Champagne Chronicles – Day 3

This is the third in what will be a series of five posts about my visit to Champagne

  • Day 1 - Guided tour of Reims Cathedral and Champagne dinner
  • Day 2 - C.I.V.C., Roger Coulon, and Veuve Clicquot

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Last month, I had the privilege of traveling to the Champagne region in France as a guest of the U.S. Champagne Bureau for the 2014 Champagne Harvest Media Trip.  Here’s what they said about the trip…

The trip to Champagne will be an opportunity for you to learn more about the production of Champagne and its unique qualities, as well as what the region is doing to protect its name in the United States.  The week-long trip… will give you the opportunity to visit select producers – from large houses to cooperatives and small growers – and learn about the appellation as a whole…you will also experience firsthand the winemaking process, from picking and crushing grapes to exquisite Champagne pairing dinners.

Our itinerary for Day 3 included:

Champagne Louis Roederer

Louis Roederer is one of the last great independent and family run Champagne houses. The family has been managing the business since 1832.  Today it is managed by Frédéric Rouzaud, who represents the seventh generation of the Roederer lineage.

Their vineyards (all Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) cover about 70% of the company’s needs, which is rare for large Champagne houses.  They produce about 3 million bottles annually.

The Roederer portfolio includes Champagne DeutzChâteau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Ramos Pinto Port in Portugal, Domaines Ott in ProvenceRoederer Estate and Scharffenberger in California.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Chef de Cave, and Assistant General Director of Roederer.  After giving us an overview of the Roederer vineyards, he took us on tour of their cellars, and lead us through a tasting of a few vin clair.  It’s obvious the man has a passion for wine.  We then adjourned to the beautiful Roederer tasting room to taste their current releases:

It just so happened I’d tasted the same wines a couple of weeks before my trip (click here for detailed notes)

After our tasting, it was time for lunch.  Much to my surprise and delight we were greeted by, and dined with the man in charge himself - Frédéric Rouzaud!

And lunch? It was a gastronomic and vinous delight!

How this for lunch? L-R; 2006 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, 2002 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut (magnum), 1993 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut, 1995 Ramos Pinto Porto Vintage

It’s a tough call, but my favorite was the 1993 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut one the wines we had with lunch.  It’s a beautifully mature, full-bodied Champagne with intense, complex, savory aromas and flavors including brioche, baked apples and peach, roast hazelnut, citrus, and a bit of caramel that harmoniously and seamlessly coalesce with energetic acidity and a smoky minerality. And it’s such fantastic food wine! 

Learned about: Roederer is the largest organic grower in Champagne with 65 of their 240 hectares farmed biodynamically.  They began converting their vineyards to biodynamic in 2000. Between 60-70% of the fruit for Cristal is biodynamic.  In fact, the current release – 2006 is the first vintage they released with primarily biodynamic fruit.  The first 100% biodynamic Cristal will be the 2011 vintage

Insider’s tip: Roederer will be launching their first Brut Nature (the driest style of sparkling wine – with less than 3g/L residual sugar) in the US this month! The 2006 Brut Nature cuvée, was developed by Louis Roederer and Philippe Starck.

Notable Quote: The secret to Cristal is Pinot Noir and Chalk” - Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon

See below for gallery of Champagne Louis Roederer visit

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Champagne René Geoffroy

“The Geoffroy family have been winemakers since the seventeenth century and the property has stayed in the family for almost 400 years, uninterrupted.  In addition to prime parcels in Cumières,  the family has holdings  in Damery, Hautvillers, and Dizy. They aim for the highest possible quality and ferment the wines in oak barrels for their Cuvée Sélectionnée [now called Cuvée Empreinte] and Brut Prestige [now called Cuvée Volupté].  The wines don’t go through malolactic fermentation, which gives them the nerve and aging potential that most Cumières Champagnes lack.  When you talk to the well-educated young Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy, you understand that this is a family that cares passionately about wine.” (Source)

Geoffroy is a grower that produces its own wines.  They are the No. 1 grower in Cumières, where they farm 14 hectares of  sustainably grown grapes.  Cumières is the most sun-drenched and earliest ripening village in Champagne, and is known primarily for its pinot noir.  They produce generous, vivacious Pinot Noir led wines that can age. Their production is about 140,000 bottles a year

We were greeted by fifth generation winemaker Jean-Baptist Geoffroy, who lead us on tour of the family’s three-story gravity flow winery and cellar.

After the tour we tasted:

  • René Geoffroy  Expression Brut Premier Cru
  • 2007 René Geoffroy  Empreinte Brut Premier Cru
  • René Geoffroy  Rosé de Saignée Brut 1er Cru
  • René Geoffroy  Blanc de Rose Extra Brut
  • 2004 René Geoffroy  Millésimé

Geoffroy is doing my favorite was the 2007 Empreinte Brut Premier Cru. It’s a blend of 76 % pinot noir, 13%chardonnay, and 11% Pinot Meunier that were all fermented in large oak foudres.  It’s a well-balanced wine with apple, pear, and bread dough aromas, and apple, toasted almond, and mineral flavors and a long finish.  It’d be fantastic with seafood dishes!

Insiders tip: Look for the yet to be released “Houtrants” cuvée. It’s an interesting multi-vintage, field blend, old vine (minimum age of 50 years) wine cuvée composed of five of the permitted grapes (rather than the typical three) with lovely aromatics, and a rich, creamy, slightly autolytic tart apple and mineral character and a long finish.

