Tablas Creek 2006 Cotes de Tablas


Courtesy Tablas Creek Vineyards

Type: Dry Red
Made: In Paso Robles, California with grenache, syrah, mourvedre, counoise grapes
Plays well with: Slightly spicy beef dishes, anything laced with garlic.

With Tablas Creek Vineyard GM Jason Haas one of the honchos behind the Rhone Rangers and Hospice du Rhone, you think maybe he and his family are into Rhone-style wines?  Like the winery’s portfolio is based on these food friendly wines of the Rhone valley of southern France.  The Cotes de Tablas is a typical Rhone-style blend of syrah, mourvedre and counoise built on a foundation grenache. The nose is full of dark bramble fruit – think blackberry – with a hint of cedar. Taste it, and the nose comes through with the same flavors and a nice medium-weight mouthfeel.

The wine also felt a tidge warm in the mouth – like a lot of “hot” or high-alcohol wines, which was kind of odd because it wasn’t particularly heavy on that end at 14.8 percent, and the wine was otherwise balanced.  So it may have been a fluke and the wine was very tasty in spite of the warmth.

This is a good food wine and can stand up to some spiciness, maybe a Steak au Poivre (which is the steak with the black pepper) or Pepper steak (which is the steak with bell peppers).  The wine might even be a candidate for the Ultimate Garlic Experience – take a garlic-stuffed olive, eat it and knock back the wine over it.  Wow!

You can get the Cote de Tablas through the winery at

Ken Volk’s 2005 Negrette and Open That Bottle Night

We’ve always loved Open That Bottle Night (which happens the last Saturday of February). And we’ve always loved Kenneth Volk’s wine – in fact, he was one of the first wineries we featured. So it seemed only natural this past Saturday to pick one of Volk’s that we have been sitting on for a while – his 2005 Negrette.

Never heard of negrette? According to Jancis Robinson’s site (scroll down), negrette is a “speciality of Fronton near Toulouse producing supple, perfumed, wine for early to medium-term drinking.

So what did we prepare on this special occasion? A Coq au Vin with a marinade made with a lesser brand of cabernet.  We flambed it and the whole nine yards. So how was the wine?

We opened it an hour before serving and we’re glad we did. The wine was ruby in color and had a delicate nose of earth, blackberry and a touch of oak that was a seasoning instead of a mask. By the time we poured and sat down, the wine had opened beautifully into a work of art. The wine was more about texture – balanced and silky, not bad for 14.4 percent alcohol. The fruit was still there and there were hints of licorice and blueberry towards the end. The acids were perfect with food and the finish was long.

We had purchased the 2005 vintage from the tasting room several years ago. The 2007 vintage is available now and tastes good. We want to get another bottle or two for cellaring. It’s that good and worth the wait.

Oh, and the chicken was pretty tasty, too.

Chateau d’Aqueria 2007 Rose Tavel

The good folks at Blackwell’s wines and spririts were featuring Chateau d’Aqueria 2007 Tavel when we wandered in there a couple months ago. The winery is one of the oldest in the Tavel region of France’s southern Rhone region (French wines being labeled after where they’re grown and made rather than by the grapes in them, with each region using basically the same grapes to make the wine, anyway, so a Bordeaux is always going to have cabernet sauvignon and merlot in it, no matter who in Bordeaux made it). Tavel is best known here in the States – when you can find it – for its dry rosés.

We at OBG love well-made rosé. We love drinking it and we love making it. Rosé, when made dry, is a fun wine full of fruit and ready to drink with all kinds of foods, from ham to cheese to more strongly-flavored fish to just about anything too strong for a white, but not heavy enough to compete with a red.

Modern commercial winemakers will sometimes bleed off some of the freshly crushed juice of red wine grapes to concentrate the color, aroma and flavors in the remaining skins and juice. But good winemakers would never dump the stuff they bled off. Good winemakers use it to make rosé – fermenting it until it’s nice and dry and crisp.

The label on the Chateau d’Aqueria Tavel just listed the blend of grapes that went into it: Grenache, Clairette, Cinsault, Mourvedre and Borboulenc, but alas, not what percentage of which. That the grapes are listed on the label at all is in consideration of the U.S. market.

The blackberry nose and other red fruits opened up to some spiciness in the mouth and a light mouthfeel that cleansed the palate with nice, dry tanins.

Three things you need to know about rosés. The first is that they are meant to be drunk young and are not to cellared. The 2007 Tavel seems to be doing well. The second thing is that many roses are small productions and supplies can be limited. The final thing you need to know is that Blackwell’s was selling the Tavel for twelve dollars and we figure it probably didn’t last at that price. That being said, the folks there are so great, we’re sure they’ll find something just as good at just as good a price.

Fetzer Valley Oaks 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Calibration Tasting

Fetzer Cabernet Sauvignon is from the Hopland area of Mendocino County. The grapes come from many different vineyards, so forget terroir.  Any trace of locality is impossible to detect.

For your calibration purposes, we drank the wine with a black bean soup.  The soup was good and hot, but the wine was 72 degrees.  Anne had opened the bottle several hours earlier to use as part of the soup.

The color was very deep ruby.  The nose had a cassis – black currant – tinge to it along with a warm mulling spice hint as well.  The mouthfeel – how weighty or thick the wine feels in the mouth – was thin without any viscosity.

There was sufficient acids in the wines to cut through simple tomato sauces or the beef stock in our bean soup.  Still, the acids were somewhat out of balance – meaning there was more acid than fruit behind it and the alcohol was drying at the back of the palate.  Tannins – the puckery astringency common to barrels and fruity wines in general – were less of an issue.  Lower tannins make it easier to drink a wine sooner, so this wine is not a candidate for storage.  And speaking of balance, the percentage of alcohol, at 13.5%, is technically rather moderate (and downright paltry compared to some high-alcohol fruit bombs popular today), but it was still slightly noticeable in the mouth.

The bottom line is the Fetzer is a decent Tuesday night spaghetti wine with no pretensions of greatness.  Let’s face it, there are plenty of nights, like when you’re pooped and grumpy and a great bottle of wine just wouldn’t be appreciated. These are the nights for the Fetzer Valley Oaks.