Josić Ciconia Nigra Cuvée: Croatia’s Black Stork Red Blend

25 Apr

Josić Ciconia Nigra Cuvée 2013, Zmajvac, (Danube AVA), Croatia  13.5% ABV; Price: $31/Bottle from Topochines.com

Color is garnet with ruby edging. The nose is deep and luxurious with notes of eucalyptus, blackberry, dried tobacco leaf, and a touch of burnt hickory.  On the palate: black plum, black currants, boysenberry. Prominent secondary notes  of clove, mocha, truffled black peppercorns, potting soil, granite and loam. A delightfully long finish.

This Bordeaux-style blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah will delight and confine your palate. Designed to be enjoyed by itself as well as to pair with food, this is a wine that requires little else to be satisfying. I ran through the bottle in two evenings, when I wanted to make it last four.

When I opened this wine, my initial reaction was that I didn’t want to waste time writing about it, I simply want to drink more of it. It paired well with both elegant and rustic red meat preparations, as well as by itself and with medium-bodied cheeses like gouda which I used as a dessert course when finishing the bottle. But if you like elegant, mysterious blends (think tall, dark, and handsome) then this wine is an easy pick: perfectly aged, serious, and well-placed in a solid value for a complex, quality wine.

à votre santé!

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Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2016

22 Apr

Kim Crawford 2016 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ. 13% ABV, SRP $17.99/bottle.

 I have been hoarding this bottle in my wine cellar until spring came. Spring teased, then winter returned, then summer arrived for a whole day (80 degree temps in NYC) and then back to winter it went. But my palate started SCREAMING for warm flavors! So open the goat cheese, and go get the sauvignon blanc out of the cellar! It’s finally spring!

 

Color is pale sunshine. The nose is an herbaceous citrus mix- a touch of  pineapple, starfruit, and lemon, so much like spring that I have to fight the instinct to gulp down the glass! On the palate, there is gooseberry, lemon-lime, passionfruit and a reduction of white stone fruit, with hints of tall, green grass, seashore and sunshine.  Final notes are of schist and limestone on the delightful finish.  

 

 

I picked up a sushi-grade piece of tuna and seared it with sesame seeds on one side, serving it on a bed of bok choy and mixed vegetables. The sauvignon blanc was a perfect pairing for the tuna and cut through flavors like the soy and sesame oil I used to season the fish and vegetables. Clean, crisp acidity and a fresh mouthfeel on the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc makes this an easy wine to pair. As a dessert, I did break find the goat cheese and ooh’d and aah’d over that pairing as well!

 

 

This wine is not simple but it IS straightforward: this is an ideal bottle to be in your cellar all year round. I could easily see having a case of this at home for those sunny afternoons when I want to prop my feet up in the back yard with the family and neighbors and watch the sun set while the grill heats up. Crawford wines are consistent and deliver an excellent QPR for wine lovers! The fact that I had a flecked golden holiday bottle was extra special for me. While I wanted to wait for the perfect time of year (spring), instead of waiting for the perfect pairing opportunity I really should have opened this earlier.

What is your favorite Sauvignon Blanc? Let me know your thoughts!

à votre santé!

What I Drank in Taipei

16 Apr

When work calls, I go. And sometimes it means that JvBUnCorked hits limbo for a few days. One of my recent ‘limbo’ moments was a trip to Taipei, Taiwan.

Before I left, I reached out on various forms of social media to ask “What should I drink when I’m in Taipei?”

I’d hoped to hear about some wine bars or resources. But the responses were few in number. Some said “drink tea, dummy”, others said that Taiwanese people are much more into whisky. I can confirm this- any restaurant I visited that actually had a wine list, had a much longer whisky list, plus other liquors and various house cocktails. But I DID find some good wine, fellow world travelers, and I’m here to share that with you.

 

But first, I drank tea, and it was simply inspiring. My host took me to the Wistaria Tea House, where we drank four different teas- from classic oolong to an “ancient” oolong, a wistaria tea, and a pu’er tea, along with a classic tea ceremony.

If you go to Taipei, do yourself a favor, and go to Wistaria Tea House. 

 

Later that afternoon,  I found wine! We went to a Taiwanese Dim Sum restaurant called Din Tai Fung, renowned for their steamed dumplings, buns, and Taiwanese-style dishes. If you go to Taiwan, DO NOT MISS Din Tai Fung. Getting back on track we had  just finished lunch and were walking through a mall browsing with friends, when my eye spotted this bottle in a mall wine shop. I loved that the back label is in Cantonese! While I knew the bottle was (over) priced based on tariffs, I also knew this was a good option for a dinner wine to pair with Japanese food.

 

Johan Josef Prüm 2009 Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany. 9% ABV, Normally @ $24 USD/bottle; found in wine store in a mall in Taipei for $1700 TWD = $58 USD.

Color is pale straw. The nose offers starfruit, lemon-lime, and sodium. On the palate, gentle pear and apple are met with hints of gooseberry, grapefruit, and lime zest. An excellent blend of citrus with notes of peppercorn, slate, and limestone, presenting a delicate mouthfeel with aged, linear acidity,  Upon opening, I was initially overwhelmed with petrol and a little funk, which burned off with about 20 minutes of air. Paired perfectly with sashimi, sushi, raw fish, and tempura. 

I was happy to have found this bottle but the 2009, considered an excellent year for Prüm, did not bowl me over. I liked it , but not as much as other vintages I have enjoyed. Still, Prüm, a master winemaker of riesling, is always a joy to taste and was a delightful pairing for me and exciting for the Taiwanese guests at dinner who tasted this, at least one tasting riesling for the very first time.

 


I also liked the fact that the back label is printed in Cantonese; that was a first for me.

 

 

A day later after work, I visited the hotel’s executive lounge, which features both Asian, American, and European style food and drink.

 

The bar featured scotch, vodka, several types of beer, and one each white and red wines. I tried the Heartland Stickleback.

 

Heartland Stickleback White Blend 2012, Southern Australia. 13.5%ABV. Street price $8-12/bottle USD.

 

Pale straw in color with a nose of lemon zest and herbs.  On the palate: pear and starfruit, a hint of tangerine, secondary note of dried apple, with a gentle mouthfeel and moderate acidity. Easy to drink, this was food-friendly and popular in the lounge, pairing nicely with fresh cut fruit, cheese, and dried meats. Not enough acid for the zip I  prefer if you want to drink the wine by itself, but a perfectly fine vin du table on a daily basis, especially in the lower price range.

 


 

 

 

My last evening in Taipei, we went to a Szechuan Restaurant that is known for Peking Duck served three ways. But we started off with cod in spicy pepper sauce, green beans, black fungus (mushroom), whole fish in garlic sauce, prawn with chili sauce, and more. My host asked me to choose a wine, but I pulled a classic JvB and asked for two. I went with Champagne, and an Italian red blend…. because, the food, the food, the food! SO TASTY!

 

Jacquesson “Cuvée 740” Extra Brut Champagne; 12% ABV; around $60/bottle USD.

Beautiful lemon-lime zest, sweet apple, white peach, brioche and chalky limestone. A nice balance of fruit, acidity, and mouthfeel; medium sized bubbles bathe the palate while the acid screams for another sip. The grapes in this champagne ( a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier) were harvested in 2012, and it was disgorged in 2017. With a supple mousse, it is easy to down the entire glass- this non-vintage wine is drinking very nicely right now, as if it were a vintage champagne.  This sells in the restaurant for $2800 TWD, about $95 USD- it retails for about $60 in stores in the USA. I found this to be an excellent mid-level champagne, low dosage, perfect for aging, but really ideal for drinking. And enjoy it, we did! This was superb in pairing with the seafood, vegetables, and white meat dishes. it did not last for long, and I will look for it again in the USA!

 


 

 

Last but not least, was a beautiful red wine!

 

Rocca Di Frassinello “Le Sughere” 2012, Maremma Toscana. 14%ABV, SRP $32/bottle in the USA.

 

Dark ruby in color. The nose offers licorice and red fruit. On the palate: cherries, red plum, and dried cranberry. Secondary notes of tobacco, dank forest floor, wet leaves, potting soil. On the finish: toasted oak, a hint of vanilla, and granite. Medium body, with a medium-length finish. My first impression is that this tastes like a classic European field blend: Sangiovese, Merlot, & Cabernet, and was a good foil to the main dishes at the Szechuan Dinner: Peking Duck three ways and stinky tofu, (which had a subtle scent of manure about it) a traditional dish that visitors should try, but one that takes a little getting used to. This wine is probably best with grilled meats, and was a touch strong for some of the Szechuan dishes but is a good choice for a red wine in Asia, with enough body and flexible flavors to handle the savory dishes. It was simply perfect with the Peking duck.

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, I truly enjoyed the many flavors and restaurants we visited in Taipei, and look forward to the continued evolution of wine in Taiwan. I hope to go back, and report on more wine and food!

Gān Bēi!

or…

à votre santé!

 

 

Acquiesce New Wines, 2017

9 Apr

It’s the little things in life… like getting excited when you see a grape you’ve never heard of, from a producer who is well- known in a very small group for making absolutely tremendous wines in one particular style. And I wonder to myself if there’s a chance that Acquiesce could possibly continue their run of making world-class Rhône style white wines with another stand-out? It really could not be possible, again. But let me taste the wines, and see for myself…


 

Acquiesce Winery 2017 Bourboulenc, Mokelumne River Appellation, Lodi, CA, USA. 12.5% ABV, SRP $28/bottle.

Color is golden sunshine. The nose offers citrus, lemongrass, honey, and cut green apple. On the palate, a cool and vibrant mixture of white pear and lemon zest with secondary notes of lime, orange rind, and pineapple. Sweet citrus on the front palate while the acid cuts from mid-palate back, making the back of the tongue curl in response. Such a beautiful food wine, this is a delight to enjoy the afternoon sunshine but pair this with grilled vegetables, sushi or fish -maybe seasoned with a sprinkle of Provençal herbs-  and  you can plan to finish the bottle, maybe even open another one. This wine is solid enough to handle some flare and spice; you can also pair it with Asian or Middle-Eastern fare, from Halal or Falafel to Thai, and Chinese- especially Peking Duck, or steamed dumplings, unless you want to break a baguette open with some brie and just enjoy.

 

Acquiesce Winery 2017 Clairette Blanche, Mokelumne River Appellation, Lodi, CA, USA. 13.5% ABV, SRP $28/bottle.

Pale straw in color, the nose has a distinctive blend of fennel, peach, and dried apricot. On the palate, lemon-lime, starfruit, and a hint of almond paste wrap the front of my tongue as the wine warms along the back palate, rounding out into a savory note with the finish. I loved this with baked chicken and couscous, but this wine begs any dish with a hint of salt, and can easily pair with lighter fare like fish or cheese, but just as easily with dried Italian salumne, fresh shellfish, or Spanish tapas, the list of Mediterranean food options grows and grows…

 

Yes, Sue and Rodney from Acquiesce have done it again with classic French varietal grapes that will make you think you’ve landed back in the southern Rhône Valley. Pour a glass and try it once by itself, and again with a bite of food and see how well it makes your mouth sing in pleasure when paired.

 

These wines are such huge crowd-pleasers, I don’t expect them to last long, so buy soon, or sign up for Acquiesce’s club and join the in-crowd.

Oh- and remind yourself to keep the bottle. Every loves this bottle design, and one of your friends is going to ask to keep the empty  for their kitchen. Trust me, it never fails, as soon as I put the bottle in the recycling can, that one of the guests sidles up, and asks quietly if they could possibly get the beautiful, curvaceous bottle I just finished pouring. Sigh…

 

#WIYG? / What’s in your glass?

 

à votre santé!

Passover Wines, 2018: Yarden, Golan Heights & Galil Mountain Winery

29 Mar


It never fails: within one 24 hour period,  both a local neighbor and a long-distance blog fan hit me with the same question: “Will you suggest some more wines I can buy for Passover this year?”

Why yes, I think I will!

Mount Hermon White Wine Blend, 2016, Golan Height’s Winery, Galilee, Israel. 13.5%ABV, SRP $12/bottle.

Color is pale straw. The nose offers honeydew melon and fresh wildflowers. On the palate, this blend is a delight to the tongue: ripe white peach, Bosc pear, sweet apple, and tangy citrus for a lovely fruit blend moving from the front to side palates. The tropical fruit hits on the finish, crossing up through the top palate and into the nasal cavities. This is so easy to drink, I’d suggest you open it while cooking, but it’s really the wine you want to ply your guests with as they enjoy reading the Haggadah, paring with roast chicken, gefilte fish, fresh fruit, and the cheese course. Aunt Edna (who won’t drink red wine) will love this throughout the meal, but will remind you to pour her “only a little” each time you come by with the bottle. A great value in non-Mevushal, Kosher-For-Passover wine at a daily drinking price.

 

Yarden Gewürztraminer 2016; Golan Height’s Winery, Galilee, Israel. 14.5%ABV, SRP $21/bottle.

This non-Mevushal, Kosher for Passover white is world-class gewürztraminer! Medium straw in color with sweet citrus on the nose. On the palate: lychee, pineapple, a hint of clementine, some orange peel. Nice acidity without being too hot. Great balance with mouth-watering acidity, the mid and back palate pucker up as the wine moves back and down on the long finish. Without a doubt, this is among the finest examples of Gewürztraminer  I’ve tasted from Israel. This medium-bodied wine is the perfect for the discerning and difficult wine drinkers to start their meal with- your first few cups, perfect for the fish and salad courses, before you move on to the brisket. After the brisket, you can come back to this for dessert, it’s that mouthwateringly delicious. If you want a little more citrus, smoke and a tiny hint of mint that is serious enough to pair with crispy duck, a roast, or the salmon course, look no further. This is a serious white wine for Pesach, and it’s a delightful expression of the gewürztraminer grape!

 

 

Yiron, Upper Galilee, 2014 Red Wine Blend, Galil Mountain Winery; Galilee, Israel. 15%ABV, SRP $32/bottle.

The serious red blend! Made of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 7% Syrah, and 5% Petite Verdot, this is aged for 16 months in French oak. Color is deep garnet with purple edging. The nose offers blueberry pie and a bit of extra alcohol to burn. Given some time to air, the aromas of vanilla, blackberry, spice box and forest floor come through. On the palate, find a mix of black currents, blueberry, and tart black plum. With above-average acidity and strong tannins, a swish around the mouth allows you to sense the unctuous, full-bodied mouthfeel and enjoy its long, tart finish. This is an excellent choice to serve with your roast or brisket, no doubt, you might be tempted to name this wine when the youngest one asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Trust me, keep that answer to yourself, and wait for the next cup -it’s worth it. Last but not last, this bottle would also be a perfect gift wine for Passover if you’re a guest joining others for the annual ritual and celebration.

 

What wine will grace your glass, and your Seder plate this year?

If you hadn’t noticed, I’m a fan of Yarden and their head winemaker Victor Schoenfeld, who is credited as being the single greatest influence in elevating Israel’s wine to a world-class level. You can check out my other posts about his wines, and more Kosher for Passover wines at these links:
http://bit.ly/VSYarden
http://bit.ly/YardenRosé
http://bit.ly/JvBYardenII

à votre santé!

Raw & Unfiltered: Eminence Road Farm Winery Pinot Noir 2015

26 Mar

Eminence Road Farm Winery Elizabeth’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Finger Lakes AVA, New York, USA. 12.4% ABV; $25/bottle.

 

Color is maroon with a garnet center. The nose offers rich red plum, eucalyptus, cherry pie, slate, grass cuttings, and a touch of damp forest floor. On the palate, a thick and viscous juice, showing a fruit blend of mature & ripened cherry, dried cranberry with sunkist orange peel, a hint of fennel and vanilla bean, long finish of black plum, tart black cherry, with slate, marle, and hint of tar on the back palate. Ooooh. 

Raw and unfiltered, this is a brusque and muscular pinot that is a joy to drink. It changes significantly with air, so for best results I suggest you decant for at least an hour. I was surprised when the lean and ropy wine opened up into a teenage ninja mutant turtle and then suddenly gained a sweet edge on the mid palate. I adored this wine initially with salmon and ratatouille, but loved it on day 2 with a piece of gorgonzola cheese and again on day 3 with chicken chili and a side of garlic and ginger stir-fried veggies.

