Tag Archives: red wine blend

Vivanco Reserva 2010 Rioja

13 Jul

Vivanco Reserva Rioja DOC 2010; Briones, Spain. 14%ABV, MSRP $24/bottle.

Color is deep garnet with purple edging. The nose offers a rich, full-bodied basket of dark fruit, spices and gravel. On the palate:  red cassis, plum, and a beautifully decadent mouthfeel precedes a comforting heat across the front and top palates. Secondary notes of cumin, vanilla, allspice, and forest floor are followed by grippy tannins, with gravel and calcium-rich clay, the moderate finish has some lovely expression of black currants as an afterthought. I can’t believe this wine is priced at this level when it drinks like a wine at twice the price! This is a blend of tempranillo (90%) and graciano (10%), but the graciano pushes dark flavors forward in a really wondrous fashion- cheers to the winemaker!

Pair this rioja blend with either grilled or mediterranean dishes,  -even vegetable crudite with dips- this is a gorgeous wine to drink with food, or by itself. But the darker flavors prefer something to play against, so even a cheese and cracker, a chocolate bar, or a few pieces of fruit would be useful when enjoying this. You won’t regret it: this wine is so delicious, I tasted this on three separate evenings, enjoying the nose and flavors so much I refused to write my tasting notes. If you want an introduction to Rioja, tempranillo blends, or the wines of Spain, you have found a perfect candidate, at a killer price. 

 à votre santé!

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Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyards Part 2: The Spur and Zarzuela

8 Jul
(If you missed part 1, you can find it here.)

The Spur 2014 by Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 13.5%, ABV, MSRP $30/bottle.

 

Color is a dark purple that is barely translucent, with violet edging. The nose is rich and robust with ripe blue fruit, spices, oak, scorched earth and a touch of lingering compost. Boysenberry, black plum, sour cherries, and damp green herbs cross and hold the front and side palates, while heat from the alcohol crosses the top and lands at the back along with notes of cedar, clay, forest floor, and saddle leather. The mouthfeel is powerful, youthful, and explosive, while the finish is long and slow in comparison: the lingering smoke from the cannon’s barrage, with final notes of dark blackberries and cassis suddenly in the very front of my mouth, making my tongue search with inquisitiveness and amusement, wondering “When did those arrive?”

An unusual, fun, unique red blend. Curious and expressive, this is an oral Cirque Du Soleil, a strange circus of unexpected feats and new delights in the mouth. Winemaker Robbie Meyer must have a great sense of humor. When he develops this wine, he takes gorgeous barrels of varietals he could sell so simply and easily, and makes a wild, distinctive blend that just screams to be paired with food for maximum enjoyment- and it delivers! The Spur was tremendous with asian spices from a stir-fry, and stood up to serious heat and kick from a powerful mexican salad and ghost pepper tamales! With red meat, you might want to call friends over first, or sit alone and cry, this wine pairing is so good. This type of winemaking reminds me of only one other person: David Phinney of Orin Swift, whose zin-heavy blends took the world by storm years ago. But Meyer makes a more robust and sometimes elegant bouquet of darker flavors, huge strokes of color crossing the palate and making your mouth wonder “just what is going on here?” What, indeed.

Brilliance.

 

Don’t take my word for it. Get yourself a bottle or six, before you see this in every Del Frisco’s and Ruth’s Chris steak house by the glass to encourage bottle sales. Because my friends, that day will be here soon.

You’re going to ask, and I almost forgot because the wine is that damn good:
The Spur’s blend is made up of 45% cabernet, 22% petite syrah, 14% petite verdot, 10% merlot, and 9% cabernet franc=holy smokes just give me more of The Spur. 207 barrels were made, which makes a little over 5,000 cases, all of it certified sustainable, like everything else from Murrieta’s Well. So you should be able to find just enough to tide you over until next year, if you order soon.

 

 

No, that isn’t all. It could be, I almost thought it would be. 

But I have one more bottle to tell you about. 

 

2015 Zarzuela by Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 14.1%, ABV, MSRP $60/bottle.

Color is dark maroon with purple edging, opaque at the center, converging to translucent near the sides. The elegant nose offers dark black and blue fruit, cedar and a hint of evergreen, with sandy clay. On the palate: blueberry, blackberry and black plum resolve into a luscious compote on the front of the tongue while the rest of the mouth sense a dark berry tart. The medium-long finish has secondary notes of cinnamon, mocha, and allspice, rounding up with more sandy loam, another bite of blueberry on the back palate, and a final hit of raspberry on the top palate, with my tongue aching for more. My glass is empty of the one-ounce tasting pour… when did that happen? My mind knows this wine is perfect for food pairing, but my mouth doesn’t want anything to do with that, just give me more of this intoxicating elixir.

My first pairing with asian cuisine had too many big flavors in the dish to match well yesterday, but today both medium and heavy cheeses are perfect companions, even the delicate comte is a great foil, so I move to dolce gorgonzola and have another great bite to match Zarzuela. So charcoal grilled meats and vegetables are going to be perfect with this wine, as is chocolate, which makes the mocha and red fruit notes incredibly prominent. This wine feels so elegant in the mouth, it’s definitely old-world-European, but the grapes feel more Spanish, so I look: 40% Tempranillo, 40% Touriga, 20% Souza. It’s classic Iberian Peninsula. So no wonder it’s named “Zarzuela”, the Spanish word for operetta, and was first created by one of the founders and the first winemaker at Murrieta’s Well, Sergio Traverse. My thanks, señor!  Made at Murrieta’s Well since 2003, Robbie Meyer is staying true to the original intent with gorgeous vintages since then, a club favorite, it seems.

 

This is the wine I’d choose to invite my buddy Robert over so we could catch up, cook a large steak and vegetables over the grill, share stories of work and family, and appreciate the beauty of life with food & drink while watching the sunset and know that life is wonderful.

 

 

Only 24 barrels were produced of the 2015 Zarzuela, which is aged 16 months in French oak. It exudes elegance, class, and old-world, European style. If you hadn’t found a reason to join their wine club before this, the Zarzuela is reason enough.

Just remember…when you celebrate these wines with your friends & family… save a sip for me. You know I’d pour you a glass. But I can’t because this bottle is already dry. Now how did THAT happen?

I’ll leave you with some Placido, singing Zarzuela. It is, after all, a perfect pairing with the wine. Cheers!

à votre santé!

 

Locations Wine OR 4- The Sugar Ray of Pinot Noir?

20 May

Locations Wine OR 4, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA.  15% ABV, SRP $20/Bottle.

 

Color is a dazzling, translucent red with a pale magenta center ebbing into a deep salmon. It’s quite a glorious color, that my photography can only hint at. The nose invites you to drink deep with aromas of cherry, red plum, eucalyptus & menthol, and just a hint of forest floor. On the palate: mature fruit is on the forefront with beautiful acidity. Secondary notes of spice box, granite, dust, chalky clay, and sodium follow up with a medium finish. This wine is simply gorgeous; 100% pinot noir, but it has a strong mid palate and solid back palate. It’s still a medium-bodied wine overall, but it is without doubt a decadent, muscular pinot that kicks ass, perhaps best compared to Sugar Ray Robinson, the famous welterweight and middleweight boxing champion?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was surprised by the 15%ABV, usually I complain about alcohol levels this high but this wine made me cry for more.
Where are you going to find a killer Oregon Pinot blend from Dave Phinney for an SRP under 20$/bottle? BOOM. I already tried to find more, and my closest vendor was sold out. (I found another!) This stuff is amazing wine, at a tremendous value, period.

