Archive | November, 2013

The Very Last Way Too Early Holiday Edition – The White Daily Slosh

21 Nov

arethafranklinI did warn about another tune. Mylie Cyrus, The Queen of Twerk? Nope. As Steely Dan said, “Hey 19”, she’s the Queen of Soul – Aretha Franklin. Yes, she did look this young once. Don’t worry as this is my last seasonal song installment. Here it is. Just couldn’t do this without her. Did I ever tell you about seeing her live or that the best song (song, song – not aria) ever sung by a woman was sung by her? Another time maybe. Or just guess. OK, never mind, here it is (written by her sister) or maybe it’s this one. OK, I’ve stopped now. But, as soon as I post, I’m turning up the volume!

On to the wine!

So, what do we need as we approach Thanksgiving (US) and vicarious re-living of Thanksgiving (Can.)? We need loads of serviceable white wine, that’s what. Friends of mine had a cocktail party last year and they noticed that people who asked for white wine actually more frequently asked specifically for “chardonnay” – instead of simply “white wine”. Whereas the red wine drinkers just mumbled incoherently (trying unsuccessfully to project an image of sobriety), “Ummm, red wine, please. I want red wine.” Interesting that, given the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) trend that’s been on for a few years. So, let’s give you some reasonably priced options for that chardonnay.

PeninsularidgeLocal is always good and these guys make great wine – have a splendid restaurant – great view. If you haven’t, make sure to drop by next time you’re in Niagara (picture provided by website). The 2011 Peninsula Ridge Barrel Aged Chardonnay #211490 $15.95. This is unusual for me (I know – I am unusual) because I’m used to their Inox Chardonnay which has no oak – steely and fruit focused. This one has all the nuances of oak that you might be looking for – not heavy but present primarily in vanilla on the finish and some butter stuff when you gurgle it. Just the right weight for a cocktail party. Or, you could do this with your turkey if it’s the traditional sage thing.

scrcI included the 2010 Santa Carolina Gran Reserva Chardonnay #928580 $14.95 because it’s a great price point and provides the same utility that the one above does – great for people who like white wine and like standing around as they drink it. This gives you the oaky stuff way before the one above – from the first sniff, actually. So, of the two, if oak is your primary glug thing – get this one. Tropical fruits and the tell-tale Granny Smith apple that chardonnay usually brings. It might have a bit more acidity and it’s light-medium weight, as well. You can’t go wrong with this right-priced chard. Case lot?

roquefortIf you’ve been playing along at home, you’ll remember that I talked about the forgotten white – white Bordeaux a few weeks ago after reading a great Eric Asimov article. This week there’s a white Bordeaux that I got to taste at a local Vintages aisle – 2011 Château Roquefort Sauvignon/Semillion #313346 $16.95. Traditional Bordeaux blend that brings a lot more roundness – no, that doesn’t sound right – brings a lot less of a linear feel – that too sounds like bullshit. What about – it comes across as more New World than I thought it would – bigger, fuller in fruit flavours and still some of the Old World earthy, stoney mouthfeel that these can give you. I liked it a lot. It would also be perfect for a walk around cocktail party wine. And, if you haven’t in awhile – you should.

wynnA wine that I’m going to get that I haven’t tried is the 2012 Wynn’s Coonawarra Estate Chardonnay #468928 $17.95. I love Wynn’s approach to their line up. Particulary their cabernet sauvignons. And, this sounds pretty interesting – described as full-bodied against the lighter versions above. Maybe better with food. While I’m on the topic of pairing (which I kind of wasn’t), I agree that you eat what you like with a wine that you like. But, really, I do think that the old red wine with meat and white wine with chicken and fish works pretty well unless you are a white-a-phile or red stained. I’ll think a bit more about it – read a blog or article the other day that said this and after a few days consideration – I agree. Not my original idea but still.

Way Too Early Holiday Edition 3 – The Red Daily Slosh

20 Nov

bubleCouldn’t resist another carol of dubious quality – schmaltzy – pretty marginal. But, he’s Canadian, eh? Listen here. If you have any requests or favs, let me know. If there aren’t any, you will be subjected to the Queen of Soul, if I can find one.

This release (November 23) is full of very pricey wines. I’ve spoken about a few of them this week. There are names from California – Dunn and Pahlmeyer. From France – Beaucastel and Dom Perignon. From Italy – Solaia and Guado al Tasso. It goes on and on.

