Tag Archives: Red Wine Review

A Surprise Merlot for Rosh Hashana!

10 Sep

Alexander Winery, 2009 Reserve Merlot, Galilee, Israel.  %13.5 ABV. Found online for $37/bottle. Ⓤ𝖯

 

 

The decade=plus of age on this bottle made me reach for it when it was time to choose wines for a special dinner to celebrate Rosh Hashana the Jewish New Year.

Of the four wines I chose (a Napa Sauvignon Blanc, a full-bodied Bordeaux Blanc, a delicate Burgundy pinot, and a full-bodied, reserve red), I was not expecting the merlot to be the breakout. But it was, hands-down, the crowd favorite.

Dinner began with slices of apple with honey to bring in a sweet new year, and then spicy flounder cakes and Israeli cucumber salad. For the main course, coq au vin with garlic-balsamic Brussel sprouts made me think that the Burgundy would be the star wine for the evening.

Not according to my guests! They loved the full-bodied yet soft mouthfeel of the supple merlot from Northern Galilee. They adored it with the fish, and sang its praises with the fowl- especially pairing with the savory dark meat and the vegetable courses.

Color is deep purple with garnet edging. The nose is a rich blueberry compote with menthol and vanilla bean. On the palate, a robust burst of blackberry, plum, and cranberry. Solid acidity leads into a firm slice of heat across the top palate. Secondary notes of mocha, toasted oak, green herbs, and a touch of clove. Succinctly dry, with a long finish. Our guests wanted more to taste, took pictures of the bottle, googled the winery and importer

I kept tasting back and forth with the wines, and personally loved this wine’s pairing with the dark meat chicken, as well as the plum cake and flourless chocolate cakes served for dessert. In the $24-40 range, it is a lovely choice for a bottle with this heritage and age (though it could certainly handle another five years!) Without a doubt this wine is a win, worthy of your table for the holidays or any day that you want to make special.

 

#WIYG?

 

Share with me- what’s in your glass, what wine is gracing your table this week? Click the link below and let us know!

 

à votre santé!

 

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Napa Royalty: Chateau Montelena

28 Aug

When you plan a special occasion with friends & neighbors, the wine has to be perfect! So an important summer evening recently became OTBN- “Open That Bottle Night”, when we pull a special bottle from the cellar, to enjoy with good friends. For our wines, I turned to new world wine royalty:  Napa’s own Chateau Montelena!

Chateau Montelena Chadonnay 2015; Napa Valley, Ca. 13.8%ABV, SRP $58/bottle.

 

The color is a medium straw with a green hue. The nose shows fresh melon with a touch of baking spice. On the palate is baked apple pie, a hint of peach, notes of vanilla and significant oak influence, followed by more spicy notes- ginger root, and young pineapple. Lush and savory with mid-weight appeal. This is a delightful chardonnay that sings of fruit in the barrel. Paired with grilled vegetables and chicken, the nose and flavors elicited verbal oohs and aahs from our guests of honor.

One tastes this wine, and immediately thinks of the 1976 Judgement of Paris that changed the way the game was played both in the old world and new world of wines. This modern-day offspring of that world-changing wine maintains the beauty of the classic vintage with restrained fruit notes, solid acidity, a savory mouthfeel, and age-worthiness. It has been years since I tasted Chateau Montelena’s chardonnay, -a 2010 vintage- but the wine’s flavors memory recall a near-identical, idyllic and glamorous tasting experience!

 

 

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2015; Napa Valley, Ca. 14.2%ABV, SRP $61/bottle.

 

The color is deep ruby with magenta edging. The complex nose offers mature black fruit followed by notes of forest floor, leather, oak and spice. On the palate, the fruit is a blend of raspberry and juicy red plum with bright acidity; there are secondary notes of mocha, clove, potting soil, and a lovely finish with rich tannins, featuring a timber note that suggests the wine aged in both French and mature, perhaps Eastern European oak. This paired beautifully with the main course of dinner of grilled meats, along with fresh fruit and hearts of palm salad, zucchini and greens, yet the wine’s impact was even greater afterwards when we simply chatted and enjoyed the depth of each sip, the enchanting, silken mouthfeel, the impressive girth and balance of the wine, and the expressive flavor profile.

 

 

Like some wines of the Old World, Napa’s Chateau Montelena demonstrates consistency and tremendous quality over the decades. Their wines are a trustworthy delight to experience, and provide a very high level of both value and pleasure, vintage after vintage. 

 

à votre santé!

 

The Red Wine You Need for Hot Weather!

19 Aug

Cantina Kaltern Kalterersee Classico Superiore “Leuchtenberg” 2016; Alto Adige, Italy.  13.5% ABV, Around $20/bottle.

