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Smith Madrone: Blurring the Lines Between Old and New World Wines.

27 Jun

I recently had the opportunity to join in a live tasting of four wines I’d highly enjoyed a year ago. The winery, Smith-Madrone, is one of the best under-the-radar labels you can find. I’m still surprised their prices have not sky-rocketed, but their wines are selling out faster every year and their value is among the highest found in Napa Valley. Here are my thoughts, to share with you- in finding the best wines for you to enjoy daily, or for special occasions. Cheers! –JvB

2016 Smith Madrone Riesling 12.8% ABV, SRP $34/bottle

It is more Alsatian than German in style: superbly dry; with a honeyed nose but dry palate and body. On the palate are green apple, bosc pear, and a solid key lime base layer. Capable of pairing with rich and savory food, this is ideal for Thai, Burmese, sushi and a Spanish gazpacho, but can handle everything from a salad to steak tartare, from carpaccio to mussels, from meringues to chocolate lava cake.

If you ask me for the best rieslings from the USA, it is a very short list. I will offer you Dr. Konstantin Frank from Finger Lakes,  Teutonic from  Willamette Valley, The Columbia Valley collaboration “Eroica” from Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen, and Smith Madrone’s Riesling. That short list is incredibly high praise.

2016 Chardonnay, Napa Spring Mountain District, St Helena, CA. 14.4%ABV, SRP $40/bottle

Pale gold with green tinge, the nose offers apple, lemon pith, and vanilla. On the palate, a beautiful lemon-lime with solid acidity. An excellent mid-palate surpasses the normal California chardonnay default. Designed to be great by itself, and amazing with food. This is brilliant with blue cheese on a whole wheat cracker; I paired it the following night with baked chicken, greens and baked potato, and again the third evening with sashimi. In every instance, the wine excelled and left my palate desiring another glass, another bottle. Bravo. Smith-Madrone Chardonnay is among my top choices in the under $50 chardonnay from Napa.




2015 Smith Madrone Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.3%$ ABV, $52/bottle

A blend of 84% cabernet sauvignon with 16% cabernet franc. The wine shows a ruby color with purple edging, and offers a luxurious nose, expansive with floral and fruit notes, menthol, with a hint of young leather. The palate features black currant, blackberry, forest floor, and fresh herbs. With a fruity, Old World mid-palate, heat lingers gently across the mid and back palate, with a lengthy and complex finish. My next reaction is: “this can pair with almost anything.” Absolutely, unlike some cabs which are really large (some too big in my opinion), this is a medium-sized cabernet that is delicious by itself as well as able to complement food well. As a result, you can drink this start-to-finish with salad to grilled meat to dessert, knowing it can also pair nicely with salmon, soup, and fresh fruit, a task that many cabernets are unable to accomplish. Kudos to the 16% cab franc, a secret popular in France and often ignored in California cabernet.

This wine has a nod to the historic Napa cabernet style, with Old World approach.  Far from the modern California Cab, Smith-Madrone is a rare winery that bridges multiple styles, crafting wines of wide appeal from a singular location and focus.

2016 Smith Madrone Cook’s Flat Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.1%$ ABV, $225/bottle

Having tasted the 2009 and the 2013, the 2016 is poised to be quite popular. The 2016 blend is comprised of 54% cabernet sauvignon and 46% cabernet franc; it is aged 19 months in new French oak barrels.

Featuring an expansive and glamorous nose, the palate experiences intense full fruit: red plum, blackberry, and black plum with a touch of cassis. Secondary and rich savory notes of tobacco, potting soil, aged leather, forest floor and vanilla tantalize the side and top palates, as the luxurious mouthfeel expands and bathes the tongue, offering greater enjoyment. An extended finish on this blend is more than satisfactory- I immediately began formulating food pairing and a wine dinner based around this bottle.

When I contemplate Cook’s Flat Reserve (which one does, with such a lovely glass of wine) this wine is about a winemaker crafting top quality wine for an impassioned enjoyment. What is fascinating about this wine is how delicious, enjoyable, and intense it is in its youth, for a world-class red blend that has Old World styling. For similar styles from Bordeaux, a wine would have to age considerably longer than four years to have any similar balance- but Cook’s Flat Reserve demonstrates great balance and structure along with the ability to age and still retain quality fruit, acidity and tannin. With a decade of age, that intensity evolves into refined structure with even greater complexity- so either youthful or fully aged, you maximize enjoyment with this bottle.

Should you be looking for a top-flight California red blend that speaks of the best of both the Old World and new world in great winemaking, this is the bottle you will want to seek out. Like me, once you’ve had it, you’ll want to have several from each year in your cellar, to age and enjoy, while knowing you can still drink them young for an exceptional experience without having to wait 10-20 years. However, those with patience will reap the benefits.

à votre santé!

My Pandemic: Acquiesce Bourboulenc, Domaine du Bouscat, Sunier Fleurie

29 Mar

The 2020 Pandemic of COVID-19 has left people feeling both isolated and depressed. One of the best things I found in the second week of isolation was groups of friends who would get together on line, have drinks, and talk about their feelings:  what they are experiencing, be it isolation and depression, simply how they were surviving, or just what happened to be in their glass.

Say no more, I was IN!  Here was an opportunity to simply pull from my cellar and grab something my palate was asking for, to see some friendly faces and say hi! So here we go!  

 

 

Domaine du Bouscat, Caduce Bordeaux Supérieur 2012. 13.5% ABV, SRP $15/bottle. 

Deep garnet with purple edging, the nose is rich and foreboding. The palate is full of dark red and black fruit, heavy on the black currants, with mellowing tannin, and solid acidity. Secondary notes are of eucalyptus, forest floor, pipe tobacco, and granite. This is the last bottle of a case I purchased years ago; each bottle has been an excellent bargain and what a pleasure to enjoy it over the last half-decade. I paired this with red meat, grilled asparagus, baked cauliflower, and gouda cheese over the course of five days and the wine evolved into a more aromatic, less tannic, gentle view of Bordeaux. Either way, it was delicious and fun to finish up this case of wine that had become a trusted friend. 

 

All content: copyright 2020, JvB UnCorked. All Rights Reserved. 

 

2018 Bourboulenc, Acquiesce Winery, Lodi, CA. 13.5% ABV, SRP $28/bottle.

Pale gold in color, the nose offers honey, apricot, and a hint of geranium. On the palate is a beautiful fruit compote of pear, orange, green apple and honeysuckle. Supple acidity swirls across the top palate with a lovely lemon zest finish. I paired this on two evenings with turkey cutlet and whole wheat pasta, the wine is so flavorful and luscious, while maintaining a gentle, restrained, and crisp flavor profile. This is a wine that I pour and my guests simply ask for more, more, and more. You will do the same, and will feel lucky to have found a great resource for this rare Rhône varietal in Lodi, California. 

 

 

 

Julien Sunier 2018 Fleurie, Gamay, Beaujolais, France. 12% ABV, $29/bottle from Crush Wine & Spirits 

Those who are lovers of Burgundy are often fans of Cru Beaujolais. I am one of these people! Those who seek the exquisite, top end of the gamay grape are rewarded by passionate, expert winemakers who craft their small plots into wines of perfection. This is a perfect example: the 2016 vintage was ravaged by hail. The grapes suffered, harvests were smaller, but flavors soared. I opened this bottle last night, and could not stop tasting. The wine is classically pale ruby with a glamorous and perfumed nose, while flavors explode off the palate. Sour cherry, red currants, red plum, a hint of young strawberry lead into a beautiful acidity, with soaring minerality. Everything feels slightly larger than life, and for the wine lover, that means you will want glass after glass, bottle after bottle. Believe me, if you love the high-end gamay, you will adore this wine. Sunier is a winemaker’s winemaker; this is a geeky glass of wine heaven. My only regret on this wine is simply having not purchased more. 

 

 

All content: copyright 2020, JvB UnCorked. All Rights Reserved. 

 

 

What’s in your glass? 

 

à votre santé!

 

Valentine’s Bordeaux, 2020

14 Feb

When I first started this blog, I was mainly writing about my favorite wines from France: Bordeaux, and Burgundy. As my blog progressed and demand grew from readers to learn about wines they didn’t know much about, I’ve covered the entire world of wine. We’ve focusing on wines that deserve our attention, and championing small winemakers. In doing so, we are helping smaller vineyards and great winemakers find their fan base, and also helping wine lovers find bottles with great quality-price ratio, while building personal relationships with the winemakers whose work they enjoy, which is all great!
But Bordeaux wines are often behind on the page, since they are SO well known, these Chateaux with centuries of history. Yet I long for them,  as I still love French wines!

So when I had an opportunity to go taste some recent vintages of Bordeaux, of course I said yes! Other than what I have in my cellar, it’s been two years since I tasted some of these wines, and I was excited to see how the Chateaux are sustaining and how the vintages I’ve tasted before have matured! Included is a touch of research: these wines are readily available and we’ve listed average prices estimates from what is found from top sellers across the USA.

 

Cos D’Estournels Goulée (Bordeaux Blanc) 2015, $35

The 2015 is semillon forward in the blend, but the fruit has transitioned from forward on the palate to beguiling aromatics, balance and gossamer mouthfeel with restrained acidity and focus. The creamy and savory quality of this wine, showing restrained fruit, is sometimes more appreciable by collectors and oenophiles, as aged Bordeaux Blanc is uncommon and the lack of fruit on the palate can be a surprise. I find it an opportunity for pairing with delicate savory flavors: broiled or grilled fish in a butter or cream sauce, or with soft rind cheeses like a double cream brie or goat cheese.

 

 

Petite Haut Lafitte 2014, $39

From Pessac-Léognan, this second wine of Smith-Haut Lafitte is my pick for the highest quality-to-price ratio. In the mouth it has a slightly modern style to the blend, an old world meets new world balance with mature red fruit up front, solid tannin and a softer back end. Drinking nicely now, it will continue to age well. An excellent buy in my opinion.

 

 

Lalande-Borie (Saint-Julien) 2015, $39

A merlot-forward blend with some restraint; I’d start drinking this now and try it annually until it is in stride- perhaps 2023. In this price range, it is a nicely made example of the lighter side of classic Chateaux and provides consistent quality for Bordeaux lovers in an affordable realm.

 

 

Chateau Gloria (Saint-Julien) 2011, $59

A vineyard I have enjoyed many times, the last vintage I tasted was a lovely 2005. The good news is, the 2011 is drinking well now and showing in a similar position for a nicely made mid-level Bordeaux, if not as well-structured as the premiere vintages for Bordeaux. A powerful mouthfeel, large red and black cassis, earth and leather notes with strong tannic backbone. The wine is in stride currently, should be decanted and given air before drinking, and will show well for several more years.

 

Prieuré-Lichine (Margaux) 2015, $70

Accessible even at this young age, it is approaching full body with powerful tannins that still need a few years to calm. In three to five years, this wine should be hitting its stride. Black currants, leather, licorice and graphite will delight the palate. In ten years, this wine should have the subtlety and elegance it is known for.

 

Cantenac Brown (Margaux) 2010, $110

The last time I tasted this vintage it was young and requiring patience. Years later the wine is shaping up, but still has years to go before showing off her true beauty. I suggest cellaring this wine for another 3-5 years, then decant to enjoy the complexity and nuances of this Margaux. This was one of the more popular wines at this tasting, despite the youthful vintage, for the bold use of oak, earthy notes and forward tannins, showing the strong, bold side of Margaux.

 

 

Du Tertre (Margaux) 2010, $95

Nice red fruit with tannins starting to find their resting place, this wine might be a few years from being in the spot but is  ready for food pairing. After a slew of uneven winemaking in the 1990s, this fifth growth is finally showing consistency and symmetry with neighboring Chateau Giscours. It has just enough aroma and flavor of Margaux while lacking elegance. Still, it is one of the few bottles remaining of the beautiful 2010 vintage and is worth enjoying for that reason alone.

 

 

 

Langoa Barton (Saint-Julien) 2009, $115

This wine is in stride and drinking wonderfully. Lusciously deep notes; black plum and cassis, mouthfeel is decadent and the wine is layered and structured in a beautiful fashion, as wines that used to take 20 years to mature, this one is there at 11 years of age. I could buy a truckload of this if it were available.

 

 

 

Duhart-Milon (Pauillac) 2012, $130

Loved the dark maroon color, the dusty rose, eucalyptus- from the nose to the palate. This wine ticked all the boxes for me and would be an ideal pairing for classic French fare. Soft, feminine, and a couple of years from perfection- of course it was the most expensive bottle at the tasting, which I only realized after I’d decided to pick up a couple of bottles. It is, after all, a Bordeaux lover’s event, but this wine will be stunning in 5-7 years, and will last another ten. The 2012 is not in the same rare category as the stunning 2010 vintage, but this bottle is a tremendous example of the beauty of Bordeaux in a less brilliant year- this is a wine to be savored and enjoyed, as opposed to the years they are collected and sold as treasures. 

 

Not everyone has room to cellar, but it’s lovely that these Bordeaux, some on the younger side, some about to hit prime drinking time, are readily available with the ease of modern internet buying. I hope you take the opportunity and enjoy some of these beauties, and please click below (on Leave a Reply) , and share with us what you’re drinking!

 

Won’t you be mine, Valentine? 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

Old World Flavors From a New World Vineyard: Lucas & Lewellen Toccata Classico 2015

30 Jan

Lucas & Lewellen Toccata 2015 Classico Red Wine, Santa Barbara County, California, USA. 14.7%ABV, SRP is $29/bottle. Sample Provided.

 

Winemaker Megan McGrath Gates blended 50% sangiovese, 30% cabernet sauvignon, and 5% each of merlot, cab franc, petite verdot, and freisa , from Santa Barbara County’s Los Alamos and Valley View vineyards. Color is a medium purple, with a rich nose of black and blue fruit, floral cuttings, and eucalyptus. On the palate are blue plum, cassis, and blackberry compote with rich acidity from the strong backbone. Secondary notes include toasted oak, violet flower, earth, leather, and a hint of smoke on the lengthy finish.

 

 

This was such a pleasant surprise to open. To be more specific, it was in my tasting queue and I didn’t look closely at the bottle. So, upon the first taste, I thought I’d opened a bottle of wine from Italy: a Super Tuscan, to be specific. Well, I was wrong, especially when I mistook the cab & petite verdot for the syrah one normally finds along with sangiovese in a Super Tuscan. And so would you be, as your guests, if you suspected this in a blind tasting. But DO serve this wine, with Italian fare or anything that needs a delightful red blend. I paired this with chicken fajitas and the next day with baked salmon and spaghetti squash to assess: the wine simply sings with food. I did not even note the high alcohol content until I spent a few moment taking down my notes after the first pairing when it hit my palate and I realized it was powerful, yet in check. Toccata behaves like an Italian film star… you’ll be so enamored by the first impression, won’t notice how smitten you are with them until you’re taken hook, line, and sinker.

Lucas and Lewellen’s wines have been consistent in delivering high quality and great value.  Toccata is aptly named- a wine that shows off McGrath Gates’ skill, expertise, and delicate touch in delivering a crowd and palate-pleasing delight.

 

Speaking of delights, here’s a toccata for you to enjoy! Click and hear guitar master Edson Lopes perform J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565. It’s a stunning piece of work, and an ideal aural joy to match the sip of L&L’s Toccata Classico 2015 Red Blend!

 

#WIYG?

 

 

à votre santé!

A Few of My Favorite Things, 2019

21 Dec

Whether you’re shopping for coworkers, loved ones, family, or yourself- it never hurts to see what other people love. So here’s my list of my favorite things, or my suggestions for your wine lovers. Ready? Let’s start with the juice!

 

Cru Beaujolais

These are some of my favorite wines for high QPR (quality-price ratio) that feature gorgeous color, deliciously complex flavors of delicate fruit with strong secondary and tertiary notes.  This is not Nouveau Beaujolais, this is cru beaujolais, which is a step up from village-level Beaujolais, which itself is a big step above Nouveau. Got that?
Level 1: Beaujolais-Nouveau. Level 2: Village-Beaujolais. Level 3: Cru Beaujolais. Oui? Bon! Maintenant…

Beaujolais is made from the gamay grape, and exhibits significantly less tannin than cabernet, syrah, or cab franc. It is much paler in comparison to new world reds. One can expect structure and depth from these wines, layers of notes should you prefer to spend your time delving deep into the wine’s character, or easy to relax and just enjoy with food. If you have new world wine drinkers (yes America, this is you) then these are old world wines that are easy on the budget and surprisingly amazing in your mouth.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

Chablis.

I have openly stated my love for white Burgundy. Sadly, the high end of these wines are beyond my financial reach, but chablis is easy to find in almost any store. If you take your wine seriously, at some point you MUST up your game to try a Premiere Cru Chablis. While you can find regular chablis and petite chablis in the $18 – 25 range, for Cru designations you should expect the $30-50 range, and don’t be shocked when you see a $75 price tag. But compare that to Puligny-Montrachet that runs from $90-$600/bottle? You see my point- this you can afford, and you will love, love, love to drink. When you can afford the Puligny-Montrachet, you will enjoy it thoroughly, and then go back home to trusted chablis.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Nebbiolo, with age.

What is delicate on the nose, but full in mouthfeel, flavor, and tannin? Nebbiolo! Without age, give me Sangiovese, please. But Nebbiolo is the backbone of the wines you love: the beautiful, full-bodied, Piedmont wines you adore: Barbaresco and Barolo! Here’s a link to a great piece by Vivino on this very topic. The 2010 Barbaresco in the picture below is drinking beautifully right now; these are wines that can be finicky so it’s smart to have a backup in place. I prefer to give Barolos at least 20 years in the bottle, and my cellar is home to some bottles that in my own age range (half-century) which are such a treat to enjoy with like-minded wine lovers.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

 

Wine lovers can not live on wine alone. You must have TOYS! I am constantly asked what wines to buy, and what to buy for wine-loving friends. Here are some of my favorite accessories:

Accessories:

Govino stemless glassware and decanters. These have become my daily glassware for red, white, rosé, sparkling, liquor, and yes, even non-alcoholic beverages! On Amazon, and everywhere else. They simply rock!

Vinoseal wine bottle stoppers. As opposed to cork, they open easily without a corkscrew, keep air out of the bottle, don’t break, don’t impart flavor or undesirable effects to your wine, and are easily reusable. What’s not to like?

How about sparkling wine? I hoped you would ask.  The Sapore Champagne Stopper is a well-designed and inexpensive way to save that bottle for another night, while fitting easily in your fridge.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

What’s on your wish list?

Or, please share some of your favorite by hitting the link below. #Cheers, and Happy Holidays! 

à votre santé!!

 

 

#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!

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