Tag Archives: Commentary

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!

 

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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!

Konzelman Estate Winery Merlot #MerlotMe

18 Feb

Konzelman Estate Winery 2015 Merlot, VQA Niagara Peninsula; Canada. 13% ABV, Approx $15CAD/bottle at LCBO.

 

Color is magenta with ruby edging. The gentle nose shows delicate red fruit. The palate features mature cherries, boysenberry, red cassis with soft, velvety tannin, secondary notes of vanilla, potting soil, sour cherry and granite. Medium short finish, this is so easy to drink by itself and pairs easily almost all foods- my favorites include flatbreads, savory soups, and most meats- but it is simply heavenly with dark chocolate.

This could also be a good warm weather wine for those not into pinot or other bold, high acid wines. With an easy-access screw top, this is a great party wine, and one of the most generally ‘easy to drink’ Canadian reds I have tasted to date in the under $20/bottle price range. I’d absolutely keep a few bottles of this in my cellar for occasions where I want a subtle, drinkable red that is easy to serve anytime and then transition into dinner and stay through dessert, or to please the “I only drink red” crowd when I’m serving Puligny-Montrachet. (Hey, that’s OK- drink what you like!)

This wine is compatible and ubiquitous. like the dinner jacket that is flexible enough to dress up your jeans, or dress down comfortably on formal night.

Sorry about the scratch on the label. It in no way affected my enjoyment of the wine!

#MerlotMe

I like this wine. So should any smart wine drinker! But, it’s apparent that in the United States, the Merlot grape sometimes has a bad rap for no good reason. The reality is: Merlot is a great grape as a single varietal, as well as a tremendous red wine blending grape.

From time to time you might find merlot haters. For the average American, films and social media can have major and minor implications, sometimes even just subliminally. When my fellow YSD Alumnus Paul Giammati (as the character Milo) in the 2004 film “Sideways” gave merlot a bad name, yelling “I’m not drinking any (expletive) merlot!” Many viewers remember that scene fondly, while ignoring the fact that in the same film, Milo’s greatest wine treasure is a 1961 Chateau Cheval Blanc, which is a Bordeaux blend containing – yes, you guessed, it- 40% merlot.

Simply put, merlot is the second-most grown grape in the USA and is critical to many of the worlds greatest wines. We can’t love red wines without loving merlot.

We  know this: Miles was WRONG. Let’s all drink the merlot! Hit up your social media outlets with the hashtag #MerlotMe!

à votre santé!

Italy’s Newest Wine: SECCO!

19 Jan

You read that right. There’s a new sparkling wine in town, and its name is SECCO.

Let me give you the backstory, in short: Three Leading Italian Food & Wine Consortiums have just begun a three-year-long nationwide campaign called “Enjoy European Quality”. Now, who is to complain, when they are raising awareness of wines such as Moscato and Secco, salumi such as Prosciutto di Parma, Salame Piacentino, Capocollo di Calabrio, Speck Alto Adige, and cheeses like Provolone Valpadana Dolce and Piccante?

Getting back to ASTI– and ASTI is short for “Consorzio Per La Tutela Dell’Asti DOCG”, which, since its founding in 1932, has worked to protect, develop, and promote ASTI products around the world.

Moving forward, while Moscato has a throng of followers, there are those who aren’t as fond of sweet wines. So as of late 2017, Secco has been given DOCG status. And newly exported from Italy in 2018, is Secco, using the same Moscato Bianco grape, but providing a dry sparkling wine that will appeal to another segment of wine drinkers.

 

After years of drinking Moscato, I know what to expect from the wines, and I’m a big fan. Delicate effervescence, low alcohol (around 5-6% ABV) and a decidedly sweet, sunshine-afternoon, honey-tangerine flavor profile. So imagine my expectations when I heard this is made from the same grape.

But I promise to keep an open mind. Try as I might, it’s difficult to do. Until the decadent mousse and powerful effervescence hits your mouth.

 

 

Tosti ASTI DOCG Secco Non-Vintage; Milan, Italy.  11% ABV.

Color is pale straw; the nose offers sweet honesuckle and lilac. On the palate, a lovely and full effervescence with decadent mousse, exposing a surprisingly dry sparkling wine, with predominantly pear fruit, mixed floral and herb notes, with baking yeast and a lemon custard finish.

 

Well blow me down. This is not my beloved Moscato. It’s only a tiny bit similar, but delightfully different. While I enjoy the sweetness of moscato d’Asti, I would not be able to drink it all day long. But Secco? I could come back and back to this. And the more Secco I tasted, the more I liked them, and saw a place for them in the American Marketplace. 