But, how would any of them qualify for “daily” sloshes? Don’t think so, unless you are………..Jay Z or ……(insert rich person’s name here).

So we charge on and we are not daunted. This week there are a number of great value reds.

toasted headToasted Head could be populist politicians – they cater to what people want – gasp, what’s with that? Not like Rob Ford or, and let me see if I’m getting this guy – Ted Cruz – but more responsible and less slutty. But, forgive me as i was in a drunken stupor when i wrote this – I am very, very, very sorry. I don’t know what else I can do. Back to Toasted Head – their house style hits all the marks and is what can best be described as a crowd-pleaser. Now, I’m not trying to be pejorative – pleasing crowds is a very good thing. We get the chardonnay all the time – it’s a lock. The 2011 Toasted Head Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon #686824 $19.95 is similar in appeal. It’s smooth, balanced and jammy loveliness. Now, there are cheaper cabernet sauvignons out there, for sure. I like the Raymond entry level cabernet which is a buck cheaper and the Beringer cheapies are fine too. But, for sheer nerve and certainty – get this one.

kaikenmalbecLast time out I recommended the Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon. Well, this week there’s its cousin the 2010 Kaiken Ultra Malbec #050849 $19.95. If you picked up and tried the cab from last time, you’ll know that this line is a step up from the everyday that we scoop up for lots less. The Ultra malbec is dark in the glass – dense, smelling of black fruit and, let me swirl here, it has a hint of wood – not so much oak as cedar maybe? The flavours follow the nose pretty closely – it’s full-bodied with great mouthfeel which means to me that it’s balanced – long finish. A very good malbec. Yes, I think I need more. Maybe enough for over the holidays. Stand around with meat dishes (lean beef) or while typing your blog. Verrrrrry nice.

balbomalbecBe still my heart. What do we have this week but my girlfriend, Susana Balbo putting in an appearance? The 2011 Susana Balbo Signature Malbec #079798 $19.95 is a wine that deserves your undivided attention. With the one above, they may be the best malbecs under $20 this year IMHO (and we are at the end of the year, folks). Now, you can get good malbec for $14.00. I read the other day that we are not drinking the amount of malbec that we used to due to the Fuzion fall off (Quiet Cheer!). What a beautiful wine this is. It has earthy aromas and, in the mouth, more acidity, tannin and juiciness than the one above – not harsh but there’s some structure there for sure. It could cellar for a few years but I’m not waiting. I’ll just let it sit for awhile after opening and hope for the best. Naughty, dark, and juicy. Catherine Zeta Jones? No, she’s in rehab. Anyone with a suggestion? Buehler?

aldianoAnd, while we’re on tangy, juicy and dark, the 2009 Aldiano Riserva Montepulciano d’Abruzzo #051706 $18.95 appears. This is what Italian country-side wine is all about – food friendly, refreshing. Smells of leather and the country-side itself, if you try hard enough. The fruit is black and sheathed in acid, some tannin and a medium finish. Lovely with tomato anything – maybe tomatoes (having their own acid) with some fatty cheese – a Caprese salad? Pretend you’re sitting on a piazza watching the plebes and tourists (oh yeah, we are tourists ourselves). Now a caveat – I read other reviewers and CellarTracker and people aren’t as “all-in” about this wine as I am. I recommended the 2008 and got some good feedback from you on it. So, I’m assuming that some of you will like it again – like me. Not in, please like me. But, rather, similarly to me. Capice?

scholaWhile you’re on the piazza, spring for a second bottle – the 2009 Schola Sarmenti Roccamora Negroamaro Nardò Rosso #245654 $16.95. I picked a bottle of this up in Lecce. Always wanted to say that. Yes, I did indeed pick up a bottle of this in Lecce. Said it twice now. “Step away from the Kaiken Ultra, Bill, and finish your blog post”. Anyway, I love this wine and am so glad the 2009 is here. It’s our secret and you won’t have to battle crowds trying to pick up a bottle because no one really focuses on Apulian wine, especially negroamaros. Negroamaro means “black bitter” and is the primary grape in Salice Salentino. This wine carries a spice box thing, some tobacco too in the glass. It mellows over a few minutes really and you get to the yumminess. There are red fruits and enough acidity to stand up to real meals – pasta with meat sauce would be perfect. I think that if your ‘go to’ wine is Valpolicella, you need to give this a try. It’s got a bit more heft but similar appeal, I think.

Untasted, good looking buys:

2010 di Majo Norante Contado Riserva Aglianico del Molise #967208 – loved the 2009 – organic product

2008 Moritàvora Tinto #293449 $16.95 – if Portuguese wine is your thang, pick this up.

2011 Château du Chatelard Cuvée les Vieux Granits Fleurie #207886 $20.95 – it’s Beaujolais Nouveau Day tomorrow – so why not pick up a ‘real’ Beaujolais too?

Way Too Early Holiday Edition 2 – Weekend and Splurge Wines

18 Nov

binganddavidI’ve been remiss over the last few months in not including my usual splurge wines. And the year end holidays are getting closer when you might like a couple around the house. We know they are close because stores are playing Christmas tunes. I actually heard Bing and David butta, bum, bumming each other (excuse the image). Or, is it rutta, tut, tumming? They do look uncomfortable, don’t they? Bing in his 40 year old cardigan, David thinking to himself, “Is that pipe tobacco and scotch I smell on Bing’s breath? And why are his children bruised and cowering under the Christmas tree?” And, let’s not forget the scenes of our American friends crashing Target at 5:00 AM to get one of the 3 available 40 inch LED TV’s advertised for $1.50 (that’s $1.54 CAD). Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

A challenge for me is getting to taste wines in this price range. You may not have noticed but I’m not one of the wine writing crew in Ontario that gets invited by the mother ship to taste each release’s wares. Not until you bombard this site and get my numbers up, anyway. So, I have to buy these wines or sample them at a tasting. Starting to understand the lack of splurge wine recommendations? To quote Omar of The Wire, “Ya’ feel me?”

crognoloItalian wines? Why with the Italian wines all the time? Paraphrasing Tony The Tiger, “‘Cause they’re great!” When you get a chance to pick up a Toscana that smells like leather and tastes like love.  OK, overdoing it? Anyway, when the 2010 Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo #727636 $31.95 opens up, it smells of that leather that you get from Italy and seldom in abundance from anyplace else. It has loads of red fruits and a sense of the wood used on the nose. It’s got a great hit of acidity but not a long finish. I think you’d want food with this wine.  I’d say if you like the Tuscan take on using international grapes (in this case Merlot) with Sangiovese, this is for you.

09-elderton-command-shirazWhen I started this journey of discovering and appreciating wines, I bought a ton of Aussie reds in the $20 – $40 range (St. Hallett’s Old Block, Penfold’s Kalimna Shiraz, Penley and Parker Coonawarra Cabernet). I don’t buy as many Aussie wines as I used to and probably don’t recommend as many as you would like, given the feedback I’ve received. Well, some of these wines are still bringing it in the premium category. You’ll always see the consistently great d’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz on the shelves, several Penfold’s Bins (389, 407) and the Kalimna Shiraz (Bin 28) that I love in most years. But, one wine that I’ve always favoured is the Elderton Command Shiraz. If power and Aussie sensibility (always wanted to say, ‘sensibility’ and have it not fit, like when I see others use it) is what turns you on, this is the Shiraz for you. I bought several vintages when they were less lofty price-wise and they still lurk in the cellar (throat clear……basement). The 2009 Elderton Command Single Vineyard Shiraz #716142 $89.95 – power in this wine isn’t to be confused with soaring alcohol (although it is at 14.8%), chewy tannins and over-extracted fruit. “Well, what the hell do you mean by power, then?” I mean that the wine is big in the glass (nose) and big in the mouth. This wine fills the glass with dark swirly fruit, some oaky nuances, and one of the most pronounced chocolate scents I’ve experienced in a Shiraz. When you get to drinking it, that Shiraz spiciness, pepper, and the oak come through. It’s pretty balanced now but I’d say wait awhile to allow the oak to take a back seat and it will be even more velvety. I guess I need to bring up and pop the 2002 now. Anybody want to join me?

chmontelenaAnother region that I under-recommend, I’m told, is California. It makes some of the best wines for pop and pour standing/sitting around. And, heavens knows, we like to pop and pour and stand around drinking wine. My old standby for splurging without reading reviews, pouring over tasting notes of stooges like me is Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon. This venerable winery makes some of the most consistent Cabernet in both the regular cuvee and the estate offering. There are plenty of bottles of that regular cuvee 2010 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon #718452 $59.95 left on the shelves. I couldn’t resist and picked up, popped and poured one of these recently – all in the service of my readers of course. This is as good as it gets – opaque, solid, structured and balanced – acidity, fruit, tannin, and alcohol all working together. It’s bigger this vintage than, say, it’s 2009 version but I never find that this wine carries that label of BIG CAB. Smelling of herbs and red fruit, tasting of darker fruits like cassis and some herbs with a finish that lasts seemingly forever. So, I’d say make sure that you have some food with this – some serious food. This wine will keep for a decade and a half, if their record is any indication. This might be a good yearly purchase for those that have a vacant slot in their wine rack and love California reds (Craig? Bob?). Or, red wine lover on your Christmas list? This will do the trick.

