Tag Archives: red wine

Wine of the week: Saint-Cosme Côtes du Rhône 2013


Saint-Cosme Cotes du RhoneDespite all the doom and gloom in the wine business, with prices rising and quality vanishing, there are still producers who care. And France’s Saint-Cosme is one of the best.

Its Little James Basket Press red and white blends from the Rhone are terrific examples of $10 wine, and the Saint-Cosme Cotes du Rhone red ($15, purchased, 13.5%) is a step up, a lesson in how to provide varietal character, terroir, and value. Or, as I wrote in my notes: “What a red Rhone blend at this price should taste like, and why can’t anyone else do this?”

Look for deep red fruit from the syrah and a little licorice, but more subtle than usual and almost tight; that is, where you think there should be more fruit flavor but it’s hiding but will come out as the wine ages. This Sainte-Cosme is earthy but not off-putting, and speaks to the traditional Rhone style where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Highly recommended. Pair this with any fall stew or meat dish as the weather gets cooler. And know that someone, for all the focus groups and private labels, still cares. Writes Sainte-Cosme’s Louis Barroul: “It is my pleasure to offer every year a wine of this quality at a reasonable level of price. This is what French wine means: bottle a bit of spirit even at an affordable price.”

Expensive wine 79: Northstar Merlot 2010


northstar merlotSte. Michelle Wine Estates does something no other Big Wine company does as well — produce top-notch expensive wine that speaks to terroir. Not even E&J Gallo has been able to figure that out. How else to explain that the Wine Spectator picked the 2005 Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon as its wine of the year in 2009?

That’s why I was so eager to try the Northstar Merlot ($42, sample, 14.7%) during the Pacific Northwest tasting at my El Centro class a couple of weeks ago. The Northstar, owned by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and made with grapes from Washington state’s Columbia Valley, has a fine reputation and it has been several years since I tasted it. It didn’t disappoint.

Look for dark, rich fruit (very intense but not overly sweet black cherry?), with an undercurrent of baking spices, zesty tannins, and just enough oak to round out the flavors. It is a powerful wine, but in that specific Washington state sort of way. In this, it’s not bloated or flabby, and will age for much longer than you’d think — at least 10 more years.

This is merlot as merlot, not as a cabernet sauvignon knockoff or as something sweet and fleshy to sell in the grocery store. Pair it with roast lamb and keep it in mind for a holiday dinner.

Wine of the week: Honoro Vera Monastrell 2013


Honoro Vera MonastrellBuy this wine. The Honoro Vera Monastrell is that cheap and that well made — what else needs to be said? In this, it not only reaffirms that Spanish wine offers the best value in the world today, but that it’s possible for a producer to make honest wine and to respect its customers.

Monastrell is the Spanish name for the French mourvedre (though there is some dispute), and is mostly used in red blends. The Honoro Vera ($9, sample, 14%), from the fourth-generation Gil family, shows how to do it as a varietal, focusing on its earthy, almost gamey flavor. But don’t let that scare you off, for there is plenty of blueberry fruit and almost spicy tannins. It’s difficult to believe that a wine made with this grape at this price can be this enjoyable. I drank it with chicken breasts roasted with olive oil and herbs, and the pairing was spot on.

Highly recommended, and almost certain to enter the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame. I have written this a lot this year, as wine prices have gone up and quality has gone down, but this wine restores my faith in the wine business. I have tasted so much junk at $15 and $20, where the producer cares not at all about quality and only about margins, that the Gil family does this reminds me why I love wine.

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