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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Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2006

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de LaLande 2006

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de LaLande 2006

This is a very special wine from my collection that I open today for a very special reason. This was a wine I intended to keep many more years, and share with a new friend and colleague, Jon. We visited Bordeaux together in 2012 on a work trip, and visited Pichon. While we actually visited the brothers’ chateau across the street – Baron de Pichon Longueville, the two chateaux straddle the same stretch of road through the heart of Pauillac, and from my tasting today, the terroir and style of the sisters’ Ch Comtesse de Lalande is a beauty of equal nature. 2006 is aged enough to enjoy, though I have no doubt it would only become exponentially elegant with age. And there’s always more, when I have the money. I had wanted to try theirs as well on the trip, and its close enough for me in regards to the Pichon Baron to drink in tribute for this reflective occasion. That day our group toured the vineyards that stretched on for what seemed like eternity, observed the famous gravelly soils of the region at the roots of the vines, toured the winery, had lunch with the winemaker, negociant and winery manager (drinking plenty of Pichon and their sultry Sauternes the Ch Suduiraut) and then tasted through a vertical of these amazing Bordeaux. While the prices weren’t really easily affordable, I’ve had my eye on these wines at a few local retailers ever since, just in case. And I was lucky enough to receive this bottle for Christmas from my wife and father-in-law.

During this outing, and the rest of the chateaux we visited in Bordeaux, Jon and I became close friends with a strong bond over wine, and later, the Tottenham Hot Spurs who we’d go see together a year later in London. Despite being separated by the Atlantic, we talked regularly about wines, particularly Bordeaux, for which he was a huge fan and collector. We continued to share our love for wine and talked about when we would drink this, and many other of our prized bottles together. And I was doing everything I could to get him a position on my team in the American office so we could one day work together doing what we love.  We spoke up to the last, until I received the unexpected tragic news of his passing just over a week ago while on vacation. It has been a rough go. But I knew one thing for sure, that I would open this bottle as soon as I returned home, and pay tribute to his memory.  Price and maturity were no longer giving me pause – this is a celebration of his life and our friendship and bond over wine.

The color is deep purple with some color variation on the rim from the age. On the nose, developing elegant black fruit abounds, with notes of perfume and spicy French oak, of course! On the palate, while still young, it is an incredibly supple wine with a perfect balance of fruit, tannin and acid which will all mellow in time. The body is of medium weight and it has a nice finish for its age. An excellent wine by any standard, and worthy of such an occasion. I will be pairing it with some steak shortly to much success I have no doubt.

 

 

Tardieu-Laurent Côte-Rôtie 2008

Tardieu-Laurent Côte-Rôtie 2008

Tardieu-Laurent Côte-Rôtie 2008

Apparently, it’s “National Drink Wine Day.” I thought that was every day. But in any case, please feel free to raise a glass to yourself or a loved one, and enjoy another wine-centric entry on my blog.

Another Christmas has gone by, and another wonderful wine gift from my father-in-law showed up at my door to ring in some merriment. This past year it was in the form of 8 bottles of Tardieu-Laurent Côte-Rôtie 2008. Yes, I am lucky! This time the wine came from my (and now one of his) favorite sources, Last Bottle Wines.  I had the first of these just after Christmas, and in the fray of a busy holiday season, I am finally getting around to writing about it while I enjoy the third.  We shared that first bottle with friends in Washington DC over dinner at their home, and caught up on at least a year of stories. What better way to do it? We paired it with grilled burgers and salmon. A little cold was not stopping a good grilling. The wine went beautifully with both entrées.

As you may or may not know, the laws of the Côte-Rôtie appellation dictate that this wine be 80-100% Syrah, with the other 20% allowed being the more prestigious white grape of the Rhône, Viognier. The rest of the northern Rhône appellations — Cornas, Hermitage, St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage — also require the only red grape in the blend to be Syrah.  Cornas and Hermitage have to be 100% Syrah whereas St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage also permit around 10% of white grapes, which can include Marsanne and Roussanne.  The wines of the Côte-Rôtie are in their own right catching up with the stature, and complexity of the very famous Hermitage and the Southern Rhone’s Châteauneuf. They age beautifully and have been made here for centuries.

The wine is purple in color, smoothly balanced and has well-integrated acidity and tannin. On the nose are ripe black and red fruits, leather, wildflowers and the game and black pepper notes that are classic Syrah. Côte-Rôtie literally translates into the ‘roasted slope,’ paying tribute to the abundant sunshine afforded these steep, eastern-facing slopes. While aspect contributes the sunshine, altitude lends the cooling counterpart needed to perfectly ripen grapes, particularly grapes like Syrah which require ample time to develop fully. The Viognier brings the nice floral note to the wine and the schist soil adds the final piece of the wine’s terroir profile by retaining heat and aiding drainage and root strength. While I don’t know (and don’t want to, being a gift) what they were pricing them at, wine-searcher has the average price for this vintage at $69 a bottle.

