tho, very few vinosapiens, will ever want or desire to live their life that way. And I'm perfectly fine with that, please by all means "drink what you like" but expect a bit of [unbeknownst] friendly mockery in regards to your choice to consume the same jug-wines day in and day out.

While many wine drinkers/consumers like you [dear reader] and I are the exception, yet I still don't see my choices for discovering wines with soul being limited in anyway. No instead, I actually continue to discover new and exciting regions which produce amazingly affordable wines, which are not produced like a cheap commodity, but are still wonderfully convenient to purchase.So again remember life is short, live well and drink well. Until next time sit back, relax and continue to sip long and prosper cheers!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wine of the Week: Chateau Rollan de By, Medoc 2008

"Bordeaux isn't just "buttoned-down luxury" folks just need to look behind the label to discover the soul of @BordeauxWines"

It's time for the Wine of the Week via Throw-back Thursday. This Left Bank Merlot dominated gem from the Medoc comes to us via the folks at Chateau Rollan de By. A Chateau found in the wonderful vine-land known as Bordeaux, more specifically a Cru Bourgeois from the Medoc AOC. I was quite surprised and happy to find that I still had one bottle left in a dark corner of my cellar. I'm happy to report that it's drinking better than ever, far better than it was in 2011 when I originally posted this review. 

So once again, in today's wine review spotlight is the Chateau Rollan de By 2008 Bordeaux is Cru Bourgeois. For the folks who don't know or are not familiar with this "special" Medoc classification given to acknowledge some of top Chateaux. In short, what Crus Bourgeois means for the average vino-sapien at large is that these two words seen on the label are a guarantee [of sorts] about the quality of the wine in the bottle. 
"If Cru Bourgeois is on a wine label it means that the wine has been examined and certified as having the high enough quality and taste characteristics to qualify as a Cru Bourgeois." ~ The Kitchn
The Cru Bourgeois certification and classification is done on a yearly basis. Therefore, having it one year is no guarantee that you will have it the following year. Now that said, from what I've observed while I was there last year, is that the Bordelais in the Medoc have created their own slice of wine paradise with this certification, one that doesn't come with the expensive price tag far too many associate with Bordeaux. 

I grabbed this wine from my local Costco [Morena] here in San Diego back in 2011, fortunately you can still find this wine available for purchase at various places online. If you're still not part of the "buying wine online crowd" then may I suggest that you give it swirl soon. All the wine buying trends suggest it's a genie that's not going back in the bottle any time soon. Besides, it's rather painless and so easy any cave-man can do it. 

Back then they were selling it for right around $24 if my memory serves me correctly. I've seen other places online selling this same wine for under $20, if you can score it for this price, I'd buy it by the case. This wine is what I'd call a “drink now and drink often” classic Cru Bourgeois at its best. 

A wine which had been featured on the inside cover of Wine Speculator, heralding its marvelous achievements of being picked for their magazines 2011 Top-100 wines of the year list. That of course is quite a high-honor, and I'd like to say congratulations, job well done. 

On another congratulatory note; The Chateau Rollan de By 2009 Bordeaux "Cru Bourgeois" has received top honors from heavy-hitters Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve as one of the Organic Wines of the Year for 2013. Some very good news for all you folks who get weak in the knees over hearing an excellent and yet relatively inexpensive wine is also "organic". That said, here's your opportunity to stock up on a very good wine from a great vintage. 

Positioned at number ninety-six on the WS "best of the year" list [just made the cut]. The folks at WS scored this wine 90 points and labeled it as I have; a drink now and drink often with a solid buy recommendation.I took that to mean that this wine may not have the stuffing for long-term [10-15 years] cellaring, which I think is the point. 

While Bordeaux has been seen by many as wines which often rewards only those among us who are patient enough to allow [time in the cellar] the wine to properly mature. After uncorking this wine more than once, I think this wine was made in a style which I would label as "immediate appeal" a very approachable Medoc to the buy today, drink today then repeat. 

