Screaming Good Deal – Best $7.99 red wine in Pennsylvania right now – Anciano Tempranillo Reserva 2004, aged 7 years, from Valdepeñas

Bold words but happily uttered….   I had to try this wine the moment I noticed it was for sale.   Last year I was fortunate to try the 2001 Anciano Gran Reserva Tempranillo (aged 10 years) and found it to be quite a fine and nicely aged wine – and for the money (under $20) it was a fantastic deal.    Hence I could not wait to get my hands on another Anciano product, in this case a 7 year aged Reserva (one level below the Gran Reserva) priced at only $7.99!  (Anciano Reserva Aged 7 years Tempranillo 2004 Spain PLCB Code #33272 $7.99).   These Anciano wines hail from Spain’s south central region of Valdepenas (surrounded by the larger region called La Mancha).   Valdepenas is less well known when compared to other Spanish regions like Rioja or Ribera del Duero, but this brings more competitive pricing for the chalky-soiled, hot region red wines of Valdepenas.   Additionally (as if we needed more reasons to try another bottle) 2004 is acknowledged as one of the best Spanish vintages of the past 20 years, so we know the grapes were healthy before they became this wine!

Unlike most wine producers around the world who release wines shortly after bottling (leaving aging decisions up to consumers), Spanish producers continue the tradition of barrel and bottle aging their wines at the winery prior to release.   This Reserva was treated to at least 24 moths in Oak Barrels, followed by five more years in bottle… the result is a softer, more complex wine with fewer of the sharp edges common to younger wines.

This wine comes in an attractive and old-world looking package featuring a red label and gold wire mesh covering the entire bottle which suggests a more expensive bottle than it is.   The nose is slow to show, but features red fruits and a little strawberry and vanilla.   The mouth feel is warm and soft, light to medium bodied – the flavors attack softly, a common feature for aged Tempranillo, but quickly form generous earthy flavors of red fruits, savory spices, leather and a hint of balsamic followed by a very persistent and smooth spicy finish.   This wine would pair nicely with grilled meats and mature cheeses but I will save my next bottle for a piece of blackened salmon!  Although this wine might age longer, I would drink sooner than later.   For my money, this is the best $7.99 red in Pennsylvania’s State Store System – serve it at your next grill/dinner event and impress your friends while you save money!

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South American Wines at e2 Restaurant

Despite the (never ending) wintry weather – everyone showed up last evening to learn about some South American wines at Chef Kate Romane’s e2 Restaurant (www.e2pgh.com).   Our go-to staffers (Adam and Will) were ready for us, but we got extra help from attendees Kate, Lee, and Susan who helped get the tables arranged and ready for the entire group (I thank them for their help!) – We had a community feel from the start, which is always nice!

To kick things off, we talked about the Chilean and Argentine wine industries which date back to the mid-1500s (a solid 300 years before we had much wine industry in California) while we tasted an Argentine Sparkling wine from Mendoza.  In attendance was a retired bank executive who lived in Argentina in the 1960s and shared stories about bringing great Argentine wines back to the US every time he returned, and also a Peruvian couple who noted correctly that the original Chilean grapevines were brought through Peru centuries ago.   Despite the incredibly long history of making wine in Chile and Argentina, winemaking as we think about it today made its transition to modern-style production in the mid 1800s after the introduction of French wine grapes.  Since then the ups and downs of politics and economics have affected winemakers, but great improvement has taken place in the past 20-30 years.  

Our goal last night was to taste the wines individually, then taste all the wines with food and assess the differences and note improvements or degradations in flavor/experience.    Our dinner menu included:   short ribs in a smoky tomato braise, a dirty risotto with pancetta, hot peppers and mushrooms, romaine and arugula salad, chocolate bread pudding for dessert with berry mess

A lively discussion followed and everyone seemed to enjoy the combination of foods and wines, especially the Lapostolle Clos Apalta, which by far was the most expensive wine on the table, but in my opinion is a special wine, and two people said it was the best wine they had ever had… so pleased we could include it in the event!   Here are notes and prices for the wines:

Santa Julia Pinot Noir Rose Brut NV, Mendoza Argentina (PLCB 17019  $11.99) – 100% Pinot Noir, Maipú and Uco Valley vineyards, Mendoza, Argentina, Charmat method, second fermentation at 14°C, Creamy, fresh, red fruit delicate flavors.

Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc Reserva Especial 2012, Casablanca Valley Chile (PLCB 46536 $12.99) – 100% Sauvignon Blanc  (Grape used in Sancerre and BDX blends), Valle de Casablanca – Mineral Soils and red clay, Crisp and fresh, slight grassy nose with grapefruit and citrus flavors – clean finish.  W&S90, A delightful wine part-way between the light crisp Euro SB and the face-puckering NZ or full figured CA SBs

Vina Cobos Felino Chardonnay 2011, Mendoza Argentina (PLCB 39322 $18.99 ) – 100% Chardonnay  (White Burgundy Grape), From American winemaker Paul Hobbs, 95% aged in Stainless Steel, 5% Oak, Distinctly “new world” Rich tropical pineapple and peach flavors with medium weight . RP88. Hotter, arid desert = very different chardonnay compared to cool weather Burgundy, Score too low in my opinion, I would award solid 90pts.

Bodega Norton Malbec Reserve 2011, Mendoza Argentina (PLCB regular item 7019 $18.99) – 100 % Malbec , a blending Grape of Bordeaux, and main grape of Cahors France, #36 Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2013  WS92 100% French Oak aged 12months (50% new), Deep dark purple color, black fruits, violets and tobacco,  World Malbec Day = April 17th Jancis Robinson says Malbec = a more rustic Merlot.  Bodega Norton founded 1885 by Englishman Sir Edmund James Norton who was in Chile/Arg to build railway bridges, but loved the region and founded Norton – Norton family owned Bodega until purchased by Swarovski in 1989, huge investments in quality and commercial success have followed.

Lapostolle Clos Apalta Colchagua Valley 2009, Colchagua Valley, Chile (PLCB 31420  $79.99) – 78% Carmenere, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, Bordeaux Grapes – until recent DNA tracing tests, much of Chile’s Carmenere was thought to be Merlot,  2005 vintage (same 96pts score) ranked #1 on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2008.   Inky dark color, polished and complex herbal, earthy dark fruit and spicy flavors, a special wine that shows sometimes money spent on a wine is rewarded by quality!    Alexandra Marnier-Lapostolle (founder of Lapostolle in 1994) in Chile is great granddaughter of Grand Marnier creator in France.   World famous winemaker Michel Rolland has been winemaker for every vintage since 1994.   Family still owns an estate in Sancerre.

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First ever PLCB sale!

For our friends in Pennsylvania, be sure to check out the PLCB stores in the next two days.   The PA Liquor Control Board is trying a sale for the first time ever!

For two days (Thursday and Friday Feb 13, 14), four sparklers will be offered at 25% off their retail price.   I hope that PA Consumers will clear the shelves of these sparklers to show the state that we in Pennsylvania have an appetite for good value!

Here are the sparklers on sale:

Veuve d’Argent Brut NV   Code: 32861 Quoted at $14.99…Save $4.00  Price: $10.99  Sale: $7.99    Served at Quantum Theatre GRAPENUTS Night last week!!!   Full write up is in last posting below, but this is a solid sparkling value that would provide a great starter to a party!

Juve Y Camps Cinta Purpura Demi-Sec NV  Code: 32913 Quoted at $18.00*….Save $6.01 Price: $11.99    Sale: $8.99   A sweeter version of traditional Spanish Cava from region just outside of Barcelona.   A fine pairing for desserts – and since Valentines Day is upon us, who doesn’t like some sweet bubbles with dessert?!?!

De Chanceny Vouvray Brut Excellence 2011  Code: 32980 Quoted at $20.00*….Save $6.01 Price: $13.99   Sale: $10.49 *89 points Wine Spectator Online, 2013  – -   This is a fine example of Chenin Blanc made into bubbly!   (who says Chardonnay is the best white grape for sparkling wine?).   This sparkler is fuller bodied, richer flavored yet drier than many inexpensive French sparklers – a good value in an attractive bottle – try this on Valentines Day and your date should be impressed by the bubbly AND your keen eye for value!

