Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Holiday Wines: Sweet Bordeaux, Sauternes

The sweet wines of Bordeaux often are relegated to the dessert category, and why not?  They pair well with dessert plates and could even serve as dessert all on their own.  However, they are not just for dessert.  They're for snacking, too.  The holidays are a great time to do some snacking.  That gym membership will still be good in January.

Non-dessert usage of Sweet Bordeaux wines was the thrust of a recent online virtual tasting in which I was invited to take part.  #GoGoldenBordeaux even supplied some tasty and savory treats to pair with the wines, just to reinforce the "opposites attract" method of wine pairing.  Snooth hosted the event, with Master of Wine Mary Gorman-McAdams also taking part. 

Louis Bordenave is a "grape engineer" at the Institute of Vine and Wines Sciences, part of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research.  He says the Sémillon grape is best suited for the sweet, white wines of Bordeaux that are spread out over ten appellations within BDX.  Bordenave figures that Semillon is probably the only variety native to Bordeaux among both whites and reds.

Château Lapinesse Cuvee Lapinesse Sauternes 2016

Sixth-generation winegrowers David and Laurent Siozard are in charge at Château Lapinesse in Sauternes.  Their estate is actually in the sub-appellation of Barsac, although they bottle as Sauternes. 

This yellow-gold wine sweetens without overdoing it.  A honeyed fruit nose with an earthy overlay leads to a palate that shows sugar with a slightly tart side.  The acidity is nice, but not ripping.  The finish goes a bit flat.  Still, a very nice wine from a region where it’s had to go wrong.



Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Holiday Wine: Sweet Bordeaux, Sauternes

The sweet wines of Bordeaux often are relegated to the dessert category, and why not?  They pair so well with dessert plates they could even serve as dessert all on their own.  However, they are not just for dessert.  They're for snacking, too.  The holidays are a great time to do some snacking.  That gym membership will still be good in January.

Non-dessert usage of Sweet Bordeaux wines was the thrust of a recent online virtual tasting in which I was invited to take part.  #GoGoldenBordeaux even supplied some tasty and savory treats to pair with the wines, just to reinforce the "opposites attract" method of wine pairing.  Snooth hosted the event, with Master of Wine Mary Gorman-McAdams also taking part.

Louis Bordenave is a "grape engineer" at the Institute of Vine and Wines Sciences, part of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research.  He says the Sémillon grape is best suited for the sweet, white wines of Bordeaux that are spread out over ten appellations within BDX.  Bordenave figures that Semillon is probably the only variety native to Bordeaux among both whites and reds.

Castelnau De Suduiraut Sauternes 2006

Sauternes is the best-known of those ten sub-appellations.  Castelnau is made from grapes which ripen earlier than those used in the Chateau de Suduiraut flagship wine.  The blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes hits 14% abv and it looks as good as it tastes.

This is a beautiful wine that's sweet but certainly not cloying.  The color is bourbon gold and the nose offers dried apricots and honey.  The sweetness is more pronounced on the palate, but a zippy acidity balances the experience perfectly.  The wine has a long and satisfying finish.


Monday, November 19, 2018

The Beaujolais Nouveau Is Here, And It's Good

It's time again for the seasonal experience known as Beaujolais Nouveau.  The young wine that is produced and hurried to market each fall by France's Beaujolais region is here.  I'm not a fan of it, so I was quite surprised to find that it's pretty good this year.

Beaujolais Nouveau is released on the third Thursday of November at 12:01 a.m., a practice that was originated as a publicity stunt.  I've read accounts of the wine being rushed by any conveyance imaginable to the bistros across the land, each trying to get it there before their competitors.  The wine is generally touted as a great addition to both the Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts.  Its pairability with the wide variety of flavors available over the holidays is, for some, legendary.  I have never been able figure why, since the wine has none of the qualities we usually look for in a mature wine. 

The leading producer of Beaujolais Nouveau is Les Vins Georges Duboeuf.  You've no doubt seen his name on those bottles with the fruity labels which appear each holiday season.  The company always puts out press releases extolling the virtues of the harvest.  The copy was pretty much the same this year, "nearly perfect summer," "exceptional harvest," "grapes of highest quality," "among the greatest vintages" they've ever had.  But this year the words rang true.

Duboeuf this year has a Beaujolais Nouveau, a Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau and a Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé, which is making its American debut, all imported by Quintessential.

All three wines are made only from Gamay grapes, whole bunch harvested from the southern part of the region.  Duboeuf and his team reportedly tried some five-thousand samples over two weeks to settle on the cuvées found here.  Tough job, but someone's gotta do it.  The wines have a scale on the back label, much like Rieslings do, showing that they are somewhere between dry and medium-dry.  They hit 12.5% abv for alcohol and sells for less than $15.  The label art is quite nice this season, and is called "Foolish Pleasure" by Chloé Meyer.

The 2018 Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau is pretty good.  The nose - Gamay grapey - is nearly all dark fruit with a smattering of spice, and that profile holds true on the palate, too.  It's a clean, brisk drink that doesn't seem to fall prey to the usual complaint of being too young.  The spicy angle lends it maturity beyond its years, er, weeks.  Happy Thanksgiving.

The 2018 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé is, not surprisingly, alive with vibrant fruit aromas and flavors.  The nose has herbs and strawberries in an earthier-than-Provence framework while the palate displays cherry, strawberry and a hint of the mayhaw jelly I enjoyed as a youngster in southeast Texas.  No kidding.  The acidity is gentle but tingly.  The pink wine will be great as an aperitif or with the turkey or the ham, and especially with those Black Friday leftovers.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, November 16, 2018

Three Wineries For The Price Of One

There's a three-way wine tasting room in San Luis Obispo.  Baileyana, Tangent and True Myth all show off their wines in a little yellow school house.  There's a great view of the vineyards to one side of the old structure, and a field of sunflowers off the other side.  The Niven family planted their Paragon vineyard three decades ago, from which the lion's share of their wines are still produced.

Natalie poured for Guido and me.  It was another great trip up the 101 into California’s beautiful Central Coast.  Tasters once had the option here of doing a flight of Baileyana, a flight of the all-white wine Tangent or a mix.  Now, only the mix is offered.  True Myth was not represented on the tasting menu the day I went.  The tasting cost $15, a charge which is waived with a two-bottle purchase.

On the menu:

Tangent "Clone 530" Sauvignon Blanc 2017 smells and tastes a bit more New Zealand than Cali SauvBlanc usually tastes.  There's grass, tropical and a clean zippiness, although the acidity was not extreme.  $32

Baileyana "La Pristina" Chardonnay 2016 doesn’t come off as wildly oaky, until you sip it.  One-third of the wood is new French oak and it was in there for nine months.  There's a nice acidity.  $30

Baileyana "La Entrada" Pinot Noir 2016 is light and gorgeous.  It's an elegant Pinot, a rarity in California, where ripeness generally takes them into the heavyweight category.  Cherries, strawberries, roses, violets, all for $35.

Trenza "Mosaico" 2013 is a 60/40 blend of Grenache and Syrah.  It's made from Paso Robles grapes, while all the other wines on the list are estate bottlings.  Big and juicy, this wine shows off the best of warm-climate grapes, ripe and fresh with a great grip.

Zocker Late Harvest Grüner Veltliner 2012 is a very drinkable dessert wine which can pair with great versatility.  It's not a huge sugar rush, rather a delight with a shade of tartness that balances the wine beautifully.  $20


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wine Aged In Bourbon Barrels - Exitus

Bourbon is hot right now.  Meininger's reports that bourbon sales have tripled in the past two decades, and most of that growth has been in the premium and super-premium areas, the "can’t afford it" shelf.  Robert Joseph writes in the article about what he calls the bourbonization of wine, red wines aged in whiskey barrels that started hitting the store shelves about four years back.  It started as a boutique move, but now all the big producers are selling a wine that's been aged in whiskey barrels.

Bourbonized wine is usually high in alcohol - 15% or so - and marked by the rich caramel notes found in bourbon.  But some wine know-it-alls say, if you want bourbon, why don’t you just drink bourbon?  It could be that a new market segment is getting attention here, people who really like the effect of bourbon but can't, or don't want to, tolerate an 80-proof beverage.

I don't know why a wine company would name their product after the inevitable end of a terminal disease, but here we are: Exitus.  The say their bourbon-barrel aged juice is an "answer to the monotony of boring, forgettable wines," crafted for the "adventurous drinker."  They're right.

Exitus is made from a blend of Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Merlot grapes which are vinified in stainless steel, then aged three months in bourbon barrels. It's really a wonderful idea, because there are those among us who believe three months of oak aging is plenty.  This wine hits high in alcohol, at 15.9% abv, and hails from Parlier, in California's Fresno County.  Fresno is in the heart of the Central Valley and is more known for raisins than wine grapes.

This red blend smells not too heavily of the Kentucky Bourbon barrels that are billed as the difference-maker.  The aroma is there, but ripe, deep red fruit claims center stage.  The aromatic notes of leather, vanilla, caramel and chocolate are noticeable, but they play supporting roles.  On the palate, there's a hint of bourbon, but it's not overplayed at all.  The wine is big - let’s not undersell it, it's huge - but it's a fun drink if you're into that trip.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Monday, November 12, 2018

Holiday Wine: Sémillon In Loupiac

Loupiac is a region in France's Bordeaux region, north of Sauternes and the Garonne River.  It is also an appellation exclusive to sweet, golden dessert wines made largely from Sémillon grapes.  Sweet white wine is not everyone's cup, but anyone who likes a good dessert and a good glass of wine should not object to having them in the same serving.  However, sweet Bordeaux wines are for more than dessert.  Start a meal with them, an aperitif, or pair them with your main courses.  Try to pair sweet wines with something salty or savory for a great balance.

Thanksgiving is a great time to start a love affair with sweet Bordeaux wines.  Have them with the pumpkin pie, sure, but try it with the turkey and ham, too.  You'll be surprised at the pairing.

Sweet Bordeaux US and Snooth put on a virtual tasting awhile back of a nice selection of Sauternes wines, and I was lucky enough to be included.  Hosted by Snooth's co-founder and chief taster Mark Angelillo and wine educator Fred Swan, the event drew raves from those who participated in it. Swan, especially, won kudos all around for his vast knowledge.

One participant, Jim Vanbergen, commented on social media that salty foods are tremendous with sweet wines - not only Sauternes, but also Port, Alsace, Icewine and others.

Château Dauphiné Rondillon Loupiac 

The Darriet family runs Château Dauphiné Rondillon in Loupiac, a region in Bordeaux which specializes in sweet Sémillon wines.  This one is 80% Sémillon with Sauvignon Blanc rounding out the blend.  The grapes are harvested late, so their sugar content is maximized.  It's a 13% abv wine and it sells for $28.

The vintners say they like to serve their wine as an aperitif, but they also recommend it with salty, savory foods.  Blue cheese is a particular favorite.

This is a sweet wine that doesn't play that way.  The wine smells of honey and dried apricots.  It comes off as more savory than sweet, and that's reinforced on the palate.  The acidity is fairly lively, too, so you can pair with foods, particularly a blue cheese.  On social media, Deborah Parker Wong said that she got smoke and minerals on the finish, too.




Friday, November 9, 2018

Fall Is Time For Rosé, Too

Pink wine screams spring and summer, but there shouldn't be such a mad rush to discard the rosés simply because the calendar page flipped.  You can stow away the white slacks until May if you like, but keep some pink wine handy all year long.

Not only is rosé a very food-friendly wine - especially the one we're concerned with today - it's just about a perfect match with turkey, as well as with those leftover turkey sandwiches.

Randall Grahm makes a great variety of rosés, of which this is probably the leader and the pink flag of the Cigare line.  Bonny Doon Vineyard's 2017 Vin Gris De Cigare consists of 57% Grenache, 18% Grenache Blanc, 9% Mourvedre, 6% Roussanne, 5% Carignane and 5% Cinsault.  Nearly a quarter of that grape content are white Rhône varieties.  The grapes were grown all over California's Central Coast, in vineyards like Alta Loma, Beeswax, Bokisch Ranch, JD Farming, San Miguel, Cass, Gonsalves, Scheid, Wente, Rancho Solo and Ventana. 

