Red Wine

April 11, 2011

Passover Wine Guide 2011

I have been out of the wine business for some time, and sadly no longer have the opportunity to taste a wide variety of Kosher wines on a regular basis. So I am relying on a trusted source for this years picks:

Rashi Moscato d'Asti 2010 $9.75
Delightfully fresh, semi sweet, with outstanding floral, melon, pear and tangerine aromas and flavors. Moscato is a fantastic way to start or end your evening.

GamlaSB.JPGGamla Sauvignon Blanc 2009 $13.49
Produced entirely from Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown in the Golan Heights. The cool fermentation retains the round fruitiness and crisp herbaceous qualities characteristic of this variety. Shows off bright guava lime and kiwi notes rounded out with hints of citrus fruits and fresh flowers. Ready to drink and is best enjoyed within a couple of years from the harvest date.

HagafenSB.jpgHagafen Sauvignon Blanc 2010 $18
Produced from a well-established vineyard in the Eastern foothills of the Napa Valley, where hot days and cool nights are ideal for creating crisp, clean, long-finishing food friendly wine. On the nose, the Hagafen shows lemon, grapefruit, and kiwi. This crisp, bracing, mouth-watering wine fills the palate with a well integrated mix of bright fruit, including lemon drops, limes, grapefruit, and citrus zest.

daltonviognier.jpegDalton Reserve Viognier 2009 $15.95
Silky smooth white wine with delicate nuances of honey, peaches and apricots. A brief period in barrels has accented those flavours with sweet notes of vanilla and caramel.

Hagafen Ripken Vineyard Roussanne 2008 $19.99
This Roussanne is produced from grapes grown in the Ripken Vineyard, a site renowned for its ability to lend white varietals complexity and fruitiness, qualities required for a food friendly wine such as this one. The addition of a small amount of Marsanne adds hints of almond to complement the bouquet of sweet citrus, wild flowers, and tea. This mouth-watering wine fills the palate with a well integrated mix of lemon, grapefruit, almond, and bitter melon. Long-aging, this wine should be enjoyable for many years and is an ideal accompaniment for a range of dishes.

Joseph River Chardonnay 2009 $10.15
This Chardonnay has a clean banana tropical fruit nose supported by good natural acid The wine is well balanced with oak and has a long lasting finish.

Teperberg Meritage 2009 $15.95
taboradamacab.jpeg70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. This classic Bordeaux blend is full of dark fruits, like black cherry, blackberry and currant. Recommendation: Roast Beef, chicken or stews.

Tabor Adama Volcanic Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 $14.99
Dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with fine grained tannins integrating nicely. A ripe, supple and harmonious wine showing currant and blackcherry fruits, those supported by hints of near-sweet cedar wood and dark chocolate. On the long finish an enchanting hint of licorice.

Binyamina Yogev Cabernet-Petit Verdot 2009 $13.59
80% Cabernet/20% Petit Verdot - Exhibits bold color, rich structure with fresh fruit aromas. Full bodied, fruity, blackberries on the palate and dry long finish.

Weinstock Cellar Zinfandel 2007 $20
These grapes were hand harvested by sustainable growers in the warm Central Valley of California. Following pressing, the wine was aged for eight months in French oak. Medium to deep red color, rich and intense. Loaded with chocolate, cherry, wild berry and spice flavors. This full bodied, dry red wine is accented by a wonderful smoky, toasty oak finish.
Borgo Reale Pinot Noir 2009 $12.69
The Apulian vocated clay soils and sea breezes make Pinot Noir one of the most intriguing wines among the wide range of Borgo Reale selection. The color is an intense red, but it is on the nose that the uniqueness comes out. You can feel sweet notes of berries and cassis yet a warm sensation. The palate is elegant, harmonious and well structured.

