Tag Archives: Wine Review

Zeitlos by Markus Wine Company

10 Dec

I love drinking Syrah in the wintertime. So it was no surprise to me that I had held on to a sample from Markus Wine Company and ‘found’ it months later, not where I’d expect it with my tasting queue, but rather hidden within my rack of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and similar Rhône delicacies. It made me wonder, “Why did I hide this from myself?” But after months of road travel and an opportunity to walk in my cellar and pick a bottle to drink and enjoy, that bottle is where my eye landed. And I thought, “Based on the reds I have tasted from Markus, this wine would really be best in ten years”, but I will have to pick up a case to make that happen, now that I’ve opened and tasted it. Because whoa, this is so delicious that this bottle will not last the night!

 

Markus Wine Co. 2015 Zeitlos; Lodi, California. 14.6% ABV, SRP $39/bottle(Sample).

 

Color is ruby center with purple edging. The nose offers blue and black fruit, violets, and red pepper. On the palate is a beautifully proportioned sense of fruit: blue plum and blueberries on the front palate, blackberries on the mid-palate, and red plum on the top/back palate. Some green herbs, sage and fresh oregano are evident, with a very long finish that shows beautiful cranberry/raspberry with loam, silt and sand. This wine is beautifully balanced and the tannins are FIRM. My mouth tells me that not only do I want another sip, but the fruit flavors are very long-lasting on the tongue.

 

The Zeitlos blend is 76% Syrah, with small amounts of Viognier, Carignan, and Petite Syrah. 

 

Zeitlos reminds me a LOT of the famous (also hard to get and incredibly pricey) Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hemitage, a famous Rhône blend for those who don’t know it, only with a touch more blue fruit and more herbal and mineral notes. But that beautiful fruit and tannin makes this wine ideal for grilled meats.

While in Atlanta recently, I was fortunate to have dinner with several life-long friends. We drank wines that cost two to three times this wine’s SRP at well-known steak houses, but I wish this wine had been available. And after opening this bottle to try with chicken wings and hot sauce, this wine begged for prime proteins so much that I wanted to put both a rack of lamb in the oven and a porterhouse on the grill. Easily said: Zeitlos made me want big, bold flavors which could be translated into meat, or perhaps grilled portobello mushrooms (if you happen to be vegetarian). If you’re looking for that perfect holiday bottle to pair with winter vegetables or a roast, Zeitlos may be the ideal choice. Made in small batches (only 75 cases), each bottle is individually numbered, made with passion by an independent winemaker. So the bottle is rare to find and absolutely unforgettable once you’ve tasted it! It’s a perfect holiday gift bottle, if you can hang on to it for that long.  I might bring this to dinner as a gift, but I’d insist the host open it so it could be enjoyed immediately. 

 

Currently, Markus is selling his 2016 Zeitlos in pre-release. If you are a Syrah fan, this is a wine that you’d wat to snap up, enjoy, and cellar a few extra bottles. If you invite me over, I’ll bring the meat, and my serious thirst for Zeitlos.

 

Note: If you are one of those people who does not really care for red wines, then you should check out Markus Niggli’s line of white blends and varietals. I was impressed highly when I first tasted them in Lodi, and when I managed to spend a little more time with his wines, I was entirely blown away by his winemaking style and the flavors and elegance he evokes from his creations! They are ethereal and gorgeous, and offer great value in comparison to wines that would drink as well. Trust me- your mouth will thank you, and you can thank me later.

 

#WIYG?  (What’s in YOUR glass?)

 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

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Drink the Old Stuff: Lafon Bourgogne 2011

30 Nov

Having a cellar is a double-edged sword.

 

I love having wines to cherish, wines to age, wines to hold for the future. But there is also a downside.

 

Sometimes I hold a wine for too long. I have wines from the 80’s that are past their prime, but I love to drink them just the same, to remember those years.

Here is a lone bottle I found hiding in my cellar, the hang tag was correct on but my eye glossed over it because it was on a lower shelf and I passed it by too often: A seven year-old white Burgundy!

 

This is a delicate chardonnay that has pleased me many times in the past, I know immediately while looking at the label that this has been resting in my cellar for too long, recalling that the last bottle showed fading fruit and acidity. “Corked, oxidized, or simply undrinkable?” I wonder.  I prepared myself for the worst as I removed the foil and extracted the cork.  Fortunately, I need not have worried.

