Tag Archives: Chile

Revisiting – Los Vascos, Cabernet Sauvignon; Colchagua Valley Chile

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LOS VASCOS 2011I originally wrote about this wine and the 2010 vintage about three years ago in my Grocery Store Wine series. I had discovered it in my role as a Wine Steward for a national grocery store chain and its Rothschild pedigree along with QPR [quality:price ratio] drew me in. When I became a Wine Buyer for Whole Foods MarketI was happy to see Los Vascos was an option for our set. At the end of this post I am including my original notes for the 2010 as we delve into the 2011 vintage.

As per the winemaker;

2011 vintage: The viticultural year was once again characterized by very dry climatic conditions, but not as severe as 2010. Advanced techniques ensured very efficient irrigation of the vineyard, and the vines were able to fully express themselves. Due to a cold spring, yields were lower than usual, comparable with 2010 levels. This resulted in smaller bunches and smaller grapes, which in turn translated into excellent concentration and remarkable quality.

It is interesting to me that the 2010 vintage is considered to be “comparable” to some degree to the 2011. For me the wines were very different. Maybe the varying use of irrigation was a factor and or even my changing palate.

The Los Vascos 5,436 acre estate is 25 miles from the sea in a closed valley at the center of Chile.  Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon is grown with small percentages of other varietals all estate bottled also included; Chardonnay, Carmenere, Syrah, Malbec. It is the largest vineyard in the Colchagua Valley and between 250,000-300,000 cases are produced of the Cabernet annually. That may explain the value factor of this wine: 3.5 million bottles. Luckily for us the quality is also there.

My notes: 

On the lighter side of medium bodied. Nose of rich dark fruit and peppery spice; cedar, tobacco box. On the palate; fruit at the forefront with spice at the mid-palate and a finish of black cherry. Lighter than your typical California Cab, more old world than new, low tannins making it an easy drinker poured right at the bottle with decanting possible but not required.

I recall the 2010 vintage as being a bit heartier but just as smooth.  I can see why this wine continues to fly off our shelves on a weekly basis. The under $10.00 price tag draws you in but the quality and easy drink-ability keep you coming back. I am looking forward to future vintages.  ¡SALUD!

Winemaker’s Notes

Bright ruby red color. Remarkably expressive with a fruity nose: aromas of blueberries, cherries, blackcurrants and raspberries blending perfectly with notes of pink pepper, paprika, curry and saffron. Velvety, full-bodied and seductive in the mouth with mild acidity and gentle tannins giving very pleasant mouthfeel.

Domaines Barons de Rothschild [Lafite]/Los Vascos, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon; Colchagua Valley Chile′LOS VASCOS 2010

For a while now I have thought about reviewing and categorizing what I would consider “Grocery Store” wines.  These would be wines that you happen to come across while doing your weekly shopping, advertised bargains [love those!], non-advertised sales [love those even more!], a bottle you may pick up on the way to a dinner party etc.  Your standard variety wine which you can pretty much get anywhere; some people swear by them others avoid them like the plague. Luckily as the general wine drinking public expands their horizons so have grocery stores when considering the selections and variety they stock including some very nice higher end options.  Of course location may define a Grocery Store wine but for the most part I will use this as a generalized term including everything from a two buck special to high-end wines which some people would never consider buying with their hard-earned $$. RULE: The wine must be available at a grocery store but with one caveat; I may go as far as including drug stores since their wine inventory is ever-increasing also.

The icing on the cake [or some may say fate] for my Grocery Store idea was pretty much sealed when about two weeks ago I was hired to be a Wine Steward for the grocer WINN-DIXIE [as covered in a recent blog post]. Grocery store wines some may ask? Welcome to my world 🙂

I have chosen the Chilean Los Vascos to be my first Grocery Store wine selection. Being completely honest I was first drawn to this wine in particular because of its SALE price. Secondly by the fact that it was from Chile and I love my South American wines. As I have started to research I am now also impressed by its pedigree:

Los Vascos one of Chile’s oldest wine estates is managed by Domaines Barons de Rothschild [Lafite], who began a comprehensive modernization and investment program in 1988. The 560 hectare vineyard is located in the Cañeten valley of the Colchagua province which offers a pre-phylloxera Bordeaux rootstock.

My notes: Color, a rich dark garnet. At opening and prior to officially decanting I detected a strong wood [oak] scent on the nose. Not overly strong but detectable up front with more dark fruit scents [plum, raisin] as it breathed. Interestingly enough as I describe the scent as “dark fruit” I also detected some strawberry on the nose so it may be more accurately described as a combination of both.  Also noticeable on the nose was a distinct earthy, terroir, barnyard aroma that faded and somehow turned to a guava/fig scent as the wine opened over 30 minutes. As we began to sip and let the wine sit in our mouth I was very impressed with its smoothness. No heat or burn from alcohol. That is something to be said for a young mass-produced wine.  On the palate I detected; the same fruits referenced on the nose with the addition of cherry and black pepper on the finish. The finish was solid but not overly lingering which balanced well with the overall smooth factor and drinkability of this wine.

Grocery store retail price on this wine is about $12.50. Reasonable indeed if it were not on sale. Between manufacturer coupon and grocery in-store sale [in this case Winn-Dixie go figure]  the price was somehow actually reduced to $4.85! As you can imagine the wine was a big hit but just as surprisingly I think the sale scared off some possible buyers because of its low price and the shoppers own perceived price:quality ratio.  Unfortunately the sale price went up to $6.89 the following week but it is still selling well.

At a $12.00 price range, even though it is reasonably priced, I am not sure I would go out of my way to buy this wine. I would think twice or consider other options, even after admitting that I rather enjoyed it. At $4.00-$7.00 the decision is easy; BUY IT! Sure hope that $4.85 offer comes around again. ¡Salud!

From the winemaker’s web-site:

Cabernet Sauvignon is the classic production of Los Vascos, and is the grape that made the estate famous. The vintages all share a mature and fruity quality, fresh aromas, and a supple and fleshy structure. This wine has a sparkling ruby-red colour and a pleasantly fruity nose with aromas of black cherries, raspberries and plums, all with a hint of spice. This is a silky, flavourful wine, with a supple tannin structure. A great classic

Vintage 2010

There was a very dry period during the winter months (463 mm of rain compared to 726 mm the previous year), but carefully planned, controlled irrigation ensured a normal growth cycle. Low temperatures in the spring during flowering resulted in some flower abortion, and thus slightly less generous bunches of grapes. Production was reduced by 15% compared to the annual average (8.5 tons/ha vs. 10 tons/ha) but this resulted in greater concentration and remarkably well-balanced grapes.

Bright ruby red colour. Remarkably expressive, fruity nose: aromas of blueberries, cherries, blackcurrants and raspberries blending perfectly with notes of pink pepper, paprika, curry and saffron. Velvety, full-bodied and seductive in the mouth with mild acidity and gentle tannins giving very pleasant mouthfeel.

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Top 10 Wines – 2014

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TOP 10 Wines Picked by You

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As 2014 comes to a speedy end it is time to let the Whine and Cheers readers decide what the TOP wines of the year were for them. With close to 40,000 hits it’s interesting to see which wines are being researched the most.

Even more compelling to me is where these searches are coming from. Listed below at the end of this post you’ll find the TOP 15 countries [out of 96!] where searches were initiated leading them to Whine and Cheers for Wine.  For those wonderingRepublic of Tanzania came in at number 16!

As the drum-roll begins I have to admit that one post in particular wins the gold star for most hits all year-long. No matter the day, the week or the month, wine drinkers are intrigued and their attention peaked. The honor belongs to Australia’s 19 CRIMES Red Blend. Wonderfully marketed, its fan base continues to grow.

BEERCAMP@WCW2014For this TOP 10 wine list it will be exactly that, wines not themes. But it is intriguing to note that Beer with;  My 12 Days of Beer Camp, along with Winemaker Visits  B.R. Cohn Visits Whole Foods and Wine Clubs;  Hit or Miss the Wall Street Journal Wine Club would have made the TOP 10 otherwise.   So here we go….