Jerusalem Hills Cabernet-Shiraz 2009 $13.99
This Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz matures gently in the warm days and cool nights of the Judean Mountains, surrounding Jerusalem, close to maritime breezes coming straight from the Israeli coastal plain. This ideal climate allows the fruit to reach its entire flavor potential, offering rich varietal flavors delicately balanced by a generous savory finish.

barkanpetitesyrah.jpgBarkan Classic Petite Syrah 2009 $9.95
Deep ruby color, with chunky, country-style tannins and a few cherry-berry fruits. A great lush wine that goes well with almost any food you can imagine.

For more Kosher wine recommendations check out Kosher Wine Society and The Jewish Week

Top image from Yarden Inc.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

March 21, 2011

Sedara Donnafugata 2008


Varietal: About 50% Nero d'Avola, blended with merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah
Region: Sicily, Italy
Price: $6.99

Southern Italian and Sicilian wines can be fantastic values. Generally speaking you get a whole lot of rustic flavor for under $15. The hot dry climate and terrain in Puglia and Sicily tends to yield wines that are strong and spicy with rich dried fruit notes. Nero d'Avola is one of those local Sicilian varietals that can be intense and brooding, and occasionally downright belligerent. I guess that's why more producers are choosing to temper the intensity by blending it with smoother, more consumer friendly friendly grapes like cab, merlot and syrah as Sedara did with the Donnafugata.

This wine looks intense in the glass. It is fairly opaque and if you give it a good swirl you get whiffs of saddle leather and pipe tobacco, with spicy cassis and black cherry. Unfortunately, it is significantly more aromatic than flavorful, but I did get some dusty dried fruit flavors. It is pretty smooth and easy drinking--especially considering where it comes from. But frankly I like my Sicilians to pack more of a punch. I like my Nero d'Avola to taste like Nero d'Avola and not some generic red blend. That said, for what I paid, though it is unremarkable, this wine was a pleasant everyday pour that would definitely be a crowd pleaser at a pizza party. Which is exactly how I enjoyed it.

I picked mine up at Cost Plus World Market but you can also find it on

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

February 14, 2011

Finally... Something to Send Your Ex on Valentine's Day

Leper wine.jpg
If you're feeling embittered rather than romantic this year, you might find this tidbit interesting: evidently sending your ex a bottle of wine made by lepers is becoming a trend among jilted Europeans. I LOVE this! You can send a snarky non-valentine and help a leper colony sustain itself. Hmmm... I wonder how we crass Americans might put our spin on this.

Disgruntled lovers are snapping up bottles of one of Europe's most exclusive vintages to send to their ex lovers on Valentine's Day - a secret wine produced entirely by residents of the continent's last leper colony. Hidden for years from the public eye by Romania's former communist regime, the lepers of Tichilesti on the Danube Delta have continued an ancient tradition of wine-making stretching back to the Middle Ages. Now the St Lazarus Leper Wine - named after the patron saint of sufferers of the disease - is being sold world-wide to raise funds for the community and its remaining residents.

The wine was inspired by the late mayor of the colony Cristache Tatulea, who inspired the villagers to become more self sufficient and reach out to the world. "When I arrived there were hundreds of lepers here and it was a desolate place. There were ramshackle wooden huts with mud floors and nothing in the way of any amenities. Together we built proper houses, raised crops to earn extra money for luxuries and restoring the vineyards were a personal project of mine," he explained in his last interview before his death.

Cristache often spent days in the field protecting the vines from birds before leading the harvest of the sweet, red grapes that go to make up the full-bodied wine. Now the wine he produced is available at after his friend David Rogers arranged for it to be sold through shippers in Austria.

via Nothing To Do With Arbroath

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

June 9, 2010

Bodegas Volver Tempranillo La Mancha 2007

volver.jpgVARIETAL: Tempranillo
REGION: La Mancha, Spain
PRICE: $14

This wine is a lovely and luscious surprise in so many ways. I bought it out of spite really. I was picking up a few lamb racks for my mother's birthday dinner and realized that I since she ONLY drinks white, I needed only one bottle of red for my uncle and I to share. Since he drinks mostly California pinot noir and cab, and he insists that it is impossible to find a decent bottle of anything for less than $20, I just had to find something totally out of his comfort zone. He was taunting me and I was determined to prove him wrong. So I grabbed this tempranillo thinking it would be a good match for my lamb--and that's exactly how I would spin it for him--and I just wouldn't mention the price.

