Archive | November, 2017

Part 2 #WBC17 Live Wine Blogging! RED WINES at Table 5!

26 Nov

We can’t do a Speed-Dating, er, Speed-Tasting, without doing red wine!

Here’s part 2 of my #WBC17 Live Wine Blogging, RED WINES!

A reminder, the basic setup is kind of like  speed dating for wine: a table of wine writers get 5 minutes with the winemaker/representative in which we must: say hello, get a quick introduction to the wine, have a quick pour and taste, take a picture of the bottle, and crank out a 140-ish character-sized review ALL WITHIN A FIVE-MINUTE WINDOW! You think your job is crazy? This is a wild wine tasting!  Check these out for what you think you’d enjoy- and if you don’t see them locally, find them online!

READY, TABLE FIVE?

GO!!!

 

2013 Mountainside Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley from .  14.1%abv, SRP $60.
Deep purple, powerful black fruit, high acid, 2nd notes of forest floor, mocha, vanilla  and citrus notes on the long finish. Big fruit in this bottle, saying, “Go Big or Go Home!”  

Upshot from . Purple color, perfumed cassis nose. Big blackberry fruit with pepper, clove, and baking spices. Great food wine, new release and super tasty! SRP only $28/bottle, w/ 14.5% ABV.   Sonoma blend of 44% Zin with 29% Merlot, 15% Malbec, 7% Petite Verdot, & 5% Riesling. Love the label that shows the schedule after finding the right #brix to pick! The next Sonoma Classic?

2015 Small Batch Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel from  . Red wine aged in bourbon casks? Some seriously powerful nose and mouth, and big on alcohol. Deep purple color, flavors of big red fruit! An Ass-kicking, motorcycle riding brute of a red!  Mendocino fruit is the backbone, $19/bottle, 15.6%ABV.

Byck Family Estate’s 2015 Pinot Noir; Walter’s Vineyard Russian River Valley from . Maroon color,delicate nose, and gentle fruit, so easy going down you’ll lull the whole bottle in a flash- easy like Sunday morning pinot. Styled as French as a California wine can be, fruit from Pommard and Dijon 777 clones, all matured in French oak. 13.8%abv SRP $54/bottle.  

Gracianna’s Russian River Valley 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir. Garnet in color, raspberry nose, very green with a red rush of cassis and cherry; tons of heat on the top palate. French oak, classic pinot with smoky finish. Decant for an hour to really enjoy the supple fruit. 14.8%ABV, SRP $72/bottle.   

Ready for something new? Try the rare  grape and a Missouri wine! Only $25/bottle for this deep purple, almost black, full-bodied wine. BlackBerry, spice, bramble, high acidity and MONSTER tannins: pair with game, or kill the chef and eat him! #FlavorMonster 

2015 Zinfandel  : a big, bold, badass of a wine! Tons of red and black berries covered in spice, with notes of sandy loam, coriander and nutmeg on the finish. SRP $19, 14.9%ABV from 

Not to be outdone, the big brother from  arrives, 2015 Bushnell Single Vineyard Zinfandel tasting lusty! Deep purple, singular, focused, and so nice! 16 months in American oak lends vanilla, cinnamon, and a touch of elegance to overcome the bold cowboy and this badass fruit! SRP$30, 15.2%ABV   

2014 Pinot noir from lovely garnet color, floral and berry nose, mixed red fruit, delicate and nice, high acidity. You might think cherry cola and cherry pie, with a hint of oaky earth- and you’d be right! Let me drink this in the afternoon shade and watch the sun go down!  $58 SRP, 13.8% ABV 

Sangiovese from Reserve from Columbia Valley, WA. 18months in oak, big cherry & strawberry and long finish. SRP$70; 14.4%ABV. She will knock you out cold and you’ll wake up naked, but probably quite happy!

red blend. Berries and plums dominate the palate in this French merlot/cab/syrah blend. Secondary notes of slate and granite, cocoa and aged oak. This killer food wine sells for a cheap $12/bottle, make it your house red and don’t tell the neighbors! 13%ABV

 As soon as the last tweet was sent and the timer buzzed, I kept looking for the next wine.
Table 5 (You know who you are! ) is a great group of folks who, while frenzied, can crank out great notes without killing each other! To be accurate, the task is both complicated and quite challenging to get a good (i.e. accurate & with unique perspective) tasting note out AND tweet it out in such short time.
Cheers to you all- everyone who enjoys wine should try speed dating, er, TASTING – and see how it changes the way you talk about wine!
What’s the most unusual way you’ve had to taste and review wines?  
Drop a comment and let me know! 

