A Top Notch Bubbly for Under $15

December 12, 2013 Uncategorized  No comments

Lucien Albrecht Cremant Brut RoseI wrote this French sparkler up over two years ago, and loved it at the time.  Sparkling wines like this and most Champagnes are made from multiple vintages in order to achieve consistency.  As such, I though it was time to revisit this favorite to see how the blend is in the current release.  But before we do, a quick note on non-vintage (another name for multi-vintage) sparkling wines.

To my palate, generic French sparkling wine, AKA "Crémant" usually beats those of Spain (Cava), Italy (Prosecco), and yes, the United States.  I realize that's a massive generalization, but if I'm at a wine shop looking for a sparkling wine value without any other information, I'll choose a Crémant every time.  French sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it's from the Champagne region and

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Under $12 Deals – A Crisp White Burgundy (RP91, $11.95)

December 6, 2013 Under $12 Deals  No comments

Marie-Pierre ManciatWhite Burgundys are some of the most sought after and expensive white wines in the world with well rated, and even marginally rated examples selling for well over $100 per bottle.  So when I saw this Chardonnay from the Mâcon region had received 91 points from Parker himself and it was priced at $12, I had to try it.

Last night I grabbed this bottle and headed to our favorite BYOB where it went perfectly with the pan-roasted skate wing special.  This wine is a stark contrast to the big buttery domestic Chardonnay style.  It features crisp acid and beautiful notes of peach and pear.  It sees no wood, so you end up with a very focused wine that's a perfect fit for seafood.

I've been very impressed with several of the 2011's from the Mâcon region of Burgundy - an area increasingly

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’10 Lagier Meredith Syrah – One of the World’s Best ($41.95, RP94)

December 2, 2013 High End Values  No comments

lagier_meredith_LRGNapa Valley isn't exactly known for Syrah, especially on the rugged slopes of Mt. Veeder where Cabernet grapes fetch extremely high prices.  But married couple Steve Lagier and Carole Meredith bought a few acres high on the mountain and planted Syrah.  They have no employees, and with the exception of harvest time, everything is done by Carole and Steve, from tending the vineyard to making the wine.  If you want an artisan wine, it doesn't get much more artisan than this.

That's all well and good, but "artisan" is meaningless if their product isn't special.  With Lagier Meredith Syrah, it is.  Every year.  Here is a quick review of the last decade of scores from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate:

2011 – 90

2010 – 94

2009 – 94

2008 – 95

2007 – 94+

2006 –

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One More from L’Aventure – ’11 Optimus (RP94, $41.95)

November 22, 2013 High End Values  No comments

L'Aventure BottleYou could say this is becoming the Paso Robles wine blog, and I wouldn't blame you.  But when the most exciting wines in the country are coming from that region, I consider it more of a public service announcement.

The latest Paso deal comes from my favorite winery in the world - L'Aventure.  For more on this incredible winery click here to read all the posts I've done.

Optimus is L'Aventure's entry-level red, but entry is relative in this case, as this wine really drinks as well as just about anything out there.  At $41.95 it also isn't particularly cheap, but it's certainly well worth the price.  L'Aventure's lowest Wine Advocate score in the 2011 vintage was this wine.... at 94 points.  Many wineries  never get a single score like that.  Furthermore, Optimus has a history of

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Paso’s Founder: Tablas Creek (Wines from $17-$50, RP 90-94)

November 19, 2013 Uncategorized  No comments

Tablas Creek Bottle Shots SmallWith much of the focus in Paso Robles going to Saxum's Justin Smith (justifiably), it's easy to forget that way back in 1989 the Perrin family, of Beaucastel fame, partnered with importer Robert Haas to create a Chateauneuf-du-Pape outpost of sorts on the far west side of Paso Robles.  After a three year stay in quarantine, they founded Tablas Creek Vineyards with vine cuttings from Beaucastel vineyard.  They still operate a nursery to this day and many of Paso's Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and other varietals are descendants of those originals from Beaucastel.  Yes, there were plenty of grapes being grown in Paso, but Tablas Creek, and their Esprit de Beaucastel bottling established it as a premium wine region.

Fast forward a couple of decades and starting with the 2011 vintage, Tablas

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Paso Report #2: Terry Hoage and Torrin

November 15, 2013 News and Opinion  No comments

Terry Hoage
Another source for Saxum, Terry Hoage is a former NFL player who decided to retire with his wife Jennifer in the hills of West Paso.  These wines show more finesse than some of their neighbors, and still feature tons of flavor and excitement.  Their property is beautiful and their Syrah, “The Hedge”, particularly impresses.

Terry Hoage Winery Flowers
Torrin
Though they don’t yet have a tasting room, Torrin is producing arguably the most exciting new wines in Paso.  I’ve been on the mailing list since the 2009 vintage and I’ve been blown away by everything I’ve tasted.  They use some fruit from Saxum’s James Berry Vineyard, but the wines are increasingly coming from their estate on the West side of Paso.  If you can track these wines down or get on the list, you won't

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A Vietti Barolo for $23.95 – Almost…

November 13, 2013 High End Values  No comments

Vietti Nebbiolo Perbacco LabelThis is one of the misleading email titles I usually hate.  But give me a chance here.  The Vietti Nebbiolo Perbacco is made from the same Barolo vineyards and actually made using the same exact formula as Vietti's famous Castiglione bottling, save for a slightly shorter (16 month) oak aging process, which results in a wine that's more approachable early.  You also save around 20 bucks, because this one is made from the "young" vines.  "Young" in this case means an average age of 35 years, so they aren't really that young.  Basically you are getting a Barolo for half the price.

Okay, all of those stats are interesting, but how does it taste?  In a word - great!  All of the Vietti wines are awesome, but Barolo notoriously needs time.  This is the one to drink while you are waiting on

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Under $12 Deals – Guigal Cotes du Rhone is Great EVERY Year (RP89, $11.95)

October 24, 2013 Under $12 Deals  No comments

Guigal Cotes du Rhone LabelOccasionally I find myself in two separate circumstances where I am in need of reasonably-priced, good wine (vs. reasonably-priced bad wine).  1.) I'm traveling and need to pick up a go-to wine at an unfamiliar liquor store or grocery store and 2.) I'm having a group of people over and I don't want to break the bank.  Guigal's 2010 Cotes du Rhone would work perfectly for both circumstances.  They make over 1 million bottles per year, so it's easy to come by and it's consistently really good.

In France, where all but the best wines (and sometimes even those) are made by purchasing grapes from village communes, there is one way to make good wine.  Pay higher prices for the best grapes.  That's precisely the approach the famous Guigal family takes with their generic Cotes du Rhone

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Paso Report #1: Epoch and L’Aventure

October 22, 2013 Uncategorized  No comments

L'Aventure
L'Aventure Limestone

I’ve written about L’Aventure several times on these pages, visited the winery several times and own more of their wines than any other producer.  Each one of their wines is absolutely top-notch, including the entry-level Optimus, which can be found for under $40 retail.  I own this wine back to the 2001 vintage and they all drink fabulously.  The highlight here is the Estate Cuvee, which is a blend of Syrah, Cabernet and Petit Verdot.   Like many Paso wines, it’s massive but balanced.  This is my favorite wine in the world to drink.
View Available L'Aventure Wines Here
Epoch Estate
Epoch Wine Lables

Pronounced “Epic” these wines truly fit their name.   Epoch owns two vineyards in Paso Robles, along with a new, yet to be planted

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Under $12 Deals – A 91 Point French Red for the Ages (RP91, $11.95)

October 14, 2013 Under $12 Deals  One comment

2011 Tessellae Vieilles Vignes Cotes CatalanesI brought importer Eric Solomon's  2011 Tessellae Vieilles Vignes Cotes Catalanes to a French restaurant last week along with some other more expensive wines.  To my surprise, the table was asking where they could buy this wine, which was unanimously the favorite.

A wine of impressive length and polish, this translucent ruby-colored 100% Carignan shows a focus that can only come from old vines.  And I'm talking super old.  Luckily France has a plethora of old vineyards, because 70 year old vines in the U.S. (the few that exist) are priced at a major premium.  This wine is another wine from the Roussillon region of France, which is producing some of the very best wine values in the world right now.

Until now, all of the 100% Carignan I've had has been from Chile and I have not

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