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Americans’ love affair with Italian wine has raised awareness of that country’s greatest appellations. Barolo, Barbaresco, Chianti, and Brunello are well-known in the States, but their high status also translates to high prices. Lying quietly within many of these regions are smaller sub-regions that produce delicious wines from the exact same grapes. Wine lovers seeking affordable Italian options should discover these hidden gems.

In my latest article for The Daily Meal we will journey to some of Italy’s hidden in plain sight wine regions. Val d’Orcia, Roero, and Franciacorta produce high quality wines from grapes you are already familiar, at value prices. These are beautiful regions making beautiful wines.

For the full story please Click Here To Read Hidden in Plain Sight on The Daily Meal. 

Disclaimer: I visited Val d’Orcia and Franciacorta on press research trips. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Rockin Red Blog by Michelle Williams - 2d ago

I love Bordeaux. I have many bottles in my cellar and more on the way. Big, opulent, tannic wines. These wines need time – a lot of time – in bottle to integrate in such a way the tannins become smooth and the tertiary notes take center stage. This is the way I like Bordeaux. However, I don’t always want to wait 10+ years to drink Bordeaux; nor do I want to save them for weekends or special occasions. Thank goodness for Côtes de Bordeaux.

Côtes de Bordeaux – known as “Bordeaux in blue jeans” – was created in 2007 through the joining of five appellations – Blaye, Cadillac, Castillon, Francs, and Sainte-Foy – into one distinguishable brand. Located on the right bank of the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers, Côtes de Bordeaux accounts for 10% of all Bordeaux wine production. These small production, family owned wineries craft wines with the standards you expect from Bordeaux, but not the price tag.

These small to medium size growers focus on organic, and even some on biodynamic, practices in the vineyards. Like all Bordeaux, these wineries produce blends from the five Bordeaux grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec), with a Merlot typically playing the dominate role. Côtes de Bordeaux also produces white wines from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle.

Here are 5 reasons I love Côtes de Bordeaux:

  • The wines are fresh, approachable, ready to drink upon purchase without aging
  • They typically offer a fruit forward profile
  • Some see no oak aging, others are aged for a short time in French oak
  • They can be served slightly chilled for spring and summer refreshment
  • These wines are versatile and super food-friendly
Disclaimer: media samples; all thoughts and opinions my own

This month the French #winophiles are exploring Côtes de Bordeaux. I received four sample from four of the five appellations to discover this region. Building on the last point of food-friendliness, I made 4 different meals paired with 4 different Côtes de Bordeaux wines 4 nights in a row! Here are the results

Blaye: This region is known for its high humidity that re-enforces its maritime climate. A young and vibrant appellation, easily approachable wine makers crafting easily approachable wines; dynamic, modern, and outstanding.

I launched our four nights of Côtes de Bordeaux with a white wine from Blaye. The 2016 Chateau Peybonhomme Les Tours Blanc Bonhomme ($20) 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. I am already a huge fan of Bordeaux blanc wines and this one did not disappoint. It was crisp with notes citrus and tropical fruit, but my favorite quality was the minerality and pronounced acidity. This wine would pair great with all sorts of lighter fare, I chose Crab Cakes with Spicy Remoulade and Fennel Blood Orange Salad. The pairing was great – the wine joined in the acidity of the salad while rounding out the refreshing nature of the crab cakes and sauce.

Chateau Peybonhomme is run by fifth generation brother and sister Guillaume and Rachel Hubert. It is the largest biodynamic estate in Blaye.

Castillon: Located 45km east of Bordeaux and bordered on the west by St Emilion, it is unique in its array of soils and oceanic towards continental climate. It produces high class designer wines that are easily approachable, at affordable prices; intense and silky with style and flair; fun wines to drink and share.

Our second night we enjoyed the 2015 Chateau Pitray ($15) – 75% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec. I selected this wine the second night to pair with Grilled Lamb Kufta Kebabs, Quinoa Salad with Pistachios and Dried Cranberries, and Chopped Israeli Salad. I suspect the Malbec would add a little depth to the wine, making a great pairing with the lamb- I was correct. I found this to be the boldest of the three reds – black fruit, spice, cedar, more pronounced oak and tannins but still easy to drink and enjoy.

Established in 14th century, Chateau Pitray is a 247 acre estate owned by the Simrad de Pitray family – one of the oldest families to own vineyards in Bordeaux.

Cadillac: Located on the banks of the Garrone, it lies in a thin strip 60 km long and 5 km wide north of Bordeaux to Langon. It is known for its carefully crafted wines, elegant and subtle, sophisticated, always bottled at the chateau.

Our third night I was ready for chicken. We paired the 2015 Chateau Lamothe de Haux ($15) – 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc – with Roast Chicken with Lentils and Yogurt. I selected pairing because I felt this would be lightest of the three reds – and it was. It offered much more juicy fruit, balanced with spice, herbs, and dried tobacco. It balanced out beautifully with the chicken but really dazzled with the black lentils and yogurt sauce. We were on a roll with our food and wine pairings!

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Each month a group of French wine lovers, known as #Winophiles, gather to explore a French wine region through its wine, food, and culture. This month we are highlighting Côtes de Bordeaux. Here is a brief preview of our Saturday Côtes de Bordeaux exploration.

Are you familiar with Côtes de Bordeaux? For starters it is a Bordeaux lover’s best friend because it produces lovely wines at value prices. Created in 2007, the terroirs of Blaye, Cadillac, Castillon, Francs, and Sainte-Foy united under one umbrella- forming a distinguishable brand. Côtes de Bordeaux is located on the right bank of the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers – accounting for up to 10% of all Bordeaux wine production. These are well made wines crafted from small family wineries with the standards you expect from Bordeaux; however, they incorporate modernity – are approachable and ready to drink upon purchase.

Here is a list of the participant’s upcoming articles – all will be live on Saturday, May 19.

Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles shares “Côtes de Bordeaux pairings through Blaye, Cadillac & Castillon

Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla offers “Exploring the Côtes de Bordeaux with Simple, Salty, Spicy Nibbles

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Celebrating the Warm Weather with Bordeaux

David from Cooking Chat brings us “Cheesy Beef Casserole with Wine from Côtes de Bordeaux

Nicole from Somm’s Table explores “2 oz Pours: 5 Nights of BDX

Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog offers “Côtes de Bordeaux: Your Go-To For Affordable, Approachable Bordeaux

Gwen from Wine Predator shares “Affordable French: Bordeaux and Burgers for #Winophiles

Rupal the Syrah Queen gives us “5 Reasons You Should Be Drinking Côtes de Bordeaux

Jill of L’Occasion offers a “Guide to the Wines of Côtes de Bordeaux

Lynn of Savor the Harvest shares “Côtes de Bordeaux: A Chateau Carsin Surprise

Jeff at FoodWineClick! shares “Drinking Tuesday Night Bordeaux

Liz Barrett of What’s In That Bottle helps us with “Get to Know Côtes de Bordeaux #Winophiles

Lauren from The Swirling Dervish offers “Côtes de Bordeaux: Why It Should Be on Your Wine Shopping List

Amber of Wine Travel Eats gives us “Salmanazar – Côtes de Bordeaux

I will be sharing “Drinking Bordeaux in Blue Jeans”

Please join the #winophiles Côtes de Bordeaux chat on Saturday, May 19 at 11am EST on Twitter. We will discuss wine, food pairings, culture, and the region. All are welcome and encouraged to participate in the chat.

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On the day of my scheduled Skype tasting with Mauro di Maggio, of Cantine San Marzano in Puglia, spring storms were raging in Dallas and I was suffering from what I would later learn was an upper respiratory infection. Not auspicious. Then Skype itself went on the fritz, blacking out our video. But di Maggio graciously forged ahead with an audio-only tasting designed to showcase the depth, elegance, and age-ability of the Primitivo grape. I took the first sip of the lineup, and realized my day was about to improve.

“Puglia is experiencing a winemaking renaissance, with Primitivo rising to the top,” announced di Maggio, who serves as managing director of Cantine San Marzano. This cooperative, originally formed in 1962 with just 19 growers, today boasts 1,200 members, making it the leading producer in Puglia. It’s now on a mission to elevate the status of the region’s signature grape, Primitivo.

Primitivo is generally bold and flavorful, and the warm, dry Puglia climate makes it an approachable, everyday wine. But it can be age-worthy, too. “Primitivo is good in its first year,” offered di Maggio, “but it also has a nice evolution.”

Primitivo grapes via Cantine San Marzano

As we talked, we tasted through four wines, the 2013 and 2014 vintages of their Sessantanni and Anniversario 62 offerings. These wines were crafted to be “cru” wines using grapes from San Marzano’s best vineyards, whose 50- to 70-year-old, low-yielding bush vines produce concentrated fruit. “It is not difficult to have color and alcohol,” said di Maggio, of the resulting wines, “but we are looking for freshness. This requires meticulous management of the grapes from vine to bottle.”

Prior to vinification, whole clusters are left to dry for up to two weeks in a ventilated room or, when the weather cooperates as in 2013, even outside in the vineyard. The resulting elegance and finesse was a complete surprise to me — especially given this step that should further concentrate the must. They were unlike any Primitivo I’ve tasted, and deeply reminiscent of Amarone.

Disclaimer: media samples; all thoughts & opinions are my own.

The Sessantanni Primitivo di Manduria DOP illustrates the heights of what Primitivo can achieve. Although 2014 was a difficult vintage in much of Europe, Puglia’s native heat, said di Maggio, proved favorable for them. The 2014 vintage was a lovely wine offering a mix of fresh, jammy, and dried fruits mingling with dried herbs, tobacco, vanilla, and dusty minerality. But the 2013 was exceptional; truly the highest quality Primitivo I’ve yet tasted. The fruit was fresher yet offering dried notes, while the herbs were more pronounced and dried red flowers joined the party. The  tannins were silky and integrated, the acidity was high and round, the finish was long and spicy. This wine was elegant and refined, a true beauty, and still has years ahead of it.

The Anniversario 62 Primitivo di Manduria DOP Riserva was developed to celebrate the founding of San Marzano and designed to “push Primitivo to show different sides of the grape,” said di Maggio. “Offering more complexity, it is the big brother to Sessantanni.” I found it had a very different profile. The 2014 vintage was ripe, bold, and powerful; it wrapped my palate in aged balsamic. It tasted so much like an Amarone, in fact, that I was awed I was drinking a Primitivo. The 2013 vintage of this wine offered the same aged balsamic notes but was more restrained, mixing in fresh herbs and eucalyptus. Its tannins were more pronounced due to its eighteen months in used French and American oak, yet it remained silky and balanced, with high acidity.

Click to view slideshow.

After tasting these four stunning wines, our conversation shifted to the future of the grape in this warm region. Climate change is a key concern of the coop. “We are extreme,” said di Maggio, adding that it’s “becoming very hot for vineyards. But Puglia grapes know how to handle the heat.” Their work now lies in developing clones and rootstocks suited to even warmer temperatures, and they’re embracing digital technology to keep in touch with the vineyards. “Old vine growing styles are reactive,” he said. “Digital is predictive. Reading indexes aids in vine management.” San Marzano is also working with the research center at the University of Bari to explore the best practices of sustainable agriculture to adapt to the changing climate.

via Cantine San Marzano

Primitivo might be perfectly suited to the place, as these wines clearly show. But who knows what the future will bring? “As leaders of the region,” said di Maggio, “we need to go further to find the next autochthonous grapes to develop.”

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Rockin Red Blog by Michelle Williams - 1w ago

May is here. The mercury is on the rise. This can only mean one thing: Rosé Season Has Begun! However, rosé is not one size fits all. Which is why its time to look to Lodi, home to over 125 grape varieties,  to quench your rosé thirst.

Disclaimer: media samples; all thoughts & opinions are my own

Lodi is known for their world class Zinfandels. However, zin is the tip of the Lodi iceberg. There are many ways to discover the diversity of Lodi wines, but with spring upon us and Mother’s Day fast approaching, rosé is a great way to explore the varieties of Lodi.

Lodi produces rosé from Grenache, Garnacha, Carignan, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Pinot Noir, Barbera, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel to name a few. Every Lodi rosé is distinct – reflecting its terroir and winemaking style.

There are two main approaches used by winemakers to make rosé. Though some prefer one style over another in theory, in glass I am not sure the difference is evident.

  • Maceration: red wine grapes (with the skin) are left to macerate (rest) as long as the winemaker likes (usually 2-20 hours); after this maceration the wine (juice only) is transferred into different tanks to complete the fermentation and wine making process; this is the most common form of crafting rosé
  • Saignée: during the process of making red wine some of the juice of the red wine grapes is “bled” off (or drained) and transferred to another vat to be crafted into rosé; this allows the winemaker to produce a rosé wine – while also increasing the concentration or intensity of the red wine

In the end we just want rosé that is crisp, refreshing and enjoyable – right? Here are three from Lodi that fit the bill.

2017 Michael David Cinsault Rosé Lodi USA ($22): This wine is crafted of 100% ancient vines Cinsault. This is the first rosé made by the winery since 2007. Michael David is taking the best of the two rosé making methods and blending them together to craft this wine. Initially, creating two different rosé – whole berry maceration to capture floral notes and acidity, and saignée to provide bright pink color with additional sets of flavors. These two styles are joined together in a final blend and bottled for your enjoyment. This wine has notes of summer red berries, ripe stone fruit, and fresh picked citrus. It has nice texture on the palate, perhaps a result of the blending style, but maintains its crisp and refreshing nature with mouth-watering acidity. This is a perfect wine to sip on a warm day and to pair with all your warm weather favorite foods. Click here to purchase this wine.

2016 McCay Cellars Dry Rosé Lodi USA ($18): This wine is crafted of 100% Grenache. McCay incorporates traditional old world style winemaking methods, including utilizing maceration and native yeast fermentation, to make this wine. The first time I had this wine was in Lodi in 2016. Mike greeted us in his vineyard with a glass of rosé. At the time I felt it was crisp and refreshing – perfect sipping on a hot summer’s day. Today as I taste notes of fresh strawberries, ripe stone fruit, citrus, and a touch of herbal notes I am enjoying this wine all over again – and reminiscing of standing in his vineyard. This is an easy rosé to drink and enjoy. Click here to purchase this wine.

2017 Macchia Ridiculous Rosé Lodi USA ($25): This wine is crafted of a blend of Italian and Spanish varieties. Macchia calls this wine “summertime in a glass.” That is a great description of another easy to drink and enjoy Lodi rosé. A savory nose as it offers notes of fresh herbs intermingled with strawberries, rhubarb, and orange blossom. Bright, light, crisp, and refreshing – a perfect way to stay cool.

My Song Selection:

Nibirian Sun - YouTube

Get your own selection of Lodi rosé for spring and summer sipping and let me know what song you pair with it. Cheers!

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Each month a group of French wine lovers, known as #Winophiles, gather to explore a French wine region through its wine, food, and culture. In May the Winophiles are highlighting Côtes de Bordeaux. This is a brief preview of the region and how to join in the fun.

Are you familiar with Côtes de Bordeaux? For starters it is a Bordeaux lovers best friend because it produces lovely wines at value prices. Created in 2007, the terroirs of Blaye, Cadillac, Castillon, Francs, and Sainte-Foy united under one umbrella- forming a distinguishable brand. Côtes de Bordeaux is located on the right bank of the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers – accounting for up to 10% of all Bordeaux wine production. These are well made wines crafted from small family wineries with the standards you expect from Bordeaux; however, they incorporate modernity – are approachable and ready to drink upon purchase.

Would you like to join the Winophiles in May in our exploration of Côtes de Bordeaux? Here are the details to join:

Send me an email to let me know you plan on participating. Include your blog url, Twitter handle, and any other social media detail. My email is rockinredblog@gmail.com

Send your article title to me by Monday, May 14, to be included in the preview post on Wednesday, May 16.  The preview article will include a list of all who are participating -with your titles and linking to your blogs.

Publish your post between 12:01am ET May 18 – 7:00am ET May 19. 

Include a link to the other #Winophiles participants in your post, and a description of what the event is about. I’ll provide each participant’s title and the html link  in the preview article. After all articles are “live” on Saturday morning update the code to the permanent links to everyone’s #Winophiles posts.

Clearly disclose if your article is sponsored or if the wines are other products featured were received as samples.

Get social! After the articles go live, please read, comment, and share each participant’s article.

Live #Winophiles Twitter Chat May 19, 11:00 ET: Participating #Winophiles and others interested in Côtes de Bordeaux will connect live in a Twitter chat. If you are unable to join with an article please join us in the Twitter chat. If you participate in writing an article but are unable to join the Twitter chat live please consider scheduling your tweets so you can still be part of the conversation.

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Rockin Red Blog by Michelle Williams - 3w ago

Generally speaking Texans like big red wines. Why? Because typical Texas cuisine consists of steak and barbeque. Big red wines usually have big tannins, which like to be paired with fat, such as rib eye, ribs, and brisket. Today’s food and wine pairing is a perfect combination of big red wine and Texas cuisine.

The Wine: Dave Phinney’s Locations wines are all the rage. These are well made wines that break all the rules. No appellations, no expression of terroir, just pure enjoyment. That is what Dave Phinney created with his Locations wines.

To create Locations TX Phinney partnered with Kim McPherson of McPherson Cellars – one of the oldest winemaking families in Texas. The grapes consist of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Carignan, and assorted Bordeaux varieties sourced from the Lost Draw Vineyard in the Texas High Plains AVA. It was barrel aged in neutral French oak for 10 months prior to release and contained 14.5% alcohol.

Locations TX ($24.99): It pours a deep ruby in the glass. The medium+ aromas offer layers of black and red fruit – fresh picked and baked, dried roses, baking spice, deep earthy minerality, dried tobacco, black pepper, cured meat, cedar, dry roasted espresso beans, black licorice, and dusty earth; a full-bodied wine with smooth pronounced tannins and medium+ acidity that was surprisingly restrained – not a word I typically use for Phinney wines. I was struck by how the baked fruit was not over jammy or concentrated and how the earthiness really wrapped the palate, lingering on the medium+ finish.

I really enjoy Location wines and am a big fan of the overall project – this may be favorite I have had so far.

The Food: I have established a theme here, big red wines want to be paired with big Texas cuisine. Not much left to decide.

My Choice: I decided to go with bbq. Since it was just my hubby and I we kept it restrained – chopped brisket, chicken, sides of pasta and broccoli salad, and of course, cornbread. I thought about jalapeño cornbread –after all it is Texas, but wasn’t sure how it would pair with the wine so opted for traditional cornbread.

The Results: Outstanding. Like I said, while dinner was cooking I had already fallen in love with the wine. I must admit, it took me by surprise how much I enjoyed it – my husband too. It paired great with the BBQ. The sauce was a great blend of slightly sweet (I don’t really like sweet BBQ sauce) and earthy that was a perfect accompaniment to the wine. I did not taste any sweet notes with the wine until it met the BBQ sauce, then a touch a cherry cola emerged that was quite delightful. We dined al fresco listening to Sgt Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band and had a wonderful evening. After dinner we enjoyed a second glass outside by the fire.

As we are heading into summer cookout season be sure to have some Locations TX wine on hand to pair with whatever you throw on the grill. I seriously think you will really enjoy it.

Song Selection: This wine is too big to pair with any song from Sgt Peppers. Plus, this is Texas wine. It needs a song as big as Texas. This song is perfect – bluesy Texas rock with restraint.

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Cold Shot - YouTube

To find Locations TX near you visit their web site. Get your own bottle and let me know what song you pair with it. Cheers!

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Noise is defined as “unwanted sound judged to be unpleasant, loud, or disruptive to hearing.” Tom Gamble, of Gamble Family Vineyards, is not a fan of noise – at least in wine. He seeks to produce wines that are “not trying to be the loudest voice in the room.” Although his wines are not loud – one sip and they will get your attention.

I spent a few hours last week enjoying lunch with Tom Gamble, Kristin Pavlovic, Gamble Family Vineyards Sales and Marketing Manager, Melanie Ofenloch, aka Dallas Wine Chick, and Dallas Chef Richard Chamberlain, at one of Richard’s restaurants, Chamberlain’s Fish Market. It was a wonderful afternoon of learning about Tom Gamble while enjoying a few of his wines with a delicious and beautifully paired meal.

Wines tasted. Photo via http://www.dallaswinechick.com

Tom Gamble is a third generation Napa Valley farmer. He told me, “farming is in my blood, and I’ve made a life out of it – but I did not know I was going to make wine.” He added, “He cannot remember a time he didn’t have dust in his nose.” As a young boy, Tom would follow his dad around the family ranch mostly getting in the way, but trying to be useful. Tom said sometimes his “usefulness” resulted in his dad “tying him to a tree” to keep him out of trouble.

Gamble Family Winery via http://www.gamblefamilyvineyards.com

Tom bought his first vineyard in 1981, making him the first in his family to grow grapes commercially. More than twenty years later, Tom founded Gamble Family Vineyards, with a focus on crafting wines expressive of the distinct Napa Valley terroirs. The family winery is located in Oakville on a piece of land Tom purchased in 2008 from a family friend whose family had owned the land for more than a century. That family entrusted Tom and his wife, Collette, to preserve this historic property.

http://www.gamblefamilyvineyards.com

Gamble Family Vineyards seeks to produce “old world style wines that seamlessly bring together elegance, balance, nuance, with good structure and moderate alcohol, while embracing and highlighting the characteristics Napa Valley terroir imparts on the wines.” They use primarily Bordeaux varietals and low intervention winemaking techniques.

Harvesting Sauvignon Blanc http://www.gamblefamilyvineyards.com

Tom has a heart for Sauvignon Blanc. He explained he “takes it seriously, respecting the grape in an old world style.” He recalls how during the Merlot craze of the 90’s Merlot was being overplanted. However, he was planting Sauvignon Blanc. Gamble Family Vineyards offers two Sauvignon Blancs. We did not taste the Heart Block Sauvignon Blanc, available to members of the wine club. This wine sells for $90 – causing a bit of controversy for being a high end white wine. Tom speaks passionately about both of his Sauvignon Blancs. These are wines made of intention- from vineyard planting, management, clone selection, winemaking aging, etc The Heart Block Sauvignon Blanc has a 6-8 year cellar-ability.

The 2016 Gamble Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($25) is crafted from a blend of clones, including Loire Valley and Bordeaux. The wine is rich and smooth, it is evident it is a higher level Sauvignon Blanc the minute it enters the mouth. Bright fresh fruit is wrapped in high acidity, it is fresh, bright, and lovely. We enjoyed it with a west coast halibut crudo on fried sushi rice for a light and refreshing pairing.

After enjoying the Sauvignon Blanc our attention turned to the two Gamble Family Vineyards reds that are available through retail and restaurant channels. This is where it became apparent Gamble wines are something truly special. Tom shared with me his wines “are not trying to be loudest voice in the room.” Instead, embracing an old world wine philosophy that wine is meant to accompany a good meal, not steal the show. Tom explained he believes, “wines are to be enjoyed while lingering for hours with friends and good food.” This contributes to the focus on lower alcohol levels. Enjoyment is the goal, not getting drunk.

His palate was informed by early experiences of low alcohol wines – before wines became so ripe and concentrated. He seeks wines with layers of complexity in flavors and textures. Therefore, all Gamble Family wines are blends – grapes, clones, vineyard blocks, different harvest dates all add to the complexity of the wines.

The 2014 Gamble Family Vineyards Paramount Red Blend ($90) is the only wine available through both distribution and the wine club. It is a blend of 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Petite Verdot – all four varieties were harvested, fermented, and aged separately. It is a beautiful blend of earth and fruit – fresh black and red berries mixed with baked berries, leather, baking spice, dark chocolate, cedar, vanilla are wrap the nose and dance across the palate. It is a lean and focused wine, full-body yet reserved, smooth medium+ tannins and acidity provide structure, long spicy finish. It is dignified and restrained. It was paired with duck over local mushrooms and a cherry sauce. The cherry sauce grabbed the Merlot and did a tango down my throat. It was another perfect pairing.

The 2014 Gamble Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) is 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petite Verdot, and 1% Merlot. Fruit from eight different vineyards contributed to the wine – creating complexity and layered flavors. This full body wine offers notes of black fruit, baking spice, dried figs, worn leather cigar box lined inside with cedar, dried tobacco, black pepper, graphite, and vanilla dazzle. Although there is lots of rich earth, it is a bit juicier on the palate than the Paramount Red Blend. It was aged in a blend of American and French oak, with the American included oak from Missouri and Virginia. It is balanced with medium+ tannins and high acidity with a long, lingering finish you don’t want to end. Another beautifully restrained yet focused wine. Paired with juicy prime rib with a peppery crust that really brought out the earth notes of the wine.

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In my recent article for Snooth, I share my experience of traveling to Chile to meet with a group of winemakers who are shifting the conversation from Chilean brands to Chilean wine regions. They are seeking to produce wines of place – and succeeding.

Chile is one of the oldest and most productive wine regions in the New World, thanks to the missionaries who introduced viticulture there in the 16th century. But although Chile’s wines have stormed the global market, they haven’t always enjoyed a reputation for quality or complexity.

Today that story’s shifting, thanks to a loosely affiliated group of winemakers in the country’s northern reaches. Rodrigo Soto is one of them. Wine director at Veramonte, in the Casablanca Valley, Soto believes the key to shifting Chile’s reputation lies in emphasizing quality and site expression — a message that may be well-worn for the Old World but is all-new for Chile.

To learn more about these winemaker’s journey to produce wines of place please click on the link below and read the rest on Snooth.

Chile’s Terroir-Driven Wines Are Shifting the Narrative 

Thank you, as always, for reading, sharing, and commenting.

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Rockin Red Blog by Michelle Williams - 1M ago

40oz Rosé is a sustainably farmed wine made by French wine maker Julien Braud in the Loire Valley. The wine was created by famed New York City Sommelier Patrick Cappiello. It is crafted of a blend of Gamay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Grolleau, Pinot Gris, and Pineau d’Aunis.

This wine was introduced to me in a passing conversation of industry professionals who were turned off by the concept. My second encounter with 40oz Rosé was at a local Whole Foods after lunch having lunch with a winemaker. In my recent travels to Chile, Bordeaux, and Franciacorta, as well as this lunch, I have heard repeatedly from producers small and large how hard it is for them to find good distribution and retail placement in Texas.

When I saw the 40oz Rosé with such prominent placement, in what I felt was gimmick packaging, I felt disappointed. I recalled the many stories of hard working wine makers, juxtaposed with how the average wine consumer buys the same lower quality wines decade on end. I felt frustrated that instead of elevating the conversation I saw 40oz Rosé as “dumbing it down.” I believed within the demographic context of where I encountered the wine it was being marketed as a porch/pool pounder to suburbanites with little or no understanding to what a 40oz bottle represents.

With my passion in full force (my husband does not call me fiery red for nothing) I took to Facebook to share my opinion and asked for thoughts. Big mistake – huge! The post has received over 300 comments. It was shared at least 6 times with many additional comments. And even shared behind my back into a group I am not a member where some chose to use their anonymity to bully.. Many chose wisely to stay out of the venom of the conversations and instead shared their overwhelming support via direct message. I find it disheartening that kind people with rational and respectful opinions recognized the environment of the comments had grown so inappropriate they felt if they raised their voices they too would be verbally assaulted. I don’t blame them for staying out of sight one bit.

What’s Going On

The comments on Facebook were fairly equal in support of my position and in opposition of my opinion. Many expressed their perspective with logic, reason, and respect. Some decided name calling, disrespect, and all-out attack as their mode of response. I took my lumps, replied to all who were respectful, and received a solid education in many ways.

James Tidwell, founder of TexSom, was a true voice of reason. He explained Patrick “tends to be thought provoking” and may be using his 40oz line to “play with such conventions as ‘wine is not beer and should not be marketed as such.’” James pointed out how screw caps, kegs, and canned wine was also controversial upon release. Overall James sees the “evolution of packaging [as] a good thing to bring awareness of wine to a larger audience.”

I was told I am an elitist (among other things I won’t repeat). I was also told I was not an elitist by the many who actually read my work and no such a thing is not true. I was told wine is a beverage and to get over it. Like I said some of the worse came from cowards who wouldn’t even say their hateful words to my virtual face. Thank God for good friends.

Many seem to find the wine fun and like the idea of wine taking itself less seriously. Others seem to think I need to take myself less seriously.

The Long and Winding Road

I gave some thought to my position and reaction and decided they may be right. This experience gave me pause to reflect on some of my own biases. I do have wine biases. Some are based on personal taste and do not house any judgement. Others really are just judgement. For example, I have never had Mommy Juice wine but I don’t like the message. Many joke about wine as “mommy’s little helper” and such. I personally do not engage in these conversations on social media or otherwise. I do not feel it sends the right message to anyone so I avoid it. That’s a bias. I am also biased about the idea of bottling wine mixed with coffee. It may appeal to some; it does not appeal to me.

I learned long ago not to judge a person by their “cover.” It is a great lesson and I have embraced it ever since. What I have forgotten along the way is to not judge anything by its respective cover. And that means a wine by how it is packaged. I made a mistake. I should have bought a bottle on the spot, taken it home, and tried it. Maybe written about it, maybe not but sought understanding before applying judgement. Like I said, I know better and in this instance I failed. I also learned not to share anything with emotion on social media. Humility is key, maintain it at all times. The sharks are lurking not matter what the topic.

Ball of Confusion

This is the Forty Ounce Wines mobile site cover photo. http://www.fortyouncewines.com

With all that being said there is another layer to this conversation. Some in the African American community have spoken out claiming the packaging of the 40oz Rosé is offensive. Julia Coney, lifestyle writer and consultant with a focus on wine, travel, and wellness, stated on Facebook, “its cultural appropriation no matter what Somm made it… As a black wine professional it’s a disgrace and has been since it launched.” She goes on to say she likes Patrick, has paid money to attend many of his wine dinners because he has such a talent for food and wine pairings, but she finds the 40oz wines “absolutely atrocious.”

I followed up with Julia in a phone call to seek deeper understanding. She explained to me that the packaging is offensive. Other African-American wine professionals have said they support any wine that can aid in expanding wine into the black community. However, Julia does not see this wine achieving that goal. The 40oz bottle is marketed to Blacks and Latinos in a racially offensive manner. She feels that when deciding packaging and marketing the people in the room should have gotten together and asked first “will this offend anyone.” There seems to be a clear cultural disconnect with 40oz Rosé.

Many of the white people commenting on Facebook could not see how this wine could be culturally offensive. To this Julia simply explains, “If you have never dealt with racism how can you say something is or is not racist?” It was my observation that instead of listening to learn an alternative reality from Julia, many immediately dismissed the idea and moved on. Opportunity lost.

Julia shared with me that she got into wine through traveling and trying wine with friends while she worked in the legal field. She believes talking to people about wine, teaching them how wine is made, educating consumers make a lifelong wine drinker. (I agree with her) “I don’t believe this is a gateway wine – let’s dumb it down and bring people into wine.”

To further explore this perspective read The Root’s article, “White People are So Happy They Can Now Drink Rosé Out of a 40 Ounce This Summer.”

Michael Phillips, 30+ years in the wine industry, shared my FB post to his page and continued the conversation by expanding it beyond color to a socio-economic class. His words come from personal experience. Here is some of what he shared on Facebook (I am sharing with his permission):

“40 oz beer in that shape of bottle in particular is the drug of choice for millions of chronic alcoholics nationwide… if you don’t live in a dirt poor inner city “ethnic” area you would have no reason to know this… I sold wine…and beer in several of those areas as a route salesman and manager a long time ago for almost 10 years… that bottle epitomizes poor, ‘ethnic’ American alcoholism more than any other symbol… THAT is my issue with this rose … to me, marketing this rose in this package is THE symbol of white social privilege and by association; unintentional racism in America today….BAD IDEA…and is a direct, ugly laugh at the expense of chronically poor alcoholics in run down, inner city ‘ethnic’ areas all over America.”

40oz Rosé

The first person to comment the wine was good is Cassidy Havens of Teuwen Communications. I respect Cassidy greatly. She told me I should try the wine, so I did.

Here are my thoughts:

It’s important to note the 40oz Rosé is actually a liter, 33.8oz. Misleading? You decide. It’s from the Vin de France appellation (meaning the grapes can come from anywhere in France). Specifically these grapes came from Muscadet and Touraine in the Loire Valley. It is crafted of 35% Gamay, 33% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 12% Grolleau, 5% Pineau d’Aunis, and 2% Pinot Gris. The alcohol percentage is 12.5%.

It a pale salmon into the glass. Medium aromas of acacia, orange creme, strawberry, watermelon, under-ripe peach, Ataulfo mango, and lemon zest; it enters the palate crisp and refreshing with medium+ acidity; however, once it reaches mid-palate the acid sinks and the wine becomes flabby, a kiss of sweetness enters as the overall structure fades away; it is light in body and short in finish; overall it was a good wine and likely a crowd-pleaser. I was struck by the difference in the entry to the mid/back finish – something goes awry. Technical notes say it spent a short time aging on the lees, this may explain the lack of acidity and loss of focus through the finish. Still, a highly drinkable wine.

The bottle does not stand out much among a sea of rosé.

I shared a photo of 40oz Rosé with my millenial daughter who lives in Austin. She thought it looked like soda. I told her it was packaged like a 40oz beer. She responded “Why? Who drinks 40oz beer?” I then sent the photo to my son. He thought it was Italian soda. My kids have no context for a 40oz beer.

Many mocked me for suggesting the wine looked like it was being marketed as soda within the context of where I encountered it.

Conclusion

“When people show you who they are, believe them.” ~ Maya Angelou

My overall reflection is in 2018, if you have something to say keep it to yourself. Many have thanked me for opening up so much communication and debate. Many have said this was all very good and useful. Quite frankly I regret all of it. I am a strong women with thick skin. I don’t get rattled easily and I chose to not take offense to the shameless people who tried to bully me. I know very clearly what people say is a reflection of who they are, and that what people think of me is not my business.

However, with all this passionate disrespect over an opposing opinion about wine, no wonder our country is so divided. I appreciate so many who chose to comment openly or in private with honor and respect. Do we all really want to be of one mind? Have the same perspective and thoughts about everything? We are not enemies because we have opposing views? We are unique with our own set of life experiences and perspective. When did that become a bad thing? I heard long ago if two people are just alike one of them is not necessary.

Why all the venom? Why the need to attach a person’s character because of an opposing view? Why the need to troll Facebook looking for a fight? Why are so many quick to respond with hatefulness instead of tolerance? When did disagreeing make a people enemies? So many biases to explore. What is going on?

If you are an importer/distributor in Texas and are interested in giving me your contact information to share with wineries I encounter who are looking for representation in Texas please do so – I will put together a list to share. Thank you.

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