06 December, 2009

A Pair for Jack on the Rocks - 2006 Qupé Marsanne & 2007 Huntington Petite Sirah

My pal, Jack Sonni, asked the $20 Dollar Wine Blog for a couple of recommendations for his "Jack on the Rocks" podcast that's on for tomorrow, Monday December 7, 2009.

We're more than happy to oblige and with this being the holiday season, we've picked a couple that are perfect for the cold weather that comes with December. As mentioned in the Thanksgiving pairing blog, I'm a big fan of Rhone style of varietals and wine for fall and winter. In whites, the more rich, round flavor profile, and mineral notes of Rhone whites are less about crisp and refreshing. It's more about food and flavor and mouthfeel. On the red side, Rhone varietals are more earthy, warm, inviting with abundant fruit flavors and moderate in tannins.

First, the Qupé 2008 Santa Ynez Valley Marsanne. This is a wonderful wine and a super value. Marsanne is mainly from northern Rhone and in France, is typically a blended varietal, typically Rousanne. I find that I quite enjoy Marsanne with its pair Rousanne (in this case 81% Marsanne and 19% Rousanne) especially from several of the top vineyards in the California Central Coast AVA. Seems as if white Rhone varietals do quite well here and the folks at Qupé do excellent work that's evident in this wine. It's got very seasonal fruit flavor, that is, pears and tangerine on the front. It's plenty acidic (and balanced) and I feel, is very well suited for richer foods like butternut squash ravioli or fowl with root vegetables.

2008 Qupé Santa Ynez Valley Marsanne
Retail: $17
Grade: B

For the red, there's a great buy in the 2007 California Petite Sirah from Huntington, a brand of Hahn Family WinesPetite Sirah is an interesting varietal and in most other places that it's grown, it's referred to as Durif. Named for it's creator, François Durif, it's one of the most food friendly varietals as I see it. This 2007 from the Huntington team, delivers a very fruitful and supple mouthfeel of blackberry jam with a bit of acidity and also does nicely with the foods of the season, particularly pork and lamb racks, sausages and tenderloins. It's a fully approachable, ready to drink now kind of wine.

2007 Huntington Wines Petite Sirah
Retail: $14
Grade: B

Jack, here you go, buddy. Enjoy. Eat. Imbibe.

21 November, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009 Pairings -- 2008 Sobon Rousanne and 2006 Anglim Grenache

Amazing but true, Thanksgiving is upon us and that means it's time for another installation of Holiday Pairings with The 20DollarWineBlog.

The pairing of the traditional turkey day fare with wine is not necessarily a complicated proposition, but it's not quite as straight forward as you'd expect, either. Certainly, the wine of choice for the "day of the gobbler" is often, for many people, Pinot Noir. It's a common pick, and is one of my favorite varietals, for certain, but I'd urge you to try something different this year. For me, wine is very seasonal, and with Fall upon us, Rhone is my pick. Rhone styles evoke warm, earth tones and rich fall fruit aromas that, in my mind, are perfect compliments to rich turkey and gravy, sausage or bacon in savory stuffing and vegetables. It's not limited to pairing with savory dishes, though. These same aromas can pair well with sweet potatoes/yams, cheese dishes and other desserts. In fact, one of my favorite wines with pumpkin pie is a late harvest red rhone varietal.

Let's start with a white wine...

First is the 2008 Sobon Estate Roussanne.

Roussanne is a varietal from both the north and south regions of Rhone and is widely grown outside of France, both in Europe and in California and the new world. It's not an easy grape to grow and harvest, but rewards with it's subtle flavors and gentle structure. Winemaker Paul Sobon has done well with this 2008 vintage. It's nicely sharp on the front end ensuring it cuts thru richer foods, but is well balanced in the mid palate and has a moderate, but gentle finish. The nose of pear and minerals leads the sensory parade here and with enough acid to ensure it's not slow or lazy, yet not crisp that would lend more to hot summer days. He blends this with both Viognier and Grenache Blanc (one of my favorites!) for a bit of structure and silkiness, and accordingly, I think it does very well with most of the SuperThursday fare quite well.

2008 Sobon Estate Amador County Roussanne
Retail: $14
Grade: B+

Next is the 2006 Anglim Winery Grenache

Grenache is just a plain out delicious varietal that I think is the poster child for red Rhone wine in the fall. When done right, it just plays nicely with a very large variety of foods. It's planted in nearly all productive wine regions in the world where there are hot conditions which it needs to mature well.

Winemaker Steve Anglim puts forward a nice effort with his 2006 Grenache here. With fruit from Paso Robles, he's choosing from vineyards which are in a very warm climate, allowing the grapes to naturally ripen later and accordingly, develop mature flavor potentials, not just sugars.

The nose on this Grenache is plentiful with rich deep fruit including plums and bing cherries. It flows evenly across the mid-palate and finishes a bit peppery. Its lush, velvety mouthfeel provides a great deal of satisfaction for those who prefer the warmer, richer, dusky wines. As such, it will happily enhance the bold seasoning of the stuffing, the richness of mashed or roasted potatoes and the salty brine of the bird. It's a bit high in alcohol at 15.3%, so please take note of that if your palate works better below that concentration.

2006 Anglim Winery Paso Robles Grenache
Retail: $24
Grade: B+

So, there you have it. Thanksgiving 2009 is around the corner. Please head out to your LWS and seek out one or both of these bottles. They are both widely available. We think you'll be impressed with the pairing that each of these will provide to your Thursday spread! Enjoy the day and cherish your loved ones and friends. We each have much to be thankful for.

17 November, 2009

gELaT0 d0Wn! - 20dollarwineblog heads to the DirtySouthWine Popeye's Challenge

Well, were getting a bit not so serious here while we head to Dirty South Wine's Popeye's Fried Chicken Wine Pairing Challenge this week. First, it was the Salina gang getting down on the Jon Bonne selection, then the same big cojones team bringin' some MST 3K beat down on Alan Kroph from Mutineer Mag.

Blah, Blah, Blah!

We figured that while it's necessary and nice to have wine with spicy fried chicken from Popeye's, dessert is what everyone's really looking for and that's where we're goin' ALL IN!