I haven’t tasted these but will try and see if I can swing the splurge:

kistler2012 Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay #183921 $84.95  I read a great piece some time ago by Eric Asimov about Kistler and their natural evolution to a more restrained style of chardonnay – one that reflects the place from which they come. I’d suggest that people coming to our house and trying to impress Arlene might want to go big or go home with this wine. BTW, I’d enjoy it too.

2010 Domaine Rijckaert Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champgains #355909 $69.95 Staying with chardonnay, this wine in earlier vintages was special and 2010 was magic in the right hands. If you like Meursault and Michael does, this is a good pick for your special dinner over the holidays or keep for a few years and see how it develops. Or…….why not do both? I mean aside from spending all that money on yourself? Note to Michael: Not as buttery or muscular as the Meursault’s that you like usually are, I bet. Although they do speak of oak and medium weight. Perfect turkey wine!

A red super splurge wine deserves an installment of Bill’s Story Time. Back when I really worked, I had an invoice paid while I was overnight in Toronto. It was burning a hole in my pocket. My client asked me if I could host a reception at a conference on their behalf – i.e. buy all the stuff that they didn’t want to be seen buying and bury it in my invoice. I said, sure. So, I had someone get some munchies and I trundled to the liquor store to get wine. While there and after picking up a couple of cases of entry level reception-worthy whites and reds, I decided to splurge for my best friend, Bill. After all, I did just get paid. I love Tuscan wine and particularly Bolgheri reds. Who doesn’t? So, I bought a bottle of the iconic Ornellaia. The price doesn’t matter now but let’s just say that it was well north of anything I had purchased before or since (with the exception of the Blvd. Saint Germain Burgundy Escapade). I laid out the wines, someone helped with the munchies and people started to arrive at the reception. It was an informal kind of thing with people getting their own drinks and food. About halfway through the evening, I noticed that someone was standing and reaching behind the television to grab the Ornellaia (that I had stupidly hidden there). It was one of those slow-mo moments from a nightmare – me shouting above the crowd but not being heard, moving but seemingly my feet anchored in cement. “No. no. not the Ornellaia!” He grabbed a corkscrew. “No, get the hell out of my way!” I shouted, as I shoved through inconvenient guests. And, and …………he opened the bottle. Well, there goes the Ornellaia. I slowed, approached, gently took the bottle from him before he could replenish his glass, and suggested that he might prefer the Cline Syrah – ya’ I actually pulled that one off – and took the Ornellaia, stashed it in my hotel room, and surreptitiously asked a couple friends to join me after everyone left. We drank my only ever Ornellaia from hotel room tumblers (after removing the cellophane, of course), while eating leftover veggies and dip. Was it good? Oh yeah too good. It might have had more to do with the friends. I’ve been there, done that, but if you want to pick one of these beauties up 2010 Ornellaia #335497 $189.95 make sure you call me over. I’d like it in real glass this time. With a stem. Doesn’t have to be Reidel.

Another Friday Ramble – Get Your Hands Dirty

15 Nov

SaintChinian4I’ve talked about my time growing up and slaving away in various agricultural endeavours. I’m not pretending that “my back still aches when I hear the word.” (First non-Canadian reader to get that phrase’s origin wins a “WOW!”). But, it carries some nostalgia for me. I started this wine writing thing a while back (3 1/2 years actually – time flies when you permanently have a bit of a buzz on) and it’s taken me until now to understand something that should have been obvious to me – most of us know very little about agriculture – perhaps the most important business in our world. Correct that – THE most important business in our world! Let me tell you how I arrived at this conclusion and what the hell it has to do with wine writing – bear with me. I may wander a bit but I’ll get there. BTW, it is called a ramble!

