Otherworldly From Lebanon - A Merlot/Cab Blend

Sunday, February 17, 2019 2:44 PM

Otherworldly From Lebanon - A Merlot/Cab Blend

I am an open-minded taster. My motto is to try all types of wine. However, I am also mindful of wasting time, mine and other people's, so if I get a request for an appointment to taste wine that I know won't fit in at The Wine House, I'll decline the offer. A vendor who I like to do business with because he is a one-man operation who has the same enthusiasm for wine as I do, sent me a appointment request for a winery from Lebanon. I was intrigued, but it was a busy time, and for what ever reason, I forgot to respond. This vendor did not take "no", or more like a non-response, as an answer and called me on the phone to persuade me to taste the wine. I said "yes" as I had time in the day to do so.

That is how I met Naji Boutros of Chateau Belle-Vue and was introduced to his wines. The tasting portion of our meeting was short, as he only had two wines to present, but the conversation quickly went from wine to deeper, more philosophical musings. I was impressed by the wines at first taste. I have had wine from Lebanon before, I even had the privilege of tasting through several flights of wine from Chateau Musar with the legendary Serge Hochar. The wines of Chateau Belle-Vue are very different from Musar, as they should be, for the varietals they use are different as is the terroir. Chateau Belle-Vue is located less than 20 miles east of Beirut on Mount Lebanon at elevations ranging from 3,000 to nearly 4,000 feet.

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Les Arroucats Cuvée Virginie: Bordeaux's Other Sweet Wine

Sainte-Croix-du-Mont

is a small appellation along the Garonne River opposite from Barsac. In Sainte-Croix-du-Mont they grow Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and a tiny bit of Muscadelle, making dessert wine not entirely unlike Sauternes, but then again quite different. Sainte-Croix-du-Monts are lighter, less botrytised and unctous sweet wines. To compare them solely to Sauternes is a mistake and can lead one to overlook a very good opportunity to enjoy another style of sweet wine. The Chateau Les Arroucats Cuveé Virginie is a favorite one here at The Wine House. And as anyone who walks through our doors discovers - we love sweet wines! Context is everything when it comes to appreciating non-dry whites and keeping an open mouth and palate will derive oodles of tasting pleasure. Over the last two weeks, I've opened several bottles of the Arroucats to serve with, and instead of, dessert. Because it is lighter in body and less heady, it's perfect to open up on a whim and not fuss whether or not your guests are giving it the proper attention. I can attest that is goes well with Sicilian Cannolis, panettone and quality cheeses. Last night I poured a glass with a couple of shards of peanut brittle. A great combination. The nutty, buttery candy was uplifted by the sweet cream and citrus notes of the Arroucats.

oyster-soil-sainte-croix-du-monts
Chateau Les Arroucats was established by Christian Labat after WWII. The estate was taken over by his daughter, Annie Lapouge, who was credited for modernizing the winery. Today the winery is managed by Mme. Lapouge's daughter, Virginie. They hand-harvest the grapes over several passages then ferment them in concrete and stainless steel vats. The wine ages for one to two years in vats before bottling. The wine is not aged in any wood, hence the fresh, fruity flavors. The grapes at the estate average over forty years and grow on clay-calcareous soils that sit above on a plateau of an ancient seabed as evidenced by the thick layer of oyster shells (see picture above). It is no secret that demand for these lighter-styled dessert wines has waned, so it's no small miracle that such a terrific one like Les Arroucats is still being produced AND at such an affordable price! At $14.99 it is a steal and it gets better...it discounts 15% by the case! Happy New Year! 
a-girl-and-her-dog
I have stumbled over the finish line into 2019, only to realize that on the Twelfth Day of Christmas my darling daughter turns 15! Impossible you say? Impossible I say! Early in December, a customer came to pick up a large order for his annual work Christmas Party. After some chit chat, he asked me how old my daughter was. I told him she was soon to be 15. He looked at me and said, "Does she hate you yet?". I laughed, answering "only some of the time". She is a good person with a big kind heart and curious mind. What a blessing. Her birthday dinner will be a traditional Russian Christmas Eve lenten meal. Luckily she inherited her mother's love for all types of foods and cuisine. We'll have cake, but there will also be Kutya and Zvar, so the simple, honeyed flavors of the Les Arroucats Cuvée Virginie should pair beautifully. Wishing all of you a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year! - Anya Balistreri

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