Tuesday, January 19, 2016


My, how we Wineaux love our classifications. Well, maybe it's a love-hate kind of thing, because they certainly confuse many consumers. (And sometimes classifications are even self-regulated, hm.) But they are everywhere, so the first part of my task today is to zero in on the Grands Crus Classés de Saint-Emilion.

It's not that difficult if we telescope a bit: France > Bordeaux > Saint-Emilion (located on the "Right Bank," of Bordeaux, where Merlot is king,) > Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. (Which is a classification, divvied into Grand Cru Classé and Premier Grand Cru Classé.) Every 10 years the classification is reviewed, most recently in 2012.

In 1982, a group of classed growers formed the Association de Grands Crus Classés de Saint-Emilion to work together to promote their region, their wines, and to continuously strive to elevate quality. 

A recent tasting sponsored by the Association shined a spotlight on two recent vintages: the acclaimed 2010 and the erratic 2012. 2010 is known as one of the standout Bordeaux vintages, and may very well be a benchmark year for the Right Bank. 2012 was beset by very turbulent weather, but if growers picked early, they were on track for a great wine.

Alas, I did not have time to sample the full Saint-Emilion bounty available due to time constraints, but found a few stunners from both vintages.

2012 Clos Saint Martin: notes of chalky lavender and cassis. With grippy tannins, this was dense and packed, but shimmied into a nice fruit-touched finish laced with cocoa powder. ~$60.
2010 Clos Saint Martin: smoky berry/cherry nose, with a heady floral perfume. This one is sexy — red fruit, good, strong structure, a boffo wine. ~$100.

2010 Clos Des Jacobins: florals and soft red berries on the nose. With a somewhat light personality, it was still elegant with red, redddd, reddddddd fruits. ~$60.

2012 Château La Commanderie: pyrazine-y green pepper, black cherry, spice. Quite smooth and velvety. ~$30.
2010 Château La Commaderie: dark fruits and graphite on the nose. Tangy personality, cherry cola, strong but integrated tannins. ~$35.

2012 Château Faurie de Souchard: smoky, spicy, licorice, black and blue fruits. Tightly wound with dusty tannins. ~$30.
2010 Château Faurie de Souchard: liquid cassis and purple flowers on the sexy nose. "Wowzers. SEXY wine," I wrote, with a "Purple Velvet Elvis" kind of feel. ~$35.

I preferred the 2012 Château Dassault, to the 2010, with its heady blueberry, plum, cherry nose I couldn't get enough of. Not overly tannic, with good acidity, pleasant and rich enough but approachable now, ~$45. The 2010 Château Dassault seemed very earthy, dusty, herby — more Cabernet Sauvignon-like, although there was only 5% in the blend — but I'd love to see it when it opens up. ~$50.

2012 Château Fonplegade: cassis, cedar, and rose petals on the nose, with a nice tang and brightness, fairly approachable. ~$40
2010 Château Fonplegade: "wow" nose! Smarties candy, cranberry, underripe red cassis. Glorious festival of cheeky red fruits, nice florals, bit of licorice, good acidic tang, amazing. ~$50

Both the 2012 and 2010 Château Grand Pontet had a relatively high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, and it showed. The 2012 was earthy, "merde"y, and woodsy with good structure, ~$35, and the 2010 had strong cigar leaf and herbs with a little more black fruit expression and sneaky tannins; very nice for the style. ~$55

2012 Château La Dominique: great nose — floral, red berries, cassis. Approachable, smooth, LOVELY. Like your new best friend/crush. WOW! ~$42
2010 Château La Dominique: intoxicating cassis and lavender nose. Mocha, dried potpourri, wonderful structure, very purple-y finish. ~$60

In years like 2010 and 2012, especially when coaxed by the right hands, Right Bank Bordeaux lets the Merlot shine, and these tend to be more approachable than the Left Bank Cab-heavy offerings, even in great vintages. (Especially in great vintages, acutally, due to Cab Sauv's intense structure.) It's also a fantastic bang for the price point buck, considering two of my favorites above retail under ~$45. Some of these producers don't have the widest distribution here in the U.S., but keep your eyes peeled for 2012 and 2010 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classes (it will say that on the label,) and snap up a few bottles when you can, you'll be glad you did. And don't forget to let me know what you find!