 

The lighter reds of summer. Some of my wine-loving friends drink cabernet sauvignon all year ’round, but I ache for wines with gentler body, brighter fruit and higher acidity that you can drink all night, still feeling my palate.  This is one of those delightful treats you need to have in your cellar!

Color is a translucent cerise, while the nose offers fresh ripe raspberry. On the palate, bright young cherry and raspberry are followed by secondary notes of black pepper and smoky paprika, with a medium finish and hints of oak, granite, and volcanic basalt. Made from 100% schiava, this wine is summer’s best friend! Delightfully light and fresh with plenty of bright fruit, perfect acidity, and moderate tannins make this schiava so easy to drink during hot, humid weather, and hard to resist a refill!

 

a beautiful translucent color in the glass

 

Over the course of a week, I paired this wine successfully with a spicy tomato sauce over pasta, grilled salmon and zucchini, veal cutlet and steamed asparagus, Thai noodles, southwestern fajitas, and cheeses from mild to moderate. I remember in Alto Adige how beautifully the local fare complements these delicate, high acid, alpine wines: carpaccio, speck, polenta and risotto, dumplings, and beautiful dishes that combine whatever is sourced locally– often beef or pork, wild game and fowl, cabbage, and apples.

 

 

While wines like Kalterersee Classico Superiore may be harder to find in the states, most wine stores do carry Italy’s schiava or lagrein, which are ideal summer drinks that more people need to try and share for your summer barbecue, dinner party, or just a night at home. At $20/bottle or under, schiava has enough flavor and punch to match with heavy meals, but remains delightful and fun with moderate weight and body.

One more thing you will find is that it goes down easily, and leaves you wanting more. That’s my kind of summer wine.

 

 

 

What is in your glass this summer, while you fight the humidity and try to beat the heat?

Let me know below!

à votre santé!

 

 

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!

 

 

Lasorda Family Wines 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

14 Jun

Lasorda Family Wines 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, CA, USA. 13.5% ABV; SRP $24/bottle.

 

 

Color is deep magenta with purple edging. The nose offers boysenberry, eucalyptus, and dried black fruit. On the palate is  blueberry and boysenberry, with secondary hints of raspberry and cherry, followed by notes of forest floor, mocha, cedar plank, and granite. There is considerable heat across the front palate, followed by dried blueberry, black plum, and stone across the  tongue; residual heat shifts along the rear of the top palate on the lengthy, fruity finish that features moderate acidity and medium-to-large tannins.

Winemaker Terry Culton has crafted a modern cabernet with a nose and mouthfeel that nod to old world cabernet style, while the flavor profile is unmistakably Paso Robles- that’s a great thing!  And it goes with food, let me tell you! In addition to pairing with American fare, this wine will sit happily along Italian, Spanish and French meats, game, and savory dishes. It is medium bodied with a warm, enveloping and gossamer mouthfeel. I paired this over a five day period with Italian, Mexican, Chinese, burgers, grilled chicken, and steak and I was pleasantly surprised every single time. This is a delicious, food-friendly wine that drinks nicely alone and pairs beautifully with American fare and, like the game, gets along with all others.

Did I expect to like it? No preconceived notion. 

Am I Impressed? Yes.

Would I buy it again? Yes!  

Would it be the perfect wine or gift for your friends & family who are BASEBALL FANS?  Oh HECK yes! 

Editor’s note: If you didn’t automatically THINK about Tommy Lasorda when you read the top lines of this post or saw the baseball diamond on the bottle, ok- you’re not a baseball fan, & here’s the skinny: Tommy Lasorda was a major league baseball pitcher and went on to become a Major League manager. For two decades he managed the LA Dodgers, and was one of the top managers in baseball history. His name is synonymous with professional baseball, regardless of who you root for. Yes, this is his family’s namesake wine. Tommy Lasorda, at 90, is currently the oldest living member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. 

 

 

This wine is an absolute HIT. make no mistake about it, I expected a gimmick, and got scored on.

 

Surprised? Don’t be.
I AM a Yankee fan, after all!

But for any baseball fan, this is a treat! Take this bottle to the park. Or give it as a gift. You’ll thank me. 

 

à votre santé!

El Chaparral De Vega Sindoa Old Vine Garnacha

10 Jun

El Chaparral De Vega Sindoa 2015 Old Vine Garnacha, by Bodegas Nekeas, Navarra, Spain. 14.9% ABV, SRP $14/bottle.

