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2011 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore

Absolutely delicious wine from La Tavola for their annual Tomato Feast dinner going on right now in Atlanta! Scrumptious fruit flavors and pairs well with all our shared dishes, from tomato salad to pasta to steak. A second bottle was a must!

Origin: Italy
Where: La Tavola Restaurant
Price: Around $35 at the restaurant; not sure about retail
Stamp of Approval: Thumbs up!

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2010 Sincerely Shiraz

I must have had a run of terrible Shiraz wines in the past. I always expect them to be overly bold, heavy and unbalanced tannins, and overall a bad experience. But the ones I’ve had lately, including this 100% Shiraz from South Africa, have been delightful, well balanced, and smooth. Maybe the stainless steel fermentation, opposed to wood barrels, is the key? Either way, this is a gem that I’d highly recommend. Although I had mine with a seafood dish (the wine was already open), it would pair beautifully with a steak or other red meat dish. Enjoy!

Origin: South Africa
Where: Highland Wine
Price: ?? 
Extra Feature: Twist off! 
Stamp of Approval: Thumbs up!

Website: http://www.neilellis.com/wine/sincerely-shiraz/sincerely-shiraz-2010/

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2009 Chateau Ksara Reserve du Couvent

Until Chateau Ksara (pictured on the right), I’d never tried a wine from Lebanon. This blend of 40% Syrah, 30% Cab Franc, and 30% Cab Sauvignon was a gem. Chateau Ksara is the oldest winery in Lebanon and their winery goes back to 1857 and has a storied history within the region. And, as you can see, it took home the gold in the 2011 Berlin Wine Trophy competition. With supple tannins and complex flavors, this wine is smooth and a great pair to a meaty dish.

Origin: Lebanon
Where: Highland Wine
Stamp of Approval: Thumbs-up!
Website: http://chateauksara.com/

Also on the left, a go-to favorite: Bodegas La Cartuja from the Priorat region of Spain. This has been a big hit at my house for about a year or more now, and I cannot believe it’s never made it onto the blog! (I apologize). With or without food, it goes well with everything!

Origin: Priorat, Spain
Where: Highland Wine
Stamp of Approval: Thumbs-up!
Go-to-Wine

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2009 Mountain View California Pinot Noir

This delightful California Pinot Noir from Mountain View Vintners came from Highland Wine - it’s fantastic. So smooth and mellow. 

Don’t remember the price exactly but around $18-$20. If you love a great Pinot, then get a case!

Went great this week with scallops and just on its own!

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2002 Tamburlaine Orange Reserve Members Cabernet Sauvignon

I’ve been hanging onto this wine for about five years now (after getting it in 2009 from my favorite wine store, Highland Wine in Atlanta). The label on the back instructed one to cellar for 10+ years. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be stored for 10 years past the date on the bottle or 10 years after the store sold it… I’ll admit I had low expectations when I opened this to go with a great smoky grilled chicken recipe from Kevin Gillespie’s cookbook.  

Luckily, this Australian cab was dynamite! The fruit wasn’t overly mellowed out, and the tannins were smooth for a nicely balanced wine. With the smoky chicken, this paired like a glove.  

Origin: Orange, New South Wales, Australia
Where: Highland Wine
Stamp of approval: Thumbs up!
Website: http://tamburlaine.com.au

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2011 Fincas Patagonicas Tapiz Alta Collection Malbec

Oh, how scrumptious this wine was! This 100% Malbec plus Martha Stewart’s Lentil Soup with Cauliflower and Cheese on a winter night were just the right combination for a satisfying evening.

The Tapiz is a medium-bodied wine with mellow notes of raspberry, cherry, and blackberry.  Hefty tannins complemented the fruit flavors very nicely — and the broiled bubbling cheese in the soup. 

I’d expect this wine could also use a year of aging as well for an even more complex and nicely balanced experience. I was too curious to hold onto it for that long though but will now be in search for another bottle, so I can test my patience one more time. 

Origin: Mendoza, Argentina
Stamp of approval: Thumbs up!
Price: TBD

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2010 Demarie Langhe Nebbiolo

This Nebbiolo from Italy had medium-bodied tart cherry flavors combined with stout earthy tobacco tannins. I think it would have paired better with a heavy meat dish with some balsamic vinegar or other pungent sauce (instead of Martha Stewart’s chicken and broccolini mac and cheese - yum but not the right food-wine combo). Overall, the wine was enjoyable but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it. 

Origin: Langhe, Italy
Stamp of approval: thumbs-sideways
Price: Not sure… Probably under $20

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2009 Autor Altos de Luzon
www.bodegasluzon.com

Very satisfying blend of 50% Monastrell, 25% Cab Sauv, and 25% Tempranillo. This bold blend from Spain paired well with leftover beef carbonnade as well as a meatball recipe altered slightly for deer meat instead of pork and beef. Great fruit flavors, like blackberry, shine through plus the right level of tannins to stand up to heavy meat dishes. Thanks to F&W’s Grace Parisi for the excellent recipe on the meatballs.

Origin: Jumilla, Spain
Where: Highland Fine
Price: ~$17
Stamp of approval: Thumbs up!

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Dante Robino vs Chateau Roc Meynard

Late last week, as I plotted to serve this F&W Beef Carbonnade last night, I began contemplating what bold wine to serve with the stew. Even I’m impressed with my having the forethought to open the Dante Robino a day ahead, giving it plenty of time to open up. 

Next, the stand off of these two wines paired with the carbonnade. 

First, the Dante Robino. 100% Bonarda from Mendoza, Argentina. I’d assumed this would be a very bold wine. Well, it wasn’t. It looked like it would have been. Beautiful dark, dense ruby color in the glass. I finally felt like it hit three notes: medium bodied, higher than necessary tannins and alcohol burn, and therefore not well-balanced. Unfortunately, this one just didn’t hit the mark. 

2012 Dante Robino: $15, thumbs down

On the other hand, the Bordeaux from Chateau Roc Meynard. With only 15-20 minutes to open up, it complemented the beef carbonnade nicely. A nice blend of rich fruit flavors with supple tannins for a smooth, enjoyable finish. It’s 90% Merlot, 5% Cab Sauv, and 5% Cab Franc (love Cab Franc!). What a delight. 

2011 Chateau Roc Meynard Bordeaux Superieur: $16, thumbs up!

Best wishes to everyone as 2014 begins, with oh so many wines to sample!

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2010 Calicanto Cab Sauv blend

This lovely wine from the Maipo Valley of Chile was a fantastic addition to my deer chili leftovers tonight. I’ll admit I didn’t realize I selected a wine from Chile to go with chili until writing this post :) Corny without even trying, oh dear.

This blend is composed of 61% Cab Sauv, 21% Carmenere, 14% Cab Franc, and 4% Syrah. With the exception of Syrah, these are some of my favorite grapes. I wonder how the flavor would change with the addition of Pinot Noir and Gamay…

Still, it’s excellent just as it is. Dark and ruby-colored, this flavorful wine blends bold fruit flavors with smooth tannins while avoiding the dreaded “jammy” description. Surprisingly, it’s a 15% alcohol without tasting over the top.

According to the back label, this wine is named in tribute to the Calicanto Bridge, completed in 1779 to bring together the two sides of Santiago, Chile, divided by the Mapocho River. However, the man behind this wine is a French winemaker. While this wine has the finesse of a French wine, it lacks the odd aromas and long breathing times that you sometimes get with a French wine (not ALL, but enough to comment about it).  

Origin: Pirque, Chile
Where: Highland Wine
Stamp of approval: Thumbs up!
Price: ~$18
Website: http://elprincipal.cl