Wednesday, January 6, 2016


People who know me have heard me say, "If I could drink Champagne all day long, every day, I would." So it should be no surprise that when I had the chance to dine with Piper-Heidsieck's award-winning Chef de Cave Régis Camus, I jumped. On a balmy November day, I joined him and a few other Wineaux at Koi Soho for an incredible lunch, paired with an array of Piper Champagnes.

We began with the ubiquitous red-labelled Piper-Heidsieck Brut NV: notes of brioche and lemon, clean, with a sublime mousse, bright yet rich. 100% malolactic fermentation but still so fresh. ~$45. Lifting his glass, M. Camus said, "The first glass is the best of the day." So true.

Champagne lovers know that a NV wine isn't a "second runner-up" to the vintage-declared bottlings. A NV blend represents the identity of the Champagne house, as it is crafted year to year to achieve the house style using reserve wines and different percentages of the three permitted varietals (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier,) from a base vintage. When I asked M. Camus if he had favorite reserve wines that he was perhaps reluctant to use up, he said, a tad derisively, "Others want to hold, like museum. The Chef's job is to keep using wines." I took another sip, savoring the generous history in my glass.

Blending also occurs with a vintage wine, but with different varietals and vineyards, not years. The Piper-Heidsieck Brut Vintage 2006 (49% Pinot Noir, 51% Chardonnay) was sourced from 16 Grand and Premier Crus (rated vineyards) during a "challenging yet rewarding" year marked by a wide range of weather. It had a yeasty nose with a strong tangerine element, and was rich and floral with an incredible length of fruit. Vivid, generous, gorgeous minerality, balanced acidity, strong mousse. ~$80. M. Camus called this "The Diplomat," and with a little prodding, I discovered he has nicknames for all of his vintage-designated Champagnes — 2008 was "The Diamond," 2004 was "The Marathoner." Love it! Toasting with the 2006, M. Camus said, "The second glass... is the best of the day." Agreed.

A Champagne house's Tête de Cuvée, or Cuvée Prestige, is its jewel in the crown. For Piper, that is the Rare, and they have only released EIGHT vintages of Rare sine its debut in 1976. As winemaker, M. Camus can take the gloves off and use complete creative freedom to craft a spectacular wine. The Piper-Heidsieck Rare Millesime 2002 (70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir) has a bold nose of baked lemon and brioche. It is luxe beyond belief, with a creamy mandarin curd finish. Disgorged in 2012, this spent 9 years on its lees, and has the oomph to be cellared for another 20. ~$180. As we raised our glasses, I said, "Let me guess: the third glass…" and we all chorused: "is the best of the day!"

Most of the courses at Koi Soho have an Asian flair, and it doesn't take a Master Somm to pair Champagne with sushi... but how about red meat? Well, for a winter lamb chop, look no further than the Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage NV (55-60% Pinot Noir, 20-25% Pinot Meunier, 10-15% Chardonnay, with some "vin de couleur," or still Pinot Noir, in the mix.) This was a deep, vibrant pink, with very fragrant strawberry notes, candied cherries, grapefruit, and roses, with a subtle mousse. Like the NV Brut, the rosé is blended from a base wine (in this case, 2010,) and a large number of reserve wines. M. Camus implied this rosé is one of his toughest wines to make; the color should be consistent from year to year, Pinot Noir could overwhelm the blend but shouldn't, and some vintages, crops of Pinot Noir don't pass muster for the rosé. But it's worth it; the Piper Heidsieck Rosé is another very striking, yet elegant, wine. ~$60.

