Monday, December 7, 2020


It's no secret that they make some great wines in Ribero del Duero, Spain.  They are bigger and more robust than the esteemed Rioja and we don't intend to disparage Rioja by saying so.  Rioja remains the Bordeaux of Spain.  It's just that now they have competition from a very healthy and hearty neighbor that is just now getting its due.

Ribero del Duero lies seventy-eight miles to the southwest of Rioja.  Its name reflects the great east-west river which has spawned an entire fine wine industry along its banks.  Ribero del Duero is just one of several wine appellations along that corridor.  If you follow the river westward far enough you end up in Douro Portugal, home to some of the finest apertifs in the world.

Ribero del Duero has been put on the fine wine map recently by Peter Sisseck, a Danish winemaker who relocated to that region in 1990.  He befriended a local winemaker named Pablo Rubio who in turn reached out to local land owners whom he knew owned prime vineyards.  Their pitch went something like this: "If you will stop using chemicals in your vineyards and go organic we will pay for your fruit according to the quality, not just by the weight."  The spiel probably continued with, "We know your fruit can be world class and we intend to market it as such and in return for your efforts to improve your quality we will share the greater profits we intend to get."

Here's what Sisseck and Rubio knew already: The quality of fruit in Ribero del Duero was always there.  The grapes grown there were overwhelmingly old clone, old vine (30 years) Tinto Vino (Tempranillo) vines that were grown as bushes and maintained as such by the labor intensive head pruning method.  All they wanted to do was reverse the chemical damage done to the vineyards.  They were intent on reaching those ends by rewarding the vineyard owners who worked with them.

"Pingus" is a childhood nickname Sisseck had in Denmark and Dominio de Pingus became the name of the winery Sisseck established n 1995.  It is also the name of the first wine produced there.  That wine is currently available for purchase in the $800/btl range.  Flor de Pingus is one of three other estate wines.  It is available in the Atlanta market and retails in the $125 range.  

"Psi" is the Sisseck wine we currently have in the store and it's a $40 retail.  While Pingus and Flor are estate grown wines, Psi most accurately reflects the communal efforts of the growers depicted above.  The 2017 vintage shows a nose of ripe dark berry, black plum, savory sandalwood and spice.  The palate shows strident concentrated black fruit, blueberries, plum and minerality with refined tannins.

Psi is always at least ninety percent Tempranillo with the remainder being mostly Garnacha.  The wine making team believes in a long gentle maceration with an elevage in both small and large barrels along with concrete.  No new oak is ever used.  

Tempranillo is a versatile, food-friendly grape that would marry well with a variety of dishes. The word we have from our supplier is that Psi is indeed amazing.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Fine Wine or Field Blend?

Back in the day, fifty years or so ago, "Dago Red" was a common term for blended wines that lacked a certain pedigree.  Vin Ordinaire, as they say.  Grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir were too classy for the monicker, I guess.  Now we learn the term Dago can be a slur for people of Mediterranean origins and that is certainly not what we intend here. So field blends is what we will use to describe wines made from utilitarian grapes that none the less offer us a certain charm in their blending.  That charm  may reflect a comfort level familiar to us personally even if the wine lacks the finesse of fine wine.  

We got the idea for this post because we want to offer up two new Italians that everyone should know about.  The first truly fits into the field blend category.  SASYR is a Tuscan IGT blend of 60% Sangiovese and 40% Syrah, hence the name, SASYR.  It comes to us from a forty year old company called Rocca delle Macie.  They are a collective of ten growers in Tuscany who all specialize in Sangiovese-blended reds.  SASYR is just what you might expect a blend of that kind to be.  Sangiovese is soft red berry wine and Syrah is a firm dark berry wine with an edge.  This tastes like that combination.

For this post we did something we have never done before.  We went to one of those peer-review wine tasting websites to see what the public thought of SASYR.   Considering the crazy quilt, cross section of wine lovers everywhere, the report was predictable given the great differences in tastes.  Some thought the wine was feminine while others (like me) thought the wine was more masculine.  The wine is mostly Sangiovese which is generally soft but the Syrah can overcompensate with what it brings to the table.  In my opinion this wine is not one to think about - pour it in the glass, bring out the burgers and chow down!  This too is characteristic of field blend wine.  No fanfare needed, just do it!

Our second Italian red is really too fine to be a field blend.  Ruvei means "old oak tree."  It is an 85% Barbera/15% Nebbiolo blend from Marchesi di Barolo, a prestigious 430 acre estate in Langhe, Piedmont.  Like the Sangiovese of SASYR, this Barbera is emboldened by its blending grape, Nebbiolo.  Nebbiolo is the great wine grape of Italy made into the greatest wine of Italy - Barolo.  Marchesi di Barolo has been one of the premier Barolo makers for the past century.  Ruvei is sourced from vineyards in Barolo, Barbaresco and Nebbiolo of d'Alba.   So how could this one not be something special?

Both SASYR and Ruvei were opened for our tasting a couple weeks ago.  We ordered the SASYR on the spot.  When our vendor accidentally poured the Ruvei a little too heavily, we set it aside after briefly tasting it.  When we remembered it a couple hours later we re-tasted it.  It was lovely.  It had opened up beautifully.  That's when we ordered it.  And that's the difference between fine wine and field blends.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Piave Vecchio (pee-ah-vay)

Piave has been one of the best selling cheeses in this little store for as long as we can remember.  This year because of all of the myriad food distribution problems, we have been without any all year.  Our Piave problems actually started last year when we weren't turning it fast enough and it was drying out on us.  But that was then and this is now.  We have a brand new fresh wheel in the store and it is screaming to all you readers to stop in and taste it.

Piave comes from the Dolomite Mountains region of northernmost Veneto Italy, which is just an extension southward from the Tyrols of Austria.   The cheese is named after the local Piave River.  It is a pasteurized, fully cooked curd, cow's milk cheese and it is most definitely a government certified DOP (Protected Designation of Origin).

They make four types of Piave in that corner of Italy.  Piave Fresco is aged a mere 20-60 days so you might think - yogurt.  Piave Messano is aged 60-180 days.  Vecchio means aged and in this case Piave Vecchio is aged at least a year.  Piave Vecchio Riserva is aged 18 months.  While we have sold some young Piaves here on occasion, it's the aged version that everyone knows as Piave here.

Piave is grouped in the Parmesan category of cheeses.  In the kitchen it can be shaved over salads or grated for the same recipes as parm.  In its area of origin it is a table cheese and eaten with both red and white wines or malt beverages.  In our opinion the aged Piave in this store is strictly a red wine accompaniment.

