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February 2011

January 2011

Rock Face Cabernet Sauvignon 2007



You may or may not be aware, but CA has more wine than it can sell; at least at the prices people originally wanted to sell it for.  So a lot of companies that bought expensive vineyards with plans to make $50 a bottle or $100 a bottle Cabernets are stuck between a rock and a hard place.  On the one hand they could just keep their prices the same and sell no wine; or they can cut their prices, sell their wine at a lower profit, but dilute their brand and make it impossible to get back to the $100 per bottle they were aiming for originally if the market ever turns around.  Neither look so good right now, so some producers are charting a third way.  They're selling off the wine they're making to other companies or winemakers, under the condition of anonymity, to be bottled under a different label.  That way they get some cash now for their wine, without hurting their brand so that they can still look forward to being able to get big bucks for their wine again when the economy re-bounds. 

That brings me to this wine I just picked up: Rock Face.  It's a 2007 North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Juice comes from three different vineyard sites in Napa and Sonoma and was blended into Rock.Face.  The breakdown is 86% Cabernet, 8% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc, and 1% Petite Verdot.  It's not quite a $50 wine masquerading for 16, but is really excellently balanced.

Aroma: currants, ripe cherries, violets, and a hint of licorice candy.  This wine has a pretty big powerful aroma.  It's dense, seductive, and dark with just the barest hint of vanilla.

Palate: The wine has a lot of cherry up front, but then a bigger meaty finish.  The texture is very smooth; the tannins are just right, you don’t really notice them, but they tie the wine together. The mid-palate has some nice dense Blackcherry too.  This is a ripe, fruit driven wine; slightly chewy, not rough, not gamey, lush, polished, and supple.

This is $16.99 at Dipietro's in SoPo and the Rosemont on Brighton Ave and is (I think) a bargain.  The wine has a finesse and balance that this price level usually lacks.  I love this wine because it is classic Cab and very ripe, without being heavy handed at all. 

Cesca Vicent Priorat 2008


Cella Cesca Vicent is an ancient family owned winery in the Spanish region of Priorat.  The vineyards date back to the 1400's.  the current owner/wine maker is Francesca Vicent.  She has spent her life learning about the unique climates of her domaine and of Priorat.  Priorat is a very small region (about 6 miles across) in the Montsant mountains south of Barcelona.  The soil of the vineyards here is dominated by slate and gravel.  The vines roots have to dig extremely deep to find water in this semi arid climate.  This results in very low yields and concentrated fruit.  The winery has made the transition to certified organic agriculture starting with this vintage: 2008.

Aroma: Stewed cherry, roasted walnut, cranberry, vanilla bean, black berry.  Just a hint of woodsey earth.  I can pick up some sweet candied fruit too.  It's a great aroma for this time of year.

Taste: Dense and extracted.  It has real presence, dominates your palate, and is pretty dark.  It opens rather bright and has some fresh cherry fruit right up front.  Then the taste builds into more lush, rich, black berry and hints of vanilla.  I pick up some spices too: cinnamon, coriander.  The wine is expansive but pretty well balanced.  It's not over extracted or too heavy.  Opulent just about hits it.  Yeah, this is an excellently ripe Priorat for a great price.  This retails for just over $20 to $19.99.  For a balanced, layered, lush wine like this from a tiny sought after region like Priorat, that's a great deal.  You can get it at Old Vines, Aurora provisions, the Old Port Wine Merchant.  Stop by Aurora between 5 and 6:30pm on Thursday to taste it!

National Pie Day 2011 Guide/Email Newsletter

Hello All,

    this is my email newsletter from January 2011.  It lays out all the events I'm planning for National Pie Day and the week leading up to it.  Enjoy!

     If you're reading this, you must have made it through another crazy holiday season.  I like a good party as much as the next man, maybe more, but at a point the holiday season can get overwhelmed by obligations to other people and events.  I'm glad Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are past; however, the holidays aren't quite done yet!  The best holiday is still to come: National Pie Day!  That's right, as declared by the National Bakers Council, Sunday January 23 is a day devoted to celebrating the sublime symmetry and tastiness of Pie. I expect some of you may be cocking an eye brow here at me and asking if this is for real.  Oh Yes!  Think about this: what else is happening at the end of January?  It's still cold, we still don't get much sun, more snow, but nothing big is really going on.  So why not get some friends together and have a pie party?  There are so many endless possibilities for different pies; sweet fruit pies, meat pies, shepherds pie, sweet potato, nuts such as pecan......

