Au Revoir, Rosé



Au revoir, rosé—see you next summer. I’m hoping that by adding some heavier wines to my evening tasting line-up that I can conjure some cooler temperatures for central Texas.

But before saying my last goodbye for the summer, I thought I’d take one more stroll through my local wine store and see if I could find any interesting pink wines. I think I told my husband I was searching for something weird (I received the shade eye in return). I did not return home with any weird wine, but I was nevertheless quite happy with my haul: two French rosés, and each of them from an Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP/PGI) aka Vin de Pay region.  Score!

The first wine—Petit Bourgeois Rosé of Pinot Noir 2015, Vin de Pays de Val de Loire

The bottle reads Mis en bouteille par Henri Bourgeois – Chavignol. The Henri Bourgeois estate was founded 50 years ago and produces a range of wines in the Upper Loire. Assisted by his sons Rémi and Jean-Marie, Henri grew the estate to a total of 72 hectares of vines, consisting of 120 individual parcels. Many of the estate’s wines are made from these individual vineyards, such as their Sancerre d’Antan and Sancerre Jadis.  (For enquiring minds: Chavignol is a small town in Sancerre, famous for a goat cheese known as Crottin de Chavignol as well as its wine.)

The Henri Bourgeois Estate’s Loire Valley wines includes Sancerre (white, red, and rosé versions), two versions of Pouilly-Fumé, Quincy, and Menetou-Salon (red and white). Sharp wine students will recognize these areas as prime Sauvignon Blanc country sprinkled with a bit of Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Cabernet Franc (among others). Their line of “Petit bourgeois” wines, labeled under the Vin de Pays de Val de Loire includes a varietally-labeled Cabernet Franc, a varietally-labeled Sauvignon Blanc, and my rosé of Pinot Noir.

The Vin de Pays du Val de Loire region covers roughly the same area as the entirety of the Loire Valley’s AOCs and covers 14 French departments—each of which is considered a subregion of the IGP. It follows the Loire River for over 350 miles from the Atlantic coast to the Auvergne Hills (which are practically in the center of the country). As stands to reason, the Vin du Pays de Val de Loire is one of the largest and most diverse wine regions of France in terms of geographic area.

This wine was a lovely salmon-pink color—a hue I used to call “San Diego sunset” – which you’ll really understand if you’ve ever lived there. I learned from the tech sheet that the juice was fermented on the skin for 48 hours, followed by a slow, cool fermentation at 60°F. The subsequent wine was quite aromatic, and ripe with the scents of rose petals, strawberries, watermelon, cherries, and peaches. It was fermented dry and had a good squirt of cherry-like acidity. All in all, this was a wonderful wine for about $15.00 (and the Wine Enthusiast liked it to the tune of 87 points). We served it up with some grilled shrimp accompanied by roasted red bell peppers, yellow tomatoes and goat cheese—a good match.

The Henri Bourgeois Estate also has some vineyard acreage in New Zealand’s Wairau River Valley (a subregion of Marlborough). The New Zealand property is a result of their search for new areas to “tame” in the pursuit of the world’s finest Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. The property, known as the Clos Henri Vineyard, is planted along the Waihopai River as its runs down a hillside into the sea. The latest generation of the Bourgeois family, Arnaud, Jean-Christopher, and Lionel, named the vineyard in honor of their grandfather.

The second wine: La Galope Rosé, Comté Tolosan IGP:

La Galope is a second label created by the Domaine de l’Herre winery, located in the heart of Gascony in Southwest France. The winery also produces a Sauvignon Blanc from the Côtes de Gascogne IGP under the La Galope label, as well as varietal Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Petit Manseng under the winery’s main label.  The Domaine de l’Herre winery was founded in 1974 and currently cultivates over 320 acres (130 ha) of vines, mainly on south-facing slopes in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

The Comté Tolosan IGP (Vin de Pays de Comté Tolosan) covers a large region of Southwest France—including 12 French departments—in the area commonly referred to as Gascony. This region is part of the Aquitaine Basin that occupies the plains between the Pyrenees and the Massif Central.  The IGP is bordered by Bordeaux to the northwest, Spain to the south, the Languedoc-Roussillon region to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.  The Garonne River cuts through the heart of the area, and to an extent separates the white wine-dominant vineyards to the west (nearest the coast) from the red wine-dominant vineyards to the east (further inland).

