4/18/2016

#WinesOfRoussillon with M. Chapoutier, Chateau Planeres, Gérard Bertrand, Domaine Cabirau, Domaine Cazes and Domaine La Tour Vieille

Hello Friends,

I recently had an opportunity to join a virtual roundtable with Snooth and friends to explore the Roussillon region of southern France. Not to be confused with the greater Languedoc-Roussillon, the southern province of Roussillon sits within the Languedoc but is a much smaller wine-growing area. The Roussillon curves around the Mediterranean coast to the east and is surrounded by three mountainous areas to the north (the Pyrenees), west (the Mont Canigou), and south (the Albères). The region’s varied landscape, ample sunshine, and warm-to-hot climate are good for the cultivation of vines. The Roussillon contains 14 Appellation d'Origine Protégée (AOP) wines produced from upwards of fifteen grape varieties and produces dry still wines and fortified sweet wines. Varieties include Grenache Blanc, Muscat, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Carignane - - all of which are known and sought out (in blends or on their own) by many wine savvy US consumers.

#WinesOfRoussillon Tasting with Snooth & Friends

Once known for mass produced ordinary wines, a move from large cooperatives to small-scale quality production; lower yields; improved vineyard management and cellar techniques, have ushered in a renaissance in the region’s wine industry with a focus on quality and wines that show a sense of place. All of the wines I sampled for this tasting were under $30 and each possessed very good quality-to-price ratio. Whether bright and white, rich and red, or scrumptious and sweet, consider adding wines from the Roussillon to your dinner table. The region’s red wines will go well with just about anything off the grill (hint-hint). For further information and where you can find these wines, please see my tasting notes below.

M. Chapoutier 2014 Bila-Haut Blanc

M. Chapoutier 2014 Bila-Haut Blanc (SRP $16): This is a consistently enjoyable and affordable wine. A blend of Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, and Macabeu, this wine offers soft notes of citrus zest, bright yellow-fleshed fruit, bruised apple, and a suggestion of wet stone on the nose and palate. It is medium-bodied, clean, and fresh in the mouth, with well-placed acidity that will complement a wide variety of foods. It sips nicely on its own, too –particularly on a warm spring or summer day outdoors with friends. I’ve seen this wine under the SRP and it’s a great candidate for a house-white, so be sure to stock up. You may notice the circular bumps on the label. Since the mid 90s, producer Michel Chapoutier has put Braille on his labels as tribute to Maurice de la Sizeranne, who invented the first abbreviated version of Braille and whose family owned Mr. Chapoutier’s renowned Hermitage vineyard, La Sizeranne. Region: Roussillon, France. Other info: ABV 13%, all stainless, cork enclosure, imported by HB Wine Merchants in NY. Click here to find this wine.

Chateau Planeres 2013 Les Aspres La Romaine

Chateau Planeres 2013 Les Aspres La Romaine (SRP $25): Grown in the foothills of the Albères Mountains on clay and gravel soils, this appealing blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre, and 20% black Grenache has a supple entry leading to blackberry, plum, and ripe raspberries followed by a dusting of white pepper and cocoa powder. The flavors are underpinned by a firm core of acidity and supported by a frame of refined tannins that gain momentum through the lingering finish. There’s some richness, a lot of freshness, and a bright streak that extends from start to finish. This wine opens nicely the longer it stays in your glass and becomes quite enjoyable, especially when paired with food. It’s also a good cellar candidate, as it has all the right components to develop additional bottle complexity and further integrate. Region: Les Aspres, Roussillon, France. Other info: ABV 13%, manual harvest, maturation in new Burgundy barrels for 12 months, cork enclosure, imported by The Wine Source, Inc. in CA. Click here to find this wine.