So, bring it on.....

gELat0 d0Wn - 20DollarWine SWINGIN WIDE from C. Jason Mancebo on Vimeo.

Or as they say, Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles....

And enjoy our new ad-campaign that will be running shortly..

14 November, 2009

Primal Napa -- Slideshow

One more quick vid - this time a slideshow of our Primal friends Chris Cosentino, Ryan Farr, Taylor Boetticher, Steffan Terje and others at play last weekend in St. Helena, CA. Check out Art of the Butcher for more info.

Primal Napa - Slideshow from C. Jason Mancebo on Vimeo.

08 November, 2009

Visit to Cortes de Cima Winery - Pre European Wine Blogger's Conference

On Thursday, 29 October, Hans and Carrie Jorgensen and their team, hosted a pre EWBC afternoon live tasting and blogging event at their winery, Cortes de Cima in Vidigueira, Portugal. Located in the Alantejo VR, the winery lies on 365 hectares (approx 900 acres) of land in the south of Portugal near the town of Vidigueira. It's planted to 130 acres of 7 varietals of wine grapes - 5 red and 2 white. Of the other land, 50 hectares are planted to olive trees, and 50 hectares are reforestation of cork and holm oak.

Cortes de Cima hosted me the evening before the event and I was fortunate enough to spend the night in the guest winemaker flat. My evening office on the patio of their tasting room was as good as it gets with wi-fi, electricity to charge the batteries, fresh bread and goat cheese, their excellent estate grown early harvest olive oil and an early sampling of some of their wines. The morning view over 350 hectares was breathtaking and is one of high points of the visit.

After a light lunch, the live blogging began. My post that was posted live from the event is here. Several of their wines were presented, and also of note: this was the first Portuguese live blogging event & in addition to the live blogging from the winery, we participated with several other attendees of the EWBC who remained in Lisbon at the Sala Ogival de Lisboa via a live video link. We all tasted the same wines simultaneously and shared our thoughts and opinions with each other. A short video of the event is on YouTube.

To the wines....We tasted one white, their Chaminè 
Branco and several reds. My choice of the lot was the Cortes de Cima 2005 Aragonez. If you're not familiar with the Portuguese varietal, synonyms for Aragonez are Tempranillo and Tinta Roriz

 Single varietals are an interesting concept in Portugal, where blends of three to many varietals are the norm. I liked this simple approach to presenting the Aragonez, grown in a very warm climate, as it likes, and crafted to drink now with rich meats and vegetables. Fall, with its rich harvest foods, is a great time for Aragonez. As I mentioned in the live blog, this is a peppery deep wine with good structure, rich blackberry fruit on the nose and a wide and long finish. Satisfying acidity brings balance and encourages pairing with salted red meat, pork, game meats and rich fowl such as duck.

We followed the tasting/live blogging event with a winery tour where winemaker Hamilton Reis showed several of the innovations the winery uses to further their craft. Of note is their use of simultaneous Malolactic and Alcoholic fermentation (careful!!!...technical paper for geeky folks). It's common here in California, but from what I can tell, they are the only winery employing the technique in Portugal. It's not unexpected. Cortes de Cima is seemingly the leader in the
progressive winery business in Portugal. First to blog, first to tweet, first to.....well, the list goes on with vinerard management.

Of interest is their use of the Smart-Dyson canopy trellis system in which vines are trained much higher, and trained only on the sun-facing side of the vine. It's a very interesting and simple approach that provides a more balanced growing climate for the fruit in some areas, particularly warm vineyards. By doing so, CdC uses nearly no chemicals owing to better air circulation & greater distance of the fruit from the warm soil. Additionally, the vine also proves to be easier to manage, once trained. Very interesting stuff, indeed.

Finally, the event wrapped up with a blending contest between 3 groups of bloggers. We each made a blend that was judged by our peers. The winning blend, given the moniker "Great Pumpkin Wine", was actually bottled by Hamilton and his crew, labeled and brought to the EWBC in Lisbon the following day. The event was great fun and the culmination to a rewarding day.

Our thanks again to everyone at Cortes de Cima for their hospitality!

Primal Napa !!

On Nov. 7th in St. Helena, CA, Taste Network presented “PRIMAL” an outdoor gathering of local butchers and chefs whom prepared a bounty of heritage meats from Hudson Ranch and Wooly Pigs over hardwood fires. Marko Karakasevic from Charbay Distillery was mixing cocktails and several wineries, including Murphy-Goode (hosted by our pal Hardy Wallace) & Frias Family poured their finest while some of the swankiest artisans like Chris Cosentino of Boccalone and Incanto, Taylor Boetticher of Fatted Calf, Ryan Farr of 4505  Meats, and Staffan Terje of Perbacco converged and kicked out some outstanding badassery!! 

PRIMAL Napa - November, 2009 from C. Jason Mancebo on Vimeo.

30 October, 2009

Live Wine Blogging in Lisbon: Vin Noble Sherry, Fortified and Sweet Wine Tasting - European Wine Bloggers Conf.

Cool...listening to VinNoble speak in Spanish and I'm actually understanding it. Good....rust starting to go away.

VinNoble is a great conference in Jerez around sweet, fortified and sherries.

We've got 9 wines to taste...so here we go...

1st Perez Barquero Amontillado

Not a fortified wine...aged and oxidative again to deliver powerful, concentrated flavors. P. Barquero is one of the oldest producers in Montilla. Sweet nose with caramel and almonds and reminiscent of a brandy, but the taste is bone dry and finish is light and long and extremely nible for 19% alcohol

2nd - Lustau Reserva Amontillado

Also not fortified, caramel sweet nose similar, but not quite as sweet as the first. From Jerez with 100% Palomino Fino. Interesting: Aged in American Oak according to the Solera system. Longer and more acidic than the first.

3rd - VORS
Sherry. More s

4th - Quevedo Port Colheita - 1994 Vintage (bottled 2009)

Tawny style ...aged in oak. Single vintage. 1400L barrel aged. Colheita must be aged in barrel for 7 years in oak before bottling. Has more room for aging, too. Nice to hear from the produced @quevedo speaking on his wine. Absolutely delicious with very light nose, touch of sweet, cotton candy, but lovely front of cigar tobacco with delicate red berries, jellies (under 2% of total production in the Douro). Wow! This is stunning.

5th - Bacalh'o' Moscatel Roxo DOC Setu'bal (100% Moscatel Roxo)

A bit of orange, but less than a Muscato. Nice candied lemon on front. 9 Years in oak, bottled this year. Setubal is making some of the nicest Moscatels here.

6th - Justino's Colheita 1995 DOC Madeira

Tinta Negra with 5% Complexa. Beautiful, rich amber color. Minerals on the front, but I don't catch the spice that others are saying.

7th - Sandeman Vintage Porto 2007 DOC Douro

Aged 2 years in large barrels. Deep rich ruby color. A bit heavy nose ..alcohol with dirty bearries.

Only 1% of harvest goes to vintage and must be approved by port institute.

8TH and fnal - Garvey Gran Orden PX (Jerez) - 30 Years (minimum)

HUGE, long wine with SUPER big fig and honey taste. Wide, round, beautiful and powerful at the same time. This is stunning.

That's it. Next up...Douro Boys tasting in 60 mins.


Ciao from Lisbon!

29 October, 2009

Live Wine Blogging @ Cortes de Cima European Wine Bloggers Conf.

OK...we're off to the races. It's Thursday around 2:00 local Portuguese time and we're starting the pre EWBC tasting event at Cortes de Cima in Alentejo, near Vidigueira.

First up the the 2008 Charmine' White Blend.

It's a medium bodied blend of Antao Vaz, Verdehlo and Viognier.  Nice to see the Viognier blended with Verdehlo. Usually, Verdehlo brings a very crisp, green apple note to the nose and I like the moderation the Viognier brings with the addition of apricots, . The minerality is not normal for this region, so the Viognier helps there, too.
Very nice change for fall.

12.5% Alcohol
3.3 Ph
Picked earlier in the season.

Next, the Courela. It's their entry level red wine. Budget conscious. Retails for around $5 (3Euros in Lisbon)

Essentially, a MustGo blend; that is, everything in the cellar must go. It's not made every vintage and is NV. Super fruity and drinkable.

Third, the 2008 Charmine' red.

A bit up from the Courela, also a blend and is also young. Enjoyable. Decent quality and is well balanced and structured. Blackberry nose,  tighter on the nose, more acidic. This could use a bit of time in the bottle. A bit of stem on the nose. Worked better with food than in a vaccum tasting.

Fourth, the 2007 Cortes de Cima Vino Tino

Big time acid up front and really nice fruit. Certainly a less subtle wine with more structure and complexity. Blend of Syrah, Aragones (tempranillo) Cab Sauv, Petit Verdot and Touriga National.
Sharp front and a bit loose on the mid palate to the back end. Could use a bit more time.

Retail is $18 (10 Euro)

Fifth is the 2005 Aragones (Tempranillo)

100% Aragones. Nice. Well balanced, but aggressive. Likely higher in alcohol. Rich berry nose with the signature Tempranillo front and mid palate. I like this quite a bit. Very drinkable now. Would be super with salted meat dishes

Sixth is the 2005 Syrah.

Not simple, but not complex. Very even flow. Floral, easy, lot's of Syrah but without much spice and no smoke at all..

Next, the 2007 Hans Christian Anderson Syrah. More structure, good stuff. Plenty of spice but small bit of tightness in the front. Going to let it hang out for a few mins.  ..tic tock, tic, tock.

Next, the 2005 Incognito blend. Was produced illegally for two years. They planted it ahead of local approval. 100% Syrah. Not made every year and only when they have grapes of superior quality.  SMOOTH. Super great typical Syrah nose with pepper and spice. Would love to have this with lamb. Super quality. Even, moderated and superior.

Next, the 2005 Touriga Nacional - 100% TN. Tannin, Tannin!
New variety to Alentejo. Originally from Douro and Dow. Big structure. Evokes Earl Grey with Bergemot on the nose. Tight front, but opens up after 15 mins in the glass nicely. Give it some time and it's nice and sophisticated.

Finally, the 2004 CdC Reserva. Made only in a handful of vintages. BIG wine, but lots and LOTS of complexity. Calcium Oxide (lime) nose. Really interesting. Needs age, and to be treated well. Very Bordeaux in structure.

Mice Will Play -- Guest Blog from Elizabeth Olson

Wine Pairing 101 (aka: Wines from the ‘Hood)

I’m honored to have the opportunity to fill in for Jason with a blog post while he’s off running around Spain and Portugal, tasting a plethora off food & wine. He’d just better remember to bring us all back some great tasting notes, so we can live vicariously.           
For the last nine years, I’ve spent at least part of my week recommending and answering wine queries for a large California-based “specialty beverage” retailer. As such, some of the most common questions I get are on the topic of food and wine pairing. The “golden rule” of food and wine pairing – serve white wines with chicken and fish; reds for beef or pork – has been perpetuated for so long that most people are afraid to explore outside its limiting boundaries.
Now I confess that pairing food and wine pairing is one of my favorite pastimes. I used to get a little thrill when a friend would text me with a desperate plea for help as they stood bewildered in some wine aisle. Then it escalated. First it was debating the optimum wine for a dish with friends, but soon we were planning entire menus around the wines. Currently, we enjoy challenging on another with highly nuanced dishes, which usually results in some super-specific or esoteric wine match. But is this spiral into wine-geekdom isn’t for everyone and certainly isn’t practical for the nightly meal. There had to be some rule of thumb to make food and wine pairing easier for every day enjoyment.
And then it struck me. In most countries, people have been enjoying wine with their meals for hundreds of years. Would it not then stand to reason that the foods and wines indigenous to a region might be a natural match? In the ultimate illustration of eating only that which is locally grown, it only makes sense that early vintners would cultivate varietals that both thrived and complimented the area’s cuisine. And conversely, that its culinary specialties reflect the ingredients readily available and the region’s wines.
To put this theory to the test, one only need look at the wines of Southern Rhone. Imagine the region’s reds – blends of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsault from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Cotes du Rhone – paired with a comforting Coq au vin. Consider Southern Rhone’s white varietals – Marsanne, Roussanne and Picpoul, or stunning dry Rose’ from Taval, paired with the distinctive Provencal seafood faire.
For further illustration, we could look at traditional Tuscan wines: the acidic and firm Sangiovese of Chianti paired with tomato bruschetta, bean soup, cured meats, rustic bread and olive oil; the softer, smaller berried Sangiovese of Brunello di Montalcino married with Bistecca alla Florentina; or a crisp and refreshing Malvasia Bianca or Trebbiano with deep fried artichokes, squash, zucchini flowers and sage.
The examples are numerous: the paella of Valencia paired with Alicante (Grenache) or an aromatic Albarino; a vibrant, full-bodied Tempranillo paired with Gazpacho or Chorizo; Beef Empanadas – or any grilled beef for that matter – paired with a plum-y, sweet-earth Malbec; Salmon Grutense or mussel stew paired with a fresh Torrontes.
But does this local pairing practice work even if you aren’t globetrotting? Oregon is known for their signature salmon dishes. Just try pairing one with a terrior-filled Oregon Pinot Noir, a complex mineral-y Pinot Gris or aromatic Pinot Blanc. The light berry-fullness and cotton-candy nose of Minnesota’s indigenous Frontenac grape compliments entrees of regional game such as venison or pheasant. Regional cuisine distinctions may not be quite as well defined here in the US, given our accessibility to ingredients from all over the world, but the basic guidelines still apply.
I could go on, but I’m making myself hungry. The point is there IS a general rule that makes wine pairing more accessible. Simply consider the origin of the food being served and seek out wines native to or in the style of that same region. Certainly spice or side-dish nuances come into play if you wish to get detailed but, in general, foods like wines from their own “neighborhood” so to speak. So the next time you’re wondering which wine to pair with tonight’s dinner, consider the source.

Elizabeth Olson is a wine specialist for Beverages & More. When not pouring and recommending wines, or throwing down pairing challenges to her friends, she spends her time as a marketing & PR consultant. She can be found on Twitter @EbethO.

27 October, 2009

EWBC - Spain & Portugal : Day 1

Had a decent flight from SFO to JFK and then from JFK to Madrid. We actually had a relatively decent dinner on the JFK to Madrid flight.

I picked three wines for dinner/dessert. I'm not seeing a need to formally review these as I'm unclear of the distributors/availability. If I can confirm that, I'll put up formal grades and links.

First, the 2007 Occhio al Vento (Eye of the Wind). Made from 100% Vermentino, it's a light, crisp varietal lending it's melon, caramel and red delicious apples to the mix, it was nice with a starter of hummus with caramelized onions & spinach salad with goat cheese.

Next was the 2005 Belguardo Serrata. This Tuscan bottle is comprised of a

unique blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Alicante, a fairly uncommon grape to the US market that's a genetic mutation of Grenache. This bottle brings a very mineraly, tobacco laced nose and black cherry and plum to the front end and paired nicely with beef tenderloin.

Finally, dessert was the best of the flight, a sweet white from Juracon near the Pyranees,  that brings a great deal of caramel, green apple and straw, which  works super with cheese like cabrales, manchego and aged gouda. This is a super bottle. Try and see it out at your LWS!

We landed in Madrid and headed to the hotel. More to come shortly.

See you soon,

J. Mancebo

26 October, 2009

Spain for the sake of Spain -- 2004 Vicuana Rioja and 2007 Atecca Garnacha

As you may have heard, the 20dollarwineblog.com crew is heading to The Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) for the European Wine Bloggers Conference in Lisbon next week and as a preview to that, I thought we'd post a double feature on a couple of treats we recently came across. 

First, the 2004 Vicuana Rioja from Bodegas Bilbainas is a wine in the style you'd find on the modern Spanish table. It's a new stylistic approach to Rioja and as such, was a bit of a challenge for me. Not in the wine, but in the style...it wasn't expected, but it certainly was enjoyed. Much as the new world, expecially California, often puts it's own fingerprint on a style of wine the D.O. of Rioja has a long established style that I've become accustomed to. It's bold and beautiful and very much it's own thing. Tempranillo as you likely know is the main red grape of La Rioja, and its tannic and fruity character has led the way in determining the style. Super!

I'd heard musings recently, that things were changing a bit in Rioja and that some exporters we're asking for a bit of a more modern style from their producers. This seems to be the case for this wine with it's moderated, but vivacious fruit leads the charge in the nose and the front abounds with dark berries but is toned with nuances of tobacco, wood and moss. Certainly a new thing! I recently heard this wine described by someone saying "..it has impressive tenacity". I'd have to agree with that one. I'd like to enjoy this with grilled lamb or a burger.

2004 Bodegas Bilbainas Vicuana Rioja Tempranillo
Retail: $14
Grade: B+
If you're asking "how do grades work?" please see the post on "grades."

Next, the 2007 Bodegas Ateca Calatayud is quite a different creature. I'm pretty certain it's been created for the foreign market (it's from Jorge Ordonez) with it's more juicy highlights, brighter profile and leaner body. It brings some nicely presented anise and dusky dark berries on the nose with a mellow, round finish. It's clean & bright and I can't stop from thinking that when the winemaker created this, he was aiming for "HAPPY." Of course, with Old Vine Garnacha producing the fruit here, we enjoy the concentrated, but brisk flavors that deliver  without an overbearing tone and without force. I can't see anyone drinking this and being anything but happy. Seafood, especially in a paella, would pair wonderfully here.

2007 Bodegas Ateca Atteca Calatayud Garnacha
Retail: $17
Grade: B+

17 October, 2009

2006 Tandom Winery "Peloton" California Red Wine

In general, I'm not a fan of blends. A main with some added blend varietals or a GSM Rhone style blend? OK, Sure. But Meritages...or several? No..... No thanks!

The 2006 Tandem Peloton (and for those of you who are not familiar with cycling, the word "peloton" is French and defines a group, or collection of cyclists.) is strangely convincing me that I'm a bit too wrapped around the axle, as they say, on whether I'm a fan of something or not. We all can benefit by opening up our minds to the possibilities.

I know....It's tough when you're presented with several choices. Which is good? Which one to try? Yes, Yes.... but that's what the 20dollarwineblog is for: To get you to have More Great Wine!

We met Tandem winemaker Greg LaFolette at the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa, CA where he introduced us to some sexy Chardonnay he was releasing and while that was awesome, it was beyond our target price point. This red blend, however, is right down our alley for the price point and is a composite of several varietals...8 to be correct and the vast majority of the wine spent 15 months in neutral French oak and under 10% was aged in new barrels.

So, back to the 8 blends, I think you could certainly say that Greg has an interesting and innovative philosophy and technique to winemaking. An insteresting note I learned: He does fermentation in milk tanks rather than traditional wine tanks as the wine tanks are larger and the cap that's created on the top of fermenting wine is thinner and easier to punch down.

In this case, he's focused on Pinot Noir as the main component (nearly 60%) in the Peloton and it's certainly out on the front of the group. At the same time, it's moderated by a fair amount (30%) of Zinfandel. The Zin brings more fruit, spice, acid and crispness to the grupetto. The others, Carigane, Pinot Meunier, Sangiovese, Syrah, Gewurtraminer and Chardonnay (yes, that's a bit of two WHITE wines) all are adjustment blends, each bringing it's own bit of practicality and necessity to the recipe.

Being a Pinot fan, I enjoyed the light raspberry nose and was very appreciative of the structure the added Zinfandel conveys. The mouthfeel is pleasant..not too full, with some tannin carrying a nice finish of cherries and bitter chocolate. Bring on the Holidays! Peloton would be a super choice for dinner with game hen, duck, squab as well as the always solid turkey or even ham.

Kudos to Greg LaFollette for taking us outside of our box. Here, he's doing something some might consider a Frankenstein wine, but I don't see it that way. Greg's too much of a thinker and has too much confidence for that. This is about something new, a different way of thinking and creating a very interesting and delicious wine by building structure and notes. It's about craft.

(disclaimer: This wine was sent to me at no cost for my review)

2006 Tandem Winery North Coast California Red Wine
Retail: $24
Grade: B+

15 October, 2009

Double Feature: 2006 Robert Foley Napa Valley Charbono and 2008 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Bonarda. For Wine Blogging Wednesday #62

Wow...this Wine Blogging Weds snuck up on me in a BIG WAY!

The cool Dale Cruse  from drinksareonme  is hosting this month's WBW#62 and set the theme very creatively. Titled "A Grape By Any Other Name" prompts us to try the alternate common name of a varietal. For example, instead of a Syrah, try a Shiraz, or vice versa, depending on where you live :-) Also of great interest are BONUS POINTS that are often awarded in WBW. This month, Dale's offering bonus props for tasting wines of BOTH of the synonyms as well as the uber geekdom prize for most obscure grape. We'll, I don't think we'll get that one here, but both Bonarda and Charbono are not common to California or the US for that matter. 

Essentially, as we mentioned in a previous review of a Charbono from Summers, it's planted to only 80 acres in the US. Yep. That's it. Interestingly, Bonarda is planted to thousands of hectares and is the 2nd most popular varietal grown in Argentina. So that begs the question: Which is the more common of the synonyms?

While you stew on that one, I'll drink the wine.

The 2006 Robert Foley Napa Valley Charbono is a deep colored wine with a pleasant and sophisticated nose leading down the path of rich grape and dark stone fruit with a very round and supple mouthfeel. It's base is extremely supportive of a very comprehensive flavor layer profile including anise, chocolate and earth. It's a perfect selection for red meat with dark vegetables such as beets or legumes or duck with a berry/wine sauce. Again, sophistication is the key. Additionally, I recommend decanting this wine to fully enjoy its potential.

2006 Robert Foley Napa Valley Charbono
Retail: $27 (seen for $26.99)
Grade: A

The 2008 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Bonarda on the other hand has a much more youthful approach to life. It's ready to go, spirited and one could easily compare this as a young paint stallion to the above Charbono as a dressage Hanovarian. Both are wonderful stock, but differ in their attitude.

This Bonarda brings a free-flowing bright blackberry nose, with hints of tobacco. The front is neither round, nor too sharp and it brings a much lighter mouthfeel. It does a good job of ensuring that you have a pleasant, stress-free and fun time with it and will pair much more widely than others. Chicken, darker fish, sausages, pizza, burgers...all would go great with this Bonarda. Buy some, drink it with a great dinner, have a great time! It surely brings the "Spirit of Argentina" to the table.

2008 Espiritu De Argentina Mendoza Bonarda
Retail: $10
Grade: A

So, theyre' you go. Get out of the box, do something completely different and enjoy a Charbono/Bonarda. It's a super varietal, in all of its of styles and attitudes.

Disclosure: This wine (Bonarda) was sent to me as a sample for my review.

11 October, 2009

A Few Minutes With: Tom Gamble

The 20dollarwineblog spent some time with Tom Gamble of Gamble Family Vineyards recently. In this episode, Tom talks about his 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and organic farming of his wine grapes.

A Few Minutes With: Tom Gamble from C. Jason Mancebo on Vimeo.

30 September, 2009

Can you DRINK white after Labor Day?

Now we all know that wearing white post labor day is verboten, but is it cool to DRINK white after the first Monday in September?

Fear not, kids! I bought off the "wine-style" police and they're turning their eyes the other way, so drink up!....but just WHAT should we drink while we're on the run???

When it's about a zillion degrees in August, there's not much better to me than a California or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or an Albariño from Rias Baixas Spain right out of the chiller to quench the thirst and cool the burn. ..and when the temps thankfully turn south, it's nice to turn to other varietals that perhaps offer alternatives to the crisp, cooling whites of summer with their wider body, fuller fruit and more robust character.

Rather than focusing more frequently on refreshing, let's try and tempt the fate of the fruits originally from Burgundy in Chardonnay, Rhone in Rousanne, Viognier, Marsanne among many, from Navarra in Grenache Blanc and perhaps from Mendoza Argentina, Torrontes.

With the holidays quickly approaching, a "bigger and bolder" white is often in order and these are the source of the flavors of fall when meals turn richer, warmer, deeper.

For Chardonnay, I'm finding myself going for newer California styled offerings. These are much more like the California wines of the mid-80s before malolactic fermentation and over oaking became the "thing". Try and find a smaller craft winery focusing on organic or biodynamic production.

Torrontes is a great varietal with super flavor. Fresh, citrus, but not sharp or piercing, at all. It's a super choice with richer fish such as halibut, shark or swordfish...and there are some super bargains out there. You can easily find great quality from Argentina for around $10.

The Rhone varietals are the most elegant of the group, but are also quite approachable. They sometimes do cost a bit more, but are still very reasonable and definitely within our price point. Rousanne is more often than not blended with Marsanne so, you'll likely have more success finding a blend than a single varietal. Viognier, on the other hand, if often found as a single varietal and is very drinkable and easy on the wallet. It's a bit crisper than the '-ANNEs, but should not be disregarded when thinking about cooler weather. I really enjoy Viognier paired with roasted fowl, particularly duck. Delicious. 

Finally, there are some opposing ideas to this, but Grenache Blanc is now thought of originating from Spain as a genetic mutation of Garnacha, and is found mainly along the regions of the Pyranees, such as Navarra. It's super if you can find it and is now widely grown in the US as well as other New World regions. A good example of Grenache Blanc provides a full, wide mouthfeel and is a flavorful experience. It's a great complement to fresh cuts of pork and also with spanish beans and lentils as well as Paella.

So, while the mercury has headed south, your white wine efforts need not be shelfed. Get out there and drink some white after labor day. Focusing on the varietals mentioned here, you'll have a rich experience.

(For specific recommendations, please click on the keyword search terms on the right side of the page)

25 September, 2009

Taste test of Soiree with 2007 Quivara Grenache (video)

We had the chance to chat with Andrew Lazorchak of Soiree, and compare a single bottle of wine without, then with the Soiree bottle top wine aerator. Our thanks to Kevin Cronin and Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar in Santa Rosa, CA

Soiree Wine Aerator Taste Test w/ 2007 Quivira Dry Creek Valley Grenache from C. Jason Mancebo on Vimeo.

24 September, 2009

2007 Line 39 Lake County Petit Sirah

Here at the 20dollarwineblog.com, one of the main goals of this blog is to help our readers improve their wine experience and every once and a while we run across something that makes it easy to do just that....and we say WOW!

Recently, at this year's wine blogger's conference in Sonoma County we had the opportunity to participate in what many of us termed "speed dating", that is, several wineries presented to apporximately 10 bloggers at a table. Each winery had 5-6 minutes to present their wine and then some, but not all of the audience actually "live blogged" about the wine. At the 6 minute mark, each winery moved to the next table. One of the best times I've ever had with wine.

..and along the way, in one of those speed dates, I met Roy Cecchetti and Kathy Whaley, and they presented his Line 39 2007 Lake County Petit Sirah. Here (the original post) was what I originally blogged LIVE at the event:

"Line39 2007 Petit Sirah - Lake County --
Very nice spicy tannic PS, with very nice structure
Excellent value"

It was quick and to the point, but I knew off the bat that this was not a typical bottle of P. Sirah let alone from Lake County, an appellation that contains 5 AVAs. This appellation's got great, clear air, super volcanic and loamy soils with valleys that contain alluvial flows and benches to create varied and well drained soils for vine , but in the past has been known more for bulk and 2nd label wines for larger wineries. I don't know if that will continue, but I suspect that this wine is an example of quality wine standing proud of it's heritage in a lesser-known appellation.

Now, it should be said that Line 39 is produced by Cecchetti-Racke, a large producer and importer that will sell more than 100K cases of wine this year....and that they've created a brand focused on the appellation that is Lake County. Very cool!

Now, about that WOW...yeah. Well, I have to say, it's the stuff that makes changes the minds of non-believers...no, not the Atheist kind, the "If I don't spend at least 30 bucks, it's can't be GREAT" kind of naysayer.

Roy's made a Petit Sirah that is wide and soft with a lively mouthfeel that's gentle and robust at the same time. It's balanced, fruitful, acidic with moderated tannin. A very pleasant nose of raisins, black cherries and dried plums (when I was a kid, they called these prunes) and the front continues with the black fruit notes. It finishes wide and smooth with no discernible bite.

So, yes. WOW! Believe it or not, Roy Cecchetti has figured out a way to retail this quality bottle of wine for around $15. And at that price, I suggest you buy several bottles and try Petite Sirah with several different meals. Pizza, burgers, chicken, pork... all would be complemented, and nicely. Excellent value, as stated before.

2007 Line 39 Lake County Petite Sirah
Retail: $15
Grade: A+

21 September, 2009

Harvest 2009 - Pickin' Zin @ Lencioni Vineyards (video)

I was lucky enough to be invited by Fred Ginn of Lencioni Vineyards, to come up and shoot a bit a couple weeks ago when he was hand harvesting several acres of dry farmed Zinfandel fruit in the Dry Creek Valley. Here's a quick video.....Enjoy the view!

16 September, 2009

2006 D'Argenzio Winery Sonoma County Chardonnay - Wine Blogging Wednesday #61 -- Old Skool Chardonnay from Humble, Local Roots.

It's WBW #61 and all the world (at least the wine blogging world..and is there really more than that?) is abuzz about today's theme blog, titled "At the Source." The plan for bloggers participating was to visit a winery, taste their wine, and blog about it. Bonus points if you taste with the winemaker or vineyard manager." Lenn Thompson of Lenndevours is the theme master for this month and his idea was to get people local and...at the source.

We're extereeeemly lucky to live within a 2-3 hour drive of several great wine growing regions in California. Paso Robles is 3 hours to the south, Murphys and FairPlay are 2-3 hours to the east, it's quite wet just 2 mins west, but 90 mins to the North is Santa Rosa in the heart of the Sonoma. The source is close and we're certainly appreciative of that.....every weekend!

