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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!

Modus Operandi’s Bacchipectus 2011- The Amphora bottle!

30 Jul

Modus Operandi 2011 Bacchipectus, Napa, California. 14.5% ABV,  found online for $119/bottle. Two Barrels Produced.

 

This wine came in a Modus Operandi Wine club shipment as a club-only selection, and sat in my cellar for years while I waited for a special occasion to open it. It wasn’t until after shock of a loved one’s passing, during a social media blitz that I asked followers to carpe diem, and Open That Bottle!, that I finally took this treasure from its dusty slot on the shelf and tasted it, that I immediately wished I had waited for a BETTER special occasion and friends to share it with. So here you are!

In a bottle with an oversized mouth, sealed in wax, and that has tiny arms that look like amphorae handles-  comes a sauvignon blanc like none I have experienced before. Winemaker Jason Moore used 100% sauvignon blanc grapes and fermented the juice on the lees, with skins and seeds in French oak, then barrel aged for THREE YEARS. You can tell the difference immediately, this does NOT taste like traditional sauvignon blanc!  

The color is a rich, golden hue- and it has a turbid level of clarity; tiny particles the eye can see, help to make this wine the stunning experience that it is. The nose offers honeysuckle, apricot, orange peel, and clay. On the palate, this seven-year-old sauvignon blanc has baked apple and mature lemon rind with a supple, luxurious mouthfeel. Robust acidity prevents the palate from any oiliness. It is luscious, with lip-smacking acidity on the front palate, beautiful tartness across the mid-palate, with a sharp slice of heat on the back palate. And as soon as the wine is swallowed, the finish lingers beautifully, hanging in the air like low fog across a mountain range, while my mouth begs for the next sip.

I paired this with pasta, with fresh seafood, and a stunning goat cheese with an ash rind. Each bite was improved by the wine, no doubt. But truly, the star of the show is this beautiful wine, that needs no food to appreciate the brilliant modern, classic, and historic techniques merged In its creation. 

 

“Regrets, I’ve Had a Few” 

I hope that’s not the case, Jason. Not with this wine, this is brilliant. I only wish I had more to share with friends.  So to you, I’ll send you off with deep respect, and the Chairman of the Board. Thanks for doing this your way.

 

 

à votre santé!

 

Murrieta’s Well: 2017 Sauvignon Blanc

23 Jul

You might remember my posts about Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyards in Livermore Valley, CA.

Well, I recently participated in a live, online tasting with Robbie Meyer, their winemaker– who happened to grow up in my own hometown of Atlanta, Ga. Click the link and you can watch the entire tasting, and see our comments as we tasted live.

Some of these were wines I had enjoyed previously, and I was happy to taste them again. Tasting new vintages allows you to see similarities and differences in varying years, and these showed excellent consistency from beautiful wines that I think are hidden gems from California at a good price point! But in addition to The Whip, the Spur, and their 2017 Dry Rosé, I got my first taste of their Small Lot Sauvignon Blanc- and I could not wait to share it with you! 

Murrieta’s Well Small Lot Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Livermore Valley, CA. 14.2% ABV, $35/bottle SRP.

Color is pale straw, with excellent clarity. The nose is bright with grapefruit, apricot, honeysuckle and salinity. On the mouth: peach, Meyer lemon, beautiful citrus and orange blossoms, with both an elegant floral essence and a subtle minerality. Only 30 barrels of this wine were produced in 2017, but this is an extraordinary, lively, expressive sauv blanc that is incredibly unusual for California. As a matter of fact, if this were blind tasting I might mistakenly claim this wine to be a Sancerre from France! While this wine is ideal for sipping on the porch in the afternoon sunlight, it’s far more important to note that this is a classic and textbook expression of sauvignon blanc, and ideal for food pairing as well!

I paired this wine over the course of a week with Thai, Chinese, Mexican food, and with a variety of cheeses. It would also pair gorgeously with shellfish, either raw or cooked. While some folks might think this is a slightly high price for a single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, this is a fabulous expression of the grape, and perhaps one of California’s finest Sauvignon Blancs on the marketplace. I find the SRP a small price to pay for such a high quality wine.

I have to admit- I was nervous when I saw the 14.2% alcohol printed on the bottle, but I know Robbie does not compromise anything in insuring either sustainably or making a great wine, the best possible each year. And you would never sense the heat of the alcohol unless the wine warms to room temperature (my glass only ever did this while I was composing thoughts and adding them to my review). He’s done an amazing job on this, as well as the entire line from Murrieta’s Well. Everyone I know who has tasted Robbie’s wines , has been impressed and enjoyed them thoroughly. You deserve to try out their wines, and let me know if you agree.

Drink Responsibly, and enjoy!

à votre santé!

#AlsaceRocks My 50th Birthday

21 Jul

You turn 50 once. I thought it would be no big deal, but in retrospect, it feels like so much more important than turning 40 did. My birthday week was full of shows and long hours at work, and arrived at the end of June, which happened to be a month of #AlsaceRocks promotions! So when I finally got a chance to sit down, I treated myself to two bottles of Crémant D’Alsace that became an awesome birthday present!

 

Jean-Baptiste Adam Crémant d’Alsace “Emotion” Brut Reserve, Alsace, France. ABV 12%; SRP $22/bottle.

 

Color is a pale gold, with a nose of brioche. The palate is apple, young pear and citrus; the mouthfeel is a medium-bodied rich texture with moderate, delicate bubbles. Comprised of 95% chardonnay grapes and 5% pinot noir, primary fermentation takes place in hundred-year-old wooden barrels and the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. Aged on the lees for nine months prior to disgorgement. This drinks like a champagne at more than twice the price. I was highly impressed at the quality and value of this bottle, but wanted to get a layman’s opinion of the wine. 

 

 

My next-door neighbor Lori was home, and we sat on the front step and enjoyed a glass of this to celebrate the week, that our kids were home, and because we deserved it. Lori admits she doesn’t know a lot about wine, but she knows what she likes, and she has a huge fan of the high-end white Burgundy that is my personal cocaine- so I consider her an excellent, non-professional barometer, and I asked her opinion. Lori thought it was important to note that it is both elegant and fun to drink, how nice and dry the Adam crémant is, and that she really likes the combination of apple and vanilla flavors it exhibits. After another sip, she admitted that while she loves bubbles, she’s didn’t like Champagnes as much as this, which exhibited more character and style. I’d call that a HUGE win, and solid agreement on my loving this bottle, and wanting more from Jean-Baptiste Adam!

 

 

 

Maison Willm Crémant d’Alsace, Blanc de Noirs, Alsace, France. 12% ABV, SRP $22/bottle- seen locally as low as $16/bottle, street price.

Color is pale gold. A delicate nose of green apple with effervescence, while on the palate: lemon citrus, young pear, with refined bubbles that create a silky, gossamer mouthfeel. A tiny hint of bitters with a lovely and succinctly tart finish. I could drink this all day long and nearly refused to jot down tasting notes (as you see, I relented). This delightful wine is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, which are softly pressed and separated from the skins quickly to refrain from exacting color from the grapes. This is a classic and harmonious representation of Alsace and is a delightful sparkling wine.  

 

 

 

So, if you have to have an iconic birthday, ok, really,  if you need any reason to celebrate, or if you just deserve a treat, seek out Crémant D’Alsace and taste it- I expect you will be shocked and amazed that these taste like single-vineyard Champagne at a fraction of the cost. Whether you prefer the Chardonnay or Pinot Noir versions- both are SO delicious-  I know that you, too, will agree that #AlsaceRocks! 

 

à votre santé!

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