Tag Archives: Wine Review

Gewürztraminer: Alto Adige!

2 Sep

In 2008 I traveled to Italy and spent a week in Tyrol, a region of the former Hapsburg empire that is home to the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy and a southern portion of Austria that includes Innsbruck.

Tirol Region Map, Courtesy of Wikipedia

 

 

The largest city in the Alto Adige region is Bolzano, but we stayed in the smaller town of Merano, at the luxury Park Mignon Hotel, enjoying the accommodations and tremendous food from the five-star resort. During my time here, I drank the local wines suggested by the somm, which including brilliant Lagrein, stunning Schiava, and gorgeous, high-quality Gewürztraminer. The region grows MANY grapes and I’d be remiss to not mention the local Chardonnay, their first-class Pinot Grigio, the Pinot Bianco, their focused Pinot Noir and Pinot Nero, as well as the flowery, delicate Müller-Thurgau, among others! But let’s get back to Gewürztraminer!

Today’s REASON to talk about my 2008 trip to Italy was the revelations I had with Italy’s white wines. I had tasted  Gewürztraminer before, knowing it as a floral, aromatic, off-dry, and spicy wine. But early in my youth, I’d had a bad first impression. My first Gewürztraminer had been a less expensive wine and I recalled it being sweet, fruity, and flowery- and not impressive. My experience in Alto Adige could not have been more different, and what was considered “just daily table wines” were Gewürztraminers that were beautifully balanced with dry fruit, sweet aromas, laser-focused acidity and a plethora of spice notes that enchanted my palate with a melange of flavors and nuance.

 

St. Michael-Eppan Gewürztraminer 2017, Südtirol, Alto Adige, Italy. 13.5% ABV, Found locally for $16-18/bottle.

 

 

Color is medium straw with a greenish tinge. On the honeyed nose are apricot, passionfruit, rose bush, citrus, violet and white pepper. The palate is laden with spicy fruit -pear, lychee, lime zest, and young pineapple- followed by notes of ginger root, pepper, spice box and a medium-long finish with Meyer Lemon rind, limestone and a hint of clay. 

This wine has flexibility. It could be enjoyed in the afternoon sunshine as an apéritif, but is ideal when elevating delicate flavors of veal, lobster, corn chowder or freshly summer vegetables.  Also ideal for the summer heat and foods with serious spice from Indian curry to African tagines, from Chinese sauces to Latin foods- this wine is capable of taking the spice and heat from the food and cleaning your palate with a fabulously spicy, sweet wash with a splash of acidity- like the lemon on your fish or the lime squeezed over fajitas as they hit your plate. Few white wines have enough strength to cleanse the palate after hot pepper sauce, but this bottle proved up to the task when I made extra-spicy fajitas and a side of Frank’s hot wings!

For that reason alone, I decided I should keep a few bottles of Gewürztraminer in the cellar to beat the late summer/early autumn heat while being able to pair with any range of spice profile that might appear, from the delicate to the powerful,  all in a package that wine drinkers easily enjoy, and in the under-$20 range that everyone can afford. Any why not? These wines can age from 5-20 years in the cellar, though mine never get a chance before I pop the cork to share with friends.

If you have the opportunity to travel to Bolzano or Merano, you can’t help but appreciate the beautiful vineyards that cover the countryside- but if you just want to dream about it today, all you need is a bottle of this St. MIchael-Eppan Süditirol/Alto Adige Gewürztraminer. Your mouth will think you’re arrived!


A view from one of my afternoon hikes in Merano, Italy.

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

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Napa Royalty: Chateau Montelena

28 Aug

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

à votre santé!

 

Pairing Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux on National Oyster Day!

3 Aug

 


William Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux SEA 2017 Ltd Edition, Chablis, France. 12.5% ABV, SRP $24.99/bottle.

