Konzelman Estate Winery Merlot #MerlotMe

18 Feb

Konzelman Estate Winery 2015 Merlot, VQA Niagara Peninsula; Canada. 13% ABV, Approx $15CAD/bottle at LCBO.

 

Color is magenta with ruby edging. The gentle nose shows delicate red fruit. The palate features mature cherries, boysenberry, red cassis with soft, velvety tannin, secondary notes of vanilla, potting soil, sour cherry and granite. Medium short finish, this is so easy to drink by itself and pairs easily almost all foods- my favorites include flatbreads, savory soups, and most meats- but it is simply heavenly with dark chocolate.

This could also be a good warm weather wine for those not into pinot or other bold, high acid wines. With an easy-access screw top, this is a great party wine, and one of the most generally ‘easy to drink’ Canadian reds I have tasted to date in the under $20/bottle price range. I’d absolutely keep a few bottles of this in my cellar for occasions where I want a subtle, drinkable red that is easy to serve anytime and then transition into dinner and stay through dessert, or to please the “I only drink red” crowd when I’m serving Puligny-Montrachet. (Hey, that’s OK- drink what you like!)

This wine is compatible and ubiquitous. like the dinner jacket that is flexible enough to dress up your jeans, or dress down comfortably on formal night.

Sorry about the scratch on the label. It in no way affected my enjoyment of the wine!

#MerlotMe

I like this wine. So should any smart wine drinker! But, it’s apparent that in the United States, the Merlot grape sometimes has a bad rap for no good reason. The reality is: Merlot is a great grape as a single varietal, as well as a tremendous red wine blending grape.

From time to time you might find merlot haters. For the average American, films and social media can have major and minor implications, sometimes even just subliminally. When my fellow YSD Alumnus Paul Giammati (as the character Milo) in the 2004 film “Sideways” gave merlot a bad name, yelling “I’m not drinking any (expletive) merlot!” Many viewers remember that scene fondly, while ignoring the fact that in the same film, Milo’s greatest wine treasure is a 1961 Chateau Cheval Blanc, which is a Bordeaux blend containing – yes, you guessed, it- 40% merlot.

Simply put, merlot is the second-most grown grape in the USA and is critical to many of the worlds greatest wines. We can’t love red wines without loving merlot.

We  know this: Miles was WRONG. Let’s all drink the merlot! Hit up your social media outlets with the hashtag #MerlotMe!

à votre santé!

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Valentine’s Day In Canada! Celebrating Apart w/ Vineland Estates Dry Riesling

14 Feb

My wife “Mrs. JvBUnCorked” is a brilliant, stunning, and gorgeous lady. She also does some really cool things! Often it’s directing or producing theatre, events, and TV shows; sometimes it’s rearing our amazing daughters, being our family’s rep to our beloved neighborhood, or developing new works that make you stop and think. As crazy-busy, type-A New Yorkers, we’ll normally ignore holidays and birthdays, knowing that what really matters in our lives are a few simple things: love, family, passion, & community. Well, for this year’s Valentine’s Day, instead of ignoring it together, we actually celebrated it since we’re apart. Since I’m on the road AGAIN & working in another country, she totally surprised me with some local wine to celebrate this Hallmark Holiday! Yay Mrs. JvBUnCorked! And Yay Canada!

Vineland Estates Winery 2016 Dry Riesling, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada. 11% ABV; approx. $15/bottle CAD at LCBO.

Color is medium straw; the nose offers lemon-lime, lychee and white stone fruit. The fruit profile features white pear with tart apple. After the initial rush to the mouth, medium heat steers across the top palate, with nice, full acidity. Medium in both mouthfeel & body with a tart, mildly bitter aftertaste, this is a great cold weather white that is designed to complement food. I paired this with halal chicken and rice and really wanted to bring a bottle of this to Toronto’s PAI, the best Thai food I may have ever enjoyed (so good we went back 3-4 times each week… REALLY!)

I usually like my rieslings with a tiny bit more sweetness to turn the heat, but I enjoyed the way the Vineland Estates makes no apologies and just IS itself. Like me, it’s an unusual wine: bold, direct, and with a sense of humor, that makes a statement. You’re going to feel strongly about this wine- either for or against, no question. I like it, and for the price, it’s a great option if you like dry riesling!

So tell me- what are you drinking during these cold winter months? Drop me a line @JvBUnCorked@gmail.com or comment below. I have more shows and events to go before I get home, but I’m managing to keep posting on my blog and keep getting great notes from followers and readers.

Cheers!

 

à votre santé!

 

Torreon De Paredes Reserva Carménère

6 Feb

Torreon De Paredes, Reserva Carménère 2014, Rengo, Chile. 13.5% ABV,  Street Price $11/bottle.

With a garnet center and ruby edging, the nose offers blackberry, blue plum, boysenberry, lilac and autumnal leaves.  On the palate: dark blue fruit, heavy clove and spice box, followed by bittersweet chocolate and forest floor. On the lengthy finish: notes of cumin, cherry, and vanilla. 

 

Featuring big, chewy tannins and moderate acidity, this wine is a mouthful that requires some thought to make an excellent food pairing. My attempt with fettuccini carbonara was only so-s0, the dish felt too delicate compared to the wine that easily overpowered the pasta sauce. A better choice would have been a dish featuring game or beef, or a savory sauce with a heavier profile, such as alfredo or genovese sauce. But for the price point, this is a decent table wine to pair with dinner, especially in the under $12/bottle range, that manages to taste unique when you want to step outside your “normal” range of red wines.

 

 

 

à votre santé!

Won’t You Be Mine? My Valentine is Yarden Rosé 2011 Sparkling Wine

30 Jan

Yarden 2011 Brut Rosé; Golan Heights Winery, Galilee, Israel. 12% ABV; SRP $39.

 

Color is pale salmon, while the nose offers rosebuds and cherry blossom. On the palate, strawberries, tart pear and a hint of tangerine dominate the palate with secondary notes of baking yeast, almond paste, sour raspberry and a hint of chalky limestone. Excellent mouthfeel with medium sized bubbles in solid proportion and moderate effervescence. A delightful finish of balanced fruit, acidity, and tannin. This bottle lasted 2 days with re-closure and  maintained the same balance, flavor profile, and freshness over 28 hours. All in all, a delightful bottle of sparkling rosé.

Don’t let the name or the region catch you by surprise, this is a serious, world-class sparkling wine. Made of 72% Chardonnay and 28% Pinot Noir in the traditional Champagne method. Whole cluster pressed with secondary fermentation in the bottle; disgorged after five years of bottle aging. Cellar up to a decade from harvest for maximum enjoyment. I paired this with roast turkey on the first day, and grilled steak on the second- it held up beautifully to the salads, grilled and roasts meats and the vegetables, potatoes and even cranberry sauce- but this wine is simply gorgeous on its own, and needs no excuse to be enjoyed whether it is by itself or with food. Either way, you win.

This is an excellent Valentine’s Day bottle to share with a loved one, but even more, just to have on hand. A solid value in the Under-$50 range that will make your special night that much more romantic, or spice up a quiet dinner for two… or four! With the vintage rosé being Kosher for Passover, you can buy several bottles and keep something in reserve for that event as well, whether you serve this as the host, or bring it as a housewarming present.

Whether you ask “Will You Be Mine?” or “Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights”, you will be well prepared with a world-class wine that will impress whomever you serve it to: 2011 Yarden Rosé. 

 

If you want to know more about the winemaker Victor Schoenfeld, I previously wrote about him here

à votre santé!

 

 

 

Italy’s Newest Wine: SECCO!

19 Jan

You read that right. There’s a new sparkling wine in town, and its name is SECCO.

Let me give you the backstory, in short: Three Leading Italian Food & Wine Consortiums have just begun a three-year-long nationwide campaign called “Enjoy European Quality”. Now, who is to complain, when they are raising awareness of wines such as Moscato and Secco, salumi such as Prosciutto di Parma, Salame Piacentino, Capocollo di Calabrio, Speck Alto Adige, and cheeses like Provolone Valpadana Dolce and Piccante?

Getting back to ASTI– and ASTI is short for “Consorzio Per La Tutela Dell’Asti DOCG”, which, since its founding in 1932, has worked to protect, develop, and promote ASTI products around the world.

Moving forward, while Moscato has a throng of followers, there are those who aren’t as fond of sweet wines. So as of late 2017, Secco has been given DOCG status. And newly exported from Italy in 2018, is Secco, using the same Moscato Bianco grape, but providing a dry sparkling wine that will appeal to another segment of wine drinkers.

 

After years of drinking Moscato, I know what to expect from the wines, and I’m a big fan. Delicate effervescence, low alcohol (around 5-6% ABV) and a decidedly sweet, sunshine-afternoon, honey-tangerine flavor profile. So imagine my expectations when I heard this is made from the same grape.

But I promise to keep an open mind. Try as I might, it’s difficult to do. Until the decadent mousse and powerful effervescence hits your mouth.

 

 

Tosti ASTI DOCG Secco Non-Vintage; Milan, Italy.  11% ABV.

Color is pale straw; the nose offers sweet honesuckle and lilac. On the palate, a lovely and full effervescence with decadent mousse, exposing a surprisingly dry sparkling wine, with predominantly pear fruit, mixed floral and herb notes, with baking yeast and a lemon custard finish.

 

Well blow me down. This is not my beloved Moscato. It’s only a tiny bit similar, but delightfully different. While I enjoy the sweetness of moscato d’Asti, I would not be able to drink it all day long. But Secco? I could come back and back to this. And the more Secco I tasted, the more I liked them, and saw a place for them in the American Marketplace. 

 

And you will, too, when you taste Secco. 

 

As for food pairings, Secco is dry enough to pair with a wide swath of food choices. But for starters, let’s stay in Piedmont and Italy, and look at what grows together, since we know it goes together!

Salumi is not salami, but the Italian word for ‘deli’. This prosciutto (middle of the plate) is 14 month-aged perfectly salted slice of pork that simply melts in your mouth. As a matter of fact, each of these specialties are the finest of their kind, and culinary delights that make your mouth quiver and your tongue dance and ask for another bite,  Se tu per favore? 


Not to be outdone by meat, is cheese! Provolone Valpadana DOP dolce and DOP piccante, perfectly aged and again, to tease your tastebuds, both provide a perfect swath of gently salted and decadent, savory cream across your palate that Secco wipes clean- to leave your mouth wanting the next bite.

 

Don’t be surprised if Summer 2018 becomes the Summer of Secco!

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extreme Wine: Lagrein Riserva from Alto Adige

14 Jan

Kellerei Cantina Andrian’s ‘Tor Di Lupo’ Lagrein Riserva 2014, DOC Alto Adige; Terlano, Italy. 13.5% SRP $50/bottle.

 

When is wine extreme? When the grapes are grown under extreme conditions! These vineyards are steep: up to 4000′ in height, and the grapes for Tor Di Lupo are planted in high trellises along the Easternmost side, getting over 300 days a year of Mediterranean sunshine, with temperatures up to 104℉.

Color is purple with ruby edging. The nose is full of violets with hints of eucalyptus. On the full-bodied palate, cassis and mature cherries meet French oak, with secondary notes of blue plum, mocha, granite, gravel, sodium, and clay. Bountiful tannins are on the long finish; this wine expects to pair with food. Made from 100% Lagrein. My pairings included pizza, full-bodied cheese, and corned beef. Some better pairing choices (Think Northern Italy, closer to Austria) might include fowl and game meats to pork to pasta and flatbreads, but my personal favorites were coal-oven Margherita pizza on the first night and Gorgonzola cheese on the second. The bottle did not last long, as I enjoyed it immensely. While I drank this lagrein young, it has the potential to age 10-15 years easily and will give significant improvement to the owner after such time with proper cellaring.

 

This is an amazing bottle to give to an Italian wine lover, someone who is learning more about wines, or someone who is starting to cellar bottles with the intent of allowing wines a decade or more to age.

 

What extreme wines do you like?
Have you ever considered what the grapes go through in the vineyards?

 

For more about the Lagrein Grape, please click here!

 

*Wine provided for review by Cornerstone Communications.* 

à votre santé!

 

Antigua Bodega Stagnari Pedregal Roble: Tannat/Merlot Blend 2015

9 Jan

Antigua Bodega Stagnari’s Pedregal “Roble”, 2015 Tannat/Merlot Blend. Canelones, Uruguay. 13.5% ABV. $15/bottle average street price.

Then there is a day you finish work a touch early -ok, just when most people do- after only 9 hours or so. But it’s Sunday. So you walk through the frozen tundra to a Brazilian Steakhouse with three beer drinkers and a non-drinker, all in search of piles of roasted meats. Refusing the beer, you scan the wine list, bypassing the expected by the glass selection, and see a Uruguay Tannat blend- and it reminds you of the gorgeous dinners and unusual wines you had when visiting Montevideo, Uruguay some years ago. So you choose it, asking the server about it. You’re not surprised when she knows nothing about it.

 

 

It’s all ok, because there is some truth in advertising. This bottle is exactly what is says it is.

Color is deep ruby, with purple center. The nose shows dark blue plum, boysenberry, dried floral notes, silica, and a hint of must. On the palate there are huge, chewy tannins, blue and black fruit, nice acidity with huge oaken substructure, followed  by secondary notes of forest floor and granite. The finish feels quicker than it actually is, due to the high amount of tannins. But this is a wine that is made for roasted meat. And what you get at a Brazilian steakhouse? “Roasted meat by the swordful” is the correct answer, so this wine is a great foil. From the chicken breast wrapped in bacon to the farmers sausage to the prime rib to tip of sirloin to the lamb to the tri-tip, this Uruguayan blend (of 60% tannat, 40% merlot) is the value wine that truly pairs beautifully with this meal. Perfect in so many ways, bold & decadent in the same way this meal is about eating huge piles of wonderful flavor, but not a perfect little 6″ filet mignon- this meal is about sizzling bite after sizzling bite fresh off the grill. If you’re planning a BBQ and not sure what to do? This is a great red wine choice for mixed grill: it wants to marry the smoke and rendered fat, the sizzling hot bites of smoky chorizo and the chicken thighs. It is as authentic as the Brazilian woman with her thick portuguese accent bringing the meat to the table, saying, “You gonna want this. Take it; before it’s gone. You gonna ask me for more” as you watch your dining partners’ eyes on her, as she sashays over to the next table before she’s gone.

More, indeed.

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

 

End of Year Gift Guide: Vacanti’s Spirale, ArT Wine Preserver, Wine Nots & Capabungas!

25 Dec

Hello my wine-loving friends!

As the USA’s antiquated wine laws and three-tiered sales system have shaken up wine shipping in the USA, I’m suggesting wine-related PRODUCTS instead of actual bottles for your friends & loved ones! So, here are your stocking stuffers, end of year & start of year wine-related gifts for your family, friends, or yourselves- anyone who loves wine. Legal Disclaimer: Some of these were free samples provided for review, others I paid cash for. Each of these does what it is advertised to do! The opinions expressed about them are purely my own, and you should be glad I’m not posting my “didn’t make the cut” items.

Spirale Wine Glasses by Vacanti, $50/pair

These 24-oz Bordeaux-style glasses are dishwasher-safe, large and in charge. More importantly, they have a corkscrew design in the bottom of the glass that catches sediment so it doesn’t reach your mouth and you don’t have to strain or decant unfiltered wines, older wines, or wines that are heavy in sediment- you know what I’m talking about! What wine lover hasn’t had a mouthful of “yech” when trying to get the last dribs of a beloved bottle? Check out the (thankfully short) video I made about these:

 

 

Here’s a comparison shot of a 12Oz. Burgundy glass on the left, with the 24Oz Spirale design on the right, which reaches up to the top of the photo.

 

A close-up of the corkscrew design in the bottom of the glass.

 

Wine Nots, $10/box of 12 online

A Wine Not is an effervescing tablet that removes red wine stains from your tongue and teeth. I first saw them at the Wine Bloggers Conference, where I jumped at the opportunity to try one after a day of tasting red wines -my mouth was a deep purple and my teeth looked frightening! One lemon-lime tablet on my tongue and you can feel it working, like an alka-seltzer for wine stains. And yes, it DOES remove the wine stains! Here, check out my video:

 

I don’t suggest trying to talk with a Wine Not in your mouth. As you see, talking  doesn’t work well, but the Wine Not will!

 

ArT Wine Preserver, $15/bottle (approx 130 uses)

Developed by an engineer whose research led him to determine that in the USA alone, $1.5 BILLION dollars of wine is wasted annually. This product is actually argon, which, being heaver then air, allows you to easily replace the air in your opened wine bottle with a layer of protective argon against the wine in the bottle, which helps it to remain fresh longer! I’ve been using this for over a month with stellar results; it works beautifully!  Again, I have a silly short video below:

 

And last but not least,

Capabunga Wine Sealers, $10-13/package online

Capabunga Wine Sealers are wine bottle sealers made specifically for both still and sparkling wines , with the latter being called the CapaBubbles! Instead of re-corking your bottle, after opening this is a great little sealer that allows you to put the wine bottle in the rack upright OR back on its side after being opened. Broken cork? No worries! I love these little re-closure devices- and they work well in conjunction with the ArT wine preserver, above (wink, wink!) I first saw these at #WBC17 thanks to the Luscious Lush Thea Dwelle and I have adored the ones I purchased. And yes, as I stated above, when you turn the bottle on its side, the seal stays firm and wine doesn’t leak out! The cap is easy to remove and doesn’t break off in your hand, and they are reusable. What’s not to love?

 

 

Sure I’m suggesting these during the Holiday Season, but they’re excellent gifts any time of year, with many of them available direct and/or via Amazon.

If you try these products out, please let us know how you liked them by commenting below!

 

à votre santé!

Holiday Gift Guide: PLONK Wine Club

16 Dec

Plonk Wine Club

The nitty-gritty: World wines, from 2-12 bottles per shipment, available monthly, quarterly, or bi-annually. Wine prices average in the mid $20-range, 2 bottle shipments start around $50 and have discounts with higher bottle counts. Recommendation: BUY for yourself, or GIFT to your wine loving friends & family!

Etty Lewensztain is a Wine Enthusiast “Top 40 Under 40 Tastemaker”, with PLONK, a wine club that is proudly hailed by Food & Wine, Forbes, Wine Enthusiasts, and Wine & Spirits just to name a few. Etty is also a sommelier with a WSET Level 2 Certification who sources delicious world wines at under $30/bottle. She curates artisanal, small-batch, sustainably grown,  organic and biodynamic boutique wines from around the globe for PLONK. Etty’s club is designed for both the new wine lover who wants to learn about wine, as well as those like myself- jaded oenophiles who know what they like but like trying new and exciting things, and LOVE finding new, small-batch producers who are making their way in the world offering tremendous values. I like Etty because her approach (much like my own, I’d like to think) is almost anti-wine club, and more along the lines of “best friend with killer wine sense”.

Ok- as a jaded New Yorker and admitted former Francophile, you’re thinking, How can you be so positive on this?  Yeah, I know. It’s not the kind of thing I’d usually support, because I get offers to join EVERY wine club in the industry… and almost every one I say NO to, because I tried many of them in my youth and found them lacking. Lacking style, lacking value,  lacking responsibility. Well, this is the first in a long time that I had ANY interest in a wine club that is not from a specific winery, because it comes down to a person with responsibility, taste, liability, and something to lose in the deal. Etty is fun, personable, and responsible. Her club is all about the customer’s comfort- and it shows if you read some testimonials. But let it be enough to say that this is the first wine club with wines in an every day price range where there is an individual’s name and face on the club, with both responsibility for your drinking pleasure and something to lose.  Why do I like her approach? Well first, I liked her wine choices. They’re great! Let me be specific: no where else have I seen this breadth of great independent winemakers: she vends Leah Jorgensen, MeinKlang, Chateau Saint-Amour, Tavel Rosé, classic Chablis…I could go on! But second, she’s an entrepreneur, a freelancer, and obviously it’s the same way I function, just like independent wine producers with limited production. For people like us, EVERY BOTTLE COUNTS!

 

OK, enough of that- let’s hit the wines!

 

Santomas Refosk 2015 by L.N. Glavina, Slovenia. 13.5% ABV, $22/bottle.

Color is deep garnet, with an opaque center. The nose offers dark red fruit, heat, eucalyptus, and forest floor. On the palate, I received full-bodied sour cherry, red plum, with strong tannins and mouthwatering acidity. Final notes of small stones, sodium and red currants.  This is a fascinating wine; I immediately wanted another sip. For a second time, getting that memory of the fruit and a hint of bitterness on the moderate finish, I wanted this with pizza or adjaruli khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread) but it would work with a myriad of flavors. It actually complemented both a wurst and dark chocolate so beautifully, but any flavorful or savory dish would complement nicely. At $22/bottle I’d like to open this with friends and some snacks just to discuss. This is a wine-lover’s delight, for sure- but a foodie wine as well. I’m going to need to find more Slovenian wines!

 

 

Vino de Terruños “Siete” 2015 Rioja, Spain, 13.5% ABV; SRP:Sold Out

Color is ruby with a translucent, magenta center. The nose offers raspberry, blueberry, green cuttings, forest floor, and clay. On the palate, the fruit becomes a reserved berry compote: luscious but restrained, with excellent structure and balance in fruit, acidity, and tannin. The gentle finish has a touch of bitter herb with more clay. This is a tapas-style wine that is easy to start the evening with, pairing nicely with a cheese and dried fruit platter, then olives, and cured meats. A delicate wine that is fun to drink and easy to go down, it is capable of sticking around with gentler main courses and can handle fish, fowl, and pork easily.

 

 

Lusenti “Il Nostro Gutturno” Vino Frizzante 2016, Emilia-Romagna, Italy. 12.5% ABV, $22/bottle.

Color is deep purple (near-opaque) in color. The nose proffers black fruit, wildflowers and effervescence. On the palate, this sparkling red is so much fun! Incredibly dry with black cherry, lilac and violet blossoms, sodium, limestone and pebbly granite, this is  the red you want to drink cold, ice cold- and it delivers back in spades! Perfect for red sauces, red meats from cured to grilled, spicy Thai, Indian, Mexican or Mediterranean dishes, and an ideal wine for vegan/vegetarians to pair with a veggie entree like eggplant, portobello mushroom, lentils, veggie meatloaf, broccoli and spinach. Did I mention it is simply fun to drink on its own?

 

Altos de San Esteban “La Perra Gorda” 2015, Bierzo, Spain. 13.5%ABV, $22/bottle.

Color is deep ruby, with a purple center. The spicy nose offers cassis and black plum, with hints of lilac, lavender, black pepper and clove. On the palate, condensed and reserved black fruit with searing acidity and powerful tannins; the wine is classical in style with elegance that is the polar opposite of the fun label and cork. A long, dry and tightly-wound finish with notes of sandy black earth, and wet leaves.  This is a wine that screams for food, and will complement salty seafood, delicate fish, fowl or vegetables, and can pair will pork chops or wild boar nicely, in addition to dark chocolate and cake for dessert.

 

 

Let’s Get Back to Brass Tacks:

As I said in my introduction to Plonk Wine Club, I like Etty’s approach because not only does she choose good-to-great wines from across the globe, but she is also offering an unusual breadth and history, with a solid value. But don’t forget: unlike corporate-style wine clubs, she has a personal stake in her business: Every bottle counts! As a potential customer, this is where you benefit. You vote with your wallet and your patronage, and this is one where you can cancel at any time, or buy more of any wine you like. It’s a win/win situation, or a wine/win situation if you’ve had enough wine to taste.

And here’s a special opportunity for JvBUnCorked readers: use promo code UNCORKED to get $10 off your first purchase.

 

Etty Lewensztain, PLONK Wine Club: Your Best Friend With the Killer Wine Sense!

 

 

 

à votre santé!

 

Samples were provided for my personal & accurate review in this article;
no promise of positive review given, and no payments offered or received.  
All opinions shared are solely those of the author.

#CabFrancDay 2017

11 Dec

This year’s #CabFrancDay was full of delicious and inviting #CabFranc! If you think of cabernet franc only as a blending grape and not as a delicious varietal to drink, then you should take the plunge and try some! Cabernet Franc is actually the parent of the cabernet sauvignon grape, and while cabernet franc may be often used as a blending grape, it should not be ignored as a sole varietal that is a touch lighter in color and flavor and less full-bodied than cabernet sauvignon, while still featuring complex notes of fruits, spice, herbs and minerals. Here are the wines I tasted for #CabFrancDay and my tasting notes, with super-special thanks to Lori Budd of Dracaena Wines and all the wine makers and wineries who provided these wines for our tasting pleasure!








Benmarl Winery Cabernet Franc 2015, Finger Lakes, NY. 12.5%ABV, SRP$23.

Ruby color, nose of ripe raspberry and cherry with green, herbaceous undertones . On the palate: sharp acidity, firm cherry and young red cassis fruit with gentle tannin; medium finish with cedar and wet slate, clay, and pumice. This could last all night, will really show well with food. I still sometimes (wrongly) think of Finger Lakes as a riesling area, this reminds me that they make really good red wines, too! Click for link to Benmarl Winery .

 

 

Chateau Niagara Cabernet Franc 2016, Newfane, NY. 13.2%ABV,  SRP $29.99.

Medium purple in color, semi-opaque. The nose offers gentle purple fruit and a hint of funk. On the palate: plum and red berries, notes of earth, green cuttings, and potting soil. Medium body, matching tannin and acidity. Medium-long finish with final hints of both granite and sandy loam. This wine sits squarely in the middle of major grapes- and with food pairings, this wine can either fade, or feature, depending on the flavor profile of the dish. Chateau Niagara was among the most popular favorite of last year’s taste testers, and it is easy to see why: gentle on the palate, easy to enjoy by itself or with just about any food. I enjoyed this with a melange of flavors, including spicy black bean salad, cheese tortillas and salsa, gouda, and salted chocolate.

 

Fjord Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Franc. Hudson River Region, Marlboro, NY. 12.9%ABV, SRP $25

Bright ruby color, while the nose has a complex aroma of blackberry, plum, and eucalyptus. On the palate:  plum, berries, and red currants with secondary notes of african violet and limestone. A specific opulence with this delicate mouthfeel, a little more acidity than the others in this tasting group. In short, I found this wine spellbinding! Three times I sat down to write tasting notes and just enjoyed the pour instead. I could drink this all day, and if I had room in my cellar, I would buy a case to see how this wine ages. Flagrantly delicious, this wine is flexible in its complexity of flavors to move seamlessly from meal prep through the meal to coffee and dessert! Now we need to find some NYC wine stores to carry Fjord Vineyard’s wares!

 

 

 

 

Merriam Vineyards: Jones Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Franc 2012; Healdsburg, CA.  14.6% ABV, SRP $45

Light purple in color. Nose of black fruit and stone, with green cuttings. On the palate, black plum, cassis, some green peppercorns, with secondary notes of of clove, cacao nibs, toasted oak, sand, clay, and slate. Medium body on top of the mouth, fuller on the side and back palates with a nice balance, moderate in all things: fruit, acid, tannin, & body. Did I mention there is NO heat on the palate- I never would have guessed it is 14.6% ABV! This wine really can pair with anything, but the reserved quality of it makes it shine with foods that are not over-the-top in flavor profile, which is probably why I keep thinking of it as a vegetarian’s delight. Cab Franc seems singularly capable of handling the spiciness of tomato sauce, the bitterness of overcooked greens, the umami of porcini mushrooms, and everything from sweet peas to eggplant.

I loved the maturity of this wine which provided an elegance that made me adore it and think about buying other cab franc just to cellar. I would buy this at a restaurant without hesitation for the elegance and beauty of this wine, plus the flexible pairing cab franc offers. A great pairing that surprised me was Indian food- Chicken Tikka Saag! The wine constantly complements, and never overpowers. You’d be foolish to ignore this beautiful Sonoma County wine with a half-century of age, and at this price, it’s still an excellent buy, just probably not your weekday pairing. It’s worth checking out Merriam Vineyards, and maybe their cab franc is the perfect Christmas gift for your favorite vegan?

Don’t you think it’s time you bought some cabernet franc to share with your family and friends? 

à votre santé!

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