Tag Archives: Italian Red Wine

Mastroleo Negroamaro 2012

24 Jul

Ok my Italian Wine Lovers, start your engines! 

Mastroleo Negroamaro 2012, Puglia, IGT, Italy. ABV 13%, $15/bottle at Wine & Spirit Company, Forest Hills.

Color is a deep garnet with maroon edging. The nose provides a floral mix with black plum and fresh earth. On the palate is a nice melange of black fruit: black cassis, plum, dried fig, and prune; a lively acidity with moderate heat across the mid-palate. Secondary notes of forest floor, potting soil, sodium, toasted oak, and granite. A moderately-long finish that returns the fruit back to the palate, with a tiny hint of pleasant bitterness after the finish completes which re-awakens the mouth for another bite or sip. This wine really reminds me of my trip to the Mediterranean last year, with beautiful dark flavors. The acidity in this wine makes it a great balance now at a median age but I feel it could easily age another four or five years. And while it was $15 near me, a quick search online showed it commonly sells for $12/bottle- a good deal for a nice Italian food wine! Still, I feel $15 is a bargain for a nicely aged Italian red that would be a great gift wine or dinner wine. The label looks far more expensive!

 

 

Food pairing was simple with a spicy chicken fajita dish on the first night, another evening with grilled steak and asparagus, and a third day with a mix of cheese from mild to heavy. I’d love to pair this with a spicy tomato sauce, but perhaps a perfect pairing might be game: wild boar or venison- this is a wine designed to pair with food and friends! I’d love to add this to my cellar for times when you want a wine that has beautifully dark flavors and tones without the massive fruit of Cabernet sauvignon or syrah. This is a real conversation wine as well as a delightful and inexpensive bottle that can age well– I have found several of my cellared wines to be closed at the age of six, but this negroamaro is in excellent stride.

Thanks to  my friends and fellow wine writers  Debbie Gioquindo,CSW and  Lodi Budd for “Winephabet Street” ,their monthly online chat about a different grape each month which got me out of my “nebbiolo” comfort zone to try out Negroamaro! 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

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Wine Pairing with Fattoria Betti

28 May

Imagine sitting down to dinner in one of the hippest restaurants in Brooklyn, Le Fond. Chef Jake Eberle greets you, and walks you through his four course menu. Then Guido Betti offers up his namesake brand, Fattoria Betti wines, to pair! Eberle’s four course menu for the evening was, of course, designed to complement the selected wines.

Course 1/appetizer: Spring Vegetable Carpaccio, with “Creto De’ Betti” 2016, our first wine; a white blend of 70% chardonnay and 30% trebbiano (aka ugni blanc) at 13% ABV.

 

 

Color is light gold, tiny green tinge. The nose shows light citrus with pineapple, white pear, and wildflowers. On the palate: white stone fruit, a hint of white flower, and white pepper. Medium mouthfeel, hint of savory meets firm acidity, green apple, crisp finish with clay and chalk. A lovely opening salvo of citrus that matched up beautifully with the vegetable carpaccio, a series of delicate flavors designed to tease the tongue.

 

Course 2/Pasta: Cavatelli in a spinach emulsion, served with wine#2, Chianti Montalbano, 2016, blended from 85% sangiovese, 8% canaiolo nero, and 2% cabernet sauvignon. 14%ABV; the color is a translucent ruby; the nose presents stewed red fruit, eucalyptus, saline, black cherry, with a hint of plum. On the palate:  red plum, black cherry, sodium, pepper, and clove. Finish is medium long with lasting fruit and medium tannin. A perfect pairing with the pasta, the spinach, mushroom/cavatelli. Bravo! This was my favorite dish and wine pairing for the evening. Both the dish and the wine were stunning individually, but together they were masterful.

 

 

 

 



 

Course 3/Entree:  Braised lamb shoulder, paired with wine #3: 2016 “Prunideo”– 14%ABV, the wine is composed of 90% sangiovese grapes and 10% cabernet sauvignon grapes. Color is deep ruby with a magenta center; the nose is strong, showing dark red fruit, menthol, and eucalyptus. On the palate, a powerful combination of red and black plum, sour cherry, and cassis. With a medium-long finish, showing remnants of fruit with long heat, acid, and brawny, muscular tannins.  A solid pairing for the braised lamb shoulder, which melted in the mouth. Decadent and savory, the wine is succulent and robust. A very nice pairing!

 


 

 

 

Course 4/Dessert: Chocolate crémeux, paired with wine#4, “Caprone” a rosé of Sangiovese, 13.5% ABV. Color is a luscious deep pink/dusty rose. The nose is a delicate balance of strawberries and fresh cut grass. On the palate: cut red fruit- bright strawberry, watermelon, raspberry, and yellow peach, with a tart finish, showing off bright, fresh acidity and subdued tannins. The rosé paired beautifully with the vanilla custard in the dessert and was both tasty and fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guido Betti, proud of his namesake & heritage!

 

Finally , over the course of the last week, I have been cooking and tasting a fifth wine from Fattoria Betti! The 2015 “Semel” is 100% merlot, with 14% ABV. The color is medium ruby with purple center. The nose offers black plum, cassis, and black cherry. On the palate, it is a big, bold wine with a strong mouthfeel of black and red fruit, and solid tannin backbone. I paired this one the course of a week with chicken chili, fajitas, several cheeses, and finally with Szechuan chicken- the wine’s massive mouthfeel is ideal to match up with strong flavors, and it does not shy away from cleansing the palate!

 

 

Overall, I was impressed with how well a historic Tuscan winery stood up to such a bevy of worldwide flavors and influences, and how flexible and universal sangiovese can become. With a knowledgeable winemaker, sangiovese can become a wine chameleon with the ability to blend and shift to match any cuisine. I quite enjoyed trying the various pairings of “Semel” with my culinary dishes, and my overall experience has introduced me to another lovely winery in Tuscany, as well as to strengthen my love of Sangiovese, no matter where I am, or what I am eating.

 

And of course, if you have a chance to try La Fond in Brooklyn or to taste Fattoria Betti wines, I recommend both experiences!

 

Whats in your glass tonight?   #WIYG? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts, comments, or just what you’re drinking!

 

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!

 

 

The Vinum Il Rosso: Montepulciano

20 Mar

The Vinum: Il Rosso Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC, Ortona, Italy. 13% ABV, $25/bottle by Topochines.com

 

Translucent garnet in color. A floral, violet-driven nose with bright red fruit, dried leaves, and an essence of green cuttings.  On the palate: delightful cherry and young raspberry on the fruit profile, together with an excellent acidity and chewy tannins; rounded out with notes of earth, clove, cumin, cinnamon, oak, and slate. Unlike many Montepulcianos I have tasted, this one is in great shape to drink young but has enough acidity and fruit to age for a decade or two, when this wine would go from really good to possibly stunning- if you can bear to keep it that long. Made from 100% Nero grapes, this is a wine to please your wine-loving friends and make their mouths water.

I paired this wine with a pot roast and was thrilled at the result, a very complementary set of flavors for the roast and the winter vegetables. But unlike most wines, I couldn’t stop pouring myself  another one-0unce taste over and over again, as my nose went back again for the violet aromas that filled the top of my palate, even as I enjoyed the wine with meringues for dessert instead of coffee or tea. This is a wine that won’t allow me to taste it over a week with at least three proteins, because it isn’t going to last that long. Hello, time to order a case?

This wine has made me more interested in the Nero grape (since it was a new expression of the grape to me), as well as the wine importer/retailer/wholesaler  Topochines Vino, whose selections are intriguing, reasonably priced, and made me raise an eyebrow and want to order several bottles as soon as I began to browse their online store. A clear win, and worth checking out.

 

 

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!

 

San Marzano Wines

6 Dec

From the coast of Puglia, Italy comes San Marzano, a wine collective of 19 grower families who joined together in 1962. San Marzano produces wines that demonstrate the terroir and flavors of Puglia. Their Talò line aims at the $15-20/bottle USD range, which is a great price to try wines you can choose to drink either every day or hold for specific food pairings or special occasions.

