• I went to a Chinese restaurant the other day and had the most amazing meal. It was your basic fare of orange chicken, sweet and sour pork and some vegetable fried rice. The flavors were a whole lot more intense than I was used to, and I just had to know why.

    My conversation with the waiter went something like this

    What made the food so tasty?

    It is an age old secret.

    What is this secret you speak of?

    Oh but it is very secret!

    I must know!

    Get used to disappointment.

    No really I must know!

    At this point I broke a beer bottle against the table, stood up and cornered the now quivering waiter.

    Okay! Okay! I’ll tell you. MSG! MSG!

    If you want big flavor try some MSG.

    I’m not writing to tell you about monosodium glutamate, but rather an MSG that’s very common in the wine world. Only thing is, its typically referred to as GSM.

    Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre

    This is a very common trio of grape varietals used for blending in southern Rhône’s wines. The French wine governing body, Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), also allows Carignan and Cinsault amoung other less commonly used varietals.

    Grenache is typically the ‘rich in flavor’ portion of the wine blend. It’s very jammy (blackberry and black currant jam to be precise) with a sweet fruitiness to it.

    Syrah gives some black pepper or licorice spice to the wine. While also adding that bold dense color. Syrah is the curvaceous singer laying on the piano sucking on a cigarette holder attached to a Sherman’s.

    Mourvèdre on the other hand adds chocolate, tar and earth to the mix. It also provides acidity and tannins helping keep the wine from becoming a monochromactic mess.

    My favorite region in the southern part of the Rhône Valley in France is the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC. The wines are nearly always bold, harmoniously blended wines with the ability to age into a thing of beauty. The drawback is they are often expensive.

    So I’m including a few picks one from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, one from Côtes du Ventoux (also in the Rhône Valley) and one from California.

    2008 Domaine du Pégaü ‘Cuvée Réservée’ Châteauneuf-du-Pape

    This wine house does a terrific job year after year. In fact the 2010 vintage got 97 points from the Wine Advocate (A wine magazine of great standing in the wine world.) It also however costs twice as much as the 2008 which is a fabulous wine for the price. It sells for $40 online at K&L Wines.

    92 points according to Wine Spectator which describes it so well:

    “A dark, lightly chewy style, with roasted mesquite and dark licorice notes leading the way for a powerful core of black Mission fig, blackberry preserve, Turkish coffee and bittersweet cocoa notes. There’s a flash of truffle on the finish. Drink now through 2022.”

    2010 Delas  Côtes du Ventoux

    The Pégaü is great, but for $13 on Wine.com the Delas is a wicked good steal.

    87 points The Wine Advocate says:

    “Ruby-red. Highly aromatic and fruit-driven, displaying scents and flavors of fresh red berries and cherry. Juicy and and light on its feet, with a slightly jammy character and good finishing cling. Not the last word in complexity but very easy to drink.”

    Last is a local hommage to the Rhône’s way of thinking Cline cellars (a family owned, sustainably farmed winery) produces a similar blend called Cashmere. It comes in at around $16. A fabulous wine and to make it even better they also donate a portion of the proceeds to Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

    I’ve written about Cline in the past and love their work. This wine is one they can be proud of.

     2010 Cline Cashmere

    The Wine Advocate gave it 87 points:

    “Another great buy is the Cotes du Rhone-like blend, the 2010 Cashmere Proprietary Red, a 20,000 case blend of Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache aged for 9 months (one quarter in oak barrels). A dark ruby color is accompanied by abundant notes of kirsch, lavender and pepper as well as a hint of licorice. This surprisingly complex, medium-bodied, fruit-dominated red offers both power and elegance, and should be compatible with a number of dishes. It should drink well for 1-2 years.”

    Speaking of benefits for breast cancer victims, a good friend of mine helps with Beats for Boobs.  Beats for Boobs (http://www.beats4boobs.org/). It is a 100% volunteer organization that grants financial support to local breast cancer non-profits that provide direct services to people battling breast cancer and breast cancer survivors, promotes prevention and/or offers breast health education.

    Please check it out.