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Wine of the Week: 2009 Domaine Jean Collet et Fils [Chablis]

Date: Tue, Mar 19, 2013 Wine Tasting

“One cannot think well, love well, and sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ― Virginia Woolf

I would've never guessed that a bottle of Chablis would be my wine of the week, but yet there it is, just mocking me, taunting me and not caring one little bit if I thought it was worthy or not to be the wine of the week.

But yet this it's this very tasty Chablis, which I'm recommending this week. But I do so with a bit of caution; if you're already a Chablis-convert you possibly could be sadly disappointed in this wine. And why you ask; because it's produced in a style, one that many would call a modern or non-traditional. Simply put, this wine is made to appeal to a larger audience, leaving behind much of its enamel-obliterating, mostly bone-drypersonality behind and, instead focusing on far more well-rounded appealing qualities.

What are those qualities? Immediate approachability, a rich-round mouth feel, a vein of acidity [just not the entire mine] blended nicely with a drop of honey-oil and fascinating minerality [but not the whole sea-shell collection]. I sampled this wine luke-warm, but with a bit on chill [very slight] put upon the bottle, its flavors and aromas perked up nicely, making for a delightful pairing with the fish-tacos from my favorite hole-in-the-wall place here in San Diego.

So if you'd like to get your hands of a bottle of this fantastic Chablis, here's the place you can getit, enjoy. I scored this wine 90 points, it's not a classic, but it's classically easy to get along with and instantly enjoyable. Until next time folks, sip long and prosper cheers!

Full Disclosure: This is one of the wines featured on the weekly [brand-new] twitter chat-room called #WineStudio. I sampled this wine at the studio and drew my impressions on this wines quality and character from the bottle provided by the folks at Protocol Wine Studio.

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Winery of the Week: Col Solare, Red Mountain AVA

Date: Mon, Mar 18, 2013 Wine Tasting

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ― W.B. Yeats

In today's long awaited review is a really well-known [for the wine-geeks who maybe reading this] winery in the Red Mountain AVA of Washington State, known as Col Solare [translated Shining Hill]. I've hadthe good fortune of visiting them twice in the last couple of years. Each visit was different and unique. The first visit here was in 2010 and my second visit came late in 2011.

The reason I've held back on this review; is because my initial impressions of their wines, really didn't "wow" me like I thought it would or that it possibly could. However, I didn't let that stop me from [recently] acquiring a good number of their 2006 and 2007 vintages. And when I say recent; I mean it wasn't until just this year I popped the cork on both vintages once more. This fact is what brings me to this short mostly pictorial article today and, the why is answered by a simple yet profound, wow.
For those of you who may not be familiar with this winery, from a quick look at their website; you’ll find the "Col-Solare" project is a partnership between two influential wine producers. One is from Tuscany, Marchesi Antinori [one of my favorite Italian producers] and the other Washington State’s Chateau Ste. Michelle [known for producing many tasty value wines].

This partnership came to fruition in the Red Mountain AVA, which one of the Columbia Valley’s most celebrated and, jaw-dropping sub-appellations. This AVA; has the right combination of heat, nutrient-poor soils, low rainfall and cool night temperature swings, which make for the perfect storm of flavor and finesse.

That coupled with boat-loads of concentrated fruit, stunning aromatics, and full tannins, making for some tasty wines with long aging potential. It would seem from my experience, laying these wines down for a few years before approaching them would be a wise move. If you not sampled their wines before may I suggest that you start with the now stunning 2006 vintage.
As you can see from the image above, Blue Sky, White Earth, Red Mountain. So to say, this is an ideal spot for growing vitis vinifera [aka, the wine bearing grape] would be a huge understatement.
I can attest to hot arid conditions during the day, because the day I was there during the bloggers conference, we got to experience life like a grape with the hot-sun beating down on our faces. But because of the diurnal shift in the night time hours it gives wine grapes bold flavors and good acid.
This is the view from the bottom of the steps; from there you can see clear out to the Horse Heaven Hills in the distance [btw, just on the other side of those hills you'll find Oregon]. Hills, which look set ablaze with a golden orange color at sunrise and, like an old-mans face, a morning fog like shaving cream rest atop the hills just waiting for the razor of hot sun to burn them off [See Below].
You have to wake-up pretty early in the morning to get this view, and be prepared to snap quickly [the picture above was take from Terra Blanca].
The last time I was there, they had some of their 2011 fermenting away in the tank, a very cool year, even on Red Mountain.

I was part of one the tours/taste they offer. Tours, which can be booked via their website, thinking to myself this had to be one thee most immaculate wineries I've ever been to, nothing was out of place. It almost smelled too clean, if there is such a thing.
As you can see the letters are quite large and can be seen easily from afar and, found atop of the massive staircase which takes you up to the very comfy tasting salon.
Now about the wine in my glass, as I mentioned above I did sample both the 2006 and the 2007 at various stages, even sampled the 2007 out of the barrel and at time I thought "hmmm, these wines are very good, but" they just didn't have that wow-factor. But as time went by, in bottle these wines matured and really came into their own; so much so that reading about the current scores of 90+ points, I could not agree more.

In fact I'm echoing their impressions with my own 93 point score on both vintages. These wines are highly recommended to any vino-sapien considering adding Washington State juice to their cellar. Both vintages had real depth of flavor, layered complexity and spoke "terroir" quite eloquently.After the deftly polished tannins, the well integrated judicious use of oak, and the long seamless finish, you find a wine with real "soul" and substance.

A wine well worth the price of admission; which is $75 per 750ml bottle; but the savvy shopper can find these sames bottles for less if you know where to look. Right now is a good opportunity to grab a vertical of their wines with the 06, 07 and the 08 all being available for purchase.

Both vintages are a blend, with Cabernet Sauvignon leading the way. The 2006 was the first vintage produced at the [new facility]winery in Benton City. And with the 2008 vintage having now been released, receiving high praise, what you may have not noticed, that with each vintage the percentage of estate fruit grows toward the goal of becoming 100% estate fruit and, also 100% Red Mountain fruit. If you look at the AVA on the bottle, right now it states Columbia Valley.

Okay, so you may...be thinking, "uh okay Mr. Cuvee your thinking is that $75 bones is worth the price of admission, but I don't have that kind of coin". Alright I hear you, I hear you so here's a bright idea, how about "Shining Hill" which is their second label, it sells for a SRP of $40 and while I've never sampled SH, it does appear well received with an average score on Cellar Tracker of 90 points.

