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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!

From JvB’s Cellar (Bin#8) Wine Buyer’s Remorse and the Perfect Moment

21 Feb

While I’m working on a new Broadway show, I’m sharing an early wine rant. This, from a 2012 post!

WINE BUYER’S REMORSE, AND WINE: THE PERFECT MOMENT

 And the rant continues…

Today I’ve been ranting on FB about all kinds of things.  My notes about wines have missed several days of expression, because I’ve been thinking about how to share the experience well.

 

So: WINE BUYER’S REMORSE

 

Obviously if you buy a wine that’s corked you’ll regret it. Sometimes wine is perfectly fine, just… “meh”.  Several times in my life I’ve regretted making a purchase, wine buying as much as anything else. We’re thrilled when a cheap bottle tastes like something much more expensive. What about when you drop hard earned coin on a supposedly great bottle that’s only OK? So sad!!!

 

When I have a negative wine experience, I try to ask these questions:

1)   Did I store it properly, with proper cork contact, and the right temperature & humidity?

2)   Am I drinking this too early, or too late (in the life of the vintage)- OR: was it meant to store? Did I ignore that?

3)   Did I taste it properly? Was my palate clean?  Am I using neutral judgment?

4)   Did I pair this with something inappropriate?

5)   If its not MY cup of tea, who WOULD like this?

6)   What did they do right in making and marketing this wine?

 

I find corked bottles less than 1% of the time. Sure, I’ve got a couple of sad stories about great wines that have been corked.  But more often than a corked wine, wine drinkers have a different negative experience- when they’ve found something they are excited about- a repeat of a special bottle that doesn’t pass muster, a rare find that has passed its drinking window, or a good or highly-rated  wine whose initial response is “so-so” when we hoped for astounding.

 

So-so. That, my friends, is a disappointment. When I taste a so-so wine, I taste it again, to double check myself, then I let it rest a bit and see if a little more exposure to air will improve. Then I’ll try it with a cracker, a gentle cheese, a robust cheese, and maybe some chocolate.  If the wine may improve with food, these are some of the best choices. It’s also easier to keep these foods around your home, instead of fois gras, mushroom terrine, cornichon/raclette cheese/baguette, and chocolate truffles- each of which might pair wonderfully with wines high in acidity , in tannin, in sugar, etc.

 

Sometimes you’ll find the wine has opened up, or pairs and compliments one of these foods amazingly well. And sometimes, you’ll realize that the high priced wine just isn’t what you like. It’s important to realize at this point, that it’s OK, it’s actually good- because you’re learning what you like and don’t like in wine. Don’t forget, every season is a new bunch of wines, every season is a new season to live, learn, try and taste .

So…have you experienced my misery? Bringing home a bottle of something you’re really excited about, just to taste it and think … ‘what’s the fuss about?” One of the ways I’m able to bypass this experience is by purchasing only a glass of wine at a good establishment with a nice cellar. Restaurants and wine bars are obvious opportunities to taste some of the higher end bottles, while risking little. I particularly like wine bars like Morrell Wine in Rockefeller Plaza where you can get a half-glass of some very expensive wines. Some bars & restaurants that carry high end wine by the glass will offer you a taste of a wine when you’re trying to decide what to drink, this can be a great way to taste something but make sure to spend money and tip to keep that relationship going. From time to time, I’ve been disappointed by buying an expensive bottle in a restaurant that didn’t live up to its hype. I’d much prefer buying a glass or half-glass of that vintage to realize it’s not to my liking.

 

 

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Cartoon by: Mark Anderson

 

THE PERFECT MOMENT

 

Most important, is simply to realize that wine is about constantly learning and evaluating. One vineyard’s crop or blend this year may not be as good as that year, last year or next year, and may be totally different from the neighboring vineyard. Wine is as much about your evolution as a drinker and finding out what you like as it is about and process of growing, harvesting, blending, maturing and bottling before a wine gets to the glass.  Often it’s an accident of experiencing a ‘perfect moment’ when a wine impacts the drinker- and your appreciation for the wine is stunning. These moments are the ones that help create the wine drinker: one who seeks another amazing moment of great pairing or insight of flavor, an impact of the palate- like the endorphines we experience on the playing field, the rush of the roller coaster, the joy of laughter. And what do we remember most in life, but highs and lows?  Our memories in life are made of the major failures and the perfect moments, much like our experiences in wine. 

 

Like those in life, the successes and moments of joy are the ones we’ll remember the most. We remember more vividly the moment of joy with the birth of your child, not the 20 hours of labor prior. We remember the dinners with a bottle of Opus One or Mouton Rothschild more than the one where I dumped an entire bottle in the sink and drank diet coke instead.

 

Here’s to the perfect moments in our lives. Cheers! 

-JvB

'How come your oldest vintage is on the top shelf?' 'I can't reach up there!'

‘How come your oldest vintage is on the top shelf?’ ‘I can’t reach up there!’

Cartoon by: Mike Flanagan

Get #Franc’d Up with #CabFranc

12 Dec

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Here’s the thing:

I’ve liked cabernet franc for a long time. I’ve enjoyed it primarily as a blending grape, and secondarily as a single vineyard varietal, as a wine that I sometimes offer at Thanksgiving. But as a grape, it never bowled me over, that is, until #CabFrancDay.

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For #CabFrancDay, I tasted seven bottles of cab franc in great detail. I spent copious time with each one.

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Sometimes I came away with tremendous tasting notes. Sometimes I just wanted to sit and enjoy the flavor and fragrance of the wine, much like the title character in Munro Leaf’s book, “Ferdinand the Bull”.

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Some things dawned on me while I sat and smelled cabernet franc, taking tiny sips and noting flavors.

 

And what I found out about cabernet franc wasn’t earth shattering knowledge. But it was incredibly valuable and made me think about how I pair wines and food.

The cabernet franc grape is the thin-skinned father to the bold, bodacious, massively-flavored cabernet sauvignon grape. In comparison, Cab franc is restrained, genteel, even moderate. While it features flavors of dark berries, cassis, bell peppers, leather, forest floor and licorice, these flavors are subtle and mild, and the wine’s acidity and tannins are equally muted. These are what helps make cab franc an excellent blending grape. On the other side of the equation, for a winemaker who develops the grape with intent of making a great single varietal bottle of cab franc, sometimes they are able to create a wine that has class, maturity, and depth in only three or four years, with characteristics that I often wait a decade for in Old World wines.

I want to share my tasting notes from #CabFrancDay. And I still might, but it’s more important to me to peak your interest and whet your appetite on the GRAPE. It’s a bit of a challenge to find a great cab franc, but it is also highly worthwhile.

So today, no tasting notes. Instead, I’m going to tell you what I FELT about these wines.

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I felt that these wines showed beautiful expression: they were delicate, reserved, graceful. In general, I found that the East coast cabernet francs were more subtle with slightly higher acidity. The Oregon and California Cabernet Francs were more expressive, more powerful, still reserved but passionate. While I really enjoyed the expression of the East coast cab francs,  the West Coast Cabernet Francs haunted me. I dreamed about them. I talked about them constantly. I searched my social media feeds to see if there were associated experiencing the same thing.
There were. There are.

Some of my friends preferred the East Coast wines. But we all were impressed, if not blown away. Some, however, had powerful experiences like myself.

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There is a new movement afoot. To get #FrancdUp does NOT mean to get drunk, but instead, to hedonistically enjoy a beautifully made #CabernetFranc. 

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Find your #Franc. Get Franc’dUp. Trust me. And feel free to tell me about it.

You can thank me later!

 

à votre santé!

Letters from Readers: Thanksgiving Host/Gift Wines

17 Nov

It’s a popular time for questions from readers. Just after my last week’s post, an email arrived looking for the next step in Thanksgiving Wine:

 

“Hi JvB,

Enjoying your blog! We have tried a couple of the wines you reviewed and see why you like them so much.  I liked having my first rioja, and my wife loved the rosé you suggested.

This might be something you get asked a lot, but here’s a Thanksgiving wine question. What wine would you suggest to bring for the host, knowing the host might open it to serve with the Thanksgiving meal, or hold it as a gift and hopefully  appreciate at another time? With one son away this fall, there are three of us going, so I am willing to spend a little more than my normal  limit of  25 dollars a bottle. What can you suggest? “

 

Good question, TS.

 

You definitely want to make sure you have wine that would work with the meal, and that will also shine at another time. It’s quite smart to spend a touch more than usual, as this is a very special meal that families like to share people close to them.

Now… If you were a guest at my home, I’d be thrilled if you brought two bottles, a white (or pink) and a red. On my table this year, there will be a bottle of Jason Moore’s Modus Operandi Pinot Noir ($50) and a Modus Sauvignon Blanc ($35). Moore’s saingée rosé completely changed up my game and convinced me to add a killer, high-end rosé to my Thanksgiving wine list. People LOVE it. The sauvignon blanc has all the best features and none of the negative ones we associate with SB, and has an impressive pedigree- white wine drinkers will adore it. Likewise, the pinot is simply outstanding and pairs gorgeously with the entire meal.

And you can use this fun vision to remind you:

prepare

Because you love wine, you are intelligent and have a sense of humor. Come on, the image at least made you smile, right?

Now, you have options if Modus isn’t available and you aren’t a subscriber. But promise me here, keep the American Holiday with US wines. I was blown away by Lodi wines this summer which are such an easy, delicious, and reasonably priced option we’d be fools not to consider them.

Like me, you might love French, Italian, German, NZ, Australian, South American, and Spanish wines like I do. But we are taking a stand and we will use American wine for Thanksgiving. Americans don’t import rare European cranberries, or South American turkey for this meal. Similarly, we should use the beautiful wines from the USA! So I ask you to look at Lodi, Santa Barbara, Sonoma, Napa, Paso Robles, Walla Walla Washington, Willamette Valley, NY’s Finger Lakes or Charlottesville, Virginia.

You can easily find great wines from these regions to fit any of your Thanksgiving wine needs. I challenge you to join me and promise to serve American-made wines this holiday. And why not? We have killer values and just about every varietal you could ask for whether it is a bold cab, a citrusty sauvignon blanc, a traditional german varietal, a European classic. We’ve got them, and they are SO GOOD!

If you want to be a great guest, just remember that you don’t want to be super cheap on the bottle. I can tell you, I have pinot noir, cab franc, riesling, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay all from the USA standing by in my cellar, from local regions like Yamhill County OR, Lodi, Napa, Sta Rita Hills CA. They are beautiful wines. And I have a stash of Modus, because any wine lover would be a fool to ignore the stunning quality available from the independent wine makers. These are small production, intense attention to detail, and beautiful wines, simply put.

 

In case you are not convinced you can find great, American wines if you only like European varietals, well, first you aren’t looking very hard. Go back to the wine store. Second, do a tiny bit of research. More than just Lodi… stunning versions of these grapes are grown right here in the states. There are classic, brilliant American wines that will impress the heck out of your holiday table. Here’s a brilliant piece by Maggie Hoffman showcasing some brilliant American Wine Options on Serious Eats:

I hope this gives you some food for thought. Feel free to email me at jvbuncorked@gmail.com, or @jvbuncorked on twitter if you want to discuss more.

And I hope you have a very happy, wonderful Thanksgiving! Make sure you tell me what you chose and how you like it!

 

à votre santé

Drinking World Wines in Toronto

14 Nov

I continue to be out of the country working on a new Broadway musical, trying Canadian wines when our production schedule allows. Wine selections at the LCBO (basically, the Canadian Liquor Store) are OK by my standards, but not stellar. I managed to find a bottle of Michael David’s Chardonnay from Lodi, here in Toronto of all places…along with many bottles of Zinfandel. That bottle made me very happy with great memories of picking viognier in the MD vineyard this past August, and I drank it and fondly recalled fun adventures with my WBC friends. 

 

Michael David Winery 2015 Chardonnay. 13.5%ABV, $23CAD/bottle from LCBO. Color is pale gold. Nose of green apple, white peach, and hibiscus flower. In the mouth, the fruit profile is a balance of golden delicious apple, honeydew melon and pineapple. Secondary notes of peach, cedar, vanilla, and clay on the medium-short finish. For me, this bottle was a delightful memory of the 2016 harvest in the MD vineyards. While I enjoyed this, I wished the LCBO had stocked the MD Viognier as well.

mdchardonnay

 

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This is a shot of me from the viognier harvest in the MD Vineyards.
Photo by Randy Caparoso!

 

 

Working in the entertainment industry often means very long hours and few days off. Since arriving,  I thankfully have managed to get to a couple of nice restaurants in Toronto that feature excellent wine lists that are worthy of sharing!

 

Nearby the Royal Alexandra Theatre at Byblos, the middle eastern fare is warm and inviting. Their lamb shoulder is braised for 12 hours and falls off the bone, succulent and savory, accompanied by a garlic paste, shug (a hot pepper blend) and house-made pickles and turnips, with tasty sides of rice and brussel sprouts. With the help of my trusty iphone (it’s a dark restaurant) I scanned the wine list and found an appropriate comfort wine to match the house specialty.

Chateau Musar “Hochar Père et Fils” 2011, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. This red blend is deep garnet in color with an opulent, floral nose. On the palate, mature black plum, fig, cherry, and the distinct quality of baked fruit is met with notes of earth, leather, mocha, allspice, black pepper and cinnamon. On the dry, lengthy finish there are beautiful flourishes of oak, along with gravel and sandy limestone on the side palate.  It is a heady aroma and velvety mouthfeel, a gorgeous second wine from a brilliant winemaker. I have long been a fan of Chateau Musar, with an ’04 and a few bottles of the 2000 remaining in my cellar, and I was trepidatious at the youthful age of this bottle, but ended up being very pleasantly surprised. I thoroughly enjoyed this blend of 50% cinsault, 30% grenache, 10% carignan, and 10% cabernet sauvignon. 14% ABV, Street price avg $33 USD, (obviously not what I paid in the restaurant.)

