Sometimes we like to spend a little more when we are choosing wine for the high holidays, but this year Elena found a top quality red blend made by a small family producer at a wonderful price. The Hedges 2009 CMS from Columbia Valley, Washington is the wine we will be serving to complement our Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine and Balsamic reduction on Christmas Day. (A copy of my recipe is at the bottom of this email.)
The Hedges’ family-owned winery is truly a family affair. Husband and wife Tom and Anne Marie Hedges planted 40 acres of vines on Red Mountain in the Columbia River Valley of Washington State in 1989. Tom's brother Pete has been the winemaker since 2002 and Tom and Marie's daughter joined the family business as assistant winemaker in 2006. Their son Christopher designs the labels and is in charge of sales and marketing. The estate vineyards were converted to Biodynamic farming in 2008.
CMS stands for the blend of grapes in this delicious wine: 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, and 16% Syrah. The wine has bright rich fruit that is full of red berries and currants and is pure cabernet, but with the smoothness of merlot, and filled out with a bit of additional richness from the Syrah. A terrific blend that is rich, supple, and delicious. This is an outstanding meritage-style, value red that will be a great accompaniment to your holiday dining, and a wine that would also make a superb holiday gift for anyone who appreciates good wine.
We think it is a bargain at the normal retail of $12.95, but Elena has taken a very large position to be able to offer it at $10.95 a bottle or $114 a case, which brings your bottle cost down to $9.50 on case purchases! Elena will have a bottle open for sampling while supplies last, which will probably not be for very long. This will make a great Christmas dinner wine!
Elena’s is open 7 days a week through Christmas. Stop in and browse her gift baskets, and don’t forget to print out a copy of the recipe for beef tenderloin with balsamic and red wine reduction.
Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine & Balsamic Reduction
2.5 to 3 pounds beef tenderloin roast--plan on about 6-8 ounces per guest.
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
2-3 stalks celery, chopped (1 cup)
2 medium carrots, chopped (1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1.5 cups full-bodied red wine
1.5 cups beef broth
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon real butter
½ tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Lightly coat beef with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill or roast for about 1 hour at 325, or until the internal temperature register 145 degrees. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes while you prepare the reduction.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes or until vegies are brown. Add wine, beef broth and balsamic vinegar. Simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid. Discard the solids and continue to gently boil the liquid, uncovered, for about 25-30 minutes, or until it is reduced to about a half a cup. Watch the reduction closely, as during the last 5 minutes it will thicken rapidly.
3. Stir the butter and rosemary into the reduction and add salt and pepper to taste. Thinly slice the beef and serve immediately with the sauce drizzled over the slices.
1. In the past, I always served prime rib on special occasions, until I noticed that my kids (and grandkids) cut around the fat, which is the best part of prime rib, and there is lots of it! Tenderloin (sold as filet mignon on restaurant menus), on the other hand, has no fat and is just as tender and flavorful as prime rib, so it is now my cut of choice for family celebrations.
2. Romano’s meat market in Fitchburg will cut you whatever size you want, and his meat is always superb. Be forewarned: beef tenderloin is not cheap! Be sure to tell Mike, the owner, I sent you.
3. Having learned the hard way, I always cook meat using a meat thermometer. Good beef is best served rare, but tenderloin is the one cut that does not get tough if it is served medium—although I would still recommend serving it rare.
4. Red pepper relish makes a great condiment to serve on the side with beef dishes.
Good luck and have a joyous, festive holiday!
Thanksgiving Wine Recommendations
Thanksgiving is the single American holiday centered primarily on food, often making it, for those who have to prepare the feast, the most stressful meal of the year. Deciding the “correct” wines to serve for the culinary chaos and gluttony that define this special day can itself be a source of anxiety.
Serving a wine that complements both the moist flavorful thigh meat, and also the dry, flavorless breast meat, is challenge enough, but add to it the kaleidoscopic potpourri of side dishes, such as your mother-in-law’s signature casserole of sweet potatoes baked with miniature marshmallows and Auntie Annabel’s green peppers stuffed with breadcrumbs and anchovies, and the task can seem daunting: But not to worry.
The fact is that for Thanksgiving, wine selection is not as important as it might seem. For many, Thanksgiving is one of the only meals at which they drink wine at all, so finding the perfect choice is not important. My guiding principles for Thanksgiving is that “quantity has a quality all its own.” You won’t go wrong if you simply serve a medley of different wines and let the guests gulp what they want—most will select their next glass from whatever open bottle is closest to them.
For me and Elena, however, and a few of the true wine aficionados with snobby palates that hover around my pouring station, I always have a couple of special bottles squirreled away from which we can covertly refresh our glasses. For this year’s festivities we selected four wines—a light and a medium-bodied red and the same for the whites—to serve for those with more discerning palates. Because Thanksgiving is a classic American holiday, all the wines we are recommending this year are domestic. We think these are great choices for your festivities. A description of each follows.
The 2010 A to Z Pinot Gris (Oregon) leads with bright aromas of tropical fruits (lemon, lime, lychee, mango, passion fruit and kiwi) as well as melon, ginger, lemongrass and wet stone. Succulent and juicy on the attack, the mid-palate is drenched with peach, spiced pear, baked apple, quince, hibiscus, white flower and mineral flavors. On the finish, the acidity wraps up the wine with a clean, fresh palate and lasting impression of a wine with great purity and typically balanced by some richness and depth: $13.95.
The 2009 Picket Fence Chardonnay (California)
This richly textured wine has the backbone and balance one associates with Russian River Valley Chardonnays. Bright Meyer lemon notes and crisp apple with hints of succulent stone fruit mingle with the toasted oak components of caramelized brown spices, resulting in a rich, sensuous wine that coats the mouth with a long silky finish: $12.95.
The 2009 Picket Fence Pinot Noir
The challenge with Pinot Noir is to get enough extract from the grape skins without turning the wine into something too heavy and rustic. This wine has an elegant, pure fruit forward style with the brilliant intensity of rich mouthwatering Bing cherry, blackberry and spice. The luxurious density, beautiful structure and velvety texture on the palate are hallmarks of this vintage and make this wine a superlative example of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: $14.95.
2009 Liberty School Cuvee (California)
A sturdy, mostly Syrah blend, it’s filled with juicy fruit flavors and a touch of smoke. Smooth tannins add structure without the kung-fu grip of a behemoth cab. This was the #1 Thanksgiving wine recommendation in the November 2011 issue of Cooking Light magazine: $14.95.
Elena will have these open for sampling through T-Day, and she will be ready with several value wine recommendations as well. Have a great holiday.
The Salvalai Winery has been producing wine in Italy since 1870. In addition to the renowned and intense Ripasso and Amarone wines (both made from partially dried grapes), they also make several of the "classic" wines of the area. Elena has selected three of these, two reds and a white, to offer as a mix and match special for $80 a case, or $6.67 a bottle on case purchases. Here are the tasting notes on each of the wines she is featuring.
2010 Primitivo Flaio. Primitivo grapes are grown predominately in Southern Italy's Salento peninsula, the "heal" of the Italian boot. This cousin to Zinfandel is a lush medium-bodied red table wine with components of black berries and currant overtones. It has less alcohol (11.5%) than some of the California Zins that have become popular, but the flavor profile is very similar.
2010 Valpolicella. This wine region was named by the Ancient Romans for the great (and even more ancient) Etruscan wine cellars that they found there--hence "Valley of the Cellars," or Valpolicella. Made from 60% Corvina and 40% Ronclinella, it is a classic Valpolicella style wine with tones of ripe cherry, and a velvety, smooth texture on the palate. A little more light-bodied than the Primitivo above.
2010 Pinot Bianco. A bright, lively summertime wine from the Veneto region with a lovely bouquet and notes of apple and pear on the palate. Pleasing straw color and a hint of almond on the finish.
All varietals are on the rack at $7.75 a bottle, or $80 a case--$6.67 per bottle on case purchases! Elena will have one of each open for sampling until they sell out--which I suspect will be fairly quickly.
Last December, Elena did a mix-and-match email special on Firestone wines and it was hugely popular. After selling out at the special price in less than a week, the wines have continued to be popular at the regular retail price of $9.95.
Once again, we are able to offer all four varietals of Firestone wines (Cab, Merlot, Chard and Pinot Gris) at the same discounted price of $8.50 a bottle or $90 a case, which brings your bottle cost down to $7.50 on case purchases. This is a very, very good price for a wine of this quality. Tasting notes on each varietal follow:
The 2007 Firestone Merlot was aged in 91% French oak and 9% American oak for 19 months before bottling. The blend is 91% Merlot and 9% Syrah. A very fragrant wine, with notes of cherries, cola, sweet spices and mocha. The palate follows with flavors of Bing cherry, sweet tobacco and vanilla. Medium-bodied and silky, this Merlot finishes with mocha and spice notes.
The 2008 Firestone Cabernet is a blend of 76% Cab, 9% Cabernet Franc, 8% Syrah and 7% Petite Syrah. It also spends 19 months in oak before bottling. Deep ruby in color, the 2007 Cab has classic aromas of black plum and espresso. Flavors of black licorice, ripe plum and mocha are complimented by soft tannins and a plush "mouthfeel." The finish lingers with notes of sweet spice and smoke.
The 2009 Chardonnay is aged in stainless and offers a luscious medley of tropical fruits. The nose is a mix of citrus, papaya, grapefruit and clove-like spice. The flavors are rich and ripe with notes of yellow apple and pineapple. The finish is generous and balanced thanks to the fresh fruit flavors and lively acidity.
The 2009 Pinot Gris is aged in stainless and exhibits aromas of Asian pear and cinnamon with a hint of citrus and floral. On the palate, notes of ripe pears, stone fruits and green apples dominate with a bright and lingering minerality on the finish.
Elena will have a bottle of each open through the weekend (or as long as it lasts). Note this discounted price is limited to the wine on hand.
NextWine Tasting is June 17th, 6-8:00 pm.
For the past three years Elena has featured Salmon Creek Pinot Noir as an email special, and each year it has been enormously popular—selling over 50 cases each time in less than two weeks. We had been eager to try the new vintage with the hope that it would be as good as last year's, but were pleased to discover that the distributor is releasing their remaining allocation of last year’s (2008) vintage, which we (and many of you) already know to be outstanding.
The dominant flavor is ripe Bing cherries with notes of caramel. The texture is smooth and elegant with soft tannins and a long finish. Refreshing and satisfying by itself, the Salmon Creek is also pairs well with food. Light-bodied, with classic Pinot Noir flavors, it makes a perfect summertime red house wine. If you are planning any parties or family gatherings this summer, you might want to stock up on some of this to serve. We are having 22 people at our home this Sunday for Easter, and this is the only red wine that will be on the table with our fleur de lis ham (from Romano’s).
Historically, Salmon Creek wines are allocated specifically for hotels and restaurants where it sells for $6-8.00 a glass and $22-28 a bottle. The 2008 Salmon Creek Pinot Noir is a GREAT BARGAIN at the normal retail of $7.95, but Elena has decided to put it on special at $6.95 a bottle, or $72 a case--which brings your bottle cost down to $6 bucks on case purchases! This is an incredible wine for the price.
Elena will have a bottle open all this week so stop in and taste it. Even though we have a large inventory now, you can be sure it will sell out quickly at this price, so if you want to serve it over the summer, you will have to stock up now.
SAVE THE DATE: Our first wine tasting will be Sunday, May 1st, from 3-5:00 pm. Elena is still working on the wine list, but for sure I will be grilling lamb and chicken shish kabobs and roasted local asparagus. Hope you can make it!
March 2011. Last winter we featured the 2007 Cellar No. 8 Zinfandel as an email special, and had to deal with the wrath of the customers who missed out because the 30 cases we had sold out in 3 days. We had been waiting for the new vintage to be released, hoping that it would be as good as the 2007.
Last week we opened a bottle of the 2008 side-by-side with a bottle of the 2007 that I had squirreled away, and they were identical.
Here are the tasting notes from the producer: A classic California Zinfandel with intense notes of blackberry and spice on the nose and with juicy black cherry, black pepper and chocolate on the palate. Lush and concentrated, this wine has a long and complex finish, perfect wtih spicy foods.
While supplies last (which won't be for long), the 2008 Cellar No. 8 Zin is on special at $8.95 a bottle or $92 a case, which brings your bottle cost down to $7.67 on case purchases! This is a lovely wine for the price! On hand now, and Elena will keep a bottle open for sampling.
February 2011. This email is about a Malbec from Argentina's Mendoza region that Elena and I have been enjoying for a couple of months. The wine also has a large following among our customers at $9.95, which is not surprising because with red plums and blackberries on the palate, and a mouth-watering creaminess on the finish, it is outstanding!
The wine is sold by a company (called 90+ Cellars) that buys up excess cases of wines that have been awarded at least 90 points, and then sells them at a discounted price under its own label. Local distributors of these wines must agree not to reveal the source vineyard where they were produced as this would place the sales of the same wine under the vineyard's own label in jeopardy.
We were able to find out the maker of the previous 90+ wine we offered on special because the name of the vineyard was on the cork. For the Malbec we are featuring in this email, it took a little more sleuthing, but we have confirmed the producer. Here is the rating in Robert Parker's Wine Advocate # 192 (December 2010).
2009 Belasco de Baquedano Llama Malbec. A Dry Red Table Wine from Mendoza, Argentina. Purple color; spicy black fruit and floral aromas, supple, easygoing, with incipient complexity. 90 Points. Cost $15. Review by Jay Miller.
Elena has this Malbec on special for $8.95 a bottle, or $90 a case. Your bottle cost on case purchases is only $7.50. This is a real bargain for a bottle of wine that is this sophisticated. Sale is limited to supplies on hand.
January 2011. One of our last email special wines was Home Grown, a lovely California blend that Elena and I are still enjoying a couple of times a week. You may remember it as the “boots” wine because of the pair of work boots on the label. The winery also offered a promotion for free men’s and women’s t-shirts if you mailed them six corks. When I wrote the winery for procedures for getting the t-shirts (which they provided, and the shirts are cute) the winemaker recommended that we also try a wine from Valencia , Spain called Radio Boca. Seems that Home Grown is a 50% owner of this Spanish winery.
I’m sure you have heard of the Valencia region in Spain --famous for its oranges and paella. Well, you can add their wines to the list. This Tempranillo is terrific. A medium-bodied red, with hints of chocolate, cherry cola, and subtle raspberry flavors. The finish is round and soft, and lip-smackin’ delicious. It took us a while to track down the Radio Boca, and I believe we are the only retailer in Massachusetts that carries it—but we have bought quite a bit!
What do you think one should pay for a wine of this quality? The suggested retail price on this wine is $10 a bottle, which I think is a real bargain. Elena has it on special for $8.50 a bottle, but is selling cases at the hugely discounted price of $81 (which brings your bottle cost down to $6.75 on case purchases). This wine is perfect anytime, but I especially like it after a couple of hours of shoveling snow! Elena will have a bottle open daily while supplies last.
DECEMBER 2010 - RED WINE EMAIL SPECIAL
After reading about the Home Grown Family Harvest Red as a featured wine in the Boston Globe last year, we tried it, liked it, and featured it in an email special. It sold out in 5 days. This year's vintage is even better! (You may remember it by its nickname: "the boots wine," from the field boots on the label.)
The 2008 Home Grown Family Harvest Red is a California blend of Syrah, Barbera, and Petite Syrah that is grown in a vineyard of intermixed vines so that each varietal can add its own attributes and distinctive character to the final blend. The grapes do not all ripen at the same time, but are harvested together and the varying degrees of ripeness add a combination of plumpness and zip that give character and layers and make the final product extraordinary, We think this is a real winner. Here are the tasting notes:
Reminiscent of the hedonistic blends of Barbera and Nebbiolo from Italy's Piedmont, the 2008 Home Grown Harvest Red is both aromatic on the nose and plush on the palate. It offers up a rich aroma of blueberry, black cherry, cedar and mulberry. Better still: the wine's aromatic profile re-emerges on the palate with a flurry of flavor and just enough tannic-zip to frame the wine's juicy fruit.
Normal retail is $10.95, but by taking 35 cases (10 more than last year) for "cash on the barrel head," Elena was able to negotiate a super discount price and is offering it at $8.95 a bottle or $92 a case, which brings your bottle cost down to $7.66 on case purchases--a fabulous price for a wine of this quality!
She will have a bottle open through the weekend (or as long as it lasts).
WINES TO SERVE WITH YOUR THANKSGIVING BANQUET
Thanksgiving is an exceptionally festive time for many Americans, and our home is no exception. Grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins and children with grandchildren-in-tow all swoop in with high culinary expectations and ravenous appetites. We go through a lot of wine.
In fact, more wine is served on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year, and selecting a good choice for this special meal can seem daunting. Consider the cornucopia of food being served: e.g., cornbread stuffing, often seasoned with giblets or pork sausage (I am adding roasted chestnuts and walnuts to mine); sweet potatoes; yummy homemade gravy; and the ubiquitous tart cranberry sauce which makes just about anything taste better when liberally applied. (Try making your own this year using fresh cranberries and orange juice.)
Then their are the diverse palates of your guests: those beer and cosmopolitan drinkers, for example, who only partake of wine occasionally, and who don't know a red zin from a cab. I once had a cousin tell me that his favorite way to enjoy French red wine is on a dipped piece of crusty French bread. Really!
So rather than try to find the one or two "perfect" wines to serve, we usually offer four: two reds and two whites, making the event a mini-wine-tasting. Here are the wines we will be serving in our home this Thanksgiving.
The St. M 2009 German Riesling is made by famed winemaker Ernst Loosen on the Dr. Loosen estate in the Mosel region, directly north of Alsace. This is an elegant wine with pure, bright, crisp fruit flavors. The finish is refreshing and satisfying. It's medium-dry style and low-alcohol make it a perfect crowd pleaser. A great value at $11.95.
The 2009 Cattin Gewürztraminer is not a Grand Cru, but it is just as impeccable. Gewürztraminer grapes live in a pink skin but their flesh and juice are white. The bouquet is perfumed and intense, with notes of exotic fruit, roses and cinnamon. On the palate, there are layers of mango, passion fruit, ginger, flowers and spice. Another great value at $15.95 a bottle.
Raymond Vineyards 2007 Field Blend from Napa Valley is an enticing combo of merlot, syrah, petite syrah and zinfandel (et al.). This is a substantial wine, bountiful in flavors of blackberries, cherries, plums and spice, and held together with sleek, ripe tannins. Cost: $11.95.
Sean Minor Four Bears 2009 Pinot Noir is a delightful wine aged in French oak for 10 months. Lovely and classy, it is made from 100% pinot grapes and features dark cherry notes that mingle with hints of violets and baking spices. Wine Enthusiast awarded it 91 points. $17.95.
These are the wines you will find open at our house next Thursday. There are, of course, many other good choices. Stop in Elena's and let her help you select a wine that matches your menu, your personal likes and dislikes, and your budget.
I generally keep these emails brief, but to appreciate the particular wine we are featuring, you will need a little background.
Recently we came across a distributor with an outstanding portfolio of wines and an interesting business model. 90+Cellars is unusual because they are a virtual winery, meaning that they do not own any land or bottling facility. Instead, they buy up excess production from world class wineries with the stipulation that all the wines they purchase have to have a 90 or higher rating from a respected wine authority. They provide the winery with label and boxes, and the winery processes its wine with the 90+Cellars packaging. These are not distressed or “seconds,” but the same highly-rated, finished wine that the winery has produced and bottled and would normally sell under its own label.
Wineries are willing to work with 90+Cellars when they find they have produced more than they need for their market because 90+Cellars promises them complete anonymity—a provision they take very seriously. Though we have tried with several of their outstanding wines in the past, we have not been able to discover the actual producer.
Recently we tried a bottle of 90+Cellars 2007 100% Garnacha and found it outstanding. Like all the wines of 90+Cellars, the actual producer was supposed to be a secret but, in this case, the cork was clearly imprinted with the name of the winery that grew, produced and bottled the wine: Hacienda in Spain. We purchased a bottle of Hacienda’s 100% Garnacha and opened it side-by-side with the 90+Cellars: They are indeed exactly the same wine. Here are a couple of reviews of this wine under its original label.
2007 Hacienda Molleda Garnacha Carinena. ($13; from 100+ year old vines) Bright ruby. Strikingly fresh aromas of strawberry, raspberry and mineral, with a building floral quality adding interest. Energetic red berry flavors are complemented by tangy mineral and blood orange qualities, with very good back end lift and cut. The finish offers deeper cherry character but with no loss of energy. This is a great value. 90 Points, Steve Tanzer, International Wine Cellar.
2007 Hacienda Molleda Garnacha Carinena. (Review by Jay Miller) The purple-colored 2007 Hacienda Molleda is 100% Garnacha aged for six months in French oak. The nose reveals scents of fresh herbs, garrigue, and cherry. Plush on the palate, it has tons of sweet fruit leading to a smooth finish with no hard edges. Drink it over the next three years. Suggested retail $13. 89 Points. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate #181 (May 2009)
Elena bought all she could, which was no where near as much as she wanted, and has this yummy 100% Grenache on sale for $92 a case, which brings your bottle cost down to $7.67 on case purchases. This is an incredible bargain on a wine of this quality that normally retails for $13. Available on a first-come basis only—and don’t tell anyone the name of the producer! She will have a bottle open through the weekend—if it lasts that long.
After doing an email special a few months ago that invited customers to assort both white and red wine from the same vintner, we have had numerous requests to do this again. Truth is, it is not easy to find a winemaker whose different varietals we can recommend.
Our rule is that Elena and I both have to like a wine before she attempts to negotiate a bulk rate on it and offer it to her customers at a deep discount. Often when we both like a wine, the distributor is not willing to bargain, so although she usually stocks it in the store, we pass on offering it as a special.
While we do regularly agree on what we don't like, it is quite challenging to find a value wine that even one of us likes. Fact is, we struggle through a lot of plok trying to find good wines for under $10.
So you can just imagine how hard it is to find a winemaker whose different wines--both white and red, and both under $10--we both like!
Well we have found one. The Langty's Guenoc Valley vineyard in California, first planted by a flamboyant British theater actress, Lillie Langry, in 1888, is still making lovely wines, and we were ourselves delighted (and surprised) to find that we both liked all of them. Here is the description of the three (3) different varietals that you can assort as part of this special.
Chardonnay. Layers of complexity with only a hint of oak. Clean fruit forward flavors of peach and pear, and lovely aromas. The finish is bright and refreshing. Elena and I usually drink one glass of white wine each a day, but when we opened this one, we drank the entire bottle. A nice crowd-friendly white.
Petite Syrah. Good Petite Syrahs from California are characterized by dark fruit aromas on the nose--blueberry, blackberry, dark cherry--and chocolate and pralines on the palate. This one is no exception. If you like mocha overtones in your red wine, as I do, this one fills the bill.
Cabernet Sauvignon. Although young, this Cabernet is soft and smooth in the mouth. The aromas of Bing cherry are pronounced on the nose and carry over to the palate. The wine has a nice long satisfying finish. This was Elena's favorite; I preferred the Petite Syrah. We both liked the Chardonnay.
Cost? How about you can assort from all three varietals for $94 a case, which gets your bottle cost down to $7.83!!!
Perfect time to stock up on some guest-friendly wines for the holidays. Wine is scheduled for delivery today, October 29th. Elena will have all three opened through the weekend. She had to buy a truckload to get the price down this low, so sale is limited to supplies on hand.
We have been searching for a quality Zinfandel to feature as an email special for several months. The good ones we have tried have all been too pricey—until now. Last week finally found one that is both affordable and scrumptious.
The Ironstone 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel from the Lodi appellation in California is yummy. Actually, it is a blend of 91% Zin and 9% Petite Sirah, aged in French oak. The bouquet is dark fruit, and on the palate one gets the subtle pepper spice that is characteristic of good Zinfandels, along with flavors of blackberry, ripe plums and vibrant raspberries. The finish is smooth and silky with nice complexity and depth.
There were 28 cases available statewide, and Elena took all of them. The recommended retail is $10, but Elena has it on special at $8.95 a bottle or $92 a case, which gets your bottle cost down to $7.67 on case purchases. She will have a bottle open this week for you to try. You can be sure this wine will not last long.
The final wine tasting for 2010 will be Sunday, September 26th, from 4-6:00 pm. We will be serving grilled pork tenderloin, homemade Italian meatballs in a fresh tomato sauce (made from all local produce), smoked bluefish pate (caught in Newburyport and smoked in Lunenburg) and other goodies. Hope you can make it.
We try dozens of inexpensive wines before we find one we can recommend, and most of the ones we open to sample get poured down the sink. Not this one.
The 2009 Tarima from the Jumilla Region in Spain is made from 100% Monastrell (Mouvedre) grapes grown on 25-35 year old vines. This is a solid, medium-bodied Spanish red, with ripe blueberries and black licorice flavors. (Not a red cherry or a raspberry in site.)
Aged in stainless, it has luscious acidity and no tannins. Even though this is a true value wine, it will definitely improve if allowed to open up for 15-20 minutes before quaffing. We first tasted the wine right from our cellar (60 degrees), and we both noticed that after it warmed up to room temperature, the dark fruit and black licorice profile was more accessible on the palate. This is not a wine to be served chilled.
The Tarima is perfect for the summertime barbecue season. The recommended retail is $10, but by taking a large position on it, Elena is able to offer it at $8.95 a bottle or $88 a case, which gets your bottle cost down to $7.33 on case purchases. She will have a bottle open this week for you to try.
Many of you are familiar with Les Rials, a French white wine made from an ancient varietal--"Loin de L' Oeil" (Far from the Eyes). Some of you know the wine as "The Naked Lady Wine" because of the tastefully erotic drawing on the label (although I believe the image is pretty androgynous). Last year, for the third year in a row, Elena purchased 100 cases and still ran out before summer was over! A lot of customers have been asking when the new vintage will be available.
Last night Elena brought home a bottle of the new 2009 vintage, and we drank it side-by-side with a bottle of the excellent '08 from our cellar. We could not tell them apart.
The 2009 Les Rials is a scrumptious, round, medium-bodied wine with just the right amount of pear, apple, and citrus on the palate, and a long, satisfying, smooth finish.
Les Rials will again be our house white wine for the summer. It is perfect for barbecue’s, graduations, relaxing on the deck, or anything you might do outside on a hot summer day. But don't underestimate its quality--Les Rials is also sophisticated enough, and has a lovely enough presentation, to serve for your guests at dinner.
The first delivery arrives today (Wednesday, May 5th), and a second delivery is scheduled for mid-June. Many customers who have purchased this wine in the past have already reserved several cases.
Les Rials is $8.95 a bottle; on sale at $92 a case (which gets your bottle cost down to $7.67 on case purchases). If you haven't had this wine previously, you should definitely try a bottle--you won't want to miss a wine of this quality at this price.
For each of the past two years, Elena has featured Salmon Creek Pinot Noir as an email special, and it has been enormously popular. The 80 cases we had of the 2008 last spring sold out in a couple of weeks, and we have not been able to get anymore--until now!
Historically, Salmon Creek wines (they produce several varietals) were bottled specifically for the bar trade in hotels and restaurants where they sell for $6-8.00 a glass and $20+ a bottle. Distributors have limited their availability to the retail trade because before restaurants will agree to feature a wine on the menu, they want an assurance of its continued availability. Our distributor has decided to release what is left of the 2008 vintage before the 2009 arrives.
The dominant flavor is luscious, vibrant Bing cherries with notes of caramel. The texture is smooth and elegant with soft tannins and a long finish. Refreshing and satisfying by itself, the Salmon Creek Pinot Noir also pairs exceptionally well with food. This young, accessible, light to medium-bodied Pinot is a perfect, affordable, red house wine to drink through the summer. I recommend it to you enthusiastically and with no reservations whatsoever. If you are planning any kind of parties or family gatherings in the near future, you might want to stock up on some of this to serve. I am bringing several cases home myself.
Elena is offering the 2008 Salmon Creek Pinot Noir at the same price as last year: $6.95 a bottle, or $72 a case--which brings your bottle cost down to $6 bucks on case purchases! This is an incredible wine for the price.
Even though we have a large inventory now, you can be sure it will sell out quickly at this price. Bargains like this don't come around very often.
Elena and I both loved the 2007 Cellar No. 8 Zinfandel as soon as we tried it, and we decided it would make a great email special. The suggested retail, however, was $12 and we like to be able to offer our cyber-specials at under $10. Elena did manage to get the bottle cost down to $10 by taking in several cases at a time, and the wine quickly sold out at that price. The truth is that it tastes like a $20 bottle of wine!
The wine has not been rated (yet), but here is the write-up from the producer: This is a classic Zinfandel with intense notes of blackberry and briar on the nose. The palate offers jammy fruit character with white pepper and a hint of pipe tobacco. Big and concentrated, yet silky and inviting, this wine has soft tannins with a long, complex finish.
After much wrangling with the distributor, Elena was able to get an even better deal by agreeing to a large cash purchase (30 cases) and, as usual, she is passing on this savings to her customers.
While supplies last (which won't be for long), the 2007 Cellar No. 8 Zin is on special at $9.40 a bottle or $94 a case, which brings your bottle cost down to $7.83 on case purchases! You really don't want to miss out on this one. This is an incredible wine for this price! On had now, and Elena will keep a bottle open for sampling.
Only after spending a couple of weeks traveling in Portugal did we develop a real appreciation for their wines. Since then, we have stayed on the lookout for top quality Portuguese wines at everyday prices. We know they exist, but most are not imported to the U.S.
The 89 point 2007 Castello d'Alba Vinhos Douro Superior, however, is just the type of value we look for. The wine is a blend of grape varietals from the Douro Superior, which is the designation for the eastern part of the Douro Valley. Ruby red with ripe plumy character and elegant oak undertones, it is velvety and warm on the palate with a long intense finish. Last week's review in the November 30, 2009 Wine Spectator describes it this way:
A suave red, with well-defined crushed red fruit and berry flavor that are accented by bright minerally notes. Creamy, with luscious spice and hot stone notes on the juicy finish. Drink now through 2013. 15,000 cases made. 89 Points.
Elena was able to get 28 cases and 25 are on hand now on a first come basis--the other 3 are already in my basement.
The regular retail on this wine is $9.95, and Elena has it on special at $8.95 a bottle or $87 a case, which gets your bottle cost down to $7.25 on case purchases!
This is a great wine to have on hand to serve when company stops in over the holidays. Elena will have a bottle open for sampling this week.
Once a month the Boston Globe publishes an article titled "Plonk of the Month," featuring what they describe as several "high-value wines for under $12." We usually try them but have not always agreed with the Globe's assessment and when we do, the wine is almost always "no longer available."
Early last month we tried the Campos Reales La Mancha 2008 Tempranillo from Spain and thought it had great potential to be an email special. The wine had received 88 points from International Wine Cellar and 87 points from the Wine Advocate, and the write up agreed with our own assessment. Here is the one from the Advocate: "The Campos Reales 2008 has extremely fresh aromas of crushed red cherries that become ripe, juicy, tart red cherries on the palate. The wine's crisp fruit has a clean character with good depth and the tannins are firm before a solid finish. This is quite a nice surprise at the price point."
We immediately called the distributor and negotiated a substantial quantity discount on 30 cases planning to feature it as an email special in September. Two weeks later, on August 26th, the same wine was featured in the Boston Globe as a pick for "plonk of the month." The Globe write up says "Deeply colored with spicy, briary red fruit; a little fuller style but still refreshing. Around $9."
Although we have been told in no uncertain terms that "all deals are off" on any future orders, our distributor is honoring the deal we negotiated prior to the Globe article, and we are passing that saving on to you.
Normal retail on this wine is $9 bucks. Elena has it on special for $7.95 a bottle or $78 a case, which brings your bottle cost down to $6.50 on case purchases! Not bad, huh? First come, first served, while supplies last. Elena will have a bottle open for sampling this coming weekend.
We do four wine tasting a year--two on Friday evenings in the summer, and one each in the spring and fall on Sunday afternoons. Our last event of the year will be Sunday, October 4th, from 3-5:00 pm. Elena is still wrestling with the wines, but I have decided to tackle Julia Child's recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon, and am leaning toward doing Tandoori Chicken as well. You won't want to miss this!
During the warm summer months we are generally looking for values in white and light-bodied red wines to recommend to our customers. When we came across a big, lusty red wine from Portugal a couple of weeks ago, we decided to make an exception. Wine critic Lisa Airey likened this red from Portugal to an Italian Amarone because of the ultra-concentration of fruit. (You will recall that Amarones are made by letting the ripe grapes dry out on screens before being crushed in order to concentrate the juice.) We think her analogy
is right on target.
The 2006 Sociedad Agricola do Casal de Tonda Quinta dos Grilos from Dao, Portugal is a big, full-bodied, jammy red wine just bursting with dark, ripe cherry flavor. Here is the write-up from Ms Airey:
This wine is almost Amarone-like in its density of sun-dried cherry fruit. Produced only in good years from this co-op, the wine positively jumps out of the glass. No wonder they call it "Grilos" or "Crickets." If you like Amarone but don't like the $60-80 price tag, theis wine's for you. It's excellent. It hails from the Dao, a sub-region of Beiras. A blend of Touriga Nacional and Alfrochiero, this wine is uber-concentrated, positively stunning and cellar-worthy at $13.99! If you are looking for the next great grape frontier, go to Portugal!
Elena would normally retail this wine is $12, but she was able to negotiate a big discount by taking a large position, and she is putting the wine on special at $11 a bottle or $107 a case, which brings yourbottle cost down to $8.91 on case purchases! You will definitely want to try before you buy, because unless you have been drinking Amarones at $60+ a bottle, this wine will be a different profile than what you are used to. Avialable now while supplies last.
In Europe, rosé wines are fashionable and widely consumed, especially during the summer. In fact, more rosé is consumed in France than white wine. In the U.S., however, sweet supermarket wines, such as White Zinfandel, have soiled the market for high quality rosés. Too bad, because a good rosé can be a perfect choice for warm weather.
We have never featured a rosé in our email specials, but we found one from the Tuscan Region of Italy this past weekend that is too extraordinary to let pass. This 2008 Poggerissi Rosato di Toscana is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes, and it is just lovely.
A wine’s color comes from the skins, not the juice, and for rosé wines, the color is a lighter shade of red because the skins are removed from the juice after a very short period. Nevertheless, Rosés are all made from red grapes. Here are the comments on our latest recommendation from the importer:
Produced from 100% Sangiovese, the skins are removed from the must after several hours of cold maceration. The nose is intensely floral and fruity with blackberry and wild berry notes. It is medium bodied with lively acidity balanced by good smoothness and a slight but well integrated hint of sweetness of the finish. Serve slightly chilled (50-55 F)
The wine is due in on Thursday, July 30th. This is a perfect summertime “red” wine, and quantities are limited, so stop in and sample a glass this week. A great bargain at $8.95 a bottle or $88 a case--bottle cost of $7.33 on case purchases!
In keeping with our ongoing efforts to offer value wines that drink well, we have gone back to the well to offer a lovely Tuscan Sangiovese that we featured (and sold out of) in 2008.
The Toscana Region of Italy (Tuscany) is famous for Chianti, which is made primarily from Sangiovese grapes but is usually blended with other "lesser" varietals. The 2007 Fulignano di Silla Domenico is 100% Sangiovese.
The grapes are grown and the wine made by the Salvatore family in a small family-owned vineyard. The scion, Vieri Salvatore, departed Italy prior to World War II and moved his family to New York, but they maintained ownership of their vineyards, which had been in the family since 1743. After living and teaching in New York for many years, he first moved to Paris and then back to Italy to return to the family business of making quality wine on his beautiful Tuscan estate. Here is the skivvy on the wine.
Producer: Azienda Agricola Fulignano di Silla Domenico (Artisanal Vineyard)
Wine & Year: Sangiovese di Toscano 2007
Total Production: 500 cases
"This Estate grown and bottled 100% Sangiovese is far more serious and complex than the modest price would suggest. The grapes for the 2007 vintage were harvested under perfect conditions after having ripened slowly and evenly during the growing season. This Sangiovese is medium-bodied, with an intense ruby red color. On the nose it is redolent of dark berry fruit, spice and cherries. On the palate the wine is smooth, supple and beautifully layered with fine tanins and a smooth texture. It has surprising strength, style and elegance, and a long berry-tinged, satisfying finish".
Normal retail on the Fulignano Sangiovese is $9.95, but Elena has it on special at $8.95 a bottle or $88 a case, while supplies last. Your bottle cost on case purchases will be $7.33! Price limited to quantities on hand.
The Ancient Vines Zinfandel by Cline Cellars has been our best selling Zinfandel for the past six (6) years. The wine is produced from 100 year-old grapevines grown in the Oakley vineyards in California , and consistently gets 90+ point ratings from the Wine Spectator and/or Wine Enthusiast.
The 2007 vintage has not been rated yet (the 2006 received 90 points from Wine
Spectator), but we have tried it, and it is lip-smackin’ good. Here are the notes from the winemaker:
“The 2007 Ancient Vines Zinfandel shows wonderful dusty raspberry, blackberry, white pepper and spice, with coffee and chocolate characters. Ripe fruit and soft tannins make this a mouth-coating rich vintage. Aging in new and used wood has lent this wine a subtle vanilla quality that nicely complements the explosive fruit notes.”
Even though summer doesn’t officially start until June 21st, Memorial Day weekend is the “unofficial” New England start date for cooking outside on the barbecue—a sure sign that we have at last wriggled free from the cold shreds of the scurf of spring.
We believe that the 2007 Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel is a perfect choice to serve with your foods cooked outdoors. The wine is extremely versatile and approachable, and the robust berry flavors and spicy qualities will pair well with meats and poultry hot off the grill. A few bottles might also make a nice Father’s Day gift.
The retail on this fine wine has remained consistently at $14.95 for several years, but we able to offer the 2007 on special at $13.95 a bottle or $142 a case, which brings your bottle cost down to $11.83 on case purchases. As an added bonus, limited amounts of the 2007 were released in heavy duty wooden cases which, of course, we have for out entire stock. We had to make a one-time purchase of a large quantity to be able to offer this bargain, so the discounted price is limited to supplies on hand.
APRIL 2009 Email Special--Les Rials 2008
Many of you are familiar with Les Rials, a French white wine made from an ancient varietal--"Loin de L' Oeil" (Far from the Eyes). Some of you know the wine as "The Naked Lady Wine" because of the tastefully erotic drawing on the label. We have carried this wine for the past several summers , and it has sold out each year. Last year we purchased 100 cases, and we still ran out before summer was over!
Last week Elena brought home a bottle of the new 2008 vintage, and we drank it side-by-side with a bottle of the excellent '07 from our cellar. Without question, the '08 was every bit as good.
The 2008 Les Rials is a scrumptious, round, medium-bodied wine with just the right amount of pear, apple, and citrus on the palate, and a long, satisfying, smooth finish.
Les Rials will again be our house white wine for the summer. It is perfect for barbecue’s, graduations, relaxing on the deck, or anything you might do outside on a hot summer day. But don't underestimate its quality--Les Rials is also sophisticated enough, and has a lovely enough presentation, to serve for your guests at dinner.
We are ordering all the cases that the distributor will allow, but I am still certain it will sell out again this year, just as it has in the past. The first delivery is due in today with a second delivery scheduled for June.
Les Rials is $8.95 a bottle; on sale at $92 a case (which gets your bottle cost down to $7.67 on case purchases). If you haven't had this wine previously, you should definitely try a bottle--you won't want to miss a wine of this quality at this price.
On another note, Elena is planning a wine tasting on Sunday, May 3th, from 3-5:00 pm. We are still working on the wine list, but you can be sure it will be impressive. We will also have a nice array of gourmet foods—one of which will be Traditional Spanish Paella. Cost is $15. Be sure to save the date.
MARCH 2009 Email Special—2008 Salmon Creek Pinot Noir
Last June Elena featured the 2007 Salmon Creek Pinot Noir as an email special, and it was enormously successful--the 80 cases we had sold out in a couple of weeks. We had been eager to try the new vintage with the hope that it would be as good as last year's.
We have tried it, and it is just as scrumptious.
Historically, Salmon Creek wines are bottled specifically for hotels and restaurants where they sell for $6-8.00 a glass and $22-28 a bottle. Last year was the first time some was allocated to the retail trade, and we took all we could get.
The dominant flavor is dark, ripe Bing cherries with notes of caramel. The texture is smooth and elegant with soft tannins and a long finish. Refreshing and satisfying by itself, the Salmon Creek would also make a nice accompaniment to food. This light to medium-bodied Pinot is a perfect summertime red house wine, and I can recommend it to you enthusiastically and with no reservations whatsoever. If you are planning any kind of parties or family gatherings this summer, you might want to stock up on some of this to serve. I am bringing several cases home myself.
The 2008 Salmon Creek Pinot Noir is a GREAT BARGAIN at the normal retail of $7.95, but Elena has decided to put it on special at $6.95 a bottle, or $72 a case--which brings your bottle cost down to $6 bucks on case purchases! This is an incredible wine for the price.
Elena will have a bottle open all this week so stop in and taste it. Even though we have a large inventory now, you can be sure it will sell out quickly at this price, so if you want to serve it over the summer, you will have to stock up now. Bargains like this don't come around very often.
January 2008 Email Special -- 2007 Vina Borgia Campo de Borja from Spain
I love it when we find an elegant, sophisticated table wine that we can offer at a deeply discounted price (especially with the economy struggling like it is) The 2007 Vina Borgia Campo de Borja Grenache is just such a red wine.
The current vintage has not been rated yet (it was just released), but here is what Parker's Wine Advocate said about the 2005:
It is remarkable that the 2005 Vina Borgia (100% Grenache) can be this good for this price. From a vineyard planed at a 1,200 foot elevation in limestone soils, and fermented and aged in stainless steel, it offers lovely strawberry and kirsch notes, medium body, and loads of fruit in a straightforward, delicious, savory style. It is the type of wine consumers should be buying by the case. Robert Parker, August 2006.
On first tasting the 2007 Vina Borgia from Spain, we could not believe the superb quality for the price. To validate our initial assessment, we sampled bottles three nights in a row, and can now say with absolute confidence that this wine is the real deal. I would not be surprised to see it rated at 90 points later this year. This is truly a scrumptious wine.
The 2007 Vina Borgia is a GREAT VALUE at the suggested retail of $7.95. It is a steal at Elena's special price of $6.95 a bottle, or $72 a case, which takes your bottle cost down to six bucks on case purchases. She ordered a truckload to get this price, but you should not wait too long because if it gets rated, its availability will disappear overnight.
Elena will have a bottle open in the store through the week if you would like to try it before deciding.
