Whether it’s a celebration, an aperitif’, or you just feel like “drinking stars” opening a bottle of sparkling wine doesn’t have to be a special occasion. We worked our way through France virtually, and the wines of this country could not be complete without a discussion on Champagne. This little region in the northeast of France garners rich history, sought after labels, and some of the most expensive, iconic wine in the world. This little region is the difference between “Champagne” and Sparkling wine. We have discussed that French wines are labeled by regional designation- were they come from, and not by the varietal that is in the bottle. The term Champagne has been deemed by the EU, and most of the world, to be the exclusive name for sparkling wines only produced in the Champagne region. There are five Provinces in Champagne; Aube, Cotes de Blancs, Cotes de Sezanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallee de la Marne. Epernay and Reims are the two most famous towns in Champagne, and the grapes used to make Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The region has been a viticultural center since the Middle Ages, with the House of Gosset (founded in 1584 as a still wine producer) as the oldest Champagne house still in operation today. There are over 320 villages under the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee’) and over 300 million bottles of champagne produced annually. Roughly 21 million of those bottles are exported, mostly to England and the US.
What makes Champagne unique, beside the terroir? After the first fermentation- where the juice is actually a still wine, fermented dry, the wine goes through assemblage or a blending process. Juice from previous vintages is added, and then a secondary fermentation process begins. The Liqueur de tirage a mixture of yeast and sugar is added and the wines are placed in thick glass bottles with a sealed cap, in a cellar to ferment. This is a natural process of alcohol and carbon dioxide creating its magic to form bubbles. After at least several months of aging in these bottles (some Champagne houses age for years- which imparts a yeasty, toasty flavor) the secondary fermentation process is complete. The next part of the process is called riddling or remuage. The bottles are kept upside down at an angle and each day are given a 1/8 turn. This procedure forces the dead yeast cells down so they can be more easily removed. The removal of the dead yeast cells is called disgorgement. In this process the bottle neck is frozen causing a plug of frozen dead yeast cells. The cap is removed and the carbon dioxide causes the plug to explode – in effect “disgorging” the dead yeast cells with very little loss of the wine. Finally, the dosage, often a well- kept secret at many Champagne Houses, a mixture of still wine is added and will make the Champagne either Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Extra Dry, Semi Dry or Doux (sweet). Then the Champagne is corked and covered with a cage to prevent the internal pressure from the carbon dioxide “popping” the cork.
These stringent processes are why Champagne prices are usually a bit higher than other sparkling wines made using different methods. If you see the word “Charmat” on a sparkling wine label, it means the secondary fermentation was done in a tank, and not in the bottle. All Champagne (from the Champagne region) undergo secondary fermentation in the bottle. This is called Methode Traditional or Method Champenoise. It is rumored the famous Benedictine Monk Dom Perignon “discovered” Champagne, which is not really true. Though he pioneered many techniques in both still and sparkling winemaking, his discovery of bottles in the cellar popping their corks from the carbon dioxide and declaring he was “tasting the stars” is linked to an advertisement for the Champagne in 19th century. Though if you’ve ever tasted a fine champagne with minute bubbles, it feels like you are drinking stars!
The difference between “vintage” Champagne and “non-vintage” Champagne is that vintage is made with grapes from one particular harvest year, and must be aged a minimum of three years, while non-vintage is a blend of base wines from different years. Non-Vintage Champagne is aged for 15 months minimum. We have a wonderful selection of them here at Ed’s.
Champagne Gosset Brut Reserve 45% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier – harmonious notes of apple, with racy acidity, hints of raspberry and chalk, with just a touch of salted almonds. Sophisticated and rich with a fine mousse (the richness of the bubbles). I give it three bones.
Dom Perignon Vintage This classic vintage champagne shines with tropical fruit, mango, melon and pineapple with just a hint of orange zest. The famed Benedictine monk who was cellar master at the Abbey of Hautvillers set the precedent for today’s methode champenoise. The grapes for this champagne are harvested from 17 Grand Cru vineyards in the AOC. I give it three bones.
Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvee Since 1829 this famed house has been producing world class champagne from mostly Grand Cu vineyards for a continuity in style. Most vintage champagnes from Bollinger are aged twice as long as appellation requirements. This champagne has been featured in 19 James Bond movies. 60% Pinot Noir, 24% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier, fine mousse, and golden color. The non-vintage champagne features beautiful aromas of roasted apple and peaches, with flavors of pear and brioche. Dynamic and fresh, I give it two bones.
Champagne Delamotte Brut 55% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Meunier shows a floral nose with delicate bouquet of citrus, white flower and lemon peel. Lovely brioche and nougat aromas. An affordable luxury, I give it two bones.
