Archive | July, 2017

Make a Memory: Weingut Ziereisen Blauer Spätburgunder 2013 “Schulen”

25 Jul




#MWWC34

Unlike the rest of the writers who will submit entries for this Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, I have an unusual relationship with the word selected for this month’s topic, “Memory”.  I will assert that I am the only wine writer who has such a relationship with this word, “Memory”, which is also the title of the eleventh-hour song from the Broadway musical, CATS .  Subsequently, it was recorded in the 1980s by every diva who ever had a hit record. Oh yes, it haunts.

 

 

 

 

Cats, on Broadway. A show I mixed over 1600 times.

 

Over 1600 times.

 

So when anyone says “Memory” I have a different reaction than you do… I pause, I take a deep breath, I remember some amazing people, and a show I worked on for a very long time, a very long time ago.

Then, I mentally compartmentalize, and move on: from ancient history back to modern times!

 

So, moving on… to some wine memories. 

I’m going to share with you a memory I’d like to forget, one I cherish, and then we’ll make a new one.

Memory To Forget.
The bad comes first: being one of the fraud victims of the Hector Ortega/John Fox Premiere Cru Ponzi scheme. This calendar year, after years and years of carefully reading every document sent to me from the lawyers and judge, I got my settlement check, for pennies on the dollars stolen from me. I’d like to forget this… the funny thing is, I only had a backorder with them because they had proven to be a trusted good supplier at a decent cost, though it took months sometimes for the wines to arrive. So I’ve learned to tread lightly and never risk anything I’m not willing to lose (as what you buy, even if it exists and actually gets delivered, it might be flawed or corked already!) Too depressing? A good reason to forget, so let’s move on!

 

 

The Memory to Cherish: In 2016, I attended a reading of a new musical at a luxury home in Manhattan. The owner is a serious oenophile, and in addition to giving me a tour of his personal cellar, he shared with me an 1875 Madeira, and then opened a 1986 Chateau Margaux for me. Heaven!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memory to Make: Open That Bottle.
I have been sitting on a German wine, a Blauer Spätburgunder (aka, Pinot Noir) from Weingut Ziereisen. Waiting for an excuse to open it. But finally, for #MWWC34, I am going to do so!

Weingut Ziersen Blauer Spätburgunder 2013 “Schulen”; Baden, Germany. 12.5%ABV. $35/bottle.

The color is a translucent garnet. The nose is expansive with deep, dark notes of black cherry, mocha, dried rose petals. On the palate, exquisite dark cherry and raspberry fruit  will start your experience; beautiful floral and grassy notes cross the top to back, while racy acid cross the side and rear palates. The luscious aromas connect from olfactory sensory down to the back of the tongue through the soft palate, extending the finish with a mineral/ limestone completion.

Matured in massive barriques, while both unrefined and unfiltered, it opens up beautifully and shows gorgeous expression, from the massive nose to the delicate fruit through to the limestone finish. Had I tasted this blind, I’m afraid I would have placed this in Burgundy! Bravo, in demonstrating the incredible art of winemaking. What a great “Open That Bottle”  bottle, I would have been afraid to open this with friends but now I KNOW I must do so to see if they share the same experience I do with this tremendous value.

 

 

 

Cheers- here’s to making more excellent wine memories!

 

 

“Let the memory live again”- “Memory”, CATS

à votre santé!

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How Dry Is Alsace? Cuvée René Dopff Riesling

20 Jul

Dopff & Irion ‘Cuvée René Dopff’ Riesling 2015 Vin D’Alsace, Pfaffenheim, France. ABV 12%; MSRP $17/bottle.

 

Color is medium straw; the nose is floral blend of tulip, iris, and sweet honeysuckle. But the sweetness stops on the nose. On the palate, this is so deliciously dry! Gorgeous white peach, youthful pear and white stone fruits, with lively, flowing acidity, hint of almond, beautiful minerality, nary a hint of wood, but a tiny note of lemon peel on the finish.  This is so beautifully dry, such balanced flavor and acidity. It is never over the top; every sip is a mature, reserved, solid mouthfeel that makes me want another.

