Alternative Reds: Not Cab., Mer., or P.N.


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No, friends, there’s not a darned thing wrong with cabernet sauvignon, merlot or pinot noir wines — unless they’re made in an overwrought, obtrusive manner — but they tend to dominate the discussion of the world’s red wines and so-called “noble” grapes. If you’re just a tad weary of those wines, I offer alternatives in today’s post, with grapes that include alicante bouschet, carignan, malbec, petite sirah, sangiovese, tempranillo, syrah/shiraz and tannat. Our Seven League Boots touch down in Mendoza, Tuscany, Paso Robles, Alentejo (Portugal), Chile’s Maule Valley, Apulia, Arroyo Seco, Oregon’s Umpqua Valley and Monterey County. Oh the things you’ll see! And the wines you’ll taste! Enjoy, in moderation, of course.

These wines were samples for review.

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Malbec is not exactly an unknown grape in the United States. One cannot go into a liquor store or big box venue without encountering shelves and boxes of malbec wines from …

The State of the Rhone Nation


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Last month the Rhone Rangers presented a seminar on the State of the Rhone Nation at City Winery in Washington D.C. The seminar was moderated by local wine writer Dave McIntyre and featured seven prominent American wine growers who specialize in Rhone grape varieties. The Rangers mission is to promote American Rhone varietal wines, specifically, those that include “75% of one of the twenty-two traditional Rhone grape varieties as approved by the French government for the wines of the Cotes du Rhone“. The non-profit consists of over 100 winery members with the majority located in the Paso Robles AVA, followed by Sonoma County, Santa Barbara County, and the Lodi AVA. Other regions represented in the seminar and the associated trade-consumers tastings were Monterey County, Santa Lucia Highlands, El Dorado AVA, and the Monticello AVA in Virginia. This latter region was represented by Horton Vineyards where the late Dennis …

Wines of Navarra, the Camino de Santiago, and French Grape Varieties


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The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and concluding at the shrine of St. James the Apostle in Santiago de Compostela in the Spanish province of Galicia. The pilgrimages started very shortly after the believed discovery of the tomb of the Patron Saint of Spain in 814. There are two competing claims regarding James evangelization of the Iberian Peninsula with one, based on the Epistle to the Romans where St. Paul suggests a disciple hadn’t visited Spain and the alternative, that after James was martyred in AD 44 his remains were transported back to the land that he had in fact evangelized.

Regardless, pilgrims flocked to the site using the Camino de Santiago and Wines of Navarra website, “in 1234 the first of a succession of French monarchs ascended by marriage to the throne of the Kingdom …

Wine of the Day, No. 488


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As we creep closer to outdoor grilling season — or perhaps you’re already deep into it — consider the Beckmen Vineyards Cuvee Le Bec 2017, from Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley. This Southern Rhone Valley-style blend of 47 percent syrah, 35 percent grenache, 11 mourvèdre and 7 counoise — fermented with native yeast and aged in French oak, 15 percent new barrels, 85 percent neutral — would be a natural with such items as grilled pork chops, leg of lamb or sausages. Nothing is heavily extracted here but presented with good balance and poise. The color is medium ruby, shading to a vivid magenta rim; aromas of black currants and plums, infused with briers and brambles, open to notes of red cherry and cranberry with burgeoning hints of loam and ground cumin and allspice, with a touch of the latter’s fragrant asperity. The wine is lively and alluring on …

Explore #WeAreMarylandWine During Maryland Wine Month


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The Maryland Wineries Association has designated March as Maryland Wine Month and to follow the action they are promoting the #WeAreMarylandWine (in addition to #MDWine #MDWineTrails & #MDWineMonth) tag on all social media platforms. There are also numerous events and activities scheduled at various wineries and retailers across the state — all listed on the MD Wine website. So we decided to dedicate more time this month to visit the Free State and visited two that are open seven days a week – navigating with theCompass Craft Beverage Finder.

We started at Catoctin Breeze Vineyard, located north of Frederick on the Route 15 Wine Road. Being a club member, our tastings were complimentary so we went through both their Signature ($10) and Sweet ($8) tastings. After previous visits, I have discussed their wonderful dry Estate Syrah, Estate Cabernet Franc, and Chardonnay among others. So let me venture into the …

Visiting Clos Pegase Estate Winery Calistoga Napa Valley


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Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Visiting Clos Pegase Estate Winery in the Calistoga AVA of Napa Valley

When people think of Clos Pegase Estate Winery in the Napa Valley, they think of mainly three things:

  1. Clos Pegase Chardonnay
  2. Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon
  3. The famous architecture of the Clos Pegase Estate Winery, and the art collection within.

My recent visit to the Hess Collection Winery, with its extensive art collection, alerted me to the presence of another winery with an impressive art collection: The Clos Pegase Estate.

Origins of the Clos Pegase Estate Winery

The original owner and creator of Clos Pegase was Jan Shrem.

He was born in Columbia to Jewish-Lebanese parents.

After emigrating to the USA as a child, he made his way through the University of California, at Los Angeles selling encyclopedias.

Then he parlayed this experience into …

Weekend Wine Notes: Nine Robust Reds for Superbowl Snacks


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Oh, sure, you’re thinking, “Hey, F.K., this is America! We drink beer when we watch the Super Bowl!” All right, I understand the issues involved, but even when you’re talking about barbecue nachos, baby-back ribs, Sloppy Joes, prime rib sliders, even certain varieties of chili and quesadillas, a large-framed, robust wine can be as appropriate as beer, though, I confess, not with super-spicy food laced with serranos and such. Anyway, following that premise, I offer nine examples of the sorts of wine you could serve this Sunday while watching two teams neither of which apparently deserve to be there contending on the gridiron of valor. Prices range from a comfortable $14 and $18, good for supplying bottles to crowds of football fans, up to $60. As usual with these Weekend Wine Notes I deliver no elements of technical, geographical or historical data for the sake of quick, …

Wine of the Day, No. 462


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Chateau de Campuget traces its origin in what is now the Costières de Nîmes AOC to 1640. The year cited in the Campuget “1753” Rosé 2017 refers to the date of a document that mentions the vineyard. Costières de Nîmes is the southernmost vineyard region of the Rhône Valley, lying between the city of Nîmes and the western marches of the Rhône river delta. The city, which has a long prehistory, became a Roman colony around 28 BC. Fifty-nine percent of the production of the AOC is red wine; 37 percent rose; and only 4 percent white. Campuget “1753” Rosé 2017, Costières de Nîmes, is a blend of 80 percent syrah grapes and 20 percent vermentino, made all in stainless steel. The color is a bright tawny copper-salmon hue; aromas of raspberries and pomegranates carry hints of cloves and citrus blossom, with a touch of grapefruit underneath. This offers more …

Weekend Wine Notes: 12 Excellent Wines to Begin the Year


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Actually, the title of this post is a misnomer. What I offer today, in the first Weekend Wine Notes of 2019, are 10 wines that rate Excellent and two that rate Exceptional, the latter both pinot noirs from different regions of California. Also included in this diverse roster are a Gewurztraminer 2012 from Alsace; a chardonnay from Sonoma Coast; two sauvignon blancs, one from New Zealand, the other from Tuscany; a monumental cabernet/shiraz blend from Australia’s McLaren Vale region as well as an equally monumental 100 percent shiraz from Padthaway; two wines from Costières de Nîmes in the Southern Rhone Valley, one white, one red; a Spätlese Riesling from Rheingau, in Germany; and a stylish merlot from Walla Walla, Washington. As usual in these Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew the technical, historical and geographical data that I dote on for the sake of quick and incisive reviews ripped, as it …

Wine with a View: Markus Wine Co., Stinson Vineyards, and Illahe Vineyards


This post is by Dezel Quillen from My Vine Spot


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Hello Friends, 
I’m one of those people who likes to visit beaches during the offseason—particularly those in Delaware and Ocean City, Maryland. I go as often as I can; the solitude is unparalleled. You can say goodbye to traffic and crowds. Entertainment and events extend beyond summer, and some of my favorite restaurants (e.g., Hooked, The Shark on the Harbor, Liquid Assets, Our Harvest, etc.) are between Ocean City and Delaware.  There are also good deals to be had and awesome sunsets to be admired.
Wine with a View!

A wise old man once told me that the beach possesses healing powers, and I believe it—maybe doctors should prescribe going to the beach more. For me, the offseason is about relaxing, recharging, rejuvenating—and, of course, sipping. During the day, I usually check out a local brew or two at the source, or at one of the area’s …

Weekend Wine Notes: 12 Wines for (Last-Minute) Giving and Getting


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I had to insert the term “Last-Minute” to the title of this entry, which I should have posted on Friday or at least yesterday, because here it is, Sunday. Still, wine stores are open today in many states, and there’s always tomorrow. I picture My Readers on an endless whirl of parties, receptions, open houses, brunches, wassails, carol-singing and what-not, giddily essaying the Yuletide with customary joy and merriment. For any or all of these festive occasions you will require a bottle of wine as a present for your host or to contribute to the groaning board. If that’s not — let’s face it — the case, you may still need a bottle of wine to take to the family or friends dinner on Christmas Day. There should be a bottle here or several to suit every taste and credit card, six whites, six reds. The price range starts at …

What I Want Wine to Be, Part One


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We learn by experience, whatever the field or range of sensation. I started reading about wine and tasting wine seriously around 1980 and was launched into a career as a wine writer and reviewer in July 1984. It’s an interesting phenomenon that these almost 40 years inevitably broadened my acceptance of a wide swath of wines, grapes and regions as well as narrowed my focus of preferences and what is amenable to my palate. For example, while a great chardonnay can be a noble, even a sublime drink, I will choose almost any white wine other than chardonnay for dinner, whether at home or at a restaurant. I don’t encounter many white Burgundies, so the blame doesn’t rest there, but I’ll say that California chardonnay — so often over-oaked, stridently spicy, tropical and dessert-like — spoiled my taste for the grape. Likewise, I can’t tolerate the level of oak and …

Wine of the Day, No. 444


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Winemaker Sherman Thacher displays a deft hand in deploying oak for his Thacher Vineyard “Working Holiday” 2016, a Rhone-style red blend from the Geneseo District of the Paso Robles AVA. The percentages of grapes are 47 grenache, 30 syrah and 23 mourvèdre, with the applicable oak of different sizes, all neutral, being old diverse barrels for the grenache; barriques for the syrah; and puncheons for the mourvedre; a puncheon typically holds 500 liters (132 gallons). The result is a red wine of lovely purity and intensity, with a lean, lithe texture animated by dynamic acidity. The color is transparent medium ruby; aromas of ripe black and red cherries and raspberries gain depth in touches of loam and oolong tea, dried rosemary, mint and dusty flint. The wine is quite dry, precise and chiseled on the palate, lively and appealing; the red and black berry flavors open to notes of plums …

Weekend Wine Notes: It’s Mid-Fall. Keep Drinking Rosé


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And here are eight lovely, diverse examples, ranging from the delicate to the savory, employing a multitude of grape varieties from a healthy spectrum of regions and countries. As usual with these Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew most technical data, as well as information about geology, geography, historical and personnel matters, for the sake of quick, incisive review intended to whet your palate and pique your interest. Enjoy! (In moderation, of course.)

These wines were samples for review.
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Berne Inspiration Rosé 2017, Cotes de Provence. 13% alc. 70% grenache, 20% cinsault, 10% syrah. Very pale pink-onion skin; quite dry, spare, elegant; strawberries and raspberries, lilac and lavender; hints of almond blossom and almond skin; tangerine; lithe, supple; a sleek limestone finish. Excellent. About $20.
Imported by Provence Rose Group, Miami.
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Berne Urban Provence Rosé 2017, Cotes de Provence. 12.5% alc. 45% grenache, 35% cinsault, 15% syrah, …

Farmhouse Wines and Green Spring Farm – "Beyond Sustainable" Farming


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We grow by the motto “50% for humans, 50% for nature,” maintaining an important balance between the vines grown for humans and crops grown for soil improvement, Bob Cannard & Fred Cline –Green String Farm

This method of “beyond sustainable” farming, was developed by Bobby Cannard and Fred Cline of Cline Family Cellars and is now known as the Green String method of sustainable farming.  Their laboratory, Green String Farm, is located in Sonoma – specifically in Petaluma – and “serves to teach students how to improve the biology of the lands that they steward while growing naturally healthy food”.  This method includes natural remedies for pest management, fertilization, and weeding among others. For instance they use over 1500 sheep and 500 goats to remove harmful weeds from their vineyards.  They also use native root stocks which can be dry farmed (no irrigation) and friendly insects are …

Department 66: Dave Phinney’s Côtes Catalanes Brand


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Languedoc-Roussillon, the wine region in southeast France lies adjacent to the Mediterranean coastline and runs from the Spanish border to Provence. According to Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible, this region is considered the single largest wine producing region in the world and accounts for a third of total French wine production. Roussillon refers to the French part of historic Catalonia corresponding to the administrative Department 66 Pyrénées Orientales. Côtes Catalanes is a sub-region or IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) in Roussillon snuggled next to Spain with vineyards covering the eastern foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. The Mediterranean provides a hot and dry clinate with generous sunshine: 320 days of per year. The soil is driven by the mountains and consists of “black schist, with small deposits of granite and limestone in red, rocky soils known as angile”. And with its ties to Catalonia — Grenache, Carignan, and Mourvedre grapes are …

Happy 30th Anniversary, Le Cigare Volant!


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Bonny Doon Vineyards, Randall Grahm and Le Cigare Volant have been through many changes in the 30 years since the seminal Rhone-blend red wine debuted. Concepts and priorities shifted, whole brands were sold off and winemaking techniques were adopted and abandoned as their effects on the wine were measured in the outcome. Endlessly experimental, with an imagination that seems to out-pace the seasons, Grahm consistently works to refine his top wines in his attempt to achieve an ideal. A brochure written by Grahm to accompany the release of Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2013 — in his typical whimsical-serio manner — describes the evolution of the wine, its style and its making; the vineyards whereof the grapes derived over three decades, and the mysterious sine qua non that gives each vintage and wine vitality and individual character. A chart also traces the fascinating transformations in the cepage of Le Cigare …

Caliza Winery, Where the Rhône Flows in Paso Robles


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Caliza Winery — the word is Spanish for “limestone” — was founded in Paso Robles by Pam and Carl Bowker in 2008; at least that’s when the doors of the tasting room opened, a convenient point from which to count. The couple purchased their first property in 2003, more land, now the home of the vineyard and tasting room, in 2004, and planted that vineyard in 2006. That’s how quickly things can happen when a couple of crazy kids have a dream. Carl Bowker is winemaker, and his focus is primarily on Rhône grapes and the blends that can be made from them. Bowker is not afraid of power in his wines nor of alcohol; the two reds reviewed here sport 15.5 and 15.7 percent alcohol yet manage to keep a steady hand at the helm. These reds derive from the Paso Robles Willow Creek District AVA, one …