Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Saumur (red) is for Summer

Dear Friends,

Here as promised is today's "Wine Pick of the Week" column on our SAUMUR ROUGE :


Wine Pick Of The Week: 2003 Cave de Saumur, Saumur Rouge ($10)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Saumur rouge may be the perfect summer red. It is rather light in body compared with those brawny, high-alcohol, teeth-staining purple wines that got us through the cold weather. And its straightforward style makes it just right for those seasonal casual meals when we just don't want to do much sniffing and swirling. Still, there's plenty going on to keep our interest beyond the first glass.

In France, the small city of Saumur, in the middle of the Loire Valley's wine country, may be best known as the center for a sparkling-wine industry that rivals that of the Champagne region to the north. This area has uncanny similarities to the Champagne area, including very distinctive, if not unique, soils. In Champagne, it is the chalk soils that make the wines inimitable. Saumur sits on a chalky stone called tuffeau blanc, which was quarried to build those magnificent chateaux along the Loire River. Huge caves were created from the quarrying process, which now serve as caves for aging wines, breeding mushrooms and even as homes. This soil also is perfect for growing the cabernet franc vine, which is the main ingredient in all Saumur rouge.

I was introduced to today's Saumur at a recent Loire Valley trade tasting that featured some astounding wines of all stripes. Still, this little red held its own among all that august company, which I found impressive. It is made by a well-regarded cooperative called Cave de Saumur, just south of the city in the heart of cab-franc country. It displays aromas of mixed ripe red fruit and a hint of minerals and a soft texture from lots of gentle tannins. Go ahead and cool it down. Not so it's icy cold, but just cool enough to refresh. Serve it with the fatty spring-run salmon or grilled chops, sausages and vegetables. To find the wine, call Millesime Fin Vin at 206-624-1701.

-- Richard Kinssies

Richard Kinssies is a freelance wine writer, director of the Seattle Wine School and owner of the Wine Outlet downtown. He can be contacted at 206-652-1311 or

© 1998-2005 Seattle Post-Intelligencer"

Hey, don't forget the 2003 Saumur Blanc is part of our May French lineup, due to arrive in Seattle next week.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

French Arrivals in May

French wines are arriving in May, and this is the best group that I have so far assembled. From bread-and-butter brands to numerous "coup de coeur" and gold medal winners, these wines will appeal to all. The container is scheduled to arrive in Seattle May 18th. There will be a tasting to the trade on Monday, May 23rd.

VIGNERONS ARDECHOIS - After a very long hiatus, the "Vignerons" are back in Seattle. I've kept it simple: a white and a red.

2003 VIN DE PAYS DES COMTES RHODANIENS CHARDONNAY - The "Vignerons" are the source for the Louis Latour Ardeche Chardonnay and they are indeed a good source. 100% stainless steel - all wine no wood. Very rich and Macon-esque, with plenty of zip.
2001 VIN DE PAYS DES COTEAUX DE L'ARDECHE PINOT NOIR - While their syrah is quite well thought of, and the Merlot and Cab are good sturdy examples, for my money their most interesting red is the Pinot Noir. It is simply the best Pinot Noir at anything approaching its price and will sell fast. The winery made a mistake and shipped 2001 instead of 2003. Their mistake will be your gain as I got them to lower the price.

COSTIERES ET SOLEIL - These wines have acquired quite a local following for their consistent and affordable quality. All colors, and yes more "box wine". If only these wines had "Cotes du Rhone" on the label, I wouldn't be able to keep them in stock. As it is, they are extremely solid wines that are worth much more.

2003 COSTIERES DE NIMES BLANC "PETIT ROMAIN" - Beeswax and white flowers in a cheap white? believe it. Clairette and grenache blanc.
2003 COSTIERES DE NIMES ROSE "PETIT ROMAIN" - Delightful 'fraise de bois' notes in this crisp rosé. 75% grenache 25% syrah
2003 COSTIERES DE NIMES ROUGE "PETIT ROMAIN" - The 2002 was a big seller, and the 2003 is a deeper, fleshier example. 75% syrah 25% grenache
2002 COSTIERES DE NIMES ROUGE "CH. DES ALOUETTES" - Seattle's first French Box Wine is back. 75% syrah 25% grenache

CAVE DE SAUMUR - One of France's most reputable cooperatives. An excellent introduction to the meaning of Chenin and Cab. Franc from the Loire. Anjou-Saumur is the Loire region giving true expression to these noble varietals. Sauv. Blanc and Gamay are absent in this region, making these monocepage wines great examples of varietal typicity.

2003 SAUMUR BLANC "RESERVE DES VIGNERONS" - The 2003 has more weight and richness than the 2002, with stunning opulent fruit. Still, you won't confuse it with a new world chenin, decent acids make this one more than interesting.
2003 SAUMUR ROUGE "RESERVE DES VIGNERONS" - This wine was an 87 point "Smart Buy" in the WS, as well as a "Pick of the Week" by our local critc Richard Kinssies. Global warming has contributed to the marked increase in the quality of this wine. Red Saumurs used to be extremely vegetal or at least grassy, This 2003 has none of that, just lots of dark plummy and brambly fruit. WS pdf
2003 SAUMUR-CHAMPIGNY "LES POYEUX" - This wine was a 90 point "Smart Buy" in the WS. One of the cheapest Champignys available, it is also one of the most pleasant to drink. Smoky and powerful with fabulous natural acids. WS pdf

CELLIERS SAINT MARTIN - Some of you may remember the 2001 Roche Noire Corbieres in the quaint six packs. I've got a complete line of Corbieres this time for your delectation. The 2003 reds are mindblowing, there is a most interesting rose, and finally a top cuvee that has won the important prizes.

2003 CORBIERES ROSE "ROCHE GRISE" - Very mineral, medium weight rose, bone dry and plenty rich.
2003 CORBIERES ROUGE "ROCHE NOIRE" - Mostly Grenache with a mourvedre backbone, this is a very serious, large-scale wine for the price.
2003 CORBIERES ROUGE "BIB" - This will be only the second French Bag in Box wine to arrive in Seattle. This is the larger 5 liter size, always good to have on hand.
2001 CORBIERES ROUGE CH. ROQUEFORT ST-MARTIN – This wine may not be cheap, but the pedigree is awesome. Gold medal at the Paris Concours, *** coup de Coeur in the Guide Hachette. 90% mourvedre, 10% grenache, in the manner of a Bandol. Bandol should be as great as this example, which is vinified and aged by cult combo Tardieu Laurent. GH pdf

DOMAINE DU CORNE LOUP – This gold medal winning estate makes its first trip to the USA. The domaine’s name derives from the dark days when a villager was designated to signal the arrival of wolves by blowing a horn.

2004 TAVEL – While Tavel is one of France’s great rose wines, it need not be one of the most expensive. A more classic and balanced example than 2003, excellent weight and acidity.
2003 LIRAC ROUGE – Deeply colored, smoky and plummy fruit, silky texture and superb length of finish.

CAVE “LA VINSOBRAISE” – Strides continue to be made in quality at many of France’s Co-ops. La Vinsobraise combines improved technique with a legendary vintage to extract the maximum from this northern Village.

2003 COTES DU RHONE VILLAGES VINSOBRES ROUGE “TERROIRS” – This wine received *** Coup de Coeur in the latest Guide Hachette – the only Vinsobres to be so honored. 75/25% Grenache syrah, it is considered a “master stroke” with plenty of “panache”. The price is very gentle. GH pdf

DOMAINE AUX MOINES - I became familiar with this estate during my days working for a broker in France. It answers my desire for a higher end Chenin quite nicely.

2002 SAVENNIERES ROCHE AUX MOINES MOELLEUX "CUVEE DES NONNES" - This wine won a ** Coup de Coeur in the 2005 Guide Hachette. This is the late-harvest or 'moelleux' style with residual sugars tempering the raciness of the Chenin. Citrus, white flowers, and a finish a mile long. GH pdf

CH. MERCIER - Philippe Chéty of Mercier is the originator of the minimally interventionist "culture raisonée" philosophy. The wines are regulars in the various Winner's Circles.

2001 COTES DE BOURG ROUGE "PRESTIGE" CH. MERCIER - Those who missed their chance the last time around will be delighted to discover this fine claret. Gold medal at the Paris Concours Général.

VIGNOBLES JEAN PETIT - I am rounding out my Bordeaux selection with two new AOCs.

2002 COTES DE CASTILLON CH. LA BRANDE - Gold medal winner at the 2005 CNCP Competition. That's the "Cercle Nationale des Caves Particulieres", wines produced under the "Vigneron Independant" label.
2000 SAINT-EMILION GRAND CRU CH. MANGOT - Gold medal at the Paris Concours Général. Looking for a superb SEGC at a great price? look no further.