Category Archives: A Small Sip

Peak of Summer…Rosé

Rose above Malibu August 2022
Rose above Malibu, August 2022



It’s the peak of Summer, and for many of us it will be a last chance to enjoy the beverages that we love on warm outdoor afternoons and evenings.

During my Malibu wine store years, the industry people returning from the festival in Cannes would seek out the recent Provence Rosé release they had just enjoyed…mostly Domaine Ott. Ironically, the makers and importers would always have the first bottles of that year’s release on a slow cargo vessel waiting to unload in LA.

Fortunately, with Rosé’s popularity, winemakers around the globe are finding markets for their wine. The best Provence Rosé may not reach LA until the start of summer, but if you live in a warmer climate…like Scottsdale, you can and should enjoy them year round! (Remember, all the southern hemisphere winemakers are trying to ship their wines out 6 months after we Northerners would, to free up space, so it is constant!)

Rosé can range from extremely light and subtle, and great for all-afternoon quaffing, to big and bold, capable of complementing a great lunch…ideal for a steak salad.

Provence Rosé can show faint pink coloring, like the popular wines of Ott and Chateau d’Esclans, and hundreds of others (Whispering Angel is d’Esclans mass market, more budget-priced wine…they are known for extended aging of their more expensive Rosés which adds a very creamy mouth feel to the otherwise crisp Rosé, and creates a more substantial wine which pairs well with summer dishes).

The well-known Bandol Rosé from Domaine Tempier raises the intensity of flavor and color, and the dominant Mourvedre grape blend is capable of aging for several years, unlike the lighter, typical Provence Rosé we commonly see.

(as an aside, let’s address Orange wine…which I also adore! Think of Orange wine as being made in the same style as Rosé, but using white wine grapes rather than red, and allowed to stay in contact with the skins and then ferment for a longer period of time. The result is neither clear, nor Rosé, but orange-ish. Orange wine is now produced around the world, including here in America, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Australia and most major wine regions.)


DIRECT PRESSING is the traditional method that crafts light, subtle Rosés. The grapes are pressed after harvest to separate the juice from the skins and stems. There is very minimal contact with the red skins, as the juice only mingles briefly with the rest of the crushed grapes as it runs out of the press. This gives it very subtle coloring and muted flavors from the skins, and yields the typical strawberry and citrus notes we associate with the classic lighter style of Provence Rosé.

SKIN CONTACT (Maceration) will deliver a more potent Rosé style. Since the skins of the ripe grapes will impart color and flavor, keeping the juice in contact with the crushed skins ups the intensity. Longer contact (from several hours to days…), will result in more obvious and distinct flavors, and a darker hue. When the wine maker thinks the juice is right, they will draw it off the skins and start fermenting it into a wine.

BLEEDING (Saignée) creates Rosé as an additional product while making a red wine.  This can be a very focused production that delivers a batch of flavorful Rosé wine along with their production of red wine, or it can be inconsistent as it may just be used to concentrate the red wine being made. In Bleeding, the wine maker is producing a red, but after a brief resting of the juice with the skins, a portion of wine with shorter skin contact, will be drawn off early. This portion is ideal to be fermented to make a Rosé. The remaining, reduced portion of juice is now left in contact with ALL the skins, and allowed to rest and gain as much of the flavor and color as desired to create a richer red wine. Well-made Rosés, produced using the Bleeding or Saignée method, can be very flavorful.

BLENDING finished red wine with white wine to create a Rosé of the desired intensity, almost seems like cheating after the technicalities involved in the other methods, and it is prohibited in the traditional wine areas. One of the only traditional areas that allows and indeed favors blending to create a Rosé, is Champagne. Here blending of the red with white gives them a more consistent approach to delivering the same wine style with each release. For large volume production in newer wine areas around the globe that permit it, this will also be a favored method for crafting mass market Rose wines.


I always tell people to try new things when they can, but drink what they like. I love great wine, but I really do appreciate a simple, inexpensive bottle of cold Rosé, quaffed with friends on a beautiful afternoon.

Chateau Minuty M is a lovely Rosé available at many wine stores including Total Wine for under $20, but most stores, including Whole Foods  and Trader Joe’s will have a light Rosé from Provence for around $10-12 that will give loads of pleasure. (another aside-I just enjoyed Michael Broadbent’s Vinho Verde imported white wine from Portugal that is a spritzy, fizzy bottle of lime-tinged summer fun for $11.95 at Whole Food’s)

If I want to change it up a bit, and my friends appreciate the difference and wish to savor rather than quaff, I will open a wine from Chateau d’Esclans Estate. Here Sacha Lichine makes amazing Rose that ages in Barrel and Bottle. The Chateau d’Esclans Estate wine is great (about $40/btl)  and the increasingly complex and powerful Les Clans (about $75/btl) and Garrus (about $90/btl)  bottlings, are distinct, and delightful! Sadly, if you live in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado or Utah, you’ll have to buy these from a California store and have them shipped…check!

Don’t hesitate to try some California or Arizona Rosé…I loved a Stolpman Rosé that I opened last week.

And if you want a benchmark Rosé as companion for your lunch, try the Bandol Rosé from Domaine Tempier…Total Wine will bring it in on request!

The Bacanorita…a Summer Sonoran Delight.

BacanoritaBACANORA, the spirit from just south of the Border.

With: An introductory Cocktail, The “BACANORITA”.

(My attempt at Adrian Galindo’s recipe, mixologist at Bacanora on Grand Avenue.)


.75 oz. Casa Noble “Cristal” Blanco Tequila or similar silver/blanco tequila that shows agave character (Like: Espolon, Herradura, Roca Patron, Maestro Dobel Diamante, Siete Leguas, Jose Cuervo Traditional Silver…whatever works with your budget)

.75 oz. Rancho Tepua Bacanora (or Sonora or Puntagave Silvers…)

.75 oz. Orange Liqueur     (Please…no Triple Sec.  Cointreau and Grand Marnier are the traditional orange liqueurs, but when I want something with more orange and a little less heat, I use Patron’s Citronge, or Naranja, Agavero or Grand Imperial orange liqueurs…they will all change the drinks profile…see what your tase buds prefer)

.75 oz. Fresh squeezed lime juice

.5 oz Agave nectar…or to taste

Rimmer: Tajin (found in any Mexican food section), or a sweet yet spicy pepper blend (dried orange or lemon zest, mixed with dried chiltepin pepper, ground & powdered with a mortar and pestle, then mixed with at least an equal portion of raw sugar, to taste)

Lime or Orange slice


Measure out Tequila, Bacanora and Orange Liqueur into a Pint Glass, (multiplying portions if making a batch…for a party, use a 32 or 64 oz pitcher).

Add lime juice and agave nectar, stir, and adjust to your taste. Personally, I want to taste the Tequila and Bacanora notes, get a little pucker from the lime, and have some deep orange notes added, but not turn it into an orange juice drink. When you have your mix adjusted to your own taste, prepare your glasses.

I like to mix my rimmer and put it into a shallow bowl. You can either wet the entire glass rim about ¼” down the side from the top, by pressing a cut lime slice onto the rim, pushing down and turning it to wet the entire rim, or for something different, you can lime-coat a half circle from the rim down on one part of the glass. Dip the moistened part of the glass in the rimmer to pick up a light coating.

Carefully fill the “rimmed” cocktail glass with ice (A very large cube will give you a full strength drink to appreciate the flavor notes, but crushed ice will dilute and give you a lighter, easier drinking cocktail and it is particularly fun in the heat).

Add your drink mix, and garnish with a lime wheel, or a flamed orange or lime slice (grill, or torch the rind and fruit.)


Bacanorita For Blog w Food

BACANORA     is a spirit obtained from agave, and is a regional sub-classification of Mescal, made only in the State of Sonora that sits below our border, and is in its own way, similar to tequila, mezcal, and raicilla. The difference between these spirits is in the type of agave with which they are produced, the location they are grown, and the actual production methods.

Tequila, which is highly regulated, uses only Blue Weber Agave, and can only come from the area around Tequila, chiefly in the states of Nayarit and Jalisco, but also Guanajuato, Michoacan, or Tamaulipas.

Mezcal is produced throughout Mexico and surrounding countries, and commonly comes from about 20 different agave that have varying sugar levels and flavors unique to their type, and whose flavors are affected by the site, soil and elevation.

The state of Sonora produces a huge number of the most common Maguey type used in Mescal, the Agave Angustifolia, commonly known as Maguey Espadin, and in Sonora specifically referred to as Maguey Pacifica. It is deep green in color, and as it grows and ages, gets lighter. The agave can measure about 4 feet high and 6 feet around. At maturity, it sends up a yellow flower on a stock growing up the middle, growing 2 ½ inches a day during the first week and an inch a day for the next three months. This growth slows but continues for nine months, with the interior holding the seeds that will sprout new agave. We tend to call both these, and the even larger giant Maguey Arroqueño (Scientific name: Agave americana), Century Plants, when this process is occurring.

This process usually occurs after 5 to 10 years of age, and allows the maguey to reproduce and be harvested for a number of uses, one of the most profitable now being the production of spirits.

You can find mostly silver or clear bacanora in the United States market, but Bacanora aged in wood is quite common in Mexico.


Bacanora started production as a crudely fermented beverage (pulque) from the agave heart, made by the indigenous Opata people. It was harvested wild, fire roasted with mesquite wood in pits, then mashed into a pulpy liquid and left to ferment. About five hundred years ago, crude distillation methods began to emerge and the first mescal was produced. Missionary Spanish priests introduced more formal distillation that increased the quality and strength of the beverage, and turned it into a true spirit, as it became popular throughout mexico and spread to Sonora. Local Sonoran mescal started being referred to as Bacanora, as an abundance of the Agave Pacifica or Espadin, grew wild around the town founded by the Jesuits in 1627 called Bacanora, establishing a reputation for the quality of the liquor made there.

The highest quality, small production Bacanora, is still produced in the traditional method.

Agave Pacifica is harvested through a process known as jimar (hee-mar). The “Jimador” cuts off the pointed leaves from the pineapple shaped core, or piña using a spear/spade like tool called a Coa.

These pina/cores are then split, and placed into specially designed underground ovens called mallas, to roast and soften the pina. This helps break them down to extract their juice and because of the wood used, they will take on some smoky flavor. If the producer uses a boiler rather than the wood oven, it will produce a less smoky Bacanora.

The cooked pinas are then crushed – traditionally in a “tahona”, a giant stone grinding wheel. Larger scale producers may use mechanical crushers to extract the juice and separate it from the fiber.

To ferment, the agave pulp is placed into barrels, combined with fresh water and covered air-tight, which begins the natural fermentation process, which can take from 6 to 12 days, depending on time of year and temperature.

The fermented juices are placed into stills and heated over mesquite fires. The vapor escapes as steam from the top of the still and goes through a funnel and cooling tube, which may be coiled. As the vapor condenses in the tube and becomes liquid, it will flow into a container as a raw spirit.

What differs in the production of Bacanora from other mezcals, is the method of the second distillation of the liquid, called “resaque”. During the resaque, the master producer, called a “vinatero” in Sonora, basically the “master mezcalero”, uses a container to collect the first distillate from out of the still: the high alcoholic content called the “Heads”. As soon as the Vinatero observes a group of small superficial bubbles in the liquid that flows, he changes the container. This next distillation is the Bacanora, with between 20 and 30 degrees of alcoholic purity. When he notices the bubbles disappear quickly, he switches to a new container, as the next discharge or “Tails” is composed almost entirely of water.

The last step is to adjust the bacanora and mix it with the “heads” to blend it to the desired alcohol level and taste, which results in a spirit that is between 40 and 50 percent alcohol.

The resulting agave spirit, Bacanora, is less smokey than most mezcal, a little more grassy in flavor, and a little sweeter in the mouth, and may show off peppery notes. I have found that it will appeal to many drinkers who just say no to Mezcal’s smokey flavors, and don’t get to appreciate the complexity that can be found in good Mezcal.

One of my favorite bartenders, Adrian Galindo, at Bacanora , the upscale Sonoran Restaurant on Grand Avenue (and James Beard nominee) named for the regional spirit (and their sister outpost Espiritu in Mesa), uses a combination of bacanora and blanco tequila to make his “bacanorita’, and reflect the flavors of Sonora.

“Particularly with the bacanorita, I wanted to make it as accessible as possible,” he says. “All it is, is a split base of bacanora and tequila, a good version of triple sec… then fresh lime juice and agave nectar to sweeten.”

The combination of Tequila and Bacanora delivers the best elements of a classic margarita, while adding some of bacanora’s more rugged, grassy charm, and just a subtle puff of smoke. Adrian uses agave nectar to bring out agave flavors, rather than just sweetening, as simple syrup would do. For the right amount of oomph, a rim coated with Tajin is an easy and lovely complement, but Adrian takes it further using a rimmer of sugar, citrus rinds, and dried chiltepin pepper to elevate this drink even further with the regional flavors of our Sonoran Desert. TRY IT!

Bacanora is readily available at Total Wine, and most mescal and tequila purveyors.


