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October 24th, 2014

Learn About Wine Blog

Bordeaux Review on

Reported by D.R. Stewart

Ian Blackburn once again gathered the Grape Groupies to another tasting at the venerable Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. April 22, Monday saw Learn About Wine’s event co-hosted by Le Cercle Rive Droite and their Bordeaux buddies, the best Chateaus the region has to offer. If the French language is a distant memory from those movies you pretended to like in college to get a shot at the art majors, lemme help you — these are wine-makers from the Bordeaux region who are based on the Right Bank (Rive Droite) of the Gironde estuary.

How do you find the gems among so many diligent winemakers?  You ask the winemakers what they are drinking, if not their own. All pointed me towards Chateau Dalem.  It had cool caché in that it was a one-woman operation (Brigitte Rullier-Loussert) and its 2012 had pulled a 90-93 off of Wine Spectator.  Good whoosh to it, which is the only way for me to describe that French wine characteristic of not having heavy notes which stop the flow of the liquid blowing through you.  But I demand more of a French wine now, and I feel that another Chateau’s wine I tasted much later was closer to admitting that the California wine aesthetic is worth replicating in small doses.  Back at the Dalem station, I tried their 2010 — the true gem, as really all the Chateaux 2-tens were.

The event was intended to show-off the 2012s, but a lot of folks brought their 2-tens with them. Don’t take it from me, hear what oenologist Michael Rolland had to say: “Thanks to exceptional weather at the end of summer and into autumn, 2010 Merlot and Cabernet grapes had a flavor quality that has rarely been as good.” Rolland got the first sips from the vintage and proclaimed “The aromatic characteristics are excellent, encouraged by pH levels that bestow firm acidity, accentuating freshness. Here is a vintage we have dreamed of, given to us by nature.”

Getting back to a French wine which supports the whoosh and the berry bottom of the Cali-aesthetic — Chateau Siaurac. Their 2010 checks in at a mere $35 a bottle, which was 1/2 the price of the Le Prieure they were pouring. The Chateau Le Prieure had the coveted blast of French purity, but the Siaurac tied up the package with some California sunshine.  This table was packed, and owner-manager Paul Goldschmidt was besieged by business people wanting to get on board with this bold new adventure.  These wines can be found at

California influences could also be noted in the Chateau Moulin Haut-Larogue, which dared to show some of the spice popular in our Paso old vine Zins. There will always be the two aesthetics practiced to their extremes in France and California, but this current climate of you-got-your-peanut-butter-in-my-chocolate blending is exciting for the palates that are willing to risk the new.


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Senorita Vino suggests you join us at our Bordeaux tasting!

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Jonathan Cristaldi reviews a few lesser known Central Coast wineries, including some STARS of Santa Barbara favorites!


In the final movement of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, the “Danse sacrale (L’Elue),” a young dancer is chosen to dancer herself to death in the ultimate sacrifice to the god of spring. It is in this same spirit that, when the trees begin to bloom, wine critics and aficionados begin to aim their corkscrews at younger, refreshing whites, rosés, and lighter-style higher-acid red wines to toast the season. Temperatures begin their ascent, inspiring a cellaring of those wintery reds that are dense, high in alcohol, and teeming with tannins.

This season, I’ve set my sights on the Central Coast of California and homed in, specifically, on Santa Barbara, though the Central Coast is known for producing an immense amount of bulk wine, the region extending from Paso Robles down through the Santa Lucia Highlands and Santa Rita Hills is turning out world-class wines that need to be celebrated. Consumers know Paso, but points south seem to confuse.

Perhaps one of the biggest proponents of the region is L.A.-based Ian Blackburn (, who in January hosted an event at the Peninsula Hotel dubbed, “Stars of Santa Barbara,” showcasing dozens of producers who as he put it, work on a “‘rising tied raises all boats’ mentality.” He adds, “A once youthful set of wine-making pioneers, has now emerged as very wise and experienced council. Winemaking talent like Matt Dees (Jonata), Sasha Verhage (Eno Wines), Steve Clifton, and Greg Brewer have united with passionate grape growers to show true artistry.”

In the case of Santa Barbara wine country, the concept of the winemaker-as-artist isn’t to be scoffed at. Moreover, since they don’t have hype or legacy to trade on, the limited-production wines coming out of its vineyards tend to cost far less than their northern California counterparts.

The first four wines on this list won’t break the bank, and the second two, though $40+, are worth the money and will provide you with a good foundation of Santa Barbara’s glory. The last four are to help you round out your springtime portfolio with a few unique value wines from Sonoma, Oregon, and France, plus an oddity from South Africa that you won’t want to miss.

Here are 10 bottles to snag as the weather heats up.

Written by Jonathan Cristaldi (@NobleRotNYC)


Bordeaux & Le Cercle Rive Droite featured on the Edible Skinny

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John Blanchette Reviews Upcoming April 22, 2013 Bordeaux Wine Tasting

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LAW Facts

A vertical tasting compares a single wine or similar wine over several vintages. Contrast this term with a horizontal tasting.
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