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  • -Yes, Pleiades, I would like a glass of that, thanks. (Get it?  I know you do.)


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Entries in Red (5)


Calera and the art of the $20 Pinot

I was having a discussion the other day about how the Holy Grail of wine just might be the $20 bottle of California Pinot Noir (well, one that doesn't suck.)

Some of you might know Calera as a producer of several single single vineyard Pinots that are both affordable and delicious. And while some may argue that Calera's wines don't meet the strict (but nebulous) criteria that would define it as 'Natural Wine,' they certainly win some points with me due to their their minimal intervention, low sulphur, preference for organic fruit, and indigenous yeast philosophy of winemaking. This is about as close to 'Natural Wine' as we get here in California, and Calera keeps these standards even for their value-priced cuvée, the Central Coast Pinot Noir.

Each year, Calera vinifies the 'Central Coast' Pinot using fruit sourced from up to 9 different vineyards (and for the record, these are generally highly respected vineyards.) For my money, this is the best $20 bottle of US made Pinot out there, in part because although it is a blend, it feels to me like a terroir driven wine. This lovely stuff is floral, bursting with wild berries, loamy earth, mint, and flowers. There is a hint of oak, but it lurks pleasantly in the background, and, in fact, only 10% of the oak used here is new, thank god. Beyond this kind of description, the true reason I like the Calera Central Coast Pinot is that it's just one of those wines that makes you feel unexpectedly giddy -- and really, what more need one ask from a bottle of wine?  

I like this wine so much that I was really disappointed to see that Robert Parker gave it a 92 score -- I don't want to see a run on this wine, or see the price go up. (Wait, I thought he was getting out of California?!? Leave already, dude.) But I digress.

I bought a few bottles at Premier Cru, but I'm not curently seeing it on their site. Fortunately, K&L comes to the rescue with plenty of them in stock for $19.99.

PS - This is another bottle with that lovely glass VinoSeal enclosure (istead of cork.) Love those.


Modest Mondays - Peciña 2009 Cosecha Rioja (Joven)

Bodegas Hermanos Peciña is one of the most traditional Rioja producers out there, and it's always a pleasure to enjoy their wines. This is another great producer who is imported by José Pastor. For the record, I prefer traditional as opposed to modern Riojas primarily because I usually get a much greater sense of terroir, purity, and uniqueness with the traditionals -- plus, they are far less likely to be manipulated with all the nasty stuff a lot of the modern wines often try to get fancy with. 

All of Peciña's Rioja Altas I've tasted have been excellent, and their entire catalog's bang for the buck has been practically shocking to me. This one, the Cosecha, is the entry offering of the bodega (winery,) and it's an unoaked "joven" (literally, "young," meaning that it is meant to be consumed without much aging,) and it is fantastic, low price or not. The youth of the wine means it is fairly fruit forward with blueberry and blackberry flavors, but Peciña's old school sensibility keeps it earthy, spicy, complex, and with a healthy balance of acid. This is a blend but 97% is Tempranillo, and the fruit plays a starring role as this beautiful wine is fermented and matured in stainless steel - no oak at all - which makes it really lively and fresh.

I've rarely tasted a wine at this price point with so much character. Find ithe 2009 Peciña Cosecha at K&L for $13.99, but the real deal is it Premiere Cru, where it can be found, while it lasts, for $9.99


Modest Mondays - 2009 Château Coupe Roses Minervois

Everyday opulence - the $13.50 Château Coupe Roses MinervoisFirst, let's get this out of the way: the '09 Château Coupe Roses Minervois is a screamin deal for $13.50. It's got character, opulence, and just a bit of earthy funk underneath its ripe cherry, stewed tomato, and dusty spice flavors. Like many other Minervois AOC wines, this is a blend of old-vine Carignan and Grenache. It is rich, fruit-driven, and delicious, reminiscent of a great Paso Rhone Blend but waaaaay cheaper. There's also some definite French terroir underneath the brambly stuff, which keeps it a bit more down to earth. 

While this is not a natural (or even organic) wine, the vignerons practice something called lutte raisonnée, which in English means "reasoned fight" - this basically boils down to farming in a manner somewhere between organic and conventional: they try to avoid chemicals except when absolutely necessary. Often this is a precursor to a winery going officially organic, and I hope so in this case.

This very tasty treat goes for $13.50 at Arlequin in San Francisco. I had it one night with a burger, the next with ratatouille, and it was quite nice with both. The importer's label specifies that it is "meant to be drunk young," and I can tell you with assurance that this wine will not last long in a cellar - pop it now.


Modest Mondays - Over the Edge

A quality Pinot for less than $15? You bet. Behold "Over the Edge" Pinot Noir from Martinborough, New ZealandOne trick to find great values in wine under $15 is to drink wines from regions that offer value. Two weeks ago, we mentioned Côte du Rhône is one such region. Another trick is to seek entry level wines from great producers.

Escarpment from Martinborough, New Zealand is producing excellent single vineyard Pinot Noirs, and fortunately for our everyday drinking needs, they also make a wonderful entry level pinot as well, "Over the Edge" Pinot Noir.

Now, making a quality pinot noir for under $15 is no easy task, but the folks at Escarpment have it down. Their last several vintages have had the critics singing their praise rating "Over the Edge" between 88-90 points. The 2010 "Over the Edge" is another quality effort with red berry, cherry and spice on the nose with flavors of red berries and plums fleshing out this medium-bodied red. True to the cool climate of the region, the wine finishes with a bright acidity while hints of black tea linger as the last impression on the palate.

As usual, I found that this red showed more depth and complexity with a little time in the decanter, so if you can remember to unscrew the cap of the "Over the Edge" ahead of time and decant it for 30 minutes, you’ll enjoy all this wine has to offer. What? Yes, I said unscrew. The wine has a screw cap closure and there is no reason to think any less of it.

To unscrew and enjoy "Over the Edge" in San Francisco (or to have it shipped to you), head to K&L Wines, where you’ll find it for $14, and if you’re in the East Bay, you can find it for $12 at The Wine Mine.


Sean Thackrey - Pleiades XX 

Thackrey's old vine red blend ($24), his 20th bottling of it, is an incredibly fun wine.  I decanted it for an hour and in my first glass, I could discern several of the grapes in the blend quite distinctly (pinot noir, sangiovese, mourvedre and petit sirah were all coming in loud and clear) -- so I'd say I wasn't finding a lot of integration with this wine. I was thinking maybe it needs some more cellar time, afterall it was just bottled in February. But then again, it was also kinda fun having my tongue hit all these different grapes: a wino's version of the Willy Wonka's gobstopper.  After another hour, there was much more integration, and then it was almost reminding me, strangely, of a nebbiolo, and even of some Barolo's I've had -- deceptively light in color, and both bright and dark fruit on the nose and palate, anchored by firm (but not overly grippy) tannins and some earthy tar, kirsh, and spice on the finish.  So interesting.  Alcohol is a bit hot on this wine, but it's such a good time you don't care.  Get it while you can -- rumor is this may be the last Pleiades, frowny face :(