Wines to warm the spirit as summer fades

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Les Dauphins Cote du Rhone Reserve Blanc

Where did the summer go?

Today is the first day of autumn and the Wine Goddess has already begun her fall gardening protocol: Relocating plants, pruning shrubs, taking down water fountains, putting patio furniture in the shed, etc. As I recline in the pergola drinking a nice, cool white wine from the Cotes du Rhone, it pains me to think that I will have to join in this annual ritual at some point, or risk losing my standing around the dinner table.

It’s a tough choice though.

The warmth of the weakening rays of the summer sun are sneaking through the willowy branches of the majestic birch tree that overhang the pergola; the effect makes me sleepy and dreamy, and I yearn for another day of bliss in Belvidere.

Vilarnau Brut Reserva Cava

Vilarnau Brut Reserva Cava

I’m within a s...

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Mill City Oenophiles discover international treasures

Celestin Blondeau Sancerre Cuvee des Moulins Bales, Despagne Eclat de Sauvignon and Domaine Bousquet Sauvignon Blanc

Celestin Blondeau Sancerre Cuvee des Moulins Bales, Despagne Eclat de Sauvignon and Domaine Bousquet Sauvignon Blanc

The Mill City Oenophile Club met in late August to review an international selection of Sauvignon Blancs and one red wine — an outstanding Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo San Martino Rosso.

The six tasters — five Sun reporters and yours truly– judged the wines in five categories: appearance, aroma, body (texture), taste and finish. Points were awarded on a 1 to 5 basis, with 5 being the top score.

We opened the session with a dry sparkler, Ferrari Rosé from the Lunelli winery in Trentino, Italy, to refresh the palate after a long day of work.

Three Sauvignon Blancs from different terroirs in Argentina and France (central and southern regions) followed...

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Savoring David Phinney’s Abstract work

2014 Abstract

2014 Abstract

By Jim Campanini

There are very few wine drinking experiences I enjoy more than filling up a glass with a David Phinney wine, savoring it, and trying to figure out the bottle’s label.

The Napa Valley winemaker has made his wines and labels into a high-art form since founding Orin Swift Cellars in 1998. Since then, Phinney has created some of the biggest, boldest, juiciest Napa reds without owning a production facility. He sources his grapes from the best northern California vineyards and turns them into magic at leased production sites.

One of his top creations is The Prisoner ($40) which I’ve reviewed in the past. It’s a Zinfandel-dominated red that sets a high standard for all in its class and is a regular on most publications’ annual Top 100 wine lists...

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Villa Gemma a uniquely refreshing rosé

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Masciarelli Villa Gemma Rosé Cerasuolo D’Abruzz

By Jim Campanini

The summer of 2016 has turned out to be my summer of fabulous rosé.

I’ve tasted at least two dozen different bottlings from all over the world — even Israel — and each one has left a positive impression. They’re light, fruity, dry and exquisitely refreshing.

Everyone who makes wine seems to be getting in on the game, and for good reason. Americans are waking up to leisurely, food-friendly and inexpensive rosé. It’s popular at parties, as an aperitif, and for relaxing after a day at work.

If you haven’t tried a rosé, there’s still plenty of time left this summer.

Recently, I tasted a unique rosé from Italy’s Abruzzo region, which stretches from east of Rome to the Adriatic sea...

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Raise a glass to toast France at the Olympics in Rio

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Cote Mas Rose Aurore 2015 is light, refreshing and fruity.

As of my writing deadline, France had won two gold medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro, and was tied for fifth in the overall medal count with six.

If there was any national team that I wanted to see do well, besides the United States, it was France. Why? Since 2014, France has suffered 17 documented terrorist attacks — stabbings (7), shootings/truck rammings (6), beheading (1) — in which a total of 237 innocent people have died while dining, shopping, watching fireworks, and walking down a street.

France is under siege from ISIS and other terrorist networks — and I don’t think Americans fully understand the import...

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Going coast-to-coast with race Rieslings

Kung Fu Girl Riesling from Washington State is citrusy and smooth.

Kung Fu Girl Riesling from Washington State is citrusy and smooth.

I like my Riesling well-chilled, racy, overflowing with tropical flavor, and dry.
Match them with spicy Asian or Thai cuisine, and Riesling’s crisp acidity and citrus flavors produce a delightful sensation.
Riesling is also a refreshing, stand-a-lone beverage on hot, hazy summer days.
Two of the best I’ve tasted for the price are actually coastal opposites: Washington State’s Kung Fu Girl and New York State’s Salmon Run.
Both sell for under $12 a bottle in most local stores. (Salmon Run is on sale in New Hampshire for $9.34.)
Kung Fu Girl, developed by former British music promoter Charles Smith, is one of America’s top-selling brands. As a
winemaker, Smith has tapped into consumers’ taste buds to craft exciting, flavorful ...

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Plenty of pop in Kirkland’s $25 Chateauneaf-du-Pape

Kirkland's Chateauneuf du Pape is a solid overachiever at $25 a bottle.

Kirkland’s Chateauneuf du Pape is a solid overachiever at $25 a bottle.

If you’re a Costco warehouse chain cardholder, you’ve probably seen its exclusive Kirkland Signature brand of wines sold only in the store. They’re produced at the Kirkland winery in Healdsburg, Calif., located in Sonoma County.

Kirkland’s domestic and foreign wines usually sell for $20 or less and are decent for every-day drinking.

One of the best in the portfolio, however, is the Kirkland Signature 2014 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee De Natys, a southern Rhone Valley red that is absolutely sumptuous. It’s a Grand Cru selling for $25 a bottle.
You can hunt far and wide, even travel to France, but it’ll be difficult to find a Chateauneuf-du-Pape of this quality for less than $40.

The Kirkland Signature blend wa...

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Franciscan’s whites pass the blind taste test

Franciscan Sauvignon Blanc

Franciscan Sauvignon Blanc

By Jim Campanini, jcampanini@lowellsun.com

Janet Myers has built a reputation for crafting fine Cabernet Sauvignon at Napa Valley’s Franciscan Estate Winery, yet her white wines are also special.

Myers has produced two beauties in the 2015 vintage: Equilibrium white blend and Sauvignon Blanc. Both exhibit intense floral aromas and exotic flavors, a welcome sign of fresh, ripe fruit from Franciscan’s top Oakville vineyards.

I’ve determined that you can cover up the labels on these Franciscan wines, pour them to guests anywhere in the world, and the reaction would be the same: “Wow, that’s exciting!”

The response isn’t made up; it came from the Wine Goddess, my wife Mary Lee, who accepted a glass in a blind taste test at home.

I value the Wine Goddess’ opinions ver...

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Rally your lobster roll with these summer wines

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If it’s summer in New England, one of the first thing that comes to mind is: Where can I get a good lobster roll?

new lobster roll for jimWell, after you find it, the next hunt should be for a delicious cool summer white or rose to accompany that sweet, succulent lobsta’ meat.

Here are few suggestions from my recent tastings:
EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Chile, $15 — From Matetic Vineyards and Casablanca Valley comes a tropical fruit sensation. Like Bogey is
to Bacall, EQ Coastal is to lobster and melted butter. Better still, have it as a warm-up with steamers. Screw off the cap and fresh grapefruit aromas come pouring out. The citrusy spark is joined with lime, mango and a clean, uplifting minerality.

Here’s why terroir matters: The grapes in this bottle are sourced f...

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For under $20, Pike Road leads to wine value

Pike Road Pinot Gris

Pike Road Pinot Gris

For five generations the Campbell family of Gaston, Ore., have grown grapes and crafted wine, building a successful enterprise at Elk Cove Vineyards which was launched in 1974.

Several years ago, Pat and Joe Campbell started a sister brand, Pike Road, hoping to deliver a quality Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris at affordable prices.

Elk Cove wines are consistently good, and the Pinot Noir bottlings (from an estate vineyard and five others) fetch from $60 to $125. Most vintages sell out to wine club members, leaving little for wholesale public distribution. The Campbells have decided that Elk Cove’s continued success rests with wines made exclusively from estate-grown grapes. Enter the Pike Road label.

Using fruit from its five vineyards and other sources, the Campbells see Pi...

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