Tag Archives: Wine Commentary

Natura Wines: Vegan Friendly, Organic, & Delicious!

10 May

Emiliana Natura Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2016, Casablanca Valley, Chile. Stelvin closure ; 13%ABV, Street price $10/bottle.

Color is pale straw. The nose offers grapefruit, lime zest, a hint of sea spray, and a touch of funk. The palate is a citrus and tropical fruit blend with an easy, soft finish. A nice balance of fruit and acidity, with enough going on to make this complex blend capable to complement  food nicely. An easy-to-drink, afternoon-on-the-porch wine, it shines when paired with fish or white meat- I loved the pairing with grilled cod, baked chicken breast, and steamed grilled vegetables.

For my vegan friends, this is one of the winemakers you should seek out- and it could not be easier: a few taps on the keyboard and find a supplier near you.

 

Emiliana Natura Rosé 2016, Rapel Valley, Chile. Stelvin Closure, 12% ABV; Street price $10/ Bottle

Very pale pink in color. The nose offers a hint of watermelon and strawberry. On the palate, gentle red fruit- young cherry and strawberry, together with a smattering of white peach. Nice acidity to rinse the palate; but a gentler, delicate wine for certain. A rosé blended from syrah, cabernet sauvignon and merlot that spent three months aging in stainless steel, this is an excellent offering in the realm of organic, vegan-friendly wine that is easy on the wallet and perfect for the environment.

 

 

Emiliana Natura Carmenere 2015, Colchagua Valley, Chile. Stelvin Closure, 13.5% ABV; Street price $ 10/Bottle.

Color is garnet center with a deep red-brick middle, shifting to a dark purple edging. Nose of mature red fruit, spice and hints of earth. On the palate: overly ripe cherry,  red plum, raspberry with secondary note of potting soil, cocoa, and pepper, while hints of the valley’s terroir (chalk, granite & clay), allspice and cedar appear further into the medium finish. This wine really improves with air and time, and over the week of tasting and pairing with various foods from grilled meats to heavier cheeses to chocolate. With each day, the medium body filled out slightly and the wine shifted more from fruit-forward back into center of the tannin, acidity, and flavor profile. My guests didn’t comment on “wow this is an organic, all-natural wine”, but they drank glass after glass with roast and vegetables, tore into the wine with burgers, and even tossed back the final glass with a slice of pizza. It was a crowd-pleaser to say the least. I would suggest adding carmenere to your cellar if you haven’t already, and adding this one in particular- especially if you like tasty wines made with all-organic, natural practices that are a great value! I know I’ll be buying more of this for my personal stock, no question.

 

 

à votre santé!

Blandy’s Alvada Madeira: The Choice of America’s Forefathers

27 Apr

Blandy’s Alvada 5 Year Old Rich Madeira, $18/500ml bottle. 19%ABV.

Color is dark walnut. The nose offers sorghum; a rich, molasses-like perfume with tropical fruit notes; spun sugar, hazelnut, and almond. Deep, Rich, and Opulent are excellent descriptors for this fortified wine, both on the nose and palate. There is an initial sweetness on the front palate that shifts immediately to a gently sour richness on the side, top and back palates, expanding across them in a wave like a beautiful bourbon and changing to a rich, spiced almond tart with a delightful and lingering finish.

Barrel-aged and mystical, yet lighter than whiskey and fruitier than cognac, Madeira wine is much like the island off the coast of Africa from whence the name originates: exciting, rare, and uniquely tropical. Madeira was a favorite of America’s Founding Fathers: both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were known to enjoy it regularly, and Madeira was toasted upon the signing of the Declaration of Independence! These days, we can toast our own independence from the drudgery of daily life with a snifter or rocks glass, two fingers of Blandy’s Alvada, and serve either with an ice cube or neat. It is imperative to provide a large-enough glass (wine, port, cognac, or whisky)  to allow the expansive nose and flavors to treat your five senses– it would be a mistake to ignore the provocative depth of flavors provided!

 

 

 

Alvada Madeira has the flexibility of sparkling wine: it can be served alone or with food; as an apéritif, a course-bridging palate cleanser, as an accompaniment or featured, as a specialty course, or, as it is most commonly known, as a dessert wine or after-dinner drink. With the bounty of flavors and the long lifespan after opening, I am surprised to not see madeira more often in wine pairings or on the lists of after-dinner drinks.

