2007 Domaine de Piaugier Gigondas

2012 Bedrock Wine Co. Mourvedre Ode to Lulu Rosé

2008 Saxum James Berry Vineyard

2005 Carlisle Syrah Papa’s Block

2007 Steltzner Vineyards Claret

2004 Dupéré Barrera Bandol India




2007 Domaine de Piaugier Gigondas – $16.99

I ordered this in late 2008 from Garagiste.  By the time it arrived in their Washington warehouse all my other wines had shipped.  I cut down on my Garagiste purchases, so I received free storage for a couple of years.  I figured the wine was approaching a nice drinking window, so I made sure to order enough wine that these bottles would fill a case and be shipped.  This is my third of 6 bottles I purchased.  To me, Gigondas is a very unheralded area in the Rhone region of France.  These wines usually have a bit more richness than a Cotes du Rhone but in a lot of cases, they only cost a few dollars more.


Winery history

Alphonse Vautour, Jean-Marc Autran’s great-grandfather, made his wine in a cellar at the top of a little hill called Les Briguières, to the south of Sablet where he owned six hectares of vines.  The winery was named Ténébi, after the previous owner of the house.


Alphonse had to go down the hill, his mules loaded with barrels, to wait for the wine merchant to come by.  If the merchant didn’t come, or didn’t buy his wine, he had to climb back up with his reluctant mules.  So, in 1947 he decided to build a new winery on the road below, where the Piaugier cellars are to this day.


Jean-Marc Autran, Alphonse’s great-grandson, took over the winery from his father Marc in 1985.  He acquired more vineyards and, with the assistance of his wife Sophie, started bottling and developed sales.  The winery soon became too small and they extended it in 1995 to enable them to age and store the wines in the best possible conditions.


In homage to this family history, Jean-Marc has dedicated a wine to his ancestor, the Réserve Alphonse Vautour, which is made from grapes grown in his original fields.


Today, Piaugier wines are sold as far away as the United States, Japan and Brazil.


Much more information is available at http://www.domainedepiaugier.com/en_index.htm


My Tasting Note

The wine is a bit darker than a medium ruby color. The very appealing nose has raspberries, baking spices, cherries, white pepper, dried herbs, fresh wild flowers, smoke, and a touch of earthy underbrush. This has medium body, fairly solid tannins, and good acidity. Spicy fruit hits the palate first, followed by nice dried herbs, pepper, and a touch of scorched earth. The finish has good length and leans more on the savory elements with the fruit providing nice background sweetness but it does lose some depth and richness. This is drinking very nicely today but can be enjoyed over the next few years.  (90 pts)

2007 Domaine de Piaugier Gigondas




2012 Bedrock Wine Co. Mourvedre Ode to Lulu Rosé – $19.00

This rosé from Bedrock as well as Villa Creek’s offering, form the nucleus of my warm weather  rosé wines.  I mix in a few others I buy at the local store, but these two make up well over 50% of the rosés we drink during the year.  If you aren’t on the Bedrock mailing list, I highly recommend getting on their waiting list.  They are producing some of the best white wines coming out of California and their reds, after some cellar time are outstanding.  This rosé completes the loop making Bedrock one of the better wineries making a wide variety of wines.  As a bonus, their pricing is very consumer friendly with a lot of wines under $25.


For more information on the winery or to get on their mailing list, visit their website here.


Winery history

Bedrock is an itsy-bitsy winery making wine in a converted chicken coop.  Fruit from only the most excellent vineyard sites is hand pitch-forked into the destemmer, fermented in open top redwood and stainless vats using only native yeasts, and are manually basket pressed by winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson into the sexiest oak from the coldest French forests.


The winery’s objectives are:


To channel the fruit of ancient vines into powerful, elegant, and distinctly Californian wines.

To spread the gospel of Syrah in California by sourcing fruit from great terroirs throughout the NorthCoast.

To proclaim the greatness of Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon by sparing no expense on wines of uniqueness and personality.

To reclaim rose’ from the excesses of saignee and focus on precision, delicacy, aromatics, and food friendliness.

To make fascinating and quixotic white wines from unique sites and interesting varietals.

To make California Pinot Noir that ages as well as ’74 Swan.

To dream big but keep production low!


My Tasting Note

The wine is a light pink to salmon color. The fresh and clean nose has strawberries, dusty minerals, white peaches, cherries, and some subtle earthiness. This has light body with crisp acidity. Crisp, juicy fruit and minerals dominate the palate with a touch of earthiness in the background. The finish has nice length and leaves a very slightly sweet and crisp final impression. The perfect wine to enjoy on a warm Summer afternoon with or without food.  (91 pts)

2012 Bedrock Wine Co Mourvedre Ode to Lulu Rose




2008 Saxum James Berry Vineyard – $75.00

I was a big fan of Saxum wines long before a certain wine publication brought them to everyone’s attention by naming one of their wines the Wine of the Year a couple years ago.  This wine was always a steal at the release price of $45.  Eventually the winery also noted this and the wine now is released for about $90.  The wine is usually outstanding, but my purchases have been cut back a bit because I just don’t need a boat load of $100 wine in the cellar.


Winery history

Saxum Vineyards is focused on producing Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre based blends from the Templeton Gap/Willow Creek area of Paso Robles.  We let our rocky calcareous soils, steep hillsides, sunny days, and cooling ocean breezes speak through our wines by keeping our yields low, picking the fruit at the peak of ripeness, and using a minimalist approach in the cellar.  We respect our land and farm everything sustainably without chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides.  Because our vine’s roots penetrate deep through the fissures in the calcareous soil irrigation is rarely needed.  Production is kept at 3000-4000 cases a year divided between seven different cuvees, Broken Stones, James Berry Vineyard, Bone Rock, Booker Vineyards, Paderewski Vineyard, Heart Stone Vineyard and Terry Hoage Vineyard.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a medium to dark ruby, lighter at the edge.  The exciting and enjoyable nose has crushed berries, roasted herbs, stony minerals, smoke, meat juices, cherries, violets, subtle earthiness, and a slight mint note.  This has full body, medium to solid tannins, and very good acidity.  Not as big and brooding on the palate as I was expecting based on the nose.  The very nice acidity holds the wine together and along with the tannins provides plenty of backbone and structure.  This deserves a few more years in the cellar but shows very nicely with a few hours of air.  (95 pts)

2008 Saxum James Berry Vineyard




2005 Carlisle Syrah Papa’s Block – $36.00

If you are on the Carlisle mailing list, congratulations, you are on one of the best lists out there.  If you are not on their mailing list, I highly recommend you upgrade your circle of friends to include someone on the list that shares their good stuff.


Now that Carlisle has their own winery and won’t be using outside crush facilities, I look forward to even greater things coming from them in the upcoming years.


Winery history

We are a small Sonoma County winery specializing in the production of old-vine, vineyard designated zinfandels and red Rhone varieties (syrah, grenache, mourvèdre, and petite sirah).  While we like our wines to be bold, rich, and intensely flavored, each reflecting a sense of place, its origins in the vineyard, we also strive to create wines of balance, complexity, and perhaps most importantly, pleasure.


Rich.  Lusty.  Hedonistic.  These are some of the descriptors we often hear applied to our wines.  However, we also hear the words elegant, balanced, complex.  Yes, through hard work in the vineyard and winery, we believe you can have it all, the best of both worlds.  Our approach to winemaking is simple, yet difficult.  We prefer to intervene in nature’s process as little as possible but we will leave no stone unturned in our quest to maximize the quality of each wine we produce.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a deep maroon color.  The stunning nose has berries, smoked meat, roasted herbs, black pepper, dark bittersweet chocolate, vanilla, minerals, brined black olives, and wildflowers.  This has a fairly full body with mostly integrated tannins and good acidity.  On the palate this is all about the savory elements with smoked meat, black olives and pepper dominating the front end with the fruit providing nice sweetness in the background.  On the back end and long finish some earthiness joins the party.  This is probably at peak right now and I’d probably recommend drinking over the next year, maybe two before the fruit goes away.  (92 pts)

2005 Carlisle Syrah Papa's Block




2007 Steltzner Vineyards Claret – $13.29

A long time favorite in the week night Bordeaux style blend category.  The blend changes every year, in this vintage it is 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 12% Cabernet Franc.


Winery history

Richard Steltzner established his first Stags Leap District Vineyards in 1965 while concurrently engaging in vineyards management.  Steltzner Vineyards’ first commercial release was in 1977, and the Steltzner Family established their own modest facility in 1983, with a 3,000 case capacity here in the Stags Leap District.


Today at Steltzner Vineyards you will find Dick’s children working with him to carry on his legacy here in the NapaValley.  Allison Steltzner began working with her father full-time in 2002 after completing her Bachelor of Sciences Degree at ChicoState, majoring in business administration, with a minor in marketing.  Allison is uniquely suited for her post as General Manager and National Sales Director for Steltzner Vineyards.  Today, she is joined by Justin, as the second generation Steltzner family to work full time in the winery.  Justin carries on his father’s farming traditions and works side by side with Dick to manage the ranch and produce optimal fruit from our estate.  Their sister Laura makes her home in Casablanca, Morocco with her husband working in the cosmetics business.


For more information, please visit http://www.steltzner.com/


My Tasting Note

The wine is a fairly deep ruby red color.  The enticing nose has cassis, cedar, dried herbs, tobacco, cherries, baking spices, smoke, and just a touch of vanilla.  This has medium body, moderate tannins and good acidity.  On the palate the wine shows nice restraint and isn’t an in your face style of wine.  The fruit and savory elements share the spotlight on the front end showing nice balance, on the back end sweet cherries, spicy oak and dried herbs steal the show.  The finish has decent length but does get a touch thin and a touch of excess oak.  All in all, a nice Bordeaux style blend from the Napa Valley with a wallet friendly price of around $15.  (87 pts)

2007 Steltzner Vineyards Claret




2004 Dupéré Barrera Bandol India – $24.81

I’ve been a fan of the Mourvedre based wines from France’s Bandol region for quite a while.  To me, these wines fall into the “something different” category.  Like most people, we fall into a bit of a rut having slightly different styles of essentially the same wine, these wines are my “rut busters”.  If you’ve never had a nice Bandol, check one out some time.


About the wine

Bandol “Cuvée India” :

• Blend is almost entirely comprised of Mourvèdre

• East, south-east, and northern sun exposure

• Harvested at the beginning of October

• 90% of harvest is de-stemmed

• Long fermentations of 4-6 weeks, with punch-downs, regular pump-overs, and gentle, slowmoving pump-overs

• Wine ages for 36 months (18 months in foudres and 18 months in old, oak fûts from Domaine de la Romanée Conti and Domaine de Beauséjour Bécot

• Yields range between 25-30 hl/ha

• Bottled manually by gravity under a waning moon, unfined and unfiltered


My Tasting Note

The wine is a shade lighter than maroon.  The intoxicating nose has crushed berries, stony minerals, warm baking spices, vanilla, melted licorice, earthy underbrush, garrigue and violets.  This has medium body, moderate tannins and good acidity.  The palate has nice focus and outstanding intensity with berries and minerals grabbing hold, slowly allowing the spices and dried herbs to slip through the cracks.  The finish is long and nicely layered with a touch of vanilla and some subtle earthiness adding considerable interest.  This is perfectly balanced and a joy to drink.  An absolutely stunning wine from the under appreciated Bandol region.  (94 pts)

2004 Dupere Barrera Bandol India




Connect with me

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.


If you like this post, consider joining Cliffs Wine Picks Wine Blog on Facebook and giving me a Like.





This is original to CliffsWinePicks.com.  Copyright 2013 Cliff’s Wine Picks.

All rights reserved.



***** Shameless Self Promotion *****


Here is a link to a YouTube video of me getting “coal” from Santa for being named the “Nicest Person in Social Media” in 2012.




Breaking news from Klout:




Remember to support your local wine store!




* * * * * * * * * * * * *


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.