My Apology to Chablis

17 Apr

I’ve been a jerk, and I owe Chablis an apology.

 

My readers and followers all know I’m a massive fan of white burgundy. But I doubt they have any idea I’ve been a lifelong fan of Chablis, because I hardly mention you in recent years.

 

Chablis, I’ve always loved you. It’s true. But I haven’t shown you the respect that I have for you, and for that, I apologize. You were a major influence early in my understanding of wine, and you deserve to take massive credit for helping me both find my palate and understand the beauty of chardonnay from your unmistakable region. I met you early in life, respected you for your delicate color and nose, your gorgeous citrus flavors and seaside perfume, your reserved fruit, your singular focus, your gorgeous linearity, your finish of limestone, oyster shell, and chalk. Chablis, without a doubt, you are the one region where the terroir is so incredibly evident in your wine. And I assumed that everyone, like me, just KNEW about Chablis.

 

And so… I realize now, that I ignored you. I took you for granted. I’m so sorry.

 

In time, I met many other wines, from all over the world. Nothing else was like you, but I began to follow other regions of Burgundy, and started to pay more attention to them. In turn, that allowed me to appreciate the beauty in chardonnay across the world- Australia, Argentina, the oaked USA. Chablis, you have always remained a baseline for me, but as I began to collect beautiful chardonnay from around the world,  I kept treasuring Burgundy, but skipped over you time and time again in my search for top quality white wines of distinction…because I already knew how amazing Chablis was. I was so lost in translation- I entirely lacked the significance, the true understanding of what I was doing at the time.

 

I apologize. I hope you’ll understand, and forgive me.

 

You’ve been there for me. You’ve been waiting all this time, in good years, and bad. Waiting for a mutual friend to pour me a glass and offer you up, to watch as my palate, my nose, and my tongue recall that first kiss. What beauty and intensity!  In a sip I can recall the sea that covered your AVA millions of years ago, left tiny crustaceans, shells and exoskeletons mired in the limestone rock that is now the basis of the terroir we recognize as yours and yours alone. Pure, perfect, Chablis. or… #PureChablis.

 

There are even a few, -more than a handful- of your tremendous offerings in my cellar.

With special tags, of course.

Because… nothing else is Chablis!

 

Just a few of your fabulous offerings include:

 

Domaine Jolly & Fils, L’homme Mort, Premiere Cru 2014; around $27/bottle. 
Tasting note: “Very Pale in Color, nose of lemon peel and orange. Gentler but savory up front, bright across the top palate. Such a pleasure to drink, like imbibing a glass full of perfect afternoon sunshine.”

Domaine Gilbert Picq & Fils, 2015, around $20/bottle. 
“Color of pale sunshine. Nose is faint, issuing grapefruit and limestone. Acid up front in the mouth, followed by lemon-lime citrus. Opening into a savory palate. Pairs beautifully with either beet, goat cheese, and gruyere puff pastry.”

Chablis William Fevre Champs Royaux, 2015 around $18/bottle. 
The easiest Chablis to find in the states, Fevre is a huge producer. “Classic lineage, so familiar. Pale straw with a green tinge, linear acidity and fruit with a soft style in the front- and mid-palates, yet a tightly focused finish. Such great memories, brought back cleanly.”

La Chablisienne Petite Chablis 2015; around $17/bottle.
“Pale straw in color, Honey-lemon nose. Steely, driven flavors of citrus, lemon-lime, oyster shell, hints of clay. Pairs best with the raw crudo.”

Domaine Louis Moreau 1er Cru Fourneaux 2013, around $30/bottle. 
“HUGE nose on this wine. It shifts in personality to me: on the palate: first savory with oyster brine, meaty and thick with citrus and chalk, then a more gentle, flint and steel approach. A lovely finish, with high acidity. I could drink this forever.” – My personal favorite of the night.

Patrick Piuze 1er Cru Forêts, 2014, around $45/bottle.
“What gorgeous citrus and salinity on the nose. Huge acidity, big citrus; a meter-lemon wine. This is an  oenophile’s wine, a wine nerd’s dream! Singular, focused, & driven. It simply screams of the Chablis terroir. You could identify this in a blind tasting without any thought. Perfect pairings both with the foie gras and scallop dishes.”

Louis Michel & Fils, Chablis Grand Cru Grenouille 2014; around $80/bottle.
“Pale in color, complex nose with citrus, mineralogy, & sodium. A full-bodied wine with bright acidity and a long finish. A beautiful expression of chablis, no more expensive than a good California Chardonnay or a good buy in white burgundy. Amazing with the risotto balls and the braised tenderloin. Stunning to be such a good pairing for such rich selections.”

 

And just in case you are still thinking about Chablis… here’s where she lives. Her Grand Cru, her Premiere Cru, her Petite Chablis… all of her beauty and delights.

 

My thanks for a tremendous tasting to Françoise Roure from Bourgognes, Marguerite de Chaumont Guitry from Sopexa, and Sommelier John Kearns from Ai Fiori Restaurant, whose service and presentation were top notch, and whose hand cradles the bottle in most of my photographs! Deepest appreciation for the tremendous pairing menu & service from Ai Fiori’s Michael White, David Schneider, Scott Schneider, Mari Gaube and their teams.

 

And of course… my apologies to Chablis. Will you ever forgive me? Maybe I can come and see you over the summertime, if Provence and Bordeaux won’t get too jealous.

 

#MWWC32

à votre santé!

 

Kosher for Passover Wines, 2017

6 Apr

This year’s Kosher Food & Wine Experience had some tremendous offerings. For this segment, I focused on wines that I thought would be heartily appreciated by any who tasted them, as this holiday brings together extended family, friends, and strangers at our tables. Here are wines I can heartily suggest for Passover 2016 from the Kosher Food & Wine Experience:

The Kosher Food & Wine Experience, 2017. 

2012 Chateau de Valmer Vouvray Moelleux

Pale yellow in color, light nose of floral and fruit blend. Medium bodied white wine, rounded white stone fruit, quince and fig with a hint of almond; a mature, elegant, creamy and savory overall impression. This Loire Valley Vouvray is consistently a solid performer. I should point out the same winemaker makes a younger-vintage, demi-sec Vouvray that is also popular with non-wine drinkers, it’s more direct, less complex, just a hint of sweetness. Either is a solid choice! Around $22/bottle for the aged Moelleux, @ $13/bottle for the currant vintage demi-sec.

Baron Edmund de Rothschild Les Lauriers Rosé 2015

As a fan of Baron Rothschild’s traditional red wines, I’m raving about this rosé. Pale pink in color with a fruity nose, this non-mevushal rosé is incredibly dry on the palate, showing strawberry and cherry with balanced acidity and tannins. Well made, this is a perfect all-meal wine that sings for baked chicken but can handle the whole meal from bitter herbs to red meat to dessert! @ $19/bottle, 13.5%ABV.

 

Château Soutard, 2014

A grand Cru Classé red blend from Saint Emilion, consistently capturing 90+ points from the major reviewers, in the low $40 range. If you can find the 2015, I prefer it (more expressive and longer finish), but both vintages offer beautiful dark red fruit, black plum, plus dark forest, bramble, and leather notes. A full-bodied red, perfect for the Passover Seder and the traditional brisket or roast.

 

Château Giscours, Margaux  2014

You want elegance and luxury? You found it here: a Margaux that is Kosher for Passover, in the $40-$50 range.  Maroon in color with an exotic floral nose with eucalyptus and forest floor, the palate shows medium body of dark red berries, burnt caramel, notes of spice, earth, and stone. Excellent balance, finishes with solid tannins and leaves you wanting more. 13.5%ABV. Pour me another!

 

Grand Puy Ducasse Pauillac 2013

If you love Pauillac, this is your wine: a classic & historic Grand Cru Classé. Color is pale ruby into magenta. A full, expressive nose of black and red fruit with cut greens. On the palate, black plum and cassis are first on arrival, along with green pepper, clove and spice box in quick succession, followed by notes of saddle leather, gun oil, clay, and gravel. Ducasse’s blend is usually 60/40 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, this is consistent with previous experience. Known for tremendous aromatics and intense flavors, the balance is just off-center with more fruit and acidity than tannin at this young age. I promise, you won’t care, unless you purchase by the case and compare it to a vintage that is ten years old. With SRP in the low $70’s, I found this online in the low $30 per bottle with 13%ABV.

 

Château Fourcas-Dupré Listrac-Medoc 2012

Color is bright red with white edging. Delightfully bright cherries on the nose; on the palate this is a medium-bodied red blend.  Dark berries, cassis, black plum, bramble, with pepper and clove. This wine shows well for this young age. Body is rich and this tastes more expensive than its street price @ $28/bottle. 13%ABV. A tremendous value in a classic Bordeaux blend.

 

Château Leoville Poyferre Saint Julien,  2014

A classic St Julien, Léoville-Poyferre is a wine I love any time of year. I simply had no idea it was available in Kosher for Passover! Non-mevushal, it features a deep garnet color, and nose of eucalyptus & leather. On the palate: cassis, black fruit, dry, full bodied. So approachable at this young age, I promise, you will have no regrets. Predominantly cab with merlot in this blend, it is a glorious, full-bodied red with massive tannins and is a total pleasure to drink. Priced in the mid-$60/bottle but found online as low as $50 and worth every penny. 12.5%ABV

 

From Spain: Elvi Clos Mesorah 2014

What, a Spanish Kosher for Passover wine? Yes, and great one! This blend of 40% Carinena, 30% Garnacha, and 30% Syrah is a deep purple in color, with a nose of black plum and forest floor. On the palate, bright fruit is delightful: cherry, plum, and blackberry jam on the front palate while delightful acidity and tannin support excellent balance on this slightly chewy, very intense wine that made me want to buy a bottle immediately.  If you make lamb for Passover, this is the wine you want, found online in the high $60/bottle range.  13.5% ABV on this non-Mevushal wine. If you want to change things up, this might be the way to go- it’s a stunning wine that won’t disappoint.

 

After-dinner/Dessert Wine:
Rayne-Vigneau 2014 Sauternes

Deep yellow in color, the nose is full of sweet fruit, honey and wildflowers. On the palate, apricot, mandarin orange, and honey attack the tongue while racy acidity crosses the top palate. Zesty and alive, a lovely expression and a perfect dessert wine after you’ve enjoyed your four cups. @$25/bottle, 14%ABV.

 

Last but not least:

In 2016 I reviewed a bevy of tremendous wines by Israeli winemaker Lenny Recanati, all of which were Kosher for Passover. Recanati is a winemaker who blew my mind with blind tastings that can compare with some of the finest kosher wines I’ve listed here. Below are three links to three separate posts where I wrote and reviewed Recanti wines, which should be on your wine shopping list whether you are looking for wines in the $11 or $50 range. Recanati wines are simply stunning, and should not be missed, be it Passover or any day, his wines compare beautifully to old and new world wines from around the world. 

Recanati Worlds Collide Part 1:

Recanati Worlds Collide Part 2:

My Kosher for Passover wines of 2016:

à votre santé

March 2017: Out Like a Lion

1 Apr

March: So much for “out like a lamb.”  Try, “out like a lion!” Really.
It’s been that kind of month.

It’s been busy. I opened a Broadway musical, designed & mixed several corporate events, mixed a few broadcasts, then a gala, and a huge award show at Radio City Music Hall, and oh- also a couple of concerts. Oh, and I loaded in another Broadway show in a blizzard. It’s been a blur.

The weather has been nuts. It snowed, then it hit 70 degrees, then back below freezing, snowed again, and rained for days. Some woman in a store criticized me yesterday for wearing shorts. I smiled and laughed outwardly, saying “I’m warm!”, while I snarkily thought to myself, “You know, I actually WORK for a living, lady!”

 

And the wine bottles stare at me from the tasting queue.

 

It’s not all bad. Last week on a show we broke earlier than expected and I had a rare opportunity to take go sit at Aldo Sohm’s wine bar, making a few friends, and drinking some stunning wines. And today I actually have the evening off from work. I made my daughter dinner, watched a little depressing teenage drama with her when conversation lulled, and celebrated communication and “us” time. And I got to open a bottle of wine.

 

So… the wine! READY? Ok, it’s not as bad as speed tasting, but here we go:

Adler Fels Pinot Noir 2014. 14.4%ABV, $27 SRP.

Color is violet with a maroon center. The nose offers blackberry, cherry cola, spices and salt spray.  A blend of 74% pinot from Santa Rita Hills and 26% from the Russian River Valley, this pinot is seductive and savory. Earthy notes abound if you have the patience to let them evolve. The traditionally bright cherry, cherry cola, and dried cranberry starts the palate off, but within a few minutes the wine progresses evenly to demonstrate complexity with notes of  artichoke, mushroom, pepper and forest floor. Hints of gneiss, limestone, burnt sugar, and oak . I tried this over several days and loved how the wine progressed each day. Where has this brand been hiding? Keep it in mind, and if you see this wine, snap it up. It surprised me in the depth of expression and savory notes that are unusual for a classic pinot noir. 

 

Chéreau Carré Muscadet Sèvre et Maine; Loire, France. 12%ABV; $14 locally, online as low as $10/bottle.

This is springtime in a glass, to be sure. Color is quite pale straw, while the nose is delicate with cut grass, wildflowers, and citrus. On the palate: bright acidity underscored with meyer lemon peel, bosc pear, a hint of tart pineapple and lemongrass. Overall an excellent value, a perfect entry-level muscadet for those white wine drinkers who needs to expand their repertoire or when you walk up to a raw bar and don’t like sparkling. I paired this with pasta and fresh pesto sauce and was as happy as could be- plenty of flavor and acidity against the bright and fresh flavors of the herbs.

 

 

 

Michel Chapoutier Schieferkopf Sylvaner 2014, Alsace, France. 12% ABV, $25/bottle.

Pale gold in color, delicate nose of honeysuckle blossoms. In the mouth, subtle pear and macintosh apple with star fruit and lemon-lime citrus. Beautiful acidity, and a medium long finish full of schist, (hence the name which translates to “Hill of Schist”) along with clay, and almond paste on the back palate. I enjoyed this with Vietnamese, Thai and Mexican but this wine is not one only for spicy food- you can just as easily down this quickly with savory cheese or a white meat dish. With the screw cap closure, it could last for weeks in the fridge- but I won’t let this survive another day, it’s just so good to pair with food!

 

 

May your Spring be full of adventures in wine!

 

à votre santé!

Adler Fels 2015 Chardonnay

22 Mar

Adler Fels 2015 Chardonnay, Sonoma CA. 14% ABV; MSRP $20/bottle

 

The 2015 Adler Fels (German for “Eagle Rock”) is a blend of two chardonnays, equal parts from vineyards in Russian River Valley and Monterey County by winemaker Linda Trotta.

Color is medium straw. The nose offers pineapple and wildflowers. Gentle but fresh and lively in the mouth, presenting a balance of delicate fruit and taut acidity. Moderate body for the mouthfeel; nicely tart across the mid-palate with notes of chalk, clay, and cedar plank to accompany the medium finish.

This is a subtle wine, capable many things. It can be a demure, delicate delight on its own, an accompaniment to a meal, or act as a supporting player to a dish without taking the spotlight. It took me three separate tastings to really understand that this wine is a modern, classically refined New World chardonnay from the European tradition. Instead of screaming for attention, this unpretentious wine is strong and silent, with measured structure and exquisite balance. I would equate it to Chanel perfume or the Jaguar XJ6 automobile, whose motor purrs so gently, you hardly feel the speed at which you rocket down the road. This is a wine you easily could drink all afternoon without realizing you have loved it for two or three bottles, and that it is time to call a car (leaving your own behind) and go home now before you order another. And another.

 

 

 

à votre santé!

 

Ruhlmann Wines from Alsace

14 Mar

Alsace: a northeastern border area of France known for its beautifully fragrant wines. A wine region that is sandwiched between the Vosne mountain range and the Rhine river, it has changed hands between Germany and France several times throughout history, and many of the wines demonstrate Germanic or Austrian influence.

As an oenophile, I have found that many Americans are largely unaware of Alsace. When they are introduced to the wines, they often become fans. If you don’t know Alsace wines, this is a perfect introduction in the $20-and-under range for family-made, classic wines with lineage and complexity that sing of their terroir and heritage.

The Ruhlmann family has been making wine since 1688 in the Alsace village of Dambach-la-Ville, where they produce about 1.2 million bottles annually, with 40% of their products exported under the watchful eye of winemaker André Ruhlmann.

Ruhlmann Crémant d’Alsace Brut NV is a pale straw color with a refined nose of peach and fresh brioche. Gentle flavors of white stone fruit and dried apricot on the palate, delightfully dry with solid acidity and a hint of sweet honeysuckle on the top palate that makes the mouth water. A blend of pinot blanc, pinot auxerrois, pinot gris, and riesling, this sparkling wine has enough body to provide an afternoon delight or pair through dinner. $20/bottle, 12%ABV.

 

 

Ruhlmann Muscat Fleur de Printemps 2015 is the color of early morning sunshine and offers a sweet, aromatic nose of wildflowers. On the palate, it demonstrates gentle citrus, with notes of lime and starfruit. Secondary hints of yellow pear, orange peel, sodium and sand evolve as the wine warms gently. This muscat is bottled quickly to retain the powerful nose and pairs nicely with Thai, Chinese, and white meats, but I would not hesitate to open this and sit on the porch to enjoy on a carefree, sunny afternoon. 100% Muscat, 11.5% ABV, $15/bottle.

 

 

Ruhlmann Gewurtztraminer Vieille Vignes 2014 offers a pale yellow color with a spicy nose of rose bush, violet flowers, clove, and a hint of jasmine. Mature and refined green apple, lemon zest, banana peel and white pear on the robust palate give way to soaring acidity. Thirty-year-old vines show their deep roots with a finish of limestone and hints of clay and slate. This wine is powerful enough to pair with foie gras, a meat entrée, or a full-bodied cheese, and will age beautifully, showing greater complexity in 4-5 years.  Around$15/bottle, with 13%ABV.

 

 

Ruhlmann Riesling Vieille Vignes 2014 is pale straw in color. On the nose, faint lychee, lime zest, passion fruit, and hint of limestone. In the mouth, lemon-lime, pear, and lemongrass are followed by notes of clementine and lychee. Searing acidity powers through the full-bodied palate without heat ever crossing the back or top palates, while notes of gravel and clay round out the reserved finish. Delightful now, and will only improve with age. $16/bottle, 12.5%ABV.

 

And finally,

Ruhlmann Crémant de Rosé NV “Harmonie de Rosé” is 100% pinot noir, with tiny effervescent bubbles and a hue that verges between salmon and pale orange. The nose offers young raspberries and baking spice, while the palate is pure strawberry, slate and limestone. What’s not to love? $23/bottle, 12%ABV.

 

If you love Alsace already, then you should add these wines to your list or cellar. If you are new to Alsace wines, these are a perfect introduction to the region you can enjoy and share with friends. 

à votre santé!

 

Blair Fox Cellars 2011 Syrah

10 Mar

Blair Fox Cellars 2011 Syrah, Fox Family Vineyard, Santa Barbara County, CA. 14.6%ABV; $42/bottle.

Color is deep purple, while the nose offers lush, rich black fruit, pepper, clove, and a hint of smoke. On the palate, dark blackberry, cassis, and boysenberry fruit dominate the front palate, followed by oak, then notes of forest floor, spice, white truffle, clay, and marle: A mouthful of decadence.

 

I have been holding this wine in the cellar since 2014, and am almost sorry to have opened it without other oenophiles to share. This bottle is drinking perfectly now- a wine that three years ago received high marks is now showing ideal maturity. While still a touch hot, the powerful perfume and heady mouthfeel of this wine are luxurious, wanton impacts that smash your senses. Every sip is thoughtful, beautiful, and sensual.

 

I recall a #WBC14 dinner with a table of fellow bloggers, seated next to this North Carolinian (who is now my dear friend) Elizabeth Smith, aka The Traveling Wine Chick!  Blair was showing his beautiful syrah, amongst Santa Barbara pinot noir wines, and I recall that like wildfire, quickly but quietly around our table, it was suggested to “go get some of the vintage Blair Fox Syrah before it’s gone!” We each quickly shuttled over to get tiny pours to taste from the last few ounces of a ten year-old syrah from Blair Fox, and I was entirely impressed by that experience.

After getting home, I purchased a few bottles of Blair Fox. I enjoyed his work, but didn’t have the religious experience I’d had with the vintage syrah.

So here I am now, years later: I would love to try this wine with a decade of age, but no chance. It’s too good to wait any more, and it’s burning up my glass with sip after sip at the moment.

I didn’t intend to review this wine, I just wanted to enjoy something tonight, after a 16 hour work day mixing an incredible event. But I opened this bottle, I tasted this, and I had to share this delight with you, my friends.

You know the way we all respond to a delicious wine that just BEGS for you to imbibe. There won’t be much left, if more than a drop. But I will enjoy it in your honor. And we’ll leave the Mission Haut Brion and Margaux wines until the next time.

 

À votre santé!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Locations Wines P4: Portugal!

28 Feb

P4 Locations Wines by David Phinney, Portuguese Red Wine Blend. 15%ABV, MSRP$18/bottle.

p4-label

Color is deep ruby with warm purple edges. The nose is a touch hot, hiding rich dark fruit beneath the alcohol that requires a moment to dissipate. On the palate, black plum, black and blue berries, green vegetation, and a hint of bitter herb on the back palate. Strong tannins and acidity deliver a solid finish with notes of dark chocolate, vanilla, gravel, and chalk.

The flavors are dark and deeply concentrated, evoking images of ancient, gnarled rootstock, and powerful sun beating down on small fruit hanging from low vines carefully strung across a steep hillside.

A beautiful palate cleanser, my initial thought was that this wine begs for petiscos, fresh fish and the warm climate of home, being a blend of touriga franca, touring nacional, and trincadeira grapes. But it is still winter in NYC, so I opened this bottle and enjoyed a glass with grilled chicken and broccoli, and was more that satisfied. Two days later with my in-laws, it paired beautifully with winter meat loaf, potatoes and salad. And once again, my brother-in-law and I just enjoyed this wine so evenly! Not to be outdone, on day four it matched a vegetarian dinner of kale salad and baked onion pie. While compiling my notes, the final sips paired beautifully again with baked gorgonzola bites and then perfectly with a single piece of dark chocolate.

 

p4-with-glass

 

 

I keep wondering if I will open a bottle of Locations and not be impressed. Dave Phinney seems to be the Derek Jeter of wine: always on top of his game, rock solid in his delivery, and seemingly never out of surprises.

More Locations Wines to come. Stay tuned!

 

à votre santé!

 

Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Festival

26 Feb

My nephew is a foodie, personal chef, and an all-around fun guy. After seven years of talking about it, the stars finally aligned and we attended the Mohegan Sun Wine and Food Festival, aka #SunWineFest.

I have to admit, it was a little weird to attend The Grand Tasting as a member of the public, and not a member of the press. (Grand Tasting? That’ll be $95 + Ticketmaster fees, thank you.) But hey, I’m open-minded! How hard can this be?

It wasn’t hard. It was just PACKED.

We arrived at the casino on Saturday about an hour before doors. The line snaked deep into the casino, dispersing like NASCAR drivers after the green light once the doors opened. We moved with intent, but like any battle plan, we constantly varied and updated our crowd tactics. We maintained our goals of sampling carefully, spitting & dumping wine, not over-indulging, and drinking water to stay hydrated. It seemed like we were the only ones who did.

 

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Within an hour, some people were locked into chef-watching mode at the stage, while others were getting loaded from the tasting tables. Some tables served tastes, some poured entire glasses.

I still took tastes, refusing full or even half-glasses when offered. I used the dump buckets. And, in spite of the crowds, I found some friends! Everything from bourbon to port to champagne were being served. On the far side of the ballroom, local foodstuffs were from famed New Haven Pepe’s Apizza to some serious mac ‘n cheese and BBQ. Brisket over mac ‘n cheese- it may not look appetizing, but I stopped and took a picture because this was absolute savory decadence.

 

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In the course of a couple of hours, I found several Connecticut wineries and Sakonnet Vineyard, a Rhode Island winery worth visiting. I enjoyed their winemaker’s white wines, several of which included the varietal vidal blanc.

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I could not say ‘no’ to a sampling of Mumm champagne. The brut is still my favorite of this set, but I would have loved to sample the 1990 vintage or their Grand Cru champagnes. Next time, perhaps.

 

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We tasted Martin Ray (Russian River Valley, Sonoma, CA). I enjoyed their chardonnay and rosé of Pinot Noir, both well-crafted, and ideal pleasure wines in warm weather.

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I found several rosé wines I enjoyed. Moment de Plaisir, Chateau Paradis, and Notorious Pink were among my favorites. The Notorious Pink is a grenache rosé and offers delightful strawberry with matching acidity. All of these are solid spring/summer afternoon delight wines to consider in the under $20 category.


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Since the event takes place in Connecticut, it was surprising to see few local wineries. But Preston Ridge did not disappoint with either the Fieldstone white or their rosé which has maintained its homey, northeastern rigidity.

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On our way to the door to take a water break, we stopped briefly to taste a Napa Chardonnay from Stags Leap.

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During a water break, we realized it was getting close to the Elite Cru tasting (Another $115, thank you) and I hoped we would be set up for some top-level wines. I knew immediately that all was well when the line was a fraction of the earlier line. Another not so subtle tell: we were handed purchasing sheets (by bottle or by the case),  along with wine glasses, which demonstrated that the entire experience had just graduated to “the deluxe experience”.

I had little to complain about, when a grand cru champagne was among the first things in my glass.

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And from that point on, we found a slew of familiar friends and classic vines that tantalized my tongue and brought back some tremendous memories:

 

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Not to be outdone, we finished our tasting with three wineries that were new to us, but who offered depth, complexity, and quality. Cloisonne Wines had a fabulous rosé and chardonnay from Napa.

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Fullerton Wines’s Three Otters offered a delicious chardonnay from the Willamette Valley that was only improved by a cutesy label. The wine is quite delicious.

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And last but not least, from the Anderson Valley, The Withers has a label that will catch your eye, and their wines are exemplary. Driven by passion, now exploding into popularity- just watch as this brand grows.

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At the end of the Elite Cru tasting, we were ready for a break. So we gambled for a while, hit a restaurant, then called it a night. If you decide to attend the #SunWineFest, I have some suggestions: 

1) To attend the grand tasting, go early and perhaps NOT on Saturday when it is packed!

2) Alternately, be prepared for the crowd. Make a game plan. Spit, Hydrate, Spit.  

3) If you only want the higher-end wines, then only attend the Elite Cru tasting. Spend five minutes going through the catalog, and hit the tables in the order in which you want to see them. Because you will either fawn over your favorites, or fall madly in love with another, and spend all your time at that table. But you will probably have a blast in that short time. 

Enjoy!

à votre santé!

 

From JvB’s Cellar (Bin #9): Chateau Malescot St. Exupery Margaux 2006

22 Feb

Not much wine tasting is happening currently while I’m working late evenings on a new Broadway show. Here’s a revival for you: a Margaux wine review from six years ago, literally years before my blog JvB UnCorked existed. How my writing style has changed! And the 2006 is available online for as little as $80/bottle! -JvB 

Chateau Malescot St. Exupery Margaux 2006

Ah, Margaux. The terroir I love to drink.
Why do I find the wines of  Bordeaux’s Margaux region so intoxicating? 

Let’s look at this phenomenal wine for an example:
The color is deep ruby/purple. The nose is a melange of dark notes: I smell cassis, roses, and wet earth. Gentle alcohol content from slow legs, but the wine is chilled to 60 degrees F as it’s 98 outside. First sip: black currant, vine and gravel are the dominant flavors on the palate. I experienced a delicious classic Margaux with medium body, yet highly concentrated flavor and very silky, gentle tannins for a super smooth, long, and velvety finish with a sweet note that may surprise you. The wine is a blend of 50% cabernet sauvingon, 35% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit-Verdot grapes. At $60/bottle, not for the faint of heart (or wallet) but a delectable wine, every bit the 91-93 points rated by the top three commentators, who suggest this wine will be at its peak in 2015. I won’t be waiting that long when (if) I get to pick up another bottle.

Grand Cru Class of 1855: Chateau Malescot St. Exupery Margaux 2006.
You should be jealous: this wine is superb, smooth, and velvet deliciousness. YUM!!!!

2006-chmarg

Q: Why is it the red varietal blends of the Margaux region of Bordeaux are so intoxicating?

A: It must be the complex flavors, perfectly blended and mixed to supply a powerful nose and flavor yet with such gentle tannins, resulting in a lengthy finish that I always describe as “silky” or “velvety” when drinking a classic Margaux. -JvB

malescot-st-marg

From JvB’s Cellar (Bin#8) Wine Buyer’s Remorse and the Perfect Moment

21 Feb

While I’m working on a new Broadway show, I’m sharing an early wine rant. This, from a 2012 post!

WINE BUYER’S REMORSE, AND WINE: THE PERFECT MOMENT

 And the rant continues…

Today I’ve been ranting on FB about all kinds of things.  My notes about wines have missed several days of expression, because I’ve been thinking about how to share the experience well.

 

So: WINE BUYER’S REMORSE

 

Obviously if you buy a wine that’s corked you’ll regret it. Sometimes wine is perfectly fine, just… “meh”.  Several times in my life I’ve regretted making a purchase, wine buying as much as anything else. We’re thrilled when a cheap bottle tastes like something much more expensive. What about when you drop hard earned coin on a supposedly great bottle that’s only OK? So sad!!!

 

When I have a negative wine experience, I try to ask these questions:

1)   Did I store it properly, with proper cork contact, and the right temperature & humidity?

2)   Am I drinking this too early, or too late (in the life of the vintage)- OR: was it meant to store? Did I ignore that?

3)   Did I taste it properly? Was my palate clean?  Am I using neutral judgment?

4)   Did I pair this with something inappropriate?

5)   If its not MY cup of tea, who WOULD like this?

6)   What did they do right in making and marketing this wine?

 

I find corked bottles less than 1% of the time. Sure, I’ve got a couple of sad stories about great wines that have been corked.  But more often than a corked wine, wine drinkers have a different negative experience- when they’ve found something they are excited about- a repeat of a special bottle that doesn’t pass muster, a rare find that has passed its drinking window, or a good or highly-rated  wine whose initial response is “so-so” when we hoped for astounding.

 

So-so. That, my friends, is a disappointment. When I taste a so-so wine, I taste it again, to double check myself, then I let it rest a bit and see if a little more exposure to air will improve. Then I’ll try it with a cracker, a gentle cheese, a robust cheese, and maybe some chocolate.  If the wine may improve with food, these are some of the best choices. It’s also easier to keep these foods around your home, instead of fois gras, mushroom terrine, cornichon/raclette cheese/baguette, and chocolate truffles- each of which might pair wonderfully with wines high in acidity , in tannin, in sugar, etc.

 

Sometimes you’ll find the wine has opened up, or pairs and compliments one of these foods amazingly well. And sometimes, you’ll realize that the high priced wine just isn’t what you like. It’s important to realize at this point, that it’s OK, it’s actually good- because you’re learning what you like and don’t like in wine. Don’t forget, every season is a new bunch of wines, every season is a new season to live, learn, try and taste .

So…have you experienced my misery? Bringing home a bottle of something you’re really excited about, just to taste it and think … ‘what’s the fuss about?” One of the ways I’m able to bypass this experience is by purchasing only a glass of wine at a good establishment with a nice cellar. Restaurants and wine bars are obvious opportunities to taste some of the higher end bottles, while risking little. I particularly like wine bars like Morrell Wine in Rockefeller Plaza where you can get a half-glass of some very expensive wines. Some bars & restaurants that carry high end wine by the glass will offer you a taste of a wine when you’re trying to decide what to drink, this can be a great way to taste something but make sure to spend money and tip to keep that relationship going. From time to time, I’ve been disappointed by buying an expensive bottle in a restaurant that didn’t live up to its hype. I’d much prefer buying a glass or half-glass of that vintage to realize it’s not to my liking.

 

 

buck-fifty

Cartoon by: Mark Anderson

 

THE PERFECT MOMENT

 

Most important, is simply to realize that wine is about constantly learning and evaluating. One vineyard’s crop or blend this year may not be as good as that year, last year or next year, and may be totally different from the neighboring vineyard. Wine is as much about your evolution as a drinker and finding out what you like as it is about and process of growing, harvesting, blending, maturing and bottling before a wine gets to the glass.  Often it’s an accident of experiencing a ‘perfect moment’ when a wine impacts the drinker- and your appreciation for the wine is stunning. These moments are the ones that help create the wine drinker: one who seeks another amazing moment of great pairing or insight of flavor, an impact of the palate- like the endorphines we experience on the playing field, the rush of the roller coaster, the joy of laughter. And what do we remember most in life, but highs and lows?  Our memories in life are made of the major failures and the perfect moments, much like our experiences in wine. 

 

Like those in life, the successes and moments of joy are the ones we’ll remember the most. We remember more vividly the moment of joy with the birth of your child, not the 20 hours of labor prior. We remember the dinners with a bottle of Opus One or Mouton Rothschild more than the one where I dumped an entire bottle in the sink and drank diet coke instead.

 

Here’s to the perfect moments in our lives. Cheers! 

-JvB

'How come your oldest vintage is on the top shelf?' 'I can't reach up there!'

‘How come your oldest vintage is on the top shelf?’ ‘I can’t reach up there!’

Cartoon by: Mike Flanagan

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