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NEWS
July 13, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila
To celebrate Bastille Day (known in France as La Fête Nationale ) on July 14, it's obligatory to drink French wine, non? You can never go wrong with a bottle of Champagne, but somehow rouge or blanc makes more sense - for the red and white in the tricolor flag. Head to the closest wine store to pick up a bottle of Beaujolais cru or gnarly Côtes-du-Rhône, or maybe a grassy Sancerre.  If you want to be more deliberate about your picks, here are half a dozen French wines guaranteed to put you in the spirit of La Marseillaise . PHOTOS: 5 French wines for Bastille Day You might want to cook something French, too, maybe a classic Provençal daube (beef braised in red wine)
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FOOD
June 22, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times
The stunning Côtes du Rhône "Petit Ours Brun" (little brown bear) tastes like a youthful Cornas. The grapes come from a parcel that winemaker Matthieu Barret calls "no man's land"; it lies just between the official boundaries of Cornas and St. Joseph. The wine is 100% Syrah from 40-year-old, low-yielding vines. Oh, and it's also certified biodynamic. The taste is cool fruit, earth, bruised blackberries and that indefinable wild quality that makes Syrah from this part of the Rhone pure magic.
NEWS
June 18, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila
Eric Asimov, the New York Times wine critic, wrote an article celebrating 10 hand-picked, up-and-coming wine producers in California. “The polarizing years of California wine are over,” he wrote. Those of us who live and drink in California have seen the change coming for a while, and embraced it. We're having a great moment in California. He made one important point, though: “A new wave of energetic California winemakers has helped to push stylistic boundaries while bringing more attention to older producers who had been considered behind the times or out of fashion.” I hadn't thought about it, but maybe that's why I chose 90-year-old Mike Grgich's Fumé Blanc as last week's Wine of the Week.
NEWS
June 3, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila
Jancis Robinson is a force. The prodigious British wine writer hopped on the Internet long before most other wine folks could muster a blog post or a tweet. Her site JancisRobinson.com -- "immoderately updated" -- contains thousands of her tasting notes, articles and comments. Some content is free, some reserved for subscribers. She seems to be everywhere at once, tasting, commenting, participating. The wine editor of Financial Times , she is also the author, co-author or editor of numerous serious wine books, including "The Oxford Companion to Wine ,” “ Jancis Robinson's Guide to Wine Grapes ” and most recently, “ American Wine .” Here's what she's drinking now: 2010 Bergström Cumberland Reserve Pinot Noir Willamette Valley in Oregon.
FOOD
June 1, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times
  The coals are hot. The big steak sizzles as you put it on the grill. What are you going to drink with that? A big brawny red from Spain, Alto Moncayo's Campo de Borja Garnacha. The color is a gorgeous deep ruby, the aromas raspberries and sweet, sweet fruit. It's a mouthful all right, intense and ripe, but also bright and juicy. And it just cuddles up to that steak. A perfect match. OK, you could also drink it with thick pork chops. And Grenache always loves lamb, so consider a butterflied leg of lamb too. And give the wine time to breathe: You might want to open the bottle an hour or so before you plan to drink it. But wait for the meat, please, and pour something lighter and less demanding as an apéritif, maybe an Albariño.
FOOD
May 11, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times
This is a stunning Arneis from Giovanni Almondo in the Roero region of Piedmont. And to think this grape was once almost extinct. It may be temperamental, but whatever pains must be taken to produce this lovely white are worth it. The 2011 wafts the scents of ripe pears, melons and flowers from the glass. It's fleshy but lithe, cool-toned and with a vivid minerality. I'd pour it with mozzarella and pea shoots, with summer soups and pastas, and grilled whole fish. It's a terrific basic that doesn't cost the Earth.
FOOD
April 6, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times
La Rioja Alta is one of the great old Rioja houses, best known for Viña Ardanza, long one of my favorite Riojas. The 2004 Viña Arana is winning me over, though. Made with 95% Tempranillo, rather than Ardanza's 80% (the rest being made up with Garnacha and, in the case of Arana, with Mazuelo), the 2004 has a beautiful balance and grace. It's all in there - dark cherries, licorice, leather and earth. Ready to drink now or put away for a while. Give this terrific Rioja some time in the glass for all its layers to show themselves.
FOOD
March 16, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times
I'm a longtime fan of wines from the Alsace estate Zind-Humbrecht, which can trace its wine growing history back to the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century. Who wouldn't covet any of their stunning grand crus? But a Tokay Pinot Gris from Clos Saint Urbain from Rangen de Thann, say, is strictly a special occasion wine. The estate's entry-level 2010 Pinot Blanc, however, is very affordable, and it's a perfect white for everyday drinking. Scented with flowers and peaches, it's crisp yet with ripe fruit and a thrilling complexity.
FOOD
March 9, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times
Lirac may not have the cachet of nearby Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but I've sometimes scoured wine shops in France looking to turn up a bottle of Domaine de la Mordorée's exquisite "Cuvée de la Reine des Bois. " Fortunately, it's somewhat easier to find here in Southern California. It's worth seeking out any year, but the 2010 may be the best the domaine has ever made — juicy, dark and wild, tasting of ripe berries and plums that drip down your chin. Super-rich and super-concentrated, this blend of equal parts Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah needs bold food.
FOOD
February 23, 2013 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times
A great bottle of white from Austria. Crisp and cool, with classic Grüner notes of green apple, lime and white pepper, the 2011 "Kamptaler Terrassen" from Bründlmayer reboots the palate in much the way that Champagne sets you up for the meal to come. Serve it well-chilled with hors d'oeuvres, smoked fish, chilled shellfish and grilled fish. Region: Kamptal, Austria Price: About $22 Style: Crisp and aromatic What it goes with: Smoked fish, chilled shellfish, grilled seafood Where to find it: BestWinesOnline.com, (888)
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