 

And you will, too, when you taste Secco. 

 

As for food pairings, Secco is dry enough to pair with a wide swath of food choices. But for starters, let’s stay in Piedmont and Italy, and look at what grows together, since we know it goes together!

Salumi is not salami, but the Italian word for ‘deli’. This prosciutto (middle of the plate) is 14 month-aged perfectly salted slice of pork that simply melts in your mouth. As a matter of fact, each of these specialties are the finest of their kind, and culinary delights that make your mouth quiver and your tongue dance and ask for another bite,  Se tu per favore? 


Not to be outdone by meat, is cheese! Provolone Valpadana DOP dolce and DOP piccante, perfectly aged and again, to tease your tastebuds, both provide a perfect swath of gently salted and decadent, savory cream across your palate that Secco wipes clean- to leave your mouth wanting the next bite.

 

Don’t be surprised if Summer 2018 becomes the Summer of Secco!

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Gift Guide: PLONK Wine Club

16 Dec

Plonk Wine Club

The nitty-gritty: World wines, from 2-12 bottles per shipment, available monthly, quarterly, or bi-annually. Wine prices average in the mid $20-range, 2 bottle shipments start around $50 and have discounts with higher bottle counts. Recommendation: BUY for yourself, or GIFT to your wine loving friends & family!

Etty Lewensztain is a Wine Enthusiast “Top 40 Under 40 Tastemaker”, with PLONK, a wine club that is proudly hailed by Food & Wine, Forbes, Wine Enthusiasts, and Wine & Spirits just to name a few. Etty is also a sommelier with a WSET Level 2 Certification who sources delicious world wines at under $30/bottle. She curates artisanal, small-batch, sustainably grown,  organic and biodynamic boutique wines from around the globe for PLONK. Etty’s club is designed for both the new wine lover who wants to learn about wine, as well as those like myself- jaded oenophiles who know what they like but like trying new and exciting things, and LOVE finding new, small-batch producers who are making their way in the world offering tremendous values. I like Etty because her approach (much like my own, I’d like to think) is almost anti-wine club, and more along the lines of “best friend with killer wine sense”.

Ok- as a jaded New Yorker and admitted former Francophile, you’re thinking, How can you be so positive on this?  Yeah, I know. It’s not the kind of thing I’d usually support, because I get offers to join EVERY wine club in the industry… and almost every one I say NO to, because I tried many of them in my youth and found them lacking. Lacking style, lacking value,  lacking responsibility. Well, this is the first in a long time that I had ANY interest in a wine club that is not from a specific winery, because it comes down to a person with responsibility, taste, liability, and something to lose in the deal. Etty is fun, personable, and responsible. Her club is all about the customer’s comfort- and it shows if you read some testimonials. But let it be enough to say that this is the first wine club with wines in an every day price range where there is an individual’s name and face on the club, with both responsibility for your drinking pleasure and something to lose.  Why do I like her approach? Well first, I liked her wine choices. They’re great! Let me be specific: no where else have I seen this breadth of great independent winemakers: she vends Leah Jorgensen, MeinKlang, Chateau Saint-Amour, Tavel Rosé, classic Chablis…I could go on! But second, she’s an entrepreneur, a freelancer, and obviously it’s the same way I function, just like independent wine producers with limited production. For people like us, EVERY BOTTLE COUNTS!

 

OK, enough of that- let’s hit the wines!

 

Santomas Refosk 2015 by L.N. Glavina, Slovenia. 13.5% ABV, $22/bottle.

Color is deep garnet, with an opaque center. The nose offers dark red fruit, heat, eucalyptus, and forest floor. On the palate, I received full-bodied sour cherry, red plum, with strong tannins and mouthwatering acidity. Final notes of small stones, sodium and red currants.  This is a fascinating wine; I immediately wanted another sip. For a second time, getting that memory of the fruit and a hint of bitterness on the moderate finish, I wanted this with pizza or adjaruli khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread) but it would work with a myriad of flavors. It actually complemented both a wurst and dark chocolate so beautifully, but any flavorful or savory dish would complement nicely. At $22/bottle I’d like to open this with friends and some snacks just to discuss. This is a wine-lover’s delight, for sure- but a foodie wine as well. I’m going to need to find more Slovenian wines!

 

 

Vino de Terruños “Siete” 2015 Rioja, Spain, 13.5% ABV; SRP:Sold Out

Color is ruby with a translucent, magenta center. The nose offers raspberry, blueberry, green cuttings, forest floor, and clay. On the palate, the fruit becomes a reserved berry compote: luscious but restrained, with excellent structure and balance in fruit, acidity, and tannin. The gentle finish has a touch of bitter herb with more clay. This is a tapas-style wine that is easy to start the evening with, pairing nicely with a cheese and dried fruit platter, then olives, and cured meats. A delicate wine that is fun to drink and easy to go down, it is capable of sticking around with gentler main courses and can handle fish, fowl, and pork easily.

