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Affordable Chairman's Selection Wines

Updated: Jan 23, 2022

Dear friends,

It's been a long time since my last post. Apologies. I've been very busy with a new project (in a country with no good wine), teaching Osher CMU classes, and starting with some of you the American Wine Society City of Pittsburgh chapter. During this Thanksgiving Holiday I have been able to get some time to organize my wine reviews and post them for you. This time you will see mostly Bordeaux and Italian wines, but also a few from Spain, US, Argentina, Germany, Portugal and other parts of France. as well as some exotic wines from Moldova, Lebanon and Uruguay. I hope you enjoy them. And we'll start with the one Sally and I have declared "Our 2021 Holidays Sparking".

Roger Goulart, Gran Reserva 2015

Xarel-lo 50%, Macabeo 20% and Parellada 20%, Cava, Spain

Good cork with two rings, dry and conical promising a quality experience. Continuous small bubbles forming a crown keeping the promise. Aroma of citrus and bread dough. Toasty flavors in mouth, including almond. Clean, and, for a cava, in the ripe and savory side. Probably a result of the amazingly long period of aging on its lees (72 months). Good quality / price ratio. We had it at Thanksgiving with turkey and decided to declare it our sparking for the Holidays. And this is what wine expert from Eastern PA Jan Stetler said: Pale straw yellow color...huge amount of fine bubbles...persistent bubbles... The nose is of medium intensity...but flowery...yeast...ripe apple...lemon...elegant...the yeast fades with time in the glass...still...Nice! Medium full bodied entry on the palate...very crisp acidity...dry...there is a lush ripeness to this follows from the nose...lemon again...refined...well vinted...dry mid palate...followed by lingering ripe green apple...Delicious!... Really nice wine...made in a slightly riper style...but still with the classic sparkling acidity...very good QPR for a sparkler of this elegance...really... 91 pts. Decanter

Price: $12.99 My rating: 91 pts.


Cave di Prun Riserva 2009, Corvina-based blend, Amarone della Valpolichella Classico DOC, Italy

I usually do not spend this much money in a bottle but Amarone is always tempting. I have often resorted to Valpolichella Ripasso to get a hint of Amarone bouquet at more affordable price. However, in a recent trip to Poland with a colleague he told me a story that enticed me to purchase this one. He had been invited by a wealthy individual who had a cellar of 2,000+ expensive wines and was offered the possibility of selecting the wine for dinner. He chose an Amarone to the man's surprise. When inquired why hadn't he chosen an Opus One just beside it, my colleague replied that this is what he liked, irrespective of the price level. The man liked the response and they both enjoyed the wine.

This one was typical, in my opinion, and pretty good for the price. Lots of ripe fruit aromas accompanied by mocha and anise. In mouth it was dense, alcoholic, with fine tannins still very present but in the pleasant side, almost velvety, and powerful body. Deep and long aftertaste reminiscent of mocha. One of those wines that say to you "here I am"! It could accompany anything with strong taste like goulash or even game with chocolate-based sauce, but I had it with no food, and just chewed it.

$29.99 My rating: 93 pts.


Château Kefraya Coteaux 2017, Cabernet Sauvignon 35%, Syrah 25%, Cabernet Franc 25%, Tempranillo 10%, Marselan 5%, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

Aromas of black cherry, coffee and vanilla. Medium to high body, not too acidic, and dense, withy great structure also saying “here I am!”. It combines masterfully fruit and oak. Deep with pleasant aftertaste.

The best vintage of this wine to date! It keeps improving year after year. Nice to see good things like great wine happening in that part of the World that made itself known to us during the terrible Lebanon war. This may have increased my enthusiasm when I rated the wine. Very good anyways. Chapeau!

$15.99 My rating: 92 pts.


Carlos Serres Gran Reserva 2012, Tempranillo 85%, Graciano 10%, Mazuelo 5%, Rioja, Spain

Aroma of cherries, lots of carnation and geranium. After several trials, I detected hints of truffle and cinnamon. In mouth it was fresh and still youthful with medium body and successfully hiding its 14.5% alcoholic grade. In mouth it displayed and elegant presence with smooth texture. Sleek. Long and pleasant aftertaste. Bolder than the lighter complexion 2010.

Although not amongst the best Rioja brands, this one affords us the opportunity to taste the characteristics of a Gran Reserva, with minimum 2 years in oak and 5 in bottle, for a price significantly lower than others.

92 pts. WA, 91 pts. W&S, 89 pts. WE

$15.99 My rating: 92 pts.


As of Dec 28th available in most S.W. PA shops except Centre Ave. and Waterworks

Wente 2017, Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley, CA

Chocolate and dry fruits (figs, prunes). Perfect acidity and medium to full body with some slight astringency that did not bother me. Full and expressive aftertaste. Very well crafted and very very good! I have never been disappointed by Wente wines.

92 pts. WE

$9.99 (half bottle) My rating: 92 pts.


Marimar Estate Acero 2019, Chardonnay (unoaked), Russian River Valley (Don Miguel Estate), CA

Winemaker notes: Expansive aromas of green apple, lemon zest, and subtle floral notes of jasmine, with notes of spice reminiscent of nutmeg. Creamy on the palate, intense but smooth, with perfect acid balance and refreshing minerality reminiscent of wet stones.

I lost my notes but I remember that it was one of the Chardonnays that I’ve enjoyed the most. It was very clean and elegant and it showcased the fruit, as opposed to the honey and resin smell from over-oaked CA Chardonnays.

I think that Marimar may be Miguel Torres’ (the Spanish Wine Tycoon) daughter and she seems to have named the vineyard in his honor. I’d love to taste Marimar and Miguel’s Milmanda, side by side and compete the daughter against the father as well as Russian River Valley against Penedés.

92 pts. JS

$19.99 My Rating: 92 pts.


Cordero di Montezemolo 2016, Nebbiolo, Barolo, Italy

Finally! The first Barolo I try that behaves like in the text book. Tar, roses and mature fruits. Very nice color veering towards signs of aging. However, in mouth it showed the remaining acidity and tannins that would have supported long keeping. The tannins were powdery, very fine. The rose aroma became all taste. Distinctive, different from other wines, and beautiful. Aftertaste non-aggressive but sort of light with possibly some lingering minerality.

It has flown from the shelves. Only left in Philadelphia.

$37.99 My rating: 92 pts.


Il Poggio Guerreiro 2019, Falanghina, Benevento, Italy

The visual examination promises glycerin and it has it. Intense aroma of candied pear, anise and sandal. Dense in mouth with a level of acidity sufficient to prevent it from being unctuous. Very tasty and very nice aftertaste that only has a problem, … it makes you keep drinking more! Great deal.

92 pts. JS

$9.99 My rating: 91 pts.


Château La Roberterie Selectus 2015, Bordeaux Supérieur, France

Winemaker notes: Tart cherry and ripe fruit aromas, enhanced by chocolate and licorice notes. Woody tastes meld around a round and rich palate, full or tenderness.

I agreed except with the last words. I thought it was an unpretentious and very low-priced Bordeaux 2015 that actually was very pleasant and fulfilling. I kept wondering “why so cheap” and came up with the daring hypothesis that they may need to reduce stock to make room for the outstanding 2018 and 2019 vintages. I will keep looking for 2015s and 2016s instead!

$9.99 My rating: 91 pts.


Château Francs Magnus 2018, Merlot 90%, Cabernet Franc 10%, Bordeaux Supérieur, France

I lost my notes but remember that it was surprisingly good for drinking now in spite of being a 2018.

From Wine Advocate: Deep garnet-purple colored, it reveals notes of raisin cake, baked plums and chocolate box with hints of fallen leaves and menthol. The palate is full-bodied with loads of berry preserves and baking spice flavors and a chewy texture, finishing peppery.

