Two wines for Jack’s Tuesday November 2nd Tasting at Braddock’s

Below are two wines that will be featured by-the-glass at next week’s Braddock’s American Brasserie Tuesday Tasting (located at the Renaissance Hotel downtown Pittsburgh).  I will review and discuss two wines every Tuesday – all people and opinions are welcome – should be fun!

The Murphy Goode Sonoma Chardonnay is a rich gold color with a nose that includes typical chardonnay aromas of apple and pear.  The wine’s development occurs partly in stainless steel tanks (to retain freshness in the wine) with the remainder in French and American oak barrels (to add complexity and oak notes).   A percentage of this California chardonnay undergoes malolactic fermentation which adds weight to the texture and as a result, compared to many other whites, this wine is somewhat richer.  The wine is full of baked apple pie, peach and pear flavors, followed by an oaky/vanilla finish with a hint of minerality.  Overall Murhpy Goode’s efforts result in a fine example of modern California Chardonnay.

The 2005 Chateau Les Reuilles Bordeaux red represents a good example of affordable Bordeaux table wine.  Cabernet is the dominant grape (75%) in this wine with Merlot filling out the remainder of the blend – a characteristic blend associated with the left bank of the Bordeaux wine region.   The color is ruby red and the nose shows a very light, perfumed aroma.  While high dollar 2005 Bordeaux reds require that you wait several more years to drink, this wine needs no more time to mature and is ready to drink now.   The wine is light to medium bodied, which is quite light for those who are mainly familiar with Napa Cabernets or Australian Shiraz – but along with the lighter body, the flavors are clean, fresh and very nicely balanced.  The finish has some grip that will make this wine a good food companion.  A nice wine for the category.

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French wines and cheeses on the river…

Due to high interest in French wine (and my recent travels in France!), along with the permanent recognition that France produces some of the best and most diverse cheeses in the world, we decided to produce an all France themed wine and cheese cruise.  We were honored to have such an enthusiastic audience and highly qualified team of helpers…  As usual the cheese notes are provided by my good friend and cheese-expert, David Bennett.   (Note: due to a small delivery hiccup, we had to substitute the opening cremant but I will provide the notes below since it follows the theme).

Cremant de Bourgogne NV – Made with same process as Champagne, but in region a few miles to the south of Champagne, this Cremant is fresh and crisp with tightly focused flavors – a great starter.    Bûche du Poitou – Goat’s milk cheese made in the Loire Valley. The bloomy rind is slightly tangy but the center gets progressively creamier and rich.  The finish is slightly lemony.  Aged 2 months.

Jongieux Vin de Savoie – Clean and refreshing sense of citrus. It is a wine of notably high acidity yet not at all lean or over-light. The wine is fermented in stainless and there is no malolactic fermentation.    Mimolette – a Gouda style cow’s milk cheese made in Lille, on France’s border with Belgium. It was originally made by the request of Louis XIV, who wanted a French cheese to resemble Edam.

Château Barraud La Montagne Saint-Emilion Bordeaux 2005 – Medium bodied Bordeaux with red fruit notes and creamy elements, along with hints of vanilla and fleshy red berries.  The finish shows a little bit of spice that cleans the palate… a Merlot dominant wine with cabernet second.    Morbier – aromatic cow’s milk cheese from Franche-Comté with a  dark vein of vegetable ash streaking through the middle. Remarkable flavor and a wonderful, nutty aftertaste.

Domaine Paul Autard Cotes du Rhone 2009 – This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache – 15% Syrah – 15% Counoise.  This Rhone presents itself as bright and vibrant – which nicely expresses the exceptionally hot 2009.  The wine has bright fruit flavors that burst with blackberry and plum fruits, then finish with well balanced grip.    Fourme D’Ambert –  traditional blue cheese from the Auvergne region that dates back to Roman times.  Inoculated with Penicillium roqueforti spores and aged in caves for at least 28 days. At weekly intervals, the cheese is injected with a sweet white wine.

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Two wines for Jack’s Tuesday Oct26 Tasting at Braddock’s

Below are two wines that will be featured by the glass at Braddock’s American Brasserie Tuesday Tasting (located at the Renaissance Hotel downtown Pittsburgh).  I will review and discuss two wines every Tuesday – should be fun!

First up is the white wine feature: Beringer Vineyards Chardonnay Private Reserve 2008   This wine has a rich yellow color that hints at the chardonnay’s concentration and complexity.  Pineapple and floral nose is followed by rich, intense flavors of pear, apple and butter that give way to some mineral and oak flavors on the long finish.  More full and lush than most White Burgundies, this wine has texture, yet remains focused throughout – possibly too big to some foods, but satisfying by itself.

The featured red wine is Robert Mondavi’s Cabernet Sauvignon Private Selection 2008 is an interesting wine.  The grapes are chosen from various California locations, not necessarily including Napa Valley and the blend is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (at 77% by far the largest component, which is why the wine can officially be labeled “cabernet”).  The rest of the blend might be expected to be traditional “Bordeaux-Blend” in which the dominant varietal (in this case Cabernet) might be supported by a dose of Merlot… but Mondavi decided to blend Syrah with their cabernet, with the overall blend as follows: Cabernet Sauvignon77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Syrah, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petite Sirah, 1% Sangiovese.

Despite the slight departure from traditional Bordeaux Blend, this cabernet opens with thick fruit flavor with notes of dark cherry, blackberry and plum with a very slight grapiness at mid-palate.  The texture of the wine is medium bodied and the finish shows notes of oak and spice.  Definitely a new world red, but not so much as to include the less than desirable “jammy” flavor that many new world cabernets contain.  Overall, a very satisfying wine for the price point.

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Domaine Paul Autard Cotes-du-Rhone 2009

Jean-Paul Autard is not an old man, but he has a wealth of wine-making experience since taking over the family wine operation at age 17.   This domaine produces a range of wines including many award winning, highly sought after wines (Autard’s 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape “Cote Ronde” scored an impressive 97 pts from the Wine Spectator).    On a recent visit, Jean-Paul Autard took a few minutes away from his very busy time to speak with us.  Early October is at the end of the exhausting harvest and during the middle of the wine-making process that lasts several weeks, and we could tell that Jean-Paul and his wine-makers were visibly tired, despite their weariness, they were still very gracious toward us Americans.   While Autard’s Chateauneuf wines are the most impressive and famous, Autard’s Cotes-du-Rhone is far less expensive, more accessible and more widely available in the USA, so for the moment we will focus on the Cotes-du-Rhone.   I’ve been impressed with this wine in past vintages and the just-released 2009 vintage continues the trend.   The 2009 Domaine Paul Autard Cotes du Rhone blends 70% Grenache – 15% Syrah – 15% Counoise (the latter is a relatively rare grape, used mainly for blending in small amounts… it adds a slight pepperiness to the wine), and presents itself as bright and vibrant – which nicely expresses the exceptionally hot 2009 vintage – not as hot as the record breaking levels of 2003, but despite the 2009 growing season starting rather wet, by mid-summer 2009 featured 24 days above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.   One can virtually taste the hot weather in the wine as the bright fruit flavors burst with blackberry and plum fruits and finish with well balanced grip.  Overall this 2009 Domaine Paul Autard Cotes du Rhone punches above its weight, making the roughly $15 price tag a big bargain for a fine Rhone Wine.   If you can find it, buy some and drink them over the next 1-3 years.

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