Archive | May, 2017

Sybille Kuntz Riesling Spätlese 2013 Trocken

30 May

Sybille Kuntz Mosel-Riesling Spätlese 2013 Trocken, Mosel, Germany. 13%ABV, $17/bottle Average (street).

The color is a clear, pale gold. The nose offers aromas of honey, hibiscus, lime, wildflowers, slate, and just a hint of petrol. On the palate, beautifully muted and subtle tropical fruit that moves to the back of the tongue and shifts upwards, while acidity soars across the mouth. Bringing air to the blend, the white flesh fruit emerges, as cleanly as the color. Tertiary notes of limestone and wet slate, while the finish goes on and on.


Whoa. I have never heard of Sybille Kuntz but I love her style. This wine is bone dry, with a sweet nose. It has the precision of a perfectly tuned Porsche and the style of a perfect island sunset. This is a gorgeous, delightful wine which happens to be both organic and biodynamic, created from vines that are 60-80 years old. Kuntz makes this look so easy, but making a wine like this is anything but easy. This kind of sophistication requires decades of dedication, an understanding of the land, the grape, the process, and so much more.

Sybille Kuntz is making stunning Riesling.

 

 

When my brain put all these pieces together, my first cogent thought was “this is one hell of a winemaker.”

There is passion in this bottle, and passion in the glass.

Here’s how much I like this wine: I didn’t try to pair it with ANYTHING. It was too good by itself. OK, I’ll think about it: it would be stellar with asian cuisine, especially Thai, Chinese, and Japanese, while being powerful enough to handle Korean kimchi and BBQ.  More specifically: this wine will elevate shellfish, cured meats (think speck, jamon, and capicola), medium-bodied cheeses,  fruits, and vegetables. After writing this, I did a touch of research to which restaurants have Sybille Kuntz’s wines. Here are some in the NYC area that will make your mouth water: Per Se, Momofuku, Nobu, Blue Ribbon Sushi, Tribeca Terroir, and Blue Hill.   Yeah. I was impressed, too.

 

The only negatives I have for this wine are picky. One, I quickly wanted a lot more of it. Two, I’m hooked and can’t wait to taste any wine Kuntz makes in the future. Three, there are people I need to pour a glass  of this riesling who are going to have the exact same issues with numbers  1 and 2 above.

Click Here for a link to her website. But be warned, you’ll still salivate for more.

 

à votre santé!

 

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Locations Wine OR 4- The Sugar Ray of Pinot Noir?

20 May

Locations Wine OR 4, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA.  15% ABV, SRP $20/Bottle.

 

Color is a dazzling, translucent red with a pale magenta center ebbing into a deep salmon. It’s quite a glorious color, that my photography can only hint at. The nose invites you to drink deep with aromas of cherry, red plum, eucalyptus & menthol, and just a hint of forest floor. On the palate: mature fruit is on the forefront with beautiful acidity. Secondary notes of spice box, granite, dust, chalky clay, and sodium follow up with a medium finish. This wine is simply gorgeous; 100% pinot noir, but it has a strong mid palate and solid back palate. It’s still a medium-bodied wine overall, but it is without doubt a decadent, muscular pinot that kicks ass, perhaps best compared to Sugar Ray Robinson, the famous welterweight and middleweight boxing champion?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was surprised by the 15%ABV, usually I complain about alcohol levels this high but this wine made me cry for more.
Where are you going to find a killer Oregon Pinot blend from Dave Phinney for an SRP under 20$/bottle? BOOM. I already tried to find more, and my closest vendor was sold out. (I found another!) This stuff is amazing wine, at a tremendous value, period.

 

If you have read my reviews of other Location Wines, you’ll know that normally I enjoy Dave Phinney’s wines over the course of a week with a few family members who love red wines… well, that was not the case with this one. I opened it for a quick taste and was floored by the wine. Admittedly, I drank half the bottle after opening, and the remainder on the next evening, keeping this amazing juice entirely for myself. Don’t worry, I’ve already bought enough to share. But it’s rare for me to have this kind of fanatic reaction to a wine, where I will pour a one pounce taste, then two more ounces, then several more ounces just because I’m enjoying the wine so much.

Since I’m a fan of drinking what you like, I’m going to figure out which of my local retailers can keep this on hand for me. So that when you come over to visit, I will know what you want to openthe wine that pound for pound, I can’t put back down. While I only met him once, I think that Sugar Ray would have approved.

 

à votre santé

 

Wine Fraud/WineRant: When Drinking What You Like Is Impossible

15 May

Usually, I like receiving money.  Today just isn’t one of those days.

Allow me to explain…

 

I’m looking at a cheque that sits in front of me, untouched on my table, and it makes me seethe. Yes, the mere existence of this piece of paper angers me. For if I deposit the check, it means I legally accept that a debt owed to me has been paid, albeit horridly underpaid. And this paltry cheque is nothing compared to what I purchased and the seller confirmed, then failed to deliver. I can not emotionally absolve the seller for not only failing to complete the transaction, but actually cheating me, because this was done with intent. And wine is more to me than a commodity. It represents so much: happiness, community, decadence, serenity, -and certain special wines mean even more. You know what I mean, if you’ve had one of those rare, gorgeous, transcendent wines, and you ache to find more. And eventually you find some, and you pay for it and believe that it’s yours, until it’s taken away.