Good chance to check into this outstanding vintage with a wine that is actually drinkable now.

91 pts. JS

$12.99 My rating: 91 pts.


Bel Ormeau les Herits 2018, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, France

Ripe red and black fruits with chocolate notes. Gentle tannins for 2018, perfect acidity, 14.5% alcohol but it was not noticeable. Balanced and slick. WE declared it a “Cellar Selection”. I enjoyed it and got more. María told me she enjoyed it too. It can age well, as any 2018, but the nice thing about this one is that it is very pleasant and fulfilling now.

91 pts. WE

$13.99 My rating: 91 pts. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Torre Moura Cauru 2019, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Etna, Italy

Sally loved it and, without telling her where it was from, believe me, she said “volcanic ashes”!

Wine Enthusiast Notes: Fresh and fruity, this has aromas of wild berries, blue flowers and a hint of spice. On the easygoing palate lithe tannins seamlessly support juice strawberry, blood orange and wild herbs before a hint of rusty nail.

I agreed with everything but especially with the blood orange. And, sincerely, the rusty nail aroma was a discovery for me! Very easy to drink wine in the Pinot Noir style (Nerello Mascalese is actually Pinot Noir) but volcanic and rusty.

91 pts. WE

$13.99 My rating: 91 pts.


Annick Bachelet 2019, Gamay, Morgon, France

Red fruits including ripe strawberry. Spice. It had more color and taste density than other Beaujolais I have had. Deep.

Morgon is not the typical Beaujolais nouveau and is aging-worthy. José liked it a lot and told me “I think you’re sharing with me today a very good wine”. A very affordable price for such a good wine.

92 pts. WE

$13.99 My rating: 91 pts.


Vincens 2018, Malbec, Cahors, France

This wine deceived Sally and me big time. We opened it yesterday and the aroma was very shy. The taste was fine but nothing impressive. We then tried it today and: What a difference! It was a pretty good wine. Aromas of smoke, ripe blackberry, licorice and hyacinth and, believe it or not, peach seed, ... also garrigue. In mouth it was assertive with pleasant acidity, velvety tannins and medium body. Sleek structure and finesse in a wine that you must decant and wait before tasting. 93 pts. WE.

$13.99 My rating: 91 pts.


Basilica San Martino 2013, Sangiovese 85%, Cabernet Sauvignon 10%, Cabernet Franc 5%, Chianti Classico DOCG, Italy

Very enticing aromas of ash, ripe berries (Sofía said raisins and dates).

Still some powdery tannins and rather acidic. Should age more in spite of the 18 months in medium-roasted Sylvain and Taransaud oak, plus periods in vats and bottle.

This wine was elegant. Thank you, Ricky for this birthday present!

93 pts. WA, 90 pts. WS

$19.99 My rating: 91 pts.


Kagor, Cabernet Sauvignon, Saperavi and others, Etulia, Moldova

Very special aromas of leather and prune. Smells overripe. Thick, permanently sticky legs from its 16% alcoholic content. In mouth it is sweeeeeeeet and thick. Really a sweet wine. It must have been fortified.

To be drank with deserts and in small amounts. Similar to a Port wine. Once used to it I ended up liking it. I brought it to a delicious dinner at Diana's and Ray's and they loved it at the end of the meal.

$9.99 My rating: 90 pts.

RECOMMENDED (only available now in Eastern PA or on-line)

Garzón 2019, Tannat, Uruguay

I have tasted this wine several times in the US and Spain. High production from 2018 new World’s winery of the year. Very well crafted.

I lost my notes but remember plum aroma and flavor in a medium-bodied well structured wine. Excellent for the price and an opportunity to try a rare varietal from a remote place.

90 pts. WE

$11.99 My rating: 90 pts.


Nagelsforst 2016, Riesling, Baden, Germany

Green olive, olive oil, apple and pear with cooking herb notes, maybe dill, dry basil or bay leave. A very shy hint of sweetness in the tip of the tongue accompanied with slight fizz. Very good acidity level giving this serious wine some life. It had some characteristics that I have seen in other humid wine regions like Ribeiro. And as such I loved it and Sally hated it.

92 pts. WE

$11.99 My rating: 90 pts.


Laroque 2018, Cabernet Franc, Cité de Carcassonne, France

Do not confuse it with the famous Château Laroque Saint Émilion Grand Cru!

Ripe red fruits and vanilla suggesting significant new lightly toasted oak exposure. Medium body with smooth and velvety tannins.

It was very much worth it for the price. I recommended it to María for a dinner with friends and she told me they loved it. Also, it is a great way to compare Old World with the new generation of surprisingly good Cabernet Franc coming out in the Mid-Atlantic US.

Disappearing, best chances in Waterworks and Sewickley.

$11.99 My rating: 90 pts.


Chateau Verriere Bellevue 2016, Merlot 60%, Cab Franc 30%, Cab Sauvignon 10%, Bordeaux Superieur, France

Another Bordeaux from earlier vintages giving way to then outstanding 2018 and 2019 at a great price with pretty decent quality. Notice that Cabernet Franc is as high as 30% in this one. That seems to be a growing trend in Bordeaux.

$14.99 My rating: 90 pts.

Contino Reserva 2016, Tempranillo 85%, Graciano 10%, Mazuelo 5%, Rioja, Spain

Lots of legs and pink cork promising a wine with high alcohol level (14.5%) and low in tannins. Elegant mild intensity nose starting with pastry, the fruit is cherry but it is attenuated by the aging. Umami and Mediterranean garrigue show up, followed by something Thanksgiving that ends up in cinnamon. In mouth it is silky, with the tannins remaining after the long aging as microscopic powder enveloped in the typical slightly excessive Rioja acidity. The aftertaste is persistent. Its ratings are huge, as 97 pts JS and 94+ pts WA. Overall an elegant wine but I thought it was not as impressive as the 2012 that really enamored me.

$29.99 My rating: 90 pts.

Lua Cheia 2019, Portuguese Blend, Douro, Portugal

Aroma started with red plum and in general red fruits but after shaking a bit a splash of flowers came out. I’d say lilies as the main one. Easy attack and travel through the mouth with soft and light tannins of a pasty consistency. Medium acidity level and easy short aftertaste. An uncomplicated but very pleasant wine for sipping with that distinctive flowery quality that transported me to a Spring meadow.

It could become an everyday wine for very price-sensitive persons.

90 pts. WE and "Best Buy".

$8.99 My rating: 89 pts.


Rowdy Bush 2018, Petit Syrah, Lodi, CA

Alcoholic legs and aroma. Intense ripe cherries, blackberry and blood orange. With intense stirring I got a splash of dark chocolate candy with clove.

In mouth it was very dense, almost sticky. Medium acidity. Plush and dense structure. 14% alcohol. Pleasant aftertaste but a very slight bitterness in there. The wine would have been better if pressing had not been as intense. Good alone but it could be great for blending to give power to other wines.

$9.99 My rating: 89 pts.

Les Auges 2020, Sauvignon Blanc, Vin du Val du Loire, France

This wine is not from a denomination like Touraine or Sancerre, so that I did not select it for my Osher CMU wine class. However, it costs much less and, frankly, it did not taste worse than those more expensive wines. Very clean and very much prototypical Sauvignon.

$10.99 My rating: 89 pts.


Château La Chèze 2016, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Côtes de Bordeaux, France

It opened with aromas of dark ripe cherry, followed by dump cave, ash, sweet paprika and then, after a while stirring, chocolate.

In mouth it started with the acidic hints confirmed by true acidity, some slight bitterness and dust. Perfect for drinking now. Slight remaining tannins that do not bother. 91 pts. WE

$12.99 My rating: 89 pts.


Tania et Vincent Carème Spring 2019, Chenin Blanc, Vouvray, France

Aromas of lemon peel, apple and lots of herb (I’s say oregano but let’s see what you think).

Medium acidity, dry and medium body with 13% alcohol.

Just a wine with no sharp edges and those cooking herbs aromas that may it interesting and intriguing. Sally, who tends to be hard on French wines, liked it a lot.

Notice that the same persons also own Terre Brulee, a Chenin Blanc from Swartland in S. Africa. I commented the 2019 in a prior post, and I see in the shelf the 2020 which I will include in a future post. Great opportunity to taste the two side by side and compare the Terroir!

90 pts. WS, 91 pts. W&S

$13.99 My rating: 89 pts.


Cesari 2019, Pinot Grigio delle Venezzie, Italy

Winemaker notes (I fully agree): Bright, fresh, crisp and light. This wine shows clean notes of lemon, green pear, lime zest, white flowers with a hint of melon. The palate is youthful and vibrant, but restrained and well-balanced enough to pair with light foods and appetizers. I thought it was unpretentious but very well crafted and very pleasant. Good buy. Disappearing from the stores (in Butler St. and 1 unit in Centre) but the 2020 is coming soon.

$9.99 My rating: 88 pts.


Pezat 2018, Bordeaux Superieur, France

Pure blackberry juice with red plum compote. With stirring some notes of toast and vanilla come out. In mouth it shows acid and powdery tannins. Good for keeping. A bit too acidic now but nice overall. A reliable low-cost Bordeaux that the PA wine store seems to bring every year.

$13.99 My rating: 88

Belhara 2019, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina

An unimpressive wine wine in an impressively heavy bottle. Commentary from Jan Stetler: Opened...decanted...and a glass needs air... It has a medium deep purple/garnet color...young...many slow tears... Rich nose of black fruits...somewhat restrained...young?...there is some minerality here...surprisingly refined...Full entry on the fruit follows from the nose...ripe and extracted fruit but in an Old World Style, not overdone...dry...good balanced acidity...fine tannins...dry mid palate... This is a well-made restrained style for an Argentine Malbec...and has a good QPR for this price point...This reminds me of the newer style coming out of Cahors (Malbec based French wine) it or not it is vinted for the modern drinkers who are not going to cellar a bottle for 5-10 years till it is "ready to drink"...yet it is definitely not a "fruit bomb" crafted for the American palate... This ridiculously heavy bottle weighs 2 Lb.!!...What?!!!...I believe this is a record for me.......just stupid!..

$19.99 My rating: 85 pts.

Mare Chiaro 2019, Greco Bianco, Ciro, Italy

I thought the aromas were of low intensity and rather plain. In mouth it was pleasant and dry with saline notes expressing the influence of the Ionic Sea. On the other hand, it is interesting to try obscure varietals, so that we are relieved from the tyranny of the usual ones. And this was is name Greco, hinting that it came from Greece, not far away on the other side of this sea. This wine is very popular in Calabria, where Sally’s father came from. We had it in his honor.

$14.99 My rating: 84

Fattoria le Pupille 2019, Mostly Sangiovese with Alicante and Ciliegiolo, Morelino di Scalzano, Italy

In my opinion a couple of steps down from the wonderful Bronzone that opened my eyes and soul to this denomination.

90+ pts. WA

$10.99 My rating: 83

Domaine La Berangeraie (Rosé) 2019, Malbec, Cahors, France

A rosé with intense color and aroma. Strawberry and raspberry. Some greenish bitterness in the palate. More similar to Anjou than Provence but it lacked, in my opinion, its finesse. It tasted like its label.

$12.99 My rating: 82 pts.

Château Castaign 2018, Merlot 80%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20%, Côtes de Bordeaux, France

Ripe fruits. In mouth it is tannic and acidic. Vinegary.

90 pts. WE

$14.99 My rating: 82 pts.

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