It is delicous yet again. I better save the rest for a while, but it is hard to resist such an elegant and structured wine.

Shatter 2011 Grenache

Shatter 2011 Grenache

Shatter 2011 Grenache

One of my favorite new discoveries of late is this wine. While at a new restaurant in town a few weeks ago, the waitress insisted I at least try this wine and brought me a sample. She thought it was fantastic, and she was right. I loved this rich juicy red – it went equally well with my gourmet mac and cheese as it did with my strip steak with green chimichurri sauce. A few days later, I saw it in my local wine store at $30 and bought it immediately. I was sold by the 2 glasses I had at the restaurant, for sure. While back there last week for dinner I was eager to have my father try it but it was all out already, and that waiter too was raving about it.

It comes from the Vin de Pays Cotes Catalanes in France. Geographically its in the Pyranees-Orientals department of France – in the wine world, Roussillon. As this wine does not adhere to the Cotes du Roussillon appellation rules, it falls within this VDP. But to fall would imply it is bad, which it is certainly not!

On the nose it has ripe black fruit as well as some bright strawberry notes, as well as obvious oak. On the palate it packs a punch of fruit and acidity with moderate tannin and full body. It lingers a while, the fruit still going. There’s also a good kick of alcohol there which you can taste but its also quite well-integrated for being almost 16%. Just a great wine. I am buying another the next time I am there and maybe more than one for that matter. I love it on its own or with food.

Roger Champault Cote de Champtin Sancerre Rouge 2007

Roger Champault Cote de Champtin Sancerre Rouge 2007

Roger Champault Cote de Champtin Sancerre Rouge 2007

I’m a bit ashamed. I am a Pinot Noir enthusiast, yet I have never had one of these. In fact, despite learning about red Sancerre in class, I guess I was way too hung up on my favorite Willamette Valley, Oregon and Russian River Valley, California Pinots to give much thought to others for some time. And while there’s nothing wrong with having favorites and I do enjoy a nice aged Burgundy from time to time, I tend to like my Pinots fairly young and racy. But like most I have for too long equated Sancerre with its more famous white wine. Frankly I completely overlooked this option even though Sancerre has quite a long history making red wines as well. In fact, it was known for light-bodied easy-drinking reds long before the famous herbaceous white came to aquire so much fame and fortune. And from my favorite grape, no less. While these reds and rosés make up only about 20% of the wine production here, the results are no less tasty. And it finally got its due in the AOC world, even if after white Sancerre achieved it.

Ruby-garnet in appearance, and leaning more towards garnet on the rim from some good aging, this wine has a beautiful nose. Seductive, even. You get the rich red fruit, you get the oak, you get the spice…. in a magnificent whiff. Ahh Pinot Noir, my mistress… Where the hell has red Sancerre been all my life. I could even forget getting the white Sancerre wrong on a certain blind tasting. Maybe that’s it. Maybe it was sour grapes after that (yuk yuk). But damn if blind tasting isn’t hard.  We all know that. And I beat myself up, only to miss a chance to love Sancerre again – until now.  (Don’t get me wrong, I still like the white one.)

On the palate, the bright red berry fruit comes back for another swing, along with some cloves, a little white pepper and beautifully-integrated acidity. A nice light body and a fruity, spicy finish. This is a luscious wine. I am enamored. I can see this as a perfect Thankgsiving turkey companion… and maybe some sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts? — yes, yes and yes. It’s not quite Thanksgiving yet, but it’s drinking beautifully on its own.

Its always such a pleasure to open a wine and say my god that is exactly what I needed just now. I wish I had opened it with a friend. Well, maybe. This affair might go on all night, until its over. While not the most complex Pinot in the world, I’m not always looking for that.  It brings the same refreshing brightness and acidity as its white cousin, in a whole new way. And there is a good earthy note in there as any Pinot should have.  With such fruit and acidity in perfect balance, this could definitely lie down for a little while longer, though I don’t know it that’s really the style or aim here.  But I do think this entry stands as a fitting eulogy for this bottle. A steal at $16.