     I’ve essentially built my business this month around National Pie Day, because, well, why not.  To help you all prepare for National Pie Day I've organized a couple wine and pie tastings.  See below for wine and pie pairings, tasting details and promotions.  And I want you to know that I did a lot of hard work to make sure that my pie and wine pairings worked!  I had to eat a lot of pie and drink a lot of wines;  these recommendations are based on hard evidence!

Old Port Wine Merchant Tasting Wednesday the 19th 4-7:30pm
     I'm doing a tasting of some new French wines at the Old Port Wine Merchant on Wednesday.  These are small production, unique wines from family producers.  I have a great new sparkling wine from Vouvray in the Loire that's an excellent pie wine.  Among others, I'll also have a new naturally farmed blend from the Roussillon area of Mediterranean France and a great limited production old vine Cotes du Rhone made in Chateauneuf du Pape.

Aurora Provisions Wine and Pie Tasting Thursday the 20th 5-6:30pm
     Thursday next week Aurora Provisions is hosting me for a pie and wine tasting.  We'll sample out a couple of specially selected pies and taste wines I've picked out specifically to pair with them.  One of the wines I'm particularly excited about here is a new Priorat (which won't be nosebleed expensive!), also a beautifully balanced Pedro Ximenez sherry.

Rosemont Market Brighton Ave. Wine and Pie Tasting, Saturday the 22nd 3-6pm

     On the day before National Pie Day Rosemont Market and I will hold a Wine and Pie Tasting.  Rosemont is working on special pies that will be available for sale as well as to sample and of course I’ll have a line up of wines paired with them.  This will include a new Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder) from the Italian Alps that I'm really excited about, as well as an organic Cotes du Rhone, and a new Northern CA Cabernet that's one of those great one time deals.  The Cabernet is called Rock Face and it's a blend of high end juice purchased from a couple vineyards, sold under the requirement of anonymity. Regardless of where the juice came from, it's a concentrated, lush, slightly chocolatey Cabernet with great balance and underlying structure; just the thing for a nice pecan pie.

Bresca Sparkling Wine Dinner, Wednesday February 16th 6pm $65 per person

     This is one not to miss.  Portland has a lot of excellent restaurants, but Bresca consistently blows me away.  And I've finally talked Krista into doing a sparkling wine dinner!  This will be five courses paired with different sparkling wines from around the world; Txakolina, Loire Cremant, Cava, Champagne, and Moscato.  And the Champagne will be none other than Billecart Salmon's Brut Rose!  Two days after Valentines and for just $65 per person.  This will sell out quickly so call 207 772 1004 to make reservations.

Pie and Wine Pairings

     I considered making particular pairing suggestions, such as my lovely new Weissburgunder paired with cranberry, pear, ginger pie, but there’s just to much variation when it comes to pie to make blanket determinations like that.  Even the same recipe for, say, apple pie will taste totally different depending on who makes it, and how they cook it, and where the ingredients come from.  So I’m going to give you some basic ideas and leave you free to come up with your own pie and wine pairings. 

     If you’re having a fruit pie that’s not too sweet, primarily just cooked fruit and not added sugar, I like the idea of a dry focused white wine.  Something with more body and good acidity and structure.  Dry Riesling, Sancerre or Touraine Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire, maybe a dry Vouvray, the afore mentioned Weissburgunder.  Whites like that will balance the sweetness, cut it a bit, and should still have the structure to shine alongside the pie. 

     For a steak pie I’d go with a big, fuller, red wine that has a slightly gamey quality.  Perhaps something southern Rhone, some of the rustic California Cabernet blends, maybe a Spanish Monastrell?  Meat that’s been cooked, then baked in a pie with the butter of the crust, maybe some cheese added; it’s going to be pretty tender and flavorful so a big full red is needed to match the full flavor and balance the richness.  

     Really sweet pies are tricky.  You don’t necessarily want to pair a sweet wine with a sweet pie; cloying sweetness might result and leave you unable to get through more than a few bites!  And wasting pie is a tragedy!  Sweeter fruit pies might work well with something mildly sweet and sparkling like Moscato d’Asti, or something dry and very sparkling such as Champagne or a Champagne style wine.  Banana Crème?  Full bodied but un-oaked Chardonnay.  Chocolate cream pie?  Full, juicy Cabernet from WA state or maybe a round easier drinking Napa Cab. 


If you have a pie and don’t know what to pair with it, remember, Champagne goes with everything.


So that’s my pitch for National Pie Day.  I hope you enjoy it!  For the cost of a few pies and bottles of wine you ought to have yourself a great party!





Ned Swain

Devenish Wines