Friday Feature – 3/26/10

Hello and Happy Friday!

If you haven’t heard of the “six for $60” it is about time you did! It is pretty simple, a monthly sampler featuring six recently tasted and Craig approved wine values. Together these six individual bottles cost only $60 (excluding tax).

The “six for $60” is highly recommend to those learning about wines, trying to stock their wine rack with affordable and tasty adult beverages, or wanting to bring a gift to someone hosting a party.

So how does this work? To order simply e–mail me back and say “Hey Craig, hook me up.” To join the devoted legions of fans who receive them every month you can just say “and keep ’em coming!” All of the wines are available by the bottle or case, but for total jubilation just do the whole sampler. Some people are challenged by some of the wines that I put in to my sampler. If Sangiovese makes you have nightmares, Carménère makes you tell bad jokes, or you just simply hate something I am offering, I will substitute and try to get the sampler as close to $60 as possible.

A suggestion to those folks trying to learn from this as well as get a buzz, print out a copy of the newsletter to keep with your sampler. That way when you are in the mood for a bottle you have your own mini wine lesson on hand. So what are you waiting for? Order yours today!

Have a great weekend,



Who are you? That is what the wine world has often asked about the varietal now known as Carménère.

With suggested origins in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, it was used as a blending grape in the early to mid 1800’s. As people from the region traveled, they helped bring the varietal to other parts of the world including, and most importantly the wine regions of Chile.

For many years it was incorrectly identified, with many farmers thinking it was Merlot. In 1998, Carménère was officially recognized, and its popularity today is widespread in Chile.

Characteristically the grape provides medium–bodied wine chock full of bold pepper spice. When it is under–ripe it can be quite green, and I have found through my tastings over the years that it is a difficult grape to get just right.

I was very impressed when I tasted this excellent value Carménère under the Chono label. Owned by one of Chile’s most sought after enologists and winemakers Alvaro Espinoza, hand picked grapes are cold fermented in a mixture of both tank and barrel, and then rested in both vessels.

Real complexity on the nose with abundant spice and floral notes to go along with dark berry fruit. Medium weight, with some ripe tannins in the mid–palate. This is a wine that simply begs out for red meat, such as grilled flank steak.
$11.00 BTL. / $132.00 CASE


If there is a better value White Bordeaux in this style, someone please tell me. That’s what I thought – there isn’t!

Over the years I have consumed countless bottles of different vintages of Château Haut–Rian Bordeaux Sec. This is the crisp, aperitif side of White Bordeaux, a blend of 60% Sémillon and 40% Sauvignon Blanc, vinified and aged only in stainless steel tank.

The grapes come from hillside vineyards in Rions. Primarily limestone soil with gravel, you can understand why these varietals thrive here. Michel and Isabelle Dietrich do an amazing job at producing such a quaffable and fun white wine.

Super bright and fresh notes of grapefruit, lemon, and herbs on the nose and palate. Very long and totally refreshing, I have always loved having copious amounts of really fresh oysters with this.
$9.50 BTL. / $114.00 CASE


By now, you folks who have been buying the samplers are more knowledgeable than 90% of wine geeks when it comes to the region of the Languedoc. So it’s time to delve into the subject a little deeper.

Here we taste a wine from a winery based in Pic St. Loup. Jean Orliac is a well respected winemaker in the region. In 1970 he moved from a career as an agricultural professor at Universtiy of Montpellier to a full time wine producer. Domaine de l’Hortus was created in the Pic St. Loup area, and the 50 initial acres purchased were planted to a variety of grapes.

There is a really solid line–up of wines from this producer, some more serious than others. Le Loup dans la Bergerie was created as a daily drinking red. The fruit is purchased from local farmers that they know and trust. While I don’t have an exact break down of varietals, it is primarily composed of Merlot, with splashes of Greanche, Syrah.

This is a rustic, country red that you should throw into a decanter or pitcher to give a little air to. It is simple and very yummy with bright red berry notes, Mediterranean herbs, and pepper spice. It would be a good matched for BBQ chicken on the grill or a simple meal of cured meats and olives.
$11.00 BTL. / $132.00 CASE


You couldn’t possibly think that I would have a “Six for $60” without a Spanish wine, did you?

Except this time – no Tempranillo, no Monastrell, instead the atypical white Rioja finds its way into the mix! Never had white Rioja? Well, not too many people have. The primary white varietal of the region is called Viura. Stylistically all Viura is not created equal, with quite a bit of variance among the few that are still making whites in this predominantly red wine region.

Bodegas Bretón is not the oldest producer on the block. Established in 1983 by several local business people, the aim is to make traditionally styled wines from various vineyards throughout the region. The winery itself is located just outside of Logroño, the capital of La Rioja.

I admire this producer for keeping with the tradition of producing white wine in Rioja. Back in the day, there actually was more white wine produced then red – oh how times have changed!

While many consumers have gone away from drinking white wines that are barrel fermented, I was happy to take advantage of a deal that gave me the opportunity to reintroduce you to the style. Made from old–vine Viura from the La Canta estate, the grapes are pressed and the must is then put into new American oak barrels for fermentation. ½ of the wine is then aged in barrels, with the lees being stirred three times a week. To finish, all the wine is then blended together and bottled.

The result is a rich and complex white wine with hints at vanilla, peach, honey and poached pear on the nose and palate. It is the type of wine that really can pair well with richer foods like pheasant or veal. A good lesson in what barrel fermentation can do to a wine.
$11.00 BTL. / $132.00 CASE


Whenever I have a customer that has just come back from Tuscany in Italy, they almost always go into a story about how they were at such and such restaurant and had a really delicious carafe of wine and it was only 4 Euros! This is the wine.

I mean, maybe not exactly the wine, but for this month’s sampler I decided to throw in this super easy quaffing red which costs the same as a big bottle of Pellegrino in most restaurants.

This is a very simple but tasty Sangiovese from the Bartali family of Monteriggioni. They make a whole range of wines, with the capacity to make over 2 million bottles per year.

Leda Pucci, the name of the founder’s wife, is the value line from Bartali. It is almost impossible to believe that a quality wine could be made at this price point, as I think the bottle may cost more than the wine. Regardless, this is Craig tasted and approved. Some, juicy notes of cherry, flowers and spice. Have it with your pasta dinners or a simple roasted chicken.
$6.50 BTL. / $78.00 CASE


A couple nights ago at the store I did a tasting focusing on Pinot Noir’s from around the world. One country you may not often consider when thinking about the varietal is that of Australia. In areas like Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Adelaide Hills and different parts of Tasmania, some excellent examples are being made.

As many of you know, Australia produces a plethora of inexpensive wines, some not so good and some really good. One producer that has excelled for some time at both price points is that of De Bortoli. Based in Victoria, this large producer is headed by Leanne De Bortoli and her husband Steve Webber, who used to be the winemaker at Lindemans. Consistent is a good word to use when describing this producer.

I was pretty shocked when I tasted this Pinot Noir for the first time recently. I’m not of the general opinion that you can make good Pinot for under $15, but in this case I have most definitely been proven wrong.

The fruit that goes into the Vat 10 Pinot Noir comes from De Bortoli’s home base of Victoria, as well as the consistent and warm Riverina district. Whole bunch and warmer fermentation are two notable elements that make this a soft, and easy to drink example of Pinot Noir.

Classic Victorian spice driven nose with hints at dark and red fruits. Medium weight, with ripe but not jammy fruit, and good balancing acidity. A good match for grilled duck breast.
$11.00 BTL. / $132.00 CASE

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