The bottle is adorned with the classic aliens-in-the-vineyard artwork that identifies the full line of Cigare Volant reds, whites and pinks.  The 13.2% abv alcohol number makes for an easy-drinking pink while stirring of the lees during and after fermentation gives extra creaminess to the wine.  The trademark Bonny Doon savory notes also help make a nice food wine.

Vin Gris De Cigare's nose offers tart aromas, stemmy strawberries, raspberries and apricots.  The palate is riper, but still not a fruit bomb by any stretch.  Acidity is at just about the perfect balance between food-friendly and sipping.  I can't wait to have it with a ham sandwich - that's my post-Thanksgiving leftover favorite.


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Napa Cab Bursts With Aroma, Flavor

Longtime Napa Valley winemaker Robert Pepi has been putting out a line of wines for nearly two decades, since selling off his Robert Pepi Winery to Sonoma's Kendall-Jackson.  He uses vineyards that interest him but don't suit the needs of his consulting clients.  Pepi - for reasons of his own or contractual ones - does not use his name on the bottle, opting for the Eponymous tag.  That would indicate that there’s some mystery about the lack of his name on the label.

The 2014 Eponymous Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is all Cab, with the Napa Valley pedigree.  Three quarters of the grapes were grown in the Mt. Veeder vineyard, the rest in the bench lands below the Atlas Peak appellation.  A long growing season that vintage made for lots of hang time for the fruit in moderate heat.  The wine was aged for 20 months in 70% new oak, mostly French.  Alcohol sits at 14.4% abv, only 350 cases were made and the bottles sell for $60.

This Napa Cab is everything you'd expect from that billing.  Inky in the glass, it has a nose which explodes with ripe black and blue berries, licorice and vanilla with a hint of pencil point.  The palate is equally dark, with toasty oak and tannins that are quite firm.  The lush mouthfeel lasts long on the finish and leaves me wanting another glass.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, November 5, 2018

Italian Wine Shopping

Shopping for Italian wines in a place that really "gets" Italian wine is a fantastic experience.  There are several small shops in Los Angeles that fall into that category, and Eataly gets Italian wine, too, although the space isn't exactly small.  It's a big, Italian grocery market with an extensive wine section.

Normally, my wife would be the one wanting to linger a bit longer in an Italian market, but the wine section offers me a chance to browse a bit, too.

Possa's 2014 U Neigru is a Ligurian red wine made from half Canaiolo grapes and half Bonamico, grown on 45-year-old vines in sandy soil.  The wine spent five days on the grapes skins, fermented spontaneously with indigenous yeasts and was aged for nine months on the lees in chestnut and oak barrels.  I had never encountered chestnut aging before, and I'm told it has a neutral effect.  Alcohol comes in at a low, low 12.0% abv and it sells for about $27.

Discoverportovenere.com reports that Samuele Heydi Bonanini started the winery in 2004 on the steep cliffs of the coastal Cinque Terre region.  He harvests his grapes by hand, since no machinery can fit in the narrow space.  He uses chestnut wood in the aging process because it's a local tradition.

This 2014 natural red wine has an incredible nose that's loaded with minerals and earth.  Loaded, as in like never before.  It also displays aromatic herbs and has a strong floral aspect.  The palate is savory to the nth degree, downright dusty in fact.  Red cranberry and raspberry notes are traveling incognito  under the influence of the earth from which they grew.  Tannins are somewhat soft, but the acidity is bracing.  A pairing with Italian sausage is great, and it also fits well with a tomato-based pasta dish.

Friday, November 2, 2018

A Grape Lesson From A Corsican Rosé

The wine list at L.A.'s Terroni isn't expansive, but it is most certainly Italian, and always offers at least a few wines which will make a grape freak sit up and take notice.  I have also found this rosé at Monsieur Marcel in the Farmers Market, and they are the only times I remember seeing the Sciaccarello grape on a wine list.

The Terra Nostra Rosé Corse is a Corsican wine, made from Sciaccarello grapes, also known as Mammolo.  It's an Italian red grape variety, grown on a French island which is closer to Italy than France.  In fact, it's just a stone's throw from the Italian island of Sardegna.  The people of Corsica say they think of themselves first as Corsicans, then as French.

It costs about 12 bucks by the glass in a restaurant, so I would imagine it runs just about that by the bottle in retail.  It's not too fancy, but it is tasty and refreshing.

The onion skin colored Terra Nostra rosé is dry and crisp.  It smells perfumed, and tastes of strawberries and pear juice.  Acidity is nice, but nothing special.  It did go well with an octopus dish that sported cherry tomatoes and sweet shishito peppers.  And it offered me the chance to have another grape I had yet to explore.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Blood Of The Vines: Halloween

Here's a throwback for Halloween, from a time when I wrote a series of columns pairing wine and movies for Trailers From Hell, a really great website that all movie lovers should check out.  They are kind enough to still have some of those chestnuts digitally preserved, which you can peruse here, if you wish.

This is how the article appeared when it ran seven years ago:


The holiday season doesn't really get going until we can hear the turkeys running for their lives.  For those of us who live to pair wine with things, however, there's always a holiday just around the corner.  Groundhog Day, Bastille Day, National Cheese Day - they are all perfectly good reasons to crank out - er, craft - an article on which wines will best complement the occasion.  The annual, end-of-summer "drink that rosé before last call" columns are particular favorites of mine.  Even Texas Independence Day - oh, hell, let's not go there again.

Next on the list of official holidays is Halloween, a holiday which seems to get a lot of attention in Tinseltown.  It may well be the worst traffic day all year in Los Angeles, especially in the late afternoon and early evening when the ghosts, goblins and Lady Gagas hit the streets to grab some goodies.  A recent poll shows Halloween to be America's third favorite holiday, behind Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Trick-or-treating may be for kids, but adults give it their best shots, too, with countless parties held for the purpose of answering the door and distributing hundreds of dollars worth of packaged tooth decay.  I am assuming you're not one of those types who turns off the porch light and sits in the dark pretending you're not home.

Anyhow, Halloween is a bad night to sit in the dark.  Just ask all those people who get bumped off in John Carpenter's "Halloween."  They may be trick-or-treating outside, but on the screen it's not child's play.

TFH Guru Adam Rifkin calls "Halloween" a cinematic game changer.  After this one, just being scary wasn't enough anymore.  If Jack-O-Lanterns didn't send a shiver up your spine before this film, they surely did afterward.

The camera's focus on the Jack-O-Lantern's eye in the opening sequence sets the tone for the rest of the movie.  We're given a "killer's eye view" of the goings on that occur on that fateful October 31st.  The killer - social misfit Michael Myers - is evil enough for all the damned souls loosed upon the world for this one night each year.

Carpenter's touch with the evil he depicts is tasteful enough - the scares don't stop, but it's not really a gorefest.  That stuff really happens in the most dangerous place of all - your imagination.

Here's a smattering of tasteful - and tasty - wines and wine things that may just make your Halloween party frightfully fun:

Vampire Vineyards - This outfit has vampire-themed wines - and vodka - perfect for any occasion, but especially this one. 

Witch Creek Winery - If your broomstick can fly to San Diego, pick up some of this in Carlsbad on your way.

Graveyard Vineyards - Their Tombstone Red and Tombstone White are from Paso Robles.

Poizin Red Blend - It comes packed in a coffin.

Twisted Oak River Of Skulls Mourvedre - Calavaras County juice that's scary good.

Pumpkin Wine - Wisconsin's Three Lakes Winery sells this year-round.

Halloween "Ghost Party" Wine Glass

Jack O'Lantern Golf Resort - Oh, the screams from the first tee!  A course sure to give you the yips.  Don't get too far into the rough.  Michael Myers may be in the foursome ahead of you.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Wine, Movie For Halloween


From the vault, this was done during a stretch of articles I wrote for the Blood of the Vines feature on TrailersFromHell.com.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Lunch At The Ocean, From The Ocean

A special-occasion lunch calls for a special view, and that's what The Lobster offers in addition to the various ocean-going delights on the menu. Nearly all the tables are good ones from which to enjoy the beautiful Pacific Ocean as it churns toward the Santa Monica Pier.  Look past the Ferris Wheel and the roller coaster - the Sigalert, as it's called - and you can commune with the waves while you dine.

The wine list at The Lobster is not as inventive as I would like, but there's always something there that jumps off the page at me.  This time it was the Drouhin Vaudon Chablis which caught my eye.

Joseph Drouhin owns about 15 acres of Chardonnay grapes in the Valley of Vauvillien, nestled between the Mont de Milieu and Montée de Tonnerre Premier Cru vineyards.  In other words, he keeps good company.  An old watermill sits in the Serein River and serves as the headquarters of the Drouhin Domaine in Chablis.  The winery says that Drouhin was a pioneer in the region 40 years ago, revitalizing the region in the 1960s, a hundred years after phylloxera ravaged it and millennia after it was an ancient seabed.  The site is the northernmost in Burgundy, sitting in a circle of hills where vines have grown for hundreds of years

The wine paired beautifully with my lobster and corn chowder with smoked bacon, and even better with the charred octopus, one of the best eight-legged appetizers I've ever had.  The smell of wet pavement opens the experience, with citrus notes following.  The palate offers the full set of flavors expected from the limestone-drenched origin of the grapes.  A chalky, flinty sensibility carries the fruit and minerals along over a fine acidity which seems born for seafood.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, October 26, 2018

Italian Red Wine Grapes

A special occasion is always made better with special company, and a special wine.  During anniversary week for Denise and I (the 20th!) we had several special meals at places which mean a lot to us.  The Beverly Hills Italian restaurant Da Pasquale is one of those places.  Not only have we never - not once - been disappointed with a meal there, they seemed to put on an extra special table for our day. 

I wanted a Primitivo wine for that meal, but they said they were out of that variety.  I shifted gears and took our server's suggestion that I try a different wine, and I'm glad I did.  It's nice to have people around who are trustworthy.

Allegrini's 2014 Palazzo Della Torre is a blend of Veronese Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella grapes, with a splash of Sangiovese.  Here's the twist: the winery says, "A small percentage of the harvested grapes are left to dry out until December and then added to the previously vinified fresh grapes."  That gives a fleshy, meaty mouthfeel to the finished wine. 

You can't taste it, but the wine is named after what's called a "splendid masterpiece of Renaissance architecture now owned by the family."  Aging went on for 15 months in used oak barrels, with another seven months in the bottle.  Alcohol sits at 14% abv.  It looks like it sells for about $20. 

The wine shows a bit hot on the nose at first, but settles down quickly.  Aromas of stewed figs and red fruit come paired with autumn spices and earth.  It's a hearty red, with red plums, cassis, and more spice on the palate.  I paired it with pappardelle and lamb shank, to much delight. It also went well as a mate to risotto with beef and mushrooms.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Lopez De Haro Rioja Reserva

The Bodega Classica vineyards grow along the river Ebro in the Rioja village of San Vicente de La Sonsierra.  They are not endless stretches of green, but hard-scrabble, rocky soil which forces the plants to dig deep for their survival.  Along with the century-old vines are archeological remnants of winemaking which took place two-thousand years ago.  The property is topped off by a castle on a hill. 

This Rioja red is made from three grape varieties: 90% Tempranillo, 5% Garnacha and 5% Graciano.  The aging took place over a year in French and American oak with additional time in the bottle.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv.

The 2013 Bodega Classica Lopez de Haro Reserva is medium dark in the glass.  The nose is aromatic with violets, cigars, ripe plums and earth.  On the palate, we find big, dark fruit, oak spice and a meaty black olive note.  Tannins are firm and the acidity is lively, so it's great to sip as well as to have it with some steak.


Monday, October 22, 2018

Concrete-Aged Côtes du Rhône

There's a lovely French restaurant across from L.A.'s Pacific Design Center which serves as a great place to grab a bite and a glass of something French either before or after.  Zinqué has an open feel with lots of natural light in the daytime and a garden atmosphere all around.

They have the 2015 Domaine du Trapadis Côtes du Rhône on the menu for $13 by the glass.  I see it selling elsewhere for $38 per bottle.