 

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Quantum Theatre “Madagascar” pre-show tasting

Fifty people joined us last Friday evening for the Quantum Theatre production of “Madagascar” –  One of Quantum Theatre’s unique features is that every production is produced in a new space, almost never a traditional theatre space.    And since “Madagascar” is a play set in a Roman hotel room overlooking the Spanish Steps, the fantastic century-old, marble-lined bank lobby of the Carlyle Building was chosen for this production.   In keeping with Quantum’s multi-setting approach, our Grapenuts pre-show tasting turned into a tasting AND tour of several century old bank buildings along Pittsburgh’s Fourth Avenue.   Despite the single digit wind-chills, our hearty Grapenuts Group enjoyed checking out the old buildings while tasting wines related to the show.    Logically, we imagine guests of a beautiful, marble-lined hotel in Rome would be served Italian Wines, so here is what we tasted:

Wine Number One Veuve d’Argent Brut NV – a French Sparkling Wine created from blending two grapes: Chenin Blanc and Ugni Blanc.   The Ugni Blanc grape is common in France for both still and sparkling wines, as well as for providing the main component of Cognac.   Known in Italy as Trebbiano, which is likely the more well-known name, combined with the fact that this Brut is created using the tank method for secondary fermentation (just like most Proseccos), we had our Italian connection…. (PLCB Code: 32861  Veuve d’Argent Brut NV   $10.99)

Wine Number Two Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico 2010  – As the name implies, a ‘classic’ Italian red, made from predominantly Sangiovese grapes in the Tuscan region of Italy (north of Rome).   Intense cherry and tobacco flavors dominated this tightly-knit medium bodied red.   An obvious match for heavy red sauces common to central and southern Italy, an hour or two open before drinking might soften this one a bit – a serious wine and very tasty!  (PLCB Code: 32941  Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico 2010  $12.99)

Wine Number Three – Secoli Ripasso della Valpolicella 2011 – Northern Italy has several famous wine making areas.   In the Valpoicella region Ripasso is a popular style from the central northern region of Verona (not far from Milan).   Ripasso reds slot between the inexpensive and easy-drinking standard Valpolicella reds on the bottom, the Ripasso in the middle, and the rich, expensive Amarone reds on the top.   The principal red grapes of Valpolicella are Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Molinara and a portion of these are dried to reduce moisture before pressing, thus producing thicker heavier juice for fermentation of this Ripasso.   This wine was popular with the Quantum attendees, possibly due to its rich, silky mouth feel and new-world style fruit forward drinkability.   (PLCB Code: 33197  Secoli Ripasso della Valpolicella 2011   $13.99)

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Screaming Good Deal: Dopff & Irion “Crustaces” Alsace 2012 !!

Need a white to sip by itself or with light fish dishes?   Here’s a lovely white made from grapes that may be unfamiliar, but the wine packs pleasing juicy flavors with fine balance.

Sylvaner is the main grape component for this Dopff & Irion “Crustaces”  (90% Sylvaner, 10% Pinot Blanc).  And although Sylvaner is common in France’s Alsace Region and provides juice for wines commonly served as the ‘house blanc’ in Alsatian restaurants, most of the world ignores Sylvaner in favor of more popular white grapes like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

On the nose are clean notes of fresh citrus and light floral hints followed by a light bodied, juicy mouthful of lime and lemon flavors, finishing with a slight minerality – all nicely balanced and fresh enough to warrant another sip.   In some respects this wine is reminiscent of a Pinot Grigio, but the intensity of citrus flavors and light mineral finish differentiate it from the popular Italian.  The lobster on the label causes one to wonder if the producer missed the memo that ‘critter labels’ went out of fashion 10 years ago.   But one cannot blame the producer for making the suggestion – this wine capably compliments shrimp, lobster or lightly sauced white fish dishes.

To anyone seeking an interesting and inexpensive alternative to Pinot Grigio, or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, this $8.99 Sylvaner provides a fine and fresh tasting alternative.   Enjoy!   (PLCB Code: 32914  Dopff and Irion Crustaces Alsace 2012 $8.99 widely available)

Holiday Bubbly Recommendations!

For the past several years I have organized a holiday happy hour for friends and colleagues (especially ‘Grapenuts’ and the private dinner group www.off-the-grid.ws).   The ‘Big Bubbly Blowout’ has been a favorite event of mine, but this year, my professional work would not allow me to spend the time required to create another fantastic holiday event, so I thought I would offer some sparkling wine recommendations for the Holiday Season.

