Tag Archives: wine

Ode to Spain & Good Friends – Bodega Pago de Cirsus

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pago de cisrsus chardIn preparation for a vacation throughout central and northern Spain my vino-loving friends decided to introduce me to the wines of Pago de Cirsus from the region of Navarra. As luck would have it they had me at Navarra, a denomination of origin or region in central-northern Spain that I favor and neighbors the better-known Rioja. I hate to generalize, but I can honestly say that I have never had a bad wine from the Navarra area.

Thanks to the wines of Pago de Cirsus I am happy to report that my favorable opinion of wines from Navarra continues to grow.  We didn’t drink them all on the same night, not that there is anything wrong with that, but we had the pleasure of  discovering three of their different releases over a couple of different stay at home dinners. It pays to have wine-loving friends and neighbors.

Pago de Cirsus 2017 Chardonnay; hand harvested,  100% Chardonnay

This wine was an immediate hit and surprisingly my first true Chardonnay from Spain. Served with vegetarian / vegan hors d’oeuvres it disappeared quickly and left guests asking for more. This from non Chardonnay drinkers! Beautiful notes of rich tropical fruits; peach, pineapple with no oak detected.

The Chardonnay was actually the last of the three wines sampled and it was sampled on a different night altogether. For the reds, the evening was planned and a bit more organized. As soon as the guests arrived and settled [party of six] the notepads and writing utensils came out. I quickly realized that six different people taking notes in a very social setting was not going to work. Fate intervened and a volunteer note-taker for the group appeared. I will forever be grateful because thanks to this giving soul we have wine notes to review!

Pago de Cirsus 2014 Cuvee Especial;  45% Syrah, 40% Merlot, 17% Tempranillo. Fermented in French oak vats, and then 14 months in new French oak barrels,

With a great pedigree to start, unbeknownst to us,  this hand harvested red-blend was selected as the best Spanish red wine, at the 2014 Brussels World Competition, it did not disappoint.  Five out of the 6 tasters gave this wine high marks and thought it was representative of a more expensive bottle. Group notes: black pepper, mocha/chocolate, baking spices including clove, blackberry, fig, violet, leather, woodsy [cedar/oak]. Medium bodied.

pago de sirsus redsPago de Cirsus 2013 Seleccion de Familia; 85% Syrah, 15% Tempranillo.          Fermented in French oak vats, then 14 months in new French oak barrels. Aged three years.

This without a doubt was the favorite of the night with six of the six guests agreeing on its excellent quality. A wine to savor with time on your side. The additional aging of this higher end of our three samples  truly came through by adding character and richness. A great way to end our wine-tasting event. Group notes: tobacco, leather, black pepper, paprika, red fruits, smooth tannins, long finish. 

Although my recent trip to northern Spain and Portugal did not include the Navarra wine-region, I am happy to report that this not known by most area is still tops on my list. As are the wines of Pago de Cirsus which have across the board truly impressed.

So, as I fantasize about another trip to Spain, you better believe I will continue to search out wines by Bodegas Pago de Cirsus, vino from Navarra, and reasons to share with wine-loving friends.   ¡SALUD!

 

 

Looking for Inspiration I Found Wine

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2009 MartiniLouis M. Martini 2009 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon

Little did I know that a quick peak inside one of my wine cellars would inspire me to pick a wine, a theme and the perfect quote for inspiration:

This corpulent, plump, juicy, delicious, hedonistic effort should keep for up to a decade – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

As I went through wines in search of tonight’s perfect choice, the 2009 Louis M. Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon called to me.  I wasn’t particularly looking for a California Cabernet in fact I was looking for anything but.  Yet, this bottle had me at 2009, the vintage.

How had I held on to this bottle for so long? This isn’t a wine I would usually age. Yet here it was. A vague memory told me there was a story and of course there was. Louis M Martini wines, Michael Martini the third generation winemaker (grandson of Louis M. Martini) and even my parents played a part.  Should you be intrigued and want to know more just click on the link provided although it’s not required:

Napa Valley – 2009 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon

Yes, my first inspiration was the vintage. But as I researched the wine itself and came across the Wine Advocate quote, I just knew the wine Gods had pointed me in the right direction: “should keep for up to a decade”, well let’s see about that!