 The Whine and Cheers For Wine Top 10 of 2014 picked by the general wine researching public!

 

Guilty! 19 Crimes

The Luck of the Blends – The Dreaming Tree Crush by Steve Reeder & Dave Matthews

HANDS Cabernet Sauvignon – Robertson, South Africa 

THE SHOW Pinot Noir on the road – from Chile to California

Joel Gott Zinfandel – 2011 vs. 2009

APOTHIC RED – 2010 Winemakers Blend

Wine Discovery of the Week – DiamAndes 2012 Perlita Malbec-Syrah

SALDO –The Prisoner Wine Company

Chateau de Macard Bordeaux Superieur 2009

Tablao Red Wine Navarra 2012

with 2 others close behind:

Honig Napa 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon – My First Wine of 2014

Revisiting Trivento’s Amado Sur Red Blend

 

Just as with the different countries visiting our site I am glad to see a nice variety of wines and varietals represented on this TOP list: Argentina, Napa, California, Spain, Bordeaux, Chile, South Africa and Australia.

No real common denominator other than the fact they were all found here by you along with others from around the globe.  Our world being brought together one wine at a time….. ¡SALUD! 

THE SHOW 2012  Diamandes Perlita @WCW2014EWM_SaldoZinfChateau de Macard Bordeaux Superieur 2009

 

Hands

 

 

 

Tablao

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Taking THE SHOW Pinot Noir on the road – from Chile to California

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THE SHOW 2012THE SHOW 2012 California Pinot Noir

Fun fact: I discovered this wine at a local Whole Foods Market a couple of years prior to being employed by them.  I still remember the moment because I was excited to find a Chilean version of a varietal I enjoyed. Now as a Wine Buyer for Whole Foods I get to turn customers on to this reasonably priced wine on a regular basis.

As per my earlier post [see below], this wine caught my attention because it was from Chile. Fast forward a few years: the production of The Show Pinot Noir has moved to California. I have to admit I was a bit concerned at first and maybe even shied away from it for a while fearing a disappointment.  Soon afterwards at one of our many in-store wine tasting events the opportunity arose and we put on THE SHOW.  Both the vendor, who had the same reservations, and I were pleasantly surprised to find this Pinot Noir still as bold and delicious as we remembered. More importantly customers kept coming back for more.

Now it’s time for the true test. A private wine tasting for one at home. Was THE SHOW from California really as good as its Chilean counterpart?  Cork popped and wine served I swirled, sniffed, sipped and took notes prior to rereading my original review. Here we go:

Light bodied as expected from most Pinot Noirs. Earthiness up front on the nose with fruit in the background [plum].  On the palate I detected dark fruit with wood, leather on the mid-palate and red fruit and spice at the finish.

I recall the Chilean version being richer and heavier bodied. Similarities? Bold and flavorful? Yes. But we have to keep in mind that not only are we comparing a wine made in two different countries but also two different vintages. That said I am sure the winemakers have their recipe down for keeping this wine as consistent as possible from year to year.

At under $20 and usually even under $15 THE SHOW Pinot Noir from California is perfect for those who enjoy this fruity varietal with some power. Light bodied? Yes. Light in flavor? Not even close. ¡SALUD!

 

 

2012 Winemaker notes:

The Show Pinot Noir has aromas of ripe plum, dark cherry and raspberry followed by flavors of earthy truffle, blackberry, cranberry, white pepper and spice. The wine has smooth tannins, a velvety texture and a long, lingering finish.

Grapes for The Show Pinot Noir are sourced from prime vineyards in California’s prestigious sonoma Coast and mendocino AVAs. sonoma Coast contains more than 500,000 acres primarily along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean, and extends from san Pablo Bay to the border of mendocino County. Pinot Noir from these regions balance elegance and a sense of place with rich and complex fruit. These wine-growing areas bring dark fruit character and smooth tannins to The show Pinot noir. aged in French oak barrels, this 100% Pinot Noir is a rich and powerful, mouth-watering wine.

