Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holiday Party Wine Picks

Look, I taste hundreds of wines a year and there are some excellent wines out there, for sure. But there are some really bad wines, as well.

This holiday season, my advice, if you care about the stuff you are serving to your family and closest friends, go and support a small wine shop.

9 times out of 10, the owner is hand selecting the wines by tasting them first and weighing out whether or not they perform well at their respective pricepoints.

This is the best way to come across quality selections that you may not have considered. Yes, it is an extra stop. Yes, you may drive a mile out of your way but it will be worth it. Here are some of my favorites around $12 or less. They will surely please people that don't think about wine as well as those who are obsessed by it.

Have fun out there!

Giard Pays d'Auge Cru de Cambremer $9.99 France *small production apple cider
Vinho de Mesa Capote Velho $9.99 Portugal
2008 Bodegas Riotajo, Madrid $9.99 Spain
2007 La Nevera Garnacha, Navarra $9.99 Spain
2009 Domaine des Persenades Cotes de Gascogne Blanc $9.99 France
2007 Valevó Montepulciano d’Abruzzo $9.99 Italy
2008 Cantos Rodados Verdejo, Tierra de Castilla y Leon $9.99 Spain
Red Art Red Blend $9.99 California
2009 Domaine Ricard Touraine Blanc $11.99 France
2008 Chateau Ripaille Chasselas Vin de Savoie $11.99 France
2009 Domaine Collette Beaujolais-Villages $12.99 France
2007 Tolosa Cabernet Sauvignon $12.99 Paso Robles
2008 Poderi San Lazzaro Polesio $12.99 Italy
2008 Bodegas Luzon Luzon $8.99 Spain
2005 Tarantas Tempranillo $9.99 Spain
2009 Floresta Blanco $11.99 Spain
2009 Moulin de Gassac Guilheim Rouge $10.99 France
2005 Chateau Valcombe Cotes du Ventoux Rouge $11.99 France
2007 Domaine de Monpertuis Counoise $12.99 France
2007 Feudo Montoni Cataratto, Sicily $9.99 Italy
2009 Chateau La Rame Bordeaux Blanc $12.99 France
2009 Luis Pato Branco $10.99 Portugal
2008 Leese Fitch Merlot $9.99 California

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Respect -- Wine Respect

Felsina is one of those estates that commands respect from beginning wine aficionados to old-timer wine dudes. They manage to impress established wine critics as well as cutting edge new wine bloggers.

In short, it is hard to argue against the fact that they make exceptional wine, and have been doing so for years. It is best to be able to lay these down for a while, but please, if you have not tried any Felsina wines, do yourself a favor and remedy that. These wines are destined to be classics! (and are now in stock).

2006 Felsina Chianti Classico Rancia Riserva $44.99

(95 Points: Wine Advocate) The 2006 Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia is a vibrant, focused wine that flows with the essence of dark fruit, minerals and flowers. The wine possesses gorgeous length and proportion, all of which is framed by powerful yet well-integrated tannins. Simply put, this is a superb Chianti that also happens to be one of the best relative values in fine, age worthy wine. The Rancia is made from vines planted on poor soils at 420 meters above sea level. In 2006, the Rancia spent 16 months in French oak, of which 60% was new.

2007 Felsina Fontalloro $52.99

(96 Points: International Wine Cellar) Good full red with a palish rim. Pure, superripe aromas of red cherry, violet, iodine and nutmeg. Superrich, highly concentrated and seamless, with densely packed flavors of raspberry, dark plum and marzipan. Finishes creamy-rich and explosively long, with a pretty violet note. This was so good I really had trouble letting the glass go. It's also the only time I can remember Fontalloro outclassing Rancia (of which I am a huge fan) by such a wide margin, something I had noticed even when tasting barrel samples of these two wines in the estate's cellar two years ago. I'd wait a good five years on this one, then enjoy it for another two decades. Proof positive that sangiovese is one of the world's great grape varieties.

2006 Felsina Fontalloro $112.99 1.5ML
(95 Points: Wine Spectator) Chocolate, blackberry and black cherry aromas lead to a full-bodied palate, with velvety tannins and a deep concentration of fruit. Powerfully rich and polished. Big and structured. A blockbuster Sangiovese. Best after 2012. 3,300 cases made.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Have Some Fun with It

Most people say Pinot Noir is their go to wine for Thanksgiving. And while we agree Pinot Noir is definitely one of the more food-friendly wines, soft tannins, good fruit, medium weight, why not have some fun with it.

Here are a few picks that are in the same weight category (to use a boxing analogy) that we like a lot and would not only grace the Thanksgiving table well, but as we like to say, wouldn't break the bank.

2009 Terre Nere Etna Rosso, Sicily, Italy $19.99
Nerello Mascalese at it’s finest. The purity and depth of the dark red fruit is remarkable, while the finesse in the tannins is commendable for a wine in this price range. Sweet tobacco, flowers and spices linger on the finish. Consider the Etna Rosso a poor man-s Burgundy or Barolo.

2005 Michel Guignier Morgan, Beaujolais, France $14.99
(90 Points: International Wine Cellar) Raspberry and red plum aromas are brightened by exotic notes of cinnamon and clove. Medium-bodied and velvety, with deep, sweet dark berry flavors and gentle acidity. Beaujolais with lush, round red and dark berry flavors and a liqueur-like cling to the finish.

2004 Weingut Bründlmayer St Laurent, Austria $24.99
St. Laurent is a traditional Austrian grape variety. These vines grow on an amphibolite primary rock soil in the 'Ried Ladner' vineyard. Although this is an elevated, cool vineyard, the early maturing grapes regularly achieve good ripeness. Cherry red in color. Spicy notes with red berry fruits; dry and refreshing fruit of red and black berries, cherries, and fresh herbs; elegant tannins leading to a clean and pleasing finish.

And, the ubiquitous, Pinot Noir pick!

2008 Pali Wine Co Pinot Noir Riviera, Sonoma, California $19.99
On the nose, a bright bouquet of plum, fresh raspberries, wild blackberries, coriander, lavender, iron and cinnamon. The palate is rich and full with black fruits intertwined with fresh raspberry, black pepper and wet stone that resonate in a fanning finish of sweet red currant and dark chocolate. This is 100% Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast AVA. 30% new French Oak; 9 months in barrel before release.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Don't Let the Wine Snobs Get to You

Wine snobs say things like "Beaujolais Nouveau is not real wine" or "the Nouveau is just a marketing scam" but I say whether or not those are partially true, they miss the point of the experience entirely. Beaujolais Nouveau, simply put, is to celebrate the new vintage, get together with friends and have an excuse to drink and eat with gusto.

Thursday, November 18th - Beaujolais Nouveau: from 5:00pm until close

Each year, wine lovers wait with anticipation for the newest vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau. We invite you to participate in one of the world's yearly rituals.

Come celebrate the new vintage and enjoy some French-inspired bites; cheeses, pates, charcuterie, cornichon and crusty bread. We will open plenty of bottles of the Louis Tete 2010 Nouveau and offer a one-night-only 10% discount on all Nouveau purchases.

$10.00 per person for plenty of wine and small bites

Friday, October 22, 2010

Do Points Matter?

Probably not, but they are out there. Our tasting features three 91 point Spanish reds. It will be curious to see what everyone's opinion is. I like all of them for different reasons. They each have different personalities. The quality level is quite good for the pricing. Cudos to Rare Wine Co for curating some nice wines.

2008 Bodegas Olivares Altos de la Hoya, Spain $12.99
(91 Points: International Wine Cellar) Deep, smoky, seductively perfumed bouquet of dark berries, macerated cherries, licorice and Indian spices. Powerful blackberry and cassis flavors are surprisingly lively, with notes of black cardamom and candied violet adding complexity. A zesty note of cracked pepper adds snap to the long, spicy, subtly sweet finish.

2008 Jose Palacios Petalos del Bierzo, Spain $21.99
(91 Points: International Wine Cellar) Inky ruby. Spicy red and dark berry aromas are complemented by notes of cherry pit, licorice, black tea and violet. Racy and focused, offering zesty cherry and red berry flavors and a firm mineral spine. Fleshes out with air and finishes on a sweet note of blackberry, with very good clarity and spicy persistence.

2007 Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat, Spain $21.99
(91 Points: Wine Advocate) The 2007 Camins del Priorat is a blend of 60% Carinena, 30% Garnacha, and the balance Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah aged for 3-4 months in barrique followed by tank and cask aging. Deep crimson-colored, it offers up a captivating nose of mineral, lavender, underbrush, and black cherry. Medium to full-bodied on the palate, it has excellent concentration, plenty of sweet fruit, a forward personality, and a lengthy, fruit-filled finish.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

2006 Barolo

Yes, some will insist that these are way too young to open now but I have also had some that have come back after a recent purchase going "ga ga" over them. Decide for yourself. These are the first of the 2006 vintage now in stock. Top notch Nebbiolo.

2006 Renato Corino Barolo $47.99
(92: Wine Advocate) Corino’s 2006 Barolo is simply beautiful. Blessed with fragrant, expressive aromatics, the wine emerges from the glass with superior density and richness for an entry-level wine. This shows truly exceptional elegance and purity, with a long, harmonious finish. The oak is beautifully balanced; what comes through most is the integrity of the fruit. The 2006 Barolo is made from parcels in Roncaglie, the lower slope of Conca and the fruit Corino was able to salvage from Arborina. This is a terrific effort in its category.

2006 Seghesio Barolo La Villa $61.99
(93: Wine Advocate) I was completely floored by Seghesio’s 2006 Barolo La Villa, easily the best vintage of this wine I have ever tasted. Dark plums, cherries, violets, minerals and spices emerge from this deceptively mid-weight Barolo. The wine gains muscle in the glass; yet retains elements of etherealness that are quite attractive. This looks to be a rare 2006 that is accessible relatively early. The wine’s balance, poise and sense of harmony are terrific. This is a great effort from Seghesio.

2006 Giuliano Corino Barolo Vigna Giachini $68.99
(94: Wine Advocate) A beguiling, deep bouquet melds seamlessly into dark cherries, menthol and spices as the 2006 Barolo Giachini flows onto the palate. This shows gorgeous detail and delineation, with additional layers of textural richness from the well-integrated French oak. A superbly elegant and beautifully crafted wine, the 2006 Barolo Giachini is a terrific effort from one of La Morra’s top sites.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pacific Northwest Wines!

Some great Pacific Northwest picks just in this week. Great stuff from Oregon and Washington. Try some!

2009 Bethel Heights Pinot Gris $15.99 Oregon
Initial deep minerality gives way to aromas of tangerine, lime blossom, and lemon zest. The palate is defined by a firm core of acidity that runs through the wine, giving it structure and fantastic length. Flavors of apricot, white peach, and asian pear develop in the glass. Refreshing stuff.

2008 Sineann Pinot Noir Pheasant Valley $24.99 Oregon
Bright and refreshing with more of a red fruit character. Red berries and cherries seem initially lighter, then gain some heft towards the finish. Bits of graham and baking spice add complexity to the finish. Just around a bend of the Hood River from Able Vineyard sits another vineyard in what may be one of the best sites in the Hood River Valley - Pheasant Valley Valley Vineyard. Hagee farms it organically.

2007 Penner-Ash Syrah $27.99 Oregon
Dark black rich fruit flavors with hints of peppery spice. Dense ripe blackberry and plum on the palate, concentrated fruit riding on a core of smokey wood. A juicy mouthful of Syrah-goodness. Well-crafted and impressive.

2007 Sineann Merlot Hillside $29.99 Washington
Dark and concentrated. Crop sizes are kept small, 2.1 tons per acre, and it pays. These wines are dark, aromatic with chocolate overtones and complex, silky tannins. The older versions have aged beautifully. Merlot can make great wine and we aim to prove it.

2008 Penner-Ash Pinot Noir Willamette Valley $36.99 Oregon
(91 Points: Wine Spectator) Firm in texture, but lively, offering a cherry glow to the flavor profile against crisp tannins. Finishes with impressive persistence. Best from 2012 through 2016. 4,500 cases made.

visit our website for more info: rossowineshop.com

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Indie 103 Wino Wednesday

Wednesday, September 8th

More radio: in case you missed us on Indie 103.1 online last Wednesday, here is a link to the show. The wine theme was "Not letting go of Summer, and Summer wines."

I brought 09 Trajarinho Vinho Verde, 08 Mustilli Piedirosso and 08 Domaine du Noiré Chinon rouge.

Listen on BlipTV right here: indie1031Wino Wednesday

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Supper Club 8

The end of Summer means great tomatoes. This menu was inspired by our favorite "fruit," the tomato, in it's various forms. Fantastico! Thanks to everyone who was part of it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Tasting Room with Tom

Just wrapped up a great radio set with Tom Leykis. He has got a very cool DIY radio wine thing going. He is calling his own shots and doing his own thing. He can be found at: http://www.tastingwithtom.com/

I took five of our current favorite wines. These are great value, old world wines that really represent what Rosso Wine Shop looks to do - find good quality, interesting, food-friendly wines that deliver better value than what they are priced at. I think we more than succeed with these 5 picks!

2009 Domaine du Salvard Cheverny, France ($14.99)
100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley. Pale yellow. Lime zest and lemongrass on the nose, with touches of sage and mint adding complexity. Racy, focused citrus and underripe apple flavors show good clarity and pick up a sweeter tangerine quality with air. This easy-drinking wine finishes with good clarity and stony persistence.

2009 Domaine Amido Tavel Rosé, France ($14.99)
The only appellation in France that exclusively produces Rosé wine. This one is made with 65% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, 10% Syrah and 5% Clairette. It is a richly colored rosé, with cherry, strawberry and a touch of almond flower flavors. Lots of freshness on the palate, and with enough body to match with a variety of foods.

2007 Barberani Polago, Umbria, Italy ($14.99)
Located in one of the oldest winemaking regions in Italy, the Barberani Winery is situated along the Tiber river, right above the road from Orvieto to Todi. Barberani's vineyards sit in the heart of the Umbrian hills, nestled among the olive groves and forests. This fresh wine is a blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese. Ruby red in color. Fruity and lightly herbaceous. Good body and pleasant aromas.

2007 Cascina Gilli Freisa d'Asti, Piemonte, Italy ($14.99)
100% Freisa d'Asti. Fresh and at the same time velvety, lovely raspberry notes predominate. Much softer and more structured than the usual Freisa, capable of aging for a few years. The skin is left on the grapes for 5-6 days, soaked in the must with frequent mixing to obtain a good extraction of color. Stored in steel barrels for one year to preserve the freshness of its fruit. Bottled after 12 months, it matures in the bottle for several months and can be kept for several years.

2007 Musto Carmelitano Aglianico del Vulture Pian Del Moro, Italy ($19.99)
100% Aglianico del Vulture. A single-vineyard red wine that combines all the power of Aglianico del Vulture with intense fruit and acidity that will keep it alive and fresh for years. Grown as lberelli (bush) and under the guyot method. The vines average 40-50 years old. Harvested by hand. Fermented in steel. Spends at least 12 months in French oak tonneaux and 2 months in bottle before release. Ruby-violet in color, the nose and palate perceive complex notes of raspberries, lavender, licorice, chalk and sweet spices.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lighter reds for Summer

For a real treat, chill one of these down a bit. These are some fun, outside-the-box picks for Summer faire. Good bright fruit, little or no tannic bite and some good spice.

2008 Mustilli Piedirosso S. Agata dei Goti
100% Piedirosso from Campania. This is a unique wine, a zesty light-bodied red with a clean, refreshing finish and good spice. Fermentation in stainless steel and kept in bottle for a year before release. Bright red in color. Red-fruit aromas enhanced by aromatics of lavender and thyme. Lively and dry on the palate with mild tannins and hints of dried fruits on the finish.

2007 Durin Ormeasco
A rare red wine from the Liguria region of Italy. Ormeasco is the local clone of Dolcetto. Light bodied, low tannins, and bright, red fruit. Perfect for a summer day and fritto misto or lighter seafood preparations.

2008 Punta Crena Cruvin Rosso
Made in the tiny town of Varigotti, Liguria. Not much red wine is made in this region and hardly any makes it to the U.S. The rare red grape in this wine is 100% Cruvino. Ruby red in color, with light red fruit strawberry on the nose. Flavors of robust forest berry and spice in the mouth. Soft, clean and long finish. We highly recommend this one!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lazy Ox Canteen

Great meal at Lazy Ox Canteen. Creative. Great quality. Casual environment but serious food.

Lazy Ox Canteen

241 South San Pedro Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012-3808
(213) 626-5299

Highly recommended!

One of our go-to Arneis, the Roero, Val del Prete.

Great mussel dish. Order extra pain grille for the broth!

The last bottle of Luigi Giusti, 08 Rosé of Lacrima di Moro d'Alba.

Anchovy and piquillo peppers.

The star of the night, the 1990 Parusso Barolo. Amazingly fresh and vibrant. A real treat.

Super desserts with Brachetto and Beaumes de Venise.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Most Interesting Man in the World

His shirts never wrinkle.
He is left-handed. And right-handed.
He has been known to cure narcolepsy, just by walking into the room.
His organ donation card, also lists his beard.
He’s a lover, not a fighter, but he’s also a fighter, so don’t get any ideas.
Even if he forgets to put postage on his mail, it gets there.
The police often question him, just because they find him interesting.
He once punched a magician. That’s right. You heard me.
When he orders a salad, he gets the dressing right there on top of the salad, where it belongs…where there is no turning back.
On every continent in the world, there is a sandwich named after him.
He doesn’t believe in using oven mitts, nor potholders.
His cereal never gets soggy. It sits there, staying crispy, just for him.

He is The Most Interesting Man In The World.

Why not? It's some funy sh#t.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lioco Wines!

We have always been big fans of the Lioco wines (as we have been carrying them pretty much since we opened). They are made honestly. They are priced realistically. And most of all, they taste great. True to form these new releases, now in stock, represent some fantastic Summertime drinking.

2009 Lioco Chardonnay Sonoma County
A blend of four complimentary vineyards -- all of them sustainably farmed and hand harvested: Stuhlmuller, Ricci, Mazzera, and Valentine. No bulk juice used. Fermented in stainless steel (no oak) using a wild yeast. A naturally occurring malo finshed completed. Aged sur-lie with no battonage.
Price: $17.99

2007 Lioco Indica Mendocino County
The 07 Indica has less tannin and more satin than its 06 incarnation. The additions of some cold-climate Grenache and Mourvedre produced unexpected high tones in the wine. Now the entire orchestra is playing. Bouquet of morello cherries, red plums, and rhubarb, accented with hints of baking spice. Tastes of sour cherries, dried blueberries, and something wonderfully herbaceous.
Price: $17.99

2008 Lioco Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
Vineyard sits in the Petaluma Wind Gap--a place renown for cold, old-born wind and fog. Clones 667 and 115 planted on a hillside in loamy Franciscan soil. Fermented open top using a wild yeast. Manual punchdowns. 20% whole cluster. Aged 11-months in neutral oak. Bottled without fining or filtration.
Price: $29.99

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


My favorite Ceviche recipe:

3 Citrus Ceviche
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespns extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound fresh sea bass cut into 1/4" pieces
1/2 pound bay scallops
1/2 pound medium shrimp, cut in 1/4" pieces
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 small red onion, small dice
2 avocados, cut in 1/4" pieces
Salt and pepper

In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice, ginger and olive oil. Add the sea bass, scallops and shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. The flesh of the seafood should be opaque. Add the cilantro and onion at the last minute and stir through. Then top with fresh avocado when ready to serve. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Open a cold rosé and report back.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Beirut: the band

Pretty cool stuff. Great instrumentation.
Check them out here: http://www.beirutband.com/

Italian Sparklers

Of course we love French sparklers but you have to admit Italy is coming on strong in the bubbles department. They are working with unique grapes and, in some cases, producing some incredibly good quality juice. The pricing is fair and if you are willing to look hard (that is mostly our job) you can find some fantastic stuff. Here are three of our favorites, in stock this week.

2008 Dama del Rovere Brenton Durello Brut, Veneto $18.99
A unique Venetian bubbly. Pure white fruit and wildflowers show in its perfume; the mouth is lined with lime zest and lemonade, with a suggestion of flint and spice. Very energetic on the palate; the finish lingers with notes of quince and gooseberry.

NV De Conciliis Selim, Campania $19.99
Crafted from Fiano and Aglianico, two grapes indigenous to Campania, this spumante is made in the charmat method. The yellow-green Selim itself has a refreshing nose of tropical and citrus fruits, peach and apple. Intense, unusual and beautifully balanced. Selim, spelled backwards, is Miles, for Miles Davis (Bruno De Concillis is a big fan).

2007 Murgo Brut Metodo Classico, Sicily $22.99
The Murgo Brut is made from the Nerello Mascalese red grape native to the mineral-rich soils of the volcano. This is an excellent, refreshing sparkler with good complexity and verve. Since 1981, Emanuele Scammacca, Barone del Murgo, helped by sons, Michele, Pietro, and Matteo, has been modernizing both the winery and the vineyards to improve the quality of his wines, which are now considered some of the foremost in the Etna area.

Summer is Almost Here

Photo by Kyrsten Wetzel
In the photo Todd Goldsworthy (brother of Dr. Patricia Goldsworthy)
Duotone Treatment Jeff Zimmitti

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wines of Umbria

Umbria is a region of Central Italy, bordered by Tuscany to the west, the Marche to the east and Lazio to the south. This region is mostly hilly or mountainous. There are some real treasures for wines in the region but Umbria always seems to play in the shadows of Tuscany. We happen to really love the wines and here are some fantastic picks if you’d like to explore the region (all in stock).

2008 Palazzone Dubini Bianco, Umbria $6.99
Perfect picnic wine. Stainless steel fermentation creates a fresh, fruity wine with plenty of floral notes. Crisp acidity. Dry finish. Steal of a price. Blend of 50% Procanico, 20% Verdello, and Grechetto, Drupeggio and Malvasia round out the remaining 30%.

2006 Fratelli Pardi Montefalco Rosso, Umbria $12.99
Made with 70 % Sangiovese , 15% Sagrantino and 10% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep garnet in color and chock full of red and black fruits with a backbone of soft, round tannins and pleasant acidity. Good stuff. Great price.

2007 Barberani Polago, Umbria $14.99
Barberani's vineyards sit in the heart of the Umbrian hills, nestled among the olive groves and forests. This fresh wine is a blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese. Ruby red in color. Fruity and lightly herbaceous. Good body and pleasant aromas.

2004 Terre de Trinci Sagrantino di Montefalco Ugolino, Umbria $56.99
(90 Points: Wine Spectator) Blackberry bush, with hints of tobacco and ferrous earth. Very floral. Full-bodied, with firm, vanilla- and mineral-coated tannins and a long, firm finish. Precise and focused on the palate. Best after 2009. 1,000 cases made.

2002 Paolo Bea Rosso de Veo, Umbria $57.99
The Rosso de Veo is special. The 2002 vintage over most of Italy was challenging. In order to craft the best possible wine (and most great winemakers will do this) Bea declassified their best fruit from their best sites, meticulously hand-sorted, and made an incredible wine. This is a blend of 70% Sagrantino, 15% Montepulciano and 15% Sangiovese. For almost half the normal price for his Sagrantino you can try one of the masters of winemaking.

2004 Paolo Bea Montefalco Rosso San Valentino, Umbria $65.99
Some say the Bea wines are the pinnacle of Umbrian wine. There are only 500 cases made of this wine and very little to go around in the States. The Montefalco Rosso is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and 15% Sagrantino, all from the San Valentino site situated on a high-altitude slope in Montefalco. This is a rich wine of deep purple-blue tint; it tastes of sweet fruit (plums and wild black cherry). It is slightly nutty as well with chicory and vanilla flavors. A complex, intense and expressive wine.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

2009 French Rosé c'est Arrivé

The new vintage of rosé is generally released right around the beginning of Spring. In April and May the shipments from Europe start to land. It is an exciting time. The wines are fresh. They pair well with all kinds of foods, and best of all, they are easy on the wallet. Each year we bring in a variety of rosé to give everyone a nice choice. This year we are focusing entirely on the French rosé because over years of drinking them, they are, for us, the best. Here are our four picks!

Region: Southwest Armagnac, Languedoc
Grapes: 40% Merlot, 40% Syrah and 20% Tannat

2009 Domaine du Tariquet Rosé $9.99 France

Made with a unique blend of 40% Merlot, 40% Syrah and 20% Tannat. Almost pomegranate-like in color this wine has an intense bouquet. Full-bodied and fresh on the palate with mild spicy notes and plenty of hints of raspberry and just-cut flowers. Finishing with a salty note.

Region: Corbieres

Grapes: 75% Cinsault, 15% Syrah, 10% Grenache

2009 Domaine Sainte Eugenie Corbieres Rosé $10.99 France

The estate is located within the foothills of the Pyrénées along the Mediterranean coast. Made from 75% Cinsault, 15% Syrah, 10% Grenache. A wonderful, bright Rosé displaying fresh raspberry notes with a slight touch of mineral and dried herbs with a dry finish.

Region: Costieres de Nimes

Grapes: 70% Cabernet Franc, 25% Syrah, 5% Grenache

2009 Jean-Francois Fayel Costieres de Nimes Rosé $11.99 France

This one is a blend of 70% Cabernet Franc (whole-berry crushed), 25% Syrah and 5% Grenache which has been bled from the tanks. It displays beautiful high-toned cherry notes and mineral. Focused, racy and bright acidity. All good.

Region: Touraine, Loire Valley

Grapes: 100% Pinot Noir

2009 Domaine Corbillieres Touraine Rosé $13.99 France

Made from 100% Pinot Noir. Hand-harvested. Naturally fermented. Elegant style. The result is a pale rose wine, slightly spicy, with a vague hint of pepper. It is a thirst-quenching wine to drink with summer meals, and can also be paired with exotic cuisine.

Chill one down. Sit outside. Take in the sun. Pop the cork.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Blind Tasting of Top Wines

Judgment in Paris took place in 1976. A wine merchant named Steven Spurrier created the event to draw attention to his store and wine academy. This event pitted some of the best French wines against some of the best of California. The wines were tasted blind by some of the better palate's of the day, including trade people and Sommeliers. The results sent shockwaves through the wine world as Stag's Leap Cabernet got the top nod for red and Chateau Montelena beat out some of the best French Burgundies for favorite white.

Most recently Steven Spurrier partnered with a independent importer who works with some top Chilean wines to attempt the same type of blind tasting. This time there would be a mix of Chilean, Californian, Italian and French wines to taste blind and evaluate.

The original tasting arranged in this fashion took place in Berlin, Germany in 2004. Once again the results were shocking to the wine world as the Chiliean wines performed well beyond expectation. This event became known as the Berlin Tasting and just recently a similar event was held in Los Angeles.

A collection 50+ wine people were invited to blind taste 10 top wines from the 2006 vintage. The results again were shocking. We evaluated these wines in a pristine setting. Arriving to the tasting room we were greeted by 10 pre-poured glasses, all numbered 1 through 10 and papers for notes. We were told to pick our top 3 wines out of the 10 to garner the final results.

Blind tastings are always highly educational. There are no label influence or prejudice, just what is in the glass.

The wines tasted: 2006 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, France 2006 Sassicaia, Italy 2006 Errazuriz Don Maximiano, Chile 2006 Stags Leap SLV, California 2006 Errazuriz La Cumbre, Chile 2006 Opus One, California 2006 Chateau Haut Brion, France 2006 Vinedo Chadwick, Chile 2006 Sena, Chile 2006 Errazuriz Kai, Chile

The top 3 wines chosen by me:
1) 2006 Stags Leap SLV, California 2) 2006 Chateau Haut Brion, France 3) 2006 Opus One, California *a very close 4th was 2006 Sassacaia

The top 3 wines chosen by the group:
1) 2006 Stags Leap SLV, California 2) 2006 Chateau Haut Brion, France 3) 2006 Opus One, California

The rest
: 4) 2006 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, France 5) 2006 ErrazurizKai, Chile 6) 2006 Vinedo Chadwick, Chile 7) 2006 Sassicaia, Italy 8) 2006 Errazuriz La Cumbre, Chile 9) 2006 Sena, Chile 10) 2006 Errazuriz Don Maximiano, Chile

So again, as in 1976, the Stags Leap Cabernet took the top spot. And the much maligned Opus One (recently making a comeback of sorts) ended up as the third favorite of the entire group. The Haut Brion was a real pleasure as well, coming in at number two.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Moorish-Style Chickpea And Spinach Stew

Make this dish. It rocks!
Pair with old school Rioja.

9 ounces dried garbanzos (chickpeas)

Pinch bicarbonate of soda

6 garlic cloves, peeled and whole

1/4 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil

2 ounces white sliced bread, with the crusts removed

2 tablespoons pimenton (Spanish sweet paprika)

1 pinch Spanish saffron

2 tablespoons Spanish sherry vinegar

1/2 pound spinach, washed and cleaned

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and white pepper to taste

The day before you cook, soak the chickpeas in cold water with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda. The next day, drain and rinse the chickpeas.

In a big saucepan, combine the chickpeas with 2 1/2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for two hours, until the chickpeas are tender. Every 10 minutes or so, add 1/2 cup of cold water to slow down the simmering. By the end, the water should have reduced so it is barely covering the chickpeas. Turn off the heat and let sit.

In a small saute pan over medium to low heat, brown the garlic in 1/4 cup of the olive oil. When the garlic is browned, after about 3 minutes, remove from the pan and set aside. Add the bread and brown on both sides, about one minute each side.

Remove the bread and set aside.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Add the pimenton and saffron to the saute pan, and the sherry vinegar immediately afterward to prevent the pimenton from burning.

In a mortar, smash the reserved garlic and the browned bread to make a very thick paste. Bring the chickpeas back to a low boil and add the spinach. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pimenton mixture along with the garlic and bread paste, to create a thick, stewy sauce. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Jose Andres Tips

When the chickpeas are soft and cooked, only about one finger's depth of water should remain in the bottom of the pan. If there is more, remove some water from the pan before adding the rest of the ingredients. By the way, if you're in a rush and want to make a successful dish without cooking for two or three hours, you can use good quality chickpeas from a can or jar.

Good Times for Wine Buyers

Plenty of serious deals out there! If I were you I would stop by regularly to see what has turned up. Here are a few to get you going:

Suggested retail $20 -- New price $12.99

NV Collabrigo Brut Prosecco Rosé Ti Amo $12.99 Italy

A perfect Spring rosé sparkler made with 95% Prosecco and 5% Pinot Nero. Produced from 25-year-old vines in the region of Conegliano, Veneto. Bright pink color with orange shades. Ripe small fruit perfumed with cherries and rasperries as well as citrus. On the palate, round red fruit, a subtle mousse and a fresh finish. Pairs well with shellfish, oysters and various appetizers.

Suggested retail $18 -- New price $9.99

2004 Bodega Vinas Zamorans Los Zorros $9.99 Spain

(89 Points: International Wine Cellar) 100% Tempranillo. Ruby-red. Intensely perfumed aromas of fresh red berries and flowers. Polished red and dark berry flavors are unencumbered by tannins, offering a seductively silky texture. Bright acids add energy to the juicy finish. A pretty amazing bargain here.

Suggested retail $20 -- New price $9.99

2001 Chateau Pesquie Quintessence Rouge $9.99 France

From the Cotes du Ventoux in the Southern Rhone. A blend of Grenache and Syrah. A great value with some bottle age, this wine is full of dark fruit qualities and soft tannins. Notes of blackberries and licorice fill the glass. This is a great bottle that is drinking well right now for a steal of a price (normally $20).

Suggested retail $22 -- New price $14.99

2007 Dorigo Ribolla Gialla, Friuli $14.99 Italy

Native to Friuli, Ribolla Gialla, is cultivated almost exclusively in the hillsides of the country (as far as Istria). Straw yellow in color. Floral notes in the nose, complemented by background notes of tropical fruit. The palate is savory with balanced acidity. Crisp texture and floral notes lead to a fresh, minerally finish.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chez Panisse

Chez Panisse, Berkeley

Well executed.


Baked Andante Dairy Goat cheese with garden lettuces $10

Wood over-roasted squid with cannellini beans, kale, rosemary, and toasted breadcrumbs $19

My wine pick:

2008 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé


The kitchen in action between service.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eric Kent Spring Releases

We like them a lot. It is always a pleasure to support small production, high quality wine made by great people. In other words, the name of the game.

The first two Spring releases are in.

2008 Eric Kent Pinot Noir Russin River Valley
Retail: $35.99
The first “appellation” Pinot Noir from Eric Kent and a wonderful house wine that delivers loads of drinking pleasure. Light ruby in color, with aromas of bing cherry and pomegranate. Offering up notes of cherry, raspberry, plum, and cola. Medium bodied and fruit forward with gentle but present tannins. The final blend consists of 93% Windsor Oaks, 4% Cleary and 3% Stiling Vineyard.

2007 Eric Kent Syrah Dry Stack Vineyard
Retail: $39.99
2007 hearkens back to a cooler vintage like ‘05, but what a different wine! A clonal mix of 877, 174 and 470 – no Estrella River in this one – plus 1/3 whole-cluster fermentation and more time on the skins has made a wine with layers of complexity, wonderful depth, a medium to full body and great structure. Classy Syrah.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Carlisle Spring Releases

The 2008 Carlisle Spring releases are in this week.

2008 Carlisle Winery Zinfandel Sonoma County $22.99

A blend of various old-vine vineyards such as Taylor in Dry Creek, Tin Cross in Alexander Valley, and Rossi in Sonoma Valley. A little Dry Creek Petite Sirah from Teldeschi Vineyard seemed to bring the components together, rounding out the palate nicely. Aged in French oak, 20% new, and based upon the success of our experiment last year, bottled completely in screw cap. Tasting Note: Medium-dark ruby-garnet. Red cherries, berry compote, and notes of bittersweet chocolate and brown spices greet the nose. Fresh and juicy on the palate with red and black berry fruits highlighted by hints of licorice, smoked meat, and earth. Finishes with great energy and thrust. Once again, an absolute steal for the price. 481 cases produced.

2008 Carlisle Winery Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley $33.99

Predominantly from Teldeschi Ranch (planted in 1885) and Mounts Ranch (planted in 1952), yields were generally in the range of 1.5 to 2.5 tons per acre. An 11% mix of petite sirah and carignane completed the palate, adding just the right amount of tannin and acidity. Aged in French oak, 23% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. Tasting Note: Medium to medium-dark garnet-ruby. Classic Dry Creek zin aromas of red cherries, minerals, and dusty, red earth. Bright and lively in the mouth with plenty of cherry-laced fruit flowing into the persistent, sappy finish. Strikes a lovely balance between ripeness and freshness. 292 cases produced.

Small production. Artisan wine. Reliably great. Realistically priced.

The wines of Uccelliera

Wine Advocate
says: The proprietor of the Uccelliera estate, Andrea Cortonesi, embodies the finest of the artisan tradition in Montalcino. Cortonesi’s wines have always been bold and exciting but with the newest vintages Cortonesi has arrived at a new level of elegance.

Wine Spectator
says: ... a sweet little winery with about 16 acres of prime vineyards near some of the top vineyards in the region. Uccelliera, which in recent years has been making top wines, has some outstanding to great reds in the works. And if it's any indication for Montalcino as a whole, it means plenty of excellent Sangioveses in the future.

say: we like ‘em. These three wines represent the very latest releases from Uccelliera. Some are in very limited supply.

2008 Uccelliera Rosso di Montalcino
$29.99 Italy

2005 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino
$59.99 Italy

2004 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
$141.99 Italy *very limited

Our best advice regarding wine buying in general is always, find a producer you like, and buy them in all vintages. You will discover that not only does the winemaker find a way to make the best wine possible under all conditions, but you will also experience the singular place where that wine comes. Uccelliera is one such producer to follow.

The charming estate is located in the Montalcino countryside just below the town of Castelnuovo dell’Abate, where the beautiful Sant’Antimo abbey is.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Taste Italian History - The Wines of Sella

The wines of Stella were a real discovery. The Lessona and Bramaterra regions are some of the oldest wine-producing regions known in Italy, dating back to 1671.

The wines are based largely on Nebbiolo but also include small amounts of Croatina and Vespolina in some of the blends. The regions are a few hours north of the famed Barolo and Barbaresco regions but fans of Nebbiolo will love the unique expression.

There is not much of this wine made and a good chunk of it is allocated. We are happy to have some. And kudos to importer extraordinaire, Oliver McCrum for ferreting out these gems!

2005 Sella Bramaterra Piemonte $34.99
(90 Points: Wine Advocate) The 2005 Bramaterra is a joyous wine for its generous core of red fruit and finessed, silky tannins. This is an especially pure, elegant Bramaterra with gorgeous textural balance and a long, refreshing finish. Anticipated maturity: 2009-2013.

2003 Sella Lessona Riserva Omaggio A Quintino Sella $64.99
(91 Points: Wine Advocate) The 2003 Lessona Omaggio a Quintino Sella is an utterly beguiling wine. Bold, assertive aromatics lead to an expansive core of sweet perfumed fruit, with wild herb, mint, spice, mineral and French oak overtones that are layered into the wine. There is lovely clarity and precision here, along with a prominent vein of minerality that gives the wine its sense of proportion. This is a terrific effort from Sella. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2023.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Siro Pacenti

The Siro Pacenti wines hold a soft spot in our heart. We visited them in 2002 and had the pleasure of meeting Siro, who turned over the winemaking reigns to his son Giancarlo (starting in 1988). The wines are consistently some of the best in the region.

The Rosso di Montalcino represents their more approachable-when-young wine and given the nice deal we found on the 2006 (while some of the 07 Rosso’s have come and gone), this is a must have for any Tuscan wine-lover.

2006 Siro Pacenti Rosso di Montalcino

(90 Points: Wine Advocate) Pacenti’s 2006 Rosso di Montalcino is a sleek, lush wine loaded with soft-textured fruit that flows onto the palate with remarkable elegance and finesse. With air it gains weight and expansiveness in a gorgeous display of Rosso. As is often the case, Giancarlo Pacenti’s Rosso di Montalcino is among the finest wines of the region, although in this vintage he has more competition, which suggests producers are paying more attention to the quality of their Rossos. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2011.

Price: $29.99 Italy

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Supper Club 6

first course whitefish crudo, preserved lemon, fried capers, onion pickles
paired with: NV Domaine J. Laurens Cremant de Limoux Brut

second course
puree of smoked turnip, poached pear, sour crème fraiche
paired with: 2007 François Pinon Vouvray Tradition

third course sautéed wild mushroom, wooley thyme, crouton, shaved piave
paired with: 2008 Fenouillet Vin de Pays Vaucluse

fourth course
cassoulet beans with braised slab bacon, duck leg and mirepoix
paired with: 2007 Eric Texier Cotes du Rhone Vaison-la-Romaine