French Wine

2 great value white Bordeaux wines

Usually when I hear “great value”  I think “That’s what nice people say about crappy wine”   But I’ve found myself being pleasantly surprised more often than not these days.  Although the economy seems to have improved since the low point several years back, the wine market seems to have taken a longer time to recover.  From various articles and stories I’ve read recently it appears that people are still in a very strong value centric frame of mind.

With that in mind I present to you, dear reader.  Two white Bordeaux’s that will please your palate as well as your wallet!

white bordeaux bottleChateau Timberlay, 2012 Bordeaux

I had no idea at the time I was tasting this what the history of Chateau Timberlay was.  I posted a pic on Instagram saying that this must be Justin Timberlake’s favorite wine.  But it turns out that this is one of the oldest Chateaus in Bordeaux and dates back to 1366!  Currently the wine falls under the Robert Giraud family of wines. The Giraud family still lives in the Chateau in the middle of the 300+ acre vineyard.  The 2012 vintage is a blend of 60% Sauvignon blanc and 40% Semillon.  The wine was fermented in stainless steel and weighs in at 13% alcohol.

Yellow straw in color, with hints of white peach and lemon.  Medium acidity and a lingering finish.  If you’re a fan of New Zealand style sauv blanc, but want a toned down version this is the wine for you.  Same complexity, just less loud.  The wine retails for about $20.  Weekly Wine Journal Rating 88 points


Chateau-de-chantegriveChateau de Chantegrive, 2011 Graves.

Graves is a sub region of Bordeaux and is well known for red wine production.  Personally, I’ve been really impressed with the whites from this region.  The name Graves comes from “Gravelly” which is what the soil is.  Left over glacial gravel from the last ice age.  Chateau de Chantegrive was founded by the Leveque family in 1966 and today the estate has grown to about 230 acres with about 45 acres dedicated to the production of this wine.

The Blend:  50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Semillon

This wine is crisp.  Really crisp.  Sharp.  In a good way.  Think Grapefruit with loads of cool mineral notes.  There is a hint of ripeness of the peach variety that plays into it later on, but it’s barely noticeable.  This wine also retails for about $20.  If you’re like me and like your white wines to be on the bigger bolder more tart and crisp side this is the wine for you.

Weekly Wine Journal rating 91 points

* disclaimer.  I received both of these wines as review samples.




Two amazing wines from Pomerol, France

You may  have heard of Bordeaux, but what about Pomerol?  Where is it? What is it?  For the average American wine consumer French wine remains a mystery, with classifications, and first growth and Chateau’s and regions.  Not to mention the wine is not labelled as Cabernet or Merlot.

First, lets locate Pomerol.  There it is!  Not far from the city of Bordeaux, the tiny commune is less than 3 square miles.  Pomerol is a sub-region of the “right bank” of Bordeaus but Pomerol differs from Bordeaux in that there is no official classification system. Read this Wikipedia article about wine classification in France if you don’t already know what it is.

The wines of Pomerol are typically less tannic and rely more heavily on Merlot.  The other two varieties of grape used are Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Over the past year I have managed to get my hands on some hard to find, and amazing examples of Pomerol produced wine.  First let me say that these wines are not cheap.  If you are looking for an affordable summer sipper these are not them.  But if you are looking for a serious wine for a special occaision these two wines are worth considering.  I have tried several bottles of each wine.

$90 93 points

Chateau Nenin 2005 Pomerol

Blend: 74% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc

Alcohol: 14.2%

Most reviews of this wine suggest big fat tannins, monster tannins and a rich concentration of black fruit.  I didn’t taste this earlier on, and in fact the wine had a few years in the bottle by the time I tried it.  I found the tannins to be a lot more subtle than I expected.  The fruit was deliciously integrated with a Thyme like spice to it.  Very smooth. Pair this wine with Prime Filet Mignon (tenderloin) Wine Enthusiast 91 points, Wine Advocate 92 points, Wine Spectator 93 points. Weekly Wine Journal rating…93 points

Price: $90.  Pricing on this wine is all over the map, but generally if you were to walk into a retail store you could expect to pay around $90.  Online prices vary.

$125 91-93 points "La Reserve"

Clos l’Eglise 2006 “La Reserve”

Blend: 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc

Price: $140.  Once again prices vary, generally between $90-$150 online

Production: 2,300 cases

“The wine is made according to traditional methods. It is for this reason that Sylviane Garcin-Cathiard chose wooden vats for Clos L’Eglise. Each batch is treated separately in a thermostat-regulated vat of 60 hl. Manual pigeage has been re-introduced; the pulp and mass of skins, known as chapeau, floats to the top during fermentation and is punched down manually several times a day. The wine is left in fermenting vats for a long time, and malolactic fermentation is carried out in 100% new barrels. Ageing lasts between 16 to 18 months depending on the vintage.” -Winemaker

VERY interesting thing to note about this particular wine:  This wine is the result of a collaboration between the winery and Gary Vaynerchuk.  He helped with the blending and as a result wine library is the exclusive retailer of this wine in the United States. This is not the exact same wine as the regular Clos l’Eglise Pomerol as evidenced by the difference in labelling.

"Regular Clos l'eglise pomerol"

This wine is the bigger and bolder of the two.  Right now, it is still fairly young.  The tannins are edgy and grippy, like cinnamon but there is definitely a great concentration of fruit and terroir to pull it through.  Cedar spice and black currants and the finish goes on forever.  Pair this wine with a Prime New York Strip.  The tannins will work well with the texture of this particular cut of meat. Weekly Wine Journal rating: 93 points

While both of these wines are well out of the budget for the average casual consumer of wine, I think that once you make the decision to go deep, to spend some big bucks and take your wine to the next level, these are two wines that won’t disappoint.

Wine Review: Mas Des Dames 2007 La Dame, Coteaux du Languedoc, France

The blend: 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Carignan

Alcohol: 13%

Price: $15-$20  as sampled $9.97 at Costco on markdown

Ratings: 91 points Wine Spectator, Tom Stevenson’s Wine Report rated it the “Number one value in Languedoc”

The Nose: Intense Thyme, Graphite, Minerality

The Palate:  More Thyme, Minerality, Meat.  After a few hours in the decanter the tannins and fruit started to shine through.  Tart spicy blackberry fruit, astringent mouth puckering tannins.  After 5 hours in the decanter the tannins have died down considerably, elegant smooth and not overly fruity, still a powerful wine.

The Finish:  Smooth, balanced, becoming more and more delicious with more time in the decanter