A Varied Selection of New Red And White Wines From California, France, North Carolina, and Spain Including Under The Radar Wines and Great Wine Values
California is the appellation for the following two red wines. That means the grapes can come from anywhere in the state. The following two wines are truly under the radar. They are really good examples of the kind of wines that can be found if you are adventuresome and willing to try new things.
2011 Harrington Red Wine California.
This is a very unusual wine produced in a very small quantity of around 50 cases. It is ½ Pinot Noir and the other ½ is comprised of equal parts Lagrein, Teroldego and Charbono. So that alone should make it a candidate for under the radar wine of the year. But, that aside, this is a really terrific wine that is a great value.
Deep in color, the wine has a lovely perfume with spicy floral berry nuances and a briary undertone with a faint smokiness. Flavorful, with lots of sweet fruit it is supple and rounded with spicy briary nuances. Balanced and full bodied with an alcohol of 14.2%, this is a wine that also has a nice underlying crispness. Very easy to drink, it has early appeal and is a value – Outstanding. $19.98
2011 Juicy Rebound Juicy Villages Red Wine California.
This wine is made mostly from Mourvèdre and is blended with Syrah and Grenache. There were about 100 cases produced. The Mourvèdre was grown in the Evanghelo vineyard in Contra Costa County. The vineyard was planted in 1880 and is in sand at the intersection of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. The vines are also unique for being head-pruned, non-irrigated, and on their original rootstock. The winemaker, Douglas Danielak, has worked this vineyard for many years. He has been winemaker at several wineries over the years and recently started this new brand, Juicy Villages.
The wine has a deep color and a lovely floral spice perfume with hints of smoke. It is a flavorful wine with 14.5% alcohol that is balanced and has lots of sweet plum and blackberry fruit showing faint tinges of spice and smokiness. Very appealing now, this is a very fine example of a California Rhone blend – Highly Recommended Plus. $19.98
This area of California spans a distance from Santa Barbara County in the South to the San Francisco Bay area in the North. It encompasses portions of 6 counties and has over 100,000 acres of vineyards. There is a large number of varietals planted, but the majority is Chardonnay.
Chanin Wine Company
The first review of Chanin Wine Company wines was over 2 years ago. Here’s the introduction to that article:
Gavin Chanin is a talented, serious and hard working young lad. He is also very fortunate to have been able to start his career under the tutelage of two of California’s best vintners. His bottles are literally works of art as each bears a painting done by Gavin Chanin the artist. The wines are lovely to look at and lovely to drink.
Since that time Chanin has continued to produce lovely Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that are balanced and very pure. Many of these wines have been reviewed here and have been consistently gorgeous. Below is a note on the recently released 2011 Los Alamos Pinot Noir.
2011 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir Los Alamos Santa Barbara County.
This is simply a gorgeous Pinot Noir with complexity, finesse, flavor and balance. It is very pure and is a shining example of a new world Pinot Noir that beautifully expresses the varietal character of the grape while retaining its sense of place. The wine has a very nice color and a stunning perfume with floral spice tinges, cherry fruit, and a faint hint of green olive. It has loads of very pure cherry fruit with an underlying floral note and tinges of spice and green olive. With a great perfume and lots of finesse and elegance this is a Pinot Noir that is absolutely delicious – Outstanding Plus. $50
2009 Rangeland Red Wine The Watershed Paso Robles.
The grapes for this wine come from the Adelaida Springs Ranch at the far western boundary of the Paso Robles appellation. The ranch is 12 miles from the ocean and situated at 1700 feet elevation. The watershed refers to the fact that the vineyard is planted on the watershed between the Jack Creek and Tablas Creek drainages. The 2009 vintage represents the first year for this wine, which is made from a Bordeaux style blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, and 24% Cabernet Franc. This is a very claret style wine that in balanced with 14.2% alcohol. It represents the type of wine that the Underground would like to see more of from this area (To visit the website click here).
Dark in color, the wine has a deep perfume of plums and berries with floral spice nuances and a tinge of cedar. It is rounded, lush, and supple with well integrated tannins and has great berry fruit showing hints of spice, cedar, and vanilla with a faint touch of mint. This is a lovely wine that drinks beautifully now, but should keep for many years – Outstanding. $25
Tablas Creek Vineyard
I am constantly amazed at the quality of the wines coming from Tablas Creek. The wines are balanced and have wonderful flavors with out being at all heavy or over the top. This winery surely has mastered the ability to achieve consistent wines year after year. If you have not yet tried the Tablas Creek wines, what are you waiting for? (To visit the website click here).
2011 Tablas Creek Vineyard Côtes de Tablas Blanc Estate Bottled Paso Robles.
This wine is a blend of 27% Viognier, 26% Grenache Blanc, 25% Marsanne, and 22% Roussanne all estate grown Rhone varietals. The 2011 crop was reduced by two nights of frost in early April. The resulting wine is beautifully balanced with depth and complexity. The production was 1475 cases.
