Wine of the Week: Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2012

winner  Source: The Wine Curmudgeon
June 26, 2013
By Jeff Siegel


Wine of the week: Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2012

ConosurThe Cono Sur was the first wine we tasted during our pinot noir extravaganza this month, and it didn’t do much for me. I thought it was more like the Beaujolais I drank in the 1980s than pinot noir.

Two dozen pinot noirs later, I changed my mind.

It impressed me so much, in fact , that the Cono Sur ($9, sample, 13.5%) overcame my pre-disposition against Chilean pinot noir, which is often overpriced, poorly made, or both, and cute labels, a rant that regular visitors have read many times. What changed my mind was the aroma, earthy and spicy, and the taste, cherry fruit that wasn’t too fruity, and surprisingly soft, pinot-like tannins.

Does this wine taste like red Burgundy or top-notch Oregon? Of course not. It doesn’t even taste like Mark West or its knockoffs, the fruity, low-acid, red wines that have revolutionized pinot nor and made it affordable and accessible.

Instead, it’s an excellent example of how to make a wine taste like its varietal at this price, using carbonic maceration instead of traditional fermentation (which explains my confusion with Beaujolais, where carbonic maceration is common).

One warning: The Cono Sur, thanks to its screwcap, takes a while to open up. That’s one reason why it didn’t impress me when I first tasted it. But give it 15 or 20 minutes, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2014 $10 Hall of Fame.

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Wine of the week: Cecchi Chianti Natio 2011

Congratulations to journalist Jeff Siegel for winning Best Industry Wine Blog

winnerSource: The Wine Curmudgeon
June 12, 2013
By Jeff Siegel


Wine of the week: Cecchi Chianti Natio 2011

cecchi-chiati-natio-362x630The joke in my corner of the wine world, which really isn’t a joke, is that we call the Italian Wine Guy whenever we have an Italian wine question – availability, recommendations, even what to order when we’re in a restaurant (one of the best reasons ever for cell phones). That’s because Italian wine is incredibly complicated, the most difficult subject in wine. Sicily has as little to do with Tuscany as it does with Paso Robles.

The wine guy, though, is always calm, always knowledgeable, always eager to help. I would not be as enthusiastic about Italian wine as I am without his wisdom – the wine is out there, look for it, try it, don’t be derailed or sidetracked by the hype and bluster.

The Cecchi ($13, sample, 13%) shows what I have learned. Frankly, it probably would have been exiled to the cases of sample wines that sit in the closet, never to be tasted, but for the wine guy’s example.

It was an amazing wine, especially for the price, with layers and flavors I didn’t expect. There was very little red fruit and an almost oregano herbal-ness when I opened it. Yes, it was balanced and interesting, but not quite there, almost too clean and austere. But then I had a sip after a bite of roasted pork shoulder with garlic and rosemary, and it did what every great wine is supposed to do – give more of itself. The food brought out cherry fruit that hadn’t been there before, as well as richness and complexity that made me almost gape in amazement.

Highly recommended, and another reason why Italian wine offers so much value for so little money.

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Wine of the Week: Envolve, Sonoma Valley, Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Source: Dallas Morning News
June 11, 2013
By Rebecca Murphy

NF_EnvolveWineEnvolve, Sonoma Valley, Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Envolve wines were created by childhood friends Mike Benziger and Ben Flajnik. Their concept is to make wines that are approachable and fruit-focused, with enough complexity to appeal to a range of consumers. This sauvignon blanc has a small percentage of muscat canelli, which gives floral notes to the mélange of citrus flavors of lime zest, pink grapefruit and Meyer lemon. It’s light-bodied, crisp and refreshing, made for enjoying as an aperitif, with a light pasta or an Asian-style chicken noodle salad.

You might recognize the Benziger name from the Sonoma County biodynamic winery. Flajnik you might have seen on The Bachelor a year or so ago. They grew up in Sonoma and spent plenty of time around Benziger’s family winery. Each went off to college to study nonwine topics, but eventually the lure of winemaking must have been too strong to ignore.


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Wine of the Week: Selvapiana, Chianti Rufina DOCG 2010

Source: Dallas Morning News
June 4, 2013
By Rebecca Murphy

Selvapiana, Chianti Rufina DOCG 2010

NF_SelvapianaWinePlease note that this is not a Chianti made by the Ruffino winery, but a wine from the Chianti region of Rufina. The famous wine region of Chianti is divided into eight sub-regions, including the best-known Classico region. According to the Chianti Rufina Consortium, Rufina is the smallest of the sub-regions. Its vineyards are at a higher elevation than the other sub-regions, so it’s cooler, with a longer growing season. That means that the sangiovese and canaiolo grapes have more time to ripen and develop more complex flavors and more acidity, which gives the wine liveliness and aging potential.

One of the best wineries in Rufina is Selvapiana, with a history of 181 years and five generations of experience in the region. This wine is made primarily of sangiovese with a smidgen of canaiolo. It has an abundance of bright cherry and raspberry fruit with notes of licorice and tobacco, animated by decisive acidity and finishing with dusty tannins. Enjoy it with a vegetable lasagna or platter of salumi.

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Summer is Coming: Two Italian Whites share the Wine of the Week Spotlight

Rebecca Murphy and Jeff Siegel file these “Wine of the Week” dispatches from Dallas.

NF_CaldoraWineWine of the Week: Caldora, Terre di Chieti IGT, Unoaked Chardonnay 2011

Source: Dallas Morning News
May 29, 2013
By Rebecca Murphy

Terre di Chieti is a broad wine region in the province of Abruzzo, which is located just below the calf of Italy’s boot. The Apennine Mountains, which meander down the center of the country, make Abruzzo’s western border, and the Adriatic Sea provides the eastern boundary.

It is best known for the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, but this chardonnay is a delightful surprise. Plentiful tropical fruits like mango and pineapple mingle with apple, pear and citrus for a satisfying mélange of flavor. Snappy acidity gives it a bright finish. The price makes it easy to keep on hand as a poolside sipper, or you can serve it with a seafood salad.

Caldora is a relatively new venture between Farnese, an export company, and a growers’ cooperative in the region. The approximately 700 growers have more than 3,700 acres of vines among them, so Caldora has the pick of the best for its wines.

Source: The Wine Curmudgeon
May 22, 2013
By Jeff Siegel
The Wine Curmudgeon has run out of adjectives to praise Sicilian wine. Whenever I think it can’t get any better, it does.Remember how crazy I was about the Cusumano Nero d’Avola? The Insolia ($12, purchased, 12.5%) is even better put together. It’s a white wine made with the Sicilian insolia grape, traditionally used to make marsala. Yet, on its own, the Insolia is an absolutely beautiful wine, one that makes all that $15 and $20 grocery store stuff taste like the boring, dull grape juice that so much of it is.

Look for some lemon fruit and baking spices, but using terms like that shortchanges the wine. The whole is definitely bigger than the parts; this is a rich and full wine that not only pairs with seafood, but that makes you think of seafood as you’re drinking it. Highly recommended, and if I can find it for $10, it will be in next year’s $10 Hall of Fame.

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Wine of the Week: Powers, Columbia Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Source: Dallas Morning News
May 22, 2013
By Rebecca Murphy

Powers, Columbia Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

NF_PowersWineWhen Oklahoman Bill Powers saw eastern Washington in the late 1950s, he must have felt right at home. On the west side of the massive Cascade Mountain range, Seattle’s famous gray skies and lots of rain are the norm. But the east side is high desert — dry, with hot summers.

In 1982, Powers and his son Greg planted their Badger Mountain Vineyard. They started converting their farming practices to organic and were certified in 1990. In addition to making wines from their estate grapes, they work with grape growers throughout the state to create well-priced, high-value wines.

This Columbia Valley cabernet is a lot of wine for the money. It’s got plenty of plump and effusive blackberry, blueberry and black currant fruit, with an inkling of dried herbs. It’s medium-bodied with plenty of snappy acidity, finishing with dusty tannins. Serve it with barbecued ribs or a grilled steak.

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Wine of the Week: Domaine Vincent Delaporte, Sancerre AOC 2011

Source: Dallas Morning News
May 15, 2013
By Rebecca Murphy

NF_VincentDelaporteWineDomaine Vincent Delaporte, Sancerre AOC 2011

Sancerre is a medieval hilltop town and wine region in the Loire Valley in central France. A little more than 2 miles from the town of Sancerre is the even smaller town of Chavignol, home of the famous goat cheese Crottin de Chavignol and also to Domaine Vincent Delaporte.

The family has been in the wine business since the 1800s, and today the winery is managed by Vincent and his son Jean-Yves. They have almost 60 acres of vines, three-quarters of which are planted in sauvignon blanc, the white grape of the region. The rest is in pinot noir, the grape for reds and rosés.

This is a particularly expressive and tantalizing example of Sancerre. It has sauvignon’s distinctive herbal, lemongrass, lime zest and grapefruit aromas and flavors, with notes of white chalk. In the mouth, it is gracefully round and ripe, yet it practically hums with crackling, citrusy acidity. It will be an elegant companion for a baked fillet of sole or, of course, a Crottin de Chavignol.

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Wine of the Week: Robert Hall, Paso Robles, Rose de Robles 2012

Source: Dallas Morning News
May 8, 2013
By Rebecca Murphy

NF_RobertHallWineRobert Hall, Paso Robles, Rosé de Robles 2012

This was one of the wines that kicked off the Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit late last month. It was a beautiful West Texas evening, with everyone in their western finery sipping rosé made in Paso Robles by Texas expat Don Brady. It’s a blend of several grapes that come together in a lip-smacking fusion of strawberry, cherry, berry and orange zest flavors. Medium bodied, round in the mouth and velvety smooth, this rosé is sure to shine with barbecued chicken or with a taco salad.

Brady is a graduate of Texas Tech University. He did winemaking stints at Pheasant Ridge, Llano Estacado and Ste. Genevieve wineries before heading to California. He joined the Robert Hall Winery in 2001 but makes it back home often.

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The Stout Report: One Year Later – Bordeaux

guy at pontet

All it took was for the Prime Minister of China to say “stop using government money for luxurious dinners and wine.”

Bordeaux First Growths are finding it harder to sell in China.

I was in a recent discussion with another master sommelier that is in the retail business about the future of Bordeaux in the retail market in the United States. He sells what he gets and it is not all Big Names. The wine we were drinking during dinner was a bottle of fifth growth, Lynch Moussas 2009  Pauillac. The wine had been purchase at retail by Doug Frost MS, MW for $35 a bottle.

The wine was a good, classic left bank leather cedar and tobacco Bordeaux. The kind you dream of in blind tastings. What was amazing to me during our dinner and conversation was the lack of knowledge that retailers and sommelier around the country know about Bordeaux. Not our group at dinner, but wine programs in general around the country.

Poor little chateau  La Conseillante and Troplong Mondot,   Ask someone you know who loves wine and see if they know where those wine comes from. Should be a no brainer for a Bordeaux drinker right?  Not for many young wine professional and sommeliers out there.

Why is there a disconnect with people on the none Classified Bordeaux in terms of recognition?  

Have American wine drinkers lost interest in Bordeaux or has Bordeaux lost interests in the states?  Has Bordeaux shifted its sales strategy to only the Far East?  

I just read an article on that very subject written last week in the Wine Spectator by Suzanne Mustacich.   It confirms what I thought was going on after my last trip to Bordeaux.


There were fewer Asian buyers at the UGC (Union of Grand Cru) tasting and a sense of push back on the lofty prices of the first growths. The new Chinese government has made it clear that extravagance is frowned upon. Many of the super seconds will be happy with this new turn of events. They are the ones who had the common sense and encourage to start backing off pricing after the incredible back to back vintages of 2009 and 2010.

Is the United States looking better in the eyes of the Bordeaux merchants?

They never gave up on us. The dollar was in the tank and the euro was strong. The Asia market added increased pressure on the situation at a time of recession. Bordeaux sells in the world markets, not just England the USA. The argument is have they kept prices higher than a normal adjustment after lighter vintages of 2011 and 2012.

The recession and the rise of the second Asia wine crazy country haven’t helped Americans in their Bordeaux wine purchases.  Japan is still a major purchaser of Bordeaux and also had a strong presence at the UGC tastings.

Understanding it all:

I think we are settling in for the long haul. It seems that people on both sides of the Pacific still want Bordeaux and will buy just about anything with Bordeaux on the label.

Bravo Cotes de Bordeaux, who are in the process of rolling out their new labels featuring Bordeaux prominently on the front label.  I think you guys got it right. Put Bordeaux on the label and it will sell. Send some to us…

The Lucky 61 along with those classic St Emilion and Pomerol producers that have etched a notch in our wine memory are still in demand. Of the 70 million cases of Bordeaux produced each year, only about 2% are those Big names. Where does the rest of it go? It goes to my palate, because it’s all I can afford.

The Unsung Heroes of Medoc :

Chateau Larose Trintaudon, Haut Medoc and Chateau Greysac ,Medoc

These are good size Chateau that make affordable wines year in and year out. There are no giant price swings like you see in the best vintages. These guys, are consistently good and offer reasonable prices, at $20 or under on the shelf. These are the two best known and are widely available. I have tasted these wines for the past twenty years and fined them to be reliable and delicious.

Other Non – “Medoc”  Bordeaux  

Chateau St Sulplice Bordeaux  and Chateau Bonnet Blanc and Rouge

These are Bordeaux wines I drink on a regular basis….. It has been one year later. Now, what is it going to take to get these wines out there and in the glass of your local wine bar, café , bistro , or with the young sommeliers and  on the shelves of retailers?


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Mad Men and the Cocktails They Drank

Mad Men kicked off season 6 and this weekend is episode 3. If you’ve found yourself wanting to throw a super-stylized Mad Men themed dinner party, we’ve got just the cocktail recipes to inspire you.drapers

The Mad Men Martini
Your Choice Gin or Vodka
2 oz Pinnacle Vodka
Vermouth (Optional)

Strain into a chilled martini glass.
Garnish: 1 Olive

Vodka Gimlet
1.5 oz Ketel One vodka
¾ oz lime juice
3-4 lime slices

Pour Vodka and lime juice into mixing glass, shake and strain into martini glass.
Add 3 to 4 slices of lime.

Old Fashion – Don Draper Style
2 ½ oz Canadian Club
1 orange slice
1 maraschino cherry
1 teaspoon sugar
Few drops of Angostura bitters
A splash of soda water to muddle ingredients

Method: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add whisky, lemon juice and sugar and shake, shake, shake. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice and garnish with a Maraschino cherry or lemon wedge.
Garnish: Maraschino cherry or lemon wedge.

1¾ oz Knob Creek Rye Single Barrel
¾ oz of sweet vermouth
1 dash of aromatic bitters
1 Maraschino cherry

Method: Pour bitters, liquors over ice in mixing glass. Stir and strain into martini glass.
Garnish with a Maraschino cherry.

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