Finally, we headed into dessert with the Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Sublime. (55-60% Pinot Noir, 20-25% Pinot Meunier, 10-15% Chardonnay.) This is a Demi-Sec, which means it has a higher dosage (added sugar) and will exhibit apparent sweetness. But make no mistake, this is not a syrupy, cloying dessert wine. Think of it more like a voluptuous bombshell pin-up! Notes of marzipan, pineapple, vanilla cupcake. Delicious fruit, extremely well-balanced. (My notes have "delicious" again.) It certainly paired well with the dessert course, but would be a heady experience on its own. ~$50.

Although M. Camus has been named "Champagne Winemaker of the Year" by the International Wine Challenge eight times, Piper-Heidsieck doesn't command consumers' attention the way Perrier-Jouët or Möet & Chandon do. What does that mean for you Wineaux? Simple: incredible Champagnes at comparatively bargain prices. Perhaps Piper-Heidsieck doesn't have the reputation of other large houses, but it is a mistake to pass over these incredible wines. The cultivation of the vintage offerings and the high percentage of reserve wine in the NV bottlings belies the price points. In general, the Piper style is bold yet elegant, and who doesn't want that in a Champagne! So go seek some out, and let me know if you agree.

Many thanks to M. Camus and to my friends at Terlato Wines for a delicious luncheon and the unique opportunity to drink gorgeous Champagnes with their Chef beside me. I look forward to tasting with M. Camus again someday (and perhaps inspire a nickname for a future vintage —"The Minx"?!)


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

TENNESSEE… The New Frontier?

My father, the acclaimed wine appraiser and consultant, William H. Edgerton, couldn't contain his glee. "When you're home from tour on layoff, I have this wine you have to try. It's from Tennessee." The minute he said it, I could tell he regretted spilling the beans; he would have much preferred tasting me blind and then dropping the origin bomb.

Wineaux, you know I champion wine from less-than-usual locales — and I did have an eye-opening experience in Arizona — but typically, I expect wine produced in the "outlier" states to be thin, forgettable, mostly sweet hybrids not really worth a review.

And then I tried a pair of offerings from Reedy Creek Vineyards, the Fallen Oak Alchemy (white) and the Fallen Oak Prophecy Reserve (red).

(It is winemaker Michael Reedy's philosophy that sales are better if he doesn't vintage designate his wines, or varietally label them either. Since he manages 50% of his sales in his tasting room, I can't argue with that methodology, but after tasting them, I certainly believe that these wines can compete in a broader market, and interested Wineaux will absolutely want vintages and varieties on those labels at some point soon.)

The (2013) Alchemy White is a Sauvignon Blanc, grown on slate and schist soils. I found it exceedingly quaffable, with appropriate white grapefruit, lemon curd, straw and floral notes, and not overly acidic. Would I confuse it with a similarly-priced SB from New Zealand or the Loire Valley? Probably not, but it's from Tennessee, people. And it heralds a LOT of potential. ~$21

The (2012) Prophecy Reserve is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Petite Verdot. This knocked me off my feet! Complex flavors of red berries, cassis, cedar, smoke, and violets. Fairly acidic (which masks its tannins) and a good length. Quite tasty, and again, even more impressive from young TN vines. Also bodes extremely well for what may come next. ~$26

For now, Reedy wines are only available at the Tasting Room and at about twenty retailers across Tennessee itself. I, for one, would definitely be interested in a visit, as Reedy also has a Tempranillo, some Viogniers, a Riesling, Syrah, and even a "Port" made from Tennessee Touriga Nacional on his list. (What the what?!)

An email request for an interview went unanswered, but from conversing with my father (who visited Reedy at the winery,) it seems that Reedy saw the growth in neighboring Virginia's wine culture and speculated Tennessee might share enough in climate and terroir to also be a successful growing area. However, it also seems that he is far and away making the "best" wine in TN at the moment, as other winemakers continue to produce the "outlier state" versions I mentioned above; Reedy imagines that TN is several decades behind VA in regional success.

Savvy Wineaux have been aware for a long while that the growth of education, information, and techniques have led to an elevation of quality winemaking in many parts of the world. It seems time to turn the wine world's eyes to Tennessee, and see what kind of evolution Michael Reedy is sparking there!


