Rideau 2007 Mourvedre

Type: Dry red

Made With: the mourvedre grape

Plays Well With: Hearty meats, such as herbed leg of lamb.

Call the mourvedre grape the stinky cheese of the wine world.  While it’s a good, hearty wine that does pair well with strong cheeses, like they do about some cheeses, folks will complain about funk in the nose or taste.  Which is probably why it’s getting more and more common to see US. wines blended with the lighter grenache and fruitier syrah – the GSM you sometimes see on labels – like they do in the Rhone valley of France.

But you’re just as likely to find it bottled as a single variety wine, like this one from Rideau Vineyard.

The nose is a combination of rose petals and a hint of leather which can be one way to describe the “French funk” as it is known. But the nose is only hiding some good fruitiness and some herb flavors such as sage and mint. That may not sound very tasty for a wine, but then, this wine needs to be drunk with food on the plate, such as an herb-roasted leg of lamb or some other hearty fare that will play off some of the herbs and other flavors in the wine. While some mourvedres are made with lots of fruit and can be served as cocktails, this specific model from Rideau is not of them and that is a very good thing indeed.

Zachary Levi Celebrity Wine FAQ

Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

Disney’s latest animated feature Tangled opens in theatres this weekend.  And if the voice of male hero/love interest Flynn Rider sounds a lot like Chuck Bartowski, you’re right.  Zachary Levi, who stars in the NBC spy comedy Chuck, is also the voice for Flynn.  And in honor of the movie, we present his Celebrity FAQ, based on the interview Anne did with him last summer.

“My agent fought to get me into the room, because obviously, I’m not English and they were only looking at English dudes,” Levi said about getting the role of Flynn.  “And I went in, and I’ve been doing voices my whole life. So, I felt comfortable doing it and I did it, and they liked it. And then I had to sing because it’s a musical, and they liked my musical audition and they said, all right the job is yours. And pretty quickly after that, they made an executive decision and said, he’s not going to be English.”

Levi also said that while he likes wine, he’s not “into” it.

“As much as I might enjoy a glass of red wine, I also don’t really care that much. You know what I mean?” he said.  “I’ll have a glass of beer or some vodka or a glass of red wine. And if it’s Two-Buck Chuck, rock ‘n roll. If it’s Opus One, rock n’ roll. I’m not that picky.”

Zachary Levi as Chuck, courtesy NBC

Which, of course, leads to his FAQ:

“What is it that people get so hung up on? It’s oaky or it’s nutty or it’s fruity or dry or sweet or whatever, I don’t know. It tastes like wine to me.”

Our answer?

We get it, Zach.  It is just wine.  We use terms like oaky and nutty and fruity to describe what we’re tasting as a way of sharing the experience.  But we are totally down with your rock ‘n roll attitude.  As we’ve often noted, Anne is just like you – all she smells and tastes is wine.  And, you know what?  That’s just fine.  You don’t have to be into fancy descriptors and all that to enjoy wine.  We use them to help you find wines that you might like.  But while a lot of folks find the analytical approach a lot of fun, (and that’s fine, too), we like the whole experience of wine – the company, the food and the flavors.

The Georges DeBoeuf 2010 Beaujolais Nouveau

Type: Dry, fruity red
Made With: the gamay grape
Plays Well With: Thanksgiving Dinner

If you haven’t bought your wine for Thanksgiving Dinner yet, may we offer one really great option – Beaujolais Nouveau.  This is one of those that wine snobs just love to turn their noses up at, but they’re the ones missing out.  This fun, fruity, brand-spanking new little wine can stand up to turkey, but is fruity enough not to go sour and icky with those sweet potatoes and cranberries, and is light enough for your relatives who don’t drink wine and are terrified of all those big, dry reds you’ve been going on about.

Beaujolais Nouveau is wine that was harvested the year of its release and is made in the Beaujolais region of France, which is sort of in Bourgogne, sort of at the northern edge of the Rhone Valley.  You can get some phenomenal Beaujolais Grand Crus, and some darned good Beaujolais Villages, but those are more traditional red wines that need a couple to 10 years of aging before they’re any good.

However, the Nouveau (which is French for new) is literally that – the new wine and it’s released every year with much fanfare on the third Thursday of November, about six to eight weeks after the grapes it’s made from were harvested.  It’s made to be drunk really young, which is one of the reasons why the snobs will sneer and call it soda pop.

The other reason is that the way the wine is made does leave it with an almost carbonated feel, even though it is perfectly still.  It’s kind of like drinking fizzy mineral water that has gone flat.  The process is called carbonic maceration, and basically, the harvested grapes are loaded into a tank, which is sealed.  The grapes on the bottom start getting crushed under the weight of the grapes on the top.  The wild yeasts already on the grapes go to town as the bottom grapes release their juices, and slowly but surely, the whole mess turns into wine with a lot of carbon dioxide in it.  The tank is unsealed and the carbon dioxide blows off, much like when you leave a soda can open, and the wine is pressed and bottled and aged just long enough to be ready for Turkey Day, which they don’t celebrate in France.

The Georges DeBoeuf 2010 Nouveau, has a light, almost fuchsia color, a nose that almost smells like fruit punch, and it tastes like tart berries.  We tested it with some turkey, cranberries and sweet potatoes and it definitely was the perfect playmate.

Rideau 2007 Grenache


Type: Dry red

Made With: Grenache

Plays Well With: Cheeses, rich sauces.

Grenache Is one of the main component grapes in wines from the Rhone Valley in France.  It’s the G in GSM that you’ll sometimes see on bottles: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre.  And with Rhone-style wines getting pretty popular these days, so is grenache.  Usually the grape makes a soft fruity wine – one of the reasons you’ll find it paired up with the heftier mourvedre or as part of another blend.  But as the Rideau 2007 proves, it makes a very nice wine on its own.

The nose on this one has hints of spices such as clove and nutmeg. Once you sip, there are generous acids and good tannins in the mouth, so your mouth will water and your palate will dry out both at the same time.  That’s called balance. The acids make this wine play well with creamy cheeses or any number of rich sauces. The tannins give some weight in the mouth (not something you find that often with grenache).  And, yes, there is the famous grenache fruitiness – in this case, think berry patch, with strawberry and raspberry notes.

Rideau Vineyards, Big Easy Style and Taste

Inside the Tasting Room at Rideau Vineyards

We first stumbled onto Rideau Vineyards at last May’s Hospice du Rhone event in Paso Robles.  And last summer, when we went up to the Solvang/Santa Ynez area with Anne’s parents, we couldn’t resist stopping by.
That’s because Iris Rideau made such an impression.  Okay, so did her winemaker Andres Ibarra.  Rideau is a New Orleans native who moved out to California as a young girl (we won’t go into how long ago, but she was making waves in L.A. business circles in the 1960s, based on the bio on the winery website).  Today, she is an utterly charming lady with a strong affection for good wine and fine living.
In fact, she shares a similar rags to riches story with her winemaker Ibarra, who grew up working the vineyards, like many farmworkers.
“For me, it was just another job to help my dad,” he explained.
But then he got a taste of newly fermented chardonnay that he’d been putting into barrels, having picked the grapes two weeks before.  He had to find out more and eventually worked his way up.
The tasting room is elegant, decked out in N’Awlins finery.  And the wine is durned tasty.
You can find the tasting room at 1562 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang, California 93463.  Or call 805.688.0717.  And the wines are available on the website http://www.rideauvineyard.com.