Tag Archives: Rhone

The Curator Red

A Rhone-style blend, with 95% Shiraz, 3% Cinsault, 1% Mourvedre, and 1% of the white Viognier grape. It’s not uncommon to see a couple of drops of Viognier in a red Rhone – it helps to open up the blend, and Viognier contributes more fruit aroma than you’d think, even in such a small proportion.

The Curator Red (2011) Coastal Region, South Africa – $11

Photo0373Color: reddish-purple, verging on black; this is quite dark.

Aroma: blackberry fruit and dried earth notes, with a little spice, licorice, and dried flowers underneath.

Taste: more fruit on the palate, with a mix of blackberry, plum, and dark cherry. This is followed by medium tannins and spice on the mid-palate and the finish. Good balance and a nice length – the fruit doesn’t dry up or get overwhelmed by the tannins. Not in the jammy category, but definitely a New World-influenced fruit-forward style.

A great $11 bottle for pizza, burgers, or nothing at all – recommended.


All About Rhone Wines – my column at DaytonLocal.com

This month’s article is about the wines of the Rhone Valley, and the many similar blends from Australia, California, and other parts of the world. Some great info in here about geography, grape varieties, food pairing, and bargain-hunting!


Check it out, and go to the “about me” page to see my past columns as well.


The Executioner from Shinas Estates

George Shinas, Australian winemaker and judge, is a great character.  All of his wine labels feature judicial themes (The Guilty, The Innocent, The Verdict, The Executioner, and Sweet Justice) with awesome sepia-tone photography. I’m fortunate enough to have a signed poster from George, courtesy of the great sales job I did with his special reserve wine, The Executioner. And I’m cracking open a bottle of that for dinner tonight.


The Executioner is a blend of George’s best barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon (55%) and Shiraz (43%), with just a dash of Viognier (2%) to improve the aromatics – this wine is an Aussie twist on a Cotes du Rhone, and adding some white to a big red is a Rhone tradition from way back. I broke out one of the big Riedel glasses for this – it deserves nothing less.

I’ve got a chorizo pizza coming out of the oven, and I thought I’d share the before-and-after pictures of that as well. This is a whole-wheat crust with mushroom marinara and a blend of four Italian cheeses. It’s topped with Mexican chorizo, baby portabella mushrooms, onion, and kalamata olives.




The Executioner (2008) Victoria, Australia – $30

Photo0346Color: a deep purple-red, almost opaque in the center.

Aroma: plum, blackberry, and cassis dominate – you can just feel the Viognier trying to break through with some floral notes. There’s also some eucalyptus and mint in there as well.

Taste: powerful stuff; while Cabernet led on the nose, the Shiraz is noticeable right off the bat on the palate. Big notes of spice, with some of the eucalyptus, then followed in the mid-palate by Cabernet fruit. The finish is still ripe and juicy; this has several more good years in the bottle. Even though it has a whopping 15% alcohol, it’s not hot at all. The finish has just a bit of tannin coming through.

With the pizza, more floral notes come out on the palate, including some violets. A little extraPhoto0347 air and this is just overall pleasant, harmonious, and powerful. The interplay between the fruit notes and the other elements are fascinating – very bite and every sip is a new discovery. A fantastic wine; the supply of this is limited to just a few hundred cases in the US, so if you find some, snap it up. Highly recommended.

Winetasting Report: The Wine Gallery, Dayton

I braved the sub-zero temperatures to meet up with Dan, an old distributor colleague, for some glasses last night at The Wine Gallery in downtown Dayton. I really like how their space on Monument Avenue is laid out.

We started with one of the Thanisch Kabinett Rieslings from 2010 for $22 – unfortunately, that was the last bottle, and by the time we thought of completing our tasting notes, it had gone into the recycling and I didn’t have a chance to get all the vineyard details noted down. It had fine, crisp, juicy acidity, and barely needed to be cooled down before it was really drinking well. A little bit of oily nose, then good mouthfulls of minerality, lime zest, and ripe apple. An excellent bottle. Thanisch almost always does a great job.

I ordered a burger, and we then moved on to the Chateau Segries (2005) Lirac for $19. Lirac is one of the recognized villages in the Cotes du Rhone region, and it’s so well-regarded that wines from there are allowed to just use the village name on the label. Depending on the vintage characteristics, 8 years can be pushing the envelope for a Lirac, and we were a little concerned when we opened the bottle.

