Archive | November, 2018

Drink the Old Stuff: Lafon Bourgogne 2011

30 Nov

Having a cellar is a double-edged sword.

 

I love having wines to cherish, wines to age, wines to hold for the future. But there is also a downside.

 

Sometimes I hold a wine for too long. I have wines from the 80’s that are past their prime, but I love to drink them just the same, to remember those years.

Here is a lone bottle I found hiding in my cellar, the hang tag was correct on but my eye glossed over it because it was on a lower shelf and I passed it by too often: A seven year-old white Burgundy!

 

This is a delicate chardonnay that has pleased me many times in the past, I know immediately while looking at the label that this has been resting in my cellar for too long, recalling that the last bottle showed fading fruit and acidity. “Corked, oxidized, or simply undrinkable?” I wonder.  I prepared myself for the worst as I removed the foil and extracted the cork.  Fortunately, I need not have worried.

 

Dominique Lafon Bourgogne Blanc 2011, Beaune, France. 13% ABV; Purchased in bulk from Garagiste years ago- currently as low as $32/bottle online.

 

Color is a robust, fall hay/warm gold tone. The nose offers delicate white fruit and hints of floral essence. On the palate is a creamy blend of white fleshy fruit, white peach and apple, gently muted, and low acidity. The finish has a pleasing but languorous lemon pith with hints of rosemary and lavender.   

This bottle would certainly be classified as “past prime drinking window” but I have to say, the restrained strength , the muted acidity and delicate fruit are fascinating qualities that were fun to taste! As I have enjoyed a case of this wine over the years since I purchased it, the evolution has been delightful and it’s no different from driving a classic car or watching a beautiful sunset dip below the horizon. As a witness, one can enjoy it even more because they have seen it grown up, they appreciate the evolution, and understand the entire circle of life.

The gold remaining in the glass!

 

 

I was happy this bottle had not oxidized or faulted, but instead, demonstrated the original balance, even past maturity and into retirement. I wish I had another bottle to share with fellow oenophiles and compare with decades old Bordeaux and red Burgundy.

 

I did not want to pair this with food, as I was too enthralled and simply had taste after taste of this bottle until I put it away for a second day’s tasting. On day 2, it had not changed a bit, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, to completion of the bottle.

 

May you and I be so lucky to mature with such refinement and grace.

 

Perhaps this post can serve as a reminder to have a look in your cellar, and see what treasures you might want to open before they no longer provide the drinking pleasure they are designed to provide.

 

à votre santé!

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Beaujolais Rosé! Beaujolais Nouveau!

18 Nov

If you aren’t a huge fan of Beaujolais Nouveau, I understand. It’s not for everyone. OK, it is for everyone- but some oenophiles aren’t always fans. I get it- you know wine intimately, and maybe you feel that you need something special.  

Well, as a wine lover who spent decades celebrating the annual arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau, at some point in my 40’s I turned nearly entirely to Cru Beaujolais from this region. Let’s be honest, I might have even gotten a little snobby… maybe because I held a bottle of Nouveau too long (ugh), and then tried a bottle of CRU- and “damn, that tastes SO good!” After some time, when my wine merchants and friends asked me about Nouveau, I politely turned them down.

Well, not this year. Turn your attitude around, and get on the bandwagon. (I did!) This is a year to celebrate! This vintage will reward you, with great flavor, mouthfeel, and value for Nouveau. 

2018 is THE year for great gamay. And Duboeuf made a great Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé.

Let that sink in for just a moment. This rosé is the first of its kind sold in the USA.

So get thee to a wine merchant and buy some of the best gamay you may have in a lifetime. 2018 has been called “Legendary”  when it comes to Beaujolais Nouveau. So when this is a wine that you can get for $9-12 a bottle street price… why wouldn’t you? To share legendary wine that costs maybe $2 a glass? HELLO… no-brainer here.

“But what about your tasting notes?” You say? OK, fine. You got it!

Vins de Georges Duboeuf  Beaujolais Rosé Nouveau 2018,  A.O.C. Beaujolais; France. 12.5% ABV; SRP $13.99/bottle.

Pale pink in color, the nose offers rose bush and young red fruit. On the palate: notes of strawberry, yellow peach, lemon rind with grapefruit juice on the finish. Beautifully dry, with a pleasing, tart mouthfeel.  Made from 100% gamay grapes, which are pressed manually in whole bunches and fermented in stainless steel.

This is a wine I want to drink while cooking or watching football…I toasted a cheese quesadilla while pouring a glass, snacked while watching the game and looked down to realize I’d polished off TWO glasses, not one. This is that easy to drink, so don’t limit yourself to only one bottle!  This drinks beautifully by itself, with appetizers, veggies, pizza or similar light fare. For heavier protein, why not hit the classic gamay wine? (Below.) I know I would. This is a great way to start the evening and keep things moving. if you think you like rosé, you have GOT to get this in your game. But remember, it won’t last long. Nouveau is meant to be drunk young, so get it, and drink it.

Vins de Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2018,  A.O.C. Beaujolais; France. 13% ABV; SRP $13.99/bottle.

Color  is a bright, lively purple with ruby edging. The nose offers boysenberry and mixed fruit compote. On the palate are ripe raspberry, plum, and cassis. Along with a fuller body and mouthfeel, the finish has a hint more sweetness than the bone-dry rosé, and evokes a fruit bowl finish, with a touch of granite, bitter cassis, and youthful tannins. Yum! One of the most delightful Beaujolais Nouveau wines I have experienced, ever, hands-down. This is from 20+ year-old vines, cold fermented in stainless steel.

This gamay will pair with heavier proteins, from chicken and pork, to red meats and game. The hint of sweetness also links with the yam and corn from the season, or complements the leafy greens of collards, kale, brussel sprouts, even beets and  cauliflower.

Duboef reminds us on the label: “The First Wine of the Harvest!” and it’s important to remember that this is drunk by the pitcher in France upon arrival, celebrating the harvest and its completion. What could be better, in an ideal year, than to join in? You’ll enjoy it! This is a wine that calls to mind the decadence of the king’s hall from the Renaissance era, images of wines poured into a flagon and glasses always kept brimming. 2018 is definitely a year to enjoy, and imbibe. At this price, don’t miss out on one of the best values since the 2009 Bordeaux futures.

Serve these wines slightly chilled, and enjoy. Trust me, you will!  But as always, please drink responsibly.

à votre santé!

Wines for Thanksgiving, 2018

10 Nov

It’s that time of year. No, not the Christmas music I’m already hearing.

It’s time to prep for Thanksgiving!

 

Thanksgiving is one of the holidays that made me start this blog so many years ago. It was the time of year in which I’d get email after email, phone call after phone call asking me “What wine should I serve for this special meal?”

 

Over the years, I’ve provided options for a variety of situations. In 2010 I explained why I think four wines is the minimum for a large Thanksgiving dinner party.  Back in 2015 I wrote Thanksgiving Wine: Street Exchange with a Beer Drinker that has become more popular over time with the working stiff crowd, especially for those who are not as comfortable with serving wine and are really looking for ONE bottle for their family’s table. EDITOR’S ASIDE: (If this describes you this year, I DO have a pick for you: the 2017 Lange Twins Rosé of Sangiovese. At $15, it serves every need you might have, and is such a delight to drink, people will think you actually know wine. Just saying.)  Back to your scheduled oenophile content:  

But as a very proud American who is also an old-world wine lover and avowed Francophile, I feel very strongly that that this holiday should be celebrated with American wines. And my suggestions will continue to reflect that!

Something that hasn’t changed: with a) a large group of people and palates to please, and b) a series of dishes that vary wildly in flavor, texture, and temperature, I still like the idea of no less than four wines: a lighter white wine, a serious white,  a delicate red, and a full-bodied red.

So here are my 2018 Thanksgiving Wines: 

 

Viognier: In the past, I used Riesling as my go-to here. But Sue & Rodney Tipton at Acquiesce Winery make such a delightful Viognier- it’s a gently flavored white wine that will please any palate, and this is ideal for the non-drinker or the delicate flower in your group. For $26/bottle, I find this a massive bargain, and a great wine to start the meal with.

Chardonnay:  I’ve narrowed it down to two possible bottles in my cellar: Harney Lane’s 2017 Chardonnay from Lodi, or DuMOL’s 2016 Russian River Valley. The Harney Lane is a beautiful expression of the grape and a wonderful California chardonnay with an ideal balance of oak- not too much, nor too little- making a creamy and flavorful balance, savory with perfect fruit and acidity, with a SRP of $28. And California’s DuMOL might tell your mouth you’re knocking back a very pricey white Burgundy! It’s soft, balanced, simply gorgeous– and a little on the high side (over $50/bottle). The downside is you have to join a waitlist to buy direct, but their wines are available at Wine.com, Wine Library.com, Sokolin.com, and many other online retailers that ship across the USA, and even some local high end retailers who carry the best of California wines. Totally worth the weight. And if we bounce through one of these bottles, I’ll open the other. No problem!

Rosé (ok, actually two of them on my lineup this year):
a) Still Rosé:
Leah Jorgensen Rosé of Cabernet Franc. When I pour this $22 bottle, people lose themselves in ecstasy. I don’t know what she’s putting in the bottle beyond the grape juice, but the wine simply sings of pure fruit, delightful acidity, and beauty. Leah is a brilliant winemaker that you should be aware of, period!

b) Sparkling Rosé: The time I spent in Yakima recently certainly influenced this year’s Thanksgiving choices! I’ll be serving an $18 bottle of sparkling rosé from Treveri Cellars. The Treveri Sparkling rosé you can buy online is made of syrah and chardonnay and is a real crowd-pleaser, while my personal favorite is their tasting room rosé, which is only available in person at the tasting room. This is half pinot noir and half chardonnay and has an old-world charm that sings to me.


Sparkling Shiraz: The pièce de résistance this year might be this wine!
 Treveri Cellars also makes a $20 sparkling shiraz that has such vibrant notes of cranberry, I immediately knew I had to serve this for Thanksgiving! My gut is that it’s going to be a smashing success. But I’ve not actually tried this wine with a savory meal yet- so I’ll make sure to report back with my annual Thanksgiving Postmortem and let you know what my guests thought of this choice- and the others! I am SO excited to hear what my guests think of this wine with the main meal!

Cabernet Franc, for my annual ‘delicate red’ wine. Traditionally it would be a pinot noir -and there are plenty to choose from from the USA- for this old world Burgundy fan. But I’ve been absolutely blown away by the beauty of balance of the cabernet franc from Owen Roe winery. So I have one bottle of $28 Owen Roe’s Rosa Mystica, a wine that totally wrecked me -in a good way- and I plan on putting this on my Thanksgiving Table. This Yakima Valley red is really gorgeous and drinks like an old-world red – I simply can’t wait to try the pairing with turkey and gravy!

Zinfandel: I have two bottles I am going to decide between: a rare and hard to gain Turley, of which I have ONE bottle (and it’s a hoarder bottle I’m loath to open) and my favorite Zin on the planet, Lizzy James OVZ again from Lodi’s Harney Lane. I could almost as easily choose their standard Zin, the Scottsboro Zin, or even their Syrah- but I am just in love with the gnarly, curled old vines and the magical fruit they produce. The wine is big, bold, yet refined and polarizing. Any time I have opened a bottle of the $36 Lizzy James, it has changed lives at the table. It’s a small price to pay, that’s all I’m saying.

 

So- let me know what you think about my picks, and what you plan to open for your Thanksgiving this year! 

 

à votre santé!

Owen Roe

5 Nov

I kept putting off my post about my visits to Owen Roe Winery. Partially I must admit, a tiny part of me wanted to keep them a secret, like something precious and highly valued that only when you’re ready, you share with your closest confidant. And part of me is a little anxious to see this winery become monstrously famous… which will happen, I do not doubt.

But you, my dear friends and readers, you are my innermost circle.

So allow me to share with you my best find of 2018, Owen Roe Winery.

 

Named after the 17th century Irish Patriot, Owen Roe is a beautiful winery that is tucked into the hills in the Yakima Valley. Between Union Gap and Wapato, just east of the Yakima river on a beautiful hillside is a series of vineyards in which the winemaking facility is located.

But when I first visited, I didn’t think about the vineyards. I just went to taste the wines. It wasn’t until I had tasted the wines and had time to reflect on them that I wanted to learn more. So I did- and I went back with friends (an entire busload of friends, to be honest) and to see the winery in action during crush and harvest- and to re-taste the wines that impressed upon me previously.

 

Before I get to the wines, I have a tiny bit more to tell you. Owen Roe was founded by two couples, Angelica & David O’Reilly, and Julie & Ben Wolff, with their first vintage produced in 1999. While David O’Reilly was the winemaker for many years, their current winemaker is rising star Jackie Evans. She and cellar master François Dereeper have been with Owen Roe since 2013. They are making some serious wines.


Owen Roe Winery’s cellar master François Dereeper (left), and winemaker Jackie Evans (right)

 

Owen Roe 2016 Abbot’s Table; Columbia Valley Wa. 14.1% ABV, SRP $24/bottle.

Color is magenta with garnet edging, with cassis, green cuttings and tobacco leaf on the nose. On the palate: a complex compote of red plum, tart cherry, and raspberry with notes of green pepper, forest floor, and cigar box. An awe-inspiring blend of 47% Sangiovese, 22% Zinfandel, 19% Blaufrankish and 12% Malbec. This wine is so perfectly balanced by itself, yet cries for food. So, I bought a bottle and sated that need- with anything and everything I ate, it was made better with this new world blend of old world flavor. Brilliant now, but could easily age ten years. A home run, this should be in every American restaurant.

 

Owen Roe 2016 Sinister Hand; Columbia Valley, WA 14.1% ABV, SRP $28/bottle.

Don’t let the name fool you. This is a classic Rhône blend of GSMC (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault) on steroids.
Garnet in color, rich in the dark red and black fruit on the nose with a hint of cocoa. Cassis, blackberry, with fig and plum jam. Secondary notes of strawberry and mocha, red pepper, hints of clove, vanilla, and fennel, with cedar, granite, sand, loam, mixed berries and potting soil on the long finish. This is old world blending of new world grapes, the opposite of Abbots Table- and just so nicely balanced, rich flavors, and gossamer in texture.

 

Owen Roe 2016 Malbec; Yakima Valley, WA; 14% ABV, SRP $28/bottle.

Deep ruby with magenta edging. Rose bush and red fruit on the ample nose. Stunning blackberry, blue plum, and black cherry on the palate with velvet mouthfeel, big dark chocolate notes with saddle leather, dark oak and wet leaves. If you dig Malbec, you need to get this in your cellar.

 

 

Owen Roe Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc, $28/bottle.

Color is medium ruby with garget edging, the nose offers cherry and raspberry with mocha and a hint of rose bush. On the palate, strawberry jam, red plum and cherry are followed by notes of pepper, wet stone, fennel and lavender. Beautifully made, elegant and balanced– this is a luscious wine that offers a great value in this price range!

I took my first sip of this cab franc and had a “whoa” moment, impressed by the quality of the winemaking. Finishing my taste of Rosa Mystica, I realized how special Owen Roe’s wines really are.

A few minutes later The Pearl Block cab franc was in my glass and that upped the ante-  I simply could not imagine where this wine had been hiding, and how they managed to make a wine that stood on the shoulders of all the others.

 

Owen Roe 2015 “The Pearl Block” Union Gap Vineyard, Cabernet Franc. 14%ABV, SRP $72/bottle.

Color is deep ruby, the nose offers red plum, raspberry, wildflowers and hints of tobacco leaf. On the palate is a luxurious blend of red fruit, green pepper, and forest floor. The mouthfeel is exotic, supple and elegant; medium bodied with impressive structure in the balance of fruit, tannin and acidity. If you are remotely a fan of old world French wines, or if you love cab franc- this is your jam. Gorgeously aromatic, showing elegance and beauty in the glass, with structure, a nose and finish that goes on and on. It’s the finest effort of winemaking I’ve seen from the Northwest, period. This wine is amazing. It’s gonna rock your world and leave you wanting more, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. It’s just that. Damn. Good!

Seriously- if you have the means to buy this wine and you love cab franc, get this. This is the finest cabernet franc I’ve had to date, and I was sad to walk away having only purchased two bottles. I haven’t decided if I’ll serve this to my family for Thanksgiving, or more selfishly keep it to share with my oenophile buddies!

 

Most importantly, tasting these wines excites me for the future of what to expect from this team at Owen Roe.

These are world-class wines that deliver far more than you’d expect, even in the over $60 mark, providing great value and QPR. Just taste the wines, and let your mouth decide.

 


 

 

 

As you can see, I liked what I tasted at Owen Roe. So much that  (as I mentioned previously) I went back with a busload of friends, to see more, taste, and explore.

 

What I found is that it’s no mistake the wines from Over Roe are as good as they are. I tasted the fruit fresh from the vineyards, and had the chance to watch some of the harvest operations. These choices are made very carefully, with excellent results from a team who is talented and working diligently to make world-class wine.

 

A hopper of freshly-picked Cabernet Sauvignon grapes heading to the press

 

 

One of the presses used at Owen Roe

 

The pomace or marc- the remnants after pressing

 

 

 


This is the cap over a container of pressed juice in the process of becoming wine

The juice is tested and the cap is punched down multiple times daily.

 

 

The cellar team’s daily notes on the side of an active bin!

 


Craig Singer, Owen Roe’s Executive Chef & Tasting Room Manager, showing off one more spectacular bottle. He is THE person to talk to about food and wine pairings, menus, recipes, and finding your personal favorite wine at Owen Roe!  

 

 

 


After wine tasting, our group lines up to buy bottles to take home! There was no mistake here- We visited several vineyards, but people lined up to buy bottle after bottle at Owen Roe. So you know- It wasn’t just me! 

 

Owen Roe is my best find of 2018, and their flagship The Peal Block Cabernet Franc rocks my wine world. 

What is YOUR top find of 2018?

à votre santé!

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