Tag Archives: Featured

Warre’s Warrior Reserve Port

3 May

Warre’s Warrior Finest Reserve Porto. Portugal, ABV 20%, SRP $19.

 

I have seen people dip the unlit end of their cigar into it; others will pound it back like a shot, asking for another. Some contemplate it over ice, while I prefer to sip and enjoy port wine from a brandy snifter.

Color is deep purple with violet edging. The nose offers rich, dark fruit: black plum, blackberry and dark cassis. A hint of sweet plum on the tip of the tongue, until the flavor palate shifts to a complex array of molten flavors, with a smudge of heat across the rear top palate. Features a long, deep finish, asking for more. If you have another pour, you might not have it for long. 

Known as the oldest brand of port from the oldest British Port company, Warre’s was founded in 1670 and they have been making this specific brand for over 200 years.

I don’t find it appropriate to label Warre’s Warrior port as an after-dinner drink. Yes, it pairs gorgeously with cheese, tea biscuits, and chocolate, although for the latter, I’d suggest Lindt’s dark chocolate with caramel and a touch of sea salt. The chocolate’s complexity matches the depth of the port, the orange peel widens the mouthfeel on the side palate, the sea salt softens the port’s impact and makes everything feel slightly lazier, yet more alive. On the plus side, pairing with food makes me want to enjoy a much larger glass of Warrior porto. Taking that one step further, Warre’s Warrior is 20%ABV, approximately half of a brandy, cognac or other after-dinner drink, so might be able to indulge a second glass… or a third! Getting back to my point- this is an elixir. Almost magical, this is elevates the after-dinner experience, food pairing or no.

 

I spent two full weeks of nights having a taste of this luscious delight after dinner, enjoying it thoroughly, pairing after pairing.  Perhaps the most enjoyable tasting for me was a post-dinner engagement with friends in the backyard. First we tasted a delightful sparkling wine, a vinho verde, a Napa cab, and a vintage Napa Syrah- for which, the Warrior porto felt like the obvious, perhaps even perfect, conclusion. It added finesse and elegance to the tasting, becoming an ideal completion to our evening. My neighbor Michael kept coming back to the port, like a miner adoring his prized nugget of precious gold:  “after everything else, this is the perfect finish!” he said, toasting me after another pour, as I, too, drank in the scent of the spring evening, the port from the glass, the camaraderie amongst longtime friends.

 

Perfect finish, indeed. (Time for me to place a standing order with my supplier!)

 

What’s in your glass? Let me know what you think about Warre’s Warrior!

 

 

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

Ruhlmann Wines from Alsace

14 Mar

Alsace: a northeastern border area of France known for its beautifully fragrant wines. A wine region that is sandwiched between the Vosne mountain range and the Rhine river, it has changed hands between Germany and France several times throughout history, and many of the wines demonstrate Germanic or Austrian influence.

As an oenophile, I have found that many Americans are largely unaware of Alsace. When they are introduced to the wines, they often become fans. If you don’t know Alsace wines, this is a perfect introduction in the $20-and-under range for family-made, classic wines with lineage and complexity that sing of their terroir and heritage.

The Ruhlmann family has been making wine since 1688 in the Alsace village of Dambach-la-Ville, where they produce about 1.2 million bottles annually, with 40% of their products exported under the watchful eye of winemaker André Ruhlmann.

Ruhlmann Crémant d’Alsace Brut NV is a pale straw color with a refined nose of peach and fresh brioche. Gentle flavors of white stone fruit and dried apricot on the palate, delightfully dry with solid acidity and a hint of sweet honeysuckle on the top palate that makes the mouth water. A blend of pinot blanc, pinot auxerrois, pinot gris, and riesling, this sparkling wine has enough body to provide an afternoon delight or pair through dinner. $20/bottle, 12%ABV.

 

 

Ruhlmann Muscat Fleur de Printemps 2015 is the color of early morning sunshine and offers a sweet, aromatic nose of wildflowers. On the palate, it demonstrates gentle citrus, with notes of lime and starfruit. Secondary hints of yellow pear, orange peel, sodium and sand evolve as the wine warms gently. This muscat is bottled quickly to retain the powerful nose and pairs nicely with Thai, Chinese, and white meats, but I would not hesitate to open this and sit on the porch to enjoy on a carefree, sunny afternoon. 100% Muscat, 11.5% ABV, $15/bottle.

