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Drinking Locally in the Mediterranean

26 Sep

 

Sometimes my vacations aren’t working vacations! This year my family took a cruise through the Mediterranean with Oceania Cruise Lines. The first night at dinner I scoured the ship’s wine list, curated by Wine Spectator. (You can view a sample of the wine list published here.) There are many wines on the list that I know intimately, others I have tasted before, and some I didn’t know that I’d like to taste. But the wait staff explained to us that for every port we visited, the chef was adding special dishes to the daily menu to represent local cuisine, and I really wanted to taste what the locals were drinking! Long story short,  I had better success in some ports than in others, but I didn’t want to interrupt my extended family’s vacation by taking too much time seeking out something that only half the group might taste or enjoy.

Sardinia, Italy

My fabulous wife arranged for a guide in Sardinia with a bus driver, which provided an easy opportunity to access local wine with a helpful hand! Driving along Costa Smerelda (the emerald coast), we made a quick stop in a local grocery and picked up three local bottles of wine in the €5.50-7.00 range (that’s six to eight US dollars). That, my friends, was a real score!

 

Cantina Il Nuraghe,  Mogoro, Italy:  Sardegna Terralba “Bovale” 2015. 13%ABV. Around €6 locally, found in the USA for $15/bottle.  

The bovale grape is more widely recognized as carignan. Lovely maroon color with a rich, complex nose of rosé, red fruit, black pepper and clove. On the palate: red rasberry/cherry, hints of young black fruit. Secondary notes of forest floor, granite, and gentle wood. Gentle acidity, smoother than expected for a 2015.  Totally a food wine; full-bodied, with a long and fulfilling finish.

For a quick historical note: you savvy readers obviously noticed the name of this winery is  Cantina Il Nuraghe. Maybe you’re wondering what a Nuraghe is: a Bronze-Age stone structures, some even called “Sardinia’s Stonehange”. 
 
Have you noticed a theme? Yes, stony soil! You could take it for granite…it’s actually LOTS of granite!
You can’t help but taste the terroir and the granite in the glass.
But everything isn’t red in the Mediterranean. What else could I score for just a few euro?

Cantina del Vermentino Monti: Funtanaliras Vermentino Di Gallura, Monti, Italy.  12.5% ABV. Found locally for €6; SRP  €10. Online in the USA from $12-16/bottle. 

Color is medium straw with a hint of green berry tinge. Nose is gentle floral with iris, tulip, orchid, and Anjou pear.
On the palate: quince, granny smith apple, and lime zest. Mellow acidity traces a spine of heat across top palate; final notes include a gentle finish with a  hint of almond and granite. We opened this at dinner and it went gorgeously with the meal (and was the perfect foil for the ‘blini’ of sturgeon caviar, seen below).
The vermentino paired so well with the caviar, then also with a salad course, then with snapper with grilled vegetables for the main course.  I’d have been just as happy sipping this on the veranda, looking our at the sea. But I would really have missed the sturgeon caviar…
Provence, France
While shopping in Provence for herbs, I noticed a bin full of local wines and picked one up on a whim. It sold for €14- about $16 USD. As this bottle was more expensive than the ones nearby, the shopkeeper explained that the wine was a blend of syrah; and the bottle was also his personal favorite. He went on to explain (if my high school French served me correctly) that since this bottle was more expensive than most people want to pay for a local wine, only real wine-lovers bought it, which allowed him to drink more of it personally, at a better discount.
Les Baux de Provence Domaine de Lauzières “Persephone” by Christophe Pillon; Mouries, France.  80% syrah/20% grenache blend; 13.5% ABV. SRP €14/bottle.
Color is opaque purple. The nose begins as deep brett/barnyard funk which burned off after being allowed to air, then demonstrating earth, mushroom, red fruit. Palate:  cassis, raspberry, and stewed fruit. Secondary impressions are powerful acidity and long tannins; then essences of toasted oak, limestone, clay and sand. The winemaker says that the entire operation is organic and biodynamic; my palate says that this wine loves a piece of meat and some vegetables,  the rich fruit pairing nicely with savory and spices beautifully.
Every wine I found locally in the Mediterranean can be a great food wine, or a “sit and watch the sea with the breeze in your face, and just enjoy the moment” wine. Maybe that is one of the key approaches to making wine in the Mediterranean. I know that each day, I managed to find time to contemplate. 
Finally- the boat’s sommeliers were just as happy to taste these wines as we were, and were impressed at the QPR found I the local wines and their ability to pair with the chef’s local dishes. While I love the Wine Spectator’s list, there is nothing quite like drinking locally.
I sincerely hope that you find time to contemplate your surroundings with a glass of local wine.