 

 

Lusenti “Il Nostro Gutturno” Vino Frizzante 2016, Emilia-Romagna, Italy. 12.5% ABV, $22/bottle.

Color is deep purple (near-opaque) in color. The nose proffers black fruit, wildflowers and effervescence. On the palate, this sparkling red is so much fun! Incredibly dry with black cherry, lilac and violet blossoms, sodium, limestone and pebbly granite, this is  the red you want to drink cold, ice cold- and it delivers back in spades! Perfect for red sauces, red meats from cured to grilled, spicy Thai, Indian, Mexican or Mediterranean dishes, and an ideal wine for vegan/vegetarians to pair with a veggie entree like eggplant, portobello mushroom, lentils, veggie meatloaf, broccoli and spinach. Did I mention it is simply fun to drink on its own?

 

Altos de San Esteban “La Perra Gorda” 2015, Bierzo, Spain. 13.5%ABV, $22/bottle.

Color is deep ruby, with a purple center. The spicy nose offers cassis and black plum, with hints of lilac, lavender, black pepper and clove. On the palate, condensed and reserved black fruit with searing acidity and powerful tannins; the wine is classical in style with elegance that is the polar opposite of the fun label and cork. A long, dry and tightly-wound finish with notes of sandy black earth, and wet leaves.  This is a wine that screams for food, and will complement salty seafood, delicate fish, fowl or vegetables, and can pair will pork chops or wild boar nicely, in addition to dark chocolate and cake for dessert.

 

 

Let’s Get Back to Brass Tacks:

As I said in my introduction to Plonk Wine Club, I like Etty’s approach because not only does she choose good-to-great wines from across the globe, but she is also offering an unusual breadth and history, with a solid value. But don’t forget: unlike corporate-style wine clubs, she has a personal stake in her business: Every bottle counts! As a potential customer, this is where you benefit. You vote with your wallet and your patronage, and this is one where you can cancel at any time, or buy more of any wine you like. It’s a win/win situation, or a wine/win situation if you’ve had enough wine to taste.

And here’s a special opportunity for JvBUnCorked readers: use promo code UNCORKED to get $10 off your first purchase.

 

Etty Lewensztain, PLONK Wine Club: Your Best Friend With the Killer Wine Sense!

 

 

 

à votre santé!

 

Samples were provided for my personal & accurate review in this article;
no promise of positive review given, and no payments offered or received.  
All opinions shared are solely those of the author.

Thanksgiving 2017 Postmortem

25 Nov

Plan: To pair Thanksgiving Dinner with 1) an all-American group of wines, 2) from the wines currently in my cellar.

Challenge Accepted! Since I am an admitted former old world/French wine snob, my cellar does not lean towards a lot of American wines, but I was certain I could do this. I did not give myself time to worry, think, or shop, as I mix the live PA portion of NBC’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and spendthrift  96 hours prior to the meal totally obsessed with the broadcast, not the meal or wines.

READY?

 

GO!

 

Pre-game: something light with a hint of sweetness. Searched my cellar for a bottle of Nimmo or Nuvola from Markus Niggli, but resorted to a great standby from NY State: Dr. Konstantin Frank.

KICKOFF! To begin the meal I wanted a sparkling rosé for a toast, and my guests who would rather drink sparkling the entire meal. I recently touted and planned to serve a great sparkling wine from Sonoma County. I searched my cellar and was lacking American sparkling (I failed twice in a row? Am I getting old?) But a beautiful charm-method Prosecco, a spumante rosé blend of pinot noir and raboso by Carpene Malvolti came to the rescue, and served some of our guests throughout the entire meal! 

2nd Quarter: After the toast, we began a vegetable/beef soup course which features very fresh, sweet vegetables. For this, I wanted a white wine with high acidity that could pair with the savory beef. In replacing my historic Bordeaux blanc blend, I considered viognier & chardonnay, but finally settled on a Rhône clone of Grenache Blanc from Acquiesce featuring a full-bodied mouthfeel and great acidic backbone.

 

 

HALFTIME! As the main meal was being served, I poured first rosé of pinot Vicarious Rosé from Modus Operandi Cellars, and then moved on to the more full-bodied Grenache Rosé from Acquiesce. Both of these are small allocation wines that sell out immediately: Jason Moore of Modus only makes one barrel (25 cases) of his rosé at the demand of his longtime fans; Sue Tipton, owner/winemaker of Acquiesce, sells out her rosé as soon as her club allocation is fulfilled. These wines are quite different but share some similar qualities:  both have the perfect balance of  red fruit and soaring acidity, beautiful freshness and tremendous  vivaciousness. Each represents the grape from which it is made, and the rosé of pinot is delicate, creamy and floral in flavor and palate, while the Grenache rosé has bold fruit, more acids and tannins, and a fuller mouthfeel. Both wines are tremendous at pairing a meal comprised of savory meat, a cornbread stuffing with cranberry and brussel sprouts, green beans and slivered almonds, a rich and savory sweet potato casserole, and fresh cranberry sauce.

 

 

3rd Quarter! As the meal progressed, some wine drinkers automatically start looking for red grapes. So the next set of wines are obvious: pinot noir! I have been thinking about this meal all year long, and changed up my game. On the lighter side, the perfumed nose and delicate mouthfeel of Harmonique’s 2009 vintage The Noble One Pinot from Alexander Valley, while compared to a just-released, full-bodied, more heavily structured Sonoma Coast 2015 pinot noir from Rivers-Marie, hailing from Calisotga, Ca. Simply delicious, each one hit a slightly different series of notes with food to serve the palate wonderfully. While I poured small tastes and then full glasses for some guests, others like myself wanted short pours to be able to change up sips of heaven between bites of dinner.

 

 

On The Bench/Special Teams:  Bold red wine! I had a big, bold red wine from a Napa producer on reserve at the serving table, but ended up not opening it. Even my big, bold red wine lovers were satisfied with the two pinot noir offered. But for special teams, with dessert we enjoyed a stunning mulled wine (Cabernet Sauvignon mulled with brandy, spices and fruit) made by a wine & spirits specialist who graced our dinner and brought this our delight. YUM! Extra Points!

 

Postgame: my plan had some flaws.  Not having a brut rosé from California was a major sticking point, I had to dock myself 12.5%.  But the food & wine pairings and guests drinking pleasure were both great successes, which received full marks! I give myself a B+  on this challenge. 

 

What did YOU drink this year for Thanksgiving?

 

à votre santé!

Drinking Locally in the Mediterranean

26 Sep

 

Sometimes my vacations aren’t working vacations! This year my family took a cruise through the Mediterranean with Oceania Cruise Lines. The first night at dinner I scoured the ship’s wine list, curated by Wine Spectator. (You can view a sample of the wine list published here.) There are many wines on the list that I know intimately, others I have tasted before, and some I didn’t know that I’d like to taste. But the wait staff explained to us that for every port we visited, the chef was adding special dishes to the daily menu to represent local cuisine, and I really wanted to taste what the locals were drinking! Long story short,  I had better success in some ports than in others, but I didn’t want to interrupt my extended family’s vacation by taking too much time seeking out something that only half the group might taste or enjoy.

Sardinia, Italy

My fabulous wife arranged for a guide in Sardinia with a bus driver, which provided an easy opportunity to access local wine with a helpful hand! Driving along Costa Smerelda (the emerald coast), we made a quick stop in a local grocery and picked up three local bottles of wine in the €5.50-7.00 range (that’s six to eight US dollars). That, my friends, was a real score!

 

Cantina Il Nuraghe,  Mogoro, Italy:  Sardegna Terralba “Bovale” 2015. 13%ABV. Around €6 locally, found in the USA for $15/bottle.  

The bovale grape is more widely recognized as carignan. Lovely maroon color with a rich, complex nose of rosé, red fruit, black pepper and clove. On the palate: red rasberry/cherry, hints of young black fruit. Secondary notes of forest floor, granite, and gentle wood. Gentle acidity, smoother than expected for a 2015.  Totally a food wine; full-bodied, with a long and fulfilling finish.

For a quick historical note: you savvy readers obviously noticed the name of this winery is  Cantina Il Nuraghe. Maybe you’re wondering what a Nuraghe is: a Bronze-Age stone structures, some even called “Sardinia’s Stonehange”. 
 
Have you noticed a theme? Yes, stony soil! You could take it for granite…it’s actually LOTS of granite!
You can’t help but taste the terroir and the granite in the glass.
But everything isn’t red in the Mediterranean. What else could I score for just a few euro?

Cantina del Vermentino Monti: Funtanaliras Vermentino Di Gallura, Monti, Italy.  12.5% ABV. Found locally for €6; SRP  €10. Online in the USA from $12-16/bottle. 

Color is medium straw with a hint of green berry tinge. Nose is gentle floral with iris, tulip, orchid, and Anjou pear.
On the palate: quince, granny smith apple, and lime zest. Mellow acidity traces a spine of heat across top palate; final notes include a gentle finish with a  hint of almond and granite. We opened this at dinner and it went gorgeously with the meal (and was the perfect foil for the ‘blini’ of sturgeon caviar, seen below).
The vermentino paired so well with the caviar, then also with a salad course, then with snapper with grilled vegetables for the main course.  I’d have been just as happy sipping this on the veranda, looking our at the sea. But I would really have missed the sturgeon caviar…
Provence, France
While shopping in Provence for herbs, I noticed a bin full of local wines and picked one up on a whim. It sold for €14- about $16 USD. As this bottle was more expensive than the ones nearby, the shopkeeper explained that the wine was a blend of syrah; and the bottle was also his personal favorite. He went on to explain (if my high school French served me correctly) that since this bottle was more expensive than most people want to pay for a local wine, only real wine-lovers bought it, which allowed him to drink more of it personally, at a better discount.
Les Baux de Provence Domaine de Lauzières “Persephone” by Christophe Pillon; Mouries, France.  80% syrah/20% grenache blend; 13.5% ABV. SRP €14/bottle.
Color is opaque purple. The nose begins as deep brett/barnyard funk which burned off after being allowed to air, then demonstrating earth, mushroom, red fruit. Palate:  cassis, raspberry, and stewed fruit. Secondary impressions are powerful acidity and long tannins; then essences of toasted oak, limestone, clay and sand. The winemaker says that the entire operation is organic and biodynamic; my palate says that this wine loves a piece of meat and some vegetables,  the rich fruit pairing nicely with savory and spices beautifully.
Every wine I found locally in the Mediterranean can be a great food wine, or a “sit and watch the sea with the breeze in your face, and just enjoy the moment” wine. Maybe that is one of the key approaches to making wine in the Mediterranean. I know that each day, I managed to find time to contemplate. 
Finally- the boat’s sommeliers were just as happy to taste these wines as we were, and were impressed at the QPR found I the local wines and their ability to pair with the chef’s local dishes. While I love the Wine Spectator’s list, there is nothing quite like drinking locally.
I sincerely hope that you find time to contemplate your surroundings with a glass of local wine.

à votre santé!

 

Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyards Part 2: The Spur and Zarzuela

8 Jul
(If you missed part 1, you can find it here.)

The Spur 2014 by Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 13.5%, ABV, MSRP $30/bottle.

 

Color is a dark purple that is barely translucent, with violet edging. The nose is rich and robust with ripe blue fruit, spices, oak, scorched earth and a touch of lingering compost. Boysenberry, black plum, sour cherries, and damp green herbs cross and hold the front and side palates, while heat from the alcohol crosses the top and lands at the back along with notes of cedar, clay, forest floor, and saddle leather. The mouthfeel is powerful, youthful, and explosive, while the finish is long and slow in comparison: the lingering smoke from the cannon’s barrage, with final notes of dark blackberries and cassis suddenly in the very front of my mouth, making my tongue search with inquisitiveness and amusement, wondering “When did those arrive?”

An unusual, fun, unique red blend. Curious and expressive, this is an oral Cirque Du Soleil, a strange circus of unexpected feats and new delights in the mouth. Winemaker Robbie Meyer must have a great sense of humor. When he develops this wine, he takes gorgeous barrels of varietals he could sell so simply and easily, and makes a wild, distinctive blend that just screams to be paired with food for maximum enjoyment- and it delivers! The Spur was tremendous with asian spices from a stir-fry, and stood up to serious heat and kick from a powerful mexican salad and ghost pepper tamales! With red meat, you might want to call friends over first, or sit alone and cry, this wine pairing is so good. This type of winemaking reminds me of only one other person: David Phinney of Orin Swift, whose zin-heavy blends took the world by storm years ago. But Meyer makes a more robust and sometimes elegant bouquet of darker flavors, huge strokes of color crossing the palate and making your mouth wonder “just what is going on here?” What, indeed.

Brilliance.

 

Don’t take my word for it. Get yourself a bottle or six, before you see this in every Del Frisco’s and Ruth’s Chris steak house by the glass to encourage bottle sales. Because my friends, that day will be here soon.

You’re going to ask, and I almost forgot because the wine is that damn good:
The Spur’s blend is made up of 45% cabernet, 22% petite syrah, 14% petite verdot, 10% merlot, and 9% cabernet franc=holy smokes just give me more of The Spur. 207 barrels were made, which makes a little over 5,000 cases, all of it certified sustainable, like everything else from Murrieta’s Well. So you should be able to find just enough to tide you over until next year, if you order soon.

 

 

No, that isn’t all. It could be, I almost thought it would be. 

But I have one more bottle to tell you about. 

 

2015 Zarzuela by Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 14.1%, ABV, MSRP $60/bottle.

Color is dark maroon with purple edging, opaque at the center, converging to translucent near the sides. The elegant nose offers dark black and blue fruit, cedar and a hint of evergreen, with sandy clay. On the palate: blueberry, blackberry and black plum resolve into a luscious compote on the front of the tongue while the rest of the mouth sense a dark berry tart. The medium-long finish has secondary notes of cinnamon, mocha, and allspice, rounding up with more sandy loam, another bite of blueberry on the back palate, and a final hit of raspberry on the top palate, with my tongue aching for more. My glass is empty of the one-ounce tasting pour… when did that happen? My mind knows this wine is perfect for food pairing, but my mouth doesn’t want anything to do with that, just give me more of this intoxicating elixir.

My first pairing with asian cuisine had too many big flavors in the dish to match well yesterday, but today both medium and heavy cheeses are perfect companions, even the delicate comte is a great foil, so I move to dolce gorgonzola and have another great bite to match Zarzuela. So charcoal grilled meats and vegetables are going to be perfect with this wine, as is chocolate, which makes the mocha and red fruit notes incredibly prominent. This wine feels so elegant in the mouth, it’s definitely old-world-European, but the grapes feel more Spanish, so I look: 40% Tempranillo, 40% Touriga, 20% Souza. It’s classic Iberian Peninsula. So no wonder it’s named “Zarzuela”, the Spanish word for operetta, and was first created by one of the founders and the first winemaker at Murrieta’s Well, Sergio Traverse. My thanks, señor!  Made at Murrieta’s Well since 2003, Robbie Meyer is staying true to the original intent with gorgeous vintages since then, a club favorite, it seems.

 

This is the wine I’d choose to invite my buddy Robert over so we could catch up, cook a large steak and vegetables over the grill, share stories of work and family, and appreciate the beauty of life with food & drink while watching the sunset and know that life is wonderful.

 

 

Only 24 barrels were produced of the 2015 Zarzuela, which is aged 16 months in French oak. It exudes elegance, class, and old-world, European style. If you hadn’t found a reason to join their wine club before this, the Zarzuela is reason enough.

Just remember…when you celebrate these wines with your friends & family… save a sip for me. You know I’d pour you a glass. But I can’t because this bottle is already dry. Now how did THAT happen?

I’ll leave you with some Placido, singing Zarzuela. It is, after all, a perfect pairing with the wine. Cheers!

à votre santé!

 

Wine Fraud/WineRant: When Drinking What You Like Is Impossible

15 May

Usually, I like receiving money.  Today just isn’t one of those days.

Allow me to explain…

 

I’m looking at a cheque that sits in front of me, untouched on my table, and it makes me seethe. Yes, the mere existence of this piece of paper angers me. For if I deposit the check, it means I legally accept that a debt owed to me has been paid, albeit horridly underpaid. And this paltry cheque is nothing compared to what I purchased and the seller confirmed, then failed to deliver. I can not emotionally absolve the seller for not only failing to complete the transaction, but actually cheating me, because this was done with intent. And wine is more to me than a commodity. It represents so much: happiness, community, decadence, serenity, -and certain special wines mean even more. You know what I mean, if you’ve had one of those rare, gorgeous, transcendent wines, and you ache to find more. And eventually you find some, and you pay for it and believe that it’s yours, until it’s taken away.

Just looking at this cheque reminds me of an awful thing. It reminds me that I am a member of a horrid club, the group of more than 2,300 customers who purchased wines from Premiere Cru in California and didn’t receive their wines.

just kidding

I was smart in that my first purchase was for only two bottles, which I received in a timely manner. The second purchase, for six bottles, took longer to receive, but the wines were well-packed, exactly what I ordered, and were a delight to drink. It was more than a year later, at a time I was flush from completing a huge project when I was searching to order a few more bottles of a specific white burgundy that is very special to me, in essence my personal equivalent of crack cocaine- I saw the name on a list and all I could do was say “yes, please!”  I picked up the phone, confirmed they were available, gave my payment information, and waited. And waited. And the rest, as they say, is history.

 

This is not the first time I have lost on a deal in the wine world. Oh yes, I’ve failed before. I trusted sellers to hold up their end of business, and was shocked when they didn’t.    
-I went through a period in which I followed and participated in a number of wine auctions with (mostly) pleasant experiences, until I purchased a lot at auction in which _all_ the bottles had cooked. I specifically use the word “purchased” where the auction house would use “won”. I don’t say “won” because it is insulting, to say the least. Of a dozen successful auctions, this is the purchase that essentially killed auctions for me, and now makes my blood boil when I see an advertisement from this house. I can recall blogging about how much I was enjoying auctions five years ago…exactly six months before I opened my cooked bottles from auction.

