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A warm afternoon, getting ready to grill some pizzas, a Rose seemed like a good idea, and this one was on the 15 under $15 list from Total Wine.

Applellation:  Costières-de-Nîmes (Southern Rhone).

Tasting Notes:  This is a Granache based Rose, and has that Southern Rhone style of a little rustic and very sensible.  Pale pink. Nose is muted, a little strawberry and cherry, lots of minerals.  This is very nice! More strawberry and watermelon on the palate, with lots of minerality and acidity. Quaffable, but would also be great with a host of summer foods, Asian flavors, or anything on the spicy side.  Solid value. Very Good.

Price:  $10.99 at Total Wine.

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2006 Cave de Tain l’Hermitage Crozes-Hermitage

Appellation: Crozes-Hermitage (Northern Rhône)

Tasting Notes: 100% Syrah.  12.5% ABV.  Pretty violet, inky in the class.  Big jammy red fruit on the nose, with a little gameyness behind it.  On the palate, big red fruit (raspberry), the gameyness, some licorice.  The fruit is there, but isn’t over the top like the nose suggested.  Wonderfully smooth , like velvet.  Has excellent balance, complexity, depth, and weight.  Nice finish.  A fantastic wine for Sunday afternoon charcuterie; a great value.  This is great wine.

Rating: 5/5

Price: $14.99 at Beltway Fine Wines

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Domaine Le Sang de CaillouxThis past Thursday marked the last In Vino Veritas tasting of the first Semester. Marie-Carmen Benavides, Sales Manager at Domaine Le Sang des Cailloux, presented 5 of her Domaine’s labels, 4 reds and 1 white. I must note that this is the second tasting in a row that began with dry, tannic, full-bodied reds and ended with more acidic whites. This of course is atypical when it comes to the general rules of tasting order, which suggest – white before red, light before full, dry before sweet, complex before simple, or old before new. I am not an advocate of white before red as I think the actual characteristics of the wine are much more important than the color, so I would pay closer attention to the ordering I mentioned just after white before red.

Trying to make some sense of this out-of-ordering, both this week and last week, the wines were from the Rhone Valley, so maybe this is a regional practice or technique. The domaine representative noted that tasting an acidic white, just after a flight of tannic reds, helps stimulate the palate and reawaken your taste buds. I must say that contrary to what I would have thought, in the case of both this week and last week, I considered the ordering appropriate. So maybe in a smaller flight of wines, tannic before acidic can be a new rule. Any thoughts anyone?

Vacqueryas AOCOk back to the Domaine. Le Sang des Cailloux (roughly translated as “the blood of stones”), founded in 1975, is located in the small village of Sarrians in the Southern Rhone Valley. Today the team, run by owner and winemaker Serge Férigoule, includes Marie-Carmen Benavides, Fréderi Férigoule and Philippe Farraud. The domaine strictly produces wine of the Vacqueryas AOC. Vacqueryas has long been seen as a high quality yet much lower price alternative to the neighboring Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC. Vacqueryas comprises 1,200 hectares and is represented by about 200 producers, including the negociants. The total annual production of wine is as much as 40,000 hectoliters. Vacqueryas is predominantly a red wine appellation, noted for peppery and robust wines, focused on the grenache varietal. However, roughly 1-2% of the production is white wine.

Bottles in order of tasting…

2006 Cuvée Azalaïs
2006 Cuvée AzalaïsBlend :
70% grenache, 20% syrah, 7% mourvedre, 3% cinsault
Tasting Notes : Dark violet in the glass. Fresh earth, spice and pepper aromas, followed by a subtle sourness, very dark berries, and a lasting punch of violets. This wine is dry and a little unbalanced and flat in the mouth. There are flavors of vanilla, sour cherry, and plum, finishing with pepper and dark chocolate.
Rating : 13/20
Price : $20 USD

2004 Cuvée Lopy Vieilles Vignes
Blend : 75% grenache, 25% syrah
Tasting Notes : Beautiful dark purple in the glass. Violets, earth and rocks on the nose, with a slightly more pronounced fruitiness than he 2006. In the mouth the tannins are controlled and the acidity is well pronounced. There are flavors of blueberries.
Rating : 14/20
Price : $33 USD

2006 Cuvée Lopy Cuvée Vieilles Vignes
Cuvée Lopy Vieilles VignesBlend : 75% grenache, 25% syrah
Tasting Notes : Beautiful dark purple in the glass. A little more subtle bouquet than the 2004 at first, but then it opened up to an explosion of crushed violets, which was very expressive and smooth. This wine definitely had good balance, unlike the Cuvée Azalaïs, and there were flavors of sour cherries and violets on the palate.
Rating : 14/20 (preferred over the 2004)
Price : $32 USD