Some may wonder: "okay, uh..you seem to really be high on Red Mountain in general, what it's in it for you?" That is a fair question, but there's is nothing "in-it" for me personally;other than the pure satisfaction of being a guide-post of sorts. One that points the way to some of the best juice in the world and Red Mountain is certainly one of those places you need to discover for yourself. Moreover, I'm convinced that once you do, there will be no turning back.And until next folks, remember as always, "Sip long and prosper cheers!"

Full Disclosure: On my last visit, the tour and subsequent tasting fees were waived. All wines reviewed were purchased at my own expense.

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The Rules of Wine Festival

Date: Sun, Mar 17, 2013 Wine Tasting

“Life is the only game in which the object of the game is to learn the rules.” – Ashleigh Brilliant

Rules, rules, rules they're everywhere and, just about anywhere one may look and, if you're ever in doubt about what the rule is, then there's the "rule of thumb"

But what about the "rules" for going wine-tasting? What are they? Should there be any? I think there should be and so do many other seasoned vino-sapiens. So whether it's a wine festival, a portfolio tasting, or just the average garden-variety wine tasting, it's important to understand a few rules before the next tasting.

Seeing I have just come back from a wine-festival of sorts the other day, I thought it would be a good idea to help the average vino-sapien understand the rules-of-engagement sort-a-speak and, more importantly the view-point from the other side of the tasting table.

This somewhat humorist list of rules, which will have many of you laughing and, following out your chair. This list is being republished here, courtesy of my friends at the Hedges Family Estate and you can find the original posting here via their trade dispatch.

Rules at a Wine Festival:

- Don’t tether your wine glass to your neck.

- Don’t pinch your fingers and say, “Just a little.” Dump it if you don’t want to finish it, but I’m going to pour as much as I damn well please.

- Don’t violently lift your glass mid-pour and say, “That’s enough.” Same deal as above.

- Don’t say, “Give me the biggest thing you have.” This isn’t NASCAR.

- Let “smooth” take the day off from your vocabulary… the whole day

- Don’t shove. [I mean… really]

- Don’t say you hate Merlot. We all saw Sideways. Guess what: Miles didn’t want to drink Merlot because it reminded him of his ex-wife. That bottle he drank in the end—his most precious bottle—had a ton of Merlot in it.

- Don’t tell every winemaker about the winery that was down the street while you lived in Lodi.

- Don’t ask how the wine scored… ever.

- Do wear a “Wine’er, Dine’er, 69’er T-shirt

- If you are going to wear one of the those little food trays that has a cutout for your glass, you better be damn sure you are cool enough to wear it. Note: no one is that cool.

- Over-buff late thirties guy: Don’t try to impress your date by contradicting me. You’re going to fail. Yeah, try me!

- Don’t lick your glass… pig!

- Don’t talk about your sulfite allergy. There is a good chance you have no idea what you’re talking about.

- Don’t dump into the water pitcher. And always look before you drink out of it.

- Practice spitting at home; it will come in handy.

- Don’t talk about the legs after you swirl the glass. Here’s a tip: the legs don’t matter.

- Don’t take your heels off and puke in the lobby. [purple cookies are gross]

- Don’t ask what the most expensive wine on the table is.

- Keep the rim of your glass food free. [Ewww]

- If you proclaim that you don’t like white or rose, we will make fun of you when you walk away.

- NO Perfume! And go light on the lipstick, honey!

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The Good, the Bad and the Grenache

Date: Wed, Mar 6, 2013 Wine Tasting

Some people drink from the fountain of knowledge, others just gargle. ~Robert Anthony

And I'm the kind of wine-guy who likes to gargle with Sauvignon Blanc before heading off to a tasting, and no I didn't swallow. But now that you have that amazing image in your brain [you're welcome] it's time to get down and dirty with one of my favorite grapes, Grenache.

And yes each one of these wines is high-alcohol; like the one pictured above sporting a whopping 15%[oh-my]or very near 15%; so save me the crocodile tears and the fits of anguish over the whole, wines are "getting-to-hot" nonsense. Because each of the following wines I'll be reviewing today, have a balanced approach [although not necessarily tasty], even with the high abv.

Okay, so I received these wines last year as samples [and so did a whole lot of other blobbers] and I'm just now getting around to reviewing them. Each wine has three things in common; all three had Joel Gott as their winemaker, all three are Grenache and all three are from the same vintage, 2010.

Now that said, in today's review spotlight will be, Shatter, Alakai and The Show. As I said, Grenache is one of my favorite grapes and I know you're not supposed to have favorites, but I do so get over it. Now speaking of favorites, only one of the three wines in today's spotlight actually tripped my trigger, the other two "meh" they were okay.

1. 2010 Garnacha Calatayud, Spain, "The Show": Typically I'm all over wines like this, their flavor, complexity and down-right feel-good wine drinking is their hallmark. But not so this time, in order to SAVE on costs, the wine was fermented in concrete tanks, while only 20% is aged in oak.

I thought the wine showed a lot of potential, being from a 40year old vineyard site, but it lacked that umph. My score on this wine is 84 points, this is one "Show" I'd forget about seeing. Price Range: $13 - $20 most places.

2. 2010 Alakai California Red Wine: Again another wine with big potential, a rocking Rhone-Zone blend featuring; 77% Grenache, 17% Syrah, 4% Mo-ved, and a drop of Petite Sirah. This time around, barrel aging was employed, but the grapes grabbed for this mission; could not bring home the cat. I was sadly disappointed in this wines performance.

I found the wine underwhelming and disjointed. Not sure if it would be worth the wait, but a bit more time bottle could allow flavors to integrate a bit more. It’s not bad, but not stellar enough to make me reach for my wallet either and my score 84 points. Price: $18

3. 2010 Shatter Grenache, Languedoc-Roussillon, France: This folks is how you do it, and do it right. If you want drink a wine, one which boxes well above its weight class, than this is your ticket to Pay-Per-View wine-stopping excitement.

This wine is a result of first-time collaboration with Mr. Dave Phinney [of Prisoner fame] and Joel Gott, but it would appear Mr. Phinney's now iconic style took the lead. This is a brilliant wine; produced from a steep hillside vineyard, planted 60 years [black, fractured schist] ago near a small town in Roussillon, in a place called Mauray. So duh, no guessing why this wine is number one, priced higher than the others and two, why it beat the snot out those other two poseurs above.

The wine had me from the word go, soon as I popped the cork on this bad-boy, I knew it was game on. In the glass; this wine is sporting a deep, nearly opaque ruby color, while inviting red-berry aromas easily escape from the glass, inviting the first slurp. From the first pour the last drop, this wine is nothing but Grenache goodness at its best. The soft French oak is nicely woven into the wines vivid dark and red fruit core; you barely even realize it's there. The finish is long, lasting and it drives deep. In a word this wine is seamless.