Honestly, I don't think that is so bad and why would you want lay this bottle down anyway as it's drinking pretty fab at the moment. I would have to say I pretty much agree with part of the WS opinion, there's not enough substance for the long-term future [10-15]. But it's my opinion that drinking pleasure in the here and now is at its peak. That said, stock up now this fab juice for the price.

Swirl, Sniff and Slurp: In the glass a wonderful blend of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Petit Verdot, a blend weighing in at a mere 13.0% on the ABV scale. The usual suspects are found here in my tasting note; a dark colored ruby core, leaning toward purple, at first blush in the aromas department, a rich bouquet of dried plum and raspberries, fused together with some nice graphite and rich earthy elements, very compelling and appealing.

On the palate a delicious northern Medoc blend that captivates in what I would call a far more finesse type approach, as it does not hit you over the head with a basket of ripe dark and red fruits but subtly endears itself to you, like a significant other feeding ya some fruit, while you're blindfolded. So you have ripe fruits laid over smooth tannins, like blackberry and blackcurrant and more earthy type suggestions of cocoa and cedar lead to the rich, yet complex medium length finish. A real foodie type wine sure to please a majority of palates. 

What's the Score: I gave this wine a solid 89 points back then and still stand by that score. While I'm at it; I'd like to couple that score with a hearty "buy" recommendation. Now if you can score this wine for under $20, it's quite the "good-buy" for the adventurous foodie and even the wandering-wino looking for their next thrill ride down tasty lane. 

Final thoughts: This bottle represents in my mind the perfect entry level Bordeaux that will ease any newbie into exploring this region a little more thoroughly via this fine example of what the Medoc can offer even those on a budget. That's all I have for you today folks, until next time sip long and prosper, salud!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Do you know Bordeaux's Cru Bourgeois?

It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen. ~ John Wooden

Whether we are talking about basketball or taking care to make the right moves in the vineyard, it's the little details [which often go unseen] that make big things happen. I've reviewed this same wine before, but it was reviewed for a post I did for the French Wine Explorers [yep, name dropping] last year. 

But after having uncorked a second bottle recently, I thought this would be the perfect time to discuss this little gem. A very good wine [not a sample] that sells most places for just under $20. Would I say it's a great wine, no it's not "great" by the exacting definition of the word. But that said; it would be great to have this tasty gem swirling about in your glass, just waiting to be slurped with reckless abandon [that's the way I do it]. 

As it says in the title, do you know Bordeaux's Cru Bourgeois? If not, well you should and this article is the perfect opportunity to dive into what may appear to be a relatively new classification. However, the truth is that it has been around since the middle ages, which I'm pretty sure was a long time ago. The Bourgeois had a sweet deal going on back in the day, freedom from having to pay taxes [bestowed on them by the English] and they had their pick of the prime vineyards, but then French Revolution came along, everything changed and not for the better either. 

Fast forward to the present day, after years of wrangling, wrestling and plain old bickering the term Cru Bourgeois was allowed back on the label and the classification was in effect reborn. Of course the folks who didn't make the "cut" claimed the "process" was not fair and decided to take their toys and go home. If you want all the juicy details, I'd invite you check out the blow-by-blow action right here.

You have to put in many, many tiny efforts that nobody sees or appreciates before you achieve anything worthwhile. - Brian Tracy

Now if you're wondering okay, so what is the big deal? Good question, the "big deal" is that designation supposedly means you're getting a much higher quality wine than you would otherwise. And to make insure this is taking place, independent panels of wine-tasters have been established to make sure everyone is playing by the rules and tasting the wines to make sure those on the list, deserve to be there. Again if you'd like the exacting details and you'd like to read all of the steps then please feel-free to do so here. 

Now here comes the part of the article some have dubbed as tyrannical? I know, I know that is what I thought, say what? It's just my simple tasting note, my experience with the wine so you can take it or leave it. But as someone in the wine blogging world had formerly used as his tagline, "I spit so you don't have to" meaning the wines being reviewed is most likely one of the better gems that has been come across in the course of tasting many toads [those not worthy of mention or drinking]. 

