Archive | November, 2013

2013 Thanksgiving Postmortem

29 Nov

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

For me, after countless emails, phone calls, and being stopped in person by friends, co-workers, family, readers and fans about what wine they should serve or bring on Thanksgiving, it is a pleasure to step back and look at empty bottles after the big meal.

A question I often leave unanswered, is “What wine did _YOU_ serve this year?” Because I tend to serve four or more types of wine. Well, this isn’t a year of crazy stories, such as the year I had an entire case of pricey, vintage Blanc de Lynch Bages that had either corked or cooked. (In retrospect, I wish that I had video of my expression as I opened, tasted, and tossed bottle after bottle in total disbelief.) No such luck this year, thank goodness.

With only seven wine drinkers at my table this year I had less pressure on quantity  -a problem I have sometimes experienced- but I didn’t know the entire planned menu until the actual day. So I had made some preparation in advance but no final decisions until about an hour before it was time to sit down. While I passed over some pricier choices from my cellar, this year’s final choices landed mostly in the $11-16 range, with one bottle (marked with an *) at $20, and one bottle (marked with an $) in the low $30’s.  Links on the name are to the manufacturer’s site when available, or other resources when not.

My 2013 Thanksgiving Dinner Wine Servings:

Domaine de Vaufuget Vouvray 2011, Loire, France. The chenin blanc used for this Vouvray has a nice balance of fruit and acidity. It is gentle with a hint of sweetness that is perfect for wine drinkers with less complicated palates who want something they can simply enjoy that will also beautifully complement the entire meal.

Heinz Eilfel Spatlese Riesling 2011, Mosel, Germany. The doctor (who normally only drinks bold reds) fell madly in love with this wonderfully balanced gem that offers depth of minerality with gentle fruit, some sweetness up front, some salinity on the back palate, and a longer finish than most whites. Three non-drinkers tasted this but preferred the Vouvray this year, while the serious wine lovers at the table adored this one.

Modus Operandi Vicarious Rose 2011*, Napa, California. The older generation at dinner surprised themselves and preferred this rosé over other wines tasted. Overheard: “I usually don’t like rosé, but this is amazing”. This is a very well-made wine with great character and depth of flavor that pulls together the savory and sweet with nice acidity and no aftertaste, leaving the palate clean and fresh like a white wine but pairing on the palate like a red. The best of both worlds, perhaps, and a regular in my stable for Thanksgiving. Only four barrels were made in 2011, but my secret weapon, and it always delivers.

Jean-Foillard Côte du Py Morgon 2011$, Beaujolais, France. Gamay at its finest, a lovely beaujolais that ages with finesse and grace. Bright, vibrant fruit with shining acidity that is the alcoholic equivalent to a fabulous homemade cranberry sauce: fruity and tart, acidic and clear, defining the savory dishes and integrating all the elements. Only the oenephiles at the table ooh’d about this wine that sold out after I tried to get more from the NYC wine store where I’d found it. Hard to find and a pain to remove the wax cap, but oh such a perfect expression of the grape.

Château Canteloup, Premières Côte de Blaye 2000, Bordeaux, France. Aged to perfection, this wine was the answer to dark meat, mushroom gravy, and the elderly Bordeaux snob. The nose is musty, the mouthfeel is velvety, the fruit is subdued, the tannins are retrospective. The wine is smooth and classically styled.

Bogle Vineyards Phantom 2010, Clarksburg, California was the big bold wine I held in reserve for this year’s meal. One specific guest did not make the table this year and this wine was perfect for him; several people tasted it today and remarked at the massive fruit flavors of this old vine zinfandel/petite sirah/old vine morvedre  blend with powerful tannin on the finish, but it was passed by this group for lighter or delicate options. Resealed with a vacuum pump, I look forward to a better pairing for a meal soon to be devoured!

I’d love to know what wines you served this year. Feel free to leave a response to this post, drop me an email at, or via twitter,  @jvbuncorked.

à votre santé!


Thanksgiving Wine, 2013. “One Wine to Serve Them All”

23 Nov

Here’s my 2013 update on Wine for Thanksgiving. And may you be surrounded by loved ones and take time to enjoy and slow down, if only for the one day!

For the past few years I’ve written about my Thanksgiving preference to serve several wines at Thanksgiving, in order to suit both a range of courses over a long meal as well as to cater to different preferences of individuals in large groups. (*See my footnote below if you need a reminder.) Well I’m NOT talking about those today. Let’s talk about a SINGLE bottle of wine for Thanksgiving… not because it’s what I’ll serve, but because it’s what I’m constantly asked about at this time of year.

People regularly ask me to suggest ONE wine to pair with the traditional Thanksgiving meal that all their guests will enjoy. Others want a bottle to bring as a gift to someone else’s home that might or might not be served with the meal, so it should be appropriate for use on Thanksgiving or by the host at a later date.

A Thanksgiving Gift Wine, or One Wine for the Big Meal

If you are OK with red grapes, then you have to make a choice: Rosé or Gamay?
Option One: Rosé
. Relax: this is not the lousy rosé we grew up with that made so many wine lovers turn up their nose at the faintest idea of a pink wine. We shall only consider the well-made rosé wines that will pair beautifully with opening courses, make the cranberry sauce sing, and take your turkey to a higher level. My favorites here would be Modus Operandi’s Vicarious Rosé from California, or from Provence France’s Domaines Ott, Chateau de Selle Rosé. Both of these should have a street price in the $30-$40 range, and are highly worth the price for the religious experience they deliver. For the under-$20 crowd, there are very good rosé wines from Guigal,and locally from  Coppola (a 90 pointer called Sofia), and a good dozen other producers that you can find in most wine stores. Key phrase here is “what is the best rosé you carry that will pair well for the entire meal”? Last year I served the Vicarious Rosé during the soup course and had several guests drink it through to dessert, enjoying it thoroughly the entire evening.

Option Two: Beaujolais Nouveau,  the gamay grape’s fruity, light, fall season ‘fun’ wine. This is my other best option for a wine that can match with the entire meal. George DuBoeuf has the corner on the market, his nouveau wines will run you around $10-12 and are consistent, tasty and good. You can go up the ladder, however, with Domaine du Peuble’s 2012 Beaujolais Nouveau in the $12-16 range, or Jean Foillard Morgon Beaujolais, which runs in the mid $20’s. To give you an idea of the quality of this wine, famed chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon restaurant in Beverly Hills is serving this with their prix fixe this week. For a few bucks more you can get a big jump in quality, but beaujolais nouveau is always fun to open and a good conversation piece.What could be easier for people who panic and don’t know what wine to bring? Here is your answer: Beaujolais Nouveau.

And for those readers who just don’t do red wine… I haven’t forgotten you. (Yes, Virginia, that rosé is made from red grapes.) For you, I’d suggest you consider whether you prefer either the serious white or a “lighter” white for your gift or single meal wine. In the serious realm, a white Bourdeaux Blend is always appreciated and appropriate for Thanksgiving and any time of year, or a white Burgundy will pair beautifully with this savory meal. You can find white bordeaux blends starting around $10 and up, and Burgundies about $16 and up, into the thousands per bottle… and if you can afford these upper tier wines, please invite yourself to my home for dinner!  Shifting to the lighter side, I often start by suggesting Riesling, and I’ll take that a step further: consider Riesling, Kerner, Gerwürztraminer, or Grüner, many of which have a hint of sweetness on the nose and initial early palate but offer depth in their acidity and minerality,  and often can be found in the $12-25 range. There are countless offerings both Stateside and abroad, but the masters of these grapes are from Germany, Austria, and Alto Adige region of Italy.

Happy Holidays to you! 

à votre santé!

*The four wines are I usually serve are: 1) a fun white, 2) a serious white, 3) a delicate red, and 4) a bold red.

Artisanal Wine, Meet Jaw-Dropping Artisanal Vinegar

22 Nov
As wine aficionados you may also possess a certain palate for quality foods. With the gift giving season upon us, I found this article about shopping for traditional, artisanal Balsamic Vinegar to be especially interesting. Like wine, not all Balsamic Vinegars are created equal.  With that in mind I thought my readers might enjoy this piece from about how to choose a quality balsamic vinegar. It may offer you unexpected revelations!
Wine Fashionista (aka Mary Orlin) is a Certified Sommelier who knows volumes about wine, food, and perfume. In another of her blog posts, I was astounded at the photographs of the barrels from the Leonardi Balsamic Vinegar Farm and the process that is described. I know you’ll enjoy these, too!
Click the links above in blue or copy and paste the url below

à votre santé, and bon appétit!

My Verona

10 Nov

I recently attended a Bottlenotes’ Taste Around Town event at  Greenwich Project  featuring wines from Verona area of Northern Italy. I was able to taste nine wines from Cesari, a manufacturer that is imported to the USA by Opici Wines, who arranged the tasted and poured for us.

The evening’s tasting of wines that ranged in price from $9-$70, I hope my notes will help provide a sense of the region,  the individual bottles, and the brand, starting with the light-bodied wines moving to the full-bodied, high end, with MSRP in $USD and alcohol by volume listed after my tasting notes. If you see something that peaks your interest, I bet you can find it easily to purchase locally or using a search engine. If you get stuck, try the Opici website link above. They are very nice, intelligent wine-lovers who are passionate about their work the same way we are about wine.

Duetorri Pinot Grigio-100% pinot grigio, fresh and crisp, a good demonstration of the grape, fragrant citrus and white pear with nice, tight acidity and minerality. $9/bottle,  12.5%ABV.

Duetorri Pinot Noir, 100% pinot noir- very gentle, easy to drink pinot with bright cherry nose and palate and high acidity. Matured in stainless to highlight the grape, this is a nice entry-level wine that shows the basic grape with some flint notes from the terroir with mild tannins and a comforting acidity.  $9/bottle, 12.5% ABV.

Bardolino Chiaretto – With a nose of wildflowers and bright ruby color, cherry dominates the mouth with strong acidity and mild tannins. 60% Corvina with Molinara and Rondinella grapes in the blend, an easy-drinking, rosé that was designed to be enjoyed with food. $11/bottle, 12% ABV.

Valpolicella Classico DOC.  A blend of 75% Corvina and 25% Rondinella, a nice example of a classic Italian table wine, capable of pairing almost anything. Perfect first-course wine if you want to move to the expensive upper crust, or very comfortable to enjoy throughout an entire meal. Feels fresh, tasty and local.   $12/bottle, 12.5% ABV.

Mara Valpolicella Superiore Di Ripasso. A blend of corvino, rondinella  and molinara grapes that is made with a secondary fermentation on Amarone grape pressings for great depth (hence the term, ripasso). The wine offers a bright ruby color with floral nose, the flavors are concentrated and fuller-bodied with a velvet texture in the mouth and compares well to a beaujolais or burgundy. “Mara” would pair well with fowl, white or red meat and game. $19/bottle, 13.5% ABV.

Jema (2008) Made of 100% corvina.  This wine starts with ripe red fruit aromas and flavors and shows beautifully subtle notes of cocoa, roasted coffee bean, cloves, old wood and chalky soil that add marvelous depth. A lengthy process is used to achieve this enjoyable wine which is a great demonstration of small, old-world winemaking that really shows in the depth of flavors and lingering finish. Priced in the Mid-$30’s. ABV 13.5%.


Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC (2008). An aromatic nose with red fruit and spice; cherry, leather, and tobacco on the palate.  This full-bodied wine will compete nicely with some of your favorite Barolo wines. Big, very dry, and long on the finish. The blend is made from 70% Veronese corvino, 20%  rondinella, and 5% molinar grapes. Low-Mid $30’s/bottle, 15.3% ABV


Amarone Della Valpolicella “Il Bosco” DOC (2006) This blend of 80% corvina and 20% rondinella shows off huge nose of black fruit and dried flowers. In the mouth, black plum and cassis are dominant with a gentle hint of wood. Full-bodied, producing a powerful, lengthy finish with a delicate and velvet texture. Impressive.  $70/bottle, 15% ABV.


