Friday, July 23, 2010

Stages 18 and 19 - July 23 and 24th: Bordeaux

Today the Tour rides up through the Bordeaux Appellations of Graves and Sauternes and into the City of Bordeaux, where Saturday's time trial stage from there to Pauillac will most likely determine the winner of the race. The wines of Bordeaux at first glance seem to need no introduction. Among the most famous and expensive in the world, the top Classified wines of this region are sought after by collectors and investors the world over. This year, the region was brought into the world spotlight with the recently concluded futures campaign for the superb 2009 vintage. They are fairly easy to understand, the reds being blends of up to five grapes, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with Malbec, and Petit Verdot in support, and mainly Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon for the whites.  Finding value here is a bit trickier, and a lesser known fact is that there are so many wines beyond the top 100 or so estates, with 57 Appellations and by some counts up to 10,000 growers. There are also excellent value in less hyped vintages that are often better than they are portrayed in the press and earlier maturing than the great classic years. There are great inexpensive crisp whites from Entre Deux Mers, fantastic red wine values in the Cote des Francs, Cotes de Castillon, Fronsac and smaller estates in the Medoc, second labels from some of the top properties and even some delicious rose wines produced. I went to Bordeaux early this spring to taste the terrific 2009's - for a look at my thoughts on the vintage click  Bordeaux. For our full list of 2009 futures, click the link. In the meantime, here are a few favorites that are currently in stock. To purchase, click any of the wine below and enjoy the race as it captures the stately manicured and formal beauty of one of the great wine regions of the world!

2007 Chateau Lauriol Bordeaux Cotes de Francs - $19.50 - The Cotes de Francs has always been an area where great value can be found with soft, fruit driven wines. However, in 2007 the sun smiled on this area and Chateau Lauriol made a tremendous wine that is drinking beautifully but could stand up to short term cellaring. At 100% Merlot, this velvety dark berry infused wine possesses a touch of leather, smoke and cassis fruit. Very good concentration here.
Region: Cotes de Francs (Bordeaux), France
Grape: 100% Merlot
Drink: Now - 2014
Cuisine: Grilled and barbecued meats
ABV: 13.5%

Manoir de Gravaux Cotes du Castillon - $19.50 - This is a classic blend of 88% Merlot & 12% Cabernet Franc from the Cotes de Castillon. This region shares much of the same soil, climate and characteristics of its immediate neighbor St. Emilion, produceing ripe, lush mouthfilling and supple Merlot dominated wines. This is made by superstar winemaker Stephane Derenencourt, one of the top consulting winemakers in Bordeaux. Drink now 2015+. Serve with classic beef, lamb, duck and other hearty dishes.
Region: Bordeaux, France (Cotes du Castillon)
Grapes: Merlot and Cabernet Franc
Drink: Now - 2015
Cuisine: Beef, Lamb, Duck
ABV: 13.5%

2006 La Violette Manoir de Gravaux Cotes de Castillion - $29 - While still a young appellation by French standards (AOC status in 1989), there is no denying that the quality of wines emerging from this Right Bank area of Bordeaux offer outstanding quality at attractive prices. Cotes de Castillon is made up of nine villages strewn along the eastern side of the Dordogne River. There is no white wine production here as the basic Right bank smorgasbord of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec comprise the varietals grown in the area. There are over 2900 hectares under vine but most of the chateaus are small, averaging about 10 hectares of vineyards. Sandy gravel soils over a base of limestone lend a perfect combination of bright fruit and modest structure.
Terra Burdigala is a partnership between two superstars in Bordeaux with a focus on excellent quality offering tremendous value. Stephane Derenoncourt (the famed winemaker of such legendary wines as La Mondotte and Le Pin) handles the work in the vineyards and winery while his partner Francois Thienpont (owner of Vieux Chateau Certan) handles the business side of the partnership. "La Violette" is a single vineyard on the property that borders Chateau de l'A, Stephane's personal vineyard holding. The clay-limestone plateau has perfect exposition and this hand-harvested wine is treated to twelve months maturation in barrel prior to bottling. The vines average 45 years of age and the tiny two hectare plot is trimmed to very low yields as only 750 cases are produced yearly. A silky blend of 92% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc, the La Violette lives up to its name with pungent violet aromatics, deep blackberry fruit and a long sweet tannin filled finish. From the sleeper 2006 vintage, a wine that is lush enough to drink now but will age and improve for 4-6 years.
Region: Bordeaux, France (Cotes du Castillon)
Grapes: Merlot and Cabernet Franc
Terroir: Clay and limestone
Drink: Now - 2016
ABV: 13.5%

2006 Chateau Les Trois Croix Cannon Fronsac, Bordeaux - $25 - Patrick Leon and his family purchased this picturesque Fronsac estate with the singular goal of making a wine as dynamic as Mouton Rothschild in Fronsac. A tall order indeed...but Msr. Leon has "terroir" on side. The vines of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc are planted at 86 meters high on a plateau of limestone--the highest estate in the region. That elevation as well as the superior exposition of the vines, lends concentration to the wine. The 2006 is a juicy little devil, with plums, kirsch, lavender, graphite and hints of toasty oak commingling in the glass. There is certainly structure present, but it's hard to deny the lovable nature the wine displays today. A fantastic value to be enjoyed now through 2016.
Region: Canon Fronsac, Bordeaux, France
Grape: Merlot and Cab Franc
Drink: Now - 2016
ABV: 13.5%

