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Decibel Wines 2017 Sauvignon Blanc and 2014 Pinot Noir

9 Oct

Decibel 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Crownthorpe Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. 12% ABV; SRP $16/bottle.

Color is pale straw, nose of lemongrass, tarragon and green pepper. On the palate are lime, gooseberry, and kiwi citrus up front, with a green apple on the mid-palate and lemon pith on the back. I paired this with pizza on night one, and sashimi on night two. Delicious, fresh, and fun. Every time I tasted this, I immediately wanted another sip. It’s quite simply that refreshing and delicious!

Don’t take my word for it. Grab a bottle, at these low prices, and let me know what you think!

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

 

Decibel 2014 Martinborough Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, New Zealand. 14%ABV, SRP $35/bottle.

 

Color is a deep ruby with magenta edging. The nose includes aged red fruit, earthen floor, and dried rose petals. On the palate: black cherry, mature red plum, forest floor, dried leaves, and smoke with a hint of bitter fruit compote on the finish. The balance is long and satisfying, demonstrating maturity and depth. I liked this wine at TexSom on a day I tasted over 150 wines, but loved it back at my own home on its own, which was made evident by the near-empty bottle after having “just a taste” with some homemade pasta and finishing it off quickly when paired with a rustic beef stew, wishing I had more. This is a perfectly-aged bottle that is ready to go at age six; none of the green vegetation I was expecting in the under $40 pinot range- this drinks like a $60 wine, which is all you should need to pick up a bottle. Perfect to pair with dinner or enjoy by itself, all the wine needs to do is cross a palate. The wine does ALL the talking!

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Both of these wines offer great QPR and should be sought by wine lovers looking for wines with tremendous value above the price point.

Winemaker Daniel Brennan is a US-born winemaker who fell in love with NZ wines and: my, oh my, does it show! These are deftly crafted and so tasty you’ll wish you’d purchased more bottles.  I have been a Central Otago wine snob for years, but these wines are just gorgeous. Well done! Brennan has made me a fan and at these prices, I’m sure many more will follow.

 

Please feel free to share with me and other readers, not just by email but also below so others can read your thoughts on Brennan’s DECIBEL wines!

 

 

à votre santé!

Creto De’ Betti 2018 Bianco di Toscana

1 Sep

Fattoria Betti, Creto De’ Betti 2018 Bianco di Toscana, Tuscany, Italy. 13%ABV, SRP (avg) $18/bottle online

 

By Jim vanBergen, JvBUnCorked.   

All Rights Reserved. Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Color is pale straw with a green tinge. The nose offers a delicate aroma of pineapple and citrus. On the palate are crisp apple with white pear, with secondary notes of almond and lime zest. Tertiary notes of sandy clay and lemon rind are on the finish. This is a Tuscan white wine blend comprised of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Trebbiano, fermented in stainless steel before being bottled, spending no time in oak.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

I paired this over three separate evenings with meals of roast turkey, grilled salmon, and fusilli with pesto. In each instance, the wine stood strong and paired easily. I was surprised at the ease with with the Chardonnay -Trebbiano blend stood up to the rich grilled turkey with tart cranberry sauce. Likewise, lesser white wines would not have had both the acidity and savory qualities to handle the grilled salmon, for which I usually desire a pinot noir. But this wine had not problem staying the course and showing well throughout, with grilled peaches as a dessert one night, and nectarines the following evening.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Fattoria Betti’s Bianco di Toscana is crisp and refreshing when served cold, and maintains beauty, body, and balance as the meal continues and the wine reaches room temperature. My spouse asked me to include that she specifically enjoyed this wine, and loved the smooth finish that was crisp, yet neither bitter nor sour. The only complaint I had when tasting this wine was wanting to have another bottle on hand!

 

If you don’t recognize the grape trebbiano, perhaps you know it by its French namesake, Ugni Blanc. I think the amount of trebbiano that is in this blend is the reason why I adore it so much: it offers a fruity nose and plenty of acidity without ever being harsh. While it may be more common to see trebbiano blended with Malvasia, I think this blend with Chardonnay is a brilliant combination. Personally I know the grape better from ugni blanc’s long history in the creation of cognac and armagnac brandies- but I’m hopeful to see more trebbiano-blended wines with this success of winemaking.

If you like Italian white wines are are looking for a versatile white that is delightful alone and capable standing up to a bevy of rich proteins, this chardonnay-trebbiano blend is a bottle that you should try. You owe it to yourself to seek out Frattoria Betti’s Bianco di Toscano.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

à votre santé!

