Tag Archives: Featured

Paix Sur Terre 2016 Ugni Blanc

11 May

Paix Sur Terre Ugni Blanc 2016, Paso Robles, CA 13.2%ABV, SRP $29/bottle

 

Color is pale sunshine. The delicate nose offers honeycrisp apple, citrus, and cut wildflowers. On the palate, a savory blend of white peach, apple, and lemon-lime with secondary notes of honey,  lemon rind, and clementine. Notes of limestone and shale complete the satisfying finish; this wine crossed my upper palate with beautiful acidity and complexity that quite impressed me. I paired this with chicken, fish, and cheese over three nights but I was forced to limit myself, for each time I wanted more! This is a bottle you will want to dive into and not share with your friends unless you bought several of them!

I picked this up on recommendation from Chris Kern of Forgotten Grapes and World’s Best Wine Clubs . A perfect pick for an off-the-beaten-path wine, and what a gorgeous and well-made wine! I will have to follow Paix Sur Terre and learn more about their wines. What a delightful introduction!

If you don’t know Ugni Blanc, this is the bottle to try, it will make you a believer!

 

 

à votre santé!

 

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

8 May

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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


 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

and last but not least:

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

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

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

 

Fixin is a northen Côte-de-nuits AOC.

 

 

 

 

Who else is ready for a glass of Bourgogne?

à votre santé!

 

What I Drank in Taipei

16 Apr

When work calls, I go. And sometimes it means that JvBUnCorked hits limbo for a few days. One of my recent ‘limbo’ moments was a trip to Taipei, Taiwan.

Before I left, I reached out on various forms of social media to ask “What should I drink when I’m in Taipei?”

I’d hoped to hear about some wine bars or resources. But the responses were few in number. Some said “drink tea, dummy”, others said that Taiwanese people are much more into whisky. I can confirm this- any restaurant I visited that actually had a wine list, had a much longer whisky list, plus other liquors and various house cocktails. But I DID find some good wine, fellow world travelers, and I’m here to share that with you.

 

But first, I drank tea, and it was simply inspiring. My host took me to the Wistaria Tea House, where we drank four different teas- from classic oolong to an “ancient” oolong, a wistaria tea, and a pu’er tea, along with a classic tea ceremony.

If you go to Taipei, do yourself a favor, and go to Wistaria Tea House. 

 

Later that afternoon,  I found wine! We went to a Taiwanese Dim Sum restaurant called Din Tai Fung, renowned for their steamed dumplings, buns, and Taiwanese-style dishes. If you go to Taiwan, DO NOT MISS Din Tai Fung. Getting back on track we had  just finished lunch and were walking through a mall browsing with friends, when my eye spotted this bottle in a mall wine shop. I loved that the back label is in Cantonese! While I knew the bottle was (over) priced based on tariffs, I also knew this was a good option for a dinner wine to pair with Japanese food.

 

Johan Josef Prüm 2009 Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany. 9% ABV, Normally @ $24 USD/bottle; found in wine store in a mall in Taipei for $1700 TWD = $58 USD.

Color is pale straw. The nose offers starfruit, lemon-lime, and sodium. On the palate, gentle pear and apple are met with hints of gooseberry, grapefruit, and lime zest. An excellent blend of citrus with notes of peppercorn, slate, and limestone, presenting a delicate mouthfeel with aged, linear acidity,  Upon opening, I was initially overwhelmed with petrol and a little funk, which burned off with about 20 minutes of air. Paired perfectly with sashimi, sushi, raw fish, and tempura. 

I was happy to have found this bottle but the 2009, considered an excellent year for Prüm, did not bowl me over. I liked it , but not as much as other vintages I have enjoyed. Still, Prüm, a master winemaker of riesling, is always a joy to taste and was a delightful pairing for me and exciting for the Taiwanese guests at dinner who tasted this, at least one tasting riesling for the very first time.

 


I also liked the fact that the back label is printed in Cantonese; that was a first for me.

 

 

A day later after work, I visited the hotel’s executive lounge, which features both Asian, American, and European style food and drink.

