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A Week of Wine at Mad Rose Ranch

We thought it might be fun to share with you the wines we drink at home during the course of a week … providing commentary on the wines as well as some insight as to why each wine was selected and the food we served with it.  If this exercise proves interesting, we will repeat the performance from time-to-time.


During the week ended January 24, 2016, we indulged in a touch of excess (depending on one’s point of view, of course) as we drank through 8 wines in the seven day period.  Honestly, as I write this, I don’t remember how we managed to squeeze that 8th bottle into the lineup since our habit is to drink a bottle of wine with dinner at the end of the day but, other than that, we are “on the wagon” during the day-time hours.  Anyway, here’s the quick take …

We frequently find wines from Etienne Becheras at our table because his wines are classic, drinkable, exciting, sure to bring joy to the dining experience.  This time around we had the St. Joseph Rouge “Le Prieuré d’Arras” 2012 (Becheras’s core bottling) which is exuberant, peppery and meaty at the same time with lithe tannins that bode well for a positive evolution over the next three to five years.  Since I am writing this three weeks after fact, I don’t remember what we were eating that evening; so, we will leave this part of the story incomplete.

A wine that provides similar sort of satisfaction is the Nebbiolo d’Alba “San Rocco” from De Forville.  The 2013 is in stock right now and that’s what we served to accompany a simple pasta we prepared with a bit of our home-made tomato sauce (ingredients of which are all produced in our garden: heirloom tomatoes of one type or another, basil, garlic, red and green peppers) and olives (Ligurian “taggiasche” from Armato), caper fruits (another Armato product), partially dried cherry tomatoes (how scrumptious! thanks again to the Armato family of Alassio) and some prosciutto … perhaps a few other savory items that don’t come to mind right now.  I refer to this Nebbiolo d’Alba as the “Barolo” of the De Forville estate which is Barbaresco-based.  The “San Rocco” vineyard is in San Elvio on the way to Monforte in Barolo and its Nebbiolo provides tannins that are much more stern than those I associate with the finesse of the best Barbarescos of this estate.  We are talking old-fashioned production methods here with long macerations in large “botte” which makes a relatively inexpensive wine into a major player at the table.

We moved a bit north later in the week to drink some Fumin from Grosjean whose grapes are planted in the Vigne Merletta in the hilltop hamlet of Ollignan that looks down onto the city of Aosta.  The Fumin is a grape that I esteem as the variety with the most potential amongst the various red grapes of the Valle d’Aosta.  It is a tricky grape to love as it struggles to ripen and can be edgy when young.  It has a seductive purple tint to its robe and has a gamy, wild berry side to its personality that should resolve into a quite complex wine over time.  We still need to extend our experience with Fumin to know whether my instinct about the ultimate complexity of this grape will prove itself over time.  In the meantime, it has great sex appeal.

A wine from another of our stalwarts, the Domaine du Gour de Chaulé, appeared at our table mid-week.  We have thirty years of experience with the Gigondas from this estate and I can report without hesitation that we have never been let down by Aline Bonfils nor now by her daughter, Stéphanie Fumoso.  Luxuriating in its “Grenache-ness”, this spicy, tasty, thoroughly enjoyable wine is unceasingly reliable; so, it is a sure bet to please when, at the last minute, we are digging around in the cellar and we are too beat to want to test one of the newcomers to the portfolio.  The 2011 which we drank proves that this vintage that has been somewhat criticized can provide wine of great pleasure and satisfaction.

I often make the case that wines with residual sugar, “sweet wines” if you will, are mis-categorized as “dessert wines”, a term by the way that is forbidden to be uttered in the halls of Rosenthal Wine Merchant.  So, occasionally, to prove the point, I serve wines of this sort with the main course.  The key, for me, is to use the wine in the cooking process and then marry it to the dish created.  On a cold winter’s night in mid-January, I prepared shrimp in a bit of Armato olive oil with shallots from our garden and de-glazed the pan with our Sauternes, the Cru d’Arche Pugneau 2011 of Francis Daney.  The 2011 is a particularly rich vintage for Daney so I kept the dish rather simple relying on the intensity of the flavors of the wine to embellish the few other ingredients.  The pan juices trickled into the rice on the side and made for a delicious evening.  Did we finish the bottle?  No, but not because it was anything other than absolutely divine with the food. The wine and the shrimp made for a densely satisfying sensual experience that was best enjoyed without going to excess.  All of which means we have enough d’Arche Pugneau left in the fridge to cook with again.

We wrapped up the week with a trio of superb red wines, all hearty and complex.  We do test our newest producers on a regular basis so the wines of Andrea Mosca of the Azienda NOAH in the Bramaterra district of the Alto Piemonte are often at our table.  And, we are quite happy for it.  The newly-created estate is sure to be a “winner”.  The volcanic red soils of Bramaterra are on fine display in the sturdy tannins of the 2011 Bramaterra from NOAH but they are married to a lively fresh wine with some spice and brambles and berry.  A quite joyous wine that bodes well for the future of this estate.

On the other hand, we also indulge every now and then in wines from Chateau Haut Segottes, the fine domaine owned by Danielle Meunier whose vineyards sit on the plateau at the heart of St. Emilion.  The 2008 that we uncorked is finding its soul right now as it steps slowly into its peak condition.  Mme. Meunier produces marvelously age-worthy wines.

Finally, we checked in on the progress of Jean-Paul Versino’s special “Cuvée Félix” from the 2011 vintage, more proof of the high quality to be found in this frequently ignored vintage.  I did a brief posting on this wine the evening we drank it so make reference to that note on a previous “Occasional Thought”.

There you have it … a week of wine drinking at Mad Rose Ranch.  We call this “work”!

NIR 07 Feb 2016