Pronounced “Char-el-Lo” with a Spanish accent of course, Xarel-lo is a white wine grape varietal from Spain that is one of the three grapes used in making Cava (Spain’s sparkling wine). In this review’s case it’s the only grape they used in making this still wine.

Raventos i Blanc continues their boss-like status producing excellent wines at an extraordinary value. They recently released two Xarel-lo with a vintage of 2015; “Sliencis” and “Extrem”. The super cool part was tasting the similarities and differences these two wines offered. Grab a friend, a couple of glasses, and have your own taste test!

Raventos i Blanc Xarel-lo “Silencis”, 2015 – From 50 year old vines this has gripping aromas of pear, lemon-lime, pineapple with flavors of lemon, crisp minerality, delicious acidity, and  finishing off with the salt of the sea (yeah, I said that).

Raventos i Blanc Xarel-lo “Extrem”, 2015 – A Bouquet of fresh lemon juice and minerals followed by flavors of sharp citrus coating the mouth. It’s a fuller-bodied Xarel-lo with what I found interesting, some chalkiness. Give this wine some time in the glass and the aromas and flavors will evolve into something pretty spectacular! The intensity calms down and the true character of the wine comes out showing you elegance, creaminess and the love that they put into this.

So which did I prefer? At first I was totally in love with Silencis but after I gave Extrem more time in the glass I started to enjoy that one more. So being the diligent student that I am, I tasted back and forth between the two wines over and over again. Honestly, I love them both, I can’t decide. But I’ll keep drinking these two bottles in hopes of coming up with an answer soon (or take a nap). 

Sláinte! TCW

Alright, not all of my titles can be winners but MC Hammer’s classic will be strumming through your head too once you taste this bottle of deliciousness. I’ve always enjoyed Malbec, but it’s not my go-to grape so I often forget how good they can be. When I come across a really good one, and I mean good, I always ask myself why I don’t drink more of it.

Malbec grapes tend to have an inky dark color and robust tannins. Malbec has become really popular in Argentina but are grown in France (one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine), Chili, and the United States, just to name a few.

Bodega “Septima Obra” Malbec, 2014 from Mendoza, Argentina absolutely blew my mind! Septima’s Malbec has sexy aromas of blackberries, strawberry yogurt, vanilla, and oak. I seriously kept going back to my glass for another whiff -- I could not get enough! The flavors were just as good with blueberries, tobacco, and smooth tannins for days…finishing long, all of the notes just went on and on. This is one of the best Malbecs I’ve had in a long time. Yep, this wine is a game changer.

If you’re a Malbec fan or better yet if you’re not, try this bottle! I’m telling you, I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed. Retailing for around $25 I don’t think it could get any better. Seriously, this wine is too legit to quit!! OK, sorry, had to throw that line down again!
Sláinte! TCW
My friend has been a novice of wine but always enjoyed a good bottle. Over the years with hanging out with me, he has indulged in one or hundred (give or take) excellent bottles. To my surprise he picked up a Dominus Estate Christian Moueix, 2001. He was as excited to show me as I was to see it. Needless to say I was proud. Despite being new to wine, he had remembered that Dominus was the bottle that started his love for wine and played a big part in starting our friendship. We both fondly remember the night we opened the Dominus, 2005 and a few more after that… It was a great night, even the parts we don’t remember.

He was hoping for the right time to open it up and that time came. It was absolutely memorable. Dominus Estate Christian Moueix, 2001 had alluring aromas of new leather, blackberries, white pepper, vanilla extract and this richness I could not forget. This was followed by flavors of lush and ripe dark fruits, green pepper, tobacco and some mild oak. In my opinion, this was pretty close to perfect. From start to finish it was quite the experience.

So my friend shared a very good bottle with me. I’m grateful for that and the experience. I’ve always stated sharing your best bottles with people you love will be more fun and memorable than sucking down that really good bottle by yourself! Slainte! TCW
Albariño could very well be your new favorite summer wine! Albariño is a white wine grape typically grown in (but not limited to) Spain. Typical characteristics of the grape is its distinctive floral notes with summer fruits like apricot,  white peach, grapefruit, pineapple and some undertones of minerality. The wine is generally light and high in acidity with alcohol levels from 11.5% to 12.5%. It’s bright, zesty and crisp – perfect for summer! The price to value ratio is superb, typically around $15 or so a bottle. I have three excellent examples (slightly different in style) of Albariño from Rias Baixas, southwestern coast of Galicia, Spain.

La Cana, 2014: This is a riper style of Albariño with aromas of lime zest, white peach and pear followed by flavors of citrus, unripen apples, and tropical fruits. The citrus and firm minerality lingers on long after you finish.

Xion, 2014: This being more fuller-bodied,  I noted a bouquet of canned pineapple, honeydew melon and a palate of grapefruit and a mineral edge finishing off with some fresh citrus notes.

Morgadio, 2014: Unbelievably balanced with scents of crisp apples, minerals and floral notes. Upon tasting, I noted an explosion of flavors from apples, orange, mango, and melon. Although I really enjoyed all three this was my favorite!

Albariño, being super fresh and crisp pairs fantastically with oysters, shellfish and pan-fried white meats. People often ask me what’s my new favorite wine – Albariño is my summer jam without a doubt! Sláinte! TCW
What’s your desert island grape? You know the question, you’re on an island and you can only pick one grape to drink for the rest of your life. For me, hands down, it’s Merlot. The movie from 2004, Sideways, may have negatively impacted Merlot’s popularity for a short period and increased Pinot Noir’s but I have always loved Merlot. Merlot can be incredibly elegant and very versatile from being planted all around the world as well as blended with several different grapes. In fact, it is one of the world’s most planted grapes.

I was reminded of my love for Merlot when I tasted Sierra Vista El Dorado Merlot, 2010 – Mountain Ridge Reserve. Family owned and operated, the winery is on Red Rock Ridge near the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. This sexy medium-bodied Merlot had alluring aromas of blueberry compote, blackberries, New York cherries, finishing off with a hint of oak. The palate follows suit with soft tannins, juicy dark fruits, with hints of cocoa and cherry cola. From the bouquet through flavor you can detect the 6 years it aged and it did wonderfully. This is a great example of what Merlot can be as a varietal. I loved this Merlot so much I ended up picking up a case soon after.

So yeah, if by some highly unlikely chance I end up on a desert island all alone and there happens to be a wine fairy granting me 1 grape for the rest of my life I would chose Merlot (and of course be specific with the region and vineyard). Well, that’s my choice, what’s your desert island grape?
Sláinte! TCW 
How’s this for fun? I went to a friend’s house for a dinner party and decided to bring over two 2006 Cabernet Sauvignons, a Lewelling and Ramey. After seeing the bottles I brought over, my friend pulled out a 2006 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon from her stash. BAM! We had an impromptu, and what the business calls, a Horizontal Wine Tasting. We tried 3 different cabs from 2 different regions all from the same year.

The first bottle we opened, Lewelling (97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc) was a marriage of dark berries, black cherries, exotic spice, earth and tobacco flavors. The tannins were velvety and the finish was long. We then tasted the second bottle, Ramey (91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec). This stood up strong with notes of prunes, dried figs, currants and oak. It was a deliciously well-rounded wine. Finally we got to our third bottle, Don Melchor (100% Cabernet Sauvignon), with bold flavors of dark chocolate, tobacco, leather and cedar. It was a rather voluptuous wine. We were all very impressed with each wine’s characteristics. Although we had different favorites, we really enjoyed them all immensely.
You don’t have to go to a formal wine tasting, just have one at your dining room table. Invite some friends and have them bring a bottle fitting your theme. It can be as simple as Pinot Noirs from around the globe to different grapes from the same region, or something like what I just did, with a specific year. However you do it, have some fun with friends and hopefully you’ll learn a little something new along the way.
Sláinte! TCW
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