 

The bar featured scotch, vodka, several types of beer, and one each white and red wines. I tried the Heartland Stickleback.

 

Heartland Stickleback White Blend 2012, Southern Australia. 13.5%ABV. Street price $8-12/bottle USD.

 

Pale straw in color with a nose of lemon zest and herbs.  On the palate: pear and starfruit, a hint of tangerine, secondary note of dried apple, with a gentle mouthfeel and moderate acidity. Easy to drink, this was food-friendly and popular in the lounge, pairing nicely with fresh cut fruit, cheese, and dried meats. Not enough acid for the zip I  prefer if you want to drink the wine by itself, but a perfectly fine vin du table on a daily basis, especially in the lower price range.

 


 

 

 

My last evening in Taipei, we went to a Szechuan Restaurant that is known for Peking Duck served three ways. But we started off with cod in spicy pepper sauce, green beans, black fungus (mushroom), whole fish in garlic sauce, prawn with chili sauce, and more. My host asked me to choose a wine, but I pulled a classic JvB and asked for two. I went with Champagne, and an Italian red blend…. because, the food, the food, the food! SO TASTY!

 

Jacquesson “Cuvée 740” Extra Brut Champagne; 12% ABV; around $60/bottle USD.

Beautiful lemon-lime zest, sweet apple, white peach, brioche and chalky limestone. A nice balance of fruit, acidity, and mouthfeel; medium sized bubbles bathe the palate while the acid screams for another sip. The grapes in this champagne ( a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier) were harvested in 2012, and it was disgorged in 2017. With a supple mousse, it is easy to down the entire glass- this non-vintage wine is drinking very nicely right now, as if it were a vintage champagne.  This sells in the restaurant for $2800 TWD, about $95 USD- it retails for about $60 in stores in the USA. I found this to be an excellent mid-level champagne, low dosage, perfect for aging, but really ideal for drinking. And enjoy it, we did! This was superb in pairing with the seafood, vegetables, and white meat dishes. it did not last for long, and I will look for it again in the USA!

 


 

 

Last but not least, was a beautiful red wine!

 

Rocca Di Frassinello “Le Sughere” 2012, Maremma Toscana. 14%ABV, SRP $32/bottle in the USA.

 

Dark ruby in color. The nose offers licorice and red fruit. On the palate: cherries, red plum, and dried cranberry. Secondary notes of tobacco, dank forest floor, wet leaves, potting soil. On the finish: toasted oak, a hint of vanilla, and granite. Medium body, with a medium-length finish. My first impression is that this tastes like a classic European field blend: Sangiovese, Merlot, & Cabernet, and was a good foil to the main dishes at the Szechuan Dinner: Peking Duck three ways and stinky tofu, (which had a subtle scent of manure about it) a traditional dish that visitors should try, but one that takes a little getting used to. This wine is probably best with grilled meats, and was a touch strong for some of the Szechuan dishes but is a good choice for a red wine in Asia, with enough body and flexible flavors to handle the savory dishes. It was simply perfect with the Peking duck.

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, I truly enjoyed the many flavors and restaurants we visited in Taipei, and look forward to the continued evolution of wine in Taiwan. I hope to go back, and report on more wine and food!

Gān Bēi!

or…

à votre santé!

 

 

Acquiesce New Wines, 2017

9 Apr

It’s the little things in life… like getting excited when you see a grape you’ve never heard of, from a producer who is well- known in a very small group for making absolutely tremendous wines in one particular style. And I wonder to myself if there’s a chance that Acquiesce could possibly continue their run of making world-class Rhône style white wines with another stand-out? It really could not be possible, again. But let me taste the wines, and see for myself…


 

Acquiesce Winery 2017 Bourboulenc, Mokelumne River Appellation, Lodi, CA, USA. 12.5% ABV, SRP $28/bottle.

Color is golden sunshine. The nose offers citrus, lemongrass, honey, and cut green apple. On the palate, a cool and vibrant mixture of white pear and lemon zest with secondary notes of lime, orange rind, and pineapple. Sweet citrus on the front palate while the acid cuts from mid-palate back, making the back of the tongue curl in response. Such a beautiful food wine, this is a delight to enjoy the afternoon sunshine but pair this with grilled vegetables, sushi or fish -maybe seasoned with a sprinkle of Provençal herbs-  and  you can plan to finish the bottle, maybe even open another one. This wine is solid enough to handle some flare and spice; you can also pair it with Asian or Middle-Eastern fare, from Halal or Falafel to Thai, and Chinese- especially Peking Duck, or steamed dumplings, unless you want to break a baguette open with some brie and just enjoy.

 

Acquiesce Winery 2017 Clairette Blanche, Mokelumne River Appellation, Lodi, CA, USA. 13.5% ABV, SRP $28/bottle.

Pale straw in color, the nose has a distinctive blend of fennel, peach, and dried apricot. On the palate, lemon-lime, starfruit, and a hint of almond paste wrap the front of my tongue as the wine warms along the back palate, rounding out into a savory note with the finish. I loved this with baked chicken and couscous, but this wine begs any dish with a hint of salt, and can easily pair with lighter fare like fish or cheese, but just as easily with dried Italian salumne, fresh shellfish, or Spanish tapas, the list of Mediterranean food options grows and grows…

 

Yes, Sue and Rodney from Acquiesce have done it again with classic French varietal grapes that will make you think you’ve landed back in the southern Rhône Valley. Pour a glass and try it once by itself, and again with a bite of food and see how well it makes your mouth sing in pleasure when paired.

 

These wines are such huge crowd-pleasers, I don’t expect them to last long, so buy soon, or sign up for Acquiesce’s club and join the in-crowd.

Oh- and remind yourself to keep the bottle. Every loves this bottle design, and one of your friends is going to ask to keep the empty  for their kitchen. Trust me, it never fails, as soon as I put the bottle in the recycling can, that one of the guests sidles up, and asks quietly if they could possibly get the beautiful, curvaceous bottle I just finished pouring. Sigh…

 

#WIYG? / What’s in your glass?

 

à votre santé!

Markus Wine Co: Sol

10 Mar

Markus Wine Company, “Sol” 2015 Vintage Red Blend, Lodi, California. 14.9% ABV, $39 SRP.

 

Dark purple, nearly black in color near the center, with purple edging. Busy, eclectic nose of dark fruit, forest floor, sand, and eucalyptus. On the palate, massive black fruit: plum, blackberry, black cherry- the violence in the crush is evident- this is a big, blasting stroke of bold flavor. A big mouthfeel, strong tannins, acidity, and fruit; secondary notes of mocha, vanilla, and salty sand- this is a huge wine with a long, Grand Canyon of a finish that goes on, and on, and echoes far past when you think the last note has ended. This wine screams for grilled meats but can work beautifully with Mexican, Italian, I even made it pair with a salad by adding some grilled chicken and a few slices of jalapeño! This wine is fun, fabulous, and a ton of black fruit flavor.

 

 

 

 

Made of 42% petite Syrah, 37% Syrah clone 877 (both from Borra Vineyards), and 21% Mourvèdre from Silvaspoon Vineyards. Each time I tasted this wine, I wanted it to be named “Black Dog”, after the Led Zeppelin song whose protagonist is in constant, amorous pursuit- because the black fruit is so forward and direct on the palate. Its driving, electric, bluesy desire never gives up!

When you want an incredible night, put some massive steaks on the grill, pop open a bottle of Markus Sol, and let the music flow!

 

 

 

Oh Baby! Oh Alright!

 

 

 

à votre santé!

Valentine’s Day In Canada! Celebrating Apart w/ Vineland Estates Dry Riesling

14 Feb

My wife “Mrs. JvBUnCorked” is a brilliant, stunning, and gorgeous lady. She also does some really cool things! Often it’s directing or producing theatre, events, and TV shows; sometimes it’s rearing our amazing daughters, being our family’s rep to our beloved neighborhood, or developing new works that make you stop and think. As crazy-busy, type-A New Yorkers, we’ll normally ignore holidays and birthdays, knowing that what really matters in our lives are a few simple things: love, family, passion, & community. Well, for this year’s Valentine’s Day, instead of ignoring it together, we actually celebrated it since we’re apart. Since I’m on the road AGAIN & working in another country, she totally surprised me with some local wine to celebrate this Hallmark Holiday! Yay Mrs. JvBUnCorked! And Yay Canada!

Vineland Estates Winery 2016 Dry Riesling, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada. 11% ABV; approx. $15/bottle CAD at LCBO.

Color is medium straw; the nose offers lemon-lime, lychee and white stone fruit. The fruit profile features white pear with tart apple. After the initial rush to the mouth, medium heat steers across the top palate, with nice, full acidity. Medium in both mouthfeel & body with a tart, mildly bitter aftertaste, this is a great cold weather white that is designed to complement food. I paired this with halal chicken and rice and really wanted to bring a bottle of this to Toronto’s PAI, the best Thai food I may have ever enjoyed (so good we went back 3-4 times each week… REALLY!)

I usually like my rieslings with a tiny bit more sweetness to turn the heat, but I enjoyed the way the Vineland Estates makes no apologies and just IS itself. Like me, it’s an unusual wine: bold, direct, and with a sense of humor, that makes a statement. You’re going to feel strongly about this wine- either for or against, no question. I like it, and for the price, it’s a great option if you like dry riesling!

So tell me- what are you drinking during these cold winter months? Drop me a line @JvBUnCorked@gmail.com or comment below. I have more shows and events to go before I get home, but I’m managing to keep posting on my blog and keep getting great notes from followers and readers.

Cheers!

 

à votre santé!

 

Extreme Wine: Lagrein Riserva from Alto Adige

14 Jan

Kellerei Cantina Andrian’s ‘Tor Di Lupo’ Lagrein Riserva 2014, DOC Alto Adige; Terlano, Italy. 13.5% SRP $50/bottle.

 

When is wine extreme? When the grapes are grown under extreme conditions! These vineyards are steep: up to 4000′ in height, and the grapes for Tor Di Lupo are planted in high trellises along the Easternmost side, getting over 300 days a year of Mediterranean sunshine, with temperatures up to 104℉.

Color is purple with ruby edging. The nose is full of violets with hints of eucalyptus. On the full-bodied palate, cassis and mature cherries meet French oak, with secondary notes of blue plum, mocha, granite, gravel, sodium, and clay. Bountiful tannins are on the long finish; this wine expects to pair with food. Made from 100% Lagrein. My pairings included pizza, full-bodied cheese, and corned beef. Some better pairing choices (Think Northern Italy, closer to Austria) might include fowl and game meats to pork to pasta and flatbreads, but my personal favorites were coal-oven Margherita pizza on the first night and Gorgonzola cheese on the second. The bottle did not last long, as I enjoyed it immensely. While I drank this lagrein young, it has the potential to age 10-15 years easily and will give significant improvement to the owner after such time with proper cellaring.

 

This is an amazing bottle to give to an Italian wine lover, someone who is learning more about wines, or someone who is starting to cellar bottles with the intent of allowing wines a decade or more to age.

 

What extreme wines do you like?
Have you ever considered what the grapes go through in the vineyards?

 

For more about the Lagrein Grape, please click here!

 

*Wine provided for review by Cornerstone Communications.* 

à votre santé!

 

#CabFrancDay 2017

11 Dec

This year’s #CabFrancDay was full of delicious and inviting #CabFranc! If you think of cabernet franc only as a blending grape and not as a delicious varietal to drink, then you should take the plunge and try some! Cabernet Franc is actually the parent of the cabernet sauvignon grape, and while cabernet franc may be often used as a blending grape, it should not be ignored as a sole varietal that is a touch lighter in color and flavor and less full-bodied than cabernet sauvignon, while still featuring complex notes of fruits, spice, herbs and minerals. Here are the wines I tasted for #CabFrancDay and my tasting notes, with super-special thanks to Lori Budd of Dracaena Wines and all the wine makers and wineries who provided these wines for our tasting pleasure!








Benmarl Winery Cabernet Franc 2015, Finger Lakes, NY. 12.5%ABV, SRP$23.

Ruby color, nose of ripe raspberry and cherry with green, herbaceous undertones . On the palate: sharp acidity, firm cherry and young red cassis fruit with gentle tannin; medium finish with cedar and wet slate, clay, and pumice. This could last all night, will really show well with food. I still sometimes (wrongly) think of Finger Lakes as a riesling area, this reminds me that they make really good red wines, too! Click for link to Benmarl Winery .

 

 

Chateau Niagara Cabernet Franc 2016, Newfane, NY. 13.2%ABV,  SRP $29.99.

Medium purple in color, semi-opaque. The nose offers gentle purple fruit and a hint of funk. On the palate: plum and red berries, notes of earth, green cuttings, and potting soil. Medium body, matching tannin and acidity. Medium-long finish with final hints of both granite and sandy loam. This wine sits squarely in the middle of major grapes- and with food pairings, this wine can either fade, or feature, depending on the flavor profile of the dish. Chateau Niagara was among the most popular favorite of last year’s taste testers, and it is easy to see why: gentle on the palate, easy to enjoy by itself or with just about any food. I enjoyed this with a melange of flavors, including spicy black bean salad, cheese tortillas and salsa, gouda, and salted chocolate.

 

Fjord Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Franc. Hudson River Region, Marlboro, NY. 12.9%ABV, SRP $25

Bright ruby color, while the nose has a complex aroma of blackberry, plum, and eucalyptus. On the palate:  plum, berries, and red currants with secondary notes of african violet and limestone. A specific opulence with this delicate mouthfeel, a little more acidity than the others in this tasting group. In short, I found this wine spellbinding! Three times I sat down to write tasting notes and just enjoyed the pour instead. I could drink this all day, and if I had room in my cellar, I would buy a case to see how this wine ages. Flagrantly delicious, this wine is flexible in its complexity of flavors to move seamlessly from meal prep through the meal to coffee and dessert! Now we need to find some NYC wine stores to carry Fjord Vineyard’s wares!

 

 

 

 

Merriam Vineyards: Jones Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Franc 2012; Healdsburg, CA.  14.6% ABV, SRP $45

Light purple in color. Nose of black fruit and stone, with green cuttings. On the palate, black plum, cassis, some green peppercorns, with secondary notes of of clove, cacao nibs, toasted oak, sand, clay, and slate. Medium body on top of the mouth, fuller on the side and back palates with a nice balance, moderate in all things: fruit, acid, tannin, & body. Did I mention there is NO heat on the palate- I never would have guessed it is 14.6% ABV! This wine really can pair with anything, but the reserved quality of it makes it shine with foods that are not over-the-top in flavor profile, which is probably why I keep thinking of it as a vegetarian’s delight. Cab Franc seems singularly capable of handling the spiciness of tomato sauce, the bitterness of overcooked greens, the umami of porcini mushrooms, and everything from sweet peas to eggplant.

I loved the maturity of this wine which provided an elegance that made me adore it and think about buying other cab franc just to cellar. I would buy this at a restaurant without hesitation for the elegance and beauty of this wine, plus the flexible pairing cab franc offers. A great pairing that surprised me was Indian food- Chicken Tikka Saag! The wine constantly complements, and never overpowers. You’d be foolish to ignore this beautiful Sonoma County wine with a half-century of age, and at this price, it’s still an excellent buy, just probably not your weekday pairing. It’s worth checking out Merriam Vineyards, and maybe their cab franc is the perfect Christmas gift for your favorite vegan?

Don’t you think it’s time you bought some cabernet franc to share with your family and friends? 

à votre santé!

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!

Prepping for Thanksgiving 2017

22 Nov

Thanksgiving. It’s that time of year. When my in-box fills up with questions about what wines people should serve with dinner. But I’ve spent the last several weeks in a whirlwind of one-off specialty shows for work, road trips, and trade shows. I’ve been lax  in both my tasting and writing, so apologies while I catch up.

