Tag Archives: Wine Review

Ranch 32’s 2016 Vintage

8 Jul




Ranch 32 Chardonnay 2016, Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey, California. 13.5% ABV; SRP $20/bottle.

Color is pale yellow, with a nose of pear, pineapple, vanilla extract and toasted oak. On the palate, apple and pear dominate with a buttery and rich mouthfeel, wrapped up by hints of brown butter sugar cookies and lime zest. This is a great wine to sip on the porch in the afternoon; perhaps the ideal food pairing is baked chicken with fresh vegetables. This is the classic, savory, buttery chardonnay made with ten months of aging in French oak, a touch high in alcohol for me but the mouthfeel did not give that away. For my readers who love classic California chardonnay in the under $25 mark, this is a bottle you need to find!

 

 

Ranch 32 Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Hames Valley and San Lucas AVAs, Monterey, California. 13.5% ABV; SRP $20/bottle.

A blend of two fruits from two Monterey estates, aged for 12 month in French and American oak. Color is deep garnet with maroon edging. The nose offers cassis and blackberry, then green vegetation with notes of eucalyptus, basalt, and cedar. On the palate: moderate dark fruit starts and finishes. Black plum and black currants cross the front palate, potting soil with loam and sodium on the back palate with a spice mix and heat from the alcohol across the top palate. Medium-long finish with strong fruit is retained thoughout. I tasted this over the course of a week and the fruit profile expanded to full maturity after a couple of days. It was delightfully young upon opening and evolved with air to a nice maturity, so I’d suggest decanting or using an aerator for maximum enjoyment. Ideal pairings with grilled meats and game, my preferred pairing was grilled steak and grilled vegetables (also endorsed by a vegetarian guest who did the pairing solely with grilled vegetables). I found this wine to be a solid value, especially at the street price you will find in the $15-20 range.

 

 

Ranch 32 Pinot Noir 2016, Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey, California. 13.5% ABV; SRP $20/bottle.

 

Color is dusty rose, while the perfumed nose offers rose bush, raspberries, fresh cuttings and sand. On the palate, fully mature cherry and raspberry, notes of sea salt, moss, sandy loam, and white pepper. Considerable heat on the medium-long finish, notes of burnt coffee beans and tasted oak wrap up this little gem. I adored this wine with hot artichoke dip, both cured and baked salmon, and dried meats. I could see this wine easily pairing through an entire meal, tantalizing your mouth from the appetizer to after-dinner bites of strawberries, chocolates, or cheesecake. There is a sense of old-world glamour in this wine, perhaps an early California essence that permeates?  Regardless, this is solid value that compares well against wines in the $25+ range.

 

 

#WIYG?

à votre santé!

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Lasorda Family Wines 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

14 Jun

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

 

 

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

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

Did I expect to like it? No preconceived notion. 

Am I Impressed? Yes.

Would I buy it again? Yes!  

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

à votre santé!

Ah-So Rosé – In the Can!

11 Jun

Ah-So Rosé of Garnacha, Navarra, Spain. 12.5%ABV. SRP $19/four pack, or approx $5-6/can, street price. 

 

The Ah-So tool is the strange-looking, two-pronged wine opener that sommeliers use to open older wines or wines with damaged corks. The Ah-So Rosé Wine is cute in that you don’t need any corkscrew or wine opener, the pop-up top allows you to drink it direct from the can or to transfer it to a glass.

“Ach-So!” is also a phrase my great-aunt Tante Anna used in her broken English at  many points in conversation to shift focus, meaning “Ah, now I see”. Her other highly useful phrase when directing the conversation was simply “So” before starting another idea. Speaking of other ideas, let’s get to the wine!

 

The color is fuscia; the nose is of fresh garden greenery and a hint of watermelon. On the palate, muted young raspberry and citrus fruit with solid acidity. Crisp, clean, refreshing, and best served cold. Food pairing is more easy than usual: the delicate flavor and strong acid level make it a good palate cleanser and refreshing wine, so the greatest success is with simpler, cafe or bar-style food. In an easy-to-carry can, it is designed for the beach, boating, the golf cart or poolside. Where a traditional container poses issues, this is an easy-to-use packaging. Sold in four-packs of 250ml each (about 8.2 ounces).