Part of my J-O-B is reading stuff about wine. I know; it’s hard work. The people I like to read are much like me (I kid) but with more street cred and way more knowledge, in most cases – bloggers, professional reviewers, critics, writers, winemakers, sommeliers, etc. And despite these many knowledgeable writers, there seem to be many of them that had never worked in a field before they took up the challenge of getting to know wine. Not like, I want to work in the field of aeronautics. But, actually had never walked through a field doing something that contributed to the production of foodstuffs, including wine. I know this because they tell me. I’ve frequently bill murrayread of their participation in harvest, pruning, etc. It can be revelatory for them the first time and as Bill Murray said in Scrooged, “Once you have it; you’ll get greedy for it.”  It seems to connect them to the product in a different, more profound way as we would imagine it should. I’m not suggesting we don’t know in our heads what’s up. I just mean that we get a stronger connection to our food when we get our hands dirty.

suzukiI saw David Suzuki speak at a Build Green conference a few years back. He spoke of the urbanization of the world and how this intensification helped the earth but also how it challenged a better understanding of the earth, the environment, the stewardship of the earth that he maintains everyone should take up. He gave an anecdote of children in a school where he spoke who, almost to a child, couldn’t describe how tomatoes were created – where they came from – what they looked like outside of a supermarket bin – had ever seen a tomato plant! He spoke of people who started their car in the garage in the morning, drove across town into an underground parking garage, took the elevator to their office, ate at their desk, took the elevator down to their car and drove home to park in, you guessed it, their attached garage – never to venture out on many days of the year. How can anyone understand how important the whole world is when their immediate environment is comfort controlled? How hard it is then to convince people that they need to take it easy on Mother Earth, appreciate life outside our personal bubble. And, by extension, how can anyone truly understand wine when they haven’t touched a vine, got their hands dirty, smelled the earth, sorted bunches, stolen Concord grapes while driving (we called it “crop touring” and, yes, it did involve alcohol) through a field at 3 in the morning. What I mean is how much better understood food is, when you’ve worked on the land – wine is, when you’ve worked in a vineyard. We intuitively know this, I think – we are attracted to buying locally, get excited about farm-to-table restaurants.

I also reflect on this at this time of year because of all the Tweets from winegrowers that I follow. Pictures of harvest, sorting through the night, stained hands, and the celebration of this time of year – a new vintage is about to be. We are about to taste what 2013 brought us. And, it makes me want to work on next year’s vintage.

I’m just sayin’ that we can all appreciate wine equally. But, if we really want to understand wine better, we need to visit wineries seasonally, talk to grape farmers, talk to winemakers, walk the vineyards. And, if you can – take an internship at harvest, and/or in Niagara pick ice wine grapes – just get out of the frigging city and experience what local really means. It doesn’t happen while you’re sitting in a bistro or wandering a farmer’s market – it’s already happened by the time you get there. Of course, wine might be alchemy, chemistry, art. But first and foremost, wine is food. It’s groceries, man! Go get some at a local winery!

Lecture over – time to go rake my leaves.

Way Too Early Holiday Edition 1 – The Red Daily Slosh

7 Nov

zztopJust a few preambles:

Did anyone else see ZZ Top last night? Ultra cool and loud. Still bringing it. Click here to see my favourite song of the night.

I must have hit a nerve with my last post on the early days of wine drinking. Many people responded with their ‘go-to’ wine from the past. Many emailed, which I love but you can also just click on “Comment” below and leave your, well, comment. Alas, many of these wines are not available anymore, I fear.

mateus2Mateus – hands-down most mentioned wine. Still around and I may be alone but I don’t think it’s that bad now. Echo – “it’s that bad now”. Hell, I am alone;

Colio Bianco Seco (1L size);

Mouton Cadet Rouge – goes particularly well with Korean cuisine, I hear;

One that I added during email discussions and for full disclosure purposes was Boonesberry Farms Strawberry Hill. Yikes;

“The Melting Candle’ Chianti – I believe it was called Chianti Ruffino? Which doesn’t sound plausible. And, if you can tell me what the name of the baskets that were woven around the bottles – you win a ……………actually, you win nothing other than self-satisfaction and bragging rights. But, it is a word that we use all the time now – but in another way; and

Lonesome Charlie – seriously, there was a wine called Lonesome Charlie? I vote, to capitalize on current affairs, we release a wine called Lonesome Rob (vodka-infused chardonnay with just a pinch of crack that you can drink, smoke, or snort and deny all of it because you were in a drunken stupor) or Wallin’s Blush (wait, she’s not even ashamed enough to blush). Any other current affair-inspired suggestions?

God help us! Merchants are already trumpeting the beginning of the “Holiday Season”, whatever that means to you. I guess Halloween finished up last week or so, might as well get the marketing machine in gear and give us all an excuse to buy booze. In my case, it is wasted hype – you had me at “Operating Hours are 10 am to 10 pm”.

kaikenultracsIf you’ve wandered the Argentina aisles of your local, you’ve probably seen this brand once or twice. This week, 2010 Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon #135202 $19.95 arrives (these bi-weekly events are now “arrivals” not “releases”). This is the Argentina arm of the Chilean wine company, Montes and we love Montes on these pages! Grapes are from the Lujàn de Cuyo and Valle de Uco areas. The ‘Ultra’ line appears to be their top wines with the exception of special releases from time to time. The wine above’s nose is still pretty muddled for me – dark with some woodiness but I can’t get the fruit (blackberry) that some of the reviewers find. But, the experience in the mouth is another thing altogether – I get the blackberry there – with a surprisingly Italian Super Tuscan vibe – leather? Nicely balanced, mildly tannic, would be great with a real meal – burnt red meat, veggies, spuds. Interesting things that occupy a cluttered mind – the Kaiken website has a neat diagram with a schematic, similar to that of their label, of Mount Aconcagua. Accompanying the schematic the words, “The highest mountain in the world, second to the Himalayas.” What? “est” means most, best, ultimate. Not second or penultimate to something else. If it were, we could read this on the MLSE website, “The Toronto Maple Leafs winners of the most Stanley Cups, second to the Montreal Canadiens.”

lazuliLet’s cross the Andes. There’s a wine from another winery that we speak of often. “Well, that’s not true, Bill.” OK, we don’t speak of it ‘often’ – but once in a while and favourably – Chilensis. It’s usually in connection with their Carmenère, which is available this weekend for $13.95. If that’s your sweet spot pick it up. But, if you want to kick it up a notch look to this blend. The 2010 Chilensis Lazuli #348129 $17.95 is a blend of the usual Bordeaux suspects (sans Cabernet Franc) plus 9% Syrah, and 8% Carmenère. It’s got great grip and after a breath or two, it opens to dried fruits and some woodiness. I think that if you like California Cabernet – particularly with steak, say – you’d love this wine and be saving a bunch too, yeah?

falconeAnd under the category Giving It Another Try, I’m going to recommend 2007 Rivera Il Falcone Riserva #177295 $22.95. I recommended the 2006 version of this last year and the feedback was not great – people found it ‘harsh’ and ‘almost impenetrable’. I liked it which just goes to show you that I am more sophisticated than some of my friends. This one won’t be received similarly, will it? Well, I don’t think so – had it in Puglia from whence it comes – loved it. Where the South American wines above seem to be black or dark fruit based, this one oozes red fruits. Chewy, lots of weight. Could it use some time? For sure. But, why not just decant for an hour or so, swirl like mad, and guzzle it now? Perfect wine to buy two – one for now, one for a year from now. Buy it, if you don’t like it, I will take unopened bottles at discount.

Ones that I haven’t tasted that I’m going to jump on:

saumurGo ahead, tell me who does Cabernet Franc better than Cheval Blanc and the Loire? What’s that you say? Niagara is doing Cabernet Franc well both as a single varietal and an ice wine? Yeah but, I’m saying – this week, from the Loire, there’s 2010 Reserve des Vignerons Saumur-Champigny #103879 $17.95. Pick this up if you’re looking to expand your Cabernet Franc beyond Cheval Blanc. Who am I kidding? No one who reads this buys CB. Anyway, I’m getting this one and might tell you about it in future posts.

lalunaA grape that I don’t mention much here is Barbera from Piedmont. Not sure why but probably the same reason that I don’t talk about Dolcetto much either – they play second fiddle to Nebbiolo (Barolo and Barberesco) and get lost. But, Barberas when they’re good are very good. They can sing a more rustic and lighter tune than their more famous cousins. In my Duff’sWines Super Serious Wine Drinker Paradigm®, Valpolicella Classico and Barbera both score 137.164 with two criteria met. I guess, the scale sees them as similar in feel, appropriate occasion matching, etc. Another good thing is that they are almost always available on Italian restaurants’ wine lists – so getting to know them is good practice for ordering. This week it’s  2010 La Luna E I Falò Barbera d’Asti Superiore #627901 $19.95. I think I’ll get a couple.

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