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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!

 

 

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Valentine’s Day In Canada! Celebrating Apart w/ Vineland Estates Dry Riesling

14 Feb

My wife “Mrs. JvBUnCorked” is a brilliant, stunning, and gorgeous lady. She also does some really cool things! Often it’s directing or producing theatre, events, and TV shows; sometimes it’s rearing our amazing daughters, being our family’s rep to our beloved neighborhood, or developing new works that make you stop and think. As crazy-busy, type-A New Yorkers, we’ll normally ignore holidays and birthdays, knowing that what really matters in our lives are a few simple things: love, family, passion, & community. Well, for this year’s Valentine’s Day, instead of ignoring it together, we actually celebrated it since we’re apart. Since I’m on the road AGAIN & working in another country, she totally surprised me with some local wine to celebrate this Hallmark Holiday! Yay Mrs. JvBUnCorked! And Yay Canada!

Vineland Estates Winery 2016 Dry Riesling, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada. 11% ABV; approx. $15/bottle CAD at LCBO.

Color is medium straw; the nose offers lemon-lime, lychee and white stone fruit. The fruit profile features white pear with tart apple. After the initial rush to the mouth, medium heat steers across the top palate, with nice, full acidity. Medium in both mouthfeel & body with a tart, mildly bitter aftertaste, this is a great cold weather white that is designed to complement food. I paired this with halal chicken and rice and really wanted to bring a bottle of this to Toronto’s PAI, the best Thai food I may have ever enjoyed (so good we went back 3-4 times each week… REALLY!)

I usually like my rieslings with a tiny bit more sweetness to turn the heat, but I enjoyed the way the Vineland Estates makes no apologies and just IS itself. Like me, it’s an unusual wine: bold, direct, and with a sense of humor, that makes a statement. You’re going to feel strongly about this wine- either for or against, no question. I like it, and for the price, it’s a great option if you like dry riesling!

So tell me- what are you drinking during these cold winter months? Drop me a line @JvBUnCorked@gmail.com or comment below. I have more shows and events to go before I get home, but I’m managing to keep posting on my blog and keep getting great notes from followers and readers.

Cheers!

 

à votre santé!

 

Chateau Smith Cabernet & Kung Fu Girl Riesling

23 Jun

Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 by Charles Smith Wines, Washington State, USA. 13.5% ABV; MSRP $20/bottle.

The color is dark, inky purple, while the nose provides black fruit, vegetation, spice, and eucalyptus. On the palate: cassis, mature black and red plum dominate, with an undertone of potting soil. Secondary notes of oak, forest floor, granite, slate, and loam. Nice extended finish with lasting tannins. After some air the wine opened, the acid mellowed a touch, and the tannins act brilliantly taut, making this wine a lovely foil for red meat. Smart to achieve by decanting, or 30 minutes in the glass should achieve the same result- but who can wait that long for a Charles Smith wine? Not I, so that air will have to be on glass #2 or #3.

I like the choice of name, as it reminds me of a right bank Bordeaux. Focused, direct, drinkable while young, but age-worthy. Delightful to pair with powerful flavors like red meat, heavy sauces, strong to medium-bodied cheese. If you haven’t had a Columbia/Yakima Cabernet, or you didn’t know that Washington State makes great cabernet, then you owe it to yourself to taste this juice. At this price point, it’s an easy one to put in the cellar or keep ready to go.

 

Kung Fu Girl Riesling, 2015; Charles Smith Wines. Ancient Lakes AVA, Washington,USA. 12%ABV; MSRP $13/bottle.

 

Hang on. $13/bottle? I have to double check myself on this. Seriously? Why am I even telling you this? Back the truck up to my house with this juice…ok, my readers deserve to know the inside scoop: Kung Fu Girl is a black belt in wine, with delightful fruit, just a hint of sweetness, great acidity, and lovely balance. I want to drink this all day long while cooking, gaming, watching movies, shooting pool, or hanging out at the beach house. And it pairs beautifully with asian cuisine and medium bodied cheeses, but it also can hold its own with red meat-  just to try, I paired this with a ribeye last night, and it was a solid choice, proving once again that (a) the old wine rules don’t matter, and (b) you really can pair white wines with red meat if they have enough acidity.

