The middle of September is upon us, and I’ve fallen a bit behind on this feature, failing to recognize any wine for the month of August. Forgive me, I’ve been busy. Luckily I’ve been able to spend some time at some great tasting events around the city of Chicago in the last few weeks, including a Spanish tasting at my local Binny’s store, the always entertaining Windy City Wine Festival at Buckingham Fountain, and the inaugural and fantastic Taste at the Track event at Arlington Park, which I can only hope continues each summer (horse racing and wine tasting all at the same time? I’m in heaven).

I’ll be heading off to the Central Coast next weekend and will be tasting wine in the Santa Barbara and Paso Robles regions, so expect a full report upon my return.

Backtracking to August, I decided to give some recognition to a winery that is arguably Australia’s most consistent producer of affordable bottles of my very favorite varietal of all, Syrah (or Shiraz as they like to call it down under). Two Hands makes deliciously textured $60 Shiraz bottles named Bella’s Garden and Lily’s Garden that are perennial entries on year-end lists like Wine Spectator’s Top 100, but those such as myself that are looking for quality at a value would be well-served to keep in mind wines like their Angel’s Share and the awesomely named Gnarly Dudes. I’ll focus on the latter, and the currently available 2009 edition is certainly the best example of this wine that they have ever made, and that is no small statement.

Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Barossa Valley 2009, 93 Points, $25, 12,000 cases made- Deep, rich aromas of dark raspberry, black cherry and leather. The beauty of this wine lies in the texture, as ripe plum, blueberry, black cherry and blackberry mingle effortlessly with leathery earth, black pepper spice and smokey beef notes throughout a deep, velvety body. Finish lingers long without suppression, and the balance shows through its consistent texture.


For September, I want to mention a wine from the Rhone Valley in France, which is really becoming the best option for wine lovers to find quality French wines at affordable prices now that the costs to buy decent bottles of Bordeaux have comparatively gone through the roof, while the prices of Burgundy remain as burdensome on the wallet as ever. This is an area of the world that sits at the top of my “to visit” list and I will hopefully get over there some time in the next two years. The cooler climate Northern Rhone focuses on strictly Syrah wines, while the Southern Rhone tends to blend their Syrah grapes with Grenache and Mourvedre to make elegant and expressive “GSM” wines that are being emulated with great success currently in Paso Robles. In the Southern Rhone, the most famous and arguably highest quality product comes out of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation, although these wines tend to run on the more expensive side. Across the region, great values are abundant, especially in regions such at the Cotes du Rhone, Gigondas and Seguret. Just slightly northeast of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape and on the river’s right bank is a region called Vacqueyras, and I stumbled across a unique wine from this region that impressed me greatly. From the producer Montirius, it is comprised of an even 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache, and is well worth seeking out. The 2009 vintage in the Rhone Valley is being touted as one of the best in recent memory, and this wine certainly confirmed those initial reviews for me.

Montirius Le Clos Vacqueyras 2009, 91 Points, $30, 3300 cases made- Well-water mineral, cracked pepper and ripe black fruit combine on the nose. Deep and perfumey black fruit notes of blackberry, black plum and licorice that lead into mocha bean and black pepper spice through the long, elegant finish. Smoke and cedar notes creep in late, adding complexity to this masculine Rhone wine.

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