My Serving Suggestion for drop-ins this season! Sauternes

What’s old is new…and in-style. Much better made and more readily available.
Sauternes is a famous, sweet wine from the Bordeaux region of France, that is emulated in other wine regions around the globe. But make no mistake, it should not just be sweet, it should have a “just right” acidity, that is imperceptible except that it makes the wine feel light and lively in spite of its richer body. Sauternes is a great partner for treats, desserts, and pates, and like Champagne, it seems festive.
Of course, if you have a favorite “dessert wine”, maybe from near where you live, by all means…serve it!
If you keep the bottle just below cellar temperature…50 degrees or a touch higher, or even at fridge temp, it will keep for days. Guests will appreciate a 2-3 ounce pour, and it will last for a week.
A half bottle of a well-made Sauternes can be found starting about $15-20 (Total Wine, Bev Mo and many local merchants).
Petit Guiraud
One of the best know Sauternes from producers like Suduiraut, Guiraud or Rieussec, will sell for about $49 for a half bottle or $90 for a full bottle. I just picked up a couple of nice “everyday” half-bottles of Petit Guiraud (Guiraud’s 2nd wine) at Costco for only $9.99, and another 750ML bottle of 2009 Guiraud at Total Wine for $79.99.
If money is no object, the pinnacle of Sauternes, Chateau d’Yquem is currently starting at about $400. Expect to pay a lot more for aged bottles with known provenance, and good cellaring.
Great alternatives abound…Late Harvest and “Ice” wines- which are harvested after snowfall has set in and further shriveled and concentrated the grapes. Wines made from Semillon, Reisling, Shiraz, Vidal, Chardonnay, Cab Franc…and many more grapes, can be fabulous if there is enough acidity to balance the sweetness.
 Ice Wine
But what kind of food should you pair with it?
Sauterne makers would say…everything. I have tried that, and they have a point, but for most of us it might be a little much.
Traditionalists would say foie gras or Roquefort, which may not work with your diet or tastes, or could be a favorite, which it is for me. It sure works with Glazed Spare Ribs, Twice Cooked Pork, Sweet and Sour Pork, Chicken or Tofu, or… a Roast Chicken…all of which I will probably enjoy this season. Right now, I am preparing a chicken liver mousse with a Sauternes-Thyme Gelee on’s a fantastic treat for Liver Pate lovers.
For me, Sauternes works with everything sweet that we prepared during the holidays when I was growing up.
I remember my mother baking with us, and our side table being loaded with sugar or butter cookies, rugelach, short bread, mincemeat tarts, custard tarts, fruit tarts, butter tarts, coffee cake, candies and other sweets ready for guests. Sauternes goes beautifully with all of that!
Here in Scottsdale, I order at a little shop called JL Patisserie, that bakes absolutely fantastic Napoleons (Mille-Feuille), crème brulee, financiers, croissants, macarons, fruit tarts and other surprises.
Along with some Walker’s shortbread, I’m ready if you stop by!
Happy Holidays!

Thanksgiving Wine Ideas for 2021

Dinner TableHoliday Greetings!

I wanted to steer you towards delicious wines, that will complement and not fight that tricky Thanksgiving table. Leave the fighting for after-dinner politics, or a football game.
Rich Turkey … smothered in equally rich gravy, with savory stuffing, buttery & rich potatoes (note- there is a common thread here), sweet cranberries, green beans and whatever Aunt Karen does to them…that food array just despises powerful, tannic, show-off, trophy wines. Those big, tannic wines don’t work with this meal, so just save them until after the meal! I mean, you wouldn’t smoke a cigar DURING dinner either…they just don’t work with the food.
There are many white wines that would work beautifully with that dinner, but most of your guests may reach for the reds. On the white side, Gewurztraminer would work beautifully, as would a Chenin Blanc blend from South Africa or Australia, or a Savennières from the Loire. And, here is where a great white Burgundy or New World Chardonnay will be fabulous company depending on your tastes. Those slightly higher acid Chardonnay will be the better pairing for picky wine people, but a Buttery Chardonnay will be appreciated by a broader audience…and we sure have a lot to choose from.
If you want to serve Red Wine, choose medium-bodied, lower tannin, moderate acid, but fruit-plush wines, which we’ll discuss…or a sparkler. Most Americans are now drinking Pinot Noir this time of the year. It will be very easy to find, so you won’t need a lot of help. Plush New World Pinot (California, Oregon, New Zealand etc..) will show off lush fruitiness and lower tannins and work beautifully with the meal. Any wine Seller can probably recommend a dozen solid values, so I am going to look beyond Pinot Noir, and recommend some surprises for your guests.
Rose Champagne or Blanc de Noirs (Not rose colored, as there is no skin contact with the juices, but made from Pinot grapes), or any of the great Methode Champenois Rose sparklers from around the globe are fun, pair beautifully with a broad range of foods, and can be seriously good wines, and make the Holiday feel even more special!
Camille Saves smallGreat Sparkling wines are coming out of California, Oregon, New Mexico, Michigan, New York, and are starting to be produced in the emerging wine areas too. I have even enjoyed great Sparklers from Richard G Peterson, made in California with Pinot grapes grown from cuttings imported from Wrotham in Kent, England, originally planted by the Romans…if you see any bottles, pounce and enjoy!!! (His daughter, cult winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett learned a thing or two about winemaking around him…)
I get excited opening Camille Saves , Egly-Ouriet, Pierre Peters, Guy Larmandier, Pierre Bertrand, Andre Jacquart, Chartogne-Taillet, Gosset-Brabant, Frédéric Savart, Duval-Leroy…but, if they aren’t readily available, and you are watching the budget too, grab a couple of bottles of Chandon Rose from California, a nice Cremant Rose from Alsace or Bourgogne, or a Rose Prosecco…They really do work with everything and should cost you under $20.

It’s a great time to choose something different with fun, unusual non-Champagne style sparklers like a good Italian Lambrusco or Brachetto, which are medium-bodied reds, with bubbles! Today’s well-made Lambrusco and Brachetto are a far cry from the mass-imported Riunite (“Riunite on Ice, Tastes Nice” was the TV ad tag line) which made Lambrusco a punch line to jokes! A nice Lambrusco will cost about $20, Brachetto will range from $18 to $35 (Rinaldini, Cantina della Volta, Chiarli, and Vignetto Saetti are solid producers). They will be fruit forward with spice, slightly sweet, but with good acidity and complex flavors. It’s a crowd pleaser with the Holiday menu.


Don’t be afraid to try a Sparkling Shiraz which will provide deeper, dark fruit flavors and more wine body with a little grip, while the sparkles make it lighter on the palate…like dancing in your mouth! It’s nice to have a wine you can be wine geeky about and appreciate for its unique fit, while your younger relatives and grandparents appreciate its more obvious qualities…rich fruit flavor, velvety mouth feel…and fizzzzzz! Paringa, The Chook, Mollydooker, Jip Jip Rocks, Bleasdale, Teusner, Mr. Riggs, all deliver great value and flavor.


Palari Faro small smallIf you want to show off, pick a beautiful red wine that is unknown to most Americans. Sicily has some stunning wines that show the velvety, delicate character of great Burgundy but with the plusher fruit levels of those new world Pinot. I love Palari’s Faro Red blend that over-delivers for the price, and several other producers make stunning wines with the Nerello Mascelese grape that aren’t too rich or tannic…look for “Etna Rosso”.

Well-made, lower alcohol Zinfandels will show off rich fruit and have lower tannins, and work better for your meal than some monster Zins. California has some gems, but if your suppliers are limited, you can’t go wrong with Ridge’s “Three Valleys” or “Geyserville”, zinfandel driven red blends.

Grenache-Syrah/Shiraz-Mourvedre Blends will work similarly whether you find them around Paso Robles or Australia. Just search out the easier drinking, less powerful versions of these rich wines, and they will be loved by all. This is not the time to pull out that cult wine that received a 100 point score…wait!


Cote a CotePersonally, I love these blends, and I’m bringing 3 Liter bottles from L’Aventure in Paso Robles, of their “Optimus” and their “Cote a Cote” Red Blends. Owner/winemaker Stephan Asseo, crafts his French inspired beauties with Central Coast grapes and no rules on blending to hold him back from his vision.

Optimus is his younger-vine Bordeaux-inspired blend, made to drink beautifully with less cellaring (56% Syrah, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot). His “Cote a Cote”, is a Chateauneuf-inspired gem that is predominately Grenache. (a 51% Grenache, 26% Mourvedre, 23% Syrah blend).

Incidentally, its also a good time to pour food-friendly wines from around your home.


2015redIn Arizona, Callaghan Vineyards in Elgin, Caduceus Cellars in Jerome, Laramita Cellars in Willcox, and Dos Cabezas WineWorks out of Sonoita, Page Spring Cellars and Pillsbury, are among the producers making very good, but relatively small production, food-friendly reds and whites and even Sparkling Whites and Rose!

A nice Grenache from Spain, or a (non-trophy) Syrah from California’s Central Coast or Napa/Sonoma (great fruit, lower tannin, softer….) will be crowd pleasers. Search out Qupe, Alban, Tablas Creek, Saxum, Linne Calodo, Melville, McPrice Myers, and that’s just a small slice of great Syrah.

If you want to have a Name Cabernet, pick one that’s generally softer and less tannic. Silver Oak’s Alexander Valley is going to work better than the more tannic “Napa”. Caymus Cabernet works better than their powerful age-worthy “Special Select”. Is this the best pairing for a wine geek…probably not, but for a Cab lover…why not!

And for some of us who rush through the dinner, but relax afterwards, talking with Family and friends and catching up…now is the time to enjoy that Port, trophy Red or other big-flavored beverage of choice.

While I was thinking about less expensive wines that deliver a great “Big Wine” experience, but work with the Holiday spread, I ran across an Old friend at Costco, and then saw her at Total Wine…Boekenhoutskloof’s, “The Chocolate Block”!!!! Such a lovely buy:

Boekenhoutskloof’s, “The Chocolate Block”

Chocolate Block

I first tasted Boekenhoutskloof’s “The Wolftrap Red” and “The Chocolate Block” Red Wine in San Francisco before they had distribution in SoCal. The Wolftrap Red, was a great bargain wine, and the Chocolate Block was a lush complex Red for under or around $30…and they still are.

Established in 1776, in the furthest corner of the beautiful Franschhoek Valley, they gained recognition, and strong demand for these wines since 2000. I was able to get a first shipment of WolfTrap and The Chocolate Block in SoCal for my store, Malibu Village Wines, and it was a hit. The Wolftrap took it’s name from an actual Wolftrap found on the farm, dating back to its founding when the region was wild and wolves were a feared predator.

The Chocolate Block was originally named not only for the chocolate nuances that punctuate it, but also for a block in the vineyard where the grapes were grown. Today, the wine has become so popular world-wide that production has grown exponentially and the Vineyard sources have multiplied.

The spectacularly well-made 2019 is juicy enough to work with the sweet and savory flavors in the Thanksgiving Dinner spread, and has just enough tannins to balance the jammy fruit and please lovers of big, powerful reds.

Chocolate Block shows off the beautiful Syrah of the Vintage and like the “Blocks”’ before it, gets its multiple flavors, plush mouthfeel, character and charm from the combination of grapes used.

The wine immediately shows off flavors of dark berry pie with Holiday spice notes. Jammy, juicy dark fruit notes of Black Berries, Plum, and a slight but pleasant hint of prune, combine with the spicy, peppery accents. After you swirl, sniff, roll it around your mouth and swallow and contemplate what you just tasted, the finish notes start to arrive and surprise you…as they bring the characteristic dusty cocoa notes that almost always accompany this wine.

Blend: 71% Syrah, 11% Grenache, 9% Cinsault, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Viognier

Winemaker Notes

Vintage 2019 was preceded by a very dry growing season ensuing in a record-low harvest yield. The crush was down 2% from 2018 tonnages. The optimistic retrospect of these conditions resulted in smaller, more concentrated berries due to their higher pulp-to-juice-ratio. These circumstances, along with green harvesting due to uneven bud-break, were encouraging for the making of wines with great complexity. The Swartland experienced moderate temperatures during December ’18 and January ’19 with the first heatwaves impacting the appellation during February. The picking window for The Chocolate Block was a mere two-week period. Fortunately, our even greater reliance on our vineyards from Porseleinberg and Goldmine farms made it a manageable fortnight in terms of fruit-picking and refrigerated transport logistics.

By early accounts, 2019 is proving to be another good vintage for Syrah with pronounced black fruit flavours and a classic black olive nuance. The predominant variety (71%) displays a beautiful inkiness in the glass. The Grenache vineyards on Porseleinberg are becoming well-established, and this variety is undoubtedly the bright, perfumed star of the blend revealing an old, Châteauneuf-du-Pape-like charm. Old vine Cinsault remains an unheralded gem which effortlessly knits the wine together and establishes a refined elegance. At merely eight percent of this finite variety grown within the appellation, Cabernet Sauvignon is essential in providing structure and grip to the blend. Syrah and Cinsault were matured in a combination of seasoned 2,500L French oak foudres and barriques. Grenache was matured in seasoned 600L demi-muids. Cabernet Sauvignon was the only component exposed to new French oak barrique. The elevage ranged between 13 & 16 months, dependant on component and vineyard parcel. 2414 barriques were selected for our 2019 vintage.