Light yellow in color with a faint golden hue the wine has a lovely perfume with floral notes and a touch of spice with apricot fruit and a faint tinge of smokiness. Rounded and supple with lovely fruit, it is very pure with hints of peach, apricot, citrus and a floral nuance. Flavorful and well integrated this is a wine with nice underlying crispness and is finesseful and very appealing – Outstanding. $27
2010 Tablas Creek Vineyard Espirit De Beaucastel Estate Bottled Paso Robles.
From the late ripening 2010 vintage this wine is made with four estate grown varietals and is comprised of 45% Mouvèdre, 30% Grenache, 21% Syrah, and 4% Counoise. Dark in color the wine has a nice berry and plum perfume with hints of spice and smokiness. It is rich and flavorful with lots of depth and yet has a certain underlying elegance. A myriad of black fruit flavors are intermingled with spice, smoke and faint vanilla tinges and the finish is long and lingering. This is a wine that can be enjoyed now or kept for a very long time – Outstanding Plus. $55
Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards
Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards was founded in 1981 by Central Coast wine pioneer, Ken Volk. He sold the winery in 2003 and today it is owned by Constellation Brands. Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards specializes in the production of five wines (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Viognier) with the grapes sourced from some 50 different Central Coast vineyards. Below are notes on 2 recent releases.
This wine is 99% Cabernet blended with 1% Syrah with 91% of the grapes coming from Paso Robles and 9% from Monterey. Dark in color the wine has a subtle perfume of berry fruit with a faint hint of spice and vanilla. It has nice fruit with vanilla tinges and a firm backbone that gives the wine structure – Recommended Plus. $19
This wine is made from 89% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 4% other red. Paso Robles is the source of 90% of the grapes with 10% coming from Southern Monterey County. The wine is dark in color with a subtle perfume of berry fruit and spice with a faint floral undertone. It has very nice plum like fruit with a faint spiciness and nice roundness. There is a lovely bright underlying crispness which is a nice complement to the fruit and shows through on the finish – Highly Recommended. $19
The origins of this estate go back to the early 70s when Justine Meyer and Raymond Duncan plant vineyards in Oakville. I975 the Franciscan winery is purchased in Rutherford. Today Franciscan Estate specializes in Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as it signature Bordeaux blend, Magnificat, which was created in 1985 and was one of the first Napa Valley Meritage wines.
This Bordeaux blend has been made by Franciscan Estate since 1985. Beginning with 200 small lots of Bordeaux varietals from individual vineyard blocks, the wines are narrowed down to about 40 candidates during the aging process.Then through blind tastings of different blends over a period of 1 ½ years the final blend is made. Although based on Cabernet Sauvignon, the percentage of each variety changes from year to year. For 2008, the wine is composed of 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, and 2% Malbec. The production was 7,036 cases.
Dark in color, the wine has a deep perfume of blackberries and plums accented by spice, vanilla and cedar. It is rich and full with lots of cassis like fruit and floral, cedar, vanilla undertones. The alcohol is 14.5% yet the wine maintains a sense of elegance and is balanced with a long finish – Outstanding. $50
Much of the fruit in this Chardonnay comes from the estate owned Larsen Vineyard in Carneros. Make no mistake this is not a wannabe White Burgundy. It is a really fine California Chardonnay. And it is one that has what California Chardonnay often lacks, and that is balance structure and depth without excessive alcohol, oak, and fatness. There were 74,000 cases of this wine produced.
The color is light yellow and the wine has a lovely perfume with vanilla and spice integrated with citrus and a faint floral undertone. Like wise on the palate there is lovely crisp lemon lime fruit with hints of green apple offset by a vanilla and spice complexity. This is a really delicious California Chardonnay with a lot of character that is very food friendly. Bravo! If you have been looking for this style of California Chardonnay, this is the wine for you and it is very reasonably priced – Outstanding. $18 Best Buy
Robert Craig Winery
The 2009 Robert Craig Affinity was reviewed earlier (to read about that wine click here). In that article there was a reference to an earlier article on this Napa Valley winery. Here is that reference:
“Robert Craig has some three decades of experience in dealing with Napa Valley mountain vineyards. He started his own winery in 1992 and produced his first wine in 1995. I have been tasting and reviewing the wines since the beginning. And, even more important, I have been cellaring and drinking the wines over that same period. Wines still in my cellar from the decade of the 1990s are delicious today and show every indication that they will continue to be gorgeous wines for many years to come….” (To read that article click here).
Below is the note on the latest release.
This wine has been produced for the last 10 years from 9.5 acres of low yielding vines grown at the summit of Howell Mountain. This 2009 is a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot, and 2% Malbec. The production was 1053 cases.
Dark in color, the wine has a deep perfume of cassis and blackberry with floral, spice, and cedar undertones. It is lush and rounded with well integrated soft tannins and has a myriad of black fruits with faint tinges of cedar, spice and vanilla. The alcohol is 14.8%, but the wine is balanced and has luscious pure fruit that is very expressive. Typical of the Robert Craig Cabernets, this is a delicious Cabernet to drink now or over the next 10-20 years – Outstanding Plus. $80
2010 Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc Reserve To KalonVineyardNapaValley.
