Posts belonging to Category Merlot



The Fall, Rise and Fall of Beaujolais

she ruled the 60s

she ruled the 60s

Beaujolais has been forgotten more often than whatshisname. Beauj wines were top shelf in the 14th century until the Burgundy farmers chased the Gamay Noir grape – crossed with the blessed Pinot Noir – and its wannabe producers south. Gamay lost its prestige in the wake of Marie Antoinette’s gehackt kopf.

Gamay grown south of Burgundy can produce a lovely light to medium weight red wine with floral qualities and the requisite acid to buck it all up. Until the 1960s. Yearning for fanfare the Beaujolais producers led by Georges Dubouef came up with Beaujolais Nouveau which became fashionable as Twiggy. And half as interesting. This pompy silly era was Fall #1 for Beaujolais in the Modern Era: Beaj Nouveau. Like the Beatles, still popular.

The Rise. In 2006 the earth around Beaujolais began to move. Suddenly, gratefully, amidst an avalanche of rocketing collector prices and the relentless quest to win a Parker 100 point score, Beaujolais winemakers began producing some very nice wines. The value quotient (VQ) was an island in a sea of [ed. better metaphor please] an outpost in a wilderness of [ed. not wilderness] an outpost in the back country of forgotten appellations. Gamay returned to wine snobs. The 2006, 2007 and 2008 vintages were superb. The ten crus offered more variety than Bourdeaux along with far better pricing and far more availability. Superb Gamay cru wines were priced near $15. Beaujolais was on the RISE.

Fall #2. The 2008 economic crash took about 18 months for Parker and the Wine Speculator to concede the 100 point game was over. Tostado. This should have been the tipping point when Beaujolais secured its new position as leader in the quality and value game. But it did not. Instead, the producers raised prices. Dumb. Da Dumb. Dumb. The market was in their hands… and they let it slip away. The last vintages we bought were 2009 2010. We are tasting through them now with no plans to replenish.

Very good Beaujolais costs close to $30. At the same time we are buying outrageously great Chablis for the same price. And super Red Burg for the same price and up to $10 more… except we are buying wines Beaujolais will never become, except for Clos de la Roilette which we still buy. Welcome to the new top shelf.

Here are two more wines from the Not Ready For Prime Time Tasting.

Ridge-Montebello-00WEB2000 Ridge Montebello $120: A-L-M-O-S-T R-E-A-D-Y. At 14 years this wine can be enjoyed. Ridge Montebello is regarded as the Lafite of US wines. Justifiably so. This wine was gorgeous, not voluptious, not lean. Classically beautiful, something like Lauren Bacall. Perfect California mountain blend with just enough oak to give it the classic style. Last domestic Cabernet we had like this was the 1987 Dunn Howell in mag. Dunn is more rustic. Montebello more refined. Truly spectacular wine and not Bordeaux. Honestly. At $120 and being the benchmark for California GREATNESS in wine, this is a bargain. 13.5%

Tondonia-91WEB1991 Lopez de Herredia Tondonia $105 (sorry, it’s a secret for now): tBoW asked Goldun will this wine be ready in another 10 years? “Maybe 100” came the comeback. 23 years in the bottle and the color is not even golden. Yellow as a five year old Chablis. Flavors enchanting but the wine is n-o-t r-e-a-d-y. We must have another bottle taking into account predicted auto-longevity and the likelihood I will be around to enjoy with the Geezer Troop. 13%

Maybe this could also be “the discrete charm of the Beaujolais?” Cue the electric sitars please. It’s all… so beautiful.

Southern Italy in Southern Utah

mario-balotelli_headerCROPW Getting a decent martini in Utah is almost as tough as Mexico winning in the World Cup round of 16. Neither is gonna happen. While the World watched soccer, tBoW played five consecutive rounds of golf in St George Utah. Each course was more frightening than the previous. Each course was a thrill. The state of Utah is kind of unique too. Thrilling in its own poly-amoric way.

Forget about buying wine in Mormonia. We purchased a few bottles in Mesquite Nevada which is 40 minutes south of red canyon country. I guess you need to get outside a major metro center to find the really rare stuff. Sitting on the racks at Lees Discount Liquor were two special Tuscan wines, reviewed below. It is against Utah law to pull a cork in a Utah restaurant on a wine not purchased in Utah. Thankfully, the waiter asked us without winking to assure him that “these wines were purchased in Utah correct?”

Southern Utah has beautiful terrain. St George is very near Zion and two hours from Bryce Canyon. St George has its own red rock spectacle Snow Canyon. This is terrific place to visit if you like hiking or golfing. Or you just like to turn in by 10:00 PM. Here are the wines.

tenutadelterre12WEB2012 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso $19: Dark and powerful like Mario Balotelli [ed. see above]. Plenty of life left in this brooder. Here is what Steve Goldun says on his Eno Fine Wine website: “Etna’s magic is all about embracing the local terroir and indigenous varieties planted here thousands of years ago by the islands Greek conquerors. Terre Nere’s founders and present owners, Marco De Grazia and his brother Iano, first came to Etna 30 years ago and are credited as being the first to discover the potential of these vineyards and producing the first commercial release of Terre Nere (Italian for black earth) in 2002. Farming is organic and yields are kept at around 35 hectolitres per hectare.” Etna has attracted notable winemakers like Frank Cornelissen whose wine has been reviewed on this site. There is plenty to read about on Etna wines.Falanghina-2010WEB Here is another report from Food and Wine. This is an exciting region that is a likely travel destination for Mr. and Mrs. tBoW. U20. 14%

2010 Beneventano IGT Falanghina “Flora” I Pentri $20: Fleshy exotic white wine from Campania near Napoli, made organistically sans oak. Marzipan flavors. Unusual, old vine wine. Big enough to complement plenty of foods. Yummy. Very good value. 14%

COS-2011WEB2009 COS Terasuolo $24: Another Eno pick. Another tremendous Southern Italy value. This makes the Etna wine seem like a Rosé. This Sicilian hot blooded drink is a bit too zin-like for tBoW but others love it. The O in COS refers to Occhipinti and you know how we feel about her. 14%

2004 Lamborghini Campoleone Rosso $25: This is one of the bottles purchased in Mesquite. Fortunately, we were able to locate it in Los Angeles at our local hang Woodland Hills Wine Co. Half Sangiovese and half Merlot from Umbria (not in the south). The wine is earthy with cherry flavors. A tres bicchieri rating from Gambero Rosso which is the Italian premium rating source. Wine Spectator could learn a lot from these guys. 14%

Whether you like futbol or not… this Ronaldo tribute is worth a view [ed. the Brit announcer prefers ray-naaal-doe].

Tasting the Unknown Known & the Serious Unserious

in the Petaluma Wind Gap

in the Petaluma Wind Gap

Sometimes things look better from a distance; for example, “industry wine tastings.” We know wine biz doods who do these tastings all the time. Bloggers is different. We are wine industry detritus, effusion, effluence. We had to detail our credentials so we could attend this tasting held in the former Campanille now the newer Republiqué. No problem.

We have not been back to Campanile since we bumped into Liz Taylor and sat next to Hal Linden when this space was the über glam place to dine. liz-movei-starWEBOK, Linden was a popular and funny TV star but Liz… Hollywood royalty.

Return To Terroir bills themselves as “wine importer and wine educators” committed to natural wines and showcasing new young winemakers. But wine is a business and the unwritten goal is to entice brokers and dining room buyers to grab a case or more at deeply discounted wholesale prices. Hot trend plus cheap buys will motivate plenty of biz pros. That gave the tBoW tasting team plenty ’nuff to chew on. Here is what we found and liked.

Prices are suggested/estimated retail.

tBoW crony Jim Ruxin was finishing his early round. He quickly steered us to the international sparklers and white wines where we found some delightful tastes. When the afternoon’s sloshing and spitting and chatting was over, Ruxin was right. The whites showed best.

bullechampnvWEBNV Charles Dufour Bulle de Comptoir #2 Champagne Extra Brut $34: 55% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonay, 10% Pinot Blanc. This is the real stuff. No sulfur, native yeast only, organic cane sugar, 28 y.o. winemaker who looks like Jean Paul Belmondo and his wife is Brigitte Bardot’s granddaughter [ed. merde]. “Funky” say Kris B and Ruxin. Lean, bright acidity. As Sirene Virbila says “farmer fizz.” No. We did not see her although a couple non-survivors from the once star-studded LA Times food and wine critics pool were spotted. This wine was a great start that established the credibility of returntoterroir the wine business committed to sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines and the new wave of young natural winemakers.

riffaultquart09WEB2011 Sebastien Riffault Sancerre Blanc “Les Quarterons” $19: Yung Taster – “this wine has more energy.” tBoW “what is that?” Wine Pro – “a wine that has energy is a nervy wine.” And I cannot make it any more clear. Have you ever had a shiver run up your spine? Like reading these notes? 12%

riffaultakam09WEB2009 Sebastien Riffault Sancerre Blance “Akmenine” $24: YT says Alice Feiring describes the Riffault wines as becoming more like Sauvignon Blanc with age. He must have said something else as that does not make sense. The team liked both Sauvignon Blanc wines. Mr. Riffault is 26 y.o. He “refuses to sacrifice quality for principle.” [ed. the R2T notes actually wrote “principal” which tBoW readers will note in this case is not the correct form of the word . tBoW is available as final editor on tasting notes.] Yeh. I know. 12%

felinepicpoulWEB2012 Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet $unk: Ligurian white wines are usually harmless. This 100% Picpoul was acidic, fresh, bright. Served cold it showed all its charm. Price unknown but we will bet it goes well under $20. Ka-Ching. 12%

hauteselve12WEB2012 Chatueau Haut Selve Graves Blanc $17: Showing a light touch. White Bordeaux wines often get far less attention than the upper crust reds. Solid winemaking. Refreshing with some pedigree. 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Gris. Sauv Gris? The estate was wiped out by phylloxera in the 19th century, purchased and replanted in 1993. First new winery built in Graves in 20th century blah blah. We liked this wine and would probably buy it. 13%

ansonica12WEB2012 Ansonica Costa dell’Argentario $6: Steal of the tasting. This is beyond cheap. What a terrific wedding or graduation wine. 90% Ansonico and 10% Vermentino. We taste the Vermentino and like it. Top heavy. The flavors sit atop the fleshy body. High hat. More body than the Ligurian or a Verdejo. Appealing summer sipper [ed. more like slugger]

Tasting Interlude: YT (Yung Taster) and WP (Wine Pro) tried to force two Lambrusci on tBoW. Everyone has their own peccadillos. YT urged “This is seriously unserious wine.” [ed. doesn”t that make Lambrusco the Unknown Known of wine?]

One red impressed tBoW.

tire_pe_diemWEB2012 Chateau Tire Pe Diem $10: 100% Merlot certified 100% organic in 2011 after purchasing the run down winery in 1997. They are part of a winemaker group called “containssulfitesbutnottoomuch.” We would by this on the story alone BUT the wine is also lovely. Grown on limestone and clay with native yeasts in cement tanks. No oak. Yay. This wine has energy and is even nervy. U20 and easily my favorite red. Ka Ching. 13%

One new New World winery stood out for three reasons: limited selection, most interesting domestic white wine, and most unlikely wine site – Clear Lake (photo of Lakeville vineyard above).

weichi-semillon_frontWEB2012 Wei Chi Luchsinger Vineyard Semillon $21: I can explain the fuzzy label photo. Wei Chi refers to Before Completion in the I Ching. Winemaker Ross Hallett commented “no wine is ever completed, right?” This wine is made from 15 y.o. vines at 1300 foot elevation, near Clear Lake, California’s meth capitol. This will be his first release. It is strikingly fresh and impressive in that it is a 100% Semillon. Should have asked if he has tasted the Kalin oxidated version. I Ching? More like Ka Ching. 11.4%

A fun tasting that showed many very interesting wines which fulfilled the R2T advertising. Thank you Jean-B going to bat for a blogger.

Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Eva Marie Saint, Esalen, middle aged hippies… I’m alive!

July 4th Poolside Cabernet Blends Mini-Tasting

70s-pool-partyWEBSummertime is party time in Southern California. Each holiday is like a stop on the social road map. The 4th marks the middle of the long hot tour. Anything goes when the sun roars above, the swimming pool beckons and the grill begs for more meat and veggies to roast. Keep the food simple and bring something interesting from your cellar. If you like that recipe then you will probably like the wine list below. (more…)

Morsi Out! Wine Re-education Time!

china_politart-3WEBThe military-aided popular ouster of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood is a defeat for hard-line movements everywhere. We have lived through many such popular movements that eventually converted to turgid repressive regimes in our brief lives: Castro’s popular uprising that liberated a nation only to create a dictatorship, Mao’s war machine that forever changed a thousands of years old culture only to install a new regimented national regime, and our own views of Santa Barbara County wines. The popular focus in that county has been on the Santa Rita Hills which is a relatively new region founded by winemaking ingenue/savant Richard Sanford who favors low alcohol Pinot Noir wines made in an Old World style was quickly upended by more successful winemakers who favor high alcohol Pinot Noirs that taste like New World Syrahs. There is much more there which we tend to forget. It is time to re-assess. (more…)