Well worth the price of admission at the SRP of $31, but you're in luck if you live in San Diego. Because this 93 point wine is just coming back into stock at one of my favorite retailers Vintage Wines and I just confirmed they do sell this wine for $27 [btw, they can ship if you live out-of-state].

Do want to read the story behind the Shatter Collaboration? If so click here.

Full Disclosure: The wines above as I've stated were sent to me as samples for the review process. And two, I do not work for Vintage Wines in any capacity, but they probably wish I did, ha. Until next time folks remember to sip long and prosper cheers

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The Rhone Zone:2010 Delas Saint-Esprit Cotes-du-Rhone

Date: Sun, Mar 3, 2013 Wine Tasting

“If you only drink the same wines that everyone else is drinking, than you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ~ A wise Vino-Sapien

Well good afternoon every and welcome to March, here in San Diego it looks like we are having some summer like weather, just ahead of the coming Spring. Sadly my friends on the East coast are still in full blown winter mode and for that I'm truly sorry. But it looks like a good opportunity for them to indulge in one of my favorite Winter wines, Port. So I say lean into, because before you know you'll be looking Spring right in the face.

In today's review is a fantastic wine, one that is so easy on the wine-budget, you may become giddy with delight, perhaps even a few hand-springs, okay-okay perhaps that's a bit too ambitious. But you will soon get my point after you uncork what I can only describe as one most "complete" bottles of wine for $12 you will find any where, and here's where you can get some for yourself.

This wine has everything, the average vino-sapien is looking for via earthy, mineral-driven nuances [you literally taste the vineyard dust], light engaging aromatics, food friendly, a gentle verve of dark and red fruits pulsing though its soul. Even the garden variety wine-twirler will get this wines easy going and easy to get along with personality; a wine that's easy as a Sunday morning. This is the style of wine that makes pairing choices so easy and wonderfully fun. I can't imagine too many things that would not pair well with this wonderfully well-made wine from a stellar vintage. And a unique blend with Syrah leading the way at 70% with the balance 30% Grenache.

If you've never taken a visit to the Rhone-Zone, as I like to call it. Then this folks is your ticket to ride, a wine that will come out, shake your hand and you'll become fast friends. It will leave you wondering why you had not met sooner. My score on this wine is 90 points, the kind of wine to purchase by the case load. Easy, fun and flavorful, so very worth the tiny price of admission. Until next time folks, sip long and prosper cheers!

Disclosure: I secured the wine featured in today's review with my own cold-hard cash from my employer; Bird Rock Fine Wine.

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Wine of the Week: 2007 Spring Mountain "Elivette"

Date: Wed, Feb 27, 2013 Wine Tasting

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. - Aristotle

I had a chance to sample this wine, just a few weeks ago, while at work. I know poor me, the first time I sampled a wine from this producer, it was just last year, during the Wine Bloggers Conference in Oregon, someone had generously uncorked several high-value labels from the Napa Valley. It was however the 2002 "Elivette" which really caught my eye, a wine that I thought was epic.

This is the kind of wine, you give as a gift to impress friends, or to celebrate special events in your own life, a wine to share with others. It's not a wine, at least for me that would be part of my "everyday drinker" category of wines. After all, I'm no Warren Buffet, with a disposable income, the size of the garden variety third world country. No disrespect, but if you can afford to drink this kind of juice on a regular basis, hey more power to you. I'd do the same if I could.

Now that said; this wine is predominantly a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, with Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot. And in a word it's a master-piece. You really can't wine much better than this, and their 2007 effort is rock solid great. This wine is one spectacular ride to tasty-town; one where you'll be quite sad once the last drop has fell from the bottle.

Even though this bottle I had sampled [then spit] had been opened the day before, never decanted, [but I'd recommend decanting] jostled here and there, from one wine-shop to another, and it still over-delivered. Nothing but silk, lush but not ripe, structured but not rigid, this wine is like a painting, it takes time for it to evolve in the glass. It could still easily go another 10 years, if you wanted to lay a few down. This wine had unbelievable depth and elegance, like so few wines do. So yes, in this case this wine is well worth the price of admission.

The wine sells for a Benjamin or more, just about any place you go. Honestly there's not much of the 2007 vintage, but I'd grab as many as your bank account will allow. I scored this wine 96 points, one of the highest scores I've ever given a wine.

I've only been by the winery a couple times, I've been to a couple of their neighbors Vineyard 7 & 8 and Fantesca, so I think on my next trip to Spring Mountain, I'll have to make sure I drop by and say hello.

On your next trip to the Napa Valley you should make a point to discover the wonderful Mountain appellations like Spring Mountain, and their neighboring Diamond Mountain and of course what would a mountain-top experience be like without making an appointment with a few producers on Howell Mountain. Give these AVA's a swirl the next time you find yourself in the area, it will be hard to go back to the wineries who dwell in the valley.

Again these are days, where you wish you didn't have to spit. Until next time folks, sip long and prosper cheers!

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Pinot Report: Top Ten Santa Lucia Highlands [Part 2]

Date: Sat, Feb 23, 2013 Wine Tasting

"Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day life more civilized." --- André Simon
So uh-yeah, you've been waiting for part two for sometime, I know, I know. But like your favorite new TV drama or sit-com, you have to wait, for what seems like an eternity for the next installment. So I hope the heightened anticipation, will be worth the price of admission. But if you happen to be new to this whole shebang, then you're in for a treat today. I have [7] seven new, fresh and yes I'll say it fabulous Pinot Noir's sure to rock your wine-world.

4. Sequana SLH 2010 PN: This wine sells for right around $32 retail, but some places have for just under $30. So be smart and shop around. This beauty comes from the fine folks at the Hess Collection, who've decided to dip their collective fingers into the Pinot-Pie as it were and boy I'm glad they have.

The nose grabs you right away, with a barn-yard, wet earth funk. But as time goes by, each swirl unveils new, more inviting aromas. Baking spices, dark just-ripe fruit grabs your mid-palate, while sweet tobacco wraps around your tongue, laced with firm acidity to hold back the near berry-bramble collision. I was lucky enough to have scored a few [untested] bottles of this wine last year while visiting Hess, and I'm so glad my hunch paid off. My score 91 points.

5. Lucienne Estate SLH Single Vineyard 2010 PN: This wine is only available to be purchased in a 6-pack, but the silver lining is that each bottle retails for right about $35 each. I was told that very little of these 6 packs remained. So after seeing this, you better skedaddle over to the Hahn Estate site to score your own six-pack. This wine was barrel aged for 14 months in a combination of 35% new French oak barrels, which means unlike some wines I tasted, you get far more expression from the vineyard and far less barrel impression.A silky, rich mouth-watering new world PN in its purest form. The finish just sails on and on. My score 91 points.

6. 2010 Testarossa "Fogstone Vineyard" Sta. Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir: This bottle is on the pricier side of the equation. At least it's in my book, selling in limit quantities for a hefty $56 each. Not an every-day-drinker for the average vino-sapien, but definitely a great bottle of wine to hold unto for a special occasion.This wine is a suave, thinking man's wine, which carries the ample fruit on a sea of well integrated tannins, with banners of fresh cola, earth, herbal notes and ripe strawberries. I scored this wine 93 points.
7. Los Gatos Cuvee 2010: I've been impressed with this producer over-all for a long time, but I've always thought their prices have swung toward the higher end of the scale. For me, as an nearly every-day wine drinker, those prices are an unsustainable blow to my wine budget. Part of the reason why I was glad to see they came out with a second value label.

A wine they have dubbed the Los Gatos Cuvee, produced from the Monterey AVA. Produced under a screw-cap indicating, it's made in a drink now and drink often style. It's still has some heft, easy drinking flavors and $23 SRP. I score this wine 88 Points.

8. Paraiso 2009 SLH Ranch Blend PN: Once more, this producer continues to amaze with the caliber of their wines, especially the Pinot Noir category. This is their entry level PN, it sells for less than $20 and I scored it 90 points. Baked cherry pie, white pepper, sweet tobacco, cola, nice length, well balanced. This wine is an easy every day drinker for the vino-sapiens who would like to dial up the quality, without emptying their bank accounts. Best Buy.

9. Bernardus 2010 SLH Rosella's Vineyard: A dark garnet color in the glass, a funky barnyard thingy on the nose, nice round yet enticing red fruited berries, cola, herbal, leaving you with a long, yet sumptuous finish. A wine produced from the famed “Pisoni Clone” and Dijon clone 777. This wine is listed as a single vineyard designate and carries a price commensurate with that designation, SRP $65. My score 93 points, sings par excellence.

10. Bernardus 2010 SLH Gary's Vineyard: Okay folks, this is the last wine in the top-ten list, but certainly not least, by any stretch of the imagination. A huge wine, full of swagger and braggadocio, but you would never know it; by the way it carries itself. It's like they say it's not bragging if you can back it up and this wine certainly brings it. This was one of the very first wines I tasted that day, but my-oh-my it was nearly best of show.

The nose grabs you right away, by the throat, and whispers in a Batman like voice, I'm Pinot Noir bitch, deal with it! Notes of vanilla, florals, toast, subtle spices, while dark plumand raspberry jam dominate the conversation. The palate is exceptionally full and complex, from the beginning to the last amazing drop. Having to spit really sucks sometimes, if you know what I mean. I scored this wine 95 points. It's a blockbuster, with a price to match SRP $65, ouch.

Perhaps you wondering about all the other wines, which I tasted and didn't make the top-ten list, feel free to shoot me an email and I will then send you a list of those who were left in the also-ran category. Until next folks, remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

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Pinot Report: Top Ten Santa Lucia Highlands [Part 1]

Date: Thu, Feb 7, 2013 Wine Tasting

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

A sentiment I share and one which finds me in hearty agreement, but alas the world we live in today seems to be a bit more caught up in not only in the pursuit of gold, but also vain notoriety [aka, reality TV].

Now that said, the tale I'm about to tell is simply about "cheer", indeed something we can all 'clink' our glasses together and rejoice. About what you may ask, well finding some superbly well made Pinot Noir, that you should be running out to purchase this very moment [what are you waiting for?].

As some you may know, I've been teasing this out over the last few days; that I would be coming to you with my top-ten SLH Pinot Noir report. So here it's, I just yesterday attended the Santa Lucia Highlands tasting, in Costa Mesa. There was something like fourteen different producers, not that I was keeping score. So I thought I may have a tough time coming up with a top-ten list, luckily that was not the case at all.

When the average vino-sapien thinks of high-end Pinot Noir; the Santa Lucia Highlands is not the first thing that comes to mind right away. But I'm here to tell you that it should, because there are some extraordinary wines being produced in this area, just south and east of Monterey, Big Sur is directly to the east and the vineyard sites look down into the Salinas Valley. You'll find many of the SLH wineries have a tasting room presence in the city of Monterey.

As I had tweeted out earlier, some of you may find my top ten report to have a few surprises in the line-up; as I don't always go-in for only touting the usual suspects, nor do I want to only be apart of the hallelujah-PN-chorus. So with no further ado, here's the first part of my top picks from yesterday's tasting.

1. 2009 Pessagno Central Avenue Vineyard PN, Monterey: The color was very unique, in direct comparison to the many others seen that day. A light colored burnt crumbled brick/strawberry. The nose was captivating, amazing florals, spice, strawberry/cherry. The first slurp, nice weight, structure and vivid acid carrying the fruit. At first slurp cola, near burnt-toast crusted with a strawberry jam. This wine sells for a mere SRP of $17.99, I scored it 92 Points. A best buy.

2. 2009 Pessagno SLH Pinot Noir: Another stunner, recently written-up by WE, I could not believe what my mouth was experiencing. How could I've never heard of these folks before? Not sure, but I'm so glad I had a chance to get acquainted with their wines. We all know about yeasty-beasties and their role in the wine-making process. They use what has been described as a "Burgundian" yeast culture, known for producing bold flavors and aromas, right along side natural yeast fermentation. Again the same color as above, a "sur lees" style that brings an invitation to flavor town. WOW, my score 92 points, the SRP is $28, what?

3. 2009 Four Boys Vineyard PN: This is their flagship bottle and my-god it taste like it, the fellas at WE oozed all over it with 94 points, I really could disagree too much. This wine was the best of show, yesterday, a screaming fast-ball of flavor and finesse knocked cleanly out of the park. This folks is SLH at its best. A PN rumored to be planted to the famous "La Tache" clone, as well as Dijon clones. The barrel-regimen is described as 75% new French Oak, over 11 months.

In the glass a burnt orange/strawberry color, nice barnyard funk in the nose, earthy, candied strawberry/plum and pie crust, nice acid carries the basket of summer fruit, lots of depth and polish. The SRP $55, and my score is 93 points.

I was hoping I would finish the entire list today, but I unfortunately will have break this into a part-one and a part-two. That said look for part two tomorrow, as I have seven more fantastic SLH Pinot Noir wines you won't want to miss. Until next time, sip long and prosper cheers!

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Wine of the Week: 2007 Les Jamelles Viognier

Date: Tue, Feb 5, 2013 Wine Tasting

It has been said that; "The only difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible.” ~Mark Twain

Well I couldn't agree more with that statement. But one of the funny things I observe, if that if you go to any tasting event, you'll definitely find white wines tend to be the wine, which is left over at the end of the day. Check it out for yourself, the next time you throw a party for a bunch of cork-dorks [a technical term] I believe you'll see that the white-wines will often sadly be the last to go, compared to their red wine counterparts.

I'm sure everyone is familiar with the phrase "Variety is the Spice of Life"which is one of my favorite quotes, and one I subscribe to myself.Isnot life much better when it is filled with a "variety" of the things we like? Of course it is. It is inevitable that somewinesin your life will become boring and your palate will crave new tastes, new experiences, so it's nice to have otherwines that you still enjoy to fall back on.

Now there's is nothing wrong with giving the garden-variety Chardonnay a swirl now and then. But it's of course a wine which isvery plentiful, one you can find on just about any grocery store shelf. But when you've got to the point, that many seasoned vino-sapiens ultimately get to, the last thing you want is Chardonnay. Especially when the world is brimming over with a virtual cornucopia of other white wines, all sporting many different styles, flavors and aromas.

Wine with Depth: So you think the Miami heat has depth on the bench? Uh-no not compared to this champion with roots in the Northern Rhone Valley of France. It's with the idea of "depth" that I bring to your attention a white wine with somedepth, complexity, intermixed with bold flavors and floral characteristics, sure to please even the most discriminating palates, yes maybe even you lurkers out there.

I present to you Viognier [pronounced vee-oh-nyah]. A white wine which has it roots in France's Northern Rhone Valley. In fact, according to one so-called wine expertRemington Normanwho has identified two distinct strains of Viognier an "Old World" strain, most common in Condrieu, and a "New World" strain, which is found in the Languedoc and other areas.

Although made from the same grape, the two strains produce distinctly different wines and Viognier from Condrieu tends to be on the expensive side of the equation. So with that said, you will mostly find the NW strain here in the states, although if youstretched yourself and did some research you could find yourself some of the Old World style Viognier, a feat which to many is not unlike obtaining the holy-grail.

Personality Disorder: Uh-huh, so you thought only people were the only ones with personality disorders? Sadly it too can be said that even your favorite wine can have the same dysfunction. There are a couple styles of New World Viognier to be found and the style you chose depends on whether it has been aged in Oak or Stainless Steel.

If the wine has been aged in Oak, it will give a creamy nuances along with its floral expressions you can also look forward to an in heady bouquet of nectarine, lemon peel and lychee complemented by floral notes of lime blossom and honeysuckle.

Butif you prefer the more traditional stainless steel approach or made in neutral oak barrels, look for more clean flavors, higher acid, tending toward a more restrained styleand but at the same time more elegant, meaning the wine will be more pronounced on the nose and a feature a bit less weight on the palate.

Aroma Therapy: Everyone needs a little “aroma-therapy” now and it’s also happens to be in true in Côte-Rôtie [known by many as the roasted slope] because it’s here that the very aromatic Viognier [up to 20% allowed] lends a hand at perfuming the blends of Syrah from this very well known French wine Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in the northern Rhône wine region.

The beautiful red wines of the Côte-Rôtie typically exhibit an almost paradoxical combination of meat aromas [including bacon] and floral aromas or as I've heard it liked to as, “the flowers on my breakfast-in-bed tray.”

Pairing Champion:Viognier is a food pairing champion and can stand up nicely to rich creamy dishes and butter based sauces. It is especially good as an appetizer pairing wine, which pairs ever-so-nicely with lightly toasted French baguette, cut in small bite size slices covered with a base blend of goat cheese, topped withfig paste, orange rind, it's just fantastic. Viognier also pairs nicely with soft and semisoft cheeses: Fresh chèvre [goat cheese], gruyère, aged Gouda, and double and triple creams, give it a swirl, you won't be disappointed.

Other dishes: Foods that I've found pair best with Viognier quite nicely include but are certainly not limited to, Chicken Cutlets based in an anise, tarragon butter sauce, Roasted Salmon covered in a creamy yogurtherb sauce and will also go nicely with any number seafood dishes, shellfish Scallops, lobster, crab, and shrimp.

Shopping Tips: I've gathered a few other selections as well, some great choices that I've run across myself recently, that I'm sure will please a broad range of palates.

K Vintners Viognier 2009 (Columbia Valley; $20). Edgy spices and minerals under honeyed white peach, orange blossom, and apricot. Itasted this one at the 2010 Walla, WallaWine Bloggers conference this past summer and it's just fantastic. 90 Points

Miner Simpson Vineyard Viognier2009 [Napa Valley, CA $20] Nice minerality and citrusy yet lush, with white peach and apricot nectar. I've tasted and purchasedthis wine on many occasions and is for sure one of my go-to labels. Year after year, it's a well made wine. 90 Points

Cold Heaven Viognier 2009 [Sta. Rita Hills, CA $24] Wet-river stone, a bit restrained, with stone-fruit blossoms, juicy citrus, and white peach notes. I've had this wine a few times and for folks who likethe "dry"approach this would be a great choice, look for the blue label. 89 Points

Les Jamelles Viognier 2007 [Languedoc-Roussillon, Vin de Pays d'Oc France $10] I uncorked this bottle just a couple of nights ago, it delivered nicely for the meager price. In the glass you have lovely pale gold color core and watery rim.Nose: A rich, very aromatic wine, with lots of characteristic fruity scents, and typical varietal aromas, such as apricots and fresh white peaches a small bit of white pepper. This wine represents a great value. 87 Points

Fess Parker Viognier 2008 [Santa Barbara, CA $20] Fess Parker Viognier's like many othersdisplays great fruit focus, offering peach, apricot and pear notes that are ripe and well-structured, with a supple texture. I've had this wine also on many occasions; folks this wine is a tasty New World style Viognier. 90 Points

ServingTips: I recommend sipping and slurping these wines chilled, but not too cold, otherwise you'll lock in many of the wonderful perfume like aromas wanting to escape from the swirl of the glass. I'm thinking about 58 to 60 degrees would be perfect. In my opinion; serving this wine too warm will dull the experience considerably.

From the wonderful folks atWine Dine TVI present to you the Viognier as the word of the day. Until next time, sip long and prosper cheers!

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Rioja Uncorked: Roda Rioja Reserva 2006

Date: Sat, Jan 26, 2013 Wine Tasting

"Compromises are for relationships, not wine." --- Sir Robert Scott Caywood

Join me as we take a trip over to the Iberian peninsula and grab some vino from Bodegas Roda. A gorgeous bodega located in northwestern extension of the Rioja region in Barrio de la Estación, at the town of Haro, in the sub-zone of Rioja Alta. Which sits on the the south bank of the Ebro River andis associated with some of the greatest wines of Rioja as well as some of its most venerated bodegas [wineries], many dating back a couple centuries.

For those of you not familiar with theRioja region of Spain, it's a place guarded by mountains on all three sides, the region itself takes its ancestral name from a tributary of the Ebro, called the Rio Oja.For the history buffs in the audience, therehas been vineyard activityin this regionsince the times of Roman occupation [talk about your ancient vines].

But it was during the French Phylloxera [vine destroying aphids] crisis that many grape growers and winemakers from France settled into northern Spain and brought with them many of the similar wine making practices we see in France today [like knowing a wine by its region and not its varietal].

For those you traveling outside the comfy confines of lets say California, you will find that the Rioja region is a lot different than what you may be use to here in California'swine-country, because much of the regions small growers sell their grapes to merchants or co-operative cellars instead of vinting and bottling their own juice. But this is a trend that is changing for many producers.

Fact-finders have indicatedthat avast majority [75%] of the vino produced in this region is red wine, is produced primarily from the Tempranillo grape. While some of the better wines will be composed of a blend of small amounts of Graciano, Garnacha and Mazuelo. Speaking of blending, many wines labeled Rioja thatyou encounter on wine store shelves todaywill be a blend of one of the Rioja's sub-regions, the Alavesa, Alta and Baja and the capital is La Rioja.

About Roda: Their objective was to create high expression wines in a modern stylewhile still being reflective of the Rioja region’s micro-climatic [terroir]spectrum of soil, orientation, elevation, climate, vintage year and traditional indigenous varietals.RodasetBordeaux as their benchmark of technique and quality.

Hopingto evoke the fullest reflection of place in the wines, focused their efforts on old vine vineyards capable of best expressing the terroir of Rioja. They started Bodegas Roda in 1987, but they found that the 1992 vintage quality was far off the mark, so they soldoffthe first winesto thebulk market [like the former two-buck up-chuck].

Provingtheir commitment to quality and their goals of making high expression wines, itwasn't until1996, that Roda'sfirst release hit the market with 30,000 bottles of Roda I and Roda II.

2006 Roda RiojaReserva: This wine is truly is expression of those stated lofty goals above and I want to salute them for a job well done in producing a wine with some substance, something sadly lacking in so much vino today. This wine is a blend of 94% Tempranillo, 4% Garnacha and 2% Graciano, and was aged for 16 months in 50% new French Oak and spent 20 months in bottle before release andhas a SRP of $45.

What are the pairing possibilities? I'd say endless really, but shorten that list some, it pairs well with a variety of grilled meats [I had it with Spanish seasoned grilled Pork-Chops] and sauteed veggies, a perfect wine-dinner with friends or family as this wine comes to dressed to impress.

Sniff, Swirl and Slurp: At first glance, a nearly opaque ripe-plum colored core. Sticking my fat half-Irish nose into the glass to get my first whiff,bright and intense aromas of sweet, ripe, dark-plum and black currants are married with notes of licorice, mocha andfresh Cubans in a cedar box.

Abeautiful marriage of new andold world styles meld the darkfruit flavors, a nice slap of well integrated spicy oakall over my palate, finishing in a big and silky expression of minerality and a earthy elegance. I gave this wine a score of 92 points and a hearty buy recommendation. If you'd like to graba few bottles of this winefor your own cellar, I know the folks who can make that happen for you and at the right price.

Other Voices: The Drink Hackerhad this to say, "A rare Rioja: Fruit-forward, lush, and easily drinkable without requiring a big hunk of meat to back it up. Blackberry and fleeting Port-like characters play with hints of tar and tobacco. Moderate body, but smooth, and with a pleasing, rounded finish. Really lovely. I'm guessing that is a endorsement? But it's does seem a little vague, but at least you can see the folks at Drink-Hacker did at least think it was lovely.

Full Disclosure: This was sent as a press-sample [last year]for the review process.

The hopeful take-away from reviews like this;is to primarilyis to encourageyou toexpand your own vinous horizons and the Spanish wine scene is a great place to make that happen. There's so much wine fromunexplored regions of the world and Spain has so much to offer; to even the garden variety vino-sapien.

And no I'm not just talking about "bulk" Rioja that you may see at places like Trader Joe's for example. Oh-no do yourself a favor, get yourself to a tasting or two, at your local wine store [and no grocery-stores don't count]. Speaking of tastings, I was just at a Italian portfolio [Vias]tasting in Beverly Hills, [wines from the Toro region] that made my face melt off [to borrow an expression] because the juice being slurpedwas flat-out winetastic [a technical term]. So until next sip long and prosper, cheers everyone!

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Oregon Uncorked: Top Ten Pinot Noir Picks

Date: Fri, Jan 25, 2013 Wine Tasting

“You don’t have to be clinically insane to make Pinot, but it’s a distinct advantage.” ~ Michael Hill Smith, co-owner Australia's Shaw & Smith winery

I recently read with a bit of amusement; seeing it took a so-called panel of "experts" to come up with just five picks from the vast Oregon Wine Scene. But with only four days [the time I spent there just last month] I was able to come up an overflowing list of top-rated must-haves labels.

By the way; these are all wines presently sitting in my own cellar, because as it's said, "there is nothing like putting your money where your mouth is" and this mouth has had lot of amazing Oregon Pinot swirling about in it recently. So now is the time, to spill the beans and name, names.

A few of the names you will see on the list below, are wines I've already reviewed, but compiling them all here in a nice tight list, just may be a bit more helpful for the thirst vino-sapien in search of a shopping list. If you have any trouble finding any of these wines yourself, I know someone who can make your shopping experience so much easier.

1. Youngberg Hill: 2008 Jordan Block Barrel Select

2. Matello: 2010 Whistling Ridge Pinot Noir

3. Matello: 2010 Souris Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

4. Ken Wright Cellars:2008 Savoya Yamhill-Carlton AVA
5. Bergstrom Wines: 2009 De Lancellotti Vineyard Pinot Noir. A stunning example of Oregon PN from the Chehalem AVA, immediately accessible and supremely enjoyable. I know it may seem an impossible task, but wait, it will improve immensely with just another year in the bottle. 93 Points.

