Archive for February 2012

Se Habla Español   5 comments

“Writing in Spanish, however, will cost you extra.”

Hanging with some Spanish friends last night with the intention of consuming copious amounts of paella, we had three great little wines that are worthy of recommendation.  Now before any of you start to tell me that any REAL self-respecting Spaniard would never have paella for dinner, let me state that they were even quicker to point out to us that paella is a midday meal.  But that given we were “Americans”, they broke with tradition in our honor.  Isn’t that wonderful, our mere presence caused them to overlook who they were for an evening.  Damn good paella– midday, dinner, whatever! 

Well, they almost overlooked who they were.  Normally, most of my daily conversation takes place in English.  But last night there was hardly any of that.  And that made it a truly wonderful evening since these friends were able to converse in their native Castilian.  My spanish is serviceable– in fact I am fairly fluent– but I do not often have the opportunity to converse exclusively in this language.  Thus, there were moments when the conversation was just too fast y furioso.  The Spanish wines definitely helped as they slowed down the rapidity of their delivery in the mother tongue. 

Herewith my saviors: A Godello from Bierzo, which is a tremendous value.  Look for it in this week’s NGW, and two reds from a favorite appellation: Priorato.  Grown in a granite based schist known locally as Llicorella, which imparts a distinctiveness of flavors and a because of its ability to drain extremely well forces the vines to struggle and therefore produce more concentrated fruit, these are wines worth seeking out.

 The wine region Priorat - Llicorella

Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat 2009Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat 2009  ($18).  This is a starter wine from Priorat from a very respected producer.    Tasty dark fruit that finished with a slightly acidic edge.  Although simply fine, I did not find this effort to be as strong as the 2007.  It was however a nice opening act to the Martinet Bru.  Rated ** 1/2

Mas Martinet Viticultors – Martinet Bru Priorat 2007 ($30).  An excellent dose of concentration, dark fruit and earth in a beautiful expression of the marriage between Garnacha and Syrah found here.  All of that preceded by a worthy nose filled with floral and spice aromas.  And this from a vintage that is generally not considered to be the best (e.g. Very Good vs. Excellent).  In a good vintage this would probably be priced much higher.  This is a neat effort from winemaker Sara Pérez that’s worth seeking out.  Rated ***1/2

Se habla Catalan? Click this photo and find out!

Posted February 25, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

NGW: Chateau Fuisse Julienas Domaine de la Conseillere 2009   Leave a comment

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Here is this week’s $15 or less offering. 

No-Guilt Wednesday (NGW) is not about compromising on quality.  It’s all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank, eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.




Chateau Fuisse Julienas Domaine de la Conseillere 2009 ($15).  From producer J.J. Vincent, this has juicy red fruit bordering on tartness.  Emergent sage and lavender notes give us a nicely rounded experience.  But we really don’t need to think too hard about this one.  Just pop the cork and make-believe you’re sitting in a Parisian cafe with your best girl or one of your bro-chachos.  An easy drinking Beaujolais, serve slightly chilled.  Rated **

Posted February 22, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

Darioush   Leave a comment

No Caption

Entrance to Darioush Tasting Room


Napa Wine Map: Siverado Trail: Darioush

On our trip out to Napa last year, Ms. R and I stopped at Darioush.  We did not stop there for the wine.  Rather we were there because it has one of the most fun tasting rooms in Napa.  More an upscale bar than a tasting room really, it always seems to be filled with people who know how to have a good time.  If you find yourself in Napa, plan on adding this as a stop.  From the moment you pull up the driveway and see the over-the-top Persian palace inspired decor, to the moment you walk into a lounge with a nice sun-filled vibe, you know this is going to be a different experience.  Is this Vegas or Napa?

Of course, we sampled their wares and in the end brought back a couple of bottles to retaste at home.  After I purchased the wines, I have to admit that I had a little buyer’s remorse, but the deed was done.  I put them in cellar and forgot about them.  Sitting around on a recent weekend evening, with nothing better to do, we entertained ourselves by popping the cork on one of these.   No regrets, no remorse.

Darioush Napa Valley Cabernet Franc 2008 ($58).  Sourced from Darioush estate vineyards in Napa Valley, Oak Knoll and Mount Veeder, aromas of herbs and earth filled our glasses.  Blended with 5% merlot to complement the 95% cab franc, it exhibits concentration of flavor and appropriate complexity, to make the case to justify its price tag.  If you could imagine throwing back a chocolate-raspberry parfait with some black tea and a touch of black pepper, that would begin to describe the experience.  With a long finish accompanied by firm tannins, this was even better than I recalled.  Not exactly a “best buy”, this was still good enough that our evening was very enjoyable indeed.  Rated ***

Posted February 20, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

NGW: Beaulieu Comte de Tastes 2009   Leave a comment

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Here is this week’s $15 or less offering. 

No-Guilt Wednesday (NGW) is not about compromising on quality.  It’s all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank, eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love. 

Today’s choice is a wine that I seek out simply because it has consistently delivered value from Bordeaux.  Normally, varying vintages of this wine are available for anywhere from $18-$21.  The current vintage of this was offered to me at $20+ per bottle.  I was about to put in my order.  But then I decided to check the internet and lo and behold, I was able to score a case of this at $14 prior to shipping.  With shipping the cost per bottle rose to $16.70.   But we don’t count shipping charges, do we?  

The Beaulieu estate, which is owned by Guillaume de Tastes, comprises 25 acres of vineyards in the Entre-de-Mer.  The use of new oak and green harvesting  (to increase concentration and lower yields), are among the reasons to like this wine.  In addition, the involvement of, well-known wine consultant, Stephane Derenoncourt in the process ups the ante further.  Back in 2004, Derenoncourt, told Jancis Robinson that he wanted to  

“…make wines to last…  wines with a certain lightness but very good balance and very good extraction. There is a big difference between concentration and power…  That’s why wine is so great. It’s not just a drink but after time it becomes an expression of place and vintage and no longer, for instance, a Derenoncourt wine.”  Derenoncourt – the new Michel Rolland?  7 May 2004

I found this quote somewhat amusing given that I discovered it after I wrote the review that follows:

Beaulieu Comte de Tastes 2009 ($14).  Sensual aromas rose from my glass.  All soft, dark fruit and chocolate on the palate, this opened with an almost fennel-cherry pie character on the nose.  With a healthy concentration, this producer delivers another nicely balanced Bordeaux at a reasonable price again.  Given the softness of the tannins, this is drinkable now, yes, but so much better for the bottles that I can marshal the patience to wait 3-5+ years.  A Bordeaux Superieur comprised of 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc.  Rated **1/2

Posted February 14, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

The Distinctive Wines of Azienda Agricola Dacapo   1 comment

Winemakers & Proprietors, Paolo Dania and Dino Riccomagno.

Winemakers that step away from the norm are great people to know.  Hailing from Piemonte, Paolo Dania of Azienda Agricola Dacapo is one of those guys.  We met him at a Slow Wine tasting of Italian wines recently.  He struck me as a quiet person– though his passion shows through when he speaks of his work.  But he could have said nothing and the wines would have spoken for themselves.  Even now, almost three weeks since I tasted the wines, they are still whispering to me.  I found all of his wines are very balanced and focused.

Wine CompanyDacapo was established in 1997 by rebuilding an old wine estate and including addition of a new cellar under the vineyards surrounding the farmhouse.  Their self description on their website reads like a manifesto that I can definitely sign on for:

“The idea was to produce wines different from those made to suit the international taste, wines increasingly homogenous, almost without heart.  The two founders strongly believe in the ‘personality’ of a wine, and therefore decided to focus on finesse, elegance and terroir, making the most of the full potential of the vineyards of Agliano Terme, always considered to be among the best “crus” of Barbera.

Without doubt, they have achieved that distinctiveness.

Ruchè di Castagnole MonferratoBarbera d'AstiBarbera d'Asti Superiore-NizzaMerlot-Barbera-Nebbiolo

Dacapo Majoli Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato 2010.  The first time I have had this varietal, Ruchè (alternately known as Rouchet).  Although a somewhat obscure varietal, it stood out from the pack of wines we tasted that day (including many a Barolo) with its uniquely aromatic nose.  But though it lacks the intensity of nebbiolo, it is simply an accessible wine with a freshness that brings a smile to my face and is made for drinking now.   **1/2

Dacapo Barbera D’Asti Sanbastian 2009.  A more classically styled Barbera with good fruit and acidic structure.  This is the bread and butter wine that will keep this winery running.  **1/2

