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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!

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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!

 

Recanati: Worlds Collide & Make Brilliant, World-Class Wines

7 Feb

Want to try something new?

Just for a  few minutes, I want you to ignore everything you know about wine regions, and just taste the wines made by Recanati.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. At least, not for someone who has tasted a lot of Israeli wines. I was interested to taste the wines from Lenny Recanati (owner) and Gil Shatsberg (head Recanati winemaker) but I had no expectations. I went in with a positive attitude, trying to provide as much of an open mind as I could possibly muster, and hoping to ignore all preconceived notions.

High hopes, indeed.

What I found was a brilliant blend in business: a historic approach to understanding viticulture and terroir, an essence of a classic French Château approach in making world-class, elegant wines, all while referencing the approach of a scientific, modern, new world winemaker. The results speak for themselves: a library of delicious wines, and serious accolades, like an inclusion in the 2014 Wine Spectator Top 100.

But let us not get ahead of ourselves.

I focused on experiencing  this tasting with a clear palate and an open mind. In doing so, I managed to wash myself clean of my assumptions of what an Israeli wine is, and just treated these like wines. Not kosher wines (which indeed, they are) but just as wines. And below are my tasting notes, some pictures, and some bottle shots.

Recan SBlanc

Recanati Sauvignon Blanc 2014. 13%ABV, $15 MSRP. 

Pale straw in color, citrus nose with kiwi accents. A direct, spot-on demonstration of sauvignon blanc from a blisteringly hot climate whose brutality on the grape provides a textbook, citrus-forward wine. Pineapple, lychee, and citrus in the mouth evoke a crisp, clean and clear wine, made entirely in stainless steel and exuberating freshness. Lovely on the palate.

Recanati Special Reserve White

Recanati Special Reserve White 2012. 13.5%ABV, $50 MSRP.

Medium gold in color, with a nose featuring white peach. On the palate, a blend of savory, sweet and acidity. White pear and green apple with just a hint of fat that rounds out the body nicely and makes the wine compare favorably to a white Bordeaux or Oregonian  blend. Beautiful winemaking, these grapes are hand harvested and pressed only as whole clusters. Using only free run juice, it is fermented sur lie and aged in French oak barrels.

 

Recan LineUp

Recanati Reserve Petite Syrah 2013. 14.5% ABV, $32 MSRP.

Deep purple color with ruby edges. Nose of concentrated black plum. Delightful fruit, I immediately compared this to Santa Barbara styles of  Syrah, although with less pepper on the back palate. Nice example of single vineyard petite syrah: strong and bold all around, big fruit with matching acidity and tannins. Tasty.

Recanati Reserve Petite Sirah

Recan Syrah

Recanati Reserve Syrah Viognier 2012. 14.5% ABV, $40 MSRP.

A blend of  97% syrah with 3% viognier, color is opaque purple with a nose of blackberry and cassis, granite notes on the medium finish. More elegance than the single vineyard syrah, fruit is demure and the wine seems refined and genteel, making it easier to pair with more dishes, offering elegance and austerity.

Recanati Reserve Syrah -Viognier

 

Recanati Reserve Marselan 2013. 14.5% ABV, $50 MSRP.

Inky black color with purple edging, the Marselan is a classic French blending grape rarely shown as a single vineyard. On the palate, blueberry, black plum, powerful acid, white pepper, vanilla, notes of schist and clay on the long finish with abrupt tannins.

Recanati Reserve Marselan

 

Recan Wild Carignan Label

Recanati Reserve Wild Carignan 2013. 14.5% ABV, $50 MSRP.

Dark ruby in color; nose of raspberry, red plum, and bell pepper. On the palate: black plum,  blackberry, stewed strawberries, dried raspberry. Notes of vegetation, vanilla, black pepper, limestone, and toasted oak.  A wine that is dry farmed, non-irrigated, brutal on the grape and as a result, shows stunning flavor. Delicious and unusual: a grape that used to be commonly planted but now is becoming rare.

Recan wine label

Recanati Special Reserve, 2012. 14% ABV, $60 MSRP.

This wine starts with the best barrels of each grape being pulled aside for the special reserve blend . This year, it is a blend of 30% cabernet sauvignon, 30% syrah, 25% marselan and 15%carignan.
Tasting notes: color is a bright ruby, nose of red fruit with eucalyptus and dusty rose. On the palate, red cassis, blackberry compote, blueberry and rose petals. Layered, full bodied, balanced, and beautiful. Aptly named.

Recanati Special Reserve

Recan 3 labels

Lenny, Gil, and their wines made an impression on me. These wines do not remind me of anything I had tasted before from Israel, so perhaps I have managed to shed my preconceived notions. Yes, these are great kosher wines, but the more important point is that in comparison to both old world and new world wines, regardless of kashrut: these are great wines, period.

Recan 3 Reds

My experience in tasting this wines reminded me how important blind tasting is. It’s imperative to recognize that all the knowledge and time we gain in becoming a wine connoisseur can be wasted if we let ourselves judge a wine based on any preconceived notions. Did I think I would love wines from the Mediterranean as much as those from France, Italy, California, New Zealand, and Oregon? No. But why not? Much like Gaston Hochar,  Jacques Puffeney, or Heidi Peterson Barrett, Lenny and Gil are doing something very right. And I also love that their line of offerings includes entry level wines under $15, serious reserve wines in the $30 range, and premium selections over $40.

Intrigued? Of course I am. And now I intend to find out more.

Look for Part 2, forthcoming.

 

à votre santé!

Tasting Hungarian Wine: Kékfrankos and Bulls Blood!

12 Jul

I recently attended a tasting of Hungarian wines. Previously my experience with Hungarian wines have included Tokaji, Tokaji, and Tokaji. While I enjoyed Tokaji (both in the sweet Furmint and aromatic Muskotály), I knew there was more to taste. So come along with me and learn about what other wines are available from this old-world wine region! The host of my tasting was named Martin and when I inquired, he explained that most Hungarian winemakers still use traditional, old-world methods of pressing, punching down wines by hand, and barrel aging- often using the same barrels over multiple times. Here are my notes, in tasting order:    Lajvér Avantgarde Szekszárdi Cuvée Blanc is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, and Czerszegi. Nose of distinct grapefruit. In the mouth, bright citrus, white stone fruit, green vegetation, and considerable heat with a finish that shows spice, flint, and shale. IMG_1269 Günzer Villányi Mont Blanc blends both Muscat Ottonel and Welsch Riesling. With a slightly green tinge and a sugary nose, it shows apricot and citrus with a balanced, gentler acidity and a short finish. IMG_1270 Lajvér Avantgarde Szekszárdi Cuvée is 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc and 20% Merlot, a wine made by blending barrels of aged & fermented single grape wines together. It reminds me of nouveau beaujolais, tasting like a young, bright, fruit-forward wine that hasn’t fully congealed. IMG_1271 Lajvér Avantgarde Szekszárdi Bikavér has an unusual nickname, “Bull’s Blood”. Legend says that during the Turkish invasion of 1552, local soldiers defending the castle of Eger were fed a red wine that was mixed with the blood of bulls to strengthen their resistance, and after 39 days of intense and bloody combat, the invaders departed, leaving the castle intact. Bikavér is the same blend of 40% Cab Sauv, 40% Cabernet Franc and 20% Merlot, as the Cuvée above but a big difference is key: the grapes are blended and ferment in the same barrel together, making a very different and homogenous wine. Medium violet in color, the nose is dusty rose and forest floor with green pepper and granite. In the mouth, strong  black plum, boysenberry, and cassis meet solid tannin and a medium long finish. This is a wine to seek out and taste for yourself. IMG_1272 Mészáros Pál Szekszárdi Merlot is a fragrant wine with dominant flavor of boysenberry with some blackberry, subtle acidity and gentle tannins. Vanilla clay, and reticent oak notes follow. Might pair well with early courses or gentle main courses, this is a relaxed red with a hint of savory maturity. IMG_1273 Mészáros Pál Szekszárdi Kékfrankos is the one from the group I’d suggest that should not be missed by any serious oenophile. This 2012 bottling is 13% ABV and shows red and black fruit, balanced acidity, powerful tannins, and lots of spice. From the new world wines, this wine sits between a red zinfandel and syrah, with a sense of lush gracefulness. The tasting note I finished with was “really lovely”, and I marked this as a buy for my personal cellar. IMG_1274 Lajvér Avantgarde Szekszárdi Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 features 14%ABV and falls into the “classic cab” category, not to be mistaken with any of the new world cabs that feature big fruit up front, this one is nice, dry, subtle, and restrained. Medium purple in color, blackberry is dominant on the palate with medium acid and a medium short finish showing aged oak, forest floor, and chalky clay. IMG_1275 Lovassy Tokaji Muskotály Félédes is a sweet dessert wine/apertitif with fragrant nose of yellow peach and island mango. In the mouth it shows honey and candy with a short almond finish. A distinctive flavor that managed to not be either too sweet or too musky, there is a satisfaction in the balance that offsets the sweetness to prevent it being too much, and it was as popular at this tasting as Tokaji wines have been – hard to keep in the glass, surprisingly easy to drink, and often in short supply. IMG_1276   I was excited to taste a real cross-section of Hungarian producers in one sitting, and hope you get the opportunity to do the same. I expect you also will be pleasantly surprised, and hope readers will now expect and trust in finding quality, old-world wines made by hand in the under $20 range. There is indeed a good cross-section of Hungarian wines available, from whites, reds, and dessert wines, as well as the three not-to-miss wines in my opinion: the Bikavér, Kékfrankos, and Tokaji dessert wines. Enjoy!

