Archives for 

wine review

What is the oldest wine you’ve ever sipped?

A bottle of Troplong-Mondot 1893 Bordeaux - agoodtimewithwine.com

A bottle of Troplong-Mondot 1893 Bordeaux

It often seems the world is all about youth and being young. Cosmetics promise to “stop the aging process,” and drink supplements are called “the fountain of youth.” However, wine aficionados buck this trend, and seek out the old, coveting the aged wines that have matured and evolved. It’s often quite a celebrated experience to sip wines with 5 or 10 or more years of age on them. When I reviewed The California Wine Club, I did not get into the details of their Ancient Cabernet series. I felt discussing aged wines needed a post of its own.

I still wholeheartedly endorse The California Wine Club. Some bloggers reviewed The California Wine Club Premier Series, which for $39.99 a month offers two wines per shipment. It’s also what was offered to one lucky winner of the 3-month California Wine Club subscription giveaway! They have 4 other series, the Signature Series, International Series, The Aged Cabernet Series, and the Pacific Northwest series. I was asked to review their Aged Cabernet series, receiving two wines to review. I was quite certain I would receive two no-name, long-lost wines that would be vinegar in a pretty box. Glad I was wrong.

Reviewing Martin Ray 1993 and Delectus 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon - agoodtimewithwine.com

Reviewing Martin Ray 1993 and Delectus 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon

The wines were from fairly reputable and well-known wineries, Martin Ray and Delectus. As a matter of fact, I was recently invited to a Delectus tasting here in South Florida. Of course Martin Ray Winery is owned by Courtney Benham, and you can find both of those labels in stores everywhere. The bottles seemed to be in good shape, with very little wear on the label or capsules. Of course, the fear of opening older wines is that they are over the hill, or worse, spoiled! Fear or not, I opened the wines in preparation of tasting them. I decided I would use the older Martin Ray as an opportunity to practice decanting old red wine for my upcoming Certified Sommelier Exam, even though the CA Wine Club said it would not be necessary.

Opening the Martin Ray 1993 Cabernet Sauvignon was uneventful. The cork was still firm and taut, and there was very little seepage up the cork, even after nearly 20 years of cellaring. I decanted the wine, leaving about 1/4 of a glass in the bottle with the sediment that occurs as part of the aging process. I can geek out about how the sediment forms, but just know, older red wines are likely to have sediment that you don’t want to drink. For a 21-year-old wine, it was still very taut and tightly wound, and did need to breathe a little bit.

Tasting the Martin Ray 1993 Cabernet Sauvignon  Napa Valley - agoodtimewithwine.com

Tasting the Martin Ray 1993 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

The Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon 1993 Napa Valley started off with tart cranberry and cherry, with a little wood and cough syrup. With about 20 minutes of air, it softened a little, with a bouquet of pine needles and decaying roses, cinnamon and subtle vanilla scents as well. The palate was exceptionally dry, with walnut, sour cherry, and baking spices. While it was on the decline, it was still quite drinkable, and had a good bit of life left. It went quite nicely with our Easter Dinner of Prime Rib!

Reviewing Delectus Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Napa Valley - agoodtimewithwine.com

Delectus Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Napa Valley

The Delectus Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Napa Valley give me a bit of a fit with the cork. I could not find my Ah-So opener, which is also called a Butler’s Thief. That is the two-pronged device that you wiggle into a wine bottle, and slowly wiggle out older, delicate corks. Sadly, the cork was so brittle that the regular corkscrew demolished it, and it end up falling into the bottle. However, I am NOT going to let a little cork slow me down!  I decanted the Delectus 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, again practicing for my Certified Sommelier exam, leaving as much sediment and cork in the bottle as possible. I then placed a piece of cheese cloth over the decanter, and poured it into our glasses. I would have possibly used a coffee filter, which would have been even more effective than the cheesecloth.

Using Cheesecloth to filter out the crumbled cork

Using Cheesecloth to filter out the crumbled cork

The Delectus was 12 years old and still had fresh fruit of black cherry, blackberry, and plum with coca and leather. There was a fistful of baking spices and the 15.2% ABV still packed a whallop! There was still quite firm tannins on this older cabernet sauvignon, and decanting it for air was definitely the right thing to do. Again, it worked perfectly with our Prime Rib dinner, and was a very nice bottle of wine.

I want to add that I am a Money Where Your Mouth is kind of guy. I only write favorably about the wine club and services of The California Wine Club because I feel it is good value for the money. I am also ordering some of their older bottles of wine for my cellar. I believe one will be this Clos du Val Wine Company 1981 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which was made by Bernard Portet, whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting twice. I don’t just write favorable articles because people sponsor my posts and send samples. I write because I believe in what they’re offering. I will, however, order before May 22, 2014 and use one of these California Wine Club codes:

Club25: This is good for $25 off your first box (or a case or gifts!)
Club4for2: Double your club membership: 4 bottles for the price of two

Now, I will get back to the original question in this post’s title. What is the oldest wine you’ve ever sipped? For me, it was a 1967 Chateau Haut-Brion, which I enjoyed with friends in November 2013. Not the best year for Bordeaux, it was certainly memorable!

Chateau Haut-Brion 1967 - agoodtimewithwine.com

Chateau Haut-Brion 1967

What about you? What is the oldest wine you’ve ever sipped? Leave a comment below, I’d love to know!

