Archive | November, 2016

Red Wines from Canada

27 Nov

My business in Toronto is complete for the time being. But I was able to enjoy several Canadian wines, thanks to some wonderful friends and their suggestions! Below are reviews of two reds that showed solid character and winemaking skills in the inexpensive and moderate price ranges, including a solid value in high end organic wine! If you find yourself in Toronto, the West End has a great little place called Midfield Wine Bar & Tavern with a well-considered wine list and many small pours available via coravin. They carry a solid world selection, we finished the night with a bottle of Jura Désiré Petite L’Essen Ciel Arbois-Pupillin! If you missed it, here is a link to my post on Canadian white wines. Cheers! -JvB

Hidden Bench 2013 Pinot Noir VQA Beamsville Bench Unfiltered (Organic)
12.7%ABV, $28 CAD. 

Color is deep ruby with garnet center. Nose offer plum, and earth with a hint of eucalyptus. Black currants, cassis, and plum are primary with secondary notes of oak, granite, toasted almond, some vegetation and a touch of bitterness in what is a very pleasing finish. This pinot noir surprised me with full bodied flavor. It  would pair well with a somewhat heavier flavor profile than I’d expect for pinot, such as red meat, mushrooms, veal marsala, chicken in a gravy or with a touch more spice. Not only would a pinot lover enjoy this wine, but the wine lovers who like full bodied wines might find this pinot a new approach that they would enjoy.

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Henry of Pelham Baco Noir VQA, Ontario, CA 13%ABV, $15 CAD

Color shows deep ruby center with purple edging. The nose offers blueberry and black plum, notes of cedar, clove and allspice. On the palate dark blue fruit meets with a pleasing blend of black and sour cherries with high acidity and tart tannins. There is a touch more sugar than I am used to. It seems like the French -American hybrid Baco Noir grape (that has success growing in North America where the delicate and thinner-skinner pinot noir can not) might have a distant cousin in the concord grape in the barrel. It makes for a kind of rustic, although pleasing quality. The wine does not try to be anything elegant or fancy, but is a solid match for cured meat, pizza, poutine, and hearty cold-country food. I could totally see downing a bottle of this watching a hockey game.

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The nightly Coravin pour list at Midfield (above) and two unusual wines (below) found at Midfield!

 

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Feel free to share your favorite wines from Canada! 

à vôtre santé!

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Letters from Readers: Thanksgiving Host/Gift Wines

17 Nov

It’s a popular time for questions from readers. Just after my last week’s post, an email arrived looking for the next step in Thanksgiving Wine:

 

“Hi JvB,

Enjoying your blog! We have tried a couple of the wines you reviewed and see why you like them so much.  I liked having my first rioja, and my wife loved the rosé you suggested.

This might be something you get asked a lot, but here’s a Thanksgiving wine question. What wine would you suggest to bring for the host, knowing the host might open it to serve with the Thanksgiving meal, or hold it as a gift and hopefully  appreciate at another time? With one son away this fall, there are three of us going, so I am willing to spend a little more than my normal  limit of  25 dollars a bottle. What can you suggest? “

 

Good question, TS.

 

You definitely want to make sure you have wine that would work with the meal, and that will also shine at another time. It’s quite smart to spend a touch more than usual, as this is a very special meal that families like to share people close to them.

Now… If you were a guest at my home, I’d be thrilled if you brought two bottles, a white (or pink) and a red. On my table this year, there will be a bottle of Jason Moore’s Modus Operandi Pinot Noir ($50) and a Modus Sauvignon Blanc ($35). Moore’s saingée rosé completely changed up my game and convinced me to add a killer, high-end rosé to my Thanksgiving wine list. People LOVE it. The sauvignon blanc has all the best features and none of the negative ones we associate with SB, and has an impressive pedigree- white wine drinkers will adore it. Likewise, the pinot is simply outstanding and pairs gorgeously with the entire meal.

And you can use this fun vision to remind you:

prepare

Because you love wine, you are intelligent and have a sense of humor. Come on, the image at least made you smile, right?

Now, you have options if Modus isn’t available and you aren’t a subscriber. But promise me here, keep the American Holiday with US wines. I was blown away by Lodi wines this summer which are such an easy, delicious, and reasonably priced option we’d be fools not to consider them.

Like me, you might love French, Italian, German, NZ, Australian, South American, and Spanish wines like I do. But we are taking a stand and we will use American wine for Thanksgiving. Americans don’t import rare European cranberries, or South American turkey for this meal. Similarly, we should use the beautiful wines from the USA! So I ask you to look at Lodi, Santa Barbara, Sonoma, Napa, Paso Robles, Walla Walla Washington, Willamette Valley, NY’s Finger Lakes or Charlottesville, Virginia.

You can easily find great wines from these regions to fit any of your Thanksgiving wine needs. I challenge you to join me and promise to serve American-made wines this holiday. And why not? We have killer values and just about every varietal you could ask for whether it is a bold cab, a citrusty sauvignon blanc, a traditional german varietal, a European classic. We’ve got them, and they are SO GOOD!

If you want to be a great guest, just remember that you don’t want to be super cheap on the bottle. I can tell you, I have pinot noir, cab franc, riesling, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay all from the USA standing by in my cellar, from local regions like Yamhill County OR, Lodi, Napa, Sta Rita Hills CA. They are beautiful wines. And I have a stash of Modus, because any wine lover would be a fool to ignore the stunning quality available from the independent wine makers. These are small production, intense attention to detail, and beautiful wines, simply put.

 

In case you are not convinced you can find great, American wines if you only like European varietals, well, first you aren’t looking very hard. Go back to the wine store. Second, do a tiny bit of research. More than just Lodi… stunning versions of these grapes are grown right here in the states. There are classic, brilliant American wines that will impress the heck out of your holiday table. Here’s a brilliant piece by Maggie Hoffman showcasing some brilliant American Wine Options on Serious Eats:

I hope this gives you some food for thought. Feel free to email me at jvbuncorked@gmail.com, or @jvbuncorked on twitter if you want to discuss more.

And I hope you have a very happy, wonderful Thanksgiving! Make sure you tell me what you chose and how you like it!

 

à votre santé

Drinking World Wines in Toronto

14 Nov

I continue to be out of the country working on a new Broadway musical, trying Canadian wines when our production schedule allows. Wine selections at the LCBO (basically, the Canadian Liquor Store) are OK by my standards, but not stellar. I managed to find a bottle of Michael David’s Chardonnay from Lodi, here in Toronto of all places…along with many bottles of Zinfandel. That bottle made me very happy with great memories of picking viognier in the MD vineyard this past August, and I drank it and fondly recalled fun adventures with my WBC friends. 

 

Michael David Winery 2015 Chardonnay. 13.5%ABV, $23CAD/bottle from LCBO. Color is pale gold. Nose of green apple, white peach, and hibiscus flower. In the mouth, the fruit profile is a balance of golden delicious apple, honeydew melon and pineapple. Secondary notes of peach, cedar, vanilla, and clay on the medium-short finish. For me, this bottle was a delightful memory of the 2016 harvest in the MD vineyards. While I enjoyed this, I wished the LCBO had stocked the MD Viognier as well.

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This is a shot of me from the viognier harvest in the MD Vineyards.
Photo by Randy Caparoso!

 

 

Working in the entertainment industry often means very long hours and few days off. Since arriving,  I thankfully have managed to get to a couple of nice restaurants in Toronto that feature excellent wine lists that are worthy of sharing!

 

Nearby the Royal Alexandra Theatre at Byblos, the middle eastern fare is warm and inviting. Their lamb shoulder is braised for 12 hours and falls off the bone, succulent and savory, accompanied by a garlic paste, shug (a hot pepper blend) and house-made pickles and turnips, with tasty sides of rice and brussel sprouts. With the help of my trusty iphone (it’s a dark restaurant) I scanned the wine list and found an appropriate comfort wine to match the house specialty.

Chateau Musar “Hochar Père et Fils” 2011, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. This red blend is deep garnet in color with an opulent, floral nose. On the palate, mature black plum, fig, cherry, and the distinct quality of baked fruit is met with notes of earth, leather, mocha, allspice, black pepper and cinnamon. On the dry, lengthy finish there are beautiful flourishes of oak, along with gravel and sandy limestone on the side palate.  It is a heady aroma and velvety mouthfeel, a gorgeous second wine from a brilliant winemaker. I have long been a fan of Chateau Musar, with an ’04 and a few bottles of the 2000 remaining in my cellar, and I was trepidatious at the youthful age of this bottle, but ended up being very pleasantly surprised. I thoroughly enjoyed this blend of 50% cinsault, 30% grenache, 10% carignan, and 10% cabernet sauvignon. 14% ABV, Street price avg $33 USD, (obviously not what I paid in the restaurant.)

 

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Further down King Street is a hidden gem suggested by my co-workers for having a high quality (and somewhat pricey) wine list. Buca is a northern Italian restaurant that is reknowned for savory delights and curing their own meat;  you can see examples of their delicacies hanging in a cooler as you walk down a hallway to the bar and to one of the two dining rooms. We obliged our evening hunger by ordering shared dishes, starting off with olives stuffed with sausage and fried to hot, crisp, and salted savory perfection;  hand-rolled ricotta gnocchi stuffed with taleggio cheese; carpaccio di mango; and a pizza salumi di buca- delightful, mouthwatering bites. Strongly salted meats and powerful, savory flavors beg for a tremendous wine, and the sommelier did not disappoint! A native Italian (whose name I sadly did not understand when I asked), we chatted, I inquired about some of the ‘hidden treasures’ on the wine list, and he came back with his arms full of options,  from which I selected his very last bottle of a reserve Nebbiolo- and I was very glad I did!

Ar.Pe.Pe.’s  2011 Sasella Stella-Retina Valtellina Superior Riserva, Lombardy, Italy. The color is deep ruby while the perfumed nose offers crushed rose petals and lush vegetation. This wine opened up beautifully with a bit of time in the glass to offer mature raspberry, dried cherry, and african violet. Secondary notes of vanilla, wet earth and aged leather on the finish with hints of toasted almonds, sodium, wet stone, and granite. A beautiful soft mouthfeel; feminine expression of aged fruit meets bright acidity and firm tannins. 100% Nebbiolo, 13.5% ABV, Street Price around $52 USD.

 

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The clock is ticking until my return to the USA! I still have two bottles of Canadian red wines I need to review before my time is up here in Canada. Keep an eye out, and enjoy. Life is beautiful and precious, and I hope we all see the beauty every day in our loved ones and the world around us.  -JvB

à votre santé!

 

 

Thanksgiving Wine: Street Exchange with a Beer Drinker!

7 Nov

(Re-post due to request by readers! Originally posted 11-23-15.)


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.
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à votre santé!

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