à votre santé!

 

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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!

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!

 

Kosher for Passover Wines, 2017

6 Apr

This year’s Kosher Food & Wine Experience had some tremendous offerings. For this segment, I focused on wines that I thought would be heartily appreciated by any who tasted them, as this holiday brings together extended family, friends, and strangers at our tables. Here are wines I can heartily suggest for Passover 2016 from the Kosher Food & Wine Experience:

The Kosher Food & Wine Experience, 2017. 

2012 Chateau de Valmer Vouvray Moelleux

Pale yellow in color, light nose of floral and fruit blend. Medium bodied white wine, rounded white stone fruit, quince and fig with a hint of almond; a mature, elegant, creamy and savory overall impression. This Loire Valley Vouvray is consistently a solid performer. I should point out the same winemaker makes a younger-vintage, demi-sec Vouvray that is also popular with non-wine drinkers, it’s more direct, less complex, just a hint of sweetness. Either is a solid choice! Around $22/bottle for the aged Moelleux, @ $13/bottle for the currant vintage demi-sec.

Baron Edmund de Rothschild Les Lauriers Rosé 2015

As a fan of Baron Rothschild’s traditional red wines, I’m raving about this rosé. Pale pink in color with a fruity nose, this non-mevushal rosé is incredibly dry on the palate, showing strawberry and cherry with balanced acidity and tannins. Well made, this is a perfect all-meal wine that sings for baked chicken but can handle the whole meal from bitter herbs to red meat to dessert! @ $19/bottle, 13.5%ABV.

 

Château Soutard, 2014

A grand Cru Classé red blend from Saint Emilion, consistently capturing 90+ points from the major reviewers, in the low $40 range. If you can find the 2015, I prefer it (more expressive and longer finish), but both vintages offer beautiful dark red fruit, black plum, plus dark forest, bramble, and leather notes. A full-bodied red, perfect for the Passover Seder and the traditional brisket or roast.

 

Château Giscours, Margaux  2014

You want elegance and luxury? You found it here: a Margaux that is Kosher for Passover, in the $40-$50 range.  Maroon in color with an exotic floral nose with eucalyptus and forest floor, the palate shows medium body of dark red berries, burnt caramel, notes of spice, earth, and stone. Excellent balance, finishes with solid tannins and leaves you wanting more. 13.5%ABV. Pour me another!

 

Grand Puy Ducasse Pauillac 2013

If you love Pauillac, this is your wine: a classic & historic Grand Cru Classé. Color is pale ruby into magenta. A full, expressive nose of black and red fruit with cut greens. On the palate, black plum and cassis are first on arrival, along with green pepper, clove and spice box in quick succession, followed by notes of saddle leather, gun oil, clay, and gravel. Ducasse’s blend is usually 60/40 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, this is consistent with previous experience. Known for tremendous aromatics and intense flavors, the balance is just off-center with more fruit and acidity than tannin at this young age. I promise, you won’t care, unless you purchase by the case and compare it to a vintage that is ten years old. With SRP in the low $70’s, I found this online in the low $30 per bottle with 13%ABV.

 

Château Fourcas-Dupré Listrac-Medoc 2012

Color is bright red with white edging. Delightfully bright cherries on the nose; on the palate this is a medium-bodied red blend.  Dark berries, cassis, black plum, bramble, with pepper and clove. This wine shows well for this young age. Body is rich and this tastes more expensive than its street price @ $28/bottle. 13%ABV. A tremendous value in a classic Bordeaux blend.

 

Château Leoville Poyferre Saint Julien,  2014

A classic St Julien, Léoville-Poyferre is a wine I love any time of year. I simply had no idea it was available in Kosher for Passover! Non-mevushal, it features a deep garnet color, and nose of eucalyptus & leather. On the palate: cassis, black fruit, dry, full bodied. So approachable at this young age, I promise, you will have no regrets. Predominantly cab with merlot in this blend, it is a glorious, full-bodied red with massive tannins and is a total pleasure to drink. Priced in the mid-$60/bottle but found online as low as $50 and worth every penny. 12.5%ABV

 

From Spain: Elvi Clos Mesorah 2014

What, a Spanish Kosher for Passover wine? Yes, and great one! This blend of 40% Carinena, 30% Garnacha, and 30% Syrah is a deep purple in color, with a nose of black plum and forest floor. On the palate, bright fruit is delightful: cherry, plum, and blackberry jam on the front palate while delightful acidity and tannin support excellent balance on this slightly chewy, very intense wine that made me want to buy a bottle immediately.  If you make lamb for Passover, this is the wine you want, found online in the high $60/bottle range.  13.5% ABV on this non-Mevushal wine. If you want to change things up, this might be the way to go- it’s a stunning wine that won’t disappoint.

 

After-dinner/Dessert Wine:
Rayne-Vigneau 2014 Sauternes

Deep yellow in color, the nose is full of sweet fruit, honey and wildflowers. On the palate, apricot, mandarin orange, and honey attack the tongue while racy acidity crosses the top palate. Zesty and alive, a lovely expression and a perfect dessert wine after you’ve enjoyed your four cups. @$25/bottle, 14%ABV.

 

Last but not least:

In 2016 I reviewed a bevy of tremendous wines by Israeli winemaker Lenny Recanati, all of which were Kosher for Passover. Recanati is a winemaker who blew my mind with blind tastings that can compare with some of the finest kosher wines I’ve listed here. Below are three links to three separate posts where I wrote and reviewed Recanti wines, which should be on your wine shopping list whether you are looking for wines in the $11 or $50 range. Recanati wines are simply stunning, and should not be missed, be it Passover or any day, his wines compare beautifully to old and new world wines from around the world. 

Recanati Worlds Collide Part 1:

Recanati Worlds Collide Part 2:

My Kosher for Passover wines of 2016:

à votre santé

Blair Fox Cellars 2011 Syrah

10 Mar

Blair Fox Cellars 2011 Syrah, Fox Family Vineyard, Santa Barbara County, CA. 14.6%ABV; $42/bottle.

Color is deep purple, while the nose offers lush, rich black fruit, pepper, clove, and a hint of smoke. On the palate, dark blackberry, cassis, and boysenberry fruit dominate the front palate, followed by oak, then notes of forest floor, spice, white truffle, clay, and marle: A mouthful of decadence.

 

I have been holding this wine in the cellar since 2014, and am almost sorry to have opened it without other oenophiles to share. This bottle is drinking perfectly now- a wine that three years ago received high marks is now showing ideal maturity. While still a touch hot, the powerful perfume and heady mouthfeel of this wine are luxurious, wanton impacts that smash your senses. Every sip is thoughtful, beautiful, and sensual.

 

I recall a #WBC14 dinner with a table of fellow bloggers, seated next to this North Carolinian (who is now my dear friend) Elizabeth Smith, aka The Traveling Wine Chick!  Blair was showing his beautiful syrah, amongst Santa Barbara pinot noir wines, and I recall that like wildfire, quickly but quietly around our table, it was suggested to “go get some of the vintage Blair Fox Syrah before it’s gone!” We each quickly shuttled over to get tiny pours to taste from the last few ounces of a ten year-old syrah from Blair Fox, and I was entirely impressed by that experience.

After getting home, I purchased a few bottles of Blair Fox. I enjoyed his work, but didn’t have the religious experience I’d had with the vintage syrah.

So here I am now, years later: I would love to try this wine with a decade of age, but no chance. It’s too good to wait any more, and it’s burning up my glass with sip after sip at the moment.

I didn’t intend to review this wine, I just wanted to enjoy something tonight, after a 16 hour work day mixing an incredible event. But I opened this bottle, I tasted this, and I had to share this delight with you, my friends.

You know the way we all respond to a delicious wine that just BEGS for you to imbibe. There won’t be much left, if more than a drop. But I will enjoy it in your honor. And we’ll leave the Mission Haut Brion and Margaux wines until the next time.

 

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!

 

Cimicky & Sons Invisible Man Shiraz 2010

19 May

K Cimicky & Sons Invisible Man Shiraz 2010, Barossa Valley Australia. 14.5%ABV; $25 online, $19/bottle from Garagiste.

Color is deep purple center with garnet edging. The nose exhibits ripe black plum, vegetation, and a hint of menthol. In the mouth, solid cassis with thick black fruit, and dense minerals on the back palate: limestone mixed with clay loam. The back palate shows cocoa powder, coffee bean, and spice box. 

I bought this from Garagiste in February when I was jonesing for big, bold fruit and boy does it deliver! This is a killer wine to pair with red meats in summer evenings, or to enjoy by itself. As with the sleek lines of a vintage European race car, it is easy to discern the extreme care and diligence that went in to making this wine, a labor of love that we now get to delight in. Even better, for a wine under $20/bottle that compares well to bottles of Syrah/Shiraz in the $35-40 range. Yum. Color me impressed. Remember this name- Cimicky, from Barossa Valley, Australia. This winery is one to watch!

Invisible Man Shiraz

à votre santé!

Crazy Like a Blair Fox

25 Jan

Blair Fox Cellar 2011 Syrah, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Barbara County, CA. $42/bottle, purchased from Vineyard. 14.3%ABV.

Color is opaque violet with purple edging. The nose shows cassis and blackberry, with hints of forest floor and truffle. In the mouth, delightful black fruit parries moderate acidity and strong tannins, giving way to a moderate finish that shows black and green peppercorn, leather, and notes of toasted oak.

I paired this with a handmade, artisan cows milk cheese and would love to drink it with grilled beef or a rustic european meal.

blair fox

Last summer I visited Santa Barbara County as part of the Wine Bloggers Conference. This is where I first tasted Blair Fox’s wines, and I was duly impressed with both the recent and their older (historic?) vintages. It was incredibly popular at a winery dinner where vendors showed their finest wares, and all were stunning. Yet, people would quietly say, “try the Blair Fox before it’s gone!” and that stayed with me.

Pricey? Sure. For a California, hand pressed, small batch wine (3 barrels)? Not really. Worth it? Well, my only concern is that I bought wine to lay down…but it hasn’t made it to my cellar, and won’t at this rate. Yes, worth it in my book.

à votre santé!

Roustan’s Big Bang from the Rhône Valley

4 Jan

Adrien Roustan Domain D’Ouréa Vacqueyras, 2011, Rhône, France. 14.5%ABV, priced on the internet from $27-32 per bottle.

vacqueyras

From France’s second Rhône appellation to receive AOC (after Gigondas) comes a delightful, rustic, powerful and tasty red blend.

Color is deep crimson (nearly maroon) with ruby edging. The nose offers dark red and purple fruit with herbs and a powerful waft of alcohol. The palate is huge -a big bang of its own, a cannon shot across the bow- showing ripe red fruit, nicely demonstrating the traditional blend of syrah, grenache and mourvèdre expected from rhone reds. After the initial impact, the palate shifts into a darker series of  gentle woodsy flavors with saddle leather, potting soil, and a medium-long, bold and savory finish with elements of clay and calcium but missing the obvious notes of wood, steel, or concrete. A hint of effervescence dissipated after the initial taste.

This wine came to me as part of a grab bag case from Garagiste and is simply a delightful wine. Were I able to find more of it at under $20/bottle I’d be quick to pick it up; at the internet prices I saw the wine offers medium-pricey but massive flavor for a tasty and well-made biodynamic wine. Compares easily to mid-level Gigondas and other bold Rhône blends price-wise, but not a killer value.

à votre santé!

 

That Time of Year: 2014 Thanksgiving Postmortem

29 Nov

For lovers of the grape, “holiday” means wine time! When chance put a perfect Halloween wine in my hands, I wrote about it (here). But this fall, I found myself somewhat reluctant to write about the biggest food holiday we celebrate: Thanksgiving. Every year I write about what I’m serving, and make suggestions to the myriad friends and lurkers who have come across me in person, at a wine event, on Facebook, WordPress, or via the ‘net. So why was I reluctant to talk about my plans for Thanksgiving wines this year?

*The four wines are I usually serve are: 1) a fun white, 2) a serious white, 3) a delicate red, and 4) a bold red. -JvB UnCorked

What would my four wines be thus year? Last year I had six wines, (one held in reserve for a guest who didn’t make the meal after all) but this year was a serious question. I’ve had some great wines over the summer and fall that made me re-think my choices.

Furiously working on the broadcast of the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and dinner was (thankfully) not at my home this year, yet the wine is still my domain. Because pre-production and broadcast equates to very long hours of hectic work, I planned to serve wines from my cellar, so that removed a lot of options from contention. I had been deep in thought about the stunning pinot noir wines I tasted from Santa Barbara and Central Otago, New Zealand this year. In SB County I had been impressed by Fess Parker, Cottonwood, Blair Fox, Au Bon Climat, and Ken Brown, -just to name a few of the SB wines. Some specific bottles were so shockingly good they just haunted me, such as the Dominio del Falcon from Sanford  as well as Pipeclay Terrace and Long Gully Pinots from Mount Difficulty, and wines from the Otago NZ crowd like Felton Road, Quartz Reef, Rippon, Amisfield, and Mud House.  

IMG_0463

MtDifficulty

 

I was also spoiled by a hot summer of killer treats, and these wandered into my thoughts as I considered what to serve.

Starting with the reds: the delicate red was in contention. I usually serve a bright and acidic pinot, gamay, or cru beaujolais but I kept returning to this crazy idea of serving an Aussie sparkling shiraz called The Red Brute from Bleasedale Vineyards I tasted earlier this fall. Sometimes I have to take a chance, right?

The serious red has lots of options but can be a tough choice, when you have my wine cellar. I have some nicely aged reds (like the 2000 Pomerol, or 1996 Cos D’estournel, and other earlier delights) but knowing the guests who would attend, I kept thinking that one of the 1.5L northern Rhône bottles I have on hand would pair best. The Pierre Gonon syrah is a juicy black currant delight with tons of darker notes of earth and leather, good acidity, and is a crowd pleaser. While I consider this vintage too young for a red meat entrée, given this meal, it will provide a perfect pairing, and I know people will adore it.

Having waffled on my traditions for those two, I have to sit back and slow down for a moment. There are three more wines I need to consider, one is the delightful rosé from Modus Operandi Wines that blows away most wine drinkers at the table. It always goes something like this:

Guest: “Sorry, I don’t like rosé.”

Me: “No problem, just humor me and take a tiny taste of this, then we’ll move on.”

Guest: “Oh, ok. (sip). Oh. Wow, that’s really good. May I have that?”

Me: “Of course!”

But having enjoyed so many great rosé’s this summer and fall, in my mind even my kick-ass Modus Operandi rosé was in question after being impressed by this inexpensive sleeper rhône rosé, Belleruche Rosé from the Côtes du Rhône just recently. I really enjoyed it, but was not sure it could stand up to the red meat in the soup or the savory flavors on its own. I decided to stick with my gut on this and transferred the Napa 2012 Modus Rosé from the rack in the cellar to the safety of my six-slot wine bag.

I also wondered about the red and white blend from Tess Vineyards that I found on Underground Cellars. It’s a little bit of a lot of things, and its fresh and light yet fruity and fun. But I feared a red/white blend would be too much of a challenge for some of the older & traditional crowd at the meal, so I decided to hold that for a tasting I’ll host  in the next few months.

Tgiving Reds

 

I needed a simple solution for at least ONE of my wines! So the “fun” white was easy: Leitz’ Dragonstone riesling from the Rheingau. It offers great minerality, white stone fruit, a touch of sweetness, and a crisp finish.

On to my final tough choice, the serious white. My go-to here is a Bordeaux blend, and my cellar has some great choices. I opened up a couple of crates and looked at options while thinking about the total wine lineup, and I went with a choice that for me seems out of left field:  I took a bottle of my ’09 Vintage Tunina from Silvio Jermann that is huge, rich and creamy.  I adore this classic IGT blend of white grapes, and I could not think of a better meal to pair it with that Thanksgiving dinner.

Tgiving Whites

 

I finally sat back and was able to breathe. This year’s Thanksgiving wines, all told. Wines from Germany, Italy, USA’s Napa Valley, Australia, and France: a true melting pot, just like NYC.  For me a few surprises, but lots of tradition. Something for every palate, and the only repeat is my favorite rosé.

TgivingWines

 

 

As I had hoped, when the day arrived, the wines were a hit. Everone who tried The Brute sparkling shiraz was surprised how savory, dry and refreshing it was, and both it and the rosé paired amazingly well with the first course, a beef vegetable soup, and the main meal. The Gonon Saint-Joseph was the crowd pleaser I expected, pairing beautifully with the meal, while the non-drinkers enjoyed the riesling and the vintage tunina held court nicely. My wife’s ninety-one year old uncle said to me, “you brought a lot of wine, you might have a little left over at the end of the meal”, but I told him not to worry. Like the leftovers from the meal, I was sure they would not last long.

à votre santé!

 

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