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TBIFOM #11: Everything New is Old Again

(The Bottle In Front Of Me is a series of somewhat irregular, brief tasting notes from the Rogue Estate’s resident wine guy, Ian.) Everything New is Old Again I have an old friend. By that I mean he is a friend from my distant past that I have not been in contact with for a very long time. In addition, I am old now. So is he. In every sense of the term, we are old friends now. Somewhat recently, he moved to South Carolina and dove right into gardening and the local wines, dominated by an active Virginia scene. Excited by social media, and good local wine options, he decided to share with me. I uncorked one of his gifts tonight. And it was lovely. I like what Virginia's producing now, and hope the region gets larger scale and better distribution at a steady pace, without sacrificing quality.
Blenheim 2010 "Painted Red"

Blenheim 2010 "Painted Red"

2010 Blenheim Vineyards Painted Red (About $30, but SOLD OUT) Half Merlot with Cab Sav, Syrah, Petit Verdot, and Cab Franc. Learn more about the winery: http://blenheimvineyards.com/about_blenheim/ Learn more about the bottle in front of me: http://store.nexternal.com/blenheim/painted-red-2010-p53.aspx SEE: A very pretty bright clear medium red with a tiny rim of rose. For a wine this young, I had expected a larger, pinker rim. Someone knows what they're doing. SWIRL: The color amplifies with a swirl, leaving soft slow irregular legs on the glass. SMELL: Heavily perfumed and ripe, with light floral and cherry scents, an undercurrent of tree bark, and warm sweet muffins. SIP: On the tongue, the body is thin, with firm tannins and a refreshing bit of acidity. The flavor moves on to caramel and creme brûlée, with a faint finish of red apple. SAVOR: Bordeaux, baby! With many of the typical characteristics artfully integrated. Final impression: There is care here, and even a sense of terroir. More interesting and successful than the dozens of cheap (under $15) French Bordeaux's that are creeping into the U.S. market. Pair with: game birds, funky french cheeses or honest cheddars, walnuts. And the whole Dave Matthews connection? I like Dave's wine better than I ever liked his music. But I could just be getting old.

TBIFOM #10: Jumping Off the Rosé Bandwagon

(The Bottle In Front Of Me is a series of somewhat regular, brief tasting notes from the Rogue Estate’s resident wine guy, Ian.) Jumping Off the Rosé Bandwagon In my part of the midwest, the last 2-3 years have seen a massive increase in the popularity of good dry Rosé wines. The usual excellent French and Italian suspects are present, but added to the mix are Spanish, South American, South African, and even a few great Michigan pours. My local grocery is carrying at least 40 different Rosés this Spring/Summer, and only 1 or 2 are the dreaded sweet "White Zinfandel". I adore chilled rosé through the Summer, and I was hunting for something unfamiliar. I scored that in spades, from a place I never really knew existed. Lanzarote. Lanzarote is a Spanish territory in the Canary Islands, at the edge of the E.U., and off the coast of Southern Morocco. They were also the last stop of Spanish galleons on their way to the new world. It's a volcanic island of striking, harsh beauty, with really fascinating viticulture. I had no idea what to expect from this mysterious little wine-making island before I opened the bottle in front of me. 2010 Bermejo Rosé (About $24)

An attractive, unfamiliar shape, with minimal labeling. In addition there is a unique "spout" molded into the top.

Learn more about the winery (Spanish language only): http://www.losbermejos.com/index.php Learn more about the bottle in front of me (Spanish language only): http://www.losbermejos.com/view_product.php?product=7ROSBUM869 SEE: A gorgeous medium amberish pink, almost terra cotta. The bright clear color fades to a transparent rim. SWIRL: An extremely viscous cling to the glass which falls very slowly in curtains, not legs. SMELL: Unexpected. An initial note of spiced apples fades quickly to an unusual funk, with undertones of oxidized cherries. Very light notes of honey and sulphur follow. This appears to have been a difficult wine to coax from the fruit available. SIP: Heavy mouthfeel, dominated by tart cherry and sour cranberry. While not tannic, there are hints of red currant, oak leaf, and tomato skin. SAVOR: The closest relative to this wine I've experienced is a fino sherry. Very rustic. Final impression: Unlike any other rosé I have yet tried. Unique in my experience, complex, but a bit unapproachable. If you have a summer dish that you like with a very dry sherry, this might be a nice change of pace. Otherwise, there may be better values out there from mainland Europe. Pair with: The obvious rules apply, but I had to taste a few bites to confirm. I might pour this with wood-grilled squid or small fishes, grilled sweet peppers, olives. It takes to woody herbs quite well--lavender, oregano, thyme and sage.

TBIFOM #09: Fizzy Bizness

(The Bottle In Front Of Me is a series of somewhat regular, brief tasting notes from the Rogue Estate’s resident wine guy, Ian.) Fizzy Bizness I enjoy bubbly wines on occasion. That's the key word, "occasion". It's usually a wedding or a New Years Eve before I'll consider popping and pouring one. It's required if a good friend offers pricy caviar, but sadly that has only happened ONCE. So, on a whim, I decided to dip back into Michigan wines because we have a really good producer here. L. Mawby is recognized as one of the more skilled bubbly makers in the U.S. They focus ONLY on sparkling wines, fermented both methode champenoise (in the bottle) and cuve close (in the tank). The less expensive cuve close wines are marketed under the "M. Lawrence" name. Currently they produce 14 different wines, packed into only 8,000 cases a year. That speaks volumes about craftsmanship and dedication. Their Cremant Classic is definitely in a French style (think crisp Alsace), although made with 100% Vignoles grapes (no Pinots or Chards). And it's delicious. A note about notes: My method for note-taking failed me somewhat on sparklers, for two primary reasons. Swirling does not accentuate bubbly the way it does still wines. And savoring sparkling wine over the course of a few hours can actually degrade it's flavors. Serve very cold, and sip as quickly as is comfortable with friends. L. Mawby NV Brut Cremant Classic (About $23) Learn more about the winery: http://www.lmawby.com/ Learn more about the bottle in front of me: http://www.lmawby.com/index.php?route=/buy/wine&id=1 SEE: A rich gold with a light peach tint. Tiny beads form and disappear quickly. SWIRL: Resist the temptation. You'll make a mess. SMELL: Typically yeasty bread notes, but in this case coupled with exotic spice, slate, herbs and white fruit. SIP: To my mind this is much more fruit-forward than a true Brut. Strawberries, nectarines, white peach and Rainier cherries. This is balanced with a slight flinty minerality. SAVOR: A moderately long finish resolves to honey crisp apple and poppy seeds.

Bubbly, sexy, diferent. Why wait?

Final impression: A beautiful cold sipper on its own. More approachable than most Champagnes in this price range. Pair with: Tends to dominate most flavors. Try with the classic pairings of buttered popcorn, fish roes, or shellfish. Might actually be a nice foil for Oysters Rockefeller or Clams Casino. Actually probably best in an ice bucket on a bedside table with that sexy someone.

TBIFOM #08: The French Hottie

(The Bottle In Front Of Me is a series of somewhat regular, brief tasting notes from the Rogue Estate’s resident wine guy, Ian.) The French Hottie Popular U.S. opinion is that French wine has a certain "mystique". Unfortunately no one really knows what that word means anymore, so it has become an alias for "overpriced" and "not immediately enjoyable". The people who believe this are the same Neanderthals who slept through French class in college, and never noticed the sweet, sexy girl in the second row who somehow had a better accent than anyone else. I miss that girl. I think she's in the bottle in front of me. This is another capable Rhône designed for bistro food, and a long, fantastic conversation about poetry, movies, politics, and the color of her eyes (there I go again…) 2007 Le Clos Du Caillou Côtes du Rhône (About $20) Learn more about the winery (French language only): http://www.closducaillou.com/site/spip.php Learn more about the bottle in front of me (French language only): http://www.closducaillou.com/site/spip.php?page=fichevins&id_article=109

Love to see what's under THAT label...

  SEE: A deep, majestic, and clear ruby red. Lightens to an even medium red at the rim. SWIRL: It coats the glass beautifully with even, slow legs. SMELL: A floral perfume over a bed of solid musky leather. There beef blood in there, and lots of dark berries. As the alcohol blows off, there's some intriguing barnyard and bacon aromas. SIP: Wonderful black cherry and cassis are upfront, but it's not long before the muted spice notes emerge, with orange peel and cloves. SAVOR: There's a long evolving finish that starts dusty and hot, but resolves to bitter chocolate.  Nice solid structure and balance to this. Final impression: A lusty wine to savor slowly and enjoy its finer aromas. This one will age well for several more years. Pair with: Classic French bistro fare. Boeuf Bourguignon, rich cheeses.

TBIFOM #07: White for Tapas

(The Bottle In Front Of Me is a series of somewhat regular, brief tasting notes from the Rogue Estate’s resident wine guy, Ian.) White for Tapas It's no longer news that Michigan (like much of the eastern U.S.) has had an early spring, with record-setting temps that make it feel like Summer. So at the risk of jinxing us all into colder temps, I thought I'd cover one of my favorite pairings with an affordable bottle. I LOVE Spanish-style tapas, and most of them are savory gems that are free of red meat. Try this, respectfully chilled, with the tapas you love.

A White for the Red drinker.

              ZOLO 2010 Torrontes (About $12) Learn more about the winery: http://www.vinodelsol.com/thewineries/zolo.html Learn more about the bottle in front of me: http://www.vinodelsol.com/pos/zolo/TechSheet_ZoloTorrontes.pdf SEE: An attractive dusty light gold. SWIRL: A clear even coat on the glass with slow legs. SMELL: Initial aromas of white peach & flowers and some faint smoke. Some minerality follows, stone fruits and tart apple. SIP: A definite warmth and tartness, with baked pear and and orange rind/pith following. Lime and sea salt hint at pairings. SAVOR: As it opens, this becomes a complex, warm, and golden bath over the food it is served with. It seems to embrace salt. Final impression: This will not contrast to or confound light Spanish classics--a great everyday wine for seafood or vegetable tapas. Pair with: Complex savory but not spicy dishes, saffron, shrimp, dry Spanish chorizo, sardines and young sheep cheeses. Avoid sugars and carmel flavors.