Bacchic Reflections

 Come, bring hither quick a flagon of wine, that I may soak my brain and get an ingenious idea.

                                                                               The Knights,  424 B.C.

     Give me books, fruit, French wine and fine weather and a little  music out of doors.
                                                  John Keats, letter to his sister Fanny
                                                      August 28, 1819

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Reds worth cellaring...Cabs, Pinots, Other
                            B.E.'s Cellar Notes

Special Aged Wines:   B.E.'s Discoveries

Virginia/North Carolina:   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

EVENTS:  wine dinner

Barboursville of Virginia at Fearington House June 22, 6 p.m. Winemaker Luca Paschina will be on hand to talk about winegrowing in Virginia and present some of his finest wines--Bordeaux Blends, Viognier, Sangiovese and other of his outstanding wines.  Find out more, or reserve at: 919-542-2121 or go to:

Focus:  Chateau Montelena of Napa Valley at Ruth’s Chris Southpoint

One of the premier wine estates in Napa Valley, Montelena burst on the international wine scene with the Paris Tasting of 1976. In the historic blind tasting French wine experts awarded first place in white wines to Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay, among a lineup of top white Burgundies (made from chardonnay) and California Chardonnays. That story here

            Built in 1888 at the northern end of the valley, the imposing stone winery (with some walls 12 feet in thickness) sits at the foot of Mt. St. Helena, for which it is named, overlooking a Japanese garden and lake and mature stands of cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel.. It is one of Napa’s most picturesque settings. 

       Some of Montelena’s highly regarded wines were on display last week at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Durham, and I was delighted to find that the estate maintains its reputation for balanced elegant wines. A lively group of Triangle winelovers attended the wine dinner, enjoying a very tasty series of dishes paired with Montelena wines. 

Potter Valley Riesling 2013, $25, with Sesame Grilled Chicken..  Montelena makes a graceful Riesling, off-dry but charmingly crisp and aromatic, beginning to show hints of the petroleum character fine Riesling is known for—an appealing match for the spicy black sesame-encrusted chicken nuggets
Chardonnay 2014 Napa Valley, $45-58, with Pan-Seared Sea Scallop.  Not quite the intensity I recall from earlier versions of Montelena Chard--but a rich elegance, good acidity (no ml) and lightly oaked--which  worked well with the subtly seasoned sea scallop. The 2014 is still young--I would expect it to develop nuanced aroma and complexity in 2 to 3 years.
Zinfandel Calistoga 2014, $35, with Portuguese White Bean & Chorizo Stew. Perhaps the most popular pairing of the dinner--this savory stew nicely complemented by Montelena's very drinkable, berry-rich Zin. I very much like this style--no alcoholic blockbuster, its medium-weight body and soft tannins shows off the black raspberry fruit for very easy drinking. It's a great summer red--versatile with many foods and cheese dishes.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Estate, $150, with Filet Mignon & Cipollini Ragout.  Montelena is noted more for Cabernet than for Chardonnay. The beautifully balanced 2006 is drinking wonderfully now, still boldly dark in color but round and smooth, with appealing notes of black fruits, chocolate and licorice; superb with the extra-tender filet, roasted mushrooms and cauliflower purée.
Petite Sirah 2012 Napa Valley, $35 with Chocolate Dacquoise Torte. Red wines with chocolate--yes, it works. This was a seductive match, the lush chocolate torte a sensuous end to the excellent dinner.
                      For info on future wine dinners:

Wine Buy of the Week:
Dry Creek Vyd 2016 Sauvignon Blanc   Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma   $17-20***   A healthy dollop (12%) of sauvignon musqué lends a spicy floral aroma that to this very attractive Sauvignon. Full-bodied and intense, it's a good choice for grilled shellfish, such as scampi, as well as other seafood dishes. .Drinks deliciously.

Martin Ray 2016 Sauvignon Blanc  Russian River Vally  $18-20**  $17.49 at Total Wine.  Sonoma is known for racy Sauvignons with more than a hint of grassiness; this one has a little more richness, due no doubt to the cool recesses of  RR Valley. where the grapes are grown.

Pedroncelli 2016 Sauvignon Blanc   Dry Creek Valley   $15**+  Pedroncelli has long produced classic Sauvignons -- this release commemorates Jim Pedroncelli (a living legend in California wine) on his 90th birthday. A big more generously flavored than many Sonoma Sauvignons but a very appealing match for fish and  seafood, as well as for sipping on its own, and a great value.  Many happy returns, Jim!

Sancerre 2015 Gérard Fiou   Loire Valley **+    $21.99 
It's rare to find good Sancerre at this price, so you might want to grab this one as we move into Spring and wonderful seafood. This highly aromatic wine, from a vineyard studded with limestone rock, has very enticing  scents of mineral and citrus blosooms  and an intriguing hint of gunflint on the finish (the winemaker smacked together two rocks from the vineyard that gave off a definite smell of gunpowder!). Excellent value.

Chateau Graville-Lacoste 2015 Graves Blanc   Graves, Bordeaux    $17 -20***  Do you like sauvignon blanc? Then you'll love this wine (a Kermit Lynch import) from the Graves region of Bordeaux--it's actually 75% sémillon, a noble partner for sauvignon-- and its sleek structure  teems with fresh, tangy fruit and accents of lime and greengage plums; a broader flavor profile than many Sauvignons and a very appetizing finish, i.e., "one sip invites another.". Outstanding for shellfish! And a great value....often on restaurant wine lists (such as Revolution), so look for it.

Headed to Greensboro???  Make it a Wednesday so you can stop in at Print Works Bistro--owned by the proprietors of the O. Henry Hotel. A platter of Chef's Mussels is 15 bucks, and there are 5 wines priced at $10-15 a bottle to pair with them.  Quite a bargain!


Mulderbosch 'Faithful Hound' 2014   South Africa  $17-20**  
This solid Bordeaux blend (cabernets, merlot, malbec) is great for grilled meats or a savory cheese platter. Ripe berries, a hint of licorice, nicely robust--a very popular red in the U.S.
Sancerre Rouge 2014 Gérard Fiou   Loire Valley**+  $24.99 
on sale this week at Chapel Hill Wine Co. The limestone soil in this part of the Loire produces a lighter style of Pinot Noir, This Pinot is quite charming, lively and very drinkable--and an excellent value. The lighter style is versatile with food--such as grilled salmon, roast chicken or pork, milder cheeses.

Chinon 2015 (or 2014) Olga Raffault 'Les Bernabes'   Loire Valley     $16-18**+  Juicy, round, smooth and quite capitivating. A new generation is in charge at Olga Raffault and this young Chinon, made from cabernet franc, bodes well; it has lovely red currant  flavors, nicely balanced to enjoy now--especially with pork, veal, sausage, roast or grilled chicken. Widely available at good wine shops, which can order if it's not in stock.

Dry Creek 2015 Zinfandecl Heritage Vines   Sonoma . $19-21**+  Dry Creek Vineyard, which celebrates its 45th year in 2017, has long been noted for Zinfandels, the Heritage Vines series is consistently well-balanced--drinking well in its youth with the capacity to age, 5 to 7 years at a minimum, and likely longer.  20% petite sirah makes the 2015 dark and rich, but this Zin is lapped in lovely boysenberry and black raspberry fruit, smooth and tasty.-- highly versatile with food--especially roast chicken or pork, grilled sausages, meat pizzas and pastas.

Olema 2014 Pinot Noir   Sonoma     $20**+ 
  A concsistent pleasure in Pinot Noir--maybe because 50% comes from Russian River Valley, lending a dark berry juiciness that's very appealing. An excellent value in Pinot Noir!

Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon 2014   Sonoma   $18-21**+   More fruit intensity here--black cherry, smoky blackberry, licorice make this Cab a handsome choice for roast beef or lamb. Had this more recently--very much a hit with beef stew!

Davis Bynum  2014 Jane's Vyd Pinot Noir   Russian River Valley   $28-32**+  Rich dark cherry flavors, fine balane and length. The lush texture especially charming--excellent choice for roast pork loin and gamebirds..

Mabileau Bourgueil 2014   Loire Valley   $15**+   Made from organicallhy grown grapes in the Touraine region of the Loire, this fruit-forward, well-balanced Cab Franc is a terrific value. Bourgueil (pronounced "boor-gay-ee) generally produces wines less tannic than nearby Chinon (also cabernet franc) and more accessible for drinking on release. 
Joseph Drouhin 2015  Beaujolais-Villages  France  $17.99 **  Gamay noir also makes a juicy red--lightly cool this 2015 Beaujolais-Villages and it will likely please most of the quaffers at your dinner table.


Bubbles.........I always have one on ice, just in case.

If you need proof of global warming, keep an eye on the emergence of  fine sparkling wine from--of all places--the south of England! I've tasted a couple of these wines recently, Gusbourne Brut, grown on an estate in Kent, and Bride Valley Blanc de Blancs from Dorset. They are excellent--and very Champagne-like It used to be too chilly here for vinifera grapes to ripen well, but cool climate varieties like chardonnay and pinot noir are now thriving in  Kent, Sussex, and Dorset. Plus, they share the chalky limestone soil that lends Champagne its distinctive character. These areas were once part  of vast seabeds. Pinot meunier also appears to do well and is a component of several of the British sparklers.  If you spot these wines,  try them!
Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs Brut, North Coast  $25-30***  An elegant sparkler, possibly America's best, certainly the closest to French Champagne. Excellent balance, great depth and long finish. A superb aperitif.
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. Note: it made for spectacular Champagne Cocktails on New Year's Eve (2016).
Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs NV, California, $18-22**+  Tiny bubbles, bright, clean fruit, 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!!!

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                                                                                                                                             ©Barbara Ensrud