 

Dominique Lafon Bourgogne Blanc 2011, Beaune, France. 13% ABV; Purchased in bulk from Garagiste years ago- currently as low as $32/bottle online.

 

Color is a robust, fall hay/warm gold tone. The nose offers delicate white fruit and hints of floral essence. On the palate is a creamy blend of white fleshy fruit, white peach and apple, gently muted, and low acidity. The finish has a pleasing but languorous lemon pith with hints of rosemary and lavender.   

This bottle would certainly be classified as “past prime drinking window” but I have to say, the restrained strength , the muted acidity and delicate fruit are fascinating qualities that were fun to taste! As I have enjoyed a case of this wine over the years since I purchased it, the evolution has been delightful and it’s no different from driving a classic car or watching a beautiful sunset dip below the horizon. As a witness, one can enjoy it even more because they have seen it grown up, they appreciate the evolution, and understand the entire circle of life.

The gold remaining in the glass!

 

 

I was happy this bottle had not oxidized or faulted, but instead, demonstrated the original balance, even past maturity and into retirement. I wish I had another bottle to share with fellow oenophiles and compare with decades old Bordeaux and red Burgundy.

 

I did not want to pair this with food, as I was too enthralled and simply had taste after taste of this bottle until I put it away for a second day’s tasting. On day 2, it had not changed a bit, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, to completion of the bottle.

 

May you and I be so lucky to mature with such refinement and grace.

 

Perhaps this post can serve as a reminder to have a look in your cellar, and see what treasures you might want to open before they no longer provide the drinking pleasure they are designed to provide.

 

à votre santé!

Beaujolais Rosé! Beaujolais Nouveau!

18 Nov

If you aren’t a huge fan of Beaujolais Nouveau, I understand. It’s not for everyone. OK, it is for everyone- but some oenophiles aren’t always fans. I get it- you know wine intimately, and maybe you feel that you need something special.  

Well, as a wine lover who spent decades celebrating the annual arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau, at some point in my 40’s I turned nearly entirely to Cru Beaujolais from this region. Let’s be honest, I might have even gotten a little snobby… maybe because I held a bottle of Nouveau too long (ugh), and then tried a bottle of CRU- and “damn, that tastes SO good!” After some time, when my wine merchants and friends asked me about Nouveau, I politely turned them down.

Well, not this year. Turn your attitude around, and get on the bandwagon. (I did!) This is a year to celebrate! This vintage will reward you, with great flavor, mouthfeel, and value for Nouveau. 

2018 is THE year for great gamay. And Duboeuf made a great Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé.

Let that sink in for just a moment. This rosé is the first of its kind sold in the USA.

So get thee to a wine merchant and buy some of the best gamay you may have in a lifetime. 2018 has been called “Legendary”  when it comes to Beaujolais Nouveau. So when this is a wine that you can get for $9-12 a bottle street price… why wouldn’t you? To share legendary wine that costs maybe $2 a glass? HELLO… no-brainer here.

“But what about your tasting notes?” You say? OK, fine. You got it!

Vins de Georges Duboeuf  Beaujolais Rosé Nouveau 2018,  A.O.C. Beaujolais; France. 12.5% ABV; SRP $13.99/bottle.

Pale pink in color, the nose offers rose bush and young red fruit. On the palate: notes of strawberry, yellow peach, lemon rind with grapefruit juice on the finish. Beautifully dry, with a pleasing, tart mouthfeel.  Made from 100% gamay grapes, which are pressed manually in whole bunches and fermented in stainless steel.

This is a wine I want to drink while cooking or watching football…I toasted a cheese quesadilla while pouring a glass, snacked while watching the game and looked down to realize I’d polished off TWO glasses, not one. This is that easy to drink, so don’t limit yourself to only one bottle!  This drinks beautifully by itself, with appetizers, veggies, pizza or similar light fare. For heavier protein, why not hit the classic gamay wine? (Below.) I know I would. This is a great way to start the evening and keep things moving. if you think you like rosé, you have GOT to get this in your game. But remember, it won’t last long. Nouveau is meant to be drunk young, so get it, and drink it.

Vins de Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2018,  A.O.C. Beaujolais; France. 13% ABV; SRP $13.99/bottle.