 

What could be better in the heat of summer than a cold bottle of chablis? Probably the only way to improve that is with some freshly shucked oysters. Don’t panic, the old ‘R’ rule of only eating oysters from September to April no longer counts, as oysters are farmed carefully all year ’round and brought to market with massive concern for proper temperature maintenance. As a matter of fact, National Oyster Day is outside of the ‘R’ months entirely, on August 5th. It’s time to celebrate!

 

There are so many ways to enjoy oysters -Rodney’s Oyster House in Toronto, Canada has a two-oyster serving of deep-fried oysters that is a savory delight. The famed recipe from New Orleans for Oyster Rockefeller is a gorgeous example of taking oysters to the next level, in a town where there are plenty of specialty restaurants who simply charbroil them on a platter with a mix of garlic and butter. But nothing is as good as a sip of chablis, followed by a perfect, freshly-shucked oyster with a tiny squeeze of lemon, sucked into your mouth, a few chews to mix the salty belly together with the sweet muscle, and swallow. The oyster’s briny juice, the delicate meat, the essence of the ocean are elevated when Chablis provides an ideal blend of white fruit together with a breath of salt air, a lemony finish and a gently acidic aftertaste to follow and make you want more, more, more!

Pairing Chablis is easy, since the base of the Chablis region’s terroir is largely chalk, marl, limestone, and oyster shells from an ancient Jurassic seabed. That makes anything from the ocean an easy choice, along with warm and cold soups, salads, appetizers, or just a sunny day. So if you don’t love shellfish, try sushi or sashimi, freshly grilled octopus, pan-fried flounder, lobster, ahi tuna, or smoked salmon on a bagel- I can promise you, it’s delightful!

 

Jurassic-Era soil sample from Chablis: Calcified Oyster Shells, Limestone, & Marl

 

 

 

Wine Tasting Notes, Please?

Before I wax poetic on National Oyster Day, I promised you a wine review, didn’t I?

 

Color is deep straw with excellent clarity. The nose is a glamorously fresh bouquet of lime zest and sea spray. On the palate is a bright mix of apple, pear, lemon, and honeydew melon. Lovely acidity with a crisp yet delightfully silken and gossamer mouthfeel. The finish includes notes of chalk, flint, sodium, and the smallest hints of oak. This wine is so up my alley, it’s obvious how I adore it. But I have to admit: while I lust for the aged Premiere Cru wines from Fèvre in the $100/bottle category (much like my favorite white burgundies), this wine, -with an SRP of only $24.99 and street prices under $20- sates my palate and makes me SO very happy when drinking it!

Need I say it? This is a tremendous bottle and in my opinion, a superb value that you can get for a daily drinking price. Part of me wants to stop writing and buy all I can, but the greatest joy in wine and food is sharing with others! So now you know- this is the wine you want when you want to eat seafood, and absolutely, this is what you want to pair with oysters on National Oyster Day!

 

 

Summing Up? Bottoms Up With Chablis! 

Rowan Jacobsen is one of the foremost experts on oysters,  and if you ask him what wine to drink with oysters, he has three words: Chablis, Chablis, Chablis!  I have heard him say it before, and here’s a fun video where you can hear him discuss oysters and chablis!

 

Drop me a note and let me know: what are you drinking on National Oyster Day? And, what’s YOUR favorite #Chablis?

 

#PureChablis

 

à votre santé!

 

Modus Operandi’s Bacchipectus 2011- The Amphora bottle!

30 Jul

Modus Operandi 2011 Bacchipectus, Napa, California. 14.5% ABV,  found online for $119/bottle. Two Barrels Produced.

 

This wine came in a Modus Operandi Wine club shipment as a club-only selection, and sat in my cellar for years while I waited for a special occasion to open it. It wasn’t until after shock of a loved one’s passing, during a social media blitz that I asked followers to carpe diem, and Open That Bottle!, that I finally took this treasure from its dusty slot on the shelf and tasted it, that I immediately wished I had waited for a BETTER special occasion and friends to share it with. So here you are!

In a bottle with an oversized mouth, sealed in wax, and that has tiny arms that look like amphorae handles-  comes a sauvignon blanc like none I have experienced before. Winemaker Jason Moore used 100% sauvignon blanc grapes and fermented the juice on the lees, with skins and seeds in French oak, then barrel aged for THREE YEARS. You can tell the difference immediately, this does NOT taste like traditional sauvignon blanc!  

The color is a rich, golden hue- and it has a turbid level of clarity; tiny particles the eye can see, help to make this wine the stunning experience that it is. The nose offers honeysuckle, apricot, orange peel, and clay. On the palate, this seven-year-old sauvignon blanc has baked apple and mature lemon rind with a supple, luxurious mouthfeel. Robust acidity prevents the palate from any oiliness. It is luscious, with lip-smacking acidity on the front palate, beautiful tartness across the mid-palate, with a sharp slice of heat on the back palate. And as soon as the wine is swallowed, the finish lingers beautifully, hanging in the air like low fog across a mountain range, while my mouth begs for the next sip.

I paired this with pasta, with fresh seafood, and a stunning goat cheese with an ash rind. Each bite was improved by the wine, no doubt. But truly, the star of the show is this beautiful wine, that needs no food to appreciate the brilliant modern, classic, and historic techniques merged In its creation. 

 

“Regrets, I’ve Had a Few” 

I hope that’s not the case, Jason. Not with this wine, this is brilliant. I only wish I had more to share with friends.  So to you, I’ll send you off with deep respect, and the Chairman of the Board. Thanks for doing this your way.

 

 

à votre santé!

 

Murrieta’s Well: 2017 Sauvignon Blanc

23 Jul

You might remember my posts about Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyards in Livermore Valley, CA.

Well, I recently participated in a live, online tasting with Robbie Meyer, their winemaker– who happened to grow up in my own hometown of Atlanta, Ga. Click the link and you can watch the entire tasting, and see our comments as we tasted live.

Some of these were wines I had enjoyed previously, and I was happy to taste them again. Tasting new vintages allows you to see similarities and differences in varying years, and these showed excellent consistency from beautiful wines that I think are hidden gems from California at a good price point! But in addition to The Whip, the Spur, and their 2017 Dry Rosé, I got my first taste of their Small Lot Sauvignon Blanc- and I could not wait to share it with you! 

Murrieta’s Well Small Lot Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Livermore Valley, CA. 14.2% ABV, $35/bottle SRP.

Color is pale straw, with excellent clarity. The nose is bright with grapefruit, apricot, honeysuckle and salinity. On the mouth: peach, Meyer lemon, beautiful citrus and orange blossoms, with both an elegant floral essence and a subtle minerality. Only 30 barrels of this wine were produced in 2017, but this is an extraordinary, lively, expressive sauv blanc that is incredibly unusual for California. As a matter of fact, if this were blind tasting I might mistakenly claim this wine to be a Sancerre from France! While this wine is ideal for sipping on the porch in the afternoon sunlight, it’s far more important to note that this is a classic and textbook expression of sauvignon blanc, and ideal for food pairing as well!

I paired this wine over the course of a week with Thai, Chinese, Mexican food, and with a variety of cheeses. It would also pair gorgeously with shellfish, either raw or cooked. While some folks might think this is a slightly high price for a single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, this is a fabulous expression of the grape, and perhaps one of California’s finest Sauvignon Blancs on the marketplace. I find the SRP a small price to pay for such a high quality wine.

I have to admit- I was nervous when I saw the 14.2% alcohol printed on the bottle, but I know Robbie does not compromise anything in insuring either sustainably or making a great wine, the best possible each year. And you would never sense the heat of the alcohol unless the wine warms to room temperature (my glass only ever did this while I was composing thoughts and adding them to my review). He’s done an amazing job on this, as well as the entire line from Murrieta’s Well. Everyone I know who has tasted Robbie’s wines , has been impressed and enjoyed them thoroughly. You deserve to try out their wines, and let me know if you agree.

Drink Responsibly, and enjoy!

à votre santé!

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!

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!

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