At first whiff, the Volver tempranillo is completely mesmerizing. Warm aromas of saddle leather and coffee go straight to your head where they mingle for a while with the intense fruit notes you get from macerated red berries and dried currants. It is ever-so-slightly floral, but a more dried, dusty floral--just a hint of dried violet, or maybe lavender. First sips quickly turn into an empty glass. Sharing is definitely a problem with this one. The rich, round fruit notes are layered with subtle spice, sweet tobacco, and supple tannins. This tempranillo has wow. I think I could have polished off the bottle before the lamb racks hit the grill.

This wine so completely blew me away. My uncle was even impressed and thought I spent $25 or $30 on it. Check your local Whole Foods or get it online here.

Find it. Get it. Drink it. Thank me later.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

May 31, 2010

Jarhead - Wines of Character

Before we all head out to the beach or the block party or the family picnic, let us remember why most of us are not at work today. Let us honor the men and women who valiantly serve and have served to protect us, our children and the United States of America.

I don't know about you, but I like to do most of my honoring and remembering with a fine glass of something in my hand. Now, thanks to the passion and perseverance of two fine marines, you can enjoy a fantastic California red and show your support at the same time.

With Jarhead Red, we aim to give back while honoring the men and women who defend our nation. Each bottle of Jarhead Red supports the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, which provides educational assistance to children of U.S. Marines, with special consideration given to families of fallen Marines.

While Jarhead Red is made by Marines, for Marines, it will appeal to anyone who enjoys a robust red wine crafted in an approachable style.

2008_jarhead_red.jpg2008 JARHEAD RED
The Rhône varietal components of Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault were harvested from the Firestone family's estate vineyards and aged in individual lots of French oak barrels, 25 percent of which featured new oak. These lots contributed depth and complexity to the final blend, while a larger lot of Merlot from other local vineyards brought a supple roundness to the texture. The 2008 opens with deep aromas of plum, coffee and vanilla. Rich, rounded flavors of black cherry, cassis and cedar unfold into a long, spicy finish. This wine is a perfect match for classic American fare, such as peppered steak, barbecued chicken and grilled sausage. True to its name, Jarhead Red boasts a robust character and a finish that doesn't quit. This is the 10th vintage of Jarhead Red since the inaugural vintage of 1999. $13

2009_jarhead_chard_label.jpg2009 JARHEAD CHARD
The 2009 Jarhead Chard comes from select vineyards in Santa Barbara County, where the long, moderate growing season is ideal for achieving optimal ripeness and balance in the Chardonnay grape. The wine was fermented in a combination of stainless steel and French oak to maintain natural fruit freshness while bringing a toasty roundness to the palate. The 2009 Chardonnay begins with aromas of tropical fruit with hints of vanilla and citrus. Flavors of pear, pineapple and butterscotch finish with clean, mineral accents. This finely balanced Chardonnay is an excellent match for grilled seafood, roast lemon chicken and creamy pastas. $13

06_jarhead_reserve_web.jpg2006 JARHEAD RESERVE
Only the finest lots of the vintage are selected for the limited-edition bottling of Jarhead Red Reserve. These lots are aged separately for a minimum of 16 months in premium French oak barrels. The 2006 vintage is a complex, full-bodied blend that opens with smoky aromas of black cherry, plum, mocha and juniper. The palate unfolds with deep, integrated layers of briary black fruit with hints of spicy vanilla. $24

The 2008 vintage is a powerful blend of Cabernet Franc (75%), Merlot (13%) and Syrah (12%) and will be released in September of 2010. Stay tuned for details.

