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Harney Lane 2013 Zinfandel

18 Jun


Harney Lane 2013 Zinfandel, Lodi, CA. 15.5% ABV, MSRP $24/bottle.

There’s a backstory here. When in Lodi last summer for #WBC16, I visited this winery. I tasted their rosé, and I thought “this is really good”. But when I tasted their old vine zinfandel, I was truly blown away by the power of the beautifully made Old Vine Zin, Lizzy James.

 

 

Months later, I pull a bottle of their 2013 “house” zinfandel from my cellar, open it gently, allow it to air, and taste it. Oh yes, my Father’s Day treat to myself!  The next day I serve it to my in-laws, not telling them what the grape varietal is. The bottle is gone within the first few minutes of the meal- and my brother-in-law doesn’t believe me at first when I tell him he is drinking zinfandel, so I remind him of my trip to Lodi.

 

 

If the independent Lodi winemakers (like Harney Lane, Bokisch Vineyards, Borra Vineyards, Klinker Brick, McCay Cellars, Fields Family Wines, and Acquiesce, just to name but a few of Lodi’s standouts ) were only making fair quality wines, there would be no point- they might as well sell their fruit to the huge corporate winemakers. But in Lodi, they are making smaller quantities of superb, high quality wines- single varietals, single vineyards, custom blends, -really, whatever they choose- they are simply making the greatest wine they can, to the best of their ability. This is how they can make wines that stand out and have an impact: they have to make tremendous wines with superb value in the bottle that makes a customer go “WHOA”,  to remember that experience. In doing so, they create their own brand fanatics who want to join their wine club and drink more than a case per year.

 

I know you want the tasting notes, so without further ado:

Color is deep magenta with violet edging. The nose offers complex, mature black and blue fruit (and really, it smells of blackberry pie) followed by dark chocolate and green, leafy vegetation. On the palate: mature blueberries dominates the lower palate with a small portion of red fruit, -cassis and young raspberry- with secondary notes of mocha, pepper, and clove. Great acidity on this wine follows the fruit across the top palate, but the tannins hit from the tip of the tongue across the top palate simultaneously, making perfect closure to the sip. For the finish, notes of oak, pebbles, and sand round out the long, lusty finish with echoes of that fruit across the palate. For those who have heard my past complaints about too much alcohol in wine, I never sensed this wine as “hot”. To be completely fair, I didn’t even notice this wine was 15.5%ABV until after the bottle was finished. So I’m keeping my trap shut, as this wine rocks. I paired this beautiful zin with cold sesame noodles when I first opened it, and then served it alongside  a beef, tomato and bean chili for dinner. It will rock a steak house menu, pair easily with Italian cuisine, match up with grilled or cured meats, or handle anything that is Mediterranean in style, as well as being purely delightful on its own.

Matured 15 months in American oak, this Zin actually has 5% of syrah blended in. Given that they made 700 cases (about 28 barrels) you can still find some, but I wouldn’t wait very long to get some for the cellar.

 

 

Jorja and Kyle Lerner of Harney Lane call themselves “control freaks” when it comes to maintaining their vineyards, growing the best clusters, and picking their best fruit at the perfect time; but all you have to do is taste it and you will be convinced. Whatever they are doing, it simply works. This is a world-class wine with style, class, depth and tenacity. You’d happily pay five times the price for a wine of this quality in a steakhouse- in the under $25/bottle range, this is a no-brainer. Better yet, join their wine club, and get this wine for $19.20 per bottle!

As a final note, all Harney Lane wines are certified green under the strict “Lodi Rules” for sustainable wine growing. That might make you feel better, about being a better citizen of the planet when you buy the wine. But when you drink it, you might not care anymore. You’ll just be glad this deliciousness is in your glass. 

à votre santé!

Locations Wines P4: Portugal!

28 Feb

P4 Locations Wines by David Phinney, Portuguese Red Wine Blend. 15%ABV, MSRP$18/bottle.

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Color is deep ruby with warm purple edges. The nose is a touch hot, hiding rich dark fruit beneath the alcohol that requires a moment to dissipate. On the palate, black plum, black and blue berries, green vegetation, and a hint of bitter herb on the back palate. Strong tannins and acidity deliver a solid finish with notes of dark chocolate, vanilla, gravel, and chalk.

The flavors are dark and deeply concentrated, evoking images of ancient, gnarled rootstock, and powerful sun beating down on small fruit hanging from low vines carefully strung across a steep hillside.

A beautiful palate cleanser, my initial thought was that this wine begs for petiscos, fresh fish and the warm climate of home, being a blend of touriga franca, touring nacional, and trincadeira grapes. But it is still winter in NYC, so I opened this bottle and enjoyed a glass with grilled chicken and broccoli, and was more that satisfied. Two days later with my in-laws, it paired beautifully with winter meat loaf, potatoes and salad. And once again, my brother-in-law and I just enjoyed this wine so evenly! Not to be outdone, on day four it matched a vegetarian dinner of kale salad and baked onion pie. While compiling my notes, the final sips paired beautifully again with baked gorgonzola bites and then perfectly with a single piece of dark chocolate.

