The Wines of Chateau Lagrezette

Malbec has to be one of the most misunderstood grapes out there. Most of the modern wine drinking world associates it with the wines of Argentina… and with good reason. Argentina, and Mendoza in particular, produces the highest quantity of Malbec wine in the world. While there are some extremely well made wines from this region, the majority of Argentinian Malbec is more value driven than anything else. The wines from this end of the earth are usually super dark and inky with plum and black fruit character and can be quite big and bold. However that is not the way all Malbec wines are crafted.Image result for chateau lagrezette

Wines produced in the motherland of Malbec (France) tend to be less fruit forward and the cooler climate imparts higher acidity and polished tannins with more floral notes, however the fruit character remains similar. While it is one of the five grapes allowed in the red wines of Bordeaux, it is Cahors where Malbec flourishes and leads to some of the finest and most ageable red wines in all of France. And no one produces a better lineup of Malbec driven wines than the folks at Chateau Lagrezette.

Of course with the dynamic duo of Alain Dominique Perrin  and Michel Rolland, the most accomplished flying wine maker in the world, this should be no surprise to anyone. This year they celebrated 30 years of winemaking together at Chateau Lagrezette with a world tour featuring their wines at some of the finest restaurants throughout the world. I was lucky enough to attend this historic even at Le Bernardin in NYC, and got to chat with Mr. Rolland about a few things while we all tasted through his Chateau Lagrezzete lineup.

The night started with Le Pigeonnier Blanc, which is produced from Viogner sourced from a single vineyard within their Rocamadour vineyard. According to Michel, originally both Vigoner and Chardonnay were both planted here. But as he explains, as time went on the Chardonnay wines were just not up to snuff, while Viogner excelled. So, they let common sense do the work for them and went with all Viogner for this vineyard, as well as this particular wine. This is a stunning white wine exuding intense apricot, peach and nectarine fruit along with pretty floral notes and searing acidity from start to finish.

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Next up was the 2015 Mon Vin, a 100% Malbec that was simply stunning. Production is tiny for this elegant and classy red which spends 30 months in 225 liter new French oak barrels. Smoke, leather and rose petals balance beautifully with the well developed black fruit and spice. What’s most tantalizing on just about all of their Malbec wines are the tannins. That cool climate and terroir allow them to be firm and gripping, but without crossing over to the gritty and aggressive side. They stay polished, pleasant and prolong the finish on just about every one of their reds.

While the Paragon 2012 was being served, I was able to sit next to the man himself and discuss some of the wines and what his days are like now. While he has had a hand in helping to produce hundreds to thousands of wines, these days he limits himself to only working with a small amount of his favorites… including Lagrezette of course. His pleasure derives as much from producing as it does mentoring these days, as he truly enjoys watching and teaching the younger generation of vintners in their early stages of wine making. Oh, and the Paragon is STELLAR! This is a big wine with loads of blackberry, black cherry, black pepper, lavender and smokey oak. It’s opulent and plush now, but this is one that could use another decade in the cellar to truly evolve.

As you might expect, they saved the best Malbec for last…. and it was a real treat! Alain and Michel broke out the 1998 Le Pigeonnier Malbec after 20 years of aging. Also receiving 30 months of new oak treatment, this wine has aged gracefully boasting complex aromas of roasted almonds, dried fig and cherry, leather and tobacco. Staying true to the Lagrezette style the acidity is still kicking and the tannins are simply gorgeous. While it could probably go another few years, this wine was truly drinking at its peak.

While it wasn’t served at this event, I always enjoy their entry level Purple Malbec as well. Lots of vibrant berry fruit with baking spice and lavendar, and again that wonderful combo of great acidity and supple tannins make it a wonderful everyday wine. Like all of the Malbecs from Lagrezette, it is a simply a genuine expression of what the wines of Cahors have to offer.

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15 Wines Under $15 Bucks!

