New World Wine | Argentinian Varietals- Not Just Malbec

Argentina_Kaiken_Mendoza_v13_Caiquen bird
Bodega Kaiken, Mendoza

On the spectrum of New World wine country (i.e., Australia, New Zealand, South America, South Africa & the United States), it is not necessarily a time punch card as it is so much a style of wine. Argentina has the classic fruit driven, higher alcohol wines with mild outlining characteristics of New World wine. As the fifth LARGEST producer of wine in the world, what defines Argentinian wine varietal history? Layers of migration and the cultures that brought varietals to Argentina, as well as the investment in South American wines over the last thirty years.

A story of wine is not without cultures immigrating with vines. Truly, no different than that of Grenache vs Garnatxa from France to Spain and then back and forth again as the Moors battled. Yet Argentina is overseas, continents and mountains, and it is a saga in which varietals that lasted tell a story for each New World wine region. Argentina… the immediate thought is Malbec.

Familia Barberis_La Rioja, Argentina_Malbec_cropped
Familia Barberis, Malbec vineyards

That resurrected varietal from the famous six used for Bordeaux red blends made a 1990’s debut and killed it. Bordeaux, France, may produce wines with a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère. Malbec is otherwise known in Cahors, France; however it is unctuous, inky, tannic… like a 1800’s sailor fresh from the sea but not ‘refreshed’ yet. (Still amazing in my opinion…) Malbec in Argentina is anything but that- it is plush with ripe plums, macerated cherries, black raspberries then layered with cocoa nibs, herbs, sometimes a hint of crushed green peppercorn. Not a surprise that the masses would devour that?! But that is not the only varietal that Argentina is successful with. These other varietals are perhaps not internationally renowned out of Argentina but definitely worth seeking out.

Argentina_La Puerta_Torontes_B
Val de La Puerta, Torrontés vineyards, La Rioja

Argentina’s immigrants thrived with varietals from Old World varietals including the unique Torrontés (pictured above). Originally claimed to be Torrontés from Spain, Argentinian Torrontés is DNA proven to be a cross between native Crillo and Muscat Alexandria (hence the amazing aromatics). Torrontés is grown throughout Argentina with three different variations- Riojano, Sanjuanino and Mendocino. It is intensely aromatic with notes of lily of the valley, rose petals, honeysuckle as well as citronelle and lemon grass. Fruits of key lime, pear, kiwi (and its seeds) yet is is surprisingly refreshing with brightness and a clean acidity. Definitely worth the adventure to find and enjoy– especially with summer seafood and fresh cuisine.

Wine Folly_Argentina

Back on track to other killer varietals, the history shows that the Spanish missionaries in the late 1500’s first brought vines (Tempranillo and once thought Torrontés) to the region. Then, in the 1900’s, a new wave of varietals from Europe arrived. From Italy came Bonarda (actually Doux Noir), Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Lambrusco & more. From France, the following influx arrived: from Burgundy, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, from the Rhône, Syrah and Viognier as well as from the Loire Valley, Chenin Blanc. Escaping the phylloxera epidemic that decimated their homeland vineyards, immigrants brought not only their vines but their background in winemaking. The 1900’s were not easy times. It was not until well after the Great Depression, political conflicts, inflation (1960-70), and finally the 1990’s resurgence with investment from foreign countries in the wine regions of Argentina did the small pockets of Argentinian winemaking expand into such large production.

Val de La Puerta vineyards, La Rioja

The rise of Malbec as the glory child may be on the forefront of what people imagine Argentina to represent; however, there are many more varietals produce there that deserve your attention — classic Old World varietals and the beautiful Torrontés. Adventure to try:

  • La Puerta 2012 Alta Malbec La Rioja — Reg $16.99
  • La Puerta 2013 Malbec La Rioja — Reg $14.99
  • La Yunta Torrontés La Rioja — Reg $10.99
  • Antigal 2013 Malbec Mendoza — Reg $24.99
  • Durigutti 2013 Cabernet Franc Mendoza — Reg $16.99
  • Durigutti 2015 Malbec Mendoza — Reg $16.99
  • Martino 2014 Malbec Mendoza — Reg $21.99
  • Salentein 2016 Portillo Malbec — Reg $16.99
  • Salentein 2014 Reserve Malbec — $25.99
  • Salentein 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon — $25.99

Thursday, July 13th, 2017 5pm to 7pm | Carlos Bosso

  • Carlos Basso Dos Fincas Sauvignon Blanc Mendoza– Reg $12.99
  • Carlos Basso Dos Fincas Chardonnay Mendoza — Reg $12.99
  • Carlos Basso Dos Fincas Pinot Noir Mendoza — Reg $12.99
  • Carlos Basso Dos Fincas Cab/Malbec Blend Mendoza — Reg $12.99
  • Carlos Basso Dos Fincas Malbec Mendoza — Reg $12.99

Cheers!  Jaci



Franchetto: Sustainability, Harmony & the Family Business

Sustainability is not a new concept for families in Old World countries (i.e. Italy, France and Spain).  Here in the States, we have many laws and regulations for labeling sustainable, bio-dynamic, and organic; however, the Old World has lived for centuries practicing sustainability.  Besides few consistent regulating laws (as of yet) and the costly procedure to become certified, it can be hard for these wineries to justify certification for the sole purpose of sales in foreign markets (such as the US).

Supporting Articles on Sustainability >> 1 2 3

Many Old World winemakers, land-owners and enologists are trained in sustainability.  It is a part of the culture and lifestyle.  When asked about certification and regulation, it is an awkward shuffle to define European standards- yet many of them follow standards, dabble in the designation programs as well as attempt certification (though it is a moving target).  The biggest question is- why do they grow their grapes sustainability without caring about formal certification? It is their way of life! Woman winemaker and  sustainability-trained enologist Giulia Franchetto explains in her own words…

We are a family run winery, located in Terrossa di Roncà, a little village situated between the provinces of Verona and Vicenza – in the Veneto region. Our company has peasant origins from 8th Century but it is in 1982 that we have taken up the road of winemaking. Antonio Franchetto, my father, founder and owner, understood the fortune to have vineyards in this great land and decided to start his big adventure: transform his own grapes into wine. In the year 2000 we created the brand Franchetto and we started to bottle our wine. It’s been a quite long road to arrive to the wine that Antonio had in his mind. Today, by our philosophy, the wine has to tell about the terroir that it comes from, without contamination; it is for this reason that our main vines are Garganega and Durella: two indigenous vines with strong roots in this beloved area.

From 2016, I, Antonio’s oldest daughter, Giulia, have run the winery with the support of my parents. I graduated in enology in 2015 and have worked in the family’s winery since 2012. Today, at 27, I am like-minded with my parents – aware of the importance of her vineyards and soils.  My younger sister Anna shares chores of bottling and supports, however it is not her passion.  (We will talk more of this later!)

We strongly believe that the wines are born in the vineyards. There we have the possibility to grow healthy and clean grapes that will be able to give life to amazing wines, free to express 100% the soil and grapes that they come from. From this comes our greatest respect for nature and our surrounding environment. With this philosophy in mind, we farm our vineyards according to the guidelines of modern-day agriculture. We analyze our soils about every 3 years in order to understand how they are. The major part of our soils are quite rich but where and when it is needed, we use organic fertilizer. To control the growth of weeds we don’t use herbicides (or chemicals) but a mechanical machine that moves the soil between every vine: in this way we take away the bad grasses and give some oxygen to our vines’ roots.  We mainly treat the vines with products allowed in organic agriculture; only in the event of particularly serious circumstances, do we make use of other types of sanitary protection, while strictly adhering to the advice and doses recommended by qualified agronomists. We work in this way first of all for our health as we are every day in the vineyards and then because we want to contribute to safeguarding and protecting our Mother Earth.

We have always cultivated the environment around us with love and respect, conscious that a healthy ecosystem is the base to obtain wines that can give emotions to the people that taste them. That’s the reason why we decided to follow some techniques that allow us to reduce to the minimum the impact of our work on the soil, in order to leave our vineyards in good condition for us and for the next generations of winemakers.”


In addition to sustainable farming, the Franchetto family has invested in a photo voltaic system which covers all the energetic needs of the company. More from Giulia: “The photo voltaic plant, installed on the roof of the winery, produces 45.000 kWh per year and, beyond the economic saving for the company, it contributes to the protection of the environment because it reduces the usage of fossil fuel and the emissions of CO2 in the atmosphere.”  Reducing their carbon footprint with investment in farming and winery sustainability, the Franchetto family has also taken care to plot their vineyards from the beginning to utilize their resources wisely.  With two vineyards in two locations, focusing on very different varietals (traditional Garganega and Durella), the vineyards are selected for their ideal soil, elevation, but also the steepness of the slope.  “The Capellina vineyards are located at 250 m.a.s.l. on a very steep slope; this contributes in a very decisive way to the flow of water and prevents stagnation and excessive irrigation problems.”  The Vestenanova vineyard produces a rare local varietal, Durella, which Giulia’s parents planted 25 years ago. The family uses this grape to produce a one of a kind Spumante (sparkling wine) known as Lessini Durello.

Wine making is not the only passion of this talented family – all of them are musicians performing frequently at local festivals and events.  Giulia explains more here:

We are a musician’s family– I (Giulia) have studied music (French Horn) at Verona’s conservatory while attending high school and I have collaborated with different groups and orchestras. My father (Antonio) is a Trombone player, my sister (Anna, who doesn’t really work with us but is always happy to help during events – bottling and other works) plays Transverse Flute, while my mom is a singer.  We are all involved in the symphonic band of our area.  We enjoy every aspect of play and study with this group (where we are all friends). The best moments are of course the concerts, lots of happiness and satisfaction after months of studies!  

Smiling (because I usually tell this in a funny way) I always like to say that our wines have “something more” because they are made with love and above all because during the harvest time me and my dad often play our instruments inside the winery if we have some free minutes so also the grape juice that is fermenting can enjoy and relax with our music 😉 😉 ;)!”

And what is a winery without its winery dogs (or other “pets” )...  “We have three female dogs: Stella (that we enjoy calling Nerina because she is really black) – Birba and Lilli. The first 2 are owned by my grandfather while Lilli is our sweet and funny puppy. I could say that she is almost as famous as my wines, a lot of people (friends – clients etc) know her :). She is an important piece of our family. <3.  About me (Giullia): with wine and music I have another big passion – horses! I practice horse riding (jumping) and since June 2016, I have owned my first horse: Cerbelo dell’Alma!  I am really in love with him!”


A phrase that truly rings clear for this family is “I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want.” Andy Warhol.  Sustainability is the foundation of the Franchetto winery.  They follow techniques that reduce the impact of their work on the soil, allowing the vineyards to flourish now and for the next generations of winemakers.  Furthermore, their lifestyle harmonizes with the earth, family life, culture, and wine making.  Beauty is a balance of intention and art in every day living.

Finalizing this interview/blog, Giulia informed me that BOTH of their Soaves just won awards in DECANTER WORLD WINE AWARDS!!
* Soave DOC “Recorbian” 2015  BRONZE medal
* Soave DOC “La Capelina” 2015 PLATINUM medal for BEST VENETO WHITE!!!!

Salut!  Jaci Kajfas
Manager, Sommelier, Food + Wine writer

Cooperatives and Import Focus: Bodegas Rauda

As many of you know, Portalis owners, Jens Strecker and Julie Howe, expanded their business in 2011 to including importing.  As the liquor laws in Washington State transformed, so did the ability for smaller producers- cooperatives and families- to have a chance at fair representation in Washington.  As Jens watched some of his favorite producers move to the side lines or away from the market all together, it created an impetus to support them.

What is a cooperative?  In this world of mass production, a cooperative can seem like bulk production plunk like basket Chianti from the 70’s or box wine… but in truth, it is a foundation for small producers to bring their product to the market.  It is not a new concept at all.  Many Old World communities bring their product to market and have it crafted into the local wine or their own label.  It provides an infrastructure that many do not have the means to create.  Cooperatives were an imperative choice for the Spanish when they transitioned out of the Civil War in 1939 and the financial consequences thereof which lasted decades.  If cooperatives were not instituted, most of these small producers would have given up their vines- which today we relish!

The ability to have facilities and teams of professionals to assist in crafting these wines is a golden opportunity to communities which would not even grace the marks of the the world wide trade markets.  “The cooperative wineries that appeared in the first three decades of the 20th century represented a vast improvement over the cellars they replaced.  Collective investment (plus government subsidies and easy farm credit terms) allowed the purchase of newer and better equipment and facilities overseen by trained professional wine-making staff. Individual winegrowers farming a hectare of two of grapes could never have produced commercial quantities of wine at the standard of the new cooperatives. No doubt about it, in their heyday cooperatives were a step up in wine quality.” (Wine Economist) Many cooperatives have active members of these products- not just growing grapes, but production, marketing and sales.  These are the cooperatives that we support.

Our featured winery/cooperative, Bodegas Rauda,  is located in the town of Roa, at the heart of the Ribera del Duero. Ribera del Duero is located on to the plateaus of the Iberian Peninsula. Nestled together and surrounded by Cantabrian mountains to the north, Zamora mountains to the south, and Sistma Iberico mountains to the south east, the Meseta plateau is at a higher elevation providing hotter days and cool evenings.  The Duoro River begins and travels east through Portugal to the Atlantic Ocean.  A high desert area, the summers are HOT and the winters blanketed with snow.  It is not surprising that Tempranillo reigns king as a varietal here.  And similarly, it is one of the DO’s of Spain over looked for its high quality and focus on aging laws similar to Rioja.

In 1956, a group of growers in the area founded Bodegas Rauda, one of the first associations of wine in Ribera del Duero.  The Vinos de Rauda team is made up of young professionals who lend innovative and creative ideas to the art of enology with the purpose of bringing the passionate world of wine closer to the consumer.  98% of their production is Tempranillo.  At Bodegas Rauda, harvest is a manual process (by hand).  The vines average at 40 years, creating intense flavors and nuances extracted from the highly sandy clay layered soils laced with limestone and marl. The production of these wines combines the latest technology with tradition. Innovative and modern stainless steel tanks stand side by side with traditional cement vats which continue to preserve the best qualities necessary for fermentation. The aging cellar holds over 475 French, American and central European oak barrels of various toasting levels. In both cases, strict temperature control is observed. Overall production volume is nearly two million liters.

Bodegas y Viñedos Rauda Tinto Roble — Reg.$15.99 | INSIDER $13.99 | Mixed Case $12.79 — “Roble” 4 months in oak-
Bodegas y Viñedos Rauda Tinto Roa Crianza — Reg. $22.99 | Mixed Case $18.39 — “Crianza” 12 months in oak, 24 in bottle
Bodegas y Viñedos Rauda Tinto Roa Reserva — Reg. $36.99 | INSIDER $35.99 | Mixed Case $29.59 — “Reserva” 12 months in oak, 36 in bottle
Bodegas y Viñedos Rauda Musai de Tinto Roa — Reg. $43.99 | INSIDER $41.99 | Mixed Case $35.19 — French and American oak, 15 + months

Interested in exploring Ribera del Duero or other cooperatives?  Stop in! We would love to teach you more!

Cheers– Jaci, Jens and Julie

Uncharted Territories Expanding- South Africa


To truly grasp South African wines, one has to understand why wine would be in South Africa. It’s not only a hot, intense climate, but it’s also an area of vast trade and fluctuation in populace and politics. The first vines were planted in the 1650’s in what is now South Africa. Why? Trade and government- of course!  The Dutch East India Company (DEIC) used the Southern Cape (Cape of Good Hope) as a port in between its journeys for years.  Finally, one of the captains decided that it was ridiculous not to have fresh foods and drink, so they made a “refreshment station” and farm in Constantia.  New territory, yet, as with trade, government and agriculture, it likened to awkward teen years for quite a while.

Photo: Ansara vineyards (Stellenbosch)

South Africa is broken into five large geographical areas: Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, and Limpopo.  Of the wine producing areas of South Africa, the majority of production is in the Western Cape. The Western Cape is a small area in the southwestern corner of the country.  The Mediterranean climate is warm, with sunny growing seasons that are thankfully cooled by the Benguela Current (aka the Cape Doctor) which flows north from Antarctica. The Cape Doctor does more than cool the coast, it also inhibits fungal disease and eases the heat off of the vines in these intensely hot areas.

South Africa’s geology is rich with history and environmental diversity as well as majestic in beauty.  The coast is protected by the plutons, dome-like intrusions of igneous magma into the earth’s crust with a coarse crystalline texture, which have eroded into hills (Paarl, Perdeberg Mountains, Darling Hills, Table Mountain and Simonsberg Mountain) that are flat and covered with sandstone. The layers of each region have individual meso-climates allowing for a vast array of varietals and growing environments.  This diversity matched with the exposure to wind and ventilation create patches of subtleties such as vineyards “hugging valley floors, clambering over hills, climbing steep mountain slopes, or tucked beneath high peaks”.

Photo: view from Stark-Condé estate (Stellenbosch)

Of the varietals grown in South Africa, we find 26 red varietals (most popular being Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage and Mourvedré) and 23 white varietals (most popular are Chardonnay, Riesling, Chenin Blanc (Steen) and Sauvignon Blanc) with a history of a killer dessert wine- the liquid gold of Klein Constainia. Reds are big and bold, with subtle bacon or brine notes.  Many have heard of Pinotage- the red varietal that was created from Cinsault (then called Hermitage) and Pinot Noir in the Stellenbosch University Vicultural Center in 1925 by Abraham Izak Perold.  It is a flagship as well as the somewhat bastard child of South Africa.  Whites are full with bright fruits, medium to low acid and spicy qualities.  Chardonnay is rich, full and likens to a balance between California Sonoma and Côte Nuit when oaked.  Unoaked, it’s very similar to Macon, with a bit more acidity.  As South Africa has invested in growth and modern technology, we find excellent examples of Pinotage and award wining wines across the board.

Photo: De Toren estate (Stellenbosch)

For wines that are exported around the world, we find that the Western Cape, specifically the Coastal region with districts of Stellenbosch, Paarl, Wellington, Franschhoek, Swartland and Darling are prevalent.  Though Stellenbosch and the Western Cape rule the current market, don’t hesitate to adventure into the other four wine region of origins!  For more details, check out this great resource.

Happy New Year!  Here is to new adventures!  Jaci

Other resources and regions detailed

Holiday Picks 2016

The Ballard Wine Elves are counting down the days.  Here are Jens’ and Jaci’s favorites for gifting.  At my house Santa always brings me a bottle for my stocking! Hint, hint- don’t forget to buy something fun for yourself too!.
Here is our gift suggestions that wouldn’t be a disappoint in the stocking!

— Jens and Jaci


  • Chateau Guadet Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé (Bordeaux, France) — Reg. $97.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $78.39 — Worth Every Penny
  • Josephine de Boyd Margaux (Bordeaux, France) — Reg. $61.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $49.59 — Love of your Life
  • Château Lafargue Pessac-Léognan Blanc (Bordeaux, France) — Reg. $38.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $31.19 — Elegance
  • Coutier Ambonnay | Montagne de Reims (Champagne, France) — Reg. $52.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $42.39 — Dream
  • Philippe Deval Crémant de Loire Rosé (Loire Valley, France) — Reg. $23.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $19.19 — Dazzle
  • Zuazo Gaston Finca Costanillas (Rioja, Spain) — Reg. $35.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $28.79 — Seductive
  • Nottola Anterivo Super Tuscan (Tuscany, Italy) — Reg. $45.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $36.79 — Entertainer
  • Pelassa Barolo DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) — Reg. $61.99 | INSIDER $59.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $47.99 —The Ultimate
  • Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon (Walla Walla Valley, Washington) — Reg. $59.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $47.99 — A Whistler
  • Corliss Red Blend (Walla Walla Valley, Washington) — Reg. $86.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $65.99 — Bodacious
  • Ken Wright Freedom Vineyard Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon) — Reg. $69.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $55.99 — Sock Knocker Off’r
  • Domaine de Nalys Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réserve (Southern Rhône, France) — Reg. $65.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $52.79 — Till the Last Drop
  • Paul Reitz Volnay (Burgundy, France) — Reg. $57.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $46.39 — Who’s Got the Funk?
  • Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, California) — Reg. $46.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $39.19 — Cigar Aficionado
  • Jackson Triggs Winery Vidal Ice Wine (Niagara Peninsula | Ontario, Canada) — Reg. $39.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $31.99 — Sweet Complexity
  • Taylor Fladgate 20 year Tawny (Douro Valley, Portugal) — Reg. $61.99 | Mixed Case 20% off $49.59 — Liquid Kisses

Fall for French Cuisine

My niece was born this month and I have been preparing meals for the new little family. Thankfully, it is harvest time (even for grapes too)! Admittedly, I am excited for fall (beyond my beautiful niece’s presence).  I can’t say that I love one season more than another.  Yet when it comes to cooking, the transition from summer to fall sparks the creative in me.

Our tomato plants are ripening.  We are harvesting sweet peas as well as plotting the potential new garden for the fall. For those of you that support our local CSA’s, this is the time of year that we scratch our heads a bit and wonder what… what is this thing and what do I do with it? Well, as we saunter towards the fall season, here are some classic French cuisine recipes to guide us (maybe with a few pairings too…)

Endive, Curly (Fresée), Arugula or Dandelion GreensSalade Lyonnaise  Pair with a Patrick Clerget Mâcon (Burgundy, France)

Kale and Greens– Hamhock Stew and Veggies | Garbure  This is a thick rich stew, yet something savory and lighter bodied pairs fantastic!  Domaine Allégret Laudun Côtes du Rhône Villages (Southern Rhône, France)

TomatoesDaube de Boeuf Provencal with Vignerons Propriétés Associés Première Réserve (Languedoc, France) or try out this Tarte Tartin with Château du Grand Caumont “Impatience” (Corbières, France)

PeppersPoulet Basquaise Roasted chicken with peppers… oh yes please: Domaine de Nalys Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Classique (Southern Rhône, France)

TurnipNavarin d’Agneau  Savory and rich lamb cooked with potatoes and turnips- Enjoy with Domaine Le Mourre Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Côtes du Rhône, France) 100% Grenache that will knock your socks off!

Herbs and PotatoesBaeckeoffe  A meat stew slow cooked with potatoes and juniper berries.  Pair with Les Couventines Gigondas (Côtes du Rhône, France)

Artichoke HeartsRed Snapper en Papillote Couscous with freshly baked Red Snapper in artichoke hearts and tomatoes would pair nicely with Domaine Jacky Marteau Touraine Gamay (Loire Valley, France)

LeeksVichyssoise  AKA  Potato, Leek soup = Domaine Perraud Crémant de Bourgogne “Le Grand Sorbier” (Burgundy, France)

Zucchini– Soupe au Pistou  Summer Vegetable Soup with Pesto- enjoy with Domaine Haut de Mourier (Languedoc, France)

SquashButternut Bisque –Robust cream based soup with a touch of carrot to boot- Enjoy with a slightly oaked Burgundian Chardonnay: Domaine Claude Nouveau Santenay “Le Chainey” (Burgundy, France)

Because it is delicious…  Cassoulet  Since it is cooked with duck confit, enjoy this recipe with Château Franc Grâce-Dieu St-Emilion Grand Cru (Bordeaux, France).

Pan Bagnat  Also  is a killer tuna based sandwich with peppers and capers.  Enjoy with La Colline aux Princes Sancerre (Loire Valley, France)

Salad Mix (Mesclun*) – Nicoise  One of my FAVORITE salads- fresh tuna, nicoise olives, capers, egg… mmmm… Enjoy this with Domaine de Herbauges Muscadet Côte du Granlieu Sur Lie (Loire Valley, France)

Pumpkin–  Pumpkin Pot This is a traditional French country soup.  Nothing better than to enjoy with a rich and dry Alsatian wine!  Domaine Moltès Pinot Blanc Réserve (Alsace, France)

CauliflowerRoasted  with the elegant and subtly oily Chateau des Eyssards Bergerac Sec Cuvée Prestige (Bergerac, France) or as a Souffle with Paul Reitz Santenay (Burgundy, France)

Sweet PotatoSouffle Another Souffle?  Yes please!  This is a dynamic recipe with a bit of Gruyere.  Go Bordeaux!  Château Le Caillou Pomerol (Bordeaux, France) or even La Croix Dillanges Saint-Julien (Bordeaux, France) for an extra kick.

CeleryCéleri-Rav Rémoulade– Oh yes, yes we can not ignore the rémoulade…  Château Martinot Entre-Deux-Mers (Bordeaux, France)

I hope that you are as entertained by these as I have been!  Please stop by with your fall recipes to pair- regardless of France!

Cheers!  Jaci

Bordeaux Illuminated

How is it that the marshy, maritime region of Bordeaux came to fruition? Cold wet winters and springs with the Atlantic to the west, autumn humidity and spring time frost- does not seem too appealing as a viticultural area.  Yet the evidence of wine making is found in the area dating back to 4th century AD!  The Dutch play a huge role in irrigation channels and trade for Claret.  The latter enticing England to establish its dominance in the region- and actually rule that area for almost 300 years!

The influx of wealth and investment lead to negociants and brokers.  With vested interest in the area, old wealth held strong to the properties even to this day!  Over the last few decades we see investment in Bordeaux from China as well.  Once the en primeur sales (annual open house of Bordeaux wine as futures) are released, Bordeaux is on fire.

With the Gironde Estuary from the Atlantic Ocean, the region is split by the Garronne and Dordogne Rivers as one proceeds east.  On the southern end, the banks of the Garronne River hosts the Left Bank of Bordeaux (as well as the city of Bordeaux).  Left Bank hosts two regions (Medoc/Haut Medoc and Graves) and 8 AOP villages (listed below).  On the northern end of these rivers is the Dordogne which hosts the Right Bank and the Côte du Blaye and Côte du Borg.  As the rivers split, they leave the area Entre Deux Mers (in between the seas), which is 100% white wine.  Each area has its own claim to fame.  So let’s break it down:
Left Bank Bordeaux … Medoc/Haut Medoc
1. Located on the left bank of the Gironde estuary and Garonne river
2. The Médoc soil consists of gravel topsoil with Margaux showing increased layers of limestone, sand and clay.
3. 100% red wine.  This gravely soil structure is vital for the maturation of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Carmenère
4. Médoc – the northern region with three sub regions (Haut, Médoc, Bas)
5. Notable villages:  Médoc AOP, Haut-Médoc AOP, Saint-Estèphe AOP, Pauillac AOP, Saint-Julien AOP, Listrac-Médoc AOP, Moulis/Moulis-en-Médoc AOP, Margaux AOP
6. All first growths except one are located in the Médoc area.  What’s First Growth and 1855 Classification of Bordeaux?

Left Bank Médoc Bordeaux wines are structured, tannic and expressive!

Currently in stock for Left Bank | Médoc:

  • Château Lalande de Gravelong (Medoc) Reg. $21.99 *Nov 1st
  • Château La Valière (Medoc) Reg. $23.99 *Nov 1st
  • Fleur du Grand Port (Pauillac)  Reg.$45.99
  • Josephine de Boyd (Margaux) Reg. $61.99 *Nov 1st
  • La Croix Dillanges (Saint-Julien) Reg. $40.99
  • Les Chevaliers de Dauprat (Pauillac) Reg. $32.99

Left Bank Bordeaux … Graves
1. Located on the left bank of the Gironde estuary and Garonne river, the original wine making area
2. Graves, similar to Médoc, shows a sandier mixture with gravel and light clay (known as boulbenes) especially in the southern areas.
3. Mix of reds and whites, similar to Médoc with gravely soil structure and Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Carmenère red varietals; whites similar to Entre Deux Mers- Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle.
4. Graves – the southern region which produces white, reds and dessert wines
5. Notable villages: three smaller sweet wine appellations— (Cérons, Barsac, and Sauternes); Pessac-Léognan AOP (red and white)
6. Of all the first growth designations from the 1855, Château Haut-Brion is the only one located in Graves.  All others are in Medoc! Château d’Yquem is a first growth superior (Premier Cru Supérieur) in the Sauternes AOP.

Left Bank Graves Bordeaux red wines are structured, tannic and expressive; whites are dry, crisp and refreshing; sweet wines are succulent with spicy undertones.

Currently in stock for Left Bank | Graves

  • Château Lafargue (Pessac-Leognon Blanc & Rouge) Reg. $38.99

Right Bank Bordeaux …
1. Located on the right bank of the Dordogne river
2. Soil consists of sand, clay and gravel with layers of limestone outside of Pomerol and iron rich clay (crasse de fer) in Pomerol.
3.  The varietals nurtured by this unique soil structure are Merlot, Cabernet Franc and moderate amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon
4. Pomerol is 70-80% Merlot and 20-25% Cabernet Franc, aka Bouchet
5. St. Émilion (and surrounding Pomerol areas) are 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec
6. The origin of the garagiste movement- Garage wines!

Right Bank Bordeaux wines are soft, elegant and plush on the palate!

Currently in stock for Right Bank

  • Belle Eleonore (Lussac St-Emilion Rouge) Reg. $19.99
  • Château Franc Grace-Diex (AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru) Reg. $32.99
  • Château Guadet (AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé) Reg. $97.99
  • Château Le Caillou (Pomerol) Reg. $53.99
  • Château Mazeyres Le Seuil de Mazeyres (Pomerol) Reg. $41.99 *Nov 1st
  • L’Adage  (Saint-Emilion) Reg. $23.99

1. Located in between the rivers Garonne and Dordogne
2. Though translation is “in between two seas”, some claim it is “marée” which is tide- in between two tides.
3. To be suspected- the soil is representative of the rivers upon which it banks: clay and limestone along the Dordogne next to a steep cliff; “boulbènes” very suitable to white grape varieties in the center and southern part of the plateau, with limestone and fine gravel on the southern slopes; in the north, clay and limestone with stretches of gravel and sandy zones; in the east, a majority of silty soils.
4. 100% white wine, dry.  Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle
5. Some sub-regions vinified sweet with botrytis.
Dry, crisp whites, meant to be consumed young, however some can age.

Currently in stock for Entre-Deux-Mers:

  • Château Martinot (Entre-Deux-Mers) Reg. $15.99

Blaye, Bourg, & Côtes de Bordeaux
1. Located west of Right Bank, is the Blaye, Côte de Blaye, Bourg and the Côte de Bourg.  The oldest vineyards in Bordeaux are located here.  (“Côte de” is a smaller sub region within the region noted.)
2. Côtes de Bordeaux is the surrounding areas outside all other designated areas mentioned above. This appellation merges together the outlying areas so that it is easier for the consumer to recognize the area, however it can be from either Left, Right or Bourg areas!
3. All three areas produce reds and whites similar to the surrounding areas, however Blaye and  Côte de Blaye produce whites of Ugni Blanc and Colombard.
4. Premières Côtes de Bordeaux AOP will only be sweet wines, and Côtes de Bordeaux-Saint-Macaire AOP produces sec (dry), moelleux (soft/lightly sweet), or liquereux (liquer/stronger and rich) styles

The wines from these areas vary!  Some are fantastic, some are what they are!  The whites from the Blaye are oily and rich- fantastic with poultry, oily fish, clams and savory foods.

Currently in stock for Blaye, Borg, Côte de Bordeaux

  • Château La Galante (Bordeaux Blanc) Reg. $14.99 *Nov 1st
  • La Fleur Chazal  (Bordeaux Blanc & Rouge) Reg. $15.99

We hope that you enjoyed the Bordeaux highlights here! There is always more to explore and learn!  Stop by soon to check out Jens’ new Bordeaux wines and taste!

Cheers-  Jaci

Manager|Sommelier|Food+Wine Writer