Images and copy via Jarhead

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

May 26, 2010

CheapFun Finds for Memorial Day

The summer season is almost upon us and if you live anywhere that is even remotely temperate this time of year, my guess is you're gearing up for the season's first big barbeque. Whether you're planning a massive backyard bash or an intimate gathering, we have your vino covered.

For the seriously budget minded, we suggest a red and a white that are crowd pleasers and can be easily found for a mere $9.99:

Thumbnail image for boro hills sb.jpgBoro Hills Sauvignon Blanc
Meticulously selected fruits from our vineyards in Rapaura Road and Renwick, results in a wine with an abundant spectrum of tropical and herbal aromas. Intense flavours of passionfruit and gooseberry are balanced by an overlay of limes and lemons. A succulent wine with depth and texture and a lingering finish of lime. (from Highfield Estate)

Thumbnail image for colores malbec.jpgColores del Sol Malbec
Colores del Sol meaning "Colors of the Sun." is a Malbec that captured the exciting, alluring qualities of the Malbec grape in a wine which utilized modern, high-quality winemaking. The vineyards in Mendoza are among highest in the world - therefore, closest to the sun where the sun's light is most pure. That pure light reflects from grapes and vines like a starburst, revealing all the colors of the sun. The grapes are watered with pure melted snow channeled from the Andes, using a centuries-old irrigation system inherited from the native settlers, the Huarpes Indians. (from Colores del Sol)

If you want to impress your guests and still stay in the $12-$17 range, here are a few picks that truly wowed us:

2006Chardonnay.jpgSix Prong Chardonnay
Not your typical Northwest Chardonnay. Reminiscent of the Chablis style, and perfectly food-friendly. Lean, but zingy with a big sliver of chalky wet basalt slicing through bright gooseberry & kiwi flavors, finishing crisp & clean with nuances of white pepper and the slightest hint of vanilla oak. Very refreshing. (from Six Prong)

Thumbnail image for Ottimino_zinfinity.jpg Ottimino Zinfinity
Aromas of blackberry syrup, plum and black cherry are tinged with caramel and hints of vanilla and smoke. The entry on the palate is juicy, adding flavors of pomegranate and ripe raspberry. The tannins are smooth and round and the expansive mid-palate leads to a firm and persistent finish. The balance of this quintessential Zinfandel allows great versatility with food, and its deceptive heartiness will reward experiments with exotic pairings. (from Vintage Point Cellars)

BRO-08-No.6_SC_USA.gifBrothers in Arms, No. 6 Shiraz Cabernet
Deep maroon, crimson and magenta hues. A lifted spice and herb aroma displaying a rosemary fragrance mixed with plum and dark red fruits. Juicy berries up front greet explosive fruits coupled with talc and fine drying tannins which carry the fruit across the palate uninterrupted. Highly approachable now but will cellar for 6 to 8 years. 85% shiraz, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. (from Vintage Point Cellars)

Or if you want someone else to do the choosing, My Wines Direct is offering three great packs that offer a little something for everyone:

sunny_whites_265_042210.jpgSunny Whites
Serve up refreshment with these six sunny selections. From Australia, California and Italy, we've brought you the best whites for the summer season. Sit back, sip and'll save $9 when you choose all of these wines together. Elegant and refreshing, what's better on a warm summer day than a cool glass of white wine? Italian Pinot Grigio has long been a summer favorite. But the Aussie's won't be out done. They've vinted the best of the down under sunshine with the Richland Chardonnay. California is no stranger to sunny favorites - enjoy a classic Chardonnay or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

bbqBest_265_050410.jpgBBQ Bests
Cheers to the grillin' master! Everyone will toast the chef as they enjoy these rich and bold reds, ranging from an Argentine Cabernet and Malbec to a French Côtes du Rhône and a Pinot Noir from California. A premium addition to this pack - the award-winning Merlot from Hall vineyards, which normally retails for $50. Fire up the grill and open a few bottles, to make your BBQ the best of the season. From meat and chicken to salmon and veggies, you'll find the perfect pairing with one of these top red picks.

mouthwatering_mix.jpgMouthwatering Mix
It's the warm weather season for fun with family and friends. Get the party started with a tempting mix of 6 wines from California, Argentina and Spain. Pair with your favorite foods and savor the delicious flavor combinations. Serve the California Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay with sautéed fish, grilled chicken and summer salads. If you enjoy a meal around the grill, pour a few glasses of the Argentine Cabernet or the premium Hall Merlot. And for an international cheese plate or a decadent chocolate dessert, try the Spanish Crianza or California Pinot Noir.

Wine pack copy and images from My Wines Direct.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

April 29, 2010

Octavin Home Wine Bar - Artisan Wine in a Box... Sort of

Monthaven Imagery1.jpg

Okay so it technically isn't a box, but rather an octagon... And of course the wine is housed in a stay-fresh collapsable bag, but you get the idea. I figured since I've been chatting up the boxed wine concept quite a bit lately I should probably prove to you that on occasion, I practice what I preach.

Things I love about the Octavin Wine Bar:

  • The footprint is smaller and takes up less space on my counter or in my fridge

  • The spout is easy to use and doesn't make a mess

  • Great value, you get a whole lot of wine for $20-$25 dollars

  • Most importantly, the wines are GREAT. You get real wines, well established artisan wines, not just left over juice from here and there all thrown in a bag.

Monthaven Chardonnay 2008
I was pretty terrified to try this one. Of all the boxed wines I've tried in the past, I have found the chardonnays the least forgiving, and overall the least appealing. This vibrant central coast chardonnay totally changed my mind. I was blown away by how well balanced, and flavorful it was. Great tropical aromatics and flavors add a little richness and roundness, but just a little. The pineapple quickly gives way to clean crisp golden apple. It is medium bodied and just generally crowd-pleasing and very easy to pair with food. Throw this in your cooler for all of your outdoor gatherings this summer.

Big House Red 2008
What can I say about the Big House that you don't already know? I hadn't tasted this wine in about 10 years, but it is EXACTLY as I remember it and I can tell you it tastes EXACTLY the same from a tap. This wine screams easy going and food friendly. Fruity and super smooth, it is the ultimate party red. Again, you'll want it around for that summer block party or BBQ.

The one thing you may (or may not) find fault with is the claim that these wines last for 4-6 weeks. Ahem, well I am here to tell you that 20 glasses of wine do not last 4-6 weeks in this household. They did last about 2 weeks--and they did remain as fresh as the day I popped the tap.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

February 2, 2009

Primarius Pinot Noir 2006

primariusPNoir.jpgVARIETAL: Pinot Noir
REGION: Oregon (sourced)
PRICE: $11

My expectations were exceedingly low for this pinot... I haven't had too much luck finding good wines at Fresh & Easy, but sometimes you just have to go with what's convenient. Primarius makes two wines, a pinot noir and a pinot gris, that are produced and bottled in Mattawa, WA but the grapes are sourced from Oregon. The first thing you'll notice about the pinot noir its lightness and clarity in the glass. The color is brick, but quite pale and really looks watery. The pleasant surprise comes when you hesitantly take a sip and realize that is isn't watery, just incredibly delicate. Very Burgundian, the Primarius is layered with subtle dried fruit and spice flavors that evolve on your palate. This wine is not for everyone. If you are a fan of the bolder, new-world pinots that are more obvious (and sometimes oblivious) in every way, please stay away from this one. You will hate it. But I find the Primarius' subtlety refreshing and the perfect pairing for a simple grilled salmon fillet. Stay tuned for more on the pinot gris...

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

November 24, 2008

Volute Wine - Premium, Portable Vino

medianl.jpgFinally! A picnic wine that you can actually take to the park or the beach or an outdoor concert venue -- or just about anywhere you CAN'T take a glass wine bottle. Super convenient and dare I say, super cute, Volute wines might be the best thing to happen to tailgating.

