La Vielle Ferme Blanc 2014

Some time ago I shared a little story of my sojourns through France when I was a young boy.  In that instance, we had stopped on the south coast of France (Mediterranean) and spent a day at the beach.  At the time, we were living in Germany, so that was not the only trip we made into France. We also made our way to Paris.

Although I was only 6 years old at the time.  Paris left a lasting mark on my soul.  While my father did his best to herd the family from museum to museum, some of the most vivid memories are from the city itself.  For instance, I was fascinated by the hotel we stayed in because it wasn’t at all like the American hotels and motels we had stayed in.  It was a small pension hotel in a bustling residential neighborhood.  Not far from our hotel, there was an outdoor market where people where produce of every kind straight from the farm was available.  We bought some cherries at the market that I can still taste by memory today.  They were SO amazing.  And although I was very impressed with the art works in the Louvre, I found the Arc de Triomphe infinitely more appealing.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been back since that trip.  Yup, more travel for my bucket list.  I really would like to experience the City of Light as an adult.  Know what I mean?  I didn’t have a single sip of wine when I was in Paris last!

Oenophilogical_LaVielleFermeBlanc2014Winemaker: La Vieille Ferme
Varietal: White Blend
Vintage: 2014
Appellation: France
Price: $7.99 at Whole Foods

Notes: This French white was medium yellow in color with lots of yellow (golden delicous) apple along with citrus notes in the nose.  Acidity was good in this medium-bodied blend which had a slight coat-the-tongue quotient.  Flavors I detected were kiwi, cream, and hints of toasty oak.  I liked it.  I have had other vintages that I didn’t enjoy as well, but this bottle was fine by me.

Valréas Côtes du Rhone 2013

I seem to be in a bit of a French wine phase right now.  It isn’t by design, necessarily.  Perhaps it’s because I’m once again being required to utilize my rusty language skills at work.  Seems my bosses come to me when there are foreign languages to be dealt with – whether I actually studied the languages or not.  Ha!  Good thing there are plenty of helpful resources out there.

One online source I’ve been using quite a bit for pronunciation is Forvo.com.  It’s extremely helpful with common words and phrases in many different languages.  A word of caution, though.  The pronunciations on Forvo are put there by volunteers not professional linguists.  So, if you can, it’s great to check them against a reference source.  If there is more than one recording on the Forvo site for your word or phrase, don’t just stop at the first one.  Listen to them all.  You may very well find there are regional dialects represented among the pronunciations.  Also pay attention to where the “volunteer” is from.  If I want to pronounce an Irish word correctly, I’ll trust someone from Ireland over an American who has studied Gaelic.

Winemaker: Les Vignerons de L’Enclave (des Papes)
Wine: Valréas “Cuvée Prestige”
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2013
Appellation:  Côtes du Rhone Villages, France
Price:  $6.49 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This selection was made from 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah grapes and had a fun bouquet of tangy berries, musty earth and pepper.  It was dark ruby in the glass with bright acidity and medium tannins.  A light-bodied selection, I found flavors of red berries, tea, and ash with a brambly tannic bite on the end.  I thought it was a serviceable cheap red blend, but it won’t make my faves list.

Reserve des Cleons Muscadet 2014

With the weather warming, it’s time to begin thinking about those fun summer wines that we can enjoy on a lovely Spring picnic or at a family cookout.  Recent unseasonably high temperatures reminded me that I had tasting notes hanging around from the time I decided to take this Loire Valley Muscadet for a spin.

Vineyard: Reserve des Cleons
Varietal: Muscadet
Vintage: 2014
Appellation: Sèvre-et-Maine, France DOP
Price:  $7.00

Notes:   Light yellow in color, this French white had an effervescent bouquet with scents of citrus, pear and melon.  I found the acidity quite high, and heft on the palate was light.  For me it was a very pleasant glass of inexpensive wine, exhibiting fruit flavors of citrus, melon, and some pear with a touch of oak.  Alcohol was at 12%.  No doubt I’ll reach for this again during the upcoming summer months.

Les Sorcières Côtes Catalanes 2014

Isn’t it nice when a friend decides to share their own wine likes with you?  Those discussions with your peeps about a recent discovery can just be the best!  Even better when a generous friend decides you need to try something so much that they put a bottle of it in your hands!  That’s what happened with this Les Sorcières white.  It was a gift from a friend.  Thus, I don’t have price data, but I do have the info my taste buds collected.

Vineyard: Clos des Fées
Wine:  Les Sorcières
Varietal: White Blend
Vintage: 2014
Appellation: Côtes Catalanes, France IGP

Notes:   Clos des Fées used 40% Grenache Blanc, 30% Vermentino, 20% Roussanne, and 10% Macabeu grapes to produce this selection.  Light yellow in the glass, this sorceress had a very faint bouquet of citrus and summer flowers.  It was light-bodied with good acidity.  Alcohol was at 12.5%.  Flavors I found were citrus, a touch of pineapple, and lemongrass at the finish.  Perfect to go with a light white fish in my opinion.  Thank you, Steve!

Chapelle Saint Antonin Pinot Noir 2013

The Chapelle Saint Antonin is a chapel in the Jacobin (Dominican) monastery in Toulouse, France.

Founded in 1229 by the “Order of Preachers,” the original church was completed in 1250.  From that point until the mid 14th century, it continued to expand and grow.  One of the additions was the Chapelle Saint Antonin built by Dominique Grima, prior of the convent and the Bishop of Pamiers, to be a final resting place for members of the order and Canons of Pamiers.  Although the monastery suffered some damage during the French Revolution and Napoleonic period, it has been lovingly restored.

Vineyard: Chapelle Saint Antonin
Wine:  Reserve Pinot Noir
Varietal:  Pinot Noir
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Pays d’Oc, France IGP
Price: $9.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  The color of this Reserve Pinot was a deep ruby.  On the nose I caught fairly pungent aromas of pine forest, pepper, and berries.  It was light-bodied with high acidity and medium tannins.  Alcohol was at 12.5%.  On the tongue I tasted cherry, smoke, some pine, a touch of pepper and brambly woodiness.  It was a fine PN, and I think it would serve well as an accompaniment for game fowl, chicken thighs, turkey leg.  You get the idea.  By the way, you will definitely want to let this one breathe before serving or the woodiness will be the overarching flavor.

Château Poyanne Bordeaux 2014

This Bordeaux Red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Couldn’t find the exact percentage, but I’m going to guess heavier on the Merlot than the Cab because of the nose and flavor profile.  It’s a very inexpensive wine, so don’t let’s expect the Halleluja Chorus to start playing in our heads (or from our taste buds) when we take a sip.

Winemaker: Château Poyanne
Wine: Grand Vin de Bordeaux Cuvée Prestige
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2014
Appellation:  Bordeaux, France
Price:  $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  The Château Poyanne is purplish in color with a bouquet that smells of candied plum with hints of turpentine and fennel.  It was medium bodied and had bracing acidity.  Tannins were medium, and alcohol was at 13%.  For me it was a simple flavor profile of plum and pepper.  I think it would be OK with say … a turkey burger or something along those lines.

Basqueing in Friendship, Food, & Wine

I’ve mentioned my friend and fellow Wine Ranger Heather in previous posts.  She and I have been friends for … let’s just say a long time, OK?  Over the summer we’ve been busy with summer stuff and just hadn’t managed to get together and kibitz like we should.  Luckily, a couple of weeks ago we had the chance to correct that and catch up at a local restaurant named SER.

SER is owned by Josu Zubikarai who hails from the Basque area of Spain.  As their website explains – “Raised in San Sebastian, the Basque Country’s capital city, Josu began his formal training as a chef at age 17, working his way through the ranks in various restaurants, initially in the Basque region, but also moving around and exploring other areas of Spain. He grew up working in his family’s restaurant outside San Sebastian, developing the passion and commitment he brings to SER today.”

Unlike so many of today’s trendy Spanish restaurants, SER is not a tapas restaurant.  Certainly, they have appetizers and some small portion dishes, but they are a Spanish “tavern” where you go to experience a gastronomical journey in a casual, friendly atmosphere.  We sat out on their patio (seen above) and enjoyed ourselves immensely while we ate our way across the menu.  Interested in a wine journey as well as a foodie experience, we tried the following selections from their wine list.

Viña Galana Garnacha 2012
Tierra de Castilla, Spain

We found this Garnacha a very fine red to accompany meat dishes, although we noted that it was somewhat lower in acidity than others we’ve had before.

Domaine de Menard Cuvée Marine
Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Côtes de Gascogne, France

It had a very big bouquet redolent with sweet tropical fruit while on the palate is was quite a dry selection hewing primarily to citrus flavors.

Gañeta Hondarribi Zuri 2014
Getario Txakolina, Spain

This was a light white selection from the Basque region of Spain.  Reminding us of a Grüner Veltliner, it was poured at the table through an aerator from about a foot above the glass.  The nose held lots of lanolin with citrus notes, but the flavors leaned the other direction – mainly grapefruit with touches of lanolin.

Pontificis Red Blend 2012

Please forgive me, but my language geek is coming to the fore.  I see a word, and I want to know what it means.  I come by it honestly, though.  My father used to actually pack relevant volumes of our home encyclopedia when we went on trips.  I kid you not!!  This is something my sister and I would hear when we were supposedly on vacation as he pulled out a book from underneath the driver’s seat where it was very sneakily packed.  “Here you go kids.  Here’s the “A” volume.  We’ll be driving through Arizona today, so take a few minutes and read through that entry.  When you’re done, tell me about how Arizona got it’s name.”  At that point, loud mournful groans would be heard from the back seat of our station wagon.

Anyway, back to geeking out.  Pontificis is Latin and (according to my online research) the genetive – i.e. possessive – singular form of pontifex. Pontifex originally meant bridge-maker or “one who negotiates between gods and men.”  In old Rome it was a high priest or the like.  In the modern context it has come to signify the pontiff and specifically the Pope.  Thus, the vintner is suggesting this wine is “of or belonging to” the Pope.  Well, then what’s it doing on sale at my grocery store?!

Winemaker:  Badet Clement & Cie
Wine: Pontificis
Varietal:  Red Blend
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Pays d’Oc IGP, France
Price: $6.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This one was a deep, dark purple in the glass from which wafted scents of berries and musty earth.  Acidity was good; tannins were in the medium range; alchol was at 13.5%.  According to the label, this Pays d’Oc red is a blend of 40% Grenache grapes, 40% Syrah grapes, and 20% Mourvedre grapes.  Not surprising, then, that I found an interesting variety of flavors.  There was first and foremost quite a bit of fruit – plum, cherry and raspberry.  In addition, I found oak, touches of grass, and hints of fennel as well as coffee notes. Like many reds, the flavor profile and the tannic attack lightened as it had more time to breathe.  Overall, I was suprised by the moderate complexity of this budget blend.  This will never merit a 95 from The Wine Spectator, but it could top someone’s list of red table wines – maybe yours.

 

Révélation Cabernet-Merlot 2011

According to the Oxford Dictionaries a revelation is “a surprising and previously unknown fact, especially one that is made known in a dramatic way.”  In some ways you might say that’s what my journey through wine is all about – the search for a surprisingly good wine at a dramatically inexpensive price.  Yes, it just might take a miracle.  But I have faith.

Winemaker:  Révélation by Badet, Clément & Cie
Wine:  Cabernet-Merlot
Varietal:  Red Blend
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Pays d’Oc IGP, France
Price:  $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot was very dark red with a bouquet of earth, cherry, and hints of spice.  Alcohol was at 13.5% on this medium-bodied Vin de Pays d’Oc while acidity was moderately high and tannins were medium and grippy.  To me the flavor profile came across as fairly dark with black cherry, oak, menthol, and pepper.  I didn’t have a religious experience while drinking this wine, but I wasn’t especially disappointed for $5.99.  While this selection wasn’t a true revelation for me as it’s name might suggest, I bet it would add some inexpensive enlightenment to a nice chuck steak or some beef ribs.

25 Inexpensive Wines From Whole Foods

Every journey has it’s milestones, and marking the trail is an important part of any notable sojourn.  Whether or not this particular trip is notable can no doubt be debated.  Even so, a little under a year ago I began this blog.  Since then, I’ve managed to drink a few glasses of wine.  Along the way some 25 selections from the Whole Foods shelves – all very modestly priced to boot – have passed my way.  25 being an auspicious number – silver anniversary, for example – I’ve decided it’s time for a marker.

photo by jameson fink

Commemorating this occasion and serving as my own recap of this wine tasting “trip,” I’m going to identify my 5 favorites from among these Whole Food selections.  I won’t be giving them a numbered score or tell you whether it’s a buy/don’t buy.  We all have different palates; different likes and dislikes.  You decide if you want to give any of them a try or pass on the whole lot.  I’ll simply list my top 5 in order of personal preference, summarize my own tasting experience, and provide a link to my original post on each where you can find some additional info.  Remember, I’m a wine enthusiast.  My own tasting notes may or may not agree with yours and those of the bonafide experts.

Kenwood Vineyards Sauvignong Blanc 2012
A balanced Sauvignong Blanc, I found flavors of lemon, peach and honey with hints of pear and kiwi, a light dusting of green bell pepper, and a nice zip of grass on the finish.

Cupcake Red Velvet
A dinner party fave, to me this enjoyable red blend was fruity with plenty of blackberry and plum along with purple clover, earth and hints of carob.

Tres Ojos Garnacha 2011
Dark raspberry, bread and spice flavors almost brought to mind a berry muffin, but at 14.5% alcohol it wasn’t sugary.  Additional notes I caught included pepper, a hint of licorice and eucalyptus as the moderate tannins kicked in on the finish.

Château Millegrand Minervois Rosé 2012
Peck_TresOjosGarnacha2011A light coral in color, this dry rosé was also light on the palate bringing me gentle flavors of tart cherry, a green herbaceousness, floral notes, some minerality, and a touch of quinine on the end.

365 Trackers Crossing Chardonnay 2012
This Chardonnay gave good oak in what I consider the epitome of the Australian style.  I tasted honey, pineapple, a touch of guava, light citrus notes, generous oak, some hints of spice, and a final bite of bitter melon.

It was very difficult narrowing it down to just five.  There are certainly other tasty wines among those I’ve sampled.  So for those of you who are Whole Food shoppers, the full list of the 20 additional wines I’ve sampled so far is below – in no particular order.  If I’ve missed your favorite(s), please drop me a note here.  I’m always grateful for recommendations!

  Piccolo Fiore Bianco di Sicilia 2011
  365 Paul Valmer Chardonnay 2011
  Three Wishes Merlot
  Don Simón Seleccion Rosé
  Lello Douro Vinho Tinto 2010
  Big House White 2011
  Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
  365 Paul Valmer Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
  Riven Rock Moscato 2012
  Harthill Farm Chardonnay
  365 DiFlora Moscato
  Three Wishes Chardonnay
  Bricco Dei Tati Barbera 2011
   Domaine Carpy Les Pins 2009
  Bubo Pinot Noir 2011
  Don Simón Seleccion Shiraz
  Cupcake Riesling 2011
  La Bastarda Bianco di Toscana 2012
   Tablao Red Wine Navarra 2012
  J.M. Fonseca Twin Vines Vinho Verde

One more quick caveat.  I didn’t drink these all in one day, one week, or even one month – it took me just under one year.  [Admittedly, I have also been drinking other wines. lol]  Retail being a dynamic industry in which stores regularly update and change their stock, some of these wines may no longer be available at your local Whole Foods.

Wherever your wine trail leads you … as always, here’s wishing you many happy wine adventures!