Be sure to come by and give me a pat or a dog cookie when you’re ready to make your sparkling wine selections. Remember, champagne goes with everything, and a trip to France, even virtually, should always include a bit of bubbles. Cheers!
By Brunello Giancola as told to CRBrown
We are touring the world of wine virtually, as we wait for the day when the world is safe for us to travel in person again- we are getting there! Chile is a narrow strip of land, bordered to the east by the Andes Mountains, and the west by the Pacific Ocean. Chile shares a border with Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina, and their main language is Spanish. Spaniards began making wine as they settled Chile in the 16th century. Wine grape growing has become a significant agricultural product contributing to the Chilean economy, as the 5th largest wine producer in the world. The entire country of Chile extends along the Pacific, so this maritime influence makes for excellent growing conditions for Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir along the coast, and in the area of Casablanca. Heartier varietals like Cabernet, Merlot and Carmenere do equally well in Maipo, further inland.
The South American country, like Argentina, experiences Summer while we have our Winter, all the while hosting many sub-climates. The famous Easter Island is a Tropical Rainforest with February day time highs in the mid 80’s. You can see a replica of the famous statues of Easter Island on display all around the city of Santiago.
Central Chile has a Mediterranean climate – where most of the wineries are located in the hills and mountainous regions. Valle del Maipo is the wine region surrounding the area of Santiago, with the Maule Valley just south of there. You will see Maipo and Maule frequently on wine labels as these regions are the most popular for wine growing.
Once you land at the airport in Santiago and get through the crowded lines at customs, you will want to have a driver escort you through the city of one way main roads with very few double yellow lines. Santiago is rich in historic properties; government buildings, cathedrals and banks, but a few miles out of the city, the landscape has the backdrop of the towering snow-capped Andes. Soon vineyards appear, where red Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenere grapes flourish.
Another common grape grown in Chile is Muscatelle (similar to Muscat) which is used to make a type of brandy that is famous in the region, called Pisco. A Pisco Sour is tradition before meals in Chile, and before bringing on the big game meats and hearty red wines native to their land. Chileans drink their Pisco like the French drink Champagne!
J Bouchon Pais Viejo is a favorite of ours here at Ed’s. The Pais grape was believed to have come to Chile through Spanish conquistadors via Peru. Pais is also known as Listan Prieto, and produces a thin red wine, that was primarily used for bulk wine production. Emile Bouchon left Bordeaux for Chile in the late 19th century. Today Julio Bouchon and his children are fourth generation winemakers in the Maule. This wine is full of bright cherry fruit, with aromas of wildflowers and sour cherries. It’s a perfect pairing to mushrooms or grilled salmon. I give it two bones.
Boya Pinot Noir is an approachable, coastal wine from Leyda Valley. Boya means “Buoy” in Spanish, appropriate as the vineyards overlook the Pacific Ocean. Strawberry, red cherry and floral aromas, this 100% Pinot Noir is aged in older French barrels giving it a soft finish with berry flavors. I give it two bones.
Casa Silva Carmenere Cuvee Colchagua this wine shows intense dark fruit, and hints of plum and spice. Carmenere was brought to Chile from Bordeaux in the 1800’s. Due to overgrowth and inexperience in the vineyards, for many years Carmenere was confused with the Merlot grape all over Chile. DNA tests were done in the late 1970’s and many vines that were thought to be Merlot were indeed the Carmenere varietal. Carmenere has become the “unofficial red grape” of Chile. Casa Silva is 100% Carmenere aged in French oak. Lively fruit, with a hint of green pepper on the finish, I give it three bones.
These are just a few of the wineries represented from Chile we carry here at Ed’s. Stop by for a look in the South American aisle, or call ahead and we can put together a Chilean wine experience just for you!
The famous region in France has nothing to do with the 3 liter or gallon jug of wine on the bottom shelf at the grocery store. The term “Burgundy Wine” was coined by the E and J Gallo winery in the 1960’s to appeal to the American palate. Ernest and Julio Gallo’s “Hearty Burgundy” was sourced of predominantly Zinfandel grapes grown in Sonoma County, it was a pretty decent value, blended jug wine that sold well in to the 1980’s. Likewise their “Chablis Blanc” was also a well marketed jug blend of semi- sweet white varietals that sold well in the 1970’s an early 80’s. The French were somewhat perturbed with the California wine industry for bastardizing their sacred place name.
France, as we have learned in previous blogs, makes their wine by varietals from regions that you will find on the label. Burgundy is a 35 mile long approximately 15 mile wide strip of land where some of the most expensive and sought after Chablis (Chardonnay) and Burgundy (Pinot Noir) are produced according to their rigid government standards. The only other wine varietals you need to know that are from Burgundy aside from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are Aligote’, Pinot Gris and Gamay, all of which has nothing to do with “jug wine”. In Burgundy there are four quality levels:
1. Bourgogne Blanc – white varietals that can be blended from within the region (Chardonnay, Aligote, Pinot Gris) that are often bottled young.
2. Village – wines from a specific area or appellation noted on the label.
3. Premier Cru -10% of Burgundy wines are Premier Cru, they often see a bit more aging and come from the top regions.
4. Grand Cru- only 33 vineyards are a part of the “Grand Cru” vineyards of Burgundy, highly coveted and highly priced.
White Burgundy or Bourgogne Blanc is the entry level tier of Chardonnay, an unoaked, simply made wine with the pure flavors of the fruit; apple and mineral generally. Grapes used for this label can come from anywhere in the Bourgogne region.
Chablis is the northern most appellation in Burgundy where the soils are chalky and the wines show more minerality. Most are unoaked, but Grand Cru producers will age in neutral oak which gives the wine a richer taste profile. All of the wines produced here are white Chardonnay, and Chablis has it’s own classification- Petite Chablis, Chablis, Premier Cru Chablis, and Grand Cru Chablis.
Cotes de Beaune is in the southern part of the “Golden Slope” known as Cote d’ Or, named after the town of Beaune. The principal Village appellations of the region are Corton, Corton Charlemagne, Beaune, Pommard, Volnay, Puligny Montrachet and Chassagne Montrachet. These wines are some of the most sought after, full bodied whites (Chardonnays) made in the world.
Cotes de Nuits was named after Walnut trees, most of the wines produced here are red Pinot Noir. Vosnee Romanee, Vougeot and Morey St Denis; producing some of the most famous and expensive Pinot Noir in the world.
Cote Chalonnaise has no Grand Cru Vineyards, but the wines produced here can be stellar. Great values from Sparkling Crémant to Pinot Noir. The area around the town of Givry is known for more than 13 different soil types, giving each producer different character. There are many good value wines made in Chalonnaise.
Maconnais lies nearly in between northern and southern France, producing Chardonnay featuring limestone and granite flavors like those from Pouilly Fuisse’. Check out some of these wines from Burgundy we have on our shelves here at Ed’s.
Domaine Sangouard Guyot Pouilly Fuisse Terroirs
From the Maconnais, this Chardonnay shows flavors of apple, melon and pear, with a hint of wet rock on the finish. I give it three bones.
Comtes de Saint Martin Chablis
Saint Martin- the patron saint of Chablis, this Chardonnay expresses aromas of white flowers and boasts flavors of crisp apple and honeydew melon. I give it three bones.
Macon Uchizy Les Maranches
Certified Biodynamic farm practices, this 100% Chardonnay from the Macon is aged on the lees for 7 to 8 months prior to bottle aging. The wine exhibits a limestone nose with fresh fruit flavors of lemon and pear. I give it three bones.
Albert Bichot Grand vin de Bourgogne Savigny Les Beaune
Rich dark blackberry and raspberry fruit, from the Cote D’ Or region, just a hint of leather on the back, medium bodied, and age worthy. I give it three bones.
We carry many good examples of Burgundy wine here at Ed’s and hope you’ll give us a call to pre order, or stop by and say hello while you shop. I will greet you with a wag of my tail and show you to the French wine aisle! Au re voir for now!
The Province de Beaujolais, south of Burgundy and north of the Rhone and Provence regions, is home to predominantly one grape varietal, Gamay. Though some Chardonnay is grown in the region for whites, as is Aligote, the thin skinned, acidic Gamay rules here. Approximately 50 miles from the border of Switzerland, 98% of the region’s wine production is Gamay which produces a red fruit flavor, with hints of cranberry and red cherry. Higher end Cru Beaujolais has been compared to the flavor of red burgundy- old world style Pinot Noir with flavors of mushroom and forest floor. Most Beaujolais is meant to be consumed young while the fruit flavors are robust. Not to be confused with Beaujolais Nouveau which is extremely fruity and is made by a process called carbonic maceration. Unlike standard fermentation, where yeast is manually added to the grape juice and grape must to convert the sugars into alcohol. This process has the grapes in a sealed vat with carbon dioxide. The CO2 forces the grapes to release their own enzymes creating a kind of natural fermentation. Nouveau wines have very little skin contact so are lighter in color and tannin. Beaujolais Nouveau day is marked in France on the third Thursday in November, at 12:01 AM, just a few weeks after the grapes have been harvested and fermented via this process.
Wines from the Beaujolais region are classified as Beaujolais, Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais Villages and Beaujolais Cru.
There are ten crus of Beaujolais from North to South as follows.
1. Saint Amour
4. Moulin a Vent
10.Cote de Brouilly
Only ranked “villages” will have these town names (appellations) on their label, as the French go by region and not grape varietal. Other Gamay from Beaujolais will simply say Beaujolais Villages.
Driving in on the A6 motorway or by high speed rail, spring is just awakening with bud break in the Beaujolais in April. Average daily temperatures can reach 60 degrees but on average stay in the 50’s, despite it being a borderline Mediterranean climate due to the proximity of the sea. Soils are rich in granite, schist, sandstone and clay, giving the wine a mineral quality.
Often times you will hear Beaujolais associated with the Burgundy region- it is only administrative to the government of France. The region is closer in climate to the Rhone and is producing some note-worthy wines that should not be confused with those of Burgundy. We hope you’ll stop by and give me a pat on the head and look for these in our French section.
Louis Latour Beaujolais Village is an age worthy Gamay from an iconic winery. Latour is located in Beaune in Burgundy, but these grapes are sourced from contracted growers in the heart of the Beaujolais. Pink schist and granite soils play a role in the flavor profile of this light red, with crisp acidity and tart cherry red fruit. I give it two bones.
Chateau Des Labourons Fleurie from Henry Fessy, whose 5th generation winemakers have been producing wine since the 18th century. The Chateau is located in the hills northwest of town where the soils are mineral rich. This wine shows some tannic structure with bright red plum and red cherry flavors. A touch of oak on the finish gives finesse and spice. I give it three bones.
The Gamay grape is also known as Gamay Noir -similar to Pinot Noir, its brother to the north, in body. Gamay is light bodied and light colored, due to the fact that there is often little skin contact, but high in acid and fruit. There are often floral notes, think violets, with essence of red plum on the nose. Often served with just a touch of a chill (45 to 55 degrees, so pop it in the refrigerator about ten minutes prior to opening the bottle). Gamay is a great wine to pair with all kinds of food, from cheeses to pork or steak. Remember the Cru Beaujolais will age for several years, while Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages are great everyday value wines that also pair well with food. Call or e mail us and we’ll pull some of our favorites for you to try. See you soon!
We are virtually traveling our way around the world to wine producing countries- this time we head to France, the “Motherland” for all things wine. France is roughly the size of the state of Texas, with each section of the country an important and diverse wine growing region. We begin in the middle part of the small country with Bordeaux.
Bordeaux is considered to be the wine capital of the world. A two and a half hour train ride from Paris, the high speed rail line is far less expensive that the hour plus flight on Air France to the smaller airport in Bordeaux near the Gironde River. The Gironde is significant as it separates the Left Bank (Medoc and Graves) known for Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Right Bank (Libournais- Pomerol and St Emilion) known for Merlot. French wines seem complicated to us because their labels are not about the varietals in the wine, but the region or viticultural area these varietals are grown in. You have to know what regions the grape are grown when you are picking up a French wine (or have a knowledgeable staff like here at Ed’s to help you out!). The original Bordeaux Classification system for wine was created and still endures from 1855.
Libourne, the historic Capital sits on the Right Bank near the Dordogne River. A few miles west of there the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers converge. If you can remember that Right Bank refers to Merlot (or mostly Merlot based wines) with Pomerol and St Emilion the most popular, and Left Bank is Cabernet Sauvignon based and Medoc, Pauillac and Margeaux are the most famous, you can pick out a nice bottle of expensive French red wine (or reasonably priced).
Chateau Larose – Trintauden Cru Bourgeois Superieur is from the Haut Medoc, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot shows plum notes, with cracked black pepper on the nose, followed by a mid-palate of red fruit, blackberry and subtle oak. The wine is aged in traditional oak barrel for 12 to 14 months. The wine is an example of an affordable, quality Bordeaux that is consistent from vintage to vintage. I give it two bones.
Chateau Cap l’Ousteau from Haut Medoc is another Merlot and Cabernet blend with ripe blackberry and black currant fruit, with supple tannins and a mocha nose. I give it three bones.
The Bordeaux Region is also home to the white grape Sauvignon Blanc, which is often blended with a touch of Semillon. Muscadelle, and Uni Blanc and Sauvignon Gris are other white varietals allowed by law to be labeled under the Bordeaux AOC (Appellation de Origine Contolee’). The current French AOC has 363 approved appellations for wine and spirits, including Bordeaux, Bourgogne and Champagne.
Chateau Suau is an 80% Sauvignon Blanc 20% Semillon blend from the Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux region. The wine undergoes rigorous organic regulations and standards in the vineyard, and shows delicate citrus and floral on the nose with a perfect balance of acidity on the palate with peaches, and white flowers, I give it three bones.