Color  is a bright, lively purple with ruby edging. The nose offers boysenberry and mixed fruit compote. On the palate are ripe raspberry, plum, and cassis. Along with a fuller body and mouthfeel, the finish has a hint more sweetness than the bone-dry rosé, and evokes a fruit bowl finish, with a touch of granite, bitter cassis, and youthful tannins. Yum! One of the most delightful Beaujolais Nouveau wines I have experienced, ever, hands-down. This is from 20+ year-old vines, cold fermented in stainless steel.

This gamay will pair with heavier proteins, from chicken and pork, to red meats and game. The hint of sweetness also links with the yam and corn from the season, or complements the leafy greens of collards, kale, brussel sprouts, even beets and  cauliflower.

Duboef reminds us on the label: “The First Wine of the Harvest!” and it’s important to remember that this is drunk by the pitcher in France upon arrival, celebrating the harvest and its completion. What could be better, in an ideal year, than to join in? You’ll enjoy it! This is a wine that calls to mind the decadence of the king’s hall from the Renaissance era, images of wines poured into a flagon and glasses always kept brimming. 2018 is definitely a year to enjoy, and imbibe. At this price, don’t miss out on one of the best values since the 2009 Bordeaux futures.

Serve these wines slightly chilled, and enjoy. Trust me, you will!  But as always, please drink responsibly.

à votre santé!

Wines for Thanksgiving, 2018

10 Nov

It’s that time of year. No, not the Christmas music I’m already hearing.

It’s time to prep for Thanksgiving!

 

Thanksgiving is one of the holidays that made me start this blog so many years ago. It was the time of year in which I’d get email after email, phone call after phone call asking me “What wine should I serve for this special meal?”

 

Over the years, I’ve provided options for a variety of situations. In 2010 I explained why I think four wines is the minimum for a large Thanksgiving dinner party.  Back in 2015 I wrote Thanksgiving Wine: Street Exchange with a Beer Drinker that has become more popular over time with the working stiff crowd, especially for those who are not as comfortable with serving wine and are really looking for ONE bottle for their family’s table. EDITOR’S ASIDE: (If this describes you this year, I DO have a pick for you: the 2017 Lange Twins Rosé of Sangiovese. At $15, it serves every need you might have, and is such a delight to drink, people will think you actually know wine. Just saying.)  Back to your scheduled oenophile content:  

But as a very proud American who is also an old-world wine lover and avowed Francophile, I feel very strongly that that this holiday should be celebrated with American wines. And my suggestions will continue to reflect that!

Something that hasn’t changed: with a) a large group of people and palates to please, and b) a series of dishes that vary wildly in flavor, texture, and temperature, I still like the idea of no less than four wines: a lighter white wine, a serious white,  a delicate red, and a full-bodied red.

So here are my 2018 Thanksgiving Wines: 

 

Viognier: In the past, I used Riesling as my go-to here. But Sue & Rodney Tipton at Acquiesce Winery make such a delightful Viognier- it’s a gently flavored white wine that will please any palate, and this is ideal for the non-drinker or the delicate flower in your group. For $26/bottle, I find this a massive bargain, and a great wine to start the meal with.

Chardonnay:  I’ve narrowed it down to two possible bottles in my cellar: Harney Lane’s 2017 Chardonnay from Lodi, or DuMOL’s 2016 Russian River Valley. The Harney Lane is a beautiful expression of the grape and a wonderful California chardonnay with an ideal balance of oak- not too much, nor too little- making a creamy and flavorful balance, savory with perfect fruit and acidity, with a SRP of $28. And California’s DuMOL might tell your mouth you’re knocking back a very pricey white Burgundy! It’s soft, balanced, simply gorgeous– and a little on the high side (over $50/bottle). The downside is you have to join a waitlist to buy direct, but their wines are available at Wine.com, Wine Library.com, Sokolin.com, and many other online retailers that ship across the USA, and even some local high end retailers who carry the best of California wines. Totally worth the weight. And if we bounce through one of these bottles, I’ll open the other. No problem!

Rosé (ok, actually two of them on my lineup this year):
a) Still Rosé:
Leah Jorgensen Rosé of Cabernet Franc. When I pour this $22 bottle, people lose themselves in ecstasy. I don’t know what she’s putting in the bottle beyond the grape juice, but the wine simply sings of pure fruit, delightful acidity, and beauty. Leah is a brilliant winemaker that you should be aware of, period!

b) Sparkling Rosé: The time I spent in Yakima recently certainly influenced this year’s Thanksgiving choices! I’ll be serving an $18 bottle of sparkling rosé from Treveri Cellars. The Treveri Sparkling rosé you can buy online is made of syrah and chardonnay and is a real crowd-pleaser, while my personal favorite is their tasting room rosé, which is only available in person at the tasting room. This is half pinot noir and half chardonnay and has an old-world charm that sings to me.


