Chateau Ampelia Castillon-Cotes de Bordeaux 2011

W Ampelia 2011Bordeaux Red Blend, St. Philippe d’ Aiguilhe, Castillon-Cotes de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France

95% merlot

5% cabernet franc

13.5% alcohol

Purchased: 24 April 2014 – $17.99

Opened: 14 Feb 2018

els: 8.9/10

Wine Enthusiast: 92

Cellar Tracker: 89

Wine Spectator: 88

The Despagne family has been making wines in the Saint-Emilion AOC  for more than 200 years. Today Francois, a seventh generation descendent of the Despagne family, is currently manager, since 1996, of Grand Corbin-Despagne winery and founder of the Chateau Ampelia in 1999. Breaking with family tradition the new winery and vineyards are located to the east, and adjacent to Saint-Emilion in the Castillon-Cotes de Bordeaux appellation 1.5 miles west of Saint-Philippe-d’Aiguille, and a little more than 4 miles north of the Dordogne River. This AOC was upgraded from Bordeaux Superior in 2008 and the area includes about 230 families working, on average, 25 acres of vines; predominately Merlot (70%), but also Cabernet Franc (20%), and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%).  Vines in this area date back to at least the 2nd century AD when the Romans planted Vitus Biturica, an ancient cousin of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

Merlot, the most planted grape in France, in known for its mellow and rounded flavors and is often blended with its close cousin: Cabernet Sauvignon and or its parent: Cabernet Franc, to soften them up. Cabernet Franc is a black skinned grape that imparts a peppery character to Bordeaux blends.

The grapes are harvested and sorted twice, once in the vineyard and then again at the winery. They are crushed, de-stemmed and fermented in temperature controlled, concrete and stainless steel tanks.  The post-fermented juice is racked into French oak barrels, one-third which are new, and allowed to age for 12 months before being blended and bottled.

The wine has ruby-red color with a garnet rim. A bouquet of cherries, plums and cedar with a hint of pepper. On the palate the wine is medium-bodied with soft tannins.  It has a pleasant, medium lasting, and soothing finish. Not overly bold but a refreshing wine.

A good wine but hard to find and a little expensive for the quality. Pair with a snack of soft cheese and berries.  Drink now, but should last for another year or two.  Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$22.37 wine-searcher.com (limited availability)

 

 

Pierre Dupond La Renjardiere Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2015

W Dupond 2015Rhone Red Blend from Southern Rhone – Cotes du Rhone, Rhone, France

60% grenache

20% syrah

10% mourvedre

10% cinsault

14.0% alcohol

Opened 17 Jan 2018

els: 8.6/10

Tastings: 88

The Cotes du Rhone wine region stretches along the Rhone River, beginning at Vienne in the north to Avignon, 125 miles to the south. The Central Massif defines the western boundary and the foothills of the Alps, the eastern boundary. The region is designated with 4 levels of distinction: at the bottom and the most basic are the Cotes du Rhone wines, this wine falls into that category, followed by 95 Cotes du Rhone-Villages, then, with another step up there are the 18 Cotes du Rhone-Named Villages and finally at the top are the 17 Crus. Cotes du Rhone wines must contain at least 40% Grenache as their main grape, followed by a minimum of 15% from the secondary grapes: Syrah and Mourvedre.  Accessory grapes, such as Cinsault, can not provide more than 30% of the total.

The La Renjardière is a 300 acre+ vineyard, just north of Chateauneuf du Pape and the city of Orange. The vineyards reside on the right bank slopes of the Rhone with soils consisting of sand, clay and limestone with round pebbles which make walking without shoes difficult, but provide a wonderful assist for drainage. The vineyard’s Mediterranean climate has growing season temperatures ranging from the high 40s at night to the low 80s °F during the day.

The wine has a dark ruby-red color with a nice garnet rim. It exhibits a medium but distinct nose of  cherry and strawberries. The tongue tells me that plums and black fruits are nearby. Tannins are easy, acidity isn’t overpowering, or in other words a balanced, mild wine with a medium to long finish, reminiscent of a young woman with small, but invitingly round breasts. The wine should be good for a few more years.

A good everyday red at a good price.  Serve with cheese, lamb, or pork.  Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$12.99  wine.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

Chateau Francs Magnus Bordeaux Superieur 2014

W Francs2014Bordeaux Red Blends from Bordeaux, France

Proprietary red blend

13.5% alcohol

Opened 11 Nov 2017

els 9.0/10

James Suckling 91

From the winery and vineyards of Arnaud Roux-oulie, complete with limestone quarries and Gallo-Roman silos.

This wine has a clear garnet to ruby color, redolent of plums and dark berries, with a touch of licorice. A medium body and finish, with smooth and easy tannins. A nice, unpretentious everyday wine, enjoyable with simple fare such as pizza or cheeseburgers. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

$11.99 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

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