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WBW 71 Wrap-up: (Mostly) New World Rhones

by Tim Elliott on March 22, 2011

It has been nearly three years since I last hosted Wine Blogging Wednesday but my choice of theme was easy. Wines made from Rhône varieties are among my personal favorites and I was hoping to learn about many more new wines from participants this month. There were 25 bloggers posting reviews from all over the world. Thanks again to all who took the time to participate and here they are in the order I learned about them:

  • The first post came two weeks early from Karla at Sol Wine & Film. An overview of the Curtis Winery of Santa Ynez Valley in California, the subject fit the theme perfectly but somehow didn’t mention WBW. But Karla used the WBW hashtag so is included in this roundup.
  • New entrant Rags, the Kenyan Wine Brat, posted his video review of CrossRoads Winery Syrah from Texas. While he is no Gary V, his use of “refrigerator smell” to describe the Syrah near the beginning made me think of the famous New York Jets fan. Nice start, man; looking forward to more!
  • Next up was Lisa from Wine Muse posting a review of a 2009 Rutherglen Estates “Shelley’s Block” Marsanne Viognier from her native Australia. Made from 70% Marsanne and 30% Viognier, the wine sounds wonderful and a great value at $15AUS.
  • Joe the Suburban Wino posted a long and somewhat rambling post about Rhône styled wines that begins with a rant about how difficult the circumflex over the “o” in Rhône is but then uses that word about a hundred times. No review here but there is some serious Rhône knowledge thrown down within Joe’s hilarious rant prose.
  • Another video review was posted by Aleksi who selected two wines for his tasting. The first is the Bellingham, The Bernard Series, Grenache Blanc Viognier (no vintage mentioned) which proved to be an interesting wine despite some metallic flavors. His second selection seemed more successful, 2006 Spinifex “Papillon”, a red blend made from Carignan, Cinsault and Granache.
  • Next up was Bob from 2001 Bottles – A Wine Odyssey with a 2006 Church & State “Coyote Bowl” Syrah from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. It’s not surprising to me that such a nice Syrah could come from Canada as most of the best examples of this variety come from cooler sites. Also tasted was 2009 Twisted Tree Rousanne/Marsanne which was also a winner.
  • Richard, The Passionate Foodie and next month’s WBW host, tasted a 2007 Sutton Cellars Carignane “Piferro Vineyard” and found it to be an, “easy drinking wine, but with appealing character, and would be an perfect pairing with burgers, pizza, or even pasta.” Count me in to pick up some of this to try soon.
  • First time WBW participant Jason from The Ancient Fire Wine Blog was next with a 2007 Penfolds Bin 138 GMS blend. Made from Grenache, Mourvedre and Shiraz, the wine proved to be, “assertive, but not abusive.” Hope to see you next time, Jason!
  • The VA Wine Diva was next with a trio of Rhone-styled wines from Virginia. The first was a 2009 Veritas Vineyards Viognier which was overall a nice wine marred a bit on the finish with a touch of heat. This was followed up by an earthy and leathery 2005 Ingleside Vineyards Syrah. The tasting was capped off with a 2008 Pollak Vineyards “Mille Fleurs” fortified Viognier dessert wine.
  • Andrew from Spittoon, the bloke who got me first into WBW back when he hosted, was next with a 2009 See Saw Shiraz-Mourvèdre. Although information about the wine was hard to come by, it proved to be a winner for under £9.
  • Matt posted next over at A Good Time With Wine tasting a 2007 Liberty School Cuvee, a blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Viognier. Although Matt prefers the leaner French style in his Syrah, he did like this California wine.
  • Next was Magnus posting a bi-lingual review of a 2007 Annie Camarda Syrah from Washington State, quite a find in his native Sweden. And the wine was, “Well balanced, big and juicy with a nice acidity that bring excitement and sophistication – this is good and I am willing to buy me some bottles for the summer as well as for the future.” Magnus was the only person this month to accompany his review with an Iron Maiden video, a trend I’d like to see continue 😉
  • Ryan from Catavino in Spain posted next tasting a 2006 Cellar Malondro red blend. A blend of 50% Garnacha and 50% Cariñena from D.O. Montsant, I recalled my trip to the region in 2007 which Ryan commemorated with an archive photo on the post.
  • Next was Michael, The Wine Undertaker, who tasted a 2008 Sterling Vineyards Roussanne from Carneros. The wine was the first taste of Roussanne for him but will not be his last given how well this bottle performed.
  • Colin from Grapefan passed along a tasting note on Adegga as he took a week long vow of no wine. The wine sounds like a winner, though, a 2006 Syrah from Napa Valley’s Hyde de Villaine.
  • Frank from Drink What You Like posted another Virginia Viognier, this time from Jefferson Vineyards. From the 2009 vintage, the wine sounds very interesting and one Wine Blogger Conference attendees will no doubt taste as it’s made in Charlottesville, the site of the 2011 event.
  • Next up was Sebastien at downcellar who posted a pair of Mourvèdre from the New and Old World. First was a meaty and dark Spice Route Mourvèdre from Swartland, South Africa. The Old World entry is a 2007 Juan Gil Monastrell from Jumilla, Spain. Both sound like excellent examples of Mourvèdre from outside The Rhône.
  • My own entry was next, a tale of two Rhone-styled wines from California. In the end, the Steele “Writer’s Block” Roussanne delivered the goods for a steal of a closeout price.
  • William from Simple Hedonisms was next with a review of Wesley Ashley “Intelligent Design Cuvee” Red Rhone Blend. The blend of Carignane, Grenache, Cinsault, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre sounds outstanding.
  • Next was Remy at The Wine Case who posted a nice write-up of a 2009  Edmunds St. John “Wylie” Syrah. The effort from this venerable producer of California Syrah proved very nice but made Remy wish he had a bit more patience to see what the wine would evolve to with further cellaring. That’s why you buy more than one bottle, man 😉
  • Andrea from Wine Skamp posted next with a review of 2008 Santo Cristo Garnacha, a decent sounding quaffer from Spain’s Campo de Borja.
  • Megan was next from the Wannabe Wino blog with a review of a 2009 Hahn GSM blend which sounded like another winner from California.
  • Rain followed next from Teach Us Wine with a cautionary tale to always check the seal on your bottle particularly if it’s a screw-cap. Her tale is full of fail but I’m sure she will come back strong next time.
  • On Wine Blogging Thursday, WBW founder Lenn Thompson posted his entry; a well-chosen 2005 Doon Vineyards “Cigare Volant.” And it seemed worth the wait.
  • And last, but certainly not least, the fabulous Thea posted her entry at Luscious Lushes, a tribute to winemaker Kevin Hamel. She pulled a bottle of 2002  Hamel Wines Syrah, Westside Hills from her cellar to share but also recounts experiences with the 2001 vintage and some other favorite Syrah’s.

So that’s it. I count 25 bloggers and 28 wines tasted. Most of these were red but 8 whites were also reviewed. If I somehow missed your entry, please let me know in the comments and I will update this post.

Thanks again to Lenn for letting me host once again. And without further ado, I pass the baton to Richard from The Passionate Foodie for a very special edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday next month.

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

adegga listing
CellarTracker note
Snooth listing

Twisted Oak, “River of Skulls”, Mourvdère 2006

by Tim Elliott on September 25, 2008

Every wine lover has a progression of experiences from the jug wines or fighting varietals they started with, through the wines of Germany, Bordeaux, Spain and Italy before they get to Rhone blends (the end goal is always Burgundy for some reason). In recent months, I’ve been drinking mostly southern Rhone-style blends from France, Spain and California. Most of these have been red with Mourvdère (or Monastrell) based wines a favorite. So I was pleased when Jeff (a.k.a. El Jefe) at Twisted Oak offered some samples of his new “River of Skulls” Mourvèdre/Syrah blend.

The first thing that stands out is the striking package. The red skull literally burned into the bottle signals this as something special. If you are looking for a wine for your Halloween party, look no further as your friends will be talking about both the bottle and what’s inside. The striking name is not some sort of commercial play for late October sales but a homage to local history near where the grapes were grown. It seems a Spanish Lieutenant exploring the area in the early 19th century happened across a number of skulls littered on the river bank. Being a practical man, he named this place “El Rio De Las Calaveras” or, literally, the “River of Skulls”.

The grapes for this wine were grown in the Dalton Vineyard only a short distance from the Calaveras river. Along with seven other varieties, Dalton is planted with the Spanish clone of Mourvèdre (called Monastrell in Spain). Although more known in the wine world as one of the 13 grapes of the Côtes du Rhône, Mourvdère is actually a native of Spain, most likely Catalonian. The Mourvdère, which makes up 90% of the blend, was fermented with about 25% whole clusters which adds to the backbone of the wine. Later, 10% Syrah from the same vineyard was blended to provide some additional structure and complexity. Nineteen months spent in a mixture of new and neutral oak barrels (50/50) provides the seasoning here.

Like some other wines I’ve recently tasted, River of Skulls is only available on an allocated mailing list. Since I just was able to sign up myself it’s still open, but I’d suggest you do this soon before the wine is sold out.

Tasting Notes:

Twisted Oak, “River of Skulls”, Mourvdère, Dalton Vineyard, Calaveras County ($35 retail/$28 to club/received as sample) – Dark ruby in color with aromas of black cherry, fennel, tobacco, clove, and vanilla. Bold and concentrated blackberry and dark cherry fruit joined by cracked black pepper, some tar and sweet oak finishing long with moderately firm tannins. I’d recommend laying this one down for 2-3 years and see what emerges as there is plenty of fruit to stand up to the alcohol. I’m holding my second sample back a couple years and will blog my notes here sometime in late 2010.

14.9% ABV
Natural cork closure
Rating: ★★★★☆

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Quick Picks 9 – Bodegas Castano, “Hecula” 2004

by Tim Elliott on December 1, 2007

I’m back with another pick that I thought I hadn’t yet blogged but I wrote about the 2003 vintage for WBW 35.

Bodegas Castano, “Hecula”, Monastrell, Yecla 2004 ($14) – Very dark purple-black with aromas of blackberry, bacon, licorice and vanilla. Ripe black cherry and blackberry fruit flavors with medium firm tannins, good acidity and a nice minerality on the finish.

14.5% ABV
Synthetic cork closure
Score: 89
Rating: ★★★½☆

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