Archive | March, 2015

New Jersey Wines: Old York Cellars Merlot & Oaked Chardonnay

30 Mar

Old York Cellars 2013 Merlot, Ringoes, NJ, USA. 15% ABV, $18/bottle.

Color: deep, muted violet with clear edging. Nose of dark plum and menthol. On the palate, mature black and red plum fruit with a hint of cherry cola. Notes of licorice, black pepper, mushroom and young wood on the finish. Drinks more like a cab blend than a merlot, showing big tannins and a wider flavor profile as opposed to a more classic single vineyard merlot.

Old York Merlot


Old York Cellars 2012 Chardonnay, Ringoes, NJ, USA. 12.5% ABV; $18/bottle.

Pale gold in color with a nose of tropical fruit, crisp green apple with a hint of oak. In the mouth,   medium fruit -passion fruit, lychee, pineapple and gala apple- showing a supple creaminess before the medium acidity breaks through. Shorter finish with copious oak and just a hint of slate. I found this chardonnay better when served with food than on its own, and ideal for dairy based pasta sauces, rich cheeses, or white meats. It was overpowering with delicate sea bass but very nice when paired with a caesar salad and spanakopita.

Old York Chardonnay

I was pleasantly surprised with my first New Jersey State wines. Both of these wines have complex flavor profiles and could make a huge impact if demonstrated with an ideal food pairing.

Have you tasted a New Jersey State wine before? If so, please share your experience!

à votre santé!


Spring Is In My Wallet

26 Mar

As we wind down this winter that refuses to end, I realize I’m suffering from my own version of cabin fever. I keep desiring lighter, fruitier, more delicate flavors from my wines and food. I’ve no desire for savory, and hunger for salads, fish, and fruit – and the lighter wines that pair with them.

Reviewing recent cellar additions, I also notice the wines I’m purchasing for my own personal enjoyment (in opposition to the ones that are sent to me or chosen for review) are matching the anxiousness of my palate being ready for the forthcoming seasons of spring and summer!

Spring is definitely in my wallet this year. Long before there was a warming change in the winter air, I started buying whites and rosés, riesling, grüner veltliner, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and yes, my beloved white burgundy. At restaurants I’ve made similar choices – eating and drinking for the season before it arrived – and having zero regrets about it.

I met a Somm named Ida (pronounced: “Ee-da”) and her manner immediately put me at ease. I asked her which wines on her list were off the beaten track, unusual, or ‘hidden gems’. She introduced me to Jacques Puffeneny’s Cuvée Sacha “Arbois”, a 2012 wine from the Jura region that was made with intentional oxidation and featured a real sense of sherry and age to it! I so enjoyed my meal that I didn’t think to take tasting notes, but it was a satisfying pairing with a serving of raw fish and, in short, I experienced the Puffery “Arbois” as a gentle, dry wine with a dull, off-pink color, a perfumed and sherry nose, and subtle fruit with matching acidity that delighted me to no end.


I wanted to share this unusual wine and my experience with you- asking you to continue to challenge your palate, your preferences, and to take risks with trying new, maybe unusual wines. For everything you find you might not like, you might find something you love! And dear readers, tell me if spring is in YOUR wallet, too? I’m fascinated.

à votre santé!

Spring Values & Delicate Flavors

15 Mar

Cartlidge and Browne 2011 North Coast Chardonnay, Healdburg, CA. 13.5%ABV, $11/bottle locally.

The color is pale sunlight and is matched by a delicate, lemony nose with a hint of lavender. Meyer lemon and green apple fruit are up front; both fruit and cutting acidity balance nicely and are sharply tart on the back palate with a medium residual finish. Good minerality, focus and clarity on the finish, followed by notes of baked bread and hint of young oak.

Ideal for late afternoon or as an aperitif, this will pair nicely with fish, white meats, and simple pasta dishes. I enjoyed this wine with baked cod served with dill and lemon, boiled potatoes and steamed broccoli. It was an ideal match of clean, pure flavors. This chardonnay is definitely made in a classic style, and is a good choice for white wine drinkers who enjoy taut, focused wines that stay lean and muscular without drifting into the savory, buttery styles. At this price, it provides an excellent value and reminds us that California’s wines can also be enjoyed at “vin du table” pricing.



Chateau Montaud 2013 Côtes de Provence Rosé, Pierrefeu du Var, France. 12.5% ABV, $10/bottle locally.

The color is light pink. Fresh rosebush, passion fruit and a hint of violet on the nose. Delightfully clean with a hint of orange peel; bright with good clarity. No wood influence shows on this pure and young rosé. Drinks like a beam of sunshine, gentle finish with stone, bright and lingering fruit on the tongue. A delightful choice to enjoy spring weather and pair with light food options. Looking for a nice, very affordable bottle of pink sunshine from Côtes de Provence? This might be the bottle to make your spring!


à votre santé!

Finding Success in Wine

10 Mar


This month’s Wine Writing Challenge  is “Success”, as determined by Loie of the blog Cheap Wine Curious. Ok #MWWC15, let’s go! wine-stain1-3



Success In Wine

I make my living in the world of entertainment. I’ve been enjoying success in this industry since I was a child, to be quite honest. And at the half-century point in my life, I recognize that from age to age, I’ve judged success by many different scales. When I was young, I wanted entry to the business, and then to find recognition. There was a time I dreamt of fortune, and a time I wanted fame. As I got more successful, I realized that none of these are quite what you envision them to be, and I adapted my life, my work, and my goals to focus on making me happy, which is yet another goal, and a different yet very real version of success.

So how does this relate to wine? Simple: I’m going to discuss three winemakers that I consider to be very successful, and yet each is successful in a slightly different way. They are among my favorite independent winemakers and you should know about them if you don’t already.

Success story #1:
Dave Phinney. Who? Never heard of him? Ok, let’s try Orin Swift. How about “The Prisoner” wine, found in steakhouses across the USA.


Who is this guy? Young, smart, and dedicated to his craft. Don’t believe me? Look for yourself at the series of wines he has at I first tasted his wine at a steakhouse where it was suggested, it was a red, fruit-forward blend and I adored the pairing. I have been tasting his work ever since, and there is always a bottle of Dave’s in my cellar. What level of success? He made 385 cases of The Prisoner on the first run, since his explosion on the scene Dave actually sold both Saldo and The Prisoner brands to Agustin Huneeus Vintners and they reported selling 75,000 cases of The Prisoner in 2009. BAM! Talk about success! Here’s a killer video that will tell you a lot more about the guy:


Success Story #2:

Blair Fox, Blair Fox Cellars. At an evening event at the Wine Blogger’s Conference in Santa Barbara CA, my table hummed with a whisper: “Go taste the Blair Fox wine before its gone!” I didn’t need to be told a second time. The small pour of syrah in my glass was heavily concentrated, with bold fruit upfront followed by dark, savory elements and then oak- a dense, complex mouthful that made me crave more, and provided a great demonstration of the talent of the winemaker. I made it a point to meet Blair and Sarah, learned a little about his education at UC Davis, we talked  their wine, and I became a fan. Here on the East Coast, I’ve yet to find a local distributor but am thankful for wine clubs and the bottles currently sitting in packaging outside my cellar door, waiting for space.

Blair gained success as a passionate, talented winemaker first at a family wine operation: Fess Parker. Check out this video of him discussing the 2008 Fess Parker viognier:

All the while, Blair has been cultivating his own brand (in his backyard) while winning both fans and accolades. Successful? Heck yes! Try being named Winemaker of the Year in the largest competition for that title, and pair that with a series of 91+ point awards from Robert Parker. Does anyone need more proof of success? I think not:


Success Story #3:
Jason Moore, Modus Wines and JJM Wines. This youngster dropped everything to leave Dallas and move to Napa to pursue his dream making wine. Not classically trained, you get a very different experience from his style and his wines. I was introduced to his product by a sommelier who was just crazy about Modus Wines, to the point where I HAD to buy a bottle of Modus cabernet. After tasting it, I, too was hooked. So I tried his other wines, and loved them as much if not more. Jason’s success is more like The Grateful Dead: he has a strong group of dedicated followers who are as passionate about his product as he is. Here’s my proof: the largest number of bottles from one winemaker in my cellar are from Modus.

The success of Modus Operandi has allowed Moore to branch out and develop a new series of wines, Gratia and Gravitas, both of which I’m excited to try as they are released. This winemaker has amazing talent, and seems to not have to follow the ‘classical’ rules in making wines that are quite stunning. Don’t trust me, try them for yourself.



As I learned growing up, Success comes in many forms. What matters is that it brings happiness to both you, as an individual, and to those who enjoy the fruit of your labor. For these three winemakers, three of my favorites, success is only one part of their fascinating stories.


à votre santé!



Kaiken Terroir Series 2011

2 Mar

Kaiken Terroir Series 2011, Mendoza, Argentina. 14.5% ABV, List price $17/bottle, street price as low as $12/bottle.

The color is dark purple with violet edging, while the nose features black fruit and floral notes with a hint of leather. In the mouth, this silky blend of 80% Malbec, 12% Bonarda and 8% Petit Verdot shows medium black plum, cassis and blackberry with matching acidity, and then powerful tannins- this is a meat lovers wine if there ever has been one. There is oak, followed by wet slate, limestone, and black pepper on the smooth and satisfying finish.


The petit verdot leads in the mouth with gentle strength in the fruit and helps the finish with her tannin, while the bonarda provides suppleness to the mid-palate. Both add depth and density to the mix. By itself, the malbec would be enough for most red wine drinkers, but this blend demonstrates savvy winemaking and a product that will pair better, more easily, and more often.

The Kaiken paired beautifully with lamb meatballs. Did you know that March 9 is National Meatball Day? Now you have a great wine to pair with your meatballs! Need a meatball recipe? Try these! The blend also fares well with strong cheeses and can stand alone but truly shines when tasted in conjunction with a protein.

This wine opens up beautifully, showing best results from decanting/aeration when served at room temperature. At this price, Kaiken Terroir Feries offers great value to the consumer with a flavor profile that screams pricey grilled meats and game for upscale dinners but one that is still capable of chilling with a family meatball fest or burgers for the backyard. While some wine drinkers won’t recognize the grape Bonarda, (aka Douce Noir, a small and gently sweet black grape originally from the Savoie region of France) it doesn’t matter- what’s important is the winemaker knows the value the late-ripening grape offers, and is using it to your benefit in creating a wine with great flexibility and depth that competes with wines at a higher price point, which ultimately doubles your pleasure.

à votre santé!

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