2000 Cuvée Oumage Vieilles Vignes
2000 Cuvée Oumage Vieilles VignesVarietal :
100% grenache
Tasting Notes : Dark red marroon in the glass and loaded with sediment. Elegant aromas of earth and floral notes but also fruit forward with cherry coming out on the nose. This is a full-bodied wine with good balance between the acidity and supple tannins. There are flavors of violets, vanilla, black cherries, currants and plum, and a finish that is just slightly too sour, but also accompanied by a pleasant sweet cup of hot cocoa that lingers in the back of the palate. Thanks to Miki San I was able to pick up a very subtle yet definitely present orange note in the midpalate.
Rating : 15/20 (most favorite of the bunch)
Price : unavailable

2007 Un Sang Blanc
2007 Un Sang BlancBlend :
20% grenache blanc, 20% clairette, 20% viognier, 20% bourboulenc, 20% roussanne
Tasting Notes : Straw yellow in the glass. An immediate attack of effervescance on the nose, followed by overall citruciness, orange, mild spice, and apple. This wine is very light, tight, and unexpressive, albeit just slightly creamy with peach peel and apple flavors. I found it disjointed.
Rating : 11/20 (least favorite of the bunch)
Price : Approx. $33

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MPA Judgment of ParisAnother Saturday in Paris, another MPA wine tasting.  This time around John and I decided to take advantage of our Christmas vacation back home in the States.  So we put together what was sure to be an intense, exciting, and potentially even a little bloody blind face off between French, American and Australian wine (3 syrahs and 2 gewurztraminers).

The inspiration was the famous (or infamous from the French perspective) “Judgment of Paris” blind tasting back in 1976.  The best wines of California were paired up against the best wines of France and to everyone’s bewiliderment the US came out on top.  The complete summary can be found at the very end of this blog.

In the case of the MPA Judgment of Paris there are many clear distinctions.  First our focus was on value-driven wines no more than 20 euros or 20 US bucks.  Second, we compared Alsace to California and the Northern Rhone Valley to California and Australia.  The original Judgment of Paris paired up California against Bordeaux, focusing only on the who’s who list of bottlings.

And voilà, however much it pains me to say it (sarcasm), France came out on top with a very classic Old World style syrah from Saint-Joseph in the Northern Rhone Valley.  Although, the only wine that really did not fair well was the Alsace Gewurztraminer.  Overall I was very happy with how all the other wines performed.  And a further look into the individual ratings shows interestingly enough that the Americans actually liked the French syrah even more than the French.

Of course this is all in good fun.  At the end of the day who the heck cares?!  If you really appreciate wine, then there’s no such thing as 1st, 2nd or 3rd, there’s only what you like.  So drink what you like and explore as many different wine types and regions as possible!

The MPA Breakdown…

1st Place – French Syrah
2007 Saint-Joseph, André Perret, 16,50 euros
2007 Saint-JosephAppellation: Saint Joseph, Vallé du Rhone Nord
Source: Lavinia, Paris
MPA 13.9 Rating: Very terroir driven nose with aromas of leather, dampness, smoke, honey and fresh earth.  A very, very smooth palate with a medium body, light tannins, balance and complexity.  There are flavors of blueberry, blackberry, chocolate.
Robin, “easy listening version of the Australian shiraz”
Genevieve, “Paris metro”
Alexandre, “mushrooms”
Xiaoya, “flowers and cheese”
Kenny, “distant red candy Starburt or Skittles on the very backend of the nose”
Tim, “grapes”
Joseph, “metallic smell, tasted like water was added”
Kenny’s 16 Rating: Aromas of wet forest, smoke and leather with distant red candy Starburt or Skittles on the very backend of the nose.  An acidic, medium-bodied palate with silky and subtle tannins and great balance.  There are flavors of black cherry, dark chocolate, and blueberries.

2nd Place – American Gewurztraminer
2007 Hook & Ladder Gewurztraminer, $17.99 USD
2007 Hook & Ladder GewurztraminerAppellation: Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
Source: Wine Vault, Columbus OH
MPA 12.5 Rating: Aromas of flowers, apple, lemon, and minerals.  Very effervescent and acidic palate; and also dry, complex and bitter.  Flavors of lemon, apple, pear and hot spice.
Robin, “petrol”
Sanj, “sense of terroir”
Miki San, “Tabasco”
Tim, “cane sugar”
Joseph, “drying pollinated leafs after rainfall”
Kenny’s 14 Rating: A subtle and acidic nose with a strong minerality, white pepper and mango.  A very effervescent, dry wine with flavors of lemon and orange.

3rd Place – American Syrah
2006 Novy Syrah2006 Novy Syrah, Novy Cellars, $20 USD
Appellation: Sonoma County, California
Source: Andersons, Columbus OH
Wine Spectator 90 Rating: This is notably peppery, but joined by fresh plum and wild berry fruit that’s supple, graceful, complex and spicy, gaining length and traction on the finish. Drink now through 2012. 1,385 cases made.
MPA 12.4 Rating: Aromas of earth, spice, cherries, plum, blackberries, port wine, black licorice, oak, pepper and minerals.  Full-bodied, acidic and sour with light tannins and a long finish.  There are flavors of chocolate, smoke, plum, blackberries, hot spice, vanilla, oak, and black licorice.
John, “unpleasant and sour”
Casey, “smells like dirt”
Xiaoya, “rubber”
Cynthia, “damp forest”
Kenny, “light barn nose and milk chocolate finish”
Miki San, “hot cocoa”
Kenny’s 15 Rating: Big alcohol on the nose with aromas of pepper, earth, light barn, black cherry and oak.  A full-bodied, acidic wine with velvety tannins and flavors of smoke, plums, blueberries, sour cherry and a milk chocolate finish.

4th Place – Australian Shiraz
2006 2 Up Shiraz, $14.99 USD
Appellation: McLaren Vale, Southern Australia
2006 2 Up ShirazSource: Andersons, Columbus OH
Wine Spectator 87 Rating: Creamy and generous with its currant and rhubarb flavors, finishing with a grainy texture and pretty layers of fruit and spice. Drink now through 2012. 15,000 cases imported.
MPA 12.3 Rating: A very strong and alcoholic nose with aromas of blackberries, oak, plum, and seaweed.  An overwhelming, fruit forward, full-bodied, tannic palate with strong flavors of black cherry followed by plum, spice, licorice and vanilla.
Jeremy, “fish and leather jacket”
Xiaoya, “BBQ”
Kenny, “very fruiter”
Miki San, “Chinese herbal medicine”
Joseph, “rusty”
Kenny’s 15 Rating: Black fruit, subtle earth and cedar on the nose.  A very fruity and bitter, full-bodied wine.  There are flavors of blueberry, cherry, and lots of black licorice as well as a subtle background of citric zest.

5th Place – French Gewurztraminer
2007 Gewurztraminer, Willy Gisselbrecht, 10,50 euros
Appellation: Vin d’Alsace
Source: La Grande Epicerie, Le Bon Marché
MPA 11.6 Rating: Aromas of flowers, fig, peach, lychee, overripe fruit, and citrus.  Sweet, bitter, soft and unbalanced, with flavors of apple, flowers and honey
Robin, “a little cloying”
2007 Willy Gisselbrecht GewurwtraminerSanj, “Elderflower”
Jeremy, “velvet honey”
Xiaoya, “cheese”
Miki San, “green apple Jolly Rancher”
Joseph, “candy bar”
Emmanuelle, “Mirabelle”
Kenny’s 13 Rating: Aromas of lychee, flowers and syrup.  An off-dry wine with flavors of spice, lime and lime peel, lychee, flowers, and apple.

Blind Pick Winner
Nick Holman (Cynthia’s husband) takes the prize, accurately guessing all 5 bottles and their respective country of origin.  John and I batted 1000 as well but naturally we’re disqualified from the fierce competition.

MPA Ratings…

MPA Ratings

The Judgment of Paris

The Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 or the “Judgment of Paris” was a wine competition organized in Paris on 24 May 1976 by Steven Spurrier, a British wine merchant, at that time revered by wine merchants and experts all across France.  The top French wine experts of the day were invited to participate in a blind tasting of the highest-quality chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon wines from France and California.  California wines rated best in every category, which caused surprise and utter bewilderment among the French critics as France was generally regarded as being the foremost producer of the world’s best wines.  The San Francisco Wine Tasting of 1978 soon followed as a rematch of the same wines and vintages and once again California wines rated better.  The 30th anniversary of the Judgment of Paris was held on 24 May 2006 with the same vintages and original panel of judges, plus an additional crew of new wine experts.  Once again the California wines stole the show.

30th Anniversary Results:

1st Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 1971
2nd Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973
3rd Mayacamas Vineyards 1971 (tie)
4th Heitz Wine Cellars Martha’s Vineyard 1970 (tie)
5th Clos Du Val Winery 1972
6th Château Mouton-Rothschild 1970
7th Château Montrose 1970
8th Château Haut-Brion 1970
9th Château Leoville Las Cases 1971
10th Freemark Abbey Winery 1967

Implications to the wine industry:

George M. Taber from Time magazine was the only reporter present at the original tasting in 1976, since no one took the event seriously, thinking that the California wines would be embarrassed.  Time immediately reported the results on a worldwide scale.  However, the tasting was not significant for the French press who virtually ignored the story for three months until Le Figaro published an article titled “Did the war of the cru take place?” describing the results as “laughable,” and said they “cannot be taken seriously.”  Six months after the tasting Le Monde wrote a similarly toned article.  For as much as a year after the tasting, leaders of the French wine industry banned Spurrier from the nation’s prestigious wine-tasting tour, and Mr. Spurrier was even ushered out of a few of France’s more prestigious wine estates.  Both countries are considered to have benefited from the tasting.  California wines gained international appreciation, boosting sales and production.  France further refined their winemaking practices, which some argue had become too habit driven as a result of so much history and tribal knowledge.

Two movies have been made about the tasting, “Bottle Shock” and “Judgment of Paris”, as well as a book, also titled “Judgment of Paris”, the latter two both authored by George Taber.

Criticism:

Naturally criticism abounds.  For starters some claim that the vintage selection was poor for the French wine.  However, when consulting vintage charts from US and French sources, both countries have very comparable vintage ratings within the timeframe in question.  Additional critics state that it’s unfair or rather irrelevant to compare French wines to California wines, since the styles are so different.  French wines are classified as Old World and are generally more subtle, acidic and expressive of their terroir.  California wines are classified as New World and tend to be much more fruit forward and oaked.

Sources: Wikipedia.com & Winelibrary TV Interview of George Taber

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Miki San and I attended an In Vino Veritas tasting on Thursday the 15th.  Winemaker Pierre-Jean Villa led us through nine of his bottlings from Les Vins de Vienne, which is located in the town of the same name in the Northern Rhone Valley.  I was quite impressed with this Domaine.  Phil from In Vino Veritas picked this domaine as his favorite producer for the second year in a row from Le Grand Tasting in Paris.  My two fav’s were the 1998 Sotanum and the 2005 Taburnum, and frankly the only bottling that didn’t impress me was the 2007 L’Élouède.

Les Vins de VienneHere’s a quick tid bit on the terroir and the producer…

For centuries, the vineyards of Seyssuel and the wines from Vienne have been closely linked.  During the Roman Empire, Vienne was the capital of Allobrogia, and the vineyards of Seyssuel were already known for the quality of their wines. Pliny the Elder wrote that a plant with black grapes, known as Vitis allobrogica, grown in the area of Vienne, produces 3 crus: Sotanum, Taburnum and Heluicum.

Gaillard, Villa, Cuilleron et VillardIn 1996, three friends, passionate and established winemakers from the right bank of the Rhone, started a great venture — the renaissance of the ancient vineyard of Seyssuel.  Yves Cuilleron, Pierre Gaillard and François Villard were the original three.  However, in 2003, Pierre-Jean Villa joined the group, taking charge of the domaine’s operations.  Today, the domaine consists of 18 hectares.

(Source: http://www.vinsdevienne.com/)

In order of tasting…

2006 Les Barcillants Cornas2006 Les Barcillants
Appellation: Cornas, North Rhone
Varietal: 100% syrah
Price: $60
Tasting Notes: Beautiful violet in the glass.  Aromas of pepper, black cherry, blueberry and Christmas potpourri.  A smooth, acidic, robust wine with flavors of dark chocolate, blueberries and black cherries.  600 cases produced.
Rating: 14+/20

Wine Spectator 90: A fresh, bright, modern Cornas, with ripe, clean raspberry and black cherry fruit that races along, with hints of mineral, olive and violet in the background. Drink now through 2011. –JM

2006 Les Archevêques Saint-Joseph2006 Les Archevêques
Appellation: Saint-Joseph, North Rhone
Varietal: 100% syrah
Price: Approx. $30
Tasting Notes: Beautiful violet in the glass.  An immediate subtle attack of manure (not unpleasant I promise) that later diminished, leaving lasting aromas of strong earth and black fruits, followed by plum and prunes.  An acidic and slightly bitter wine with controlled tannins and black cherries on the palate.
Rating: 14/20

2006 Sotanum2006 Sotanum
Appellation: Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes
Varietal: 100% syrah
Price: $68
Tasting Notes: Beautiful violet in the glass.  At first a subtle, not too expressive nose with hints of plum, that opened up within minutes to pepper, barnyard and black fruit.  A very fruit forward, easy drinking wine with controlled tannins.  There are flavors of plum and a very mild hint of grapefruit peel, followed by a long finish of prunes.  1,250 cases produced.
Rating: 15/20

Wine Spectator 92: Supple in texture, but with nice drive to the raspberry ganache, lavender, mineral and sweet spice flavors. The very long, silky finish has latent richness and fine, embedded acidity. Should flesh out nicely in the cellar.. Best from 2009 through 2014. –JM

2006 Les Essartailles Cote-Rotie2006 Les Essartailles
Appellation: Côte-Rôtie, North Rhone
Varietal: 100% syrah
Price: $77
Tasting Notes: Beautiful violet in the glass.  Similar very subtle manure attack as the Saint-Joseph but more lasting, which is actually interesting and complex and not at all a turn off.  The nose is complimented very well with aromas of plum, pepper and raspberry.  Light tannins and a smooth texture in the mouth with flavors of cedar and brambleberry.  1,100 cases produced.
Rating: 14+/20

Wine Spectator 93: A very juicy, modern style, with sweet spice, raspberry and graphite notes on top of sweet tobacco, iron and macerated olive hints, which keep this grounded in its appellation. Best from 2009 through 2017. –JM

1998 Sotanum
Appellation: Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes
Varietal: 100% syrah
Price: Approx. $30
Tasting Notes: A very expressive, calming and integrated nose.  There are aromas of raspberry, blackberry, you-name-it-berry, and barn, followed by hints of flowers, roses and minerality.  A very fruit forward wine with very subtle and smooth tannins.  Just slightly too sour but still well balanced.  There’s a strong plum flavor as well as currants and sour cherry and a very distant raisiny finish.
Rating: 16+/20 (My favorite wine of the tasting)
Note: Domaine’s first vintage

2007 La Chambée Condrieu2007 La Chambée
Appellation: Condrieu, North Rhone
Varietal: 100% viognier
Price: Approx. $70
Tasting Notes: Light straw in the glass.  Citric aromas of mandarine and apricot.  A tight palate with flavors coming out of pear, apricot, and light lime and peach peel.  600 cases produced.
Rating: 14+/20

Wine Spectator 93 (2006 vintage): Shows a hint of matchstick before quickly giving way to soft, creamy-textured Cavaillon melon, lemon zest and pear notes, all backed by a lingering, quartz-filled finish. Still a touch tight, but very long and pure. Drink now through 2011. –JM

2007 L'Élouède Saint-Joseph2007 L’Élouède
Appellation: Saint-Joseph, North Rhone
Blend: 60% marsanne, 40% roussanne
Price: $36
Tasting Notes: Very light honey yellow in the glass.  Aromas of cream, melon, apple, wet rock and mild spice.  Strong minerality in the mouth, as well as apples.  500 cases produced.
Rating: 13/20 (Least favorite in the tasting)

Wine Spectator 91 (2006 vintage): Very rich up front, with dried melon, tangerine, clementine and blanched almond notes laid over an almost oily frame, but then mouthwatering acidity and a bright minerality come in to help define and extend the finish. Drink now through 2009. –JM

2005 Taburnum Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes2005 Taburnum
Appellation: Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes
Varietal: 100% viognier
Price: $55
Tasting Notes: Golden honey in the glass.  A beautiful bouquet right off the bat, like honey drizzled over white peaches, flowers and polished rocks.  This wine smells sweet but it’s dry in the mouth, full-bodied and balanced.  There’s a vibrant acidity and minerality with flavors of apple, mandarine, pear, and peach, leaving an apple sauce finish.  A very expressive and complex wine.  500 cases produced.
Rating: 15+/20 (Second favorite wine of the tasting)

Wine Spectator 93: Bold, with white peach, green fig, blanched almond and persimmon notes. The long, creamy finish really glides nicely, with buried minerality stretching it all out. Brings you back for more. Drink now through 2011. –JM

2007 Cépées Caties Condrieu2007 Cépées Caties
Appellation: Condrieu, North Rhone
Varietal: 100% viognier
Price: Approx. $50
Tasting Notes: Golden in the glass.  Very interesting nose with noble rotish, car factory aromas, as well as spicy white raisins and a light sherry flor nuance.  A very sweet and low acidity wine with a syrupy texture.  There are flavors of honey, baked apple, stewed prunes and a very long and lingering finish of raisins.  The finish followed me for over 15 minutes!  1,300 cases produced.
Rating: 14/20

Wine Spectator 92 (2004 vintage): Maple syrup in color, with a green edge, this exotic stickie sports intense date, green tea, clove and chocolate covered orange peel flavors and a long, vibrant finish. Almost Sherry-like in the end. Try with blue cheese and salted almonds. Drink now through 2010. –JM

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