So now all that said, here without any further ado are my tasting notes enjoy. A very tasty Cru Bourgeois from Chateau Du Retout in the Haut-Medoc of France. I found this wine boasting of abundant dark plum, blackberry, cassis, and licorice dominate this youthful wine, but there's enough minerality and stiff but forgiving tannins driving through the middle to remind you this is Bordeaux with attitude.  

Old world charm and new world flair, an amazing combination that’s bottled unfiltered and unfined this gem from Chateau Du Retout could age for another 10 years easily. Until next time folks remember life is short, you never know when you may be uncorking that last bottle. So for crying out loud, please drink like you mean it and please don't settle for junk wines. Until next time, continue to slurp long and prosper cheers!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Treat Yourself To A Chateauneuf Kind Of Year

As you may have already gathered, I love Chateauneuf du Pape (CDP). So as we enter a new year I thought that I would highlight a few more wonderful CDPs from the 2011 vintage. With so many value wines from this vintage drinking wonderfully well now, why not make this your year to explore Chateauneuf du Pape.

The 2011 Domaine de Marcoux Chateauneuf du Pape is intensely aromatic, almost effusive with notes of black and red currant/cherry, herb provençal and spice ushered from the glass. On the palate, the core is equally driven and focused. The extraction, however, is not overwhelming and is almost perfectly matched by bright and lifting acidity. Toasty vanilla notes meld with the acidity to provide a defining edge to a wonderful cobbler of summer fruits and spice. The entire package is layered over wonderfully pliant sweet fruit tannin. Satisfyingly persistent, the finish brings a little pepper to the party, just to prompt the next sip. 

To be clear, this is a wonderfully elegant wine, beautifully perfumed and enticing. Everything about it cries “drink me now!”  (Second day – red fruit sorbet on the nose, red currants/cherry predominate the palate sweet and spicy fruit tannin with hints of pepper and great depth of flavor). This has what I might simply call – a delicious factor. It just dances a happy wee jig in your mouth and your tongue will thank you for the introduction. The 2011 Domaine de Marcoux Chateauneuf du Pape is available around the US for $55-65/btl, and worth every dime. 92 points, Andy.

The stone-covered soils of many CDP vineyards are frequently featured on the labels or in the names of their resulting wines. e.g. cailloux or galets.    

Sample kindly provided by Reliable Churchill Distribution
The 2011 André & Lucien Brunel Les Cailloux Chateauneuf du Pape is truly a delight in this uneven vintage. Beautifully translucent in the glass, the nose is flush with fresh raspberry coulis, black cherry, summer flowers accompanied by kirsch and hints of spice.  On the palate the immediate impression is of black/red currant, black cherry, pepper and spice. The mid-palate and finish are edged by garrique, game/cured meats and a wonderful nori-like minerality, highlighting this elegant and beautifully assembled CDP.   

As a whole, Les Cailloux is agile, light on its feet but the palate remains pure and well focused. Lifted by great acidity, the fruit seems lively and the tannin lithe and flexible. It does however retain sufficient muscle to provide continued evolution in the cellar over the next 7+ years. 

As with prior vintages of Les Cailloux the 2011 is a wonderful food wine, possessing a fine balance of minerality, acidity fruit and tannin. It is more than capable of standing up to a great lamb stew or Osso Bucco or pairing well with game or poultry without overwhelming their flavor.  The 2011 Les Cailloux CDP is available in the US for around $45/btl. 91+ points, Andy.

At the risk of taking analogy too far, the 2011 Domaine de Marcoux is filled with excitement and energy. It feels like the passion and romance of early love. By contrast, the 2011 Les Cailloux is deep, dark and filled with character and experience; the slow burning flame of a love that has been tested by the fires of life. 

At whatever stage of life, love or wine you are, these are wonderful examples of moderately priced, early drinking CDP that will not disappoint.  So fire up some hearty winter fare and pull the cork on these wonderful wines.