December 2008 Email Special – Sangiovese di Toscano
The Toscana Region of Italy (Tuscany) is famous for Chianti, which is made primarily from Sangiovese grapes but is usually blended with other "lesser" varietals. Two years ago we featured a lovely 100% Sangiovese from a small family-owned vineyard located just outside the tiny, medieval Tuscan town of Monterigioni. We purchased the distributor's entire inventory and sold out in just a few days. I am sure those of you who were lucky enough to get in on the sale will remember it fondly, and some of you who missed out because it was gone in a matter of days may remember it as well, albeit less fondly.
Last year the quality wasn't quite there, so we passed on it, but the 2007 vintage was just released, we tried some this past weekend, and it is a great value. Here is the info and a description from the producer:
Producer: Azienda Agricola Fulignano di Silla Domenico (Artisanal Vineyard)
Wine & Year: Sangiovese di Toscano 2007
Total Production: 500 cases
"This Estate grown and bottled 100% Sangiovese is far more serious and complex than the modest price would suggest. The grapes for the 2007 vintage were harvested under perfect conditions after having ripened slowly and evenly during the growing season. This Sangiovese is medium-bodied, with an intense ruby red color. On the nose it is redolent of dark berry fruit, spice and cherries. On the palate the wine is smooth, supple and beautifully layered with fine tanins and a smooth texture. It has surprising strength, style and elegance, and a long berry-tinged, satisfying finish".
Normal retail on the Fulignano Sangiovese is $11, but Elena will put it on special at $9.95 a bottle or $88 a case, while supplies last. Your bottle cost on case purchases will be $7.33! A perfect value wine to serve guests over the holiday and even to give as gifts,(although you might enjoy it so much you will want to keep it for yourself).
We had to order such a large quantity to be able to offer it at this price, that it is being delivered in 3 shipments between now and Christmas--the first one arriving tomorrow (Thursday). You can be sure it will be all gone before the holidays.
Be sure to stop in and check out Elena's holiday gift ideas starting at $20 and up!
WINES FOR THANKSGIVING
More wine is served in America on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year, and selecting a good choice for this special meal can be challenging for a couple of reasons.
First, there is the cornucopia of foods that traditionally find a spot on the table, such as winter squash; cornbread stuffing, often seasoned with giblets or pork sausage; sweet potatoes or yams; and copious amounts of tart cranberry sauce for slathering over the dry turkey breast meat.
Second, the palates of your diners will likely be as diverse as the food. Auntie Abigail and Uncle Henry are probably not as discriminating about the juice they sip once or twice a year as you and your spouse are. No sense in serving an expensive French Burgundy to those who will likely add a little water to "soften" it some.
Here are a couple of our personal, affordable red and white favorites that are certain to be big hits at your table:
White Selections for T-Day.
Dr. L Riesling. Rieslings are wonderfully versatile wines that pair well with a wide variety of food, and this particular one is a pleasure to recommend. I just love it. Here is the write up from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "Loosen's 2006 Riesling 'Dr. L.' smells sweetly of white peach and honeysuckle, combines subtle creaminess of texture with juicy peach, lime, and tangerine, and lays out a satisfying rich yet delicate and invigorating finish. Terrific Value!" (Ernest Loosen was named Winemaker of the year by Decanter Magazine.) A great value at $11.95
Gewürztraminer. Gewürztraminer grapes are pink but their flesh and juice are white. The bouquet is perfumed and intense, with notes of exotic fruit, roses, and cinnamon. On the palate, spice is the classic characteristic of Gewürztraminers. The wine is often slightly off-dry, which means it will appeal to both your sophisticated wine guzzlers, as well as to Aunt Abigail and Cousin Billy Bob who only quaff wine when they come to your house. Gewürztraminer is also a highly versatile varietal, and many consider this the best wine to serve with turkey. Two years ago, we featured a young Gewürztraminer from Alexander Valley Vineyards called New Gewurz, and sold out before Thanksgiving. We passed on it last year, but this year the quality is back. Here is the write-up from the winemaker:
"Bright fruit flavors of pear, lychee and a bit of spice. Produced exclusively from organically grown grapes in vineyards that have been 100% organically farmed for over 30 years." A great value at $9.95 a bottle.
Red Selections for T-Day.
Villa Pillo, 2006 Toscana Borgoforte. A luscious blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Italy. Here is the write up from the September issue of Wine Spectator. "An aromatic red blend, with blackberry, black cherry and licorice flavors. Full-bodied, with firm, silky tannins and a long finish. Gorgeous! 92 points." This is a very limited production wine. We tried to place a large order so we could offer it as a special, but what is not already sold out is allocated to high end restaurants. We were lucky to get a few cases to feature for Thanksgiving. A superb value at $12.95.
Pinot Noir. French red Burgundy, which is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, is one of the most sought-after wines in the galaxy, buy they are often too pricey for my Joe-the-Plumber budget. Fortunately, there are a number of domestic and New World vineyards producing Pinot Noirs, and some are outstanding. Light to medium-bodied, a good Pinot Noir can both complement your turkey and hold its own to the many side dishes that accompany it. Elena has a number of 100% Pinot Noirs at different price points to choose from. The most affordable is the 2006 Terra Andina from Chile. This Pinot Noir already has a large following among our customers, and at $11.95 it is a real bargain. A higher-end alternative is the delicious 2006 Paraiso from Monterey County,California, which retails for 24.95. Finally, if you really want to impress, try the 2003 Emily's Cuvee from Sonoma Valley, a scrumptuous wine for $38. (The 2004 Emily's Cuvee got 93 points from Wine Spectator and was #54 on the list of the top 100 wines in the world for 2006. We may be the only retailer in the state with a few bottles of this left in stock--only 1500 cases were made.)
These are our recommendations for Thanksgiving. We left off Beaujolais this year because the price on the better ones has become exhorberant. Even though we only provide a range of alternative prices for the Pinot Noirs, Elena has a wide price range for each of these recommended varietals. Of course, there are also many other good varietals that will work just fine. The best rule of thumb when choosing a wine for any occasion is to drink what you enjoy. Feel free to stop in Elena's and let her help you select a wine that matches your menu, your personal likes and dislikes, and your budget.
OCTOBER 2008 EMAIL SPECIAL -- 2006 RAZOR'S EDGE SHIRAZ - GRENACHE BLEND
Last year we did an email special on Razor's Edge Shiraz, a yummy, fruit-bomb red and sold through 100 cases in about two weeks. Like many good Australian wines these days, it came with a screw cap and it was a terrific bargain.
But an even better steal was the Razor's Edge Shiraz--Grenache blend, which was a much smaller production and sold out even before we had a chance to taste it. The professionals rated it an outstanding "best buy" but by that time, there was none available for us to even try it.
So this year we took a chance and, a few months in advance, pre-brought (untasted) 15 cases of the 2006 Razor's Edge Shiraz--Grenache blend. Subsequently, Wine Spectator gave it the following rating:
"Razor's Edge, 2006 Shiraz--Grenache, McLaren Vale Australia. 91 Points. Polished, round and expressive. A gorgeous mouthfeel of ripe blackberry, plum, cherry and spices with hints of leather and brown sugar. The finish rolls on and on."
It arrived last week and it is every bit as good as the press. (Well I could not find the brown sugar, but everything else in this description is right on target.) The blend perfectly combines the opulent fruit of the Shiraz with the spice and structure of the Grenache. We immediately tried to get more but, like last year, it is completely sold out nationwide.
Bottle price is $12.95. We are offering it at a case discount of $129, which translates to $10.75 a bottle on case purchases. On hand now on strictly a first come, first served basis. Unfortunately we can not take email/phone reservations for this wine.
BTW, The winemakers describe their philosophy thus: "The Razor's Edge, the thin line representing a perfect balance between extremes. It is here that our wines can be found, perfectly combining quality and value, complexity and approachability, body and elegance, regional character and purity of flavor. Razor's Edge wines not only walk the line, they dance upon it. The Razor's Edge is harmony." Perhaps there is a touch of hyperbole in this description, but as the Lunenburg Chairman of the Board of Selectman (Tom Alonzo) puts it, "Hyperbole is not just an art form, it is the highest art form." This is one great hyperbolic wine
SEPTEMBER 2008 EMAIL SPECIAL -- 2007 PASCUAL TOSO MALBEC
Last January we did an email special on the 1996 Pascual Toso Malbec from Mendoza Valley in Argentina . The wine had received a 91 point rating from Wine Enthusiast and later was selected as the magazine’s #1 Best Buy of the Year! Here is last year’s write up:
91 Pascual Toso 2006 Maipu Vineyards Malbec (Mendoza); $12. This wine is the rare BEST BUY that can swim with the big fish and give them a run for the money. Pop the cork and enjoy lusty aromas of Turkish tobacco and berry compote. In the mouth, there's a riot of fruit flavors followed by a smooth, generous finish. Excellent at any price, but a world-class value.
The new vintage (2007) was just released and it is more bold, lush and intense than the 2006, which sold out. The 07 has not been rated yet (last year the 06 was rated in January), but we believe when it is rated, it will score at least as high as the 2006, probably even higher--it is a better wine!
The recommended retail on this wine is $12 a bottle, and you will see it at many locations for one or two dollars more. Elena has taken a very big position on the new vintage so she can offer it at the same price as last year--$9.95 a bottle or $100 a case (which gets your bottle cost down to $8.33 on case purchases!)
For the next two weekends, Elena will have bottles of both the 2006 (snitched from my own private stash) and the 2007 open in the store so you can try then side-by-side and see for yourself the improvement in the newer vintage. I am confident that after you try it, you will want to have some of this luscious wine squirreled away under your cupboard for the holidays.
If you would like Elena to hold your wine past 7 days, please call her with your credit card number
AUGUST 2008 EMAIL SPECIAL -- INKBERRY SHIRAZ-CAB BLEND
The last few wines we have featured on our email specials might be categorized as summertime "value wines," but now that the little taste of summer sunshine we enjoyed these past months has already started to wane into autumn, it is time to start seeking out some meatier juice.
The 2006 Inkberry blend of 60% Shiraz and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon fits the bill perfectly. This is the first vintage from this winery and, when it gets rated, I am sure it will sell out in a couple of weeks. I also believe that next year's vintage of this wine will retail for well over $20. Only 380 barrels of the 2006 were produced.
The bouquet opens with aromas of ripe currants, and on the palate one finds red plums, mulberries, spice and a touch of cocoa. The tannins are soft and there is just the right amount of mouth watering acidity. All in all, an absolutely superb wine with layers of rich fruit and a long satisfying finish that could easily retail for over $25 a bottle. Like many of the better wines now coming out of Australia, the Inkberry comes with a screw cap instead of a cork.
The suggested retail on this wine is $19.95 (Elena has been selling it at $17.95), but when a representative from the winery stopped in the store along with the Massachusetts distributor last week, Elena was able to negotiate a special deal. This was only possible because, trusting her palate, she was willing to commit to a very large position on a wine that is unknown to the market, and also pay for it up front. We have been drinking it for the past two nights and it is just fabulous!
While the current inventory lasts, the 2006 Inkberry will be on sale for $14.95 a bottle, with a special case price of $150. Your bottle cost on case purchases comes down to $12.50! This yummy price is limited to current inventory.
Not only is this wine perfect to serve with dinner this fall, but it also is worth squirreling a few bottles away to serve during the high holidays in November and December. This is a terrific wine!
JULY EMAIL SPECIAL--QUINTA DA ALORNA
Two years ago, Elena and I spent 10 delightful days in Portugal sightseeing and sampling local wines. The small villages were charming, the people friendly and the unfamiliar grape varietals were an education in new flavors. And we found some real bargains, one of which was the Quinta Da Alorna, from the Ribatejo region, which Elena has carried ever since (although the price has been creeping up as the value of the dollar has decreased)..
Last week we tried the newly released 2006 vintage, and it is by far the best one yet.
The 2006 Quinta Da Alorna is a unique blend of Tinta Roriz, Castelao, Syrah and Alicante Bouschets grapes. This is an impressive, new-world style, fruit-forward wine with luscious, pronounced flavors of vanilla, black raspberry and dark cherry. The tannins are soft and the finish lingers on and on.
The regular retail on the Quinta Da Alorna is $10.95 a bottle, but Elena has negotiated a large quantity discount on this new vintage and is offering it at $9.95 a bottle or $99 a case on a first come basis. Note that your bottle cost on case purchases is only $8.25. This deeply discounted price is for the current inventory only, which I expect to last about a week.
MAY EMAIL SPECIAL --SALMON CREEK PINOT NOIR
While most of our efforts to find great quality value wines to recommend for our customers come to naught, periodically we find a real gem. The 2007 Salmon Creek Pinot Noir from Sonoma definitely is one of them.
Salmon Creek wines are bottled specifically for hotels and restaurants where they sell for $6-8.00 a glass and $22-28 a bottle. Of all of their varietals, however, only the Pinot Noir is especially outstanding.
The dominant flavor is dark, ripe Bing cherries with notes of caramel. The texture is smooth and elegant with soft tannins and a long finish. Refreshing and satisfying by itself, the Salmon Creek would also make a nice accompaniment to food. This light to medium-bodied Pinot is a perfect summertime red house wine, and I can recommend it to you enthusiastically and with no reservations whatsoever.
Elena took a very large position on it to be able to offer it $7.95 a bottle or $76 a case. The deeply discounted case price brings your bottle cost down to $6.33. We have limited space to store a delivery this large, so the $76 case price is offered on a first come basis only. This is an incredible wine for the price.
Elena will have a bottle open all this week so stop in and taste it. Even though we have a large inventory now, you can be sure it will sell out quickly at this price, so if you want to serve it over the summer, you will have to stock up now. Bargains like this don't come around very often, and when this delivery sells out, it will be out of stock for the rest of the year. We purchased every available case.
SPRING EMAIL SPECIAL - LES RIALS
Many of you are familiar with Les Rials, a French wine made from an ancient white varietal--"Loin de L' Oeil" (Far from the Eyes)--that has pretty much fallen into oblivion. (Some of you know the wine as "The Naked Lady Wine" because of the tastefully erotic drawing on the label.) We carried this wine for 4 of the past 5 years (we passed on the 2004), and it has sold out each time we offered it. Last year we purchased 100 cases, and we still ran out well before summer was over!
Last week Elena brought home a bottle of the new 2007 vintage, and we drank it side-by-side with a bottle of the excellent '06 from our cellar. Without question, the '07 was even better--in fact, this is the best vintage of Les Rials we have ever had. The 2007 Les Rials is scrumptious, with just the right amount of pear, apple, and citrus on the palate, and a long, satisfying, smooth finish.
