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Girlan 2017 Lagrein

27 Jan

While working in Canada, I visited an Italian eatery that looked warm and inviting. I sat down at the bar and looked at the wine list. I felt flummoxed when I noticed they sell a lagrein wine by the glass. I thought just one thing: I AM IN! 

Girlan Lagrein 2017, Süditirol, Alto Adige DOC, Italy.  
13% ABV, Approx $12/bottle street price.  

 

The color is ruby to medium purple. The nose offers sweet cherry. licorice, and violets. The palate is comprised of strong black fruit: black cherry and black plum, with a full mouthfeel and medium-to-full body. Secondary notes include leather, bramble, with continued cherry, a touch of sand, a hint of bitter herb and potting soil on the finish. Overall, I found this quite pleasing on the palate. 

 

This lagrein was a little heavier in body and had less acidity than I expected, but had very smooth tannins that will allow it to pair easily with a wide variety of food. I paired this wine with an arugula salad with oyster mushrooms baked in bread crumbs and parmesan- savory and rich, the arugula’s bitterness brought out a touch of bitter in the wine’s finish that I hadn’t paid attention to previously, but that blended nicely. The lagrein was a bit much for the sweetness of an extra virgin olive oil served with freshly baked bread, but was a terrific foil to spicy, marinated red peppers. 

 

 

Is this table wine really only $12/bottle? In the restaurant I paid $12 CAD for a five-ounce glass, which put this as the second-lowest of the six red wines served by the glass. Either way, it was a valid QPR.  

I’m already a fan of the lagrein grape, but I’ve never seen one offered by the glass in a restaurant outside of Italy. I was quite excited to see it, and the bartender said it was quite popular. I saw several bottles opened and served while I dined, backing up his claim. What a nice option that I’d like to serve in my home; I’ll be looking for Girlan wines in my local wine stores- if you like Italian reds, you know lagrein or not, I suggest you do the same! 

 

 

If you’re interested in looking at more information from this producer, here’s a link: www.girlan.it


à votre santé!

Gewürztraminer: Alto Adige!

2 Sep

In 2008 I traveled to Italy and spent a week in Tyrol, a region of the former Hapsburg empire that is home to the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy and a southern portion of Austria that includes Innsbruck.

Tirol Region Map, Courtesy of Wikipedia

 

 

The largest city in the Alto Adige region is Bolzano, but we stayed in the smaller town of Merano, at the luxury Park Mignon Hotel, enjoying the accommodations and tremendous food from the five-star resort. During my time here, I drank the local wines suggested by the somm, which including brilliant Lagrein, stunning Schiava, and gorgeous, high-quality Gewürztraminer. The region grows MANY grapes and I’d be remiss to not mention the local Chardonnay, their first-class Pinot Grigio, the Pinot Bianco, their focused Pinot Noir and Pinot Nero, as well as the flowery, delicate Müller-Thurgau, among others! But let’s get back to Gewürztraminer!

Today’s REASON to talk about my 2008 trip to Italy was the revelations I had with Italy’s white wines. I had tasted  Gewürztraminer before, knowing it as a floral, aromatic, off-dry, and spicy wine. But early in my youth, I’d had a bad first impression. My first Gewürztraminer had been a less expensive wine and I recalled it being sweet, fruity, and flowery- and not impressive. My experience in Alto Adige could not have been more different, and what was considered “just daily table wines” were Gewürztraminers that were beautifully balanced with dry fruit, sweet aromas, laser-focused acidity and a plethora of spice notes that enchanted my palate with a melange of flavors and nuance.

 

St. Michael-Eppan Gewürztraminer 2017, Südtirol, Alto Adige, Italy. 13.5% ABV, Found locally for $16-18/bottle.

 

 

Color is medium straw with a greenish tinge. On the honeyed nose are apricot, passionfruit, rose bush, citrus, violet and white pepper. The palate is laden with spicy fruit -pear, lychee, lime zest, and young pineapple- followed by notes of ginger root, pepper, spice box and a medium-long finish with Meyer Lemon rind, limestone and a hint of clay. 