This is so good, I have gone through four one-ounce tasting pours and haven’t even begun my review… that should tell you that I’d rather drink this wine than talk about it, but here goes:

Color is medium straw. Nose of lychee, lime zest, starfruit, and honeysuckle. On the palate, a stunning key lime/citrus with backhanded acidity that surprises the palate. Notes of limestone, calcium and sodium in the lovely minerality. A complex, evolved wine, 2015 must have been an amazing year as the balance of this wine is tremendous and it drinks like much more expensive bottle. As I held the wine in my mouth and pulled air across, a tiny sensation of petrol deep under the surface- but this wine is such a delight in the mouth, it’s impossible to fault. Say again, $13? I’ll be curious to see where this wine is priced next year, and I wish I had room for a couple of cases. If you love bargain riesling, you should give this a try- it could be your wine of the summer.

 

à votre santé!

 

 

Sybille Kuntz Riesling Spätlese 2013 Trocken

30 May

Sybille Kuntz Mosel-Riesling Spätlese 2013 Trocken, Mosel, Germany. 13%ABV, $17/bottle Average (street).

The color is a clear, pale gold. The nose offers aromas of honey, hibiscus, lime, wildflowers, slate, and just a hint of petrol. On the palate, beautifully muted and subtle tropical fruit that moves to the back of the tongue and shifts upwards, while acidity soars across the mouth. Bringing air to the blend, the white flesh fruit emerges, as cleanly as the color. Tertiary notes of limestone and wet slate, while the finish goes on and on.


Whoa. I have never heard of Sybille Kuntz but I love her style. This wine is bone dry, with a sweet nose. It has the precision of a perfectly tuned Porsche and the style of a perfect island sunset. This is a gorgeous, delightful wine which happens to be both organic and biodynamic, created from vines that are 60-80 years old. Kuntz makes this look so easy, but making a wine like this is anything but easy. This kind of sophistication requires decades of dedication, an understanding of the land, the grape, the process, and so much more.

Sybille Kuntz is making stunning Riesling.

 

 

When my brain put all these pieces together, my first cogent thought was “this is one hell of a winemaker.”

There is passion in this bottle, and passion in the glass.

Here’s how much I like this wine: I didn’t try to pair it with ANYTHING. It was too good by itself. OK, I’ll think about it: it would be stellar with asian cuisine, especially Thai, Chinese, and Japanese, while being powerful enough to handle Korean kimchi and BBQ.  More specifically: this wine will elevate shellfish, cured meats (think speck, jamon, and capicola), medium-bodied cheeses,  fruits, and vegetables. After writing this, I did a touch of research to which restaurants have Sybille Kuntz’s wines. Here are some in the NYC area that will make your mouth water: Per Se, Momofuku, Nobu, Blue Ribbon Sushi, Tribeca Terroir, and Blue Hill.   Yeah. I was impressed, too.

 

The only negatives I have for this wine are picky. One, I quickly wanted a lot more of it. Two, I’m hooked and can’t wait to taste any wine Kuntz makes in the future. Three, there are people I need to pour a glass  of this riesling who are going to have the exact same issues with numbers  1 and 2 above.

Click Here for a link to her website. But be warned, you’ll still salivate for more.

 

à votre santé!

 

Ruhlmann Wines from Alsace

14 Mar

Alsace: a northeastern border area of France known for its beautifully fragrant wines. A wine region that is sandwiched between the Vosne mountain range and the Rhine river, it has changed hands between Germany and France several times throughout history, and many of the wines demonstrate Germanic or Austrian influence.

As an oenophile, I have found that many Americans are largely unaware of Alsace. When they are introduced to the wines, they often become fans. If you don’t know Alsace wines, this is a perfect introduction in the $20-and-under range for family-made, classic wines with lineage and complexity that sing of their terroir and heritage.

The Ruhlmann family has been making wine since 1688 in the Alsace village of Dambach-la-Ville, where they produce about 1.2 million bottles annually, with 40% of their products exported under the watchful eye of winemaker André Ruhlmann.

