Thanksgiving 2019 Postmortem

30 Nov

The parade, the big meal, and sadly the family have come and gone. We’re now full on into the Holiday season, whatever you might celebrate.

 

Do you postmortem your meal and wine? I do.  I always, always do.

(Link to my annual Thanksgiving post from this year, if you need a refresher!)

 

So, short and quick, here are my game day highlights:

1) The sparkling wine is the big crowd pleaser.
Trevari’s Tasting Room Sparkling Rosé and Blanc de Noirs were a HUGE win at the table.
Their Blanc de Blanc is a STEAL at $15/bottle for a sparkling wine that everyone will enjoy.

 

 

2. The Acquiesce Grenache Rosé was the favorite for those who wanted a lighter and refreshing wine.

 

 

3.  The Rivers-Marie 2015 Sonoma Pinot Noir was the favorite for those who preferred a red wine.

 

 

For my email, Facebook, and Twitter folks who reached out (requesting wines for their meals with origins outside the USA) they had positive responses from my personal suggestions of: 

France: Alsace Sparkling Rosé, Chablis, Premiere Cru Beaujolais, Bordeaux blends.

Italy: Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, and Aldo Adige Pinot Grigio

Spain: Albariño, Graciano, Garnacha, and Tempranillo

Portugal: Viñho Verde

Australia: Sauvignon Blanc

New Zealand: Pinot Noir

Germany & Austria: Rielsing, Zweigelt, Grüner Veltliner, and Müller Thurgau

 

What were your Thanksgiving Day wine highlights? Did you have any failures? (I have had some over the years. We live and learn!)

Please feel free to share & comment below.  Happy Holidays!

 

à votre santé!!

Thanksgiving Wines, 2019

23 Nov

Thanksgiving. Get the whole family around the table and celebrate the most American of holidays! It is a day of thanks for the past and present, with hope for the future.

A holiday that is all about family, thankfulness, harvest, and food. Where do I sign up?

Thanksgiving is the biggest reason why I started this blog so many years ago: it’s the time of year where my phone rings, texts fly, emails arrive, and I get stopped on the street to discuss the same question over and over: “What wine should I serve with Thanksgiving Dinner?”

You KNOW I love the entire world of wines. But I think we should celebrate an American meal with American wines! We’re using turkey, corn, squash, green beans, pumpkin- how about US grown wines? You’ve got dozens of regions to choose from, so please, grab that Texas Hill Country Wine, the Virginia and Finger Lakes wines, the Michigan and Oregon wines. Don’t be shocked that many of my suggestions are from California’s Napa, Sonoma, and Lodi. No offense, ok?

If you are doing ONE wine, then you should think rosé or pinot noir. But you SHOULD consider at least two wines, a red and a white, for flexibility with the family meal and the multitudes of guests.

There are links provided to help you find a wine if you’re interested in my suggestions. But to find them close to your home, point your web browser to wine-searcher.com, vivono, wine.com, or one of the many other wine access sites available to see what provider close to you might have these wines in inventory, to save time and shipping costs.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.
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Sparkling
Yes, America is FULL of great sparkling winemakers: Gloria Ferrer, Schramsberg, Balletto Vineyards,  Domaine Carneros, Roederer Estate, my list goes on and on, across the $25-$125 range. For the budget conscious: Underwood’s Sparkling Rosé for $15. At my house, we’ll be starting off this year with Treveri Cellar’s Tasting Room Rosé, a brut sparkling that is bright pink in color, made of 50% each of pinot noir and chardonnay. Sadly, this is only available for purchase in their tasting room- but their half-dozen other sparking wines are shippable, also delicious, and all in the $15-$25 range!

 

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White
Unless you have a chardonnay on the un-oaked and leaner side (think Chablis or Meursault, or in the USA, like Sonoma’s highly prized and rare DuMOL estate chardonnays) then you are better off serving something lean and acidic. Think Picpoul Blanc, Albariño, and Sauvignon Blanc! I love Acquiesce Winery‘s Picpoul Blanc ($28), and  Modus Operandi’s Sauvignon Blanc ($35). Plus, the Galician grape Albariño generates what I consider to be “easy home run” wines from Lodi, absolutely delicious and perfect pairing from manufacturers like Bokisch Vineyards ($18), Harney Lane ($20), and Klinker Brick ($15) just to name a few.

