Thursday, May 30, 2013

2009 Chateau L'Ermitage COSTIERES DE NIMES (Rhone Valley, France)

A really good value in a tasty, mature, flavorful, balanced, soft Rhone red.  50% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache.

Dark, black-ruby.  Nose full of ripe, rich blackberry essence and pungent, slightly scorchy minerally-stony scents.  Very soft and mouthfilling, with nose-paralleling, bone dry blackberry and scorched gravelly flavors, along with a dry underbrush component.  Full-bodied, but with good balancing acids.  A bit drying as the latter half of the finish, but this is a minor quibble, particularly if, like me, you're using this wine to wash down a bowl of pasta-and-meat sauce, or some such dish.  B/B+.  Was $9.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax.  Imported by Saranty Imports.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


I made this up the other night, and had the Aglianico reviewed below with it.  I think I read a recipe that had the spinach/almond thing a few years ago, so I can't take credit for that concept.

½ chicken, but up into 5 pieces
1 bunch spinach, washed thoroughly
Good handful raw almonds
¼ large red onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
¾ cup dry sherry (fino or manzanilla)
¾ cup chicken broth
Olive oil salt pepper

Toast up the almonds in a dry skillet or in the oven for 3-4 minutes.  Don’t burn.  Put in a bowl and set aside to cool. 
Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then brown well in a bit of olive oil a sauté pan.  When you flip them, add the garlic.  Try not to let the garlic burn too much while the chicken is browning or it will get bitter.  When the chicken is nicely browned, turn up the heat and add the sherry and broth, bring to a boil for 1-2 minutes, then turn down to very low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
While the chicken’s simmering, splash 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large coverable skillet or pot, and add the onions.  Soften over medium-low heat until they start to color.  Add the spinach with whatever water is clinging to the leaves (or, if the leaves are dry, add ¼ cup water), mix well with the sautéed onions and then cover and turn the heat down to low and stem until wilty-soft (5-6 minutes).
While the spinach is steaming, put the cooled toasted almonds in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.  When the spinach/onion mixture is done, squeeze out most of the liquid into a bowl, reserving the liquid).  Then add the spinach mixture to the food processor and pulse until it’s pureed with the almonds.
After the chicken has simmered for 30 minutes covered, turn the pieces and continue to simmer over low heat for 15-20 more minutes with the cover slightly askew.
When the chicken’s done, remove the pieces from the pan, and put them in a nice serving dish (the serving dish should be warm).  Season the braising liquid in the pan liberally with salt and pepper.  Return the pan to the heat and then mix in the pureed spinach/onion/almond mixture.  If there’s not much braising liquid left add some of the reserved spinach water.  When this sauce is heated through, pour over the chicken pieces.  Taste to see if the sauce needs more salt and pepper, since the spinach/almond puree needs a lot of both.  Serve over rice.
Serves 2-3 people, depending how big the chicken is.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

2008 Vigna Alta AGLIANICO DEL VULTURE (Southern Italy)

A very good value, this wine is fragrant, soft, full-flavored, and has a bit of complexity.  Hard to beat at $12.99.

Very dark black ruby.  Surprisingly youthful-looking for a 5-year old wine.  With air, the nosy displays lots of smoky, fragrant embers and sun-dried gravel, together with very nice blackberryish fruit.  Fairly full-bodied, but with excellent acidity for a southern Italian red, it got ripe, winey, dark berry fruit, with a nice gravelly overlay.  Fairly long finish, and loads of palate-refreshing acids.  This will work very well with pasta and meat sauce, or Italian tomatoey braises.  B+.  Got this from  Imported by Superior Wines, Cranford, NJ.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

2011 Saladini Pilastri OFFIDA Pecorino (Marche, Italy)

I have drunk some Pecorinos before, but this is the first I've heard about "Offida" being a DOC . . . "G" to boot!  Pecorino is a white Italian varietal that's typically fragrant, fruity, crisp, and simple.  This one is a very nice example.

Light brassy gold color.  Fragrant nose of pears, citrus zest, chalky minerals, and a fleeting note that reminded me of the smell of largemouth bass slime (fishermen will know what I'm talking about).  A weird note in this context, but not unpleasant.  Mouthfilling, dry, gentle flavors of pear and minerals.  Very clean in the mouth.  I think this was about $12.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax.  Imported by Saranty Imports, White PLains, NY.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

2010 Columbia Crest CABERNET SAUVIGNON "Grand Estates" (Columbia Valley, Washington)

A simple but very flavorful red that shows off a very sweet, black cherryish side of Cabernet.  This wine does not skimp on flavor.  My main criticism is some noticeable residual sugar.

Black black ruby. Nose dominated by sweet, very ripe black cherry syrup scents, along with some nice fruitcake notes.  In the mouth, loads of very ripe black cherry and blackberry fruit, but little else.  Mercifully, no oakiness, but this wine, while very flavorful, is very simple.  While I got this at a chain restaurant (CPK) for $24, I imagine it should be around $10 in stores and supermarkets.  I'd rather drink this wine, which is true to its grapes, than some god-awful chocolatey, cab in the same price (that got its oak from chips), it's still way too simple to be recommended.  C+.

(Sorry, 2007 shown).

2010 Pithon-Paille CHINON "Vieilles Vignes" (Loire Valley, France)

A really zesty wine that is both drinking well now and will age.  Keeps changing as it gets exposed to more and more air.

Black ruby purple color.  The first night, it showed mostly the typical mineral oil, toasted walnut oil, and brambly underbrush I associate with Cab Francs from this northerly clime.  Then after two days under a Vacu-Vin, it started to display a lot more tangy, black cherry fruit.  It kept evolving over that third night, hitting notes of licorice and barnyard at various times, all the while keeping the faith with the black cherry fruit.  Fantastic acids, keeping this thing tangy and electric on the palate.  Bone dry, fresh, medium-bodied, soft-textured, and possessing a really pure, medium long finish.  Very engaging.  A-.  Was $25.99 from  Imported by Aliane Wines, San Diego.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

2009 Domaine La Florane VISAN Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages (Southern France)

Liquid minerals!  Terroir freaks will go ga-ga over this one.  Actually, I did too.  It's really fine.

Very dark ruby but still with significant violet highlights.  Incredibly mute upon first being poured without a Vinturi, it was a little more forthcoming when I used the Vinturi.  But it still needed an hour to start showing itself.  When it did, however, it was really nice.  Nose completely dominated by all manner of minerals:  powdered stone, liquid metallic/iodiney, and lightly scorched earth scent.  Under all that tectonic stuff was some ripe, oozy, sultry blackberry fruit.  In the mouth, the flavors immediately migrate, as though drawn by a powerful magnet, to the sides of the tongue and mouth, and tenaciously cling there, showing loads of melted minerals and hard blackberry jam candy fruit.  Loads of soft tannin and decent acids provide the structure for the full-bodied wine.  Very long finish.  A.  I really like this very unique style.  Was $18.99 from  Imported by Fleet Street Wine Merchants.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

2010 Paul Jaboulet Aine COTES DU RHONE "Parallel 45" (Rhone Valey, France)

This widely available Toyota Corolla of reds is, as almost always, a flavorful, good value.  Not the most fragrant wine, but delivers lots of ripe, concentrated flavors in a very soft, easygoing style.  60% Grenache/40% Syrah.

Nearly fully-saturated black ruby with still some violet glints.  Reluctantly gives up subtle aromas of ripe blackberries and smoky sandstone.  Concentrated rich fruit fills the mouth.  Dark blackberry and scorched earth flavors.  Loads of reasonably fine-grained (for a $12.99 wine) tannins.  Long, clingy, if not very complex finish.  This is a very good value.  B/B+.  Got this at Whole Foods in Arlington.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

2008 Domaine Dublere VOLNAY 1er CRU LES PITURES (Burgundy, France)

This is a complex, leaner styled Burgundy.  Fragrant, balanced.  All it lacks is a little more oomph in the mid-palate.

Medium ruby color with garnet highlights, and some browning at the rim.  With air, the nose reveals multiple scents:  ripe yet slightly sour cherry, pleasantly subdued woody notes, damp, gravelly earth, maple syrup.  Initially fills the mouth, then leans out quickly, but minerally, sour cherry syrup notes cling in the finish.  A very nice wine to have with a roast chicken.  Drink up over the next 18 months.  B+.  Imported by Chelsea Ventures, Chicago, this was $29.99 from

Monday, May 06, 2013

2011 Chapoutier "Bila-Haut" COTES DU ROUSSILLON VILLAGES (South Central France)

A fleshy, meaty, soft, wine that is full of character and modestly priced.  Fantastic cookout wine.

Dark blackish ruby with a slight violet tinge.  Animated, ripe nose of meaty notes, ripe blackberries, and a combination of spice cake and warm crushed rocks and sandstone.  Mouthfilling flavors, but fairly easy-going texture.  Full body and lots of fine-grained tannins.  Loads of pure blackberry skin fruit along with a very clingy, roasted herb/iodiney, minerals component that clings to the sides of the mouth. Long, pure finish.  B+/A-.  Was $12.99 at Whole Foods in Arlington/Clarendon.  Imported by HB Wine Merchants, NY, NY.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

2010 Domaine du Galet des Papes CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE "Vieilles Vignes" (Rhone Valley, France)

A deceptively easy-going yet potentially serious wine.  Still very young, it is quite primary now but shows nice texture and very good length.

Very dark ruby/violet.  Straightforward scents of ripe blackberry and black raspberry fruit, accented by notes of hot stones and dry underbrush.  Soft, mouthfilling, ripe, and full-bodied in the mouth.  Lots of incredibly fine-grained nano-tannins.  Very nice concentration and length with loads of licorice, cassis, and minerals.  This wine will by dynamite in 2-4 years.  B+(+).  Was $24.99 from, making it a very good buy for a Rhone wine of this aging ability and class.    Imported by Citadel Trading Co., NY, NY.

(Sorry, 2001 label shown, but the 2010 looks the same.)