Vin de Savoie: Curtet Tonnerre de Grès 2018

5 Sep

Marie & Florian Curtet “Tonnerre de Grès” 2018. Savoie, France. 11% ABV, Purchased at Chamber Street Wines, $21.99/bottle.

Color is medium straw. The nose offers aromas of honeysuckle, apricot, and golden delicious apple, mixed with a hint of sea air, and a tiny reminiscence of burnt coal.

On the palate: a rich, briny mixture of pear and apple on the front palate with a spicy note along the top palate. An umami note rounds out the satisfying finish. The fruit and acidity sing across the top palate with verve. I paired this with baked flounder, cauliflower and mashed potato; seafood is an ideal match, while pork, chicken, cheese and vegetables will surely pair beautifully. I also found this quite satisfying to enjoy by itself, both well-chilled and at room temperature. Tonnerre de Grès is a white blend of Jacquère and Altesse grapes from vines that grow in sandy loam, averaging 30 years in age. The wine is fermented in concrete and aged for 9 months on the lees and lightly filtered before bottling, never seeing oak. And for those who are curious: “Tonner de Grès” translates to “Thunder of Sandstone.”

Maria and Florian Curtet are what we in the US would call a “mom & pop shop”. A small, independent producer, they are the farmers, winemakers, marketing and sales team. La Chautagne AOC within the Vin de Savoie AOC of France is in the foothills of the French Alps. With their winemaking facility in Motz (just east of the Rhône river and the town of Boursin), it is imperative to schedule a visit or tasting as they spend most of their time in the fields daily.

For more on the Curtets and their winemaking, click here:

à votre Santé!


2016 Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 

17 Jul

2016 Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; Rutherford, CA. 14.4% ABV, Certified Organic.

Color is deep ruby with luscious aromas of black fruit, forest floor, saddle leather, and eucalyptus. 

On the palate are black plum, and black currants, followed by tobacco leaf. Powerful tannins awash the side and top palates, revealing secondary notes of black pepper, star anise, black cherry. It is a dense and decadent Napa cabernet both new and old world lovers will find hard to resist, a wine that will pair gorgeously with steak and powerful flavors. It will continue to improve with greater age. 

What’s in YOUR glass?

What Your Wine Says About You (Wine Humor)

19 Feb

Backstory: My friend Jamie Hunter Ross tagged my social media with a (cute & outdated) poster called “What Your Wine Says About You” with a dozen wines, and jokes like: Cab(ernet) “Cab” is the only wine type you can confidently pronounce.  See below: 

Well, that made me think, if someone made a modern version of this for the wine intelligentsia:  the Sommeliers, the wine writers, the wine collectors, and the wine snobs, if you will.

Well… Voilà! 

Here’s JvB’s ‘Wine Snob version’ of

What Your Wine Says About You:

Pinot Grigio: it’s the least offensive wine you’ve ever tasted.
California Oaked Chardonnay: Stop annoying your mother, dear. Now, go run & play!
California Chardonnay with a couple of ice cubes: it’s 100 degrees in the shade.
Puligny-Montrachet: Evidently, you have too damn much money.
Romanée-Conti Grand Cru: You have so much damn money, you want to set it on fire.
NV Champagne: You’re bubbly and fun, dammit.
Vintage Champagne: Watch me saber this and hurt someone.
Cabernet Sauvignon: Because big fruit bombs are your thing.
Screaming Eagle: You made all your money in finance and want to urinate on someone’s shoes.
Merlot: You can actually pronounce it, but never saw the movie “Sideways”.
Pinot Noir: You are even more snobby than you think.
5th Growth Bordeaux: You can speak French but have to work for a living.

1st Growth Bordeaux: You can speak French AND waste your children’s inheritance.
Riesling: You like fast cars, Oompah bands, veal schnitzel, and wine with a little petrol in it.
Rosé: You’re just here to day drink.
Brut Rosé Champagne: You just want to feel pretty and day drink, on someone else’s dime.
Gewürztraminer: You used to be fun and loud and now you’re kind of dry and quiet.
Moscato: You like cherry coke and cookies for breakfast.
Chenin Blanc: You like popular trends but are actually kind of bland.
Semillon: You have family money but no sense of fashion.
Sauternes: You like foie gras, lobster with truffle butter, and Kobe beef, in that order. 
Old Vine Zinfandel:
You like aged steaks and aged vines, but younger partners.
Sangiovese: You like fast cars and fast women, but don’t drive so well.
Barolo: You drive a Mercedes Benz AGT GT63 Coup with a gorgeous partner in a perfectly tailored suit who can shift you into 9th gear with their eyes from the passenger seat.
Brunello: You’re an old soul, served with a side of pasta.
Dolcetto: You are old school, all the way.
Primotivo: You live in the fast lane and don’t mind a few broken bones… yours or theirs.
Prosecco: You just wanted to have a good time and now you’re crying.
Cava: You, apathetic: “Let them eat cake, the infidels.”
French Sauvignon Blanc: You love your citrus bright & refreshing, with a little bit of cat pee.
Australian Sauvignon Blanc: You prefer grass to cat pee, with shrimp on the barbie, mate.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: You do the Māori Haka (War Dance) with your pinky finger extended.
Pinotage: You like to eat what you hunt and kill.
Kekfrancos: You like your music loud, your meat bloody, and your partners a little dumb.
Cabernet Franc: You’re a nonconformist and won’t be told what to do, dammit!
Vin Jaune: You like old things that taste of sherry and oxidation, like your grandparents.
Cru Beaujolais: You like things that are fresh, bright, and not too expensive.

Beaujolais Nouveau: You want to get drunk cheaply & appear classier than you are.

Blue Wine: You go to raves and pretend you’re an alien.
Pinot Bianco: You: “Hey, C’mere, beautiful!”
Pinot Nero: You: “Get outta here you, whassamatta you?”
Nebbiolo: You have the looks of Isabella Rossellini, can cook like Lidia Bastianich, but you’re always broke.
Montepulciano: You cook like Mario Batali, but you look like him, too.
Chianti: You like pasta bolognese, The Godfather, and a pencil-thin mustache.
Chianto Classico: You are a landlord, a loan broker, and a politician, at the same time.
Lambrusco: Your drunk uncle mixed up the grapes for prosecco AGAIN!
Rioja Blanca: You enjoy being a homemaker, but please, Get OUT of my kitchen!
Rioja Crianza: You walk quietly but carry a big stick.
Rioja Reserva: You have a lovely spouse, children, and home, with a lovely Middle-Aged Crisis.
Rioja Gran Reserva: You own a condo on Ibiza and a small but nice boat.
Tempranillo: You vacation in Cancun to rest, but return sunburned with Montezuma’s revenge.
Garnacha: You feel like a Ferrari but people look at you like you’re a Fiat.
Grüner Veltliner: You like skiing in the alps, and yodeling after sex.
Syrah: You still fantasize about the foreign exchange student you never bedded.
Petite Sirah: You slept with your ex’s younger sibling for revenge
Shiraz: You like going on safari, sport fishing, and the red light district.
Malbec: You want more than a mouthful, but sometimes dribble down your shirt.
White Zinfandel: You don’t like wine, and you don’t intend to change your mind, or pretend to drink it, either.

I hope you got some good laughs from this!
Please feel free to share, leave a comment and tell me your favorite below!

à votre santé!

Total Wine Challenge Part 2: White Wines Under $12.99

30 Jan

if you read part 1 of this post, then you know that this tasting was part of a challenge from Justin Koury & Bevfluence  to find six “good or better” wines in the $12.99 and Under category from a national retailer, which in this case, is  Total Wine & More. 


A reminder of my rules:  

  1. I would not review wines I have previously tasted.
  2. I would look for small producers in regions known for good value. 
  3. I would avoid the two most popular white grapes: chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.
  4. I would take advantage of the Mix6 discount, since I knew I needed six bottles (Three red, three white.)   


I’ve already written about the red wines. (Click the link at the beginning of this post!)
Ready for the awesome white wines? 



All Rights Reserved. Images and Text Copyright 2021, JvBUnCorked. 



Seastone Albariño 2019, DO Rias Baixas, Spain. 12.5% ABV, $12.99/bottle ($11.69 Mix 6)

Color is medium straw; the nose is a delicate mix of citrus peel, floral blossoms, and tangerine. On the palate, gentle stone fruit before acidity. White peach, Braeburn apple, lime zest, and salinity, followed by almond paste. Lemon pith, limestone, and tart acidity on the finish, leaving the mouth refreshed. A good pairing for fish, shellfish, fresh fruits and vegetables, and moderate entrees. I paired this with baked flounder, a fresh green salad and sautéed kale, then enjoyed it with goat cheese on a multigrain cracker for an after dinner snack. I liked how this paired with ginger, soy, and hot pepper chicken and vegetable stir-fry. I have been serving and enjoying Albariño more and more in the last year; Americans seem to be just starting to appreciate the flexibility of this grape. Good wine, great value.




All Rights Reserved. Images and Text Copyright 2021, JvBUnCorked.



Herederos del Marques De Riscal 100% Rueda Verdejo 2019, DO Rueda, Spain. 13% ABV, $5.49/bottle ($4.94 Mix 6)

Color is pale straw with a green tinge. The nose offers salt air, Meyer lemon, and jasmine. On the palate: lemon-lime, lemongrass, grapefruit, Forelle pear, and green herbaceousness on the back palate with just a tiny hint of bitterness on the finish. According to their label, the wine is 100% organic. I first paired this with seafood (a no-brainer), then a vegetarian meal of grilled vegetables over black beans and rice, which also worked nicely.  Finally, the last glass accompanied Thai spring rolls and spicy basil chicken perfectly. My tasting note says: “Goes with anything. Should buy a case.” 

Ok, I really liked this wine. Really: ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Huge QPR!  Darn pandemic, I wish I had a tasting schedule so I could serve this wine to guests. They’d never expect it costs so little! Restaurants should buy this by the pallet and sell it for $8/glass. How often can you find a really delicious white wine for $5 a BOTTLE? Don’t expect it to stay this cheap for long.  

I almost broke my own rule on this wine; I have enjoyed wines from this winemaker before, though not the Verdejo. How shocked was I, that the lowest priced wine I tried was the one I enjoyed pairing the most? Really impressive, this wine is a tremendous value. 




San Gregorio Single Vineyard La Muela Macabeo 2019, Catayud DOC, Spain. 14.1%ABV, $11.99/bottle ($10.79 Mix 6)


Color is medium straw; the nose offers gentle citrus, sweet melon, and honey. Delicate lime zest, honeydew, and Concorde pear are on the palate. Acidity crosses the upper back palate, with secondary notes of green herbs and minerals. Finishes with a clear, fresh resolve. 

This single vineyard macabeo paired nicely with Thai chicken in basic sauce, roast turkey, salmon, as well as lentil soup and a salad. It would be an obvious and easy pairing with grilled seafood, tapas, or pesto sauce. Another solid cellar option I am glad to learn about, another of the San Gregorio, and one more of several well-priced wines at Total Wine & More that are deserving of your attention.  

In case it sounds unfamiliar, the macabeo grape is also known as viura in Rioja. Viura is commonly used as a blending grape in creation of Spain’s sparkling wine, cava. In France, macabeo is known as maccabeu, and can be found in vineyards along the southern Languedoc-Roussillon region. 




What did I learn by this challenge? 
These are wines I normally ignore, and I simply won’t ignore wines under $13 any more. My regular price point starts at $15/bottle and I learned a lesson about that, for the second time in about a year! These Spanish and Italian wines below $13 were well worth my time. (The last time was Pedro Cancela. Remember my February 2020 piece on Wines of the Dão?) Yes, my personal tastes, the pricey chardonnays and pinot noirs are awesome, as are the old and rare bottles, but there is absolutely a place in my home for these wines. And no matter what the price, THEY DELIVER.

So you should consider giving them a taste, and sharing with us what you think.  



à votre santé!






Total Wine Challenge: Red Wines Under $12.99

25 Jan

My friend Justin Koury of Bevfluence asked me to join in a wine challenge; I accepted. 

The Challenge was to find six “good or better” wines in the $12.99 and Under category from a national retailer. 

I was assigned Total Wine & More, (TW) a merchant that I commonly use with clients for their personal shopping. With 214 retail locations in 26 states, they are a vendor I use regularly for clientele because they make it easy for me to find wines to meet a customer’s desires. What’s different is that I normally look in higher price ranges of $15-$25 and $25-$50.  So while I know the merchant, I had little other background or idea what I’d be buying or tasting. 

While ideally I’d prefer a “mom and pop” style stores, Total Wine’s buying power allows them to deal directly with a winery which is a win/win, for the winery, for TW, and for the consumer. Additionally, TW has a multi-bottle deal called “Mix6” which is a 10% discount on more than 6 bottles marked Mix6. This is the incentive a smart buyer is looking for: a discount on the lesser-known bottles. But the same smart buyer can look for either a shelf-talker or a rating or score to help them take a chance in tasting something new. 

My rules, (set for myself) 

  1. I would not review wines I have previously tasted.
  2. I would look for small producers in regions known for good value. 
  3. I would avoid the the two most popular red grapes: cabernet sauvignon and merlot.
  4. I would take advantage of the Mix6 discount, since I knew I needed six bottles (Three red, three white.)   


So I’m not the average buyer, but these are wines I don’t know in the entry-level category. So I thought I’d start by looking at Spain and southern Italy for wines in these price ranges. And I quickly found what I was looking for. 




San Gregorio Single Vineyard Las Martas Garnacha 2018, Calatayud DOC, Spain. 15% ABV, $9.99/bottle, ($8.99 Mix 6 Price)

Color is magenta, shifting into purple; the nose offers red plum, black cherry, and a hint of mocha. The initial taste provides a solid mouthfeel of black plum, black cherry, stewed prune, with some heat across the mid palate. Wine shows solid tannic structure, drying across the front palate. Secondary notes of forest floor, cinnamon, wet earth, clay, and limestone. Downturn on the finish works nicely for this garnacha. Tasting this 2018 over the course of a week, with grilled meat, burgers, roast turkey, flatbread pizza, as well as Thai and Mexican. Garnacha, aka Grenache in other areas, is hugely planted across the globe in hot dry areas and is often used as a blending grape, like merlot and cabernet franc. It’s rare to find a single vineyard garnacha in this price range. The end result is that wine drinkers find great flavor for a great value. 


