Tag Archives: Review

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!

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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!

Lucas & Lewellen Rosé of Pinot Noir

15 May

Lucas & Lewellen 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, CA. 13.5%ABV, $18/bottle SRP.

 

 

Color is blush/cerise. The nose offers fresh ripe strawberry, watermelon, and a touch of fresh-cut flowers. On the palate,  delicate raspberry and strawberry with notes of honeysuckle, flint, and clay. A pleasant, delicate mouthfeel with a moderate finish leaves a nice juicy reminder along with a touch of heat on the back palate, and some tart acidity.

 

 

This paired nicely with Asian stir-fry and soft, a Mediterranean salad, and soft cheeses. It has the flexibility to range from fish to meat to vegetarian fare- but you can also enjoy it solo on the porch after work, with the neighbors or the co-workers, for a delightful mouthful of summer in the glass. This is one to add to your cellar, or just put it in the fridge- enjoy cold!

 

à votre santé!

 

Paix Sur Terre 2016 Ugni Blanc

11 May

Paix Sur Terre Ugni Blanc 2016, Paso Robles, CA 13.2%ABV, SRP $29/bottle

 

Color is pale sunshine. The delicate nose offers honeycrisp apple, citrus, and cut wildflowers. On the palate, a savory blend of white peach, apple, and lemon-lime with secondary notes of honey,  lemon rind, and clementine. Notes of limestone and shale complete the satisfying finish; this wine crossed my upper palate with beautiful acidity and complexity that quite impressed me. I paired this with chicken, fish, and cheese over three nights but I was forced to limit myself, for each time I wanted more! This is a bottle you will want to dive into and not share with your friends unless you bought several of them!

I picked this up on recommendation from Chris Kern of Forgotten Grapes and World’s Best Wine Clubs . A perfect pick for an off-the-beaten-path wine, and what a gorgeous and well-made wine! I will have to follow Paix Sur Terre and learn more about their wines. What a delightful introduction!

If you don’t know Ugni Blanc, this is the bottle to try, it will make you a believer!

 

 

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!

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2016

22 Apr

Kim Crawford 2016 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ. 13% ABV, SRP $17.99/bottle.

 I have been hoarding this bottle in my wine cellar until spring came. Spring teased, then winter returned, then summer arrived for a whole day (80 degree temps in NYC) and then back to winter it went. But my palate started SCREAMING for warm flavors! So open the goat cheese, and go get the sauvignon blanc out of the cellar! It’s finally spring!

 

Color is pale sunshine. The nose is an herbaceous citrus mix- a touch of  pineapple, starfruit, and lemon, so much like spring that I have to fight the instinct to gulp down the glass! On the palate, there is gooseberry, lemon-lime, passionfruit and a reduction of white stone fruit, with hints of tall, green grass, seashore and sunshine.  Final notes are of schist and limestone on the delightful finish.  

 

 

I picked up a sushi-grade piece of tuna and seared it with sesame seeds on one side, serving it on a bed of bok choy and mixed vegetables. The sauvignon blanc was a perfect pairing for the tuna and cut through flavors like the soy and sesame oil I used to season the fish and vegetables. Clean, crisp acidity and a fresh mouthfeel on the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc makes this an easy wine to pair. As a dessert, I did break find the goat cheese and ooh’d and aah’d over that pairing as well!

 

 

This wine is not simple but it IS straightforward: this is an ideal bottle to be in your cellar all year round. I could easily see having a case of this at home for those sunny afternoons when I want to prop my feet up in the back yard with the family and neighbors and watch the sun set while the grill heats up. Crawford wines are consistent and deliver an excellent QPR for wine lovers! The fact that I had a flecked golden holiday bottle was extra special for me. While I wanted to wait for the perfect time of year (spring), instead of waiting for the perfect pairing opportunity I really should have opened this earlier.

What is your favorite Sauvignon Blanc? Let me know your thoughts!

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!

Konzelman Estate Winery Merlot #MerlotMe

18 Feb

Konzelman Estate Winery 2015 Merlot, VQA Niagara Peninsula; Canada. 13% ABV, Approx $15CAD/bottle at LCBO.

 

Color is magenta with ruby edging. The gentle nose shows delicate red fruit. The palate features mature cherries, boysenberry, red cassis with soft, velvety tannin, secondary notes of vanilla, potting soil, sour cherry and granite. Medium short finish, this is so easy to drink by itself and pairs easily almost all foods- my favorites include flatbreads, savory soups, and most meats- but it is simply heavenly with dark chocolate.

This could also be a good warm weather wine for those not into pinot or other bold, high acid wines. With an easy-access screw top, this is a great party wine, and one of the most generally ‘easy to drink’ Canadian reds I have tasted to date in the under $20/bottle price range. I’d absolutely keep a few bottles of this in my cellar for occasions where I want a subtle, drinkable red that is easy to serve anytime and then transition into dinner and stay through dessert, or to please the “I only drink red” crowd when I’m serving Puligny-Montrachet. (Hey, that’s OK- drink what you like!)

This wine is compatible and ubiquitous. like the dinner jacket that is flexible enough to dress up your jeans, or dress down comfortably on formal night.

Sorry about the scratch on the label. It in no way affected my enjoyment of the wine!

#MerlotMe

I like this wine. So should any smart wine drinker! But, it’s apparent that in the United States, the Merlot grape sometimes has a bad rap for no good reason. The reality is: Merlot is a great grape as a single varietal, as well as a tremendous red wine blending grape.

From time to time you might find merlot haters. For the average American, films and social media can have major and minor implications, sometimes even just subliminally. When my fellow YSD Alumnus Paul Giammati (as the character Milo) in the 2004 film “Sideways” gave merlot a bad name, yelling “I’m not drinking any (expletive) merlot!” Many viewers remember that scene fondly, while ignoring the fact that in the same film, Milo’s greatest wine treasure is a 1961 Chateau Cheval Blanc, which is a Bordeaux blend containing – yes, you guessed, it- 40% merlot.

Simply put, merlot is the second-most grown grape in the USA and is critical to many of the worlds greatest wines. We can’t love red wines without loving merlot.

We  know this: Miles was WRONG. Let’s all drink the merlot! Hit up your social media outlets with the hashtag #MerlotMe!

à votre santé!

Torreon De Paredes Reserva Carménère

6 Feb

Torreon De Paredes, Reserva Carménère 2014, Rengo, Chile. 13.5% ABV,  Street Price $11/bottle.

With a garnet center and ruby edging, the nose offers blackberry, blue plum, boysenberry, lilac and autumnal leaves.  On the palate: dark blue fruit, heavy clove and spice box, followed by bittersweet chocolate and forest floor. On the lengthy finish: notes of cumin, cherry, and vanilla. 

 

Featuring big, chewy tannins and moderate acidity, this wine is a mouthful that requires some thought to make an excellent food pairing. My attempt with fettuccini carbonara was only so-s0, the dish felt too delicate compared to the wine that easily overpowered the pasta sauce. A better choice would have been a dish featuring game or beef, or a savory sauce with a heavier profile, such as alfredo or genovese sauce. But for the price point, this is a decent table wine to pair with dinner, especially in the under $12/bottle range, that manages to taste unique when you want to step outside your “normal” range of red wines.

 

 

 

à votre santé!

The Dry White Wine You Still Need: Patricius Tokaj

22 Oct

Patricius 2015 Tokaj Furmint; Hungary. 12%ABV,  average $15/ bottle, street.

Color is warm straw, nose of sweet hibiscus and orchid. On the palate, white peach and pear, dry on the palate but sweet on the nose. A solid mouthfeel that matches well with fish, fowl or pork; and one that paired beautifully with an entree of chicken grilled with peaches and arugula.

 

 

Patricius 2015 Tokaj Yellow Muscat; Hungary. 11.5% ABV, average $15/bottle, street.

Color is pale goldenrod, while the nose offers honeyed citrus: a melange of pineapple,  starfruit, and lemon-lime. On the palate rises gently sweet citrus with mouth-filling acidity; Amalfi lemon and lime zest with a floral aftertaste. I first tried this wine with a trio of cheeses (an easy home run), before pairing with the big world flavors of spices: Indian, Chinese, Thai, and Mexican. The dry muscat held its ground, cleansing the palate with dexterity, verve, and plenty of acid. This and the furmint would also both pair beautifully with seafood of all types; I’d be the first one to toss a cold mixed case of these wines in the trunk on the way to an oyster roast.

 

 

I was surprised by these bottles. I first opened them, ready to taste and take notes, but instead I tasted and got comfortable. I enjoyed them, I stopped thinking about the wine and just enjoyed where they took me. This is no monster chardonnay or classic Sauvignon blanc, but as delicate and specific furmint and muscat, they are beautiful wines that you can and will enjoy on their own. It simply goes to further their appreciation that they are capable of complementing almost any food you pair them with. In the $15 and under range, these wines offer a tremendous value and a surprisingly collaborative flavor palate to match worldwide cuisine.

 

 

So why are Tokaj-region white wines something you need in your cellar? Because only by putting these in your mouth and having them in your wine vocabulary can you use them. I think of the first time I tasted a sublime Bordeaux blend, a grüner veltliner, a viognier, a South African chenin blanc, a sancerre, a pinotage. Shall I go on? Add Tokaj furmint and muscat to your repertoire, and expand your palate, your menu, and your mind. And don’t forget to invite me over to taste your pairing!

 

 

If I owned a club or a restaurant, I’d be trying these wines out as my “house white” to see which drinkers who never go outside of California or France would be bewitched by the Hungarian beauty of Tokaj. Challenge, anyone?

 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

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