Jul 122010

I hope everyone’s summer is in full swing. Here are suggestions for some good juice at decent prices to enjoy this summer.

First off, the search for a good value, good tasting Bordeaux continues. At times I feel a little like Don Quixote on this quest, but recently there was an encouraging find.

I enjoyed the 2005 Bad Boy Bordeaux recently. Robert Parker was very complimentary of this wine by Jean-Luc Thunevin, one of the leaders of the so-called “garagistes” movement in Bordeaux. “Garage” wines are supposed to be less tannic and more immediately drinkable than traditional Bordeauxs, and this one was pretty good. The wine is 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. It had a deep color and powerful bouquet out of the bottle. It had a silky texture, tasted smoky on the palate and had a lot of blueberry and currant fruit. It was definitely livelier and less tart than the typical Bordeaux. I can’t say my search is finished, but this was a big improvement. It retails for $25 at Whole Foods.

A few weeks ago Total Wine had a very fun event that was a good wine experience for us and no doubt a nice marketing day for them. The Landmark Alexandria store held a World Tour event, which consisted of multiple producers from around the world offering tasting stations. Two of them stood out for us — a father daughter team behind Matariki Wines from New Zealand, and a cooperative of independent producers from the Languedoc region of France called Val d’Orbieu.

We liked the Matariki 2005 Quintology, sort of a New Zealand Bordeaux  blend with a couple of extra varietals thrown in. It’s 41% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Malbec, 10% Cab Franc and 7% Syrah. It’s deep purple in color with a nice, velvety feel on the tongue. Lots of black fruit flavor, mild tannins and a quick finish. Very smooth wine and not as big or jumbled as the collection of grapes might suggest. We paid $20 at Total for the bottle.

From Val d’Orbieu we enjoyed the 2007 Cuvee Mythique, a Languedoc GSM containing Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache and Carignan. This wine starts with an alcoholic nose but is delicious and easy drinking.  There was a little bit of spice and a mildly tart finish. I think that boysenberry and plum were the dominant fruit flavors. A nice wine and a tremendous value at $13 from Total.

After enjoying their 2006 Cabernet so much, Gabriele and I returned to Turnbull Estates for their 2007 Old Bull. Wow, this is a big, tasty wine. It’s another long list of varietals — mostly Merlot and Cab Sauvignon, with smaller amounts of Cab Franc, Syrah, Tempranillo and Malbec. It was totally delicious, with a big jammy aroma that doesn’t lie. Blackberries dominate, with some cassis and pepper as well. The wine is medium bodied and while very rich tasting it’s not heavy. Based on Internet searching it sounds like we overpaid a bit at $27, and the wine was still a great value.

Finally, in honor of their World Cup victory let’s close with a Spanish star. I’ve written previously about the Lan Rioja Reserva, and it’s a very nice Rioja. But the Gran Reserva is even better, and a very different tasting wine. Extra time in oak produces a Rioja that is a lot smoother and with a more complex interplay of flavors. It’s still light bodied and has the trademark “dustiness” of a Rioja, with nice strawberry and blueberry fruit. And it’s only a few bucks more than the Reserva — we paid $22 at Whole Foods.

We brought two bottles to the Lobster Luau at the Donaldson Run Rec Center in Arlington. We went as guests of our friends David and Ingrid Matuszewski, and had a blast at the obviously popular event  — there must have been 400 people there. It was the perfect July 4 event, one week later.

Whatever you’re doing this summer, one of these wines can make the time more enjoyable. What have you found? Drop me a comment and let me know.

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