2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon

This reviewer is often biased toward new world Cabernet Sauvignon, and each new vintage released by my favorite Napa, Sonoma, and Paso Robles-area winemakers brings me great joy. Discovering (or rediscovering) their nuances is the perfect example of wine therapy. Recently, however, I had the pleasure of the 2018 Mazet de la Palombiere and now this 2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon. Both are flat-out excellent!

2019 Vellas
2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon, Mas du Pont, France.

The 2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon tastes way beyond its price point. There’s an earthy, layered undertone just below the dark cherry and plum surface of this wine. It has great legs and an even finish that begs for your next taste. The deep burgundy colors and gentle aromatics ensure this 2019 makes for a great tasting experience.

Ours came in the context of late Saturday dinner. Charcoal-grilled chicken (nice marinade!) plus peppers, zucchini, and portobello mushrooms served as the backdrop for this Cabernet Sauvignon. It took a while for the coals to provide a suitable bed for the foodstuffs, but they’re probably still going now so that’s a strong alternative to propane. 

A quick word on the winemaker, who sounds to be growing increasingly hot too. The Vellas family, which has been making wine for four generations, has accumulated properties throughout the Languedoc-Roussillon and Roussillon regions of France. The 2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon is produced near Montpellier in Mas du Pont. Its fruit comes from regions such as Costiere de Nimes, Coteau Varois, Oc, Saint-Guilhem, Grès, Saint Drézery, Muscat de Lunel, Languedoc, Pic St. Loup, and Faugères.

My wine budget for this month is already spent. If it wasn’t, though, I would be right back to the wine store to grab another case of this. The 2019 Vellas COQ Cabernet is really that good. Enjoy!

2018 Mazet de la Palombiere Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2018 Mazet de la Palombiere Cabernet isn’t a wine you’ll recognize by name. It might catch your eye on the shelf, though, a really cool bottle and label that draw you in for a closer look. Great packaging and presentation do a lot for us as wine consumers!

2018 Manzer de la Palombiere Cabernet

2018 Mazet de la Palombiere Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabardès, Languedoc-Roussillon, France.

Honestly, that’s not how I came to this wine. About a year ago, the tasting banks at my favorite wine store were concealed by numbered aluminum sleeves–all set up to promote a blind taste testing to see who among their consumers could identify the latest Silver Oak Cabernet release. These events are assuredly a big draw for the store and I personally love ’em. If you take a moment to browse Notable Wine Tasting Experiences here on Notes you’ll see this isn’t the first time I’ve joined in such fun.  

At not ONE of these tasting events have I been able to identify the flagship wine, whether for Caymus, Belle Gloss, or Silver Oak (which I’ve tried on two separate occasions). I learn something every time, however, so I’m always grateful for the opportunity.

This last time I thought the 2018 Mazet was Silver Oak. Positive. I would have bet a small sum that I was right and had finally developed a palate sensitive enough to pick out the big $90 wine from the also-rans. Chuckling I tell you I have missed yet again, but the wine I thought the best taste / most worthy of the big price tag was the $12 Mazzet. Boom! Just blew your mind, didn’t I?

The 2018 Mazet Cabernet Sauvignon is full of dark berry flavors; black cherry and plum in huge helpings. There is a bit of tannin presence here but the berry really offsets it well. This fan of new world Cabernet appreciates what’s in the mix here for the Manzer. It’s produced in France, and more specifically the Cabardès region that’s part of the Languedoc-Roussillon appellation. A little research shows me the Languedoc-Roussillon AOC has for years provided cost-effective wines for Parisian cafes and big international companies to bring to wine drinkers globally. Its soils are limestone and even gravel in places; the grapes hang from old wines and grow in a climate that’s dry and windy enough to support non-chemical wine growing. We’re chalking up more points here.

Responsible winemaking? Big, fruit-forward flavor? This one has it all. Tip of the cap to Nicolas Vellas for a really great wine at an even better price. Started out looking for silver but happily stumbled onto gold. Grab a bottle of this (several if you can!) and you’ll thank me later. Cheers!

2015 Le Clos Guillot Chinon, Bernard Baudry

Date night with my girl this evening, and we’ve met out for drinks and dinner in Bull City. It’s a cool little French bistro, and only my second time here—and first for dinner. She looks great; freshly coiffed and even her eyes are smiling at me as I jump out of my ride to meet her.

Baudry

2015 Le Clos Guillot Chinon, Bernard Baudry, Loire, France.

The ambiance? High, industrial-style ceilings where sound carries even without a big crowd. Chalkboards on the rear walls share enticing specials for guests, and my eyes are on one even while we slide up to the corner of the bar, our favorite setup so we can lean in close and enjoy each other’s company and intoxicating smells. 

I have a few more stories from the dumpster fire of the past week, a few new angles that we’ve unearthed—but this really isn’t a night to talk shop. It’s a time to relax, to enjoy foodstuffs, to enjoy each other, and to enjoy wine. We’ve selected the Le Clos Guillot Chinon from an extensive tasting list and, though it takes some time to open up, it eventually does and we run through it to good effect.

This Le Clos Guiilot Chinon is organically produced and hails from Loire. It’s a Cabernet Franc that pours ruby red in the glass, with damp, earthy notes that this reviewer can detect even among all the delicious smells of Rue Cler. There’s a bit of cherry in the tasting, and some darker fruits too that I imagine come through the Cabernet Franc grapes themselves. I’ve been very California-focused as of late and this Baudry wine is (at least for me) walking a fine line between those Napa Cabs and Petite Syrahs that I’ve been tasting from this side of the ocean. A medium finish… 

Still recovering from severe sleep deprivation, I’m not going to lay on the menu too thick this time. (I promise to make that up in new Notes entries soon enough.) Just know I’m impossibly happy to be home, and even more so to be out on the town with this special lady. Oh yeah, the wine’s been a fun experience too! A rare trip overseas for this guy but much appreciated. Hoping you do too and thanks as always for your readership and kind words. 

2014 Veuve Clicquot Brut NV

Chapter Two started today, a notable milestone in many ways. Happy New Year, everyone! Notes doesn’t cover champagne all that often, but this was a special occasion and it just made sense to let the bubbly flow. I’ll remember this day for several reasons, this bottle of Veuve Clicquot among them.

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2014 Veuve Clicquot Brut NV, Champagne, France.

I managed the cork deftly, but still regretted the all-too-sudden geyser at the top of the bottle as the wine burst forth. Veuve Clicquot is good grapes, from the first fragrant rush in your glass to the last wisps on your lips. It’s nice and dry, scented of fresh crisp apples and a pleasure to sip whether you’re alone for the occasion or fortunate enough to have great company along to join you.

It’s late, and I’ve written about Veuve in the past on several prior New Year’s and similar celebrations. Like those events and cherished memories, this bottle and this day I hope to hold onto long in the future. May your own 2019 start with promise and thanks, as always, for your kind readership.

The Ones That Got Away – Summer 2018

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2015 Treana Red, Treana Winery, Paso Robles, California, USA.

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Edwards & Chaffey, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2015 Cambridge Meritage, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2016 Domaine d’Andezon Cotes due Rhone, Red blend. Rhone, France.

2015 Mestizaje, Mustiguillo Vineyards & Winery, Red blend. Spain.

2011 Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz Cabernet, Padthaway, Australia.

2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.

2012 Acha Red, Mark Herold, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2002 Syrah, Miller Wine Cellars, Napa, California, USA.

2014 Claret, White Rock Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2016 Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvee, Sonoma, California, USA.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Winemaker’s Reserve, Robert Storey Cellars, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2012 Napa Reserve, White Oak Vineyards & Winery, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2014 Amarone la Giaretta della Valpolicella, Italy.

F4, Locations Wine

It was the Dave Phinney name that put this “F” Location squarely on the map for me. Notes has covered his wines on several occasions this year, or those he helped launch, and knowing my favorite Winestore had a holiday special on Locations got me up and moving early this weekend.

Orin Swift Locations F4, Napa, California, USA.

Orin Swift Locations F4, Napa, California, USA.

This is my first Location, based on the recommendation of the store clerk, and I have the Orin Swift “I”, “CA”, and “E” as options in 2018 too. I pulled the cork this evening and poured amply, with no decanting on this tasting. Grapes for the fourth release of “F” come from growers in Rhone, Roussilon, and Bordeux, and if you haven’t heard of Locations previously, it’s a twist on the kitchen sink conceit. Phinney is less concerned about the specific varietals and more about capturing the essence of wine from a given region, blending with all kinds of freedom.

The “F” I had with steaks, slathered with a chili spice / butter sauce, roasted Yukon potatoes, and steamed broccoli.  (Fun food fact—broccoli was first introduced to the US in the 1920s.)  And the wine was really fun.  It is kind and fruity, with some red raspberry and a little tang of cherry mixed in. The “F” has subtle earthy notes, but they’re so gentle that they don’t really come through in the tasting.  This fourth release of “F” is less tannic than a Cab or a Syrah, and has more body to it than does a Pinot Noir.  It is a very easy drinking wine overall that will go with just about any occasion.

A blend of Grenache, Syrah, and assorted Bordeaux varietals make up the fourth Orin Swift“F” Location, which is barrel aged for 10 months prior to release. The dinner was good; the Phinney wine was better.

2015 Sauvignon Colombard, Domaine de Ballade

Different tastes for the palate this evening, including a curry-style catfish made with coconut milk, potatoes, carrots, and fennel, and this 2015 Sauvignon Colombard from Domaine de Ballade. This grapefruity white sounded delicious when described by the staff at my Winestore and it was just as they advertised–a fresh and lemony taste that went just perfect with a hot June evening.

2015 Sauvignon Colombard, Domaine de Ballade, Gascogne, France.

2015 Sauvignon Colombard, Domaine de Ballade, Gascogne, France.

It’s affordable too, and would go on my ‘buy again’ list without any fuss. When you open the 2015 Sauvignon Colombard you immediately get a whiff of (of course, fresh flowers…it’s a damn white) citrus fruit but it is neither tart like a Sauv Blanc or sweet like a Riesling. It’s gentle and enticing, and I found myself going through multiple pours as I tended to the night’s culinary arts.

“On the palate, shimmering creamy citrus notes dominate, with a crisp acidity and a cleansing finish. Enjoy over the next three years, by itself or with all sorts of salads and seafood.”

I heeded these recommendations to a positive outcome. Know that the 2015 Sauvignon Colombard is the brainchild of winemaker Christian Morel and a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (70%) and Colombard (30%) grapes that are aged 5 months in stainless steel tanks. Grab one when you see on the shelves–it’ll be good to have on hand for a summer occasion, planned or unexpected.

 

2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marquis de Bacalan

Saturday night is usually a red night and, as you may notice, most often a California Cabernet Sauvignon with grilled steak. This weekend, however, it was time to approach things from a fresh angle–hence a fish dish and this delicious Blanc instead of a Cab. George Costanza would be proud (and hey I think it was Jason Alexander’s birthday too, so maybe there’s some kismet involved).

2015 Marquis de Balacalan Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux, France.

2015 Marquis de Bacalan Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux, France.

The 2015 Marquis de Bacalan Sauvignon Blanc was part of an online wine order, a sampling of reds and whites from Bordeaux. The region’s reds get far more attention in the magazines and such, but whites like this nicely balanced bottle deserve some of the spotlight too. It has such a fresh, summer smell to it–quite fragrant and inviting when uncorked. This evaluator is not crazy about orange (i.e., the fruit), but the citrus notes of the Marquis were gentle and encouraging instead of off-putting. There is something that almost makes you want to chew this wine…a scent that I can’t better describe than saying it made me hungry for a sip.

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2015 Marquis de Bacalan Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux, France.

That did bode well for the meal, a Blue Apron salmon recipe that sat ignored and uncooked for several weeks until tonight. Displayed here you see a crispy-skinned salmon with a French sauce gribiche, grilled vegetables (cherry tomatoes and purple summer beans), and mashed potatoes. With plenty of garlic, shallot, and tarragon in the mix, the meal came together really nicely and was the perfect setup for the 2015 Marquis de Bacalan. The dijonnaise mustard flavor worked effectively with both the seafood as well as the wine. My only critique of the food? Wish this chef had diced the cornichons a little finer instead of simply thinly slicing them.

Here’s hoping the leftover portion will stand up well for its encore performance later this week. Certainly the 2015 Marquis de Bacala will, and its good showing on this occasion (along with other recent offerings from Bordeaux) deepens my interest in future whites from one of the world’s best-known wine-producing regions.

 

*Quick confession: I did open a Cab while making dinner, so it’s not like reds went unrepresented in this house for the night.