Latitud 42 Rioja Ecologica 2018, Rioja DOC,  Northern Spain. 100% Tempranillo, 14.5% ABV,  $9.99/bottle ($8.99 Mix 6 Price)

Color is bright ruby. Aromas of spice, bright cherry, and dried tobacco leaf on the nose. Bright red fruit (red plum, cherry) and acidity are delivered quickly to the front palate. The acidity starts mid-palate and moves back, as the finish arrives early and stays late, with vanilla, clove, clay, and granite, with a pleasant note of sour cherry holding to the end. Fun, a touch sweet, easy to drink. Ideal for pairing with tapas, Pan Con Tomato (tomato on grilled bread) grilled seafood (octopus, shrimp, turbot), sofritos, and paella come to mind. I enjoyed this with a margarita pizza on night one and beef stew on night two. Tempranillo is under-appreciated in the USA, and that’s one reason why you can get this wine at such a good price! 





Marchese di Borgosole Salice Salentino Riserva 2017, Apulia, Italy.  13.5%ABV, $12.99/bottle ($11.70 Mix 6 Price) 

Color is a deep purple center with light ruby edging. The nose offers rose petal, fresh pepper, and black stewed fruit.  On the palate, black plum and black cherry with a hint of raspberry up front. Secondary notes are of lavender, forest floor, tobacco leaf, and smoked paprika. If you’ve never had the  Negroamaro grape or don’t know Italian wines well, this is a great entry to Italian wine. You could buy a case of this and be surprised at just how well the wine pairs with food types across the board- it would be an excellent house red! I paired this wine with roast beef & vegetables, salmon, bruschetta, Mexican, Thai, even chocolate. Anything I threw at it seemed quite happy.  Having the last sip on day 5 after being opened, the salinity was a bit forward but the wine still delivered and paired nicely with pasta bolognese. I would have expected this wine to price at $20 or more, and it exceeded my expectations! The bottle image quickly got response from social media, from followers really liking the label. What’s not to like? 




For wine lovers who are looking at solid values for daily drinking, a mixed case of these three reds is a no-brainer to me. They pair so easily, and would also be a very appropriate gift wine for a friend or neighbor. 

If you try one of these wines, please reply to this post and let me know! 
Do you shop at Total Wine & More?

Do you buy using their Mix6 approach?

Do you have other suggestions for customers to find great deals or values? 












à votre santé!

McIntyre Vineyards 2015 Merlot

5 Jan

McIntyre Vineyards 2015 Merlot, Kimberly Vineyards, Arroyo Seco AVA; Santa Rosa, CA.
14%ABV, SRP $25/bottle on release. 


Color is deep garnet center with ruby edging. The nose offers brooding black fruit, tobacco leaf, forest floor, and star anise. On the palate is a pleasing mixture of blackberry, plum, and black currants, with tertiary notes of mocha, cedar box, pencil shavings, and spiced vanilla.

The complexity of this wine might surprise you. It reminded me first, of how hauntingly beautiful and decadent merlot can be,  and secondly, and that my cellar is lacking in high-quality, single vineyard merlot!

Many winemakers spend their time on Merlot’s sibling- the OTHER child grape of Cabernet Franc: the often highly-priced Cabernet Sauvignon, which are the bodybuilders of the wine world. Too many winemakers ignore Merlot, who, like Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman, will delight and amaze with their subtle performances time and time again, with chameleon-like skill to adapt to roles so that the public could not imagine another actor in that role. That is the beauty of Merlot, and that is what you can expect from this bottle: maturity, depth, complexity, and elegance.    



I paired this impressive bottle over the course of a week with various dishes: potted steak and root vegetables; a second night with pasta with broccoli and garlic sauce; a third evening with baked salmon, greens and sweet potato.  The wine maintained the complex nose, dark flavor palette, structure, tannins, and acidity beautifully over the duration.

Do not let the price fool you, this is a beautiful wine that demonstrates the immense care and skill taken with vineyard and viticulture, as well as a controlled, specifically minimalistic winemaking process to allow the grape to show brilliance and its finest characteristics. This wine could easily sell at twice the price.

Winemaker Steve McIntyre continues to demonstrate how passionate winemakers can offer mature, top level, lip-smacking wines at a tremendous value to the general public with wines of such a high level of care and craftsmanship, while maintaining sustainability to the soul of the Santa Lucia Highlands and Salinas Valley. Bravo!  


What’s In YOUR glass? 


à votre santé!

Letters from Readers: Wine Pairing for Pasta Con le Sarde

24 Dec

I love when readers reach out looking for wine suggestions. So it made me happy when broadcast audio engineer and self-described beer aficionado Stevie G reached out and sent me a wine pairing inquiry. He sent a recipe link he was prepping from Serious Eat’s Pasta Con Le Sarde, what he calls “a pretty traditional Holiday dish from Sicily”. “So I was thinking,”, he said, “What wine would JvB pair with this?”

Good question, indeed.

My stomach thought, “Wow that sounds good right about now…”

My memory banks were recalling the reflection of the sun on the ocean, and the smell of the Mediterranean when going from Sicily to Sardinia, and the delicious flavors that accompanied every meal. 

From my travels, heading to Sardinia- Jim van Bergen


While touring the region, I had a similar dish. It was simply delicious. The balance of saffron with toasted fennel, superbly fresh sardines, and pine nuts is an unusual, savory,  and delicious treat for the palate. 


The Serious Eats recipe that Stevie shared calls for saffron steeped in warmed white wine, which I think elevates the recipe. My reaction was pretty immediate: Salivating!  Thinking of the flavor profiles, my wine training leaps into action with two answers, no questions: Either Grillo, from Sicily or Vermentino, from Sardinia. Knowing that the zesty, fruity, dry and fresh Vermentino is more easily found on nrighborhood wine stores, my reply to Stevie G blurts out.

“For Pasta Con la Sarde, I would pair an un-oaked vermentino from Sardinia! The dish needs fresh, herbal, and citrus components to maintain the delicate palate and balance with the fresh sardine, pasta, fennel & saffron.”

Stevie was pretty blasé. 

“Cool. I don’t drink white much, but heck I’ll give it a shot. What could possibly go wrong ?”

I found it hard to process when someone asks for a wine suggestion, but then says they don’t drink much white wine. I know what he meant: He doesn’t drink it. For a moment, I wondered if I’d hear back, or if Stevie would pull out a beer and ignore my suggestion. But my phone went off, my mind shifted elsewhere, and I focused on other things until I heard back.

Stevie G’s dish 

Only a day later, Stevie wrote me again, and shared the above image. 

“Yeah… You DO know about your wines. The pairing was great! Both fruity notes complemented each other. The coolness of the vermentino helped temper the four-spice spiciness. Thanks for the Holiday recommendation! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, as well!”


All’s well that ends well, no? Except that if you are remotely hungry, you are now thinking about making this recipe… because it’s delicious. 


A memory of finding great local wines while touring Italy

I did a little digging looking for the origin of this dish, trying to understand the recipe a little better. In Messina, the sauce is made in a ‘white’ style, without the saffron. So I started searching for an origin story, and found one!

Bolognese Foodie & blogger Filippo from tells the backstory of this recipe & story on his blog that I have excerpted below:

The origin of Sicilian sardines pasta is intertwined with an act of rebellion and revenge.

At the beginning of the 9th Century A.D., Euphemius of Messina, the commander of the Byzantine navy had been a man of power. According to the legend, the influence of Euphemius was too much for the Byzantine empire; so, the Emperor Michael II the Amorian ordered the demotion and the mutilation of the nose of the Commander on charges of the presumed kidnapping and marrying a nun.

In response to that accusations, that Euphemius considered outrageous, the former commander retreated in Africa along with a clutch of trusted men and hooked up with the Saracens.

On June 14 827, Euphemius sailed to the southern coast of Sicily and reached the bay of Capo Granitola, near to Mazara del Vallo after a three-day storm. The Saracens sailors were tired and hungry. The pantry was almost empty, and the soldiers needed an energetic meal before the battle.

At this moment the cook of the boat prepared a dish with the few ingredients at his disposal: wild fennel, pine nuts, dried pasta, saffron, raisin and the sardines caught in the water of the Sicilian bay. The legend says the Sicilian Pasta con le Sarde has been born that day!



And there it is. Thanks Stevie G! Cheers, Happy Holidays, and a Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones. 


à votre santé!

2020 Holiday Wines

17 Dec

Happy Holidays!
As we wrap up this unprecedented, dumpster fire of a year, we still have holidays to celebrate while quarantined at home. What we know is, WE NEED MORE WINE.

So here are JvB’s wine picks for the Christmas Holidays to wrap up 2020!

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you should ignore white wine. 

You should start the festivities with something dry, fun , and fruity! Albariño is what you should be looking for! This is a wine you can start to pour anytime, while cooking, when you’re still opening presents, and before or after the big meal, this is fresh and zesty and will keep people happy all day long!  You are looking for wines from Spain’s Rías Baixas region, the southwestern coast of Galicia, to source some stunning, Mediterranean  Albariño! Some of the better-known producers you’ll find on the shelves include Paco & Lola, Martin Codax,  Pazo de Señorans, Castro Martin Family Estate, and Pazo Pondal. 

Total Wine has over a dozen Albariño wines from Rías Baixas ranging from $10-$30, has almost two dozen bottles in the same range. These are high pleasure wines that deliver. They drink well on their own, and best of all, they pair amazingly well with the appetizers, the vegetable sides you’ll be serving, AND the meats, whether you are serving a turkey or other bird, ham, or roast. 


Ready to raise your game? You need a delicious and decadent white wine.  White Rhône Blends are what you should be looking for. These wines from the South of France have a fuller mouthfeel, while still providing fresh fruit notes and broad acidity. When I pour these wines for a first-timer at the tasting table, tasters consistently find these wines to be a glamorous experience and are immediately impressed. Whether that is for you or for your family, it can’t hurt, right?   

People get confused by the term Rhône blend. It’s quite simple: winemakers will blends several Rhône grape varieties to make a lovely mixture- from grapes such as bourbolenc, grenache blanc, roussane, marsanne, clairette blanche, and picpoul. They might be hard to pronounce, but all you have to do is enjoy! And the resulting, fuller mouthfeel and luxurious response will continue to improve as you pair the wine with roast, goose, turkey, baked ham, or other complex flavor combinations from the holiday meal.

One of my favorite winemakers of Rhône style wines is Sue Tipton of  Acquiesce Winery in Lodi, California. (Sidebar: yes, it’s California and not France. She uses the same grapes in a different location, but with similar Mediterranean growing weather & conditions.) Tipson’s Rhône-style wines simply shine with brilliance, flavor, and joy in the bottle, and of course, I heartily suggest you try their wines! (Click the link above!) But every decent wine store in the USA will also have Rhône style blends, from luxurious Hermitage and Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blancs to the entry-level La Vielle Ferme Blanc for a mere  $7.50 at Total Wine ,  which is most likely in a prominent aisle in your local wine store! You’ll find a bevy of wines in between those ranges.

OK, – let me take a breath. Ahhhh. It’s December. There is snow on the ground in many places. And we’re with only our closest family. Let me take another breath, and think pleasant thoughts:  

“Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized.” – Andre Simon     

Moving ahead! 

When it comes to choosing red wines for the holiday meal, it is imperative to do your best in pairing the wine choice with the meal. For a great food & wine pairing, we must match the weight of the food with the weight of the body in wine. So you are looking for bright and fruity with medium to moderate weight. Here are three great options, easily found on your local store’s shelves or at Total Wine or (And NO, I’m not advertising them, I’m just trying to help you find wines more easily.)

Cru Beaujolais. Here we have the structure and depth of expensive pinot noir at a fraction of the cost. You can choose to age these, or drink them relatively young! The ten crus (regions) are divided into two groups, first,  those you are LIKELY to find: Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, and Moulin-à-Vent. Secondly, those that are more rare: Chinas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Régnié, and St-Amour.  You should be able to find wines from Fleurie (known for floral aromatics and bright fruit)  or Morgon (known for depth, robust flavor, and structure) in most wine stores int the $20-40 range, and these wines consistently deliver far above their price point. 

Chianti Classico: Towards the full-bodied side, these wines are made from Sangiovese grapes grown under the lovely Tuscan sun, they are refined wines with lovely tannin and structure that range from high teens to mid 30’s in price. It’s hard to go wrong here, if you know the secret: look for the black rooster on the label, which is the guarantee that the wine is indeed from the DOCG Chianti Classico! You’ll recognize some of the most popular winemakers: Antinori, Banfi, Castello di Monsanto, Mazzei, Ruffino, Santa Margherita, and Viticcio just to name a few. Highly popular, easy to drink in quantity, and always delivering high quality.  Chianti Classico is NOT just for Italian food. Trust me. Try it. You’ll thank me.  

Rioja Riserva is still under appreciated in the USA, which is good for those in the know. It’s funny, because a “JS 93 point” Chianti Classico wine is almost $30, but you can grab a JS 92 point Rioja for $14 bucks! In Rioja you’re going to find the Tempranillo grape, usually with oak aging, and moderate tannin, in a very food-friendly approach. These wines are highly structured like Cabernet Sauvignon, with beautiful fruit like Garnacha/Grenache.  Truly, what’s not to like?  Bodegas LAN, Bodegas Muga, Faustino, Marques de Murrieta, Marques de Riscal, R. Lopez de Heredia, Viña Ardanza,  and Viña Real are just a few of the household names you should be able to find on your local shelves with price ranges from the $15- $50; with a slew of killer options in the high teens to high 20’s. One more bit of knowledge is that it’s easier to find AGED Rioja on the shelf, to increase your wine lover’s drinking pleasure. Both Total Wine and have bottles from 2009-2011 for around $30. Talk about a mic drop moment- BOOM! You’ll be amazed at how fabulous these wines are, and how well they pair with your meal. 

