Recommendations

Mas Des Dames, Rose, Coteaux Du Languedoc 2009

by Tim Elliott on March 3, 2011

Outside here in Minnesota it’s in the mid 20’s Fahrenheit with a thick snowpack. It is far from springtime here but a bit of spring can be had here inside a bottle of dry rosé. Every spring and summer I resolve to drink more rosé but for one reason or another rarely do. So I thought I would start a bit early this year even if it’s not seasonable outside yet.

Mas Des Dames Rose bottleRosé wines are a misunderstood lot here in the U.S. where most people think of them as off-dry or even full-on sweet “blush wines.” The most cliche of these is the white Zinfandel which is still a staple on many an American table. Dig a bit deeper in a good wine shop you will find several good dry rosé wines that pair well with food and deliver a unique flavor spectrum that is not quite white but clearly not as heavy as a red. The result is the perfect spring/summer wine; at least for me.

Rosé has a long tradition in southern France. But the people behind this wine are relative newcomers. After leaving a career in advertising in Amsterdam, Lidewij van Wilgen moved her family to France’s Languedoc to start Mas Des Dames in 2002. The 18th century farmhouse that serves as the winery is surrounded by 14 hectares (35 acres) of vines mostly planted to Rhone varieties. Organic methods in the vineyard and traditional vinification techniques are used to make the wines. And based upon this rosé, I’m looking forward to tasting their other wines.

Tasting notes:

Mas Des Dames, Rosé, Coteaux Du Languedoc 2009 ($16) – A blend of 40% Grenache, 40% Mourvèdre, 20% Syrah. Clear salmon-ruby color with aromas of strawberry and citrus. Crisp grapefruit and strawberry flavors finishing bone dry with bracing acidity. Very refreshing and pairs very well with food. Only 500 cases produced.

13% ABV
Natural cork closure
Rating: ★★★½☆
Score: 89

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Davis Bynum, Pinot Noir 2008

by Tim Elliott on February 21, 2011

Davis Bynum Pinot Noir 2008Davis Bynum is a venerable name in California Pinot Noir having made their reputation back when Joseph Swan was still with us. Founded in 1973, Davis Bynum was the first to produce a single-vineyard Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley; from the now legendary Rochioli Vineyard. And this heritage lives on even after the sale to Rodney Strong Vineyards in 2007. From this tasting, and  a time or two in their tasting room, the wine in the bottle continues to live up to their well earned reputation.

Tasting notes:

Davis Bynum, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley 2008 ($35/sample) – Dark garnet in color with aromas of black cherry, earth, sage and fennel. Tight raspberry fruit flavors with nutmeg and a mineral note finishing with moderate tannins. Needs a bit more time in the cellar to come around or 2 hours in a decanter.

14.9% ABV
Natural cork closure
Rating: ★★★½☆
Score: 89

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Glen Ellen, Petite Sirah 2007

by Tim Elliott on February 15, 2011

Glen Ellen Petite Sirah 2007Wines in the “fighting varietal” section of the wine store don’t get a lot of wine blog love. Nor do they get reviewed very much in the mainstream wine press leaving the inquiring consumer to consult Google for information. And I get a lot of incoming search traffic every time I review such a wine.

But I’m not reviewing this wine for the traffic but because it surprised me at how drinkable an industrial California $5 wine can be. Glen Ellen as a fighting varietal brand has been with us since the mid-1980’s producing a number of different wines available mostly in 1.5 Liter bottles. But it has been only recently that they have been relaunched as a sort of second label of Concannon Vineyards, the first producer of varietal labeled Petite Sirah. And judging by this effort, some of the winemaking practices for the variety have rubbed off.

Tasting notes:

Glen Ellen, Petite Sirah, “Proprietor’s Reserve” 2007 – ($10/1.5 Liter/sample) – Ruby-purple in color with aromas of blueberry and strawberry. Bright blueberry and plum flavors with a nice red fruit finish and no tannins. A fruit bomb a lot of people will like and a terrific value.

13.5% ABV
Synthetic cork closure
Rating: ★★★½☆
Score: 85

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Rodney Strong, Pinot Noir 2009

by Tim Elliott on February 14, 2011

Rodney Strong, Pinot Noir 2009Since today is Valentine’s Day I thought I would post a romantic wine. Red Burgundy is world-renound as a silky and feminine wine of grace and balance. And Pinot Noir is the variety of red Burgundy which has been transplanted all over the wine world. California Pinot Noir has come a long way in a relatively short period of time producing some world-class wines. But due to the popularity of the variety since the success of the movie Sideways, finding top grade Cali Pinot for less than $25 a bottle has been tricky.

Rodney Strong has a well established track record for their Cabernet and Merlot based wines but I can’t remember if I’ve ever tasted a Pinot Noir from this producer. But they have been making the variety for a number of vintages from their vineyards in the Russian River Valley where their winery is located. And they did purchase venerable Pinot producer Davis Bynum 5 years ago. So I was surprised to learn that founder Rod Strong had been one of the first to plant Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley back in 1968. Such foresight makes this wine no less surprising for it’s level of quality at a bargain price.

Tasting notes:

Rodney Strong, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley “Estate Vineyards” 2009 ($20/sample) – Ruby in color with aromas of strawberry, black cherry, forest floor and fennel. Bright cherry and strawberry fruit finishing with fine tannins. A delicious Cali Pinot that I think will get more interesting with a couple more years of cellaring or decant for a couple hours now. An exceptional value for $20 or less on sale.

14.5% ABV
Natural cork closure
Rating: ★★★★☆
Score: 90

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