Tools of the trade!!

I’ve had some dynamite wines lately a bit all over the price point so it’s past time to share the results. All of these, with one exception, should not be too hard to find.

So I round up the bottles of my recent wines, pour a glass of a nice French blend (see details below), grab a few little crackers and let’s go!

Labyrinth Haka 2008 Tempranillo – It’s probably just wrong to be suspicious of a grape grown outside the area where it’s best know – but hey, we’re all skeptics. I’ve had some pretty good Tempranillo from the U.S. West Coast before. The Twisted Oak version comes immediately to mind as a great wine. Lange Estates, the Pinot Noir folk, make a pretty good Tempranillo that just disappears off their shelves.

A year ago I traveled to Paso Robles and became a big fan of that regions wines. So when I passed this bottle on the shelf I had to give it a try. It’s just the second vintage for the well-respected Labyrinth folks to produce the traditional Spanish grape.

Simply put, this is a fabulous food wine. It falls somewhere between medium and full-bodied wine that has big fruit, some depth, and a very soft and memorable finish. It comes in at 14.5% alcohol and sees 13 months in oak. (Labryrinth Haka 2002 Tempranillo, $18.99, Kahn’s Wines, Indy, Highly Recommended.)

Domaine Grand Veneur Les Champauvins Alain Jaume & Fils – This just might be the best value wine for the price I’ve ever tasted. Seriously. Domaine Grand Veneur Cotes du Rhone wine is a Grenache driven wine with stunning full fruit and smoothness. It’s 70 percent Grenache, 20 percent Syrah, and 10 percent Mourvedre – so very much a traditional French GSM wine.

It’s fabulous quality might be partially understood knowing the vineyard borders the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation, the very best the area has to offer.

I loved the red berry aroma and flavors of this wine. It is rich and perfectly balanced. Many would use words like smooth, and even silky to describe this beauty. Online I found this wine at up to $19. I paid $14.99 for a bottle a few weeks ago and after opening it called the shop and had them set back a half case. (Domaine Grand Veneur Les Champauvins Alain Jaume & Fils , $14.99, Grapevine Cottage, Zionsville, IN., Very Highly Recommended)

Robert Mondavi Private Selection 2010 Pinot Noir – So as I’ve written here several times I do get sample wine shipped to me from a number of marketing firms. A few weeks back I got a couple bottle of Mondavi’s $20-$30 wines which I truly enjoy. Since then I got a Cabernet and Pinot Noir from the Private Selection (about $11) label.

I never have very high expectations of a Pinot Noir under $11 but this one just rocked all my perceptions. It was typical California Pinot Noir with bold fruit and a soft oak finish. It might have been as good an $15 Pinot as I’ve ever had. I’m now quite anixous to try the Cab to see if it holds up as well.

The great thing about this wine is it should be very easy to find. This line of Mondavi wines can be found in Kroger and many local supermarket and liquor stores. It will shock you with it’s quality. Now, it’s not a Russian River Valley and no where near an Oregon Pinot. But for grocery store, Central California coast wine, it rocks. (Mondavi 2010 Private Selection Pinot Noir, SRP $11, trade sample, Highly Recommended at the price point.)

Chateau Mas Neuf 2010 Rhone Paradox – This nifty white wine offers a lot of wow factor for a Rhone white wine. I’ve tried a lot of white Rhone wines this summer and many left me unimpressed or with just an ‘okay’ reaction.

I liked this Chatau Mas Neuf blend of 65 percent White Grenache and 35 percent Roussane a lot. It has a freshness that many of the others didn’t show, maybe even a delicate characteristic. The tasting notes suggest peach .. but I’d go a bit further and say white peach … a bit of tartness that I loved. This wine is a great one with snacks, chatting with friends, or would hold up to lighter meals.

Exploring French whites, particularly from the Rhone region, has been a fun summer project I’m glad I carried into the fall. This is refreshing yet interesting. There are layers of flavor beyond many of the $10-$12 Rhone whites. Reviewers at The Rhone Report gave this white 89 points. I’m sipping a glass while writing this entry! (Chateau Mas Neuf Rhone Paradox, $10-$12, though I paid slightly more at Grapevine Cottage, Highly Recommended)
Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

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