Archive for May, 2011

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Memorial Weekend Tasting Notes

Amy, with a Hook & Ladder beer, taking a break from photographing the kids.

Here are my brief tasting notes from a handful of the wines.  I only wrote a few sentences worth of notes so they are more impressions.  With my Texan wine being a disaster it was nice to have the local Black Ankle wine and even more local Hook and Ladder beer.

Deborah and Amy discussing photography.

Once the sun lowered in the horizon it became less hot but even more humid.  The adults enjoyed cold white wines while others played on the grass.

Alice and Elliott, Picture by Amy Carmichael Smith

I opened a couple of Rieslings because I knew that Phil and Shane would enjoy them.  Phil has been to both of these estates.

2002 Carl Schmitt-Wagner, Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett,  Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
I was immediately drawn to the older, petroleum aromas and gave a slight nod to it over the Kerpen.  Phil thought this wine would go with food and prefered the Kerpen.  On the second night there were soft, petroleum flavors, that are rich and expansive.  There is a little lifted quality then midpalate the wine softens up and there is just enough acidity to keep it going.  ** Now-2015.

2006 Kerpen, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
This wine was very nice the second night and I suspect even better than on the first.  There were slightly spritely floral notes.  At first the tropical fruits mix with some petroleum in the mouth.  Then the wine immediately starts to dance around with a fresh midpalate, good finish and slightly puckering aftertaste that carries on.  This is a good wine. *** 2015-2019.

Jim and Shane discussing the wine trade.

We did not have too many roses.  Actually, the Etude might have been the only bottle.

2009 Etude, Pinot Noir Rose, Carneros
I did not take any notes about this wine but last night I cracked open a bottle of the 2010.  In my recollection the 2009 was better with well-balanced, rich flavors, and structure.

Daniel contemplating his father's wine glass.

There were several red wines to try from.  Inspired by Julie’s Swiss posts I wanted to get some Swiss wine.  There was none at MacArthur’s so Phil had recommended some from Savoie.

2007 Jongieux, Mondeuse, Savoie
This wine was surprisingly good for $12-$13.  It is a bit winey with a light nose that is peppery.  There is good acidity that grabs the side of the mouth, lovely pepper notes are developed and it leaves the overall impression of being a nice wine.  I drank this cold and it did quite well. ** Now.

2009 Domaine du Vissoux, Pierre-Marie Chermette, Cuvee Traditionnelle, Beaujolais
This wine was a recent gift from Lou.  There were a lot of dark strawberries and red berries with light but nice weight.  A bit soft in the finish but a wine the drank well all night.  I can see why Lou likes this wine.  The one problem, though, is the $19 price tag.  ** Now.

Non-Vintage Delaney Vineyards, Texas Claret, Texas High Plains
Jenn and I had brought back a few bottles of Texan wine several years ago when we visited her grandmother in Fort Worth. We drank up and enjoyed the reds from Becker Vineyards. I recently discovered I had this bottle laying about. It was probably acquired four to five years ago. It smelled awfully like weed killer. Something must have been wrong to begin with.  Not Rated.

2006 Black Ankle Vineyards, Cosecha, Frederick County, Maryland
Phil had never tried a Black Ankle wine before. The owners of Black Ankle, Ed and Sarah, are friends of Denise and Shane and live in our neighborhood. Shane dashed off to his house to bring back this bottle he has had for one or two years. The color and the flavors show some bottle age. Phil and I guess there was Syrah in it but there was not. Instead it is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. It was a nice wine that drank well straight from the bottle. I would recommend drinking this within the next year.  ** Now-2014.

2009 Tensley, Syrah, Colson Canyon Vineyard, Santa Barbara County
Tensley can be quite nice and give hints of what is to come in its youth. This was very dark and inky. There are lifted flavors of Syrah, with fresh purple fruits, pepper, and lively acidity. There are light purple/blue fruits in the finish. Definitely a step up from the base Syrah this seems more approachable than the 2007 is right now. I would age this wine for several years.  *** 2015-2022.

2007 L’Argentier, Vieilles Vignes de Carignan
This wine is made from 100% Carignan planted in 1935.  There was a definite sulphur component so we decanted the wine.  It eventually blew off and because an intriguing wine.  I do not think Shane liked it but Phil and I did.  I will try it again in June.  Not Rated.

