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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!


Drinking for a good cause – Charity Case Rose

Charity Case 2008 Rose Wine

Charity Case 2008 Rose Wine

It’s always exciting when you can take what you love doing, and find a way to do good things with it. That’s exactly what the team at Charity Case Wines has done. Jayson Woodbridge, of Layer Cake and Hundred Acre, has lent his name to the project, teaming with vineyards and wineries around Napa, and together create budget friendly wines with a good cause.

Taking grapes donated from Napa vineyards, Charity Case created a rose wine out of mostly cabernet sauvignon, along with zinfandel, merlot and syrah. In 2008, about 305 cases were made, and about 2,000 cases in 2009, a very generous year. The 2010 vintage will see about 300 cases again, as obviously the yields and market will dictate how much participating vineyards can offer.

All of the proceeds from sales of the Charity Case wine go towards those in need at several charities, including Aldea Children & Family Services, Cope Family Center, Foster Kids Receiving Center and Wolfe Center Teen Drug & Alcohol Treatment program. That alone is a good reason to buy some Charity Case Rose and drink the wine.

I’ve long been a fan of rose wines, it was the topic of one of my early television segments on Daytime. I love the refreshing flavors that rose wine can offer, especially on a hot summer day. At $12 per bottle, the Charity Case Rose 2008 was an easy drinking wine. It had some red fruit on the nose and palate, though there was no acidity to balance that out on the finish. It was a simple, straightforward wine, easy to sip on. Notes from the winemaker indicated that 2008 was a very rainy year, and that caused the fruit not to be super concentrated, thus offering this style of wine.

Pairing sweet smoked ribs with rose wine

Pairing sweet smoked ribs with rose wine

I’m curious to follow Charity Case through 2009 and 2010, to see how, if at all, the wines change. I would love to see some brighter fruit and some more acidity on the finish, to help the wine pair better with foods. It couldn’t stand up to my smoked ribs, as the sweet and savory sauce overpowered the wine. The Charity Case Rose did, however, pair nicely with cheddar and manchego cheeses on the second day, and I would pair it with cheese and fruit next time.

Some fellow wine writers had some great things to say about Charity Case Rose. Dan, The Iowa Wino thought the Charity Case 2008 Rose was outstanding. The La Jolla Mom picked it as her 3rd favorite out of 12 rose wines. The Miami Wine Guide liked it as well. I’d love to hear your thoughts! What do you think about Charity Case wines, or rose in general?


A few more Thanksgiving wine options

Got Turkey?

What do I pair with?

With Thanksgiving approaching, you may be scrambling to find some wines to go with everything you serve.  As I’ve said before, there’s no one wine that will pair with everything you serve, and more importantly, drink what you like on Thanksgiving. That being said, if you rather focus on your family, friends and the meal itself, you can leave the wine selections to me. I’ll offer two more options that I recently tasted as part of a sample review from Frederick Wildman’s various offerings.  I’ll also point you to some wines I’ve recommended in the past, because they’re tried and true.

Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese 2007

Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese 2007

I’ve always thought that Riesling is a great grape for the holidays.  I mentioned a few different producers in the past, though I do always think that a Dr Loosen wine makes a great showing.  From the $12 Dr Loosen Dr L to the $25 Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen, they offer great flavors alone, or paired with food. I’ve enjoyed them with ham or other pork dishes, as well as poultry. Many of my family members love the easy drinking, fruit forwardness of the Dr L, especially with it’s crisp, clean finish.  It always makes an appearance on our holiday table.

El Coto Rioja Rose

El Coto Rioja Rose

If you are looking for an easy drinking “welcome” wine, look no further than El Coto Rioja Rosado 2009. This rose is a blend of 50% Tempranillo and 50% Garnacha, and is 100% great. With a fresh fruity nose of bright, brilliant strawberries, this $12 wine will be greatly appreciated by your guests as they settle in for the day. The nose carries through to the palate, with fresh strawberries and raspberries and mild acitity, making this wine a fun, light to medium bodied wine to sip on, or pair with appetizers and cheese.

Christian Moreau Chablis

Christian Moreau Chablis

Another interesting wine sample from Frederick Wildman was the Domaine Christian Moreau 2008 Chablis, which retails for about $24. I love Chablis for it’s crisp, pure expression of Chardonnay, and the opportunity to have my “I hate Chardonnay” friends eat those words, or swallow them.  There’s a crisp, steely nose with apple laced scents, which is followed by a medium bodied crisp palate of tart apple. There’s a bit of a citrus note, attributed to the firm acidity, but it’s a nice refreshing wine. This wine will certainly drink well with any fish or poultry dishes on your holiday table.

Ponzi Pinot Noir

Ponzi Pinot Noir

If you’re a fan of red wines, don’t forget a bottle of Pinot Noir. Whether it’s from California, Oregon, or Burgundy, a glass of Pinot Noir will go well with much of your holiday fare. It can be light enough to pair with your turkey, and full bodied enough to pair with any beef dishes. We had a bottle of Oregon’s Ponzi 2008 Tavola Pinot Noir with lunch last week, and it immediately made my “Thanksgiving Wine” recommendation list.  Great fruit mixed with an earthy smokiness that everyone at the table enjoyed. It paired with everything from croque monsieur to a french dip to a salad with grilled chicken. We’ll probably be serving a bottle of J Christopher Pinot Noir, also from Oregon, and a bottle of Hahn Estate SLH Pinot Noir, since we have them both stocked in our cellar.

By no means should you reserve these wines for holidays alone. And of course, this is not a definitive list of wines you can serve on Thanksgiving. Make a statement with dessert wines, whether a Sauternes or a Port. They will satisfy your sweet tooth without making you feel that you ate more than you should have. I’ll have some recommendations in the next few days, and add them for your sipping pleasure.

I’d love to know what you are serving for Thanksgiving! Do you have any annual traditions? Share them in the comments below!

Three Great Wines For your Valentines

Valentines Day Wine Selection

Valentines Day Wine Selection

Many guys will admit they’re not the best when it comes to figuring out what women want. Perhaps it’s because women are complex beings, requiring careful time and study, and men aren’t that patient. Or perhaps it’s because men are selfish, hedonistic animals who really only care about their own needs. To help my brethren out this Valentines Day, I’m going to offer three wine suggestions that will make it seem like they understand what their ladies want, all without investing too much time, or too much money. My theme for this year’s Valentines Day wine choices is “Think Pink”, great Rose wines, one a sexy sparkler, that wont break your bank!

Now, I must admit, I had a little help to select these wines. Robin, my better half, made no bones about loving the color pink. My first clue was “Can I paint the house pink”, followed by an onslaught of pink clothes and accessories showing up on her side of the room.  However, the real giveaway was our being at a Champagne event, and her gushing “Ohh, I love pink champagne.” Ding ding, clue number one just dropped, go pick it up boys. Now, Robin didn’t actually help me make the selections, but for some reason, I knew she’d love them. We started off with a Sparkling wine from South Africa, Graham Beck’s Brut Sparking Rose – NV, from Robertson SA. Retailing at only $14, this wine delivers nice quality at a great price.

Graham Beck Brut Rose NV valentines day wine 2

Graham Beck Brut Rose NV

This light and crisp bubbly had a very nice, pale pink hue in the glass. It’s made from 58% Chardonnay and 42% Pinot Noir grapes, in the Cap Classique method, where the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle.  This is of course the same method used to make Champagne, the  méthode Champenoise, and is the term used in South Africa since 1992 to denote the traditional time-honoured method of making the sparkler.  Right out of the bottle, there were strawberry fruit flavors up front, with a finish of minerals that is refreshing in a Brut (dry) sparkler. There were tons of bubbles, and it was definitely the perfect way to start off our evening. Giving this bubbly a few minutes to open up is a nice idea, because the minerals and almost tart finish blows off, and you’re enjoying nice round red fruit that is well balanced and fun.  You can serve the Graham Beck Brute Rose NV bubbly with seafood, or even rare beef or lamb, and of course the traditional strawberries will be a smash hit!

Saint Andre de Figuiere 2008 Rose Magali Cuvee Valentines day wine

Saint Andre de Figuiere 2008 Rose Magali Cuvee

If bubbles aren’t your thing, lets hop from South Africa to Provence, France and enjoy a glass of Saint Andre de Figuiere 2008 Rose Magali Cuvee. That’s certainly a mouthful, especially if your French is as bad as mine! However, it’s worth butchering the name, or saying Saint ANdre Rose if you must, to enjoy this crisp Valentines Day wine. Half of the rose wine made in France comes from Provence, and at $16 this blend of Cinsault, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache is sure to delight. It’s salmon-pink color gives way to a bouquet of sweet, ripe raspberries. It has a soft palate, very light and crisp with fresh fruit of citrus and red berries, and some beautiful minerality on the finish. Dry and well balanced, this rose will go well with a host of foods, from chicken to fish, or just sipping with a nice cheese plate.

Big Fire Rose valentines day wine 3

Big Fire Rose Wine

Bubbles didn’t blow her away, and dry French wine not her thing, well then lets pop over to the United States, and try a Rose from Oregon! R Stuart & Co’s Big Fire line has a number of nice wines at good prices, and their $12 Big Fire Rose is no exception. A darker shade of pink than the previous two wines, the Big Fire Rose has some cherry scents on the nose, but it wasn’t a very fragrant bouquet. However, the palate was definitely bursting with fruit, strawberry up front, with a medium body that bursts with flavor. There’s definitely some red cherry and other bright fruit on the wine, and the fruit flavors last an incredibly long time.  The Big Fire Rose is a blend of Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Pinot Gris, each grape bringing it’s unique and interesting characteristic to the blend. Definitely a fruit forward wine, you could enjoy this with a lighter dish, whether it’s a salad, or some simple grilled chicken.

Let me know what wine you have on this Valentines Day, and how you enjoy it. If it’s one of the three discussed here, let me know how you like it. And Ladies, don’t be shy! If you want to be sure you enjoy the wine you drink on Valentines Day, select one of these and just tell him to open and pour like a good man should!  Cheers!

You can watch my appearance on CBS12 WPEC talking about these great wines with Daybreak News Anchor Kara Kostanich!

Mulderbosch Cabernet Rose 2006

Typically when I think of Rose, I think of White Zinfandel. I think of the cheap, sweet wine I used to try to convince the girls to swill when I was younger. I also think of several great friends who prefer sweeter, fruiter wines, and aren’t interested in most of the other types of wine available. I also remember Robin’s comment of “I used to drink White Zin before I knew what wine was.”