We source our wine from small, independent Bordeaux wineries that posses the same values and views as we do. Our wineries also believe passionately about - and employ - green practices, and do not use any artificial additives.

Not sure yet if they live up to their story, but I just received a bottle of each, so I'll expound once I've popped the tops.

In the meantime, check out Volute Premium Portable Wines

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

October 28, 2008

Blood of the Vines - Halloween Wine Guide

There are a number of novelty wines out there if you're in the market this All Hallows Eve. If you want one stop shopping and live near a Cost Plus World Market, you can find about 9 or ten options there, including their own Trick (red blend) or Treat (white blend) from Chateau Diana. Cute idea, but I think I'll focus on the darker options.

vampirepinot.pngVampire Pinot Noir - Vampire Vineyards - Vin de Pays, FR
Powerful forest fruit and wild strawberry aromas persist on the nose, balanced by hints of fine French oak. The vibrant ruby red colors hint at a young wine, but the taste reveals a remarkable maturity. Elegant soft fruit flavors are already finely integrated into the structure of the wine, as is the oak, adding a subtle but powerful complexity to the flavor. This is a light smooth wine, easy to drink at any time of the year and exhibiting typical character of a young Pinot Noir. (Vampire Vineyards)

Vampire Merlot - Vampire Vineyards - Paso Robles, California
Picked at peak ripeness, the Merlot is fermented on the skins for two weeks, with three-times-daily pump-overs, the traditional method of extraction which brings rich color and supple tannins to the new wine. Aged with a combination of both French and American oak, our Merlot develops graceful fruit flavors in the cellar, complemented by subtle shadings of vanilla and toast from the oak. At the completion of the aging process, this Merlot was carefully blended with 8% Cabernet Sauvignon for added depth and structure, as well as 8% Zinfandel, which adds a spicy note on the palate. (Vampire Vineyards)

Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon - Vampire Vineyards - Paso Robles, California
Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from several small-berry clones of this traditional Bordeaux varietal, grown in the Paso Robles region of California's Central Coast. Classic, small-lot fermentations, followed by aging with both European and American oak, gives full expression to the rich varietal flavors in this wine. Judiciously blended with small amounts of Merlot for softness, and Syrah for added structure, the Cabernet displays ripe flavor character and a lovely aroma that will continue to develop with additional time in bottle. (Vampire Vineyards)

(If you want something a little more authentic, try to find the Cab and Merlot from the Racas Vineyard in Transylvania)

SB 06 CabSauv Front1.jpgSpellbound Cabernet Sauvignon - California
Spellbound Cabernet exemplifies lush textures and bold dark fruit flavors with a slight hint of oak and spice. Cedar and tobacco aromas complement integrated lively tannins and fill out your palate allowing the wine to be consumed on its own or with your favorite food. (Spellbound Wines)

Spellbound Old Vines Zinfandel - Lodi
Our deep appreciation of the Zinfandel grapes rich history in California has led us to add this exciting varietal to the Spellbound family of wines. Focusing on old vines with lower yields that deliver intense flavors and bright acidity, we have produced a wine that is food friendly and lush on the palate. Located in the Lodi appellation, the 52 year old zinfandel vines offer subtle spice, rich, dark berry flavors, and balanced acidity. Aged in a combination of small French and American oak barrels we believe you will find this to be one of Spellbounds most delicious wines. (Spellbound Wines)

P06103.jpgEvil Cabernet Sauvignon - South Australia
100% Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards in Langhorne Creek, Riverland, Barossa Valley. 25% aged in French oak for 12 months. Dark rich red, with bright crimson hues. Fresh, yet rich classic varietal nose, consisting of black olive, fresh blackberries and raspberries. The soft palate displays complexity of fruit and oak, with blackcurrant and spicy clove characters, balanced with a fine tannin finish. (