 

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I keep wondering if I will open a bottle of Locations and not be impressed. Dave Phinney seems to be the Derek Jeter of wine: always on top of his game, rock solid in his delivery, and seemingly never out of surprises.

More Locations Wines to come. Stay tuned!

 

à votre santé!

 

From JvB’s Cellar (Bin #9): Chateau Malescot St. Exupery Margaux 2006

22 Feb

Not much wine tasting is happening currently while I’m working late evenings on a new Broadway show. Here’s a revival for you: a Margaux wine review from six years ago, literally years before my blog JvB UnCorked existed. How my writing style has changed! And the 2006 is available online for as little as $80/bottle! -JvB 

Chateau Malescot St. Exupery Margaux 2006

Ah, Margaux. The terroir I love to drink.
Why do I find the wines of  Bordeaux’s Margaux region so intoxicating? 

Let’s look at this phenomenal wine for an example:
The color is deep ruby/purple. The nose is a melange of dark notes: I smell cassis, roses, and wet earth. Gentle alcohol content from slow legs, but the wine is chilled to 60 degrees F as it’s 98 outside. First sip: black currant, vine and gravel are the dominant flavors on the palate. I experienced a delicious classic Margaux with medium body, yet highly concentrated flavor and very silky, gentle tannins for a super smooth, long, and velvety finish with a sweet note that may surprise you. The wine is a blend of 50% cabernet sauvingon, 35% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit-Verdot grapes. At $60/bottle, not for the faint of heart (or wallet) but a delectable wine, every bit the 91-93 points rated by the top three commentators, who suggest this wine will be at its peak in 2015. I won’t be waiting that long when (if) I get to pick up another bottle.

Grand Cru Class of 1855: Chateau Malescot St. Exupery Margaux 2006.
You should be jealous: this wine is superb, smooth, and velvet deliciousness. YUM!!!!

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Q: Why is it the red varietal blends of the Margaux region of Bordeaux are so intoxicating?

A: It must be the complex flavors, perfectly blended and mixed to supply a powerful nose and flavor yet with such gentle tannins, resulting in a lengthy finish that I always describe as “silky” or “velvety” when drinking a classic Margaux. -JvB

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Locations Wine WA4 -Washington State

8 Jan

Locations Wine by Dave Phinney, WA4 Washington Red Wine Blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Petite Syrah. %15ABV, $20/bottle MSRP.

Color is deep purple with maroon edging, while the nose offers dark blue fruit and dank, forest floor. On the palate, there are blueberry, black plum, and boysenberry, along with some darker notes of clove, soil, wet leaves, with a hint of bitter almond. Holding in the mouth and allowing the tongue to absorb, heat sears across the top palate. What starts as a big, rustic smack in the mouth evolves once the heat of the high alcohol passes by; then soft, silken tannins coat the palate. On the medium finish there are flower cuttings, minerals, and a hint of wood. Secondary notes of lilac, lavender, vanilla, granite, oak and schist complete the profile.

 

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Fun to drink, quick to get lost with. This was an easy wine to drink, with a gorgeous mouthfeel. It paired with anything I tried: flank steak, spicy chili, taco night, even goat cheese on olive crisps. The high alcohol content kept me from drinking it on its own, but helped this wine stay vibrant and interesting for several days after opening. When I buy more of this, I doubt a bottle will survive that long before draining. High in value and reaction, low in stress and easy to pair? You could fill your cellar with cases of Locations and just rotate bottles. Dave Phinney has mad skills, but we’ve known this for some time. 

 

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Don’t let the label fool you. This is no simple bottle from Washington State. This might make you want to move, or start making wine from Washington yourself! So be prepared, because once you fall in love with this, you’ll be quick to open up your wallet to those other boutique winemakers I keep harping on about.

 

 

 

à vôtre santé!

 

Locations Wine AR5 Argentinian Red Blend

30 Dec

Argentina.

Mendoza’s Uco Valley is ripe here.

And nowhere have I seen that ripeness as evident as right in this bottle of wine.

 

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Locations Wine AR5 Red Argentinian Blend; %14 ABV, MSRP $18/bottle. 

Color is magenta with light purple edging. Boysenberry, cassis, menthol and lavender oil are demonstrated on the nose. In the mouth, juicy black plum meets blackberry jam, spice box, saddle leather, slate, gravel and wet stone. Plenty of acid keeps the palate hopping, while firm tannins round out this young and exciting wine.

With a classic and bold Argentinian flavor profile, this blend of malbec & cabernet sauvignon paired beautifully with meatballs and pasta, as well as a bite of dark chocolate before the bottle was empty.

Adjectives like intense, explosive, and vibrant fit this wine well. I had expected to taste it with Thai, Mexican, and a classic American steak, but my brother-in-law and I quickly polished off the bottle without thinking. I expect you, too, will find this wine so easy to enjoy that it’s gone before you realize it.

It has been a while since I tasted the Andes and Argentina. But the taste of them are both bold and fierce in this bottle.

At this price, you should have a few of them in your cellar. Not because of the 95-point score it received from the 2016 Sommelier Challenge Wine Competition, and not because Robert Parker thinks the winemaker, Dave Phinney, is a wine god. Buy it just because it’s damn good wine that your mouth will thank you for. 

 

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à vôtre santé!

Opus One: America’s Luxury Wine Brand

8 Oct

En route to Lodi, I asked a fellow, trusted oenophile for advice: “If you had ONE winery to visit in Napa Valley, what would it be? The answer was one I’d hoped for, but never expected to hear. “Opus One,” was the reply. Seeing it was on the top of my list, I made my reservation, then used my New Yorker’s attitude on myself and insisted I would clear my mind; assume nothing, have zero preconceived notions, and let the experience wash over me like any other tasting.

In hindsight, I was right to do so. But in reality, I have to admit, it was a fool’s errand.

This is simply NOT just any other tasting.

The experience is geared toward the One Percent. Gorgeous lines, limited access, muted colors, hushed voices. I was unfazed. Even after tasting the wine, I kept my composure. I took my glass to the roof and wrote my tasting notes, which is when my restraint began to unravel.

 

The 2010 Opus One. Napa Valley Re Blend. Napa, CA.  14.5% ABV. 

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Deep ruby in color. The nose offers black plum, blueberries, mocha, dark chocolate and green pepper. In the mouth, an exquisite balance. Forward in the palate are blackberry, cassis, rose petals. Secondary notes of earth, clay, and vanilla. Overall response is a beautiful proportion of black fruit atop a bedrock of acidity and mature tannin. Larger than life, expressive, and with a long, delightful finish.  

 

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When does an American modern wine drink like a classic Old World Chateau? When it is the ideal marriage of old and new world.

 

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One of the few masterworks commercially available, Opus One is the premier luxury brand in American wine. There are more expensive brands, more exclusive brands, but this, without a doubt, is the Rolls-Royce of American wine. It merges the ideal of classic and historic French grapes and winemaking with American innovation, modern farming, and production.

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After inhaling the aroma of the wine for almost half an hour, I had to imbibe.

With a classic Opus One, these is no need for a spittoon. 

à votre santé!

David Phinney & Locations Wine E4

2 Oct

If you don’t know Dave Phinney by name, you surely know his work. Phinney’s red giant of a wine star The Prisoner red blend is found in steakhouses around the world, and is also the headliner of The Prisoner Wine Company  that Phinney sold to Huneeus Vintners a few years back. Just this past June, Phinney’s Orin Swift Cellars series (featuring popular wines like Papillon and Abstract) was purchased by E&J Gallo as an addition to their luxury brand portfolio. Talk about the secret to wine success!

Phinney’s current project is taking his style of winemaking abroad while keeping it affordable. Locations Wine allows Phinney to blend across regions and AVAs, without boundaries or compromise, with MSRPs under $20/bottle.

 

Locations Wine E4 Spanish Red Wine; 14.5%ABV, MSRP $18.99. Sample provided by Balzac Communications.
A mix of Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell, a Cariñena grapes were sourced from the famed Spanish wine regions of Priorat, Jumilla, Toro, Rioja, and Ribera del Duero and blended to make E4 sing a story of old vines, low yield, quality grapes than any household can afford. Barrel aged ten months prior to release.

Color is deep purple. Nose of black plum and cassis, with hints of rosemary and oregano. On the palate, juicy ripe and concentrated blackberry & black plum are dominant, followed by with green herbs, spice, wood, vegetation and lasting minerality, all deftly placed in this tasty blend. The mid and rear palate are as delightful as the initial rush. The lengthy finish has notes of potting soil, cedar, bitter herb, oregano, and wet stone. Overall impression is a well-balanced wine of obvious Spanish heritage, with spicy upfront fruit matched by a series of notes and flavors, marrying bold flavors with intense heat, powerful acidity and strong tannins.

I enjoyed tasting the E4 by itself, for starters. When I paired the E4 with food, I stopped thinking about the specific notes and depth of flavors, and suddenly just enjoyed the experience. To have that transcendence is what wine and food pairing is really about– a seamless boost in pleasure, elevating the relationship of food and wine, making the individual elements better by the complement and combination of flavors.

 

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And what about the ability to create wines that make people enjoy themselves and forget why they were tasting a wine in the first place? That is why Dave Phinney is such a tremendous winemaker. Trust me, if you aren’t a fan already, you will be soon enough.

 

 

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This E4 is such a delightful wine, it makes me excited to taste the AR5 (from Argentina) and F5 (from France). Reviews on JvB UnCorked will be coming soon!

à votre santé!

 

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