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#YouHadMeAtMargaux

3 Nov

Château Des Graviers Margaux, 2014 Red Blend; Arsac, Bordeaux, France. 14%ABV, Around $29/bottle online.

 

Color is deep ruby, while the nose offers a dark and earthy melange of eucalyptus, blackberry, gravel, potting soil, and leather. On the palate: muted black and red fruit- cassis, plum, dark cherry, followed by medium acidity and massive tannins, drying the tongue and curling back the fruit. On the back palate are clay, gravel, rose bush and vanilla. Provides a long and robust finish.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Winemaker Christophe Landry is a fifth generation winemaker and creates a tremendous product that will taste hauntingly familiar if you are a Margaux aficionado (as I am) and you can see why wines like this dot the shelves of my cellar, then disappear far too quickly… I simply seem to not be able to help myself.   And, why, you might ask?

Well. it’s easy to answer:  once opened, the bottle improves over time and proves to be a delicious, lovingly-crafted, old world wine. This is a region and style I adore- but this wine is still a babe, capable of being enjoyed now, but it still has at least five years before hitting its prime. I paired this with red meat on day one the when it was delicious but still slightly tight; then a Comte and a Roqueforte cheese on day two when it had opened fully, and decadently. Yet this is a wine that in five to ten years, the tannins will relax to the ideal complement; hopefully the fruit and acidity will be as well in balance. As tasty as this wine is right now, the question arises:  Will I be able to wait to enjoy this and see if 10 or 15 is the best age? Indeed, that is the question.

“Probably not,” I’m thinking. I’m a sucker for this region, and any of their wines that I deem both delicious and affordable!  This fits into both categories, and drinks quite nicely at a youthful age. I’m in trouble, as I didn’t buy a case when I had the chance (no room in the cellar, the honest truth!)

 

If you didn’t figure it out before…#YouHadMeAtMargaux.

 

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

#WIYG?

 

 

à votre santé!!

Three Finger Jack- the Ideal Halloween Red wine!

30 Oct

It’s fall!

Leaves are falling from the trees in glorious colors. The wind has picked up, the air is cold, in some places, downright frigid. We’re eating heavier meals, celebrating Samhain or el Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) and telling ghost stories. And there’s candy. SOOOOO much candy!

You need a full-bodied, blockbuster of a wine to fit this holiday. Fortunately, I have you covered!

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Delicato Family Wines, Three Finger Jack 2016 East Side Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon,  Lodi, California. 15%ABV, SRP $22/bottle.

 

 

Color is a foreboding dark ruby red, turning black and opaque on the edges. The massive nose is entirely black fruit and pepper. On the palate is mature black fruit: blackberry, black plum, black cherry, and cassis. As the wine opens, secondary notes are added: green and red peppercorn, leather, oak, with subtle hints of mocha, earth, and spice. 

 

 

The wine is named for a legendary California outlaw called Three-Fingered Jack. Jack Dunlop was a train robber who roamed the California foothills during the Gold Rush era, and whose ghost stories are still told today. Jack had a history in the small region of Lodi, California where the grapes come from for this full-bodied cabernet. Bold, brusque, and chaotic- these characteristics fit well to this wine, which goes against the grain, interrupts your train of thought, and rides into the sunset with a long shadow left behind. Fittingly to his demise, the outlaw Three Fingered Jack was buried in Tombstone after dying from a gunshot wound, while our Lodi wine can travel anywhere you want, and will last days after opening while maintaining structure and character to enjoy day after day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

As you see above, Three Finger Jack pairs beautifully with food that has seen the fire- be it flank steak, wood-fired pizza, grilled vegetables, you name it. the powerful fruit character will delight your palate and curl back with rich tannins and decisive acidity. Not surprisingly, this wine is also a great foil for Halloween’s greatest gift (or flaw): chocolate. Trust me, I might have had to taste the candy to make sure the quality we hand out to the neighborhood kids will be up to snuff.
Just have a taste and go back to the wine- you won’t regret it unless you’ve had too much of both.

And don’t get caught in a shootout unless you’re sure you’ll win, ok partner?

 

 

 

 

#WIYG?

à votre santé!!

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

Decibel Wines 2017 Sauvignon Blanc and 2014 Pinot Noir

9 Oct

Decibel 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Crownthorpe Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. 12% ABV; SRP $16/bottle.

Color is pale straw, nose of lemongrass, tarragon and green pepper. On the palate are lime, gooseberry, and kiwi citrus up front, with a green apple on the mid-palate and lemon pith on the back. I paired this with pizza on night one, and sashimi on night two. Delicious, fresh, and fun. Every time I tasted this, I immediately wanted another sip. It’s quite simply that refreshing and delicious!

Don’t take my word for it. Grab a bottle, at these low prices, and let me know what you think!

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

 

Decibel 2014 Martinborough Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, New Zealand. 14%ABV, SRP $35/bottle.

 

Color is a deep ruby with magenta edging. The nose includes aged red fruit, earthen floor, and dried rose petals. On the palate: black cherry, mature red plum, forest floor, dried leaves, and smoke with a hint of bitter fruit compote on the finish. The balance is long and satisfying, demonstrating maturity and depth. I liked this wine at TexSom on a day I tasted over 150 wines, but loved it back at my own home on its own, which was made evident by the near-empty bottle after having “just a taste” with some homemade pasta and finishing it off quickly when paired with a rustic beef stew, wishing I had more. This is a perfectly-aged bottle that is ready to go at age six; none of the green vegetation I was expecting in the under $40 pinot range- this drinks like a $60 wine, which is all you should need to pick up a bottle. Perfect to pair with dinner or enjoy by itself, all the wine needs to do is cross a palate. The wine does ALL the talking!

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Both of these wines offer great QPR and should be sought by wine lovers looking for wines with tremendous value above the price point.

Winemaker Daniel Brennan is a US-born winemaker who fell in love with NZ wines and: my, oh my, does it show! These are deftly crafted and so tasty you’ll wish you’d purchased more bottles.  I have been a Central Otago wine snob for years, but these wines are just gorgeous. Well done! Brennan has made me a fan and at these prices, I’m sure many more will follow.

 

Please feel free to share with me and other readers, not just by email but also below so others can read your thoughts on Brennan’s DECIBEL wines!

 

 

à votre santé!

2016 Aridus Graciano and Syrah from Cochise County, Arizona

31 Aug

Aridus 2016 Graciano,  Cochise County, Arizona. %14.4 ABV,  SRP $37/bottle.

By Jim vanBergen, JvBUnCorked.   All Rights Reserved. Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

Color is an opaque purple center with dark ruby edging. The nose shows black and blue fruit compote, eucalyptus, and a subtle herbal blend. On the palate, blackberry jam, black cherry are dominant fruit, while secondary notes include black pepper, clove, and graphite. On the medium finish are hints of star anise, tobacco leaf, and wet stone. The mouthfeel is moderate and easy; this wine is conveniently ready for food and can stand alone for wine drinkers who like a fuller-bodied red.

 

 

Harvested grapes are from the Alba Vineyard in Cochise County, Wilcox, Arizona; it is pressed in lots that vary from fully destemmed to half destemmed to whole cluster (and then fermented separately) to evoke complex flavor profiles after blending. The Graciano grape, commonly found in Spain, seems to thrive in the sandy soil and heat of Arizona. The moderate mouthfeel means that I hardly notice the high (14.4%) alcohol content, instead the prominent feature of the wine is a fresh, bold fruit profile.

I paired this with tapas dishes (marinated olives, tapenade, then with spicy Mexican beef, and finally with Asian fusion. The bottle lasted several days after opening without significant flavor change, which was a nice bonus.
If you are a red wine lover but don’t know graciano, you should pick up a few bottles to keep in your cellar and have in your pairing repertoire!

 

Aridus 2016 Syrah, Cochise County, Arizona. %15.8ABV,  SRP is $37/bottle.

 

By Jim vanBergen, JvBUnCorked

The color is a deep magenta while the nose demonstrates heat, bright red fruit, and a melange of herbs. On the palate are red cassis and fully ripe red cherry. Notes of heat and stone begin in the front palate and work up and backwards through the expression. As the tongue senses robust tannins, the top palate captures vegetal notes of rosemary and sage, while the back and side palates garner deep earthy flavors of forest floor, dried leather, aged wood and smoke. The finish lasts and shifts; this bottle kept nicely over the course of a week using the ArT argon-based wine preserver.

 

All Rights Reserved. Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.
May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

I paired this wine with grilled meat, but it is also ideal for game or similarly powerful flavors. If you love bold, robust red wines, then this should be on your list.

 

Winemaker Lisa Strid and founders Scott and Joan Dahmer are doing some beautiful work in Arizona, and if you have an opportunity to visit Wilcox, AZ you should most definitely visit their winery! Otherwise, keep an eye out for Ardis wines and pick then up if you have the opportunity. These are unusual wines for the USA and they have a unique position. You might be surprised how much you enjoy Arizona wines!

 

 

All Rights Reserved. Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

à votre santé!

Introducing Le Blanc de Greysac

16 Jun

Le Blanc de Greysac, Chateau Greysac, Medoc, France.12% ABV,  SRP $19/bottle.

 

As summer ripens, my palate yearns for salads, fish, outdoor cooking, and wines with clean acidity and a citrus backbone that will leave me feeling cool and refreshed. So I am happy to turn to sauvignon blanc! Enter Le Blanc de Gresysac,  a brand new release from Jean Guyon, owner of Chateau Greysac, and his first release of a new line, Le Blanc de Greysac, which is 100% sauvignon blanc from 15 year-old vines from his Medoc property in Bordeaux.

Color is medium straw. The nose offers Meyer lemon, lime zest, and a hint of tangerine. On the palate: crisp green apple, citrus, with a backbone of lemon pith, limestone, and clay. The finish is medium long and refreshing. Best served chilled for afternoon drinking, but shows expanse and greater balance as it warms moderately.

At this price point, this is a fun, enjoyable summer wine that is ideal for summer dinner parties or an afternoon by the pool. Easy to pair with white meats, salads, vegetable dishes, and cold gazpacho. I adore this wine with goat cheese crisps but my absolute favorite pairing is with these delightful salmon rillettes!

 

Of course, you can always drink it by itself and just enjoy the summer evening. Life is short, you might as well enjoy it, no? 

à votre santé!

Beat the Heat With high value Spanish Wines!

31 May

When summer begins to swelter, we find ourselves reaching for something to cool off with. Most people go for a light white wine, some people prefer a chilled rosé. But when I toured the Mediterranean and was impressed with how refreshing the wines of Spain can be in the heat!

Spain is covered with grape vines, most of which are quite old. Age means deep vines, which which equates to small grapes with a robust flavor profiles: rich, acidic reds, and delicate, herbaceous whites.

 

Start with Albariño. In several years of tastings, Paco & Lola from Rias Baixas have consistently been in the top picks. There run from under $20 to low $30’s for aged Albariño. The 2012 pictured below, right, is gorgeously concentrated and a stellar aged white for serious oenophiles.

 

The bright polka dots of Paco & Lola are easily distinguished in a wine store. Take a bottle home and tell me if you don’t adore it!

 

 

 

 

Garnacha Blanca (White Grenache) and Verdejo are two wines that are lesser-known in the USA, but extremely popular in Europe. Some of Spain’s finest wines are made from Verdejo, with delicate flavor and beautiful structure.

 

 

Viura-chardonnay blends like the one below from Faustino are easy to find, herbaceous with bright white fruit, tasty in the heat, and easy on the wallet – around $15/bottle.

 

 

Bright, delicious reds like these old vine ’15 Garnacha and 2016 Cariñena (below) are delicious by themselves slightly chilled, and pair with food easily. Believe it or not, they can often be found for under $10/bottle, but drink well compared to other bottles you might find for twice the price.

 

 

Last but not least, you can often find aged Rioja and Gran Reserva wines that are beautifully aged reds, in the $30-70 range. These offer rarity and great age at a tremendous value.

 

 

Try wines from Spain’s Rioja and Cariñena regions this summer- slightly chilled to beat the heat- and let me know how you like them, and what your favorite pairings are!

 

 

à votre santé!

Adventurous summer red: Jura Pinot Noir

20 May

Frédéric Puffeney 2011 Pinot Noir, Arbois Contrôlée, Jura, France. 12.5% ABV; SRP ≃ 9€; Purchased several years ago for $25/bottle.

 

A wine to confuse your senses!

 

Color is a pale, delicate garnet. The nose offers rich, dark notes of eucalyptus, earth, black plum, and dried cranberry. On the palate this wine defies my every expectation: blackberry and cassis, bold tannins on the front palate, massive notes of soil and vegetation across the mid palate. So pastoral and rural in style, it is bound to challenge you, too! The wine confounds my brain with full-bodied notes from a mid-bodied mouthfeel; how I’d love to see how many Somms would match this wine correctly in a blind tasting!

 

 

I had prepared a meal of comfort food for my spouse: Italian bruschetta, chicken teriyaki, steamed broccoli, and a Mediterranean cucumber-tomato salad in balsamic vinegar. The high acidity in the wine would be an easy match; while I feared the dark flavors of the wine would be too much for the lighter fare, I was wrong. The wine played well off the vinegar and tomato from the bruschetta; it calmed and contrasted the teriyaki on the chicken; it felt full against the broccoli, and held well against the salad. This wine has enough oomph and body to pair with steak or even a cold weather stew, but Puffeney himself suggests terrine or cheese- obviously comté is the perfect cheese for any wine from the Jura, but I can attest that goat cheese, a creamy blue, and Dutch gouda all are delightful matches with this unusual-yet-delightful pinot noir.

 

The Jura continues to be a delightful, favorite region to me- what unusual wine region do you love to taste or  collect? Let us know!

WIYG? 

 

à votre santé!

 

Related Articles from JvB UnCorked on the Jura: 

http://bit.ly/FPTrousseau

https://jvbuncorked.com/2016/07/19/now-i-am-alone-puffeney-arbois-vin-jaune-08/

https://jvbuncorked.com/2016/01/13/in-appreciation-jacques-puffeney-winemaker/

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!

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? 

 

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