 

I have enjoyed cognac, port, sparking wine, and dessert wines for years, and only recently added madeira to my repertoire a couple of years ago. I can tell you, the delicate mouthfeel, intricate flavors, and intense complexity have been a real pleasure to enjoy and share with guests. You should try it, and let me know what you think!

 

à votre santé!

 

My Apology to Chablis

17 Apr

I’ve been a jerk, and I owe Chablis an apology.

 

My readers and followers all know I’m a massive fan of white burgundy. But I doubt they have any idea I’ve been a lifelong fan of Chablis, because I hardly mention you in recent years.

 

Chablis, I’ve always loved you. It’s true. But I haven’t shown you the respect that I have for you, and for that, I apologize. You were a major influence early in my understanding of wine, and you deserve to take massive credit for helping me both find my palate and understand the beauty of chardonnay from your unmistakable region. I met you early in life, respected you for your delicate color and nose, your gorgeous citrus flavors and seaside perfume, your reserved fruit, your singular focus, your gorgeous linearity, your finish of limestone, oyster shell, and chalk. Chablis, without a doubt, you are the one region where the terroir is so incredibly evident in your wine. And I assumed that everyone, like me, just KNEW about Chablis.

 

And so… I realize now, that I ignored you. I took you for granted. I’m so sorry.

 

In time, I met many other wines, from all over the world. Nothing else was like you, but I began to follow other regions of Burgundy, and started to pay more attention to them. In turn, that allowed me to appreciate the beauty in chardonnay across the world- Australia, Argentina, the oaked USA. Chablis, you have always remained a baseline for me, but as I began to collect beautiful chardonnay from around the world,  I kept treasuring Burgundy, but skipped over you time and time again in my search for top quality white wines of distinction…because I already knew how amazing Chablis was. I was so lost in translation- I entirely lacked the significance, the true understanding of what I was doing at the time.

 

I apologize. I hope you’ll understand, and forgive me.

 

You’ve been there for me. You’ve been waiting all this time, in good years, and bad. Waiting for a mutual friend to pour me a glass and offer you up, to watch as my palate, my nose, and my tongue recall that first kiss. What beauty and intensity!  In a sip I can recall the sea that covered your AVA millions of years ago, left tiny crustaceans, shells and exoskeletons mired in the limestone rock that is now the basis of the terroir we recognize as yours and yours alone. Pure, perfect, Chablis. or… #PureChablis.

 

There are even a few, -more than a handful- of your tremendous offerings in my cellar.

With special tags, of course.

Because… nothing else is Chablis!

 

Just a few of your fabulous offerings include:

 

Domaine Jolly & Fils, L’homme Mort, Premiere Cru 2014; around $27/bottle. 
Tasting note: “Very Pale in Color, nose of lemon peel and orange. Gentler but savory up front, bright across the top palate. Such a pleasure to drink, like imbibing a glass full of perfect afternoon sunshine.”

Domaine Gilbert Picq & Fils, 2015, around $20/bottle. 
“Color of pale sunshine. Nose is faint, issuing grapefruit and limestone. Acid up front in the mouth, followed by lemon-lime citrus. Opening into a savory palate. Pairs beautifully with either beet, goat cheese, and gruyere puff pastry.”

Chablis William Fevre Champs Royaux, 2015 around $18/bottle. 
The easiest Chablis to find in the states, Fevre is a huge producer. “Classic lineage, so familiar. Pale straw with a green tinge, linear acidity and fruit with a soft style in the front- and mid-palates, yet a tightly focused finish. Such great memories, brought back cleanly.”

La Chablisienne Petite Chablis 2015; around $17/bottle.
“Pale straw in color, Honey-lemon nose. Steely, driven flavors of citrus, lemon-lime, oyster shell, hints of clay. Pairs best with the raw crudo.”

Domaine Louis Moreau 1er Cru Fourneaux 2013, around $30/bottle. 
“HUGE nose on this wine. It shifts in personality to me: on the palate: first savory with oyster brine, meaty and thick with citrus and chalk, then a more gentle, flint and steel approach. A lovely finish, with high acidity. I could drink this forever.” – My personal favorite of the night.

Patrick Piuze 1er Cru Forêts, 2014, around $45/bottle.
“What gorgeous citrus and salinity on the nose. Huge acidity, big citrus; a meter-lemon wine. This is an  oenophile’s wine, a wine nerd’s dream! Singular, focused, & driven. It simply screams of the Chablis terroir. You could identify this in a blind tasting without any thought. Perfect pairings both with the foie gras and scallop dishes.”

Louis Michel & Fils, Chablis Grand Cru Grenouille 2014; around $80/bottle.
“Pale in color, complex nose with citrus, mineralogy, & sodium. A full-bodied wine with bright acidity and a long finish. A beautiful expression of chablis, no more expensive than a good California Chardonnay or a good buy in white burgundy. Amazing with the risotto balls and the braised tenderloin. Stunning to be such a good pairing for such rich selections.”

 

And just in case you are still thinking about Chablis… here’s where she lives. Her Grand Cru, her Premiere Cru, her Petite Chablis… all of her beauty and delights.

 

My thanks for a tremendous tasting to Françoise Roure from Bourgognes, Marguerite de Chaumont Guitry from Sopexa, and Sommelier John Kearns from Ai Fiori Restaurant, whose service and presentation were top notch, and whose hand cradles the bottle in most of my photographs! Deepest appreciation for the tremendous pairing menu & service from Ai Fiori’s Michael White, David Schneider, Scott Schneider, Mari Gaube and their teams.

 

And of course… my apologies to Chablis. Will you ever forgive me? Maybe I can come and see you over the summertime, if Provence and Bordeaux won’t get too jealous.

 

#MWWC32

à votre santé!

 

March 2017: Out Like a Lion

1 Apr

March: So much for “out like a lamb.”  Try, “out like a lion!” Really.
It’s been that kind of month.

It’s been busy. I opened a Broadway musical, designed & mixed several corporate events, mixed a few broadcasts, then a gala, and a huge award show at Radio City Music Hall, and oh- also a couple of concerts. Oh, and I loaded in another Broadway show in a blizzard. It’s been a blur.

The weather has been nuts. It snowed, then it hit 70 degrees, then back below freezing, snowed again, and rained for days. Some woman in a store criticized me yesterday for wearing shorts. I smiled and laughed outwardly, saying “I’m warm!”, while I snarkily thought to myself, “You know, I actually WORK for a living, lady!”

 

And the wine bottles stare at me from the tasting queue.

 

It’s not all bad. Last week on a show we broke earlier than expected and I had a rare opportunity to take go sit at Aldo Sohm’s wine bar, making a few friends, and drinking some stunning wines. And today I actually have the evening off from work. I made my daughter dinner, watched a little depressing teenage drama with her when conversation lulled, and celebrated communication and “us” time. And I got to open a bottle of wine.

 

So… the wine! READY? Ok, it’s not as bad as speed tasting, but here we go:

Adler Fels Pinot Noir 2014. 14.4%ABV, $27 SRP.

Color is violet with a maroon center. The nose offers blackberry, cherry cola, spices and salt spray.  A blend of 74% pinot from Santa Rita Hills and 26% from the Russian River Valley, this pinot is seductive and savory. Earthy notes abound if you have the patience to let them evolve. The traditionally bright cherry, cherry cola, and dried cranberry starts the palate off, but within a few minutes the wine progresses evenly to demonstrate complexity with notes of  artichoke, mushroom, pepper and forest floor. Hints of gneiss, limestone, burnt sugar, and oak . I tried this over several days and loved how the wine progressed each day. Where has this brand been hiding? Keep it in mind, and if you see this wine, snap it up. It surprised me in the depth of expression and savory notes that are unusual for a classic pinot noir. 

 

Chéreau Carré Muscadet Sèvre et Maine; Loire, France. 12%ABV; $14 locally, online as low as $10/bottle.

This is springtime in a glass, to be sure. Color is quite pale straw, while the nose is delicate with cut grass, wildflowers, and citrus. On the palate: bright acidity underscored with meyer lemon peel, bosc pear, a hint of tart pineapple and lemongrass. Overall an excellent value, a perfect entry-level muscadet for those white wine drinkers who needs to expand their repertoire or when you walk up to a raw bar and don’t like sparkling. I paired this with pasta and fresh pesto sauce and was as happy as could be- plenty of flavor and acidity against the bright and fresh flavors of the herbs.

 

 

 

Michel Chapoutier Schieferkopf Sylvaner 2014, Alsace, France. 12% ABV, $25/bottle.

Pale gold in color, delicate nose of honeysuckle blossoms. In the mouth, subtle pear and macintosh apple with star fruit and lemon-lime citrus. Beautiful acidity, and a medium long finish full of schist, (hence the name which translates to “Hill of Schist”) along with clay, and almond paste on the back palate. I enjoyed this with Vietnamese, Thai and Mexican but this wine is not one only for spicy food- you can just as easily down this quickly with savory cheese or a white meat dish. With the screw cap closure, it could last for weeks in the fridge- but I won’t let this survive another day, it’s just so good to pair with food!

 

 

May your Spring be full of adventures in wine!

 

à votre santé!

From JvB’s Cellar (Bin#8) Wine Buyer’s Remorse and the Perfect Moment

21 Feb

While I’m working on a new Broadway show, I’m sharing an early wine rant. This, from a 2012 post!

WINE BUYER’S REMORSE, AND WINE: THE PERFECT MOMENT

 And the rant continues…

Today I’ve been ranting on FB about all kinds of things.  My notes about wines have missed several days of expression, because I’ve been thinking about how to share the experience well.

 

So: WINE BUYER’S REMORSE

 

Obviously if you buy a wine that’s corked you’ll regret it. Sometimes wine is perfectly fine, just… “meh”.  Several times in my life I’ve regretted making a purchase, wine buying as much as anything else. We’re thrilled when a cheap bottle tastes like something much more expensive. What about when you drop hard earned coin on a supposedly great bottle that’s only OK? So sad!!!

 

When I have a negative wine experience, I try to ask these questions:

1)   Did I store it properly, with proper cork contact, and the right temperature & humidity?

2)   Am I drinking this too early, or too late (in the life of the vintage)- OR: was it meant to store? Did I ignore that?

3)   Did I taste it properly? Was my palate clean?  Am I using neutral judgment?

4)   Did I pair this with something inappropriate?

5)   If its not MY cup of tea, who WOULD like this?

6)   What did they do right in making and marketing this wine?

 

I find corked bottles less than 1% of the time. Sure, I’ve got a couple of sad stories about great wines that have been corked.  But more often than a corked wine, wine drinkers have a different negative experience- when they’ve found something they are excited about- a repeat of a special bottle that doesn’t pass muster, a rare find that has passed its drinking window, or a good or highly-rated  wine whose initial response is “so-so” when we hoped for astounding.

 

So-so. That, my friends, is a disappointment. When I taste a so-so wine, I taste it again, to double check myself, then I let it rest a bit and see if a little more exposure to air will improve. Then I’ll try it with a cracker, a gentle cheese, a robust cheese, and maybe some chocolate.  If the wine may improve with food, these are some of the best choices. It’s also easier to keep these foods around your home, instead of fois gras, mushroom terrine, cornichon/raclette cheese/baguette, and chocolate truffles- each of which might pair wonderfully with wines high in acidity , in tannin, in sugar, etc.

 

Sometimes you’ll find the wine has opened up, or pairs and compliments one of these foods amazingly well. And sometimes, you’ll realize that the high priced wine just isn’t what you like. It’s important to realize at this point, that it’s OK, it’s actually good- because you’re learning what you like and don’t like in wine. Don’t forget, every season is a new bunch of wines, every season is a new season to live, learn, try and taste .

So…have you experienced my misery? Bringing home a bottle of something you’re really excited about, just to taste it and think … ‘what’s the fuss about?” One of the ways I’m able to bypass this experience is by purchasing only a glass of wine at a good establishment with a nice cellar. Restaurants and wine bars are obvious opportunities to taste some of the higher end bottles, while risking little. I particularly like wine bars like Morrell Wine in Rockefeller Plaza where you can get a half-glass of some very expensive wines. Some bars & restaurants that carry high end wine by the glass will offer you a taste of a wine when you’re trying to decide what to drink, this can be a great way to taste something but make sure to spend money and tip to keep that relationship going. From time to time, I’ve been disappointed by buying an expensive bottle in a restaurant that didn’t live up to its hype. I’d much prefer buying a glass or half-glass of that vintage to realize it’s not to my liking.

 

 

buck-fifty

Cartoon by: Mark Anderson

 

THE PERFECT MOMENT

 

Most important, is simply to realize that wine is about constantly learning and evaluating. One vineyard’s crop or blend this year may not be as good as that year, last year or next year, and may be totally different from the neighboring vineyard. Wine is as much about your evolution as a drinker and finding out what you like as it is about and process of growing, harvesting, blending, maturing and bottling before a wine gets to the glass.  Often it’s an accident of experiencing a ‘perfect moment’ when a wine impacts the drinker- and your appreciation for the wine is stunning. These moments are the ones that help create the wine drinker: one who seeks another amazing moment of great pairing or insight of flavor, an impact of the palate- like the endorphines we experience on the playing field, the rush of the roller coaster, the joy of laughter. And what do we remember most in life, but highs and lows?  Our memories in life are made of the major failures and the perfect moments, much like our experiences in wine. 