The color was just starting to go bricky, and there was noticeable sediment both adhering to the bottle and suspended in the wine. The nose was also hot, and we were afraid it had started to oxidize.  After 10 minutes in the glass, however, it started to open up nicely. Not the best Rhone I’ve ever had, but quite pleasant overall, with stewed prunes, warm herb and spice notes, and good acidity throughout. If you have any 2005s from that part of the Rhone, drink them up now!



Recipe #2 – basic, everyday, nothing-fancy chili.  You can cook this in as little as an hour, or let it simmer all afternoon.  I make mine medium-spicy; feel free, of course, to adjust as you see fit. I’ll post my recipe for white chili sometime later in the winter – it’s even faster. 

I’ll probably crack open a Zinfandel or Rhone blend to have with this, but that’s hours from now.


Serves 6. Prep time: 30 minutes. Total time: 1 hour, but can be held for up to 3.

  • 2 lb ground or cubed chuck beef (can also use cubed venison, but be careful not to overcook)
  • 3 large onions, coarsely diced
  • 2 cans each light red and dark red kidney beans
  • 1 can each tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and whole tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup jalapeños
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 3 cups water
  1. Put the beans, tomatoes, jalapeños, chili powder, and water in a large pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  2. In the meanwhile, saute the meat and onions together in small batches until the meat is browned and the onions have softened. If using venison, use canola oil and only cook until the outside of the cubes are lightly browned. Add each batch of meat and onions to the other ingredients as you finish it.
  3. Cover the pot loosely and cook for at least 30 minutes. Stir and check every 30 minutes to make sure that the temperature isn’t too high, and that there’s enough liquid – I like my chili on the soupy side.

Top with grated sharp cheddar, and serve with cornbread or crackers. 

La Ferme Julien Rouge

A tasty little Rhone blend from Trader Joe’s – they’ve had this for at least six or seven years now, and it’s usually a good deal. I tried the white over the summer, and they also make a rosé. The red contains Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Cinsault. Ventoux, if you’re not familiar with it, is one of the southernmost subzones of the Rhone – politically and culturally, it’s in the upper reaches of Provence. A lot of Peter Mayle’s books take place in the shadow of Mont Ventoux.

La Ferme Julien (2011) Ventoux, France – $7.50

Photo0328Color: the hue is a nice medium red, but it’s not quite as dense as I’d prefer.

Aroma: typical Rhone – fresh and cooked berry notes, plus that wild-herb aroma called garrigue.

Taste: lots more berry fruit, especially fresh red currant, cherry, and raspberry. Noticeable tannins on the mid-palate and finish, and some good heat going down. A pretty nice jolt of black pepper in the mid-palate, too.

This is classic café wine – a good, rough Rhone that works equally well with a hearty cheeseburger, a pizza, kebabs, a mixed grill, or a chunk of dark chocolate. Recommended.


Drinking Tonight: Caves Saint-Pierre Vacqueyras

You’ve probably heard of the Rhone Valley in France – Vacqueyras is one of the small village-centered subdistricts of the Cotes du Rhone wine region. Along with the neighboring village of Gigondas, it’s often referred to as “the poor man’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape.” Vacqueyras is only a few miles down the road from Avignon, and produces great Rhone blends that are both hearty and sophisticated, for a fraction of what Chateauneuf-du-Pape costs.

Tonight I’ve got a recently purchased Vacqueyras (pronounced VAH-kay-rah) to go with salad and leftover pizza. I’m eager to see what this is like – a good Vacqueyras is a perfect thing to drink all winter long with beef stew, chili, pot roast, and other stick-to-your-ribs cold-weather fare. Vacqueyras must contain at least 50% Grenache, with the rest usually a combination of Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault.

Caves Saint-Pierre (2011) Vacqueyras, France – $13

Photo0314Color: a nice dark ruby, verging on purple towards the middle of the glass.

Aroma: spicy and brambly, with some herb notes – what the French call ‘garrigue‘ –  followed up by dark plum and berry fruit. There’s even a touch of chocolate and tar as this opens up.

Taste: harmonious, with berry fruit leading off and then transitioning into herb and spice notes. It has a final blast of fruit, before settling in to a gently tannic and spicy finish. This has good texture, the right acidity for food, and a good mouthfeel.

An top-notch Rhone for $13. Make sure you drink this at cellar temperature (55º to 65º F). Recommended.