A Whole lot of great wine!

It’s that time of year!  well almostl.  Here, it’s been chilly and rainy.  Not that San Francisco summer fog rain, but RAIN rain.  Such a bummer.  I think finally, however the sun has come out!  Morning fog is the norm in July, but I’ll take it – the sun usually peeps out around 11am or so.


Elsewhere in the Universe, there actually IS summer!  So when Whole Foods approached me and asked me if I’d like to taste their six featured summer sippers, I said HELL YEAH!  not only are these affordable wines, but they are available at whole Foods – a national chain of gourmet, organic, and otherwise excellent food.  No, I don’t normally shop at Whole Paycheck (mostly because while I adore tomatoes that taste like … tomatoes, I don’t have a $500 week food budget), I do buy some things there are a regular basis, and have been known to purchase some of the wine selected by store staff.

Whole Foods does an excellent job at picking diverse wines, in all price ranges.  I have had a lot of success trying new wines that were staff selections.

Tonight, we are having turkey burgers, so I opened the 2010 Perrin Nature Côtes du Rhône.  I love Rhone; the flavor profiles of the south of France are just delicious.  This is a delcious wine with lots of dark fruit, meaty notes, with lots of blackberries and dark earth.  It has a ton of character and complexity in every sip without being overly heavy.  It’s a country wine, but elegantly so.  While it’s a baby, you can enjoy this now, or age it for a bit.  It will come together nicely.  I would not recommend leaving this wine open for more than a few hours howeve,r as it can loose it’s interesting notes and become flat.

This wine is a SCREAMING deal for a BBQ and those summer parties at about $12-15 and is available at Whole Foods stores.  EXTREME VALUE ALERT! Run out RIGHT NOW and buy this!  I know I will be buying more, even though I have enough wine to keep every one of my friends and family very happy in the next apocalypse.


Please tune in to Twitter for a live tasting of more summer values from Whole Foods, tomorrow – June 9th – at 5pm PDT. Follow us using the hashtag #WFMWine Follow @WholeFoods for the latest updates!





E is for Elk!

Somewhere along the way of my Alphabet Challenge, I lost my path and started speaking  in tongues, which made my order slightly questionable.  Well, I’m back, from outer space, and am restarting with the letter E.

E is for Elk Cove Pinot Noir, from the Willamette Valley appellation in Oregon.  Now, i am new to the world of Oregon Pinot Noir, and i find it very much hit or miss.  for the most part, I enjoy the subtle earthy spice that Oregon Pinot displays, but sometimes it can be over the top.  The Elk Cove Willamette Pinot Noir is a blend of several vineyard sites, and aims to show the best of their style off.

Elk Cove Vineyards was founded in 1974 by Pat and Joe Campbell, which marks it as one of Oregon’s oldest vineyards.  They specialize in Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir, and has several single  vineyard Pinot Noirs in addition to the Willamette Valley blend.  This blend was an interesting beast, because when I first tasted it there were overwhelming notes of earth, musty leaves, mushrooms, bark, smoke, and dark raspberry.  I wasn’t that impressed, but enjoyed the hidden pomegranate and nutmeg flavors.  I found it a bit too nutty for me however, until i put it down for 30 minutes to enjoy letter G (you’ll have to wait to see that one).  After opening up in the glass, the overwhelming bark had blown off to reveal rich cherry and raspberry flavors, with a touch of dark cocoa.  Considering the ~$20 price tag, this is a


very affordable example of Oregon Pinot Noir.  I definitely recommend that you BUY it, and would encourage you to decant it for maximum enjoyment.



Getting in to the Spirit

Espiritu de Argentina
was launched in 2008, as a partnership with Monte Real Winery and Espiritu de Chile.  During the week that the Wines of Argentina tour hit San Francisco, we were invited to taste these new wines at Destino, a modern South American restaurant here in town.

Each course was made to pair with these wines, and while there weren’t always the best match in my opinion, they were certainly inspired dishes and I can’t wait to go back to Destino to try more of Chef James Schenk’s talented cooking.

After a starter of Chandon Sparkling Pinot Noir, we moved in to the restaurant for some Rose of Malbec.  this little baby snuck it’s way on the place, and wasn’t on our official tasting list but i found honey, tangerines, and slightly sweetened strawberry soda.  This malbec is picked early in the morning in April – remember, they are on an opposite schedule int he southern hemisphere – and has about 2 hours of skin contact.  It is then tank fermented.  It was an interesting start to the evening, but I admit, not my favorite.

The 2008 Classic Torrontés is from the Los Campamentos district of Mendoza, which has a temperate climate.  Torrontés is a truly Argentinian grape, and it’s widely thought to be a descendant of Muscat of Alexandria.  Additional research has shown that it is related to the Malvasian grape, which is used to make Maderia.  It arrived with Day Boat scallops, with jasmine oil and a little kick at the end.  Torrontés is one of my favorite “other” white wines.  This had a nose of lemons, spice, orange zest and nutmeg.  On the palate, I found lychee, tropical fruit and melons with creamy pineapple and banana, with a spicy finish.  It was quite aromatic and just lovely.  As I’ve said before for a few great values, RUN OUT AND BUY THIS WINE as soon as you can find it!  Don’t wait, do it NOW!   This wine is actually harvested twice, once in February, and again in March.  this allows the floral flavors to combine with the tropical notes, resulting in this flavor extravaganza.

The 2008 Classic Chardnonay from the Tupungato and Medrano regions of Mendoza, was served with a Roasted Apple Quinoa salad.  It smelled like spiced pears and apple pie, adn tasted of mince meat and vanilla custard.  I thought it was a bit flabby, and I didn’t like it.  I’d give it an AVOID but if you’re interested in trying a different wine, for $10, it’s a good experiment.

Next, we had a 2007 Classic Shiraz with a spicy Chicken Chorizo.  Why Shiraz you say?  Mostly because it’s a southern hemisphere naming convention, but yes this is a syrah.  This smelled of smoked meat and black pepper, and had cherries, figs, and plums on the palate.  Shiraz is best produced in the dry desert regions of Argentina, where there is less than 120mm of rain a year.  The geography in these regions is unique, since it’s a high desert surrounded by mountains where the snow and meltwater is trapped in the basins.  The soil is poor and sandy, and the yield is low, which is perfect for Shiraz.  With the ch0rizo, the fruit and spice really came out to play, and I loved this wine.  this is a winner in a value Shiraz, and beats some of those down under critter brands to DEATH for $10.  STRONG BUY

With the bacon pork belly that came out following the sausage, we had a 2007 Classic Bonarda.  What the heck is Bonarda?  Well I’m glad you asked.  I learned this at the Vine Connections tasting I had attended earlier thsi year.  in this case, Bonarda is the same as Charbono, which is sometimes but rarely grown in California.  It may or may not be french but who really knows.  This wine was smokey, gamey, and had a lot of blackberry fruit.  It was a dense wine and was delicious with the pork belly, as was the shiraz.  BUY

At this point, I was stuffed but we moved on to the Ox-Tail Empanada with the 2007 Classic Malbec from Mendoza.  a quintessentially Argentinian grape.  It’s one of the classic six Bordeaux varietals, but the Argentines have been doing single varietal bottlings for years.  I’ve often thought that I just didn’t like Malbec, until I stopped drinking the overoaked, cheap plonk that you can often find.  This malbec was delightful with smoky fruit, meat, figs and frunes flavors.  It was aged for a year in French oak, and it has just enough of the oak so as to be not overpowering but well balanced and delicious.

Finally, we had the 2006 Reserva Malbec with Grilled Swordfish.  Now I can tell you I liked this wine, but I can’t remember why.  I just know it was good.  I also know that when the container finally gets here, I will be buying some more so I can taste it again!

All of the Classic designate wines are $10, and the Reserva is $15.  I am very excited for these wines to be released, and they are a great value for your cellar.  They are intended to be drunk, and not stored, and will make even the most miserly wallet open up to enjoy a bottle!

Thanks to everyone for making this evening fun, full of food, and full bodied.  The values of Espiritu de Argentina are extreme and the quality is equal to some much more expensive wines.  I look forward to trying the Chilean wines in the future, and more value offerings from this fantastic partnership.

Wines and dinner provided by Espiritu de Argentina, Cecchetti Rake, and Balzac Communications.  Any trips to Argentina were purely wine induced and not real.