Chateau Peyros “Magenta” 2010

Chateau Peyros "Magenta" 2010

Chateau Peyros “Magenta” 2010

Please forgive my less-than-consistent updates as of late — between the holidays and other commitments, free time has been scarce. Busy is good, I suppose. But I’ve been looking forward to writing about this wine, and I have a trip planned to a Virginia winery this weekend as well that I plan to share with you.

Today I’d like to tell you about a fantastic Madiran wine given to me in a wine exchange with my manager at work. I traded her a lovely 2012 Russian River Pinot Noir (natch) and in return received this delicious wine. Madiran AOP is located just 35 miles north of the Pyrenees and 50 miles east of the Atlantic in Southwestern France. The combination of the steep mountainside vineyards and the Mediterranean climate help to ripen the grapes properly.

Madiran wines wines are made from red grapes only and the rules require that at least 40% of the wine blend consist of the region’s primary grape Tannat, though some are actually 100% and this is also permitted, or rather not enforced. It is a very age-worthy wine style because of the concentrated fruit and substantial tannins (hence the origin of the grape’s name) but therefore also can be astringent and rough when younger. The addition of Bordeaux stars Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon or the local varietal known as Fer Servadou soften it and help make it more drinkable, especially in its youth.  After a few years time it becomes incredibly smooth and supple and this wine was showing well already. Newer winery techniques such as micro-oxygenization lend additional aid in the softening process as does oak maturation. The structure and elegance of these wines can easily stand up to their Bordeaux cousins, and some of the most famous fetch similar prices. While this is the original and most famous region for Tannat, it is now finding great success in Uruguay, similar to that of Malbec in Argentina.

This 2010 Chateau Peyros “Magenta” is a 50-50 blend of Tannat and Cabernet Franc and on the palate also strikes a perfect balance of structure and fruit — blackberry, plum and cherry primarily. The name is derived from the purplish hue of the blend.  It also has a nice amount of baking spice, hints of smoke and an earthy, almost gamey note as well. A lasting finish included additional hints of spice that lingered on. Typical age before drinking is recommended at 4-8 years, so at five years old, this beauty was ready to drink. It’s also extremely affordable. I don’t know the price paid as it was a gift, but from a quick online search it looks like you can get them from $11-14.

Suggested food pairings are pork and lamb, or a fatty cheese like Roquefort — the fat easily cut through by the firm tannins. So we prepared braised pork chops with a dijon glaze and a spicy pilaf and it was a match made in heaven.


Beaulieu Vineyard “Beaurouge” Napa Valley 2010

Beaulieu Vineyard "Beaurouge" Napa Valley 2010

Beaulieu Vineyard “Beaurouge” Napa Valley 2010

Lately there’s been a whole lot of Napa wine in my life. After several weeks of negotiation and rushing samples here and there with the help of my team, I successfully outfitted a fancy New York Wedding with 14 cases of a nice 2009 Napa blend. I have also tasted a good number of other Napa wines lately for more customer recommendations. And so it only seemed appropriate at the time to go in on this half-price special on Last Bottle Wines with my co-worker. I think I paid a ridiculous $15 a bottle after the sale.

Native Frenchman Georges de Latour (edit: NOT related to Bordeaux’s Chateau Latour, despite the name or history of quality winemaking – forgive the confusion) fell in love with Napa on first sight and supposedly exclaimed “beau lieu!” or “beautiful land,” giving birth to the winery and vineyard name. One of the oldest in the region, It helped pioneer the development of Cabernet in the region and has had no shortage of 90+ wines to brag about since.

The nose has aromas of currant, plum and cocoa leaping from the glass, with the oak actually put in its place by all that’s going on in this blend. Normally I find a Napa red to be an oak bomb, but here the grapes do the talking, and for this reason, this is a Napa red I can really appreciate. Nothing at all against the successful formula employed for generations around the world, but to me oak should compliment and round out the wine, not personify it. The winemaker is Jeffrey Stambor, who studied here under Latour’s original winemaker André Tchelistcheff, and has been making wine here since 1989.

