Tag Archives: Lodi Wines

Zeitlos by Markus Wine Company

10 Dec

I love drinking Syrah in the wintertime. So it was no surprise to me that I had held on to a sample from Markus Wine Company and ‘found’ it months later, not where I’d expect it with my tasting queue, but rather hidden within my rack of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and similar Rhône delicacies. It made me wonder, “Why did I hide this from myself?” But after months of road travel and an opportunity to walk in my cellar and pick a bottle to drink and enjoy, that bottle is where my eye landed. And I thought, “Based on the reds I have tasted from Markus, this wine would really be best in ten years”, but I will have to pick up a case to make that happen, now that I’ve opened and tasted it. Because whoa, this is so delicious that this bottle will not last the night!

 

Markus Wine Co. 2015 Zeitlos; Lodi, California. 14.6% ABV, SRP $39/bottle(Sample).

 

Color is ruby center with purple edging. The nose offers blue and black fruit, violets, and red pepper. On the palate is a beautifully proportioned sense of fruit: blue plum and blueberries on the front palate, blackberries on the mid-palate, and red plum on the top/back palate. Some green herbs, sage and fresh oregano are evident, with a very long finish that shows beautiful cranberry/raspberry with loam, silt and sand. This wine is beautifully balanced and the tannins are FIRM. My mouth tells me that not only do I want another sip, but the fruit flavors are very long-lasting on the tongue.

 

The Zeitlos blend is 76% Syrah, with small amounts of Viognier, Carignan, and Petite Syrah. 

 

Zeitlos reminds me a LOT of the famous (also hard to get and incredibly pricey) Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hemitage, a famous Rhône blend for those who don’t know it, only with a touch more blue fruit and more herbal and mineral notes. But that beautiful fruit and tannin makes this wine ideal for grilled meats.

While in Atlanta recently, I was fortunate to have dinner with several life-long friends. We drank wines that cost two to three times this wine’s SRP at well-known steak houses, but I wish this wine had been available. And after opening this bottle to try with chicken wings and hot sauce, this wine begged for prime proteins so much that I wanted to put both a rack of lamb in the oven and a porterhouse on the grill. Easily said: Zeitlos made me want big, bold flavors which could be translated into meat, or perhaps grilled portobello mushrooms (if you happen to be vegetarian). If you’re looking for that perfect holiday bottle to pair with winter vegetables or a roast, Zeitlos may be the ideal choice. Made in small batches (only 75 cases), each bottle is individually numbered, made with passion by an independent winemaker. So the bottle is rare to find and absolutely unforgettable once you’ve tasted it! It’s a perfect holiday gift bottle, if you can hang on to it for that long.  I might bring this to dinner as a gift, but I’d insist the host open it so it could be enjoyed immediately. 

 

Currently, Markus is selling his 2016 Zeitlos in pre-release. If you are a Syrah fan, this is a wine that you’d wat to snap up, enjoy, and cellar a few extra bottles. If you invite me over, I’ll bring the meat, and my serious thirst for Zeitlos.

 

Note: If you are one of those people who does not really care for red wines, then you should check out Markus Niggli’s line of white blends and varietals. I was impressed highly when I first tasted them in Lodi, and when I managed to spend a little more time with his wines, I was entirely blown away by his winemaking style and the flavors and elegance he evokes from his creations! They are ethereal and gorgeous, and offer great value in comparison to wines that would drink as well. Trust me- your mouth will thank you, and you can thank me later.

 

#WIYG?  (What’s in YOUR glass?)

 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

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Wines for Thanksgiving, 2018

10 Nov

It’s that time of year. No, not the Christmas music I’m already hearing.

It’s time to prep for Thanksgiving!

 

Thanksgiving is one of the holidays that made me start this blog so many years ago. It was the time of year in which I’d get email after email, phone call after phone call asking me “What wine should I serve for this special meal?”

 

Over the years, I’ve provided options for a variety of situations. In 2010 I explained why I think four wines is the minimum for a large Thanksgiving dinner party.  Back in 2015 I wrote Thanksgiving Wine: Street Exchange with a Beer Drinker that has become more popular over time with the working stiff crowd, especially for those who are not as comfortable with serving wine and are really looking for ONE bottle for their family’s table. EDITOR’S ASIDE: (If this describes you this year, I DO have a pick for you: the 2017 Lange Twins Rosé of Sangiovese. At $15, it serves every need you might have, and is such a delight to drink, people will think you actually know wine. Just saying.)  Back to your scheduled oenophile content:  

But as a very proud American who is also an old-world wine lover and avowed Francophile, I feel very strongly that that this holiday should be celebrated with American wines. And my suggestions will continue to reflect that!

