Idon’t normally do this, but I purchased a bottle of Dominis M, a red Languedoc-Roussillon wine from France’s Domaine de le Casenove, strictly because I was intrigued by the classy, minimalist look of the bottle’s label. Well, that and the $8.60 price. How bad could it be? If it was undrinkable, I could always use it for cooking.
As it turns out, Dominis M packs an amazing punch for the price. It’s a Rhone-style blend of what tastes to me like Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and perhaps Carignan. Dominis M is best served with food, as the initial sip is a bit funky with a strong whack of what’s come to be known in the biz as gout de terroir. But this wine evolved beautifully throughout a meal of, in this case, roasted chicken with herbs. I started out hating it and by the end of dinner, had made plans to return to the wine store to buy more. It’s medium-bodied but complex and enticing for the sub-$10 price.
While we’re in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, here’s another incredible bang for the buck. A while back, Juhl Haus’ manager and wine expert Vicky Martinez turned me on to a blend of the aforementioned Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache and Carignan called Le Viala 2001, from Chateau de Mattes-Sabran. Vicky paired the Le Viala with cheese fondue at the Juhl Haus and the result was unexpectedly wonderful. The texture is silky and soft, but there’s nice depth to this fruit-forward wine. I’ve yet to find anyone who doesn’t love this stuff. You’ll love the $12.75 price.
I admit to being a Champagne RosÃ© snob. Strand me on an uninhabited island with just one bottle of vino and I’d want it to be a high-end, ridiculously expensive bottle of French Champagne RosÃ©—Roederer, Veuve Clicquot, Taittinger, Pol Roger or Krug would do nicely. But I’m a writer, not an oil mogul, which means that while my tastes tend towards the opulent French stuff, my wallet leads me to intriguing little offerings like Cristalino Rose Brut. It’s a sparkling Cava from Spain that, frankly, is a cheap thrill—a perfect bottle of bubbly to sip ice-cold on the porch while reading cheesy summer novels. No, a bottle of Cristalino won’t change your life. But think of it this way: For the $6.95 price, you can buy 37 bottles of this pleasing Spanish bubbly for each bottle of Krug Brut Rose you consume. For all you Prosecco fans, give this Cava a try. It may just be the best sparkling-wine value around.
During recent travels, I came across two interesting domestic wines that I hope may come to be available here in Utah. Foris 1999 Fly-over Red ($18.50) is a southern Oregon Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend that gets its name from the fact that visitors heading north from California frequently fly over the Foris vineyards. There’s an initial musty earthiness and saddle leather that gives way to mocha, blueberry and smoke on the palate. It’s a lush, dark, brooding wine that might just put Oregon’s Rogue Valley on the vinicultural map.
Another good off-the-beaten-path find was the California Claret that Gundlach Bundschu winery calls “Bearitage.” The winemakers at Gundlach Bundschu describe Bearitage as a “Sonoma Valley version of Bordeaux, led astray,” which is about right. Bearitage ($11.35) is primarily a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel, with judicious hints of Tempranillo, Gamay and Cabernet Franc. The soft texture and intense dark fruit flavors make Gundlach Bundschu Bearitage an exceptional match with duck confit. It’s also got a really unique label featuring a California grizzly bear (Bearitage, get it?) enjoying nectar of the Gods from a pawful of crushed grapes.