Summer Wine Fun: Stella Rosa Low Alcohol Wine Cocktails

21 Jul

Remember on hot summer days, when people used to ask for a wine spritzer at the poolside bar? They would usually receive a glass of cheap white wine with some soda water, a swizzle stick and a slice of lime thrown in. Well, forget that blast from the past. 

Here are two tasty summer wines you can enjoy at home, poolside, or at the beach. Standard 750ml wine bottles or individual 250ml servings in shatterproof aluminum bottles with a screw-top enclosure, and the price is right. What more do you want for summer fun?

Stella Rosa Platinum, 5%ABV. Street Price: $4/250ml, or  $12/750ml bottle.

SR Platinum

Color is pale straw with gentle effervescence. The nose offers candied apple and sweet apricot. In the mouth, sweet apple, kiwi, and honeysuckle provide the initial rush. The acidity follows with hint of tart lime and dried apricot. Secondary notes of marzipan, cashew and almond gently linger. The finish leaves a hint of candied apple/jolly rancher on the top of the palate with a sweet memory on the tongue while the effervescence resolves with your palate prepared for the next sip.

Stella Rosa Black, 5%ABV. Street Price: $4/250ml, $12/bottle.

SR Black

Color is medium garnet with subtle effervescence, a few clusters of bubbles in the middle of the glass but heavy around the rim. The nose has sweet red plum, cherry jam, and strawberry compote. On the palate, black cherry soda and mixed berry jam lead the pack, followed by a sweet cherry-laced acidity crossing the top palate and leaving a clean finish on the back palate.

On the neck of the bottle just below the cap there is a red band with the following label: “Semi-Sweet, Refreshing and Delicious. Product of Italy” I will agree wholeheartedly. In summer’s heat, sometimes you need or want something other than your usual quaff, and this may be just the thing you are looking for. With far more flavor, character, and sugar than those Bartle and Jaymes Wine Coolers of the 1980s, I expect to see these on golf carts and boats, at the beach, and poolside in years to come as a low alcohol cocktail and mixed drink alternative. Add a piece of fruit if you like- you can serve three of these compared to one glass of  of some of the bar’s popular “fruit bomb” red wines with 15% alcohol. What’s not to like?

à votre santé!

 

“Now, I Am Alone.” Puffeney Arbois Vin Jaune ’08

19 Jul

Writers create in a bubble (no, not bubbly. Sorry Jeff!) Sure, those bubbles may differ. Some work in quiet, others with blasting music in their ears, but all require some level of solitude.

So I found it funny, in a sort of ‘funny wistful’, and not ‘funny ha-ha’ fashion, that this month’s #MWWC26 theme is Solitude, as it shifts from many of the common themes The Monthly Wine Writing Challenge has had to point towards a very real truth. We have a great deal of solitude. We are born alone, we die alone. We may drink together, but we taste only what we taste, and then we can discuss that with others around a table. Or we can type those notes into a tablet, phone, or other I-thingy and share them with a greater audience. I think The Traveling Wine Chick Beth’s subconscious realizes exactly how lonely the road can be on her many myriad travels, hence her choice of themes.

As someone who also travels alone regularly for work,  I can sympathize.

 

wine-stain1-3

 

Writers need an audience, even if it is only themselves again at a later date. Let us be practical for a moment, and consider the following:  For whom did you really think people who journal are journalling for?

Let that one sink in for a moment.

Conversely, those of us who write about wine are NOT doing it for ourselves. Some do it for money, some might do it for the occasional free wine. Personally, I do it for the untold teeming masses- sure I have some friends and family who read my blog, but it is largely for the people I don’t know who subscribe to my blog and for the people who stumble upon it by accident. As I have begun to enjoy the benefits of blogging, I attend tastings more often to educate myself on wines rather than to attempt to write reviews- which is a difficult challenge if one tries to review every wine served in a large tasting. Often a tasting leads me to several wines I want to try again, and make it part of my repertoire and knowledge base to share with others.

We all spend much of our time in solitude.

When alone (In Solitude), we often speak our thoughts aloud. When acted out, these are referred to as monologues or soliloquies.

Some of the most famous words we know are soliloquies, monologues from plays like Hamlet, MacBeth, Romeo and Juliet. Or from films like The Godfather, On the Waterfront, Caddyshack and Taxi Driver.  And recently, Frank Underwood from House of Cards.

When I was young I enjoyed acting. An actor spends a great deal of time learning lines, developing a character, and then joining other actors to create a performance for an audience. As an actor, I learned to take a moment as the stage cleared and to begin a monologue by saying in my mind, only to myself, these words: “Now, I am alone.” At this point, a character can then address themselves, no one, or the entire world. In this way, one actor alone controls the audience, holding them rapt and on edge, or boring them to look away and check their watches or phones.

It is much the same with a wine, or a wine review. I bring home a wine, I study it, contemplate it, and then share it with the world… for better, or for worse. It is like performing a monologue.

By solitude and contemplation, I am able to share wines beyond my immediate table and with the entire world. Here is one that has been haunting me lately:

Jacques Puffeney’s Arbois Vin Jaune 2008, Appelation Arbois, Jura, France. 14%ABV, Street price approx $80/bottle.

From 100% Savagnin grapes, aged in barrels for 6 years, 3 months before bottling. Color is deep gold, while the nose offers heavily oxidized sherry, almond, and a hint of butterscotch. With a neutral palate, bracing acidity will be the initial flavor profile should you taste this incorrectly. Instead, have a piece of Comté cheese, let it gently coat your mouth, and then have a sip. At this point, the palate registers mature lemon, then a hint of almond paste, followed by a mouth-watering tartness and a savory top palate that wafts a delightful sherry aroma back up through your nasal cavity. The last of the Puffeney Vin Jaune. Sold in a 620 ml Clavelin, the shape of the bottle is only one indication that this is not your father’s French white wine.

photo

I have served this wine to friends, asking them to taste it alone to negative, shocked palates, and then again immediately after food. The response is night and day- from an “ugh” to an “Ahhh!” In pairing with food, the power is readily apparent.

With the announcement of his retirement and sale of his vineyards in 2015, Puffeney’s legacy has left behind a throng of dedicated fans. For those who manage to find a bottle, the tough choice is to savor it alone, or share it with close friends. I have and will continue to do both with Vin Jaune, as a rare and unusual wine should be shared and appreciated.

Solitude with this wine allows us to contemplate the dedication of farming, the mystery and brilliance in the winemaking, and the joy of sharing it with others which allows us to celebrate the same.

Even amongst friends, to taste this wine is to know it is the pinnacle of a man’s sole, lifelong goal and crowning achievement; the zenith of his years of solitude as a farmer and winemaker, for the joy of the masses. His soliloquiy, expertly performed, performed for an audience of wine lovers in the gallery.

This, my friends, is the essence great wine, and a strong wine community.

 

à votre santé!

 

OK! Bordeaux Superior for $10…GO!!!

14 Jul

Chateau La Reine Audry 2010.

It’s a red Bordeaux Blend. Do you like them? Then get some!

I bought this $10 bottle to help fill up an empty space in a mixed case with a couple of super-rare, no-longer available Jura wines from Jacques Puffeney (tangent, sorry). I tasted it at dinner with my brother-in-law, (a doctor who drinks red wine every night) who thought it was the best wine he’d had in a long while. Me, I thought it was a killer value. 

So the next morning, I sent a half case to my dad as a belated Birthday/Father’s Day present, along with a few other things I really wanted him to try. It was a package of great, affordable reds from Spain, France & Italy. But this was the ONE wine I sent him a HALF CASE of. Because I know he is going to love it, and he doesn’t know it’s dirt cheap. (Dad also doesn’t read my blog, and I trust you will NOT tell him!)   