 

Talò Primitivo Di Manduria 2013, 14%ABV, SRP $16.99

Color is deep ruby, while the nose offers black fruit, cassis and stewed prunes. On the palate: massive dark fruit with some green vegetation. Secondary notes of black currants and cedar, with heavy tannins float across the lower palate and bottom of the tongue. A long finish completes the experience with notes of silt, sodium, and granite. So easy to pair with food, from pizza to pasta to seafood gumbo to lighter meats. This is a crowd-pleaser!

 

Talò Negroamaro 2015, 13.5%ABV, SRP $16.99.

Color is a blend of ruby edging and a garnet center, with a nose of black fruit, iris blossoms, and aged wood. On the palate, dark cassis and black plum dominate the front and top with a hint of vanilla, while the side palates feature notes of forest floor,  granite and slate on the long finish. I paired this with Chinese stir-fry, Mexican food, and grilled meats on yet a third night, at which point I realized that the entire Talò wine line is really designed to pair well with any type of food, but perhaps you’ll find a favorite you prefer to pair it with. I really loved the way the NegroAmaro complemented spicy flavors and heat, be it hot sauce or garlic with fresh ginger.

 

 

Talò Malvasia Nera 2014, 13.5%ABV, SRP $16.99.

Color is light garnet with ruby edging; a nose of raspberry and a rich spice blend follows. The palate offers red raspberry, plum, and cherry with notes of wet stone, pepper, and clove on the medium finish. With less brawn and more bite, this wine easily complements smoked meats, bacon-wrapped scallops, or my personal pairing choice: pan-seared salmon.

 

 

Talò Salice Salentino 2013, 13%ABV, SRP $16.99

Deep ruby color with a nose full of black plum, eucalyptus and blackberry. On the palate: a powerful mouthful of black fruit, a hint of mature cherries, with strong tannins. A great choice for game meats and fowl:  duck, goose, lamb, mutton, bison, boar, ostrich, or the ever-elusive porterhouse steak. This wine is big and balanced on all things: flavors, tannin and acidity. Grill and go enjoy!

 

Tramari Rosé di Primitivo 2016,  13%ABV SRP $16.99

Color is pale salmon pink, the nose offers hints of rosebuds, and ripe red fruit. On the palate, juicy raspberry, nice acidity and the top palate has a hint of honey before you realize how beautifully dry this rosé is. Let me take the bottle to the backyard and drink while I enjoy the afternoon sun, the breeze under the canopy of gorgeously blue sky, and forget about the problems in the world. This is a decadence and forgetfulness wine; serve chilled with canapés on the veranda while decked casually in shorts and boat shoes- or drink it any time you miss or want those carefree afternoons.

 

Step outside your comfort zone from the wines of Italy you might normally drink. Take an opportunity to taste the Southern Italian sunshine, the sea breeze, and the grapes punished by the hot sun. These are decidedly Mediterranean notes from flavors you already know and love, and can now enjoy even more at a daily wine price! The flavors of the San Marzano line will work year-round; try one or all and see for yourself!

 

Special thanks to Tuewen Communications for the providing the opportunity to sample San Marzano Wines!

à votre santé!

Drinking Locally in the Mediterranean

26 Sep

 

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

Sardinia, Italy

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

à votre santé!

 

Schiava: the Welterweight Knock-Out Wine!

30 Aug

Abbazia di Novacella Schiava “Stiftskellerei Neustift” 2015. Alto Adige, Italy. 12.5% ABV, MSRP $ 16/bottle.

 

Color is a robust, translucent ruby. The nose has sweet cherry, rose petals, and hint of limestone. On the palate, moderate bright raspberry, fresh cranberry, and a hint of red cassis are followed with lush, green foliage on the front palate. Polite, gentle acidity and tannins are balanced in body and scope. The flavors deepen across the top and back palate, with notes of slate and calcium-rich clay on the medium finish under the fruit profile. Best when served slightly chilled, and just under ‘moderate’ in body, this is a welterweight red that is luscious and mouthwatering, a wine that is beefier than rosé but lighter than the Cru Beaujolais and Burgundian pinot noir, and what a perfect wine for the middle! Pairing is so easy with vegetable appetizers, salad, fish, and pizza.

 

 

 

After a few sips, I kept thinking of all the meals I could serve this wine for; how easily to pair this with an appetizer, soup or salad course as a brilliant impact of delicacy and deliciousness. Taking the next step in meal evolution, if you are planning a cheese plate, cured meats, or a fresh seafood course, this Schiava is still worth your consideration as a capable flavor profile with plenty of acid and personality to pair with these more challenging dishes. Even more, it would be an ideal match for white meats such as turkey and cranberry sauce or roast chicken.

 

At this price, it offers an excellent value that is well worth seeking out to add to your repertoire and cellar, and is a beautiful representation of both the uniqueness and subtlety one can find in the wines of the Alto Adige. This one will go ten full rounds and win by decision as a crowd-pleasing favorite.

 

 

à votre santé!

 

Drinking World Wines in Toronto

14 Nov

I continue to be out of the country working on a new Broadway musical, trying Canadian wines when our production schedule allows. Wine selections at the LCBO (basically, the Canadian Liquor Store) are OK by my standards, but not stellar. I managed to find a bottle of Michael David’s Chardonnay from Lodi, here in Toronto of all places…along with many bottles of Zinfandel. That bottle made me very happy with great memories of picking viognier in the MD vineyard this past August, and I drank it and fondly recalled fun adventures with my WBC friends. 

 

Michael David Winery 2015 Chardonnay. 13.5%ABV, $23CAD/bottle from LCBO. Color is pale gold. Nose of green apple, white peach, and hibiscus flower. In the mouth, the fruit profile is a balance of golden delicious apple, honeydew melon and pineapple. Secondary notes of peach, cedar, vanilla, and clay on the medium-short finish. For me, this bottle was a delightful memory of the 2016 harvest in the MD vineyards. While I enjoyed this, I wished the LCBO had stocked the MD Viognier as well.

mdchardonnay

 

jvb-graping-copy

This is a shot of me from the viognier harvest in the MD Vineyards.
Photo by Randy Caparoso!

 

 

Working in the entertainment industry often means very long hours and few days off. Since arriving,  I thankfully have managed to get to a couple of nice restaurants in Toronto that feature excellent wine lists that are worthy of sharing!

 

Nearby the Royal Alexandra Theatre at Byblos, the middle eastern fare is warm and inviting. Their lamb shoulder is braised for 12 hours and falls off the bone, succulent and savory, accompanied by a garlic paste, shug (a hot pepper blend) and house-made pickles and turnips, with tasty sides of rice and brussel sprouts. With the help of my trusty iphone (it’s a dark restaurant) I scanned the wine list and found an appropriate comfort wine to match the house specialty.

Chateau Musar “Hochar Père et Fils” 2011, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. This red blend is deep garnet in color with an opulent, floral nose. On the palate, mature black plum, fig, cherry, and the distinct quality of baked fruit is met with notes of earth, leather, mocha, allspice, black pepper and cinnamon. On the dry, lengthy finish there are beautiful flourishes of oak, along with gravel and sandy limestone on the side palate.  It is a heady aroma and velvety mouthfeel, a gorgeous second wine from a brilliant winemaker. I have long been a fan of Chateau Musar, with an ’04 and a few bottles of the 2000 remaining in my cellar, and I was trepidatious at the youthful age of this bottle, but ended up being very pleasantly surprised. I thoroughly enjoyed this blend of 50% cinsault, 30% grenache, 10% carignan, and 10% cabernet sauvignon. 14% ABV, Street price avg $33 USD, (obviously not what I paid in the restaurant.)

 

hochar-2011-1

 

 

Further down King Street is a hidden gem suggested by my co-workers for having a high quality (and somewhat pricey) wine list. Buca is a northern Italian restaurant that is reknowned for savory delights and curing their own meat;  you can see examples of their delicacies hanging in a cooler as you walk down a hallway to the bar and to one of the two dining rooms. We obliged our evening hunger by ordering shared dishes, starting off with olives stuffed with sausage and fried to hot, crisp, and salted savory perfection;  hand-rolled ricotta gnocchi stuffed with taleggio cheese; carpaccio di mango; and a pizza salumi di buca- delightful, mouthwatering bites. Strongly salted meats and powerful, savory flavors beg for a tremendous wine, and the sommelier did not disappoint! A native Italian (whose name I sadly did not understand when I asked), we chatted, I inquired about some of the ‘hidden treasures’ on the wine list, and he came back with his arms full of options,  from which I selected his very last bottle of a reserve Nebbiolo- and I was very glad I did!

Ar.Pe.Pe.’s  2011 Sasella Stella-Retina Valtellina Superior Riserva, Lombardy, Italy. The color is deep ruby while the perfumed nose offers crushed rose petals and lush vegetation. This wine opened up beautifully with a bit of time in the glass to offer mature raspberry, dried cherry, and african violet. Secondary notes of vanilla, wet earth and aged leather on the finish with hints of toasted almonds, sodium, wet stone, and granite. A beautiful soft mouthfeel; feminine expression of aged fruit meets bright acidity and firm tannins. 100% Nebbiolo, 13.5% ABV, Street Price around $52 USD.

 

sasselica-stella-retica

 

The clock is ticking until my return to the USA! I still have two bottles of Canadian red wines I need to review before my time is up here in Canada. Keep an eye out, and enjoy. Life is beautiful and precious, and I hope we all see the beauty every day in our loved ones and the world around us.  -JvB

à votre santé!

 

 

Arneis & Nebbiolo: The Real Roero!

19 May

Arneis is a white wine grape whose origin is from the Piedmont region of Italy. Some of the finest examples of this wine are from the DOCG region of Roero, just northwest of Alba. Arneis wines tend to be crisp, dry, and floral; full-bodied wines with notes of white pear, apple, and apricot, with a strong mineral backbone. These wines should be available in high end wine stores in the $16-25 range and run slightly high in alcohol, usually 13-13.5% ABV.

Arneis 3

 

Arneis1

 

Arneis2

2015 was an excellent year in the Roero thanks to a snowy winter, mild spring, and rainy-but-hot summer. This combination of weather in the Roero region produced often perfect or near-perfect quality grapes with the traditional mineral-focused mouthfeel plus intense aromas and flavors of fruit with excellent aging potential.

I worked my way through the #RealRoero tasting of Roero wines held in New York City, enjoying myself thoroughly, first tasting recent vintages from 2011-2015. The Arneis wines show beautiful floral aromas with delicate fruit, mineral backbone and a sturdy finish that is absolutely delightful and makes me wonder why I haven’t sought these wines out previously.

The red counterparts, largely 100% nebbiolo Roero reds, are stunning in their own perspective. In these nebbiolos, bright fruit is in the background, while beautiful aromas mystify the nose and complex flavors bathe the tongue. My tasting notes included african violet, red plum, black cherry, pencil shavings, eucalyptus, forest floor and saddle leather. Colors range from bright ruby to muted garnet.


RR1 Deltetto

 

R3 vibrant nebb

 

R Nebb 1998

 

Like the Arneis wines, Roero reds vary from season to season with flavor profiles but show great consistency in quality and equal enjoyment between cooler and warmer years. It was a delight to taste 2011- 2012 reds alongside 1998 and 2001 vintages, demonstrating the aging potential these wines have and the beauty and complexity that is available for those willing to wait the test of time by cellaring. These wines should price in the $18-35 range on shelves and are usually 13-14.5% ABV.

2Deltetto 2001

 

sergentin

 

hold bottle

 

mal

I hope you are able to find wines from the Roero region in your local wine stores and try them for yourself, please leave a note if you are! I am excited to include wines from the Roero region in my next Italian wine tasting, and am struggling with which ones I should add to my personal cellar (can you say #FirstWorldProblems?). But know that you should expect to see more of them here on JvBUnCorked!

à votre santé!

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