Archive | August, 2013

A White Burgundy: Devastatingly Good, Right Now.

19 Aug

René Lequin-Colin Bourgogne Chardonnay 2008

…purchased from Sherry-Lehmann (but for more than the current sale price) of $11.99.

The color is golden straw. The nose is crisp green apple with wildflowers and new oak. The mouthfeel is a crisp, citrus-laden quaff with gentle green fruit sliding behind a long finish that features marzipan, gravel, limestone, and fresh wood. The overall response at this age is medium to fuller body, some tang in the initial mouthfeel and on the finish. A lovely, refined, mature chardonnay, this is capable of being adored by itself but the true power is with a good pairing.

It took many years developing a love for white bordeaux before I could fall in love with white burgundy. I blame Chef Eric Ripert and Sommelier Aldo Sohm, whose pairings are unequivocally perfect. Pairings at Le Bernadin taught me that the secondary notes of white wines- that the delicate minerality, or the buttery oakiness  in the finish, would affect the entire sensory experience as a diner and guest. I hope all wine lovers have these revelations with wine. But I digress.

This wine is a great example of an incredible value right now. This 2008 is still drinking beautifully, but it’s approaching the end of that window. It’s on closeout at Sherry-Lehmann, and I’m trying to decide if I buy a few extra bottles or a case. Either way, I’m telling you about it first. Other wines from the same producer retail from $30-$140/bottle, and if you have the ability to buy a case of the Lequin-Colin Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2009, by all means, BUY IT! For the rest of us, at $12/bottle, this is a great value right now in delicious white burgundy. The wine won’t continue to drink as well, and the prices won’t stay as it sells out from inventory. I’d not hesitate to enjoy this nightly until the end of summer.

Lequin-Colin '08

à votre santé!


Un, Deux, Trois: Three Wines from Paul Mas and the Languedoc Region

16 Aug

I often rant about how first and second growths are impossibly expensive. To find great value today you have to seek out  lesser-known wines that have rich history and huge local presence that have not yet exploded globally.  That way,  you can acquire good pricing on a wonderful product that amounts to great value. This is one of those tales. Through a winding story we won’t tell, I met up with a fellow wine lover who also adores country wines and especially wines from the Languedoc region. I was nervous I wouldn’t care for the wines I got to taste as happens sometimes, but read on, and you’ll see how I responded. Special thanks to Michelle and Anne for your help and support! -JvB


Paul Mas Estate Pinot Noir 2011

List price  $14/bottle. 13.5% ABV. Samples provided by McCue Marketing.

Light ruby in color with a nose of fresh, sharp cherries, hints of cola and saffron. Cherry and red plum are the dominant fruit flavors on the palate. Holding the wine in my mouth, I pondered the experience: an unexpected, ideal expression of the grape. The clean finish made this wine feel like a pricier burgundy to me, but without the historic wooden barrel effects. Notes of gravel and chalk appear on the medium finish. Overall, my response is a great balance of fresh red fruit with a good acidity and tannin. Juicy, tart, and mouthwatering, you can drink this all day without getting bored, or start the evening with it and move on to pair it with lighter fare up through a fish course.



The Paul Mas Estate Malbec 2011 

List price  $14/bottle. 13.5% ABV.  Samples provided by McCue Marketing.

Bright violet with a purple center and ruby edging. Ripe red fruit on the nose with herbs and wildflowers. On the palate: soft essence of cassis, boysenberry. Short notes of clay and lime and a long, tart finish.  Concentrated, singular and enjoyable, I expected this was a single vineyard before I looked at the label. Paired perfectly with spicy marinana sauce, strong cheese, and spicy food- such as Thai or Mexican, I made fajitas specifically on the second night of tasting this and was wowed by how nice the pairing was. The bright acidity and ripe fruit will allow the wine to cut through the palate when served with powerful flavors such as duck or a bourguignon sauce. Another surprising value from winemaker Jean-Claude Mas. 

PaulMas Malbec


Chateau Paul Mas Clos de Savignac Grés de Montpellier 2011

List price $27/bottle. 14.5% ABV. Samples provided by McCue Marketing.

Deep purple color with violet edges in the glass; the nose exhibits a lush blend of dark blue and black fruits. On the palate, the initial rush of blackberry, black plum, and currants are met with spice, licorice, oak, and a green vegetation note that hung across my top palate. Limestone, gravel, and mocha notes appeared during the lengthy, oaky finish.  This is a wonderful old world blend with modern efficiency. Speaking of the blend, it is 50% Mourvérdre, 30% Syrah, and 20% Grenache.

