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Napa Royalty: Chateau Montelena

28 Aug

When you plan a special occasion with friends & neighbors, the wine has to be perfect! So an important summer evening recently became OTBN- “Open That Bottle Night”, when we pull a special bottle from the cellar, to enjoy with good friends. For our wines, I turned to new world wine royalty:  Napa’s own Chateau Montelena!

Chateau Montelena Chadonnay 2015; Napa Valley, Ca. 13.8%ABV, SRP $58/bottle.

 

The color is a medium straw with a green hue. The nose shows fresh melon with a touch of baking spice. On the palate is baked apple pie, a hint of peach, notes of vanilla and significant oak influence, followed by more spicy notes- ginger root, and young pineapple. Lush and savory with mid-weight appeal. This is a delightful chardonnay that sings of fruit in the barrel. Paired with grilled vegetables and chicken, the nose and flavors elicited verbal oohs and aahs from our guests of honor.

One tastes this wine, and immediately thinks of the 1976 Judgement of Paris that changed the way the game was played both in the old world and new world of wines. This modern-day offspring of that world-changing wine maintains the beauty of the classic vintage with restrained fruit notes, solid acidity, a savory mouthfeel, and age-worthiness. It has been years since I tasted Chateau Montelena’s chardonnay, -a 2010 vintage- but the wine’s flavors memory recall a near-identical, idyllic and glamorous tasting experience!

 

 

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2015; Napa Valley, Ca. 14.2%ABV, SRP $61/bottle.

 

The color is deep ruby with magenta edging. The complex nose offers mature black fruit followed by notes of forest floor, leather, oak and spice. On the palate, the fruit is a blend of raspberry and juicy red plum with bright acidity; there are secondary notes of mocha, clove, potting soil, and a lovely finish with rich tannins, featuring a timber note that suggests the wine aged in both French and mature, perhaps Eastern European oak. This paired beautifully with the main course of dinner of grilled meats, along with fresh fruit and hearts of palm salad, zucchini and greens, yet the wine’s impact was even greater afterwards when we simply chatted and enjoyed the depth of each sip, the enchanting, silken mouthfeel, the impressive girth and balance of the wine, and the expressive flavor profile.

 

 

Like some wines of the Old World, Napa’s Chateau Montelena demonstrates consistency and tremendous quality over the decades. Their wines are a trustworthy delight to experience, and provide a very high level of both value and pleasure, vintage after vintage. 

 

à votre santé!

 

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Wines of Cariñena for Summer! #CoolDownwithCariñena

12 Aug

Bodegas Paniza Agostón 2016 Viura and Chardonnay Blend, Cariñena, Spain. 12.5% ABV, $13-14/bottle, internet/street. Screwcap Closure.

 

Color is a translucent, neutral straw with just a tiny hint of green. The nose offers a gentle citrus with lychee. On the palate, there are notes of lime zest, green melon, and sweet plantains. Gentle acidity on the back palate and a subtle, bitter finish. I am quick to refill this in the heat of the summer. A blend of 70% Viura and 30% Chardonnay,  it is light, cool, and refreshing: reminding me of the wonderful local wines I tasted last summer while sailing the Mediterranean Sea. This is delicate, and so similar to the wines of last summer- easy to imbibe all afternoon or to pair with raw seafood, cold gazpacho, salads and vegetables, along with baked white fish, chicken or pork. Yum!

 

 

Corona D Aragon Garnacha Blanca 2017. Cariñena, Spain.  12.5% ABV, Around $10/bottle street price.  Nomacork Closure. 

 

 

Color is young straw. The nose is quite delicate, with hints of honeysuckle blossom, sunflower, and almond paste. On the palate is fresh lemon rind, crisp apple, with a hint of tangerine. Nice acidity is left behind on the tongue and front palate, the overall effect like a ray of sunshine catching you after being lost behind the clouds. This is a blend of 87% white grenache, and 13% chardonnay grapes that paired perfectly with Chinese stir-fry and again with spicy Thai noodles, but also with flatbread white pizza and a traditional Naples-style pizza with a spicy San Marzano tomato sauce.

 

 

 

Bodegas San Valero, Origium 1944:  Rosé of Garnacha, 2016.  Cariñena, Spain. ABV 12.5%, Street Price under $10/bottle, Traditional cork closure.

 

Color is a beautiful and deep cerise. The nose is of tiny fresh red berries and a hint of green leaves. On the palate is fresh cranberry, watermelon, a touch of young raspberry. Delightfully young, exuberant, and lively, with acidity crossing the top of the palate, leaving your mouth refreshed. 

 

This is a wine you want to start sipping before mid-day. It’s so fresh, bright, and unassuming– you will want to continue sipping this lightly with lunch, in a hammock as you enjoy the sun, all afternoon long as you prepare supper, while you rest with your family, and relax with friends. This lovely rosé of garnacha will pair beautifully with smoked or roasted game (think cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving) or with vegetables or any hearty flavors. There is enough acidity here to handle savory flavors of pan-tossed brussel sprouts, artichoke hearts, or a lovely paella! Just a hint of vanilla & cedar lets you know it was aged in wooden barriques and has the ability to stand up to serious main courses, not just appetizers.

 

All of these wines are excellent for hot weather, with bright citrus and delicate fruit.

If you’re looking for a great traditional dish from a regional recipe of Cariñenas, try this migas recipe with garnacha blanca, a viura/chardonnay blend, or garnacha rosé!

 

#WIYG? Whats YOUR summer wine to beat the heat?  Have you tried these?

Share your thoughts with me below!

 

à votre santé!

Pairing Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux on National Oyster Day!

3 Aug

 


William Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux SEA 2017 Ltd Edition, Chablis, France. 12.5% ABV, SRP $24.99/bottle.

 

What could be better in the heat of summer than a cold bottle of chablis? Probably the only way to improve that is with some freshly shucked oysters. Don’t panic, the old ‘R’ rule of only eating oysters from September to April no longer counts, as oysters are farmed carefully all year ’round and brought to market with massive concern for proper temperature maintenance. As a matter of fact, National Oyster Day is outside of the ‘R’ months entirely, on August 5th. It’s time to celebrate!

 

There are so many ways to enjoy oysters -Rodney’s Oyster House in Toronto, Canada has a two-oyster serving of deep-fried oysters that is a savory delight. The famed recipe from New Orleans for Oyster Rockefeller is a gorgeous example of taking oysters to the next level, in a town where there are plenty of specialty restaurants who simply charbroil them on a platter with a mix of garlic and butter. But nothing is as good as a sip of chablis, followed by a perfect, freshly-shucked oyster with a tiny squeeze of lemon, sucked into your mouth, a few chews to mix the salty belly together with the sweet muscle, and swallow. The oyster’s briny juice, the delicate meat, the essence of the ocean are elevated when Chablis provides an ideal blend of white fruit together with a breath of salt air, a lemony finish and a gently acidic aftertaste to follow and make you want more, more, more!

Pairing Chablis is easy, since the base of the Chablis region’s terroir is largely chalk, marl, limestone, and oyster shells from an ancient Jurassic seabed. That makes anything from the ocean an easy choice, along with warm and cold soups, salads, appetizers, or just a sunny day. So if you don’t love shellfish, try sushi or sashimi, freshly grilled octopus, pan-fried flounder, lobster, ahi tuna, or smoked salmon on a bagel- I can promise you, it’s delightful!

 

Jurassic-Era soil sample from Chablis: Calcified Oyster Shells, Limestone, & Marl

 

 

 

Wine Tasting Notes, Please?

Before I wax poetic on National Oyster Day, I promised you a wine review, didn’t I?

 

Color is deep straw with excellent clarity. The nose is a glamorously fresh bouquet of lime zest and sea spray. On the palate is a bright mix of apple, pear, lemon, and honeydew melon. Lovely acidity with a crisp yet delightfully silken and gossamer mouthfeel. The finish includes notes of chalk, flint, sodium, and the smallest hints of oak. This wine is so up my alley, it’s obvious how I adore it. But I have to admit: while I lust for the aged Premiere Cru wines from Fèvre in the $100/bottle category (much like my favorite white burgundies), this wine, -with an SRP of only $24.99 and street prices under $20- sates my palate and makes me SO very happy when drinking it!

Need I say it? This is a tremendous bottle and in my opinion, a superb value that you can get for a daily drinking price. Part of me wants to stop writing and buy all I can, but the greatest joy in wine and food is sharing with others! So now you know- this is the wine you want when you want to eat seafood, and absolutely, this is what you want to pair with oysters on National Oyster Day!

 

 

Summing Up? Bottoms Up With Chablis! 

Rowan Jacobsen is one of the foremost experts on oysters,  and if you ask him what wine to drink with oysters, he has three words: Chablis, Chablis, Chablis!  I have heard him say it before, and here’s a fun video where you can hear him discuss oysters and chablis!

 

Drop me a note and let me know: what are you drinking on National Oyster Day? And, what’s YOUR favorite #Chablis?

 

#PureChablis

 

à votre santé!

 

#AlsaceRocks My 50th Birthday

21 Jul

You turn 50 once. I thought it would be no big deal, but in retrospect, it feels like so much more important than turning 40 did. My birthday week was full of shows and long hours at work, and arrived at the end of June, which happened to be a month of #AlsaceRocks promotions! So when I finally got a chance to sit down, I treated myself to two bottles of Crémant D’Alsace that became an awesome birthday present!

 

Jean-Baptiste Adam Crémant d’Alsace “Emotion” Brut Reserve, Alsace, France. ABV 12%; SRP $22/bottle.

 

Color is a pale gold, with a nose of brioche. The palate is apple, young pear and citrus; the mouthfeel is a medium-bodied rich texture with moderate, delicate bubbles. Comprised of 95% chardonnay grapes and 5% pinot noir, primary fermentation takes place in hundred-year-old wooden barrels and the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. Aged on the lees for nine months prior to disgorgement. This drinks like a champagne at more than twice the price. I was highly impressed at the quality and value of this bottle, but wanted to get a layman’s opinion of the wine. 

 

 

My next-door neighbor Lori was home, and we sat on the front step and enjoyed a glass of this to celebrate the week, that our kids were home, and because we deserved it. Lori admits she doesn’t know a lot about wine, but she knows what she likes, and she has a huge fan of the high-end white Burgundy that is my personal cocaine- so I consider her an excellent, non-professional barometer, and I asked her opinion. Lori thought it was important to note that it is both elegant and fun to drink, how nice and dry the Adam crémant is, and that she really likes the combination of apple and vanilla flavors it exhibits. After another sip, she admitted that while she loves bubbles, she’s didn’t like Champagnes as much as this, which exhibited more character and style. I’d call that a HUGE win, and solid agreement on my loving this bottle, and wanting more from Jean-Baptiste Adam!

 

 

 

Maison Willm Crémant d’Alsace, Blanc de Noirs, Alsace, France. 12% ABV, SRP $22/bottle- seen locally as low as $16/bottle, street price.

Color is pale gold. A delicate nose of green apple with effervescence, while on the palate: lemon citrus, young pear, with refined bubbles that create a silky, gossamer mouthfeel. A tiny hint of bitters with a lovely and succinctly tart finish. I could drink this all day long and nearly refused to jot down tasting notes (as you see, I relented). This delightful wine is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, which are softly pressed and separated from the skins quickly to refrain from exacting color from the grapes. This is a classic and harmonious representation of Alsace and is a delightful sparkling wine.  

 

 

 

So, if you have to have an iconic birthday, ok, really,  if you need any reason to celebrate, or if you just deserve a treat, seek out Crémant D’Alsace and taste it- I expect you will be shocked and amazed that these taste like single-vineyard Champagne at a fraction of the cost. Whether you prefer the Chardonnay or Pinot Noir versions- both are SO delicious-  I know that you, too, will agree that #AlsaceRocks! 

 

à votre santé!

Ranch 32’s 2016 Vintage

8 Jul




Ranch 32 Chardonnay 2016, Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey, California. 13.5% ABV; SRP $20/bottle.

Color is pale yellow, with a nose of pear, pineapple, vanilla extract and toasted oak. On the palate, apple and pear dominate with a buttery and rich mouthfeel, wrapped up by hints of brown butter sugar cookies and lime zest. This is a great wine to sip on the porch in the afternoon; perhaps the ideal food pairing is baked chicken with fresh vegetables. This is the classic, savory, buttery chardonnay made with ten months of aging in French oak, a touch high in alcohol for me but the mouthfeel did not give that away. For my readers who love classic California chardonnay in the under $25 mark, this is a bottle you need to find!

 

 

Ranch 32 Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Hames Valley and San Lucas AVAs, Monterey, California. 13.5% ABV; SRP $20/bottle.

A blend of two fruits from two Monterey estates, aged for 12 month in French and American oak. Color is deep garnet with maroon edging. The nose offers cassis and blackberry, then green vegetation with notes of eucalyptus, basalt, and cedar. On the palate: moderate dark fruit starts and finishes. Black plum and black currants cross the front palate, potting soil with loam and sodium on the back palate with a spice mix and heat from the alcohol across the top palate. Medium-long finish with strong fruit is retained thoughout. I tasted this over the course of a week and the fruit profile expanded to full maturity after a couple of days. It was delightfully young upon opening and evolved with air to a nice maturity, so I’d suggest decanting or using an aerator for maximum enjoyment. Ideal pairings with grilled meats and game, my preferred pairing was grilled steak and grilled vegetables (also endorsed by a vegetarian guest who did the pairing solely with grilled vegetables). I found this wine to be a solid value, especially at the street price you will find in the $15-20 range.

 

 

Ranch 32 Pinot Noir 2016, Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey, California. 13.5% ABV; SRP $20/bottle.

 

Color is dusty rose, while the perfumed nose offers rose bush, raspberries, fresh cuttings and sand. On the palate, fully mature cherry and raspberry, notes of sea salt, moss, sandy loam, and white pepper. Considerable heat on the medium-long finish, notes of burnt coffee beans and tasted oak wrap up this little gem. I adored this wine with hot artichoke dip, both cured and baked salmon, and dried meats. I could see this wine easily pairing through an entire meal, tantalizing your mouth from the appetizer to after-dinner bites of strawberries, chocolates, or cheesecake. There is a sense of old-world glamour in this wine, perhaps an early California essence that permeates?  Regardless, this is solid value that compares well against wines in the $25+ range.

 

 

#WIYG?

à votre santé!

5 Lesser-Known Gems of Burgundy to Find & Drink NOW!

8 May

Don’t be confused when you see “Bourgogne” on the label. In English, that translates to Burgundy.

Burgundy is the region from which some of the world’s most expensive AND most-prized wines originate, but you can also drink gorgeous, world-class wines for $15-30, what we like to think of as a “daily” drink, as opposed to a weekend or special occasion wine. Because with a tiny bit of knowledge and research, you can drink affordable Burgundy any day of the week that you want to!

Last week I shared five reasons to drink the wines of Bourgogne. Now, here are five lesser-known gems of Burgundy, each a delightful and affordable example of her tremendous terroir and the skilled winemaking from the 84 AOCs that are represented within her five winemaking regions.

 

Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé, Chablis AOC 12% ABV, SRP $ 14.95

 

This sparkling wine is delicate & aromatic, made from 100% pinot noir grapes. The color is pale salmon. The nose offers rose petals, carnation, and raspberry. On the palate: quite dry, raspberry and cranberry flavors are dominant, which shifts to a long, tart, and satisfying finish with hints of clay and limestone. Small, moderate bubbles provide a relaxed yet robust mouthfeel. You will absolutely ask for more! This sparkling wine drinks beautifully and equally as well as wines that cost twice as much- affordable enough to drink any day of the week, but your mouth will think it’s a holiday!

An interesting fact: this sparkling has bolstered sales in the USA over the last several years, increasing marketshare by more than 10% last season alone. At this price, why not?

 

 

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2015; 12.5% ABV, Street price @ $29/bottle.

Color is pale gold, like a warm early morning ray of sunshine. The nose is delightfully balanced with citrus, lemon rind, wildflowers and fresh cut grass.  On the palate, white stone fruit and citrus blend: peach, pear, lemon- with plenty of chalky limestone minerality with a great acidity that provides both a delightful sense of  freshness, and a the potential to age and mature gracefully to enjoy years down the road. Made from 100% chardonnay grapes that are hand picked, hand sorted, and eight months spent on the lees, entirely in stainless. This domaine has been entirely organic since 2004, which allows more expression, delicacy of flavor and minerality. A premier cru at $30?  I’m in.


 

 

 

 

Maison Chanzy Rully En Rosey 2016 by  Jean -Baptiste Jessiaume; ABV 13%, SRP 24.99

This is among the lesser-known appellations of Burgundy that offer tremendous value of quality wines from Bourgogne at reasonable prices! A delightful, oaked chardonnay, this wine spends six months in oak- two to three in new French oak and three-to four months in neutral oak barrels to have the perfect blend of gentle influence and balance. Color is warm afternoon sunshine, with a nose of a saline seashore with lemon rind and vanilla bean. On the palate, moderate citrus, forward, nice acidity, moderate mouthfeel- this wine is ready to be an apéritif or to accompany seafood, oysters, clams, mussels or escargots, and just as easily with enough acidity and body to pair with dried meats, cheeses, or with steak tartare or carpaccio.  A quick search showed many of my favorite wine stores already carry this under-the-radar, strong value Burgundy. Try this for your table, and then you’ll buy more for your cellar!

 

 

 

Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise Les Claveaux 2016 12.5% ABV, SRP $21.99

 

This wine is organically-grown.  Color is medium ruby. The nose is a touch earthy, with rose, dried cherries, potting soil, dried herbs, & black currant. The palate features quite linear fruit with high acidity. It is heavy on the stone fruits, and chock full of minerality with clay, limestone, and a touch of silica. Overall a very nice structure with gentle tannins. Quite delicate, and a pretty wine to enjoy. In Bourgogne, they call this wine “gourmand” which doesn’t really translate accurately to English, but is quite a compliment over there. Some would call this wine feminine, I call it delicious and delightful!

 

 

 

 

 

and last but not least:

Domain Bart, Fixin, Marsannay-la-Côte 2015, 13% ABV, SRP 29.95.

Color is a luxurious deep ruby, while the nose shows eucalyptus, black cherry, and red currants. On the palate, there is bright raspberry and voluptuous cherry, with a beautiful and long finish, on which there were notes of flint, currants, and clay. I could easily pair this classic Burgundian pint noir with a fish (with a savory  or spicy sauce, perhaps), fowl, mushrooms, or delicate red meats.

This northern Côte-de-Nuits is clean and beautiful, showing old-world and age-worthy qualities. This lesser-known appellation is ideal for entry-level prices into Burgundy from a top quality estate- so raise your hands, who want entry-level pricing? (We ALL do, right?) Well, I found this quite quickly (first try!) at Astor Wine & Spirits.

 

Fixin is a northen Côte-de-nuits AOC.

 

 

 

 

Who else is ready for a glass of Bourgogne?

à votre santé!

 

Five Reasons To Drink the Wines of Bourgogne

1 May

Maybe you already know to drink the wines of Burgundy, but maybe you don’t know WHY. While I was writing reviews of my recent tasting of wines from Bourgogne, I sat and wondered about the huge cross-section of my readers- from those who are wildly knowledgeable, to those just exploring about the wonderful world of wine for the first time. And I thought, “This is a good reminder we could all use from time to time!”

So here are your top 5 reasons (if you ever need them) to drink the wines of Burgundy/Bourgogne:

 

5. Chablis.  Maybe I need not say any more, but if you’re sadly unaware: Chablis is the Audrey Hepburn of white wine. Chablis is alluring, surprising, endearing, romantic, focused, yet wildly expressive! And the kiss of Premier Cru Chablis on your lips and crossing your palate is one you will never forget.

 

 

4. Simple grapes with the loftiest goals: There are only two main grape varieties grown in Bourgogne that account for over 90% of the wine from the area. If you don’t know already, they are Chardonnay (51%) and Pinot Noir (40%). But these AOCs produce some of the finest expressions found in wine and demonstrate some of the world’s best winemaking with just these two grapes.

 

 

3. Crémant. Just because there are two main grapes doesn’t mean the winemakers stop there. Their Crémant de Bourgogne is gorgeous. Effervescent, bone dry, delightful, elegant, and believe it or not, affordable! Blanc and Blanc de Blanc demonstrate beautiful floral, white fleshy fruit and toasted notes, while Rosé and Blanc de Noir show delicate red fruit and tiny hints of spice.

 

2. Terroir, Terroir, Terroir. Pinot Noir from Bourgogne tastes ethereal and mystical, while being grounded with notes that range from earthy to floral, tannins that range from silky to velvety. These wines can show the perfect balance of ripe red fruit, mouth-watering acidity, luscious tannins with oak influence and soil minerality on the finish.

 

 

1. Bourgogne IS “Burgundy”. Burgundy is simply the name for Bourgogne translated to English. And while you can find the world’s finest and most expensive wines here, you can also find tremendous value- be it Premiere or Grand Cru, Villages, or Regional AOC. Don’t be lost in translation on the label!

 

 

Before you goif you just learned something, then you’ll want to know this, too!

The five wine-producing regions of Bourgogne (and a few of they famed appellations) are:

1) Côte de Nuits (there are 81 Premiere Crus from Nuits-St-George, Vosne-Romanée, Gevrey-Chambertin alone!)

2) Côte de Beaune (including Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet)

3) Côte Chalonnaise (including Givry, Montagny, and Rully)

4) Mâconnais (including Mâcon, Saint-Véran, Puilly-Fuisse)

5) Chablis (including Irancy, Chablis, Auxerre, among others. Chablis is the source of Crémant de Bourgogne!)

 

Keep an eye out for my forthcoming reviews of the wines of Bourgogne I tasted last week- all in a practical & affordable price range! 

For more information, click on https://www.bourgogne-wines.com

 

à votre santé!

Won’t You Be Mine? My Valentine is Yarden Rosé 2011 Sparkling Wine

30 Jan

Yarden 2011 Brut Rosé; Golan Heights Winery, Galilee, Israel. 12% ABV; SRP $39.

 

Color is pale salmon, while the nose offers rosebuds and cherry blossom. On the palate, strawberries, tart pear and a hint of tangerine dominate the palate with secondary notes of baking yeast, almond paste, sour raspberry and a hint of chalky limestone. Excellent mouthfeel with medium sized bubbles in solid proportion and moderate effervescence. A delightful finish of balanced fruit, acidity, and tannin. This bottle lasted 2 days with re-closure and  maintained the same balance, flavor profile, and freshness over 28 hours. All in all, a delightful bottle of sparkling rosé.

Don’t let the name or the region catch you by surprise, this is a serious, world-class sparkling wine. Made of 72% Chardonnay and 28% Pinot Noir in the traditional Champagne method. Whole cluster pressed with secondary fermentation in the bottle; disgorged after five years of bottle aging. Cellar up to a decade from harvest for maximum enjoyment. I paired this with roast turkey on the first day, and grilled steak on the second- it held up beautifully to the salads, grilled and roasts meats and the vegetables, potatoes and even cranberry sauce- but this wine is simply gorgeous on its own, and needs no excuse to be enjoyed whether it is by itself or with food. Either way, you win.

This is an excellent Valentine’s Day bottle to share with a loved one, but even more, just to have on hand. A solid value in the Under-$50 range that will make your special night that much more romantic, or spice up a quiet dinner for two… or four! With the vintage rosé being Kosher for Passover, you can buy several bottles and keep something in reserve for that event as well, whether you serve this as the host, or bring it as a housewarming present.

Whether you ask “Will You Be Mine?” or “Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights”, you will be well prepared with a world-class wine that will impress whomever you serve it to: 2011 Yarden Rosé. 

 

If you want to know more about the winemaker Victor Schoenfeld, I previously wrote about him here

à votre santé!

 

 

 

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!

 

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!

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