Santé à tous

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Campania Uncorked: A Taste of Taurasi

“The Roman belief that wine was a daily necessity made the drink "democratic" and ubiquitous: wine was available to slaves, peasants and aristocrats alike.”

It has been noted that among mankind's accomplishments, "wine is perhaps one of its oldest inventions, possibly dating back over 3000 years" [according to my WSET book]. It's thought that its cultivation was brought to fruition by the Roman Empire, who spread the love of the vine to other major-player nations we know today, like Spain and France. It is most likely though, the French who can [and possibly should] be credited with having refined and perfected the art of the process of turning grape juice into wine.  

But going to Campania [which I did two years ago] is like going back to source of where it all began. Some folks may want to argue, some of the finer points of historical record that may be pointing in different directions, if so please feel free to comment below. I'm no historian or an expert on this region of Italy; but that said the point of this post is not about an exercise about historical perspective. Instead it's meant to shine a bright light on a region that may not get as much coverage [flying under the radar] as I think these wines deserve and that the quality demands.

When you hear Taurasi, just think of one word, and that word is Aglianico. Big dark, brooding grapes, with a great tannin structure meant for aging, as they often spend 3 years in one barrel [before being released] and if labeled a "riserva' it must be four years with 18 months of wood. Thankfully to stay within the DOCG guidelines, they age the wines for you and when they are finally released many of the wines are dressed to impress right away.But I'd decant for a few hours for best results, as these wines are very "big" and take time to unfold.  

Just as a side note for the ABC folks, they have two white wines produced in the Campania region that you would really dig, one is Fiano d' Avellino and the other is Greco di Tufo both great wines with fantastic depth and complexity. The style of wine which invites drinking early and often. Once you uncork either of these wines, you'll great flavors, like a splashes of honey, bees-wax, citrus, floral notes and a interesting herbal quality, great wines to help you kick the Chardonnay habit.

When I heard about these wines in my WSET courses, I must have been sleeping that day or perhaps it was the fact that we sadly only spent about five seconds discussing this amazing region. While it looks like the latter is true, as I reach for the text, cracking open the book once more, the entire region of Campania was discussed in two paragraphs [ouch]. 

I don't think Campania is feeling the love, especially for a wine touted as the "Barolo of the South". Not much effort for such a stellar [and oddly unknown] region. A region that in my opinion offers even the garden variety vino-sapien some very intriguing wines, well worth seeking out and were not just talking about Aglianico either. These are not the type of wines you'll find just sitting on at your local TJ's or even most wine shops; so you may have to do a bit of hunting, but believe me it's worth the effort.

Hopefully this post has piqued your interest in knowing more about this unique region and Campania's Taurasi DOCG. If so then please click on the links provided here and drink it all in. Someone one at wine-searcher has gone to great effort to give a wonderful tutelage about this exciting region. So that said, I'm going to dive in head-first into the reviews of four wines from this region, which I encountered at the Romeo Hotel in Naples.

I had a chance to sample these wines while staying at the beautiful Romeo Hotel. A great place to recharge the travel-batteries, it sits just across the street from the harbor, with grand views of the still active Vesuvius off in the distance. It also makes a great jumping off place for other tourist and travel destinations like Pompeii [a must see]. 

Just moments after check-in, our group was invited to an Aglianico Taurasi tasting, where we encountered four different wines of widely divergent vintages. There was a 1999 Radici Taurasi Aglianico, which I thought was just about over the hill, but still had nice fruit and very mellow tannins. If they had possibly decanted this wine a bit, before hand it may have shown better. But still it would have made an excellent wine to have with dinner and would have paired with just anything you throw at it, except a spicy dish.

The 2001 Feudi di San Gregorio Taurasi Riserva Piano di Montevergine: A wine which left me breathless, wow a real stunner. My score for this wine mirrors Parker's spot on analysis; with a solid 94 points. Of course attempting to procure a bottle [by any means] before returning home, left me empty handed [sigh]. Even when I did get home to search for it online, I was sad to see nearly no shops with it in stock and one's that did were very proud that they still had a few left in their inventory [if you feel me].