Perhaps you’re expecting me to roll out a re-hash of some fan favorites for Thanksgiving, like

“Prepare with Pinot!” , or

“Thanksgiving Wine Street Exchange with a Beer Drinker”

I have posts dating back seven years. It’s fun to see posts from 2010, talking about how well the ’05 and ’06 wines were drinking, and what I was buying for $10/bottle. For me, it’s even more fun to see how much I’ve learned about world wines, and the US-based wines and winemakers I have come to adore and respect as much as the old-world I’ve honored for decades.

So let’s talk about Thanksgiving. I’ve said this before: The meal is decidedly American. So I urge you to serve American wines! For years I simply served what I liked (French wines) before having the (obvious-to-all-but-me) realization that the uniquely American holiday really deserved local wines. So I hit the cellar (or the wine store) and pull bottle after bottle of tremendous American wines, as I hope you will do. And here’s what you want to look for:

Rosé, Pinot Noir, & Sparkling.  

Drink pink. Why not? The meal is full of savory dishes that need a wine with acidity but not an overpowering fruit profile. This has both the delicacy of white wine with the muscle and linearity of a good red. Pairing? Turkey or ham, yam or Idaho potato, stuffing, gravy, you name it- you want a wine with high acidity that can stand up to the cranberry sauce! The world finally fell back in love with rosé- and again, why not? It’s great juice to enjoy, it’s relatively easy (or fast) for winemakers to create compared to some other wines, and you can get great rosé wines for lower prices. Most importantly, it pairs beautifully with the meal.  

Three of my personal favorites are from California: Jason Moore’s Modus Operandi Rosé of Pinot, Sue Tipton’s Acquiesce Grenache of Rosé (now sold out thanks to a great Wine Enthusiast Rating)  and Iconic Wine’s Secret Identity.

Look, a bunch of people make really good rosé, but the three I’m listing are simply great. They are stunning wines, and a tremendous value if you’re willing to spend the time to source them. I certainly do, and plunk down my credit card whenever I can to get more. If you taste them, you will likely do the same; as they are amazing rosés that just one taste will make you a believer.

 

Pinot Noir. Tiny grapes that are hard to grow and don’t produce much juice. Oh, but the juice they produce! Light to medium in body, beautiful aromatic nose, gentle flavors, regal in their acidity and tannin. The grape that is probably the most flexible in food pairings. I’m madly in love with this as a wine to pair with food of all types that have delicate flavor profiles as opposed to massive ones, like a rib eye steak or smoked brisket. So I look at pinot from all over California,  Oregon and Washington State. Some of my personal favorites include Sanford Winery,  Gary Farrell, Balletto Vineyards, Domaine Serene, Evening Land, Anne Amie, and Panther Creek Cellars.

Sparkling. It goes with everything. Great acidity, delicate flavors, perfect palate cleansing, and fun. What’s not to like?
All year long I spout about Cava, Prosecco and Champagne, but here in the USA we also make stellar sparkling. Gloria Ferrer, Schramsberg, Argyle, and Roederer Estate are just a few fabulous makers of sparkling here in the USA worth your hard-earned dollars.

And if I could only serve ONE bottle of wine for Thanksgiving? It’s extremely difficult. Normally I serve around six wines, for a table of 15-20 who have varying tastes. But I tried VERY hard this year, and finally picked three bottles out, that would serve the meal, and the wine lovers, to perfection:

Acquiesce 2016 Grenache Rosé  
Balletto 2016 Sexton Hill Pinot Noir, 
Gloria Ferrer 2014 Brut Rosé. 

And if there can be only one, the winner is:

Gloria Ferrer 2014 Brut Rosé

 

But I’d be damned if I couldn’t figure out a way to sneak the other two bottles in with me. Trust me… where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Stay tuned for my annual Thanksgiving postmortem,  where I discuss what wines I served, how the guests responded, and how well the food & wine pairings worked!

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

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