And now I’m sharing this with you, dear readers, out of guilt. Because I also love you, and so many of you adore great buys under $20, and I rarely find really good wines in that price range. When I do, I am often quick to point it out. This time I was lax, and I apologize. So here you are, Loie, Kim, Angela, Lynn- some of my favorite readers who love the bargain pricing? This one’s for you!

Chateau La Reine Audry. Currently listing for around $15/bottle at Astor wines, today’s Bastille Day sale gets you a 30% discount to $9.96! For my West coast friends, The Wine Club in SF also has it for just over $10/bottle. It’s a STEAL at that price. 

What are you waiting for? This delicious red has cassis, red plum, and a ton of tannins. A beautiful bordeaux superior blend that is hard to beat at this price. It’s a 2010. It’s drinking beautifully right now. 

I dare you to find a better CURRENTLY AVAILABLE Bordeaux for under $10.

If you do, I owe you a bottle from my personal stock (my choice, not yours. It won’t be the Puffeney).

Sorry I didn’t take a bottle shot.

ChAudry Edit

My lousy, “I didn’t think this was going on my blog until after I enjoyed it” picture.

 

La Reine AudryA little more even label shot, photo credit to wine-searcher.com.

 

à votre santé!

and yes… this one’s for you. But you know I can’t say that without remembering my time mixing monitors for Barry Manilow when he was performing on Broadway right?

Iconic Wines go Lodi!

4 Jul

I’m a fan of small, independent winemakers. Over the last couple of years I’ve been fortunate to try wines from Iconic and quickly became a fan of their Heroine Chardonnay (my original review of Heroine Chardonnay is here).

So of course, I jumped at the chance to taste their current lineup and meet winemaker Birk O’Halloran and his partner Karl Antle from Iconic Wines on a crowded Times Square rooftop.

17 floors above Broadway, it’s much quieter without traffic but like fighting through a crowded, subway-car-like-bustle to get close to the wines being poured. Grabbing a plastic cup of pink wine, it would be easier to down it and ask for another like black and white movie scene featuring a gunfighter in a saloon. But this is an entirely new situation. So I sipped…at first… before asking Birk for another. And I understood why the line for the wine was wrapping down the side of the building past the bocce court to the elevators.

 

Birk

Birk O’Halloran, star winemaker, sporting (1) a bottle of Secret Identity rosé, (2) a bottle of Heroine chardonnay, and (3) a Jamie-Lannister-from-Game-of-Thones-styled-beard. Beard not for sale on line (currently) at http://www.IconicWine.com. 

 

Rose Front

Shhh! It’s so darn tasty, it’s a secret! 

Rose Back

Enter Secret Identity Dry Rosé 2015. MSRP is $18, and a mere 11% ABV, the winemaking details were a real surprise- the grape blend includes zinfandel and syrah! To the casual drinker, what you need to know is that this is a superbly dry, crisp, light, delicious rosé. You would be shocked to see an entire rooftop of NYC power-brokers drinking this, but believe me, they loved this wine as much as I did. It will rock with seafood, appetizers and light entrées but I doubt the bottle will last that long. It will delight your palate, disappear almost magically from your glass, and you will find yourself wishing you’d picked up several bottles.

In addition to Heroine and Secret Identity, Iconic has launched a new SK line- the Sidekick wines!

Iconic’s Sidekick or SK category, starting with SK (Sidekick) Chardonnay.

Sidekick Front

Sidekick back

 

2014 SK Sidekick Chardonnay, Napa, CA. MSRP $18, 13%ABV. Beautiful aromatics of honeysuckle, apricot and hay. The palate features stone fruit: crisp green apple and white pear with even acidity and a floral aftertaste. Stainless steel fermentation unlike their flagship Heroine Chardonnay which is matured in oak- because every hero needs a sidekick! A perfect introduction to California chardonnay, and a great primer for Heroine- to which you might become addicted. Yeah, I went there. And that’s how I treat bottles of Heroine Chardonnay in my cellar.

 

Iconic Wine 2014 SK Sidekick Cabernet Sauvignon. Because LODI! 

Iconic Cab front

iconic cab back

Lodi’s cabernet grapes are the star of this new wine for Iconic. Bold plum and blackberry lead on the front palate, followed with cassis and black earth. Silky tannins with notes of cedar, anise, granite and potting soil. Great on its own or with red meat, and at $18/bottle MSRP, it is a tremendous value- a real steal in California Cabernet!

Each time I have tasted Iconic’s wine, I have been impressed by the flavors, attention to detail, structure, and my overall enjoyment of their products. One of my surprises came when I included the 2013 Heroine Chardonnay in a neighborhood tasting where it was unanimously the public’s preferred wine in a tasting of pricey, worldwide options. I hope you take an opportunity to find their wines (currently in more than 37 of NYC’s finest restaurants) and other locations, found here.

I’m especially excited about Iconic’s relationship with Lodi in choosing great fruit for their wines. I have been a fan of Lodi for a while, but I the upcoming #WBC16 Wine Bloggers Conference. I will be participating with over a hundred other wine bloggers, meeting with Lodi winemakers, and tasting their wares.

Heroine Label

The Heroine Wine Label. What’s better than a superhero? A super Heroine!

à votre santé!

Summertime Wine- My Guilty Pleasures!

1 Jul

The change of seasons in NYC is always a celebration for oenophiles and foodies. The city becomes a trove of sidewalk cafes, while at home we clean the barbecue and begin dining al fresco.

summer dinner

And the wine. Oh, the wine!

The change in seasons makes my palate stand up and shout, “Give me more!” It’s a time to satisfy your palate with all the flavors it is hungry for!

Who am I to deny? White Burgundy, Aligoté, Chablis, Chardonnay, Sparkling Riesling, Bordeaux Blanc, Prosecco, Savanin, Classic Bordeaux, Pinot, Rosé. Yummmmm.

The past few months have been painstaking with work, and a glass of wine upon my return home in a desperate, late night chance to catch up, catch my breath, pay some bills, re-connect with my life mentally, and then disconnect with a few hours of sleep. Here are the things I have sometimes been reviewing, but have always been enjoying: my guilty pleasures!

EricForest Saint-Véran

Morey&Hild

case of Les Haut

Kerbiquet Bouchot Fumé

Summer 1

Summer Saviagnin

Summer Morey Blanc

Substance Cab

Les Haut Rosé

Thienpont

 

So my list of guilty pleasures is longer than I expected.

What have YOU Been drinking that’s a guilty pleasure?

C’mon. You know you’re dying to tell me! 

 

à votre santé!

Pinot and Oregon’s Panther Creek Cellars

20 Jun

For lovers of pinot noir, Ken Wright is the master of Oregon vinification. Wright founded Panther Creek Cellars in 1986, and his collaborator Tony Rynders, (celebrated for his work at Domaine Serene) took the reins as consulting winemaker at Panther in 2013 when Bacchus Capital Management acquired the operation. Together, management and winemaker strive for continued growth and excellence while seeking new heights and producing multi-faceted expressions of pinot noir as Panther Creek Cellars celebrates its 30th year.

With Panther Creek’s vineyards in six of Oregon’s greatest AVAs and nine iconic territories, Rynders has both the knowledge and the tools at hand to develop stunning wines, and a taste of them is all that is required to know that Panther Creek offers serious competition in quality wines.

 

Panther Creek 2014 Pinot Gris, 13%ABV, $20/bottle MSP

I’m normally reluctant about pinot gris made in the USA but Rynder’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA is closer to the Burgundian whites than some  would admit. While the 2013 showed as slightly more lush and creamy, the 2014’s expression is elegant and crisp with notes of golden delicious apple, lemon rind and honeydew melon. The medium-long finish has a savory balance between expressive fruit and zippy acidity with no barrel aging to cover imperfections. Delightful cold but beautiful as it warms and can show complete expression. It is becoming a solid value from Oregon in the $20 and under field.

PC Gris

 

Panther Creek Single Vineyard 2014 Kalita Vineyard Pinot Noir. 14.3%ABV, $50/bottle MSP. 

Dark ruby in color; bright raspberry and cherry nose with green herbs; brisk cherry and red plum on the palate with subtle vanilla, baking spice, mineral and vegetal notes on the medium-long finish.  This beautifully feminine expression of pinot is fruit-forward with vibrant acidity, a gentle oak backbone and a complex mineral base of sedimentary soil. The jovial, friendly and well-spoken Arthur Kalita carries a jar of his Kalita soil to tastings (featured to the left of the bottle in the photo below) which is helpful to remember the layering flavors of the wine when the fruit and floral notes that drive it forward are capable of making you forget the complexity and beauty the Kalita vineyard offers in the bottle. If I were to cellar this, I’d expect it to be even more gorgeous and refined to classic perfection in six to ten years, as the ability is absolutely there for those who have the patience. Personally, I’d drink it now as the wine pairs gorgeously with a wide array of flavor profiles from meslcun-and-chicken sausage pizza, to Sockeye Salmon, but is brilliant on its own.

 

PC Kalita

Panther Creek 2014 Schindler Vineyard Pinot Noir

Offering a strong contrast to Kalita, the Schindler Vineyard provides a big, brawny and masculine expression of pinot noir. Deeper in color with a nose of massive black fruit, the palate proves dark black cherry, allspice and black pepper, and powerful acidity and tannins. To me, this is a pinnacle of age-worthy burgundy that can be enjoyed now while massive in proportion, or aged to a balance of perfection. The wine drinks gorgeously alone but simply sings with food, complementing duck, ribs, and beef tartare easily, bringing out additional floral notes as well as heavy tones of earth, cedar, granite and leather. A monumental wine that offers tremendous value in being affordable for those who love world-class pinot noir.  Thinking about joining an Oregon wine club? You should consider Panther Creek- I know I am!

 

PC Schindler

 

PC SchindlerS

Robert & Janet Schindler, with whom I just loved hanging out with and chatting about wine, sound, and cochlear implants. Seriously! 

 

When it comes to single vineyard pinot noir and pinot gris, it is worth your time to check out Panther Creek Cellars and specifically the Schindler and Kalita vineyard wines. Rynders is crafting great wines, and I only expect them to get better in quality. Currently, they offer excellent expression of both the feminine and masculine sides of pinot noir, are very Burgundian in style for Oregonian wines, and sell at competitive price point.

Need more proof?  Just taste it- the proof is in the glass.

à votre santé!

 

Señorío de P. Peciña Cosecha 2013 Rioja

12 Jun

Señorío de P. Peciña Cosecha 2013 Rioja, DOC, Spain.  13% ABV, $13/bottle average online price.

Color is a bright purple with ruby edging and good clarity. The nose features powerful blackberry with notes of  forest floor and stone. In the mouth, blackberry, plum, black cherry and eucalyptus meet solid tannins and acidity, making a nice balance for this young wine. Notes of earth, peat, calcium and chalky clay show on the top and back palate before the medium-short finish. The grapes used in this blend are primarily tempranillo with tiny percentages of garnacha and graciano. I find this Rioja to be a pleasure to drink and a solid value as a food-driven wine. It is a perfect red for summer nights and barbecued meats, but capable of driving a winter roast as well. At this price, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for more from this producer, and remind myself of the advice I give to others about “the great value spanish wines offer”. This one is spot on!

IMG_2179

 

à votre santé!

Pouilly-Fumé, s’il vous plaît!

9 Jun

Domaine du Bouchot Pouilly-Fumé 2014, Saint Andelain, France. Organic. 13%ABV, Found online from $17-25 /bottle. 

Medium straw in color with good clarity, the nose features grapefruit, lemon zest, and lilac. The mouthfeel is savory with bright fruit, perhaps a stolen moment of Loire summertime in a glass. White peach, lychee, and grapefruit dominate the palate with lemon and lime following with racing acidity, beautiful herbal and floral notes expand as they cross the top palate, as notes of gooseberry, clay, flint and limestone appear on the back palate. This wine will remind you of what you adore, be it Sancerre, Loire valley whites, or sauvignon blanc – I rarely find people who adore all three (I myself only am a huge fan of ONE of those descriptors) but this is simply a lovely wine, whatever you prefer to call it. Match it at this price point ($17/bottle? I must have hit the jackpot, because I bought a case!) Oh, did I mention the wine is organic? This is one to pour just below room temperature, sit back and smile smugly as you know you got a tremendous deal on a stunning Pouilly-Fumé for a pittance. Then savor the aromas and flavors and watch the day escape, knowing that life is too brief, but moments of beauty can be found in your glass when you search for them.

Believe me, I will keep an eye out for winemaker Pascal Kerbiquet and Domaine Du Bouchot. If you love amazing, organic sauvignon blanc from the Loire, you might do the same thing.

 

Kerbiquet Bouchot Fumé

 

à votre santé!

Senseless about Great Buys: Sensible Tudela De Duero Tempranillo

2 Jun

Isaac Fernandez Selection’s Sensible Tudela de Duero 2013 Tempranillo (Spain).
14% ABV; List @ $12.99 /bottle, purchased from Garagiste at $7.99/bottle!

 

“Wishing I had bought more” is a tasting note that I should celebrate (for finding a great wine) instead of being frustrated. Alas, sometimes you realize you missed a great opportunity. Well, this wine is still a bargain at the street price, so don’t you worry!

A Spanish delight! Color is a murky ruby with purple center. The nose shows black fruit, a hint of kiln dried wood and minerals. In the mouth, black cherry and blackberries, smoky black pepper, secondary notes of vanilla, cedar, forest floor, halite and some gravelly chalk on the full and savory finish that resounds with a tight, tannic mouthfeel.

Sensible

Very satisfying on the palate and a lovely complement for food. I had forgotten everything about this wine and pulled it out of a mixed case for a dinner with family, and my brother-in-law and I both loved it on first taste, then more with a little air, and I continued to appreciate it for several days. Not until a week later did I realize this was a $13 bottle I had acquired for only $8 and made the mistake of only buying two. Live and learn… a few cases would have been perfect, but maybe Fernandez will do even better with the ’14 and ’15. Keep your eyes peeled.

à votre santé!

 

JvB On Snooth: The Ultimate Cookie & Wine Pairing

28 May

I’m honored to share with you my inclusion to Snooth.com’s ‘s Ultimate Cookie & Wine Pairing Guide. I’m only one of a slew of fabulous and talented wine writers who contributed to this piece, but I know you want to see what I’m talking about and drinking! And darn, this is a yummy cookie, too!

The wine that I chose for my submission is a delightful vintage of Sauternes: 2007’s Chateau de Rayne Vigneau. It has more acidity than sweetness and makes for an ideal end to a great meal. If you try this, please comment and let me know- I think you will be blown away by how good the pairing is!

My submission (page three on the Snooth.com article) is below. They opted to use another photo, but this one is mine, and I like it:

Rayne

My family strays from the sweeter cookie types to either simple or savory flavors. So it is with no surprise that I choose Rip van Wafels’ dark chocolate sea salt, non-GMO cookie. Superbly soft, chewy texture with dark bittersweet chocolate and more salt than sugar makes a stunning after dinner cleansing bite. A perfect pairing is made with a Premier Grand Cru Classé Sauternes from 2007, also not dripping in sugar. The Chateau de Rayne Vigneau Sauternes ’07 is a delightful golden hue with a nose of honey and apricot. On the palate, the wine is gorgeously focused with bracing acidity and huge fruit flavors of ripe pear, apricot and passion fruit, drinking less like dessert and more like a meal. Stunning clarity without too much sugar, this Sauternes is the ultimate mate for the savory dark chocolate sea salt waffle cookie. Enjoy!

-Jim van Bergen, JvBUnCorked.wordpress.com

à votre santé!

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