Pure Evil Chardonnay - South Australia
Pure Evil Chardonnay has white peach stone fruit characters. Add a luscious and delicious textural mouthfeel and a touch of French oak influence. The creaminess is balanced by an elegant freshness. (

You may also find these and other options at your local wineshop/beverage superstore. All are in the $8 - $15 range, but if you're having a party or just stocking up, be sure to ask about 6- and 12-bottle discounts.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

September 8, 2008

Wine 101 - Bb is for Beaujolais

chaizebojo.jpgDON'T stop reading because I mentioned the dreaded B word. PLEASE. Just give me a few minutes and you might be pleasantly surprised. I know, I know what you're thinking... Of all the great wine 'Bs' out there, why would I choose Beaujolais? And I shall tell you. There are, in fact, a plethora of fascinating grapes and regions that begin with the letter B -- all the Bs from the Boot: Barolo, Barbera, Brunello, Barbaresco would surely make an interesting and tasty post. So true, my friends, but alas only a handful (mostly Barbera) are suited to the "cheap" part of our cheap and fun profile. The rest are left for special occasions and Swanky Wine Fridays.

So here we are.

And here are the Top 5 Things You Might Not Know About Beaujolais:

1. Beaujolais is from Burgundy! However, this southern area of Burgundy and its light and fruity wines bear little resemblance to its more refined brethren of the north.

2. Beaujolais is made from Gamay grapes which have black skins and white juice. They tend to be much less tannic and fairly fruit forward.

35561-1.jpg3. There are 3 categories of Beaujolais (not including Nouveau): Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages and Beaujolais Cru. Chances are, if you hate Beaujolais, you've probably only tasted Beaujolais or maybe a Beaujolais Villages. Most of those are, as you experienced, overly fruity and devoid of character or finish. That is because they are--for the most part--made by negociants. The grapes are sourced from the lesser vineyards and blended then bottled. The resulting wine is a mish-mosh of mediocrity. The Beaujolais Crus, on the other hand are from 10 specific villages. These wines are produced more traditionally as estate bottled wines and found much less frequently than its cheaper brothers, but possess much more character and interest.

4. Beaujolais should be served slightly chilled (but not cold!). About 15 minutes in the fridge does the trick. Think of it as a darker rose. Its quaffabilty and lack of tannins makes it just about the most food friendly wine on earth. But drink it within two years. Gamay, with its lack of tannic structure does not make wines that age well.

5. Beaujolais Nouveau is NOT the same thing. The Nouveau is a special Beaujolais that is released every year on the Thursday before Thanksgiving (the second Thursday of the month, I think). It is intended as a celebration of the harvest and as such it is very young--usually only 7-9 weeks old. I often celebrate its release--who doesn't enjoy a good excuse to throw a wine party? But I almost never drink it. I'll buy a bottle for my guests to try a tiny taste and raise a toast, but the rest of the night we celebrate with mostly the Crus.

If you want to continue this lesson, here are a few crus to peruse. Every one is a winner and completely expressive of what Beaujolais should be. Look for them locally but if all else fails, you can find them on

Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais 2007 $10.98

Chat De La Chaize Brouilly $10.98

Domaine Chanrion Cote De Brouilly 2006 $16.98

Clos De La Roilette Fleurie 2006 $15.98

And your homework is to read Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer's Tour of France by Kermit Lynch, wine merchant extraordinaire and my beaujolais hero.
There will be a test on Monday.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

August 24, 2008

Castle Rock Sonoma County Syrah 2006

2005SonomaCountySyrah6.jpgVARIETAL: Syrah
REGION: Sonoma County, California
PRICE: $10

I have this weird relationship with Castle Rock wines. If I'm out shopping and don't have time to hit my favorite wine spots, I grab a Castle Rock wine at the grocery store and I know I won't be embarrassed to serve it. Medium-bodied and smooth the Castle Rock syrah provides pleasing dried berry aromas and at first sip, lots of up-front jammy fruit--ripe dark berry, dried cherry and plum--rounded out with a little subtle spice and sweet tobacco. Certainly not the most refined or complex syrah, but for the price it is very drinkable and ultimately likeable. Overall, a good go-to wine when choices are limited. I served it with barbequed chicken, but I think it would do well with most red meat, hard cheese, and blue veined cheese as well.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

June 23, 2008

Fontanafredda Briccotondo Barbera 2006

fontafredbarbera.jpgVARIETAL: Barbera
REGION: Piedmont, Italy
PRICE: $10

This is as super-smooth an Italian as I've ever encountered--and that includes a few close encounters while vacationing in northern Italy one summer. Ripe, round plum and berry notes accentuated with a subtle nudge of black pepper and spice. It is a natural match for tuscan pot roast, but I like it with thin crust pizza as well. This is a great find for lovers of Italian (wines, of course) and a beautiful value-priced Barbera. I found it at Costco for $10 but you can also find it here: Fontanafredda Briccotondo Barbera.

p.s. If you're into ratings, this baby made the Wine Spectator Top 100 2007 and was given a whopping 90 points.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

May 23, 2008

Fire up the grill - Wines for Steak

Steak is probably one of the easiest things to grill. . . a little pepper, generous salt, other spices or marinade if you desire, and a good sear makes for an easy and infinitely enjoyable meal. Red meat is also pretty simple to pair with wine so you have a lot more room to play around. Pretty much any big bold red will complement a hearty steak.

cousinomaculcab.jpgA pretty traditional pairing would be a big cab. A cabernet sauvignon, or a cab blend, will have the structure and fortitude to cut through the protein and fat. I like the Cousino Macul because it is big and dusty with the darker berry fruit flavors as well as dried fruit, sweet tobacco and saddle leather aromas. Totally warm and inviting.
Cousino Macul Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 $11
Opaque purple in colour, this Estate Cabernet offers aromatics of ripe blackberries, plum, herbs and cacao. Medium in body and light tannin, it captures the essence of Maipo Valley fruit. In the mouth, the flavors continue the blackberry-blueberry themes with hints of cassis and black olives. Its lingering finish echoes the black fruits and ends on a tangy cherry brightness. With time in the glass, this Cabernet unfolds beautifully, suggesting it can be enjoyed in its youth or cellared for 2 to 5 years. (from

gasconmalbec.jpgMy personal favorite with red meat (at least my cheap and fun fave) is malbec. One of the five Bordeaux blending grapes, Malbec is widely planted varietal in Argentina and is served with just about every type of meat you can imagine. The style is a little more loose and round than a cabernet, but still maintains a good bit of structure and spice to balance it out.
Gascon Malbec 2006 $12
This wine is made by blending Malbec from the three best growing areas in Mendoza. In these areas, the grapes develop sweet tannins, intense fruit and good acidity/sugar balance, combining the characteristics of each area. Red purple color. Intense black fruits and red plum aromas. Smooth and concentrated tannins in the mouth. (from

beyerskloof05label.jpgIf you're feeling a little adventurous, check out a pinotage. It is the signature grape of South Africa and a cross between cinsault (a Rhone blending grape) and pinot noir. What you get is a totally original flavor that has nice cherry and red berry fruit flavors and aromas from the pinot, but is laced with twinges of cut herbs, smoke and roasted meat. Often when you first open the bottle is smells oddly antiseptic and a little like a band-aid, but if you give a few minutes to open up, you're in for an interesting wine experience. A natural match for meat.
Beyerskloof Pinotage 2005 $12
A medium to full bodied pinotage with a deep red colour. A complex Pinotage with plum and red berry flavours well integrated with the oak aromas. A balanced wine that could be enjoyed now or age in the bottle for a few years longer. In summer to go with seafood or light meat dishes. It also goes well with any red meat, pasta and spicy food. (from Beyerskloof)

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

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