 

Like those in life, the successes and moments of joy are the ones we’ll remember the most. We remember more vividly the moment of joy with the birth of your child, not the 20 hours of labor prior. We remember the dinners with a bottle of Opus One or Mouton Rothschild more than the one where I dumped an entire bottle in the sink and drank diet coke instead.

 

Here’s to the perfect moments in our lives. Cheers! 

-JvB

'How come your oldest vintage is on the top shelf?' 'I can't reach up there!'

‘How come your oldest vintage is on the top shelf?’ ‘I can’t reach up there!’

Cartoon by: Mike Flanagan

Locations Wines: Comparing California And France

24 Jan

The scene: a midweek, extended family dinner in the suburbs of Manhattan.

I uncork and pour a wine for my brother-in law, and casually mention that this is a new selection by a winemaker I have followed for years, but have yet to try.

We let the wine breathe until dinner service starts. He tries a taste, and then another as his eyes widen.

He is having a “whoa” moment.

He swallows, takes a breath, then asks a barrage of questions: Who is the winemaker? Where is he from?  Where can he buy this bottle? How much does it cost? Are all this winemaker’s wines so good?

Almost immediately, he has become a fan.

My response to his “whoa” moment? “No real surprise there.”

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Locations Wines CA4 California Blend by Dave Phinney. 15.5% ABV, $20/bottle MSRP.

A blend of petite syrah, barbera, tempranillo, syrah, and grenache grapes from California’s Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Sierra Foothills wine regions. Before visiting Lodi, I might have wondered at the varied grape selection, but not now. Thanks to my 2016 trip to Lodi and Napa, I now know that California has the myriad climates, soil, and geology to grow almost any grape to perfection. But I digress, how about my tasting notes?

Deep purple in color. Nose of black plum, cassis, rose bush, and young tobacco leaf. On the palate,  tremendous red fruit: raspberry, red plum, sour cherry. Secondary notes of green vegetation, forest floor, pepper and spice. The acidity and tannin are good matches for the  powerful flavors, and the heat spreads late across the top palate, leaving behind hints of cedar, granite, limestone, clay, sand and sodium. On the finish, the distinct flavor of mixed berry pie remains on the top palate as my mouth begs for the next sip.    

This California blend pairs beautifully with the red meat, potatoes and green salad we’ve prepared, but is also delightful to taste solo, or with raspberry-infused dark chocolate, or with goat cheese on fig and olive crisps. Best after a touch of air, the wine held up beautifully for four days until I could no longer control myself and finished the remainders.

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Back to my brother-in-law at dinner! Mid-meal, I am explaining Phinney’s work and his Locations, making wines in a region to represent that region well, at an affordable price. In a sense, these blends are obscure when compared to iconic wines from the same AVAs, but these present classic, beautiful, and delicious representations of their regions at a fraction of the price. His eye drifts across the room to a row of carefully ordered, yet-unopened bottles: my short-term tasting queue. Spying a similar label, he asks if we might open another bottle. “That one from France, if it’s by the same winemaker?

It makes me wonder if Dave Phinney like to fish. Because it’s one more winelover: hook, line, and sinker!

 

Locations Wines F4 French Red Wine Blend by Dave Phinney. 15% ABV, $18/bottle MSRP.

Ruby red in color with a gentle nose of green vegetation, red fruit, and a hint of lavender. On the palate, bright red fruit, nice acidity. Dried cranberry, strawberry, fresh raspberries, with the tannins as a soft underbelly. Southern France shines here, memories of Roussillon and Rhone flood back when the wine hits my tongue.

Because these wines are complex blends, it can be difficult to describe them well. But I’ll give it my best shot: Undeniably French, this wine demonstrates a sense of classic history, utilizing grapes both refined, yet comfortably rustic, much like a ’59 Renault Caravelle Cabriolet, whose soft lines and plush design is perfect for cruising in the Mediterranean sun. Compared to the bronzed and showy  Californian CA4 which offers sleek, sculpted perfection: think Steve McQueen as Bullitt in his ’68 GT Fastback.

Even tasting the wines back to back, I could not choose a favorite. Both were excellent pairing choices for the meal; both were excellent ambassadors to their home terroir. And both are utterly delicious.

My brother-in-law came to a simple conclusion. “A lot of the wines you serve are hard to find. But these… well, the wine blends might be obscure or hard to describe, but their labels are straightforward, simple, and easy to describe. So, I’ll just look for the label design, and buy them all.”