Nearly no one in the group had a good experience with the Taurasi Riserva Piano di Montevergine Feudi di San Gregorio 2004, it was a bit too tannic, chalky, with too much campfire nuances, overriding the fruit. Finally, there was the 2006 [black label] Radici Taurasi, which was quite good, loads of blackberry, dark cherry fruit, leather and smoke, but pulled up a bit short on the finish.

Overall, it was a great introduction into the Taurasi Aglianico, all wonderfully powerful wines from one of Italy’s premier grapes, along side Sangiovese Grosso, Nebbiolo and Sagrantino. I really hope you will pull together a few of these wines for yourself and give them a swirl, I think you will be as impressed as I was, until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Worth the Price of Admission?

"Hope" is the thing with feathers — that perches in the soul — and sings the tune without the words — And never stops — at all ~ Emily Dickinson

It's a brand new year and this is the very first of what I hope will be many reviews of wines I like to drink, wines I like to share, wines I like to tuck away for a few years, wines I bump into along the way and everything else in-between. 

To say that last year was a mixed bag is an understatement, I had many highs and a few unexpected tragic lows, but that said [my chin held high] I hope each one you will continue to join me for this journey through vines both domestic and imported. If I had not said so via Twitter or Facebook I'd like to wish each and everyone of you, all the very best this New Year has to offer, please make the most of it in every way cheers! 

As you also may know, I've added another voice to the blog his name is AndyMcCallion, I'm excited about what he will bring to the review-table in 2014 and so should you, so as they say please stay tuned. Big thanks to all five readers from last year, now with Andy on board I'm optimistic we [as a team] can double that effort in the coming year as it unfolds.

The Emily Dickinson quote above is the perfect way to start the New Year, full of bright-eyed hope and ambition to make a contribution to my very small corner of the internet. May that hope she describes so eloquently above, perch upon each of your souls in dramatic ways this year. 

I've often said in many of my reviews last year, "wow, this is worth the price of admission". Like the many times I've gone to a movie which received plenty of hype, and after viewing it I realized it was nothing but an empty shell. And at other times, seeing an highly anticipated movie I walk from the theatre thinking, "that was worth every penny". 

When it came to the wine in today's review [seen pictured above] it in my opinion it's no longer "worth the price of admission". I say no longer, because when I purchased this wine, back in 2007 it was well worth it, in fact I had purchased four bottles for $45 each. But now if you'd like to purchase a bottle of this same vintage, be prepared to shell just a little more than double the 2007 price, ouch.
Personally, I think [IMHO] that's ridiculous and while I think this wine is stellar, a true Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon classic, sadly I won't be purchasing any more at those prices. Their current release [2010] from that same vineyard is selling for $65, not too far from the 2007 price but still a bit steep for my liking, especially seeing I can find similar quality wines elsewhere. 
"Tiny Morisoli Vineyard sits at the foot of Mt. St. John on the western edge of the renowned Rutherford Bench, from which many of Napa Valley’s finest Cabernets are born. "
An outstanding Napa Valley classic from the famed Morisoli vineyard located the heart of Rutherford area. My patience was rewarded quite nicely, as this wine is just now hitting its stride. I decanted for an hour before pairing it with a juicy rib-eye, which was grilled to heaven sent perfection. This wine, dances and sings hitting every [vibrant dark fruit and dirt] note perfectly, the finish is long and lasting. This bottle could easily age another 8-10 years. 

A muscular wine that was bottled unfined and unfiltered, one which I scored this wine 94 soul-searching points on the tasty scale, a wine of true substance and style. And by all means if you have the kind of coin needed to acquire a true Napa Valley classic, you'd be hard pressed to find a better choice

And yes age truly does matter when it comes to high end juice like this, I'd say waiting 8-10 years for a wine like this to fully mature was definitely its own reward and at the price I paid back then, definitely worth the price of admission. Until next time folks remember life is short, please sip long and prosper cheers!

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