“The connoisseur does not drink wine but tastes of its secrets.”  – Salvador Dalí

Let’s concede that Castilla y Leon does not enjoy the prestige of the Rioja region in the production of Tempranillo.  But along with that, let’s also agree that not everyone is a connoisseur or that even amongst that group, not everyone wants to exhume the secrets from every glass they bring to their lips. Sometimes, someone just wants to relax.  Even Dali had to take a day off occasionally.

Radio Boca is easy to enjoy.  It’s Tempranillo (100%) from Spain and the vines average thirty plus years of age.  But it’s from Castilla not Rioja.  That is its blessing and its blessing because while the wine is not complex, its quality-to-price ratio excels.  If you’re looking for a “daily red” to relax with and enjoy without getting out your wine notebook, Radio Boca will fill the need without emptying your wallet. 

Medium to deep ruby in the glass, it offers aromas of cracked pepper over black and red berries. After pouring this wine for an event recently, where it outsold the other six combined at my table, I went home with two bottles myself (research).  I braised chicken breasts along with onion, celery and carrot.  When cooled, I saved the broth and shredded the chicken, adding my barbecue sauce.  A few “Bread & Butter” pickles on a brioche bun and a sandwich was ready to enjoy.  Steamed broccoli (finished with a butter-olive oil spray) and some easily made sweet potato crisps completed a healthy and easy to prepare meal.   

The wine was being sold by that retail store for $8.99, which is the average retail price for this wine. If you’re of the belief that only the best Cabernet Sauvignon can come from Napa (and disregard Sonoma), or that the only Nebbiolo worth drinking can be obtained from Barolo or Barbaresco (and that the wine of  Gattinara, Langhe and Ghemme is just not up to your standard) stay with the Tempranillo of your choice.  You won’t be disappointed.  This wine, with a relatively high residual sugar content, is definitely bent toward new world palates.  And while “reading” the palates of people I’ve never met is impossible, it’s no secret that the most popular wines in the U.S. are those with that same bent, so it becomes a safe bet to recommend this easy drinking wine.

Normally, I’m in with Zinfandel on anything with barbecue, but I wanted to re-taste the Radio Boca in a more relaxed setting and this Tempranillo worked perfectly.  Medium bodied, the wine is silky and very smooth and rich with ripe berries.  The fruit strikes you first (black currant, blackberry jam, red cherry and unripe black plum) and carries on into a long finish.  But this is also a very tactile wine. The finish is extended by a mouthwatering acidity keeping the fruit alive on your cheeks.  But this is then met with just enough grip to make things both interesting and pleasing.

................ Jim

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Radio Boca:       
Variety:                       Tempranillo, 100%
Age of Vines:               30+ Years
Harvest:                       By Hand
Vinification:                 48 Hours, 5 degrees C (41F)
Fermentation:             Stainless, 24-28 C (75.2-82F)
Maceration:                12 Days
Remember to collect & save your stocks for soups
and gravies. 
A percentage of the wine (amount unknown) is aged in French oak before being blended back.
ALC:                             13%
TA:                               5.5g/L
pH:                               3.51
Volatile Acidity:           0.49 g/L
RS:                               11.6 g/L
Imported By:     Hammeken Cellars (Manhasset NY)



“If anyone orders Merlot I am leaving. I am not drinking (expletive) Merlot!  It tastes like the back of a (expletive) L.A. school bus. Now they probably didn't de-stem, hoping for some semblance of concentration, crushed it up with leaves and mice, and then wound up with this rancid tar and turpentine (expletive).” …..  “Miles Raymond” played by Paul Giamatti in the film “Sideways”.

I may be a party of one, but there was a lot about this film I didn’t like. Still don’t.  I remained one of the few who continued to appreciate Merlot. The grape itself, however, did suffer.  Sales of Merlot plummeted, and this the result of such a sophisticated oenophile that after not tasting wine or appreciating its aromas, instead chugged down samples of it in the tasting room, grabbed a bottle, filled his glass, fought over it with the server and then drank from the spit bucket. Ironically, Miles’ (the Yoda of viticulture) most prized bottle of wine was a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc which itself is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, another grape he didn’t like.

