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Natura Wines: Vegan Friendly, Organic, & Delicious!

10 May

Emiliana Natura Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2016, Casablanca Valley, Chile. Stelvin closure ; 13%ABV, Street price $10/bottle.

Color is pale straw. The nose offers grapefruit, lime zest, a hint of sea spray, and a touch of funk. The palate is a citrus and tropical fruit blend with an easy, soft finish. A nice balance of fruit and acidity, with enough going on to make this complex blend capable to complement  food nicely. An easy-to-drink, afternoon-on-the-porch wine, it shines when paired with fish or white meat- I loved the pairing with grilled cod, baked chicken breast, and steamed grilled vegetables.

For my vegan friends, this is one of the winemakers you should seek out- and it could not be easier: a few taps on the keyboard and find a supplier near you.

 

Emiliana Natura Rosé 2016, Rapel Valley, Chile. Stelvin Closure, 12% ABV; Street price $10/ Bottle

Very pale pink in color. The nose offers a hint of watermelon and strawberry. On the palate, gentle red fruit- young cherry and strawberry, together with a smattering of white peach. Nice acidity to rinse the palate; but a gentler, delicate wine for certain. A rosé blended from syrah, cabernet sauvignon and merlot that spent three months aging in stainless steel, this is an excellent offering in the realm of organic, vegan-friendly wine that is easy on the wallet and perfect for the environment.

 

 

Emiliana Natura Carmenere 2015, Colchagua Valley, Chile. Stelvin Closure, 13.5% ABV; Street price $ 10/Bottle.

Color is garnet center with a deep red-brick middle, shifting to a dark purple edging. Nose of mature red fruit, spice and hints of earth. On the palate: overly ripe cherry,  red plum, raspberry with secondary note of potting soil, cocoa, and pepper, while hints of the valley’s terroir (chalk, granite & clay), allspice and cedar appear further into the medium finish. This wine really improves with air and time, and over the week of tasting and pairing with various foods from grilled meats to heavier cheeses to chocolate. With each day, the medium body filled out slightly and the wine shifted more from fruit-forward back into center of the tannin, acidity, and flavor profile. My guests didn’t comment on “wow this is an organic, all-natural wine”, but they drank glass after glass with roast and vegetables, tore into the wine with burgers, and even tossed back the final glass with a slice of pizza. It was a crowd-pleaser to say the least. I would suggest adding carmenere to your cellar if you haven’t already, and adding this one in particular- especially if you like tasty wines made with all-organic, natural practices that are a great value! I know I’ll be buying more of this for my personal stock, no question.

 

 

à votre santé!

My Apology to Chablis

17 Apr

I’ve been a jerk, and I owe Chablis an apology.

 

My readers and followers all know I’m a massive fan of white burgundy. But I doubt they have any idea I’ve been a lifelong fan of Chablis, because I hardly mention you in recent years.

 

Chablis, I’ve always loved you. It’s true. But I haven’t shown you the respect that I have for you, and for that, I apologize. You were a major influence early in my understanding of wine, and you deserve to take massive credit for helping me both find my palate and understand the beauty of chardonnay from your unmistakable region. I met you early in life, respected you for your delicate color and nose, your gorgeous citrus flavors and seaside perfume, your reserved fruit, your singular focus, your gorgeous linearity, your finish of limestone, oyster shell, and chalk. Chablis, without a doubt, you are the one region where the terroir is so incredibly evident in your wine. And I assumed that everyone, like me, just KNEW about Chablis.

 

And so… I realize now, that I ignored you. I took you for granted. I’m so sorry.

 

In time, I met many other wines, from all over the world. Nothing else was like you, but I began to follow other regions of Burgundy, and started to pay more attention to them. In turn, that allowed me to appreciate the beauty in chardonnay across the world- Australia, Argentina, the oaked USA. Chablis, you have always remained a baseline for me, but as I began to collect beautiful chardonnay from around the world,  I kept treasuring Burgundy, but skipped over you time and time again in my search for top quality white wines of distinction…because I already knew how amazing Chablis was. I was so lost in translation- I entirely lacked the significance, the true understanding of what I was doing at the time.

