Cakebread – a great Napa winery

Wine makers and winery owners are usually engaging and interesting people and I have been fortunate enough to meet quite a few in my career. However one of the most agreeable and charming I have ever met is Bruce Cakebread, President and C.O.O. of Cakebread Cellars – the winery that bears his family name.

I was thrilled to meet him in Napa last year, I have always loved Cakebread wines, so a it was great to put a personality and a face to the wine. Bruce not only runs the family winery, but is also president of the board of directors for the Napa Valley Vintners.

Bruce Cakebread

I have been lucky enough to bump into him a couple of times since then and his wines always impress me with their finesse and elegance, so I thought it was about time that I told you a little about them. Continue reading

Chardonnay & Pinot Noir – contrasting terroirs

The Côte de Beaune at Pernand-Vergelesses

The other day I was invited to present the Burgundy half of a masterclass tasting to contrast Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines from two very different regions.

In order to have a control and a focus we were using wines from a single producer in each country; Chile’s Viña Ventisquero and Louis Jadot from Burgundy.

My job was to give an introduction to Louis Jadot and to explain the terroir and conditions of Burgundy before leading the tasting. Ventisquero’s winemaker, Alejandro Galaz provided the same function for their wines.

The event took place at Vinopolis and Tom Forrest, their chief wine educator, prepared some food that we tried with the wines. Continue reading

Very Special Offers

I love getting a good deal, I am always very pleased when I can get either a bargain or something that is great value for money.

Deals, discounts and special offers are not quite the same thing. The supermarkets are currently loaded with special offers on wine. This should be a good thing, but I am not so sure.

A great many of the offers around at the moment strike me as being entirely cynical and bogus – here are a few that I noticed the other day in a leading supermarket: Continue reading

Louis Jadot – a tasting of their 2008 vintage

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Recently I attended a wonderful tasting of fine Louis Jadot Burgundy wines from the 2008 vintage. They were young and need to develop a little, although some were drinking surprisingly well already – but it is so unusual to try such a wide range of famous wines from a single producer and  a single year that I think it is well worth telling you about the experience.

Like the preceding 2007 vintage, 2008 was a difficult year with a wet spring and quite a cold, wet summer making ripeness pretty tricky to achieve. In the end it came down to care in the vineyard and very rigorous selection of the grapes used.

Jacques Lardière

Continue reading

Domaine Carneros – haven of calm and elegance

Whilst in the Napa Valley I was fortunate enough to be invited to visit Domaine Carneros. This is a dramatic and beautiful winery surrounded by vines and perched on a hill overlooking the rolling Carneros countryside.

It was created in 1987 as a partnership between US wine company Kobrand and Champagne Taittinger. Indeed Claude Taittinger had been looking for a suitable site for a Californian sparkling wine vineyard since the 1970s. Continue reading

Irancy – the rural side of Burgundy

My visit to Domaine Saint Germain in Irancy, Burgundy

CIMG0984As discussed before in these pages, I am often attracted to more unusual wines, the less familiar, the less famous. I suppose that I always live in hope that these will prove to be undiscovered gems whose time has come – and sometimes that is the case.

Last week I was on a very interesting tour of Burgundy as a guest of the ever generous Burgundy Wine Board (BIVB). We saw many lovely places and tried some great wines, more of which later, but I was excited about a visit to the far North of the region, the Grand Auxerrois. These are vineyards around the town of Auxerre, just 20 km from Chablis, home to the areas’ most famous wine. Continue reading

Excellent white from the Loire

Whilst browsing in Majestic for some wines for a tasting, I spotted this wine from the Loire Valley A.C. of Cheverny and could not resist trying it as unusually for the region most of the white wines from here are blends:

Cheverny map

05345_pDomaine du Salvard Cheverny Le Vieux Clos 2007

A.C. Cheverny, Loire Valley, France

The aromas are fresh, grassy, appley and appealing with hints of flintiness and smoke together with green apples and the merest suggestion of creamy yoghurt.

This is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (85%), giving freshness, and Chardonnay (15%) which seems to add a roundness and soft texture to the wine rather than an obvious flavour. This makes for an attractively crisp wine that has good acidity that is softened and balanced by the mouth-feel.

The flavours are of sugarsnap peas, grass, citrus, herbs and blackcurrant with little touches of honey and cream. The finish is clean, crisp and very long, I wish I had some goats cheese to try it with.

All in all this is a very well balanced wine that is most enjoyable and leaves you knowing that you have enjoyed something classy and elegant – 88 points.

£7.99 (£7.49 if you buy 2 bottles) a bottle from Majestic Wine Warehouse

I have tried precious few Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay blends over the years, but on thinking about it I always seem to find that it works,  be it an everyday version – I have happy memories of the one made by Errazuriz in Chile and one from South Africa whose name I can no longer remember – or something more classic like this excellent example.

Exciting Chile

I attended a Wines of Chile tasting the other day and my impressions from the Concours Mondial wine Competition were confirmed – yet again. I really do believe that Chile is currently a shining star that delivers great quality and value for money wines.

There were many lovely wines at the tasting, some that were nice, simple everyday drinking, but some that were really terrific wines that offered depth, sophistication and elegance.

Here are three of the stand out wines from the tasting, all of which are also new and exciting wines to the UK: Continue reading