The fact that the entire lot had cooked demonstrates improper storage, which is much harder to accept as a buyer than one corked bottle from a lot, when the auction is from a top house and the wines are touted as being “removed from professional storage”.

 

-I purchased a case of a gorgeous burgundy wine from a respected retailer at a great price and waited patiently for the wines to arrive. On the phone I was promised a few days to three weeks, max before I received the wine. Ultimately I waited a half a year for resolution, for the wines still had not arrived, teaching me the importance of the word: “pre-arrival” in advertising. As opposed to en primeur, aka purchasing wine futures (pre-bottling), this vendor said the wines would arrive within days, not weeks…and after call after call, I found out so much of the story it made me livid: “The shipping container was filled by another order, so your wine had to wait for the next one, which is scheduled in three weeks. Oh, that might be three months. The negociant bumped our order, but we’re next…” This charade went on and on. I had purchased the wines in early August, intending to drink them in September, since they’d be available “almost immediately”, I was told over the phone when ordering. By March, I was incensed. After writing a letter to the company and detailing the issues, I was finally offered a refund or an exchange. I accepted the exchange to a similar Burgundy, (a slightly lower quality at a higher price I had to ‘buy up’ for, of course) but I was furious because they had advertised something they could not accurately provide- and so I didn’t do business with this company for several years. After being personally invited to a complimentary tasting at their shop, however, I started buying from them again,  -but only wines that are in stock, in small quantities- with satisfaction.

 

What lessons have I learned? 

 

Build personal relationships with your vendors. You might be big or small in their eyes, but people will think twice about losing you and often work hard to help you and retain your business relationship if there is a personal connection.

Confirm you are purchasing wines that a vendor has in-stock.  Respect the word “pre-arrival” and know exactly what risk that entails (that you are paying for something the seller does not have either in inventory, or under their control).

-To take smaller risks with a vendor, buy in small amounts. This is simple, but can be hard to do sometimes.

-To take delivery in person when possible. This helps with each of the above lessons and practices.

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Premiere Cru was selling wines far below their competition…because it was a ponzi scheme.

If you buy at auction, be aware of everything that means. Read the fine print, and accept that you might be bidding on something you won’t or can’t drink.

 

The good news, dear reader, is that I learned, and have grown, from experience.

I stopped doing business with companies I could not trust, and I found vendors who are reputable and who work harder to maintain customer satisfaction. The more I learn about wines and the more winemakers I meet, the more “desert island” wines I find, and the more relationships I build both with winemakers and vendors. This constantly provides me far more quality wines to taste and enjoy- and more great, afforable wines to share with you! Where in the past I went crazy for a specific chateau and vintage, these days I am more a fan of winemakers and their philosophy. If I were to qualify that by comparing it with a food analogy, then instead of wanting to re-create a great meal, I want to go re-visit that chef and taste what they are doing currently. If I can manage to score another bottle of a great vintage, then that’s a lovely treat, but these days I’m so very happy when I can get a few bottles of recent releases  from a winemaker whose work I really enjoy.

Thanks for letting me share,

and maybe you’ll learn from my mistakes,

or share your own mistakes with me. 

Lastly…

I’d really like your opinion:

What should I do with that cheque?

 

à votre santé!

Kosher for Passover Wines, 2017

6 Apr

This year’s Kosher Food & Wine Experience had some tremendous offerings. For this segment, I focused on wines that I thought would be heartily appreciated by any who tasted them, as this holiday brings together extended family, friends, and strangers at our tables. Here are wines I can heartily suggest for Passover 2016 from the Kosher Food & Wine Experience:

The Kosher Food & Wine Experience, 2017. 

2012 Chateau de Valmer Vouvray Moelleux

Pale yellow in color, light nose of floral and fruit blend. Medium bodied white wine, rounded white stone fruit, quince and fig with a hint of almond; a mature, elegant, creamy and savory overall impression. This Loire Valley Vouvray is consistently a solid performer. I should point out the same winemaker makes a younger-vintage, demi-sec Vouvray that is also popular with non-wine drinkers, it’s more direct, less complex, just a hint of sweetness. Either is a solid choice! Around $22/bottle for the aged Moelleux, @ $13/bottle for the currant vintage demi-sec.

Baron Edmund de Rothschild Les Lauriers Rosé 2015

As a fan of Baron Rothschild’s traditional red wines, I’m raving about this rosé. Pale pink in color with a fruity nose, this non-mevushal rosé is incredibly dry on the palate, showing strawberry and cherry with balanced acidity and tannins. Well made, this is a perfect all-meal wine that sings for baked chicken but can handle the whole meal from bitter herbs to red meat to dessert! @ $19/bottle, 13.5%ABV.

 

Château Soutard, 2014

A grand Cru Classé red blend from Saint Emilion, consistently capturing 90+ points from the major reviewers, in the low $40 range. If you can find the 2015, I prefer it (more expressive and longer finish), but both vintages offer beautiful dark red fruit, black plum, plus dark forest, bramble, and leather notes. A full-bodied red, perfect for the Passover Seder and the traditional brisket or roast.

 

Château Giscours, Margaux  2014

You want elegance and luxury? You found it here: a Margaux that is Kosher for Passover, in the $40-$50 range.  Maroon in color with an exotic floral nose with eucalyptus and forest floor, the palate shows medium body of dark red berries, burnt caramel, notes of spice, earth, and stone. Excellent balance, finishes with solid tannins and leaves you wanting more. 13.5%ABV. Pour me another!

 

Grand Puy Ducasse Pauillac 2013

If you love Pauillac, this is your wine: a classic & historic Grand Cru Classé. Color is pale ruby into magenta. A full, expressive nose of black and red fruit with cut greens. On the palate, black plum and cassis are first on arrival, along with green pepper, clove and spice box in quick succession, followed by notes of saddle leather, gun oil, clay, and gravel. Ducasse’s blend is usually 60/40 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, this is consistent with previous experience. Known for tremendous aromatics and intense flavors, the balance is just off-center with more fruit and acidity than tannin at this young age. I promise, you won’t care, unless you purchase by the case and compare it to a vintage that is ten years old. With SRP in the low $70’s, I found this online in the low $30 per bottle with 13%ABV.

 

Château Fourcas-Dupré Listrac-Medoc 2012

Color is bright red with white edging. Delightfully bright cherries on the nose; on the palate this is a medium-bodied red blend.  Dark berries, cassis, black plum, bramble, with pepper and clove. This wine shows well for this young age. Body is rich and this tastes more expensive than its street price @ $28/bottle. 13%ABV. A tremendous value in a classic Bordeaux blend.

 

Château Leoville Poyferre Saint Julien,  2014

A classic St Julien, Léoville-Poyferre is a wine I love any time of year. I simply had no idea it was available in Kosher for Passover! Non-mevushal, it features a deep garnet color, and nose of eucalyptus & leather. On the palate: cassis, black fruit, dry, full bodied. So approachable at this young age, I promise, you will have no regrets. Predominantly cab with merlot in this blend, it is a glorious, full-bodied red with massive tannins and is a total pleasure to drink. Priced in the mid-$60/bottle but found online as low as $50 and worth every penny. 12.5%ABV

 

From Spain: Elvi Clos Mesorah 2014

What, a Spanish Kosher for Passover wine? Yes, and great one! This blend of 40% Carinena, 30% Garnacha, and 30% Syrah is a deep purple in color, with a nose of black plum and forest floor. On the palate, bright fruit is delightful: cherry, plum, and blackberry jam on the front palate while delightful acidity and tannin support excellent balance on this slightly chewy, very intense wine that made me want to buy a bottle immediately.  If you make lamb for Passover, this is the wine you want, found online in the high $60/bottle range.  13.5% ABV on this non-Mevushal wine. If you want to change things up, this might be the way to go- it’s a stunning wine that won’t disappoint.

 

After-dinner/Dessert Wine:
Rayne-Vigneau 2014 Sauternes

Deep yellow in color, the nose is full of sweet fruit, honey and wildflowers. On the palate, apricot, mandarin orange, and honey attack the tongue while racy acidity crosses the top palate. Zesty and alive, a lovely expression and a perfect dessert wine after you’ve enjoyed your four cups. @$25/bottle, 14%ABV.

 

Last but not least:

In 2016 I reviewed a bevy of tremendous wines by Israeli winemaker Lenny Recanati, all of which were Kosher for Passover. Recanati is a winemaker who blew my mind with blind tastings that can compare with some of the finest kosher wines I’ve listed here. Below are three links to three separate posts where I wrote and reviewed Recanti wines, which should be on your wine shopping list whether you are looking for wines in the $11 or $50 range. Recanati wines are simply stunning, and should not be missed, be it Passover or any day, his wines compare beautifully to old and new world wines from around the world. 

Recanati Worlds Collide Part 1:

Recanati Worlds Collide Part 2:

My Kosher for Passover wines of 2016:

à votre santé

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