Château Larteau 2006

24 May

Château Larteau 2006, Bordeaux Superior, France. 13%ABV, $13/bottle from Garagiste.

Dark ruby in color with a nose of black currants, eucalyptus and rose bush. On the palate, cassis blends gently with mature tannins. Secondary notes of coffee, road tar, and gravel pair with a medium long finish. Consistent notes over three days; it took significant willpower to allow the wine this much time to sit without completion.

As much as I often think that I don’t care much about Merlot, this wine reminds me that Merlot is often and sadly maligned -Relax, Miles!  This is an excellent example of a delightful Merlot! At nine years old, it has a good balance of flavors, mouthfeel, depth and structure, making this wine an excellent value in the under $20/bottle marketplace. Larteau

à votre santé!

Cimicky & Sons Invisible Man Shiraz 2010

19 May

K Cimicky & Sons Invisible Man Shiraz 2010, Barossa Valley Australia. 14.5%ABV; $25 online, $19/bottle from Garagiste.

Color is deep purple center with garnet edging. The nose exhibits ripe black plum, vegetation, and a hint of menthol. In the mouth, solid cassis with thick black fruit, and dense minerals on the back palate: limestone mixed with clay loam. The back palate shows cocoa powder, coffee bean, and spice box. 

I bought this from Garagiste in February when I was jonesing for big, bold fruit and boy does it deliver! This is a killer wine to pair with red meats in summer evenings, or to enjoy by itself. As with the sleek lines of a vintage European race car, it is easy to discern the extreme care and diligence that went in to making this wine, a labor of love that we now get to delight in. Even better, for a wine under $20/bottle that compares well to bottles of Syrah/Shiraz in the $35-40 range. Yum. Color me impressed. Remember this name- Cimicky, from Barossa Valley, Australia. This winery is one to watch!

Invisible Man Shiraz

à votre santé!

Dubois Grand Réserve Chardonnay 2013

14 May

Joséph Dubois Grande Réserve Chardonnay Bourgogne 2013. $12/bottle, 12.5% ABV.

Medium straw in color; a delicately floral nose shows hints of bosc pear and white peach. In the mouth, gentle citrus and more savory, fleshy pear are well matched with bright, lasting acidity. As the wine warms, the focus of the finish shifts from the tongue and mid-palate to top and rear palate, adding notes of citrus, limestone, and toast to the finish. 

This bottle shows off some small level of pedigree, lauding both terroir and winemaking while appealing to most white wine drinkers in being a value-driven introduction to white burgundy, and a decent choice for those who strive for the low-cost bottles. This wine is pleasant to drink alone and purrs when paired well with food. In warm weather, it’s important to remember to remove from fridge 20 minutes before serving to allow the wine to warm and show some flavor expansion. When served too cold it is subtle and gentle while enjoyable, yet lacking the depth and finesse that shows with proper serving temperature.

Dubois Chardonnay

à votre santé!

Off the Grid 2014 Pinot Gris

11 May

Off the Grid 2014 Pinot Gris, Marlborough, New Zealand. MSRP: $13/bottle.

With a color of pale straw, the nose shows white peach, passionfruit, honeysuckle and a hint of citrus. In the mouth, white fleshy fruit dominates the front palate while the mid palate shows a more savory side of apricot with supple acidity that leaves your palate feeling mouthwatering and ready for the next sip or bite. The fruit brightens slightly on the finish which has mineral notes of clay, and volcanic ash.

Over five days this paired delightfully with a fruit and cheese plate, grilled chicken, caesar salad,  pizza, and by itself while watching the sun set. For $13, I can’t imagine a better value in pinot gris, one that is sure to please your friends and family when you serve it. Most Americans don’t understand pinot gris, (Clink the link here to a great article from Mary Gorman-McAdams on true difference between pinot gris and pinot grigio) so I suggest you just pour it for your friends, and tell them what it is later. Trust me, it’s easier. Off the Grid has the perfect introduction to pinot gris, and it is obviously capable of pleasing those who already love the grape, like yours truly.

pinot gris

Did I mention they make a mean sauvignon blanc, too? Or are you interested in the cool approach they are using to grow grapes & make their wines? The Forlong Family is doing some amazing work, and you can check out a video about their work on their website here, or copy & paste:  http://offthegridwine.com 

Last: I don’t usually ponder wine labels much, but this one is very unusual, I’ll leave it at that. I hope you take a look at the label and leave a reply below to share your thoughts with us!

OTG-Mockup-PinotGris-2

à votre santé!

Springing Into Summer! JvB’s Top Ten Under $25 for 2015

1 May

This article I wrote was published by Snooth.com!

http://www.snooth.com/articles/top-ten-spring-wines-under-dollar-25/

If you don’t want to click the link, the article I submitted is below, along with added links to the winemakers!-JvB

Springing Into Summer

10 Wines under $25 that will help keep you cool

from the beach to the boardroom

-by Jim van Bergen

How brutal was winter? Just forget it. Forget how cold it was, forget how much snow you had. Let your mouth tell you- as your brain convinces you to push past cases of luscious and full-bodied red wines that are aching for you. I’m reaching past them, into the remnants of mixed cases for the delightful wines of summer. Patio wines, front stoop wines, sushi and Thai takeout, pasta and fish wines. BBQ wines. Wines for warm weather. Which is your pleasure? Here is a list of wines you don’t want to miss, all under $25 per bottle.

Anne Amie Vinyards 2014 Cuvée A Amrita, Carlton, OR. $15/bottle, 13.2%ABV.

Winemaker Thomas Houseman’s tribute to vinho verde, this is an under-the-radar Willamette Valley delight! A six-wine blend with (grapes listed from most-to-least) Pinot Blanc, Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, Viognier, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer) from four vineyards in the Willamette AVA, this wine shows delightful aromatics of wildflowers, lavender, and honeysuckle along with a pale gold hue. In the mouth, it awakens the palate with an unusual approach of fresh berries, pear, pineapple, starfruit, apricot and quince. Far more fun than my usually desired Bordeaux blends, and unequalled in essence. ‘Amrita’ means ambrosia- as in the nectar of the gods. I think they got this name right. Have a friend that loves white wine? This is the perfect gift bottle. http://anneamie.com

Eyrie Vineyards 2013 Pinot Blanc, Dundee Hills, OR $21/Bottle, 12.5% ABV.

If you think this wine resembles Alsace, you’re right. Aromatic flowers and fruit on the nose while the palate coasts along showing delicate expressions of apricot, passion fruit and young golden delicious apples. With a delightfully long finish that gently reveals the minerals of the Willamette Valley, you might forget where you are while drinking this but you won’t forget to come back for more. http://www.eyrievineyards.com

Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir, 2013. Southern CA. $22/bottle, 13.8%ABV.

Rich garnet, with the hue and scent of dried cranberries was my first impression. A mixture of boysenberry, cherry cola, mature red plum and soft leather followed, with a sense of creaminess and luxurious texture passing the mid and top palate. Notes of potting soil, vanilla spiced toast, and clay were exhibited on the expansive finish. This blend of pinot from Monterey, Sonoma, and Santa Barbara counties may be the best that California has to offer, certainly at this price point.

http://www.belleglos.com

Brooks 2012 Riesling, Willamette Valley, OR $20/bottle, 11.5% ABV.

A luscious, dry Riesling with subtle aromas for the refined palate. Apple, pear and gentler lime and kiwi round out to a smooth blend. Austere, singular in precision- a beautiful balance of fruit, acidity and minerality, with the citrus and acidity maintaining throughout the finish. http://www.brookswine.com

Clos Du Val 2012 Chardonnay, Napa, CA. Street $19/bottle, 14%ABV.

This classic never fails to please! Green fruit on the nose with bold citrus in the mouth and a finish featuring vanilla and gently toasted oak. The 2011 and 2012 vintages can still be found in stores for $10 below the current 2013 offering, so grab them while you can. Surf’s up! http://www.closduval.com

Red Newt Cellars Circle Riesling, 2012 Finger Lakes, NY/ $14/Bottle, 11%ABV.

A nose like a fruit bowl with honeysuckle, apricot, and white peach. In the mouth, lemon-lime, orange peel, and green apple with a tinge of residual sugar are focused together with good, crisp acidity making you forget the wine is off-dry. An excellent sense of minerals- limestone, schist, granite, and a touch of salinity on the medium finish, leaves your mouth wanting more. This is a decidedly good example of both Seneca Lake and the entire New York Finger Lakes region at a very reasonable price. http://rednewt.com/ww4/

Gazela Vinho Verde, DOC Vinho Verde, Portugal. $6/bottle, 9%ABV.

Greenish yellow tint, with lime and daffodil on the nose. Tart lime, granny smith apple peel, and fleshy white peach undertones round out the palate with tiny bubbles. Delightfully fresh and tasty, and you simply can’t beat the price. http://www.gazelawine.com

Seven White Blend 2014, Airlie Winery, Monmouth, OR. $15/bottle, 11.9%ABV.

I had low expectations but was actually highly impressed tasting winemaker Elizabeth Clark’s refined and delightful Seven White Blend! Clark says that keeping a blend consistent from year to year is challenging, and while there will be subtle variances in fruit profile, that the fruit-to-acid ratio is the key and always stays the same- providing the same wine profile wine with faint differences. It works, but don’t take my word for it- with such a fun, and lovely wine at a low price per bottle, you won’t have enough to compare to next season unless you purchase by the case. A white wine lover’s go-to, you should find some before its gone. http://www.airliewinery.com

Union Wine Company Underwood Rosé, (No Vintage) Sherwood, OR. $7/can, $12/750ml bottle.

Talk about alternate enclosure? The Union Wine Company is selling what I thought initially to be a sales gimmick, but what has turned out to be a game changer. Rosé in a can! Yes, 375 ml cans (about 12.7ounces) are popping up everywhere that glass isn‘t allowed: boats, beaches, golf courses, poolside- you name it! Featuring the summery flavors of strawberry, watermelon and ripe yellow peach, this pale pink wine is making quite a splash in places that glass is frowned upon. Along with their other canned wines, Ryan Harm’s Union Wine Company is trailblazing with some tasty products. http://unionwinecompany.com

Saving the best for last, so where is the sparkling? What is a list of summer fun without sparkling? Choose your favorite poison: Champagne, Crémant, Cava, Prosecco. Get your bubbles on! But I’m going to suggest you try something outside your comfort range. For the summer heat and the grill this summer, instead of breaking out that big bold red, try a big bubbly red! Go Lambrusco!

Cavicchioli Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Robanera, Modena, Italy. $17/bottle, 9.5%ABV. Powerful red fruit, effervescent and refreshingly dry. Perfect to complement full flavors such as grilled meats or spicy sauces. http://www.cavicchioli.it

À votre santé!

Chotard Sancerre 2013

29 Apr

Back in the spring of 2013, I roused friends to one of my favorite rites of spring: Sancerre. I had several people reach out to me afterwards, expressing their similar joy at this regional delight. This year, seeing this bottle on a shelf and having an urge for instant-gratification, I bought this and quietly enjoyed it over a week of small sips late at night. It was most definitely a “guilty pleasure” wine, so much that I almost didn’t share it with you.

Daniel Chotard Vigneron Sancerre Blanc, 2013, Crézany-en-Sancerre, France. From Oak and Steel, NYC. $29. ABV 12.5%.  (available online and regionally from $22-29.)

Color: very pale straw with hint of gold. On the nose, meyer lemon, orange peel, mixed floral arrangement (screaming sauvignon blanc!) and a hint of minerals. In the mouth, a delicate blend of tropical fruit with bursts of limestone and saline. A white that is gentle yet firm and rich. The notes lift into the top palate while the bright lemon fruit shines again on the back palate and through the long finish. This is a beautifully made wine and the joy I experienced while tasting it matched some of the better, far more expensive chablis, white burgundies, and a few California chadonnays that I hold close to my heart. I don’t know if this wine is hitting me when I need to taste spring the most or if it’s really that darn good, but at under $30 bottle I’m about to regret posting this before trying to find out where I could secure a case for myself.

Most excitingly, it distinctly reminds me of a glass of wine I enjoyed with my new bride on our honeymoon decades ago in Rouen, France. And that, I needn’t tell you, was an unbelievable and incredibly romantic trip.

Evidently, I really enjoyed this sancerre.

Chotard Sancerre

à votre santé!

Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2012

17 Apr

Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2012, Mendoza Argentina. 14.5% ABV, $18/bottle street. 

In celebration of Malbec World Day, here is a mouth watering delight!

Medium dark purple in color. On the nose, blackberries, iris and hint of old leather. The first taste is of massive dark fruit with heat behind it. Black plum and dark chocolate burst forward into the top palate, leaving a richly rinsed sensation behind. Secondary flavors are cassis, coca, sour cherry and toasted oak with notes of granite, tobacco leaf, and almond on the medium finish. An obvious  easy pairing with grilled steak on the night I popped the cork, it also works with savory dishes and was a great foil to a spicy ginger/pepper stir-fry I put together after work on night #3. Great flavors over several days. Well done! Solid value at this price point.

This wine is big and bold, yet balanced. Ultra is a good name for it- the flavors are like a rocket taking off. This is a fun wine to have on hand, and one I’ll come back to again. If you like a huge malbec, this is one to stock up on, and a perfect wine for bold flavors, or to enjoy around the game room with the guys.

Kaiken Ultra

à votre santé!

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