Pazo Torrado Albariño Rias Baixas, Galicia

29 Aug

Pazo Torrado Albariño 2017, D.O. Rías Baixas, Galicia, Spain. 12.5%ABV, SRP around $11/bottle.

 


 

All Rights Reserved. Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

By Jim van Bergen, JvBUnCorked

Color is a translucent medium straw. The nose offers a luxurious floral aroma, hyacinth, orchid and pineapple. On the palate: tart green apple, lime zest, and lemon pith with a long, citrus finish. I am savoring this wine so wonderfully on a couple of summer days that range from hot afternoon to cool evenings, and the Albariño is so flexible it seems it could work with six feet of snow on the ground and subzero temps.

 

 

Last night I tasted this while prepping dinner, and slowly sipped a portion while grilling broccoli, squash, and red meat. It was so tasty I kept enjoying it throughout dinner. Yes, this paired nicely with grilled red meat, with grilled vegetables, and then on yet another evening, with fresh red fruit and soft French cheese. The acidity and fruit are light, crisp, and cheery enough to cleanse the palate of strong flavors in a delightful arc. It is bright and fun, delightful and easy-going. With a high quality-to-price ratio, what’s not to love about Spanish Albariño from Rías Baixas?

 

All Rights Reserved. Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

à votre santé!!

Mencos Rioja Blanco 2011

17 Aug

 

Conde de Hervías Mencos Blanco 2011, DOC Rioja (Alta), SPAIN.  12.5%ABV, SRP originally $15, found online for $12/bottle.

 

 

All Rights Reserved. Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Made from 100% Viura Grapes!

 

By Jim van Bergen, JvBUnCorked

Color is medium gold. The nose offers apricot, quince, and lychee. On the palate, the fruit is savory and muted with gentle acidity: reminiscent flavors of pear on the front palate with tart lime on the mid palate, notes of honeyed brioche and old wood, a touch of bitter almond on the finish. Subtle but refined, the wine is both fascinating and a delight to drink. I paired this with basic tapas: Spanish olives, pickled vegetables, and hard cheeses.

 

 

 

What a delight to drink, this went down easier and far faster than I intended. Each sip was a study in the wine’s evolution and I so wanted to be sharing this with friends. And for $12 a bottle, who wouldn’t?

Did I mention this is a six year old white wine, for $12/bottle? REALLY?
“Hello case sales? It’s warm and I need this in my cellar.” 

 

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2019 JvB UnCorked 2019. May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

All Rights Reserved. Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

à votre santé!!

Introducing Le Blanc de Greysac

16 Jun

Le Blanc de Greysac, Chateau Greysac, Medoc, France.12% ABV,  SRP $19/bottle.

 

As summer ripens, my palate yearns for salads, fish, outdoor cooking, and wines with clean acidity and a citrus backbone that will leave me feeling cool and refreshed. So I am happy to turn to sauvignon blanc! Enter Le Blanc de Gresysac,  a brand new release from Jean Guyon, owner of Chateau Greysac, and his first release of a new line, Le Blanc de Greysac, which is 100% sauvignon blanc from 15 year-old vines from his Medoc property in Bordeaux.

Color is medium straw. The nose offers Meyer lemon, lime zest, and a hint of tangerine. On the palate: crisp green apple, citrus, with a backbone of lemon pith, limestone, and clay. The finish is medium long and refreshing. Best served chilled for afternoon drinking, but shows expanse and greater balance as it warms moderately.

At this price point, this is a fun, enjoyable summer wine that is ideal for summer dinner parties or an afternoon by the pool. Easy to pair with white meats, salads, vegetable dishes, and cold gazpacho. I adore this wine with goat cheese crisps but my absolute favorite pairing is with these delightful salmon rillettes!

 

Of course, you can always drink it by itself and just enjoy the summer evening. Life is short, you might as well enjoy it, no? 

à votre santé!

Smith-Madrone 2015 Chardonnay

27 May

Smith-Madrone 2015 Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District, CA. ABV 14.4%,  SRP $34/bottle.

Color is pale straw. The nose offers pear, apple, lemon zest, and just a hint of oak. On the palate,  however, the fruit is beautifully pronounced: yellow peach, sweet apple, citrus crossing from the mid- to back palate, leaving a swath of mouth-watering heat from the alcohol. Secondary notes of baking spice, stone, vanilla, and vegetation with marzipan on the lingering finish.

 

 

As a wine lover, my first thought on this wine is that it’s so tasty, you don’t want to think about it. You simply want to enjoy this delightful glass of wine that is so unlike what we’ve come to expect from Napa. Smith-Madrone’s winemakers (Stuart, Sam, and Charles Smith) actually dry-farm (no irrigation) and in doing so, they develop a grape and create a wine that is closer to a Beaune-style chardonnay than the common flavor profiles that are popular with New World grapes. What does this mean to you?  It means you’re going to enjoy this wine more than you expect, and you’re going to need to buy more of it than you’d expect because like me, you’ll drink it faster, even if you’re savoring the flavors. You’re going to wish you bought a bigger bottle…or several bottles, because your mouth is going to ask you for MORE.

 

 

 

As a wine drinker who personally tries to shy away from the high alcohol content of some California wines, this is one where I take exception. The wine is so well-made, I’d easily buy a case of this to tuck into my cellar (if I only had the room!) it’s such a delicious wine that sings through warm weather and is incredibly agreeable with food.

If this is a good price point for your chardonnay drinking, (or a good price point for a special bottle) I can not recommend highly enough that you give Smith-Madrone a taste. As passionate as I am about white Burgundy, this is a wine I will remember for shattering my conceptions of Napa Valley chardonnay.

 

#WIYG?

à votre santé!

Donkey and Goat at Faro, Brooklyn

24 Apr

“Isabel’s Cuvée” Grenache Gris Rosé 2018 by Donkey & Goat; Mendocino county,  McDowell Valley AVA, California, USA. 12.5% ABV, SRP $28/bottle.

The color is reminiscent of cloudy grapefruit juice. The nose offers rose bush, citrus, and apple blossoms. On the palate are rich apple and pear with strawberry, blood orange, and a lovely acidity. I did not want to put this glass down. From ancient vines planted in 1896 in soil of gravel & sandy loam comes this creamy, spicy delight on the palate. Light with a hint of fruit and spice.

Had Tracey been selling these bottles from the trunk of her car, I would have bought a case right then and there.

But there was much more to taste!

 

 

From left to right: The Bear, Eliza, Gadabout, Isabel’s Cuvée.

 

 

Over the years I have had many readers ask me to review Donkey and Goat  by owners/operators Tracey & Jared Brandt. They are passionate about their fruit and winemaking, working with sustainable, biodynamic, and organic vineyards and using as little intervention as possible. Their wines are unfined and unfiltered, so their cloudiness may take you off-guard. But taste them, and find that you may like what they are doing, and join the crowd to enjoy the luscious flavors of the fruit of their labor!

 

 

 

2017 “Gadabout” White Field Blend by Donkey and Goat; Berkeley, California, USA. 13.2% ABV; Street Price @ $24/bottle.

 

Color is a cloudy pale straw. The nose offers a theme of funk and zippy acidity. On the palate is a citrus punch blend of lemon and lime with peach, pear, and wildflowers. A mid-weight wine with an even and extended finish, I could enjoy this all day long. Yet it manages to pair with savory food; it surprised me by having enough weight to stack up to Faro’s absolutely delicious beef tartare.

 

 

 

One of two ‘starting point wines’,  for Donkey & Goat, The Gadabout features an El Dorado chardonnay which is then blended with picpoul for acidity. To add texture, Tracey says she added first vermentino, and then marsanne to add depth. Where it ends up is a tasty Rhône-style blend with nice body and mid-palate acidity.

 

From left to right: The Bear, Eliza, Gadabout, Isabel’s Cuvée. 

 

I like where this started on my first sip but it opened up more as the evening progressed. I’d be interested to taste this with more air, if I had more to taste. In general, it seems that Donkey and Goat wines will improve with decanting or a great amount of air exposure.

 

 

“Eliza” 2016 Rhône Style Blend by Donkey & Goat; Barsotti Vineyards, El Dorado AVA; California, USA. 12.5% ABV, SRP $47/bottle.

 

Color is a cloudy goldenrod. The nose offers an earthy quality, then exotic floral and jasmine tea notes. On the savory palate is a mix of Golden Delicious apple and Bosc pear with toasted almond, vanilla, lemon zest, honeysuckle and marzipan. Secondary notes include toasted oats, potting soil, and smoke. On the finish are hints of tangerine and apricot. This is a Rhône blend based on the clairette grape, with vermentino, picpoul blanc, grenache blanc, and finally roussanne. This wine is an unusual mixture, aged for ten months in oak, and the deeper one looks, the more layers one finds. Taste, aroma, and weight of the mouthfeel are fascinating the more you consider this wine, but it’s just as easy to simplify and enjoy. Your mileage may vary for street price if you can find it locally- I expect it’s far pricier in NYC than on the west coast. But this is a fun winelover’s bottle!

 

 

If you happen to be a fan of beef tartare, take note: Chef Kevin Adey’s is a must-have!
I’m lucky I was able to stop
devouring this to take a picture at Faro; it was simply that good.

 

 

If I had to get this wine into a single sentence, I’d give it this:
A Rhône-inspired savory blend with awesome acidity: a yummy, geeky wine!! This wine is a tasty gem for regular white drinkers; for oenophiles, this is a really fun glass (or bottle) to enjoy or discuss.

 

Faro’s stunning take on Gnocchi with lamb.

This wine was good with the house bread & butter, awesome with the beef tartare, and delicious with rich lamb gnocchi (see: food porn above). Did I mention Faro’s Michelin Star? Now I have. In short, Chef Adey’s Menu is fascinating, the food is fabulous, and you’ll enjoy yourself immensely!

Getting back to the wine:  Eliza can handle the food! Depending on the price I might not grab more than a few bottles, but it’s absolutely the kind of gift bottle I’d pick up for serious wine drinkers or for a meal where you want a white wine that can stand up to heavy protein. Eliza can do it…ah, you think, “maybe that’s why she’s named ELIZA?”  (Pause. If you don’t get the reference to Shaw/Pygmalion/My Fair Lady, just skip ahead, ok? -Editor)

 

Tracey Brant, Donkey & Goat

 

If you like natural or organic wines, then you owe it to yourself to check out Donkey & Goat. They are harder to find on the east coast, but that’s what wine clubs are for, aren’t they?

 

#WIYG?

 

à votre santé!

 

#OTBN 2019: R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco ’96

26 Feb

#OTBN is a wine drinker’s holiday. OTBN (Open That Bottle Night) is a concept created by wine writers/critics Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher  in which you open a bottle with significance or meaning that you have been holding for a special occasion. After years of celebrating with friends electronically, I finally got my act together and invited a small group of industry folks to enjoy together!

With wine, as in life, not everything goes as planned. I broke a cork when we got to the aged reds (this was on bottle 8 or 9 of 16, to be accurate) then I spilled some of the 1996 Smith Haut-Lafitte when decanting it! But the wine I expected to be past is prime wasn’t, and the one I thought that would hold the line, didn’t. Or so I thought.

R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco 1996, Rioja, Spain. 12.5% ABV.  

Made with 90% viura and 10% malvasia grapes, I first tasted this wine at Le Bernadin when one of Aldo Sohm’s wine team suggested it as a pairing for a fish dish served with a saffron-based sauce . Need I mention, it was heavenly? (It was!) I knew Viña Tondonia for their red wines, but the aged white blend was new to me back then, and I quickly sought out a few bottles and tasted one every five years or so. This was my last bottle, and a great choice (or so I thought) for #OTBN.

My mistake on #OTBN was to open this fifth position. We had already tasted stunning wines with powerful fruit and acidity, and this wine showed slightly flat and dull in comparison. I was disappointed. Of course, in retrospect, I did not decant. I should have decanted, and I should have given this bottle more time to air. Because on day 2 of this bottle being open, I tasted it again with tahini and grilled chicken and was very impressed by the flavor profile and thought, “did I simply miss this yesterday?” On day 3 of being open, the nose was present, the acidity and umami notes were right where I had hoped they would be (but weren’t) on opening!

 

 

 

Color is dark gold. Aromas of toasted almonds, sherry, and dried herbs make themselves known over time. On the palate, dried fruit and lavender are dominant with a strong acid backbone. As the wine resolves in the mouth, the savory and umami notes appear, pushing more sherry notes into the nasal passages. This is a wine that is beautiful to pair with lightly cooked fish, fresh salads,  avocado, and mediterranean dishes like eggplant, tahini or hummus, or by itself with a range of cheeses and fresh fruit.  

 

In retrospect, I realize that I had initially not giving the bottle a chance to really show its true colors. I tasted it right away and thought, “Yeah, its Viña Tondonia, but it might be past it’s prime. Maybe it had poor storage before it got to my cellar?”  Well, that’s not the case now. The wine is showing beautifully after a) getting enough air, and b) when my palate is fresh. And I still have another full pour left in the bottle to try tomorrow!

We live, and we learn. Remember that wine is a living, breathing, constantly changing entity.

 

And pour more slowly if you decant through a very fine strainer. Some fine wines require time to express themselves properly.

 

à votre santé!

 

Oh- as for the spilled wine…

I only spilled a half an ounce. But still, it felt like a crime, as this 1996 Smith Haut Lafitte was delicious!
Tonight I drank the last few ounces with grilled steak and was in absolute heaven. 

 

#WIYG? And did you #OTBN? What did you open? 

 

Barton Family Wines “Holiday” 2017

10 Jan

Barton Family Wines “Holiday”,  Clairette Blanche 2017, Willow Creek District, Paso Robles, CA. 13.4% ABV, SRP $32/bottle. Sample provided.

Color is clear, medium straw. The nose offers citrus and baked apple. On the palate, a gentle combination of lemon and lime zest lead into white fleshy fruit. A savory component of toasted almond follows up with a supple and full mouthfeel, quite mellow and relaxed. A pure finish, echoing with a hint of lemon pith. It is pleasing and round in mouthfeel, both satisfying and inspiring to a warm afternoon.

 

 

This is a delicate bottle that is ideal for wine-lovers who gravitate towards pinot gris or pinot grigio, but with slightly fuller body and a less floral nose. I paired this easily with baked pasta, chicken, pizza, and soft-rind cheeses over the course of a week, enjoying the gentle aroma and flavor profile.

Often known as a blending grape in Rhône white wines, clairette blanche is a grape that is known for being high in alcohol and low in acidity. It has become increasingly popular as a single variety wine in California especially, and is adored as a wine that is delicate in aroma and fruit profile.

 

 

Barton Family winemaker Ryan Pease presses the Willow Creek fruit in whole clusters and ferments the clairette blanche in stainless steel, then ages the wine for three months in neutral French oak on the lees, stirring monthly. Only four barrels were made in 2017!

 

à votre santé!

Wines of Cariñena for Summer! #CoolDownwithCariñena

12 Aug

Bodegas Paniza Agostón 2016 Viura and Chardonnay Blend, Cariñena, Spain. 12.5% ABV, $13-14/bottle, internet/street. Screwcap Closure.

 

Color is a translucent, neutral straw with just a tiny hint of green. The nose offers a gentle citrus with lychee. On the palate, there are notes of lime zest, green melon, and sweet plantains. Gentle acidity on the back palate and a subtle, bitter finish. I am quick to refill this in the heat of the summer. A blend of 70% Viura and 30% Chardonnay,  it is light, cool, and refreshing: reminding me of the wonderful local wines I tasted last summer while sailing the Mediterranean Sea. This is delicate, and so similar to the wines of last summer- easy to imbibe all afternoon or to pair with raw seafood, cold gazpacho, salads and vegetables, along with baked white fish, chicken or pork. Yum!

 

 

Corona D Aragon Garnacha Blanca 2017. Cariñena, Spain.  12.5% ABV, Around $10/bottle street price.  Nomacork Closure. 

 

 

Color is young straw. The nose is quite delicate, with hints of honeysuckle blossom, sunflower, and almond paste. On the palate is fresh lemon rind, crisp apple, with a hint of tangerine. Nice acidity is left behind on the tongue and front palate, the overall effect like a ray of sunshine catching you after being lost behind the clouds. This is a blend of 87% white grenache, and 13% chardonnay grapes that paired perfectly with Chinese stir-fry and again with spicy Thai noodles, but also with flatbread white pizza and a traditional Naples-style pizza with a spicy San Marzano tomato sauce.

 

 

 

Bodegas San Valero, Origium 1944:  Rosé of Garnacha, 2016.  Cariñena, Spain. ABV 12.5%, Street Price under $10/bottle, Traditional cork closure.

 

Color is a beautiful and deep cerise. The nose is of tiny fresh red berries and a hint of green leaves. On the palate is fresh cranberry, watermelon, a touch of young raspberry. Delightfully young, exuberant, and lively, with acidity crossing the top of the palate, leaving your mouth refreshed. 

 

This is a wine you want to start sipping before mid-day. It’s so fresh, bright, and unassuming– you will want to continue sipping this lightly with lunch, in a hammock as you enjoy the sun, all afternoon long as you prepare supper, while you rest with your family, and relax with friends. This lovely rosé of garnacha will pair beautifully with smoked or roasted game (think cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving) or with vegetables or any hearty flavors. There is enough acidity here to handle savory flavors of pan-tossed brussel sprouts, artichoke hearts, or a lovely paella! Just a hint of vanilla & cedar lets you know it was aged in wooden barriques and has the ability to stand up to serious main courses, not just appetizers.

 

All of these wines are excellent for hot weather, with bright citrus and delicate fruit.

If you’re looking for a great traditional dish from a regional recipe of Cariñenas, try this migas recipe with garnacha blanca, a viura/chardonnay blend, or garnacha rosé!

 

#WIYG? Whats YOUR summer wine to beat the heat?  Have you tried these?

Share your thoughts with me below!

 

à votre santé!

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