Combining the pleasantly mineral and grippy character of Carignane with rounder notes from five other grape varieties, this inexpensive offering from Bonny Doon is rather easy-going, despite the contrarian attitude implied in the name (which also refers to Contra Costa County, where most of the grapes come from). That contradictory character may be found in the fact that it is, in fact, so lovely and elegant and pleasant to drink, despite having fairly moderate alcohol (13.5%) and none of the overbearing fruit that so many Californian wines (certainly in that price range) would have you believe is balanced. At $14, there’s a lot of great stuff in there. A great deal—and just a really pleasant wine to drink. Recommended. RC
While I was in Navarra this summer, I was told that, due to fierce competition from other Spanish wine regions (as well as European and New World wines) there has been a push for quality since 2007, and I found plenty of evidence to back this up. Briefly, here is what is going on at a sampling of wineries in Navarra.
Surprisingly lush, the Cabernet Franc offers cured tobacco leaf, wrapped in some silky blackberry, black cherry and mocha from the Cabernet Sauvignon. Pencil lead shows up on the mid-palate. Tannins are dusty, fine. The Syrah flows under it all, offering a smoked meat/umami background, then coming to the fore with black pepper on the finish. This seems to just be hitting its stride now, breaking free from its tight, tart youth. Drink with flank steak. Highly recommended. DH
No matter how good it is, a region cannot live by Riesling alone—at least, not in the context of North American wine production, where consumers sometimes seem disappointed if they cannot find every style in one place. What is clear, in any case, is that a region will not live by one color alone.
This particular Pleiades (XX has also been released) is a symphonic, multilayered blend that keeps changing at every sip, with spices jumping over red fruit, richness competing with acid, eucalyptus rolling in over earthy, gamey notes. It’s unlike anything else, for sure, an unidentifiable drinking object that defies definition and expands the possibilities of what wine can be. Highly recommended. RC
Set in the south of France, Languedoc does not have the name-recognition of Bordeaux or Burgundy. And what reputation it does have is as a producer of inexpensive, rustic reds. So I went expecting a fairly industrial landscape of mass-produced tannic titans.
So pale as to have almost no pink color visible. A beguiling nose of strawberry, peach, and fresh flowers. Very expressive on the palate, with delicate but assertive fresh fruit coming on and the acid kept in check. Finishes with a small flourish, yielding a really lovely wine that is refreshing yet not insipid. Pair with seafood, especially shellfish. Highly recommended.
Nose seems a bit confused. Notes of eucalyptus, fresh leather, and spinach. Not terribly complex on the palate, and a tad chewy, but still nice, with blueberry, nut, white pepper, and cassis. Finishes evenly and nicely. Would pair nicely (although clash geopolitically) with eggplant parmesan. Recommended.