Before any of that, we’re treated to the scene in which Miles, accompanied by his philandering friend, is put up at his mother’s house (a widow) and he favors her by stealing money from her so as to finance his drinking binge. And somehow, people viewing this film stopped buying Merlot en masse. The market crashed, vines were ripped out, fortunes lost and an art was almost destroyed.

I bought more.

And recently found this stowaway bottle in the racks – a 2008.  I was preparing dinner: braised pork spare ribs, Parmesan crusted potatoes and grilled vegetables.  Yes, I know – Pinot is made for pork and a white can be twice as nice. But the sauce for the short ribs wanted more yet not as much as a Cabernet.  Besides, “Sweetie” was joining me for dinner and prefers a “softer” wine when red.  My only concern was that this Merlot, from Napa, might be too jammy and fruit-forward for my tastes.  I chose to disregard my concerns, respect the preference of my guest and also not steal any money from her purse while she wasn’t looking.   
Grilled yellow squash, red pepper & carrot
All choices worked well. 

Parmesan crusted potatoes
Despite being Napa fruit, the mesoclimate of the Grigsby vineyard in the Yountville sub-AVA, on the benchland of the Vaca Mountains benefits from the cooling maritime breezes off the San Francisco Bay. Temperatures are warm enough during the day to produce perfectly ripe fruit, but cool enough in the evening to ensure finesse.  And it’s that finesse that impressed me.  Not jammy.  Not a fruit bomb. Just symmetry and symbiosis.  And it’s pure Merlot (99%) with 1% Cabernet Sauvignon. Organically farmed grapes. Hand selected and harvested during the cool evening hours.  

It’s a “big” wine, but soft and with tannins that are smooth and silky.  Don’t open and pour.  Like all things worth it (like my pork spare ribs) it takes time.  In this case, open and pour will yield a wine with some sharp edges and grip.  Decant and the fruit exposes itself.  The tannins ease.  Sweet black cherry, ripe plum, red current and black raspberry intermingle on the palate with cedar and spice box, oak and caramel.  But it’s how the fruit evidences itself that impresses. Restrained, it is elegant, but not shy.  The tip-off to this experience came in the light aromatics: black cherry, red current and black raspberry but melded with earthy notes; earthy notes that are more often appreciated in “old world” wines.  Rocca seems to have taken the best of each style and married them.  A fruity (but restrained) entry backed by oak and countered by spot-on grip develops cola and black olive notes (fig?) and cedar on a long finish with precise acidity.  This Merlot is rich, but focused and well-structured.  “Sweetie” and I were both so pleased with the wine, there was no need for a spit bucket (sorry, Miles).

Pork Short Ribs

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Rocca Family Vineyards
Varietals:                                 99% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon
Harvested                                By Hand
Vineyard:                                Grigsby, 100%
Farming:                                 Organic
Appellation:                            Yountville, Napa Valley
Aging:                                     20 Months, French barriques, 60% new
ALC:                                       15.1% , this vintage*
ARP:                                       $50-$60 U.S.
·         May vary, depending upon BRIX at harvest. Other vintages 14.9 ABV.
Winemaker:                            Paul Colantuoni



“Chianti improves with age.  The older I get the better I like it.”  …… unknown/probably an adaptation.

Old friends are the best.  So when “sweetie” warned me that she was arriving with a serving of lasagna, leftover from a restaurant dinner out with her friends the night before, it gave me a chance to enjoy my own leftovers and take a vacation from cooking (I don’t eat flour noodles).  The “old friend” was a 2013 Nipozzano Reserva Chianti Rufina from Frescobaldi Vini that I knew she would like.  It’s a staple here at “Mizer Manor” as it should be.  Rufina is a DOCG (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita - Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin) one of 7 denominated sub-zones in Tuscany, near Florence, producing Chianti not labeled as Classico (its own DOCG). 

The Classico region is the original, and many people assume it must then be the best, though I find the definition of “best” changes from palate to palate and can be influenced also and necessarily by price.  With an average retail price (U.S.) of $20. Frescobaldi Reserva Chianti blends value with quality.  As a Reserva, it meets the required two year in wood and three months in bottle ageing requirement (the term, in Italy, Spain and elsewhere – unlike the U.S. – is legally defined).  But given that any Chianti labeled a Reserva need meet those requirements, what makes a Rufina Chianti a good option? And, more specifically, why Frescobaldi?

For one thing, Rufina is amongst the smallest of the seven Chianti sub-zones and blessed with limestone-based soils.  It’s the furthest from the coast and at the highest altitude (even higher than Classico) and with an almost continental climate being on the foothills of the Apennine Mountains. Diurnal temperature differences are extreme.  The decrease in nighttime temperature generally contributes to a wine that is more subtle, with lower alcohol, crisp acidity, a lighter body, and typically bright fruit flavors, i.e. a wine that is perfect for “sweetie”.

Soft and supple with very tame tannins, Nipozzano Reserva Chianti offers just the right amount of acidity that makes it also so food friendly.  Aromas of cherry, raspberry and red plum carry onto the palate joined with dried strawberry and delicious spice notes: a hint of white pepper and cinnamon.  It’s a consistent performer from a producer with history in wine making going back to 1308, enough time, I think, to grant they have some experience. 

By law (70%), it is mostly Sangiovese – accounting for that cherry, red currant and some roasted tomato taste.  Inclusion of Malvasia nera (cherry, plum, chocolate) adds texture along with Colorino (color & tannin). Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon add balanced softness opposed by structure: an appreciable tenseness despite the wine being bright and juicy – easy drinking and eminently enjoyable every day.  Balance by definition.

Everyone that’s anyone recommends pairing this wine with barbequed meats, beef stew and aged cheeses (Pecorino Toscano, Grana Padano Stravecchio and Asiago). Consider roast lamb with rosemary and garlic or Tuscan-style sausages and beans but also crostini.  Me? I’m old fashioned and recommend lasagna or any red sauced pasta (some are commercially available, gluten free and paleo friendly), pizza and salad.  I love it with bruschetta made on garlic toast topped with fire-roasted tomatoes heated in balsamic, capers, onion and finished with fresh chiffonade basil


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Maceration:                            25 Days on the Skins
Malolactic:                              Immediately After Fermentation
Ageing:                                    24 Months Barriques Plus 3 Months Bottle
Wood Used:                            Second & Third Year
ALC:                                         13%
James Suckling                        91 Points (2016)
The Wine Advocate                 91 Points (2016)
Wine Enthusiast                      89 Points
Drinkable Through                  2019

The seven sub-zones of Chianti are: Colli (meaning “hill”) Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colline (meaning “hills”) Pisane, Montalbano, Montespertoli and Rufina.  Classico is its own DOCG.  



“No phone, a movie, a glass of wine, and some salad. Perfect!” ….  Kate Moss

In this “No rest for the wicked” environment (Strike “the” and “wicked” and replace with “anyone”) due to cell phones tracking us all and ringing with myriad solicitations. And with our concern for carbohydrates and waist lines, the salad and wine seem like a good idea.  But having a cold, I skipped going to the movies and made soup at home instead of making the salad.  The cold wasn’t that bad. And the making of soup was mostly a preemptive measure on my part before the cold could take hold, so I didn’t skip enjoying a glass.

That glass has since become a few bottles bought and with more on order.  The wine is that good. And that is surprising (at least for me). I’ve long been a fan of wine from the Cotes du Rhone.  But saying “Cote du Rhone”,in practicality, is synonymous with Grenache, some Syrah and maybe Mourvedre, i.e. red wine.  It’s not that I’m a red wine guy. I like it red. I like it white. I like it rose. I like it orange, still and sparkling.  But tastes being what they are and always personal – I have found Grenache Blanc to be somewhat dull. Bordering on boring.  And there are so many options in this delicious global marketplace.

Now along comes “Artesis” as I am now full of years; a gift of good taste from Antoine Ogier and blended with value.  The winery is located in Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the Southern Rhone.  Antoine Ogier is identified (on the back label of this bottle) as “Negociant-Eleveur.”  (A Négociant is one who buys juice but matures, blends and refines it into wine: Eleveur).  Ogier has been a Négociant since 1859.  In 1948, the company bought its own cellars (making it Eleveur) and in 2000 expanded into estate grown wines.   

The maxim that guides Ogier in making wine is “Remain close to the source in order to better understand the constraints, but also harness its potential.”  Being skeptic as I am, I always confine my impression to what is inside the bottle.  What was inside this bottle, was immediately impressive.

Seductive. Romantic. Spring love. Flowers in bloom. Poetry. And Wallenda-like balance.

Perhaps that’s because Grenache Blanc is only 30%.  Clairette (assuming “Blanche”: specific sub-variety not identified) contributes aromas and acidity. 20% comes from blending Bourboulenc (like Clairette, but a finer grape lending crispness).  Another 10% is obtained from the classic blending marriage of both Roussanne and Marsanne with Roussanne (one of two “white” grapes allowed in the blending of Chateauneuf-du-Pape) adding aromatics and Marsanne balancing the acidity of that marriage and lending body, color and also its own aromatics.  Did someone say aromatics?  The last 10% is Viognier, so well respected for its floral lift, and contribution of apricot and peach while its low acidity makes for a good counter point against the other grapes.


Then again, it’s not just the grapes but how they’re joined in the bottle.  Should you try this wine (you should), pour two glasses, or drink one slowly and allow the wine to warm.  Certainly, serve it chilled. But allow that other glass, or some of your one glass, to warm; the wine will develop both aromatics and flavor as it warms.  On the nose, orange blossom (others get acacia), sweetened pastry dough – very fine, apricot, a scent of almond, lemon peel (Wine Enthusiast gets gooseberry – like taste, it’s all personal), pear and a gentle whisper of honey.  The wine is crisp and dry (don’t let the reference to honey lead you astray).  If you actually tasted white flowers (I have in salads), it’s there and in a mouthfeel surprisingly rich in volume for such a crisp wine.  Zesty with lemon peel balancing the weight of apricot, cleansing acidity opposing lychee and a whisper of banana, this wine is indeed complex. A hint of white peach?  Tasting again and as the wine became warmer: a very mild hint of Mint/Eucalyptus on the palate.  I swished the last around to be sure. The herbaceous/vegetative note was confirmed.  Complex?  You bet!

If all that going on inside your nose and mouth is not enough, add in that the acidity and citrus in the finish keeps reminding the palate of its experience for a long, long time.   This is wine magic, certainly when you consider that the ARP for this wine is $12.

………………   Jim
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Certified Organic Farming

Soil is sand and pebble on chalk with sandstone subsoil.

Destemming and fermentation at average temperatures to preserve aromas and assure sweetness.
NO malolactic fermentation.

ALC:                      13%
TA:                         2g/L
pH:                         3.68
Varietals:                See Body of Review
“Winemaker”:        Edouard Guerin
Rating:                   91 Wine Enthusiast
Imported By:         Espirit Du Vin (Boca Raton FL)

P.S. You needn’t “catch a cold” to enjoy this white Cote du Rhone.  Pairs well with roasted chicken made with herbs de Provence and turkey, grilled fish and pork.  I made a Navy Bean soup with diced, smoked ham shank (de-fatted and de-skinned) in chicken broth with a bouquet garni of bay leaf, parsley & thyme, added some chopped carrot, onion and a little garlic.  Soup was thickened w/o flour by pureeing some of the beans after cooking.  Also pairs well by itself with another glass.


“Of oil, wine, and friends, the oldest.” ….. Portuguese Proverb

Let’s move on to unfairly neglected Portugal.  Wine from Portugal is generally inexpensive and offers numerous bargains to be enjoyed. As a rule, the wine is delicious, different and, for me, a necessary transition into each fall season. Funny how those grapes grown in the Dao, south of Oporto, surrounded by mountains more in Portugal’s interior and with a more continental climate, make for wine that is so incredibly appropriate for fall in my cool-continental climate area. Each year, I mark this change of the seasons with wine from Portugal.

This 2014 Cabriz's Colheita Seleccionada Red (they also make a white) exemplifies why: Full bodied, textured, the mouthfeel of Portuguese wine is itself a marker in any blind tasting. Consider the grapes: 20% Touriga Nacional – the grape of port wine, 20% Tinta Roriz (grown extensively in Portugal but you may know it better as Spain’s Tempranillo) and 40% Alfrocheiro (a grape suspected to be native to Portugal, mostly grown in the Dao and noted for its velvety texture and spice). Branded by Cabriz, this wine is deep purple, from extracted fruit, in the glass and offers aromas of earthy blackberry compote with a note of kirsch.

As with all Portuguese wines, it coats the palate. Plum becomes prune-like with raisin and includes notes of blackberry jam. Flavors are concentrated with dark cherry, dry but juicy, along with dried raspberry. Seamlessly mixed with the plum/prune, these flavors are more roasted than fresh and are perfect for fall. Some violet completes the complexity, though other tasters got white chocolate and licorice. We all agreed on notes of pepper and herbs, though for me – more herbs and less pepper. Most impressive:  the wine holds up in the bottle easily for 2, even 3 days without losing any of its appeal. In fact, the taste actually took on more of a fresh fruit character on the second day.

The ARP for this wine is ridiculous at $9 and it can be found for even less. It was ranked #46 as one of the top 100 wines of 2016 by Wine Spectator, awarded 90 points and also rated as a “Best Value.” Wine Enthusiast assigned it 87 points, referring to it being “ripe, full of black fruit” and “rich and fruity, soft tannins with full bodied structure”. I mention this because I too found the tannins VERY soft as opposed to a very few other tasters. Of course, all palates are personal: some tasters referred to “forest fruits” (I agree) but also “fresh red fruit” (I found it more roasted and black initially). All that aside, the wine itself is delicious and, for me, perfect as fall announces itself. And, at less than $10, it is not to be missed. I’d even call it “case worthy”. Imported (locally) by Tri Vin Imports. ALC: 13%. Bottled by Global Wines, Inc. 

Viva!  Saude!  Tchim-tchim!
……………………………… Jim

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“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”   From Fitzherbert's Book of Husbandry in 1534 (language updated). Original author unknown

The story goes that RobertMondavi wanted to set a particular style of his Sauvignon Blanc apart.  The grape itself was suffering from a poor reputation in the U.S. in the 1960s.  Mondavi, having spent time in France, and tasting wine there, came upon the idea of naming an oaked style of his Sauvignon Blanc as Fume Blanc from the French word Fume referring to the hint of smoke in the aroma and taste of Pouilly-Fume wine from that area in the Loire Valley of France (Pouilly Fume is an AOC and Sauvignon Blanc is grown there).  Mondavi did not trademark the name and, subsequently, Dry Creek Valley Vineyards and other winery/vineyards began using the term and the rest is history.  It became so because people liked it.

But I was not one of them.  Why oak a Riesling or Chenin Blanc?  Why oak anything that by nature’s dictate should be all about freshness?  Everybody knew that, didn’t they?  Why oak Chardonnay? …….. oops!  Maybe it was time to re-think this.  There are meals in which an oaked Chardonnay, or partially oaked Chardonnay, works better than one that is 100% fermented and aged in steel.  So I vowed to get around to it “eventually”.  In the meantime, I’d keep my “mind open” while not paying attention.