CANTACUCCO DOC 2008, 75clDacapo Cantacucco 2009.  This is a wine that Paolo Dania referred to as a “joke”.  By this, I think he meant that the blend of 80% Pinot noir and 20% Nebbiolo is such an odd pairing that only a wine geek would love it.  OK, the joke is on me– I loved this for pushing the envelope.  I loved it better for what it brought.  I don’t believe that the Pinot by itself  would carry the day.  But the Nebbiolo gave this wine that extra oomph and tannic structure. This is a great food wine– I want a bottle of this for my next fettuccine in truffle cream sauce.  ***

Dacapo Vigna Dacapo Barbera d’Asti DOC Superiore-Nizza 2009.  Fuller bodied and more fruit forward than the Sanbastian.  It did not seem to have the same level of acidity as its sister Barbera.  And though bigger, it was no less delicious.  **1/2

Dacapo TRE 2006.  A blend of Merlot-Barbera-Nebbiolo, all of these came through.  This is attributable to the fact that the wines are separately vinified fermented and barrel aged which make sense given that each varietal has a distinct maturity point.   After 18 months the three varietals are blended before bottling and then held for another year in bottle before being released on the market.  Dark fruit, softness, acidity and tannin.  A lovely finish.  I did not get to see the bottle fully develop as Paolo had just opened it.  But what I tasted I enjoyed immensely.  ***

Ms. R, never one to spit out her wine, was so enamoured of the Ruchè that she did not taste the others.  A loss for her, to be sure.  But I will give her another opportunity to try them all as we hope to be able to taste these wines on site this coming summer.  Maybe, just for fun, I will make her taste them blind to see if she can pick out the Ruchè:

One of our favorite types of Blind Tastings. Nice glassware, Cupid!

Posted February 12, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

The Jonny Quest Edition: Camaraderie Washington State Cabernet Franc 2006   Leave a comment


Click on This Picture to see Race Deals with Nefarious Dudes

Back in the 1960’s, if you were a boy, you wanted to be Jonny Quest.  OK, maybe I am the only one– NOT!  Cool adventures, knockin’ off bad guys, getting around on hover crafts and jet packs, and doing it all in my PF Flyers– the Vans of the 1960’s.  Jonny was not alone– he had an awesome friend from the subcontinent, Hadji, the orphaned Calcutta kid who could summon up the secrets of Eastern mysticism to levitate and Bandit, dog, co-star and ham actor.  There were no protagonist females in this adventure cartoon series.  (Hey, it was the 60’s).  Jonny’s mother died from some unspecified illness that may or may not have been caused by the evil deeds of some miscreant international bad boy like Dr. Zin.  But there was the Brain, Jonny’s father, Dr. Benton Quest and the Muscle, Race Bannon.  Need a Bad Ass to come swinging in on a conveniently located rope to kick some Lizardman-Bad-Guy butt?  Race is your man.  Never one to panic, he’s all about Black ops and he’s always alert for trouble lurking round the next bend.  These days, I would like to be like Race Bannon.  But that’s not happening either.  Still this wine reminds me a bit of Mssr. Bannon.  And with a name like Camaraderie, the shoe fits that much better.

Camaraderie Washington State Cabernet Franc 2006 ($16) 12.5%.  A whiff of Kiwi shoe polish and dark earth.  Shoe polish?  Yes, kind of like when you get kicked in the teeth– “”Hey, what is that sme– OOOOOF!!”  I could stop right now and that would be enough.  Next comes an explosion of dark berries and savory herbs finishing candy like with a little green bell pepper on the finish.  On retasting the open bottle on the second day, the wine took on another more polished dimension, the green bell pepper, now replaced with a little black pepper and the whole package perfectly balanced with nuanced tannins and acidity that underscored the fruit on the lengthy finish.  At almost 6 years of age, this is drinking just fine right now, but it will still be good 2-3 years from now if you can stand to let it sit unopened.  It’s a knock out.  Rated ***


Posted February 10, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

NGW: Barwick Estates Pemberton Pinot Noir 2010   Leave a comment

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Here is this week’s $15 or less offering. 

No-Guilt Wednesday (NGW) is not about compromising on quality.  It’s all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank, eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love. 

