French wine isn’t only for the bourgeoisie. This week, we’re sipping two white wines for Spring from Burgundy and Bordeaux that are easy on your wallet. Each of these wines pair well with seafood, cream sauces, and light pasta dishes.
CHATEAU FAGÉ GRAVES DE VAYRES BLANC 2011
Chateau Fagé Blanc is from Graves de Vayres AOC in the Bordeaux sub region of Entre-Deux-Mers. Chateau Fagé Blanc is 80% Semillon, giving it round texture and nutty aromas, and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, giving it notes of lemon and hints of fresh grass. Chateau Fagé is so easy drinking, you’ll just keep drinking it until the bottle is empty.
GEORGES DUBOEUF FLOWER LABEL POUILLY-FUISSÉ 2011
Georges Duboeuf “Flower Label” Pouilly-Fuissé 2011 is 100% Chardonnay from the Pouilly-Fuissé AOC in the Maconnais sub region of Burgundy. Flower Label is an oaked Chardonnay with nutty and vanilla notes tempered by floral and citrus notes. It’s chalky minerality and acidity sharpen its edges, giving it nice structure. Anyone who likes oaked Chardonnay will enjoy this refreshing wine.
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Ah, Rosé season has arrived. Pink wine is perfect for spring and summer. It pairs so well with lobster, grilled seafood, and Mediterranean dishes. My favorite rosés are dry and light pink in color. My rule of thumb is that the lighter the pink, the better. So, of course, my default rosés of choice hail from Provence, France. Not to be outdone by French producers, there are some very lovely rosés made in America. Here are a few I recommend:
CLINE CELLARS MOURVEDRE ROSÉ CONTRA COSTA COUNTY 2012
Cline Cellars Mourvedre Rosé CA 2012 is a beautiful example of an American Rosé. At $12 a bottle, it is easily one of the best values I’ve enjoyed this season. Cline Cellars Mourvedre Rosé is dry with fresh notes of ripe watermelon, raspberry and strawberry. It has less acidity than its counterparts from Provence but more luscious fruit expression. It is sure to please a crowd and pairs perfectly with Mediterranean chicken.
MOUTON NOIR LOVE DRUNK ROSÉ WILLAMETTE VALLEY 2011
Mouton Noir Love Drunk Rosé OR 2011 is so easy to fall in drunken love with. Made of 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Noir, it is tasty and refreshing. Love Drunk’s bright acidity and fresh notes of strawberry, raspberry and kiwi go down so easy, you’ll find yourself reaching for glass after glass.
CHARLES & CHARLES ROSÉ COLUMBIA VALLEY 2012
Charles & Charles Rosé Columbia Valley, WA 2012 consists of 81% Syrah, 16% Mourvedre, 2% Cinsault and 1% Grenache. It has notes of strawberry, bing cherry and lemon with some minerailty and crisp acidity. Charles & Charles Rosé is a bit tart but makes a good patio wine for a hot day.
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One of the best food & wine experiences that I enjoyed this year was at Vie restaurant, located in the Chicago suburb of Western Springs. The service was as impeccable as the food was delicious. Wine Manager, Pablo Moncada, selected wine pairings that deliciously magnified the flavor profile of our meal.
Paul Virant, Vie’s Chef/Owner, centers the menu around local, seasonal ingredients. I dined at Vie in February when house preserved and pickled produce made an appearance in every course. This spring season has brought lots of new, fresh ingredients to the Vie kitchen. I can’t wait to return for another visit this season. In the meantime, memories of my winter meal at Vie will have to suffice:
First Course: seared local whitefish, braised parsnips, marcona almonds, roasted local mushrooms, horseradish vinaigrette
Wine Pairing: Good Harbor Vineyard Riesling Lake Leelanau, MI 2008
Second Course: roasted and fried beets, spinach, maple vinaigrette, maytag blue cheese
Wine Pairing: Pierre Gaillard Marsanne Collines Rhodaniennes 2011
Entrée: slagel farm porm milanese, braised black lentils, roasted onions, orange mostarda, pickled asparagus, pork jus
Wine Pairing: Olga Raffault “Les Picasses” Cabernet Franc Chinon 2007
Dessert One: bittersweet chocolate pave, hazelnut praline, cinnamon cappuccino cream paired with Warre’s Heritage Ruby Port
Dessert Two: crème brulee custard cake, fermented cherry jam, cherry sorbet paired with Late Harvest Riesling
For more information about Vie, please visit the website: www.vierestaurant.com.