 

As for pairing, Cuvée René Dopff Reisling demonstrates how extremely flexible it is, coupling with  both high acid and rich, savory dishes. Baked goat cheese, bruschetta, and spinach bourekas in phyllo dough were great matches! It’s an obvious home run pairing for shellfish, raw or crudo, from sashimi to mussels to baked fish or delicate entrees. On a lark, I tried it with a beef stew my wife and I made; I assumed (incorrectly) that it would not be able to stand up to the powerful flavors of red meat. It turns out that the high acidity was a great choice with the huge number of vegetables in the stew, some sweet and some bitter, and could cleanse the palate while matching up with the various flavor profiles and make for a solid pairing.

 

I’m a fan of Alsace, and this wine is a perfect example of why: this wine is entirely hand-picked and sorted, pressed at low pressure, matured on the lees for four months before filtering, treated with such love, care and devotion- and it shows! This screams of the terroir of Alsace, of the brilliant, war-torn soils, the mineral layers, the subtle fruit profile, and of gentle, caring handling. And at this price, what’s not to love? Under $20 a bottle for a wine that is so beautifully demonstrative of the region and made by hand in one of the adored regions of France? Back up the truck, I need more than a few cases.

 

 

à votre santé!!

Esporão Quinto Dos Murças Minas 2015

18 Jul

Herdade do Esporão Quinto Dos Murças Minas 2015, DOC Douro, Portugal. ABV 14%, MSRP $25/bottle.

 

Color is a vibrant, warm purple center with violet edging. The nose proffers black plum, ripe cherry, and spice box with notes of topsoil, charred oak, and calceous clay. On the palate: red and black cassis, plum, then notes of violet, vanilla, leather, sand and slate.  Strong heat lingers across the top palate with grippy tannins across the side and rear. A nice aftertaste on the finish; lingering smoke and black cherry on the top of the mouth. 

 

Drinkable now as a great food-pairing wine (hello, Petiscos?)  but when this finishes harmonizing the elements, look out. This is going to drink gorgeously by itself, given the right amount of time in a cool, dark cave.

I paired this with a light mediterranean, late night dinner. The eggplant tahini I tried first didn’t make the wine shine at first. But, when I moved on to fresh vegetables and spicy turkish salad dip, this wine sang like a soprano center stage! Give her grilled meats or some hot summer spice, and wow- your tongue will be working overtime in pleasure. Likewise, I could easily see Spanish, Mexican, Indian or Thai being a killer pairing with this wine- I would love to try lamb vindaloo with this Douro blend, or find it in a Brazilian steakhouse!

What’s your favorite pairing with Douro reds? Grilled octopus? Fowl sausage? Porto Preto? Francesinha?  Soap de Cação?

à votre santé!

 

Blandy’s 10 Year Old Malmsey Madeira

18 Jul

Blandy’s ‘Malmsy’ 10 Year Old Rich Madeira; Island of Madeira, Portugal. 19% ABV; MSRP $29/500ml Bottle.

 

Have you ever had a madeira? If not, you should not wait any longer. It is time, my friend. Time to experience a vast, complex palate of flavors that will excite your senses.

“What? Seriously? What can be that good? I mean, what do you think you are, Hamilton? No. People pay CRAZY money to see that show… can it really be that good?”

<Smack>  (beat)

The World Turned UpSide Down! 

 

I went through three nights and multiple glasses of this gorgeous fortified wine before I had any idea how to describe the genteel beauty of this madeira, favorite drink of our nation’s forefathers. All I knew is that I wanted more. Ten years maturing in oak casks. It’s simply stunning, and a great after-dinner or after-event drink to put the perfect cap on your evening.  This gorgeous beverage doesn’t want to be defined, it wants to be enjoyed and adored.