 

 

Ruhlmann Gewurtztraminer Vieille Vignes 2014 offers a pale yellow color with a spicy nose of rose bush, violet flowers, clove, and a hint of jasmine. Mature and refined green apple, lemon zest, banana peel and white pear on the robust palate give way to soaring acidity. Thirty-year-old vines show their deep roots with a finish of limestone and hints of clay and slate. This wine is powerful enough to pair with foie gras, a meat entrée, or a full-bodied cheese, and will age beautifully, showing greater complexity in 4-5 years.  Around$15/bottle, with 13%ABV.

 

 

Ruhlmann Riesling Vieille Vignes 2014 is pale straw in color. On the nose, faint lychee, lime zest, passion fruit, and hint of limestone. In the mouth, lemon-lime, pear, and lemongrass are followed by notes of clementine and lychee. Searing acidity powers through the full-bodied palate without heat ever crossing the back or top palates, while notes of gravel and clay round out the reserved finish. Delightful now, and will only improve with age. $16/bottle, 12.5%ABV.

 

And finally,

Ruhlmann Crémant de Rosé NV “Harmonie de Rosé” is 100% pinot noir, with tiny effervescent bubbles and a hue that verges between salmon and pale orange. The nose offers young raspberries and baking spice, while the palate is pure strawberry, slate and limestone. What’s not to love? $23/bottle, 12%ABV.

 

If you love Alsace already, then you should add these wines to your list or cellar. If you are new to Alsace wines, these are a perfect introduction to the region you can enjoy and share with friends. 

à votre santé!

 

Locations Wines: Comparing California And France

24 Jan

The scene: a midweek, extended family dinner in the suburbs of Manhattan.

I uncork and pour a wine for my brother-in law, and casually mention that this is a new selection by a winemaker I have followed for years, but have yet to try.

We let the wine breathe until dinner service starts. He tries a taste, and then another as his eyes widen.

He is having a “whoa” moment.

He swallows, takes a breath, then asks a barrage of questions: Who is the winemaker? Where is he from?  Where can he buy this bottle? How much does it cost? Are all this winemaker’s wines so good?

Almost immediately, he has become a fan.

My response to his “whoa” moment? “No real surprise there.”

mwwc-logo

Locations Wines CA4 California Blend by Dave Phinney. 15.5% ABV, $20/bottle MSRP.

A blend of petite syrah, barbera, tempranillo, syrah, and grenache grapes from California’s Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Sierra Foothills wine regions. Before visiting Lodi, I might have wondered at the varied grape selection, but not now. Thanks to my 2016 trip to Lodi and Napa, I now know that California has the myriad climates, soil, and geology to grow almost any grape to perfection. But I digress, how about my tasting notes?

Deep purple in color. Nose of black plum, cassis, rose bush, and young tobacco leaf. On the palate,  tremendous red fruit: raspberry, red plum, sour cherry. Secondary notes of green vegetation, forest floor, pepper and spice. The acidity and tannin are good matches for the  powerful flavors, and the heat spreads late across the top palate, leaving behind hints of cedar, granite, limestone, clay, sand and sodium. On the finish, the distinct flavor of mixed berry pie remains on the top palate as my mouth begs for the next sip.    

This California blend pairs beautifully with the red meat, potatoes and green salad we’ve prepared, but is also delightful to taste solo, or with raspberry-infused dark chocolate, or with goat cheese on fig and olive crisps. Best after a touch of air, the wine held up beautifully for four days until I could no longer control myself and finished the remainders.

img_3143

 

Back to my brother-in-law at dinner! Mid-meal, I am explaining Phinney’s work and his Locations, making wines in a region to represent that region well, at an affordable price. In a sense, these blends are obscure when compared to iconic wines from the same AVAs, but these present classic, beautiful, and delicious representations of their regions at a fraction of the price. His eye drifts across the room to a row of carefully ordered, yet-unopened bottles: my short-term tasting queue. Spying a similar label, he asks if we might open another bottle. “That one from France, if it’s by the same winemaker?

It makes me wonder if Dave Phinney like to fish. Because it’s one more winelover: hook, line, and sinker!

 

Locations Wines F4 French Red Wine Blend by Dave Phinney. 15% ABV, $18/bottle MSRP.

Ruby red in color with a gentle nose of green vegetation, red fruit, and a hint of lavender. On the palate, bright red fruit, nice acidity. Dried cranberry, strawberry, fresh raspberries, with the tannins as a soft underbelly. Southern France shines here, memories of Roussillon and Rhone flood back when the wine hits my tongue.

