2010 Chateau Marin Bordeaux

I blind-tested a fragrant red blend last night, not sure of what grapes, vineyard, or region from which it originated. A fairly decent test of my wine tasting prowess, this red devil. Even as a wine neophyte, I could tell I was having no Cabernet, no Syrah, no Merlot, no Zinfandel or Pinot. It had a hint of vanilla and a bit of a tannic bite to it in the glass. What’s in the glass? I wasn’t sure if this was maybe a Malbec or a Bordeaux, but I could tell it had some initial sharpness that pointed me more to France than Argentina.

Sounds like a World Cup match, right? We’ll come back to the wine in a moment.

I sipped my glass of red along with a dinner of roasted shrimp, asparagus, and hash browns—the latter made with peppers and onions and mixed with shredded cheddar cheese, melted butter, sour cream, and cream of chicken soup. It was all delicious, and though conventional thought may have pushed me more toward a white for the shrimp, their spicy seasoning made me feel like the red was a better call. At least for this guy.

2010 Chateau Marin

2010 Chateau Marin, (Right Bank) Bordeaux, France.

At this point, I’m fairly convinced I’m drinking Bordeaux and was pleased to see it was–in fact, the Chateau Marin 2010—a mix of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. The blend surprised me, as the Merlot was sort of overshadowed on that first evening. The Chateau Marin hails from a Right Bank vineyard (thus my surprise at the Cab’s forwardness) just 50 kms south east of Bordeaux and is supposed to show “ripe red fruit flavors on a sound and balanced palate.”

That didn’t come through Friday night, so I suspect we needed to either let it breathe for a longer spell or decant. On day two, however, the tannins had mellowed considerably and the 2010 probably showed its true colors and notes—even though we polished off the bottle long before a celebratory dinner. And, as you glance at the photo here, you’ll see it had company (the KJ Chardonnay I didn’t have myself and thus you’ll have to look up some other blog if you’re interested in that wine). Overall I liked the Marin and enjoyed learning a bit more about Right Bank flavors in preparing these notes for you. Enjoy…

2012 The Mariner, Dry Creek Valley

This Bordeaux-style red blend is produced by Dry Creek Valley Vineyard, a family-owned winery in northern Sonoma Valley. It’s been in the Stare family since 1972 when, inspired by trips to the Loire Valley, founder David Stare purchased an old prune orchard in Dry Creek Valley and started planting grape vines that would become his family’s winery. Today they produce single-vineyard wines, reds and whites in their “signature” series, and this Mariner–which I received as a special birthday gift.

The 2012 vintage has had accolades from various reviewers, and you can find them scattered throughout the web. If you’re still reading here on Notes, though, you’re less interested in numeric scoring or some high-brow critic’s take on this 2012 meritage. You’re looking for a “real world” analysis and I’m happy to share.

2012 The Mariner, Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma, California, USA.

2012 The Mariner, Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma, California, USA.

The first thing you should know is that the 2012 The Mariner accompanied our steak dinner on this Memorial Day weekend. My wife and I had an opportunity to slow down from the usual pace of the week, and we used it to great advantage. Our steaks were seasoned with a special home-made “proprietary” blend of spiced salt and smelled of sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. The steaks set for perhaps an hour, and we thought The Mariner would be a great complement, given its own hints of spice and blueberry smells. We also had corn fresh from the cob and a killer potato salad that tied the summer meal together–quite a platform on which to display The Mariner.

Here’s how the Stare family shares its summary of this delicious 2012 red blend: “The wine displays high-toned perfume aromas of rose petal, cranberry, blueberry and oregano. Several more minutes reveal hints of wild sage, allspice and dark cherry characters. The palate is full and rich with mouthfilling complexity carrying notes of espresso, sweet vanilla, anise and dark fruit tones. The tannins are smooth and supple providing balance and sophistication.” I wholeheartedly support their fruit flavors, but I am not sure the tannin profile is quite accurately posed. Even after allowing the bottle to breathe for some time, my wife noted its sharper scent on the nose and, though I thought it less pronounced in tasting, it is definitely still present (is that from the Malbec?). Not sure if aging the bottle for a longer period or perhaps decanting would bring it more in line with the winemaker’s original intentions?

The 2012 is a red blend consisting of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 8% Malbec, 8% Petit Verdot, and 3% Cabernet Franc, and its is aged for 20 months in French oak (50% new oak). It is very easy drinking and would be great to have another at some point in the future. The meal was fantastic, and the wine was really damn good too–there’s not a drop of this left after our Sunday dinner.

2010 Clos Floridene Grand Vin de Graves

I’m cheating a little bit here. The 2010 Clos Floridene Grand Vin de Graves we actually finished last night but, given the beautiful ice storm that’s striking our windows at present (thanks Octavia), I opted instead to photograph the bottle this evening…and still I didn’t do our icy scene enough justice. We are just below the snow line so weather to the north is more imposing but this thin icy coating will be problematic over the coming 12 hours or so.

But not at the moment, so let’s talk wine. This full Bordeaux has some excellent qualities…but overall left me just a bit wanting.

2010 Clos Floridene Grand Vin de Graves France

2010 Clos Floridene Grand Vin de Graves, France.

At first I thought this big red just needed to breathe more before drinking, but even giving it some space I found the Floridene a bit tannic and youthful for my taste. I had held this bottle for some time (was it originally a gift?) and even broke it out for a classic Bordeaux dinner, but even complementing steak, asparagus, and baked potato, I found myself thinking about Cabs and Syrah instead of the bird in the hand.

The 2010 Clos Floridene originates from Graves, France, where they should know plenty about grapes. And I’m sure they do…but whether they’re depending on me to blithely accept this as great, let it age longer, or just not tell the difference I’m not complying. Gave this one a go once but know there are others out there for me from Bordeaux…or even Cab country.

2008 Chateau Franc-Cardinal Cotes de Bordeaux

When you receive swanky cool Bordeaux glassware for your birthday, you have to put your hands on a Bordeaux in swift order.  For us, it was the 2008 Chateau Franc-Cardinal Cotes de Bordeaux.  The bottle made its first appearance on Friday evening, welcoming this gent home from a long week of business travel (is there another kind?).  While the Bordeaux breathed and wafted its purple-fruited cheeriness into our kitchen, another project was underway–see the peanut butter cookie / peanut butter cup minis in the accompanying photo?

2008 Chateau Franc-Cardinal Cotes de Bordeaux

2008 Chateau Franc-Cardinal Cotes de Bordeaux, France.

I’m sorry to say this red blend did not get its due on Friday, as this traveler was road weary and candidly only ate a quick tuna sandwich.  Suffice it to say, no sommelier has ever recommended the 2008 Chateau with tuna on white…but that’s what made tonight’s pairing all the better.  This evening, we ate this rich Bordeaux with homemade cheese burgers, seasoned fries, and all the fixings.  The burgers were massive, juicy, and cooked to perfection–no small feat given all the rain that fell here yesterday and again today.  They dripped goodness and oozed with flavor–the grilled meat a perfect complement to the wine.

The 2008 Chateau Franc-Cardinal Cotes de Bordeaux is an interesting red blend–72% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Malbec.  Every producer of a big red has his or her own take on ratios and grapes to be sure, and this one does a lot right.  Like the Bordeaux glasses, this bottle was a birthday gift and the perfect close to this day.  Upon tasting you definitely notice its tannins (even at day two) and tangy underpinnings.  I am sure blackberry figures into your tasting of the 2008 much as it did mine; I would also suggest the 2008 Chateau Franc-Cardinal Cotes de Bordeaux binds some tobacco of sorts, some faint earthiness into its profile.

I’m still mulling over its aftertaste and will curious as to your thoughts too.  Offer ’em here if you feel so inclined…and thanks for reading.

2011 Chateau Close la Chapelle, Cotes de Bordeaux Cadillac Red Blend

“Cadillac Bordeaux” gives one a definite impression even before drinking, and these grapes do the moniker justice. We opened this bottle last evening with dinner (a delicious, cheesy enchilada with salty black beans riding shotgun), and polished it off tonight with our hors d’oeuvres–the perfect follow-up to a warm, Carolina afternoon filled with hiking and outdoor fun.

2011 Chateau Close la Chapelle, Cotes de Bordeaux Cadillac Red Blend, Bordeaux, France.

2011 Chateau Close la Chapelle, Cotes de Bordeaux Cadillac Red Blend, Bordeaux, France.

Even without a long breathing period this Cotes de Bordeaux Cadillac Red Blend was easy on the palate, a dark and rich mix of berries…with no harshness that you’d find in a Syrah or similar.  It has hints in it…hints that I can’t quite place but evidence of a richer heritage than my paltry experience can identify.  Suffice it to say, several refills later found me happy and healthy and wise.  Who hasn’t been to this place?

Here’s how the experts called it: “This soft, plush cuvee offers notes of black cherry, peat moss, blackberry, cassis, toast, vanilla, cedar, and coconut.

Overstated, to be sure, but not too far off the mark.  Those same experts said to drink the 2011 Chateau Close la Chapelle, Cotes de Bordeaux Cadillac Red Blend with grilled pork and rosemary.  Sounds smart, but my wife’s experiment with the enchilada was solid too.  The Cadillac Bordeaux is a rich tapestry, and you’ve got to give this one a try.  It’s a mix of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc that is aged in stainless steel and French Oak barrels for about a year.  We received the bottle as part of a mail order so can’t quite ante up again ourselves–but we would if we could.

2010 Chateau Hanteillan, Haut Medoc

A celebratory Saturday night started–and finished–courtesy of the 2010 Chateau Hanteillan Bordeaux from the Haut Medoc region.  This is the second of four in our collection, and like our first tasting of this red, it too accompanied a great pair of steaks and blue cheese salads, though on this occasion we worked a perfectly baked potato into the mix as well.

2010 Chateau Hanteillan Bordeaux, Haut Medoc, France.

2010 Chateau Hanteillan Bordeaux, Haut Medoc, France.

Somehow I failed to recall the initial experience we had with the Hanteillan, and again my first sip showed the heavy tannin finish that I hadn’t cared for previously.  Rather than play a bad hand, this time I opted to decant the entire bottle–to a much better outcome.  A re-deal, if you will.  Allowing the 2010 to breathe really helped and would be my clear recommendation for anyone sampling this vintage.

Getting some air into this Bordeaux allowed its fruity background to play a bigger role and really diminished the tannin’s acidity.  I think the balance was restored through the decanter, and I know that’s how we’ll proceed with the remaining inventory we have in our possession.

2010 Chateau Hanteillan, Haut Medoc

2010 Chateau Hanteillan, Haut Medoc, Bordeaux, France.

2010 Chateau Hanteillan, Haut Medoc, Bordeaux, France.

Scouting possible reds for the Thanksgiving holiday, we opened this Bordeaux to accompany a lovely dinner of steaks and blue cheese salad–a classic pairing in our home as frequent site visitors can undoubtedly attest.  We ordered four of these red blends, and the first leaves an interesting impression.

This 2010 probably could have been shelved for a longer period, and I think we erred in not properly aerating after opening.  It’s got the usual Bordeaux coloring, a shimmering pool of goodness, and nose too.  In my excitement to sample a new vino, however, I failed to detect the underpinnings that might have better informed me on its need to breathe.  Thus, this first exposure to the 2010 Chateau Hanteillan leaves me with notes that include “long finish” and “heavy tannin feel”.

I’m not sure we have in this bottle the right red for our dinner later this week, but we do have a few more so perhaps it’ll make the cut after all.  To be continued…

Domaine Virginie Thunevin AOC Bordeaux, 2009

Sorry to say this is our last (at least currently) bottle of the Domaine Virginie Thunevin AOC Bordeaux, 2009.  On a beautiful fall Friday, this Bordeaux was a perfect option for one of our favorite meals–accompanying well-seasoned steaks, tender red baby potatoes, and blue cheese salads with the crumble, freshly ground pepper, and blue cheese dressing.

Domaine Virginie Thunevin AOC Bordeaux, 2009, France.

Domaine Virginie Thunevin AOC Bordeaux, 2009, France.

Created by winemaker Jean-Luc Thunevin and named for his daughter, this Bordeaux combines Merlot (70%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%), and Cabernet Franc (10%).  It’s excellent when working alongside a medium rare, salted steak–and my lovely and talented chef (photographer too!) knows how to tease all the flavors out of a great cut.

From a tasting standpoint, the 2009 Domaine Virginie Thunevin AOC Bordeaux is fruity and aromatic.  The berries waft up, juicy and full on the nose, and–despite a hint of tannin in your first smell–it has a surprisingly smooth and easy finish.  My wife thought much the same in her sampling.  It is very drinkable to say the least.

I think we’ve now had this Bordeaux with steaks on a few occasions, pizza on another, and I forget the other time.  Thinking back (enviously, I must say) now, the 2009 Virginie seems to be very functional–you can drink it upscale with steaks or downscale with a casual pie and it complements both effectively.  Wish we had another and you should too.

Chateau Citran Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2000, Bordeaux

This special Bordeaux was a 2012 Christmas gift, a promising red deluge of grape goodness that lasted unopened until tonight, when we decided to open it in celebration of our new (rental) home.  In face of great change, one constant in our lives should be excellent wine and an effort to savor some of the finer things in life–and that’s the Chateau Citran Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2000, for sure.

Chateau Citran Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2000, Bordeaux, France.

Chateau Citran Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2000, Bordeaux, France.

This is a wine where I wish my palate was more sophisticated; it would make for a better description here for you.  At first pour, I could smell the rich, deep–but not earthy or minerally–cherry scent of this Bordeaux.  It poured clean, a treat for the eyes too.  Note in the accompanying visual that the Citran is so deep in chroma that you can’t see through the glass to the watermelon (harvested from our new garden…inedible…but still a great visual!) behind it.  It’s dark but not peppery or spicy, and has more tannins that I generally think of for a Bordeaux.  Part of me wanted to decant to see what impact that would have on the wine, but I skipped that step here.

Since we are still unpacking kitchen boxes, the Citran accompanied two simple meals; one a macaroni-beef mashup and one consisting of a perfectly seasoned pork loin, “Golden Jewel” blend, and cooked broccoli.  My favorite effect was the combination of the pork’s spices with the Citran–really fun.

Thanks, Ma, I really enjoyed the Chateau Citran Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2000 Bordeaux.  Great wine; even better celebration.

2010 Lamoreaux Landing 76 West

This red blend ranks highly in both taste and clever branding.  The 2010 Lamoreaux Landing 76 West was my favorite from our tasting at this award-winning Finger Lakes earlier this year, and it performed nicely even weeks later when we approached this meritage with clear hearts, minds, and palates.  You know how it is–sometimes on a tasting trail you’ve had multiple grapes and glasses that slightly skew your reaction to any one varietal and, returning home, you find that your purchase tastes very different from what you’d remembered.

2010 Lamoreaux Landing 76 West, Lodi, New York, USA.

2010 Lamoreaux Landing 76 West, Lodi, New York, USA.

The 2010 Lamoreaux Landing 76 West sidesteps that pitfall, providing a great combination of Cabernet Franc (52%), Cabernet Sauvignon (24%), and Merlot (24%) that’s sure to do good things for your evening.  Produced by Lamoreaux Landing Wine Sellers along the western side of Seneca Lake, it’s just west of the 76th meridian (42° 34′ 36″N 76° 51′ 31″W)” and derives its name accordingly.  Like many other reds favored here in Notes, the 76 West carries scents of dark, minerally soil and dark berries (maybe a cherry here too?) to you as soon as you make that first pour.  Great swirl in the glass…nice balance too that encourages repeat pouring/consumption.

We combined the 2010 Lamoreaux Landing 76 West with blue cheese salads and steaks from the grill as our Friday night treat(s).  Good play of the red with the fresh pepper in the salad but particularly with the grilled meat.

The folks at Lamoreaux produced only 400 cases of this gem, so if you’re at all interested in picking up a few bottles don’t wait too long.