 

Color is a deep, warm caramel; it might remind you of your favorite small batch whiskey. The nose is rich and deep of molasses and burnt orange peel. The palate is deep, complex, opulent: notes of mature caramel, toasted oak, copper, hazelnut, dried plum, and honey with succulent spices, from black tea to clove to orange zest.

 

Served either at room temperature or chilled, this fortified wine lasts indefinitely after opening- you can store it and come back to the bottle weeks later, with zero lost lustre. It is still just as mysterious, just as rich, just as luxurious.

 

Drinking this Blandy’s Malmsey 10 Year Old Madeira is like seeing Hamilton. Worth it? Every penny. Just like this Malmsey. You’ll never forget it, and you’ll want to taste it again.

 

 

 

 

When I was younger, I adored my brandy and cognac. But as I approach the end of middle-age, I find myself turning to beautiful ports, madeiras, and the Macvin from Jura- the gentler, more sophisticated, fortified wines with loads of flavor and a much lower alcohol. It’s not the alcohol (although that would allow me to enjoy more of it) it is actually the enjoyment of beautiful, articulate, and lasting flavors– just like appreciating a sunset, a brilliant meal from a great chef, a grand opera, or the company of your very closest friend.

 

I leave you with an awe-inspiring piece of art, much like this Malmsey Madeira: Hamilton’s “Yorktown” which will make you want to drink the beverage of our founding fathers- until it’s in your glass, and you will love this as you find yourself tearing up at this presentation of our forefathers in a turning point in our great history.

 

 

 

 

à votre santé!

Vivanco Reserva 2010 Rioja

13 Jul

Vivanco Reserva Rioja DOC 2010; Briones, Spain. 14%ABV, MSRP $24/bottle.

Color is deep garnet with purple edging. The nose offers a rich, full-bodied basket of dark fruit, spices and gravel. On the palate:  red cassis, plum, and a beautifully decadent mouthfeel precedes a comforting heat across the front and top palates. Secondary notes of cumin, vanilla, allspice, and forest floor are followed by grippy tannins, with gravel and calcium-rich clay, the moderate finish has some lovely expression of black currants as an afterthought. I can’t believe this wine is priced at this level when it drinks like a wine at twice the price! This is a blend of tempranillo (90%) and graciano (10%), but the graciano pushes dark flavors forward in a really wondrous fashion- cheers to the winemaker!

Pair this rioja blend with either grilled or mediterranean dishes,  -even vegetable crudite with dips- this is a gorgeous wine to drink with food, or by itself. But the darker flavors prefer something to play against, so even a cheese and cracker, a chocolate bar, or a few pieces of fruit would be useful when enjoying this. You won’t regret it: this wine is so delicious, I tasted this on three separate evenings, enjoying the nose and flavors so much I refused to write my tasting notes. If you want an introduction to Rioja, tempranillo blends, or the wines of Spain, you have found a perfect candidate, at a killer price. 

 à votre santé!

Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyards Part 2: The Spur and Zarzuela

8 Jul
(If you missed part 1, you can find it here.)

The Spur 2014 by Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 13.5%, ABV, MSRP $30/bottle.

 

Color is a dark purple that is barely translucent, with violet edging. The nose is rich and robust with ripe blue fruit, spices, oak, scorched earth and a touch of lingering compost. Boysenberry, black plum, sour cherries, and damp green herbs cross and hold the front and side palates, while heat from the alcohol crosses the top and lands at the back along with notes of cedar, clay, forest floor, and saddle leather. The mouthfeel is powerful, youthful, and explosive, while the finish is long and slow in comparison: the lingering smoke from the cannon’s barrage, with final notes of dark blackberries and cassis suddenly in the very front of my mouth, making my tongue search with inquisitiveness and amusement, wondering “When did those arrive?”

An unusual, fun, unique red blend. Curious and expressive, this is an oral Cirque Du Soleil, a strange circus of unexpected feats and new delights in the mouth. Winemaker Robbie Meyer must have a great sense of humor. When he develops this wine, he takes gorgeous barrels of varietals he could sell so simply and easily, and makes a wild, distinctive blend that just screams to be paired with food for maximum enjoyment- and it delivers! The Spur was tremendous with asian spices from a stir-fry, and stood up to serious heat and kick from a powerful mexican salad and ghost pepper tamales! With red meat, you might want to call friends over first, or sit alone and cry, this wine pairing is so good. This type of winemaking reminds me of only one other person: David Phinney of Orin Swift, whose zin-heavy blends took the world by storm years ago. But Meyer makes a more robust and sometimes elegant bouquet of darker flavors, huge strokes of color crossing the palate and making your mouth wonder “just what is going on here?” What, indeed.

Brilliance.

 

Don’t take my word for it. Get yourself a bottle or six, before you see this in every Del Frisco’s and Ruth’s Chris steak house by the glass to encourage bottle sales. Because my friends, that day will be here soon.

You’re going to ask, and I almost forgot because the wine is that damn good:
The Spur’s blend is made up of 45% cabernet, 22% petite syrah, 14% petite verdot, 10% merlot, and 9% cabernet franc=holy smokes just give me more of The Spur. 207 barrels were made, which makes a little over 5,000 cases, all of it certified sustainable, like everything else from Murrieta’s Well. So you should be able to find just enough to tide you over until next year, if you order soon.

 

 

No, that isn’t all. It could be, I almost thought it would be. 

But I have one more bottle to tell you about. 

 

2015 Zarzuela by Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 14.1%, ABV, MSRP $60/bottle.

Color is dark maroon with purple edging, opaque at the center, converging to translucent near the sides. The elegant nose offers dark black and blue fruit, cedar and a hint of evergreen, with sandy clay. On the palate: blueberry, blackberry and black plum resolve into a luscious compote on the front of the tongue while the rest of the mouth sense a dark berry tart. The medium-long finish has secondary notes of cinnamon, mocha, and allspice, rounding up with more sandy loam, another bite of blueberry on the back palate, and a final hit of raspberry on the top palate, with my tongue aching for more. My glass is empty of the one-ounce tasting pour… when did that happen? My mind knows this wine is perfect for food pairing, but my mouth doesn’t want anything to do with that, just give me more of this intoxicating elixir.

My first pairing with asian cuisine had too many big flavors in the dish to match well yesterday, but today both medium and heavy cheeses are perfect companions, even the delicate comte is a great foil, so I move to dolce gorgonzola and have another great bite to match Zarzuela. So charcoal grilled meats and vegetables are going to be perfect with this wine, as is chocolate, which makes the mocha and red fruit notes incredibly prominent. This wine feels so elegant in the mouth, it’s definitely old-world-European, but the grapes feel more Spanish, so I look: 40% Tempranillo, 40% Touriga, 20% Souza. It’s classic Iberian Peninsula. So no wonder it’s named “Zarzuela”, the Spanish word for operetta, and was first created by one of the founders and the first winemaker at Murrieta’s Well, Sergio Traverse. My thanks, señor!  Made at Murrieta’s Well since 2003, Robbie Meyer is staying true to the original intent with gorgeous vintages since then, a club favorite, it seems.

 

This is the wine I’d choose to invite my buddy Robert over so we could catch up, cook a large steak and vegetables over the grill, share stories of work and family, and appreciate the beauty of life with food & drink while watching the sunset and know that life is wonderful.

 

 

Only 24 barrels were produced of the 2015 Zarzuela, which is aged 16 months in French oak. It exudes elegance, class, and old-world, European style. If you hadn’t found a reason to join their wine club before this, the Zarzuela is reason enough.

Just remember…when you celebrate these wines with your friends & family… save a sip for me. You know I’d pour you a glass. But I can’t because this bottle is already dry. Now how did THAT happen?

I’ll leave you with some Placido, singing Zarzuela. It is, after all, a perfect pairing with the wine. Cheers!