See below for gallery of Champagne René Geoffroy visit

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Champagne Jacquesson

“Jacquesson is one of Champagne’s most venerable houses, not only predating Krug, but giving birth to it, when in 1843 Johann-Joseph Krug left Jacquesson to form his own house.  But despite more than 200 years of history, Jacquesson has become a revolutionary among Champagne’s established houses, under the leadership of brothers Laurent and Jean-Hervé Chiquet, who took over from their father in the 1980′s.

Since then, the house has adopted a herbicide-free, terroir-based philosophy. It also retired, after 150 years, its non-vintage blend and replaced it with a groundbreaking single-vintage-based cuvée, which changes yearly. And next came its terroir-based cuvées, an unprecedented move for a traditional house.” (Source)

They are based in the Dizy region of Champagne. They farm 28 hectares of grapes (10 are certified organic) located in the Grand Cru villages of AÿAvize and Oiry and in the Premier Cru villages of Dizy, Hautvillers and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ.   They currently produce about 270,000 bottle annually with approximately 15% of the fruit sourced from growers in these villages as well as the Grand Cru village of Chouilly and the Premier Cru village Cumières.  The house makes the claim it is the oldest independent Champagne house.

We were greeted by Jean-Hervé Chiquet who lead us on a tour of the winery, cellars and guided our tasting.

It was a blowout tasting!

  • Jacquesson & Fils  Cuvée No. 733
  • Jacquesson & Fils  Cuvée No. 733 Dégorgement Tardif
  • Jacquesson & Fils  Cuvée No. 736
  • Jacquesson & Fils  Cuvée No. 737
  • Jacquesson & Fils  Cuvée No. 738
  • 2008 Jacquesson & Fils Dizy Terres Rouges Rosé
  • 2004 Jacquesson & Fils  Dizy Corne Bautray
  • 2004 Jacquesson & Fils  Brut Avize Grand Cru Champ Caïn
  • 2004 Jacquesson & Fils  Ay Vauzelle Terme
My favorite was the 2004 Ay Vauzelle Terme one of the ”lieu-dit” (single-vineyard) wines.(all of which were outstanding). It’s 100% Pinot Noir sourced from 2,500 vines planted in 1980 on 0.30 hectare that grow in limestone mixed with a little clay, on chalk bedrock. Aged 8 years on lees.  It’s pale salmon color with intriguing cherry, raspberry, tangerine, roast nut, and floral aromas.  On the palate it It’s medium-bodied, and superbly balanced with a creamy mousse and great finesse. It shows cherry, strawberry and a hint of tangerine flavors and lingering, satisfying finish
After our tasting made our way to the Jacquesson dining room on the second floor of their property another fantastic meal expertly paired with more wines awaited!
Learned: “Fils” means “son’ in French, which is why you see it so often in the name of French wineries

Insiders tip: Look for the 2008 Terres Rouges Rosé.  It’s among the best rosé Champagne I’ve tasted.  It has an exotic floral, berry, pomegranate, slightly earthy character.

Notable Quote:We favor excellency over consistency” - Jean-Hervé Chiquet

See below for gallery of Champagne Jacquesson visit

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What an awesome day!  As if the continued brilliance of Louis Roederer  and the revelations of Geoffroy and Jacquesson weren’t enough. I was blown away by the superb lunch and dinner expertly paired with wonderous wines!

Stay tuned for Day 4, which featured visits to Bereche & Fils, Billecart-Salmon, and Bruno Paillard!

 

Champagne Chronicles-Day 2

I recently had the privilege of traveling to the Champagne region in France as a guest of the U.S. Champagne Bureau for the 2014 Champagne Harvest Media Trip.  Here’s what the Champagne Bureau said about the trip…

The trip to Champagne will be an opportunity for you to learn more about the production of Champagne and its unique qualities, as well as what the region is doing to protect its name in the United States.  The week-long trip… will give you the opportunity to visit select Champagne producers – from large houses to cooperatives and small growers – and learn about the appellation as a whole…you will also experience firsthand the winemaking process, from picking and crushing grapes to exquisite Champagne pairing dinners.

This is the second in what will be a series of five posts about my visit to Champagne (Click here for Day 1)

Our itinerary for Day 2 included:

Visit to C.I.V.C.

On what was a glorious day weather-wise, first up on our itinerary was a visit with the C.I.V.C., the governing body of the Champagne region.  The purpose of the meeting was to provide an overview of the mission of the C.I.V.C., and share some specifics about the region.  The presentation by Philippe Wibrotte, Head of Public Relations was information.  A few of my takeaways were:

  • What makes Champagne unique is the combination of climate, the predominately limestone sub-soil, and topography.
  • 100% of grapes in Champagne are harvested manually
  • There are 15,000 growers in Champagne, and 5,000 of those make Champagne from their own grapes.
  • Classification of grapes in Champagne is based on villages rather than specific vineyards. There are 17 villages ranked Grand Cru, and 42 ranked Premier Cru.
  • Champagne houses(there are 320)  account for two-thirds of all Champagne shipments and represent 90% of the export market.
  • There are 34,000 hectares of vines in Champagne.  38% of those are Pinot Noir, 32% are Pinot Meunier, and 30% are Chardonnay. There is a miniscule amount of 4 other permitted grapes - Pinot Gris (sometimes known as Fromenteau), Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier and Arbane.
  • 98% of Champagne sold is multi-vintage (that explains why vintage tends to be more expensive)
  • 1.4 billion bottles, about 3.5 years of production are in storage.
  • The C.I.V.C. is ferocious when it come to protecting the Champagne name and image of Champagne.  In the past, the C.I.V.C. has successfully barred the use of ‘Champagne’ in toothpastes, mineral water for pets, toilet paper, underwear and shoes.
  • Champagne producers have been using lighter bottles since 2011.
  • Production in Champagne is measured in bottles, not cases as it is here in the U.S.
  • The C.I.V.C. determines the dates harvest can begin for the 350 villages in the region. As announced the day after our visit, the 3-week window for picking grapes began on September 8th.
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C.I.V.C Headquarters in Epernay, France

After the presentation there was an educational tasting lead by C.I.V.C. enologist Marie-Pascale Do Dihn Ty

See below for gallery of C.I.V.C. visit

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Lunch

We dined at the restaurant in Les Grains d’Argent, a beautiful hotel surrounded by vineyards for lunch. 

See below for gallery from lunch

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“More than any other wine, Champagne unlocks wine’s archetypal promise:joy” – Karen MacNeil

Visit to Champagne Roger Coulon

Champagne Roger Coulon is a great example of Grower Champagne.  Grower Champagne comes directly from the families who own the vineyards, and make the wine. Located in the village of Vrigny, in the Montagne de Reims region of Champagne, the Coulon family has been winegrowers since 1806.  The family has gradually increased its holdings so that there are now 11 hectares under vine, spread over 70 parcels of land in 5 villages, most of which benefit from South-east facing slopes on sand, chalk and clay. Their Premier Cru vineyards are composed of  approximately 35% Pinot Meunier, 35% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay with an average vine age of 38 years. Using only wild yeasts, they produce about 90,000 bottles per year. The Coulon’s practice of lutte raisonée (reasoned agriculture) – the minimal use of herbicides and pesticides.

When we arrived, we were greeted by Isabelle Coulon, wife and partner of Eric Coulon, an eighth generation winegrower. After introduction and brief tour, Eric took us on a vineyard tour.

After the vineyard tour we returned their family home, which includes an amazing B&B - Le Clos des Terres Soudées, before settling down for a quick tasting. We only tasted three wines because we were strapped for time.

My favorite was the Réserve de L’Hommée Cuvée which is made with family’s oldest grapes. It’s intentionally made less sparkling(4.6 atmospheres instead of the typical 6) in order to get tiny bubbles that last a long time.  An equal blend of Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, it’s aged five years before disgorgement. It’s yeasty, and generous with apple, roast hazelnut, spiced orange and mineral character with a long finish. >>Find this wine<<

Learned about: Sexual confusion (er…this relates to moths, not humans) – A treatment against the grape moth, in which small packets of synthetic pheromones of female moths are distributed among the vines to confuse male moths and prevent them from mating. It’s considered a much more eco-friendly solution, albeit more expensive alternative to spraying vines with various chemical products.

Insider’s tip: Their B&B is awesome!  If I ever go back to Champagne, I know where I’m going to stay!

See below for gallery from visit to Champagne Roger Coulon

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Visit to Champagne Veuve Clicquot

When I saw a visit to Veuve Clicquot (“VC”) on our itinerary, it needed no introduction. The Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut (a.k.a. Yellow Label) seems to be the most popular Champagne sold in the U.S., and is certainly the most marketed brand of Champagne in the U.S. It’s currently the second largest house in Champagne producing about 14 million bottles a year. Approximately  20 % of their fruit comes from their own vineyards.  The other 80% is purchased from growers, with most of whom they have long-term (20-25 year) contracts.

Founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot-Muiron,VC has played a pivotal role in establishing Champagne as a luxury product. They are credited with many firsts including the riddling rack, and being the first Champagne house to produce rosé Champagne.

When we arrived at the Veuve Clicquot facility, we were met by their Chef de Cave (cellarmaster) Dominique Demarville, and winemaker Cyril Brun for a tour of one of their vineyards.  It’s clear that V.C. is laser-focused on working towards more natural viticulture for both estate and purchased grapes.

We must never forget that Champagne is a wine, and the quality is in the vines. – Dominque Demarville

After our vineyard tour we headed into Reims to V.C.’s private residence L’Hotel du Marc for dinner.  It’s a spectacular 19th century mansion that underwent a complete remodeling after V.C. was acquired by luxury group LVMH.

Inside the mansion, we tasted through eight still wines (vin clair in French) from various vintages that were both base and reserve wines used to make V.C Champagnes.  The wines were tart and very acidic, and I could barely discern the subtle differences the wines.  Though, the final vin clair we tasted was a multi-vintage blend with a 2013 base wine that showed the grapefruit profile I associate with the V.C. Yellow Label.  I came away from the experience with a whole new respect for the art of blending. 

Vins clairs tastings are a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of the wine before the bubbles, and to imagine their development over time; they are a unique foray into the magical kingdom of champagne. – Caroline Henry

After the vin clair tasting, we tasted four more wines including a 2003 Bouzy Rouge, an outstanding still red wine not for sale to the public, and had dinner in the magnificent dining room.

My favorite was the 2004 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Rosé Vintage – It has a harmonious, refreshing, slightly savory, strawberry, raspberry, citrus and mineral character. And it paired very well with the second and third courses of our meal.

Learned about: Inspired by the discovery of 47 bottles of Veuve Clicquot from 1839 to 1841 at the bottom of the Baltic Sea in 2010, that were in great condition, VC is experimenting with a “Cellar in the Sea“.

Insider’s tip: With about two-thirds of VC Yellow Label being composed of black grapes, it’s a great example of a medium-bodied Champagne that will work well not only as an aperitif, but also with a diverse selection of main courses, especially seafood!

See below for gallery from visit to Champagne Veuve Clicquot

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After dinner we found ourselves hanging out on the patio outside the stately Hotel du Marc, and I found myself savoring what was a deeply satisfying day on all levels.  What a fantastic day!

Stay tuned!

Champagne Chronicles – Day 1

Dreams do come true. When I first got into the “wine thing”, as I call it, I dived head first into the pool of knowledge. One of my resources was Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible. And one of my favorite chapters in that tome is “Champagne“.  Ever since then, the Champagne region has been on my bucket list of wine regions to visit.

Few wines captivate us to the extent Champagne does.  But then Champagne is not simply a wine; it is also a state of mind – Karen MacNeil

Imagine my surprise (shock really…slaw-jawed, I almost fell out of my chair!) and euphoria when I received an invitation from the U.S. Champagne Bureau for the 2014 Champagne Harvest Media Trip that read…

The trip to Champagne will be an opportunity for you to learn more about the production of Champagne and its unique qualities, as well as what the region is doing to protect its name in the United States.  The week-long trip is exclusively reserved for a small group of leading food and wine journalists from across the U.S., and will be scheduled for the first week of September, departing the US on August 31, and returning September 6. This trip will give you the opportunity to visit select Champagne producers – from large houses to cooperatives and small growers – and learn about the appellation as a whole. As a guest you will also experience firsthand the winemaking process, from picking and crushing grapes to exquisite Champagne pairing dinners.

This is the first in what will be a series of five posts about my visit to Champagne

After the 12 hour direct flight from San Francisco to Paris, I took the TGV (high-speed train) from Charles de Gaulle airport to Reims (click here for the tricky pronunciation).  It’s a quick 30 minute ride that gives you a taste of the bucolic French countryside with its undulating hills, farmland, crops and trees.  And to my surprise – not a vineyard in sight!

A filtered photo of the beautiful and historic Notre-Dame of Reims Cathedral

A filtered photo of the beautiful and historic Notre-Dame of Reims Cathedral

I arrived in Reims around 1:30 and got settled.  Our itinerary for Day 1 included a guided tour of the Reims Cathedral at 5:00p; followed by dinner.

After deciding against a nap, I decided take a walk to get acquainted with my surroundings, and see what I could see.

About Reims

Reims, the cultural capital of the Champagne region,  is a lovely town best known for its historical significance and its role in the production of Champagne.

Twenty-five French kings were crowned in its Cathedral, Notre-Dame de Reims  and celebrated in the adjacent Palais de Tau. These monuments, along with the  Abbey of Saint-Remi are included as UNESCO world heritage sites. Another historical site is the Porte de Mars, which dates back the third century AD, remains as the oldest artifact of Reims from the Gallo-Roman era.

The city was heavily bombed by the Germans during World War I.  At least 70% of the city was destroyed including The Cathedral which sustained heavy damage including the roof, hundreds of sculptures and the destruction of many of the arched stained-glass windows. The centenary of the World War I is being held this year.

Some of the most famous Champagne makers maintain their headquarters in Reims, including Taittinger, G.H. Mumm, Ruinart and Veuve Clicquot.

Photos from my walk about and visit to the Notre-Dame of Reims Cathedral are in the gallery that follow:

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Dinner

Dinner was at Le Millénaire, a chic first rate restaurant a short walk from the Cathedral. One of the things I most looked forward to during this trip was the chance to experience Champagne served with each course of a meal.  And my experience at Le Millenaire exceeded my expectations!

“I have yet to discover a dish that will not come alive in the presence of Champagne.” Anistatia R Miller, author of Champagne Cocktails 

Photos from my first Champagne pairing dinner!

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Wine(s) of the Day:

Larmandier-Bernier Champagne Rosé de Saignée Premier Cru.  My tasting note follows:

Vivid dark pink color with rich cherry, strawberry, damp earth and mineral aromas that bring to mind a still wine. On the palate it shows ample body with rich cherry flavors and an appealing minerality.  100% Pinot Noir.  A unique expression of Rosé Champagne that I very much enjoyed with my dessert.

Insider’s tip:

  • Reims is a great city where one can enjoy modern French culture in a sizeable city that isn’t Paris. There are plenty of things to do, and I could have easily spent an entire day exploring the city.
  • If you do plan to visit the Champagne houses in the area, plan to make your reservations many weeks in advance!

What a way to start my time in Champagne!  And it only got better…Stay tuned!

Rosé of the Week; 2013 Waterkloof Circumstance Cape Coral

Summer is officially here!  Rosé season is in full bloom, although truth be told, it’s Rosé season for me pretty much year-round for me!  With that in mind, I’m cranking up my annual series of weekly “Drink Pink!“ Rosé tastings.  It’s my quest for the best Pink Porch Pounders! This week’s rosé is the 2013 Waterkloof Circumstance Cape Coral.