This is consistently a unique and delicious wine that shows a lot of complexity and finesse. The 2010 is made from 98% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Semillon grapes all grown on the To Kalon Vineyard, including a selection from the historic I-block which is the oldest Sauvignon Blanc vineyard in North America. It has a light yellow color and lovely floral, herbal, steely, faintly smoky perfume accented with citrus notes. The wine has lovely balance and flavors that show grapefruit tinged fruit with a hint of mint and a faint tropical vanilla tinged nuance. Lush, but with an underlying crispness this a great California rendition of the Sauvignon Blanc grape – Outstanding. $40
2011 Kismet Wine Papa’s All-BlacksRedWineOldVineNorthCoast.
In 2010 this wine was made by Bedrock Winery (see note under Sonoma below) and was composed of all Sonoma grapes – Zinfandel from the ancient Stellwagen and Monte Rosso Vineyards, along with Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouschet from the Bedrock Vineyard. Winemaker Morgan Twain Peterson, son of Joel Peterson, the founder of Ravenswood, said “It is very exciting to feature the first blend put together by my father and me. The idea is to make a wine that will last for decades from those varieties first grown in California”.
This year Papa’s All-Blacks has a new identity. It is about 60% Zinfandel and the rest is composed of Petite Sirah, Carignane, and Alicante Bouschet which is all sourced from North Coast old vine heritage sites. It is simply a stunning wine with great length on the palate. Dark in color the wine has a gorgeous perfume of plums, berries, and spice. There is great intensity and structure with layers of blackberry fruit and a faint underlying floral spiciness. Balanced, with well integrated tannins, the wine is balanced with the structure to age beautifully for a very long time – Outstanding Plus. $24.98
Born and raised in northern Bulgaria, a region with a long history of winemaking, Miro (Miroslav) Tcholakov was exposed to wine and winemaking at a very early age. He came to America in 1990 as part of an exchange program and began working at Dry Creek vineyard in Sonoma. In 1998 he became winemaker at Trentadue Vineyards where he still is today. Miro is his small production wine business. The first release was a 2001 Petite Sirah. Today Miro produces Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and the GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvèdre) Cuvée Sasha. Miro is making some lovely wines at affordable prices. These are wines to look for.
This is a lovely flavorful and balanced wine with 13.7% alcohol. It is a GSM blend made with 67% Grenache, 25% Mouvèdre, and 8% Syrah. It is a California style wine made along the lines of the wines of the Southern Rhone. The Montelago Vineyard at over 2000 feet elevation above the largest lake in California , Clearlake, is the source of 75% of the grapes in this wine and the remainder are from the Orsi Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. It is an outstanding example and how a blend using grapes that are not too ripe can produce a complex wine that has lots of flavor without being heavy. The production was 800 cases .
With a deep color, this wine has a great floral perfume with plum and berry fruit and tinges of spice and smoke. It is balanced and rounded with lovely complex fruit flavors of berry, cherry, and plum accented by tinges of spice and a fain smokiness. The wine is delicious to drink now but should age gracefully for several years – Outstanding. $14.98 Best Buy
Bedrock Wine Company
This is a relatively new winery (the first vintage was 2007) formed by Morgan Twain-Peterson, son of Joel Peterson, the founder of Ravenswood. It is named for the historic Bedrock Vineyard which was first planted in 1854. Today the 153 acre Bedrock Vineyard, with its 33 acres of old vines, is owned by Joel Peterson. Grapes for Bedrock Wine company wines are sourced from some of California’s oldest vineyards.
Taken from the website (to go to the website click here), here’s the winery description and objectives:
“Bedrock is an itsy-bitsy winery making wine in a converted chicken coop. Fruit from only the most excellent vineyard sites is hand pitch-forked into the destemmer, fermented in open top redwood and stainless vats using only native yeasts, and are manually basket pressed by winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson into the sexiest oak from the coldest French forests.
The winery’s objectives are:
This is a page straight from the Underground play book!
This is a block buster of a wine. It has a very deep color and a great plummy, briary, faintly toasty and spicy perfume. There is a massive amount of rich, supple, sweet fruit with a briary undertone and hints of spice. With balanced tannins and a good backbone giving the wine structure this a wine that should be long lived – Outstanding. $24.98
Chateau Beaux Hauts
This is the name for Don Baumhefner’s small production wine business. Other than sparkling wine, he makes Copeland Creek Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. He first made sparkling wine in 1983 from Pinot Noir grape clusters that were removed by Joe Swan to concentrate the remaining grapes (To read the Joe Swan article click here).
In 1984 he followed this by making a sparkling wine from second crop Pinot Meunier harvested from the Bob Hawkins vineyard in Sonoma across the Russian River from Rochioli. In 1988 the first commercial sparkling wine (200 cases) was made from the same source. This continued for the next four years. The 1990 and 1992 were left on the lees for an extended period of time. The 1992 En Tirage Extra Brut was disgorged in 2010 after 18 years! It is a unique wine that offers a rare experience to taste a sparkling wine with this amount of age before disgorgement. The production was 500 cases and small amounts are still for sale, but once they are gone there is no more. No sparkling wine has been made here since the 1992 was made.
1992 Chateau Beaux Hauts En Tirage Extra Brut Sparkling Wine.
When first opened the wine has a dank almost musty quality. This is not unusual with old wines and may not be consistent from bottle to bottle. But, with a few minutes of aeration the wine changed. Here is the impression of the wine after 5 minutes of air. And, it should be noted after 1 hour the wine was still holding and showing the same characteristics.
