Archive | April, 2015

Chotard Sancerre 2013

29 Apr

Back in the spring of 2013, I roused friends to one of my favorite rites of spring: Sancerre. I had several people reach out to me afterwards, expressing their similar joy at this regional delight. This year, seeing this bottle on a shelf and having an urge for instant-gratification, I bought this and quietly enjoyed it over a week of small sips late at night. It was most definitely a “guilty pleasure” wine, so much that I almost didn’t share it with you.

Daniel Chotard Vigneron Sancerre Blanc, 2013, Crézany-en-Sancerre, France. From Oak and Steel, NYC. $29. ABV 12.5%.  (available online and regionally from $22-29.)

Color: very pale straw with hint of gold. On the nose, meyer lemon, orange peel, mixed floral arrangement (screaming sauvignon blanc!) and a hint of minerals. In the mouth, a delicate blend of tropical fruit with bursts of limestone and saline. A white that is gentle yet firm and rich. The notes lift into the top palate while the bright lemon fruit shines again on the back palate and through the long finish. This is a beautifully made wine and the joy I experienced while tasting it matched some of the better, far more expensive chablis, white burgundies, and a few California chadonnays that I hold close to my heart. I don’t know if this wine is hitting me when I need to taste spring the most or if it’s really that darn good, but at under $30 bottle I’m about to regret posting this before trying to find out where I could secure a case for myself.

Most excitingly, it distinctly reminds me of a glass of wine I enjoyed with my new bride on our honeymoon decades ago in Rouen, France. And that, I needn’t tell you, was an unbelievable and incredibly romantic trip.

Evidently, I really enjoyed this sancerre.

Chotard Sancerre

à votre santé!


Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2012

17 Apr

Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2012, Mendoza Argentina. 14.5% ABV, $18/bottle street. 

In celebration of Malbec World Day, here is a mouth watering delight!

Medium dark purple in color. On the nose, blackberries, iris and hint of old leather. The first taste is of massive dark fruit with heat behind it. Black plum and dark chocolate burst forward into the top palate, leaving a richly rinsed sensation behind. Secondary flavors are cassis, coca, sour cherry and toasted oak with notes of granite, tobacco leaf, and almond on the medium finish. An obvious  easy pairing with grilled steak on the night I popped the cork, it also works with savory dishes and was a great foil to a spicy ginger/pepper stir-fry I put together after work on night #3. Great flavors over several days. Well done! Solid value at this price point.

This wine is big and bold, yet balanced. Ultra is a good name for it- the flavors are like a rocket taking off. This is a fun wine to have on hand, and one I’ll come back to again. If you like a huge malbec, this is one to stock up on, and a perfect wine for bold flavors, or to enjoy around the game room with the guys.

Kaiken Ultra

à votre santé!

Youngberg Hill Vineyards

16 Apr

Winemaker Wayne Bailey is a quiet, warm, and unassuming man. His radiant smile beams like the afternoon sun when he talks of his children: both of his daughters and his wines. He’s a farmer at heart, a man who loves the land, lives to grow great fruit, and who respects the earth- insisting on sustainability, biodynamics, and organics across the board. When I hear those three words together, it often makes me wonder if there might be a trade-off in quality to maintain the lofty objectives. Youngberg   In this case dear readers, I can attest that I experienced a greater appreciation for his lofty goals and dedication to sustainability, biodynamics and organics because the wines pay off in the mouth. And if like me, you are also a French wine snob, these wines might actually remind you of wines from Burgundy. Let me wax poetic another time, and let’s get to the wines!

Youngberg Hill 2014 Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, McMinnville, Oregon.  ABV 13.5%, MSRP $25/bottle.

Color: pale straw with a slight tinge of green. On the nose, I detected an initial smokiness that dissipated quickly (probably from travel) and a few moments later had gone with no lingering trace, instead my nose filled with melon and white pear. On the palate, bosc pear, apricot, and kiwi fruit meet solid acidity in a savory blend with a gentle rolling finish that shows hints of vanilla, fresh cedar, and clay. Overall, it drinks like a mature savory white with a neutral barrel sense, not buttery, and delicate enough to drink on its own but stellar when paired with food. Obviously fish or salads would be an easy pairing, but this Pinot Blanc stood up to spicy meatballs and gnocchi in a truffle cream sauce. I have to admit, I fell a little bit in love with this pinot blanc and wanted to steal the bottle to take back with me.  If you are  new and perhaps a little afraid of pinot blanc, this is THE wine to taste to try it out: a shining example of the grape that will make you want to drain your glass over and over again. IMG_1146



Youngberg Hill 2012 Cuvee Pinot Noir,  Willamette Valley, McMinnville, Oregon.  ABV 14.5%, MSRP $30/bottle.

Color is light purple with violet edging. On the nose: iris, rosebush, and a hint of black fruit. In the mouth, young black plum, black cherry, with a medium finish showing notes of pepper, clove, oak and silty clay. I was expecting a pinot with much brighter fruit and thought this wine is ideal to drink right now. Wayne explained to me that for the Cuvee, he made single vineyard barrels of two different grape clones with six- and seven-year old vines and blended the barrels together to make a wine that was approachable upon release (requiring less age). It works- it’s a “drink me now” wine that shows the fruit with a sense of maturity, good acidity and tannin. It sang with rich and savory dishes but I could also see this being great to watch the sunset on a picnic with a fruit and cheese basket while the kids play nearby, and lasting across dinner and with dessert.


Youngberg Hill 2012 Jordan Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, McMinnville, Oregon.  ABV 13.4%, MSRP $40/bottle.

From a four- acre plot planted in 1989 comes the single-vineyard “Jordan” Pinot Noir. Color is bright violet, while the nose shows gentle black cherry, vegetation, and hints of truffle and leather. In the mouth, fruit forward cherry and red raspberry with a better initial balance blend. I noticed significantly less spice than the Cuvee, while the finish is showing more complexity and more notes overall- with spice box, sandalwood, green pepper, slate and loam. The Jordan pinot is a wine to lay down and enjoy in 6-10 years when it will have subtle fruit and tons of complexity. This is a young thoroughbred that needs time to come into its own and will pay off beautifully down the road, but will require patience to get there. 



As an independent winemaker, Wayne Bailey is someone to keep on your list of people to watch. Without fanfare and pomp, he simply demonstrates how much he loves the time spent in the vineyards by producing great fruit that in turn are used to make delightful wines. I’m glad I got to spend time with him and am looking forward to enjoying more of his products in the future, both in the short and long run.



Have you tried Youngberg Hill wines? Please comment, and share your experiences with us! 

à votre santé!

Letters from Readers: White Burgundy (The Cocaine of Chardonnay)

9 Apr

A letter from a reader I wanted to share:

Longtime friend and reader CDL wrote me: “Jim vanBergen, are there really any White Burgundy wines? Mirassou used to have one, but not any more.” I sensed the agitation of the dedicated white wine lover immediately. And CDL, I share your pain!

It was accompanied by this image, that I adore:

and the associated link to an article on Wine Folly, with the quote, ““White Burgundy is the crack cocaine of Chardonnay.” How true that statement is.

Admittedly, my reply was pure emotion: “Oh my lord, YES there ARE! Burgundy is full of winemakers churning out amazing stuff… and I know, because I’m drinking it. Now I don’t write a lot of posts about it because it’s not exactly in the under $20 range, and my favorite bottles are pricey. BUT: white burgundy is SO worth drinking! Let me offer you a few resources that I like. And then you should do a little online shopping, because all these great sellers ship.”

First, I provided a link an episode of Eric Asimov‘s Wine School. From the NY Times, ‘ “Unraveling the Mystery of Chablis”. Asimov explains two good reasons why chablis is what he owns and drinks more than any other wine. (You should read the whole article) but his answer is a universal truth: “One, it’s a relatively good value for Burgundy, and two, I love it.” He also suggests three chablis to taste, two in the $20-range, and a premiere cry at only $40.

Second, I included Roger Voss‘s article on White Burgundy Bargains from Wine Enthusiast. Voss lists about 18 under $25 bottles among the lines of Bourgogne Blanc, Chablis, and Mâcconais – four producers I like to buy regularly were included on Voss’ list, along with some producers who were new to me.

Third was classic old guard: Decanter‘s 2008 list of the top ten white burgundies. While the list may be long in the tooth, the producers are consistently rated and prices have only increased, so in my opinion its an excellent resource.

From the UK’s The Telegraph, I included Hamish Anderson‘s piece on Three of the Best White Budgundies (from Mâcon-Villages, St. Aubin, , and Meursault, respectively), just as an example of where to find good value (which is not to be confused with simply a good price).

Before my last link, I noted to Caroline: “When I did a quick search, Astor Wines had 9 white burgundies under $20/bottle. Sherry-Lehman had 17. I’m sure a quick check of 67 Wine, Zachys, and similar stores would yield similar results. And of course, that’s only the under $20/bottle range- they also have the GOOD stuff!”

Finally, I gave up my current favorite producer. Coincidently, the Wall Street Journal’s Lettie Teague did a nice piece on him, sadly (for us) noting his “genius” in the first sentence of the article entitled, “The New Master of Affordable White Burgundies”. We are referring to, of course, Pierre- Yves Colin of Morey-Blanc.

I’ve shared a tone of tools and resources. Here’s my closing note: I want to drink Montrachet all the time, but thanks to cost, it’s just not going to happen. So sometimes I’ll splurge on an affordable Puligny-Montrachet that’s under $100/bottle, when I can find a dealer who has a couple of bottles I buy them and save them for either a great night with friends or when I’m really hurting for something delightful. In the meantime, there are great value wines from top producers- like Aligoté, or other second and third wines from most of the top players, that sell for a reasonable amount of money and offer more than reasonable enjoyment. And those are the best bet for those who have average wine budgets.

Here’s to white burgundy. How I love her, not as often as I might prefer. If this is my equivalent to cocaine, well, I guess I’m ok with that.

à votre santé!

Kosher for Passover

1 Apr

I’ve been stopped on the street and asked about this more than twice, so here they are, my approved suggestions for Kosher for Passover wine. You can stay away from the Kedem and Manischewitz and feel comfortable with these, whether you are a seder guest or host. Last year I was introduced to the high end of New Zealand wines, and you’ll see that result below. These are tried and true, and solid choices for your celebration. -Cheers!


Bartenura Prosecco ($16),  creamy and dry, this is ideal for starters, fish, and celebration. And what is this meal but a huge celebration?

Borgo Reale Prosecco ($18) Easy to drink, a crowd pleaser that gets the meal started.
Drappier Carte d’Or Brut ($45) Classic French Champagne for the holiday, a recent kosher for passover cuvée.



Bartenura Moscato ($13) from Veneto Italy, an inexpensive, easy going wine that everyone will enjoy.

Rashi Moscato d’Asti ($13) another Italian delight, but this from Piedmont, and frizzante!

Dry White:

Domaine du Castel, Blanc du Castel (Haute Judee), 2013 ($50)- 100% chardonnay aged 12 months in oak. Taste the terroir!

Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc ($19) or Oak Aged Sauvignon Blanc ($24), New Zealand’s answer to your prayers. The oaked sauv blanc has depth that will make the chardonnay lovers at the table happy.

Goose Bay Chardonnay ($20) Creamy with crisp fruit, from Marlborough.

Medium Bodied Red:

Borgo Reale Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2011 ($13) Great value on a classic grape that will give you comfort and satisfaction just knowing it’s Montepulciano. 

Goose Bay Pinot Noir ($22) I know, a fourth wine from the same manufacturer. Truth be told, killer value from New Zealand. You’d swear it was a small parcel burgundy, its’ that good.

Pacifica Pinot Noir from Oregon ($25) The best value in American wine right now is from Northwestern Pinot. A perfect example right here, the Willamette valley providing bright fruit and delicate minerality.

Full-bodied Red:

Barons de Rothschild, Haut-Médoc ($34) My annual default red. I buy a bottle every year for the first seder, if only to insure there will be something I want to drink.

Chateau Malartic Lagraviere Pessac Leognan 2005. ($84) Classic left bank Bordeaux, complex flavor profile, with perfect drinking age and good depth.  

Giscours, (Margaux) Kosher ($100) It’s Margaux. Do I need to say more? 

 à votre santé!

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