This wine has flexibility. It could be enjoyed in the afternoon sunshine as an apéritif, but is ideal when elevating delicate flavors of veal, lobster, corn chowder or freshly summer vegetables.  Also ideal for the summer heat and foods with serious spice from Indian curry to African tagines, from Chinese sauces to Latin foods- this wine is capable of taking the spice and heat from the food and cleaning your palate with a fabulously spicy, sweet wash with a splash of acidity- like the lemon on your fish or the lime squeezed over fajitas as they hit your plate. Few white wines have enough strength to cleanse the palate after hot pepper sauce, but this bottle proved up to the task when I made extra-spicy fajitas and a side of Frank’s hot wings!

For that reason alone, I decided I should keep a few bottles of Gewürztraminer in the cellar to beat the late summer/early autumn heat while being able to pair with any range of spice profile that might appear, from the delicate to the powerful,  all in a package that wine drinkers easily enjoy, and in the under-$20 range that everyone can afford. Any why not? These wines can age from 5-20 years in the cellar, though mine never get a chance before I pop the cork to share with friends.

If you have the opportunity to travel to Bolzano or Merano, you can’t help but appreciate the beautiful vineyards that cover the countryside- but if you just want to dream about it today, all you need is a bottle of this St. MIchael-Eppan Süditirol/Alto Adige Gewürztraminer. Your mouth will think you’re arrived!


A view from one of my afternoon hikes in Merano, Italy.

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

The Red Wine You Need for Hot Weather!

19 Aug

Cantina Kaltern Kalterersee Classico Superiore “Leuchtenberg” 2016; Alto Adige, Italy.  13.5% ABV, Around $20/bottle.

 

The lighter reds of summer. Some of my wine-loving friends drink cabernet sauvignon all year ’round, but I ache for wines with gentler body, brighter fruit and higher acidity that you can drink all night, still feeling my palate.  This is one of those delightful treats you need to have in your cellar!

Color is a translucent cerise, while the nose offers fresh ripe raspberry. On the palate, bright young cherry and raspberry are followed by secondary notes of black pepper and smoky paprika, with a medium finish and hints of oak, granite, and volcanic basalt. Made from 100% schiava, this wine is summer’s best friend! Delightfully light and fresh with plenty of bright fruit, perfect acidity, and moderate tannins make this schiava so easy to drink during hot, humid weather, and hard to resist a refill!

 

a beautiful translucent color in the glass

 

Over the course of a week, I paired this wine successfully with a spicy tomato sauce over pasta, grilled salmon and zucchini, veal cutlet and steamed asparagus, Thai noodles, southwestern fajitas, and cheeses from mild to moderate. I remember in Alto Adige how beautifully the local fare complements these delicate, high acid, alpine wines: carpaccio, speck, polenta and risotto, dumplings, and beautiful dishes that combine whatever is sourced locally– often beef or pork, wild game and fowl, cabbage, and apples.

 

 

While wines like Kalterersee Classico Superiore may be harder to find in the states, most wine stores do carry Italy’s schiava or lagrein, which are ideal summer drinks that more people need to try and share for your summer barbecue, dinner party, or just a night at home. At $20/bottle or under, schiava has enough flavor and punch to match with heavy meals, but remains delightful and fun with moderate weight and body.

One more thing you will find is that it goes down easily, and leaves you wanting more. That’s my kind of summer wine.

 

 

 

What is in your glass this summer, while you fight the humidity and try to beat the heat?

Let me know below!

à votre santé!

 

 

Extreme Wine: Lagrein Riserva from Alto Adige

14 Jan

Kellerei Cantina Andrian’s ‘Tor Di Lupo’ Lagrein Riserva 2014, DOC Alto Adige; Terlano, Italy. 13.5% SRP $50/bottle.

 

When is wine extreme? When the grapes are grown under extreme conditions! These vineyards are steep: up to 4000′ in height, and the grapes for Tor Di Lupo are planted in high trellises along the Easternmost side, getting over 300 days a year of Mediterranean sunshine, with temperatures up to 104℉.

Color is purple with ruby edging. The nose is full of violets with hints of eucalyptus. On the full-bodied palate, cassis and mature cherries meet French oak, with secondary notes of blue plum, mocha, granite, gravel, sodium, and clay. Bountiful tannins are on the long finish; this wine expects to pair with food. Made from 100% Lagrein. My pairings included pizza, full-bodied cheese, and corned beef. Some better pairing choices (Think Northern Italy, closer to Austria) might include fowl and game meats to pork to pasta and flatbreads, but my personal favorites were coal-oven Margherita pizza on the first night and Gorgonzola cheese on the second. The bottle did not last long, as I enjoyed it immensely. While I drank this lagrein young, it has the potential to age 10-15 years easily and will give significant improvement to the owner after such time with proper cellaring.

 

This is an amazing bottle to give to an Italian wine lover, someone who is learning more about wines, or someone who is starting to cellar bottles with the intent of allowing wines a decade or more to age.

 

What extreme wines do you like?
Have you ever considered what the grapes go through in the vineyards?

 

For more about the Lagrein Grape, please click here!

 

*Wine provided for review by Cornerstone Communications.* 

à votre santé!

 

Strasserhof Sylvaner Valle Isarco 2015

4 Sep

Strasserhof Sylvaner Valle Isarco, by Hannes Baumgartner; DOC Süditirol/Alto Adige, Italy, 2015. ABV 13.5%, MSRP $22/bottle.

 

Color is pale straw. The delicate nose has traces of lemon, wildflower, and a hint of funk in the background that was gone by day 2. On the palate: Lemon and freshly cut grass, with backing notes of gooseberry, lime zest, and schist. High acidity and nice heat fill the back palate. The long finish features gentle flavors of citrus and sour candy behind the acidity and heat of the wine, and the combination of delicate flavors plus the elegance of a well-made wine make this a real wine nerd’s favorite.

 

 

After tasting this by itself, the next day I made grilled chicken, which complemented the sylvaner beautifully, as could chicken or veal piccata and marsala. This wine could also work nicely with spicy fare such as  Thai, Mexican, Indian, Lebanese, and Halal, as well as the traditional food of the Trentono-Alto Adige region. Some obvious local pairings would include schnitzel, fresh water fish, sausages, dumplings, sauerkraut, root vegetables, and of course, cured meats like prosciutto. But by day 3, I just wanted to enjoy the subtle flavors and structure of this wine by itself, sipping slowly and savoring the experience.  And for the non-wine nerds who had a taste of this wine? Their response was always the same: positive and interested. So buy some for your wine-centric friends, or for your own edification and education of the great white wines of the world at an affordable price. It might be your first Sylvaner, but it won’t be your last.

à votre santé!

 

Schiava: the Welterweight Knock-Out Wine!

30 Aug

Abbazia di Novacella Schiava “Stiftskellerei Neustift” 2015. Alto Adige, Italy. 12.5% ABV, MSRP $ 16/bottle.

 

Color is a robust, translucent ruby. The nose has sweet cherry, rose petals, and hint of limestone. On the palate, moderate bright raspberry, fresh cranberry, and a hint of red cassis are followed with lush, green foliage on the front palate. Polite, gentle acidity and tannins are balanced in body and scope. The flavors deepen across the top and back palate, with notes of slate and calcium-rich clay on the medium finish under the fruit profile. Best when served slightly chilled, and just under ‘moderate’ in body, this is a welterweight red that is luscious and mouthwatering, a wine that is beefier than rosé but lighter than the Cru Beaujolais and Burgundian pinot noir, and what a perfect wine for the middle! Pairing is so easy with vegetable appetizers, salad, fish, and pizza.

 

 

 

After a few sips, I kept thinking of all the meals I could serve this wine for; how easily to pair this with an appetizer, soup or salad course as a brilliant impact of delicacy and deliciousness. Taking the next step in meal evolution, if you are planning a cheese plate, cured meats, or a fresh seafood course, this Schiava is still worth your consideration as a capable flavor profile with plenty of acid and personality to pair with these more challenging dishes. Even more, it would be an ideal match for white meats such as turkey and cranberry sauce or roast chicken.

 

At this price, it offers an excellent value that is well worth seeking out to add to your repertoire and cellar, and is a beautiful representation of both the uniqueness and subtlety one can find in the wines of the Alto Adige. This one will go ten full rounds and win by decision as a crowd-pleasing favorite.

 

 

à votre santé!

 

Elena Walch Castel Ringberg Sauvignon 2016

24 Aug

Elena Walch Castel Ringberg Sauvignon 2016, Alto Adige AOC, Tramin, Italy. 13%ABV; MSRP $17/bottle.

 

Color is goldenrod. The nose offers a complex balance of grapefruit, gooseberry, tall grass and a hint of sandy loam. On the palate, gorgeous peach is primary, followed by starfruit, lemon zest, and a hint of hay. The long finish leaves beautiful citrus lingering after the tart completion, with tiny notes of salty, sandy limestone echoing like choirs of angels singing the beauty of the terroir of the Alto Adige.

 

 

Impeccably dry with lovely acidity, this wine is a delight for those who enjoy complexity in a white wine: it has depth of flavor with inspiring acidity to cleanse, along with a excellent ability to pair with food -fish, salad, vegetable, or pasta course- but is of course, stunning when served by itself in the afternoon sunshine or dockside. I’m consistently impressed by the wines of Elena Walch. She delivers elegance and complexity in her world-class wines, and I heartily suggest that when you see her wines, snap them up to enjoy a great value in a higher-tier delights that can be enjoyed immediately or aged gracefully in the cellar for a few more years.

 

 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

Dinner With Friends- #MWWC11

10 Aug
Note: This post is 1) different that what I normally write, 2) about a recent wine dinner, as well as 3) a response to my friend Jeff ‘s request for submissions to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, #MWWC11 which if you really want to (if you blog & want to write about wine)  you can see here.  Or if you ride or like comic writing, you should check out my favorite  section of  Jeff’s blog, which I really enjoy. I hope you enjoy this post! Feel free to comment and let me know -JvB
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A friend I’ve not seen for 28 years was in town for a family wedding- his! So I invited Joe & Kaz to come to our home for dinner while they were in NYC, visiting from Osaka Japan. Joe has lived in Japan for almost two decades and I knew we’d have a lot to discuss. I was a little nervous about making dinner since our Western meals are quite different than those in the East, so I enlisted my (much) better half to help create a solid dinner plan, while I, as in classic form, worried and worried about what wines to serve.

I stared into my cellar, pondering choice after choice, changing my mind several times. Finally I settled on a small- production petite sirah I’ve been holding for a special occasion to pair with beef, and a vinho verde I love on hot summer evenings. I grabbed a bottle of Chateau de L’Aulée AOC Méthode Tradtionelle brut sparkling wine from Touraine, France so we could toast the wedding. And just for fun, I selected two half bottles of dessert wine, a port and a sauternes. I felt prepared. No, really I felt terrified, but at least I had wine!

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Since both my wife and I are freelancers in the arts and work a lot of (ok, almost all) evenings and weekends, we rarely get to entertain. We also didn’t know how busy we would be prior to our dinner. As my schedule got increasingly hectic, she agreed to shop while I was working. Our menu plan included several cold salads that I could help prep and she could execute while I was grilling the entrée. The butcher didn’t have the cut of meat I wanted available, so she purchased several shoulder steaks and we agreed to make kabobs to allow us to serve efficiently.

As she sliced a butternut squash and put that into the oven, I cubed the beef and dumped it into a bowl for the marinade- then diced fresh garlic, onion powder, cracked 4-color pepper mix, and ground some Himalayan salt on top. I added two heaping tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, then raced to the cellar to get a bottle of my ‘everyday’ red table wine– a bottle of 2011 Los Vascos from Colchagua, Chile which is managed by none other than Baron Eric de Rothschild.

los vascos

This wine is one of the best values I keep in my cellar at about $10 a bottle, and is great to drink but doesn’t break my heart if I need a lot of it to make a meal taste wonderful. I poured it on the beef and mixed my marinade happily, putting the bottle aside as a backup to the Petite Syrah, then covering the marinade bowl and sliding it into the fridge to continue the prep.

Annette and I chopped Israeli cucumbers and diced roma tomatoes, parsley and scallions for a cucumber/tomato salad that could be dressed quickly with oil and balsamic vinegar. As I washed vegetables for the kabobs, she cut yellow and red peppers for me, moved to prep an avocado salad that had to be made at the last minute, then put sweet peas and water into a pan to cook while I scraped & preheated the grill.

Thirty minutes had passed and we were moments away from our guests arriving, so we enlisted a daughter to set the table while I aerated and decanted the petite sirah, using a True Fabrications Aerating Pour Spout to pour into the decanter. The petite sirah was a gorgeous, near-black purple in color, delightfully aromatic with the scent of african violets, and exciting even to pour. I was happy that the spout had caught some sediment as well as aerating. I rinsed it and set it aside, then pulled the meat out and built the kabobs for grilling, using mushrooms, onion, cherry tomato, yellow and red pepper, and of course the marinated steak cubes.

true

 

Joe and Kaz arrived and we greeted them, opened the bubbly and toasted their wedding, and I took them with me to the backyard to grill the kabobs while Annette completed the salads and vegetable courses.

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The grill ran about 550 degrees and while kabobs require about five minutes a side for medium well (turning over once), I prefer to turn them every three minutes as neither the vegetables nor the meat always turns as one wants. After a quick sear, I moved several kabobs to a higher level to grill them to medium rare over the same duration. We chatted about their trip, enjoying the sparkling wine until it was time to take the kabobs off the flame.

Following our guests into the dining room with a plate of burning hot skewers, I noticed that Annette had made a couscous (when did she find time to do that?) and also managed to plate the butternut squash rings so that they enclosed the steaming hot green peas, a neat little visual I didn’t know was in her repertoire! I refreshed flutes with sparkling wine and poured the petite sirah, as Joe gave a quick Japanese blessing, “Itadakimasu” or いただきます.  A few bites in, Joe exclaimed his joy at the wine, which made me beam proudly and take time to explain my choice, ignoring the earlier requests from my 13-year old daughter who had begged me not to wax poetic about wine tonight…sorry, sweetheart!

Modus Operandi is the Napa, CA home of winemaker Jason Moore. I was introduced to his wines by a fellow oenophile who INSISTED I try Jason’s cabernet sauvignon- I loved it, noting the depth and complexities of flavors, with an unusual bonus: chocolate covered strawberry notes on the finish. I quickly joined the Modus wine club and have been a fan ever since. Jason may not be the first of the independent winemakers that I decided to champion and support, but he is highly accomplished and we share an affinity for passion in the things we do. His work is exemplary.

Back to the dinner table: Joe noted the sirah was more black in color than red, more floral than fruity on the nose, and deeply complex. I agreed, and explained that it was made in very limited quantity (only two barrels produced) and that I chose it specifically to complement both the meat and array of vegetables due to its flexibility to pair so well with grilled foods. I have a full review of the ’09 sirah here.

 

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The meal I had been so worried about had been a success, and we talked late into the night. After a small intermission we cleared dinner, I made coffee while Annette served berries and some small pastries I’d picked up at Financier for dessert, and I brought out the dessert beverages to our guests. These included the 2006 Chateau Doisy Vedrines which is showing beautifully right now, a tawny port from Kalyra Winery, from Santa Barbara, CA that I just tasted recently on my Wine Blogging trip, and a calvados: Christian Drouin Coer de Lion “Selection”, a delightful digestive that offers apples, spice, and cinnamon-all the best parts of apple pie- in the glass.

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We sampled sips of all three, and a little XO courvoisier that was a gift from a client.

My fears of failure seemed to have been conquered by paying great attention to detail. Fresh, flavorful, and colorful food well-paired with tasty wines and made for a lovely, memorable evening with old friends and our spouses. While I don’t know when I’ll see my friend Joe again, I hope that Annette and I will work harder to entertain more guests at our home sooner, rather than later.

à votre santé!

 

 

 

Gimme Shelter / Sympathy for the Wine Reviewer

13 Jun

This week I was making dinner and popped the cork on a rosé wine that has been in my queue waiting to taste. And I tried it and was forced to spit it out. I poured another glass, swirled it, and gave it some time to air. I tasted it again. “Mildly better,” I thought, but still the same basic feeling: “YECH!” and into the sink it went.

The Stones were on my stereo, Mick was belting about not getting what he wanted. “I can’t agree more,” I thought as I chucked what was left in the glass and poured a third attempt, leaving it to the air. I went back to my stir-fry, chopping more veggies and adding my spices to the dish. I finished cooking and reduced the heat, grabbing dishes for my family to eat. I called them to come down for dinner, as I tasted the wine a third time. This time, I could actually drink some of it, but didn’t want to. I poured first the glass, then the entire bottle down the drain.

