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A Surprise Merlot for Rosh Hashana!

10 Sep

Alexander Winery, 2009 Reserve Merlot, Galilee, Israel.  %13.5 ABV. Found online for $37/bottle. Ⓤ𝖯

 

 

The decade=plus of age on this bottle made me reach for it when it was time to choose wines for a special dinner to celebrate Rosh Hashana the Jewish New Year.

Of the four wines I chose (a Napa Sauvignon Blanc, a full-bodied Bordeaux Blanc, a delicate Burgundy pinot, and a full-bodied, reserve red), I was not expecting the merlot to be the breakout. But it was, hands-down, the crowd favorite.

Dinner began with slices of apple with honey to bring in a sweet new year, and then spicy flounder cakes and Israeli cucumber salad. For the main course, coq au vin with garlic-balsamic Brussel sprouts made me think that the Burgundy would be the star wine for the evening.

Not according to my guests! They loved the full-bodied yet soft mouthfeel of the supple merlot from Northern Galilee. They adored it with the fish, and sang its praises with the fowl- especially pairing with the savory dark meat and the vegetable courses.

Color is deep purple with garnet edging. The nose is a rich blueberry compote with menthol and vanilla bean. On the palate, a robust burst of blackberry, plum, and cranberry. Solid acidity leads into a firm slice of heat across the top palate. Secondary notes of mocha, toasted oak, green herbs, and a touch of clove. Succinctly dry, with a long finish. Our guests wanted more to taste, took pictures of the bottle, googled the winery and importer

I kept tasting back and forth with the wines, and personally loved this wine’s pairing with the dark meat chicken, as well as the plum cake and flourless chocolate cakes served for dessert. In the $24-40 range, it is a lovely choice for a bottle with this heritage and age (though it could certainly handle another five years!) Without a doubt this wine is a win, worthy of your table for the holidays or any day that you want to make special.

 

#WIYG?

 

Share with me- what’s in your glass, what wine is gracing your table this week? Click the link below and let us know!

 

à votre santé!

 

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Napa Royalty: Chateau Montelena

28 Aug

When you plan a special occasion with friends & neighbors, the wine has to be perfect! So an important summer evening recently became OTBN- “Open That Bottle Night”, when we pull a special bottle from the cellar, to enjoy with good friends. For our wines, I turned to new world wine royalty:  Napa’s own Chateau Montelena!

Chateau Montelena Chadonnay 2015; Napa Valley, Ca. 13.8%ABV, SRP $58/bottle.

 

The color is a medium straw with a green hue. The nose shows fresh melon with a touch of baking spice. On the palate is baked apple pie, a hint of peach, notes of vanilla and significant oak influence, followed by more spicy notes- ginger root, and young pineapple. Lush and savory with mid-weight appeal. This is a delightful chardonnay that sings of fruit in the barrel. Paired with grilled vegetables and chicken, the nose and flavors elicited verbal oohs and aahs from our guests of honor.

One tastes this wine, and immediately thinks of the 1976 Judgement of Paris that changed the way the game was played both in the old world and new world of wines. This modern-day offspring of that world-changing wine maintains the beauty of the classic vintage with restrained fruit notes, solid acidity, a savory mouthfeel, and age-worthiness. It has been years since I tasted Chateau Montelena’s chardonnay, -a 2010 vintage- but the wine’s flavors memory recall a near-identical, idyllic and glamorous tasting experience!

 

 

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2015; Napa Valley, Ca. 14.2%ABV, SRP $61/bottle.

 

The color is deep ruby with magenta edging. The complex nose offers mature black fruit followed by notes of forest floor, leather, oak and spice. On the palate, the fruit is a blend of raspberry and juicy red plum with bright acidity; there are secondary notes of mocha, clove, potting soil, and a lovely finish with rich tannins, featuring a timber note that suggests the wine aged in both French and mature, perhaps Eastern European oak. This paired beautifully with the main course of dinner of grilled meats, along with fresh fruit and hearts of palm salad, zucchini and greens, yet the wine’s impact was even greater afterwards when we simply chatted and enjoyed the depth of each sip, the enchanting, silken mouthfeel, the impressive girth and balance of the wine, and the expressive flavor profile.

 

 

Like some wines of the Old World, Napa’s Chateau Montelena demonstrates consistency and tremendous quality over the decades. Their wines are a trustworthy delight to experience, and provide a very high level of both value and pleasure, vintage after vintage. 

 

à votre santé!

 

The Red Wine You Need for Hot Weather!

19 Aug

Cantina Kaltern Kalterersee Classico Superiore “Leuchtenberg” 2016; Alto Adige, Italy.  13.5% ABV, Around $20/bottle.

 

The lighter reds of summer. Some of my wine-loving friends drink cabernet sauvignon all year ’round, but I ache for wines with gentler body, brighter fruit and higher acidity that you can drink all night, still feeling my palate.  This is one of those delightful treats you need to have in your cellar!

Color is a translucent cerise, while the nose offers fresh ripe raspberry. On the palate, bright young cherry and raspberry are followed by secondary notes of black pepper and smoky paprika, with a medium finish and hints of oak, granite, and volcanic basalt. Made from 100% schiava, this wine is summer’s best friend! Delightfully light and fresh with plenty of bright fruit, perfect acidity, and moderate tannins make this schiava so easy to drink during hot, humid weather, and hard to resist a refill!

 

a beautiful translucent color in the glass

 

Over the course of a week, I paired this wine successfully with a spicy tomato sauce over pasta, grilled salmon and zucchini, veal cutlet and steamed asparagus, Thai noodles, southwestern fajitas, and cheeses from mild to moderate. I remember in Alto Adige how beautifully the local fare complements these delicate, high acid, alpine wines: carpaccio, speck, polenta and risotto, dumplings, and beautiful dishes that combine whatever is sourced locally– often beef or pork, wild game and fowl, cabbage, and apples.

 

 

While wines like Kalterersee Classico Superiore may be harder to find in the states, most wine stores do carry Italy’s schiava or lagrein, which are ideal summer drinks that more people need to try and share for your summer barbecue, dinner party, or just a night at home. At $20/bottle or under, schiava has enough flavor and punch to match with heavy meals, but remains delightful and fun with moderate weight and body.

One more thing you will find is that it goes down easily, and leaves you wanting more. That’s my kind of summer wine.

 

 

 

What is in your glass this summer, while you fight the humidity and try to beat the heat?

Let me know below!

à votre santé!

 

 

Mastroleo Negroamaro 2012

24 Jul

Ok my Italian Wine Lovers, start your engines! 

Mastroleo Negroamaro 2012, Puglia, IGT, Italy. ABV 13%, $15/bottle at Wine & Spirit Company, Forest Hills.

Color is a deep garnet with maroon edging. The nose provides a floral mix with black plum and fresh earth. On the palate is a nice melange of black fruit: black cassis, plum, dried fig, and prune; a lively acidity with moderate heat across the mid-palate. Secondary notes of forest floor, potting soil, sodium, toasted oak, and granite. A moderately-long finish that returns the fruit back to the palate, with a tiny hint of pleasant bitterness after the finish completes which re-awakens the mouth for another bite or sip. This wine really reminds me of my trip to the Mediterranean last year, with beautiful dark flavors. The acidity in this wine makes it a great balance now at a median age but I feel it could easily age another four or five years. And while it was $15 near me, a quick search online showed it commonly sells for $12/bottle- a good deal for a nice Italian food wine! Still, I feel $15 is a bargain for a nicely aged Italian red that would be a great gift wine or dinner wine. The label looks far more expensive!

 

 

Food pairing was simple with a spicy chicken fajita dish on the first night, another evening with grilled steak and asparagus, and a third day with a mix of cheese from mild to heavy. I’d love to pair this with a spicy tomato sauce, but perhaps a perfect pairing might be game: wild boar or venison- this is a wine designed to pair with food and friends! I’d love to add this to my cellar for times when you want a wine that has beautifully dark flavors and tones without the massive fruit of Cabernet sauvignon or syrah. This is a real conversation wine as well as a delightful and inexpensive bottle that can age well– I have found several of my cellared wines to be closed at the age of six, but this negroamaro is in excellent stride.

Thanks to  my friends and fellow wine writers  Debbie Gioquindo,CSW and  Lodi Budd for “Winephabet Street” ,their monthly online chat about a different grape each month which got me out of my “nebbiolo” comfort zone to try out Negroamaro! 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

#AlsaceRocks My 50th Birthday

21 Jul

You turn 50 once. I thought it would be no big deal, but in retrospect, it feels like so much more important than turning 40 did. My birthday week was full of shows and long hours at work, and arrived at the end of June, which happened to be a month of #AlsaceRocks promotions! So when I finally got a chance to sit down, I treated myself to two bottles of Crémant D’Alsace that became an awesome birthday present!

 

Jean-Baptiste Adam Crémant d’Alsace “Emotion” Brut Reserve, Alsace, France. ABV 12%; SRP $22/bottle.

 

Color is a pale gold, with a nose of brioche. The palate is apple, young pear and citrus; the mouthfeel is a medium-bodied rich texture with moderate, delicate bubbles. Comprised of 95% chardonnay grapes and 5% pinot noir, primary fermentation takes place in hundred-year-old wooden barrels and the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. Aged on the lees for nine months prior to disgorgement. This drinks like a champagne at more than twice the price. I was highly impressed at the quality and value of this bottle, but wanted to get a layman’s opinion of the wine. 

 

 

My next-door neighbor Lori was home, and we sat on the front step and enjoyed a glass of this to celebrate the week, that our kids were home, and because we deserved it. Lori admits she doesn’t know a lot about wine, but she knows what she likes, and she has a huge fan of the high-end white Burgundy that is my personal cocaine- so I consider her an excellent, non-professional barometer, and I asked her opinion. Lori thought it was important to note that it is both elegant and fun to drink, how nice and dry the Adam crémant is, and that she really likes the combination of apple and vanilla flavors it exhibits. After another sip, she admitted that while she loves bubbles, she’s didn’t like Champagnes as much as this, which exhibited more character and style. I’d call that a HUGE win, and solid agreement on my loving this bottle, and wanting more from Jean-Baptiste Adam!

 

 

 

Maison Willm Crémant d’Alsace, Blanc de Noirs, Alsace, France. 12% ABV, SRP $22/bottle- seen locally as low as $16/bottle, street price.

Color is pale gold. A delicate nose of green apple with effervescence, while on the palate: lemon citrus, young pear, with refined bubbles that create a silky, gossamer mouthfeel. A tiny hint of bitters with a lovely and succinctly tart finish. I could drink this all day long and nearly refused to jot down tasting notes (as you see, I relented). This delightful wine is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, which are softly pressed and separated from the skins quickly to refrain from exacting color from the grapes. This is a classic and harmonious representation of Alsace and is a delightful sparkling wine.  

 

 

 

So, if you have to have an iconic birthday, ok, really,  if you need any reason to celebrate, or if you just deserve a treat, seek out Crémant D’Alsace and taste it- I expect you will be shocked and amazed that these taste like single-vineyard Champagne at a fraction of the cost. Whether you prefer the Chardonnay or Pinot Noir versions- both are SO delicious-  I know that you, too, will agree that #AlsaceRocks! 

 

à votre santé!

Ranch 32’s 2016 Vintage

8 Jul




Ranch 32 Chardonnay 2016, Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey, California. 13.5% ABV; SRP $20/bottle.

Color is pale yellow, with a nose of pear, pineapple, vanilla extract and toasted oak. On the palate, apple and pear dominate with a buttery and rich mouthfeel, wrapped up by hints of brown butter sugar cookies and lime zest. This is a great wine to sip on the porch in the afternoon; perhaps the ideal food pairing is baked chicken with fresh vegetables. This is the classic, savory, buttery chardonnay made with ten months of aging in French oak, a touch high in alcohol for me but the mouthfeel did not give that away. For my readers who love classic California chardonnay in the under $25 mark, this is a bottle you need to find!

 

 

Ranch 32 Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Hames Valley and San Lucas AVAs, Monterey, California. 13.5% ABV; SRP $20/bottle.

A blend of two fruits from two Monterey estates, aged for 12 month in French and American oak. Color is deep garnet with maroon edging. The nose offers cassis and blackberry, then green vegetation with notes of eucalyptus, basalt, and cedar. On the palate: moderate dark fruit starts and finishes. Black plum and black currants cross the front palate, potting soil with loam and sodium on the back palate with a spice mix and heat from the alcohol across the top palate. Medium-long finish with strong fruit is retained thoughout. I tasted this over the course of a week and the fruit profile expanded to full maturity after a couple of days. It was delightfully young upon opening and evolved with air to a nice maturity, so I’d suggest decanting or using an aerator for maximum enjoyment. Ideal pairings with grilled meats and game, my preferred pairing was grilled steak and grilled vegetables (also endorsed by a vegetarian guest who did the pairing solely with grilled vegetables). I found this wine to be a solid value, especially at the street price you will find in the $15-20 range.

 

 

Ranch 32 Pinot Noir 2016, Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey, California. 13.5% ABV; SRP $20/bottle.

 

Color is dusty rose, while the perfumed nose offers rose bush, raspberries, fresh cuttings and sand. On the palate, fully mature cherry and raspberry, notes of sea salt, moss, sandy loam, and white pepper. Considerable heat on the medium-long finish, notes of burnt coffee beans and tasted oak wrap up this little gem. I adored this wine with hot artichoke dip, both cured and baked salmon, and dried meats. I could see this wine easily pairing through an entire meal, tantalizing your mouth from the appetizer to after-dinner bites of strawberries, chocolates, or cheesecake. There is a sense of old-world glamour in this wine, perhaps an early California essence that permeates?  Regardless, this is solid value that compares well against wines in the $25+ range.

 

 

#WIYG?

à votre santé!

Lasorda Family Wines 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

14 Jun

Lasorda Family Wines 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, CA, USA. 13.5% ABV; SRP $24/bottle.

 

 

Color is deep magenta with purple edging. The nose offers boysenberry, eucalyptus, and dried black fruit. On the palate is  blueberry and boysenberry, with secondary hints of raspberry and cherry, followed by notes of forest floor, mocha, cedar plank, and granite. There is considerable heat across the front palate, followed by dried blueberry, black plum, and stone across the  tongue; residual heat shifts along the rear of the top palate on the lengthy, fruity finish that features moderate acidity and medium-to-large tannins.

Winemaker Terry Culton has crafted a modern cabernet with a nose and mouthfeel that nod to old world cabernet style, while the flavor profile is unmistakably Paso Robles- that’s a great thing!  And it goes with food, let me tell you! In addition to pairing with American fare, this wine will sit happily along Italian, Spanish and French meats, game, and savory dishes. It is medium bodied with a warm, enveloping and gossamer mouthfeel. I paired this over a five day period with Italian, Mexican, Chinese, burgers, grilled chicken, and steak and I was pleasantly surprised every single time. This is a delicious, food-friendly wine that drinks nicely alone and pairs beautifully with American fare and, like the game, gets along with all others.

Did I expect to like it? No preconceived notion. 

Am I Impressed? Yes.

Would I buy it again? Yes!  

Would it be the perfect wine or gift for your friends & family who are BASEBALL FANS?  Oh HECK yes! 

Editor’s note: If you didn’t automatically THINK about Tommy Lasorda when you read the top lines of this post or saw the baseball diamond on the bottle, ok- you’re not a baseball fan, & here’s the skinny: Tommy Lasorda was a major league baseball pitcher and went on to become a Major League manager. For two decades he managed the LA Dodgers, and was one of the top managers in baseball history. His name is synonymous with professional baseball, regardless of who you root for. Yes, this is his family’s namesake wine. Tommy Lasorda, at 90, is currently the oldest living member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. 

 

 

This wine is an absolute HIT. make no mistake about it, I expected a gimmick, and got scored on.

 

Surprised? Don’t be.
I AM a Yankee fan, after all!

But for any baseball fan, this is a treat! Take this bottle to the park. Or give it as a gift. You’ll thank me. 

 

à votre santé!

Ah-So Rosé – In the Can!

11 Jun

Ah-So Rosé of Garnacha, Navarra, Spain. 12.5%ABV. SRP $19/four pack, or approx $5-6/can, street price. 

 

The Ah-So tool is the strange-looking, two-pronged wine opener that sommeliers use to open older wines or wines with damaged corks. The Ah-So Rosé Wine is cute in that you don’t need any corkscrew or wine opener, the pop-up top allows you to drink it direct from the can or to transfer it to a glass.

“Ach-So!” is also a phrase my great-aunt Tante Anna used in her broken English at  many points in conversation to shift focus, meaning “Ah, now I see”. Her other highly useful phrase when directing the conversation was simply “So” before starting another idea. Speaking of other ideas, let’s get to the wine!

