Wine Scents for all Occasions

In the past two years, many of my high school and college friends have had their first child. I try to find unique gifts since you can only use so many gift certificates or baby outfits.

Recently, I tried The Wine Aroma Perfume Collection from Salud Scent Studio. I absolutely loved them all. Below is a list of the collection. I noted the scents to look for in each perfume and my experience with them as well.

Sauvignon Blanc – noted for fresh cut grass, grapefruit, ginger, and crisp green apple scents. I tried this scent in the roll on and loved it. I now like roll on scents better then sprays. It allows you to have better control over where the scent is applied on the body. I really noticed the smell of fresh cut grass and the crisp green apple the most. This scent is great for spring and summer.

Chardonnay – scents of honeydew melon, vanilla crème Brule, and toasted oak. This was my personal favorite scent initially. I could smell each of the scents listed. This is an all occasion scent for me, but could easily be saved for special occasions too.

Riesling – white peach, Anjou pear, bergamot, and cypress aromas. I enjoyed this scent and it appealed to me for every day use.

Merlot – red currant, rhubarb, fig, candied violet. The Merlot smells wonderful but was not initially my favorite until I wore it. I just loved how it smelled on my skin. I wore this during dinners on a recent vacation.

Syrah – notes of black peppercorn, summer berries, and leather. This scent reminds of me winter and I felt that it could be enjoyed by both men and women.

Salud Scent Studio offers custom blends as well. You can pick from a wide variety of scents that fall into categories including: fresh, floral, fruity, foody, woodsy, essential oils, and tea inspired.

The Wine Aroma Perfume Collection can be used in conjunction to wine tasting, as the perfumes are supposed to enhance the nuances of both. If wine tasting is out of the question, regardless of the reason, this is a nice way to enjoy wine notes without having any wine.

I definitely recommend the scents and suggest that you stop by the web site for more great perfume ideas.

Palmer Vineyards 2006 Proprietor’s Reserve Cabernet Franc

By Lenn Thompson, Founder and Editor-in-Chief


Miguel Martin, the Spanish-born winemaker who joined Palmer Vineyards just in time for the 2006 harvest, has already impressed with what he's done with the winery's white wine program, especially sauvignon blanc and blended whites.

Those wines, of course, go from field to glass much more quickly than do reds.

We've had to wait a big longer for those, but one of Martin's first reds, Palmer Vineyards 2006 Proprietor's Reserve Cabernet Franc ($25), impressed in a tasting earlier this week.

2006 wasn't a great year for reds on the North Fork. It was cooler than usual and many reds didn't ripen fully, resulting in thin, green wines.

Not so here.

Sweet red cherries dominate the nose with brown spice, black pepper and hints of smoky oak. There is a subtle dried herb component underneath that emerges a bit more after the wine has been open for several hours.

Medium bodied, it has a core of sweet red cherry and raspberry (tasting almost of cherry hard candy) with dusty black pepper, cinnamon spice, light vanilla and leather that carries through on the long finish. The tannins are smooth and well integrated. 

I actually miss the herbal, vegetal notes that are so prominent in the cabernet franc variety, but this is a nice effort in a lesser vintage -- a nice wine to introduce people to the grape without pummeling them with green.

Producer: Palmer Vineyards
AVA: North Fork of Long Island
ABV: 13%
Price: $25
Rating: 30 (3 out of 5 | Recommended) 
(Ratings Guide)

Swartland Showcase

“Oh my, here comes Jancis Robinson” exclaimed Adi Badenhorst at Bar Bar Black Sheep this afternoon as a glamorous windswept angular blonde of a certain age picked her way around the cacti and clutter on the stoep of this Riebeek-Kasteel culinary landmark-in-the-making colonized by twenty Swartland producers for an appellation-wide tasting. “On second [...]

Trust, plastic bottles, BYOB, Operation Mixed Wine – sipped and spit

blackstone_winerySIPPED: money back wine
The NYT reports on a new ad campaign from Blackstone, a Constellation wine brand, that is emphasizing “trust.” “We’re so sure you’ll enjoy the taste of Blackstone wines that if you don’t, we’ll pay you back,” the ads declare and even include a “money back guarantee“! Yes, the wine is $9.99 excluding shipping and handling charges. Call now! Operators are standing by! Actually, not all consumers can “relax, unwind, and uncork a flavor bomb,” as the Blackstone Winery web site suggests since the offer is not available in states such as California and New York. And it expires nationally on 8/31/2009.

SIPPED: Chateau Plastique
The LA Times reports on the rise of plastic wine bottles. While PET bottles are lighter and therefore welcome from a carbon reduction perspective, it bears mentioning that plastic can’t effectively be recycled (from plastic bottles to plastic bottles), only “downcycled” (from plastic bottles to park benches).

SIPPED: rise of byob
A piece on praises Philadelphia’s culture of BYOBs. But then adds this kicker: “For serious BYOBers, the only problem with this arrangement is that they’re better off purchasing their wine in another state.”

SIPPED: responding to critics
After Jeremy Parzen called reporting about Brunello on “egregiously disinformational,” Decanter handed the their most recent update over to Parzen and his co-blogger Franco Zilliani. Check out the latest on “Operation Mixed Wine.”


Divining Markets within Beautiful Chaos

Undoubtedly, an ancient scroll that holds key insights into the mysteries of the world lies next to the mythical Fountain of Youth. This scroll bears witness to the elusive nature of truth: it brings order to chaos, provides reason where none exists and distills the unknowable into enlightenment.  Perhaps there is even an aphorism on how to execute wine marketing.

Until this scroll is found however we’re left with less wine marketing enlightenment and more perpetual experiment; less empirical truth and more beautiful chaos. 

In many ways, my orderly mind wishes there was a field guide—something that brings a neat classification system to the scrum that is the U.S. wine marketplace. But, alas, it’s not Tide detergent we’re talking about, definable to key messaging points and a value proposition, it is wine.  And, the French screwed up that classification system a 150 years ago anyways … 

I’ve talked with two wine marketers over the last week and both are taking very interesting paths to market, going about it 180 degrees differently than the other.  One is executing a strategy of an “inch wide and a mile deep” while the other is going “a mile wide and an inch deep.”  Together they present an interesting study of contrasts.


In the “inch wide mile deep” category is Stormhoek, a South African brand led by Jason Korman.  Many in the online wine world are familiar with Stormhoek from their “Geek Dinners” blog promotion in 2006 as well as the marketing efforts of Hugh Macleod from  In a previous incarnation of Stormhoek their marketing efforts led the brand to a reported sales volume of 200,000 cases in the U.K. before business reorganization occurred last year.

With more mindshare than sales in the U.S. to begin with, the brand has retrenched and moved on from their importing relationship with Palm Bay International, a relationship that could have given them distribution virtually everywhere were it not for the fact that to do so would have required a gargantuan effort in pull marketing.

Instead, Stormhoek is forging a new path – a path that builds off of the realities of the market where pull marketing is costly and labor intensive, but push marketing affords small victories.

According to Korman, “What do you do when you’re from the wrong side of the railroad tracks (not a California wine trying to develop in the U.S.)?  You’re a winery from a small town at the bottom of the world where nobody, practically speaking, is going to visit?”

If you’re a South African brand like Stormhoek, penetrating the U.S., you go local, really local.

“Everybody wants to be everywhere and you end up nowhere,” noted Korman.


In conjunction with the marketing efforts of Hugh Macleod from his home base of Alpine, Texas a dusty town with a population of 6,000, a six hour drive from the San Antonio, the nearest metropolitan city, Hugh and the brand are working on a mico-level and helping West Texas residents revel in their remote desolation.

With the slogan, “Dream Big,” a notion that plays into the sense of frontier spirit that is simpatico with Texans, Stormhoek is slowly, but surely developing a beach head that will lead Stormhoek into becoming the best-selling South African wine in Alpine, Texas, before working on expansion in other areas of West Texas including the Mexican border town of Terlingua.

This is guerilla marketing at its finest, and a hand sell in its dearest form.  Check out the web site for Harry’s bar, the first place in Alpine to carry Stormhoek, and you’ll see what I mean.

According to Korman, the Chamber of Commerce is even considering naming Stormhoek the official wine of Alpine, Texas.

Bumper stickers and Twitter organized West Texas meet-up’s round out some of the efforts.

While many will tut-tut the effort, the reality remains – if a South African wine can win over consumers in West Texas and build momentum in one the most remote areas of our country, before moving east to the more cosmopolitan areas of the state, is there anywhere that this wine brand cannot go and be successful, one town at a time?

Persimmon Creek Vineyards

In contrast to Stormhoek is Mary Ann Hardman from Persimmon Creek Vineyards, going after a “mile wide, an inch deep” philosophy.

What do you do to gain mindshare for your winery, with quality and sustainability at its heart, when you’re located 12 miles outside of Clayton, Georgia a small town of 2000 people; a remote geographical area that was the setting for the backwoods movie Deliverance?


If you’re Mary Ann, you don’t take “no” for an answer, you tackle everyday with a geniality that belies a confident fierceness and you fight for respectability that bucks convention.

As Hardman noted, “I’ve had to use elephant skin lotion …”

And it helps that Hardman is a former Kindergarten teacher, able to coax direction out of the seemingly unruly.

Producing just 2000 cases of four varietals, plus a desert wine, sales aren’t hard to come by for Persimmon Creek, but that’s hardly the point for Hardman. 

With good wines and genuine charm to spare, Hardman has seen her wines placed at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta, Little Nell in Aspen, CO and Quince in San Francisco, amongst others.

Hardman has achieved this through dint of hard work and a proactive effort to tell her story.

More important to Hardman than selling a case of wine for the sake of selling a case of wine is to act as a representative for expanding the notion of where good wine can come from, be it Georgia, Virginia or anyplace where the wine world typically looks down its nose.  It’s this busting of preconceptions where she excels; sales come as a collateral benefit.

With a very personal touch on all communication that leaves the winery, handwritten notes are works of art from Hardman.  Talking with her is a tour de force. A question begets a 15 minute monologue that is parts education, insight, and reflection, both hopeful and credulous.

I could listen to Hardman read a menu and it would be interesting if spoken in her beguiling southern lilt, an accent she acknowledges sometimes works against her, noting, “Sometimes it’s like having the bubonic plague.”

Taking an inspirational nod from Thomas Jefferson who would drink a French claret while extolling the virtues of Catawba, a native vitis labrusca grape, or Ted Turner who built the cable news empire CNN when others told him it couldn’t be done, or even Pliny the Elder, Hardman casually drops names like Hugh Johnson, Karen MacNeil, Dan Berger, Doug Frost and others, all of whom she has communicated with, while seeking the best day to day counsel she can from the likes of Randy Caparoso and Marco Capelli.

It is her effort at creating a mind-bending expansion, of working an inch deep, but a mile wide that has allowed her to continue to grow the profile of her business and the notion of where good wine can come from.

Stormhoek and Persimmon Creek Vineyard represent contrasting styles in telling their story, both authentic in their own way, and both acknowledge that quality in the bottle isn’t enough – it’s the personal touch, the effort and the desire to do something different that makes their contrasts more like similarities.

Ultimately, I’m not sure what that scroll next to the Fountain of Youth will say about wine marketing, but likely, in some form, it will tell all wine marketers to, “Dream Big.”

Soy sauce and red Burgundy

Seems unexpected: soy sauce in Pinot Noir? Standard red Burgundy descriptions of cherry and earth that are present in most red Burgundy tasting notes are nothing to write home about. What's always remarkable and inspiring to me are the out-of-place tastes I occasionally discern in wine, especially when it's paired with the right food.

The secret to my pork ribs is gentle boiling with asian spices for 1-1.5 hours, and then quickly baking / broiling while applying several layers of the secret sauce, soy sauce being one major ingredient. The amazing thing is how well this 2005 Domaine Rene Lecrerc Gevrey Chambertin "Les Champeaux" Burgundy complemented the ribs, bringing out the darker "soy sauce meets cola" flavors of the wine.

I had already observed that Pinot Noir and Gamay pair well with Cantonese food. Slowly a hypothesis crystallized - I started figuring out that it may be due to the common use of soy-sauce in Cantonese cooking. Last night was the second time I tried the ribs / red Burgundy combo - the first time the ribs had been slow-cooked in a clay-pot, while this time I thought the baked flavor was an even better match to this substantial Burg from the stellar 2005 vintage.

And the thing is - had I not had the ribs, I probably would have never found soy sauce in the wine. Ah, the rare moments of brilliance, they are always so heart-warming and so unexpected!

Smasne Cellars-An Experience and Education

If you’re fortunate enough to stop by Smasne Cellars on a day when both winemaker Robert Smasne and viticulturalist Dr. Alan Busaca are in the tasting room, plan on staying awhile. Because this dynamic team will educate you - in a captivating way - while you taste their magnificent wines.

Alan was there on the day we visited. With every word he spoke, this man oozed passion for the terroir and the role of soils in viticulture. As we tasted pours from the Alma Terra label, Alan told us about the Alma Terra project “that expresses terroir in every glass.”

Our Alma Terra tasting comprised of 2006 Syrahs from three northwest vineyards: Ciel du Cheval in Red Mountain, Coyote Canyon in Horse Heaven Hills and Minick Vineyard in Yakima Valley. For this project, grapes for each wine were treated the same way — from harvest to crush to fermentation to barrel and bottle.

These identical practices were combined with the unique climate, soils and geography of each vineyard. As a result, you can truly taste the differences in terroir. And as you know, terrior, along with great wine-making, is what makes every bottle of wine unique.

Because Alan was in the house when we visited the tasting room, we focused on the Alma Terra wines and didn’t taste any of the Smasne Cellars  wines, or wines from Smasne’s value-priced Farm Boy label. 

So I can guarantee that we will go back. And one day we hope to meet Robert too. He is a legend in Washington state and currently consults or custom-makes wine for 14 different labels in the northwest.


A Surprising Second Label at Shaw Vineyard

By Jason Feulner, Finger Lakes Correspondent

(Note: this story is part one of a two-part series highlighting some unique production choices at Shaw Vineyard.)

Li Bella Visit 007 Wineries that produce a second label do so for many reasons, although the secondary nature of the label almost assuredly implies less-expensive, less-focused wine. 

Some top-flight establishments offer a second label that is still a solid wine by almost any standard, although many wineries throw whatever they can into a bottle and call it a day, often not focusing on quality in the process.

On a recent tasting at Shaw Vineyard I encountered this pinot grigio, a part of their second-label line, Li Bella. The bright blue bottle and watercolor dragon fly were certainly attractive but I did not necessarily expect that the wine would stand up to the other wines under the main Shaw label.

I was wrong.

While the pinot grigio has just a touch of sweetness (1.4 RS), it is also a crisp, focused, aromatic white that exhibited a great deal of quality and depth. In fact, it was simply a good Finger Lakes white wine--period.

I inquired about the origin of the label from owner and winemaker Steve Shaw. The original idea, conceived by Steve's son and marketing partner, Steve Shaw Jr., was to produce a fresher, brighter style for consumption by a target market of female wine drinkers in New York City and Florida. "It's done very well downstate," Steve Shaw Jr. explains. "The wine is at a very competitive price point for the market."

The label itself was designed and painted by Steve Shaw Jr.

Although the wine's image was softened for marketing purposes, no major compromises were made in the production of the wine. "This wine was made like all Shaw Vineyard wines," emphasizes Steve Shaw Sr. "I used only whole cluster press, with no crushing and no pump-over, which is the case for all my wines. The only difference is the RS, which I would keep around .8 if this was under the Shaw label."

Currently, Shaw does not make a pinot grigio for his main line.

400 cases of Li Bella were made for the 2007 vintage, which sold out quickly. 600 cases were made for 2008. The grapes were sourced from a per acre contract and will be completely single vineyard for the 2009 vintage.

Due to the success of the Li Bella experiment, Shaw Vineyard will also produce a 2009 cabernet franc for the same line. While many entry-level reds are produced and bottled in the same year, Shaw is adamant that the difference in quality between the main label cabernent fanc and the Li Bella version will be minimal. "At this point, I'm planning on aging the Li Bella for 18-24 months instead of my typical 34 months for a red."

Perhaps my expectations are low for a second label, but in the case of Shaw and Li Bella I was pleasantly surprised by the focus on quality across the spectrum. As it stands, Li Bella is more of an alternative label than a secondary one, which at a few bucks less is a great deal for the consumer.

What We Drank (8/11/09)

Once again, no New York wines in this lot. This week we have Italy, France, California, Portugal and Australia represented.

Never let it be said that we don't drink a wide array of wines from around the world.

Bryan Calandelli: Vallarom Vallagarina Merlot 'Vigneto Belvedere' 2007

Vallarom_Merlot_2007 Northern Italian wines are always tempting and this Vallarom Vallagarina Merlot looked interesting especially after I noticed the importer is local to western New York. Portovino Buffalo, NY specializes in small batch unique offerings from all over Italy. Many of these include red blends that throw indigenous grapes into the mix.
This is actually a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Lambrusco Foglia Frastagliata (Not related to the Lambrusco of Emilglia Romana). It’s meant to be a fruit forward style wine since it is not aged in oak.
Aromas of plum and blackberry dominate the nose of this wine. There’s also a candied grape flavor in there, which I thought to be unusual. What made this Merlot stand out though was its sandy mouth-feel, a rustic component that I always appreciate.  Its finish is clean and fresh with a nice balance of acidity and fruit unobstructed by oak.
All in all, this is a distinctive wine from an ambitious local importer that I’ll be following in the future.

Evan Dawson: Jerome Chezeaux 1999 Premier Cru Nuits-St.-Georges and Calera 2000 Reed Vineyard Pinot Noir

Pinots The Burgundy was an absolute steal for the price, and a Rosenthal import to boot. The Calera was my first taste of this already iconic American producer. The results were surprising.

You would never have guessed the Calera to clock in at 14.5 ABV. The higher alcohol is a function of its California roots, but it was like satin sheets in the mouth. We loved the stewy, mushroomy nose. The Burgundy was suffering from just a touch of VA, but not enough to obscure its beauty. It was just a bit chunkier in the mouth, but classy nonetheless. I was surprised to give the edge on this round to the American Pinot, but I suppose it's not that shocking; Calera has earned fame for more than three decades as one of the most fastidious adherents to Burgundian tradition. Cheers to Tom and Susan Higgins of Heart & Hands for sharing this bottle -- Tom spent time training at Calera before bringing his Pinot mission to the Finger Lakes.

Jason Feulner: Broadbent 10 Year Old Malmsey Madeira

What we Drank Misc. 006Madeira was the drink of choice in colonial times (the signers of the Declaration of Independence toasted with it to note their achievement). Alas, the wine fell out of favor in the last hundred years and only in the last few have some producers tried to reproduce the glory days.

My first crack at this type of wine, the Broadbent is a serious attempt that fell short of some Ports I've consumed but still impressed with layers of figs and nuts wrapped in notes of honey.

Sasha Smith: San Pietro 2006 Lagrein

San Pietro Lagrein I love Lagrein, especially in the middle of the summer. When it’s sticky and sweaty out, I imagine that I’m drinking this wine after a long hike through the Dolomites in Alto Adige, where this wine hails from. Instead, I had this wine on Saturday night at Sorella, a wine bar on Allen Street that specializes in Northern Italian food and wine.

This 2006 San Pietro Lagrein had the earthy/floral nose and refreshing minerality that make this varietal so appealing – and so versatile with a wide range of food. The five of us ordered everything from anchovies to skirt steak, and the wine somehow worked with all of it. Versatility is an underrated virtue in wine, and this Lagrein (which retails for about $15), would be a good value go-to bottle for anyone’s cellar.

Lenn Thompson: Robert Oatley Vineyards 2008 Rose of Sangiovese

Sangiorose Last Thursday night, Nena and I tasted three wines from Robert Oatley Vineyards as a part of I don't have to tell you that I'm not a huge fan of Australian wines, but two of the three (a pinot grigio and this rose) actually impressed me. The cab-merlot blend was largely what you'd expect an Aussie red to be, overblown, fruity etc. It did have a bit of earthiness to it, but not enough that it's not instantly recognizable as Aussie.

This rose, which is 100% sangiovese and made via the saignee method, stood out for me and a lot of the other participants. Sure, there was red fruit here -- mainly dried cherries, cranberries and strawberries -- but there was a savory herbal (Nena thought almost eucalytus) edge that I loved. Great acidity framed these flavors very well. As you can see, the bottle was empty by the end of the evening. This is the first TasteLive wine that I plan to order more of, in fact.

A Wedding Anniversary, Two Pizzas And A Greek Wine

Out for dinner on Saturday at one of our favourite restaurants.......and below some of the delights. A Fish Salad, half a Lobster, Turbot Fillets, Pasta with Truffel, Duck Breasts with Dates and Almonds (house speciality) and a prepared (for what I ask) Guinea Fowl. I take my own I know the wines (all Italian) on the list. The previous two visits it has been a Pinot Noir...both times wines I have already tasted...and they seemed to I decided this time to take the Oscar Tobia...and with the extra peppery was perfect. Italian food with a Spanish Wine.

Óscar To
bía Reserva 2004
Rioja, Spain

Intense minerals...sour cherries and plums...a trace of the oak...a wonderful easy feeling on the palate..fills the mouth..roasted tones...this is 90% Tempranillo and 1
0% Otras and spends 21 months in French and Hungarian oak...but no worries about soft sweet woodiness..this is 'new Spain'.....wonderful texture and a long finish.... Points 17.75

Monday....our wedding anniversary...3
3 years....but Monday is a 'Bad Restaurant Day' ...most are closed..and it is they are almost all on holiday anyway...hence the reason we went out on Saturday to celebrate. So what did we do on Monday...well..I collected 2 pizzas...and opened a bottle of Greek wine...and we gazed at the flowers I gave to Eva-Maria.

Kir Yianna Ramnista 2005
Naoussa, Greece

I look at the bottl
e...14.5% ..but this is never a worry..the wine is very well balanced...and doesn't ever appear heavy. It spends 12 months in French and American oak. The grape..Xynomavro (try saying that 10 times without breathing)... Violets, plums and a healthy leather on the nose...interesting...the palate was like drinking the olive trees...wish I'd found wines like this when I was in Greece...many, many years earthy feel to it....lively acidity...again..interesting...there is a chewy tannic predominance...but this is what makes it attractive...Italian food..this time with a Greek Wine. What next..Paella and Barolo or Moussaka and Valpolicella?
Points 16.25

Intriguing Rosé

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Bin Ends Wine in order to participate in the F. Wildman Twitter Taste Live.

Up 5th for the night for the F. Wildman Twitter Taste Live we had the 2008 Paul Jaboulet Aine Parallele 45 Rose from the Cotes du Rhone.  I was happy to have a Rosé after the line up of whites…something a little different as we made our way through the (long) line up! Six wines in one night is quite a few!  The wine had a real cork closure, clocked in at 13% alcohol by volume, and retails for around $9.

First, I have to say I loved the pale pink color that this showed in the glass. My pictures don’t really do it justice. I’m a terrible photographer! On the nose I found strawberries, raspberries, a hint of citrus on the edge of the nose, cotton candy, red currants, orange rind, and banana.  For a Rosé I found this to be a very complex nose.  In the mouth I got flavors of raspberries, tart red fruit, lime, red currants, strawberries, and notes of jello.  I liked the crisp and refreshing nature of this wine and at $9 would certainly buy it again!

Posted in Bin Ends Wine, France, Rose, Wine

Beef Kofta

I remember a time when I would eat later, but with two young children, my school night dinner starts at Five.

I returned home from work at 2pm and scrubbed and cut my beetroot and finely chopped a brown onion. This was in the oven by half two giving me time to walk to the local school to pick up my daughter. Back by three, I checked on the beets and decided on what would accompany the salad (recipe and instructions here). I decided on beef kofta and potato wedges. I prepared the potatoes (cleaned, cut into wedges and microwaved for 3 minutes before being tossed with garlic cloves, olive oil, rosemary and salt) and placed them in the oven. Next, the meat was moved from freezer to microwave for defrosting and I was out the door again, this time to collect the missing ingredients (fresh coriander, some chard leaves for the salad and two shallots). Back within 15 minutes, the beetroot was taken from the oven and allowed to rest and I set to work on the kofta.

  • 1 tablespoon each of cumin and coriander seeds
  • 2 medium shallots - which should yield 4-5 cloves
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch of fresh coriander
  • 450g of minced beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of seeded mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Warm and refresh the cumin and coriander in a pan and then pound in a mortar and pestle. Place the finely ground spices into a larger mixing bowl. Now fry the shallots and garlic, which have been finely chopped, till translucent. Tip this into the mixing bowl, along with the roots and stems of the coriander, which have been finely diced, then add the remaining ingredients (meat, egg, breadcrumbs, lemon zest, mustard, salt and pepper). Mix everything together with your hands and then shape into appropriately sized, slightly oblong meatballs. When done, fry in a pan till well browned on each side. I finish the cooking process by adding the pan to an oven that has been pre heated to 200 degrees, leaving them for around 5 minutes. This gives me time to make a simple tomato sauce (fry 2 chopped cloves of garlic in olive oil and then add a tin of diced tomatoes and cook till suitably reduced and concentrated) and plate up the salad and the wedges.

Wine? Something red and suitably bucolic, like a Côtes du Rhône.

Chateau Croix Mouton 2006 Prize Bordeaux from Wonder Boy Jean-Philippe Janoueix

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  Sorting grapes at Chateau Croix Mouton.
Jean-Philippe is at the far left.

Don't let this wine get underneath something in your cellar. Just leave it right on top of the stack. Take my word for it, you will go after it time and time again and then you'll want more.

Jean-Philippe Janoueix is the winemaking genius in his winemaking family that has been in the business for 100 years. I think he must have wine running in his veins instead of blood. He is such a natural when it comes to making wine.

His name is on La Confession (95 Parker rating in 2005), La Croix St-Georges (another 95 in 2006), de Chambrun, and Croix Mouton. They all get the 90s. Yes, these are all his wines and they are some of the best out there. But, the great thing about Chateau Croix Mouton is getting "garagiste" perfection in a bottle for a Cru Bourgeois price.

Garagiste perfection means such strict selection that no green, unripe grapes are allowed into the final mix. It means throwing out grapes that are flawed, which is tantamount to taking euros and tossing them into the wind. For some growers the thought is just too painful, but for the great growers, there is no hesitation - it is the only way. That's why year after year, garagistes coax great wines from their terroirs. That is why Jean-Philippe has the reputation he has.

Chateau Croix Mouton is a wine that will give you immense pleasure, the more so for not having emptied your wallet. It will give you immense pleasure because it is not a wine you will see on anyone else's table and when it's obvious your guests want you to open another one, you can afford to be generous.

Jean-Philippe snagged the title of Wine Grower of the Year a few years back, which is not an achievement to be dismissed lightly in Bordeaux where the standards of winemaking are the highest in the world.

Chateau Croix Mouton comes from a vineyard west of Saint-Emilion, on the right bank in Bordeaux. The cepage is 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc with a small amount of Petit Verdot thrown in for elegance. There are only about 2000 cases of this wine made.

Chateau Croix Mouton has the rounded texture I adore in a red wine. This comes from well-integrated wood that does not obscure the delicious red and black, curranty fruit.

Croix Mouton is a wine you do not have to stare at as it sits dormant in your cellar waiting to become something. Chateau Croix Mouton already is something! Get that corkscrew out and twist away. It's ready. Okay, sure, if you can summon the self-discipline, save a bottle or two to savor several years down the road. This wine is not a short-hitter either. It will easily close down the first decade of the century.

So, if you're in the market for a great petit chateau (and could you ever complain about having too much of that in your cellar?), this is one of those wines that you can buy with your, mouth closed. Jean-Philippe is brilliant and if you need more evidence - he rarely has any wine to sell. I can tell you. This will go fast. Don't miss it! Cynthia Hurley

Tuesday Quick Sip – 1998 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

1998 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Wine Information:

Appellation: Napa Valley, California (Calistoga)

Grapes: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Oak program: 18 – 20 months

Price: $30/ 375ml bottle

1998MontelenaMy Tasting Notes:

Color: dark brick red, slightly brown at the edges

Nose: slightly oxidized and “portish”, fresh corn tamale, tobacco

Taste: raisin, blackberry, suede, red clay, and tart cranberry at the back of the palate

Mouthfeel: full body but on the lighter side, still velvety rich tannins and “spicy” acidity

Finish: long with dark fruit and leathery notes

This is my first time tasting a Chateau Montelena wine as well as my first time tasting a ‘98 Napa wine. Although slightly oxidized on the nose, it blew off after while and gave way to interesting corn tamale and tobacco notes. I was impressed with the structure, still alive and well but on the down side for sure. I have another bottle of this that I’ll probably drink very shortly, and will be excited to see if it will show as well.


Summer Break – So what did we drink when not in Iberia?

barrelSummer is here, and Spain for all intensive purposes, is closed. Walk down any of the myriad of residential streets of Barcelona, or Madrid, and you might think that the swine flu had a more successful run. Your voice echoes off the heavy metal gates, with weathered handwritten signs saying, “closed until the 28th”, that is, unless you live in a seaside hamlet.

If this is the case, you will most likely be under the deluge of camera happy foreigners, all imbued with aromas of suntan lotion. August is the time of year when phone calls go to voicemail, emails have a 1 month delay and your mailbox is empty no matter what may be sitting down at the main office in your local town. During our first three years, we fought against this, trying desperately to maintain a work routine. Nowadays, my daily siesta quota rises from 1 to 2, and the drinks get poured a few hours earlier, thus leading to a hot grill even sooner than expected. Life is grand.

This month, we’ll be taking a short break up the coast with some family. Gabriella has a small contingent in from Chicago, and the prescription is poolside finos, siestas on the beachside, and maybe, a winery visit or two – stealth, so that we can enjoy the samples.

But we don’t want to leave you hanging, with nothing to chew on while we’re gone. No instead, we’d like to offer up some of wine highlights from last months trip to the USA. Various treats that made us smile, or provided some enjoyment and mental stimulation. Let’s do a top ten of sorts. 10 wines we fell in love with, without ranking, and often without a note.

  • The tastings at the WBC were often crowded and difficult to find a quiet spot to reflect on a wine in peace. That said, a major highlight was to taste La Cigare Volant 2005 with none other than Randal Grahm himself. I have loved this wine from the very moment I fell in love with wine back in the late 90’s. Elegant, never over the top, and rarely scoring very high in the “points world”, this is a wine made with passion. Plus, having the winemaker himself pour it only made the moment even more enjoyable. Wine is a conversation, and this neither obvious nor complex wine created a whirlwind of discussion.
  • Alan Baker’s podcast, CellarRat, was started back in the dark ages of wine blogging, and was an inspiration for me to get started. As random acts happen, I stumbled into Alan at a poolside “off the main route” tasting, where his very own Cellar Rat Syrah 2005 was being poured. Made in conjuction with his former employer, Crushpad, the Cellar Rat Syrah 2005 is not only Alan’s first experimental wine, but is now a great example of future vintages to come.
  • Of course, we cannot forget our trip to the home of the famous wine blogger, El Jefe! Twisted Oak Winery is not only famous for their quirky winery blog, but also for their penchant for latex farmyard fowl which has led to the worldwide migration of flightless birds. On the second night of our USA journey, we drank The Spaniard 2005 alongside the Twisted crew. The wine is robust and expressive, a perfect addition to an Iberian portfolio, making it the ideal Cali-Iberian wine. Gabriella was also the winner of a bottle of The Spaniard 2007, which we plan to guard for a few years to come.
  • Random wines of the trip! Palmaz winery was not on our list of places to visit, but we typically find that the best treasures are rarely planned. A chance encounter with the San Diego based video blogger, Prince of Wine, led us to a short tour and tasting with the owner. Gabriella and I tasted: an exciting Napa Riesling, a few delicate and lightly oaked Chardonnays, and finally, two Bordeaux blends with astounding elegance. After a slew of “monster” wines we tasted during the week, the Palmaz were refreshing, vibrant and clean – breathing much needed life onto our palate. The 05 Gaston was full of dusty red fruit with light touches of wood, which curved through the palate leaving a sexy and refined lingering, finish. Sadly, I believe they only make 5 or six bottles ;) The 2007 Reisling is an elegant off dry wine that took us so completely by surprise, we skipped the spitton.
  • The best part of this trip was meeting the faces behind the blogs and even the comments. Jack (renowned in the wine blog world by his first name) happens to be one of the first blog readers, and most definitely one of the first commenters on any new and upcoming blog of promise. He is not without opinion, and has acted as editor in chief to most of the longer lived wine blogs at one point or another. His love for wine, natural wine in particular, is legendary, and we were humbled and honored to have dined at his house where we drank some amazing and unique wines hidden in the recesses of his impressive cellar. We were introduced to “orange wines” (the color, not the fruit) and tasted at least two California wines with more than 14 years of age. The Porter Creek Chardonnay 1995 showed an amazing nose where the wood beautifully blended with the lightly oxidized citrus notes, embedding our noses in the glasses. With good complexity, and great acidity, this was exciting wine to have experienced. The Jordan 1978 Cabernet was perfumy with bright acidity, mature tannins and touches of soy. With time, the wine expressed notes of coffee and mocha, with an underlying delicate fruit character. Not surprisingly, we savored every last drop! Thanks Jack and Joanne for the fun time!
  • Moving East we were ecstatic to hang out with our long time friend Lenn Thompson, his wife, Nena, and adorable kid, Jax – a highlight in our blogging careers. Granted jet-lag after a long red eye led to slurred words as we drove home from LI vineyards, but the wines were nonetheless impressive! Our first stop was Shinn Estate Vineyards where we marched through a long line up of wines. This was our first opportunity to taste LI wines, and would love to find anyway possible to drink them on a more regular basis. Light and fragrant, they were generally marked by a strong acidity that came off as elegant and delicate rather than an elbow in the gut. At Shinn we both fell in love with the ‘06 Wild Boar Doe and the Cabernet Franc of the same vintage. Additionally, their sparkler and ‘08 Coalesence were both spot on refreshing wines, and we would have bought a case of if it weren’t for our lack of luggage space. This winery is almost 100% biodynamic, and with a property that is both stunningly beautiful and has an obvious passion for what they do, I have to say, we’ll be stopping back the next time we’re in town.
  • A fact: One wine in Long Island is made from Chenin Blanc. Only one. Having tasted it, we’re perplexed why more producers aren’t planting it? Paumanok 2008 Chenin blanc is truly a great wine. Sexy. Clean. Delicate. It maybe have been the jet lag, but I’m lost as to why more winery’s aren’t following suit. Granted, it’s a bit overpriced at 23$, when it’s worth around 17$, but I doubt it would stop me from enjoying a bottle.
  • Our last stop was hands down the most surreal. Alice Feiring is perhaps one of the most controversial wine writers today. Seeing eye to eye with Gabriella, physically, if we had stayed any longer, I would have needed to get a back brace to support myself from the perpetual bending at the waste to hear their whispered conversations. Alice was kind enough to offer up her 5th floor apartment (sans elevator) to store our luggage on the last day of our NYC stay, which we graciously accepted. To say our day was fun is an understatement. We enjoyed the best pastrami ever at Katz deli, and bantered back and forth about natural wines. At the end of which as Alice was running off to a tasting of orange wines (the theme continued), she left us with a bottle of Avanti popolo – Le Temps des Cerises 11.5%, a wine that not only is competely natural with a touch of spritz from the lack of sulpher addition at time of bottling, but also happened to be one of the most exciting things we tasted in a long time. I have a theory that wine should be rated against the role it plays in the scheme of wine drinking. This wine is not meant for heavy meals or deep thoughts, but rather a wine that sits like a liquid backdrop to a lazy conversation. It’s light, delicate, and yet full of character, the underspoken supporting role. This wine is the ideal treat for your lazy afternoon. Thank you Alice for introducing us.
  • We had the chance to offer up 2 Portuguese wine tastings, while in NY and Sonoma. Now most of the wines were familiar to us, and with only a few exceptions, they were all great values and stunning examples of Portugal’s potential as an international wine player! And more importantly, people loved these wines, a validation that Portugal makes great wines!!! Combine this with the chance to give away two trips to the EWBC in October, sponsored by ViniPortugal and we were as proud as new parents to see people engage so passionately with these wines.

So there you have it, 9 great wine experiences! Wait, I was shooting for 10…Hmm, well tough, we’re on vacation. Why don’t you tell us. What has been your best wine experience this summer? Let us know. We won’t be posting much this week, and here’s your chance to be a contributor to Catavino. Either leave a story in our comments, or send us an email, and we’ll post our favorite stories of yours. Anything wine, and as you would expect bonus points to anyone who includes an Iberian wine tale. We hope to hear from all of you, and remember they don’t have to be long complicated or profound, just honest.

Cheers from a lounge chair, with a cooler of ice cold sherry near by!

Ryan and Gabriella Opaz

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