Wine Reviews Tasting Notes and Education for the Non-Snob, by Vino Joe, a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW)

American Wines for July Fourth: Macari Merlot, Macari Rose

What’s an ideal wine for the Fourth of July? Depends on your perspective, but my suggestion is a wine that is a chillable, crowd-pleasing quaffer that pairs with picnic plates, barbecue, and finger foods. If it’s a red, make sure it’s light on the tannins. Whites — or better yet, rose wines — should have a soft mouthfeel, with enough acidity to stand up to outdoor party dishes but not so tart that they taste sour when drunk alone. Then there is the Independence Day theme: the wine doesn’t necessarily have to be from the USA, but it would be a nice touch. At the very least, it should embody the spirit of American independence — perhaps represent rebellion.

With those factors in mind, my specific suggestions come from Macari Vineyards in Long Island, New York. American, obviously, so check that off. Independent? Check — the winery and vineyards are owned and operated by the Macari family. Rebellious? Not necessarily, but certainly, the Macaris fit the mold of what we like to think of Americans: bold, brave, pioneering, responsible, and always striving to improve. Only an American would try to grow French grapes on a potato field in Long Island — and succeed. Oh, and by the way this was accomplished naturally and organically, without pesticides or chemicals, using biodynamic methods and sustainable farming techniques.

Macari Rose 2010 | North Fork, Long Island, New York, USA

Mostly Merlot with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec blended in. The nose, to me, is expressing red wine, and similar to what I normally associate with Beaujolais — cherry, ripe overripe banana, hint of orange marmalade — but it also has some bright citrus. In the mouth the citrus fruit is most apparent; it’s a juicy, tasty flavor that resembles a mix of lemon, lime, blood orange, and a bit of ripe red cherry. Good chalky acidity holds the fruit together and makes it ideal for food matching. The finish has a nice mixture of red berry and citrus peel. I matched this perfectly with a curried chicken salad recipe found online, and it was also delicious on its own. I reckon it is equally good if paired with meaty fish, other chicken dishes, and pork, as well as just about anything coming off the grill. Hmm … the grill … it’s from New York, it’s friendly for food pairing, and guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser … I’m gonna go on a limb and say this is PERFECT for a July 4th barbecue!

But what if you’re a “tough guy” who doesn’t want his friends seeing him drinking pink wine at the picnic? Luckily, Macari also makes a Merlot that you can bring to the party.

Macari Merlot Estate 2008 | North Fork, Long Island, New York, USA

Bright, ripe strawberry, raspberry, and cherry aromas jump out of the glass at first sniff, with some hints of earth and mineral. The palate is wide open and full of sweet strawberry and cherry upfront, followed by a dry cranberry and pleasantly sour black cherry flavor in the finish. Tannins are there but understated and mild; acidity is also fairly mild but enough for food matching. This reminds me more of Pinot Noir than Merlot, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, particularly if you don’t like the bell pepper aromas and flavors typical of Merlot (that element does not exist in this wine).

This is a 2008 vintage, and it may be peaking right now. It’s delicious on its own, but I found it more enjoyable with simply roasted turkey. Try it also with other poultry (grilled chicken drumsticks!) and full-flavored fish such as salmon. This wine is really well done and is a great ambassador to the red wines of Long Island.

Use Wine-Searcher to find Macari Rose and Macari Merlot at a retailer on your way to the barbecue.

You can also learn more about these wines and the winery by visiting the Macari Vineyards website.

Disclosure: I received these wines as press samples from the winery.

Tamas Rosato

Tamas Estates Rosato Riserva 2010 | Livermore Valley, California, USA

Let me premise this by stating that I don’t like the idea of using the words “Prima Classe” “Rosato” and “Riserva” on a wine produced in the United States. I understand it is Tamas trying to be cute by emulating the terms that might be found on a bottle of Italian wine. However, that marketing ploy only further confuses an already confused wine-drinking public. To be clear: this wine is from the Livermore Valley of California.

That complaint aside, this pink wine delivers juicy strawberry and white cherry flavors on the nose and palate, mouthwatering acidity, and is overall a pleasant, refreshing, and enjoyable quaffer that fits most any budget. It’s nice alone, but better with food. I matched it successfully with roast chicken, BBQ ribs, mild cheese, crawfish cakes, and shrimp/scallop cakes. At under ten bucks, this is a good value. Pick up a bottle while the weather is hot and the wine is still fresh — it’s not something to lay down.

Learn more about the winery at the Tamas Estates website (though, I couldn’t find any info on this particular wine there).

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Rose Wine Review: Artazuri

artazuri_rose.jpgIt’s not too late to drink rose wine — in fact many of this year’s releases are still fresh and vibrant. Which is a good thing, since pink wines tend to be enjoyable on their own and match with a wide variety of foods.

This particular rose comes from an importer I respect highly — I have yet to be disappointed with the price/quality ratio of an “Eric Solomon Selection”. Finding his name on the back label of a wine I’ve never seen before is often the deciding factor in whether I’ll purchase the bottle.

But in fact I’ve already enjoyed roses from Artazuri in the past, so seeing this was a no-brainer. It’s made in Navarra, Spain, from the Garnacha grape — a.k.a., Grenache. If you’ve never been to Navarra, you might want to consider taking a trip one July for the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, where you can see “encierro” (the running of the bulls). Don’t look for me, though, I’ll be watching it on youTube from the safety of my home.

But I digress … how about we discuss the wine, which (how timely?) would be a nice match for a spread of bagels and lox, among other things.

Tasting Notes: Artazuri Rose 2007

Ample fresh strawberry on the nose, with hints of red raspberry, cherry, and vanilla. Smooth, almost creamy texture on the palate, with fresh, clean watermelon, red cherry, and strawberry flavors, accented by a touch of zesty citrus and a hint of vanilla. Acidity is on the low side, but there’s just enough to help the wine pair with mildly flavored appetizers or hot and spicy dishes. Drink it alone (chilled) as an aperitif, with spicy sausage sandwiches, barbecued chicken, spicy Indian cuisine, salads, cold cuts / antipasti, smoked salmon. Don’t over-chill it or you’ll miss a lot of the flavor.

a-8 t-8 b-8 fc-8 v-8 ~ 90 Points

US Importer: European Cellars – Eric Solomon Selection

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Rose Wine Review: Belleruche

M. Chapoutier Cotes-du-Rhone “Belleruche” Rose 2007

M. Chapoutier Belleruche Rose wine bottleAutumn is almost upon us in the US, but it’s still warm enough to enjoy pink wines. This one comes from the Cotes-du-Rhone in France, an area that’s better known for red wines that some describe as “bistro wines” for their ability to match with a variety of dishes found on traditional bistro menus.

Similarly, this rose is made from the same grapes as its red wine cousin — Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault — and shares its versatility.

Tasting Notes: Chapoutier Cotes-du-Rhone “Belleruche” Rose 2007

Nose is mildly aromatic, expressing citrus, strawberry, and a hint of cherry. Very clean on the palate, with mild strawberry and citrus flavors. Acidity is somewhere between mild and medium. The finish is pleasant and balanced. This is an enjoyable, refreshing wine on its own, with enough structure to match with food. I matched it successfully with spicy turkey sausage with sauteed peppers and onions; it should be equally good with other lean and spicy dishes, as well as chicken and pork, and vegetarian cuisine. At about ten bucks (under ten in some places), this is a great value.

a-7 t-7 b-8 fc-9 v-9 ~ 90 Points

Imported by Terlato Wines International

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Rose Wine Review: Toad Hollow

Toad Hollow Dry Rose 2007

Toad Hollow pink Rose wine pinot noir carnerosSummertime is the best time for rose wine, in my humble opinion. However, it can be difficult to find a good dry rose unless you do some research. Although many US wine drinkers have become more sophisticated, and now eschew the sugary white zins that proliferated the market for so many years, the shelves are still strewn with sweet pinks — and sit alongside their bone-dry cousins.

So it’s with some hesitation that I pick up a pink — particularly one I’ve never had before. I’ll try to look for clues as to a wine’s dryness / sweetness, but since so few labels list their residual sugar content, I’m stuck with relying on instinct (guessing actually) and the fluffy, flowery sentences that may be printed on the back of the bottle.

All that said, I can say I was pleasantly surprised by Toad Hollow Rose — a nice, clean, dry rose, and one that I’ll buy again. This pink is made from 100% Carneros-grown Pinot Noir, is refreshing on a warm summer day, and finishes bone dry.

Tasting Notes: Toad Hollow “Eye of the Toad” Rose 2007

Nose is expressive, with bright strawberry and red raspberry aromas. On the palate it is clean with a citrusy zing, with flavors of strawberry, lime, red raspberry. Acidity is about medium and OK for food matching, but mild enough for drinking as an aperitif. Have it with mildly flavored foods, nothing too fatty. Simple appetizers, lean fish, lean pork, simply prepared chicken, maybe spicy hot dishes such as Indian cuisine or Thai. A pleasant, clean, enjoyable summer sipper.

a-8 t-8 b-7 fc-7 v-8 ~ 88 Points

Winery website: Toad Hollow

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Rose Wine Review: Tall Horse Pinotage

Tall Horse Pinotage Rose 2007

Tall Horse Pinotage Rose wine bottleYou’d think this site became a pink wine blog …

Yes, it’s yet another rose wine review. Sorry, but there are so many gosh-darn good pink wines this year.

The latest I’ve tasted is by Tall Horse, made from 100% Pinotage — an unlikely candidate for rose wine. Pinotage is from South Africa, and traditionally a big, bold red wine with black berry and earth character, and a touch of an unusual aroma that can only be described as “band-aid”. When I heard that a) there was a rose from South Africa and b) it was made from Pinotage, I had to get my hands on a bottle for no other reason than to satisfy my curiosity and bewilderment. After all, it’s difficult to find ANY South African wines in a typical US wine shop, and damn near impossible to find a rose from SA — and even then it most likely would be made from Cabernet.

Suspicious of any pink wine made from Pinotage, especially one adorned with a label of a cartoon-like giraffe, I’ll admit my initial prognosis was, “there’s no way this is going to be good.”

As is often the case with low expectations, however, I was pleasantly surprised — this rose is a fruit-filled quaffer with plenty of complexity and enough structure to stand up to food.

The tasting notes:
Mild aromas of red berry, red licorice, cranberry (none of the typical “band-aid” aroma associated with Pinotage, by the way). Fruit is more pronounced on the palate, offering juicy watermelon candy, raspberry candy, pomegranate, pear, peach, and a touch of mineral. Acidity is mild to medium – not too high for drinking alone, but tart enough to match with fairly simple foods. It finishes quickly, but with a nice red licorice and red cherry flavor, as well as a bit of citrus. Easy drinking, with enough perceived sweetness to sway white zinners toward finer wine. Don’t drink this too cold, or you’ll miss a lot of the fun and complexity. Enjoy it as an aperitif, with simple appetizers, or with barbecued chicken. May also be good with sweet and spicy dishes, such as you might find on a Chinese take-out menu. At around 8 bucks, this is a great value.

a-7 t-8 b-8 fc-7 v- 9 ~ 89 Points

Tall Horse Wines website

Rose Wine Review: Pink Criquet

Pink Criquet Bordeaux Rose 2006

Pink Criquet rose wine bottleWhat does a cricket have to do with wine? Not much really … this wine is so-called because the winemaker Pierre Seillan’s rugby mates nicknamed him “Criquet” for his small size and lightning reflexes. Seillan — the same genius behind Verite, Chateau Lassegue, and Tenuta di Arceno (among others) — makes this rose wine with 60% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Bordeaux, using a process called “saignee” — whereby free-run juice gently kissed with the color of red grapes during maceration is added to enhance the wine’s color and flavor complexity.

Don’t let the shiny hot pink screwtop fool you – this is a serious wine. It can be summed up in two words: fresh and bright. Very bright, deep pink, magenta color. The nose is equally bright and open, displaying fun and pleasing aromas of strawberry, raspberry, and a hint of citrus. Flavors are bright, ripe, and mild, with strawberry, cranberry, red raspberry, white cherry, a touch of pink grapefruit and a steely mineral note. Acidity is mild to medium, and there are sufficiently perceptible tannins. Finishes clean as a whistle, with all elements perfectly balanced. This is pleasing enough on its own to be an aperitif, but really comes alive when paired with foods. You can enjoy it with flavorful fish, non-red-sauce pasta dishes and salads, bean salads, poultry, Asian and Indian cuisine, and hot and spicy dishes. A very versatile wine, and enjoyable at all degrees between room temperature and over-chilled. When toward the warmer side, it looks, smells, and tastes more like a Beaujolais Cru than a run-of-the-mill rose. At around fifteen bucks, this is appropriately priced.

a-7 t-7 b-10 fc-10 v-7 ~ 91 Points

Importer: Sovereign Wine Imports

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Rose Wine Review: Chateau Laulerie

Chateau Laulerie Bergerac Rose 2006

Chateau Laulerie Bergerac Rose WineWhere did the summer go? It seems like it just arrived, and now it’s on the way out. Maybe I wouldn’t have realized it had I not seen banners and ads all over the place for Halloween … sheesh! However, the weather is still warm in most parts of the USA, and you can continue to enjoy the pink / rose wines that were released over the last few months. Thank goodness, too, because I have at least a half-dozen reviews of good roses that you can still find and will be fresh enough to enjoy for about another month or so.

One excellent value — you can find it under ten bucks — is Chateau Laulerie Rose from Bergerac in southwestern France. It’s made from grapes grown just to the east of Bordeaux, along the Dordonne river — 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot and 15% Malbec. This wine offers a typical rose nose: mild ripe aromas of red raspberry, strawberry, and a touch of red licorice. In the mouth, you get ethereal flavors upfront carried on an almost creamy texture that become more intense as the wine sits on your palate and moves toward the finish. Good ripe strawberry, red raspberry, a touch of red cherry and a hint of mineral. Acidity is mild to medium, tannins are mild — both are at appropriate levels for the fruit. The finish is longer than expected and pleasant, first offering raspberry and cherry, eventually ending with watermelon and some tart acidity. A great wine for food — ideal for a barbecue. It goes with grilled sausage and peppers, shish kebab, salads (bean, pasta, leaf), chicken dishes, all kinds of appetizers, anything with sautéed onions, quiche, vegetarian dishes. There’s the slightest bit of perceived sweetness that will offer a refreshing foil to hot and spicy cuisine as well. Don’t drink this too cold or you will miss all the juicy ripe fruit — drink it slightly colder than a red, slightly warmer than a white. Easy drinking … almost too easy, even on its own.

Importer: Michael Skurnik Wines

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a-7 t-7 b-9 fc-10 v-10 ~ 93 Points

Rose Wine Review: Chateau Calissanne

Chateau Calissanne Rose Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence 2006

Chateau Calissanne Rose wine bottleIt’s the season of pink wines, and here is an ideal introduction to the world of fine rose.

This example comes from the southern region of France, in the storybook area of Provence. Surely you’d recognize the bright, rich colors associated with the area, or know by smell the herbs d’Provence (such as lavender), or heard stories of the rich and famous on their jaunts in Provence and to nearby Nice and Monaco. Well now you can add pink wine to your “book” on the region, as it is one of the most prolific producers of rose.

Chateau Calissanne consistently produces a clean, flavorful rose, and their 2006 bottling is in line with what many have come to expect from the winery. The wine shows a bright, dark pink color, with magenta highlights, and the nose offers ripe strawberry, watermelon candy, and raspberry. It’s very smooth on the palate — smooth as glass — with flavors of ripe red raspberry, white cherry, fresh pomegranate, some juicy jolly rancher watermelon candy. The acidity is medium, in good balance with the fruit and appropriately high for food matching. Tannins are mild. It’s just a touch hot on the finish, but not overbearing, and also has strawberry flavor before disappearing from the palate. A good match for leaner meats, such as chicken, fish, pork, or with vegetarian dishes (I enjoyed it with chicken, avocado, bacon, and tomato on 12-grain bread), and a good barbecue wine, as it will match nicely with grilled veggies, shish kebabs, bbq spare ribs, grilled chicken . Heck, it’s even a fine match for many Asian-inspired preparations (i.e., teriyaki, mild curries).

Get it while it’s fresh and expressing peak fruitiness — at about twelve bucks it is a good value and a no-brainer for food matching.

a-7 t-7 b-8 fc-10 v-8 ~ 90 Points

Importer: Petit Pois Corp. T/A Sussex Wine Merchants, Moorestown, NJ

Chateau Calissanne website

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Rose Wine Review: Mas de Gourgonnier

Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux de Provence Rose wine bottleCould there be a better time of year?

The weather is perfect, school is nearly out, baseball season’s in full swing, and the rose wines have arrived.

If you’ve never been “tickled pink” by the youthful selections available in your local wine shop during the late spring, this year is as good a time as any to start trying rose-colored wines through crystal-clear glasses. An ideal bottle to begin with is this Provencal example: Mas de Gourgonnier Rose Les Baux de Provence 2006 — a consistently tasty pink wine and one of my annual favorites.

Made from about 60% Grenache and completed with a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, the color is a bright, dark pink, almost cherry. Though the nose will eventually open up, right now, it is somewhat subdued, offering just a hint of strawberry and pear, belying the vibrant, bright fruit you get in the mouth. Flavors of fresh strawberry, pear, sweet pink grapefruit, cranberry, watermelon, pomegranate, a touch of citrus, and red currant dance on the palate, carried by a good edge of racy acidity and juicy, mild tannins. The finish is very pleasant and fairly well balanced, eventually leaving lingering tastes of sour red cherry, red currants, pomegranate, and a hint of strawberry. A perfect match for food, enjoy it with spicy foods, Indian cuisine, salads, fish, chicken, pork, bbq ribs or bbq chicken — just about anything. As with most quality rose wines, don’t drink this too cold, or you’ll miss all the fun. At about twelve bucks, this is a good value.

a-7 t-7 b-10 fc-10 v-8 ~ 92 points

Importer: Michael Skurnik Wines

Mas de Gourgonnier shelf talker available through DownloadPOS

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