à votre santé!

 

Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyards Part 1: The Whip and Dry Rosé

6 Jul

The Whip 2015 White Wine Blend, Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 13.5%ABV, MSRP $24/bottle.

Color is pale gold center with straw edging. The delicate nose offers sweet starfruit, gooseberry and wildflower. On the palate, the blend features soft fruit with strong acidity,  designed foremost to complement food. A gentle blend of pear, apple, lemon and pineapple fruit are followed by subtle wood notes. Great acidity and solid heat across the top and back palate; citrus finish with hints of pebbly gravel, clay and loam. I’d suggest allowing for a touch of air to allow some of the heat to dissipate. I really like how this wine is crafted; the nose shows off viognier, semillon, and muscat but the mouthfeel is sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. It has a refined, Bordeaux-style blending but is lighter and more delicate in flavors.

Winemaker Robbie Meyer must like food as much as I do, as this is a wine made for pairing. This blend shows enough expression to handle the most delicate of dishes, yet enough acidity and weight to handle shellfish, crudo, and sashimi. The body and mouthfeel are perfect for anything from the Southwest to the Northeast, from fish tacos to grilled chicken, salads or cream-based pastas. What I love is the gentle, refined nature of the blend, instead of having a pure citrus, lemon peel cleanse. This whip is that of the master herdsman: the sound of the crack that convinces the herd to gather and calmly move where they are told. This approach and “touch” is far from the rough, daily hire, roundup-cowboy whose whip is without compassion, allowing the angry snap on the hide, the searing pain of contact, and the flow of blood to upset the herd and make them rush, agitated.

What I should share with you: this wine haunted me. I kept going back to the glass to enjoy and savor this wine, taking in the flavors and aromatics from the glass, even long after it was gone: a fascinating, beautiful blend. Solid value and a tremendous food wine.

 

 

 

 

2016 Dry Rosé By Murrieta’s Well, Livermore Valley. CA. 14.1%ABV, MSRP $30/bottle.

Color is pale pink, the nose offers raspberry, carnation, and green cuttings. On the palate, watermelon, raspberry and cantaloupe melon. Immensely dry with pronounced acidity and searing heat on the front and top palates, perfect for pairing with savory dishes that need a deft hand. Capable of handling carpaccio, steak tartare, and raw to rare proteins in the secondary courses, I’d also love to see this rosé complement full-bodied soups like New England or Manhattan chowders, lobster and seafood bisques, New Orleans turtle soup, and southwestern bean/chicken/tortilla soups. Spanish, Peruvian, Cuban, Mexican, Asian, and American cuisines are just the tip of the iceberg for this flexible blend. Also on my list of things to pair after tasting this wine are: soup dumplings, cold noodles with sesame sauce, ramen, and barbecue.

The 2016 Dry Rosé is made from 55% grenache and 45% counoise grapes, both from the Hayes Valley. Each grape type was cold fermented and aged separately in stainless before blending and final aging in stainless prior to bottling.

 

 

Both wines are incredible approachable and offer tremendous value, intrinsically as well as in food pairing. They could be a host’s or chef’s secret weapon, if you can stop tasting to serve them with food.

(For part 2 of this piece, click here!)

à votre santé!

Villa Maria Estate: Elegance from New Zealand

3 Jul

Helen  Morrison, Senior Marlborough Winemaker at Villa Maria Estates, is doing something right. I know, because she just wowed a team of wine industry insiders and wine bloggers during a live tasting where she demonstrated her Villa Maria wines.  To say the least, everyone was impressed…and wanted more to taste!  I know, I know…to the wines!

Villa Maria Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc 2016, NZ 12.5%ABV. MSRP $15.