“No real surprise there.”

 

#MWWC30

à votre santé!

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Locations Wine Samples Provided by Balzac Communications.

 

Celebration Champagne: Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé

25 Dec

Special events. Family celebrations. Holidays.

These are the days that try my soul.

Not because I’m surrounded by family, but because I fret and stress about wines to serve.

I struggle with what people will appreciate, and who will enjoy it. I ask over and over: Will it be special? Will it be memory-making?

Enter celebration champagne. Celebration champagne is what I call the top-shelf champagne. It is the wine one selects when needing superior quality & consistency, and a buyer looks for a trusted history from a luxury brand name.  And what you get for your consideration is so worthwhile. There is a reason why we all love top-shelf champagne: It is simply divine, and can become the cornerstone in making an evening even more special when celebrating a rare occasion.

 

Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut NV Champagne. %12 ABV,  MSRP $99/bottle.

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The bottle itself reminds one of the brand’s historic maison, plus their longevity and consistency. Presented in a short, round bottle reminiscent of the glass-blown bottles of the 1600’s, the pink label completes the unmistakable design.

The wine is pale salmon in color with fervent and abundant tiny bubbles. The nose shows delightful red young fruit, baking spice, and rose bush. On the palate, the tongue is immediately refreshed by an elegant, effervescent mouthfeel while nuances of strawberry, young raspberry, and faint cherry bathe the palate. It is a distinct pleasure to taste and enjoy. 

Subtle, delicate, but complex.

Serious. Divine! GAME CHANGER!

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From a house of champagne founded in 1812, the non-vintage LP Cuvée Rosé has been made since 1968 using primarily traditional methods. 100% pinot noir grapes are picked, de-stemmed, crushed and macerated for 48-72 hours to insure the aromatics, flavor, and bright pink color from the pinot noir grapes before being bled away to cold storage via stainless steel tanks. Finally, a minimum of four years in the bottle prior to release.

I served this as the opening salvo at a holiday dinner party. It was not only one celebration but several: I was welcoming a friend, a fellow oenophile and fabulous wine writer, back to NYC after many years. She has undergone growth and change, and has not celebrated much recently other than passing huge milestones in her path. In addition to my friend Elizabeth, my daughter was back from college! So our family was together, plus my mother-in-law was welcoming two friends she has not seen for years, who are ALSO huge wine fans, living in Portland Oregon, the land of pinot noir.

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The Traveling Wine Chick shows off the color and joy gained from the LP Cuvée Rosé!

The response to this wine at dinner was perfect. Everyone who tasted this delightful, classic champagne was enthralled and captivated by its stunning flavors, gentle effervescence, and delectable balance. Even my beloved wife (who had only a sip of champagne at our wedding before putting down the glass for the night) had seconds on the Laurent-Perrier. It was light, refreshing, and breathtakingly flavorful; an angel dancing on the tongue. This is a true celebration champagne: a gorgeous example, elegant and balanced, in brut perfection.

 

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The evening’s wine lineup, including our celebration champagne, several aged bordeaux and a “unicorn” wine no longer made from retired Jura winemakerJacques Puffeney.

 

Perhaps opening a bottle of this champagne should be a celebration in itself.

 

à vôtre santé!

Pairing Bordeaux Wines & Southern Soul Food

22 Dec

Call me crazy.

 

I don’t care.

 

When I heard that Marcus Samuelson was doing a pairing of his famous Yardbird recipe with a sweet Bordeaux wine, I was intrigued. I mean, I have adored Bordeaux wines ever since I first tasted one. Granted, I was IN France at the time, but… you get the idea.

cinq-bordeaux

So I started thinking, both about this pairing, and about my youth. I grew up in the deep south. That vision of a “down home” chicken leg brought me back to memories of my favorite soul foods, comfort foods, southern foods.

Why have we always expected French cooking or “fancy” meals with Bordeaux wines? Maybe people have been putting Bordeaux on a pedestal, so to speak. So I picked up a 500ml bottle of 2010 Chateau Loupiac Gaudiet Sweet Bordeaux, and headed to one of my hidden secret soul food hideouts in NYC. Spicy fried chicken and waffles with this botrytis blend of semillion and sauvignon blanc. BOOM! This was a perfect pairing, and I was in trouble. The barely sweet honey note from the wine was the syrup for the waffle, the aromatic nose, golden color, and tremendous golden raisin palate was, bite bite and sip for sip, every bit as decadent and delightful as fried fois gras when paired with Sauternes. Savory, please meet acid and sweet!

argadens-loupiac

Do you have specific memories of the soul food/comfort food you grew up with? “Go kiss your –, and tell her how you liked it.”

Oh, I loved it. If only I had a cellar with these wines back then…

 

Next was mac ‘n cheese with a Bordeaux white blend. The rich three-cheese blend was no match for the delightful mixture from André Lurton’s Chateau Bonnet 2014 Bordeaux, a 50% sauvignon blanc, 40% sémillon, 10 % muscadelle blend. Light gold in color, the nose shows lemony citrus. the palate offers a blend of pear, green apple, and lemon peel with secondary notes of star fruit, clay, sodium, limestone, and chalk. Heaven. But maybe too easy? So I found a tougher pairing dish: chicken & dumplings with cornbread. A rich and savory, sweet and salty dish, that the bordeaux blend met and stood tall against. Oh, it was a good wine choice. I could tell by the fact I finished both the bottle and the dish, and wished for more of both.

chateau-bonnet

When I tried the mac ‘n cheese again, it was with a 2011 Chateau Argadens Bordeaux Superior, and I was in heaven- the deep inky purple color was met by a nose of black plum, eucalyptus and dusty velvet. On the palate, dark flavors: cassis, mature black fruit, forest floor, saddle leather, granite, chalk, limestone, and cedar. Instead of the foil to this cut through the palate on this rich cheese dish, this was the harmonic equivalent and used deep, powerful tannins to wash the slate clean.

chateau-argadens

Not to give up easily, I managed a week of southern, comfort, and soul food meals, which included meat loaf, corn bread and cabbage; and red bean chili with dinner rolls. Both of these meals paired nicely with the red Bordeaux wines, in spite of the sweetness in the corn bread, the acidity in the cabbage, or the heat in the chili.

When I got to even more savory meals like pot roast with root vegetables and potted steaks with mashed potatoes and green beans, I brought out the big gun: Chateau Bourgeneuf 2009 Pomerol. Deep garnet in color, the nose shows rose bush, menthol and ripe red fruit. On the palate, red plum, blackberries granite, clay,  secondary notes of aged oak, gravel and iron. This wine is drinking nicely right now and should be tremendous in a few more years. The flavors were beautiful against the savory meats and vegetables and elevated them to another level.

 

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What did I feel about this exercise? Well, it might have felt crazy to pair classic Bordeaux wines with Soul Food, but it sure tasted right! So why not step outside your comfort zone and try it? Start with your own comfort food, and see how well the flavors work. I don’t think I’ll be opening a vintage bottle of Latour with a package of hotdogs in the future, but there are plenty of great values in Bordeaux that you can find in the $10-$20/bottle range right? 

Overall, I was pleased to have been able to focus on pairing soul food and southern comfort foods with Bordeaux. If you get a chance to try Bourdeaux wines with collard greens, grits, sweet potato and chess pie, do let me know- but right now, I’m stuffed!

 

À vôtre santé!

Get #Franc’d Up with #CabFranc

12 Dec

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Here’s the thing:

I’ve liked cabernet franc for a long time. I’ve enjoyed it primarily as a blending grape, and secondarily as a single vineyard varietal, as a wine that I sometimes offer at Thanksgiving. But as a grape, it never bowled me over, that is, until #CabFrancDay.

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For #CabFrancDay, I tasted seven bottles of cab franc in great detail. I spent copious time with each one.

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Sometimes I came away with tremendous tasting notes. Sometimes I just wanted to sit and enjoy the flavor and fragrance of the wine, much like the title character in Munro Leaf’s book, “Ferdinand the Bull”.

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Some things dawned on me while I sat and smelled cabernet franc, taking tiny sips and noting flavors.

 

And what I found out about cabernet franc wasn’t earth shattering knowledge. But it was incredibly valuable and made me think about how I pair wines and food.

The cabernet franc grape is the thin-skinned father to the bold, bodacious, massively-flavored cabernet sauvignon grape. In comparison, Cab franc is restrained, genteel, even moderate. While it features flavors of dark berries, cassis, bell peppers, leather, forest floor and licorice, these flavors are subtle and mild, and the wine’s acidity and tannins are equally muted. These are what helps make cab franc an excellent blending grape. On the other side of the equation, for a winemaker who develops the grape with intent of making a great single varietal bottle of cab franc, sometimes they are able to create a wine that has class, maturity, and depth in only three or four years, with characteristics that I often wait a decade for in Old World wines.

