This week’s column begins with a Double Deal of the Week Special and for good reason. There are still some bottles around of winemaker Jean Luc-Colombo’s 2016 Cotes du Rhone “Les Abeilles” Rouge ($12.99) and “Les Abeilles” Blanc ($12.99) and they’re worth snapping up for autumn/fall entertaining.
Both are outstanding French wines for the listed price, crafted by a man known as the “winemaking wizard of the Rhone.” Jean-Luc Colombo is big on innovation and modern equipment, but he’s hands-off when it comes to respecting the land, vines, and Mother Nature. He, his wife Anne and daughter Laura nurture the vineyards with great care. They adher to dry farming methods (no irrigation) and prohibit pesticides. In fact, “Les Abeilles” (translation: the bees) wines honor the colorful, lively honeybees that whir through southern Rhone fields and orchards most of the year. The Colombos keep their own hives and support research into Colony Collapse Disorder that kill off adult bees.
The 2016 Blanc, a blend of Clairette (80%) and Roussanne (20%), is a labor of love. All grapes are hand-picked from vineyards in the heart of the Cotes du Rhone, including Rasteau and Vacqueyras. Colombo works his magic by fermenting Clairette in steel tanks and Roussanne in French oak barrels. After six months, the wines are assembled into a final blend. The result is straw yellow-colored wine featuring ascendant citrus, pear and almond notes. The smooth finish offers a nice mineral touch, making this a smart companion to pork, lamb, seafood risotto, and cheese dishes.
The excellent 2016 Rouge has already gained global notoriety. It was ranked No. 4 on Wine Enthusiast magazine’s “Top 100 Best Buys List of 2018.” The reviewer wrote (this) “buoyant red wine is marked by aromas of ripe blackberries, blueberries and anise. Full bodied and plump but balanced by crisp acidity with a firm, tannic finish (90 points).” Both wines are drinking quite well now. Look for them at Gordon’s Liquors in Waltham, Total Wine, and other retail outlets. (For each purchase, the Colombo estate makes a donation to UC Davis Department of Entomology for Honey Bee Research.)
It’s a good time to stock up on bargains. Many retailers are clearing shelves to make room for new arrivals, leaving sharp-eyed consumers a chance to pick up plenty of discounted values. Here are several I’ve tracked down for your consideration:
Domaine Ogier “Artesis” Blanc 2016 – Sticking with the Rhone Valley, this estate dates back to 1859 and has undergone a 21st century resurgence under Didier Couturier’s quality-driven management. Vineyard soils of mostly get a nutritious mineral lift from limestone and “galets” – small, rounded stones. Grenache Blanc, Clairette, and Bourboulenc
(known for high acidity with aromas of citrus and smoke) make up the CDR blend. The wine is expressive, elegant and delicious. It regularly sells for $16 but is on sale in N.H. for $8.99.
Clarendelle Bordeaux 2018, $18.99 – This classic white Bordeaux from Clarence Dillon captures the essence of Chateau Haut-Brion without the expensive pricetag. A lovely mix of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle delivers a fresh, mouthwatering wine that asserts itself with passion fruit and hints of spice and licorice. The color is almost translucent in the glass, with brilliant glimmers of pale yellow. Pair this with any dish that is accompanied with lemon juice or cream sauce for a special delight. It can also serve as a fall party aperitif. Look for it on sale in select border stores for $16.99.
Monrosso Tuscan Red Blend 2016, ($16.99) – What makes this Italian wine so good is its precise combination of noble European grapes – Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. Estate owner Fabrizio Bianchi and his winemaker daughter Laura let the French and Italian varieties intermingle harmoniously to produce captivating notes of cherry, plum, iris, and violets. Call it a semi-Super Tuscan if you wish, but Monrossi is simply magnifico with a meat pizza, a Bolognese pasta dish, or grilled burgher. It’s a must-seize bargain at $14.99 in N.H. outlets through Sept. 29.