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ROSÉ WINES

We are mildly amused by the reaction of most people to the thought of drinking a rosé or pink wine.  "Oh, no!  We don't want anything sweet!

Or: "We want real wine."

Years ago, in the late-1960s and early 1970s, the fashionable wines were Blue Nun Liebfraumilch, Mouton-Cadet from Bordeaux, a straw-covered bulb-shaped bottle from Tuscany and a pair of Portuguese pink wines.  Mateus came in a flagon, while Lancer's was put into a "crock" bottle.  From France came "Nectar-Rose," a Cabernet rosé from the Loire Valley.  Almaden, then a large winery in San Jose and Hollister, used to make a delightful Grenache Rosé.  Paul Masson made a fizzy rosé called "Crackling Rosé."  Naturally, these wines were sweet, relying on sugar for their character. 

In Mediterranean regions where people have been drinking wines for more than a few years, rosé wines are not uncommon.  In fact, they're embraced with tremendous enthusiasm! 

In Spain, for example, we found many restaurants with a dozen or two rosé wines, but a couple of whites and then the obligatory 30-50 red wines.  And the wines there are not sugary, sweet insipid excuses for wine.  They can be flavorful and stone, bone dry. 


France produces many wonderful rosé wines.  

The Rhone Valley's "Tavel" is famous and usually expensive.  The Tavel appellation is seen only on the pink wine; you won't find a white or red version of Tavel.  Grenache is "the" grape of this famed rosé.  

 

 

 

 


Provence also produces a wide array of pink wines, especially famous being those from Bandol.   In Provence, by the way, the wines with a more light orange/onion skin/pale salmon color are highly prized.  They don't care much for deep cherry red colored pink wines.  


Bordeaux even offers rosé, yet where are you likely to find that?  These wines, you see, never attain high numerical scores in the various journals because these are simply not fancy enough for wine geeks. 
 


California has been producing rosé wines for decades.  They were typically made when red grapes didn't achieve a sufficient degree of ripeness to make a big red wine.   Then, when growers planted tons of red grapes in the early 1970s, the market wanted fruity wines and wineries obliged making "white wines" (well, they were not red...some were pink or had the color of onion skins) from red grapes.  Some were not saleable as "rosé," but sold as Blanc de Noir, snobby wine drinkers would buy. 

In the early 1970s, almost every winery seemed to have a rosé!  Caymus called its rosé "Oeil de Perdrix" (Eye of the Partridge) and the wine was made of Pinot Noir.  



Robert Mondavi made a Gamay Rosé from Napa Valley fruit.  

Mirassou used to make a dynamite "Petite Sirah Rosé." 

Sebastiani had "Eye of the Swan." 

 



Mill Creek, in Sonoma's Healdsburg, made a Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé
, as did Simi nearby.  The Kreck family (as in Mill Kreck) copyrighted the term "Blush" for its "Cabernet Blush."  Other wineries, finding this term to have marketing power, could call their pink wines "Blush" wines only if they paid a royalty fee to the Krecks!

David Bruce was one of the first to make a "Blanc de Noirs," produced from Zinfandel, if memory serves.  This was a brownish, onion-skin-colored wine.  

Bob Magnani at Grand Cru Vineyards in the Sonoma Valley made a "Nouveau"-styled wine, as well as a Blanc de Noirs.  Sutter Home, at that time a producer of "serious," big Zinfandels from Amador County fruit, made a "Blanc de Noirs."  This was a "White Zinfandel" and theirs was a bit sweet.   This turned into a massively popular wine and made the Trinchero family wealthy in no time!  They had struck gold!  


I was affiliated with a small winery in those ancient days.  This place made really good, bone dry rosé wines of Grignolino, Petite Sirah, Cabernet, etc.  I took these to a snobby, snooty San Francisco wine shop.  The owner or manager laughed when I presented these wines, not even wanting to taste them!   I was disheartened, but amused at the same time.  For, you see, right next to the sales counter was a stack of rosé wine!  But it was sold as a Blanc de Noirs table (still) wine.  It was from Domaine Chandon and called "Tâche Nature." 
So....a rosé by any other name..................

Today there is still a large sea of White Zinfandel.  Most of this is made from over-cropped vineyards in California's massive Central Valley.  The grapes have very little character, yet when made as a somewhat sweet wine, they manage to find a market for this.

Making a flavorful, good quality pink wine, call it rosé, blush, vin gris or anything else you like, is a tricky piece of work.

To achieve the right color, most winemakers macerate the grape skins, which offer color, tannin, flavor and fragrance, for some modest amount of time.  Too short a period and the wine lacks color and flavor.  Too long a maceration period and the wine becomes too dark and perhaps even a bit astringent (from the tannin). 

Large, behemoth factories would make rosé wine by merely "coloring" a tank of white wine with some very dark red.   If you add a few gallons of inky, dark Alicante Bouschet to a tank of Colombard or Thompson Seedless white  wine:   Voilà!  Rosé (or the terrible term :  "Blush Chablis").   Ferment the wine until it is bone dry.  Then add grape concentrate or unfermented or partially-fermented juice to achieve the exact amount of sweetness desired.

Today many California winemakers 'bleed' off liquid from their fermentation tanks full of juice and grape skins.  This allows them to have a greater skin-to-juice ratio and make, perhaps, a bigger red wine.  In doing so, they end up making small amounts of pink wine.
Since these grapes cost a fortune, many vintners feel obliged to charge a high price.

Keep in mind, though, producers whose first interest is "rosé" wine are making theirs from fruit picked at a modest sugar level.  This is rather different from these California winemakers who are picking grapes at a potential alcohol level of 15% or more.  Rosé wines with elevated alcohols simply miss the mark...


Okay.  That's the scoop on rosé and pink wine.


SOME ROSÉS WE LIKE:

 

UMATHUM 2013 "ROSA"  $18.99
One of the top, elite winemakers of Austria is a guy named Josef Umathum.  His beautiful cellar is located in the Burgenland and you'll need an hour and a half, typically to drive there from Vienna.

We were so delighted by his 2012 Rose, that I trekked to the cellar last year to pay homage to this fellow and to taste his other wines!

If you would have told us that the 2012 Rose from an Austrian vintner would be our best-selling pink wine last year, I'd have suggested you have your head examined.
Seriously?  Are you nuts?
Or as young folks say today, "WTF?"

But, I kid you not...this wine was so well received, we were shocked.  People who had never bought Rose wines were returning to buy 6 or 12 bottles of this!

The 2013 is already on track to match last year's wine.  It's a blend of three varieties which are relatively unknown in these parts:  Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch and Saint Laurent.  This has some nice red fruit notes to it...raspberries...cherries...it's dry and even has a suggestion of tannin, adding to its 'dry' character.  The color is  light red and certainly youthful.  

Umathum does not use a screw-cap for this wine, nor does he use a cork.  Instead, this comes in a special proprietary bottle and it's sealed with a glass stopper.  All you need is a thumb to open this and based upon consumer reaction, this is worthy of a "thumbs up"!!!


Winemaker Josef "Pepi" Umathum in his new cellar...he makes a lot of red wine, so there's an impressive room full of small oak barrels.
The Rosa wine is not aged in oak, however.


DOMAINE AMIDO 2013 TAVEL ROSÉ $14.99
With some 30 hectares spread out between Tavel and Lirac in the Southern Rhône Valley, Christian Amido has been at the helm of this estate for nearly 25 years!   They built a new facility in 2001.

"Grandpa" Armand Maby was involved in the various family enterprises and he showed us around the Tavel and Lirac appellations the first time we visited a few years ago...sadly, he passed away, but the kids still run the place.


The recipe is a good one, the wine having a subtle spice note and a touch of berry fruit without being a fruit bomb.  Of course, it's dry.  The blend is 85% Grenache, 15% Cinsault--some vintages have had a bit of Syrah and Clairette, but the 2013 is made from but two varieties.  Amido leaves the skins in contact with the juice for a day-and-a-half, enough to extract a bit of color, but not enough to pick up astringency in the wine.

The 2013 is, as usual, a delight.  Dry, fruity, floral and thoroughly enjoyable.

 

 

DOMAINE DE FONTSAINTE 2013 "GRIS DE GRIS"  $14.99
The Fontsainte domaine is one of the leading lights in the Corbieres
appellation,   The estate was established in 1971 by Yves Laboucarié and today his son Bruno runs the domaine.
The family, though, has ties to the area since the 1600s.

Yves was a bit of an innovator and brought the notion of carbonic maceration fermentation to their winemaking.  This, of course, gave a new dimension to the fruit in a time and place when "rustic" wines were the norm.

Carignan vines account for half of the 65 hectares of vineyards, with 30% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre.  The Carignan, by the way, is rather old, the vines averaging 70 years of age.

The 2013 Rose is a recent arrival.  It's predominantly Grenache (both "gris" and "noir") with 10% each of Carignan, Mourvedre and Cinsault.  The juice from these red varieties is "bled" off from their tanks and it is cold fermented for more than a month.

The resulting wine is dry and nicely fruity without the "bubble gum" character of some wines fermented with particularly aromatic yeasts.

Very nice!

 

CHATEAU LA CANORGUE

From the Cotes du Luberon we have this splendid dry Rose from Jean-Pierre Margan's Chateau La Canorgue.

This beautiful property was the filming location for the Russell Crowe movie, A Good Year.  The property is so nice, we understand someone from the Rockefeller family presented Jean-Pierre with a blank check, saying "fill in the amount and leave."  He told them "merci, but non merci!"

Jean-Pierre has long been farming with an eye towards organic viticulture.  In fact, he's farming biodynamically.

The 2013 Rose is a delight...pale in color with sort of an onion skin tone, the wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre...dry and fresh, with some berry and spice notes.

Currently in stock:  2013 CHATEAU LA CANORGUE LUBERON ROSE  $16.99

 

Domaine Saint-André de Figuière "Magali" Rose $17.99

This smallish domaine is run by Alain Combard and his family.  He's born in Provence, but spent many years working in the Chablis winery of Domaine Laroche before coming home


The vineyards and cellar are situated in La Londe-les-Maures which is roughly half way between Marseille and Cannes.  The estate comprises some 70 hectares, or which 45 are devoted to grapes.


The wine, as you can see by the color, is classically Provencal.
It's a 2013 Côtes de Provence Rose with the name of one of Combard's kids, Magali, on the label.  The "kids", by the way, are all adults.  Magali is married and has two kids of her own...she's the public relations specialist for the company.  And what better calling card from Provence than a dynamite dry rose?

It's a blend of Cinsault, Cabernet, Grenache and Syrah.  Beautifully fruity and nicely dry, it's fresh and easy-drinkin'!  

 

 

 

CHATEAU DE CAMPUGET 2013 COSTIERES DE NÎMES  SALE $10.99

This 160 hectare estate is situated between Arles and the town of Nimes and it's owned by the Dalle family.  Jean-Lin Dalle is assisted by his son, Franck-Lin (Jean-Lin's a history buff and has an appreciation for American founding father Benjamin Franklin).  We don't know if they follow basketball and are fans of Jeremy Lin.

We've found their recipe for Rose to be rather good and the wine arrived at an attractive price, too.

The 2013 is 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache Noir.  Lots of berryish fruit and the wine is nice and dry.



 

CHATEAU COUPE ROSES 2013 MINERVOIS ROSE $14.99

Françoise Le Calvez visited the store many years ago when she was traveling with a bunch of students from the CCIV wine marketing school in Beaune, France.  

We've long known of the Minervois she and her enologist husband produce in the Languedoc.

They also make a delightful pink wine and their Rose is called "Frémillant", an Occitan word for something such as "light red wine."  And does this ever qualify!

Syrah gets no more than half a day on the skins before the juice is bled off.  Cinsault and Mourvedre are pressed immediately on their arrival at the winery.  This year's blend is 48% Mourvedre, 25%Syrah and 27% Cinsault according to Françoise.  Some will tell you this has Grenache, but apparently not in the 2013.

It's bright cherry red in color (much like the image of the bottle depicted here) and has a beautifully fruity fragrance and flavor...very nice and dry!

 

 


CASAL GARCIA  VINHO VERDE ROSE  $6.99
This is a remarkably good, dry pink wine from Portugal...it's from a winery a few miles outside of Oporto and they're famous for their Vinho Verde.

If you've been searching for a rose made from
30% Vinhao, 35% Azal Tinto, and 35% Borracal, here's your wine.

It's fresh, strawberryish and close to dry, with a faint spritz to it.

This is a delightful wine, flavorful and low in alcohol.

 





 
Domaines Ott Rosé "Chateau de Selle" 2012  (List $45!)  SALE $39.99

http://mmd.ninjacdn.com/images/BottleShots/BottleShot_1856_1371759024.jpg
The fancy bottle was designed in the 1930s and the Ott family makes one of France's most esteemed rosé wines in Provence.
The family owns three estates: 
Clos Mireille,  producing Côtes de Provence white wine.
Château Romassan, a Bandol property where they make red, white and rosé.

Château de Selle, their original and oldest holding in the Côtes de Provence where they make rosé, red and white. 

We usually have the Château de Selle Rosé (as well as their Clos Mireille white), a pink wine vinified from Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Cinsault.  I think this wine is best served with Provençal-styled cuisine.  Bouillabaisse wouldn't be a bad idea.   Nor would something incorporating saffron.

 

 


CLOS CIBONNE
This little property is located about an hours' drive east of Marseille and about an hour and a half west of Nice.  You'd need about half an hour, driving east, from Bandol.  And like Bandol, it's within view of the little harbor of Toulon, where you'd catch a boat to Corsica.

The domaine takes its name from a sailor who was a captain in Louis The 16th's navy who owned the place in the late 1700s.  Captain Jean-Baptiste de Cibon died in 1797 and the estate was sold to the Roux family.  
Andre Roux, who passed away in 1989, had planted a lot of the Tibouren grape on the property before World War II.  

This variety is rather obscure, but if you drive a couple of hours into Italy, you may find the same grape which is called Rossese di Dolceacqua.  Some theories postulate this grape originated in the Middle East or Greece.  

The Roux family still cultivates Tibouren and it's a specialty of this domaine.  

But this is not a fruity, care-free little wine that's bottled a few months after the harvest...instead they ferment it in stainless steel, temperature controlled tanks for about ten days and then it's racked in ancient cooperage, foudres which are a century old. They typically blend a small amount of Grenache into the final cuvee. The wine then remains in those old wooden vats for about a year before it's bottled. 

It's a mildly minerally Rose, with an orange-hue to its coloring.  The wine pairs nicely with a classic seafood stew, though the winery web site claims it's ideal paired with red mullet or a lamb curry.  

Currently in stock:  2012 CLOS CIBONNE Tibouren Rose  $24.99
 


RIVE SUD  2013 PINOT NOIR ROSE from FRANCE $9.99
 
We've now had several vintages of this delightful, simple Pinot Noir Rose from a fairly large producer in the town of Limoux.

That region is located in the vast Languedoc area and they're a short drive south of the city of Carcassonne.  

Limoux is more noted for a sparkling wine, but this little Rose is a pleasant surprise and it's well-priced at a mere ten bucks.

The wine takes the appellation of Vin de Pays d'Oc...and it's from high elevation Pinot Noir vineyards.  Hand picked, too!

It's a delicious, mildly cherryish Rose...we've especially liked this with ham or smoked pork.


 





DOMAINE De L'HORTUS 2013 (List $15) SALE $12.99 
The Orliac family owns this modest domaine, one of the quality leaders in the Pic St. Loup appellation in the Languedoc.  

The photo on the right shows young François Orliac in their rocky vineyards.
This is the sixth or seventh vintage of their Rosé that we've had in the shop.  

It's 15% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre and 50% Grenache and 5% Cinsault this vintage... You'll find a lot of raspberryish notes in this wine and it's perfect for taming spicy foods.  It's a great picnic wine, too.

 


LE ROC ROSÉ  2013 (FRONTON) $10.99
Château Le Roc is the leading estate in the Fronton region near Toulouse.

The Ribes brothers make some terrific wines, using the Negrette grape (we call it Pinot Saint George here in California).  In addition to the Negrette, there's 35% Syrah and 5% Cabernet.

Their 2013 Rosé is berryish and dry with a touch of spice.  Good value, too.
Remarkably balanced, too...


 


 

HEITZ 2013 Napa Valley GRIGNOLINO ROSÉ  $19.99


A sure sign of Summer is the arrival of Heitz old-fashioned, dry, Napa Valley rosé made of the Italian Grignolino variety.

This is light and dry and it offers a wonderfully floral perfume.

There's nothing like it and most California vintners have no clue as to how to produce a good pink wine.
Most are more skilled at affixing a high price tag to the bottle than they are to vinifying the wine.  

The Heitz family has been making this since the 1960s...

We enjoy this at some of the local dim sum parlors.  We've shared bottles with a number of Piemontese vintners and the wine (and dim sum) have been a delight.

 


Elisa Scavino of the Paolo Scavino winery in Castiglione Falletto.


Izzy Oddero of the Oddero winery in La Morra.




BIRICHINO 2013 VIN GRIS  $13.50

The term "Birichino" is an Italian word referring to someone who's a bit of a rascal or someone who might be described as "impish" or "puckish."

A couple of cool fellows who had been affiliated with the Bonny Doon Vineyard (once upon a time) have their own little wine production now and it's called Birichino.

We've had a dynamite white wine made of Malvasia Bianca and they produce a lovely, elegant Grenache for a red wine.

And they also have a terrific "pink wine," a Vin Gris.

Having been instrumental in producing Bonny Doon's Vin Gris de Cigare, these two rascals have a pretty good idea of how to make this wine.

Grenache is the base and they get fruit from a high elevation, Sierra Foothills site and combine it with some Santa Clara County fruit.  There's Cinsault and Mourvedre along with the white grape called Rolle.  The wine ends up being nicely fragrant and brightly aromatic.  It's light and dry, yet flavorful, showing berryish fruit.

If you're serving salty olives, tapenade on some crostini, flatbread, pizza, charcuterie or salumi, asparagus wrapped with Prosciutto, here's a good accompaniment!


WALDGRIES SANTA MAGDALENER $22.99

Okay...this is NOT a pink wine and it's not a Rose.

But it's one of the most marvelous chillable red wines you could ever hope to taste.

Waldgries is a small winery in Bolzano, the "Sudtirol" region of Italy.  People there speak German before they learn Italian.

But you don't have to be a linguistics expert to enjoy this wine...it speaks eloquently and it's easy to understand.

The main grape is called Schiava (or Vernatsch in German) and it's blended with a small percentage of Lagrein.  

This is wonderfully aromatic!  Imagine the perfume of a beautifully fragrant French Beaujolais.  Then double it!  

You can serve this with all kinds of foods...it's magnificently strawberryish in aroma and flavor.  And it's dry, of course.  Don't miss it.

 

 


BUBBLY ROSE WINES

And of course we have a number of top Brut Rose wines in the shop...
Billecart-Salmon, Schramsberg, Laurent Perrier, Rene Geoffroy, Bollinger and Allimant Laugner's Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rose.

A new addition is Vitteaut Alberti's Brut Rose ($19.99!), a Cremant from Burgundy.  It's made entirely of Pinot Noir and is nicely dry and yet retaining a touch of fruit.

NOSTALGIA WINES

LANCER'S
We get numerous requests for Lancer's Rosé and are happy to special order it for our customers.
It currently goes for $6.99 before the 12 bottle case discount.

If you're interested in a case, please call us to place your order.

 

 

This is what it used to look like:  

 

This is how it looks these days: 

 

 



MATEUS

This goes for $5.99 a bottle.   I bought one to taste it just to check it out.

It's pale pink, sort of onion skin color.  Sweet...not much fruit on the nose...

And it still comes in its flagon-shaped bottle.  We actually have a few bottles in stock...

 



BLUE NUN
Back in the early 1970s, Blue Nun was "the" German wine.  It took the mystery out of buying a bottle of Riesling...you did not have to know hard-to-pronounce names such as "Weingut Reichsrat Von Buhl  Forster Kirchenstuck  Riesling Spätlese trocken Grosses Gewächs."

Blue Nun won't be winning any blind-tastings of German wine, but it is still available for those customers who have a case of nostalgia and want a case of Blue Nun.

 

 

MOUTON CADET
This wine is purportedly from Bordeaux.

It sort of tastes like a Bordeaux, but we wouldn't be surprised if other wines were blended with Bordeaux to create Mouton Cadet.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, chic wine drinkers knew this brand as being a symbol of good taste and sophistication.  I think today the same people (or their offspring) buy wines such as California's Far Niente or Cakebread to demonstrate their status as bon vivants.  

The white wine equivalent of Mouton Cadet came from the Burgundy firm of Louis Jadot.  (See below...)






 

 

 

 

LOUIS JADOT
You have to give the people credit who would come into a shop or restaurant and try to pronounce the name of this wine.

"Do you have any Lou-ee Jar-dott Polly-Foos?"

"Where's the Louis Jadot Pussy Fussee?"

It was a sign of sophistication, to be sure, to be able to order a bottle of this wine in a restaurant.  Your guests knew you were a sharp, well-heeled individual.  The waiter knew and so did the bus boy.

I think yesterday's Pouilly-Fuissé drinker is today's buyer of Far Niente or Cakebread Chardonnay.  

If you want some bottles of Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé  or their perfectly ordinary Macon Villages, let me know and we'll special order these for you.  

 

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