Archive | October, 2012

An Over the Top Zin!

28 Oct

While on hurricane “Sandy” standby, my neighbors called me to come over and taste a new bottle. I was greeted by Lori & Gary and their new bottle of 2010 Earthquake Zinfandel from Lodi, California.

The color is purple with ruby edging. The nose is very sweet blackberry, blueberry, and plum. As I inhaled, I also noticed secondary scents- green vegetation, a touch of earth and some minerals: granite & clay.

On the palate this zin (which has some petite syrah blended in) bursts with bold sweet fruit. As it swished around my mouth, I noticed powerful tannins but not as much acidity. Perhaps with age, it will gain more balance. In the meantime it’s a fun, bold wine with noticeable alcohol- a whopping %16, that you might not notice quickly as you imbibe, so drink responsibly.

Here’s a link to the Michael David Winery, who makes the Earthquake wine. 

If you don’t recall my mention of my neighbors and their connection with Lodi wines, you can find a refresher in my blog post The Casual Summer BBQ.

Finally, a link to the Ripkin Winery and their phenomenal Late Harvest Viognier.

à votre santé!


My Favorite Cheap Wine

27 Oct

Part of my blog’s focus is to introduce my friends & readers not only to new wines to try, but also to great values and sometimes to great classics. Today I’m giving you what I’ve realized has become my go-to cheap bottle of wine.

“It can’t be,” you might be thinking. “JvB choosing ONE wine?”

Haha, No, not a chance. You’re absolutely right. It’s not one wine, it’s one manufacturer.

The Naked Grape is a label that I have come to trust for a really passable $6 bottle of wine. Better yet, they offer a cabernet sauvignon, a pinot noir, a malbec, a chardonnay, a pino grigio, and a moscato, all of which I’ve tried and enjoyed. The last two I have opened are the californian moscato, which has nice pear fruit up front with distinct orange flavor and a sweet tang to it, and the argentinian malbec, a plummy, spicy offering that rocked leftovers, chinese food, & mexican at $1.50 a glass. Really!


Check out their website here, which sadly demonstrates not a whole lot about this manufacturer. Demand your local shop carry this, like mine does. (Forest Hills residents, I get this at Mayfair Wine & Spirits on Union Turnpike. John carries all of these, right near the register.)

The coolest thing about The Naked Grape is (no, not the cutesy bottle color coding, that ranks third behind #1 value & #2 drinkable) that for 36 bucks you can have SIX different bottle of six different grapes and pair them for what they are with your meals, and then move up to something serious, or know a great cheap bottle of wine that will work beautifully with your meals.

Last but not least: these are all really decent, well-made vin du tables worth serving, but if you don’t like one, it’s less than the cost of a glass at the restaurant, so who cares? You can always toss it, use it in the sauce, or serve it to a drunken guest after they’ve had your good stuff, right?

à votre santé!

A Second Wine With Premiere Cru Qualities

22 Oct

Croix de Beaucaillou,, St-Julien, 2008

This is the ‘second’ wine from the prestigious Chateau DuCru in the Medoc region of France. Dark purple in color, it has lush raspberry, blackberry, and licorice on the nose with no floral notes I could discern, but a hint of minerality. In the mouth, cassis and black plum were dominant fruit with graphite, earth, espresso, cigar box, and gravel giving way to a hint of wood shavings on the finish. Complex with firm tannin, a pleasure to drink by itself and easy to pair with strong flavors.  A nice balance of 10% Merlot and 90% Cabernet make up this Bordeaux Blend.

Various vintages of this wine might range from 30-65/bottle, I picked up a half-bottle for about $23 in midtown and enjoyed three medium pours over three nights, with the wine changing little and demonstrating power and consistency.  While not THE Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, this is every bit a delicious, savory wine and a bargain at the price with all of the characteristics that make a great St- Julien. You’ll only miss the Premiere Cru if you have enjoyed it before… and I have, but this is a nice, tasty reminder as well as a bargain in the half-bottle.

Here is a link for more information about Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, their wines and terroir.

à votre santé!

A Triple Crown of Wine

13 Oct

Three serious, 90-point wines for serious wine drinkers.


The First Crown: Rioja Blanco Reserva Vina Tondonia 1996

At a restaurant, I noted this white Rioja was available by the glass as a selection to pair with a light fish entrée. Unfamiliar with this rioja, I asked the sommelier about it. She beamed at my mention of the wine with this dish, explaining that it was amongst her favorite pairings. It had evidently taken a long time to find the perfect wine and they had considered a sherry before deciding on this white Rioja.

I had to try it.

A deep yellow color with a hint of sunset in the glass, this wine has sweet fruit, lemongrass and honey on the nose. On the palate, I swore it was part sauternes- it has vanilla, orange citrus, and herbs forward, with elements of tobacco, dried apples, cranberries, and clay. A lengthy finish from this luscious white, I promised myself to find a few bottles of this to try at home with my cooking. A true find, and rare in NYC wine stores. Approx 40/bottle.

Learn more about  winemaker Lopez de Herediaere.

The Second Crown: Blanc de Lynch Bages, 2002

Lynch- Bages is a classic premiere cru chateau. The white is a recent addition to the chateau’s offerings, only begun in 1990 and immediately acclaimed for top quality. A blend of three grapes- sauvignon blanc, muscadelle, and semillion, Blanc de Lynch Bages is a classic, delicate Bordeaux wine that is renowned for complexity, aromatic subtlety, and elegance.

A pale yellow color, this ten-year old white has a faint nose with pear, apple, and tangy citrus. The fruit has dissipated in the age, and in the mouth it is light, tart and acidic in a delightful fashion, with notes of vanilla and a hint of gravel. This specific vintage, having lost much of the forward fruit due to age,  is not a drink to enjoy by itself. Instead,it is a perfect match and complement for turkey, fish, chicken or lighter cheeses. When paired with a good protein or sauce, it enlightens the dish, and livens the palate: quite simply, this is a stunning wine to pair. $20/half bottle from a pricey midtown liquor store, full bottles are in the $40/range and can be found from the 2006 and later vintages.

Learn more about Chateau Lynch-Bages.

The Third Crown: Cos D’Estournel, 1996

I have been fortunate to taste this wine (vintages 1986, 1996, 2000) a few times. Deep purple in color, and the nose is black fruit with menthol, tar, and asphalt. The mouthfeel is amazing, silky and dark: black currants and blackberries with cut flowers and herbs. The top of the palate features the dark flesh of the black fruit with earth, loam, and asphalt again. With a huge finish that reminds me of road tar in a pleasant way, this is a wine that screams decadence in every sip and pairs well with game, red meats, distinct cheeses or similarly heavy dishes.

Known for an amazing terroir with a highly regulated climate,  the chateau will only uses grapes from 20 year old vines in Cos D’Estournel. Like many classic French wines, they can be difficult to source due to their level of  pedigree. Available sometimes for $20-25/glass (my best luck here was at Morrel Wine Bar in Rockefeller Plaza in NYC), online from $80+/bottle, and in many high end wine stores over $100/bottle. The good news is that there are many good years of this wine- so look for this wine when a good price comes around, and enjoy with friends. Not to be opened if under ten years old, but a wine to be enjoyed and cherished.

Learn more about Chateau Cos D’Estournel

à votre santé!

A Spicy, Budget Bordeaux!

6 Oct

Chateau La Mouliniere 2009 Bordeaux

Color: garnet with violet edges.  Nose: black cherry red raspberry, some green vegetation, touch of earth, toasted oak, granite. Palate: spicy red cherry and raspberry dominates the palate, peppery and chewy with heavy tannins and a short, grippy finish. 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Note the plain jane screw-top, a great call for this simple wine that wants to be imbibed while young.

This is no serious pedigree Bordeaux, but it drinks nicely as a simple vin du table.  Purchased from a neighborhood wine store for $12, available online from $8-13/bottle. As long as we do not expect it to surpass the quality of a more expensive bottle, it can, and will be, easily enjoyed. As a bordeaux I think this wine wants to be more complex than it is; I find it straightforward, unassuming, and basically a ‘nice’ wine you can enjoy with the right pairing.

The label says the wine is ‘ideal with roasts, grilled meats and cheese’. I’d say yes to grilled meats, spicy sauces, cheese, and chocolate as I greatly enjoyed eating a salted caramel while drinking some of this wine. Of course, one might enjoy eating a chunk of asphalt with the aforementioned delightful and highly sought-after salted caramels, but the wine was definitely a good complement with chocolate, as well as nice chevre cheese.  I’ll try it again with the grill at a later date.

à votre santé!

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