Archive | April, 2019

Flattery in Wine?

30 Apr

When people make fun of your passions, or when personal and professional interests crossover, it must be a sign your blog is doing something right. Right? A friend of mine texted me today with this gem:


It was funny, in a laughing-at-Sideways kind of moment.
But now I’m suddenly feeling like a glass of merlot!

The above brevity and humor was a welcome guffaw to my work day, and an added bonus after having friends alert me to another year of being listed in the top 100 wine blogs. 

I’m honored, truly. I just want to help people find wines they will love. 

But this makes me think about flattery in general, and the number of winemakers who set out to ride the coattails of a certain wine’s success, or to make the opposite of a style of wine.

I’m thrilled in the trends I’ve been seeing- watching new world winemakers move away from overly-oaked chardonnays and red fruit bombs– although there are some brands that are the epitome of those styles, and are best doing what they do best. But when a grape can show its best, I’d much rather taste the nature of the fruit from the grower and the cultivation mixed with the terroir- this is the purest expression of a great wine to me, and why I am such a fan of single vineyard, single barrel wines. Once you have walked through a vineyard with the grower and winemaker, and understood the choices made from how the land is cared for, how the vines are grafted and trellised, how the canopy is cared for, what the water source is, what the local soil and minerals the roots are feeding from- all these are elements you can appreciate in a fine wine.

But that’s also why I like to drink regional wines with regional food, like the Georgian wines my friend Anatoli Levine, aka Talk-A-Vino, has gotten me interested in. The indigenous Georgian grape, Saperavi, creates an aromatic, full-bodied, high-alcohol wine with powerful tannin and great acidity, that is delicious by itself and really wonderful with Khachapuri, a Georgian cheese bread with an egg baked on top. Look for my review upcoming, on “JvB Hates Merlot”. Just kidding. How could anyone who knows me think I hate merlot? How could any Bordeaux fan hate merlot?

Sorry, let’s save that rant for another time…

 

#WIYG?

à votre santé!

Donkey and Goat at Faro, Brooklyn

24 Apr

“Isabel’s Cuvée” Grenache Gris Rosé 2018 by Donkey & Goat; Mendocino county,  McDowell Valley AVA, California, USA. 12.5% ABV, SRP $28/bottle.

The color is reminiscent of cloudy grapefruit juice. The nose offers rose bush, citrus, and apple blossoms. On the palate are rich apple and pear with strawberry, blood orange, and a lovely acidity. I did not want to put this glass down. From ancient vines planted in 1896 in soil of gravel & sandy loam comes this creamy, spicy delight on the palate. Light with a hint of fruit and spice.

Had Tracey been selling these bottles from the trunk of her car, I would have bought a case right then and there.

But there was much more to taste!

 

 

From left to right: The Bear, Eliza, Gadabout, Isabel’s Cuvée.

 

 

Over the years I have had many readers ask me to review Donkey and Goat  by owners/operators Tracey & Jared Brandt. They are passionate about their fruit and winemaking, working with sustainable, biodynamic, and organic vineyards and using as little intervention as possible. Their wines are unfined and unfiltered, so their cloudiness may take you off-guard. But taste them, and find that you may like what they are doing, and join the crowd to enjoy the luscious flavors of the fruit of their labor!

 

 

 

2017 “Gadabout” White Field Blend by Donkey and Goat; Berkeley, California, USA. 13.2% ABV; Street Price @ $24/bottle.

 

Color is a cloudy pale straw. The nose offers a theme of funk and zippy acidity. On the palate is a citrus punch blend of lemon and lime with peach, pear, and wildflowers. A mid-weight wine with an even and extended finish, I could enjoy this all day long. Yet it manages to pair with savory food; it surprised me by having enough weight to stack up to Faro’s absolutely delicious beef tartare.

 

 

 

One of two ‘starting point wines’,  for Donkey & Goat, The Gadabout features an El Dorado chardonnay which is then blended with picpoul for acidity. To add texture, Tracey says she added first vermentino, and then marsanne to add depth. Where it ends up is a tasty Rhône-style blend with nice body and mid-palate acidity.

 

From left to right: The Bear, Eliza, Gadabout, Isabel’s Cuvée. 

 

I like where this started on my first sip but it opened up more as the evening progressed. I’d be interested to taste this with more air, if I had more to taste. In general, it seems that Donkey and Goat wines will improve with decanting or a great amount of air exposure.

 

 

“Eliza” 2016 Rhône Style Blend by Donkey & Goat; Barsotti Vineyards, El Dorado AVA; California, USA. 12.5% ABV, SRP $47/bottle.

 

Color is a cloudy goldenrod. The nose offers an earthy quality, then exotic floral and jasmine tea notes. On the savory palate is a mix of Golden Delicious apple and Bosc pear with toasted almond, vanilla, lemon zest, honeysuckle and marzipan. Secondary notes include toasted oats, potting soil, and smoke. On the finish are hints of tangerine and apricot. This is a Rhône blend based on the clairette grape, with vermentino, picpoul blanc, grenache blanc, and finally roussanne. This wine is an unusual mixture, aged for ten months in oak, and the deeper one looks, the more layers one finds. Taste, aroma, and weight of the mouthfeel are fascinating the more you consider this wine, but it’s just as easy to simplify and enjoy. Your mileage may vary for street price if you can find it locally- I expect it’s far pricier in NYC than on the west coast. But this is a fun winelover’s bottle!

 

 

If you happen to be a fan of beef tartare, take note: Chef Kevin Adey’s is a must-have!
I’m lucky I was able to stop
devouring this to take a picture at Faro; it was simply that good.

 

 

If I had to get this wine into a single sentence, I’d give it this:
A Rhône-inspired savory blend with awesome acidity: a yummy, geeky wine!! This wine is a tasty gem for regular white drinkers; for oenophiles, this is a really fun glass (or bottle) to enjoy or discuss.

 

Faro’s stunning take on Gnocchi with lamb.

This wine was good with the house bread & butter, awesome with the beef tartare, and delicious with rich lamb gnocchi (see: food porn above). Did I mention Faro’s Michelin Star? Now I have. In short, Chef Adey’s Menu is fascinating, the food is fabulous, and you’ll enjoy yourself immensely!

Getting back to the wine:  Eliza can handle the food! Depending on the price I might not grab more than a few bottles, but it’s absolutely the kind of gift bottle I’d pick up for serious wine drinkers or for a meal where you want a white wine that can stand up to heavy protein. Eliza can do it…ah, you think, “maybe that’s why she’s named ELIZA?”  (Pause. If you don’t get the reference to Shaw/Pygmalion/My Fair Lady, just skip ahead, ok? -Editor)

 

Tracey Brant, Donkey & Goat

 

If you like natural or organic wines, then you owe it to yourself to check out Donkey & Goat. They are harder to find on the east coast, but that’s what wine clubs are for, aren’t they?

 

#WIYG?

 

à votre santé!

 

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!

 

 

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