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Red
In the past I usually added a full-bodied red for a few guests who preferred massive fruit and tannin. This year I’m cleansing my palate and sticking with what really works: Pinot Noir. What pairs best with savory gravy, herb-filled dressing, dark meat and cranberry sauce? Pinot Noir. What cleanses your palate best if you have duck or a roast? Pinot Noir!
Patton Valley Vineyard from the Willamette Valley ($40), yes, that’s a 2010 from my cellar. Au Bon Climat is a Santa Barbara County mainstay that will pair so perfectly you’ll wonder what hit you ($24 and up, my favorite is the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard). A cellar treasure I’ve held for this year is the Rivers-Marie 2015 Silver Eagle Vineyard ($55).    Want the awesome budget pinot: Try District 7’s Monterey Estate Pinot Noir ($14).

 

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Rosé
You KNOW I had to include rosé. Insanely popular (especially with my family’s millennial ladies) it is always refreshing on the palate, and there is SO MUCH great rosé available these days! So I have two of my favorites in the world from my cellar: Acquiesce Winery’s Grenache Rosé ($25), this wine is so tasty, I’ve seen people fight over the last glass!  And lastly, Modus Operandi’s Rosé of Pinot Noir (currently sold out), which is so perfectly dry, I find it tremendous- which winemaker Jason Moore makes only because his clients BEG for it, and it’s often sold out as soon as it’s available.

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So, what do you think of this year’s lineup? What are you planning for YOUR Thanksgiving Feast?

à votre santé!!

#YouHadMeAtMargaux

3 Nov

Château Des Graviers Margaux, 2014 Red Blend; Arsac, Bordeaux, France. 14%ABV, Around $29/bottle online.

 

Color is deep ruby, while the nose offers a dark and earthy melange of eucalyptus, blackberry, gravel, potting soil, and leather. On the palate: muted black and red fruit- cassis, plum, dark cherry, followed by medium acidity and massive tannins, drying the tongue and curling back the fruit. On the back palate are clay, gravel, rose bush and vanilla. Provides a long and robust finish.

 

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Winemaker Christophe Landry is a fifth generation winemaker and creates a tremendous product that will taste hauntingly familiar if you are a Margaux aficionado (as I am) and you can see why wines like this dot the shelves of my cellar, then disappear far too quickly… I simply seem to not be able to help myself.   And, why, you might ask?

Well. it’s easy to answer:  once opened, the bottle improves over time and proves to be a delicious, lovingly-crafted, old world wine. This is a region and style I adore- but this wine is still a babe, capable of being enjoyed now, but it still has at least five years before hitting its prime. I paired this with red meat on day one the when it was delicious but still slightly tight; then a Comte and a Roqueforte cheese on day two when it had opened fully, and decadently. Yet this is a wine that in five to ten years, the tannins will relax to the ideal complement; hopefully the fruit and acidity will be as well in balance. As tasty as this wine is right now, the question arises:  Will I be able to wait to enjoy this and see if 10 or 15 is the best age? Indeed, that is the question.

“Probably not,” I’m thinking. I’m a sucker for this region, and any of their wines that I deem both delicious and affordable!  This fits into both categories, and drinks quite nicely at a youthful age. I’m in trouble, as I didn’t buy a case when I had the chance (no room in the cellar, the honest truth!)

 

If you didn’t figure it out before…#YouHadMeAtMargaux.

 

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

#WIYG?

 

 

à votre santé!!

Three Finger Jack- the Ideal Halloween Red wine!

30 Oct

It’s fall!

Leaves are falling from the trees in glorious colors. The wind has picked up, the air is cold, in some places, downright frigid. We’re eating heavier meals, celebrating Samhain or el Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) and telling ghost stories. And there’s candy. SOOOOO much candy!

You need a full-bodied, blockbuster of a wine to fit this holiday. Fortunately, I have you covered!

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Delicato Family Wines, Three Finger Jack 2016 East Side Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon,  Lodi, California. 15%ABV, SRP $22/bottle.

 

 

Color is a foreboding dark ruby red, turning black and opaque on the edges. The massive nose is entirely black fruit and pepper. On the palate is mature black fruit: blackberry, black plum, black cherry, and cassis. As the wine opens, secondary notes are added: green and red peppercorn, leather, oak, with subtle hints of mocha, earth, and spice. 

 

 

The wine is named for a legendary California outlaw called Three-Fingered Jack. Jack Dunlop was a train robber who roamed the California foothills during the Gold Rush era, and whose ghost stories are still told today. Jack had a history in the small region of Lodi, California where the grapes come from for this full-bodied cabernet. Bold, brusque, and chaotic- these characteristics fit well to this wine, which goes against the grain, interrupts your train of thought, and rides into the sunset with a long shadow left behind. Fittingly to his demise, the outlaw Three Fingered Jack was buried in Tombstone after dying from a gunshot wound, while our Lodi wine can travel anywhere you want, and will last days after opening while maintaining structure and character to enjoy day after day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As you see above, Three Finger Jack pairs beautifully with food that has seen the fire- be it flank steak, wood-fired pizza, grilled vegetables, you name it. the powerful fruit character will delight your palate and curl back with rich tannins and decisive acidity. Not surprisingly, this wine is also a great foil for Halloween’s greatest gift (or flaw): chocolate. Trust me, I might have had to taste the candy to make sure the quality we hand out to the neighborhood kids will be up to snuff.
Just have a taste and go back to the wine- you won’t regret it unless you’ve had too much of both.

And don’t get caught in a shootout unless you’re sure you’ll win, ok partner?

 

 

 

 

#WIYG?

à votre santé!!

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

Champion Middleweight Wines for Changing Seasons

22 Oct

As the weather cools and the trees turn colors, so do our palates shift to harvest flavors- not only do we seek out pumpkin, apple, and carrot, but meats shift in our meals from leaner proteins to middle weight options like duck, turkey, pork, or monkfish. And our wine preferences move to mid-body wines, from lean and linear to more body, and an expansive palate.

As the days grow shorter, I push back on sauvignon blanc, pinot gris and chenin blanc to grab Bordeaux blends and Rhône varietals such as Grenache blanc, bourbelanc, roussanne, viognier, and clairette. And today’s champion wine is a blend of my favorite four of these: clairette blanche, Grenache blanc, bourbelanc and picpoul blanc. It’s from Acqueisce Winery and is called “Ingenue”. Similarly to very finest of white Bordeaux blends and yet entirely differently; this white Rhône blend is greater than the sum of its parts.

Acquiesce Winery: 2018 Ingénue White Rhône Blend, Mokelumne River AVA, Lodi, California, USA. 13% ABV, SRP $32/bottle.

 

 

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The color is pale gold with excellent clarity. The nose offers citrus, baked apple, a hint of greener spice and fresh floral cuttings. On the palate is a beautiful lemon-lime with apple and mature pear, with a savory and round mouthfeel. Dense acidity sings across the palate but the depth and beauty are apparent. This wine can pair in any direction you might wish to go: from fowl to fish to meats, from bright summer vegetables to harvest flavors of pumpkin and squash to root vegetables. I paired this first with a rich asian stir-fry and then with Italian, finishing the bottle much sooner than I’d hoped. Last time I tried this bottle it was goat cheese all in and all out, a perfect pairing with the weather directly post-harvest.

 

 

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Next up is a brilliant pinot noir from under-the-radar, one that is ideal for changing weather:

Spáter-Veit Rotwein, 2015 Trocken, Mosel, Germany. 12% ABV; $18/bottle imported by Fass Selections.

 

Color is a clear ruby, while the nose offers earth, cherry, and slate. On the palate, a rich and opulent series of flavors appear quickly and dissipate -potting soil, menthol, scorched earth-  before a tremendous cherry fruit profile begins to dominate the palate.  A robust, medium body with a full and complex mouthfeel, the wine has complexity and depth while showing some linearity and focus. This wine is special- not only reasonable at under $20/bottle, but offering solid winemaking from a small, independent producer at unusually low, nearly grocery store wine prices. This pinot noir has enough complexity and maturity to be able to pair at a higher level- if only I had purchased additional bottles (entirely my fault). I paired this with fish, asian, and southwestern fare but was probably most content when tasting the wine along delicate and medium-weight cheeses. But even as I type this, I simply want to pour another ounce and contemplate the flavor profile as this wanders across my palate.

#WIYG?

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Decibel Wines 2017 Sauvignon Blanc and 2014 Pinot Noir

9 Oct

Decibel 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Crownthorpe Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. 12% ABV; SRP $16/bottle.

Color is pale straw, nose of lemongrass, tarragon and green pepper. On the palate are lime, gooseberry, and kiwi citrus up front, with a green apple on the mid-palate and lemon pith on the back. I paired this with pizza on night one, and sashimi on night two. Delicious, fresh, and fun. Every time I tasted this, I immediately wanted another sip. It’s quite simply that refreshing and delicious!

Don’t take my word for it. Grab a bottle, at these low prices, and let me know what you think!

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

 

Decibel 2014 Martinborough Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, New Zealand. 14%ABV, SRP $35/bottle.

 

Color is a deep ruby with magenta edging. The nose includes aged red fruit, earthen floor, and dried rose petals. On the palate: black cherry, mature red plum, forest floor, dried leaves, and smoke with a hint of bitter fruit compote on the finish. The balance is long and satisfying, demonstrating maturity and depth. I liked this wine at TexSom on a day I tasted over 150 wines, but loved it back at my own home on its own, which was made evident by the near-empty bottle after having “just a taste” with some homemade pasta and finishing it off quickly when paired with a rustic beef stew, wishing I had more. This is a perfectly-aged bottle that is ready to go at age six; none of the green vegetation I was expecting in the under $40 pinot range- this drinks like a $60 wine, which is all you should need to pick up a bottle. Perfect to pair with dinner or enjoy by itself, all the wine needs to do is cross a palate. The wine does ALL the talking!

 

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Both of these wines offer great QPR and should be sought by wine lovers looking for wines with tremendous value above the price point.

Winemaker Daniel Brennan is a US-born winemaker who fell in love with NZ wines and: my, oh my, does it show! These are deftly crafted and so tasty you’ll wish you’d purchased more bottles.  I have been a Central Otago wine snob for years, but these wines are just gorgeous. Well done! Brennan has made me a fan and at these prices, I’m sure many more will follow.

 

Please feel free to share with me and other readers, not just by email but also below so others can read your thoughts on Brennan’s DECIBEL wines!

 

 

à votre santé!

2013 Nebbiolo, Tanjuli Winery, Rattlesnake Hills AVA, Washington State, USA.

21 Sep

2013 Nebbiolo, Tanjuli Winery, Rattlesnake Hills AVA. 13.9% ABV, $38/bottle SRP

 

That’s right. Your eyes did not deceive you.
Nebbiolo from Washington State.

Let’s get this straight:

South East of Seattle and Northeast of Portland, closer to Walla Walla, Washington, to the east of the Yakima River is the Rattlesnake Hills AVA.

 

 

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Color is a bright, translucent ruby. The nose offers bright red fruit, peppercorn, dried tobacco leaf and a touch of of tar. The palate begins with bright cherry and ripe raspberry, with sour cherry on the back end, There is lovely acidity up front, a wash of red fruition the mid-palate, with sour fruit on the back palate, which is quite a pleasing profile. I’m don’t usually associate sour with pleasing, but this sour acidity is akin to balsamic vinegar or a half-sour pickle, and is quite a tasty on the palate. I paired this wine first with classic Italian pasta and marinara sauce (too easy), then again with fresh mozzarella and balsamic vinegar -so good it was criminal! Then I paired it with grilled meat, and finally with an asian stir-fry. In each case, win, win and win. This wine is so tasty alone but loves food to play with. Also: it lasted for nine days after opening in the fridge, with no treatment other than a good stopper!

 

I purchased this bottle a year ago after visiting Tanjuli and held it to get a touch more age. What I found by opening this wine was a bottle with a great flavor profile, but plenty of time left. Truly, I wish I’d held it longer, as it still has great potential for development. Tanjuli are currently selling their 2014 Nebbiolo direct from the winery; I’d suggest you can age this 2-5 additional years to get maximum enjoyment from the bottle.

 

 

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Washington State has many wineries that have surprised me with the quality of their wines and the passion of the winemakers. Visit them if you’re in the area, or look for an opportunity to taste their wines. Tanjuli had several wines that hooked me, please let me know if you’ve tasted their wines or if you have an opportunity to visit them!

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

à votre santé!

My Game Night Beer is Meursault!

15 Sep

Finally I have a Sunday night off to watch football!  While my brethren choose their game night beer, I’ve been hoarding a bottle I can’t wait to open.

 

 

En Truffière 2014 Meursault, Grand Vin du Bourgogne, Burgundy, France. 13%ABV, Unknown SRP (gift bottle).

Color is a translucent  pale gold. The nose offers wysteria and orange blossom, white pear, apple, lemon rind, and toasted oak. On the palate, a beautiful lemon-lime citrus with apple and a hint of lychee, firm acidity on the front palate, a swath of light heat across the mid palate, followed by tertiary notes of sodium, marl and limestone finish- simply delightful. 

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.
May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

This bottle was a gift from a co-worker. We’re opening a new venue this year, putting on some crazy shows and working long hours. The entertainment business is often creating illusions, making minor miracles, and then acting like it’s all in a day’s work- because it is. When an associate brings you a gift with such great thought, it becomes a very dear gift. The white burgs in my cellar I consider off-limits unless it’s a special occasion- but once I finally found a night in which I could enjoy this, all bets were off. I am glad I did, because my goodness, does this wine deliver! 

 

 

For “Game Night” I paired this with football fare: a cheese quesadilla, spicy olive mix with hot peppers,  a spinach and feta cheese boureka (phyllo dough triangles popular in Greek, Turkish, and Russian cuisine) and then finally, a chicken breast. Score, score, score! 

Most football food is secondary to the star, aka The Game. But instead of the game, the star here is the Meursault. The perfect balance of barrel and brine, this is why I geek out so much over Bourgogne’s chardonnay. So nicely balanced, the wine exhibits elegance and delicacy across the palate.

I hope you have a business associate who tracks down wines from a region you enjoy. Everyone deserves a night like this for your version of game night.

I wish you fabulous bottles with friends who appreciate you. #Cheers, and please click below and share with us!  What’s In Your Glass? I always want to know!

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à votre santé!

 

 

 

Creto De’ Betti 2018 Bianco di Toscana

1 Sep

Fattoria Betti, Creto De’ Betti 2018 Bianco di Toscana, Tuscany, Italy. 13%ABV, SRP (avg) $18/bottle online

 

By Jim vanBergen, JvBUnCorked.   

All Rights Reserved. Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Color is pale straw with a green tinge. The nose offers a delicate aroma of pineapple and citrus. On the palate are crisp apple with white pear, with secondary notes of almond and lime zest. Tertiary notes of sandy clay and lemon rind are on the finish. This is a Tuscan white wine blend comprised of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Trebbiano, fermented in stainless steel before being bottled, spending no time in oak.

 

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I paired this over three separate evenings with meals of roast turkey, grilled salmon, and fusilli with pesto. In each instance, the wine stood strong and paired easily. I was surprised at the ease with with the Chardonnay -Trebbiano blend stood up to the rich grilled turkey with tart cranberry sauce. Likewise, lesser white wines would not have had both the acidity and savory qualities to handle the grilled salmon, for which I usually desire a pinot noir. But this wine had not problem staying the course and showing well throughout, with grilled peaches as a dessert one night, and nectarines the following evening.

 

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Fattoria Betti’s Bianco di Toscana is crisp and refreshing when served cold, and maintains beauty, body, and balance as the meal continues and the wine reaches room temperature. My spouse asked me to include that she specifically enjoyed this wine, and loved the smooth finish that was crisp, yet neither bitter nor sour. The only complaint I had when tasting this wine was wanting to have another bottle on hand!

 

If you don’t recognize the grape trebbiano, perhaps you know it by its French namesake, Ugni Blanc. I think the amount of trebbiano that is in this blend is the reason why I adore it so much: it offers a fruity nose and plenty of acidity without ever being harsh. While it may be more common to see trebbiano blended with Malvasia, I think this blend with Chardonnay is a brilliant combination. Personally I know the grape better from ugni blanc’s long history in the creation of cognac and armagnac brandies- but I’m hopeful to see more trebbiano-blended wines with this success of winemaking.

If you like Italian white wines are are looking for a versatile white that is delightful alone and capable standing up to a bevy of rich proteins, this chardonnay-trebbiano blend is a bottle that you should try. You owe it to yourself to seek out Frattoria Betti’s Bianco di Toscano.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

à votre santé!

2016 Aridus Graciano and Syrah from Cochise County, Arizona

31 Aug

Aridus 2016 Graciano,  Cochise County, Arizona. %14.4 ABV,  SRP $37/bottle.

By Jim vanBergen, JvBUnCorked.   All Rights Reserved. Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

Color is an opaque purple center with dark ruby edging. The nose shows black and blue fruit compote, eucalyptus, and a subtle herbal blend. On the palate, blackberry jam, black cherry are dominant fruit, while secondary notes include black pepper, clove, and graphite. On the medium finish are hints of star anise, tobacco leaf, and wet stone. The mouthfeel is moderate and easy; this wine is conveniently ready for food and can stand alone for wine drinkers who like a fuller-bodied red.

 

 

Harvested grapes are from the Alba Vineyard in Cochise County, Wilcox, Arizona; it is pressed in lots that vary from fully destemmed to half destemmed to whole cluster (and then fermented separately) to evoke complex flavor profiles after blending. The Graciano grape, commonly found in Spain, seems to thrive in the sandy soil and heat of Arizona. The moderate mouthfeel means that I hardly notice the high (14.4%) alcohol content, instead the prominent feature of the wine is a fresh, bold fruit profile.

I paired this with tapas dishes (marinated olives, tapenade, then with spicy Mexican beef, and finally with Asian fusion. The bottle lasted several days after opening without significant flavor change, which was a nice bonus.
If you are a red wine lover but don’t know graciano, you should pick up a few bottles to keep in your cellar and have in your pairing repertoire!

 

Aridus 2016 Syrah, Cochise County, Arizona. %15.8ABV,  SRP is $37/bottle.

 

By Jim vanBergen, JvBUnCorked

The color is a deep magenta while the nose demonstrates heat, bright red fruit, and a melange of herbs. On the palate are red cassis and fully ripe red cherry. Notes of heat and stone begin in the front palate and work up and backwards through the expression. As the tongue senses robust tannins, the top palate captures vegetal notes of rosemary and sage, while the back and side palates garner deep earthy flavors of forest floor, dried leather, aged wood and smoke. The finish lasts and shifts; this bottle kept nicely over the course of a week using the ArT argon-based wine preserver.

 

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I paired this wine with grilled meat, but it is also ideal for game or similarly powerful flavors. If you love bold, robust red wines, then this should be on your list.

 

Winemaker Lisa Strid and founders Scott and Joan Dahmer are doing some beautiful work in Arizona, and if you have an opportunity to visit Wilcox, AZ you should most definitely visit their winery! Otherwise, keep an eye out for Ardis wines and pick then up if you have the opportunity. These are unusual wines for the USA and they have a unique position. You might be surprised how much you enjoy Arizona wines!

 

 

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à votre santé!

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