 

 

 

 

Behind The Wine: Lunch with Sequoia Grove Director of Winemaking Michael Trujillo

Wine is about the story. It’s not about tart cherries and blueberries wrapped in a blanket of cedar and sprinkled with generous amounts of pepper. Likewise, it’s not about making sure you’re pairing Merlot with lamb shank and Chardonnay with lobster. Sure, those things are nice, and work their way into most of my articles. However, in the end, wine is about the people behind the juice, who they are, as well as where and why they do what they do. I had the chance to meet, and have lunch with, the man behind Sequoia Grove, President and Director of Winemaking, Michael Trujillo.

Sequoia Grove Winemaker Michael Trujillo Talking Napa Red Wine - agoodtimewithwine.com

Tasting barrel samples with Sequoia Grove Winemaker Michael Trujillo

The son of a Colorado rancher, Michael has been in the wine industry for over thirty years. While in college studying architecture and engineering, Michael took a spring break vacation in California, and it changed his life. Leaving his college studies in his 20s, Trujillo packed his belongings and moved to Napa, landing a job at a vineyard that would eventually become Domaine Carneros. There, he had the chance to learn from wine industry legends such as Tony Soter and Mike Grgich, helping shape his ability to craft excellent wine.

Michael soon transitioned to working in the cellar at Sequoia Grove with founder Jim Allen, as well as consulting winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff. Here, Michael Trujillo learned quite a bit about making wine. So much so, he started his own side project in the 1990s, Karl Lawrence, using the Sequoia Grove winery as a custom crush facility. In 1998, Trujillo was appointed as assistant winemaker of Sequoia Grove, and in 2001, when founder Jim Allen retired, Michael got his call to the big leagues.

Wines From Sequoia Grove - Cambium, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay - agoodtimewithwine.com

Wines From Sequoia Grove – Cambium, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay

In 2001, the Kopf family, which had acquired 100% of Sequoia Grove, brought Michael to New York for a meeting. Meeting with “the three sisters”, Michael was rather relaxed and aloof when they started asking him questions about how he would change Sequoia Grove. He was quite candid, discussing things like improving the quality of the winemaking equipment, elevating the quality of the grapes sourced, and the fact that the winemaking facility was “like cooking for an army on a Coleman stove.” The Kopf family was impressed with his vision to improve the brand, and handed the reins over to Michael, who was made President and Director of Winemaking at Sequoia Grove. He began immediately putting into place the improvements he outlined.

By the end of 2002, the winery was buying and using only “A” quality grapes, where it had previously been sourcing “C” quality grapes. Vineyard Manager Steve Allen began replanting the winery’s estate vineyards, including the purchase of an additional 48-acre vineyard in 2006. The goal was to eventually provide 80% of the fruit for Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon and Cambium, and have that fruit be top quality. Michael brought on UC Davis grad Molly Hill as Assistant Winemaker in 2003, who was promoted to Winemaker in 2008. All of these measured steps elevated the wine from an average California wine at a good price, to an excellent Napa wine at a good price!

Pairing Sequoia Grove Chardonnay 2011 with stone crab claws - agoodtimewithwine.com

Pairing Sequoia Grove Chardonnay 2011 with stone crab claws

Back to our lunch together, which started with the Sequoia Grove Chardonnay. Beautiful aroma of vanilla and pear, with a crisp palate of Granny Smith apple, vanilla, rounded out by warm baking spice. The wine is crisp while being full bodied, seeing oak aging but no malolactic fermentation. The oak is well integrated, however, and there are no splinters in your glass, I assure you.  The acidity of the Sequoia Grove Chardonnay, which is excellent for the $27 price, worked perfectly with our Florida stone crab claws, as well as the Alaskan king crab legs.

We then took a pause from the serious look at Sequoia Grove wine, to play with… wine. Michael brought two barrel samples from the newer Sequoia Grove vineyards, 100% Petite Verdot, and 100% Cabernet Franc. These two wines show a lot of promise, and I look forward to seeing what Sequoia Grove does with them once they’ve aged.

Pairing Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon with barbecue beef tri-tip - agoodtimewithwine.com

Pairing Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon with barbecue beef tri-tip

Lunch was served, and I chose a barbecue tri-tip sandwhich to pair with my two red wines. However, Michael encouraged all of his guests to order fish or lobster, in typical “Drink what you like” fashion. Several orders of fish tacos and lobster rolls were soon paired with Cabernet Sauvignon and a blended red wine, and no one was disappointed.

Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 - agoodtimewithwine.com

Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

The first red wine, the Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, had aromas of blackberry and black cherry, and sweet vanilla scents.  The palate was beautiful red fruit, sweet spices, with a hint of vanilla and soft tannins, which were “sweet”, as opposed to dry and astringent. The  Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2o10 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from multiple appellations, aged in 100% American oak for 22 months, with 40-50% of it new oak. Absolutely lovely wine, and for about $38, definitely one to  have with food. It paired perfectly with my well seasoned barbecue beef sandwich.

Sequoia Grove Cambium 2008 red wine blend - agoodtimewithwine.com

Sequoia Grove Cambium 2008

The proverbial icing on the cake was tasting the Sequoia Grove Cambium 2008. Michael said that when blending wine, his goal is to create the perfect blend, “where you smooth out the peaks, and fill in the valleys”. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, there are only about 400 cases of the Cambium made, and it’s sold mostly in restaurants. Aromas of soft raspberry and vanilla with soft baking spice waft from the glass. The palate is a wave of spice, start to finish, with tart cherry and cranberry mixed with mocha and espresso flavors.

The Sequoia Grove Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are two wines that are well priced, and fairly available. They offer great quality, and are definitely worth trying. You should be able to find them where you live, as I saw them in both Total Wine and Publix here in South Florida. I told Michael these were “Put your money where your mouth is” wines…. wines that I may have had the chance to taste for free, but I’m happy to spend my own money on. You’ll be happy you did too.

As for the rest of Sequoia Grove’s story, it’s still being written. Michael’s goal of elevating the quality of the fruit continues, with a focus on building the estate vineyard program while nurturing the relationships he has with his current grape sources. He tools around with various grapes at the home vineyard, the Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc mentioned earlier, as well as Malbec. He said we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next. I’ll be waiting, Michael!

Behind The Wine: Tasting Clos Pepe With Winemaker Wes Hagen

Uncorking Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009 | agoodtimewithwine.com

Uncorking Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009

Nestled in the northeastern corner of the Central Coast’s Sta Rita Hills AVA sits Clos Pepe Estate. Purchased in 1994 as a horse ranch by Steve and Cathy Pepe, Clos Pepe winemaker Wes Hagen began at the Estate full-time in 1994 as well. The estate was planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from 1996 to 1998, and made the first commercially available vintage of Clos Pepe in 2000. I had the chance to “talk” to Wes Hagen during a Twitter Tasting, where a group of bloggers received samples of the Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009, tasted, and tweeted about it with Wes. A cerebral straight shooter, Wes had a lot to say about a lot of things!

“Sta Rita Hills has poor soil, wind, fog, cool temps, long hang time and passionate explorers of flavor” was one of Wes’ first tweets during the tasting. That was soon followed by “And not to be topical or anything. Dirt Does NOT Lie, and this AVA is a testament to that.” Of note is the Hashtag used during our tasting, #DirtDontLie. A hashtag, for the uninitiated, is a way to aggregate tweets (or status updates) by a subject. With all of us adding the same hashtag to each tweet about the 2009 Clos Pepe Pinot, you should able to pull together the entire virtual conversation, and follow along. The hashtag speaks volumes about Wes, and his thoughts on where the wine is made, the vineyard!

Speaking of the vineyard, The Concise World Atlas of Wine describes the poor soil of the Sta Rita Hills AVA as “a patchwork of sand, silt, and clay.” The diurnal winds and fog keep the grapes cool at night, prolonging the growing season to help the grapes reach peak maturity, and ripeness. However, Sta Rita Hills is one of the coolest wine grape growing regions, lending itself to that bracing acidity.

I noticed Wes tweeting about decanting his Pinot Noir about an hour before the tasting began. When I asked about it, he said

I decant everything I drink 5 years and younger, whites pink and red. Decanting whites and then laying the decanter on ice is a new thing for me…and it’s revelatory.

Oh, revelatory in a sentence. I feared I would need to break out my dictionary, as I do when tweet with Randall Grahm. I digress. Few Americans I know are patient enough to decant a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, no less a normally approachable and easy to drink Pinot Noir. I tried the Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir right after I pulled the cork, and was punched in the face with ripping acidity. I grabbed a decanter and gave it an hour of air.

Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009 | agoodtimewithwine.com

Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009

My first taste of the Clos Pepe 09 Pinot was strawberry, smoked bacon and the ripping acid I mentioned previously. Masculine on the palate, there is firm, assertive fruit and acidity. Think of it as a dapper, but manly James Bond. 007, in your glass. As the wine opened, flavors evolved into dark red berries, smoked bacon, great baking spices, with sea smoke on a long-lasting finish. This wine, which was four years from vintage when sampled, has the potential to age and develop nicely, in part because of the acidity. Experts like Parker/Galloni and Laube give this delicious red wine a drink window through 2020, though Wes himself feels you should enjoy your Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir by 2016!

Speaking of drink windows, I recently came across a tasting note from March 2013 discussing Wes’ 1999 vintage. The wine was a his first at Clos Pepe, a year before their commercial launch, and was unlabeled. Nearly 14 years after harvest, the reviewer said the wine was “holding up remarkable well, with primary fruit still in evidence.” This speaks not only to Wes’ wine making prowess, but also the quality of the grapes grown at the estate.

The Clos Pepe vineyard practices are sustainable, and quite straight forward: Take care of the vineyard, and the people working in it. They try to “Encourage a healthy, diverse vineyard environment by using sheep, chickens, owl boxes, raptor perches and policies that guarantee a healthy farm. Promote soil health by composting and organic fertilization, but only enough to make the vines able to support a small crop”

Likely written by Wes, Clos Pepe does “believe that organic practices that help improve our wine are worth implementing, but we do not believe in organic for organic’s sake, nor do we practice Biodynamics, which we consider (mostly) the ravings of a charlatan, and voodoo fluff/marketing fodder.”

I read somewhere that many of the grapes grown on the estate are sold to other wine makers, keeping only a fraction of what Clos Pepe grow. Only 900 cases of the 2009 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir were made. With a suggested retail price of $54, the 2009 vintage is likely sold out. The wine is mostly available online.  The current Pinot Noir release, 2010, was given 93 points by Robert Parker/Antonio Galloni.

Joe Roberts of 1winedude asked Wes for the geeky productions details on the wine. Wes replied

Geeky production details: I didn’t fuck up a perfect vintage. That’s it. I’m a farmer.

Other BRIEF geeky production details include the Clos Pepe 2009 used all 4 Pinot Noir clones grown on the estate, 667, 115, Pommard 4, and 777. The wine aged 11 months in oak, very loose filtration, no racking or fining, picked at 23.2-24.7 brix at 3.26 to 3.38 pH final TA is 6.8 g/l, 14.1% ABV

We went on about where and when terroir exists and other cerebral, wine geekery. And just plain geekery, as I believe Wes mentioned if he wasn’t making wine, he’d still be an English teacher. It was an awesome evening with a great wine lover, who happens to make great wine. You can see what Pamela, Melanie, and Dezel thought about the Clos Pepe #DirtDontLie Twitter tasting. Wes also has his own blog, definitely worth checking out!