Light golden in color the wine shows a deep perfume of baked bread and citrus with buttery, caramel, smoky notes. It is rich and creamy with hints of butterscotch, baked bread, caramel, and citrus with a faint forestry undertone and a nice underlying acidity. The finish has impressive length with citrus tinges. This is totally remarkable for a wine with this history and pedigree. So where is everyone else in making a wine like this? Simple, it has to do with the risk and economics. So if you love old wine this is unique chance to have a wine this wine – Outstanding. $60
Matanzas Creek Winery made its first wine in 1978 and shortly thereafter the Underground paid a visit. It has been a long time since then, but today Matanzas Creek makes Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. This Sauvignon Blanc is made mostly from their vineyards in Knights Valley which is on the border of Sonoma and Napa counties.
It is light yellow in color and has a distinct varietal perfume of herbs and citrus with a floral, grassy undertone. More fruit comes through on the palate and the wine is quite lush with grapefruit flavors accented by floral, herbal notes. This is a Sauvignon Blanc with a lot of character for a reasonable price – Highly Recommended. $13.89
This wine was made in a small 143 case quantity from Pinot Noir grapes grown in Floodgate Vineyard, at the southern end of the Russian River Valley in an area known as the “Middle Reach”. This vineyard was planted decades ago and has been the source of many fine Pinot Noirs over the years. This is a lovely balanced Pinot Noir that has an alcohol content of 13.5%. It is another example of the values that are in the market place if you are willing to try new things.
This Pinot Noir has a deep color and a lovely floral perfume with hints of berries and spice. The wine is very pure and silky with lovely fruit, a faint hint of spice, and a floral undertone. A nice underlying crispness accents the purity of the wine which is very flavor yet refined – Highly Recommended Plus. $22.98
Bandol is most often thought of for red wine and rosé, but the area also produces small amounts of finesseful and complex white wines. This is a gorgeous example.
2011 Domaine de la Tour du Bon Bandol Blanc.
Made mostly with Clairette with small amounts of Vermentino and Ugni Blanc, this Bandol Blanc has a light yellow color and a lovely, if subtle perfume, that opens with air showing peach, citrus, passion fruit and fresh herbs. It is elegant and finesseful, but with complex flavors of peach, citrus, and spice with a floral accent. With a nice crispness on the finish, this is an irresistibly delicious wine – Outstanding. $32 Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA.
Cru Beaujolais wines continue to be some of the greatest values in the wine world delivering a Burgundian tasting experience at an affordable price. The 2011s are now on the market and there are still some 2010s. Here are a few more to consider.
2011 Coudert Pére et Fils Fleurie Clos De La Roillette Cuvée Tardive.
This producer consistently makes wonderful Beaujolais year after year. This 2011 is delicious. It has a deep color and a great floral berry perfume. Elegant, rounded and lush, yet with a vibrant crispness, the wine has gorgeous fruit and balance and is very seductive – Outstanding. $22.50 Best Buy Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections LDM Wines, Inc., New York, NY
2011 Domaine de la Voûte des Crozes Côte-de-Brouilly.
This Beaujolais has a deep color and a lovely floral perfume with plum and berry fruit.
The wine is very elegant with plum and berry fruit and is very pure with a nice underlying crispness that carries through on the finish – Highly Recommended. $24 Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA.
Marcel Lapierre was one of the original gang of four that was in the forefront of the movement to improve the quality of Beaujolais by returning to the viticulture and vinification practices. Sadly he passed away just after the 2010 harvest. But, his son Mathieu has taken over the reins and these 2011s are gorgeous. The wines of Marcel Lapierre are imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA.
2011 Marcel Lapierre Morgon.
With a deep color this Morgon has a gorgeous perfume showing blackberry and cherry with a floral note. On the palate it is lush with complex fruit flavors yet is well defined and focused with a nice underlying crispness. This is delicious and lovely to drink now and will be for many more years into the future – Outstanding. $30
2011 Marcel Lapierre Morgon Cuvée MMXI.
This cuvée is made from a small plot of vines that are over 100 years old. It is stunning.
With a deep color the wine has an enticing floral perfume with raspberry and cherry and a touch of spice. Very elegant and finesseful with a myriad of red fruit flavors, this Beaujolais is silky and very seductive with flavors that go on and on. It is irresistible now, but will also keep for years – Outstanding Plus. $42
Potel Aviron is named for its two founders Nicolas Potel and Stéphane Aviron. The emphasis is on the production of Cru Beaujolais harvested from old vines. All the wines are labled “Vielles Vignes” with the vines being at least 40 years old to over 100 years old. Sustainable viticulture is practiced and the wines are made using traditional Burgundy techniques. The 2010 vintage here has some really lovely wines that deliver a Burgundian experience at an affordable price. The wines of Potel Aviron are imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons New York, NY.