Just like last year, Les Rials will be our house white wine for the summer. It is perfect for barbeque's, graduations, relaxing on the deck, or anything you might do outside on a hot summer day. But it is also sophisticated enough, and and has a lovely enough presentation, to serve for your guests at dinner.
Numerous customers have reserved multiple cases to stockpile for the summer, so I am certain it will sell out again this year. Right now, however, the first delivery is on hand with a second delivery scheduled for June.
Les Rials is $8.99 a bottle; on sale at $92 a case (which gets your bottle cost down to $7.67 on case purchases). If you haven't had this wine previously, you should definitely try a bottle--you won't want to miss a wine of this quality at this price.
APRIL EMAIL SPECIAL -- SPANISH MERLOT
When Elena and I first tasted the Finca Antigua 2004 Merlot at the Monument Grill in Leominster last summer, we both loved it and wanted to do an email special on the wine right away. We have had great success with Tempranillos from the La Mancha region in Spain, but this is the first Merlot that we found worth recommending. Unfortunately, there were limited quantities available, and the price was prohibitive.
Last week, when Elena came across an opportunity to get a large volume of the same 2004 at a nice discount, she did not hesitate. Here is the write up:
The Finca Antigua 2004 Merlot is a beautifully nuanced red wine with a floral and fruity nose. The palate is silky with fine tannins, good acidity, plump summer fruit and a touch of spice on the finish. This juicy red from La Mancha is a fantastic value, and a fine example of the new wave of Spanish wines. Soft enough to drink on its own, but big enough to serve with meat dishes or cheese.
On sale now at $9.95 a bottle or $100 a case, while supplies last. Elena will have bottle open through the weekend for those who would like to try some.
Addendum: The La Mancha region in Spain is famous as the home of Cervantes' Don Quixote, a.k.a "The Man from La Mancha," first published in 1605. In one delightfully hilarious scene, we find the intrepid but illusional knight errant dressed in his underwear in a boarding house and engaged in "the thick of the most stubborn and fiercest battle" against a giant monster. As the landlord soon discovers when copious amounts of "blood" start pouring down the hallway, the "monster" that Don Quixote is slashing with his sword is nothing more than several large skins full of red wine stored in his room. I can't drink a red from La Mancha without recalling this scene.
MARCH EMAIL SPECIAL -- VALUE PINOT NOIR
Pinot Noir is a versatile varietal that pairs well with a variety of main dishes. Elena and I often serve it with dinner on holidays, especially Easter. Other than special occasions, however, we seldom drink Pinot Noirs because our experience has been that the good ones are expensive, and the inexpensive ones are not good. We just don't think of it as an everyday wine because of the price.
This week, however, we tried a value pinot noir from Chile that is an exception to this dictum. Some of you will recall that we featured a Chardonnay by this same producer (Terra Andina) several months ago (it quickly sold out) and we can now recommend their newly released vintage of Pinot Noir, not just as a wine to serve at Easter, but as a great dinner wine for any occasion. It is an exceptional bargain. Here is the write up.
Producer: Terra Andina
Wine & Year: Reserva Pinot Noir 2006
Country/Region: Chile/Central Valley
Description/Notes: The bouquet is subtle with a complex combination raspberry and violets. On the palate it is medium-bodied with a soft velvety texture, flavors of dark cherry and vanilla, and a round and elegant finish that has just a hint of licorice. Recommended retail $13.
The regular price for this wine is $12.95. We are offering it at $11.95 a bottle or $120 a case, while supplies last. Your bottle cost on case purchases is ten bucks! It really is highly unusual to find a Pinot Noir of this quality at this price--this is the first time for me!
Elena will have a bottle open in the store the next couple of weeks if you want to try it. BTW, consider decanting this wine 30 minutes before serving. I just love it!
FEBRUARY EMAIL SPECIAL
Our search for great value wines is ongoing, and generally frustrating. When we finally find one that we believe is exceptional, we try to negotiate a deep discount by purchasing a large quantity--usually 50-100 cases--so we can feature it as an email special and offer to our customers at a big discount, but that is not always possible. History shows that we are only successful about 5 or 6 times a year.
Last week (thanks to an inside tip about a huge purchase of this wine by Trader Joe's) we found a scrumptuous Shiraz that we can recommend enthusiastically.
The Block 50 Shiraz from Orange, Australia is a wonderfully balanced, medium to light-bodied wine with vibrant berry flavors and a lovely balanced finish. Most prominent, however, are the unmistakable spice and mild white pepper undertones right up-front on the attack.
Trader Joe's has taken a significant position on this wine and is featuring it at $6.95 a bottle.
Shiraz is a different style wine than those we have featured recently, and if you have not tried one, the Block 50 is a good place to start. This wine's characteristics may be a little different than what you are used to, but they are pleasant and very engaging, and this wine is an incredible bargain at the price.
We can't match Trader Joe's price of $6.95 for single bottles, but we can beat it on case purchases. The 2005 Block 50 Shiraz, on sale at $7.95 a bottle, or $78 a case, while supplies last. Your bottle cost on case purchases comes in at $6.50!
The first part of our order was delivered Friday, February 22nd. Elena will have some open for those who want to try it. Bargains like this do not come around very often.
Great Value Wine -- 91 Points!
The Pascual Toso Malbec from the Maipu Vineyards in Mendoza Valley (Argentina) consistently has been a good bargain for several years, even though the price has crept up to $12 a bottle. For the past two nights we have opened a bottle of the newly arrived 2006, and we believe it is by far the best vintage yet! When we called to order some this morning, the distributor mentioned that the new vintage has already been reviewed and awarded 91 points by the Wine Enthusiast. Here is the write up:
91 Pascual Toso 2006 Maipu Vineyards Malbec (Mendoza); $12. Several years ago, when the Californian Paul Hobbs began consulting for Toso, things quickly changed for the better. This wine is the rare BEST BUY that can swim with the big fish and give them a run for the money. Pop the cork and enjoy lusty aromas of Turkish tobacco and berry compote. In the mouth, there's a riot of fruit flavors followed by a smooth, generous finish. Excellent at any price, but a world-class value. M.S.
We very much wanted to feature this wine to our customers at a bargain price, so Elena moved quickly and negotiated a deep discount on a large order--so large that because of space restrictions, it will arrive in two deliveries. The first delivery is scheduled for tomorrow (Friday, January 25th) and the second one a week later.
Your price: $9.95 a bottle or $100 a case, which means that your bottle cost on case purchases will be $8.33--not too bad for a 91 point wine. This wine is an incredible bargain at this price!
As you know, the store is quite small, and we have no choice but to limit the time we can store reserved cases. If you would like us to hold something for longer than 7 days, please call Elena with your credit card and we will make arrangements to store it for you until you want it.
Wines for the High Holidays
We use a different set of criteria when selecting wines to serve at Christmas than the one we use to choose Thanksgiving wines. Thanksgiving at our home is a very inclusive affair with brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, aunts and uncles all feasting on a cornucopia of food and drink. Christmas is much more intimate, and the palates of our guests much more discerning. Here are the two wines (red and white) we will serve with Christmas dinner:.
Red. Amavi Cellars 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla Valley in Washington State. $24.95
Wine & Spirit wrote the following description of this wine: "Once again, Amavi has released an elegant, soft, expressive Cabernet, more complex than wines five times its price." 93 points.
Wine Enthusiast describes it this way: "For a Cabernet, this is almost soft, with seductive, coffee-infused flavors of plum and pie cherry. The sweet spices carry into the finish, with just a hint of herb and fresh mint to clean the palate." 90 points.
White. Mount Eden 2004 Chardonnay from Edna Valley. $17.95
The Wine Spectator ranked this Chardonnay among the top 100 wines in the world for 2007, and provided the following description. " Ripe and intense, with rich, perfumed apple, pear and spice flavors that pick up a note of butterscotch from oak. Turns elegant and stylish on the finish, showing a hint of lemon and citrus. A great value."
I am certain that our guests will love both these wines, but the reason we are serving them is because these are two of our own very favorites. If you want a special wine to serve with your Christmas dinner, you won't go wrong with either of these.
Another Great Value Wine
Finding nice red wine for under $10 is always a challenge. The past 2 nights in a row Elena and I drank the 2000 Terra Unica Reserva made in Alicante wine region in Spain from a blend of Tempranillo and Monastrell, and we both loved it. This is a medium-bodied wine with a lusty caramel bouquet on the nose, and nice flavors of ripe berry on the mid palate. It has soft tannins, light acidity, and the finish is long, smooth and satisfying. A perfect value wine for serving (and drinking) over the holidays.
Because it is from the 2000 vintage, we were a little worried that we would not be able to get sufficient quantities to offer it as a special, but today we were able to negotiate a great price by agreeing to take a very large shipment for immediate cash delivery. (This Reserva blend is a much more sophisticated wine than the entry-level Terra Unica Tempranillo we sold several years ago.)
Normal retail on this wine is $9.95. We are offering it on special at $8.95 or $88 a case, while supplies last. Your bottle cost on case purchases will be $7.33--and it comes in a wooden box! This wine is drinking beautifully right now, and well-made wines from older vintages seldom become available at a value like this.
The 2000 Terra Unica Reserva is the wine we will be serving at our home for guests over the holidays--if I don't drink it all myself before then.
Thanksgiving Day Wines
What wine to serve with your Thanksgiving banquet?
More wine is served in America on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year, and selecting a good choice for this special meal is challenging--not because of the turkey, but the menagerie of other foods that find a spot on the table, such as winter squash; cornbread stuffing, often seasoned with giblets or pork sausage; sweet potatoes or yams; and copious amounts of tart cranberry sauce for slathering over the dry turkey breast meat.
To help you narrow down your choices, I will suggest four different varietals--two whites and two reds--that we believe will make great choices for your Thanksgiving table. These varietals are offered in a wide range of prices, but any reliable wine retailer should be able to help you choose based on your budget and preferences. We suggest that by serving both white and a red with your Thanksgiving feast, your diners will be able to choose something that matches both their palates and their food choices.
Oregon Pinot Gris. Pinot Gris is a delightful white wine with enough complexity to serve with a wide variety of foods, and it goes especially well with turkey. At first I was surprised when Elena told me that because of its versatility, she considered Pinot Gris from Oregon her favorite white wine varietal, but after enjoying a glass with her two nights ago, I am not going to argue. The one we had was dry, medium-bodied, yellow to copper in color, crisp, with lively flavors and aromas of pear and apple. An excellent choice for Thanksgiving.
Gewürztraminer. Gewürztraminer grapes are pink but their flesh and juice are white. The bouquet is perfumed and intense, with notes of exotic fruit, roses, and cinnamon. On the palate, spice is the classic characteristic of Gewürztraminers. The wine is often slightly off-dry, which means it will appeal to both your sophisticated wine guzzlers, as well as to Aunt Sophie and Uncle Billy Bob who only quaff wine 2 or 3 times a year. Gewürztraminer is also a highly versatile varietal, and many consider this the best wine to serve with turkey.
Beaujolais Cru. Good Beaujolais can be a serious alternative to a French Bordeaux or Burgundy. It is light-bodied enough to pair well with turkey, but also complex enough to hold its own against a menagerie of flavorful side dishes. Real Beaujolais is not too be confused with the belly-wash, plok that is marketed as Beaujolais Noveau the week before Thanksgiving, even though both are made from the same Gamay grape. (As Amy Winehouse says in her new hit song "Rehab," when it comes to Noveau "I just say no, no, no.")
Pinot Noir. French red Burgundy, which is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, is one of the most sought-after wines on the planet--many consider it the finest wine in the world. Unfortunately, this particular varietal is not easy to grow, and not all wine makers produce a quality product from this grape. When it is well-made, however, it can be outstanding. Light to medium-bodied, a good Pinot Noir can both complement your turkey and hold its own to the many side dishes that accompany it.
These are our top recommendations for Thanksgiving. Of course, there are many other good varietals that will work just fine. Feel free to stop in Elena's and let her help you select a wine that matches your menu, your personal likes and dislikes, and your budget.
November 7, 2007
People ask me all the time why I am constantly recommending "value" wines (under $10) without giving equal time to some of the great wines available in the $20 range.
There are oodles of really lovely wines available for $20+, and I guess I have been working on the $10 bargains as these are much harder to find. But I confess that we have two wine categories in our cellar--one for everyday gulping and guzzling, and one for special occasions--I call the latter ones sipping wines. Below is an elegant wine that Elena and I just love to sip.
Many of you are familiar with a 2003 Montepulciano d' Abruzzo Reserva that comes with a small twig from a grape vine tied to the bottle with jute. We featured this at a wine tasting in May, and at $15.95, this is a superb, medium-priced red wine. In fact, it is the #1 selling Italian wine in the store.
Last week we tasted the just released, top tier wine (2001 vintage) made by the same producer--a couple of steps up from his "twig wine"--and it is incredible! Here is the write-up from the Wine Spectator.
Producer: Azienda Agricola Ciccio Zaccagnini
Wine & Year: Montepulciano d' Abruzzo Myosotis 2001
Country/Region: Italy/ Abruzzo
Description: "Offers an enticing nose, with lots of cappuccino, berries and meadow flowers. Full-bodied, with milk chocolate and cherry liqueur flavors covering the soft, well-integrated tannins. The finish is tasty. Has lots of character. Almost exotic. Only 100 cases made." The Wine Spectator, 91 points.
Often, Elena and I read a write-up like the one above, and wonder if we are drinking the same wine. In this case, however, the wine is even better than the above evaluation. We got cappucino on the nose, flavors of blackberry and red currants on the attack, followed immediately by milk chocolate on the mid-palate, and cherry liqueur on the finish--just as the reviewer described it, except I would give it 97 points instead of 91.
With just a total of one hundred cases produced for markets worldwide, Massachusetts was fortunate to get an allocation of 14 cases. After Elena and I tried it this last week, we immediately tried to get all 14, but a couple of big players in Boston moved even faster than we did. Nevertheless, we managed to garner 5 cases--4 for our customers and one case for my basement. This lovely wine is available now on a first come basis.
The 2001 Montepulciano d' Abruzzo Myosotis is a perfect wine for a gourmet meal, a holiday gift, or just to squirrel away in your basement for a special night. If you want to grab a bottle or two for a special occasion, you had better do it now, as it will be gone before the holidays. Cost is $24.95. You will not be disappointed.
October 24th, 2007
The devaluation of the US dollar relative to the Euro has made finding good wines for under $10 very challenging. Sometimes we come across an Australian Shiraz that we can recommend (like the Razor's Edge a few months ago), but the fact is that the better wines from down under are also creeping up in price, and most of the Australian value wines we've tasted had undesireable component, either on the palate, or on the nose, like the smell of overripe fruit. Not something we could recommend.
In Spain and Italy, however, one can occasionally still find small family-run vineyards that are making good wines at an everyday price. The 2005 Vega Sindoa from the Navarro region in Spain is one of these wines. A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Tempranillo, it seems to meld the best qualities of both varietals. The winemaker is Concho Vecino, the most highly acclaimed woman winemaker in Spain. Elena and I had it two nights in a row, and we both just loved it. But don't take our word--here is the review from the October Issue of Steve Tanzer's International Wine Cellar:
($12; a 60/40 blend) "... Deep, vivid flavors of red currant, cherry and licorice are nicely supported by suave tannins. Finishes with expansive, striking fresh cherry flavor and impressive length. This would be a great ringer in a flight of $50 cabernets. 90 points."
Robert Parker, the international guru of rating wines, has not rated the current vintage, but he did rate this Vega Sindoa Cab/Tempranillo blend from 2004. Here is his review for last year's vintage of this same wine (slightly different Cab/Temp blend):
Wine Advocate #166 (August 2006)Cost: $11-$14; Rating: 90 PointsThe 2004 Vega Sindoa Cabernet-Tempranillo (55% and 45% respectively) was aged from 13 months in new and used French oak. An amazing value, it boasts a deep ruby/purple color as well as a big, sweet perfume of blackberries, currants, licorice and smoked herbs. Supple-textured and medium-bodied, with loads of fruit, this is an extraordinary wine to enjoy over the next 1-3 years."
As is often the case, by the time Parker's review of the 2004 was published, the wine was sold out. We are not going to make the same mistake on the 2005 vintage, especially since it has already received a 90 point rating by Steve Tanzer. I expect Parker will also rate it very high when he does his Spanish wines next spring.
The normal retail on this wine is $12. We took a big position in order to offer it on special for $10.95 a bottle or $114 a case, which brings your bottle cost down to $9.50 on case purchases. Not a bad price for a lovely 90 point wine!
September 11, 2007
The past several months we have been able to find a number of great value RED wines, but only a single white that we could offer at a special reduced price (the Les Rials from France). Last week, however, we tried a Chardonnay from Chile that we think is as good as the Les Rials, and we just struck a deal to get it at a comparable price.
The 2006 Terra Andina Chardonnay from Central Valley in Chile is lively and eminently refreshing, with hints of tropical fruit on the nose, and flavors of crisp ripe apple and a touch of mouth-watering citrus on the palate. The grapes are de-stemmed before pressing and then fermented in stainless steel tanks at 54 degrees (12 degrees Centigrade), so there is no oak component. This wine is reminiscent of a white Burgundy from France (which is also made with 100% Chardonnay) only with just a little more ripeness on the grapes.
We first served it very cold (too cold), but as it warmed up in the glass the distinct flavor of vanilla was apparent on its pleasant, round finish.
The normal retail for this 100% Chardonnay is $9.95; we are offering it on special at $8.95 a bottle or $88 a case while the current inventory lasts. This wine is a great value at the regular retail price of $9.95 and, with this special, your cost on a case of this wine comes in at $7.33 a bottle! I just love it when we find a wine of this quality that we can offer at a value price!
p.s. We are working to negotiate a special price on a very nice Tempranillo from Spain that will be a great everyday house red wine for the fall. I will keep you posted.
August 9, 2007
Elena and I like a wide variety of types and styles of wine, so our specials come from around the world. (Well, almost around the world, because while we love some California wines, we have been unable to find one that I consider a great "value" wine.)
Our ongoing challenge is to find a new wine that is a pleasure to drink that we can offer at a great price. We have a new one.
Masi is one of the oldest and most distinguished wine producing families in Italy, and many of their wines are very expensive. This past week, however, we stumbled across a Masi Sangiovese table wine that is a superb value. The importer describes the 2005 Masi Sangiovese di Toscano this way:
"Near opaque, black magenta. On the nose there are ripe blackberry and cherry aromas. The palate is lively and crisp with fresh berry and cherry flavors. Round and smooth with modest acidity and matte tannins. A quaffable dry red for gatherings or everyday consumption. 100% Sangiovese from carefully selected grapes in the Rufina area. Lovely for drinking now but can be matured for 2-3 years."
Elena and I have enjoyed a bottle two nights in a row, and we both absolutely love it. The predominate flavor is fresh cherry, and the wine has lovely acidity and some soft tannins.
Normal retail on this wine is $8.95 a bottle, but by taking a very big position on it with the distributor, we can offer it at $78 a case, which will bring your bottle cost down to $6.50. This wine is a steal at this price. Delivery is scheduled for today, August 9th. As usual, if you don't like it, return it for a full refund.
July 18, 2007
A few weeks ago we sent out an email about the 2005 Razor's Edge, an Australian Shiraz that we thought was a superb value. You may recall we took a big position on it and by negotiating with both the importer and the distributor, were able to get the price down from $11.95 to $9.95 a bottle, or $100 a case.
Just today, the 2005 Razor's Edge received a 90 point rating in the August issue of Wine Spectator, and is designated a "Best Value" red wine. Here is the write up:
"90 Points--Razor's Edge, Shiraz McLaren Vale, 2005. Smooth and round, with ripe plum, blackberry and dusky spice flavors that just don't quit, lingering on the open-textured finish. Not a big wine, but flavorful and graceful. Drink now through 2012. 20,000 cases made. Suggested retail $12.
I never had any doubt that this wine was a great value, even at the full retail of $11.95, but it is nice to get this validation (even though this reviewer is wrong about it not being a big wine--believe me, this is a BIG wine).
Because we featured this wine prior to its getting the 90 point rating, both the Importer and distributor have agreed to honor the agreement we struck on the previous order. This means we can again offer it for $9.95, or $100 a case. The case price brings your bottle cost down to $8.33--an incredible value for a wine of this quality! This price is limited to supplies on hand, which I expect will sell out fairly quickly.
An interesting dimension to this wine is that although the top is a screw cap, the Wine Spectator review says drink now through 2012. I took two cases the last time we had it on special, and these became the only screw cap wines in my cellar. It is all gone now, but I am taking two more now with the hope a bottle or two will still around in 2012 so I can see how it holds up. I will let you know.
Most of our customers are familiar with Les Rials, a delicate white wine that we have feartured as an email special for 3 of the last 4 years. I consider the Les Rials to be a PERFECT summertime wine to enjoy outside on a warm afternoon.
We got 40 cases in April, and it sold out in one week--even before the warm weather arrived. The second shipment arrived last week, and we will again offer it at the deeply discounted price of $7.95 a bottle or $82 a case.
For those of you who have not tried it, Les Rials is a French white wine made from an ancient white varietal that has pretty much fallen into oblivion--"Loin de L' Oeil" (Far from the Eyes). This is a crisp, scrumptious, light-bodied, refreshing wine, with just the right amount of pear and citrus on the palate, and a long, satisfying, smooth finish. At our home, this is the #1 white wine we serve all summer. Case purchases of this wine bring your cost down to $6.83 a bottle--an incredible price for a wine of this quality. (If you would like to see the wine maker's marketing handout on this wine, hit reply to this email and I will forward you a copy.)
On another note, Elena is planning a wine tasting on Friday, June 29th, from 6-8:00 pm. We are still working on the wine list, and there will be something for everyone, with lots of new wines to try. We will also have a nice array of gourmet foods Cost is $15. Be sure to save the date.
April 24, 2007
Many of you are familiar with Les Rials. We have featured this wine each of the past three years, and it has sold out every year. Les Rials is EXACTLY the type of white wine I like to quaff outside on our deck on a warm summer evening (or even afternoon, if I can get away with it).
For those of you who have not tried it, Les Rials is a French white wine made from an ancient white varietal that has pretty much fallen into oblivion--"Loin de L' Oeil" (Far from the Eyes). Les Rials is a scrumptious, medium to light-bodied, summertime wine, with just the right amount of pear, apple, and citrus on the palate, and a long, satisfying, smooth finish. I enjoyed a bottle last evening, and I believe the 2006 is the best vintage yet. At our home, this is the #1 white wine we serve all summer. It is an incredible bargain at $7.95 a bottle or $82 a case! We are trying to purchase all we can, but with the warm weather coming, I am certain it will sell out at this price. It is available now on a first-come basis.
On another note, Elena is planning a wine tasting on Sunday, May 6th, from 3-5:00 pm. We are still working on the wine list, but you can be sure it will be impressive. We will also have a nice array of gourmet foods Cost is $15. Be sure to save the date.
April 5, 2007
For three years one of my favorite value wines in the store was the 1998 Castillo Peracense, a 100% Tempranillo that was an incredible bargain at $10 a bottle. Unlike many Spanish wines, the Peracense was made in the New World style, meaning the fruit was fresh and vibrant, without the earth/prune components and oxidation of Old World style wines. Since it ran out of stock in 2005, we have been searching unsucessfully for something to take its place. Yesterday we found it.
The 2002 Glorioso Crianza from the Bodegas Palacio (est. 1894) in the Rioja region is simply delightful. A 100% Tempranillo, it is medium-bodied, with bright, vibrant, flavors of Bing cherry that dance on the palate; a hint of vanilla; perfect acidity; and a long, scrumptuous, refreshing finish.
Elena called the distributor first thing this morning and locked-in their entire remaining inventory of 28 cases. I wish we could have got 100 cases. Delivery is scheduled for Friday morning (April 6th).
The normal retail on this wine is $11.95, and I think it would be a value at $15. Because we took their remaining stock, and the new vintage is due in shortly, we got a great deal and can put it on the rack at $9.95. This is an incredible price for a wine of this quality!
If you really want a bargain, we are offering it at $100 a case for one week only, through April 14th, or while supplies last. This will bring the price down to $8.33 a bottle on case purchases! The only reason we are offering this deep discount on a wine of this quality is because we just don't have the storage space for 25+ cases of wine in the store, so if you want it at this price, we would like you to pick it up within the week.
Anytime you buy a case of wine from us and don't like it, you can return the unopened bottles for a full refund.
March 14, 2007
When Elena and I first tasted the Tumans Mourvedre a couple of months ago, we both loved it. I wanted to feature it as an email special, but our distributor did not have sufficient quantities in stock, so we bought all they had (I think it was 4 or 5 cases), and put it on the rack at $7.95. Some of you have already discovered this as a lovely wine at a superb price, and it has slowly been finding its way out the door.
Last week the sales rep called to tell us that his company had exactly 26 cases in their New York warehouse that we could have. We immediately committed to all of them. Here is the skivvy on the wine:
The Mourvedre grape is primarily grown in the Southern Rhone region of France, where it is often blended with Syrah and Grenache in upscale wines such as Chateneauf du Pape and Gigondas. Because it is rarely found in the US as a "stand-alone" varietal, customers seldom pick it up on their own. Big mistake. The Tumans Mourvedre is a big, spicy, red from Spain with a lovely aromas of pie cherries on the bouquet and flavors of blackberries and strawberries on the palate. The texture is chewy with round tannins, nice acidity, and it finishes with hints of coffee and chocolate.
As most of you know, we have very little storage space, and with 26 cases being delivered today, we have to move it quickly. This wine is a FANTASTIC value at the regular retail bottle price of $7.95; it is a steal at $72 a case, while supplies last--which will not be very long.
February 22, 2007
Two weeks ago I touted a value Italian Sangiovese made by a tiny, family-run vineyard in Tuscany. The wine was a classic Chianti-style wine, light bodied, full of summer fruit and with lovely acidity-a perfect pasta wine. The 30 cases we had sold out in just a few days. Although I like to feature wines from different parts of the world, this week I tasted another fabulous Italian red wine that is so good I just have to tell you about it. Even if you don't like Italian, Chianti-style wines, you owe it to yourself to try a bottle of this delightful, medium-bodied red from 100% Merlot grapes and made in a completely different style than the Sangiovese. (You might call the Sangiovese we featured last week an Old World style wine, and this one a New World style wine--both good, but very different.) Here are two of the reviews of the 2005 Umbria Falesco Pesano Merlot.
Wine Advocate - June 2006 - 90 points
An extremely intense, amazing bargain, the 2005 Merlot Pesano (100% Merlot aged 5-6 months in barrel) exhibits a deep ruby/purple hue, and fleshy, concentrated, black cherry, cassis, smoke, herb, and mocha aromas and flavors. This medium-bodied, concentrated, unbelievably low-priced red is too good to be true.
Wine Enthusiast - March 2007 - 90 points - Merlot: It's the Best Red Wine that You are Not Drinking. This wine must certainly be one of Italy's best-valued Merlots. The overall intensity and concentration is nothing less than stratospheric and its aromatic profile reaches deep into the darkest and plushest of enological possibilities: Fudge, cinnamon, ginger, blackberry, espresso and vanilla come at you one thick layer after another.
The wine makers, Riccardo and Renzo Cotarella, describe their creation this way: "Made from 100% Merlot grown in estate vineyards in Umbria. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 5 months. This Merlot is unfiltered and exhibits a deep ruby-red color and rich, spicy aromas. Blackberry, tobacco and vanilla come through on the palate. The finish is long and pleasant."
Normal retail will be $14.95, but I am so confident that you will love this wine that we are selling individual bottles at the case discount price, just to make sure our customers get a chance to try it. The 2005 Falesco Pesano Merlot, $13.50 net during February only, or while supplies last.
February 13, 2006
One of the real joys of this business is finding a great wine at a bargain price for our customers. Sangiovese is the primary grape used in Chiantis, but it is almost always blended with "lesser" varietals in Chianti wines. Last week we tasted a wine from the Classico Chianti region in Tuscany that is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes, so the winemaker decided not to call it a Chianti. Elena and I both thought it was superb. After drinking a bottle we were able to negotiate a big discount by agreeing to purchase the US importer's entire inventory. Here is the info on it.