Amy, Jenn, Mark, Deborah, and Aaron

Memorial Weekend Barbeque with Wine

All good Memorial weekends should be filled with barbecue and pool parties. This weekend was no exception. It started off with Shane’s birthday pool party on Saturday. This was an early evening for us so I only tried the 2009 Deiss, Pinot Blanc, the 2010 Mordoree, Rose, Cotes du Rhone, and the 2010 Bastide St. Dominique, Rose, Cotes du Rhone. The Deiss was a lovely, rich Pinot Blanc. The Mordoree showed structured, easy to drink fruit and the Bastide was tasty but for a lack of verve.

Keeping the bottles chilled

Sunday afternoon we hosted a small gathering in our back yard. The heat was ratcheting up with a high around 90 Farenheit and a relative humidity of 80%!!! So all of the wines had to be chilled. Amy was kind enough to take pictures throughout the afternoon and evening. It is a treat to have some pictures of myself! I am including a selection of her images in my posts about the party. I have also included a link to her website under the Friends links.

Most people started off with some Sauvignon Blanc, including Dan, as the kids played on the lawn.


There were plenty of non-alcoholic bubbles to entertain those who did not drink.

Daniel, Picture by Amy Carmichael Smith

There was not enough space at on the deck so we had a second table.

Picture by Amy Carmichael Smith

Deborah, my mother, and I explained all about the blog to Jim.

Deborah, Aaron, and Jim discussing the blog, Picture by Amy Carmichael Smith

While the adults chilled down with rose the children enjoyed Popsicles.

Mia and Lorelei keeping cool, Picture by Amy Carmichael Smith

Phil and Meriam, Picture by Amy Carmichael Smith

There was a wide variety of wine contributed by everyone. The bottles included:
Bottex, Bugey-Cerdon
2002 Carl-Schmitt-Wagner, Riesling Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
2006 Kerpen, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
2009 Etude, Pinot Gris
2007 Jongieux, Monduse, Savoie
2009 Chermette, Beaujolais
2006 Black Ankle, Cosecha, Maryland
A non-vintage Texan wine
2009 Tensley, Colson Canyon Syrah
2009 l’Argentier, Carignan
2007 Rouge-Bleu, Cuvee Mistral
And others.

Texan wine lurking there, Picture by Amy Carmichael Smith

Everyone had fun!

Olivia, Picture by Amy Carmichael Smith

I will post more pictures and some short tasting notes tomorrow. Today we were too busy enjoying the swimming pool to keep cool in the 95 degree Farenheit weather.

Red wine, Picture by Amy Carmichael Smith

Although we sweated even as we sat there, it was a fun evening. A large amount of food was eaten and most of the wines were enjoyed by all.

Aaron and Phil, Picture by Amy Carmichael Smith

Swiss Mandement “Caves Ouvertes” Day a Winner

May 30, 2011 1 comment

The May 28, 2011 Swiss Mandement Open House Day , or “Caves Ouvertes” was fantastic. It was definitely a local affair in these ancient wine villages with people hovering about the stone “mas” or farmhouses, clustering around barrels or small tables in the makeshift tasting/bottling rooms and spilling out into the streets. Not checking any sources, I went straight for the town with my favorite vineyard walks and restaurant, Auberge d’Dardagny in—of course—Dardagny.

Looking down the main street of the village of Dardagny.

Now, I can’t really do this whole experience justice. In fact, I am trying to get ready for a trip to Florence, Italy in a couple days. So, I will just have to write a few quick notes and I’ll finish it off in a couple weeks after we get back from bella Italia. I have a lot of notes.

"Le Mandement"--the Swiss villages of Satigny, Russin, Dardagny and the many communes enclosed within.

Vines in Dardagny

Fancy chefs serving up some scrumptious sausages.

Other than the fact that the surroundings are beautiful vineyards and lush meadows, the calm, enthusiastic nature of the crowd was very pleasant. No, this was not the same drunken rambunctious crowd of the autumn harvest festival in neighboring Russin. There was the odd “oompa loompa” band here and there and ever-present at any Swiss fête. There were free shuttles running through the main villages of Satigny, Russin and Dardagny. There were traditional German/Italian/French Swiss food stands: bratwurst, polenta and sausage, Tartiflette. It was like sailing with a cool breeze on a clear sunny Genevois day.