2010 Potel Aviron Chenas Vielles Vignes.
With a very nice color this Beaujolais has a lovely floral berry perfume with a faint hint of spice. It is elegant with lovely supple berry fruit with a floral spice nuance. Rounded and supple with very nice balance this is really nice Beaujolais with a lot of charm – Highly Recommended Plus. $17.50 Best Buy
2010 Potel Aviron Côte de Brouilly Vielles Vignes.
This wine has a very nice color and a lovely floral berry perfume. It has very pure berry fruit with a nice underlying crispness. This is very nice elegant Beaujolais – Highly Recommended. $16.00 Best Buy
2010 Potel Aviron Fleurie Vielles Vignes.
With a very nice color this Fleurie has a floral perfume with a faint herbal undertone. It has nice clean berry fruit and a crisp finish – Recommended. $20.50
2010 Potel Aviron Julienas Vielles Vignes.
With a very nice color this Beaujolais has a lovely perfume with berry and cherry nuances. It has very nice fruit and is delicate and finesseful with a nice crisp finish – Highly Recommended. $17.50
2010 Potel Aviron Morgon Côte du Py Vielles Vignes.
This wine has a very nice color and a floral perfume with hints of cherry, spice, and mint. It has lovely bright fruit and is supple and rounded with a nice underlying crispness – Highly Recommended. $18.95
2010 Potel Aviron Moulin ٔá Vent Vielles Vignes.
This Beaujolais will definitely benefit from additional bottle age. It has a very nice color and a deep floral berry perfume with plummy nuances. On the palate there is an abundance of plummy fruit with some underlying tannin. The wine has depth and richness and a nice finish – Highly Recommended. $19.50
This is another member of the gang of four who consistently makes lovely age worthy Beaujolais with a lot of charm, balance, and flavor.
2011 Jean-Paul Thévenet Morgon Vielles Vignes.
This 2011 has a deep color and a lovely perfume with raspberry and strawberry fruit accented by hints of spice and fresh herbs. It is very elegant and supple with gorgeous floral tinged fruit and is a very finesseful with a nice crispness on the finish – Outstanding. $32 Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA.
For years many of the wines from the southern part of Burgundy were mostly made by cooperatives where the objective was quantity over quality. But, that has been quietly changing for many years. Today, the quality of many of the wines from the still relatively unknown southern part of Burgundy is remarkable and they represent really good value. The best of them compare favorably with the better known and more expensive White Burgundies from Chassagne Montrachet and Puligny Montrachet. Here are two more 2010s from one of the best and most consistent producers in southern Burgundy (to read about another great producer click here).
In 1988 Jean-Jacques Robert took over 12 ½ acres of his grandfather’s vineyards in southern Burgundy just outside the village of Fuissé. There were small parcels of 7 vineyards. And, although most of the grapes had been sold to cooperatives, the parcels were well situated and consisted largely of old vines some of which are now approaching 100 years old. The wines of Domaine Robert-Denogent are imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA.
2010 Robert-Denogent Saint-Veran Les Pommards Vielles Vignes.
This wine is made from grapes grown on a 1 ¼ acre parcel of wines that are over 50 years old. It is very finesseful, complex, and attractive. The color is light yellow with a faint golden hue and the wine has a lovely citrus tinged perfume with hints of pineapple and a faint mineral undertone. Very elegant with beautiful flavors of citrus, peach, and pineapple accented by a faint minerality, it has a seamless structure and a very nice citru tinged finish – Outstanding. $37
2010 Robert-Denogent Pouilly-Fuissé Les Reisses “Monopole” Vielles Vignes.
This vineyard is a monopole (sole owner) 1 ½ acres in size that has vines over 80 years of age. In 2010 the wine is rich and flavorful, but with great structure and a lovely underlying crispness. It is light yellow gold in color with a complex floral perfume tinged with citrus and a faint tropical nuance. The wine has lots of pure fruit that is accented by citrus and a touch of spice and minerality. Beautifully balanced with a long finish, this is a gorgeous wine to drink now and for the next few years – Outstanding Plus. $40
Domaine Bruno Michel
The son of José Michel, Bruno learned much from his father especially the quality of well cultivated Pinot Meunier. The certified organic estate is located in the tiny village of Pierry just south of Epernay. Originally a nurseryman, Bruno does not purchase commercial vines. He uses a massal selection whereby he propagates the best vines on the property. This is a practice used by many of the top estates in Burgundy and Champagne. The total plantings consist of 37 ½ acres planted to 50% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Meunier, and 10% Pinot Noir with the vines varying in age from 30 to over 70 years. The yields are very low and the wine making utilizes the subtle use of oak along with stainless steel. This small artisan producer is making Champagnes of great style and finesse. They are beautifully balanced and attractively priced. The new releases reviewed below were disgorged in January and February of this year. Bruno Michel Champagnes are selected by K&L Wine Merchants and imported by Latitude Wines, Inc. Danville, CA.
NV Bruno Michel Cuvée Blanche Brut.
This Champagne is made from a half and half blend of Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay that has been aged for 3 years on the lees. It is very elegant and finesseful with a light yellow color and a lovely perfume showing subtle hints of peach, citrus, and spice with a very faint minerality. With lovely fruit this Champagne is very pure and has a lot of subtle flavor nuances. It is very well integrated with great balance and a lovely finish – Outstanding. $34.99 Best Buy
NV Bruno Michel Cuvée Rebelle Extra Brut.
The Extra Brut is the same blend as the Blanche, 50/50 Chardonnay and Meunier, but it is aged for 4 years on the lees. It is light yellow in color and has a lovely perfume with faint floral notes and hints of spice and vanilla. This Champagne has great fruit and is creamy and elegant, yet with lots of depth and flavor. It is very pure with buttery citrus notes and has a long crisp finish – Outstanding Plus. $39.99 Best Buy
NV Bruno Michel Rosé Les Rose Brut.