2005 Chateau Saint Hilaire Medoc "Cru Bourgeois" - $25 - With vines located in the gravel-laden soils of Jau Dignac Loirac and even older ones in Queyrac, this estate owned by Adrien Uijttewaal spent over 10 years sending their grapes to a winegrowers co-op. Finally in 1995, they felt that they had high enough quality grapes to make a wine of which they could be proud enough to adorn the name Saint-Hilaire. After a 12 month stint in 33% new French oak, this blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc is gorgeously endowed Bordeaux. Juicy and ripe mixed red fruits, lush black raspberries, smoke, fresh herbs and a touch of oak frame this wine that is surprisingly wide open but certainly has the bones for aging. Enjoy it now (with a little decant) and over the next 8 years.
Region: Medoc (Bordeaux), France
Grapes: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot & 5% Cabernet Franc
Vinification: 12 months French Oak (40% new)
Drink: Now (with a decant) Best: 2014 - 2018
ABV: 13%

2006 Vieux Chateau Certan Pomerol - $189 (sale price) - Vieux Chateau-Certan has been owned by the Theinpont family since 1924 (along with Troplong-Mondot in Saint Emilion which they acquired just three years prior). It is one of the top states with an impeccable "terroir" in the heart of Pomerol. Surrounded by great chateaux such as P??trus, La Conseillante and L'Evangile, the vineyards are composed of gravelly soils with sub-soils of iron-rich clay and a bit of sand and are planted to 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Alexandre Theinpont completes a severe green harvest, often dropping over 50% of the fruit to increase concentration. Probably the finest wine this estate has produced, there is no doubt that the 2006 VCC is the wine of the vintage. Lavish wild berries, smoke, incense, leather, licorice, cassis and ripe plums have tremendous weight, but that unmistakable Pomerol elegance. While it is forward and supple enough to enjoy right now, this is an all-time classic for the cellar to be enjoyed from 2018 through 2030.
Region: Pomerol (Bordeaux), France
Grape: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon
Drink: 2018-2030
Cuisine: Lamb shank, Porterhouse, Venison
ABV: 14%

Monday, July 19, 2010

Stages 15-17, July 19-22: The Pyranees

The mountain stages of the Pyrenees are one of the places where the Tour can certainly be won or lost, and this year the should offer some of the most exciting days of the entire race. This year the riders climb the Hors Category Col du Tourmalet twice, with a brutal finish there on stage 17 after a rest day. They will also climb the HC Col D'Aubisque and several category one climbs along the way. Not as high as the Alps, the mountains are older and more rugged, with fewer passes that tend to be higher than those in the alps, and some of the climbs are steeper as a result. The mountains stretch over 260 miles from the Mediteranean west to the Atlantic, and include the Spanish Provinces of Girona, Barcelona, Lleida, Huesca, Navarra, and Guipúzcoa and the French Départements of Pyrénées-Orientales, Aude, Ariège, Haute-Garonne, Hautes-Pyrénées, and Pyrénées-Atlantiques. It is a rugged, beautiful region and the wines tend to reflect this character. 
The wine regions include Irouléguy, Jurançon, Madiran, Pacherenc de Vic Bihl Sec. Grape varieties include Petit Manseng, Curbu, Tannat, Bouchy (Cabernet Franc), Cabernet Sauvignon, Fer, Arrufiac, Gros Manseng, and Sauvignon Blanc. Todays vin du Route is a Madiran from the hear of the Pyrenees - enjoy!

2005 Chateau Laffitte-Teston "Reflets du Terroir" Madiran - $18.50 - French country wine at its finest, this is a rugged blend of 70% Tannat, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc from vines ranging from 12-50 years of age. Totally de-stemmed, fermented 18-22 days. It is full of fragrant aromatics and solidly structured fruit. Leather and mixed berries with notes of dark fruits, smoke and spices are all set upon a solid frame work of tannins. Classic bistro wine for classic bistro fare, enjoy this now and over the next four years. Steak and frites! To order visit us at 56 Degree Wine!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Stage 14, July 18th: The Languedoc-Roussillon to the Pyrenees

The Tour continues south towards its rendezvous with the brutal mountain stages of the Pyrenees today, passing through the vast wine region of the Languedoc/Roussillon and climbing to over 2000 meters above sea level up the Hors Category Port de Pailheres. It is a huge region, producing one third of all of the wine in France, and as of 2001, more wine than the entire United States. For years it was best known for the oceans of inexpensive wines it produced, with quantity over quality the rule of thumb. Today there are still problems in the region with overproduction, but in the last 20 years or so there has been a big shift towards smaller production, high quality winemaking resulting in some truly stunning wines that span the range from good affordable everyday quaffs to cellar worthy, almost cult status collectables.
The Languedoc/Roussillon stretches from just west of the Rhone all the way down to the Spanish border, and in general shares a similar climate to the southern Rhone, with its own unique variations of terroirs throughout. It includes the regions of Coteaux du Languedoc, Montpeyroux, Faugeres, Pic St. Loup, Banyuls, Corbieres, St. Chinian, Minervois, and Colliure, as well as Vin de Pays D'Oc and many more. For a good view of the region, follow the link to a Map of the Languedoc.
Red grape varieties include the typical mix of southern French grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre, Cargignan, Cinsault, Lladoner Pelut, Picpoul Noir, and Terret Noir, plus international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. For the whites Roussanne, Marsanne, Vermentino (aka Rolle or Pigato), Bourboulenc, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Picpoul, and Maccabéo make up the locals, with Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc planted too. Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains Muscat of Alexandria grapes are also planted. The reds wines are typically pretty gutsy, sometimes a little rustic, often showing a sauvage "garrigue" gaminess that seem to capture the essence of this wild, raw countryside. There are also some inexpensive wines made from international varieties that seem to have little resemblance to the region, seeking a more homogenous, commercial style. Whites can run the gamut from crisp, light and clean to full rich and complex, with sparkling and sweet wines made here too, and again some of the same type international style low end wines produced too. Sunny warm climate, rocky outcrops, scrubby, dry and starkly beautiful, with some truly spectacular coastline, this is a beautiful area of France - watch today on Versus for a look at this great region. As for wines, here are a few favorites! To purchase any of the wines below visit us at 56 Degree Wine!

2008 Maison Andre Quancard Viognier/Muscat Vin de Pays Cotes Catalanes, Languedoc $12.50 - Fresh, lively, clean and aromatic, this wine is all stainless steel fermetned. The lovely fruit tones of the Muscat adds a rose petal perfumed character, and the Viognier adds peachy, apricot tones. Drink as an aperitif or with light fish or summer salads.

2008 Chateau Capion 1C Vin de Pays de L'Herault Blanc, Languedoc - $17.50 - While Chateau Capion has a rich history dating back to 1873, the Buhrer family from Switzerland purchased the estate in 1996 and the wines have been on the rise ever since. Organically grown fruit grown on limestone soils, there is no irrigation at play. Michel Tardieu is the talent behind this blend of 50% Chardonnay, 40% Roussanne, and 10% Sauvignon Blanc that is raised in new and old French oak for 8 months. Pungent lively aromas of sweet nectarines and honeysuckle give way to flavors of white peach, honey, citrus and wet stones. A delicious wine that needs only a warm day and the company of friends to show its stuff!
Region: L'Herault
Grapes: 50% Chardonnay, 40% Roussanne, and 10% Sauvignon Blanc
Farming: Organic
Winemaking: New and old French oak for 8 months
Cuisine: Meaty seafood like grouper, sea bass, swordfish, lobster or grilled shrimp too, or all on its own!
Drink: Now - 2011
ABV: 13.5%

2007 La Peira En Damaisella Deuslys Blanc L'Herault Vin de Pays - $51 - Lovely, clean and complicated with white flowers, perfumed. Even a stoniness. From two blocks next to the syrah, a little less rocky as the whites here seem to do better in the slighlty deeper soils otherwise seems to have drought stress. Light press, no added so2 at this point, just minimal amount at bottling, all indigenous yeasts and direct to barrel. Only 50 cases made.Region: Languedoc, France
Grapes: 65% Viognier and 35% Roussanne
Terroir: Warm summers, cold winters, poor stony soils
Drink: now 2012
Cuisine: poultry, fish
ABV: 14.5%

2008 Domaine de Subremont Vin de Pays des Coteaux de Peyriac Rouge Languedoc - $12 - Factoring the "tasty factor" coupled with the price and you quickly realize what a great value this little red from the Languedoc is. 100% Carignan shows dark berry fruit, iron, plums and garrigue notes on a frame of supple tannins. Rustic but never lacking for flavor, this wine represents a great Cellar Defender and one that I would drink today with tenderloin or lamb chops, simply seasoned with olive oil, rosemary salt and pepper. Bon Appetit! 
Grapes: 100% Carignan
Terroir: Warm summers, cold winters, poor stony soils 
Drink: now 2014
Cuisine: lamb, grilled or braised meats

2005 Domaine Salitis Cabardes Cuvee Premium - $18 - Suprisingly regal effort for a wine from the not-so-sexy appellation of Cabardes, this deft blend ot Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah & Grenache is really beautifully made. Rustic edges accent the supple flavors laced with red fruits, raspberry, pepper, game and solid length; this is made for red meat with with a sturdy framework of tannins and wealth of fruit. Fire up the grill!
Region: Cabardes (Languedoc) France
Grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Sauv, Syrah, Grenache
Drink: Now
Cuisine: Grilled Meat
ABV: 13.5%

2008 Chateau St Jean de la Gineste Corbieres Vieilles Vignes, Languedoc - $15.50 - ORGANIC - Located in Corbieres, just west of Narbonne, this organic estate sits on 54 hectares of well draining limestone. That is the genesis for this wonderful blend of 80% old vine (25 to 105 years) Grenache and 20% Carignan, which is vinified in old concrete vats for 12 months. Marie-Helene Becave now runs this picturesque estate with a serious commitment to the land, as well as the wine. All hand harvested, this deep black cherry, dried plums, smoke and meat dripping laced wine is long and lovely on the palate. Perfect with grilled pork, but big enough for red meat, this is a fantastic wine for summer sipping.
Region: Corbieres (Languedoc,) France
Grapes: Grenache and Carignan
Farming: Organic Practices
Vinification: Old Concrete vats for 12 months
Drink: Now
Cuisine: Grilled Pork or some Red Meats
ABV: 14%

2005 Domaine de la Grange des Peres - Grange des Peres, Languedoc-Rousillon - $94 - Famous for being clearly the best domaine in the Languedoc-Rousillon? Yes, itís unquestionable. But also fame comes in the form of the Laurent Vaille, the former physiotherapist turned wine wizard. His tutelage under Gerard Chave and Francois Coche-Dury gave him the tools to become the legendary figure he has now become. Starting in 1992, this winery has gone from "on the map" to "off the charts", wowing not only the wine press, but all who taste the wines. They are that spectacular! A big rich blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Mourvedre that defies logic with a balancing act of jammy dark berry fruit and savage, meaty, the same time. A wine that will age magnificently in a cool cellar, but is truly hard to resist right now.
2006 Coume del Mas Banyuls Galateo Languedoc 500ml - $42 - This lovely sweet red is from Grenache grapes grown in the Languedoc in the sunny south of France not far from Perpignan and the Spanish border. The steep terraced vineyards are worked by horse and hand, with natural viticulture and organic practices whenever possible. Vaguely Tawny Port like, with crush black fruit, lovely mouthfilling sweetness without be overy sweet or cloying. Perfect with chocolate!
Region: Banyul, Languedoc,, France
Grapes: Grenache Noir
Drink: Now - 2020
Cuisine: Dessert, cheeses and definately chocolate!

