Showing posts with label Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Show all posts

Monday, July 9, 2018

Get Offa My Grapevines!

It's the 30th anniversary vintage of Bonny Doon Vineyard's flagship wine, Le Cigare Volant.  Bonny Doon, the Santa Cruz-based winery that's on a self-described "adventure to make naturally soulful, distinctive, and original wine," knocks me out every year with the "flying cigar" release.

The label, by Chuck House, depicts a strange airship sending down a beam of red onto a pastoral vineyard.  Legend has it, in 1954 a UFO scare terrified the winegrowers of Châteauneuf-du-Pape so much that a decree was issued, banning any "flying cigar" from landing and destroying the vines.  To my knowledge, it's still on the books today because, why not?  It's a great story and one of the better back stories for any wine ever.

Le Cigare Volant is a Châteauneuf-du-Pape-ian blend of 55% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 16% Mourvèdre and 4% Cinsault.  The grapes came from six noted California vineyards, Rancho Solo, Bien Nacido, Ventana, Del Barba, Bechtold, Alta Loma.  Alcohol stands at the usual 14.5% abv, 2,400 cases were produced and the wine sells for $45.

Owner and winemaker Randall Grahm remembers the 2013 vintage as "cool and elegant" and says the 2013 release is "slightly less muscular than '12."  Grahm expects the wine to age well for 10-15 years.

The Syrah in the mix came mostly from Bien Nacido Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley, possibly my favorite vineyard, and one which Grahm says has the "closest analogue we have found to a Northern Rhone Syrah."

I love smelling the wines of Randall Grahm.  He makes savory walk and talk and jump through hoops.  This wine, the 30th anniversary vintage of Cigare, brings it home like it always does.  It shows a medium dark color in the glass and on the nose.  There is cassis and licorice, but the savory notes carry the load.  Black olive is the first smell I get, followed by a bit of tar and a whiff of smoke.  Cigar box, leather and bacon fat finish out a complex aroma package.  The palate is delicious as always.  Grahm says the '13 is "less muscular," but I think there's more to it.  This Cigare drinks with the weight and elegance of a Pinot Noir.  Black fruit is forward, while more savory aspects of sage and mint come in to join it.  The tannins are gentle, the acidity fresh and the finish long. 


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Friday, April 28, 2017

Flying Cigars And Wine

This is the wine that started it all for Bonny Doon Vineyards. First produced in 1984, Le Cigare Volant's blend of California-grown Rhône grape varieties made Randall Grahm's Rhône Ranger persona.

In 1954, the community leaders in Châteauneuf-du-Pape began to worry about flying saucers - they called them flying cigars, cigares volant - landing in the vineyards and tearing up the precious grapevines. So they passed a law making it illegal to land a flying cigar amongst the vines. And for more than 60 years, it has worked. All the flying cigares are from California.

Grahm calls the 2012 Cigare a "stylistic departure from recent more Grenache-centric vintages." True enough, the 2012 is top-loaded with Mourvèdre grapes. Grahm says that variety is "quite pronounced and expressive" here. That 39% is joined by 33% Grenache, 26% Syrah and 2% Cinsault. Alcohol hits a modest 13.5% abv, 4000 cases were made and the wine sells by the bottle for $45.

The nose of a LCV should be savored, always. The black olive... my god the black olive. The leather, the cigar box, the campfire. Savor the savory. Nobody does savory like Randall Grahm. Fruit? Oh, yeah, I smell fruit, too. It's all that other stuff I live for, though. The Mourvèdre-heavy mix of the 2012 vintage has balls. The blackberry and plum flavors are forceful, magnificent. Tannins are strong, but with enough give to make a good sipper. I usually am not called to have a steak with LCV, but this time I am. Spices fight for attention, and get it. There is cardamom and cinnamon, sage and rosemary. The oak spice is like a dollop of whipped cream on top of dessert, light and tasty.


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Friday, September 13, 2013

The Wines Of Jean-Luc Colombo

Jean-Luc Colombo
French winemaker Jean-Luc Colombo was in Los Angeles recently for a series of tastings and dinners to promote his wines.  The walk-around tasting at Monsieur Marcel in Beverly Hills was staged by Ian Blackburn's Learn About Wine education group.  Blackburn greeted me with the news that Colombo was in rare form.  “He won’t stop talking about non-irrigated farming.  He says irrigation destroys terroir.”  Well, he’s had a lifetime to think about it.

Colombo became interested in wine at an early age.  Back in Marseilles, he started a quest to make wine which was as good as his mother’s cooking.  Colombo is a devotee of the Syrah grape, so he was quite naturally drawn to the northern Rhone Valley.  The first vineyards he bought for himself were on a granite hillside overlooking the tiny village of Cornas.  They call it the birthplace of Syrah - in fact, Syrah is the only grape planted there.  That’s alright with Colombo.

Ian Blackburn
The winemaker shook things up a bit in Cornas with his fruit-forward tendencies, which flew in the face of traditional ways.  Colombo thought wine shouldn’t be locked away for years in a barrel before being released and enjoyed.  He is described on the winery website as having deep “respect for the unique qualities of each and every terroir, and uncompromising support of a sensible alliance between traditional approaches to vineyard management and a modern understanding of the life cycle of the vine.”  He also departs from tradition by labeling his wines varietally - Syrah, Viognier, etc.

Colombo later acquired vineyards in the Southern Rhône Valley and Languedoc regions.  He farms his vineyards organically and sees his grapes not as kings of the hillside, but residents of it.  His wines are imported by Palm Bay International.  The prices listed here are retail, found online, and they may not be exact.  He is what I tasted:

WHITE

La Belle de Mai Saint-Peray 2011, $42
Saint-Peray is in the Northern Rhône, the mirror image of Cornas.  All the wines of Saint-Peray are white.  La Belle de Mai is 80% Roussanne and 20% Marsanne taken from 80-year-old vines on steep limestone and granite slopes.  Fermentation and malolactic takes place in mostly neutral barrels, while aging on the lees last ten months with weekly stirring.  This method of leaving the wine in contact with the yeast during aging brings out some amazing aromas of nuts, flowers and lemons.  This wine is very full-bodied, creamy and buttery.  Colombo says he is “very proud of this wine.”

Les Abeilles de Colombo 2012, $12
This white from the Côtes du Rhône is 80% Clairette and 20% Roussanne.  Stainless steel fermentation, then aged on the lees - 15% in barrels and 85% in tanks.  Apple, floral, mineral.  Very fresh.

La Redonne 2011
Another Côtes du Rhône blanc, the grapes are 70% Viognier and 30% Roussanne.  Fermented in steel tanks, 20% is aged on the lees in barrels with the remainder in steel.  Minerals, oak, floral, honey.

La Violette Viognier 2011, $14
This is 100% Viognier from the Languedoc region in southern France.  Fermentation takes place in steel tanks (80%) and barrels (20%).  The wine ages for six months - on the lees, of course - with only 70% in tanks and the rest in barrels.  Minerals, peaches, almonds.

ROSÉ

Cape Bleue Rosé 2012, $12
This pink wine is made from 67% Syrah and 33% Mourvèdre grapes from Provence.  The traditional saignée method of extraction - bleeding the juice from the grape skins - is followed by two or three weeks fermentation in steel tanks.  Minerals and strawberry, nice savory notes.

RED

La Louvée Syrah Cornas 2010, $50
This single-vineyard wine is made from 70-year-old vines growing in granite soils.  It is fermented in stainless steel tanks with skin contact of one month, then aged 22 months in oak -  15% of which is new.  Extremely floral blueberry nose, mineral-driven blueberry palate.  Oak spice stays around on the finish.

Les Ruchets Cornas 2010 Syrah, $60
These grapes are from 90-year-old vines in a single vineyard on ancient Roman terraces.
Stainless steel fermentation precedes aging of 22 months in oak, a third of it new.  Minerals, delightful dark fruit, oak spice.

Terres Brulees Cornas 2010 Syrah, $50
Fermented in steel, with 21 months in oak - 15% new, 85% neutral.  Burnt caramel nose, blueberry with a caramel edge on the palate.  Extremely rich and completely delightful.

Les Bartavelles Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2011,
45% Syrah, 35% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre, the grapes are grown in the CDP's galet soil.  Stainless steel fermentation, then 18 months in neutral oak.  Minerals, berries, spice.  Lovely, perfect use of oak..

La Violette Syrah 2011, $15
100% Syrah from Languedoc.  Fermentation in tanks is backed up with a year of aging, ten percent in oak and the remainder in steel and concrete tanks.  Floral nose, mineral palate.  Black and blue berries, herbs on finish.



Monday, September 24, 2012

Domaine des Sénéchaux Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2009


Wine produced in France’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape region of the Rhone Valley always tastes like something special.  Domaine des Sénéchaux dates all the way back to the 1300s.  It’s the oldest in the appellation, which is saying a lot.

The Domaine’s red wine is made from 90% Grenache, 5% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre, with some other varieties possibly blended in with the Mourvédre.  It is aged for 12 to 15 months in used French oak.

The wine gives a deep purple appearance in the glass, with brick around the edges.  The nose is amazing - cassis, lilac, cedar box, wood spice and a meaty note combine for a very complex bouquet.  The palate shows great grip and acidity, with flavors of dark fruit, tobacco and peppery spices.  The power of this wine is fully apparent upon the first sip.

Sénéchaux, by the way, refers to Middle Ages judicial administrators in southern France.  In the northern part of the country, they would have been bailiwicks.

This wine was provided for review by Wine Chateau, an online retailer based in New Jersey.  They have been offering the $66 wine at $35 recently - quite a deal.


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Friday, March 30, 2012

Wines For The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction

rock and roll wineThe Rock And Roll Hall of Fame will induct new members on April 14, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio.  It's the 27th annual induction ceremony, the 27th time rock fans get to yell "It's about time!" or "Where's KISS?"  With all that shouting, we're going to need something to soothe our nerves.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the 2012 inductees and pair a wine with each.  Our pals over at the excellent rock music blog 30 Days Out have had this post up for a while now, with some tasty pics and music attached.

Performer category:

Beastie Boys
If you're singing along with “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)” it's a good bet you're doing jello shots or drinking beer from a glass with quarters at the bottom.  The Beastie Boys' blend of funky rock, rap and hip hop need not be reserved for the lesser beverages.  In fact, Beastie Mike D has dabbled a bit at wine criticism.  Not surprisingly, he likes wine with a bit of funk.  Root around a bit in the Côtes du Rhône aisle and pop for a Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  You should be able to find a wine that brings enough funk to get a party started without fisticuffs.
 
Donovan
Donovan's music is poetry, a delicate flower at one turn, a handful of psychedelics at the next.  His lyrics abound with references to wine, including a lovefest for the "maroon-coloured wine from the vineyards of Charlemagne."  Sounds like a Burgundy is about to be opened.  Bonneau du Martray should do nicely,  from the Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru.  You may want to select a white wine, as Charlemagne's wife is said to have preferred her royal hubby not mess his beard with the red stuff.  You are probably a much neater drinker than Charlemagne, though.

Guns N' Roses
In the mid-1980s, when Guns N' Roses exploded from L.A. with a balls-out Sunset Strip strut and an Appetite For Destruction, they redecorated a rock and roll landscape that had become rather tired and listless.  G 'N' R offered up a brashness which made other acts seem like they were mailing it in.  You may be tempted to go with a beer for them - a cheap one, in a bottle you can hurl at something - but California has a wine worthy of the Guns N' Roses brand of excess in old vine Zinfandel.  Both winemaker Joel Peterson and his Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel are brash enough for rock and roll.

Laura Nyro
If any one of these inductees screamed for a wine pairing, it would have to be Laura Nyro.  It was, after all, she who suggested we go "down by the grapevine, drink my daddy's wine."  She also suggested "there'll be lots of time and wine,"  but, sadly, her time ran out.  Lift a toast to her with Schramsberg's 2008 Brut Rosé.  It's complex and dry and will fit with anything you bring to a Stoned Soul Picnic.

Red Hot Chili Peppers
BloodSugarSexMagik would be a good name for a wine, if the Red Hot Chili Peppers hadn't already claimed it as their own.  Their funky guitar rock and throbbing sexuality certainly puts one in the mood for a glass of something nice to pair with their spicy gastronominal moniker.  Chili peppers call for something a little on the sweet side, like a nice Spätlese Riesling.  Dr. Loosen' Mosel-Saar-Ruwer efforts in that vein should provide enough ripe fruit sweetness to offset the power of the pepper.

The Small Faces/Faces
This dual-identity entry is remembered more for their hard-rocking, hard-living '70s style than their mod '60s diminutive version.  Rough and rowdy, never afraid to let the rough edges show, The Faces have Tannat written all over them.  Choose a varietal selection from Madiran for that swagger, or pick one blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to dress up the palate like a skinny tie on a sharkskin suit.

Early Influence

Freddie King
The electric blues master known as the Texas Cannonball, Freddie King left his fingerprints all over rock and roll.  He was a huge influence on anybody who ever picked up a guitar and intended to do some damage with it.  So affected by his entire persona, Grand Funk shouted him out in one of their big hits.  Mr. King deserves a vintage Port, full-bodied and luscious, with a whiff of smoke to reference the dance halls and pool rooms of Texas, where the blues is still the king.

Ahmet Ertegun (non performer) Award

The Ahmet Ertegun Award goes to the late Don Kirshner, a songwriter and song seller who played a big part in shaping the pop music side of rock and pioneered the maturation of televised rock concerts.  For good or for bad, he was the creative fire in the hole for The Monkees and The Archies.  Kirshner's wine should be a commercial success - natch - and should carry its years well.  Mouton Cadet is a best-seller from Bordeaux, so you can expect good things from it with age.  It's easy on the pocketbook, too.  A bottle of the current vintage will probably set you back less than a Monkees Greatest Hits CD.

The Award For Musical Excellence

You might not recognize his name, but Cosimo Matassa's New Orleans recording studio was the place from which many great rock hits of the '50s burst forth.  Matassa eschewed gimmicks and audio manipulation, preferring to let the music speak for itself.  The winemaking hasn't changed much at Lopez de Heredia since the 1800s - they didn't like gimmicks and manipulation then, and they still don't.  Their 1991 Viña Tondonia Tinto Gran Reserva is pure Rioja elegance.

As a scientist, Tom Dowd worked on the Manhattan Project that gave us the atom bomb.  As a recording engineer, he worked at the Atlantic Records console and gave us Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton and the Allman Brothers.  Both sides of his career packed a whallop.  Would a fruit bomb be out of place here?  How about a warm-climate Syrah with plenty of depth under all that fruit?  Andrew Murray's 2008 McGinley Vinyard Syrah comes from the hot microclimate of Santa Barbara County's Happy Canyon - and it is the bomb.

British recording engineer and producer Glyn Johns helped nuance storm out of the speakers with acts as diverse as Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Joan Armatrading and The Who.  He could coax a heartfelt ballad out of the recording session as well as bring the thunder and lightning right through those gold-plated wires.  Merlot here, with a silky, mellow side playing counterpoint to the rock and roll smoke and leather notes.





This article ran originally on the excellent music site 30 Days Out.


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