Rayas Château de Fonsalette Côtes du Rhône 1986 Reserve Syrah

1986 Rayas Château de Fonsalette Côtes du Rhône Reserve Syrah

1986 Rayas Château de Fonsalette Côtes du Rhône Reserve Syrah

This past weekend I had the good fortune to be invited to drink some 27-year-old Rhône Syrah. A friend was having a party and there were several culinary treats. Pizzas grilled on the barbecue with fresh herbs and vegetables from the garden, homemade mozzarella and sangria, and our favorite cider on tap. Add the fire pit and this wine surprise, and I was in heaven there for a while. The bottle  was presented by one of the guests who received it as a gift. While not knowing a ton about the wine, the age obviously made it special and they asked whether I thought it would be good. While this would likely be considered past maturity, I certainly thought it would still be drinkable and was excited to try. We decanted it for about 50 minutes as there was plenty of residue, and to allow it to open up.

As you would expect, the fruit was fully developed and the complexity was rich – black pepper everywhere, with subtle black currant fruit notes and hints of liquorice, bramble and soil. The tannins were subdued as was the acidity, and it was all very smoothly integrated by this point. And it was not musty at all. There was definitely rim variation on the edge of the wine due to its age.

The Appelation of Côtes du Rhône tells you that this wine has reasonable quality even if it doesn’t come from a more famous appelation in the region. There are many fine wines of this type within the region. If anything, this translates into a good buy for your money as often these other vineyards are right on the other side of a boundary of a famous appelation. Red wines in this broader appelation are usually a blend of the three big red varieties, GSM — or Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Cinsault and Carignan are used too. These days, stating just Syrah on the label would indicate that this varietal makes up 85% or more of the blend. I don’t know the exact percentages of the varietals in this wine but I would guess Syrah makes up a healthy portion if it is stated there, even by older laws.

More recent vintages seem to have a majority of Grenache with Cinsault next and only last, Syrah. This makes me wonder why Syrah is so prominent on the label of the 1986. This vineyard is located in the central Côtes du Rhône Villages area, so one can’t assume its due to it being from the Northern Rhône where Syrah dominates. I would guess that it was either an older generation’s chosen blend, or weather factors in that growing season made for nice ripe Syrah which they wanted to showcase. Since 2005 this region has become part of Côtes du Rhône Village Massif.

Decanting 1986 Rayas Château de Fonsalette Côtes du Rhône Reserve Syrah

Decanting 1986 Rayas Château de Fonsalette Côtes du Rhône Reserve Syrah

Fonsalette is a brand, not a domaine. The actual vineyards are in Lagarde-Paréol but the wines are vinified at Château Rayas. It belongs to the Reynaud family, who bought Rayas in the 1880s when former notary Albert Reynaud became deaf and had to change careers. Its been passed down the generations since, and with the addition of Chateau des Tours. All said, they also make a Côtes du Rhône Blanc, Châteuneuf du Pape and Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc in their vineyards and estates. They are old-world, described even as the ‘antithesis of modern winemaking’. These are low-yielding old vines, and the winery itself is nothing grand in appearance, choosing to focus on the wine above all else.

I’ve seen the price listed anywhere from $135 in France to over $300 in the U.S when searching the web. Parker gave the vintage 78 points, though I enjoyed it a lot more than that! And he wrote fondly about his meeting then-winemaker Jacques Reynaud (Albert’s son) in his 1997 book “Wines of the Rhone Valley” and holds their wines in high regard. If anyone else has any experience, insight or clarifications on this wine, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Domaine Michel Thomas Sancerre 2012

Domaine Michel Thomas Sancerre 2012

Domaine Michel Thomas Sancerre 2012

I just returned from a wonderful trip to London, filled with historical landmarks and family gatherings. Of course I brought back a few bottles of wine. One of these was a lovely Sancerre that my family and I enjoyed over the weekend at a barbeque.  Domaine Michel Thomas 2012 Sancerre is a delicious example of this classic Loire style. Michel and his son Laurent run this family business. The family have grown grapes for many generations and have focused on winemaking since 1968. They are of the philosophy that minimal cellar intervention gives the purest expression of the vineyard.

Pale lemon in color, it has expected stone fruit and citrus notes, is medium in body and dry. I also picked up green pea and fresh cut grass notes which is also characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc. It was crisp and refreshing and the perfect apéritif on this hot day. The Loire style of Sauvignon Blanc is more subtle than you would find in a Marlborough, New Zealand example, with less bright acidity and more flint/mineral notes — though you will find the herbaceous ‘cat’s pee’ aromas in both styles. Calcified remains of an ancient seabed provide this mineral accent in the terroir as it does in nearby Chablis.

There’s also about 20% red and rosé production here. I actually just ordered a Pinot Noir Sancerre in the recent pre-harvest marathon on Last Bottle wines which I can’t wait to try.

I paid 14 pounds for the bottle, which is in the ballpark of its average web price of $23. Abv is 12.5%.  I’ve been enjoying Sancerre for many years and this is a very good one – Try it!