Bosan Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso (2004) Comprised of 80% Corvina and 20% Rondinella, this DOC wine uses the same Ripasso technique to re-ferment the wine on the dried skins prior to barrel and bottle drying to provide an excellent, well-made wine. Floral notes with licorice and tobacco on the nose, the palate shows over-ripe black cherry, dried plum, and boysenberry with notes of bittersweet chocolate, allspice, and toasted vanilla bean.  Mellow acidity and mature tannins show that this is a perfect age for this wine though it could age another ten years, at the current age it demonstrates a medium long finish that adds residual oak and some chalky clay to the back palate. Delicious, crowd-pleasing, and a great example of wonderful winemaking from the region. Unlike some wines only show best when paired, this wine also shows wonderfully alone and could be an excellent after-dinner or “meditation” wine. $70’s/bottle;  15.8%ABV.


With the options available from Verona, it’s no wonder Shakespeare waxed poetic about the region, her people and wine. If you don’t know the wines from the area, you owe it to yourself to try them with some of your favorite Italian food.

And since I jokingly referred to it in the title, here’s a VH1 video of The Knack’s “My Sharona” for you 1970’s music fans. Enjoy!

à votre santé!

Aces & Eights

5 Nov

Ok, I’m not really going to talk about the dead man’s hand in poker, a game I enjoy but would never make into a career. I’m referring to, as you’ve already gleaned,  eight dollar wines that are an excellent value.

Here’s an example: perhaps you’ve noticed how much I like Vino Verde. These are great value wines from Portugal that are crisp, refreshing whites that still haven’t broken through the mainstream of wine pop culture. The good news is that wine lovers who are looking for great value have a wonderful resource that is plentiful,  downright cheap (my local wine store has two great vino verdes,  at $6 and $7!) and they store well for a year or more, so buying a case is a smart move if you have room.

Allow me introduce you to two more wines like that, from different parts of the globe.


From Austria, Forstreiter’s ”Grooner” Gruner Veltliner 2012, $8.49 from Garnet Wine, 12% ABV.

This gruner demonstrates a color of light straw with a hint of green and a nose of grapefruit and orange peel. There is a gently tart, citrus mouthfeel with nice acidity, making this an easy wine to drink by itself or with food. Like pinot grigio, riesling, and sauvignon blanc, the gruner veltliner is often sold as a summer white but can be perfect year-round with proper pairing or the drinker’s mood. I find this “Grooner” and the lovely kerner and gruner’s I’ve reviewed recently to be ideal fall wine when you have the late day sun on your face and feel a nip in the air. Crisp and fresh, there is less apple in this wine which suits me perfectly, given that it’s apple-picking time and that flavor abounds currently.

Did I mention the price? The Forstreiter came in on sale at $8.49, marked down from the retail price of 9.99 in Manhattan. Talk about bang for the buck! Gruner Veltliner has made my short list for an upcoming party as an easy to drink, people-pleaser as opposed to my classic French ‘attitude’ wines.



Not to be outdone… from Austria down to South Africa!



Much further south we find “Little J” Red 2010 from Joostenberg Wines, South Africa;  $8 at Garnet Wine, 14% ABV.

This is a western cape blend featuring a deep violet color and nose of cassis with a hint of road tar. In the mouth, black cassis and boysenberry collides with cherry, on the front palate and dusty green vines, old wood and gravelly schist following after.  The medium-length finish matches the medium body but the wine has a nice edge of acidity to pair with food and tannins to have your mouth ask for more.

I tried this with savory cheeses, mexican, chinese food, and hearty meat dishes and found it stood up to all, perhaps not enhancing the flavors but matching them note for note. A side note, Joostenberg is certified organic in both the USA and Europe, the screwcap is emblazoned with “Certified Integrity and Sustainability Wine & Spirit Board, for those who want to delve into the specifics.  For me, an $8 bottle of wine that is a good vin du table and stands up to just about any food is a great value and a good resource.




So there are three of my “Aces & Eights”. Please click on the comment button below, or hit me on twitter at @jvbuncorked and share your suggestions with me!


à votre santé!

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