6. Bergstrom Wines: 2011 Shea Vineyard: At first blush, this wine is chock full of sweet baking spices, red currant, dried cherry and savory herb thing, wrapped around well integrated tannins. Definitely one for the cellar, hold. 92 Points.

7. Bergstrom Wines: 2009 Oregon Pinot Noir: Another amazing offer from this great producer; dark ruby colored in the glass, aromas of dark cherry and blackberry entice the first slurp. A quick swirl on the palate reveals sweet spice and fresh cherry baked pie-crust, I can still taste it. 90 Points.

8. 2009 Dukes Family Vineyards: Pinot Noir "Charlotte" Eola - Amity Hills AVA: Here's another very nice example of Oregon Pinot Noir, with a lot going on. I just uncorked this bad-boy the other night, wowsers [technical term] an intense, ripe youthful aromas of dark cherry, red raspberry draw you in for the first slurp, sweet spices, red-berry flavors, wrapped around the smooth rich tannins. Balance is excellent, length good and final impressions delicate, plus complex equal smiles all around. 90 Points.

9. 2009 Wahle Vineyards and Cellars Pinot Noir: Another Holme Hills gem from the Eola Hills. What else do you need, an immediately approachable wine boasting layers of ripe fruit, outstanding volume, vibrant acidity, and a lengthy, velvety finish. At a SRP of $36 it's a best buy. Score 91 points.
10. The Eyrie Vineyards 2010 Dundee Hills Estate Pinot Noir: Mrs. Cuvee and I ran into this bottle over dinner at the very popular "Thistle" restaurant in McMinnville, OR. They had this fantastic, food-friendly Pinot that just screamed Oregon. A pioneering producer on the Oregon Wine Scene, before everyone else hopped on the band-wagon.

Color was hard to come-by, but a light cranberry color. Lovely nose, rich earthy aromas and bouncy red fruits, a nice pop of morello [a chef’s go-to] cherries on the palate, and spices, baked crust and wet forest floor playing in the back ground. Spread across a canvas of firm, yet silky tannins. Score 91 points. SRP on this wine is $36 another best-buy.

Bonus: 2009 Hawks View Pinot Noir: Hello Chehalem MountainsAVA. You can see that review here.

If this list wet your appetite and you'd like to know about a few more fantastic sources for Pinot Noir, then please as they say, stay tuned! As I'm going back to the SLH Tasting once more, in a couple of weeks and I can't wait to let you know all the gems I'm sure to find there. Until next sip long and prosper cheers!

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Wine Studio Uncorked: Tardieu-Laurent 08 Guy Louis Blanc

Date: Tue, Jan 22, 2013 Wine Tasting

“If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward,” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

We did a bit of crawling last night, as we got off to a rough start, and this was suppose to be the wine that would kick off the inaugural #WineStudio event last night, but because of its potential mass popularity, twitter decided to bump our event to next week, and in part because there was some other event going on yesterday, involving the President which seemed to take priority.

But that, said as many of you may already know our very first Wine Studio 'live' will have to start next Monday, the 28th starting at 6PM [PST]. I hope to see as many of you there as possible, ready to get your Rhone on. As I've indicated this is going to be a five-week journey into this amazing region and you can expect us to stay right there in France, as we will be covering most of the major players and few unexpected regions.

First up in that regard, we are going to focus on the white wines of the Rhone. The kind of white wines that any vino-sapien would be happy to be sporting in their glass. It's time to say goodbye to wimpy white-wines and say HELLO to some of the amazing Rhone-Zone blends; like Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier #WineStudio Monday's 6PM PST via Protocol Wine Studio.

Typically, I don't drink a lot of white wines myself, but when it comes to white wines like the one pictured above, I'm all about it. This wine has the amazing structure and complexity and some nice weight to it as well. It has a great vein of acidity running through the ample fruit. The abv is a surprisingly low, but welcomed 12.5%, considering the blend 60% Marsanne, 20% Roussanne and 10% Grenache, produced from vines 50 years and older.

The color as you can see is quite striking, grabbing you by the nose is just hint honeyed wet stones aromas and white peach, which don't really jump from the glass, but still gets your attention. This wine offers up an inviting lychee nut, a bite of almond, white-currant liqueur, bit of chalk, and apricot marmalade spread on toast. This wine is really stunning, honeyed, and a bit flamboyant [but without the open shirt and gold medallion].

This wine is very clean, and focused. It would pair nicely with many foods, but something like a delish white-sauce pasta dish would be a good match and I found one here that sounds fantastic. If you like get a bottle or two of this wine for yourself; you can do via Protocol Wine Studio they are selling it for $34 each. I scored this wine 91 points and highly recommend that you give it a swirl yourself very soon, until next time, sip long and prosper cheers!

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Oregon Uncorked: 2009 Manifest Destiny

Date: Thu, Jan 17, 2013 Wine Tasting

"The wine cup is the little silver well, where truth, if truth there be, doth dwell" ~ William Shakespeare

It's great to be in the right place at the right time. This is exactly how after scoring two bottles of the “Inaugural Release” of the Manifest Destiny label. It just so happened that Mrs. Cuvee and I were in the Carlton Winemakers Studio early last month, talking it over and thinking about which wines we might like to purchase, before leaving. As we were thinking, the gentlemen [Jeff Woodard] at the tasting bar recommended that we wait a bit as his winemaking sister Lindsay Woodard was on the way with her own wine, so we waited [we weren't in any hurry].

Once she arrived, we offered to help bring in what I think amounted to just about nine cases, but we were waved off. Now I'm pretty sure there is more at the winery, but if you're reading this now, don’t be hesitant another second about grabbing some for yourself. A bottle was quickly opened and Mrs. Cuvee and I chatted with Lindsay a moment, while the glasses were being poured. After a few swishes and me spitting, I was thinking wow this going to be good, but having not been bottled too long ago, it was a bit stiff. At this point I was not jumping up and down with excitement, but something told me, that I better grab a couple, and I'm so glad I listened to my gut.

Now having got the two bottles home and nicely tucked away in the cellar for just over a month now, the Mrs. and I uncorked a bottle the other night. We paired this alongside a small slab of herb crusted [wild-caught] Sockeye Salmon [grilled] and a tasty mushroom risotto, infused with tiny bits of bacon, oh-my.
Wowsers this is superb Oregon Pinot Noir. The depth, rich earth, the pleasing bright cranberry, dark cherry and dusty baking spices aromas widened both our eyes as we both went in for the first slurp. In the body of this wine is a terrific core of energetic fruit, complexity, well integrated tannins and a very pretty finish.

Bang, bang this wine is Oregon Pinot at its best, a wine produced with assistance from consulting winemaker Eric Hamacher and one any vino-sapien would be proud to have in the cellar. Well done, Lindsay, well done. What a great showing on your inaugural release, two thumbs all the way up and the awarding of 93 stellar points.

In my opinion this wine will put Manifest Destiny on the map of great Orgundian wines which need to be collected, cellared and properly consumed. The wine sells in the CWS for $45, but if you get six, there’s incentive for 15% worth of savings, plus no sales tax as a bonus. Until next time folk remember sip long and prosper cheers!

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The Rhone Zone: 2007 Domaine du Grapillon D'Or Gigondas ~ 1806

Date: Tue, Jan 15, 2013 Wine Tasting

“That which we obtain too easily, we esteem lightly. It is dearness which gives everything its value.” ~Thomas Paine
I know I've indicated thatthere was going to be some majorspanning the globe stuff, to bring you the constant variety of vino, that the world has to offer. So with that in mind and the fact that just next week the brand spankingnew #WineStudio is about to launch upon an unsuspecting world, here is just ataste of things to come.

Perhaps, you're thinkingandscratching your head over the fact that many of last yearsposts were centered on plenty of domestic juice, with the usual suspects. But as you know,all ofthat is about to change, so bamit's time for a visit to the RhoneZone via #WineStudio.

That said, "you're now traveling through another wine country destination, a destination not only of sight and sound but of the vine; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of export. That's the signpost up ahead — your next stop, theRhone Zone. —Rod Serling

Isn't that how Mr. Serling introduced the second season of the Twilight Zone, a timeless showwhich was way ahead of its time in many respects. A show that made many take pause and perhaps even some thought about thismortal-coil that we all tread upon. Okay yes, I took some artistic-license with the opening monologue [so sue me]but I did so for a very good reason.

That reason to transport you ever so briefly to another time and place. One you may have no doubt heard of before,but one youmay nothave had that much experience with on a regular basis. The boundaries of export, meaning as a serious wine shopping kinda guy, I don't see asmuchvino fromthe RhoneZone as I would like to see in the US wine market place, but when you have a chance explore, explore this vast and luscious wine landscape.

The Rhone Zone: This is one area of France which is fast becoming one of my all time favorite regions and not just for the red wines either. as the white wines from the RZ are every bit as fantastic as the reds. It's split up with south and north and each has its own climate and interesting topography. There's the sign post up ahead you are about to enter the Rhone-Zone.

TheNorth: It's hilly, is influenced by aturbulent, strongwind, called theMistral and according to their strict wine laws, there a good number of the northern appellations that can ONLY be planted with Syrah. Within the borders of the North you have the Cote Rotie, where up to 20% of the Syrah can be juiced with Viognier [syrah-perfume]. They also have a super-star [think Jerry Maguire] within its borders, named the Hermitage home to some of the world's finest vino, where bacon fat and pepper aromas are coaxed from steep hillsides.

It's also home to some big red monsters who lie in wait in the Coronas appellation, dark, rich, brooding wines who bite at the heels of their neighbor in Crozes-Hermitage which produces a lighter more subtle style of vino, where rich raspberry, earthiness and silky tannins dominate the more value oriented red wines from the north.
The South: Is by contrast to the north, considered the "flat-lands". It's much warmer and the vineyards riseout of land covered by some strange stones called"galets" which make a significant contribution to the"uniqueness" and great quality to Southern Rhone wines.

The Southern Rhone is home to the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape [new castle of the pope]. These wines typically are GSM blends, but can be blended with up to 13 different grapes,but Grenache is the king-pin grape here. This is the place you will find bottlesbrandishing alavish Coat of Arms just above the label, indicating that these wines are Estate grown. They also have a super-star in their midst, known as Chateau de Beaucastel.

The Murkey Middle Lands: This is the place where you have a blending of both regions, known to many as Cotes du Rhone encompassing the dual Rhone's largest production areas, producing a broad range and styles of wine. While the Villages designation on the bottlewill typically mean, the wines lean toward a higher quality standard.

Wine in the Spot Light: 2007 Domain du Grapillon d'Or Giogondas ~ 1806

Swirl, Slurp and Gulp: I brought home this beauty from the Rhone-Zone just a few weeks ago to let it nestle in my very cool, dark pantry [my cellar is maxed out]. Uncorked a few nights ago, I poured myself a nice two ounce pour, watching a plush dark ruby core fill my glass. I took the first sniffy, to find a wonderful bouquet of fresh-market strawberries, white pepper, lavender and cigar box draw you into this vibrant blend.After a good swish-about, I found this wonderful wine offering bright flavors of red raspberry, kirsch, andlicoricefilling out afleshy mouth feel, supple tannins and a long lingering richness round out the plush finish.

What's in It: The 2007 Domaine du Grapillon D'Or Gigondas is a wonderful southern Rhone blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah and weighs in with a New World leaning 14.5% ABV [just my impression].

Price and Purchase Location: So you wanna know how you can get your hands on this bad-boy or something like, well stay tuned as I and the team from Protocol Wine Studiocan help you fill that Rhone Zone craving you may be having at the moment and beyond.

What's the Score: Hmmm, in thinking about how wonderful this wine is for the price I gave it 93 points. It's solid well made wine showing a good deal of generosity and richness, smooth tannins and a firm structure. A super star of value at the $25 price point, this wine drinks like a $45 to $60 westside Paso Robles redblend.This is awine which is drinking so very nicely now, but I believecould improve with just a bit more time in the cellar if you can wait.

Other Voices: I found an abundant amount of other voices for this wine over at Cellar Tracker, whose average score had this wine weighing in at 91 points.Swill Powerhadthis to say,"rocking from the first pour. Very up-front blue fruit, with a savory note and a full, delicious mouthfeel. After 2+ hours, this feels as much like a stylish zinfandel as anything, with great dark fruit, a touch of cedar, and a nice umami/soy note as well. Overall, a really enjoyable drink, and a sweet QPR at under $20. Blows away most Rhone players at twice the price.[ Btw, RP gave this wine 92 points.]

My Recommendation: If you have been getting notices from your favorite wineries about the upcoming spring shipments from your favorite Syrah-Moved providers, I would ask that you give somepause to thethought of jumping into an order, until you had the opportunity togive theRhone-Zone aswirl, I would say you may want to decant an hour or two before enjoying for maximum enjoyment, but will still impress greatly at first pour. Until next time, sip long and prosper, cheers!

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