Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Pinot Grigio Revisited

Every once in a while, circumstances force us to reassess strongly held positions or expectations.  Case in point: 

If you read my last post, you will recall that I took a disparaging swipe at Pinot Grigio - that tiresome white wine that always seems to pop up at events where nobody knows anything about wine so they pick up "whatever" (think company parties), and it's usually some commercial plonk like Barefoot.  Now don't get me wrong, there are some producers, usually in Italy, that actually put out some decent Pinot Grigio, but it's hardly a go-to wine.

So, a few Mondays ago, I found myself at the Olde Bar in Bookbinders (now run by the Garces Group), saddling up for a half dozen Buck-a-Shuck oysters at Happy Hour.  http://theoldebar.com/menu  There also happens to be a bargain prix fixe menu Monday nights so in keeping with the budget theme, I opted for a Happy Hour house white, in this case a Pinot Grigio.  My expectations were understandably low - I just wanted something to wash down the oysters and fried calamari.  Well, one sip told me this was not your average bland, generic Pinot Grigio.  Indeed, this one had zip and sparkle - lively acidity, bright flavors, a bracing palate and altogether mouth appealing structure.  It turned out to be of Slovenian origin, specifically from the Brda region  - near the Collio border area in northeast Italy.  The brand name is Avia, and they produce a whole slew of varietals imported by Laureat Imports, whose portfolio includes several other brands from Slovenia.


I haven't sampled any of the other Avia varietals (a quick search online showed only Riesling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay available in PA stores), but in the meantime, don't hesitate to hightail it down to the Olde Bar for some oysters on the half-shell and a delightful Pinot Grigio that's easy on the wallet and just may make you readjust your opinion of this much maligned wine - like it did me!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

6th Annual Summer Back Porch Wine Bash - a Recap

On a recent Saturday evening in mid-August, during the nicest weekend weather-wise of the summer in Philadelphia, friends and wine lovers gathered at my place in Germantown to enjoy wine, food and company for our yearly enological blowout, this time featuring wines from down South American way.  The selection ran the gamut from white to rosé to red with a Prosecco interloper thrown into the mix.  The standouts, according to most imbibers, were the two reds from Garzon Vineyards (Uruguay), a Tannat and a Cabernet Franc, plus an exceptional Malbec called "biutiful" from the Mendoza region in Argentina.  There were many other very quaffable wines from Chile - both red and white.  (Southern Brazil is making some very nice wines these days, but unfortunately, none of them made it to the party.)

Many thanks to all for the donations of food and wine and looking forward to seeing you all next summer!

Two Interlopers - a Prosecco and a Gruner from Fero (Pennsylvania)

Top Choices!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

"Natural" Wines - Fad or Future? (Plus Finger Lakes wine alert!)

There's been a lot of talk about so-called "natural" wines in recent years. Indeed, among the wine cognoscenti, it seems to be all the rage.  The casual wine drinker may wonder what all the fuss is about and just go back to his Barefoot Pinot Grigio.

However, if you are a more serious, discriminating wine consumer with a hankering to educate yourself about this relatively new direction in wine production, may I draw your attention to the attached article which I just recently came across, but was originally published in May 2018 in The Guardian (London).  Well-researched and comprehensive, yet highly readable for the non-professional consumer with a keen interest in learning more about this genre of wine, it provides a fascinating history of the movement, featuring the movers and shakers behind this new, yet ancient, method of producing wines, reaction from critics from across the spectrum and suggestions for where to begin your exploration.

Although there's no official or legal definition of natural wine, it basically comes down to wine produced with minimal intervention, natural yeast and no pesticides or added chemicals.  Not surprisingly, the results can be hit or miss from year to year, but as producers gain more experience, consistency and quality continue to improve.  In the end, as one winemaker is quoted, "it's not for everyone ... but it's totally pure."

If you're just starting out to explore these wines, I highly recommend sampling wines imported by Kermit Lynch, which are often produced in the "natural" way.  I've rarely been disappointed with his selections.  Cheers!


