Beaujolais has always been considered the red headed stepchild of Burgundy. While located in the Burgundy region, it uses a different grape (Gamay) and a different fermentation process (carbonic maceration); it’s its own thing. Like the Pinot Noir from Burgundy proper, the Gamay grape more often expresses itself as a lighter bodied wine with bright acidity. Unlike its more uppity cousin, however, the Beaujolais fruit component is not so brooding, not so intellectual, not so mysterious. Where a Burgundy would have dark hair and dark eyes, a Beaujolais is more of a strawberry blonde with freckles and green eyes. And, unlike its flashy cousin, a well stacked Beaujolais won’t cost you an arm and a leg (or even a rib) to take out. Carbonic maceration is simply the process of plopping all the grapes, bunches, clusters, seeds, stems, and all into the fermentation tank. In this process the whole grapes (whole clusters) will actually start to ferment inside the skin. Eventually the carbon dioxide, one of the by-products of fermentation, bursts the grape skin and releases the juice. The wonderful result is a bright flavor resembling strawberries. Like Burgundies, Beaujolais are classified by the village of origin. They can be village specific, a blend from different villages, or just Beaujolais. Jean Foillard is a legendary producer of village specific Beaujolais. This is his first village blend and, while about half the price of his village specific Beaujolias, it is definitely NOT half the wine. Seamless and smooth, it shows a pretty, peppered strawberry nose on the front end. This doesn’t give way, but softens just enough to reveal a wild bramble and wet pebble minerality. This lovely Beaujolais reminds me of a petite redhead I lost my head over when I was younger. And, it either takes me to the end of the bottle to remember her name, or forget it.
While the 2015 vintage for red Burgundy is being hyped as the current darling of the press, 2014 is shaping up, somewhat under the radar, to be a truly excellent vintage, particularly in the Côte de Nuits. Insiders are now recognizing 2014 for its purity, balance and the transparency of its terroir. Philippe Gavignet is the fourth generation to oversee this small estate in Nuits Saint Georges, which turns out to be one of this vintage’s sweet spots in the Côte de Nuits. In fact, his Bourgogne Rouge is not the more common blend so typical of generic Burgundy, but actually comes from two old vine plots in the family’s Nuits Saint Georges holdings. The wine is dark fruited with plenty of depth, but exhibits none of the rusticity that is sometimes associated with this village. The mineral-rich soil contributes spice and refined tannins, but the floral notes and smooth, silky texture is reminiscent of its more famous neighbors in adjacent Vosne Romanee. This is definitely one of the more refined, character-rich Bourgogne Rouges out there.
Named for the order of monks that were granted vineyards in the Kamptal region of Austria back in 1171 (the oldest in Kamptal), Eva and Michael Moosbruger have controlled the estate since 1996. Michael believes in a non-interventionist style of wine making, and the vineyards have been farmed organically since the late 1950s. A blend of Zweigelt, St. Laurent and Pinot noir sourced from multiple vineyards all sustainably farmed, the grapes are pressed and fermented in stainless steel. The result is a lean and lively wine with an intense core of crisp stone fruit. The zippy lemon and lime flavors on the finish linger on and on. Nice touches of mineral, citrus zest and melon add interest. As refreshing as it is charming, this is a food friendly rosé that even paired well with a spicy bowl of colcannon.
Very simply put, I really enjoyed this wine—it’s a great value from a very good Bordeaux vintage. The chateau itself has impressive lineage and is actually owned by Jean-Eugene Borie, who is the owner of famed 2nd Growth Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou. The 10 hectare (just under 25 acres) estate is in the Haut-Medoc, which is located on the Left Bank of the Gironde estuary. The majority of wines from Left Bank producers are typically Cabernet Sauvignon dominant, and this wine is no exception, comprised of 70 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25 percent Merlot, and 5 percent Petit Verdot. I would recommend an hour or so decant on this wine, as I drank it over two days, and felt it showed better on the second day. The nose was exactly what I would expect from Left Bank Bordeaux, showing cassis, earth, and cedar. On the palate the wine offers more cassis, dusty cherries, plum, earth, cedar and a touch of vanilla. This medium-bodied wine checks in at 13.5 percent alcohol by volume, and is well-balanced with finely grained tannins. Try this wine with a nice steak; you won’t be disappointed!
We did a buy-in on the 2014 Elk Cove Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, and it allowed us to drop the price from $28 to $24. I figured I had better grab a bottle to write up before it all disappears! Elk Cove Vineyards was founded by the Campbell family in 1974 and is still family owned. The fruit for this bottle is a blend from all five of Elk Cove’s vineyard sites: Estate, Mount Richmond, Five Mountain, Clay Court, and Windhill. The wine is aged for 10 months in French oak of which 20 percent is new. On the nose, the wine shows cherry, light strawberry, a touch of earth and some baking spice. On the palate, it is very soft and has a lovely texture showing strawberry jam, Bing cherry, cherry cola, cranberry and a little orange peel. This wine is drinking very well now, and I would lay in enough to drink over the next one to two years.
Normally I am not drawn to Torrontes, as I usually find them a bit insipid and overtly floral. But we recently poured wines from the Crios line and their Torrontes is absolutely fantastic. Crios is the entry level for Susana Balbo Wines. Having worked at a number of top estates around the globe, Susana Balbo is recognized as one of Argentina’s top winemakers. Earning her degree in enology in 1981, she was the first woman in Argentina to do so. The Crios line-up provides top quality at a very reasonable price. This Torrontes is bright and fresh, with tropical notes and crisp acidity. The Wine Advocate gave it 90 points. At $10.99, it’s a steal!
It all started when our manager, Kathy, asked me to do a project in the Wine Shop. The task involved moving every bottle of wine in our Portuguese section. Oh my! Being the new kid on the block, my knowledge has been expanding as fast as my curiosity in the vast World of Wine. You’ve probably heard of Ports, those justly famous fortified dessert wines, but what about the other wines from Portugal? Portuguese wine production dates all the way back to Roman times, and there are over 500 indigenous grape varieties. I chose this very affordable Portuguese red. At first, the name, Silk & Spice, was a turn off, but I decided to go with it. After all, Portugal is the country that pioneered the Cape route, sparking the maritime trade of those goods to Europe. I was instantly intrigued with its very dark ruby color and great legs! The nose is very complex with notes of vanilla, mushroom and a little tobacco. The flavor starts out dry and very fruit forward with plum and raisin. Then there is a following that’s hard to describe—floral, honey, slightly sweet. Finally, on the finish you get a little pepper and mineral. Overall, pleasant sipping, and at $10.99, a definite bargain. Enjoy!
As you would expect from their location, this Loire property is best known for their Muscadet wines made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape grown primarily in that region. But the Chon brothers, who own the estate, have family roots in Burgundy dating back to the 17th Century, so it’s not so surprising that they offer this Chardonnay as well. The wine itself is something of a surprise, fresh and light with floral ripe apple aromas. The supple palate offers soft citrus and stone fruit flavors with a subtle hint of black walnut that makes you think Chenin Blanc (another Loire variety) rather than Chardonnay. That said, it’s a very appealing style, intriguingly different, well priced and with a nice hit of acidity on the finish that works well when paired with food. It’s a nice plus that they farm their 150 acres of vineyard organically.