Thursday, November 17, 2005

Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrivé in Seattle!

It's a tradition ... every year, to celebrate the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau, parties are thrown in France, the USA, and throughout the world!

12:01 AM and at Seattle Cellars in Belltown they're proclaiming "Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrivé !" However you pronounce it en Francais - tranlation "the new Beaujolais has arrived!"

People are on hand for the first Beaujolais wine tasting of 2005! As has been the tradition at Seattle Cellars, Pajamas are acceptable attire. Is this how they do it in France? Non!
But its funny to see Dave and his staff in their PJ's.

Nice to see they had 6 Beaujolais on hand for tasting starting with a George Duboeuf. Another great thing about the wine is the prices are reasonable from $8.99 - $12.00.

And if you missed the midnight tasting join them for another Beaujolais Nouveau tasting at the regular Thursday tasting from 5-7 PM at Seattle Cellars - 2nd/Wall Belltown.

Little history on the tradition - which I first discovered in New Orleans.

Beaujolais is made from the Gamay grape and was harvested the 1st week of September.
Beaujolais is sold every year beginning the third Thursday in November. Not always as popular as it is now Beaujolais itself comes from the Beaujolais region of southern Burgundy (that's in France - not New Orleans where they say Bur Gun Dee).

Recently, Beaujolais has come into fashion, and the hype is you want to be one of the 1st people from all over the world to taste it.

You can credit the hype and endless self promotion to one Georges Duboeuf. You'll instantly recognize his Beaujolais Nouveau from its colorful artwork on the label.

Why all the hype - Beaujolais Nouveau is an easy to drink fruity wine. (Can you say Kool-Aid or grape juice?) Serve slightly chilled and its as close to white wine as a red wine can get.

Drink it now and enjoy - also a great wine to share on Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Napa Red Table Wine or Meritage?

Napa - After attending a fantastic seminar call "The Art of Blending" - how they make Magnificat (2002 - $45) at Franciscan. Where you get to blend the five noble Bordeaux grapes from the '03 barrels and make up your own blend and then compare it against the '02 Magnificat.

We said why not compare it against the legendary - Opus One makers of a "2002 Napa Red Table Wine - $165".

I asked the guy working at Opus why "Meritage" didn't appear on the label. Oddly he didn't have a good explanation (or good accent), so I asked my friends at Meritage Association.

My question: "Why doesn't Opus One use Meritage on their label and is it really a Meritage?"

Hello Brian,

Opus One got started a good 15 years before the Meritage Association was born, and sees no need to define itself further (by using 'meritage' on the label, for example) -- Phelps Insignia and Opus pretty much defined the category for quite a while. They are indeed Meritage blends, but they choose not to say so on their labels.
The Meritage Association got started in 1988 when more and more vintners were making wonderful blends that didn't qualify for varietal labeling (min.75% varietal required). Even less well known Meritage blends -- even those who have joined the Meritage Association -- sometimes choose not to label their wines "Meritage." It is a useful category name that is helpful to consumers, so I for one am always grateful when a winery provides the information on their label. Hope this helps?

Michaela Rodeno
Chair, Meritage Association

Thanks Michaela it helps a lot. Let's refresh you on some of the merits of Red Meritage:

  • Must be a blend of at least two of the following - Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and/or the rarer Carmenere, Gros Verdot and St. Macaire.
  • No single grape may make up more than 90% of a Meritage wine.
  • By law, a wine labeled as a specific varietal must be composed of 75% or more of that grape variety.
Oddly enough the Opus One 2002 Napa Red Table Wine was a blend of the 5 main Bordeaux grapes and was 86% Cabernet Sauvignon - so by definition they could call it a Cabernet Sauvignon or Meritage because it qualifies for both.

For more information on the "Art of Blending - Magnifcat" seminar ($25)

Insider's tip - If you love Franciscan Magnifcat - you can buy the 2000 - under the name of Winemaker's Reserve -$25 - great value - the only year that Merlot was the leading grape for their Meritage Blend.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Lafayette Art & Wine festival

Lafayette, CA - 10th Annual Lafayette Art & Wine Festival September 17 & 18, 2005

The Lafayette Art & Wine Festival, held each year on the third weekend in September, is the largest event in Lamorinda and one of the five biggest outdoor festivals in Contra Costa County. More than 80,000 attended in 2004, strolling among stalls of art, handmade crafts, sampling foods from top local restaurants, and enjoying quality wines and microbrews. Non-stop musical entertainment on three stages throughout the weekend helps spark the block party ambiance. In 2002, the Connoisseur’s Corner debuted, highlighted by cooking demonstrations by some of the area’s best chefs and featuring a “Premium Wine Pavilion” offering tastes of some of the world’s finest wines.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Summer Concert Series Chateau St. Michelle

Woodinville, WA - July 27, 2005.

It's a beautiful Wednesday for the drive up to Chateau St. Michelle for their Summer Concert Series.

On the bill tonight - Tears For Fears...was it really 20 years ago the last time I saw them in was...but I regress more on the pre-game and then we'll give a critique of the show.

Thanks to my friends at QFC I'm set up for the VIP treatment - armbands and wine glass in hand - we're off. The arrival wine was Canoe Ridge 2003 Chardonnay or 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon. It's 85 degrees so I opt to start with the Chardonnay - made in the old world style it's very refreshing and the fruit isn't hidden by the French oak.

After indulging in the great food, it's time to try the Canoe Ridge Vineyard ® Cabernet Sauvignon. A Cab blend that is bold and intense. 100 percent French oak barrels. The aromas of bright fruit, pepper with balanced tannins and a hint of cedar.

Great warm up - time to check out the seats - we're in the Walla Walla section (front & center) - sections are designated by Washingtion AVA's...some of my other friends were in Red Mountain section.

Cool we have great seats - time to enjoy more wine before the main act.

Frist on the tasting menu, bucking the trend after Sideways - we start with a 2001 Northstar Merlot ($55) - this is a big merlot (with 25% Cab in the blend) - rivaling Napa. Smokey and herbal's a hit and the best wine of the evening so far...but we know what's next;

1999 Col Solara ($69) a Cab Blend as they say "A Washington wine with the soul of Tuscany" Formed by a partnership with Tuscany's Marchesi Antinori and Chateau Ste. Michelle. This one scored 92 points and checking internet price can be stolen for $39.99
Can't get enough of the Col Solara - it's amazing! and of course we run out fast when friends find out what we're pouring. It's easy to make friends when you have great wine.

Hot air balloons head south over the valley - its a beautiful night.

Time for Tears For Fears - they start off with one of their newer songs that wasn't as popular, but then they get into the hits "Sowing the Seeds of Love", "Head Over Heels", "Woman in Chains", "Mother's Talk" and of course "Everybody Wants to Rule The World".

Yes it's been 20 years, but I'm singing along with every song, time to break out their "Best Of" CD again - they used to be one of my favorite bands in the 80's.

Next on the menu - 2001 Chateau St. Michelle Artist Series Meritage - like the fact their paying to use "Meritage" on the label. (FYI: "Meritage" is an American word created by Merit + Heritage and doesn't rhyme with Hermitage!) 68% Cab Sauv, 16% Merlot and 16% Malbec which adds beautiful color.

The last hour been enjoying bottled water for the ride home. It's been a great night - Tears For Fears is into their encore playing "Change" time to beat the rush out of the valley.

I recommend Chateau St. Michelle for their Summer Concert series. A great venue, great value and great hospitality. Bigger presentation than that of Wente in California's Livermore Valley.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Great Birthday

Wines to share and celebrate your (my) Birthday.

'01 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon - $100
'96 Franciscan Library Reserve Cabernet - $75
'99 Quintessa - $100
'01 Del Dotto - David - $85
'99 Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon - $25

No corkage fee - priceless.

Picking a favorite was easy - Staglin hands down produces one of the best Cabs in Napa and beyond.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Sonoma Spotlight on Italian Wines

-Sonoma 2/20

Participating Wineries: Blackstone, Family Wineries, Kaz, Kunde, VJB and Wellington.

Highway 12 north of Agua Caliente heading into Kenwood...

Where our 1st stop was Kunde winery. Our host was John who poured '01 Barbera ($24) - very nice ripe red fruit with a nutty finish. Their other italian offering was '01 Sangiovese ($24) which has a wonderful nose, floral and a nice oak finish.

But the real gems were out in the main tasting room. Start with the '03 Chardonnay Nu ($20) - no malolactic fermentation - au natural! Don't miss the '00 Cab Franc ($24) - cherry cola taste with a touch of dark chocolate and finish up your tasting with '01 Bob's Red ($15) - a great value - robust red blend. '00 Claret ($25) berry with a pepper finish and the '00 Cabernet Sauvignon/Drummond ($70) - Rich, big andn tasty!

Continuing north on 12, then taking a left on Dunbar is Wellington. They sell over 25 wines ranging from Sauv. Blanc to Port. Unfortunately a bus had pulled in before we grabbed our 5 tastes and we're off...great wine, but too busy.

The next two were pleasant discoveries:

VJB Vineyards is producing some of the best Italian wines that Sonoma has to offer.
We were blown away from the '04 Sangiovese ($24) an unexpected french kiss - this gets you up front with amazing fruit burst. Get it fast only 125 cases produced.
'04 Belmonte Family Estate Montepulciano ($26) is even more limited with only 50 cases being produced. A nice medium red with ripe cherry and plum flavors with a touch of cedar at the end. '04 Primitivo ($26) - an Italian cousin to Zinfandel. This is a spice fruity red that was the one I'd ever describe as being effervescent - refreshing. '04 Barbera ($30) - deep color rich with a blackberry finish...had to taste a few times after the uniqueness of the Primitivo. VJB also produces a very nice Reserve Cab.

KAZ - if you're lucky enough to have the old Kazola wait on you - it will be a memorable trip.
His '03 Sangiovese and '03 Lake Co. Barbera were very nice. But their unique blends are a work of genius. We had so much fun here that I lost my tasting's been known to happen.

Don't miss VJB and KAZ during your next Sonoma visit.



Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Wine Tasting in Washington

Just moved to Seattle and after over 10 years in California, I was ready to sample the Washington Wines.

1st trip to nearby Woodinville was great.

Chateau St. Michelle - (on a rainy Sunday) - not crowded and their welcome wine would be one of the best I've tasted that day. 2001 Chateau St. Michelle Reserve - Syrah. Very deep in color and very balanced. List $29 was on sale for around $19. Great Value - need to buy more.

Take the tour at Chateau St. Michelle - the wall of awards is worth the trip. Plus you get to sample some different wines then what's available in the tasting room. Beautiful grounds...can't wait for summer concerts.

Columbia Winery: (same day) Was so excited to find out that I'm a member - because I'm in their sister's wine club Franciscan-Napa. So wine tasting was free and you get to sample all the reserve products. Fantastic service, but can get busy when the wine train is there - then a limited menu of wines is offered. Note: don't worry if you see a lot of people in costume - they do murder mysteries on the train. Columbia has some of the best Bordeaux blends. Full body with great finish.

That was enough wine for one trip. Details on wine tasting in Seattle coming up.


Saturday, January 08, 2005

Weekly Wine Tasting at Wine Thieves in Lafayette, CA

The secret is out about Wine Thieves in Lafayette, California. Just 15 miles from SF in the East Bay.

Stop by on Fridays from 5:30 - 7:00 pm for the weekly wine tastings and did I mention its Free!
A different distributor or winery brings in around 5 wines weekly for tastings. See schedule at Become one of the regulars and you'll be invited to dinner to the casual Bo's barbecue or more upscale Postino. Both worth the trip!

Owners Jim, Bennett and Rod will greet you with a smile and are very knowledgeable about wine. The best aspect about Wine Thieves is the value. They can turn you on to a $10-$15 wines that are a lot better then some I've paid 3-4x that much!

Look for the unbelievable deals - currently Sequoia Grove - Reserve Cab under $20 and the steal in the store is the '99 Belvedere Sonoma County Cabernet - $14.99. They also had Veramonte Primus - very spicy finish perfect with the hot sauce across the street at Bo's.