Producer: Azienda Agricola Fulignano di Silla Domenico [Artisanal Vineyard]
Wine & Year: Sangiovese di Toscana 2004
Total Production: 500 cases
A small production wine from a small family-owned and operated vineyard located outside of the tiny, medieval Tuscan town of Monterigioni. The grapes this year were harvested in perfect condition after having ripened slowly and evenly during the growing season. This Estate grown and bottled 100% Sangiovese is far more serious and complex than the modest price would suggest. It is medium to full-bodied with an intense ruby red color. On the nose it is redolent of berry fruit, spice and cherries. On the palate the wine is smooth and easy to drink, with fine tannins and has a long berry-tinged, fruity flavor. Drink now and over the next 3 years.
The normal retail on this wine is over $13 a bottle. We purchased the distributor's entire inventory and can offer it at $9.95 a bottle, or $96 a case on a first-come basis while supplies last. In other words, your bottle cost on case purchases comes down to $8! Due in this afternoon. There will be no more when this shipment is sold out.
Wine Special - Valentine's Day Wines
Elena will have several "Valentine-friendly" wines open for sampling this coming Friday, February 9th from 4-7:00 pm and all day Saturday, February 10th. Please stop in and try her Valentine Day recommendations, along with some chocolates and other goodies. Here are some of the wines she will have open for you to try.
Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne NV (90 points, Wine Spectator).
An assertive mineral laced bubbly with citrus, honey and spice filling out the flavor spectrum. Concentrated and densely textured Champagne from France, with a lively acidity and lingering aftertaste. Best now through 2009. Retail $42.95
Kenneth Volk, 2005 Santa Maria Cuvee Chardonnay, Santa Barbara.
From the winemaker who founded the renowned Wild Horse Vineyard, this new winery is focusing on creating the most elegant wines of the Santa Barbara County. This Chardonnay has been barrel fermented and has elements of citrus fruits, pear and apple supported by bright acidity and a supple mouth feel. A rich and complex wine. Retail $19.95
Guenoc Lake County Petite Sirah, 2003.
One of California's most heralded red wines, the Guenoc Petite Sirah is a rich, tasty, rewarding effort; ripe and round with excellent concentration of dark fruit. This full-bodied wine has abundant flavors of ripe berries, plum, chocolate, and spice with hints of smoky oak and vanilla in the finish.
Martin Cendoya 2001 Rioja Reserva
Ripe and refreshing, this red delivers plum, mocha, spice, tobacco and light earth flavors on a plush, balanced frame. Firm tannins emerge on the spicy finish. Drink it now through 2010. Only 1,000 cases made. Retail $19.95
Dell'Acquese, 2006 Brachetto D'Acqui
A lovely off-dry dessert or afternoon wine, with summer fruit, a glorious bright red color, and just the right touch of frizante to be refreshing. Retail $15.95
Each of the above wines will be offered at a 10% discount through Valentine's Day.
December 14, 2006 -- Special Wines for the Holidays
For everyday consumption, we are always looking for quality value wines, but during the religious holidays in December we become more extravagant. We consider wine central to a celebration of life, good food, and special company, and the holiday season warrants a step up in quality and price. In this email I will discuss our top choices for wines to serve at special holiday gatherings and match them to various main courses. As a rule, the red wines I suggest deserve to be decanted and allowed to warm up to room temperature to be fully appreciated.
Roast Beef. We had one group of family at our home on Thanksgiving Day, where we served the traditional turkey, and other family members the following Sunday, where I prepared a standing rib roast (purchased at Romano's in Fitchburg, and I do not believe I have ever had better beef in my life). Quality roast beef is best served rare and calls for a big red wine. My personal favorite pairing for roast beef is Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The history of this wine is worth recounting.
In the 14th Century, Pope Clement V moved the Papacy from Rome to the city of Avignon in France-hence the name "Châteauneuf -du-Pape," which translates "new chateau of the Pope." Thirteen different varietals are permitted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, but the better producers include mostly Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and Cinsault. By law, all Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines must have at least 12.5% alcohol. Producers who own their vineyards are permitted to stamp the Papal Coat of Arms onto their bottles.
The 2001 Guigal Châteauneuf-du-Pape was made from grapes that came from about 30 different vineyards (80% Grenache with some Syrah and Mourvèdre) from vines averaging 45 years old. It was awarded 93 points and selected as Number 41 in the top 100 wines of 2003 by Wine Spectator. Here is the write-up: "Old-fashioned, this is a full-bodied, traditional wine that seduces with its decadent game, saddle-leather, plum and sautéed wild mushroom aromas. No hint of fancy oak, just a mouthful of Châteauneuf character that swirls around to a long, sweet finish. Another great negociant red from Guigal. Drink now through 2008."
Elena has just two cases of this wine in the store that she unceremoniously and selfishly abducted from my wine cellar (which I guess is okay because that is the way it got there from her store in the first place). Any bottles that are not sold the next two weeks will go right back into my cellar where they belong. Suggested retail when it was released was $40, and we still honoring that price while current supplies last.
Lamb. This is the traditional repast for Passover, and was almost certainly the main course at the Last Supper as well. But why wait until Spring to enjoy this delicacy? Having spent much of the last two years in the Middle East, I have acquired a new appreciation for lamb cooked a variety of ways. Like good roast beef, lamb calls for a big red wine to wash it down, and my choice is another great Rhone wine from Guigal-the Cote Rotie Brune et Blond 2000. This blend of 96% Syrah and 4% Viognier is fermented in stainless steel before being aged in oak barrels for 24 months prior to bottling. The result is a deep, complex, rich wine that combines elegant vanilla and berry flavors with good, firm structure. The August 2003 Wine Spectator scored it 90 points with the following description: "Discreet red, with reserved mineral, wet earth character and a tightly wound tannin structure. The fruit isn't very ripe, but shows up as cherries, blackberries and, in a different register, some floral notes. Very subtle oak, just touches of mocha and spices. Will improve with age. Best from 2005 through 2011." I can vouch for the fact that this wine has improved significantly since it was released and this review was written 3 years ago. Elena is honoring the original retail price of $48.
Turkey or Ham. Several of our customers groused that I had the comeuppance to omit a Pinot Noir from my list of Thanksgiving wine recommendations. I love good Pinot Noirs, but the ones I would recommend cost more than I generally want to spend for the Thanksgiving eat-a-thon. For the high holidays, however, my pockets seem deeper, and I don't mind splurging a little. Emily's Cuvee Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley is a perfect choice, and at $38, this is a value Pinot Noir. Wine Spectator awarded it 93 points and placed it as number 54 on its top 100 wines for 2006. Here is the verbiage: "Fragrant rose petal and crushed raspberry aromas turn elegant and stylish on the palate, with fresh lively acidity and a sleek, rich aftertaste. Wonderful balance, finesse and delicacy. Finish sails on. Drink now through 2010. 1595 cases made." Elena and I had a bottle of this last week and we both loved it. Three cases in stock. Price is $38.
Seafood. I grew up in an Italian family and we did not eat meat-just seafood-on Christmas Eve, and in most cases seafood pairs better with a white wine. The white wine I am recommending for this holiday season is the 2004 Domaine Thibert Pouilly-Fuisse. By law, all French White Burgundy must be made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. The better wines from the Maconnais area of Burgundy will have the name "Macon" followed by the village, such as Macon-Charnay. Only wine from two villages, which are adjacent to one another, are permitted to use just the village names on the label. These are the villages of Pouilly and Fuisse. Traditionally, the best wines from the Macon area of Burgundy are made from grapes grown in these two villages. The one I am recommending comes from a tiny Artisanal Vineyard with very small production. This is a gorgeous French Chardonnay that is rich and precise, with long buttery Chardonnay flavors and subtle, balanced wood integration. Tinged by lemon with flavors of juicy white fruits, this silky textured, unfiltered wine exhibits outstanding mineral and fruit characteristics. The Domaine Thibert Pouilly-Fuisse is an exceptional example of a well-made white Burgundy at $19.95.
Pasta. No varietal goes better with pasta and tomato sauce than Sangiovese, the varietal used to make Chiantis. Finding a good Chianti can be challenging because, unlike French classifications, Italian wines are not regulated in a manner indicative of consistent quality. For example, any wine made from Sangiovese grapes grown in the traditional region of Tuscany can be labeled Chianti. This is a hilly region, and vineyards facing south, where the grapes get more sun and ripen better, get the same designation as those on the north slopes, where the grapes often don't develop the same lushness. Those vineyards from the smaller traditional Chianti region have the designation Chianti Classico. Finally there are Chianti Classico Reservas, which are grown in the traditional Chianti region and are aged in oak barrels for 27 months before bottling. In each case, knowing your producer is crucial to guarantee quality.
The best vintage in the Chianti region in recent years was 1997, which was given an overall rating of 97 points by the Wine Spectator. A few months ago we had the opportunity to purchase 10 cases of 1997 Tomioso Chianti Classico Reserva, and we still have a couple of cases on hand. This is a superb value at $14.95 a bottle. If you are serving a pasta dish sometime over the holidays, the 1997 Tomioso Chianti Classico Reserva is a perfect choice.
Dessert. There are so many good places to buy fresh baked pastries locally, that I seldom make my own. The pies sold at Flat Hills and Lanni's Orchards are outstanding, and Trudy's Treats has a nice assortment of fresh pastries baked daily. Regardless of what I choose to serve as dessert, however, I always make my own whipped cream. Homemade whipped cream is nothing like Cool Whip, or the chemical-infused, processed, shaving-cream-tasting foam that supermarkets sell in aerosol cans as whipped cream. If you haven't made your own whipped cream, try it over the holidays. Here is how it is done.
First, buy your cream at Stillman's Dairy Farm. All of their milk products come from Jersey cows, and this is superior to the milk from the higher production Holsteins that is found in supermarkets. Cream for whipping should have between 25-40% butterfat content, and Stillman's cream is always close to 40%. This time of year Stillman's often runs out of whipping cream, so buy it well in advance. (Older cream whips better than new cream anyway.) Cream whips best at about 35 degrees. I add one cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla to a quart of cream. Place sugar, mixing bowl, and beaters from your mixer in the freezer 20 minutes before you begin so that they are very chilled when you start work. The cream will double in size when whipped, so use at least a three quart bowl or saucepan. Put all the ingredients into the frozen mixing bowl and whip on high speed until the cream turns a very pale yellow and forms peaks-about 8-10 minutes. It will stay firm in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Make plenty, as everyone will want seconds.
If you want to serve a wine with dessert, good choices are Brachetto d'Aqui or Moscato d'Asti. The Brachetto is a vibrant cherry-red in color and the Moscato is golden, so either one makes a stunning visual presentation at the table. Both are off-dry with a tiny bit of frizzante. The bottle costs are $15.95 and $10.95, respectively.
These are my high-end wine recommendations for special holiday meals. I also keep a good supply of value wines around the house just in case one of my two wine quaffing brothers stops by. I have never told either of them about my stash of wines in my cellar.
Have a great holiday season.
Open 7 days a week through December
As most of you know, we taste dozens of wines each month in order to find the ones we want to recommend in an email to our customers. Even when we find something we think is a good buy, there are still a couple of steps we take before we decide to feature the wine in an email.
First, we always try it a couple of more times to insure that the bottles are consistent (sometimes with a value wines, consistency can be a problem).
Second, we want to make sure that there are adequate supplies available before we start recommending it, for two reasons: 1) we try to order a quantity large enough to get the price as low as possible; and 2) and we don't like to recommend a wine as a good buy and then run out the first week.
After tasting it in the store last Tuesday with the distributor, we took two bottles of the 2005 Chateau d'espeyran from Southern Rhone home to drink on consecutive nights, and we agree that this wine is a superb bargain for the price.
The producer describes the Chateau d' espeyran this way: "Brilliant color of ruby red. Smell of red fruits and discretely spicy. First, nuances of blackcurrant, cherry, then presence of ripe tannins. Well balanced, this blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan can be drunk immediately, or aged several months."
This is not a wine to hoard away in your cellar, but it is a very soft, easy-drinking wine for everyday consumption. We are offering Chateau d’esperyran at $7.95 a bottle, or $72 a case. We purchased the importer's complete inventory, so this special is limited to supplies on hand.
Unless Elena and I are having an outdoor fun-fest on a hot day, we seldom serve Pinot Grigio. This past week, however, the Dining Section of the New York Times featured Pinot Grigios in their weekly article: "Wine of the Times."
Every Wednesday, Eric Asimov, the wine reviewer for the Times, and a panel of selected wine connoisseurs, do a blind tasting of a particular type/style of wine. I read it faithfully, but generally there is nothing interesting to report. This week's review got my attention. Here is an abbreviated version of what they had to say about Pinot Grigios in the August 23rd "Wine of the Times."
"PINOT GRIGIO has come a long way in the last 20 years. Just as an especially popular piece of classical music or literature will be rejected by a contingent of connoisseurs simply because of its popularity, pinot grigio from Italy, the most popular category of imported white wine in the United States, has largely been dismissed by serious wine drinkers as bland and insipid, the harmless, gulpable equivalent of a lawn mower beer.
Even if reflexive, the hostility rests on a truthful assessment. Most Pinot Grigios give many people exactly what they want: a mellifluous, easy-to-pronounce wine that can be ordered without fear of embarrassment and that is at the least cold, refreshing and for the most part, cheap.
But the Dining section's wine panel found recently that pinot grigio can meet these minimum criteria, yet be much more than that. In a tasting of 25 pinot grigios from northeast Italy, we found wines that were balanced, lively, crisp and subtle, with mineral foundations that supported stimulating citrus and floral flavors.
The pleasing results were something of a surprise. . . .When I think about it, though, the pleasure I found in these wines should not have been any surprise at all.
Of all the Italian pinot grigios, none has been as popular for so long as Santa Margherita, the huge producer in Veneto that churns out millions of bottles a year. I confess that I have been among those who have mocked Santa Margherita as an overpriced wine without character. It may be overpriced, but I will have to rethink the jeers as the 2004 Santa Margherita Alto Adige was one of our favorites, clean, crisp, and minerally with refreshing flavors that lingered in the mouth.
Only one wine among our top wines was more expensive than Santa Margherita, and that was our No. 1 wine, the 2004 Livio Felluga. This wine simply had more body and presence than the others, while retaining its refreshing purity and mineral and citrus flavors. By contrast, our No. 2 wine was our best value, the 2004 Bollini from Trentino. With crisp, tangy apple and mineral flavors, this wine would be hard to improve on for casual drinking or as a value for large groups. "
Here are Eric Asimov's tasting notes from the top 3 pinot grigios he reviewed (remember, this was a blind tasting of 25 wines):
Livio Felluga Colli Prioentali del Friuli 2004: Fresh and substantial, with fruit and floral aromas; good texture and depth.
Bollini Trentino 2004 (Best Value): Tangy, balanced and perfumed with linering apple and mineral flavors.
Santa Margherita Alto Adige 2004: Clean and dry, with balanced mineral and fruit flavors.
One of the reasons I enjoyed this review so much, is that Elena stocks all three of these pinot grigios, and we had planned to serve the Bollini to my thirsty, wine quaffing brothers at our annual family Labor Day gathering this coming weekend.
In honor of Elena's exquisite palate (choosing these same three wines as her top Pinot Grigios in the store prior to the NYT article), she has decided to put them all on special through Labor Day.
# 1 Livio Felluga Colli Orientali del Fruili 2004. Reg. $26.95; Net 23.95.
# 2 Bollini Trentino 2004. Reg. $12.95; Net 11.45.
# 3 Santa Margherita Alto Adige 2004. Reg. 25.95; Net 22.9
Chateau Haut Nadeau
Many of you are familiar with the Chateau Haut Nadeau: We have stocked it each of the last 4 years, tasted the 2004 a few weeks ago at our April wine tasting (where it sold out the first hour), and we have at least a dozen customers who have been waiting for us to get the 2005 vintage in stock. Our allocation of this wine has sold out every year, and I am certain it will sell out again this summer. Although I have not tasted the 2005 vintage myself, previous vintages of the Chateau Haut Nadeau have consistently been one of my favorite white wines in the store. Our importer assures me that it will arrive in the country this week, and we should have it in the store about the middle of next week.
Elena does not have much storage space, so she has decided to offer the Chateau Haut Nadeau at a special discount for preorders. It normally retails for $11.99, and that is the price at which it will go on the rack. For preorders, however, she is offering it at $10 a bottle or $115 a case. You will not find a better white wine anywhere at this price. Here are the notes from David Raines, Vineyard Research, the sole US importer of this wine.
“Patrick Audouit grew up in the Entre Deux Mers, but instead of following his father into the family vineyard he went off to school, got a degree in enology, found work as a consulting enologist, then realized that happiness was, after all, in his own back yard, or rather in his parents’.
‘I can tell my clients what to do to make great wine,” he says, “but I can’t make them do it.’ Monsieur Audouit realized that you have to manage your own vines and make your own wine if you want to see your ideas put into practice the way they should be.
Monsieur Audouit’s ideas relate mostly to his vines. He wants them to produce ripe, healthy, balanced, flavorful fruit. To get there he minimizes his use of insecticides, and avoids fertilizers altogether. Instead, he constantly “works” his vines: trimming leaves, positioning shoots, plowing his soil . . . allowing his vines to balance their crop load with their photosynthetic output.
In a less sunny year, that might mean decreasing the yield by cutting away fruit. In a year like 2005, a year with constant sunshine throughout the summer and fall, it just meant waiting for the right moment to pick.
The 2005 Château Haut Nadeau, Entre Deux Mers, is the best wine this estate has produced in the last 5 years. 100% Sauvignon Blanc, it is balanced, light, fresh, intensely flavored, has a lovely floral nose, and is exquisitely refreshing.
Les Rials is a French wine made from an ancient white varietal that has pretty much fallen into oblivion--"Loin de L' Oeil" (Far from the Eyes). Previously, we carried this wine two years in a row, and it sold out each time. This past summer, however, the 2004 vintage was a disappointment, and we passed on it.
But last night Elena brought home the 2005 vintage to have with dinner. It is OUTSTANDING!
This is, without a doubt, our house wine for the summer. It is perfect for barbeques, graduations, relaxing on the deck, or anything you might do outside on a hot summer day. But it is also sophisticated enough, and has a lovely enough presentation, to feature at dinner.
The Les Rials is scrumptious, with just the right amount of pear, apple, and citrus on the palate, and a long, satisfying, smooth finish.
It will definitely sell out in a couple of months. Today Les Rials is $7.99 a bottle; on sale at $82 a case. You should definitely try a bottle--you won't want to miss a wine of this quality at this price.
With a generally warm and sunny, but sometimes uncertain, maritime climate like the one in Bordeaux, hard work will yield at least a good wine almost every year. But the region’s fame was built on years like 2005 and on wines like this.
I was first introduced to Rosé wine in 1980 at a small Italian Restaurant located on the Pier in Monterey, California. At this restaurant, instead of bringing bread or cheese or olives to the table, as soon as patrons were seated, the waiter would bring a small carafe of house Rosé and a heaping plate of calamari. At the time, I was partial to big red wines, but the Rosé they served was a lovely aperitif--elegant and off-dry—and a perfect accompaniment to the calamari.
I was in Monterey attending a four-month US Government course on organizational development, and my classmates and I went out to dinner every night. Among the scores of quality restaurants in the Monterey area, this was my favorite, and I had dinner there at least 2 or 3 times a week for the entire 4 months. Their house Rosé soon became my favorite California wine.
I mention this story because this is the last time I remember really liking a Rosé wine—until last week. A representative from A to Z Winery from Oregon stopped in last Thursday with an array of what he called "aristocratic wines at democratic prices" for Elena and me to try. Here are the winery’s tasting notes on each of them.
A to Z, 2005 Oregon Rosé. This lovely hot pink/magenta Rosé is made entirely of Sangiovese grapes harvested from the Del Rio Vineyard in Southern Oregon. Inviting aromas are full of fresh strawberries, raspberries, sweet cherries, and what the French call petit fruits rouge, with notes of cinnamon and nutmeg. The stunning wine is juicy and quaffable, not overly complex, but full of flavor and pleasure ($12.99).
A to Z, 2004 Pinot Noir. This Pinot Noir has clear, dark garnet color with flashes of purple. Initial aromas of ripe fruits, violets, blueberries, and blackberries are followed by more subtle notes of smoke, lavender, and fresh spices, with hints of oak and cassis. The wine is balanced, structured and succulent, offering a lovely entry and great length. Ripe tannins, balanced acidity, and depth of structure offer a beautiful balance between concentration and elegance ($17.99).
A to Z, 2005 Oregon Pinot Gris. The color of the 2005 Pinot Gris is yellow gold with beautiful flashes of emerald. Powerful aromatics are redolent of ripe citrus fruits, acacia flowers, and tropical fruits (nectarines and pineapple). A concentrated wine with ripe acidity. The lasting impression is a wine of great ripeness and opulence balanced by wonderful juiciness and succulence. The 2005 Pinot Gris will drink wonderfully for the next 2 years ($12.99).
I had never tasted these wines before last week, but reviews for previous vintages are impressive. This is the first year they have been available locally, and I am confident the reviews for the current vintages will be equally positive. The best time to buy these small production wines is before the reviews of the new vintages are published because, afterwards, they are often not available.
Food & Wine Magazine: "A to Z Pinot Noir is the best American Pinot Noir under $20."
Wall Street Journal: A to Z Pinot Noir has . . ."Lovely, upfront fruit, tight earthy finish. . . fine volume."
Wine Spectator: A to Z Pinot Noir offers ripe generous plum and dried blueberry flavors."
Bon Appetite: A to Z Pinot Noir: "Sommelier's choice."
Saveur: "Wine Masterminds. A to Z owners make great, affordable cuvees. Their Pinot Gris is alive with bright acidity and fruit."
Wine Spectator: "A to Z Pinot Gris is rated Best Value."
When was the last time you had a 95 point wine? In fact, when was the last time you saw one for under $100 a bottle? The Vina Almaviva from Mapio Valley in Chile (located about an hour west of Santiago) is the product of a partnership between Baron Philippe de Rothschild from France (home to the Chateau Mouton--Rothschild) and Concha y Toro in Chile. (A comparable partnership in the US between Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Robert Mondavi produces Opus One, which sells for $150 a bottle.)
Elena recently got a chance to purchase 42 bottles of the 2003 Vina Almaviva, which received 95 points recently in the Wine Spectator.
The suggested retail on this wine is $85, but Elena wanted to make it available to our regular customers at a huge discount, so we are selling it at $62 net, which is just a few dollars above our cost.
If you need a special gift for your husband or Dad for Father's Day, or if you just want to squirrel-away a world class wine for a special occasion in the future, this is the one to get. But you will have to move fairly quickly as it will sell out at this price, and we can not get anymore. (I have two bottles in the basement for Thanksgiving--2007 and 2008.)
Here is the write up from the Wine Spectator on the Almaviva:
95 Points, Vina Almaviva. Puente Alto 2003 $85
Very dense, with loads of raspberry ganache, black currant and fig fruit layed with tobacco, mineral and cedar notes. Lots of grip on the finish, with impressive balance between tannins, acidity and oak. Built like a Pauillac. Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Cabernet Franc. Best from 2007 through 2015. 10,000 cases made. Wine Spectator.
I am constantly asked what wine I reach for first when I get back from one of my regular forays to the Middle East. Truth is, Elena often has some new wines that she wants me to try the first couple of nights I am home, but then I do gravitate back to some old favorites. I have given the question of favorite some thought, and this email is my attempt to answer these inquiries.
In my mind, I organize white and red wines into three rather broad categories:
1) wines for everyday consumption (about $10);
2) wines for entertaining (about $20); and
3) wines for special occasions (over $30).
Wines for Everyday Consumption. This is the most challenging category of wines to discuss. Elena and I are constantly searching for good value wines that we can enjoy for around $10. Because we are both very fussy about what we drink, we have to taste through a lot of plok to find ones we can recommend.
My Favorite Everyday White: I have recommended the Chateau Haut Nadeau in previous emails, and we have sold out of it every year. The 2004 vintage of this sauvignon blanc from the Bordeaux region of France is every bit as good as years past, and is an incredible wine for the price. A perfect balance of yellow apples and floral nose, coupled with a smooth long finish, make it make my first choice for an everyday white. At $10.99, I know it will sell out again this year. Too bad, because if you wanted a top value white wine to enjoy during the summer, you could not do better than this. I have tucked away several cases for my own consumption and I can recommend it with no reservations whatsoever.
My Favorite Everyday Red: There are several quality red wines that I enjoy in the $10 range, to include some new Portuguese arrivals, but this Spanish from the Duero region is still my favorite. We have never featured Roble Zalagar in a email, but it has been a staple in the store for the past three years. Zalagar walks a nice line between the light almost ethereal summer fruit of some of the inexpensive French reds (Secret de Campane, for example), and the lusty chocolate and coffee of the new Portugese additions. Zalagar is a dinner wine, crafted to compliment family dining in a satisfying but unobtrusive way. This medium-bodied wine boasts early summer fruits of dark cherry and cassis both on the nose and the palate, but unlike many of the Australian reds, the fruit component is elegant and understated.
Even though these are my top picks in this category, we like to try different wines all the time. Indeed, part of the fun of drinking wine is its infinite variety of flavors and textures. And of course, people’s palates and tastes vary greatly, so there is no "best wine." But these are good, solid choices in this price range.
Wines for Entertaining:
WHITE: The white wine that we keep on hand for semi-special occasions is the 2004 Clos La Chance Chardonnay from the Santa Cruz Mountain area in California. Chardonnay is best when it is grown in a cool region so that the grapes ripen slowly and develop the structure and nuances of pear and white peach, like this one. The Clos La Chance has a smooth, creamy texture in the mouth, but with enough acidity for balance. Because it is aged in French oak, rather than American, it nice hint of toasty oak without the overbearing wood flavors that characterize so many domestic chardonnays. Cost is $17.99.
RED: Many Americans who drink domestic wines tend to shy away from blends for some reason. This is unfortunate. The Steltzner Vineyards 2002 Claret is a blend of traditional Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, and it is a superb wine from the Napa Valley in California. This is a wine of soft tannins and a long velvet finish. There is a hint of black pepper on the palate, along with red plums and blackberries. The Steltzner Claret is a polished, versatile dinner wine for $17.99.
Wines for Special Occasions.
RED. Most experts consider 2000 the best vintage for Bordeaux in 40 years. We are one of the few stores in the region that still has several classified 2000 Bordeaux in stock. Here is what Robert Parker wrote about one of them: "The 2000 Faugeres is a dense blue/purple, and the aromatics offer abundant quantities of sweet oak, smoke, black currants, and cherries. There is structure and tannin married with a ripe finish in this classy effort, with outstanding purity and moderate weight in the mouth, this is an intensely flavorful St. Emilion. Drink 2006-2017. 91 Points." Normally $44.95; on sale at $38 through Easter. Limited to quantities on hand. (We are down to our last case of this wine, and there is no more available.)
WHITE. 2002 is a classic white Burgundy vintage--a vintage when even a less experienced grower could be expected to make a great wine; but an experienced grower, like Alain Coche-Bizouard, with well-sited vineyards in almost every part of the village of Meursault, made a big, dense, richly flavored, beautifully balanced 2002 that combines power and finesse in a way that can be done only in the Côte d’Or and, even there, only in one vintage out of three. The nose offers subtle aromas of apricots and Clementines, and the palate reveals more apricot, a hint of orange, and a refreshing mineral quality, like the feel of cold water on clean mountain rocks. Normally $42.95; on sale at $37 through Easter. Limited to quantities on hand.
While in Portugal last week, dining at a top-notch restaurant recommended to us by a local, I asked the maitre d' to bring us a bottle of local red wine. (This was the only sentence I learned to say in Portuguese, and it got us by all week: Gostariamos uma garrafa de vinho tinto de ragiao por favor.)
We were floored when he returned with a bottle of Castello D'Alba 2003 Tinto Reserva. Jack Couto, our Portuguese wine consultant, had hosted a table of all Portuguese wines at our last wine tasting, and strongly recommended that we include the Castello D'Alba, which we did, but it sold out completely without either of us getting a bottle to take home. Like several of the other wines we featured that night, this one was also completely sold out at the importer's, and we could not replenish it.
So six weeks later we found ourselves 6,000 miles from home, about to taste for the first time a wine that we had featured in our store, based on the recommendation of a maitre d' we had just met. I couldn't wait.
We were in Porto, where the mouth of the Doura River joins with the Atlantic. The Doura is the largest and best wine region in Portugal and the Castillo D'Alba Reserva is from the upper Doura area of northern Portugal. The summer fruits of blackberry and red plum are nicely balanced with a creamy notes of vanilla and a hint of praline. We both just loved it. And we have it back in stock. Regular $10.99; January special of $9.89 net. I believe we paid about $25 Euros for it in Portugal!