Wine Briefs: Earthquake Petite Sirah 2012

Now that I have this new briefs section of the site, I will kick it off with by mentioning this great wine.  I’ve been meaning to tell you all for a while how much I enjoyed it. Drinking it was a tasty culmination of much ado among family, friends, and customers about Michael David wines. My dad’s a tough nut to crack when it comes to wine. When I asked what he did like, he said Seven Deadly Zins first. Then I had a customer rave about many of their wines, one of which was this lovely Petite Sirah. Coincidentally my daughter’s boyfriend’s father is a huge wine enthusiast and after I gifted him some favorite wines last Christmas, he shared a bottle of one of his favorites, which just happened to be this wine. Following all this fuss I not only extensively researched this favorite winemaker for my own curiosity’s sake, but also opened the bottle post-haste. Tasty, tasty stuff.  Mostly PS with a bit of Cab in the blend. Lots of black fruit to balance the tannins and ready to drink.  2012 was a great year in California. Will have to pick up more, but this time I will have to pay for it! He has many wines including the enticingly-named “Lust”, “Freakshow”, “Rapture”, “Sloth”, “Rage”, “6th Sense Syrah,” “Petite/Petit”, and of course “7 Deadly Zins”, which is the ‘gateway red,’ to their wines, as my customer put it. Not in any derogatory way whatsoever though. Only that this is the most well known and accesable of the Michael David wines, and a fan would soon find their way to the others.

More info on the this wine here. The ratings are very kind to it as well, but taste and decide for yourself.  It’s about $24.



International Grenache Day 2014: Borsao Garnacha 2012

Borsao Garnacha 2012

Borsao Garnacha 2012

Sorry for getting this in so late folks, but it was a work day, and it was the good kind of busy! So no history lesson today but I wouldn’t miss this opportunity to plug a tasty varietal like Grenache/Garnacha! Today’s choice is a bold, rich example from Aragon, Spain and bearing the proud seal of the Campo de Borja D.O. region. This wine is a fairly young, tasty fruit bomb — yet teeming with the complexity I love from this grape. All sorts of great aromas pop from the nose of the dark, confectious wine in my glass. It does not need a single thing to compliment it, yet it compliments so much. Lush, concentrated black fruit melds with cherry, leather, and a spicy vanilla note. It is really seductive.

On the palate the cherry and blackberry continue to pop as does that nice spice note but this is super smooth. The tannin and acid you want in there with the fruit in a balanced wine are there, without being too much. It is about as smooth as can be. I am enjoying it with some rustic Kalamata olive crackers and fig spread, and will polish it off with some seared filet mignon and sauteed escarole with olive oil and garlic. My mouth was watering for the meal my wife told me she was preparing, but this wine got a head start and gave me way more than I was expecting right out of the gate. It’s going to be a great night.

At the local wine shop, this wine was priced at a ridiculous value – $9 a bottle, with a high recommendation on quality.  And was he ever right. It is delicious, go try one! Wish I had more than one but at least I know I can afford it! Wine-Searcher has it at many places even cheaper. Nice to know you can still find a knockout wine for a great value.

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.

Briccotondo Langhe Dolcetto DOC 2010

Briccotondo Langhe Dolcetto 2010 DOC

Briccotondo Langhe Dolcetto 2010 DOC

Italian reds are without a doubt among my favorite wines and I enjoy them on a regular basis. It doesn’t hurt that I love Italian food as well, so pairing is easy. And Piedmont reds are among my favorite Italian reds. Could it be a coincidence that Piedmont has the most DOCs and DOCGs in all of Italy?  I usually go for the Barberas though don’t get me wrong I love a nice classy Barolo or Barbaresco. It’s just that such wines illicit a more serious food pairing to match the complexity. All that well-developed tannin and acidity that makes it so wonderfully ageworthy demands a fine meal. So on an everyday-drinking level, the region has many other nice reds that can be quaffed solo and pair well with contemporary fare as well.  While my beloved Barbera is light in tannin and more acidic, Dolcetto is more tannic yet still fruit-forward and  hence somewhere in the middle. Due to the light acidity, this is a wine best enjoyed young. And like Barbera, its accessible to smaller budgets while not lacking in quality and flavor by any means and are a great value for the money.

While Langhe is most known as the greater de-classified region surrounding Barolo and Barbaresco, it is also home to some tasty Dolcettos.  The most common are from one of my favorite Barbera regions – Asti – though Dogliani is the most famous, and is the DOCG of note for the variety.  This particular wine is from the greater Langhe appellation.

I tasted and purchased this wine at a charity tasting for a very admirable cause called “Wine into Water” (, a charity now reaching farther and farther, with the purpose of providing clean drinking water for needy people around the world.  Approximately 1 in 6 people in the world don’t have access to clean water. The idea was started by a former North Carolina bartender, Doc Hendley. He learned first-hand the effort many communities had to go through just to secure drinking water, that often was not clean enough to drink even if it was accessable. The charity now uses its proceeds to provide water filters and wells in these places.  This particular event was hosted by wine merchant Nicholas Roberts.

Ruby in color, on the nose are prune, cherry and soft plum. On the palate the tannins are quite smooth and well-balanced, and tart bold fruit fleshes out the body which is medium but with all that going on feels fuller. It says 13% on the bottle but there’s good alcohol in the back of my throat.  There is some floral note as well – rose, perhaps? It is bold but has some of that rustic note you expect in Piedmont wines. I did not pair the wine in this instance but it would be a fine match to some of my favorite Italian cuisine.

Favorite 2013 Thanksgiving Wines, Part 1

Thanksgiving Reds

Thanksgiving Reds

I meant to get to this before the big day and sum up wines from the past year I enjoyed that would make good Thanksgiving wines, but the holiday craziness at home and work caught up to me before I could.  But regardless, I think this worked to my advantage because there were a lot of wines at the table that I had not had before, so I wanted to do a quick summary of what I enjoyed yesterday. My father-in-law picked a great variety of wines, and the guests brought some additional gems. And its surely helped me isolate a few new wines for the Christmas table.

I drank mostly reds so I can’t really say much about the whites until the dessert wine. Though I know the usual favorite Sancerres and New Zealand Sauvignons were on hand. You know me…

There were several nice Pinot Noirs. The Argyle 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir I have had before and is your average but still enjoyable budget-friendly Pinot Noir from this region. It had the expected berry fruit and a bit of oak but the nose and palate were not overly expressive. A nice light pre-meal aperitif.

The other was Archery Summit 2011 Pinot Noir Premium Cuvée, also from Willamette Valley, Oregon (this is a favorite region as you know). It is a blend of their oldest plantings and Dijon clones from their estate vineyards. It is fermented by indigenous yeast in both steel and oak and blended together. This leans more towards what I expect from here.

We also enjoyed a very dependable 2011 Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages. No Nouveau this time. While it would have been just as reliable paired with turkey, we went throught this one before we sat down to eat and it was very popular, perhaps based on my multiple recommendations! Full-bodied and juicy red fruit with the a lovely note of spice.

There was one from a favorite North Fork producer — Anthony Nappa’s “Dieci,” a Merlot-led Bordeaux blend with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from the 2010 vintage. It represented Long Island well.

There were two Malbecs. The first being a 2011 Zuccardi Q which I love and wrote up here on the 2010 vintage. The other was a 2011 Trapiche Golden Reserve Malbec. This was a very nice wine as well, the difference being it was a little more subtle and old-world style and tannic than the Q which was a bit more fruit forward. The Q I think is good on its own or with food whereas the Trapiche I’d prefer to pair with food to balance out the tannins. Both are from Mendoza.

Part 2 – Cabernets, Châteauneuf and Ice wine

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.

Evening Land ‘Celebration’ Gamay Noir Beaujolais-Villages 2009

Evening Land 2009 'Celebration' Gamay Noir Beaujolais-Villages

Evening Land 2009 ‘Celebration’ Gamay Noir Beaujolais-Villages

A few weeks ago I wrote about a nice Julienas Beaujolais Cru that I had. And gave a little lesson. Do you remember? If not, you can brush up here. Based on that wine, I know 2009 was a good year here. And it’s still summer, and these wines are a great red for the hot weather, which is hovering in the high 90s and up all week. You can serve them a little cooler and they will be refreshing yet still complex and satisfying.

In Beaujolais-Villages wines, the grape might be Gamay, but the winemaking methods and intended flavor is more along the lines of red Burgundy (Pinot Noir). What’s interesting about this one to me is that it’s made by an American producer who also has vineyards in my beloved Willamette Valley, Oregon (including one in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA) and Edna Valley and Sonoma Coast, California. Willamette is where my favorite Pinot Noir is made and Edna Valley is producing some amazing wines as well as Sonoma. So this producer is a win-win for me to discover. The wines from their various international vineyards range from $22.50 for an Oregon Pinot Noir to $150 for a Clos Veugot Grand Cru. In fact they have many great Burgundies on their website that have me equally intrigued and a bit excited. Pouilly-Fuisse, Romanee-Conti, Meursault, and Côtes-de-Nuit Villages are just some of the French wines they produce.

To quote: “Evening Land Vineyards produces terroir-driven Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Burgundy, France, and the three great growing regions of the American West.

While the Gamay for this wine was actually grown, vinified and bottled in Beaujolais-Villages, they also make a Gamay Noir grown and made in their Eola-Amity Hills vineyards. I would love to, and likely will do a side-by-side comparison of the terroir at work.

This wine poured a deep ruby in the glass and on the nose were bounds of red fruit – strawberry, cherry, and baking spice from a little time in French oak to round it out. A bit of white pepper also adds to the complexity. For a moment this truly smells like a Burgundy Pinot Noir. On the palate were more of the bright fruit and spices, well-balanced acidity and a lush body. And here’s where you get into the true Gamay… a low-tannin, easy drinking beauty. At four years old, this is a good age for a nice Gamay.

This wine currently averages around $17 online but thanks to another great deal from Last Bottle Wines, I paid $12 each and got free shipping because my co-workers and I ordered 6 altogether to waive the shipping. Thank you again Last Bottle for introducing me to another great wine.

Go drool over their selections too at