Something that hasn’t changed: with a) a large group of people and palates to please, and b) a series of dishes that vary wildly in flavor, texture, and temperature, I still like the idea of no less than four wines: a lighter white wine, a serious white,  a delicate red, and a full-bodied red.

So here are my 2018 Thanksgiving Wines: 

 

Viognier: In the past, I used Riesling as my go-to here. But Sue & Rodney Tipton at Acquiesce Winery make such a delightful Viognier- it’s a gently flavored white wine that will please any palate, and this is ideal for the non-drinker or the delicate flower in your group. For $26/bottle, I find this a massive bargain, and a great wine to start the meal with.

Chardonnay:  I’ve narrowed it down to two possible bottles in my cellar: Harney Lane’s 2017 Chardonnay from Lodi, or DuMOL’s 2016 Russian River Valley. The Harney Lane is a beautiful expression of the grape and a wonderful California chardonnay with an ideal balance of oak- not too much, nor too little- making a creamy and flavorful balance, savory with perfect fruit and acidity, with a SRP of $28. And California’s DuMOL might tell your mouth you’re knocking back a very pricey white Burgundy! It’s soft, balanced, simply gorgeous– and a little on the high side (over $50/bottle). The downside is you have to join a waitlist to buy direct, but their wines are available at Wine.com, Wine Library.com, Sokolin.com, and many other online retailers that ship across the USA, and even some local high end retailers who carry the best of California wines. Totally worth the weight. And if we bounce through one of these bottles, I’ll open the other. No problem!

Rosé (ok, actually two of them on my lineup this year):
a) Still Rosé:
Leah Jorgensen Rosé of Cabernet Franc. When I pour this $22 bottle, people lose themselves in ecstasy. I don’t know what she’s putting in the bottle beyond the grape juice, but the wine simply sings of pure fruit, delightful acidity, and beauty. Leah is a brilliant winemaker that you should be aware of, period!

b) Sparkling Rosé: The time I spent in Yakima recently certainly influenced this year’s Thanksgiving choices! I’ll be serving an $18 bottle of sparkling rosé from Treveri Cellars. The Treveri Sparkling rosé you can buy online is made of syrah and chardonnay and is a real crowd-pleaser, while my personal favorite is their tasting room rosé, which is only available in person at the tasting room. This is half pinot noir and half chardonnay and has an old-world charm that sings to me.


Sparkling Shiraz: The pièce de résistance this year might be this wine!
 Treveri Cellars also makes a $20 sparkling shiraz that has such vibrant notes of cranberry, I immediately knew I had to serve this for Thanksgiving! My gut is that it’s going to be a smashing success. But I’ve not actually tried this wine with a savory meal yet- so I’ll make sure to report back with my annual Thanksgiving Postmortem and let you know what my guests thought of this choice- and the others! I am SO excited to hear what my guests think of this wine with the main meal!

Cabernet Franc, for my annual ‘delicate red’ wine. Traditionally it would be a pinot noir -and there are plenty to choose from from the USA- for this old world Burgundy fan. But I’ve been absolutely blown away by the beauty of balance of the cabernet franc from Owen Roe winery. So I have one bottle of $28 Owen Roe’s Rosa Mystica, a wine that totally wrecked me -in a good way- and I plan on putting this on my Thanksgiving Table. This Yakima Valley red is really gorgeous and drinks like an old-world red – I simply can’t wait to try the pairing with turkey and gravy!

Zinfandel: I have two bottles I am going to decide between: a rare and hard to gain Turley, of which I have ONE bottle (and it’s a hoarder bottle I’m loath to open) and my favorite Zin on the planet, Lizzy James OVZ again from Lodi’s Harney Lane. I could almost as easily choose their standard Zin, the Scottsboro Zin, or even their Syrah- but I am just in love with the gnarly, curled old vines and the magical fruit they produce. The wine is big, bold, yet refined and polarizing. Any time I have opened a bottle of the $36 Lizzy James, it has changed lives at the table. It’s a small price to pay, that’s all I’m saying.

 

So- let me know what you think about my picks, and what you plan to open for your Thanksgiving this year! 

 

à votre santé!

Blind Tasting Markus Wine Co’s 2015 “Domo” Lodi Red Blend

1 Jun

Markus Wine Company 2015 “Domo” Lodi Red Blend; Borra Vineyards, Lodi, California. 13.8% ABV; SRP $39/bottle.

 

A dry red blend of 75% carignane, 15% petite sirah, and 10% sirah.  Aged 17 months in 25% once-filled French oak casks. 71 cases made, bottled March 10, 2017.

 

 

Color is deep and lustrous garnet with ruby center. The nose is of red roses, stewed plums, and wildflowers. On the palate is massive red fruit- plum, cherry, and raspberry dominates while softer notes of spices and tobacco leaf follow, with a hint of loam on the tart, satisfying finish. The massive fruit is matched with beautiful acidity and a solid tannic backbone.

I was so excited when I tasted this wine that I re-corked it with argon and then took the bottle to a party that night, where I poured blind tastes for friends along with two other top shelf new and old world red blends. After tasting all the wines, and without prompting or provocation, people unanimously came back to Markus Domo- against red blends costing two and three times more, respectively- as the wine they wanted to drink. After a few minutes, I asked people to suggest where they thought the wine was from. “You love French wines, is it Bordeaux?” said one guest. “This is Italy for sure.” said another. “Napa Valley?” inquired a third. When I explained it was from Lodi, folks were surprised.

“JvB, cut to the chase! Wherever it is, from, it’s just really good. Could you pour me some more please?” said the man on my right.

I laughed, and brought back the bottle, thinking, “It’s true. Doesn’t that sum up all we need to know?”

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!

Markus Wine Co. “Blue”, 2015 Lodi Red Wine

20 Feb

Markus Wine Company “Blue” 2015 Vintage Red Wine Blend, Lodi, California, USA. 90% Zin, 5% Petite Verdot, and 5% Petite Syrah. 16.5%ABV, $39/bottle SRP.

 

Color is deep maroon. Nose is a complex mixture of plum, cassis, and notes of dried herbs, iris and lavander.

In the mouth,  strong black cherry and deep red raspberry zing across the palate with an underlying bolt of heat from the alcohol. Secondary notes are of allspice, cumin, cut leafy greens, and clay. On the long and zesty finish: blueberry, black plum, vanilla, and silica. Not a fruit bomb, this is an Iron Man/SEAL team wine: seriously agile, ropy & muscular. This wine can do any task you ask of it, but it will go in with guns blazing and leave you wondering what just happened.

I first opened this wine a month ago, and came back to it again and again (thank you, ArT Wine Preserver!)  Each time, my mouth told me to stop thinking about the wine and just enjoy it. Down went the wine, and up went my smile.

 

 

When I initially opened this bottle, my reaction was that the wine was just a touch hot, perhaps a bit of a mouthful. But as soon as I paired it with food? Oh yes! My initial choices included chicken fajitas, baked cheese, and grilled steak, and each time Markus’ “Blue” sang, complementing gorgeously. Pro tip: save yourself a sip to pair with a piece of chocolate after dinner, and you will know the meaning of heaven.

While I’m not normally a fan of high ABV wines, after my first couple of tastings, I began to want the wine’s flavor profile all by itself, in the same way I sometimes just want to hit the bike and feel the wind against my face, my heart pound in my chest, the music loud in my head. This wine is as well made as a custom motorcycle: every part is there for a reason, and the sum of the parts is stunning and impressive.

I’m not one to stand back lightly, so here goes: this is a $39 kick-ass red wine that will beat Dave Phinney’s The Prisoner in a blind taste test. For steak houses, they should get orders in early, and for steak or Zinfandel lovers, you heard it from me first: Buy it while you can get it! I’m a huge fan of Phinney, but Markus is the up-and-coming winemaker who is looking to stand with the giants of the game. And his product is limited, for now. I can’t wait to see what Markus Niggli does next-  he has extreme talent and seems to want to make the best wines that California can offer in a myriad of styles!

 

Look out, and stand back… and please let me be there when it happens.

 

 

 

Am I BLUE? Only that the wine bottle is empty. 

 

 

à votre santé!

California Love w/ Macchia Graciano // #WBC17

5 Nov

It’s that time of year. Time for my trek to the Wine Blogger’s Conference. #WBC17

But it’s actually the wrong time of year. It’s traditionally been held in the summer, which is much easier for me to attend. I was sure I would not be able to attend WBC in November because it’s always a crazy busy month for me. But somehow, I have managed to squeeze a few days to get out to Santa Rosa, visit Sonoma, and attend WBC17.

I’ve mentioned this trip to some friends.
“Sonoma?” they inquire incredulously, concerned.
“You mean where the fires were?  Didn’t they lose everything? Why would you go there?”

Just chill. Hear me out.
Sure, there was devastation from the wildfires. The Tubbs wildfire of 2017 was the third deadliest in California history, and destroyed 5% of homes in the area, 45,000 acres total, claiming 19 lives. But while everyone in the area was indeed affected by the fires, destruction was not total. As a matter of fact, most wineries had harvested their crop and expect to have 2017 wines. And what they really need right now is our support, and a little trust.

Besides, last year I was expecting to love the wines from Napa (I did, of course). I was not prepared or expecting to totally impressed by the wines of Lodi. But I sure was! I was knocked out by superb Old Vine Zinfandel, Rosé, plus German, Rhone, and Italian grapes being grown and bottled with brilliance and love by winemakers who are passionate, interesting, and fun. And they are making tremendous wines in every-day wine price points that you should be buying by the case!

So please, support Sonoma, Napa, Lodi, and all the local California AVAs! I’ll be live tasting and tweeting, and there’s always a wrap-up post from my WBC trips. But don’t forget to buy California wines and support their efforts!

Besides, California knows how to party!

Here’s a steal for you- if it’s not in your local store, you can get it direct from http://www.macchiawines.com !

 

Macchia Acampo “Gracious” Graciano 2015, Lodi, CA. ABV 14.8%, SRP $25/bottle.

 

The color is deep ruby with a dark purple center. The nose offers a sensual and spicy dark fruit mixed with African violet. On the palate: black cherry, boysenberry, and black plum. Secondary notes include rich, dark spice, tobacco leaf, forest floor, toasted oak, and sandy loam. The high ABV sears across the top palate with only medium acidity and a gentle tannic structure. Long finish with the darker edge of the purple fruit and a hint of rich earth.  

This is a wine that has a Spanish flair, tons of fruit flavor with muted acid and tannin reminding me of tempranillo, malbec and cabernet franc.  Gentle enough to work with salad and vegetables, flavor and personality enough to pair with grilled meats, and delightful by itself. Gracious, indeed! I could just sit with my nose in the glass for minutes at a time, inhaling this aroma.

Yum. I finished the bottle on Day 2, before I realized it. Damn. I had more pairings for you. I had people to share you with.  I’ll have to pick up some more.

Although Spanish is not my language, I’ll give it a go:

Se me hace agua la boca!

 

 

 

 

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!

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!

 

 

2015 Nativo by Markus Wine Co, Lodi CA

22 Oct

2015 Nativo Lodi White Wine, Markus Wine Company, Borra Vineyards. Lodi California. 13.2% ABV. MSRP$18.99/bottle.

 

Pale straw in color; featuring a delicate nose with hints of lychee, gardenia and honeysuckle. On the palate, restrained white peach, lemon-lime zest, starfruit and gorgeous acidity with rigid chalk and stone on the finish. Such a subtle balance of flavors and responses without any of the oppressive heat I’ve found in great kerner wines from Europe, Markus Niggli’s white wine blend will smack you over the head with beauty, convince your mouth it is enjoying a brilliant expression of a $50+ Austrian wine, and make you open your wallet to order a case of this to enjoy whenever you simply want a really well made wine that goes with almost anything. I like this wine even more now that I first did when tasting in the vineyard in Lodi, both times I approached with low expectations and had an eye-opening experience. You will, too. Thank me later- I’m finishing this glass first. Fermented in stainless steel, using only native yeast and no malolactic fermentation, it is a blend of 52% Kerner, 29% Riesling, 15% Bacchus, 4% Gewürztraminer all grown in Lodi’s Mokelumne Glen Vineyards.

 

 

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à votre santé!

 

 

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