P.S. For those of you who attended my class on Finger Lakes Wines, please note that the winemakers of Ravines will be at Fork this Thursday, and their wines will be featured Wednesday through Friday.  See this link for more info:


Monday, July 8, 2019

Sparkling Wines Down the Shore

At our annual summer wine dinner down the shore in New Jersey, a group of wine aficionados gathered to enjoy an array of sparkling wines from the Old World and the New World.  Now anyone who's shopped for Champagne for a special occasion will know that you typically have to spend Big Bucks for this sparkling beverage - we're talking "French" Champagne which is a kind of oxymoron since by law, Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France. However, there are many affordable sparkling wines from all parts of the world.  For quality and price, the best deals are "Crémants" from other regions of France, Cava from Spain and Prosecco from Italy.  In addition, many French Champagne producers have collaborated with California wine makers to produce high quality bubblies at reasonable prices.

For this particular tasting and dinner, we sampled sparkling wines from Portugal, Spain, California, New Mexico and Alsace (France).  Hands-down, the Segura Viudas was the top choice among all imbibers, and indeed, it's been one of my favorite since I discovered in many years ago.  Due to its growing popularity, its cost has creeped up over the years and now if you can find it for less than $30, you're getting a good deal.  I paid about $28 at Wine Works in Cherry Hill.  The Cabriz from Portugal was the best bargain at about $12, but it did require a road trip up to the Iron Bound neighborhood in Newark, NJ. It's worth the trip, however, for the excellent deals on all Portuguese wines at Lisbon Wines and Liquors. (See my previous post  https://phillywineguy.blogspot.com/2014/01/ironboud-newarks-destination-for.html)

The Gruet is produced in New Mexico by a French winemaking family who staked out property some years ago in this seemingly unlikely southwestern state to produce good quality sparkling wines at affordable prices.  See more information about this producer at the bottom of this post.

Crémant refers to French sparkling wines produced outside the Champagne region.  The Alsace and the French Loire River valley are especially notable for their Crémants and represent an excellent value as an alternative to the pricey Champagnes.

Finally, Gloria Ferrer, based in Sonoma, is major producer of sparkling as well as still wines.  The Blanc de Noirs we tasted was a disappointment to some people in our group, but this may have been a result of the contrast to the Segura Viudas that came immediately before in our tasting.  The creamy cherry-strawberry style of the Ferrer drew a sharp contrast to the dry, tangy, minerally, muted floral notes of the Segura.

One more general observation on sparkling wines:   although they can be great food wines, and I always encourage wine aficionados to break out the bubbly at any time - as opposed to just special occasions - it was the general consensus of our group that a sparkling wine for each of 4-5 courses was perhaps overly effervescent.  To highlight the special features of a bubbly, it may be wise to pop the cork for just one or two courses.  In any case, do not be shy about making a little splash the next time you're asked to bring a bottle to a friend's dinner party.  It's always a good time for bubbly!  Salud!

Cabriz Brut 2013

Classification:  Denominação de Origem Controlada  (DoC)  Dao, Portugal

Varietals: 40% Encruzado, 40% Bical, 20% Malvasia-Fina

Production/Tasting Notes:  At least 12 months in wine cellar and 2 months in bottle after degorgement; aromas of white pulp fruits jelly, citrus, toasted cereal and biscuit; fruity, fresh, harmonious with a crunchy finish and a captivating mousse.

Food Pairing: As an aperitif or with mildly spiced dishes based on fish and white meats and desserts. Drink at 8ºC

Alcohol: 12.5%

Francois Baur Crémant d'Alsace Brut Reserve

Classification: Appellation Crémant d'Alsace Contrôlée

Varietals: Riesling, Pinot Blanc

Production/Tasting Notes:  Biodynamic/organic; dry but not bracingly so; tangy, creamy mousse with floral aromas, rounded pear/peach fruits, fine bubbles and along rich finish

Food Pairingscheese, pâté , ham quiche, halibut in butter sauce

Alcohol: 12.5%

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad

Classification: Cava Denominacion de Origen (DO), Spain

Varietals: 67% Macabeo and 33% Parellada

Production/Tasting Notes: 100% hand harvested; traditional method (secondary fermentation in bottle); opening aromas are yeasty from aging on its lees, smoky, with hints of brioche, followed by touches of honey, apple, pear, lemon and flower petals (88 points, Wine Enthusiast)

Alcohol: 12%

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs  NV

Region: Carneros, Sonoma

Varietal: 91.6% Pinot Noir; 8.4% Chardonnay

Tasting Notes: Bright strawberry and black cherry aromas with subtle vanilla highlights. Creamy cherry, lemon and cola flavors combine with a lush palate, lively bubbles and a persistent finish.  (90 points, Wine Enthusiast)

Food Pairings: crab, Thai cuisine, roast pork, quail, foie gras or semisweet desserts; Seasoning affinities include star anise, plum sauce and tarragon; triple aged gouda or hard aged cheeses with persimmons and hazelnuts for the cheese course

Alcohol: 12.5%

Gruet Brut Rosé NV

Origin: New Mexico

Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir

Production/Tasting Notes:  Méthode champenoise; aged en tirage for a minimum of 24 months; wild strawberry, plum and floral aromatics and flavors; zesty acidity; delicate mineral finish. (88 points, Best Buy, Wine Spectator)

Food Pairings:

Alcohol: 12%

Notes on Producers

Francois Baur

The Baur family has lived in Turckheim since 1741 and today it is the 9th generation of Baur family members to produce wine in the great region of Alsace. Pierre Baur is the son of Francois Baur, and the Domaine Baur comprises 27 acres of vines. Half of these are within the famous Grand Cru vineyard of Brand, making the Baur family one of the largest landowners in Brand (which has other serious growers such as Boxler, Josmeyer and Zind-Humbrecht as neighbors). Baur also owns vines along the plateau Herrenweg, whose heavier soils provide the wines with exceptional richness.

Today Thomas Baur, son of Pierre, takes care of the vineyards and winemaking; since 2001 the family has been fully biodynamic in the vineyards--a totally natural approach to the cultivation of vines that makes every attempt to respect the plants, the soil and the environment. Work is scheduled according to the phases of the moon, often at night while the vines are resting and not fatigued by the sun. Studying in the same biodynamics class as Jean-Michel Deiss, one notes the fervor with which Baur now addresses his work; it has become a religion to him and he trusts nature in his vineyards. Harvest is done manually, vinification takes place with natural yeasts in large foudres.

Gloria Ferrer

First sparkling winery in Carneros.

Production notes on the Blanc de Noirs:

Predominantly made from handharvested Pinot Noir grapes, the hallmarks of which are a vibrant red fruit character. The creamy palate and rosy hue are a result of a small addition of Vin Gris, which was blended into the base cuvée. Over forty different clones and selections of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are planted on the 335-acre estate in the Sonoma Carneros district. This allows  to consistently produce cuvées with complexity and clear fruit expression. 

100% whole cluster pressed used to add richness and structure. 5-7% cold-soaked Pinot Noir juice (Vin Gris) is blended into the base wine for color & to establish the creamy notes on its finish. Juice naturally settled overnight (débourbage or "racking") to encourage a clean fermentation. 100% fermented in stainless steel tanks at 55-60° F to retain vibrancy and freshness. Proprietary yeast used for the second fermentation provided a delicate house structure. Cuvée is a blend of 18 different base wines. Wine spent a year and a half aging en tirage (on the yeast) in our caves.


Gilbert Gruet, founder of Gruet Winery, was born in Bethon, France in 1931. He grew up in a poor family, and began working at a young age. In 1952, Gilbert Gruet, along with his wife Danielle, dreamt of producing fine quality Champagne. Gilbert followed his heart and in 1967 created the U.V.C.B. (Union Vinicole des Coteaux de Bethon), a co-op in the village of Bethon.
In 1983, the Gruet Family was traveling through the southwestern part of the US, and while in New Mexico met a group of European winemakers who had successfully planted vineyards in Engle, near the town of Truth or Consequences, 170 miles south of the city of Albuquerque. After hearing of vineyards planted there as early as the 1600s, and learning about the specific climate and soil conditions of the region, the Gruet Family knew they had found what they were looking for. In 1984, Gilbert Gruet – whose Champagne house (Gruet et Fils) has produced fine Champagnes in Bethon, France since 1952 – made the decision to plant an experimental vineyard in Engle, NM. The plantings were exclusively Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. Two of his four children, Laurent and Nathalie Gruet then relocated to New Mexico to begin their American winemaking adventure.
Factoids about Sparkling Wines and Their Productions

  • Méthode Traditionelle (or Méthode Champenoise): refers to secondary fermentation for sparkling wines or champagnes which occurs in the bottle. This usually results in lighter color, and smaller bubbles that retain their effervescence and produces complex bouquets and tastes as well as a long, lingering finish.

  • Liqueur de tirage: mixture of still wine, sugar and selected yeast that triggers second fermentation in the bottle.

  • Remuage (“riddling” in English): method of shaking and twisting each bottle to loosen the sediment left behind following the second fermentation. Originally done by hand with bottles racked in “pupitres” or desks. Process is now automated using gyropallettes or “turnovers”.

  • Dégorgement: process of removing sediment and dead yeast from neck of bottle by plunging it in supercold  liquid nitrogen solution.

  • Dosage: topping off the wine with varied amounts of sugar to determine final level of sweetness.

  • Levels of Sweetness:
Brut: no perceptible sweetness in wine; little, if any, sugar added during dosage. Low sugar and high acidity render it a good food wine.
Extra Dry: slightly sweet; some residual sugar on palate
Sec: relatively sweet wine, more so than Extra Dry
Demi-sec: Sweet sparkling wine often served as dessert or to accompany a dessert

  • Blanc de Blancs: sparkling wine made predominantly from white grapes, typically Chardonnay
  • Blanc de Noirs: sparkling wine made predominantly of black grapes – usually Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier.
  • Rosé: generally fuller bodied wines produced by adding red still wine to the bottle or macerating the juice with red grape skins. Best suited for accompanying meals.
  • Crémant: Sparkling wines from French regions outside Champagne (Burgundy, Alsace, Loire) using the méthode traditionelle.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Wine Tasting: the Finger Lakes

In my most recent wine tasting classes, the Finger Lakes region of New York state was featured.  Only four hours north of Philadelphia, this region has recently started to gain national, and even international, attention. Noted for its whites, particularly Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer, the Finger Lakes also produces a number of very fine reds, such as Cabernet Franc and even the Georgian varietal Saperavi. In these classes, we sampled some of the distinctive wines from this bucolic and picturesque lake district that merits a visit all its own.

Prices for most of the wines are in the $15-20 range. You can check their websites for more details.

Hunt Country Vineyards Pinot Gris 2017  huntwines.com


Origin: Keuka Lake
Varietal: 100% Pinot Gris
Production/Tasting Notes:  Wine producing began in 1981; notes of grapefruit and pear; green apple and honey flavors on the palate; crisp finish.
Food Pairing: apéritif; bouillabaisse; cheese tart
Alcohol: 12%

Ravines Dry Riesling 2015  ravineswine.com


Origin: Seneca Lake
Varietal: 100% Riesling
Production/Tasting Notes: Limestone and shalestone soils; machine and hand harvested; fermented at low temperatures in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks; aged on lees after racking until April; delicate aromas of white flowers mingled with pear, apple and citrus notes; crisp acidity; lingering mineral finish. (90 points, Wine Spectator)
Food pairing: Quiche Lorraine; Flammenkuchen
Alcohol:  12.5%

Fulkerson Estate Rosé 2017  fulkersonwinery.com


Origin: Seneca Lake
Varietals: 100% Pinot Noir
Production/Tasting Notes:  Aromas of fresh raspberries; flavors of Queen Anne cherries with hints of rhubarb; dry; bright acidity;
Food Pairing: Aged cheeses; charcuterie
Alcohol: 12.5%

Hosmer Cabernet Franc 2016   hosmerwinery.com


Origin: Cayuga Lake
Varietal: 100% Cabernet Franc
Production/Tasting Notes: Silt loam with glacial till; easterly slope; planted in 1990; nose is fruit-driven with hints of bramble, violets, lavender; palate laced with flavors of black currant, lavender, red raspberry; medium tannins
Food  Pairings: Lamb Chops with Moroccan Barbeque Sauce, Greek Lamb Meatballs, Grilled Eggplant and Goat Cheese Pizza
Alcohol: 13.1%