The nose is dark, intense and brooding with aromas of black cherries, cardamom, sweet tobacco, espresso and subtle whiffs of perfume. The dark fruit character of the nose follows through onto an exceptionally complex, juicy palate with gentle nuances of ripe plums, violets, black olives, cloves, and liquorice. The mid-palate is focused, lithe and elegant with very fine, cocoa powdery tannins. The wine is medium bodied, very balanced with an earthy, layered character, covering the entire spectrum of berry fruit – from tart red plums to rich blue and black berries. The finish is svelte, clean and dry, peppery and lingering, with hints of dried cranberry, tar, graphite and smoke. Blend: 71% Syrah, 11% Grenache, 9% Cinsault, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Viognier

Critical Acclaim


Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

Made from a blend of 71% Syrah, 11% Grenache, 9% Cinsault, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Viognier, the 2019 Chocolate Block begins with a broad, juicy nose of spiced plum, blackberry compote, fresh cracked black peppercorn, dusty purple flowers and hints of baking spices. Medium to full-bodied, the wine initially expresses fresh, ripe and juicy dark fruit tones with an undercurrent of black and red spice before firm tannins grip the gumline. The wine concludes with a dusty and spicy finish and a lingering tannic edge. The wine spent 13 to 16 months in barrels before being blended. Rating: 90+

Bodegas Muga “Selección Especial” Reserva Rioja

A fabulous wine value that pleases traditionalists and hedonists alike. Rich, yet nuanced…how do they do it?
The 2010 is great (You just can’t go wrong with these wines), but the 2009 is sublime, and available here-and-there for the same price ($35-40, either vintage)!
The annual pre-sale and subsequent release of the bulk of Bodegas Muga’s offerings is always a big event for retailers. Very well priced for the level of quality of the wines, Muga always delivers a great bottle, but look for the older vintage!
Muga was founded in 1932 in the town of Haro in the heart of the Spanish Rioja, by Don Isaac Muga. They own 173 acres of vineyards, and purchase about the same from selected vineyards in the region. Torre Muga’s winemaking combines the best of modern viticulture with traditional methods. Their winery is designed to allow gravity flow, yet permit fermentation to take place in traditional giant wooden vats, without resorting to pumping. While production is about 100,000 cases (of which 1/3 is exported), the cellerible offerings (perennially high scoring) are always in demand.
I just tasted a bottle of the Reserva “Seleccion Especial”, and thought it was another solid value for the collector/drinker/lover of good wine. I would encourage you to clean out your retailer!!

This is always a crowd pleaser, and I mean that in a good, inclusive way, where it hits a hot button for any wine lover, not in the ” middle of the road for everyone” way.
Traditionalists will love the well-balanced (read imperceptible, but just right) level of acidity to keep it alive in the mouth, along with the shifting, palate of flavors presented. The lover of giant trophy reds will delight in its dark flavor profile, plush mouth feel, and plentiful fruit and tannin.
With a little time in the decanter, it was a joy right now, but collectors will get the real budget potential from this wine if they can wait 5-10 more years.

The 2009:
In CA, Order it at Mission Liquors for $35.99
or K&L Wine Merchants for $39.99.

In AZ Find it at Total Wine for $38.99 

In NYC, find it atMorrell’s for $42

and you lucky wine people in Texas, try your Total Wine for a bottle at $32.99

(Or, go to Wine-Searcherfor other locations)

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate-92pts “The 2009 Seleccion Especial is sourced from the same blend of 70% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho (they use the masculine form of the name here), 10% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo as the Reserva and also from the same zone in the confluence of the Oja and Ebro rivers selected from the geologically older plots, usually in higher terraces where the vines are at least 30 years old. Fermentation is carried out in oak vats and aged in barriques for twenty eight months, initially in new barrels and then transferred to used ones. This is more backward and closed than the Reserva, with a more subtle and elegant nose, a tighter palate, with fine-grained tannins, pungent flavors and great acidity and length. The Reserva’s big brother. 240,000 bottles produced. Drink 2015-2024. I think the Muga family wines have been going from strength to strength and they are offering superbly-crafted wines from their cellars in the Barrio de la Estacion in Haro. I’ve seen a big change in Prado Enea starting with the 2004 vintage. As it happens, some of their wines are selling faster than they are produced (as they are not necessarily offered in every vintage) and they had no Prado Enea to show. The next vintage will be 2006, but there will be none in 2007 or 2008 and they need to fill the gap until the 2009 is released. The vintage of Torre Muga and Aro on the market is already 2010. There’s no stainless steel whatsoever at Muga, they have kept true to their beliefs, and all their wines are fermented in oak.”Wine Spectator-95pts “Highly Recommended- Powerful yet harmonious, this rich red delivers black cherry, licorice, fresh herb, smoke and mineral flavors that mingle seamlessly over firm, well-integrated tannins, while balsamic-tinged acidity drives the flavors through the long, spicy finish. Drink now through 2025.”Stephen Tanzer-93pts “Opaque ruby. Sexy, oak-spiced aromas of red- and blackcurrant, cherry and vanilla, with a bright floral accent. Lush and palate-staining, offering intense dark berry preserve and cherry-cola flavors that become spicier with air. Deep and rich but surprisingly lively, finishing with impressive energy and floral persistence.”Bodegas Muga

Allimant Laugner Cremant d’Alsace Rosé , my bargain fave!

Allimant Laugner

Allimant Laugner Cremant d’Alsace Rosé , my bargain fave!

People keep asking me what the name of my favorite bargain sparkling rose was. Well, this is it!This Crémant Rosé is a sparkling wine produced in Alsace by champenoise method, with the juice on the skins just long enough to give the wine a very light pink color, made with 100% Pinot Noir. Aged 11 months before release, it is meant to be consumed while fresh, young and vibrant. This dry but zesty wine will go with many foods but I love it as an aperitif, to be savored. Enjoy its fresh aromas of strawberries and wonderful minerality. This one is easy to drink with the light, creamy bubbles and a crisp, flowery tang.

Allimant Laugner was created in 1724 and now lies in the heart of Alsatian vineyards, in the extreme south of the Bas-Rhin department. The winery is between Strasbourg and Colmar, and just above the famous castle ” The Haut-Koenigsbourg “.

K&L Wines $18.99

I also found this wine on the shelf at Beverages & More but priced at $21.99

Alberto Serenelli Afro Marche I.G.T. Barrique 2004

SerenelliAfro MonteCorneroThese bottles were our Friday night delight. We were hoping for a big, rich wine with some old world style and charm, and it brought the goods. This is a great wine choice for someone raised on California or other New World trophy wines who wants to try an Italian red, just a little outside their normal comfort zone. It is immediately likeable, but brings a whole new realm of subtlety and complexity.

Serenelli makes wines in the Rosso Conero wine appellation in the central part of the Marche region of Italy just south of Ancona on the slopes of Monte Conero. Marche itself, lies due east of Tuscany, sandwiched between Umbria and the Adriatic, with Marche’s eastern border being the coastline. The red wine with the DOC designation, has at least 85% of the juice coming from the Montepulciano grape. Sangiovese is often added to the blends, and to a much lesser degree, Merlot. The Afro shows how complex and concentrated Montepulciano from this region can be when it is carefully cultivated.

The Afro’s bouquet offers beautiful notes of cherry liqueur, mixed with an intriguing note of earth, saddle leather and tar. There is a little hint of an “animal” quality to the wine, but it is a “just right” character that makes it interesting, and not the type of “out there” aromas that appeal only to zealots and not mere mortals.

With patience, this big wine opens up and in the mouth shows off red fruits, cedar, raisins and ripe plums. There are noticeable tannins present that add to its weight and substance, and its substantial, velvety mouth-feel. They definitely deliver grip, but the tannins are not mouth drying. We really enjoyed this wine, and it was a huge hit with bassist Ross Valory and keyboardist Jonathan Cain, who both regularly enjoy Barolo, Ripasso and Amarone. Fortunately, we had a lot of this wine to pour!

Ch. Ausone 2000 Magnum

Ch AusoneSaturday night, we pulled out a big bottle of this trophy Bordeaux. Like all of the other famed producers of Bordeaux, who jumped on the Robert Parker style bus, this is a fruit monster compared to older bottling. But, boy is it fun when the bottle is good.

My luck has not always been great with wines from this time frame. As most wine lovers have experienced, badly corked wines were prevalent in the ‘95-‘05 decade, and seem to be on the decline now. Waiting for a wine to mature is frustrating enough, but when one adds in the unpredictability of corking, it can be maddening. One truism is that my corked bottles show up when I have transported them the furthest and a replacement is least likely to be at hand.

Such was not the case! This bottle was perfect. I can best liken it to Jose Andres’ magic with modern tapas. He takes the essence of a tomato or an olive, concentrates the flavors, and delivers it back to the patron as a morsel that looks like it came from a tree, but was actually formed in the kitchen, and delivers a purer, more concentrated taste than could be found in nature.

The precise notes of fresh blueberry, cassis and dry cocoa that this bottle displayed were amazing. Truffley forest floor, the inside of a cigar box, wood shavings and asphalt were all vivid and obvious. Sometimes, with that much fruit and flavor the wine can seem mouth-coating and heavy, but this wine was alive. Laden with flavor, but lively. That’s when you know the acid level is right. And, right at this moment, this may not be a great food wine for pairing, unless your meal is full of grilled meats and vegetables.

But, this is not 1870. How many of us enjoy a three hour meal, discussing the affairs of the world, before we move on to port and cigars? We are far more likely to carve out time around our enjoyment of what’s in our glass, than to worry about our pairing of food and wine. This is a wine that deserves all the attention, and that’s where it shines, under the spotlight. As I have mentioned many times, a wine that is higher in acid and lighter in body, may be the ideal companion to food, but will seem shriller on its own. This is a wine for sipping, and marveling at.

This wine demands no food, it is just there for the enjoyment of a lucky few. Jonathan and Ross were raving about how good it was, and the rest of us agreed. I have to admit that we had been supplied with horrible, thick, Libby water glasses that were a half bowl style, and did nothing to capture the aromas from the wine. I laughed and distributed those, and some of those little glasses we called “tooth brush” glasses, that we used to drink “dago red” from in pasta houses. I showed people how to pull air over the wine, and roll it around for a while, appreciating all the aromas. We didn’t need no stinking wine glasses! (Although it sure would have been nice.)

Eventually, real glasses materialized, but this wine was so rich and spectacular that nothing had been diminished by our in-mouth aeration. If you are going to stay up late into the night solving the problems of the world, this is the wine you want to accompany you. I hadn’t looked at the current bottle price in a while, so I was more than a little shocked when I checked this week. But, man was that good.

Rock ‘n Roll ‘n Wine

Reflections on a few bottles shared with rockers on the road.

I have a bumpy history when it comes to enjoying wine with musicians performing concerts. The wine drinkers are usually great to hang out with, have fabulous stories, and love a good time, people, food and wine. They are usually generous, often gregarious, and a lot of fun. Like most wine lovers, they like to plan events for their friends, and never skimp on quantity. Perhaps, that is the problem. In any group of entertainers, there are always a few in active recovery, so maybe that is where the math goes wrong, because the amount of wine involved can be mind boggling.

I have been present at a few dinners, where a lot of wine was consumed BEFORE the concert, which seems like a hard-core rock approach, but was not, in hind-sight, a wise approach.

Eat, drink, and then go out and Party with the crowd. It sounds great, but I have seen it go awry. The last time, after several palate-cleansing beers in the afternoon, we opened up a couple of three liter bottles for the eight of us (but two of the band were in their own version of recovery and abstaining from “anything other than marijuana” for the tour). It gets hard to control consumption when the wines are appropriately mature, 100-pointers. A sign of good wine and impending doom, is the uttering of the words “There’s wine left? We can’t leave until the wine is gone.” Blowing off the sound-check for that last glass of wine, is a stop on the road to disaster.

The concert got off to a great start with the band in high spirits, and the crowd really appreciating their energy. Things were clicking, and after the fourth song, the lead guitarist decided to rev it up. Chad decided to do a stage-dive off the four foot stage while still strumming fiercely. No one got in his way, or broke his fall, and Chad’s knee didn’t survive the landing. Sadly, that brought an abrupt end to the concert. (The band in this case was The Gracious Few, an American group featuring guitarist Chad Taylor, bassist Patrick Dahlheimer and drummer Chad Gracey from the 90’s best-selling band Live, teaming up with lead vocalist Kevin Martin and guitarist Sean Hennesy from another 90’s giant- Candlebox.)

So, a more sensible approach for slightly older rockers, is to enjoy the wine after the show, when the work is finished. I was lucky enough to share a few wines with the drinking members of Journey after a recent weekend of concert dates, and we opened some great bottles after midnight, that surprised all of us. These guys rest, get ready for the show with some meet and greet events, put on their show, and then think about winding down with wine and food. Funny how things change as we get older!

The Wines:

[button color=”#COLOR_CODE” background=”#COLOR_CODE” size=”medium” src=”″]Read the Alberto Serenelli Afro Marche I.G.T. Barrique 2004 review[/button]

[button color=”#COLOR_CODE” background=”#COLOR_CODE” size=”medium” src=”″]Read the Ch. Ausone 2000 Magnum Review[/button]

Txakoli Rose, my new Basque girl

It’s going to be way over 100 degrees…Where’s my Txakoli Rose?

Once upon a time I dated a Basque girl. She was stunningly pretty, with a great profile, awesome dark hair, and turned me on to her cuisine, BUT NOT TO THE WINE.

GurrutxagaNow, that could have been that it was harder to find a Basque wine than it was to win the lottery, but I remember going with her to a little Basque place near Carmel, with a myriad of strangely written wines on their menu, and we did not venture to try them. I think we had a buttery Chardonnay (and lightning almost struck us as we were leaving in a sudden rain burst, but the causality escaped me at the time).

I didn’t get to explore those rare grapes until about 7 years ago (God, time is flying by). And, as we often say, the wines from the region complement the food! And I went nuts raving about the crisp zinginess of the dry white wines of Txakoli, and how I wanted a healthy slurp with every fried calamari salad I could find, or how I would love to share a bottle with a hunk of sausage, some olives, and a loaf of peasant bread, huddling at the beach while the sun set.

One of my wine-geeky friends, who actually looked and sounded more like a Brooklyn bouncer, but was studying to be a master sommelier with some of LA’s finest wine minds, delighted in reciting to me all the grapes, such as the Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Beltza that grow in the Txakoli region (pronounced “Chak-oh-lee) and its three sub regions: Getaria, Biscay and Alava. And recite he did, over and over, and spelling everything…but it sunk in, and boy, was I hooked.

Generally the wines are lower in alcohol so you can enjoy them copiously in pinxtos and tapas bars. Traditionally, the wine is poured from a foot or more above the glass in order to “break the wine” or as we would say, aerate it. I however, am always reminded of a strange fern bar from the late Seventies called “Dr. Munchies” that used to stay open after-hours serving food, and as I was later told selling other things in the back alley. The waiters always filled the water glasses pouring from high up, and invariably wetting the patrons. I came to believe the waiters were smoking a lot of pot in the alley when they were on break. But when it comes to the wines of Txakoli, the pourers tend to exhibit far more skill, and don’t miss the glass.…

Back to that Rose…

Now, imagine my excitement when I discovered that those fabulous wines of Txakoli also included slightly subtler acidity in magnificent and still very vervey and exciting rose versions!

They are hard to find, but Gurru Txaga and Ameztoi are both imported, (Along with Gorrandone and others I couldn’t find) so ask your retailer who probably just sells their white to get you some. They should run about $20-$25.

They both show you that raspberry, strawberry note found in Provence rose, with a great crispness, zing, and a good dose of minerality including sea salt. I found the Ameztoi a little wilder and quite briny, with a distinct lime note. A little like adding a splash of vichy water to a rose, along with a dry sauvignon zing. But the sum is much better than that , and is absolutely unique to the region. I found the Ameztoi was my favorite, but my friends seemed to prefer the slightly subtler Gurru Txaga, go figure Ameztoi.

At any rate, while the white Txakoli is fabulous with seafood, particularly fried seafood, and fatty sausages or briny olives and pickles, the Rose pairs beautifully with most things off the BBQ. Carmelized chicken, browned meats, grilled veggies, and pizzas from the grill, make an insane treat. If you are feeling lazy, try a regular California Pizza Kitchen BBQ chicken pizza from your grocers freezer section, and pull it out of the oven to serve with a glass of Txakoli rose and a movie. Pretty darn good.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Crest “H3”, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington

Anytime I come across a fruit driven wine with great acidity and a reasonable amount of complexity in the $10-$15 range, I want to sing its praises.

The Horse Heaven Hills wines remind me a lot of a great Alexander Valley Cabernet, where the tannins ripen and the wine is more approachable than a Napa bottling. The 2010 vintage in Horse Heaven Hills saw a cool summer that required good vineyard management, but a warm September and October ripened the naturally low-yielding vines just before the wet weather set in.

This vintage is phenomenal: not too high in alcohol, with a great acidity, that makes it an elegant, food-friendly, fruit driven, medium-bodied Cabernet. A nose of cherry and rose petals leads to a mouth of silky dark berries, dusted with cocoa and hints of bramble and forest floor. Black cherry and a hint of chocolate complement the soft tannins on the solid finish. 14.5% alc.

97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, 1% Cab Franc.

90 points Wine Spectator

“Polished and distinctive, offering chocolate and espresso accents around a supple core of cherry and fresh currant fruit. The finish is well-defined, with a silky feel. Drink now through 2019.” (11/ 2012)

Wine Enthusiast

“This wide-open, flavorful wine is lifted by accents of tobacco and cocoa that sit above the light and pretty cherry flavor. The finish is laden with a mocha note, which provides a pleasing conclusion.” (4/ 2013)


Score the 2010H3 Cabernet before it’s gone:

K&L and Costco…$10.95

Fry’s, Kroger…$12.95


Best Buy Big Reds #1 Summer ’13

Because I can’t think about crisp summer wines without imagining a big hefty red with some of my evenings!

Casa Lapostolle’s Clos Apalta ’08 or ’09

(Heck, any well priced vintage will be fabulous)

Clos Apalta from the Colchagua Valley, is always one of Chile (and the world’s) top wines. The 2008 was fantastic, but Wine Spectator was one of the rare pubs that gave it a lower score for ‘08 than ‘09, and the ‘08 now becomes an outstanding buy! Seek it out!!

It’s really got all the complexity a lover of big wine looks for. Think of the ’08 Clos Apalta as Heitz Martha’s Vineyard on steroids. Yet it’s beautifully crafted with elegance, layers of flavor, deep lush and incredibly intricate.

’08 Wine Enthusiast : 95 points and ‘Top 100 Wine of 2012 (#49), “[$90 list] Clos Apalta, depending on your point of view, is arguably Chile’s best wine. And this vintage is outstanding! Earth, minty spice, ripe berry, minerality and smoky aromas cover the bases. It’s superbly structured, with a fine texture and depth. Tastes lush and complex, with blackberry, crème de cassis, fine herbs and tobacco. Finishes classy. Drink now through 2016. Alcohol 14.2%. (Feb 2012)”

’08 Wine Spectator  92 points: “[$90 list] Fine-tuned and expressive, yet focused, this red has terrific display of dark, racy blackberry, boysenberry and braised fig flavors finely woven with spice, mesquite and cured olive hints. Silky tannins frame the long finish, with an aftertaste of fruit and mocha. Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Drink now through 2017. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. (2/29/12)”

’08 -Woodland Hills Wine Co., LA $69.95

’08- Zachy’s NY $70

Abeja 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (their 10th Vintage Release)

Abeja is always one of my favorite American reds, making insanely good Merlot (which teaches Cab lovers not to sneer at great Merlot) and their standard bearing Cabernet Sauvignon. John Abbot is the man behind Abeja, and he is the man who made Canoe Ridge famous before this. Abeja is also an annual Best Buy, until it is reviewed, at which point it all sells out. For the cool 2010 harvest, ALL his best fruit went into this bottling…there was no Reserve Bottling.

The 2010 is truly unique, so seek it out before the reviews hit.

“The first aromas hit you with blackcurrant and blackberry, earthy notes of good clean soil, and barrel notes of smoke and oreo. When you get to the mid-palate, you’ll find it plump and pretty, with more dark fruit and minerals, cassis liqueur and dark chocolate shavings, and finishing with dry, ripe tannins that show mocha and English Breakfast tea.”

As is the norm with Abeja, the mouthfeel is transcendent. This is a silky wine that backs up the fruit with just enough tannin and acid to package it beautifully.

Right now:

Woodland Hills Wine Co., LA $41.95

K&L, CA $44.95

Under $20…Best Buy

Do words like rich ripe fruit, tobacco, concentrated, cigar box, massive black berry fruit describe other wines you crave?

Then just look to the port houses for their blends, and pony up the money for the straight varietal bottling if you can afford the extra tab.

Companhia das Quintas 2009 Quinta da

Fronteira Selecção do Enólogo (Douro).

This is a blockbuster red. “Huge and rich, this offers ripe black fruits and a con­centrated structure. It’s packed with a seemingly sweet blackberry flavor that serves as a counterpoint to the firm texture. With both density and a dark edge, this will age over several years.”

$19.99 Total Wine in Phoenix, LA etc…

If you’re in NYC, just suck it up and race to Zachy’s, where they have a smoking deal on the insanely good:

Quinta do Vallado Touriga Nacional Douro 2009…WS 95pts, #13 of the Wine Spectator Top 100, at Zachy’s for only $41.95.

Summer Whites #1

Some Great buys in Summer Whites, with a few sneaking over here from Greece!

2012 Ken Forrester Petit Chenin, Stellenbosch

Ken is trying to provide maximum jobs in his community-which needs them, and still maintain a commitment to farming sustainably, while pruning and harvesting by hand. The result is some pretty great Chenin Blanc, and the Petite is a terrific summer quaffer and a great introduction to Chenin. Picked early, and bottled younger, it displays its crisp, fresh quince and pear drop flavors. Earlier picked freshness shows on the palate with crunchy green apple and grapefruit. Good mouth-feel and appetizingly tangy finish in this fresh and fruity style.

Sherry-Lehmann, NY $9.95

Wine House, LA $9.99

Sauvignon Blanc:

2012 Honig, Napa Sauvignon Blanc

Just classic easy drinking California Sauvignon Blanc. Fresh, zippy flavors with bright citrus, cut grass and dried herbs in the aromas and flavors, and a crisp aftertaste.

K&L $14.95

$14.95-$17 everywhere

 2010 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

Definitive New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, with nothing held back. A wonderful balance of brash lime, herb and tropical notes with melon and passionfruit.

(sugg. $18…but shop around and get it for $12)

Most Costco-$12-13…hard to beat for price and quality.

Pinot Grigio…Why?

The good ones are expensive, the inexpensive can be bad. Try looking further afield…how about Greece? I love Kir Yanni’s whites, but the best bottlings are made in tiny amounts and stay in Greece. These whites from the Island of Santorini are subtler than Sauvignons, yet full of interest and complexity

Santorini Whites:

2011 Estate Argyros, Assyrtiko

It’s entirely from the “assyrtiko” grape, and crafted in 100% stainless steel tanks to maximize its clean zestiness. Yet it’s not a fruity wine, but full of savory flavors.

Hi-Time, Costa Mesa $22.95

Traino’s, NJ $19.99

2011 Estate Argyros, “Atlantis” White Blend

Made mostly from the Assyrtiko grape, this crisp, citrusy blend includes the obscure Aidani grape and gets a floral hint from the inclusion of Athiri.

Chelsea Wine Vault, NY $15.99

K&L, CA $15.99

2011 Sigalas, Assyrtiko-Athiri

This Santorini wine is reminiscent of the sea and perfect with briny oysters and the like. Lots of savory flavors and herb notes to accompany a seafood lunch.

Sherry-Lehmann, NY $17.95

Lincoln Fine Wines, Venice CA $16.99

Phoenix Wine of Scottsdale $16.00

2012 Sigalas, Assyrtiko

Young, but may become the best of this group if you are willing to give it a little cellar time. Dense yet not heavy, this tangy 100% Assyrtiko is pleasingly savory with a lemon-zest zing and chalky minerality.

Sherry-Lehmann, NY $22.95

K&L $20.99

Total Wine, $23.99

Coming up:

Rose, Txacoli, Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Albarino, Malvasia, Gavi, un-oaked Chardonnay, and don’t forget Soave, still inexpensive, now it’s good and a fabulous bargain. …next emails

The Wine: ’11 Owen Roe Ex Umbris Syrah, Columbia Valley

Tasting the mature 2003 Owen Roe Dubrul Cabernet reminds me of just how fabulous and overlooked our American Syrah is. Generally more approachable and complex, with slightly softer tannins than their Cabernet rivals, these wines can be the best bang for the buck in rich domestic wines.

The nose on the 2011 Ex Umbris is pure intrigue. You can sit and inhale this for hours. In typical Owen Roe fashion it serves up loads of berries with vanilla cream, pie crust made with hints of cinnamon, brown sugar and spice, subtle wood notes, and dry powdered cocoa on the finish. Think of putting your nose over a big helping of crème brulee, caramelized and topped with juicy dark berries, and inhaling deeply. When you roll it around your mouth, it’s silky and sloshy and shows everything you expected plus more subtle pie spice notes, and that extra dark Scharffenberger chocolate finish. This is just great wine for the price. Fill your glass, and grab a piece of cheddar cheese, or roast a chicken with a little olive oil, lemon and oregano, and you are set.

“Ex Umbris et imaginibus in veritatem” (From shadows and symbols goes the truth). David named this wine inspired by the juxtaposition of the burnt fire-blackened Yakima Valley and the lush Syrah vines bordering that stark fire-damaged land. Years after the fire, the grapes still show that hint of smokiness.

All Syrah grapes for the Ex Umbris are sourced from the Columbia Valley:

77% from the Columbia Valley AVA
Including: 15% from the Lewis Vineyard, 24% from the Six Prong Vineyard, and 38% from the Erickson Vineyard

17.5% from the Yakima Valley AVA
Including: 11.5% from Red Willow Vineyard, and 6% from Outlook Vineyard

and 5.5% from Walla Walla AVA’s St Isidore Vineyard (The Source for Owen Roe’s Lady Rosa Syrah)

Find It:
2011 : $27.75 from
2010 : $25.99 Wades Wines in Westlake Village, $28.99 from Total Wine on Camelback in Phoenix

The Wine: 2012 Bodegas Muga Rosado

Summer Rose should be crisp, interesting yet subtle, well balanced, with just the right amount of acid and tannin to show off food, and it should be affordable, while feeling fabulously exclusive, and reminding you of time with friends or expensive flings along the Med (or our own Coast!).

Enter Bodegas Muga. Their big reds can get into the stratospheric price range, but their Rose is a fabulous buy, if you can find it. Like the better known French rose, the grapes are grown specifically for this wine.

The 2012 Muga is fresh and very well-balanced with crisp grapefruit and nectarines, lovely strawberry and hints of peach, apricot, and woody bramble. This is an elegant Rioja rose with fabulous minerality, and subtlety, and an almost universal appeal for Rose lovers.

I encourage you to seek it out, and buy it by the multiple case lot. You will drink through it quickly this summer!

$10.99 Shopper’s Vineyard – Clifton, NJ
$14.99 Wally’s Wine & Spirits- LA