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Beaujolais Rosé! Beaujolais Nouveau!

18 Nov

If you aren’t a huge fan of Beaujolais Nouveau, I understand. It’s not for everyone. OK, it is for everyone- but some oenophiles aren’t always fans. I get it- you know wine intimately, and maybe you feel that you need something special.  

Well, as a wine lover who spent decades celebrating the annual arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau, at some point in my 40’s I turned nearly entirely to Cru Beaujolais from this region. Let’s be honest, I might have even gotten a little snobby… maybe because I held a bottle of Nouveau too long (ugh), and then tried a bottle of CRU- and “damn, that tastes SO good!” After some time, when my wine merchants and friends asked me about Nouveau, I politely turned them down.

Well, not this year. Turn your attitude around, and get on the bandwagon. (I did!) This is a year to celebrate! This vintage will reward you, with great flavor, mouthfeel, and value for Nouveau. 

2018 is THE year for great gamay. And Duboeuf made a great Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé.

Let that sink in for just a moment. This rosé is the first of its kind sold in the USA.

So get thee to a wine merchant and buy some of the best gamay you may have in a lifetime. 2018 has been called “Legendary”  when it comes to Beaujolais Nouveau. So when this is a wine that you can get for $9-12 a bottle street price… why wouldn’t you? To share legendary wine that costs maybe $2 a glass? HELLO… no-brainer here.

“But what about your tasting notes?” You say? OK, fine. You got it!

Vins de Georges Duboeuf  Beaujolais Rosé Nouveau 2018,  A.O.C. Beaujolais; France. 12.5% ABV; SRP $13.99/bottle.

Pale pink in color, the nose offers rose bush and young red fruit. On the palate: notes of strawberry, yellow peach, lemon rind with grapefruit juice on the finish. Beautifully dry, with a pleasing, tart mouthfeel.  Made from 100% gamay grapes, which are pressed manually in whole bunches and fermented in stainless steel.

This is a wine I want to drink while cooking or watching football…I toasted a cheese quesadilla while pouring a glass, snacked while watching the game and looked down to realize I’d polished off TWO glasses, not one. This is that easy to drink, so don’t limit yourself to only one bottle!  This drinks beautifully by itself, with appetizers, veggies, pizza or similar light fare. For heavier protein, why not hit the classic gamay wine? (Below.) I know I would. This is a great way to start the evening and keep things moving. if you think you like rosé, you have GOT to get this in your game. But remember, it won’t last long. Nouveau is meant to be drunk young, so get it, and drink it.

Vins de Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2018,  A.O.C. Beaujolais; France. 13% ABV; SRP $13.99/bottle.

Color  is a bright, lively purple with ruby edging. The nose offers boysenberry and mixed fruit compote. On the palate are ripe raspberry, plum, and cassis. Along with a fuller body and mouthfeel, the finish has a hint more sweetness than the bone-dry rosé, and evokes a fruit bowl finish, with a touch of granite, bitter cassis, and youthful tannins. Yum! One of the most delightful Beaujolais Nouveau wines I have experienced, ever, hands-down. This is from 20+ year-old vines, cold fermented in stainless steel.

This gamay will pair with heavier proteins, from chicken and pork, to red meats and game. The hint of sweetness also links with the yam and corn from the season, or complements the leafy greens of collards, kale, brussel sprouts, even beets and  cauliflower.

Duboef reminds us on the label: “The First Wine of the Harvest!” and it’s important to remember that this is drunk by the pitcher in France upon arrival, celebrating the harvest and its completion. What could be better, in an ideal year, than to join in? You’ll enjoy it! This is a wine that calls to mind the decadence of the king’s hall from the Renaissance era, images of wines poured into a flagon and glasses always kept brimming. 2018 is definitely a year to enjoy, and imbibe. At this price, don’t miss out on one of the best values since the 2009 Bordeaux futures.

Serve these wines slightly chilled, and enjoy. Trust me, you will!  But as always, please drink responsibly.

à votre santé!

Beaujolais’ Natural Wine: Pure Grape!