The wine is made by Helen Durand, and he uses his young-vine (average age 35 years) organically farmed Grenache grapes from Rasteau and Cairanne.  He sees wine as a "photograph of an environment," a snapshot of the land, climate and cellar, taken by the hand of one person.  The wine is fermented in cement tanks with extended maceration, then aged in those tanks for 18 months.

The 2015 Trapadis Côtes du Rhône shows up dark, in the glass and on the nose.  There's an earthy, Rhône-ish barnyard funk aroma that's extremely fascinating.  The palate displays complex, dark fruit, with big notes of tar, plum and spice.  The fruit gets plenty of play in this wine due to the concrete aging, rather than oak.  The complexity does not suffer and the overall impression is extremely fresh.  The medium firm tannins do what they are supposed to, nothing more, and the wine finishes nicely.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, October 19, 2018

Kosher Viognier From Israel

The Covenant wine label grew because two Napa Valley vintners wondered why they couldn't make a great kosher wine in the homeland of the Jewish people.  Turns out, they could.

Co-owners Jeff Morgan and Leslie Rudd were inspired by the many Israeli wineries and the terroir of the Galilee and Golan Heights. The landscape reportedly reminded them of both California and France's Rhône Valley.  Unfortunately, Mr. Rudd passed away this past May after a battle with cancer at the age of 76.

Covenant started out as a California wine, made in the cellars of Herzog Winery.  It was in 2013 that Morgan and Rudd decided to more fully embrace their Jewish roots and expand to Israel.  Neither had been an observant Jew when they got started in the winemaking business.

The winery explains kosher wine by saying that "all wine is kosher. But because kosher wine is also a beverage used to sanctify the Sabbath and other holidays, it can only be handled in the cellar by Sabbath-observant Jews."  The Covenant wines fit the bill.  They are produced under rabbinical oversight.

Viognier is one of the premiere white grapes of France's Rhone Valley, and it is also at home in the hills of the northern Galilee.  This wine is sourced solely from the Manara Vineyard.  It is made in a lighter style, and shows just light spice notes and restrained alcohol at 13.6% abv.

The 2017 Covenant Israel Blue C Viognier's pretty nose shows floral and mineral notes, with a lovely blast of mango and tangerine in the middle.  The acidity is bright and fresh, but not strong enough to rip one's taste buds out by the roots.  It's a weighty wine, with flavors staying along the mineral and citrus backbone.  The finish is medium and pleasant.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Kiwi Bubbles: Villa Maria Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc

A recent virtual tasting event shone the wine spotlight on New Zealand, specifically Villa Maria winery.  Winemaker Kathrin Jankowiec guided us through a half dozen of her creations and took a good look at their Taylors Pass Vineyard, on the north bank of the meandering Awatere River.  I've never been to the land of the kiwi, but after checking out some images online, I'm ready to call Air New Zealand right now.

Villa Maria was founded by George Fistonich in 1961 as a five-acre vineyard in Auckland.  He and his wife ran the show themselves until he expanded in the 1970s.  They now have estate vineyards on both the North and South islands.

The winery has grown over the decades and now has estate vineyards on both the North and South islands:


  • Auckland is a warm-temperate climate, with warm, humid summers and mild, damp winters.  It's the country's largest population center.
  • Gisborne is in the northeastern corner of the North Island and is also called the East Cape or East Coast.  It's known for its warm summers and mild winters.
  • Hawke's Bay in on the North Island's east coast.  Long, hot summers and cool winters.
  • Marlborough is located in the northeast of the South Island.  It's New Zealand's sunniest spot.  The Villa Maria winery here opened in 2000.


The 2017 Villa Maria Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc hits only 12.5% abv and sells for about $15.  I mentioned its bold qualities on Twitter, and the winery replied, "It's a great way to wake up your palate!"  @IsaacJamesBaker noted the "green apples, white peaches, bell pepper, saline and nettle" notes.

It's a bubbly Sauvignon Blanc, with small bubbles that vanish quickly but make the glass festive while they're there.  The nose hits like a freshly mowed lawn, seeming even more pungent than a NZ SauvBlanc usually does, while the palate displays all the citrus zest and minerals one would expect from the varietal.  Acidity is right at the top, as expected.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter