Archive | May, 2013

Best Little Wine Store- Part 2: Wines from the Sorting Table

30 May

I got a note from a reader, asking if I tasted any wines from The Sorting Table on 7th  and if so, why didn’t I write about them? I admit, I am remiss in the time it took me to get these words out to you. Hence, Part 2! Wonderful Wines.

Yes, I tasted wines from Josh V’s Sorting Table, but it began with a challenge.  When I asked Josh for brilliant, funky, Napa blends he asked me back specifics as he handed me bottle after bottle starting from $15 and up to $50, all of which fell in that category and every one I wanted to try. So I kept asking, and tried several bottles to take notes for you, my fair readers.

And try I did. I tasted several wines from his store, and here they are in no particular order:

Salmon Vineyard’s 2011 Petite Syrah

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Deliciously wonderful, a wine that changed on the palate with every sip! I could not put this down. Amazing small-format winemaking- could rate in the company of Jason Moore and David Phinney, for $25/bottle. Paired this with an organic margarita pizza and thought that heaven could not be closer to my mouth. Deep purple in color, thick and viscous, jammy fruit with nice acidity, tart tannins, and an amazing finish. YUM!

Bennett Lane 2008 Maximum Red Feasting Wine

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94 points.  The ruby-purple color and blackberry nose entice you until the massive mouthfeel hits you: blackberry, cassis, and plum start off the tongue this mind-blowing red blend, and is followed with a slew of fabulous notes including mocha, truffle, chocolate, and cedar barrel to sate the palate of the serious wine guru for under $40. I’m buying more. ‘Nuff said!

Satisfied with red wine options, I took a different path. “Old world, yet affordable chardonnay that champions the grape,” I challenged. Two bottles appeared, and I chose:

Chateau de la Greffiere Macon La Roche “Vielle Vignes” Vineuse 2011

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An amazing chardonnay from 50 year old vines for under $20. Stellar pricing for serious structure, I almost thought I could taste the vines standing in the clay underneath the perfectly aged chardonnay grape. Classic old world white!

Patient Cottat ‘s Le Grand Caillou Sauvignon Blanc 2011

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Chardonnay accepted, I asked for Sancerre, and Josh showed me three, then said- “what about a Sancerre that isn’t technically a Sancerre?” He pulled up a Sauv Blanc from the Loire Valley, outside of the lines that delineate Sancerre but one taste will show you how a half-price wine can blow away the competition. I knew this was the one I’d take. This is one of the best high value/low cost offerings in French wine you may ever see.  $12/bottle, and simply delectable. I’d love to see this in a blind tasting against “legit” sancerre!

Les Crêtes Valle D’Aosta Chardonnay 2011

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After pulling the sancerre out of his proverbial hat, I said “what is the best value white burgundy you have?” He riled thru a pair of wine fridges and pulled this lone bottle out along with a cheshire cat grin. And was he right? Spot on! This was a delicious, un-oaked white Burgundy-styled-white that impressed my palate with depth. Gentle tropical melon and floral notes in the mouth are followed by bright acidity, and find a finish with luscious terroir of sandy clay with a hint of chalk. Rich and delightful, savory yet taut, and drinks like an 80/bottle for under $40. I drank this with goat cheese on a fig cracker and ooh’d my way through every bite and sip.

Check, and mate! Perhaps in Josh’s world, I should try something akin to:

“R2 says the chances of survival are 725… to one” – C3PO, STAR WARS

à votre santé!

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Memorial Day/Start of Summer Wine!

26 May

 La Maroutine 2010

This white Bordeaux blend (80% sauvignon blanc, 20% semillon) is what I pulled from the fridge when my neighbor decided to have a backyard wine & cheese party to celebrate Memorial Day and the start of summer. We popped it open and passed it around, enjoying the the yellow-green color, nose of grapefruit, and the flavors of lychee, melon, and citrus that dominate this fresh, fun wine that is a perfect for an afternoon in the sun.

I source this from Sherry-Lehman Wine in NYC, and it lists for $12 and the ad says 100% sauv blanc. Well, they charged me $10 (it’s on sale) and the wine is most definitely a blend of sauv blanc & semillon acording to both my palate and the back label on the bottle. Less worry, more fun. My neighbor said it well: “If you’re buying more of this, get me three bottles.” It’s delicious, everyone enjoys it, and its a bargain. Whats not to like?

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à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Little Wine Store Every Neighborhood Needs

22 May

It often takes a close friend to introduce you to the best things in an area– the finest bakery, the best cup of coffee, an amazing tailor, etc. Well, I’m about to be that friend.