PaulMas Montpellier

Centuries of rustic charm on sun-beaten vines meets finesse with the relaxed tannins pulling forward after the liquid has moved below. Powerful, invigorating, and complex are my initial overall impressions, and they stayed consistent as I came back to this wine time and time again. Over four days the nose and fruit aired nicely and developed without losing quality. You can enjoy the 2011 now at this ripe young age, but the smart buyer will pick up a case or three hold this six to eight years and taste it to see how the tannins and fruit mellows over time.  I’d think this wine would cost at least twice as much for the quality, so enjoy it before everyone starts to stockpile and drive the prices up.

Clos de Savignac

About the winemaker: Jean-Claude Mas is a fourth generation winemaker who began work with his family’s winemaking at the age of three. He ascended to run the family business (begun in 1892) in 2000, and has expanded the acreage and updated the technology to mass production, including pneumatic pressers and stainless tanks. The brand Arrogant Frog are among his most visible successes and he has been named International Mediterranean Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young and the Domain Paul Mas was named Winery of the Year by England’s The Guardian Newspaper under his helm.

Jean-Claude Mas - Chai à barriques (1)

Paul Mas wines are carried nationwide by BevMo and other fine wine retailers. In the NYC area Paul Mas wines can be found at Beacon Wines & Spirits, London Terrace Liquor Shop, Phillipe Wine & Liquor, and 120 Wine & Liquor to name a few locations in Manhattan.

More about Domain Paul Mas can be found at their website,

à votre santé!

A Tale of Two Wine Bars

15 Aug

CorkBuzz, Greenwich Village, NYC

In any other city, Corkbuzz would be the hottest ticket in town. In NYC, it’s only a busy, thriving, wonderful resource of wine. We need more places like this, and more Laura Maniecs out there creating destinations that become bigger than size allows, by educating, supporting, and creating more passion.  Beautifully and tastefully decorated, one enters into a sleek wine bar with small tables, long bar top, and chill-out sofas in the front. The back of Corkbuzz offers both group and private tables that appear magically placed in an old-world wineries’ new world tasting table. For cramped NYC spaces, this is spacious and comfortable, yet intimate- as if you’ve been brought into a close friend’s living room.


The list of available wines (by glass or bottle) changes often but you can preview online with the up to date menus, which I find quite helpful. The wine lists are deeply considered- with only 50 wines available by the glass, you can find any style in a good quality bottle at what I consider a reasonable price -most in the $9-16/glass, with some higher end pours reaching up to $20, and currently the champagne offerings include two $27/glass choices for the super-high end.

Food from executive chef Hayan Yi is designed not only to be beautiful and delicious, but moreover to specifically pair with wines at Corkbuzz. Prices range from $6 for small plates up to $30 for the NY Strip; the largest charcuterie and cheese plates range up to $38 but include very high end, mouthwatering and stunning delicacies that are tough to find.  If you’re a foodie, you’ll find a great selection that matches the time of year and sates your palate nicely. Don’t take my word for it- look online at the current offerings and recent photos.


Corkbuzz is so much more than a wine bar, and simply calling it such would be an insult in my opinion. They provide wine education, tasting classes, wine events- it is indeed a total celebration of all things wine, and includes education and developing the wine community. Pricing is on the medium to upper range, but the quality of excellent service offsets any concern customers might have about price. Their staff are both incredibly pleasant and knowledgeable about both wine in general and the offerings they have in-house. I was impressed with the speed, knowledge, and intelligence I found from bar to table servers about available product, how wines or dishes paired or compared. Lagrein? They have it. Wines from Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Oregon, Long Island? They have them. And if you’re a novice, this is the place to come to learn and feel comfortable in not knowing- you don’t have to be an MS to enjoy Corkbuzz. But you might feel smarter after you’ve been!


Tastings A Wine Experience, Downtown Indianapolis, IN

Recently while traveling on business, I had an opportunity to visit Tastings A Wine Experience in Indianapolis.

Upon entering, we were told to “sit where you like” so we chose a quiet area along the back bar which features food service prep.  We walked gingerly through the tables and chairs which were packed much more densely than what is shown in the photos below and the series of wine vending machines. The concept is easy: you put money on a card and then use that card to withdraw 2 oz pours of wines that vary in price. I saw pours ranging in price from $3.50 for two ounces of  entry-level wines up to about $12 for wines that are pretty decent. You can also order wine by the glass and bottle, and spirits and beer are available if you’re not into wine.


Here’s my $0.02: I liked the concept of Tastings. I had checked the place out online and really wanted to go and experience this approach they had. And so we went, and I found I like it much better as an idea than I did in reality. I found the space both cramped and loud, in spite of the fact that it was less than half full. I pored over the wine list while at the counter, finding too many grocery store variety wines (possible entry-level for first timers?) but eventually found several wines that I was interested in, to note that I found the 2 oz. taste to be quite expensive, perhaps not worth the taste. So I looked back at the menu for glasses of wine, after realizing that most wines by the glass were priced at exactly what I knew the bottle should cost, steeled myself and finally found two California red blends I was interested in. One was considered “wine of the week” and had listed next to price:  “ask your server for price” so I did, and she didn’t know the cost. She returned with the cost: $25/for a glass, so I declined. I finally decided a $17 glass for small-volume California wine producer (Saldo by Orin Swift) that I thought overpriced (a local store carries it for $21/bottle) but something I’ve wanted to try-and it was delicious.  My dining companion tasted Marques de Caceres “Duesa Nai” Rais Baixas Alabarino for $11/glass, this was a good example of the grape but this tasted like the bottle had been open for too long, which is frustrating given that you’re paying basically the bottle price for a single glass.  Also I noted there were few wines over 5 years old in the menu, but recent wine was in high volume: one could taste Chateau Montelena 2010 Cab Sauv for $29/glass, $12/ 2 oz pour, or $70/bottle. Orin Swift’s The Prisoner 2011 was available at $25/glass or $65/bottle. Frankly I was surprised at the cost of the wine for glasses and pours given that the bottles were in dispensers that replace the wine used with argon gas, allowing the bottle to remain “fresh” for up to 60 days.  Perhaps the price of the glasses and pours are simply to offset the cost of the dispensers, which look pricey and very high-tech, and were quite popular among ladies the evening I visited.

Food at Tastings was very reasonable in price and had an array of options from tapas to apps to small entrees.  We enjoyed small pizzas and salads but passed on the cheese plates we saw other diners order nearby; they looked like garden-variety grocery market cheeses at gourmet pricing, though a quick look at the menu demonstrated that they had a wold-wide  selection of cheeses that might not be familiar to the local clientele.


I regret to say that I was disappointed with the service at Tastings. We started out fine with a waitress who explained quickly how the bar worked and tried to suggest some wines for my dining partner. After our initial order, I couldn’t flag down anyone for water and had to find and pour it myself, expecting a barman to offer assistance at any moment… but nope. When we had a problem with the food order (only half of our order arrived) I mentioned it to the kitchen staff who found a different server to re-confirm our original order, which was quickly (thank you!) fulfilled. I found a fourth server to request our check and make payment, though our original server finally returned, bringing back my credit card receipt and hovering nearby as I wrote in the tip and signed. Curious, indeed.

The wine pricing at Tastings is expensive, made greater by the lack of service so customers are paying a premium without any added value.  Knowing what wines cost and what they should cost in a restaurant, the owners have made a point to charge more than a premium for their products. In case it should appear to the contrary, please understand that I have no problem with a $25 glass of wine, but I’ve previously experienced wonderful value for that price at great wine bars where that $25 pour came from a bottle that costs well over $100 in a store, not $35. A shorter list with greater regions or style choices would make sense instead of listing segments as I found wines grouped evidently for the uninitiated:  “Enticing and Eclectic Whites”, “Enticing and Eclectic Reds”, with regional varietals listed as: Italian, Spanish, German. Hold the phone there. Control, are we missing something? Never heard of Austria? Australia? New Zealand? How about FRANCE? I did a slow walk around the store to find some Aussie wines, and finally a couple of Rhône varietals near a lone Chateauneuf-de-Pape (finally) but felt like someone had missed the boat on wine history.

I’m told they are quite busy after work and I wish them good luck and continued success, while I do hope they will expand their repertoire of wines to include more classic French wines as well as more regional wines.  If you’re looking for a wine/singles bar, this may be the ultimate that Indianapolis has to offer, and it’s a place worth going. Yet I hope they can make some  improvements to the breadth of wines on their already long list of offerings and I hope to experience a higher quality of service than my last experience. If not, I’ll still go back, as the pros still outweigh the cons without a doubt in my mind. When I’m in town next, I will set my sights and return, and hope to enjoy Tastings as I’m sure it is intended to be.

à votre santé!

The Hype on Hyperdecanting

11 Aug

A friend asked for my opinion about a link to a story on the AP about a ‘new’ way to hyperdecant wine: using the blender. I want to share it with JvB UnCorked’s readers and see what others think about this.

This story went out on the AP on Aug 7, 2013, from W. Wayt Gibbs, the editor-in-chief of The Cooking Labs. I have copied the text at the bottom of this post, with a direct link for your review, as well as an article I found that preceded it by two years about hyperdecanting, and a related YouTube video,  all for your review.

Short version: The Cooking Labs share their double-blind date that hyper-decanting, or aeration using a blender, will provide significant improvement in aeration over standard decanting.


I read the article, and quickly emailed my response back to Scott, the friend who sent me the link asking for my opinion. My response to him is copied below:

“Assuming the double blind test was done accurately and the results are also true, then any man of science should consider this type of aeration to be a good idea. The problem is that wine lovers have personal tenets and concepts about wine that are closer to religion than science in some ways.  We’ve been taught that bottles and wines are to be carefully treated, like a baby -any rough handling is considered dangerous. I absolutely know that with some wines, the aeration will obviously make a major improvement.  Yet, I have also experienced that some older wines have a smaller (shorter) window in which their aeration provides great improvement before they rapidly decline to undrinkable, and I wonder if this form of aeration could allow  the wine to demonstrates its maximum potential right away, while I wonder and worry that after such treatment, if an old, delicate wine would quickly lose the flavor profile during a meal or course, which would be quite sad, if not catastrophic in an oenophile’s point of view.
In the end, I think this type of aeration is worth trying, but the idea of a blender at a high end dinner table? No chance. The pomp of decanting is much more elegant than blending.”
After sending my response to Scott, I pondered this idea for some time, about what how this might work well, under what circumstances, it could be useful or disastrous, and what bottles of wine in my cellar I might actually hyperdecant.  I am quite curious at the idea, yet quite terrified by the concept, needing time to let the idea fully grow on me.  I’m also horrified of the idea of the frothy foam created from a wine frappe, though some brilliant, Grant Achatz-like master chef would find a great way to implement 1982 Chateau Margaux foam in a dish, no doubt (or already has!)  But with some time for the idea to grow on me, I can more easily see where some of my California red blends, that taste so delicious after decanting, could improve from this technique.

I’m still sitting on the fence on this concept. Could I try hyperdecanting with new world wines? Sure, I could give it a try, especially with a $50 or under red blend. Old world, highly collectable (and expensive) wines could benefit even more from hyperdecanting if the concept were not so horrifying and violent to the viscous liquid we hold so dear to our hearts. Am I willing to try it on my ‘prized possession’ vintage bottles? Honestly? No way. Not a chance, right now.

I’d love to hear from others as to what you think about this concept. Please share your thoughts, either as a comment to this blog, or in a direct email to me at Merci!


Original article that sparked my interest:

Improve That Red Wine With Just a Push of a Button

By W. WAYT GIBBS Associated Press
August 7, 2013 (AP)

Something about fine wine invites mystique, ritual — and more than a little pretension.

If you have ever ordered an old and expensive bottle of red from a master sommelier, you may have seen the ostentatious production that goes into decanting the stuff. The wine steward rolls out a gueridon (a little table) on which the bottle is cradled gently in a cloth-lined basket. A lit candle flickers nearby. The sommelier tips the neck of the bottle over the candle while pouring the wine with the delicacy of a surgeon into a broad-bottomed decanter so as not to disturb the sediment that has fallen out of the wine during years of aging and character development.

Thus aerated, the wine is then allowed to “breathe” for a while before it is served. Oenophiles — even those back in Roman times — have observed that wine of many vintages and varieties improves perceptibly when aerated for as little as a few minutes or for as long as a day. Oenologists have debated the chemistry that might account for this shift in flavor. Do the tannins change in ways that soften their distinctive flavors? Or does aeration simply allow stinky sulfides enough time to evaporate away?

Whatever the science behind it, the traditional ritual makes for a fine show. But when you’re at home pouring wine for yourself or guests, you can save time and generate entertainment of a different kind by taking a shortcut: dump the bottle in a blender, and frappe it into a froth. (Sediment is less common in wines today than it used to be, but if you are concerned about that, pour the wine very slowly into the blender, and stop before you get to the last couple ounces.)

Less than a minute of hyperdecanting, as we at The Cooking Lab have taken to calling this modern method, exposes the wine to as much air as it would see in an hour or more of traditional decanting, and does so far more uniformly. Wine aficionados may recoil in fear that such a violent treatment will “break” the wine, but the proof is in the tasting.

In carefully controlled, double-blind taste tests conducted at our lab, we presented 14 experienced wine tasters — seven sommeliers, three vintners, two oenologists and two wine writers — with unlabeled samples of hyperdecanted wine. The tasters also received samples taken from the same bottles but decanted the old-fashioned way. The order of presentation was varied from one trial to the next.

When we asked them which samples they preferred, only two of the 14 judges were able to distinguish a difference repeatedly, and both of those tasters consistently preferred the wine that had gone through the blender.

So the next time you uncork a well-muscled syrah — or even a rambunctious riesling — for your connoisseur friends, bring a blender to the table, and have a camera ready. The foam will subside within seconds. But you’ll cherish that memory of the look on their faces for the rest of your days.

EDITOR’S NOTE: W. Wayt Gibbs is editor-in-chief of The Cooking Lab, the culinary research team led by Nathan Myhrvold that produced the cookbooks “Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking” and “Modernist Cuisine at Home.” Their latest book, “The Photography of Modernist Cuisine,” will be released in October.>>


After a little digging, Google led me to this Bloomberg source from September 22, 2011, that I found interesting, and also lays out a scientific method for blind taste testing with your friends!

How to Decant Wine with a Blender

September 22, 2011

Wine lovers have known for centuries that decanting wine before serving it often improves its flavor. Whatever the dominant process, the traditional decanter is a rather pathetic tool to accomplish it. A few years ago, I found I could get much better results by using an ordinary kitchen blender. I just pour the wine in, frappé away at the highest power setting for 30 to 60 seconds, and then allow the froth to subside (which happens quickly) before serving. I call it “hyperdecanting.”

Although torturing an expensive wine in this way may cause sensitive oenophiles to avert their eyes, it almost invariably improves red wines—particularly younger ones, but even a 1982 Château Margaux. Don’t just take my word for it, try it yourself.

But set up a proper blind taste test to avoid subconscious bias among the tasters. That’s a bigger problem than you might imagine. Researchers who examined the voting records of wine judges found that 90 percent of the time they give inconsistent ratings to a particular wine when they judge it on multiple occasions.

To avoid bias, use a “triangle test,” which is a scientifically rigorous way to test for a perceptible difference between wine prepared two different ways. Get as many judges as you can—10 is the minimum to get good statistics. Give each judge three identical glasses, and label the glasses X, Y, and Z.

Hyperdecant half a bottle of wine, and save the other half of the bottle to use for comparison. Out of view of the judges, pour an ounce or so of wine into each glass. The undecanted wine should go into two of the glasses, the hyperdecanted wine into the third, or vice versa. Vary the order of presentation among the judges so that not all are tasting the hyperdecanted wine first or last. Record which wine goes into which glass, and have the judges guess which two of their wines are the same.

You’ll probably find that hyperdecanting does clearly change the flavor of the wine. To determine with scientific rigor whether your tasters prefer the hyperdecanted wine requires a more complex trial called a “paired preference” test, or “square” test. But a blind side-by-side comparison works passably well, too, and requires no math.


And finally, Terrence Jones did a YouTube video on hyperdecanting that I found interesting, his results seem inconclusive at first  but land in favor of the use of the blender.

à votre santé!

Summer Find: Savory White Blend Value from Pierre Lurton

4 Aug

Pierre Lurton’s Chateau Marjosse 2010 Blanc / White Bordeaux Blend. Purchased at Sherry-Lehman for $16.

I saw that winemaker Pierre Lurton had a white bordeaux blend on sale at one of my regular haunts, so I picked it up recently with one of my summer mixed cases. If you don’t recognize the name Lurton, he is the general manager of two other first growth chateaux, namely Cheval Blanc and Chateau Yquem. I remember reading a Wine Cellar insider profile, and Lurton is also featured on Youtube links like this one about the 2012 vintage.  Chateau Marjosse was the first property he oversaw, and demonstrates his success and quality at a far lower price point.

When I opened the Chateau Marjosse Blanc, I was very happy I’d tried it! The bright straw color is clear, the nose presents grapefruit, lychee and dried wildflowers. What surprised me was the lack of forward fruit on the palate, instead a very gentle pressed apple played second to the creamy oak and crisp acidity. I was impressed by the wine as a celebration as a savory white wine that could pair well with food or be enjoyed alone, and immediately recognized this white Bordeaux blend as one to rank in the much higher-priced land of expensive white blends from the area, but at the everyman’s wine price (under $20).

You can bet I’ll be looking for this wine again in the future. On sale or not, it is a terrific value in esteemed company that you don’t need either an advanced palate or expense account to enjoy and share.  Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle make up this delicious bottle and I highly suggest that white wine lovers give this wine some strong consideration for your collection and consumption, knowing that this white is designed to be drunk within a few years of the bottling.


à votre santé!

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