Archive | November, 2014

That Time of Year: 2014 Thanksgiving Postmortem

29 Nov

For lovers of the grape, “holiday” means wine time! When chance put a perfect Halloween wine in my hands, I wrote about it (here). But this fall, I found myself somewhat reluctant to write about the biggest food holiday we celebrate: Thanksgiving. Every year I write about what I’m serving, and make suggestions to the myriad friends and lurkers who have come across me in person, at a wine event, on Facebook, WordPress, or via the ‘net. So why was I reluctant to talk about my plans for Thanksgiving wines this year?

*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. -JvB UnCorked

What would my four wines be thus year? Last year I had six wines, (one held in reserve for a guest who didn’t make the meal after all) but this year was a serious question. I’ve had some great wines over the summer and fall that made me re-think my choices.

Furiously working on the broadcast of the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and dinner was (thankfully) not at my home this year, yet the wine is still my domain. Because pre-production and broadcast equates to very long hours of hectic work, I planned to serve wines from my cellar, so that removed a lot of options from contention. I had been deep in thought about the stunning pinot noir wines I tasted from Santa Barbara and Central Otago, New Zealand this year. In SB County I had been impressed by Fess Parker, Cottonwood, Blair Fox, Au Bon Climat, and Ken Brown, -just to name a few of the SB wines. Some specific bottles were so shockingly good they just haunted me, such as the Dominio del Falcon from Sanford  as well as Pipeclay Terrace and Long Gully Pinots from Mount Difficulty, and wines from the Otago NZ crowd like Felton Road, Quartz Reef, Rippon, Amisfield, and Mud House.  

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MtDifficulty

 

I was also spoiled by a hot summer of killer treats, and these wandered into my thoughts as I considered what to serve.

Starting with the reds: the delicate red was in contention. I usually serve a bright and acidic pinot, gamay, or cru beaujolais but I kept returning to this crazy idea of serving an Aussie sparkling shiraz called The Red Brute from Bleasedale Vineyards I tasted earlier this fall. Sometimes I have to take a chance, right?

The serious red has lots of options but can be a tough choice, when you have my wine cellar. I have some nicely aged reds (like the 2000 Pomerol, or 1996 Cos D’estournel, and other earlier delights) but knowing the guests who would attend, I kept thinking that one of the 1.5L northern Rhône bottles I have on hand would pair best. The Pierre Gonon syrah is a juicy black currant delight with tons of darker notes of earth and leather, good acidity, and is a crowd pleaser. While I consider this vintage too young for a red meat entrée, given this meal, it will provide a perfect pairing, and I know people will adore it.

Having waffled on my traditions for those two, I have to sit back and slow down for a moment. There are three more wines I need to consider, one is the delightful rosé from Modus Operandi Wines that blows away most wine drinkers at the table. It always goes something like this:

Guest: “Sorry, I don’t like rosé.”

Me: “No problem, just humor me and take a tiny taste of this, then we’ll move on.”

Guest: “Oh, ok. (sip). Oh. Wow, that’s really good. May I have that?”

Me: “Of course!”

But having enjoyed so many great rosé’s this summer and fall, in my mind even my kick-ass Modus Operandi rosé was in question after being impressed by this inexpensive sleeper rhône rosé, Belleruche Rosé from the Côtes du Rhône just recently. I really enjoyed it, but was not sure it could stand up to the red meat in the soup or the savory flavors on its own. I decided to stick with my gut on this and transferred the Napa 2012 Modus Rosé from the rack in the cellar to the safety of my six-slot wine bag.

I also wondered about the red and white blend from Tess Vineyards that I found on Underground Cellars. It’s a little bit of a lot of things, and its fresh and light yet fruity and fun. But I feared a red/white blend would be too much of a challenge for some of the older & traditional crowd at the meal, so I decided to hold that for a tasting I’ll host  in the next few months.

