Travel & Tasting Notes From A Couple of Wine Lovers

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Nickel & Nickel Redux

In a recent post I did a quick review of Nickel & Nickel’s John C. Sullenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. I noted the Napa Cab was “Very well made, complex, silky tannins with syrupy dark fruits on the palate followed by long, dry finish.” While the 2007 Sullenger is no longer available, we had the opportunity to sample a more recent vintage in March 2018 at an all-Nickel & Nickel tasting at a great wine shop, Lower Falls Wine in Newton, Mass. The shop sold each bottle for $85 that day; a steep discount off the usual $120+ list price.

A 2015 Horizontal Tasting: All Nickel & Nickel Cabs


Lower Falls Wine Guy and Gary’s Hand/Phone

Lower Falls Wine poured eight 2015 releases of Nickel & Nickel’s single-vineyard Cabs in a fascinating horizontal tasting. All Cabernet Sauvignon. All 2015. All Napa Valley. But 4 different Napa appellations: St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, and Yountville. Even slight variations in soil, climate, and exposure to the elements can have an impact on grapes grown, harvested, and bottled within a few miles of each other. And we did find differences among the Nickel & Nickel Cabs.

What Was Memorable/What We Boughtnapa_valley_appellation_map_page_1-e1529016951119.jpg

Hayne Vineyard, St. Helena
Tons of oak on the nose and palate, followed by concentrated blackberry and plum notes. Great start, but tannins were too “grippy” and needs a lot of time to smooth out.

Quarry Vineyard, Rutherford
A little too bold, fruit-forward, and fruit bomb-y for me.

Quicksilver Vineyard, Rutherford
Light- to medium-bodied wine with pronounced red fruit…a bit dusty and notable tannins. Good mouthfeel but not sure of its long-term promise.

Rock Cairn Vineyard, Oakville
Did not taste

Branding Iron Vineyard, Oakville
Sweet fruit notes on palate with dense body; finishing with dry, tannin-laden aftertaste. Pleasant but not worth the $.

John C. Sullenger Vineyard, Oakville
Tannins were so overpowering I would need to cellar for 10 years before opening. Maybe I’m too old or impatient, but I want wine to be available on my schedule.

BottleGlass_2015_CS_StateRanchState Ranch, Yountville BOUGHT
This won VinoDuo’s best in show.  Medium- to full-bodied with notable tannins make this Cab both chewy and delicious. Hint of sweetness, but not sweet; Notes of blueberry and clove, and a long finish. So nice, we tasted twice!

C. C. Ranch, Rutherford BOUGHT
 Black berry fruits with notes of cedar, tobacco, and allspice. Full-bodied wine, like drinking liquid velvet, with a terrific long finish. Look up “Napa Cab” in your Funk & Wagnalls [if you’re younger than 55, ask your parents] and you’ll find C.C. Ranch 2015 there.


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An Ancient New White Wine.

New to VinoDuo, that is.  Greco di Tufo, from the Campania region of Italy, has a 2,000 year pedigree. But Lisa discovered it at Il Casale in Lexington, Mass.

Golden color, pleasing mouth feel but not heavy, a little fruit and lots of minerals. But not minerally. Strange but pleasing combo ideal for a light meal or cheese course.  Not great sipping alone. Great alternative to Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio…for which there should ALWAYS be an alternative.


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A Rosé for All Seasons

We were disappointed to learn that the Nordstrom in Burlington had closed the stylish Blue Stove restaurant, a small plates and wine haunt for VinoDuo. A few years back, Lisa discovered Whispering Angel rosé at Blue Stove and it quickly became a favorite before the wine took a dive into sweet and sad. The Blue Stove replacement is Bazille, a slightly cheaper, slightly more mainstream restaurant with the same sleek bar and a brand new wine list. Thankfully, Whispering Angel was gone. In its place, a Provencal rosé from Jean-Luc Colombo. And damn if it didn’t suck Lisa in too.

IMG_20180103_155335622.jpgThe Cape Bleue 2016 is produced in Marseilles with the classic Rhone grapes Syrah (67%) and Mourvèdre (33%). Colombo has been dubbed the “Winemaking Wizard of the Rhone” and he obviously waved his wand over the Cape Bleue. There’s a bit of limestone and peach on the nose. Dry but not bone dry. Subtle but not boring. Salmon colored but not fishy 🙂  Lots of fresh fruit on the nose, dominant peach and a hint of honeysuckle. If the Arugula Salad with Lump Crab and Avocado had taken any longer to arrive, Lisa would have licked the glass dry.  Unlike the burst-of-summer rosés she gravitates towards, the Cape Bleue has enough heft to get her through the winter.

And this wine is so cheap! At $9/$10 a bottle (less than Bazille charges for one glass!) we’ve found our new house rosé.

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A Tale of 2 Roses

IMG_20170704_124723459Celebrating American independence from England with French Rose at Eastern Standard.  Chateau Pigoudet Grenache/Cinsault “Premiere” from Provence for Lisa and Dom. Roumagnac Negrette and Syrah “Authentique” from Fronton (SW France.)

The Authentique? Lots of flinty limestone with gentle nectarine/ strawberry notes. Medium salmon color with a fresh nose. Terrific with grilled cheese or any other cheese of your choice. Fronton is an AOC unto itself in Southwest France, within the Aquitaine region. At $11 a glass and about that for a bottle in the stores, it’s a bargain.

And the Premiere? Lighter salmon color, honeydew and granite on the nose.  Dry as a bone, lemongrass and mineral flavors.



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Yes, Bad Wines are Bad. But Cheap Good Wine is Good.

VinoDuo is all about drinking good wine that doesn’t cost a lot of money (vs. bad wine that doesn’t cost a lot of money.) Love Eric Asimov’s column but stay tuned for VinoDuo’s Plonk Plonk Fizz Fizz series on $10 wine you can drink with pleasure and serve with pride.





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Vida Longa Vinho Verde

The Vinho Verde region of Portugal has been producing wine for 2,000+ years. VinoDuo has been drinking Vinho Verde wine for three years, and we wonder how we ever got through a summer without it. “Verde” translates to green, but in this case it refers to a young wine, released just 3 to 6 months after harvest. Light, fresh, with a slight frizzante to tickle your palate, Vinho Verde is versatile–great sipping on its own and a wonderful companion to lighter meals. Oh, we’ve never paid more than $10 for a bottle. And 188.jpgwe’ve never tasted a bad one…although we continually do research to find a loser!

Our current fave is Ponte Branco Vinho Verde 2015. Made from Loureiro and Trajadura grapes, it’s a light straw-colored gem, crisp and lively, with hints of citrus. Polished off in under an hour with manchego cheese and a willing friend, the Ponte Branco has earned a place in the summer deck wine rotation.

 Sells for $8-12 retail.