The Winery

Waterkloof Wines is a winery based in the Helderberg wine-producing area, a sub-region in the Western Cape of South Africa, just south of Stellenbosch.  Paul Boutinot, an Englishmen of French descent is the “Custodian”.  He learned the wine trade from the ground up, and launched his own successful wine import business in 1980.  It evolved into one of the UK’s biggest and most important wine distribution companies, which he subsequently sold in 2013.  In 1993 he commenced a search for a vineyard site that had the potential to produce truly fine with a defining sense of place.   It took ten years to narrow the search down to a small area on the south-facing slopes of the Schapenberg, overlooking False Bay in the Cape. As soon as he was led up a steep ravine opening out into a hidden amphitheatre of potential, all his experience and intuition told him: THIS IS IT! Waterkloof was born.  He took over the property just before the 2004 harvest.  The first vintage bottled under the Waterkloof name was from the 2005 harvest.

In 2009 a state-of-the-art gravitational cellar, tasting room and The Restaurant at Waterkloof were constructed

Waterkloof’s wines are shaped by an amphitheatre of select, high-altitude vineyards, famed as one of the finest cool climate vineyard sites in South Africa.

The Wine

The wine is made from 100% Mourvedre.  The  grapes were hand harvested and whole cluster pressed.  No further maceration of the juice with the skins was allowed.

Following in the footsteps of the great rosés of Bandol, the Waterkloof’s Circumstance Cape Coral rosé is made entirely from Mourvedre sourced from some incredible old vines in Stellenbosch

The juice was fermented on native yeast at temperatures of 16 to 18 degrees Celsius, which took 5 months to complete. The wine was then left on the primary lees for another 2 months to add further complexity before bottling. 13.5% alcohol.  Retail – $16.99

Rosé of the Week; 2013 Waterkloof Mourvedre Circumstance Cape Coral

My tasting notes follow:

Pale salmon color with damp earth, peach and spice aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, and fresh with a great mouth feel, and strawberry, peach and spice flavors. Lingering finish

Rating: A-:  This is a very good rosé! It can be a challenge to find a 100% Mourvedre-based rosé for under $20 and this one offers a very good quality to price ratio!

Pair with: What I like about Mourvedre dominant rosés is that they, unlike many light-bodied rosé, can be paired with more substantial fare.  Consider Pulled Pork sandwiches, or Barbecue Chicken Sloppy Joes!

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

A Perfect Pairing: Shrimp Ceviche and Saké

See the photo below?  It’s a Shrimp Ceviche Tostada from one of my favorite local Mexican joints and a glass of SakéOne G Joy Junmai Saké.

And together, they were a perfect pairing!

The Food

If you’ve not had the pleasure of enjoying a Ceviche Tostada, it’s exactly what it sounds like – ceviche, which is raw fish (in this case shrimp) marinated (“cooked”) in lime juice, onions, spicy chiles, juicy tomatoes perched atop a crisp tostada.  Mine was also topped with slices of fresh ripe avocado.  And as you can see, I also generously applied a spicy hot pepper sauce that come with it (could be Tapatio Hot Sauce but I’m not sure).

The Saké

First let’s get this out of the way…Saké is not rice wine!  Saké is brewed like beer, but drinks more like fine wine.

SakéOne G Joy Junmai Saké is one of my favorites.  It’s an American made premium saké that classified as Junmai Ginjo Genshu.  

Saké is categorized based on grade, style and amount of polishing the rice receives -so Junmai is indicative of the grade, Ginjo is indicative of the style and Genshu in indicative how much the rice was polished – the lower percentage the better the quality.

Here’s my tasting note:

Practically clear color with apple, melon, lychee aromas. On the palate, it’s rich, and full-bodied with apple, pear, yellow plum and a bit of spice flavors. Medium-long finish.

A Perfect Pairing: Shrimp Ceviche and Saké

Premium saké is best served chilled in a stemmed wine glass for ultimate appreciation of aroma and taste!

The Pairing

Ceviche pairs well with a wide range of beverages. Classic matches are beer, Pisco Sour – a Peruvian cocktail made with pisco, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white, and high acid white wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or Grüner Vetliner, and Sparkling wine.

I’ve enjoyed ceviche with beer, high acid white whites, and sparkling wine. All co-existed peacefully with the ceviche.  All were good matches.

But, for me, none matched this perfect pairing!

And what is a perfect pairing? It’s when you:

  1. Take a bite of food and chew
  2. Take a sip of wine or other adult beverage with the food together in your mouth
  3. The two together do more than make each other better – they become a third even better thing!

Perfect pairings are rare.

This pairing was perfect for me because the rich, full bodied nature of the saké seemed to strip the heat and acid of the ceviche off the palate, while replacing it with bright fruit and some earthy notes.  The slightly sweet taste of the saké not only eased the heat brought on by hot sauce, but when combined with the sweet taste of the shrimp, it not only enhanced the taste of the ceviche, the saké tasted better too.    

The pairing opened up my eyes to the diverse possibilities of saké as a partner at the table. Granted, ceviche may not seem too far afield from the sushi and sashimi because of the raw fish element, but the flavor profile is quite different.

This was a pairing that has me looking forward to trying saké with foods other than sushi and sashimi!

Related post you might like:

A Taste of Bodegas Contino

Last fall, my wife and I spent 17 glorious days in Spain.  It was the trip of a lifetime. Our itinerary included Barcelona, San Sebastian (amazing food), Madrid, Toledo, Sevilla, and Granada (The Alhambra is a must – simply awesome!).  Of course, being the winos, we also squeezed in some time in La Rioja.  Our trip to Rioja was facilitated by Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino (“Contino”) Winemaker Jesús de Madrazo Mateo, and his wife Maria Alvarez, CEO of Fine Wines Connection.

I met Jesus last year at a tasting of “ ”C.V.N.E.” (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) and Contino (click here for details of one of the most amazing tasting I’ve EVER been too!) at K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City.  I mentioned to him that my wife and I were planning  a trip to Spain, and he was kind enough to extend an invitation to Contino.

He and Maria are most gracious hosts. They helped us with hotel (Los Augustinos in Haro – highly recommended!) and restaurant reservations (the fabulous Rekondo in San Sebastian!), and made recommendations various restaurants, and bars. But the highlights of our time in Rioja was dinner at their home , and our visit to Contino.

A Taste of Contino

The picturesque 200 year-old farm house at Contino

About Contino

Contino makes single-estate Riojas from their 62 hectares of vineyards located just outside the town of Laguardia in Rioja Alavesa.   It is owned 50/50 by CVNE and the Perez Villota family, and their wines are distributed by CVNE

The estate, situated on the northern bank of the river Ebro, includes a farmhouse that dates back 200 years alongside their state-of-the-art wine-making facility.  It is planted primarily to Tempranillo, but you’ll also find some of the oldest vines of Graciano in Rioja on the estate,  along with limited amounts of other grapes such as Mazuela  and Garnacha.  Graciano is an indigenous Spanish grape variety used in the estate wines, and Contino also produces an excellent 100% bottling of Graciano.

In the times of the Reyes Catolicos (Ferdinand of Aragon and Elisabeth of Castille) the distinction of ‘Contino’ was conferred on each of the continuation of the Life Guards who protected the monarchs and their family. The Contino Pedro de Samaniego was rewarded with the estate of Laserna from which the Contino estate derives its name.The Contino labels show a figure of Saint Gregory, founder of the Benedictine monastic order and the patron saint of vine growers.

A Taste of Contino

Jesús de Madrazo Mateo explaining the unique terroir of the Contino Vineyards which is situated in a meander of the Ebro river, with a land rise at the opposite end, and sun exposure east to west across the vineyards.

Jesús de Madrazo Mateo is a fifth-generation member of the Real de Asua family. They founded and still own a controlling share of CVNE.  His father, Jose Madrazo Real de Asua, who was on the CVNE board of directors and GM of Viña Real brand, conceived the idea of creating the first single estate Bodega in Rioja, and founded Contino in 1973.

Jesús studied viticulture at Madrid’s prestigious University of Agriculture, and is an Agricultural Superior Engineer. He started training at CVNE in 1988, and took his first paid position in 1995 in the CVNE technical department as an assistant winemaker.  He’s been the head winemaker for Contino since 1999.

A Taste of Contino

This outstanding blend of Viura and Grenache Blanc with a floral, green apple, and mineral character was a most refreshing start to our wine tasting!

After Jesus gave us a very in-depth tour of the winery we settled in for tasting through five wines selected by Jesús….

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My tasting notes on the wines follow:

  • 2009 Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino Garnacha Rioja - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja - Promising strawberry, cherry, spice and a hint of dried rose aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and bright with medium acidity. It shows charming strawberry, cherry, and spice flavors, and a lingering finish. Aged for 12 months in second use barrels (soaked in wine with white 2007) and then aged 12 months in oak casks. (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino Rioja Contino Reserva - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja - Expansive black and red fruits, smoke, leather, and floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied with supple tannins, well integrated oak, and a bit of minerality with black cherry, strawberry and spice flavors, and a lingering finish. Raised in French and American oak. (91 pts.)
  • 2005 Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino Rioja Contino Gran Reserva - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja - Appealing black cherry, plum, anise, leather, cedarwood and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied and well structured, and polished with a silky texture. It shows black cherry, red plum, caramel, and spice flavors, and a long sweet finish. Blend of 70% Tempranillo and equal parts Garnacha and Graciano. Should continue to get better with further cellaring. From magnum (only format available) (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino Rioja Contino Variedad Graciano - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja - Alluring blueberry, cassis, white pepper, dried herb, warm spice, and floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied, and well structured with bright, focused fruit, very good acidity and chewy tannins. It shows blueberry, black currant, and spice flavors. Long finish. (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino Rioja Viña del Olivo - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja - Exuberant, very appealing black fruit, warm spice, and mineral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied, harmonious, and masculine, yet refined with youthful tannins and blackberry, black cherry, warm spice, mineral flavors. Long finish. Blend of Tempranillo (88%) and Graciano (12%) grapes aged for 17 months in 70% French, 20% American, and 10% Hungarian oak barrels. The hand-harvested grapes are grown around a 800 year old olive tree – hence the name. (92 pts.)

After tasting through the wines, we settled in for a splendid and most memorable al fresco Riojan lunch.

While Spanish cuisine varies tremendously across the different regions, they all have one thing in common: the use of fresh, local flavors with plenty of olive oil and garlic. And that’s why I adore Spanish food!

Check out a few of my favorite things…

A Taste of Contino

Queso de Cabra and Queso de Roncal

These stuffed peppers were to die for and paired wonderfully with the Contino Garnacha

A Taste of Bodegas Contino

I don’t know what it’s called…but it was scrumptious!

Another Rioja classic dish that is a match made in heaven  with Rioja is lamb chops grilled over vine cuttings.

A Taste of Contino

Sweet, succulent baby lamb chops grilled over grape-vine cuttings

Put simply, our visit was an unforgettable vinous and gastronomic delight!

Related post you might like:

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

 

#DrinkPink Rosé of the Week; 2013 Bodegas Ostatu Rosado

Rosé season is in full bloom, although truth be told, it’s Rosé season for me pretty much year-round for me!  With that in mind, I’m cranking up my annual series of weekly “Drink Pink!“ Rosé tastings.  It’s my quest for the best Pink Porch Pounders for $20 or less!  This week’s rosé is the 2013 Bodegas Ostatu Rosado.

The Winery

Bodegas Ostatu is a family winery located in the heart of the Rioja Alavesa region in La Rioja, Spain.

The winery is owned and operated by the Saenz de Samaniego family, who have been in the area for many generations.  Most of that time they grape growers who sold their grapes to other wineries. But in the late 60s Doroteo Asunción made the decision to make and sell his own wines rather than selling his grapes on to other wineries.

The Sáenz de Samaniego Family Photo by Steven Alexander

The Sáenz de Samaniego Family
Photo by Steven Alexander

The vineyards, which are protected by the Sierra de Cantabria range, are composed of ochre coloured chalky clay soil, with an average age of 50 years. The estate is composed of over forty hectares of vines located in and around the town of Samaniego.

According to importer De Maison Selections Inc, until recently, all Ostatu wines were produced using the carbonic maceration process. Such wines are made to be consumed young and are popular with many locals.  However that philosophy changed when Frenchman, Hubert de Bouard de Laforest of Chateau Angelus saw the unique potential of the terroir of Ostatu vineyards. As a result, wines are now produced using traditional fermentation, and yields in the vineyards have been reduced in order improve the quality of the Ostatu wines.  As a result Ostatu is able to produce wines which live up to their full potential.

The Wine

This wine is one of Ostatu’s latest projects.  Fruit for the wine was sourced from some of Ostatu’s oldest and highest elevation vineyards, this wine is a blend of 70% Tempranillo, and 30% Garnacha (Grenache Noir). It was fermented in stainless steel vats.

13% alcohol | Retail – $14

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My tasting notes follow:

Deep pink color with generous watermelon, raspberry and wet stone aromas. On the plate it approaches medium bodied, and is dry, lively and refreshing with tart cherry, raspberry, and subtle spice flavors underscored by an appealing minerality. Medium finish. 

Rating: B+ This has everything you want in a Pink Porch Pounder.  It’s clean, crisp, fruity, dry, and food friendly. And  the price is right at under $15. Recommended! >>Find this wine<<

Pair with: I enjoyed this with Spinach, smoked turkey and burrata salad!

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
__________________________________________________________________

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

My New Everyday Bubbly; Kirkland Prosecco!

A friend of mine,  who adores sparkling wine, especially Prosecco,  IM’d me last week. The message said “Martin go get yourself 2 bottles of Costco brand prosecco…….it will blow your mind for the price….I was just shocked”.

He drinks a lot of Prosecco.  That’s high praise.

Since my wife and I were hosting a wine tasting a couple of days hence, I figured I’d give it a try.  Sparkling wines make a great aperitif, and go with just about anything.

I headed over to my local Costco.  The Kirkland Prosecco sells for $7.49!

The packaging immediately reminded me of another popular Prosecco that I’m quite fond of and have purchased many times…La Marca Prosecco which also sports a blue label. It sells at Costco for $10.99.  In fact, the two were sold side by side….

photo 1 (7)

When I looked at the back label, I noticed two things:

The first thing is that the fruit was sourced from the Friuli region, rather than the more typical Veneto region.

The second thing, I noticed is that it’s imported by Cameron Hughes (“CHW”).  I recalled CHW also, relatively recently, released a Prosecco.

photo 2 (9)

I started feeling all investigative journalist - ish, so I popped over to the CHW website and checked out their Prosecco.

Hmmmm…their Prosecco is also sourced from Friuil…

Could it be the same Prosecco sold by Cameron Hughes for $14 is packaged differently and sold at Costco for $7.49?

I don’t know, but here’s what I do know…This Prosecco is flat out delicious!

Here are my detailed tasting notes…Very pale straw color with apple, citrus, brioche and honey aromas. On the palate, light-bodied and between dry and off-dry with a prickly mousse and crisp refreshing apple, mandarin orange and honey flavors. This is my new house bubbly! 11.5% alcohol| Retail – $7.49

Rating: B+: Mind blown…This one is a charmer with an amazing QPR.  Will buy (much) more. You should too!

Pair with: Great an an aperitif, it’s also versatile at the table – Some of my favorite foods to pair with Prosecco include tamales, moderately spice Asian cuisine, fish ‘n chips, and fish tacos. Works wonderfully with a wide variety of finger foods like potato chips and popcorn too. In fact, try it with Sriracha Popcorn!

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
__________________________________________________________________

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

#WineWednesday Review-Geyser Peak Uncensored

Geyser Peak Winery was founded in 1880 as California’s 29th bonded winery by German immigrant Augustus Quitzow, one of Sonoma County’s pioneer winemakers.

Geyser Peak is located in Alexander Valley in Northern Sonoma County.  Although, they announced last month they will be moving to the former Alderbrook property in Healdsburg. The new Geyser Peak location will be near the intersection of Westside Road and Highway 101 – one of the busiest wine corridors in northern Sonoma County and within walking distance of bustling downtown Healdsburg.

Accolade Wine, which acquired Geyser Peak in 2012 is in the midst of revitalizing the brand, and making major investments in everything from winemaking and production to promotional and sales initiatives and more. The brand has debuted refreshed packaging graphics with a new logo and a number of new wines that showcase the winery’s exceptional vineyard resources.

They feature a diverse lineup of wines including California, Appellation, Winery and Reserve series of wines.

The Wines

The Uncensored wines are part of the Winery series, which feature unconventional blends of grape varieties – one white wine, and one red wine. 

However, even a winery steeped in tradition likes to push the limits of expression every now and again. With Geyser Peak’s new Uncensored Wines, winemaker Ondine
Chatten has done just that, exploring untraditional blends in the crafting of two easy-drinking, versatile wines,
each with distinctive personality.

The suggested retail price for both wines is $14, but you may be able to find them for $12 at Costco.  They present very good value for everyday wines!

Reviewed: Geyser Peak Uncensored

2012 Geyser Peak Uncensored White Blend
Proprietary blend of Viognier, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
$14, 13% abv.
6,200 cases made

Pale green tinged golden color with appealing honeysuckle, pear, apple and a bit of citrus and sweet spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, medium-love acidity, and off-dry with mouth-filling pear, apple, guava, and spice flavors. Medium-finish.

RatingB+:  This wine is a charmer that eminently quaffable, but would also pair well with fresh fruit, salads, or fish tacos topped with fresh guacamole!

2011 Geyser Peak Uncensored Red Blend
Proprietary blend of Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Tannat, Alicante Bouschet, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
$16 ($12 at Costco), 13.5% abv.
26,000 cases made

Nearly opaque violet color with mocha, plum and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s between light and medium-bodied low acidity and soft tannins with pronounced and very likable plum, blackberry, vanilla, and spice flavors. Medium-finish.

Rating: B+:  Interesting “kitchen sink” blend that offers very good value in an everyday type red wine.  It’s especially good for casual imbibing, but would also work with burgers, a plate of spaghetti or pizza.

Media sample(s) – Many thanks to Folsom & Associates for providing the wine.

Ratings Key:

  • (A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
  • (A) – 94-97/Outstanding
  • (A-) – 90-93/Excellent
  • (B+) – 86-89/Very good
  • (B) – 80-85/Good
  • (C) – 70-79/Bleh
  • (D) – 50-69/#Fail

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff!  Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Wine of the Week: 2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Toulouse Vineyard

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Toulouse Vineyard.

Winery

Phillips Hill Winery is a small boutique (~1,000 cases/yr) winery focused on producing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer from cool climate vineyards located in Anderson Valley. Phillips Hill Winery is located on Greenwood Ridge above Anderson Valley, in the Mendocino Ridge appellation.  I was introduced to Phillips Hill when the winery was recommended to me while I was tasting at Toulouse Vineyards earlier this year.

Phillips Hill

Toby Hill, a native California is the Owner/Winemaker of Phillips Hill. He was formally trained in the Arts.  With a BFA from California College of the Arts, Toby attributes his artistic talent to the Phillips side of the family.  His intense study and mastery of composition in the abstract has been translated into the delicate balance of making wine. From immersion as a practicing artist in New York, followed by later experience as an Architectural Color and Plaster business owner in San Francisco. In 1997 he purchased some land in the Mendocino Ridge Appellation overlooking the Anderson Valley. He built a house and adjacent art studio and kicked back for a time.

He got his start in winemaking after a local winemaker decided not to begin a brand and offered him four barrels of an unfinished 2002 vintage from Oppenlander Vineyard in Comptche in Mendocino County. Ultimately that led him to his new passion and personal re-invention in wine country.

What started as an opportunity to express his work on a wine label became a new artistic obsession for an expression not only on the bottle, but in the bottle as well – a transformation from the art of the visual to that of the sensory.

Phillips Hill wines strive for “old meets new world” style with elegance, finesse, and lower alcohol levels.  The day I visited, only reds were available for tasting. They were sold out of their Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer.  I was very impressed by the wines I tried.

All the Phillips Hill Wine bottles labels features the artwork of Owner/Winemaker Toby Hill.

The Wine

The fruit for this wine is sourced from the Toulouse Vineyard. The wine was aged 11 months in French oak (33% new, 33% 1 year, 33% seasoned).  The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered.

2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Toulouse Vineyard

2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Toulouse Vineyard

My tasting notes follow:

Ruby color with aromatic dark cherry, red plum, brown sugar, spice, damp earth aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied silky smooth and well-balanced with cherry, wild raspberry, and spice flavors. Long finish; 14.2% alcohol, 275 cases produced, $40 SRP

Rating: A-: This is an outstanding wine that is a great expression of the grape.  I wish I’d purchased more, and I can guaran-damn-tee you next time I’m in Anderson Valley I will!

Pair with: Lobster bisque, paella, or coq-au-vin come to mind!

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.