 

I Vasari – An Italian Red Wine Worth 20 Bucks

Italy

Italy

One of my goals for 2014 is to focus on Italy. Not only wine from Italy, but food, architecture, travel, and culture. Some of those things I’ll write about, and others I’ll just enjoy quietly. Of course, I love food and wine from around the world. However, a new collaboration with Lora from Cake Duchess has me thinking about Italy more than anyplace else right now. I started this Italian goal on New Year’s Eve by sipping a very nice Italian red wine, the I Vasari Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008 Old Vines from Fratelli Barba. Winner of Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri award in 2012, this Wine Spectator 90 point,  $20 wine has a lot to offer.

italian wine review I Vasari 2008 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Old Vines from BARBA

I Vasari 2008 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Old Vines from BARBA

What is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo?

Dissecting the label on this bottle of wine, the name of the wine is I VASARI, it was produced in the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC region of Italy. The Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo DOC region spans from the Central Apennines foothills down to the Adriatic coast. It’s one of Italy’s most mountainous regions. The grape Montepulciano is a red Italian wine grape variety that is widely planted in central and southern Italy. It’s rarely found in cooler northern Italy, as it typically ripens later, and needs the warmer weather to ripen sufficiently. To carry the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC designation, the wine must be at least 85% Montepulciano, the rest can be the same or Sangiovese. The I Vasari is 100% Montepuciano grapes. Finally, the producer is BARBA, which you find on the bottom of the label.

I Vasari 2008 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Tasting Notes

After decanting about 30 minutes, the I Vasari 2008 had a bright purple color in the center of the glass to a purple/garnet outer ring. The nose was not very expressive, dried cherries and tobacco. The palate was dry, a medium body with medium to firm tannins. There were flavors of leather, dried cherries, and a tiny hint of white pepper. The finish was a mix of dried cherries and pine needles.

I Vasari grapes are from a single vineyard called Colle delle Corte, which is at 230 feet above sea level. The vineyard overlooks the Adriatic sea in the Colline Teramane, some of the finest growing area for Montepulciano in the entire region. The vines in this vineyard are, on average, 30 years old. The wine is aged 14 months in French oak, 50% new and 50% used, though it’s well integrated in the flavors of the wine.

Wine Pairings for Surf and Turf I Vasari montepulciano d'abruzzo and pol roger champagne

Wine Pairings for Surf and Turf

We sipped this wine while enjoying our New Year’s Eve dinner of Surf & Turf. The meal was a slow one, and over the hour or more that we savored each bite and sip, the wine opened up rather nicely.  The dried cherry flavors became much more prominent, while tobacco and new found graphite or mineral notes seemed woven into the fruit. The last sips were indeed savored, and I would give this wine 1 to 1 1/2 hours in the decanter before serving. The I Vasari Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008 is a nice, old world wine that for $20, works very nicely with a steak dinner.

What part of Italy would you like to visit? Leave me a comment, and perhaps we can explore it together! Cin Cin!

 

 

Six Bordeaux Wines Made For The Holidays!

Regardless of which holiday you celebrate, there is usually the need to have a party, or go to a party. And that means either serving adult beverages to your guests, or bringing a hostess gift to a party. If you’re hosting the party, you want to be sure that every detail is perfect, especially the wine you serve. And if you’re bringing a host gift, you want to ensure it won’t be re-gifted, along with the President Obama Chia Pet that someone else brought. A delicious French red is the perfect holiday wine idea! Here, we round up six Bordeaux red wines under $15, four of which are tremendous Quality to Price Ratio bargain wines! And make sure you check out the entire post, as I’m going to announce a giveaway this week, and you won’t want to miss it.

Planet Bordeaux for the Holidays wine tasting

Six Bordeaux Red Wines for the Holidays

As part of a media campaign, Planet Bordeaux engaged several wine writers to taste a selection of six red wines from Bordeaux. Dubbed “Planet Bordeaux for the Holidays”, we were asked to taste and tweet about the wines. The wines were all merlot dominant blends, and selected for their food friendly nature, as well as their very budget friendly price.

wine review Moutdon Cadet Bordeaux 2011

Mouton Cadet Bordeaux 2011

The most budget friendly wine of the tasting was the Mouton Cadet 2011. A scant $10, the Mouton Cadet Bordeaux 2011 is a blend of 65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 15% cabernet franc. A dark inky purple and garnet in the glass, the bouquet is black and blue fruit, cranberry sauce and spice. Not elegant or sophisticated, the Mouton Cadet Bordeaux 2011 palate is medium to full body, and is dusty dry with flavors of black tea and black pepper dominating. There are very subtle hints of black cherry on the palate, but the fruit is barely a supporting character in this play. During the tasting, my friend Melanie of Dallas Wine Chick agreed this is really more a food wine than sipping wine, as this Bordeaux red wine was very cheese friendly, and worked fine with Cabot Cheddar cheese.

wine review Chateaux de Camarsac Bordeaux 2011

Chateaux de Camarsac Bordeaux 2011

Maroon and ruby colors in the glass, the Chateau de Camarsac 2011 is a $12 blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. There were some funky barnyard scents on the nose, something I personally am not a fan of, even if they’re not terribly strong. Nothing like the bouquet, the palate was is earthy leather, with dried blueberries from the merlot integrated with earthy mushrooms. There was mild but noticeable acidity and firm tannin, which will almost disappear when paired with beef, lamb, or even cheese.

wine review Les Hauts de Lagarde Bordeaux 2011

Les Hauts de Lagarde Bordeaux 2011

The third wine of the tasting really knocked my socks off. At $12, this wine is made with organically grown grapes, and can be found in most whole foods. The Les Hauts De Lagarde 2011 Bordeaux is 65% merlot, 25% cabernet sauvignon and 10% cabernet franc, with it’s organically grown grapes hailing from vineyards in Saint Laurent du Bois, Bordeaux. The bouquet reminded me of an old, leather bound book, with organic scents mixed with cranberry and currants. The palate was medium bodied, leaning towards full, and was not dusty at all. Fine, well integrated tannin, a little blueberry mixed with black currant, there’s great oak integration on this wine. The wine is almost soft and feminine, with a lingering finish that has hints of spice. This wine will work with almost any holiday fare, and I even recommend this delicious Bordeaux red wine for Thanksgiving. Drink now through 2014.

Speaking of Organic, later this week, Wednesday or Thursday, I’ll be posting about Harry & David‘s organically grown pears. I’ll feature them, as well as a recipe and wine pairing for you enjoy this holiday season. However, the best part is that you’ll be able to enter a giveaway to win a box of the pears! So, make sure you check back later this week to have your chance at a delicious holiday gift from Harry & David. To be sure and not miss the post, subscribe to my blog via email via the form on the top left of this article!

wine review Chateau du Bois Chantant Cuvee Laurence Bordeaux Superieur 2011

Chateau du Bois Chantant Cuvee Laurence Bordeaux Superieur 2011

The Helfrich family is the proprietor of the next wine, the Chateau du Bois Chantant Bordeaux Superieur 2011.  A blend of 90% merlot and 10% cabernet sauvignon,  the Chateau du Bois Chantant is a full bodied, well balanced Bordeaux wine, and quite a bargain at $13. Similar to the Les Hauts de Lagarde, this budget friendly Bordeaux red wine was quite elegant.  The nose is much more floral than the previous three wines, with violets swirling around the glass, along with notes of cherry cola and soft cinnamon. A deep, dark purple in the glass, the full mouth feel showed elegant plum and cherry with soft, well integrated tannin all around. There was a little black tea on the finish, which leads into a nice, toasty spice which was warming like a holiday fire. While it will work with almost any holiday dish you serve, I felt the Chateau du Bois Chantant would work well with poultry, perfect for your Christmas goose. Drink now through 2014. As an aside, I had the pleasure of meeting Anne Laure Helfrich earlier this year, and have some of their fantastic Alsatian pinot blanc and riesling to talk about in upcoming articles.

wine review Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur 2010

Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur 2010

The next wine from Bordeaux in this tasting was the Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur 2010. A blend of 70% merlot, 15% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc, this $14 budget wine from France really was excellent for the price. The color was more garnet than purple, with a meaty, gamey nose that showed some fruit. It wasnt a terribly expressive bouquet, but deep sniffs bring blueberries and spice. The palate, however was elegant and refined, with fine integrated tannins. This is the wine to pair with your holiday roast, so bring on the prime rib, as the Chateau des Arras can handle it nicely. Flavors of blueberry and cranberry layered with a dusty earth component, and flavors of cherry intermingled in. This wine absolutely sung with cheddar cheese, as the tannins eased, the dried cherry and blueberry fruit came froward and there was a long, delightful finish. My final tasting note on the Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur 2010 was “loved the last sip, the fruit was swirling around my mouth, the spices were soft and so back stage, there was an earthiness to this that sung, there was nice structure $14 worth of yum.” Drink now through 2016.

wine review Domaine de Courteillac bordeaux Superieur 2010

Domaine de Courteillac bordeaux Superieur 2010

As you end your year on a good note, we end this post (and tasting) on a good note. The last Bordeaux red wine of the tasting was the Domaine de Courteillac Bordeaux Superieur 2010. The bouquet is teeming with earthy spice, and doesn’t show much fruit. Inky black in the glass, the palate is very elegant and complex. Layers of flavor start with coffee and mocha, with dark cherry and cola flavors as well. Merlot dominant, but blended with cabernet sauvignon, this $15 wine is harmonious and balanced, bringing power, length and flavor. Another very food friendly wine, it loved the cheese course, but will pair perfectly with beef, lamb, and venison as well.  My last tasting note of the evening was “This wine is REALLY so good with the cheese !!! wow!!!” Drink now through 2016.

I hope you were nice this year, and Santa, or Harry Hanukkah, brings you presents as good as these wines. I highly recommend the last four, as they offer the most quality for the price. The Les Hauts de Lagarde Bordeaux 2011 at $12 is a steal, as is the Chateau du Bois Chantant Cuvee Laurence Bordeaux Superieur 2011 at the same price. The Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur 2010 is still a budget friendly wine at $14, and a great example of what Bordeaux wines can be at reasonable prices. Finally, at $15, the Domaine de Courteillac Bordeaux Superieur 2010 may be the perfect wine for your holiday party this year!

I’d love to hear from you! Have you had any value driven wines from Bordeaux lately? Let me know below!

 

Tasting Three Bordeaux Wines Under $20

Planet Bordeaux Wine tasting Three Bordeaux Wines Under $20

Three Bordeaux Wines Under $20

I believe many people in the US are afraid of French wine! I feel this fear is the product of three factors, the inability to pronounce the wine’s name easily, the inability to identify the grapes readily, and the inability to be comfortable with the previous two factors given lofty prices of some French wines. Of course, the first factor, the language, is the most difficult to get over. I’ll give you that one. The second factor is changing, and you’ll see that on at least one of the three wines below, the grape varieties are right on the front of the bottle. The last fear factor of price for French wine given the uncertainty of what’s in the bottle can be overcome by learning that nice French wine can be had for $12.

When I was asked to participate in a recent virtual wine tasting on Twitter by the team at Planet Bordeaux, a group charged with educating consumers about wines from Bordeaux, I was of course interested. I’ve been doing these virtual wine tastings since 2008, and think they’re a great opportunity. It gives me the chance to try wines, and share the results with you. This increases both of our exposure to wines that perhaps we otherwise would not have tried. I knew this event, tasting three wines from Bordeaux, France under $20,  would be a hit.

Chateau de Bonhoste Bordeaux Blanc 2012 wine review

Chateau de Bonhoste Bordeaux Blanc 2012

The first wine of the evening was a crisp white wine from Chateau de Bonhoste, the 2012 Bordeaux Blanc with a suggested retail price (SRP) of only $12. A blend of three grapes, 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Semillon and 10% Muscadelle, the wine is pale straw in color. It’s bouquet is a soft, pink grapefruit, light floral scents, and a touch of honey. The palate is light, crisp and refreshing. There is nice fruit on the approach, a blend of tree fruit, stone fruit and a good bit of grapefruit that comes and wraps itself around the other fruits quickly. The wine has nice acidity, firm and zippy. This is a pleasant, inexpensive white wine, especially if you like citrus and acidity. There is a little hint of spice that seems to come on the finish, rounding out a very nice palate. For $12, it’s definitely worth trying this value focused white wine from Bordeaux. For the record, you pronounce the name Chateau de Bone-oste.

Tasting notes on Chateau Bonnet 2012 Rose from Bordeaux, France wine review

Chateau Bonnet 2012 Rose from Bordeaux, France

The second wine of the evening was a rosé from Chateau Bonnet (Shah-toe Bone-nay) Bordeaux 2012. The wines of Chateau Bonnet are made by Vignobles Andre Lurton, where vines were first planted in 1744. Made with merlot and cabernet sauvignon, two of the most prominent grapes of Bordeaux, France, this simple rosé wine cost only $15. With a dark, rich pink color in the glass, the bouquet is soft strawberry with a spicy floral floating on top. The palate is light and very soft, this is a very relaxed, laid back wine. The fruit isn’t explosive, it’s subdued strawberry and a tiny bit of dried cranberry.  The wine was a tad soft and subtle, but did show a bit more power as it opened.

Chateau Majoureau Hyppos Bordeaux Superieur 2009 red wine

Chateau Majoureau Hyppos 2009

The third wine in this tasting was the Chateau Majoureau (mah-zhohr-oh) “Hyppos” Bordeaux Superieur 2009. A big, bold Bordeaux red wine with 55% merlot and 45% cabernet sauvignon, we decanted the Hyppos for over an hour, and sampled it every thirty minutes for over three hours. There were scents of dark black fruits on the nose, as well as a cedar box component and mixed spice scents. The palate is a lot like the nose – the cedar box and spice is powerful up front, the fruit is really hidden behind the rest of the tastes. Not a “sipping wine”, we paired this with a pot roast, and with the food there is a little more harmony to the Hyppos. However, ultimately, this wine was a bit big, with a zealous amount of oak showing, and it really didn’t have the finesse I was hoping to find. This is a $20 Bordeaux red wine that will appeal to those who really enjoy the nuances that bold oak gives to red wine.

Let’s get back to those three factors that I believe cause Americans to shy away from French wine: language, unable to discern the grapes in the bottle, and price. Again, there isn’t much I can do about the language. As a matter of fact, I had to reach out to the PR firm who supplied these wines as samples, to ensure I was pronouncing them right. I wasn’t, for the record. It’s a matter of learning a different language, to whatever extent you are comfortable with. However, the second item, the grapes in the bottle, that’s changing.

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild wine from Bordeaux, France

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild wine from Bordeaux, France

It used to be the case that unless you studied the wine regions of France, you had no idea what grapes made the wines. If you didn’t learn that Burgundy reds are largely pinot noir, and Bordeaux left bank is predominantly cabernet sauvignon while right bank is predominantly merlot, you had no idea what you were drinking. That, of course, could cause  someone very particular about what they’re drinking to steer clear of these enigmas. However, recent changes in french wine labeling laws are allowing the grape variety to be printed on the label. While you probably won’t see them on all of the wines of France any time soon, you’ll definitely see them more often. And, if you’re ever wondering what grapes are in a bottle, feel free to ask me! I’ll do my best to answer right way!

The last factor, the price of French wines being prohibitive, is likely no longer a concern. Sure, you’ve heard of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild going for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. And I’m sure you’ve walked into a store and seen the bottle of Petrus for $2,500 and more. However, you’ve now seen how French wine can be found under $20.  There is a wide array of wines coming from France, and they span the price spectrum. And  I hope we can explore that wide world of wine together! Let me know the last French wine you had by leaving a comment below, as I’m very curious about your experiences!

Cheers!

Budget Wines For Everyday

Decent Wines For Just A Few Bucks

Decent Wines For Just A Few Bucks

I’m often asked to recommend cheap wines that can be found in grocery stores. Many people hear about Two Buck Chuck, which now sells for $3 or so, and wonder if it’s any good. During my trip to Oregon, someone asked me about Two Buck Chuck right before the Harry and David wine dinner. I’ve not had Two Buck Chuck in recent years, and my first taste was a long time ago. However, I took a run to the local Total Wine, which has a much bigger selection of good wines under $10 than the grocery store, and have eight wine options that wont break your budget.

Conte Priola Pinot Grigio Veneto 201

Conte Priola Pinot Grigio Veneto 201

Our first budget wine is a $7 option from Italy. The Conte Priola Pinot Grigio – Veneto 2011 has a fragrant nose of spiced pear and yellow apples. There is a smokey, spicy note that translates from the bouquet to the palate. There is very nice acidity, which comes across as citrus notes. An easy drinking, simple wine. Not very complex, just a back yard sipper.

Kemblefield 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Kemblefield 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Moving to Marlborough, New Zealand, we have the $9.99 Kemblefield 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. The bouquet is bursting, big kumquat and tangerine and lime on the nose, mixed with herbal notes. The palate is very refreshing, great citrus notes like pink grapefruit, mixed with tangerine and even apricot flavors. Very fresh fruit, that may come across a touch tart from the acidity. Good structure, and well made for under $10.

Generation Green Chardonnay

Generation Green Chardonnay

Vying with the Two Buck Chuck line is Generation Green Chardonnay, costing a scant $3.99. The nose show scallions and apricots, and the palate is smooth and light. There are toasty apple flavors mixed with toasted breads and vanilla creme. There is a good bit of green and spice on the mid-palate and finish, showing the oak that the wine is aged in. This wine is in a bottle made from lighter weight glass, helping to reduce the company’s carbon footprint. Definitely a bit more green than our next option, but also half the price!

Cloud Break Chardonnay 2011

Cloud Break Chardonnay 2011

Our next white wine also comes from California. The Cloud Break Chardonnay 2011,  costs $7.99 at Total Wine and is one of their big sellers. The bouquet is fresh pears and yellow apples. The mouth feel is fuller, showing toasty bread topped with a nice pear and yellow apple compote. There is a good bit of warming spice on the finish, that shows the oak aging and barrel fermentation. It’s not over oaked, however. Don’t fear splinters when you sip this budget friendly white wine.

Barefoot Cellars Chardonnay

Barefoot Cellars Chardonnay

For those who love a more fruity, almost sweet tasting wine, this $5.99 bottle is for you. I used to jokingly say “I prefer my women barefoot, not my wine.” That was, until I met Barefoot Cellars long time winemaker Jennifer Wall! She had me taste the Barefoot line again, and I had to retract my comment. The entire Barefoot line is fruit focused, and clearly people like that style. Barefoot sells millions of cases of wine a year. So, while it may not be the most complex wine you’ll put in your glass, for $6 or so per bottle, this is an easy drinking, back yard, feet up and relax kind of wine. The chardonnay will show fresh fruit salad, pears and apples, and have just the slightest hint of spice and vanilla.

Pepperwood Gove Pinot Noir

Pepperwood Gove Pinot Noir

Moving on to red wines, our first option is one of Suzanne’s picks. The Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir is $6.99 in Publix grocery stores. This pinot noir has bright fresh strawberries and red raspberries on both the nose and the palate. There is a little bit of tannin, which dries the mouth and offers the slightest hint of smoke.  The finish seems very long. If you are a fan of more fruit forward red wines, this $7 option would be right up your alley.

Ropiteau Pinot Noir 2010

Ropiteau Pinot Noir 2010

Moving to France, we have the Ropiteau Pinot Noir 2010 for $9.99. The bouquet shows dried strawberries that are earthy and subdued. The palate is very dry, and the earthiness and old world flavors come through. There may be a little too much oak for some on this wine, which shows in the tannin and spice on the finish. The oak is not overwhelming, as the fruit still shows. However, the spice from the toasty oak definitely makes a firm showing. This could use some food, whether that be a host of cheeses, some nice grilled salmon, or even a breast of duck dish.

Radius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Radius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Finally, we have the Radius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 from Washington state. The nose is bright red cherry, and highlights the super simple, super fruit forward nature of this wine. Not complex at all, there are fresh ripe cherries and raspberries, with just a hint of spice and tannin on the finish. This wine is all about young, fresh, vibrant fruit, and is a super easy sipper. There is no food necessary for this $8.99 porch wine.

This list is by no means a complete resource of budget focused wines under $10. As a matter of fact, I plan on highlighting more options in the coming months. I’m not the only person focusing on these value wines, however. Jay, the store manager at the Palm Beach Gardens, Florida Total Wine put up signs in each of the grape variety sections in the store, highlighting their under $10 wine options. The big pink signs are hard to miss, but customers find them very helpful.

What is your everyday budget wine?

Making Meatballs and Pairing Red Wine

Recipe for Sicilian meatballs paired with red wine

Sicilian meatballs paired with red wine

I can’t think of anything that brings people together better than food.  The notion of breaking bread goes back to biblical times.  However I’m sure the first time Ogg charred a hunk of brontosaurus, he invited Brugg for some and they told stories about when Trobb fell in the tar pit. Food, regardless of cuisine, transcends age, race, and political affiliation. That is why it’s very important to me that my son, now 13, not only gains an appreciation for good food, but also learns how to prepare it.
Even a 13 year old can cook this recipe for Sicilian meatballs

Even a 13 year old can cook this recipe for Sicilian meatballs

You would think that when teaching a 13 year old to cook, I’d start with something basic like pasta or grilled cheese.  I’m a fan of the Go big or go home philosophy folks, so we went with Sicilian style meatballs.  It’s a recipe I found in Food & Wine September 2007 magazine, and after making once right after reading, I saved the recipe for future use.  My son helped me when I first prepared them, so perhaps there was a tie to the dish. We started by reviewing the ingredient list and reading through the steps twice. It is important to understand the steps and the order in which we will use the ingredients, as well as having everything ready before we turn on the oven.

