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

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The Salut! Wine Club

It was a “magical” yacht voyage and a beneficial relationship with Oregon’s David O’Rielly that allowed ZanZibar Cellars to burst onto the Willamette Valley winemaking scene a few years ago.  Winemaker Ziad Keirouz’s young-adult voyage to exotic locales ended with the realization that a life of engineering was not for him.  Meeting David while researching the benefits of a winemaker’s life afterward provided a firm sense of placement for a new career.  Thus, the ZanZibar’s Northwest wines are created with Washington State grapes in the equipment at David O’Rielly’s Owen Roe facilities.

I first encountered the wine a few years ago from several customers.  After sampling this new wine at an event, restaurant or winery, they would come to Salut! and gush praise for the “massive and exuberant” Sandra they had tasted.  When I finally had the chance to taste it for myself, I had to agree.  The flavors were bold, extraction was complete, and the lush, sexy appeal comes from a full and velvety experience.

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah from Columbia valley vineyards. Grapes are hand harvested and undergo small batch whole berry fermentation and extended maceration to ensure the development of remarkable and supple structure and body. Malolactic fermentation is completed in 100% new French oak barrels, where the wine continues to age and mature for 12 months until it is bottled. It will then be cellared for the next 12 months before it is released.

You’re going to want to drink a glass of this wine before dinner, with hearty appetizers, to appreciate its full depth.  Then, let the wine carry you into a big meal with the second glass.  Beware, however…there won’t be too many wines that can follow it willingly.  Perhaps just have a second bottle ready to go.

If you want to experience more from ZanZibar, there’s a unique “Sandra Solera” created from multiple vintages of  the Sandra blends.  Each year, a limited 2 barrels are blended with past vintages to form a unique expression of Ziad’s work.  It sells out quickly, but let me know if you want me to seek out this wine for you.

This wine is regularly sold for $48.99

 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

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!

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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

There’s a new tradition in my extended family clan.  For decades, my many divorced and remarried parents and brothers have created turmoil when holidays roll around and everyone vies for “who get’s Christmas” or Thanksgiving or Xmas eve.  Finally, my father and stepmother decided to declare Christmas Eve as their PrimeRibRoast3night, for the first time about 4 years ago.  They invited everyone, and when the night finally arrived I was the only of 4 sons and two other couples to arrive.  It was the three of us, set to enjoy a 10 lb. prime rib roast and the cherished set of three bottles of wines I had brought.

These were three bottles from Beresan Winery of Walla Walla, including the limited Carmenere, a benchmark Cabernet Sauvignon, and their pinnacle Stone River blend, all created from the care and expertise of winery owner Tom Walliser and winemaker Tom Glase, whom I had met in the preceding year.

BeresanI had been fully impressed by both the scores and flavors of these rich, full-bodied, massive-fruit-filled and very balanced age-worthy wines.  Of 4 releases available for retail sale, none had a score below 91, and for several years there were few wines that didn’t reach this benchmark.  But that holiday we established a tradition…I am now the sole guest for a Beresan & Prime Rib dinner each Christmas Eve at my father’s house. 

The match is perfect.  And this Stone River blend will not fail to impress.  Age it for many years if you wish, but it’s ready to go now, with impressive balance for such enormous body and fruit.  Why wait? 

This wine is regularly sold for $36.99, but is available to wine club members for only $32.99!

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Wine Info Links

Visit the Beresan Winery website
About Cabernet Franc at Wikipedia
Balboa Winery is Beresan’s Winemaker Tom Glase’s personal winery
Complete a short puzzle and match the cuts of beef to the cow!

Great Food Pairings

Perfect Prime Rib from TexasBarbeques.com
Stracotto (beef & red wine) from Salut! Wine Co.
Andouille Sausage & Chicken Stew from beansmeats.com

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

Finding consistently worthy inexpensive reds isn’t easy.  There are many marketing gimmicks worldwide where the first vintage is awesome and the following take advantage as long as possible riding on the product buzz.  So when I tasted the first vintage of Nine North’s Ten Mile red, I was glad to have found a new wine, but reserved about recommending it universally.  Now, after a few vintages of consistently good releases, I can heartily recommend this delicious, round, full and smooth red. 

rightart_tenmile04The blend this year is 46% Petite Sirah, 44% Zinfandel, 7% Barbera and 3% Carignane, with 20% new oak, 80% older oak, and 14.1% alcohol.  These are all of the different grapes grown by the pair of Canadian winery investors who descended on the Stag’s Leap district of the Napa Valley and paired up with Jim Regusci (of Regusci Winery) a few years ago to have a blast marketing new wines created from the grapes they love.

The Petite Sirah and Zin both contribute wonderful full berry fruit, mostly Black Raspberry and Blackberry, while the Barbera gives a lifting brightness and the Carignane accents the aromatics and spice.  With that combination, you’re given a set of flavors and textures perfectly matched with the summertime weather, outdoor grills, or just casual party sipping.

I’m glad to offer this up as part of the club, but also that as vintages progress I’ll probably remain able to recommend it for a long time.

This wine has been sold for $12.99, is available and on sale now at Salut! Wine Co. online for $9.99, or available to wine club members for only $8.99!

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Wine Info Links

Visit the Nine North winery website
About Petite Sirah (AKA Durif) at Wikipedia
Or visit the Petite Sirah appreciation website, PS I Love You
Learn all about Zinfandel at the ZAP organization’s website
Or maybe it’s Carignane that you want to know more about

Great Food Pairings

Barbecue Glazed Pork Chops
Saucy Beef Kabobs
Pomegranate Lamb

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.