 

If you have read my reviews of other Location Wines, you’ll know that normally I enjoy Dave Phinney’s wines over the course of a week with a few family members who love red wines… well, that was not the case with this one. I opened it for a quick taste and was floored by the wine. Admittedly, I drank half the bottle after opening, and the remainder on the next evening, keeping this amazing juice entirely for myself. Don’t worry, I’ve already bought enough to share. But it’s rare for me to have this kind of fanatic reaction to a wine, where I will pour a one pounce taste, then two more ounces, then several more ounces just because I’m enjoying the wine so much.

Since I’m a fan of drinking what you like, I’m going to figure out which of my local retailers can keep this on hand for me. So that when you come over to visit, I will know what you want to openthe wine that pound for pound, I can’t put back down. While I only met him once, I think that Sugar Ray would have approved.

 

à votre santé

 

Locations Wines P4: Portugal!

28 Feb

P4 Locations Wines by David Phinney, Portuguese Red Wine Blend. 15%ABV, MSRP$18/bottle.

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Color is deep ruby with warm purple edges. The nose is a touch hot, hiding rich dark fruit beneath the alcohol that requires a moment to dissipate. On the palate, black plum, black and blue berries, green vegetation, and a hint of bitter herb on the back palate. Strong tannins and acidity deliver a solid finish with notes of dark chocolate, vanilla, gravel, and chalk.

The flavors are dark and deeply concentrated, evoking images of ancient, gnarled rootstock, and powerful sun beating down on small fruit hanging from low vines carefully strung across a steep hillside.

A beautiful palate cleanser, my initial thought was that this wine begs for petiscos, fresh fish and the warm climate of home, being a blend of touriga franca, touring nacional, and trincadeira grapes. But it is still winter in NYC, so I opened this bottle and enjoyed a glass with grilled chicken and broccoli, and was more that satisfied. Two days later with my in-laws, it paired beautifully with winter meat loaf, potatoes and salad. And once again, my brother-in-law and I just enjoyed this wine so evenly! Not to be outdone, on day four it matched a vegetarian dinner of kale salad and baked onion pie. While compiling my notes, the final sips paired beautifully again with baked gorgonzola bites and then perfectly with a single piece of dark chocolate.

 

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I keep wondering if I will open a bottle of Locations and not be impressed. Dave Phinney seems to be the Derek Jeter of wine: always on top of his game, rock solid in his delivery, and seemingly never out of surprises.

More Locations Wines to come. Stay tuned!

 

à votre santé!

 

From JvB’s Cellar (Bin #9): Chateau Malescot St. Exupery Margaux 2006

22 Feb

Not much wine tasting is happening currently while I’m working late evenings on a new Broadway show. Here’s a revival for you: a Margaux wine review from six years ago, literally years before my blog JvB UnCorked existed. How my writing style has changed! And the 2006 is available online for as little as $80/bottle! -JvB 

Chateau Malescot St. Exupery Margaux 2006

Ah, Margaux. The terroir I love to drink.
Why do I find the wines of  Bordeaux’s Margaux region so intoxicating? 

Let’s look at this phenomenal wine for an example:
The color is deep ruby/purple. The nose is a melange of dark notes: I smell cassis, roses, and wet earth. Gentle alcohol content from slow legs, but the wine is chilled to 60 degrees F as it’s 98 outside. First sip: black currant, vine and gravel are the dominant flavors on the palate. I experienced a delicious classic Margaux with medium body, yet highly concentrated flavor and very silky, gentle tannins for a super smooth, long, and velvety finish with a sweet note that may surprise you. The wine is a blend of 50% cabernet sauvingon, 35% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit-Verdot grapes. At $60/bottle, not for the faint of heart (or wallet) but a delectable wine, every bit the 91-93 points rated by the top three commentators, who suggest this wine will be at its peak in 2015. I won’t be waiting that long when (if) I get to pick up another bottle.

Grand Cru Class of 1855: Chateau Malescot St. Exupery Margaux 2006.
You should be jealous: this wine is superb, smooth, and velvet deliciousness. YUM!!!!

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Q: Why is it the red varietal blends of the Margaux region of Bordeaux are so intoxicating?

A: It must be the complex flavors, perfectly blended and mixed to supply a powerful nose and flavor yet with such gentle tannins, resulting in a lengthy finish that I always describe as “silky” or “velvety” when drinking a classic Margaux. -JvB

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Locations Wine WA4 -Washington State

8 Jan

Locations Wine by Dave Phinney, WA4 Washington Red Wine Blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Petite Syrah. %15ABV, $20/bottle MSRP.

Color is deep purple with maroon edging, while the nose offers dark blue fruit and dank, forest floor. On the palate, there are blueberry, black plum, and boysenberry, along with some darker notes of clove, soil, wet leaves, with a hint of bitter almond. Holding in the mouth and allowing the tongue to absorb, heat sears across the top palate. What starts as a big, rustic smack in the mouth evolves once the heat of the high alcohol passes by; then soft, silken tannins coat the palate. On the medium finish there are flower cuttings, minerals, and a hint of wood. Secondary notes of lilac, lavender, vanilla, granite, oak and schist complete the profile.

 

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Fun to drink, quick to get lost with. This was an easy wine to drink, with a gorgeous mouthfeel. It paired with anything I tried: flank steak, spicy chili, taco night, even goat cheese on olive crisps. The high alcohol content kept me from drinking it on its own, but helped this wine stay vibrant and interesting for several days after opening. When I buy more of this, I doubt a bottle will survive that long before draining. High in value and reaction, low in stress and easy to pair? You could fill your cellar with cases of Locations and just rotate bottles. Dave Phinney has mad skills, but we’ve known this for some time. 

 

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Don’t let the label fool you. This is no simple bottle from Washington State. This might make you want to move, or start making wine from Washington yourself! So be prepared, because once you fall in love with this, you’ll be quick to open up your wallet to those other boutique winemakers I keep harping on about.

 

 

 

à vôtre santé!

 

Locations Wine AR5 Argentinian Red Blend

30 Dec

Argentina.

Mendoza’s Uco Valley is ripe here.

And nowhere have I seen that ripeness as evident as right in this bottle of wine.

 

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Locations Wine AR5 Red Argentinian Blend; %14 ABV, MSRP $18/bottle. 

Color is magenta with light purple edging. Boysenberry, cassis, menthol and lavender oil are demonstrated on the nose. In the mouth, juicy black plum meets blackberry jam, spice box, saddle leather, slate, gravel and wet stone. Plenty of acid keeps the palate hopping, while firm tannins round out this young and exciting wine.

With a classic and bold Argentinian flavor profile, this blend of malbec & cabernet sauvignon paired beautifully with meatballs and pasta, as well as a bite of dark chocolate before the bottle was empty.

Adjectives like intense, explosive, and vibrant fit this wine well. I had expected to taste it with Thai, Mexican, and a classic American steak, but my brother-in-law and I quickly polished off the bottle without thinking. I expect you, too, will find this wine so easy to enjoy that it’s gone before you realize it.

It has been a while since I tasted the Andes and Argentina. But the taste of them are both bold and fierce in this bottle.

At this price, you should have a few of them in your cellar. Not because of the 95-point score it received from the 2016 Sommelier Challenge Wine Competition, and not because Robert Parker thinks the winemaker, Dave Phinney, is a wine god. Buy it just because it’s damn good wine that your mouth will thank you for. 

 

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à vôtre 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.

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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.)

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

 

Opus One: America’s Luxury Wine Brand

8 Oct

En route to Lodi, I asked a fellow, trusted oenophile for advice: “If you had ONE winery to visit in Napa Valley, what would it be? The answer was one I’d hoped for, but never expected to hear. “Opus One,” was the reply. Seeing it was on the top of my list, I made my reservation, then used my New Yorker’s attitude on myself and insisted I would clear my mind; assume nothing, have zero preconceived notions, and let the experience wash over me like any other tasting.

In hindsight, I was right to do so. But in reality, I have to admit, it was a fool’s errand.

This is simply NOT just any other tasting.

The experience is geared toward the One Percent. Gorgeous lines, limited access, muted colors, hushed voices. I was unfazed. Even after tasting the wine, I kept my composure. I took my glass to the roof and wrote my tasting notes, which is when my restraint began to unravel.

 

The 2010 Opus One. Napa Valley Re Blend. Napa, CA.  14.5% ABV. 

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Deep ruby in color. The nose offers black plum, blueberries, mocha, dark chocolate and green pepper. In the mouth, an exquisite balance. Forward in the palate are blackberry, cassis, rose petals. Secondary notes of earth, clay, and vanilla. Overall response is a beautiful proportion of black fruit atop a bedrock of acidity and mature tannin. Larger than life, expressive, and with a long, delightful finish.  

 

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When does an American modern wine drink like a classic Old World Chateau? When it is the ideal marriage of old and new world.

 

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One of the few masterworks commercially available, Opus One is the premier luxury brand in American wine. There are more expensive brands, more exclusive brands, but this, without a doubt, is the Rolls-Royce of American wine. It merges the ideal of classic and historic French grapes and winemaking with American innovation, modern farming, and production.

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After inhaling the aroma of the wine for almost half an hour, I had to imbibe.

With a classic Opus One, these is no need for a spittoon. 

à votre santé!

David Phinney & Locations Wine E4

2 Oct

If you don’t know Dave Phinney by name, you surely know his work. Phinney’s red giant of a wine star The Prisoner red blend is found in steakhouses around the world, and is also the headliner of The Prisoner Wine Company  that Phinney sold to Huneeus Vintners a few years back. Just this past June, Phinney’s Orin Swift Cellars series (featuring popular wines like Papillon and Abstract) was purchased by E&J Gallo as an addition to their luxury brand portfolio. Talk about the secret to wine success!

Phinney’s current project is taking his style of winemaking abroad while keeping it affordable. Locations Wine allows Phinney to blend across regions and AVAs, without boundaries or compromise, with MSRPs under $20/bottle.

 

Locations Wine E4 Spanish Red Wine; 14.5%ABV, MSRP $18.99. Sample provided by Balzac Communications.
A mix of Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell, a Cariñena grapes were sourced from the famed Spanish wine regions of Priorat, Jumilla, Toro, Rioja, and Ribera del Duero and blended to make E4 sing a story of old vines, low yield, quality grapes than any household can afford. Barrel aged ten months prior to release.

Color is deep purple. Nose of black plum and cassis, with hints of rosemary and oregano. On the palate, juicy ripe and concentrated blackberry & black plum are dominant, followed by with green herbs, spice, wood, vegetation and lasting minerality, all deftly placed in this tasty blend. The mid and rear palate are as delightful as the initial rush. The lengthy finish has notes of potting soil, cedar, bitter herb, oregano, and wet stone. Overall impression is a well-balanced wine of obvious Spanish heritage, with spicy upfront fruit matched by a series of notes and flavors, marrying bold flavors with intense heat, powerful acidity and strong tannins.

I enjoyed tasting the E4 by itself, for starters. When I paired the E4 with food, I stopped thinking about the specific notes and depth of flavors, and suddenly just enjoyed the experience. To have that transcendence is what wine and food pairing is really about– a seamless boost in pleasure, elevating the relationship of food and wine, making the individual elements better by the complement and combination of flavors.

 

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And what about the ability to create wines that make people enjoy themselves and forget why they were tasting a wine in the first place? That is why Dave Phinney is such a tremendous winemaker. Trust me, if you aren’t a fan already, you will be soon enough.

 

 

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This E4 is such a delightful wine, it makes me excited to taste the AR5 (from Argentina) and F5 (from France). Reviews on JvB UnCorked will be coming soon!

à votre santé!

 

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