Silver Thread Blackbird Red Wine STV Estate Vineyard 2015 silverthreadwine.com


Origin: Seneca Lake
Varietals: 76% Cabernet Franc; 24% Cabernet Sauvignon
Production/Tasting Notes: Estate grown; barrel-aged 2 years; hand-harvested; elegant, complex, earthy
Alcohol:  12.6%

Standing Stone Vineyards Saperavi 2016  


Origin : Seneca Lake
Varietal: 100% Saperavi
Production/Tasting Notes:  First planted in 1994; now the largest Saperavi planting outside of the Republic of Georgia at 6 acres; shale slopes; hand-picked; aged in Hungarian oak for 6 months; rich & spicy - cloves, licorice, plum, blueberry; soft, silky texture; very dry
Food Pairings: Deep dish pizza; smoky barbecued pork chops
Alcohol: 12.7%

Billsboro Pinot Gris 2016 billsborowinery.com

Origin: Sawmill Creek Vineyards, Seneca Lake
Varietal: 100% Pinot Gris
Production/Tasting Notes:  Lansing soil, gravel silt loam, 8% - 15% slope; planted in 1993; delicately concentrated; dry, full bodied; apricot and peach flavors; fresh lemon-line and grapefruit acidity on the midpalate.  (88 points, Wine Enthusiast)
Food Pairing: aperitif; bouillabaisse; cheese tart; spicy fish tacos
Alcohol: 13.2%

Ravines Pinot Rosé 2017


Origin: Seneca Lake
Varietals: 100%  Pinot Noir
Production/Tasting Notes: limestone soils; traditional saignée  method; crisp, dry;  saline minerality, light orange zest and refreshing acidity; opening up to subtle red berry and white pepper notes, completed by a soft, dry finish.
Food Pairing: Aged cheeses; charcuterie
Alcohol: 12.5%

Hosmer Lemberger 2016   hosmerwinery.com

Origin: Cayuga Lake
Varietal: 100%  Lemberger
Production/Tasting Notes: Silty, clay soil with glacial till, easterly slope 4-6 degrees; planted in 2005; notes of raspberry, black pepper, sweet vanilla, bing cherry.
Food  Pairings: Portobello Mushroom Risotto, Grilled Rack of Lamb, Roasted Venison Chili
Alcohol: 12.9%

Shalestone Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2016 

Origin: Seneca Lake
Varietals: 100% Cabernet Franc
Production/Tasting Notes: Old vine (20+ years); mixed berry fruit; with a dose of sweet vanilla and toast; medium bodied, with firm velvety tannins.  
Alcohol:  12.4%

Shalestone Vineyards Cross-Rows 2015

Origin : Seneca Lake
Varietal: Merlot, Syrah, Lemberger
Production/Tasting Notes:  Six rows, randomly inter-planted with Merlot, 
Syrah and Lemberger, harvested and fermented together; 
aromas of blackberry, blueberry, strawberry accented by graphite, 
vanilla, tobacco, smoked meat; medium bodied; 
soft mouthfeel; moderate grippy tannins with good acidity; 
well balanced.

Alcohol: 12.8%

Finger Lake Factoids

·         Although hybrid or native grapes (Vitis labrusca), such as Concord, Catawba, still comprise over 70% of the more than 9,300 acres of vine, Vitis vinifera varieties, such as Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, etc., produce the best wines.
·         Total vinifera plantings amount to an estimated 2,800 acres, 1,300 of which are Riesling.
·         Dr. Konstantin Frank, a German-born Russian, spearheaded the movement to plant vinifera over 40 years ago.
·         Over 130 wineries are operating throughout the region
·         2016 was the best vintage in the last 7 years
·         Largest regional wine production east of California
·         There are 3 AVAs (American Viticulture Areas) in the Finger Lakes
·         Cayuga Lake was the first individual lake to acquire AVA status in 1988; Seneca Lake also has its own AVA status.
·         The 4 major lakes include Canandaigua (16 miles long), Keuka (22 miles long), Seneca (38 miles long), and Cayuga (40 miles long).

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

A Wine Connoisseur's Pet Peeve with a Soupçon of Self-Promotion

I recently had the good fortune to be profiled in the Chestnut Hill Local, with a cover story on the arts and entertainment section of this esteemed community weekly paper.  The focus is mostly on my background and interest in wine education, including the wine tasting classes I've been conducting at the Mt Airy Learning Tree for over 10 years now.  I also took the opportunity - since I was asked in the interview - to vent over the high mark-up on bottles of wine in restaurants.

In any case, I'm indebted to the good people at the CHL, especially Len Lear, the author of the article, for the honor and privilege to be featured in such a positive light in their paper.  A tip of the hat also to my friend Stephanie, whose lovely image graces the cover page with poise and panache.

Please see the following link for the article:


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Bordeaux Tasting - Celebrating 10 Years of Wine Tasting Classes!

To celebrate my 10th anniversary of conducting wine tasting classes at the Mt Airy Learning Tree (MALT) in Philadelphia, we returned to the region featured in my very first class in 2009 - Bordeaux!  Many fine vintages have made their mark in this world-renowned region in the past ten years, and we had the opportunity to sample a select cross-section of both reds and whites.  Although the price points are noticeably higher than most selections in my classes, they are definitely worth the investment, especially for the reds that may be cellared for many years to come.  In fact, they will continue to improve over time, mellowing out the tannins and melding the flavors together into a cornucopia of sensations for the nose and palate.

We necessarily sampled the red wines at an early stage (2014/2015 vintages), but already the complexity, depth and expressiveness are very apparent and showed the promise of the greatness to come several years down the road. My personal favorites were the Château d'Aguillhe,  Château Kirwan and Château Haut-Batailley (The whites are fully enjoyable at this point in time.)

If you truly want to experience what all the fuss is about with regard to Bordeaux wines, I highly recommend splurging a little on one of these fine reds, and sock it away for at least 5-10 years in a cool, dark environment, and then share it with someone special.  You'll be glad you did!  

And here's some info on how to store a wine for a long period of time:


A votre santé!

Château Tour de Bonnet Blanc 2016

Appellation : Appellation Entre Deux Mers Contrôlée
Varietals : Sauvignon Blanc ; Semillon ; Muscadelle
Production/Tasting Notes : Crisp, fruity (citrus, pear), tangy with lemon-rind and crushed stone character; medium bodied;  bright acidity; lively finish. (91 point James Suckling)
Food Pairing: light hors d’oeuvres; apéritif
Alcohol: 12%

Château Doisy Daene Blanc 2016

Appellation: Appellation Bordeaux Contrôlée
Varietals: Sauvignon Blanc; Semillon
Production/Tasting Notes:  Bouquet of white peach, orange pith and citrus notes seamlessly integrated with the oak; extremely well-balanced palate with nice touch of  acidity;  precise, razor-sharp finish. (93 points, Wine Advocate)
Food  Pairing: light seafood, dessert, or on its own as an apéritif
Alcohol: 12%

 Château Garraud Lalande de Pomerol 2015

Appellation: Appellation Lalande de Pomerol Contrôlée
Varietals: 93% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc,3% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Production/Tasting Notes: Aging:25% in new oak barrels, 33% in 1 and 2 year-old barrels, 42% in vats.  Intense walnut, plum and blackberry character; full-bodied, velvety. (93 points, James Suckling)
Food Pairing: beer tenderloin; grilled duck breast; roast leg of lamb; entrecote steak
Alcohol: 13.5%

Château Grand Corbin Manuel 2015

Appellation: Saint Emilion AOC
Varietals: 80% Merlot - 15 % Cabernet Franc - 5 % Cabernet Sauvignon
Production/Tasting Notes: Hand-picked; grapes are sorted out in the vineyard then in the cellar thanks to a vibrating sorting table; destemming by hand; winemaking in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks (tank capacity from 60 to 70hl); cold maceration for 3 days; malolactic fermentation in barrels; vatting time 20 days; maturing in new French oak barrels ( 50 %) and one-wine French oak barrels ( 50 %).   
Plum pastries with violets and spiced blueberry fruits; impressive plushness on the palate with a rich, fleshy appeal; round, ample mouth feel; well-built structure; long finish.
Food pairing: beer tenderloin; grilled duck breast; roast leg of lamb; entrecote steak
Alcohol:  13.5%

Château D’Aiguilhe Côtes de Castillon 2015

Appellation: Côtes de Castillon AOC
Varietal: 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc
Production/Tasting Notes  Harvesting: By hand, into small crates to avoid bruising. Sorting before and after destemming; no crushing. The grapes are put into vats by gravity flow. Fermentation: In temperature-controlled wooden and concrete vats for 25-30 days depending on the vintage. Extraction by pneumatic pigeage (punching down the cap). Malolactic fermentation and ageing: In new oak barrels (up to 50%) on fine lees .Fining and filtering as necessary, depending on the vintage. Duration of barrel aging:15-18 months. Average vine age: 28 years.
a swath of toasty, singed vanilla starts off, quickly backed by waves of currant and plum preserves. As the flavors knit, a graphite spine emerges and drives the anise- and apple wood-tinged finish. Let this settle in with a little cellaring. Very solid. Best from 2020 through 2027 (92 points, Wine Spectator, “Smart Buy”
Alcohol: 13.5%

Château Lagrange  2014

Appellation: Appellation Saint Julien Contrôlée
Varietals: 76% Cabernet Sauvignon; 18% Merlot; 6% Petit Verdot
Production/Tasting Notes: Troisème Cru (3rd Growth); Traditional Bordeaux vinification is carried out in 92 temperature-controlled stainless steel vats of varying capacities, thus allowing a separate vinification to respect the character of each plot and soil-type, each terroir; vatting time between 16-28 days depending on the tannic development in the fermenting wines ; firm, dry with solid tannins; black currant and berry fruits with crisp , juicy acidity. (94 points, Wine Enthusiast)
Alcohol: 13.5%

Chateau Kirwan  2014

Appellation: Appellation Margaux Contrôlée
Production/Tasting Notes: Troisème Cru (3rd Growth)  
Mainly gravel soils, but some are also clay; fruit is picked and sorted twice by hand, then vinified in separate batches corresponding to individual vineyard parcels; half the oak barrels used to age the wine for 18 months are renewed every year.   Deep brilliant ruby red color reflects a nose fo black and red berries - cherry, black currant, blueberry, enhanced by aromas of spices (cinammon), pink peppercorns and vanilla; this vintage has a strikingly tactile quality; it starts out mellow, then offers the taste buds a rich body, with nearly imperceptible, velvety tannins and an acidity that perfectly balances out its silky texture; cocoa and coffee complement a broad aromatic palette; extended finish blends hints of perfectly ripened cherry and subtle roasted notes that continue to carress the palate. (96 points, Wines Enthusiast, Editor's Choice)
Alcohol: 13.5%

Château Haut-Batailley 2015

Appellation: Appellation Pauillac Contrôlée
Varietals: 72% Cabernet Sauvignon; 28% Merlot
Production/Tasting Notes: Cinquième Cru (5th Growth); matured in 60% new oak; nose and palate bathed in blackberries and dark plum; blackberry, boysenberry, tobacco and cedar aromas; long, fresh tannins; oak is highlighted with spicy flavors and bolsters plush grape tannins in a harmonious finish; aging potential: 25-30 years(94 points, James Suckling; 94 points Wine Advocate)
Alcohol: 13.5%

What separates a $20 Bordeaux from a $300 (or $3,000) Bordeaux:
- Place where grapes are grown
-Age of Vine
-Yield of the Vine
- Winemaking technique
- Demand: Blame the Chinese!
Factoids about Bordeaux
·         Left Bank (Pauillac, St Julien, Pessac, Graves, Medoc, etc.) – Cabernet-based wines
·         Right Bank (St Emilion, Pomerol, etc.) – Merlot-based wines
·         French law dictates that a château may appear on a wine label only if the château really exists.
·         Major red varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc (also, Petit Verdot, Malbec as blending grapes)
·         Major white varietals: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscadelle
·         57 Appellations: Major Bordeaux classifications: Médoc, Haut Médoc, Graves, Pomerol, St Emilion, Sauternes
·         10,000 Châteaux
·         13,000 Grape Growers
·         5 Premiers  Crus (First Growths) according to 1855 Classification
1. Château Lafite-Rothschild
2. Château LaTour
3. Château Margaux
4. Château Haut-Brion
5. Château Mouton-Rothschild

Notes on a few of the Châteaux

A place of great agricultural activity even back in Gallo-Roman times : from the Gallo-Roman VILLA RUSTICA to the « GRANGIA » in the Middle Ages which was to give the estate its name.

Lagrange discovers an early winegrowing vocation thanks to the Templars who join together two domains :
– The « maison noble de Lagrange de Monteil » to the West joins the « Tenure of Pellecalhus » (meaning « peeled stone ») to the East. In the present-day vineyard, the names of two vine plots bear witness to this era, « l’Hôpital » and « La Chapelle »;
– Lagrange becomes the largest wine producing estate in the Médoc.

But the history of the different owners cannot be reconstructed until after 1631.
The 18th century brings renown to Lagrange
Baron de Brane, a Bordeaux parliament member, and owner of Mouton, acquires the property and its renown thus becomes more widespread.
In 1790, Jean-Valère Cabarrus, an influential merchant known to be very active in the shipping business, invests in the property and establishes his own sales network. In 1820, he commissions Visconti to build the Tuscan-style tower that is to become the emblem of Château Lagrange.
From Jefferson to Duchâtel, the story of a classification
During a trip to Bordeaux In 1785, Thomas Jefferson, then President of the United States, judges Lagrange second among the Third Classified Growths. In 1855, Lagrange ranks among Third Classified Growths. This is thanks to the work of Count Duchâtel, owner from 1842 to 1874. In 1842, Count Charles Tenneguy Duchâtel and the Countess bring change to Lagrange :
– Innovation with a pottery drainage pipe factory.
– Château Lagrange now stretches over 300 hectares of which 120 are under vine.
– The Count is a politician, Home Secretary to King Louis-Philippe.
– Passion for the arts, Member of the Académie des Beaux Arts.

The Japanese group, Suntory, acquired the domain when the purchase was signed by the company president, Mr Keizo Saji, in1983.
Marcel Ducasse was then recruited along with Kenji Suzuta to undertake the complete restructuring of the vineyard and a spectacular renovation of the whole estate. This first step was to mark the rebirth of CHÂTEAU LAGRANGE.
After twenty years of dedicated work, as well as human and technical investments, Lagrange had once again found recognition amidst its peers and had achieved a certain sense of fulfilment.
Today a new tandem, Matthieu Bordes and Keiichi Shiina, have taken over this quest for excellence. A second phase of investments began with the 2008 vintage, offering Lagrange the technical means to follow its ambitions: The production of refined, elegant and expressive wines, in the best Saint-Julien style. There has also been an evolution of production methods towards a greater awareness of the environment and a reduction of ecological impact on the property.
This philosophy is reflected not only in the respect shown for the domain’s History, and the nurturing of its truly exceptional Terroir, but also in the unique experiences shared all over the world around a glass of one of Lagrange’s wines.

Haut Batailley

The Cazes family, which heads Château Lynch-Bages, are the proud new owners of Château Haut-Batailley, an 1855 Grand Cru Classé in Pauillac owned previously by the Des Brest-Borie family. Both families have had strong roots in the Pauillac and Médoc landscape for generations. Château Haut-Batailley, acquired by the Brest-Borie family in the 1930s, was until now managed by FrançoisXavier Borie. “We are delighted that Château Haut-Batailley has been accepted into the fold of the Cazes family, who are committed to continuing the work undertaken at the estate. We're confident that they will maintain the identity and character of the property,” said François-Xavier Borie. Château Haut-Batailley today comprises some 40 hectares, 22 hectares of which are already planted. In terms of grape variety, the property has 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Its vines are on average 35 years old. The property also has its own technical facilities, in perfect working order. “Château Haut-Batailley is a magnificent property that has always produced great wines. We're particularly happy that it has passed between two families who have friendly relations and know each other well,” said Jean-Charles Cazes, general manager of the family-owned group. “This acquisition will strengthen our presence in Pauillac with the aim of undertaking a project distinct from Lynch-Bages. In order to respect the estate’s identity and the integrity of its vineyard, the property will be managed independently and have its own dedicated team of technical experts.”