For my 40th birthday I took a much-needed get away to Napa. We visited my friend Jeff Miller and his wife Beryl. Jeff lives in Napa and grows and makes wines in the Suisun Valley AVA under several labels: Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, and Red Côte.
This is just absurdly good for the price. Blackberry, mulberry, and black cherry all float above a cloud of cigar smoke and tar. There is also a tremendous mineral streak of molten rock. Tannins are taught but smooth. Drink with a pot roast and both will be better for the pairing.
I will confess I am partial to Bonny Doon’s wines, but the 2008 Vin Gris de Cigare is one of the finest rosés I’ve tasted. I keep several bottles well chilled at all times. A blend of grenache, cinsault, roussanne, mourvèdre, syrah and grenache blanc, it is perhaps untypical of a Southern Rhône rosé since two white grapes (roussane and grenache blanc) have found their way into the blend, but to me the 2008 Vin Gris de Cigare is a quintessential rosé. Crisp and light yet round in the mouth, the strawberry and summer fruit notes harmonize with the sweetness of the tomatoes, while the citrus notes and crispness of the wine cut through the richness of the olive oil. You’ll keep sipping this one long after you’ve licked your plate clean.
This intriguing rosé started with three days skin contact, followed by a very slow three-month fermentation. Progression on the palate is fascinating, as if the wine changed from white to red from attack to finish. It opens with a great acid streak and the tiniest fleeting hint of barely ripe peach before immediately switching to the red flavors. It starts lightly with strawberries, faint at first then growing, getting sweeter and darker, evolving into cherries, which linger. I drank this the day after it was bottled, in a courtesy tasting with General Manager, Craig Camp, and the new full-time winemaker, Jeff Keene. Once the wine recovers from the beating it took it will only get better.
Ahhh rose: A wonderful wine driven to exile in many domestic markets due to its striking visual similarity to the much sweeter White Zinfandel wines. That being said, it’s probably true that even if white zin were actually white, Rose would still have a tough time breaking into the young male demographic. I mean, let’s face it… the only reason white cranberry juice even exists is so that men will order “camouflage cosmopolitans”. Plus, I’ve sat in quite a few power dinners. When you’re a young professional surrounded by the would-be cast of Mad Men with their two fingers of small batch bourbon and 48 gauge churchills, you don’t want to be the guy who orders 6oz of pink grape juice. I’m just sayin’…
A blend of 85% Tempranillo and 15% Syrah from the Walla Walla Valley at Les Collines Vineyard, located at the foot of the Blue Mountains. I definitely knew it was Walla Walla fruit from the smoky nose that reminded me of autumn nights in the Walla Walla Valley. And just like the first time I enjoyed it a year ago, I found myself with my nose deep into the bowl of the glass constantly soaking in the familiar aroma. It is a very layered wine, which I feel is due to the addition of the syrah being responsible for the extra richness of the wine. Flavors of cherry and plum pies exploded in the mid-palate while leaving a long finish of caramel and crème brulée. To sum it up in one word: Elegant. For Catie’s full review see her blog Through the Walla Walla Grape Vine.
Lesec’s blend of Syrah and old vine Grenache (80%) is about as good as it gets for under $15. This beautiful wine is aged in stainless steel for great drinkability. It has a bit of an herbal and spice characteristic with a sense of terroir. Robert Parker gave the 2005 an 89. For a great wine that pairs well with food, you won’t do much better than Lesec’s Bouquet.
In 1989, the Swiss Amez-Droz family got an opportunity to buy this 90-hectare estate located just west of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which offered them several hectares of old vines of mainly grenache and syrah, with smaller amounts of mourvèdre, cinsault, counoise and carignan. This is exactly what goes in this tight, fruity, concentrated cuvée, with a backbone that old vines are especially good at bringing into a wine. At 13.5% alcohol, without any jammy, hot flavors, this unoaked wine goes beautifully with grilled meats, in particular lamb. It could also benefit from a few years' cellaring, to allow it to express itself more openly. You can read more tasting notes by Rémy on The Wine Case.