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Rhone

Chave Bargains

 

Chave and bargain don’t usually go together and indeed this is one of the most expensive Cotes du Rhone wines you’ll find, but it’s worth every dime. I found the 2004 Chave Mon Coeur Cotes du Rhone tucked away on a back shelf for $20 and it was indeed a bargain. The extra few years in bottle has amplified its personality, which is rich with brooding notes of bacon, butcher shop and black pepper layered over lush, intense black fruit. It’s wonderful when great winemakers like Chave use their considerable skills to produce not only great wines, but affordable ones.

Posted via email from craigcamp’s posterous

Vielles Vignes under $20

 2006 Domaine La Milliere Vieilles Vignes Cotes du Rhone

Old vines, not filtered, under $20 and delicious, what more could you want? Actually this wine is more than delicious offering real complexity and flavor and no simple fruity stuff either, but earthy, warm complex fruit with a structured backbone that makes this wine exceptional with food. How do they do it? They have to grow and make the wine, ship it to the USA, put a importers markup on it followed by a wholesalers then a retailers markup and it still costs under $20 or $30 in a restaurant. It’s damn embarrassing for us American winemakers. Grab cases of this beauty and enjoy.

 

Posted via email from craigcamp’s posterous

Mac Farmer's Market

lions mane mushrooms The farmer's market is back in McMinnville. Over the winter you slowly forget how wonderful such small things can be. Just a block long with maybe two dozen producers, markets like this hold treasures supermarket buyers, including Whole Foods et al, can't give us. Every Thursday now through late fall you'll find me at the market.

Today's treasure was lion's mane mushrooms. As usual, each visit to a farmer's market I approach without a recipe in mind, letting the local provenance guide me. With the beautiful mushrooms  I added to my bag some fresh organic eggs, chives and the excellent aged Gouda from the Willamette Valley Cheese Company. Warm crusty baguettes from the Red Fox Bakery, just picked greens and a pint of fresh strawberries from a small organic farm guaranteed a perfect dinner.

The meal could not have been simpler:

For two:

4 or more large lion's main mushrooms (or other meaty, flavorful fresh mushroom) chopped into large chunks

2 cloves garlic peeled and smashed

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A small wedge of aged cow's milk cheese like Willamette Valley Cheese Company's aged Gouda cubed

Minced fresh chives

Salt and pepper

5 large eggs with salt and pepper beaten lightly with a fork - using good eggs is very important so look for eggs with yolks that tend more towards orange than yellow

  • Smash the cloves of garlic, add  2+ tablespoons (depends on how big the mushrooms are) good extra virgin olive oil to a non-stick sauté pan over medium high heat (don't let it smoke), add the garlic and cook until golden brown, but not burnt, then remove and discard
  • Continuing over medium high heat add the very coarsely chopped lion's main mushrooms to the hot oil and stir fry for one minute.
  • Add beaten eggs, chopped chives, cubed cheese salt and pepper and scramble until just cooked
  • Serve immediately with fresh salad and bread

To match with this very local food I strangely enough grabbed a bottle from far, far away. The 2006 Domaine de La Gramière Côtes du Rhône, which is produced by two Americans, Amy Lillard and Matt Kling, who are living a dream that many of us have as they are living and making wine in France. I had resisted opening this wine for almost a year now as I felt it really needed a little time to come together and my patience was well rewarded.  The wine has broadened and gained more complexity and aromatics. This is one of those wines that is big to the French, but medium bodied to Americans. I love the meaty, smoky butcher shop aromas this wine has developed along with the bright, ripe black fruit flavors. I think it's going to get better for another year or so, but now that it's this good I don't know how I'll keep my hands off of it that long! La Gramière is imported by Kermit Lynch.

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Bargains

muzak Sometimes it’s embarrassing as an American to taste the incredible range of bargains available for under $15 from Europe and compare them to American wines at the same prices. The boring standardization of the American wine industry in this range is numbing. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of different labels, but in the bottle you find only dozens of styles. As you stare at shelf-after-shelf of American cabernet, merlot or chardonnay in your local grocery store you can reliably just pick the one that’s on sale as they are all more-or-less the same wine. However, with just a little more work you can find an entire world of wine bargains that offer far more character than these homogenized industrial wines. It’s important to remember that these bargain reds should be served cool, 65°F or so, to bring out their freshness.

The red wines listed below are all under $15 and many of them are under $10. All of them were purchased in grocery stores, not fine wine shops, so it is possible to find them. Each has character, if not complexity, and best of all, they are great with food. Inexpensive American wines have become the elevator music of the wine world, wines like these are the original tunes.

  • Château Bouissel, Fronton, Classic, 2003 - Southern French estates offer some of best bargains out of France. This wine is substantial without being heavy and with the structure coming from the negrette will improve for a year or two. Rich and warm with a dark color from the malbec the tannins in the finish make this perfect for rich stews. Cassoulet anyone? 50% negrette, 20% syrah, 20% cabernet franc, 10% cot (malbec) Imported by Normandie Imports
  • Covey Run, Syrah, Columbia Valley, 2004 - What we have here is an American Côtes du Rhône and that’s a great idea. Ripe and juicy with a soft fruitiness that should please any merlot drinker. Don’t think, just drink and you’ll love it. At $6.99 a great bargain. Drink up fast and cool. (Buy online)
  • Fattoria Laila, Rosso Piceno, 2005 - Marche wines continue to be ignored Italian treasures in America, but that keeps prices down. This blend of montepulciano and sangiovese is a classic Italian red with a firm acid backbone and warm earthy flavors over the bright black cherry fruit. This matched with my penne with lamb sausage ragù perfectly.  Imported by North Berkeley Imports and Zancanella Importing. (Buy online)
  • La Ferme de Gicon, Côtes du Rhône, Vignerons de Chusclan, 2006 - This is just an amazingly easy wine to gulp. Rich, zesty, fruity and alive this is a wine all about honest simple pleasure that is happy to leave complexity to the big boys. This is a buy by the case wine at under $10 that will match with any summer meal. A half-hour in the refrigerator is mandatory and during the dog days of summer I’d serve it out-and-out chilled. Imported by Cellar Door Selections  (Buy online)
  • Villa Pigna Briccaio, Marche IGT, 2003 - Briccaio - Here is a step up on the complexity meter as it not only offers easy drink-ability, but some real character. Showing the breed of montepulciano, from which it is entirely made, this wine combines classic Italian backbone with a generous personality. A great match for your best grilled steaks. Imported by Zancanella Imports (Buy online)
  • Quinta da Espiga, Casa Santos Lima, Estremadura, 2006 - Portugal continues to pump out great wine bargains. This is a big, robust, deeply fruity wine and is a real mouthful. Those that like bigger wines will love this $8 steal. These dry Portuguese reds almost remind me a bit of what Port would taste like without the sugar.
  • Bodegas Luzon, Jumilla, 2006 - 65% monastrell (mourvèdre) 35% syrah - A big lush, ripe modern-style Spanish wine that will seduce many a merlot lover with its soft richness. Another wine for steaks or chops at your next cookout. A Jorge Ordoñez Selection Imported by The Henry Wine Group
  • Regaleali, Tasca d”Almerita, IGT Sicilia, Nero d’Avola, 2006 - I have always found the big players in the Sicilian wine scene, Regaleali and Corvo great values. They offered personality and typicity at a fair price. While these wines have modernized a bit over the years they have not gone down the road of becoming more like Australian wines than Italian wines taken by so many Sicilian producers. This wine has great backbone, good varietal character and, most wonderful of all, tastes like it comes from Sicily. Imported by Winebow   (Buy online)
  • Clos Roche Blanche, Cuvée Pif, Touraine, 2004 -  I first tasted the 2004 back in September of 2006 and it keeps getting better and better. It’s hard to imagine a wine more lifting and filled with personality at this price. This wine is for those looking for grace and elegance in a wine. Originally I recommended drinking this cot (malbec) cabernet franc blend early, but obviously there was no hurry. Imported by Louis/Dressner  (Buy Online)
  • Protocolo, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, 2005 - Usually Ordoñez selections tend towards the modern school of Spanish winemaking, but here is one with a more traditional style. Very fragrant and flashing a touch of spicy/sweet American oak its ripe red fruit flavors are held taught with just a touch of tannin. With a more classic European style and balance this is a great match for gilled lamb chops or sausages.  A Jorge Ordoñez Selection Imported by The Henry Wine Group  (Buy online)
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Wine Notes

Recent tastes I’ve enjoyed, all under $20 except for the Barolo, which is about $40:

  • Isola de Nuraghi IGT, Perdera Argiolas, 2004 - Produced 90% from the monica variety, this is a wonderful bargain in a wine that actually has a distinctive character. No great wine here mind you, but a very interesting drink.  With just enough earthiness to keep it interesting and enough bright fruit to make it charming. A nice wine with hearty home cooking.
  • Barolo, La Morra, Mauro Molino, 2003 - Modern Barolo that manages to still taste like nebbiolo. Not my favorite style, but still a well crafted wine. Like most modern Baroli, it is approachable now, but should evolve into a better wine with more age. What I like about this wine is that it is still clearly nebbiolo in character as they did not try to erase all the edges of the wine.
  • Barbera d’Alba, La Morra, Mauro Molino, 2005 - Big, juicy modern Barbera that puts a velvety coating on your tongue then slices it with a acid stiletto. I’ve never had a real problem with the modern style of Barbera as the natural brilliant acidity, bright fruit and low tannins of Barbera marry well with oak. Loads of charm here, although California palates may find the acidity shocking, but by Piemonte standards it’s tame. What’s important is there is a lot of pleasure right up front in the wine and there is more than enough acidity to be great with food.
  • Nebbiolo, Langhe, Castello di Verduno, 2006 - This wine is nothing short of an outstanding bargain that you should grab cases of as soon as you can. It is a pure, classic Piemontese nebbiolo with all the tar and roses you could want. Not at all ready to drink (although I can’t resist it) and those with enough patience will be rewarded with a lovely wine. No it is not Barolo, but it’s darn close and better than many more expensive wines that (mis)use the name Barolo. Nebbiolo aficionados will love the biting tannins and the unique angularity that is possessed by nebbiolo alone. With another 3 to 5 years this should be a beauty.
  • Nero d’Avola, Siciia IGT, Rossojbleo, Az. Agr, Gulfi, 2006 - Big, ripe and fruity. A great pizza and burger wine. This is the type of wine you want to have a case around of in the summer to serve with all those grilled meats. Lots of pleasure with no thinking required, Yummm…
  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Farnese, 2005 - A very nice everyday wine. Well balanced, lots of fruit with more than a passing hint of complexity. Nothing fancy, just good wine. An excellent party wine. Sausages anyone?
  • Côtes du Ventoux, La Vieille Ferme, 2006 - Is there a better wine value out there for your house wine? At $10 and under a bottle this is a winner that’s always easy to find. On top of that its got a screwcap so there are never corked bottles to pour down the drain. Best served lightly chilled in large gulps.
  • Bourgogne Rouge, Cuvée Sylvie, Domaine Sylvie Esmonin, Gevery Chambertin, 2005 - I’ve written about this wine often, but every time I open a bottle I want to write about it again. The only thing I can say is this wine is alive, which for me is the highest compliment you it give a wine. It is just so bright and lively it can’t help but seduce you.  A great pinot noir bargain.
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    Wine Notes

    Recent wines I’ve enjoyed:

    • Anderson Valley Brut Sparkling Wine, Roederer Estate, 25th Anniversary, NV - I’ve had this very nice sparkling wine many times lately; several bottles at home and then one interesting experience at a wine bar. First for the wine bar experience; my local wine bar was offering both the NV Roederer Champagne Brut and the Anderson Valley Sparkling, but having had the Anderson Valley recently I, against my better judgement, ordered the Roederer Champagne. I say against my better judgment because few wines are more disappointing these days than big name Champagne. However, I took one sip and was blown away by the quality of the Roederer Brut. Not so fast, I soon found out the bartender had poured me a glass of the California Roederer by mistake. She quickly followed up with a glass of the real Champagne, which, as usual, was lackluster. The Anderson Valley Roederer continues to be an outstanding American sparkler and is clearly superior (and less expensive) then their Champagne.
    • Champagne, Grand Cru 100%, Blanc de Blancs, Reserve Brut, Guy Charlemagne, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, NV - High strung and very toasty, this is a delicious and complex Champagne that shows the best of chardonnay in Champagne. The aromatics are delicate, but not a bit shy with a steely froth that races across the palate, stopping just long enough for a compelling finish. Although I prefer the big Bouzy Champagnes, this is an excellent wine and a bargain at $46. This is a one of those Champagnes that can handle caviar.
    • Riesling Kabinett, Selback-Oster, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, 2006 - I enjoyed a bottle of this lovely wine over four days as an aperitif when I arrived home from work. I swear after four days in the refrigerator this wine hardly changed a bit. Such stability is a tribute both to their winemaking and winegrowing. Only perfect grapes can produce such harmony. Beautifully fragrant with honeysuckle and spices, it took effort to pull your nose out of the glass to take a sip. That sip delivered pure charm and seductive white peach and ripe pear flavors laced with tart citrus and a lovely touch of sweetness. No thought required here, just up-front delicious pleasure. Nice screw-cap, I’d drink this up young and fresh.
    • Riesling, Alsace, Albert Boxler, 2004 - This is it, riesling right on the money. No-over-the-top, off-dry, high alcohol, quasi-dessert wine from Alsace here, but a big, rich wine that maintains respect for the variety and vineyard from which it came. On the fuller gold side of color with a rich nose touched with hints of figs laced with bright apricot with touches of crisp apple that continue into the complex layered flavors. It is rich and expansive on the pallet without becoming dull as it maintains a racy, crisp essence under its substantial girth. I enjoyed this thoroughly with some of my own crispy fried chicken.
    • Monferatto Rosso, Braida IL Banciale’ di Giacomo Bologna, 2004 (60% barbera, 20% pinot nero, 10% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot) - Not so long ago I had a bottle of the most expensive wine Bologna produces, which I did not enjoy. Yet here is one of their least expensive wines and it was a delight. Earthy and fragrant with great complexity and balance, it was delicious with a very buttery mushroom risotto at Bice. Oddly enough, the cabernet and merlot hardly show in this wine as the backbone is all barbera and the aromatics and elegance all pinot nero. I really enjoyed this wine, which only really seemed to open with the last glass.
    • Dolcetto d’Alba, Pra di Po, Germano Ettore, 2006 - This is simply a wonderful dolcetto that I intend to buy a few cases of as soon as possible. I recommend you do too before it’s gone. This wine is all about hedonistic pleasure over the next two years, although I doubt any bottle I have will make it that far. I salivate thinking about the beautiful bright wild dark cherry and blackberry fruit flavors and aromas intermingled with hints of black truffles, new leather, sage and lavender. All of this is held together by racy acidity and some silky tannins that bring all the fruit intensity into perfect harmony.
    • Barbera d’Asti, Roberto Ferraris, 2006 - This is one of those stealth wines. It seems pleasant enough at first, but by the time you finish your second glass it has you hypnotized. What is amazing is no matter how long you leave it open it just seems to get better and better. I finished the last of a bottle that had been open for three days tonight and it was flat out wonderful. This is not a big wine, it is exceptionally balanced and the underlying complexity requires you to pay attention and introduce yourself before revealing everything. I’ve opened three bottles now and I would suggest decanting this wine for an hour before serving if, like me, you can’t resist drinking it. What this wine is not is a jammy, oaky ultra-purple barbera like so many make these days. If you can, give it a few years in the bottle and you’ll have something special.
    • Gigondas, Bertrand Stehelin, 2004 - Big and beautiful is not easy to do, but this wine achieves it. The aromas and flavors are richly pungent, bringing to mind an old fashioned butcher shop where the aromas of raw meat mix with sawdust and smoke. Intermingled with all these carnivorous sensations are ripe wild blackberries, an engaging warmth and round tannins that give it a nice backbone. I served this wine with some braised, bone-in pork loin and all three of us enjoyed the experience. While obviously too young to be at its best, this is a wine that just draws you into its sumptuous experience and you find yourself savoring each drop as you finish your glass after the meal is done.

    More Old Bargains

    Yet again it happens. The best deal on the list is an older wine. This time is was Hermitage, Paul Jaboulet Aîne, 1999, which was going for $67 a bottle on a list filled with current vintages for bigger bucks. This wine is perfectly ready to drink now, with earthy aromatics, firm structure and the long enticing finish that only arrives after all the sweet young fruit loses its baby fat. What was striking about this fine syrah was its balance and refinement. Syrah loses its complexity when producers feel the need to supercharge its already robust character. In this wine you can actually taste syrah. The most corrupted varieties in New World winemaking have to be syrah and pinot noir as winemakers have turned pinot noir into syrah and syrah into port.