Highway 12 Highwayman Proprietary Red 2012

W Highwayman 2012Other Red Blends from Sonoma County, California

Proprietary red blend:

     cabernet sauvignon

     cabernet franc

     merlot

14.8% alcohol

Opened 2 Dec 2017

els 9.1/10

Highway 12 is a North Coast, Sonoma County winery producing 3 brands of differing quality wines from the vineyards of Sonoma and Carneros regions: Highway 12, Carneros Highway, and their flagship wine: Highwayman.  The Highwayman lineup includes 1 white and 4 reds: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and 2 red blends.  Their Proprietary Red was the initial wine in this lineup with the blend of grape types and percentages changing from vintage to vintage.  The 2013 vintage is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot as opposed to this 2012 vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.

Highwayman, the wine, commemorates the fabled gentlemen robbers of days gone by, who relieved, accessible and unguarded, or guarded, travelers of their possessions on the desolate stretches of road in many a nation’s country-sides. In California, a highwayman was known as a road agent, the most famous of which was probably Charles “Black Bart” Boles, a bandit with a particular affinity to Wells Fargo Coaches and their money boxes. He plied his trade of questionable legitimacy for 8 years during the late 19th century, along the deserted roads of northern California.  Black Bart, always armed with a shotgun but never fired during any of his roadside capers, acquired his name by leaving snippets of rhyming poetry at the scene of his crimes. Below is a sample of his poetry that he left at a robbery in 1877, with a slight, germane, editorial modification:

I’ve labored long and hard for (wine and) bread,
For honor, and for riches,
But on my corns too long you’ve tread,
You fine-haired sons of bitches.
 
— Black Bart, 1877.

Fortunately for all of us, highway robbery is now practiced by a better class of erudite individuals.

This wine has a black ruby-red hue, aromas of sweet black and blue berries, with whiffs of spicy herbs and earth, producing an enjoyable, full-bodied, long finish. It exhibits a powerful but balanced and delightful taste of chewy tannins and fruit. Perhaps a tad heavy by itself, better if served with a medium rare rib-eye.

An outstanding wine. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

$19.38  wine-searcher.com

Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) Reserve Speciale Bordeaux

W Lafite 2015Bordeaux from Bordeaux, France

60% merlot

40% cabernet sauvignon

12.5% alcohol

Opened 30 Nov 2017

els 8.5/10

Decanter 86

Reserve Speciale Bordeaux is from a family of wines created by Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) to provide, in their terms, “wines ideal for everyday drinking and more accessible than the Grands Crus” which they brand as “The Collection”, and includes the Legende, Saga, and Reserves brands; all three of which, bottle both Bordeaux reds and whites.

The family name of Lafite can be traced back to a Pauillac French monastery in the 13th century but the legendary winery took root with the planting of the vineyards by Jacques de Segur in the 1670s. Londoners, surprisingly enough, where the first to sing the praises of Lafite wines, which made their way to that city by way of British corsairs seizing the French merchant ships and confiscating their wine in the early 1700s. French nobility took notice of Chateau Lafite’s wine after Richelieu introduced it to King Louis XV; quickly becoming the “Kings Wine”; served at the tables of the 18th century French aristocratic rich and famous. After the French Revolution the Chateau changed owners several times until Baron James de Rothschild purchased it in 1868 and it has remained in the family ever since, with the minor exception of a German expropriation for a short time during WWII.  In 1995, the winery began selecting grapes for their “accessible” line of wines from  the region’s Bordeaux, Medoc, and Pauillac family, and non-family owned vineyards; to become part of the Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), “The Collection”.

The Reserve Speciale Bordeaux is sourced mainly from vineyards in the Entre-Deux-Mers (between two tides) wine region; situated between the tidal rivers Garonne and Dordogne. This is the largest sub-region of Bordeaux but less than half the acreage is planted in vines with the rest being generally forested.  This region produces only white wine that can carry the AOC Entre-Deux-Mers.  The reds are sold under various Bordeaux labels.

This wine has a clear ruby-red color, redolent of red berries and spice. Very smooth, not bold, with a quick finish.  A nice, inexpensive table wine that doesn’t overly impress but will pair well with cheese and friends.

A good wine. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

$10.00-16.00  wine-searcher.com

Susana Balbo Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

W Balbo 2014Cabernet Sauvignon from Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina

95% cabernet sauvignon

5% merlot

14.3% alcohol

Opened 21 Nov 2017

els 9.2/10

James Suckling 93

Wine Advocate 91

Vinaceous 91

Susana Balbo’s winery, established in the stunning, idyllic eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains, within the viticultural region of Uco Valley, which lies southwest of Mendoza, Argentina; is surrounded by 52 acres of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot vines; produces 4 brands of wines with distinct and complex personalities that appreciate long, secluded years in their bottles: Crios, Ben Marco, Nostros and Susana Balbo Signature.

The vineyards are at an average elevation of about 3800 feet above sea level where the

W Balbo Winery

The Susana Balbo Winery and Vineyards. Photo by Susana Balbo Winery.

steppe climate provides a large swing in growing season temperatures ranging from daytime highs in the mid 80s to night-time lows approaching 50 degrees Fahrenheit, with arid conditions that receive a paltry 1 to 1.25 inches of rain per month. To compensate for the semi-desert conditions and the well-drained alluvial soils of Uco Valley, the vineyards are drip irrigated from the Andes’ snow melted water to provide just the right of amount of essential moisture to produce these flavorful wines.

The grapes are hand-picked and fermented in concrete vessels and finished with 13 months in 70% second use and 30% first use French oak barrels.  The wine has a clear, bright ruby color with aromas of black berries and a very subtle hint of mint and earth. A long, full, dry finish with close to perfect tannins. Wonderful.

An outstanding wine. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

$20.99 wine.com

Chateau d’Agassac 2014

W D'Agassac 2014Bordeaux Red Blends from Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France

Proprietary blend of  cabernet sauvignon and merlot

Opened 14 Oct 2017

els 9.0/10

James Suckling 92

Wine Enthusiast 91

Robert Parker 83

Chateau D’Agassac, a Haut-Medoc winery, purchased in 1996 by the French insurance conglomerate, Groupama, is located in the village of Ludon-Medoc, less than 10 miles north from the center of Bordeaux, and less than 3 miles west of the Garonne River. TheW Chateau d'Agassac charming, fairytale Chateau located at the winery, complete with turrets and moat, is known to have existed as far back as 1238 AD, under the lordship of Gaillard de Gassac, vassal of King Edward I of England. The vineyards, originally swampland, around the Chateau, were  not known to exist prior to the French Revolution in the late 18th century, when the area was drained.

The vines are grown on a young alluvium cover, deposited from the nearby Garonne River during its flood stage. In the western vineyards the soil consists of a  gravel, up to 10 feet thick, and produces refined and elegant wines. Sandy gravels in the middle vineyards, produce subtle wines high in tannins. The eastern most vineyards, closest to the river, consist of clayey gravels, with rounded stones the size of ping-pong balls, reaching 20 feet thick, and produce full body wines.  The vineyards encompass 106 acres, planted with 50% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Cabernet Franc; the grapes are harvested from, on average, 25-year-old vines.

The temperatures of Ludon-Medoc reach their peak during August, with highs near 80 and lows hovering around 60. August is the driest month of the year, still producing, on average, about 2.5 inches of rain over those 30 days, with the remaining growing season, before and after August, producing 3 to 3.5 inches of rain each month. The gravels release their sun-acquired heat at night, protecting the vines’ roots from extreme temperature variations during the growing season, and especially during the harvesting of the grapes. The loose gravels also drain away the rain water quickly, keeping the grapes in peak condition.

This Bordeaux needs decanting and aeration for at least 2 hours, 4-6 hours, even better; if not, the acidity and tannins will overpower your senses, infusing your soul with utter regret that you even came to purchase this bottle of fermented grape juice. I opened this bottle after 3 years but in hindsight I should have let it set for at least 2 more years.  With that said, and with proper aeration, this is a good wine; an incredibly dark ruby-purple wine, redolent of plums, prunes and raisins. Full-bodied, dry, and intense with an excellent and protracted finish.

An outstanding wine.

$19.99 wine.com.

Chateau Peymouton 2012

W Chateau PeymoutonBordeaux Red Blends from St. Emilion, Bordeaux, France

65% merlot

25% cabernet franc

10% cabernet sauvignon

13.5% alcohol

Opened 9 Oct 2017

els 8.9/10

Wilfred Wong 92

Wine Enthusiast 90

The Beaumartin family winery, approximately 2 miles east of picturesque St. Emilion and 23 miles east-northeast of Bordeaux, on the right bank of the Dordogne River, consists of 2 vineyards; the Chateau Laroque, covering 150 acres, and the Chateau Peymouton, covering 76 acres, both growing predominately Merlot, with lesser amounts of Cabernet Franc, and minor acreage devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, all from vines planted in the early 1960s.

The vines of the Saint Emilion area spring from clayey limestones, with growing season temperatures ranging from the low 50s at night to the mid-80s during the day, receiving as little as a half-inch to as much as 4 inches of rain per month with the harvest season usually being the driest time of the year.  Cabernet Sauvignon vines generally do not grow well here, due to dampness of the soils, thus Merlot and Cabernet Franc vines dominate.

St. Emilion wines are reclassified every 10 years, vying for the elite, but limited award, Premier Cru Classes, and the lesser, but still good Grand Cru Classes, judged and assigned by two different tasting panels. The recent year’s reclassifications, 2006 and 2012, are hopelessly tied up in legal dramas by Chateaus that have lost their Cru Class. Chateau Peymouton is rated below the Grand Cru Class as a generic grand cru, although it is still a very good wine.

A dark, ruby-red wine, aromas of dark berries, smooth tannins and acidity with a nice balance and moderate finish.  This wine will go well with red, fatty meats.

A good wine.

$21.99 wine.com

Chateau Bel Air Haut-Medoc 2012

W Bel Air.jpgBordeaux Red Blends from Medoc, Bordeaux, France (Domaines Joel Irigaray)

55% cabernet sauvignon

45% merlot

12.5% alcohol

Opened 7 Oct 2017

els 8.9/10

Hailing from the St. Emilion area on the right bank of the Gironde, Chateau Bel Air, Joel Irigaray Domaines, is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  St. Emilion is blessed with wonderful mix of vine growing soils of gravel, clays and limestone, coupled with an oceanic climate of hot summers, and warm autumns, with just the right amount of rain when needed. The vineyards around St. Emilion and the Bordeaux region date back to at least the Roman plantings in the 2nd century AD; proving that good things do last.

A good, solid, dark, purple to ruby-red wine, redolent of cherry fruits, smooth tannins and acidity.  Serve with a juicy rib-eye and enjoy its balanced and long finish.

A good wine.

$13.99

Baracchi O’lillo 2014

W Baracchi OlilloTuscan Red Blend from Tuscany, Italy
25% cabernet sauvignon
25% merlot
25% sangiovese
25% syrah
14.5% alcohol by volume

els 9.0/10

James Suckling 93

Wine Spectator 90

The Baracchi winery and vineyards are located on the southern, sunny slopes of the Apennine Mountains, in the eastern central area of Tuscany, just outside the stone walls of the ancient, small city of Cortona.

Legend has it that Cortona was originally established by Noah, shortly after the great flood; falling in love with the fertile soils and natural beauty of the area. Umbrians, Etruscans, Romans, Guelphs, Medici, Italians have all called Cortona theirs. The town, at approximately 1600 feet above sea level, overlooks Lake Trasimene, the setting for one of the Roman Empires great military defeats at the hands of Hannibal in 217 BC (Carnage and Culture, The Punic Wars).  When touring the Tuscany wine region this is a required stop to cherish and savor the legends, the history, the scenery, the food, and certainly, the wine.

The Baracchi Estate, winery and vineyards, a family business since 1860, is run by Riccardo and his son Benedetto, producing some of the best wines in the region. There are 4 vineyards sitting about 1000 feet above sea level, enjoying hot days, rising to the high 80s, and cool nights dipping down to the chilly low 50s. The rains, coming roughly once a week, deliver from 1.5 to 3 inches of water per month to the thirsty vines. The soils range from sandy to clayey and chalky. The wines are aged in French oak barrels.

This red blend is a brilliant ruby-red, redolent with red and black cherries and just a whisper of black pepper.  The tannins are about as smooth as a cloudless Mediterranean sky, with an enjoyable, hearty and long finish.

An outstanding wine.

$19.99 wine.com

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