As my family started dinner, I grabbed another bottle from my queue, popped the cork. After a quick rinse of my wine glass with a  swirl of the wine, I tossed that, poured a taste, and examined the bottle.

Peter Zemmer, Alto Adige-Süditirol 2010 Lagrein DOC. 13% ABV, $19 from Sherry-Lehmann.  Turning back to the glass: Near-black center in color, I held it to the light to see the deep purple color and the violet edging. I put my nose in the glass and inhaled the scent of rich black fruit, sharp acidity, and violets cutting through the smell of my stir-fry dinner’s ginger and sesame oil. I put a small sip in my mouth, inhaled air across it, swirled around my tongue, and swallowed.

Ahhhhh. Blackberry and boysenberry, powerful acidity, supple tannins. Some more herbal/floral notes, a touch of earth and note of slate under the old wood in the finish. This is a wine meant to enjoy with food that has a little punch.

Mick’s backup singers were fading out, and the intro for ‘Gimme Shelter’ started. I fixed myself a plate of dinner, tasted the sauce, then the wine. Then the chicken and rice, then the wine. My eldest daughter smiled at the studious look on my face and asked if she could taste my wine. “No, but you can smell it. You wouldn’t like this. Trust me, it’s very acidic.” But I had to admit, my mood had shifted with a total reversal from my earlier state of mind. I went to the cupboard and grabbed three spices, trying each one with the food against the wine to see how it fared against cutting the flavor and cleansing my palate each time. Each time, the lagrein left me with a clean and fresh palate, until I tried a hot sauce that the wine could clean the flavor but not the heat.

This is a completely European wine. It has reserve and balance, it’s not going to win any huge awards, but instead it will be enjoyed by oenophiles who know how to pair a good wine with the proper food. For me, this pairing was entirely accidental, but it’s a wine I’d like to have a case of for the right time- when a cab franc is too strong but a pinot noir is too light, this lagrein’s fruit and acidity is just right.

ZemmerLagrein

This wine put me in a great mood, thankfully. I don’t often get stuck with a bottle as bad as that rosé, but some days you can find shelter in a wine that will put you right.

Have you all had a legrein yet, dear readers? I hope so. If not, it’s time you take it upon yourself to find one at your local wine store and try it out when you’re feeling adventurous. It might just give YOU shelter at a time you so need it.

à votre santé

 

 

 

Not the “Pale” Rieder

17 Jan

Castelfeder Lagrein “Rieder”, Süditirol- 2011, Alto Adige, Italy. From Garnet Wines, $15. 13.5% ABV.

Recently, some wines from Italy’s Alto Adige managed to whet my appetite. So  I went looking for additional labels to try from my local NYC wine stores. From the name of this wine alone, I don’t know why, but I was expecting a lighter, brighter, fruitier wine when I purchased this Castelfeder “Rieder”. What I got felt like a full blast of flavor from this Lagrein, proud of its heritage in North-Eastern Italy, the portion where residents identify more as Tyrolean than Italian. To the tasting notes:

Color is deep violet with purple edging. Nose of black plum, cassis, and vegetation.

On the palate, the flavor of plum starts and is followed by gently sour blackberry, with a hint of charcoal on the top palate. Gentle tannins and earth on the medium finish, with floral notes of lavender and violet. Notes of schist, stone, and old wood indicates both the terroir and ancient wine casks for aging. Over several days, the gentle sourness grew in intensity, as did the earthiness, tannins and acidity.

On Days 1 and 2 I loved drinking this alone and it was subtle and delicate with meals, on Days 3 and 4 I was adoring this wine with food as it brought out bigger notes and grew with intensity. This dark, savory, powerful wine was a great foil to the bright wines I tasted recently from the same area. A testament to the great variety you can find from a single region, this lagrein shows similarity to a mature pinot noir early upon opening and acts closer to a cabernet franc after getting air. Fun, flexible, and offering great value in this $15-16 price range, this “Rieder” is one I  want to take over and over again.

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à votre santé!

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