I think this might be the most interesting edition of What We Drank so far. We've got big names, big wines and then wines of elegance and restraint. And for the first time, not a single New York wine.

ChateauMontelena_Chard_2004From Bryan Calandrelli: Chateau Montelena 2004 Chardonnay

today’s market place there’s a growing number of so-called celebrity
wines. In this case the wine itself has become a celebrity thanks to
“Bottle Shock” the movie. A friend of mine opened this 2004 Chateau
Montelena Chardonnay from the Napa Valley recently and I was lucky
enough to get a taste of a recent bottling of the wine that made
history at the Judgment of Paris.
I got a nose full of butter and vanilla with a touch of green apple
with a few swirls of the glass. Full bodied mouth-feel on this one, as
it wasn’t shy in the flavor or texture department. While there were
some memorable notes and flavors, they seemed layered. I didn’t find
them to be as cohesive as you’d expect in a major league chardonnay. In
fact it was similar to the movie, some memorable performances but
overall not a blockbuster by any definition.

LucaMalbec From Evan Dawson: Luca 2005 Malbec, Altos de Mendoza

for a moment, let's agree to unfairly overgeneralize, cool? I'm just
about done with "value" Malbec from Argentina. "Value" is apparently
Spanish for "obstreperous oak missile" or "offensively extracted." But
that's where my Malbec dollars have been spent, and as a result, I have
no good idea of what the personality of Malbec is when grown in
You can now imagine my whelming — nay, overwhelming
— sense of satisfaction in finding an Argentinian Malbec with
character and verve. Granted, this bottle of Luca is $35, and it's a
world away (literally and figuratively) from Auxerrois and Cot. But
it's a new-world wine that mollifies its oak and allows rich fruit to
unfold. On night one it was like adding a pinch of grilled sirloin to
blackberry ganache. On night two it was like drinking a black forest
cake. But the flavors were constantly evolving, rich but not garish,
powerful but not burly. You know that guy who shakes your hand and goes
in for the fake body blow? He makes you recoil instinctively as you
anticipate the punch? I hate that guy, and that guy is found in a lot
of new-world reds, but not this one. This wine, clocking in at 13.5
ABV, is a firm, sincere handshake. And that's appreciated.

Jaboulet Parallele 45 From Sasha Smith: Paul Jaboulet
Parallele 45 2008 Rosé

Saturday afternoon my husband smoked a pork shoulder and we
invited a few friends over for Carolina-style pulled pork sandwiches. I wasn’t
much in the mood for beer, so opted for a bottle of 2008 Paul Jaboulet
Parallele 45 Rosé instead. It was the wine equivalent of watermelon: clean,
refreshing, and somewhat neutral. The pork, a smoky, spicy delight, completely
overwhelmed it.

Every summer I try to find to find the perfect go-to rosé (last
year Mas de Gourgonnier was a favorite) and while I enjoyed the Parallele 45,
I’m in the market for something with a bit more oomph.  A Garnacha, perhaps?

Chiroubles_finalFrom Lenn Thompson:  Damien Coquelet 2007Chiroubles "Vielles Vignes"

Last week, Nena and I had a few friends over to taste six West Coast pinot noirs as a part of TasteLive. Most were good-to-great, for a few sips, but after that, they were too fleshy, and (some) a little too vanilla-y. Where was the elegance?

One wine left the flavor of Werther's Originals candy in my mouth. Not in a good way.

As we started to wind down with the pinots and I was pondering what I wanted to drink the rest of the evening, I opened this Chiroubles. And it was the first bottle emptied.

If you don't know where Chiroubles is, it is right next to Fleurie and Morgon, two of the better-known areas of Beaujolais. This $20 gamay is elegant and definitely Old World, showing restrained blackberry-cranberry fruit with violets, black peppercorns and an amazing undercurrent of gravel and minerals. The acidity is damn near perfect and the finish is long. I only have one bottle left (and supposedly only 35 cases made it to the United States). Every time I have a Beaujolais like this, I wonder why no one in New York is doing anything interesting with the gamay grape.