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International #TempranilloDay 11.8.18!

30 Oct

Did you know November 8th is International Tempranillo Day?
Well,  NOW YOU DO!

Bodegas Lan Rioja Gran Reserva 2010; Fuenmayor, Spain. 13.5%ABV, SRP $23/bottle.

 

Color is ruby with magenta edging. The nose is vast and expressive with red cassis and plum, tobacco leaf, eucalyptus, cigar box,  and forest floor. On the palate is a lively series of dark red fruit with so much spice: mocha, vanilla, oak, licorice, leather, and spice box. Medium bodied, full-flavored, and so much fun to drink!

 

This lusty, vibrant red is a blend of primarily (94%) Tempranillo with 4% Mazuelo(aka carignan), spending 24 months in oak barrels before maturing 36 months in the bottle. The time spent aging this shows quite nicely, and is well worth the effort -especially at this price point.

I poured a glass, thinking it would pair well with my grilled meat & vegetables. Oh, it did, but one taste and immediately I felt like I was in Barcelona again. I just wanted to put my nose in the glass to inhale the luxurious and lengthy nose, then relax and take sip after sip to enjoy the sunset. Delicious, and a lovely value!

And did I mention, it also pairs beautifully with grilled meats, savory dishes and cheeses. Where can you find a decent aged red blend for under $25? #Rioja !

 

#TempranilloDay

#BodegasLAN

#RiojainThreeLetters

 

à votre santé!!

 

Department 66: Taking Old Vine Grenache To The Extreme

15 Oct

Ten years after buying vineyards in Maury, France (the Roussillon appellation), winemaker Dave Phinney’s release of his latest venture, called Department 66 , has finally hit the USA. These are wines that don’t taste like Phinney’s previous winemaking undertakings; to his admission they are small cluster, tiny yield (only one-half ton per acre!!) and most of the vines are from 60-100 years of age- which delivers a concentrated mouthful of flavor! 

I can hear you thinking: ok JvB, let’s get to the wines! And away we go…

Department 66’s “Fragile” 2017 Rosé of Grenache, with small amounts of Syrah and Carignan. Maury, France. 15% ABV, SRP $18/bottle.

Color is pale pink with just a hint of orange. The nose is of fresh spring strawberries. The palate is a pleasing shot of young, tart strawberry up front, showing bright acidity with a hint of bitterness on the back palate. Heat sings across the top palate from the high ABV, which I only noticed because I was looking for it- others won’t mind, as the tongue is too busy enjoying the dancing red berries and tangerine rind on the front palate. I poured this for several neighbors who, like myself, were simply enchanted by the wine on their very first sip. Best served cold due to the high ABV.

This is the rosé you didn’t think you were going to love until it hits your mouth. It is so “not Provence” that I want to call it an Anti-Rosé. If you like grenache (aka garnacha) and GSM blends, your mouth just might thank you. It is a delicious, decidedly different approach to a different peak, with an entirely different view of what it means to be a rosé. 

 

 

 

 

Department 66’s “Others” 2015 Grenache (with Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre) Catalan Red Wine Blend; Maury, France. 15.2% ABV, SRP $25/bottle.

 

Color is a dark, opaque magenta. The nose offers juicy red plum and chrysanthemum. On the palate, a mixture of dark fruit: cassis, black plum, blueberry with blackberry jam with a touch of forest floor. On the extended finish there are notes of floral herbs, oak, saddle leather, granite, and schist. A monster mouthful of juice that wants to run down your mouth like berries so plum they explode on contact.  

This is a big, full-bodied grenache that is best served just under room temperature and is perfect for smoked and grilled meats, or other powerful flavors that will stand up to bold tannin and structure.  Cabrales cheese, spicy sausage, or savory dishes with heavy sauces could be alternate pairings. The Spanish influence is quite apparent, and if tasted blind I would have suggested Northern Spain, not France. This wine possesses big and bold flavors in a way that juicy California blends have never imagined. 

 

Dave tells his story of Dept. 66 here: 

 

Dave Phinney’s wines have mesmerized me since my first taste of The Prisoner many years ago. He plays by his own set of rules, making delightful wines outside of the standards of the big winemakers, and without corporate constraint. Department 66 is a decidedly different beast, by Phinney’s own admission. He has matured, learned, and this is a new venture, seemingly a personal aspiration. I am fascinated to see what Phinney does next! 

 

To find out more about these wines, click on: https://www.department66.com/

 

#WIYG? Share with me! 

 

à votre santé!

Blind Tasting Markus Wine Co’s 2015 “Domo” Lodi Red Blend

1 Jun

Markus Wine Company 2015 “Domo” Lodi Red Blend; Borra Vineyards, Lodi, California. 13.8% ABV; SRP $39/bottle.

 

A dry red blend of 75% carignane, 15% petite sirah, and 10% sirah.  Aged 17 months in 25% once-filled French oak casks. 71 cases made, bottled March 10, 2017.

 

 

Color is deep and lustrous garnet with ruby center. The nose is of red roses, stewed plums, and wildflowers. On the palate is massive red fruit- plum, cherry, and raspberry dominates while softer notes of spices and tobacco leaf follow, with a hint of loam on the tart, satisfying finish. The massive fruit is matched with beautiful acidity and a solid tannic backbone.

I was so excited when I tasted this wine that I re-corked it with argon and then took the bottle to a party that night, where I poured blind tastes for friends along with two other top shelf new and old world red blends. After tasting all the wines, and without prompting or provocation, people unanimously came back to Markus Domo- against red blends costing two and three times more, respectively- as the wine they wanted to drink. After a few minutes, I asked people to suggest where they thought the wine was from. “You love French wines, is it Bordeaux?” said one guest. “This is Italy for sure.” said another. “Napa Valley?” inquired a third. When I explained it was from Lodi, folks were surprised.

“JvB, cut to the chase! Wherever it is, from, it’s just really good. Could you pour me some more please?” said the man on my right.

I laughed, and brought back the bottle, thinking, “It’s true. Doesn’t that sum up all we need to know?”

à votre santé!

Drinking Locally in the Mediterranean

26 Sep

 

Sometimes my vacations aren’t working vacations! This year my family took a cruise through the Mediterranean with Oceania Cruise Lines. The first night at dinner I scoured the ship’s wine list, curated by Wine Spectator. (You can view a sample of the wine list published here.) There are many wines on the list that I know intimately, others I have tasted before, and some I didn’t know that I’d like to taste. But the wait staff explained to us that for every port we visited, the chef was adding special dishes to the daily menu to represent local cuisine, and I really wanted to taste what the locals were drinking! Long story short,  I had better success in some ports than in others, but I didn’t want to interrupt my extended family’s vacation by taking too much time seeking out something that only half the group might taste or enjoy.

Sardinia, Italy

My fabulous wife arranged for a guide in Sardinia with a bus driver, which provided an easy opportunity to access local wine with a helpful hand! Driving along Costa Smerelda (the emerald coast), we made a quick stop in a local grocery and picked up three local bottles of wine in the €5.50-7.00 range (that’s six to eight US dollars). That, my friends, was a real score!

 

Cantina Il Nuraghe,  Mogoro, Italy:  Sardegna Terralba “Bovale” 2015. 13%ABV. Around €6 locally, found in the USA for $15/bottle.  

The bovale grape is more widely recognized as carignan. Lovely maroon color with a rich, complex nose of rosé, red fruit, black pepper and clove. On the palate: red rasberry/cherry, hints of young black fruit. Secondary notes of forest floor, granite, and gentle wood. Gentle acidity, smoother than expected for a 2015.  Totally a food wine; full-bodied, with a long and fulfilling finish.

For a quick historical note: you savvy readers obviously noticed the name of this winery is  Cantina Il Nuraghe. Maybe you’re wondering what a Nuraghe is: a Bronze-Age stone structures, some even called “Sardinia’s Stonehange”. 
 
Have you noticed a theme? Yes, stony soil! You could take it for granite…it’s actually LOTS of granite!
You can’t help but taste the terroir and the granite in the glass.
But everything isn’t red in the Mediterranean. What else could I score for just a few euro?

Cantina del Vermentino Monti: Funtanaliras Vermentino Di Gallura, Monti, Italy.  12.5% ABV. Found locally for €6; SRP  €10. Online in the USA from $12-16/bottle. 

Color is medium straw with a hint of green berry tinge. Nose is gentle floral with iris, tulip, orchid, and Anjou pear.
On the palate: quince, granny smith apple, and lime zest. Mellow acidity traces a spine of heat across top palate; final notes include a gentle finish with a  hint of almond and granite. We opened this at dinner and it went gorgeously with the meal (and was the perfect foil for the ‘blini’ of sturgeon caviar, seen below).
The vermentino paired so well with the caviar, then also with a salad course, then with snapper with grilled vegetables for the main course.  I’d have been just as happy sipping this on the veranda, looking our at the sea. But I would really have missed the sturgeon caviar…
Provence, France
While shopping in Provence for herbs, I noticed a bin full of local wines and picked one up on a whim. It sold for €14- about $16 USD. As this bottle was more expensive than the ones nearby, the shopkeeper explained that the wine was a blend of syrah; and the bottle was also his personal favorite. He went on to explain (if my high school French served me correctly) that since this bottle was more expensive than most people want to pay for a local wine, only real wine-lovers bought it, which allowed him to drink more of it personally, at a better discount.
Les Baux de Provence Domaine de Lauzières “Persephone” by Christophe Pillon; Mouries, France.  80% syrah/20% grenache blend; 13.5% ABV. SRP €14/bottle.
Color is opaque purple. The nose begins as deep brett/barnyard funk which burned off after being allowed to air, then demonstrating earth, mushroom, red fruit. Palate:  cassis, raspberry, and stewed fruit. Secondary impressions are powerful acidity and long tannins; then essences of toasted oak, limestone, clay and sand. The winemaker says that the entire operation is organic and biodynamic; my palate says that this wine loves a piece of meat and some vegetables,  the rich fruit pairing nicely with savory and spices beautifully.
Every wine I found locally in the Mediterranean can be a great food wine, or a “sit and watch the sea with the breeze in your face, and just enjoy the moment” wine. Maybe that is one of the key approaches to making wine in the Mediterranean. I know that each day, I managed to find time to contemplate. 
Finally- the boat’s sommeliers were just as happy to taste these wines as we were, and were impressed at the QPR found I the local wines and their ability to pair with the chef’s local dishes. While I love the Wine Spectator’s list, there is nothing quite like drinking locally.
I sincerely hope that you find time to contemplate your surroundings with a glass of local wine.

à votre santé!

 

Drinking World Wines in Toronto

14 Nov

I continue to be out of the country working on a new Broadway musical, trying Canadian wines when our production schedule allows. Wine selections at the LCBO (basically, the Canadian Liquor Store) are OK by my standards, but not stellar. I managed to find a bottle of Michael David’s Chardonnay from Lodi, here in Toronto of all places…along with many bottles of Zinfandel. That bottle made me very happy with great memories of picking viognier in the MD vineyard this past August, and I drank it and fondly recalled fun adventures with my WBC friends. 

 

Michael David Winery 2015 Chardonnay. 13.5%ABV, $23CAD/bottle from LCBO. Color is pale gold. Nose of green apple, white peach, and hibiscus flower. In the mouth, the fruit profile is a balance of golden delicious apple, honeydew melon and pineapple. Secondary notes of peach, cedar, vanilla, and clay on the medium-short finish. For me, this bottle was a delightful memory of the 2016 harvest in the MD vineyards. While I enjoyed this, I wished the LCBO had stocked the MD Viognier as well.

mdchardonnay

 

jvb-graping-copy

This is a shot of me from the viognier harvest in the MD Vineyards.
Photo by Randy Caparoso!

 

 

Working in the entertainment industry often means very long hours and few days off. Since arriving,  I thankfully have managed to get to a couple of nice restaurants in Toronto that feature excellent wine lists that are worthy of sharing!

 

Nearby the Royal Alexandra Theatre at Byblos, the middle eastern fare is warm and inviting. Their lamb shoulder is braised for 12 hours and falls off the bone, succulent and savory, accompanied by a garlic paste, shug (a hot pepper blend) and house-made pickles and turnips, with tasty sides of rice and brussel sprouts. With the help of my trusty iphone (it’s a dark restaurant) I scanned the wine list and found an appropriate comfort wine to match the house specialty.

Chateau Musar “Hochar Père et Fils” 2011, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. This red blend is deep garnet in color with an opulent, floral nose. On the palate, mature black plum, fig, cherry, and the distinct quality of baked fruit is met with notes of earth, leather, mocha, allspice, black pepper and cinnamon. On the dry, lengthy finish there are beautiful flourishes of oak, along with gravel and sandy limestone on the side palate.  It is a heady aroma and velvety mouthfeel, a gorgeous second wine from a brilliant winemaker. I have long been a fan of Chateau Musar, with an ’04 and a few bottles of the 2000 remaining in my cellar, and I was trepidatious at the youthful age of this bottle, but ended up being very pleasantly surprised. I thoroughly enjoyed this blend of 50% cinsault, 30% grenache, 10% carignan, and 10% cabernet sauvignon. 14% ABV, Street price avg $33 USD, (obviously not what I paid in the restaurant.)

 

hochar-2011-1

 

 

Further down King Street is a hidden gem suggested by my co-workers for having a high quality (and somewhat pricey) wine list. Buca is a northern Italian restaurant that is reknowned for savory delights and curing their own meat;  you can see examples of their delicacies hanging in a cooler as you walk down a hallway to the bar and to one of the two dining rooms. We obliged our evening hunger by ordering shared dishes, starting off with olives stuffed with sausage and fried to hot, crisp, and salted savory perfection;  hand-rolled ricotta gnocchi stuffed with taleggio cheese; carpaccio di mango; and a pizza salumi di buca- delightful, mouthwatering bites. Strongly salted meats and powerful, savory flavors beg for a tremendous wine, and the sommelier did not disappoint! A native Italian (whose name I sadly did not understand when I asked), we chatted, I inquired about some of the ‘hidden treasures’ on the wine list, and he came back with his arms full of options,  from which I selected his very last bottle of a reserve Nebbiolo- and I was very glad I did!

Ar.Pe.Pe.’s  2011 Sasella Stella-Retina Valtellina Superior Riserva, Lombardy, Italy. The color is deep ruby while the perfumed nose offers crushed rose petals and lush vegetation. This wine opened up beautifully with a bit of time in the glass to offer mature raspberry, dried cherry, and african violet. Secondary notes of vanilla, wet earth and aged leather on the finish with hints of toasted almonds, sodium, wet stone, and granite. A beautiful soft mouthfeel; feminine expression of aged fruit meets bright acidity and firm tannins. 100% Nebbiolo, 13.5% ABV, Street Price around $52 USD.

 

sasselica-stella-retica

 

The clock is ticking until my return to the USA! I still have two bottles of Canadian red wines I need to review before my time is up here in Canada. Keep an eye out, and enjoy. Life is beautiful and precious, and I hope we all see the beauty every day in our loved ones and the world around us.  -JvB

à votre santé!

 

 

Recanati: Worlds Collide & Make Brilliant, World-Class Wines

7 Feb

Want to try something new?

Just for a  few minutes, I want you to ignore everything you know about wine regions, and just taste the wines made by Recanati.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. At least, not for someone who has tasted a lot of Israeli wines. I was interested to taste the wines from Lenny Recanati (owner) and Gil Shatsberg (head Recanati winemaker) but I had no expectations. I went in with a positive attitude, trying to provide as much of an open mind as I could possibly muster, and hoping to ignore all preconceived notions.

High hopes, indeed.

What I found was a brilliant blend in business: a historic approach to understanding viticulture and terroir, an essence of a classic French Château approach in making world-class, elegant wines, all while referencing the approach of a scientific, modern, new world winemaker. The results speak for themselves: a library of delicious wines, and serious accolades, like an inclusion in the 2014 Wine Spectator Top 100.

But let us not get ahead of ourselves.

I focused on experiencing  this tasting with a clear palate and an open mind. In doing so, I managed to wash myself clean of my assumptions of what an Israeli wine is, and just treated these like wines. Not kosher wines (which indeed, they are) but just as wines. And below are my tasting notes, some pictures, and some bottle shots.

Recan SBlanc

Recanati Sauvignon Blanc 2014. 13%ABV, $15 MSRP. 

Pale straw in color, citrus nose with kiwi accents. A direct, spot-on demonstration of sauvignon blanc from a blisteringly hot climate whose brutality on the grape provides a textbook, citrus-forward wine. Pineapple, lychee, and citrus in the mouth evoke a crisp, clean and clear wine, made entirely in stainless steel and exuberating freshness. Lovely on the palate.

Recanati Special Reserve White

Recanati Special Reserve White 2012. 13.5%ABV, $50 MSRP.

Medium gold in color, with a nose featuring white peach. On the palate, a blend of savory, sweet and acidity. White pear and green apple with just a hint of fat that rounds out the body nicely and makes the wine compare favorably to a white Bordeaux or Oregonian  blend. Beautiful winemaking, these grapes are hand harvested and pressed only as whole clusters. Using only free run juice, it is fermented sur lie and aged in French oak barrels.

 

Recan LineUp

Recanati Reserve Petite Syrah 2013. 14.5% ABV, $32 MSRP.

Deep purple color with ruby edges. Nose of concentrated black plum. Delightful fruit, I immediately compared this to Santa Barbara styles of  Syrah, although with less pepper on the back palate. Nice example of single vineyard petite syrah: strong and bold all around, big fruit with matching acidity and tannins. Tasty.

Recanati Reserve Petite Sirah

Recan Syrah

Recanati Reserve Syrah Viognier 2012. 14.5% ABV, $40 MSRP.

A blend of  97% syrah with 3% viognier, color is opaque purple with a nose of blackberry and cassis, granite notes on the medium finish. More elegance than the single vineyard syrah, fruit is demure and the wine seems refined and genteel, making it easier to pair with more dishes, offering elegance and austerity.

Recanati Reserve Syrah -Viognier

 

Recanati Reserve Marselan 2013. 14.5% ABV, $50 MSRP.

Inky black color with purple edging, the Marselan is a classic French blending grape rarely shown as a single vineyard. On the palate, blueberry, black plum, powerful acid, white pepper, vanilla, notes of schist and clay on the long finish with abrupt tannins.

Recanati Reserve Marselan

 

Recan Wild Carignan Label

Recanati Reserve Wild Carignan 2013. 14.5% ABV, $50 MSRP.

Dark ruby in color; nose of raspberry, red plum, and bell pepper. On the palate: black plum,  blackberry, stewed strawberries, dried raspberry. Notes of vegetation, vanilla, black pepper, limestone, and toasted oak.  A wine that is dry farmed, non-irrigated, brutal on the grape and as a result, shows stunning flavor. Delicious and unusual: a grape that used to be commonly planted but now is becoming rare.

Recan wine label

Recanati Special Reserve, 2012. 14% ABV, $60 MSRP.

This wine starts with the best barrels of each grape being pulled aside for the special reserve blend . This year, it is a blend of 30% cabernet sauvignon, 30% syrah, 25% marselan and 15%carignan.
Tasting notes: color is a bright ruby, nose of red fruit with eucalyptus and dusty rose. On the palate, red cassis, blackberry compote, blueberry and rose petals. Layered, full bodied, balanced, and beautiful. Aptly named.

Recanati Special Reserve

Recan 3 labels

Lenny, Gil, and their wines made an impression on me. These wines do not remind me of anything I had tasted before from Israel, so perhaps I have managed to shed my preconceived notions. Yes, these are great kosher wines, but the more important point is that in comparison to both old world and new world wines, regardless of kashrut: these are great wines, period.

Recan 3 Reds

My experience in tasting this wines reminded me how important blind tasting is. It’s imperative to recognize that all the knowledge and time we gain in becoming a wine connoisseur can be wasted if we let ourselves judge a wine based on any preconceived notions. Did I think I would love wines from the Mediterranean as much as those from France, Italy, California, New Zealand, and Oregon? No. But why not? Much like Gaston Hochar,  Jacques Puffeney, or Heidi Peterson Barrett, Lenny and Gil are doing something very right. And I also love that their line of offerings includes entry level wines under $15, serious reserve wines in the $30 range, and premium selections over $40.

Intrigued? Of course I am. And now I intend to find out more.

Look for Part 2, forthcoming.

 

à votre santé!

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