Instead of the regular format, this month we tasted four wines David really enjoyed at recent retailer tastings, consisting of an elegant non-vintage Champagne, an interesting white Bordeaux, a big Barbera, and a well-crafted Rioja.

In the middle, we enjoyed two blends that Ali and Andy had made themselves on a trip to the Ravenswood winery in California.  Both bottles were made from the same three grapes, but the differing proportions really shined through on the final product. 

Ali and Andy's selection of cheeses was superlative, and Andy's dinner of pork tenderloin and grilled white asparagus was equally impressive.

Henriot Brut Champagne Souverain Non-Vintage.  Very, very elegant and pure, showing white grapefruit, flowers, green apples, lemon curd, and yeasty biscuit notes.  Real focus, especially on the nose, then again on the finish.  On the higher side of the acidity range.  Great as an aperitif.  About $40.

Chateau La Dame Blanche 2010 (Bordeaux).  Smells of honey, melon, honeysuckle, mint leaves, and a touch of brown spices.  Rich and full-bodied in the mouth, with flavors of ripe pear, red apple, light raspberry, pineapple, subtle cream, cranberry, and spices.  Really interesting, almost exotic, with enough energy to keep it integrated.  Made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc.  Sees no oak aging.  About $20.

Ravenswood Ali's Blend 2007.  Andy noted that it "smells hot".  Scents of glue, cherry, and black licorice.  David felt that it was "dusty, in a great way", and Kristin found "bazooka bubble gum".  Strong attack, with flavors of bitter chocolate, burnt wood, and cherry cough syrup.  Alcohol stands out a bit much, but the profile is good.  Very ripe.  Made from 30% Zinfandel, 40% Carmenere, and 30% Petite Sirah.

Ravenswood Andy's Blend 2007.  Smelled of baby powder, violets, acetone, cloves, and more floral notes.  Andy thought that it "smells like a woman", but Ali noted "dirty glass".  Flavors of candied apple, green pepper, ripe cherries, tobacco, and orange rind.  Super-ripe, but David likes the balance compared to the other blend.  Made from 15% Zinfandel, 75% Carmenere, and 10% Petite Sirah.

Sandrone Barbera d'Alba 2010.  Slightly funky nose, but also flowers, and dark fruit.  Shows refinement and artistry.  Restrained cherry flavors. Very well balanced and pure, with nothing standing out, in the best sense of it.  About $40 

Bodegas Artevino Orben 2007 (Rioja).  Andy says that is shows a craftsmanship to it.  Ali says that this is one of the best Riojas she's ever had.  Has a lot of brightness and focus, with great cherry and earth flavors.  It's clear that this is well-made.  About $35.

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