Stage 13, July 17: Off the Beaten path to Marcillac and Gaillac

Stage 13 takes the Tour through the virtually uncharted wine regions of the southwest that include Marcillac and Gaillac. Little known here, I love these wines for their true regional identity. They can be a little rustic and old school, with grapes like Fer Servadou, Duras, and Braucol being supported sometimes by a little Cabernet Sauvignon. They are typically a little lower in alcohol, have good grippy tannins and nice acidity, without the oodles of ripe extracted plump fruit and oak that so many wines feel they need to compete for your attention. A perfect summer red and a lovely summer Rose are the vins de route today - enjoy!

2005 Domaine Rotier Gaillac "Les Gravels" - Rustic, real French countywine from the best producer in the appellation, this delicious blend of Cabernet Sauivgnon, Syrah, Duras and Braucol is authentic and pure. From gravel-laden soils along the right bank of the Tarn River, this black currant, smoked meat, and spice filled offering is the perfect compliment to French Bistro fare. Order a plate of Steak Frites and pull the cork. Perfection!
Region: Southwest Franc
Grapes: Cab Sauv, Duras, syrah, Braucol
Drink: Now -2014
Cuisine: Steak Frites
ABV: 12.5%

2009 Domaine Laurens Marcillac Rose - Marcillac is certainly not an appellation that rolls off the tongue of most American wine consumers. But it is an appellation that makes wonderful country reds and when we tasted this crisp dry Rose from the Fer Servadou grape, we jumped at the opportunity to lock it up. Crisp and dry with floral tones, raspberry nuance and mouthwatering acidity. A summer sipper extraordinaire, for sure!
Region: Marcillac (Southwest), France
Grape: 100% Mansois (Fer Servadou)

Drink: Now

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July 15th and 16th - Stage 11 and 12: The Northern Rhone

Arriving back to earth from the peaks of the Alps, the Tour takes a couple of stages around the Northern Rhone Valley beginning on Thursday in Sisteron and up to Bourg-les-Valence, with a start Friday in Bourg-de-Peage just north of Valence and south to finish in Mende. The Northern Rhone wine region is comprised of steep, vertiginous slopes along the river and rolling hillsides and side valleys spreading out from there. It is a much more compact region than the sprawling southern Rhone, and its location on the border between the cooler continental north and the sunny and warm Mediterranean south leads to a different mix of grape varieties and wine style. 
The Northern Rhone (or Septentrional meaning of the north) is home to Syrah for the reds, and Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne for the tiny amount of white wine made here. The Northern Rhone wines, while they can and often do have solid power and strength, still have something of finesse, perfume, elegance about them, both in the reds and whites. It is an area that I don't typically consider when looking for bargain basement wines - winemaking in the steep vineyards is difficult, and all in all there are relatively small amounts of wines made in the top appellations so the best can be quite pricey. However there is exceptional value here if you explore the regions of Cornas, Saint Joseph and Crozes Hermitage with classic peppery, cassis, olive tapenade and violet scented syrah from these villages. The top whites are found in Hermitage and Condrieu, and are exceptional wines and worth seeking out if you have deep pockets. Here are a few suggestions of wine from the region available at the shop - enjoy the race! For all of our Rhone wines click to visit us at 56 Degree Wine and search on Rhone.

2007 JL Chave St. Joseph Blanc "Celeste" $35 - In what is one of the greatest values we've come across in quite a while, this offering from the legendary Jean Louis Chave hails from a vineyard in St. Joseph that he purchased which had some barrels languishing in the cellar when he took possession. He took a taste and was unsure about what to do with them but continued to care for the wine and make subtle adjustments in its vinification. Finally, he tried the wine and was blown away with what he tasted. And after trying the end result a week ago in bottle, I was equally astounded with it! This wine is an anomaly, a one-off that will eventually go into a St. Joseph Blanc bottling that will sell for far more. 100% Marsanne from old vine material, this is polished, plush white that is like drinking "Baby-Hermitage" from Chave himself. Juicy guava, creme brulee, orange marmalade, baking spices have roundness, lovely weight and searing acidity keeping the wine lively. A wine that if tasted blind, one would be hard pressed to not think it's Hermitage from an excellent vintage. 
Region: Rhone (St Joseph,) France
Grape: Marsanne
Drink: Now - 2012
ABV: 13.5%

2006 Francois Villard Cote Rotie "Le Gallet Blanc" $72 - Despite the moniker, this is far from a white wine. Made by one of the great Rhone producers Francois Villard, "Les Gallet Blanc" refers to the "white stones" that dot this single vineyard site in Cote Rotie. Solid, dark almost smoky coffee/espresso richness underpinned by earth, ripe but solid tannins. Long, warm, lingering finish. 
Region: Cote Rotie (N. Rhone), France
Grape: Syrah
Drink: 2020 - 2025
Cuisine: Leg of lamb, game cuts of beef, & venison.
ABV: 13% 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Stages 8 and 9 July 11th and 13th - The High Mountains!

Today the Tour reaches its first true mountain stages with two rarely climbed category 1 ascents. The start leaves Station des Rousses on the Swiss border and heads south through the Jura before turning back towards Switzerland, not far from Lac Leman. There are a couple small cat 4 hills before they encounter the mountains proper at the Ramaz Pass (only climbed twice in the history of the Tour) at about 40 kilometers from the finish. The stage concludes with a category 1 uphill climb to the finish in Morzine-Avoriaz, last visited 16 years ago. It should be an exciting day before they get a rest day on Monday and continue in the mountains for an incredible day of climbing in stage 9 Tuesday along the French/Italian border including the Hors Category climb over the Col de la Madeleine. Don't miss the excitement and the breathtaking views - the mountains are where the race can be won or lost!
All this time the Peloton is cruising through the beautiful scenery of the high Alps in the Jura and Franche Comte, a region little known for its wines and well-known for its cheeses. Comte, Morbier, Munster, Grand Cru Emmental, Upper Jura Blue and Mont D'Or are some of the best of the region, and the first two are pretty much world renowned classics. 
The wines of the Jura on the other hand can be a bit quirky, unchanging and unflinchingly secure in the own identity, and for that reason are sometimes a bit of a challenge for outsiders and new world wine lovers used to drinking fruit driven, full bodied plush styles of wine. Here the indigenous grape varieties that include Poulsard, Savignin and Trousseau are the stars,  with more familiar Pinot and Chardonnay playing fairly minor roles. The high Alpine environment at between 800 and 1300 feet above the Plaine de Bresse is continental, but colder than Burgunday far below and to the west. Even within this region, terroir plays a role as each wine growing area has very specific soils : Red and blue marls for the Poulsard ; Rich gravels and warm soils par excellence for the Trousseau ; Light marls for the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir ; Grey marls for the Savagnin. Vin Jaune, a wine made in an oxidative style, is one of the most popular (and idiosyncratic) wines from the region - almost sherry like in its nutty, rustic yet intriguingly delicious way, and there is sparking Cremant made here as well as a vin de liquer wine called Macvin.  Looking at our rather thin selection from the Jura and the mountainous east of France  (how can we not have Vin Jaune?) I have made a definite note to get out and taste a lot more wines from the region and beef up the selection! Better yet - ROAD TRIP!! Here are a couple of my favorite wines from the region:

2007 Domaine Rolet Nature du Jura Arbois Blanc $22
Region: Arbois (Jura,) France
Grapes: Chardonnay and Savagnin blend
Not too oxidative or rustic at all, this has a nutty, mineral stony character - piercing and focused on the palate with a long finish that sort of lingers and fades into almond nutty tones. A great example of a fresher style from this region. 

Apremont Vin de Savoie, Marc Portaz $16.50 - Unbelievably the Janquere grapes for this wine are grown on the rubbly rocky soil from a giant landslide from Mount Granier 750 years ago that buried a few hamlets and villages. Light, crisp, aromatic and refreshingly delicious this wine seems to capture the alpine air and stony soils of where it is grown. Aged sur lee it sometimes has a slight sparkle when drunk young.  Another delicate, lovely summer white!

Ceron de Bugey, Domaine Renardat Fachet $24 - One of my favorite wines in the world, seriously! It is a methode ancestral (same as Champagne methode) that is made from Poulsard and Gamay grapes with just a hint of sweetness. It has pale pinkish hue, lovely fine bubbly mousse, hints of fresh strawberry and raspberry, and wonderfully low alcohol - all making the a perfect summer afternoon aperitif or an after dinner palate refresher. We drink it on the beach at the end of the day!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Stage 7 July 10th - From the Macon to the Mountains

Todays stage takes the Tour through one of the best regions in the world for affordable Chardonnay as it starts out from the town of Tournus, just north of Macon, and heads for its first taste of the mountains at Station Des Rousses, both towns being first time hosts to the Tour. The route starts out pretty flat, heading east over the Plaine de Bresse and then begins to climb up into the Monts de Jura encountering a few category 2 climbs to gear up the pack for the bigger stuff tomorrow. As well as passing not far from villages such a St. Veran, Macon, and Pouilly Fuisse, the Tour also skirts the region known for the best chickens in the world around the village of Bourg-en-Bresse. The Poulet de Bresse chickens are so good that, like wine and cheeses, they have their own Appellation Controllee and were the first livestock to get the honor in 1957. The breed of chicken, what they can eat, the local soil and conditions, and the size of the farms all play a role in their superb quality and is strictly controlled.
As for wine, this is Chardonnay country, and a source of some of my absolutely favorite everyday, versatile white wines. While much of the soil and sub-soils are similar to those in the Cote D'Or, here the geology is more jumbled and fractured, creating multiple exposures rather than the fairly neat north/south slopes found there. The climate is a little different too as it is further to the south, with all these factors combining to give the region its own unique characteristics. Compare the wines from the Macon with a Chablis from the cool climate and kimmerdgian soils of the north (or a $21 per kilo chicken from Bresse vs your local grocery store yellow dye special for that matter!) and you begin to see the natural role terroir has in determining the style and quality of what we eat and drink. Sure, wine making, processing and farming techniques can dilute or override the nuances of terroir, but to me the best wines in the world, whether a $16 Macon, or $200+ Grand Cru White Burgundy, are those that are a pure, natural experession of the vineyards, places, and grapes where they were raised.
In the Macon, the wines can range from a moderately crisp and fresh style of Chardonnay, with some minerality and apple fruit tones, to mid weight versions with a little more creaminess and what I always describe as a corn silk buttery note, with both of these styles seeing little or no oak. There are also some riper versions with a bit more heft, oak and sometimes even a whiff of a sweet clover honey, and there are a few producers who make wines from their best sites in Pouilly Fuisse that can give many a good Village or Premier Cru from the Cote D'Or a run for the money. Overall however, this region is about good solid wines at very fair prices. So today, roast or grill some chicken and some veggies, open up a bottle of wine from the Macon and enjoy the race! Here are a few of my favorites - to purchase any of the following wines click here to go to 56 Degree Wine Online and search on the producer.

2009 Domaine Daniel Pollier Saint Veran "En Messie" $16.50 - Dedication to the vine is priority one at the venerable, Domaine Daniel Pollier, and it is the mantra of the winery's namesake. Daniel left the Cooperative de Fuisse some dozen years ago to follow his longing to make wines of true varietal character that are site specific reflections of their soils. In addition, they had to be affordable. That trifecta is accomplished to great heights with the release of his gorgeous St. Veran "En Messie", a beautiful white from a superb single vineyard. Like taking a big bite out of a fresh picked apple from the orchard, the St. Veran en Messie delivers in every way. Mild creamy apply notes meld with hints of citrus flowing acidity and flowery aromas. A kiss of oak is so well woven into the wine making it harmonious and wonderfully crisp. This is great St. Veran!
Region: Saint Veran (Burgundy), France
Grape: 100% Chardonnay
Drink: Now - 2012
Cuisine: Anything chardonnay goes with!
ABV: 13%

2007 Domaine Daniel Pollier Pouilly Fuisse Vielles Vignes $22  - A fantastic value from Pouilly Fuisse, the Pollier version has the benefit of old vine material on its side. That is the reason that the wine possesses such lively, plump fruit with excellent concentration but also lively acid balance. As a result, the wine never feels heavy, but rather lush and refreshing. Plump mango, citrus oil, minerals and lemon creme notes fill out this beautiful wine with very good length. An outstanding value White Burgundy for sure...
Region: Pouilly Fuisse (Burgundy,) France
Grape: Chardonnay
Drink: Now - 2014

2008 Domaine Sainte Barbe Macon "L'Expression du Chardonnay" $19.50- ORGANIC / BIODYNAMIC -Certified organic and biodynamic viticulture in action, this small estate not only makes delicious whites from their vines in the Macon, but they also supply fruit to some of the best producers in the appellation. The use of older (2 year) oak and minimal lees stirring make the wine crisp and focused. Solid apple tones with hints of honeydew and texturally appealing, this is a wonderful Chardonnay for an equally wonderful price.
Region: Macon (Burgundy,) France
Grape: 100% Chardonnay
Farming: Certified Organic & Boidynamic
Terroir: Plateau of clay & limestone
Vinification: Aged on the lees, 8 months in stainless steel tanks
Drink: Now - 2012
Cuisine: Appetizers, seafood, fish terrines, white meats & chicken salad

2008 Philippe Forest-Auvigue Macon - Solutre-Pouilly "Cuvee Elevee en Futs" $23 - This wine is 100% Chardonnay from vineyard in the Maconnais, the southernmost part of the Burgundy region. Warmer than Chabils, with a different mix of soils including limestone and marl, it has a creamier, warmer fruit character, balance and with nice acidity ases like it comes from a warmer climate. Using a combination of stainless steel vinification and large oak casks for 3 months, this tiny producers accomplishes the goal of fruit intensity, while never allowing the wood to dominate the wine. Voluptuous in nature, this textured white from the tiny subzone of Solutre-Pouilly shows pear fruit, smoky notes and a bit of juicy apple in the finish. A fine White Burgundy to enjoy now through 2011.
Region: Burgundy
Grape: Chardonnay
Vinification: Stainless Stell Fermentation and 3 months in large oak casks
Drink: Now
Cuisine: Rich Fish Dishes, Poultry
ABV: 13%

2007 Jean Touzot Macon Villages $15 - This brilliant value priced White Burgundy is made out of golden fruit from 40 year old vines. Patiently barrel-fermented, this delicious white has a nose redolent of fresh apples and honeysuckle. In the mouth, the wine displays bright acid levels and beautiful pineapple and spice characters. Drink this wine from now until 2010.
Region: Burgundy
Grape: Chardonnay
Vinification: Barrel Fermented
Drink: Now
ABV: 12.8%
Tomorrow - the Juar and les Alps! 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Tour de France Stage Six: The Eastern Loire

Stage Six on Friday July 9th (happy birthday Wo!) continues to the south between the Yonne and Loire rivers, passing the famed wine villages of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume that lie just a scant few kilometers to the west. Like yesterday, we are still in the Kimmerdgian belt with a mix of Limestone and Flintstone soils and a continental climate making up the character of these excellent Sauvignon Blanc based wines. This is a grape with personality, and some might even say attitude. Pungent, grassy, herbacious are all in play, as is one of my all time back handed wine compliments "cat's pee on a gooseberry bush" - really! It can cover the range (forgive the generalizations) from crisp, mineral and focused in its delivery (think Loire Valley), to tropical and citrus-like (Chile and especially New Zealand), to rich and layered (Graves and California), and on to ripe, unctuous and potentially super sweet (Sauternes/Barsac). In the Eastern Loire it leans towards the focused, mineral and racy side, making some of the best examples of the grape in the dry style anywhere in the world. What is less well known is that in the appellation of Sancerre there is a small amount of Pinot Noir planted making absolutely lovely rose and some pretty interesting red wines as well. Below is a list of just a few of my favorites from these two villages - click on any of the wines below to purchase. For a full list of all of our Loire Valley wines currently in stock visit us at 56 Degree Wine and be sure to watch the race on the Versus Channel and web site. The tour ends the day in the southern end of Burgundy not far from the Cotes Chalonnais, the Macon and the famous region for beef near Charolle - maybe a little red Burgundy, steak on the grille, une petite salade, and some frites for the next stage? Enjoy!

2007 Dagueneau Pouilly Fume "Silex" -  Known for wines that are the pinnacle of the heights Pouilly Fume can attain, Didier Dagueneau may have been the main force behind the world wide recognition of the region as a truly world class AOC. Unfortunately Didier has passed on but his wines remain a tribute to him. He was a rebel, one who openly chastised other producers in the region who over crop their vines. He even went as far as sending a bill for the workers who hand-harvested the fruit to prove he was indeed "authentic". His organic and biodynamically run vineyards are employed for only one purpose, to make the absolute best wine possible without compromise. The 2007 Silex is a "tour de force" of Sauvignon with plenty of plush pineapple tones, guava, melon, honeysuckle and amazing length. I doubt you can resist it but this should get better with five to eight years of age. $150/bottle

2008 Florian Mollet Pouilly Fume "Tradition", Loire - The entry level Pouilly Fume from Mollet trumps most vineyard designates from other producers. Light and crisp with fresh grapefruit notes, hints of gooseberry and stony resolve, this is seafood-perfect wine with wonderful acidity. $19 - excellent value!!