Flash forward:

DAMN! or YES! they were right.  Referring to wine reviews and winemaker notes describing this wine to be big, bold, corpulent, hedonistic, and high-toned it is now interesting to experience and taste how the aging process of ten years enhanced and yet softened this wine.

Notes:

Rich dark dried or candied fruit on the nose; plum, blackberry, prune, raisin. Compote like.  Same on the palate with the addition of an earthy and vegetative taste. Now ten years after harvest, I found it to be as smooth as a big Pinot Noir from Oregon or South America,  yet still a California Cabernet.

Inspiration found, how lucky am I……. ¡SALUD!

Picture It! 1924

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1924

Gnarly Head’s 1924 Double Black Red Wine Blend is an ode to the days of Prohibition. As per the label: “wine’s darkest hour when it was deemed illegal”. Luckily for us, the year 1924 was also when this winery set down their wine roots.

I recently discovered this Limited Edition Gnarly Head production in our wine department at Whole Foods. My beverage buyer had decided to bring it in and create a small display. After sampling this wine, we may want to go bigger.

Having enjoyed Gnarly Head wines, mostly Zinfandel, this Lodi California blend caught my eye. The frosted bottle didn’t hurt either. The fact that it is presently priced under $10 pretty much decided it for me right then and there. Tonight’s wine was chosen.

Slightly chilled to room temperature, remember I live in the tropics, this wine poured a dark rich garnet purple color. The nose boomed with power and excitement of dark fruit such as; blackberry, fig, blueberry, raisin with a bit of cocoa thrown in. The palate was pretty much the same with a bit more chocolate and the addition of caramel.

This velvety fruit forward bold field blend managed to satisfy all my wine needs. This says a lot of a wine at this price point. Luckily I am not alone. Wine Enthusiast rated a recent vintage 90 points and classified it under their BEST BUY distinction. VIVINO app customers also rate it highly. This easy drinker is a secret no more.

I am predicting that with in-store wine tastings our small display will need refilling on a regular basis. A great example of QPR [quality to price ratio] if I ever did see one. Here’s to spreading the wine gospel!

¡SALUD!

 

Nothing Small About This Petit Chablis

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IMG_0024As a wine student, educator, buyer and lover I truly enjoy discovering new varietals and regions. Sometimes I come across them myself or am guided to them by vendors, distributors, customers or friends. Petit Chablis falls into mostly the customer category. I’ve had many a customer refer to Petit Chablis as a varietal when in fact it is a region or better yet an appellation of the area known as Chablis, in Burgundy France.

Within Chablis and its sub-regions; A dry with little to no oak Chardonnay is the required grape varietal for wine making.

Pairing suggestions from bourgogne-wines.com

Petit Chablis has a tang of ozone about it which calls for oysters, raw fish, and prawns (raw, grilled, or in sauce). It also makes a willing partner for small river fish (fried), grilled sardines, and numerous other fish species. But above all it is its frisky and energetic character which constitutes its charm. It is masterly with fried eggs and omelettes, as it tames their heaviness in the mouth. In the same way, it lends definition to tripe sausages (andouillettes) and snails (escargots). Goat cheese is perfectly at ease with its roguish appeal, as are pressed or hard cheeses such as Gouda or Gruyère. Its freshness and simplicity make it an ideal wine for summer salads or as a pre-dinner drink – try serving it with savory puff pastries (gougères).

Petit Chablis although highly regarded is not that well-known by much of my customer base. That said, we do carry one example of it in our French wine area and I am happy to report I find it worthy. Having wanted to try it for a while I finally got a chance to sit down and ponder about the 2015 Laroche Petit Chablis.

My notes:

Beautiful pale straw yellow color in the glass. On the nose; fruit at the front with a mineral background. On the palate; medium bodied, again with green fruits at the front, a nice rich roundness in the mid-palate followed by minerality with great acidity. Somewhat reserved overall not bold.

