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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

 

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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.)

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

 

Arneis & Nebbiolo: The Real Roero!

19 May

Arneis is a white wine grape whose origin is from the Piedmont region of Italy. Some of the finest examples of this wine are from the DOCG region of Roero, just northwest of Alba. Arneis wines tend to be crisp, dry, and floral; full-bodied wines with notes of white pear, apple, and apricot, with a strong mineral backbone. These wines should be available in high end wine stores in the $16-25 range and run slightly high in alcohol, usually 13-13.5% ABV.

Arneis 3

 

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2015 was an excellent year in the Roero thanks to a snowy winter, mild spring, and rainy-but-hot summer. This combination of weather in the Roero region produced often perfect or near-perfect quality grapes with the traditional mineral-focused mouthfeel plus intense aromas and flavors of fruit with excellent aging potential.

I worked my way through the #RealRoero tasting of Roero wines held in New York City, enjoying myself thoroughly, first tasting recent vintages from 2011-2015. The Arneis wines show beautiful floral aromas with delicate fruit, mineral backbone and a sturdy finish that is absolutely delightful and makes me wonder why I haven’t sought these wines out previously.

The red counterparts, largely 100% nebbiolo Roero reds, are stunning in their own perspective. In these nebbiolos, bright fruit is in the background, while beautiful aromas mystify the nose and complex flavors bathe the tongue. My tasting notes included african violet, red plum, black cherry, pencil shavings, eucalyptus, forest floor and saddle leather. Colors range from bright ruby to muted garnet.


RR1 Deltetto

 

R3 vibrant nebb

 

R Nebb 1998

 

Like the Arneis wines, Roero reds vary from season to season with flavor profiles but show great consistency in quality and equal enjoyment between cooler and warmer years. It was a delight to taste 2011- 2012 reds alongside 1998 and 2001 vintages, demonstrating the aging potential these wines have and the beauty and complexity that is available for those willing to wait the test of time by cellaring. These wines should price in the $18-35 range on shelves and are usually 13-14.5% ABV.

2Deltetto 2001

 

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I hope you are able to find wines from the Roero region in your local wine stores and try them for yourself, please leave a note if you are! I am excited to include wines from the Roero region in my next Italian wine tasting, and am struggling with which ones I should add to my personal cellar (can you say #FirstWorldProblems?). But know that you should expect to see more of them here on JvBUnCorked!

à votre santé!

Gallery

Why Wines Deserve a Second Chance: #MWWC22

19 Jan

 

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Yesterday was a day I planned for months and worried about for weeks in advance. It was a wine tasting of a group of wines outside my normal scope of expertise. Traditionally when I host a tasting, I do ONE thing specifically: I serve wines I know personally, whose vines and trellises I have paced aside, whose barrels I have touched, whose flavors and colors I know intimately.

This was not one of those times.

Sure, on my ten wine list I hand-picked a few bottles that had been waiting in the cellar for just such a day. But by in large, I researched and shopped regions I didn’t know as well, and looked more closely at wines that often get a bad rap. For examples, the wines we scoot past quickly in a restaurant list when we see them. Such as: Italian white wines, and chianti.

“Why?” you cry out, outraged and distressed, “What have Chianti and Italian white wines done to you?”

Nothing.

That’s exactly it, they did nothing for me, and nothing TO me.

And it’s my own fault.

Because we first taste these wines in a family-style Italian restaurant where cheap wines are served by the gallon. We learn, early in age, to be dismissive of cheap pinot grigio and cheap chianti. As a result, later on in our lives,  we don’t even bother look for quality versions of these same things. It’s as silly as hating cars as an adult, just because your first teenage car was a cheap junker that smoked from the exhaust, had bald tires, and barely got you where you needed to go. It’s not the fault of the vehicle, to be honest.

It’s time to give these wines a second chance.

For white wines, I turned to Friuli-Venizia Guilia.

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I served these four white wines, in order:

Venica 2013 Malvasia from Collio,

Borgio Del Tiglio 2011 white blend from Collio,

I Clivi 2014 Verduzzo from Collio Orientali del Friuli DOC, and

I Clivi 2001 Galea from Collio Orientali del Friuli DOC.

These four wines changed all our preconceived notions of Italian white wines. Crafted with obvious expertise, love and care, these wines displayed depth, complexity, minerality, and body. They told stories. They enticed our palates, and they left us wanting more.

The 2001 Galea showed its age, grace, and deep color beautifully, on par with some of my revered and aged Bordeaux or Burgundian wines. The color alone was stunning; photos just don’t do it justice.

Clivi Galea

I found it funny: one of my guests (almost as a rule) dismisses white wines. He was not as quiet as I expected during these first four bottles, and eventually, I learned he was impressed and enjoying himself! And he made a point to speak up and admit both of these points to the group.

And we moved on to the red wines, and we laughed, and we loosened up. And at the 9th bottle, I poured a chianti.

But not just any chianti.

Thought a relatively young wine, I served a Chianti Classico Gran Reserva Selezione, a DOCG wine with the tell-tale black rooster on the bottle. I said little about the wine, and I said nothing about the Rooster.

Chianti rooster

 

 

 

My guests said it all for me. They told me this wine was stunning, eye-opening, not what they expected from a chianti. They shared pairing notes, talked about the color, the nuances they found.

Even after I served the 2000 Brunello Di Montalcino, we ooh’d and ahh’d about it and thoroughly enjoyed it… but eventually we went back to discussing the chianti.

And I thought that maybe it was really us who needed the second chance.

jvb1

à votre santé!

Submitted to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #22

 

Piedmont Beauty: La Ca Nova 2011

8 Jan

La Ca Nova Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy. 14.5% ABV; Priced around $30/bottle online. 

Bright ruby in color with medium opacity. A luxurious and intoxicating nose of dried flowers, sage, red plum, cigar box, and rose bush. Depth and complexity are on the palate: bright red fruit is dominant while delightful acidity and darker fruit round out the side palate with herbaceous notes. Hints of violet, stewed plums, cherry compote, truffle and tar. White pepper, burnt orange peel, limestone and chalky soil with gentle but firm tannins round out a medium-long, taut and dry finish.

With such a complex nose and flavor profile, the wine easily complemented a silver tip roast, salmon, pasta, and cheese. This 100% Nebbiolo benefits from decanting as it opens up slowly, showing beauty after several hours of air, and continuing to drink beautifully for three days with no refrigeration (on purpose, my experiment to learn how the wine aged with time and exposure). By the third day a noticeable shift in fruit was finally evident, but I was thoroughly impressed.  I am working this year to spend more time with Italian wines. Based on this Barbaresco, I think I’m going to be enjoying myself.

la ca nova

 

à votre santé!

 

 

My Superbowl 2015 Picks (in Wine)

2 Feb

For the Superbowl, I tend to go with what I know: Bordeaux! This year however, I changed up my game plan. I made a pile of bruschetta and picked these three bottles, two from Tuscany and one from Piedmont:

Pian dell’Orino Rosso di Montalcino 2011 (found online $30-40/bottle, 14%ABV)

Roagna Langhe Rosso Nebbiolo 2006 (Crush Wine $30/bottle, 13.4%ABV)

Brunello di Montalcino “Il Marroneto” 2000 ($40-70 online; 14% ABV)

 

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Needless to say, both the bruschetta and all three wines were hits! I decanted the Tuscan 2000 Brunello sangiovese and although it showed a hint of browning on the edges this wine is a stunner with plenty of life left to go. It has the most muted fruit and was the most subtle of the three, but those who drank it raved and championed its delicacy, depth and balance. The in between wine is the Pian dell’Orini Rosso di Montalcino, which is a sangiovese from Tuscany with delicate color, vibrant nose and fruit, and good balance of acidity. Rosso di Montalcino is the baby brother to Brunello, and even in a listed off-year, shows magnificent value. This wine compares well to Burgundy pinot noir, not shocking given that both Tuscany and Burgundy are on the 43rd parallel with similar topography.

The Langhe Rosso, a delightful nebbiolo from Piedmont, had the darkest color, fullest nose, and the most body of the three wines. While they all were made by different producers,  many guests who tasted the range suspected a vertical and either a name-changing winery, or neighboring vineyards.

Nope, these three wines demonstrate wonderful Italian winemaking, plain and simple. They worked wonders with the vegetarian chili as well as pizza, baked ziti, and the various appetizers that were served. For the wine drinkers, the choices were an obvious Super Bowl win.

What did you drink for the Superbowl this year?

à votre santé!

Baby Barolo from Piedmont without Peers

30 Aug

Roagna Langhe Rosso, Piedmont, Italy, 2006. From Crush Wine & Spirits, $30/bottle. 13.5% ABV.

OK, I’m a French wine snob. But I’m also a huge fan of nebbiolo. So when I saw Crush advertise a “back up the truck nebbiolo”, I thought I’d take a chance. Now I’m so glad that I did, as the only place in NYC to buy this wine off the shelf is Astor Wines, at $32, but that is still a bargain for this wine. Here’s why:

Color is violet in the center with russet-orange edges. A powerful nose features plum wine, forest floor, tar, and eucalyptus. On the palate, dark black fruit just past perfection is delightful in this 8 year old wine that is drinking like two decades have passed.  A hint of zing on the black plum and blackberry fruit is matched with rose petals, menthol, leather, and marlstone. On back palate we meet the Herschel Walker of tannins- the fullback that drives thru the defensive line, and POW, a team is left wondering what hit them. The finish is a prolonged experience of dark flavors with mushroom, red peppercorn, and old dried fruit; tar is a distant memory as the leather evolves back to the forest floor, old wood, fall leaves, a hint of bret and more marl appears as the acid shifts to the upper palate and your tongue begs for the next sip.

Wow.

So…do you love older barolos and barbarescos? Then this may be the wine for you. At this price, it’s worth buying, for it drinks like a $100+  Piedmont wine. If you don’t love Italian wines, then buy a bottle for the person in your life who does. I can think of three of my dear friends who are Italian wine lovers, and I wish I had extra bottles to give them. Well, maybe I’ll share… if they are really nice!

The hype was right, this is a back-the-truck-up wine. If you’re serious about Italian wine, this is one for you. Chill it lightly, then decant for an hour before serving. Three days later, it’s still drinking marvelously. You can thank me later, but remember to invite me to the dinner party where you serve this. 

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à votre santé!

Barolo: The Italian Margaux!

7 Jul

Michele Chiarlo “Tortoniano” Barolo, DOCG, Italy 2007

Sample provided by Wine Chateau. $37/bottle (List at $65) 13.5% ABV

I’d been waiting for the perfect storm- a free evening and an Italian dinner- to crack open this Barolo and taste it. I’m a huge fan of the nebbiolo grape, and was nervous about giving the wine a good flavor set to complement. The good news is that I paired it several times, and each was an easy success.

With a fading ruby color and a perfumed nose of wild roses with menthol, this wine hits the palate hard with a full body of red and black fruit and a host of secondary flavors: vegetation, leather, earth, spice box, eucalyptus, and cedar. It leaves a delightfully long, lingering finish on the back and top palates.

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After the initial rush of red fruit, the acidity cleans the palate nicely and soft tannins invite you back for another sip, luxuriously -which shows obvious care in the winemaking to have such wonderful structure. The depths of flavor becomes obvious with air or being held in the mouth-which is when I realized how easy pairing this wine would be, and it shone nicely with pasta and meat sauce, turkey with stuffing and cranberries, and cheeses from savory to strong. Best pairings  will obviously be with stronger flavors.

What I learned is that I didn’t need to wait to pair this wine. It was seemingly made to complement food and is delicious both at room temperature and slightly chilled.  The bottle kept beautifully over a week with refrigeration and normal aeration, I enjoyed it thoroughly every time.

If you’re a French wine snob, you should know that this wine shares many attributes from the wines of the Margaux region: feminine (soft) in nature, with nice depth, similar flavor palate and structure. The Barolo, however, has better acidity to cleanse the palate and is much lower in price.

If the cost is still a concern, it might be useful to know that wines like this one- DOCG certified, 100% nebbiolo grapes from the Piedmont region and consistently rated in the ‘90’s- I’d normally expect prices in the mid $60 to $90 range for a bottle. Listing at $65, this one can be had under $40/bottle, which is a wonderful value in good Italian wine! If that seems pricey, then tuck away in your mind that this is an ideal bottle for a special meal/occasion or as a reasonably priced gift for someone who adores Italian wine, and you will be thrilled when you open and enjoy it.

Here is a link to the winemaker’s website:

You can also buy it direct from Wine Chateau.

à votre santé!

Win, Place, or Show

20 Mar

Cantine Povero Barolo DOCG 2008, sample from Wine Chateau, $20/bottle.

Cantine Barolo

From the Asti region of Piedmont: the color is deep ruby, evolving into garnet with clear edging. The nose on this wine should only be referred to as “aroma” as I find it intoxicating: rose petals, violet, and hibiscus. Made with 100% nebbiolo grapes, this wine has a surprising initial start. While I expected a more powerful set of flavors, I found this wine to feature gentle red currants and cherry as predominant flavors, medium to delicate in body that still retains enough acidity and tannins to hold its own against a heavy meat sauce or rich cheese. (I actually made spaghetti with a mushroom, onion & meat sauce to try this on my second day with this wine as I expected it would be an ideal pairing. It was!)  I had consistent tasting notes & response over three days and three tastings of this wine.

There is obviously good value in this nebbiolo, a well cared for and crafted wine with a hefty DOCG stamp.  While it works well as is, part of me wishes it had more flavors and some additional notes to allow for more complexity, but I enjoyed it with food in spite of the absence of notes of terroir or wood barrels. At $20 this is a wonderful deal on Barolo and perfect to balance heavier dishes and rich sauces, and worth your consideration.

This wine is like a two year-old racehorse, spirited and agile, needing the next step in guidance to achieve greatness, assuming the owner or vineyard is interested in further development. With some calculation and work, this wine could go from a local track winner to a household name.

You can check out Cantine Povero’s website here, and the direct link to the Barolo here. You can also order this wine direct from Wine Chateau on their page linked here.

à votre santé!

Two Great Value Reds

12 Jul

Duckhorn Decoy 2009 Red Blend

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I’ve enjoyed Duckhorn, a classic Napa vineyard, before. But I hadn’t enjoyed Decoy, one of their “second” wines. The color is deep ruby, the nose shows cassis and vegetation with hints of wood. In the mouth, it’s a decent combination of flavors- red plum, a little strawberry, some cassis. It feels like a melange of cabernet grapes blended with cab franc and syrah to provide a touch of oak, tobacco leaves and cocoa on the finish. Great with food, and available  for $16-20. This wine fits neatly into the ideal range of value wines with depth. This is a nice blend of Napa reds from a provider that takes a note from the classic French vintners to make a ‘second’ wine in the shadow of their main $70+ namesake cab. For the money, the Decoy can be a great deal. I paired this with a salad and a pasta seafood dish and adored every minute of it.

Renato Ratti Ochetti 2009 Nebbiolo

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This wine starts off like a great pino noir and evolves from there. Red fruit on the nose, a palate bursting with fruit: blackberry, raspberry and a touch of strawberry. A quick, tight finish with a snap of floral elegance makes this wine drink well; it’s a great food wine. We opened this with appetizers, a combination of light and heavy flavors, the wine matched it step for step. From seafood to garlic spinach to truffle mashed potatoes, this wine was stunning. WS lists it at 90 points, it is a delicious, under-the-radar nebbiolo wine that is worth enjoying while you can get it. Online it sells for $15-23/bottle. I paid three times that in a restaurant and loved every drop!

A votre sante’ !

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