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Cabernet Sauvignon


Sip from the fountain of youth! Toast Madiran.

Ch. Peyros Vielles VignesHave you discovered a few (more) gray hairs? Have you convinced yourself laugh lines are endearing or add character to your face? For a girl who decided years ago her freckles are really lucky spots (I do have the luck of the Irish, afterall), it makes sense I'm all about an optimistic outlook when it comes to (signs of) aging. Of course, I do my part to stay ahead of the curve: I eat healthfully, exercise regularly, take my vitamins, brush my teeth and drink Madiran wines. Wait... what was the last one? YES! I drink from the fountain of youth, aka Tannat-based wines from the Madiran, France. I had no idea the additional health benefits when I first started enjoying red wines from the Madiran. I mean, we've all read various studies about the benefits associated with an occasional glass of red wine. But Madiran wines are additionally beneficial. Tannat, the primary red grape in these wines, has a ridiculously high level of procyanidins. These bad boys have serious heart-healthy cache: they keep the cells in your arteries in the pink, supply your body with boucoups antioxidants and can even lower your blood pressure and keep cholesterol in check.

And no, drinking these wines is not like being forced to eat spinach when you were a kid (my nemesis). As its name connotes, Tannat grapes are high in tannin, producing structured wines capable of aging. But this grape also can bring intense fruit and lovely spices to the table, not to mention a welcome helping of earthiness. In the Madiran in particular, vintners work their magic to bring the latter component forward and soften the wine's edges by blending in a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc or even Fer.

There are two Madiran red wines in particular that strike my fancy: 2004 Domaine Moureou Madiran; and 2003 Chateau Peyros Ville Vignes Madiran. Both are teeth-stainers, rustic, and filled with dark berry fruits (blackberries, blackcurrants, black cherries, etc.), plums and offer a touch of vanilla given up by the oak barrels they age in. The herbs and spices will tickle you pink as each sip reveals a new flavor. Because it is the offspring of wine innovator Patrick Ducourneau (father of micro-oxygenation), the Moureau has a lovely roudness to it. To my palate, the Peyros is destinct in its own right, offering up a unique, delicious and intriguing earthy/stoney minerality. Both are their own beast, ripe for hearty meats, stews or even a Buffalo burger hot off the grill. Try one, try both or seek out others. Just be sure to tell us what you think!

Fun Fact: The Madiran boasts one of the highest percentages of Centarians  in the world!


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Open That Bottle Night wine report

The OTBN Line-up!I hope you and yours had a wonderful time popping a cork or two last Saturday night for Open That Bottle Night. For my part, a handful of my closest friends descended on my place for a wonderful meal of braised paprika chicken, orzo and lemon-garlic asparagus. We started with an appetizer of oysters, a small aperitif of exceptional Dolin Dry Vermouth and a glass of white Bordeaux ('06 Ch. le Tucau, Graves). Then with dinner we moved on to our "serious" wines - those we had been saving for whatever special occasion had yet to materialize. I wasn't exactly sure what my bottle of Spanish wine from Terra Alta, Spain would bring - but I had high hopes, too. This isn't a region you often see here in the States; my bottle was actually hand-carried back from Barcelona by my best friend after her wedding there.

The Terra Alta D.O. boasts only 28 vineyards. The region is characterized by its Mediterranean & Continental climate (very cold winters, very hot summers), steep slopes and valley floors, and its proximity to its better known neighbor, Priorat. The cierzo breezes from the northeast do their part to keep the grapes dry, preventing rot. Terra Alta is considered an up and coming region, with many winemakers experimenting with better known grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, which have been permitted since 1995. More often you'll find native grapes Garnacha Tinta and Carinena as well as Garnacha Peluda and Morenillo, as far as the reds go.

Doing my best to navigate the Catalan description on the back of the bottle, I anticipated the Ede Aria 2003 would be a big boy, with need of decanting.  The wine was a blend of three grapes: Garnacha Peluda (40%), Syrah (35The Ete Aria%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (25%). My inspiration for the paprika braised chicken was distinct from the wine I knew I would have on offer, so decanting was a priority to soften any rough edges and remove the sediment the wine was likely to throw. Since I know my friend prefers fruit-forward wines to uber-dry ones, I hoped this wine would deliver a nice silky mouthfeel, with both red and black fruits apparent. Finally, given the region's proximity to the Priorat, I hoped it would have a gentle herbaceousness and a touch of earthy leather. I was pleased to discover it delivered on all of the above!

The other two wines we opened Saturday night were the 2004 Stevenot Tempranillo (Sierra Foothills, California) and the 2004 Villa Antinori Toscana (Tuscany, Italy).

Yes, Saturday evening I traveled the world with my friends! It was a pleasure to do so.

What wine(s) did you open for OTBN? Any highlights or disappointments in the mix?

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the main event: holiday wines!

Earlier this week I saw an email thread asking recipients to pick their top wine of the year. I can't think of a more impossible task! If you've been reading the Pour Favor blog for awhile, I'm sure you know exactly why I feel this way: wine is an experience! Without context - friends, family, laughter, tears, food, bistro, bar, fireplace, porch, picnic blanket, a night "in"....- wine is just juice in a fancy bottle, with a special closure. Well, maybe not quite but you get my drift.... Since this will be my last post before the New Year, I've decided to offer a nod to the year past. I'm going to throw out a few wines I've found this year, which are particularly worthy of a good excuse to open, which I've not yet shared.  We'll start with white, then red, then bubbly, and then - just for good measure - a dessert wine. Fasten your seat belt! These are a few of my 2008 YUM wines:

WHITE:     2007 Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon Macon Milly Lamartine

I've rediscovered my passion for White Burgundy this year, first during the spring and then again and again this fall as it has gotten colder and I still crave a wonderful white. Dominique Lafon has long been revered for producing wonderful, concentrated wines in Meursault. His innovative edge and desire for a challenge brought him to the Maconnais - a region he recognized as under-appreciated, simply needing a bit of TLC. This wine is clear evidence exceptional insight, wine making and viticultural practices yield amazing results. The Les Heritiers has an intensely aromatic bouquet of pear, honeysuckle, citrus and jasmine. Its intoxicating minerality is complemented by rich pear and orange peel flavors. Such vibrancy and complexity is delivered in a memorably mouth-filling package. Delicious!

RED:     2005 O'Shaughnessy Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

It is rare for me not to write my own wine notes, but in the case of this wine I'm always left speechless (an amazing feat, I know!). Fortunately, the winemaker's notes capture the absolute explosion of well-integrated layers that ravish my taste buds and wrap me in a lovely cocoon of happiness! Ripe cherry, blackberry, smoke, tobacco leaf, coco bean and dark chocolate aromas are framed by sweet vanilla oak. Elegant but concentrated flavors of espresso bean, graphite, raspberry and strawberry preserves are followed by a long complex finish with silky tannins and good acidity. An extracted wine that is rewarding. A worthwhile splurge for Christmas dinner, for sure!

SPARKLING:    2001 Westport Rivers Imperial

This winery proves Massachusetts is capable of producing tremendous wines - and bubbly at that! Just imagine yourself on the Cape, beach book in hand, foaming waves rolling onto the shore and fresh, juicy peaches, pears and apples in the cooler nearby. Add a spritz of sea air and you have the Imperial in your glass. It has a full, frothy mouse of tiny, tiny bubbles that deliver a tremendous, floral nose. Just a touch of citrus is evident on the palate - a welcome crispness to offset its wonderfully lush character. Just a touch of sweet, ripe fruit lingers on the finish. Salud!

DESSERT:    2007 Bouchaine Bouch D'Or Late Harvest

For me, this wine was love at first sip! It is an opulent, seductive dessert wine made of 94% Chardonnay and 5% Riesling - not a late harvest often found. It has an enticingly floral nose, followed by apple fruits layered with honey flavors. A gentle touch of minerality is well-integrated. Not for the lighthearted, this wine is deliciously decadent!

I hope you and yours have a safe, happy and healthy New Year! Be sure to pick up a bottle of something fun this holiday season. And please, share what you've selected!

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wines for fall: the fiesty and fabulous!

Today the rain and leaves are swirling and the sun isn't due to show itself.  On burly fall days like these, there's nothing better than an awesome bottle of wine to hunker down with and lift your spirits! The last few weeks I've broken down the nerdier nuances of cool red varietals perfect for fall. While fabulous on their own, sometimes the best of the best are actually blends of a few - or several - different grapes. Given the circumstances outside my office window, it's only appropriate that we start exploring these finds with the 2005 SNAFU red blend.

SNAFU? Yep! That would be translated as Situation Normal All F***d Up. This wine is the brainchild of both Paul Moser (Winemaker) and the Local Wine Company, a group dedicated to bringing us some of the coolest blends from the Pacific Northwest and California. I get the sense that the Chicago-based wine geeks at LWC get an idea for a wine and then send their general, and no doubt entertaining, musings to one of the folks in their winemaking contingency....

I can't help but think for the 2005 SNAFU red wine the LWC Powers That Be gave Mr. Moser notes that said something like, "we want a wine with tremendous chutzpah that sources as many grapes from as many subregions in California as possible - and still maintains a sense of place.... You know, the wine you want to come home to at the end of a long day that reminds you of something familiar, but gives you a little something more, too."  Moser did their 'request' justice, though from the sounds of it, what's tucked inside that bottle wasn't necessarily what was originally planned; they did call it SNAFU, after all!

SNAFU is a blend of 42% Petite Sirah (the monster grape) & 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, with 8% Merlot and Syrah, 6% Zinfandel and 3% Petite Verdot (the late-bloomer on the playground this fall). What's noteworthy about this wine is how well each of the grapes in this blend harmonize. It's tremendous, in fact! It's greatest component, Petite Sirah, is cold soaked for four days and then pressed to concentrate the fruit. This technique offers the wine fabulous depth (that "oomph" and backbone we spoke about earlier), but manages how much tannin (dryness) remains in the final product. The Cabernet, also cold pressed, offers classic flavors of currant, black fruits, and spice. I argue the Merlot contributes a softer, more elegant edge, and brings home the (similar) fruit flavors you get from the Cab. The Syrah adds a touch of earthiness and herbaceousness; the Zin provides berry sweetness, and the Petit Verdot offers its color and floral aromatics.

I know I don't offer my own wine notes that often on this site, but I do have quite a bit of fun writing them for myself and my clients and their guests. Here's what I came up with the last time I gave this wine a whirl!

This wine's name says it all: Situation Normal... and it is wonderful as a result! This is a killer blend of Petite Sirah (42%), Cabernet Sauvignon (33%), and other red varietals sourced from various vineyards throughout California. SNAFU opens with all the panache you can imagine, fresh blueberry and raspberry fruits explode onto the stage. Then you taste its earthier side, as if it had to take a quick walk through a wet forest to collect itself before the curtain went up. And yet it all comes together easily, delivering a well-executed, perfectly delightful performance. Buy your tickets to this show early!

What red blends are you a fan of this fall season?