It is interesting to note the difference between a bold California Chardonnay and this french import. I see where this would work very well with the before-mentioned goat cheese, salads and seafood whether cooked or raw. To me when pairing, this is closer to a Sauvignon Blanc than to the California style Chardonnay of late.

I am looking forward to sharing this wine with customers and friends who at the time may not know what a Petit Chablis is but I guarantee they will not forget anytime soon.

¡SALUD!

Mexican Wine! Pavo Real 2012 Red Blend

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IMG_3288Yes it’s true: Mexican wine has finally made it to Whole Foods Market North Miami.

Many of our guests are surprised to hear “our new Mexican wine” once they enter our Specialty department. Some already in the know, are beyond excited to get their hands on a bottle or bottles as the case may be.  I am happy to report that we have sold multiple cases since its arrival only three weeks ago.  A testament to the customers who buy one bottle for its newness factor and return happy to buy more.

During my time in the wine biz [spoiler alert career anniversary quickly approaching]  I probably averaged about two or three requests a year from customers about wines from Mexico. Most of them having discovered them while on vacation there and raving about them upon returning home.

Although wine making is not new to Mexico, history tells us wine was introduced to the area by Spanish missionaries, it was not exported due to limited production levels. As the popularity of wine growing increased in the Valle de Guadalupe so did its production and exporting beyond the west coast became possible. The more I learn about this area and its now 100+ wineries the higher the Baja Peninsula gets on my to-do list!

As regular readers may already know I love discovering new wine trivia, varietals etc. Well the Pavo Real falls into this category in a big way!  Wine from Mexico, check. Wine made by a famous sommelier, who knew? Turns out that for those of us who are fans of the movie SOMM [if you haven’t seen it add it to your queue STAT], from their web-site: A prestigious blender: The wines are blended by prestigious and internationally recognized sommelier, Ian Cauble. Ian Cauble has been a Master Sommelier since 2012 and gained worldwide recognition when featured in the critically acclaimed documentary Somm, which documented Ian’s journey to pass the infamously difficult Master Sommelier exam.  And lastly for me, a new varietal to add to my list!

The blend listed on the Pavo Real includes; 50% Grenache; 20% Cabernet Sauvignon; 20% Ruby Cabernet; 10% Barbera.  Ruby Cabernet? I had never heard of such a varietal. Turns out, thank you Wikipedia;

Ruby Cabernet is a red Olmo grape variety that is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan, it can produce wines with good colour and a pleasant cherry flavour, but is mostly blended into bulk wines.  And for those wondering what an Olmo grape variety is;  Olmo grapes are wine and table grape varieties produced by University of California, Davis viticulturist Dr. Harold Olmo. Over the course of his nearly 50-year career, Dr. Olmo bred a wide variety of both grapes by means of both crossing varieties from the same species or creating hybrid grapes from cultivars of different Vitis species.

My notes:

On the nose, earthy aromas bringing mushrooms and fallen leaves to mind with red fruits in the background including strawberries and raspberries. Light bodied seeming when poured.  On the palate; medium/light body but flavorful, nicely balanced fruit, not overly fruity, restrained with peppery spices on the finish.

The Pavo Real, which translates into Peacock by the way, seemed to evaporate before my very eyes, well actually once poured into my wine glass is more like it.  This is an easy-drinker which I think would please crowds when entertaining [someone say Cinco de Mayo?] and also when having a quiet romantic evening for one such as I did. The price point of under $15 makes it a no-brainer with some deals out there showing Pavo Real available in the $10-$13 range plus shipping.  I hear they have a white wine out there too. I can dream can’t I?

VIVA MEXICO! and ¡SALUD!

 

BLENDER’S NOTES
“Pavo Real Red Wine exhibits intense and fruit forward aromas of dried strawberry, black cherry liqueur, black currants, crushed pomegranates, violets, wet leaves, wild herbs, black pepper, cacao nibs, wet leather and dried clay. The palate is full, layered, rich and spicy with flavors of preserved raspberries, strawberries, bitter chocolate, dried herbs and baking spices.”

A DELICIOUS PAIRING:  This intense and flavorful wine demands a rich meal. Beef fajitas with grilled onions and spicy chorizo dishes will stand up to Pavo Real Red Wine. Pair with sweet sopapillas for a decadent Pavo Real experience.

Robert Parker 97 pt Rated – Louis M Martini Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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IMG_3252Closing in on 4 years later I finally took Michael Martini’s whispered advice and sampled “the Alexander Valley”. Yes, albeit a different vintage, but yet once again a wine renowned for its quality. With many recent 90pt plus ratings, Louis M Martini wines, from Sonoma to Napa Valley, have been flying off the shelves at our Whole Foods Market. For my 2013 background story click here.  I wonder what  Michael Martini The Wine Whisperer would have to say about his 2014 vintages….

My notes:

Dark ruby-red in color. Luscious and rich fruit on the nose upon decanting with notes of; spice, resinous woods, smoky cedar, leather and a earthy/dusty quality. On the palate; deliciously red and dark fruit forward with strawberry, black currant and blackberry noted.

I have to agree with Robert Parker’s comment: “This is a beauty”.  If this Alexander Valley beauty is available to you, it is well worth the just under $30 price tag. As per The Wine Advocate review will it age well for 20 years? Probably so. But why wait. Don’t think twice. It will not disappoint.   ¡SALUD!

Winemaker notes:

The 2014 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has received high critical praise for its decadent black cherry, black current and blackberry aromas and flavors that weave together with earthy notes of truffle, tobacco and smoky cedar. This expansive wine is dense, rich and well-structured, held together beautifully by assertive tannins that lead into a long, full finish. Its depth and structure give the wine potential to easily age a decade or more.

The Wine Advocate/Robert Parker 97pts.“The bigger, richer 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley is 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petite Sirah aged 16 months in 50% new French and American casks. This is a bigger wine and close to 2% higher in alcohol at 15.5%. There are 11,000 cases of this big, full-bodied, boisterous Cabernet Sauvignon that has a dense ruby/purple color, notes of underbrush, forest floor, tobacco leaf and oodles of blackcurrants and black cherries, with a touch of woodsmoke. The full-bodied wine hits the palate with a cascade of glycerin, fruit and purity. This is a beauty – dense, rich, and structured, but capable of lasting 20 or more years.”

 

Wine Spectator Top 100 – #6 Machete from Orin Swift

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img_1953The Wine Spectator Top 100 list is a BIG deal every year. Making the Top 10 and being named #6 on that list, well it doesn’t get much better for everyone from the wine makers to the consumer.

As the names and scores are released daily I immediately get questions from customers about their availability. Of course I usually beat them to the punch as I await every daily press release in the hopes that I not only know the wine but have it on my shelf at our Whole Foods Market North Miami. Wine geek much? I guess so..

fullsizerender-2As a big fan of Dave Phinney and his Orin Swift winemaking skills I knew of Machete; a Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache blend, but had not had the honor of trying it due to availability or distribution issues. Well that all changed when earlier this year Dave Phinney announced the sale of Orin Swift Cellars to E. & J. Gallo Wines. Since then I am happy to announce that most if not all of the Orin Swift wines have become available to me [thanks to great distributor relationships] and are flying off the shelf just by word of mouth and reputation. Well, until now of course.

With only 15,500 cases produced, a 94 point score, a TOP 100 and TOP 10 list placement by Wine Spectator the 2014 vintage may not be around for long . Fingers crossed that it is, but I am also excited by the fact that Dave Phinney will be staying on as head of Orin Swift Cellars while benefiting from the power and potential behind a partnership with E. & J. Gallo Wines¦SALUD!

My tasting notes: In all honesty this was a group tasting. Fate had me buying a bottle of Machete, to probably drink/taste alone, on the same night wine loving neighbors in need of brawny men to move a wine cellar fridge called. The stars and planets aligned. Wine cave installed, this wine was a glorious hit with all who imbibed and even garnered me a sale of multiple bottles! Our thoughts; opaque purple-black in color, big & robust on the nose with dark berries, currants, licorice, cloves and white pepper, full-bodied, drinkable now not in need of decanting, great Autumn wine, although big and bold on the nose much softer on the palate, smooth tannins, noticeable acidity.