à votre santé!

Château Larteau 2006

24 May

Château Larteau 2006, Bordeaux Superior, France. 13%ABV, $13/bottle from Garagiste.

Dark ruby in color with a nose of black currants, eucalyptus and rose bush. On the palate, cassis blends gently with mature tannins. Secondary notes of coffee, road tar, and gravel pair with a medium long finish. Consistent notes over three days; it took significant willpower to allow the wine this much time to sit without completion.

As much as I often think that I don’t care much about Merlot, this wine reminds me that Merlot is often and sadly maligned -Relax, Miles!  This is an excellent example of a delightful Merlot! At nine years old, it has a good balance of flavors, mouthfeel, depth and structure, making this wine an excellent value in the under $20/bottle marketplace. Larteau

à votre santé!

New Jersey Wines: Old York Cellars Merlot & Oaked Chardonnay

30 Mar

Old York Cellars 2013 Merlot, Ringoes, NJ, USA. 15% ABV, $18/bottle.

Color: deep, muted violet with clear edging. Nose of dark plum and menthol. On the palate, mature black and red plum fruit with a hint of cherry cola. Notes of licorice, black pepper, mushroom and young wood on the finish. Drinks more like a cab blend than a merlot, showing big tannins and a wider flavor profile as opposed to a more classic single vineyard merlot.

Old York Merlot

 

Old York Cellars 2012 Chardonnay, Ringoes, NJ, USA. 12.5% ABV; $18/bottle.

Pale gold in color with a nose of tropical fruit, crisp green apple with a hint of oak. In the mouth,   medium fruit -passion fruit, lychee, pineapple and gala apple- showing a supple creaminess before the medium acidity breaks through. Shorter finish with copious oak and just a hint of slate. I found this chardonnay better when served with food than on its own, and ideal for dairy based pasta sauces, rich cheeses, or white meats. It was overpowering with delicate sea bass but very nice when paired with a caesar salad and spanakopita.

Old York Chardonnay

I was pleasantly surprised with my first New Jersey State wines. Both of these wines have complex flavor profiles and could make a huge impact if demonstrated with an ideal food pairing.

Have you tasted a New Jersey State wine before? If so, please share your experience!

à votre santé!

Letters from Readers (I’m Not Drinking Merlot)

21 Dec

Today I got a note from a longtime reader, wine lover, and parent of three teenagers from Georgia.

“Searching for wine for an upcoming girls-only party that I am having next week. Can you give me some suggestions for good low/medium budget Merlot please?”- LS

It made me laugh, because few people identify themselves as merlot drinkers. Remember the character Miles in the film Sideways? Sure you do:

As a bordeaux lover, I’m constantly drinking merlot. But I rarely seem to write about it! Why does it get such a bad rap? Sure there’s lousy merlot out there, but when cared for and cultivated well, merlot can be stunning. It often shows a nose of herbs and forest, great purple coloring, and tasty plum-forward fruit.

I digress. So I answered LS quickly, because as a parent of two teens to a mother of three I can relate. Sometimes you really need that glass of wine, and can’t wait to have other adults to share a glass with!

I wanted to offer her a quick list off the top of my head within the $10-25 range from an array of producers and regions. So here we go:

First to mind was three Bordeaux wines are 65% or more merlot:
Roc de Segur, 2012 ($10)
Mouton Cadet Rouge 2012 ($10)
Chateau de Bellevue ($25)
Washington State was next due to great value:
14 Hands Merlot ($12)
Cht Ste Michelle Merlot Indian Wells ($14)
Columbia Crest H3 Merlot ($13)
California has a huge list, I wrote the first five that came to mind:
Bogle Vineyards Merlot ($12)
Beringer Napa Valley Merlot ($)
Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Merlot ($17)
Murphy-Goode (CA Merlot, $12, Alexander Valley Blend, $18)
Hogue Cellars Columbia Valley ($10, Hogue Reserve$25)
My list was obviously missing the other countries that are doing such great work at low prices! So to be fair, we have to at the very least include three countries whose merlot should be easy to find anywhere:  
Australia:
Yalumba “Y” Merlot ($11)
Mollydooker, “The Scooter” Merlot ($25) or “Two Left Feet” Shiraz/Merlot/Cab Blend, ($25)
Chile:
Santa Ema Merlot Maipo Valley Reserve ($12)
Montes (Classic Series, $11, “Alpha Merlot”, $19)
Argentina:
Gouguenheim Valle Escondido Merlot ($13)

Making this quick list just reminded me how much amazing merlot is out there for a song.

The next time someone tells you they aren’t drinking any merlot, smack them over the head and tell ’em “Relax, Miles!” and pour them a taste of one of these. 🙂
 
I hope this list helps when you go shopping, and let us know how your party goes!
So… who else plans to open up a merlot tonight?

à votre santé!

 

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