Harney Lane 2013 Zinfandel

18 Jun


Harney Lane 2013 Zinfandel, Lodi, CA. 15.5% ABV, MSRP $24/bottle.

There’s a backstory here. When in Lodi last summer for #WBC16, I visited this winery. I tasted their rosé, and I thought “this is really good”. But when I tasted their old vine zinfandel, I was truly blown away by the power of the beautifully made Old Vine Zin, Lizzy James.

 

 

Months later, I pull a bottle of their 2013 “house” zinfandel from my cellar, open it gently, allow it to air, and taste it. Oh yes, my Father’s Day treat to myself!  The next day I serve it to my in-laws, not telling them what the grape varietal is. The bottle is gone within the first few minutes of the meal- and my brother-in-law doesn’t believe me at first when I tell him he is drinking zinfandel, so I remind him of my trip to Lodi.

 

 

If the independent Lodi winemakers (like Harney Lane, Bokisch Vineyards, Borra Vineyards, Klinker Brick, McCay Cellars, Fields Family Wines, and Acquiesce, just to name but a few of Lodi’s standouts ) were only making fair quality wines, there would be no point- they might as well sell their fruit to the huge corporate winemakers. But in Lodi, they are making smaller quantities of superb, high quality wines- single varietals, single vineyards, custom blends, -really, whatever they choose- they are simply making the greatest wine they can, to the best of their ability. This is how they can make wines that stand out and have an impact: they have to make tremendous wines with superb value in the bottle that makes a customer go “WHOA”,  to remember that experience. In doing so, they create their own brand fanatics who want to join their wine club and drink more than a case per year.

 

I know you want the tasting notes, so without further ado:

Color is deep magenta with violet edging. The nose offers complex, mature black and blue fruit (and really, it smells of blackberry pie) followed by dark chocolate and green, leafy vegetation. On the palate: mature blueberries dominates the lower palate with a small portion of red fruit, -cassis and young raspberry- with secondary notes of mocha, pepper, and clove. Great acidity on this wine follows the fruit across the top palate, but the tannins hit from the tip of the tongue across the top palate simultaneously, making perfect closure to the sip. For the finish, notes of oak, pebbles, and sand round out the long, lusty finish with echoes of that fruit across the palate. For those who have heard my past complaints about too much alcohol in wine, I never sensed this wine as “hot”. To be completely fair, I didn’t even notice this wine was 15.5%ABV until after the bottle was finished. So I’m keeping my trap shut, as this wine rocks. I paired this beautiful zin with cold sesame noodles when I first opened it, and then served it alongside  a beef, tomato and bean chili for dinner. It will rock a steak house menu, pair easily with Italian cuisine, match up with grilled or cured meats, or handle anything that is Mediterranean in style, as well as being purely delightful on its own.

Matured 15 months in American oak, this Zin actually has 5% of syrah blended in. Given that they made 700 cases (about 28 barrels) you can still find some, but I wouldn’t wait very long to get some for the cellar.

 

 

Jorja and Kyle Lerner of Harney Lane call themselves “control freaks” when it comes to maintaining their vineyards, growing the best clusters, and picking their best fruit at the perfect time; but all you have to do is taste it and you will be convinced. Whatever they are doing, it simply works. This is a world-class wine with style, class, depth and tenacity. You’d happily pay five times the price for a wine of this quality in a steakhouse- in the under $25/bottle range, this is a no-brainer. Better yet, join their wine club, and get this wine for $19.20 per bottle!

As a final note, all Harney Lane wines are certified green under the strict “Lodi Rules” for sustainable wine growing. That might make you feel better, about being a better citizen of the planet when you buy the wine. But when you drink it, you might not care anymore. You’ll just be glad this deliciousness is in your glass. 

à votre santé!

Charles Smith Wines: Eve, Boom Boom!, and The Velvet Devil to Tempt Your Tongue!

16 Jun

Charles Smith. If you’re like me, hearing that name is enough to scroll down to the reviews. If not, please continue:

Few names in recent years have acquired such rock star gravitas in the wine industry. Wait, You don’t know him? Taste his wines. Don’t have one available? Ok, so in 2016, Constellation Wines bought five of his brands for $120 million. Are you impressed yet? You should be. And I say this, being a superman of the CS Cabernet Sauvignon, because that wine has been one of the top, under-$20 Cabernet Sauvignon wines you can find in the USA, PERIOD.

So when offered a chance to taste a few, I jumped. YES, I want to taste them. I tasted two of these wines for five days. and the other… well, it lasted an hour before it was gone. (Not sorry.) The labels look like a tattoo chosen by a millennial based on their favorite song. So? It’s not about the label, it’s about the juice.

The motto reads loud and clear on the back of the bottle: “Land to hand, vineyard to bottle.” Charles Smith is irreverent and fanciful, yet an incredibly serious winemaker: these wines are seeing at least some portion whole cluster pressed, with fermenting on the lees. Straightforward, the best fruit he can give you from sustainable farming, ideal fermentation, a carefully controlled pH and moderate ABV. So? Ok, fine: TASTING NOTES!

 

Eve Chardonnay 2014 by Charles Smith Wines, Mattawa, Washington. 13.5% ABV, MSRP $13/Bottle.

Color is pale gold, while the nose offers tangerine peel, wildflower cutting, and gravel. On the palate, pure green apple- no wonder the name. It is like taking a bite of a chardonnay apple from the Garden of Eden. Straightforward, fruit forward, less acidity than I expected with a hint of marzipan. On the finish, notes of silt, clay and yeast. At this price point, what chardonnay lover would say no? An easy purchase, at double the price! At street prices, I’d easily put three bottles in my cart. You should do the same.

 

 

 

Boom Boom Syrah 2015 by Charles Smith Wines, Columbia Valley, Washington. 13.%5ABV, MSRP $18/bottle.

Color is a gorgeous, opaque dark orchid/byzantium. The nose shows blueberry, black plum, and crushed  violet while the palate offers up blackberries, plum jam, cassis and black cherry. Secondary notes of pepper, potting soil, wet slate, sandy loam and old wood. I love a good syrah but shy away from the fruit bombs- Boom Boom does a tremendous job of maintaining balance in the wine from opening until day five of tasting, never being overly fruity and only showing a hint of bitterness on day 5. With this gorgeous color, balance of flavor, and gentle alcohol content, how is this still on the shelves? When word gets out, you’ll have a hard time finding this for under $20.

 

 

Are you ready to be severely tempted? You better be…

The Velvet Devil Merlot 2014 by Charles Smith Wines. Columbia Valley, Washington.  ABV 13.6%, MSRP $13/bottle.

Color is a garnet center with purple edging. The nose offers boysenberry, cherry pie and a hint of tobacco leaf.  On the palate, bright, acidic flavor of dark cherries, maturing blackberries, and blueberry. Secondary notes remind me of damp Northwest: wet earth, and young, freshly hewn wood. On the medium-long finish: plum wine, crushed leaves, sand, and the distinct mineral flavors of volcanic rock. And pour me another taste… (just watch, you will do the same.)

OK: I was hoping for the velvety mouthfeel I get from Chateau Margaux, but let’s be honest: should I expect the same mouthfeel from a $13 wine that I do from a $600-$900 bottle? No, but for the cost of this wine, the mouthfeel IS quite velvety. Why? Because Smith is giving us 94% Merlot and adding a few tremendous blending grape (cab sauvignon, malbec, and our beloved friend cabernet franc) and aging in new French Oak to take this wine from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Put this wine in front of ten people, and (incorrectly) they will probably not call it Merlot. It just has a totally different vibe! But they will call it delicious, and they will ask for a second glass, then a third. So will you- and the bottle will be dry, as mine is from tasting pour after pour. Trust me, this Velvet Devil is going to stick a pitchfork in your plans and you will love it.

 

Boom.

 

Now go rock your weekend with a Charles Smith Wine, you can thank me later by sending me a bottle.

For more information on these wines, check out: www.charlessmithwines.com/

 

à votre santé!

 

Tasting the Terroir of Domaine Auvigue

10 Jun

Domaine Auvigue “Solutre” Pouilly-Fuisse 2014; Burgundy, France. 13%ABV, MSRP $29/bottle.

 

 

Spend a few minutes with Jean-Pierre Auvigue, and he will endear himself to you, without ever trying. He is both direct and charming, and to my delight, he can discuss winemaking and the terroir of Burgundy to the point of exhaustion.

Jean-Pierre is quick to point out that each year, they simply try to make the best wine they can within the realm of the weather. Since they have tremendous terroir and history already, the goals are to represent the growing season with the finest chardonnay they can make. Techniques are largely traditional; all work in the vineyard is done by hand. Very little new oak is used to keep the focus on the fruit; but to me, the balance is what shines.