Let us take another breath.


I’ve likely given you TOO much to consider, but I always think more options are better. 


As we wrap up this dumpster fire of a year, I look forward to 2021 with the awesome news that in spite of the trauma and drama of covid-19,   JvBUnCorked continues to thrive in blog form as well as on Twitter and Instagram. And I can not wait to get back to doing tastings and wine dinners with you in person! 


What are YOU looking forward to in 2021? 

à votre santé!


Domaine Rose-Dieu Plan de Dieu, 2014

8 Dec

Domaine Rose-Dieu 2014 “Plan De Dieu”, 14.5% ABV, Approx $16/bottle in 2016.

Most wine lovers have favorites when it comes to Côtes du Rhône village-level wines.  This one I found locally for about $16, but I’ve seen as low as $12 online!  Domaine Rose Dieu’s Plan De Dieu, a full-bodied, spicy blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre (GSM). The flavor profile includes black currant, bramble, blackberry, licorice, tobacco, and pepper with tertiary notes of tar & herbs; this wine is made to pair with food. It excels doing so with robust flavors of meat, cheese, or game. 



Domaine Rose-Dieu is a southern Rhône winery,  located 36 km north of Avignon. Founded in 2002 and operated by Damien Rozier, Domaine Rose-Dieu encompasses 40 hectares across four appellations, and offers seven blended wines (five red, one rose, and one white) from  grenache, syrah, cinsault, carignan, bourboulenc, and roussane grapes grown on the property.

At this price point, Domaine Rose-Dieu is a solid producer you can trust to your cellar. These wines can be enjoyed while young, but will show best with 3-5 years of age. 



à votre santé!!


2020 Wines for Thanksgiving

18 Nov

2020 has been an “interesting” year so far. Thanksgiving also looks to be “interesting”. Smaller groups, probably the same people you’ve been quarantined with since March. Maybe a Zoom dimmer with friends?

As our gatherings are smaller, so will be my suggestions!
As far as wine goes, I’m changing up my game. I suggest you do, too! We’re going to think and drink globally

White Wines: Albariño and Rhône white blends!

Whether you pull a wine from the Iberian peninsula (Albariño) or the south of France (Rhône), you will have superb results with Thanksgiving dinner. I find the Rhône blends more savory, but both of these styles will be able to handle anything from appetizers to soup to salad to shellfish to the main dinner, and be a total success with turkey and pork, providing a zesty and fresh palate after every sip.


If you are asking, “What’s Albariño, JvB?” Here’s the quick answer: from Spain’s Rias Baixas wine region, these are dry white wines, lighter in body, with excellent acidity. Common flavor profiles include lemon, grapefruit, nectarine, and melon. It’s your hip wine alternative to Sauvignon Blanc, and it has a huge bang for the buck, and prices usually range from $12-20/bottle. 

Typical examples of Rias Baixas Albariño. Tremendous flavor and value! 


If you are wondering “Rhône who?” it takes a little more work, as there are a bunch of awesome white wine grapes that are unique to France’s Rhône valley and they can be a little confusing. My choice is Acquiesce Winery’s Clairette Blanche (13.5% ABV. $28/bottle SRP), a wine that is actually made in California but uses Rhône grape varieties. It has a similar high acidity, but gentle fruit balance of peach, pear, and a hint of fennel, with a gorgeous floral nose, and a savory body. This is the rounder, fuller wine that is your alt-chardonnay choice and is a huge secret weapon for both crowd-pleasing and palate-pleasing skills. 


Whether single variety like this Clairette, or a blend of Rhône grapes-
the wine inside is even more beautiful than the lovely bottle and label seen here. Acquiesce Winery, Lodi California. 


Rhône grape types often sound exotic and may be challenging for some Americans to pronounce: bourboulenc, clairette blanc, grenache blanc, marsanne, muscat blanc à petits grains, pinardin, picpoul blanc, roussanne, ugni blanc. While you can search to find some single vineyard wines that are stunning, many of the wines that arrive in the USA are blends that showcase the best of the region, and can be found in the $10-20 range. The high end summits with rare vintages of J.L. Chave Hermitage Blanc, so be wary if your browser search sorts with “price high/low” and don’t be frightened off by the sticker shock! There are amazing values to be found from bottles with exquisite expression and flavors. If Acquiesce is a little above your price range, the most easily found white Rhône blends are Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône 2019 Blanc Reserve or Guigal Côte du Rhône 2018 Blanc, which both have shockingly low street prices right now, in the $10-15 range.  


OK, Ready for Red? 


Red Wines: Cru Beaujolais and Pinot Noir!

“What’s a Cru Beau?” You may be thinking. Here’s the scoop: 

Think of the red wines of Beaujolais in three tiers: Entry Level (Beaujolais Nouveau), Mid-Level (Beaujolais Village) and Top Tier (Cru Beaujolais). The good news is you can find excellent top tier bottles in the twenties and thirties in terms of cost, while the Nouveau is in the teens, and Village bottle cost spreads across the middle range.  

Buying tips for Cru Beaujolais: there are ten designations  based on and named by their region, you can click the link and do a deep dive, or take the fast lane: ask your local wine store clerk to point them out. The three I see most often in both online and brick-and-mortar stores are:  Morgon, Fleurie, and Moulin-à-Vent. I find these wines to be so beautiful, bright, fruity, and acidic, perfect matches for the cranberry sauce, with enough acid to work with a roast or to tame heavy gravy or a bitter vegetable side dish. The quality and balance of these wines are a tremendous value in the under $40/bottle range, while the same quality in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Bordeaux blend will tend to cost more in local wine stores. 


Left & Middle are Cru Beaujolais, on the right is a quality Village-level wine by a 3rd generation winemaker.  


Pinot Noir: In this day and age, you MUST know about Pinot Noir by now. Even if you never saw “Sideways”, you probably know that pinot noir is a delicate grape, requires so much more than simply the labor of love to produce a formidable wine. Pinot is the opposite of the hearty cabernet sauvignon grape. When cab is a Fastback Mustang, pinot noir is the Ferrari Dino 246. It’s the Pappy Van Winkle of the wine world. If Cabernet is Travis Scott, then Pinot Noir is Marvin Gaye. 

More importantly, while the powerful cabernet sauvignon is a go-to for steak, pinot noir’s delicacy and bright fruit are a no-brainer for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday meals. Pairing is not only easy, it’s perfect.  

As an admitted French wine snob, yes, I love my Burgundy as well as great American and New Zealand pinot noir. There is an abundance of great pinot noir in the $25-$50 range, and stellar quality in the $50 and up range, with some awesome values in the under $25 range. But there are so many great buys in pinot noir around the world, and the wine pairs beautifully with a holiday meal. You can find truly stunning pinot noir wines from California, Oregon, and France across the spectrum. While I may lean towards the $50+ bottles, I have my share of $9-15 as well. Everyone needs a weekly bottle, a special event bottle, a birthday bottle. 

The best regions in the USA for pinot noir are: the  Willamette Valley in Oregon (and it’s six sub AVAs) and from California: Anderson Valley, Russian River Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills, and Sonoma Coast. Or you can hop off the American continent to visit New Zealand’s Central Otago and Marlborough regions. Or yet another option:  Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200 and head straight to Burgundy! Much depends on the size of your table and your budget. But know you can find excellent bottles from all of these regions. Here’s an example or two…


Some great examples of tremendous value in Pinot Noir

Take advantage of the killer values offered by these: 2017 McIntyre Pinot Noir  from Santa Lucia Highlands, Domaine Boussey Volnay 1er Cru,  and District 7    Estate Grown Pinot Noir which has been an editor’s choice year after year; I fell in love with it doing the pandemic. These punch well above their weight classes and each shows something different about how sexy and precise pinot noir can really be. 

If you want to change it up, you can look at these awesome selections from Ken Wright  or Evesham Wood  from Oregon, or the delicious, glamorous flavors of Gary Farrell  from the Russian River Valley. If you want to Go Big or Go Home, see if your local wine store carries Merry Edwards 2017 Meredith Estate Pinot Noir   from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma- I’ve had an ounce of this stunning  wine and am trying to get my hands on a bottle. 


If you’re worried that you might be all by yourself (and depressed as hell) on Thanksgiving, I STILL have a pinot noir to treat yourself for the holiday! Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé from Lucien Albrecht  is a sparkling rosé of pinot noir that is unrelentingly delicious.  


SRP is $20 and I’ve seen from $14-22 in stores. It always over-performs and is simply delicious.
So put that in your back pocket, it’s an Ace in the hole! 
Better yet,  you can easily find this bottle at
Total Wine, Costco, and many of your local wine stores. 



Last but not least- 
Should you or your holiday table prefer a more powerful style of red wine, then ask your local wine store for a great bottle of Carmenere, Rioja, or Old Vine Zinfandel. Each of these wines are powerful food-pairing options, and you can find older bottles that drink beautifully at reasonable prices. 




Have you noticed what everything has in common? Brighter fruit and higher acidity, which is a great match for Thanksgiving because it’s still getting the best out of late summer and early fall. This combination just works, much like the afternoon sun with a fall chill in the air gives us perfect sweater weather. 

So, get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Please reply below, and let me know what you do!
I promise I’ll do my post-mortem on what I drank on Thanksgiving, as always! 



à votre santé!!


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