Archive | March, 2013

Fine Wine Junkie

21 Mar

My tasting and writing calendars don’t always mesh.

I have several wines I’ve reviewed that didn’t make it. Sometimes they just aren’t good enough for you, my reading public.

Alternatively, sometimes I’ve taken the tasting notes, shot the pictures, paired & enjoyed the wine… and still just don’t feel the muse about writing anything about that wine. Maybe the wine was good, but the experience felt…lacking.

Yesterday I was tasting a glass of wine…enjoying the nose, ascertaining flavors, when my eye drifted to a bottle in my tasting cue. I left my glass and notes, turned from the table. I picked up the siren that silently called my name, felt the heft, the weight of this dame. I examined her back to see that it was a different wine than I thought, yes, the cab, but a different vineyard… I popped the cork, poured the deep black viscous liquid, inhaled the aroma, and sipped the nectar through my teeth in an entirely pretentious way. (My children, wife,  and some friends have made fun of me for this, while other oenophiles have encouraged it.) For a moment, I was in heaven.

I sat with the glass of this delicious, amazing wine and just enjoyed. I’m not writing about this wine, I’m just living in a quiet moment of perfection, and loving the moment.

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I hope you celebrate your own moment of perfection soon!

à votre santé!

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Win, Place, or Show

20 Mar

Cantine Povero Barolo DOCG 2008, sample from Wine Chateau, $20/bottle.

Cantine Barolo

From the Asti region of Piedmont: the color is deep ruby, evolving into garnet with clear edging. The nose on this wine should only be referred to as “aroma” as I find it intoxicating: rose petals, violet, and hibiscus. Made with 100% nebbiolo grapes, this wine has a surprising initial start. While I expected a more powerful set of flavors, I found this wine to feature gentle red currants and cherry as predominant flavors, medium to delicate in body that still retains enough acidity and tannins to hold its own against a heavy meat sauce or rich cheese. (I actually made spaghetti with a mushroom, onion & meat sauce to try this on my second day with this wine as I expected it would be an ideal pairing. It was!)  I had consistent tasting notes & response over three days and three tastings of this wine.

There is obviously good value in this nebbiolo, a well cared for and crafted wine with a hefty DOCG stamp.  While it works well as is, part of me wishes it had more flavors and some additional notes to allow for more complexity, but I enjoyed it with food in spite of the absence of notes of terroir or wood barrels. At $20 this is a wonderful deal on Barolo and perfect to balance heavier dishes and rich sauces, and worth your consideration.

This wine is like a two year-old racehorse, spirited and agile, needing the next step in guidance to achieve greatness, assuming the owner or vineyard is interested in further development. With some calculation and work, this wine could go from a local track winner to a household name.

You can check out Cantine Povero’s website here, and the direct link to the Barolo here. You can also order this wine direct from Wine Chateau on their page linked here.

à votre santé!

Two Organic 2010’s

16 Mar

Frey 2010 Mendocino Chardonnay, $14.50/bottle at Mayfair Wine, Queens NY

Light straw with a greenish tint. When uncorked, the initial nose included p-mentha-8-thiol-3-one (remember my favorite descriptive term, cat urine?) Fortunately this aroma dissipated quickly after airing, and the nose completely changed.

Frey Chardonnay

After airing, I got lime, spearmint, sulfur, and daffodil on the nose. In the mouth, I sensed sweet pear and tart green apple with lemon zest and a strong acid backbone. It stayed consistent over three days with refrigeration, and paired well with fish, pasta, and light flavors. I served this to others who enjoyed it with meals and had no complaints, so I feel that the average wine drinker would be happy to enjoy this. I looked at the Frey Website and found out the 2011 vintage is rated at 90 points and won a gold medal. I think I’ll keep an eye out and give that one a taste as well!

Here’s a link to the Frey home page.

Our Daily Red 2010 California Organic Table Wine, 9.99 at Mayfair Wine

Garnet color with ruby edging. With a nose of cassis and rose bush, this red blend has cherry and blueberry dominant on the palate, a dry finish with a hint of sour cassis, and I was pleasantly surprised by this organic, no-sulfite wine. For the oenophile, this is a passable vin du table, but for the vegan, the organic-preferred health conscious, this is a great find! If you know sulfite-sensitive asthmatics, this is a wonderful option. I opened this bottle, did not refrigerate, and it was both good and largely unchanged for three days, when we finished the bottle.

Our Daily Red

I think this market (organic, sulfite-free wine) has huge potential, and Our Daily Red is doing a great job. Word on the web is this wine has cornered the market in San Francisco. According to this informative video by The People’s Chemist, The People’s Red has another organic brand called Well-Read wine that is carried only by Trader Joe’s.

Whether you are interested in organic and sulfite-free wine because you 1) support organic agriculture,  2) want preservative-free wine, 3) are asthmatic, or 4) believe in sustainable farming, it doesn’t really matter. This is a wine and a brand I’d suggest you check it out for yourself. And of course, the label is a great pun in its own imagery.

à votre santé!

A Step-Up Sonoma Coast Pinot

13 Mar

Coppola Director’s Pinot Noir 2011, Sonoma, CA. Sample from Wine Chateau, $16/bottle (Lists for $28.)

With a bright red ruby color and nose of cherry and oak, this is an unmistakable Russian River California pinot noir. In the mouth, cherry, orange peel, and cranberry are dominant with notes of cola, overly ripe strawberry, clove, peppercorn and a touch of toasted oak leading into a medium, semi-tight finish. The wine paired well with salmon, vegetables, and cheese.

On the second night I tried this with Chinese food and was pleasantly surprised how well the pinot held its own. The wine had relaxed with air and opened demurely for a young wine, the development demonstrating the spice and allowing the wine to gently soften for a slightly more satisfying pinot on its own with more subtle fruit and relaxed acidity.

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This is a nice bottle above the $9-12 bottle fray that you can choose with confidence for a step up in structure and depth to compete in the $20-$30 range.

Here is a link to the Director’s Pinot Noir on Wine Chateau’s site if you’d like to order it from them. And here is a link to the bottle on the Coppola website.

à votre santé!

Seeking the ‘right’ White Wine

9 Mar
  • An entertainment industry associate reached out to me with a straightforward, basic wine question. She wrote:

    “I love your Jvb Uncorked! I’m learning more about wines. Can you tell me what’s the best white wine that is semi- sweet, but not too dry either? Something in the middle.” -WB

  • I responded:

    “Thanks for enjoying my blog! For white wine, there’s a huge amount out there.
    For future reference, some questions for you to help narrow the field might be:
    -Any specific grapes you prefer?
    -Any region or country of origin you prefer?
    -Have you found some grapes or wines that you know you don’t like?
    -Any price point/range to stay within?

    What fun we could have walking through a wine store and discussing pros and cons of various grapes and wines. Since that wasn’t possible, we’ll have to try it with simple response and a few web links.

    Obviously, I can be much more accurate if you have any specific answers to the above questions. I’ll happily take a stab without that information, but if you have any thoughts in response to that I’ll try again. Here you go:

    1) The white that first comes to mind in terms of your descriptors is one I keep on hand all the time for my wife Annette: a dry riesling, which is inexpensive, easy to drink on its own and pairs with just about anything. Her favorite brands are Clean Slate and Relax, both are German wines from Mosel and are easy, semi-sweet wines that are $9-11/bottle where I buy them.

    2) Next, a Loire Valley wine from France I’d suggest considering that matches your description is Vouvray (the grape is chenin blanc) and has the same flexibility as the dry riesling (having a touch of sweet and nice acidity to balance in the mouth). My favorite,  called Domaine de Vaufuget, is usually around $10/bottle and also easy to find.

    3) Now, this is too dry, but I think you might enjoy knowing about it. My personal favorite white wine to cellar and serve for special meals is sauvignon blanc over $30/bottle, so I don’t drink it often though I keep several bottle on hand and buy it direct from the California manufacturer: Modus Operandi’s Sauvignon Blanc. (Have I ever mentioned the delicious Napa cabernet sauvignon that had the essence of chocolate-covered strawberries on the finish?) This is from that same, amazing winemaker!) This sauv blanc reminds me of a great white bordeaux blend with the finest of California and New Zealand grapes. I raved about it here back in July.

    4) On the “high” end of the white wine spectrum, there are two wines I look to: White Bordeaux blends and White Burgundies. These can start in the under-$20 and head upwards from there, with some of my favorites being $60 and up (often limited to very small quantities!) They are subtle and complex, offering incredible structure in their delicacy.

    These are great wines to try, they usually have a lot of citrus, pear and apple but are not very sweet. Entry-level white burdgundies might include Laforet Chardonnay by Drouhin, or Les Charmes by Macon-Lugny. Both are in the $11-13/bottle range, a great entry to white burgundy. These are chardnnays that don’t have a lot of butter or oak, but are on the crisp side and are good by themselves or wonderful with vegetarian fare and fish dishes.

    The next grape in this category is called Aligote, which would be something nice to try if you like one of the less expensive white burgundies -that link will give you ten examples at one of NYC’s bigger stores, with prices from $11-28.

    5. For white bordeaux, there are two easy, entry-level white blends (just about every Bordeaux is a blend, so you get the best characteristics of several grapes, such as sauvingnon blanc, semillon, and the sweet muscadelle grape- to create a very flexible white table wine. Lamothe de Haux and Mouton Cadet Blanc are two white bordeaux in the $10-$12 range that are great entry level Bordeaux whites I trust very well. If you are ever looking for a higher end white Bordeaux for a special meal, there are great, subtle, well-structured wines like Chateau Corbonnieux , Blanc de Lynch-Bages, and Smith-Haut Lafitte, which are my three favorite white bordeaux wines hands-down, and I’d be remiss in not mentioning them.

    6. While it doesn’t have much sweetness, I’d be remiss to not even mention Pinot Grigio, which is Italy’s biggest export and the USA’s biggest wine import. Pinot Grigios are usually crisp and dry, and are very popular to drink at cocktail parties. Not much sweetness as I mentioned before, but worth tasting and considering if you like the grape in general and should consider it when you are pairing. The easiest to find Pinos (just about everywhere) are the Santa Margharita, about $20, Ruffino Lumina (about $13) and from California is Woodbridge Pinot Grigio that is a little more sweet and about $9/bottle.

    wine_store

    While it would be much more fun to peruse the aisles of a fine wine store together, pulling out several bottles for WB to review and choose from, I hoped my suggestions would be welcome and helpful in her selection of thoughts about what to buy.

    I got an note back with thanks from WB:

    “Jim, this excellent information! I tend to go towards a riesling most of the time and I’ve tried Pinot Grigio but felt it was a little dry. I’ll have to try the California one you suggested. This info is really great and I thank you for sharing.”

    You’re quite welcome, WB! I’m always happy to be of service, and thanks for reaching out!

    If you have a question or topic you’d like me to address, you can DM me at JvbUnCorked on Twitter, or email me privately at jvbuncorked@gmail.com.

    à votre santé!

Tears from Italy: Lacrima di Morro d’Alba

7 Mar

‘Barbarossa’ Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, 2011 Romagnoli, $10 from Astor Wine, NYC

This ruby red wine hails from a small family winery near the eastern coast of Italy. With a nose of blueberry and violet, the palate is dominated with blue plum and blackberry with a hint of rose petals. Young tannins provide only a little grip in the finish but the acidity pairs well with the young fruit and makes for a very satisfying wine that may make you think you’re sitting on the veranda of an Italian villa, looking out at the Mediterranean sea.

Barbarossa 2011

Lacrima was a grape I had not heard of before,  but the word immediately reminded me of ‘Lacrimosa’, the latin word for ‘weeping’  whichI knew thanks to Mozart and his K626 Requiem in D minor- a haunting and lovely piece of music. Tangent aside, I did a little research and learned that in Italian, ‘lacrima’ literally translates to ‘tear’ primarily due to the tear-shape  of the grape,  as well as the thin-skinned nature of the grape which allows juice to leak out and ‘cry’ from the bottom of the grape at maturity. This unusual grape is only found in the Marches area of Italy (near the calf of the boot, if you will) and Lacrima is considered best when enjoyed young. 

I picked this up from Astor Wine as part of their  10 Wines under $10 and waited for a night that I was cooking Italian food to taste it. While it paired beautifully with gnocchi and tomato sauce, it would pair equally well with light meats, cheeses, salmon and similar fare. I’ll keep my eye out for wines made with lacrima in the future, especially at this price tag.

Do Zoe Albariño 2011, Rias Baixas, Spain

6 Mar

Do Zoe 2011 Albariño

From the Rias Baixas region of Spain, alcohol 12.5% by volume.  $11.99 at Austin Wine & Spirits, Forest Hills NY.

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With a light straw color and a citrus nose featuring a touch of wildflowers. Pear, apricot, and peach notes with plenty of acidity to keep the mouth fresh. Showing a nice tight finish, this paired wonderfully both with an Italian chicken & tomato dish as well as with dried apricot and cranberry. The success of the dried fruit (each brought out similar flavors from the wine) made me think this wine would pair nicely with a fruit appetizer or dessert.

The Do Zoe Albariño is actually a blend of five Spanish grapes, with Albariño as 47% of the blend, the rest from 17-7% each. Albariño , for those who have not enjoyed it before, is Spain’s answer to Pino Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, and deserves a close look. This is a tasty wine that screams summertime, though I enjoyed it during a winter storm.

à votre santé!

Check, Please!

3 Mar

A lovely evening turns nightmarish: in Palo Alto, CA, two couples enjoyed a quiet dinner with a nice $52 wine, or so they thought. Upon receipt of the bill, they noticed a slight discrepancy, finding a $400 wine on the bill, and not the $52 bottle they requested. Click here for the the whole story, then come back for the postmortem!

So- now that you know the story, let’s talk about it. I really feel for these couples, and the restaurant as well! Both of them lost out, and both of them made a mistake. The guests did the right thing in paying the bill; while the restaurant made a smart and correct choice in the end, while accepting the brunt of the loss by refunding $250 off the wine so the customers paid $150 for the bottle, the restaurant’s cost.  But the restaurant also stood to lose far more in bad PR than the $250 in wine profit that they lost in the venture.

Unknown

Had I been one of the couples, so engaged in conversation that I didn’t pay attention, or couldn’t see the wine label in low light, I’d have been even more upset. If you plan to spend a lot on a bottle, so be it. But if you plan to be frugal (and they were, ordering a single bottle for four, which equated to one glass per person at $13/glass) and then see  a bill with EIGHT TIMES what you expected to spend on alcohol? Yeah…very upset.

So yes, the waitstaff who took the order and served the wine made an error, but so did the customer! By pointing at the line on a menu, not asking the waiter to reconfirm the wine, not checking that the name or vintage were remotely close- the customer seriously erred as well. ‘Not speaking Italian’ is no excuse, when “2009 Barbera D’Alba” is nowhere near “1996 Masella Merlot”, the shorthand versions of the wine names. Moreover, unless you are very familiar with the restaurant and the wine list, I find it just as important to discuss the wine and how it will pair with the selected food. This discussion about the wine and how it will pair with the selected dishes, is an important part of my interaction with the server.

Taking a moment here, WHY do people order wine before they order their meal? This is a major irritation of mine- just like servers who offer a special that’s off the menu without mentioning to the cost. Perhaps we should suggest a light aperitif, a white wine by the glass, or a first bottle of wine with your appetizer, and later determine a wine to pair with your main course once the entire table has decided on their orders, to make sure those who drink wine will be able to enjoy a proper pairing. Maybe you feel the same way? Is the suggestion too excessive?

Getting back to the point, I’m happy with the ending of this story. The diners were refunded a large portion of the charge, the restaurant adapted a new wine policy and ultimately broke even on that bottle at their cost- a small loss against the good public relations they received once the story broke. They are likely to find new customers coming in to try BOTH those wines, instead of staying away. Here’s to both of the involved parties moving forward, having learned valuable lessons- before the check is called for.

Finally, let us hope that we all (customers, servers, and owners) can learn from their mistake.

à votre santé!

Dürnberg Sparking Rosé

1 Mar

Dürnberg Sparkling Rosé

This sparkling rosé was part of the 10 Wines Under $10 package I got from Astor Wines.  I opened it with my wife during the Academy Awards. Pink in color without a discernable nose, it is very light on the palate with some nice strawberry and orange peel, without being too noticeably dry or sweet. In short, we enjoyed it. From Falkenstein, Austria, this is a good value and a tasty option to champagne, prosecco, and other sparkling wines.

Durnberg

Here are links to the Durnberg website, as well as their direct sales page.

à votre santé!

 

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