A trip to the vineyards of Bordeaux is on many wine lover’s bucket lists. This time of year the skies are grey and there are no buds on the vines. The winds are cool and day time temperatures are in the mid 50’s to 60. Spring comes later in April when the growing season begins. To experience the world class wine growing regions and see the hills and touch the soils that make up some of the most historically rich and famous wines of all time- well, it awaits our being able to travel…hopefully soon. In the meantime, stop by and I will greet you with a wag of my tail, and we will happily show you around our French wine section.
By Brunello Giancola as told to CRBrown
We are off to Argentina in our trip around the World of wine. This country has a climate that ranges from mild in the Buenos Aires region to sub-tropical, to cold and dry near the Andes Mountains, and sub-Antarctic cold in the south. We’ll stay away from the cold, feeling our share of a “winter” here in Tampa Bay, and head straight to wine country in Mendoza and Salta- the two prime grape growing regions in Argentina.
The famous red grape of Argentina did not actually originate there. Malbec is an original Bordeaux varietal from France often used as a blending grape. The Malbec grape has flourished in South America, with its deep, dark inky color, heavy tannins and deep structure. The Malbec grape is thick skinned and less resistant to pests and bad weather. Argentina has been growing Malbec since the late 1900’s with over 75,000 acres planted.
Salta has a mild climate year round, and is the highest elevation for grape growing in the world. Salta La Linda or Salta “the beautiful” is located in the northwest section of the country. Tourist friendly with Colonial architecture and stunning valley views, the area encompasses the Andes, lush forests and vineyards. The town of Cafayete is a gateway to wineries and features a high altitude railway, let’s climb on board and take a trip with our wine glass.
Bodega Amalaya Malbec Blend owned and operated by the Hess Family of California, this winery is located nearly 6,000 (1800 meters) above sea level. This elevation is important for many reasons. Pests do not thrive in higher elevations, so minimal pest control chemicals are needed. The soil is rocky and sandy so when there is infrequent rain, it drains down through to the roots of the vines where it is most effective. Struggling vines produce more intense, riper fruit, and this Malbec shows plum and dark fruit flavors with hints of spice and vanilla. Blended with 10% Tannat and 5% Petite Verdot, I give it two bones!
Mendoza is located just north of central in the country of Argentina, with an average yearly temperature of 61, the diurnal range during growing season is about 30 degrees, excellent for wine growing. Olives are the second big agricultural crop for Argentina with a large export business of olive oil in addition to wine. The Cuyo area in Mendoza has extreme temperatures, but due to the natural irrigation from runoff of the Andes Mountains, wine grapes can still thrive in the hot summers.
Padrillos Malbec or Finca de los Padrillos was founded by Ernesto Catena, a fourth generation winemaker originally from Italy. Padrillos means horse in Spanish, the native language of Argentina, and Ernesto has homed over 30 retired Polo Ponies on his winery and farm in Mendoza, the Padrillos logo pays homage to them. Light to medium bodied this 100% Malbec is a fresh style with violet floral aromas and flavors of plum, cherries and dried berries. I give it two bones.
Torrontes (torh on tez) is a white grape varietal specific to Argentina. DNA testing suggests the grape is loosely related to the Muscat grape from France, and has a slightly similar taste profile. Both Chile and Spain grow the varietal, but it is not considered to be related, and is the premier white grape of Argentina’s wine growing regions. If you’re like me, and you like to smell the flowers, this is a great wine to try! Over 20,000 acres are planted to Torrontes and the grapes tend to like harsh growing conditions. Wind and cool temperatures allow the fruit to attain a higher level of acidity and offer more intense fruit flavors and a floral nose.
Pascual Toso Torrontes is highly aromatic with floral notes of honey suckle and orange blossom. 100% Torrontes grown in the Maipu District of Mendoza, all stainless steel fermentation this wine is fresh, clean and crisp. A great starter before a meal or with spicy foods. I give it three bones.
We have a large selection of South American wines and rows and rows of several price points from Argentina to choose from. Give us a call and we can hand select a few for you, or come in and say hello. I am anxiously awaiting a scratch on the ears or a dog cookie!
By Brunello Giancola as told to CRBrown
It’s January 2021, the world is still not a place we can travel, and wineries both here and abroad are not able to accommodate international travelers. In the interest of personal safety, we are going to wind our way around the wine globe via the aisles of the store here at Ed’s Fine Wines, from A to Z. Perhaps Z will be New Zealand? But today we begin in Australia.
If you step off the plane in South Australia in January, it’s like our July temperatures- heat and humidity around 90 degrees. Because the southern part of the country is nearly pointed directly at the sun, Australia has been noted as being the hottest place on earth! Much of your journey in the winter months (November through February) would be similar to our hot summers here in Tampa Bay. However, summers are like our winters, with average day time temperatures in the 70’s. There are lush palms and other tropical vegetation in certain areas, with wine regions growing vastly different varietals all over the bottom part of the world- Down Under. Chardonnay grows particularly well near the coast, with cooling ocean breezes, while cooler climate varietals like Riesling do well in the higher elevations. Syrah (Shiraz, or she roz as the natives call it) grows exceptionally well in Barossa. Soil types vary across the state, just as they do here in the United States. Remember, we grow wine grapes in every state of the union here in the US, so it should not come as a surprise that Australia is growing different varietals all over their country as well.
The wine world Down Under has over 150,000 acres planted to vine, with over 130 different varietals, Shiraz being most widely planted. In the late 1700’s cuttings were brought through the Cape of Good Hope to New South Wales, and by the early 1800’s Australia was producing and exporting wine. Around this time French and Spanish grape varieties were brought in and planted. Settlers from Europe began improving upon the quality of wine produced in Australia by the mid 1850’s, and had great initial success with the Syrah grape. Shiraz would become the number one selling red varietal from Down Under. The country has no known native grape, but the climate proves ideal for many different styles of wine varietals with irrigation and farming techniques. Eventually, Australia became famous for GSM- the blend consisting of three French varietals: Grenache, Syrah (Shiraz) and Mourvèdre. The most famous of which is Penfolds Grange. This blend has often been touted as a top wine in the world by wine publications and critics, and consistently garners high ratings and an even higher price point. Penfolds Winery dates to 1844 and played a pivotal role in the evolution of winemaking in Australia. Today, Penfolds, owned by Treasury Wine Estates, and considered their crown jewel, is still producing Penfolds wine, with vineyard estates all over South Australia. From table wines to the celebrated Grange, Penfolds has a portfolio rich in Australian farming and history. Penfolds Bin 389 is a fine blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, often referred to as “baby Grange” this wine receives the highest of accolades from wine critics the world over- elegant, smooth and supple with flavors of cedar, black tea and sandalwood. The raspberry and blood orange notes hit mid palate, with rich cocoa and Madagascar vanilla and licorice to finish. I give it three bones.
Another Australian winery famous for quality production is Yalumba. Founded by a British brewer in Barossa Valley. Yalumba was named for an indigenous Australian phrase, “all the land around” and is Australia’s oldest family run winery. Yalumba has consistently produced both great red blends – a GSM, as well as whites, including Viognier (another Rhone varietal that grows well in South Australia) and Chardonnay. Robert Hill-Smith, Yalumba’s fifth generation proprietor touts the winery as both Sustainable in Practice as well as using minimal intervention, from the vineyard to the cellar. The Y Series are table wines for every day drinking. The horse depicted on the label is a symbol of tradition- as horses were used for both transport and tractor. A great blend,the Y Series Shiraz Viognier (red and white grapes) shows luscious and exotic aromas of boysenberry and hints of white pepper and violet. The wine is full bodied and finishes with a lingering cherry finish. I give it three bones.
While Australia became somewhat infamous for the years they marketed their “Critter Wines”, at the time, this was what the world was demanding, low priced, high volume lower tier wines. It was a time when American White Zinfandel was a rage, and so were the wines with animals on their labels. Australia as a wine industry has grown from there, as America has, along with our palates. This country will one day again be available for us to explore as travelers, and their wine regions await us. For the time being, we have many award winning varietals and labels on our shelves for you to explore.
Don’t we all say at the end of the year, how much we want to “get healthy” for the New Year? We commit to eating less and exercising more, and January becomes a very long month! Fresh Vine Wines is a recent concept of wine for people who are fitness conscious. Why shouldn’t you be able to work out hard, and do all you can to keep yourself healthy and fit, and still be able to enjoy a few glasses of wine with your dinner? Fresh Vine Wines have been specifically crafted with no extra additives, all natural, low sugar, low calorie and low carb! Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?
Founder Jamey Whetstone put two years into research to make a wine that could taste great and be good for you. We know the “good properties” in wine, it’s a natural beverage, there is resveratrol in the skins- possibly protecting the heart and lowering cholesterol, it boosts the immune system, and has anti-oxidants. Fresh Vine Wines was founded to promote these principals for people with active lifestyles.
Whetstone is no newbie, he made wine for more than 20 years in California’s famous Napa Valley, at Turley Cellars where he apprenticed after a career at the highly proclaimed Mustard’s Grill, in Napa, CA, then a sabbatical at the famed Domain Dujac in Burgundy, then founding his own Whetstone Cellars in 2002. Jamey’s wife Michelle runs Whetstone, while Jamey has ventured into the “lifestyle wine” category with Fresh Vine Wines. Jamey is a surfer, a gardener, a father, and a wine maker. His active life style was craving a premium wine that is low calorie, low sugar, and low carb. These wines are Keto and Vegan friendly. Jamey looked for lower sugar grapes, while trying to maintain quality of flavor. He met the challenge in Fresh Vine Wines, grown throughout California, produced and bottled in Napa.
Fresh Vine Chardonnay offers a nose full of ripe pear, green apple, lychee, hazelnut and toasty oak. There are notes of tropical fruit and citrus, with a medium body and a lingering pear finish. I give it two bones.
Fresh Vine Pinot Noir has a bright floral nose with hints of rose petal, dark cherry and baking spices. Flavors of red raspberry and plum, and a hint of chocolate on the finish. I give it two bones.
Fresh Vine Cabernet Sauvignon shows aromas of black cherry and blackberry pie and spice. The wine is medium bodied with concentrated fruit flavors like boysenberry and blackberry. This cab finishes with hints of baker’s chocolate and plum. I give it three bones.
Fresh Vine Wines are also a partner with the Tampa Bay Rays, and are a large contributor to Feeding Tampa Bay. Another reason to support a “healthy lifestyle” wine. Here’s to us celebrating the New Year, putting the challenges of 2020 behind us. With 2021, a fresh beginning, good health and good wine. Cheers!
Laura Catena is a fourth-generation winemaker from Argentina. Her father, Nicolas, helped build the country’s prominence and influence in the New World wine category. In addition to Luca and LaPosta wines, Laura runs Catena Winery, and the Catena Wine Institute, all while living in San Francisco, where she is a mother of three, an ER doctor, and an author! Luca Wines are named for her first son, and is a boutique winery of artisan quality. Alongside winemaker and viticulturist Luis Reginato, Laura works with small growers around the Mendoza region to contract out low yield, high quality grapes. High acclaim and limited production, these wines show a unique expression of the terroir that is the Uco Valley of Mendoza. The family crest that appears on the label is that of her husband, Dan McDermott’s family. If you missed it, you could check out the podcast and listen to Laura discuss just how she manages it all.
Argentina is the 5th largest producer of wine in the world with over 75,000 acres planted to vine. Malbec has long been known to be the “red grape of Argentina” and put this South American country on the wine world map. Many varietals grow well in Argentina, and even thrive in some of the highest elevations in the world. Soils vary from sandy loam to clay, but are predominantly loam with excellent drainage. Well controlled irrigation from the runoff of the Andes Mountains, and minimal insect and pesticides are needed due to the elevation and desert climate. These conditions have proven over the years to produce excellent quality fruit, which leads to even better quality wine production.
Luca Chardonnay The prefect balance between a Burgundian and California – style Chardonnay, this wine entices with aromas of lemon crème, baking spices and caramel. Tropical fruit flavors, spiced baked pear, and a stony, mineral finish. I give it three bones on the Brunello scale.
Luca Pinot Noir The critical acclaim is amazing for this wine- 94 points from James Suckling. Aromas of wild strawberries, saddle leather and cola root. A complex Pinot with notes of leather, spice. The cherry and raspberry flavors pair well with duck, game, even grilled salmon, or lamb. I give it three bones.
Luca Old Vine Malbec This wine has made Wine Spectator’s top 100 two years in a row. It expresses the terroir of Mendoza with spice and black cherry cola aromas, and hints of cocoa. The berry flavors on the palate finish with a hint of espresso. I give it three bones.
Luca Laborde Double Select Syrah This Syrah was born of cuttings taken from the Rhone Valley over 50 years ago and planted in the Uco Valley. Aromas of cigar, leather, and smoked meat hit the nose with hints of toasty oak, forest floor and baking spices. Well structured tannins support the big fruit flavors of blackberry jam and spiced black cherry, with a hint of ground fresh black pepper and rhubarb on the finish. This wine is easy to consume now, or hold for a few years. I give it three bones.
Laura Catena’s wines continually gain wine press recognition for consistency in quality. Laura made history as the first to plant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes at over 4,500 feet- the highest elevation in Mendoza. Laura has always had a vision of creating a new breed of Argentine wine, and these wines deliver. Stop in today, or call ahead for curb side pick-up.
By Brunello Giancola as told to CRBrown
There is nothing scary about the great wines we have coming up in a Zoom Tasting on October 30th. A live Zoom Party featuring these four South American wines from Vine Connections!
Pais Viejo (‘Old Pais’) is a wine with history. Made with Pais grapes from over 100-year-old Gobelet vines planted in the coastal region of Maule in Chile. The Bouchon Family Wines began in the late 19th century when young viticulturist Emile Bouchon left Bordeaux, France for Chile. Today, Julio Bouchon and his children carry on their 4th generation family winemaking tradition in the Maule Valley. With their in-depth soil research alongside terroir-specialist Pedro Parra, Bouchon is preserving the historic character of the Maule Valley with distinctive, terroir-driven wines. The Pais vines are planted on very old soil of granitic, sandy loam formed by Chile’s coastal mountains. Pais Viejo is 100% naturally-vinified using century-old winemaking techniques, including the use of the zaranda (a structure made of sticks to destem the grape clusters). The grapes are hand harvested and fermented with native yeasts in concrete tanks to preserve the wine’s authentic expression of terroir.
Bright cherry color with juicy, fresh, light aromas of strawberry, wildflowers and sour cherry. This wine pairs well with fish and pasta, can also be used as an aperitif- and for the Halloween Zoom, we pair it with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup or Twix bars! I give it three bones.
Boya Pinot Noir was created by the Garcés Silva family, pioneers of the coastal Leyda Valley in Chile. Boya in Spanish means “buoy” – apropriate as the vineyard blocks overlook the Pacific Ocean. The winery’s architecture is inspired by its environment, and the surrounding rolling hills determine the different levels of the winery. The winery is gravity flow, a winemaking practice that preserves its aromatic potential and natural structure. Boya wines are made using fruit that is harvested early, in order to achieve a very bright, low alcohol, fresh style. Old barrels that have been used 4 to 8 times, are used to age the wine for a short period of 8 to 10 months. Natural acidity and good balance give Boya wines a remarkable sense of place, representing the cool coastal climate of the Chilean Leyda Valley.
Intense nose of fresh fruits like strawberry, red cherries and plenty of floral aroma. The palate is medium bodied with supple tannins, good natural acidity and fresh berry fruits towards the finish. It is well balanced, clean, and expressive. Try it with grilled salmon, Gruyère cheese, or wild mushrooms, and for a tricky treat, try it with Mounds or Almond Joy. I give it two bones.
Lunta Malbec is named after the region, Lunlunta, which the ancient Huarpe Indians named to represent the sound of stones colliding in the flowing Mendoza River in Argentina. Lunta Malbec is hand-harvested from small vineyards in the region of Luján de Cuyo. It undergoes malolactic fermentation in barrels, and is then aged for 12 months in 50% oak barrels and 50% stainless steel. This old-vine Malbec hails from a restored ancient riverside vineyard overlooking the Lunlunta Hills and highlights fresh, expressive floral and red fruit characteristics. Roberto de la Mota, Argentina’s legendary winemaker behind Mendel Wines, makes Lunta in a vibrant style to showcase the terroir of this estate. He personally revived this forgotten 1928 vineyard, recognizing this unique location’s promise to craft a truly dynamic wine.
Intense fruity aromas of raspberry, plum, blackberry and cassis immediately greet you upon first sniff. These explosive fruit notes continue on the palate of this medium-bodied, easy to drink Malbec. Soft tannins give way to a long finish making this wine enjoyable on its own or paired with lamb, spareribs or pork- and in this case we think it would be spook tacular with Milky Way or Junior Mints! I give it three bones.
Tikal Patriota was #45 on Wine Spectator’s ‘Top 100 List’ in 2015. This ‘Patriotic’ old-vine Bonarda and Malbec is blended to perfection. Bonarda being a native Argentine red varietal. Tikal was founded by Ernesto Catena, a 4th generation winemaker of Italian descent who, having spent a part of his life working as a designer and being a fervent student of Renaissance humanism, sees it as his mission to transform everything in his wine world into art. To share a meal, to enjoy the fruits of their labor—these are the things that matter to him. Over the years, Ernesto and his team designed their biodynamic farm and vineyard as a
sculpture to be gazed upon from the sky, similar to how the Mayas and the Incas designed their cities to be enjoyed by the Gods. Their vineyard is surrounded by natural flora and animals that help them achieve a state of harmony and equilibrium. They pay homage to the Sun in their Rose Garden, and to the Moon in their Vine Labyrinth with music and dancing. They see their winery and vineyard as a home for an artist to create and commune with Nature; to be one with the poetic nature of life.
The Malbec grapes are from high elevation vineyards- the Vist ta Flores vineyard, and the Bonarda grapes comes from Rivadavia. They’re hand-harvested and aged 12 months in 70% French & 30% American oak barrels.
Deep purple and red hues, with aromas of bright berry/cherry fruit. Big body yet very balanced with luscious layers of raspberry, cherry, and cocoa flavors. Just a hint of baking spice at the end brings it all together. A great companion to grilled or smoked meats. Pairs well with beef and pork, and even pizza! But for Halloween we suggest a Snickers Bar. I give it three bones.
Please join us for the virtual tasting event and see our special pricing for these wines. Happy Halloween!