Tag Archives: Cellar

Thanksgiving Post-Mortem

23 Nov

How did your Thanksgiving fare?

It’s the biggest meal of the year in the USA. We gather with friends, family, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, and celebrate the bountiful harvest of life… be it celebrating a good year, or simply our strength in spirit, survival and togetherness.

After the big meal, whether you watch the game(s) or clean up the kitchen, we have time for reflection…

How do you feel after Thanksgiving Dinner? The NY Times has a great article on aging and the effects of wine.

Sometimes we’re shopping for the next treat in the cellar. Food & Wine has 150 Wines for $15 and under. YUM!

And if that’s too much reading, here’s the best under $15 just for the white wine lovers. Three of these are on my list. Do you know which three?

Here’s hoping you UnCorked something delicious and shared it with friends and family. I know I did!

à votre santé!


2009 En Route Pinot Noir, Les Pommiers, Red Russian Valley

12 May

Had a stunning experience today with a group looking for a wine featuring something a little less fruit forward than a basic pinot but with some dense structure and complexity. Offered a taste, and I demanded a bottle, of the En Route Pinot 2009. In spite of it being a pinot, this is a very good wine. The Red Russian Valley (Sonoma bordering Napa) has a great environment for pinot noir grape when well made and here’s a prime example of a winemaker putting some serious love into their work.The result:  fruit forward yet loads of structure, a purple-ruby hue with red raspberry and wildflowers on the nose, the first taste is bright red fruit, then hints of cassis & black plum, licorice and a touch of gravel. Black plum with perhaps rosebud on the well-defined finish. Nicely balanced acidity and fresh fruit along with the grippy tannins make it a medium body, which allows it to pair well with almost anything.  Delicious and flexible, it’s a rare organic made find that is worth the cost- about $50 in the store, double that in a restaurant. Solid buy. And looking at ratings online, shows 93 points- I agree. At this price, a great gift wine, too, but even better to drink.


100% Monastrel!

12 May
ImageTarima’s Monastrel 2009 is a spicy Spanish red from the Jumilla region. With a high alcohol content (15%!) Its violet color and nose (with notes of graphite and cola) don’t warn the taster of the powerful spice you will experience in the glass- it demonstrates a palate of dark cherry, black pepper and a hint of dark chocolate with a tart finish. I’m surprised at the biting flavor; at $11/bottle it’s a steal if you pair it right- with tapas or salsa, gamey grilled meats, or a spicy entree like lamb or flavorful steaks, even a spicy pasta sauce would do. It needs something strong to stand up to. I tried it with one of my favorite pizzas (that features a delicious spicy tomato sauce) but it just wasn’t powerful enough a flavor to make a good pairing until I tasted a roasted garlic salsa with it. Nice!

The Monastrel is a grape you might know by anther name I have mentioned before, the Mourverdre, which is commonly found in great Rhone blends and lending to dark color and high alcohol content from its thick skins. In this wine, the grapes are obviously picked late on the vine, full of condensed flavor and color. Excellent job to the winemaker, and a good value for the right pairing.

From JvB’s Cellar (Bin #5): The French country answer to Mendoza’s malbecs

1 Apr

Clos La Coutale ’08 was sold to me as a French country malbec, so I had to try it. While the label says it’s 70/30 Malbec/Merlot blend, the French Office of Professional Wines says it’s actually 70% malbec, 20% merlot and 10% tannat. Either way, it’s a nice country red.

The shade is a ruby-purple color, the nose has a little ripe cherry, some vegetation, and a slight pepper spice which are confirmed and explode upon the palate. Firm tannin and tight with acid, this is a big mouthful which is really the opposite of an Argentinian Malbec in flavor: less fruit, more earth, spice, mineral a little tobacco and a very dry finish. Nice!

While it doesn’t taste like a Mendoza malbec, what it has in common is being an ideal wine to pair with strong flavors like grilled meat. Very drinkable without aging, this is a good dinner wine for those not into the pinot noir/fruit forward wines and like a dry, tight finish. Google puts this up at $14/bottle, I paid $17 in Manhattan and think it’s a fair price and once tasted, it opens up beautifully with red meat! A lovely choice for the high end backyard barbecue or steak night. This vin du table would normally be sold only by the carafe in Cahors (SW France) but you can enjoy it here, now.

From JvB’s Cellar (Bin #4): Cab ’08 Challenge (3-20-11)

26 Mar

Two new cabernet sauvignons I’ve been wanting to try from a local shop. Both have been previously suggested by fellow wine lovers. I was looking for a short, three bottle comparison. Sadly the third wine, a kosher Zmora, almost got in but turned out to be an ’09. Sorry, you’re out!

‎#1: (on the left) 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon ’08 from Washington. Floral nose w/ cherry, black currant, strong spice. It had lots of early astringency and bite in the palate. A decent under $10 value but I’m not bowled over. Tried it with several foods, it paired best with chocolate. This is going to be someone’s favorite Cab, but for me… I’d pass. It’s drinkable, but not something I’ll really enjoy unless I found the right pairing complement.

#2: (on the right) Edge Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 from Napa. The winemaker’s pedigree here is evident with a complex, delightful wine that sports berry and delicate spices across a softer palate with balance and grace as if its aged years already. Drinkable now, it’s obvious why this costs 2x the 14 Hands- it’s a $20 bottle that compares well to $40 Californian standards. Buy & drink now or cave, I’d serve this for a dinner party as the depth of this wine will pair well with just about anything– I can see this working beautifully from salmon to bison to delicate (vanilla-based) desserts like flan or cheesecake. If you are game for a $20 Napa Cab- try this. I think it’s a home run!

Challenge Winner: Edge 2008 Cab.

From JvB’s Cellar (Bin#3): Five great Malbecs to tempt your palate and please your wallet! (3-20-11)

20 Mar

Five Malbec suggestions: First, the best thing going these days in entry-level wine: Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. These run as low as $9/bottle and most are an excellent value!

Los Alamos (2005-2009 are solid: red berry dominates with vanilla and oak, a little tart on the finish, a great entry into the world of Malbec.

Kaiken- the 2007-2009’s are similar: floral with red fruit and oak barrel notes, and perfect with most foods.

Catena Zapata- expensive in my list at 13-14/bottle, lush and gets ratings over 91 by top vinophiles- to me, it’s just a solid quality vineyard! The reserve goes for about 20/bottle and is fabulous to serve to guests: a real crowd pleaser!

MMM- Miguel Mendoza Malbec- from 06′-’09, from $12-16. Lush, fabulous.

Lancatay 2008/2009 Malbec: 90 score from Wine Adocate, fruity, floral, firm, and consistent. $7-10

Take these five to your local REAL wine store. Ask what Malbecs they have and what best “value or bang for the buck” they have. I bet you find two of these at least, but maybe more, and maybe something I don’t know that you will suggest to me!

From JvB’s Cellar (Bin #2): Every Day Reds-Great Values (1-26-11)

26 Jan

Two every day wines, or ‘Vin Rouge du Tables’, if you prefer.

#1: In 2007 I started taking notes on the 2006 Los Vascos, a Chilean Cab Sauv that is a killer choice for great grape, body & structure, now a part of the Rothschild-Lafite empire. a 70-year olf French grape with huge lineage + great soil in southern hemisphere=perfect world red choice to offset the new growths from France. Anyhow, the 2007 was close, and the 2008 is a step back just in terms of not quite perfect- probably weather, soil, or rushing to meet a market demand. But it’s very good- and in the 9.99/bottle, the 2008 is a rocking daily wine. They call it a Classic, I’ll agree. It’s my house red. Good ruby color, Red plum and raspberry with floral accents and a charcoal base. Not too acidic, good balance. Great with everything from pizza to chateaubriand.

Keep an eye out for the wines from the same house that really shine: the Los Vascos Reserve, and Le Dix Los Vascos. Each one is a step up in price (Reserve @ 16, Le Dix fom $25-40 depending on the source, both limited and hard to find. Reserve only makes 40k cases a year, Le Dix under 5000 cases for the whole world.) Really fabulous, and comparable to young wines from the second growth classifications IMO.

