New! Napa Trip Planner

Armchair Sommelier Logo

Quilting with Wine Labels, No. 15

The right wine for you- 6 bottles for just $34.99!

After 36 relentless hours of snow and w-i-n-d, the Blizzard of 2016 is over. Jonas is gone. We have an easy 2-1/2 feet of snow on the ground, and drifts of over 4 feet (when you talk about snow totals in feet, you have too much snow). I figure we’ll be able to use our grill (it’s buried under one of those drifts) again sometime around St. Patrick’s Day, which is also my prediction for when the kids around here will return to school. But, we never lost power (all hail Netflix and heat), and we didn’t run out of bread or toilet paper. We didn’t even make a dent in my wine stash. The sun is shining this morning . . . it’s time to dig!


A continuing series on wine labels, and the wines that wear them, under the macro lens.

I love to take photos of pieces of things with my macro lens — pieces of wine labels seemed like a natural extension of that inclination. It’s a lot of fun to see the colors, and especially the textures, on a wine label that you wouldn’t ordinarily see (or maybe even notice). It’s almost as fun as drinking the wine. Almost. I can’t sew (not even a button). But I can take photos. So, I thought . . . why not “stitch” the photos together into a quilt?

See all of my wine label quilt squares in once place by clicking on the Wine Label Quilts tab at the top of this page.

Recognize any of these guys?

WineQuiltSquare15Where did I drink this week? (I didn’t plan this, but I still haven’t left France and Spain from last week!)

La Rioja Alta, Haro, Rioja, Spain
Côte des Blancs & Montagne de Reims, Champagne, France
La Rioja Alta, Rioja, Logroño, Spain
Limoux, Languedoc, France

Clockwise, from the top right:

La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Reserva Tinto 2008 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/90
100% Tempranillo from high-altitude (500-600 meters above sea level) vineyards planted in chalky-clay soils. I rarely meet a Tempranillo I don’t like, and this is no exception. Brick color with a slight orange-hued lightening at the edges. Nose = tobacco and funk. Flavors = cherry, orange rind, cloves, cigar, tobacco. Rustic and just lovely. And would you look at the price tag? $20.

La Rioja Alta Winery was founded in 1890 (at that time, Spain was ruled by King Alfonso XIII, notable only for the number of assassination plots he survived — eight). The label design is an interpretation of the Oja River (or Rio Oja, which some say is how the Rioja region got its name) flowing between oak trees.

Champagne Jacquart à Reims France Vintage 2006 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/90
100% Champagne, harvested from Premiers Crus vineyards in the Côte des Blancs and Montagne de Reims. Flavors of green apple, crushed shells, and citrus. Kind of briny, too. Beautiful finish. It’s begging for some shellfish, or you can just do what I did, and pair it with a hunk of Brie cheese. $55.

Jacquart was founded in 1962 by 30 small families, and is often considered the original grower Champagne. Today, Jacquard has 1,800 growers, and is part of the Alliance Group (the second largest cooperative in Champagne).

The label is modeled after a statue of La Renommé (aka Fame) riding the winged horse, Pegasus. The statue was carved by Antoine Coysevox in 1699 for the estate of Louis XIV. It was moved to the entrance of the Tuileries Garden in Paris in 1719, and took up permanent residence at the Louvre in 1986. The statue at the Tuileries Garden today is a replica.

Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Rioja Gran Reserva Especial Cosecha 2005 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/95
A blend of 89% Tempranillo and 11% Mazuelo. Interesting: the Tempranillo ferments in American oak barrels, the Mazuelo ferments in new French oak barrels. This wine is a darling of critics everywhere, and now I know why. This is one of those wines — you know the instant you stick your nose into the glass that it’s going to be unforgettable. Wildly complex. You could spend an entire afternoon with your nose in this glass coming up with different descriptors. Red fruit, cinnamon, nuts, smoke, truffles. Insane texture and elegance. Complexity. Balance. Stunning. $70ish. I need to buy another bottle of this and “lose” it in my cellar for about 10 years.

Founded in 1852, Marques de Murrieta is named after Luciano de Murrieta, considered one of the founding fathers of Rioja winemaking. The Ygay Estate is located in the southern end of Rioja Alta. The Castillo Ygay label has a great, vintage feel to it, and as near as I can tell, it has not changed since the first vintage in 1852. (I found identical labels online as old as 1917). After that, I lost the scent . . .

Domaine de Martinolles Blanquette de Limoux Le Berceau ⭐⭐⭐/87
From the Limoux region in Languedoc. Blanquette de Limoux is a local alias of the Mauzac grape, which is the primary grape in Blanquette de Limoux (along with Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc). Limoux is really fun to say, so I was hoping the bubbles would be good. And they were! Limoux’s vineyards are higher and cooler than others in the Languedoc, yet this tasted a bit warmer sunnier than Champagne to me. Still, loads of green apple and biscuit notes, lovely texture, plenty of acidity to hold it all together. And an insane value at $14 — I’m definitely going back for more.

Blanquette de Limoux makes a strong argument for being the world’s first sparkling wine (sorry, Champagne). It was invented by Benedictine Monks in 1531, at the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire. There’s a legend that says Dom Pérignon traveled to Saint-Hilaire on a pilgrimage and, while there, learned the process of making sparkling wines. Domain de Martinolles was founded in 1926, and uses the same land the Monks of Saint Hilaire cultivated in the 16th century. Le Berceau translates to the cradle, a reference to Limoux as the birthplace of sparkling wine.

The Domaine de Martinolles label is pretty self-explanatory (unless the M doesn’t stand for Martinolles). A simple, but elegant signet/monogram.


Armchair Sommelier Wine Tasting Guide

Spice up your next party with our FREE wine tasting guide! Learn what to look, smell, and taste for while appreciating your favorite bottle. We’ve also included a printable tasting notes template and a tasting wheel.