Archive | Chardonnay RSS feed for this section

Yarden’s World Class Wines for Days of Awe

1 Oct

Let’s be perfectly honest: twenty years ago, I would NOT have fought to serve Israeli wines from the Golan Heights for an important family dinner. But times have changed, and great Israeli wines are now available locally at competitive prices- so if you aren’t nodding with me, then take the time to read this and get both your wine game and your local wine store up to speed! I proudly served these wines to our family and guests above all else available from my cellar. So, listen up!  

Yarden Brut Blanc de Blanc 2009, Galilee, Israel. 12% ABV, SRP $30/bottle. 

This is a sparkling chardonnay made by Victor Schoenfeld, and it is world-class sparkling, made in the traditional method and aged five years with tirage yeast. Pale gold in color. On the nose: gentle star fruit and brioche. On the palate, tropical fruit, baking spices, toasted challah with a hint of minerality. Where years ago my father-in-law would break his Yom Kippur fast with an ounce of cognac, I instead opt for this- it revitalizes my blood sugar and pairs beautifully with anything- be it a Rosh Hashanah dinner with apples and honey before the brisket, or the traditional break-fast dinner of bagels, scrambled eggs and smoked fish. There are a few Israeli winemakers whose work is absolutely world class, and Victor Schoenfeld hits that mark. If you aren’t already a fan, you’re missing out.

 

 

 

Yarden’s Galilee Mountain Winery,  “Yiron” Red Wine Blend, Upper Galilee; Golan Heights, Israel. ABV 15%, SRP $32/bottle.

 

Color is deep magenta with ruby edging. The nose offers mature blue and black fruit along with forest floor and hint of toasted oak. On the palate: blackberry, blueberry, and cassis are dominant with secondary notes of mocha, kiln-dried wood, gravel, sand and granite. Demonstrating an excellent tannic backbone with strong acidity, this wine is ideal for the brisket course, but it also paired gorgeously with a toasted everything bagel topped with cream cheese, smoked sable and lox, tomato and a little Spanish finishing salt.

When you drink this, you will swear you have a classic Bordeaux blend in your hand. Winemaker Micha Vaadia worked at Jordan,  Cloudy Bay, and Catena Zapata- and it shows! The blend is 56% Cabernet, 32% Merlot, 7% Syrah and 5% Petite Verdot, and is aged 16 months in French oak barrels (hello, now we know why the vanilla and toasty oak is so dominant in the profile!) One thing that blows my mind: Looking at the stats, I’d normally shy away from a wine with this high an ABV but let me tell you, it’s un-noticeable. I experienced no heat on this wine, just tons of pleasure across the palate.

 

A Perfect Pairing with Yiron: a toasted ‘Everything’ Bagel, with a shmear of Cream Cheese, Sable, Lox, Tomato, and Spanish lava salt.

 

 

 

My pictures don’t do the wine justice. As soon as a finished a sip, my hand reached back for the glass or to re-pour another taste. This wine is surprisingly tasty, and a great value in this price range. The nose and flavor palate of Yiron are simply stunning. The best thing you can do it put a bottle in your hand, serve it, and let your mouth and your guests tell you exactly how good this is. You can thank me by inviting me over for Yiron with brisket, bagels, latkes… or all four!

 

*Special Thanks to Joe Berkofsky of Puder PR.* 

à votre santé!

 

Advertisements

Villa Maria Estate: Elegance from New Zealand

3 Jul

Helen  Morrison, Senior Marlborough Winemaker at Villa Maria Estates, is doing something right. I know, because she just wowed a team of wine industry insiders and wine bloggers during a live tasting where she demonstrated her Villa Maria wines.  To say the least, everyone was impressed…and wanted more to taste!  I know, I know…to the wines!

Villa Maria Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc 2016, NZ 12.5%ABV. MSRP $15.

A fun, carbonated/bubbly wine I first tasted (and really enjoyed) a year ago at a NZ Trade tasting , I was pleased to see that this vintage felt more elegant and refined from last year’s. Tiny effervescent bubbles precede elegant citrus and floral notes with a hint of baker’s yeast and a dry, welcoming finish. Half the pressure of champagne, this is incredibly fun, easy to open with a standard screw-top stelvin closure, and is an immediate crowd-pleaser. Drink by the patio or poolside all day, but when it’s mealtime, you can pair up with shellfish, cheese, raw or cooked fish, salads, up to medium-rich entrees such as spicy fish tacos, chicken fried-rice, and especially lime-marinated dishes to marry flavors beautifully. When I shared a bottle to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday, the responses were stellar and happily surprised when I told them what they were drinking.

 

 

 

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2016, NZ 12.5%ABV. MSRP $15.

Color is pale straw; the nose provides a massive grapefruit zest with grass and the essence of cut flowers. On the palate: pink grapefruit, gooseberry, and lemon-lime. Delightfully crisp, grassy, herbal, with a very dry, stony finish. A striking resemblance to the last two years’ efforts demonstrates that you don’t change something that is working well! This is perhaps the powerhouse sauvignon blanc that defines the terroir and flavors from the Marlborough AVA. The massive citrus allows you to pair this with just about anything you want, but my favorites are fresh veggies, raw fish, and chicken caesar salad.