Thursday, December 3, 2015

TOP 20 UNDER $20 OF 2015!!

Wineaux, you wait all year for this post, I know you do. So let's get to it! In no particular order, but grouped by color/style, here are my TOP 20 UNDER $20 WINES of 2015:


2013 Charles & Charles Red Blend, WA: 68% Cab Sauv, 32% Sra. Inky dark, dense ripe red sweet fruit. Purple florals. Smoke, herb liqueur. Very big, very ripe. Dense fruit finish. Not overly structured, but still a biiiiig boy. ~$12.

2011 Chateau La Grange Clinet Grande Réserve Côtes de Bordeaux, France. Hands-down favorite at a recent general tasting. Excellent cassis, blueberry fruit, with pepper and earth, perfectly structured tannins. ~$13. 

2012 Bonny Doon Contra, CA (Rhone style field blend — 56% Carignane, 17% Sra, 15% Grenache, 11% Mourvèdre 1% Cinsault.) Smoke, licorice, graphite, macerated blackberry nose. Tart and brighter than expected, lifting acidity with more dense red berries (cassis, pomegranate, bing cherry,) in mouth. ~$18.

2011 Tineta Avante, Ribera del Duero, Spain: 100% Tinto Fino (tempranillo) Medium plus ruby color. Smoke, licorice, blackberry, whiff of savory meatiness. Tasty rich dark berries, with a lot of acid and tannic structure, looooong length.  ~$11.

2010 Bodegas Norton Privada Malbec, Argentina: blueberry, bramble fruit, nice balance of high tone fruit and mocha velvety richness. Luxe but elegant. ~$19.

2012 Esporão Assobio, Portugal: Inky maroon, cedar vanilla blackberry, dense rich and super smooth, violets, graphite, a lot going on! Supple, rich, v integrated and smooth tannins. (This was featured in Wine Spectator and sold out quickly; I may have snapped up the last of this in NYC! but keep your eyes out for Esporão, they have MANY excellent values.) ~$13.

2011 Palacio Quemado Los Acilates, Spain: cured meats, rose potpourri, absolutely intriguing! Tobacco notes, well-structured, long-lived. Yes. ~$15.

2013 St. Amant the Road Less Travelled Tempranillo, Amador County CA: 13th vintage. Earthy, black cherry, coffee grounds, mocha. Delicious red fruits, raspberry, smooth and integrated, subtle tannins, (nose is classic Rioja, funnily enough!) balanced acidity. ~$18


2014 Monte del Frá Bardolino Chiaretto, Italy: very pale onion skin/pink, bruised red berries, a little funky, pine, really intriguing, slightly tart and lip-smackingly tasty.  ~$16.


2011 Taltarni Tache Sparkling Rosé, Tasmania: Méthode traditionelle, onion skin color, tart strawberry, red cherries galore, nice minerality, excl acidity, good balance. ~$17.

NV Gruet Extra Dry, New Mexico: 100% Chardonnay, bottle aged a minimum of 18 months, it had notes of marzipan, white peach, rose petals and honeysuckle. Slightly higher dosage than Brut, but slight sweetness is amazingly balanced with its acidity. ~$16.


2014 Troupis Fteri Moschofilero, Greece: just lovely, with lemon citrus, pear and jasmine notes, good spice, and a well-balanced structure. ~$13. (Try other Moschofileros if you can't find this; many are very quaffable and delicious.)

2014 Kato Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough NZ: vibrant tropical fruit nose. Bruised fruits and grass, lime on palate. Excellent balance and weight, loooong length. A textbook NZ SB with a lot goin' on. ~$15.

2013 Fronton de Oro Semiseco, Canary Islands: basil!! Mint!! Lemon curd, white flowers (gardenia,) great balance, zippy acidity, but chewy to balance. Minerally. Wow. ~$20

2013 ViNO Pinot Gris Charles Smith/K Vintners, WA. When did I ever expect a PG on here? Usually value PGs are eehhh. But this has stunning florals, spice, excellent acidity - wow. impressive. ~$12.