 

I apologize. I hope you’ll understand, and forgive me.

 

You’ve been there for me. You’ve been waiting all this time, in good years, and bad. Waiting for a mutual friend to pour me a glass and offer you up, to watch as my palate, my nose, and my tongue recall that first kiss. What beauty and intensity!  In a sip I can recall the sea that covered your AVA millions of years ago, left tiny crustaceans, shells and exoskeletons mired in the limestone rock that is now the basis of the terroir we recognize as yours and yours alone. Pure, perfect, Chablis. or… #PureChablis.

 

There are even a few, -more than a handful- of your tremendous offerings in my cellar.

With special tags, of course.

Because… nothing else is Chablis!

 

Just a few of your fabulous offerings include:

 

Domaine Jolly & Fils, L’homme Mort, Premiere Cru 2014; around $27/bottle. 
Tasting note: “Very Pale in Color, nose of lemon peel and orange. Gentler but savory up front, bright across the top palate. Such a pleasure to drink, like imbibing a glass full of perfect afternoon sunshine.”

Domaine Gilbert Picq & Fils, 2015, around $20/bottle. 
“Color of pale sunshine. Nose is faint, issuing grapefruit and limestone. Acid up front in the mouth, followed by lemon-lime citrus. Opening into a savory palate. Pairs beautifully with either beet, goat cheese, and gruyere puff pastry.”

Chablis William Fevre Champs Royaux, 2015 around $18/bottle. 
The easiest Chablis to find in the states, Fevre is a huge producer. “Classic lineage, so familiar. Pale straw with a green tinge, linear acidity and fruit with a soft style in the front- and mid-palates, yet a tightly focused finish. Such great memories, brought back cleanly.”

La Chablisienne Petite Chablis 2015; around $17/bottle.
“Pale straw in color, Honey-lemon nose. Steely, driven flavors of citrus, lemon-lime, oyster shell, hints of clay. Pairs best with the raw crudo.”

Domaine Louis Moreau 1er Cru Fourneaux 2013, around $30/bottle. 
“HUGE nose on this wine. It shifts in personality to me: on the palate: first savory with oyster brine, meaty and thick with citrus and chalk, then a more gentle, flint and steel approach. A lovely finish, with high acidity. I could drink this forever.” – My personal favorite of the night.

Patrick Piuze 1er Cru Forêts, 2014, around $45/bottle.
“What gorgeous citrus and salinity on the nose. Huge acidity, big citrus; a meter-lemon wine. This is an  oenophile’s wine, a wine nerd’s dream! Singular, focused, & driven. It simply screams of the Chablis terroir. You could identify this in a blind tasting without any thought. Perfect pairings both with the foie gras and scallop dishes.”

Louis Michel & Fils, Chablis Grand Cru Grenouille 2014; around $80/bottle.
“Pale in color, complex nose with citrus, mineralogy, & sodium. A full-bodied wine with bright acidity and a long finish. A beautiful expression of chablis, no more expensive than a good California Chardonnay or a good buy in white burgundy. Amazing with the risotto balls and the braised tenderloin. Stunning to be such a good pairing for such rich selections.”

 

And just in case you are still thinking about Chablis… here’s where she lives. Her Grand Cru, her Premiere Cru, her Petite Chablis… all of her beauty and delights.

 

My thanks for a tremendous tasting to Françoise Roure from Bourgognes, Marguerite de Chaumont Guitry from Sopexa, and Sommelier John Kearns from Ai Fiori Restaurant, whose service and presentation were top notch, and whose hand cradles the bottle in most of my photographs! Deepest appreciation for the tremendous pairing menu & service from Ai Fiori’s Michael White, David Schneider, Scott Schneider, Mari Gaube and their teams.

