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Bordeaux the new Napa? Napa the new Bordeaux?

It’s no secret that while Bordeaux’s temperatures have been rising, California has been struggling for sunny days. I hadn’t thought much of France’s weather conditions, since we have been so focused on Napa given our recent trip until the topic was brought up by Juelle Fisher, Fisher Vineyards, at a recent tasting we had with them. The discussion was that if France endured warmer temperatures similar to typical Napa weather, and vice versa would we experience a stylistic flip-flop in Cabernet from the two regions?

As most of us know, there is a lot that influences the style and flavor of a finished wine: land (most importantly), grapes/clones, viticulture, winemaking, climate, and weather. So would a change in weather conditions change a wine so much that it actually reflects another region all together? I would venture to say no, but it would make an impact. How interesting would it be to see a fully-ripe, higher alcoholic Bordeaux and a restrained, complex and earthly Napa Valley Cabernet? The French (and more likely British) would surely freak out but it is full to imagine.

Yes, the weather situations in both regions are going to present growers and winemakers with problems they have only read about. Each region will have a different approach and different technologies to correct those problems, but I do expect that the 2010 and 2011 vintages from both regions will be a unique spin on the typical styles that is sure to interest the curious wine consumer.

A Profile on Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc

Once in a while children become superstars.  It happened with Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, and yes…Cabernet Sauvignon.  The child of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon often outshines its parent when it comes to red varietal wines and even in traditional Bordeaux and Meritage style blends.

Cabernet Franc is one of the main red grape varietals in the world.  It is one of the seven Bordeaux grapes grown in Bordeaux, France and traditionally blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  But Cabernet Franc can be made into a 100% varietal wine in many areas of the world including the Loire Valley in France, California, Washington and Argentina.

Cabernet Franc was discovered in the Libournais region of France (Southwest) in the 17th century, almost immediately transplanted to the Loire Valley.  In the 18th century, Cabernet Franc spread into the Bordeaux region and began to appear in the red blended wines famous to the region.  In the late 1990’s many noticed the similarities between the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and a relationship between the two was discovered.

Cabernet Franc is traditionally a bit lighter in body than Cabernet Sauvignon, but offers a spicier flavor profile often with hints of pepper, tobacco, cassis and even violets and greenness.  The flavor of Cabernet Franc is very specific and often surprises many people, in many ways it is similar to its child, but the reduced tannins and green flavors are very distinctive.

Some of the differences in the flavors of the wine are do to the viticulture and growing practices.  Cabernet Franc buds and ripens about a week prior to Cabernet Sauvignon.  Cabernet Franc is also a bit more versatile in the the types of soil it can grow in, but thrives in sandy, chalky soils.

You can find Cabernet Franc at all price points, however if you are exploring this ‘new’ grape we highly suggest spending the extra money to get a high quality wine from a premium producer.  Here are some reccomendations:

1.  Cougar Crest Cabernet Franc
Columbia Valley, Washington
By far one of my favorite wines (not just Cabernet Franc but overall), this wine is smooth and full bodied…jammy berries balanced with oak, tobacco, pepper, and green herbs.
92 points, Wine Spectator

2. Darioush Cabernet Franc
Napa Valley, California
A premium producer in Napa, this wine is blended with 5% Merlot which perfectly balances the Cabernet Franc.  Vibrant dark fruits (blackberry, cassis) balanced earth and lavendar.

Bordeaux 2009 – The Best this Century?

It started October of 2009, rumors that all Bordeaux appellations in France were set to have their best vintage in 60 years with the 2009 vintage.  Reports trickled out, and the critics flocked to Bordeaux.  Robert Parker rated St. Julien, Margaux, Graves, & Pomerol all over 97 points (St. Emilion was rated just a meager 93) a feat that has never happened.  He rated three of the sub appellations 96+ in 2005, three in 2000, and three in 1990.  But for four of the five to be rated over 97 with the fifth getting a 93?  This must be the vintage to talk about.

Soon after the hype and the ratings we received our pre-buy sheets in January of 2010.  Talk about sticker shock.  After decreasing their prices with the 2007 and 2008 vintages due mainly to the economy, the Bordeaux wineries were not shy about taking their prices back up and even surpassing 2005 vintage prices.

So what makes this vintage so great?  Perfect weather to sum it up.  Bordeaux enjoyed ideal growing conditions of beautiful, fine days followed by cool nights (which keeps the grapes from over ripening) during the late spring/early summer.  July & August were the perfect hot and sunny days need to ripen the fruit followed by a rainy season in late August/September that stops the grapes from ripening and helps develop tannins that will provide the age-ability on the wines.  Growers have to look back to the 40’s, 1949 exactly, to even try to find a comparison on the weather conditions.  If there has been a perfect growing season, this is it for Bordeaux.

Fast forward a year and we are now receiving the first of the 2009 shipment….judgment day.  The premium Bordeauxs – Petrus, Rothschild, Margaux, Haut Brion – will still not be released for a few months if not a year but are all expected to receive ratings no less than 95 by the major critics.  However, with the arrival of the ‘value’ Bordeauxs (priced $13 – $40) we are able to taste a glimpse of what this perfect vintage can bring – complexity with restraint, balanced fruit and earth, and a true display of the terrior in which the grapes are grown.

If there is a time to expand your palette into the other continent, it is now.  Maybe you haven’t loved French wine in the past, aren’t a fan of Bordeaux, and prefer your California Cabernets.  Fair enough, we do too.  But maybe we’ll never see a vintage like this again.  Maybe this is the perfect vintage and years down the road we’ll be telling our children that we had the opportunity to have this perfect wine.  Or maybe not, after all it’s just wine…but I’ve never been known to turn down good wine 🙂

Monticelli Brothers – Bending the Rules

These days, with so many wine makers trying to differentiate themselves, the Monticelli Brothers are no exception…or are they? Mario and Massimo Monticelli have done something that bends the rules – that extend past the guidelines of traditional wine making. Their non-vintage blend encompasses three years of harvest and can be described as Bordeaux meets Chianti in a bottle. This blend was named after their great uncle Rolando, who taught them the Italian art of blending multiple vintages. With uncle Rolando’s help and a unconventional combination of Cabernet, Merlot and Sangiovese, they created a California wine like no other. The Rolando Rosso holds the smooth maturity of an older vintage, and the fruit of youth. This wine is a blend of 50% grapes from 2000, 25% from 2001 and 25% from 2002. The Monticelli Brothers settled on a medley of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Sangiovese, 5% Cab Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, making it both complex and one of a kind. Because of their originality and ability to carry over at least 50% of the same grapes from the previous production, you will find each new release more consistent, year after year, then a single vintage blend.
Monticelli Brothers Rolando Rosso, Napa Valley – $36

$42,350 Bottle of Wine

Bouteille de Romanée Conti

Bouteille de Romanée Conti,

Lloyd Flatt had accumulated a distinguished collection of wine before his death in January 2008. He began collecting in the 1960’s and amassed over 15,000 bottles, a good number of them being first-growth Bordeaux.

A number of his wines were recently sold at auction at Sotheby’s New York at more than double the presale estimate. 1,500 bottles of Flatt’s wine sold for a total of $1.8 million, the highest bidder being a six-liter Methuselah of Romanee Conti 1976 which sold for $42,350.

Flatt was not afraid of uncorking a bottle of wine. He stressed that wine was a consumable product to be enjoyed and he was never shy about opening wine from his collection.

Valentine’s Day Wines

Lucky for all of us, Valentine’s Day only comes but once a year and for this weekend alone we are expected to come up with the most romantic gift for our significant others.  What better way to say you care that a great bottle of wine (which you can also enjoy yourself!)  We’ve compiled a list of the most romantic wines in celebration of the day of love.  These wines are sure to please as well as provide a great, romantic story.
Soave:  The Wine of Romeo & Juliet
Pra Soave Classico 2008
You can’t get much more romantic the drinking the grapes of Verona, Italy.  The name of Soave is rumored to have stemmed from two sources: the first gives credit to the great Italian poet of the 13th century, Dante Alighieri, author of the Divine Comedy and friend of the lord of Verona, Cangrande della Scala. The second credits Romeo (as in Romeo & Juliet), tasting the wine after a tryst with Juliet Romeo says to a servant, “Soave” after receiving a goblet of wine.  Whatever the source of the name, Soave now holds the place as Italy’s most romantic wine and the official wine of “Verona in Love,” Italy’s celebration of love and romance every Valentine’s Day weekend.
Tasting notes:  Fresh, flowery and lightly yeasty nose witha  touch of wood smoke. The palate is attractively textured and juicy, showing zesty ‘leesy’ intensity and a hint of almonds. Crisp, incisive and mineral on the finish.
Rose:  The Color of Love
Van Duzer Pinot Noir Rose 2008
What’s not to love about a pink wine on Valentine’s Day?  This rose is NOT white zinfandel style.  Made from 100% pinot noir, this rose is fermented with the skins for one hour to give the wine the pink hue.  Held in stainless steel tanks, it exudes a crisp, dry and clean style.
Tasting notes:  Dry strawberries and spice reminsicent of a traditional pinot noir.  Crisp acidity on the finish leaves a clean mouth feel.
Bordeaux Blends:  Deep, dark, and luscious
Jarvis Lake William Blend 2002
Lake William is the Cabernet Sauvignon blend which started out as a cellar mistake but is now a most sought after blend. It is named after the lake which borders and cools the Jarvis estate vineyards that makes up the blend. Each vintage’s varietal composition varies dependent on the blending of Winemaker Consultant, Dimitri Tchelistcheff.
Tasting notes:  This 2002 Lake William combines 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec. Twenty months of barrel aging in 100% new French Nevers oak adds a note of toasty vanilla to the rich violet aromas and elegant blackberry flavors of this wine.
Champagne:  Add a little sparkle to your night
Graham Beck Rose Brut NV
Champagne has been linked to love and romance for centuries. In the18th century a French cardinal, of all used the imagery of a champagne bottle popping open to make very thinly-veiled erotic suggestions in a poem to his would-be mistress the Marquise de Pompadour.  By the late 1700s in France the connection between seduction and champagne was established. Legend has it that the saucer-shaped champagne glasses called coupes were modelled on the the breasts of  famous French royal Marie-Antoinette,  wife of king Louis XVI.
Tasting Notes:  Pale silver-pink. Aromas of raspberries, cherries and a few secondary whiffs of minerality. A lively mousse but fine in the mouth, with subtle red berry flavours enlivened by bright acids. Brisk on the palate, showing hints of oyster shell and fresh lavender. Flirtatious and fun, yet elegant and structured, it’s perfect for all seasons and settings.