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Archive for November, 2010

This Tantrum Doesn’t Cause a Scene

Tempra Tantrum is the newest label from Spain’s Osborne Group and is imported by Underdog Wine Merchants.  The Osborne Group has been crafting fine sherry, brandy, wine and liqueur since 1772.   The group’s new line-up of Tempra Tantrum wines is the creation of Ms. Rocio Osborne.  Rocio’s philosophy for these new and modern style Spanish wines is to “promote the soft, generous fruitiness of the grapes, while retaining just the right amount of structure and complexity unique to the vineyards and soil of the Tierra de Castilla.”  Rocio refers to this philosophy as a “Nuevo Vino” approach.

From the first sip of the 2009 Tempra Tantrum Tempranillo (60%) / Shiraz (40%) blend (Sample, $12 MSRP), one gets a sense of Rocio’s “Nuevo Vino” approach.  With its bright and sweet, raspberry, strawberry, and subtle spice flavors – this wine is very approachable.  In particular, I can see this red wine being a big hit with people who say, “I don’t drink red wine because they’re way too dry.”  In these situations, soft and fruit-driven red wines like Beaujolais or Beaujolais Nouveau are often recommended as a primer for red wine initiates, but I’d have no problem recommending this Spanish red as well. However, with its fruity sweetness, I was not left with thoughts of Tantrums…rather, a mild sulk.

2 Stars out of 4 for the 2009 Tempra Tantrum Tempranillo/Shiraz blend.

Please Pass the Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, and Give Thanks for Great Inexpensive Wines

Like many families, our Thanksgiving table will probably look a little something like this:

  • 1 gigantic, heavily seasoned turkey (Method of cooking still to be determined.)
  • Mounds of mashed potatoes
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Possibly sweet potatoes
  • A vegetable…Brussels Sprouts, anyone?
  • A new mystery dish that we stumbled across that sounds quite good.
  • And of course – WINE

As for our Thanksgiving wine – I usually go for something relatively inexpensive and something that will complement (keep my fingers crossed) our traditional feast.

There’s one minor problem though:  check out the menu – it’s all over the place!  How do you find a harmonious and perfectly delicious wine that will jive with this bountiful and wildly contrasting array of food and flavors?

I’d like to recommend abandoning a few things this Thanksgiving:

  1. Forget Wine “Rule” #1:  White wine goes with White meat.
  2. Forget Wine “Rule” #2:  Red wine with Red meat.
  3. For now, leave that expensive first-growth Bordeaux in the cellar or rack.

Why?  Because this bruising kaleidoscope of flavors has the ability to wreak havoc on even the best wines.  Unfortunately, there’s no ‘sure rule’ that is going to work perfectly with this wide open spread – which is why I suggest not putting the ’76 Lafite on the dinner table.  If you’re eager to impress your family or friends with the fancy stuff, share a toast before the actual meal or save it for the end of night.  It’ll have a better shot to shine when the spotlight is focused squarely on the wine and not the holiday meal.

Here are a few wine picks that should measure up to the meal, go easy on your wallet, and please most of the people grazing at your dining room table.

1.)   On the “I only drink white wine” side of the fence, I’d suggest either a dry or slightly sweet Gewurztraminer or Riesling from Alsace, France.  Even better, a white wine blended with either one or both.  The delicious and refreshing floral notes, coupled with grapefruit and peach flavors, should go the distance with the meal and your crowd of discriminating palates.

2.)   In the red corner, I tend to think that bigger and bolder style red wines such as American Cabernet Sauvignon, California Zinfandel, or any of that deep, ruby red stuff that’s not at all translucent work better.  However, my ultimate heavyweight contender for this nightmare of a menu would have to be an earthy, herbaceous, and spicy red wine from France’s Cotes Du Rhone wine region.  These wines can take a beating – no matter what you throw at them!  I’m sure there are a number of folks that may beg to differ and would suggest a Pinot Noir, but in general, I feel that most Pinot Noirs under $20 cannot match up to a meal like this.

So go out there and find a great little place where the focus is on selling premium wine, and don’t be afraid to ask for some help.  Most store owners and their wine staff can offer some terrific suggestions to at least take some of the pressure off of you while you try to decide whether to deep-fry, oven-roast, or smoke your holiday bird.  :)

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Du Languedoc Avec Amour: Deuxième Partie

Most of us are familiar with the phrase, The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  Well, after nearly 7 long months that included a first-ever World Cup win for Spain and a tremendous effort by the San Francisco Giants to win their first World Series title since 1954, I’m here to tell you that all is well and kickin’ in the land located in the south east of France, that is bound by the Mediterranean Sea to the east and the Pyrenees Mountains in the south that form the natural border between France and Spain.

Languedoc, France, yet again, is showcasing some of the most distinguished value-wines that I’ve had the pleasure of tasting so far in 2010.  The last time that I was waving my rally towel for the Languedoc region was back on March 19th, 2010.  And guess what?!  Not much has changed – except for the vintage dates on the bottles.  This French wine region continues to be more than just a getaway destination for topless bathing or for sightseeing all of the historical and architectural interests that the Languedoc region has to offer.  The Languedoc still boasts hundreds of small producers that are producing a variety of wines with the use of different grapes like Cinsault, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Grenache, Merlot, Mourvedre, Syrah and Viognier to name a few.  But the really cool thing about wines from the Languedoc is that most of these tiny producers still make wine in the Old World way – but with a dash of New World style, which allows these wines to showcase their distinctive characteristics and gives them a true sense of home.  And the best part – you can experience many of these unique and wonderful wines for less than 15 US dollars even  – with the current Euro / US Dollar exchange rate.

Here are two Languedoc values that I’ve been just plain old gaga over since first tasting them – they continue to be WL365 “house wine” favorites.

  • 2009 Cave de Pomerols Picpoul de Pinet HB (<$10 US, WL365 “Honor Roll”) – I discovered this Languedoc gem a few vintages ago, and yet again – it’s a mainstay in our fridge.  It’s got all the right moves:  pinpoint acidity derived from a shot of grapefruit, lime and pineapple with a honey-suckle finish that makes it extremely food-friendly – from simple grilled pork chops to even Tex-Mex.  For less than 10 bucks a bottle (in most parts of the US), this crisp and versatile white wine is a great choice for upcoming holiday gatherings.


  •  2009 Château La Clotte-FontaneMathierou” (<$12 US) – This is a new house favorite.  I bought boat loads earlier this year of the 2004 Château La Clotte-FontaneCremailh,” and now the 2009Mathierou,” consisting of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah has also made its way onto the Love Boat.  The 2009 Château La Clotte-FontaneMathierou” dazzles with elegant notes of black pepper, licorice, and cinnamon spice that complements its rich red berry flavors perfectly.  The wonderful integration of sweet spices and peppery notes from start to finish makes the 2009Mathierou” an ideal match for traditional stuffed Thanksgiving turkey with all the dressings .

4 Stars out of 4 for both the 2009 Cave de Pomerols Picpoul de Pinet HB and the 2009 Château La Clotte-FontaneMathierou.”  Who said sequels are never as good?

Franc-ly My Dear…

Autumn is in full swing in my neck of the woods:  the colorful leaves are falling and cooler temperatures are quickly setting in.  With the change of the season, I thought I’d share a wine with you – a Cabernet Franc – whose hues of red, with scents of earthiness and cedar, match perfectly with fall weather and a variety of simmering home cooked meals.

Cabernet Franc was originally planted in France. Over the years, Cabernet Franc has been successfully grown in places like Australia, California, Canada, Chile, Italy, South Africa, and Washington State, to name a few. Compared to the brawny characteristic style of many Cabernet Sauvignons, Cabernet Francs tend to be lighter in color and a bit ‘fruitier’ and ‘softer’ on the palate.  The other big difference between the two varietals is that most Cabernet Francs are not made for ageing – they’re meant to be drunk young.

I recently had a wonderful fall sipper that came all the way from Friuli, Italy which is in the far northeast corner of Italy, wedged between the wine-growing region of Veneto and the Italian border.   In Italy, especially in Friuli, Cabernet Franc is known as “Bordo” or “Cabernet Frank.”  It’s very common to see Italian Cabernet Francs labeled simply as “Cabernet” when in fact, they’re really Cabernet Francs – perhaps to market the wine better?  Whatever the reason, it’s a crying shame that not many of this Italian red can be found in the American market – or at least in my general vicinity!

Fortunately, the 2005 Beltrame Cabernet Franc was one Italian Franc that did make the long journey to the US.

2005 Beltrame Cabernet Franc - WineLife365

Founded in 1991, Beltrame Vineyards covers an area of 40 hectares, 25 of which are solely devoted to grape growing.  Beltrame Vineyards produces both red and white wines.

The 2005 Beltrame Cabernet Franc (Sample, $20 MSRP) displays a tremendous herbaceous component that intertwines nicely with dark cherry, plum, and earthy cedar notes.  I’ll warn you ahead of time though:  this Italian Cabernet Franc is 100% Old World style – so it’s got some of that funk (i.e., earthy dirtiness) to it.  But give it a little time to breathe and you’ll be rewarded with a delightful, floral red that will grip your taste buds and pair nicely with beef stew or any comfort foods that warm you up.

3 Stars out of 4 for the 2005 Beltrame Cabernet Franc.  If you love Italian red wines like Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, consider giving this Cabernet a swirl!


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