Archive | February, 2017

Locations Wines P4: Portugal!

28 Feb

P4 Locations Wines by David Phinney, Portuguese Red Wine Blend. 15%ABV, MSRP$18/bottle.

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Color is deep ruby with warm purple edges. The nose is a touch hot, hiding rich dark fruit beneath the alcohol that requires a moment to dissipate. On the palate, black plum, black and blue berries, green vegetation, and a hint of bitter herb on the back palate. Strong tannins and acidity deliver a solid finish with notes of dark chocolate, vanilla, gravel, and chalk.

The flavors are dark and deeply concentrated, evoking images of ancient, gnarled rootstock, and powerful sun beating down on small fruit hanging from low vines carefully strung across a steep hillside.

A beautiful palate cleanser, my initial thought was that this wine begs for petiscos, fresh fish and the warm climate of home, being a blend of touriga franca, touring nacional, and trincadeira grapes. But it is still winter in NYC, so I opened this bottle and enjoyed a glass with grilled chicken and broccoli, and was more that satisfied. Two days later with my in-laws, it paired beautifully with winter meat loaf, potatoes and salad. And once again, my brother-in-law and I just enjoyed this wine so evenly! Not to be outdone, on day four it matched a vegetarian dinner of kale salad and baked onion pie. While compiling my notes, the final sips paired beautifully again with baked gorgonzola bites and then perfectly with a single piece of dark chocolate.

 

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I keep wondering if I will open a bottle of Locations and not be impressed. Dave Phinney seems to be the Derek Jeter of wine: always on top of his game, rock solid in his delivery, and seemingly never out of surprises.

More Locations Wines to come. Stay tuned!

 

à votre santé!

 

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Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Festival

26 Feb

My nephew is a foodie, personal chef, and an all-around fun guy. After seven years of talking about it, the stars finally aligned and we attended the Mohegan Sun Wine and Food Festival, aka #SunWineFest.

I have to admit, it was a little weird to attend The Grand Tasting as a member of the public, and not a member of the press. (Grand Tasting? That’ll be $95 + Ticketmaster fees, thank you.) But hey, I’m open-minded! How hard can this be?

It wasn’t hard. It was just PACKED.

We arrived at the casino on Saturday about an hour before doors. The line snaked deep into the casino, dispersing like NASCAR drivers after the green light once the doors opened. We moved with intent, but like any battle plan, we constantly varied and updated our crowd tactics. We maintained our goals of sampling carefully, spitting & dumping wine, not over-indulging, and drinking water to stay hydrated. It seemed like we were the only ones who did.

 

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Within an hour, some people were locked into chef-watching mode at the stage, while others were getting loaded from the tasting tables. Some tables served tastes, some poured entire glasses.

I still took tastes, refusing full or even half-glasses when offered. I used the dump buckets. And, in spite of the crowds, I found some friends! Everything from bourbon to port to champagne were being served. On the far side of the ballroom, local foodstuffs were from famed New Haven Pepe’s Apizza to some serious mac ‘n cheese and BBQ. Brisket over mac ‘n cheese- it may not look appetizing, but I stopped and took a picture because this was absolute savory decadence.

 

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In the course of a couple of hours, I found several Connecticut wineries and Sakonnet Vineyard, a Rhode Island winery worth visiting. I enjoyed their winemaker’s white wines, several of which included the varietal vidal blanc.

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I could not say ‘no’ to a sampling of Mumm champagne. The brut is still my favorite of this set, but I would have loved to sample the 1990 vintage or their Grand Cru champagnes. Next time, perhaps.

 

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We tasted Martin Ray (Russian River Valley, Sonoma, CA). I enjoyed their chardonnay and rosé of Pinot Noir, both well-crafted, and ideal pleasure wines in warm weather.

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I found several rosé wines I enjoyed. Moment de Plaisir, Chateau Paradis, and Notorious Pink were among my favorites. The Notorious Pink is a grenache rosé and offers delightful strawberry with matching acidity. All of these are solid spring/summer afternoon delight wines to consider in the under $20 category.


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Since the event takes place in Connecticut, it was surprising to see few local wineries. But Preston Ridge did not disappoint with either the Fieldstone white or their rosé which has maintained its homey, northeastern rigidity.

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On our way to the door to take a water break, we stopped briefly to taste a Napa Chardonnay from Stags Leap.

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During a water break, we realized it was getting close to the Elite Cru tasting (Another $115, thank you) and I hoped we would be set up for some top-level wines. I knew immediately that all was well when the line was a fraction of the earlier line. Another not so subtle tell: we were handed purchasing sheets (by bottle or by the case),  along with wine glasses, which demonstrated that the entire experience had just graduated to “the deluxe experience”.

I had little to complain about, when a grand cru champagne was among the first things in my glass.

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And from that point on, we found a slew of familiar friends and classic vines that tantalized my tongue and brought back some tremendous memories:

 

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Not to be outdone, we finished our tasting with three wineries that were new to us, but who offered depth, complexity, and quality. Cloisonne Wines had a fabulous rosé and chardonnay from Napa.

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Fullerton Wines’s Three Otters offered a delicious chardonnay from the Willamette Valley that was only improved by a cutesy label. The wine is quite delicious.

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And last but not least, from the Anderson Valley, The Withers has a label that will catch your eye, and their wines are exemplary. Driven by passion, now exploding into popularity- just watch as this brand grows.

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At the end of the Elite Cru tasting, we were ready for a break. So we gambled for a while, hit a restaurant, then called it a night. If you decide to attend the #SunWineFest, I have some suggestions: 

1) To attend the grand tasting, go early and perhaps NOT on Saturday when it is packed!

2) Alternately, be prepared for the crowd. Make a game plan. Spit, Hydrate, Spit.  

3) If you only want the higher-end wines, then only attend the Elite Cru tasting. Spend five minutes going through the catalog, and hit the tables in the order in which you want to see them. Because you will either fawn over your favorites, or fall madly in love with another, and spend all your time at that table. But you will probably have a blast in that short time. 

Enjoy!

à votre santé!

 

From JvB’s Cellar (Bin #9): Chateau Malescot St. Exupery Margaux 2006

22 Feb

Not much wine tasting is happening currently while I’m working late evenings on a new Broadway show. Here’s a revival for you: a Margaux wine review from six years ago, literally years before my blog JvB UnCorked existed. How my writing style has changed! And the 2006 is available online for as little as $80/bottle! -JvB 

Chateau Malescot St. Exupery Margaux 2006

Ah, Margaux. The terroir I love to drink.
Why do I find the wines of  Bordeaux’s Margaux region so intoxicating? 

Let’s look at this phenomenal wine for an example:
The color is deep ruby/purple. The nose is a melange of dark notes: I smell cassis, roses, and wet earth. Gentle alcohol content from slow legs, but the wine is chilled to 60 degrees F as it’s 98 outside. First sip: black currant, vine and gravel are the dominant flavors on the palate. I experienced a delicious classic Margaux with medium body, yet highly concentrated flavor and very silky, gentle tannins for a super smooth, long, and velvety finish with a sweet note that may surprise you. The wine is a blend of 50% cabernet sauvingon, 35% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit-Verdot grapes. At $60/bottle, not for the faint of heart (or wallet) but a delectable wine, every bit the 91-93 points rated by the top three commentators, who suggest this wine will be at its peak in 2015. I won’t be waiting that long when (if) I get to pick up another bottle.

Grand Cru Class of 1855: Chateau Malescot St. Exupery Margaux 2006.
You should be jealous: this wine is superb, smooth, and velvet deliciousness. YUM!!!!

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Q: Why is it the red varietal blends of the Margaux region of Bordeaux are so intoxicating?

A: It must be the complex flavors, perfectly blended and mixed to supply a powerful nose and flavor yet with such gentle tannins, resulting in a lengthy finish that I always describe as “silky” or “velvety” when drinking a classic Margaux. -JvB

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From JvB’s Cellar (Bin#8) Wine Buyer’s Remorse and the Perfect Moment

21 Feb

While I’m working on a new Broadway show, I’m sharing an early wine rant. This, from a 2012 post!

WINE BUYER’S REMORSE, AND WINE: THE PERFECT MOMENT

 And the rant continues…

Today I’ve been ranting on FB about all kinds of things.  My notes about wines have missed several days of expression, because I’ve been thinking about how to share the experience well.

 

So: WINE BUYER’S REMORSE

 

Obviously if you buy a wine that’s corked you’ll regret it. Sometimes wine is perfectly fine, just… “meh”.  Several times in my life I’ve regretted making a purchase, wine buying as much as anything else. We’re thrilled when a cheap bottle tastes like something much more expensive. What about when you drop hard earned coin on a supposedly great bottle that’s only OK? So sad!!!

 

When I have a negative wine experience, I try to ask these questions:

1)   Did I store it properly, with proper cork contact, and the right temperature & humidity?

2)   Am I drinking this too early, or too late (in the life of the vintage)- OR: was it meant to store? Did I ignore that?

3)   Did I taste it properly? Was my palate clean?  Am I using neutral judgment?

4)   Did I pair this with something inappropriate?

5)   If its not MY cup of tea, who WOULD like this?

6)   What did they do right in making and marketing this wine?

 

I find corked bottles less than 1% of the time. Sure, I’ve got a couple of sad stories about great wines that have been corked.  But more often than a corked wine, wine drinkers have a different negative experience- when they’ve found something they are excited about- a repeat of a special bottle that doesn’t pass muster, a rare find that has passed its drinking window, or a good or highly-rated  wine whose initial response is “so-so” when we hoped for astounding.

 

So-so. That, my friends, is a disappointment. When I taste a so-so wine, I taste it again, to double check myself, then I let it rest a bit and see if a little more exposure to air will improve. Then I’ll try it with a cracker, a gentle cheese, a robust cheese, and maybe some chocolate.  If the wine may improve with food, these are some of the best choices. It’s also easier to keep these foods around your home, instead of fois gras, mushroom terrine, cornichon/raclette cheese/baguette, and chocolate truffles- each of which might pair wonderfully with wines high in acidity , in tannin, in sugar, etc.

 

Sometimes you’ll find the wine has opened up, or pairs and compliments one of these foods amazingly well. And sometimes, you’ll realize that the high priced wine just isn’t what you like. It’s important to realize at this point, that it’s OK, it’s actually good- because you’re learning what you like and don’t like in wine. Don’t forget, every season is a new bunch of wines, every season is a new season to live, learn, try and taste .

So…have you experienced my misery? Bringing home a bottle of something you’re really excited about, just to taste it and think … ‘what’s the fuss about?” One of the ways I’m able to bypass this experience is by purchasing only a glass of wine at a good establishment with a nice cellar. Restaurants and wine bars are obvious opportunities to taste some of the higher end bottles, while risking little. I particularly like wine bars like Morrell Wine in Rockefeller Plaza where you can get a half-glass of some very expensive wines. Some bars & restaurants that carry high end wine by the glass will offer you a taste of a wine when you’re trying to decide what to drink, this can be a great way to taste something but make sure to spend money and tip to keep that relationship going. From time to time, I’ve been disappointed by buying an expensive bottle in a restaurant that didn’t live up to its hype. I’d much prefer buying a glass or half-glass of that vintage to realize it’s not to my liking.

 

 

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Cartoon by: Mark Anderson

 

THE PERFECT MOMENT

 

Most important, is simply to realize that wine is about constantly learning and evaluating. One vineyard’s crop or blend this year may not be as good as that year, last year or next year, and may be totally different from the neighboring vineyard. Wine is as much about your evolution as a drinker and finding out what you like as it is about and process of growing, harvesting, blending, maturing and bottling before a wine gets to the glass.  Often it’s an accident of experiencing a ‘perfect moment’ when a wine impacts the drinker- and your appreciation for the wine is stunning. These moments are the ones that help create the wine drinker: one who seeks another amazing moment of great pairing or insight of flavor, an impact of the palate- like the endorphines we experience on the playing field, the rush of the roller coaster, the joy of laughter. And what do we remember most in life, but highs and lows?  Our memories in life are made of the major failures and the perfect moments, much like our experiences in wine. 

 

Like those in life, the successes and moments of joy are the ones we’ll remember the most. We remember more vividly the moment of joy with the birth of your child, not the 20 hours of labor prior. We remember the dinners with a bottle of Opus One or Mouton Rothschild more than the one where I dumped an entire bottle in the sink and drank diet coke instead.

 

Here’s to the perfect moments in our lives. Cheers! 

-JvB

'How come your oldest vintage is on the top shelf?' 'I can't reach up there!'

‘How come your oldest vintage is on the top shelf?’ ‘I can’t reach up there!’

Cartoon by: Mike Flanagan

Your Super Bowl Wine: MALBEC!

5 Feb

It’s the day of the game. The BIG game.

The one we all watch together in a friend’s house. The SuperBowl.

You might be a football fan, you might not. But this is one of the biggest TV phenomenons in the world. And everyone eats and drinks while the game and the halftime go on, and this is the one time of year when we carefully watch and comment on the commercials!

So what are you drinking? Did you think about it?

Malbec.

Malbec the THE Super Bowl wine in my opinion. It’s got more spice than merlot and more heft than cabernet sauvignon. It’s a Harley-Davidson in a glass. It’s got more manliness than beer, ale, or lager (but not stout!). And it drinks just as well without food!

Yes, It’s a wine that pairs well with or without food. But when paired with food, it’s flexible and as powerful as the New England Patriots staring down a kickoff. Yes, it will pair with grilled meats. Yes, it will pair with vegetables and cheeses. Yes, it will work with anything spicy. So your nachos, pizza, wings, onion dip, guacamole, cheese dip, quesadillas, burgers, hot dogs- they will all taste even better with malbec.

So you’re thinking, “Ok, smartypants, WHICH malbec do I buy?”

I thought you might ask!

Here are my top picks in Malbec:

AR Blend from Locations (predominantly Malbec blend) $18/bottle. If you didn’t read my review, you can check it out here. Dave Phinney kicked some serious butt with his Locations brand, making them $20 or under, and this mostly-malbec AR won 95 points at the 2016 Sommelier Wine Challenge. My brother-in-law and I downed this bottle in a flash. A better wine value is hard, if not nearly impossible, to find. You might actually thank me- I’ve already received notes from a half-dozen readers who bought the wine after reading my review who loved it!

Alamos Malbec: Consistently 89 or 90 points year after year, you can find this on a grocery store shelf in addition to top wine stores for under $10. A tremendous value that delivers well, I’d put this up against a similarly priced six-pack any day of the year.

Catena Malbec – I’ll admit, I am a huge fan of Catena Alta, the reserve wine from the same maker, which sells closer to $50-60/bottle and is usually rated in the 94-95 point range. That’s a porterhouse pairing, for sure! But for Super Bowl Sunday and under $20, the standard Catena Malbec from the Uco Valley is a textbook 90+ point Malbec . BOOM.

MMM Mendoza Malbec Enrique Foster’s MMM has also been a consistent, classic Argentinian malbec ever since I started drinking the varietal. This is probably the single most popular malbec in higher-end American restaurants, as it is popular, versatile, easy to pair, and still an affordable value with restaurant markup.
Enjoy the Super Bowl! Let me know what you end up drinking. And remember to be safe! If you know you’ll be drinking, make alternative travel plans and please, don’t drive. SuperBowl Sunday is among the most dangerous days to be on the road. So please, be careful out there!

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à votre santé!

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