Being an aged cheese the texture is dense and firm.  The paste is golden yellow in color, smooth with no holes and encased within a natural rind.  The flavor is full with intense nuttiness and opulent tropical fruit flavors.  There is a distinct almond bitterness that somehow works with the other dominant flavors.  Despite the aged character of the cheese, it is never sharp.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Mount Brave

The front label is one of those small clean off-white jobs.  It is a square box with a minimalist border that informs you that the scant information disclosed here is short, to the point and classy.  It reads:


Napa Valley

Except it's all centered on the label.  I don't know how to do that here.

The Mount Brave website is similarly brief and to the point.  They don't clutter it up with extraneous (read: useless) information to mislead the reader about the authenticity of their product.  Mount Brave goes to reasonable lengths to show where their grapes come from without saying the wine is actually an estate-grown product.  All in all, is really quite well done.

So what's in the bottle?  The 2018 Mount Brave Cabernet Sauvignon is 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 3.5% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot.  The label says it is a product of the Mount Veeder AVA which means at least 85% of the juice is sourced from that fine grape growing region.  That is where Mount Brave has its vineyards.  The label also says "Napa Valley" which still doesn't preclude sourcing from elsewhere but in this case we can assume the entire product is from Napa.  It is a hundred dollar bottle, after all.

We read five reviews of this wine from five reputable critics.  Without resorting to numerical scores (which I hate), the wine is characterized as a deep purple/black color with a floral nose featuring black and blue fruit aromas.  In the mouth the berry flavors are supplemented with violets, chocolate, cigar box and menthol.  The body is full with silky tannins.  The finish is long and balanced.

Twenty percent of the monetary value of all California wines comes from Napa Valley which makes just four percent of the total wine volume from California.  Mount Brave being located in the Mount Veeder AVA puts it in rarified company within the larger Napa AVA.  Why are we writing about it now?  In short, because it sells.  Usually we stock wines like these when they are opportunely offered to us; that is, when the price is right and we have the money in the checking account.  We are consumers too.

Mount Brave is different.  It's a steady mover from the laydown rack ensconced as it is with similarly priced elites all around it.   With the holidays on the horizon, could this be your timely (and brave) special purchase?

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Cotes de Provence

Since Roses are such a big item again we thought some further definition of the greatest Rose appellation in the world was in order.  For instance - How does Cotes de Provence differ from just plain Provence

It turns out Provence is one of those overly large appellations, like Paso Robles in California, that has smaller wine appellations within it.  The Cotes de Provence appellation is the largest of these with fifty thousand acres (!) in eastern Provence.  Actually it is the eastern half of Provence though not entirely contiguous.  It is also home to most of the Rose made in Provence.  Eighty percent of its production is Rose.  Of the remainder, 15% is red and just 5% is white.

The red grapes allowed in Cotes de Provence Rose are Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Carignon and an indigenous variety called Tibouren.  The first four listed are those blended into Southern Rhone reds with Grenache being the greatest of them.  Some Roses are 100% Grenache.  Carignon is the least of these.  No Cotes de Provence Rose may have more than forty percent Carignon.  

Tibouren is an interesting item in itself.  It accounts for fifteen percent of vineyard plantings in Cotes de Provence and offers an earthy bouquet to typical blends.  It also has a lengthy history there arriving from further east around 500bc.

Within the Cotes de Provence there are three departments: Var, Bouches-du-Rhone and Alpes-Maritimes and between them lie eighty-four communes.  Two distinct geologies exist in the region: calcareous soils to the northwest and crystalline soils to the southeast.  

We would be remiss not to mention the very important garrigue of Provence, the low lying fragrant vegetation of lavender, thyme, rosemary and juniper.  We have written about this before.  In short, the vegetation actually affects the resulting wine flavors!

It should be mentioned that wine quality in the Cotes de Provence is uneven and that has to do with the extremes in topography.  We're talking about the Alps afterall, so we're pretty sure blending would have to be an art form there.

Then lastly we should mention the rose winemaking method responsible for the great success of the region.  They use the saignee (sohn-yay) method which is extracting (bleeding) extra phenolics, color and flavor from red grape must to goose the rose.

Please call 770-287-WINE(9463) or email if you would like to attend the Dominique Chambon Halloween wine tasting this Saturday afternoon (1-4pm).  Dominique is one of the most entertaining presenters in the business and he has an unbelievable fine wine portfolio.  At least one of our tasters should be a Provence Rose.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Cave Aged Gruyere (groo-yair)

For the longest time whenever someone asked me what my favorite cheese was, I would deflect back to them just to make sure I got them what they really wanted.  Now I take just the opposite approach.  I'll scream it from the rooftops - "Gruyere is absolutely to die for!"

FYI - It's also the best cheese in the world!  That's not coming from me.  So says the World Cheese Awards, an annual event held in London, England where the Cave Aged Gruyere has won four times in the thirty-four years the event has been held.  That's more wins than any other cheese has garnered so by that one metric, it is the best!

Our Gruyere is aged for one year in sandstone caves in Kaltbach, Switzerland which is near Lucerne where the Hadron Collider is speeding stuff up in hopes of revealing secrets of the universe.  Good for them!  At the end of the year I'm betting slow and steady wins the race.  When that Gruyere emerges from its cave with its assertive earthy complexity, which would you rather have, secrets of the universe or orgasmic swiss cheese!

In all seriousness...when it's young, Guyere is sweet and salty and creamy and nutty.  After a year in the caves the inherent saltiness becomes crystallized just as the creaminess becomes grainier.  If you unpack the assertive complexity mentioned above, you may get carmelized apples, hazelnuts and brown butter.  Nah, that's too textbooky.  This stuff just plain funky.  AND it goes with most any red wine worth its weight in Gruyere.

Along with being a perfect accompaniment with serious red (and white) wine, Gruyere is also an intrinsic part of the dinner table.  It does well grated on salads, pastas, French Onion Soup, quiche and Chicken/Veal Cordon Bleu.  Of course it is also part and parcel of traditional fondue.

Gruyere has been around since the thirteenth century and in 2001 it received its Appellation d'Origine Protegee.  This is the European Union legal protection ensuring all steps in the production of Gruyere are consistent with its historic definition.  This also defines the cheese geographically so France can no longer call its own version of Gruyere by that name.  Gruyere is wholly Swiss! 

Please join us here at the store on Saturday the 31st (Halloween) between 1 and 4pm when Dominique Chambon leads us in a tasting of some of his new French wines on the market.  Please call 770-287-WINE(9463) to reserve your participation.  I'm sure the Gruyere will be on the tasting table also! 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Tricky Rabbit

Why on earth would you brand a wine "Tricky Rabbit?"  It seems to be just a little too silly.  We'll get around to answering that question in a bit.

