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JvB On Snooth: The Ultimate Cookie & Wine Pairing

28 May

I’m honored to share with you my inclusion to Snooth.com’s ‘s Ultimate Cookie & Wine Pairing Guide. I’m only one of a slew of fabulous and talented wine writers who contributed to this piece, but I know you want to see what I’m talking about and drinking! And darn, this is a yummy cookie, too!

The wine that I chose for my submission is a delightful vintage of Sauternes: 2007’s Chateau de Rayne Vigneau. It has more acidity than sweetness and makes for an ideal end to a great meal. If you try this, please comment and let me know- I think you will be blown away by how good the pairing is!

My submission (page three on the Snooth.com article) is below. They opted to use another photo, but this one is mine, and I like it:

Rayne

My family strays from the sweeter cookie types to either simple or savory flavors. So it is with no surprise that I choose Rip van Wafels’ dark chocolate sea salt, non-GMO cookie. Superbly soft, chewy texture with dark bittersweet chocolate and more salt than sugar makes a stunning after dinner cleansing bite. A perfect pairing is made with a Premier Grand Cru Classé Sauternes from 2007, also not dripping in sugar. The Chateau de Rayne Vigneau Sauternes ’07 is a delightful golden hue with a nose of honey and apricot. On the palate, the wine is gorgeously focused with bracing acidity and huge fruit flavors of ripe pear, apricot and passion fruit, drinking less like dessert and more like a meal. Stunning clarity without too much sugar, this Sauternes is the ultimate mate for the savory dark chocolate sea salt waffle cookie. Enjoy!

-Jim van Bergen, JvBUnCorked.wordpress.com

à votre santé!

UnCorked from the Road! October 2015

26 Oct

Lately I’ve been on the road a good bit, both touring with various clients and doing city-specific events. While often we work 20 hour days on the road,  sometimes I actually get a night off where I can enjoy a great glass of wine or two.

In Atlanta, I went with co-workers to foodie destination Gunshow by chef Kevin Gillespie. We thoroughly enjoyed the southern-inspired options from the local chefs served dim sum style. The bartender runs a mean cart with artisinal drinks to make your mouth water.  My co-workers loved the toasted old fashioned (bourbon, bitters, burnt sugar, bruléed cinnamon, flamed orange) so much they had five of them. I had to taste the duke of earl (scotch, allspice, lime, lavender salt, ginger, earl grey) and was thoroughly pleased, but the wine of the evening for me was a Domain Chandon Pinot Noir, Carneros Napa 2012 (via internet from $24/bottle) 

The Chandon Pinot was a great foil to food with its smooth, velvety mouthfeel and was able to stand up to the strong spices of buffalo wings and kung pao while having enough acidity to cut through truffle grilled cheese, lamb, and short ribs.

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For the seafood options and dessert, I went another route: sparkling. I was wowed by  De Chancey’s Sparkling Chenin Blanc Vouvray 2012, an off-dry sparkler with gentle flavors of peaches and pear. Truly tasty with a hint of sweetness that made me want to drink it all day long. I will find this again, I promise you! It was fun to drink by itself but an ideal complement to the oyster and octopus dishes the chefs brought to our table, as well as the trio of desires we tasted. Fun!

sparkling vouvray

 

While working in San Francisco on a huge sports event, I managed to squeeze in dinner one night without a reservation by dining at the bar of Restaurant Gary Danko for a tremendous meal, great service and some stunning wine.

I started with Schramsburg Blanc de Blanc 2012 North Coast California Brut sparkling, made from 100% chardonnay. I was very pleasantly surprised with the old world approach to sparkling, this crisp, dry wine stands proudly among other great sparkling wines of the world with a delightful combination of delicate flavors – golden delicious apple, citrusy lime, and baked bread. It complemented courses of butternut squash soup and risotto wonderfully.

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The star of my meal was something I struggled with choosing from their fun and surprisingly expansive wine list (all kept on-site, which I found impressive, given that the restaurant only seats about 70). After much thought and some great conversation with two house somms, I decided upon a half bottle of a pinot to complement my fish and meat courses. The Francophile in me won out and I selected Domaine Drouhin-Laroze Gevrey-Cambertin 2011, which paired beautifully and complemented these dishes more than I could imagine. Excellent depth and balance, lovely fruit yet enough acidity to stand up to a hearty filet of beef with swiss chard, with solid tannins, delightful minerality- slate, limestone & chalky clay.  

burgundy

 

I finished the meal with four selections from Gary Danko’s cheese cart along with a glass of 2009 Château Laribotte Sauternes,  a delightful dessert wine that is very popular here with the fois gras course. On this evening, the Laribotte was an ideal final note to a delicious meal.

laribotte

 

A little food porn for you:

From Restaurant Gary Danko:

Risotte

Risotto

salmon

Salmon

boef

Filet of Beef w/ Duck Fat Potatoes

 

 

From Gunshow:

deconstructed beef pho

Beef Pho (Deconstructed)

Short RibShort Rib


Kung Pao Brussel

Kung Pao Brussel Sprouts

à votre santé!

PDT, Alder, & A Wonderful Wine Weekend!

14 Sep

I’m fortunate to work in an industry I love (entertainment) that by definition requires long hours. Often I work around the clock, and in this industry ‘weekends’ simply don’t exist. So when I get an opportunity to enjoy wine with friends, it’s very special indeed!

Recently I was blessed with two nights off in a row. On the first, I managed to go visit a great little bar on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, then join a friend for dinner at a killer restaurant. On the second, I got to enjoy some delightful wines with my neighbors. Here’s the scoop:

Please Don’t Tell  is a delightful speakeasy on east St. Marks Place on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Access is via secret door, lines can be long and reservations are highly recommended. You actually have to enter by going into a phone booth in the shop located next door and “calling” the hostess. Once inside, skilled barkeeps mix new and classic drinks to thrill your tastebuds. Their delicious house concoctions have been created by famed NYC bartenders, and whether you choose something outrageous or traditional, you will be quite pleased with the service and your libation.I had some time to kill so I waited until opening and the hostess rewarded me with a seat at the side of the bar underneath a huge stuffed bear. I reviewed the drink menu, ordering a classic sazerac and enjoying the carefully made concoction completely. Sazerac

 My classic sazerac, the best I’ve had outside the French Quarter- that’s high praise from me.

 

Pdt

My view from the side of the bar- perfect to watch every move and the incredible detail going into every libation served. 

 

After PDT, I swung over to 2nd avenue and met my buddy Lindsay for dinner at Wylie Dufresne’s Alder.

 

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Alder’s subtle entry, down 2nd Ave on the Lower East Side. Deliciousness awaits! 

While discussing our lives, wives, kids, and various jobs we shared an appetizer combo that allowed us both to taste five of Wylie’s finest small plates, and then several larger plates that demonstrate his incredible skill and funky perspective on food deconstruction. We enjoyed a rye pasta dish (which tastes like eating a bowl of pastrami sandwich), a savory and complex rabbit sausage, and the daily special,  a spicy fried chicken. The GM/Somm Siobhan Lowe has a captivating smile and a brilliant wine list. I asked her to pair wines for me and she thrilled my glass and palate. I was equally captivated by her “wines by women” listing, which is a wonderful resource championing some amazing winemakers.

I immediately liked Siobhan, and she divined my palate, tempting me with delightful wine pairings that demonstrated her vast knowledge and accurate palate.

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Siobhan Lowe- photo from JaegerSloan.com 

To the WINE!

 

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Gāl Tibor, Egri Csillag White Wine Blend, Hungary. ABV 13.9%. Prices by Snooth, from $13-19/bottle. “The Star of Eger” Hungarian Blend of 8 grapes-  nose of wildflowers with fruity palate of apricot, pear, starfruit, manages to be a savory delight and a perfect complement to the five different apps on the pu-pu platter! This is a delightful wine that offers great value and savory depth you’d expect to pay three times as much for.

 

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Domaine Paul Cherrier’s Pinot Sancerre 2013 is breathtaking. A stunning sancerre rouge, notes of bright red fruit plus enough acidity and tannin to stand up to the powerful flavors of the pastrami, rabbit sausage, and spicy friend chicken. Impressive! Check out this article in the Guardian that lists Cherrier at the top of the list of winemakers to visit in Sancerre.

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Last but not least from Alder’s Siobhan Lowe, Macvin du Jura (pinot) from Les Chais du Vieux Bourg. A great alternative to the dessert wines I usually choose, this one demonstrates a little black fruit along with cherry & orange notes and weighs in with a whopping 17.9% ABV you can see on the label. A delightful, fortified dessert wine that stands equally with many of the great dessert wines! If you find this wine for sale in the USA, LET ME KNOW!

