Archive | April, 2016

Passover Wines, 2016

28 Apr

And the kosher wines I served for this years Passover are:



As pictured above, from right to left. 

Teal Lake 2011 Moscato, South Eastern Australia, 7% ABV, $8/bottle. An easy-going glass that tastes sweet apples and honey. It pairs perfectly with charoset, and is a great first wine for the evening that I brought for the entry-level wine drinkers. This bottle from down under is fun and enjoyable, very low in alcohol, and so easy to drink! I love it before or after a meal, and did I mention, it’s only $8? BOOM!

Teal Lake


Shirah Wine 2013 Vintage Whites, Santa Barbara County, CA. 14.5% ABV, $23/bottle(street).

This wine is California’s answer to “why can’t we have a great white wine on this night?” This Rhone-styled white, 70% viognier, 30% grenache blanc is a lovely, well-made wine for the passover meal. Dry with muted fruit, gentle acidity and a medium finish that shows a bitter hint of almond followed by notes of oak and loamy soil. Perfect for the fish and chicken courses or for those who prefer a full-bodied and savory white with their brisket. Thank you to the Weiss brothers for making this wine special, like the holiday!

Shirah Vintage


Recanati Rosé, Galilee, Israel. 13% ABV; $13/bottle (street). Made of 70% barbera and 30% merlot grapes, this is a total crowd pleaser: 1) I pour an ounce into a glass, 2) people first tell me how good it is, 3) then they ask for more.
I reviewed this in February, and stand by these notes: Color is a medium-clear and very ruddy pink: an amaranth/magenta center blending out to a clear edge. The aroma shows fresh strawberries with a hint of gardenias. In the mouth, tart raspberry and dried cranberry notes dominate with a spice balance. Good acidity and strong tannins emanate from the side palate for a satisfying, clean finish.

recanati rose


Recanati 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, “David” Vineyard, Galilee, Israel. 14% ABV, $23/bottle. This is a carefully-crafted wine I’ve enjoyed before- first with the winemaker at a tasting earlier in the year, then again at home when I picked up a bunch of Recanati wines from a local vendor. It has been consistent and delicious each time! Black cherry, blackberry, and red plum fruit blend with nice acid, strong tannins.; followed up with a long lasting finish with hints of oak, chalk, slate, and stone. I served this and the red wine drinkers at the table immediately said “Wow, where did THIS come from?”- they were sure I’d snuck in a preferred, high-end & pricey red. They were right about everything but the pricey part! Recanati has changed the way I feel about Israeli wine production, and they are in my cellar, period.


recanati reserve Cab


Psagot 2012 Cabernet Franc, Judean Hills 14.5% ABV, $27/bottle. The store owner said “you should try this”, poured me sample, and I decided he was right. The antithesis of what I think Passover wines taste like- this cab franc features dark black fruit, powerful tannin, spice, earth, and oak. A massive wine, high in alcohol, to make your main course (and Elijah) sing. It’s bold, and I paired it well for several days with the rich red meats I was served over the holiday, until there was no more left to enjoy.


What wines graced your table this year?

à votre santé!


Vintage: Believe the Hype -JvBUnCorked on Snooth

23 Apr

Glad to be invited to share my point of view with readers around the world on The entire article can be found here, my contribution is copied below. Make sure to check out both, as my co-contributors have some brilliant insights, suggestions, and perspectives. Cheers!-JvB

Vintage: Believe the Hype/Drink or Hold-

Bordeaux, 1971

The year was 1985. The location was a sunny outdoor table on the front patio of a small restaurant that rested upon the slope of a mountain in the French Alps. The special of the day was local wild boar, and our host ordered a bottle of 1975 Chateau Latour as his choice of wine.
The lack of response or understanding from his guests on the bottle’s arrival prompted him to give us a quick lesson on first growth/premier chateaux and the importance of vintages, which I will never forget. Our host asked us if we knew anything about this wine, and was greeted with silence. He spoke quietly to the waiter, who had just finished removing the cork from the ’75. They had a quick exchange in French that despite my best efforts I was unable to follow, but the waiter departed and returned with two additional vintages from the same chateau: the 1973 and 1971.
 Latour 75
Our host waxed on and on about the many great vintages he had enjoyed from Latour, specifically the ’59 and ’61 vintages, as the waiter opened the other two bottles and poured tiny tastes for our host. Upon his completion of tasting the three bottles, our host then indicated an out-of-order pour: we should all taste the ’73 first, then the ’75, and finally the ’71. While I don’t recall any specific tasting notes, I do recall my response. The first bottle was very good, the second bottle was great, and the third bottle was blissfully amazing. Our host explained that these vines and grapes were treated with the same identical loving care each year but that the annual vintage would vary in quality and flavor from year to year. In his native tongue, our host asked my opinion of the wines. In my high school French I replied, somewhat haltingly, that the first glass tasted “pretty”, the second was “pretty and decadent” and the third glass had “the same beauty as all the women from the Folies-Bergere” nightclub, which elicited a spit-take and guffaw from our host. While our host dried his eyes at my youthful response to the wine tasting, his lesson made an impression on me and was fully understood.
As opposed to the local “vin du table” wines we’d enjoyed previously on our trip, a first growth or premier chateau wine is something extraordinary and remarkable, but the growing year of each vintage made a huge difference – whether the vines had more rain, sun, frost or humidity – these factors, when summed together, exerted great influence on whether the wine was good, great, or extraordinary in a given year.
-Jim vanBergen,  @JvB UnCorked /


A Wonderful Week in Wine

18 Apr


Sometimes we lead charmed lives. I recently had a seven-day stretch of wine that left me feeling very, very blessed. The week provided honest-to-goodness, heart-felt pleasure for me, and broached several spectrums of the world of wine, from the professional to the personal to the simply mind-blowing.

“Oh yeah”, you’re thinking. “Mind-blowing? Sure.” Fine, you be the judge. One week: Two trade events, one concert, and a once-in-a-lifetime cellar event. Ready to read about them? Go ahead.


Event 1: The New Zealand Wine Tasting

My top four picks from this tasting are as follows:

Villa Maria Estate 2015 “Bubbly” Lightly Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, NZ: A ‘carbonated wine’, I found this to be an absolute delight. Beautiful nose, balance of citrus on the palate, remaining light, delicious and dry. With a retail price of $15, I’ll expect to find by the glass in restaurants as well as on the patio this summer. 

Maria Bubbly


Gladstone Vineyard & Jealous Sisters: The 2014 Jealous Sisters Pinot Gris, under $15, is one of the best values in Pinot Gris at the tasting. I sought out winemaker Christine Kernohan and learned about her sustainable and environmentally responsible winemaking perspective which only increased my respect for her work and products. Jealous Sisters Pino Gris

If you aren’t a fan of Pinot Gris this is a bottle to change your mind. Nevertheless, Christine’s Gladstone Vineyards Wairarapa 2013 Pinot Noir is also a delightful wine

Christine Gladstone

Christine Kernohan of Gladstone and Jealous Sisters


Rockburn Central Otago 2013 Pinot Noir. Red fruit and minerals on the nose, the palate is bombarded with black cherry, gravel, limestone, fresh cut herbs and a hint of mocha. Expressive and expansive on the palate, it was one of my favorites of the day.


Rockburn Pinot Noir



Huia Pinot Gris Marlborough 2013

Aromatic without being as perfumed as sauvignon blanc, this was another pinot gris that made me sit up and take notice. The flavor profile immediately put me at a lawn party in the Hamptons. The wine is elegant and slightly reserved; dry, and delicate in flavor. The finish has notes of stone and sand. Certified biodynamic, a delight in the glass. Winemakers Claire and Mike Allan are doing something right down in the Wairau Valley!


Claire Huia

Claire Allan, Winemaker from Huia Vineyards


Huis SB

The Huia 2015 Sauvignon Blanc shows the delightful, trademark New Zealand aromatic aromas and a fresh, citrus mouth feel. 

