French Wine

Rosés or Roses?

I’ll take the Rosés, please!

From Italy and France, here are my two current favorite Rosés perfect for everyday or a little gift for that special someone (instead of or with the roses)!

Santa Cristina Cipresseto Toscana IGT Rosato 2014

  • Variety: Sangiovese and other complimentary varieties from Tuscany
  • Aroma: Red fruits
  • Taste: A bold yet balanced wine full of raspberry and strawberry notes
  • Price: $14
  • My thoughts: Love a Rosato (Italian Rosé) and this Santa Cristina is a great one full of my favorite color, pink! The wine was given it’s name for the cypress trees you see across the Tuscan landscape. Look forward to trying the 2015!

Cipresseto Rosato

Gérard Bertrand Cote des Roses 2014

  • Variety: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah from Languedoc
  • Aroma: Refreshing strawberry
  • Taste: Light, fresh and fruity
  • Price: $15
  • My thoughts: It’s like sipping a glass of Rosé on the Mediterranean! This classic combo of French Rosé grapes is the perfect example from the South of France. And bonus…Rose on the bottom of the beautiful bottle.

Gerard Bertrand Rose

Cote de Roses-1

Cheers, Saluté, Santé to Rosé!

Rosé d’assiette: Perfect Summer Food Pairing Wines

Rosé has continued to be my favorite wine this summer. As it’s the last unofficial weekend of summer with lots of cookouts, I wanted to bring Rosés that would stand up nicely with bigger foods that were being served.

Often Rosé can be too light to pair well with food, but rosé d’assiette, or “plate” in French, are ones named for the their pairing ability. These are four great examples.

  • E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2013, $
  • Jaboulet Parrallele 45 Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2013, $12
  • Château Mourgues du Grès “Fleur d’Eglantine” Costières de Nîmes Rosé 2013, $11
  • Domaine de la Mordorée Tavel Rosé 2013, $30

The two favorites at the cookout?

E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2013

  • Variety: 35% Grenache, 35% Cinsault, 25% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre
  • Aroma: Bright red fruit
  • Taste: Big strawberry, nice texture and structure
  • Price: $14.99
  • My thoughts: I always love E. Guigal wines. The estate dates back to 1946. This Rosé is no exception, and at a great price, but it’s already hard to find this year.

Jaboulet Parrallele 45 Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2013

  • Variety: 50% Grenache, 40% Cinsault, 10% Syrah
  • Aroma: Citrus, pink grapefruit
  • Taste: Crisp pink grapefruit with pomegranate, nice body and minerality
  • Price: $12
  • My thoughts: This wine has built the reputation of the Rhône producing great values in fine French wine. At $12 it can’t be beat as an aperitif and food pairing.

Santé to Rosé d’assiette!

Summer Rosé Favorites

I’ve enjoyed many new Rosés this summer from Virginia to Italy to France. And as the last weekend of summer is upon us, I’m enjoying a glass of it on the deck. I thought I’d share with you my favorite new Rosé discoveries of the season.

2011 VieVité Rosé

  • Variety: 30% Cinsault, 30% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Carignan from Provence, France
  • Aroma: Strawberry and spice notes
  • Taste: Light, fresh, delicate, strawberries
  • Price: $19.99
  • My thoughts: I enjoyed two glass of this one at The Champagne Bar at The Plaza in New York City at the beginning of the summer season. Always a great spot for a drink (even though one glass cost about what the suggested retail bottle price is 🙂 )! It’s exactly what a Provence Rosé should be. Produced by Domaine Sainte Marie, located just 15km outside of Saint Tropez, France, it’s vines are from 25 to 80 years old.

2012 Early Mountain Rosé

  • Variety: Malbec and Merlot from Virginia
  • Aroma: Rich red fruits
  • Taste: Full bodied strawberries and raspberries with spicy hints
  • Price: $18
  • My thoughts: On a visit to Early Mountain Vineyards in July, this was a wine several of us tried after our official tasting. Their first Rosé it was fantastic. Definitely a fuller bodied version made with Malbec and Merlot, it will still be a nice glass for the warmer days of September.

Cheers to summer’s wine favorites and new discoveries to come in Autumn!

The King of Red: Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the BIG six grape varieties, is often referred to as the King of Red. At a January event of the Fine Wine Divas, as we tasted through eight fabulous Cabernet Sauvignon wines from around the world, I was reminded of what makes this grape fabulous!

Cabernet, as it can simply be referred to, is originally from Bordeaux, where the cross of it’s parents, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, arose in the 17th century. It’s genetic parents were only recently discovered. And while many now associate California and Napa with Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux still grows more of the grape than any other region in the world.

What makes Cabernet the King?

  • Cabernet can and does grow almost anywhere. Every country that makes wines, produces a Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • It’s easy to grow and can do so in a range of climates, although it prefers heat and dryer soils.
  • It’s a VERY hardy grape. With thick skins, it’s hard to distort the characteristics. It maintains its flavor and structure very well.
  • Its thick skins also make it resistant to disease.
  • It’s the second most planted grape in the world (Merlot is first).
  • It’s an ideal wine for aging and loves oak aging. With five to ten years being optimal, it’s tannins are soften and new flavor and aroma complexities develop.
  • It’s also great for blending due to it’s big tannins.

Cabernet Sauvignons makes a big wine that becomes silky and elegant with age. They are usually medium to full-bodied with firm tannins and bright acidity. It’s characterized by fruit notes of blackcurrant, cassis, blackberry and non-fruit notes of green bell pepper, cedar and tobacco.

Friday night we tasted around the world, New World (South Africa, Chile, US) and Old World (France).

  • South Africa: 2006 Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chile: 2010 Concha Y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon, Puente Alto 
  • US/Washington: 2006 L’Ecole No. 41 Cabernet, Walla Walla
  • US/Washington: 2008 Buty “BEAST” Phinny Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
  • France/Bordeaux: 2005 Château Brane-Cantenac, Margaux
  • France/Bordeaux: 2005 Château Léoville Poyferré St. Julien
  • US/California: 2008 Ehlers Estate “1886” Cabernet Sauvignon
  • US/California: 2002 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

And while all the wines are truly fabulous, a few stood out as my favorites.

2006 L’Ecole No. 41 Cabernet, Walla Walla

  • Variety: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington
  • Aroma: Spiced plum, earthy, leather
  • Taste: Medium-bodied, smoky plum and dried cranberry notes with hints of cocoa.
  • Price: $30
  • My thoughts: Overall Washington state Cabernets are meant to be approachable at a young age. And it’s said they seem to capture the best of France and California in a single wine. This is a fabulous example!

2008 Ehlers Estate “1886” Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Variety: 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot, from St. Helena, Napa, California
  • Aroma: Floral, red berries, spice
  • Taste: Silky wine with notes of black cherries, cinnamon and toffee
  • Price: $90
  • My thoughts: Yum is this a good wine…like chocolate covered cherries! And such a gorgeous bottle! St. Helena is a very historic wine growing region with cultivation dating back to mid-1800s. This vineyard is farmed with strict adherence to organic and biodynamic farming standards. 100% of the proceeds from sales of the wines is returned to the Leducq Foundation, supporting international cardiovascular research. Tastes good and does good!

2002 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

  • Variety:  83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, from California
  • Aroma: Plum, rose, sandalwood
  • Taste: Black plum, berries, tobacco and dark chocolate
  • Price: $99
  • My thoughts: This velvety wine was Rated 91 by Wine Spectator. Silver Oak has been making stunning wines since the early 1970s and this one is divine!

For the group of fifteen Fine Wine Divas, in addition to the Ehlers and Silver Oak, the favorites were 2005 Château Léoville Poyferré St. Julien and 2008 Buty “BEAST” Phinny Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. We had a mix of Old World and New World lovers.

Have a favorite Cabernet? Share it with us here. And if you’re interested in our Fine Wine Divas group in DC, let us know.

Cheers to the King of Reds!

Around the World of Sparkling Wine

I’m always a big fan of sparkling wine, special occasion or none. And the holidays are the perfect time to bring out ANY bubbles.

Last week, I attended an “I Brake for Bubbly” tasting at The Curious Grape, a local wine bar and shop, for a great tour through the sparkling wine world….Austria -> Chile -> France -> Spain -> California -> Italy.

Through this tour you’ll see what makes Champagne, which can only come from Champagne, France, so special, and what the climate, grape varieties and process create for sparkling wines from other regions and countries.

First a little overview about how sparkling wine is made.

  • The Traditional Method: The classic way is the méthode traditionelle (traditional method), or méthode Champenoise (Champagne method), developed in Champagne, France. Wine is produced in the normal way, then bottled with a sugar and yeast mixture to sit for a second fermentation. Carbon dioxide is produced during this fermentation creating the tiny bubbles. The yeast cells die and sink to the bottom of the bottle, referred to as the lees. While the wine is aged on the lees, complexity in the flavor develops (Champagne requires a minimum of 15 months for this second fermentation). Next the sediment is removed through ‘riddling,’ the tilting of the bottle on riddling racks to allow the sediment to move to the neck. The neck is then frozen, the cap removed, the plug of frozen sediment shoots out from the pressure. The bottle is then topped up with dosage (small amount of sugar solution, amount added varies based on sweetness and dryness levels desired), recorked and wire caged. Whoosh! Quite a process. Now you know why Champagne is expensive!
  • The Charmat Method: This method, also known as the Italian method, is quicker and used to make many less expensive sparkling wines. In this process, the yeast and sugar are added to the wine in the pressurized stainless steel fermentation tanks.Then this wine is bottled.

Now onto the tour…

Flight 1: Austria for Riesling Sekt

Sekt is the name used for sparkling wine in Germany and Austria. Both wines we tasted are from Weingut Steininger, a small family-owned winery in the Langenlois Valley of Kamptal, one of Austria’s northernmost growing regions. This is a very interesting tasting to compare…

  • 2009 Steininger Riesling Sekt, $25.99: The grapes for this wine come from the lower part of the slopes and a nutrient rich soil. It’s 100% Riesling grapes made using the Traditional Method and aged on the lees for at least one year. The result is a bready nose and apple flavors. Very nice!
  • 2008 Steininger Riesling “Heiligenstein” Sekt, $51.99: Heiligenstein means Holy Stone and is among one of the world’s most famous vineyards for Riesling. It’s very high altitude vineyards, grown on steep terraces of solid rock. First fermentation for this wine in neutral oak casks is one year, then aged on the lees for two years. No dosage is added. It produces a more concentrated sparkling wine with minerality and stone-fruit with bigger bubbles. A real treat!

Flight 2: Chile & France for Chardonnay-based Sparklers

  • 2011 Cono Sur Brut, Bío Bío, Chile, $18.99: This is a quite nice entry level sparkler made of 90% Chardonnay, 6% Pinot Noir and 4% Riesling. You wouldn’t expect a sparkling wine from Chile, but this one comes from the very southern part of the country, with sunny yet cold weather perfect for growing sparkling wine grapes. While made using the Charmant Method, they age the base wine for four months in barrel before second fermentation, then allow the wine to rest on the lees in tank for three months before bottling. Very balanced with nice minerality!
  • Non-Vintage Pierre Moncuit Blanc de Blancs Champagne “Hugues de Coulmet” Brut, Champagne, France, $51.99: Pierre Moncuit is a small boutique producer dating back to the 1940s. Their 36 acres of Grand Cru Village are in the the southern part of the region, which produces some of the region’s best grapes as they are grown in very chalky soil, giving great minerality to the wine. Although this is non-vintage, all Pierre Moncuit’s are made with single vintage grapes. Aged three years for second fermentation in the bottle before disgorgement. Very special boutique Champagne!

Flight 3: Spain & California for Red Grape-based Sparklers

  • Non-Vintage Canals Canals Cava Brut Nature Rosat Reserve, Penedes, Spain, $15.99: Cava is sparkling wine in Spain. Cava mainly comes from Penedes region. Cava is made with Spanish grapes using the Traditional Method. This wine is made from Garnacha, Monastrell, Trepat and Pinot Noir. Reserva in Spain means it’s been aged at least 15 months. Brut Nature means no sugar is added to the dosage. Ths wine has been aged 24 months in second fermentation. Very nice!
  • 2008 Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs, Carneros, California, $21.99: Carneros is the cold end of the Sonoma and Napa Valley. Founded by Spain’s Freixenet, the second oldest Cava house dating back to 1889 in Spain, they started Gloria Ferrer and planted the first grapes in 1980. Made with the Traditional Method from 92% Pinot Noir and 8% Chardonnay and aged 18 months on the lees, there is also 5% non sparkling rosé added to give it the pretty pink color and creamy round texture. Lovely subtle strawberry and vanilla notes.
  • Non-Vintage Roederer Estate Brut Rosé, Anderson Valley, California, $28.99: Roederer Estate Brut is the first California sparkling wine to be produced by Champagne Louis Roederer, the fine winemaker of France. The Anderson Valley is the coolest of California’s sparkling wine regions, also very wet so hard to ripen the grapes. This blend is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay with 5% non-sparkling Pinot Noir added for color. Roederer follows the common Champagne practice of holding a portion of each year’s harvest in “reserve” to enrich the non-vintage blend in any given year. This wine is made of 10-20% reserve wines aged in oak for roundness and aged 24 months on the lees. A Champagne like sparkler from California!

Flight 4: France & Italy for What’s Hot Now

  • 2010 Domaine des Nugues “Made by G,” Beaujolais, France, $19.99: This wine from the Beaujolais region is 100% Gamay grapes, however sparkling wines aren’t allowed to be labled Beaujolais, thus the name Made by G. These grapes are hand-harvested and fermented, then fermented again using Traditional Method for a few months on lees. No sugar is added, the sweetness coming just from the Gamay grapes.
  • 2011 Tenuata Il Falchetto Moscato d’Asti “Ciombo,” Piedmont, Italy, $17.99: As an Italian wine it is considered Frizzante, their main term for sparkling wines. This wine is made of 100% Moscato grapes and tank fermented. The grapes are grown in the Ciombo region on 25 year old vines. The results is a very intense, floral, honey wine with low alcohol. It’s a perfect after dinner offering.

And that was our flight around the world of sparkling. What’s your favorite sparkling wine?

Cheers to Bubbles!