 

The following evening our neighbors were hanging out the backyard and over I went with a couple of bottles to share. Likewise, Phillip brought out a bottle brought to the US from a recent trip: Bürgerspital 2013 Würzburgerstein Silvaner Trocken, which was delightfully mineral and a lovely semi-dry wine for a hot summer night! List is €8.50, about $11 bucks.

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All in all, I have to admit that even though my hectic life means sometimes I don’t see a night off for weeks, the flip side of that is when my wine weekends are wondrous!

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What’s in your wine glass? Whatever it may be, I hope you’re enjoying a wonderful wine experience!

à votre santé!

 

Dinner With Friends- #MWWC11

10 Aug
Note: This post is 1) different that what I normally write, 2) about a recent wine dinner, as well as 3) a response to my friend Jeff ‘s request for submissions to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, #MWWC11 which if you really want to (if you blog & want to write about wine)  you can see here.  Or if you ride or like comic writing, you should check out my favorite  section of  Jeff’s blog, which I really enjoy. I hope you enjoy this post! Feel free to comment and let me know -JvB
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A friend I’ve not seen for 28 years was in town for a family wedding- his! So I invited Joe & Kaz to come to our home for dinner while they were in NYC, visiting from Osaka Japan. Joe has lived in Japan for almost two decades and I knew we’d have a lot to discuss. I was a little nervous about making dinner since our Western meals are quite different than those in the East, so I enlisted my (much) better half to help create a solid dinner plan, while I, as in classic form, worried and worried about what wines to serve.

I stared into my cellar, pondering choice after choice, changing my mind several times. Finally I settled on a small- production petite sirah I’ve been holding for a special occasion to pair with beef, and a vinho verde I love on hot summer evenings. I grabbed a bottle of Chateau de L’Aulée AOC Méthode Tradtionelle brut sparkling wine from Touraine, France so we could toast the wedding. And just for fun, I selected two half bottles of dessert wine, a port and a sauternes. I felt prepared. No, really I felt terrified, but at least I had wine!

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Since both my wife and I are freelancers in the arts and work a lot of (ok, almost all) evenings and weekends, we rarely get to entertain. We also didn’t know how busy we would be prior to our dinner. As my schedule got increasingly hectic, she agreed to shop while I was working. Our menu plan included several cold salads that I could help prep and she could execute while I was grilling the entrée. The butcher didn’t have the cut of meat I wanted available, so she purchased several shoulder steaks and we agreed to make kabobs to allow us to serve efficiently.

As she sliced a butternut squash and put that into the oven, I cubed the beef and dumped it into a bowl for the marinade- then diced fresh garlic, onion powder, cracked 4-color pepper mix, and ground some Himalayan salt on top. I added two heaping tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, then raced to the cellar to get a bottle of my ‘everyday’ red table wine– a bottle of 2011 Los Vascos from Colchagua, Chile which is managed by none other than Baron Eric de Rothschild.

los vascos

This wine is one of the best values I keep in my cellar at about $10 a bottle, and is great to drink but doesn’t break my heart if I need a lot of it to make a meal taste wonderful. I poured it on the beef and mixed my marinade happily, putting the bottle aside as a backup to the Petite Syrah, then covering the marinade bowl and sliding it into the fridge to continue the prep.

Annette and I chopped Israeli cucumbers and diced roma tomatoes, parsley and scallions for a cucumber/tomato salad that could be dressed quickly with oil and balsamic vinegar. As I washed vegetables for the kabobs, she cut yellow and red peppers for me, moved to prep an avocado salad that had to be made at the last minute, then put sweet peas and water into a pan to cook while I scraped & preheated the grill.

Thirty minutes had passed and we were moments away from our guests arriving, so we enlisted a daughter to set the table while I aerated and decanted the petite sirah, using a True Fabrications Aerating Pour Spout to pour into the decanter. The petite sirah was a gorgeous, near-black purple in color, delightfully aromatic with the scent of african violets, and exciting even to pour. I was happy that the spout had caught some sediment as well as aerating. I rinsed it and set it aside, then pulled the meat out and built the kabobs for grilling, using mushrooms, onion, cherry tomato, yellow and red pepper, and of course the marinated steak cubes.

true

 

Joe and Kaz arrived and we greeted them, opened the bubbly and toasted their wedding, and I took them with me to the backyard to grill the kabobs while Annette completed the salads and vegetable courses.

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The grill ran about 550 degrees and while kabobs require about five minutes a side for medium well (turning over once), I prefer to turn them every three minutes as neither the vegetables nor the meat always turns as one wants. After a quick sear, I moved several kabobs to a higher level to grill them to medium rare over the same duration. We chatted about their trip, enjoying the sparkling wine until it was time to take the kabobs off the flame.

Following our guests into the dining room with a plate of burning hot skewers, I noticed that Annette had made a couscous (when did she find time to do that?) and also managed to plate the butternut squash rings so that they enclosed the steaming hot green peas, a neat little visual I didn’t know was in her repertoire! I refreshed flutes with sparkling wine and poured the petite sirah, as Joe gave a quick Japanese blessing, “Itadakimasu” or いただきます.  A few bites in, Joe exclaimed his joy at the wine, which made me beam proudly and take time to explain my choice, ignoring the earlier requests from my 13-year old daughter who had begged me not to wax poetic about wine tonight…sorry, sweetheart!

Modus Operandi is the Napa, CA home of winemaker Jason Moore. I was introduced to his wines by a fellow oenophile who INSISTED I try Jason’s cabernet sauvignon- I loved it, noting the depth and complexities of flavors, with an unusual bonus: chocolate covered strawberry notes on the finish. I quickly joined the Modus wine club and have been a fan ever since. Jason may not be the first of the independent winemakers that I decided to champion and support, but he is highly accomplished and we share an affinity for passion in the things we do. His work is exemplary.

Back to the dinner table: Joe noted the sirah was more black in color than red, more floral than fruity on the nose, and deeply complex. I agreed, and explained that it was made in very limited quantity (only two barrels produced) and that I chose it specifically to complement both the meat and array of vegetables due to its flexibility to pair so well with grilled foods. I have a full review of the ’09 sirah here.

 

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The meal I had been so worried about had been a success, and we talked late into the night. After a small intermission we cleared dinner, I made coffee while Annette served berries and some small pastries I’d picked up at Financier for dessert, and I brought out the dessert beverages to our guests. These included the 2006 Chateau Doisy Vedrines which is showing beautifully right now, a tawny port from Kalyra Winery, from Santa Barbara, CA that I just tasted recently on my Wine Blogging trip, and a calvados: Christian Drouin Coer de Lion “Selection”, a delightful digestive that offers apples, spice, and cinnamon-all the best parts of apple pie- in the glass.

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We sampled sips of all three, and a little XO courvoisier that was a gift from a client.

My fears of failure seemed to have been conquered by paying great attention to detail. Fresh, flavorful, and colorful food well-paired with tasty wines and made for a lovely, memorable evening with old friends and our spouses. While I don’t know when I’ll see my friend Joe again, I hope that Annette and I will work harder to entertain more guests at our home sooner, rather than later.

à votre santé!

 

 

 

Semi-Sweet Sancerre and Super Sweet Eiswein!

9 Sep

Couronne & Lions Sancerre, Loire Valley, 2012

$18 from Mayfair Wine & Liquor

Pale straw in color with a hint of green on the tinge. A nose of  white peach, hibiscus, and citrus with a note of chalky clay. In the mouth, gooseberry, grapefruit, lemon, and lychee flavors dominate the palate and are followed by sharp acidity, with notes both sweet and sour on the upper palate and during the finish. A nicely made sancerre that will also please lovers of sauvignon blanc; I think this wine shines best when served quite cold.

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Heinz Eifel Eiswein

 375ml bottle, $18 from Mayfair Wine & Liquor

The color is a lovely orange sunset and the nose reminds me of candied apples with pears poached in brandy. The palate of this sweet wine is ripe pear, apricot & plum, dominated by the sugary sweetness of the blend and a hint of must. I’m stunned to find an eiswein so similar to a sauternes. After three separate tastings on different days, my notes all agree:  at the right temperature (serve very cold), this eiswein is a superb dessert wine.

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à votre santé!

A Triple Crown of Wine

13 Oct

Three serious, 90-point wines for serious wine drinkers.

 

The First Crown: Rioja Blanco Reserva Vina Tondonia 1996

At a restaurant, I noted this white Rioja was available by the glass as a selection to pair with a light fish entrée. Unfamiliar with this rioja, I asked the sommelier about it. She beamed at my mention of the wine with this dish, explaining that it was amongst her favorite pairings. It had evidently taken a long time to find the perfect wine and they had considered a sherry before deciding on this white Rioja.

I had to try it.

A deep yellow color with a hint of sunset in the glass, this wine has sweet fruit, lemongrass and honey on the nose. On the palate, I swore it was part sauternes- it has vanilla, orange citrus, and herbs forward, with elements of tobacco, dried apples, cranberries, and clay. A lengthy finish from this luscious white, I promised myself to find a few bottles of this to try at home with my cooking. A true find, and rare in NYC wine stores. Approx 40/bottle.

Learn more about  winemaker Lopez de Herediaere.

The Second Crown: Blanc de Lynch Bages, 2002

Lynch- Bages is a classic premiere cru chateau. The white is a recent addition to the chateau’s offerings, only begun in 1990 and immediately acclaimed for top quality. A blend of three grapes- sauvignon blanc, muscadelle, and semillion, Blanc de Lynch Bages is a classic, delicate Bordeaux wine that is renowned for complexity, aromatic subtlety, and elegance.

A pale yellow color, this ten-year old white has a faint nose with pear, apple, and tangy citrus. The fruit has dissipated in the age, and in the mouth it is light, tart and acidic in a delightful fashion, with notes of vanilla and a hint of gravel. This specific vintage, having lost much of the forward fruit due to age,  is not a drink to enjoy by itself. Instead,it is a perfect match and complement for turkey, fish, chicken or lighter cheeses. When paired with a good protein or sauce, it enlightens the dish, and livens the palate: quite simply, this is a stunning wine to pair. $20/half bottle from a pricey midtown liquor store, full bottles are in the $40/range and can be found from the 2006 and later vintages.

Learn more about Chateau Lynch-Bages.

The Third Crown: Cos D’Estournel, 1996

I have been fortunate to taste this wine (vintages 1986, 1996, 2000) a few times. Deep purple in color, and the nose is black fruit with menthol, tar, and asphalt. The mouthfeel is amazing, silky and dark: black currants and blackberries with cut flowers and herbs. The top of the palate features the dark flesh of the black fruit with earth, loam, and asphalt again. With a huge finish that reminds me of road tar in a pleasant way, this is a wine that screams decadence in every sip and pairs well with game, red meats, distinct cheeses or similarly heavy dishes.

Known for an amazing terroir with a highly regulated climate,  the chateau will only uses grapes from 20 year old vines in Cos D’Estournel. Like many classic French wines, they can be difficult to source due to their level of  pedigree. Available sometimes for $20-25/glass (my best luck here was at Morrel Wine Bar in Rockefeller Plaza in NYC), online from $80+/bottle, and in many high end wine stores over $100/bottle. The good news is that there are many good years of this wine- so look for this wine when a good price comes around, and enjoy with friends. Not to be opened if under ten years old, but a wine to be enjoyed and cherished.

Learn more about Chateau Cos D’Estournel

à votre santé!

The Casual Summer BBQ

25 Jun

Some barbecues take themselves very seriously. Not ours. We (my family and our next –door neighbors) try to throw a totally casual barbecue around Memorial Day. This year, our weekend was too busy for most of the families and it took a few weeks to get a cookout together.

Once we finally scheduled the evening it came together quickly.  A few emails assigned who was responsible for what elements. “Will we have enough food?” I ask. They tease me back with “Who will bring the wine?” It shuts me up for a brief moment. I shopped a few days before, and my wife did last minute on the day-of event as I had shows to mix. Suddenly I was back home, taking the cover off the Weber grill and heating it up, grabbing my pre-selected bottles and pulling corks.

My neighbors Gary and Lori are lovely, smart, fun people -like most of our Forest Hills neighborhood. Lori is a great cook and enjoys tasting wine –she’s often my first stop to share a glass when I find something new- and I brought over the tiny remainder of a bottle of Modus Operandi’s Vicarious to taste, as she’d tasted their Petite Syrah with me before. Vicarious is another phenomenal wine made by Jason Moore that is the best of both worlds– a delicious blend in the Bordeaux tradition, with Napa grapes. Deep purple to black in color, stunning dark fruit, bold,  delicious, with a medium to long finish. Very little is made- only 13 barrels of the ‘09- but like any great art, it’s worth going out of your way to experience.

http://moduswines.com/store/item/2009-vicarious.

We ooh’d and aah’d over the wine,
 finishing my bottle as  Lori opened one of her own for me to try: Ripken Vineyards 2005 Late Harvest Viognier, 100% Lodi, a dessert wine. Knowing I had recently served Lori a small glass of the stunning Chateau Climens 1990, I wondered how this would compare, if it could be in the same realm as a Sauternes, if it would be more along the lines of the strawberry, blueberry, or blackberry dessert wines I’ve tasted. No, I was flabbergasted- this was indeed pure Viognier, and tasted so delicious- a golden sunset color, lightly sweet nose, with flavors of honey, beeswax, peaches and apricots and NO flavor of noble rot. This wine, I had to admit, tasted as good a dessert wine as the Chateau Climens on my palate. Lori explained that her sister’s family is part of this vineyard, and I was even more impressed. I plan to buy wines from these folks and see what else they have up their sleeves.

http://ripkenwine.com/html/ripkenwines.html#ripken

After the taste of the Ripken, it was time to grill. I got to work, and took breaks for a moment or two to pour a few glasses as guests arrived. I had three bottles open for the guests in our backyards:

The first and lightest of the three is St. Martin Reserve Chardonnay 2010. I found this Pays D’Oc last summer as a great choice from the South of France, it’s a gently oaked Chardonnay that exudes a fresh, crisp and fruity feel to it with a touch of citrus on the nose. It’s easy drinking and perfect for a hot summer day or people who want something light and fun, not a full-bodied wine. It’s frustrating that a google search reveals nothing about this vineyard, but I can take that in stride: they make solid, enjoyable wines that are affordable. Let them remain off the grid. I get this from Sherry Lehman at around $8 to $9/bottle, and their Cabernet is also well worth getting as both are a great value.

The next wine I opened was the Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvingon 2009 from Colchagua, Chile. This is an estate owned & operated by Baron Eric Rothschild, and this wine is made quite well at a price of a regular vin du table. Served at a dusk cookout, no one notices the label but people recognize a delicious and smooth cab, perfectly crafted with flavors of lush red and black fruit, gentle hint of wood, vanilla, cacao, and great easy balance. Medium bodied, easy to pair with anything. Over the last several years it’s become my standard choice for a daily red (if I ever had such a thing) but a wine I trust implicitly to be a crowd favorite, to pair easily, and to always deliver at below $10/bottle. Who could ask for more?

http://www.lafite.com/eng/Other-Estates/Vina-Los-Vascos/Los-Vascos-Cabernet-Sauvignon

My final wine to serve was Alamos Malbec 2009. From Mendoza, Argentina, this wine is a little more powerful with strong dark fruit, pepper, burnt sugar, and a touch of wood. The spicy response of this wine is perfect for someone who wants a little more kick to their meal and a longer finish.  At $6-8/bottle, it’s a great buy.

http://www.alamoswines.com/en/ourwines/

After several hours of food and great conversation, we wound up our evening with smiles and laughter, heading to our respective homes. Lori shared the last bit of the Ripken Late Harvest Viognier with several small glasses handed out as we said our goodnights. A lovely finish to a great evening with friends, neighbors, and delicious wine.

What’s your favorite wine to serve at a casual cookout?

à votre santé! 

Chateau Climens Sauternes 1990

18 Jun

Chateau Climens Sauternes 1990

Color of light, golden apricot and nose of botytris, sweet peach and honey. In the mouth again apricot is dominant, with honey, then pineapple, and small flourishes of quince & orange peel. This vintage surpasses the lesser Sauternes and Barsac wines I’ve tasted and also compares quite favorably to the d’Yquems I have experienced. Opening this at 20 and 22 years, I’m thrilled to have tasted this wine- perfection with savory dishes and showing additional note of vanilla when paired with desserts. Not until after appreciating these bottles did I see the reviews that rate this wine- consistent 94/95 scores. Drinking this wine brings an immediate smile to my face, and a slight tinge of regret that this is the last time I may taste this vintage.