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The wines of Youngberg Hill Vineyards reflect the “essence of place.” Wayne Bailey, owner/winemaker, uses holistic farming practices as well as the Burgundian wine-making techniques that he picked up from his two-year tutelage in Burgundy’s vineyards. The result is beautiful Oregon Pinot Noirs that are alive in the bottle and have good aging potential.
I recently sat down with Wayne over lunch and Youngberg Hill wine. Wayne grew up on an Iowa farm. Though his career took quite a circuitous route to becoming a winemaker, he truly has a passion for making terroir-driven wines, using sustainable farming practices. Three of Youngberg Hill’s vineyard blocks are named after Wayne’s three daughters: Natasha, Jordan and Aspen. As a family, they enjoy hosting guests at the vineyard inn and producing award-winning wines.
I had almost as much fun drinking Youngberg Hill wine as the Bailey’s have had making it. Over lunch, I enjoyed the 2008 and 2009 vintages of the Natasha Block Pinot Noir in addition to the 2008 and 2009 vintages of the Jordan Block Pinot Noir. Later, I enjoyed a bottle of the 2007 Jordan. The wines from each block are as different from one another as each vintage –proof that there is little manipulation in the winemaking process.
Youngberg Hill Jordan Block Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2009, 2008, 2007
Youngberg Hill Jordan Block Pinot Noirs are delicous. Jordan Pinot Noir effortlessly balances lush red fruit notes with lively acidity and mushrooms with minerality. These wines are elegant, complex and so enjoyable to drink. Jordan Block Pinot Noir is the flagship wine of Youngberg Hill. The Jordan Block vines are from Pommard and Wadenswil clones and grow at higher elevation than the Natasha Block. The soil type is volcanic, characteristically producing wines with notes of mushroom and forest floor.
Youngberg Hill Natasha Block Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2009, 2008
The 2009 and 2008 Natasha Block Pinot Noirs are restrained with considerable acidity. The 2009 vintage tastes a bit young, though it expresses notes of black cherry, raspberry, forest floor and pepper spices. The 2008 vintage comes from a perfect growing season. It’s structure is similar to the 2009 vintage but has more depth. The Natasha Block Pinot Noir is grown in marine sedimentary soil from Pommard and Wadenswil clones. These vines produce wines with brighter fruit and pepper spice. The 2009 Natasha made a lovely pairing with Naha‘s Risotto with braised pork shank, cremini mushrooms, spinach and glazed onions (pictured above).
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House of Mandela just launched its wines in the U.S. market with Royal Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 and Royal Reserve Chardonnay 2009. Indeed, House of Mandela is the royal family of Nelson Mandela. Royal? Why, yes. Nelson Mandela and his heirs are part of the royal lineage of the Thembu dynasty of South Africa. The House of Mandela brand was founded by Nelson Mandela’s daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, and granddaughter, Tukwini Mandela, to honor their family’s lineage and sow into its future growth.
Although the House of Mandela does not grow its own grapes, it sources all of its grapes from family-owned vineyards in South Africa who are committed to sustainable farming practices and paying fair worker wages. The House of Mandela wines were produced in partnership with Master of Wine Lynne Sherriff. House of Mandela wines are imported and distributed by Heritage Link Brands.
ROYAL RESERVE CHARDONNAY STELLENBOSCH 2009
House of Mandela Royal Reserve Chardonnay Stellenbosch 2009 has very expressive fruit aromas. Its notes of pears, apples and stone fruit are not overshadowed by the notes of vanilla and baking spices from its aging in French barrels. The body is a bit lighter than your average oaked Chardonnay.
ROYAL RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON WESTERN CAPE 2008
House of Mandela Royal Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Western Cape 2008 is an easy drinking Cabernet. Like its counterpart Chardonnay, the fruit notes are very expressive. Notes of black and jammy red fruit are prominent on the palate but tempered by earthy notes of bramble and dried herbs. Although it doesn’t have the complexity I would expect at this price point, it has a lovely texture with soft tannins and balanced acidity.