Tgiving Reds

 

I needed a simple solution for at least ONE of my wines! So the “fun” white was easy: Leitz’ Dragonstone riesling from the Rheingau. It offers great minerality, white stone fruit, a touch of sweetness, and a crisp finish.

On to my final tough choice, the serious white. My go-to here is a Bordeaux blend, and my cellar has some great choices. I opened up a couple of crates and looked at options while thinking about the total wine lineup, and I went with a choice that for me seems out of left field:  I took a bottle of my ’09 Vintage Tunina from Silvio Jermann that is huge, rich and creamy.  I adore this classic IGT blend of white grapes, and I could not think of a better meal to pair it with that Thanksgiving dinner.

Tgiving Whites

 

I finally sat back and was able to breathe. This year’s Thanksgiving wines, all told. Wines from Germany, Italy, USA’s Napa Valley, Australia, and France: a true melting pot, just like NYC.  For me a few surprises, but lots of tradition. Something for every palate, and the only repeat is my favorite rosé.

TgivingWines

 

 

As I had hoped, when the day arrived, the wines were a hit. Everone who tried The Brute sparkling shiraz was surprised how savory, dry and refreshing it was, and both it and the rosé paired amazingly well with the first course, a beef vegetable soup, and the main meal. The Gonon Saint-Joseph was the crowd pleaser I expected, pairing beautifully with the meal, while the non-drinkers enjoyed the riesling and the vintage tunina held court nicely. My wife’s ninety-one year old uncle said to me, “you brought a lot of wine, you might have a little left over at the end of the meal”, but I told him not to worry. Like the leftovers from the meal, I was sure they would not last long.

à votre santé!

 

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Wente Riverbank Riesling 2011

25 Nov

Wente “Riverbank” Riesling 2011, Arroyo Seco, Monterey, CA . Locally $11, Internet from $9-12/bottle. 12.5% ABV.

A clear color of pale sunshine with a green tinge in the glass, the nose shows honeysuckle, gentle floral notes with a hint of salt air, which begs the question if Wente found a way to bottle with California coastline breeze instead of nitrogen?

All kidding aside, this wine is no joke and is named appropriately. In the mouth, the palate is flooded with honeyed apricot, white stone fruit, saline and great acidity. The finish has hints of  gravel and sandstone.  Swallowing leaves a perfect cleansing of the palate which cries out for more. This is a treat that can pair with just about anything or sit beautifully on its own  at any time of the day or night, nicely complementing sunshine and moonlight.

At this price point, it offers solid value and is every bit as complex and well-made as rieslings in the same (lowest) range from Wachau, Austria and Mosel, Germany. Which is my way of saying its worth your time and consideration.

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à votre santé!

Thanksgiving Wine: Street Exchange with a Beer Drinker!

23 Nov
I had a funny exchange on a freezing street corner: A co-worker approached me, needing some wine help and at the same time, unwittingly offering me some interesting constructive criticism.
“JvB, you know I’m a beer guy and have no time… or honestly, any interest to read your wine blog. But I can’t go to the liquor store and say ‘gimme a thanksgiving dinner wine’ because I have done that before and they point at a row of stuff that nobody enjoys. I just need enough to sound like I know what I’m looking for, and to choose ONE decent bottle of wine for Thanksgiving. Can ya PLEASE do me a frickin’ favor and give me ONE wine to buy instead of a hundred options?”
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I bit my tongue down on my sarcastic reply. His point was immediately taken. This guy actually wanted help, and here I was. I was determined to give him the tools he needed to succeed with both the wine store and his in-laws.
“No problem,” I smiled. “Let’s narrow it down to three possible types,” I suggested. “Consider white, red, or rosé, by who will drink it and what the meal will be.”
“Standard meal, it’s usually turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, sweet potato casserole, green beans, and pie for dessert. They’ll make a very traditional afternoon turkey dinner that lasts 2-3 hours,” he explains. “My wife, her sister and their parents are the wine drinkers, I’ll have a sip of wine to toast the meal but will move to beer as soon as I can and end up watching football as soon as I can.” His directness and lack of BS is refreshing.
“Sure. And a price range?” I ask. “You want box wine or to impress the in-laws?”
He scoffs. “It can’t look or taste cheap, but don’t break the bank. I’ll probably buy two bottles of it and ideally I’d like to spend below $50, tax included.”
“Ok, got it,” I tell him. “Let me offer you only two suggestions and you can take that to your wine store. For this meal, you want something with plenty of crisp fruit and acidity. If I had to buy only one bottle, I’d look for something that matches the range of the meal, so you’re smart to want one _nice_ bottle, either a good rosé or a pinot noir. Ask your wine store to show you their best value in both pinot noir and good rose’ in the under $25 range.” (He nods, thumbs a few keys on his phone, taking notes.)
“For the pinot noir, I’ll toss you a few names that will all be in the $25 and under range that are big crowd pleasers: Drouhin, Cloudline, Meiomi, Oyster Bay. They represent the premiere regions making Pinot noir today: Burgundy (France) , Willamette Valley (Oregon), California, and Central Otago (New Zealand). They will probably offer you a bunch of medium-fancy bottles in the $20-25 range, which is where you find the higher quality stuff, but there is plenty of great value under $25. If nothing that sounds good comes up in your wine store and you feel lost, ask for Pepperwood Grove from Chile as a last-minute “under-the-radar” stealth wine in the $10-12 range. It’s a solid last resort that still tastes great.” (More typing, his eyes bugged out and he nods while trying to keep up as I dictate.)
For rosé, anything that doesn’t immediately feel impressive is probably not worth your time for this choice. Don’t expect to see anything useful in the under $15 unless the clerk swears it’s amazing. Tell them it has to be 89 points or better and drink like a $40-50 bottle to be worth your time, OK?” (Another quick nod, followed by a quick moment of  eye contact. He’s still typing. The last thing I need is for him to come back and blame me for a poor wine choice. I’m feeling the pressure.)
I saw the opening and seized it. “For an important family meal like this one, you might want to consider one white and one red if your wife or mother-in-law prefers white wines,” I blurted out. “The most common white bordeaux is Mouton-Cadet Bordeaux Blanc, a nice white blend that constantly wins awards and sells dirt cheap from $9-11 per bottle. Toss it in the fridge and have it as a safety bottle,” I suggest. My buddy is furiously typing more notes on his phone. I’d give my left arm to see how he tried to spell these, but that would be a very bad move on my part. “A white bordeaux blend should have good complexity which helps it to pair with the entire meal for those who are more dedicated white wine drinkers.”
“OK, good idea,” he says. “Thanks!” He turns to leave. “Oh, can I text you from the wine store if I’m feeling lost?”
“Sure!” I reply, stifling my inner snark a second time. “Or you could read my blog, print it out and take it with you to shop, you know?”
But he’s already disappeared into the crowd of tourists, theatre-goers and early Christmas shoppers.
thanksgiving-appetizers-with-beer-and-wine

à votre santé!

Alois Trebulanum Casavecchia ’04 IGT

20 Nov

Trebulanum by Michele Alle Alois Vineyards, Casavecchia Campania IGT 2004, Pontelatone, Italy. Purchased from Garagiste,  found online from $40-$60/bottle. ABV 13%.

An opaque garnet color with violet edging. The nose offers reluctant fruit, tobacco, menthol, forest floor, and old wood. The palate stays in powerful & dark territory: hints of aged black currant and dried date are met with strong acidity and huge tannins, flavors of pepper, clove, flint, saddle leather, potting soil and barnyard are present; the fruits change on the long finish and brighten as the tannins fade. What a massive wine, showing tremendous depth with only a decade of maturity.

What a delightful dry red, and perfect at this age. Poured using a decanting spout and impressive from the first nose, this bottle I must confess is an accident. It was part of a “garage sale” case I bought from Garagiste Wine Club which is one of my guilty pleasures. I paid 20.83 per bottle for a mixed case of “who knows” with the promise of being shocked and amazed. This is the first bottle opened from this mystery case and so far I’m thrilled. Plus, I recognized an aged white burgundy that made my heart leap and made the price of the case a virtual steal for a guy like me. And a few other treats I’m not willing to disclose yet. YMMV. But you should come over and help me drink some of these treats, it’s good stuff!

I digress. Back to the topic at hand (and in glass), the Alois Vineyards website can be found here, or copy & paste: http://www.vinialois.it/alois/en/

Alois

 

What mystery wine has knocked you back? Do tell!

à votre santé!

From JvB’s Cellar (Bin #1): Thanksgiving Wines (11-23-10)

19 Nov

From JvB’s Cellar, A return on the “Thanksgiving Wines” post! Originally posted to Facebook, before I was hounded into blogging. 🙂 My current thoughts on this year’s wine will hopefully posted by Thursday night, one week before the big meal. (Showbiz schedules aren’t as friendly as bankers hours!)

—————Thanksgiving Wines (originally posted 11-23-10) ——————

This has been requested by a half-dozen different people, so I’m making it a note.

Here’s my $0.02 on Thanksgiving wine, and I’ll try to stay on the inexpensive side of wines, 9-15/bottle, for large groups like this. At Thanksgiving I tend to serve several wines: A main white, a second white (Riesling for the reluctant drinker), a gentle red, and a serious red.

1) I always serve a dry white (either a Bordeaux like Lamothe de Haux ’09, Chateneuf Herzog, or a white Burgundy like the Latour Macon-Lugny Les Genievres, each @ $10/bottle). It helps get people to the table, great to drink while cooking or chatting, and a good dinner wine for people who don’t (or can’t) drink red, want something to clear their palate, don’t really like to drink wine much but want a glass at the table, or similar reasons.

2) I also always have a bottle of a dry Riesling on hand. Some people can’t digest the tannins of reds and the whites are often too mineral-tasting or too dry without food, and a demi-dry white or a dry Riesling is my secret weapon. At about $9/bottle, I have found my wife and mom both love bottles like Mosel Germany’s Clean Slate ’08 and Relax ’07, which are unpretentious, tasty, and fun to drink without being too sweet, while being a decent food complement for those non-wine drinkers who just want a little something in their glass to enjoy. They are often screw-cap, which makes them easy to serve & save.

3) For reds, in the last three years I have turned from my traditional “too-heavy” cabernets to the balanced and more appropriate Pinot Noir for Thanksgiving red. I often serve either the Joseph Drouhim Nourgogne Pino “Laforet” ’07, the Chamarre’ Grande Reserve Pinot Noir ’07, or Louis Latour Pinot Noir Bourgogne, all in the $9-$12 bottle range. If I have guests who are Californian wine drinkers, the Ramsay North Coast ’08 Pinot, which is big and bold, is a great choice around $14/bottle.

4. Lastly, I always keep a serious red on hand, just in case I have a serious red drinker. It also is great as the meal progresses or if you have a red meat course or a flavor that is looking for a big wine to complement it. On the low end of the price scale, I adore Los Vascos ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon which is a Rothschild (Lafite) grape grown in Chile, and is an outstanding value at 9/bottle. There are also always a lot of great Bordeaux out there in the 10-15 range, Chateau de Costis, Chateau du Pin, Chateau Greysac (Medoc) ’06, Chateau Lascaux ’05, all solid choices. If I want to step that up a notch, there are some excellent choices in the 18-25/bottle range, such as Lafite Reserve Speciale (Medoc) ’06, Chateneuf du-Pape and Margaux which will largely vary on the vintner and year depending on where you buy wine.

Happy Holidays!