 Value: Villa Chiara Prosecco NV – Although I generally hold the opinion that most Prosecco is too sweet, too simple and simply flat flavor-wise, from time to time I find a Prosecco that beats the odds.   In this case the Villa Chiara is a fine tasting (hint of sweetness, but only a hint) sparkler with a lively brightness that provides a lift lacking in most Proseccos.   At $10 this prosecco is as easy on the wallet as it is on the palate!  (PLCB code: 32955 was $19.99, now selling for $9.99)

Anna de Codorniu Brut NV – From the famous and storied Codorniu Cava house just outside of Barcelona Spain, unlike the less expensive Cava sparklers, Anna de Codorniu is produced in the traditional Champagne Method which is often thought to yield smaller bubbles and more nuanced flavors.   In a further nod to Champagne traditions, Codorniu breaks with traditional Cava grapes (Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel lo) by including Chardonnay as 75% of blend.   The result is a smooth and tasty sparkler, with delicate mousse countered by easy acidity that makes a fine pairing for appetizers and as a welcoming flute full of fun!  (comes in a fancy zip up bottle-protecting cooler sleeve.  PLCB code: 33033 was $15.00, now selling for $8.99)

Affordable Luxury: Gruet Sparklers – American bubbly from, of all places, New Mexico!  But don’t let the winery location puzzle you – this sparkler is produced by a French-Champagne-making-family from Champagne!   The Gruet family purchased land in New Mexico back in the early 1980s and several family members relocated from Champagne to New Mexico to watch over their vines and wine-making.   Years later their efforts are rewarded by the well-regarded sparklers hitting our shelves.    It is easy to find printed praise for these sparklers and I agree.

Gruet Brut NV (75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir) Delivers a blend of apple and citrus flavors balanced with an appealing creamy toastiness.   (PLCB code: 29250 $16.99)

Gruet Brut Rose NV (100% Pinot Noir) Differing from its Chardonnay dominant sibling, this Pinot dominant sparkler presents red fruits and strawberry flavors complimented by a finish that carries through a crisp, rich creamy mousse.  (PLCB code: 39937 $17.99)

Real Champagne Value: Le Mesnil Blanc De Blancs Grand Cru Champagne NV – Champagne is the top dog in the sparkling wine world.   Generally, Champagne is also the most expensive of our sparkling wine choices.   The expense may sometimes seem unwarranted, but just as often, Champagne’s magical finesse and complexity finds its way into a bottle.   Tasting these bubblies often brings a satisfying sigh from the first toast.   This “Le Mesnil” Champagne is produced by a co-op (hence the more affordable price) within the Grand Cru Mesnil appellation which is famous for Chardonnay based bubbly.  At $33 this ‘bargain’ Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) Champagne is a great value when compared to other Grand Cru Champagnes and yet delivers the wonderfully delicate, finessed apple/chardonnay notes with finely integrated yeast, toast and mineral flavors.   Find a special occasion, or simply declare one, and enjoy this sophisticated Champagne! (PLCB code: 39622 $32.99)

How to enjoy bubbly – Many people ask about the correct temperature to enjoy bubbly.   The notion that a ‘correct’ temperature exists, is widely debated.   For me, the answer is ‘ice cold’.   I say this because in nearly every holiday celebration, if the bubbly hits the glass as cold as possible, the warming in the glass that takes place during the following minutes of celebratory conversation still leaves the sparkler at a tasty temperature.   If bubbly is merely refrigerated, and gets into the glass above ice-cold, the warming will be too great and the flavors will be less crisp, and sometimes can turn ‘grapey’.   My solution to this is to make an ice bath.   I start by placing my bubbly (which can start at room temperature) into a bucket or similar vessel, and then I fill the remaining space with ice being sure to cover up the neck of the bottle.  Finally I fill the bucket containing the bubbly and the ice with water, and then set a timer for 30-40 minutes.   The result will be ice-cold sparkler that will remain cold longer in the glass and show all the wonderful crisp, taught flavors that compliment so many holiday party appetizers.

Need a gift idea for a wine-lover?   A frequent wine tasting attendee and glass artist Jessica Rutherford creates hand-made-one-of-a-kind Wine Stoppers and Wine Charms – her limited addition cuff-links were provided to world-leaders at a recent G20 gathering, so you can imagine how much we like her wine-related gifts!  Check out her page to find a gift for your favorite wine-enthusiast:  https://www.facebook.com/JessicaRutherfordDesigns

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Screaming Good Deal – Chateau de Campuget, Le Campuget Blanc 2012

As the season moves toward autumn with holidays on the horizon, I am often asked by friends and colleagues to suggest a ‘party wine’ – something inexpensive, but good.   These are often mutually exclusive terms, but occasionally a wine pops onto our radar that warrants making a note….