Do you like pinot from Burgundy, California, or Oregon? I do- but I like all styles of pinot noir, and all types of grapes- the more I taste, the more I find that across the entire globe, there are hordes of winemakers working hard to create something amazing with just about every grape out there, in every type of terroir. But not to digress, let’s get back to pinot noir: YES, I’m a fan of those lean, focused styles of wine- but Eminence Road Farm Winery‘s Elizabeth’s Vineyard Pinot Noir is is a totally different take on pinot noir for me, and a great example of how “alive” wine is. This wine is a curving road: complex, evolving, multifaceted. If you enjoy exploring new roads, not sure whether to hit the gas or touch the brake as you navigate the curves of life- this might be your favorite new wine. 

I have previously enjoyed the leaner white wines from the Finger Lakes but this red wine pleasantly surprised me with its expressive nose, an oversized mouthfeel, rich viscosity, and complex flavor palate. Those elements help make this a fascinating and fun wine to drink and enjoy!

 

 

Have you had raw and unfiltered wines before? Share your experiences with me below! 

 

 

#WIYG? 

 

à votre santé!

The Vinum Il Rosso: Montepulciano

20 Mar

The Vinum: Il Rosso Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC, Ortona, Italy. 13% ABV, $25/bottle by Topochines.com

 

Translucent garnet in color. A floral, violet-driven nose with bright red fruit, dried leaves, and an essence of green cuttings.  On the palate: delightful cherry and young raspberry on the fruit profile, together with an excellent acidity and chewy tannins; rounded out with notes of earth, clove, cumin, cinnamon, oak, and slate. Unlike many Montepulcianos I have tasted, this one is in great shape to drink young but has enough acidity and fruit to age for a decade or two, when this wine would go from really good to possibly stunning- if you can bear to keep it that long. Made from 100% Nero grapes, this is a wine to please your wine-loving friends and make their mouths water.

I paired this wine with a pot roast and was thrilled at the result, a very complementary set of flavors for the roast and the winter vegetables. But unlike most wines, I couldn’t stop pouring myself  another one-0unce taste over and over again, as my nose went back again for the violet aromas that filled the top of my palate, even as I enjoyed the wine with meringues for dessert instead of coffee or tea. This is a wine that won’t allow me to taste it over a week with at least three proteins, because it isn’t going to last that long. Hello, time to order a case?

This wine has made me more interested in the Nero grape (since it was a new expression of the grape to me), as well as the wine importer/retailer/wholesaler  Topochines Vino, whose selections are intriguing, reasonably priced, and made me raise an eyebrow and want to order several bottles as soon as I began to browse their online store. A clear win, and worth checking out.

 

 

à votre santé!

Journey to the Jura with Puffeney 2.0

14 Mar

Frédéric Puffeney 2015 Arbois Trousseau. 13.5% ABV,  between $25-28/bottle, street price.

 

Trousseau. Most Americans don’t know what it is. It’s a grape, one also called by many names in Europe over the last several hundred years, sometimes names like Bastardo, Gros Cabernet, Semillon Rouge, or other nicknames.  What you should know is that it accounts for about 5% of the wines grown in the Jura AVA of France, and it can provide some delicious wines.

Color is translucent maroon. The nose offers a sweet red plum, sour cherry, and green herbs with a secondary note of black soil and wet moss. On the palate, subtle fruit pair with a strong acid/tannin combination make this a powerful food wine. Bright and brisk cherry and raspberry dominate the fruit profile with sage and mixed peppercorn with hints of  limestone, granite,  tree bark and forest floor. Beautifully dark and brooding, this Trousseau is pinot noir’s cousin: instead of a mature  and brilliant youth, trousseau presents like an angry young man at first, then shocks you with tremendous pairing power and a likeability that warms you up slowly but steadily. While the traditionalists will tel you to pair this with morbier or comet cheese, I will tell you that roast chicken, delicate grilled meats, or ratatouille are perfect matches for this wine.

Lastly, the pedigree. Jaques Puffeney stopped making wine years ago, but his nephew Frédéric has taken the helm in supporting the wines and terroir of the Jura. Well, fear not- he’s doing something right. His wines are fascinating, compelling, and delightful. You may have to look for them, but when you find them, his wines will win you over.

 

à votre santé

 

Markus Wine Co: Sol

10 Mar

Markus Wine Company, “Sol” 2015 Vintage Red Blend, Lodi, California. 14.9% ABV, $39 SRP.

 

Dark purple, nearly black in color near the center, with purple edging. Busy, eclectic nose of dark fruit, forest floor, sand, and eucalyptus. On the palate, massive black fruit: plum, blackberry, black cherry- the violence in the crush is evident- this is a big, blasting stroke of bold flavor. A big mouthfeel, strong tannins, acidity, and fruit; secondary notes of mocha, vanilla, and salty sand- this is a huge wine with a long, Grand Canyon of a finish that goes on, and on, and echoes far past when you think the last note has ended. This wine screams for grilled meats but can work beautifully with Mexican, Italian, I even made it pair with a salad by adding some grilled chicken and a few slices of jalapeño! This wine is fun, fabulous, and a ton of black fruit flavor.

 

 

 

 

Made of 42% petite Syrah, 37% Syrah clone 877 (both from Borra Vineyards), and 21% Mourvèdre from Silvaspoon Vineyards. Each time I tasted this wine, I wanted it to be named “Black Dog”, after the Led Zeppelin song whose protagonist is in constant, amorous pursuit- because the black fruit is so forward and direct on the palate. Its driving, electric, bluesy desire never gives up!

When you want an incredible night, put some massive steaks on the grill, pop open a bottle of Markus Sol, and let the music flow!

 

 

 

Oh Baby! Oh Alright!

 

 

 

à votre santé!

Markus Wine Co. “Blue”, 2015 Lodi Red Wine

20 Feb

Markus Wine Company “Blue” 2015 Vintage Red Wine Blend, Lodi, California, USA. 90% Zin, 5% Petite Verdot, and 5% Petite Syrah. 16.5%ABV, $39/bottle SRP.

 

Color is deep maroon. Nose is a complex mixture of plum, cassis, and notes of dried herbs, iris and lavander.

In the mouth,  strong black cherry and deep red raspberry zing across the palate with an underlying bolt of heat from the alcohol. Secondary notes are of allspice, cumin, cut leafy greens, and clay. On the long and zesty finish: blueberry, black plum, vanilla, and silica. Not a fruit bomb, this is an Iron Man/SEAL team wine: seriously agile, ropy & muscular. This wine can do any task you ask of it, but it will go in with guns blazing and leave you wondering what just happened.

I first opened this wine a month ago, and came back to it again and again (thank you, ArT Wine Preserver!)  Each time, my mouth told me to stop thinking about the wine and just enjoy it. Down went the wine, and up went my smile.

 

 

When I initially opened this bottle, my reaction was that the wine was just a touch hot, perhaps a bit of a mouthful. But as soon as I paired it with food? Oh yes! My initial choices included chicken fajitas, baked cheese, and grilled steak, and each time Markus’ “Blue” sang, complementing gorgeously. Pro tip: save yourself a sip to pair with a piece of chocolate after dinner, and you will know the meaning of heaven.

While I’m not normally a fan of high ABV wines, after my first couple of tastings, I began to want the wine’s flavor profile all by itself, in the same way I sometimes just want to hit the bike and feel the wind against my face, my heart pound in my chest, the music loud in my head. This wine is as well made as a custom motorcycle: every part is there for a reason, and the sum of the parts is stunning and impressive.

I’m not one to stand back lightly, so here goes: this is a $39 kick-ass red wine that will beat Dave Phinney’s The Prisoner in a blind taste test. For steak houses, they should get orders in early, and for steak or Zinfandel lovers, you heard it from me first: Buy it while you can get it! I’m a huge fan of Phinney, but Markus is the up-and-coming winemaker who is looking to stand with the giants of the game. And his product is limited, for now. I can’t wait to see what Markus Niggli does next-  he has extreme talent and seems to want to make the best wines that California can offer in a myriad of styles!

 

Look out, and stand back… and please let me be there when it happens.

 

 

 

Am I BLUE? Only that the wine bottle is empty. 

 

 

à votre santé!

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