Tag Archives: Wine Commentary

End of Year Gift Guide: Vacanti’s Spirale, ArT Wine Preserver, Wine Nots & Capabungas!

25 Dec

Hello my wine-loving friends!

As the USA’s antiquated wine laws and three-tiered sales system have shaken up wine shipping in the USA, I’m suggesting wine-related PRODUCTS instead of actual bottles for your friends & loved ones! So, here are your stocking stuffers, end of year & start of year wine-related gifts for your family, friends, or yourselves- anyone who loves wine. Legal Disclaimer: Some of these were free samples provided for review, others I paid cash for. Each of these does what it is advertised to do! The opinions expressed about them are purely my own, and you should be glad I’m not posting my “didn’t make the cut” items.

Spirale Wine Glasses by Vacanti, $50/pair

These 24-oz Bordeaux-style glasses are dishwasher-safe, large and in charge. More importantly, they have a corkscrew design in the bottom of the glass that catches sediment so it doesn’t reach your mouth and you don’t have to strain or decant unfiltered wines, older wines, or wines that are heavy in sediment- you know what I’m talking about! What wine lover hasn’t had a mouthful of “yech” when trying to get the last dribs of a beloved bottle? Check out the (thankfully short) video I made about these:

 

 

Here’s a comparison shot of a 12Oz. Burgundy glass on the left, with the 24Oz Spirale design on the right, which reaches up to the top of the photo.

 

A close-up of the corkscrew design in the bottom of the glass.

 

Wine Nots, $10/box of 12 online

A Wine Not is an effervescing tablet that removes red wine stains from your tongue and teeth. I first saw them at the Wine Bloggers Conference, where I jumped at the opportunity to try one after a day of tasting red wines -my mouth was a deep purple and my teeth looked frightening! One lemon-lime tablet on my tongue and you can feel it working, like an alka-seltzer for wine stains. And yes, it DOES remove the wine stains! Here, check out my video:

 

I don’t suggest trying to talk with a Wine Not in your mouth. As you see, talking  doesn’t work well, but the Wine Not will!

 

ArT Wine Preserver, $15/bottle (approx 130 uses)

Developed by an engineer whose research led him to determine that in the USA alone, $1.5 BILLION dollars of wine is wasted annually. This product is actually argon, which, being heaver then air, allows you to easily replace the air in your opened wine bottle with a layer of protective argon against the wine in the bottle, which helps it to remain fresh longer! I’ve been using this for over a month with stellar results; it works beautifully!  Again, I have a silly short video below:

 

And last but not least,

Capabunga Wine Sealers, $10-13/package online

Capabunga Wine Sealers are wine bottle sealers made specifically for both still and sparkling wines , with the latter being called the CapaBubbles! Instead of re-corking your bottle, after opening this is a great little sealer that allows you to put the wine bottle in the rack upright OR back on its side after being opened. Broken cork? No worries! I love these little re-closure devices- and they work well in conjunction with the ArT wine preserver, above (wink, wink!) I first saw these at #WBC17 thanks to the Luscious Lush Thea Dwelle and I have adored the ones I purchased. And yes, as I stated above, when you turn the bottle on its side, the seal stays firm and wine doesn’t leak out! The cap is easy to remove and doesn’t break off in your hand, and they are reusable. What’s not to love?

 

 

Sure I’m suggesting these during the Holiday Season, but they’re excellent gifts any time of year, with many of them available direct and/or via Amazon.

If you try these products out, please let us know how you liked them by commenting below!

 

à votre santé!

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Holiday Gift Guide: PLONK Wine Club

16 Dec

Plonk Wine Club

The nitty-gritty: World wines, from 2-12 bottles per shipment, available monthly, quarterly, or bi-annually. Wine prices average in the mid $20-range, 2 bottle shipments start around $50 and have discounts with higher bottle counts. Recommendation: BUY for yourself, or GIFT to your wine loving friends & family!

Etty Lewensztain is a Wine Enthusiast “Top 40 Under 40 Tastemaker”, with PLONK, a wine club that is proudly hailed by Food & Wine, Forbes, Wine Enthusiasts, and Wine & Spirits just to name a few. Etty is also a sommelier with a WSET Level 2 Certification who sources delicious world wines at under $30/bottle. She curates artisanal, small-batch, sustainably grown,  organic and biodynamic boutique wines from around the globe for PLONK. Etty’s club is designed for both the new wine lover who wants to learn about wine, as well as those like myself- jaded oenophiles who know what they like but like trying new and exciting things, and LOVE finding new, small-batch producers who are making their way in the world offering tremendous values. I like Etty because her approach (much like my own, I’d like to think) is almost anti-wine club, and more along the lines of “best friend with killer wine sense”.

Ok- as a jaded New Yorker and admitted former Francophile, you’re thinking, How can you be so positive on this?  Yeah, I know. It’s not the kind of thing I’d usually support, because I get offers to join EVERY wine club in the industry… and almost every one I say NO to, because I tried many of them in my youth and found them lacking. Lacking style, lacking value,  lacking responsibility. Well, this is the first in a long time that I had ANY interest in a wine club that is not from a specific winery, because it comes down to a person with responsibility, taste, liability, and something to lose in the deal. Etty is fun, personable, and responsible. Her club is all about the customer’s comfort- and it shows if you read some testimonials. But let it be enough to say that this is the first wine club with wines in an every day price range where there is an individual’s name and face on the club, with both responsibility for your drinking pleasure and something to lose.  Why do I like her approach? Well first, I liked her wine choices. They’re great! Let me be specific: no where else have I seen this breadth of great independent winemakers: she vends Leah Jorgensen, MeinKlang, Chateau Saint-Amour, Tavel Rosé, classic Chablis…I could go on! But second, she’s an entrepreneur, a freelancer, and obviously it’s the same way I function, just like independent wine producers with limited production. For people like us, EVERY BOTTLE COUNTS!

 

OK, enough of that- let’s hit the wines!

 

Santomas Refosk 2015 by L.N. Glavina, Slovenia. 13.5% ABV, $22/bottle.

Color is deep garnet, with an opaque center. The nose offers dark red fruit, heat, eucalyptus, and forest floor. On the palate, I received full-bodied sour cherry, red plum, with strong tannins and mouthwatering acidity. Final notes of small stones, sodium and red currants.  This is a fascinating wine; I immediately wanted another sip. For a second time, getting that memory of the fruit and a hint of bitterness on the moderate finish, I wanted this with pizza or adjaruli khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread) but it would work with a myriad of flavors. It actually complemented both a wurst and dark chocolate so beautifully, but any flavorful or savory dish would complement nicely. At $22/bottle I’d like to open this with friends and some snacks just to discuss. This is a wine-lover’s delight, for sure- but a foodie wine as well. I’m going to need to find more Slovenian wines!

 

 

Vino de Terruños “Siete” 2015 Rioja, Spain, 13.5% ABV; SRP:Sold Out

Color is ruby with a translucent, magenta center. The nose offers raspberry, blueberry, green cuttings, forest floor, and clay. On the palate, the fruit becomes a reserved berry compote: luscious but restrained, with excellent structure and balance in fruit, acidity, and tannin. The gentle finish has a touch of bitter herb with more clay. This is a tapas-style wine that is easy to start the evening with, pairing nicely with a cheese and dried fruit platter, then olives, and cured meats. A delicate wine that is fun to drink and easy to go down, it is capable of sticking around with gentler main courses and can handle fish, fowl, and pork easily.

 

 

Lusenti “Il Nostro Gutturno” Vino Frizzante 2016, Emilia-Romagna, Italy. 12.5% ABV, $22/bottle.

Color is deep purple (near-opaque) in color. The nose proffers black fruit, wildflowers and effervescence. On the palate, this sparkling red is so much fun! Incredibly dry with black cherry, lilac and violet blossoms, sodium, limestone and pebbly granite, this is  the red you want to drink cold, ice cold- and it delivers back in spades! Perfect for red sauces, red meats from cured to grilled, spicy Thai, Indian, Mexican or Mediterranean dishes, and an ideal wine for vegan/vegetarians to pair with a veggie entree like eggplant, portobello mushroom, lentils, veggie meatloaf, broccoli and spinach. Did I mention it is simply fun to drink on its own?

 

Altos de San Esteban “La Perra Gorda” 2015, Bierzo, Spain. 13.5%ABV, $22/bottle.

Color is deep ruby, with a purple center. The spicy nose offers cassis and black plum, with hints of lilac, lavender, black pepper and clove. On the palate, condensed and reserved black fruit with searing acidity and powerful tannins; the wine is classical in style with elegance that is the polar opposite of the fun label and cork. A long, dry and tightly-wound finish with notes of sandy black earth, and wet leaves.  This is a wine that screams for food, and will complement salty seafood, delicate fish, fowl or vegetables, and can pair will pork chops or wild boar nicely, in addition to dark chocolate and cake for dessert.