The 2012 Le Campuget Blanc is one of those wines.   Hailing from the southern regions of France (Costieres de Nimes, southern Rhone) that seem to produce so many richly fruited wines at fantastically affordable prices, the Campuget Blanc is a wine that I will recommend to all my friends as a Screaming Good Deal because the price is affordable ($6.99) and the flavors solid.   And for those who care about logistics, the bottle features a highly efficient and easy-to-deal-with screw top (which also helps to maintain the freshness of this lively white).

Surprisingly for a wine of this price, the nose is attractive and floral with some citrus notes.  The texture is light and lifted, but nearly medium bodied and certainly not thin, which I might expect for a wine in this price category.   A blend of mostly Grenache Blanc and a smaller portion of Viognier, I tasted at above ice-cold temperature and found exotic/tropical and citrus flavors dominate the palate, with notable balance, followed by a legitimate finish that continues further than expected.   Is this wine on par with a $50 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc?   No.   But it IS a lovely wine that would be well-received at double the price.   A few vintages before now, some friends found an inexpensive southern French white wine, which they bought by the case, and called it ‘ The Frenchy’ – I think this is my new ‘Frenchy’!

For those seeking a white that is soft enough to sip by itself, or pair with delicate salads/seafood dishes – I say buy it.   For those seeking a non-oaky-chardonnay-but-still-big-flavored-white for a party – I say buy it.   For $6.99 you will enjoy it!   (Chateau de Campuget Le Campuget Blanc 2012, Pennsylvania PLCB code: 32915, $6.99)

 

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Next up: Rhone Tasting!

Our Bordeaux tasting/dinner at e2 (www.e2pgh.com) was certainly tasty and instructive – so we are moving forward to our next region where we will dive into some interesting wines of the Rhone region.   We will taste and discuss the wines as a group, and then finish with a dinner to see how they stand up (or change/improve) with food.   I am a huge fan of Rhone wines as I feel they offer great value for money and, even at the lower price points, a great deal of character and sense of place.  

An added dimension for this tasting is the inclusion of two currently unavailable vintages of Chateauneuf du Pape wines (2001 Marquis Anselme Mathieu and 2007 Chateau de Beaucastel), acquired through a friend who shares our interest in wine and was quite generous to help us include these fantastic wines in our tasting.

Seats are available for this Wed Oct 30 event at: http://www.off-the-grid.ws/2013/10/30/rhone/

France’s Rhone Region produces what many consider to be the most characterful, rustic and big wines in France.   Join us to taste two Rhone whites and three Rhone reds, including the historic and hard to find 2007 Vintage of Chateau de Beaucastel!!!   If you are interested in the flavors of the Rhone – you won’t want to miss this tasting/dinner.

We expect a fantastic dinner from our friends at e2 (probably something with Lamb this time) that will match wonderfully with the rustic Rhone wines.

Domaine de la Solitude, Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2012 – Southern Rhone White, exotic fruit flavors and clean finish.

J.L. Chave Sélection Saint-Joseph Blanc Céleste 2011  (90pts IWC) – Northern Rhone White from Roussanne and Marsanne grapes, rich and deep with long finish.

J.L. Chave Sélection Saint-Joseph Offerus 2010 (91pts IWC) – Syrah-based Northern Rhone Red, red fruit flavors, spicy and sleek.

Chateauneuf du Pape Marquis Anselme Mathieu 2001 – Fully mature example of Chateauneuf du Pape red, 90% Grenache grapes, blended with 10% traditional Southern Rhone grapes (13 varieties permitted).   This wine is light to medium bodied, with layered fruit flavors – not powerful at this point in its maturity, but pleasingly complex.

Chateauneuf du Pape Chateau de Beaucastel 2007 (96pts Robert Parker, 96pts Wine Spectator) – This is a serious and highly sought after wine, from one of the most successful vintages of the past two decades – Rich and complex with more Syrah content than most Chateauneuf du Pape reds this one shows flavors ranging from cedar to licorice to red fruits and floral notes – - tasting this will be interesting as it will be interesting to see how many of us agree with the critics!

