Wednesday wine recommendations, 8/9/2017

Just when I thought I’d tasted and recommended enough rosé for the season, along come two that get me excited all over to drink pink. After all, when the heat and humidity settle in, what’s better than rosé to help us chill out? And because there might be some red meat on the grill, here are two delicious reds. And a new California sparkler with a French pedigree.

Domaine la Bouïssiere Vacqueyras 2013

3 stars

Rhone Valley, France, $33

This earthy, savory blend of grenache, syrah and mourvedre is classic Rhone Valley red, with flavors of dark fruits and wild herbs. This wine wants food, especially braised, grilled or smoked meat. Alcohol by volume: 14.5 percent.

Distributed by Dionysus: Available in the District at Eye Street Cellars, Rodman’s, Whole Foods Market (Foggy Bottom, P Street, Tenleytown). Available in Maryland at Balducci’s and Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda, Wine Source in Baltimore.

 

Commanderie de la Bargemone Rosé 2016

3 Stars

Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, France, $19

This may be the palest rosé I’ve tasted this year – it has virtually no color. It may also be the best. Bursting with red currant and melon flavors, the wine seems to carry a hint of sea air across a long, satisfying finish. Simply fantastic. ABV: 13 percent.

Distributed by Prestige in the District and Maryland, Virginia Imports in Virginia: Available in the District at Bell Wine & Spirits, Calvert Woodley, Dupont Market, Harry’s Reserve Fine Wine & Spirits, MacArthur Beverages, Wardman Wines, Whole Foods Market (P Street); on the list at Flight, Thip Khao. Widely available in Maryland. Available in Virginia at Dominion Wine & Beer in Falls Church, Norm’s Beer & Wine in Vienna, Unwined (Alexandria, Belleview), Wine House in Fairfax; on the list at Bazin’s on Church and Clarity in Vienna, Brine in Falls Church, Landini Brothers in Alexandria, Oakton Wine Bistro in Oakton, Villa Mozart in Fairfax.

 

Hiruzta Txakoli Rosé 2016

3 Stars GREAT VALUE

Spain, $19

This scintillating rosé from Spain’s Basque region has a vibrant color, more Barbie Pink than Millennial Pink. It’s fruitiness (raspberry and cranberry, with some citrus) and acidity make it an ideal partner for zesty, spicy foods. ABV: 12 percent.

Distributed by M. Touton: Available in the District at Capital City Wine & Spirits, Eye Street Cellars, Morris Miller Wine & Liquor, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Dawson’s Liquors in Severna Park, Old Farm Liquors and Viniferous in Frederick, Old Line Fine Wine, Spirits and Bistro in Beltsville. Available in Virginia at Specials Wine Seller in Kilmarnock, the Vineyard in McLean.

 

Louis Pommery Brut

2 Stars GREAT VALUE

California, $20

Here’s a new California bubbly made by Pommery, a French champagne house. It’s soft and ripe, with flavors of apples and pears, and a hint of pastry crust. The price is nice, too. ABV: 12.5 percent.

Distributed by M. Touton: Available in the District at Cairo Wine & Liquor, Capital City Wine & Spirits, Eye Street Cellars, Magruder’s, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at the Bottle Shop in Potomac, Cork & Bottle in Laurel, Downtown Crown Wine and Beer in Gaithersburg, Georgetown Square Wine and Beer in Bethesda, Old Farm Liquors and Riverside Liquors in Frederick, Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington, Wine Harvest (Gaithersburg, Potomac).

 

Luna Beberide Mencia 2015

2 Stars

Bierzo, Spain, $17

The mencia grape of northwestern Spain produces wine that resembles cabernet franc, with smoky white pepper and bing cherries. Give this beauty a slight chill and pair it will burgers off the grill. ABV: 13.5 percent.

Distributed by Elite: Available in the District at Quincy Liquor, on the list at Arroz, the Salt Line, Siren and Taberna del Alabardero. Available in Maryland at Captains Market in Cabin John, Downtown Crown Wine & Beer and Finewine.com in Gaithersburg, Georgetown Square Wine and Beer in Bethesda, Lyndwood Square Wine & Spirits in Elkridge, Snider’s Super Foods in Silver Spring, Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-Op in Takoma Park, the Wine Bin in Ellicott City, on the list at Botanero in Rockville, Guardado’s and TapaBar in Bethesda. Available in Virginia at Arrowine in Arlington, Balducci’s (Alexandria), Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market in Richmond, La Tienda in Williamsburg, Market Street Wine Shop (Downtown, Uptown) in Charlottesville, on the list at Mas in Charlottesville, Requin in Fairfax.

(Originally published on washingtonpost.com on June 24, 2017.)

Posted in Bargain Wines, California, Spain, Washington Post, Wine | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The resilience of Burgundy

Yesterday’s post on two wines from the Drouhin family reminded me of this article I wrote last year for The Washington Post, after visiting Frédéric Drouhin at the family caves in Beaune. I’ve never posted it here before, so ICYMI.

Drouhin lamented to me about the string of tough vintages Burgundy has suffered through the past several years. Sadly, that trend continued in 2017 with devastating frost that struck much of Europe this spring.

Originally published on washingtonpost.com on September 3, 2016.

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The sign at Joseph Drouhin headquarters in Beaune speaks to the royal history of the cellars underneath.

Frédéric Drouhin had a quandary. Seven days before I visited him in his family winery’s offices in Beaune, the center of Burgundy, the voters of Great Britain had decided to pull out of the European Union. Brexit meant Burgundy’s most important market would lose its free-trade status and revert to the old, uncomfortable regime of tariffs and other trade restrictions. To add insult to indignity, his chief of hospitality and the winery chef were both British citizens, about to lose their right to freely live and work in France.

“I guess we’ll have to figure out how to apply for visas again,” he said.

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Drouhin, at home and abroad

When entertaining friends who don’t spend an inordinate amount of their time thinking, drinking and writing about wine, I’m sometimes peppered with questions: How did you get into writing about wine? What do you look for in a wine? What makes one wine better than the other?

So last night, rather than talk all evening, I opened two wines as examples: The Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis 2014 from Joseph Drouhin, and the Roserock Pinot Noir 2014 Eola-Amity Hills from Drouhin Oregon. Same family, different terroirs, two delicious wines.

img_4781The Chablis was pure chardonnay — not in the sense of being unblended, but in that it tasted of fruit and little else. It wasn’t puffed up with oak. It didn’t need to be. The wine was full-bodied without being heavy, and it seemed to channel the chalky soils of Chablis. It was an excellent partner for dinner (grilled chicken, sage sausage, spicy jicama salad).

The pinot noir was quintessential Willamette Valley: smoky dark fruit flavors and a pitch-perfect balance. It was a beautiful wine to savor on the patio on an unusually cool August evening.

When I mentioned that Oregon pinot noir is my go-to wine whenever I feel sad or melancholy, I ignited another line of questions — from my wife. But that’s another story.

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Wednesday wine recommendations, 8/2/2017

Here are some more wines for summer: An enjoyable sparkler to get the party started, two rosés to help set the patio mood, and a substantial red to wash down those hefty meats off your grill.

 

Le Clos des Caillou Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2013

***

Rhone Valley, France, $40

I’ve always liked this wine for its elegance and sophistication, in contrast to many Chateauneufs that are overpowering with alcohol at 15 percent or higher, and because it’s made from organic grapes. It has also been a consistently good value. This vintage is creeping up in price and maybe alcohol, but it retains its finesse. Decant it an hour ahead to let the fruit flavors emerge. Alcohol by volume: 14.5 percent.

Distributed by Dionysus: Available in the District at Mom’s Organic Market, Rodman’s; on the list at Mirabelle, Marcel. Available in Maryland at Balducci’s and Bradley’s Food & Beverage in Bethesda, Mom’s Organic Market (Rockville). Available in Virginia at Balducci’s (Alexandria, McLean), Mom’s Organic Market (Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Herndon, Woodbridge).

 

Domaine du Pas de L’Escalette “Ze Rosé” 2016

***

Languedoc, France, $20

One of my favorite producers from Languedoc produces this delicious rosé, with soft fruit and deceptive acidity that reveals itself only with food. This one shines with fruit, especially summer-ripe peaches and berries. ABV: 12.8 percent.

Distributed by Elite: Available in the District at Arrowine & Spirits, Cork & Fork, Cork Market, Schneiders of Capitol Hill, Streets Market; on the list at 701, Acadiana, Range. Available in Virginia at Arrowine & Cheese and Twisted Vines in Arlington, Bottle Stop in Occoquan, Cheesetique in Alexandria, Market Street Wine Shop (Uptown) in Charlottesville; on the list at Choices by Shawn in Fairfax, Pomme in Gordonsville, Saison in Richmond.

 

Famiglia Corsarini Rosato First Press 2016

**-1/2 GREAT VALUE

Italy, $11

This is a delightful, zesty rosé with crisp strawberry flavors up front and watermelon and cantaloupe on the finish. ABV: 12 percent.

Distributed by M. Touton Selection: Available in the District at Capital City Wine & Spirits, Eye Street Cellars, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Bethesda Co-Op in Cabin John, Meridian Market & Wine in North Bethesda, Old Farm Liquors in Frederick.

 

Nicosia Vulka Etna Bianco 2015

**-1/2

Sicily, Italy, $22

Mount Etna produces some intriguingly delicious wines, including this white, a blend of carricante and catarretto grapes. This needs food to show its best, don’t drink it as a cocktail. ABV: 12.5 percent.

Distributed by Lanterna: Available in the District at A. Litteri, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, Daily 14 Liquors, Grand Cata, Rodman’s; on the list at Dino’s Grotto, Floriana, Iron Gate.

 

Salasar Crémant de Limoux

**

France, $16

This spritely sparkler is a delightful way to transition a hot summer’s day into twilight and evening. Don’t think champagne, just think fun. It’s fruity and crisp with just a hint of sweetness, more from the fruit flavor than any residual sugar. ABV: 12 percent.

Distributed by Elite: Available in the District at Ace Beverages, Argonne Market, Eye Street Cellars, Quincy’s Liquor Store, Sherry’s Fine Wine & Spirits, Streets Market; on the list at B Too, Ici Urban Bistro, Kingbird. Available in Maryland at Decanter Fine Wines in Columbia, Fenwick Beer & Wine and Snider’s Super Foods in Silver Spring, Finewine.com in Gaithersburg, the French Paradox Wines in Stevenson, Georgetown Square Wine & Beer in Bethesda, Petite Cellars in Ellicott City, Vintage Cellars in Clarksville, Wine Cellars of Annapolis; on the list at Dish & Dram in Kensington. Available in Virginia at Bottle Stop in Occoquan, Libbie Market in Richmond, Loki Gourmet in McLean, the Wine Guild in Charlottesville; on the list at Del Ray Café and La Porta’s in Alexandria, Patowmack Farm in Lovettsville, Requin in Fairfax.

(Originally posted on washingtonpost.com on July 22, 2017.)

Posted in Bargain Wines, France, Italy, Sparkling Wine, Wine | Tagged | 1 Comment

Grgich Hills celebrates 40 years in Napa Valley

Grgich Hills Estate celebrated its 40th anniversary this weekend. The winery was established by Mike Grgich and Austin Hills in 1977, and was Grgich’s breakout after the Judgment of Paris in 1976. That was the famous tasting in which the Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay, which Grgich crafted, bested some of Burgundy’s best chardonnays as judged by a panel of top French tasters. In the four decades since, Grgich Hills has been a steady producer of top quality Napa chardonnay, sauvignon blanc (labeled as Fumé Blanc) and cabernet sauvignon.

I was not able to attend the celebration at the winery, but I did have the privilege of interviewing Mike Grgich last year for my feature in The Washington Post on the 40th anniversary of the Paris tasting. We met in Grgich’s old house just north of Yountville, in Napa Valley, which the winery still owns. When I arrived, Grgich, who is well over 90 and walks with difficulty due to spinal stenosis caused by a winery accident, serenaded me with “You Are My Sunshine.” As a writer, I’ve been buttered up and slathered in lard in many ways, but this was the only time I’ve been serenaded by a Napa Valley legend.

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With Mike Grgich in Yountville, California, in April 2016

Since I wasn’t able to be at the winery celebration, I opened the Grgich Hills 40th Anniversary Chardonnay 2014 to toast the occasion. The winery had sent me a sample of this wine, which is rich and opulent with roasted stone fruit flavors and great acidity to balance its richness. The new oak is quite generous, more so than on most Grgich Hills chardonnays, I believe. So this 40th anniversary Chardonnay may be even better for the 45th anniversary, after the new oak integrates a bit better. But the great fruit we have come to expect from Grgich Hills is there, with an opulent mouthfeel and great finish.

Happy anniversary, Mike!

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Wednesday wine recommendations, 7/26/2017

Okay, so it’s actually Thursday, and deadlines and baseball intervened. But here are some wine recommendations to help you slake your summer thirst. Rosé of course, including a top-notch Sancerre and a fun one from Italy, plus three delicious whites – two from Italy, one from Spain.

 

Kevin et Christian Lauverjat, Moulin des Vrillères Sancerre Rosé 2016

***

Loire Valley, France, $23

This rosé of pinot noir is textbook Sancerre, with bright cherry and strawberry fruit and a core of minerality familiar to fans of the region’s more famous sauvignon blanc. Just delicious – and with wide availability in the region. Alcohol by volume: 12.5 percent.

Distributed by Elite: Available in the District at Batch 13, the Bottle Shop, Burka’s Wine & Liquor, Chat’s Liquors, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, Gallagher & Graham Fine Spirits, Georgetown Wine & Spirits, Harry’s Reserve Fine Wine & Spirits, Mac Market, Magruder’s, Metro Wine & Spirits, Morris Miller Wine & Liquor, Sara’s Market, S&R Liquors, Streets Market, Tenley Mini Market, Wagshal’s Deli, Whole Foods Market (various locations), Wine Specialist; and on the list at many restaurants. Available in Maryland at Annebeth’s in Annapolis, Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda, College Square Liquors in Westminster, Cranbrook Liquors in Cockeysville, Dawson’s Liquors in Severna Park, Finewine.com in Gaithersburg, Fairgrounds Discount Beverages in Timonium, Graul’s Wine & Spirits and Wine Source in Baltimore, Highland Wine & Spirits in Highland, Landover Liquors in Landover, Old Town Market in Kensington, Red Run Liquors in Owings Mills, Shawan Liquors in Hunt Valley, World Gourmet Wine & Beer in Potomac. Available in Virginia at Balducci’s (Alexandria), Cheesetique (Ballston), Culpeper Cheese Co. in Culpeper, Dominion Wine & Beer in Falls Church, the Grapevine and the Town Duck in Warrenton, Libbie Market and Shields Market in Richmond, Norm’s Beer & Wine in Vienna, Streets Market in Alexandria, Whole Foods Market (Alexandria, Arlington, Pentagon City, Reston).

 

Fantini Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo 2016

** 1/2 GREAT VALUE

Abruzzo, Italy, $10

This amusing wine is lively with acidity, a little unusual for Italian rosés, which often are a bit heavy. Cerasuolo means “cherry,” referring perhaps to the bright, light pink hue the wine earns from spending six hours on the grape skins after pressing. The variety is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. This wine is gulpable by itself but will pair well with seafood dishes or light appetizers. ABV: 12.5 percent.

Distributed by Bacchus: Available in the District at Burka’s Wine & Liquor, Gallagher & Graham Fine Spirits; on the list at Centrolina, Dino’s Grotto, Fig and Olive, Il Canale, Urbana. Available in Maryland at Bay Wine & Spirits in North Beach, Ceriello Fine Foods (Brewer’s Hill) in Baltimore, Giolitti Fine Italian Deli & Market in Annapolis; on the list at Grano Emporio in Baltimore, Scossa in Easton, Touch of Italy in Ocean City.

 

Valdrinal de Santamaria Rueda Verdejo 2015

** GREAT VALUE

Spain, $10

This delicious white wine is an ideal way to start a meal or to accompany light fare such as seafood salad. It tastes like just-ripe peaches and a hint of citrus. ABV: 13 percent.

Distributed by Stefano Selections: Available in the District at Calvert Woodley, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, Potomac Wine & Spirits, Sheffield Wine & Liquor Shoppe; on the list at Silo. Available in Maryland at Bristol Wine & Spirits, Hampden Park Liquors, the Happy Grape, Mt. Vernon Supermarket and Wells Discount Liquors in Baltimore, Decanter Fine Wines in Columbia, Dulaney Wines & Spirits in Towson, Eastport Liquors in Annapolis, Fireside Deli & Wine Shop in Swanton, Liquor Pump in Parkville; on the list at Deep Creek Seafood in Oakland. Available in Virginia at Grand Cru in Arlington, Planet Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria.

 

La Mesma Gavi 2015

**

Italy, $18

Light and slightly floral, this delicate white wine makes a nice match for salads and lighter pasta dishes.

Distributed by Elite: Available in the District at Broad Branch Market, Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Quincy’s Liquor Store; on the list at Centralina, Lapis, Oval Room, Radici, Salt Line, Urbana. Available in Maryland at Beards Hill Liquors in Aberdeen, Frederick Wine House in Frederick, Mt. Washington Wine Co. in Baltimore, State Line Liquors in Elkton, the Wine Bin in Ellicott City, on the list at Gnocco in Baltimore, Pure Wine Café in Ellicott City, Viniculture in Frederick. Available in Virginia at Arrowine & Cheese in Arlington, Bottle Stop in Occoquan, Cheesetique (Ballston), Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market in Richmond, Streets Market & Café in Alexandria, Whole Foods Market (Fair Lakes, Tysons); on the list at Bistro 360 in Arlington, Sefton Coffee in Richmond, Trattoria Villagio in Clifton.

 

Indigenous Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2015

**

Italy, $16

This white wine is medium-bodied and full of ripe tree-fruit flavors. The vintage was riper than usual, so it doesn’t have the marine salinity verdicchio typically offers, but it makes up for it with extra fruit. ABV: 13 percent.

Distributed by Hop & Wine: Available in the District at Cork & Fork, Rodman’s. Available in Virginia at Altura Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, Oakton Wine Shop in Oakton.

Originally posted on washingtonpost.com on July 8, 2017.

 

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Almaviva: Chile’s grand opus turns 20

Almaviva is now 20 years old. This is the joint venture between Viña Concha y Toro, one of Chile’s largest wine companies, and Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA, the parent company of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild in Bordeaux. Almaviva was launched in 1997 as a Chilean-Bordeaux partnership akin to Opus One, Mouton’s joint venture with the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley. The goal was to combine French winemaking with Chilean terroir and craft an icon wine for Chile that could stand among the best in the world.

I visited Almaviva earlier this month while in Santiago to judge the Catad’Or wine competition. Almaviva is located in the Maipo Valley on the outskirts of Santiago, just beyond where the freeway ends, though I suspect that description won’t last long as the city continues to expand. The winery draws upon the legends of the Maipu peoples, and the name means “living soul.”

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