Buty Winery’s Classic Walla Walla White Blend

11 Jan

Buty Winery 2011 Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc & Muscadelle Blend by Caleb Foster Wines; Walla Walla Valley, WA. 13.8%ABV, MSRP $25/Bottle.

 

 

The Bordeaux Blend.

Red or white, the blend is classic:  Old World.

 

To some it might show as a touch too forward, but to others, it could demonstrate the path to perfection.

I don’t recall where I found the cache, but tonight I reached into my cellar and pulled out my last bottle.

It was both my final and my favorite of the partial case. The six long years that this white bordeaux blend has taken to mature now firmly place the bottle among tremendous company. Had this been blindly tasted, I would have (wrongly) guessed it was sourced from a première château. Likewise, I would have erred and estimated the value at from three to six times the cost. Nevertheless, this unusual winery name will stick in my brain for future purchases, as it should for others who adore Bordeaux and wines from America’s Northwest.

 

Deep gold in color. The nose is delicate, of dried lemon, almond butter, and grass clippings. Mature citrus attacks the palate with lemon zest, grapefruit rind, and a hint of sliced almond. Powerful acidity is prominent, not a hint of sugar remains in this towering, majestic Bordeaux-style mixture. The long, drawn finish offers limestone, slate, granite, a hint of iron, and mature oak, leaving an imprint on the taster. 

In the words of my friend Jeff, “Whoa.”

 

I will go back to this well, and drink again. Bravo, Caleb & Nina Foster, bravo.

For more information, the website is ButyWinery.com.  Please, let me know if you have tried this wine, if it was at a comparable age, and if you experienced a similar reaction. Thank you!

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à votre santé!

Locations Wine WA4 -Washington State

8 Jan

Locations Wine by Dave Phinney, WA4 Washington Red Wine Blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Petite Syrah. %15ABV, $20/bottle MSRP.

Color is deep purple with maroon edging, while the nose offers dark blue fruit and dank, forest floor. On the palate, there are blueberry, black plum, and boysenberry, along with some darker notes of clove, soil, wet leaves, with a hint of bitter almond. Holding in the mouth and allowing the tongue to absorb, heat sears across the top palate. What starts as a big, rustic smack in the mouth evolves once the heat of the high alcohol passes by; then soft, silken tannins coat the palate. On the medium finish there are flower cuttings, minerals, and a hint of wood. Secondary notes of lilac, lavender, vanilla, granite, oak and schist complete the profile.

 

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Fun to drink, quick to get lost with. This was an easy wine to drink, with a gorgeous mouthfeel. It paired with anything I tried: flank steak, spicy chili, taco night, even goat cheese on olive crisps. The high alcohol content kept me from drinking it on its own, but helped this wine stay vibrant and interesting for several days after opening. When I buy more of this, I doubt a bottle will survive that long before draining. High in value and reaction, low in stress and easy to pair? You could fill your cellar with cases of Locations and just rotate bottles. Dave Phinney has mad skills, but we’ve known this for some time. 

 

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Don’t let the label fool you. This is no simple bottle from Washington State. This might make you want to move, or start making wine from Washington yourself! So be prepared, because once you fall in love with this, you’ll be quick to open up your wallet to those other boutique winemakers I keep harping on about.

 

 

 

à vôtre santé!

 

Locations Wine AR5 Argentinian Red Blend

30 Dec

Argentina.

Mendoza’s Uco Valley is ripe here.

And nowhere have I seen that ripeness as evident as right in this bottle of wine.

 

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Locations Wine AR5 Red Argentinian Blend; %14 ABV, MSRP $18/bottle. 

Color is magenta with light purple edging. Boysenberry, cassis, menthol and lavender oil are demonstrated on the nose. In the mouth, juicy black plum meets blackberry jam, spice box, saddle leather, slate, gravel and wet stone. Plenty of acid keeps the palate hopping, while firm tannins round out this young and exciting wine.

With a classic and bold Argentinian flavor profile, this blend of malbec & cabernet sauvignon paired beautifully with meatballs and pasta, as well as a bite of dark chocolate before the bottle was empty.

