Volage Crémant de Loire Rosé

10 Apr

Volage: NV Crémant de Loire Rosé, Loire Valley, France. 12%ABV, SRP $29/bottle,

Color is pale coral, with a floral nose. On the palate are strawberry, seashells, and young raspberry. This is superbly dry with a mineral backbone, lovely acidity and a lengthy finish of early red fruit, with a note of sour citrus as a finale.

The short & sweet take away on this is that Volage is a grower rosé crémant, the brainchild and efforts of François-Xavier Chaillou, made at Domaine du Landreau. It has a flavor palate that will please everyone from millennials to established oenophiles, with a street price in the mid-to-high 20’s. Once it hits your glass, you’ll be sold.

This is a rosé of cabernet franc from the Loire Valley. That it’s made by Chaillou should raise your eyebrows. That it’s made at Domaine de Landreau should really peak your interest- that informs the buyer that the cabernet franc grapes  are sustainably farmed, and of a very consistent and high quality.

 

 

I tasted Volage and thought how wonderful it would be at brunch, with savory and sweet dishes to pair. Yet Volage stands alone beautifully, and this is such an easily likable crémant, I could serve at any hour of the day. But it gets harder to make a sparkling that can stand up to serious food- and this wine fires on all cylinders. I tried this at dinner and paired it with first mild, then medium, then spicy flavors (habanero) with vegetables and beef, and it met every challenge I put before it. In the end, I simply wanted more. You will, too.

 

If you like champagne or sparkling wine, you’ll want to try this. If you like cab franc, you’ll want to try this. If you love rosé, you’ll really want to try this. If you are smart… you already get the picture, and this crémant is already on your list.

 

#WhatsInYourGlass?

à votre santé!

What You Learn When Pouring for Others

8 Apr

I love pouring wine for others.

I recently donated several cases of wine to a fundraiser, and in addition to the wine, I poured glasses to the attendees.

They walked up to a wine bar, I asked them what they liked to drink, and then poured them a taste. Sometimes I poured them tastes from a few different bottles until they found something they really liked and wanted to enjoy.

 

I’ve done this on several occasions, and every time I learn more about people and how they respond to wine.

 

An invitation opens the door. If you ask “what do you like to drink” or “what would you like to drink” you get a very different response than “Would you like to taste one of my favorite winemaker’s wines?”, or “How about a quick sip of something delicious?”. That raises and eyebrow and it’s rare that someone turns down a taste of a quality wine.

How People Respond Tells You What they Know. If you ask a guest “What do you like to drink?” you will notice in a flash whether they are comfortable or uncomfortable in answering. They might have to think about the answer. Some people are deft in what they normally drink, others are embarrassed about their comfort wines, or not having one. Others are adventurous. But who doesn’t want a free adventure? Hence the taste. The taste, in my opinion, is key to helping people trust YOUR wine knowledge and learn about theirs.

Offer the taste as they approach. Once someone appreciates what is in their glass, be it an inexpensive, mass-produced bottle that shines or a small-batch, handpicked rarity, you are in the game. My last pouring session I’d say I had 70% of customers locked in on the first taste. A few asked for a second taste and then either went for what tasted best to them, or what was most comfortable. A very small number asked for a third or more tastes, some simply exploring my wares, and a few really not knowing their own palate. At this point, my questions are: “What do you normally like to drink”, and “Do you want to pair this with food, or just enjoy on its own?”

Only about 15% of my customers were real wine lovers who wanted to taste across my bottle selection, enjoying four or more glasses each, both reds, whites, rosé and sparkling. Many of my customers stuck with the same wine all night, the wines I selected for them based on pairing with the menu; with the next largest group started with white and progressed to red with the meal, again asking for my selected wines, and often returning for another glass, telling me how well the wine paired with their food.

Offer what you would drink yourself. It’s not a sales pitch, I really want to help people find wines they will fall in love with, and I want them to taste wines they will really enjoy. So even if I donate the wine, I never skimp on quality.

 

By far, most of the people who tasted the wines I suggested (and poured them a taste) simply loved them. Granted, I poured beautifully made, smaller-batch wines in ideal condition that were chosen to pair with the selected menu. But some folks wanted what they knew or liked- such as a fruit bomb, or a sweet white. But these were the exceptions to the rule. In general, when guests tasted a beautifully aged, decanted Barbaresco that sang on the palate and left it clean and refreshed, or matched both the passed appetizers and the meals, or the perfect Mediterranean style whites from France and Italy that left the palate refreshed, they asked for a glass and came back for more, time and time again.

I love to share wine and help educate consumers. I hope I get to share some wine with you. #WhatsInYourGlass?

à votre santé!

 

 

#WIYG? March, 2019 and #OTBN 2019

18 Mar

 

Here’s a sampling of what’s been in MY glass while I’ve been quiet:

 

A rich and savory old-vine chardonnay from Burgundy: Haut Côtes de Nuits, 2016 from Julien Cruchandeau. 13% ABV. $29/bottle street price.
#wiyg? #wineo #winetasting #winelovers #winestagram #burgundywine #whiteburgundy #wineoclock

 

Getting my #cabfranc and getting #francdup with this Fulkerson red blend of cab, cab franc and noiret.
Delightfully soft and dry, nice smoky cherry, tobacco leaf and toasted vanilla. 12% ABV, Street price $12/bottle. 
I’ve enjoyed the Spanish Tarima Monstastrell, a HUGE QPR with a $9/bottle Street price;  not to be outdone:
this lively and crisp white from Tarima is the essence of Spanish wines, quite a bargain at the $8/bottle price point!
Huge citrus with herbs and white flesh. Awesome tapas or mid-afternoon wine.

Now: check out the color before you scroll down.

What wine do you think this is?

Ready? 
It’s a 1971 Nebbiolo d’Alba. And it drank gorgeously. This was the highlight of 16 bottles opened by a small group in my home for #OTBN (Open that Bottle Night) 
The cork was extracted cleanly using an Ah-So corkscrew. Upon opening, it showed luscious red fruit and great acidity with a luxurious mouthfeel. After 30 minutes, the wine shifted enough that the fruit dissipated so that tannins and acidity were dominant. This was incredibly exciting as it was still an amazing wine, but entirely different than what we’d been tasting previously! The flavors dissipated as we finished the bottle. I believe if we’d aired it 90 minutes and then tasted it would have been nearly undrinkable. It was a great experience, and a wonderful highlight for #OTBN2019!
Well, after that, what can you say?
I’d say we found a few more things to mention…
…Like the 1995 Kistler Russian River Valley Chardonnay that drank like an absolute dream!
That’s correct, a ‘95 @kistlervineyards chard, still showing fruit and acidity. Just stunning and such a joy to have enjoyed with @anatoli.l @dracaenawines @stefschwalb and @drinks.i.drink on #OTBN! #cheers
Not so old, but one of the best values out there in Puligny-Montrachet (unless I keep telling people, perhaps)
you can get is from Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey.
He only makes Le Trézin rarely and when I can find it, I buy what I can afford.
Worried about premature oxidation, it was time to open this bottle from 2013- but no worries!
It drank beautifully, and was such a joy to share!
This ’96 Smith-Haut Lafitte took time to open. I mean more than a day, even after decanting.
But when it finally opened up, it was worth the wait. Monstrously ripe, succulent, and ripe with big black and blue fruit.  
Drinking this is like driving a seatbelt-less 1969 Porsche.
You hold the steering wheel in your hands, and you not only own the road, You ARE the Road! 
Last for this post, but not least…this 1996 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco Reserva. Succulent, savory, this is a wine that is timeless and can pair so gorgeously with eggs, fish, tapas, and all kinds of lighter fare.
You have to taste an aged Rioja blanca at least once in your life.  
And with that…

What is in YOUR glass?

Share your thoughts, your wines, your #OTBN treasures or your dream wines, in the space below!

 

 

à votre santé!

 

Jean Foillard Morgon 2016 “Côte du Py” Beaujolais

6 Mar

Jean Foillard Morgon 2016 “Côte du Py” Beaujolais. 13% ABV, Purchased @ $38/bottle from Crush Wine Co’s advance offer.

 

The color is bright, translucent ruby, while the nose is stunningly floral with ripe cherry blossom, rose bush, and violet. On the palate, bright cherry, strawberry, and sweet raspberry blend with stunning acidity. One sip reminds me why I collect Morgon, why every bottle is a treasure to me. Another sip, the flavors and balance make my eyes close halfway and it puts me on the hills outside Lyon, France. An unmistakable scent of the land, visions of the rolling hills, the low, un-trellissed vines, brown earth dotted with chunks of granite and schist that you remember from tasting in the glass. Small memories bring back larger ones, from the gentle rivers and byways to my first tasting of gamay then an actual Cru Beaujolais, compared to a serious Burgundy– and realizing what the differences and similarities are between these, and what everyone else thinks of: Nouveau Beaujolais. And how vastly different true Beaujolais is!

Getting back into the glass! Behind the fruit and sheer wall of vast acidity is a complex series of notes, hints of forest, leather, and earth hide underneath the fruit with chewy tannins exposed after more air. 

 

I steer myself away from the glass and open a laptop. Pull up the invoice from the seller and hit their online store: Gone. Trying a wide search shows decent amounts of the vintage available, as well as why it is harder and harder to find: scores of 96 from Suckling, and two 95’s from RP’s Wine Advocate and Vinous yet STILL under $40/bottle? Damn. I only bought a couple of bottles on the offer, and opened this tonight thinking I should let the 2013 get another two years to be perfect. THIS wine is going to be simply unbelievable in ten years- but my bottle will never grow that old. I’m too much of a sucker for great Gamay. It will be done in quick time.

I can just hear my friend and fellow wine blogger, Thea Dwelle say, “Well JvB, you should have invested in a Coravin.” You’re right, Thea, but at least I’ll have a few nights to really enjoy this fabulous gamay and empty this bottle, thoroughly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a decade, this wine will be unbelievable. The structure will be stunning, the fruit diminished and gossamer, the feel will be glamourous. But right now, this is a live performance at the Academy Awards: tasting raw emotion, a little terror with lust and joy and expression of starlight and rainbows and darkness and anger all at once. The wine is stunningly lovely, yet raw- just an adolescent full of emotion and SO MUCH TALENT. If you can wait ten years, then wait. If you can’t, you’ll enjoy every single note. A moment of brilliant mouthfeel, and series of unbelievable flavors. Raw beauty, unfiltered, aged vines, showing  intimacy, depth, and what is to come. An entire story shown in a fleeting moment.

 

What’s in YOUR glass?

 

à votre santé!

 

#OTBN 2019: R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco ’96

26 Feb

#OTBN is a wine drinker’s holiday. OTBN (Open That Bottle Night) is a concept created by wine writers/critics Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher  in which you open a bottle with significance or meaning that you have been holding for a special occasion. After years of celebrating with friends electronically, I finally got my act together and invited a small group of industry folks to enjoy together!

With wine, as in life, not everything goes as planned. I broke a cork when we got to the aged reds (this was on bottle 8 or 9 of 16, to be accurate) then I spilled some of the 1996 Smith Haut-Lafitte when decanting it! But the wine I expected to be past is prime wasn’t, and the one I thought that would hold the line, didn’t. Or so I thought.

R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco 1996, Rioja, Spain. 12.5% ABV.  

Made with 90% viura and 10% malvasia grapes, I first tasted this wine at Le Bernadin when one of Aldo Sohm’s wine team suggested it as a pairing for a fish dish served with a saffron-based sauce . Need I mention, it was heavenly? (It was!) I knew Viña Tondonia for their red wines, but the aged white blend was new to me back then, and I quickly sought out a few bottles and tasted one every five years or so. This was my last bottle, and a great choice (or so I thought) for #OTBN.

My mistake on #OTBN was to open this fifth position. We had already tasted stunning wines with powerful fruit and acidity, and this wine showed slightly flat and dull in comparison. I was disappointed. Of course, in retrospect, I did not decant. I should have decanted, and I should have given this bottle more time to air. Because on day 2 of this bottle being open, I tasted it again with tahini and grilled chicken and was very impressed by the flavor profile and thought, “did I simply miss this yesterday?” On day 3 of being open, the nose was present, the acidity and umami notes were right where I had hoped they would be (but weren’t) on opening!

 

 

 

Color is dark gold. Aromas of toasted almonds, sherry, and dried herbs make themselves known over time. On the palate, dried fruit and lavender are dominant with a strong acid backbone. As the wine resolves in the mouth, the savory and umami notes appear, pushing more sherry notes into the nasal passages. This is a wine that is beautiful to pair with lightly cooked fish, fresh salads,  avocado, and mediterranean dishes like eggplant, tahini or hummus, or by itself with a range of cheeses and fresh fruit.  

 

In retrospect, I realize that I had initially not giving the bottle a chance to really show its true colors. I tasted it right away and thought, “Yeah, its Viña Tondonia, but it might be past it’s prime. Maybe it had poor storage before it got to my cellar?”  Well, that’s not the case now. The wine is showing beautifully after a) getting enough air, and b) when my palate is fresh. And I still have another full pour left in the bottle to try tomorrow!

We live, and we learn. Remember that wine is a living, breathing, constantly changing entity.

 

And pour more slowly if you decant through a very fine strainer. Some fine wines require time to express themselves properly.

 

à votre santé!

 

Oh- as for the spilled wine…

I only spilled a half an ounce. But still, it felt like a crime, as this 1996 Smith Haut Lafitte was delicious!
Tonight I drank the last few ounces with grilled steak and was in absolute heaven. 

 

#WIYG? And did you #OTBN? What did you open? 

 

McIntyre Vineyards Chardonnay and Estate Chardonnay, 2016

23 Feb

McIntyre Vineyards 2016 Chardonnay; Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rosa, California. 14.5% ABV, SRP $28/bottle.

Color is medium straw with a nose of sweet pear, and fresh herbs.  Fruit is mixed white flesh with citrus secondary, providing a good sense of mouth-watering tartness to the mouthfeel. An oak influenced wine, the woody notes offering nuance and creaminess without being too overt. 

On the high side of alcohol for a chardonnay, the wine leaves lingering heat across the top and back palate. Good balance, leading to nice complexity. Pleasing to the palate and I paired this bottle well with cheeses, pasta, chicken, and asian cuisine over a week.

 

 

McIntyre Vineyards 2016 Estate Vineyards Chardonnay; Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rosa, California. 13.9% ABV, SRP $38/bottle.

The first sip told me this bottle was right up my alley, and “Estate” for a reason. The color is medium straw with nose of golden delicious apple, bosc pear, and grass cuttings with a touch of vanilla. On the palate is beautiful white fruit, a hint of citrus introducing lovely acidity to the tongue and top palate, and a mineral backbone that follows. Lingering impression left on the palate of pineapple, limestone and loam. 

I paired this with a caesar salad, salmon, and strawberries- and would have liked to try other dishes but it did not last past one tasting + one meal. At this price point, I could drink this regularly, and as a special meal wine. Most importantly, not only did I adore this wine, but it made me want to sit down with owner Steve McIntyre and winemaker Byron Kosuge to chat about their wines and the property: after drinking this, I really wanted to learn more about what they are doing because it’s awesome. This wine tastes more expensive than it is; showing a classical, old-world approach from a nicely young bottle. There is a decisive nod to Burgundian style, but with stunning California fruit. Plus, now I really want to try their pinot noir! That will have to wait until another time.

 

Until then, #WIYG? What’s in YOUR glass?

 

 

à votre santé!

Thacher 2016 Working Holiday: Small batch, big flavor!

18 Feb

Thacher 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 Thacher 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!

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