Tag Archives: Featured

Esporão Quinto Dos Murças Minas 2015

18 Jul

Herdade do Esporão Quinto Dos Murças Minas 2015, DOC Douro, Portugal. ABV 14%, MSRP $25/bottle.

 

Color is a vibrant, warm purple center with violet edging. The nose proffers black plum, ripe cherry, and spice box with notes of topsoil, charred oak, and calceous clay. On the palate: red and black cassis, plum, then notes of violet, vanilla, leather, sand and slate.  Strong heat lingers across the top palate with grippy tannins across the side and rear. A nice aftertaste on the finish; lingering smoke and black cherry on the top of the mouth. 

 

Drinkable now as a great food-pairing wine (hello, Petiscos?)  but when this finishes harmonizing the elements, look out. This is going to drink gorgeously by itself, given the right amount of time in a cool, dark cave.

I paired this with a light mediterranean, late night dinner. The eggplant tahini I tried first didn’t make the wine shine at first. But, when I moved on to fresh vegetables and spicy turkish salad dip, this wine sang like a soprano center stage! Give her grilled meats or some hot summer spice, and wow- your tongue will be working overtime in pleasure. Likewise, I could easily see Spanish, Mexican, Indian or Thai being a killer pairing with this wine- I would love to try lamb vindaloo with this Douro blend, or find it in a Brazilian steakhouse!

What’s your favorite pairing with Douro reds? Grilled octopus? Fowl sausage? Porto Preto? Francesinha?  Soap de Cação?

à votre santé!

 

Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyards Part 1: The Whip and Dry Rosé

6 Jul

The Whip 2015 White Wine Blend, Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 13.5%ABV, MSRP $24/bottle.

Color is pale gold center with straw edging. The delicate nose offers sweet starfruit, gooseberry and wildflower. On the palate, the blend features soft fruit with strong acidity,  designed foremost to complement food. A gentle blend of pear, apple, lemon and pineapple fruit are followed by subtle wood notes. Great acidity and solid heat across the top and back palate; citrus finish with hints of pebbly gravel, clay and loam. I’d suggest allowing for a touch of air to allow some of the heat to dissipate. I really like how this wine is crafted; the nose shows off viognier, semillon, and muscat but the mouthfeel is sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. It has a refined, Bordeaux-style blending but is lighter and more delicate in flavors.

Winemaker Robbie Meyer must like food as much as I do, as this is a wine made for pairing. This blend shows enough expression to handle the most delicate of dishes, yet enough acidity and weight to handle shellfish, crudo, and sashimi. The body and mouthfeel are perfect for anything from the Southwest to the Northeast, from fish tacos to grilled chicken, salads or cream-based pastas. What I love is the gentle, refined nature of the blend, instead of having a pure citrus, lemon peel cleanse. This whip is that of the master herdsman: the sound of the crack that convinces the herd to gather and calmly move where they are told. This approach and “touch” is far from the rough, daily hire, roundup-cowboy whose whip is without compassion, allowing the angry snap on the hide, the searing pain of contact, and the flow of blood to upset the herd and make them rush, agitated.

What I should share with you: this wine haunted me. I kept going back to the glass to enjoy and savor this wine, taking in the flavors and aromatics from the glass, even long after it was gone: a fascinating, beautiful blend. Solid value and a tremendous food wine.

 

 

 

 

2016 Dry Rosé By Murrieta’s Well, Livermore Valley. CA. 14.1%ABV, MSRP $30/bottle.

Color is pale pink, the nose offers raspberry, carnation, and green cuttings. On the palate, watermelon, raspberry and cantaloupe melon. Immensely dry with pronounced acidity and searing heat on the front and top palates, perfect for pairing with savory dishes that need a deft hand. Capable of handling carpaccio, steak tartare, and raw to rare proteins in the secondary courses, I’d also love to see this rosé complement full-bodied soups like New England or Manhattan chowders, lobster and seafood bisques, New Orleans turtle soup, and southwestern bean/chicken/tortilla soups. Spanish, Peruvian, Cuban, Mexican, Asian, and American cuisines are just the tip of the iceberg for this flexible blend. Also on my list of things to pair after tasting this wine are: soup dumplings, cold noodles with sesame sauce, ramen, and barbecue.

The 2016 Dry Rosé is made from 55% grenache and 45% counoise grapes, both from the Hayes Valley. Each grape type was cold fermented and aged separately in stainless before blending and final aging in stainless prior to bottling.

 

 

Both wines are incredible approachable and offer tremendous value, intrinsically as well as in food pairing. They could be a host’s or chef’s secret weapon, if you can stop tasting to serve them with food.

(For part 2 of this piece, click here!)

à votre santé!

Victor Schoenfeld and Yarden Wines

29 Jun

World-Class Wines, from the Middle East. That may not be the first region that comes to mind, but a few great winemakers are changing that. Victor Schoenfeld, a California native who has been the Yarden head winemaker since 1992,  is credited with being THE single greatest influencer in developing world class wines in Israel, most specifically in the Golan Heights. He’s also a very nice guy, and loves to talk wine. I could have chatted with him for hours and talked terroir and winemaking…but we had wine to taste!

 

Victor Schoenfeld, head winemaker of Yarden Golan Heights Winery

 

And these are some really good wines. World-class, kosher, made-in-Israel, non-mevushal, kick-butt wines.

Don’t believe me? Please, be your own judge and let your mouth tell you. Taste the wines, it’s that easy. I did, and I will tell you, they are worthy wines. I tasted seven wines, and each was impressive in its own way.  Here are my top three that will blow your mind; each of these was so good, I didn’t want to do anything but drink what was in my glass:

 

Yarden Blanc de Blanc 2009, Sparkling Brut Chardonnay, MSRP $30

Light gold in color, with a delicate nose. Beautiful, mature white fruit with gentle effervescence. A delicate sparkling with nice complexity, this wine shows delightful minerality with a hint of toast and no sweetness on the palate. A low-dosage sparkling brut, your mouth will think it is champagne. It was a perfect foil for a raw crudo appetizer.

 

 

Yarden Gewurtztraminer 2016, MSRP $21

Medium straw with a green tinge. Citrus & banana peel on the very floral nose. On the palate, an exotic blend of kiwi, passion fruit, and lychee is matched by a perfect acidity; secondary notes are floral and spice box.  I found this paired so gorgeously with asparagus risotto. I just kept going back and back to it and didn’t want the pairing to end.

 

Yarden Bar’on Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, MSRP $96

Deep, dark, maroon with garnet edging. The nose offers black plum, cassis, aged leather and cigar box. On the palate, mature red fruit along the tongue, with cassis along the sides. A lengthy finish features gravel, granite, and sandy clay. The price on this is worth every penny, comparing well to New and Old world wines in the same price range. This wine was as complex as the lamb I enjoyed with it: flavorful, sensual, evocative, exotic.

 

 

With a few tastes, it’s obvious that Victor Schoenfeld is doing something right, not just great wine (yes!), not just organic (oh, yes, that too!), and not just a few grapes with tremendous terroir. Yarden’s library of wines is varied and includes syrah, malbec, merlot, rosé,  muscat, sauvignon blanc, in addition to these listen just off the top of my head- surely something for every wine drinker.

If you haven’t tried Yarden wines, it’s time for you to taste how the Middle East compares to what you’ve been drinking. You will find yourself impressed, and might be tasting more and more of them. With a full stable of tasty delights, you are bound to find a wine that compares well, and maybe even blows away one of your current favorites.

 

à votre santé!

Harney Lane 2013 Zinfandel

18 Jun


Harney Lane 2013 Zinfandel, Lodi, CA. 15.5% ABV, MSRP $24/bottle.

There’s a backstory here. When in Lodi last summer for #WBC16, I visited this winery. I tasted their rosé, and I thought “this is really good”. But when I tasted their old vine zinfandel, I was truly blown away by the power of the beautifully made Old Vine Zin, Lizzy James.

 

 

Months later, I pull a bottle of their 2013 “house” zinfandel from my cellar, open it gently, allow it to air, and taste it. Oh yes, my Father’s Day treat to myself!  The next day I serve it to my in-laws, not telling them what the grape varietal is. The bottle is gone within the first few minutes of the meal- and my brother-in-law doesn’t believe me at first when I tell him he is drinking zinfandel, so I remind him of my trip to Lodi.

 

 

If the independent Lodi winemakers (like Harney Lane, Bokisch Vineyards, Borra Vineyards, Klinker Brick, McCay Cellars, Fields Family Wines, and Acquiesce, just to name but a few of Lodi’s standouts ) were only making fair quality wines, there would be no point- they might as well sell their fruit to the huge corporate winemakers. But in Lodi, they are making smaller quantities of superb, high quality wines- single varietals, single vineyards, custom blends, -really, whatever they choose- they are simply making the greatest wine they can, to the best of their ability. This is how they can make wines that stand out and have an impact: they have to make tremendous wines with superb value in the bottle that makes a customer go “WHOA”,  to remember that experience. In doing so, they create their own brand fanatics who want to join their wine club and drink more than a case per year.

 

I know you want the tasting notes, so without further ado:

Color is deep magenta with violet edging. The nose offers complex, mature black and blue fruit (and really, it smells of blackberry pie) followed by dark chocolate and green, leafy vegetation. On the palate: mature blueberries dominates the lower palate with a small portion of red fruit, -cassis and young raspberry- with secondary notes of mocha, pepper, and clove. Great acidity on this wine follows the fruit across the top palate, but the tannins hit from the tip of the tongue across the top palate simultaneously, making perfect closure to the sip. For the finish, notes of oak, pebbles, and sand round out the long, lusty finish with echoes of that fruit across the palate. For those who have heard my past complaints about too much alcohol in wine, I never sensed this wine as “hot”. To be completely fair, I didn’t even notice this wine was 15.5%ABV until after the bottle was finished. So I’m keeping my trap shut, as this wine rocks. I paired this beautiful zin with cold sesame noodles when I first opened it, and then served it alongside  a beef, tomato and bean chili for dinner. It will rock a steak house menu, pair easily with Italian cuisine, match up with grilled or cured meats, or handle anything that is Mediterranean in style, as well as being purely delightful on its own.

Matured 15 months in American oak, this Zin actually has 5% of syrah blended in. Given that they made 700 cases (about 28 barrels) you can still find some, but I wouldn’t wait very long to get some for the cellar.

 

 

Jorja and Kyle Lerner of Harney Lane call themselves “control freaks” when it comes to maintaining their vineyards, growing the best clusters, and picking their best fruit at the perfect time; but all you have to do is taste it and you will be convinced. Whatever they are doing, it simply works. This is a world-class wine with style, class, depth and tenacity. You’d happily pay five times the price for a wine of this quality in a steakhouse- in the under $25/bottle range, this is a no-brainer. Better yet, join their wine club, and get this wine for $19.20 per bottle!

As a final note, all Harney Lane wines are certified green under the strict “Lodi Rules” for sustainable wine growing. That might make you feel better, about being a better citizen of the planet when you buy the wine. But when you drink it, you might not care anymore. You’ll just be glad this deliciousness is in your glass. 

à votre santé!

Tasting the Terroir of Domaine Auvigue

10 Jun

Domaine Auvigue “Solutre” Pouilly-Fuisse 2014; Burgundy, France. 13%ABV, MSRP $29/bottle.

 

 

Spend a few minutes with Jean-Pierre Auvigue, and he will endear himself to you, without ever trying. He is both direct and charming, and to my delight, he can discuss winemaking and the terroir of Burgundy to the point of exhaustion.

Jean-Pierre is quick to point out that each year, they simply try to make the best wine they can within the realm of the weather. Since they have tremendous terroir and history already, the goals are to represent the growing season with the finest chardonnay they can make. Techniques are largely traditional; all work in the vineyard is done by hand. Very little new oak is used to keep the focus on the fruit; but to me, the balance is what shines.

 

Jean-Pierre Auvigue with his 2005 Solutre Pouilly-Fuisse

 

Tasting a mini-vertical of the three most recent vintages (’12-’14) and the 2005 Auvigue Solutre Pouilly-Fuisse , I was thrilled to taste the subtle similarities and differences and hear how many varying preferences people had to their own personal favorite from these areas that boast vines that rage in age from 50-85 years of age. Most importantly, they are all delightful and offer tremendous value in white Burgundy wines.

2014/Current Release: Color is a clear, medium straw. The nose offers a delicate citrus scent with a hint of sodium. On the palate, a very linear first impression, a smooth  balance of lemon-lime fruit, acidity and minerality: limestone, clay and flint belie the famed AOC.  As it crosses the mid-palate, the flavors expand to include savory sensations without losing the initial character. Flint and quartz notes cross the back palate with the medium finish, which is as satisfying was the first sip. A wine that starts with drive and delivers complexity, terroir, and a tremendous definition of the Chardonnay grape.

 

 

 

Not to be ignored, another AOC was represented:

Domaine Auvigue Le Moulin du Pont Saint-Véran 2014; Burgundy, France. 13% ABV, MSR $20/bottle.

Color is pale straw with green tinge. The nose offers lime zest and a hint of cut grass and vegetation. On the palate young white pear, starfruit, and orange peel dominate while the top and back palate reveals notes of cedar, gravel, schist and clay, before the medium-long finish leaves your mouth refreshed. Saint-Veran being a newer AOC, this is a tremendous introduction to white Burgundy and a great every day/any day wine at this price point.

 

 

With either one, you can’t go wrong, whether to add to your cellar to hold, or to drink and chill tonight. 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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!

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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!

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