The Bordeaux region covers more territory than all of the vineyards in Germany combined, with over 15,000 growers, producing over 700 million bottles of wine each year. More than 80% of it is red, with the most important grapes being Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, nearly always blended together.  Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot round out the mix.

It was the Dutch who drained the marshy Médoc region in the middle of the 17th century, creating the land for vineyards that would soon produce the fine wines that would give Bordeaux its reputation. The Medoc, along with the Haut-Medoc and Graves (pronounced “Grahv”) regions, lie on the “Left Bank” of the Gironde river. The warmer climate here ripens Cabernet Sauvignon to an optimal point, so much of the Left Bank Bordeaux wines will have Cabernet Sauvignon as the primary varietal in the final blend.

A Map of Bordeaux

A (Simplified) Map of the Bordeaux Wine Region

On the “Right Bank” of the Dordogne river lies Pomerol and St. Emilion, where Merlot takes the driver’s seat due to soil composition and a climate more suited to Merlot’s growing habits.  Chateau Petrus is one of the most famous, most expensive, and one of the few 100% Merlot wines of the Right Bank.

The white grapes of Bordeaux include primarily Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon (blended together). In the Sauternes region at the south of the Left Bank, some of the world’s finest dessert wines are created from these grapes (most notably, the famous and spectacularly expensive Chateau d’Yquem)

It was the Greeks who first brought grapes to France by establishing vineyards in Marseilles, but the infestation of the Phylloxera root louse destroyed any grape vines existing before 1866. American Labrusca species rootstocks (resistant to Phylloxera) saved the day … Vinifera species vines in Europe (and in the U.S.) are now commonly grafted to them, although there are still ungrafted vineyards left dotting the landscape around the world.

French culture dictates the qualities of Bordeaux, amid a confusing mass of classification systems born in 1855, emphasizing elegance and intensity of flavor rather than massive and powerful fruit or oak. The French start drinking wine in their youth, most often with meals. The resulting need for ample wine acids for food pairing and a subdued & elegant fruit balance of flavors is a tell-tale sign of a Bordeaux wine.

For more information

Chateau Margaux

Chateau Margaux

The Salut! Wine Club

Mike Januik, winemaker at Novelty Hill, is a well-recognized talent in the Washington wine industry.  His namesake Januik label has long been a favorite of mine (his Chardonnay was placed in our wine club earlier).  Actually, his wines have been a favorite of many.  At least 12 wines from his hand have been included on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 lists. 

The value “Novelty Hill” label started just a few years ago and the releases have been an excellent and affordable way to enjoy Washington’s best on a daily basis.  Much of the fruit for this wine comes from the estate-owned Stillwater Creek Vineyards.  The 2006 red is a cacophony of varietals including 33% Syrah, 18% each of Cab Franc and Mourvedre, 13% Merlot, 11% Cabernet and 7% Petit Verdot. 

Generous and round offering delicious, ripe red plum, blueberry and currant aromas and flavors, with a lip-smacking, spicy finish.

What I most like about the Novelty Hill wines (and other Januik releases) is the restraint away from overextraction.  These wines aren’t fruit bombs, where blasts of fruit cover up the flaws found in many value and “second label” wines.  Instead, Novelty Hill wines give you the fruit you want while allowing the character of Washington to come forward.  Spice, wood, tea, tannin, herbs and other delicate notes can enhance the complexity and create a perfect match with any meal, whether dramatically flavored or elegantly sublime.

This wine is regularly sold for $14.99, but is available to wine club members for only $13.99!

Tech SheetBuy This Wine More Club Wines

Wine Info Links

Great Food Pairings

Have you tasted this wine? When you’ve had a chance to enjoy this wine, please return to this blog and leave your comments! Others will appreciate your input, unique viewpoint, and recommendations.

The Salut! Wine Club

One reason locally-produced wines seem to appeal greatly to “the locals”, no matter where “local” is, is that the winemakers and customers grow up together in significant number to create a strong market for those wines with the characters that match the local lifestyle, foods, culture, and palate. 

Our wine club features an array of our own Northwest version of local wines.  When we move away from the local flare, we experience life from another area and with flavors and characters that represent other lands.  Today, we have selected a great wine to represent the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany, Italy!

DonnaLauraThe beautiful label brought us to the table, with the hopes that the wine inside would impress.  Let’s face it, it’s commonplace to judge a wine by its label whether right or wrong.  When we can avoid the matter altogether by finding a great wine with a great label, it’s a win-wine situation.

So it was with a sigh of relief that I discovered a well manufactured example of Chianti with sweeping, complex earth and berry fruit flavors.  The drying tannins ease throughout as fruit flavors flow effortlessly.  This is a delicious wine to pair with traditional Italian fare.  Meaning “desire” in Italian, the name “Bramosia” was chosen as a moniker to represent the romance of wine.

The "Gallo Nero" mark of Chianti Classico

The "Gallo Nero" mark of Chianti Classico

The importer talks about the winery:  “Donna Laura specializes in producing wines from first-class Sangiovese grapes grown in the Castelnuovo Berardenga region of Chianti Classico. This new venture, spearheaded by owner Lia Tolaini-Banville, seeks to fulfill a need in the American market for high quality Sangiovese wines at an accessible price point that are both representative of the terroir of the region, as well as international in style. To combine the best of tradition and modern characteristics, two Sangiovese clones are grown in the Donna Laura vineyards. CH-20 brings structure, while F9, a more modern clone, augments the fruit intensity of the finished wine.

One of the first areas to classify its borders and become delimited in 1716, Chianti Classico is fixed in minds worldwide as the proto-typical, idyllic Italian wine region.

With a deep ruby color and intense aromas of cherry and red fruit, this Chianti Classico balances ripe fruit and balanced acidity with well integrated accents of wood and spice. A great match with roasted meats and flavorful pastas, this wine is also delicious to sip on its own without food. – The winemaker

This wine is regularly sold for $18.99, but is available to wine club members for only $15.99!

Tech SheetBuy This WineMore Club Wines

Wine Info Links

Great Food Pairings

Gnocchi Gorgonzola
Baked 4 Cheese Pasta with Sausage
Chicken Provolone

Have you tasted this wine? When you’ve had a chance to enjoy this wine, please return to this blog and leave your comments! Others will appreciate your input, unique viewpoint, and recommendations.