Just looking at this cheque reminds me of an awful thing. It reminds me that I am a member of a horrid club, the group of more than 2,300 customers who purchased wines from Premiere Cru in California and didn’t receive their wines.

just kidding

I was smart in that my first purchase was for only two bottles, which I received in a timely manner. The second purchase, for six bottles, took longer to receive, but the wines were well-packed, exactly what I ordered, and were a delight to drink. It was more than a year later, at a time I was flush from completing a huge project when I was searching to order a few more bottles of a specific white burgundy that is very special to me, in essence my personal equivalent of crack cocaine- I saw the name on a list and all I could do was say “yes, please!”  I picked up the phone, confirmed they were available, gave my payment information, and waited. And waited. And the rest, as they say, is history.

 

This is not the first time I have lost on a deal in the wine world. Oh yes, I’ve failed before. I trusted sellers to hold up their end of business, and was shocked when they didn’t.    
-I went through a period in which I followed and participated in a number of wine auctions with (mostly) pleasant experiences, until I purchased a lot at auction in which _all_ the bottles had cooked. I specifically use the word “purchased” where the auction house would use “won”. I don’t say “won” because it is insulting, to say the least. Of a dozen successful auctions, this is the purchase that essentially killed auctions for me, and now makes my blood boil when I see an advertisement from this house. I can recall blogging about how much I was enjoying auctions five years ago…exactly six months before I opened my cooked bottles from auction.

The fact that the entire lot had cooked demonstrates improper storage, which is much harder to accept as a buyer than one corked bottle from a lot, when the auction is from a top house and the wines are touted as being “removed from professional storage”.

 

-I purchased a case of a gorgeous burgundy wine from a respected retailer at a great price and waited patiently for the wines to arrive. On the phone I was promised a few days to three weeks, max before I received the wine. Ultimately I waited a half a year for resolution, for the wines still had not arrived, teaching me the importance of the word: “pre-arrival” in advertising. As opposed to en primeur, aka purchasing wine futures (pre-bottling), this vendor said the wines would arrive within days, not weeks…and after call after call, I found out so much of the story it made me livid: “The shipping container was filled by another order, so your wine had to wait for the next one, which is scheduled in three weeks. Oh, that might be three months. The negociant bumped our order, but we’re next…” This charade went on and on. I had purchased the wines in early August, intending to drink them in September, since they’d be available “almost immediately”, I was told over the phone when ordering. By March, I was incensed. After writing a letter to the company and detailing the issues, I was finally offered a refund or an exchange. I accepted the exchange to a similar Burgundy, (a slightly lower quality at a higher price I had to ‘buy up’ for, of course) but I was furious because they had advertised something they could not accurately provide- and so I didn’t do business with this company for several years. After being personally invited to a complimentary tasting at their shop, however, I started buying from them again,  -but only wines that are in stock, in small quantities- with satisfaction.

 

What lessons have I learned? 

 

Build personal relationships with your vendors. You might be big or small in their eyes, but people will think twice about losing you and often work hard to help you and retain your business relationship if there is a personal connection.

Confirm you are purchasing wines that a vendor has in-stock.  Respect the word “pre-arrival” and know exactly what risk that entails (that you are paying for something the seller does not have either in inventory, or under their control).

-To take smaller risks with a vendor, buy in small amounts. This is simple, but can be hard to do sometimes.

-To take delivery in person when possible. This helps with each of the above lessons and practices.

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Premiere Cru was selling wines far below their competition…because it was a ponzi scheme.

If you buy at auction, be aware of everything that means. Read the fine print, and accept that you might be bidding on something you won’t or can’t drink.

 

The good news, dear reader, is that I learned, and have grown, from experience.

I stopped doing business with companies I could not trust, and I found vendors who are reputable and who work harder to maintain customer satisfaction. The more I learn about wines and the more winemakers I meet, the more “desert island” wines I find, and the more relationships I build both with winemakers and vendors. This constantly provides me far more quality wines to taste and enjoy- and more great, afforable wines to share with you! Where in the past I went crazy for a specific chateau and vintage, these days I am more a fan of winemakers and their philosophy. If I were to qualify that by comparing it with a food analogy, then instead of wanting to re-create a great meal, I want to go re-visit that chef and taste what they are doing currently. If I can manage to score another bottle of a great vintage, then that’s a lovely treat, but these days I’m so very happy when I can get a few bottles of recent releases  from a winemaker whose work I really enjoy.

Thanks for letting me share,

and maybe you’ll learn from my mistakes,

or share your own mistakes with me. 

Lastly…

I’d really like your opinion:

What should I do with that cheque?

 

à votre santé!

Natura Wines: Vegan Friendly, Organic, & Delicious!

10 May

Emiliana Natura Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2016, Casablanca Valley, Chile. Stelvin closure ; 13%ABV, Street price $10/bottle.

Color is pale straw. The nose offers grapefruit, lime zest, a hint of sea spray, and a touch of funk. The palate is a citrus and tropical fruit blend with an easy, soft finish. A nice balance of fruit and acidity, with enough going on to make this complex blend capable to complement  food nicely. An easy-to-drink, afternoon-on-the-porch wine, it shines when paired with fish or white meat- I loved the pairing with grilled cod, baked chicken breast, and steamed grilled vegetables.

For my vegan friends, this is one of the winemakers you should seek out- and it could not be easier: a few taps on the keyboard and find a supplier near you.

 

Emiliana Natura Rosé 2016, Rapel Valley, Chile. Stelvin Closure, 12% ABV; Street price $10/ Bottle

Very pale pink in color. The nose offers a hint of watermelon and strawberry. On the palate, gentle red fruit- young cherry and strawberry, together with a smattering of white peach. Nice acidity to rinse the palate; but a gentler, delicate wine for certain. A rosé blended from syrah, cabernet sauvignon and merlot that spent three months aging in stainless steel, this is an excellent offering in the realm of organic, vegan-friendly wine that is easy on the wallet and perfect for the environment.

 

 

Emiliana Natura Carmenere 2015, Colchagua Valley, Chile. Stelvin Closure, 13.5% ABV; Street price $ 10/Bottle.

Color is garnet center with a deep red-brick middle, shifting to a dark purple edging. Nose of mature red fruit, spice and hints of earth. On the palate: overly ripe cherry,  red plum, raspberry with secondary note of potting soil, cocoa, and pepper, while hints of the valley’s terroir (chalk, granite & clay), allspice and cedar appear further into the medium finish. This wine really improves with air and time, and over the week of tasting and pairing with various foods from grilled meats to heavier cheeses to chocolate. With each day, the medium body filled out slightly and the wine shifted more from fruit-forward back into center of the tannin, acidity, and flavor profile. My guests didn’t comment on “wow this is an organic, all-natural wine”, but they drank glass after glass with roast and vegetables, tore into the wine with burgers, and even tossed back the final glass with a slice of pizza. It was a crowd-pleaser to say the least. I would suggest adding carmenere to your cellar if you haven’t already, and adding this one in particular- especially if you like tasty wines made with all-organic, natural practices that are a great value! I know I’ll be buying more of this for my personal stock, no question.

 

 

à votre santé!

Warre’s Warrior Reserve Port

3 May

Warre’s Warrior Finest Reserve Porto. Portugal, ABV 20%, SRP $19.

 

I have seen people dip the unlit end of their cigar into it; others will pound it back like a shot, asking for another. Some contemplate it over ice, while I prefer to sip and enjoy port wine from a brandy snifter.

Color is deep purple with violet edging. The nose offers rich, dark fruit: black plum, blackberry and dark cassis. A hint of sweet plum on the tip of the tongue, until the flavor palate shifts to a complex array of molten flavors, with a smudge of heat across the rear top palate. Features a long, deep finish, asking for more. If you have another pour, you might not have it for long. 

Known as the oldest brand of port from the oldest British Port company, Warre’s was founded in 1670 and they have been making this specific brand for over 200 years.

I don’t find it appropriate to label Warre’s Warrior port as an after-dinner drink. Yes, it pairs gorgeously with cheese, tea biscuits, and chocolate, although for the latter, I’d suggest Lindt’s dark chocolate with caramel and a touch of sea salt. The chocolate’s complexity matches the depth of the port, the orange peel widens the mouthfeel on the side palate, the sea salt softens the port’s impact and makes everything feel slightly lazier, yet more alive. On the plus side, pairing with food makes me want to enjoy a much larger glass of Warrior porto. Taking that one step further, Warre’s Warrior is 20%ABV, approximately half of a brandy, cognac or other after-dinner drink, so might be able to indulge a second glass… or a third! Getting back to my point- this is an elixir. Almost magical, this is elevates the after-dinner experience, food pairing or no.

 

I spent two full weeks of nights having a taste of this luscious delight after dinner, enjoying it thoroughly, pairing after pairing.  Perhaps the most enjoyable tasting for me was a post-dinner engagement with friends in the backyard. First we tasted a delightful sparkling wine, a vinho verde, a Napa cab, and a vintage Napa Syrah- for which, the Warrior porto felt like the obvious, perhaps even perfect, conclusion. It added finesse and elegance to the tasting, becoming an ideal completion to our evening. My neighbor Michael kept coming back to the port, like a miner adoring his prized nugget of precious gold:  “after everything else, this is the perfect finish!” he said, toasting me after another pour, as I, too, drank in the scent of the spring evening, the port from the glass, the camaraderie amongst longtime friends.

 

Perfect finish, indeed. (Time for me to place a standing order with my supplier!)

 

What’s in your glass? Let me know what you think about Warre’s Warrior!

 

 

à votre santé!

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