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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!

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!

 

 

#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!!

Josić Ciconia Nigra Cuvée: Croatia’s Black Stork Red Blend

25 Apr

Josić Ciconia Nigra Cuvée 2013, Zmajvac, (Danube AVA), Croatia  13.5% ABV; Price: $31/Bottle from Topochines.com

Color is garnet with ruby edging. The nose is deep and luxurious with notes of eucalyptus, blackberry, dried tobacco leaf, and a touch of burnt hickory.  On the palate: black plum, black currants, boysenberry. Prominent secondary notes  of clove, mocha, truffled black peppercorns, potting soil, granite and loam. A delightfully long finish.

This Bordeaux-style blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah will delight and confine your palate. Designed to be enjoyed by itself as well as to pair with food, this is a wine that requires little else to be satisfying. I ran through the bottle in two evenings, when I wanted to make it last four.

When I opened this wine, my initial reaction was that I didn’t want to waste time writing about it, I simply want to drink more of it. It paired well with both elegant and rustic red meat preparations, as well as by itself and with medium-bodied cheeses like gouda which I used as a dessert course when finishing the bottle. But if you like elegant, mysterious blends (think tall, dark, and handsome) then this wine is an easy pick: perfectly aged, serious, and well-placed in a solid value for a complex, quality wine.

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!

 

 

Passover Wines, 2018: Yarden, Golan Heights & Galil Mountain Winery

29 Mar


It never fails: within one 24 hour period,  both a local neighbor and a long-distance blog fan hit me with the same question: “Will you suggest some more wines I can buy for Passover this year?”

Why yes, I think I will!

Mount Hermon White Wine Blend, 2016, Golan Height’s Winery, Galilee, Israel. 13.5%ABV, SRP $12/bottle.

Color is pale straw. The nose offers honeydew melon and fresh wildflowers. On the palate, this blend is a delight to the tongue: ripe white peach, Bosc pear, sweet apple, and tangy citrus for a lovely fruit blend moving from the front to side palates. The tropical fruit hits on the finish, crossing up through the top palate and into the nasal cavities. This is so easy to drink, I’d suggest you open it while cooking, but it’s really the wine you want to ply your guests with as they enjoy reading the Haggadah, paring with roast chicken, gefilte fish, fresh fruit, and the cheese course. Aunt Edna (who won’t drink red wine) will love this throughout the meal, but will remind you to pour her “only a little” each time you come by with the bottle. A great value in non-Mevushal, Kosher-For-Passover wine at a daily drinking price.

 

Yarden Gewürztraminer 2016; Golan Height’s Winery, Galilee, Israel. 14.5%ABV, SRP $21/bottle.

This non-Mevushal, Kosher for Passover white is world-class gewürztraminer! Medium straw in color with sweet citrus on the nose. On the palate: lychee, pineapple, a hint of clementine, some orange peel. Nice acidity without being too hot. Great balance with mouth-watering acidity, the mid and back palate pucker up as the wine moves back and down on the long finish. Without a doubt, this is among the finest examples of Gewürztraminer  I’ve tasted from Israel. This medium-bodied wine is the perfect for the discerning and difficult wine drinkers to start their meal with- your first few cups, perfect for the fish and salad courses, before you move on to the brisket. After the brisket, you can come back to this for dessert, it’s that mouthwateringly delicious. If you want a little more citrus, smoke and a tiny hint of mint that is serious enough to pair with crispy duck, a roast, or the salmon course, look no further. This is a serious white wine for Pesach, and it’s a delightful expression of the gewürztraminer grape!

 

 

Yiron, Upper Galilee, 2014 Red Wine Blend, Galil Mountain Winery; Galilee, Israel. 15%ABV, SRP $32/bottle.

The serious red blend! Made of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 7% Syrah, and 5% Petite Verdot, this is aged for 16 months in French oak. Color is deep garnet with purple edging. The nose offers blueberry pie and a bit of extra alcohol to burn. Given some time to air, the aromas of vanilla, blackberry, spice box and forest floor come through. On the palate, find a mix of black currents, blueberry, and tart black plum. With above-average acidity and strong tannins, a swish around the mouth allows you to sense the unctuous, full-bodied mouthfeel and enjoy its long, tart finish. This is an excellent choice to serve with your roast or brisket, no doubt, you might be tempted to name this wine when the youngest one asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Trust me, keep that answer to yourself, and wait for the next cup -it’s worth it. Last but not last, this bottle would also be a perfect gift wine for Passover if you’re a guest joining others for the annual ritual and celebration.

 

What wine will grace your glass, and your Seder plate this year?

If you hadn’t noticed, I’m a fan of Yarden and their head winemaker Victor Schoenfeld, who is credited as being the single greatest influence in elevating Israel’s wine to a world-class level. You can check out my other posts about his wines, and more Kosher for Passover wines at these links:
http://bit.ly/VSYarden
http://bit.ly/YardenRosé
http://bit.ly/JvBYardenII

à votre santé!

Yarden’s World Class Wines for Days of Awe

1 Oct

Let’s be perfectly honest: twenty years ago, I would NOT have fought to serve Israeli wines from the Golan Heights for an important family dinner. But times have changed, and great Israeli wines are now available locally at competitive prices- so if you aren’t nodding with me, then take the time to read this and get both your wine game and your local wine store up to speed! I proudly served these wines to our family and guests above all else available from my cellar. So, listen up!  

Yarden Brut Blanc de Blanc 2009, Galilee, Israel. 12% ABV, SRP $30/bottle. 

This is a sparkling chardonnay made by Victor Schoenfeld, and it is world-class sparkling, made in the traditional method and aged five years with tirage yeast. Pale gold in color. On the nose: gentle star fruit and brioche. On the palate, tropical fruit, baking spices, toasted challah with a hint of minerality. Where years ago my father-in-law would break his Yom Kippur fast with an ounce of cognac, I instead opt for this- it revitalizes my blood sugar and pairs beautifully with anything- be it a Rosh Hashanah dinner with apples and honey before the brisket, or the traditional break-fast dinner of bagels, scrambled eggs and smoked fish. There are a few Israeli winemakers whose work is absolutely world class, and Victor Schoenfeld hits that mark. If you aren’t already a fan, you’re missing out.

 

 

 

Yarden’s Galilee Mountain Winery,  “Yiron” Red Wine Blend, Upper Galilee; Golan Heights, Israel. ABV 15%, SRP $32/bottle.

 

Color is deep magenta with ruby edging. The nose offers mature blue and black fruit along with forest floor and hint of toasted oak. On the palate: blackberry, blueberry, and cassis are dominant with secondary notes of mocha, kiln-dried wood, gravel, sand and granite. Demonstrating an excellent tannic backbone with strong acidity, this wine is ideal for the brisket course, but it also paired gorgeously with a toasted everything bagel topped with cream cheese, smoked sable and lox, tomato and a little Spanish finishing salt.

When you drink this, you will swear you have a classic Bordeaux blend in your hand. Winemaker Micha Vaadia worked at Jordan,  Cloudy Bay, and Catena Zapata- and it shows! The blend is 56% Cabernet, 32% Merlot, 7% Syrah and 5% Petite Verdot, and is aged 16 months in French oak barrels (hello, now we know why the vanilla and toasty oak is so dominant in the profile!) One thing that blows my mind: Looking at the stats, I’d normally shy away from a wine with this high an ABV but let me tell you, it’s un-noticeable. I experienced no heat on this wine, just tons of pleasure across the palate.

 

A Perfect Pairing with Yiron: a toasted ‘Everything’ Bagel, with a shmear of Cream Cheese, Sable, Lox, Tomato, and Spanish lava salt.

 

 

 

My pictures don’t do the wine justice. As soon as a finished a sip, my hand reached back for the glass or to re-pour another taste. This wine is surprisingly tasty, and a great value in this price range. The nose and flavor palate of Yiron are simply stunning. The best thing you can do it put a bottle in your hand, serve it, and let your mouth and your guests tell you exactly how good this is. You can thank me by inviting me over for Yiron with brisket, bagels, latkes… or all four!

 

*Special Thanks to Joe Berkofsky of Puder PR.* 

à votre santé!

 

Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyards Part 2: The Spur and Zarzuela

8 Jul
(If you missed part 1, you can find it here.)

The Spur 2014 by Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 13.5%, ABV, MSRP $30/bottle.

 

Color is a dark purple that is barely translucent, with violet edging. The nose is rich and robust with ripe blue fruit, spices, oak, scorched earth and a touch of lingering compost. Boysenberry, black plum, sour cherries, and damp green herbs cross and hold the front and side palates, while heat from the alcohol crosses the top and lands at the back along with notes of cedar, clay, forest floor, and saddle leather. The mouthfeel is powerful, youthful, and explosive, while the finish is long and slow in comparison: the lingering smoke from the cannon’s barrage, with final notes of dark blackberries and cassis suddenly in the very front of my mouth, making my tongue search with inquisitiveness and amusement, wondering “When did those arrive?”

An unusual, fun, unique red blend. Curious and expressive, this is an oral Cirque Du Soleil, a strange circus of unexpected feats and new delights in the mouth. Winemaker Robbie Meyer must have a great sense of humor. When he develops this wine, he takes gorgeous barrels of varietals he could sell so simply and easily, and makes a wild, distinctive blend that just screams to be paired with food for maximum enjoyment- and it delivers! The Spur was tremendous with asian spices from a stir-fry, and stood up to serious heat and kick from a powerful mexican salad and ghost pepper tamales! With red meat, you might want to call friends over first, or sit alone and cry, this wine pairing is so good. This type of winemaking reminds me of only one other person: David Phinney of Orin Swift, whose zin-heavy blends took the world by storm years ago. But Meyer makes a more robust and sometimes elegant bouquet of darker flavors, huge strokes of color crossing the palate and making your mouth wonder “just what is going on here?” What, indeed.

Brilliance.

 

Don’t take my word for it. Get yourself a bottle or six, before you see this in every Del Frisco’s and Ruth’s Chris steak house by the glass to encourage bottle sales. Because my friends, that day will be here soon.

You’re going to ask, and I almost forgot because the wine is that damn good:
The Spur’s blend is made up of 45% cabernet, 22% petite syrah, 14% petite verdot, 10% merlot, and 9% cabernet franc=holy smokes just give me more of The Spur. 207 barrels were made, which makes a little over 5,000 cases, all of it certified sustainable, like everything else from Murrieta’s Well. So you should be able to find just enough to tide you over until next year, if you order soon.

 

 

No, that isn’t all. It could be, I almost thought it would be. 

But I have one more bottle to tell you about. 

 

2015 Zarzuela by Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 14.1%, ABV, MSRP $60/bottle.

Color is dark maroon with purple edging, opaque at the center, converging to translucent near the sides. The elegant nose offers dark black and blue fruit, cedar and a hint of evergreen, with sandy clay. On the palate: blueberry, blackberry and black plum resolve into a luscious compote on the front of the tongue while the rest of the mouth sense a dark berry tart. The medium-long finish has secondary notes of cinnamon, mocha, and allspice, rounding up with more sandy loam, another bite of blueberry on the back palate, and a final hit of raspberry on the top palate, with my tongue aching for more. My glass is empty of the one-ounce tasting pour… when did that happen? My mind knows this wine is perfect for food pairing, but my mouth doesn’t want anything to do with that, just give me more of this intoxicating elixir.

My first pairing with asian cuisine had too many big flavors in the dish to match well yesterday, but today both medium and heavy cheeses are perfect companions, even the delicate comte is a great foil, so I move to dolce gorgonzola and have another great bite to match Zarzuela. So charcoal grilled meats and vegetables are going to be perfect with this wine, as is chocolate, which makes the mocha and red fruit notes incredibly prominent. This wine feels so elegant in the mouth, it’s definitely old-world-European, but the grapes feel more Spanish, so I look: 40% Tempranillo, 40% Touriga, 20% Souza. It’s classic Iberian Peninsula. So no wonder it’s named “Zarzuela”, the Spanish word for operetta, and was first created by one of the founders and the first winemaker at Murrieta’s Well, Sergio Traverse. My thanks, señor!  Made at Murrieta’s Well since 2003, Robbie Meyer is staying true to the original intent with gorgeous vintages since then, a club favorite, it seems.

 

This is the wine I’d choose to invite my buddy Robert over so we could catch up, cook a large steak and vegetables over the grill, share stories of work and family, and appreciate the beauty of life with food & drink while watching the sunset and know that life is wonderful.

 

 

Only 24 barrels were produced of the 2015 Zarzuela, which is aged 16 months in French oak. It exudes elegance, class, and old-world, European style. If you hadn’t found a reason to join their wine club before this, the Zarzuela is reason enough.

Just remember…when you celebrate these wines with your friends & family… save a sip for me. You know I’d pour you a glass. But I can’t because this bottle is already dry. Now how did THAT happen?

I’ll leave you with some Placido, singing Zarzuela. It is, after all, a perfect pairing with the wine. Cheers!

à votre santé!

 

Kosher for Passover Wines, 2017

6 Apr

This year’s Kosher Food & Wine Experience had some tremendous offerings. For this segment, I focused on wines that I thought would be heartily appreciated by any who tasted them, as this holiday brings together extended family, friends, and strangers at our tables. Here are wines I can heartily suggest for Passover 2016 from the Kosher Food & Wine Experience:

The Kosher Food & Wine Experience, 2017. 

2012 Chateau de Valmer Vouvray Moelleux

Pale yellow in color, light nose of floral and fruit blend. Medium bodied white wine, rounded white stone fruit, quince and fig with a hint of almond; a mature, elegant, creamy and savory overall impression. This Loire Valley Vouvray is consistently a solid performer. I should point out the same winemaker makes a younger-vintage, demi-sec Vouvray that is also popular with non-wine drinkers, it’s more direct, less complex, just a hint of sweetness. Either is a solid choice! Around $22/bottle for the aged Moelleux, @ $13/bottle for the currant vintage demi-sec.

Baron Edmund de Rothschild Les Lauriers Rosé 2015

As a fan of Baron Rothschild’s traditional red wines, I’m raving about this rosé. Pale pink in color with a fruity nose, this non-mevushal rosé is incredibly dry on the palate, showing strawberry and cherry with balanced acidity and tannins. Well made, this is a perfect all-meal wine that sings for baked chicken but can handle the whole meal from bitter herbs to red meat to dessert! @ $19/bottle, 13.5%ABV.

 

Château Soutard, 2014

A grand Cru Classé red blend from Saint Emilion, consistently capturing 90+ points from the major reviewers, in the low $40 range. If you can find the 2015, I prefer it (more expressive and longer finish), but both vintages offer beautiful dark red fruit, black plum, plus dark forest, bramble, and leather notes. A full-bodied red, perfect for the Passover Seder and the traditional brisket or roast.

 

Château Giscours, Margaux  2014

You want elegance and luxury? You found it here: a Margaux that is Kosher for Passover, in the $40-$50 range.  Maroon in color with an exotic floral nose with eucalyptus and forest floor, the palate shows medium body of dark red berries, burnt caramel, notes of spice, earth, and stone. Excellent balance, finishes with solid tannins and leaves you wanting more. 13.5%ABV. Pour me another!

 

Grand Puy Ducasse Pauillac 2013

If you love Pauillac, this is your wine: a classic & historic Grand Cru Classé. Color is pale ruby into magenta. A full, expressive nose of black and red fruit with cut greens. On the palate, black plum and cassis are first on arrival, along with green pepper, clove and spice box in quick succession, followed by notes of saddle leather, gun oil, clay, and gravel. Ducasse’s blend is usually 60/40 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, this is consistent with previous experience. Known for tremendous aromatics and intense flavors, the balance is just off-center with more fruit and acidity than tannin at this young age. I promise, you won’t care, unless you purchase by the case and compare it to a vintage that is ten years old. With SRP in the low $70’s, I found this online in the low $30 per bottle with 13%ABV.

 

Château Fourcas-Dupré Listrac-Medoc 2012

Color is bright red with white edging. Delightfully bright cherries on the nose; on the palate this is a medium-bodied red blend.  Dark berries, cassis, black plum, bramble, with pepper and clove. This wine shows well for this young age. Body is rich and this tastes more expensive than its street price @ $28/bottle. 13%ABV. A tremendous value in a classic Bordeaux blend.

 

Château Leoville Poyferre Saint Julien,  2014

A classic St Julien, Léoville-Poyferre is a wine I love any time of year. I simply had no idea it was available in Kosher for Passover! Non-mevushal, it features a deep garnet color, and nose of eucalyptus & leather. On the palate: cassis, black fruit, dry, full bodied. So approachable at this young age, I promise, you will have no regrets. Predominantly cab with merlot in this blend, it is a glorious, full-bodied red with massive tannins and is a total pleasure to drink. Priced in the mid-$60/bottle but found online as low as $50 and worth every penny. 12.5%ABV

 

From Spain: Elvi Clos Mesorah 2014

What, a Spanish Kosher for Passover wine? Yes, and great one! This blend of 40% Carinena, 30% Garnacha, and 30% Syrah is a deep purple in color, with a nose of black plum and forest floor. On the palate, bright fruit is delightful: cherry, plum, and blackberry jam on the front palate while delightful acidity and tannin support excellent balance on this slightly chewy, very intense wine that made me want to buy a bottle immediately.  If you make lamb for Passover, this is the wine you want, found online in the high $60/bottle range.  13.5% ABV on this non-Mevushal wine. If you want to change things up, this might be the way to go- it’s a stunning wine that won’t disappoint.

 

After-dinner/Dessert Wine:
Rayne-Vigneau 2014 Sauternes

Deep yellow in color, the nose is full of sweet fruit, honey and wildflowers. On the palate, apricot, mandarin orange, and honey attack the tongue while racy acidity crosses the top palate. Zesty and alive, a lovely expression and a perfect dessert wine after you’ve enjoyed your four cups. @$25/bottle, 14%ABV.

 

Last but not least:

In 2016 I reviewed a bevy of tremendous wines by Israeli winemaker Lenny Recanati, all of which were Kosher for Passover. Recanati is a winemaker who blew my mind with blind tastings that can compare with some of the finest kosher wines I’ve listed here. Below are three links to three separate posts where I wrote and reviewed Recanti wines, which should be on your wine shopping list whether you are looking for wines in the $11 or $50 range. Recanati wines are simply stunning, and should not be missed, be it Passover or any day, his wines compare beautifully to old and new world wines from around the world. 

Recanati Worlds Collide Part 1:

Recanati Worlds Collide Part 2:

My Kosher for Passover wines of 2016:

à votre santé

From JvB’s Cellar (Bin #9): Chateau Malescot St. Exupery Margaux 2006

22 Feb

Not much wine tasting is happening currently while I’m working late evenings on a new Broadway show. Here’s a revival for you: a Margaux wine review from six years ago, literally years before my blog JvB UnCorked existed. How my writing style has changed! And the 2006 is available online for as little as $80/bottle! -JvB 

Chateau Malescot St. Exupery Margaux 2006

Ah, Margaux. The terroir I love to drink.
Why do I find the wines of  Bordeaux’s Margaux region so intoxicating? 

Let’s look at this phenomenal wine for an example:
The color is deep ruby/purple. The nose is a melange of dark notes: I smell cassis, roses, and wet earth. Gentle alcohol content from slow legs, but the wine is chilled to 60 degrees F as it’s 98 outside. First sip: black currant, vine and gravel are the dominant flavors on the palate. I experienced a delicious classic Margaux with medium body, yet highly concentrated flavor and very silky, gentle tannins for a super smooth, long, and velvety finish with a sweet note that may surprise you. The wine is a blend of 50% cabernet sauvingon, 35% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit-Verdot grapes. At $60/bottle, not for the faint of heart (or wallet) but a delectable wine, every bit the 91-93 points rated by the top three commentators, who suggest this wine will be at its peak in 2015. I won’t be waiting that long when (if) I get to pick up another bottle.

Grand Cru Class of 1855: Chateau Malescot St. Exupery Margaux 2006.
You should be jealous: this wine is superb, smooth, and velvet deliciousness. YUM!!!!

2006-chmarg

Q: Why is it the red varietal blends of the Margaux region of Bordeaux are so intoxicating?

A: It must be the complex flavors, perfectly blended and mixed to supply a powerful nose and flavor yet with such gentle tannins, resulting in a lengthy finish that I always describe as “silky” or “velvety” when drinking a classic Margaux. -JvB

malescot-st-marg

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