Several well-known AOCs are included within the catchment of the Comté Tolosan region—including Cahors, Jurançon, Madiran, and Irouléguy —but the IGP designation is typically used for wines grown or produced outside of the boundaries of these more prestigious sections.

Some research on the company website informs me that my rosé is produced from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The grapes are harvested in the early morning hours, and rushed to the crush pad where they are pressed with a high-tech inert gas press that crushes the grapes and immediately blankets them with nitrogen in order to avoid oxygen contact (and oxidation.) Following the press, the juice is macerated on the skins for a period of time before being pressed and fermented at about 60°F.

This wine is a nice light pink color. It’s fairly aromatic, with aromas of white flowers (I’m thinking cherry blossoms), strawberries, red peaches and red apples. All of those aromas are mirrored as flavors, accompanied by a nice zing of citrusy acidity. A hint of mineral on the finish is a nice surprise. All in all, an excellent value for $12.00, and a perfect wine for the bbq sliders we pulled from the grill.

Now, if only it would cool down a bit…

Note for all of us wine students: The Val du Loire IGP and the Comté Tolosan IGP are two of the six regional IGPs of France. The other four are the Atlantique IGP (covers Bordeaux, Cognac, and Dordogne), the Comtés Rhodaniens IGP (covers the Northern Rhône and Savoie), the Méditerranée IGP (covers the Southern Rhône and Provence), and the very well-known Pays d’Oc IGP (covers the Languedoc and Roussillon).

References/for further information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…

The Chocolate Block, Cape Cobras, and Braai

The Chocolate Block 2Here’s a hint for you folks out there that are not in the wine business:  People in the wine industry HATE to be asked about their favorite wine.  And we get asked all the time!! Just yesterday, at Kinko’s of all places….I am minding my own business, making copies of tasting mats, and someone who  just can’t help themselves forces me to admit that I am prepping to lead a wine tasting and the next thing out of their mouth is “So, what’s your favorite wine?”

There are many reasons we don’t care for this question.  First of all, my “favorite” wine is usually the one I am with.  Second, it changes all the time! Third, I really don’t want to offend anyone –and you never know who is listening! Finally, people usually only ask you that question because they want to tell you about their favorite wine, which is sometimes just painful to listen to….

Ok, thanks for listening to my rant. While I stand by the idea that “what’s your favorite wine” is a question wine professionals would rather not answer, over the years I have developed a pat answer that, while getting me out of many a squirmish situation, is also based in truth.

My standard answer to the question is: The Chocolate Block, a South African red blend produced  by the Boekenhoutskloof Winery in Franschoek.  Now, I will admit that my uncanny (and much-rehearsed) ability to pronounce “Boekenhoutskloof” may be part of the package, however, this is also an amazing wine, delicious and seductive, and like all good things…it comes with a great story.

Boekenhoutskloof Tasting RoomThe wine itself has a great story attached to it, which you can read on the Boekenhoutskloof Website. Suffice it to say the wine “has secrets to keep” and “inspired a graphic novel.” But as this wine is my personal favorite, you know there is a personal side to the story of the wine. It’s actually quite simple:  a few years ago, I was on an amazing, WOSA-sponsored trip through the wine producing regions of South Africa, having won a wine-related essay contest. One morning towards the end of our trip, our driver dropped me and my best friend/travel buddy off at the Boekenhoutskloof Winery in Franschoek for a tour and tasting.

The sheer beauty of the region, the technical ingenuity of the winery, and the amazing modern architecture of the tasting room built out over the vines were enough to make us swoon. We tasted through the winery’s range of wines, including Porcupine Ridge, The Wolftrap, and their iconic Boekenhoutskloof Syrah. They were all amazing.  Then our host brought out the big dog…The Chocolate Block, and we entered one of those rare yet coveted, zen-like trances accompanied by a feeling like, “this is so  good I have to just shut up and let this wine wash over me and just allow myself to feeeeeeeeeel it.”

Our host was smart enough to just let us zone out for a while…he was surely used to such things.  When the conversation started up again, he told us a bit about the scenery.  We were located on the edge of a vineyard, just a few hundred yards away from a stream. The stream was lined with Coast Silver Oak trees – a tree native to South Africa, we learned. My friend saw a group of people riding horses along the stream, sauntering under the beautiful trees, dreaming of African skies, and our host told us that horseback riding was an easy activity to sign up for. Perhaps we would like to ride some horses that afternoon?

Boekenghoutskloug WineryWe were about to say yes, but before we could, he told us a “humorous” story of how, just the week prior, a group of tourists had been riding by – just like the group we had seen, when a nest of Cape Cobras had fallen down out of the trees, onto the tourists, wrapped themselves around the riders, and spooked the horses.

Cape Cobras? There is such a thing as Cape Cobras? Turns out there is such a thing as Cape Cobras, and before anyone works the vineyard in the morning, they send brave people running down the rows of vines, banging pots and kettles together to make a joyful noise and send the cobras scurrying off. Ok. We feel better now.

Of course, we spent the last few days of our trip scaring each other with phony “Cape Cobra” sightings – even on the plane home- “Cape Cobras on a plane!”

So that’s my personal Chocolate Block story.  But the wine itself, based on a varying blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Cinsault, and Viognier, is delicious. It’s the wine I invented the tasting phrase “slips down your throat like the good Lord himself in velvet trousers” for. You can seek and find aromas and flavors of cherry, blackberry, cocoa (of course), coriander, cedar, red currant, marzipan, black plum, and raisin. The wine currently sells for about $22.00 in Texas.

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…

My New Favorite Sparkling Rosé

A few weeks ago my anh (adorable new husband) and I took a second honeymoon to Niagara Falls.  Actually, I was scheduled to speak at the American Culinary Federation Conference on the topic of wine and food education, but…why miss a chance at a second honeymoon?  We took a few days of R&R after the convention ended, and had a wonderful time!!!

Admitedly, Niagara Falls, at least the New York side where we stayed, is far from a culinary mecca.  However, as it turns out, our hotel was just a few blocks away from a wonderful wine bar, complete with a smart, compact, international selection of wines by the glass and the bottle as well as a delightful menu of plates, both big and small. The name of this gem is “Wine on Third” and it is located in the middle of the entertainment district of Niagara Falls on (you guessed it), Third Street.  From what I heard from my fellow conventioneers and hotel guests, we definitely happened upon the best dining choice in the area when we discovered Wine on Third. 

As far as the falls themselves, nothing I have ever seen can compare in terms of pure grandeur and natural beauty.  We spent a lot of time close to, on top of, and below the falls.  Shields T. enjoyed the outdoorsiness of it all and I love the relaxation and the positive vibes of the falling water. However, as amazing as the falls were, the highlight of our trip turned out to be found not in a waterfall but in a bottle of pink bubbly.

A Trip across the Border

On the Sunday after the conference (complete with gala awards dinner and looooong speeches) ended, we walked across the Rainbow Bridge into Canada and rented a car.  We took off for a lovely drive and headed for the Niagara-on-the-Lake wine region, a mere 15 miles away.  I was expecting a homespun, charming wine country with big red barns, sweet red wines and big yellow tractors.

Let’s just say, I was way, way wrong.

The entire region of Niagara-on-the-Lake is awe inspiring. The vineyards are lovely; gorgeous rolling hills of row upon row of vines bordered by Lake Ontario.  Most of the wineries are big and modern; some almost seemed like  gleaming, shiny shrines to winemaking.  A few more are smaller, artisanal producers of fine wine.  The tasting rooms were sleek and well-staffed. And the wine….let’s just say I am impressed, and have a whole new appreciation of Canadian wine. 

I had done a good deal of pre-vacation research and booked a Sunday brunch at Peller Estates Winery  as our token fine dining excursion of the trip. The winery webpage showed an impressive winery complete with an elegant dining room and a “local celebrity” chef.  The chef, Jason Parsons, turned out to be not just a local celebrity but a genius in the kitchen and we enjoyed not just the best meal of the trip, but one of the best meals of our lives.

Soon after we were seated in the very gracious dining room, my new favorite Sparkling Rosé in the world appeared magically before our eyes.  At least that is what seemed to happen.  In reality, our server brought us each a complimentary glass of Peller Estates Signature Series Ice Cuvée Rosé. 

Those of you who are avid readers of the blog know that I adore a good rosé, especially “serious” rosé, and this is some serious wine.  This is not your mama’s sparkling white zinfandel.  It may have a hint of sweetness in it, but it balances with a bracing, cherry-squirt of acidity and has the complexity of a bottle-fermented sparkling wine to boot.  I detected aromas of strawberry, white peach, watermelon and red currant hovering just about the biscuit-toasty-leesy complexity of sur lie aging.  The crisp, taut flavors of raspberry brioche came rushing through, followed by a lingering finish with just a cusp of lemon-peel bitterness to keep you in a serious state of mind.  If you prefer, go ahead and ignore the annoying tasting notes, just know that this wine is delicious, refreshing and complex.  It keeps your mouth watering with just enough fruity flavors and acidity so that you just can’t help reaching out for one more sip.

On a technical note, this is a methode champenoise, traditionally made sparkling wine based on a blend of 55% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, and 10% Cabernet Franc, all hand-picked from the winery’s surrounding estate vineyards. After a second fermentation in the bottle, the wine is aged sur lie 12 to 14 months, followed by a quick dégorgement and a dosage of the estate’s Cabernet Franc Ice Wine. The Ice Wine dosage adds up to just 25gr/L of residual sugar,  keeping this wine somewhere around what the French would call “Extra Dry” but what I detect as just barely sweet.  That “barely sweet” sweetness is brilliantly balanced with the acidity and bitterness of the palate and the finish.  All in all, this wine adds up to one spectacular sparkler.

You might have trouble finding this wine in the States, as I did.  You could try ordering direct from the winery, if it’s legal in your state, but believe me…this wine is worth the drive to Canada.  Just don’t forget to take a look at that big waterfall on your way out to Peller Estates.

Wine Reviews: Kanu Vineyards Chenin Blanc 2009

My favorite Chenin Blanc for the last 5 years…


Kanu Vineyards Chenin Blanc 2009 – Wine of Origin Stellenbosch

Looking like pale yellow sunlight-in-a-glass, Kanu Vineyards Chenin Blanc 2009 reveals lifted aromas of lime, peach, apricot, and mineral met in mid-air by the pure, precise scent of lemon peel and sweet almond.  On the palate, a thunderstorm of lime precedes a fast grip of minerality and a drive-by shot of almond, followed by a soothing balm of peach and apricot.  Walking a fine, perfectly balanced line between fruitiness and acidity, this wine is as fresh and edgy as a blind date with your best friend’s ex.

Food Pairing Suggestions for Kanu Vineyards Chenin Blanc 2009 :

This crisp white wine, while is has suggestions of a plump full-bodiedness in the texture, shows delicacy of flavor and is taking a lingering walk on the lighter side of life…so I would suggest sticking to lighter foods as base ingredients – fish, shellfish, chicken, cream-based pastas, vegetarian dishes and cheeses. 

I would love to pair this wine with Pecan-Crusted Chicken glazed with Dijon Mustard-Cream Sauce and Gruyere Cheese.  This chicken and wine are a good fit on texture, the pecans will add a bridge flavor to the subtle nuttiness in the wine, and the crisp lemon-like acidity in the wine will cut through the richness of the creamy sauce and the cheese. 

I would also relish this wine served alongside Grilled Salmon with Jalapeno-Mango Mojo.  Once again, we have a texture match, but the flavors in this meet-up do a different kind of dance. The subtle sweetness in the wine would cool the zing of jalapeno heat in a hurry, and the sweet mango mojo will be matched by sweet fruit in the wine, bringing forward the fruit flavors of the wine while relaxing its sweetness.  

As a tip of the hat to the legendary cuisine of South Africa, I would match this wine with Grilled Shrimp with Chakalaka, a spicy, slow-cooked blend of tomatoes, chilies, onion, and garlic.  This wine has the fruit, the acidity, and the crisp, fresh coolness to cut through the heat of the chakalaka and the let sweet, savory saltiness of the shrimp shine through. 

On a different note, if today brings on a balmy afternoon, I might just sip this wine by itself; with my toes in the pool, a close eye on the kids, an even closer eye on my anh (adorable new husband)…that’s always a perfect match!

If you would like more information on Chenin Blanc, click here for my Chenin Blanc Cheat Sheet!

Wine…in Patagonia???

Wine…in Patagonia?   

Most people, when they think of Patagonia, think of glaciers, penguins, and the literal end of the world.  Some might call to mind the Straights of Magellan, Igazú Falls, and Tierra del Fuego.  But…I can just about bet my life on this fact…hardly anybody thinks of wine.

That was true for me, as well, right up until yesterday.  Now, when I think of Patagonia, I think of Malbec, Pinot Noir, a delightful Sauvignon/Semillon and a rich Cabernet.  Strange as it may seem to inhabitants of the Northern Hemisphere, there are vineyards in Patagonia, and since the late 1990’s, fine wine has been produced by a winery called “Bodega del Fin del Mundo.”  The name, naturally, translates to “The Winery at the End of the World”.

A few days ago I was lucky enough to taste through a wide range of the wines of the Bodega del Fin del Mundo, and while I enjoyed them all, I’ll keep this review short by concentrating on my favorite:  The Postales del Fin del Mundo Malbec  2008, made from grapes grown in, of all places, Patagonia, Argentina.

My tasting notes are, like my mindset today, rather jumbled, so I’ll just leave them that way. This wine, Postales del Fin del Mundo Malbec 2003, has a beautiful ruby-black-red color, highly perfumed aromas of black currant, plum jam, raspberry, and a teeny-tiny waft of vanilla-scented oak.  This is a beautiful, fruit-forward, well-proportioned wine….I’m tempted to say that it’s like a Greek statue…muscular and powerful but not bulky. 

 This could easily be a burgers, pizza, or steak-on-the-grill partner, and at a retail price of around ten dollars the price is right.  However…this wine could take it up a notch, so why not give the kitchen a whirl and serve this wine with pork tenderloin medallions topped with roasted red bell pepper-tomato butter served on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes and a side of spinach lightly tossed in garlic and butter???  Put out that kind of a meal and you’re going to be getting a lot more of what you want in life.

Geographically speaking, the vineyards that grow these lovely grapes are located in San Patricia del Chañar, which is about 500 miles south of the more famous vineyards of Mendoza, and approximately 1100 miles north of the frozen tundra of Tierra del Fuego.  This remarkable viticultural project began in the 1990’s with the building of over 12 miles of irrigation channels intended to capture the waters of the River Neuquén, which itself is fed by snow melting off the majestic Andes.  This region is essentially a dessert, and like many desserts, is often assaulted by high, steady winds- so much so that windbreaks were constructed to surround and protect the vineyards. However, the region boasts just the type of rocky soil, significant temperature extremes, and low humidity that vitis vinifera thrives in, and the area has been compared – terroir-wise- to Bordeaux, Asti, and Mendocino. 

Perhaps the validity of such comparisons are yet to be seen, but I, for one, always knew there was something good to be found at the end of the world.

The Valentine’s Day “Secret Weapon” Wine



The Valentine’s Day “Secret Weapon” Wine

My favorite wine for “romance” is Brachetto d’Acqui…use any brand you like but the absolute romantic-est is Rosa Regale by Banfi Vintners.  Just look at it…the bottle is elegantly shaped, the clear glass means you can see the beautiful clear garnet-red color of the wine, and as if that weren’t enough to make it just sing “Valentine!” the black and gold label has a picture of a red rose!

This is the everybody loves it wine of your dreams.  From Piedmont, Italy and grown in the company of some mighty heavy hitters, Brachetto is the wine to bring on a date.  Trust me on this one.

This wine has all the ingredients you need in a romantic wine …it’s pinkish-red, bubbly, lightly sweet, a perfect match for chocolate and low in alcohol.  Wink, wink, that low in alcohol bit will come in handy in case the date is a success.  As if that weren’t enough, the slight sweetness in this wine and the raspberry-strawberry flavors make it a perfect match for milk-chocolate dipped strawberries…imagine the possibilities. 

The aromas of this wine are easily recognizable and always consistent: The first to hit are raspberry and strawberry, followed immediately (sniff above the rim of the glass) by a strong scent of rose perfume.  I have been known to describe this aroma as a haunting memory of roses, rose-honey potpourri, or wedding bouquet.

I tell my male students that this wine can be the center of a picture-perfect seduction – the Valentine’s Day Secret Weapon – if they will just do this: First, make some hand-dipped milk-chocolate strawberries. Put them in a pretty box and show up for your date with the strawberries and a bottle of Brachetto. After your sweetheart opens the door, say, “Hey baby, I’ve got the bubbly and the chocolate strawberries … everything you wanted for Valentine’s Day.” If your gal (or guy) is anything like me, they’ll say “Oh yeah? Where are my roses???” to which you reply, “In the bottle, baby … in the bottle.”

After you demonstrate the roses in the wine aromas, the rest is up to you!

Happy Valentine’s Day to All – and  if you happen to find yourself on your own this year, buy yourself a bottle of Brachetto d’Acqui, and repeat after me, “who cares!”