My mind opened in 2014 when I tasted the Sauvignon Blanc of another winemaker (in Sonoma) who was gracious enough to allow me a private tasting during the busy season of October.  Famous for its Pinot Noir, this winery had previously rendered a Fume Blanc for a White House dinner.  The wine was very well received and had been in production since.  The winery was pouring. I was tasting.  Why not? And with just one taste I understood why.  I “got it”.  So yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

That happened again a week ago tasting Mondavi’s “Napa Valley” 2016 Fume Blanc.  I “got it” again.   What is interesting is that not all Fume Blanc is necessarily oaked (though, generally, it is safe to assume so).  What is interesting is that it always gets back to what is in the bottle, because the term “Fume Blanc” is not legally defined in the United States; it is interchangeable with “Sauvignon Blanc”.   You just have to taste the product and determine for yourself what suits your palate.

What I enjoyed about Mondavi’s Fume Blanc (the first in the U.S. to be named so) is its finesse.  All wine is manipulated grape juice, but there is no manipulation for the sake of trends here.   In fact, great care and attention to tradition has been paid into the making of this wine. Grapes are hand-picked in the cool temperature of early morning.  Whole cluster pressing is used to minimize skin contact, retaining freshness and aromatics.

Yes, the wine is different.  Some might be tempted to consider it a different-though-same-wine relationship (like Pinot Gris to Pinot Grigio). The citrus is apparent and the wine still offers those aromas and taste of grass.  But the body is different. Smoke from the oak char adds complexity. The wine is weightier, creamier and more textured.  Not better. Different. But different in a way that makes it more suitable for pairing with certain foods.  That can be especially fun if you cook because it adds to your repertoire.

The nose offers lemon, a vegetative hint (grass), grapefruit and orange peel.  On the palate is the citrus and minerality (wet stone) you expect from Sauvignon Blanc, but the wine is rounder, richer and more melon-like.  Lemon takes on character of lemongrass.  The smoke of the oak’s char adds complexity and the wine becomes weightier.  The lemon is there, but as the wine airs and warms in the glass, lime announces itself though more as lime crème. Other tasters refer to hints of ripe peach and guava. The “Fume” version is simply creamier and more textured.  Despite this, there’s a cleansing acidity to this wine – enough to suggest it’s even a good pairing for oysters on the half shell.  And that alone is enough to explain better than I have that this wine is in excellent balance. The oak, while adding texture, is handled with finesse.  No element in this wine is obtrusive or excessive.  Instead, each works in harmony with the other elements to make the total better than its parts. 

Not to worry. Mondavi makes both styles.  Mondavi even makes a “Reserve To Kalon Vineyard” Fume Blanc. But this label (the “Napa Valley”) is one you can find in almost every wine shop and many grocery stores.  And with an average retail price (w/o tax or shipping) of $18, it’s certainly worth looking for.  And speaking of the “To Kalon” vineyard, 39% of the juice for this wine comes from that hallowed area contributing richness, weight, age-ability and complexity to the blend, along with floral notes, tropical fruit and minerality.  59% comes from Mondavi’s prestigious Wappo Hill (in the Stag’s Leap District) with the fruit from there contributing the bright citrus and herbal notes along with giving the wine a lift. The balance of 2% is pure Oakville, making the wine 100% Napa Valley.  Not to be outdone, the blend is completed as 92% Sauvignon Blanc and 8% Semillon adding another instrument to the complex symphony.

Another quote, attributed to Harry Graham, comes from the last line of a poem he wrote and was first published in 1903.  It goes, “It’s never too late to mend.”  He knew too that old dogs CAN learn new tricks. I have, and now will include this Mondavi Napa Valley Fume Blanc as a staple in my cellar.

……………….. Jim

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Robert Mondavi Winery
7801 St Helena Hwy, Oakville, CA 94562

TA:                                         6.5 g/L
pH:                                         3.14
RS:                                         0.40 g/L

The juice is barrel fermented to add richness and complexity but with only 2% being new French oak. The wine is aged sur lie (makes for creamy texture) for six months in 60-gallon oak barrels and hand stirred twice monthly.  Semillon gives the final blend a broader mouthfeel and added complexity.

I served this wine with a modified version of Chicken Cordon Bleu, cubed and baked Japanese Yam and Purple Sweet Potatoes along with Asparagus.  It would do nicely with crab cakes (and a mild horseradish sauce), grilled salmon and scallops, grilled squid with lemon, smoked trout and California rolls or other sushi.  It can also do nicely with vegetables such as Provincial Tomatoes, grilled Zucchini or Tomatoes – or mini peppers – stuffed with goat cheese.   For meat, consider Grilled Pork Chops and Chicken in so many styles, it’s impossible to list.  


“All taste is personal and every palate correct for the person owning it.” .... James McMillan

The season’s evening chill and early loss of sun makes me want a red wine that is stout and bolder than my summer preferences. Today, it is a Cote du Roussillon (appellation Cotes Catalanes) blend of Syrah and old vine Grenache by Domaine Lafage Bastide Miraflores: 70% Syrah and 30% (old vine) Grenache. The average age of vines is 55 years in this practicing organic vineyard on soil of alluvial gravel and schist.  And in this far south and sunny area of France, the berries are quite happy. They’re also hand-harvested with the Grenache traditionally brought up in concrete tanks and the Syrah in demi-muids (600-liter oak barrels, equal to just over 158 gallons).  

A lot is going on inside this bottle that has an ARP of just $14.  It’s fruity blackberry and black raspberry notes, and the wine’s structure, lend themselves to pairing with grilled sausage, braised lamb, beef, venison and duck, stew and (surprisingly) even chicken glazed with Asian barbecue.  On the nose, blackberry preserve is dominant and with a brandied note. A gentle note of eucalyptus makes for interest.  And the wine develops in the glass: notes of chocolate and smoked meat announce themselves.  The texture is pure and surprisingly glycerin: smooth, silky and medium bodied, it is luscious with fruit from its nose and joined by plum.  Ripe, rich, deep – all appropriately descriptive, especially for a wine only medium bodied and that glides itself so easily across the palate.  A little warming heat on the mid-finish balances the fruit with a contrasting rustic quality that (for me) adds to its charm and seasonal suitability.

Writing reviews can be unnerving by their challenge to the writer sometimes needing to admit having a bias.   How do you compare a Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre to that from New Zealand when, clearly, you will have a bias toward one style?   It can be done and most often is but requires the critic evaluate and compare wines from the same region -- not just the varietal -- when assessing the wine.  The same must be said about price points.  While it’s a fact that a high-priced wine is not necessarily (or even frequently) a higher rated wine, comparisons should be “like to like” or at least within a range of price.

But if “All taste is personal and every palate correct for the person owning it” who needs to read reviews anyway?   Hopefully, you do because I’ll continue to admit having a bias when I do. And when I encounter lapses in fairness, I’ll be able to alert you to them so that you can better “read” reviews (even “between” the lines).  Once such presented itself recently when another person compared this wine to another blend from the Cotes-du-Rhone, one that was considerably more expensive.   What’s inside the bottle is what matters, but what it is sold for also must be considered.  And reasons for price differences run the length of one’s imagination, from initial acquisition cost, to length of ownership, to basic management effectiveness and to various less than noble considerations.  Suffice to say that at $14 (often less), you will be hard pressed to find a better value.   

………………… Jim

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Domaine LaFage:    
Imported By:                     European Cellars, an Eric Solomon Selection
Winemakers:                     Jean-Marc and Elaine Lafage
Maceration (in tank)         42 Days
Ageing:                             12 Months, Tank and Barrel
ALC:                                 14.5%  
Ratings:                             94 Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

A custom cuvée for European Cellars and a joint project between Eric Solomon and Jean-Marc Lafage, Bastide Miraflors is a cuvée created from Grenache grown on rocky, alluvial clay soils resembling those of the Rhône Valley combined with Syrah grown on schist in the village of Maury.