Maison En Belles Lies L’Étrange 2016


With its Gothic equilateral arches it reminds me of Darth Vader. . . inside the liquid is Burgundy, but not as I know it. . . a blend of pinot noir, gamay and chardonnay - it's fast, slippery, sappy and absolutely delicious. Red fruited, musk and spice; a Morgon nose. Floral and beautiful, pixie like - small and delicate but intense. Sour and edgy, terrific acids, just the right side of jagged. #Yes.

Weekend Wine Notes: Nine Wines at $13 and Under

The title of today’s Weekend Wine Notes requires no explanation. I offer nine wines priced at $13 and under, each in a group of three, divided into Washington State, California and Italy’s Veneto region. Sorry to say that a couple of them are not recommended, but it happens, n’est-ce pas? As usual in this series, I omit detailed historical, technical and geographical data for the sake of brief reviews ripped, as it were, from the ages of my notebooks. Enjoy, in moderation, of course. These wines were samples for review.
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The Washington State wines of Charles Smith stand out on any shelf they occupy, distinguished by their stark black and white labels heavy on the graphic elements, a collaboration with Danish designer Rikki Korff. They also distinguish themselves by their solid QPR — quality/price ratio.
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Band of Roses Rose 2017, Washington State. 12.5% alc. 100% pinot ...

Drink from the Comptrollers Cup at Catoctin Breeze Vineyard

Each year  the Maryland Wineries Association holds a state competition now named the Comptrollers Cup that is a blind tasting historically judged by fellow winemakers. This year other industry professionals such as sommeliers joined the panels and the Best in Show winner was a winery that I belong to their wine club: Catoctin Breeze Vineyard and their 2016 Estate Cabernet Franc


Catoctin Breeze is located north of Frederick Maryland on Route 15 between Thurmont and Emmitsburg.  It was founded in 2010 when Voytek Leon Fizyta planted two blocks of vines along a hill slightly east of the Catoctin Mountains. These blocks consisted of  Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Viognier.  The well draining, loose, alluvial soil contains some quartz deposits which assist in preventing frost prevention as well as the ripening of fruit.  The estate also receives a consistent breeze from Owen's Gap - keeping the vines ventilated helping to ...

Jean-Paul and Benoît Droin Vaillons 1er Cru Chablis 2015


13%. Diam. Approx $A85.

An excellent wine and an excellent Chablis. Evocative, layered, stinging in the right places. . . beautiful texture and poise. Pure and typical. Flint and white pepper; citrus oil to open, but later it seems more pear like. Essence and terpines - white flowers, petrichor, zest. Mineral in the mouth, the sensation of smooth pebbles. . . fatty with no sugar, unrepentantly dry, thick and textured; but stinging acids, a hint of nuttiness and bitter pith to conclude. A+


Discovering #BourgogneUnknown with Bourgogne Wines

"I normally shy away from white wines, but that one (Jean Chartron Rully Montmorin 2015) was delicious", Anonymous Neighbor 1

"This wine (Domaine Dominique Gruhier Bourgogne Epineuil 2015) is so good....we loved it", text from Anonymous Neighbor 2

I generally disperse wines I receive as samples amongst my neighbors once the official tasting session has concluded and a recent #BourgogneUnknown registered immediate and overwhelmingly positive feedback from the beneficiaries. That is Bourgogne and not Burgundy as Bourgogne Wines seeks to "re-affirm its identity as one of the most iconic ‘brands’ of France, the region and its producers are reverting back to the original French iteration of its name – Bourgogne".

This iconic region spans 230 km of territory from North to South and encompasses 84 distinct appellations. Of these, there are seven regional appellations, 44 village appellations, and 33 Grand Cru Climats. Some of these appellations, such as Chablis ...

Wine of the Day, No. 415


The Bianchi Extra Brut Sparkling Wine, non-vintage, hails from Argentina’s Mendoza region, where it is made by Bodega Valentin Bianchi. A blend of 60 percent chardonnay and 40 percent pinot noir grapes, grown at 2,460 feet elevation, this charming sparkling wine was produced in the Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle. The color is very pale platinum blond, animated by a steady foaming stream of tiny bubbles; notes of roasted lemon, spiced pear and fresh-baked brioche are twined with hints of quince and ginger and an undercurrent of limestone that burgeons across the palate; there’s a faint, tantalizing touch of almond blossom. It’s quite crisp and dry, revealing lovely tone and presence, and culminates in a finish that delicately evinces the limestone-chalk element. 12.2 percent alcohol. A delightful aperitif on a warm Summer afternoon. Excellent. About $22. Imported by Quintessential Wines, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

Assorted notes


The silhouette of rock climbing tourists armed with mobile phones. . . poorly lit and snapped on a whim with little preparation, much like the following holiday tasting notes. . .

Snake and Herring Corduroy Chardonnay 2016 - an old school butter bomb, golden in colour. Peaches. It seems slightly attenuated. 16/20

Snake and Herring Higher Ground Porongurup Cabernet Sauvignon 2014. Black wine. Pyrazine nose - rich, fully scented, eucalyptus, a raisin edge. . . creamy and spiced in the mouth, zip and leather , very ripe, like a Christmas cake at times. I can see the appeal, but I'm not a convert. 17/20

Lot 80 Reserve Chardonnay 2016. Similar shape to the first Snake and Herring wine, more nougat and apricot, very flavoursome, cream and sourness in even measure, once again butterscotch and pulled punches. 16/20

Cape Lodge Chardonnay 2017. Unexpectedly tropical, quite sharp, piercing and charming. 16.5/20

House of Cards Chardonnay 2017. Flint ...

Borderless Wine from Harvest Ridge Winery

Straddling the border between Delaware and Maryland along the Mason-Dixon line lies Harvest Ridge Winery. Whereas the winery and a majority of the estate vineyards reside in Delaware, a significant block of estate vines are planted in the Free State. In fact, one of the original Mason-Dixon witness stone and crown markers, number 47, is located on the property. After fifteen years of home winemaking, Chuck Nunan converted his family farm to an estate vineyard by planting a series of vinifera grapes in 2011. After the winery opened in late 2013, he expanded the original planting of Chardonnay, Viognier, Malbec, and Merlot to include both Cabernets, Chambourcin, Vidal, Barbera, and several other grape varieties. He also hired Jason Hopwood, who had experience in Sonoma and the Finger Lakes, as the head winemaker. This growth enables Harvest Ridge to provide over fifteen wines in their tasting room as well as a ...

Weekend Wine Notes: Allons, enfants de la patrie!

The wine regions of France, especially Bordeaux and Burgundy, long served as the models and the ideals for producers and winemakers all over the world. Even nowadays, when wine-making has proliferated worldwide and expanded far beyond the so-called “noble grapes” of French origin, Burgundy is often seen as the apotheosis of chardonnay and pinot noir, Bordeaux the epitome of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, Champagne the ur-text of sparkling wine. I offer today, in celebration of Bastille Day, 12 examples that illustrate, even if in a severely limited degree, the diversity and the versatility of French wine production. Some of those noble grapes are involved — cabernet and merlot, indeed, chardonnay and pinot noir, riesling — but also a more everyday variety like gamay and obscure grapes like jacquere. In one blog post, no one could begin to assay the immense complexity of France’s geographical extent and appellation system, but I ...

Far Eastern Shore Winery: Slghtly Sweet, Fruit Infused Wines

Each year Maryland wine makers hold a competition that results in the Comptrollers Cup. In previous years, only winemakers served as judges, but for 2018 sommeliers and other industry professionals were added to the judging. The overall winner was Cactoctin Breeze Winery and a celebration was held at their winery where Gold Medal winners poured generous servings of these wines. The medal in the Sweet wine category was given to Far Eastern Shore Winery for their Dream NV Port-styled Raspberry Chocolate wine. The wine is delicious, not cloying nor gritty, and integrating the fruit and chocolate for a fine tuned wine. Whereas I had sampled many of their wines previously this wine induced me to visit the winery in Easton, Maryland using theCompass Craft Beverage Finder.

In fact the tasting room for Far Eastern Shore Winery is quite convenient to visit, right on Route 50 to the right when traveling ...

#FirstSipNZ with Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Villa Maria Estate Winery

"Taylors Pass Single Vineyard wines are pure expressions of soil and climate and varietal interactions",  Kathrin Jankowiec Marlborough Winemaker at Villa Maria Estate Winery

The Villa Maria Estate Winery's Taylor Pass vineyard is located in Marlborough's Awatare Valley along the northern bank of the Awatere River. In the larger picture Marlborough is in the northeast of the South Island with the Awatare Valley in the southernmost section of this famous wine region. The river not only helped carve the vineyard plots but also gives the region its name as awatere means "fast-flowing river" in the local Maori dialect. The vines are planted on rugged terraces and with each terrace the soil type changes: stony gravels are nearest the river, whereas the mid terrace has silt over gravels, and the highest terrace is deeper silt over clay-papa base. The grapes benefit from a large diurnal temperature swing as cool ocean breezes ...

Three Champagnes from H Blin

Champagne H. Blin L’Esprit Nature Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut NV, France (£40 Wine Cellar Club, The Secret Cellar) Young, fresh style of Champagne, which sees quite voluptuous baked apple, stewed rhubarb and brioche flavours wrapped round a slender, steely/stony mineral backbone with a chalk note to the finish. Very good. S(+) Champagne H. Blin […]

Spar’s new wines for 2018

A whistle-stop tour of some of Spar’s new wines for 2018 – more details about them HERE Villa Cerro Garganega Pinot Grigio 2017, Veneto, Italy (£6.50 Spar) Simple fresh glugger with hints of citrus fruit and apple, what I call ‘fair enough’ wine. C Wildflower Pinot Grigio 2017, Romania (£6.50 Spar) Compared with the above, […]

Sylvaine et Alain Normand Macon La Roche-Vineuse Vieilles Vignes 2014

Sylvaine et Alain Normand Macon La Roche-Vineuse Vieilles Vignes 2014, Burgundy, France (£14.83 Vino Beano) Great value Burgundy that offers a satisfying mix of richness and restraint, with generous, deep and almost creamy pear, apple and tinned plum flavours offset by a savoury tang and a seam of citrus freshness which leaves your mouth cleansed […]

#ChardonnayDay with Wines from America’s First Family of Chardonnay: Wente Vineyards

Hello friends,

What better way to spend #ChardonnayDay than with wines from the family often dubbed “America’s First Family of Chardonnay”?  The story of Wente Vineyards began in 1883, when founder Carl H. Wente, a first-generation immigrant from Germany, bought 47 acres in Livermore Valley (just east of San Francisco). By 1912, his son Earnest had convinced him to import Chardonnay cuttings from the vine nursery at University of Montpellier in France. In 1936, Earnest and his brother Herman released the nation’s first varietally labeled Chardonnay. The original plantings would eventually become certified as the Wente Clone, and spread throughout myriad California vineyards. It is estimated that more than 80 percent of all California Chardonnay stems from the Wente clone. Today, Wente remains the oldest continuously running family-owned and-operated winery in the United States.

The #ChardonnayDay lineup!

Although Wente grows a number of grape varieties, make no mistake: ...

12 California Chardonnays I Liked

You may be thinking apropos the title of this post, “F.K., why didn’t you just say ’12 California Chardonnays’? Why add ‘I liked'”? Because, Dear Reader, I don’t like many chardonnays made in California, so when I come across a dozen that I can write about together, I want to emphasize that fact. The reason, as you probably know from having been a devoted reader of this blog — bless your little pointy heads! — is that so many chardonnays from The Golden State are saturated with swamps of oak that I open even one with trepidation, and when I’m looking for an appropriate white wine to drink with dinner, I will open just about anything other than chardonnay. It’s a real crap-shoot, this whole chardonnay business. The wines reported on in this post age in French oak barrels for varying amounts of time and using various percentages ...

Wine of the Day, No. 400(!)

Friends, the Wine of the Day was launched three years ago today, after a broken right arm truncated by writing ability, hence, the necessity that I compose in short bursts. I thought the series would be temporary, but people enjoyed it, so I kept going, and here we are — Third Anniversary and 400 Wines of the Day. For the privilege of this honor, I selected the EX Unoaked Chardonnay 2017, Monterey, from Wrath Wines. A few sniffs and sips of this wine and you’ll wonder why oak barrels were even invented. The color is a very pure pale gold hue; classic notes of pineapple and grapefruit unfurl hints of ginger and quince, lightly touched by guava and mango. On the palate, this chardonnay is characterized by crystalline clarity and finesse; a remarkable texture both lithe and supple, dense and ineffable; and deftly spiced citrus-stone fruit flavors — the lemon/peach ...

Wine of the Day, No. 399


The Kuentz-Bas “Tradition” Brut, Crémant d’Alsace, nv, a blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot blanc, according to the back label, is an absolutely delicious Crémant d’Alsace, made in the Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle. (The estate goes back to 1795, if you keep track of that sort of thing.) The color is pale gold, animated by a surging froth of tiny glinting bubbles; it’s an incisive, steely, smoky sparkling wine that offers notes of pear and almond skin, jasmine and seashell, all delicately strung along a fine-boned, tensile structure. On the palate, this is a gratifying combination of crisp acidity and creaminess, making for a lip-smacking texture that flows like cool silk through the mouth, all these elements bound by scintillating limestone minerality and lively effervescence. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $24. Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, Calif.