Monday, October 22, 2012

Today's Bordeaux 100

A few weeks ago, I was invited by Sona Rai to the Today's Bordeaux 100 wine tasting sponsored by the Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB).  The 100 wines selected were chosen out of 300 entries consisting of reds, whites, roses and sweet (Sauternes).  The selection of finalists occurred over a two day period by a panel of five members of "Le Wine Buffs" appointed by the Bordeaux Wine Council along with three distinguished judges (Mr. Levin Dalton, Mr. Carson Demmond and Mr. John Osborne).  It was a pleasure meeting two of the "Wine Buffs" April and Mollie. 

I wish I had 2 days to try all 100 as I am sure I missed a lot of exceptional wines.  I did manage to taste 21 from the list which encompassed all regions and types of wines.  Unfortunately, some of the whites were getting warm while sitting on the tasting tables.  Below, I will mention a few from each category that stood out.

From the 300 entries, only one rose was selected.  This was the Chateau Bonnet Rose 2011.  It was a 50% cabernet sauvignon and 50% merlot blend.  The Bonnett Rose had a wonderful nose of fresh picked strawberries which continued to the taste, along with some raspberry flavors and a hint of  watermelon.  I have to admit I don't drink rose's very often but this was an enjoyable summer wine with great balance and a relatively long finish.  This retails for about $13.

The Chateau Perron 2011 is a white wine made from a blend of 50% sauvignon blanc, 40% semillon and 10% muscadelle.  Unfortunately, the whites from Bordeaux are overlooked by many but are exceptional wines.  This white is from the Graves region of Bordeaux which is mainly known for it's red wines and also one of the first regions to give notoriety to Bordeaux.  The Perron had a floral nose along with the sweetness from the Semillon.  The semillon also gave some body to the wine.  The flavors included grapefruit and orange peels along with a soft hint of honey and oak.  The acidity is low enough that it could pair well with a salad and not compete with the acidity from the dressing.  Would also pair nicely with fish or my favorite lobster.  This retails for about $15.

A second white that I really enjoyed was the Chateau Haut Selve 2011 also from the Graves appellation.  This is a blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Gris.  This was similar to the Perron with the floral notes along with some green apples and grapefruit.  These followed on the palate along with some vanilla from the 6 months in "new oak" barrels.  This retails for about $25.

On the red side, there were three that stood out for me.  The first was the Chateau Tour de Pressac 2009 from Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Appellation.  Don't confuse this with the Grand Cru classe.  This is a blend consisting of 72% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc,12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Carmenere and 1% Malbec. I am a fan of Cabernet Franc and Carmenere.  This is a medium to full bodied wine that has plenty of red fruits and the Cabernet franc contributes plenty of tobacco flavors along with some nice spices.  There was some vegetal aromas along with some mushroom and red fruits.  I also picked up some black pepper and some slight oakiness.  A well structured wine with long lasting flavors.  I would pair this with my wife's incredible goulash. This red retails for about $35.

The second red worth noting is the Chateau Bernadotte 2004 from the Haut Medoc region.  This was a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36%  Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.  This is full-bodied wine that has dark red fruit on the nose and on the palate along with some cedar and coffee on the back end with some noticeable, but acceptable, tannins.  This would pair well with a pepper crusted steak.  This retails for about $27.
The other red that I really enjoyed was the Chateau Gros Caillou 2005 from the Saint-Emilion appellation.  This is a blend of  65% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  This was more of a medium bodied wine with the limestone terrior ever present on the nose and some mineral flavors.  The Caillou also had cherries on the nose with plums, black currant, cedar and pepper on the palate.  A complex but extremely well balanced wine.  This would pair nicely with veal or other white meat.  A great buy at $23.

The final table at the tasting included three Sauternes, which I tried two of the three.  Sauternes are sweet wines from the Sauternais region of the Graves Appellation.  Unlike the other Sauternes that I tasted, the Barton & Guestier 2010 only used 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, where as the other blended with Muscadelle.  This golden colored wine had plenty of honey on the nose along with some dried fruits and nuts.  The honey was predominant on the palate along with apricots and golden raisins. Although I prefer port over a sweet wine, this was smooth and enjoyable.  It retails for $25.

Each of the wines at the tasting are sold in the US and range in price from $9 to $35.  All 100 wines can be found on

Thanks Sona for a wonderful evening of fine wines.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Brian Arden Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Here is another outstanding Cabernet from my new favorite CA winery - Brian Arden.  I have posted three other wines by Brian Arden and they are consistently great.  The 2008 Cabernet was harvested from the Delaney Family Vineyards in Northern Sonoma.  The vines were grown along the Limerick Lane Bench near Healdsburg and were hand harvested from multiple blocks.  The grapes were fermented at low temperatures to enhance the rich fruit profile and multiple yeasts were used for character and complexity.  This ruby colored wine has the incredible aromas that were present in the other Brian Arden wines.  There was cassis  and blackberry along with some vanilla and spices.  The structure on this medium-full bodied wine was perfect with medium tannins which will enhance this wine over the next 5-8 years.  The sugars and acidity were well balanced.  The initial flavors were of strawberry, black currants and a hint of blueberrys followed by some toasted oak and spices on the back.  The wine was smooth and elegant and not a big bold CA Cabernet.  The flavors stick around and will keep you coming back for more.  Only 132 cases were made of the 2008 vintage and I can promise you they will be gone quickly once it is available to the public.  Give this wine about 30 minutes to open up or decant if you have one available.  We served this with a hanger steak and a shallot reduction over the top along with asparagus on the side.  The perfect pairing!!   Could also be served with other red meats such as wild boar or venison.  Stay tuned for the release of this wine.  You will be sure to hear alot about Brian Harlan and his wine making for years to come.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Brian Arden Cabernet Franc 2008

Could the Cabernet Franc live up to the Brian Arden Zinfandel or the Syrah that were previously posted?  Unfortunately no.  Then again, that is like following Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell in the Pirate batting order.  Cabernet Franc is typically more of  a blending grape, including one of the Bordeaux blending grapes.  This 2008 BA wine is a blend of 97% Cabernet Franc and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The initial aromas that we loved so much on the other two wasn't present in this one.  It was a little tighter on the nose.  The initial aromas were dried plums and raisins along with some peas.  I also thought there was some old burned wood smell, that I sometimes get from the patio grill.  The initial taste was of the dried fruits along with some earthiness and asparagus.  It ended with a subtle spiciness on the back end.  Other Cabernet Franc's that I have drank have also had a vegetable side to them.  The 2008 Cabernet Franc is leaner than the other two Brian Arden wines previously reviewed and the flavors faded quickly.  This medium bodied, garnet colored wine also had more tannins.  Be sure to give this 20 minutes to open before drinking.  This would pair nicely with lamb chops, pork tenderloins or even a burger.  Don't pair it with any bold or spicy flavors.  Overall, it was OK but would certainly pick the Zinfandel and the Syrah over the Cabernet Franc.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Treat yourself to a first class trip around the world of wine at the 5th Annual New York Wine Expo, March 2nd - 4th. The Grand Tasting offers attendees a chance to sample wines from nearly 190 wineries from around the globe. The Expo is also an opportunity to talk directly with wine makers and pick up tips on serving, pricing and selecting the right vintage. The New York Wine Expo will be held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. The latest in wine accessories and specialty foods will also be on hand at the Grand Tasting. “The New York Wine Expo features wines from the greatest wine-producing regions of the world,” said Ed Hurley, New York Wine Expo Show Director. “But the Expo also includes the biggest trends of the year ahead from smaller local wineries, to organic wines to off beat varietals that you’ll want to pour time and again.”

The show will run from 6-10 p.m. on Friday and from 2-6 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are available online. Use promo code: CORKEDWB and you will receive a $15 discount on the price of a Friday ticket (listed below).  I hope to see you there!

Standard Ticket Prices (without the discount):

Friday, March 2
$75 through 2/24
$85 beginning 2/25

Saturday, March 3 
$85 through 2/24
$95 beginning 2/25

For tickets, updated seminar schedule and event information visit or call 800-544-1660.  Note: The Wine Expo is not open to the general public on Sunday.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Brian Arden Syrah 2008

After tasting the Brian Arden Zin (previous post), I couldn't wait to pop the cork on the Syrah.  Syrah was originally from the Rhone region of France and is used by many winemakers as a blending grape.  But not by Brian and Burt.  The 2008 Syrah is 100% syrah and is from the Masked Man Vineyard in Mendocino, CA.  Unfortunately, this was the last vintage from this vineyard as it has been pulled out and replaced with Cabernet Sauvignon vines.  Last night we made home-made pizzas, including the dough, topped with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, Italian salami and some sliced New Mexico peppers, along with a home-made tomato sauce.  What better to go with the peppers and tomato sauce than a tasty syrah.  Upon pouring the first glass, it had a nice deep red color along with a blue tint.  The aromas on the Brian Arden Syrah were as wonderful as those from the Zin with black cherry and plum, along with some green herbal notes and some espresso.  On the palate, the fruit was forward with both cherry and some blueberry flavors along with some subtle white pepper.  I also picked up some slight earthy/stoney flavors. Although syrah's are typically full-bodied and bolder wines, this one was medium to full bodied but is well structured with subtle tannins and acidity.  Again, the flavors lingered for some time.  Overall, another spectacular wine from the Brian Arden Wines.  My wife said "they are in a league of their own".  What a way to start the new year. These will be tough to follow.  As previously mentioned, the Brian Arden Wines are only available in Napa restaurants.  Hopefully soon, it will be more readily available.  Stay tuned for more details.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Brian Arden Zinfandel 2009

This is a name you all need to remember as it is a relatively new winemaker from Calistoga that you will be hearing rave reviews about in the near future.  The Brian Arden wines are produced by a father (Arden "Burt") and son (Brian) team.  Brian previously worked for the world famous Brix Restaurant where he was introduced to many industry icons.  In 2006 he moved to Calistoga starting in the cellar at Terra Valentine where he worked along side some of the most respected names in Napa winemaking including Kirk Venge, Michael Hirby, Sam Baxter, Bob Engelhoff and Jack Stuart.  Brian also had the privilege of sharing winery space with such luminaries as David Phinney of Orin Swift (WS #7 Best Wine in the world - Prisoner 2005), Steven Hall (Biale), Ray Coursen (Elyse & Falcor), Mark Jessup (Jessup Cellar) and Mike Farmer (Opus One).  The 2008 harvest was their first for Brian Arden wines. Burt also grew up in the farming business where his father (Burton of Burton Ranch) ran a commercial farming operation in the Central Valley including vineyards, prunes, pears and walnuts.

Last night we had our good friends Louise and Jonas, along with their children, over for dinner.  My wife made a braised chicken which was braised in a tomato sauce with pancetta and mushrooms.  The first thought was an Italian red because of the braise.  However, a nice zinfandel with some spice was the perfect pairing.  Burt suggested opening for 15-20 minutes before serving but after popping the cork, I had a hard time letting it sit.  The nose was incredible with dark fruits (black cherry and blackberry) along with some chocolate and cedar. There was also a hint of clove.  After these aromas, it had to be a great wine.  And it was!!!!  The black jammy fruits were followed by some licorice and chocolate and then some spicy pepper on the back end.  This zinfandel was not the typical dark, bold, in-your-face zin that many CA wines are, which was what I really liked about the Brian Arden.  It was structured so well with minimal to medium acidity, some soft  tannins and flavors that never ended.  Although it has a 14.7% alcohol content, it was well disguised. This wine wine made from 100% zinfandel grapes that had been harvested at the Burton Ranch Pump Block from ancient vines, with some dating back to 1886 which produce only 1-2 bunches per vine.  The grapes are smaller than those from the newer vines.

The wine received rave reviews at dinner.  I personally have not tasted a better zinfandel than this one.  If this had been a blind tasting, I would have expected a top name winemaker as opposed to the new kids on the block.  Presently, the Brian Arden wines are only being sold to restaurants, but this will likely change in the near future.  The next time you are in a restaurant in Napa, be sure to order a glass.  I can't wait to try the other Brian Arden wines including the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Cabernet Franc, the Syrah and the Sauvignon Blanc.