This rosé is made from 100% Pinot Meunier grapes that are grown on vines over 40 years old. It is very flavorful and has a subtle Burgundian quality. The color is light reddish pink with a golden hue and the perfume has subtle hints of smoke and berry fruit with a baked bread undertone. On the palate, the wine has lovely fruit with a tinge of spice and a faint floral note. There is also a suggestion of green olive that is very intriguing. This is a serious rosé that has lots of complex flavors and a long finish – Outstanding Plus. $49.99
AR Lenoble is a family-owned business now under the direction of the 4th generation. The name AR Lenoble comes from the initials of the founder Armand Raphael and the name “Lenoble” is based on the belief that “Champagne is the most noble of Wines.” The grapes come primarily from their Grand Cru Chardonnay vineyards in Chouilly, one of the Grand Cru villages in the Côte de Blancs and some Pinot Noir from the Premier Cru village of Bisseuil in the Montagne de Reims. This is a Champagne house that consistently produces top quality Champagne. AR Noble Champagne is imported by Atherton Wine Imports, San Jose, CA
NV Lenoble Blanc De Blancs L’Epurée Chouilly Grand Cru.
Light yellow in color with a faint golden hue this Champagne has a gorgeous floral perfume with hints of lemon-lime, a touch of peach, and a kiss of vanilla. Creamy with great elegance and a lovely crispness, the flavors have a citrus undertone with hints of peach and a faint vanilla nuance. This is a delicious, beautifully balanced Champagne that is bright and fresh with a lot of charm and finesse – Outstanding Plus. $50
Georges Bru-Baché founded this estate in the 1960s and began bottling under their own label in 1973. Claude Loustalot took over from his uncle in 1994. After the devastation of phylloxera in the latter part of the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries, Juracon was one of the first to receive it own appellation (AOC). Here the majority of holdings are planted to the indigenous varietals, Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng, the former producing a dry, crisp white genetically linked to the Albariño of Spain.
2011 Domaine Bru-Baché Juracon Sec.
Light golden in color this wine has a floral, honied perfume with hints of lemon lime and spice. It is rich and supple with apricot fruit flavors accented by hints of anise and citrus. An underlying crispness provides a nice counterbalance to the wine’s richness. All in all, this is an intriguing wine with a distinctive and unusual combination of flavors – Highly Recommended. $17.95 Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA.
Three generations of Fadats have farmed this 45 acre estate known as Aupilhac, in the village of Montpeyroux, across the river Hérault from Daumas Gassac. The vineyards date back to the time of the Romans, but it was not until 1989 that the current member of the Fadat family, Sylvain, finally registered the domaine as an independent winery.
2011 Domaine Aupilhac Les Cocalières Coteaux Du Languedoc Blanc
This white wine is made with 25% Roussanne, 25% Marsanne, 25% Rolle, and 25% Grenache Blanc. Light golden yellow in color the wine has a lovely floral perfume with hints of melon and orange zest. It is very nicely balanced and has subtle hints of peach and apricot fruit intermingled with a floral citrus undertone. Soft and supple this is a very appealing wine – Highly Recommended Plus. $35 Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA.
2010 Domaine Aupilhac Montpeyroux Coteaux Du Languedoc Rouge
The vines here are 35 years old. This wine us made from 30% Mourvèdre, 30% Carignan, 25% Syrah, 10% Grenache, and 5% Cinsault. It is dark in color with a deep perfume showing hints of mint and cedar along with spicy black berry fruit. It is rich and full with lots of plum and black berry fruit accented by cedar, spice, and mint. Quite tannic on the finish the wine needs a few years to come around and should make a very fine bottle – Highly Recommended. $23 Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA.
2010 Catherine et Pierre Breton La Dilettante Vouvray Sec
This domaine makes wonderful Chinon and Bourgueil (to read about these wines click here). A small amount of white wine is also made in Vouvray from Chenin Blanc grapes. Catherine also makes a series of cuvées under the label “La Dilettante,” or the Dabbler. So this is the 2010 Vouvray Sec and it is lovely.
2010 Catherine et Pierre Breton Vouvray Chenin Sec.
Light yellow in color this Vouvray has a stunning floral perfume that is faintly honied with citrus, pineapple, and mineral nuances. It is elegant, yet vibrant with great purity. Citrus and pineapple are intermingled with floral nuances and a faint underlying minerality. This is really delicious – Outstanding. $23 Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA.
In 1936, the small 500 acre appellation of Quincy was the second area to receive an appellation. However, Sauvignon Blanc grapes were first planted here in the 12th century. The soil here is unique with sandy, silex topsoil having a base of pink limestone. Despite its historic history, the wines of Quincy are not nearly as well known as the wines of Sancerre. As a result, they offer good value. Domaine Trotereau was founded in 1804 and since 1973 it has been under the direction of Pierre Ragon. Consisting of some 32 acres of vines, there are 5 acres of old vines with some over 100 years old.
2010 Domaine Trotereau Quincy Vielles Vignes.
This is the old vines cuvée. It is gorgeous! Light yellow gold in color the wine has a gorgeous floral herbal perfume with hints of citrus and a slight underlying flintiness. It has gorgeous pure fruit with hints of melon, citrus, and peach and is rounded with a bright underlying crispness – Outstanding. $25 Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA.
Francois and Pascal Cotat
Cotat is one of the most revered names in Sancerre and they have been making some of the best wines for many years. Pascal and his cousin, François, carry on the works of their fathers, Francis and Paul. They make wines in a very traditional manner and the wines are capable of aging for many years. The wines of Francois Cotat and Pascal Cotat are imported by Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, NY. (To read more on Sancerre including food suggestions click here).
2011 Francois Cotat Sancerre Les Culs de Beaujeu.
This Sancerre has a light yellow color and a lovely floral perfume with hints of melon and citrus accented by a mineral nuance. It is bright and crisp with great purity and the flavors are complex with pear and citrus notes and a floral mineral undertone. This is a really nice wine with subtle yet distinct flavors – Outstanding. $39.50
2011 Francois Cotat Sancerre Rosé Chavignol.
Pale salmon pink in color with a golden hue this rosé has a lovely floral perfume with hints of strawberry and a faint citrus undertone. It is very pure with subtle hints of strawberry and a faint floral nuance and has a nice underlying crispness. Very finesseful, this is a really lovely rosé – Outstanding. $28
2011 Pascal Cotat Sancerre La Grand Côte.
Light yellow in color this Sancerre has a gorgeous perfume with floral notes and hints of melon and citrus accented by a faint touch of spice and minerality. It has beautifully integrated flavors with subtle hints of melon and pear accented by citrus and mineral nuances. The wine is supple and lush with an underlying crispness that shows through on the finish. This is a terrific Sancerre – Outstanding Plus. $41.50
2011 Pascal Cotat Sancerre Les Monts Damnés.
Light yellow in color this Sancerre shows a floral perfume with citrus nuances and a tinge of minerality. It is has lovely fruit with hints of melon, pear and citrus and has a wonderful suppleness that is followed by a crisp finish – Outstanding. $41.50
Pascal Cotat Rosé Vin de Table Chavignol Lot 2011.
Just why this wine carries the name Vin de Table and Chavignol, but not Sancerre, I am not sure. Also, in some years, like 2003 the word Rosé does not appear on the label. Not sure about that either. But, what I am sure about is that this is terrific rosé year in and year out. So call it what you like, but what’s in the bottle is what it’s all about and once again this wine delivers.
Pale reddish orange in color with a golden hue and a golden edge this rosé has a gorgeous floral perfume with hints of spice tinged cherry fruit and almond. It is elegant and rounded with subtle, but complex flavors showing cherry fruit accented by a floral undertone and a hint of almond. Very tasty with a nice underlying crispness, this is a delicious rosé – Outstanding Plus. $33.50
Minervois is an appellation in the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region. The red wines of Minervois are produced from Carignan (which can account for no more than 40% of the blend), Cinsault, Grenache, Lledoner Pelut, Mouvèdre, and Syrah grapes.
Domaine Anne Gros & Jean-Paul Tollot
This 35 acre estate was recently created in Minervois by two Burgundy producers, Anne Gros of Domaine Anne Gros in Vosne-Romanee and Jean-Paul Tollot of Domaine Tollot-Beut in Chorey-lès-Beaune. They purchased parcels of vines situated in the high, northern edge of the appellation and built a new state of the art winery facility. Many of the vines are very old and are planted in varying soil types. Anne and Jean-Paul both come from long established Burgundy families and are 20 year wine growers and producers. The first vintage in Minervois was 2008. I have known of this venture for some time as we have talked about it on our visits to visit Domaine Anne Gros in Burgundy. We have been visiting this domaine each year for over 30 years which is well before Anne took over some 20 years ago. Under her direction, the wines of Domaine Anne Gros are amongst the most finesseful and lovely of all Burgundies. They are wines that I buy every year and drink often. Also, at Domaine Tollot-Beut, where we have also visited, the wines are lovely and supple with very pure fruit. But, having never tasted the wines from Minervois, I must confess I really did not know what to expect. Now, after tasting them, all I can say is WOW! It is no exaggeration to say that the wines show a Burgundian quality in the sense that they are so supple and seductive. Yet they clearly are different in terms of the structure and flavors. And, since they are so delicious to drink now, they are hard to resist. Yet I suspect the wines will be long lived. If you love balanced red wines with lots of fruit these are wines you really must try! The wines of Domaine Anne Gros & Jean-Paul Tollot are imported by Atherton Wine Imports Atherton, CA.
2010 Domaine Anne Gros & Jean-Paul Tollot Vin de Table La 50/50.
This wine is blended from Carignan, Cinsault and Grenache and aged entirely in tank to maintain its fresh and lively character. The grapes are from the area of Minervois but classified the wine is classified as Vin de Table because the percentage of grape varieties used does not meet the requirements of the Minervois appellation.