 

 

Let’s Get Back to Brass Tacks:

As I said in my introduction to Plonk Wine Club, I like Etty’s approach because not only does she choose good-to-great wines from across the globe, but she is also offering an unusual breadth and history, with a solid value. But don’t forget: unlike corporate-style wine clubs, she has a personal stake in her business: Every bottle counts! As a potential customer, this is where you benefit. You vote with your wallet and your patronage, and this is one where you can cancel at any time, or buy more of any wine you like. It’s a win/win situation, or a wine/win situation if you’ve had enough wine to taste.

And here’s a special opportunity for JvBUnCorked readers: use promo code UNCORKED to get $10 off your first purchase.

 

Etty Lewensztain, PLONK Wine Club: Your Best Friend With the Killer Wine Sense!

 

 

 

à votre santé!

 

Samples were provided for my personal & accurate review in this article;
no promise of positive review given, and no payments offered or received.  
All opinions shared are solely those of the author.

San Marzano Wines

6 Dec

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

à votre santé!

Wine for Halloween Chocolate! Drink Away the Indian Summer With Romantic Graciano!

25 Oct

Summer didn’t linger, it stayed out late and curfew be damned. Night after night  it returned to rub our noses in the heat and humidity for more than a month past the Fall Equinox in the way that summer lovers can’t bear to leave each other’s side.

 

Más de Berceo Graciano 2015, Navarra, Spain. ABV 13.5%; SRP $9/bottle.

 

Color is medium purple with garnet center and a pale edge. The nose is rich with plum and boysenberry, clove and spice box with underlying heat; providing an exciting, aromatic adventure with reduced acids and round,  easy-going tannins. On the palate, the blend is gentler than one expects. This graciano demonstrates a softer, mature red and black fruit blend with  loam and clay, showing strong influence from the oaken cask it matured in.

A gentle yet full body with a tart and lingering stare, this is a wine that begs to be fed and enjoyed with food. Salty or sweet, your palate will reward you: fresh or dried fruit, cheese, fresh briny seafood, cured or roasted meats, all are choice compliments. Tapas? Of course! It also worked easily with a classic salad and Margherita pizza. My favorite pairing? Fig & olive crisps from Trader Joe’s with a chunk of triple-cream cambozola blue cheese on top.  But the one that might make you drop your costume in the foyer and dig into your lover’s trick-or-treats is the pairing of graciano and chocolate! Your tasty candy might be milk or dark, sea salted or caramel-laced. The graciano blend is a stunning complement for chocolate and candy that will have you pouring glass after glass for yourself and your loved one from the front hall candy bowl until you’re entrenched in the bedroom. At $9 a bottle, who’s to know or care how many bottles you enjoyed over Halloween? I won’t tell.

 

 

 

Just leave the candy bowl on your front stoop with a note that says “doorbell broken”, and enjoy your night together. 

à votre santé!

 

Esporão Quinto Dos Murças Minas 2015

18 Jul

Herdade do Esporão Quinto Dos Murças Minas 2015, DOC Douro, Portugal. ABV 14%, MSRP $25/bottle.

 

Color is a vibrant, warm purple center with violet edging. The nose proffers black plum, ripe cherry, and spice box with notes of topsoil, charred oak, and calceous clay. On the palate: red and black cassis, plum, then notes of violet, vanilla, leather, sand and slate.  Strong heat lingers across the top palate with grippy tannins across the side and rear. A nice aftertaste on the finish; lingering smoke and black cherry on the top of the mouth. 

 

Drinkable now as a great food-pairing wine (hello, Petiscos?)  but when this finishes harmonizing the elements, look out. This is going to drink gorgeously by itself, given the right amount of time in a cool, dark cave.

I paired this with a light mediterranean, late night dinner. The eggplant tahini I tried first didn’t make the wine shine at first. But, when I moved on to fresh vegetables and spicy turkish salad dip, this wine sang like a soprano center stage! Give her grilled meats or some hot summer spice, and wow- your tongue will be working overtime in pleasure. Likewise, I could easily see Spanish, Mexican, Indian or Thai being a killer pairing with this wine- I would love to try lamb vindaloo with this Douro blend, or find it in a Brazilian steakhouse!

What’s your favorite pairing with Douro reds? Grilled octopus? Fowl sausage? Porto Preto? Francesinha?  Soap de Cação?

à votre santé!

 

Blandy’s 10 Year Old Malmsey Madeira

18 Jul

Blandy’s ‘Malmsy’ 10 Year Old Rich Madeira; Island of Madeira, Portugal. 19% ABV; MSRP $29/500ml Bottle.

 

Have you ever had a madeira? If not, you should not wait any longer. It is time, my friend. Time to experience a vast, complex palate of flavors that will excite your senses.

“What? Seriously? What can be that good? I mean, what do you think you are, Hamilton? No. People pay CRAZY money to see that show… can it really be that good?”

<Smack>  (beat)

The World Turned UpSide Down! 

 

I went through three nights and multiple glasses of this gorgeous fortified wine before I had any idea how to describe the genteel beauty of this madeira, favorite drink of our nation’s forefathers. All I knew is that I wanted more. Ten years maturing in oak casks. It’s simply stunning, and a great after-dinner or after-event drink to put the perfect cap on your evening.  This gorgeous beverage doesn’t want to be defined, it wants to be enjoyed and adored.

 

Color is a deep, warm caramel; it might remind you of your favorite small batch whiskey. The nose is rich and deep of molasses and burnt orange peel. The palate is deep, complex, opulent: notes of mature caramel, toasted oak, copper, hazelnut, dried plum, and honey with succulent spices, from black tea to clove to orange zest.

 

Served either at room temperature or chilled, this fortified wine lasts indefinitely after opening- you can store it and come back to the bottle weeks later, with zero lost lustre. It is still just as mysterious, just as rich, just as luxurious.

 

Drinking this Blandy’s Malmsey 10 Year Old Madeira is like seeing Hamilton. Worth it? Every penny. Just like this Malmsey. You’ll never forget it, and you’ll want to taste it again.

 

 

 

 

When I was younger, I adored my brandy and cognac. But as I approach the end of middle-age, I find myself turning to beautiful ports, madeiras, and the Macvin from Jura- the gentler, more sophisticated, fortified wines with loads of flavor and a much lower alcohol. It’s not the alcohol (although that would allow me to enjoy more of it) it is actually the enjoyment of beautiful, articulate, and lasting flavors– just like appreciating a sunset, a brilliant meal from a great chef, a grand opera, or the company of your very closest friend.

 

I leave you with an awe-inspiring piece of art, much like this Malmsey Madeira: Hamilton’s “Yorktown” which will make you want to drink the beverage of our founding fathers- until it’s in your glass, and you will love this as you find yourself tearing up at this presentation of our forefathers in a turning point in our great history.

 

 

 

 

à votre santé!

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!

Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyards Part 1: The Whip and Dry Rosé

6 Jul

The Whip 2015 White Wine Blend, Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 13.5%ABV, MSRP $24/bottle.

Color is pale gold center with straw edging. The delicate nose offers sweet starfruit, gooseberry and wildflower. On the palate, the blend features soft fruit with strong acidity,  designed foremost to complement food. A gentle blend of pear, apple, lemon and pineapple fruit are followed by subtle wood notes. Great acidity and solid heat across the top and back palate; citrus finish with hints of pebbly gravel, clay and loam. I’d suggest allowing for a touch of air to allow some of the heat to dissipate. I really like how this wine is crafted; the nose shows off viognier, semillon, and muscat but the mouthfeel is sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. It has a refined, Bordeaux-style blending but is lighter and more delicate in flavors.

Winemaker Robbie Meyer must like food as much as I do, as this is a wine made for pairing. This blend shows enough expression to handle the most delicate of dishes, yet enough acidity and weight to handle shellfish, crudo, and sashimi. The body and mouthfeel are perfect for anything from the Southwest to the Northeast, from fish tacos to grilled chicken, salads or cream-based pastas. What I love is the gentle, refined nature of the blend, instead of having a pure citrus, lemon peel cleanse. This whip is that of the master herdsman: the sound of the crack that convinces the herd to gather and calmly move where they are told. This approach and “touch” is far from the rough, daily hire, roundup-cowboy whose whip is without compassion, allowing the angry snap on the hide, the searing pain of contact, and the flow of blood to upset the herd and make them rush, agitated.

What I should share with you: this wine haunted me. I kept going back to the glass to enjoy and savor this wine, taking in the flavors and aromatics from the glass, even long after it was gone: a fascinating, beautiful blend. Solid value and a tremendous food wine.

