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Pairing France with … France!

Tonight’s dinner was a Provençal Zucchini and Potato Gratin Casserole. I wanted to pair it with a French wine (OF COURSE!), and was looking for something from Provence. When I went into our cellar, the ’08 Domaine du Cayron from Gigondas caught my eye! Okay, it’s not from Provence, but it IS from the Southern Rhone, which is pretty darn close geographically speaking. And it was a great match!Gigondas-France

A few years ago I was fortunate to visit Gigondas, a charming village located near Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Southern Rhone!  It is also an appellation that produces some fabulous wines, both red and rosé, with its vineyards sitting below the dramatic rock formation called the Dentelles de Montmirail.

For many decades all of the wines of Gigondas were simply Côtes-du-Rhône, but in 1966 they were elevated to Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages.  In 1971 Gigondas was deservingly awarded its own appellation.

By law, the red wines of Gigondas can be made of no more than eighty percent Grenache, and no less than fifteen percent Syrah and/or Mourvèdre.  The remaining blending varietal is usually Cinsault, but may be any other red Rhone varietal except Carignan. Confused yet??? One of the top producers of Gigondas is Domaine de Cayron, and I’m happy to tell you that their wines are distributed here in the U.S. Cayron-w-Glass gigondas-street

Now the 2008 vintage in Gigondas is not known to be stellar. The summer months were cool and had lots of rain, but I find this ’08 Domaine du Cayron to be fabulous. It has lovely plum, cherry and loads of licorice. There’s also a bit of garrigue, which pairs wonderfully with the Herbes de Provence I used in the casserole.

I have a 2010 (considered a great vintage) waiting for me next to the empty slot where this ’08 sat. I’m sure looking forward to pairing that with something special too!

 

WHO Knows? God Only Knows!!!

My husband and I have a wine problem! Okay, that’s not what I mean! We have a problem figuring out which wine to open at night. One of us, usually me, goes into the cellar and starts perusing our list! Do we want white, red or rosé? Do we want a Pinot, Cab, Tempranillo, Syrah? Do we want Old World or New World? Last night it was his turn, and once again it was a struggle. What wine should we open??? We only knew that we wanted something good. God only knows! That gave me an idea! Let’s open the God Only Knows!!!!

Cayuse is a great winery out of Washington’s Walla Walla Valley. I’ve been on their waiting list for YEARS and still haven’t struck gold by being promoted to the actual list. Luckily there’s a wine store a couple hours away that has some in stock from time to time, so I have a couple of their wines in our cellar.

Cayuse’s founder Christophe Baron is originally from the Champagne region in France. His family owns the Champagne house Baron Albert and has worked the land there since 1677. He fell in love with the wines of Burgundy and had plans of opening a winery in Oregon to focus on the Burgundian varietals. After doing an internship in Walla Walla Washington, however, he discovered a vineyard that reminded him of the Rhone Valley in his home country of France. Being unable to resist this unique terroir of softball sized stones, reminiscent of the Southern Rhone, Monsieur Baron set up shop in Washington State!

Cayuse produces several wines, but the God Only Knows is considered a Grenache, as it contains at least 75% Grenache which is needed in order to label it Grenache! The other 25%? God only knows!!!!! That’s from where the clever name comes.

The 2012 Cayuse God Only Knows Armada Vineyard is a fabulous wine. It has lots of Old World “funk”, which I love. It has lots of black olive, which I also love! There’s also lovely rose petals and cherry on the nose. The palate has the olive, black cherry and some great minerality. The finish is long and lovely.

This bottle shouldn’t have been opened yet. I messed up! We should have waited a few more years, but it was still delicious. It’s only going to get better with more time in the bottle. I’m going to get online and try to hunt some more down for my cellar!

If you’d like to check out Cayuse Vineyards, and perhaps get on their massively long waiting list, check them out here:

https://cayusevineyards.com

 

A Not To Miss Tasting In Sonoma? Balletto!!!

They hadn’t been on my list. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of them before! A staff member at Gloria Ferrer (who’s become a friend because I visit so often!) told me about her favorite rosé in the world. She told me that she just couldn’t get enough of it! So … I had to check them out!

Balletto Vineyards is a family owned winery located in the Russian River Valley AVA in Sonoma County. Started as a successful vegetable farming company, in 1999 they started the shift from vegetable farming to vineyards. Today they sell 90% of their grapes to other wineries, using the other 10% producing their lovely Balletto Vineyard wines!

So, the day after visiting Gloria Ferrer last month, my husband and I stopped by Balletto for a tasting. I couldn’t wait to try their rosé! This pretty pink wine (made of 100% Pinot Noir) has strawberry, a touch of rose and lively acidity to balance it perfectly. I can see why my friend finds it difficult to not finish the bottle in one sitting!

Rosé, however, is not all they do at Balletto! I also made sure to buy a couple bottles of their lovely (not too oaky) 2014 Sexton Hill Vineyard Chardonnay. They also make some rockin’ Pinot Noir (we bought some Burnside that tasted like Strawberry Twizzlers!), Syrah and Zin! A super nice bonus is that their prices are very fair!!!

Looking back I’m surprised and disappointed that I hadn’t heard of them before, but boy oh boy I’m thankful that I know them now! I also want to spread the word about their really nice wines and great tasting experience!

Don’t only PUT them on your list … bump them to the TOP of your list!

http://www.ballettovineyards.com

 

I Love Rock ‘n Roll … and Cliff Lede!

This is why you wait.

There are wines to be drunk young, and there are wines that need time. Too many people drink a beautiful bottle way too early. Okay, they bought it, they like it young, fine! But I do question if they KNOW what the wine will become if they just hold it for a few years.

My husband and I just got back from Napa.  We did our usual tour of some new (to us) wineries as well as hitting some of our favorites.

One of the favorites is Cliff Lede, who has great wine and a great tasting experience! Their tasting room is fun and cozy at the same time! The crackling fireplace is perfect on a chilly spring day. Add the fun wine pros, the great tunes filling the airwaves, the beautiful grounds full of rock and roll artwork and blocks named after Cliff Lede’s favorite rock n roll songs, and you’re in store for a very special time!

We tasted some of their wonderful current releases and bought a few. We also bought one of their library wines, and cracked it open tonight!

The 2006 Cliff Lede Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon is SINGING! I am in love with this wine! It still has lots of dark fruit and a velvety texture with smooth tannins. Prune, tobacco and a little spice lead to a nice long finish of dark chocolate. Oh, if only I’d bought a case.

Definitely check them out the next time you’re in Napa. The tasting experience is special, and the wines rock!

http://cliffledevineyards.com

Next Exit? Buellton!

The Hitching Post II is a great restaurant in Buellton, CA, a small town smack dab in the middle (maybe not literally, but dang close) of the Santa Ynez wine region in California’s Central Coast AVA. You may know of The Hitching Post from the 2004 hit movie Sideways! If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing the movie, you undoubtedly know of the wines associated with this popular restaurant too!

Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post Wines is the collaboration of two good friends who seem to have very different backgrounds. Gray Hartley (a former professional fisherman) and Frank Ostini (chef and owner of The Hitching Post) first made “home wine” in 1979. Their first Pinot Noir came in 1981, and their wine “project” moved to a winery in 1984. Initially the wines were made exclusively for The Hitching Post, but now the country is happy to have them distributed so that we can enjoy them even when we’re not visiting California!

My husband and I have visited Buellton and The Hitching Post II several times, and we’re always sure to stock up on some of their wines to bring home with us. They make a fun Rosé, some nice Merlot and Syrah, and an interesting (and very affordable) red blend called “Gen Red”. Their specialty, though, is killer Pinot Noir!

The other night I pulled a Hartley-Ostini 2012 Pinot Noir Highliner out of our cellar. Their flagship wine, this Pinot Noir has a beautiful nose! With aromas of violets, cherry, raspberry and some wet earth, this wine rocks. The velvety palate has bright cherry, raspberry, pomegranate, and that lovely earthiness that I pray for when cracking open a Pinot. This is one heck of a wine!

Whether you enjoyed the movie or not, definitely check out The Hitching Post II and the lovely Hartley-Ostini wines! The Santa Ynez Valley is a fabulous wine region to visit, so if you haven’t been, definitely put it on your bucket list. The fabulous wines, the delicious food and the gorgeous scenery will entice you to go back time and again! Just make sure that you’re not chewing gum while tasting!

Check out the Hartley-Ostini wines here:

https://store.hitchingpostwines.com/storefront.aspx 

 

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