Tricky Rabbit is a line of six wines from the Invina wine company which is a project of the Huber family of the Central Valley of Chile.  The Hubers are Americans who did well enough in banking to now own eight hundred acres in vines in Maule, Chile.  Maule (mow-lay) is the wine appellation in Chile where close to half of all of Chilean wines come from.  

Chile, as everyone knows, is a vertical ribbon on the South American map so latitude-wise their winemaking potential is limited.  It's basically the middle third of the country.  Chile has also designated three winemaking districts between the Andes to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west which makes sense considering the differences in terrain, topography and climate.  The Hubers own vineyards in each of the districts.

Here's where we get to the meaning of the Tricky Rabbit name.  The label depicts a rabbit riding a unicycle on a tightrope.  Each element conjures up qualities of its own but together they make no sense.  The Hubers believe in blending grapes.  Each of their wines blends from the three districts to produce what they feel is the best product from their efforts.  So while the wine label posits the absurd, the wine in the bottle conversely shows a complementary relationship between the components.

Put another way on one of their web pages, they talk about "the Color of Maule" which is what they feel they create through their blending and that brings us to Por Fin.  Por Fin means "at last" and it is a premium red blend separate from Tricky Rabbit label.  The blend is 48% Syrah, 23% Malbec, 18% Carmenere and 11% Petit Verdot.

We have five of the Invina wines in the store and all of them overperform in their everyday-priced category.  Stop in and check 'em out!  And if you want to taste Tricky Rabbit or Por Fin, stop in Saturday afternoon!

Wednesday, October 7, 2020


Let me take you back thirty-five years or so to a time when yours truly was a wine department manager for Big Star Foods.  The most profitable store of the chain of fifty-two stores was mine and it was located two doors to the left of where I am standing presently.  It was where the Publix store currently stands.

It seems quaint now, but Big Star was progressive and ahead of its time with concepts like defined departments within the store that lent themselves to more specialization in their offerings.  Like the idea of a wine department within a grocery store.  What a concept!

So I was hired out of Atlanta to run that department which was largely scripted from corporate headquarters.  The "laydown" racks, a couple of which still exist in our current store, were mostly intended to feature selected fine California estate wines, ie., the best of the best.  No other big player was doing such a thing so this was a coup for Big Star.  As the resident "wineguy" for the store my job was to sell those wines.

Here's the problem: I had just trained with Jim Sanders of Sanders Beverages of West Paces Ferry in Buckhead.  Jim was the French Burgundy expert of the southeastern United States.  So while I knew that the wines I was supposed to sell were good, many weren't world class.

Gundlach-Bundschuh was one of those acclaimed California laydown wines and my history with them goes back five years earlier to a time when I really was new to the business.  It was at that time that Atlanta was awash in California wines, so great was the promotion of what the culture savants were sure would be the next big thing.  As I recall Gun-Bun excelled at Gewurztraminer and Merlot back then.

Founded in 1858 Gundlach-Bundschuh is the oldest continually operating family-owned winery in the country.  With 320 acres they were the premier California winery until the 1906 San Francisco earthquake nearly put them out of business.  Their production facilities were in the city and everything there was a total loss.  They emerged from the quake a fraction of what they were before.  

Then the Prohibition Era (1920-33) pretty much finished the job.  Like so many others they made sacramental wine during those times but also segued into being a cattle farm until the commercial winery was resurrected en force in 1973.

The Gundlach-Bundschuh vineyards and winery are located in eastern Sonoma County in the Sonoma Valley AVA where it abuts the Napa and Carneros AVA's along the Mayacamas Mountain range. 

So how do Gun-Bun wines compare with others?  As we said above their Merlot and Gewurz are great.  The Cabernet is also.  We have the Gewurz and a red blend coming in on Friday and if the demand is there, the Cabernet and Merlot will follow.  All of their wines are estate products so I'm sure all types should be competitive with the best from California.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020


 Remejeanne is the best red wine we have tasted this year...and it's retail price is a fraction of others we tasted!

The wines of the Cotes du Rhone have always represented objective value compared to others on the market.  Remejeanne demonstrates that value ON STEROIDS!  We tasted it with three other Rhones including a Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  It easily blew them all away!

So how does that happen?  Go to and then "Our Wines" and see for yourself.  For a mission statement check out the "Explore Skurnik Wines" paragraph.  Basically they deal in wines that exemplify all of the best conditions and components that go into making the best wines available.

If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you know how dissatisfied we are with winery websites.  So many of them (and I'm really talking about the California wine industry) are purposely vague about their product as if they are trying not to inform the reader.  Smoke and mirrors.  Misdirection.  Since there is now very little private ownership in that industry anymore, then I guess that is the way they want to play it.

Skurnik is just the opposite.  The website shows what can be done with concise informative exposition. Rather than spreading out a few paragraphs here to show the important Remejeanne information, just go to the website and search Remjeanne and you'll get all of the relevant data.  In bullet points yet!

This Saturday afternoon we will be tasting two reds from Luke Wines of Columbia Valley, Washington and two Cabernet Francs from opposite sides of the globe.  Please join us!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Peaches & Cream

 You talk about a misleading title!  This one takes the cake!  Peaches & cream cake, of course!  

What we're really talking about here is the 2017 Beronia Rueda (roo-ay-da) 100% Verdejo (vurr-day-ho) Spanish varietal white wine.  Characterizing this beauty, of course, is where the "peaches and cream" business comes in.  Make no mistake, this wine is dry, like most European whites are dry, so don't think the "peaches and cream" refers to dessert.  The more accurate term for this one would be "stone fruit" and "malolactic" (fermentation) so lets dissect these terms.

In wine lingo, stone fruit really applies to peaches and apricots, two fruits with pits.  For wine geeks the pits flavor the wine also.  Viognier is quintessential stone fruit wine.  From the first sip of our Rueda, the wine explodes with stone fruit except it's more apricotty than peachy.  Apricots and cream just doesn't have the same mouthwatering appeal as peaches and cream.

Malolactic fermentation is that winemaking process that converts the grapes' malic acid into the lactic acid that dairy products exhibit, hence the creaminess referred to in the post title.  While I get that creaminess in this wine it's just negligible compared to other examples of malolactic.  The creaminess that I get may be intrinsic to this grape type.  In any event the creaminess enriches the body of the wine.

This wine also has a distinct herbaceousness that adds yet another dimension to its flavor profile.

Here's some actual information about Rueda, just so you don't feel you've wasted your time here.

Rueda is a DO (denominacion de origen protegida), a legally defined and protected wine appellation.  It encompasses 13,005 hectares (32,000 acres) in the provinces of Valladolid, Segovia and Avila in north central Spain.  The entire appellation is a plateau at 6-700 meters above sea level.  In the center of the appellation lies the town of Rueda.  

The Rueda appellation has a continental climate of hot summers and cold winters with maritime affected rainfalls in the spring and fall.  The soils are alluvial with an iron content in either a sandy or clayey consistency.  The soil drainage is good here which belies the fact that the soils are poor, which means the grapevines have to struggle for nourishment leading to deeper taproots and ultimately, more flavorful wines.

Verdejo is the indigenous grape of the region and eighty percent of Rueda is planted in that one type.  Some of those vines are a hundred years old.  90+% of the wine produced in Rueda is white wine.  If it is labelled "Rueda" it must be at least 50% Verdejo.  If it is labelled "Verdejo" it must be at least 85% Verdejo. 

Interestingly enough the Rueda appellation is flanked by two great red wine appellations, Toro to the west and Ribero del Duero to the east.  All three lie on the same latitude with their respective wine regions inhabiting the same Duero River basin.  To the west of them all lies Portugal's finest wine region of the same name.

Just in case you can't tell, we like this wine.  So stop in and give it a try.  

Did we mention it's modestly priced?

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Scarlet Vine

 "Scarlet Vine was born in a lush, century-old mountain vineyard, where vines dance in the wind and produce perfect fruit - so intensely flavored and rich in color that they appear as a sea of scarlet red.  Anyone who tastes wine crafted from this fruit is destined to fall under her spell.  Do you dare?" 

I hate winery websites.  

The above quote is taken from  It is actually the first thing you see when you go there.  It's a real crock of s__t.

If gag reflexes are your thing, you should check out the back label of the Scarlet Vine bottle.  There you will find some more fine literary grease for your gullet. 

Alternatively, what I would really love to learn from a winery website is technical data - grape types, viticulture and viniculture, terroir.  In short, what I want to know is how the grapes grown in the vineyard become the wine in the bottle.  Am I asking too much?

Scarlet Vine Cabernet Sauvignon is new on the market and my supplier has successfully placed it on several restaurant wine lists.  She did this by tasting it out to us in the trade.  Obviously the wine is quite good.

By the way, the Scarlet Vine label art is frankly beautiful.  It depicts a svelte feminine figure growing from a grapevine.  Doing it justice in words is not possible.  It really is well done.  So well done you don't notice the lack of any information about the wine...and therein lies the rub.

Scarlet Vine is marketed by one of the largest wine companies in the world.  They deserve their success.  They do a good job.  But as a California mass marketer the aim is never to enlighten but rather to turn cases by aiming for where most of us Americans live.  And as we have said, they do a fine job at that.

So in summary - we have a fine moderately priced Cabernet Sauvignon in a bottle that features beautiful label art.  If you look hard enough at the small print on the back label you will find relevant information about the wine but obviously someone doesn't care if you see that so they bloviate about an anthropomorphic grapevine goddess.

Thursday, September 10, 2020


It seems like forever since we've had a Barbaresco in the store and we wouldn't have the Franco Serra model if we hadn't poked and prodded our distributor for "other types."  The Barbaresco, it turns out, is a new addition to the local portfolio.

Barbaresco is one of the truly great Italian reds...period.  It gets short shrift because, according to wine industry royalty, it doesn't compare to Barolo.  I get it.  Barolo is massive.  Barbaresco is lighter.  That's actually the selling point for some of us.

That's not to say Barbaresco is light red wine.  We have the Barbera and Dolcetto from Franco Serra in the store and they are most definitely light.  Body-wise, Barbaresco may be more like a hefty Sangiovese.  The Dolcetto, by the way, has become quite popular here so, by all means, give it a try.

So here's what we learned about Barbaresco from the Hugh Johnson/Jancis Robinson The Concise World Atlas of Wine:

Barbaresco is a single varietal Piemontese wine made from the same Nebbiolo grape as Barolo, the greatest red wine of Italy.  Prior to the 1850's it's style was light and sweet.  Then French-style winemaking overcorrected that effort and turned it very dry and heavily oaked.  Around 1970 modern winemaking began its intervention in this history resulting in the following changes:

    1. Grape picking was greatly improved by measuring phenolic ripeness.

    2. Stainless steel fermentation in temperature controlled tanks brought out the inherent fruit in wine grapes.

    3. Shorter oak aging in smaller barrels became a normative qualifier for estate wines.

    4. Grape maceration was accomplished in days and weeks rather then over months, again, to make a lighter, fresher tasting wine.

The result?

Barbaresco became more complex with layers of leafy lighter red berry flavors over smokey jammy concentrated leather and spice.  The tannins in the wine no longer overwhelm it but rather frame and refresh the wine's inherent complexity. 

Want to taste it?  Stop in this Saturday afternoon.  No promises, but...we just may have it open!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

One Day in the Wine Business

 My vendor recently told me how she successfully facilitated a large wine event in a nearby community.  One of her clients was a restaurateur in that town who knew key local government employees.  The suggestion was made to hold a community food and wine festival much like A Taste of Gainesville except the wines would be exclusively provided from one source.  Guess who got the contract!

The wines were to be moderately priced California fare since the anticipated crowd would be a cross section of the community and the powers that be didn't want anyone to feel intimidated by anyone else's pretensions.  Everyone involved was in agreement on the plan.

Here's where it got a little sticky - The sommelier employed by the restaurant felt it was his job to match the wines with the foods.  After all, that's his job!  The problem as observed by this industry insider is that everyday California wines really don't lend themselves to sophisticated pairings.  My vendor knew as much and tried to get others to see that non-specific pairings may be a better way to go. 

Just to backtrack for a minute - Most decent moderately priced wines are sourced from coops, "crushpads" or mass marketers whose aim is to make wine just good enough for a given price point and generic enough to not offend anyone.  If this effort touches enough of the right taste buds according to popular public perceptions, then the wine is a good enough example of whatever it is supposed to be.  Food affinities are optional.

So...was the sommelier wrong about wanting to pair the wines with specific foods?  Not hardly!  Whatever he had in mind, given his training, would probably have been perfectly fine.  And if he was really on his game, his pairings may have been tantalizing.  On the other hand, those pairings could have been personally embarrassing or worse yet, they could have appeared pretentious.

Please join us this Saturday afternoon for a tasting of four very special French wines, three reds and a white.  Please call 770-287-9463 or email for an appointment that afternoon.  We don't want too many tasters in our little store at any given time.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Frederick Wildman & Sons, LTD

Wildman is one of the better wine importers we have worked with through the years here at V&C.  We especially like their European whites.  In the paragraphs to follow you will probably recognize several familiar wine brands commonly in the store courtesy of this importer.

Oddly enough, Frederick Wildman got his start in the wine business courtesy of the U.S. Army.  He had come from a cultured affluent Connecticut family heavily invested in the insurance and banking industries.  His military service coincided with the latter part of World War I.  Knowing his background, the military brass tasked him with pairing wines and foods for VIPs during the last six months of the war.  So Wildman became the de facto wine steward/sommelier for the army in Europe.

At the end of the war Wildman returned to the family business but saw an opportunity to pursue his passion at the end of the Prohibition Era.  In 1933 he bought Bellows & Company, a food and wine importer, and personalized his commitment by stressing quality in his stock.  He traveled widely in Europe, often renewing relationships he had during the war, and gradually built his book.

In time Wildman sold his company to National Distillers but bought back the wine portfolio in 1952 and officially renamed the operation Fredrick Wildman & Sons, LTD.  From the very beginning in 1933 Wildman represented Chateau Fuisse, Olivier LeFlaive, Pol Roger and Christian Moreau.  They remain in the portfolio to this day.

In 1971 Wildman retired and sold the company to Hiram Walker Distillers.  In the 1980's Folonari, Hugel, Melini and Santi were added to the portfolio.

In 1993 Richard Cacciato, the company president, partnered with five of the historic wine companies represented in the portfolio to purchase the company from Hiram Walker.  Wildman now represents fifty wine companies.

If you would like to join us for a tasting this Saturday here at the store, call us to set an appointed time at 770-287-WINE(9463) or email us at  Because of the virus we want to avoid any crowding.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020


"Mosel Kabinetts should be like drinking cool spring water, thirst quenching and delicious." - Johannes Selbach

Hopefully by the time you read this we will have some Riesling Trockens from Selbach-Oster.  They should be some of the finest wines of their kind.  Currently we have two regional bottlings from Selbach and a dry Pinot Blanc from Selbach-Oster.

The Selbach family has been in the wine business in Mosel since the 1600s.  That means they have tended their vineyards for about four hundred years.  Oster was a barrel maker who married into the family on the paternal side centuries later.

The Mosel region is the oldest viticultural region of Germany.  It was originally planted 2,000 years ago by the Celts and Romans.  The Selbach family owns twenty-four hectares (59 acres) in what could be called the classico region of Mosel.  Those estate wines carry the Selbach-Oster label.  All other wines they market carry just the Selbach label.

Johannes Selbach compares his Rieslings to biting into various fruits.  Kabinett quality Riesling, which is basically dry, is like biting into an apple.  Spatlese, which is off-dry, he compares to getting into peaches or apricots.  Auslese, which is noticeably sweeter, is like ripe tropical fruit and Eiswein, according to Selbach, is honeyed smokiness.

We started this post with an allusion to Riesling Trockens which are the driest of German wines.  They are as dry as any white wine anywhere.  What makes them noteworthy?  The grape.  Riesling.  Riesling is the great white wine grape of the world.  Aside from complexity in flavors and aromas Riesling excels in structure, which is the spine and bones of a wine that supports the fruit flavors.  Riesling's unique character is the tension created between the acidity, fruit and minerality of the wine.  With Riesling Trockens that tension is visceral.

If you have read this article and would like to try a dry German Riesling stop in and say so.  We'll discount one down for you!

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Champagne Labruyere

A couple months ago we wrote about Champagne Palmer & Company.  We were excited to get Palmer because it was new to Georgia.  Champagne Labruyere is likewise new to us here at the store and it shares a pedigree with Palmer.  Both own Grand Cru Chardonnay vineyards in the Montagne de Reims district of Champagne.  The difference for us is that we actually have the Labruyere Grand Cru Page Blanche in the store.  Our Palmer is a non-vintage brut which may indicate purchased fruit. 

There are 33,500 hectares (76,000 acres) in vines in the Champagne region and they are spread over 319 villages.  Only seventeen of those villages have Grand Cr vineyards.  For Labruyere their sixty-five year old vineyards lie in the village of Verzenay.  That highly esteemed fruit has been destined for Roederer Crystal and Dom Perignon in the past.

Edouard Labruyere owns 6 hectares (15 acres) in Verzenay which he named Chantravesen.  He also has holdings in the nearby village of Verzy.  Labruyere purchased his Champagne properties because of their similarity to his holdings in Burgundy.  Specifically he wanted vineyards that had Burgundian-style vine spacing, density and pruning for the traditional Burgundian vinification.

The Labruyere family hails from the Moulin a Vent region where they have owned Clos du Moulin a Vent since 1868.  They also own vineyards in the Cotes d'Or of Burgundy and Chateau Rouget which lies adjacent to Chateau Petrus in Pomerol, Bordeaux.

The taster's description for traditional French Champagne may include complex flavors of buttery brioche, baked apple toast, hazelnut, vanilla and yeast.  Two descriptions we found for our Labruyere included "fruity, powerful, smokey and feral" and "perfectly focused, rapier-like in intensity, exuberant and driven."  Apparently they have nailed it.

We are restarting our store wine tastings after a two month respite.  Because of the need for social distancing, we are asking for Saturday afternoon appointments.  If you want more information or want to schedule a time slot please call us at 770-287-WINE(9463) or email us at

Wednesday, May 20, 2020


...reverence for the land - the idea that we are not "making" something from it, but rather mirroring all that is already there.   - from the DAOU Vineyards website.

Recently our supplier directed us away from a case purchase of Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon.  Pricing was the issue and he said we should consider DAOU as an alternative.  Now we have three reds from DAOU in the store including the Cabernet, which according to the salesman, is what several Atlanta wine accounts are doing.

So what do we know about DAOU?

Established in 2007 DAOU Vineyards began as a 600 acre purchase atop Hoffman Mountain in the Adelaida District on the northwestern side of the Paso Robles AVA (American Viticultural Area).  Adelaida is one of eleven AVA's in Paso Robles but produces 25% of the wines of the region.  At 2,200' elevation, what is now known as DAOU Mountain, is the highest elevation in Paso Robles.  

Brothers Georges and Daniel Daou sold their Daou Systems hospital software company after going public in 2007.  The two had spent their early youth in Lebanon before moving to France.  Ultimately they were educated at UC San Diego as Systems Engineers but shared a dream of making world class wine.  The sale of their company provided their seed money for the winery.

What they purchased atop Hoffman Mountain was a derelict and dilapidated winery with 212 acres of fallow vineyards, the remnants of a once great estate.  Hoffman Mountain Ranch was one of the great wineries of forty years ago when I was getting my feet wet in this industry.  For me their Zinfandel in particular was memorable.  Stanley Hoffman was a Beverly Hills cardiologist who hired the great "Father of California Winemaking," Andre Tchelistcheff to design his vineyards.  That was back in 1964. 

Hoffman Mountain is now officially DAOU Mountain.  That was not the only change.  Systems Engineers apparently analyse everything.  Because the brothers aspired to produce world class wine, all grape types were replanted with varietal clones more suitable for their purposes.  Their yeasts are proprietary and sourced from the region.  The old Hoffman winery, itself, was purposely retained in honor of the patriarch.

DAOU now has 400 acres in vines.  47% of their production is varietal Cabernet Sauvignon; 23% is destined for a proprietary Zin/Syrah-type blend; 12%, a Bordeaux blend and 9% is Chardonnay.  The remaining 10%, one would assume, are blending grapes.  The typical DAOU varietal Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 75% Cabernet, 10% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot,  The "Bodyguard" red blend is typically Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Tannat.

DAOU wines are marketed in three quality level: The Paso Robles Collection is all sourced from the region but not estate-grown.  The Reserve Collection is some combination of sourced and estate fruit.  The Estate Collection is just as it sounds.  

If you have read this article and have an interest in DAOU, stop in and lets talk.

Next Wednesday, May 27th, Albert Bichot, one of the great French Burgundy companies, will be conducting a virtual wine tasting for anyone interested.  This should be considered an educational event about the finest wine region in the world.  Call us at 770-287-WINE (9463) or email us at for details.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Marnie Old

Marnie Old is a sommelier, author and educator who has a weekly column in the Philadelphia Daily News.  She also hosts something called "Wine Simplified" on YouTube.  What she brings to the table is a crisp and engaging style that "uses the power of images to explain complex wine concepts."  That is a gift.

One consequence of getting older is we tend to get stuck in our routines and fail to remain open to new information and those who bring it.  With as much history in this industry as we have, Marnie Old was new to us until we recently saw her name in a Lettie Teague WSJ wine article.  To restate what we said above, what she does is she simplifies things to the point where even if you aren't paying 100% attention you can still get it.  Wine Folly is similarly good at this approach.  It's sort of a "wine for dummies" approach.

While we weren't familiar with Marnie Old by name, we have been using something she wrote years ago as a teaching tool here in the store.  It was published in an infinitely forgettable trade magazine and it was so good we tore it out and kept it on the counter.  It would become our text for conducting the wine and cheese "experiment."

The article was a mere three paragraphs long with the other half page being graphics, observations, and a four step technique for conducting the experiment.  The article was entitled "Salt is Wine's Best Friend" and we used it to show how dry red wine has a natural affinity with cheese (since cheese is salty). 

These are her exact words: "Salt blocks the taste buds that detect acidity and sensitizes those that detect sweetness.  So saltiness makes wine taste less acidic, fruitier and less sweet.  In summary, this effect is usually pleasant."  She then goes on to say why sugar doesn't work with dry red wine.  We always stopped our experiment at this point since we always thought sugar was a non-starter.

Marnie Old was a restaurant sommelier for her first five years in the industry before moving on to consultant work with restaurants, consumers and corporations.  She was formerly the director of Manhattan's French Culinary Institute.  She even educated the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (since that state runs the liquor industry).  Currently she is affiliated with the Boisset Collection of Napa-Sonoma wines.

Please join us this Thursday the 12th at 5pm when Bob Reynolds leads us in a tasting of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley Vineyards along with a couple reds from Argentina and Spain.  One week later on the 19th David Hobbs returns with a tasting from his fine wine portfolio.  Then on Saturday the 21st  from 1-3pm we will host a charity tasting to benefit the Gateway Domestic Violence Center.  Please join us for the tastings. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Champagne Palmer & Co.

We just got in a couple cases of Palmer & Co. Champagne.  Since I have never sold this one before, I thought some homework might help with my sales pitch, hence, this post.

Montagne de Reims is one of the five wine districts in the Champagne region.  It is located in Champagne's northwestern quadrant.  Seven grape growers in that region united to form Palmer in 1947.  While Montagne de Reims is known for its Pinot Noir, these growers owned Grand Cru and Premier Cru Chardonnay vineyards, which is wonderful in itself, if a little peculiar considering where they were.

Pinot Noir is recognized as the great grape of Champagne.  It is what gives Champagne its character.  Montagne de Reims Champagne is especially well known for its heady bouquet, structure and acidity.

The Champagne district is situated ninety miles northeast of Paris.  That latitude is the highest of vineyard holdings in the world except for Argentina.  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the third grape of Champagne, are among the few types capable of producing quality fruit at that latitude.

In a way what the founders of Palmer accomplished in 1947 parallels what is happening today in Champagne - growers are making their own instead of selling their harvest to the maisons, the huge international companies.  Estate-bottled wines are always better than what the big guys can do and the Grower Champagne movement is a microcosm of that larger truth.

The reputation of a Champagne house, however, is built by its non-vintage bottlings where the house cuvee establishes the public's perception of the company.  Most Champagne lovers are introduced to a a new sparkler by trying the non-vintage version first if for no other reason than the price.  Palmer, being a seventy year old company, long ago outgrew its estate wine bonafides.  Those Grand Cru and Premier Cru Chardonnay Vineyards now supply higher tier Palmer labels while the non-vintage product is made largely from purchased juice.  The great brands of Champagne consistently purchase ninety percent of their non-vintage Champagne juice.

While almost all big Champagne houses reside in the cities of Reims or Epernay, one large company calls the town of Ay in Montagne de Reims home.  That would be Bollinger whose big, yeasty, masculine style is indelibly etched into every Champagne lover's memory.  Palmer, by contrast, self-describes as "a moment of celebration associated with elegance."  They claim they get minerality from the chalky soil and salinity from the ocean breezes.  Moreover their wine style displays citrus and tropical fruit, floral notes, nuttiness and a silky mousse.

The best Champagnes show some combination of freshness, richness and delicacy, breed and raciness, and a stimulating strength.  Let's hope Palmer displays all of that.  And more!

Please join us this Thursday at the weekly tasting.  We start at 5 and go till 7pm.

Sunday, February 23, 2020


Pragal is one of those unassuming generic-looking bottles that only gets its due when you dare to get into it.  It doesn't scream, "I'm here! Let me show my stuff!"  Instead it almost willfully holds back its promise by blending into the shelf with more formidable labels overshadowing it.

I first purchased a case of Pragal a year ago along with several Spanish wines and proceeded to stock them all in the Spanish rack.  I guess I thought they all looked Spanish.  It took an especially considerate customer's direction to get the wine where it was supposed to be - with the Italians.

Pragal is a sturdy red wine made by Bertani, one of the giants of Veneto.  Among their landholdings is a large expanse in the heart of the Valpolicella Classico region.  They have another large parcel  16km east of Verona.  Pragal sources Corvina from the Valpolicella region and Merlot and Syrah from their Val d'Illasi vineyard to the east.  The wine is then classified as "Veneto IGT."

All three Pragal grape types are sourced from low yielding, hand pruned vines.  After harvest some grapes are dried appassimento-style which accounts for the wine's richness.  A lengthy maceration and fermentation at low temperatures in large oak barrels is done before a malolactic fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Then there is a six month fining in oak barrels before the final blending is done.  The wine is released only after being held for more aging in the bottle.

Along with having the heft of a big red wine, Pragal has the fruity spiciness and bright acidity one might expect of serious Italian wine.  The tannins are soft.  The finished product is a deep ruby color with garnet and violet tints.  Flavors include red fruit preserves, dried roses, black cherry, spices, tobacco and black pepper.  The rich intensity of this wine is persistent making it perfect as an accompaniment for all red meats including game.  A formidable pasta dish would also work with this wine. 

Sunday, February 16, 2020


Quinta de Chocapalha (choc-a-POLL-ya) is a Swiss-owned winemaking estate in the Lisboa Vinho Regional Area north and west of the Portuguese capitol, Lisbon.  A quinta is a country estate; "choca"  translates as a warm wind and "palha" sort of means "calm water flowing into a valley."  The estate has the desirable breezes from the ocean and three rivers running into the property.

Within the larger Lisboa legally defined wine production region there are nine DOC's.  Our estate is in the Alenquer DOC.  Estramadura was the name of this Lisboa region before 2008 when it was renamed to acknowledge the capitol.

The most well known wine region of Portugal has to be the Douro Valley where Port is made.  That region encompasses most of the northernmost 20% of the country.  Most of the lower 80% is considered to be ordinary by comparison.  Vinho da Mesa is the name given to inexpensive quaffing wine in Portugal.  Lisboa is the largest producer of wine in the country while not being the largest production area geographically.  That is the definition of ordinary.

Most of the wine made in Lisboa is made in wine cooperatives.  It has only been in recent times that private wine making estates have appeared.  You might say this region was known for its Vinho da Mesa.  Chocapalha was established in 1987.  Of course, in this era where so many mass marketers masquerade as estates, they too could be a cooperative.  While their website is superior to most vacuous winery websites they nonetheless leave many questions unanswered.

One thing they do well at their website is the delineation of the three wine lines they market.  Their estate wines are called Quinta de Chocapalha.  One step down are their Mar de Lisboa line which they say is more international in style.  Then below that they have Mar de Palha which they say is the "most international" in style.  (Damning with faint praise?)  They make a dozen wines at each level.  We have one red each from the Chocapalha and Palha lines and they display fine quality at fair pricing.

We also have the "CH by Chocapalha," the elite red from the company and that is the reason for this post.  Our 2016 vintage is 100% Touriga Nacional grown in their oldest vineyards.  For this wine their website does go into some detail: Pre-fermentation maceration and successive robotic pressings are done for twelve days at 25 degrees centigrade.  Malolactic fermentation and aging are done in French oak barriques for twenty-four months before the wine is bottled.

The wine is here in the store now and it is wonderful.  It has a violet color with a concentrated floral nose of perfumed black fruit.  The palate shows rich dark fruit flavors and integrated structured velvety tannins.  Once again, this wine is wonderful.  It is frankly one of the best wines we have tasted in recent memory.

Please join us for this week's Thursday wine tasting.  We go from 5 to 7pm.

If you have read through this long meandering post and like bargain white wine we have have a reward for you in the store.  We have two imports we'll sell for $7.99/btl!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020


It doesn't look like much.  It's a brownish-orangish natural rind wheel measuring 3-4" tall and sixteen or so inches across.  It weighs thirteen pounds and never has a label on it.  Like I said, it doesn't look like much.  Just another wheel of cheese.

It does look Swiss though.  Or maybe I've just been selling it so long I've decided that's what Swiss cheese should look like.

Gruyere is, of course, my favorite cheese.  It's not only the greatest cheese of Switzerland, in worldwide competitions it wins accolades from experts as "The Best Cheese in the World."  Gruyere wheels are HUGE so Raclette is a far cry from that so I still don't understand why I think Raclette looks Swiss.

Raclette (rock-LET) is a semi-hard, unpasteurized Alpine cow milk cheese.  It's aged 3-6 months so you could say it's like a softer milder Gruyere.  Like Gruyere it has historically been made on both sides of the French-Swiss border and like Gruyere, eighty percent of Raclette originates in Switzerland.

Written references to the cheese go back to convents in the 12th century.  It was considered to be a peasant cheese.  The name Raclette comes from the French word "racier" which means "to scrape."  Peasants would position the cheese next to a fire to soften it before scraping it onto bread.  From those humble beginnings Raclette evolved into a melting cheese over potatoes, which led to gherkins, onions, other vegetables and eventually, dried meats.  For people in the know, using the Raclette scraping apparatus makes all the difference in the finished meal.

Savoie, France is on one side of the border; Valais, Switzerland is on the other.  That area is ground zero for Raclette.  The closest fine wine region is the Rhone Valley and if that place conjures images of big red wines you may be barking up the wrong tree.  The locals pair this one with whites.   

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

KWV/ Western Cape/South Africa

I don't know how this happened but in recent months we have evolved into quite the vendor for South African wines.  Presently we have eight types in the store, four reds and four whites.  Last month we may have sold thirty cases of these which is pretty impressive considering South African wines usually don't do that well.

In the wine business Europe is considered to be the "old world" and everywhere else is considered "new world."  Most new world wine industries are a hundred years old or so.  South Africa has a wine industry that is three hundred fifty years old.  Many of their critically acclaimed wines are second in quality only to Europe.

Most of the South African wine industry is located in the Western Cape, the region surrounding Cape Town in the southwestern corner of the continent.  At thirty-three degrees latitude this wine country mirrors Mendoza, Argentina where the finest Malbec is made.  The prize wine of South Africa is Pinotage, a hybrid of Cinsault and Pinot Noir.  While Pinotage may be the signature wine of South Africa something in its flavor profile doesn't gibe with the international palate.  South African Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhone-style blends are safer bets for most of us.  Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are the winners in white wine.

Our thirty cases sold in December was heavily weighted toward the KWV whites we loaded up on when the price was right.  Considering the quality of the wines, that store purchase proved to be the ultimate no-brainer.  If anything, our $10 retail was too low, scaring off many who might have liked the wines but weren't inclined to buy such low-priced fare.

At the turn of the last century South Africa had a serious wine overproduction problem.  The phyloxera bug had decimated South African vineyards like everywhere else.  When they replanted they overdid it resulting in way too much wine for a nation that was not an exporter at that time.

KWV was a farming cooperative established in 1918.  In 1924 the government passed the KWV Act which made the co-op responsible for administering the wine industry.  By putting KWV in charge the government hoped for a unity of purpose among producers leading to innovation and quality improvement.  The development of export markets would then hopefully follow.

Upon establishment of its authority in 1924 KWV corrected the overproduction imbalance by purchasing excess wine from growers and fermenting it into brandy then marketing it around the world.  The KWV Act made the co-op the sole importer/exporter of all alcoholic beverages.  Initially 70% of vineyard production was distilled with just 30% remaining as table wine.  Today those percentages are reversed.

Twentieth century South Africa is noteworthy for most of us for one primary reason: Apartheid.  Most of the industrialize First World boycotted South Africa because of its legally discriminatory political system.  Once reforms took place in the late 1980's the wine industry itself was reformed.  To be more inclusive KWV was privatized and black ownership in the industry was mandated.

Please join us this Thursday after 5pm for the weekly wine tasting.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Red Wine and Fish

Deceptive title.  What we're really talking about is the great Sicilian red Nero d'Avola as an accompaniment to Mediterranean cuisine.  Our material comes from the Kermit Lynch newsletter.  KL is an exceptional importer of European wines and their newsletter, like all business newsletters, is a sales instrument.  They were pitching their particular Sicilian red by pairing it with a particular meal which they go on to delineate.

The KL newsletter is very professionally done with creative writing that makes our little humble blog appear quite primitive.  What is in the obvious interest of both Kermit Lynch and Vine & Cheese is that we present wines flatteringly to would-be purchasers to advance our business interests.  We want to sell wine.  So when KL says Nero d'Avola retains acidity despite baking in the Mediterranean climate vineyards, that says this wine is food-friendly.  When they say the wine "coats the palate with sumptuous notes of black cherry and blackberry,"  that gets Pavlov's dog salivating.  When they say the "radiant brightness" of the wine contrasts with "the succulence of the dark fruit," I want to call my old English literature teacher and say, "Did you hear that?"

Here's the recipe for the meal they're talking about:

Cook down some onions, garlic and tomatoes in olive oil.  Add some capers and pitted olives.  Then some dried herbs like oregano and thyme.  Hot chili flakes, if desired.  Spoon this sauce over grilled swordfish or tuna with pasta.

So after reading the KL sales pitch, what do I think?  I want to taste the wine.  And the meal.  I really want to taste them both.  Together. 

It's enjoyable for me to criticize over-the-top wine writers.  Especially if I think they either don't know what they're talking about or they're transparently on the take.  This time the writer got it right.

I r-e-a-l-l-y want to taste that wine!

Please join us this Thursday at the weekly wine tasting.  We go from 5 to 7pm here at the store.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

2018 Sand Creek Red Blend

Not only is this a rich and luscious red quaffer, it is also an especially nice looking wine.  Both the bottle and the case have beautiful multicolored waves going across them.  So unlike so many mass marketed chain store wines, this one actually has the quality going on inside of the bottle also.

The Sand Creek red comes from the Peninsula de Setubal which is just south of Lisbon, Portugal.  The wine is made by Casa Ermelinda Freitas in a region historically anchored by Jose Maria da Fonseca, Portugal's oldest table wine company.  Established in 1834, Fonseca is still thriving today albeit in the fortified Muscat category where they have a near monopoly in that kind of wine.

Historically the Setubal peninsula has been dedicated to Muscat grapes. Fonseca started it all.  Muscat of Alexandria is the most prominent type planted there (and elsewhere) but Muscat is one of those types prone to mutation so there is a veritable family of Muscat grapes to sort out.  Most vineyards in the region are planted in white grapes with most of those being related to Alexandria in some way.

Our Sand Creek however, is a red blend and while its appellation on the label says "Setubal" it may more accurately have called "Palmela" which is a red wine carve-out from the Setubal DOC.  Portugal's legal wine appellation system has been in flux since the early 2000's.  Palmela's DOC status elevation from IPR probably happened around 2009.

Palmela features sunny plains with poor fertility but well draining sandy limestone soil.  Red grape vines love such environs.  They yield wines of fully ripe and balanced tannic cherry flavors.

Palmela, like Setubal, is mostly planted in white grapes but there are a handful of red players.  The most prominent type is called Castelao or Periquita.   DOC law for Palmela reds mandates at least 67% Castelao in the blend.  Alfrochiero and Tinta Amarela are two other local varieties which, like Castelao feature dark coloration and rich body and flavors.  Aragonez (Tempranillo) is also part of the blend as are the international varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

The most telling feature displayed by our Sand Creek red is its floral nose that just won't quit.  That's a dead giveaway that Muscat is in the blend also.

Please join us next Thursday the 16th for a red wine tasting to include the Sand Creek Red.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Le Roule

Every holiday season we sell a ton of Le Roule to breathlessly panting customers dying to know more about the stuff.  It's just that good.  So here's the lowdown:

Le Roule (le roo-lay) is one of those meteors that hits the marketplace and immediately finds its mark.  It's only been around since the nineteen eighties when it was created in central France by the Tablanette Fromagerie.  It is currently produced in Northeastern France in the Les Vosge mountain village of Neufchateau by Laiteries Hubert Triballat SA.

The Le Roule name means "roll" and it's not just a proper noun.  The Le Roule log looks just like so many pasteries that roll up sweet stuff into some kind of cake layer.  And that is what is going on here.  First you spread your added ingredient; be it garlic and herbs, sweet and savory peppers, or cranberries; onto your work table.  Then you spread your fresh curd on top of it.  Trim off your excess and start rolling!  The process is still an artisan effort, done by hand leaving the unmistakable spiral design on the ends to validate the process.

The dumbfounded expressions on the faces of tasters is probably as much due to the freshness of the product as anything.  It has a creamy smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture.  The sweet or spicy add-ons don't so much dominate the freshness as perfectly balance the flavor of the cheese itself.

Le Roule is great on crackers or as a dip with crostini.  It is spreadable so it may work on toast for breakfast or as dessert on grahams.  Some might butter their steak and potatoes with it!

This Thursday the 9th after 5pm please join us for a wine tasting with industry veteran Dave Klepinger.  That evening Dave will pour tastes of three from Italy and a great Malbec from Argentina.  Specifically we'll have Villa Sparina Gavi, Allegrini Valpolicella, Palazzo de la Torre IGT Super Tuscan and A. R. Guentota Malbec.