If Chile Had a Margaux, This Might Be It!

18 Dec

François Lurton’s Gran Araucano Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Lolol Valley, Chile. 14.5% ABV, $35 list, currently $35-45 street.

I would never have tried this wine but it was suggested to me over and over from various vendors who know what I like, and that I prefer to buy wines in the under $20 for my readers but my personal preferences run higher. After the third time someone suggested this to me, one vendor finally put the bottle in my hands and said, “If you don’t like it, bring it back and I’ll exchange it.” For a perishable item like wine, that’s a sales pitch from someone who trusts his product!

The color is deep ruby, and the nose is surpassingly complex and aromatic w/ black plum, spice, forest floor, a little funk and menthol. A nose like a champion, almost worth the price of admission for the nose alone.

On the palate, tart cassis is the powerful first impression. Swirled around the mouth, the upper palate gets the heat plus red plum,  pepper, oak, some clay. The tongue continues with cassis and now adds plum and blackberry, while the back palate senses silt, darker notes like forest and potting soil, and now tannins creeping in, first slowly, then with full force. Acidity and tannin take a second place to the fruit and nose in this wine, but are in no way diminished. This is a well-made wine, worthy of the price tag. Great for roast meats, strong flavors- even though I enjoyed it with mediterranean fare.

It was crafted with care by masters of French classic wines, no doubt, because I have a hard time putting down the glass, or it keeps refilling itself.

If Chile had a Margaux, this might be it. I would love to taste this wine again in five and ten years. If you take the time to google this wine, you might find the series of awards it has won. Or you might just find what matters: a place to buy a bottle or two so you can enjoy. If only I had cellar space for a full case!

gran araucano

 

à votre santé!

 

#MWWC13- Serendipity, or Destiny?

9 Dec

Serendipity, or Destiny?

wine-stain1-3

Is the joy in life simply destiny, or serendipity? You have to decide for yourself.

Some of my happiest moments have come from sharing time with friends. As we get older, often I find a bottle (or two, or three) of wine involved. For example. just sharing several bottles of wine at #WBC14 was pure bliss to me. Being able to discuss the things we liked, didn’t like, had in common or didn’t share- was incredibly fun.

table

One of many tasting tables at Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara, CA.

 

Going back in time, I met my friend “Duckie” through mutual friends and we quickly became buddies. He’s more playwright than comedian, but everything is a laugh to him and we roared together from the first time we met. His wife Rachel and I also became fast friends in the middle of Central Park while partnering in a combat class where I helped her learn to do a lock and throw (throwing ME, that is), which the asian tourists gleefully snapped pictures from their carriage rides as they passed by.

Years have passed and my entire family are close with Duckie, Rachel and their two adorable, feisty kids, Tornado Daniel and  Amelia Danger (I told you he was a comedian!) So when I arrived at their beach house, we all expected lots of laughter and many bottles of wine, like the one below. Sun, sand, and wine. Yum.
ChateauLeGay

 

What time is it? Beach House Wine Time! beach house
Morning coffee with some of my favorite wine-drinking buddies.  From left to right: Julia, Michael, Rachel, Jackson, Dante. 

Four good buddies from high school get together for an annual “mancation”, and the wine flows. Special occasions, special wines. No brainer.

Killington Boys copy

3 belles

 

No lightweight wines among this group.

Buddies

4 bottles

 

 

Hosting wine tastings at my home with friends and neighbors. 16 wines were tasted,  a few of them very nice, top flight wines. But perhaps the biggest impressions were made by the 30 year old Glen Ord single malt, or the  Bottle of 1976 Hennesy XO.  That smile says it all: 

30 yr

 

After tasting 16 wines, Jimmy Lawlor and John Estep were ready for the vintage liquors!  

 

A good friend and business associate had a milestone birthday. I managed to bring a bottle of Chateau Margaux ’99 that we drank to celebrate.

HoovHoov hosts a party like no other. A class of his own, and a classic gentleman. 

At a conference in Fort Worth, Texas a few business associate buddies and I cracked open a couple of bottles for a little wine time, to catch up and enjoy each other’s company. I brought some old world and some new world classics, and Dave brought some of his favorites from the Pacific Northwest which I enjoyed thoroughly!

IMG_0189

IMG_0190

Traveling for work, sometimes you have perfect moments. Do they happen, or do we make them?

summerland a perfect moment with a delightful cab overlooking the pacific

More recently, I find myself with the opportunity to taste wines in the company of other erudite, intellectual oenophiles.

Cara

With my buddy Cara Rutherford, aka Buddha In Your Glass. Art critic/historian, oenophile, philosopher, and wine drinking buddy- posing for a pic while tasting a series of delightful, aromatic whiles from New Zealand.

Again, I ask you: Serendipity, or Destiny? I say serendipity. You notice the little delights in life when you are enjoying the big picture and not stressing the small stuff. If it were destiny, it would just be happenstance. Life in itself can offer pleasure and pain, sometimes a fluke. But choosing to make life a good experience by looking at the world with a positive outlook can improve anyones point of view, and open your eyes to see the brilliant, wonderful details we might have missed before.

To all of you, my friends, I toast your health:

à votre santé!

Four Vinho Verdes Not To Miss!

7 Dec

I love Vinho Verde, so I jumped at a recent chance to taste four wines that were new to me.

4Vinho

If you aren’t already a fan of this northwestern Portuguese wine, you should be. Vinho Verde is light & refreshing with citrus and nice acidity, sometimes with a hint of fizziness due to malolactic fermentation. Like Riesling, you can drink it as an aperitif, with just one course or through an entire meal. It leaves the palate refreshed and usually does so with a lower alcohol content.  It’s no big bold red wine, but it’s never meant to be. Vinho Verde stands firmly on its own, a coastal wine for coastal food, and my friends and neighbors have become accustomed to seeing it served at every wine gathering I host, alongside other wines that may change from season to season or moment to moment. Here are my tasting notes:

Tapada do Marquês 2013;  10% ABV, List $13. A blend of Loureiro, Alharinho and Trajadura grapes, a floral and fruity nose is matched on the palate with lime, passion fruit, and apricot with tart acidity.  A dry, lemony finish makes this wine ideal for pairing with seafood; I’d love to try it with my favorite grilled flounder recipe.

tapada-do-marques-branco-vinho-verde-2013

Quinto de Curvos Avesso 2013, 13% ABV, List $13/bottle. Delicate floral notes expand across the palate and evolve into a creamy, warming mixture of tropical fruit with hints from apple, pear, & white peach stone fruit. A hint of residual sugar, a note of granite and a funky back palate will allow this vinho verde a plethora of food pairing options.

images

Quinta de Santa Maria Arinto 2013. 12.5% ABV, List $15/bottle. 100% Arinto grapes make this delicate and crisp wine a joy to drink with a blossom and citrus nose, powerful lemon-lime initial palate, nice minerality, with a long finish. Leaving  a tart, crisp aftertaste on the tongue, this wine had me asking for more. A delightful single varietal, I’d love to serve this with a sunny brunch outdoors.

quinta-de-santa-maria-arinto-635485_p

Quinta do Tamariz Loureiro Escolhua 2013. %11ABV, List $15/bottle. Fruit forward with lots of pineapple and white peach, moves from refreshing to mature to majestic in the mouth with a crisp finish. Made from 100% loureiro grapes by winemaker Mara Francisca. This wine could pair beautifully with  fish or chicken recipe made with herbs, cream, or vegetables.

Tamariz

 

Each of these four showed different nuances and strengths and could easily be a part of your wine repertoire. With low street prices they offer a lot of bang for the proverbial buck, so please advise if you find a great bargain on these in your neighborhood!

à votre santé!

 

That Time of Year: 2014 Thanksgiving Postmortem

29 Nov

For lovers of the grape, “holiday” means wine time! When chance put a perfect Halloween wine in my hands, I wrote about it (here). But this fall, I found myself somewhat reluctant to write about the biggest food holiday we celebrate: Thanksgiving. Every year I write about what I’m serving, and make suggestions to the myriad friends and lurkers who have come across me in person, at a wine event, on Facebook, WordPress, or via the ‘net. So why was I reluctant to talk about my plans for Thanksgiving wines this year?

*The four wines are I usually serve are: 1) a fun white, 2) a serious white, 3) a delicate red, and 4) a bold red. -JvB UnCorked

What would my four wines be thus year? Last year I had six wines, (one held in reserve for a guest who didn’t make the meal after all) but this year was a serious question. I’ve had some great wines over the summer and fall that made me re-think my choices.

Furiously working on the broadcast of the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and dinner was (thankfully) not at my home this year, yet the wine is still my domain. Because pre-production and broadcast equates to very long hours of hectic work, I planned to serve wines from my cellar, so that removed a lot of options from contention. I had been deep in thought about the stunning pinot noir wines I tasted from Santa Barbara and Central Otago, New Zealand this year. In SB County I had been impressed by Fess Parker, Cottonwood, Blair Fox, Au Bon Climat, and Ken Brown, -just to name a few of the SB wines. Some specific bottles were so shockingly good they just haunted me, such as the Dominio del Falcon from Sanford  as well as Pipeclay Terrace and Long Gully Pinots from Mount Difficulty, and wines from the Otago NZ crowd like Felton Road, Quartz Reef, Rippon, Amisfield, and Mud House.  

IMG_0463

MtDifficulty

 

I was also spoiled by a hot summer of killer treats, and these wandered into my thoughts as I considered what to serve.

Starting with the reds: the delicate red was in contention. I usually serve a bright and acidic pinot, gamay, or cru beaujolais but I kept returning to this crazy idea of serving an Aussie sparkling shiraz called The Red Brute from Bleasedale Vineyards I tasted earlier this fall. Sometimes I have to take a chance, right?

The serious red has lots of options but can be a tough choice, when you have my wine cellar. I have some nicely aged reds (like the 2000 Pomerol, or 1996 Cos D’estournel, and other earlier delights) but knowing the guests who would attend, I kept thinking that one of the 1.5L northern Rhône bottles I have on hand would pair best. The Pierre Gonon syrah is a juicy black currant delight with tons of darker notes of earth and leather, good acidity, and is a crowd pleaser. While I consider this vintage too young for a red meat entrée, given this meal, it will provide a perfect pairing, and I know people will adore it.

Having waffled on my traditions for those two, I have to sit back and slow down for a moment. There are three more wines I need to consider, one is the delightful rosé from Modus Operandi Wines that blows away most wine drinkers at the table. It always goes something like this:

Guest: “Sorry, I don’t like rosé.”

Me: “No problem, just humor me and take a tiny taste of this, then we’ll move on.”

Guest: “Oh, ok. (sip). Oh. Wow, that’s really good. May I have that?”

Me: “Of course!”

But having enjoyed so many great rosé’s this summer and fall, in my mind even my kick-ass Modus Operandi rosé was in question after being impressed by this inexpensive sleeper rhône rosé, Belleruche Rosé from the Côtes du Rhône just recently. I really enjoyed it, but was not sure it could stand up to the red meat in the soup or the savory flavors on its own. I decided to stick with my gut on this and transferred the Napa 2012 Modus Rosé from the rack in the cellar to the safety of my six-slot wine bag.

I also wondered about the red and white blend from Tess Vineyards that I found on Underground Cellars. It’s a little bit of a lot of things, and its fresh and light yet fruity and fun. But I feared a red/white blend would be too much of a challenge for some of the older & traditional crowd at the meal, so I decided to hold that for a tasting I’ll host  in the next few months.

Tgiving Reds

 

I needed a simple solution for at least ONE of my wines! So the “fun” white was easy: Leitz’ Dragonstone riesling from the Rheingau. It offers great minerality, white stone fruit, a touch of sweetness, and a crisp finish.

On to my final tough choice, the serious white. My go-to here is a Bordeaux blend, and my cellar has some great choices. I opened up a couple of crates and looked at options while thinking about the total wine lineup, and I went with a choice that for me seems out of left field:  I took a bottle of my ’09 Vintage Tunina from Silvio Jermann that is huge, rich and creamy.  I adore this classic IGT blend of white grapes, and I could not think of a better meal to pair it with that Thanksgiving dinner.

Tgiving Whites

 

I finally sat back and was able to breathe. This year’s Thanksgiving wines, all told. Wines from Germany, Italy, USA’s Napa Valley, Australia, and France: a true melting pot, just like NYC.  For me a few surprises, but lots of tradition. Something for every palate, and the only repeat is my favorite rosé.

TgivingWines

 

 

As I had hoped, when the day arrived, the wines were a hit. Everone who tried The Brute sparkling shiraz was surprised how savory, dry and refreshing it was, and both it and the rosé paired amazingly well with the first course, a beef vegetable soup, and the main meal. The Gonon Saint-Joseph was the crowd pleaser I expected, pairing beautifully with the meal, while the non-drinkers enjoyed the riesling and the vintage tunina held court nicely. My wife’s ninety-one year old uncle said to me, “you brought a lot of wine, you might have a little left over at the end of the meal”, but I told him not to worry. Like the leftovers from the meal, I was sure they would not last long.

à votre santé!

 

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.

unnamed-1

 

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?”
images
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.
thanksgiving-appetizers-with-beer-and-wine

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!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 80 other followers

%d bloggers like this: