Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

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ScottP
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Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#1 Post by ScottP »

I've been slowly upping my California cab game over the last few years but I have no idea where to start with French wines. I was thinking that if I posted some of my favorite California wines then someone might suggest a few French ones to get me started. So in order of cost, here are some of the wines I like.
Daou, Austin Hope, Blueprint, Cade Howell Mountain, Cade Reserve HM, Bountyhunter Frontier Justice Dr. Crane. I think I probably have an immature, fruit-bomb palate but what are you going to do.
So what should I be trying?
Thanks.
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#2 Post by TChristenfeld »

Hmm, are you hoping to expand your palate, to reinforce your current tastes, or just to agitate some of the wine snobs who congregate here? In any case, welcome to this community from one who only joined recently.

The simplest answer to your question is that, if you are looking beyond California for more bold, oaky fruit bombs, then France might be the wrong place to look. Look, instead, to South America (e.g., Lapostolle Clos Apalta from Chile), or Australia (Two Hands and many others) or perhaps Spain (Pingus or Aalto). If you are insistent on finding French fruit bombs, then a good place to start would be with the fancier cuvees of Chateauneuf-du-Pape that are recommended by Robert Parker.

The path forward is a little more complicated if you are looking to challenge your palate and expand your tastes. Really you might start with some California cabernets that age away from the ripe end of the spectrum, that are a little less oaky and fruity and bold, that aim for balance (of fruit and acidity, for instance). Try a Frog's Leap Rutherford Cabernet; it might taste a little green and acidic to you at first, but focus on the structure and aromatics, and see if you can appreciate what it is aiming for. If you don't, then stick to what you like for now. If you do like it, then there is a whole world of French wine waiting for you.

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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#3 Post by Jason L. »

I'd think that you might have some fun exploring right bank Bordeaux, as well as some of the better wines from Cahors (Malbec) and Madiran (Tannat). I'd second the suggestion for nice CDP wines, but bigger Northern Rhone Syrahs could be good too!

Beyond that, there's a lot of great value to be had in the Roussillon and Cotes Catalanes - lots of flavor and body and good pricing.

These are all suggestions to help you find French wines that are not too far different from what you like already - a way to get a toehold in the world of French wine! After that, it can be immeasurably fun to explore the regional styles, particularly with recipes from those places, so you can really see what makes French wine special.

I hope you find lots of wines you enjoy as you begin your French wine odyssey. Be sure to share your discoveries with us! [cheers.gif]
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#4 Post by Mich@el Ch@ng »

Guigal, Jaboulet, Chapoutier, Clos St Jean, Bousquet des Papes, Valandraud, anything else made by Michel Rolland or Philip Cambie

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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#5 Post by Ryan A »

If specifically focused on Bordeaux, I would suggest trying a few and then reporting back. Many of the initial wines you called out are more of the fruitier profiles but here are the quick suggestions

-Troplong Mondott 2015 $125
-Beau Sejout Becot 2015 $80
-Smith Haut Lafitte 2015 or 2016 $125

See what you think both with a proper decant. I would also suggest earlier vintages but they may not be readily available.
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#6 Post by Lonnie F. »

Every month, buy 6-12 bottles from a single region. Change regions monthly. At the end of a year, you will have a sense of how you might prioritizing deeper explorations.

My wife and I drank 125 different wines in my first year of this crazy game.

Next, find and join a local tasting group so you can learn about older wines.

Good luck 😎
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#7 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m »

Chateau Lascombes. The 2005, if you can find it, is a perfect gateway bottle, imo.
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#8 Post by Kurt_L »

try the 2016 marquis d'alesme
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#9 Post by Anthony Sanford »

Chateau La Vieille Cure might be a good option especially from a ripe vintage (e.g. 2015) and should be available for 25-35.

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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#10 Post by GregT »

Look to the south Rhone. Not Cabs, but more like Daou than a lot of Bordeaux.

Although there's a lot of Bordeaux these days that would remind one of ripe CA Cabs. It's been a while since I tasted these, but from some random notes, these would probably work.

- Château Valandraud would be a start.
- Pavie, or for a bit less, Aromes de Pavie
- Gracia
- Canon
- Péby-Faugères

In blind tasting I've guessed some of them to be CA.

For a lot less, try Maison Bertrand Ravache 'Leo by Leo'. It's not over ripe and it would not be out of place with some CA wines.

Cheers.
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#11 Post by GregT »

Posted twice.
Last edited by GregT on February 22nd, 2021, 1:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#12 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum »

I know you asked for reds, but any interest in white wines as well, or are you among the chromaticly challenged?
Sort of ITB - my husband imports a small amount of sake and I help out

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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#13 Post by MitchTallan »

Definitely modern style CdP. Usseglio (both Pierre and Raymond), Chateau de Papes. Usseglio Mon Aieul is sure to please.
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#14 Post by Brady Daniels »

I wouldn’t limit yourself to a particular wine or region. When I hear that folks have a California palate, I think they like wines made from very ripe grapes. All the suggestions above match that description. If you have a good merchant that you like, they should be able to find more wines that fit the bill, at any budget.

Have fun!
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#15 Post by P@u1_M3nk3s »

No question that Chateauneuf du Pape in any style (modern or trad) will be a good place to explore for you. You will find plenty of interesting wines in a different style from CA cab, but also with familiar ripeness.
Cheers,
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#16 Post by ScottP »

TChristenfeld wrote: February 22nd, 2021, 11:25 am Hmm, are you hoping to expand your palate, to reinforce your current tastes, or just to agitate some of the wine snobs who congregate here? In any case, welcome to this community from one who only joined recently.

The simplest answer to your question is that, if you are looking beyond California for more bold, oaky fruit bombs, then France might be the wrong place to look. Look, instead, to South America (e.g., Lapostolle Clos Apalta from Chile), or Australia (Two Hands and many others) or perhaps Spain (Pingus or Aalto). If you are insistent on finding French fruit bombs, then a good place to start would be with the fancier cuvees of Chateauneuf-du-Pape that are recommended by Robert Parker.

The path forward is a little more complicated if you are looking to challenge your palate and expand your tastes. Really you might start with some California cabernets that age away from the ripe end of the spectrum, that are a little less oaky and fruity and bold, that aim for balance (of fruit and acidity, for instance). Try a Frog's Leap Rutherford Cabernet; it might taste a little green and acidic to you at first, but focus on the structure and aromatics, and see if you can appreciate what it is aiming for. If you don't, then stick to what you like for now. If you do like it, then there is a whole world of French wine waiting for you.
I’m willing to expand my palate but I guess I’m looking to do gradually without spending too much money on wine that isn’t to my current taste.
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#17 Post by ScottP »

Sarah Kirschbaum wrote: February 22nd, 2021, 12:40 pm I know you asked for reds, but any interest in white wines as well, or are you among the chromaticly challenged?
I like white wines when it’s hot out or when it fits the food I’m eating. I like black coffee, blue cheese and other bitter foods so I tend to gravitate to reds. I have an even more novice palate for whites and usually just grab a Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnet. I taste the complexity or difference more easily with reds.
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#18 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m »

Scott,

I just noticed you joined the forum today; welcome! Cool to see you jump right in right away. Hope you find it fun and interesting to hang out and participate here. Cheers! [cheers.gif]
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#19 Post by Arv R »

Maybe before even venturing into French wines, try some of the more restrained CA versions? Based on the list of wines enjoyed it seems like a lot of Old World wines are going to underwhelm.

(I do concur on trying some Cambie tete du cuvee Rhones though)
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#20 Post by P@u1_M3nk3s »

Looking at the Total Wine website (not knowing where you live or what access you have to "fahn wahn") check out any Vieux Telegraphe, Beaucastel or Pegau. Faves here. Otherwise, look at the 2015 and 2016 vintages and see if there is a price that looks good to you.
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#21 Post by Dan Sch »

In a more limited budget sense, the recs for languedoc and roussilon are good. Plenty of good stuff in the Rhone and the ripe years will provide all of the ripe fruit. We are talking CDR Villages. I’m not a big fan of very ripe fruit in general but these can be wonderful. The Usseglio CDP recs are also spot on. Too ripe for me but so are all the CA people you mention!
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#22 Post by Jordan Posell »

Start with Cotes du Rhones, move to Northern Rhones, then graduate to Bordeaux later.

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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#23 Post by Nathan Smyth »

ScottP wrote: February 22nd, 2021, 10:06 amAustin Hope... I probably have an immature, fruit-bomb palate but what are you going to do.
Anything by Jonathan Maltus:
http://pro.maltus.com/saint-emilion1.html

Teyssier
https://www.wine-searcher.com/find/teyssier/1/usa

Laforge
https://www.wine-searcher.com/find/laforge/1/usa

Le Carre
https://www.wine-searcher.com/find/le+carre/1/usa

Les Asteries
https://www.wine-searcher.com/find/les+asteries/1/usa

Vieux Mazerat
https://www.wine-searcher.com/find/vieux+mazerat/1/usa

Le Dome
https://www.wine-searcher.com/find/le+dome/1/usa

*************************

Anything by Benoit Touquette

Arbalest
https://www.wine-searcher.com/find/arbalest/1/usa

*************************

French Belle Bordeaux
[Castillon from Dan Philips; I don't know whether Chris Ringland might also have been involved]
https://www.wine-searcher.com/find/fren ... eaux/1/usa

*************************

Dave Phinney "Locations" French Red Wine
http://www.locationswine.com/product/french-red-wine/
https://www.wine-searcher.com/find/loca ... ance/1/usa

*************************

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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#24 Post by Mike J ewesson »

I have a similar palate. These are my favorites. I don't think I've ever had a bottle I haven't loved in any past 20 vintages of these wines (although I have not had every vintage of these wines in the past 20 years).

Peby
Troplong Mondot (I've heard that 2017 and 2018 represent a departure in style, but I haven't tried them. I tasted a barrel sample of 2019 and it is a return to the riper style)
Bellevue Mondotte
Pape Clement

In ripe vintages (2003, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019) the list expands exponentially. The bottles you can get in the $20 - $35 range that hit the spot in these riper vintages puts CA to shame.

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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#25 Post by G. D y e r »

Yeah, what the others said: Southern Rhone (Cotes du Rhone, Gigondas, Chateauneuf du Pape, Vayqueras) and Languedoc-Roussillon.

I'd focus less on producer and visit a local wine shop to see what they have at price points of interest to you. That will narrow the choices a bit, and if you are willing to spend $20 to $40 per bottle, still offer a number of options at a good store.

There is one Bandol producer, Gros Nore, though, that if you're looking for Mourvedre, probably should be in your wheelhouse.
Greg

In that way, he is like cornerback Darrelle Revis, deserving of his own island, Mangold Island, if you will. “That would be a rusty, filthy island where people wear ripped jeans and stay in hotel rooms that are half price,” tight end Dustin Keller said. “But they would serve wine, and only the finest for Nick Mangold.”

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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#26 Post by ScottP »

Thanks everyone for the suggestions. Hopefully I'll pick up a few tonight.
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#27 Post by ScottP »

OK, a quick run to Total Wine netted me two selections from the suggestions above.
2015 Domaine de la Mordoree Chateauneuf Du Pape
2014 Chateau Troplong Mondot 1er Grand Cru Classe
How'd I do?
I'll try one or both this weekend.
There's a French restaurant/wine shop in town but I didn't spot anything that looked familiar. The guy that runs the place is a little intimidating and I didn't want like to look stupid so I ended up leaving with a The Mascot instead of anything French.
P a l m e r

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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#28 Post by G. D y e r »

ScottP wrote: February 24th, 2021, 12:11 pm
There's a French restaurant/wine shop in town but I didn't spot anything that looked familiar. The guy that runs the place is a little intimidating and I didn't want like to look stupid so I ended up leaving with a The Mascot instead of anything French.
I'd encourage you to give the French wine shop another try after you sample the Troplong & Mordoree.

Something like this will make you look good, while letting the proprietor display his expertise (hopefully):

"I'm looking for a Grenache-based red from Southern France. Do you have any supple, forward selections in the <fill in> price range?"

If this shop is any good, they'll parse those key words and supply you with a wine that is delicious, likely a good value, and fairly modern and fruit driven, probably from a producer no one has hit on yet.
Greg

In that way, he is like cornerback Darrelle Revis, deserving of his own island, Mangold Island, if you will. “That would be a rusty, filthy island where people wear ripped jeans and stay in hotel rooms that are half price,” tight end Dustin Keller said. “But they would serve wine, and only the finest for Nick Mangold.”

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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#29 Post by Richard T r i m p i »

Berserker Dan Kravitz has been working, sampling and importing across the whole of Southern France for longer than most here have been collecting fine wine.

From Provence to the Rousillion - Spanish border (i.e.: Languedoc and the Rhone Valley). He's too principled to recommend his own wines, but you could do a ton worse than following his suggestions. His wines offer excellent value.

Maybe send him a PM: memberlist.php?mode=viewprofile&u=8376

RT

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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#30 Post by Nathan Smyth »

ScottP wrote: February 24th, 2021, 12:11 pm Daou, Austin Hope, Blueprint, Cade Howell Mountain, Cade Reserve HM, Bountyhunter Frontier Justice Dr. Crane.

2015 Domaine de la Mordoree Chateauneuf Du Pape
2014 Chateau Troplong Mondot 1er Grand Cru Classe
How'd I do?
Here are a few vintages for which I could find statistics on the California wines:

Code: Select all

???? Austin Hope: Paso Robles ???% CS + ???% PV
2018 Lail Blueprint: 100% CS
2015 Cade Howell Mountain: 91% CS, 6% PV, 3% Merlot
2014 Cade Howell Mountain Reserve: 100% CS
2016 Bounty Hunter Frontier Justice Beckstoffer Dr. Crane: 53% CS, 47% CF, 2% PV
And here are the two French wines which you procured:

Code: Select all

2014 Troplong Mondot: 90% Merlot, 8% CS, 2% CF
2015 Mordoree CdP La Reine des Bois: 75% Grenache, 14% Mourvèdre and the rest Syrah, Vaccarèse and Counoise
So you're largely comparing Cabernet Sauvignon [generally with just a touch of Petit Verdot] from Northern California to Merlot, Grenache and Mourvedre from the South of France.

With such a radical change in varieties [or "cultivars"] of vinifera, it could be difficult to calibrate your sense of what you're tasting from France vis-a-vis what you had been tasting from Northern California.

Not that there's anything wrong with that [being unable to calibrate], just don't be surprised if it happens - if you get a sense that you simply don't understand what you just put in your mouth.

Also, I'd strongly argue for following those wines for several days [and especially the Troplong Mondot for a week or more] in order to learn the oxidation curves.

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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#31 Post by Philip G »

ScottP wrote: February 24th, 2021, 12:11 pm OK, a quick run to Total Wine netted me two selections from the suggestions above.
2015 Domaine de la Mordoree Chateauneuf Du Pape
2014 Chateau Troplong Mondot 1er Grand Cru Classe
How'd I do?
I'll try one or both this weekend.
There's a French restaurant/wine shop in town but I didn't spot anything that looked familiar. The guy that runs the place is a little intimidating and I didn't want like to look stupid so I ended up leaving with a The Mascot instead of anything French.
Mordorée is very good, one of my favorites, assuming it is the La Dame and not la Reine? La Dame is good while la Reine at twice the price is excellent. I was also going to suggest CdP as I had a similar palate starting out, and I still enjoy big fruit bombs if they're not overly sweet, and immediately gravitated there. A couple of no-brainers are Beaucastel and Janasse Vieilles Vignes.

This hasn't been suggested, partly because it's not red and partly because I think the wine snobs are avoiding this thread like the plague, but Champagne is really fun to start exploring. Most of us Americans think of champagne as just a NYE or Birthday celebration drink but we're starting to lean more and more to a bottle of champagne to start an evening. Lots of threads on grower champagnes to get started.

Also, start following the Best Deals thread, there are some excellent deals being posted on places like wine.com and wineaccess.com where you can pick up onesies and twosies of nice French wines for almost 1/2 off.
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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#32 Post by John Kight »

I wouldn't look to French reds that would necessarily appeal to your Cali tastes. Instead, I would jump right in to French wines that might show you a contrast with your Cali tastes, and what you might be missing (if you happen to like them). I would steer you to a great cru Beaujolais (Foillard's Cote du Py, Charly Thevenet's "Grain and Granit", Jean-Paul Thevenet's Morgon VV, or Guy Breton's Regnie), or maybe a nice Premier Cru red Burgundy with some age on it.....or maybe something from Bandol or Jura.

On the flip side, if you DO want to see both a contrast with AND some similarities to your existing Cali tastes, look for a Bordeaux with 10+ years of age. Some good suggestions above for Bordeaux, but you don't have to spend above $60 to get some good ones.
Last edited by John Kight on February 25th, 2021, 7:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Suggest some French reds based on my Cali tastes

#33 Post by Michael Martin »

Jordan Posell wrote: February 22nd, 2021, 5:39 pm Start with Cotes du Rhones, move to Northern Rhones, then graduate to Bordeaux later.
I did the exact opposite. Started on the bold end and gravitated to the more mineral driven, Grenache based wines of southern Rhône. Wine is a journey. [cheers.gif]

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