If you’ve read my comments on auction wine, you might enjoy knowing that I purchased this bottle at auction as part of a mixed case. The key bottle in the case was a Margaux I was aching to get my hands on. Two half-bottles of Chateau Climens 1990 were part of the deal. Since opening the first and now second of these, I’m wishing I had more of them- while they are available, it’s at a steep price.

If you enjoy sweet wines or have any interest, this wine pairs beautifully as a foil to fois gras, cheeses, or pate’s and is a lovely complement to desserts from a vanilla flan to powerful chocolate. Powerful in its own rights, small servings are appropriate.

A votre santé!

A gentle Sauvignon Blanc and an introduction to Sauternes!

2 Jun

Chateau de Fontaine-Audon 2010. A pale straw color, very fresh & light white, nose of lemon and grapefruit, slight lemon forward on the palate. It’s subtle, gentle (all Sauv blanc grapes) with minerality that really tastes of flint, from the local terroir of the eastern Loire valley. It’s yummy, delicate- a real apertif wine. Pairs well with milder cheeses, crudite, dried or cut fruit and can go with entrees but best on its own before the meal (hence apertif) or with an appetizer course. I served this recently for cocktails and it was perfect, everyone enjoyed it and as we started dinner we moved to a Sauvignon Blanc from another region with more punch to pair well with the meal. A lovely bottle when you need something gentle, sophisticated, and relaxed. About $20/bottle. Pictured on the left of the photograph.

On the right side of the photo is 2007 Domaine de Grange Neuve Monbazillac, a Sauternes– a wine I enjoy, yet I don’t drink very often. Still, I should take an opportunity to mention to those of you who don’t know this wine:

Sauternes is a classic “dessert” wine even thought it’s famous for being served at the start of a meal during a savory appetizer course. It’s a very sweet wine, grapes are grown specifically to grow the fungus Botrytis Cinerea which causes the grapes to partially raisin- also known as ‘noble rot’. To make this sweet wine, the maker stops the yeast’s process mid-fermentation which allows a high sugar content in the mixture.

-This wine is classically paired with either dessert course, or early in the meal in a small and savory course with a specific, rich flavor- such as fois gras- (goose liver pate) as an appetizer, where I feel it has its greatest appeal for pairing. Cleansing the palate after a very rich bite, a Sauternes has sweetness and crisp acidity which demonstrates the massive difference between the two – and the mouth’s response to the savory and it’s shocked reaction to the sweet- is a spectacular human reaction which can cause great joy especially in foodies! It’s an amazing combination, and when fine restaurants offer fois gras as a course they often offer a Sauternes by the glass to pair- and this is absolutely the best time to try this pairing–  in a restaurant that has spent careful time evaluating a great pairing to provide success!

-Sauternes wines are made from familiar grapes (Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle) in the area just southeast of Bordeaux region of France along the river Garonne. The production and quality creation of this rare wine is very costly and the wines can be highly expensive as a result. Many Sauternes are sold by the half bottle (375ml) but I find a glass to be an even better buy- sometimes as low as $13/glass in a restaurant, when pairing I’m happy to have just a few sips and you might choose to share the tasting process with your fellow dining partners.

-Color is one of the obvious factors of a Sauternes. Expect to see either a rich amber, a deep yellow moving into yellow, or the color may drift as far from sunlight towards brass even as far as a deep, aging copper- much like a quality single malt scotch, and the wine is usually paired with an obviously sugary nose. I have been on this tangent too long! Allow me to return to the note!

The 2007 Domaine de Grange Neuve Monbazillac is a Sauternes and I saw that it won best in class in ’05 and ’07, then I noticed it was being sold in a 750ml bottle for $19.99- a steal for a decent Sauternes. So I bought it, and tried that night with a blue cheese. Color was amber with a hint of orange sunset. With a nose of honeysuckle, the palate is first gently and then fully sweet, with hints of pear, apricot, and lots of clover honey and gentle acidity for a crisp finish. It’s a very well made Sauternes and is a bargain in the world of French delicacies, when a Chateau d’Yquem starts around $400 for a half bottle, but the lower tier starts for passable examples around $40- so you can see, I find this an excellent bargain at $20/bottle, and a great treat to share. Remember with a sweet wine, a little goes a long way and it’s ideal to pour a ½ serving with a savory course just for a little couple of tastes. I paired this with several blue cheeses and enjoyed it fully, but only for a half glass before I was sated by the sweetness- much like eating a Godiva truffle, a little goes a long way!

Enjoy!

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