McIntyre Vineyards 2015 Merlot

5 Jan

McIntyre Vineyards 2015 Merlot, Kimberly Vineyards, Arroyo Seco AVA; Santa Rosa, CA.
14%ABV, SRP $25/bottle on release. 

 


Color is deep garnet center with ruby edging. The nose offers brooding black fruit, tobacco leaf, forest floor, and star anise. On the palate is a pleasing mixture of blackberry, plum, and black currants, with tertiary notes of mocha, cedar box, pencil shavings, and spiced vanilla.

The complexity of this wine might surprise you. It reminded me first, of how hauntingly beautiful and decadent merlot can be,  and secondly, and that my cellar is lacking in high-quality, single vineyard merlot!

Many winemakers spend their time on Merlot’s sibling- the OTHER child grape of Cabernet Franc: the often highly-priced Cabernet Sauvignon, which are the bodybuilders of the wine world. Too many winemakers ignore Merlot, who, like Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman, will delight and amaze with their subtle performances time and time again, with chameleon-like skill to adapt to roles so that the public could not imagine another actor in that role. That is the beauty of Merlot, and that is what you can expect from this bottle: maturity, depth, complexity, and elegance.    

 

 

I paired this impressive bottle over the course of a week with various dishes: potted steak and root vegetables; a second night with pasta with broccoli and garlic sauce; a third evening with baked salmon, greens and sweet potato.  The wine maintained the complex nose, dark flavor palette, structure, tannins, and acidity beautifully over the duration.

Do not let the price fool you, this is a beautiful wine that demonstrates the immense care and skill taken with vineyard and viticulture, as well as a controlled, specifically minimalistic winemaking process to allow the grape to show brilliance and its finest characteristics. This wine could easily sell at twice the price.

Winemaker Steve McIntyre continues to demonstrate how passionate winemakers can offer mature, top level, lip-smacking wines at a tremendous value to the general public with wines of such a high level of care and craftsmanship, while maintaining sustainability to the soul of the Santa Lucia Highlands and Salinas Valley. Bravo!  

 

What’s In YOUR glass? 

 

à votre santé!

Letters from Readers: Wine Pairing for Pasta Con le Sarde

24 Dec

I love when readers reach out looking for wine suggestions. So it made me happy when broadcast audio engineer and self-described beer aficionado Stevie G reached out and sent me a wine pairing inquiry. He sent a recipe link he was prepping from Serious Eat’s Pasta Con Le Sarde, what he calls “a pretty traditional Holiday dish from Sicily”. “So I was thinking,”, he said, “What wine would JvB pair with this?”

Good question, indeed.

My stomach thought, “Wow that sounds good right about now…”


My memory banks were recalling the reflection of the sun on the ocean, and the smell of the Mediterranean when going from Sicily to Sardinia, and the delicious flavors that accompanied every meal. 

From my travels, heading to Sardinia- Jim van Bergen

 

While touring the region, I had a similar dish. It was simply delicious. The balance of saffron with toasted fennel, superbly fresh sardines, and pine nuts is an unusual, savory,  and delicious treat for the palate. 

 

The Serious Eats recipe that Stevie shared calls for saffron steeped in warmed white wine, which I think elevates the recipe. My reaction was pretty immediate: Salivating!  Thinking of the flavor profiles, my wine training leaps into action with two answers, no questions: Either Grillo, from Sicily or Vermentino, from Sardinia. Knowing that the zesty, fruity, dry and fresh Vermentino is more easily found on nrighborhood wine stores, my reply to Stevie G blurts out.

“For Pasta Con la Sarde, I would pair an un-oaked vermentino from Sardinia! The dish needs fresh, herbal, and citrus components to maintain the delicate palate and balance with the fresh sardine, pasta, fennel & saffron.”

Stevie was pretty blasé. 

“Cool. I don’t drink white much, but heck I’ll give it a shot. What could possibly go wrong ?”

I found it hard to process when someone asks for a wine suggestion, but then says they don’t drink much white wine. I know what he meant: He doesn’t drink it. For a moment, I wondered if I’d hear back, or if Stevie would pull out a beer and ignore my suggestion. But my phone went off, my mind shifted elsewhere, and I focused on other things until I heard back.


Stevie G’s dish 

Only a day later, Stevie wrote me again, and shared the above image. 

“Yeah… You DO know about your wines. The pairing was great! Both fruity notes complemented each other. The coolness of the vermentino helped temper the four-spice spiciness. Thanks for the Holiday recommendation! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, as well!”

 

All’s well that ends well, no? Except that if you are remotely hungry, you are now thinking about making this recipe… because it’s delicious. 

 

A memory of finding great local wines while touring Italy

I did a little digging looking for the origin of this dish, trying to understand the recipe a little better. In Messina, the sauce is made in a ‘white’ style, without the saffron. So I started searching for an origin story, and found one!


Bolognese Foodie & blogger Filippo from PhilosKitchen.com tells the backstory of this recipe & story on his blog that I have excerpted below:

The origin of Sicilian sardines pasta is intertwined with an act of rebellion and revenge.

At the beginning of the 9th Century A.D., Euphemius of Messina, the commander of the Byzantine navy had been a man of power. According to the legend, the influence of Euphemius was too much for the Byzantine empire; so, the Emperor Michael II the Amorian ordered the demotion and the mutilation of the nose of the Commander on charges of the presumed kidnapping and marrying a nun.

In response to that accusations, that Euphemius considered outrageous, the former commander retreated in Africa along with a clutch of trusted men and hooked up with the Saracens.

On June 14 827, Euphemius sailed to the southern coast of Sicily and reached the bay of Capo Granitola, near to Mazara del Vallo after a three-day storm. The Saracens sailors were tired and hungry. The pantry was almost empty, and the soldiers needed an energetic meal before the battle.


At this moment the cook of the boat prepared a dish with the few ingredients at his disposal: wild fennel, pine nuts, dried pasta, saffron, raisin and the sardines caught in the water of the Sicilian bay. The legend says the Sicilian Pasta con le Sarde has been born that day!

 

 

And there it is. Thanks Stevie G! Cheers, Happy Holidays, and a Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones. 

 

à votre santé!

2020 Holiday Wines

17 Dec

Happy Holidays!
As we wrap up this unprecedented, dumpster fire of a year, we still have holidays to celebrate while quarantined at home. What we know is, WE NEED MORE WINE.


So here are JvB’s wine picks for the Christmas Holidays to wrap up 2020!

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you should ignore white wine. 

You should start the festivities with something dry, fun , and fruity! Albariño is what you should be looking for! This is a wine you can start to pour anytime, while cooking, when you’re still opening presents, and before or after the big meal, this is fresh and zesty and will keep people happy all day long!  You are looking for wines from Spain’s Rías Baixas region, the southwestern coast of Galicia, to source some stunning, Mediterranean  Albariño! Some of the better-known producers you’ll find on the shelves include Paco & Lola, Martin Codax,  Pazo de Señorans, Castro Martin Family Estate, and Pazo Pondal. 

Total Wine has over a dozen Albariño wines from Rías Baixas ranging from $10-$30, Wine.com has almost two dozen bottles in the same range. These are high pleasure wines that deliver. They drink well on their own, and best of all, they pair amazingly well with the appetizers, the vegetable sides you’ll be serving, AND the meats, whether you are serving a turkey or other bird, ham, or roast. 

 

Ready to raise your game? You need a delicious and decadent white wine.  White Rhône Blends are what you should be looking for. These wines from the South of France have a fuller mouthfeel, while still providing fresh fruit notes and broad acidity. When I pour these wines for a first-timer at the tasting table, tasters consistently find these wines to be a glamorous experience and are immediately impressed. Whether that is for you or for your family, it can’t hurt, right?   

People get confused by the term Rhône blend. It’s quite simple: winemakers will blends several Rhône grape varieties to make a lovely mixture- from grapes such as bourbolenc, grenache blanc, roussane, marsanne, clairette blanche, and picpoul. They might be hard to pronounce, but all you have to do is enjoy! And the resulting, fuller mouthfeel and luxurious response will continue to improve as you pair the wine with roast, goose, turkey, baked ham, or other complex flavor combinations from the holiday meal.

One of my favorite winemakers of Rhône style wines is Sue Tipton of  Acquiesce Winery in Lodi, California. (Sidebar: yes, it’s California and not France. She uses the same grapes in a different location, but with similar Mediterranean growing weather & conditions.) Tipson’s Rhône-style wines simply shine with brilliance, flavor, and joy in the bottle, and of course, I heartily suggest you try their wines! (Click the link above!) But every decent wine store in the USA will also have Rhône style blends, from luxurious Hermitage and Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blancs to the entry-level La Vielle Ferme Blanc for a mere  $7.50 at Total Wine ,  which is most likely in a prominent aisle in your local wine store! You’ll find a bevy of wines in between those ranges.

OK, – let me take a breath. Ahhhh. It’s December. There is snow on the ground in many places. And we’re with only our closest family. Let me take another breath, and think pleasant thoughts:  

“Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized.” – Andre Simon     

Moving ahead! 

When it comes to choosing red wines for the holiday meal, it is imperative to do your best in pairing the wine choice with the meal. For a great food & wine pairing, we must match the weight of the food with the weight of the body in wine. So you are looking for bright and fruity with medium to moderate weight. Here are three great options, easily found on your local store’s shelves or at Total Wine or Wine.com (And NO, I’m not advertising them, I’m just trying to help you find wines more easily.)

Cru Beaujolais. Here we have the structure and depth of expensive pinot noir at a fraction of the cost. You can choose to age these, or drink them relatively young! The ten crus (regions) are divided into two groups, first,  those you are LIKELY to find: Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, and Moulin-à-Vent. Secondly, those that are more rare: Chinas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Régnié, and St-Amour.  You should be able to find wines from Fleurie (known for floral aromatics and bright fruit)  or Morgon (known for depth, robust flavor, and structure) in most wine stores int the $20-40 range, and these wines consistently deliver far above their price point. 

Chianti Classico: Towards the full-bodied side, these wines are made from Sangiovese grapes grown under the lovely Tuscan sun, they are refined wines with lovely tannin and structure that range from high teens to mid 30’s in price. It’s hard to go wrong here, if you know the secret: look for the black rooster on the label, which is the guarantee that the wine is indeed from the DOCG Chianti Classico! You’ll recognize some of the most popular winemakers: Antinori, Banfi, Castello di Monsanto, Mazzei, Ruffino, Santa Margherita, and Viticcio just to name a few. Highly popular, easy to drink in quantity, and always delivering high quality.  Chianti Classico is NOT just for Italian food. Trust me. Try it. You’ll thank me.  

Rioja Riserva is still under appreciated in the USA, which is good for those in the know. It’s funny, because a “JS 93 point” Chianti Classico wine is almost $30, but you can grab a JS 92 point Rioja for $14 bucks! In Rioja you’re going to find the Tempranillo grape, usually with oak aging, and moderate tannin, in a very food-friendly approach. These wines are highly structured like Cabernet Sauvignon, with beautiful fruit like Garnacha/Grenache.  Truly, what’s not to like?  Bodegas LAN, Bodegas Muga, Faustino, Marques de Murrieta, Marques de Riscal, R. Lopez de Heredia, Viña Ardanza,  and Viña Real are just a few of the household names you should be able to find on your local shelves with price ranges from the $15- $50; with a slew of killer options in the high teens to high 20’s. One more bit of knowledge is that it’s easier to find AGED Rioja on the shelf, to increase your wine lover’s drinking pleasure. Both Total Wine and Wine.com have bottles from 2009-2011 for around $30. Talk about a mic drop moment- BOOM! You’ll be amazed at how fabulous these wines are, and how well they pair with your meal. 

Let us take another breath.

 

I’ve likely given you TOO much to consider, but I always think more options are better. 

 

As we wrap up this dumpster fire of a year, I look forward to 2021 with the awesome news that in spite of the trauma and drama of covid-19,   JvBUnCorked continues to thrive in blog form as well as on Twitter and Instagram. And I can not wait to get back to doing tastings and wine dinners with you in person! 

 

What are YOU looking forward to in 2021? 

à votre santé!

 

Domaine Rose-Dieu Plan de Dieu, 2014

8 Dec

Domaine Rose-Dieu 2014 “Plan De Dieu”, 14.5% ABV, Approx $16/bottle in 2016.

Most wine lovers have favorites when it comes to Côtes du Rhône village-level wines.  This one I found locally for about $16, but I’ve seen as low as $12 online!  Domaine Rose Dieu’s Plan De Dieu, a full-bodied, spicy blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre (GSM). The flavor profile includes black currant, bramble, blackberry, licorice, tobacco, and pepper with tertiary notes of tar & herbs; this wine is made to pair with food. It excels doing so with robust flavors of meat, cheese, or game. 

 

 

Domaine Rose-Dieu is a southern Rhône winery,  located 36 km north of Avignon. Founded in 2002 and operated by Damien Rozier, Domaine Rose-Dieu encompasses 40 hectares across four appellations, and offers seven blended wines (five red, one rose, and one white) from  grenache, syrah, cinsault, carignan, bourboulenc, and roussane grapes grown on the property.

At this price point, Domaine Rose-Dieu is a solid producer you can trust to your cellar. These wines can be enjoyed while young, but will show best with 3-5 years of age. 

#WIYG? 

 

à votre santé!!

 

2020 Wines for Thanksgiving

18 Nov

2020 has been an “interesting” year so far. Thanksgiving also looks to be “interesting”. Smaller groups, probably the same people you’ve been quarantined with since March. Maybe a Zoom dimmer with friends?

As our gatherings are smaller, so will be my suggestions!
As far as wine goes, I’m changing up my game. I suggest you do, too! We’re going to think and drink globally

White Wines: Albariño and Rhône white blends!


Whether you pull a wine from the Iberian peninsula (Albariño) or the south of France (Rhône), you will have superb results with Thanksgiving dinner. I find the Rhône blends more savory, but both of these styles will be able to handle anything from appetizers to soup to salad to shellfish to the main dinner, and be a total success with turkey and pork, providing a zesty and fresh palate after every sip.

 

If you are asking, “What’s Albariño, JvB?” Here’s the quick answer: from Spain’s Rias Baixas wine region, these are dry white wines, lighter in body, with excellent acidity. Common flavor profiles include lemon, grapefruit, nectarine, and melon. It’s your hip wine alternative to Sauvignon Blanc, and it has a huge bang for the buck, and prices usually range from $12-20/bottle. 

Typical examples of Rias Baixas Albariño. Tremendous flavor and value! 

 

If you are wondering “Rhône who?” it takes a little more work, as there are a bunch of awesome white wine grapes that are unique to France’s Rhône valley and they can be a little confusing. My choice is Acquiesce Winery’s Clairette Blanche (13.5% ABV. $28/bottle SRP), a wine that is actually made in California but uses Rhône grape varieties. It has a similar high acidity, but gentle fruit balance of peach, pear, and a hint of fennel, with a gorgeous floral nose, and a savory body. This is the rounder, fuller wine that is your alt-chardonnay choice and is a huge secret weapon for both crowd-pleasing and palate-pleasing skills. 

 

Whether single variety like this Clairette, or a blend of Rhône grapes-
the wine inside is even more beautiful than the lovely bottle and label seen here. Acquiesce Winery, Lodi California. 
 

 

Rhône grape types often sound exotic and may be challenging for some Americans to pronounce: bourboulenc, clairette blanc, grenache blanc, marsanne, muscat blanc à petits grains, pinardin, picpoul blanc, roussanne, ugni blanc. While you can search to find some single vineyard wines that are stunning, many of the wines that arrive in the USA are blends that showcase the best of the region, and can be found in the $10-20 range. The high end summits with rare vintages of J.L. Chave Hermitage Blanc, so be wary if your browser search sorts with “price high/low” and don’t be frightened off by the sticker shock! There are amazing values to be found from bottles with exquisite expression and flavors. If Acquiesce is a little above your price range, the most easily found white Rhône blends are Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône 2019 Blanc Reserve or Guigal Côte du Rhône 2018 Blanc, which both have shockingly low street prices right now, in the $10-15 range.  

 

OK, Ready for Red? 

 

Red Wines: Cru Beaujolais and Pinot Noir!


“What’s a Cru Beau?” You may be thinking. Here’s the scoop: 

Think of the red wines of Beaujolais in three tiers: Entry Level (Beaujolais Nouveau), Mid-Level (Beaujolais Village) and Top Tier (Cru Beaujolais). The good news is you can find excellent top tier bottles in the twenties and thirties in terms of cost, while the Nouveau is in the teens, and Village bottle cost spreads across the middle range.  

Buying tips for Cru Beaujolais: there are ten designations  based on and named by their region, you can click the link and do a deep dive, or take the fast lane: ask your local wine store clerk to point them out. The three I see most often in both online and brick-and-mortar stores are:  Morgon, Fleurie, and Moulin-à-Vent. I find these wines to be so beautiful, bright, fruity, and acidic, perfect matches for the cranberry sauce, with enough acid to work with a roast or to tame heavy gravy or a bitter vegetable side dish. The quality and balance of these wines are a tremendous value in the under $40/bottle range, while the same quality in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Bordeaux blend will tend to cost more in local wine stores. 

 

Left & Middle are Cru Beaujolais, on the right is a quality Village-level wine by a 3rd generation winemaker.  

 

Pinot Noir: In this day and age, you MUST know about Pinot Noir by now. Even if you never saw “Sideways”, you probably know that pinot noir is a delicate grape, requires so much more than simply the labor of love to produce a formidable wine. Pinot is the opposite of the hearty cabernet sauvignon grape. When cab is a Fastback Mustang, pinot noir is the Ferrari Dino 246. It’s the Pappy Van Winkle of the wine world. If Cabernet is Travis Scott, then Pinot Noir is Marvin Gaye. 

More importantly, while the powerful cabernet sauvignon is a go-to for steak, pinot noir’s delicacy and bright fruit are a no-brainer for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday meals. Pairing is not only easy, it’s perfect.  


As an admitted French wine snob, yes, I love my Burgundy as well as great American and New Zealand pinot noir. There is an abundance of great pinot noir in the $25-$50 range, and stellar quality in the $50 and up range, with some awesome values in the under $25 range. But there are so many great buys in pinot noir around the world, and the wine pairs beautifully with a holiday meal. You can find truly stunning pinot noir wines from California, Oregon, and France across the spectrum. While I may lean towards the $50+ bottles, I have my share of $9-15 as well. Everyone needs a weekly bottle, a special event bottle, a birthday bottle. 

The best regions in the USA for pinot noir are: the  Willamette Valley in Oregon (and it’s six sub AVAs) and from California: Anderson Valley, Russian River Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills, and Sonoma Coast. Or you can hop off the American continent to visit New Zealand’s Central Otago and Marlborough regions. Or yet another option:  Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200 and head straight to Burgundy! Much depends on the size of your table and your budget. But know you can find excellent bottles from all of these regions. Here’s an example or two…

 

Some great examples of tremendous value in Pinot Noir

Take advantage of the killer values offered by these: 2017 McIntyre Pinot Noir  from Santa Lucia Highlands, Domaine Boussey Volnay 1er Cru,  and District 7    Estate Grown Pinot Noir which has been an editor’s choice year after year; I fell in love with it doing the pandemic. These punch well above their weight classes and each shows something different about how sexy and precise pinot noir can really be. 

If you want to change it up, you can look at these awesome selections from Ken Wright  or Evesham Wood  from Oregon, or the delicious, glamorous flavors of Gary Farrell  from the Russian River Valley. If you want to Go Big or Go Home, see if your local wine store carries Merry Edwards 2017 Meredith Estate Pinot Noir   from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma- I’ve had an ounce of this stunning  wine and am trying to get my hands on a bottle. 

 

If you’re worried that you might be all by yourself (and depressed as hell) on Thanksgiving, I STILL have a pinot noir to treat yourself for the holiday! Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé from Lucien Albrecht  is a sparkling rosé of pinot noir that is unrelentingly delicious.  

 

SRP is $20 and I’ve seen from $14-22 in stores. It always over-performs and is simply delicious.
So put that in your back pocket, it’s an Ace in the hole! 
Better yet,  you can easily find this bottle at
Total Wine, Costco, and many of your local wine stores. 

 

 

Last but not least- 
Should you or your holiday table prefer a more powerful style of red wine, then ask your local wine store for a great bottle of Carmenere, Rioja, or Old Vine Zinfandel. Each of these wines are powerful food-pairing options, and you can find older bottles that drink beautifully at reasonable prices. 

 

 

 

Have you noticed what everything has in common? Brighter fruit and higher acidity, which is a great match for Thanksgiving because it’s still getting the best out of late summer and early fall. This combination just works, much like the afternoon sun with a fall chill in the air gives us perfect sweater weather. 

So, get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Please reply below, and let me know what you do!
I promise I’ll do my post-mortem on what I drank on Thanksgiving, as always! 


#WIYG? 

 


à votre santé!!

 

Torre Rosazza Friuli, Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC

15 Oct

MILANO WINE WEEK IN NYC! 

What better to bring in the fall then by tasting wines of Colli Orientali del Friuli? 
Located in the province of Udine, the Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC is in the northeastern section of Italy near the Croatian border, located between the Alps and the Adriatic sea. 

 

Torre Rosazza Taste Buds, On Your Marks! 

 

 

Live tasting with our hosts in Italy via the Internet! 
Catch your angle! The colors of the wines from Torre Rosazza,  

from Left to Right: Pinot Grigio, Friuli, and Altromerlot. 

 

Torre Rosazza, Friuli Colli Orientali DOC Pinot Grigio 2019 Approx $18-20/bottle

Color is pale straw. The nose offers citrus blend, with lemon pith. On the palate:  gentle white stone fruit- green pear, but dry, not sweet. Mouthfeel is lightly buoyed with citrus, secondary notes of nectarine and bright, forward acidity. Perfectly dry, with heat on the front palate, smoothing and receding into a lip-smacking finish. This is an excellent example of a classic, forthcoming pinot grigio. 

 

 

 

 

Torre Rosazza, Friuli Colli Orientali DOC Friuliano, 2019, Approx $18-$20/bottle. 

Rich straw in color, with a nose of white flower, lemon verbena, and bitter orange peel. On the palate are pear and grapefruit with a secondary citrus peel blend; excellent high acidity, with almond paste on the back palate. Tertiary notes of dried herbs and gravel on the finish. Stunning. Hands-down my favorite wine of the tasting, I found this enticing and want to find room for this in my personal cellar. 

 

 

 Torre Rosazza, Friuli Colli Orientali DOC “Altromerlot” 2016. Approx. $26-29/bottle.

Color is dark purple with magenta edging. A rich, exotic nose with black plum and eucalyptus. Flavor profile: stewed black plum, blackberry compote, boysenberry on the front and mid palate. A fuller mouthfeel than I expected, rich flavors with powerful acid with bold tannins. I loved how un-Merlot this felt on the palate. While I find it fascinating and it could pair with a spicy tomato sauce or grilled meats today, I’d purchase several bottles – some to drink now, the others to rest in the cellar a few more years to settle and mature, to see how the wine develops with some age. 

 

All in all, a delightful and delicious look at three of Torre Rosazza’s lineup, all in excellent form and quality. 

 

What’s in YOUR glass? 

A Votre Santé!

Gary Farrell Russian River Valley 2016 Pinot Noir

1 Oct

Gary Farrell Russian River Valley 2016 Pinot Noir,  Hallberg Vineyard, Sonoma County, CA. 13.9%ABV, SRP $55/Bottle.

 

If you love Pinot Noir, then you probably already know Gary Farrell. It has been years since I’ve tasted wine from this winery.

My underlined note after tasting this wine: “My, oh my.” I kid you not.

 

Color is brilliant ruby, with a rich, vibrant nose of cherry, rose petal, and eucalyptus. The mouth-watering palate offers a stunning mixture of brilliant red fruit, wildflower cuttings, vegetation and darker tertiary notes of dried tobacco leaf and potting soil. Balanced with a luxurious mouthfeel. Quite honestly, I enjoyed every moment of this wine from start to finish, until the bottle was empty.


That, my friends, is how a wine should make you feel. In this price range, I’m impressed. This wine will go toe-to-toe with some of my cherished Burgundian bottles, and you can actually access them quite easily.

 

Gary Farrell 206 Halberg Vineyard Pinot Noir.
Image Copyright 2020 JvBunCorked.

 

 

What brilliant, awesome fruit made this vintage!! And you know I’m not a high ABV fan, but 13.9% ABV doesn’t taste like it in this wine, I had ZERO complaints about heat on the palate. This is RRV at the top level. Winemaker Theresa Heredia and vineyard manager Kirk Lokka are kicking ass and taking names with these wines. If you get a chance, scoop them up. Your mouth will thank you!

Final note on this bottle, jotted hastily: “Damn. It’s time to go back to Sonoma.”

 

 

#What’s in YOUR glass?

A votre santé!

 

Evening Land 2011 Bourgogne Rouge

28 Sep

My love of pinot noir began with Burgundy and expanded rapidly around the world.

More than ten years ago, I was attending an Oregon regional tasting and had been severely impressed with an Evening Land wine I tasted from the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley. When I found out they were also making wines from Sonoma and Burgundy, I wanted to compare! And compare I did.
I purchased multiple bottles from Evening Land’s label from Chateau de Bligny/Côte de Beaune, Burgundy; several from the Sonoma Coast property, as well as bottles from their Seven Springs Vineyard in Oregon. History reminder:  Evening Land was founded in 2005 by Mark Tarlov, with partners Danny Meyer (Union Square Hospitality Group), the Prieur family (Domaine Jacques Prieur), and the late Dorothy Cann Hamilton, founder and CEO of the International Culinary Center. From their early success, Evening Land Vineyard (ELV) transitioned several members of their team and management as well as vineyards to new owners winemaker Sashi Moorman, and sommelier Rajat Parr around 2012, and the story continues with more accolades and success. 
All those years ago, I had really liked what I tasted from Oregon. I wondered if ELV would have a decidedly New World and Californian approach, or if I’d find the perfect blend of historic winemaking in what is simply a newer region or similar characteristics. I tasted the wines, and understood for myself that the wines have more in common with the classic & historic Burgundian wines I respected: not simply the location on the 45th parallel to the sun, but fertile hillside soils, along with ocean-cooled climates that allow such distinct quality in growing pinot noir and chardonnay. So, I cellared the remaining bottles to see how they would fare with time. After several years, I did another tasting, and they had evolved nicely. On a recent re-stock and review of the cellar, I came across the group of wines and thought, it’s time to review.

Evening Land 2011 Borgogne Rouge (Château de Bligny,  Côte de Nuits-Villages), France. 13% ABV,  original SRP $30/bottle.

Color is bright ruby. The nose is floral and gently performed with red fruit, spice. On the palate, the fruit is still present, cranberry and dark cherry, with secondary notes of vanilla, graphite, and earth on the steely finish.
The age on this wine is perfect for me as a drinker;  presenting a round and lovely nose of floral, spice, and red fruit notes, feminine in first taste, with robust and muscular red fruit and wildflowers.
Drinking this reminds me of driving the 1983 Porsche 928S turbo: a gorgeous sheen of color and flowing, well-blended elements. Stunning linearity in focus, with awesome hidden power.  Perhaps not the prettiest of the line but a shocking, powerful competitor that pulls in front of the leader at the halfway mark and never lets go of the race until it’s won.

The good news? This wine is drinking beautifully right now. So it it’s hiding in YOUR cellar like it was in mine, go head an open that bottle if you feel like it. I’m looking forward to having guests over for a blind comparative pinot tasting and wondering where this might fit in.

All Rights Reserved. Images and Text Copyright 2020, JvB UnCorked. 

 

What’s in YOUR glass?

à votre santé!

Troon Takes Orange Wine to the Next Level

30 Aug

Troon Vineyards 2019 Kubli Bench Amber, Estate Orange Wine; Applegate Valley AVA, OR. 13.3% ABV, MSRP $30/bottle. 

 

 

Kubli Bench Amber is an orange wine from Troon Vineyards, a Demeter BioDynamic, Certified Organic winery in the Applegate Valley AVA, located in the southwestern region of Oregon.  The Kubli Bench Amber is a blend of 74% Riesling, 16% Vermentino, 10% Viognier. This delightful and unusual wine is created much like a red wine: fermented on the skins with significant time spent on the lees while in clay amphorae, then aged in French oak barrels for five months.  The result is a superb, rare, and palate-pleasing delicacy that has to be experienced to be fully understood and appreciated. 

 

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Color is pale orange, aptly named amber. A gentle nose offers a blend of citrus, grapefruit, candied ginger, and a hint of sage. It is quite neutral on the palate with lemon-lime citrus, apricot and pear, with secondary notes of vanilla and herbs. A surprisingly long finish with grapefruit zest and lemon pith keeps the palate fresh and lively. With such solid acidity, it is rare to have a sense of phenolics and tannin with a white wine, providing an unusual mouthfeel and body. 

 

All content Copyright 2020, JvB UnCorked. All Rights Reserved.

 

 The result is a delicious wine with luscious pear and apricot, beautiful acidity and strong tannins. This wine is great by itself but can pair with anything– I started with soft cheese, and paired an entire meal wonderfully from salad to roast vegetables to filet mignon! 

Kubli Bench Amber falls into a rare category for me: “When you don’t expect it, but get blown away by a wine.” It is fascinating, fun, and something I will always want in my cellar. It is an absolute delight, and a total #WineGeekWine

 

Below, a #WMC20 live virtual tasting with Troon’s GM,  Craig Camp, top row, second from left.

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#WIYG? 

 


à votre santé!

Smith Madrone: Blurring the Lines Between Old and New World Wines.

27 Jun

I recently had the opportunity to join in a live tasting of four wines I’d highly enjoyed a year ago. The winery, Smith-Madrone, is one of the best under-the-radar labels you can find. I’m still surprised their prices have not sky-rocketed, but their wines are selling out faster every year and their value is among the highest found in Napa Valley. Here are my thoughts, to share with you- in finding the best wines for you to enjoy daily, or for special occasions. Cheers! –JvB

2016 Smith Madrone Riesling 12.8% ABV, SRP $34/bottle

It is more Alsatian than German in style: superbly dry; with a honeyed nose but dry palate and body. On the palate are green apple, bosc pear, and a solid key lime base layer. Capable of pairing with rich and savory food, this is ideal for Thai, Burmese, sushi and a Spanish gazpacho, but can handle everything from a salad to steak tartare, from carpaccio to mussels, from meringues to chocolate lava cake.

If you ask me for the best rieslings from the USA, it is a very short list. I will offer you Dr. Konstantin Frank from Finger Lakes,  Teutonic from  Willamette Valley, The Columbia Valley collaboration “Eroica” from Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen, and Smith Madrone’s Riesling. That short list is incredibly high praise.

2016 Chardonnay, Napa Spring Mountain District, St Helena, CA. 14.4%ABV, SRP $40/bottle

Pale gold with green tinge, the nose offers apple, lemon pith, and vanilla. On the palate, a beautiful lemon-lime with solid acidity. An excellent mid-palate surpasses the normal California chardonnay default. Designed to be great by itself, and amazing with food. This is brilliant with blue cheese on a whole wheat cracker; I paired it the following night with baked chicken, greens and baked potato, and again the third evening with sashimi. In every instance, the wine excelled and left my palate desiring another glass, another bottle. Bravo. Smith-Madrone Chardonnay is among my top choices in the under $50 chardonnay from Napa.




2015 Smith Madrone Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.3%$ ABV, $52/bottle

A blend of 84% cabernet sauvignon with 16% cabernet franc. The wine shows a ruby color with purple edging, and offers a luxurious nose, expansive with floral and fruit notes, menthol, with a hint of young leather. The palate features black currant, blackberry, forest floor, and fresh herbs. With a fruity, Old World mid-palate, heat lingers gently across the mid and back palate, with a lengthy and complex finish. My next reaction is: “this can pair with almost anything.” Absolutely, unlike some cabs which are really large (some too big in my opinion), this is a medium-sized cabernet that is delicious by itself as well as able to complement food well. As a result, you can drink this start-to-finish with salad to grilled meat to dessert, knowing it can also pair nicely with salmon, soup, and fresh fruit, a task that many cabernets are unable to accomplish. Kudos to the 16% cab franc, a secret popular in France and often ignored in California cabernet.

This wine has a nod to the historic Napa cabernet style, with Old World approach.  Far from the modern California Cab, Smith-Madrone is a rare winery that bridges multiple styles, crafting wines of wide appeal from a singular location and focus.

2016 Smith Madrone Cook’s Flat Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.1%$ ABV, $225/bottle

Having tasted the 2009 and the 2013, the 2016 is poised to be quite popular. The 2016 blend is comprised of 54% cabernet sauvignon and 46% cabernet franc; it is aged 19 months in new French oak barrels.

Featuring an expansive and glamorous nose, the palate experiences intense full fruit: red plum, blackberry, and black plum with a touch of cassis. Secondary and rich savory notes of tobacco, potting soil, aged leather, forest floor and vanilla tantalize the side and top palates, as the luxurious mouthfeel expands and bathes the tongue, offering greater enjoyment. An extended finish on this blend is more than satisfactory- I immediately began formulating food pairing and a wine dinner based around this bottle.

When I contemplate Cook’s Flat Reserve (which one does, with such a lovely glass of wine) this wine is about a winemaker crafting top quality wine for an impassioned enjoyment. What is fascinating about this wine is how delicious, enjoyable, and intense it is in its youth, for a world-class red blend that has Old World styling. For similar styles from Bordeaux, a wine would have to age considerably longer than four years to have any similar balance- but Cook’s Flat Reserve demonstrates great balance and structure along with the ability to age and still retain quality fruit, acidity and tannin. With a decade of age, that intensity evolves into refined structure with even greater complexity- so either youthful or fully aged, you maximize enjoyment with this bottle.

Should you be looking for a top-flight California red blend that speaks of the best of both the Old World and new world in great winemaking, this is the bottle you will want to seek out. Like me, once you’ve had it, you’ll want to have several from each year in your cellar, to age and enjoy, while knowing you can still drink them young for an exceptional experience without having to wait 10-20 years. However, those with patience will reap the benefits.

à votre santé!

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