Some of the music entertainment in Dardagny.

Free bus stop "Chasselas" in Dardagny.

Alison with the huge polenta skillet.

My friend Alison, and I went straight for the Domaine du Centaure that I had heard about from another friend. It was actually quite disappointing. In fact, I am not even going to mention any of the wines we tasted. We tried the oldies: Chasselas (watery)  and Gamay (very light) and then the new ones, Gamaret and Pinot Noir. I later found out that I should have tried the dessert wines…but I’ll have to do that another time. So we took a couple steps and went to the Clos du Pins (no website) which turned out to be a little better. Most of the wines were light and pleasant, but no major stars here as well.

Clos des Pins wall display that meets you before anything else. Photo by Alison Ball

The beautiful "mas" or farmhouse of Clos du Pins.

What I really want to write about is Domaine de la Planta. It was truly a wonderful experience and I will go back. The whites were good. First, we tried the Meridienne Blanche (Chasselas) 2010. It was definitely a summer drink but this Chasselas was not the usual watery white. This Chasselas was definitely fresh and fruity and also had some pleasant lemony hints. The Sauvignon Blanc 2010 had hints of apricot flavors and Alison noted, floral scents. I meant to buy a bottle of this, but somehow, I didn’t. Too much going on at the same time. It was also difficult to take photos! The Blanc de Pinot Noir was very buttery and smooth. It was a delight.

Domaine de la Planta Blanc de Pinot Noir 2010.

I liked the reds at this vineyard even more. La Revolution 2009 (Gamay aged in oak), was fine, but the Pinot Noir 2009 (aged in oak) was excellent. It had the smell of an older wine, ever so slightly a hint of mold almost at the first instant and then the deep smell of richness. The taste started kind of tart, but then mellowed to caramel and had a smooth finish. I really enjoyed it.

Domaine de la Planta Pinot Noir 2009 (aged in oak) One of my favorites of the day.

The Gamaret 2010 (aged in metal cask) was good with notes of cinnamon and spice. It was very “rond” but still not that really deep, smooth one I enjoyed, which I actually think was from the Cave de Genève. Surprisingly, the Gamaret 2009 aged in oak was not better. I expected it to have more flavor and to be smoother, but it was spicier and took me by surprise.

Domaine de la Planta "Esprit de Genève" 2009 50% Gamay, 30% Gamaret, 10% Merlot, 10% Syrah.

Esprit de Genève actually reminded me of a French côte du Rhône with some allspice notes. I could imagine it chilled slightly and sipped with some morel pâté on a fresh baguette!

It’s also worth mentioning that the vinters here were very charming and so enthusiastic. My friend mentioned that I was writing amateur notes for a blog and one of the vinters spoke to me in perfect English and gave me a chip with photos of the vineyard on it! Look for those in a future post. Also, the owner, Bernard Bosseau was at the cash box and was happy to have a couple snapshots with me. The short story is that the domaine had been in the same family for many generations, but when before the last heir passed away, he chose Bernard, from Nantes, France, who had been making a name for himself in wine circles of the village, to take over the family business. It appears to me that he is doing a fantastic job! Merci beaucoup to Chris the vinter and to Bernard for making such lovely wines.

"Vigneron, tonnelier, vigneron, courtier en vins" --the owner of Domaine de la Planta, Bernard Bosseau. Photo by Alison Ball

Here is where I will have to take a break and get ready to go on the road. When we get back, I’ll introduce you to the other star of Dardagny. I have also found out that I need to go to Satigny as it has the most volume and the oldest history for making wine in Switzerland. If anyone has suggestions for wines in Florence, Italy, please let me know!

2009 Domaine Rouge-Bleu, Lunatique, VdT France

Jenn and I are big fans of Rouge-Blue’s Cuvee Mistral. The Lunatique hit the shores of the east coast two weeks ago and finally arrived at MacArthur’s in DC. On Thursday I stopped by the store and picked up one bottle. The excellent Mistral is $18 so with the Lunatique ringing in at $50 it has a lot stand up to.  This is the first vintage of the Lunatique.

Lunatique is a small cuvee of only 100 cases.  Rouge-Bleu has a page Lunatique from A to Z that is dedicated solely to this wine.  This Vin de Table is made from 77 year-old Grenache.  The grapes are hand harvested and fermented in concrete tanks.

I double-decanted the wine and we tasted it over four hours.  Four very young hours.  This is an excellent wine but it really needs to age for several years.  While there is a lot going on, this is at a pure, youthful, primary, structured stage.  It does not yet show the complexity of the older Mistral.  This is not a criticism just a comment.  If you manage to drink an entire bottle within an hour, you will miss out on the good stuff and be let down.  There isn’t much of this wine available and it isn’t exactly cheap.  So I would highly recommend cellaring this wine instead of tasting it but if you can’t resist then decant the wine at least four hours ahead of time.

Is it worth $50?  Yes.

2009 Domaine Rouge-Bleu, Lunatique, VdT France
This wine starts off with a light nose of pure, fruit aromas.  In the mouth it is round with creamy flavors.  The initial fruits are cool and blue but there is massive, dreadnought power lurking behind there.  There are minerals mixed in with a salty profile.  The finish shows fine, grapey tannins with good coarseness.  After several hours of air it becomes very expansive in the mouth.  The intensity builds with air as you need to only drink smaller and smaller sips.  This intensity is not from high alcohol levels but from all of the rippling, youthful flavor.  It becomes saltier with air which is a nice complement to the creamy blue fruit.  The back-label mentions a flavor of coconut and that is a perfect description.  ***(*) 2015-2025.

Swiss “Caves Ouvertes” Preview

May 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Aaron and I managed to squeeze in a lunchtime tasting before the official “caves ouvertes.” I noticed that some of the caves would be open earlier than usual on Friday. So I convinced Aaron and the girls to go and off we went for a 90 minute adventure. We simply stopped at the first open cave since Aaron was on his lunch break. I had vaguely heard of “Cave de Genève” because I had stumbled upon some wine tasting at a grocery store the other day and they had a couple wines from their cave. This was one of the first times I had the infamous gamaret grape (only found in Swiss cantons of Valais and Vaud). It is rumored to be a cross of Gamay and Reichensteiner. It tastes more like Grenache (to me!) than Gamay, but it’s lighter. I really liked it.

Here's the first (and only) cave we hit today (Friday).

It was a huge warehouse type of place—no old buildings–all metal. The casks were metal as well. No oak in sight. Well, there were some barrels in the seating area, but according to Michel, the man pouring the wine, all wine here was aged in metal casks.

Cave de Geneve

No oak in sight!

Michel was very very eager to answer any question, but he didn’t want his picture taken. He said that they make some 4,000,000 liters a year. The number didn’t actually mean very much to me since I have no context for it. It sounded like a lot to me, but he looked at me like I would be disappointed with that number. I wondered why it is so difficult to get any Swiss wine outside of Switzerland. He had a very interesting answer. First, of course, there just isn’t the volume as with other countries. They are a small country and there isn’t a lot of surplus. The other answer was really interesting. It was until about 15 years ago that the Swiss vineyards were only growing Gamay and Chasselas grapes, so these were the only wines available and had no big following for export. Although, I do remember that in 2000, we used to be able to get bottles of Fendant in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. (It may be because of the large number of physicists who came from CERN and wanted to make fondue or raclette!) So it is only recently that they have been growing a great variety of grapes throughout Switzerland. Michel said that he hoped that in time, they would be able to develop a larger foreign market and be able to produce enough wine to export to North America. He said that they export to France, Germany and Japan. I found this website with the grape varieties of Switzerland in English. I didn’t realize there are many varieties that are indigenous and only found in Switzerland!

The wines.  The Cave de Geneve has two sets of wines. One is called “Les Personnalités de Genève.” Michel explained that these wines were mixed with different famous people of Geneva in mind and sounded like an interesting marketing idea as far as I could tell.


We went straight for the Gamaret which was called “L’Humaniste,” a mixture of 2010 Gamaret and Syrah. He said he didn’t know the percentages. It wasn’t as smooth as the first one I had tasted months ago, but we liked it. Michel was very helpful and confirmed that it was spicy with a hint of cloves. Aaron liked this one the best.

L'Humanist (Gameret Syrah) 2010

There is even one named after a famous Swiss feminist named Emilie Gourd, called “La Rebelle,” who was a Swiss suffragist, educator, unionist and anti-fascist, but Michel moved us onto the second group of wines called “Le Découvertes de Genève.” I wil have to taste “La Rebelle” next time! These wines are of a higher quality he told us. These wines are named after famous places in Geneva. The first one we tried is called, “Rue des Belle-Filles” (street of the beautiful girls) which is apparently a well-known street in old town Geneva and currently has a different name. This one turned out to be my favorite.  It is a Cabernet Franc 2009 19.50 CHF (Swiss francs).

Rue des Belles Filles, Cabernet France de Genève 2009

Rue des Belles Filles

It was so rich and smooth. Michel said, “tres round.” I could have drunk that one with Aaron’s magret du canard and frites and I would have been in heaven. I’ll have to ask him to make it later. Of course we got a few bottles.

Tasting some Gamaret at Cave de Genève

The next wine was called “Les vin de Phillipe Chevrier” who is apparently a famous chef in Geneva. There are a couple of wines that are mixed just for him. It is a mix of Merlot and Cabernet Savignon 2009. It was spicy, curry-like and michel said, “tannic.” It was one that I had to imagine might be better with a meal, but I thought it was too much on the spicy side. Although, now I am really curious about this chateau that is just a couple minutes away. Maybe we’ll go for lunch!

The last red wine we tasted was “La Clemence,” named after a famous bell in St. Peter’s Cathedral (famed to be Calvin’s pulpit) in the center of vielle ville, Geneva. Gamaret 2009: peppery, hint of cloves and allspice. I liked it, but it still wasn’t the Gamaret that I remembered, maybe it needs to sit for another year?

We ended with a dessert wine called “Intuition.” It tasted like summer. Savignon Gris, Muscat 2010: pear, peach (Michel said, “passion fruit”) very light. Delicious!

So, the operation definitely produces enough wine to supply a major grocery store chain (COOP) and has the slick, no frills tasting room and selling area. This place is about efficiency and cleanliness. Everyone was very friendly.

Since we had to get the girls back to school and Aaron had a meeting, we had to zoom off. They had a great setup complete with a full meal available, wine scent activities (boxes with scents in them), tours of the cave and we even got our “Caves Ouvertes” t-shirts. I’m looking forward to Saturday!

Picking up our selections behind the tasting area.

Dinner Parties in Bristol

I have always remembered attending several wine tastings organized through the Wine Circle.  What I did not remember is that they were held almost once per week!  After a tasting we would want to continue our research so an additional “tasting” happened at the nearest wine bar.  Outside of those gatherings Andrew, John, Iain, Rob, Eva, and I would get together for visits at different wine bars or for casual, unorganized wine dinners.  The core group, consisting of Andrew, John, Iain, Rob, and I, organized four formal wine dinners.

Hillside/Woodside House, Bridge Road, Leigh Woods

I lived in student housing at Hillside/Woodside house which is located on the far side of the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Clifton.  It is an old merchant’s house built shortly after the suspension bridge opened in 1864.  Most of the rooms were converted to student rooms leaving only two perpetually dirty kitchens and a common room full of perpetually stoned house mates.  Coupled with the distance, my house was clearly not suitable for dinner parties.  Instead, the four dinners were held at Andrew’s flat, Iain’s flat, and Rob’s row house.

Rob bringing out the 1961 La Gaffeliere

For one dinner we all cooked at Andrew’s flat and drank a mixture of wines.  Andrew had a friend who ran a tobacco shop.  Somehow he got the gig of being paid to test-smoke various tobaccos.  We often finished up with whisky at Andrew’s flat so it seemed natural that I try a pipe.  It did smell great.  So I would sit there, talking through the impossibly loud classical music (Chopin, Beethoven, Debussy), tumbler of The Macallan in one hand, pulling on my pipe.  One evening, when it was just Andrew, Eva, and I, he lent me a pipe along with some bags of tobacco and gave us the bottle of Macallan we were drinking from.  After all, tobacco and whisky did go together so well it would be a shame to break them apart.  And he did have another bottle for his own consumption.

John peeling carrots with the empty Claret bottles on counter.

One dinner was held at Iain’s flat where his Parisienne girlfriend cooked dinner and we drank 1973 or 1974 Clos du Val, Cabernet Sauvignon amongst others.  The 1961 La Gaffeliere was drunk at Rob’s house where he not only managed to decant the wines but single-handedly cooked the entire dinner.  I remember starting with a basket of quail’s eggs and I remember ending with a beautiful winter’s dessert.  I image the glasses of good wine blocked all memory of what I ate with them. 

Andrew pouring decanted wine as Iain watches

There was also a dinner of odd and interesting wines at Rob’s house.  The wines and courses for the dinners were discussed ahead of time and final costs were equally shared.  At this particular dinner there was a 1959 German Riesling and a Chinese Tsingtao Chardonnay.  I cannot find the journal where I took notes from that dinner but I will eventually find it.  I do recall that we finished off with some 1985 Quinta do Noval vintage port that Rob and Andrew bought at a London auction.  It was brutally young.  My tasting note reads something like, “This is so young it is like waking up yesterday.”

Iain thinks the wine is "good stuff!"

We would listen to jazz or classic music.  While my mother and grandfather always played music, it was not until the summer of 1992 that I started buying my own jazz and classical CDs.  The first time I ever heard Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder was at Iain’s flat.  The Parisienne dinner, the buzz from the wine, and the driving rhythm of the track Totem Pole left an inedible mark on me.  I fell in love with good music, good food, good wine, and good company.  I knew I would host such dinners when I eventually return to Ann Arbor.

The Author dressed for 1961 claret.

We dressed according to the quality of the wines.

Rob undoubtedly discussing wine.

The evenings always ended up with port, whisky, or Armagnac (no refined Cognac was drunk!).  And perhaps, a cup of coffee.

The Macallan with Andrew's Oxbridge friend and Andrew

I remember our last dinner. It was at the end of term and in a few days I was off to Frankfurt and eventually Florence.  We drank a mixture of wines including my first bottle of Chateau Musar.  Rob offered it blind and I guessed Israel not knowing they made wine in Lebanon.  We stayed up ridiculously late as exams were over.  Everyone spilled out of Rob’s house and walked the first few blocks home together.  I kept one bottle as a souvenir.  Upon realizing there were still contents leftover from decanting, I put the bottle to my mouth and tilted my head all of the way back.  The last few drops of wine left contained an enormous amount of sediment.  But it tasted so good and kept the evening alive for one more moment.

There was talk about renting a house near a coast, away from everything, and holing up with cases of wine and boxes of food.  It would be several days of uninterrupted cooking, eating, and drinking.  I do not know if they did rent the house but I do know that I had an eye appointment the next morning.  I needed a new pair of contacts for the summer.  In the morning, my eyes were blood-shot and dry from drink and lack of sleep.  The doctor kept trying to convince me that I had a problem with my eyes.  I eventually persuaded her to give me the contacts.  I did a bit more shopping then I was ready to begin my summer adventures in Germany and Italy.

A successful evening

Bienvenue à la Suisse! Welcome to Switzerland!

May 27, 2011 2 comments

I have a confession to make. Living on the Franco-Swiss border, I used to turn my nose (short one at that) at the Swiss wines here at the source of the Rhone river. I thought surely nearby Bourgogne, Bordeux, Provence, Cote du Rhone, and Beaujolais have more to offer than this small patch of vines. I was soooo wrong! Here, right outside my window are really delicious wines, and just meters away!

Salut! Greetings from Meyrin, Switzerland. I am much more of an “amateur” than a “connoisseur” of wine in every sense! Yet, I will try to make my small contribution to this blog!

We (my husband , two daughters and I) are here to see my husband through a year of smashing protons in the French-speaking area of Switzerland known as the canton of Geneva. We are from Lincoln, Nebraska, USA. So, needless to say, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!” (Almost literally!) He is doing high energy physics at CERN and I, an English teacher by training, am doing a year of learning French and navigating our daughters through the public school system in Meyrin, Switzerland (just minutes from central Geneva, Switzerland). It has all been very exciting, fun, frustrating and enlightening! So here we go…

CERN (on the left) and Meyrin Apartments (on the right) Wheat and Grapevines (center)

This weekend is the 25 year old “Caves Ouvertes” where all of the wine vineyards are open in the canton of Geneva. I won’t be able to go to all 80 of them, but I will do my best to sample a few. This is, after all, the source of the great river Rhône, tucked between the limestone Jura and Saléve mountains (or hills–compared to the Alps!). Many mornings you can find me taking a walk through the vineyards with a very good friend of mine who has lived here for many years. It’s truly beautiful and you can feel the love for the craft. There are even signs posted with some explanations of the grapes. Signs are proudly displayed on the vinter windows with opening and closing times displayed. In France, you’d never see opening and closing times! (subtext: Always open!) I am looking forward to tasting more of the Gamaret grape and really anything goes. If you have any recommendations, let me know and I’ll seek it out! But, you’ll have to hurry, it’s tomorrow!

Roundabout on the way to Satigny from Meyrin

The "mandement" region on this side of the Rhône; All wine villages!

Vineyards of Satigny, Switzerland in May

Spanish Wines at Lou’s

May 27, 2011 1 comment

Lou and Aaron

Last night I went over to Lou’s so that we could taste some Spanish wines.  All of the wines cost between $15 and $30.  The red wines were double-decanted around 5pm and were tasted over several hours.  We first started off with an interesting white wine.

2009 Bodegas Finca Torremilanos, Penalba Lopez, Blanco, Castilla y Leon, Ribera del Duero
Purchased at Balducci’s.  This is a blend of 50% Albillo Major (Tempranillo Blanco) and 50% Sauvignon Blanc that was aged for one year on barrel.  This wine has a light color of rich straw.  It is creamy in the mouth with floral notes, toast, and perhaps some yeast.  It shows more smokiness with air then more floral notes.  The is a bit short in the finish and has just enough acidity to keep it from getting flabby.  A bit too smoky for me.  ** Now.

The Five Red Wines

After starting with the white wine and three Spanish cheeses, Lou and I sat down to taste through the red wines.  The wines were tasted blind with the paper bags duct-taped shut so we wouldn’t cheat.  All of the wines were good.  While we did not rank them I particularly liked, in tasting order, the Val Sotillo (#2), the Martinet Bru (#4), and the Brozal (#5).  There are ample leftovers so when I retaste the wines I’ll add additional notes.

#1 – 2004 Solanera, Vinas Viejas, Yecla
Purchased at MacArthur’s.  This wine is a blend of 65% Monastrell, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Tintorera.  It is a custom blend for Eric Solomon.  This wine started off with a tight nose, almost young, with structured aromas of dusty earth.  In the mouth the red berries show a bit of sharpness and remind one of a hot, arid region.  The fruit rounds out over time but retains its coarseness, which is charming.  There are still some very fine tannins.  This was an interesting surprise as Jenn and I used to drink this affordable $14 wine.  ** Now.

#2 – 2005 Bodegas Ismael Arroyo, Val Sotillo, Crianza, Ribeira del Duero
Purchased at MacArthur’s.  This wine is 100% Tinta del Pais that was aged for 14 months in American oak casks.  This wine is much darker than the Solanera.  It has a light nose that shows some heat and perhaps a little sweet fruit.  In the mouth it is a bit richer, brawny, and shows dark tannins that taste a bit modern.  With air it loosens up a bit by developing sweet fruit that is nicely supported in this tight, structured wine.  This is a very nice wine.  *** 2015-2019.

#3 – 2005 Xavier Clua, Mas d’en pol Barrica, Terre Negre
Purchased at Ceceile’s Wine Cellar, now Chain Bridge Cellars.  This wine is a blend of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot that is aged for eight months in French barriques and a wee bit in stainless steel tank.  The vineyards are 15-30 years old, are at an altitude of 450-500 meters, and have soils of calcair and clay.  It sported a nose of sweet, ripe, blue fruits, which reminds me of Grenache, combined with a lot of dusty, herbs, and some leather.  It is smooth in the mouth and has a softness that isn’t reflected in the grip of the nose.  It is a bit light in acidity and shows a bit of warmth.  It comes across as having a modest amount of barrel aging.  With air there are even more herbs and blue fruit.  An interesting wine.  ** Now-2015.