2013 Trivento Torrontés Reserve, Mendoza, Argentina: very pale greenish-yellow. Lemon/lime and peony florals on the nose. On palate, spice, key lime pie, ripe pear, herbs, grass, yellow apple. Great flavors, zippy acidity. ~$11.

2014 Jim Barry "The Lodge Hill" Dry Riesling, Australia: wild white flowers and lime zest on the nose, in the mouth, those flavors are balanced by minerality and a spicy finish. Very dry and clean. (Can also age—I had the '99 at the same tasting and it was amaaaaazing!) ~$17.

2013 Oro de Castilla Verdejo, Rueda Spain: tangerine citrus, fresh tangy minerality, bit of grassiness, melon, light yellow florals with great weight and loooong length. ~$16.

2013 Bellangelo Semi-Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes NY: lime, peach, lemon peel, grapefruit — a citrus salad with its off-dry nature balanced beautifully by Riesling's signature acidity. ~$17.


2012 Château Les Pins AOP VDN Muscat de Rivesaltes: This is a Vins Doux Naturel from the south of France, could be a dessert wine, but could also pair well with savory dishes! Medium gold color. Nose of litchi, honeysuckle, orange marmalade, and pear; those notes with peach, chamomile, and spice (white pepper, cinnamon,) on the palate. Delish! Noticeable sugar but good acidic balance. Verrrry spicy. 50% Muscat des Petit Grains, 50% Muscat d'Alexandria ~$18.

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There you have it, Wineaux: a little something for everyone this year: 9 different countries, 4 different US states, white, red, pink, bubbly, and fortified. I love when that happens! I know not all of these wines will be readily available to you, but take this list to your local wine shop and see if your merchant can order them, or make similar suggestions. 

And if you find a sub-$20 wine you love, PLEASE comment below, I would love to know!


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

QUICK SIPS: Columbus, Ohio's THE PEARL Restaurant

Sorry, dear Wineaux… when the Minx starts touring, it takes a few weeks to get oriented… and this new road job happened so fast… at any rate, who cares, let's get to it!

I find myself bringing the magic that is Kinky Boots to the fine people of Columbus, OH this week. When I tour, I try and make the most of my ONE free evening (Monday, our travel day,) and find a restaurant I can actually dine and sip at -- hopefully a fine foodie find in each city.

The Short North neighborhood of Columbus has always been a welcome haven and tonight I stumbled across another new fave; the original place my friend and I had hoped to visit was closed for a private party — our second choice had a 35 minute wait, but the third -- and glorious -- choice was THE PEARL.

We were seated immediately amidst modern yet rustic decor (the beer-bottle chandeliers are sublime and perfect.) Our waitress was like a good friend, steering us gently or firmly as the occasion or question demanded toward choices we felt we were destined to make. I had the spinach salad with Humboldt Fog cheese and candied almonds with a bacon vinaigrette. Perhaps the vinaigrette was a little heavy-handed, but I ate every single bite while my friend Tom slurped down a trio of delicious oysters.

He loved his Arctic Char entree (my bite, with the roasted cauliflower and cauliflower puree, was scrumptious,) and I had to smack the table numerous times in rapture over my tuna crudo appetizer (that I had with the homemade tater tots as my entree.)

We split the "crack pie" -- it's not officially called that any more for trademark reasons (!) -- I can't really remember exactly what was in it, but I'm still coming down from the rapturous sugar rush 5 hours later. Soooo gooood.

Our wine was a 2012 Pio Cesare Arneis. I love love love Arneis! And it was perfect; good acidity and interesting flavors of celery and quince, balancing citrus, nice mid-weight -- it paired well with all of our dishes, and was super-quaffable in its own right.

Good wine, good meal -- a good start to our week in Columbus!


Saturday, August 8, 2015

2010 CRU BOURGEOIS: Bordeaux Without Breaking The Bank

How to properly describe "Cru Bourgeois"... well, forgive the lack of nuance, but it's basically Bordeaux you can afford! 

A brief history: in the 1700s, merchants in Bordeaux, France, were finally allowed to own Châteaux, and they became the Cru Bourgeois. By 1824 there were 300 different Cru Bourgeois properties, and, in 1850, they were divided into three levels of quality. In 1932, the designation became "quasi-official," and in 2003, it became, well, "official-official." Currently there are 247 Châteaux, and three levels: Cru Bourgeois, Cru Bourgeois Superieur, and Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel. Unlike the Bordeaux 1855 rankings, these were reviewed every ten years, and there is currently an annual "assessment of quality." At a relatively low price point, around $20-50, these are great opportunities to drink wines from Bordeaux that are a stone's throw from many of the legendary Bordeaux properties, at a fraction of the cost!

I quite enjoyed the 2010 Château Lalaudey: medium-ruby color, nose of minerals and red berries. Really tasty (esp. for the price!) with bright red fruit, a bit of dusty earth, smooth and integrated—solid effort. ~$15

The Château Vieux Robin was a medium-plus garnet, with lots of floral perfume and earth on the nose. Strong fruit, compact flavors. ~$17.  

You all know I like my "sexy" wines, and the 2010 Château Arnauld fits the bill! Opaque ruby color, very floral nose, with brick dust and chalk and rich cassis. Tasty, sexy, and luxe. Excellent balance. A bit spicy and peppery. ~$35

The 2010 Château Caronne Ste. Gemme was a medium-plus ruby color, with a little pizza sauce-y nose, earthy, spicy, smoky, with toasted wood and rose petals. Smooth, good flavor expression, cassis comes through, grippy tannins. ~$25

Perhaps the most "Bordeaux-like," in my opinion, was the 2010 Château Capdet. Almost opaque garnet, with a nose of cassis, clay, violets. In the mouth, purple fruits and flowers, dense and intense, earthy. I wrote, "DELISH." ~$27.  

Finally, the 2010 Château Paveil de Luze was an opaque garnet, with cherry, clay, toasty brioche, liquid herbs, smoke and minerals on the nose. I found it somewhat tight in the mouth compared to the opulence I was expecting from the bouquet, but it was smooth and elegant, with a clear pedigree. ~$40

So, Wineaux, seek out some Cru Bourgeois, and let me know what you think!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Argentina's TRIVENTO—Value & Flavor!

Wineaux, it's time to pepper the ol' blog with some shorter missives... I know a lot of you prefer getting info in smaller sound bytes, so welcome to QUICK SIPS, a series of posts short and to the point!

First up: a pair of wines from Trivento, in Argentina. These retail for about eleven dollars (though some places have them for $7-8!!) and are truly incredible bangs-for-the-buck. 

You are undoubtedly familiar with the quality of Malbecs coming out of Argentina, but check out this white made from Torrontés (Argentina's signature white grape,) and a very quaffable Cabernet Sauvignon:

2013 Trivento Torrontés Reserve: very pale greenish-yellow. Nose of lemon and lime and softly-perfumed peony florals, a bit of spice comes through in the mouth, with key lime pie, ripe pear, bitter herbs, grass, and yellow apple on the finish. Great flavors and zippy acidity. ~$11 WM: 88

2013 Trivento Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve: opaque ruby color. Nose of rosemary, mint, currant liqueur, blackberry. Pepper and spice notes join on the palate, with loads of dark fruits. Long, smooth finish. Delicious and very approachable! ~$11 WM: 89

Winemaker Maximiliano Ortíz also makes a Malbec and a Malbec/Cab Sauv blend in the Reserve line, so seek those out as well. Trivento is one of the largest wine estates in Mendoza, and takes prime advantage of its placement high up near the Andes for excellent winemaking conditions.

These are great wines for summer too—BBQs, Fourth of July, patio cocktails—and pair well with a range of dishes. The Torrontés will match grilled poultry, seafood, or Thai, and the Cab Sauv is fantastic with burgers, other red meat, and red pasta dishes. Break these out when you break out the grill! You can't afford NOT to.