Wente Riverbank Riesling 2011

25 Nov

Wente “Riverbank” Riesling 2011, Arroyo Seco, Monterey, CA . Locally $11, Internet from $9-12/bottle. 12.5% ABV.

A clear color of pale sunshine with a green tinge in the glass, the nose shows honeysuckle, gentle floral notes with a hint of salt air, which begs the question if Wente found a way to bottle with California coastline breeze instead of nitrogen?

All kidding aside, this wine is no joke and is named appropriately. In the mouth, the palate is flooded with honeyed apricot, white stone fruit, saline and great acidity. The finish has hints of  gravel and sandstone.  Swallowing leaves a perfect cleansing of the palate which cries out for more. This is a treat that can pair with just about anything or sit beautifully on its own  at any time of the day or night, nicely complementing sunshine and moonlight.

At this price point, it offers solid value and is every bit as complex and well-made as rieslings in the same (lowest) range from Wachau, Austria and Mosel, Germany. Which is my way of saying its worth your time and consideration.

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à votre santé!

Thanksgiving Wine: Street Exchange with a Beer Drinker!

23 Nov
I had a funny exchange on a freezing street corner: A co-worker approached me, needing some wine help and at the same time, unwittingly offering me some interesting constructive criticism.
“JvB, you know I’m a beer guy and have no time… or honestly, any interest to read your wine blog. But I can’t go to the liquor store and say ‘gimme a thanksgiving dinner wine’ because I have done that before and they point at a row of stuff that nobody enjoys. I just need enough to sound like I know what I’m looking for, and to choose ONE decent bottle of wine for Thanksgiving. Can ya PLEASE do me a frickin’ favor and give me ONE wine to buy instead of a hundred options?”
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I bit my tongue down on my sarcastic reply. His point was immediately taken. This guy actually wanted help, and here I was. I was determined to give him the tools he needed to succeed with both the wine store and his in-laws.
“No problem,” I smiled. “Let’s narrow it down to three possible types,” I suggested. “Consider white, red, or rosé, by who will drink it and what the meal will be.”
“Standard meal, it’s usually turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, sweet potato casserole, green beans, and pie for dessert. They’ll make a very traditional afternoon turkey dinner that lasts 2-3 hours,” he explains. “My wife, her sister and their parents are the wine drinkers, I’ll have a sip of wine to toast the meal but will move to beer as soon as I can and end up watching football as soon as I can.” His directness and lack of BS is refreshing.
“Sure. And a price range?” I ask. “You want box wine or to impress the in-laws?”
He scoffs. “It can’t look or taste cheap, but don’t break the bank. I’ll probably buy two bottles of it and ideally I’d like to spend below $50, tax included.”
“Ok, got it,” I tell him. “Let me offer you only two suggestions and you can take that to your wine store. For this meal, you want something with plenty of crisp fruit and acidity. If I had to buy only one bottle, I’d look for something that matches the range of the meal, so you’re smart to want one _nice_ bottle, either a good rosé or a pinot noir. Ask your wine store to show you their best value in both pinot noir and good rose’ in the under $25 range.” (He nods, thumbs a few keys on his phone, taking notes.)
“For the pinot noir, I’ll toss you a few names that will all be in the $25 and under range that are big crowd pleasers: Drouhin, Cloudline, Meiomi, Oyster Bay. They represent the premiere regions making Pinot noir today: Burgundy (France) , Willamette Valley (Oregon), California, and Central Otago (New Zealand). They will probably offer you a bunch of medium-fancy bottles in the $20-25 range, which is where you find the higher quality stuff, but there is plenty of great value under $25. If nothing that sounds good comes up in your wine store and you feel lost, ask for Pepperwood Grove from Chile as a last-minute “under-the-radar” stealth wine in the $10-12 range. It’s a solid last resort that still tastes great.” (More typing, his eyes bugged out and he nods while trying to keep up as I dictate.)
For rosé, anything that doesn’t immediately feel impressive is probably not worth your time for this choice. Don’t expect to see anything useful in the under $15 unless the clerk swears it’s amazing. Tell them it has to be 89 points or better and drink like a $40-50 bottle to be worth your time, OK?” (Another quick nod, followed by a quick moment of  eye contact. He’s still typing. The last thing I need is for him to come back and blame me for a poor wine choice. I’m feeling the pressure.)
I saw the opening and seized it. “For an important family meal like this one, you might want to consider one white and one red if your wife or mother-in-law prefers white wines,” I blurted out. “The most common white bordeaux is Mouton-Cadet Bordeaux Blanc, a nice white blend that constantly wins awards and sells dirt cheap from $9-11 per bottle. Toss it in the fridge and have it as a safety bottle,” I suggest. My buddy is furiously typing more notes on his phone. I’d give my left arm to see how he tried to spell these, but that would be a very bad move on my part. “A white bordeaux blend should have good complexity which helps it to pair with the entire meal for those who are more dedicated white wine drinkers.”
“OK, good idea,” he says. “Thanks!” He turns to leave. “Oh, can I text you from the wine store if I’m feeling lost?”
“Sure!” I reply, stifling my inner snark a second time. “Or you could read my blog, print it out and take it with you to shop, you know?”
But he’s already disappeared into the crowd of tourists, theatre-goers and early Christmas shoppers.
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à votre santé!

Alois Trebulanum Casavecchia ’04 IGT

20 Nov

Trebulanum by Michele Alle Alois Vineyards, Casavecchia Campania IGT 2004, Pontelatone, Italy. Purchased from Garagiste,  found online from $40-$60/bottle. ABV 13%.

An opaque garnet color with violet edging. The nose offers reluctant fruit, tobacco, menthol, forest floor, and old wood. The palate stays in powerful & dark territory: hints of aged black currant and dried date are met with strong acidity and huge tannins, flavors of pepper, clove, flint, saddle leather, potting soil and barnyard are present; the fruits change on the long finish and brighten as the tannins fade. What a massive wine, showing tremendous depth with only a decade of maturity.

What a delightful dry red, and perfect at this age. Poured using a decanting spout and impressive from the first nose, this bottle I must confess is an accident. It was part of a “garage sale” case I bought from Garagiste Wine Club which is one of my guilty pleasures. I paid 20.83 per bottle for a mixed case of “who knows” with the promise of being shocked and amazed. This is the first bottle opened from this mystery case and so far I’m thrilled. Plus, I recognized an aged white burgundy that made my heart leap and made the price of the case a virtual steal for a guy like me. And a few other treats I’m not willing to disclose yet. YMMV. But you should come over and help me drink some of these treats, it’s good stuff!

I digress. Back to the topic at hand (and in glass), the Alois Vineyards website can be found here, or copy & paste: http://www.vinialois.it/alois/en/

Alois

 

What mystery wine has knocked you back? Do tell!

à votre santé!

From JvB’s Cellar (Bin #1): Thanksgiving Wines (11-23-10)

19 Nov

From JvB’s Cellar, A return on the “Thanksgiving Wines” post! Originally posted to Facebook, before I was hounded into blogging. :) My current thoughts on this year’s wine will hopefully posted by Thursday night, one week before the big meal. (Showbiz schedules aren’t as friendly as bankers hours!)

—————Thanksgiving Wines (originally posted 11-23-10) ——————

This has been requested by a half-dozen different people, so I’m making it a note.

Here’s my $0.02 on Thanksgiving wine, and I’ll try to stay on the inexpensive side of wines, 9-15/bottle, for large groups like this. At Thanksgiving I tend to serve several wines: A main white, a second white (Riesling for the reluctant drinker), a gentle red, and a serious red.

1) I always serve a dry white (either a Bordeaux like Lamothe de Haux ’09, Chateneuf Herzog, or a white Burgundy like the Latour Macon-Lugny Les Genievres, each @ $10/bottle). It helps get people to the table, great to drink while cooking or chatting, and a good dinner wine for people who want can’t drink red, want something to clear their palate but don’t really like to drink wine much but want a glass at the table, or similar reasons.

2) I also always have a bottle of a dry Riesling on hand. Some people can’t digest the tannins of reds and the whites are often too mineral-tasting or too dry without food, and a demi-dry white or a dry Riesling is my secret weapon. At about $9/bottle, I have found my wife and mom both love bottles like Mosel Germany’s Clean Slate ’08 and Relax ’07, which are unpretentious, tasty, and fun to drink without being too sweet, while being a decent food complement for those non-wine drinkers who just want a little something in their glass to enjoy. They are often screw-cap, which makes them easy to serve & save.

3) For reds, in the last three years I have turned from my traditional “too-heavy” cabernets to the balanced and more appropriate Pino Noir for Thanksgiving red. I serve either the Joseph Drouhim Nourgogne Pino “Laforet” ’07, the Chamarre’ Grande Reserve Pinot Noir ’07, or Louis Latour Pinot Noir Bourgogne, all in the $9-$12 bottle range. If I have guests who are Californian wine drinkers, the Ramsay North Coast ’08 Pino, which is big and bold, is a great choice around $14/bottle.

4. Lastly, I always keep a serious red on hand, just in case I have a serious red drinker. It also is great as the meal progresses or if you have a red meat course or a flavor that is looking for a big wine to complement it. On the low end of the price scale, I adore Los Vascos ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon which is a Rothschild (Lafite) grape grown in Chile, and is an outstanding value at 9/bottle. There are also always a lot of great Bordeaux out there in the 10-15 range, Chateau de Costis, Chateau du Pin, Chateau Greysac (Medoc) ’06, Chateau Lascaux ’05, all solid choices. If I want to step that up a notch, there are some excellent choices in the 18-25/bottle range, such as Lafite Reserve Speciale (Medoc) ’06, Chateneuf du-Pape and Margaux which will largely vary on the vintner and year depending on where you buy wine.

Happy Holidays!

Garnacha With Love

17 Nov

The wine grape Grenache in France, or Garnacha, as it’s called in Spain, is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world. Sadly in the USA, we tend to think of it primarily as a blending grape, when there are many vineyards producing great single varietals. I recently had an opportunity to taste six of the Spanish beauties, and the first four wines have tasting notes are below. Thanks to Sofia Gonzalez, Wines of Garnacha, and Stefanie Schwalb for the tasting!

 

La Miranda de Secastilla 2012, Granacha Blanca, Spain. 13.5% ABV, Street price $13-14/bottle.

Color is a neutral medium straw. With a delightfully floral nose, honeysuckle and sweet white peaches, the mouth gets a crisp fruit attack with creaminess in the body before the acidity. Some gentle minerality of sandy loam and aged cedar plank on the finish. The overall experience is rich and opulent, and understand the depth of this compliment: I really enjoyed this bottle, would accept this wine in place of a white Bordeaux blend in the same price range of $13-20.
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Castillo de Monséran Cariñena Garnacha 2012 by San Valero. 12.5% ABV. Street price $8.

Color is medium violet with garnet edging, the nose is gentle blue fruit, menthol and old wood. Black plum, blueberry, and black cherry are evident on the soft palate with hints of forest floor, potting soil, and an essence of stone on the finish that reminds you of Pyrenees mountain range. Really surprising value to be had here; with the soft fruit and complex body this bottle compares well with wines over $35.

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Vinas Del Vero’s Secastilla Somontano Garnacha 2009. 14.5% ABV. $24 street.

Deep garnet in color, a nose of blackberry jam. Dark, spicy black fruit on the palate. Robust and viscous, this wine begs for tapas and Spanish entrees but paired equally well with chili, Mexican, and a spicy chicken stir-fry.

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PDM Pagos del Mancayo, Garnacha 2012, Campo de Borja, Spain. 14% ABV, Online from $12-14/bottle.

Deep violet color, nose of blue and black young fruit with green vegetation, and a hint of dank compost. On the palate, the fruit is muted yet mature, while strong tannin and acidity remain. An ideal wine for protein-heavy tapas: not overpowering, but palate cleansing. Very dark palate and secondary flavors, forest floor, tar, cedar, graphite, and coffee grounds. My food pairing choice was mediocre but the strong flavors in the bottle made me certain that a proper pairing shows this as a stunning wine. Hearty meals centered on meat would pair best, such as a stew, roast, or meat sauce. http://pagosdelmoncayo.com/en/11-garnacha.html

PdM Garnacha

 

Overall I was impressed by the quality of the wines I tasted, and was glad to be educated to the quality of this grape by the sampling. This tasting certainly opened my eyes and my taste buds, and I enjoyed both the wide range of flavors, the quality of production and the end value to the consumer that was demonstrated by these producers, and I know that you will appreciate them as well!

What’s your favorite garnacha/grenache wine? Click the comments tab and let me know!

à votre santé!

Belleruche Rosé from Côtes-du-Rhône

3 Nov

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Belleruche Côtes-du-Rhône 2013, M. Chapoutier, Rhône, France. 13% ABV. $13 at Wine & Spirit Company;  Online pricing from $10-14/bottle.

Color is a light blush, with a nose of young red raspberry and strawberry. In the mouth, red plum and a hint of strawberry, without the sweetness. Good blend of acidity, delightfully dry finish with notes of saline and sandy clay. A good wine to have on hand for the fall season, at this price is an easy contender for your late afternoon aperitif, early evening meal pairing, maybe even your Thanksgiving meal. My preferred Thanksgiving rosé is much more expensive, but this is flexible and leaves the mouth fresh and ready for the next bite. Try it: like great literature, it will grow on you, a wonderful value in Côtes-du-Rhône.

à votre santé!

Flor De Campo Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County

26 Oct

Flor De Campo Chardonnay 2010, Sanford Winery, Lompoc, Santa Barbara County, CA. Purchased at Wine & Spirit Company Austin Street NYC $28. Found online for $12-20/bottle. ABV 13.8%.

I found this bottle today when scouring the racks at a small local store. They have higher prices than larger stores, but the owner prides himself on providing quality wines. Since I’d managed to visit the winery this summer before and during #WBC14, the Wine Blogger’s Conference, I was immediately intrigued, and picked up the bottle.

The color shows pale sunshine with subtle green tinge. The nose offers wildflowers, iris, passion fruit, and apricot. In the mouth, this chardonnay shows a  delightful fruit blend, both tropical and citrus, yet creamy and nicely balanced with zesty acidity. New oak, gravel and schist show on the finish. A delight to drink by itself, it also paired wonderfully with both chicken and fish as a delicate, subtle foil. Utilizing screwcap closure, Flor de Campo was as perfect on day three after opening as on day one of tasting, and I enjoyed it both at cold temperatures which features the fruit and acidity, as well as closer to room temperature which enhanced the aromatics and creaminess of the wine.

FlordeCampo

A value at the internet prices I saw, I was happy to know I could find a local (albeit expensive) provider for immediate supply if needed/desired.

Having tasted the 2013 harvest at the vineyard while they were bottling, I was very happy to try the 2010 and confirm that the vintages have great consistency. Another positive mark for Sanford, where the passion they have for the product really shows.

Below are a few additional pictures from my trip to Sanford  this summer, documented on my post about Sanford Wine here : http://bit.ly/JvBSanford. I truly enjoyed discussing the vineyard and winemaking process with winemaker/GM Steve Fennel and hie entire team, which might be evident by the array of photos I took while there.

 

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Grapes for this wine are near the entry to the vineyard.  

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Chardonnay grapes on the vine. 

 

Chardonnay Grape Vine

Lovely vines, great fruit!

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Ready for crush?

Stainless

The next step in the process, then on to…

Barrels

 …storage in OAK!

Cold Filtration

Cold filtration, final step before bottling. 

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Auggie (left) a winemaker on the team at Sanford for over twenty years. The author on the right.

 

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 Part of the automated bottling of the 2013 Flor De Campo at Sanford Winery. 

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 The label goes on, and into the box they go, ready for distribution!

 

 

à votre santé!

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