 

THE SHOW and tell… 2010 Pinot Noir from Leyda Valley Chile

After recently reading about how promising the Pinot Noir’s from Chile were this lover of South American wines and Pinot Noirs particularly from the Pacific Northwest had his new assignment.

As per previous blogs I’ve always had a problem finding reasonably priced full-bodied Pinot Noirs. Seems my first mistake was starting with $40.00+ wines from Oregon. They were fantastic! What I would call a WOW. For some reason the lower end Pinot Noirs from same regions although likeable lack that WOW factor and for those thinking I may be influenced by the price I should add that I did not know the prices at the time of tasting. I’ve tried the same varietal at $20 or less from France, California, Australia/New Zealand and again; likeable but no WOW’s. My search for an affordable under $20 [heck under $15 even better] full-bodied, flavorful Pinot Noir is  ongoing.

This brings us to THE SHOW Pinot Noir from Chile. After reading the before mentioned articles I happened to come across this wine at our local Whole Food Market. I think it may have picked me but in actuality it was the only Chilean Pinot Noir they stocked. Fate steps in, even better it was on sale for about $10.99. The retail price seems to be closer to $16.00.

At decanting I must admit I was impressed.  My exact first thought was “red berry-licious” which doesn’t actually come to mind very often. As I poured the color varied from red to deep garnet. My next thought was ” I am loving the nose on this!”  I detected; fig, guava, plum, strawberry and cherry with an earthiness that turned to leather as it opened. I decanted for an hour but could have easily started drinking right then and there.  I also noted that this wine tastes just like it smells which doesn’t actually happen all that often to me.

This is a wine I will be coming back to, it made a good impression on me. It may not be a WOW such as my beloved LACHINI, COEHLO Paciencia etc. but it definitely added a bit of a WOW factor to our Wednesday night supper at home with friends.  I wonder how it tastes on Thursdays? 🙂  SALUD!

Winemaker Notes:

The cool winds (from the Humboldt Current) keep the fruit yields naturally to a minimum, giving us wines that have a lot of depth and rich concentration.  That depth is balanced by the refreshing acidity, silky tannins, and good minerality.  The aromatics are of pie spice, wild cherries, red fruit

Revisiting Trivento’s Amado Sur Red Blend

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Recently I had the urge and opportunity to revisit an Argentinian blend that originally caught my eye two years ago. This wine regularly makes the Wine Spectator Smart Buy list and has rated between 88 – 91 points for each vintage over the last 7 years. Pretty good for a wine that averages $15.00 a bottle.  Even more so when one comes across coupons and sales! My 2012 came in at $11.99 and I’ll be the first to admit I’d probably pay twice that much.

Prior to reviewing my 2010 post I was happy to find many similarities as I popped the cork and experienced this Malbec, Bonarda, Syrah blend.  My 2012 notes:

On the nose; dark fruit [blackberry], leather, wood [oak] in the background. Fruit moving forward as it opened. Earthiness gathering strength at about the 30 minute mark.

On the palate; black pepper, cocoa and dark fruits that intensified as the wine opened. Soft velvety tannins noted at the 30-40 minute mark.

Below you’ll find my 2010 review of the Amado Sur where I asked the question: Can a wine make you feel warm and cozy?  I am glad to report that two years later the velvety 2012 vintage felt like home. Searching for a great value? This may be the one.  ¡SALUD!

Warm and Cozy with Trivento’s

 2010 Amado Sur from Argentina

The luck of the red blends was with us again recently when I finally sat down to experience this delicious wine.  As I’ve asked before; can a wine make you feel warm and cozy? My answer is YES and for me the Amado Sur falls into this category.

I was drawn to this wine in our store because of its varietal blend; 80% Malbec, 10% Bonarda and 10% Syrah. Being a fan of all three led me to believe that I was going to enjoy their coming together and boy did I ever. I seem to not be the only one because it is flying off our shelves. I can take credit for a few bottles myself plus the happy returning customers that I have recommended Amado Sur to, but not the one to two cases we are going through weekly. So much so that we just ordered 10 cases for an end-cap display.  With the added benefit of a sale price and coupons we may just be ordering even more soon.

