Archive | February, 2019

#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! 

%d bloggers like this: