Zeitlos by Markus Wine Company

10 Dec

I love drinking Syrah in the wintertime. So it was no surprise to me that I had held on to a sample from Markus Wine Company and ‘found’ it months later, not where I’d expect it with my tasting queue, but rather hidden within my rack of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and similar Rhône delicacies. It made me wonder, “Why did I hide this from myself?” But after months of road travel and an opportunity to walk in my cellar and pick a bottle to drink and enjoy, that bottle is where my eye landed. And I thought, “Based on the reds I have tasted from Markus, this wine would really be best in ten years”, but I will have to pick up a case to make that happen, now that I’ve opened and tasted it. Because whoa, this is so delicious that this bottle will not last the night!

 

Markus Wine Co. 2015 Zeitlos; Lodi, California. 14.6% ABV, SRP $39/bottle(Sample).

 

Color is ruby center with purple edging. The nose offers blue and black fruit, violets, and red pepper. On the palate is a beautifully proportioned sense of fruit: blue plum and blueberries on the front palate, blackberries on the mid-palate, and red plum on the top/back palate. Some green herbs, sage and fresh oregano are evident, with a very long finish that shows beautiful cranberry/raspberry with loam, silt and sand. This wine is beautifully balanced and the tannins are FIRM. My mouth tells me that not only do I want another sip, but the fruit flavors are very long-lasting on the tongue.

 

The Zeitlos blend is 76% Syrah, with small amounts of Viognier, Carignan, and Petite Syrah. 

 

Zeitlos reminds me a LOT of the famous (also hard to get and incredibly pricey) Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hemitage, a famous Rhône blend for those who don’t know it, only with a touch more blue fruit and more herbal and mineral notes. But that beautiful fruit and tannin makes this wine ideal for grilled meats.

While in Atlanta recently, I was fortunate to have dinner with several life-long friends. We drank wines that cost two to three times this wine’s SRP at well-known steak houses, but I wish this wine had been available. And after opening this bottle to try with chicken wings and hot sauce, this wine begged for prime proteins so much that I wanted to put both a rack of lamb in the oven and a porterhouse on the grill. Easily said: Zeitlos made me want big, bold flavors which could be translated into meat, or perhaps grilled portobello mushrooms (if you happen to be vegetarian). If you’re looking for that perfect holiday bottle to pair with winter vegetables or a roast, Zeitlos may be the ideal choice. Made in small batches (only 75 cases), each bottle is individually numbered, made with passion by an independent winemaker. So the bottle is rare to find and absolutely unforgettable once you’ve tasted it! It’s a perfect holiday gift bottle, if you can hang on to it for that long.  I might bring this to dinner as a gift, but I’d insist the host open it so it could be enjoyed immediately. 

 

Currently, Markus is selling his 2016 Zeitlos in pre-release. If you are a Syrah fan, this is a wine that you’d wat to snap up, enjoy, and cellar a few extra bottles. If you invite me over, I’ll bring the meat, and my serious thirst for Zeitlos.

 

Note: If you are one of those people who does not really care for red wines, then you should check out Markus Niggli’s line of white blends and varietals. I was impressed highly when I first tasted them in Lodi, and when I managed to spend a little more time with his wines, I was entirely blown away by his winemaking style and the flavors and elegance he evokes from his creations! They are ethereal and gorgeous, and offer great value in comparison to wines that would drink as well. Trust me- your mouth will thank you, and you can thank me later.

 

#WIYG?  (What’s in YOUR glass?)

 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

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Drink the Old Stuff: Lafon Bourgogne 2011

30 Nov

Having a cellar is a double-edged sword.

 

I love having wines to cherish, wines to age, wines to hold for the future. But there is also a downside.

 

Sometimes I hold a wine for too long. I have wines from the 80’s that are past their prime, but I love to drink them just the same, to remember those years.

Here is a lone bottle I found hiding in my cellar, the hang tag was correct on but my eye glossed over it because it was on a lower shelf and I passed it by too often: A seven year-old white Burgundy!

 

This is a delicate chardonnay that has pleased me many times in the past, I know immediately while looking at the label that this has been resting in my cellar for too long, recalling that the last bottle showed fading fruit and acidity. “Corked, oxidized, or simply undrinkable?” I wonder.  I prepared myself for the worst as I removed the foil and extracted the cork.  Fortunately, I need not have worried.

 

Dominique Lafon Bourgogne Blanc 2011, Beaune, France. 13% ABV; Purchased in bulk from Garagiste years ago- currently as low as $32/bottle online.

 

Color is a robust, fall hay/warm gold tone. The nose offers delicate white fruit and hints of floral essence. On the palate is a creamy blend of white fleshy fruit, white peach and apple, gently muted, and low acidity. The finish has a pleasing but languorous lemon pith with hints of rosemary and lavender.   

This bottle would certainly be classified as “past prime drinking window” but I have to say, the restrained strength , the muted acidity and delicate fruit are fascinating qualities that were fun to taste! As I have enjoyed a case of this wine over the years since I purchased it, the evolution has been delightful and it’s no different from driving a classic car or watching a beautiful sunset dip below the horizon. As a witness, one can enjoy it even more because they have seen it grown up, they appreciate the evolution, and understand the entire circle of life.

The gold remaining in the glass!

 

 

I was happy this bottle had not oxidized or faulted, but instead, demonstrated the original balance, even past maturity and into retirement. I wish I had another bottle to share with fellow oenophiles and compare with decades old Bordeaux and red Burgundy.

 

I did not want to pair this with food, as I was too enthralled and simply had taste after taste of this bottle until I put it away for a second day’s tasting. On day 2, it had not changed a bit, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, to completion of the bottle.

 

May you and I be so lucky to mature with such refinement and grace.

 

Perhaps this post can serve as a reminder to have a look in your cellar, and see what treasures you might want to open before they no longer provide the drinking pleasure they are designed to provide.

 

à votre santé!

Beaujolais Rosé! Beaujolais Nouveau!

18 Nov

If you aren’t a huge fan of Beaujolais Nouveau, I understand. It’s not for everyone. OK, it is for everyone- but some oenophiles aren’t always fans. I get it- you know wine intimately, and maybe you feel that you need something special.  

Well, as a wine lover who spent decades celebrating the annual arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau, at some point in my 40’s I turned nearly entirely to Cru Beaujolais from this region. Let’s be honest, I might have even gotten a little snobby… maybe because I held a bottle of Nouveau too long (ugh), and then tried a bottle of CRU- and “damn, that tastes SO good!” After some time, when my wine merchants and friends asked me about Nouveau, I politely turned them down.

Well, not this year. Turn your attitude around, and get on the bandwagon. (I did!) This is a year to celebrate! This vintage will reward you, with great flavor, mouthfeel, and value for Nouveau. 

2018 is THE year for great gamay. And Duboeuf made a great Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé.

Let that sink in for just a moment. This rosé is the first of its kind sold in the USA.

So get thee to a wine merchant and buy some of the best gamay you may have in a lifetime. 2018 has been called “Legendary”  when it comes to Beaujolais Nouveau. So when this is a wine that you can get for $9-12 a bottle street price… why wouldn’t you? To share legendary wine that costs maybe $2 a glass? HELLO… no-brainer here.

“But what about your tasting notes?” You say? OK, fine. You got it!

Vins de Georges Duboeuf  Beaujolais Rosé Nouveau 2018,  A.O.C. Beaujolais; France. 12.5% ABV; SRP $13.99/bottle.

Pale pink in color, the nose offers rose bush and young red fruit. On the palate: notes of strawberry, yellow peach, lemon rind with grapefruit juice on the finish. Beautifully dry, with a pleasing, tart mouthfeel.  Made from 100% gamay grapes, which are pressed manually in whole bunches and fermented in stainless steel.

This is a wine I want to drink while cooking or watching football…I toasted a cheese quesadilla while pouring a glass, snacked while watching the game and looked down to realize I’d polished off TWO glasses, not one. This is that easy to drink, so don’t limit yourself to only one bottle!  This drinks beautifully by itself, with appetizers, veggies, pizza or similar light fare. For heavier protein, why not hit the classic gamay wine? (Below.) I know I would. This is a great way to start the evening and keep things moving. if you think you like rosé, you have GOT to get this in your game. But remember, it won’t last long. Nouveau is meant to be drunk young, so get it, and drink it.

Vins de Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2018,  A.O.C. Beaujolais; France. 13% ABV; SRP $13.99/bottle.

Color  is a bright, lively purple with ruby edging. The nose offers boysenberry and mixed fruit compote. On the palate are ripe raspberry, plum, and cassis. Along with a fuller body and mouthfeel, the finish has a hint more sweetness than the bone-dry rosé, and evokes a fruit bowl finish, with a touch of granite, bitter cassis, and youthful tannins. Yum! One of the most delightful Beaujolais Nouveau wines I have experienced, ever, hands-down. This is from 20+ year-old vines, cold fermented in stainless steel.

This gamay will pair with heavier proteins, from chicken and pork, to red meats and game. The hint of sweetness also links with the yam and corn from the season, or complements the leafy greens of collards, kale, brussel sprouts, even beets and  cauliflower.

Duboef reminds us on the label: “The First Wine of the Harvest!” and it’s important to remember that this is drunk by the pitcher in France upon arrival, celebrating the harvest and its completion. What could be better, in an ideal year, than to join in? You’ll enjoy it! This is a wine that calls to mind the decadence of the king’s hall from the Renaissance era, images of wines poured into a flagon and glasses always kept brimming. 2018 is definitely a year to enjoy, and imbibe. At this price, don’t miss out on one of the best values since the 2009 Bordeaux futures.

Serve these wines slightly chilled, and enjoy. Trust me, you will!  But as always, please drink responsibly.

à votre santé!

Wines for Thanksgiving, 2018

10 Nov

It’s that time of year. No, not the Christmas music I’m already hearing.

It’s time to prep for Thanksgiving!

 

Thanksgiving is one of the holidays that made me start this blog so many years ago. It was the time of year in which I’d get email after email, phone call after phone call asking me “What wine should I serve for this special meal?”

 

Over the years, I’ve provided options for a variety of situations. In 2010 I explained why I think four wines is the minimum for a large Thanksgiving dinner party.  Back in 2015 I wrote Thanksgiving Wine: Street Exchange with a Beer Drinker that has become more popular over time with the working stiff crowd, especially for those who are not as comfortable with serving wine and are really looking for ONE bottle for their family’s table. EDITOR’S ASIDE: (If this describes you this year, I DO have a pick for you: the 2017 Lange Twins Rosé of Sangiovese. At $15, it serves every need you might have, and is such a delight to drink, people will think you actually know wine. Just saying.)  Back to your scheduled oenophile content:  

But as a very proud American who is also an old-world wine lover and avowed Francophile, I feel very strongly that that this holiday should be celebrated with American wines. And my suggestions will continue to reflect that!

Something that hasn’t changed: with a) a large group of people and palates to please, and b) a series of dishes that vary wildly in flavor, texture, and temperature, I still like the idea of no less than four wines: a lighter white wine, a serious white,  a delicate red, and a full-bodied red.

So here are my 2018 Thanksgiving Wines: 

 

Viognier: In the past, I used Riesling as my go-to here. But Sue & Rodney Tipton at Acquiesce Winery make such a delightful Viognier- it’s a gently flavored white wine that will please any palate, and this is ideal for the non-drinker or the delicate flower in your group. For $26/bottle, I find this a massive bargain, and a great wine to start the meal with.

Chardonnay:  I’ve narrowed it down to two possible bottles in my cellar: Harney Lane’s 2017 Chardonnay from Lodi, or DuMOL’s 2016 Russian River Valley. The Harney Lane is a beautiful expression of the grape and a wonderful California chardonnay with an ideal balance of oak- not too much, nor too little- making a creamy and flavorful balance, savory with perfect fruit and acidity, with a SRP of $28. And California’s DuMOL might tell your mouth you’re knocking back a very pricey white Burgundy! It’s soft, balanced, simply gorgeous– and a little on the high side (over $50/bottle). The downside is you have to join a waitlist to buy direct, but their wines are available at Wine.com, Wine Library.com, Sokolin.com, and many other online retailers that ship across the USA, and even some local high end retailers who carry the best of California wines. Totally worth the weight. And if we bounce through one of these bottles, I’ll open the other. No problem!

Rosé (ok, actually two of them on my lineup this year):
a) Still Rosé:
Leah Jorgensen Rosé of Cabernet Franc. When I pour this $22 bottle, people lose themselves in ecstasy. I don’t know what she’s putting in the bottle beyond the grape juice, but the wine simply sings of pure fruit, delightful acidity, and beauty. Leah is a brilliant winemaker that you should be aware of, period!

b) Sparkling Rosé: The time I spent in Yakima recently certainly influenced this year’s Thanksgiving choices! I’ll be serving an $18 bottle of sparkling rosé from Treveri Cellars. The Treveri Sparkling rosé you can buy online is made of syrah and chardonnay and is a real crowd-pleaser, while my personal favorite is their tasting room rosé, which is only available in person at the tasting room. This is half pinot noir and half chardonnay and has an old-world charm that sings to me.


Sparkling Shiraz: The pièce de résistance this year might be this wine!
 Treveri Cellars also makes a $20 sparkling shiraz that has such vibrant notes of cranberry, I immediately knew I had to serve this for Thanksgiving! My gut is that it’s going to be a smashing success. But I’ve not actually tried this wine with a savory meal yet- so I’ll make sure to report back with my annual Thanksgiving Postmortem and let you know what my guests thought of this choice- and the others! I am SO excited to hear what my guests think of this wine with the main meal!

Cabernet Franc, for my annual ‘delicate red’ wine. Traditionally it would be a pinot noir -and there are plenty to choose from from the USA- for this old world Burgundy fan. But I’ve been absolutely blown away by the beauty of balance of the cabernet franc from Owen Roe winery. So I have one bottle of $28 Owen Roe’s Rosa Mystica, a wine that totally wrecked me -in a good way- and I plan on putting this on my Thanksgiving Table. This Yakima Valley red is really gorgeous and drinks like an old-world red – I simply can’t wait to try the pairing with turkey and gravy!

Zinfandel: I have two bottles I am going to decide between: a rare and hard to gain Turley, of which I have ONE bottle (and it’s a hoarder bottle I’m loath to open) and my favorite Zin on the planet, Lizzy James OVZ again from Lodi’s Harney Lane. I could almost as easily choose their standard Zin, the Scottsboro Zin, or even their Syrah- but I am just in love with the gnarly, curled old vines and the magical fruit they produce. The wine is big, bold, yet refined and polarizing. Any time I have opened a bottle of the $36 Lizzy James, it has changed lives at the table. It’s a small price to pay, that’s all I’m saying.

 

So- let me know what you think about my picks, and what you plan to open for your Thanksgiving this year! 

 

à votre santé!

Owen Roe

5 Nov

I kept putting off my post about my visits to Owen Roe Winery. Partially I must admit, a tiny part of me wanted to keep them a secret, like something precious and highly valued that only when you’re ready, you share with your closest confidant. And part of me is a little anxious to see this winery become monstrously famous… which will happen, I do not doubt.

But you, my dear friends and readers, you are my innermost circle.

So allow me to share with you my best find of 2018, Owen Roe Winery.

 

Named after the 17th century Irish Patriot, Owen Roe is a beautiful winery that is tucked into the hills in the Yakima Valley. Between Union Gap and Wapato, just east of the Yakima river on a beautiful hillside is a series of vineyards in which the winemaking facility is located.

But when I first visited, I didn’t think about the vineyards. I just went to taste the wines. It wasn’t until I had tasted the wines and had time to reflect on them that I wanted to learn more. So I did- and I went back with friends (an entire busload of friends, to be honest) and to see the winery in action during crush and harvest- and to re-taste the wines that impressed upon me previously.

 

Before I get to the wines, I have a tiny bit more to tell you. Owen Roe was founded by two couples, Angelica & David O’Reilly, and Julie & Ben Wolff, with their first vintage produced in 1999. While David O’Reilly was the winemaker for many years, their current winemaker is rising star Jackie Evans. She and cellar master François Dereeper have been with Owen Roe since 2013. They are making some serious wines.


Owen Roe Winery’s cellar master François Dereeper (left), and winemaker Jackie Evans (right)

 

Owen Roe 2016 Abbot’s Table; Columbia Valley Wa. 14.1% ABV, SRP $24/bottle.

Color is magenta with garnet edging, with cassis, green cuttings and tobacco leaf on the nose. On the palate: a complex compote of red plum, tart cherry, and raspberry with notes of green pepper, forest floor, and cigar box. An awe-inspiring blend of 47% Sangiovese, 22% Zinfandel, 19% Blaufrankish and 12% Malbec. This wine is so perfectly balanced by itself, yet cries for food. So, I bought a bottle and sated that need- with anything and everything I ate, it was made better with this new world blend of old world flavor. Brilliant now, but could easily age ten years. A home run, this should be in every American restaurant.

 

Owen Roe 2016 Sinister Hand; Columbia Valley, WA 14.1% ABV, SRP $28/bottle.

Don’t let the name fool you. This is a classic Rhône blend of GSMC (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault) on steroids.
Garnet in color, rich in the dark red and black fruit on the nose with a hint of cocoa. Cassis, blackberry, with fig and plum jam. Secondary notes of strawberry and mocha, red pepper, hints of clove, vanilla, and fennel, with cedar, granite, sand, loam, mixed berries and potting soil on the long finish. This is old world blending of new world grapes, the opposite of Abbots Table- and just so nicely balanced, rich flavors, and gossamer in texture.

 

Owen Roe 2016 Malbec; Yakima Valley, WA; 14% ABV, SRP $28/bottle.

Deep ruby with magenta edging. Rose bush and red fruit on the ample nose. Stunning blackberry, blue plum, and black cherry on the palate with velvet mouthfeel, big dark chocolate notes with saddle leather, dark oak and wet leaves. If you dig Malbec, you need to get this in your cellar.

 

 

Owen Roe Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc, $28/bottle.

Color is medium ruby with garget edging, the nose offers cherry and raspberry with mocha and a hint of rose bush. On the palate, strawberry jam, red plum and cherry are followed by notes of pepper, wet stone, fennel and lavender. Beautifully made, elegant and balanced– this is a luscious wine that offers a great value in this price range!

I took my first sip of this cab franc and had a “whoa” moment, impressed by the quality of the winemaking. Finishing my taste of Rosa Mystica, I realized how special Owen Roe’s wines really are.

A few minutes later The Pearl Block cab franc was in my glass and that upped the ante-  I simply could not imagine where this wine had been hiding, and how they managed to make a wine that stood on the shoulders of all the others.

 

Owen Roe 2015 “The Pearl Block” Union Gap Vineyard, Cabernet Franc. 14%ABV, SRP $72/bottle.

Color is deep ruby, the nose offers red plum, raspberry, wildflowers and hints of tobacco leaf. On the palate is a luxurious blend of red fruit, green pepper, and forest floor. The mouthfeel is exotic, supple and elegant; medium bodied with impressive structure in the balance of fruit, tannin and acidity. If you are remotely a fan of old world French wines, or if you love cab franc- this is your jam. Gorgeously aromatic, showing elegance and beauty in the glass, with structure, a nose and finish that goes on and on. It’s the finest effort of winemaking I’ve seen from the Northwest, period. This wine is amazing. It’s gonna rock your world and leave you wanting more, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. It’s just that. Damn. Good!

Seriously- if you have the means to buy this wine and you love cab franc, get this. This is the finest cabernet franc I’ve had to date, and I was sad to walk away having only purchased two bottles. I haven’t decided if I’ll serve this to my family for Thanksgiving, or more selfishly keep it to share with my oenophile buddies!

 

Most importantly, tasting these wines excites me for the future of what to expect from this team at Owen Roe.

These are world-class wines that deliver far more than you’d expect, even in the over $60 mark, providing great value and QPR. Just taste the wines, and let your mouth decide.

 


 

 

 

As you can see, I liked what I tasted at Owen Roe. So much that  (as I mentioned previously) I went back with a busload of friends, to see more, taste, and explore.

 

What I found is that it’s no mistake the wines from Over Roe are as good as they are. I tasted the fruit fresh from the vineyards, and had the chance to watch some of the harvest operations. These choices are made very carefully, with excellent results from a team who is talented and working diligently to make world-class wine.

 

A hopper of freshly-picked Cabernet Sauvignon grapes heading to the press

 

 

One of the presses used at Owen Roe

 

The pomace or marc- the remnants after pressing

 

 

 


This is the cap over a container of pressed juice in the process of becoming wine

The juice is tested and the cap is punched down multiple times daily.

 

 

The cellar team’s daily notes on the side of an active bin!

 


Craig Singer, Owen Roe’s Executive Chef & Tasting Room Manager, showing off one more spectacular bottle. He is THE person to talk to about food and wine pairings, menus, recipes, and finding your personal favorite wine at Owen Roe!  

 

 

 


After wine tasting, our group lines up to buy bottles to take home! There was no mistake here- We visited several vineyards, but people lined up to buy bottle after bottle at Owen Roe. So you know- It wasn’t just me! 

 

Owen Roe is my best find of 2018, and their flagship The Peal Block Cabernet Franc rocks my wine world. 

What is YOUR top find of 2018?

à votre santé!

International #TempranilloDay 11.8.18!

30 Oct

Did you know November 8th is International Tempranillo Day?
Well,  NOW YOU DO!

Bodegas Lan Rioja Gran Reserva 2010; Fuenmayor, Spain. 13.5%ABV, SRP $23/bottle.

 

Color is ruby with magenta edging. The nose is vast and expressive with red cassis and plum, tobacco leaf, eucalyptus, cigar box,  and forest floor. On the palate is a lively series of dark red fruit with so much spice: mocha, vanilla, oak, licorice, leather, and spice box. Medium bodied, full-flavored, and so much fun to drink!

 

This lusty, vibrant red is a blend of primarily (94%) Tempranillo with 4% Mazuelo(aka carignan), spending 24 months in oak barrels before maturing 36 months in the bottle. The time spent aging this shows quite nicely, and is well worth the effort -especially at this price point.

I poured a glass, thinking it would pair well with my grilled meat & vegetables. Oh, it did, but one taste and immediately I felt like I was in Barcelona again. I just wanted to put my nose in the glass to inhale the luxurious and lengthy nose, then relax and take sip after sip to enjoy the sunset. Delicious, and a lovely value!

And did I mention, it also pairs beautifully with grilled meats, savory dishes and cheeses. Where can you find a decent aged red blend for under $25? #Rioja !

 

#TempranilloDay

#BodegasLAN

#RiojainThreeLetters

 

à votre santé!!

 

What To Drink Next? JvB’s WineBucket List, 2018

21 Oct

As a person who lives a near-insane existence at breakneck speed, it has become quite rare for me to have a moment to contemplate. Even when things should slow down, I find myself trying to catch up. But everyone seems to know about my passion for wine, and it is an endless source of discussion. So the underlying question is inevitably popping up in conversation: “What do you want to drink next?” And the answer is usually (perhaps disappointingly) easy: “What is next in the tasting queue for review?”
Sadly, it’s true. Most of the time I just go reach for the next bottle and start taking notes during dinner… “Oh, how romantic,” you’re thinking,  “JvB’s composing his next social media jaunt.” Sometimes I get to hit my cellar for a special meal or an opportunity, but there are times that I find myself contemplating and daydreaming, “What do I REALLY want to drink next?”

 

 

Well ok, that may not be everyone’s big question and certainly shows a narrow focus, but as opposed to the questions about the universe, politics, or the future of mankind, this is a question I am WILLING to ask. It’s one of MY big questions. 

There are things, quite simply, that I want to drink. Here are a few tidbits from my Wine Bucket List of things I want to drink:

-the finest pinot noir you can get in the United States. I’m still trying to taste enough to come up with a top ten list, to arrange a tasting and have a collaborate effort.

– one of my favorite chardonnays directly from the barrel/vessel. I want to taste the youthful, unfiltered beauty.

-Vin Jaune while in the Jura. You know that the best things in life grow together/go together. I need to be IN the Jura.

-a vertical of Chateau Margaux in their famed cellar.

-a consummate Barolo at the perfect age.

– hundred-point Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners, as well as 50+ year old Riesling.

But what about the things I want to share? More bucket-list items, but not sure if they will be harder or easier to accomplish, because I want to do them with oenophile friends, or perhaps host at my own modest table:  

-I want to share with friends, a vertical of a tiny property near Chateau Margaux that I have collected for years, but have no idea how it fares.

-I want to do a blind group comparison of a world-renowned Champagne vs a rare-and-highly-rated-but-hard-to-obtain tiny brand Champagne.

-I want to share unicorn wines from Jacques Puffeney and Serge Hochar.

-I want to compare Beaune pinot noir with German Spätburgunder, Piedmont’ Nebbilo, and Burgundian pinot.

-I want to compare a highly aged Italian red to both a French Bordeaux blend and a Napa Valley classic (yes, that’s  comparing cassis to red plum and strawberries, essentially), but simply to do a direct comparison of what similarities and differences there are in reds that have 20-40 years of cellar age.

-I want to do a blind tasting of my favorite Premiere Cru Chablis, and top-rated Chardonnays from the USA, Australia’s Margaret River, and Montrachet.

 

What do you think of my list?  What items are on YOUR wine bucket list?

Maybe we will find a time to cross off a few items together! 

 

à votre santé!

Department 66: Taking Old Vine Grenache To The Extreme

15 Oct

Ten years after buying vineyards in Maury, France (the Roussillon appellation), winemaker Dave Phinney’s release of his latest venture, called Department 66 , has finally hit the USA. These are wines that don’t taste like Phinney’s previous winemaking undertakings; to his admission they are small cluster, tiny yield (only one-half ton per acre!!) and most of the vines are from 60-100 years of age- which delivers a concentrated mouthful of flavor! 

I can hear you thinking: ok JvB, let’s get to the wines! And away we go…

Department 66’s “Fragile” 2017 Rosé of Grenache, with small amounts of Syrah and Carignan. Maury, France. 15% ABV, SRP $18/bottle.

Color is pale pink with just a hint of orange. The nose is of fresh spring strawberries. The palate is a pleasing shot of young, tart strawberry up front, showing bright acidity with a hint of bitterness on the back palate. Heat sings across the top palate from the high ABV, which I only noticed because I was looking for it- others won’t mind, as the tongue is too busy enjoying the dancing red berries and tangerine rind on the front palate. I poured this for several neighbors who, like myself, were simply enchanted by the wine on their very first sip. Best served cold due to the high ABV.

This is the rosé you didn’t think you were going to love until it hits your mouth. It is so “not Provence” that I want to call it an Anti-Rosé. If you like grenache (aka garnacha) and GSM blends, your mouth just might thank you. It is a delicious, decidedly different approach to a different peak, with an entirely different view of what it means to be a rosé. 

 

 

 

 

Department 66’s “Others” 2015 Grenache (with Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre) Catalan Red Wine Blend; Maury, France. 15.2% ABV, SRP $25/bottle.

 

Color is a dark, opaque magenta. The nose offers juicy red plum and chrysanthemum. On the palate, a mixture of dark fruit: cassis, black plum, blueberry with blackberry jam with a touch of forest floor. On the extended finish there are notes of floral herbs, oak, saddle leather, granite, and schist. A monster mouthful of juice that wants to run down your mouth like berries so plum they explode on contact.  

This is a big, full-bodied grenache that is best served just under room temperature and is perfect for smoked and grilled meats, or other powerful flavors that will stand up to bold tannin and structure.  Cabrales cheese, spicy sausage, or savory dishes with heavy sauces could be alternate pairings. The Spanish influence is quite apparent, and if tasted blind I would have suggested Northern Spain, not France. This wine possesses big and bold flavors in a way that juicy California blends have never imagined. 

 

Dave tells his story of Dept. 66 here: 

 

Dave Phinney’s wines have mesmerized me since my first taste of The Prisoner many years ago. He plays by his own set of rules, making delightful wines outside of the standards of the big winemakers, and without corporate constraint. Department 66 is a decidedly different beast, by Phinney’s own admission. He has matured, learned, and this is a new venture, seemingly a personal aspiration. I am fascinated to see what Phinney does next! 

 

To find out more about these wines, click on: https://www.department66.com/

 

#WIYG? Share with me! 

 

à votre santé!

Treveri Cellars: Sparkling Wines From Yakima, WA!

1 Oct

Nestled in the hills above the Yakima River is a hidden haven of bubbles!  Treveri Cellars only makes sparkling wines, all with the methode Champenoise in which secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle, to develop the lovely tiny bubbles we adore from Champagne. If you like sparkling wine and can visit the Yakima Valley, I implore you to take the time to visit Treveri Cellars. It is an easy drive, a delightful place to visit, the winery is picturesque, and the sparkling wines are excellent! 

 

About a three-hour drive from either Portland OR or Seattle WA, rests the Yakima Valley, which includes Washington State’s oldest appellation, the Yakima Valley AVA. Nearby are the Rattlesnake Hills AVA, the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, the Snipes AVA, along with the Columbia Gorge Area, Prosser Area, and Red Mountain Hills Areas, among others. Treveri Cellars is located in the Yakima Valley AVA.

 

 

 New vines being trained, in front. Scores of stacked fruit bins remind us that harvest is currently underway!  

 

 

A tranquil water feature at the entry to the winery. 

 

But let’s get to the wines!

 

Two Treveri Blanc de Blancs are available:  Zero Dosage, and Brut.

Treveri Cellars Blanc De Blanc Sparkling Wine, Yakima Valley AVA, Wapato, WA.  12% ABV, SRP $15/bottle.

Medium straw in color. A delicate nose with barely a hint of apple. On the palate is green apple, bosc pear, and a touch of baking spice. The result is crisp, clean, and absolutely delightful. The Zero Dosage is perfectly dry, while Brut features a tiny hint of sugar that is only perceptible by slightly forward green apple and young pear on the fruit profile.

 

Value, Value, Value!
Did I mention that the suggested retail price is only $15?  Yes, you read that correctly. $15 per 750 ml bottle on the Blanc de Blanc. It’s a killer value that is still slightly under the radar, and it was no surprise to me to find that Treveri Cellars are carried at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, BevMo, Total Wine, and many more! For the record, their sparkling have been used at James Beard Foundation events and by the State Department. Treveri isn’t actually a secret, but you’re getting in early.

 

 

Treveri Cellars Brut Blanc De Noir, Yakima Valley AVA, Wapato, WA.  12% ABV, SRP $20/bottle.

This is a classic Blanc de Noir that stirs my soul. Made from 100% pinot noir, this golden sparkling wine share a nose and flavor palate of fresh strawberry, a hint of apple and ripe pear, and baking spices for an overall experience that is layered and complex with a decadent and creamy mouthfeel. This is what you give to the Champagne snobs in your group; they will be satisfied and appreciative.

 

 

 

Treveri Cellars Rosé of Chardonnay and Syrah, Yakima Valley AVA, Wapato, WA.  12% ABV, SRP $18/bottle.

Their house rosé is made by combining syrah together with chardonnay.  It might be a little unusual but it is absolutely delightful, blending a sense of citrus and white flesh fruit together with tart cherry and cranberry. The color is a warm coral, and the wine is immensely fun with a touch of tart, darker fruit that is unusual in a rosé.

 

 

Jenna Carino tasting Treveri Rosé at the Treveri Cellars Winery.
Photo by Dominic Barbaro

 

Insider’s Note:  if you visit the winery, there is also a Treveri Tasting Room Rosé that is only available at the tasting room. It is made with 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir; as I’m a fan (ok, a superfan) of pinot noir, I immediately took to the tasting room rosé and its pale pink shade, the perfect balance of flavors, with an overtone of brioche. If I could drive home, I’d buy this by the case.

Shhh. The Tasting Room Rosé is available in limited quantities, only at the tasting room. 
Take home a bottle and thank me later. 

 

 

 

 

Treveri Cellars Brut Syrah, Yakima Valley AVA, Wapato, WA.  12.8% ABV, SRP $20/bottle.

Color is deep purple. The nose offers dried rose petals and red plum. On the palate is a blend of cranberry and currants, beautifully, tart, elevating the top and back palates, with solid acidity and nice tannic structure, while being bathed in tiny bubbles. The tartness of this is so delightful! My friend Jenna said it aloud: “Wouldn’t this be perfect for Thanksgiving dinner?”  It really would. And I expect it will be on MY Thanksgiving table this year!

For the folks who only drink red wines, this is your jam, my friends. Take a glass and you can thank me later. 
While I’m suggesting it for the traditional Thanksgiving meal, it has enough oomph to pair with powerful flavors- I actually paired the Brut Syrah with a plate of spicy BBQ brisket while writing this post. Oh yeah, it rocked! 

 

 

After tasting for an hour, the sky changed colors as the sun began to dip behind the mountain range- we relaxed and enjoyed the “magic hour” sunlight on our last flute.

 

Dominic Barbaro enjoying Treveri Cellars’ Sparkling Syrah.
Photo by Jenna Carino 

 

Jennifer Kozumplik enjoying Treveri Sparkling Syrah on a beautiful afternoon!

 

 

Treveri Cellars has even more sparkling wines to taste than the ones I’ve mentioned here, including sparkling Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, and Gewüztraminer, all in the same price range. There is not just something for everyone, but there are several somethings -with bubbles- for everyone.

 

 

#WIYG?

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

 

Gewurztraminer: Alsace and Warm Weather Pairings

21 Sep

Through summer and fall, Gewurztraminer wines from d’Alsace can be the perfect companion for transitioning seasons, perhaps even more with late summer’s outdoor events of festivals, fairs, and concerts.

What’s not to love, with a wine that can rock the heat of summer, or the insane depths of winter?

I mixed and matched these wines for a series of weeks to pair with a bevy of spicy, warm-weather dishes.

 

Beck-Hartweg Dambach-La-Ville Gewuztraminer 2016, Alsace, France. 13%ABV, SRP$20/bottle

Pale straw in color. The nose has a pear and dried apricot with distinctive notes of clove and gunpowder. Superbly dry with a floral mouthfeel followed by fresh ginger note on the finish. On my initial tasting, this wine paired easily with a summer salad of mixed greens with chicken breast, sliced almonds, grape tomatoes, red onion, fresh sweet peas and slices of tangerine. Several subsequent pairings worked nicely with turkey and a chutney sauce, Indian curry, and Asian stir-fry.

 

Gustav Lorentz Gewuztraminer Réserve 2016. Alsace, France.  13.5% ABV, SRP $24/bottle.

Color is an off-clear translucent with a nose of fresh rose petals. On the palate, lychee, fresh pear and citrus are subdued by delightful floral characteristics, showing notes of lilac, african violet, and green cuttings. This is a glamorous wine with a sense of prestige when it hits the mouth. This reserve gewurztraminer goes down so easily you’ll be eager for the second bottle! But beyond drinking delightfully by itself, it pairs SO easily with any kind of summer fare, from American BBQ to spicy Mexican, from Spanish Tapas to grilled seafood.

 

 

 

 

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Calcaire 2016, Alsace, France. 13.5% ABV, $43/bottle SRP

Color is medium straw.  Lychee, tangerine zest and mango on the nose. Very dry on the palate, heat surges across the back palate, sweet nose wafts up while pear drives the fruit home. Lovely mineral finish with sodium and calcium notes. 

18 months in aged French oak, 30 year old vines. This is a gorgeous wine that punches far beyond its price and weight class. One of my favorite pairing meals was grilled flounder served with a spicy habanero chutney.Total perfection: Italian bruschetta: toasted baguette rubbed with raw garlic, coated with diced plum tomatoes that have been tossed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, topped with a fresh basil leaf. By the same token, NY’s “grandma” pizza which has a zestier sauce, a thinner and crisper dough on the square crust, sometimes a touch more sauce ladled on to of the fresh mozzarella.

 

 

 

 

Each of these wines stayed true with a post-meal cheese course, cleansing the palate beautifully for delicate goat cheese, gouda, and a soft blue.

Shocking surprise pairing #1: barbecued pineapple with grilled meat. Whether you grill beef, chicken, pork, lamb, or a combination- the citrus of the gewurztraminer will enhance the sweetness of the grilled fruit (peach and pineapple are my personal favorite) along with the smoke and char on the meat. Simple citrus marinades are your friend here!

Shocking surprise pairing #2: spicy chicken wings and hot chicken strips. Do you like teriyaki or buffalo wings? Anything with Frank’s Hot Sauce deserves a splash of Alsace Gewurztraminer to pair!

But just don’t take my word for it- get your hands on some Vins d’Alsace and share your thoughts with us!

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