Category Archives: Wine Reviews

The Dark Side of Syrah, with Domaine de Fondreche Persia 2012 (Ventoux), for #Winophiles

I love cool-climate syrah. I’m always searching for the earthy flavors and sensual experience of Cote Rotie… for less than $80 a bottle, and preferably with at least 14% ABV.

Enter Domaine de Fondreche Persia 2012, from Ventoux, France. Persia is the vineyard; Ventoux is an area east of the southern Rhone where the local climate and weather are influenced by a single mountain.

Notably, while summer days are very hot, nights are cooled by air coming down from Mont Ventoux. Hence, northern Rhone-like cool climate syrah, from a region much farther south, where land is much cheaper.

When I was done with my first bottle, I rushed back to buy a case. I should have bought two.

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Zeni Amarone della Valpolicella docg Classico 2013

Amarone blends deserve their place among the Great Big Reds. We enjoyed this one very much.

For those who haven’t come across amarone: it’s a north Italian blend of light red grapes, but they dry the grapes before fermenting (!!?). It’s wine made from raisins, so a lot of the water is gone but the sugar remains. This gives them high alcohol, 15% in this case, but frequently even more.

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Pino Doncel Black Changed My (Wine) Life

Dark flavors for dark times

Pino Doncel Black — monastrell/mourvedre, syrah, and 20% petit verdot — was there for me when I needed a dark, earthy wine in the under $15 range. ($12 on sale at Calvert Woodley in Washington, DC.)


Yes, 20% petit verdot won me straight away. My first bottle I was struck by the tannin, but now I hardly notice. I get the lush, rich feeling that I like (14.5% alcohol) and this strong darkness.


It takes a lot to get me to postpone drinking my hot-climate shiraz favorites. Pino Doncel Black is a lot.


The winery is in Jumilla. It’s a family-run bodega, founded in 1914.

To me, this seems like an upgrade over pure Monastrell. And if you’re going to blend, blending with petite verdot beats blending with grenache any day.

Canals Canals 2012 Brut Cava

Great Big Cava

This is a brut rose cava made from 60% monastrell (!!) and 40% garnacha. Some people we know are prejudiced against rose because it seems like watered-down red. But if you think of it as flavored-up white… that sounds better! (‘Cava’ is the Spanish term for sparkling wine made with the same process that the ‘Champagne’ region of France uses.)


We think of champagne and champagne-oise as honorary Great Big Reds. The bubbles stand in for richness, and the acidity distracts less when the wine is cold and the mood is celebratory. Also, rose champagne-oise is colorful because the grape skins were left in the mix longer, and that results — all other things being equal — in more flavor than white. In this case, 60% monastrell probably adds a lot more flavor than they would have gotten from another grape.

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E. Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune & Blonde de Guigal 2011

This is a superb, expensive wine — I paid $66 on sale — from E. Guigal (gee-gall), 96% syrah and 4% viognier. Cote-Rotie is at the north end of the Cotes du Rhone. Cote-Rotie is among the fanciest places for wine. If you are fancy-wine-curious, this is an awesome choice: complex, primal, sensual, and fairly easy to find at good wine stores or online.


Luscious beyond the 14% alcohol, the viognier boosts the richness of the feel. Acidity is almost non-existent. The tannin is noticeable. Mostly, though: there’s a *lot* of earthy, primal flavor.


This is an expensive wine, but the extra dollars are rewarded. There is so much flavor and body and structure going on that it’s hard to notice it all at once. Take a sip and meditate on it for a while.

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