Tag Archives: Cinsault

rose wines

Five Rosé Wines to Enjoy this Summer

The summer of rosé is in full swing! It’s an international love affair, with rosé wine being made around the world from a variety of different grapes.

Try one of these AG picks tonight:

Cune RosadoCune Rosado Rioja 2013
Rioja Alta, Spain

From CVNE (pronounced Coo-nay), a family owned and operated winery founded in 1879 in Haro, Rioja, this dry rosé is 100% Tempranillo. Produced using the saignée or bleeding method, the juice was removed from the grape skins and seeds after around 24 to 48 hours, resulting in a magenta-pink color. Floral aromas introduce flavors of strawberry, tart cherry and red currant.
$14, 14% alcohol by volume

Esporao Defesa RoséEsporão Vinha da Defesa Rosé 2013
Alentejo, Portugal

Established in 1973, Herdade do Esporão is a family-owned estate and winery that takes its name from the tower on the property that is thought to have been built between 1457 and 1490. This rosé is a blend of Aragonez and Syrah. The grapes underwent pneumatic pressing after a short period of skin contact. Bright pink in color with berry aromas, the wine has flavors of raspberry, cherry and Victoria plum, with a hint of mint on the refreshing finish.
$15, 13.5% alcohol by volume

Bridge Lane RoséBridge Lane Rosé 2013
North Fork of Long Island, New York

This wine comes from Lieb Cellars, founded in 1992 on Long Island’s North Fork. Lieb was the first winery on Long Island to plant Pinot Blanc, which has become their signature wine and makes up part of the blend in the Bridge Lane rosé. The 2013 wine is 63% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot, 8% Pinot Blanc, 5% Riesling and 3% Gewurztraminer. Light and easy to drink with a pretty pale pink color, the wine has flavors of wild strawberry, raspberry and rose petal.
$18, 11.9% alcohol by volume

Cape Bleue RoséJean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé 2013
Provence, France

The grapes for this wine from the noted French winemaker come from hilly vineyards near Salon de Provence, an area influenced by the nearby Mediterranean Sea.  It is a blend of 67% Syrah and 33% Mourvedre, and was made using the saignée method. Salmon-pink in color,  the aromatic wine will transport you to the South of France. Flavors of ripe strawberry, red cherry and rose are layered with subtle fennel and white pepper notes.
$14, 12.5% alcohol by volume

Houchart RoséDomaine Houchart Rosé 2013
Provence, France

Bought in 1890 by Aurélien Houchart, the 90 hectare estate near Aix-en-Provence and the foot of Mont Sainte Victoire has been consistently farmed since Roman times. Today it is owned by the Quiot Family and run by Geneviève Quiot, Aurélien’s great granddaughter. This Côtes de Provence rosé is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. This crowd-pleaser is pale peachy-pink in color, with delicate flavors of strawberry, loganberry and watermelon that culminate in a crisp finish.
$11, 12% alcohol by volume

 

Provence Rosé Continues to Impress

By Maxine Howard

Two years after a grand tasting of Provençal rosés prompted me to write “Rethink Rosé,” apparently many Americans have done just that. In 2013, U.S. imports of rosé wines from Provence increased by 40% over the previous year. Not only are we drinking more rosés from France, but we are also discovering new rosés by a number of California winemakers in the Provençal style using grapes traditionally blended by the French vintners.

And why wouldn’t we relish drinking these wines? They grab your attention with their gorgeous color, ranging from pale pink to salmon blush; they tantalize with aromas of flowers and tropical fruits; and they quench a summer thirst with their dry yet flavorful taste and a hint of minerality.

In their return to San Francisco for another tour in March, the Vins de Provence reinforced their stature as serious purveyors of rosé wines in the fragrant yet lean style. Twenty-one producers sampled their wines, showing a range of styles and flavors. Some of the differences reflected varying combinations of the traditional grapes use in Provence rosé: Grenach, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvedre, Tibouren, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon. Other differences resulted from the varying soil and climate conditions. And the final differences came from the sensibilities of the individual winemakers.

Here are some favorites from the tasting:

Chateau de PampelonneChateau de Pampelonne Rosé 2012
This wine from Les Maîtres Vignerons de Saint Tropez in Gassin is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Tibouren and Mourvedre. The grapes grow in sandy soil on the St. Tropez peninsula next to the beaches. They are harvested early in the morning while they are still cool. They are macerated for just two hours before being pressed, and remain on sediment for two months.

The wine is pale pink and has floral aromas. The taste is well balanced with hints of tropical and citrus fruit and has a pleasant minerality on the finish. It would go well with fish and simple chicken dishes. But would taste just fine sipped by itself on the deck watching the sun go down. $19.99

Première de FiguièrePremière de Figuière Rosé 2013
Saint André de Figuière is a family-run producer located in La Londe-les-Maures. It is between the Mediterranean Sea and the hills of Provence. Beneath the top soil the ground consists of mica and schist, which the winemaker describes as fragile yet capable of producing wines with finesse. This rosé is composed of 50% Mourvedre, 30% Cinsault and 20% Grenache. That is a stark contrast with most of the area rosés in which Grenache predominates. Each variety is harvested and vinified separately before being blended.

This wine has a bit more blush than the Chateau de Pamplonne that I would describe as a pale salmon. The bouquet has more citrus than floral notes. On the palate one tastes peach and citrus as well as a little earthiness from the Mourvedre. The overall impression is of an extremely well-balanced, delicious wine. Because it is a little heartier, it should stand up well to seafood and fowl dishes.
$19.99

Chateau La MascaronneAnother wine I enjoyed at the tasting was Quat’ Saisons 2013 from Chateau La Mascaronne in Le Luc. Unfortunately, the winery did not have an importer at the time of the tasting. But the fascinating thing about the owner, an American from Indiana, is that he formerly owned and produced wine at the property now owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Readers will remember the Amateur Gastronomer’s review of Brad and Angelina’s Miraval Côtes de Provence Rosé last summer. Apparently, the couple were flying over the Miraval estate in a helicopter and were stunned by its beauty. They made a generous offer to buy, and the proprietor had to agree. Already owning a second property, he moved all of his wine-making operations to Chateau La Mascaronne and has continued producing wines under its label.

The rosé is a blend of Cinsault and Grenache. It has a wonderful floral aroma and controlled fruits with both a touch of citrus and a pleasant minerality on the finish. Robert Parker gave the 2012 a 91-point rating. The suggested retail price is $22. Let’s hope it finds an importer soon.

More Rosé Wines | White Wines | Red Wines

Chateau Miraval Rosé: Worth It?

The hottest rosé to get your hands on this summer is the Miraval Côtes du Provence Rosé. Made by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in partnership with the Perrin family, the first cases to arrive in the United States sold out right away.

Chateau MIraval RoseThe new shipment has arrived on US shores and you’ll find it at numerous wine stores in Atlanta. But costing around $30 a bottle is it worth it?

Here are the AG’s tasting notes:

Location: Château Miraval extends over 500 hectares in the Côtes du Provence appellation. The Château is located in the town of Correns, north of Brignoles in southern France. Grapes for the rosé came from the organically-farmed Chateau and a selection of neighboring vineyards.

Grapes: The 2012 wine is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Rolle. The grapes were hand picked and hand sorted. Five percent of the wine spent time in barrels with batonnage (stirring of the lees).

Miraval RoseAppearance: Starting with the shapely bottle and minimal labeling, this is an eye-catching wine. You can’t help but be attracted to the color of the rosé: a lovely pale pink.

Nose: The Miraval Rosé has subtle aromas of pink grapefruit, white raspberry and rose. It’s not as aromatic as other rosé wines recently tasted by the AG.

Taste: Dry and elegant, the wine has flavors of raspberry, wild strawberry, grapefruit and lemon. Light in body with gentle mineral notes and a crisp finish, this is a rosé for white wine drinkers. There was a little heat on the finish (the wine is 13% alcohol by volume), which faded over time in the glass.

Verdict: This is a very nice rosé from Provence but take away the celebrity and it would be priced more in the $17 to $19 range. The Miraval Rosé won’t likely become your every day sipping rosé, but at $30 a bottle it’s fun to taste and well worth trying it for yourself.

Want more Miraval? A white wine from Château Miraval is expected to be released this fall, and a red wine is coming in spring 2014.

More Rosé Wines | White Wines | Red Wines

AG Pick: Mas de la Dame Rosé du Mas 2012

The French know how to do rosé right. And some of the best rosé can be found in Provence, in the south of France.

Les Baux and vineyardsThat’s where Mas de la Dame is, in a commune called Les Baux-de-Provence. It’s a gorgeous area in a beautiful part of Provence, best known for ruins of a fortified castle that overlook the vineyards and olive groves below.

Owned by sisters Anne Poniatowski and Caroline Missoffe, Mas de la Dame has 140 acres of vineyards at the foot of the medieval village of Les Baux. Farming is done organically, and the grapes are harvested by hand. Jean-Luc Colombo is the consulting winemaker.

Mas de la Dame Rose du MasIt’s hard to imagine a more perfect setting for enjoying rosé than sitting outside with a chilled glass during the summer in Provence. But with a glass of the Mas de la Dame Rosé du Mas 2012, you can nearly recreate the experience at your own home.

The wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 20% Cinsault. The grape juice spent 4 to 8 hours with the skins to get its pale peachy-pink color.

The Rosé du Mas opens with aromas of fresh berries and rose. On the palate are delicate flavors of ripe raspberry, wild strawberry and peach, with subtle fresh mint notes. The finish is clean and refreshing.

This is a rosé to make even the most skeptical wine drinker a rosé fan.

Enjoy the Mas de la Dame Rosé du Mas outdoors on a warm and sunny day with lunch or as an aperitif. It pairs well with salads, light pasta dishes, grilled pork, barbecue or fish. Serve the Rosé du Mas chilled.

$14, 12.85% alcohol

Wines for Celebrating Valentine’s Day

Whether you prefer to say “I love you” with something sparkling, sweet or pink, here are wines that are perfect for celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Demarie Birbet Brachetto
Roero, Italy
$20, 6.5% alcohol by volume

Lightly sparkling, a touch sweet and a deep magenta hue make Brachetto an ideal sip on Valentine’s Day. This wine comes from the Piedmont region in northwest Italy and is made entirely from the Brachetto grape. Like Prosecco, Brachetto gets its bubbles from the Charmat method.

The Demarie Birbet Brachetto has flavors of ripe raspberry, strawberry and cherry, with floral notes of rose and violet. Enjoy the Brachetto as an aperitif or with dessert.

 

Biltmore Pas de Deux
Monterey & Arroyo Seco, California
$19, 12.5% alcohol by volume

The Biltmore Estate, a popular destination in Asheville, North Carolina, produces a range of wines using grapes grown at the estate and sourced from California. The Pas de Deux, a gently sweet Methode Champenoise sparkling wine, is made entirely from Muscat Canelli grapes from California’s Central Coast.

Meaning “a dance for two,” the Pas de Deux is meant to be shared with someone special. It has round flavors of orange, lemon, white raspberry and wildflower honey, with small and energetic bubbles. Enjoy the Biltmore Pas de Deux as an aperitif or with lightly sweet or cream based dishes.

Click here for more sparkling wine suggestions

 

Domaine Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer 2011
Alsace, France
$30, 14% alcohol by volume

If it’s flowers you enjoy giving or receiving on Valentine’s Day, then Gewurztraminer is the grape for you. This white wine is extremely aromatic – take a sniff and you may be able to smell honeysuckle, jasmine, gardenia and rose.

The gentle sweetness in the Domaine Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer is nicely balanced with mouth-tingling acidity. Flavors of Meyer lemon, tangerine and a hint of white chocolate culminate in a pleasing finish that has a lingering touch of orange blossom honey. Oysters are a great pairing with the Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer, as are other shellfish, seafood, and spicy dishes.

 

Domaine de Triennes Rosé 2011
Var, France
$18, 12.5% alcohol by volume

The French know love – and rosé wine. This rosé from Provence is a partnership of two of Burgundy’s great estates: Aubert de Villane, co-owner of Domaine Romanee-Conti and Jacques Seysses, founder of Domaine Dujac. The wine is mainly made from Cinsault, with some Grenache and a dash of Merlot.

Light peachy-pink in color, the Triennes Rosé is elegant and aromatic with red fruit and floral notes. Round flavors of wild strawberry, raspberry and a hint of herbes de Provence come together in a clean, dry finish.

Mini Rosé 2010
Languedoc, France
$11, 11% alcohol by volume

This rosé from southwest France is made from the Cinsault grape. Pale salmon in color, the Mini Rosé has delicate flavors of white raspberry, strawberry and red grapefruit with refreshing acidity. Enjoy this wine with fish, grilled chicken, salad or pasta. Bonus: with only 87 calories per glass, you won’t feel guilty consuming a few extra pieces of chocolate.

 

Dark Lady of the Labyrinth Pinotage 2011
Wellington, South Africa
$20, 13.5% alcohol by volume

Smoky and seductive, the Dark Lady Pinotage is sure to spice up your Valentine’s Day. This red wine from South Africa offers a unique alternative to Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel.

Intense aromas of smoked meat, leather and black fruit introduce a palate of blackberry, black cherry, black pepper, mocha and pipe tobacco. The wine has a silky mouthfeel, with gentle tannins and a long, satisfying finish. This wine demands to be served with a steak.

Rethink Rosé: A Taste of Rosé Wines from Provence

By Maxine Howard

The Provence Tasting Tour rolled into San Francisco in April to showcase rosé wines from the beautiful south of France. Nineteen wineries arrayed their offerings around the bar at the Bluestem Brasserie, demonstrating a range of hues from pale pink to deep salmon. As I made my way around the wines I encountered Jean-Jacques Breban, Vice President of the Provence Wine Council. I tried to get him to confess to a favorite though naturally he was diplomatic, saying, “they are all good, but all different.” While I might not have liked them all, they indeed were diverse.

The rosés of Provence are unlike those made in the United States. Here we tend to find fruitier wines that seem to straddle the line between white and red, an attempt to add fruit to a white wine. In Provence the ideal is “rosé sec” – dry rosé that blends the minerality of the soil with an aroma of the flowers that cover the countryside.

Producers in Provence use a variety of red grapes to make their wines. Most combine between two and four grape varieties, the most common being Grenache and Cinsault.

To make rosé wine the grape skins are removed before fermentation begins. According the Wine Council this results in wine with the character of a red and the crispness of a white.

Three of my favorites demonstrate the range of possibilities for rosé of Provence. Pétale de Rose from Château Barbeyrolles is made from Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvedre. It had a pale blush appearance and just a hint of fruit aromas. The taste was crisp with lean fruits, yet it also had a spiciness on the tongue.

The rosé from Château La Sauveuse is made from Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault. It had a peach tint and floral aromas that did remind me of the Provencal countryside in bloom. On the palate it showed a great balance of fruit flavors without being too fruity.

I also fell in love with the red wine from Château La Sauveuse. Made from Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, it wowed me at first sight. The color was a deep garnet that portended greatness. It had potent aromas of red fruits with smoky undertones. The ripe dark fruit flavors expanded on the palate. Well-structured with nicely balanced tannins, I recommend trying it if you find a bottle.

Cuvee 946 from Château Gassier is a rosé that incorporates Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vieux Carignan and Cinsault. The wine had a beautiful apricot color and smelled of citrus and red fruits. The taste was wonderfully balanced with a subtle complexity I attributed to the variety of grapes used.

Any of these wines would make a lovely accompaniment to hors d’oeuvres on the patio in the late afternoon, or a dinner of seafood or pork.

In France rosé wines outsell white wines. After sampling the wines from Provence I can understand the allure.

Festival of Wines in Chateauneuf-du-Pape

The Amateur Gastronomer spent the month of August in Provence, France.  This is the first in a series of articles on the region.

What better way to kick off a three week trip to Provence than by tasting wines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape?

Our first weekend in the south of France happened to coincide with Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s annual Fête de la Véraison, the festival of grape ripening.  For a weekend at the beginning of August the town is transformed into a medieval village to celebrate both its heritage and the upcoming harvest, complete with street performers, knights competing on horseback and of course, plenty of the famous local wine.

For its vast stretch of vineyards, the actual town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is fairly small.  Five narrow roads branch out from the main square, with ruins of the 14th century château keeping watch from above.  Even without the people in medieval costume it’s easy to imagine yourself stepping back in time, with the old tan and gray stone buildings and their weathered window shutters adding splashes of color.

My husband and I arrived just in time for the parade that kicked off the day’s festivities.  Dozens of people dressed up as noblemen, peasants and even a prisoner walked through the streets.  They were led by drummers and bagpipe players, with a group of donkeys bringing up the rear.

For 3€50 we purchased souvenir wine glasses that allowed us to taste wines from the numerous wineries that had booths along the streets, as well as at the wineries located within the town.

We started off slowly, tasting a few whites and reds while taking in the sights of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  We checked out medieval themed gifts, compared cheeses and saucissons, smelled soaps made in Marseille and somehow resisted the urge to buy nougat and marzipan.  We walked up to the château ruins for a great view of the surrounding vineyards and Mont Ventoux in the distance.  By mid afternoon I had lost track of how many wines we tried, though the half a dozen bottles we carried around helped us remember our favorites.

In contrast to our experiences in wine shops and restaurants back home, we found many wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape to be extremely affordable.  I almost didn’t trust my french when I heard that the delicious Syrah Grenache blend we were sipping cost only 5€ a bottle.

We quickly discovered this was the norm — during our three week visit we enjoyed many great bottles that cost between 5€ and 10€ from all of Provence’s wine regions.  I guess in Provence the saying ‘wine is cheaper than water’ is fairly accurate.

One of our favorite wineries in Châteauneuf-du-Pape was Domaine Comte de Lauze.  It is located right in town and is one of the few wineries that still does all the wine production there (the grapes grow in nearby fields).  The owner took me on a tour, showing me the large stainless steel fermenting tanks on the ground floor, then down a narrow staircase to show off the barrels in the cave below ground.

Comte de Lauze’s red — a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault — was rich and silky with flavors of black cherry, licorice and pepper.  At around 20€ it was on the more expensive side of the wines we tasted at the festival.  The winery also produces a nice Côtes du Rhône for 8€50.  It’s lighter in body and in color than the Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with bright red fruit notes.

Like with many of the wines we enjoyed during our three weeks, you’ll be hard pressed to find these reds in the United States.  As the owners explained, Domaine Comte de Lauze doesn’t produce enough wine to export to the U.S.  But that’s part of the reason why you visit places like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, to discover special wines that you can’t get back home.

At the Fête de la Véraison there were not as many foreign tourists as I would have guessed, though I did hear English spoken when I least expected it — from one of the vineyard owners.  Doug Graves, owner and winemaker at Mas de la Lionne, came to France in 2008 from Washington State.  He kept the winery’s name, which goes back to the 1950s and a tale about an escaped circus lion that was said to live on the property.

Though literally across the street from Châteauneuf-du-Pape (a narrow road runs along the north side of the property), Mas de la Lionne is located in Sorgues, so the wines do not have a Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation.  As Doug explained, the terroir is similar and is expressed in the wines.

We tried the 2008 and 2009 Côtes du Rhône reds.  After tasting the two my husband was extremely surprised to find out they were 100% Grenache, which he usually does not like.  Both were upbeat and juicy with red cherry and strawberry flavors and a hint of spice on the finish.  We couldn’t decide which was our favorite so we bought one bottle of each.

With our lips stained and our hands full, we decided it was time to take our bounty home to our cottage near Gordes.  Only a couple of days in to our trip, we already had quite a wine collection.

 

Related Stories:
A Guide to Gordes
Ice Cream with a View
Photographs of Vineyards in Provence

Discover Temecula: Thornton, Wiens & Leonesse Wineries

Continued from Discover Temecula: Briar Rose Winery

After my introduction to California’s Temecula Valley at Briar Rose Winery it was time for lunch at Café Champagne.  The restaurant located at Thornton Winery serves contemporary fusion cuisine in a cozy French country setting overlooking the vineyards.  The best part is you don’t have to choose between food and a tasting of Thornton’s wines — you can enjoy a wine flight with your meal.

Thornton Winery opened in 1988 and produces a variety of white, red and sparkling wines.  I went right for the red wines and ordered the Zin Lover’s Flight.  This included the 2007 Old Vine Zinfandel from Cucamonga Valley, the 2007 Huis Vineyard Zinfandel from Temecula Valley, the 2007 Estate Petite Sirah from Temecula Valley and the 2006 Late Harvest Zinfandel from Cucamonga Valley.  My favorite was the 2007 Huis Vineyard Zinfandel, which was barrel aged for 22 months in 41% new American oak and 59% two year old French oak.  The wine had jammy blackberry and cherry flavors with cocoa and spice on the finish.

I also got to try the Sparkling Wine Flight which included Thornton’s NV (non-vintage) Brut, NV Blanc de Noirs, NV Cuvée Rouge and NV Cuvée de Frontignan.  All are made using the traditional Champenoise method.  I like my sparkling wines to be dry, so I found Thornton’s a little sweet for my taste.  Of the four I enjoyed the NV Brut the most.  It is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc with a small amount of Pinot Noir, with notes of golden apple, pear and creamy toast.

While the setting was lovely, the experience was marred by slow and uneven service, though there were only a few other tables filled.  Once I was able to get the attention of a server and order, the sparkling wines arrived flat.  The server was apologetic and brought out a new flight, but I found it odd that the restaurant would send out a poor representation of Thornton’s wines.  I hope I dined at Café Champagne on an off day and that this is not the norm.

After lunch I went to Wiens Family Cellars.  The winery was founded in 2001 by Doug Wiens and his brothers George, Jeff and Dave.

Wiens Family Cellars prides itself on its red wines.  And I could see why, after tasting some that ended up being my favorite from my visit to Temecula.  But first I started with a really nice white, the 2008 Solace.  Bright with nice floral, pear and citrus notes, the wine’s flavor matched the sun on its label.  The blend of 44% Viognier, 41% Chardonnay and 15% Roussanne was partially aged in French oak and on lees, adding creamy flavors of caramel and vanilla.

I then tried a variety of red wines including a Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel and a couple of blends.  My favorite of the single varietals was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was smooth and spicy, with flavors of blackberry and plum.

My favorite red overall was the 2008 Domestique, a blend of 45% Grenache, 26% Syrah, 26% Mourvedre and 3% Sangiovese.  It was a delicious mix of black fruits and earth, with flavors of black currant, blackberries, plum, spice and leather coming together for a pleasing, lingering finish.

I ended the day with a few more whites and reds at Leonesse Cellars.  The winery was founded in 2003 and its name means “village of dreams.”  The tasting room is perched above the vineyard, offering great views as you sip.

Of their white wines that I tasted, my favorite was the 2008 Roussanne, which had delicate floral aromas and flavors of ripe lemon, apricot and honeysuckle.

On the red side I enjoyed the 2007 Cinsaut, 2007 Melange De Rêves and 2007 Limited Selection “Six.”  The light bodied 2007 Cinsaut reminded me of an Oregon Pinot Noir with its fresh cherry and strawberry flavors and a hint of vanilla and clove.

The 2007 Melange De Rêves is modeled after Rhône wines and is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsaut.  It was medium bodied with flavors of ripe raspberries, boysenberries, tobacco and black pepper.

The 2007 “Six” is so called because it is the sixth release in Leonesse’s Limited Selection Series line of wine.  It’s a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Merlot that was aged in small French and American oak barrels.  It had spicy flavors of plum and black cherry, rounded out by violet and eucalyptus.

I went sweet for my final wine with the 2008 Late Harvest Muscat Canelli.  It was rich without being syrupy, with notes of peach, apricot and honey.

With Temecula being home to more than 30 wineries, I barely scratched the surface during my one day trip.  I definitely plan to return to discover more.


Thornton Winery
is located at 32575 Rancho California Road and is open daily for tastings from 10am to 5pm (6pm on Saturdays).  (951) 699-0099

Cafe Champagne is open for lunch and dinner.  Reservations can be made at (951) 699-0088.

Wiens Family Cellars is located at 35055 Via Del Ponte and is open daily for tastings from 10am to 5pm.  (951) 694-9892

Leonesse Cellars is located at 38311 De Portola Road and is open daily for tastings from 11am to 5pm.  (951) 302-7601

For more information on Temecula Valley wineries visit www.temeculawines.org.

What’s the Deal with Pinotage?

Whether you love to hate it, hate to love it, or have never tried it, Pinotage is one of the most divisive grapes among wine drinkers.  It is treasured in its native South Africa and trashed elsewhere around the world.  It is not on the wine list at many restaurants, and is one of just a handful of varietals that some oenophiles refuse to drink.

What makes Pinotage so polarizing?  The taste can be overwhelming and a bit unpleasant to the American palate.  Though it’s not my favorite red wine, I still like to enjoy a bottle every now and then.

Pinotage is South Africa’s signature varietal.  It was created there in the 1920s by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault (known locally as Hermitage), but wasn’t widely planted until the 1960s.  Though it’s rare to find Pinotage outside South Africa, several New World wine countries are trying their hand at the varietal including the United States, Brazil and New Zealand.

Done well, Pinotage can have great flavors of chocolate, coffee, red fruit and smoke.  Done poorly, Pinotage can taste gamey, with notes of burnt rubber, wood chips, rusty metal and paint.  The line between a good Pinotage and a bad Pinotage can be very narrow; it’s these bad Pinotages that have turned off many wine drinkers outside of South Africa.

If you prefer lighter-bodied reds like Pinot Noir or Gamay, Pinotage is probably not for you.  Pinotage is a bold, full-bodied red, closer in style to Petit Sirah and Zinfandel.

The meaty flavors in Pinotage make it ideal for pairing with grilled meats.  Serve it with beef, lamb, venison or any type of game meat.

Don’t let people with a bad Pinotage experience scare you away.  Pinotage is something you have to try yourself.  Here are a few bottles I recommend:

Nederberg Pinotage 2007 ($9)
A great introduction to Pinotage, this wine has just the right balance of fruit and earth without a dominating wood flavor.  Aromas of smoky dark chocolate and cherry introduce flavors of plum, red fruit, tobacco and spice.  Soft tannins make this wine very easy to drink.  I recommend decanting this wine to fully enjoy the flavors.

Zonnebloem Pinotage 2007 ($11)
This fruit forward wine has ripe flavors of cherries and blackberries, rounded out by cedar, vanilla bean and toasted coconut.  Well-integrated tannins give way to a warm, fruity finish.

Kanonkop Kadette 2007 ($17)
One way to introduce yourself to Pinotage is to try it in a blend.  Kanonkop Kadette 2007 has 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Pinotage, 27% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc.  Smoky plum and pepper aromas are followed by concentrated flavors of cherries, blackberries, smoke and chocolate with a spicy finish.  The other varietals enhance the flavors of the Pinotage without dominating the palate.

AG Pick Under $10: Pierre Rougon Cotes du Rhone 2007

Yes, it is possible to find a nice Côtes du Rhône for less than $10.  I recently discovered the 2007 Pierre Rougon Côtes du Rhône, an upbeat red blend that’s bursting with ripe red fruit flavors.

Cotes du RhoneIf you like the light and fruit forward red wines of Beaujolais you will enjoy the Pierre Rougon Côtes du Rhône.  It has similar flavors but with added complexity and depth.

This medium-bodied wine is a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Cinsault.  It has lively flavors of cherries, raspberries and strawberries with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg.  The fruit and spice culminate in a warm finish.

You can taste the higher alcohol percentage in the finish but it’s not as overwhelming as you might think for a wine that has 14.5% alcohol.

This wine pairs nicely with chicken, pork, turkey, mushrooms and cheese.

The 2007 Pierre Rougon Côtes du Rhône costs just under $10.