 

L-R: An Ah-So koozie showing the Ah-So Tool, a glass of Ah-So Rosé, and a can of Ah-So Rosé. 

 

Ah-So is a joint operation founded by the duo of third generation winemaker Carlos Lopez de Lacalle and hospitality industry veteran Dustin Chiappetta. The vineyards are made up of 15-45 year old vines, planted in clay and limestone soil. Only organic viticulture takes place, without any herbicides, and grapes are entirely hand picked and sorted from 100% garnacha clusters which are pressed by gravity over a five hour period. Only 100% free-run juice is used for Ah-So Rosé and the vinification is done entirely in stainless.

Ah-So made Food & Wine’s Top 20 Wines Under $12, and to my knowledge is the ONLY Spanish wine currently available in a can. Now you can pile these up in your Yeti Cooler when you’re off to the July 4th party.

Drinking rosé all day just got a little easier!

 

#WIYG?

 

à votre santé!

El Chaparral De Vega Sindoa Old Vine Garnacha

10 Jun

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

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

#WIYG?

à votre santé!

Locations NZ7 Sauvignon Blanc

6 Jun

Locations Wine by Dave Phinney, “NZ7” Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand. ABV 13.5%; SRP $19/bottle.

Color is bright straw. The nose offers grassy herbs, grapefruit, and starfruit. On the palate: gooseberry, grapefruit, with stunning acidity and a delightful mouthfeel. Secondary notes of tall grass/grassy meadows and herbs, with hints of minerality clay, and gravel.  This blend of grapes, 100% sauvignon blanc sourced from three locations within New Zealand, is a classic SB. The Wairau, Awatere, and Waihopai valleys all provided the fruit that generates this gorgeous blend that tastes like a superb single vineyard. Singular in focus, simple yet absolutely complete. Tremendous quality and value from a winemaker you can trust to deliver the absolute ideals from a wine region. 

I paired this with a Provençal herb chicken with baked apple compote, asparagus, green peas and couscous. So delightful on the palate and so SPOT ON with the protein, the herbs, the fruit and the vegetables. This is my idea of a perfect sauvignon blanc pairing, hands down. The secondary pairing with a trio of cheese (brie, gouda, goat) was also a great success. The third pairing was purely accidental: a lemon cookie was tremendous with the grapefruit/gooseberries, and made for a stunning harmony. All in all, this is a killer wine of summer. If you like classic, clean sauvignon blanc, this will make you quite happy, indeed.

 


Dave Phinney’s NZ Sauvignon Blanc from Locations Wine. 

 

 


Surprise! An excellent dessert pairing of lemon sugar cookie with the NZ SB! 

 

#WIYG? 

 

à votre santé!

Blind Tasting Markus Wine Co’s 2015 “Domo” Lodi Red Blend

1 Jun

Markus Wine Company 2015 “Domo” Lodi Red Blend; Borra Vineyards, Lodi, California. 13.8% ABV; SRP $39/bottle.

 

A dry red blend of 75% carignane, 15% petite sirah, and 10% sirah.  Aged 17 months in 25% once-filled French oak casks. 71 cases made, bottled March 10, 2017.

 

 

Color is deep and lustrous garnet with ruby center. The nose is of red roses, stewed plums, and wildflowers. On the palate is massive red fruit- plum, cherry, and raspberry dominates while softer notes of spices and tobacco leaf follow, with a hint of loam on the tart, satisfying finish. The massive fruit is matched with beautiful acidity and a solid tannic backbone.

I was so excited when I tasted this wine that I re-corked it with argon and then took the bottle to a party that night, where I poured blind tastes for friends along with two other top shelf new and old world red blends. After tasting all the wines, and without prompting or provocation, people unanimously came back to Markus Domo- against red blends costing two and three times more, respectively- as the wine they wanted to drink. After a few minutes, I asked people to suggest where they thought the wine was from. “You love French wines, is it Bordeaux?” said one guest. “This is Italy for sure.” said another. “Napa Valley?” inquired a third. When I explained it was from Lodi, folks were surprised.

“JvB, cut to the chase! Wherever it is, from, it’s just really good. Could you pour me some more please?” said the man on my right.

I laughed, and brought back the bottle, thinking, “It’s true. Doesn’t that sum up all we need to know?”

à votre santé!

Wine Pairing with Fattoria Betti

28 May

Imagine sitting down to dinner in one of the hippest restaurants in Brooklyn, Le Fond. Chef Jake Eberle greets you, and walks you through his four course menu. Then Guido Betti offers up his namesake brand, Fattoria Betti wines, to pair! Eberle’s four course menu for the evening was, of course, designed to complement the selected wines.

Course 1/appetizer: Spring Vegetable Carpaccio, with “Creto De’ Betti” 2016, our first wine; a white blend of 70% chardonnay and 30% trebbiano (aka ugni blanc) at 13% ABV.

 

 

Color is light gold, tiny green tinge. The nose shows light citrus with pineapple, white pear, and wildflowers. On the palate: white stone fruit, a hint of white flower, and white pepper. Medium mouthfeel, hint of savory meets firm acidity, green apple, crisp finish with clay and chalk. A lovely opening salvo of citrus that matched up beautifully with the vegetable carpaccio, a series of delicate flavors designed to tease the tongue.

 

Course 2/Pasta: Cavatelli in a spinach emulsion, served with wine#2, Chianti Montalbano, 2016, blended from 85% sangiovese, 8% canaiolo nero, and 2% cabernet sauvignon. 14%ABV; the color is a translucent ruby; the nose presents stewed red fruit, eucalyptus, saline, black cherry, with a hint of plum. On the palate:  red plum, black cherry, sodium, pepper, and clove. Finish is medium long with lasting fruit and medium tannin. A perfect pairing with the pasta, the spinach, mushroom/cavatelli. Bravo! This was my favorite dish and wine pairing for the evening. Both the dish and the wine were stunning individually, but together they were masterful.

 

 

 

 



 

Course 3/Entree:  Braised lamb shoulder, paired with wine #3: 2016 “Prunideo”– 14%ABV, the wine is composed of 90% sangiovese grapes and 10% cabernet sauvignon grapes. Color is deep ruby with a magenta center; the nose is strong, showing dark red fruit, menthol, and eucalyptus. On the palate, a powerful combination of red and black plum, sour cherry, and cassis. With a medium-long finish, showing remnants of fruit with long heat, acid, and brawny, muscular tannins.  A solid pairing for the braised lamb shoulder, which melted in the mouth. Decadent and savory, the wine is succulent and robust. A very nice pairing!

 


 

 

 

Course 4/Dessert: Chocolate crémeux, paired with wine#4, “Caprone” a rosé of Sangiovese, 13.5% ABV. Color is a luscious deep pink/dusty rose. The nose is a delicate balance of strawberries and fresh cut grass. On the palate: cut red fruit- bright strawberry, watermelon, raspberry, and yellow peach, with a tart finish, showing off bright, fresh acidity and subdued tannins. The rosé paired beautifully with the vanilla custard in the dessert and was both tasty and fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guido Betti, proud of his namesake & heritage!

 

Finally , over the course of the last week, I have been cooking and tasting a fifth wine from Fattoria Betti! The 2015 “Semel” is 100% merlot, with 14% ABV. The color is medium ruby with purple center. The nose offers black plum, cassis, and black cherry. On the palate, it is a big, bold wine with a strong mouthfeel of black and red fruit, and solid tannin backbone. I paired this one the course of a week with chicken chili, fajitas, several cheeses, and finally with Szechuan chicken- the wine’s massive mouthfeel is ideal to match up with strong flavors, and it does not shy away from cleansing the palate!

 

 

Overall, I was impressed with how well a historic Tuscan winery stood up to such a bevy of worldwide flavors and influences, and how flexible and universal sangiovese can become. With a knowledgeable winemaker, sangiovese can become a wine chameleon with the ability to blend and shift to match any cuisine. I quite enjoyed trying the various pairings of “Semel” with my culinary dishes, and my overall experience has introduced me to another lovely winery in Tuscany, as well as to strengthen my love of Sangiovese, no matter where I am, or what I am eating.

 

And of course, if you have a chance to try La Fond in Brooklyn or to taste Fattoria Betti wines, I recommend both experiences!

 

Whats in your glass tonight?   #WIYG? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts, comments, or just what you’re drinking!

 

à votre santé!

The Withers Winery 2015 Peters Vineyard Pinot Noir

19 May

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

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

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

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

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

 

à votre santé!

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!

 

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