Raptor Ridge Tempranillo, 2013 Rogue Valley, Folin Vineyard

CONFESSION: I’ve had this wine in my possession for way too long. Confession number two: I’ve had numerous wines from Raptor Ridge this Summer that all deserved their own post, but I really don’t know where the time has gone. So I’m seizing this rainy and strangely windy Saturday to catch you up on one of my favorite wineries in the area!

Oregon Tempranillo: not as rare as you might imagine.

Oregon Tempranillo: not as rare as you might imagine.

We’ll start the party with the post’s namesake, the 2013 Tempranillo. This is just the third year RR has made a Tempranillo, and it sits at right around 200 cases made. Tempranillo seems to enjoy the hotter climate of Southern Oregon; the Folin Vineyards are also planted with Syrah, Petite Sirah, Mourvédre and Grenache- more varieties that bask in the heat.

Heat is evident in this wine, as its nose is big, dark and smokey. Blackberry liqueur, raspberry preserves, briar patch, hints of woodsy/evergreen/fresh sap, along with traditional Tempranillo characteristics: tobacco, leather, savory herbs, and a nice bright streak of tart red fruit to carry it along. Raptor Ridge suggests mole as a pairing, and now that is all I can think of. Or maybe something char-grilled, with a spicy BBQ rub. Ribs?! Oh, indeed.

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In short: a super fun “unusual” varietal perfect for Fall! Fall is a little erratic here, it almost reminds me of South Carolina. It cooled off quickly in September, but its thrown more than a few 80 degree days our way right up until last week.

So, what other Raptor Ridge wines have I enjoyed this year? A favorite: the 2014 Grüner Veltliner:

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This is Estate fruit from their site on the Chehalem Mountains, which tickles me. Again, not much more than 200 cases made and this little guy sings with clean minerality, slate, fresh flowers and a really nice acidic balance.

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The Raptor Ridge 2014 Pinot Gris was probably my favorite Gris of the year. Gris takes some flack out here for being boring, I’ve noticed. Maybe it doesn’t have the most personality of any white grape out there, but the bottom line is: when you find one that hits the nail on the head in terms of value & quality, AND offers the delicious clean, fresh palate that it should.. well, anyone who’s worked in retail or a restaurant knows: they’re money-makers. People love them, they’re versatile and friendly. Long story short, the Raptor Ridge is a winner for all those reasons.

I’m scouring my phone for a picture of the view at the winery but I’m shocked to discover I don’t have one! That means I have to go back soon and get one. Hands down, best view in the valley- and we all know there’s some stiff competition there.

Go check these guys out!

*these wines were received as samples. except the pictured rosé. I bought that because, well, rosé*

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Boedecker Cellars Pinot Noir, 2013 Willamette Valley

Its high time we dove head first into the deep end of the pool, ladies n’ gents. And in this circumstance, I mean: 2013 Oregon Pinot Noirs! This is the first of a series I’d like to do that focuses on the 2013 vintage for Oregon Pinot. How many will be in the series? Meh. I don’t know yet. Probably quite a few. There are a lot of things that interest me about 2013, mainly how it will be perceived by “the masses” following a very popular and publicized vintage like 2012. I’m on a mission to ensure 2013 doesn’t get turned into a “throw away” year. Well maybe not ensure, as my platform isn’t the loudest, but at the very least- I’m starting to observe what others are saying and throw my two cents in whenever I can. So here we go!

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Not the first 2013 I’ve tasted, but the first I’ve chosen is the 2013 Boedecker Cellars Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. What’s today? Wednesday. What is this? A great Wednesday wine. A somewhat unfair term which I have mixed feelings about, but it does get to the point. The pricetag on this little guy is but $20. Which as I sit here with the wine, does seem like a meager sum for this bottle. I bought it at the winery a few weeks ago, during an epically long day in Portland that involved a lot of wine tasting and Ikea (what better time to go to Ikea than after you’ve had some wine?)

They were having a club pickup day- SCORE- snacks galore.

They were having a club pickup day- SCORE. 

I really enjoyed my visit to Boedecker. Very down to earth, low-key, non-pretentious people who racked up quite a few impressive scores in 2012. This wine has actually bloomed beautifully in the 30 minutes that I’ve had it open. Youthful (duh) and lively, it has a buoyant nose of black cherry, raspberry, rhubarb jam and a teeny undertone of cherry cola. The palate is fresh and lean- rose petal, potpourri and a tang of orange zest. A nice easy sipper, but with enough variation that it doesn’t just sing one note.

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Nicely balanced acid, pretty fruit, brightly colored- all in all a very inviting glass of vino. This is my idea of a no-brainer restaurant glass pour, or like I said earlier- a Wednesday wine. And when you find a perfect Wednesday wine- it kind of rules.

This is what people did over 2012 Oregon Pinot Noir:

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Will they do that over 2013? Only time will tell. Those of us who drink a lot of Oregon Pinot might. Those that prefer California Pinot might not. 2013 is not going to smack you upside the head with burly fruit. But what they will do, in my opinion, is charm you and wile their way around your heart. Thus far, that is what they’ve done for me. I’d like that to be the case for everyone. So stay tuned, and we’ll do this more often! What say you?

Lumos Gewürztraminer, 12 Temperance Hill

Happy Sunday evening! I took a quick break after the conclusion of Thirty Oregon Grapes just to regroup- but I’m back at it tonight with a grape I fully intended on including in the project, but just didn’t get to it- Gewürztraminer! There was a bit of Gewürz in the Evesham Wood Blanc de Puits Sec blend, but its a grape that really deserves its own post. In the life of an aromatic white lover, this one is definitely a favorite.

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I was moderately familiar with Lumos prior to this weekend, but I still didn’t realize they had a little tasting room right in downtown McMinnville until recently! They share the space with Honest Chocolates, which were totally drool-worthy. They’re open Thursday-Sunday and after tasting through their wines yesterday, it really dawned on me what an insane value their wines are. Their case production is very small and the majority of their fruit comes from the Temperance Hill Vineyard (this one included), which is a beloved site in the Eola-Amity Hills. Many a winery (Adelsheim, Chehalem, Elk Cove, Evesham Wood, J.K. Carriere, Panther Creek, R. Stuart, and St. Innocent just to name a few) have discovered the virtues of this site. Lumos owner and winemaker Dai Crisp is Temperance Hill’s vineyard manager. Yes, that’s his name; he’s Welch, if you can believe that!

So at 171 cases made, all Temperance Hill fruit, and boasting a special price of $15 (for the 2012 vintage), this Gewürz is pretty nuts, in my opinion. Even at its normal price of $19, it would still be a great value. I love Gewürz because its like Riesling’s wicked stepsibling. A touch more animated in character, a bit more perfumed, but still incredibly fun to pair with food and perfect afternoon sippers.

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There. Did I sell you on the grape itself? Now. THIS one. The ’12 Lumos is a temptress; the nose is ridiculously pretty and floral with honeysuckle, fresh white flowers, plum, golden apple and apricot in abundance. A slight twang of citrus on the palate- but mostly soft, fresh tangerine- nothing piercing. The minerality lingers for a bit, and the texture is soft. I’d definitely call this one a “quaffer.” Quaff, while a totally ridiculous word, really does summarize a wine thats perfect for wiling away an afternoon and sipping slowly and without purpose. A nice little companion.

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The Lumos tasting room in Mac is totally worth a stop. On the day I went, they were pouring a couple of 2010 vintage Pinots that were showing beautifully, and the Rosé also had me at “hello.” Its just past Nicks on 3rd Street. I’ll definitely be looking forward to some of their new releases this Spring!

That’s all I got for tonight! Many thanks to Heidi Riehl at Lumos for the tasting. Y’all keep it real out there in wine-drinkin’ world. I’ll be back with a post about the lovely Leah Jorgensen later this week…

 

WattsUp Rosé, 13 Spain, Rioja

A beautiful girl with no makeup on.

MMM.

That’s the best imagery that I can conjure up to describe this wine. You know, that beauty who’s fresh from the beach, maybe a little freckled or pink in the cheeks from a day in the sun. No muss, no fuss, yet lovely and carefree. No frills. But picture-perfect.

So, I like this juice. Could you tell? I like it for a few reasons. First of all, it tastes delicious. Clean, crisp, lightly floral, just the right amount of red berry fruit highlights and a touch of fresh watermelon. It’s elegant in it’s simplicity. Isn’t that what we want in a Summer thirst-quencher/beach-mate?

Second, I like the package. It sticks with it’s intended theme of “TAKE ME TO THE BEACH!” Simple and fun to look at. And doesn’t that picture make you want to go to the beach? I mean, I do- and with my pale skin, the charms of the beach are sometimes lost on me.

photo 4 (7)Third, this wine has some star power. And I admit, I’m charmed by it. Here’s the story: the wine was brought about by a rad photographer named Ben Watts. Somehow he became entrenched with the fellas at Wine Awesomeness. (Speaking of which, I’m going to need to hear the whole story there soon, mmkay guys?). All these bros apparently have a deep love of Pink Wine (three cheers for men who drink pink! teehee). So the first vintage of WattsUp was released last year and got quite a bit of press- check out the GQ article, Food Republic article, and Hamptons Magazine article from last year. And here we are in li’ ol’ Columbia SC, and we get to drink the stuff! How cool is that?

 

And while we’re on the subject of Wine Awesomeness, you should pop over and check out a few of the Wine Education blog posts I’ve written for them. I think they’re pretty neat!

But back to the wine, because that’s why you’re here. What I love about it, and why I believe it to be a successful wine, is that it picks one thing and does it well. By that I mean, the intention was to have a wine that is an easy-going, refreshing quaff that you can party with all Summer. And that is precisely what it is. Plus it’s an excellent value! You can sip on a glass for $7 at Cellar on Greene where it’s currently by-the-glass. But tomorrow would be a great time to come stock up on a few bottles before July 4th at our Big Ol’ Wine Sale & Tasting! Seriously, 12-2 tomorrow (June 28th), be there or be stranded without the coolest wine of the Summer for July 4th. We’re also going all out and marking down a lot of reserve bottles in a “Summer cleaning” sort of endeavor. DO IT!

Are you not so much a beach-goer? Have no fear. This wine is also perfect for this:

Don't act like this isn't what you're doing right now.

Don’t act like this isn’t what you’re doing right now.

Did I air out your dirty little secret? Drinking wine and Facebooking? It’s okay. We all need to decompress. So I suggest keeping a permanent bottle of this little guy in your fridge all Summer to give you an assist. That’s all I got for today. Come see me tomorrow at the wine sale!

 

This Week’s Whites to Watch Out For!

It finally feels like we better strap in and enjoy the ride folks- Summer is almost here! Spring was sort of a temptress this year, no? Warm. Cold. Warm. Cold. And the last few days have been downright Summery. Complete with a forecast full of rain and… no accumulation. So what better time than to preview a few fun exciting new whites?

mmm.. WHITES

mmm.. WHITES

 

Folk Machine Tocai Friulano, 13 California, Mendocino. Retail $15. 

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OKAY OKAY- so THIS one is hands-down one of the coolest whites I’ve had this year! For a lot of reasons, some nerdier than others. I’ll get into that in a bit, but first I must regale you with details about how delicious this stuff is! If you’re after a flowery-citrus-bomb that’ll leave you feeling like you licked a grapefruit peel, this one might not be your jam. Because it is a study in understated, if you will. It’s an effortless little wine, made from a cool grape that you don’t see a lot of in California, and dollar for dollar, it absolutely owns some of it’s closest “competitors”, style-wise. Yes, I’m speaking of the “New California” category. But anyway, let us first get back to the wine itself: this wine has an irresistible freshness straight out of the bottle. I hesitate to call it “petillant”, but there’s definitely a touch of fizz on this wine when you first crack it. It’s a lean and fresh palate that you’ll find when you sip this guy. Slightly saline with green hints. Think an underripe pear, green grapes straight outta the fridge, lime pit, and fresh herbs. The nose is not terribly forthcoming, but that’s just kinda how it rolls. It hits the thirst-quenching note quite precisely, and the finish is dry and a bit chalky. This wine is like Vinho Verde’s slightly more evolved cousin, in my opinion. Meant to be taken just a bit more seriously than your average poolside-crusher, but still falls into the everyday category. Would be genius with a fresh tomato salad with plenty of herbage and some tangy goat cheese. This wine was written up by The New California Wine author Jon Bonne in SFGate. Check it out!

 

Anne Amie “Cuvee A” Muller-Thurgau, 2012 Oregon, Willamette. Retail $16.

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So if you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you’ll remember that I’ve written about this wine before. But… it’s just SO. DURN. GOOD. And this is a new vintage! I can’t resist a revisit. Especially since I have been to Oregon and Anne Amie Vineyards since the last time I wrote about this wine, so my appreciation has only deepened. I’ll skip the part where I explain to you what Muller-Thurgau is in great detail; suffice to say, it’s a grape you should be drinking. It originated in Germany but has found a happy home in Oregon’s cool Willamette Valley. And you can call it MULL-er, or MEW-ler, depending on your mood. I go with MULL-er because I find the alternative awkward. I may be remiss in that, but I am okay with the consequences. I have heard pros say it both ways. So there.

It goes without saying that this wine has been delicious and consistent every year that I’ve tasted it, and this one is no exception. It’s aromas are downright intoxicating. Sweet honeydew melon, honeysuckle, peaches and fresh spring flowers. The palate offers a touch of tartness (green apple, lime) and minerality. But it finishes up with an oh-so-silky mouthfeel that will make you squeeeeee. I can’t think of a more perfect wine for Pad Thai (yeah, probably even the kind you can get at Food Lion), a Spicy Tuna Roll &/or a Shrimp Summer Roll with sweet thai chile sauce! (I gotta pause and drool now….) LOVE. IT. You need it in your mouth.

 

Vina Tobia Blanco, 12 Spain, Rioja. Retail $14. 

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Yet another funsie! I love a good, zippy Spanish white. If you’ve been in an Albarino phase, let this one be your next fling! It is a blend of 50% Viura, 20% Verdejo, 10% Malvasia, 10% Tempranillo Blanco and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. Note: there will be a quiz. You may or may not be familiar with many of those, but Verdejo and Viura are fairly common in the world of Spanish whites and you may have had them before. An energetic and vibrant white, it has a rounder texture than an Albarino typically does, but all the lovely bright citrus flavors you probably love. You’ll also find some exciting hints of pineapple, passionfruit and and a touch of nuttiness. The finish is fresh and clean, but with the aforementioned touch of texture and “waxiness”. Kind of an odd word, but it will make more sense once you try it.

…And try it you will! Or can, at least, at TOMORROW’S Wine Sale! All these babies will be open for the tasting from 12-2. I picked three off-beat wines today for a reason- my new catch phrase at the wine sales is going to be “TRY SOMETHING NEW!” Cause I love y’all mean it, but sometimes I feel as though I sell the same wines to the same people every week. We gotta shake it up! Try new stuff! That’s what we’re here for.

Come visit tomorrow, have a great, wine-filled weekend, and thanks for reading! 

 

 

Goin’ Goin’, Back Back, to Oregon!

Sometimes inspiration is hard to find, friends. 

That’s a lesson I’ve repeatedly learned throughout the course of writing this blog. It’s really easy to fall into the rabbit hole of non-creativity and lack of motivation (for me) when it comes to writing. It’s almost like when you put off doing a specific task for a few weeks, even though you know you’ll feel great once you do it. Then one day? You wake up and just FEEL like doing it! It’s miraculous. Like today!

It also helps to have a friend tell you: “WTF? You’re not blogging! You suck.” She meant that with love, honestly.

#OregonNerd

#OregonNerd

The OTHER thing that helps is having two wines arrive a day apart from each other that are SO marvelously Oregon that they inspire you beyond words. And that happened this week! You’ll definitely want to check these out at the Wine Sale tomorrow, March 1st from 12-2. Yeah, I know there’s Mardi Gras stuff going on tomorrow, but there’s plenty of time to do both, mmmkay?

First up is the brand-spanking new vintage of Walnut City Wineworks Pinot Gris, 2013 Willamette Valley. What is it about a really nicely balanced and well-priced Oregon Pinot Gris? When they hit the nail on the head, they’re just the ultimate go-to wine. But some of them speak to me more than others- usually I look for an ultra thirst-quenching bite on the finish, and I like fun accents of florality. Is that a word? Maybe. Plus I LOVE their label art:

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So this is an effortless little drinker that is everything it should be; crisp, clean and fragrant with notes of kiwi, lime zest, white flowers (gardenias, maybe) and something vaguely soapy and lovely. I like the slight addition of tropical fruit flavors, which you could pick up nicely with whatever you choose to dine on- a tropical fruit salsa? Atop a salad with goat cheese and even some grilled salmon? Oh, I do think I just planned a meal for you… how easy was that? This wine retails for $15, and you can also find it on Cellar on Greene’s by-the-glass list for the time being!

Next up is definitely my favorite 2012 Willamette Pinot that I’ve had in a minute- Left Coast Cellars “Cali’s Cuvee”. I believe this wine is relatively new to South Carolina (I might be wrong on that, but at the very least I had never had nor seen it until just before the holidays). Lemee tellya, this stuff is perfect. I’ll always support the merits of 2011 Oregon Pinots- I embrace the light, cooler vintages as much as a warmer one like 2012. But coming off of 2011, this wine is such a welcome change! It really captures fullness and ripeness without sacrificing the overall “cool” nature of Oregon Pinot Noir in general. It has a nice depth of color- and offers more of the blue fruit spectrum- blueberry, black cherries; as opposed to the lean cranberry/pomegranate palate. The finish is undeniably sexy- warm and soft, with lingering vanilla and French oak. A touch of strawberries n’ cream, almost. But not like a nasty strawberries n’ cream candy bar- like actual fresh strawberries with a mound of freshly whipped cream on top. Did I mention that I had the best strawberries of my *life* last summer in Oregon? I thought I knew strawberries. They were life-changing.

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But back to the wine: hints of Asian five spice and a touch of clove are flirtatious and fun. This wine won a Double Gold at the Oregon Wine Awards for it’s 2011 vintage. I literally cannot get enough of it. The other thing I’ll say about this wine is that our staff at Cellar LOVES it. I take pride in this, because they, at the ripe ages of around 23-26, actually DO know a killer wine when they taste one. They might not be able to tell you exactly why (yet), but they know it’s good. I like that. It’s that you-can’t-quite-pinpoint-why kind of love. Like when you meet a person and you KNOW you instantly like them, even though you don’t know every single thing about them yet. Evidently I’ve had too much wine before lunch, so I will quit my rambling right about now.

BUT the BEST part of this wine? It’s freaking $22! That, my friends, is an absolute steal for such a high-quality Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. I insist you try it.

Also, here’s a screenshot of yet another source of inspiration that got me pumped to write about wine today. And don’t you judge my station list… Sometimes one needs Mariah Carey Radio.

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That’s all I got for today- see y’all at the WINE SALE TOMORROW! 

 

A big fat BUBBLE post!

Is it me, or has this been the absolute fastest November-December in the history of the world?  It seems like it was just October and I was saying to myself, “the holidays will be here soon”, and now they’re over.  I don’t tend to perseverate too much over the timing of Thanksgiving and Christmas, but really?  They were that close together?  It just seems wrong.  But there’s no use dwelling; at this point we just need to strap in and be ready.  And now it’s just up to NEW YEARS EVE and then we’re into 2014!  So what better time than now to talk about some recent arrivals of a BUBBLY nature?!  You know it!

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they can be yours, too.

BUBBLES.  My all-time favorite thing to open on a whim, at any time of day, for no reason at all.  To celebrate nothing.  Or everything.  Or somewhere in between.  But considering that it’s a holiday, you have an excellent reason.  I’ll highlight a few from all price ranges….

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Clara C “Fiori” Brut Rose, NV Italy ($13) The Clara C is as close to a perfect little pink bubbly as I can imagine.  It is light, fresh and offers up crispness and a touch of pretty red fruit and vanilla.  This one, of course, is ideal if you have a lot of people coming over.  The bottle is classy and it looks and tastes like it cost way more!  Side note- it has a sibling that is decidedly NOT pink, but still delicious.

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Sokol Blosser “Evolution” Sparkling, NV Oregon ($21)  The Evolution Bubbly is another favorite- I fell in love with this wine back in June when I visited the winery, and at the time it was winery-only.  At this point I confess to being a total Oregon Wine Nerd, thanks to said trip to Pinot Camp- however, this wine really is the jam- AND it’s from Oregon, which is awesome.  It is a blend of (up to) nine undisclosed Oregon white grapes.  I was told it’s based in Muller-Thurgau (holla!), but you can figure there’s probably some Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, maybe even Viognier or Pinot Blanc in there, too.  I sort of relish in not knowing, and I suggest you do the same.  Anyhow– you should drink this because it has brilliant clarity, precision and tastes like heaven.  Green apples, tart citrus zest, a light floral background and brilliant acidity are artfully blended.  Get on it.  And at $21, it’s in an excellent “treat yourself” price range, in my opinion.  Truth be told, I plan to make a mimosa out of this on New Years Day.  Because- well, New Years.

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Louis Grenelle Brut Rose, NV France, Loire ($18)  OHHHH heavens, you need this.  One of my absolute favorites. (hmm… that word seems to be coming up a lot…).  But really, this stuff is the BOMB.  I posted about it’s white sister a year or so ago, and I love both of them- but the pink one holds a special place in my heart.  It is made from Cabernet Franc- and if you’ve never had a sparkling Cabernet Franc, you really must.   With this bubbly, you get gorgeous notes of strawberry and cranberry, hints of fresh flowers, and the MOST clean and zippy finish you’ve ever experienced.  Zippy being a technical term for that fleeting “lift” that we love so much in a sparkling wine.  Bubbles and acid.  Magic, I tell you.

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Domaine Carneros by Taittinger Brut, 09 California  ($19).  An absolute steal of a California sparkler!  This guy has impeccable balance- bright flavors of citrus, golden apples and raisins and lime zest are met with a touch of yeast, honeycomb and toasty-ness.  I drank some of this alongside a giant bowl of buttered popcorn, and I was transported to a very happy place.  Crunchy things with a bit of salt are fantastic with sparkling wine- and add in that toasty quality with the buttery popcorn?!  Oh, lord have mercy!

And now for a few high-rollers... In my opinion, if I’m going to shell out $40 or more for a bottle of anything, let alone Champagne, it better be good.  And not just good because celebrities on TV drink it, or because it has a shiny ad in Wine Spectator or excellent marketing- like it has to be GOOD WINE.  So here are a few that I would GLADLY spend my money on and drink with relish:

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A. Margaine Cuvee Traditionelle, NV France, Premier Cru ($42) and Aubry Brut, NV France ($42).  Since I am spoiled and DO get to taste a lot of Champagne, I can honestly say that I don’t taste Champagne the way I do other wines- when I really love a Champagne, I FREAKING love it and want to marry it.  If I just like it and think it’s fine or even excellent- I usually forget about it the next day.  These two have been staples on our shelves for years, and both come from what I think to be the best importer of Champagnes in the US- Michael Skurnik.  The Margaine is made from mostly Chardonnay and a touch of Pinot Noir; the Aubry is an interesting blend of 45% Pinot Meunier, 25% Chard, 25% Pinot Noir, and the rest small weird varietals that I’ve never heard of.  So why these?  All I can really say is, they both have that touch of “magic” that you can’t quite put your finger on.  Therefore I’ll not go into massive detail- stylistically, they’re a fresh, lean, taut and energetic style that I’m quite drawn to.  They both taste tremendous and you should get one.  Coincidentally, they both also got 92 Points from Robert Parker.  

Last, the Pierre Gimonnet “Paradoxe” Brut, 2006 France, Premier Cru ($65).  This is the big sexy.  A richer style that is sheer indulgence.  Also imported by Michael Skurnik, and also 92 points rated by Robert Parker.  Made from about 2/3 Pinot Noir and the rest Chardonnay, it is more broad-shouldered and bustier than the last two.  Ripe red berries, hints of spice, smoke and cherry pits; it is deep, layered and expressive.  A real treat.  Go for it.

Hope everyone’s enjoyed this trip down bubble lane and HAPPY 2014!

All aforementioned bottles are available for purchase at Cellar on Greene.