Trivento information from Banfi Importers: When in the mid-1990s Concha y Toro, Chile’s leading wine producer, announced its successful purchase a collection of vineyards (now accounting for 3,185 acres) in the Mendoza region of neighboring Argentina, there was little doubt on either side of the Andes that change was in the air. Wind is the agent of change, so it was only fitting that the new venture was named “ Trivento” (Three Winds), a whimsical reference to three winds that sweep through Mendoza and are such a distinguishing feature of the region’s climate and environment.

Upon decanting the first thing I noticed was its rich aroma which included; dark fruit, caramel and an undertone of wood.  As it breathed I also noted; black pepper, blackberry, black olive and oak on the nose.  Once poured its bright garnet color, more so along the edges of the glass, brought attention to the lovely slow-moving legs. Both of these I believe a cause of the wines alcohol level.  Additionally noted on the palate were; chocolate, a sweetening of the wine as it opened and what I listed as violet but in actuality may have been anise or licorice.

Winemaker notes: A deep red wine with dark blue tones and aromas of dark fruit combining with notes of black pepper, anise, cinnamon and chocolate. Lush flavors of plums and berries give way to velvety tannins and a persistent and pleasant finish.

We paired the Amado Sur with an aged cheddar cheese to start followed by pepperoni pizza. It worked very well with both, making the cheddar explode with flavor and the pizza even more spicy. I am looking forward to enjoying this wine again and again and even more so sharing it with family, friends and customers. ¡SALUD!

Price range: $12-17.00

Wine Spectator Review:

A floral red, with juicy blackberry, raspberry and plum notes supported by medium tannins, as the grippy finish unfolds with hints of mulled spice and licorice. Smart Buy. 90 Points.

Nathan Wesley – Wine Spectator – October, 2012

Organic Wine – Heller Estate Organic Vineyards: Chenin Blanc

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Heller Estate @WCW2014

The Heller Estate Organic Vineyards are located in the Cachagua (Hidden Springs) region of Carmel Valley, Monterey California.

Officially certified 100% organic by the state of California I appreciate the fact that they offer a copy of the actual certificate on their web-site.  I had never seen one before.

For certification the winemakers and property have to follow methods such as; no use of pesticides. Interestingly no herbicides are employed, and the desired results are accomplished by using the organic matter left following the crushing and pressing of grapes, which is then spread in the middle of the vineyard rows in order to build the matter content of the vineyard soil. Weeds are controlled by the use of cover crops providing a habitat for insects and spiders which are beneficial.  These grapes are also dry-farmed, little to no irrigation is used.

I originally became a fan of Chenin Blanc when I discovered one of France’s earliest official A.O.C. [Appellation d’origine controlee] Vouvray: a white wine region of France’s Loire Valley Touraine district where Chenin Blanc is known as Pineau de la Loire. I later also came to enjoy the Chenin Blanc of South Africa where I was surprised to learn it is the most widely planted varietal and also known as Steen.

This all brings us to California where according to on-line sources:

-During the 1980’s California had more acreage of Chenin Blanc planted than France.

-For most of its history in California the grape was considered a “workhorse variety” that could be used anonymously in bulk and jug blends, ideally partnered with Colombard and Chardonnay.

Luckily for us this changed in the early 2000’s when plantings declined and quality increased.  Heller’s original plantings were done in 1968 with production starting in 1976. The organic certification was granted in 1996 after three vintages of clean farming. The vineyard encompasses 120 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir at an altitude of 1,200-1,500 feet.

As one would come to expect the wines from France are old-world in style, leaning towards soft and delicate.  South Africa and California come across as new-world, filled with boldness and intensity.

My tasting notes included:

On the nose; floral [honeysuckle] with melon [green melon and cantaloupe], pineapple, stone fruit with aromas getting stronger in minutes most likely caused by the warming room temperature.  Medium bodied. On the palate; honeysuckle, melon, tropical fruits such as lychee and soursop with some of the 13.7 % alcohol detectable along with mouth-watering acidity.

Winemaker notes:

Aroma; Honeydew melon, guava and mineral notes with lime and nectarine highlights.  Also look for nice touches of floral components (honeysuckle/narcissus). Palate; Immediate, luscious mouth feel that envelopes followed by perfectly balanced acid components. Flavors of green apple, quince and citrus abound. Lingering mid-palate that extends nicely into a flavor packed finish with just the right touch of bright acidity.

I was very pleased with this wine which is priced in the $18-$25.00 range.   So much so that I would happily serve it again and recommend it to our customers.  We paired ours with ginger grilled swordfish, roasted potatoes and spinach. I especially like the fact that it comes from organic grapes. A fact that automatically garners some wine buyers yet seems to turn others off.  A sort of generalized stigma is applied by some to “organic” wines.  A fact I do not understand and a fact that should not be applied in this case.

¡SALUD!  To fighting the good fight.

A Cuban and a Bottle of Carménère on Prince Edward Island

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A few months ago I was asked by a fellow wine lover and blogger to do a guest post on his web site: The Winegetter. In need of a personal challenge I said YES. Okay, maybe not with the excitement of capital letters, but yes just the same. With my mission now complete, I must admit that I was not only happy with the outcome but also surprised with its reception; the kind words and now having it picked up by the Canadian outlet: Joy For Organizing for their Leisure section. 

Below you will find my original post as it appeared with additional photos that were not included before. As you will see it truly is a beautiful place.¡SALUD! 

Map of Prince Edward Island

Map of Prince Edward Island (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When The Winegetter first approached me with the theme of Somewhere Beyond the Sea I have to admit I was a bit lost at sea.  What on earth could I write about? I have always appreciated wine, but most of my travels abroad were prior to my true love of wine. Ireland; beer and whiskey. England; beer and cider. Hawaii; pineapple sparkling wine but lets not go there. Amsterdam? Let’s really not go there!

English: Nova Scotia Cape Breton Island Cabot ...

English: Nova Scotia Cape Breton Island Cabot Trail 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which lead me to a trip taken a few years ago as I was careening towards the proverbial fork in the road. Wine was still a hobby at this point in my life. No blog or wine job in sight. These would come later. Perfect timing for a much-needed first time visit to Nova Scotia and Canada’s Prince Edward Island. I realize some may say a sea was not technically crossed but having experienced the Gulf of St. Lawrence and ferry rides across the Northumberland Strait I would beg to differ. At least for this story.
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An adventure with dear friends. Driving and hiking the Cabot Trail of Nova Scotia prior to ferrying over to Prince Edward Island and the incredible accommodations of the Johnson Shore Inn. Owned by friends of ours who many can attest are beyond wonderful hosts.  This bed and breakfast sits on a red rocky cliff overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence who’s coastline kept us in awe for the entirety of our stay.


Wonderful memories come to mind including fabulous home cooked meals, PEI mussels, roasted pig, a visit to a dance hall where yes we danced into the cold night, a fresh steamed [salt water from the beach a few steps away] lobster dinner party for 18 where guests were asked to show off a talent which included poetry, song, and even tap dancing. Not aware of this tradition of entertaining others at dinner my impromptu talent became speaking Spanish. Luckily the other guests were very welcoming and pretended to be in awe of this talent as I babbled on. A few of my new friends had recently been to Cuba [Beyond the Sea!] so this became quite the topic as I was asked about my people, politics and family lineage.  A visit to our hostesses  Prince Edward Distillery to sample their award-winning potato vodka and many a day sitting along the red cliffs pondering, taking in all the natural beauty surrounding this very special place also made for incredible memories.
 
The wine portion of this story came near the end of our trip. After days of being pampered we decided to cook dinner for our hostesses. We spent most of the day researching and shopping for ingredients that included a stop at the state-run liquor store where the cashier had now started to recognize us after more than a few visits.  Not accustomed to such government operated stores I was first taken aback by their small selection of U.S. wines but at the same time impressed by their also small but varied choice of South American wines. Chile and Argentina were very well represented and Chile became my choice for our farewell dinner.
Those who frequent my web-site may know that I enjoy spreading the gospel of this signature Chilean, albeit originally Bordeaux varietal. In fact in reviewing my earlier posts I even referenced the PEI adventure in my: Our Wednesday night choiceSanta Rita Reserva 2008 Carménère review from last year.  And as fate would have it a wonderfully written recent guest post by The Armchair Sommelier:Drinking Carménère With the Devil.
 
Carménère, thought to be extinct for years, was discovered in Chile during the 1990′s inadvertently being grown as Merlot.  This lush somewhat exotic grape has earthy and leather aromas with a sweet dark fruit taste of plum, blackberry, and cherry.  I would describe it as deliciously rustic.
 



On this occasion our last meal turned out to be a delicious Rib-eye Pot Roast laden with fresh spices and root vegetables that cooked slowly for about 5+ hours. In my mind at least, it was to be perfectly paired with my chosen Carménère. If only I could remember which one in particular I painstakingly decided on that day.  But as it turned out I would come to learn years later forgetfulness was to be shared that evening.  As our meal progressed to the main course I poured the Carménère along with a little history of the grape and it was an instant hit. Those in our party of six that I had previously introduced this varietal to were excited to be sharing our secret.  For the newbies it was love at first sip.  As I recall dinner went off without a hitch.  All courses were better than expected and I would to this day forever be trying to match the perfect pot roast recipe from when we were on Prince Edward Island.  Yes, still trying.
 
Fast forward a few years to our Canadian hosts coming south to Florida for the winter. A reunion dinner planned!  My assignment; wine. What better choice but to relive our last supper, so memorable to me, by bringing a bottle of Carménère.  A joyous reunion. As dinner was served, I poured the wine and pointed out the varietal I had chosen.  Yes the same one we had devoured and shared before on our last night on PEI!  To my surprise I was met with blank stares, a lack of recollection and the comment; “Oh, we’ve never had that varietal”.  What?? Could I have possibly made up the entire experience or more likely romanticized the event that defined our last night together?  We laughed as I reminded them of our first time at the last supper and then we just moved on to the dinner at hand and wonderful new conversations. Our soon to be memories being created.
 
I find it interesting that as I bonded with the wine with friends for my memory of the event, others bonded with the dinner with friends or just the quality time of friends together. The one common denominator: friendship. This realization has made me think about how I may attach too much weight to factors that surround us all instead of what truly is important.
 
So yes, I’d like to take this opportunity to admit: My name is Whine and Cheers and I appreciate wine. But, I love  friendships!  

HARK – The Holidays Approacheth!!

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Happy Holidays

With that statement from a friendly customer a few days ago I knew it was here. As it quickly approaches the holiday season is once again sneaking up on us. From dead of summer to Halloween POW! it’s time for; Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Three Kings Day and New Years Eve just to name a few.

Recently I was asked to act as Interim Store Director for our Winn Dixie liquor store; thus begins my first holiday season in retail. Fortunately sales of wine and spirits are through the roof with daily sales increases in the high double and even triple digits compared to last year. Thank you wine buyers!

With the holidays upon us and family parties to help plan and take part in I have given a lot of thought to what wines to bring, gift, recommend and most importantly partake of. Luckily 2012 has exposed me to many good wines,  most of them affordable and easily accessible.  So upon much review I hereby offer what I hope will be a list of good value very drinkable wines that I have discovered throughout the year. Wines  meant to be shared with family and friends.  My official:   2012  Whine and Cheers for Wine Holiday List. For additional information on each just click on the links provided below.

Old Vine Zinfandel– After many tastings this year of this varietal, and I might add not really a stinker in the bunch, I ended up with an almost tie between Project Paso and Four Vines. The winner, FourVines which I have now had about three times in the last month. For the value it cannot be beat. Usually priced in the $12.00 range it can be found on sale now for $7-10.00.

Pinot Noir– Again it came down to two: Chile’s The Show and California’s Concannon. The winner is the Concannon 2010 Selected Vineyards Pinot Noir. Price range: $8-12.00.

Red Blend I lucked out with blends this year and the two that automatically come to mind would be; Argentina’s Amado Sur [$11-13.00] by Trivento and the Dream Tree Crush by rocker Dave Matthews and Steve Reeder [$15-18.00].  If you are looking for a bolder taste I’d choose the Malbec, Bonarda, Syrah blended Amado Sur. For smooth and light I’d suggest the Dream Tree Crush.

Côtes-du-Rhône-   LES HALOS DE JUPITER 2009.  A mostly Grenache Rhone that yes even goes excellently with corned beef. Price range; under $15.00.

White Bordeaux/Sauvignon Blanc- Chateau Montet at $8.99 vs. Chateau Tour de Bonnet Blanc $14.99. Both very good wines and values. That said if I were having a holiday party serving a large group; my “go to” wine would be the Chateau Montet. Everyone will be pleased.

Champagne/Sparkling Wine  One choice automatically jumps to the forefront: Champagne De Magerie A Bouzy Grand Cru [$35-40.00].  At this price, for me at least, it is not an everyday wine but a great special occasion choice.  Domaine Ste. Michelle [$15.00] has been our house sparkler for years but since I am writing about 2012 discoveries Piper Sonoma Sparkling Brut at $12.99 gets my vote.

Riesling- Chateau Ste. Michelle out of Washington State can do no wrong by me with their many worthy wines. Their Riesling and Sweet Harvest Riesling [$10.00] are affordable, dependable good wines. An easy choice. A new discovery for me this year was the Dr Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling. At $11.99 also delicious and dependable.

Merlot Gordon Brothers Family Vineyards from Washington State’s Columbia Valley is my clear winner. Their 2007 vintage was so memorable that 8 months later I am still thinking about it.  Priced in the $18-22.00 range it is worthy of the investment.

Malbec- For me all roads lead to Argentina’s LAMADRID. From their baseline Malbec [$10.00] to the RESERVE [$18.00] to their GRAN RESERVE [$28-35.00], which I recently finally tried after sitting on the bottle for 2 years, all are worthy.  Beautiful wines of which I wholeheartedly approve for vintages; 2008, 2009, 2010.

Chardonnay Over the summer I discovered a delicious Chardonnay; Hess Select from California’s Monterey region [$8-15.00]. More recently we have enjoyed Sonoma County’s Sebastiani [$8-12.00]. Both are rich and very well-balanced. For a non-California style Chardonnay [i.e. little or no wood] I suggest Fat Bastard  [$7-12.00] out of France.  Sourced from all over the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Those accustomed to oaky California Chardonnay’s may think they are drinking a completely different varietal. It is smooth yet  dry.

Cabernet Sauvignon- This category for me turned out to be the most varied in pricing. We lucked out; great Cab’s ranging from $10.00 to over $50.00. In the lower priced range Cycles Gladiator was a great find. One that our store now easily goes through a case a week.  In the mid-$20.00 range Sonoma’s  Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve was a wonderful treat, also one I’d like to revisit.  And at the higher end of the spectrum the delicious and exciting Stag’s Leap Artemis comes to mind; complex, full-bodied and powerful.

Sauternes- To complete our holiday meal or any special occasion I always think of Sauternes,  although you can also enjoy this sweet french wine at the start of your evening as an apéritif.  Our 2012 discovery was the 2008 Chateau Doisy-Védrines. Not inexpensive at $30.00 for a 375ml [half] bottle, but it is always worthy of a special occasion shared with worthy family and friends.

Here we are at the end of our first ever 2012  Whine and Cheers for Wine Holiday List. As 2012 starts to wind down I’d like to take this opportunity to be thankful. Very thankful to all my supporters and followers, some that I have had the honor of communicating with and getting to know throughout the year.  All your visits and comments have meant the world to me. Thanks to all of you,  2012 will always be my year of  Whine and Cheers for Wine! 

Thank you!

Happy Holidays

and  ¡SALUD!