A fun, carbonated/bubbly wine I first tasted (and really enjoyed) a year ago at a NZ Trade tasting , I was pleased to see that this vintage felt more elegant and refined from last year’s. Tiny effervescent bubbles precede elegant citrus and floral notes with a hint of baker’s yeast and a dry, welcoming finish. Half the pressure of champagne, this is incredibly fun, easy to open with a standard screw-top stelvin closure, and is an immediate crowd-pleaser. Drink by the patio or poolside all day, but when it’s mealtime, you can pair up with shellfish, cheese, raw or cooked fish, salads, up to medium-rich entrees such as spicy fish tacos, chicken fried-rice, and especially lime-marinated dishes to marry flavors beautifully. When I shared a bottle to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday, the responses were stellar and happily surprised when I told them what they were drinking.

 

 

 

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2016, NZ 12.5%ABV. MSRP $15.

Color is pale straw; the nose provides a massive grapefruit zest with grass and the essence of cut flowers. On the palate: pink grapefruit, gooseberry, and lemon-lime. Delightfully crisp, grassy, herbal, with a very dry, stony finish. A striking resemblance to the last two years’ efforts demonstrates that you don’t change something that is working well! This is perhaps the powerhouse sauvignon blanc that defines the terroir and flavors from the Marlborough AVA. The massive citrus allows you to pair this with just about anything you want, but my favorites are fresh veggies, raw fish, and chicken caesar salad.

 

 

 

Villa Maria Taylors Pass Vineyard Chardonnay 2015. Marlborough, NZ. 13.5% ABV; MSRP $45

This is a “whoa” wine to add to your portfolio! Color is medium gold. Sweet peach and white orchid dominate the nose. Gorgeous lime zest married to a definitive Belle of Georgia peach on the palate, with secondary notes of marzipan, yeast, toasted oak, and gravel, and an elegant mouthfeel.  This was my “WOW” wine of the tasting, and I know was a real surprise to others who are connoisseurs of the chardonnay grape.  Delicious from the moment I put it in my mouth, I wanted to stop there, put my glass down and cede the game so I could start food pairing this single vineyard chardonnay. Why? Let’s add it up: Killer terroir + hand picked + whole bunch pressed + 9 months spent on the lees+ natural ML in oak (25% new French oak,  75% seasoned French oak)= OMG this wine is stellar. Short version? If you see this bottle, pick it up. Drink it, and you’ll know what I say add it to your cellar: it compares well to classic and new world chardonnays in the $60-75 range. And if you don’t care about price? Then for you, it’s just SOOOO tasty!

 

 

 

Villa Maria Private Bin Rosé, Hawkes Bay 2016, NZ. 12.5%ABV; MSRP $14.

Deep salmon in color, the nose offers fresh-cut wildflowers and berry compote. On the palate, fresh strawberries atop the tongue while the sides feature ginger, lemon pepper, and allspice notes. Racing acidity crosses the top palate, but the finish is when you recognize the significant body in this stainless fermented rosé of (mostly) merlot.  At this price point, this is a serious wine for serious food or fun in the sun.

 

 

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir, Marlborough, NZ ABV 13,5%, MSRP $26.

 

Color on Day 1: translucent color and bright red fruit!

 

Color is transparent rose with garnet edges and just enough clarity to read a newspaper through it. The nose offers young red fruit and a hint of wildflowers, while the palate takes the bright cherry and raspberry flavors and marries them with a secondary group of spices and then hints of earth and smoke, remaining gentle, yet refined, and medium-bodied overall with a medium finish. On day 2 after opening, the fruit has taken on deeper, darker colors and flavors of mature red plum and cassis, showing baking spice, red pepper flake, paprika, clay and granite on the back palate with a sour cherry across the top, maintaining a quality balance and graceful presentation, while the finish now lingers with a pleasant sour cherry, spice and stone.

 On day 2: Standing tall, with darker & deeper flavor -a delightful surprise to my palate!

 

So, hey! If you’re not already a fan of New Zealand wines, you might need your head examined,  But don’t take it from me. Pick up some of Hellen Morrison’s Villa Maria Estate wines and check them out for yourself- and let me know what you think!

 

à votre santé!

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