Thatcher 2016 Working Holiday: Small batch, big flavor!

18 Feb

Thatcher Vineyard 2016 “Working Holiday”; Cass Vineyard, Geneseo District; Paso Robles, CA. 13.4%ABV, SRP $28/bottle. Stelvin closure.

Color is an opaque, deep ruby with a nose of mixed fruit, showing black currants, blue plum, and mature raspberry. On the palate, a tasty blend of dark blue plum leads to blackberries and a secondary melange of spice notes: thyme, white pepper, and cut greens. Medium bodied yet with full-flavor, this wine exhibits a nice acidic backbone and a solid tannic baseline. A classic Rhône-inspired  GSM with lovely Central-Coast fruit, subtle use of oak, and a real sense of “holiday” that the name implies.

 

 

A blend of 47% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 23% Mourvedre, the wine stayed consistant over the course of several days while I paired this, enjoying it at every turn with Italian pasta, a Mediterranean chicken dish, and braised red meat. This is a small (248 case) production from a talented winemaker- a classic wine approach with what tastes like a blend of modern and ancient techniques. I’ll keep an eye out to find more wines like this from Thatcher and more from Paso Robles. You should do the same, as this is a solid wine that delivers robustly, and promises more in the future.

 

 

What’s in YOUR glass? 

à votre santé!

Outset Sparkling Wine & Blueberry Tea!

13 Feb


Outset Sparkling Wine, Genesis Wine Group, Between the Lines Winery, Niagara-On-the-Lake, ON

Vidal grapes, sparkling wine 10% ABV, 250ml, $5/CAN.

 

Why did I think this one would be better? It tastes like someone spilled a splash of ginger ale in your sauvignon blanc.
OK, that’s harsh, but I actually liked it. The entire time I was drinking this wine in a can, I enjoyed it.

It’s way better than a warm beer. There’s a hint of citrus. A tiny note of spice. (Ginger. She was spicy, right? She just wasn’t a Spice Girl…. let’s see:  Sporty Spice, Scary Spice, Kinky Spice, & Trashy Spice? I’m missing someone.)

Maybe it’s that real wine makes me feel like an adult with a palate, and this goes down like a wasted twenty-year-old who doesn’t know what they are doing. But you remember that person, and you adored them for trying so hard. And you brought them to a party the next weekend and let them try again afterwards.

This is a guilty pleasure wine. I could drink four of these while playing a game of golf, or lounging by the pool. Or while fishing off the coast of Miami, the beer was NOT helpful then, I can sadly confirm. This Outset would have been great.

This is another wine in the can that I can stand behind. At the right time, in the right place, this is awesome. 
There’s a time and place for everything. This was one of those things that happened in Canada.

 

Speaking of things that happened in Canada, have you ever heard of Blueberry Tea?

I had not, until I went with friends for a Sunday Brunch in Canada and saw on the menu, ‘blueberry tea’. This should be Ceylon orange pekoe (but mine was English Breakfast, who knew?) in a tea pot. And served alongside that teapot is a snifter with half Amaretto and half Grand Marnier (three quarters or an ounce of each)to be  blended with the tea, and garnished with an orange peel. Mix to your own delight. When you drink it, it tastes reminiscent of blueberries and is highly warm and inviting. With a little help from the interwebs, a slew of variant recipes pops up but the key points are the same. Orange pekoe tea with Amaretto and Orange liqueur. BOOM. Delicious, and made me want more, more more, as the Billy Idol song went.  More of the booze, more tea, more everything. Please, sir… I want some MORE!

(Above) The “before” picture. 

(Below) The “after” picture. 

It’s too good, if you’ve not had it before.

 

What’s in YOUR glass? Are you taking risks, and getting out of your comfort zone? I certainly hope so, for life is too short to the same wine (even the best wine) every day. 

à votre santé!

Hidden Bench Fumé Blanc 2016 (organic, Canada!)

4 Feb

Hidden Bench Fumé Blanc 2016, Rosomel Vineyard, Beamsville Bench VQA, Ontario, Canada.   13% ABV, SRP $29.95/bottle.

 

Medium straw in color with a nose of lemon rind and a hint of chalk. On the palate, granny apple is the dominant fruit with a citrus-driven acidity crossing the top and back palate, followed by notes of toasted vanilla and flint. Bright, fresh, crisp, and delightful.

 

I normally prefer chablis, champagne, or muscadet with my oysters. But I asked the server what had a strong, linear acidity and was sold by the glass. He poured me a taste, and then told me, “this one’s local”. That hit me. A local Canadian wine that tasted like this? I was in! Maybe a standard sauvignon blanc would not have has the same impact, but this, my friends, is fumé blanc: a dry, oak-aged sauvignon blanc, a style made famous by Robert Mondavi in the late 1960’s. In that very same style: old world grape, new world approach in their winemaking.

Ready to take it to the next level? This is a certified organic sauvignon blanc that is hand-harvested and sorted, aged first for ten months in stainless steel, and then another eight months in oak.

This fumé blanc was a really nice match for a dozen raw.

 

Rodney’s has product of such high quality that there is no need to load up your oyster with hot sauce or mignonette. You can choose your crab or lobsters in the tanks in the lobby! Plus, Rodney flies in the freshest oysters from their own farms here in Canada and from across North America. Not to be ignored, the shuckers working behind the bar are tremendous! They pick great quality product, shuck with care, and arrange beautifully with fresh horseradish. I suggest a tiny squeeze of lemon, and the brine of the oyster itself. The insider’s tip is to ask for “shucker’s choice” for your oysters, and as the plate arrives, they’ll tell you what each group is and where they hail from. If you choose the right wine, you’ll be in heaven, every time.

Oh, did I mention they have a really nice wine list, including some lovely champagne? Well, they do.
And that’s why it’s my favorite place to visit in Toronto, hands down.

 

à votre santé! 

Girlan 2017 Lagrein

27 Jan

While working in Canada, I visited an Italian eatery that looked warm and inviting. I sat down at the bar and looked at the wine list. I felt flummoxed when I noticed they sell a lagrein wine by the glass. I thought just one thing: I AM IN! 

Girlan Lagrein 2017, Süditirol, Alto Adige DOC, Italy.  
13% ABV, Approx $12/bottle street price.  

 

The color is ruby to medium purple. The nose offers sweet cherry. licorice, and violets. The palate is comprised of strong black fruit: black cherry and black plum, with a full mouthfeel and medium-to-full body. Secondary notes include leather, bramble, with continued cherry, a touch of sand, a hint of bitter herb and potting soil on the finish. Overall, I found this quite pleasing on the palate. 

 

This lagrein was a little heavier in body and had less acidity than I expected, but had very smooth tannins that will allow it to pair easily with a wide variety of food. I paired this wine with an arugula salad with oyster mushrooms baked in bread crumbs and parmesan- savory and rich, the arugula’s bitterness brought out a touch of bitter in the wine’s finish that I hadn’t paid attention to previously, but that blended nicely. The lagrein was a bit much for the sweetness of an extra virgin olive oil served with freshly baked bread, but was a terrific foil to spicy, marinated red peppers. 

 

 

Is this table wine really only $12/bottle? In the restaurant I paid $12 CAD for a five-ounce glass, which put this as the second-lowest of the six red wines served by the glass. Either way, it was a valid QPR.  

I’m already a fan of the lagrein grape, but I’ve never seen one offered by the glass in a restaurant outside of Italy. I was quite excited to see it, and the bartender said it was quite popular. I saw several bottles opened and served while I dined, backing up his claim. What a nice option that I’d like to serve in my home; I’ll be looking for Girlan wines in my local wine stores- if you like Italian reds, you know lagrein or not, I suggest you do the same! 

 

 

If you’re interested in looking at more information from this producer, here’s a link: www.girlan.it


à votre santé!

Barton Family Wines “Holiday” 2017

10 Jan

Barton Family Wines “Holiday”,  Clairette Blanche 2017, Willow Creek District, Paso Robles, CA. 13.4% ABV, SRP $32/bottle. Sample provided.

Color is clear, medium straw. The nose offers citrus and baked apple. On the palate, a gentle combination of lemon and lime zest lead into white fleshy fruit. A savory component of toasted almond follows up with a supple and full mouthfeel, quite mellow and relaxed. A pure finish, echoing with a hint of lemon pith. It is pleasing and round in mouthfeel, both satisfying and inspiring to a warm afternoon.

 

 

This is a delicate bottle that is ideal for wine-lovers who gravitate towards pinot gris or pinot grigio, but with slightly fuller body and a less floral nose. I paired this easily with baked pasta, chicken, pizza, and soft-rind cheeses over the course of a week, enjoying the gentle aroma and flavor profile.

Often known as a blending grape in Rhône white wines, clairette blanche is a grape that is known for being high in alcohol and low in acidity. It has become increasingly popular as a single variety wine in California especially, and is adored as a wine that is delicate in aroma and fruit profile.

 

 

Barton Family winemaker Ryan Pease presses the Willow Creek fruit in whole clusters and ferments the clairette blanche in stainless steel, then ages the wine for three months in neutral French oak on the lees, stirring monthly. Only four barrels were made in 2017!

 

à votre santé!

Domaine Ostertag 2016 Les Jardins Pinot Noir, Vin D’Alsace

28 Dec

Domaine Ostertag 2016 Les Jardins Pinot Noir, Alsace, France. 12.5% ABV, SRP $27/bottle (sample).

Color is ruby with magenta edging, slightly opaque from no filtration. The nose is a blend of red fruit: black cherry with plum and a hint of young raspberry. Aromas of eucalyptus and gravel entice the first sip. On the palate: black and red cherry battle for the forefront, strong clay influence is secondary. followed by notes of brettanomyces and smoky dust. A long, lingering finish atop a column of red fruit: exquisite with defined tannins, showing refinement and balance in the structure, and leaving a strong send of appreciation in the wake.

This is a #winelover’s wine; a geeky wine delight; an oenophile’s treasure.

 

In spite of wanting to savor the aromas of this wine slowly for a week, instead I paired the bottle nicely with roast turkey breast, Japanese sashimi, and orrichette with broccoli rabe over several days. The mixture maintained solid structure and linearity throughout from simply re-corking and refrigeration.

 

If you like the unusual pinot that screams of terroir and shows character in biodynamic and organic approach, this is an excellent wine for you!  It will complement and pair to your heart’s content while having a unique attitude and position- unlike other pinot noirs you have tasted and forgotten. Once you have spent some time with the wines, Vin D’Alsace will never let you go entirely.

You’ll be hash tagging #DrinkAlsace before you know it.

#DrinkAlsace

à votre santé!

Lucas & Lewellen

26 Dec

Lucas & Lewellen Estate Vineyards 2017 Sauvignon Blanc; Santa Barbara County, Buellton, CA. 13.9% ABV, SRP $18/bottle.

 

Color is pale straw; the nose shows lemon and grapefruit with a hint of salty sea air. On the palate this is a textbook Central Coast California sauvignon blanc with citrus up front: pineapple and lemon-lime, crisp apple and young pear with a medium short finish of lemon zest. 

 

I paired this over a series of evenings one week with baked cod, chicken, and a quiche- each meal demonstrating that the pairing was solid, bringing out elements in the food that might have been understated otherwise. Straightforward and to the point, this is a sauvignon blanc that shoots right down the line and stays the course. A twist-off top makes it easy to chill and re-open for several nights if it lasts that long. Poured among a few friends, this bottle would empty quite quickly, it’s so easy to drink and refreshing to enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucas & Lewellen Estate Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir; Santa Barbara County, Buellton, CA. 14.1% ABV; SRP $20/bottle.

 

Medium ruby in color with a nose of bright red cherry and strawberry. The palate reflects the nose with red fruit up front: cranberry, strawberry and cherries with secondary notes of toasted oak, sodium, silt and sandy loam. Fruit is from Santa Maria and Los Alamos Valleys, and matured for 10 months on the lees in oak, maintaining a neutral balance so the fruit stays the focus. 

 

Pairings worked easily with lamb, Indian curry, Asian stir-fry, Washington State salmon, and a range of European cheeses. Plenty of acidity and fruit was maintained over the course of a week of tasting notes and the wine stayed fresh using a RePour replacement cork.

Winemaker Megan McGrath Gates is crafting these wines as straightforward and classic example of what Central Coast fruit offers, straight and simple, with sustainable farming, taking the time to harvest by hand. For readers who are looking for a textbook example of sustainable California Pinot and Sauvignon Blanc wines at a daily drinking cost, you can point them straight to Lucas and Lewellen;  LLWine.com.

 

à votre santé!

Wine Gifts for the Holidays 2018

16 Dec

Last year’s End of Year Gift Guide got a ton of responses. Maybe it was because I made video reviews of several products, or maybe it was because people liked what I suggested for 2017. Well, 2018 had me on the road for so many days that I turned down several products when asked to review them,  but never fear! I still have a bunch of great, NEW wine gifts for you. (although you could also choose suggestions from last year)!
These are products that I either use daily, or have used, and stand behind- but have NO association with any the companies. I simply suggest what works for me, and products that I think other wine lovers will like.
(Image Links below will take you to an Amazon product page for your ease of ordering!)

 

Champagne Stoppers!

Because we all should drink more sparkling, but shouldn’t have to finish the bottle. The more sparkling I drink, the more I need these. I started purchasing the inexpensive plastic ones that had a winery’s name on them, and realized that I NEED more of these in my life, so why wouldn’t you?

My two favorites that are easy to find (hello, Amazon!) are:
Madeline Puckette’s Wine Folly Champagne Closure, ($12.99), a classic, professional looking-closure designed for traditional champagne bottles, and will keep them fizzy for days after opening!


The Sapore Champagne Stopper ($6.52). A plastic cap with legs that fold under the rim of the bottle. So simple, why didn’t we have these before now?

 

 

Because a) they are so inexpensive AND b) champagne/sparkling wine bottles do vary in size, I went ahead and bought both of these for my parents, so they have options!

 

GLASSWARE!

The Govino Dishwasher safe stemless wine/cocktail glass ($14.36, set of Four 12 oz glasses). Let me be direct: this became my daily drinkware several years ago. I love stemless glasses but my crystal ones are massive, hard to clean, and delicate, so I don’t want to take them outside. But I like being able to take a wine glass in and out- who doesn’t like to drink outside? In my neighborhood, we grill, catch up with neighbors, have a glass of wine, listen to nearby concerts from Forest Hills Stadium that drift over, and watch the sunset in the backyard. And we love to hang out at the end of the business day on the front stoop, and welcome home late-arriving neighbors who would like to taste a glass of whatever we’re tasting. These are, quite simply, ideal for every day use.

Govino:  It’s easy, it’s inexpensive, and safe. I’ve dropped many of them, and broken zero. I’ve only mis-shapen some of the earlier designs that weren’t dishwasher safe with water that was too hot. So now we have an improved version!
If you like a bigger glass, there’s also a 16 oz version. I prefer the 12 oz because it’s perfect whether I’m drinking seltzer, tasting wine, or having a splash of spirits. (The success of Govino has introduced similar champagne flutes, pint glasses, and whisky glasses!) I should also admit, it’s hands down the best portable wine glass to carry with you. I have a group of friends who have a weekly game night, and whenever I join them, there’s a Govino glass in my bag! When I visit my friend’s beach house in the summer, I bring a mixed case of wine, my openers, a Govino decanter, and Govino set of glasses.

 

 

WINE PRESERVERS!

Repour Wine Saver: (4 for $9, 19 for $18) Designed & fabricated by a chemist, these are single-use cork replacements that stopper the neck of the bottle and absorb the oxygen inside the bottle, allowing it to last longer! What a cool idea, and they REALLY WORK! Repour started via Kickstarter and then had a ground-up movement from within the wine industry, which has brought the cost down for general consumers, to a point where they are quite inexpensive. If you try one, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to find these and start using them. It doesn’t get much simpler than this.

 

 

Coravin, Model 2.  ($300 and up.) The best tool in a sommelier’s “by the glass” sales program. Expensive, yes. But this is THE way to drink and preserve older wine you want to drink in small amounts, and Model 2 features significant improvements over the original model. The Coravin pressurizes the bottle with argon as it removes wine from the bottle by inserting a syringe through the cork, which re-heals after the syringe is removed. It allows your wine to continue to age without exposure to oxygen, so you could pour yourself an ounce of that Latour or Petrus every night for a month, or once a month for several years, if you prefer.

 

 

 

If you really, ABSOLUTELY are looking for a specific bottle of wine as a gift and MUST have my opinion, email me directly with as much information about your recipient as you have and your ideal wine budget, and I’ll do my best to give you a great suggestion! 

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS !

à votre santé!

Macari from Long Island; Lapandéry from Loire!

16 Dec

Macari 2015 Estate Chardonnay, Mattituck, Long Island, NY. 13.5% ABV, SRP $22/Bottle (Sample)

Color is medium straw. The nose offers Bosc pear, Granny Smith apple, and white flowers. The palate features rich and savory soft white fruit with brioche, from a lengthy time spent on the lees. The end result is a luscious and creamy chardonnay with a medium body and satisfying mouthfeel.

Every time I find a delightful Long Island wine, I imagine where blind tasters would think the wine is from. I never think the wine is from Long Island, which means I’m still coming to terms with the quality wines from the North Coast of Long Island and have more to learn! So: I enjoyed this wine by itself and accompanying soft cheeses, then over the course of four meals with Italian, Mexican, Chinese, and American cuisine basically, anything I put near it fared well! This is another North Fork of Long Island wine to put on the list and keep in mind for both a) quality winemaking and b) a fine example of what Long Island has to offer!

 

 

Francisque Lapandéry Blanc Vin, Récolté à la main; Saint-Haon-le-Vieux, France. 12% ABV, Purchased for $19/bottle from Garagiste.

 

Color is medium straw with a hint of pink!  (Really- see the image below!) The nose is heavy of citrus: lemon-lime zest, followed by lemongrass. On the palate, this sauvignon blanc is clean and crisp, linear with a stony, granite minerality on the lip-smacking finish. I could drink this all afternoon.

I wish there was more information on this wine beyond the region being Northwest of Lyon, and that the grapes are hand-harvested & de-stemmed before crush. But it is a lovely bottle of wine to enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

 

#WIYG?

à votre santé!

 

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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