Color is garnet with ruby edging. The nose offers young raspberries and green cuttings. On the palate the fruit is red plum, raspberry and boysenberry. Notes of black pepper, aged wood, granite and clay on the long finish. Bold flavors with a solid, matching tannic backbone: this a nicely balanced, medium-bodied wine that is certainly suited with grilled meat or game. I opened this and tried it with strong cheeses where it paired well, but the next day I fired up the grill and paired this with steak and the wine sang so beautifully in that pairing! I sipped it after the meal, enjoying the silky texture and full mouthfeel with the same level of satisfaction, and would pick this bottle up again in a heartbeat. This 100% old vine garnacha has the fruit profile of a cab with the texture of pinot. At this price, you’d be foolish not to pick some up for the summer! A terrific value, this is a wonderful alternative to cabernet sauvignon for grilling or tapas and drinks like a $30 bottle with a price tag less than half that on the street.

#WIYG?

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!

The Withers Winery 2015 Peters Vineyard Pinot Noir

19 May

I first came across The Withers in 2017 at a Wine & Food Festival. One downside to finding a new winery you like at that kind of event might be that after tasting over 100 other wines that day, you’re never quite sure if your palate is still fresh! Because mine had already been put to the test that day, I posted my thoughts and a photo of their wine (if you click the link, you can scroll towards the end) but didn’t provide tasting notes in my post, which was really about the festival. Yet I never forgot the great first impression of The Withers’  wines, which was tremendous winemaking with vast flavor differences between the 2014 Pinot Noirs from Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley. Ever since then, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to sit down with one of the pinots from The Withers, and I finally have the opportunity to do so and to share it with you!

The Withers Winery 2015 Pinot Noir, Peters Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, CA, USA.  13.8%ABV, $45/bottle from Garnet Wine in NYC.

Color is a deep, yet translucent, ruby. The nose offers rose bush and dried cranberry, with hints of spice and salinity. On the palate, the acidity is as much a star as the fruit, with dark cherry and raspberry, limestone and toasted oak. A beautiful tartness passes across the mid-palate; a line of gorgeous red cherry bathed in Himalayan salt crosses the upper back palate and washes away with a beam of acidity, leaving the mouth begging for more. This is a gorgeous wine, so well-made, sleek and linear, with solid underlying strength and maturity. You simply have to taste it to believe it. It posses a complexity I’ve not found before from California in an under-$75/bottle pinot noir price point. At three years old, I’d love to taste this at ten and 15 years, but I’d never let this wine age that long- it’s too good at this price point not to open!

Withering With Food: While I started pairing this wine gently with cheeses -soft rind brie, goat cheese, then gouda and finally a blue, all of which passed with flying colors- my next test was a field greens salad with cranberries (oh yeah), progressing to whole wheat pasta with a garlic tomato sauce – which is about as far as most pinot noirs can go. Not The Withers, this wine still has body and hidden power ready to match more- I’m not sure if it’s the racehorse on the bottle or a Navy SEAL in disguise- but this wine can pair far past salmon, and I would be willing to try this with a porterhouse steak or full on rib roast, and bet the bottle that it can pair just as well. It reminded me how floored I was when comparing the Peters Vineyards with the Anderson Valley pinot noir a year ago. The terroir and that 777 clone is a whole game changer to this wine! #BOOM. My hat is off to the winemaker. Color me seriously impressed: I adore this wine and think it’s a killer value with huge standards,  an unsung hero that is just now starting to find the popularity it deserves.

If, like me, you love California pinot noir, you owe it to yourself to taste this and see if you agree. Buy some now and years later, you can tell your friends you got in before the brand exploded.

 

à votre santé!

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

8 May

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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


 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

and last but not least:

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

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

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

 

Fixin is a northen Côte-de-nuits AOC.

 

 

 

 

Who else is ready for a glass of Bourgogne?

à votre santé!

 

Josić Ciconia Nigra Cuvée: Croatia’s Black Stork Red Blend

25 Apr

Josić Ciconia Nigra Cuvée 2013, Zmajvac, (Danube AVA), Croatia  13.5% ABV; Price: $31/Bottle from Topochines.com

Color is garnet with ruby edging. The nose is deep and luxurious with notes of eucalyptus, blackberry, dried tobacco leaf, and a touch of burnt hickory.  On the palate: black plum, black currants, boysenberry. Prominent secondary notes  of clove, mocha, truffled black peppercorns, potting soil, granite and loam. A delightfully long finish.

This Bordeaux-style blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah will delight and confine your palate. Designed to be enjoyed by itself as well as to pair with food, this is a wine that requires little else to be satisfying. I ran through the bottle in two evenings, when I wanted to make it last four.

When I opened this wine, my initial reaction was that I didn’t want to waste time writing about it, I simply want to drink more of it. It paired well with both elegant and rustic red meat preparations, as well as by itself and with medium-bodied cheeses like gouda which I used as a dessert course when finishing the bottle. But if you like elegant, mysterious blends (think tall, dark, and handsome) then this wine is an easy pick: perfectly aged, serious, and well-placed in a solid value for a complex, quality wine.

à votre santé!

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