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Tag Archives: France

Review: Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut

Just in time for the holidays, bubbles! Who doesn’t love to celebrate with sparkling wine? From Champagne, to Cava, Prosecco, or California Sparkling Wine, a bottle of bubbles is at home on every holiday table. And with such variety as we have today, bubbles don’t have to break the bank. Take, for example, this Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut. It is rich, creamy, and delicious, and retails for just $23 per bottle.

Crémant refers to a French sparkling wine, made in the same way as Champagne, but from other parts of the country. In case you didn’t know, because of an 1891 law, “Champagne” can only come from the Champagne region of France. (Yes, there are a few California sparklers that, thanks to loopholes and lawsuits, can still use the name on their labels.) Anyway, as I was saying, Crémant is made using the méthode tranditionalle, in which the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle, producing those fine bubbles we all know and love. Though made in the same way, Crémant does not have the panache, the swagger, the reputation, or the price tag as Champagne. That doesn’t mean it is any lower in quality, in my humble opinion. Call it marketing prowess.

Lucien Albrecht is one of the preeminent wine producers in the Alsace region, located in northeast France. Dating back to 1698, when Balthazar Albrecht settled in the area, the family has been making high quality wines, widely renown and recognized. Predominantly a still-wine producer, with the familiar slender bottles with the yellow labels, Lucien Albrecht makes Alsatian standards like Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Gewurztraminer. In 1971, Lucien Albrecht, the 8th generation of this wine growing family, became one of the pioneers of Crémant d’Alsace, when he introduced this sparkling wine. Available in both Brut and Rosé, Lucien ALbrecht Crémant d’Alsace is sure to please.

The following wine was provided as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

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Terrific! Golden straw color. Vigorous tiny bubbles as the wine fills the glass, and the bubbles continue throughout. Aromas of apricot and pear. On the palate, luscious flavors of brioche, almond, pear, apple, and a hint of pineapple. Bone dry, with a rich, creamy mouthfeel, and a long clean finish.

With Thanksgiving approaching, and more holidays on the way, consider a bottle of Lucien ALbrecht Crémant d’Alsace to grace your table and accompany your meal. Heck, at just $23 per bottle, grab two. You don’t want to run out mid-celebration, do you?

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds
  • Photo Credit: Robyn Raphael
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Longing for Some Summertime Red Wine

It’s only the first week of July, but it already feels like a long, hot summer. Here in NorCal we’ve seen near-record heat including a week-long heatwave (seemed more like a month) with temperatures pushing, or exceeding 110°F…and that just was in June!

Naturally, when the mercury rises this high, we all gravitate to the cold, crisp wines. But seriously, one can only drink so much Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Rosé. (Yes, I know the more adventurous among you are cracking refreshing Albariño, Picpoul, and Torrontés. I’ve had my share of those, too!)

What I’m really craving right now is a nice, juicy red wine. But it’s just too hot for a big, heavy Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Malbec. What is one to do???

Beaujolais.

No, not the young, fun, fruity Beaujolais Nouveau released in November. You should have finished all of that by now. I’m referring to the grown-up, big brother: Beaujolais Villages wines. Made from the same Gamay grape as the youthful Nouveau wines, “standard” Beaujolais is often aged in oak before release, giving it more depth of character while still retaining that light, refreshing flavor that can satisfy your red wine craving in the heat of summer.

The Beaujolais region is located just south of Burgundy, but is actually part of the Rhone region of France. With a warm growing season, the resulting wines tend to be fruity, yet with proper care and aging, can develop complex flavors. The most prized Beaujolais wines are those from the 10 “crus”; those vineyards recognized as the best in the region.

Wandering through my local Total Wine & More store the other day, I was in search of a  red wine that I could pair with a grilled, New York strip steak that wouldn’t be too heavy in the sweltering heat. In a momentary flash of inspiration, I asked the store associate to direct me to the Beaujolais section. He gladly did so, but as I reached for the familiar label of the Louis Jadot Beaujolais (Retail $11.99), the clerk suggested I up my game.Jadot

While there’s nothing wrong with the Jadot (and I bought a bottle for a BBQ that would be attended by less-discerning palates), for a mere $3 more, we could enjoy one of the best-of-the-best…a cru Beaujolais Villages wine. Powerless to resist, a bottle of Jean La Perriere Belles Grives Morgon 2014 landed in my cart. Morgon is one of the cru vineyards, producing superior Gamay. As you can see, the best quality can be had for a bargain price!

As expected, my craving for red wine and red meat was satisfied that night. The steak was cooked to perfection, and with wine was magnificent; fruity and light, yet deep and complex.

 

Belles Grives

Good price point for a Cru Beaujolais. Brick red with garnet rim. Aromas of raspberries and black pepper. Flavors of ripe raspberry, earth, and smoke, with medium body and super soft tannins. Finish is long with red berry, plum, and baking spice.

Retail: $14.99 ($13.49 with the six-bottle discount.)

 

That’s not the end of the story, however. A few days later, we popped open the Jadot at the BBQ party. It was a huge hit, and complemented the Tri-Tip very nicely! Fruit-forward with raspberry and cherry, but less of the oak influence and depth, everyone loved it. That bottle didn’t last long!

If you are already growing weary of summer, and can’t bear the thought of one more Rosé or crisp white, head down to your favorite wine shop and grab a bottle or three of a wallet-friendly Beaujolais Villages red wine. It’ll help you through until Cabernet season!

Cheers!

 

Review: Château Bélingard AOC Bergerac Rosé

Summer is the traditional season for Rosé wine. There is a movement afoot to encourage wine lovers to enjoy Rosé all year, and I’m all on board. I do enjoy Rosé wine year around. Nevertheless, lighter bodied, crisp wines taste best to me (any many others) when the weather is warmer. Poolside, lakeside, or parkside, a refreshing Rosé is a great way to enjoy a summer afternoon.

Rosé wine comes to the plate with two strikes against it. First of all, many people I know still think all Rosé wine is like the syrupy sweet White Zinfandel popular in the 80’s and 90’s. This is simply not true. The reality is that a good many of the Rosé wines available today are crafted in the classic, Provençal style: dry, crisp, and refreshing. Still, some simply aren’t willing to give dry Rosé a try. I say their loss is my gain: more for me!

Strike two is that there are a lot of low quality Rosé wines out there, lacking in flavor, interest, or character. I suppose this is to be expected when a product suddenly becomes as popular as Rosé has in recent years. Everybody wants a piece of the action; to ride the wave while it is high. So they’ll rush to put something, anything out there to enter the market before the tide turns. (I’m detecting a surf theme here. Appropriate, given that Rosé is a great beach wine!)

Fortunately, there are also many excellent Rosé wines available! I found one of them recently at my local Total Wine & More store. Château Bélingard AOC Bergerac Rosé (Retail: $11.99) is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. As one might expect from the use of these two big, bold red grapes, this Rosé has a bit more body and heft than most. Make no mistake, though; this is still a dry, crisp, refreshing wine!

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Founded in 1820, Château Bélingard is located in Southwest France, in the Bergerac appellation, east of the more famous Bordeaux region. While Bergerac wines are made predominantly with the same varietals as those of Bordeaux – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based red wines, and Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon based whites – Bergerac wines are often considered softer and less serious. I don’t take this as a criticism in any way! On the contrary, these are high quality, value wines! Not everyone is a collector or connoisseur, and there is definitely a need for affordable, easy-drinking, everyday wines.

In addition to this Rosé, Château Bélingard produces an impressive portfolio of reds and whites, including a Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon/Muscadelle blend, and several levels of Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends. Below is my review of the Rosé, which we recently enjoyed as a cool refresher on a 102°F Sunday evening.

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IMG_2342Salmon, almost orange color. Aromas and flavors of tropical fruit including mango and passion fruit, with a hint of mandarin, along with light red berry flavors of strawberry and ripe raspberry. Dry with medium body and a soft, round mouthfeel and lively acidity make this a refreshing wine, yet big enough to pair with grilled tri-tip steaks or other summer BBQ fare.

We really enjoyed this wine! I rated it 4.5 out of 5 stars (92 – 94 points).

Check your local retailer and seek out some of this amazing Rosé wine! You’ll be glad you did!

Cheers!

Roses and Rosé for Mother’s Day

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Today is Mother’s Day in the United States. I am fortunate, in that both of my parents are alive and healthy, in their early 80’s. What’s more, they live in a beautiful retirement apartment complex just a few minutes from my home. Over the years, we have not always lived so close; so many Mother’s Days were spent remotely. So I’m pleased to be able to celebrate this day over a meal and wine with both my mother and dad.

Contrary to popular belief, at least by me, Mother’s Day is not just another “Hallmark Holiday.” Indeed, the day we know today was started in 1908 by Anna Jarvis, to honor the sacrifices mothers make for their children. Hallmark wasn’t founded until two years later in 1910! In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a declaration establishing Mother’s Day as the second Sunday in May. Yet celebrations of motherhood date much further back than that. The ancient Greeks and Romans held festivals honoring the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. More modern Christian celebrations of “Mothering Sunday” eventually evolved into the holiday we enjoy today.

I like to refer to the community where my parents live as a “land-based cruise ship.” It’s pretty much all-inclusive, with three meals a day, housekeeping services, social activities, recreation, and a shuttle bus for day trips and running errands. In fact, the apartments themselves don’t even have kitchens! Management is always gracious and invites guests for special occasion meals. Mother’s Day is no exception! Lunch is the big meal of the day, and there is always a main entrée, as well as an alternate in case you don’t care for the main. Mind you, these are chef-prepared meals so they’re always enticing and tasty!

Today’s main entrée was marinated flank steak with hoisin sauce, with arepas and artichoke timbales. If you’re not feeling like beef, the alternate was crab cakes with papaya pepper puree and citrus dill aioli. When I come over for special meals, I always like to bring a bottle or two of wine to pair with the meal. After all, I am a wine guy, so my folks appreciate my recommendations! I went in assuming we would all want the flank steak, so I brought a Cabernet Franc; the Le Pré Vaujour Chinon 2016. However, it was possible that my mom would surprise me and order the crab cakes. Besides, this is Mother’s Day, so we have to have a Rosé, right? As you can see in the photo above, we had several Rosés to choose from. In keeping with the Cabernet Franc theme, we opted for the Château De La Roulerie Les Camelias Rosé 2014, a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Roses and Rosé for Mother’s Day! 

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OK, props to dad, too. Without him, she wouldn’t be my mother! 

As expected, the meal was delicious! We started with a salad of spring greens, micro greens, and Belgian endive with peach-basil vinaigrette. Although we all ordered the flank steak, we opened the Rosé for the salad course. It was an amazing pairing! When the main course arrived, we chugged the remaining Rosé in our glasses to make room for the red wine. Honestly, I was a little apprehensive. I hadn’t realized until I got the bottle home that the Chinon was a 2016 vintage. The grapes in the bottle were on the vine only a few months ago! I needn’t have worried, though, as the pairing was heavenly! For dessert we enjoyed homemade tiramisu and sipped on the last of the Chinon. Yum!! It was a very pleasant and enjoyable way to celebrate the sacrifices my mother made in raising my sister and me. Mainly my sister. (Just kidding, sis!)

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The Wines

Château De La Roulerie Les Camelias Rosé 2014

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​Salmon color in the glass. Aromas and flavors of strawberry, red raspberry, and red currant. Bright acidity with medium body. Light and lively. Red berry, including cranberry on finish. Excellent pairing with the spring and micro greens salad with endive.

4.0 Stars (88 – 91 points)

Le Pré Vaujour Chinon 2016

Yes, 2016. ​Very young, but very good! Bright purple color in the glass. Aromas and light mouthfeel are reminiscent of a Beaujolais Nouveau: Fresh raspberry, red currant, and violet, with some spice, and a bit of freshly tilled earth, with just a hint of oak influence. Surprisingly soft and smooth for such a young wine, with lively acidity and medium body. The acidity made it perfect with the flank steak, and led to a long, pleasing finish. Very good now, with aging potential for several years.

4.0 Stars (88 – 91 points)

My hope is that each of you enjoyed celebrating your mother as much as I did mine. Let me know in the comments what you did with your mom, and what wines you paired with it!

Cheers!

 

Review & A Bit of History: Jean Claude Debeaune Beaujolais Nouveau Celebrate Harvest 2015

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It’s a day that is anticipated and celebrated by excited fans everywhere. The third Thursday in November, at one minute past midnight, Beaujolais Nouveau Day begins. On that day, at that time, thousands of cases of new wine are shipped from the vineyards, in the MapBeaujolais region of France, to Paris, and then on to the thirsty masses all over the world. The tradition evolved as a regional event in the early 20th century, and the day was originally designated annually on November 15th. However, in 1985, as the celebration gained in popularity throughout France, this was changed to the third Thursday each year. With no more inconvenient Monday or Tuesday release dates, it became possible for revelers to celebrate over a four-day weekend. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me!

Here in the United States, Beaujolais Nouveau Day happily coincides with our Thanksgiving Day. With a taste and body profile not unlike Pinot Noir, a bright, lively, fruity Beaujolais Nouveau pairs very well with the traditional turkey dinner.

Beaujolais Nouveau is about as un-snobbish as you can get in a red wine. It’s not made for high-brow, serious, sniffing-and-swirling tasting events. It’s an easy-drinking, fun wine meant for a party! Made from the Gamay grape, Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be consumed young. Unlike most red wines, that are aged for several months or years, Beaujolais Nouveau is unaged, and released just weeks after harvest. In production, the wine undergoes a short fermentation process, with the skins in contact with the juice for only a brief time. This results in a light, acidic wine with minimal tannins. In this way, it is often compared to a summery white wine, rather than a more traditional red wine. And like a white wine, Beaujolais Nouveau is best served chilled. As a light, low-tannin wine, the recommendation is to enjoy your Beaujolais Nouveau within six months.

This year, my Beaujolais Nouveau selection was the Jean Claude Debeaune Beaujolais Nouveau Celebrate Harvest 2015. Here’s my review, posted to Vivino.

Beaujolais Nouveau

Delightful and lively. Beaujolais Nouveau is always a fun wine. Purple color in the glass, the aromas greet the nose with raspberry, strawberry, and cherry. The flavors on the palate are raspberry, cranberry, cherry, and red currant. The tannins are light and the acidity is brisk. This wine wakes up your mouth! The finish lingers with red fruit and a bit of peppery spiciness. Definitely a gulpable wine!

Purchased at Total Wine & More, $9.99

Rated 4 out of 5 stars

If you haven’t tried Beaujolais Nouveau yet, it’s not too late. There’s still some in stores and it would be a great addition to a Christmas dinner table, a New Year’s Eve party (before the bubbles, of course), or for any other reason you can think of to celebrate! If you miss out, don’t fret. The next Beaujolais Nouveau day is on November 17, 2016. Mark your calendars now!

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Information Sources:

[1] http://www.intowine.com/beaujolais2.html

[2] http://www.wineweekly.com/wine-basics/beaujolais-nouveau-answers/

[3] http://www.beaujolaisnouveauday.com/

Review: Hob Nob Wicked Red Blend 2012

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Just in time for Halloween comes the limited edition Hob Nob Wicked Red Blend. Sporting a Calavera, or “Sugar Skull”; the traditional Mexican Dia De Los Muetros symbol; on the label, this wine actually hails from France. The Languedoc-Roussillon region, to be precise.

As stated on the label, this is a Limited Edition wine, released each year around Halloween. It is a great wine to bring to an All Hallows Eve party; full of surprises and devilishly good. The Languedoc-Roussillon region is known for excellent wines at outstanding values. Hob Nob Wicked Red Blend is no exception. A traditional blend of Grenache and Syrah, with some Cabernet Sauvignon as well, the folks at Hob Nob threw a surprise into this blend: Pinot Noir. The Pinot adds zing; a brisk acidity and layers of complexity to make this wine the life of the party! With plenty of backbone and structure, plus lively acidity, it pairs with a variety of foods; even a juicy grilled rib eye steak!

From the back label: “Celebrate Halloween with Hob Nob Wicked Red Limited Edition, a fruit forward, opulent red blend with hints of oak, hazelnut, mocha, and an eerily smooth finish. Are you ready to get Wicked?”

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Here’s what I thought of the 2012 Hob Nob Wicked Red Blend, as posted on Vivino:

“Fun label, good wine. Deep burgundy color in the glass. Aromas of blackberry bramble and dark berry, with some earthy notes. On the tongue the first thing I notice is the smooth body and bright acidity. Flavors of blackberry and fresh raspberry with cherry and cedar. The acidity creates a fresh, long finish.”

I got mine at Total Wine & More for $8.99. Tasty wine at a scary-good value! Get some, before it vanishes!

Cheers!

Sauvignon Blanc: The Next Big Thing?

Sauvignon Blanc has enjoyed a recent rise in popularity [1]. Although Chardonnay remains undisputed king of the white wine world, Sauvignon Blanc is achieving status as the latest trendy wine. All the cool kids are drinking it! I normally shun trends, but I am completely on board with this one. Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and refreshing; great for a warm summer day. It is food friendly, pairing well with white fish, chicken, pork, grilled vegetables, and salads – basically any light, summery food. And it’s affordable! Whereas Chardonnay can run upwards of $40-50 for a midrange bottle (and hundreds for a Grand Cru White Burgundy), the most expensive Sauvignon Blanc at my local Total Wine & More store, a White Bordeaux, is just $54, with the second most expensive being less than $40 [2]. Good Sauvignon Blanc is available for as little as $8 to $12.

Sauvignon Blanc grows well in wine regions all over the world. It has adapted well to the southern hemisphere, with some of the most award-winning wines coming from New Zealand. This summer, I have enjoyed a “world tour” of Sauvignon Blanc, enjoying examples from France, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and California. The California wines I’ve had have come from Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and Lake Counties, Clarksburg, and San Luis Obispo. Yes, I drank a lot of Sauvignon Blanc this summer!

I have found I prefer California Sauvignon Blanc, with my favorites coming from Mendocino and Napa. However, I recently enjoyed a truly delightful example from Clarksburg. Nestled along the Sacramento River, less than 30 minutes south of the capital city, Clarksburg is a hidden gem of a wine region. The wines are spectacular, and generally substantially less expensive than nearby Napa or Sonoma.

Baron Herzog SBBaron Herzog Sauvignon Blanc 2014 is one of these excellent, affordable wines. It is available at my local BevMo store for $10.99. I found it at Trader Joe’s for just $7.99!

My review, posted on Vivino:

Pale straw color, with aromas of lemon-lime and pineapple. The mouthfeel is light, with lemon/citrus, pineapple, fresh white peach, and tart apple notes. The acidity is bright and crisp, and the finish lingers with zesty citrus, and a hint of sweet elderflower in the back of the throat. A very nice Sauvignon Blanc from California’s Central Valley, and a great value at $8!

If you haven’t tried Sauvignon Blanc in a while, do yourself a favor and get some. Even though the calendar says it’s autumn, the weather still says “summer” here in NorCal. Sauvignon Blanc is a great way to relax and refresh. Cheers!

[1] http://www.iwfs.org/americas/wine-food—friends-1/articles/sauvignon-blanc—better-than-chardonnay-in-wine-food-pairin

[2] http://www.totalwine.com/wine/white-wine/sauvignon-blanc/c/000008?viewall=true&sort=price-desc