The wine is dark in color and has a stunningly fruity perfume redolent of cassis and blackberry with a faint floral undertone. It has loads of bright very pure fruit and is rounded and supple with a faint crispness on the finish. This is a beautifully balanced wine with delicious fruit – Outstanding. $23
2010 Domaine Anne Gros & Jean-Paul Tollot Minervois Les Fontanilles.
This wine is made from a blend of Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, and Syrah from vines between 22 and 50 years of age. Dark in color it has a gorgeous perfume of cassis with a faintly spicy floral undertone. The wine has layers of gorgeous supple fruit that is accented by a faint floral note and a kiss of spice. It is beautifully balanced and seamless with a long finish. This is a really gorgeous wine – Outstanding Plus. $27
2010 Domaine Anne Gros & Jean-Paul Tollot Minervois La Ciaude.
South facing with a soil composed of clay and limestone, this vineyard is planted to Canignan, Grenache, and Syrah with some of the Carignan vines over 100 years old.
The wine is dark in color and has a stunning floral perfume with cassis and blackberry fruit accented by a touch of spice. It has a myriad of black fruit flavors and is supple and lush with lots of depth and richness. Well balanced with a long finish, this is a terrific wine – Outstanding Plus. $33
2010 Domaine Anne Gros & Jean-Paul Tollot Minervois Les Carretals.
This 2 ½ acre vineyard is planted with Carignan and Grenache vines that are over 100 years old. The soil composition here is said to remind Anne of her parcel of Richebourg.
The wine is simply remarkable. It is dark in color and has an intense perfume with cassis, mulberries, and blackberries intermingled with chocolate and spicy floral notes. There are layers of fruit with mulberry and blackberry accented by a faint exotic nuance and a nice underlying spiciness. The wine is incredibly rich and supple while at the same time maintaining balance. It is very pure and structured with a long lingering finish. And, while delicious to drink now, this wine should age effortlessly for many years. It’s all about flavor, depth, and balance and this wine has these attributes in spades – Exceptional. $43
André et Michel Quenard
The Savoie region is in the Western Alps. Here Michael Quenard farms some 55 acres of vineyards on the terrace slopes around Chignin. His Grandfather started the domaine in the 1930s and slowly increased the vineyard holdings while selling off most of the wine in bulk. In 1960 Michel’s father, André, began bottling under their own label. Michel joined his father in 1976 and today his son, Guillaume, has joined the family domaine after finishing wine school in Switzerland.
2011 André et Michel Quenard Chignin Vielles Vignes.
This wine is made from Jacquère grapes that are grown in vines that are over 70 years old. It is light yellow gold in color and has a nice floral perfume with a touch of citrus. With lovely fruit showing hints of apple, peach, and citrus, the wine is delicate and very pure with a nice crisp finish – Highly Recommended. $19.95 Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA.
2011 André et Michel Quenard Chignin-Bergeron.
Bergeron is the local name for Roussanne. This wine is made from grapes grown on 20 to 80 year old vines that grow on steep limestone slopes. It is really delicious! Light golden yellow in color the wine has a gorgeous floral perfume with hints of apricot and a faint tropical nuance. It is lush and rounded with great apricot and peach fruit showing just a tinge of citrus. Long and lingering on the palate this is a wine with great early appeal that is very easy to drink – Outstanding Plus. $26.00 Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA.
The Biltmore estate located in Asheville, North Carolina. The main house on the estate was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895. It is the largest privately owned house in the United States at nearly 180,000 square feet and 250 rooms.
In 1985 a winery was constructed in the building that formerly was the location of the estate dairy. That dairy was designed the Richard Howland Hunt, the son of the Biltmore house architect, Richard Morris Hunt. Today this winery is a major tourist attraction and is the most visited winery in America.
Below are notes on 3 wines made at the Biltmore Estate Winery. Two use grapes grown in California and the other uses a combination of grapes grown in North Carolina combined with grapes grown in California.
2011 Biltmore Estate Chardonnay Biltmore Reserve North Carolina.
This Chardonnay is made with 81% Chardonnay grapes grown in North Carolina and 19% Chardonnay grapes grown in California. It is light yellow in color and has a nice perfume with hints of vanilla and spice with a faint tropical citrus nuance. It has nice fruit showing tinges of vanilla and spice and is clean and balanced with a nice finish – Recommended Plus. $14.99.
NV Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine Method Champenoise – Brut.
This is a limited production wine made from grapes grown in the Russian River Valley in Sonoma, California. It is made entirely Chardonnay grapes from the 2008 vintage. Pale yellow in color the wine has a nice floral perfume with a tinge of citrus. It is lovely and finesseful with a subtle creaminess and flavors that show nuances of citrus, apple, and pear – Recommended Plus. $24.99
2010 Biltmore Estate Pinot Noir Biltmore Reserve Russian RiverValley.
This is a nice fruit forward limited prodcution Pinot Noir that weighs in at 15.9% alcohol.
It has a very nice color with an amber edge and a nice berry perfume with floral spice nuances. It has nice fruit and is rounded and supple with a tinge of spice and a nice finish with just a hint of crispness – Recommended. $24.99
This area is producing some really delicious white wines. Recently I did an article highlighting the Rias Baixas Albariño wines (to read that article click here)
2011 La Cana Albariño Rías Baixas.
Light yellow in color with a faint golden hue this wine has a very nice floral citrus tinged perfume. It is bright, fresh, and clean with a citrus tinge and a hint of peach and the finish has a nice crispness – Highly Recommended. $12.99 Imported by The Henry Wine Group Benecia, CA.