à votre santé!

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Thanksgiving 2017 Postmortem

25 Nov

Plan: To pair Thanksgiving Dinner with 1) an all-American group of wines, 2) from the wines currently in my cellar.

Challenge Accepted! Since I am an admitted former old world/French wine snob, my cellar does not lean towards a lot of American wines, but I was certain I could do this. I did not give myself time to worry, think, or shop, as I mix the live PA portion of NBC’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and spendthrift  96 hours prior to the meal totally obsessed with the broadcast, not the meal or wines.

READY?

 

GO!

 

Pre-game: something light with a hint of sweetness. Searched my cellar for a bottle of Nimmo or Nuvola from Markus Niggli, but resorted to a great standby from NY State: Dr. Konstantin Frank.

KICKOFF! To begin the meal I wanted a sparkling rosé for a toast, and my guests who would rather drink sparkling the entire meal. I recently touted and planned to serve a great sparkling wine from Sonoma County. I searched my cellar and was lacking American sparkling (I failed twice in a row? Am I getting old?) But a beautiful charm-method Prosecco, a spumante rosé blend of pinot noir and raboso by Carpene Malvolti came to the rescue, and served some of our guests throughout the entire meal! 

2nd Quarter: After the toast, we began a vegetable/beef soup course which features very fresh, sweet vegetables. For this, I wanted a white wine with high acidity that could pair with the savory beef. In replacing my historic Bordeaux blanc blend, I considered viognier & chardonnay, but finally settled on a Rhône clone of Grenache Blanc from Acquiesce featuring a full-bodied mouthfeel and great acidic backbone.

 

 

HALFTIME! As the main meal was being served, I poured first rosé of pinot Vicarious Rosé from Modus Operandi Cellars, and then moved on to the more full-bodied Grenache Rosé from Acquiesce. Both of these are small allocation wines that sell out immediately: Jason Moore of Modus only makes one barrel (25 cases) of his rosé at the demand of his longtime fans; Sue Tipton, owner/winemaker of Acquiesce, sells out her rosé as soon as her club allocation is fulfilled. These wines are quite different but share some similar qualities:  both have the perfect balance of  red fruit and soaring acidity, beautiful freshness and tremendous  vivaciousness. Each represents the grape from which it is made, and the rosé of pinot is delicate, creamy and floral in flavor and palate, while the Grenache rosé has bold fruit, more acids and tannins, and a fuller mouthfeel. Both wines are tremendous at pairing a meal comprised of savory meat, a cornbread stuffing with cranberry and brussel sprouts, green beans and slivered almonds, a rich and savory sweet potato casserole, and fresh cranberry sauce.

 

 

3rd Quarter! As the meal progressed, some wine drinkers automatically start looking for red grapes. So the next set of wines are obvious: pinot noir! I have been thinking about this meal all year long, and changed up my game. On the lighter side, the perfumed nose and delicate mouthfeel of Harmonique’s 2009 vintage The Noble One Pinot from Alexander Valley, while compared to a just-released, full-bodied, more heavily structured Sonoma Coast 2015 pinot noir from Rivers-Marie, hailing from Calisotga, Ca. Simply delicious, each one hit a slightly different series of notes with food to serve the palate wonderfully. While I poured small tastes and then full glasses for some guests, others like myself wanted short pours to be able to change up sips of heaven between bites of dinner.

 

 

On The Bench/Special Teams:  Bold red wine! I had a big, bold red wine from a Napa producer on reserve at the serving table, but ended up not opening it. Even my big, bold red wine lovers were satisfied with the two pinot noir offered. But for special teams, with dessert we enjoyed a stunning mulled wine (Cabernet Sauvignon mulled with brandy, spices and fruit) made by a wine & spirits specialist who graced our dinner and brought this our delight. YUM! Extra Points!