Garnacha With Love

17 Nov

The wine grape Grenache in France, or Garnacha, as it’s called in Spain, is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world. Sadly in the USA, we tend to think of it primarily as a blending grape, when there are many vineyards producing great single varietals. I recently had an opportunity to taste six of the Spanish beauties, and the first four wines have tasting notes are below. Thanks to Sofia Gonzalez, Wines of Garnacha, and Stefanie Schwalb for the tasting!

 

La Miranda de Secastilla 2012, Granacha Blanca, Spain. 13.5% ABV, Street price $13-14/bottle.

Color is a neutral medium straw. With a delightfully floral nose, honeysuckle and sweet white peaches, the mouth gets a crisp fruit attack with creaminess in the body before the acidity. Some gentle minerality of sandy loam and aged cedar plank on the finish. The overall experience is rich and opulent, and understand the depth of this compliment: I really enjoyed this bottle, would accept this wine in place of a white Bordeaux blend in the same price range of $13-20.
LaMirandadeSacastilla

 

 

Castillo de Monséran Cariñena Garnacha 2012 by San Valero. 12.5% ABV. Street price $8.

Color is medium violet with garnet edging, the nose is gentle blue fruit, menthol and old wood. Black plum, blueberry, and black cherry are evident on the soft palate with hints of forest floor, potting soil, and an essence of stone on the finish that reminds you of Pyrenees mountain range. Really surprising value to be had here; with the soft fruit and complex body this bottle compares well with wines over $35.

CastillodeMonseran

 

Vinas Del Vero’s Secastilla Somontano Garnacha 2009. 14.5% ABV. $24 street.

Deep garnet in color, a nose of blackberry jam. Dark, spicy black fruit on the palate. Robust and viscous, this wine begs for tapas and Spanish entrees but paired equally well with chili, Mexican, and a spicy chicken stir-fry.

SecastillaB&G

 

PDM Pagos del Mancayo, Garnacha 2012, Campo de Borja, Spain. 14% ABV, Online from $12-14/bottle.

Deep violet color, nose of blue and black young fruit with green vegetation, and a hint of dank compost. On the palate, the fruit is muted yet mature, while strong tannin and acidity remain. An ideal wine for protein-heavy tapas: not overpowering, but palate cleansing. Very dark palate and secondary flavors, forest floor, tar, cedar, graphite, and coffee grounds. My food pairing choice was mediocre but the strong flavors in the bottle made me certain that a proper pairing shows this as a stunning wine. Hearty meals centered on meat would pair best, such as a stew, roast, or meat sauce. http://pagosdelmoncayo.com/en/11-garnacha.html

PdM Garnacha

 

Overall I was impressed by the quality of the wines I tasted, and was glad to be educated to the quality of this grape by the sampling. This tasting certainly opened my eyes and my taste buds, and I enjoyed both the wide range of flavors, the quality of production and the end value to the consumer that was demonstrated by these producers, and I know that you will appreciate them as well!

What’s your favorite garnacha/grenache wine? Click the comments tab and let me know!

à votre santé!

Belleruche Rosé from Côtes-du-Rhône

3 Nov

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Belleruche Côtes-du-Rhône 2013, M. Chapoutier, Rhône, France. 13% ABV. $13 at Wine & Spirit Company;  Online pricing from $10-14/bottle.

Color is a light blush, with a nose of young red raspberry and strawberry. In the mouth, red plum and a hint of strawberry, without the sweetness. Good blend of acidity, delightfully dry finish with notes of saline and sandy clay. A good wine to have on hand for the fall season, at this price is an easy contender for your late afternoon aperitif, early evening meal pairing, maybe even your Thanksgiving meal. My preferred Thanksgiving rosé is much more expensive, but this is flexible and leaves the mouth fresh and ready for the next bite. Try it: like great literature, it will grow on you, a wonderful value in Côtes-du-Rhône.

à votre santé!

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