Saturday, March 27, 2010

Elizabeth Spencer Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006

Elizabeth Spencer is one of those small Napa wineries that make really nice wine that not many people know about. Established in 1998, their distribution is limited and most if not all of their retail sales are through their website and their charming little tasting room in Rutherford. They make many different wines ranging from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay for whites to Grenache, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Merlot for the reds; however, my belief is that their best wines are their Cabernets. They have a few different Reserve Cabernets as well as their basic Napa Valley Cabernet, and all of them are quite good.

Today I’m taking a close look at their basic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006. It has a relatively small production of 2000 cases, but this is a lot compared to some of their reserves that have as little as 100 cases made.

In your glass, the wine has a beautiful purple red color. The nose brings classic Napa Cab aromas of blackberry and cassis with some black cherry in the mix as well. There is also just a little bit of a minty, herbal element to the bouquet. In your mouth, you’ll find a fruit profile that is similar to the nose along with a surprising and very pleasant hint of earthiness. The mouthfeel is really nice and not at all overwhelming like some Napa Cabs can be, and the tannins are very much present but beautifully integrated. This Cabernet has some really nice structure to it, and although it’s drinking nicely now, it should only get better over the next couple of years.

As far as food goes, this will pair perfectly with grilled steak or game just like any good Cabernet, but it also is food friendly enough to work with braised lamb shanks or a beef or lamb stew. At a price of $40 this is a nice value. If you join their wine club and get it for $32, it’s a great deal! As an added bonus, I think it’s a little bit better than any of their reserve Cabs which go for $60 to $80 a bottle.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Chapelles St. Arnoux Vacqueras Vielles Vignes 2007

It's getting so easy that it's almost getting silly. I used to work so hard to search out values from the Southern Rhone, constantly asking my favorite retailers what they have and searching things out online. With the 2007 vintage, though, the search has almost become too easy. There are so many good values and frankly so many great values that I am pinching myself.

The Chapelle St. Arnoux Vacqueyras 2007 is one of those many great values that I have been fortunate to find from the Southern Rhone. If you like Vacqueyras as much as I do, you know that most of these wines sell in the $20 to $40 range and are often quite good values in that price range. This Chapelle St. Arnoux is a steal at $13. After tasting it and checking and re-checking what I paid for it, I was certain that some local or federal law enforcement officials would be visiting me to discuss the grand larceny that I had committed. This wine drinks like it should be three times the price.

The Chappelle St. Arnoux Vacqueyras is made from 70% Grenache, 25% Syrah, and 5% Mourvedre and exhibits a red-purple color in your glass. The bouquet is wonderful and quite interesting in that the fruit component changed pretty significantly as the wine opened up. When first poured after 15 minutes in decanter, it smelled like sweet cherry pie in a glass, but as the wine opened up, the sweet cherries were joined by an equal component of blackberry. You also picked up some classic Rhone garrigue and the subtlest hint of leather. On the palate the wine brings sweet cherry and blackberry fruit with a hint of red currant. The fruit is complemented by some herbs and spice. It has very nice acidity and mild tannins that are very well integrated. Overall, this is an amazing wine for the price.

From a pairing standpoint, this is one of those wines that can go a lot of ways. I had it with a grilled pork tenderloin and felt that is worked pretty well. It would also pair nicely with a variety of cheeses if you are looking for one red wine to serve with a wide selection of cheese.

If you're interested in seeing other wines form Vacqueyras please see this link

If you're interested in seeing other wines from the Southern Rhone please see this link


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Domaine La Monardiere Les 2 Monardes Vacqueyras 2007

I just don't think I can say enough about the 2007 vintage in the Southern Rhone. I have tried quite a few 2007 Rhones now, and I have yet to find a wine that doesn't deliver delicious taste and outstanding value. This is true of wines ranging from the most basic Cotes-du-Rhone right up to the outstanding 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Papes. There are also outstanding value to be found in some of the up and coming villages in the Southern Rhone like Gigondas and Vacqueyras.

Today's subject is one of many great values I have found from Vacqueyras. The Domaine La Monardiere Les 2 Monardes Vacqueyras 2007 is medium red in your glass. The nose brings a wonderful mix of berry fruit with an element of licorice and some very subtle forest floor. In your mouth the wine is a little lighter than most wines from Vacqueyras. It has a very refined and elegant medium-bodied mouthfeel. The blackberry, cherry, and raspberry fruit is accompanied by a little bit of spice, and very nice acidity and mild tannins provide outstanding balance. Overall, this is a beautifully structured, very food friendly Southern Rhone that drinks like a much more expensive wine, and the $21 price tag makes it an excellent value.

As far as pairings go, this is a wonderful wine for those foods that could get overwhelmed by heavier reds. I love it with pork tenderloin or seared duck breast. It would also be great to serve with a diverse mix of cheeses.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Chateau La Bienfaisance Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2005

Bordeaux is arguably the most famous and highly regarded wine region in the world. This is not to say, however, that I'm personally making a case for the wines of Bordeaux as the best in the world. In fact for the last year, I had to work very hard to find wines from this famed region that I liked that didn't cost hundreds or thousands of dollars for a bottle. I'm sure I would love Petrus or Cheval Blanc, but there just aren't quite enough zeros at the end of my paycheck to drink those.

So about six months ago, I made it a priority to find some Bordeaux wines that are affordable and good. I figured that if so many people felt that this region is so great, then I must be able to find some good values in it. At first it wasn't easy. I started by attending a Bordeaux tasting at a local wine retailer, and the results weren't so good. Most of the wines I tasted were major disappointments. There was one exception, though, and I just revisited this wine last weekend with a wonderful dinner of lamb tenderloin with a blackberry demi-glace and a wild mushroom risotto. That exception is a wonderful blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc from Saint-Emilion.

The Chateau La Bienfaisance Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2005 is an intense purple red color in your glass. More modern in style, the nose brings black cherry, cassis, and a hint of chocolate. On the palate you get loads of cherry fruit with just a little bit of the cassis. Smooth, velvety tannins and some very nice acidity make this a beautifully structured wine that is right up my alley. I love wines that deliver delicious fruit flavor but also have structure and balance, and this fine offering from the Right Bank delivers on all accounts. This is a very good Bordeaux that is a steal in the $40 range. This wine is drinking very well now and should continue to improve with cellaring.

The wine paired beautifully with my lamb tenderloin with blackberry demi-glace, and would work very well with many French cheeses.

This is one of the first Bordeaux wines that I found that I love, but its definitely not the last. I'm going to have a lot of fun trying to find some more!