2007 Florian Mollet Sancerre Rouge "Classique", Loire - Wonderfully fragrant and specific to its terroir, this 100% Pinot Noir offering from the gregarious Florian Mollet, is a spot on wine. Red cherries, earth and pretty floral tones lead way to an attractive red with fine acidity. Refreshing and best served with just a slight chill to it with anything from the sea, roasted chicken or salmon. $25

2009 Domaine Carrou Sancerre Rose - This is a lovely fresh Rose, pale salmon hued, 100% Pinot Noir with a hint of raspberry and cherry. Great all on its own, with salads, light fish dishes - extremely versatile, refreshing and perfect warm summer day wine! $25

2007 Domaine Vacheron Sancerre Les Romains - This might even rival the Dagueneau for one of my favorite Sauvignon Blanc wines ever! Super minerality, racy and laser focused, it is from six blocks of massal selection 40 year old vines on 100% flintstone soils. Other cuvees here are a blend of limestone and flintstone, toning down the sheer intensity. But here they go all out, showing restrained power found in these parcels. Like a lightning bolt - electric! We tasted them back to 1999, and guess what - they get better and better with age as the sheer tension they posses begins to ease and develop all of the locked up complexity beneath. All organic and biodynamic.  $62 

2008 Serge Laporte Sancerre Chavignol - This classic Sancerre is from vineyard around the village of Chavignol, in the heart of Sancerre and known as well for its goat cheeses as it is for the wines - a perfect match by the way! Solid fairy rich Sauvignon fruit underpinned with lovely racy acidity make this a perfect summer white. $28

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tour de France Stages Five: Along the Kimmerdgian Trail!

Stage five on July 8th  of the Tour finds the riders leaving the Champagne region and heading south, crossing the Yonne river and passing the northern Burgundian outpost of Chablis, actually about an hour to the east but close enough to be included for reasons that are obvious - I gotta have something to drink while watching the race!
The climate here in the north of France produces lovely crisp wines, and those made in Chablis are influenced both by the cool climate and the Kimmeridgian limestone soils found here. The combination of these natural influences unite to create wines with a stony, flinty, mineral, focused character that is pretty much like crack to an acidity loving minerality addict like me. Simply put this region makes some of my favorite wines made anywhere. From good village level wines ($20's), up through the Premier Cru's (mid $30's+), to the spectacular Grand Crus ($60+), and the other-worldly wines from Raveneau ($60-$300+), they still offer amazing quality for value. For a list of wines we stock from Chablis click here. To read our recent offer from Domaine Pinson, one of my favorite producers click here.  Be sure to follow the tour on the Versus channel - some of the best sports coverage of any event you will ever see!

Le Tour de France

For the next couple of days the Tour de France will cruise through the scenic wine region of Champagne as it rolls in from Belgium and the north and begins its picture postcard trip through the French countryside. Located about an hour or so east of Paris, it is a pretty easy trip and well worth an overnight visit. The world renowned wines of Champagne are a reflection of the cool northern climate, the soil , the grapes (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier), how they ripen in this environment, and the traditional method of fermenting the wine a second time in the bottle to create the fine, elegant bubbly mousse.
While sparkling wine is made all over the world, those of Champagne are a fusion of the natural environment and traditional winemaking and are in my opinion, the best bubblies in the world. The soils, a thin layer  overlying a deep layer of chalk are only found along a band of slopes in the Montagne de Riems, the Marne Valley, the Cote des Blancs, and the the Cotes des Bars and Montgeux (for a map of the region click here.) There are many styles of Champagne but the most popular are Brut non-vintage which is typically a blend of wines from multiple harvests and two or three grape varieties, Blanc des Blancs which is all Chardonnay, Rose Champagne which is made in several methods to incorporate its salmon/pink hue from Pinot Noir grapes, and Vintage which for many Champagne houses represent their top cuvees.
No other wine in the world says "celebrate" like those of Champagne, and nothing could make me happier than a deliciously crisp, creamy and delicate bottle of bubbly to toast the arrival of the Peleton to this beautiful region. Today's "vin du route" is a what many would believe to be an oxymoron - a fantastic affordable true French Champagne. Laurent Dauphin's Champagne Brut Cuvee Tradition is a classic blend of 60% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Meunier creating a fine, focused and lively wine - very pure and almost delicate in a way. A great way to celebrate a beautiful sunset, the start of a great summer vacation or a casual summer dinner. To purchase and for special pricing on this delicious wine for a limited time click 56 Degree Wine. 
One interesting note about this wine is that we opened it on Saturday to taste in the shop and had a half bottle or so left at the end of the day. We corked it with a Champagne stopper and when we reopened it on Tuesday after the holiday it was, if anything, even better! Part of this is that Champagne gives off CO2 which help prtect from oxidation, but it is also I believe a true sign of the quality and complexity of this lovely wine.
For the next several weeks until the Tour ends in Paris on the 25th of July check back here for updated "vins du route" from some of my favorite producers and regions. To be notified by Twitter updates when new posts or wines are added click here. Also be sure to follow the race on the Versus Channel or online at Le Tour de France

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Delicious Spanish Red

Our 56 Degree Wine email offer today features a fantastic Spanish red wine - click here to see the complete offer and read more about this delicious red. Coming this week - follow the Tour de France as it winds through the beautiful French countryside. Tomorrow - Champagne!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Summer Wines!

Summer is here, and while I am spending my days buying and selling the big, tannic, full bodied reds in our 2009 Bordeaux Futures offer, by late afternoon I am dreaming about summery refreshing whites, lighter bodied reds, and especially rosé. For the list of our current pink wine offerings click here: Drink Pink!  For some summery wines I am lovin' right now, read on! All are available at the shop at 56 Degree Wine.

2009 Domaine de Terrebrune Bandol Rose - ORGANIC - Available in 750ml $30 and Magnums for $70 - what a great summer party wine! - While this wine can actually age, soften and change wth bottle age for 10 years and more, I find that perhaps its best expression is the vibrant, bright liveliness of its youth. Grown in the sunny south of France in the region of Bandol in Provence, it captures the essence of summer in this idyllic region. Pale Salmon color, hints of raspberry on the nose and palate, tinge of tannin, lovely acidity, great texture and mouth feel. Great all on its own, with a salad nicoise, grilled tuna, bronzino or brendade or snapper, grilled and served with ratatouille or tapenade or grilled summer vegetables. 
Region: Bandol (Provence), France
Grape: Mourvedre, Grenache & Cinsault
Farming: Certified Organic
Terroir: Limestone gravel and brown clay
Drink: Now - 2013
ABV: 13% 

2008 Quinta da Aveleda Grinalda Reserva DOC, Vinho Verde - $13.50 - I pour this wine at events and tastings every chance I can and it is always the biggest hit! I used to be surprised, but now it is being enjoyed by hundreds of our clients who have discovered its pure, lovely crisp and refreshing style. Made from Trajadura, Loureiro, and Alvarinho, local grapes that grow in this cool northern part of Portugal. It's summer in a bottle - great all on its own, low alcohol, perfect with light seafood - clams, shrimp, cockles, mussels, Asian cuisine, Thai...could go on and on!
Region, Vinho Verde, Portugal
Grapes: 55% Loureiro, 32% Trajadura & 13% Alvarinho
Terrior: Granite
Vinification: Stainless Steel Tank (No Oak)
Drink: Now
Cuisine: Light appetizers, shellfish & light fish
ABV: 11.5%

2009 Azienda Agroforestale Fontezoppa Verdicchio di Matelica, Marche DOC - $14.50 - This region is located in the hills between San Severino and Serrapetrona in the heart of the Marche, not far from the Adricatic sea on the east coast of Italy. Cool, crisp and refreshing, with nice core of medium bodied crisp fruit. All stainless steel fermentation keep it lively - perfect for raw fish, ceviche, shrimp scampi, linguini with white clam sauce, or all on its own.
Region: Marche, Italy
Grape: 100% Verdicchio
Vinification: Stainless Steel Tank (No Oak)
Drink: Now - 2012
Cuisine: Raw Fish, Ceviche, Shrimp, Scallops or by itself
ABV: 13%

2008 Domaine du Bagnol Cassis Blanc, Provence - $27.50 - One of the most beautiful wine regions in the world, the vineyards are on the very edge of the Mediteranean in beatiful sunny Provence, not far from were the Bandol Rose is grown. A blend of 50% Marsanne, 35% Clairette and 15% Ugni Blanc, the wines from this region are little seen as they are drunk up locally for the most part. Crisp, clean, yet with lovely floral notes and even a hint of peach and pineapple, all wrapped nicely in lively acidity. Great on on it's own, or with all sorts of light summer fare. Grilled mild fish like Bronzino or Snapper with lemon, some herbs, a little olive oil and some grilled summer veggies would do it for me!
Region: Cassis (Provence), France
Grapes: 50% Marsanne, 35% Clairette & 15% Ugni Blanc
Drink: Now - 2011
Cuisine: Seafood of all sorts - seared or sushi style scallops, tuna, swordfish, rouget, fresh sardines, or as an aperitif with anti-pasti, olives, cheeses, saucissons, crusty bread.
ABV: 13%

2009 Domaine Daniel Pollier Saint Veran "En Messie" - $16.50 - Our number one "go-to" house white! This single vineyard Saint Veran is made from a husband and wife team in the Macon region of France where they make lovely, clean, balanced and nearly perfect wines from their hand tended excellent parcels of vines.  Probably the best value in Chardonnay in the world, the '09 is moderately rich, with nice creamy texture and lovely acidity underneath to keep it lively and fresh on the palate. 
Region: Saint Veran (Burgundy), France
Grape: 100% Chardonnay
Drink: Now - 2012
Cuisine: everything chardonnay!
ABV: 13%

2008 Domaine des Billards Beaujolais St Amour - $22 - Good Beaujolais is NOT an oxymoron! Possibly the quintessential summer red, when made right it is more like a Pinot Noir in style, body and character. The Cru St. Amour from Billards is lively, medium bodied with lovely crisp cherry tones but not in the fruit bomb sense - no tutti fruity Beaujy here ! Perfect on a warm summer day with fried or grilled chicken, grilled tuna, light meats like pork, duck - even a steak. A few minutes on ice won't hurt this on a warm summer's eve either!

Region: St Amour (Beaujolais), France
Grape: 100% Gamay Noir
Terroir: Sandstone pebbles underlying granite outcrops & clay
Farming: Organic farming
Drink: Now - 2015
Cuisine: Turkey, roasted chicken, poussin, and other light dishes.
ABV: 13%

2008 Domaine Maillard Bourgogne Rouge - $30 -  One of our most successful wines in the shop, this lovely little Bourgogne Rouge is a near perfect summer red. Made from vines located around the villages of Ladoix and Chorey in the Cotes du Beaune it has classy Burgundian Pinot character, lively acidity, beautiful nose of cherries, red fruits and a hint of earth.Perfect with lighter meats: duck, veal, pork, grilled or roasted poultry, salmon. Also not bad with a wee bit of a chill!
Region: Burgundy, France

Grape: 100% Pinot Noir
Drink: 2010-2014
Cuisine: Duck, poussins, salmon, veal
ABV: 13%