#2: La Chasse Cote du Rhone Prestige: A good every day Burgundy. Had the 2007, enjoyed it. The 2008 is similar, a ruby color with fruity, floral nose. Black plum and raspberry on the front, earth and spice on the finish. For the price, 10-12 per bottle, its a solid vin du table that will serve you well. It’s nothing unusual or extraordinary but is consistent and well structured. Great general Burgundy or “soft red” when you don’t need a star player like a Chateneuf0-du-Pape. For a Burgundy in the 12 range, it drinks like a 20 bottle- of which, I honestly haven’t found any. I find the younger Burgundies are best in either the under $14 or over $40.

From JvB’s Cellar (Bin #1): Thanksgiving Wines (11-23-10)

23 Nov

I started writing about wine on facebook, after several people inquired what wine to serve at Thanksgiving.

I published my first wine-focused ‘note’ with the intent of spreading the word. After more than a year of being pestered to start a wine blog, I’m finally taking the plunge- and I have my 60+ entires of historic wine notes to include.

So…welcome to The Cellar! For ‘historic’ notes, I’ll include the header From JvB’s Cellar and include the date so you can quickly decide to read, browse, or ignore any of the submissions you might recall, or wish to re-visit. Please let me know with your comments if it’s working out for you- as an established writer I want the writer-reader relationship to be beneficial, and I’m trying to figure out how to make a blog worth your time. Fair enough?

—————Thanksgiving Wines  (originally posted 11-23-10) ——————

This has been requested by a half-dozen different people, so I’m making it a note.

Here’s my $0.02 on Thanksgiving wine, and I’ll try to stay on the inexpensive side of wines, 9-15/bottle, for large groups like this. At Thanksgiving I tend to serve several wines: A main white, a second white (Reisling for the reluctant drinker), a gentle red, and a serious red.

1) I always serve a dry white (either a Bordeaux like Lamothe de Haux ’09, Chateneuf Herzog, or a white Burgundy like the Latour Macon-Lugny Les Genievres, each @ $10/bottle). It helps get people to the table, great to drink while cooking or chatting, and a good dinner wine for people who don’t (or can’t) drink red, want something to clear their palate, don’t really like to drink wine much but want a glass at the table, or similar reasons.

2) I also always have a bottle of a dry Reisling on hand. Some people can’t digest the tannins of reds and the whites are often too mineral-tasting or too dry without food, and a demi-dry white or a dry Reisling is my secret weapon. At about $9/bottle, I have found my wife and mom both love bottles like Mosel Germany’s Clean Slate ’08 and Relax ’07, which are unpretentious, tasty, and fun to drink without being too sweet, while being a decent food complement for those non-wine drinkers who just want a little something in their glass to enjoy. They are often screw-cap, which makes them easy to serve & save.

3) For reds, in the last three years I have turned from my traditional “too-heavy” cabernets to the balanced and more appropriate Pino Noir for Thanksgiving red. I serve either the Joseph Drouhim Nourgogne Pinot “Laforet” ’07, the Chamarre’ Grande Reserve Pinot Noir ’07, or Louis Latour Pinot Noir Bourgogne, all in the $9-$12 bottle range. If I have guests who are Californian wine drinkers, the Ramsay North Coast ’08 Pinot, which is big and bold, is a great choice around $14/bottle.

4. Lastly, I always keep a serious red on hand, just in case I have a serious red drinker. It also is great as the meal progresses or if you have a red meat course or a flavor that is looking for a big wine to complement it. On the low end of the price scale, I adore Los Vascos ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon which is a Rothschild (Lafite) grape grown in Chile, and is an outstanding value at 9/bottle. There are also always a lot of great Bordeaux out there in the 10-15 range, Chateau de Costis, Chateau du Pin, Chateau Greysac (Medoc) ’06, Chateau Lascaux ’05, all solid choices. If I want to step that up a notch, there are some excellent choices in the 18-25/bottle range, such as Lafite Reserve Speciale (Medoc) ’06, Chateneuf-du-Pape and Margaux which will largely vary on the vintner and year depending on where you buy wine.

Happy Holidays!

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