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Slow and Certain Wins the Race!

9 Jun

Tortoise Creek Wines 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Cuvée Jeanne” Côtes de Gascogne. Mayfair Wine & Liquor, $15. ABV 12%.

Pale straw color with green edging, the nose is citrus with cut herbs and a hint of funk so common with sauvignon blanc. In the mouth it is crisp and lively, a grapefruit-citrus blend with passionfruit and good acidity. Nice medium finish, perfect to pair or clear the palate. Over several evenings, this wine complemented grilled salmon, a mixed green salad, an italian red sauce and  some gentle cheeses quite nicely. A perfect wine to keep in your summer cellar or cold in the fridge, ready for a meal or just to take the edge off rush hour when you get home.

This “tortoise”  is a sure thing- after enjoying it, I did some research to find it is listed a “best buy” in several trades. If you’d like a lovely sauv blanc from Gascony (southeast of Bordeaux) for a song, this is a textbook bottle. As a matter of fact, I’m swapping out something else for the group tasting I’m currently working on, and inserting this for a classic French sauvignon blanc.

Tortoisae Sauv

 

à votre santé!

Vintage Tunina: a classic white blend goes large!

18 May

Silvio Jermann “Vintage Tunina” 2009 white wine blend, Venezia Giulia, IGT, Italy. 13.5% ABV, Purchased from Garagiste.com at $40/bottle, sourced locally at $64/bottle, online as low as $54/bottle.

Color: warm amber center melding into deep straw. Nose of wildflowers, stone fruit, and baked apple. On the palate, individual fruit flavors give way to the notes of specific grapes used in this blend: sauvignon, chardonnay, ribolla gialla, malvasia, and picolit. Gentle secondary notes of honey, flowers, limestone, and young wood come forth from the huge mouthfeel of this wine with its supple acidity and lengthy finish. If you love rich and creamy whites, this is a wine you will want to try. Be warned, you might fall in love! 

This bottle fits well into the “massive wine” category that few white wines can fill. It is an example of expert winemaking taking from both Italian and Austrian heritage. As a fan of the Bordeaux blend, it’s plain to see why this creation from Silvio Jermann is a big wine that is easy to adore. The intensity and size of the wine cries out for a perfect meal to pair it with to accent the flavor profile and allow the huge finish to linger on your palate.

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My only regret with this wine is having not purchased more of it when I found it at  a superbly low price from Garagistes when it sells for $64/bottle locally, and more recent vintages are even pricier. It’s worth the cost to get a couple of bottles- one to taste and try with your recipes, and one to share with friends.  It will pair beautifully with first and second courses as well as with white meat entrees, and handled a grilled salmon with a sharp green herb sauce beautifully.

If you’ve tasted Vintage Tunina, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

 

à votre santé!

 

 

Smooth Criminal

24 Mar

Domaine Horgelus Sauvignon Blanc & Gros Manseng, 2013, Côtes de Gascogne, France. $6 from Astor Wines, NYC. 12% ABV.

 

Sometimes you pop the screwcap, enjoy the nose, have a taste and sigh pleasantly. Then you let your fingers do the walking and do a serious double take. WHAT? This wine hit me like that. I was expecting to see $15/bottle, on special from Astor as I got this in their “12 under $12” package I try a couple of times a year to find new inexpensive wines. So I saw what Astor charges a bottle for this: $5.96. I almost spat out the wine. “REALLY?” I thought, “That’s simply criminal!”

Here’s why: the color of this wine is a transparent light straw. The nose is grapefruit with a touch of lychee, sniff deeply and you’ll find the B.O./funkiness that makes unfiltered Sauv Blanc infamous. In the mouth, this is delightfully fresh, popping bright citrus with gentle acidity and delicious tartness. Secondary notes of minerality just make you want to drink more. I think I’ll order a case of this, and  another for the party I’m having in a month. The only problem I have with this wine is that at this price point, it’s going to get more expensive. It could easily sell at $15/bottle, which is what I would have expected to pay after my first taste.

You evil, terrible, smooth criminal. You take my gold watch and I admire you for it, like Jesse James, the outlaw turned folk hero. Next time I see you, you’ll cost me even more to enjoy. In the meantime, the townfolk might as well enjoy the benefits of a well-made wine for a great value. Best served well chilled, you might just hide out in the cooler with this to prevent your friend from asking for a glass. Enjoy it while it lasts, it can’t last for much longer. People are surely going to find out.

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à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

Wine Upgrades from Underground Cellar

19 Mar

The modern marketplace is full of places where you can buy wine, and pitfalls that accompany them. When something interesting and trustworthy comes along, I want to share it with you!

I ordered from a wine website recently called Underground Cellar. They are not a wine club, but sell specific wines with a unique angle: any and every bottle you buy at one price from a producer enables you to get an upgrade to a significantly more expensive bottle. There’s a little bit of gamble to it, and a little bit of fun. I was intrigued by their site, and like everyone, I like a good bargain. So I took a chance!

I went online, signed up and reviewed the options. I saw an offer for a 90+ point $20 red& white blend with a possible $50 upgrade.  It sounded too good to be true, but the optimist in me won over the New Yorker, so  I signed up and purchased six bottles, selecting ground shipping. Within a week, the wines arrived at my door. I opened the box and found four bottles of Tess Winery’s Red & White Blend and two bottles of Napa Valley 2001 Peju Province, Estate Bottles Cab Sauvignon.

From a price perspective, I did a quick search and saw that one of my local wine merchants sells the Tess for $19.99 (cool) and I saw the Peju online for $66/bottle. Score one for value.  Now, would I like them?

The Tess Proprietary Red Blend 2011 was a new one for me: a red and white grape mix. This  blend actually features Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. I was curious and a tiny bit worried for just a moment, until I poured and tasted. Bright vivid red in the glass, with a nose of fresh cut flowers, berries and herbs. On the palate, a burst of raspberry, strawberry, and a hint of melon. This could be an ideal summer red, with far more body than a rosé wine yet with the whimsy of a great pinot or sauv blanc. After tasting the wine, I tried it with fish (great pairing) chicken (great pairing) red meat (good pairing) and veggies (great pairing) and was surprised that I haven’t seen this kind of wine before. Well, I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more from the winemaker Sarah Fowler and proprietors Ariana and Lisa Peju. With good depth for a younger wine, lots of notes with more than a dash of whimsy, you’ll drink this with friends and enjoy it time after time. Tess Winery joins the ranks of small California winemakers (organic certified, to note) to keep an eye on!

Tess

I waited until I had a red meat pairing on the menu at home to open the Peju Province 2001 Estate Cabernet. The color is a deep maroon with fading edges, while the nose showed cassis, dried rose petals, leather, earth, and oak. The age on this is apparent, and the first taste was an inspiration of classic Bordeaux. This teenager is mature, established, and a force to be reckoned with. Decanting half the bottle and letting it breathe for 30 minutes was a smart move. Another taste confirmed the first but time had allowed a huge amount of growth that might have required hours in the glass:  excellent depth, complexity, showing relaxed floral notes, older fruit (cassis, red currants, cranberry) and mellowed tannins. Very nice winemaking, a pleasure to taste, and a huge bargain at $20 for the bottle. I furiously made cellar notes for the remaining bottles and plan to open them with friends at a beach party this summer.

Peju

I was happy to have met Tess and Peju wines for the first time, and tried the Underground Cellar. It was an exciting gamble, and one that paid off nicely. With a little research, you can get both stunning bargains, high quality, and good service. You know I’ll be going back for more.

As a parting note, I haven’t even mentioned Underground Cellar’s Influence Points, Referral Program, or free wine storage- until now. More reasons to check them out, just in case you needed them.

à votre santé!

Sauv Blanc from Down Under

21 Sep

Saint Clair Family Estate Vicar’s Choice Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Marlborough, New Zealand.
from Mayfair Wine & Liquor; $15/bottle.

I picked this up locally upon a recommendation from a trusted vendor (John, the owner of Mayfair Wine and Liquor, is a kindred soul and we have been sharing tasting notes for two decades now.) Color of light straw. The nose features citrus and some underlying minerals, while the palate is strong with lychee, gooseberry, passion fruit and secondary notes of fresh grass, herbs and a chalky-meets-sandstone minerality. Crisp and light, delicious and inviting.

Had I not seen the label, I might have mistaken this for a classic country French sauv blanc or a new world Cali from a small producer: it is classic, straightforward, and a great introduction to the grape.  Allow me to say this is one more example of some excellent winemaking going on “down under”,  not like that is any news.  Perhaps in time, I might learn to recognize the characteristics of the specific winemaker’s blends due to secondary notes, but in the meantime buyers should know that Saint Clair provides an excellent value in their entry-level wine, and that means they have some really great wines in reserve that I can’t wait to try.

If you like sauvignon blanc, this is absolutely one to taste and gift at this price. I’ll be going back for more, and looking at the rest of their line. So should you! Hey, Saint Clair, I want to meet the Vicar. He’s got good taste!

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à votre santé!

The Northern-California Fumé

6 Sep

photo-2The Fume’ Sauviginon Blanc. 2011 North Coast from Murphy Goode.
Straw with-green tinge, and a lychee, grapefruit nose. On the palate: green apple, bosc pear, a touch of sour grapefruit. Nice acidity, tart finish with a touch of oak. A blend of 93% Sauv Blanc with 7% Semillon;  this wine is great with spinach dip, light cheeses, chinese food, or seafood. Available for a mere hint over $10.

Summer Find: Savory White Blend Value from Pierre Lurton

4 Aug

Pierre Lurton’s Chateau Marjosse 2010 Blanc / White Bordeaux Blend. Purchased at Sherry-Lehman for $16.

I saw that winemaker Pierre Lurton had a white bordeaux blend on sale at one of my regular haunts, so I picked it up recently with one of my summer mixed cases. If you don’t recognize the name Lurton, he is the general manager of two other first growth chateaux, namely Cheval Blanc and Chateau Yquem. I remember reading a Wine Cellar insider profile, and Lurton is also featured on Youtube links like this one about the 2012 vintage.  Chateau Marjosse was the first property he oversaw, and demonstrates his success and quality at a far lower price point.

When I opened the Chateau Marjosse Blanc, I was very happy I’d tried it! The bright straw color is clear, the nose presents grapefruit, lychee and dried wildflowers. What surprised me was the lack of forward fruit on the palate, instead a very gentle pressed apple played second to the creamy oak and crisp acidity. I was impressed by the wine as a celebration as a savory white wine that could pair well with food or be enjoyed alone, and immediately recognized this white Bordeaux blend as one to rank in the much higher-priced land of expensive white blends from the area, but at the everyman’s wine price (under $20).

You can bet I’ll be looking for this wine again in the future. On sale or not, it is a terrific value in esteemed company that you don’t need either an advanced palate or expense account to enjoy and share.  Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle make up this delicious bottle and I highly suggest that white wine lovers give this wine some strong consideration for your collection and consumption, knowing that this white is designed to be drunk within a few years of the bottling.

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à votre santé!

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!

Memorial Day/Start of Summer Wine!

26 May

 La Maroutine 2010

This white Bordeaux blend (80% sauvignon blanc, 20% semillon) is what I pulled from the fridge when my neighbor decided to have a backyard wine & cheese party to celebrate Memorial Day and the start of summer. We popped it open and passed it around, enjoying the the yellow-green color, nose of grapefruit, and the flavors of lychee, melon, and citrus that dominate this fresh, fun wine that is a perfect for an afternoon in the sun.

I source this from Sherry-Lehman Wine in NYC, and it lists for $12 and the ad says 100% sauv blanc. Well, they charged me $10 (it’s on sale) and the wine is most definitely a blend of sauv blanc & semillon acording to both my palate and the back label on the bottle. Less worry, more fun. My neighbor said it well: “If you’re buying more of this, get me three bottles.” It’s delicious, everyone enjoys it, and its a bargain. Whats not to like?

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à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Night Whites

11 May

From the “What I’m Tasting Right Now” files:

Moillard Bourgogne Tradition Chardonnay Bourgogne 2009

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A basic white burgundy I found while trolling wine shops near Columbus Circle. Color is deep straw. Nose has citrus and a touch of oak. In the mouth, a basic chardonnay, some fruit, a little cream as it warmed plus the classic wood finish as expected, but sadly there is little else of note here. I know that Maison Moillard was purchased in 2008 and is a huge producer but I had high expectations from this vintage. Perhaps as the second or third wine from this producer, my expectations were too high. $14/ half bottle (.375 litre).

Cupcake Vineyards Marlborough, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 2011

After a dozen mentions from my wine friends & followers, I took the plunge and tasted several Cupcake wines. I found most of them good, solid values. I recently picked up a bottle locally to try over several days with different food pairings, here are the results:

Color: light straw. Nose: lemon, grapefruit, sweat. (Really. Don’t stick your nose in and drink the bouquet without being ready for a little underarm funk on the end. Sniff gently and enjoy.) In the mouth, tons of grapefruit, with a little key lime sweet & tartness, more tight, tart lemon on the finish. Nice acidity, this is a lovely apertif on a hot day, pairs beautifully with light appetizers- fresh fish or sashimi, salads, veggies- and just strong enough to work with asian or eastern entrée flavors. It cut through and cleaned the palate beautifully when tasted after castello blue cheese. But keep the wine cold or it loses some of its delight. For $11 this screwcap wine is a good value, and one you can trust will please your friends but won’t break the bank. Here’s a link to Cupcake Vineyards if you want to find out more.

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I leave you with my usual toast, and a picture from my friends Charles and Lynnette, who shared the picture below.

à votre santé!

Sante Wine

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