 

The color is fuscia; the nose is of fresh garden greenery and a hint of watermelon. On the palate, muted young raspberry and citrus fruit with solid acidity. Crisp, clean, refreshing, and best served cold. Food pairing is more easy than usual: the delicate flavor and strong acid level make it a good palate cleanser and refreshing wine, so the greatest success is with simpler, cafe or bar-style food. In an easy-to-carry can, it is designed for the beach, boating, the golf cart or poolside. Where a traditional container poses issues, this is an easy-to-use packaging. Sold in four-packs of 250ml each (about 8.2 ounces).

 

L-R: An Ah-So koozie showing the Ah-So Tool, a glass of Ah-So Rosé, and a can of Ah-So Rosé. 

 

Ah-So is a joint operation founded by the duo of third generation winemaker Carlos Lopez de Lacalle and hospitality industry veteran Dustin Chiappetta. The vineyards are made up of 15-45 year old vines, planted in clay and limestone soil. Only organic viticulture takes place, without any herbicides, and grapes are entirely hand picked and sorted from 100% garnacha clusters which are pressed by gravity over a five hour period. Only 100% free-run juice is used for Ah-So Rosé and the vinification is done entirely in stainless.

Ah-So made Food & Wine’s Top 20 Wines Under $12, and to my knowledge is the ONLY Spanish wine currently available in a can. Now you can pile these up in your Yeti Cooler when you’re off to the July 4th party.

Drinking rosé all day just got a little easier!

 

#WIYG?

 

à votre santé!

El Chaparral De Vega Sindoa Old Vine Garnacha

10 Jun

El Chaparral De Vega Sindoa 2015 Old Vine Garnacha, by Bodegas Nekeas, Navarra, Spain. 14.9% ABV, SRP $14/bottle.

Color is garnet with ruby edging. The nose offers young raspberries and green cuttings. On the palate the fruit is red plum, raspberry and boysenberry. Notes of black pepper, aged wood, granite and clay on the long finish. Bold flavors with a solid, matching tannic backbone: this a nicely balanced, medium-bodied wine that is certainly suited with grilled meat or game. I opened this and tried it with strong cheeses where it paired well, but the next day I fired up the grill and paired this with steak and the wine sang so beautifully in that pairing! I sipped it after the meal, enjoying the silky texture and full mouthfeel with the same level of satisfaction, and would pick this bottle up again in a heartbeat. This 100% old vine garnacha has the fruit profile of a cab with the texture of pinot. At this price, you’d be foolish not to pick some up for the summer! A terrific value, this is a wonderful alternative to cabernet sauvignon for grilling or tapas and drinks like a $30 bottle with a price tag less than half that on the street.

#WIYG?

à votre santé!

Blind Tasting Markus Wine Co’s 2015 “Domo” Lodi Red Blend

1 Jun

Markus Wine Company 2015 “Domo” Lodi Red Blend; Borra Vineyards, Lodi, California. 13.8% ABV; SRP $39/bottle.

 

A dry red blend of 75% carignane, 15% petite sirah, and 10% sirah.  Aged 17 months in 25% once-filled French oak casks. 71 cases made, bottled March 10, 2017.

 

 

Color is deep and lustrous garnet with ruby center. The nose is of red roses, stewed plums, and wildflowers. On the palate is massive red fruit- plum, cherry, and raspberry dominates while softer notes of spices and tobacco leaf follow, with a hint of loam on the tart, satisfying finish. The massive fruit is matched with beautiful acidity and a solid tannic backbone.

I was so excited when I tasted this wine that I re-corked it with argon and then took the bottle to a party that night, where I poured blind tastes for friends along with two other top shelf new and old world red blends. After tasting all the wines, and without prompting or provocation, people unanimously came back to Markus Domo- against red blends costing two and three times more, respectively- as the wine they wanted to drink. After a few minutes, I asked people to suggest where they thought the wine was from. “You love French wines, is it Bordeaux?” said one guest. “This is Italy for sure.” said another. “Napa Valley?” inquired a third. When I explained it was from Lodi, folks were surprised.

“JvB, cut to the chase! Wherever it is, from, it’s just really good. Could you pour me some more please?” said the man on my right.

I laughed, and brought back the bottle, thinking, “It’s true. Doesn’t that sum up all we need to know?”

à votre santé!

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