Cigar Box 2012 Malbec Reserve

Cigar BoxWhat’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, right? According to Bart Simpson, not if you called them Stench Blossoms, but I think I will stick with Shakespeare’s interpretation. Still, when it comes to wines, sometimes the name can be as appealing as the blend itself. Bogle’s Phantom, 19 Crimes, and Orin Swift’s The Prisoner all sport powerful, eye-catching names that draw us in to the brand more than the blend.

I can’t say that I haven’t fallen victim to a catchy name every now and again, but there is one word that always grabs my attention: Cigar. Even when it comes to my wine selections I feel my inner love of the leaf stir, and it has led me to some extremely tasty bottles, as you may remember with Cigar Zin. Today, we once again fall prey to my one-track mind with the Cigar Box 2012 Malbec Reserve.

This purchase was solely driven by the fact that the wine had “cigar” on the bottle. I had never tried a Malbec wine; to be honest I had never heard of the varietal. I was young and naive, (well, naive at very least) and had only just started learning, but I was taken hook, line, and sinker by the clean, white label adorned with a cedar box loaded to the brim with fine cigars. The purest definition of an impulse buy, I had to have it. At $10, it was a small price to pay for an adventure.

The Cigar Box 2012 Malbec Reserve is single-sourced from their own winery in the Lujan de Cuyo growing region, just outside of Mendoza, Argentina. After being bunch selected and hand harvested, the grapes are then destemmed and partially crushed. This is done to help preserve the fruitiness of the Malbec grape. The wine is then fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks.

I enjoyed my bottle with a couple of Flor de las Antillas Toros, which was as delicious a pairing as it was ironic. You pop the cork and are greeted with a floral sweetness mixed with something of a boozy undertone, like the smell of perfume in a bar. At 13.5% alcohol, this is to be expected, so decantering is suggested. Malbec wine is very rich with robust tannins, and pours with a deep purple color. It’s a meaty wine, bold but not overly so, with hints of tobacco, herbs, and juicy blackberry that came across as slightly tart. Despite the stronger flavor, the Cigar Box Malbec finishes with an unexpected softness.

For the price, this wine was a fantastic investment. Cigar Box has a few other varietals in their repertoire, including a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay, all around the same $10 price point. It’s a low-risk, high-reward purchase that can be enjoyed with dinner just as easily as in the back yard with a Good Smoke.


Jewell Towne Marechal Foch

Screen shot 2015-05-04 at 12.46.41 PMThe United States boasts over 3000 independent wineries, with at least one in each of the 50 states. The vast majority reside in California, and along with it the West Coast States of Oregon and Washington comprise over 92% of all wine production in the country. That being said, Griffy on Wine has established that there are great wines being produced in places like Virginia, New York, Tennessee, and Texas. Today, we’re going to add New Hampshire to the list, with a Marechal Foch from Jewell Towne Vineyards.

I first came across Jewell Towne wine at The Naughty Vine wine shoppe in Claremont, NH, and had the pleasure of visiting the South Hampton vineyard this past October. Located right on the New Hampshire/Massachusetts border, Jewell Towne is situated about 20 minutes from the Atlantic Coast. It has the distinction of being the oldest vineyard in the state.

The story of Jewell Towne begins with six vines in 1982. An emergency department physician named Dr. Peter Oldak, who would eventually plant 60 different varieties to find the best grapes for New Hampshire’s cool summers and harsh winters. Dr. Oldak and his wife Brenda, a clinical nursing specialist, would establish Jewell Towne Vineyards in 1990, and would be officially licensed as a commercial winery in 1994.

While the state only has a little over a dozen commercial wineries and distilleries, Jewell Towne has set itself apart as the best, boasting victories in six of the last nine state wine competitions. They produce nearly 6,000 cases of assorted red, white, and ice wines annually out of their New England-style post and beam barn facility. I enjoyed their Zinfandel, Aurora, and Cayuga varietals, but easily the most drinkable was the Marechal Foch.

The Marechal Foch is a hybrid grape originally developed after the first World War in Alsace, France. The grapes are fast-maturing, usually ready for harvest in Early September, and are cold weather hearty, making them excellent for growth in upper New England. Smaller fruit size does make them susceptible to birds and other small animals, but a good yield produces a wonderfully fruit-forward wine.

Popping the cork you’re greeted by black fruit and a slightly bready aroma. Think of the fragrance of blackberry preserves over toast. While Marechal Foch wines can run the range from a bright garnet red to a deep inky purple, my bottle from Jewell Towne was in the middle, though probably leaning more towards the lighter end of the spectrum. As I mentioned earlier, this is a fruitbomb-esque wine, with waves of wild berries splashing on the palate. It’s an off-dry wine by description, but I’d put it as a sweet wine as it does not come across as heavily oaked.

JTW Mar. Foch LabelOne criticism I have on this vineyard, however, is that the wines are a hit-it and quit-it experience. After the initial wave of flavor draws you in, there is very little by way of finish. Still, for an oft-overlooked grape, the Jewell Towne Marechal Foch is well worth the investment at $10. If you don’t live in New Hampshire or Massachusetts, you’ll need to contact a friend for a bottle, though some select states can order online.