 

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Further down King Street is a hidden gem suggested by my co-workers for having a high quality (and somewhat pricey) wine list. Buca is a northern Italian restaurant that is reknowned for savory delights and curing their own meat;  you can see examples of their delicacies hanging in a cooler as you walk down a hallway to the bar and to one of the two dining rooms. We obliged our evening hunger by ordering shared dishes, starting off with olives stuffed with sausage and fried to hot, crisp, and salted savory perfection;  hand-rolled ricotta gnocchi stuffed with taleggio cheese; carpaccio di mango; and a pizza salumi di buca- delightful, mouthwatering bites. Strongly salted meats and powerful, savory flavors beg for a tremendous wine, and the sommelier did not disappoint! A native Italian (whose name I sadly did not understand when I asked), we chatted, I inquired about some of the ‘hidden treasures’ on the wine list, and he came back with his arms full of options,  from which I selected his very last bottle of a reserve Nebbiolo- and I was very glad I did!

Ar.Pe.Pe.’s  2011 Sasella Stella-Retina Valtellina Superior Riserva, Lombardy, Italy. The color is deep ruby while the perfumed nose offers crushed rose petals and lush vegetation. This wine opened up beautifully with a bit of time in the glass to offer mature raspberry, dried cherry, and african violet. Secondary notes of vanilla, wet earth and aged leather on the finish with hints of toasted almonds, sodium, wet stone, and granite. A beautiful soft mouthfeel; feminine expression of aged fruit meets bright acidity and firm tannins. 100% Nebbiolo, 13.5% ABV, Street Price around $52 USD.

 

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The clock is ticking until my return to the USA! I still have two bottles of Canadian red wines I need to review before my time is up here in Canada. Keep an eye out, and enjoy. Life is beautiful and precious, and I hope we all see the beauty every day in our loved ones and the world around us.  -JvB

à votre santé!

 

 

Thanksgiving Wine: Street Exchange with a Beer Drinker!

7 Nov

(Re-post due to request by readers! Originally posted 11-23-15.)


I had a funny exchange on a freezing street corner: A co-worker approached me, needing some wine help
and at the same time, unwittingly offering me some interesting constructive criticism.

“JvB, you know I’m a beer guy and have no time… or honestly, any interest to read your wine blog. But I can’t go to the liquor store and say ‘gimme a thanksgiving dinner wine’ because I have done that before and they point at a row of stuff that nobody enjoys. I just need enough to sound like I know what I’m looking for, and to choose ONE decent bottle of wine for Thanksgiving. Can ya PLEASE do me a frickin’ favor and give me ONE wine to buy instead of a hundred options?”
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I bit my tongue down on my sarcastic reply. His point was immediately taken. This guy actually wanted help, and here I was. I was determined to give him the tools he needed to succeed with both the wine store and his in-laws.
“No problem,” I smiled. “Let’s narrow it down to three possible types,” I suggested. “Consider white, red, or rosé, by who will drink it and what the meal will be.”
“Standard meal, it’s usually turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, sweet potato casserole, green beans, and pie for dessert. They’ll make a very traditional afternoon turkey dinner that lasts 2-3 hours,” he explains. “My wife, her sister and their parents are the wine drinkers, I’ll have a sip of wine to toast the meal but will move to beer as soon as I can and end up watching football as soon as I can.” His directness and lack of BS is refreshing.
“Sure. And a price range?” I ask. “You want box wine or to impress the in-laws?”
He scoffs. “It can’t look or taste cheap, but don’t break the bank. I’ll probably buy two bottles of it and ideally I’d like to spend below $50, tax included.”
“Ok, got it,” I tell him. “Let me offer you only two suggestions and you can take that to your wine store. For this meal, you want something with plenty of crisp fruit and acidity. If I had to buy only one bottle, I’d look for something that matches the range of the meal, so you’re smart to want one _nice_ bottle, either a good rosé or a pinot noir. Ask your wine store to show you their best value in both pinot noir and good rose’ in the under $25 range.” (He nods, thumbs a few keys on his phone, taking notes.)
“For the pinot noir, I’ll toss you a few names that will all be in the $25 and under range that are big crowd pleasers: Drouhin, Cloudline, Meiomi, Oyster Bay. They represent the premiere regions making Pinot noir today: Burgundy (France) , Willamette Valley (Oregon), California, and Central Otago (New Zealand). They will probably offer you a bunch of medium-fancy bottles in the $20-25 range, which is where you find the higher quality stuff, but there is plenty of great value under $25. If nothing that sounds good comes up in your wine store and you feel lost, ask for Pepperwood Grove from Chile as a last-minute “under-the-radar” stealth wine in the $10-12 range. It’s a solid last resort that still tastes great.” (More typing, his eyes bugged out and he nods while trying to keep up as I dictate.)
For rosé, anything that doesn’t immediately feel impressive is probably not worth your time for this choice. Don’t expect to see anything useful in the under $15 unless the clerk swears it’s amazing. Tell them it has to be 89 points or better and drink like a $40-50 bottle to be worth your time, OK?” (Another quick nod, followed by a quick moment of  eye contact. He’s still typing. The last thing I need is for him to come back and blame me for a poor wine choice. I’m feeling the pressure.)
I saw the opening and seized it. “For an important family meal like this one, you might want to consider one white and one red if your wife or mother-in-law prefers white wines,” I blurted out. “The most common white bordeaux is Mouton-Cadet Bordeaux Blanc, a nice white blend that constantly wins awards and sells dirt cheap from $9-11 per bottle. Toss it in the fridge and have it as a safety bottle,” I suggest. My buddy is furiously typing more notes on his phone. I’d give my left arm to see how he tried to spell these, but that would be a very bad move on my part. “A white bordeaux blend should have good complexity which helps it to pair with the entire meal for those who are more dedicated white wine drinkers.”
“OK, good idea,” he says. “Thanks!” He turns to leave. “Oh, can I text you from the wine store if I’m feeling lost?”
“Sure!” I reply, stifling my inner snark a second time. “Or you could read my blog, print it out and take it with you to shop, you know?”
But he’s already disappeared into the crowd of tourists, theatre-goers and early Christmas shoppers.
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à votre santé!

Pop A Cork and Share, Because You Make Me Smile! #MWWC28

24 Oct

Better late than never, I’m submitting this post as my entry for #MWWC28 for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. Thanks go out to Beth aka Traveling Wine Chick for the fun theme and Jeff aka  The Drunken Cyclist for the MWWC that provides wine writers a warm, friendly, mildly competitive community to enjoy each other’s work!

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The theme for this month is SMILE. I love this theme. When someone smiles at me, I can’t help but smile back. And when I smile at them, they usually smile back. It’s like sharing an amazing wine with friends.

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One of the things I adore about wine is finding a wine I like and sharing it. When I pour a taste of a wine for someone for the first time and watch them enjoy it, that in turn gives me great joy. This is one of the reasons why I hold wine tastings for friends and neighbors.

It’s also why I bring a few special bottles to wine conferences. We don’t really need more wine at a tasting. There is usually plenty! Sometimes it is simply a great deal of wine. But I like to bring wines I like, so that others can enjoy them as well. I had such fun sharing bottles at WBC. “Here, have a taste!” with wines from areas these people know well, just sometimes haven’t ever tried before. SO. MUCH. FUN! Tons of smiles!  It’s even more fun because adept tasters like Anatoli (Talk-A-Vino) have such passionate, emotional, declarative responses to wine, much like art, and you get to hear them wax poetic in person, without deliberate editing into a blog post. It’s so HUMAN. It’s brilliantly fun!

Most importantly, it just makes people smile.

Look at the smile on these faces. Real people, mostly real smiles. Some people look slightly pained in posing for a picture, but all of these folks were having a good time. We’re people who are passionate about wine- enjoying it, making it, selling it, sharing it. We get together and taste it, and make each other smile, then we laugh!

Together, we make the world a better place. I’m excited to read your blog posts, to see your photographs, to hear your tasting notes. And when I see you in person, I’m so excited to hear what you have to say, because being your friend makes my life richer.

We make each other smile. And that is a beautiful gift.

 

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Birk

 

Christine Gladstone

 

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Clark

 

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30 yr

 

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Buddies

 

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Hey! Give me  your glass- I want you taste this. Just a taste.

🙂

à votre santé!

 

Q&A with Followers, Sept 2016: Spain, Lodi, Lodi, & BottleShock!

8 Sep

With the Labor Day holiday, it was a very busy week on social media. Here are a couple of recent interactions from three different followers who were kind enough to let me share our conversations on this forum for JvBUnCorked: 

Q: I’m on a serious wine budget. What wines should I be buying, under $15, max $20 for a bottle?

A: That really depends on what you like to drink! You can find great value wines from all over the world- but if you aren’t drinking wines from Spain, you’re missing out on great values of delicious wines. You should be drinking Cava, Spain’s sparkling wine, and checking out wines from the regions of Rioja, Priorat, Rias Baixas, Ribera del Duero- those are just off the top of my head- and there are many more! With a couple of clicks, I quickly hit Wine.com and found 125 wines from their 90+ rated Spanish wines under $20. Many are in the $8-15 range, and I bet your local wine store carries some of them.

Pere Mata Cava

pecina-rioja

 

 

 

Q: What wines are you excited about right now?

A: I just got back from the 2016 Wine Blogger’s Conference in Lodi, CA where I was blown away by the viticulture and winemaking in that region. Get on the internet, go to Lodi Wine.com,  and check out the wineries- all the resources you need (including buying) will be at your fingertips. And for the person who asked Q#1 (above), there are some real steals in the $8-$18 range in Lodi wines!

Ok…Long Story Short: I tasted over one hundred wines at the conference and was really impressed- it’s NOT just zinfandel being grown in Lodi. They have ever 100 grape varietals being grown in Lodi, and the wines being made are simply STUNNING. Just to name a few winemakers, I was really impressed by the wines of Acquiesce Winery (all Rhône varietals), Bokisch Vineyards (Spanish Varietals), Fields Family Wines, Harney Lane Winery, Markus Wine Co (German varietals), McCay Cellars, Michael David Winery, and so many more! I hope you are finding these wines locally in your wine market, because you should be enjoying them! You can get them easily online, but ask your local wine store for them, too!

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Spend five minutes on Lodigrowers.com  and you’ll gain sincere appreciation for the AVA’s own self-imposed set of laws for sustainable certification- and you can be even more impressed when you put two and two together, of the amazing flavors and quality of the wines grown and made with sustainable, certified green winegrowing. It’s arduous and endearing work that is conscious of the local environment, the earth and atmosphere, and our children. And the resulting fruit of this hard labor tastes delicious and should be in your glass. Check out my “speed tasting” notes here (white & rosé wines) and here (red wines).

 

Q: What are you drinking these days?

A: I’m fortunate to have been able to have guests over for wine and food several times lately. I taste more than I drink, so I have a slew of assorted open bottles right now. So last week, for example, we tasted wines from France, Italy, Germany, Spain, New Zealand, and from the USA, wines from Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Barbara. I have received a shipment from Lodi that I’m very excited about opening from Markus Wine Company and Borra Vineyards, whose wines are sourced from Mokelumne Glen in Lodi- I tasted tremendous fruit in these vineyards, and Markus (below in the blue shirt) makes delicious wines.

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I had to check them out before putting them in the wine cooler, right? 

 

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Last weekend with the neighbors. Tasty! 

(Follow-Up Q): Why do you say “you’re excited about opening” the wine? Why aren’t you drinking it already?

A: Bottle shock. (Yes, like the movie with Alan Rickman, but I refer to the phenomenon, NOT the film.) Wine is a living, breathing, evolving mixture that sometimes undergoes a phenomenon called wine sickness, aka “bottle shock” when it ships. (More details in this .pdf from the North Texas Winemaker’s Organization.)

Much like the way we humans might need time to catch up and get acclimated to a new environment from travel or jet lag. Likewise, wine needs time in a dark, cold place to rest after a trip to show its proper (hopefully best possible) flavor profile and nuances. Not all wines are affected, and those that are may be affected in different ways, but past experiences have proven this and made me a firm believer. So I make sure to give wine that travels the time it may need to recuperate and be the best it can be. I store wines either in my climate-controlled cellar or in a wine cooler and allow them to rest before jumping in with the corkscrew- sometimes as long as a few months, but an absolute minimum of a couple of weeks in extreme circumstances. I always a have a queue of wines I’m tasting and reviewing, so it works out pretty well. So look for those reviews on JvBUnCorked, they’ll be coming soon.

And since I mentioned the film Bottle Shock, I have to include the trailer. Alan Rickman was tremendous in this and I was lucky to meet him. Sigh… Anyway, Enjoy, and please expand your palate- make sure you try something new when you’re looking for a bottle of wine tonight!

Did you like this post? Do you want to talk wine with JvB?

Contact me at JvBUncorked@gmail.com, or @jvbuncorked on Twitter!

à votre santé!

Summertime Wine- My Guilty Pleasures!

1 Jul

The change of seasons in NYC is always a celebration for oenophiles and foodies. The city becomes a trove of sidewalk cafes, while at home we clean the barbecue and begin dining al fresco.

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And the wine. Oh, the wine!

The change in seasons makes my palate stand up and shout, “Give me more!” It’s a time to satisfy your palate with all the flavors it is hungry for!

Who am I to deny? White Burgundy, Aligoté, Chablis, Chardonnay, Sparkling Riesling, Bordeaux Blanc, Prosecco, Savanin, Classic Bordeaux, Pinot, Rosé. Yummmmm.

The past few months have been painstaking with work, and a glass of wine upon my return home in a desperate, late night chance to catch up, catch my breath, pay some bills, re-connect with my life mentally, and then disconnect with a few hours of sleep. Here are the things I have sometimes been reviewing, but have always been enjoying: my guilty pleasures!

EricForest Saint-Véran

Morey&Hild

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Kerbiquet Bouchot Fumé

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Summer Saviagnin

Summer Morey Blanc

Substance Cab

Les Haut Rosé

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So my list of guilty pleasures is longer than I expected.

What have YOU Been drinking that’s a guilty pleasure?

C’mon. You know you’re dying to tell me! 

 

à votre santé!

A Wonderful Week in Wine

18 Apr

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Sometimes we lead charmed lives. I recently had a seven-day stretch of wine that left me feeling very, very blessed. The week provided honest-to-goodness, heart-felt pleasure for me, and broached several spectrums of the world of wine, from the professional to the personal to the simply mind-blowing.

“Oh yeah”, you’re thinking. “Mind-blowing? Sure.” Fine, you be the judge. One week: Two trade events, one concert, and a once-in-a-lifetime cellar event. Ready to read about them? Go ahead.

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Event 1: The New Zealand Wine Tasting

My top four picks from this tasting are as follows:

Villa Maria Estate 2015 “Bubbly” Lightly Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, NZ: A ‘carbonated wine’, I found this to be an absolute delight. Beautiful nose, balance of citrus on the palate, remaining light, delicious and dry. With a retail price of $15, I’ll expect to find by the glass in restaurants as well as on the patio this summer. 


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Gladstone Vineyard & Jealous Sisters: The 2014 Jealous Sisters Pinot Gris, under $15, is one of the best values in Pinot Gris at the tasting. I sought out winemaker Christine Kernohan and learned about her sustainable and environmentally responsible winemaking perspective which only increased my respect for her work and products. Jealous Sisters Pino Gris

If you aren’t a fan of Pinot Gris this is a bottle to change your mind. Nevertheless, Christine’s Gladstone Vineyards Wairarapa 2013 Pinot Noir is also a delightful wine

Christine Gladstone

Christine Kernohan of Gladstone and Jealous Sisters

 

Rockburn Central Otago 2013 Pinot Noir. Red fruit and minerals on the nose, the palate is bombarded with black cherry, gravel, limestone, fresh cut herbs and a hint of mocha. Expressive and expansive on the palate, it was one of my favorites of the day.

 

Rockburn Pinot Noir

 

 

Huia Pinot Gris Marlborough 2013

Aromatic without being as perfumed as sauvignon blanc, this was another pinot gris that made me sit up and take notice. The flavor profile immediately put me at a lawn party in the Hamptons. The wine is elegant and slightly reserved; dry, and delicate in flavor. The finish has notes of stone and sand. Certified biodynamic, a delight in the glass. Winemakers Claire and Mike Allan are doing something right down in the Wairau Valley!

 

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Claire Allan, Winemaker from Huia Vineyards

 

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The Huia 2015 Sauvignon Blanc shows the delightful, trademark New Zealand aromatic aromas and a fresh, citrus mouth feel. 

Event 2: USA Trade Tasting, Beverage Trade Network

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I went to this USATT brand-new event looking to find what was fun and new, with zero expectations. I met some great people and tasted lots of wines. Some of the wines I found interesting included a range of mid- and top-level wines from Le Cantine, Inc. I enjoyed their dry “Una” Grüner Veltliner, their single vineyard St. Laurent red as well as their RW Blend of zweigelt, blaufrankish and pinot noir grapes. All the wines they showed hail from the Burgenland region of Austria and the Lake Neusiedl microclimate that is key to the quality of fruit grown in the area.

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What would springtime be without a Rosé? Rosé par Paris from Domaine de l’Allamande is a grenache/cinsault/rolle/cabernet blend from the Côtes de Provence area. The fruit blend is gentle and fresh, with great limestone minerality. I could have taken a bottle of this and sat outside in the sun for the rest of the afternoon… rose par paris

 

South of the Border! I met Vicente Johnson and Bernardita Court of Trasiego Wines who specialize in importing South American wines from Chile and Argentina. I enjoyed their Mano del Sur line from Chile’s Cachapoal Valley with sauv blanc, pinot noir, malbec, and cabernet sauvignon, as well as their Casas del Toqui line, with gran reserve and terroir series showing beautiful winemaking from Chile that is sure to be a hit in the North American marketplace.

 

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And my last hit from this show, Maple Wine! Technically, can it be called a wine if it’s made from sap and not fruit or grape? Regardless, it IS a tasty treat! Domaine Labranche was showing several unusual maple-based products: semi-sweet maple wine, sparkling maple wine, sparkling cider (8.5% ABV), and dessert ciders. I was really intrigued and impressed by the flavor profiles and think that many of my readers will find these fascinating. I expect to see them gaining in quick popularity, so let me know if you see Domaine Labranche in your local stores!

 

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Event 3: Steve Kimock in Concert at NY’s City Winery.

Since I make my living in entertainment, it would be rare for me to want to attend a concert for “fun” since my industry involvement makes it almost impossible to enjoy. But for this artist, I invited a few friends from the business (who also needed some relaxation and a little wine) and chose a few wines for us to enjoy.

We met our server and began with a tasting of the house “on-tap” pinot and cabs. After which, I selected a bottle of an on-tap Cabernet Sauvignon. It was tasty, but I wanted more. So I asked the somm for the “big” wine list, and off to the races we went.

One of the cool things that City Winery does is partner with musicians to make their own “house” wine. Below, an example of Kimock Wines from City Winery. For a gimmick, it was tasty! If I recall correctly, a syrah-grenache-cab blend.
Kimock Wine

 

Bring out the big guns: Movia’s Veliko Rosso 2007. A Slovenian blend of Cab, Merlot, and Pinot. I was looking for something closer to a blaufrankish to pair with one of the dishes the table shared. It came highly recommended by Sam (our somm for the evening) and delivered through and through.

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For us, the star of the evening (apart from the music) was La Ragose ’06 Amarone Della Valpolicella. The wine features beautiful dark fruit up front with great expression, depth, and tons of dark flavors to follow: dried plum, graphite, licorice, wet earth, and granite with a medium finish that kept us raising our glasses until the bottle was drained.

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Event 4: A Private Reading Leads to Wine Cellar Visit

Attending a private reading of a new musical is one type of event, not uncommon in my industry. But it becomes something else entirely when the event host has a stunning wine cellar and can show me a portion of their Red Bordeaux collection, as well as some key bottles to other seriously famous wine lovers who collect Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru (this for another discussion). Before the reading began, I met the host. As we chatted, one oenophile meeting another, shortly after we began discussing wine, he asked me if I’d like to see his wine cellar. (Mic Drop.) 

Like I would ever say no to a cellar visit. My “tween-aged girl at a Justin Bieber Concert” reaction had him leading the way in a fraction of a second.

To me, wine cellars are always fun to visit, but rarely awe-inspiring. I tried to act pretty casual about the thousands of bottles of carefully-stored and categorized bottles, as we walked past them and another room sharing bottles and crates, until I saw things that gave me a “Wile E Coyote reaction”.

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Just look closely at the pictures below and tell me you don’t feel the same way.

 

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OWC’s of ’86 Mouton-Rothschild, Pichon de Longueville, Margaux, and La Mission Haut-Brion.

 

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A few more OWCs of 1986 Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Margaux. #YouHadMeAtMargaux !

 

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OWC’s of 1999 Latour and Palmer. Thirsty yet?   

These three pictures were a tiny portion of one of three rooms in this collector’s cellar. He also explained that he and his brother have an entire warehouse with the bulk of their collections. OOF.

Seriously- take a look, these are unopened OWCs of some stunning wines. When I was done scraping my mouth of the stone floor, I casually mentioned to my host that I was a huge fan of the 1986 Chateau Margaux.  He shocked my by pulling an ’86 from a nearby rack of un-crated bottles, carrying it upstairs where he opened it for me to enjoy, and then gifted me the remainder of the bottle to take home. This kind of gift one does NOT refuse, so I gladly accepted!

 

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Had this twice before…long before it was prohibitively expensive for mere mortals.

 

1986 Margaux

Enjoying more of the same in my own home. Premier Grand Cru Classé, anyone? 

 

It has been over a decade since I tasted the 1986, and I was thrilled to have another opportunity to experience this stunning wine. While a Chateau Margaux would be enough for me on any day, the host had other ideas. His pièce de résistance came after the reading. He opened and poured an 1875 Malvasia Madiera- which was simply mind-blowing to all the guests, myself included. Even the non-wine drinkers had a tiny taste of this unbelievable vintage.

Here are pictures of the front and back of the 1875 Madeira bottle.

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Tasting notes: A dark rosewood in color, spun sugar and candied citrus on the nose. It was quite heavy in sediment but delightful on the palate with notes of caramel, burnt sugar, fig, and orange peel. After so much time, this wine was still excellent in quality. It was so rare and extravagant, yet I had another whole element: the combination of the 1875 madiera and the 1986 Chateau Margaux… simply amazing.

It made for an unforgettable day, and the day was a delightful finish to a week of serious and wonderful wine pleasure that I will never, ever forget.

 

à votre santé!

 

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