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Bordeaux tasting dinner – Right vs Left Bank

As our seasons migrate from light-hearted Summer to more serious Autumn – I thought the seasonal change warranted a slightly more serious approach to our tasting programs.   While my wine-enthusiast friends in www.off-the-grid.ws and Grapenuts will surely let me know if I am wrong, I have gone ahead and scheduled three ‘more serious’ tastings.    What I mean by this is that, instead of putting together the best possible wine combinations for a given menu, loosely tied together by theme – for these tastings I chose the wines first, and the meal is added to the wines by the amazingly flexible and understanding Owner/Chef Kate Romane (www.e2pgh.com).

Bordeaux is our first target – because anyone interested in learning something about wine and their own palate would surely include Bordeaux on their short-list.  

Here’s our program for Wednesday October 2nd (some seats still available at: http://www.off-the-grid.ws/2013/10/02/bordeaux/)

6:30 p.m. – Sparkler and Apps – a sparkler is a great way to start the evening and ‘wake up’ the palate.

6:45 p.m. – Introduction and tasting of four Bordeaux

Chateau Bellevue Entre-deux-Mers blanc 2011 – Made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, this wine has some of the grassy characteristics associated with Sauvignon Blanc from the rest of the world, but the Semillon softens the acids and rounds out the flavors with extra weight/texture.

Chateau Roquebrune Lalande de Pomerol Cuvee Reine 2009 – From the region just outside uber-famous Pomerol, this Lalande de Pomeral red is (like most from the Right Bank region) Merlot-driven and is expected to have a fleshy texture with juicy red fruits and blueberry notes.

Les Fiefs de Lagrange St Julien 2009 – Representing Bordeaux’s Left Bank is this St Julien gem from Chateau Lagrange (which is a classified “Third Growth” in 1855 Classification of Grand Crus) – This red is 80% Cabernet and can be expected to live a long time – showing dark/black fruits and strong structure.

Chateau Ambe Tour Pourret Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2010 – Blended from 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc, this ‘Right Bank’ red hails from Grand Cru vineyards of Saint Emilion, arguably the most famous region of Bordeaux’s Right Bank – should be a great representative of the blend and type!

7:15 p.m. – Dinner created by Chef Kate Romane so that we can taste the wines with food

Next up on October 30: Exploration of the Rhone Region from regions including Chateaunuef du Pape and producers like J. L. Chave!   November 20: New World Favorites

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Australian Wine and Food (and Cheese) at Marty’s Market

Another beautiful evening was spent with the nice folks at Marty’s Market – Regina and her Chef Steve and their entire crew made us feel welcome yet again with some great food.   And as always, the mixture of food, wine, and energized people made for a memorable experience.   Especially nice to see some new faces in the crowd too – glad to grow the group!    Here is what we had – Nice pairings all!

FIRST COURSE – Fried Oyster, Shiso, Pickled Shallot, Remoulade

WINE: Leeuwin Estate Art Series Dry Riesling 2011 (92 pts) – Dry Rieslings from Australia provide fresh, light bodied wines with complex flavors of lime, citrus and honey and a stone-like minerality on the finish.  Like licking a wet pebble, but in a good way!   Many people at the dinner enjoyed their first ever experience with a truly DRY Riesling – great fun to expand horizons!  (PLCB – no longer available)

SECOND COURSE – Roast Leg of Elysian Fields Lamb, Parsnip, Australian Cheddar Leeks, Jus

1st WINE: d’Arenberg Grenach/Shiraz/Mourvedre 2011 (89 pts) – From the historic McLaren Vale Vineyards south of Adelaide, this Southern Rhone blend of Grenache Shiraz and Mourvedre has generous ripe, red fruit flavors and savory finish.   Taste to me like a solid Cotes du Rhone, and a fantastic value at $10.99 (PLCB code: 46194 $10.99)

2nd WINE: Bremerton Selkirk Shiraz 2006 (92 pts) – From the super arid regions of Langhorne Creek, this Shiraz is a heavy-weight with dark fruit, plum and earthy flavors followed by a long finish.  This is our ‘cheese-guy’ David’s favorite Shiraz!    Big Country, Big Wine!  (PLCB code: 25489 $18.99)

THIRD COURSE – Lamingtons, Chocolate, Coconut, Strawberry

WINE: Bleasdale “The Red Brute” Sparkling Shiraz NV (90 pts) – Not what you might expect — this bubbly is broad, with dark fruit flavors delivered in a rich but dry package.  (PLCB code: 22835 $15.99)

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