DeBarge Winery

A few days before I left on my seven week odyssey (2 1/2 weeks in CA followed by 4 1/2 weeks leading bike trips in Europe) I got an email from a winery wondering if they could send me some samples of their wine to try.

Not all that unusual.

The winery’s name :DeBarge immediately made me think of the ’80’s R&B band that was essentially a one-hit wonder:

Again, not all that unusual since almost everything that happens to me I relate to some song from the ’80’s–unquestionably the source of all great music.

I had never heard of the winery, so I examined a bit further.

DeBarge Winery is in Tennessee.


DeBarge Winery also sources much of its fruit from Northern Georgia.


My response? “Sure, why not?”


The kind folks at DeBarge requested my address so that they could send out the wine.


I sent them my address and they quickly responded that they could not really ship to the fine Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


I gave them an alternative address I have in New Jersey.


They responded that they really could not send wine there either.

A bit unusual.

Eventually, we decided that they would ship the wine out to my in-laws house as I would be there in about a week and could sample their wines out there. Thus making my father-in-law the first recipient of Tennessee wine made in Northern Georgia in the entire state of California.

Highly unusual.

[Of course, I have no idea this is the case, but without putting any real effort into it–meaning exactly zero–I am willing to bet that if he is not the first, the number of people ahead of him would have trouble forming a doubles tennis team.

Before I get into the reviews, I need to get something off my chest.

I noticed that to of the wines contained at least some Chambourcin. I have tasted more than my fair share of Chambourcin in every style under the sun: dry, sweet, in blends, rosé–you name it. And I can safely say this without any equivocation: Every single vine of Chambourcin worldwide should be immediately ripped out of the ground with the greatest sense lot urgency. All the vines should then be piled high, doused with insanely unsafe levels of the most flammable liquid known to man, and lit on fire until all that is left is a smoldering pile of ash.

Was that too much?


Chambourcin is a hybrid grape (created by cross breeding two or more “parent” varieties) that only really exists for two reasons, as far as I can tell: it has fairly high yields and is mold resistant.

That’s it.

It has been historically grown in regions like Pennsylvania (and Georgia, I guess) where the summers are usually brutally humid, which can really increase mold pressure on the vines. Today, with more modern approaches to mold (choice of site, trellising, canopy management, and in some cases spraying), the problem can be better controlled and the need for mold resistant grapes has dropped significantly. The wine, no matter what the style, emits an odor that reminds me of, well, a locker room where all the rubber jock straps were far too close to the radiators for far too long. (That was the nicest thing I could fabricate.)

So you could say I am a bit tainted when it comes to Chambourcin.

With that in mind….IMG_2810

2012 Southside Blush: Retail $18. Cabernet Franc (57%), Cabernet Sauvignon (32%) and Chambourcin (11%). I tried to keep an open mind here, but when I read the varietal breakdown, I almost refused to even try it. Nonetheless, I took the plunge. The nose of watermelon and a bit of raspberry is unfortunately overwhelmed by the Chambourcin.


On the palate, the Chambourcin is barely noticeable and despite my best efforts to dislike this wine, I don’t. That is to say I do like this wine. There is great acidity that is tempered a bit with a touch of sugar (2%). The raspberry really comes through on the finish and this wine would do well on the table or on the patio. It would do even better if those Chambourcin vines had been ripped out as per my suggestion, and never made it into this wine. Good, maybe Very Good. 85-87 Points.

IMG_28122012 Trillium White: Retail $15. Traminette (44%), Chardonnay (21%) , Vidal Blanc (10%), Viognier (25%). Somewhat similar to Chambourcin, Traminette is another hybrid (one of the parents is Gewürztraminer and Vidal Blanc was developed as a table grape that would have similar flavors to its parent) and is also mold resistant and known for very high yields. The nose has some similarity to Gewurz, but is perhaps a bit less floral. On the palate, some acidity, but tampered again with what seems like some residual sugar. Good. 84-86 Points.

IMG_2813DeBarge Vineyards and Winery Labyrinth: Retail $27. Cabernet Franc (45%), Cabernet Sauvignon (45%) and Chambourcin (10%). OK, so a bit of honesty here. I tasted the above wines with a bit of prejudice (Tennessee?, Georgia?!?): But, honestly, I thought that the wines were interesting and even good. The next day, we decided to open the red. It is a non-vintage, comes from Georgia grapes, has a screw-cap, and costs close to $30.


I was hesitant.

I was even worried.

I was going to pop this with my father-in-law who, recently, indicated his  affinity for White Zinfandel (gasp!). I waited until the third bottle of the night to open it–I figured everybody would be schnockered and never notice. Good plan?

Well, I unscrewed, poured it into my glass, and took a sniff.


Took another sniff.

Whoa again.

No real sign of the Chambourcin.

At least on the nose, this was a serious wine: Cinnamon, spice, and everything nice (sorry, could not resist)). A bit of dark red fruit, a bit of cardamon, and I was ready to go. On the palate, whoa, again. Good fruit, great balance and an admirable finish. This is really good stuff. I was amazed. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.



About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, Chardonnay, Traminette, Vidal, Viognier, Wine. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to DeBarge Winery

  1. This reminds me of tasting a lot of the modern Canadian wines out there, the ones made from all those weird hybrid grapes grown in the Okanagan. Like Foch. In the past, they were grim and rough, with few redeemable qualities but for the fact they suited the climate and offered high yields. But modern winemaking techniques have done them a lot of good. Some of them are incredible. Like the Foch, for example.


    • I am not sure that Chambourcin is capable of improving–I really have tried a lot of it and it really puts off this distinctive odor that is really not good. These wines were certainly a pleasant surprise on many levels, but without knowing the reasoning behind including a minimal amount of Chambourcin in the blends, I feel they would be improved by its exclusion.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. talkavino says:

    Don’t remember any adverse feelings towards Chambourcin, but then it was a while since I tasted it. Glad to see your famous “whoa” on the last wine 🙂


    • The last wine was really enjoyable, and as I mentioned above, it would have been better, I feel, without the Chambourcin. Do wineries use it up in CT?


      • talkavino says:

        I have to admit that I have very little experience with CT wines – I believe some of the wineries do use the grape, but I didn’t taste it in CT.


  3. Jaleh Rose says:

    Haha, I was expecting something much worse after that opening! I don’t think I’ll ever forget your feelings towards Chambourcin. Glad you were pleasantly surprised.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. winegurl12 says:

    I don’t understand your Chambourcin hate. The Chambourcin we have in MO is actually pretty good (like a poor-man’s Cab-Franc)- somewhat earthy, with no aroma of jock-strap at all. 😉


  5. You are hysterical! Cheers!


  6. Enjoyed reading your commentary…hilarious! And, I personally agree with you on Chambourcin….very difficult grape to smooth out, for sure! – Miki Finnin


  7. Tell us how you really feel Jeff, we’re here for you, let it all out. I’m glad you got to the root of your pain. Jock strap tastes and smells can trigger deep emotions. By the way, you’ve scared me to death about going anywhere near a Chambourcin, blech. However, glad there was a happy ending to this post, hurrah! Cheers. xo


  8. Great discovery,.Many winery got hurt by the earthquake in Napa ,Calif. Wine is in demand now.Cheers.


  9. aFrankAngle says:

    I must say that your approach to Chambourcin vines delivered quite a chuckle this morning. Glad the last wine turned out to be the biggest surprise.


  10. Don’t think I’ve had the “pleasure” of tasting or sniffing Chambourcin. But now I have to – not because I dig jockstrap aroma, but out of pure curiosity.

    And DeBarge was actually a 2-hit wonder. All this Love was pretty popular too…


  11. cyardin says:

    Hmmm… We have a pretty good Chambourcin from Ivanhoe Estate in the NSW Hunter Valley. I wonder if you would have the same vehement reaction. I was in two minds about your DeBarge reference – it made me feel my age because I knew the band and the song you were referring too.


    • OK, I will take you on your word that the wines you know are “pretty good”. My retort: is “pretty good” good enough? I mean, just because the wine is “pretty good” doesn’t mean that something else would not be better in its stead.

      As for the band–you (and I) just wish we could have hair like that!


  12. Shelley says:

    Why we all should all wines a chance to redeem themselves. 🙂 BTW I think I have finished OMG. It ends with the new group?? 🙂


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