Because these wines are complex blends, it can be difficult to describe them well. But I’ll give it my best shot: Undeniably French, this wine demonstrates a sense of classic history, utilizing grapes both refined, yet comfortably rustic, much like a ’59 Renault Caravelle Cabriolet, whose soft lines and plush design is perfect for cruising in the Mediterranean sun. Compared to the bronzed and showy  Californian CA4 which offers sleek, sculpted perfection: think Steve McQueen as Bullitt in his ’68 GT Fastback.

Even tasting the wines back to back, I could not choose a favorite. Both were excellent pairing choices for the meal; both were excellent ambassadors to their home terroir. And both are utterly delicious.

My brother-in-law came to a simple conclusion. “A lot of the wines you serve are hard to find. But these… well, the wine blends might be obscure or hard to describe, but their labels are straightforward, simple, and easy to describe. So, I’ll just look for the label design, and buy them all.”

“No real surprise there.”

 

#MWWC30

à votre santé!

img_0440

Locations Wine Samples Provided by Balzac Communications.

 

Buty Winery’s Classic Walla Walla White Blend

11 Jan

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

 

 

The Bordeaux Blend.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

buty2011blend

 

à votre santé!

Celebration Champagne: Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé

25 Dec

Special events. Family celebrations. Holidays.

These are the days that try my soul.

Not because I’m surrounded by family, but because I fret and stress about wines to serve.

I struggle with what people will appreciate, and who will enjoy it. I ask over and over: Will it be special? Will it be memory-making?

Enter celebration champagne. Celebration champagne is what I call the top-shelf champagne. It is the wine one selects when needing superior quality & consistency, and a buyer looks for a trusted history from a luxury brand name.  And what you get for your consideration is so worthwhile. There is a reason why we all love top-shelf champagne: It is simply divine, and can become the cornerstone in making an evening even more special when celebrating a rare occasion.

 

Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut NV Champagne. %12 ABV,  MSRP $99/bottle.

lp-rose-3

 

The bottle itself reminds one of the brand’s historic maison, plus their longevity and consistency. Presented in a short, round bottle reminiscent of the glass-blown bottles of the 1600’s, the pink label completes the unmistakable design.

The wine is pale salmon in color with fervent and abundant tiny bubbles. The nose shows delightful red young fruit, baking spice, and rose bush. On the palate, the tongue is immediately refreshed by an elegant, effervescent mouthfeel while nuances of strawberry, young raspberry, and faint cherry bathe the palate. It is a distinct pleasure to taste and enjoy. 

Subtle, delicate, but complex.

Serious. Divine! GAME CHANGER!

lp-rose-2

 

From a house of champagne founded in 1812, the non-vintage LP Cuvée Rosé has been made since 1968 using primarily traditional methods. 100% pinot noir grapes are picked, de-stemmed, crushed and macerated for 48-72 hours to insure the aromatics, flavor, and bright pink color from the pinot noir grapes before being bled away to cold storage via stainless steel tanks. Finally, a minimum of four years in the bottle prior to release.

I served this as the opening salvo at a holiday dinner party. It was not only one celebration but several: I was welcoming a friend, a fellow oenophile and fabulous wine writer, back to NYC after many years. She has undergone growth and change, and has not celebrated much recently other than passing huge milestones in her path. In addition to my friend Elizabeth, my daughter was back from college! So our family was together, plus my mother-in-law was welcoming two friends she has not seen for years, who are ALSO huge wine fans, living in Portland Oregon, the land of pinot noir.

tvc-lprose

The Traveling Wine Chick shows off the color and joy gained from the LP Cuvée Rosé!

The response to this wine at dinner was perfect. Everyone who tasted this delightful, classic champagne was enthralled and captivated by its stunning flavors, gentle effervescence, and delectable balance. Even my beloved wife (who had only a sip of champagne at our wedding before putting down the glass for the night) had seconds on the Laurent-Perrier. It was light, refreshing, and breathtakingly flavorful; an angel dancing on the tongue. This is a true celebration champagne: a gorgeous example, elegant and balanced, in brut perfection.

 

lp-rose-lineup

The evening’s wine lineup, including our celebration champagne, several aged bordeaux and a “unicorn” wine no longer made from retired Jura winemakerJacques Puffeney.

 

Perhaps opening a bottle of this champagne should be a celebration in itself.

 

à vôtre santé!

Pairing Bordeaux Wines & Southern Soul Food

22 Dec

Call me crazy.

 

I don’t care.

 

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

cinq-bordeaux

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

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

argadens-loupiac

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

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

 

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

chateau-bonnet

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

chateau-argadens

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

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

 

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

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

 

À vôtre santé!

Bodegas Salentein Wines from Valle de Uco, Argentina

2 Dec

salentein-wine-line-up-1

 

 


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

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

 

salentein-chardonnay

 

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

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

salentein-killka-torrontes-2015

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

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

salentein-killka-red-blend-2014

 

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

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

salentein-reserve-cabernet-sauvignon-2014

 

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

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

 

salentein-reserve-malbec-2014

 

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

 

à votre santé!

Thanksgiving Wine: Street Exchange with a Beer Drinker!

7 Nov

(Re-post due to request by readers! Originally posted 11-23-15.)


I had a funny exchange on a freezing street corner: A co-worker approached me, needing some wine help
and at the same time, unwittingly offering me some interesting constructive criticism.

“JvB, you know I’m a beer guy and have no time… or honestly, any interest to read your wine blog. But I can’t go to the liquor store and say ‘gimme a thanksgiving dinner wine’ because I have done that before and they point at a row of stuff that nobody enjoys. I just need enough to sound like I know what I’m looking for, and to choose ONE decent bottle of wine for Thanksgiving. Can ya PLEASE do me a frickin’ favor and give me ONE wine to buy instead of a hundred options?”
images
I bit my tongue down on my sarcastic reply. His point was immediately taken. This guy actually wanted help, and here I was. I was determined to give him the tools he needed to succeed with both the wine store and his in-laws.
“No problem,” I smiled. “Let’s narrow it down to three possible types,” I suggested. “Consider white, red, or rosé, by who will drink it and what the meal will be.”
“Standard meal, it’s usually turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, sweet potato casserole, green beans, and pie for dessert. They’ll make a very traditional afternoon turkey dinner that lasts 2-3 hours,” he explains. “My wife, her sister and their parents are the wine drinkers, I’ll have a sip of wine to toast the meal but will move to beer as soon as I can and end up watching football as soon as I can.” His directness and lack of BS is refreshing.
“Sure. And a price range?” I ask. “You want box wine or to impress the in-laws?”
He scoffs. “It can’t look or taste cheap, but don’t break the bank. I’ll probably buy two bottles of it and ideally I’d like to spend below $50, tax included.”
“Ok, got it,” I tell him. “Let me offer you only two suggestions and you can take that to your wine store. For this meal, you want something with plenty of crisp fruit and acidity. If I had to buy only one bottle, I’d look for something that matches the range of the meal, so you’re smart to want one _nice_ bottle, either a good rosé or a pinot noir. Ask your wine store to show you their best value in both pinot noir and good rose’ in the under $25 range.” (He nods, thumbs a few keys on his phone, taking notes.)
“For the pinot noir, I’ll toss you a few names that will all be in the $25 and under range that are big crowd pleasers: Drouhin, Cloudline, Meiomi, Oyster Bay. They represent the premiere regions making Pinot noir today: Burgundy (France) , Willamette Valley (Oregon), California, and Central Otago (New Zealand). They will probably offer you a bunch of medium-fancy bottles in the $20-25 range, which is where you find the higher quality stuff, but there is plenty of great value under $25. If nothing that sounds good comes up in your wine store and you feel lost, ask for Pepperwood Grove from Chile as a last-minute “under-the-radar” stealth wine in the $10-12 range. It’s a solid last resort that still tastes great.” (More typing, his eyes bugged out and he nods while trying to keep up as I dictate.)
For rosé, anything that doesn’t immediately feel impressive is probably not worth your time for this choice. Don’t expect to see anything useful in the under $15 unless the clerk swears it’s amazing. Tell them it has to be 89 points or better and drink like a $40-50 bottle to be worth your time, OK?” (Another quick nod, followed by a quick moment of  eye contact. He’s still typing. The last thing I need is for him to come back and blame me for a poor wine choice. I’m feeling the pressure.)
I saw the opening and seized it. “For an important family meal like this one, you might want to consider one white and one red if your wife or mother-in-law prefers white wines,” I blurted out. “The most common white bordeaux is Mouton-Cadet Bordeaux Blanc, a nice white blend that constantly wins awards and sells dirt cheap from $9-11 per bottle. Toss it in the fridge and have it as a safety bottle,” I suggest. My buddy is furiously typing more notes on his phone. I’d give my left arm to see how he tried to spell these, but that would be a very bad move on my part. “A white bordeaux blend should have good complexity which helps it to pair with the entire meal for those who are more dedicated white wine drinkers.”
“OK, good idea,” he says. “Thanks!” He turns to leave. “Oh, can I text you from the wine store if I’m feeling lost?”
“Sure!” I reply, stifling my inner snark a second time. “Or you could read my blog, print it out and take it with you to shop, you know?”
But he’s already disappeared into the crowd of tourists, theatre-goers and early Christmas shoppers.
thanksgiving-appetizers-with-beer-and-wine

à votre santé!

White Wines from the Great White North

30 Oct

What do you do when you’re on the road and can’t review the wines in your queue? You punt! (Hello, it’s football season!) Seriously: what could be better than to try some of the local wines?

Let me be direct: I know NOTHING about Canadian wines, only that they exist. And let me be perfectly frank: I was nervous about Canadian wine. The servers and bar staff in the restaurants I visited my first few days in Toronto didn’t speak well of the local wines. As a matter of fact, they seemed entirely uneducated. I was told the same thing time after time from Canadian servers when I asked about Canadian wines: “They aren’t very good.”

Instead they suggested house wines: low budget California, French, and Italian bottles we’ve all seen and dismissed in the store. NOT my idea of drinking local! I’ve heard about Canadian wines at #WBC. I know better than this. So I enlisted the help of a few Canadian blogger buddies and asked for their help. Leeann Froese of Town Hall Brands and Valerie Stride of The Demystified Vine came to my rescue, suggesting a few options each, and I went off to the local LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) to seek out some bottles.

And bottles they had, many more than a few! The LCBO was the size of a department store, with several checkout lines ten people deep. They take their drinking very seriously in Canada, it seems! but I digress, let’s get to the wines!

 

Southbrook 2014 Organic Triomphe Chardonnay; VQA Niagra Peninsula, Canada, 13.2% ABV, $20CAD.

Color is pale gold. Upon opening, the nose showed excess sulphur up front (and needed a little time to dissipate). Once was sulphur was gone, I was in organic chardonnay heaven.

The nose shows its oak maturation with notes of buttery popcorn, pineapple, and vanilla,  On the palate: baked apple, pear, and pineapple are dominant, with matching acidity. Oak and circus continue on the medium finish, followed by a touch of smoke. I found this certified organic wine impressive and tasty, a perfect complement for fish, salad, or delicate flavors. Southbrook Vineyards

southbrook-chard

 

 

Cave Spring Cellars 2014 Riesling.  VQA Beamsville, Bench, Ontario,Canada, 11%ABV, $16CAD. 

Color is almost clear with a tint of warmth. The nose offers sweet citrus, honeysuckle and apricot with a floral finish. On the palate, dried apricot, peach, and tangerine, flavors meet mouth-watering acidity. The side and back palate screams from the mineral qualities that I adore: granite, shale, clay, chalky limestone.  Off-dry overall, but with a lasting note of lime & orange zest on the finish. Delightful with asian stir-fry, creamy cheese, and by itself as an apéritif.  Cave Spring Cellars

 

cave-spring-riesling

 

 

Lily Sparkling Wine by Colio Winery, Ontario. 12%ABV, $16CAD/bottle.

Warm gold color, nose of baked bread and apricot. On the palate, bosc pear, golden delicious apple and  freshly baked bread with secondary notes of sodium and limestone on the finish. Medium effervescence and small bubbles derived from the charmat method of tank fermentation, overall Lily is an excellent value and fun sparkling wine that is easy to enjoy. Made from 100% riesling grapes and delightfully dry, I would enjoy this any day and put this up against similarly priced sparkling wines for comparison. BOOM!  ColioWinery

 

lilysparkling

 

I started off my adventure quite nervous about Canadian wine. But as you can see, there is so much to enjoy! I would accept any of these wines in my cellar, at dinner, or to share with friends. And these wines are only the tip of the iceberg.

My deep thanks to Leann and Valerie for coming to my rescue when I reached out, and I’m looking forward to sharing more Canadian wines with you!

à votre santé!

 

%d bloggers like this: