Friday Feature- January 29th, 2010

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 wines from the Languedoc give you nose bleeds, Frascati makes you break out in hives, 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!

The sampler is in stock and ready to be picked up or shipped out!

Have a great weekend,


I love a good case study, and this month we delve into the “terroir” of the Languedoc, that widespread region that sits in the very southern part of France, north and northeast of the Spanish border. This month’s sampler feature two wines from different appellations of the region.

You can’t mention the Languedoc without talking about the appellation of Corbières. It is by far the largest appellation, with over 37,000 acres under vine. Some effort has been made to study the region’s nuances – so it boasts 11 delineated districts.

Château Etang des Colombes has been around for hundreds of years; it was formerly the property of the Archbishop of Narbonne. The property is located in the northern part of Corbières, around the village of Lézignan. The Gualco family has represented and taken care of the estate for four generations.

The Etang des Colombes “Tradition” is a blend of 40% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 30% old-vine Carignan and 10% Mourvèdre. This is a similar blend that you will taste in the Fitou (coming up). What you will notice when tasting the Corbières is that, despite its richness, it has good acidity, and offers a more “cool climate” approach to these Rhône varietals. Some of that comes from the fact that Lézignan – its sub-appellation in the Languedoc [there are SO many] – is farther away from the coast, higher in the hills, and offers soil with chalk, clay and stones.

This is a delicious value, full of wild red berries, herbs and spices, and excellent overall balance. I’ve been tasting the Etang des Colombes wines for over a decade, and this is one of the best efforts that I have tasted to date. Find yourself some squab to roast up and enjoy with a bottle of this for maximum pleasure.
$11.00 BTL. / $132.00 CASE


Let’s head to the coast! Not to take a swim in the water, but instead a dip into the Fitou.

Driving southeast from Etang des Colombes in Corbières, we start heading toward the Mediterranean Sea and into the appellation of Fitou. Again, Rhône varietals are the name of the game in this appellation but the climate and soil change greatly being so close to the coast. Fitou is split into two separate areas: Fitou-Maritime and Fitou de Hautes-Corbières. The red wines are blends, with at least 30% Carignan incorporated, and often a high proportion of Grenache.

Château Champs des Soeurs is a relative newcomer in Fitou. This small winery owns 13 hectares of land, much of which is in Fitou-Maritime on hard, schist soil. This excellent example of Fitou is a blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Carignan, and 10% Syrah. This tank-fermented wine is a pure expression of the region.

You will notice the dark and red liqueu-like fruit, along with lots of spice, Mediterranean herbs, and hints of chocolate on the nose and palate. This very savory wine is a perfect winter wine, especially when paired with your favorite short rib recipe.
$11.00 BTL. / $132.00 CASE


A great marinated, grilled hangar steak. A perfectly prepared tripe stew. To the chef, these ingredients, while humble and usually inexpensive to use, still can make for incredible dishes.

This has its application in the wine world. Gros-Plant is little seen this side of the ocean, as it is considered a humble, workhorse of a grape that makes merely simple and “easy” wines. While this grape can be innocuous for most of the average “cooks,” in the hands of a great “chef” like Pierre Luneau-Papin, this is a delectable, food-friendly white wine that makes you realize how important a good farmer and winemaker can be in the production of wine.

Pierre is a seventh generation winemaker and at his estate, Pierre de la Grange is very famous for its great line-up of Muscadets. You’ve seen these wines here before, and so you knew I would jump at the chance to offer this really tasty Gros-Plant on my sampler.

Gros-Plant du Pay Nantais is the name of a large appellation that can be found surrounding Nantes, right alongside the Atlantic ocean. Luneau-Papin treats this with much of the same care as his Muscadet, lowering yields, harvesting healthy and ripe grapes and vinifying in stainless steel while the wine sits on its lees for an extra period for added complexity.

The result is a super-fresh and vibrant white wine, with plenty of citrus and mineral notes alongside bright acidity on the palate. Here is the lemon for your oyster. Have a sip of this along some simply adorned shellfish or white fish and you will be in Gros-Plant heaven.

$11.50 BTL. / $138.00 CASE


When in Rome, well you are going to have to drink Frascati. Not because there are laws that say so, but maybe the fact that the Romans have been drinking the stuff for around 2,000 years means that this must be something worth checking out.

This crisp and fresh white wine is made from two different clones of Malvasia, along with the grapes Bombino and Grechetto. Made at the historic estate of Tenuta di Pietra Porzia, this is one of the largest and best producers of Frascati Superiore. The winery is state-of-the-art, and the emphasis is to offer wines of great freshness and complexity.

While many Italian white wine enthusiasts think of Frascati as a summer drink, for me, this is an any-time-of-the-year time drink. It is ideal while you are nibbling on antipasti, or as an accompaniment to olive oil-based seafood pasta.
$10.50 BTL. / $126.00 CASE


How important is it to taste rather than listen? In the world of wine, very important. They can drive themselves crazy worrying about whether something is from a “good” or “bad” vintage. I’ve even seen people carry tiny little vintage charts in their wallet in the hopes that the world of wine can be condensed into a 3-x-2 note card.

The reason why I bring this up is that 2007 was a so-called “terrible” vintage. (Robert Parker said so.) But, then again, that is why I taste (and you benefit). This tasty little Bordeaux is a perfect example. Yes, this is from the maligned 2007 vintage, predominantly composed of Merlot with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

I’m not going to regale you of tales of a grand estate or tiny yields with this wine. This is simple, with good acidity, hints at dark fruit, and fine herbs. It is easy to drink, and the kind of Bordeaux I would expect to get in a carafe at a French bistro. You are going to want to drink this with a meal. Make it simple, a sandwich, burger, charcuterie and cheese. It goes to show you that – amazingly – there is still tasty Bordeaux for under $10 a bottle.

$8.50 BTL. / $102.00 CASE


Telling you that I recently discovered Castaño Monastrell would be like someone telling you that they recently discovered air. This well-known and widely-distributed Monastrell is simply an insanely good wine for the money. Maybe I’m repeating myself for the tenth time, but remember, the southern Meditteranean coast of Spain with its appellations of Yecla, Jumilla, Valencia (and more) is a great place to look for reds with heft and complexity for under $10.

Bodegas Castaño has actually been a mainstay in the region of Yecla for a while, but it wasn’t until the ‘80’s that quality was improved and exporting became a primary focus. Monastrell is a synonym for the Mourvèdre of France, and Yecla is lucky to have may old vines.

It is from 30-60 year-old, non-irrigated vines that Bodegas Castaño makes this wine. It is fermented and rested in stainless steel tank to preserve its fresh fruit and spice. This opens up in the glass with notes of plum and blackberry. On the palate, it has medium weight, with soft tannins, pepper notes, and a round finish. This is very easy to drink by itself, although it would be awfully good with a chipotle marinated flank steak sandwich.
$7.50 BTL. / $90.00 CASE

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