 

Postgame: my plan had some flaws.  Not having a brut rosé from California was a major sticking point, I had to dock myself 12.5%.  But the food & wine pairings and guests drinking pleasure were both great successes, which received full marks! I give myself a B+  on this challenge. 

 

What did YOU drink this year for Thanksgiving?

 

à votre santé!

Prepping for Thanksgiving 2017

22 Nov

Thanksgiving. It’s that time of year. When my in-box fills up with questions about what wines people should serve with dinner. But I’ve spent the last several weeks in a whirlwind of one-off specialty shows for work, road trips, and trade shows. I’ve been lax  in both my tasting and writing, so apologies while I catch up.

Perhaps you’re expecting me to roll out a re-hash of some fan favorites for Thanksgiving, like

“Prepare with Pinot!” , or

“Thanksgiving Wine Street Exchange with a Beer Drinker”

I have posts dating back seven years. It’s fun to see posts from 2010, talking about how well the ’05 and ’06 wines were drinking, and what I was buying for $10/bottle. For me, it’s even more fun to see how much I’ve learned about world wines, and the US-based wines and winemakers I have come to adore and respect as much as the old-world I’ve honored for decades.

So let’s talk about Thanksgiving. I’ve said this before: The meal is decidedly American. So I urge you to serve American wines! For years I simply served what I liked (French wines) before having the (obvious-to-all-but-me) realization that the uniquely American holiday really deserved local wines. So I hit the cellar (or the wine store) and pull bottle after bottle of tremendous American wines, as I hope you will do. And here’s what you want to look for:

Rosé, Pinot Noir, & Sparkling.  

Drink pink. Why not? The meal is full of savory dishes that need a wine with acidity but not an overpowering fruit profile. This has both the delicacy of white wine with the muscle and linearity of a good red. Pairing? Turkey or ham, yam or Idaho potato, stuffing, gravy, you name it- you want a wine with high acidity that can stand up to the cranberry sauce! The world finally fell back in love with rosé- and again, why not? It’s great juice to enjoy, it’s relatively easy (or fast) for winemakers to create compared to some other wines, and you can get great rosé wines for lower prices. Most importantly, it pairs beautifully with the meal.  

Three of my personal favorites are from California: Jason Moore’s Modus Operandi Rosé of Pinot, Sue Tipton’s Acquiesce Grenache of Rosé (now sold out thanks to a great Wine Enthusiast Rating)  and Iconic Wine’s Secret Identity.

Look, a bunch of people make really good rosé, but the three I’m listing are simply great. They are stunning wines, and a tremendous value if you’re willing to spend the time to source them. I certainly do, and plunk down my credit card whenever I can to get more. If you taste them, you will likely do the same; as they are amazing rosés that just one taste will make you a believer.

 

Pinot Noir. Tiny grapes that are hard to grow and don’t produce much juice. Oh, but the juice they produce! Light to medium in body, beautiful aromatic nose, gentle flavors, regal in their acidity and tannin. The grape that is probably the most flexible in food pairings. I’m madly in love with this as a wine to pair with food of all types that have delicate flavor profiles as opposed to massive ones, like a rib eye steak or smoked brisket. So I look at pinot from all over California,  Oregon and Washington State. Some of my personal favorites include Sanford Winery,  Gary Farrell, Balletto Vineyards, Domaine Serene, Evening Land, Anne Amie, and Panther Creek Cellars.

Sparkling. It goes with everything. Great acidity, delicate flavors, perfect palate cleansing, and fun. What’s not to like?
All year long I spout about Cava, Prosecco and Champagne, but here in the USA we also make stellar sparkling. Gloria Ferrer, Schramsberg, Argyle, and Roederer Estate are just a few fabulous makers of sparkling here in the USA worth your hard-earned dollars.

And if I could only serve ONE bottle of wine for Thanksgiving? It’s extremely difficult. Normally I serve around six wines, for a table of 15-20 who have varying tastes. But I tried VERY hard this year, and finally picked three bottles out, that would serve the meal, and the wine lovers, to perfection:

Acquiesce 2016 Grenache Rosé  
Balletto 2016 Sexton Hill Pinot Noir, 
Gloria Ferrer 2014 Brut Rosé. 

And if there can be only one, the winner is:

Gloria Ferrer 2014 Brut Rosé

 

But I’d be damned if I couldn’t figure out a way to sneak the other two bottles in with me. Trust me… where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Stay tuned for my annual Thanksgiving postmortem,  where I discuss what wines I served, how the guests responded, and how well the food & wine pairings worked!

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

Welcome Winter with Rias Baixas! Albariño from Palacio De Fefiñanes

19 Nov

Palacio De Fefiñanes Albariño 2016, Rias Baixas, Galicia, Spain. 13.5%ABV, Found online from  $13-22/bottle. 

 

In the last two years, I’ve been enjoying (er, drinking) more and more albariño. But I’ve been opening those bottles during the warm seasons, and thinking about the heat of Spain. It was not until I tasted several wines from Rias Baixas while experiencing cold weather at #WBC17 in Santa Rosa that I was shocked into thinking how great albariño is with winter food pairings.

 

Could Albariño be your turkey or ham pairing wine for your holidays? Could you conceive this?

It actually can be. you just have to be open to the possibility!

 

 

 

Color is pale gold. The nose offers a gentle citrus blend and limestone. On the palate: white pear, white peach, pineapple, starfruit, a citrus blend. On the medium short finish: dry extract, limestone, clay and sodium.

This wine, in warm weather, I would classify as a wine perfect for shellfish or raw fish dishes. In cold weather, however, it is ready for savory. This wine can pair with pork, fowl, root vegetables, soups, cheeses, and seafood. The limestone and sodium  give a slightly different perspective to the tongue, and allow the wine to cleanse the palate, then act as an additional spice to the primary flavor- so it could even pair with spicy grilled meats. Believe it or not, it works! But don’t trust me- get a bottle and try it with some quality, dried charcuterie. That will open your eyes, and let you see the start of your expanded possibilities of the albariño from Rias Baixis in your glass.

Holiday wine? Cold weather wine? Absolutely- once you expand the possibilities of your mind for the wine in your glass.

à votre santé!

White Wines from #WBC17 Live Wine Blogging! TABLE 5!

19 Nov

If you’re wondering “Where have you been?” or “What the heck happened to JvB?”, well #WBC happened. This year the wine blogger’s conference was back in Somoma and after the fires, the wineries were SO ready for us! They are open, anxious, and are ready for YOU to return and help the area rebuild. Most of the wineries are in good operational shape and need your support. How better to do that than to buy some wine?

So here is a re-cap of my experience in this year’s #WBC17 White Wine Live Wine Blogging. This is like speed dating for wine; a table of ten writers get a quick pour, take a picture of the bottle, and cranks out a 140-ish character-sized review within a five minute window. It’s insane and fun! I had a ton of readers respond to my reviews from Santa Barbara and Lodi, so check these out for what you think you’d enjoy- and if you don’t see them locally, find them online! 

READY, TABLE FIVE?

GO!!!

2016 Ledson Vineyard Estate Viognier – can you say peaches & cream? $32/bottle, 13.5%ABV, winner Best Viognier by Sommelier Challenge 2017 International Wine & Spirit Competition  

2016 Sauvignon Blanc -pair me with Thai food and #GetNaked! $32/bottle, 13%ABV,  and perfect for those who adore the Naked Cowboy in Times Square.  

2015 Matthiasson Napa Valley White Wine Blend is farm to table- and like a fresh fruit bowl of apples, peaches and melon, 2nd notes of citrus and honey with oyster shells and limestone on the finish. @matthiassonwine; $40/bottle, 12.9% ABV  

This is something very much out of the norm for me- Jardesca’s white apertivo by huge flavors, white wine mixed with ten botanicals- not your fathers white wine! 17%ABV

2010 Anniversary Cuvée $40/bottle. Such great mouthfeel, gorgeous muted fruit and lots of baking spice -plate of oysters, please? YUM! #GiveMeBubbles 

Turbiana 2016 from Selva Capuzza, Lake Garda, ITALY! This isn’t from Sonoma, but was sure fun to have included in the speed tasting! Screaming Meyer lemon, minerality and beautiful acidity!

2015 Mount Beautiful Chardonnay! Just as beautiful as their Pinot- half oak, half unoaked- all chard lovers rejoice! NZ Elegance and beauty; $22/bottle, 14.5%ABV! 

2015 Antica A26 Block Chardonnay from Antinori Family Estates- whoa! Big fruit up front, lots of nice vanilla from the time in oak, massive acidity and high abv 14.5% $55/bottle.  Serious chardonnay wine for those who adore it in this style!  

2016 Hanna Sauvignon Blanc from Russian River Valley. Light on grapefruit, huge mouthfeel of mango, peach and tangerine! So fruity, with a touch of ginger on the finish; want to drink this for dinner! Only $19/bottle, 13.2%ABV.  

2014 Leto Cellars Old Vine Chardonnay  features lovely fruit, like drinking apple pie and sunshine- $30/bottle at 11.5% abv- This is a chicken dinner’s best friend!

 Look for Part 2- Red Wines from Live Wine Blogging, #WBC17!!

à votre santé!

California Love w/ Macchia Graciano // #WBC17

5 Nov

It’s that time of year. Time for my trek to the Wine Blogger’s Conference. #WBC17

But it’s actually the wrong time of year. It’s traditionally been held in the summer, which is much easier for me to attend. I was sure I would not be able to attend WBC in November because it’s always a crazy busy month for me. But somehow, I have managed to squeeze a few days to get out to Santa Rosa, visit Sonoma, and attend WBC17.

I’ve mentioned this trip to some friends.
“Sonoma?” they inquire incredulously, concerned.
“You mean where the fires were?  Didn’t they lose everything? Why would you go there?”

Just chill. Hear me out.
Sure, there was devastation from the wildfires. The Tubbs wildfire of 2017 was the third deadliest in California history, and destroyed 5% of homes in the area, 45,000 acres total, claiming 19 lives. But while everyone in the area was indeed affected by the fires, destruction was not total. As a matter of fact, most wineries had harvested their crop and expect to have 2017 wines. And what they really need right now is our support, and a little trust.

Besides, last year I was expecting to love the wines from Napa (I did, of course). I was not prepared or expecting to totally impressed by the wines of Lodi. But I sure was! I was knocked out by superb Old Vine Zinfandel, Rosé, plus German, Rhone, and Italian grapes being grown and bottled with brilliance and love by winemakers who are passionate, interesting, and fun. And they are making tremendous wines in every-day wine price points that you should be buying by the case!

So please, support Sonoma, Napa, Lodi, and all the local California AVAs! I’ll be live tasting and tweeting, and there’s always a wrap-up post from my WBC trips. But don’t forget to buy California wines and support their efforts!

Besides, California knows how to party!

Here’s a steal for you- if it’s not in your local store, you can get it direct from http://www.macchiawines.com !

 

Macchia Acampo “Gracious” Graciano 2015, Lodi, CA. ABV 14.8%, SRP $25/bottle.

 

The color is deep ruby with a dark purple center. The nose offers a sensual and spicy dark fruit mixed with African violet. On the palate: black cherry, boysenberry, and black plum. Secondary notes include rich, dark spice, tobacco leaf, forest floor, toasted oak, and sandy loam. The high ABV sears across the top palate with only medium acidity and a gentle tannic structure. Long finish with the darker edge of the purple fruit and a hint of rich earth.  

This is a wine that has a Spanish flair, tons of fruit flavor with muted acid and tannin reminding me of tempranillo, malbec and cabernet franc.  Gentle enough to work with salad and vegetables, flavor and personality enough to pair with grilled meats, and delightful by itself. Gracious, indeed! I could just sit with my nose in the glass for minutes at a time, inhaling this aroma.

Yum. I finished the bottle on Day 2, before I realized it. Damn. I had more pairings for you. I had people to share you with.  I’ll have to pick up some more.

Although Spanish is not my language, I’ll give it a go:

Se me hace agua la boca!

 

 

 

 

à votre santé!

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