Saturday, June 30, 2012

Definitely too Hot for Big Red Wine - These Cool Quaffers Save the Day

I usually love to open a friendly everyday red when we're grilling chicken, but with temps in the mid 90's again, I had to go with a couple of chillers. These are beautiful wines, one white and one rose, and they were perfect on the deck with some dinner as the sun got low in the sky and the temperature began to fall. They are both from oddball AOC's in the Loire Valley made from grapes that are not.

The white is a 100% Chenin Blanc cuvee from Coteaux du Vendomois, which is a bit north of Vouvray, the appellation where the best Chenin Blancs in the world come from. The producer is Domaine de Brazilier and this bright, crisp white has all that you want from an everyday summer wine. Aromas of grapefruit, lime zest and white flowers are very prominent. There's beautiful texture in the mouth with bold citrus fruit flavors, a bit of stoniness and bracing acidity. It's light, crisp and very refreshing and it kept me coming back for more.

The rose is a 100% Gamay cuvee. Gamay is a grape that is usually associated with Beaujolais and not found too much in the Loire. From the Coteaux d'Ancenis AOC and produced by Domaine Pierre Guindon, this beautiful wine delivers the goods. Strawberry and raspberry aromas are supported by notes of watermelon and a distinct minerality. Again, the texture is very smooth with the red berry flavors repeating. The balance is outstanding, with bright acids giving it lift and notes of candied orange on the dry, refreshing finish. These are both from the 2011 vintage and retail for around $12.99. Imported by the quality importer, Maximum Wine Company, these are two to seek out. The wonderful wine critic Steve Tanzer said of this wine, "I could drink this all day". Me too! Cheers.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

99 Degrees - Rose to the Rescue Domaine Houchart Cotes de Provence 2011

Now I'm not one to totally turn my back on red wines during the summer months, but last week's temperatures found me taking a pass on the reds. I love dry roses this time of year - cold, fruity and refreshing. They go well with just about anything and I think they are a must have for the kitchen rack during grilling season. Years ago the choices for dry roses in the marketplace were not nearly as diverse as they are now and you can pretty much find these beautiful pink wines from every country in almost every varietal. Yet for some reason, consumers are still wary of these wines. I'm not sure if they think that they're sweet but there is clearly some reticence on the part of many buyers.

The beautiful 2011 Cotes de Provence rose from Domaine Houchart is one I could drink all day long. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre from 40 year old vines, the light salmon pink color leads to typical light red berry aromas of strawberry and raspberry. There's also floral notes and a touch of stony minerals. It's got beautiful texture, excellent medium bodied, red berry flavors, good balancing acidity and a long, creamy finish. Try this with grilled chicken, salmon or shrimp, a white pizza with clams or even sushi. Repped by David Milligan Selections, this $11.99 rose is a sure winner. Bottoms up!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fattoria Laila Rosso Piceno '09

Rosso Piceno is a little known DOC in the Marche region on Italy's east coast. I've already written up Fattoria Laila's delicious Verdicchio dei Castello di Jesi, and the best reds from this region are dominated by the Montepulciano grape. Sangiovese is the other major varietal. Prior to 2005, Sangiovese was required in the blend to the tune of 60%. But now Montepulciano can presumably go as high as 70%, although the producer's website claims this wine is 80% Montepulciano. It's certainly confusing. But, what is not confusing is that this wine is an excellent $9.99 value. The almost opaque ruby color certainly looks more like Montepulciano than Sangiovese and initially reticent aromas gradually opened with airing to reveal dark cherry, cola, coffee and minty notes. Attractive dark berry flavors are buffeted with excellent acidity and a lightly tannic finish. This everyday winner has good concentration and lift and went well with grilled lamb burgers with grilled onions and raita. Imported by Montecastelli, a company with a great Italian portfolio. Cheers.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Moulin de Gassac "Guilhem" 2011 - Vins de Pays d'Herault

Every once in a while you stumble upon a wine that you you've never seen, know nothing about and would not even give it a second thought if your retailer hadn't put it in your hands and said "try this". Such is the case with this little southern French white. Moulin de Gassac is the everyday label for wines made by one of the oldest and most important wineries of this almost unknown region. Mas de Daumas Gassac is the name and they have been making a legendary Cabernet Sauvignon for a long time. That flagship Cab lasts easily for 20 years but we are here to report on the everyday white. "Guilhem" is the proprietary name and what matters is that this is a delicious $9.99 white that will drink well as an aperitif or as an accompaniment to grilled or sauteed fish dishes. It's a blend of 40% Grenache Blanc, 30% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Clairette. It features tropical fruit aromas of pineapple, mango and a touch of honey. In the mouth it's got more concentration than you expect with the tropical fruit theme repeating. Notes of apricot add complexity and there is enough acidity to keep it fresh and lively tasting. I wish more folks would take a chance on bottles like this as you can readily find interesting wines from unusual places nowadays. Imported by Beaune Imports. Cheers!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hayman & Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Selection 2010

Here's a California Cabernet that will win the hearts of the pure fruit crowd with ease. Made by a winery that sources this fruit from various vineyards in the Paso Robles AVA, a cooler area than Napa on the central coast, this simple quaffer has had it's praises sung in lots of place here on the web. It's got nice blueberry, plum and cocoa aromas with oak spice elements that support rather than overwhelm. It's even got a touch of bell pepper in the nose that lead me to believe that there might be a touch of Cabernet Franc in the blend. It's got good acidity and balance, and while it's got all the up front dark fruit and supporting oak flavors you want from new world cab, I was left wishing that this wine had more true Cabernet Sauvignon character. It's just missing some of those graphite and/or loamy flavors that really good Cab can give you. Still, at $13.99 a bottle, there's a lot of folks that will find a lot to like with this wine. Cheers.