Bacchic Reflections

          Wine is like the incarnation -- it is both divine and human.
                                                                            Paul Tillich
                                                                            Philosopher and Theologian
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Reds worth cellaring...Cabs, Pinots, Other
                            B.E.'s Cellar Notes

Special Aged Wines:   B.E.'s Discoveries

Interesting Links:   see  Other Interests

Wine Books for Wine Lovers
            see B.E.'s Wine Tips

Articles by B.E.   see  B.E. in print
      Starting a Wine Cellar:   B.E.'s  Wine Tips
      Wines for aging:  see B.E. Cellar Notes
B.E. on organic and biodynamic wines
                  see  article

NEWS:  May 24th - 40th Anniversary of  Judgment of Paris
          The 1976 Paris tasting, or Judgment of Paris as it became known, had a revolutionary effect, “like a vinous shot heard round the world.” – Barbara Ensrud, Wall Street Journal

May of 1976 in Paris was a game-changer in the world of wine. On May 24, a panel of French wine experts participated in a blind tasting that pitted top French wines against their counterparts from California:  6 red Bordeaux versus 6 California Cabernet Sauvignons, 6 white Burgundies versus 6 California Chardonnays.  In both categories, the tasters, quite confident the wines were French, picked California wines as Number 1.
       The Cabernet:  Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 1973 of Napa Valley bested such illustrious Bordeaux as Château Mouton-Rothschild (which came in 2nd) and Château Haut-Brion (3rd), both First Growths.
        The Chardonnay:   Chateau Montelena 1973, Napa Valley over such white Burgundies as Batard-Montrachet and a Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet
See complete list of all wines in the '76 tasting  here.
        The historic tasting was organized by Steven Spurrier, a Brit who owned a wine shop in Paris and had founded a wine school there.  A year or so earlier Spurrier had traveled through northern California and was amazed at some of the wines he tasted. Curious to see how they would stack up against French wines from the same grapes, he had no trouble getting top French tasters to participate in a blind taste-off. Time magazine's Paris reporter George Taber reported the results that shocked the wine world. His book, Judgment of Paris, recounts the full story and I highly recommend it to winelovers.

A decade later in 1986, I was still living in New York and served on the panel of judges when Spurrier and the French Culinary Institute repeated the blind tasting with exactly the same red wines.  Again, the top wine was from California, the Clos du Val 1972, with Ridge Monte Bello 1971 coming in second. The results, with wines approaching 15 years of age, put to rest forever the notion that California wines could not age. Since then there have been other anniversary tastings. The 30th, in 2006, was held jointly in Napa Valley and London, again coordinated by Spurrier. This time the top wine was the 1971 Ridge Monte Bello.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary on Tuesday, May 24th, Mira Winery of Napa Valley is hosting what they have dubbed the Judgment of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. A panel of judges (including yours truly) will blind taste 8 red wines from Napa Valley and Bordeaux -- not the originals, several no longer available, not to mention of  questionable quality at such an advanced age, particularly given uncertain storage  over the years.
           We've no idea what the wines are, but I can't wait to see (taste!). Stay tuned....
Wine Buy(s) of the Week
Spring-into-Summer Whites...

Albariño. Spain's lyrical and fragrant white wine is perfect for now and on into summer. A fresh batch of 2014s has arrived on wine shelves. These are appealing whites that sip beautifully and make delightful aperitifs.  Albariño is a white grape native to Rias Baxias, a district in the northern Spain region of Galicia; these floral-scented wines have become very popular in the U.S. Some are off-dry, but there are quite dry ones that go nicely with lighter fish and shellfish (scallops, shrimp) such as these, ranging from $17 to $24 a bottle:  Baladiña, Valminor, Señor da Folla Verde.  Keep an eye out.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2015   New Zealand   $15-18**+ 
An excellent value in NZ Sauvignons, with typically exciting zest and tang. A great match for shellfish and other seafood. Very nice just for sipping, too. 
Kim Crawford Spitfire 2015  NZ  $26***  This Sauvignon has the "cut" of good Sancerre--worth a search.
Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc 2014    France   $15-17**   this dry white from the Rhône Valley is quite charming, a blend of viognier, marsanne and roussane, with aromas of wildflowers, hints of peach; round, fruity, assertive and well-balanced.

Let's Drink Pink!   Dry pinks, that is....and among my favorites are rosés of pinot noir for their enticing fragrance and fruit, which is knockout; but I like lots of others as well--those made from grenache, cinsault, mourvèdre, Spain's garnacha. Some pinks boast lofty  pricetags, but moderate-priced good ones abound for $14-18. These wines are lovely on their own just for sipping, and highly versatile with a variety of seasonal fare.  Here are some dry rosés I've recently tasted and recommend:
Chateaumar Côtes-du-Rhône Perle de Rosé 2015  Rhône Valley  $15-16**+   Mostly grenache, pale pink but quite tasty, redolent of early summer berries.
Sancerre Rosé 2015, Domaine Eliza Gueneau   Loire Vally  $28.99***  This is one of those pinot noir knockouts! Wonderfully fragrant, beautifully balanced, delicious flavors of fresh berries (strawberries, raspberries). Pricey, like most rosés of pinot noir but in this case, worth it. Find it at Hillsborough Wine Co.
Château de Fabregues Rosé 2014  Costières de Nímes  $15** 
Syrah and grenache, fresh and flavorful--good value. 

Septima Obra Malbec 2-14   Argentina  $15-22**+ 
Rich dark berry flavors, fresh and surprisingly smooth for such a bold young red. Great for summer grilling.

Biltmore Reserve Cabernet Franc 2014   North Carolina   $25**+   Balanced,  flavorful  red plum and red currant fruit make this a very attractive seasonal  red  -- grown and made in  N.C., you will note.  Appealing choice for grilled meats and chicken, sausages,  and savory cheeses.

Domaine Les Grands Bois Côte du Rhône 2014  France  $15.99 ** (also at Hillsborough but available around the Triangle). A solid red blend with 65% grenache and 30% syrah--meaty dark-fruit flavors with hints of black pepper. Great for spring grilling.

Saint Cosme Côtes-du-Rhône 2014   Rhône Valley  $16**  Solid, tasty red with dark berry flavors and appealing juiciness; it's worth stocking a few bottles to have on hand for grilling season.

Coudoulet de Beaucastel  2013   Rhône Valley  $25-28***   From one of the top producers of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Château Beaucastel, this young red reeks of ripe berries. Definitely buy one to taste, and one to tuck away, because it will improve. But the ripe berry fruit and peppery accents are enticing  now--a great match for roast lamb.

Pont Du Gassac 2012 (or '13, just out) Languedoc $15**+ 
Cabernet and Merlot can be a tasty blend--add a healthy dollop of syrah and you often have something quite juicy and highly quaffable, as in this red. This second wine from one of the top estates in the south of France, Mas du Daumas Gassac, is a great value, one to stash in quantity and bring out for the next grilling spree.

Cabernet Sauvignon 'The Federalist'  Lodi     $17-18** 
This cabernet-dominant red blend is very young and tightly wound at the moment. With air, it opens up and reveals spicy dark-fruit aromas and flavors. Good value. I'd decant it--an airy slosh into a carafe makes it drinkable sooner
Rodney Strong 2013 Merlot  Sonoma  County $15-18**   Appealing flavors of blackberry and ripe plums envelop this nicely balanced Merlot. Enough tannin to give it some grip, but smooth and drinking well now, though likely to be even better with a couple of years aging (buy two or more bottles to test this out). It has the heft to handle grilled or roast beef or lamb, but smooth enough for roast pork or duck.

Dry Creek Vineyards 2014 Zinfandel Heritage Vines   Sonoma  $16-22**+   A consistently excellent Zinfandel--20% petite sirah darkens this red, but the black cherry flavors sift through to make it quite juicy and appealing, a reliable choice for grilling season, and with meat and cheese dishes.

Organic.  It's easy to find wines made from organically grown grapes--vineyards around the world are increasingly certified organic. Organically made wines are much rarer.  They must have NO added sulfites (minute quantities of sodium dioxide, so2, are a natural by-product of the fermentation process, but not enough to prevent or delay oxidation). Here's one to look for::
Bodegas Iranzo 'Spartico ' 2014    Valencia, Spain   $12-14**  USDA certified organic. A blend of 50% tempranillo and 50% cabernet sauvignon, this smooth, lively red  is quite good, tasty, easy to drink, with clean flavors of ripe berries, red currants. A good seasonal red for grilled chicken and lighter meats.  Very appealing on its own, when you're looking  just for a nice glass of red. Good value, too; and best now while its fruit is youthful and fresh.

Bubbles.........always have one on ice, just in case....
Crémant de Limoux, Domaine J. Laurens  NV  Languedoc-Rousillon  **+  $16.99 at The Raleigh Wine Shop. Bright and crisp, quite dry, very Champagne-like--no surprise, there's chardonnay in the blend. An excellent value.
J Vineyards 'Cuvée 20'   Russian River Valley   $25***  An appealing very dry froth with floral scents of honeysuckle and bright citrus flavors. Nice zing on the palate but creamy in texture, with a steady stream of tiny bubbles; good depth, long in finish.
Gloria Ferrer 'Royal Cuvée' Brut 2007   Carneros, Sonoma  $22-26.**+  Consistently good, and consistently a medal winner in national wine competitions bright and fresh, good balance and length;  very good with smoked salmon and other saovry hors d'oeuvres.
Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs NV, Califonria, $18-22**+  Brisk, bright, clean, dry and quite delicious. Keep this sparkler on hand  as a great aperitif, year-round.  I've tasted this wine several times with great pleasure. An excellent value, too.
Domaine Chandon Etoile Brut Rosé  $24-30***  Chandon's top cuvée--a dry pink, very elegant with a delicate scent of strawberry; tiny stream of bubbles, long in finish. A delicious match with smoked salmon.  The traditional Etoile Brut is excellent as well.


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