Cupertinum Copertino Riserva

The day started out, slightly different, I was going to get an inoculation, actually it was the vaccine for the virus that originated from China. The virus has gotten a bit of press over the last year or so, and the last President pushed for and had two different companies create a way to combat it, and since then at least one more company, if not more have developed more potential ways to combat it. In Michigan, it has been a mess trying to get the vaccine to the public, for some odd reason politicians were getting immunized before a lot of the people that were supposed to be treated first.  Also, it was kind of a joke, people in the last month or so, were scrambling to fill out multiple series of forms from several different hospitals, counties, municipalities and pharmacies trying to get a series of two shots (from the initial two companies).  Then it was a random luck of the draw for the people, and the vaccines were allotted by politics and there was a lot of discussions about it. My Bride was fortunate that one of the hospital chains that she has multiple physicians at, was selected by their random selection and she was one of the first.  Then she made it a mission to get me the vaccine as well.  I have to admit that I was a bit more laid back, compared to her, but I figure that I do want to see our children and grandchildren in Las Vegas, and I am sure that the “Nanny State” would eventually force the airlines to only allow those that have had the vaccine to fly.  It may become the most valuable document in a person’s wallet, far superior to a voter registration card.

It was ironic that my municipality was administering the vaccine at a Senior Citizen Center, since I am now a Senior Citizen and supposedly, we were in the first group to get the vaccine, after First Responders. Let me say, that it worked rather smoothly, outside of watching one of the workers get surly with two women, one with a quad cane and the other with a walker, that were forced to leave the line, because the line was only for the 9:00 – 9:30 group and the women were in the 9:30-10:00 group.  Now, I am old enough to remember when physicians administered shots, then nurses, now pharmacists and that morning it was Fire Department EMT employees from all appearances.  It flowed smoothly and then they made us wait for fifteen minutes in case there were immediate reactions.

All of this is leading to the fact that I was going to go to my wine shop, the Fine Wine Source in Livonia afterwards, because there was a wine that I had tasted the week before and I was so enamored with it, that I bought a couple of bottles, was on the phone with Ms. Yoga, who asked if I could get her some, and then I thought, I should get some more as well.  The Cupertinum Cantina Social Cooperativa Copertino DOC Riserva 2011 was the wine that was haunting me.  The Cupertinum Cantina Social Cooperativa was founded in 1935, along the lines of many of wine cooperatives that were forming in Italy. The Cupertinum cooperative have even planted a micro vineyard in the ramparts of the old Copertino castle.  Copertino DOC is in the Puglia region of Italy, the area that most people like to refer to it as the boot, for easy visualization. The main grape for Copertino DOC, whether for the Rosso or Rosato is the Negroamaro variety.  Negroamaro must account for seventy percent of the wine, and the balance may have Malvasia Nera, Montepulciano and/or Sangiovese (but only up to fifteen percent Sangiovese). The DOC was classified in 1976 and today there is one-hundred-fifty-eight hectares and about thirty-one-thousand cases of wine are produced.  This wine is a blend of ninety-five percent Negroamaro and five percent Malvasia Nera.  Maceration on the skins takes about seven days, and then because this was their Riserva, the wine was aged for twenty-four months in Stainless Steel.  This wine had the benefit of being an eleven-year-old, so there were already layers of taste to appreciate.  The wine was a nice Ruby red in color with nose of black fruit, the tannin had mellowed and matured and offered still ripe fruit and hints of almonds, black currants and leather, with a nice finish.  I could think of all sorts of dishes that this wine would work with, and I knew that getting some more of it, was smart on my part.   

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De Pez and Smith Haut Lafitte

There are days when the Gods must look down upon me and decide to give that story-teller some real gems.  After all the nectar of the Gods, is how some have always described wines, and when I am in the premises of my local wine shop the Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Michigan, the Gods do smile at me. I am going to discus a couple of wines that I tasted, that they were looking at for both the wine shop and their restaurant Vertical in Downtown Detroit, which they will reopen when indoor seating capacity gets up to fifty percent.

Chateau de Pez Saint-Estephe 2016 is a perfect representation of this famed Cru Bourgeois classified wine sine 1932.  The Domaine de Pez was originally established in the 15th Century and was owned by the Pontac family, that owned Chateau Haut-Brion as well back then.  It passed through generations of the Pontac family until the French Revolution when the State took possession. It changed hands many times until it came under the ownership of Louis Roederer in 1995.  There are thirty hectares of vineyards planted and it is almost equally Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with an average age of twenty-five-years. The fruit is manually harvested and the juice is fermented with their skins for twenty to thirty days.  The juice is then transferred wooden barrels to mature for twelve to eighteen months with racking done quarterly. Saint-Estephe is separated from Pauillac by a stream, and the Commune accounts for eight percent of vineyards in the Medoc. The land is a bit further away from the Garonne River and because of that, the soil has a heavy clay and limestone base which results in poor-draining soils.  It is one of the reasons that Merlot is used more in the Commune, because it ripens quicker.  Chateau de Pez is a very elegant and supple wine and not as austere as some of the other wines from the Medoc.  Even the wine was still young, this deeply colored wine offered dark and red fruit, layered with spices and finishing off with a nice long trace of the terroir. Even though there are probably more Crus Bourgeois designations in Saint-Estephe, the wines are known for longevity and I think twenty years in the cellar would be awesome for this wine, though it was delicious as a four-year-old.

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Pessac-Leognan 2018 is rated as a Grand Cru Classe for its red wine as done in the 1959 Classification of the Graves; they also make one of the finest examples of a white Bordeaux as well. Grapes have been grown on this site since 1365. Smith Haut Lafitte takes its name from the gravel plateau that was cultivated in 1365, known as Lafitte and in the 18th Century a Scottish wine merchant George Smith became the owner and built his manor house in Pessac-Leognan. The chateau is unrelated to Chateau Lafite Rothschild. In 1958 the estate was purchased by the Louis Eschenauer company and in 1990 after all the renovations it was purchased by Florence and Daniel Cathiard.  The estate is seventy-eight hectares of gravelly soil, and is farmed organically and they produce their own compost, even to using a horse and plow in certain fragile plots, and they also maintain their own beehives, as well as having their own on-site cooper. They also have one of the largest cellars in Bordeaux.  They not only produce a second label, but also a third label as well.  Traditionally, Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for around sixty-five percent of the blend, while Merlot contributes about thirty percent and the balance is picked up by Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The wine is age in barrels for about eighteen months, with about sixty-five percent new. It was one of the finest examples of a Graves wine, that I have ever had. In ten years, it will be wonderful, but then I have kind of spoiled myself with having indulged myself with some older wines in the cellar, but even young, I could find no faults.

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A Virtual OTBN

I accepted an open invitation on Social Media for a virtual “Open That Bottle Night.”  It has become a much-lauded evening among wine drinkers and especially those that write blogs. Actually, this isn’t the first time that I have ventured into this “holiday.” The concept was created by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher who were wine columnists for the Wall Street Journal and they picked out a night in February, one of the darker and colder months, to go into one’s wine cellar and open up a bottle that one has been holding onto, just for the right moment. A very worthwhile idea, because we are all guilty of saving some bottles of wine for a special moment, that just never seems to occur. I think the main reason that I don’t always participate in it, is that I tend to be rather unorganized when it comes to such things. We tend to have a couple of bottles of wine open in the house most days, but they are our “go-to” basic wines that don’t require a lot of fan-fare or hoopla, but somehow, I even joked at the end of the gathering that 2020 was actually an OTBN every night, especially for people like my Bride and I that sometimes think that a bottle is too good, and sometimes we just totally loose track of the wines.

Some days, I guess that I come out as brash especially compared to the evening’s host, but a true gentleman and a scholar as we used to say, is Anatoli Levine, who has basically followed me since almost day one of my writing, and I may say vice-versa, as well as beyond our blogs.  Anatoli writes a wonderful blog talk-a-vino.com with the ease and poise of a gentleman of the old school, and with a wonderful knowledge of wines. He always seems to find some of the most unique and interesting wines to make all the other wine writers drool after he announces these discoveries. He decided to have a Zoom session for OTBN and there must have been about fifteen participants, and it was like an adult version of “Show and Tell” when I was in primary school.  Of course, my Bride actually has been identified and actually has a name.  May I say, that he was a gracious host and made it a point to introduce everyone to everyone else, though my Bride and I were really the new kids on the block, as most of the participants knew each other from other blogger events.  He gave everyone a bit of a background about myself and remembered several facts and then he had me relate my story about having Screaming Eagle.  There were several very unique wines being “shared” and then there were several lively conversations, some wine and some not wine chats as well. 

Now to get to the wine of the moment.  I was looking at several options for the evening: Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1964, Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1973, Chateau Cheval Blanc 1992, Caymus Special Select 1995, Duckhorn Merlot Howell Mountain 1991, Opus One 1991 and Gaja Barbaresco 1982.  Now as the old expression goes “a happy wife, a happy life” my Bride thought that we should have our Cain Five 1992 that we bought from our tour at Cain Vineyard and Winery years ago.  Cain Five is definitely my Bride’s favorite wine, perhaps followed by the much more reasonable Cain Cuvee.  This particular wine was a blend of fifty-three percent Cabernet Sauvignon, thirty-four percent Merlot, nine percent Malbec, three percent Cabernet Franc, and one percent Petit Verdot.  The wine was perfect, everything was just totally balanced and we finished the bottle during the two-hour session. 

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Chateau Siran and Napanook

I guess I was really blessed when I ventured into the Fine Wine Source when they were tasting and selecting some wines for the shop and for their restaurant Vertical, if and when dining capacity is at least raised to fifty percent.  They are professionals and I am that Street Somm that takes photos and does some tasting when it is offered.  I never interrupt when they are doing business, in that case, I make my planned purchase and leave. Though I am always surprised at what they may end up pouring for me, and they were not even worried about using a Coravin device, so I was in Seventh Heaven. 

Chateau Siran Margaux 2018 was a charming wine that I was tasting and when I looked at my tattered “bible” The Signet Book of Wine by Alexis Bespaloff (1971) that I have been citing and using since high school rated this wine as a Crus Bourgeois worth watching for.  The estate goes back to a land grant from the church to Guilhem de Siran in 1428.  By the end of the 17th Century, they were producing wine and during the next century they were developing a strong reputation. The Miailhe family has owned the property since 1859 and in 2007, the estate is run by the seventh generation of the same family.  The estate has twenty-five hectares of vineyards in Margaux planted with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.  Also on the property is nine hectares that produce a wine for them as a Bordeaux Superior, another two hectares that is Haute-Medoc, and they even produce a second estate wine that carries the Margaux appellation.  The average age of the vines are thirty-years of age, but there is one parcel of land that was planted in the 1920’s.  The fruit is all hand picked, de-stemmed and sorted a couple of times. Initial fermentation is done in Stainless Steel, and the maceration and malolactic fermentation takes eighteen to twenty-four days in oak; then the wine is aged for twelve months in French Oak, of which thirty-five percent is new.  Even though the estate is planted with more Merlot, this wine is forty-five percent Cabernet Sauvignon, forty-four percent Merlot and eleven percent Petit Verdot.  The winery feels that this wine will be at its apex in twenty to thirty years.  Now of all the Communes in Bordeaux, I have probably drunk more Margaux wines over the years, and this was just a classic and elegant example, even in its youth.  It was a beautiful wine.

Dominus Estate Napanook Yountville 2016 by Christian Moueix of Chateau Petrus; and I once wrote that I never wanted to stop admiring the nose on a Dominus Estate wine. Christian Moueix has had part ownership since 1982 and ran the estate concurrently with his family business in Bordeaux until 2008. The estate is based on the Napanook vineyard, which was one of the first sites planted in grapes in Napa Valley.  George Yount (Yountville) began the vineyard in 1838 and the fifty-hectare site has had many owners and steward of the land.  Moueix went into partnership in 1982 and in 1995 became the sole owner; Dominus is Latin for Lord of the Estate.  Dominus Estate is the flagship of the winery, Napanook is the mid-level wine and the entry-level wine is Othello.  The vineyard is dry-farmed, both to conserve water and to control the yields and hence the quality of the fruit, the same practice that was started in the 1970’s at Petrus.  The wine is eighty-four percent Cabernet Sauvignon, nine percent Petit Verdot and seven percent Cabernet Franc. The wine was aged for ten months in oak, of which twenty percent was new, and then the wine rested in bottles for another eight months before being released.   The nose offered some lavender and cedar, while dark fruits mingled with big tannins and a nice long finish of terroir which always makes me happy.  Another delightful wine, and a wonderful way to fill part of an afternoon. 

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February 2021 Wine Club Selections

The monthly email that I receive from the Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Michigan is like a call from my Siren, without the fatal consequences. It may seem that I spend my entire life there, but that is not the case, it is because I usually only write about two wines at a time, and there are days that I have had the good fortune to taste several excellent wines, and then I must figure out how to weave the stories around other stories, as I am not an employee or a paid reviewer, but I do enjoy my visits.  The joining of the wine club was very simple, once a month they bill you for two wines, which you go and pick up, they are usually interesting wines; one Old World and one New World.  As a club member you also get to enjoy case pricing, even if you only run in to pick up a quick bottle of wine. 

The Old-World selection for the month is Chateau Calhou Belair Bordeaux 2018.  In the 13th Century Eleonore de Provence, wife of Henry III Plantagenet, King of England and Duke of Aquitaine, founded the bastide of Monsegur.  The area was known for their gastronomy, and this spurred additional interest in the development of viticulture. The Great Depression of 1929 was felt in France, as it was a global crisis and it created the need for the small wineries to restructure and have a new outlook to survive.  In 1935, in Monsegur, a handful of winemakers met and decided to work together, the following year fifteen winemakers created the Monsegur Cooperative and had their first harvest.  Through the years they kept improving especially in technical improvements and investment. Originally, they produced wine in bulk to sell to Bordeaux merchants and in 2009 decided to start bottling their own product.  Which required more capital investments for this goal. Today they have one-hundred-seventy winemaker members, which accounts for eighty-thousand hectares of vines, encompassing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and they produce under two appellations: Bordeaux and Entre-Deux-Mers.  This wine is a blend of fifty-five percent Merlot, thirty-five percent Cabernet Sauvignon and ten percent Cabernet Franc.  The wine is described as offering ripe dark fruits both in the nose and on the palette with a jammy touch, layers of cherries and leather, grainy tannins and finishing with a little heat.

The New-World selection is Donati Family Vineyards Cabernet Franc Paicines AVA 2016.  The Donati family started arriving in the Paicines region of the Central Coast in 1998, when they purchased the land that would become the family estate and vineyard.  Since then, they have planted the vineyards and built a state-of-the-art winery.  Paicines is the southernmost AVA in the San Benito County and in the 1980’s and 1990’s the area was associated with the production of bulk wines, but a few wineries are attempting to correct that image.  To this day, much of the fruit is grown and then sent to wineries in other parts of California.  It is still home to the five-hundred-acre Vista Verde Vineyard that was previously owned by Almaden Vineyards, before the company was sold and split up in the 1980’s.  The sandy soils of gravel and limestone have forced the vines to develop deep root systems, because of the good drainage and has strengthened the vines.  This wine is ninety-eight percent Cabernet Franc and two percent Cabernet Sauvignon.  The fermentation began in Stainless Steel and then the juice was aged for twenty-eight months in oak, of which thirty-four percent was new French Oak and twenty-one percent was new American Oak.  This was an impressive wine offering a nose of blueberry, vanilla and pepper, a big chewy wine of rich fruit and balanced tannins and a nice mid-length finish of more fruit.  This wine I actually tried in the shop and all I could think of, is that I am glad that my Bride was not there, because I have no idea where I would put the additional cases of her favorite grape.  I may have to act fast, as there were only six-hundred-sixty-four cases produce.

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Covides Gran Gesta Brut Reserva Cava

Sunday has become a true day of rest, unless Mother Nature decides to bring more of that white stuff around here.  I am getting worn out, even with the use of a snow blower keeping the sidewalks and driveway clean, and I wish some of the others in our neighborhood would be as diligent.  Yesterday there was a strange alien yellow glow in the sky and we were so distracted by it, that we decided to try to do our daily walk that has been relegated to a treadmill.  It was rather frustrating and we only did about half of our usual circuit, because neither of us are spring chickens and with all of the snow and ice, not to mention extra vehicles in driveways made trying to walk on the sidewalks very treacherous.  One of my other Winter pet peeves is that people will get lazy and make a path maybe using their snow blower twice, when they should actually do a third lap.  There were some sidewalks that were not wide enough for us to walk side by side and hand in hand.

That was yesterday and this is today and we are planning our usual Sunday routine.  My Bride makes an excellent breakfast for us to enjoy, and then she basically attends mass for shut-ins, since the whole state is still in lockdown mode.  The Chinese virus is more lethal in a church or cathedral compared to a Walmart Superstore according to the unattested and unseen science that our satrap dictates from.  She watches mass on one of the “smart” televisions, while on the phone with one of her girlfriends; and she is a real girlfriend, because she allows my Bride to sing with gusto during the service.  My Bride liked the bubbles that we had for breakfast and changed the dinner selection to Center Cut Pork Chops with Onions and the last of the Armenian Cheese Boregs.  I didn’t complain at all. 

The bubbles that we had for our brunch that she decided that we would have for dinner as well was Covides Gran Gesta Brut Reserva NV from Catalonia, Spain.  Covides Vinedos-Bodegas was founded in 1963 as a unification of more than six-hundred farmers to make wine from their own grapes.  It was also the introduction of mechanization.  They built two wineries to focus on the uniqueness of wines, instead of bulk wine production.  In the early 1980’s they began the production and sales of Cava.  In 2005, Covides expanded and built a new cava with the capacity of seven-and-a-half-million bottles.  This wine is a blend of fifty-five percent Xarel-lo, thirty-five percent Macabeo and twenty percent Parellado.  It was made in the Methode Traditionelle, or the classic production methods used in the Champagne region of France and the wine spent sixteen months of aging.  The wine had nice smaller bubbles and offered up pears and apples for a subtle flavor, but offered a short finish.  We enjoyed the wine through dinner and through the Zoom session as well.

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Chateau Tour Leognan

Doing wine tastings is something that I never turn down, especially when I am at my local wine shop the Fine Wine Source.  When I see the term Grand Vin de Graves, my immediate thought is that it is a little ballyhoo “grand wine of Graves,” but Graves was one of the first areas of Bordeaux that I really had some great wines when I was still a student, because they were affordable and some were excellent.  When I looked at the label and read Chateau Tour Leognan Pessac-Leognan 2018, nothing immediately rang any bells, but then I read a little further and saw Famille Perrin and Chateau Carbonnieux.  If I had unlimited funds, I am not sure if wines would be as exciting, because I always try to find a winner in an affordable range, especially now in my retirement. 

Chateau Carbonnieux is a wine producer in Pessac-Leognan region of Graves, and they produce red and white wines and I discovered that they also produce wines on the estate on a couple of different tiers.  The Carbonnieux estate goes back to the early days of Bordeaux in the 13th Century and has a varied history, until it was purchased by the Perrin family in the last century.  They renovated the property with a new cellar and winery; they also increased the vineyards from forty-five to ninety-five hectares.  In the Grand Cru Classe de Graves in 1959, both the red and white wines were classified for Chateau Carbonnieux.  They grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and the average age of the vines would be around thirty years of age.  The white and red wines, both start fermentation in Stainless Steel and then are place in barrels where the malolactic fermentation takes place.  The grand vin blanc spends ten months in the barrel, while the grand vin rouge spends eighteen months in oak, then the wines are fined and spend some time in bottles before release.  The winery also has a second label La Croix de Carbonnieux for both red and white.  The fruit is harvested from younger vines, gets the same treatment and attention, though the time in the barrel is reduced, to produce a younger and more fruit forward wine to early enjoyment.  

Chateau Tour Leognan Pessac-Leognan 2018 is their third label, and it is also offered as white, but I am talking about the red wine.  Chateau Carbonnieux replants at least one or two plots of vines each year.  The juice that is used for this wine is basically from their twelve-year-old vines.  The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and still getting the same initial treatment as Cru Classe wines, but the wine is aged for twelve months in oak.  They recommend five years in the cellar to allow the wine to reach its maximum of layering of tastes.  This wine, while young was representative of a nice wine from Graves, offering some red and dark fruit and a decent finish with some terroir.   A nice offering from an affordable wine. 

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Valentine’s Day at Home

Sundays for the last year have been quiet stay at home days, of course for the last almost a year, every day has been a stay-at-home day.  Sundays have become rather structured, regardless if it is a holiday or not and I guess that maintains a certain modicum of sanity in our life. We have a fancier and relaxed breakfast, and then a nice early dinner, because we have the weekly Zoom session and one never knows the size or the extent of the meeting.  I am sure, because of the lockdowns, I would venture to say that most people have done them either with family or for business.  I have seen where people liken them to watching Hollywood Squares or parts of a Muppets episode.  The sessions can either be very lively or sometimes very quiet, which is hard to believe, but it has happened.

My Bride started the day off with Eggs Benedict, which is one of my favorite breakfast treats, in fact it is probably the only time that I really get excited about a Hollandaise Sauce.  With Canada just south of the border for us, we both grew up with real Canadian bacon, which is called is referred to as Peameal Bacon, which is a wet-cured, unsmoked back bacon made from a trimmed pork loin that is rolled in corn, it was originally rolled in ground peas (hence the name) and the bacon is moist with a crispy crust.  Here in the States, Canadian bacon is a form of back bacon that is cured, smoked and fully cooked and then trimmed into a cylindrical shape to be served in round medallions.  Nowadays, the American version is mostly found in the States and what is usually encountered at most restaurants.  If you truly want the most decadent you must at least once have Breakfast at Brennan’s in the French Quarter.  As the old saying goes, a meal without wine is breakfast, but not if one has Mimosas.  Mimosas are designed to be made with a bulk-style bubbly, not with a lauded vintage cru, and over the years we have discovered that a tincture of orange juice is all that is necessary for the drink.  Though we actually went big-time and had Korbel California Champagne, which is produced in the time-honored way of “Methode Champenoise” and it is a blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, French Colombard and Pinot Noir.  A perfect way to start the day, and Korbel is one of those houses that have been grandfathered in using the term “California Champagne.” Korbel Champagne Cellars was established in 1882 in Sonoma by three Korbel brothers, who came from Bohemia.  The winery was bought by Adolph Heck in 1954 and is now under the ownership of his son Gary and production has grown that they are now the twelfth largest producer in the United State of America.  It has been served at six different presidential inaugurations and they are also known for their Korbel Brandy.

With an early dinner my Bride made her Breaded Chicken Breasts with a gravy that evolves from her making of the dish.  She also made Green Beans and Garlic Mashed Potatoes for a good old “comfort” dinner.  She also made Lemon Pudding for dessert, which she knows is a favorite of mine, because I have to always mention that my Mother until her untimely death, made the greatest Lemon Meringue Pies known to man. I could have gone with a bigger wine for the dinner, but since I knew that we were going to be enjoying the wine during the Zoom session, I went with something lighter, and it was a bottle that we were touted to get at our local wine shop as they were one bottle short of another wine that I was buying a case of.  I opened up a bottle of Broadbent Selection, Inc. Vinho Verde Minho NV.  Bartholomew Broadbent is a lively, witty and informative wine lecturer and one of the foremost authorities on Port and Madeira.  “He is credited for being responsible for the growth of Port consumption in North America during the mid-1980’s and was responsible for the reintroduction of Madeira to America in 1989” and this was taken directly from his website.  He owns several wine labels and is the importer to the United States of several notable wineries.  Broadbent Selections, Inc. was founded in 1996.  Broadbent Vinho Verde in Portugal was founded in 2004, using contract wine growers and the grounds are basically acid-rich and granite based with areas of schist or slate and clay.  The wine is a blend of fifty percent Loureiro, forty percent Trajadura and ten percent Pederna (Arinto).  The wine is made by suppressing the malolactic fermentation and injecting some carbon dioxide at bottling, which gives the wine its characteristic spritz.  A very easy drinking and crisp light wine with notes of green apples, peaches and melon with a touch of lemon. When the Zoom session ended, so did the bottle.   

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The Night Before St. Valentine’s Day

Since St. Valentine’s Day was on a Sunday this year and we were both itching to go out somewhere.  I suggested a restaurant that we have been to several times before and my Bride decided to have our Son’s family join us, as she was sure that they were just as tired of being under lockdown mode as the rest of the state.  Logistically it was a good match for all of us, but then we had to see if they were open yet, as some restaurants have not opened with only twenty-five percent capacity.  They were open, but they would not accept reservations, it would be first come, first serve, and I could understand that, so our Son and his family had to have an “old people’s” dinner at four o’clock in the afternoon, but I didn’t want to take a chance waiting for a table, especially if people decided to lollygag.  We went to Gravity in Milford and right after we got there, the restaurant started to fill up, so others had the same idea.

The menu was a bit tighter in scope and that is also understandable, as trying to reopen a second time with rules that are in flux can be a total learning experience again, though they did have a couple of specials that sounded interesting, we went off the internet-driven menu that was being offered for the evening. Believe it or not I decided to start the meal off with a house salad, while the others went with shared plates of Calamari and Roasted Cauliflower.  My Bride had an order of Cinnamon Dusted Sea Scallops with Sweet Potato Risotto, Maple Beurre Banc with Apple, Cranberry and Walnut Chutney and I might add that I had to try some of that, and it was delicious, in fact so good, that she did not need to have anything packed up for the return trip.  I had the Lobster Pasta with Spinach, Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes with a Sherry Cream Sauce, and there was no need for a “doggie bag” either.  After dinner, a couple of desserts were split, but my Bride after a year on her new life-style and successful diet wanted to enjoy a house-made Cream Puff with Ice Cream and Hot Fudge, a true Detroit classic and since it has been a couple of days, I can tell you that the only binging that she is doing is on some television channel called Netflix, so she is good.

I saw a wine on the wine carte that caught my attention, as I think it is the first time that I have even seen it offered anywhere.  We started the dinner off with a split of Champagne Drappier Carte D’Or NV.  Champagne Drappier is a house located in the commune of Urville in the Aube, the southernmost region of Champagne.  The house was founded in 1808 and known for its Pinot Noir dominated wines. Their cellars were built by Cistercian monks from Clairvaux Abbey and are among the oldest in Champagne as they date back to 1152.  The estate owns fifty-three hectares of vineyards and farms another fifty hectares by contract with local farmers.  This wine is a blend of eighty percent Pinot Noir, fifteen percent Chardonnay and five percent Pinot Meunier harvested from limestone soil.  The wine offered stone fruit and spice with a medium long finish. 

We were going to get another split of a different wine, but we had to settle with the smaller individual drink size bottles of Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Traditional Method Cava NV from J. Garcia Carrion.  J. Garcia Carrion is the largest winery and the second largest fruit juice producer in Europe.  They were founded in 1890 and produce wines in ten different DO regions of Spain, and also more wines and brandies outside of the DO regions.  Their major label is Don Simon was created in 1980 and one of the first box wines in Spain, the label is now used for their Sangria, juices and soft drinks.  Jaume Serra is made in the Traditional Method that is required for Cava and is a blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo. There is not much to go glean from the company, but the wine was very refreshing and very tasty.    

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Two Merlot Based Bordeaux Wines

I just had the good fortune to stop by at the Fine Wine Source when they were revisiting some wines either for the wine shop or for their restaurant Vertical, once the forced mandate of 25% occupancy is raised to 50% or more, or for both.  They were asking my opinion, which made me feel wonderful, but they could easily make the decisions without my input, but as I say, I did feel honored.  The restaurant and the wine shop pride themselves on having interesting wines, as opposed to what every “safe” wine list will carry.  The “unicorn” wines are probably the easiest wines to select, because they are name driven and if one has the income or the expense account, they are extremely easy to sell.  The average person, I would venture to say, doesn’t want to many choices; the wine lover wants to find something new and interesting, to give himself a reason to buy something. After all, not every wine has to be expensive, sometimes it is the affordable ones that we miss. 

Chateau Larrivaux Haut-Medoc 2018 was one such wine.  In 1581, seventy-five hectares were virgin land and a major project was initially planned with a castle worthy of “fairy tales.” In the end two buildings were erected, and both are still standing, one became the family home and the other became a haystack and barn and later a barrel cellar in 1821, Since 1580, because the husband was an “inveterate gambler” the wife took over, and it has been this way ever since. Today there are three generations of women attending to the estate, in a continuous series of females, and they manage nine hectares of vineyards with the majority in Merlot, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.  The estate is in Cissac, which is part of the Haut-Medoc, and the three planted vineyards are on different grounds, two are on gravelly soil with deep clay and one is of clay and limestone.  The property is adjacent to Saint-Estephe, but because of the terroir, Merlot was the better choice to grow there and the 2018 was sixty-four percent Merlot, twenty-six percent Cabernet Sauvignon, seven percent Petit Verdot and three percent Cabernet Franc with about twelve months in oak.  It was very approachable immediately and the feminine charm of the women produced a nice silky “feminine” Haut-Medoc without overpowering tannins that need some years to mellow.  Since most wines are consumed in their youth, this wine is a winner.

Chateau de Roques Puisseguin-Saint-Emilion 2018 was another wine that I tried at the same time. Puysseguin (Puisseguin)-Saint-Emilion is another of the satellite titles that may append Saint-Emilion to their name; the others are Saint-Georges, Montagne and Lussac.  The appellation is only allowed for red wines and can only be wines made from Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere.  The grounds are known for their clay, limestone and gravel soils. This appellation has the strictest laws pertaining to the production of wine, in regard to density of the vines, residual sugar and final proof measurement. Chateau de Roques has been in the Sublett family for over two-hundred years, and today it is both a winery and a hotel.  The fruit is both manually and mechanically harvested from thirty-year-old vines  and in the course of wine production they use vats, barrels, Concrete and Stainless Steel.  The wine is a blend of seventy percent Merlot, twenty-five percent Cabernet Sauvignon and five percent Cabernet Franc.  The wine is bottles eighteen months after harvest and it spends at least twelve months in a mix of oak vats and oak barrels.  The wine was a nice garnet color, with floral notes and red fruits, softer tannins and a medium finish.  This wine can be enjoyed immediately.  It is always interesting to me, as an amateur to see how similar wines can be so different.     

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