Archive | April, 2017

Blandy’s Alvada Madeira: The Choice of America’s Forefathers

27 Apr

Blandy’s Alvada 5 Year Old Rich Madeira, $18/500ml bottle. 19%ABV.

Color is dark walnut. The nose offers sorghum; a rich, molasses-like perfume with tropical fruit notes; spun sugar, hazelnut, and almond. Deep, Rich, and Opulent are excellent descriptors for this fortified wine, both on the nose and palate. There is an initial sweetness on the front palate that shifts immediately to a gently sour richness on the side, top and back palates, expanding across them in a wave like a beautiful bourbon and changing to a rich, spiced almond tart with a delightful and lingering finish.

Barrel-aged and mystical, yet lighter than whiskey and fruitier than cognac, Madeira wine is much like the island off the coast of Africa from whence the name originates: exciting, rare, and uniquely tropical. Madeira was a favorite of America’s Founding Fathers: both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were known to enjoy it regularly, and Madeira was toasted upon the signing of the Declaration of Independence! These days, we can toast our own independence from the drudgery of daily life with a snifter or rocks glass, two fingers of Blandy’s Alvada, and serve either with an ice cube or neat. It is imperative to provide a large-enough glass (wine, port, cognac, or whisky)  to allow the expansive nose and flavors to treat your five senses– it would be a mistake to ignore the provocative depth of flavors provided!

 

 

 

Alvada Madeira has the flexibility of sparkling wine: it can be served alone or with food; as an apéritif, a course-bridging palate cleanser, as an accompaniment or featured, as a specialty course, or, as it is most commonly known, as a dessert wine or after-dinner drink. With the bounty of flavors and the long lifespan after opening, I am surprised to not see madeira more often in wine pairings or on the lists of after-dinner drinks.

 

I have enjoyed cognac, port, sparking wine, and dessert wines for years, and only recently added madeira to my repertoire a couple of years ago. I can tell you, the delicate mouthfeel, intricate flavors, and intense complexity have been a real pleasure to enjoy and share with guests. You should try it, and let me know what you think!

 

à votre santé!

 

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My Apology to Chablis

17 Apr

I’ve been a jerk, and I owe Chablis an apology.

 

My readers and followers all know I’m a massive fan of white burgundy. But I doubt they have any idea I’ve been a lifelong fan of Chablis, because I hardly mention you in recent years.

 

Chablis, I’ve always loved you. It’s true. But I haven’t shown you the respect that I have for you, and for that, I apologize. You were a major influence early in my understanding of wine, and you deserve to take massive credit for helping me both find my palate and understand the beauty of chardonnay from your unmistakable region. I met you early in life, respected you for your delicate color and nose, your gorgeous citrus flavors and seaside perfume, your reserved fruit, your singular focus, your gorgeous linearity, your finish of limestone, oyster shell, and chalk. Chablis, without a doubt, you are the one region where the terroir is so incredibly evident in your wine. And I assumed that everyone, like me, just KNEW about Chablis.

 

And so… I realize now, that I ignored you. I took you for granted. I’m so sorry.

 

In time, I met many other wines, from all over the world. Nothing else was like you, but I began to follow other regions of Burgundy, and started to pay more attention to them. In turn, that allowed me to appreciate the beauty in chardonnay across the world- Australia, Argentina, the oaked USA. Chablis, you have always remained a baseline for me, but as I began to collect beautiful chardonnay from around the world,  I kept treasuring Burgundy, but skipped over you time and time again in my search for top quality white wines of distinction…because I already knew how amazing Chablis was. I was so lost in translation- I entirely lacked the significance, the true understanding of what I was doing at the time.

 

I apologize. I hope you’ll understand, and forgive me.

 

You’ve been there for me. You’ve been waiting all this time, in good years, and bad. Waiting for a mutual friend to pour me a glass and offer you up, to watch as my palate, my nose, and my tongue recall that first kiss. What beauty and intensity!  In a sip I can recall the sea that covered your AVA millions of years ago, left tiny crustaceans, shells and exoskeletons mired in the limestone rock that is now the basis of the terroir we recognize as yours and yours alone. Pure, perfect, Chablis. or… #PureChablis.

 

There are even a few, -more than a handful- of your tremendous offerings in my cellar.

With special tags, of course.

Because… nothing else is Chablis!

 

Just a few of your fabulous offerings include:

 

Domaine Jolly & Fils, L’homme Mort, Premiere Cru 2014; around $27/bottle. 
Tasting note: “Very Pale in Color, nose of lemon peel and orange. Gentler but savory up front, bright across the top palate. Such a pleasure to drink, like imbibing a glass full of perfect afternoon sunshine.”

Domaine Gilbert Picq & Fils, 2015, around $20/bottle. 
“Color of pale sunshine. Nose is faint, issuing grapefruit and limestone. Acid up front in the mouth, followed by lemon-lime citrus. Opening into a savory palate. Pairs beautifully with either beet, goat cheese, and gruyere puff pastry.”

Chablis William Fevre Champs Royaux, 2015 around $18/bottle. 
The easiest Chablis to find in the states, Fevre is a huge producer. “Classic lineage, so familiar. Pale straw with a green tinge, linear acidity and fruit with a soft style in the front- and mid-palates, yet a tightly focused finish. Such great memories, brought back cleanly.”

La Chablisienne Petite Chablis 2015; around $17/bottle.
“Pale straw in color, Honey-lemon nose. Steely, driven flavors of citrus, lemon-lime, oyster shell, hints of clay. Pairs best with the raw crudo.”

Domaine Louis Moreau 1er Cru Fourneaux 2013, around $30/bottle. 
“HUGE nose on this wine. It shifts in personality to me: on the palate: first savory with oyster brine, meaty and thick with citrus and chalk, then a more gentle, flint and steel approach. A lovely finish, with high acidity. I could drink this forever.” – My personal favorite of the night.

Patrick Piuze 1er Cru Forêts, 2014, around $45/bottle.
“What gorgeous citrus and salinity on the nose. Huge acidity, big citrus; a meter-lemon wine. This is an  oenophile’s wine, a wine nerd’s dream! Singular, focused, & driven. It simply screams of the Chablis terroir. You could identify this in a blind tasting without any thought. Perfect pairings both with the foie gras and scallop dishes.”

Louis Michel & Fils, Chablis Grand Cru Grenouille 2014; around $80/bottle.
“Pale in color, complex nose with citrus, mineralogy, & sodium. A full-bodied wine with bright acidity and a long finish. A beautiful expression of chablis, no more expensive than a good California Chardonnay or a good buy in white burgundy. Amazing with the risotto balls and the braised tenderloin. Stunning to be such a good pairing for such rich selections.”

 

And just in case you are still thinking about Chablis… here’s where she lives. Her Grand Cru, her Premiere Cru, her Petite Chablis… all of her beauty and delights.

 

My thanks for a tremendous tasting to Françoise Roure from Bourgognes, Marguerite de Chaumont Guitry from Sopexa, and Sommelier John Kearns from Ai Fiori Restaurant, whose service and presentation were top notch, and whose hand cradles the bottle in most of my photographs! Deepest appreciation for the tremendous pairing menu & service from Ai Fiori’s Michael White, David Schneider, Scott Schneider, Mari Gaube and their teams.

 

And of course… my apologies to Chablis. Will you ever forgive me? Maybe I can come and see you over the summertime, if Provence and Bordeaux won’t get too jealous.

 

#MWWC32

à votre santé!

 

Kosher for Passover Wines, 2017

6 Apr

This year’s Kosher Food & Wine Experience had some tremendous offerings. For this segment, I focused on wines that I thought would be heartily appreciated by any who tasted them, as this holiday brings together extended family, friends, and strangers at our tables. Here are wines I can heartily suggest for Passover 2016 from the Kosher Food & Wine Experience:

The Kosher Food & Wine Experience, 2017. 

2012 Chateau de Valmer Vouvray Moelleux

Pale yellow in color, light nose of floral and fruit blend. Medium bodied white wine, rounded white stone fruit, quince and fig with a hint of almond; a mature, elegant, creamy and savory overall impression. This Loire Valley Vouvray is consistently a solid performer. I should point out the same winemaker makes a younger-vintage, demi-sec Vouvray that is also popular with non-wine drinkers, it’s more direct, less complex, just a hint of sweetness. Either is a solid choice! Around $22/bottle for the aged Moelleux, @ $13/bottle for the currant vintage demi-sec.

Baron Edmund de Rothschild Les Lauriers Rosé 2015

As a fan of Baron Rothschild’s traditional red wines, I’m raving about this rosé. Pale pink in color with a fruity nose, this non-mevushal rosé is incredibly dry on the palate, showing strawberry and cherry with balanced acidity and tannins. Well made, this is a perfect all-meal wine that sings for baked chicken but can handle the whole meal from bitter herbs to red meat to dessert! @ $19/bottle, 13.5%ABV.

 

Château Soutard, 2014

A grand Cru Classé red blend from Saint Emilion, consistently capturing 90+ points from the major reviewers, in the low $40 range. If you can find the 2015, I prefer it (more expressive and longer finish), but both vintages offer beautiful dark red fruit, black plum, plus dark forest, bramble, and leather notes. A full-bodied red, perfect for the Passover Seder and the traditional brisket or roast.

 

Château Giscours, Margaux  2014

You want elegance and luxury? You found it here: a Margaux that is Kosher for Passover, in the $40-$50 range.  Maroon in color with an exotic floral nose with eucalyptus and forest floor, the palate shows medium body of dark red berries, burnt caramel, notes of spice, earth, and stone. Excellent balance, finishes with solid tannins and leaves you wanting more. 13.5%ABV. Pour me another!

 

Grand Puy Ducasse Pauillac 2013

If you love Pauillac, this is your wine: a classic & historic Grand Cru Classé. Color is pale ruby into magenta. A full, expressive nose of black and red fruit with cut greens. On the palate, black plum and cassis are first on arrival, along with green pepper, clove and spice box in quick succession, followed by notes of saddle leather, gun oil, clay, and gravel. Ducasse’s blend is usually 60/40 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, this is consistent with previous experience. Known for tremendous aromatics and intense flavors, the balance is just off-center with more fruit and acidity than tannin at this young age. I promise, you won’t care, unless you purchase by the case and compare it to a vintage that is ten years old. With SRP in the low $70’s, I found this online in the low $30 per bottle with 13%ABV.

 

Château Fourcas-Dupré Listrac-Medoc 2012

Color is bright red with white edging. Delightfully bright cherries on the nose; on the palate this is a medium-bodied red blend.  Dark berries, cassis, black plum, bramble, with pepper and clove. This wine shows well for this young age. Body is rich and this tastes more expensive than its street price @ $28/bottle. 13%ABV. A tremendous value in a classic Bordeaux blend.

 

Château Leoville Poyferre Saint Julien,  2014

A classic St Julien, Léoville-Poyferre is a wine I love any time of year. I simply had no idea it was available in Kosher for Passover! Non-mevushal, it features a deep garnet color, and nose of eucalyptus & leather. On the palate: cassis, black fruit, dry, full bodied. So approachable at this young age, I promise, you will have no regrets. Predominantly cab with merlot in this blend, it is a glorious, full-bodied red with massive tannins and is a total pleasure to drink. Priced in the mid-$60/bottle but found online as low as $50 and worth every penny. 12.5%ABV

 

From Spain: Elvi Clos Mesorah 2014

What, a Spanish Kosher for Passover wine? Yes, and great one! This blend of 40% Carinena, 30% Garnacha, and 30% Syrah is a deep purple in color, with a nose of black plum and forest floor. On the palate, bright fruit is delightful: cherry, plum, and blackberry jam on the front palate while delightful acidity and tannin support excellent balance on this slightly chewy, very intense wine that made me want to buy a bottle immediately.  If you make lamb for Passover, this is the wine you want, found online in the high $60/bottle range.  13.5% ABV on this non-Mevushal wine. If you want to change things up, this might be the way to go- it’s a stunning wine that won’t disappoint.

 

After-dinner/Dessert Wine:
Rayne-Vigneau 2014 Sauternes

Deep yellow in color, the nose is full of sweet fruit, honey and wildflowers. On the palate, apricot, mandarin orange, and honey attack the tongue while racy acidity crosses the top palate. Zesty and alive, a lovely expression and a perfect dessert wine after you’ve enjoyed your four cups. @$25/bottle, 14%ABV.

 

Last but not least:

In 2016 I reviewed a bevy of tremendous wines by Israeli winemaker Lenny Recanati, all of which were Kosher for Passover. Recanati is a winemaker who blew my mind with blind tastings that can compare with some of the finest kosher wines I’ve listed here. Below are three links to three separate posts where I wrote and reviewed Recanti wines, which should be on your wine shopping list whether you are looking for wines in the $11 or $50 range. Recanati wines are simply stunning, and should not be missed, be it Passover or any day, his wines compare beautifully to old and new world wines from around the world. 

Recanati Worlds Collide Part 1:

Recanati Worlds Collide Part 2:

My Kosher for Passover wines of 2016:

à votre santé

March 2017: Out Like a Lion

1 Apr

March: So much for “out like a lamb.”  Try, “out like a lion!” Really.
It’s been that kind of month.

It’s been busy. I opened a Broadway musical, designed & mixed several corporate events, mixed a few broadcasts, then a gala, and a huge award show at Radio City Music Hall, and oh- also a couple of concerts. Oh, and I loaded in another Broadway show in a blizzard. It’s been a blur.

The weather has been nuts. It snowed, then it hit 70 degrees, then back below freezing, snowed again, and rained for days. Some woman in a store criticized me yesterday for wearing shorts. I smiled and laughed outwardly, saying “I’m warm!”, while I snarkily thought to myself, “You know, I actually WORK for a living, lady!”

 

And the wine bottles stare at me from the tasting queue.

 

It’s not all bad. Last week on a show we broke earlier than expected and I had a rare opportunity to take go sit at Aldo Sohm’s wine bar, making a few friends, and drinking some stunning wines. And today I actually have the evening off from work. I made my daughter dinner, watched a little depressing teenage drama with her when conversation lulled, and celebrated communication and “us” time. And I got to open a bottle of wine.

 

So… the wine! READY? Ok, it’s not as bad as speed tasting, but here we go:

Adler Fels Pinot Noir 2014. 14.4%ABV, $27 SRP.

Color is violet with a maroon center. The nose offers blackberry, cherry cola, spices and salt spray.  A blend of 74% pinot from Santa Rita Hills and 26% from the Russian River Valley, this pinot is seductive and savory. Earthy notes abound if you have the patience to let them evolve. The traditionally bright cherry, cherry cola, and dried cranberry starts the palate off, but within a few minutes the wine progresses evenly to demonstrate complexity with notes of  artichoke, mushroom, pepper and forest floor. Hints of gneiss, limestone, burnt sugar, and oak . I tried this over several days and loved how the wine progressed each day. Where has this brand been hiding? Keep it in mind, and if you see this wine, snap it up. It surprised me in the depth of expression and savory notes that are unusual for a classic pinot noir. 

 

Chéreau Carré Muscadet Sèvre et Maine; Loire, France. 12%ABV; $14 locally, online as low as $10/bottle.

This is springtime in a glass, to be sure. Color is quite pale straw, while the nose is delicate with cut grass, wildflowers, and citrus. On the palate: bright acidity underscored with meyer lemon peel, bosc pear, a hint of tart pineapple and lemongrass. Overall an excellent value, a perfect entry-level muscadet for those white wine drinkers who needs to expand their repertoire or when you walk up to a raw bar and don’t like sparkling. I paired this with pasta and fresh pesto sauce and was as happy as could be- plenty of flavor and acidity against the bright and fresh flavors of the herbs.

 

 

 

Michel Chapoutier Schieferkopf Sylvaner 2014, Alsace, France. 12% ABV, $25/bottle.

Pale gold in color, delicate nose of honeysuckle blossoms. In the mouth, subtle pear and macintosh apple with star fruit and lemon-lime citrus. Beautiful acidity, and a medium long finish full of schist, (hence the name which translates to “Hill of Schist”) along with clay, and almond paste on the back palate. I enjoyed this with Vietnamese, Thai and Mexican but this wine is not one only for spicy food- you can just as easily down this quickly with savory cheese or a white meat dish. With the screw cap closure, it could last for weeks in the fridge- but I won’t let this survive another day, it’s just so good to pair with food!

 

 

May your Spring be full of adventures in wine!

 

à votre santé!

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