“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever”…. Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma isn’t remembered for his fondness of wine.  Nor is India well known for viticulture, though the country has a significant area in the SE and a smaller area (Kashmir and Punjab) under vine in the north. But old Mahatma was on to something.  Keep learning, he said.  So when I made bigos (Polish “Hunter’s Stew”) the learning opportunity came in thinking about what wine to pair with it.

Bigos is made from sauerkraut and white cabbage.  Then almost anything is all right: Wild game, fowl… whatever you have or is being contributed by your neighbors. I used portions of ham steak, pork tenderloin, smoked ham shank, some Applewood smoked bacon, a thick cut pork chop and Polish sausage (kielbasa) with onion and mushrooms (Polish, or use shiitake).  I left out the tomato and vodka. Since I don’t drink beer (piwo), it was going to be wine.  It’s always wine anyway.  But pairing a wine was the challenge, and a little counter intuitive since beer is the reflex option. 

And here’s where I may lose some followers:  I selected a 2014 Maison L’Envoye (Fleurie Cru) Beaujolais.  There are ten crus in Beaujolais, with the crus of Fleurie, Chiroubles and St. Armour being considered the lighter styled.  Chenas, Mouilin-A-Vent and Morgon are age worthy and heavier with Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly, Julienas and Regnie in the middle.  Now if every SOMM hasn’t already written me off, let me finish the job by reminding them that Fleurie is French for “flowery.”  So I paired a flowery, lighter styled Beaujolais with a steaming dish of pork meats and cabbage.

Except Maison L’Envoye isn’t typical. Darker in the glass (medium vs. pale ruby) than many Fleurie, its overall character is unique. Lots of dark berries on the nose, it wafts with an unusual smokiness.  Nothing excessive, it is classically French.  But the smokiness (carried onto the palate) made this wine of medium body an excellent companion to the meats, playing nicely against the sausage and the smoked ham shank. The wine is finessed and elegant.  Plum and blackberry accented with white
pepper join in the aromas.   Fruit is juicy, yet restrained and in balance; most important – it’s presented as part of the whole.  Allspice adds complexity peaking interest above the primary tastes of blackberry and black cherry. A hint of black olive joins in.  Lifting all this is strawberry and raspberry red fruit.  Along the way, juicy blackberry see-saws against taut black cherry.  A harmony of tannins and acidity in Wallenda like balance against fruit envelops the package delightfully.

Pairing this wine with bigos wasn’t so far off after all, though no one will police your kitchen to see what you're serving with it.   Recommended are pork rillettes (surprise!) or meat terrines; a stew of ham and white beans (keeping it French but using the same protein).  I like it with pate or a charcuterie.  You’ll find it goes well with many of the same foods you would pair with a Pinot Noir.  And if you want to get cross-cultural about it, consider enjoying it with Chicken Milanese made with a sage and lemon butter sauce.  Then again, cold sliced ham works well too on the day after. 

Point being, Beaujolais Crus suffers under association with Beaujolais Nouveau – that baby aged wine released the third Thursday of each November.  Fun, careless, celebratory, even ceremonial – but not the same wine as others of Beaujolais.  And the crus – all ten of them – represent the best of Beaujolais, each worth exploring.

……………. Jim
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Grape:                  Gamay (Noir)
Maturation:        11 Months in 2nd Use French Oak Barriques
Vines:                   80 Year Old Gobelet
ALC:                       13%
TA:                         5.9 g/L
pH:                         3.63
Acclaim:               91-92 pts Vinous, 91 Wine & Spirits, Awarded “Best Buy”
Imported By:     Old Bridge Cellars (here)
ARP:                      U.S. $18


“For everyday, we like Beaujolais, Grenache or Syrah, and we like a lot of it! It's a family tradition: We would never consider having a meal without wine.” ….. Jacques Pepin

Beaujolais. Not Nouveau, but not a cru (one of ten) either.  And not Beaujolais Villages. Just Beaujolais.  A simple pleasure, it is joy in the glass; a smile to meet the approach of summer’s warmth.   The wine to enjoy at a picnic with charcuterie.  Somehow these wines got lost between the sophistication of the ten crus and the disdain for the Nouveau.  Too bad. 

Domaine Dupeuble has been making wine
since 1512 in the hamlet of Le Breuil in southern Beaujolais (Eastern, mid-France, south of Burgundy and north of Lyon).  With a simple “Beaujolais” appellation, wines are inexpensive (ARP for this bottle is about $15, but I found it at $12.99).  All Beaujolais is made from Gamay and handpicked, and there’s a lot of it made.  Making your selection easier among the many on the racks is the labeling of Kermit Lynch on this bottle as the importer on both the front and back label.  Lynch was born in Bakersfield California. In 1972, he founded KLWM (Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant) and became an importer, retailer, and distributor of wines reflecting terroir. His “Adventures on the Wine Route” won the Veuve Clicquot Wine Book of the Year award,” and he has twice received the James Beard award. If that was not enough, he was also knighted by the French government with their prestigious “Legion d’Honneur.”  He knows wine and I have never been disappointed with any of his line.

Beaujolais is fresh red, something not often said together.  Light bodied, serve it just slightly chilled.  Consider that suitable for all Beaujolais (not all crus).  But when looking at Domaine Dupeuble Pere et Fils, appreciate that this bottling is made with all the care and attention that goes into making the crus. Carbonic maceration (different than conventional alcoholic fermentation which involves crushing the grapes) makes for wine that is fruity and with low tannins. That too is standard for Beaujolais.  But the Beaujolais rouge of Domaine Dupeuble (they also produce a blanc) is from vines averaging 50 to 100 years of age.  That’s a span, I admit. But vineyards need to sometimes be replanted, and fruit is concentrated at any point along that spectrum. Soil is granite, clay and limestone – so suitable for Gamay.  And all plots face Southeast, South and Southwest. Vines are tended without any synthetic fertilizers (natural compost is used) and no chemicals are used.  Yields are severely restricted by both pruning and “green harvesting.” 

Only natural yeasts are used and the wine is aged in cement and stainless allowing for primary aromas and preservation of fruit.  It is vinified without the use of any SO2 and the wine is not degassed or filtered. What you’re tasting here is pure, pleasurable Gamay.  Lots of cranberry and cherry on the nose, the palate is vibrant with red fruit accompanied by a note of violet that serves to calm things down.  Balance? It’s Wallenda-like.  Bright raspberry and cherry offsets clove.  Earth offsets fruit.  Dark berries (black & blue) offset the bright red.  Tannin and acidity is just enough to remind you it’s there.  Nothing except simple joy is excessive. And who can get enough of that? 

Vinous assigned this wine 90 points, stating: “… much more serious and powerful than its appellation would suggest.”  Wine Advocate   stated “… most impressive of all was just how well both their whites and reds age.”  Normally, the crus of Morgon, Moulin-A-Vent and Chenas would be those you would think suitable for some ageing, but in this and other aspects, Domaine Dupeuble exceeds standards and does so at “mizerly” pricing.

A votre sante!
…………………………. Jim
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“Making good wine is a skill. Fine wine is an art.” – Robert Mondavi

Normally, I don’t pair salmon with Chardonnay.  All palates are personal and correct for themselves.  Mine prefers Sancerre.  But, as with many dishes, how the protein is prepared or the dish is sauced, is as important as the entrée itself.  Besides, I was looking for an excuse to open this wine “find” and it worked so well, I had to share the experience.  On the plate
is broiled sesame salmon (Alaskan wild-caught Sockeye). It was prepared with a mixture of lime juice, honey, vegetable oil and coconut aminos and served with tropical fruits. The Chardonnay? A 2016 “Novellum.”

Novellum comes with the simple “Vin de France” appellation, meaning Wine of France.  Uncorking the wine shows it is from the Roussillon region in Southwest France, not the Cote de Beaune so well known for Chardonnay.  But I was drawn to this wine by noticing on the back label that it was an “Eric Solomon” selection. There are names on labels that have, for me – for decades - indicated value.   Solomon is one of them.  With an ARP of $12, and this bottle on sale for just $8.97, and being unfamiliar with French wines labeled by variety instead of region, I took a chance based on the Solomon name.

Good thing!  An interesting Chardonnay.  Interesting and also pleasurable, and (luckily) a great pairing with the salmon.  Tasting this wine leaves you puzzled, questioning just what it is that makes it unique.  It’s not oaky.   In fact, it finishes clean and is crisp throughout, while yet not being thin or overly acidic.  Excellent balance. But something different is going on here that sets it apart and makes it pleasurably unusual.   The vines average 30+ years of age, so fruit is concentrated. But that’s not it.  The area in Roussillon in which the grapes are grown average an elevation of 15 meters (49.21 feet): nothing extraordinary.  Soil is clay, limestone and galets – pretty much standard.  The area in Roussillon is where the Pyrrenees meet the Mediterranean and near Mount Canigou -   about par in advantages vs disadvantages for growing Chardonnay grapes.  Problem is, the wine itself speaks all positive.   After fermentation, the wine is aged in steel (80%), accounting for its aromatics, freshness and fruit.  20% (often less) is aged in wood, but the wood is neutral.  Aging is for three months in tank on the lees of Viognier  and therein lies the difference.   

This is genius wine!  This is cool climate California meets the sophistication of
Maconnais, a unique “hybrid” that is 100% Chardonnay from 100% Vitus Vinifera , sustainably farmed and made into wine with great thought at every step along the way.  5% undergoes malolactic fermentation.  That with the lees contact provides enough body while maintaining the classic French profile of balance and subtlety, suggestion vs. prevalence, finesse vs imbalance.         

In the glass, it presents medium lemon.  The nose offers light and bright notes of lemon backed up with deeper notes of candied orange.  Enjoy aromas of tropical fruit and notes of apricot and green apple.  On the palate, both the lemon and orange repeat, but are joined with a hint of lime.  An undercurrent of minerality carries throughout the taste with hints of crushed rock.  The palate is layered. Honeysuckle, green apple, apricot and a mild yeastiness, offset nicely by the citrus adds, complexity. The texture is honeyed.  Others pick up pear, herbs, sour peach, white peach and spice.

This is not wine with a gimmick to be different (for better or worse).  It’s not aged in barrels used to age soy sauce or balsamic vinegar.  Years ago, Jean-Marc and Eliane Lafage (proprietors) worked with a cooperative in Languedoc to make Novellum from a site that in most years had some botrytis.  Today, in Roussillon, there is no botrytis.  Using grapes affected by “noble rot” is not a gimmick.  But I think the wine is better off without it.  This is a clean, medium plus bodied wine that makes the most out of a rather neutral grape.  It emphasizes terroir, not the winemaker’s talents though they cannot be minimized.  Each decision (neutral wood, percentage of malolactic fermentation, percentage of tank aging) is critical to the finished product.  And aging on the lees of Viognier ranks high among those decisions.  Adding weight without the secondary notes of oak adds a subtle finessed note of grace and interest to this varietal of a thousand faces.  That this wine is available at such a price affords everyone an opportunity to experience it. And, frankly, it competes with wines at 4-5 times the cost.

Nor is this 2016 vintage Novellum a once in a decade hit.  Rated 92 by Wine Advocate, it earned 90 points in 2015, 89 in 2014 and 92 in 2013. It seems making art is a habit with the Novellum of Jean-Marc and Eliane Lafage.

A votre sante!

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“Pleasure is often spoiled by describing it.”….  Stendhal

And there you have it!  Chenin Blanc. Describe it?  It can be dry or sweet. Light to full bodied.  Rich with slow moving tears on the glass or no tears.  Compare a Chenin Blanc from South Africa against a Vouvray or a Savennieres (Loire Valley France). Try it against a Quarts De Chaume (also from the Loire) and again against one from California.  Same grape. Different wines.  Pine Ridge Vineyards makes a best effort in their California blend stating (on the back label): “Our distinctive white blend marries the crisp, honeyed citrus fruit of Chenin Blanc with the plush body, soft floral and juicy peach notes of Viognier for a lush, versatile and delicious wine.”

The blend is 80% Chenin Blanc from grapes grown in Clarksburg,   Viognier is from the Lodi appellation.  The Chenin was harvested at low-sugar levels to emphasize bright fruit and crispness (acidity) in the finished wine.  Balancing this, the Viognier was harvested at higher sugar levels (24 degrees Brix) to incorporate the floral notes and produce a somewhat sweet viscosity in the finished blend.  Each varietal was inoculated with its own yeast strain selected to maintain the grape’s fruity character, and fermented and aged in 100% stainless to preserve fruit and freshness without adding secondary notes. No malolactic fermentation.  The wine’s body is enhanced from ripe Viognier berries.  

For CS (SOMM), WSET and CSW students, all of that is interesting, but I don’t know it brings any pleasure to the table.  For that, you’ll need to pour yourself a glass of this wine.  The investment in doing so is modest.  The SRP is just $16 and I found it on sale for just under $11.  In the glass, it presents medium lemon with a clear rim.  The Viognier takes the starring role in the play of aroma.  In fact, this is one of those wines you almost want to delay tasting just so that you can continue to enjoy its perfume: tropical fruit, white flowers, white peach, ripe star fruit and honeydew melon. Citrus from the Chenin Blanc offers a honeyed character with whispered hints of orange and Meyer lemon.  On the palate, it is of medium weight making it a white that is compatible with a wide variety of foods from Thai curries to a frittata.  Expect to enjoy a well-integrated symphony of yellow apple and Mandarin orange with pineapple, apricot, sweetened lychee and ripe white peach.  A lingering note of white tea adds complexity and citrus bobs along throughout the tasting: initially lemon, but (if you allow the wine to warm) expect notes of lime.

In fact, that’s part of the fun.  I recommend serving the wine chilled. Taste. Take notes.  But pour another glass and keep it aside to warm a bit.  Taste it again and enjoy how the wine presents differently.  Doing this will allow you to better pair this wine with food.  Easy out?  Summer approaches, and this wine is summer’s romance in a glass.  Lightly sweet but finishing cleanly, it can be enjoyed alone.  If you find yourself at a BYOB Thai restaurant, its sweetness will be a good play against a spicy curry, but it would do well paired also against a spicy Mexican shrimp and avocado tostada.  Making brunch?  Try this wine with a frittata made with caramelized sweet onions and ricotta.  Sushi works well too. 

What maybe doesn’t work so well is my description of this wine.  How do I accurately put on paper what you experience on your tongue?   Every palate is personal and correct for the person possessing it.  My advice?  Buy a bottle. Taste it. Let me know what you think.

…………….. Jim

Bottled by Pine Ridge Vineyards
Oakville, California

**  ALC12.5%
** The 80/20 blend Chenin/Viognier is approximate and for the 2016 vintage.  Percentages are adjusted yearly as needed.  The 2015 vintage, for example, was 83% Chenin Blanc / 17% Viognier.  This a common practice with all blends.   

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"Making wine is like having children; you love them all, but boy, are they different." --- Bunny Finkelstein (co-owner of Judd’s Hill Winery)

Despite that I’m getting on in years, I still enjoy Sekt occasionally.   Holster that thought cowboy!  Sekt is sparkling wine from Germany.  And Germany follows only France and Italy in producing sparkling wine.  That puts Germany ahead of Spain (4th) and even the U.S. (6th).   In fact, they drink a lot of Sekt in Germany and you may want to try it too – especially lake side or on a picnic. Or watching a sunset from your patio or deck at day’s end.  This bottle from Weingut Fitz-Ritter is 100% Riesling from the Pfalz region in southwest Germany.  Imported by Winesellers Ltd. Importing & Marketing, I found it at Binny’s for under $17.  Its sweetness level is “Extra Troken” (meaning dry) though its initial taste of sweet red apple presents a hint of residual sugar on the palate.  This is balanced by the crisp acidity that makes the Riesling wines of Germany so well regarded worldwide. 

Despite too that this sparkling wine is made in the traditional method (second fermentation in bottle, aged on the lees) I recommend it especially for those finding Champagne and other wines of sparkling type that are classically made (Cava, Methode Champonoise, Metodo Classico, Cremant, etc.) too “yeasty”.  The autolysis (dead yeast cells in contact with the wine after fermentation while aging) is what makes my bell ring, but all palates are personal and some are soured by a strong taste of brioche, toast or bread dough.

Because the Riesling grapes for this wine are all old vine and from the sunny micro-climate of Middle-Haardt in Pfalz, it is the fruit of ripe Riesling that powers through.   Some have referred to a “slightly toasty (note) on the nose,” though I found the aromas all bright and fresh and chalky.  Others also refer to a palate offering pineapple and tangerine.  Still others: green apple, lime and orange with aromas of lychee, pear and coconut.  So be it. Again all palates are personal. An Alsatian Gewürztraminer defines lychee for me.  And for me, this Sekt was red ripe apple:  A simple yet pleasurable experience.  The Phalz (lying to the West of the Rhine, in the south, sunny and warm) has been known for producing inexpensive wines.  Its reputation does not carry the weight of the Mosel or the Rheingau.  Yet its simplicity is its charm.  An uncomplicated, easy-drinking bubbly with a good mousse, fine bubbles and a clean taste.  If there’s something in experiencing that pleasure that isn’t a good thing, I haven’t found it.

The Fitz-Ritter family has been making wine since 1785. And the estate belongs to the “Verband Deutscher Pradikats” (VDP) founded in 1910 and whose members are dedicated to organic, sustainable farming.

…………….. Jim

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“We are born at a given moment, in a given place and, like vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the year and of the season of which we are born”…..   Carl Jung


If you regularly buy or enjoy Chateau Petrus, Margaux or Lafite-Rothschild for daily enjoyment, odds are you’re not following Wine Mizer anyway. But if you enjoy Bordeaux wine – or want to try some and are more like the average consumer - today’s post is for you.  At the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting in Chicago on January 23, I relished tasting the white, red and sweet wines from the 2015 vintage. These were actually barrel samplings that were bottled for the trade show. I still have a few 2005, 2009 and 2010 aging and am always impressed with how they have developed over the years. Even the 2004 that I bought as “futures” redeemed itself with time in the bottle.
What particularly struck me about the 2015 vintage is how drinkable the wines are now. Sample after sample, right bank (Merlot dominated) or left (Cab dominated), fruit dominated both the tannins and acidity. If you don’t have a cellar or the interest to age wines, this is important. Even better, I think 2015 will be regarded as the best vintage since 2009-2010 so it should be regarded as an opportunity to either stock up on the vintage or to try tasting Bordeaux wine and learning why it is considered the benchmark of blends. Wine Spectator in their June issue
ranked the left bank 2015 vintage 92-95 points; the right bank 94-97 and Barsac &

Sauternes 94-97. Finishing with the sweet, botrytized whites of Barsac & Sauternes

at the tasting, what so often appeared – almost s a theme throughout the region - was

a freshness in the wine’s finish and mouthfeel: light notes lifting the mouthfeel of a

necessarily rich wine and displaying classical French finesse. 

Despite the somewhat fruit forward nature of this vintage, the reds have more structure than 2007 and should cellar well, giving the vintage a benefit to both the experienced appreciator of Bordeaux wines and those newly introduced.   

A Votre Sante!
....................... Jim

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“Our jobs as marketers are to understand how the customer wants to buy and help them do so.” – Bryan Eisenberg

I’M NOT A FAN OF THE LABEL.  The style is intended to grab your attention.  But it too will soon get lost among the growing number of labels with paintings of distorted faces on wine bottles.  Then perhaps L.E.D. type sparklers will be attached to wine bottles. Sensitivity pads in the floor of the retail store can remotely set them ablaze as you walk by.  And like some greeting cards, songs can be played from each bottle as you open it.  Eventually, labeling will again welcome useful information and an identity. But in the meantime, you’ll need to often look to the back label if you want to know what’s inside the bottle and who made the wine. 

This 2016 “Young Carignan” from Coturri Winery is a case in point. Grapes are from Mendocino County.  The winery is in Glen Ellen (Sonoma County).  The wine is not fined or filtered and is organic.  The alcohol is 14.2%.  It is intended to be consumed young and that is why (they say) the bottle is intentionally clear (though when filled with the dark purple juice, you likely wouldn’t notice that).  All that is on the back label.  But had some useful information (Winery, Varietal, AVA and Vintage) been on the front label, other information could have been on the back that is important to a passionate segment of the market. 

For example, the vineyard is CERTIFIED organic.  The Coturri winery has never used grapes treated with pesticides, fungicides or herbicides. This is not something new for them (they’ve been doing it this way since 1961). It is also dry farmed with the initial rootstock never irrigated.  Grapes are harvested by hand. The wine has no added sulphites and only indigenous yeasts are used.  In short, this is natural wine.  And while that’s appealing today to a segment of the market, it’s just the way Coturri has always been making wine.  For that niche of wine consumers, or that segment having read about “natural wine” and wanting to try it, I suggest Coturri and others consider appealing to their “natural” market instead of imitating the graphic art front label concept used by bigger players with bigger budgets.  It would seem a better use of limited label space; certainly more efficient than the consequence of not promoting it to that group of consumers who specifically shop for these wines.

Besides, Coturri doesn’t just produce Young Carignan.  The winery also produces and bottles Pinot Noir, a Rose, Syrah, Zinfandel and others.   Each varietal opens an opportunity to a market segment. So the young man wearing a belt made from hemp fiber but who doesn’t like Carignan and likes instead …….. well, you get the idea.

So, after this, what’s my impression of natural wine – or at least this one?  Key to an understanding is that all wine will have sulphites.  That’s natural too.  But natural wine will not have any added sulphites.  And while there’s another segment of the wine market that has bought into sulphites being the worst of evils, understand that sulphites are also a preservative against bacteria and microbial infection.  Yes, wine has been made for thousands of years without adding sulphites.  But, as a rule, I would suggest that all natural wines be consumed young.  People have been getting sick for thousands of years too.

That said, this “Young Carignane” is 91% Carignane, 5% Syrah and 4% Zinfandel.  All these black grapes make for serious red wine, with Carignan noted for being high in acid, tannin and bitterness while also being rife with problems on the vine like powdery and downy mildew.  It’s also prone to rot and infestation by grape worms and seems a varietal that was blessed by the agrochemical industry.  Yet, when handled correctly (meaning just right) Carignan has its charm.  Coturri uses only two and three year old barrels and bottles their “Young Carignan” just three months after fermentation.  Picking fruit at exactly the correct moment is critical and Coturri, which dry farms and head prunes their vines, seems to know when that moment arrives.

In the glass, this wine shows as dark purple. Initially, it displays

a rustic edge showing acidity and tannic structure.  Aired, however, it softens and opens with blackberry, licorice and cassis on the nose with a note of forest floor.  It has a creamy, velvet-like texture with black and blueberry on the palate.  Tannin, though controlled, is evidenced by a slight drying sensation behind the upper row of your teeth.  Vacuum pumped, capped and saved for the next day, the “forest floor” becomes more like fresh white mushroom and the nose takes on aroma of brandied berry fruit.  Texture is syrupy rich with blackberry and some heat remains on the finish.

Carignan was once so widely planted in Languedoc-Roussillon that it was France’s most widely planted (red wine) grape for much of the last century.  As Syrah is different than Shiraz and Bordeaux Blends are different too than Meritage produced in the U.S., and a Cahors (Malbec) is different than Malbec from Argentina, so too is  this “Young Carignan” from Coturri & Sons (despite that in the U.S. we have adopted the more common spelling of Carignane).  I won’t even get into Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris.  But I will get into this bottle offering charm and value, particularly if you have not enjoyed this grape or it being presented in this style. 

Consider pairing this with marinated venison or stew, a rack of lamb with baby eggplant and onion in roasted tomatoes, duck or goose with a sausage stuffing or beef brisket.

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“The best wine is that which tastes good to thine own palette.”  … Pliny the Elder.

Respecting that all palates are personal, I don’t have wine “rules,” though I admit to having “preferences”.  One of them is to generally avoid domestically produced red wines priced under $15. (And yes, there are some exceptions.  And good whites are available under $15, but those again are whites. And bargains can be found in “old world” red wines). That aside, and with my personal preference stated, when I saw this bottle of (2014) “Angel’s Landing Napa” Cabernet Sauvignon for sale retailing at $11.99, I was cautious.  With Napa Cabernet Sauvignon grapes averaging $5,930 per ton in 2014, one should be cautious approaching a bottle priced at $12.

Angel’s Landing is “vinted and bottled” by Great Domains & Estates, neither name being attached to a vineyard.  “Vinted and bottled” is not the same as “Estate bottled.” Then again, there are several well-known wineries that source their grapes, have legions of passionate admirers, and consistently are awarded high ratings. (It does behoove one to keep an open mind).  But “Vinted and bottled” is also not the same as “Produced and bottled by.” Nor is it the same as “Made and bottled by.”  Depending on how one understands the term, it may mean that as little as 10% of the wine was fermented at the winery, or even that the name on the label is not connected to the production of the wine in any way.   

Angel’s Landing is a label represented by the Mendocino Wine Company which represents many brands.  Call it “grey” or “white” labeling, I’ll even concede in advance that the issue essentially comes down to what’s inside the bottle. Yet with such “white labeling”, it’s difficult to learn about that.  And for those who want to confirm why their senses are telling them what they think they are, it’s this lack of transparency that is troubling.  One cannot get the tech specs.  Is the wine blended with other varieties?  (Wines labeled a varietal in the U.S. may contain up to 25% other grapes). What’s the residual sugar?  How was the wine made?  Who actually made it? How much oak, what type, how long was it aged?   Most wines so labeled don’t have web sites and seldom are professionally reviewed.  Information develops knowledge and appreciation and – most important - understanding.  And for some of us, that’s essential to a good experience.   

In this case, the fruit is indeed Napa, mostly from the Yountville area vineyards known for Chateau Montelena.  In fact, Grgich Hills‘ Mike Grgich (formally of Chateau Montelena) was responsible for bringing Chateau Montelena to the world’s stage in the Paris Wine trials of 1976.  Dominus, Domaine Chandon, Charles Krug and others also are in Yountville. Its pedigree is established.   But appellation alone does not guarantee anything other than locale. And Yountville is not identified on the label.  …………….. And the back label refers only to “Napa County.”

So regarding Angel’s Landing, I think I need to respect Pliny the Elder’s foresight.  The wine is deep purple in the glass. The nose, for me, is all blackberry jam with some crème de cassis and a hint of black licorice.  The mouthfeel is liquid silk. While Cabernet Sauvignon is noted for tannins, I found them so rounded, with almost no grip, that I resented not being able to access more information. The palate revealed a reduction of blackberry sauce with blackberry preserves dominating the back taste. Upfront was some Christmas spice.  A note of green pepper is common in Cabernet Sauvignon, but I often miss that as I did again with Angels Landing. Others report sage and iodine (I did not). Another described the wine as masculine.  Though not comfortable today with such terms, I’d describe it as more feminine because I found the wine somewhat sweet and, as I said, the tannins were so soft as to be almost nonexistent.

For the price, I’d have to say this Cab offers value if you’re looking for an easy drinking red wine that’s likely to be a crowd pleaser.  I later discovered its ARP is actually $22 (the price of $11.99 having been a “close out” sale price).  For my palate, I found the wine somewhat sweet. But for those finding Cabernet Sauvignon generally too tannic, too dry, this could be the bottle they’ve been waiting for.

……………. Jim 

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