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July 5th, 2015

Learn About Wine Blog

Bordeaux vintners show their finest as they “Le Cercle” Beverly Hills

By Joe Hilbers






The reputation for quality of Bordeaux wines can be measured in centuries rather than years. Famed English authors like Anthony Trollope and Arthur Colon Doyle wove French Clarets into their stories. The word Claret is rarely used today but in former times it signified the classic vintages of Bordeaux.

What still applies is that many of the world’s red wines continue to be judged by the vintage standards of Bordeaux appellations like Pomerol, Saint-Emilion, Fronsac and others located on the Right Bank of the Gironde Estuary.

It was this Writer’s good fortune to once again experience these classic wines when Learn About Wine conducted a seminar, luncheon and tasting at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.

Participating with their wines were 32 wineries, all members of the Le Cercle Rive Droite de Grands vins de Bordeaux. Founded in 2002 it includes 143 of mostly family wineries and vineyards on the Right Bank of the Gironde Estuary, long renown for the quality of its merlot vineyards.

The seminar was conducted by Dr. Alain Raynaud, Le Cercle President; and Robin Kelley O’Conner, New York Wine Specialist and Writer. The seminar, while tasting wines, touched on Right Bank subregions, diverse soil types and the maritime climate as well as member wineries producing ‘haute couture’ varietals.


Then it was time for lunch on the hotel’s Verandah Terrace. Sitting at my table was charming Camille Poupon, communications and marketing manager for Chateau La Perriere, also Journalist Barbara Hansen, Pierrick Bouquet, president of Able, Social Media Marketing and Wine Writer Robin O”Conner.

Soon the bottles of wine began to arrive at our table and I took a photo of Camille holding the 2008 Chateau La Rose Perriere. And they continued to arrive: Chateau La Villa Cure Fronsac 2008 and 2006 Chateau Grand Corbin Manuel to name a few.. Lunch opened with a Mixed green salad topped by shaved vegetables and pinenuts, then chicken breast with Mascarpone polenrta tomatoes, sweet corn and chicken jus. Assorted cheeses and crackers were presented to aid the tasting of more vintages.

Following luncheon the serious tasting took place with all 32 wineries present. The Right Bank is famous for its merlot and all the wines we tasted were blends with that varietal as the major component with other varietals in smaller amounts including Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Memorable for us was the 2000 Chateau Moulin Haut-Laroque from Fronsac. Produced by the Jean-Nel Herve Fanmily the wine was 65 per cent Merlot, 20 per cent Cabernet franc, 10 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 per cent malbec.

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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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LAW Facts

The growing area or appellation noted on the label provides the source of the grapes used to make the wine.  In California, 85% of the wine needs to be from the stated place/appellation.  A California wine is from anywhere in the state, while a Napa Valley wine is 85% from Napa Valley.

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