Here’s the story: I was working on a show at the downtown performing arts center in Charlotte, NC when I literally stumbled upon the proverbial pot of gold, except these pots were mostly 750ml bottles. Wine bottles, to be exact! Neatly arranged along the light rail line in downtown Charlotte is an open market with a bevy of wonderful stalls, called the 7th Street Public MarketThe owner/vendors in the Public Market are people who offer specialty products and are so passionate about their products that given a taste, you will be too! 

Tucked inside the 7th Street Public Market is a delightful wine paradise that should be duplicated in every metropolis, town, and neighborhood. This oenophile’s oasis is called The Sorting Table on 7th and runs with its back facing the entryway. To find it, look for the bicycles flown above his stall and you’ll be there in a moment.

Josh V. runs the Sorting Table on 7th and has both a vast knowledge and fellow passion for wine. When I first saw his stall, I watched and listened as he deftly answered several questions from a customer and suggested several good options from his stock. I noticed the shelves are filled with quality bottles of reputable vineyards from across the globe, and his pricing compares to much larger stores with buying power, I assume due to relatively low rent/overhead.

Josh says he carries wine “ranging from $8 to $500 a bottle”, and his stock is right there for everyone to see, arranged by country and grape with bottle and tasting notes as well as the occasional comic, photo, or character gag to give you a sense of his perspective on the bottle. You’ll also see bikes, R2D2 toys, and other items he is passionate about, but the focus here is quality and value wine. Josh knows his stuff, from the grapes to terroir to the wine latitudes.

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His shelves are full of great wines and good values across the spectrum and from around the world. I saw not one but two rare magnums of  Dave Phinney/Orin Swift’s “The Prisoner” on his shelf at a very reasonable price. “I can’t believe I’m selling those,” he admitted. “If I weren’t flying home,” I told him, “I’d buy them right now!”

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I’ve never seen them before, but believe me, I’ll be looking for them closer to home.

Better yet, Josh knows his pairings. So if you go to the market and pick up cheese, meats, a pizza or other goodies then swing by his booth, he can offer you selections to match what you’re eating. I saw the real wine mensch in him as he responded equally well to chefs, foodies, oenophiles and wine amateurs.

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Every town needs a Josh V and a Sorting Table on 7th.

Do you have one to share with us? 

à votre santé

For Love of the Grape: Lagrein

13 May

You don’t have to be knowledgeable about wine to try something different. Sometimes it is refreshing to step outside your comfort zone and try new things.”-JvB
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There are several grapes grown in the seven regions that make up the Italian Alps’ winemaking area known as Alto Adige. Gewürztraminer is said to have originated here (from the town Tramin). Pinot blanc, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot grigio, and riesling are grown and bottled in this region as well. Some lesser known white wine grapes grown in this region include: sylvaner, veltliner, kerner, müller-thurgau, and moscato giallo. Most of these are known as aromatic, dry, refined whites with excellent minerality from the local terroir.

The red wines from the Alto Adige region include well known varietals such as merlot, pinot noir, and cabernet are grown in this region between the Alps and the Mediterranean sea. But the lesser-known local varietals are very interesting, and include schiava, moscata rosa, and lagrein (pronounced “lǝ -grān” or “lǝ-grīn”).

 Lagrein is one of the leading red varietals of the region. If you don’t know the grape, you’re not alone. But that’s no reason not to try it!

A quick aside: You don’t have to be knowledgeable about wine to try something different. Sometimes it is refreshing to step outside your comfort zone and try new things. I would normally never seek out grape varietals that I don’t know for large dinner parties, but I took a chance while in Italy. Not knowing the Sudtirol region  well, during our stay in Merano I asked the sommelier to suggest local wines that would pair well with our meal choices. One evening he brought forward a lagrein to suggest. My initial impression of the wine was not great, but it improved immediately with more air, paired beautifully with the northern Italian cuisine we were enjoying, and was an obvious excellent choice- a lesson I’ve never forgotten!

The character of the lagrein grape falls between a young pinot noir, syrah, and grenache. The colors of a typical wine will range from ruby red to deep violet and purple; the nose can be fruit, perfume, and spice; and the blackberry/blueberry fruit is sometimes followed with spices and pepper. Often the initial mouthfeel is then matched or  dominated by strong acidity and powerful tannins with a medium to long, grippy finish.

Overall, it’s important to note that the lagrein grape has never been intended to be consumed on its own. With a naturally high acidity and tannin, this is a wine made for food. In general, due to higher expenses in both manufacturing and export, Alto Adige wines will cost from $16-45 in general. I doubt you’ll find these on the shelf in the average wine shop; I only found between one and five wines at the three top sellers I use in New York while I found no lagrein wines at smaller wine shops. But I do suggest that some time, you give a lagrein a try. You might be impressed!