Today I’m very happy to not be paying $100+ a bottle for one of their wines. And what an interesting wine it is. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Touriga Naçional, Tempranillo and Charbono, it’s incredibly dark, rich and complex. It also carries a 14.5% abv. But what did I really think? The drink-by date was 2017 but both bottles are gone by the time of this writing.


Laurel Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir

Laurel Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir

Laurel Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir

If you know me you know I worship Pinot Noir. And if you know me well, you know I love Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. And since those wines sent me into a full-on frenzy of tasting Pinots from around the world over the following years, I discovered many other regions where they were producing amazing results (Burgundy aside). The region this one is from may be an obvious one to many a Pinot-lover, but for me all of this discovery happened more recently. Lately I’ve really been honing in on a second-favorite region for Pinot Noir, California’s Russian River Valley (though Carneros is not far behind). While I’m plotting my first Rochioli purchase, I drink a lot of this stuff and I need something a little more friendly to my budget.  Enter this lovely Laurel Cellars Pinot Noir. My colleague at work lives nearby and so we frequent the same shops. You know, for when I need something not from my company’s line… She recommended this one knowing my love for the grape, and this bottle I’m reviewing is actually my second. I drank the first one before I got around to writing about it. Again, I am down to the end of this bottle and just making absolutely sure I get to it this time. But that in itself is compliment enough.

On the nose there is smoky cedar, wild red berries and some leather and even a gamey meat note.. pancetta maybe? On the palate, there is cherry pie, wild raspberry, white pepper and more wood. The fruit is ripe yet expressive and complex, the acids and tannins very well-integrated, and the body and finish a happy medium. It is developed even more today, the third day since I opened it. A lovely wine and the reason why these never last in my house. Abv is 13.5 pct, and at $20, a great value to get such a delicious example of what’s being done in this region.

Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano D’Abruzzo “il vino dal tralcetto” 2010

Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 2010

Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2010

One of my favorite Italian wines is without a doubt, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. That is to say, it’s the Montepulciano grape, made in the region of Abruzzo. Don’t confuse it with Vino Nobile de Montepulciano from Tuscany, which is Sangiovese-based. The region of Abruzzo is centrally located on the Aegean (Eastern) coast of Italy nestled between Marche, Lazio and Molise. This is a wine that is not known for being especially age-worthy, or usually terribly complex. Some do age it, but it doesn’t really develop that much. It’s typically enjoyed young and is rich, spicy, ripe and bright. And that is why I love it. It is a quality wine, and a quality grape.

Save for Pescara and Teramo in the north, most Montepulciano’s are DOC-level wines. I’m good with that. I don’t have to break the bank, and I am as happy with it at a Trattoria accompanying a bowl of Carbonara as I am at home with one of my own concoctions. Its copious fruit means I can also enjoy it on its own. They pack a lot of flavor value per dollar.

This is one I find at my local shop, and quite concidentily I saw a magnum of it proudly displayed as decoration at a local trattoria today. It is an attractive bottle,  from its hand-written font, uneven-cut pleated paper, and straw ribbon tied to the neck with a stick. What is this a stick of, and I wonder is there any significance to it other than decoration?

The nose speaks of cherry, smoke, spice and a little black olive. Even a bit of tea now that I give it another whiff. On the palette is pronounced ripe plum and cherry and more spice, with bright but well-integrated acidity, and a medium body and finish. This is an estate-bottled Riserva, which indicates it is vinified and bottled on the same property the grapes are grown, and aged longer in oak though the oak too is well-integrated and fairly neutral. You can also see the age in the color of the wine, as its moving towards garnet on the rim. While DOC Montepulciano does not often see aging to the point that it can be labelled a Riserva, it certainly adds some nuance. And this is still in a weeknight wine budget. It was delicious with my sausage ravioli and pesto. It fits a rich white sauce as well as a red. I paid $14.99. You can probably find it for less. ABV is 13%. A very enjoyable wine! Can anyone tell me what “dal Tralcetto” means? I had a hard time finding the answer to that question online.

Chateau Ferrande Graves (white) 2010

ChIateau Ferrande Graves 2010

ChIateau Ferrande Graves 2010

Being both a writer and a fan of rich, flavorful reds lends me one disadvantage: the potential to seem biased. So, I thought it was time to show you all that I still love a good white wine. Sure, I’ve covered them before. But probably not as much as I could. Today I’d like to tell you about a lovely white Bordeaux I had last night. Purchased in a marathon sale from Last Bottle Wines, this was the first to arrive at my doorstep and it was just what I was in the mood for last night. You can’t pair red with everything. Well, almost…

Fully lemon in color, this wine comes from the large catch-all appellation, Graves AOC. Located just southeast of Bordeaux city along the Garonne river, it includes the more famous AOC of Pessac-Léognan (where the only non-Medoc first growth Château Haut-Brion resides) and the highly renowned sweet white wine-producing AOCs, Barsac and Sauternes. Sauternes is where Premier-Cru Supérieur Château Y’Quem resides.

While not as famous, its regionally-appellated reds, whites and sweet wines are still very well-regarded and for that reason, quite affordable. For example, great sweet white wines are also made in the appellations of Cérons AOC and Graves Supérieur AOC. Thriving in the gravel soils, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the reds, usually blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. And Château Ferrande Graves 2010 is your typical white from the region – a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon with a medium body and finish thanks to the Sémillon, but still crisp and refreshing thanks to the Sauvignon. Both the reds and whites of Graves AOC are more modern and forward than their austere Prémier Cru counterparts. I think this is a good thing and allows the appellation a bit of its own identity.

Graves is also the origin of Claret, the oft-traded Bordeaux wine of the middle ages and hence, is often considered the birthplace of the fine red wines of Bordeaux. It derives its name from the gravelly soil, where wine-making thrived long before the marshy areas of the Medoc were deemed suitable for viticulture. At the sale price I paid only $13 which is affordable indeed for such an enjoyable wine.

Wines That Rock: Rolling Stones 40 Licks Merlot 2010

Wines That Rock Rolling Stones 40 Licks Merlot 2010

Wines That Rock Rolling Stones 40 Licks Merlot 2010

Knowing me also as a musician and music lover, a co-worker gave me this wine as a gift.  Having read about this line of wines a while back, I was definitely intrigued, if not a little skeptical. Although, there are wines and producers out there with novelty marketing approaches that are a quality product/line. One example that comes to mind is the amusing, and tasty, “Goats Do Roam” wines. I was quite fond of their ‘Bored Doe” and the empty bottle still sits at my desk and brings me a chuckle when I look at it.  It also reminds me that wine can be fun, and shouldn’t need to be snobby. This brand has had a few vintages now and seems to be off to a good start, so I was eager to get to the bottom of this question, and the bottle!

What I found surprised me. Deep ruby in color, the bouquet on this wine was very expressive. The aromas of rich plum, cherry and smoke and toast from aging in American oak permeated, and it was a very pleasant nose indeed. Definitely reminiscent of those I enjoyed on the right bank of Bordeaux last October, with the exception of the American oak notes. On the palate, soft and beautifully balanced tannin and acidity made it a smooth drink, with more red and black fruit, vanilla and smoke accents. The body was a medium plus and the finish was longer than expected. This is a great little Merlot. Lately I haven’t had many California Merlots that have made an impression on me (I’m probably just looking in the wrong places) but this one was delicious.

The wines are all made in Mendocino County, California by the Mendocino Wine Company. This area is in the Northern Coast region, north of Napa and Sonoma. The line has several wines, with other wines/varietals named after The Police, The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, and a Woodstock-themed wine with labels to match. I will have to try them all. I’ve heard better reviews of some than others, but at the end of the day it comes down to personal taste.  They have won a few awards to date and while of course making a quality wine is the ultimate goal, the mission is also to make drinking the wine an experience. To quote: “Wines That Rock is meant to be fun, a conversation starter, an eye popping party gift that makes you do a double take once you actually pop the cork and taste what’s inside. ”

Also noteworthy is all the wines are made with sustainable farming practices as well as green energy and eco-friendly packaging. In fact, in 2007, Mendocino Wine Company became the first winery in the United States to achieve carbon neutral status and have won Governor’s awards for these practices and achievements.  And, partial proceeds from every bottle sold goes to music’s largest charity, the T.J Martell Foundation to Give Back. They also have contests on the site, including a current prize of a Keith Richards-autographed guitar and a $1,000 Amazon gift card. They provide the wines for the Rolling Stone wine club and the Guitar Aficianado wine club, true to their mission. They even poured their first vintages backstage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden, while Bruce Springsteen, Metallica, U2 and Mick Jagger were playing.

I paired it with a freshly grilled cheeseburger and potato salad. The wine paired perfectly with my BBQ fare. I also listened to the album ’40 Licks’ as suggested while enjoying my first taste. For a moment I felt connected to the winemaker Mark Beaman, and the process. After all, he too was listening to it while making the wine, hoping to express the essence of the album through wine, if that is possible.

This bottle having been a gift, I looked up the pricing online and the average retail price is $16. I think this is worth it, it was a very enjoyable wine. Mick and the boys would be thrilled that their wine did indeed rock.

Visit them at

DOCG Reds of Piedmont, Part 1 – Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Le Orme 2010

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Superiore le Orme 2010

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superiore le Orme 2010

Except for maybe Willamette or Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, Napa Cabernet and a few other star American wines, Italian wines are among my favorite, and reds in particular. While I cover a lot of American wines on this blog, there are many vineyards within a short distance, and hence there is a certain convenience factor. In fact I drove by two more I have yet to visit in the beautiful (and presently snow-covered) Farmington valley the other day on the way to my ski destination. That being said, I am very fond of many other wines from my homeland. But many at the top of the list are on the opposite coast, not much shorter than a trip to Europe I’m afraid. I will get to visit them one of these days. I also like to support local winegrowers and winemakers, one of which I hope to be one day. If I could get to Italian vineyards as easily, there would be a lot more of that talk here! Fortunately though they are easy to get. Well, most, anyways.

Though there are many, I’d say Piedmont has the most different types of wines that I regularly enjoy. Not to mention, the region has the most DOC and DOCGs of any in Italy. So the odds are already in its favor. I love a good Nero D’Avola, Montepulciano or Primitivo, but let’s talk Piedmont for the moment. I would like to note that there are also very nice whites in the region including Gavi and Roero Arneis, some of which I will review, perhaps even after this series. We went to a wine tasting event focused on Piedmont wines last week, and I discovered some great new wines. While Barolo and Barbaresco are the ruling reds of the region, I can’t wait to tell you about my first meeting with Gattinara in the last installment. But unlike Gattinara, Barolo or Barbaresco which are made from Nebbiolo, Barbera is it’s own variety. It actually makes up 50% of the red wine DOC output from the region.

This wine I’ve had a few times now. It’s a perfect example of a quality Barbera D’Asti, ruby in color, low tannin, high acidity, fruit-forward and medium-bodied. It has nice black cherry notes on the nose and palate and some smoke, earth, and oak aromas as well. It is made from hand-picked old-vine grapes. The vineyard’s southwestern and eastern-facing hills are full of the calcium and minerals perfect for growing this variety. Once vinified, it is then aged a year in oak.  It is 12.5% abv and you can find it at most larger U.S. retailers for $10-$14 which is a great bargain, and another reason I keep coming back. After doing a little research on comparitive pricing, I see it is also very well reviewed and popular on several online wine retail sites. This doesn’t surprise me. I had it with chicken cacciatore and it was a fantastic pairing for both the poultry and the red sauce.

I have yet to try Barbera D’Alba, a slightly fuller and less acidic (and more expensive) Barbera, but it’s on the list once I can find it in a store. Seems there are not many in Connecticut that have it. Based on how much I enjoy the Barbera D’Asti, I will track it down so I can do a side-by-side comparison! In the meantime, I highly recommend it.  In the next installment, Barbaresco, and some homemade porkchops.