Stocking stuffing wines
Let's open the holiday week with a stocking full of wine - specifically, tasting reports on four varied and interesting wines that I've sampled recently.
Le Pigeoulet en Provence is a consistent value favorite, a Rhone wine from the Bruniers, proprietors of the excellent Chateauneuf-du-Pape producer Vieux-Telegraphe. Although its vineyards aren't far from Chateauneuf, their location qualifies them for labeling only as Vin de Pays de Vaucluse. It's one of the first Southern Rhones I've tried from the 2002 vintage, a disastrous harvest so rainy that floods destroyed much of the Chateauneuf crop. Happily, although this modest country wine is light in color and relatively delicate in flavor, it's no disaster, an easy-drinking table wine, fine with food.
Light, sweet and frothy, Moscato d'Asti is no wine for serious contemplation, but its luscious fruit and low alcohol makes it a delicious alternative for festive sipping, and it works unusuall well with hot-and-spicy fare. This offering from Marco Negri is easy on the wallet, too.
I met Mary Fran Rocca, who with her husband Eric Grigsby runs Napa's tiny Rocca Family Winery in E-mail and talked myself into ordering their Rocca Syrah and H. Gray Cabernet. I'm glad I did: These impressive wines demonstrate the very high quality that Napa can provide at its finest, and if these wines are priced well above the line for everyday drinking, their price tags in the $30s make them a relative bargain in competition with many of their neighbors.
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Le Pigeoulet en Provence 2002 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse ($11.99)
Clear ruby, this Southern Rhone wine from the producers of Vieux-Telegraphe is surprisingly light in color, but this is typical of Pigeoulet and can't necessarily be attributed to the rainy summer of 2002. There's plenty of good, spicy red-cherries and strawberries in the aroma, and if the wine is a bit light-bodied, there's plenty of fresh, snappy fruit and crisp acidity to carry it. Good food wine from a "difficult" vintage. U.S. importer: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, Calif. (Dec. 19, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Its light body and delicate fruit suggest pork or poultry. It was a delight with an aromatic pork loin braised with satsuma oranges, rosemary and juniper berries.
VALUE: Reasonable in this price range.
WHEN TO DRINK: Light, fresh fruit suggests enjoying it in the short term, not aging.
WEB LINK: Domaines Brunier (Vieux-Telegraphe) has a Website in French and English (Flash required) at
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Locate vendors for Pigeoulet on Wine-Searcher.com:
California Wine Club
Last chance to order! There are only three shopping days left before Christmas, why not take it easy and let The California Wine Club help!
For friends, family and business associates The California Wine Club makes a tasteful gift. Each month includes two bottles of award-winning wine, hand-selected from some of California's most coveted boutique wineries. Just $32.95/month plus shipping and includes an informative 8-page newsletter, Uncorked. Uncorked is full of winemaker comments, tasting notes, recipes and an up-close look at the family behind the wine.
Send as many months as you wish, or visit their website for special holiday discounts on gifts of 3, 6, 9 and 12 months.
Marco Negri 2002 "Marsilio" Moscato d'Asti ($8.99)
The oversize standard cork used for Moscato d'Asti requires a little extra effort to pull, and it expands into a cone shape when it comes out of the bottle with a gentle "pop." The wine is a clear straw color, and it shows a slight but persistent stream of bubbles in the glass, slightly fizzy - as it should be - but not as bubbly as Champagne. Attractive grapefruit and peach aromas are typical of Muscat, as is its luscious flavor, quite sweet with fresh-fruit sugars appropriately balanced by a lemon-squirt of acidity. Soft sweetness and that creamy-fizzy mouthfeel make it a natural with spicy fare. U.S. importer: William Grant & Sons Inc., NYC. (Dec. 14, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Low alcohol, gentle sweetness and light fizz make it a natural with spicy fare. It served well at a friend's house where we enjoyed pachadi, a lightly curried Indian dish of brown rice, lentils, bulghur wheat and veggies.
VALUE: Hard to beat for less than $10.
WHEN TO DRINK: Moscato d'Asti is meant to be drunk up young and fresh.
WEB LINK: You'll find downloadable tech sheets and sales material on the importer's Website:
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Look up online distributors of
Marco Negri on Wine-Searcher.com:
Wine Lovers' Voting Booth: How much will you spend?
What this world needs, to restate the old political saying, is a good five-dollar bottle of wine. From the $2 Charles Shaw label ("Two Buck Chuck") that made headlines this time last year to the $1,000 bottle of "cult" Cabernet or top-end Bordeaux, there's a wine to fit just about everybody's budget.
Have changing times, an iffy economy and our own evolving tastes altered the price that we're willing to pay for wine? Let's find out, as we reprise one of our earliest Voting Booth topics: "The average amount I spend for one bottle of the wine that I buy regularly is ..."
You'll find your "ballot" at the Wine Lovers' Voting Booth,
Rocca Family Vineyards 2000 Yountville Napa Valley Syrah ($38)
This very dark reddish-purple wine's delicious aromas are open and ripe, juicy black plums with appetizing dashes of pepper and spice. Mouth-filling fruit seems almost "jammy" at first, but good, fresh-fruit acidity and smooth tannins provide balance and structure. It adds 10 percent Merlot and 4 percent Petite Sirah for complexity, and saw 18 months in oak. An excellent wine, well-made and appealing, showing cellar potential but drinking very well now. (Nov. 7, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: This hearty, full-bodied red made a natural match with lamb shanks.
VALUE: Although a special-occasion price, this exceptional California Syrah competes well against Rhone Syrahs and Australian Shirazes at this price point and higher.
WHEN TO DRINK: It's enjoyable now but will reward careful cellaring over the next decade.
WEB LINK: You'll find information and online sales on the winery Website,
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Locate vendors for Rocca Syrah on Wine-Searcher.com:
H. Gray 2000 Yountville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($34)
Very dark garnet, almost black, this wine shows classic California Cabernet aromas of black plums and berries, chocolate and subtle minty notes that serve as a accent but don't dominate the wine. Well balanced but forward black-fruit flavors follow the nose; firm acidity and smooth, palatable tannins provide structure mellowed by the presence of 24 percent Merlot in the blend. (Nov. 23, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: A fine match with roast chicken; it would serve just as well with rare lamb or beef.
VALUE: Not an inexpensive wine, but actually a bargain by the lofty standard of high-end California Cabernet; it stacks up well against competitors at twice the price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Although forward fruit and smooth tannins make it drinkable now, this fine wine will gain additional complexity with five years or more under good cellar conditions.
WEB LINK: H. Gray Cabernet is featured on the Rocca winery Website at
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Find H. Gray Cabernet on Wine-Searcher.com:
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As I frequently point out to those of you in the wine business, there is no quicker, better or more efficient way to deliver a wine-related message to wine lovers around the world than an advertising "sponsorship" on WineLoversPage.com.
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This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles and features that I hope you'll enjoy:
Nat Decants: The Merry Widows of Mousse
Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: Your best wines of 2003?
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Riesling off the beaten path (Dec. 19, 2003)
Old World meets the New (Dec. 17, 2003)
Oak and health? (Dec. 15, 2003)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Potato pancakes and applesauce (Dec. 18, 2003)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, Dec. 22, 2003