About The Author:

"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.

Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: rogerthewineguy@gmail.com.

(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bekaa Valley, Lebanon...they make some good wine there!

One of the pleasures of being back in the U.S. after a few months of foreign living and travel is the opportunity to discover and try new wines from far away by simply just visiting the local wine store and discovering something new.   During a recent "stock up" trip for my six week stay in Arizona,  I stumbled across an unfamiliar Lebanese wine and decided to, as they say, "go for it"

The wine was produced in Lebanon's famed Bekaa Valley.  This region is probably more known to Americans as a site of much contention during Lebanon's many conflicts than as a wine producing region. It does, however, have a very rich and varied wine history.  In fact, records date grape cultivation and vinification there to about 2,000 years before the time of Alexander the Great.  Phoenicians traded wine produced in this area with many other, the Egyptians being among their most avid customers.  Those historic traders protected their cargo from oxidation by covering it with a layer of olive oil and sealing it in jugs with pinewood and resin. Their practice preceded, and perhaps even inspired, the traditions of Greek Retsina.  The Romans revered the area as a wine source enough to build a temple dedicated to the wine god Bacchus.  What is now part of Lebanon was also the site of the story of  a miracle in the Bible of  Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding.  It is an area with much wine history, indeed.  However, it is only recently that its wine has come back into view on the world scene.

Two Lebanese brothers Sami and Goshm were second generation productions in this very historic wine region before being forced to leave the country during the Civil War of 1975.  They returned seventeen years later and revived the production of a traditional Lebanese brandy-like anise liquor called Arak.  With the addition of French partners a few years later, they expanded their portfolio and wine production began in earnest. 
Since conflicts in 2002, the regions volume and number of vineyards and wineries has continued to grow with 50% of its production going to export with France, Great Britian and the US as its principal customers.

The wine I brought home was a 2008 Massaya Classic Rouge and it was a delightful red blend with Cinsault as its dominant, informing grape (60%) Rounding out the Cinsault was an addition of equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, followed by eight month of non wood container ageing before bottling. It was interesting to discover that Cinsault is the dominant grape varietal in Lebanon.  This probably derives from the French influence in that region and, in fact the first Cinsault vines were brought to that country from Algeria in 1857 by Jesuits monks.

As you might suspect from its Cinsault dominance, the Massaya Classic Rouge offered a nice fruity bouquet and a blend of strawberry, raspberry and cherry fruit flavors on the palate with a nice (and somewhat surprising) long finish.  An added light accent of spice on the finish was also a pleasant surprise.  All in all, this was a quite enjoyable wine in a very moderate (under $15) price range.  I will definitely take a good look when encountering any wines from this Lebanese region in the future and will be on lookout, in particular, for the Massaya label.

(Images in this post were obtained from www.massaya.com)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mourvedre...it's a hit in Arizona!

The Wine Guy sampling good wine
at the Keeling-Schaefer tasting room
in an historic bank building in Willcox, Az.
Before I left Arizona, I was pleased when noted Arizona winemaker Rod Keeling sent me a Facebook friend request after stumbling onto my wine blog.  His has always been one of the Arizona vineyards I had planned to visit during my tenure as an Arizona resident.  Unfortunately I never made it to the eastern part of the state before we departed for Ecuador.  Some five and a half months later, after trips to Ecuador and Thailand and two cross country road trips, I found myself on I-10 approaching Willcox.  Knowing Keeling-Schaefer had a tasting room downtown, I decided a pit stop for a little wine tasting was in order.  I'm glad I took the time to do so!

The Keeling-Schaefer tasting room not only offers a selection of their wines but also samples some wines from Arizona Stronghold and Kokopelli.  I not only enjoy the standard tastings but was offered some earlier vintage samples once the attendant found out I was a member of the International Wine Guild and a blogging wine fool, as well. (Thanks Rosanna for your attentive courtesy to myself and the fetching Mrs. Wine Guy!)

While I enjoyed several wines, the outstanding hit of the visit was the Schaefer Boys Mourvedre.  This limited release (68 total cases for the 2008 vintage) wine is, unfortunately, limited to sales at the winery, at the tasting room and from the Keeling-Schaefer wine club members.  It is, however, well worth the effort to seek it out.  It happens to be one of the best balanced of all the Keeling-Schaefer wines and sips very, very well. It offers all the ripe dark fruit flavors you would expect from a 100% Mourvedre with the typical earthiness of this grape.  These features give Mourvedre a richness not normally found in many fruit forward wines.  Some bold, yet round and smooth, tannins are also characteristic of this varietal when well vintified.

Mourvedre is best known as a blending grape, most notably in Rhone and Rhone style red blends.  It is a favorite partnering grape with Grenache with which it seems to have a natural affinity.  (Grenacha is another of The Wine Guy's favorite grape varietals ( see "Grenache, A Great Wine To Discover" in the Roger's Grapevine archives, 2/2/10).  It is also often found as a single varietal wine in Spain where it goes under the name of Monastrell or Mataro.    However you won't find it often as a single varietal from a US producer.

Congratulations, Rod,  and thank you for producing such a enjoyable wine!

For more information on Keeling-Schaefer Vineyards, log on to www.keelingschaefervineyards.com or better yet, visit them in Willcox or at one of the many Arizona wine functions they regularly attend!