 

Jean-Pierre Auvigue with his 2005 Solutre Pouilly-Fuisse

 

Tasting a mini-vertical of the three most recent vintages (’12-’14) and the 2005 Auvigue Solutre Pouilly-Fuisse , I was thrilled to taste the subtle similarities and differences and hear how many varying preferences people had to their own personal favorite from these areas that boast vines that rage in age from 50-85 years of age. Most importantly, they are all delightful and offer tremendous value in white Burgundy wines.

2014/Current Release: Color is a clear, medium straw. The nose offers a delicate citrus scent with a hint of sodium. On the palate, a very linear first impression, a smooth  balance of lemon-lime fruit, acidity and minerality: limestone, clay and flint belie the famed AOC.  As it crosses the mid-palate, the flavors expand to include savory sensations without losing the initial character. Flint and quartz notes cross the back palate with the medium finish, which is as satisfying was the first sip. A wine that starts with drive and delivers complexity, terroir, and a tremendous definition of the Chardonnay grape.

 

 

 

Not to be ignored, another AOC was represented:

Domaine Auvigue Le Moulin du Pont Saint-Véran 2014; Burgundy, France. 13% ABV, MSR $20/bottle.

Color is pale straw with green tinge. The nose offers lime zest and a hint of cut grass and vegetation. On the palate young white pear, starfruit, and orange peel dominate while the top and back palate reveals notes of cedar, gravel, schist and clay, before the medium-long finish leaves your mouth refreshed. Saint-Veran being a newer AOC, this is a tremendous introduction to white Burgundy and a great every day/any day wine at this price point.

 

 

With either one, you can’t go wrong, whether to add to your cellar to hold, or to drink and chill tonight. 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Owl Rosé for National Rosé Day

9 Jun

This Saturday, June 10th is National Rosé Day. So here is a day-drinker’s rosé for you!

Day Owl Rosé 2016 by O’Neil Vintners; Parlier, California. ABV 12%. Street price $12-14/bottle.

Color is rose gold, while the nose offers strawberries, wildflower, and just a hint of earth/funk. On the palate, cherry, dried raspberries, fresh cut grass, a hint of watermelon, with notes of gravel and sandy clay on the finish, which retains a mouthfeel of the cherry flavor long past completion of the sip. Delightfully bright and oh so easy to drink, this is one of those wines where my two ounce tasting pour feels so insignificant that I  want to pour as much of the bottle into a pint glass just to quench my thirst, it’s so refreshing.

 

This rosé is made from 100% Barbera and while it can easily pair with food, it was really made to take you from just before lunch into an afternoon of day-drinking. You can safely pick up a few bottles or a case and know this is a crowd-pleaser, easy on the wallet, and easy going down.

 

 

How do I know this? Not just because I had that instinct, which I did, but suppressed. But this evening, my adult daughter  came over while I was writing tasting notes and asked for a sip. I obliged, as she has an excellent palate but often surprises me by liking different wines than I do. She tried it, and said “Oh, that’s good. I’d like more of that. As a matter of fact, I could drink that all day and be WGD. It’s delicious!”  After thinking about it for a second, I  asked if I should I assume that WGD means ‘white girl drunk’ and she replied, “Oh, yes,” laughed, turned and left.

 

Here’s wishing you a very happy National Rosé Day! And please, I urge you to enjoy, but drink responsibly.

 

 

à votre santé!

 

Vivanco 2016 White Blend- Fiesta In a Bottle!

7 Jun

Vivanco Viura, Tempranillo Blanco, Maturana Blanca Blend 2016, Rioja DOC, Spain. 13% ABV, Approx $10/bottle (street).

Color is clear, pale straw. The gentle nose offers both hints of floral and citrus notes. In the mouth, a rich blend of white peach and apple is primary and pairs with an excellent and muscular acidity on the front palate; secondary notes of starfruit, pineapple and lime follow. Tertiary notes of hay and the classic alluvial soil provides a blend of pyrite, gravel, clay, and silt. The clean finish is quite lengthy and satisfying, leaving a tart, citrus aftertaste that begs for the next bite or sip.

 

 

This white wine blend (of viura, tempranillo blanco, and maturana blanca grapes, to be specific) pairs well with food or stands by itself and is an easy go-to wine choice for warm weather. For food pairing, over five evenings this white blend paired well with both an Italian marinated grilled chicken and classic French style baked chicken on two separate dinners, as well as sushi, Chinese, and mild to medium cheeses. It surprisingly handled both delicate flavor profiles and heat well, from pepper flake to hot sauce to raw jalapeño. The Vivanco was such a good foil for sushi and sashimi that I can say without a doubt it would also be ideal for crudo, grilled fish, raw bars, or ceviche.

 

 

 

My in-laws were quick to ask for a second glass and like me, adored every drop. If you haven’t tried a white rioja before, here’s your chance to do so for a song. If you have experience with white rioja, then you already know what a massive value this wine has in store for you. It goes down so easily and quickly that it might be wise to double up your purchases when you give this a taste.

 

In trying to sum up my thoughts on this wine, I kept thinking about Spain’s many fiestas; how every warm day is a party in Spain like nowhere else in the world, and the wine flows like the sea! So click on the link below for a fun Catalonian tune about the sea by Manel, pop open a bottle of wine, relax and enjoy!

 

à votre santé!

Not Every Glass Is A Win.

5 Jun

Remember the old adage, “You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince”?  Some days, that is SO TRUE.  We had better accept it: some days just aren’t going to be successful, so the best thing we can do it learn from them, and move forward. You’re not always going to win that race, beat your opponent, or make your quota. On some days, you might try your damnedest just to continue- to live and fight another day.

#MWWC33 

 

We have a lot of sayings backstage in the entertainment business. “Once Upon A Time”, is one of them. Others are more self-evident: “early is on time/on time is late”, “make hay while the sun shines”, “just do it again”, “nobody died”, “All the world’s a stage”, “break a leg”,”we’re burning daylight”,  “It isn’t rocket surgery”, “back to one”  just to name a few.

One quote I particularly like is: “We can do this one of two ways. Either My Way, or  My Way Angry.” This statement is also known as “my way or the highway”, if you prefer. That really has no application to this story whatsoever, but the black and white of the statement is darn true that it makes me smile, so I wanted to share it. Sometimes, you have to choose and commit to one side of the coin, and see how your luck fares.

Fortunately, wine is rarely such a black and white world.

Everyone can have their own opinion about wine. And we all do! Not everyone is going to want the 1892 Haut Brion, the Screaming Eagle, the Romanee-Conti Grand Cru…but those are some of my fairy tale wines, my “Once Upon A Time” bottle dreams. Feel free to send me one! The JvB Make-A-Wine-Wish Foundation…well, it has a certain je ne sais quoi, doesn’t it?  But I digress.

 

Likewise, we are going to have disappointments. Not every bottle is going to be good.

 

Today was a great reminder of that lesson. I met with a winemaker and we had a lovely lunch and conversation. But something went wrong with the shipping, and to no fault of the winemaker,  his wine (the whole point of our meeting) just didn’t make it.  So when the waiter came by and asked what we’d like to drink, I said something that often reaps killer rewards. “What are the unusual or weird wines on your list?” I asked. Usually a sommelier or wine director has some unusual picks on (or off their list) that have personal meaning, maybe at a great value. Trying their “insider” wines can be like being handed a gift- a killer pairing, a great value, or a rare wine. He pointed, I nodded. Let’s give it a try!

 

Not today. Oh, no, not a chance.

 

Today was the first time that the “unusual” wine on the list was truly sub-par. It showed brett, showed far too much alcohol, and I felt, accurately or not, that it was a major blunder on my part. The winemaker and I laughed it off- but I really wished that his wines had arrived, or that I’d had my own cellar handy so we could have enjoyed and tried a few different things.

 

It’s important to remember, that whether it is a glass or bottle of wine, business, politics, or marriage:
Not Every Day Is Going To Be A Win.

I’m going to take that one step further: Not every glass is doing to be a win.
“Yes, JvB,” you’re thinking, “That’s obvious.” Sometimes it is obvious. Other times, not so much.

I am constantly telling people that the old wine rules no longer matters and that we should all “Drink What They Like” but at the same time, I also want everyone to try something new, to step out of their habits and taste a different grape, region, or winemaker. And for every few people who thank me for turning them on to a great wine that increases their love of wine, there is someone who hated it.

 

Learn and move forward. Not Every Day Is Going To Be A Win.

 

A cool thing did happen at my meeting today. This winemaker said a lot of things that made a lot of sense to me. I was secretly thrilled to hear him talk about making room in the vineyards and planting grapes specifically to make a great rosé wine. Why? Because I’ve heard other winemakers tell me how much of a drag it can be to make rosé for their customers, and when someone is passionate about making great wine, you can see their determination, understand their struggle, and taste the results, win or lose.

 

If every glass was a win, we would not appreciate the path, the struggle, or the passion that goes into the glass. 

 

Accept that it takes hard work, it takes grit, determination, and often several failures, to finally achieve success.

 

When we finally drink that wine, it tastes better than we can imagine. 

 

Not every glass can be a win. But when you find one, I hope that you will appreciate it that much more, because of what it takes to make the jump from ordinary to extraordinary.

Here’s to you finding, and loving, your fairytale wine.

And then, you can tell us: “Once Upon A Time…”

à votre santé!

Sybille Kuntz Riesling Spätlese 2013 Trocken

30 May

Sybille Kuntz Mosel-Riesling Spätlese 2013 Trocken, Mosel, Germany. 13%ABV, $17/bottle Average (street).

The color is a clear, pale gold. The nose offers aromas of honey, hibiscus, lime, wildflowers, slate, and just a hint of petrol. On the palate, beautifully muted and subtle tropical fruit that moves to the back of the tongue and shifts upwards, while acidity soars across the mouth. Bringing air to the blend, the white flesh fruit emerges, as cleanly as the color. Tertiary notes of limestone and wet slate, while the finish goes on and on.


Whoa. I have never heard of Sybille Kuntz but I love her style. This wine is bone dry, with a sweet nose. It has the precision of a perfectly tuned Porsche and the style of a perfect island sunset. This is a gorgeous, delightful wine which happens to be both organic and biodynamic, created from vines that are 60-80 years old. Kuntz makes this look so easy, but making a wine like this is anything but easy. This kind of sophistication requires decades of dedication, an understanding of the land, the grape, the process, and so much more.

Sybille Kuntz is making stunning Riesling.

 

 

When my brain put all these pieces together, my first cogent thought was “this is one hell of a winemaker.”

There is passion in this bottle, and passion in the glass.

Here’s how much I like this wine: I didn’t try to pair it with ANYTHING. It was too good by itself. OK, I’ll think about it: it would be stellar with asian cuisine, especially Thai, Chinese, and Japanese, while being powerful enough to handle Korean kimchi and BBQ.  More specifically: this wine will elevate shellfish, cured meats (think speck, jamon, and capicola), medium-bodied cheeses,  fruits, and vegetables. After writing this, I did a touch of research to which restaurants have Sybille Kuntz’s wines. Here are some in the NYC area that will make your mouth water: Per Se, Momofuku, Nobu, Blue Ribbon Sushi, Tribeca Terroir, and Blue Hill.   Yeah. I was impressed, too.

 

The only negatives I have for this wine are picky. One, I quickly wanted a lot more of it. Two, I’m hooked and can’t wait to taste any wine Kuntz makes in the future. Three, there are people I need to pour a glass  of this riesling who are going to have the exact same issues with numbers  1 and 2 above.

Click Here for a link to her website. But be warned, you’ll still salivate for more.

 

à votre santé!

 

Locations Wine OR 4- The Sugar Ray of Pinot Noir?

20 May

Locations Wine OR 4, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA.  15% ABV, SRP $20/Bottle.

 

Color is a dazzling, translucent red with a pale magenta center ebbing into a deep salmon. It’s quite a glorious color, that my photography can only hint at. The nose invites you to drink deep with aromas of cherry, red plum, eucalyptus & menthol, and just a hint of forest floor. On the palate: mature fruit is on the forefront with beautiful acidity. Secondary notes of spice box, granite, dust, chalky clay, and sodium follow up with a medium finish. This wine is simply gorgeous; 100% pinot noir, but it has a strong mid palate and solid back palate. It’s still a medium-bodied wine overall, but it is without doubt a decadent, muscular pinot that kicks ass, perhaps best compared to Sugar Ray Robinson, the famous welterweight and middleweight boxing champion?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was surprised by the 15%ABV, usually I complain about alcohol levels this high but this wine made me cry for more.
Where are you going to find a killer Oregon Pinot blend from Dave Phinney for an SRP under 20$/bottle? BOOM. I already tried to find more, and my closest vendor was sold out. (I found another!) This stuff is amazing wine, at a tremendous value, period.

 

If you have read my reviews of other Location Wines, you’ll know that normally I enjoy Dave Phinney’s wines over the course of a week with a few family members who love red wines… well, that was not the case with this one. I opened it for a quick taste and was floored by the wine. Admittedly, I drank half the bottle after opening, and the remainder on the next evening, keeping this amazing juice entirely for myself. Don’t worry, I’ve already bought enough to share. But it’s rare for me to have this kind of fanatic reaction to a wine, where I will pour a one pounce taste, then two more ounces, then several more ounces just because I’m enjoying the wine so much.

Since I’m a fan of drinking what you like, I’m going to figure out which of my local retailers can keep this on hand for me. So that when you come over to visit, I will know what you want to openthe wine that pound for pound, I can’t put back down. While I only met him once, I think that Sugar Ray would have approved.

 

à votre santé

 

Wine Fraud/WineRant: When Drinking What You Like Is Impossible

15 May

Usually, I like receiving money.  Today just isn’t one of those days.

Allow me to explain…

 

I’m looking at a cheque that sits in front of me, untouched on my table, and it makes me seethe. Yes, the mere existence of this piece of paper angers me. For if I deposit the check, it means I legally accept that a debt owed to me has been paid, albeit horridly underpaid. And this paltry cheque is nothing compared to what I purchased and the seller confirmed, then failed to deliver. I can not emotionally absolve the seller for not only failing to complete the transaction, but actually cheating me, because this was done with intent. And wine is more to me than a commodity. It represents so much: happiness, community, decadence, serenity, -and certain special wines mean even more. You know what I mean, if you’ve had one of those rare, gorgeous, transcendent wines, and you ache to find more. And eventually you find some, and you pay for it and believe that it’s yours, until it’s taken away.

Just looking at this cheque reminds me of an awful thing. It reminds me that I am a member of a horrid club, the group of more than 2,300 customers who purchased wines from Premiere Cru in California and didn’t receive their wines.

just kidding

I was smart in that my first purchase was for only two bottles, which I received in a timely manner. The second purchase, for six bottles, took longer to receive, but the wines were well-packed, exactly what I ordered, and were a delight to drink. It was more than a year later, at a time I was flush from completing a huge project when I was searching to order a few more bottles of a specific white burgundy that is very special to me, in essence my personal equivalent of crack cocaine- I saw the name on a list and all I could do was say “yes, please!”  I picked up the phone, confirmed they were available, gave my payment information, and waited. And waited. And the rest, as they say, is history.

 

This is not the first time I have lost on a deal in the wine world. Oh yes, I’ve failed before. I trusted sellers to hold up their end of business, and was shocked when they didn’t.    
-I went through a period in which I followed and participated in a number of wine auctions with (mostly) pleasant experiences, until I purchased a lot at auction in which _all_ the bottles had cooked. I specifically use the word “purchased” where the auction house would use “won”. I don’t say “won” because it is insulting, to say the least. Of a dozen successful auctions, this is the purchase that essentially killed auctions for me, and now makes my blood boil when I see an advertisement from this house. I can recall blogging about how much I was enjoying auctions five years ago…exactly six months before I opened my cooked bottles from auction.

The fact that the entire lot had cooked demonstrates improper storage, which is much harder to accept as a buyer than one corked bottle from a lot, when the auction is from a top house and the wines are touted as being “removed from professional storage”.

 

-I purchased a case of a gorgeous burgundy wine from a respected retailer at a great price and waited patiently for the wines to arrive. On the phone I was promised a few days to three weeks, max before I received the wine. Ultimately I waited a half a year for resolution, for the wines still had not arrived, teaching me the importance of the word: “pre-arrival” in advertising. As opposed to en primeur, aka purchasing wine futures (pre-bottling), this vendor said the wines would arrive within days, not weeks…and after call after call, I found out so much of the story it made me livid: “The shipping container was filled by another order, so your wine had to wait for the next one, which is scheduled in three weeks. Oh, that might be three months. The negociant bumped our order, but we’re next…” This charade went on and on. I had purchased the wines in early August, intending to drink them in September, since they’d be available “almost immediately”, I was told over the phone when ordering. By March, I was incensed. After writing a letter to the company and detailing the issues, I was finally offered a refund or an exchange. I accepted the exchange to a similar Burgundy, (a slightly lower quality at a higher price I had to ‘buy up’ for, of course) but I was furious because they had advertised something they could not accurately provide- and so I didn’t do business with this company for several years. After being personally invited to a complimentary tasting at their shop, however, I started buying from them again,  -but only wines that are in stock, in small quantities- with satisfaction.

 

What lessons have I learned? 

 

Build personal relationships with your vendors. You might be big or small in their eyes, but people will think twice about losing you and often work hard to help you and retain your business relationship if there is a personal connection.

Confirm you are purchasing wines that a vendor has in-stock.  Respect the word “pre-arrival” and know exactly what risk that entails (that you are paying for something the seller does not have either in inventory, or under their control).

-To take smaller risks with a vendor, buy in small amounts. This is simple, but can be hard to do sometimes.

-To take delivery in person when possible. This helps with each of the above lessons and practices.

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Premiere Cru was selling wines far below their competition…because it was a ponzi scheme.

If you buy at auction, be aware of everything that means. Read the fine print, and accept that you might be bidding on something you won’t or can’t drink.

 

The good news, dear reader, is that I learned, and have grown, from experience.

I stopped doing business with companies I could not trust, and I found vendors who are reputable and who work harder to maintain customer satisfaction. The more I learn about wines and the more winemakers I meet, the more “desert island” wines I find, and the more relationships I build both with winemakers and vendors. This constantly provides me far more quality wines to taste and enjoy- and more great, afforable wines to share with you! Where in the past I went crazy for a specific chateau and vintage, these days I am more a fan of winemakers and their philosophy. If I were to qualify that by comparing it with a food analogy, then instead of wanting to re-create a great meal, I want to go re-visit that chef and taste what they are doing currently. If I can manage to score another bottle of a great vintage, then that’s a lovely treat, but these days I’m so very happy when I can get a few bottles of recent releases  from a winemaker whose work I really enjoy.

Thanks for letting me share,

and maybe you’ll learn from my mistakes,

or share your own mistakes with me. 

Lastly…

I’d really like your opinion:

What should I do with that cheque?

 

à votre santé!

Natura Wines: Vegan Friendly, Organic, & Delicious!

10 May

Emiliana Natura Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2016, Casablanca Valley, Chile. Stelvin closure ; 13%ABV, Street price $10/bottle.

Color is pale straw. The nose offers grapefruit, lime zest, a hint of sea spray, and a touch of funk. The palate is a citrus and tropical fruit blend with an easy, soft finish. A nice balance of fruit and acidity, with enough going on to make this complex blend capable to complement  food nicely. An easy-to-drink, afternoon-on-the-porch wine, it shines when paired with fish or white meat- I loved the pairing with grilled cod, baked chicken breast, and steamed grilled vegetables.

For my vegan friends, this is one of the winemakers you should seek out- and it could not be easier: a few taps on the keyboard and find a supplier near you.

 

Emiliana Natura Rosé 2016, Rapel Valley, Chile. Stelvin Closure, 12% ABV; Street price $10/ Bottle

Very pale pink in color. The nose offers a hint of watermelon and strawberry. On the palate, gentle red fruit- young cherry and strawberry, together with a smattering of white peach. Nice acidity to rinse the palate; but a gentler, delicate wine for certain. A rosé blended from syrah, cabernet sauvignon and merlot that spent three months aging in stainless steel, this is an excellent offering in the realm of organic, vegan-friendly wine that is easy on the wallet and perfect for the environment.

 

 

Emiliana Natura Carmenere 2015, Colchagua Valley, Chile. Stelvin Closure, 13.5% ABV; Street price $ 10/Bottle.

Color is garnet center with a deep red-brick middle, shifting to a dark purple edging. Nose of mature red fruit, spice and hints of earth. On the palate: overly ripe cherry,  red plum, raspberry with secondary note of potting soil, cocoa, and pepper, while hints of the valley’s terroir (chalk, granite & clay), allspice and cedar appear further into the medium finish. This wine really improves with air and time, and over the week of tasting and pairing with various foods from grilled meats to heavier cheeses to chocolate. With each day, the medium body filled out slightly and the wine shifted more from fruit-forward back into center of the tannin, acidity, and flavor profile. My guests didn’t comment on “wow this is an organic, all-natural wine”, but they drank glass after glass with roast and vegetables, tore into the wine with burgers, and even tossed back the final glass with a slice of pizza. It was a crowd-pleaser to say the least. I would suggest adding carmenere to your cellar if you haven’t already, and adding this one in particular- especially if you like tasty wines made with all-organic, natural practices that are a great value! I know I’ll be buying more of this for my personal stock, no question.

 

 

à votre santé!

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