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What is a Rhone wine – WBW71 post

Wine Blogging Wednesday 71

Wine Blogging Wednesday 71

One of the issues many new to the wine world face is learning the grapes certain wines are made with. This is more an issue with old world wines, such as Italy and France, though it can be an issue in the US as well. For example, when I tackled today’s Wine Blogging Wednesday post, Rhone not from Rhone , I had to first recall exactly which grapes make up Rhone wines. The main ones are GSM, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, if you weren’t sure. However, there’s a great supporting cast of cinsault, petit sirah, viognier, roussanne and marsanne. For today’s WBW post I selected a Paso Robles cuvee, or a blend, of Rhone varietals and am excited to tell you about it.

By way of background, Lenn “Devours” Thompson started an initiative to corral wine bloggers, getting them focused on the same topic once a month, called Wine Blogging Wednesday. Each month a different blogger would come up with a topic, and we’d all write about it. I didn’t join the fray until 2008, years after WBW was in motion. However, it’s a great way to get different perspectives on the same topic. It shows that even the experts see grapes differently.  Today’s topic is Rhone Wines not from Rhone, brought to us by Tim Elliot of Winecast.

As I mentioned, wines made in the Rhone style include Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes. I could have selected a Grenache from Spain, or a Syrah from California for this article, however I’ve wanted to write about my dinner and interview with Austin Hope of Hope Family Wines and thought tasting his Liberty School Cuvee was the perfect opportunity. I’ll first cover the wine, then a little about Austin and dinner.

Liberty School Cuvee 2007

Liberty School Cuvee 2007

The folks at Liberty School believe that the Central Coast of California is perfect for Rhone varietals. If their 2007 Cuvee is any indication, I say they’re right. A cuvee is a blend, and this wine is a blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Viognier. I’ve often said that I’m not a fan of Syrah from California, as it comes in big and jammy, and I prefer the more restrained, earthy Syrah from France. However, at 13.5% ABV the Liberty School Cuvee is not a big wine, and it’s anything but jammy.

I taste the wine at three intervals, right after opened, after 10 minutes of air, and after 30 minutes of air. While it definitely opened and changed, it was fairly consistent throughout. The wine was a dark inky purple, and the cork bottom was almost black. At first, the nose had a very meaty bouquet, with a note of cocoa and spices. It had a great lush mouthfeel, and after 10-30 minutes there were dark berries balanced with some earth and nice leather notes on the palate. When I say leather, I could envision a well polished leather chair in a stately mansion, regal and sophisticated. The wine was definitely dry, though not tannic very tannic. Towards the end I started to taste secondary notes on the finish of spiced cherry pie and smoke, with a finish that lingered. I grabbed this wine at the grocery for $15, and it’s definitely a wine to try. We paired this wine with hamburgers, though we could have thrown a variety of grilled, roasted or smoked meats it it successfully.

What I enjoyed most about the wine was how it captured the essence of old world Rhone wines, with a touch of new world finesse and approachability. I’ve planned on tasting some more Hope family Wines and Libery School Cuvee against some Rhone wines in the near future and compare and contrast. I had taste several Paul Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage a few weeks back, and while they cost a bit more, I’m interested in the taste profiles as a comparison. I’ll be sure to let you know.  I’ll also let you know more about Paso Robles, home of Liberty School and Hope Family wines, as I’m visiting the area next week.

I hope to catch up with Austin Hope again when in Paso. He’s a great guy. very dynamic, and passionate about wine and all that it entails. My interview of Austin turned more into a dinner with a great guy, as the restaurant was too noisy to record our conversation, and we talked too quickly and about too many topics to take notes of any quality. We did, however, cover a few topics that I thought were quite interesting, such as multi-vintage wines and box wine, as well as a hot project that make change the way you look at Paso in the future.

Austin feels that the concept of multi-vintage wines needs to be looked at a bit more closely. He maintains that by using wines of different vintages, winemakers will be able to capture the youth and expressiveness of younger vintages, with the maturity and complexity of older vintages. He believes by doing this, wines will be more approachable upon release, and offer more than any young release wine can. I’m excited to see what he does with this concept. Austin also believes that he can put out a box wine of sufficient quality to carry a Hope Family Wines name. Expect a spring or summer 2011 release of his box, and I will definitely get my hands on it. I expect it to be a very approachable and affordable wine.

As for the last project, well, that one I can’t talk about yet. However, when Austin told me about it, I found myself secretly rooting for him to succeed. We’ll see soon!

Have you tried a Rhone style wine, whether from France, California or elsewhere? Let me know what you thought!


Getting to know Cigales – Museum Real Reserva – WBW70

wines spain has to offer

Map of Spain

The world of wine is vast, and anyone who tells you they know all about wine is lying or in denial. There is always something new to learn or experience. There is a grape you haven’t taste, or a producer and region you haven’t explored.  It’s easy to drink the wines we know we love, staying in our comfort zone. However, the risk of getting a bottle of wine that doesn’t agree with out palate should never outweigh the possibility of taking a new adventure. When Lenn “Devours” Thompson, with Gabriella and Ryan Opaz of Catavino, asked wine bloggers to take on WBW #70: Spain, it was time to taste something new or different.

While there are some 600 grapes grown in Spain, 80% of Spain’s wine production comes from only 20 of them, including Garnacha, Tempranillo and Albarino, as well as Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada, the three lesser known grapes that go into Cava, a sparkling wine from Spain. Tempranillo is the focus of Spain’s main wine producing regions Rioja and Ribera del Duero, and I’ve covered those areas in quite a few posts on the site. However, there is a lesser known area that is producing some fantastic Tempranillo which I recently discovered.

Musueum Real Reserva red wine from Spain

Musueum Real Reserva red wine from Spain

Cigales is a wine region just north of Ribera del Duero, with approximately 2,600 hectares planted in 37 vineyards. Cigales produces about 5 million liters of wine annually, compared to 60 million liters from the 20,500 hectares and 240 vineyards of Ribera del Duero. Founded in the late 1990s, Finca Museum estate is home to about 1200 acres, or about 560 hectares of vineyards in Cigales, nearly half that over 50 years-old. The wine is sourced from old vines from some of the highest hillside vineyards in the Pisuerga Valley of Cigales. These vines have extremely low yields, and along with their age produce a grape with concentrated flavors.

While the Museum Real Reserva 2004 Tempranillo was aged 24 months in new French oak, with the exception of some mild-to-medium tannin, it’s barely perceptible in the wine. This wine needs about 30 minutes to decant or aerate, and it will continue to evolve after that. The nose has a very earthy, cherry bouquet, and the palate is light and fruit focused. Dry and tannic, there are notes of rose petals and an earthiness that elude to a Barolo. There is a medium acidity on the finish, and it’s definitely a food friendly wine. We paired this with a chicken marsala dish, and the two were very complimentary.  For about $25, this is a wine that I’d say is on your must try list.

Osborne Pedro Ximenez Sweet Sherry

Osborne Pedro Ximenez Sweet Sherry

To finish the night, I opened a bottle of Sherry I’ve had in the closet for a few weeks. Sherry comes in many styles, from dry to sweet, and this bottle of Sweet Sherry was left over from a mushroom soup recipe I made in December. I can, and will devote an entire post or two to Sherry, however I’ll give you the quick and dirty of what was in the glass. A thick and heavy palate, there are sweet plums and raisins on the palate. After a short while, it opens into a warm, luxurious palate, with an everlasting finish. There are notes of walnuts and raisins that permeate the air and coat the palate. I’ve been told that aside from sipping on it’s own, a sweet sherry like the Osborne Pedro Ximenez goes well over vanilla ice cream.

I’ve only touched the surface on Spain, and this is the first Tempranillo from Cigales I’ve had. However, it’s markedly different from those I’ve had from Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Even the newer, more fruit focused Rioja wines are not as soft and elegant as the Museum Real Reserva was. They typically are much more earthy and tannic, though that may be their intended style. I intend on doing a little more tasting and comparing, and I’ll share with you in the future.  What else would you like to know about Spanish wines? I’d love to help make Spain more approachable, and your next wine adventure.

WBW68 Domaine Ruet Chiroubles – Cru Beaujolais

Domaine Ruet Chiroubles - Cru Beaujolais

Domaine Ruet Chiroubles - Cru Beaujolais

I had mixed emotions when I saw Frank from Drink What You Like announce that Wine Blogging Wednesday 68′s topic would be “Got Gamay”! While I am a huge fan of Wine Blogging Wednesday, an idea started in 2004 by Lenn Thompson from New York Cork Report to help bring wine bloggers together on one united topic monthly, Gamay really is not my favorite grape. However, I approached the topic from an educational standpoint, hoping to help at least one person understand not only what wines Gamay will produce, but help them identify where it can come from and what to expect. To do so, I popped open a bottle of Cru Beaujolais from Domaine Ruet ($17), and did this short wine tasting and discussion.

As I pointed out in my Gamay discussion, the grape is most commonly recognized when it comes from Beaujolais, an AOC or appellation in France. There are several different areas within Beaujolais that produce wines of varying quality. The first level,  Beaujolais, produces the most Gamay wine, most which is bottled as Beaujolais Nouveau. Beaujolais Nouveau is that marketing ploy developed in the 1980s, where young Gamay is bottled and distributed quickly as a light, overy fruity, almost fake wine. I’ve not tried the past three vintage of BN, and really don’t feel like I’m missing out. Beaujolais usually cost around $12. That brings us to the second tier of vineyards, or Beaujolais-Villages. That isn’t pronunced Village like like Village People. It’s Vih-lah-zges, Anyway, these wines are still light and fruity, but typically a tad more intense and structured. You can find these for about $15. Finally,  the third and highest tier of Beaujolais, Cru Beaujolais, which may cost around $17.

Cru Beaujolais, which is made up of 10 distinct areas as discussed in that other post, and produces a but more refined and intense wine. While Beaujolais is is typically consumed within the year after bottling, and Beaujolais-Villages perhaps within 2 years, Cru Beaujolais often needs a year of aging to be approachable, and can age for 5 to 10 years, depending on the vintage. That brings us to the topic of the post, the Cru Beaujolais from Domaine Ruet – Chiroubles.

The video above touches on the 84 year old Ruet Family estate, which is located on the remarkable terroir of Voujoin in Cercie-en-Beaujolais, at the foot of Mount Brouilly. They produce wines from 6 of the 12 Beaojolais appellations, Brouilly, Morgon, Côte de Brouilly, Régnié,Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages. I’ll leave you to the short video for tasting notes on the wine. I will say two followup comments – it was very nice with the roast chicken, though I found it a tad more dry and tannic than I expected. Finally, it opened up nicely over night, showing a bit more cherry on the nose, and on the palate. I would probably grab another bottle of this and give it a bit to decant, and see how it compares to the pop-and-pour I did in the video.

In retrospect, I owe Frank a big thank you for his Wine Blogging Wednesday 68 topic. While I am not much fonder of Gamay, I enjoyed reviewing, discussing, and trying this wine. It’s piqued my curiosity to try their other Cru’s, and perhaps a few other Beaujolais in comparison. It’s been quite a while, perhaps two years, since I seriously considered Gamay.  Well done Frank!

Wine Blogging Wednesday 57 California Dreaming

Robert Mondavi's Harvest of Joy biography

Robert Mondavi's Harvest of Joy biography

As most of the wine loving world knows, Robert Mondavi passed away one year ago May 16th. In an effort to recognize and pay homage to this progressive and influential force in the wine world, Jeff LeFavere from has chosen a topic for this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday that invokes Mondavi’s passion for California wines. Jeff’s mission was simple, “revisit a California wine that they have enjoyed, or have a particular fond memory of, and tell a story.” Everyone that knows me knows I love to tell stories, and this topic allows me to do so. I’ll post the video wine review at the end of the post, so please take the time to read the story, and of course, view the video.

Before I get into the wine, and my story, I want to take the time to reprint some of Jeff’s original post and comment on that. I thought his post was quite well written, and captured some of my own thoughts and feelings.  Jeff writes that “Mondavi was such an inspiration physically, spiritually and philosophically to so many – both in the industry and to consumers, while acting as the forefather of the modern California wine movement” and later goes on to say “Mondavi was a people person, fostering a spirit of goodwill amongst friends new and old while promoting a life well lived that included wine and food as complementary companions on the table and in life.”  Quite frankly, that is what I love about wine, that it allows us to bring together friends, new and old, and enjoy time with each other, harmonizing the food and the people at once.

Robin & I creating memories in San Francisco

Robin & I creating memories in San Francisco

In March of this year, Robin and I took a long weekend and flew out to San Francisco, CA. Robin had never been to San Francisco, and since I was there for training the following week, we decided to tack on a few days and have some fun with it. Coincidentally, it was the 2009 “Wine Road Barrel Tasting” event, so we figured after a day in The Bay, we’d spend two days in Sonoma tasting wines and enjoying life. We have some friends from Twitter who live in the area, so we all planned on meeting Saturday morning for the adventure. Robin and I had a lovely romantic day in San Francisco on Friday, and Saturday morning started our wine journey.

Our first stop was the meet Thea (@winebratsf on twitter) and Robbin (@robbin_g) in San Francisco. After picking them up, we drove out to Dry Creek, stopping at Truett Hurst for our first of many tastings. There we hooked up with a bevy of people including Valerie (@winedog), Shana (@Sharayray), John (@DrncPno), Amy (@WineWonkette), Patrick (@Oenophilus), as well as Jim (@sonomawineguy) and probably more I’m forgetting about! We began tasting wines that were just put into the barrels (hence, “Barrel Tasting”), as well as wines that each vineyard had already bottled as current offerings.

Click for the view from atop Michel-Schlumberge vineyard

Click for the view from atop Michel-Schlumberge vineyard

The first day of tasting we ended up going
to 5 or more wineries including Michel-Schlumberger where we met up with MS President & General Manager  Judd Wallenbrock (@Humanitas and @M_Schlumberger),  where we had a lovely walk through the vineyards and some spectacular private tastings.  We capped off Saturday by going to a nice wine bar and doing a Pinot Noir Twitter Taste Live event, complete with live streaming video.

Sunday brought us more wine, and more friends.  We met up with  Liza (@Brixchick_Liza) and continued to tour much of Healdsburg ‘s wineries, tasting rooms, and coops. Robin and I purchased a case of wine from here, and a case of wine from there, selecting what we thought were the stand outs of the visits. The day wore on, and we began to wear out. Robin and I were freezing, as a cold and rainy Sonoma Day is not the same as a hot and humid Florida Day. Just as we were about to recommend we head on back to the hotel and call it a day, Thea mentioned that we were to meet Patrick, his wife Genevieve, and their family at Chateau Felice for one last, special tasting.  Patrick and Genevieve originally started Chateau Felice, and have since turned it over to their family. The couple have moved on to a new adventure, Iridesse Wines, and they’re going to do great things there.

View of Chateau Felice from Tasting Room

Click for a view of Chateau Felice from Tasting Room

Driving up to Chateau Felice, on Chalk Hill Road, took about 20 minutes from our last winery. However, as soon as we approached the gates to the Chateau, we were all glad we made the trip. A beautiful gate opened up to a sprawling estate with fantastic landscaping and property. We made our way around the water to a barn, which was the tasting room. There we were able to sample some of the future offerings from the barrels, as well as some finished product.

We met Barry & Phyllis Rodgers, vintners and proprietors of Chateau Felice. A lovely couple with outgoing personalities, they welcomed us to their home and their passion. We listened as they told us about the wine, the estate, and the future. Barry poured us wonderful barrel samples, and tempted us with futures.  Unfortunately, Robin and I had met our quota on wine purchases, and avoided those temptations.  We were not, however, as diligent with the current releases.

A gorgeous Sitting Area outside Cheateu Felice wine tasting room

A gorgeous Sitting Area outside Cheateu Felice wine tasting room

We next met Barry and Phyllis’ daughter Samantha Rodgers-Daniel, director of Sales & Marketing. She was pouring the current releases, and gave us a fabulous tour of all of the wines Chateau Felice had available for sale. We had the opportunity to taste 6 different wines, each more lovely than the last.  And here is where we go back to what Robert Mondavi and Jeff’s theme is all about. The people and the event made this wine moment memorable.

It was more than just Robin &  I in a wonderful place for the first time, enjoying each other and our passion for wine.  It was more than just friends enjoying a nice time.  It was the harmony made between the people, the location, and the wine that created “a time and a place” worth savoring.  We took our time, enjoying each others company. We took our time, enjoying each sip of wine. We took in the beautiful scenery, despite the cold and the rain. We savored our experience.  And Robin and I bought a mixed case of Chateau Felice wines to relive that experience again, and again.

Chateau Felice 2007 Black Label Zinfandel wine

Chateau Felice 2007 Black Label Zinfandel wine

The wine we selected to relive these fond memories was the Chateau Felice Black Label Zinfandel 2007. We selected this wine tonight because not only was it one of our favorite Zinfandel’s from the weekend’s tastings, but because we knew it would go nicely with our dinner of homemade lazagna.  I’ll let the video speak for itself in terms of what the wine has to offer, and leave this wine blog post with it’s mission in tact. I selected a wine that invoked fond memories. And now, I have the blog post, and video, to relive them again, and again.

Wine Blogging Wednesday 57 – California Dreaming from Matthew Scott on Vimeo.

I will, as the video said I would, discuss how the wine paired with the meal. I’m going to be making a conscious effort to discuss food and wine pairings in each of my wine reviews and wine blog posts, as many of my friends have asked for this information.  Between the live tastings, twitter taste live events, and my own tastings, I’ve been able to taste a variety of wine with an array of foods, and I want to discuss and share this knowledge.

As the flavors from the lasagna, the sauce, cheeses and pasta, coated the palate the wine transformed.  The Chateau Felice Zinfandel morphed from the bright fruit discussed in the video to this dark and deep wine. There was certainly a coffee and cocoa component on the finish that was very enjoyable.  Much of the zip and pepper was smoothed out, and the mouth feel was much more elegant with food. It was a great pairing, and I’m sure you’d enjoy it as well.

AS always, thank you to Lenn Thompson for helping the wine blogging community stay strong and focused, at least once per month! We appreciate the effort you took, and take, to keep Wine Blogging Wednesday going.

Wine Blogging Wednesday 55 – Syrah Showdown

Bridgeman Syrah 2005

Bridgeman Syrah 2005

Let me start off today’s Wine Blogging Wednesday post by saying no winemaker sets out to make a bad wine.  These men and women put their hearts and souls into each glass of their wine that gets poured. They create something they truly love and believe in, and put it out for the entire world to enjoy. Therefore, I have no right, ever, to say a wine is bad, or sucks, or undrinkable. I may utter those words, or worse, type them, but I have no right to. The “most” I am entitled to say is that I don’t enjoy the wine, whether it’s not my style or perhaps I prefer a similar wine for a better price.  So, whenever ou catch me saying “Wow, this is horrible”, translate that into “I really don’t enjoy this wine, it wasn’t for me.”

mmWine and Madeira for WBW51

Blandy's Malmsy Madeira dessert wine


I am SO excited to be writing my first wine blog contribution for Wine Blogging Wednesday. 1winedude picked an AWESOME TOPIC! Like Joe, I have a serious sweet-tooth, so a focus on dessert wines, specifically Madeira, excited me beyond belief! While I am a lover of port, I had never had a Madeira before, so this was a wine adventure for me. Oh, and contrary to circulating rumors, I did not drink a whole bottle of Pig Stai at the Twisted Oak release of the Spaniard event. I tried, though!