I want to share my tasting notes from #CabFrancDay. And I still might, but it’s more important to me to peak your interest and whet your appetite on the GRAPE. It’s a bit of a challenge to find a great cab franc, but it is also highly worthwhile.

So today, no tasting notes. Instead, I’m going to tell you what I FELT about these wines.

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I felt that these wines showed beautiful expression: they were delicate, reserved, graceful. In general, I found that the East coast cabernet francs were more subtle with slightly higher acidity. The Oregon and California Cabernet Francs were more expressive, more powerful, still reserved but passionate. While I really enjoyed the expression of the East coast cab francs,  the West Coast Cabernet Francs haunted me. I dreamed about them. I talked about them constantly. I searched my social media feeds to see if there were associated experiencing the same thing.
There were. There are.

Some of my friends preferred the East Coast wines. But we all were impressed, if not blown away. Some, however, had powerful experiences like myself.

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There is a new movement afoot. To get #FrancdUp does NOT mean to get drunk, but instead, to hedonistically enjoy a beautifully made #CabernetFranc. 

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Find your #Franc. Get Franc’dUp. Trust me. And feel free to tell me about it.

You can thank me later!

 

à votre santé!

Bodegas Salentein Wines from Valle de Uco, Argentina

2 Dec

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Bodegas Salentein 2015 Reserve Chardonnay; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 13.5%ABV, Average street price  $18 USD.

Color is pale sunshine with green tinge. Gentle aroma of grilled pineapple, lemon-lime and wildflowers on the nose. In the mouth, golden delicious apple and citrus fruit mixes with powerful acidity. Directly behind the fruit, heat crosses the top palate while the back palate reels from the tannins and tart lime peel. Notes of vanilla, baked bread, and chalky limestone on the medium-long finish. A gorgeous, delicate chardonnay that is a pleasure to drink. Alone it may be a touch acidic, but with mild cheese or white meat, the wine is a perfect complement and palate cleanser. For friends who won’t drink Chardonnay made outside of California, here is something you need to taste- a subtle, mature, underscored hit of a chardonnay that smacks your interest early on and shows you how a star is born. If you can’t tell, I was very impressed by this chardonnay, which demonstrated clearly to me that truly great white wines are also possible from the famed Mendoza wine region Valle de Uco!

 

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Bodegas Salentein Killka Collection  Torrentes 2015; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 12.5%ABV; Average street price $15 USD. 

Pale gold in color with a beautifully floral nose that features sweet honeysuckle and jasmine. In the mouth, fruit starts with bosc pear and a blend of secondary notes of tart lemon zest, star fruit and pineapple. Bright acidity with a hint of bitters that works well in the character. Chalky loam on the short finish. A great choice to enjoy under the hot sun when well chilled, this wine can quickly transition from being a tasty and refreshing apéritif to complement a salad and fish course, capable to handling shellfish, ceviche, or  grilled salmon, bass, and even seared tuna.

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Killka Collection Red Blend 2014; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 14% ABV, Average Street price $15/bottle. 

The color shows a garnet center shifting to deep ruby. The nose offers  red plum, cherry, and rose bush with a hint of menthol. In the mouth, sour cherry and ripe red plum are dominant fruits. Notes of aged oak, vanilla bean, schist, granite, and sodium round out the finish. Ideal for grilled meats. The blend is of 50% Malbec, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah and 5% Petite Verdot.

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Bodegas Salentein 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 14%ABV, Average street price  $18 USD.

Deep purple in color with a nose of eucalyptus, forest floor, and pencil shavings. In the mouth, a harmonious & moderate blend of fruit, acid and tannins. A dark fruit mix of aged blackberries, black currants, and prunes, with secondary notes of potting soil, tobacco, old leather, toasted oak, graphite and wet stone. Features a medium long and very dry finish; this wine is a solid value in reserve cab and a classic, firmly masculine expression of Mendoza’s terroir.

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Bodegas Salentein 2014 Reserve Malbec; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 14%ABV, Average street price  $16 USD.

Dark ruby color with a nose of blueberries and black plum. On the palate, a driven and singular focus of blackberry, with secondary notes of cherry cola, freshly cut grass, black pepper and spice box. The strong acidity and powerful tannins leave a real bite on the finish making this a great complement to grilled meats.

 

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If you taste these wines blind, you won’t immediately think of South America or Argentina. But you WILL think: “These are delicious, wonderful wines.” 

 

à votre santé!

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