Event 2: USA Trade Tasting, Beverage Trade Network

tasting pic

I went to this USATT brand-new event looking to find what was fun and new, with zero expectations. I met some great people and tasted lots of wines. Some of the wines I found interesting included a range of mid- and top-level wines from Le Cantine, Inc. I enjoyed their dry “Una” Grüner Veltliner, their single vineyard St. Laurent red as well as their RW Blend of zweigelt, blaufrankish and pinot noir grapes. All the wines they showed hail from the Burgenland region of Austria and the Lake Neusiedl microclimate that is key to the quality of fruit grown in the area.



What would springtime be without a Rosé? Rosé par Paris from Domaine de l’Allamande is a grenache/cinsault/rolle/cabernet blend from the Côtes de Provence area. The fruit blend is gentle and fresh, with great limestone minerality. I could have taken a bottle of this and sat outside in the sun for the rest of the afternoon… rose par paris


South of the Border! I met Vicente Johnson and Bernardita Court of Trasiego Wines who specialize in importing South American wines from Chile and Argentina. I enjoyed their Mano del Sur line from Chile’s Cachapoal Valley with sauv blanc, pinot noir, malbec, and cabernet sauvignon, as well as their Casas del Toqui line, with gran reserve and terroir series showing beautiful winemaking from Chile that is sure to be a hit in the North American marketplace.



Trasiego 2


And my last hit from this show, Maple Wine! Technically, can it be called a wine if it’s made from sap and not fruit or grape? Regardless, it IS a tasty treat! Domaine Labranche was showing several unusual maple-based products: semi-sweet maple wine, sparkling maple wine, sparkling cider (8.5% ABV), and dessert ciders. I was really intrigued and impressed by the flavor profiles and think that many of my readers will find these fascinating. I expect to see them gaining in quick popularity, so let me know if you see Domaine Labranche in your local stores!



Event 3: Steve Kimock in Concert at NY’s City Winery.

Since I make my living in entertainment, it would be rare for me to want to attend a concert for “fun” since my industry involvement makes it almost impossible to enjoy. But for this artist, I invited a few friends from the business (who also needed some relaxation and a little wine) and chose a few wines for us to enjoy.

We met our server and began with a tasting of the house “on-tap” pinot and cabs. After which, I selected a bottle of an on-tap Cabernet Sauvignon. It was tasty, but I wanted more. So I asked the somm for the “big” wine list, and off to the races we went.

One of the cool things that City Winery does is partner with musicians to make their own “house” wine. Below, an example of Kimock Wines from City Winery. For a gimmick, it was tasty! If I recall correctly, a syrah-grenache-cab blend.
Kimock Wine


Bring out the big guns: Movia’s Veliko Rosso 2007. A Slovenian blend of Cab, Merlot, and Pinot. I was looking for something closer to a blaufrankish to pair with one of the dishes the table shared. It came highly recommended by Sam (our somm for the evening) and delivered through and through.



For us, the star of the evening (apart from the music) was La Ragose ’06 Amarone Della Valpolicella. The wine features beautiful dark fruit up front with great expression, depth, and tons of dark flavors to follow: dried plum, graphite, licorice, wet earth, and granite with a medium finish that kept us raising our glasses until the bottle was drained.



Event 4: A Private Reading Leads to Wine Cellar Visit

Attending a private reading of a new musical is one type of event, not uncommon in my industry. But it becomes something else entirely when the event host has a stunning wine cellar and can show me a portion of their Red Bordeaux collection, as well as some key bottles to other seriously famous wine lovers who collect Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru (this for another discussion). Before the reading began, I met the host. As we chatted, one oenophile meeting another, shortly after we began discussing wine, he asked me if I’d like to see his wine cellar. (Mic Drop.) 

Like I would ever say no to a cellar visit. My “tween-aged girl at a Justin Bieber Concert” reaction had him leading the way in a fraction of a second.

To me, wine cellars are always fun to visit, but rarely awe-inspiring. I tried to act pretty casual about the thousands of bottles of carefully-stored and categorized bottles, as we walked past them and another room sharing bottles and crates, until I saw things that gave me a “Wile E Coyote reaction”.


Just look closely at the pictures below and tell me you don’t feel the same way.


cellar 6

OWC’s of ’86 Mouton-Rothschild, Pichon de Longueville, Margaux, and La Mission Haut-Brion.


cellar 4

A few more OWCs of 1986 Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Margaux. #YouHadMeAtMargaux !


cellar 2

OWC’s of 1999 Latour and Palmer. Thirsty yet?   

These three pictures were a tiny portion of one of three rooms in this collector’s cellar. He also explained that he and his brother have an entire warehouse with the bulk of their collections. OOF.

Seriously- take a look, these are unopened OWCs of some stunning wines. When I was done scraping my mouth of the stone floor, I casually mentioned to my host that I was a huge fan of the 1986 Chateau Margaux.  He shocked my by pulling an ’86 from a nearby rack of un-crated bottles, carrying it upstairs where he opened it for me to enjoy, and then gifted me the remainder of the bottle to take home. This kind of gift one does NOT refuse, so I gladly accepted!


1986 1st

Had this twice before…long before it was prohibitively expensive for mere mortals.


1986 Margaux

Enjoying more of the same in my own home. Premier Grand Cru Classé, anyone? 


It has been over a decade since I tasted the 1986, and I was thrilled to have another opportunity to experience this stunning wine. While a Chateau Margaux would be enough for me on any day, the host had other ideas. His pièce de résistance came after the reading. He opened and poured an 1875 Malvasia Madiera- which was simply mind-blowing to all the guests, myself included. Even the non-wine drinkers had a tiny taste of this unbelievable vintage.

Here are pictures of the front and back of the 1875 Madeira bottle.



1875 back


Tasting notes: A dark rosewood in color, spun sugar and candied citrus on the nose. It was quite heavy in sediment but delightful on the palate with notes of caramel, burnt sugar, fig, and orange peel. After so much time, this wine was still excellent in quality. It was so rare and extravagant, yet I had another whole element: the combination of the 1875 madiera and the 1986 Chateau Margaux… simply amazing.

It made for an unforgettable day, and the day was a delightful finish to a week of serious and wonderful wine pleasure that I will never, ever forget.


à votre santé!


Chateau Famaey Cahors Malbec

16 Apr

Chateau Famaey Cahors Malbec 2012. 12.5% ABV, $12/bottle.

Color is opaque garnet with purple edging. Nose of black plum, flower cuttings, menthol, and forest floor. In the mouth, dark black fruit, solid acidity, pumice and slate. Medium intensity and finish. A nice entry level Cahors, at an approachable price.


As spring warms up, I grabbed this to pair with late night Mexican and it did not disappoint. I had hoped for complexity and it showed as more singular, which was fine in this context. A fairly-valued vin du table, an easy choice to add to the cellar for strong flavors needing good acidity and dark fruit to match.

à votre santé

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino

3 Apr

Castiglion Del Bosco 2010 Brunello Di Montalcino, DOCG, Montalcino, Italy. 14.5%ABV. Found online from $40-60/bottle.

A beautifully feminine expression of Brunello. Dense garnet in color, the perfumed nose offers ripe blueberry, orange rind, vanilla and eucalyptus. On the palate, cassis and black plum are met with lovely acidity and delicate tannins, evolving into a delicate mesh with medium body, a solid structure and some complexity. Secondary notes include mocha, spice box, vanilla, oak, granite, clay, and a wash of sour cherries across the top palate. Aged two years in French oak and another two years in the bottle before release, the winemaker has created a lovely balance that drinks well now and should be near perfect in four years. I paired this with the traditional American grill of salad, steak, broccoli and potatoes, and only wanted to refill my glass and continue enjoying. It required great self-control to stop and write about the wine instead of simply drinking it.

A renowned producer with consistently solid results, I would love to taste this wine vertically.\



Road trip, anyone?

Catiglion Bosco

à votre santé!



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