Friday, April 27, 2012

Trajarinho Vinho Verde 2010

                                             Dombek photo © 2012
Vinho Verde 2010
Adega Cooperativo Regional de Monção

60% Alvarinho, 40% Trajadura

Summer approaches and it’s time for Vinho Verde!  This wine is light lemon yellow in color, with floral notes and hints of quince, apricot & apple crisp spices that provide an underlying rich/lush quality.  This is ultimately light and dry however, seeing no oak.  Clean and crisp on the palate and characteristically effervescent, it has lively minerality along with great acidity.  Astonishingly complex and simple all at once, this is maximum expression of the Vinho Verde terroir.  Low alcohol content (11.5%)!  Simply delicious and hugely refreshing. 

Pair with seafood, sip by itself or absolutely bring it along for a picnic on the beach!  Luis Moya recommends enjoying it with fresh crab! 

Vinho Verde is a wine that comes from northwest Portugal bordering the Rias Baixas region of northwest Spain, right on the Atlantic Ocean.  The soil is pure slate, with some granite, which is where all that amazing minerality comes from!  (In Spain the soil is more sand and clay).  The grapes are a blend of Trajadura and Alvarinho, the same that they use to make Albarino in Rias Baixas.  The wine is also similar in style to the white wine Txakolina in the Basque region of Spain.  Stay tuned for more fabulous wines from these areas!

This video with Luis Moya is excellent and gives you a real feel for the Vinho Verde.  

Comes to us through CRUSH Distributors.  Available at:  Browne Trading Co., Rosemont Markets and Downeast Beverage in Portland.  Frontier in Brunswick.   
$11.99 at Rosemont /Munjoy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I’ve had a special request to highlight Ten Wines for under $20. 

Your wish is my command!  This is in effect a recap of wines I have reviewed.  All but one is actually under $15!  We can all appreciate great value and taste combined, especially in these challenging times.  I will list them for you in today’s article, with key descriptions.  To remember more in depth, please see original review.  For folks out-of-state, check with your local stores/importers for availability. Enjoy!  

Château Bellevue La Randée 2009 - $10.99
Bordeaux, Proprietaire a Galgon, Gironde, France
45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc.

Expressive & powerful, deep earthy/juicy fruits

Jean-Luc Thunevin/winemaker, Central Distributors, Lewiston, ME.
Old Port Wine Merchants, 223 Commercial St., Portland

Château La Baume 2007 - $11.99
Costières de Nîmes, The Andreoletti Family, Rhone Valley, France
50% Carignan, 25% Syrah, 25% Grenache

Spicy w/subtle perfume, buoyant dark red fruits/huckleberry, charred earth

T. Edwards Wines, NY/Importer,  Devenish Wines, Portland, ME
Rosemont Markets, 88 Congress St., Munjoy Hill, Portland
Fattoria del Cerro Manero Rosso di Toscana 2009 - $10.99
Toscana, Italy
80% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot.

Layered & sensual, wild berries, plum, black tea, easy on palate.

VIAS Imports.  Pine State Beverage Co., Gardiner, ME
Whole Foods, Rosemont Markets, Portland
Tenuta Olim Bauda Gavi di Gavi 2010 – under $14.00
Piedmont, Italy
100% Cortese

Lt gold, briny & saline, lemon meringue, clean, elegant, harmonious.

Wicked Wines, Bangor, ME
Rosemont Markets & Vignola Restaurant, Portland; Tess’s Market, Brunswick; Cleonise, Ellsworth; Francine’s, Camden; Wine Cellar, Rockland; Sawyer Specialty, Southwest Harbor; Lucerne Inn, Holden, ME

Mas Carlot, Les Enfants Terribles 2010 - $13.99
Costières de Nîmes, Rhone Valley, France
50% Mourvedre.  50% Syrah.

Scarlet, fig, cassis & dark fruits, pepper, silky, a real mouthful.

SoPo Wine Co., S. Portland, ME
Rosemont Markets, Munjoy & Brighton; Petite Jacqueline – 190 State St., Portland
Terredora DiPaolo Coda di Volpe 2009 - $12.99
Campania, Italy
100% Coda di Volpe

Color of spring, lightly floral aromas, fresh/lively citrus fruit, quince, medium body

VIAS Imports, Pine State Beverage Co., Gardiner, ME
Rosemont Market/Brighton, Portland
Ladera Sagrada A Portela Mencía 2010 - $13.99
Valdeorras, Spain
100% Mencía

Rich cherry & currant flavors, balsamic, smooth & spicy, flamenco!

Ole’ Imports, National Distributors, S. Portland, ME
Old Port Wine Merchants, Commercial St.; Cantina el Rayo, York Street, Portland
Domaine de Chateaumar Cuvee’ Bastien  2009 - $14.99
Cotes-du-Rhone, France
100% single vineyard old vine Grenache.

Declassified Chateauneuf-du-Pape, deep crimson, exotic dark fruit, hint chocolate, smooth

Bourgeois Family Selections, Asheville, N. Carolina, SoPo Wine Co., S. Portland
Rosemont Markets, Portland
Suavia Soave Classico D.O.C. 2009 - $14.99
Veneto, Italia
95% Garganega, 5% Trebbiano.

Pale gold, light citrus, pear, luscious weight/restraint, minerality

VIAS Imports, Pine State Beverage Co., Gardiner, ME
Old Port Wine Merchants, Commercial St., Portland
Jean-François Mérieau “L’Arpent de Vaudons”
Sauvignon Blanc 2010 – under $15.99
Touraine, France
100% Sauvignon Blanc

Hint of peach/honeydew melon, white pepper, well integrated, nectar, crisp/clean, lovely

MS Walker and Central Distributors, Lewiston, ME
Rosemont Markets, Whole Foods, Portland

Saturday, April 21, 2012


                                                                   Dombek photo © 2012
Camas Chardonnay
Cave Anne de Joyeuse
Vin de Pays, Pays d'Oc
Languedoc-Roussillon, France

100% Chardonnay

I came across this simply delicious, unprentious summer white at the Blue Spoon the other evening.  What a lovely surprise!  A medium light gold in color, this wine has light floral notes on the nose.  Just a hint of grapefruit/citrus lends lively acidity and zippy minerality.  Pretty and feminine with playful notes of kiwi fruit, pear and nectarine, this is luscious with a crisp, clean finish.  It sees some partial, neutral oak, which lends texture, incredible body and mouth feel, rather than imparting any oaky flavor.  This still has a lightness about it, even with all that body and goes splendidly with David’s Maine shrimp with capers and lemon appetizer.  Love connection!  $8/glass.

The name “Camas” is actually the name of the flower pictured on the label.  The vineyard, Cave Anne de Joyeuse is located in Limoux, one of the highest elevations in all of southern France.  Influences from 3 sub-regions include Mediterranean, Oceanic and Pyrenean, and provide warm days and cool nights - great for acidity.  Since 1994, the vineyard’s small group of winegrowers, passionate about their vines, their region and countryside, have also protected the biodiversity of their environment and terroir using various sustainable farming methods, including the use of solar energy.  

David Iovino/Chef Owner & Rebecca/Server Extraordinaire
Okay, back to the local aspect ... admittedly, the Blue Spoon is my favorite neighborhood hang-out for a great glass (or two ... or...) of wine and delicious bite to eat.  The bar is intimate and inviting, one where you can easily strike up a conversation with someone new, as well as have a few words with chef & staff!  And also an establishment that supports delicious and unique wines such as this.  Surely more to come here!  Special prices on specific wines during Wine Time: M–SAT, 4:30–6:00Located at 89 Congress St. on Munjoy Hill. (207)773-1116.

This wine comes to us through CRUSH Distributors, a woman-owned distributorship servicing Maine and New Hampshire, providing unique, artisan wines produced by great vineyards and the people who farm them.

Camas  Chardonnay may also be found at 50 Local in Kennebunkport and Downeast Beverage on Commercial Street in Portland.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wines of Jean-François Mérieau

Les Bulles Sparkling & Sauvignon Blanc - JF Mérieau
Jean-François Mérieau
“L’Arpent de Vaudons”
Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Touraine, France

100% Sauvignon Blanc.

 A minerally pale yellow in color, this wine has citrus and a slight hint of peach on the nose and palate, along with notes of honeydew melon and subtle white pepper.  Elegant and well integrated, like nectar when it comes down to temperature a bit, yet expressing a clean and crisp style, luxurious and restrained all at once.  Delicious!  Under $15.99.

This wine from the Loire Valley in France, was created from a single parcel of 60 year old vines, hand harvested and organically farmed.  It was aged in stainless steel for 7 months on the lees (sur lie), with stirring for richness.  By the way, lees is the coarse sediment including small grape particles and yeast cells, that accummulate during fermentation.  Winemakers employ this method of aging, leaving wine in contact with the lees for added complexity and richness.  It is certainly apparent here and masterfully done by winemaker Jean-François Mérieau, who incidentally took over the family estate in 2000.  The Vignoble des Bois Vaudons (Vineyards of the Vaudons Woods) has been run by the Mérieau Family for three generations.  Jean-François has committed himself to rediscovering the soils of the Loir-et-Cher with a completely hands-on approach, working the soils, plowing, and harvesting by hand.

Les Bulles Sparkling white 2007, is a completely enchanting blend of Chenin Blanc with a small amount of Chardonnay.  A richer golden lemon color, with aromas of stone fruit, this is lush and clean with fine bubbles.  This stays on the lees for 36 months.  A fabulous aperitif ... and I love the label.  Great to bring to any celebration!  Especially affordable sparkler at around $15.99 - $19.99!

Le Bois Jacou Gamay 2009
Le Bois Jacou 2009, made from 100% Gamay grapes is bright ruby red in appearance, with a hint of earthiness on the nose, boysenberry and cranberry on the palate.  Lightly woodsy with lots of red fruits and some spice, it has lovely depth for a light red and a playful buoyancy.  This is a wine to drink young so have now!  Enjoy slightly chilled. Also under $15.99. 

We had the distinct pleasure of meeting with Raphaelle Martin-Watson, representative for Jean-François Mérieau this past Sunday, with the warmth of spring sun all around us.  She was passionate about the wines and eager to share with us.  A glorious day to be sitting in an outside cafe’ (The Farmer’s Table, Commercial St. Portland), tasting the wines along with the gastronomic delight of seafood eggs benedict with fresh lobster.  Heavenly pairing!

Chris Plumstead (Central Dist.) & Raphaelle Martin-Watson (JF Mérieau)

Jean-François Mérieau wines come to us through the supplier MS Walker and Central Distributors. Try Rosemont Markets and Whole Foods to find these (checking for restaurant availability.  Check back!) 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Suavia Soave Classico D.O.C

Soave Classico D.O.C. 2009
Veneto, Italia

95% Garganega, 5% Trebbiano.

Lovely straw yellow/pale gold in color.  Lightly floral, citrus and pear notes on the nose follow through on the palate and finish impeccably clean.  Elegant, with luscious weight and restraint all at once.  Underlying subtle minerality adds complexity.  Beautifully integrated.  Dry with long finish.  Flinty, with light citrus, this could stand up to a baked whole fish or pasta & seafood with light cream sauce, as well as being an ideal aperitif with hors d’oeuvres.  This ROCKS! 

Soave is one of Italy’s most famous white wines.  The Tessari family runs the Suavia winery, located in the Veneto region in northeast Italy between Lake Garda and the Adriatic.  Since its founding in 1982, Suavia has become synonymous with Soave and one of the appellation’s benchmark wineries.  Great care is taken from the very beginning with the vineyard, with the Soave Classico terroir and very old, select rootstock.  The richness and complexity of Suavia’s volcanic soil endow the wines with characteristic minerality and flinty notes.  Sunny days and cold nights help create layered aromas and nuances.

$14.99 at Old Port Wine Merchants on Commercial St.  Or inquire at your local store to order through Pine State Beverage Co. (from VIAS Imports) in Maine.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Domaine de Chateaumar Cuvee' Bastien

Domaine de Chateaumar
Cuvee’ Bastien 2009
Cotes-du-Rhone, France

100% single vineyard old vine Grenache.

Lush, deep crimson in color with brighter cranberry highlights, this wine is brimming with exotic dark fruit flavors and lots of spice.  One is immediately treated to a spicy mélange on the nose and silkiness on the tongue, like melted dark chocolate and serious plum and blackberry flavors.  Wow.  Inviting, silky smooth texture persists, along with notes of prune, fig, black pepper and red cherries.   Firm, ripe tannins make for a medium to full bodied red.  Seriously fun and delicious all at once!

This is a true declassified Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  For definition’s sake, appellation contrôlée rules for wine in France maintain that only a certain volume of wine can be produced each year with a specific label.  Any excess production must be sold under a broader appellation (region/area) or as “declassified wine”, therefore at a lower price.  The quiet understanding of “declassified” is that we are drinking wine that has been made with the same care and expertise from the same area, as in this case the big shot Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Bottom line ... with juice such as this you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck!  $14.99 at Rosemont Market/Munjoy (contact Doug at: for availability elsewhere!)

The vines at Domaine de Chateaumar are tended by father and son team, Jean-Felix and Frederic Souret, who manage this sustainably farmed estate with the greatest respect for nature.  No chemical herbicides are used!  Fully matured grapes are handpicked, selected and sorted.  Wines are stored with care and aged for 12 – 18 months prior to actual bottling. 

At left, enjoyed with roasted chicken, herbs & garlic, quinoa and arugula & mixed greens salad with feta.  I may love it even more with a beef stew and rustic vegetables or steak on the grilled and roasted rosemary potatoes.  Or if you’re feeling more exotic and adventurous ... roast duck!

This wine comes to us through the importer Bourgeois Family Selections (located in Asheville, North Carolina) and distributor SoPo Wine Co. (South Portland, ME).  Bourgeois Family Selections is a highly specialized importer focusing on hand selected and unique fine wines from France.
SoPo Wine Co. is a distributor of fine and unique wines they love, inside and outside the US.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ladera Sagrada A Portela Mencía

Ladera Sagrada
A Portela Mencía 2010
Valdeorras, Spain

100% Mencía (pronounced Men-THEE-ah).

This wine is startlingly deep garnet black in color.   
Upon first whiff are scents of musky earth, followed by hints of graphite.  Rich cherry & currant flavors, along with a distinctive presence of balsamic fill the mouth.   
Smooth & spicy, with hints of pepper and lively, earthy fruits of cranberry and huckleberry, like a dance flamenco!  Herbacious bay leaf and coffee liqueur become apparent in time, adding subtle layers.  These notes may not be noticeable all at once.  Give this some time!  For myself, I would love to be sipping a glass of this at a little table in a Spanish Mesón with tapas and live flamenco players, singers, dancers ... Ola!

For tapas ... charcuterie, mussels w/tomatoes, garlic & herbs, sautéed mushrooms on toasts or semi-hard, nutty, earthy cheese like manchego.  For entree's, great with holiday ham or pork loin!

This unique wine is produced from the rare Mencía grape, estate owned and organically grown by the Ladera Sagrada vineyard in the appellation of Valdeorras in Galicia (northwest Spain).  Founded in 1920, the vineyard is now owned and managed by winemaker Jose’ L. Sotos.  The bodega makes wine using only the best 20% of its grapes (the rest sold to neighboring producers).  Vines are grown in granite and slate soil and 100% unoaked.  The estate also grows a white varietal called Godello.  More on that one in another article, as I love that one too!  During Roman times Valdeorras was known for its gold, hence its name, the Valley of Gold.  High elevations of this small part of Galicia produce Mencía grapes different from other Galician wine regions.  The flavors tend to be bright with great aromatic expression, also due to the cool temperatures of the Atlantic-influenced climate and longer ripening period.

Bottom line – exceptional value!  Comes to us through Ole’ Imports and National Distributors here in Maine.  In Greater Portland find it at Old Port Wine Merchants on Commercial St. for an amazing $13.99.  I had also picked it when writing the wine list for Cantina el Rayo on York St.  Last I knew it was there as well.  You can always ask your local wine purveyor/retail store if they could order it for you!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


I had occasion to attend a little gathering at Conundrum Wine Bistro in Freeport recently and was pleasantly surprised to learn that they offer 40 wines by the glass.  Wow!  (Okay bear with me as many of you may already have known this!) Vinny, the owner/proprietor is passionate about his wines and because he wants people to experience them, offers them at half the cost by the glass than most restaurants.  What a treat!  

Some highlights: 

La Miranda de Secastilla Garnacha Blanca from the region of Somontano in Spain (northeast of Madrid).   

Garnacha Blanca (white garnacha) is the grape varietal from 100 year old vines.  With great body and fruit such as lychee & citrus notes, it had a distinct “schisty” quality and lively minerality along with just enough subtle oak to give it the weight.  Here is a delicious white and great for summer!   Super food friendly and quaffable.  $6/glass. (SoPo Wine Co.)

Wieninger Gemischter Satz Gewurtztraminer Blend from Austria.   

Quite a mouthful (both in name and flavors!)   This white wine comes from Fritz Wieninger and his winemaking estate in Austria.  This blend apparently has 13 grape varietals, including Gewurtztraminer.  A complex white but beautifully integrated, with light petrol, minerality and even a hint of forest floor on the nose.  I know that sounds strange, but the layers really work!  Subtle floral notes with white pepper along with pear and orange peel add nuance.  This has slight effervescence on the tongue and finishes clean.  Exquisite!  $8/glass.  (National Distributors)

Tikal Patriota Bonarda Malbec from Ernesto Catena Vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina.   

First of all, this red blend had a great package that no one could deny!  60% Malbec.  40% Bonarda.  With mixed, ripe, juicy berries such as blackberry, raspberry, cherry and briar on the nose and palate, this was a fun mouthful.  Notes of cocoa and charred earth express the arid terroir of Mendoza.  Plush & savory, yet really approachable, this is a real crowd pleaser!  $8/glass. (Central Distributors)

Bodega Atteca Old Vines Garnacha from Calatayud, Spain.   

This one has been around for awhile, but I must say this vintage (2009) is drinking beautifully and showing great!  With intense aromas of deep, dark cherry, raspberry and lots of earth, this red has spicy notes of cocoa and lush hints of vanilla on the palate along with a silky mouth feel.  Love!  Great with charcuterie.  $8/glass.  (Pine State Beverage Co.)

These were just a few ... head over to CONUNDRUM, 117 US Rt 1, Freeport, near the Big Indiana and try some for yourself.    
Tell Vinny I said Hi!
Vinny with Chris Plumstead of Central Distributors