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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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Wine Pairing with Fattoria Betti

28 May

Imagine sitting down to dinner in one of the hippest restaurants in Brooklyn, Le Fond. Chef Jake Eberle greets you, and walks you through his four course menu. Then Guido Betti offers up his namesake brand, Fattoria Betti wines, to pair! Eberle’s four course menu for the evening was, of course, designed to complement the selected wines.

Course 1/appetizer: Spring Vegetable Carpaccio, with “Creto De’ Betti” 2016, our first wine; a white blend of 70% chardonnay and 30% trebbiano (aka ugni blanc) at 13% ABV.

 

 

Color is light gold, tiny green tinge. The nose shows light citrus with pineapple, white pear, and wildflowers. On the palate: white stone fruit, a hint of white flower, and white pepper. Medium mouthfeel, hint of savory meets firm acidity, green apple, crisp finish with clay and chalk. A lovely opening salvo of citrus that matched up beautifully with the vegetable carpaccio, a series of delicate flavors designed to tease the tongue.

 

Course 2/Pasta: Cavatelli in a spinach emulsion, served with wine#2, Chianti Montalbano, 2016, blended from 85% sangiovese, 8% canaiolo nero, and 2% cabernet sauvignon. 14%ABV; the color is a translucent ruby; the nose presents stewed red fruit, eucalyptus, saline, black cherry, with a hint of plum. On the palate:  red plum, black cherry, sodium, pepper, and clove. Finish is medium long with lasting fruit and medium tannin. A perfect pairing with the pasta, the spinach, mushroom/cavatelli. Bravo! This was my favorite dish and wine pairing for the evening. Both the dish and the wine were stunning individually, but together they were masterful.

 

 

 

 



 

Course 3/Entree:  Braised lamb shoulder, paired with wine #3: 2016 “Prunideo”– 14%ABV, the wine is composed of 90% sangiovese grapes and 10% cabernet sauvignon grapes. Color is deep ruby with a magenta center; the nose is strong, showing dark red fruit, menthol, and eucalyptus. On the palate, a powerful combination of red and black plum, sour cherry, and cassis. With a medium-long finish, showing remnants of fruit with long heat, acid, and brawny, muscular tannins.  A solid pairing for the braised lamb shoulder, which melted in the mouth. Decadent and savory, the wine is succulent and robust. A very nice pairing!

 


 

 

 

Course 4/Dessert: Chocolate crémeux, paired with wine#4, “Caprone” a rosé of Sangiovese, 13.5% ABV. Color is a luscious deep pink/dusty rose. The nose is a delicate balance of strawberries and fresh cut grass. On the palate: cut red fruit- bright strawberry, watermelon, raspberry, and yellow peach, with a tart finish, showing off bright, fresh acidity and subdued tannins. The rosé paired beautifully with the vanilla custard in the dessert and was both tasty and fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guido Betti, proud of his namesake & heritage!

 

Finally , over the course of the last week, I have been cooking and tasting a fifth wine from Fattoria Betti! The 2015 “Semel” is 100% merlot, with 14% ABV. The color is medium ruby with purple center. The nose offers black plum, cassis, and black cherry. On the palate, it is a big, bold wine with a strong mouthfeel of black and red fruit, and solid tannin backbone. I paired this one the course of a week with chicken chili, fajitas, several cheeses, and finally with Szechuan chicken- the wine’s massive mouthfeel is ideal to match up with strong flavors, and it does not shy away from cleansing the palate!

 

 

Overall, I was impressed with how well a historic Tuscan winery stood up to such a bevy of worldwide flavors and influences, and how flexible and universal sangiovese can become. With a knowledgeable winemaker, sangiovese can become a wine chameleon with the ability to blend and shift to match any cuisine. I quite enjoyed trying the various pairings of “Semel” with my culinary dishes, and my overall experience has introduced me to another lovely winery in Tuscany, as well as to strengthen my love of Sangiovese, no matter where I am, or what I am eating.

 

And of course, if you have a chance to try La Fond in Brooklyn or to taste Fattoria Betti wines, I recommend both experiences!

 

Whats in your glass tonight?   #WIYG? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts, comments, or just what you’re drinking!

 

à votre santé!

What I Drank in Taipei

16 Apr

When work calls, I go. And sometimes it means that JvBUnCorked hits limbo for a few days. One of my recent ‘limbo’ moments was a trip to Taipei, Taiwan.

Before I left, I reached out on various forms of social media to ask “What should I drink when I’m in Taipei?”

I’d hoped to hear about some wine bars or resources. But the responses were few in number. Some said “drink tea, dummy”, others said that Taiwanese people are much more into whisky. I can confirm this- any restaurant I visited that actually had a wine list, had a much longer whisky list, plus other liquors and various house cocktails. But I DID find some good wine, fellow world travelers, and I’m here to share that with you.

 

But first, I drank tea, and it was simply inspiring. My host took me to the Wistaria Tea House, where we drank four different teas- from classic oolong to an “ancient” oolong, a wistaria tea, and a pu’er tea, along with a classic tea ceremony.

If you go to Taipei, do yourself a favor, and go to Wistaria Tea House. 

 

Later that afternoon,  I found wine! We went to a Taiwanese Dim Sum restaurant called Din Tai Fung, renowned for their steamed dumplings, buns, and Taiwanese-style dishes. If you go to Taiwan, DO NOT MISS Din Tai Fung. Getting back on track we had  just finished lunch and were walking through a mall browsing with friends, when my eye spotted this bottle in a mall wine shop. I loved that the back label is in Cantonese! While I knew the bottle was (over) priced based on tariffs, I also knew this was a good option for a dinner wine to pair with Japanese food.

 

Johan Josef Prüm 2009 Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany. 9% ABV, Normally @ $24 USD/bottle; found in wine store in a mall in Taipei for $1700 TWD = $58 USD.

Color is pale straw. The nose offers starfruit, lemon-lime, and sodium. On the palate, gentle pear and apple are met with hints of gooseberry, grapefruit, and lime zest. An excellent blend of citrus with notes of peppercorn, slate, and limestone, presenting a delicate mouthfeel with aged, linear acidity,  Upon opening, I was initially overwhelmed with petrol and a little funk, which burned off with about 20 minutes of air. Paired perfectly with sashimi, sushi, raw fish, and tempura. 

I was happy to have found this bottle but the 2009, considered an excellent year for Prüm, did not bowl me over. I liked it , but not as much as other vintages I have enjoyed. Still, Prüm, a master winemaker of riesling, is always a joy to taste and was a delightful pairing for me and exciting for the Taiwanese guests at dinner who tasted this, at least one tasting riesling for the very first time.

 


I also liked the fact that the back label is printed in Cantonese; that was a first for me.

 

 

A day later after work, I visited the hotel’s executive lounge, which features both Asian, American, and European style food and drink.

 

The bar featured scotch, vodka, several types of beer, and one each white and red wines. I tried the Heartland Stickleback.

 

Heartland Stickleback White Blend 2012, Southern Australia. 13.5%ABV. Street price $8-12/bottle USD.

 

Pale straw in color with a nose of lemon zest and herbs.  On the palate: pear and starfruit, a hint of tangerine, secondary note of dried apple, with a gentle mouthfeel and moderate acidity. Easy to drink, this was food-friendly and popular in the lounge, pairing nicely with fresh cut fruit, cheese, and dried meats. Not enough acid for the zip I  prefer if you want to drink the wine by itself, but a perfectly fine vin du table on a daily basis, especially in the lower price range.

 


 

 

 

My last evening in Taipei, we went to a Szechuan Restaurant that is known for Peking Duck served three ways. But we started off with cod in spicy pepper sauce, green beans, black fungus (mushroom), whole fish in garlic sauce, prawn with chili sauce, and more. My host asked me to choose a wine, but I pulled a classic JvB and asked for two. I went with Champagne, and an Italian red blend…. because, the food, the food, the food! SO TASTY!

 

Jacquesson “Cuvée 740” Extra Brut Champagne; 12% ABV; around $60/bottle USD.

Beautiful lemon-lime zest, sweet apple, white peach, brioche and chalky limestone. A nice balance of fruit, acidity, and mouthfeel; medium sized bubbles bathe the palate while the acid screams for another sip. The grapes in this champagne ( a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier) were harvested in 2012, and it was disgorged in 2017. With a supple mousse, it is easy to down the entire glass- this non-vintage wine is drinking very nicely right now, as if it were a vintage champagne.  This sells in the restaurant for $2800 TWD, about $95 USD- it retails for about $60 in stores in the USA. I found this to be an excellent mid-level champagne, low dosage, perfect for aging, but really ideal for drinking. And enjoy it, we did! This was superb in pairing with the seafood, vegetables, and white meat dishes. it did not last for long, and I will look for it again in the USA!

 


 

 

Last but not least, was a beautiful red wine!

 

Rocca Di Frassinello “Le Sughere” 2012, Maremma Toscana. 14%ABV, SRP $32/bottle in the USA.

 

Dark ruby in color. The nose offers licorice and red fruit. On the palate: cherries, red plum, and dried cranberry. Secondary notes of tobacco, dank forest floor, wet leaves, potting soil. On the finish: toasted oak, a hint of vanilla, and granite. Medium body, with a medium-length finish. My first impression is that this tastes like a classic European field blend: Sangiovese, Merlot, & Cabernet, and was a good foil to the main dishes at the Szechuan Dinner: Peking Duck three ways and stinky tofu, (which had a subtle scent of manure about it) a traditional dish that visitors should try, but one that takes a little getting used to. This wine is probably best with grilled meats, and was a touch strong for some of the Szechuan dishes but is a good choice for a red wine in Asia, with enough body and flexible flavors to handle the savory dishes. It was simply perfect with the Peking duck.

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, I truly enjoyed the many flavors and restaurants we visited in Taipei, and look forward to the continued evolution of wine in Taiwan. I hope to go back, and report on more wine and food!

Gān Bēi!

or…

à votre santé!

 

 

Konzelman Estate Winery Merlot #MerlotMe

18 Feb

Konzelman Estate Winery 2015 Merlot, VQA Niagara Peninsula; Canada. 13% ABV, Approx $15CAD/bottle at LCBO.

 

Color is magenta with ruby edging. The gentle nose shows delicate red fruit. The palate features mature cherries, boysenberry, red cassis with soft, velvety tannin, secondary notes of vanilla, potting soil, sour cherry and granite. Medium short finish, this is so easy to drink by itself and pairs easily almost all foods- my favorites include flatbreads, savory soups, and most meats- but it is simply heavenly with dark chocolate.

This could also be a good warm weather wine for those not into pinot or other bold, high acid wines. With an easy-access screw top, this is a great party wine, and one of the most generally ‘easy to drink’ Canadian reds I have tasted to date in the under $20/bottle price range. I’d absolutely keep a few bottles of this in my cellar for occasions where I want a subtle, drinkable red that is easy to serve anytime and then transition into dinner and stay through dessert, or to please the “I only drink red” crowd when I’m serving Puligny-Montrachet. (Hey, that’s OK- drink what you like!)

This wine is compatible and ubiquitous. like the dinner jacket that is flexible enough to dress up your jeans, or dress down comfortably on formal night.

Sorry about the scratch on the label. It in no way affected my enjoyment of the wine!

#MerlotMe

I like this wine. So should any smart wine drinker! But, it’s apparent that in the United States, the Merlot grape sometimes has a bad rap for no good reason. The reality is: Merlot is a great grape as a single varietal, as well as a tremendous red wine blending grape.

From time to time you might find merlot haters. For the average American, films and social media can have major and minor implications, sometimes even just subliminally. When my fellow YSD Alumnus Paul Giammati (as the character Milo) in the 2004 film “Sideways” gave merlot a bad name, yelling “I’m not drinking any (expletive) merlot!” Many viewers remember that scene fondly, while ignoring the fact that in the same film, Milo’s greatest wine treasure is a 1961 Chateau Cheval Blanc, which is a Bordeaux blend containing – yes, you guessed, it- 40% merlot.

Simply put, merlot is the second-most grown grape in the USA and is critical to many of the worlds greatest wines. We can’t love red wines without loving merlot.

We  know this: Miles was WRONG. Let’s all drink the merlot! Hit up your social media outlets with the hashtag #MerlotMe!

à votre santé!

Antigua Bodega Stagnari Pedregal Roble: Tannat/Merlot Blend 2015

9 Jan

Antigua Bodega Stagnari’s Pedregal “Roble”, 2015 Tannat/Merlot Blend. Canelones, Uruguay. 13.5% ABV. $15/bottle average street price.

Then there is a day you finish work a touch early -ok, just when most people do- after only 9 hours or so. But it’s Sunday. So you walk through the frozen tundra to a Brazilian Steakhouse with three beer drinkers and a non-drinker, all in search of piles of roasted meats. Refusing the beer, you scan the wine list, bypassing the expected by the glass selection, and see a Uruguay Tannat blend- and it reminds you of the gorgeous dinners and unusual wines you had when visiting Montevideo, Uruguay some years ago. So you choose it, asking the server about it. You’re not surprised when she knows nothing about it.

 

 

It’s all ok, because there is some truth in advertising. This bottle is exactly what is says it is.

Color is deep ruby, with purple center. The nose shows dark blue plum, boysenberry, dried floral notes, silica, and a hint of must. On the palate there are huge, chewy tannins, blue and black fruit, nice acidity with huge oaken substructure, followed  by secondary notes of forest floor and granite. The finish feels quicker than it actually is, due to the high amount of tannins. But this is a wine that is made for roasted meat. And what you get at a Brazilian steakhouse? “Roasted meat by the swordful” is the correct answer, so this wine is a great foil. From the chicken breast wrapped in bacon to the farmers sausage to the prime rib to tip of sirloin to the lamb to the tri-tip, this Uruguayan blend (of 60% tannat, 40% merlot) is the value wine that truly pairs beautifully with this meal. Perfect in so many ways, bold & decadent in the same way this meal is about eating huge piles of wonderful flavor, but not a perfect little 6″ filet mignon- this meal is about sizzling bite after sizzling bite fresh off the grill. If you’re planning a BBQ and not sure what to do? This is a great red wine choice for mixed grill: it wants to marry the smoke and rendered fat, the sizzling hot bites of smoky chorizo and the chicken thighs. It is as authentic as the Brazilian woman with her thick portuguese accent bringing the meat to the table, saying, “You gonna want this. Take it; before it’s gone. You gonna ask me for more” as you watch your dining partners’ eyes on her, as she sashays over to the next table before she’s gone.

More, indeed.

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

 

Victor Schoenfeld and Yarden Wines

29 Jun

World-Class Wines, from the Middle East. That may not be the first region that comes to mind, but a few great winemakers are changing that. Victor Schoenfeld, a California native who has been the Yarden head winemaker since 1992,  is credited with being THE single greatest influencer in developing world class wines in Israel, most specifically in the Golan Heights. He’s also a very nice guy, and loves to talk wine. I could have chatted with him for hours and talked terroir and winemaking…but we had wine to taste!

 

Victor Schoenfeld, head winemaker of Yarden Golan Heights Winery

 

And these are some really good wines. World-class, kosher, made-in-Israel, non-mevushal, kick-butt wines.

Don’t believe me? Please, be your own judge and let your mouth tell you. Taste the wines, it’s that easy. I did, and I will tell you, they are worthy wines. I tasted seven wines, and each was impressive in its own way.  Here are my top three that will blow your mind; each of these was so good, I didn’t want to do anything but drink what was in my glass:

 

Yarden Blanc de Blanc 2009, Sparkling Brut Chardonnay, MSRP $30

Light gold in color, with a delicate nose. Beautiful, mature white fruit with gentle effervescence. A delicate sparkling with nice complexity, this wine shows delightful minerality with a hint of toast and no sweetness on the palate. A low-dosage sparkling brut, your mouth will think it is champagne. It was a perfect foil for a raw crudo appetizer.

 

 

Yarden Gewurtztraminer 2016, MSRP $21

Medium straw with a green tinge. Citrus & banana peel on the very floral nose. On the palate, an exotic blend of kiwi, passion fruit, and lychee is matched by a perfect acidity; secondary notes are floral and spice box.  I found this paired so gorgeously with asparagus risotto. I just kept going back and back to it and didn’t want the pairing to end.

 

Yarden Bar’on Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, MSRP $96

Deep, dark, maroon with garnet edging. The nose offers black plum, cassis, aged leather and cigar box. On the palate, mature red fruit along the tongue, with cassis along the sides. A lengthy finish features gravel, granite, and sandy clay. The price on this is worth every penny, comparing well to New and Old world wines in the same price range. This wine was as complex as the lamb I enjoyed with it: flavorful, sensual, evocative, exotic.

 

 

With a few tastes, it’s obvious that Victor Schoenfeld is doing something right, not just great wine (yes!), not just organic (oh, yes, that too!), and not just a few grapes with tremendous terroir. Yarden’s library of wines is varied and includes syrah, malbec, merlot, rosé,  muscat, sauvignon blanc, in addition to these listen just off the top of my head- surely something for every wine drinker.

If you haven’t tried Yarden wines, it’s time for you to taste how the Middle East compares to what you’ve been drinking. You will find yourself impressed, and might be tasting more and more of them. With a full stable of tasty delights, you are bound to find a wine that compares well, and maybe even blows away one of your current favorites.

 

à votre santé!

Charles Smith Wines: Eve, Boom Boom!, and The Velvet Devil to Tempt Your Tongue!

16 Jun

Charles Smith. If you’re like me, hearing that name is enough to scroll down to the reviews. If not, please continue:

Few names in recent years have acquired such rock star gravitas in the wine industry. Wait, You don’t know him? Taste his wines. Don’t have one available? Ok, so in 2016, Constellation Wines bought five of his brands for $120 million. Are you impressed yet? You should be. And I say this, being a superman of the CS Cabernet Sauvignon, because that wine has been one of the top, under-$20 Cabernet Sauvignon wines you can find in the USA, PERIOD.

So when offered a chance to taste a few, I jumped. YES, I want to taste them. I tasted two of these wines for five days. and the other… well, it lasted an hour before it was gone. (Not sorry.) The labels look like a tattoo chosen by a millennial based on their favorite song. So? It’s not about the label, it’s about the juice.

The motto reads loud and clear on the back of the bottle: “Land to hand, vineyard to bottle.” Charles Smith is irreverent and fanciful, yet an incredibly serious winemaker: these wines are seeing at least some portion whole cluster pressed, with fermenting on the lees. Straightforward, the best fruit he can give you from sustainable farming, ideal fermentation, a carefully controlled pH and moderate ABV. So? Ok, fine: TASTING NOTES!

 

Eve Chardonnay 2014 by Charles Smith Wines, Mattawa, Washington. 13.5% ABV, MSRP $13/Bottle.

Color is pale gold, while the nose offers tangerine peel, wildflower cutting, and gravel. On the palate, pure green apple- no wonder the name. It is like taking a bite of a chardonnay apple from the Garden of Eden. Straightforward, fruit forward, less acidity than I expected with a hint of marzipan. On the finish, notes of silt, clay and yeast. At this price point, what chardonnay lover would say no? An easy purchase, at double the price! At street prices, I’d easily put three bottles in my cart. You should do the same.

