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Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Gris “Les Princes Abbés” 2014, Vin D’Alsace

31 Jul

 

 

Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Gris “Les Princes Abbés” 2014, Alsace, France. 12.5% ABV, SRP $15/bottle.

 

On a rare day off I was heading out to visit friends at their beach house. Before departing, I looked in the cellar and saw a lovely bottle of pinot gris, an enviable white Alsace wine from the Schlumberger, with some very nice age on it, so I grabbed it and popped it in my bag. That afternoon I pulled it from the fridge, popped it open, and casually poured three glasses.

We swirled, sipped, and tasted. Our eyes opened in surprise; we looked back at one another, excited. Sometimes, the wine is just perfect for the time and place. This is one of those times.

Color is a warm, medium straw. The nose offers fresh orchids, cut wildflowers, lilac and pineapple. On the palate: golden apple plus a huge citrus backbone with lemon zest and luscious acidity. How lovely on this summer day! How can a white wine be five years old, yet taste so fresh? By the third sip, I wished I could find a case of this and hide it somewhere for the future! As the wine warmed, the nose expanded, the floral notes lasted longer and permeated my upper palate.

Pinot gris is not an easy ‘go-to’ grape for many in the USA. As a matter of fact, I find it largely overlooked. But if you tasted this wine, you’d beg for a glass. Whether this was the perfect moment in this bottle’s life or just a perfect moment with this wine, I’ll never know. What I can do is appreciate the moment, the wine, the farmer, and the winemaker who crafted a gem of a bottle.

 

 

Do you drink the wines of Alsace? You’re probably thinking “No, and I’m missing out.” That is SO true.

If you don’t drink Alsace, you really are missing some premium wines that are unlike any other in the world. This is what you’re realizing- you can still find bottles like this, with this kind of maturity, for under $20/bottle. Right now, this wine is listing for $14.99 and $15.99 with a quick web search.

As for the bottle we opened at the beach house? It did not last long. We told a few stories, tasted some cheese and dried meat, and suddenly the bottle was nearly empty! None of us remember more than tasting a couple of ounces- but before I knew it, I divided up the last few drops amongst our glasses and we toasted the next time we friends would be together.

 

à votre santé!

What I Drank in Taipei

16 Apr

When work calls, I go. And sometimes it means that JvBUnCorked hits limbo for a few days. One of my recent ‘limbo’ moments was a trip to Taipei, Taiwan.

Before I left, I reached out on various forms of social media to ask “What should I drink when I’m in Taipei?”

I’d hoped to hear about some wine bars or resources. But the responses were few in number. Some said “drink tea, dummy”, others said that Taiwanese people are much more into whisky. I can confirm this- any restaurant I visited that actually had a wine list, had a much longer whisky list, plus other liquors and various house cocktails. But I DID find some good wine, fellow world travelers, and I’m here to share that with you.

 

But first, I drank tea, and it was simply inspiring. My host took me to the Wistaria Tea House, where we drank four different teas- from classic oolong to an “ancient” oolong, a wistaria tea, and a pu’er tea, along with a classic tea ceremony.

If you go to Taipei, do yourself a favor, and go to Wistaria Tea House. 

 

Later that afternoon,  I found wine! We went to a Taiwanese Dim Sum restaurant called Din Tai Fung, renowned for their steamed dumplings, buns, and Taiwanese-style dishes. If you go to Taiwan, DO NOT MISS Din Tai Fung. Getting back on track we had  just finished lunch and were walking through a mall browsing with friends, when my eye spotted this bottle in a mall wine shop. I loved that the back label is in Cantonese! While I knew the bottle was (over) priced based on tariffs, I also knew this was a good option for a dinner wine to pair with Japanese food.

 

Johan Josef Prüm 2009 Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany. 9% ABV, Normally @ $24 USD/bottle; found in wine store in a mall in Taipei for $1700 TWD = $58 USD.

Color is pale straw. The nose offers starfruit, lemon-lime, and sodium. On the palate, gentle pear and apple are met with hints of gooseberry, grapefruit, and lime zest. An excellent blend of citrus with notes of peppercorn, slate, and limestone, presenting a delicate mouthfeel with aged, linear acidity,  Upon opening, I was initially overwhelmed with petrol and a little funk, which burned off with about 20 minutes of air. Paired perfectly with sashimi, sushi, raw fish, and tempura. 

I was happy to have found this bottle but the 2009, considered an excellent year for Prüm, did not bowl me over. I liked it , but not as much as other vintages I have enjoyed. Still, Prüm, a master winemaker of riesling, is always a joy to taste and was a delightful pairing for me and exciting for the Taiwanese guests at dinner who tasted this, at least one tasting riesling for the very first time.

 


I also liked the fact that the back label is printed in Cantonese; that was a first for me.

 

 

A day later after work, I visited the hotel’s executive lounge, which features both Asian, American, and European style food and drink.

 

The bar featured scotch, vodka, several types of beer, and one each white and red wines. I tried the Heartland Stickleback.

 

Heartland Stickleback White Blend 2012, Southern Australia. 13.5%ABV. Street price $8-12/bottle USD.

 

Pale straw in color with a nose of lemon zest and herbs.  On the palate: pear and starfruit, a hint of tangerine, secondary note of dried apple, with a gentle mouthfeel and moderate acidity. Easy to drink, this was food-friendly and popular in the lounge, pairing nicely with fresh cut fruit, cheese, and dried meats. Not enough acid for the zip I  prefer if you want to drink the wine by itself, but a perfectly fine vin du table on a daily basis, especially in the lower price range.

 


 

 

 

My last evening in Taipei, we went to a Szechuan Restaurant that is known for Peking Duck served three ways. But we started off with cod in spicy pepper sauce, green beans, black fungus (mushroom), whole fish in garlic sauce, prawn with chili sauce, and more. My host asked me to choose a wine, but I pulled a classic JvB and asked for two. I went with Champagne, and an Italian red blend…. because, the food, the food, the food! SO TASTY!

 

Jacquesson “Cuvée 740” Extra Brut Champagne; 12% ABV; around $60/bottle USD.

Beautiful lemon-lime zest, sweet apple, white peach, brioche and chalky limestone. A nice balance of fruit, acidity, and mouthfeel; medium sized bubbles bathe the palate while the acid screams for another sip. The grapes in this champagne ( a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier) were harvested in 2012, and it was disgorged in 2017. With a supple mousse, it is easy to down the entire glass- this non-vintage wine is drinking very nicely right now, as if it were a vintage champagne.  This sells in the restaurant for $2800 TWD, about $95 USD- it retails for about $60 in stores in the USA. I found this to be an excellent mid-level champagne, low dosage, perfect for aging, but really ideal for drinking. And enjoy it, we did! This was superb in pairing with the seafood, vegetables, and white meat dishes. it did not last for long, and I will look for it again in the USA!

 


 

 

Last but not least, was a beautiful red wine!

 

Rocca Di Frassinello “Le Sughere” 2012, Maremma Toscana. 14%ABV, SRP $32/bottle in the USA.

 

Dark ruby in color. The nose offers licorice and red fruit. On the palate: cherries, red plum, and dried cranberry. Secondary notes of tobacco, dank forest floor, wet leaves, potting soil. On the finish: toasted oak, a hint of vanilla, and granite. Medium body, with a medium-length finish. My first impression is that this tastes like a classic European field blend: Sangiovese, Merlot, & Cabernet, and was a good foil to the main dishes at the Szechuan Dinner: Peking Duck three ways and stinky tofu, (which had a subtle scent of manure about it) a traditional dish that visitors should try, but one that takes a little getting used to. This wine is probably best with grilled meats, and was a touch strong for some of the Szechuan dishes but is a good choice for a red wine in Asia, with enough body and flexible flavors to handle the savory dishes. It was simply perfect with the Peking duck.

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, I truly enjoyed the many flavors and restaurants we visited in Taipei, and look forward to the continued evolution of wine in Taiwan. I hope to go back, and report on more wine and food!

Gān Bēi!

or…

à votre santé!

 

 

Dopff & Irion Grand Cru Vorbourg 2009 Pinot Gris

28 Jun

Dopff & Irion Grand Cru Vorbourg 2009 Pinot Gris by Chateau de Riquewihr; AOC Alsace, Riquewihr, France. 14.5% ABV, MSRP $30/bottle.

Color is clear, golden sunshine. The nose offers grilled pineapple, toasted almond, and clover honey. A complex palate features mature Anjou pear, citrus,  honeysuckle, limestone and clay. An initial note of honey hits the palate early and disappears, secondary notes of sweet lime zest, marzipan, and minerals linger behind with a touch of heat across the top palate, a result of the higher alcohol on this wine. Refrigerated after opening, this bottle showed consistent notes with little shift in profile over five days. FIVE DAYS!  The gentle age on this is impressive, and the wine tastes capable of aging for another half century for those who would cellar properly.

 

Make no mistake, this is a wine that I’d be so happy to sit in the backyard and drink all afternoon long while chatting up my neighbors, but the hidden power here is in food pairing. There is plenty of acidity to drink this alongside raw fish, crudo and vegetables, as a matter of fact, I think this wine would be extraordinary for sashimi pairings. In the realm of cooked fowl, fish, salads, and vegetarian dishes, this pinot gris is ideal; while also capable of handling exotic flavors- Chinese and Japanese cuisine, Thai, Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Peruvian foods.

 

 

This bottle offers history and respect before you even consider popping the cork: it is a Grand Cru wine from ancient soils and an insanely dry climate, that consequently provides complex, direct, and mineral expression. But open and enjoy it, and that thought automatically gains weight. The fact that I can purchase this for $30 is mind-blowing, compared to how hard I have to work to find a chardonnay at the same price point that is this wine’s equal, when I could easily count off chardonnays at double the price that could handle the job.

And why do we reach for Alsace wines when the weather is warmer? There’s really no question as far as how refreshing and expressive the wines are. But why we don’t automatically drink them all year long really mystifies me, perhaps it is how well I enjoy pairing Alsatian wines with food that is closer to the equator. The more I ponder it, the less it makes sense, as in Strasbourg I recall the cabbage, white sausages, tarte a l’oignon, meat pies and hearty casseroles served with these delightful white wines.   I will challenge myself to return to these during the brittle cold of winter and try tasting them again! I expect a similar level of pleasure, but I will have to wait and see if that is true.

This is a bottle worth picking up and enjoying, whether you drink it alone or pair it with food. Then you’ll consider when to pick up more and when to enjoy it next.

 

I need to hear from you, Dear readers! What do YOU like to pair with your wines from Alsace? Let me know! 

 

à votre santé!

 

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