2009 Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec

2011 Wine By Joe Pinot Gris Really Good

2007 Big Basin Vineyards Mandala

2009 Domaine Roche Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne



It was a nice first part of the week both weather and wine wise.  We were able to have dinner on the deck a couple days but Wednesday was hot and a bit too humid to eat outside.  We were able to relax on the deck with a glass of wine after dishes were cleaned up and a coming storm brought a nice breeze.


The nice weather allowed me to open a nice variety of wines, everything from a lighter bodied Oregon Pinot Gris to a burly Syrah-Cabernet blend from California.




2009 Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec – $16.14

When I’m in the mood for something “different”, my mind generally gravitates to either a Spanish Ribera del Duero or, as in this case, a Malbec from Argentina.  These are two wines I just don’t open often enough.


Malbecs from Argentina are still very value priced based on the quality they put in the bottle.  You need to be a little selective when choosing one of these wines because they are made in vastly different styles.  Some are fruit forward, easy drinking wines but others, like this one are more serious and need some hearty food.  If you’ve never had a Malbec from Argentina, you owe it to yourself, and wallet, to check them out. 


This wine was bestowed the number 58 rating on the Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of 2011.


Winery history

It is part of our family’s folklore that our forefather Nicola Catena, who sailed from Italy to Argentina in 1898, celebrated leaving the famine in Europe for this plentiful new land by eating a piece of virtually raw steak for breakfast each morning.  Best described as a tireless optimist, he firmly believed that he had found the promised land in Mendoza, where he planted his first Malbec vineyard in 1902.  Malbec had been a blending grape in Bordeaux.  But Nicola suspected it would find its hidden splendour in the Argentine Andes.  Domingo, his son, inherited that dream and took the family winery to the next level, becoming one of the largest vineyard holders in Mendoza.


By the 1960s, however, Familia Catena was struggling.  The Argentine economy was in shambles and inflation rates were soaring.  One year, Domingo realized that it would cost him more to harvest than to leave the fruit on the vines.  He asked his twenty-two year old son Nicolás, a recent PhD graduate in economics, what to do about such a dilemma.  Nicolás advised him not to harvest.  Domingo could not follow his son’s advice with a clear conscience and picked anyway. Nicolás still remembers the sadness he felt for his father that year.


Much more information available at:  http://www.catenawines.com/eng/family.html


My Tasting Note

The wine is a deep, dark purple color.  The nose is dark and brooding with earthy blackberries, dark chocolate, vanilla, raspberries, eucalyptus, minerals, spice box, fresh ground dark roast coffee, and lavender.  This is medium to full bodied with fairly solid tannins and very nice acidity.  This is big and bold on the palate with spicy, peppery berries up front and more spice, chocolate, and coffee on the back end along with some slowly building earthiness.  The finish is fairly long with a bit of cherry joining the party.  (91 pts)

2009 Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec 




2011 Wine By Joe Pinot Gris Really Good – $9.49

Pinot Gris wines, especially those from Oregon are a Summer staple in my house.  These are usually fresh and rich enough to enjoy chilled on the deck while something is on the grill cooking or to just kick back and enjoy on its own while relaxing.  These wines also usually have plenty of closing acidity to pair up nicely with warm weather, leisurely meals.


This was a new one for me.  Samples of this were being poured at the local wine store and for under $10, this was a winner.  I had to grab a few bottles for the upcoming “deck season”.


Winery history

Joe Dobbes, owner and winemaker at Dobbes Family Estate, is a pretty laid-back guy, but he couldn’t be more serious about making really excellent wine. This bodes well for the world as we know it, because these dueling demeanors bring forth a true gem: Wine By Joe.


This is your go-to wine. Delicious, but never pretentious. A high-quality bottle at a no-nonsense price, meant to be shared with people who make you happy.


See, it’s smooth and “drinkable,” as they say. But it’s rich and complex, too. Wine By Joe, priced at less than 20 bucks, is as comfortable at a dinner party as it is on a Thursday evening in your backyard. And its consistency from bottle to bottle ensures you’re going to be happy every time you pour it.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a bright yellow color. The fresh smelling nose has apples, pears, lemon zest, honeysuckle, and a hint of white pepper. This has light to medium body, crisp acidity, just a touch of sweetness. The palate has nice, tart green apples, pears, and lemon zest. The crisp, mouthwatering finish has nice length from the juicy apples and lemon zest.  (88 pts)

2011 Wine By Joe Pinot Gris Really Good 




2007 Big Basin Vineyards Mandala – $35.00

I opened this wine to participate in an online winechat about the wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.  Everyone has heard of Ridge, but there are loads of other wineries in the region making outstanding wines.


As I’ve said in the past, I think Big Basin is one big score from one of the major wine reviewing periodicals away from appearing everyone’s radar.  I’ve been a big fan of Big Basin’s Syrah wines and blends for a few years.  I would highly recommend checking them out.  This is mainly Syrah with a small percentage of Cabernet in the blend. I believe I read this is made up of 6.5 barrels of Syrah and 1 barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon.


Winery history

Big Basin Vineyards was founded in 1998 in the Santa Cruz Mountains next to Big Basin Redwoods State Park, with a new winery building completed in 2003.  Proprietor and wine maker Bradley Brown sources his wines from three Estate Vineyards – Rattlesnake Rock, Old Corral Block and Homestead Block.  All of the Estate vineyards are planted to Alban Selections on steep hillsides with mudstone and shale soils – 7 acres of Syrah, 2 acres of Grenache and 1 acre of Roussanne – and are farmed organically.  Additionally, Bradley works closely with Coastview Vineyard located at 2400 ft on a mountain top in the Gabilan Mountains overlooking the Salinas Valley and Monterey Bay (several miles due south of Mt. Harlan).  He has contracted with the vineyard to purchase Syrah planted in 1998 and to bud over certain sections of the vineyard to Pinot Noir and Grenache (in 2008) and plant a new block to an Alban selection of Syrah.  This vineyard is also farmed organically and managed according to Bradley’s direction.  Beginning in 2006, BigBasin started making Pinot Noir sourced from the Santa Cruz Mountains.  As of 2009, Big Basin is making three different single vineyard Pinots from the Santa Cruz Mountains (Alfaro Family, Lester Family and Woodruff Family Vineyards), plus the Pinot from Coastview Vineyard in the Gabilan Mountains.


Much more information is available on their website.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a deep, dark ruby to purple color.  The explosive nose is full of blackberries, cassis, smoke, dark bittersweet chocolate, charred meat, melted licorice, vanilla, warm baking spices, and violets.  This is full bodied with moderate to solid ripe tannins and good acidity.  The wine grabs hold of your palate unleashing wave after wave of lush fruit, spice, and savory notes in unrelenting layers.  The finish is very long, almost seeming to never end with very nice fruit slowly giving way to dark chocolate and then nice meaty elements and earthiness.  The extra time in the cellar has been rewarded in this case.  There is no hurry on this one, it should hold for at least a few more years.  (95 pts)

2007 Big Basin Vineyards Mandala 




2009 Domaine Roche Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne – $16.14

There’s nothing, in my opinion, better than a nice Côtes du Rhône when you want something interesting without dropping a load of money.  Any time I put a piece of pork on the grill, my first thought is something from France’s Southern Rhone region.  These wines generally have an abundance of spice and dried herbs (garrigue), as well as great acidity.  This specific wine is a step up from a basic Côtes du Rhône since the grapes come from a specific village in the region.  A wine labeled simply as Côtes du Rhône can be a blend of grapes from different parts of the region.  In California terms, compare this to a Cabernet from Rutherford instead of the generic Napa Valley.  This is a blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah that aged in mostly cement, with a small portion in older barrels. 


My Tasting Note

The wine is a deep ruby to garnet color.  The interesting and inviting nose has cherries, dried herbs, minerals, meat juices, black pepper, raspberries, baking spices, and some scorched earth.  This has medium body, moderate tannins, and good acidity.  On the palate fruit, spice and minerals hit first with dried herbs and pepper on the back end with some slowly building earthiness coming into play.  The finish is fairly long with the savory notes of minerals and dried herbs leading the way with the fruit providing nice sweetness in the background.  Tastes wonderful today but will last in the cellar for a few more years.  (91 pts)

2009 Domaine Roche Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne 




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You can follow me on Twitter for more wine info, potential food pairings, and an occasional recipe or two.  Be warned, I’m also a sports fan and there are occasional Pittsburgh Penguins, Steelers, and Pirates tweets.  I attended the University of South Carolina, so during football season, there will also be some Gamecock posts.


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Notes – I use the “official” Cellar Tracker name for the wines.  I use Cellar Tracker to help manage and organize my cellar.  I highly recommend checking it out at www.cellartracker.com.  Loading you existing cellar is a lot less intimidating than it would first appear.  There is a good chance 99% of your wine is already in the system, so you generally only need to enter part of the wine’s name and the system will find it for you.



Prices noted are the prices I paid at the time of purchase.  I don’t shop around to find the best prices, but my local store is usually VERY competitive.  I generally get case discounts, and since I work there part time, I get a 5% discount.  Wines purchased direct from a winery do not include any shipping charges.  None of the prices include the sales tax.



All wines that were sent to me free of charge to sample will be noted and I will show suggested prices when available.