Monthly Archives: September 2013

Drinking Tonight: Les Portes de Bordeaux

This is the red counterpart to the white Bordeaux I tried a week ago. It’s a Trader Joe’s exclusive that I bought early in the summer and am just getting around to trying. I’m having this with a some beef and onions over Yukon gold potatoes.

Les Portes de Bordeaux (2009) Bordeaux, France – $7.50

Photo0237Color: garnet red, with a touch of purple-black in the center.

Aroma: cherry and kirsch, with cedar undertones. Maybe just a hint of black pepper in there as well.

Taste: supple and clean – cherry, dried cherry, some dry, dusty spice, and just a little oak on the finish. I wouldn’t call this an international-style wine, but it’s a very approachable Bordeaux. It has a medium body throughout, with some kirsch notes in the mid-palate and finish. A very pleasant wine for under $10.


Tasting Notes: Black Mountain Chardonnay and Merlot

Did my grocery shopping for the week, and they were offering two more of the Black Mountain wines at Trader Joe’s. I tried the Cabernet a few weeks ago and was underwhelmed – these are more to my liking.

Black Mountain Chardonnay (2012) California – $8.69

Color: strong straw yellow.

Aroma: big tropical notes – pineapple and guava.

Taste: definitely more of a tropical style, with lots of fruit on the palate. Also some toasty oak, but it’s not an overly heavy or buttery complexion at all. Not my favorite style, but good quality and a better-than-average wine to pour for cocktail hour. Would also work nice if you’re doing seafood with a sweet fruit salsa.

Black Mountain Merlot (2012) California – $8.69

Color: quite dark, into the purple range.

Aroma: plum and cherry fruit, nothing out of the ordinary.

Taste: quite full on the palate, with fruit and oak, and definitely chewy. There’s some tar, and it’s tannic for a Merlot. Heads and shoulders above the usual ‘value’ Merlot – recommended.


Drinking Tonight: Benefactor Shiraz

This is an Australian label imported by Trader Joe’s – they also have a Cab and a Chardonnay, all at the $6 price point, that I’ll be reviewing shortly. I’m having this with grilled pork, rubbed with adobo and lime.

Benefactor Shiraz (2012) South Eastern Australia – $6.

Photo0236Color: garnet red, shading to red-black in the center.

Aroma: very Australian – eucalyptus, mint, black pepper, and tar. Some raspberry and rose petal notes too. A big nose.

Taste: Good fruit-spice balance up at the front. Warm and chewy, but a little thin towards the finish. Pepper does come out on the very end, with good length. With air I get additional berry fruit notes. I think this would be better with a less spicy meal.

Decent wine, and an appealing price. This is not a keeper for the cellar, but it’s something to consider for parties. And with the creepy label, it’s a nice choice for a Halloween party!


Drinking Tonight: Les Portes de Bordeaux Blanx

White Bordeaux can be a real treat – a creamy, lush blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon that’s just the thing for steamed shellfish, a warm wheel of brie, or a summer vegetable salad. This is an inexpensive $9 bottling from Trader Joe’s that I’m enjoying with some cheese and salad tonight. Although this is labeled Sauvignon Blanc for the US market, I’m certain there’s some Semillon in it.

Les Portes de Bordeaux Blanc (2012) Bordeaux, France – $9.

Photo0235(1)Color: pale straw yellow with a touch of green.

Aroma: a nice balance of herbal and grassy notes with some soft gooseberry fruit.

Taste: thyme and basil, followed by lemongrass, citrus, and more gooseberry. The mouthfeel is creamy: this has excellent balance and is not too acidic – a challenge for inexpensive white Bordeaux. A good choice for an introductory White Bordeaux.  If you’re a Sauvignon Blanc drinker, this shows the benefits of Semillon to the blend.  It plumps out the texture and body, and rounds off the fruit flavors to make it a more versatile wine.

Drinking Today: Portico da Rio Albariño

I completed almost all of my fall gardening today, so I’m celebrating with a glass of white and a late lunch. I have crab-stuffed flounder in the oven, and I’m opening a bottle of Albariño to go with. I picked this baby up at Trader Joe’s earlier in the week.

If you’re not familiar with this grape, you should be! It’s still somewhat obscure, because it doesn’t get a lot of shelf space and is grown almost exclusively in the Rias Baixas region of far northwestern Spain. I like Albariño because it has a fuller body – up into white Rhone, Viognier, and Chardonnay territory – while still displaying the brightness and elegance of a good Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris.

Portico da Ria Albariño (2011) Rias Baixas, Spain – $9.00

Photo0234Color: light golden in color – darker than lemons, lighter than goldenrod or honey.

Aroma: citrus and melon fruit, with a good acidic edge, followed by some honeyed floral notes.

Taste: nice – a combination of citrus and light melon, with a good, mouth-filling texture and a touch of smoky dried fruit. Somewhere between marmalade and candied citrus rind on the finish, and it’s plenty long.

A great bottle of white to have on hand, especially as an alternative to Chardonnay when pairing with medium-rich seafood. This would work well with scallops in cream sauce, shrimp salad, or grouper – and especially well with sushi!  Recommended!



Drinking Tonight: 2 Bordeaux

I’m making a loaded Margherita pizza (I know that’s a contradiction in terms – please don’t go all pizza purist on me) and decided to try out 2 new Bordeaux I picked up recently from Trader Joe’s.  These may be inexpensive, but they are from sub-appellations within the general Bordeaux AOC, so they aren’t mixed-up leftovers.  Let’s try them out!

Chateau Amour (2009) Medoc, France – $10.00

Color: straightforward reddish purple, what you’d expect from left-bank Bordeaux.

Aroma: bright cherry and cedar, with some warm spice and red currant underneath.

Photo0233Taste: Hmm, a little thin, a little green. The alcohol is high on this (13.5%) so I’m afraid that’s dominating the rest of the wine. Tannins are good – not great – but the oak is too noticeable on the finish.

Chateau Mayne Guyon (2010) Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux – $10.50

Color: a darker, very purple color. This appellation (which has changed names and boundaries several times in the last 2 decades) generally produces a more ‘international’ style of wine, and I suspect that’s what is going on here.

Aroma: blueberry and black fruit, including cassis, with a little white pepper. No blending information on the bottle, but I suspect a good dollop of Cabernet Franc in this.

Taste: Starts off very promising, but is a little dumb on the mid-palate and finish. It’s opening up with some air. Notes of black fruit, anise, and oak-moderated spice, with a much fuller body.  It also has no heat, despite being higher in alcohol than the Chateau Amour.

Bottom line – the Chateau Amour is not recommended; you don’t see a lot of $10 Bordeaux, but you can certainly find things in the $14 range that are heads and shoulders better – not to mention other old-world style wines from South Africa, Spain, and even the US in that price range. The Chateau Mayne Guyon is growing on me as it opens up – it’s not good enough to go in the ‘recommended’ category, but if you’ve never had a decent Bordeaux, this would be a good way to get started. It has enough Old World style to differentiate itself from a straight California Cab, without being overly fussy.