 

 

 

Boom Boom Syrah 2015 by Charles Smith Wines, Columbia Valley, Washington. 13.%5ABV, MSRP $18/bottle.

Color is a gorgeous, opaque dark orchid/byzantium. The nose shows blueberry, black plum, and crushed  violet while the palate offers up blackberries, plum jam, cassis and black cherry. Secondary notes of pepper, potting soil, wet slate, sandy loam and old wood. I love a good syrah but shy away from the fruit bombs- Boom Boom does a tremendous job of maintaining balance in the wine from opening until day five of tasting, never being overly fruity and only showing a hint of bitterness on day 5. With this gorgeous color, balance of flavor, and gentle alcohol content, how is this still on the shelves? When word gets out, you’ll have a hard time finding this for under $20.

 

 

Are you ready to be severely tempted? You better be…

The Velvet Devil Merlot 2014 by Charles Smith Wines. Columbia Valley, Washington.  ABV 13.6%, MSRP $13/bottle.

Color is a garnet center with purple edging. The nose offers boysenberry, cherry pie and a hint of tobacco leaf.  On the palate, bright, acidic flavor of dark cherries, maturing blackberries, and blueberry. Secondary notes remind me of damp Northwest: wet earth, and young, freshly hewn wood. On the medium-long finish: plum wine, crushed leaves, sand, and the distinct mineral flavors of volcanic rock. And pour me another taste… (just watch, you will do the same.)

OK: I was hoping for the velvety mouthfeel I get from Chateau Margaux, but let’s be honest: should I expect the same mouthfeel from a $13 wine that I do from a $600-$900 bottle? No, but for the cost of this wine, the mouthfeel IS quite velvety. Why? Because Smith is giving us 94% Merlot and adding a few tremendous blending grape (cab sauvignon, malbec, and our beloved friend cabernet franc) and aging in new French Oak to take this wine from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Put this wine in front of ten people, and (incorrectly) they will probably not call it Merlot. It just has a totally different vibe! But they will call it delicious, and they will ask for a second glass, then a third. So will you- and the bottle will be dry, as mine is from tasting pour after pour. Trust me, this Velvet Devil is going to stick a pitchfork in your plans and you will love it.

 

Boom.

 

Now go rock your weekend with a Charles Smith Wine, you can thank me later by sending me a bottle.

For more information on these wines, check out: www.charlessmithwines.com/

 

à votre santé!

 

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.

 

locations-wa4

 

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. 

 

locationswa4

 

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!

 

Don’t tell Miles. We’re drinking Merlot!

15 Mar

Château Tour Peyronneau, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, 13%ABV; MSRP $75/Street $27.

 

Color is purple with violet edging. The aromatic, perfumed nose offers plum, cassis, fresh roses, and eucalyptus. Bold black currant, blackberry, and black plum dominate the palate with an excellent balance of acidity and velvety tannins. The mid-palate garners hints of earth, forest floor, dried leaves and clay. Notes of limestone, gravel, and sand on the dry, lengthy finish. Listed and labeled as both organic and biodynamic, the 2012 blend is 95% Merlot, 5% cabernet franc, but from year to year this producer uses as much as 15% cabernet franc for this wine.

It’s worth pointing out for those who don’t know why I made the joke in the title: This isn’t the cheaply made, of questionable quality, slightly sweet California merlot that Miles rants about in the film Sideways. Instead, this is the lovingly-curated, classically balanced and agile French standard that made the merlot grape worthy of respect. And it is delicious and very well made, but designed to pair with food, not really to enjoy purely by itself.

TourPeyronneau

For most decent St.-Émilion wines, I’d expect to pay over $70/bottle. The ones I adore and have enjoyed rarely in my life (Angelus, Pavie, Cheval Blanc) are in the hundreds of dollars. This one strikes in alongside Simard but is a Grand Cru, and has been seen on both Garagiste and Wine Til Sold Out at under $20- a steal for French wine lovers like myself.

I opened this specifically to try with a decadently rich and savory beef short rib dish I was cooking and it ended up being a phenomenal pairing. It also paired nicely over several days with baked chicken, a dutch cheese, and dark salted chocolate. This wine is one more in the category of “I wish I’d bought a case” but too little, too late for me since I was being overly cautious. C’est la vie!

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

Recanati: Worlds Collide, Part 2

22 Feb

This is the promised follow-up to a tasting I did with Recanati Winery. If you missed  that post, you can read it here

After meeting Lenny and Gil from Recanati Winery, I was determined to find their wines locally in NY. It did not take me long. While running errands, I made a stop at Mayfair Wine & Liquor on Union Turnpike in Queens, NY, and hit on my first try.

Wandering the aisles, I picked up a bottle of Recanati Rosé and took it over to chat with John, the store owner. John is used to me trying his new wines, inquiring everything about his products as well as his sales trends.

He looked at the bottle of rosé in my hand. “Ah, that’s very good,” he told me, “An excellent value and compares well to Loire Valley rosé. I also have others from this winemaker.” He waved me over to another area of the store, showing me Recanati reserves, blends, and single grape wines.  “They sell very well, from the basic blends I sell at $11/bottle to the special reserves. They make some excellent wines across the board, and people come back for more.” I picked up the Yasmin Red. “That is tremendous value, I sell it for $11/bottle; it drinks like wine that sells for $25-30. And their reserve wines, which goes in the low $20’s, are just excellent wines. Forget that they are kosher,” he says with his hands gesturing me to pick one up, “they are excellent wines, whatever you compare them to.” I smiled & nodded, but didn’t want to let him know I had tasted Lenny and Gil’s line just a few days prior. I picked up the rosé, the Yasmin red, a syrah, and the reserve cabernet, the latter two I had tasted previously and just wanted to enjoy again. (Now, come on, every bottle I drink can’t be a wine review. Sue me, I’m paying for them.)

 

2014 Recanati Rosé, Galilee, Israel. 13% ABV, $14/bottle at Mayfair Wine & Liquor. 

Color is a medium-clear and very ruddy pink: an amaranth/magenta center blending out to a clear edge. The aroma shows fresh strawberries with a hint of gardenias. In the mouth, tart raspberry and dried cranberry notes dominate with a spice balance. Good acidity and strong tannins emanate from the side palate for a satisfying, clean finish. This wine is a blend of 70% barbera and 30% merlot grapes, which gives more body and pairing opportunities while still being a nice wine to enjoy on its own. Mental note: I should try this with turkey & cranberry sauce for a possible Thanksgiving wine. Very nice!

rose

 

2014 Yasmin Red Blend by Recanati Winery, Galilee, Israel. 14% ABV, $11/bottle. 

Color is deep garnet at center shifting to ruby with medium opacity. Red currants, jasmine, and hint of almond on the nose. On the palate, red plum, cassis, black pepper and baking spices are followed by a hint of cherry pie and a note of chalky limestone. This blend would be a perfect house red, as it has the flexibility to pair with most styles of food from white meats to game to a roast, and just the hint of sugar that would allow it to pair with a vegan roast vegetable platter.

Yasmin

 

I am constantly reminded while enjoying these bottles (as well as the middle and high end wines from Recanati) that these wines compare better to European and New World wines more than they do to other Mediterranean wines I’ve previously enjoyed. I had several bottles open at a time and they maintained quality and freshness over several days when stored in the refrigerator after opening. The fact that they are kosher wines from Israel are a secondary bonus to those who want kosher wines, when ultimately they simply stand on their own, and compare beautifully to well-made wines from across the world.

 

reserve

shiraz

à vôtre santé!

 

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