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Friday, September 2, 2011

“Riedels in the Dark"

It’s been almost a week since Hurricane Irene hit us here on Long Island and so many others along the east coast.  And we were without power for quite some time.  The Yankees/Red Sox series was only available over the radio and there really isn’t a lot to do in the dark while listening to the ball game and playing poker, except for drinking wine.  I couldn’t have any white wine at home either - since there wasn’t any power to run the refrigerator - so I’ve been trying lots of reds that I haven’t had before, from some of my favorite regions - and a few regular favorite wines as well.

Perhaps you are familiar with J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, particularly the chapter where Bilbo Baggins is finding his way through the darkness, which was the tunnel where the creature Gollum lived.  While making his way through the dark, he came upon a treasure - the One Ring.  Had Bilbo not been making his way through this dark area, he would not have found this treasure.  This chapter is called “Riddles in the Dark.”
Each night I’ve been trying these new (and relatively inexpensive) reds - and I call this part of the evening “Riedels in the Dark.”  I can never emphasize enough the difference a proper glass makes, and my glass of choice is Riedel of course.  And during “Riedels in the Dark” I found my own treasures.
For our first night in darkness and while the weather was still miserable, the wine was the 2009 M. Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes du Rhone, a blend of Grenache and Syrah.  This Rhone has lots of fruit characteristics, mainly red fruit and intense cherry and berry, with gentle spice and pepper, and has a relatively soft feel.

2009 M. Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes du Rhone

I gave some thought to what the next evening in the dark should bring, in terms of wine - Pinot Noir has been my “consolation wine” choice for some time.  It’s soft, velvety, and yet bright and uplifting.  And after seeing so many trees lost and so much damage in our community, including the loss of one of the most beautiful trees at home, I was feeling pretty sad and knew exactly which Pinot I wanted.  I chose the 2007 Louis Jadot Bourgogne Pinot Noir.  This wine is modest in alcohol and has a very smooth yet bright texture with lovely structure, and characteristics of mostly red fruit, berry, some cherry, and soft spices, with a touch of wood, and plenty of earthiness (which is one of my favorite characteristics in a wine, particularly those of Burgundy).  It’s safe to say that Pinot Noir is a great remedy after a day of hurricane cleanup.

2007 Louis Jadot Bourgogne Pinot Noir

Lately I seem to be giving a great deal of attention to Malbec - I appreciate its big presence and dark characteristics of stewed berries and bold fruit, floral aromas, spices, and warmth.  The Malbec I chose for “Riedels in the Dark” was the 2008 Proyecto Mas Ave Premium Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina.  This wine, a bit high in alcohol, made for a fun night.  With just a few candles to help me pour, I was unable to see the wine’s color - but I didn’t need light to determine how dark and deep this wine is.  On the nose, both dark and red fruits rush from the glass, followed by some bold spice and purple flowers, particularly violet and lilac.  On the palate, dark berry, plum, and vanilla are present, and the wine feels soft and nicely structured with a lasting finish.  I was happy to find yet another Malbec to add to my list - and this was a treasure in the dark for sure.

2008 Proyecto Mas Ave Premium Malbec

The next installment of “Riedels in the Dark” brought with it the 2005 Colinas de Sao Lourenco, produced in Bairrada, in Beiras, Portugal.  The wine is a big, bold blend of Touriga Nacional, Aragonez (Tempranillo), and Baga.  The characteristics include lots of fruit, particularly dark cherry and raspberry, gentle spice, wood, and a cool stony finish unlike any finish of any wine I’ve tried before.  I really liked this wine - it softened as I allowed it to breathe, and the stony, earthy characteristics became more apparent to accompany the big fruit characteristics.

2005 Colinas de Sao Lourenco

In the spirit of trying those somewhat “off the beaten path” wines, the next night in the dark featured the 2008 Chateau de Gaudou Cahors, a blend of Malbec, Merlot, and Tannat.  I’ve tasted this wine before and enjoyed it once again - fairly dark in color with characteristics of plenty of fruit, more red than dark, some spice, mineral, and lots of earthiness - which makes this a more rustic style wine and very much to my liking.  While I tend to enjoy oaky wines very much, sometimes I’m just looking for a wine that leans more toward earthiness over oak.  And a relatively simple, rustic wine such as this Cahors is a good example of that, at a very reasonable price.  The texture is smooth and I think the wine would be pretty food friendly.

2008 Chateau de Gaudou Cahors

And then came Cabernet Day - and I was ready with my 2004 Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma - and after a rough day near the end of a rough week, I came home to my Cabernet to prepare for the “taste and tweet” - and my lights were on!  Power had been restored to our area after what was beginning to feel like eternity.  And, corkscrew in hand, I approached my long-anticipated bottle of Chalk Hill Cabernet, grabbed my newest Riedel Bordeaux glass, and poured myself some wine in the early evening light.  The 2004 Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon is a soft yet deep ruby color with fairly high viscosity.  Aromas include red and dark fruits, mostly stewed, with lots of wild berry, raspberry, and hints of blueberry and blackberry, plum, lots of oak and baking spices, dried flowers, earth, dark chocolate, coffee, and leather.  On the palate, most of these characteristics are confirmed, with bold fruit, baking spices, and leading up to a beautiful blend of raspberry and chocolate.  The wine is very well balanced with good acidity and a clean feel and supple tannins, a soft and smooth sensation indicating there is still plenty of time left for the 2004 to age.  The alcohol is present and the wine feels a bit warm, but still feels lower than the label would indicate, at 14.9%.  This wine is bold, deep, complex, and beautiful, and as I let it breathe for a while, I enjoyed it even more.  Next time I have a bottle of the 2004, I think I’ll pair it with steak - it is such a big wine with tremendous presence, yet so smooth and elegant - and very much the kind of wine I needed to round out the week.  The finish is long and full of fruit with gentle spices, and kept me coming back for more.  And as soon as possible I’ll be going back for another bottle; the 2004 Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon is wonderful.

2004 Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

My week of “Riedels in the Dark” became sort of a celebration of new and exciting red wines but I’m ready to go back to life with electricity again, and the first thing I intend to do is chill some whites before the summer ends.


  1. Very clever title this time, Jac! (Loved "The Hobbit", and also loved this most recent post!) It sounds like you made the best of our very lengthy power-out. One more pleasant surprise was the Macari Block E red we shared! Thanks again for a wonderful evening, and for the very light and refreshing bottle of New Zealand Oyster Bay Sauv Blanc! I hope you get to visit the Marlborough region of NZ in person some's so gorgeous, and there's no shortage of fabulous wineries to visit.

    Thanks, too, for my fave 7 Deadly Zins, and the supreme pleasure of your company! Great to see you again, as always.


  2. And thanks so much for having me, I had a great time!!! Loved that Block E :) Looking forward to next time. xoxo