Sunday, July 24, 2005

Cremant de Bourgogne as an alternative



At the last flight of the rose party, I served a Cremant de Bourgogne from Michelle Freres 2001. I usually love Champagne more versed on the Pinot grapes. This one was 100% pinot made with the traditional method. It had everything you could expect from a rose champagne, a fruity flavor and a classy acidic finish. The bubble were not that persistent but the flavor profile is remarkable.

Dear Champagne house
Who thinks Champagne rose is better than white Champagne ? No one so stop selling it $5 more , or $35-$40 or watch out for your customers switching to Cremant de Bourgogne at $12 a bottle. Later. I have to buy a case.

Savennieres forever

Savennieres has long been my favorite wine from Loire Valley.
Everyone knows about clos du papillon, but I stumbled on another producer worth the detour.
As a rule, I avoid 2003 in French wine. It was too hot, so the grapes lost too much acidity and their balance. Interesting to note that most German 03 are so disappointing.

Rebuffing the suggested Sancerre 03, we experienced a Savennieres 02 from Chateau de Varennes. I like this terroir because it produce wine with more body and more earthy flavors than other district in the Loire valley. The nose reminded me of the dry straw but there was something else to it like almond and marzipan. I only experienced this last flavor in Sauternes. A dusty, mushroomy aroma was also there reminding me of the crust of cantal cheese.
The palate was full and deep, a little bit like the semillon grape. The balance acidity/sweetness was perfect.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

A Merlot I will buy today...

I know you would never drink Merlot. So did I... until today.
I tasted Benzinger Merlot 2001, a little wonder.

First it's the best Merlot I ever tasted.
Second, it's a great matured wine.
Third it's about $15 thanks to Sideways.

The color is a deep ruby with a dark brown rim. The nose is the best part. Strong blackberries, coffee, chocolate, delicious. A nose somewhere close to ripe Cab Franc from Loire.
The absence of tannins makes it medium length and the variety doesn't provide for a large structure. Even skinny and light weighted, this boxer scores for clean flavor of dark fruits, restrained coffee and chocolate.

On the Benzinger website, we learn that the vintage was perfect for fruit set and saw a long warm summer allowing good ripening. The heatwave at the end of August pushed ripeness ahead of flavor but by the 9th of September, the weather cooled off allowing flavor development. Near perfect conditions on the field.
The heatwave that California gets during harvest threaten delicate grapes (increasing sugar content with flavor lacking concentration). Now you know why Merlot and Pinot are the underdog and Bordeaux blend will never be that popular.

In the winery, a fermentation of 12-20 days and a maturation of 15 months in French and American oak made the wine. I like the fact that Terry Nolan, the winemaker racked and assembled 60% of the production. Returned to barrel, this blend made the backbone of the final wine.

Good job Terry. If you are visiting Sonoma, forget about Pinot (it's too hot) and stop by to check Benzinger Merlot.