Tastings: Chairman's picks will not last long

The fall crop of Chairman's Selections has arrived in state stores in our area with a larger-than-usual number of European choices. It is important to remember that these wines are available in limited quantities. They arrive in stores at different times so it is essential to check online to see where you might find the wines. I like to use the availability map found at Pawinetalk.com under the resources tab. Alternatively there is the product search page at lcbapps.lcb.state.pa.us. Both sites require the PLCB code. If you are not comfortable with the Web, take the code to your nearest Wine and Spirit Shop and ask them to track the wine for you.

Ormarine Picpoul de Pinet, 2012, Languedoc, France

PLCB No. 32778, $8.99

This fresh and fruity white comes from a cooperative winery in the south of France. Made from the Picpoul grape, it is light-bodied and delicate, a perfect warm-weather quaff, with hints of peaches and melon in both nose and mouth.

Barrel 27 High on the Hog, 2010, Paso Robles, Calif.

PLCB No. 32706, $9.99

A Rhone Valley lookalike blend of 40-percent Grenache Blanc, 40-percent Viognier, 15-percent Rousanne and 5-percent Marsanne. The nose of pear, apple and lemon zest hits first, followed by jasmine and gardenia, and finishes with a hint of mineral. There is good body and a nice texture. Hard not to like.

Dom. Cordier Pere et Fils St. Veran en Faux, 2011, Maconnais, France

PLCB No. 32725, $19.99

As Cote d'Or white Burgundy prices soar, Chardonnays from the Maconnais look like bargains. Try this unoaked version from vineyards near Pouilly Fuisse. It was hand-harvested from low-yield vines, has the typical Chardonnay apple and citrus nose layered on floral and mineral notes.

Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee Brut Reserve, 2005, Carneros, Calif.

PLCB No. 33145, $17.99

This premium vintage California sparkling wine is a big mouthful of ripe peaches and pears wrapped around yeasty aromas of toasted bread, almonds and lemons. It can hold up proudly next to bubbles costing multiples of this price.

Domaine St. Michelle Brut Rose, Columbia Valley, Wash.

PLCB No. 33156, $8.49

This is a rock-bottom price for a bubbly that has long been my favorite house sparkler. St. Michelle is one of the largest sparkling wine producers in the U.S. and their wines frequently win top honors at blind tastings. This bottle is 100-percent Pinot Noir which produces a salmon color and raspberry, green-apple and orange-peel aromas. Good with food or on its own.

Henriques Forca Premium Cotes Du Roussillon-Villages, 2011, France

PLCB No. 33202, $7.99

Here is a perfect everyday red. A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre grapes, it has the typical Rhone profile of ripe plum and raspberry flavors with a touch of mint and dried herbs. Well made, unoaked, full-bodied. Stock up for winter -- it won't last long.

Sebastiani Merlot, 2009, Alexander Valley, Calif.

PLCB No. 33188, $10.99

An elegant and understated Merlot that has spent 11 months in new and one-year-old oak barrels. You will find ripe berries and plums on the nose, followed by black pepper, dried herbs, black tea mocha and vanilla. Medium- to full-bodied, it is well structured and balanced. An excellent value.

Veramonte Primus Malbec, 2010, Mendoza, Argentina

PLCB No. 33154, $12.99

Veramonte, long a producer of fine wines in Chile, has crossed the border to add vineyards in Argentina. This blend of 82-percent Malbec, 10-percent Syrah and 8-percent Petit Verdot is well made with lots of classic Malbec characteristics such as dark plum and blackberry aromas woven around sweet tobacco.

Latitude 44 Malbec, 2011, Cahors, France

PLCB No. 32722, $14.99

Here is a chance to taste Malbec from its traditional home. For too many years, Cahors Malbec was so dark and tannic and hard to love. Modern winemakers have remedied that.

Cousino Macul Finis Terrae, 2009, Maipo, Chile

PLCB No. 33174, $17.99

This is a blend of 70-percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25-percent Merlot and 5-percent Syrah from 80-year-old vines that has been aged for 15 months in new French oak. You will find blackberry, raspberry and cassis laced with tobacco and cedar on the nose. The body is medium-big, well-balanced and elegant. This is a classy wine that scored 90 points in Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.

Genium Celler Priorat, 2007, Priorat, Spain

PLCB No. 33160, $19.99

Some very old vine Grenache and Carinena are blended with Merlot and Syrah and aged in French oak for 10 months to create this lovely, multi-layered wine.

Chateau Gigognan Vigne du Regent Chateauneuf du Pape, 2009 Rhone, France

PLCB No. 33167, $24.99

This Old World-style wine hibernated for two years in oak casks (not barrels) before being bottled in 2011. It is 65-percent Grenache and 35-percent Syrah and shows the black fruit aromas of both varieties laced with licorice, chocolate, black pepper and herbes de Provence. Well structured with good body. There was a slight animal stink at a recent tasting. I suggest that you open an hour or two before drinking to allow that aroma to dissipate.

Rafael Reverte Cistum, 2009, Navarra, Spain

PLCB No. 33139, $19.99

The fruit is from ungrafted 120-year-old Grenache vines and the wine spent six months in new French oak. The Wine Advocate, giving it 92 points, said: "Cedar, pencil lead, Asian spices, incense and black cherry liqueur aromas are some of the elements leading to a voluminous, focused, layered wine with enough structure to evolve" for two or three years. Don't delay -- it won't be around long.

Bodegas Heras Cordon Rioja Reserva, 2005. Rioja, Spain

PLCB No. 33141, $19.99

2005 was a great vintage in Rioja as elsewhere in Europe. This blend of 90-percent Tempranillo and 10-percent Graciano, aged for 18 months in French and American oak (80 percent new), offers lots of black fruit entwined with espresso, leather and spice box. Great balance and long finish. This will not last.

Bodega Matarromera Emina Crianza, 2009 Ribera del Duero, Spain

#PLCB No. 33146, $13.49

Another Spanish Tempranillo winner with more to offer than the price would indicate. A nose of ripe red and black fruit, coffee and earth. Round and balanced.

Bodega Matarromera Emina Atio, 2005, Ribera Del Duero, Spain

PLCB No. 33147, $29.99

100-percent Tempranillo aged for 18 months in new French oak, this is a big and intense wine. Lots of fruit, lots of soft tannins, lots of alcohol (15.6 percent) and well aged. It was probably the highlight of a recent tasting.

Chateau Lanbersc, 2010, Puisseguin St. Emilion, France

PLCB No. 33178 $18.99

From the right bank of the Dordogne River in Bordeaux, this blend of essentially Merlot combined with a tad of Cabernet Franc comes from 80-year-old vines and produces a nose of black fruits, coffee and spices. Only 950 cases made.

Carmen Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009, Apalta, Chile

PLCB No. 39939, $12.99

Deep and dark garnet color leads to raspberry and cassis fruit layered with tobacco and smoky oak and eucalyptus aromas. Full-bodied with nice weight and finish. Carmen is an old and highly respected name in Chile.

Elizabeth Downer: elizabethdowner@gmail.com.


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