Celebrating Malbec World Day

Manos-Negra-Malbec-DayToday is Malbec World Day and after searching my wine stash for a Malbec, I was surprised that I didn’t have a single bottle of Malbec. All I found was a Meritage from California, that included Malbec grapes in the blend and several Bordeaux blends from France that also included Malbec grapes. With no Malbecs to celebrate with, I had to go out at lunch and pick up a couple of bottles, one for drinking today and the other for my wine stash.

Argentina produces 70% of the world’s Malbec grapes and the hilly northwest region of Mendoza is perfect for growing Malbec grapes. I love a good Malbec from this region so today, I am drinking a 2010 Manos Negras Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina.


Great California Wine Bargains

Zin GrapesIn the past decade, the number of California wineries has exploded, and with that explosion came a plethora of superior-quality bargain wines.  Although California has suffered through years of drought and small crops, the proliferation of new wineries, coupled with greater attention to viticultural areas other than Napa and Sonoma, means that wine enthusiasts don’t need stacks of $100 bills to enjoy quality wine.  Boutique and family-owned wineries are mostly behind the Golden State’s wine bargains.

Cambridge Cellars is one of the newest wineries in California’s wine scene, and the Cambridge Cellars’ Limited Series of wines stand out as bargains.  The winery’s 2013 Limited Monterey Chardonnay constitutes extraordinary value as does the Cambridge Cellars Limited 2013 Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both sell for well under $20.00 a bottle.

Donati Family Vineyard in Paicines, California, fashions top-notch Cabernet Sauvignon and Claret, with the latter featuring an exceptional blend of Bordeaux varietals.  Donati’s 2012 Claret exemplifies the high quality one can acquire at an affordable price. While many California Meritage wines sell for  $50.00 and more, Donati’s Claret is a veritable bargain at $22.00.

Fore Family Vineyards, which strides the Napa/ Lake County border, turns out award-winning wines from Napa, Carneros, and Lake County.  The Fore Family’s 2009 Napa Carneros Pinot Noir exemplifies the exceptional quality emanating from dedicated family wineries in California.  At just under $40.00 a bottle, it may not be in the reach of every Pinot lover, especially those in search of the Holy Grail of Pinot Noir at $15.00, but it tops many $50.00 and $75.00 Pinots.

Napa Cellars crafts classic Napa Valley wines at incredibly affordable prices. Whether it’s Napa Cellars’ 2013 Sauvignon Blanc or the winery’s award-winning Chardonnay, Pinot, Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Zinfandel, I am hard-pressed to find better quality and consistency in Napa Valley for under $25.00.

Pietra Santa in California’s Cienega Valley produces extraordinary Sangiovese along with many other varietals.  Although renowned as a producer of Sangiovese, Pietra Santa also excels lately with Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Merlot and various white varietals.  Pietra Santa’s recently reviewed 2010 Sangiovese earned 91 Points from Wine Enthusiast and it can be purchased for $18.00.


What’s New in French Wine?

Wine & CheeseWhat’s new as well as what’s great about French wine today is not so much about what new French wines there are as it is about how good many of the traditional tried and true wines are from well-established appellations. France remains a true treasure trove of affordable wines of exceptional quality, and never has this been more the case than today. Aside from that nation’s top 100 collectable wines – a subjective list in its own right – there are literally thousands of reasonably priced wine treasures in France just waiting to be discovered, or more accurately, rediscovered.

As one of the planet’s two leading purveyors of wine (Italy being the other), France not only turns out a plethora of outstanding affordable wines, it also fashions a tremendous variety of delicious wines; red, white, rosé, sparkling, dry and sweet wines all make the case for France being the world’s leading source of reasonably priced, high quality wines. So, leave the top 100 wines to the billionaires and start drinking well for so much less.

If you like a dry, zippy white wine to slake your thirst and whet your appetite, consider the 2013 Château de Fontenille Entre-Deux-Mers – a delicious white Bordeaux that pleases the palate and goes down easy. Emile Beyer’s 2013 Alsace Pinot Blanc provides another tasty, satisfying, easy drinking white wine. For Chardonnay lovers and something more substantial, consider the 2012 or 2013 Domaine de la Collonge Pouilly-Fuissé from Gilles Noblet or the 2012 Jacques Girardin Les Terrasses de Bievaux Santenay. The Girardin offering impresses with its flavor as well as its elegance, and it may constitute the absolute best value in white Burgundy.

For those who prefer Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it is hard to beat the 2009 Château Barreyre Bordeaux Supérieur. Although officially considered a petit château, there is absolutely nothing little or petite about this wine, except the price. For those who prefer the full-flavored reds of the Rhône Valley, the 2010 Guigal Gigondas and the 2012 or 2013 Chevalier Crozes-Hermitage Marius provide all the comfort and pleasure one can imagine, without breaking the bank. Better still, these are just a few of the many oenological treasures that await the savory American wine drinker. Santé!


Winter Warmers: Wines for a Cold Winter’s Night

Fire & WineIn most parts of the country, February is the snowiest and often coldest month of the year (or at least it appears that way to most of us who live outside the Sun Belt).  To ward of the chill of a cold winter’s night, a hearty, mouth-filling red wine can work wonders.  To make the best of the season and the weather outside, consider these Winter Warmers, red wines that are sure to warm the blood as well as please the palate.

Amarone – A special, fleshy, utterly decadent red wine from Italy’s Veneto, Amarone packs a punch (16%-plus alcohol) and delivers layers of luscious flavors sure to warm the bones and everything else, even without a roaring fire.  Bertani, Tommasi and Tenuta Sant Antonio are all trusted names in Amarone and worth seeking out

Barolo – Barolo has been dubbed “The King of wines, and the wine of Kings,” and rightly so. It is arguably Italy’s greatest red wine and just the elixir one needs to make it through a cold winter’s night.  Luigi Pira, Paolo Conterno, Querciola, Revello, Seghesio, and Silvio Grasso all make top notch Barolo.

Gigondas – As the Rhône Valley’s heartiest red wine, stouter even than many Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas was once used as bonesetter, AKA wine to beef up the finest red Burgundy wines in cool years because of its strength, vigor, and substantial alcoholic content.  Domaine Raspail-Ay and La Vau are two excellent examples of powerful, palate-pleasing Gigondas.

Ribera del Duero – Spain’s grandest, fullest-bodied Tempranillo based wines emanate from the hills along the Duero River.  Pesquera, Condado de Haza and Dehesa la Granja (from nearby Zamora), Emilio Moro, and Montecastro are just a few of the top producers who fashion hearty reds from Ribera del Duero, a wine that provides both comfort and warmth during the long winter months.

Syrah/Shiraz – Not all Syrah- or Shiraz-based wines make great winter warmers, but the biggest and best surely do.  Chapel Hill, d’Arenberg, Henschke and Torbreck from South Australia; Bellingham’s Bernard Series from South Africa; and the best California Syrahs from Joseph Phelps, Qupé , Runquist and others will more than fill the bill as winter warmers.

Enjoy and stay warm,

photo credit: gfpeck via photopin cc

Wines for Valentine’s Day 2015

iStock_000021066383XSmallMen and women are different, and, when it comes to wine, men and women don’t always think alike or share the same tastes in wine.  Valentine’s Day is all about love and making that special someone feel special, so consider that special someone before you give them a Valentine’s Day wine gift or choose a wine to share.

Tips for Guys: You may love that big, brawny Cabernet that you drank at the steakhouse last week with the guys, but chances are she won’t be so enamored.  Why not appeal to her sensual self and desire for romance with a fine bottle of Champagne or Prosecco?  Many good sparkling wine choices abound, beginning with Magenta Brut – a tasty, reasonably priced traditional style Champagne.  For a fuller, more complex Champagne, consider Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royale Brut.  However, if a lighter and more delicate sparkling wine is in order, any Valdobbiadene Prosecco from Umberto Bortolotti is sure to provide charm and send the message I am thinking of you.  And, if she prefers red, Pinot Noir can say “I love you, too.”  There is no shortage of fine Pinot Noir from California on the market.  Fore Family Vineyards, Pietra Santa, and Solomon Hills are just a few producers of excellent fairly priced California Pinot Noir that should appeal to her.

For the Ladies: Men are visual creatures and delight in adventure and surprises.  Power is usually more exciting to them than subtlety, so unless he just can’t wait for another glass of the Chardonnay you adore or the delicate, complex Pinot Noir you crave, consider something more appealing to him.  A big, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon from California, South Africa or elsewhere that he has never had before will make a statement to him.  Edgebaston GS and Rustenberg John X. Merriman are two of South Africa’s finest Cabernet-based wines that should appeal to your guy’s senses as well as his taste for adventure.  Châteauneuf-du-Pape and rich Syrah or Shiraz offerings will likely strike his fancy as well.  Domaine du Grand Tinel and Domaine du Vieux Lazaret craft several excellent Châteauneuf-du-Papes worth considering, while Australia, California, and South Africa all produce a bevy of great Syrah/Shiraz. Chapel Hill and Mr. Riggs from South Australia are two Shiraz producers that are hard to beat.

So, guys and gals: compare notes at the end of the evening, taste each other’s wines, enjoy the communion, and have a happy Valentine’s Day together.