24 Mar

M&C Lapierre à Villié-Morgon 2014(Rhone) Morgon, Beaujolais, France. 12%ABV, $28/bottle from Crush Wine & Spirits.

I used to enjoy Beaujolais Nouveau, until I tasted high end Beaujolais wines. Once you’ve experienced the joy of a beautiful, pure and clean bottle of premiere cru gamay, it’s hard to go back. So when I received an offer for a Lapierre Morgon, I thought about it for a whopping three milliseconds and made a phone call.
photo 1
Here’s the deal: Mathieu Lapierre is a third-generation winemaker working these 60-plus year old vines. I adored his father Marcel’s work, and the wines have only improved since that time. More importantly, the Lapierre Morgon wines are strictly organic and natural- the bottles I have include the “N” classification on the back label, which indicates that there was no added sulfur, no filtration, and that the wines must stay under 14ºC  (that’s 57.4º F). The winemaker goes to extreme lengths to insure the grapes have natural fermentation from indigenous yeast, zero added yeasts. I like to think that Lapierre (and fellow winemakers Jean Foillard & Guy Breton, whose wines are among my favorites from this region) are making Beaujolais the way it was done for thousands of years- in the purest form, little to no interruption of any fashion.

I’ll stop waxing about natural winemaking. So you know: it’s just pure grape juice. Fine, now you know. But is it any good?

Here’s the kicker: it’s not just good, it’s damn good wine.

Color is a classic garnet center with ruby/purple edges. The nose offers up bright raspberry, strawberry, flower stalk trimmings, and hewn gravel. In the mouth: young, crisp, and tart raspberry with bold acidity bathes the palate and holds it tight, tannins gripping the tongue and retaining flavors while a series of mineral notes drill across the back palate, predominantly granite and gravel with schist, limestone, and calcite-heavy clay. Refreshing, bright, and energetic, this is like a shot of sunshine arcing though the clouds to warm your face. Gorgeous, classic cru beaujolais. These wines have great potential to age when stored properly, but rarely last in my cellar for obvious reasons. Quel dommage!

This is a wine to seek out for several reasons: 1) if you like Beaujolais nouveau but want to try a cru and up your game; 2) if you are a fan of organic farming and winemaking; 3) if you’re looking for an old-world, old school wine that is fresh, bright and acidic to tear down a savory dish and leave the palate clean and refreshed and ready for more; or 4) if you simply want to taste the beauty of thousand-year old, traditional winemaking with minimal intrusion. The older I get, the more I appreciate the beauty of these wines: a single vineyard pinot noir, a great gamay like this Morgon, a Lagrein, a Nebbiolo, or a Blaufrankish.  In each of these I see the potential for singular perfection, bold acidity, and a mineral backbone- a killer wine to complement a great meal. 
photo 2
Try one. You can thank me later.

 

à votre santé!

 

The Red Wine Party Challenge: Part 2/Conclusion

12 May

In Part 1 of The Red Wine Party Challenge, I provided mini-reviews of eight possible wines under consideration for a catered meal where I needed to choose one red wine for a very large group of people. The criteria included: 

1) Ideally a French wine

2) Must pair with: pasta with a variety of sauce options, poached salmon, roasted vegetables, & sushi.

3) To speed bar service, require alternative enclosure, or to be available in 1.5L bottle.

4) Lower price range ($7-$15/bottle) to stay in the party budget. 

As a refresher, at a local wine store I found these eight wines as possibilities:

La Vielle Ferme (Rhone, France) $7

Rosemont Estate Cab/Merlot Blend “Soft & Smooth” (Australia) $7

Rothschild Mouton Cadet 2012 Bordeaux Blend (Gironde, France) $9

Duboef Beaujolais-Villages Gamay  (Romaneche-Thorins, France) $9

PepperwoodGrove Pinot Noir (Valle Central, Chile) $9

Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve, (Rhone, France) $10

Chateau La Freynelle 2010, Merlot/Cab Blend (Bordeaux, France) $12 

Drouhin LaForet Pinot Noir (Beaune, France) $15 

8 bottle

Round One: I started by removing the wines I thought had limited pairing ability- even though they might have paired wonderfully with one specific dish from the meal, after tasting them I had to find that one wine that will stand out on its own AND pair well with all the foods being served- salad, poached salmon, pasta (tomato sauce, pesto, garlic & oil, primavera) as well as a sushi station. Well, it’s called a challenge for a reason, right?  I took three out of consideration after my initial tasting:

-The Rosemont Estate felt smooth and a tiny bit sweet- not right for this pairing.

-While La Vielle Ferme is often a wine I enjoy, this year’s selection was only OK.

-I thought a gamay selection offered good potential, but this bottle of DuBoef felt too astringent.

Round One left me with five remaining wines: two Bordeaux blends, one Rhone, two Pinot Noirs to decide among. 

Round Two is going to be difficult! These wines all drink very well and are delicious, great bargains with no obvious faults.

Time to compare the two pinots and the two Bordeaux. This is not going to be easy, but I’m determined to make it fun!

For the pinot noirs and this meal, the Pepperwood offers more pairing options and is easier to drink by itself. Reluctantly, I had to put the Drouhin to the side. While it is a lovely complement for the salmon and sushi, it did not offer enough body to pair well with the spicier pasta sauces.

-The Mouton Cadet is an easy vin du table that is so incredibly consistent but I preferred the Chateay La Freynelle when considering the entrees being served. I put the Mouton Cadet to the side.

-I compared the Freynelle and the Perron Rhone. I tasted, spat and tasted, and then tried each with a medium cheese. The Famille Perron Rhone has a darker palate yet was more harmonious to the dairy, while the Bordeaux blend was crying out for meat. I’m not serving meat. I put the Freynelle to the side.

 

Round Three! I’m down to Perrin Red Rhone Blend and Pepperwood Pinot Noir.

photo Pepperwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Either of these wines would be a wonderful complement. The Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir, a Chilean wine that drinks like entry-leve Burgundy from a top producer (at a fraction of the cost) would also be a great example of options to my guests who EXPECT French wines from me. It’s super easy to drink by itself or almost any food. Add the Zork enclosure, and this wine is a killer bargain at $9. Any nay-sayers would be stopped by the list of accolades on the label.

Yet the  Côtes du Rhône is a beautifully-made red that is the epitome of great, inexpensive French red wine, with more body and a longer finish.

I debated and debated. I sipped and spat, swirled, sipped, and swallowed. I had to choose one.

 

Decision time:

photo

 

In the end, I went with the Perrin Family Côtes du Rhône. The beefier body, the long finish, and the multiple specific notes from the wine make this the ideal red to serve. It will satisfy those who don’t know anything about wine (who will simply enjoy it with whatever they choose to eat) and equally well it will satisfy the oenophiles who will break down the elements, discuss the fruit, acid and tannins that I do so often in this very space.

So: decision made. For those who wonder what white wines were served, I will make good on that promise!

I started everyone off with the Gazela Vino Verde 2012 $6/bottle from Portugal, whose touch of fizziness reminds the drinker of sparkling wine while being lower in alcohol, light and delicious, making it really fun to drink.

SAQ-Gazela-III

For a full-bodied white, I chose the Yalumba Unwooded Chardonnay 2013 at $11/bottle from Southern Australia. The Yalumba is a vegan and vegetarian-friendly wine that uses no animal-based fining agents as well a being a predominant winemaker who uses both organic, biodynamic and sustainable winemaking practices in their work. Beyond that, it simply tastes delicious (green apple & white peaches) with notes of stone and spice on the crisp, clean finish. Very satisfying.

photo-1

Please share with me YOUR experiences and trials in trying to find the “right” wine. I look forward to hearing from you!

à votre santé!

 

Thanksgiving Wine, 2013. “One Wine to Serve Them All”

23 Nov

Here’s my 2013 update on Wine for Thanksgiving. And may you be surrounded by loved ones and take time to enjoy and slow down, if only for the one day!

For the past few years I’ve written about my Thanksgiving preference to serve several wines at Thanksgiving, in order to suit both a range of courses over a long meal as well as to cater to different preferences of individuals in large groups. (*See my footnote below if you need a reminder.) Well I’m NOT talking about those today. Let’s talk about a SINGLE bottle of wine for Thanksgiving… not because it’s what I’ll serve, but because it’s what I’m constantly asked about at this time of year.

People regularly ask me to suggest ONE wine to pair with the traditional Thanksgiving meal that all their guests will enjoy. Others want a bottle to bring as a gift to someone else’s home that might or might not be served with the meal, so it should be appropriate for use on Thanksgiving or by the host at a later date.

A Thanksgiving Gift Wine, or One Wine for the Big Meal

If you are OK with red grapes, then you have to make a choice: Rosé or Gamay?
Option One: Rosé
. Relax: this is not the lousy rosé we grew up with that made so many wine lovers turn up their nose at the faintest idea of a pink wine. We shall only consider the well-made rosé wines that will pair beautifully with opening courses, make the cranberry sauce sing, and take your turkey to a higher level. My favorites here would be Modus Operandi’s Vicarious Rosé from California, or from Provence France’s Domaines Ott, Chateau de Selle Rosé. Both of these should have a street price in the $30-$40 range, and are highly worth the price for the religious experience they deliver. For the under-$20 crowd, there are very good rosé wines from Guigal,and locally from  Coppola (a 90 pointer called Sofia), and a good dozen other producers that you can find in most wine stores. Key phrase here is “what is the best rosé you carry that will pair well for the entire meal”? Last year I served the Vicarious Rosé during the soup course and had several guests drink it through to dessert, enjoying it thoroughly the entire evening.

Option Two: Beaujolais Nouveau,  the gamay grape’s fruity, light, fall season ‘fun’ wine. This is my other best option for a wine that can match with the entire meal. George DuBoeuf has the corner on the market, his nouveau wines will run you around $10-12 and are consistent, tasty and good. You can go up the ladder, however, with Domaine du Peuble’s 2012 Beaujolais Nouveau in the $12-16 range, or Jean Foillard Morgon Beaujolais, which runs in the mid $20’s. To give you an idea of the quality of this wine, famed chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon restaurant in Beverly Hills is serving this with their prix fixe this week. For a few bucks more you can get a big jump in quality, but beaujolais nouveau is always fun to open and a good conversation piece.What could be easier for people who panic and don’t know what wine to bring? Here is your answer: Beaujolais Nouveau.

And for those readers who just don’t do red wine… I haven’t forgotten you. (Yes, Virginia, that rosé is made from red grapes.) For you, I’d suggest you consider whether you prefer either the serious white or a “lighter” white for your gift or single meal wine. In the serious realm, a white Bourdeaux Blend is always appreciated and appropriate for Thanksgiving and any time of year, or a white Burgundy will pair beautifully with this savory meal. You can find white bordeaux blends starting around $10 and up, and Burgundies about $16 and up, into the thousands per bottle… and if you can afford these upper tier wines, please invite yourself to my home for dinner!  Shifting to the lighter side, I often start by suggesting Riesling, and I’ll take that a step further: consider Riesling, Kerner, Gerwürztraminer, or Grüner, many of which have a hint of sweetness on the nose and initial early palate but offer depth in their acidity and minerality,  and often can be found in the $12-25 range. There are countless offerings both Stateside and abroad, but the masters of these grapes are from Germany, Austria, and Alto Adige region of Italy.

Happy Holidays to you! 

à votre santé!

*The four wines are I usually serve are: 1) a fun white, 2) a serious white, 3) a delicate red, and 4) a bold red.

Best Little Wine Store- Part 2: Wines from the Sorting Table

30 May

I got a note from a reader, asking if I tasted any wines from The Sorting Table on 7th  and if so, why didn’t I write about them? I admit, I am remiss in the time it took me to get these words out to you. Hence, Part 2! Wonderful Wines.

Yes, I tasted wines from Josh V’s Sorting Table, but it began with a challenge.  When I asked Josh for brilliant, funky, Napa blends he asked me back specifics as he handed me bottle after bottle starting from $15 and up to $50, all of which fell in that category and every one I wanted to try. So I kept asking, and tried several bottles to take notes for you, my fair readers.

And try I did. I tasted several wines from his store, and here they are in no particular order:

Salmon Vineyard’s 2011 Petite Syrah

R petite syrah

 

Deliciously wonderful, a wine that changed on the palate with every sip! I could not put this down. Amazing small-format winemaking- could rate in the company of Jason Moore and David Phinney, for $25/bottle. Paired this with an organic margarita pizza and thought that heaven could not be closer to my mouth. Deep purple in color, thick and viscous, jammy fruit with nice acidity, tart tannins, and an amazing finish. YUM!

Bennett Lane 2008 Maximum Red Feasting Wine

Maximus

94 points.  The ruby-purple color and blackberry nose entice you until the massive mouthfeel hits you: blackberry, cassis, and plum start off the tongue this mind-blowing red blend, and is followed with a slew of fabulous notes including mocha, truffle, chocolate, and cedar barrel to sate the palate of the serious wine guru for under $40. I’m buying more. ‘Nuff said!

Satisfied with red wine options, I took a different path. “Old world, yet affordable chardonnay that champions the grape,” I challenged. Two bottles appeared, and I chose:

Chateau de la Greffiere Macon La Roche “Vielle Vignes” Vineuse 2011

Macon La ROche

An amazing chardonnay from 50 year old vines for under $20. Stellar pricing for serious structure, I almost thought I could taste the vines standing in the clay underneath the perfectly aged chardonnay grape. Classic old world white!

Patient Cottat ‘s Le Grand Caillou Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Calliou

Chardonnay accepted, I asked for Sancerre, and Josh showed me three, then said- “what about a Sancerre that isn’t technically a Sancerre?” He pulled up a Sauv Blanc from the Loire Valley, outside of the lines that delineate Sancerre but one taste will show you how a half-price wine can blow away the competition. I knew this was the one I’d take. This is one of the best high value/low cost offerings in French wine you may ever see.  $12/bottle, and simply delectable. I’d love to see this in a blind tasting against “legit” sancerre!

Les Crêtes Valle D’Aosta Chardonnay 2011

Cretes

After pulling the sancerre out of his proverbial hat, I said “what is the best value white burgundy you have?” He riled thru a pair of wine fridges and pulled this lone bottle out along with a cheshire cat grin. And was he right? Spot on! This was a delicious, un-oaked white Burgundy-styled-white that impressed my palate with depth. Gentle tropical melon and floral notes in the mouth are followed by bright acidity, and find a finish with luscious terroir of sandy clay with a hint of chalk. Rich and delightful, savory yet taut, and drinks like an 80/bottle for under $40. I drank this with goat cheese on a fig cracker and ooh’d my way through every bite and sip.

Check, and mate! Perhaps in Josh’s world, I should try something akin to:

“R2 says the chances of survival are 725… to one” – C3PO, STAR WARS

à votre santé!

Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages, 2011

7 Apr

Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages, 2011. 100% Gamay wine from Burgundy, France. Purchased for $12 from Mayfair Wine, Queens NY. 12.5% Alcohol.

photo-1
Color: violet/purple color with ruby edging. Nose of strawberry, blueberry, some vegetation and new oak. In the mouth, lots of fresh red fruit with cassis, ripe plum, strawberry and dark cherry. Nice, slightly sour back palate- the acidity provides an even finish that lasts on the palate for seconds before the tannins swoop in with grippy tartness, urging your palate to take another bite or sip. The finish includes spice box, clove and pepper with some granite, loam and a hint of wood. A nicely-made and affordable burgundy that is hefty for a gentle wine- and this is indeed a gentle red, but could be described as full-bodied for a gamay. This paired elegantly with a light mixed green salad and pizza with mushroom and spinach.  A solid vin du table in the $10-12 price range you can trust to pair with the lighter fare. 

It has been a long time since I have tasted Louis Jadot and this bottle reminded me why you can find this popular Burgundy everywhere. Their products are consistent and provide decent value for the everyday wine drinker. It’s not a 90+ wine, but at this price point it isn’t pretending to be anything more than a nice vin du table, and it shines in that regard as a Burgundy for the humbler, unpretentious drinker.

à votre santé!

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