Western Australia–  I am seeing more wines coming from this part of the continent down under.  This is a great development in that the ones that I have tasted so far are exhibit a freshness that I sometimes find lacking in many of the  mid priced range of Australian wines.  Barwick Estates has vineyards in Margaret River, Blackwood and Pemberton. 

SW Map

According to their website, “The cool Mediterranean climate combined with the duplex soils of Margaret River, karri loams of Pemberton and well-drained gravels of the Blackwood provides ideal growing conditions for the selected varieties.”  I have no reason to disagree. 

The Treenbrook vineyard is located within the Pemberton Region.  The 73 hectare vineyard is nestled amongst the karri forests of Pemberton.  Don’t know what a karri forest is?  Me either, till today.  Karri forest is tall open forest of Eucalyptus diversicolor (Karri), one of the tallest hardwoods in the world.  It occurs almost exclusively in the south-west corner of Western Australia.  But I’m no Gregor Mendel and you should get your botanical information elsewhere.

According to the Barwick Estates’ website, “The vineyard produces the classic red grape varieties of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz, having rich, well-drained loamy soils, gentle undulating landscape and access to excellent water from Treen Brook.  Rich additions to these classic reds are areas of Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Viognier and Pinot Gris…  Varieties are 21.7 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc, 10.8 hectares of Chardonnay, 3.6 ha of Semillon, 1.1 hectares of Viognier, 10.2 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.9 hectares of Merlot, 9.1 hectares of Pinot Noir and 2.1 hectares of Shiraz.”

Barwick Estates Pemberton Pinot Noir 2010 ($12).  Forget what you may think of Australian wines.  This in no Yellow Tail.  Who are these guys?  A translucent liquid with hints of all spice and florals on the nose.  Alluringly pretty red fruit which served as an entrée to a sort of earthiness.  Aye, mate, that sounds familiar– a quick perusal of the back label tells me that yes, this is Pinot, but there is 7% Shiraz.  I’m not a varietal purist– I’m not proud.  Balanced between the fruit, soft tannins and juicy acidity.  I have paid much more for Pinots this good.  I love the way this wine makes my tongue feel.  Grab this when you see it.  But beware, when I went to buy more of this, the price had gone up beyond the NGW $15 threshold.  Still worth it.  Rated ***

This wine turns us on.  Sure it’s a young thing.  But it’s a Fine Young Thing.  As I popped this… correction… removed the screw cap from the second bottle of this thing, I could have sworn I heard some of my female Super Bowl guests (of course there was wine during the S-Bowl) uttering the words from J Cole’s opus, Can’t Get Enough:

She said
“I, can’t get enough, can’t get enough”
“I, can’t get enough, can’t get enough”
“I can’t get enough of what you got
Good God, you hit the spot
Tried to let go but I just could not
So don’t you stop, I need that”


Posted February 8, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Calina Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2009   1 comment

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Here is this week’s $15 or less offering. 

No-Guilt Wednesday is not about compromising on quality.  It’s all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank, eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.  

There are many wonderful wines out there that fall in the $15 and under price category.   I am a big fan of the wines of Chile.  But, IMHO, this one does not measure up.  I calls ’em as I sees ’em.


Calina Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Calina Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($12).  A lead pencil brambly quality on the nose.  But the dark blueberry-like fruit lacked the brightness that I normally hope for– it seemed a bit overwhelmed by the oak treatment.  The wine finishes with some drying tannins and seems to lack balance as a result. There are better values out there.  Rated *1/2

It does not seem right that I leave you with that for this week.  This has happened before and we found a back up that was not only serviceable, it left the starter gathering splinters on the bench!  So let’s see what other goodies might be found in Sybarite Sauvage’s cellar. 

For this, I am going a lot closer to home.  And to switch it up a bit, we are pulling back from the reds and reviewing a white from Northeastern Connecticut (you read that right).

Sharpe Hill Ballet of Angels 0Sharpe Hill Ballet of Angels White (N.V.) ($10).  According to the winery’s web site, this is a “secret blend of 10 grape varieties”.  Secret?  Are you kidding me?  This is Connecticut wine, folks– let us know what is in the bottle.  Your secret is safe with us.  Anyway, notes of apricot and peach with a viscous mouth feel, pleasant acidity reminiscent of key lime pie on the finish.  Not overly complex, but still a lovely wine to have with Asian cuisine in the middle of this or any week.  Rated **

Posted February 1, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday