Bacchic Reflections
Harvest: when the vines exult in ripeness, yielding up their gold and ruby treasures to make wine, a song of the earth warmed by the sun.

“Oh, the eager joy of vintage, the haste to cast into the wine press on the same day the both the ripe grape and the verjus, the rhythm which leaves far behind the ample, dreamy cadence of harvest, the pleasure, redder than other pleasures, the songs and drunken shouts!”

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Reds worth cellaring...Cabs, Pinots, Other
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Angeline Pinot Noir Reserve 2014   Mendocino   $18**+   Aromatic and very tasty--a very good value in Pinot Noir, perfect for drinking now as temperatures crisp up and heartier autumn dishes are in order.  Good berry and cherry aromas and flavors. Very nice as a sipping red, versatile with a variety of fall foods, from roasted butternut squash to grilled fish, chicken, sausages.

Where Does Your Wine Come From???

Sometimes it’s impossible to know.  If you’re buying the cheapest, there’s no usually NO way of knowing, since the grapes are likely bought in bulk lots or as juice and can come from anywhere (and may even be made from concentrate—kind of like Kool-Aid).
            At the recent TerraVita2016 – now among the premier food and wine events in North Carolina – one of the Sustainable Classroom segments focused on this very topic. Led by certified sommelier Max Kast, the tasting session presented affordable wines with bona fide pedigrees. The panel presented 5 wines that speak of terroir—the French term that refers to how wines reflect the specific plot of land where the grapes are grown.           
“These wines,” said Kast, “reveal a sense of place—the grapes are grown in a particular plot of soil that gives the wine its flavor and character.” The wines--two from the Loire Valley, two from North Carolina, one from Virginia—demonstrated unique character and appealing aromas and flavors.
            John Wright of Sanctuary Vineyards on the Outer Banks presented a surprising wine – Albariño. Native to northern Spain, it has become very popular in the U.S. “We have a climate similar to the marine climate of Rias Baixas,” said Wright, “and similar soils with sandy loam soils that drain quickly, which helps a lot with heavy hurricane rains.” Sanctuary’s 2015 Albariño is very pretty—a crisp, clean dry wine, with appealing floral aromas. Who would suspect that the Outer Banks could produce such an attractive wine? Let’s hope it encourages other growers.
              Diana Jones, co-owner of another young NC winery, Jones von Drehle, tucked into the foothills of the Blue Ridge, presented another outstanding white wine:  JvD’s 2015 Petit Manseng, a French grape that does well in the mid-Atlantic (Virginia, North Carolina, northern Georgia). Intensely fruity and aromatic, the 2015 is dry and steely with flavor accents of pear and pineapple. It is a bold white, 15.8% alcohol, but without the heat such levels can show.
            “It wears  its alcohol with elegance,” said Kast. Indeed it does. Petit Manseng is a grape you’ll hear more about in North Carolina.

           Importer/distributor Thomas Meunier of Authentique Vin imports select wines from the leading grapes grown in Loire Valley appellations: chenin blanc for white wines, cabernet franc for reds. I particularly liked the Mabileau 2014 Bourgueil (see B.E.’s Best Buys), a fresh cherubic cab franc that exudes red currant flavors—an excellent seasonal red, very quaffable. Meunier’s Anjou Blanc Pierre Bise shows how charming dry chenin can be.    

Max Kast presented the final red, Barboursville 2012 Nebbiolo Reserve from Virginia. This vibrant handsome red, very Barbaresco-like in its dark cherry and black raspberry flavors, is a true labor-of-love effort from Luca Paschina, Barboursville winemaker for 27 years. Well worth cellaring alongside top Nebbiolos from Piemonte.
Bubbles.........I always have one on ice, just in case.... October is a top wedding month--here are great choices for celebration.
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.
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.


Mabilieau 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), produces wines less tannic than nearby Chinon (also cabernet franc) and more accessible for drinking on release.  Versatile for autumn grilling.
Martin Ray 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County   22-25**+    Smooth and balanced, svelte in texture with ripe berry flavors, plump and round. Perfect for grilled ribeye or loin lamb chops.
Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon 2014  Sonoma  $15-20.   Black cherry flavors highlight this Cab, dark but not heavy or tannic, supple enough for roast or grilled vegies, yet the structure to handle meats and savory cheeses.  Consistent quality, good value.

Other Reds
                A tasty Spanish redBodegas Castaño Monastrell 2014    Spain   $11.99**+   Juicy! A very drinkable red, perfect for summer-into-fall sipping. Highly versatile with food (chill a bit if the weather's hot). Suits grilled chicken, sausages or other light meats;

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