#4 – 2007 Famillia Perez Overtero, Martinet Bru, Priorat
Purchased at The Peter Weygandt store.  This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Carignan, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot.  The grapes were fermented in wooden tanks then 66% were aged for 18 months in 4,000 liter vats and 34% in 300 liter French oak barrels.  This wine is a very dark, grapey color.  It has a young nose of tight, grapey aromas of raspberries and blue fruits.  This wine is mouth-filling with medium to full-bodied flavors that are creamy and marked by herbs.  With air there are cinnamon spices and more grip.  Tasted blind I would not guess that this is a Spanish wine.  It really is a lovely, contemporary wine that continued to develop through the night.  *** 2014-2017.

#5 – 2008 Bodegas El Indiano Brozal, Single Vineyard, Rioja
Purchased at MacArthur’s.  This wine is a field blend of 80% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, and 10% Grenache aged for ten months in 50% new French oak.  The 3.2 acre vineyard, Finca El Brozal, is located at 1,800 feet and dates back to 1938.  Wow, this was completely different.  The nose sported dark red berries, pepper, and scented spices.  There are ample flavors in the mouth but it is still soft and balanced making it easy to drink.  The spices on the nose follow through in the mouth. There are very fine tannins that stick to the lips.  I would not have guess this as Rioja but this is good stuff.  *** Now-2017.

Later that night, two friends of Adrienn’s tried some of these wines.  They both really liked the Brozal Rioja.

Two Vacqueyras from Domaine la Garrigue

A Vineyard in Vacqueyras, Image by Michael Davis Photo (flickr)

Domaine la Garrigue is located in Vacqueyras.  It was established in 1850 and is still owned by the Bernard family.  The estate is named after the wild herbs that grow in Provence which are known as Garrigue.  This estate is particularly famous for their Cuvee Romaine which is a custom Cotes du Rhone blend of declassified Vacqueyras for Eric Solomon.  After opening a bottle of the 2000 Cuvee Traditionelle I thought it would be fun to open two different bottles from 2004.

William and Aaron at Public, 2005

I bought the Cuvee Traditionelle several years ago from MacArthur’s.  The Cuvee La Cantarele was a monthly selection from the restaurant Public NYC.  Public is owned by my long-time friend William Harris and three other partners.  It is their first restaurant and features an interesting Antipodean wine list.  They were recently awarded a Michelin star for the 2011 New York City Red Guide.

Jenn at Public, 2005

Jenn and I were members of their Wine Mailbox program for the first couple of years.  William would make periodic trips down to visit us, generously lugging all of our wine.  The best wine we ever drank from their program is the 2000 Ata Rangi, Celebre from New Zealand.  Drunk in 2006 or 2007 it was a simply amazing wine.

Back to Vacqueyras.  I highly recommend the 2004 Traditionelle.  On wine-searcher it is available for $30.  That is a good price.  So go buy a few, try one now then resist temptation and cellar the others for a short bit!

2004 Domaine la Garrigue, Cuvee Traditionelle, Vacqueyras
This wine is a blend of 75% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, and 5% Cinsault.  The vineyards are located on argilo-calcaire soils.  The wine is aged in concrete tanks.  When I first smelled this wine it instantly brought back memories of the Cuvee Romaine.  It has a light to medium nose of gritty fruits and herbs.  In the mouth there are gobs of gritty fruits that forcefully expand onto the tongue.  There is almost prickly, lively acidity combined with inky fruits and a fair amount of medium tannins that coat the entire mouth.  With air the fruit darkens a bit and those lovely, semi-sweet Vacqueyras spices come out.  This wine is vigorously youthful and so enjoyable because of it.  While it is several years from maturity it is lovely now for its robustness.  Decant for several hours.  ***(*) 2015-2022.

2004 Domaine la Garrigue, Cuvee La Cantarele, Vacqueyras
This custom Eric Solomon cuvee is a blend of 85% Grenache and 15% Syrah from vines that are over 100 years old.  The grapes come from specific parcels throughout the estate.  It is aged for 24 months in tank.  It is a medium+ color of garnet.  One sniff and unfortunately, this bottle is flawed!  On the first night we could somewhat drink around the flaw.  It showed darker, less evolved fruit and herbs instead of sweet spice.  On the second day it was out of whack with a volatile nose and salty flavors.  Bummer, this might have been interesting.  Not Rated.