Sparkling Shiraz: The pièce de résistance this year might be this wine!
 Treveri Cellars also makes a $20 sparkling shiraz that has such vibrant notes of cranberry, I immediately knew I had to serve this for Thanksgiving! My gut is that it’s going to be a smashing success. But I’ve not actually tried this wine with a savory meal yet- so I’ll make sure to report back with my annual Thanksgiving Postmortem and let you know what my guests thought of this choice- and the others! I am SO excited to hear what my guests think of this wine with the main meal!

Cabernet Franc, for my annual ‘delicate red’ wine. Traditionally it would be a pinot noir -and there are plenty to choose from from the USA- for this old world Burgundy fan. But I’ve been absolutely blown away by the beauty of balance of the cabernet franc from Owen Roe winery. So I have one bottle of $28 Owen Roe’s Rosa Mystica, a wine that totally wrecked me -in a good way- and I plan on putting this on my Thanksgiving Table. This Yakima Valley red is really gorgeous and drinks like an old-world red – I simply can’t wait to try the pairing with turkey and gravy!

Zinfandel: I have two bottles I am going to decide between: a rare and hard to gain Turley, of which I have ONE bottle (and it’s a hoarder bottle I’m loath to open) and my favorite Zin on the planet, Lizzy James OVZ again from Lodi’s Harney Lane. I could almost as easily choose their standard Zin, the Scottsboro Zin, or even their Syrah- but I am just in love with the gnarly, curled old vines and the magical fruit they produce. The wine is big, bold, yet refined and polarizing. Any time I have opened a bottle of the $36 Lizzy James, it has changed lives at the table. It’s a small price to pay, that’s all I’m saying.

 

So- let me know what you think about my picks, and what you plan to open for your Thanksgiving this year! 

 

à votre santé!

Owen Roe

5 Nov

I kept putting off my post about my visits to Owen Roe Winery. Partially I must admit, a tiny part of me wanted to keep them a secret, like something precious and highly valued that only when you’re ready, you share with your closest confidant. And part of me is a little anxious to see this winery become monstrously famous… which will happen, I do not doubt.

But you, my dear friends and readers, you are my innermost circle.

So allow me to share with you my best find of 2018, Owen Roe Winery.

 

Named after the 17th century Irish Patriot, Owen Roe is a beautiful winery that is tucked into the hills in the Yakima Valley. Between Union Gap and Wapato, just east of the Yakima river on a beautiful hillside is a series of vineyards in which the winemaking facility is located.

But when I first visited, I didn’t think about the vineyards. I just went to taste the wines. It wasn’t until I had tasted the wines and had time to reflect on them that I wanted to learn more. So I did- and I went back with friends (an entire busload of friends, to be honest) and to see the winery in action during crush and harvest- and to re-taste the wines that impressed upon me previously.

 

Before I get to the wines, I have a tiny bit more to tell you. Owen Roe was founded by two couples, Angelica & David O’Reilly, and Julie & Ben Wolff, with their first vintage produced in 1999. While David O’Reilly was the winemaker for many years, their current winemaker is rising star Jackie Evans. She and cellar master François Dereeper have been with Owen Roe since 2013. They are making some serious wines.


Owen Roe Winery’s cellar master François Dereeper (left), and winemaker Jackie Evans (right)

 

Owen Roe 2016 Abbot’s Table; Columbia Valley Wa. 14.1% ABV, SRP $24/bottle.

Color is magenta with garnet edging, with cassis, green cuttings and tobacco leaf on the nose. On the palate: a complex compote of red plum, tart cherry, and raspberry with notes of green pepper, forest floor, and cigar box. An awe-inspiring blend of 47% Sangiovese, 22% Zinfandel, 19% Blaufrankish and 12% Malbec. This wine is so perfectly balanced by itself, yet cries for food. So, I bought a bottle and sated that need- with anything and everything I ate, it was made better with this new world blend of old world flavor. Brilliant now, but could easily age ten years. A home run, this should be in every American restaurant.

 

Owen Roe 2016 Sinister Hand; Columbia Valley, WA 14.1% ABV, SRP $28/bottle.

Don’t let the name fool you. This is a classic Rhône blend of GSMC (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault) on steroids.
Garnet in color, rich in the dark red and black fruit on the nose with a hint of cocoa. Cassis, blackberry, with fig and plum jam. Secondary notes of strawberry and mocha, red pepper, hints of clove, vanilla, and fennel, with cedar, granite, sand, loam, mixed berries and potting soil on the long finish. This is old world blending of new world grapes, the opposite of Abbots Table- and just so nicely balanced, rich flavors, and gossamer in texture.

 

Owen Roe 2016 Malbec; Yakima Valley, WA; 14% ABV, SRP $28/bottle.

Deep ruby with magenta edging. Rose bush and red fruit on the ample nose. Stunning blackberry, blue plum, and black cherry on the palate with velvet mouthfeel, big dark chocolate notes with saddle leather, dark oak and wet leaves. If you dig Malbec, you need to get this in your cellar.

 

 

Owen Roe Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc, $28/bottle.

Color is medium ruby with garget edging, the nose offers cherry and raspberry with mocha and a hint of rose bush. On the palate, strawberry jam, red plum and cherry are followed by notes of pepper, wet stone, fennel and lavender. Beautifully made, elegant and balanced– this is a luscious wine that offers a great value in this price range!

I took my first sip of this cab franc and had a “whoa” moment, impressed by the quality of the winemaking. Finishing my taste of Rosa Mystica, I realized how special Owen Roe’s wines really are.

A few minutes later The Pearl Block cab franc was in my glass and that upped the ante-  I simply could not imagine where this wine had been hiding, and how they managed to make a wine that stood on the shoulders of all the others.

 

Owen Roe 2015 “The Pearl Block” Union Gap Vineyard, Cabernet Franc. 14%ABV, SRP $72/bottle.

Color is deep ruby, the nose offers red plum, raspberry, wildflowers and hints of tobacco leaf. On the palate is a luxurious blend of red fruit, green pepper, and forest floor. The mouthfeel is exotic, supple and elegant; medium bodied with impressive structure in the balance of fruit, tannin and acidity. If you are remotely a fan of old world French wines, or if you love cab franc- this is your jam. Gorgeously aromatic, showing elegance and beauty in the glass, with structure, a nose and finish that goes on and on. It’s the finest effort of winemaking I’ve seen from the Northwest, period. This wine is amazing. It’s gonna rock your world and leave you wanting more, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. It’s just that. Damn. Good!

Seriously- if you have the means to buy this wine and you love cab franc, get this. This is the finest cabernet franc I’ve had to date, and I was sad to walk away having only purchased two bottles. I haven’t decided if I’ll serve this to my family for Thanksgiving, or more selfishly keep it to share with my oenophile buddies!

 

Most importantly, tasting these wines excites me for the future of what to expect from this team at Owen Roe.

These are world-class wines that deliver far more than you’d expect, even in the over $60 mark, providing great value and QPR. Just taste the wines, and let your mouth decide.

 


 

 

 

As you can see, I liked what I tasted at Owen Roe. So much that  (as I mentioned previously) I went back with a busload of friends, to see more, taste, and explore.

 

What I found is that it’s no mistake the wines from Over Roe are as good as they are. I tasted the fruit fresh from the vineyards, and had the chance to watch some of the harvest operations. These choices are made very carefully, with excellent results from a team who is talented and working diligently to make world-class wine.

 

A hopper of freshly-picked Cabernet Sauvignon grapes heading to the press

 

 

One of the presses used at Owen Roe

 

The pomace or marc- the remnants after pressing

 

 

 


This is the cap over a container of pressed juice in the process of becoming wine

The juice is tested and the cap is punched down multiple times daily.

 

 

The cellar team’s daily notes on the side of an active bin!

 


Craig Singer, Owen Roe’s Executive Chef & Tasting Room Manager, showing off one more spectacular bottle. He is THE person to talk to about food and wine pairings, menus, recipes, and finding your personal favorite wine at Owen Roe!  

 

 

 


After wine tasting, our group lines up to buy bottles to take home! There was no mistake here- We visited several vineyards, but people lined up to buy bottle after bottle at Owen Roe. So you know- It wasn’t just me! 

 

Owen Roe is my best find of 2018, and their flagship The Peal Block Cabernet Franc rocks my wine world. 

What is YOUR top find of 2018?

à votre santé!

International #TempranilloDay 11.8.18!

30 Oct

Did you know November 8th is International Tempranillo Day?
Well,  NOW YOU DO!

Bodegas Lan Rioja Gran Reserva 2010; Fuenmayor, Spain. 13.5%ABV, SRP $23/bottle.

 

Color is ruby with magenta edging. The nose is vast and expressive with red cassis and plum, tobacco leaf, eucalyptus, cigar box,  and forest floor. On the palate is a lively series of dark red fruit with so much spice: mocha, vanilla, oak, licorice, leather, and spice box. Medium bodied, full-flavored, and so much fun to drink!

 

This lusty, vibrant red is a blend of primarily (94%) Tempranillo with 4% Mazuelo(aka carignan), spending 24 months in oak barrels before maturing 36 months in the bottle. The time spent aging this shows quite nicely, and is well worth the effort -especially at this price point.

I poured a glass, thinking it would pair well with my grilled meat & vegetables. Oh, it did, but one taste and immediately I felt like I was in Barcelona again. I just wanted to put my nose in the glass to inhale the luxurious and lengthy nose, then relax and take sip after sip to enjoy the sunset. Delicious, and a lovely value!

And did I mention, it also pairs beautifully with grilled meats, savory dishes and cheeses. Where can you find a decent aged red blend for under $25? #Rioja !

 

#TempranilloDay

#BodegasLAN

#RiojainThreeLetters

 

à votre santé!!

 

Department 66: Taking Old Vine Grenache To The Extreme

15 Oct

Ten years after buying vineyards in Maury, France (the Roussillon appellation), winemaker Dave Phinney’s release of his latest venture, called Department 66 , has finally hit the USA. These are wines that don’t taste like Phinney’s previous winemaking undertakings; to his admission they are small cluster, tiny yield (only one-half ton per acre!!) and most of the vines are from 60-100 years of age- which delivers a concentrated mouthful of flavor! 

I can hear you thinking: ok JvB, let’s get to the wines! And away we go…

Department 66’s “Fragile” 2017 Rosé of Grenache, with small amounts of Syrah and Carignan. Maury, France. 15% ABV, SRP $18/bottle.

Color is pale pink with just a hint of orange. The nose is of fresh spring strawberries. The palate is a pleasing shot of young, tart strawberry up front, showing bright acidity with a hint of bitterness on the back palate. Heat sings across the top palate from the high ABV, which I only noticed because I was looking for it- others won’t mind, as the tongue is too busy enjoying the dancing red berries and tangerine rind on the front palate. I poured this for several neighbors who, like myself, were simply enchanted by the wine on their very first sip. Best served cold due to the high ABV.

This is the rosé you didn’t think you were going to love until it hits your mouth. It is so “not Provence” that I want to call it an Anti-Rosé. If you like grenache (aka garnacha) and GSM blends, your mouth just might thank you. It is a delicious, decidedly different approach to a different peak, with an entirely different view of what it means to be a rosé. 

 

 

 

 

Department 66’s “Others” 2015 Grenache (with Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre) Catalan Red Wine Blend; Maury, France. 15.2% ABV, SRP $25/bottle.

 

Color is a dark, opaque magenta. The nose offers juicy red plum and chrysanthemum. On the palate, a mixture of dark fruit: cassis, black plum, blueberry with blackberry jam with a touch of forest floor. On the extended finish there are notes of floral herbs, oak, saddle leather, granite, and schist. A monster mouthful of juice that wants to run down your mouth like berries so plum they explode on contact.  

This is a big, full-bodied grenache that is best served just under room temperature and is perfect for smoked and grilled meats, or other powerful flavors that will stand up to bold tannin and structure.  Cabrales cheese, spicy sausage, or savory dishes with heavy sauces could be alternate pairings. The Spanish influence is quite apparent, and if tasted blind I would have suggested Northern Spain, not France. This wine possesses big and bold flavors in a way that juicy California blends have never imagined. 

 

Dave tells his story of Dept. 66 here: 

 

Dave Phinney’s wines have mesmerized me since my first taste of The Prisoner many years ago. He plays by his own set of rules, making delightful wines outside of the standards of the big winemakers, and without corporate constraint. Department 66 is a decidedly different beast, by Phinney’s own admission. He has matured, learned, and this is a new venture, seemingly a personal aspiration. I am fascinated to see what Phinney does next! 

 

To find out more about these wines, click on: https://www.department66.com/

 

#WIYG? Share with me! 

 

à votre santé!

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!

 

 

 

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!

 

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