Wine maker notes:
A nearly opaque color sets in the glass with a hard, red complexion that is almost black. Aromas of ripe blueberries and candied plum mingle with toasted oak and charred vanilla. The entry is soft and inviting which paves the way for a lush mid-palate replete with layers of ripe boysenberry and cassis. The finish showcases ripe tannins and pronounced fruit which frames the two for nearly a minute. **Bottled with 12 Different Labels, you may not receive the one pictured**
Wine Spectator notes:

Generous and expressive, big and brawny, this offers a mouthful of tannins but also brims with flavors and aromas, including Earl Grey tea, dark chocolate, dried violet and toasted gingerbread. Rich notes of plum and black cherry are balanced by forest floor and earth accents, which linger on the long finish. Petite Sirah, Syrah and Grenache. Drink now through 2030.

Machete 2014

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Arrowood Vineyards Knights Valley 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

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Arrowood Vineyards Knights Valley 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

 

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Arrowood Vineyards sits in a beautiful valley of Sonoma County along the two-lane Sonoma Highway. Such a quiet and wonderful  location that I had to take advantage of their cozy front porch and reflect on how lucky I was to be touring wine country. Wine-tasting through Sonoma County, from its mountains and valleys to the breathtaking coastline.

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Driving through Sonoma County.

 

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Arrowood Vineyards front porch with a new friend.

From Arrowood’s organic certified single vineyard varietals to sustainably farmed and certified gems throughout Sonoma, including this Knights Valley Cab, all left a mark not only on my palate but also my trip.

 

 

9 1 points -antonio galloni February 2016 “… superb. Raspberry jam, spice, scorched earth, rose petal, cloves and new leather are some of the signatures. Knights Valley is often noted for Graves-like sense of gravel-infused minerality, naturally allied to a California expression of fruit. That is exactly what readers will find.”

 

 

 

 

 

From Arrowood Vineyards;

Knights Valley Vineyards

Tucked into the foothills of Mount Saint Helena on the remote eastern edge of Sonoma County, Knights Valley experiences a moderated climate, offering a longer and later growing season that develops dark fruit aromatics.

 

 

My notes:

The first thing I noticed was how beautifully balanced this big Cab was on the nose. Earthiness, fruit and spice all coexisting with no one factor overwhelming the other. At the same time; gentle and subtle yet profound.

On the palate the the earthy spiciness [cedar, tobacco box, coffee, eucalyptus] were in the background with rich dark fruit at the front. With medium tannins the finish was spicy and herbal [eucalyptus/anise]. Balanced on the palate as well I would suggest decanting this gorgeously rich Cabernet.

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View from Arrowood Vineyards Porch towards Sonoma Hwy.

 

When I come up with a sentence that includes “gentle and subtle yet profound” you have to know I enjoyed this wine. I can say it left a mark. 

Would I recommend this wine? You bet. Would I buy this wine myself? Oh yeah.

 

In the $40.00 range, it is not an every day wine for most of my customers but it should definitely be on the radar for their holidays and special occasions. For those with a bigger wine budget the Arrowood Knights Valley Cabernet is incredibly well priced and could easily be compared to other wines at twice the cost. Now excuse me as I start planning my next wine trip back to Sonoma or at the very least reliving my memories over a glass of wine. ¡SALUD!

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Arrowood Vineyards tasting room lobby.

 

 

Winemaker notes:

Our 2013 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is bold with black forest fruit and spiced plum, offering undertones of roasted coffee and crushed rock. Caramel and anise come through on the palate accompanied by broad tannins and a rich and persistent finish.

 

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words 

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Carolyn Wente visits

 

What a year! As 2014 blended into 2015 and now 2016, the wine retail dust is settling. Tastings, winemaker visits, holiday programs, classes, marketing events and more encompass my blur of a year as a Wine Buyer for Whole Foods Market. Luckily for me, lots of wine and little whine.

In no particular order some highlights of my wine filled year in photos. ¡SALUD!
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    PIATTELLI MALBEC 201319 CRIMES WINE

Whole Foods Market NMIA

Whole Foods Market NMIA

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Aging Beautifully: Chateau de Macard Bordeaux Superieur 2009

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Chateau de Macard Bordeaux Superieur 2009

Recently while preparing for a four-month long home remodeling project and possible out-of-state move [don’t ask] I found myself organizing and reviewing my wine collection.  In doing so I discovered a couple of bottles of 2009 Chateau de Macard Bordeaux Superieur.  A wine I discovered via WTSO [see story below] and have excitedly sold on and off depending on availability as the North Miami Wine Buyer for Whole Foods Market.

As one thing leads to another, as they usually do at least for me, I looked up my original review on Whine and Cheers for Wine where I found multiple references.  Not only did this wine make this sites Top 10 for 2013 and 2014 but I realized my review was dated February 2012! Hard to believe three and a half years had passed.  After rereading my rantings I’ve decided to take my own advice:  it will be interesting to see how the flavors develop over time. Or if they do. Assignment of  the day! A 2015 re-tasting of the Chateau de Macard.

50% Cabernet Franc, 39% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon

My 2015 notes;

On the nose; rich red fruit, alcohol [soon dissipated], oak, spice [vanilla], dark fruit [plum] and a mossy earthiness as it opened [5-10 minutes].

On the palate; medium body, red and dark fruit at forefront, great acidity, good tannin level and a nice mouth-feel. Over the next hour red cherry fruit and a red plum finish was noted along with spiciness [black pepper] as the wine softened but with tannin’s holding on. An hour and a half to two hours in, the wine continued to soften beautifully with floral notes, caramel, mocha and violet detected.

The 2009 Chateau de Macard continues to blossom.  In my notes I found the words beautiful and lovely used. Two descriptors not usually found in my vocabulary. I am so glad I had the perseverance or more likely the forgetfulness to save this wine for a future tasting. Lucky me! And Lucky you if you come by this wine. I have one bottle of the 2009 vintage left and a bottle of the 2012 for future scientific imbibing.  Can’t wait to see what develops. ¡SALUD!

 

 

Chateau de Macard Bordeaux Superieur 2009

Impressed by what I keep hearing about the 2009 Bordeaux vintage and the reputation of the winemaker,  renowned Alain Aubert of Saint-Emilion estate Chateau Haut-Gravet, I purchased this through WTSO, Wines til Sold Out.  At a price of $9.99 a bottle I thought it was a great deal and value.  The way it works is that with a minimum order [4 in this example] you get free shipping, the regular or original retail price listed was $18.00.

This particular wine received a 90 pt rating from Wine Spectator along with its Smart Buy designation.  It  was also featured on the Today Show during a segment; Tips For Choosing the Perfect Holiday Wine.

Deep dark burgundy and purple in color this blend includes; Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Upon decanting I detected dark fruit notes, a distant oak aroma and what I would describe as terroir or minerality.  Tasting after decanting 1+ hours this wine added; tobacco and  black cherry to the palate.  Showing a good acidic balance this medium bodied Bordeaux value did not taste like a $10.00 bottle of wine. I am glad I have 3 additional bottles in my cellar [the guest room :)] because it will be interesting to see how the flavors develop over time. Or if they do.  This is where willpower comes in handy…..

Salud!

Tips For Choosing The Perfect Holiday Wines As Featured on NBC’s Today Show Aired Fri Dec 09 2011
Wine To Bring To The Party [A Gift For The Host] Chateau de Macard 2009 Bordeaux Superieur AOC   $20 “One of the great wines of the year” “Shows your good taste” Sommelier Joe Bastianich
By Wine Spectator CHATEAU DE MACARD Bordeaux Superieur 2009 Score: 90 Country: France Region: Bordeaux Issue: Dec 31, 2010 Designation: Smart Buys Ripe and dense, but fresh, with silky-textured plum, blackberry and blueberry fruit carried by sweet spice and  tobacco notes. The fleshy finish shows nice drive. Should open up more with brief cellaring. Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.