Let’s be honest, it’s pretty easy to go out and spend $40 -$50 on a bottle of wine and  feel confident that you are getting something that should be pretty damn tasty. I say ‘should be’ because believe it or not, there are plenty of disappointing wines at that price point. But more often than not, a wine of that price should possess some sort of quality in terms of region, grape selection, production and aging. But what is much harder is to find those $10-15 bottles that taste like something 2-3X the price… but they are out there my friends. Sometimes you have to stomach through a bunch of swill to find those great values, but like anything in life it takes a bit of determination and hard work to discover those hidden gems.

graphic courtesy of foodandwineblog.com

Check out this list of 15 wines, in no particular order, which have a tremendous QPR (Quality Price Ratio) and will run under $15. I am not including vintages as these wines are consistently solid just about every year and possess similar flavor profiles regardless of vintage (for the most part)… Cheers!

White/Rosé

Belle Ambiance Pinot Grigio, CA – This is like the house white wine for my block. A PG with some body to match up to the acidity, with pretty floral notes surrounding the citrus fruit center.

Fox Run Dry Riesling, FLX – Keep it local with one of my favorite Finger Lakes value wines.  A little like Sprite on the palate (lemon/lime with just a quick hit of pettilance) with fresh grapefruit and searing acidity, a home run pairing for any kind of chilled shellfish.

 

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Louis Jadot Chardonnay Bourgogne Blanc – Classic Burgundy entry level Chardonnay with a concise balance of crisp apple and pear fruit, bright acidity and just a hint of that  buttery character.

 

NV House Wine Rosé Can – Good wine is coming in all shapes and sizes these days, so don’t let the can scare you! This is a great summer sipper, porch pounder…whatever you want to call it. Fresh and bright strawberry fruit with an appealing rose petal note.  

NV House Wine Rosé Can, 6Pk, 6 x 375 mL

RedImage result for vidal Fleury Cotes du Rhone

Vidal Fleury Cotes du RhoneOne of the biggest and most expressive CDRs at this price point. Concentrated red and black cherry fruit, peppery spice and mineral notes are all in balance as is the bright acidity and firm tannins. Easily could pass as a Gigondas for twice the price.

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Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva – Made from 100% Negroamaro, the dominant grape in this area of Puglia, this has a fairly intense nose featuring dried fruit such as raisin, prune and fig. But the candied blackberry and cherry notes come through on the palate and flow through the dry, pleasing finish. Big yet balanced…

 

Purple Malbec Cahors Chateau Lagrezette’s entry level red, this is simply a wonderful expression of Malbec from the motherland (France) with bright acidity, vibrant black fruits and just a dollop of black pepper.

 

Seaglass Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara – This is a perennial ‘best value’ Pinot for me as it stays light and lively on the palate but exudes true Pinot character, which most Pinots at this price point fail to do.

Underwood Pinot Noir, OR (Can) – Am I having this with a roasted duck? No… But for a light everyday wine this has enough fruit and depth to make it fully enjoyable. And do you know what doesn’t break and shatter all over the floor for your kids to step on and get little pieces of glass stuck in their feet?? Cans… that’s what.

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Slow Press Cabernet, CA – This has to be the best CA Cab for the Price on the market. All that Paso Robles fruit gives this full bodied wine an opulent core of black cherry, cassis and plum with just a kiss of sweetness. Plush and supple, but with enough depth to enjoy with a grilled steak.

 

Rosso di Ca’Momi, CA –  A fun blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot and Petite Sirah. Medium to full bodied with a fairly intense nose of toasted vanilla, blackberry and clove.  Super value at around $10.

 

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Chateau Souverain Merlot, CASorry Miles, but I am drinking THIS f&%king Merlot! It has some real umph to it with big dark fruit flavors, toasty oak laced with clove and spice aromas. Probably the best wine of the bunch here…

 

Lines of Wine

Columbia Crest Grand Estates, WAWhile the Syrah is my favorite in the line, this value brand under Ste. Michelle Estates is continually awarded “Best Buy” accolades from top publications, and for good reason. Tough to find a bad one in the lineup.

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Handcraft Wines, CA – The Delicato family produces this line of wines which offer tremendous value and drinkability across the board. Taste the Dark Red Blend and the Petite Sirah and you will understand exactly what I mean.

 

Bota Box – Boxed wine is not how you may remember it. This is no Franzia or Almaden, so get over the stigma already. Bota is producing really solid juice from all over the world (although mostly CA). And at $20 a 3L box (or $5 a bottle) there is no better value on the market, particular for the whites like Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.

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