 

 

 

 

2016 Dry Rosé By Murrieta’s Well, Livermore Valley. CA. 14.1%ABV, MSRP $30/bottle.

Color is pale pink, the nose offers raspberry, carnation, and green cuttings. On the palate, watermelon, raspberry and cantaloupe melon. Immensely dry with pronounced acidity and searing heat on the front and top palates, perfect for pairing with savory dishes that need a deft hand. Capable of handling carpaccio, steak tartare, and raw to rare proteins in the secondary courses, I’d also love to see this rosé complement full-bodied soups like New England or Manhattan chowders, lobster and seafood bisques, New Orleans turtle soup, and southwestern bean/chicken/tortilla soups. Spanish, Peruvian, Cuban, Mexican, Asian, and American cuisines are just the tip of the iceberg for this flexible blend. Also on my list of things to pair after tasting this wine are: soup dumplings, cold noodles with sesame sauce, ramen, and barbecue.

The 2016 Dry Rosé is made from 55% grenache and 45% counoise grapes, both from the Hayes Valley. Each grape type was cold fermented and aged separately in stainless before blending and final aging in stainless prior to bottling.

 

 

Both wines are incredible approachable and offer tremendous value, intrinsically as well as in food pairing. They could be a host’s or chef’s secret weapon, if you can stop tasting to serve them with food.

(For part 2 of this piece, click here!)

à votre santé!

Villa Maria Estate: Elegance from New Zealand

3 Jul

Helen  Morrison, Senior Marlborough Winemaker at Villa Maria Estates, is doing something right. I know, because she just wowed a team of wine industry insiders and wine bloggers during a live tasting where she demonstrated her Villa Maria wines.  To say the least, everyone was impressed…and wanted more to taste!  I know, I know…to the wines!

Villa Maria Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc 2016, NZ 12.5%ABV. MSRP $15.

A fun, carbonated/bubbly wine I first tasted (and really enjoyed) a year ago at a NZ Trade tasting , I was pleased to see that this vintage felt more elegant and refined from last year’s. Tiny effervescent bubbles precede elegant citrus and floral notes with a hint of baker’s yeast and a dry, welcoming finish. Half the pressure of champagne, this is incredibly fun, easy to open with a standard screw-top stelvin closure, and is an immediate crowd-pleaser. Drink by the patio or poolside all day, but when it’s mealtime, you can pair up with shellfish, cheese, raw or cooked fish, salads, up to medium-rich entrees such as spicy fish tacos, chicken fried-rice, and especially lime-marinated dishes to marry flavors beautifully. When I shared a bottle to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday, the responses were stellar and happily surprised when I told them what they were drinking.

 

 

 

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2016, NZ 12.5%ABV. MSRP $15.

Color is pale straw; the nose provides a massive grapefruit zest with grass and the essence of cut flowers. On the palate: pink grapefruit, gooseberry, and lemon-lime. Delightfully crisp, grassy, herbal, with a very dry, stony finish. A striking resemblance to the last two years’ efforts demonstrates that you don’t change something that is working well! This is perhaps the powerhouse sauvignon blanc that defines the terroir and flavors from the Marlborough AVA. The massive citrus allows you to pair this with just about anything you want, but my favorites are fresh veggies, raw fish, and chicken caesar salad.

 

 

 

Villa Maria Taylors Pass Vineyard Chardonnay 2015. Marlborough, NZ. 13.5% ABV; MSRP $45

This is a “whoa” wine to add to your portfolio! Color is medium gold. Sweet peach and white orchid dominate the nose. Gorgeous lime zest married to a definitive Belle of Georgia peach on the palate, with secondary notes of marzipan, yeast, toasted oak, and gravel, and an elegant mouthfeel.  This was my “WOW” wine of the tasting, and I know was a real surprise to others who are connoisseurs of the chardonnay grape.  Delicious from the moment I put it in my mouth, I wanted to stop there, put my glass down and cede the game so I could start food pairing this single vineyard chardonnay. Why? Let’s add it up: Killer terroir + hand picked + whole bunch pressed + 9 months spent on the lees+ natural ML in oak (25% new French oak,  75% seasoned French oak)= OMG this wine is stellar. Short version? If you see this bottle, pick it up. Drink it, and you’ll know what I say add it to your cellar: it compares well to classic and new world chardonnays in the $60-75 range. And if you don’t care about price? Then for you, it’s just SOOOO tasty!

 

 

 

Villa Maria Private Bin Rosé, Hawkes Bay 2016, NZ. 12.5%ABV; MSRP $14.