When I recently had an opportunity to attend the Alto Adige 2013 Grand Tasting Tour, (with over 20 wineries participating) I remembered my experience with the lagrein varietal and made it a point to pay attention to the lagrein wines at the event.

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In addition to tasting with the winemakers, I also took notes on several lagrein wines during a direct comparison tasting. Please understand that these notes are taken in haste; at these tastings, there is no real opportunity to linger and ponder the wine or taste it several times, with different pairings or over multiple days, hence some brevity in description. A star in front of the name shows it is recommended. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is listed after each wine for your reference.

*Bolzano Lagrein Riserva “Prestige” 2010, $42
Has a nice balance and depth. Ruby-purple color with cherry vanilla nose. Strong blackberry and cherry again on the palate with a fleshy finish.

*Castell Sellegg, Lagrein 2011, $35
My favorite from this group tasting. Violet in color, perfume nose with great forward fruit, strong acidity and tannin. An excellent representation and a well made wine. Highly recommended.

Franz Haas Lagrein 2010, $36
My least favorite of the group with almost no bouquet and a weak flavor in comparison to the other lagreins. Could pair nicely with gentle cheeses, salad, light appetizers. Has a wonderful, eye-catching label, but very pricey in my opinion for the mild  nose and flavor.

St. Pauls Lagrein 2011, $18
Nice purple color, sharp fruit nose. Very hot on the palate (13.5% alcohol) with bitter finish. Would be best served slightly chilled. Acids and tannin overpower the fruit, but shows better with food.

Tenuta Lensch Lagrein 2009, $20
An interesting wine that showed quite differently than the other lagreins in its initial harshness. Perhaps significant air would make a difference, I found this wine a challenge to appreciate.

*Elena Walch Lagrein Riserva Castel Ringberg 2008
This was the first lagrein  that demonstrated a clear and significant step up in quality from the first tier of lagrein wines I tasted. Aged in large oak barrel, there is a gentle wood underneath. Still quite tart, and tannic, this wine has good fruit, body, and structure that show depth and complexity when paired.

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à votre santé!

A Mother’s Day Wine Gift, from Mom

12 May

I called my Mother to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. She surprised me by thanking me for writing my wine blog!

I was shocked to say the least.

It seems that my parents, nearly retired, have been attending more and more wine get-togethers with their friends and neighbors, tasting and trying new things. My parents don’t care much for white wines, but they have been trying wines outside their normal comfort zone, and recently found a white that surprised them in how much they enjoyed it!

(She has no idea about the post that will appear soon in JvB UnCorked about the Lagrein grape and my sermon-like post on trying new things! Won’t she be surprised!)

My mom explained she has started to realize what she likes about various wines, and how she now appreciates their depth and structure, the secondary notes, the accents that take a wine from the merely enjoyable to the sublime. My mother notes that since reading my blog, now she too, sometimes gets excited by sensing the change in the palate as oxygen runs over the wine held in the mouth, how the flavor range expands and the savory notes can come forth after the initial rush of fruit. These are learned elements that often require serious appreciation to acknowledge, and out of the blue my beloved mother is telling me how much she loved one wine, was bored by another, and noticed elements that were present or missing in others!

From the lady who gave me an appreciation for listening to others, for the French language, for reaching out to those we don’t know-

I was hoping to lift her spirits with my appreciation, but she topped me by giving me a gift back on Mother’s Day.

Here is a toast to all the mothers out there, and especially to mine, a wonderful, warm, intelligent and charming woman who has wowed my friends and family her entire life. On your day, and every day, I raise my glass to you, with love, adoration and appreciation that only a child can have for a parent.

And to all my readers on the anniversary of launching UnCorked , thanks for reading, and may you open a wine that excites you, that helps you love the experience of trying new things.

à votre santé!

(thanks to Charles & Lynnette for sharing the picture below!)

Sante

Friday Night Whites

11 May

From the “What I’m Tasting Right Now” files:

Moillard Bourgogne Tradition Chardonnay Bourgogne 2009

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A basic white burgundy I found while trolling wine shops near Columbus Circle. Color is deep straw. Nose has citrus and a touch of oak. In the mouth, a basic chardonnay, some fruit, a little cream as it warmed plus the classic wood finish as expected, but sadly there is little else of note here. I know that Maison Moillard was purchased in 2008 and is a huge producer but I had high expectations from this vintage. Perhaps as the second or third wine from this producer, my expectations were too high. $14/ half bottle (.375 litre).

Cupcake Vineyards Marlborough, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 2011

After a dozen mentions from my wine friends & followers, I took the plunge and tasted several Cupcake wines. I found most of them good, solid values. I recently picked up a bottle locally to try over several days with different food pairings, here are the results:

Color: light straw. Nose: lemon, grapefruit, sweat. (Really. Don’t stick your nose in and drink the bouquet without being ready for a little underarm funk on the end. Sniff gently and enjoy.) In the mouth, tons of grapefruit, with a little key lime sweet & tartness, more tight, tart lemon on the finish. Nice acidity, this is a lovely apertif on a hot day, pairs beautifully with light appetizers- fresh fish or sashimi, salads, veggies- and just strong enough to work with asian or eastern entrée flavors. It cut through and cleaned the palate beautifully when tasted after castello blue cheese. But keep the wine cold or it loses some of its delight. For $11 this screwcap wine is a good value, and one you can trust will please your friends but won’t break the bank. Here’s a link to Cupcake Vineyards if you want to find out more.

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I leave you with my usual toast, and a picture from my friends Charles and Lynnette, who shared the picture below.

à votre santé!

Sante Wine

Domain Ballot-Millot & Fils Borgogne Aligoté 2009

7 May

Aligoté, this white burgundy from Meursault that ISN’T chardonnay, is one of my secret wines. I haven’t written about it here before, perhaps on purpose, until now.  The wines from this estate have always been delicious, enticing, and classic; yet with obvious attention to detail from the winemakers, they have improved with slow, steady determination while the prices remain under $20. From my favorite midtown wine Manhattan store, this bottle is a mere $15.95 and I have been steadily ordering several bottles every spring and summer in my mixed cases for my own enjoyment. (I referred to it illicitly in my post, Seeking the Right White Wine.)

Why do I enjoy this Aligoté so? Let me describe it to you: Crisp, clean notes of fresh apple, pear and lemon, followed by delicious acidity.  Hold the wine in your mouth and feel it expand with depth and complexity, the body is fuller than you expect and the minerality is dense with flint & clay, followed by a note of young oak with a mildly nutty flavor on the finish.

Ladies and gentlemen, This is the ‘cheaper’ wine made in the poorer soils in Meursault because the varietal is resistant to cold weather. This delicious, well-made, complex bottle sells for under $16 and is every bit as worthy of Burgundy as the wines that $40, $80, $150. It won’t taste like a $150 bottle of Premiere or Grand Cru Meursault from the Chardonnay grape, (because it isn’t one)  but it most certainly tastes like the terroir, the Aligoté grape, a gentle oak influence, and like it was picked by the same wizened hands that pruned the most expensive grapes all season long…because it was. And this is one you can actually afford to buy by the case once you’ve been wowed by its charm!

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This is the affordable Burgundy I pass over the fence to my neighbor who rarely enjoys a glass of wine. “You know I love white burgundy. It’s my one wine weakness. They send me over the top, but the good ones are just so gosh-darned expensive and hard to come by!” says Gary, the laughing, lovable genius who lives next door with his brilliant wife and their two teenagers that we’ve known for what must be 15 years.

Yes, Gary, and no. They can be hard to find and pricy, but if you look in the right places, you’ll find something that is just as deliciously complex and amazing as that $150 Meursault for a fraction of the price. In this case, Aligoté. For you, for your neighbor, for your wallet, for your palate. Trust me.

à votre santé!

Spring Is In The Air…Sancerre!

6 May

Recently after an evening performance I joined friends for a quick drink at a new restaurant. As we arrived one by one, the waiter provided a drink list and without prompting, each person examined the wines by the glass and declared, “Sancerre!”  It seemed that to each of us, without knowing what anyone else had ordered, Sancerre appeared to be an excellent choice to have when there was no expectation for pairing or food (yet) and ideal for the late evening- all of this in spite of a nice wine menu featuring several chardonnay, white bordeaux, aligote and a chablis available. The choice was a clear winner: sancerre.

It must be Spring. The weather has finally changed, its gorgeous outside, everyone is suffering from allergies, and the bars are stocked with Sancerre.

The success of 2010’s wine crop in France did not end in Bordeaux. The Loire Valley also has had wonderful production and the evidence is in your glass. Sancerre is traditionally 100% sauvignon blanc grapes grown on the west side of the Loire river (facing Pouilly-Fumé on the east bank). There are several terroirs in Sancerre, and as they are often aged in stainless tanks or concrete without exposure to oak, drinkers will find the minerality to be a major character in their glass, be it chalky clay, limestone and flint, the classic white clay and limestone, or another wonderfully expressive version of the amazing terroir.

The only downside? It has become nearly impossible to find a great sancerre for under $15. The good news is, you can find a good value for $10 and really well-made sancerre under $20. So go, drink, enjoy, and share your findings with us!

à votre santé!

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