Adjectives like intense, explosive, and vibrant fit this wine well. I had expected to taste it with Thai, Mexican, and a classic American steak, but my brother-in-law and I quickly polished off the bottle without thinking. I expect you, too, will find this wine so easy to enjoy that it’s gone before you realize it.

It has been a while since I tasted the Andes and Argentina. But the taste of them are both bold and fierce in this bottle.

At this price, you should have a few of them in your cellar. Not because of the 95-point score it received from the 2016 Sommelier Challenge Wine Competition, and not because Robert Parker thinks the winemaker, Dave Phinney, is a wine god. Buy it just because it’s damn good wine that your mouth will thank you for. 

 

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à vôtre santé!

Celebration Champagne: Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé

25 Dec

Special events. Family celebrations. Holidays.

These are the days that try my soul.

Not because I’m surrounded by family, but because I fret and stress about wines to serve.

I struggle with what people will appreciate, and who will enjoy it. I ask over and over: Will it be special? Will it be memory-making?

Enter celebration champagne. Celebration champagne is what I call the top-shelf champagne. It is the wine one selects when needing superior quality & consistency, and a buyer looks for a trusted history from a luxury brand name.  And what you get for your consideration is so worthwhile. There is a reason why we all love top-shelf champagne: It is simply divine, and can become the cornerstone in making an evening even more special when celebrating a rare occasion.

 

Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut NV Champagne. %12 ABV,  MSRP $99/bottle.

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The bottle itself reminds one of the brand’s historic maison, plus their longevity and consistency. Presented in a short, round bottle reminiscent of the glass-blown bottles of the 1600’s, the pink label completes the unmistakable design.

The wine is pale salmon in color with fervent and abundant tiny bubbles. The nose shows delightful red young fruit, baking spice, and rose bush. On the palate, the tongue is immediately refreshed by an elegant, effervescent mouthfeel while nuances of strawberry, young raspberry, and faint cherry bathe the palate. It is a distinct pleasure to taste and enjoy. 

Subtle, delicate, but complex.

Serious. Divine! GAME CHANGER!

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From a house of champagne founded in 1812, the non-vintage LP Cuvée Rosé has been made since 1968 using primarily traditional methods. 100% pinot noir grapes are picked, de-stemmed, crushed and macerated for 48-72 hours to insure the aromatics, flavor, and bright pink color from the pinot noir grapes before being bled away to cold storage via stainless steel tanks. Finally, a minimum of four years in the bottle prior to release.

I served this as the opening salvo at a holiday dinner party. It was not only one celebration but several: I was welcoming a friend, a fellow oenophile and fabulous wine writer, back to NYC after many years. She has undergone growth and change, and has not celebrated much recently other than passing huge milestones in her path. In addition to my friend Elizabeth, my daughter was back from college! So our family was together, plus my mother-in-law was welcoming two friends she has not seen for years, who are ALSO huge wine fans, living in Portland Oregon, the land of pinot noir.

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The Traveling Wine Chick shows off the color and joy gained from the LP Cuvée Rosé!

The response to this wine at dinner was perfect. Everyone who tasted this delightful, classic champagne was enthralled and captivated by its stunning flavors, gentle effervescence, and delectable balance. Even my beloved wife (who had only a sip of champagne at our wedding before putting down the glass for the night) had seconds on the Laurent-Perrier. It was light, refreshing, and breathtakingly flavorful; an angel dancing on the tongue. This is a true celebration champagne: a gorgeous example, elegant and balanced, in brut perfection.

 

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The evening’s wine lineup, including our celebration champagne, several aged bordeaux and a “unicorn” wine no longer made from retired Jura winemakerJacques Puffeney.

 

Perhaps opening a bottle of this champagne should be a celebration in itself.

 

à vôtre santé!

Pairing Bordeaux Wines & Southern Soul Food

22 Dec

Call me crazy.

 

I don’t care.

 

When I heard that Marcus Samuelson was doing a pairing of his famous Yardbird recipe with a sweet Bordeaux wine, I was intrigued. I mean, I have adored Bordeaux wines ever since I first tasted one. Granted, I was IN France at the time, but… you get the idea.

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So I started thinking, both about this pairing, and about my youth. I grew up in the deep south. That vision of a “down home” chicken leg brought me back to memories of my favorite soul foods, comfort foods, southern foods.

Why have we always expected French cooking or “fancy” meals with Bordeaux wines? Maybe people have been putting Bordeaux on a pedestal, so to speak. So I picked up a 500ml bottle of 2010 Chateau Loupiac Gaudiet Sweet Bordeaux, and headed to one of my hidden secret soul food hideouts in NYC. Spicy fried chicken and waffles with this botrytis blend of semillion and sauvignon blanc. BOOM! This was a perfect pairing, and I was in trouble. The barely sweet honey note from the wine was the syrup for the waffle, the aromatic nose, golden color, and tremendous golden raisin palate was, bite bite and sip for sip, every bit as decadent and delightful as fried fois gras when paired with Sauternes. Savory, please meet acid and sweet!

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Do you have specific memories of the soul food/comfort food you grew up with? “Go kiss your –, and tell her how you liked it.”

Oh, I loved it. If only I had a cellar with these wines back then…

 

Next was mac ‘n cheese with a Bordeaux white blend. The rich three-cheese blend was no match for the delightful mixture from André Lurton’s Chateau Bonnet 2014 Bordeaux, a 50% sauvignon blanc, 40% sémillon, 10 % muscadelle blend. Light gold in color, the nose shows lemony citrus. the palate offers a blend of pear, green apple, and lemon peel with secondary notes of star fruit, clay, sodium, limestone, and chalk. Heaven. But maybe too easy? So I found a tougher pairing dish: chicken & dumplings with cornbread. A rich and savory, sweet and salty dish, that the bordeaux blend met and stood tall against. Oh, it was a good wine choice. I could tell by the fact I finished both the bottle and the dish, and wished for more of both.

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When I tried the mac ‘n cheese again, it was with a 2011 Chateau Argadens Bordeaux Superior, and I was in heaven- the deep inky purple color was met by a nose of black plum, eucalyptus and dusty velvet. On the palate, dark flavors: cassis, mature black fruit, forest floor, saddle leather, granite, chalk, limestone, and cedar. Instead of the foil to this cut through the palate on this rich cheese dish, this was the harmonic equivalent and used deep, powerful tannins to wash the slate clean.

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Not to give up easily, I managed a week of southern, comfort, and soul food meals, which included meat loaf, corn bread and cabbage; and red bean chili with dinner rolls. Both of these meals paired nicely with the red Bordeaux wines, in spite of the sweetness in the corn bread, the acidity in the cabbage, or the heat in the chili.

When I got to even more savory meals like pot roast with root vegetables and potted steaks with mashed potatoes and green beans, I brought out the big gun: Chateau Bourgeneuf 2009 Pomerol. Deep garnet in color, the nose shows rose bush, menthol and ripe red fruit. On the palate, red plum, blackberries granite, clay,  secondary notes of aged oak, gravel and iron. This wine is drinking nicely right now and should be tremendous in a few more years. The flavors were beautiful against the savory meats and vegetables and elevated them to another level.

 

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What did I feel about this exercise? Well, it might have felt crazy to pair classic Bordeaux wines with Soul Food, but it sure tasted right! So why not step outside your comfort zone and try it? Start with your own comfort food, and see how well the flavors work. I don’t think I’ll be opening a vintage bottle of Latour with a package of hotdogs in the future, but there are plenty of great values in Bordeaux that you can find in the $10-$20/bottle range right? 

Overall, I was pleased to have been able to focus on pairing soul food and southern comfort foods with Bordeaux. If you get a chance to try Bourdeaux wines with collard greens, grits, sweet potato and chess pie, do let me know- but right now, I’m stuffed!

 

À vôtre santé!

Get #Franc’d Up with #CabFranc

12 Dec

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Here’s the thing:

I’ve liked cabernet franc for a long time. I’ve enjoyed it primarily as a blending grape, and secondarily as a single vineyard varietal, as a wine that I sometimes offer at Thanksgiving. But as a grape, it never bowled me over, that is, until #CabFrancDay.

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For #CabFrancDay, I tasted seven bottles of cab franc in great detail. I spent copious time with each one.

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Sometimes I came away with tremendous tasting notes. Sometimes I just wanted to sit and enjoy the flavor and fragrance of the wine, much like the title character in Munro Leaf’s book, “Ferdinand the Bull”.

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Some things dawned on me while I sat and smelled cabernet franc, taking tiny sips and noting flavors.

 

And what I found out about cabernet franc wasn’t earth shattering knowledge. But it was incredibly valuable and made me think about how I pair wines and food.

The cabernet franc grape is the thin-skinned father to the bold, bodacious, massively-flavored cabernet sauvignon grape. In comparison, Cab franc is restrained, genteel, even moderate. While it features flavors of dark berries, cassis, bell peppers, leather, forest floor and licorice, these flavors are subtle and mild, and the wine’s acidity and tannins are equally muted. These are what helps make cab franc an excellent blending grape. On the other side of the equation, for a winemaker who develops the grape with intent of making a great single varietal bottle of cab franc, sometimes they are able to create a wine that has class, maturity, and depth in only three or four years, with characteristics that I often wait a decade for in Old World wines.

I want to share my tasting notes from #CabFrancDay. And I still might, but it’s more important to me to peak your interest and whet your appetite on the GRAPE. It’s a bit of a challenge to find a great cab franc, but it is also highly worthwhile.

So today, no tasting notes. Instead, I’m going to tell you what I FELT about these wines.

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I felt that these wines showed beautiful expression: they were delicate, reserved, graceful. In general, I found that the East coast cabernet francs were more subtle with slightly higher acidity. The Oregon and California Cabernet Francs were more expressive, more powerful, still reserved but passionate. While I really enjoyed the expression of the East coast cab francs,  the West Coast Cabernet Francs haunted me. I dreamed about them. I talked about them constantly. I searched my social media feeds to see if there were associated experiencing the same thing.
There were. There are.

Some of my friends preferred the East Coast wines. But we all were impressed, if not blown away. Some, however, had powerful experiences like myself.

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There is a new movement afoot. To get #FrancdUp does NOT mean to get drunk, but instead, to hedonistically enjoy a beautifully made #CabernetFranc. 

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Find your #Franc. Get Franc’dUp. Trust me. And feel free to tell me about it.

You can thank me later!

 

à votre santé!

Bodegas Salentein Wines from Valle de Uco, Argentina

2 Dec

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Bodegas Salentein 2015 Reserve Chardonnay; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 13.5%ABV, Average street price  $18 USD.

Color is pale sunshine with green tinge. Gentle aroma of grilled pineapple, lemon-lime and wildflowers on the nose. In the mouth, golden delicious apple and citrus fruit mixes with powerful acidity. Directly behind the fruit, heat crosses the top palate while the back palate reels from the tannins and tart lime peel. Notes of vanilla, baked bread, and chalky limestone on the medium-long finish. A gorgeous, delicate chardonnay that is a pleasure to drink. Alone it may be a touch acidic, but with mild cheese or white meat, the wine is a perfect complement and palate cleanser. For friends who won’t drink Chardonnay made outside of California, here is something you need to taste- a subtle, mature, underscored hit of a chardonnay that smacks your interest early on and shows you how a star is born. If you can’t tell, I was very impressed by this chardonnay, which demonstrated clearly to me that truly great white wines are also possible from the famed Mendoza wine region Valle de Uco!

 

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Bodegas Salentein Killka Collection  Torrentes 2015; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 12.5%ABV; Average street price $15 USD. 

Pale gold in color with a beautifully floral nose that features sweet honeysuckle and jasmine. In the mouth, fruit starts with bosc pear and a blend of secondary notes of tart lemon zest, star fruit and pineapple. Bright acidity with a hint of bitters that works well in the character. Chalky loam on the short finish. A great choice to enjoy under the hot sun when well chilled, this wine can quickly transition from being a tasty and refreshing apéritif to complement a salad and fish course, capable to handling shellfish, ceviche, or  grilled salmon, bass, and even seared tuna.

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Killka Collection Red Blend 2014; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 14% ABV, Average Street price $15/bottle. 

The color shows a garnet center shifting to deep ruby. The nose offers  red plum, cherry, and rose bush with a hint of menthol. In the mouth, sour cherry and ripe red plum are dominant fruits. Notes of aged oak, vanilla bean, schist, granite, and sodium round out the finish. Ideal for grilled meats. The blend is of 50% Malbec, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah and 5% Petite Verdot.

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Bodegas Salentein 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 14%ABV, Average street price  $18 USD.

Deep purple in color with a nose of eucalyptus, forest floor, and pencil shavings. In the mouth, a harmonious & moderate blend of fruit, acid and tannins. A dark fruit mix of aged blackberries, black currants, and prunes, with secondary notes of potting soil, tobacco, old leather, toasted oak, graphite and wet stone. Features a medium long and very dry finish; this wine is a solid value in reserve cab and a classic, firmly masculine expression of Mendoza’s terroir.

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Bodegas Salentein 2014 Reserve Malbec; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 14%ABV, Average street price  $16 USD.

Dark ruby color with a nose of blueberries and black plum. On the palate, a driven and singular focus of blackberry, with secondary notes of cherry cola, freshly cut grass, black pepper and spice box. The strong acidity and powerful tannins leave a real bite on the finish making this a great complement to grilled meats.

 

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If you taste these wines blind, you won’t immediately think of South America or Argentina. But you WILL think: “These are delicious, wonderful wines.” 

 

à votre santé!

Red Wines from Canada

27 Nov

My business in Toronto is complete for the time being. But I was able to enjoy several Canadian wines, thanks to some wonderful friends and their suggestions! Below are reviews of two reds that showed solid character and winemaking skills in the inexpensive and moderate price ranges, including a solid value in high end organic wine! If you find yourself in Toronto, the West End has a great little place called Midfield Wine Bar & Tavern with a well-considered wine list and many small pours available via coravin. They carry a solid world selection, we finished the night with a bottle of Jura Désiré Petite L’Essen Ciel Arbois-Pupillin! If you missed it, here is a link to my post on Canadian white wines. Cheers! -JvB

Hidden Bench 2013 Pinot Noir VQA Beamsville Bench Unfiltered (Organic)
12.7%ABV, $28 CAD. 

Color is deep ruby with garnet center. Nose offer plum, and earth with a hint of eucalyptus. Black currants, cassis, and plum are primary with secondary notes of oak, granite, toasted almond, some vegetation and a touch of bitterness in what is a very pleasing finish. This pinot noir surprised me with full bodied flavor. It  would pair well with a somewhat heavier flavor profile than I’d expect for pinot, such as red meat, mushrooms, veal marsala, chicken in a gravy or with a touch more spice. Not only would a pinot lover enjoy this wine, but the wine lovers who like full bodied wines might find this pinot a new approach that they would enjoy.

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Henry of Pelham Baco Noir VQA, Ontario, CA 13%ABV, $15 CAD

Color shows deep ruby center with purple edging. The nose offers blueberry and black plum, notes of cedar, clove and allspice. On the palate dark blue fruit meets with a pleasing blend of black and sour cherries with high acidity and tart tannins. There is a touch more sugar than I am used to. It seems like the French -American hybrid Baco Noir grape (that has success growing in North America where the delicate and thinner-skinner pinot noir can not) might have a distant cousin in the concord grape in the barrel. It makes for a kind of rustic, although pleasing quality. The wine does not try to be anything elegant or fancy, but is a solid match for cured meat, pizza, poutine, and hearty cold-country food. I could totally see downing a bottle of this watching a hockey game.

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The nightly Coravin pour list at Midfield (above) and two unusual wines (below) found at Midfield!

 

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Feel free to share your favorite wines from Canada! 

à vôtre santé!

Letters from Readers: Thanksgiving Host/Gift Wines

17 Nov

It’s a popular time for questions from readers. Just after my last week’s post, an email arrived looking for the next step in Thanksgiving Wine:

 

“Hi JvB,

Enjoying your blog! We have tried a couple of the wines you reviewed and see why you like them so much.  I liked having my first rioja, and my wife loved the rosé you suggested.

This might be something you get asked a lot, but here’s a Thanksgiving wine question. What wine would you suggest to bring for the host, knowing the host might open it to serve with the Thanksgiving meal, or hold it as a gift and hopefully  appreciate at another time? With one son away this fall, there are three of us going, so I am willing to spend a little more than my normal  limit of  25 dollars a bottle. What can you suggest? “

 

Good question, TS.

 

You definitely want to make sure you have wine that would work with the meal, and that will also shine at another time. It’s quite smart to spend a touch more than usual, as this is a very special meal that families like to share people close to them.

Now… If you were a guest at my home, I’d be thrilled if you brought two bottles, a white (or pink) and a red. On my table this year, there will be a bottle of Jason Moore’s Modus Operandi Pinot Noir ($50) and a Modus Sauvignon Blanc ($35). Moore’s saingée rosé completely changed up my game and convinced me to add a killer, high-end rosé to my Thanksgiving wine list. People LOVE it. The sauvignon blanc has all the best features and none of the negative ones we associate with SB, and has an impressive pedigree- white wine drinkers will adore it. Likewise, the pinot is simply outstanding and pairs gorgeously with the entire meal.

And you can use this fun vision to remind you:

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Because you love wine, you are intelligent and have a sense of humor. Come on, the image at least made you smile, right?

Now, you have options if Modus isn’t available and you aren’t a subscriber. But promise me here, keep the American Holiday with US wines. I was blown away by Lodi wines this summer which are such an easy, delicious, and reasonably priced option we’d be fools not to consider them.

Like me, you might love French, Italian, German, NZ, Australian, South American, and Spanish wines like I do. But we are taking a stand and we will use American wine for Thanksgiving. Americans don’t import rare European cranberries, or South American turkey for this meal. Similarly, we should use the beautiful wines from the USA! So I ask you to look at Lodi, Santa Barbara, Sonoma, Napa, Paso Robles, Walla Walla Washington, Willamette Valley, NY’s Finger Lakes or Charlottesville, Virginia.

You can easily find great wines from these regions to fit any of your Thanksgiving wine needs. I challenge you to join me and promise to serve American-made wines this holiday. And why not? We have killer values and just about every varietal you could ask for whether it is a bold cab, a citrusty sauvignon blanc, a traditional german varietal, a European classic. We’ve got them, and they are SO GOOD!

If you want to be a great guest, just remember that you don’t want to be super cheap on the bottle. I can tell you, I have pinot noir, cab franc, riesling, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay all from the USA standing by in my cellar, from local regions like Yamhill County OR, Lodi, Napa, Sta Rita Hills CA. They are beautiful wines. And I have a stash of Modus, because any wine lover would be a fool to ignore the stunning quality available from the independent wine makers. These are small production, intense attention to detail, and beautiful wines, simply put.

 

In case you are not convinced you can find great, American wines if you only like European varietals, well, first you aren’t looking very hard. Go back to the wine store. Second, do a tiny bit of research. More than just Lodi… stunning versions of these grapes are grown right here in the states. There are classic, brilliant American wines that will impress the heck out of your holiday table. Here’s a brilliant piece by Maggie Hoffman showcasing some brilliant American Wine Options on Serious Eats:

I hope this gives you some food for thought. Feel free to email me at jvbuncorked@gmail.com, or @jvbuncorked on twitter if you want to discuss more.

And I hope you have a very happy, wonderful Thanksgiving! Make sure you tell me what you chose and how you like it!

 

à votre santé

Drinking World Wines in Toronto

14 Nov

I continue to be out of the country working on a new Broadway musical, trying Canadian wines when our production schedule allows. Wine selections at the LCBO (basically, the Canadian Liquor Store) are OK by my standards, but not stellar. I managed to find a bottle of Michael David’s Chardonnay from Lodi, here in Toronto of all places…along with many bottles of Zinfandel. That bottle made me very happy with great memories of picking viognier in the MD vineyard this past August, and I drank it and fondly recalled fun adventures with my WBC friends. 

 

Michael David Winery 2015 Chardonnay. 13.5%ABV, $23CAD/bottle from LCBO. Color is pale gold. Nose of green apple, white peach, and hibiscus flower. In the mouth, the fruit profile is a balance of golden delicious apple, honeydew melon and pineapple. Secondary notes of peach, cedar, vanilla, and clay on the medium-short finish. For me, this bottle was a delightful memory of the 2016 harvest in the MD vineyards. While I enjoyed this, I wished the LCBO had stocked the MD Viognier as well.

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This is a shot of me from the viognier harvest in the MD Vineyards.
Photo by Randy Caparoso!

 

 

Working in the entertainment industry often means very long hours and few days off. Since arriving,  I thankfully have managed to get to a couple of nice restaurants in Toronto that feature excellent wine lists that are worthy of sharing!

 

Nearby the Royal Alexandra Theatre at Byblos, the middle eastern fare is warm and inviting. Their lamb shoulder is braised for 12 hours and falls off the bone, succulent and savory, accompanied by a garlic paste, shug (a hot pepper blend) and house-made pickles and turnips, with tasty sides of rice and brussel sprouts. With the help of my trusty iphone (it’s a dark restaurant) I scanned the wine list and found an appropriate comfort wine to match the house specialty.

Chateau Musar “Hochar Père et Fils” 2011, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. This red blend is deep garnet in color with an opulent, floral nose. On the palate, mature black plum, fig, cherry, and the distinct quality of baked fruit is met with notes of earth, leather, mocha, allspice, black pepper and cinnamon. On the dry, lengthy finish there are beautiful flourishes of oak, along with gravel and sandy limestone on the side palate.  It is a heady aroma and velvety mouthfeel, a gorgeous second wine from a brilliant winemaker. I have long been a fan of Chateau Musar, with an ’04 and a few bottles of the 2000 remaining in my cellar, and I was trepidatious at the youthful age of this bottle, but ended up being very pleasantly surprised. I thoroughly enjoyed this blend of 50% cinsault, 30% grenache, 10% carignan, and 10% cabernet sauvignon. 14% ABV, Street price avg $33 USD, (obviously not what I paid in the restaurant.)

 

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Further down King Street is a hidden gem suggested by my co-workers for having a high quality (and somewhat pricey) wine list. Buca is a northern Italian restaurant that is reknowned for savory delights and curing their own meat;  you can see examples of their delicacies hanging in a cooler as you walk down a hallway to the bar and to one of the two dining rooms. We obliged our evening hunger by ordering shared dishes, starting off with olives stuffed with sausage and fried to hot, crisp, and salted savory perfection;  hand-rolled ricotta gnocchi stuffed with taleggio cheese; carpaccio di mango; and a pizza salumi di buca- delightful, mouthwatering bites. Strongly salted meats and powerful, savory flavors beg for a tremendous wine, and the sommelier did not disappoint! A native Italian (whose name I sadly did not understand when I asked), we chatted, I inquired about some of the ‘hidden treasures’ on the wine list, and he came back with his arms full of options,  from which I selected his very last bottle of a reserve Nebbiolo- and I was very glad I did!

Ar.Pe.Pe.’s  2011 Sasella Stella-Retina Valtellina Superior Riserva, Lombardy, Italy. The color is deep ruby while the perfumed nose offers crushed rose petals and lush vegetation. This wine opened up beautifully with a bit of time in the glass to offer mature raspberry, dried cherry, and african violet. Secondary notes of vanilla, wet earth and aged leather on the finish with hints of toasted almonds, sodium, wet stone, and granite. A beautiful soft mouthfeel; feminine expression of aged fruit meets bright acidity and firm tannins. 100% Nebbiolo, 13.5% ABV, Street Price around $52 USD.

 

sasselica-stella-retica

 

The clock is ticking until my return to the USA! I still have two bottles of Canadian red wines I need to review before my time is up here in Canada. Keep an eye out, and enjoy. Life is beautiful and precious, and I hope we all see the beauty every day in our loved ones and the world around us.  -JvB

à votre santé!

 

 

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