Deep salmon in color, the nose offers fresh-cut wildflowers and berry compote. On the palate, fresh strawberries atop the tongue while the sides feature ginger, lemon pepper, and allspice notes. Racing acidity crosses the top palate, but the finish is when you recognize the significant body in this stainless fermented rosé of (mostly) merlot.  At this price point, this is a serious wine for serious food or fun in the sun.

 

 

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir, Marlborough, NZ ABV 13,5%, MSRP $26.

 

Color on Day 1: translucent color and bright red fruit!

 

Color is transparent rose with garnet edges and just enough clarity to read a newspaper through it. The nose offers young red fruit and a hint of wildflowers, while the palate takes the bright cherry and raspberry flavors and marries them with a secondary group of spices and then hints of earth and smoke, remaining gentle, yet refined, and medium-bodied overall with a medium finish. On day 2 after opening, the fruit has taken on deeper, darker colors and flavors of mature red plum and cassis, showing baking spice, red pepper flake, paprika, clay and granite on the back palate with a sour cherry across the top, maintaining a quality balance and graceful presentation, while the finish now lingers with a pleasant sour cherry, spice and stone.

 On day 2: Standing tall, with darker & deeper flavor -a delightful surprise to my palate!

 

So, hey! If you’re not already a fan of New Zealand wines, you might need your head examined,  But don’t take it from me. Pick up some of Hellen Morrison’s Villa Maria Estate wines and check them out for yourself- and let me know what you think!

 

à votre santé!

Victor Schoenfeld and Yarden Wines

29 Jun

World-Class Wines, from the Middle East. That may not be the first region that comes to mind, but a few great winemakers are changing that. Victor Schoenfeld, a California native who has been the Yarden head winemaker since 1992,  is credited with being THE single greatest influencer in developing world class wines in Israel, most specifically in the Golan Heights. He’s also a very nice guy, and loves to talk wine. I could have chatted with him for hours and talked terroir and winemaking…but we had wine to taste!

 

Victor Schoenfeld, head winemaker of Yarden Golan Heights Winery

 

And these are some really good wines. World-class, kosher, made-in-Israel, non-mevushal, kick-butt wines.

Don’t believe me? Please, be your own judge and let your mouth tell you. Taste the wines, it’s that easy. I did, and I will tell you, they are worthy wines. I tasted seven wines, and each was impressive in its own way.  Here are my top three that will blow your mind; each of these was so good, I didn’t want to do anything but drink what was in my glass:

 

Yarden Blanc de Blanc 2009, Sparkling Brut Chardonnay, MSRP $30

Light gold in color, with a delicate nose. Beautiful, mature white fruit with gentle effervescence. A delicate sparkling with nice complexity, this wine shows delightful minerality with a hint of toast and no sweetness on the palate. A low-dosage sparkling brut, your mouth will think it is champagne. It was a perfect foil for a raw crudo appetizer.

 

 

Yarden Gewurtztraminer 2016, MSRP $21

Medium straw with a green tinge. Citrus & banana peel on the very floral nose. On the palate, an exotic blend of kiwi, passion fruit, and lychee is matched by a perfect acidity; secondary notes are floral and spice box.  I found this paired so gorgeously with asparagus risotto. I just kept going back and back to it and didn’t want the pairing to end.

 

Yarden Bar’on Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, MSRP $96

Deep, dark, maroon with garnet edging. The nose offers black plum, cassis, aged leather and cigar box. On the palate, mature red fruit along the tongue, with cassis along the sides. A lengthy finish features gravel, granite, and sandy clay. The price on this is worth every penny, comparing well to New and Old world wines in the same price range. This wine was as complex as the lamb I enjoyed with it: flavorful, sensual, evocative, exotic.

 

 

With a few tastes, it’s obvious that Victor Schoenfeld is doing something right, not just great wine (yes!), not just organic (oh, yes, that too!), and not just a few grapes with tremendous terroir. Yarden’s library of wines is varied and includes syrah, malbec, merlot, rosé,  muscat, sauvignon blanc, in addition to these listen just off the top of my head- surely something for every wine drinker.

If you haven’t tried Yarden wines, it’s time for you to taste how the Middle East compares to what you’ve been drinking. You will find yourself impressed, and might be tasting more and more of them. With a full stable of tasty delights, you are bound to find a wine that compares well, and maybe even blows away one of your current favorites.

 

à votre santé!

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