Ruhlmann Crémant d’Alsace Brut NV is a pale straw color with a refined nose of peach and fresh brioche. Gentle flavors of white stone fruit and dried apricot on the palate, delightfully dry with solid acidity and a hint of sweet honeysuckle on the top palate that makes the mouth water. A blend of pinot blanc, pinot auxerrois, pinot gris, and riesling, this sparkling wine has enough body to provide an afternoon delight or pair through dinner. $20/bottle, 12%ABV.

 

 

Ruhlmann Muscat Fleur de Printemps 2015 is the color of early morning sunshine and offers a sweet, aromatic nose of wildflowers. On the palate, it demonstrates gentle citrus, with notes of lime and starfruit. Secondary hints of yellow pear, orange peel, sodium and sand evolve as the wine warms gently. This muscat is bottled quickly to retain the powerful nose and pairs nicely with Thai, Chinese, and white meats, but I would not hesitate to open this and sit on the porch to enjoy on a carefree, sunny afternoon. 100% Muscat, 11.5% ABV, $15/bottle.

 

 

Ruhlmann Gewurtztraminer Vieille Vignes 2014 offers a pale yellow color with a spicy nose of rose bush, violet flowers, clove, and a hint of jasmine. Mature and refined green apple, lemon zest, banana peel and white pear on the robust palate give way to soaring acidity. Thirty-year-old vines show their deep roots with a finish of limestone and hints of clay and slate. This wine is powerful enough to pair with foie gras, a meat entrée, or a full-bodied cheese, and will age beautifully, showing greater complexity in 4-5 years.  Around$15/bottle, with 13%ABV.

 

 

Ruhlmann Riesling Vieille Vignes 2014 is pale straw in color. On the nose, faint lychee, lime zest, passion fruit, and hint of limestone. In the mouth, lemon-lime, pear, and lemongrass are followed by notes of clementine and lychee. Searing acidity powers through the full-bodied palate without heat ever crossing the back or top palates, while notes of gravel and clay round out the reserved finish. Delightful now, and will only improve with age. $16/bottle, 12.5%ABV.

 

And finally,

Ruhlmann Crémant de Rosé NV “Harmonie de Rosé” is 100% pinot noir, with tiny effervescent bubbles and a hue that verges between salmon and pale orange. The nose offers young raspberries and baking spice, while the palate is pure strawberry, slate and limestone. What’s not to love? $23/bottle, 12%ABV.

 

If you love Alsace already, then you should add these wines to your list or cellar. If you are new to Alsace wines, these are a perfect introduction to the region you can enjoy and share with friends. 

à votre santé!

 

White Wines from the Great White North

30 Oct

What do you do when you’re on the road and can’t review the wines in your queue? You punt! (Hello, it’s football season!) Seriously: what could be better than to try some of the local wines?

Let me be direct: I know NOTHING about Canadian wines, only that they exist. And let me be perfectly frank: I was nervous about Canadian wine. The servers and bar staff in the restaurants I visited my first few days in Toronto didn’t speak well of the local wines. As a matter of fact, they seemed entirely uneducated. I was told the same thing time after time from Canadian servers when I asked about Canadian wines: “They aren’t very good.”

Instead they suggested house wines: low budget California, French, and Italian bottles we’ve all seen and dismissed in the store. NOT my idea of drinking local! I’ve heard about Canadian wines at #WBC. I know better than this. So I enlisted the help of a few Canadian blogger buddies and asked for their help. Leeann Froese of Town Hall Brands and Valerie Stride of The Demystified Vine came to my rescue, suggesting a few options each, and I went off to the local LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) to seek out some bottles.

And bottles they had, many more than a few! The LCBO was the size of a department store, with several checkout lines ten people deep. They take their drinking very seriously in Canada, it seems! but I digress, let’s get to the wines!

 

Southbrook 2014 Organic Triomphe Chardonnay; VQA Niagra Peninsula, Canada, 13.2% ABV, $20CAD.

Color is pale gold. Upon opening, the nose showed excess sulphur up front (and needed a little time to dissipate). Once was sulphur was gone, I was in organic chardonnay heaven.

The nose shows its oak maturation with notes of buttery popcorn, pineapple, and vanilla,  On the palate: baked apple, pear, and pineapple are dominant, with matching acidity. Oak and circus continue on the medium finish, followed by a touch of smoke. I found this certified organic wine impressive and tasty, a perfect complement for fish, salad, or delicate flavors. Southbrook Vineyards

southbrook-chard

 

 

Cave Spring Cellars 2014 Riesling.  VQA Beamsville, Bench, Ontario,Canada, 11%ABV, $16CAD. 

Color is almost clear with a tint of warmth. The nose offers sweet citrus, honeysuckle and apricot with a floral finish. On the palate, dried apricot, peach, and tangerine, flavors meet mouth-watering acidity. The side and back palate screams from the mineral qualities that I adore: granite, shale, clay, chalky limestone.  Off-dry overall, but with a lasting note of lime & orange zest on the finish. Delightful with asian stir-fry, creamy cheese, and by itself as an apéritif.  Cave Spring Cellars

 

cave-spring-riesling

 

 

Lily Sparkling Wine by Colio Winery, Ontario. 12%ABV, $16CAD/bottle.

Warm gold color, nose of baked bread and apricot. On the palate, bosc pear, golden delicious apple and  freshly baked bread with secondary notes of sodium and limestone on the finish. Medium effervescence and small bubbles derived from the charmat method of tank fermentation, overall Lily is an excellent value and fun sparkling wine that is easy to enjoy. Made from 100% riesling grapes and delightfully dry, I would enjoy this any day and put this up against similarly priced sparkling wines for comparison. BOOM!  ColioWinery

 

lilysparkling

 

I started off my adventure quite nervous about Canadian wine. But as you can see, there is so much to enjoy! I would accept any of these wines in my cellar, at dinner, or to share with friends. And these wines are only the tip of the iceberg.

My deep thanks to Leann and Valerie for coming to my rescue when I reached out, and I’m looking forward to sharing more Canadian wines with you!

à votre santé!

 

2015 Nativo by Markus Wine Co, Lodi CA

22 Oct

2015 Nativo Lodi White Wine, Markus Wine Company, Borra Vineyards. Lodi California. 13.2% ABV. MSRP$18.99/bottle.

 

Pale straw in color; featuring a delicate nose with hints of lychee, gardenia and honeysuckle. On the palate, restrained white peach, lemon-lime zest, starfruit and gorgeous acidity with rigid chalk and stone on the finish. Such a subtle balance of flavors and responses without any of the oppressive heat I’ve found in great kerner wines from Europe, Markus Niggli’s white wine blend will smack you over the head with beauty, convince your mouth it is enjoying a brilliant expression of a $50+ Austrian wine, and make you open your wallet to order a case of this to enjoy whenever you simply want a really well made wine that goes with almost anything. I like this wine even more now that I first did when tasting in the vineyard in Lodi, both times I approached with low expectations and had an eye-opening experience. You will, too. Thank me later- I’m finishing this glass first. Fermented in stainless steel, using only native yeast and no malolactic fermentation, it is a blend of 52% Kerner, 29% Riesling, 15% Bacchus, 4% Gewürztraminer all grown in Lodi’s Mokelumne Glen Vineyards.

 

 

markus-nativo

 

nativo-back

 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

Rock City Riesling!

7 Nov

 

Jakoby-Mathy Riesling Kabinett Trocken, Kinheimer Hubertuslay; Mosel, Germany. 10% ABV, $19/bottle from Garagiste.

Pale straw in color with a vibrant nose of white pear, melon, tangerine, and sea spray. On the palate, the forward fruit is fig, followed by bosc pear, tart granny smith apple, a powerfully focused flint and limestone minerality with a punch of lime zest on the finish. The mouthfeel is perfectly dry, and idyllically acidic. I found no trace of petrol. I was shocked by how much I enjoyed this wine, not only was it a fabulous foil for both a strong balsamic salad dressing and a juicy protein, but I also loved this wine by itself both served chilled and as it expanded and evolved at room temperature. The fact that I was able to source it for under $20 was a huge added bonus for a terrific wine. The moderate fruit is inviting, the huge stone and citrus finish is boldly stunning, and the finish is focused, precise, and long lasting. In short, the Matterhorn in a bottle. 

 

Jakoby Aufsteig

 

à votre santé!

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