We met Ray D'Argenzio the proprietor and winemaker of D'Argenzio Winery about two months ago while dining at a Santa Rosa restaurant and immediately I was interested in his craft. Ray produces very small lots (some less than 100 cases) of some interesting varietals and sources all his fruit from very local vineyards. I believe all his fruit is from Sonoma or Mendocino, the vast majority from Russian River Valley. This is LOCAL! I'm guessing that nearly all the fruit for Ray's wine is grown within 25 miles of the winery.

Recently, we stopped by and visited with Ray at his winery in Santa Rosa, and tasted several of his wines. While all were enjoyable, many are not in the "about $20 dollar" price point that we focus on and of those that are, I was drawn to this Chardonnay. Now, I'm really not a Chardonnay person, especially from here in CA, my home state. I think we've (and by we, I mean the statewide we, that is the large winemakers who sell the crack they call Chardonnay) gone WAY too far in stylizing something. We use heavy oak, overuse malolactic acid in fermentation in the attempt to create wines that follow the pack. My grandfather often told me "Just because they make it, it doesn't mean it's good, and just because you CAN, doesn't mean you should."

Perhaps Ray's father told him that as well?!

This Chardonnay will never be confused or mistaken for a White Burgundy, but it's certainly not a recent typical California style coming out of those folks on the Silverado Trail. It's balanced, pleasant at a reasonable temperature and a very relaxed wine.

The nose it quite pleasant and filled with herbs and citrus. The front end provides enough acid and green apple to ensure you don't confuse it with others and it's broad mid-palate finishes long and true with nutty and bready goodness. While Ray did use ML on this wine, he did so with a very restrained hand. I certainly don't mind the ML used here, in fact, in reminded me of several great vintages in the mid-late 1980s that we superior, balanced and delivered something new. I suspect this is a return to a recent past of California styled Chardonnays.

I'd love to have this with aged Gouda cheese, or a lobster roll on a summer's day here at the beach.

2006 D'Argenzio Winery Sonoma County Chardonnay
Grade: B+
Retail: ~$19 (available on the winery's website)

05 September, 2009

Grillin' w/ Portugese Vinho Branco Ribetejano for WBW# 60 (video)

So, there's was grillin' to be done on a warm day getting ready for WBW #60 . @sonadora was the hostess for this month's version and she set the theme as Zin and Grill. So, we did.

The full blog entry is here if you're interested.

Here's how we do it, coastside style...

20dollarwineblog.com - Chicken for WBW #60 from C. Jason Mancebo on Vimeo.

04 September, 2009

2007 A to Z Oregon Pinot Gris


I love summer and the bounties of summer....well, I love living where it's not hot in Summer. No more than 70 degrees and I'm happy. Fog is good. On the other hand, stonefruit needs heat, and lots of it. There's not much better than a ripe white nectarine or peach that's been soaking up the sun and engaging in lots of photsynthesis. Mystical.

Wine grapes are also fully engaged in photosynthesis, even more so after Veraison. More incredible are the flavors of fruit that develop during fermentation. In this case, stonefruit.

Now, while it's not typically hot here in Half Moon Bay, It's frequently warm enough to mandate outdoor grilling and white wine. Just was the case when I decided to open this bottle of the 2007 A to Z Oregon Pinot Gris to pair with a spinach and goat cheese salad with grilled white nectarines and spicy shrimp. Sweeeeeet, well, not dessert wine sweet, nor even high residual sugar sweet, but fruit galore!

Grilled stonefruit is something to behold. Not much better than that with some baby spinach and almonds with Laura Chenel chevre.

So, let's deal with some confusion here before we go much further (or is that farther?). Pinot Gris vs. Pinot Grigio. It's the same, but different, that is, the same grape varietal, but quite different in style and taste. That is, in Italy, and around the world, when winemakers craft Pinot Grigio, their aim, stylistically, is a lean, crisp, refreshing wine that's light in color. Conversly, Pinot Gris is crafted with a much more medium body, carries a richer color and consequently brings many more flavors and more character to the party. So, same grape varietal, with different grape clones, (different clones carry different local and regional characteristics) but a different goal as the final style produces a very different result.

So, now that we're straightened out Gris v Grigio, let's talk more about this bottle of wine.

The yellow gold tone is initially striking. It's rich and conveys a bit of both mystery and substance. The nose is quite dissimilar to the color, in acutality. Interestingly, it's quite forward with mineral and shale, with light citrus notes. The first taste presents an even more interesting treat to the palate in meyer lemon and zest. After leaving this to rest for several minutes things changed significantly.

The nose now brought the peach and pear notes and tasting now, especially with the grilled nectarines and shrimp was delightful. The stonefruit in the salad was ultimately enhanced by the stonefruit in the glass, and vice-versa. It's big, bold and rich in nectarines supported by peaches. Now, please don't worry that there's not enough acid to support the richness. There certainly is! A to Z Wineworks brought 16 lots of grapes from varying appellations and completely different parts of the state together for this. From the Willamette Valley, far cooler growing conditions to help with acid and from Southern Oregon near the Umpqua and Rogue Valleys, for richer, more developed fruit.

Now, I'm not one for tasting sheets by winemakers for anything other than technical information, typically, but in this case it's spot on when it they say "The length of the wine is spectacular...." It certainly is and that leads for a very pleasant wide and deep mouthfeel for a very crisp wine.

So, the next time it's warm and you're interested in something other than a burger or steak, please grill some stonefruit and perhaps pair it with this Pinot Gris that will complement and support chicken and fish on the grill. This wine is widely available both in grocery stores in states where wine is sold, as well as your LWS.

2007 A to Z Wineworks Oregon Pinot Gris
Retail: $13
Grade: B+

03 September, 2009

2007 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir Rose

I recently saw a post asking why we (I'm inferring the author was addressing those of us in the U.S.A.) have a less than enthusiastic view of Rose. It brought me back to the first time I seriously bought a bottle of wine many years ago. I was searching for something that someone who didn't really know wine would enjoy and it was for our first date.

