Oakland Magazine and Alameda Magazine Article on Cahors
Impressed by Cahors
A Bit About the Jewel of Southwest France by Jeff Diamond
I had the great fortune to visit the winelands of France twice this year — the first a whirlwind trip from Roussillon to Alsace, with stops in Provence, the Rhône and Burgundy; while the second trip focused on the southwest, where I visited wineries in Bordeaux and Cahors. I was very impressed with the wines and wineries of Cahors.
Cahors is in the beautiful Lot River Valley, home to stunning scenery, deep history and pre-history, amazing gastronomic culture and noble red wines made from Malbec grapes.
Malbec is very well known to U.S. drinkers as a wine from Argentina, but Malbec has its roots in the southwest of France, both in Bordeaux and in Cahors. Malbec has been grown for hundreds of years there; it is one of the five (or historically six) Bordeaux grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenère) and is used primarily as a blending grape.
But Cahors is the only region in France that produces red wines based on Malbec. Cahors winemaking goes back to the time of Roman rule, with vines being planted in the area around 50 B.C. Since then, vines have remained in the Quercy region. During the Middle Ages, Cahors wine was called “the black wine of Lot” and was featured prominently at court. It was called a black wine because, back then, the wine traditionally in the region was a blend of Malbec and the rustic Tannat grape, and those two combined create a dark, inky wine with huge tannins that took several years of aging to even approach drinkability.
Gourmet names Farmstead One of Best Cheese Shops in USA!
Tucked into a cozy space in the Alameda Marketplace, Farmstead Cheeses & Wines offers a small but mighty selection of well-chosen cheeses, from regional favorites like Humboldt Fog to Italy's finest Parmiggiano-Reggiano. Farmstead keeps relatively small quantities of cheeses on hand, which means that products are always fresh, including can't-miss favorites like the milky burrata and bufala mozzarella.
Alameda/Oakland Magazine Article on Chianti
Oakland/Alameda Magazine November 2010
Explore Versatile Chianti by Jeff Diamond
Chianti is one of the most popular wines in the world. When made well, this versatile wine goes with many foods, and is a good choice for holiday fare — as its natural acidity and Montmorency cherry flavors complement turkey, beef and ham.
The word Chianti refers to wines coming from the Chianti region of Tuscany (simply called Chianti DOC — Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata — on the label) or with grapes coming from and produced in any of the seven Chianti DOCG subregions (Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) is the Italian quality assurance label for wines and is modeled after the French AOC system. DOC wines are produced in specified regions, according to well-defined rules that are designed to preserve traditional wine making. Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) is a similar system to DOC, but that indicates wines of the highest quality. Generally yields are lower than DOC wines, and the wines need to be aged longer. All DOCG wines must pass an evaluation of a tasting committee.
Alameda and Oakland Magazine Article on Argentinian Wines
Here’s an article that I wrote for Alameda and Oakland Magazines
Malbec is King in Argentina by Jeff Diamond
Look South for Value and Quality Wine
Wines from Argentina are quickly becoming one of the hottest segments in the U.S. wine market. Why? A combination of great quality and stupendous value. Consumers can find great Argentine wines for as little as $10 per bottle, and these wines have a rich, plush and fruit-forward flavor profile.
Argentina’s wine exports to the United States have been growing by leaps and bounds, making Argentina the fifth largest wine producer in the world. According to wine importer Fran Kysela, M.S. and Kysela Père et Fils, “About 28 percent of our volume now comes from Argentine wines. Prior to 2005 this figure was less than 5 percent.”
Kysela imports more than 30 different wines from Argentina, most priced between $10 and $15 per bottle.
Before 1990, Argentina consumed more than 90 percent of the wine it produces, although much of it was bulk wine and considered unexportable. Argentine winemakers started to travel to other wine regions around the world, hiring consultants and modernizing their growing and vinification techniques. New wineries were built, and now Mendoza Province, the heart of Argentina’s wine region, is one of the country’s top tourist destinations.
For red wines, Malbec comprises the bulk of Argentina’s wine production, with more than 25,000 acres planted, followed up by Cabernet Sauvignon, Bonarda (called Charbono in the United States), Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Red wine comprises more than 65 percent of production.
Torrontés, thought to be either a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and the Mission table grape or a relative of Malvasia, is far and away the most popular white grape planted, followed by Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc
In Argentina though, Malbec is king. Malbec originally comes from Southwestern France where it is still grown. Argentine Malbec is different than its French cousin — the clusters are smaller and tighter, and the berries are smaller, producing a wine with deep color, intense fruity and sometimes chocolatey flavor with a
Malbec production is centered around Mendoza Province, which has a micro climate that is phenomenal for wine grape growing. Set hard against the eastern side of the Andes in the high desert, Mendoza has little rain, high daytime temperatures and a long ripening cycle. The high elevation brings great daily temperature swings of up to 40 degrees, ideal for growing grapes; the dry climate provides less mold, mildew, insect and fungal problems than other growing areas, bringing a more consistent harvest with less reliance on chemicals.
Torrontés is mostly grown to the north of Mendoza in La Rioja and Salta provinces and produces an aromatic wine characterized by floral, fruity, Muscat-like aromas and a spicy, dry finish. Torrontés has been favorably compared to Gewürztraminer and Viognier, but with a decidedly drier finish.
Pinot Noir is also becoming an Argentine specialty, with production centered around Rio Negro and Neuquén in northern Patagonia. The wine industry in Patagonia is relatively new, with the Argentine government investing some of the income from the area’s substantial oil and natural gas reserves to create what could be called a wine homesteading program.
Here are a few of my favorite wines from Argentina:
Maipe Malbec($11) — This Malbec has a deep purple color with violet tints, complex plum, fig, strawberry, spices and floral aromas; rounded and velvety tannins, excellent length with a distinguished character. Excellent when paired with game, roasted red meats, pasta or pizza.
Tiza Malbec ($20) — Contains fruit from some of the oldest vines in Mendoza more than 150 years old. Aged in new French oak barrels for 12 months. This wine offers a great intense and complex nose of wild berries and red ripe fruit with subtle spicy notes. Superb fruit flavors combine perfectly with toasty notes providing great structure, character, and a long finish.
El Felino Malbec ($22) — Made by famed California winemaker Paul Hobbs, this deep and rich wine has a wild cherry tinged nose and gobs of flavor.
Bramare Marchiori Vineyard Malbec ($85) — Single vineyard, new French oak, long extraction; an amazing wine with great depth, length and finish.
Maipe Torrontes ($11) — A great introduction to Torrontés. Bright acidity, flowery nose and a dry finish.
Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes($18) — More concentrated nose and finish than the Maipe, this wine is one of the benchmarks for the varietal, displaying a bouquet of spring flowers, honey, and tropical aromas.
Bay Area Bites Article on Rosé
Welcome to National Rosé Month! Or so it seems, to scan the wine section of any newspaper in June. Wine writers treat rosés like Emily Post treats white shoes: dusted off for Memorial Day, retired on Labor Day, perfect for summer but verboten from September to May. Even as they tout the growing popularity of rosés among both consumers and winemakers, the once-a-year rose roundups rarely appear in any month but this one, making drinking pink synonymous with the reappearance of Speedos on Dolores Beach and speedboats on Clear Lake: a drink for vacationland and summer shares, poured poolside, lakeside, out on the deckside.
And with good reason, frankly: while a good rosé is worth drinking any day of the year, there's no denying that their strawberry hues and Jolly Rancher bouquets are best enhanced by long, sunshiny afternoons that postpone the twilight until deep in the evening. Like a summer romance, these are wines of instant enchantment, capturing the bliss of a moment. There's just something kissable about a rose, something that makes you want to pucker up, put the glass to your lips, and laugh.
Fresh, light, a little racy, with a jazzy red-fruit profile that dips from strawberries to cherries to thirst-quenching watermelon: that's your typical Mediterranean-ready rosé, and the type I like best for my summer sipping. For one like this, look no further than Domaine de la Fouquette's Cuvee Rosée d'Aurore ($16.50), made in Provence from a blend of 65% grenache, 35% cinsault, and 5% rolle grapes. Pale salmon in the glass, it balances its watermelon bounce with a smooth white-linen crispness that keeps it fresh and pleasing from sip to sip.
Jeff Diamond, owner of Farmstead Cheeses and Wines in Montclair and Alameda, drinks rosé at home all year round. 85% of the time, if I come home and my wife's got a glass in her hand, it's going to be a rosé," says Jeff, pointing out her particular favorite, the Domaine de la Mordorée Tavel ($28). Tavel, of course, is an A.O.C. region in southern France where nothing but rose is made, and the grapes for this wine are not just grown in Tavel but grown biodynamically by what Diamond dubs "the best Rhône producer on the planet." The end result? A supple, meaty rosé, nearly magenta, that's a smooth, suave dinner-party companion to grilled lamb or salmon. It's a rosé to convert even the hardiest of red-wine drinkers. "In our house, we probably go through 7 or 8 cases a year of this," notes Diamond. (More for weekday drinking is the Domaine de la Mordoree's Cotes du Rhône: light and balanced, a very nice food wine, and at $18, ten dollars further down the splurge scale.)