 

And of course… my apologies to Chablis. Will you ever forgive me? Maybe I can come and see you over the summertime, if Provence and Bordeaux won’t get too jealous.

 

#MWWC32

à votre santé!

 

Adler Fels 2015 Chardonnay

22 Mar

Adler Fels 2015 Chardonnay, Sonoma CA. 14% ABV; MSRP $20/bottle

 

The 2015 Adler Fels (German for “Eagle Rock”) is a blend of two chardonnays, equal parts from vineyards in Russian River Valley and Monterey County by winemaker Linda Trotta.

Color is medium straw. The nose offers pineapple and wildflowers. Gentle but fresh and lively in the mouth, presenting a balance of delicate fruit and taut acidity. Moderate body for the mouthfeel; nicely tart across the mid-palate with notes of chalk, clay, and cedar plank to accompany the medium finish.

This is a subtle wine, capable many things. It can be a demure, delicate delight on its own, an accompaniment to a meal, or act as a supporting player to a dish without taking the spotlight. It took me three separate tastings to really understand that this wine is a modern, classically refined New World chardonnay from the European tradition. Instead of screaming for attention, this unpretentious wine is strong and silent, with measured structure and exquisite balance. I would equate it to Chanel perfume or the Jaguar XJ6 automobile, whose motor purrs so gently, you hardly feel the speed at which you rocket down the road. This is a wine you easily could drink all afternoon without realizing you have loved it for two or three bottles, and that it is time to call a car (leaving your own behind) and go home now before you order another. And another.

 

 

 

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!

 

Buty Winery’s Classic Walla Walla White Blend

11 Jan

Buty Winery 2011 Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc & Muscadelle Blend by Caleb Foster Wines; Walla Walla Valley, WA. 13.8%ABV, MSRP $25/Bottle.

 

 

The Bordeaux Blend.

Red or white, the blend is classic:  Old World.

 

To some it might show as a touch too forward, but to others, it could demonstrate the path to perfection.

I don’t recall where I found the cache, but tonight I reached into my cellar and pulled out my last bottle.

It was both my final and my favorite of the partial case. The six long years that this white bordeaux blend has taken to mature now firmly place the bottle among tremendous company. Had this been blindly tasted, I would have (wrongly) guessed it was sourced from a première château. Likewise, I would have erred and estimated the value at from three to six times the cost. Nevertheless, this unusual winery name will stick in my brain for future purchases, as it should for others who adore Bordeaux and wines from America’s Northwest.

 

Deep gold in color. The nose is delicate, of dried lemon, almond butter, and grass clippings. Mature citrus attacks the palate with lemon zest, grapefruit rind, and a hint of sliced almond. Powerful acidity is prominent, not a hint of sugar remains in this towering, majestic Bordeaux-style mixture. The long, drawn finish offers limestone, slate, granite, a hint of iron, and mature oak, leaving an imprint on the taster. 

In the words of my friend Jeff, “Whoa.”

 

I will go back to this well, and drink again. Bravo, Caleb & Nina Foster, bravo.

For more information, the website is ButyWinery.com.  Please, let me know if you have tried this wine, if it was at a comparable age, and if you experienced a similar reaction. Thank you!

buty2011blend

 

à votre santé!

Pairing Bordeaux Wines & Southern Soul Food

22 Dec

Call me crazy.

 

I don’t care.

 

When I heard that Marcus Samuelson was doing a pairing of his famous Yardbird recipe with a sweet Bordeaux wine, I was intrigued. I mean, I have adored Bordeaux wines ever since I first tasted one. Granted, I was IN France at the time, but… you get the idea.

cinq-bordeaux

So I started thinking, both about this pairing, and about my youth. I grew up in the deep south. That vision of a “down home” chicken leg brought me back to memories of my favorite soul foods, comfort foods, southern foods.

Why have we always expected French cooking or “fancy” meals with Bordeaux wines? Maybe people have been putting Bordeaux on a pedestal, so to speak. So I picked up a 500ml bottle of 2010 Chateau Loupiac Gaudiet Sweet Bordeaux, and headed to one of my hidden secret soul food hideouts in NYC. Spicy fried chicken and waffles with this botrytis blend of semillion and sauvignon blanc. BOOM! This was a perfect pairing, and I was in trouble. The barely sweet honey note from the wine was the syrup for the waffle, the aromatic nose, golden color, and tremendous golden raisin palate was, bite bite and sip for sip, every bit as decadent and delightful as fried fois gras when paired with Sauternes. Savory, please meet acid and sweet!

argadens-loupiac

Do you have specific memories of the soul food/comfort food you grew up with? “Go kiss your –, and tell her how you liked it.”

Oh, I loved it. If only I had a cellar with these wines back then…

 

Next was mac ‘n cheese with a Bordeaux white blend. The rich three-cheese blend was no match for the delightful mixture from André Lurton’s Chateau Bonnet 2014 Bordeaux, a 50% sauvignon blanc, 40% sémillon, 10 % muscadelle blend. Light gold in color, the nose shows lemony citrus. the palate offers a blend of pear, green apple, and lemon peel with secondary notes of star fruit, clay, sodium, limestone, and chalk. Heaven. But maybe too easy? So I found a tougher pairing dish: chicken & dumplings with cornbread. A rich and savory, sweet and salty dish, that the bordeaux blend met and stood tall against. Oh, it was a good wine choice. I could tell by the fact I finished both the bottle and the dish, and wished for more of both.

chateau-bonnet

When I tried the mac ‘n cheese again, it was with a 2011 Chateau Argadens Bordeaux Superior, and I was in heaven- the deep inky purple color was met by a nose of black plum, eucalyptus and dusty velvet. On the palate, dark flavors: cassis, mature black fruit, forest floor, saddle leather, granite, chalk, limestone, and cedar. Instead of the foil to this cut through the palate on this rich cheese dish, this was the harmonic equivalent and used deep, powerful tannins to wash the slate clean.

chateau-argadens

Not to give up easily, I managed a week of southern, comfort, and soul food meals, which included meat loaf, corn bread and cabbage; and red bean chili with dinner rolls. Both of these meals paired nicely with the red Bordeaux wines, in spite of the sweetness in the corn bread, the acidity in the cabbage, or the heat in the chili.

When I got to even more savory meals like pot roast with root vegetables and potted steaks with mashed potatoes and green beans, I brought out the big gun: Chateau Bourgeneuf 2009 Pomerol. Deep garnet in color, the nose shows rose bush, menthol and ripe red fruit. On the palate, red plum, blackberries granite, clay,  secondary notes of aged oak, gravel and iron. This wine is drinking nicely right now and should be tremendous in a few more years. The flavors were beautiful against the savory meats and vegetables and elevated them to another level.

 

chateau-bourgneuf-09
What did I feel about this exercise? Well, it might have felt crazy to pair classic Bordeaux wines with Soul Food, but it sure tasted right! So why not step outside your comfort zone and try it? Start with your own comfort food, and see how well the flavors work. I don’t think I’ll be opening a vintage bottle of Latour with a package of hotdogs in the future, but there are plenty of great values in Bordeaux that you can find in the $10-$20/bottle range right? 

Overall, I was pleased to have been able to focus on pairing soul food and southern comfort foods with Bordeaux. If you get a chance to try Bourdeaux wines with collard greens, grits, sweet potato and chess pie, do let me know- but right now, I’m stuffed!

 

À vôtre santé!

Bodegas Salentein Wines from Valle de Uco, Argentina

2 Dec

salentein-wine-line-up-1

 

 


Bodegas Salentein 2015 Reserve Chardonnay; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 13.5%ABV, Average street price  $18 USD.

Color is pale sunshine with green tinge. Gentle aroma of grilled pineapple, lemon-lime and wildflowers on the nose. In the mouth, golden delicious apple and citrus fruit mixes with powerful acidity. Directly behind the fruit, heat crosses the top palate while the back palate reels from the tannins and tart lime peel. Notes of vanilla, baked bread, and chalky limestone on the medium-long finish. A gorgeous, delicate chardonnay that is a pleasure to drink. Alone it may be a touch acidic, but with mild cheese or white meat, the wine is a perfect complement and palate cleanser. For friends who won’t drink Chardonnay made outside of California, here is something you need to taste- a subtle, mature, underscored hit of a chardonnay that smacks your interest early on and shows you how a star is born. If you can’t tell, I was very impressed by this chardonnay, which demonstrated clearly to me that truly great white wines are also possible from the famed Mendoza wine region Valle de Uco!

 

salentein-chardonnay

 

Bodegas Salentein Killka Collection  Torrentes 2015; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 12.5%ABV; Average street price $15 USD. 

Pale gold in color with a beautifully floral nose that features sweet honeysuckle and jasmine. In the mouth, fruit starts with bosc pear and a blend of secondary notes of tart lemon zest, star fruit and pineapple. Bright acidity with a hint of bitters that works well in the character. Chalky loam on the short finish. A great choice to enjoy under the hot sun when well chilled, this wine can quickly transition from being a tasty and refreshing apéritif to complement a salad and fish course, capable to handling shellfish, ceviche, or  grilled salmon, bass, and even seared tuna.

salentein-killka-torrontes-2015

Killka Collection Red Blend 2014; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 14% ABV, Average Street price $15/bottle. 

The color shows a garnet center shifting to deep ruby. The nose offers  red plum, cherry, and rose bush with a hint of menthol. In the mouth, sour cherry and ripe red plum are dominant fruits. Notes of aged oak, vanilla bean, schist, granite, and sodium round out the finish. Ideal for grilled meats. The blend is of 50% Malbec, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah and 5% Petite Verdot.

salentein-killka-red-blend-2014

 

Bodegas Salentein 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 14%ABV, Average street price  $18 USD.

Deep purple in color with a nose of eucalyptus, forest floor, and pencil shavings. In the mouth, a harmonious & moderate blend of fruit, acid and tannins. A dark fruit mix of aged blackberries, black currants, and prunes, with secondary notes of potting soil, tobacco, old leather, toasted oak, graphite and wet stone. Features a medium long and very dry finish; this wine is a solid value in reserve cab and a classic, firmly masculine expression of Mendoza’s terroir.

salentein-reserve-cabernet-sauvignon-2014

 

Bodegas Salentein 2014 Reserve Malbec; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 14%ABV, Average street price  $16 USD.

Dark ruby color with a nose of blueberries and black plum. On the palate, a driven and singular focus of blackberry, with secondary notes of cherry cola, freshly cut grass, black pepper and spice box. The strong acidity and powerful tannins leave a real bite on the finish making this a great complement to grilled meats.

 

salentein-reserve-malbec-2014

 

If you taste these wines blind, you won’t immediately think of South America or Argentina. But you WILL think: “These are delicious, wonderful wines.” 

 

à votre santé!

Drinking World Wines in Toronto

14 Nov

I continue to be out of the country working on a new Broadway musical, trying Canadian wines when our production schedule allows. Wine selections at the LCBO (basically, the Canadian Liquor Store) are OK by my standards, but not stellar. I managed to find a bottle of Michael David’s Chardonnay from Lodi, here in Toronto of all places…along with many bottles of Zinfandel. That bottle made me very happy with great memories of picking viognier in the MD vineyard this past August, and I drank it and fondly recalled fun adventures with my WBC friends. 

 

Michael David Winery 2015 Chardonnay. 13.5%ABV, $23CAD/bottle from LCBO. Color is pale gold. Nose of green apple, white peach, and hibiscus flower. In the mouth, the fruit profile is a balance of golden delicious apple, honeydew melon and pineapple. Secondary notes of peach, cedar, vanilla, and clay on the medium-short finish. For me, this bottle was a delightful memory of the 2016 harvest in the MD vineyards. While I enjoyed this, I wished the LCBO had stocked the MD Viognier as well.

mdchardonnay

 

jvb-graping-copy

This is a shot of me from the viognier harvest in the MD Vineyards.
Photo by Randy Caparoso!

 

 

Working in the entertainment industry often means very long hours and few days off. Since arriving,  I thankfully have managed to get to a couple of nice restaurants in Toronto that feature excellent wine lists that are worthy of sharing!

 

Nearby the Royal Alexandra Theatre at Byblos, the middle eastern fare is warm and inviting. Their lamb shoulder is braised for 12 hours and falls off the bone, succulent and savory, accompanied by a garlic paste, shug (a hot pepper blend) and house-made pickles and turnips, with tasty sides of rice and brussel sprouts. With the help of my trusty iphone (it’s a dark restaurant) I scanned the wine list and found an appropriate comfort wine to match the house specialty.

Chateau Musar “Hochar Père et Fils” 2011, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. This red blend is deep garnet in color with an opulent, floral nose. On the palate, mature black plum, fig, cherry, and the distinct quality of baked fruit is met with notes of earth, leather, mocha, allspice, black pepper and cinnamon. On the dry, lengthy finish there are beautiful flourishes of oak, along with gravel and sandy limestone on the side palate.  It is a heady aroma and velvety mouthfeel, a gorgeous second wine from a brilliant winemaker. I have long been a fan of Chateau Musar, with an ’04 and a few bottles of the 2000 remaining in my cellar, and I was trepidatious at the youthful age of this bottle, but ended up being very pleasantly surprised. I thoroughly enjoyed this blend of 50% cinsault, 30% grenache, 10% carignan, and 10% cabernet sauvignon. 14% ABV, Street price avg $33 USD, (obviously not what I paid in the restaurant.)

 

hochar-2011-1

 

 

Further down King Street is a hidden gem suggested by my co-workers for having a high quality (and somewhat pricey) wine list. Buca is a northern Italian restaurant that is reknowned for savory delights and curing their own meat;  you can see examples of their delicacies hanging in a cooler as you walk down a hallway to the bar and to one of the two dining rooms. We obliged our evening hunger by ordering shared dishes, starting off with olives stuffed with sausage and fried to hot, crisp, and salted savory perfection;  hand-rolled ricotta gnocchi stuffed with taleggio cheese; carpaccio di mango; and a pizza salumi di buca- delightful, mouthwatering bites. Strongly salted meats and powerful, savory flavors beg for a tremendous wine, and the sommelier did not disappoint! A native Italian (whose name I sadly did not understand when I asked), we chatted, I inquired about some of the ‘hidden treasures’ on the wine list, and he came back with his arms full of options,  from which I selected his very last bottle of a reserve Nebbiolo- and I was very glad I did!

Ar.Pe.Pe.’s  2011 Sasella Stella-Retina Valtellina Superior Riserva, Lombardy, Italy. The color is deep ruby while the perfumed nose offers crushed rose petals and lush vegetation. This wine opened up beautifully with a bit of time in the glass to offer mature raspberry, dried cherry, and african violet. Secondary notes of vanilla, wet earth and aged leather on the finish with hints of toasted almonds, sodium, wet stone, and granite. A beautiful soft mouthfeel; feminine expression of aged fruit meets bright acidity and firm tannins. 100% Nebbiolo, 13.5% ABV, Street Price around $52 USD.

 

sasselica-stella-retica

 

The clock is ticking until my return to the USA! I still have two bottles of Canadian red wines I need to review before my time is up here in Canada. Keep an eye out, and enjoy. Life is beautiful and precious, and I hope we all see the beauty every day in our loved ones and the world around us.  -JvB

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

 

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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!

 

 

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