Gérard Bertrand 2011 Grand Terroir Tautavel 

Gérard Bertrand 2011 Grand Terroir Tautavel (SRP $18): Grown in the small village of Tautavel, this wine is composed of 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, and 15% Carignane. Tautavel is steeped in history and situated in the Roussillon between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean Sea. Ripe juicy flavors of black cherries, red plum, and blackberry preserve are nicely wrapped in a ribbon of mocha spice and pepper. In the mouth, it is full-bodied and well-proportioned; somewhat concentrated, yet light on its feet thanks to a nice lift of acidity. Medium-firm tannins anchor a medium-long, satisfying finish. While delightful on its own, it would be even better with anything off the grill. Region: Les Tautavel, Roussillon, France. Other info: ABV 15%, manual harvest, vinified separately before blended, 10 months in barrel, bottle aged before release, cork enclosure, imported by USA Wine West in CA. Click here to find this wine.

Domaine Cabirau 2013 Serge & Nicolas

Domaine Cabirau 2013 Serge & Nicolas (SRP $26): Wines of the Maury Sec appellation must be blends of at least two varieties. This wine is composed of 60% Grenache, 28% Syrah, and 12% Carignane. The Cabirau is a 13.5 acre vineyard in the Roussillon. This site includes a prized 3.5 acre parcel of 60 year-old vines, which is where the Grenache fruit comes from. Deep ruby in color and aromatically pleasing, an enticing mixture of spiced black cherries and dark skinned fruit tones coat the mouth with an appealing but slight mineral layer and undertones of bitter cacao. The flavors are framed in dusty tannins; particularly on the mid-palate, with a medium-long peppery finish. This robust wine would be a wonderful addition to any feast with substantive fare. Region: Maury Sec, Roussillon, France. Other info: ABV 14.5%, manual harvest, Grenache unoaked, Syrah & Carignane undergoes ML and 5 months maturation in 500L demi-muids, cork enclosure, imported by Hand Picked Selections, Inc. in VA. Click here to find this wine.

Domaine Cazes 2011 Muscat de Rivesaltes

Domaine Cazes 2011 Muscat de Rivesaltes (SRP $15): This selection delivers a lot of appeal for a very reasonable price. A 50/50 blend of Muscat d'Alexandrie and Muscat à petit grains, this wine is made with organic and biodynamic grown grapes. The Muscat de Rivesaltes is a Muscat-based appellation specializing in naturally sweet, fortified wines. Medium amber in color, an inviting nose leads to flavors of dried stone fruit, white flower, honey, and citrus peel with an intriguing nutty component. Ample acidity gives balance to the wine’s rich texture and sweetness, inviting another sip. Enjoy as an after dinner sipper with fruit tarts, pound cake or blue-veined cheeses. I should note that this is a 750ml, not a half-bottle. Region: Muscat de Rivesaltes, Roussillon, France. Other info: ABV 15.5%, cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

Domaine La Tour Vieille 2014 Banyuls Rimage

Domaine La Tour Vieille 2014 Banyuls Rimage (SRP $30 / 500ml):): Banyuls is a fortified, sweet wine produced at the southern edge of the Roussillon in southern France. This selection is a ‘Banyuls Rimage,’ meaning the fruit comes from the same vintage. Such wines are only made in great years. A blend of Grenache Noir and Carignane, this wine is rich and concentrated with leading flavors of dried cherries, blackberry preserve and molasses, followed by bittersweet chocolate and a wisp of brown spices. It’s full bodied, nicely structured and harmonious, ending in a long, luscious finish. Banylus wines are served as dessert wines as well as aperitifs throughout France. This selection could be enjoyed by itself as an after dinner sipper or pair with chocolate-based desserts, pecan pie or caramelized nut tarts. Approximately 500 cases of this wine were produced. Region: Banyuls, Roussillon, France. Other info: foot-pressed, extended maceration, ABV 15.5%, cork enclosure, imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants in CA. Click here to find this wine.

Have a question about this post? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at myvinespot@yahoo.com or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter. Stay tuned ...more to come. Happy Sipping, my friends! Disclosure: These wines were provided for review. Thoughts are my own.

Live, Love, Laugh, Tweet, Sip, Enjoy!

4/11/2016

South African Wine Flight: Ken Forrester, Paul Cluver, Groot Constantia, Creation & Lammershoek

Hello Friends,

Just about every day, as wine o'clock approaches, you can find me uncorking or unscrewing a new wine adventure. Being a wine enthusiast, a wine writer, and someone who appreciates the liquid expression of place, a person’s vision, and Mother Nature’s influence, I find wine to be one of the most intriguing beverages out there. It is an area of interest where you never run out of great people to meet and new things to taste and learn.


The five wines selected for this post are all from South Africa. The region has a diverse landscape with a wide range of growing conditions, allowing for a good mix of cool and warm climate grape varieties. From indigenous varieties like Pinotage and regional staples such as Chenin Blanc, to welcome surprises like Gewürztraminer, there is something to suit just about every palate preference when it comes to South African wine. Many of the region's wines offer good value and will suit your pocket preferences, too. For further information and where you can find these wines, please see my tasting notes below.

Ken Forrester 2013 FMC

Ken Forrester 2013 FMC (SRP $65): South Africa has the most Chenin Blanc plantings in the world and Ken Forrester crafts several nice examples. In fact, their vineyards are often referred to as the “Home of Chenin Blanc.” FMC is their flagship bottling produced from low-yielding old bush vines planted in 1974. It is a mouth-filling and generous wine that exhibits a rich mixture of sweet melon and ripe stone fruit flavors merged with citrus peel, honey, and notes of spice. The texture has an unctuous quality to it which is balanced and lifted by a fresh, zesty acidity that drives through the long, satisfying finish. This is a [very] delicious solitary sipper that can also stand up to more substantive foods such as scallops in cream sauce, lobster with garlic butter, or risotto dishes. Region: Stellenbosch, South Africa. Other info: ABV 14%, wild yeast fermentation in new French oak 400L barrels, maturation on lees, total of 12 months in barrel, screw cap enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

Paul Cluver 2014 Gewürztraminer

Paul Cluver 2014 Gewürztraminer (SRP $16.99): Grown in the cool-climate Elgin Valley; situated just south-east of Cape Town, South Africa, this wine is fresh and beautifully aromatic. Estate plantings of Gewürztraminer date back to 1987 and the Culver family has owned the property since 1896. The cool 2014 vintage resulted in a sleek and streamlined wine that’s unmistakably Gewürztraminer – though you won’t see much coming out of South Africa (at least on US store shelves). This wine is clean and precise, with bright aromas and flavors of rose petals, lychee fruit, stone fruit and lemongrass. There’s a hint of sweetness that’s nicely balanced by crisp acidity. Enjoy this delightful wine with moderately spicy ethnic cuisine; particularly Chinese or Thai fare. Region: Elgin Valley, Western Cape, South Africa. Other info: ABV 12.6%, 2,950 cases produced, screw cap enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

Groot Constantia 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

Groot Constantia 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $18): Steeped in history, Groot Constantia was founded in 1685 and is South Africa's oldest wine farm. Sauvignon Blanc is the second most widely planted white wine grape variety in the region. This example is all about texture and freshness. On the palate, flavors of vibrant citrus fruit, chopped herb, kiwi, flint, and a whisper of green pepper combine to deliver a racy wine with pronounced mouth-feel and a medium-long, crisp finish. This wine is a great match for grilled white fish, shellfish, and other light dishes. I enjoyed a glass with pan-seared sea scallops. Region: Constantia, Western Cape, South Africa. Other info: ABV 13.5%, all stainless, aged sur lie for three months, cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

Creation Wines 2013 Pinot Noir

Creation Wines 2013 Pinot Noir (SRP $30): This is a delicious, well-crafted Pinot Noir from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in the Cape South Coast region of South Africa. The area’s cooler climate produced a supple and expressive wine, chock full of ripe black cherries, dried cranberries, and brown spices, with a kiss of sweet oak and vanilla bean, backed by a wisp of minerality. It is fuller-bodied and nicely textured in the mouth, and there’s a refreshing kick of acidity from start to finish. Overall, this is a charming, harmonious wine that’s meant to be served at the dinner table. Grilled rack of lamb comes to mind first, but I totally agree with the producer’s recommended pairing of grilled tuna. Region: Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, South Africa. Other info: ABV 14.3%, 12 months barrel again – 25% new, 75% 2nd & 3rd fill, cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

Lammershoek Winery LAM 2013 Pinotage

Lammershoek Winery LAM 2013 Pinotage (SRP $15.99): Rightly or wrongly, most people I know tend to have a love-hate relationship with Pinotage (a red grape unique to South Africa that’s a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault). I don’t have an issue with the variety myself, but I understand why it has such a dubious reputation. I always tell people who have a less than favorable experience, that if you don’t succeed with the first bottle, try, try again, because there are some nice examples out there. This sustainably farmed, 100% Pinotage is defined by delicacy: in color, aroma, and flavor. It is lean and very streamlined, with tart cherry and raspberry flavors, followed by a smidgen of cigar box and smoke, finishing with a refreshing pop of acidity. It can be served slightly chilled (around 55°F), particularly in the warmer months. Overall, this is a somewhat atypical but welcomed example of Pinotage that will partner nicely with tomato-based pasta dishes, gourmet burgers, or pizza. Region: Swartland, South Africa. Other info: ABV 12.5%, certified sustainable, agglomerated cork enclosure. Click here to find this wine.

To learn more about the wines of South Africa, I highly recommend the Wines of South Africa website. Follow them on Twitter at @WOSA_USA.

Have a question about this post? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at myvinespot@yahoo.com or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter. Stay tuned ...more to come. Happy Sipping, my friends! Disclosure: These wines were provided for review. Thoughts are my own.

Live, Love, Laugh, Tweet, Sip, Enjoy!

4/04/2016

Quick Sip: Haden Fig 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Hello Friends,

Today’s Quick Sip is the Haden Fig 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. When it comes to finding good quality Pinot Noir at super value prices, I can often sound like a broken record. Over the years, and countless bottles of Pinot later, my thoughts remain unchanged: you generally get what you pay for when it comes to Pinot Noir. An ‘Andrew Jackson’ — i.e., $20, is usually the ticket to a satisfying entry-level bottle. Pinot Noir, often called the 'heartbreak grape' for its finicky & fickle nature, is not the easiest grape to grow or produce, and it is very picky about where it will thrive. The Willamette Valley of Oregon is one of several wine producing regions widely regarded for producing world-class examples of Pinot Noir.

The fruit for this wine was sourced from Cancilla Vineyard, Bjornson Vineyard, and Croft Vineyard; all of which are dry farmed. Both Cancilla and Croft vineyard are certified organic. The resultant wine is delicate and feminine with subtle characteristics. It is an overall satisfying and good value-priced Pinot Noir for the money. You can find this wine well under the SRP ($28) and other good deals at Cork Exclusive where free shipping is included on any three or more bottles of wine or spirits. For further information on this Pinot Noir, please see my tasting notes below.

Haden Fig 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Haden Fig 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (SRP $28): Medium ruby in color, this is a relatively delicate, streamlined, and restrained Pinot Noir. Cranberry and dried cherry aromas extend to the palate and are combined with earth tones and underbrush accents. Light to medium in body, the wine has pleasantly tart acidity, gentle tannins, and a medium-long lingering finish. This is a very drinkable, well-balanced Pinot Noir that won’t break the piggy bank. It would make a nice addition to any dinner table or backyard cookout, so stock up now! Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon. Other info: ABV 13.5%, 10 months aging in 27% new French oak, 1, 025 cases produced, cork enclosure.

Click here to find this wine. It has a suggested retail price of $28 and is available for as low as $21.99 on CorkExclusive with FREE SHIPPING on any 3 or more bottles of wine or spirits!

This review is sponsored by: 

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Get the Haden Fig 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir for just $21.99 with FREE SHIPPING on any 3 or more bottles of wine or spirits!"

Have a question about this post? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at myvinespot@yahoo.com or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter. Stay tuned -- more to come. Happy Sipping, my friends! Disclosure: This wine was provided for review. Thoughts are my own.

Live, Love, Laugh, Tweet, Sip, Enjoy!

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