Batasiolo Sovrana and Heitz Cellars red wines to pair with meatballs

Batasiolo Sovrana and Heitz Cellars red wines to pair with meatballs

Before I give you the recipe, I will of course tell you about the wines paired with this fantastic meal.  My selection was Beni di Batasiolo 2009 Sovrana Barbera D’Alba. I paired this Italian red to not only stay on theme with an Italian meal, but also because the grape pairs well with the beefy meatballs while being able to handle the acidic tomatoes.  Like Ogg, I invited Brugg to break bread and share the meal.  Brugg is actually my friend Kirk, who brought his red wine contribution to the meal.  He chose a bottle of Heitz Cellar 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, another wine option that works well with meatballs and tomato sauce.

The Beni di Batasiolo Sovranna 2009 is a Barbera d’Alba. The barbera grape is grown in various places in in Italy, and this one is from Alba, a region in Piedmont, Italy. The bouquet is full of dark berries, violets and the oak notes of spice like cinnamon. The palate is medium to full, and dusty old world flavors come across at first. Dried strawberries and dried raspberries mingle with white pepper. It’s a full flavored wine bursting with taste. There was firm acidity on the finish of the wine, and it lends itself to be a wine to pair with food.

Tasting notes for Beni di Batasiolo Sovrana 2009 Barbera D'Alba

Pairing Beni di Batasiolo Sovrana 2009 Barbera D’Alba

Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 is a Napa Valley, California wine. The bouquet is gorgeous, a sensual nose of mocha laced dark cherries. There are subtle spice notes that waft from the glass as well. The palate is full, but silky. Beautiful notes of chocolate cherries, but not sweet. The oak aging fills the glass with lovely spices.

Both the Beni di Batasiolo Sovranna and the Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon wines work so well with a meal of meatballs and tomato sauce. One did not stand out over the other as a better pairing. The Barbera D’Alba from Batasiolo became a bit less acidic and fruit took more of a center stage with sipped after a bite of meatball. For the Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon, the sweetness of the fruit and mocha are a little more subdued with the meal.
Tasting notes for Heitz Cellars 2007 Cabernet sauvignon Napa Valley Red wine

Sipping Heitz Cellars 2007 Cabernet sauvignon Napa Valley Red wine

Back to the recipe. Your mise en place includes
  • Two 28-oz cans of crushed Italian tomatoes
  • Four slices of white bread
  • 1/4 cup of water (drinking quality)
  • 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or currants
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Kosher salt (about 2 tablespoons)
  • freshly ground pepper (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 large cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon died marjoram
  • 2 lbs ground beef (chuck)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 cups vegetable oil (for frying)
ingredients to make perfect Sicilian meatballs

ingredients to make perfect Sicilian meatballs

In a 5 quart or larger sauce pan, pour the Italian tomatoes in and season with salt and pepper. I added about 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 tsp of pepper, then added more slowly throughout the simmer, to taste. Add the 1/4 cup EVOO, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil (medium high heat), then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes (low heat).

After your sauce is on low and simmering, in a large bowl soak the 4 pieces of bread in the water. If you need less water to soak the bread, use less. If the bread is still dry, add a little more. Once the bread is saturated, squeeze out the water and place bread in another bowl. Mash the bread into a paste, then stir in the beaten eggs, garlic, parsley, marjoram, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Mix until smooth and well combined. I like to stir the sauce every 5 or 10 minutes while mixing and rolling out the meatballs.

mixing the ingredients for perfect italian meatballs

mixing the ingredients for perfect Italian meatballs

Add the ground beef, cranberries (or currents), pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Mix these ingredients until well combined. Adding 1 tablespoon at a time, slowly add and mix in the bread crumbs. Kneed the mixture until it is firm enough to roll into balls.
You will roll the meatballs into about 36 meatballs, each about 2 to 3 tablespoons of mix. Tuck the pine nuts and cranberries inside as much as possible.I placed my meatballs on a cookie sheet covered with wax or parchment paper while rolling them out. Once you’re about finished, turn your oil on medium-high in a large, no-stick skillet. Did you remember to stir the simmering sauce?
roll your mixture into 36 meatballs

roll your mixture into 36 meatballs

Heat the vegetable oil until shimmering. I check the oil by putting a tiny piece of meatball in. If it doesn’t immediately start to sizzle, it’s not ready. Once it starts sizzling, then you’re ready to cook.  Work in batches, placing about 10-12 meatballs into the oil at once. I recommend using a slotted spoon to roll them into the oil gently, to prevent splattering.
You’ll cook the meatballs for about 12 minutes, turning at least 3 times throughout that time to ensure each side is done. Never turn your oil past medium high or the meatballs will burn. Using a 12″ skillet or frying pan will allow you to place about 12 meatballs in it. A 10″ pan will of course accept less. Transfer the meatballs to a plate that is lined with paper towel, and continue cooking the rest of the meatball mixture.
using an all-clad skillet to cook Italian meatball recipe

using an all-clad skillet to cook Italian meatballs

Once finished, place all of the meatballs into the sauce. Again, use a slotted spoon to gently roll them in, to avoid splatter.
After all of your meatballs are in the sauce, allow them to simmer on low for another 30 minutes. I like to gently stir every 10 minutes to allow the meatballs on top to get to the bottom and continue to cook evenly.
delicious and easy Italian Sicilian meatball recipe

delicious and easy Italian Sicilian meatball recipe

Personally I like this dish without pasta. Fill a bowl with a few meatballs and some sauce, sprinkle with a little more Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and serve. Some bread to sop up the sauce is all I like.  Robin, my son and Kirk all had some pasta with theirs and were quite happy. As for teaching my son how to cook, he made the entire meal, including frying the meatballs. He did so well, he went to his mom’s and made this awesome Italian meatball recipe it for her birthday the next week.  Maybe we will do Boeuf Bourguignon next!