It was a Pinot Noir Blanc and thinking about that really made me notice how much the question about Rose was poignant. That is, if we'll drink Pinot Noir Blanc, but we may not drink the same wine if it's labeled Rose of Pinot Noir, then we're certainly shorting ourselves...and why?

I suspect that we're further along in our view of wine now than we were when I bought that bottle several years ago. I think I am, but if that question still exists and we need an answer to it, then I think the best thing I can do, is to try and give my point of view of Rose.

Well, just like any other wine, it's great or it's not. There's nothing more difficult about enjoying a great bottle and there's noting special about Rose in itself. You've got to dig a bit to find the good stuff...so, dig we do.

Now, in typical French style, Rhone varietals and blends of Rhone varietals are what constitutes the vast majority of Rose and is what's considered proper in France. OK. Cool. Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mouvedre. Mmm. Starting to sound good, no?

But in the new world, we're not much for tradition, at least in the Rose world. Rather than focusing on the Rhone varietals, we're happy to do Rose with several varietals of diverse appellations. So, in typical fashion and in trying to do what we say, I opened this bottle of Rose of Pinot Noir on a Wednesday night with pizza. Yes, Pepperoni and Sausage Pizza.

This pleasant, refreshing Rose is pale pink in color, slightly sweet with a fair balance of acidity and a pleasant, even mouthfeel. It's not restrained or raw, nor is it an enthusiastic example. It's very fresh nose is effervescent with strawberries and roses. The finish is delivered as expected with citrus and pomegranate brightness. Etude used good quality Pinot fruit from Carneros and while there's not alot of Pinot in Napa, let alone Carneros, it CAN be used to make some fine wine and in this case, this is a perfect example.

Now, the often heard issue with Rose is the propensity for a very dry wine. If you're into dry rose, then great, but, this is not the bottle for you. If you shy away from Rose because you are not a fan of dry wines, then please, please try this bottle. If you can't find the 2007 version, then the 2008 may be more available. I've not tried this, but I'd expect a similar, but not exact taste and feel from the newer vintage.

Perfect with salmon, chicken and of course Pizza, this bottle is very versatile and a good value.

2007 Etude Carneros Rose of Pinot Noir
Retail: $23
Grade: B

11 August, 2009

2006 Camellia Cellars Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Lencioni Vineyard Zinfandel - For WineBlogging Wednesday #60

Whew...that was alot to get out.

Well, that's kinda how we met Fred. See, I walk into Riviera Ristorante and start talking with my pal GP, who, along with other family members, owns the place. I was just done with the Wine Bloggers Conference and was tired after 2 nights of not too much sleep, so just wanted to mind my own business and have a lite dinner before heading home... a 90+ minute adventure. GP and I are talking about the
conference and he introduces me to Fred and insists I sit at the table next to he and his wife.

GP pours some wine, Fred starts talking with me, we start talking about the conference and wine blogging and then wine in general, and it turns out, Fred owns a nice vineyard. A REALLY nice vineyard, as it turns out. Based on the East Benchland in Dry Creek Valley, the Lencioni Vineyard has been in Fred's family for quite some time. Decades. LOTS of decades! OLD is GOOD!

We finish up and exchange contact info and agree to stay in touch. Cool. Done.

I finish up my dinner and head south. Ahhhh...a long weekend, but well worth it.

..I know what you're sayin', now: "Hey, what about the wine?"

Yes, yes, the wine. Mmm. The wine.

So, in the past few weeks, Fred and I caught up over email and I mentioned that I was doing a post for Wine Blogging Wednesday and it was a Zin theme this month. Ha HA!...now, you see, more KISMET!

Fred suggested that I look into the Camellia Cellars Zin
for this review and he and the folks at Camellia Cellars are to be thanked for providing this bottle at no cost to me for this review. (That's the disclosure part, folks.)

So, for Wine Blogging Wednesday #60, the 5th anniversary of WBW (read more about WBW for some cool info and how it works!) hostess, @sonadora (for those of you on twitter...if not, you can read her blog here) set down the rules as essentially this:

1) It's Zin. So pick one.

2) Grill something and eat it.
2.1) The George Foreman grill isn't really a grill, but we'll let it slide
2.2) The saute pan is definitely not a grill, but it's all about the wine, so what the hell, go for it.

OK. Since we DO have a grill, and it was a beautiful day in lovely HMB, CA today, we're grillin' baby!

On the menu:

Heirloom Tomato Salad
w/ avocado and grilled sweet corn

Grilled Moroccan Spiced Chicken
w/ smokey Spanish lentils and grilled veg

The 2006 Camellia Cellars Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Lencioni Vineyards Zinfandel (ouch, fingers tired)

OK, so we cooked it all up and had a great time...(video posted soon, so check back shortly).

Now for the wine and food:

The Zin, upon opening, was quite welcoming with a nice, aromatic bark and tobacco nose coupled with peppery blueberries. I enjoyed that this was NOT a fruit bomb from my first whiff. Nice. After aerating a bit, the first sip was delicious. The nose brings a balanced spiciness to bear and the decreasing mouthfeel was not over-anxious to go away quickly, but just at the right time. With the sweetness of the tomatoes and the acidity of the vinegar in the dressing, the substantial, but not overpowering fruitiness of raspberry and boysenberry notes lent to a pleasant support of the clean tasting, fresh and luscious tomatoes.

Next, the chicken, with a fair bit of Moroccan spices was quite aggressive. Straight off the grill, the complement of the grilled vegetables and the smoky lentils was a very forward flavorful and challenging match to work with. This Zin did it with flying colors!

When spicy was up front from the chicken or lentils, the fruit flowed straight to the palate and when the clean veggie taste was asking for a partner, the spiciness of the grape lent a hand and turned simple to sublime.

Kismet. That's what I say. I couldn't have picked a better match for aggressively spicy chicken if I tried.

Again, my thanks to Fred and the Camellia Cellars folks for doing a great job and sharing a bottle of their craft with us.

2006 Camellia Cellars Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Lencioni Vineyards Zinfandel
Retail: $22
Grade: B+