Monday, April 11, 2011

Beaulieu Vineyard Chardonnay Carneros 2008

Although its not much compared to the long histories of some of the old vineyards and chateaux of Europe, Beaulieu Vineyard is the longest continually operating winery in Napa Valley. Beaulieu Vineyard or BV as many call it was founded in 1900 by George de Latour, who upon seeing the area in Rutherford that became home to his winery exclaimed "beau lieu" which is French for beautiful place. After some early success, de Latour signed contracts with the Catholic church in 1908 to provide them with sacramental wine, which ended up being a key move for the survival of the winery. Being a key supplier to the church allowed him to keep the winery in full operation through the Prohibition.

The winery not only survived but expanded through Prohibition times, and not long after Prohibition, de Latour hired Andre Tchellistcheff, a native Russian who learned the craft in France, to be his winemaker. Tchellistcheff was a key figure in the development of Napa Valley and brought many innovations to all of Napa Valley at the time. Some of the things he introduced to the fledgling Napa Valley wine industry include cold fermentation of white wines and malolactic fermentation for red wines, which became industry standards. Much of Napa's success is owed to the expertise that Tchellistcheff brought to the valley.

Today BV is still making very many good wines. I recently had the occasion to try their 2008 Carneros Chardonnay on a lazy spring afternoon with an assortment of cheese. The wine is golden straw color in your glass, and the nose brings elements of peach, pear, and a bit of vanilla. In your mouth you get beautifully pure pear fruit with well balanced oak and very nice acidity for a California Chardonnay. The finish is really enjoyable and has a little bit of length to it.

Overall, this is a very nicely done Chardonnay that has full body, some oak, and plenty of fruit without being too over the top like so many other offerings from Napa and Sonoma. Its also one of the few Chardonnays I've seen in the high teens price wise. Usually you see the $13 and under stuff and then jump right to the mid $20's. For about $5 more this is giving you a lot more balance and finesse then you see from the huge pack of California Chardonnays in the $10-$15 range. Drink this with fish, shellfish, or chicken. It would go especially well with lobster tails.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Les Verrieres Coteaux du Languedoc 2006

Today we continue our look at the greater Languedoc-Roussillon region of France with a wine from the Coteaux du Langudoc. Coteaux du Languedoc is the 2nd largest AOC in the region, and rather than being one contiguous area, the classified growing areas are a number of separate areas scattered throughout a large portion of the Languedoc-Roussillon area. The terroir is varied and ranges from maritime to mountainside depending on how far inland you are. Close to 90% of the over 55 million bottled produced annually in this region are made from red wine grapes, with the main varietals being Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre, with Carignan and Cinsault also being allowed by the AOC. It is also important to note that the area has only had AOC status for 25 years, and the area anticipates having many additional AOCs in the future as the growers and winemakers find out more about each of the many microclimates in the region.

Made from 45% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 20% Carignan, and 5% Cinsault, Les Verrieres Coteaux du Languedoc 2006 is deep red in color in your glass. The bouquet is loaded with blackberry and cherry fruit and has elements of garrigue much like many of the great wines of the neighboring Rhone Valley. There is also a hint of pepper on the nose. In your mouth, blackberry fruit dominates along with some mild, well integrated tannins. On the finish there is some subtle earthiness, and that finish lingers quietly on the palate for quite some time. Its also important to note that this is one of those wines that just opens up and gets better and better the longer its open and decanted.

Overall, this is a very good wine that delivers big time on value at a price that is just over $12. This would pair very nicely with a grilled steak or any summertime barbecue fare.