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.

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International Cabernet Day: Sueño Profundo 2012 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon

I Love Cabernet

I Love Cabernet

Happy International Cabernet Day!

This is one of my more frequently enjoyed varieties, and I’m always happy to enjoy it with friends and family, or even alone, if I must. I saved a doozy for the occasion. My sister and I are both enjoying the wine very much, but given the pedigree of its terroir I can’t say I’m surprised. And without a doubt, 2012 was a stellar vintage in the region. They’re saying it might be the best vintage here since 1976. While we’ve all opened something before that had a better reputation than presentation, this one does not. I got it through a special at wineaccess.com.

Sueño Profundo 2012 Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon

Sueño Profundo 2012 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa is very much about the family wineries. The first commercial winery to make its roots in the area was that of Charles Krug (now owned by the Mondavi family) and more than a century later — and a short unfortunate stint known as prohibition — the region is still dominated by family-run wineries with decades or more of wine-making under their belts. Inglenook (now owned by Francis Ford Coppola), Beaulieu vineyards (France’s Latour family) and Beringer are just a few others of the families you might recognize who make wine in the region. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the region many years ago, riding on the Napa Valley wine train and a dinner and tasting at Markham in St Helena. I hope to get back there soon on business.

Stag’s Leap is one of the notable appellations (or AVAs), consisting of 19 wineries and vineyards, their own growers’ association and a reputation for exceptional Cabernet. There is no better example of that than Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars taking best Cabernet at the 1976 Judgement of Paris, that put California wine on the map for good. While this wine is not from that vineyard nor does it snag the prices of some of the wines from the region, it is an elegant, expressive, and delicious Cabernet that did not disappoint nor did it break the bank. A perfect pick, if you ask me.

The wine pours a deep purple in the glass, with notes of tobacco, blackberry, cassis and subtle well-integrated oak on the nose. On the palate, bright notes of succulent blackberries continue to dominate, with good acidity and balanced tannin and a lingering finish. Everything in the right place, and it should only continue to age well. However it is worth noting that I had only one bottle, so it won’t get the opportunity! Rest assured, I will be buying more, if there’s any left. This wine clearly demonstrates the success of the 2012 vintage, and Napa (and Stag Leap’s) best.

There are around 500 wineries in Napa now, all working to further the fine reputation of the area and its grapes as well as supporting its own local community through charity fundraisers and programs. After seeing much of the damage in the area from the recent earthquake last weekend, I hope the 2014 vintage pulls through alright. With such a tight community, I feel confident they will. Go pick up a nice bottle and help your favorite Napa producers at the same time.

 

Oh, Bordeaux! (Day 2)

Harvesters in the Medoc

Harvesters in the Medoc

We just got back from another great visit to the North Fork of Long Island’s wine country, and I have some great experiences to talk about. We had to cut the trip a day short due to a little hurricane named Sandy that just rolled through with a vengeance, but I think Saturday was a fantastic day all around, and I am happy to have gotten home easily and safely and well stocked on great wine for the storm. I will recap next week, but first I wanted to talk about the rest of my Bordeaux trip.
We woke up the next morning (god I love French continental breakfasts) and got right on the bus. On the way to our tour of St. Emilion, we made a small detour and drove past the one and only Petrus and Cheval Blanc where harvesters were busy out in the vines.

St. Emilion

St. Emilion

Our wonderful trip organizer didn’t miss a single detail. Oh what I saw. We then made our way to the small ‘train’ car that would guide us through the beautiful medieval town of St. Emilion. A recording played over the intercom walking us through the history of the town and its wine. But really the scenery was what this was all about. Stunning, and I mean stunning views of rolling hills, castles, cathedrals and cellars were around every postcard-like turn. The limestone cellars pretty much ran the full perimeter of the town underground many wineries and vineyards and the cathedral in the center of town has an even older one from the early middle ages below it, carved out of the limestone to around 90 ft deep. We took a walk through the village afterwards to pick up this and that and get more photos. Then it was on to the left bank and the Medoc.
Our drive took us over the much larger Gironde and past downtown Bordeaux, actually the 5th largest city and financial center of France, and the airport. We then made our way up into the Medoc, passing countless large Châteaux in Margaux, St. Julien, and then Pauillac. You could clearly see the gravel in the vineyard beds and these were much larger in size, upwards of 60 hectares each.  Harvesters were out in numbers here too.

Château Pichon-Longueville

Château Pichon-Longueville

We arrived at our destination, Chateau Pichon-Longueville, formerly “Baron” before it was acquired by its current owner AXA insurance, who also restored it shortly thereafter. It was built in 1851 in a style that was a tribute to the famous Loire Chateau Azay-le-Rideau. It was a small castle right out of a fairy tale with a shallow square lake in front.  The original owner (Pierre de Rauzan) also owned the land and vineyards across the road and split the two between his sons and daughters, this being the Château the sons were in charge of until selling to AXA.  The daughters’ Château, Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is also fully operational still.

Our visit started with meeting the head winemaker, property manager, an AXA representitive and their negociant, or the person who arranges the sales of their wines to buyers and vice versa. They gave us a brief overview and then we sat down to a gourment harvest lunch with them and their staff, which included several of their top vintage reds and some whites they make under the label Château Suduiraut. There was a typical (but of high quality) white Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon and Semillon, and then an outstanding Sauternes made of the same varietals, that just blew me away. I couldn’t get enough.  These bottles are all upwards of 100 euros a piece, and were flowing freely about the table.  We then went on a short vineyard tour where we were told of the history of both Châteaux and their purchase and upgrades by AXA. Incidently there are a few other Châteaux in the region owned by large companies, another being Chanel.

Barrel Cellar, Pichon-Longueville

Barrel Cellar, Pichon-Longueville

We then started our tour and tasting. As we reached the vineyards they told us about how they harvest each year. This vineyard alone is 73 hectares and most of the vines are 30 year-old Cabernet and Merlot, with some Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. We then went to the large barrel room underneath the square lake, full of room after room of hundreds of barrels of this and last years vintages. These were all bought en-primeur already, hundreds of millions of euros worth! This is definitely a larger operation than its right bank competitors. We made our way next into the vinification rooms, with 40 large steel tanks fermenting and pumping over large batches of wine, and even got to walk along the upper metal walkway to view the wine pumping over the caps in the tops of the tanks.

Pichon tasting

Pichon tasting

We completed the tour by going to the tasting room and trying about 6 different vintages of their incredible red wines. While I didn’t bring any home, I know where I can order some and will be picking up a few for special occasions.

On the way out we took a quick detour through St. Estephe and by Lafite, which was a nice final treat. Then it was back to the airport for our return to the UK and then home. What an amazing experience. More than a few times some of us wanted to offer to stay and help harvest, being paid in wine and food just like their workers! Maybe one day…

Should you want to visit yourself…

www.pichonlongueville.com

D2  33250 Pauillac, France

05 56 73 17 17

Paumanok Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Paumanok Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Paumanok Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

In my continuing mission to cover my memorable trip to the north fork of Long Island, tonight I am reviewing another gem from Paumanok Vineyards. I brought home their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon after a tasting flight there in March and saved it for a special occasion. Last weekend, we went to our friends’ barbecue at a rooftop cabana in Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn rooftop cabana? I know, it was very cool. Stunning vistas of Brooklyn and lower Manhattan as a backdrop, and giant umbrellas and wicker and cloth cabana-style benches completed the picture, along with the company.  It was a great barbecue and I broke out the 2005 Cabernet to share with my friends. They too shared several great wines including an amazing rosé, also from the north fork as it turns out. And my sister-in-law brought a nice Australian Cab-Shiraz which was another excellent barbecue red.

My burger with melted Danish blue cheese was about as perfect a pairing as you could have with this nicely aged Paumanok Cab. As I mentioned earlier in the blog, there were only 351 cases made in this vintage. This one had the cork, perhaps preceding the screw caps so prevalent and close to the hearts of these winemakers today. Or maybe just to appease those who wouldn’t buy a 7 year old cab because it had the screw cap. The color was a deep ruby and on the nose there were distinct black fruit aromas of prunes and blackcurrant, as well as some subtle well-integrated oak.  On the palate the tannins were firm, and blackberry, black cherry, and oak and mild peppery flavors abounded.  It was incredibly supple and smooth, and the finish was long. This was a top wine, and as you would expect, it was practically bliss with that burger. Hopefully I’ll find this one closer to home like the Bedell, and if not I am planning to return not so long from now. I hope to make acquaintance with some new wines as well as pick up some of my new favorites.

Baugier Montagne Saint Emilion 2009

Baugier St Emilion 2009

Baugier St Emilion 2009

Yesterday, I got back my WSET advanced exam results, and I was very pleased with them so I wanted to celebrate. On the way home we picked up this bottle of Montagne St. Emilion. I know it’s not from St. Emilion AOC proper but still, this was VERY-well priced at about $15. And it’s very very close geographically. Not to mention, 2009 was a fantastic vintage all around in Bordeaux. Just goes to show what a name and a piece of land can do to a price. Of course, the same holds true in many regions in France, the world, and in fact anything from real estate to cheese. I wasn’t expecting top St Emilion Châteaux results so the price was probably appropriate, but still. What’s better is that it was good. So good that I well, finished it. At about 70% Merlot, it poured a medium-plus intensity and the nose was nice and plummy with a bit of the classic Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon fragrant black fruit notes which complete the blend. I picked up very little oak, if any. The tannins were very smooth, and it went incredibly well with my chicken tarragon and wild rice. Just goes to show what you can find in a large discount wine shop. I enjoy scanning the racks there as much as the fancy wine shop with all the expensive stuff I pick up on special occasions. Turns out there’s a new one about the size of the Home Depot open in town, and I have avoided it only because I’m afraid I will walk out of there wine-rich and wallet-poor. That’s ok when I’ve got the means, though.