 

 

 

Villa Maria Taylors Pass Vineyard Chardonnay 2015. Marlborough, NZ. 13.5% ABV; MSRP $45

This is a “whoa” wine to add to your portfolio! Color is medium gold. Sweet peach and white orchid dominate the nose. Gorgeous lime zest married to a definitive Belle of Georgia peach on the palate, with secondary notes of marzipan, yeast, toasted oak, and gravel, and an elegant mouthfeel.  This was my “WOW” wine of the tasting, and I know was a real surprise to others who are connoisseurs of the chardonnay grape.  Delicious from the moment I put it in my mouth, I wanted to stop there, put my glass down and cede the game so I could start food pairing this single vineyard chardonnay. Why? Let’s add it up: Killer terroir + hand picked + whole bunch pressed + 9 months spent on the lees+ natural ML in oak (25% new French oak,  75% seasoned French oak)= OMG this wine is stellar. Short version? If you see this bottle, pick it up. Drink it, and you’ll know what I say add it to your cellar: it compares well to classic and new world chardonnays in the $60-75 range. And if you don’t care about price? Then for you, it’s just SOOOO tasty!

 

 

 

Villa Maria Private Bin Rosé, Hawkes Bay 2016, NZ. 12.5%ABV; MSRP $14.

Deep salmon in color, the nose offers fresh-cut wildflowers and berry compote. On the palate, fresh strawberries atop the tongue while the sides feature ginger, lemon pepper, and allspice notes. Racing acidity crosses the top palate, but the finish is when you recognize the significant body in this stainless fermented rosé of (mostly) merlot.  At this price point, this is a serious wine for serious food or fun in the sun.

 

 

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir, Marlborough, NZ ABV 13,5%, MSRP $26.

 

Color on Day 1: translucent color and bright red fruit!

 

Color is transparent rose with garnet edges and just enough clarity to read a newspaper through it. The nose offers young red fruit and a hint of wildflowers, while the palate takes the bright cherry and raspberry flavors and marries them with a secondary group of spices and then hints of earth and smoke, remaining gentle, yet refined, and medium-bodied overall with a medium finish. On day 2 after opening, the fruit has taken on deeper, darker colors and flavors of mature red plum and cassis, showing baking spice, red pepper flake, paprika, clay and granite on the back palate with a sour cherry across the top, maintaining a quality balance and graceful presentation, while the finish now lingers with a pleasant sour cherry, spice and stone.

 On day 2: Standing tall, with darker & deeper flavor -a delightful surprise to my palate!

 

So, hey! If you’re not already a fan of New Zealand wines, you might need your head examined,  But don’t take it from me. Pick up some of Hellen Morrison’s Villa Maria Estate wines and check them out for yourself- and let me know what you think!

 

à votre santé!

Victor Schoenfeld and Yarden Wines

29 Jun

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

 

Victor Schoenfeld, head winemaker of Yarden Golan Heights Winery

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

Yarden Gewurtztraminer 2016, MSRP $21

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

à votre santé!

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

16 Jun

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

Boom.

 

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

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

 

à votre santé!

 

Tasting the Terroir of Domaine Auvigue

10 Jun

Domaine Auvigue “Solutre” Pouilly-Fuisse 2014; Burgundy, France. 13%ABV, MSRP $29/bottle.

 

 

Spend a few minutes with Jean-Pierre Auvigue, and he will endear himself to you, without ever trying. He is both direct and charming, and to my delight, he can discuss winemaking and the terroir of Burgundy to the point of exhaustion.

Jean-Pierre is quick to point out that each year, they simply try to make the best wine they can within the realm of the weather. Since they have tremendous terroir and history already, the goals are to represent the growing season with the finest chardonnay they can make. Techniques are largely traditional; all work in the vineyard is done by hand. Very little new oak is used to keep the focus on the fruit; but to me, the balance is what shines.

 

Jean-Pierre Auvigue with his 2005 Solutre Pouilly-Fuisse

 

Tasting a mini-vertical of the three most recent vintages (’12-’14) and the 2005 Auvigue Solutre Pouilly-Fuisse , I was thrilled to taste the subtle similarities and differences and hear how many varying preferences people had to their own personal favorite from these areas that boast vines that rage in age from 50-85 years of age. Most importantly, they are all delightful and offer tremendous value in white Burgundy wines.

2014/Current Release: Color is a clear, medium straw. The nose offers a delicate citrus scent with a hint of sodium. On the palate, a very linear first impression, a smooth  balance of lemon-lime fruit, acidity and minerality: limestone, clay and flint belie the famed AOC.  As it crosses the mid-palate, the flavors expand to include savory sensations without losing the initial character. Flint and quartz notes cross the back palate with the medium finish, which is as satisfying was the first sip. A wine that starts with drive and delivers complexity, terroir, and a tremendous definition of the Chardonnay grape.

 

 

 

Not to be ignored, another AOC was represented:

Domaine Auvigue Le Moulin du Pont Saint-Véran 2014; Burgundy, France. 13% ABV, MSR $20/bottle.

Color is pale straw with green tinge. The nose offers lime zest and a hint of cut grass and vegetation. On the palate young white pear, starfruit, and orange peel dominate while the top and back palate reveals notes of cedar, gravel, schist and clay, before the medium-long finish leaves your mouth refreshed. Saint-Veran being a newer AOC, this is a tremendous introduction to white Burgundy and a great every day/any day wine at this price point.

 

 

With either one, you can’t go wrong, whether to add to your cellar to hold, or to drink and chill tonight. 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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!

 

 

%d bloggers like this: