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#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!

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2016

22 Apr

Kim Crawford 2016 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ. 13% ABV, SRP $17.99/bottle.

 I have been hoarding this bottle in my wine cellar until spring came. Spring teased, then winter returned, then summer arrived for a whole day (80 degree temps in NYC) and then back to winter it went. But my palate started SCREAMING for warm flavors! So open the goat cheese, and go get the sauvignon blanc out of the cellar! It’s finally spring!

 

Color is pale sunshine. The nose is an herbaceous citrus mix- a touch of  pineapple, starfruit, and lemon, so much like spring that I have to fight the instinct to gulp down the glass! On the palate, there is gooseberry, lemon-lime, passionfruit and a reduction of white stone fruit, with hints of tall, green grass, seashore and sunshine.  Final notes are of schist and limestone on the delightful finish.  

 

 

I picked up a sushi-grade piece of tuna and seared it with sesame seeds on one side, serving it on a bed of bok choy and mixed vegetables. The sauvignon blanc was a perfect pairing for the tuna and cut through flavors like the soy and sesame oil I used to season the fish and vegetables. Clean, crisp acidity and a fresh mouthfeel on the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc makes this an easy wine to pair. As a dessert, I did break find the goat cheese and ooh’d and aah’d over that pairing as well!

 

 

This wine is not simple but it IS straightforward: this is an ideal bottle to be in your cellar all year round. I could easily see having a case of this at home for those sunny afternoons when I want to prop my feet up in the back yard with the family and neighbors and watch the sun set while the grill heats up. Crawford wines are consistent and deliver an excellent QPR for wine lovers! The fact that I had a flecked golden holiday bottle was extra special for me. While I wanted to wait for the perfect time of year (spring), instead of waiting for the perfect pairing opportunity I really should have opened this earlier.

What is your favorite Sauvignon Blanc? Let me know your thoughts!

à votre santé!

Italy’s Newest Wine: SECCO!

19 Jan

You read that right. There’s a new sparkling wine in town, and its name is SECCO.

Let me give you the backstory, in short: Three Leading Italian Food & Wine Consortiums have just begun a three-year-long nationwide campaign called “Enjoy European Quality”. Now, who is to complain, when they are raising awareness of wines such as Moscato and Secco, salumi such as Prosciutto di Parma, Salame Piacentino, Capocollo di Calabrio, Speck Alto Adige, and cheeses like Provolone Valpadana Dolce and Piccante?

Getting back to ASTI– and ASTI is short for “Consorzio Per La Tutela Dell’Asti DOCG”, which, since its founding in 1932, has worked to protect, develop, and promote ASTI products around the world.

Moving forward, while Moscato has a throng of followers, there are those who aren’t as fond of sweet wines. So as of late 2017, Secco has been given DOCG status. And newly exported from Italy in 2018, is Secco, using the same Moscato Bianco grape, but providing a dry sparkling wine that will appeal to another segment of wine drinkers.

 

After years of drinking Moscato, I know what to expect from the wines, and I’m a big fan. Delicate effervescence, low alcohol (around 5-6% ABV) and a decidedly sweet, sunshine-afternoon, honey-tangerine flavor profile. So imagine my expectations when I heard this is made from the same grape.

But I promise to keep an open mind. Try as I might, it’s difficult to do. Until the decadent mousse and powerful effervescence hits your mouth.

 

 

Tosti ASTI DOCG Secco Non-Vintage; Milan, Italy.  11% ABV.

Color is pale straw; the nose offers sweet honesuckle and lilac. On the palate, a lovely and full effervescence with decadent mousse, exposing a surprisingly dry sparkling wine, with predominantly pear fruit, mixed floral and herb notes, with baking yeast and a lemon custard finish.

 

Well blow me down. This is not my beloved Moscato. It’s only a tiny bit similar, but delightfully different. While I enjoy the sweetness of moscato d’Asti, I would not be able to drink it all day long. But Secco? I could come back and back to this. And the more Secco I tasted, the more I liked them, and saw a place for them in the American Marketplace. 

 

And you will, too, when you taste Secco. 

 

As for food pairings, Secco is dry enough to pair with a wide swath of food choices. But for starters, let’s stay in Piedmont and Italy, and look at what grows together, since we know it goes together!

Salumi is not salami, but the Italian word for ‘deli’. This prosciutto (middle of the plate) is 14 month-aged perfectly salted slice of pork that simply melts in your mouth. As a matter of fact, each of these specialties are the finest of their kind, and culinary delights that make your mouth quiver and your tongue dance and ask for another bite,  Se tu per favore? 


Not to be outdone by meat, is cheese! Provolone Valpadana DOP dolce and DOP piccante, perfectly aged and again, to tease your tastebuds, both provide a perfect swath of gently salted and decadent, savory cream across your palate that Secco wipes clean- to leave your mouth wanting the next bite.

 

Don’t be surprised if Summer 2018 becomes the Summer of Secco!

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome Winter with Rias Baixas! Albariño from Palacio De Fefiñanes

19 Nov

Palacio De Fefiñanes Albariño 2016, Rias Baixas, Galicia, Spain. 13.5%ABV, Found online from  $13-22/bottle. 

 

In the last two years, I’ve been enjoying (er, drinking) more and more albariño. But I’ve been opening those bottles during the warm seasons, and thinking about the heat of Spain. It was not until I tasted several wines from Rias Baixas while experiencing cold weather at #WBC17 in Santa Rosa that I was shocked into thinking how great albariño is with winter food pairings.

 

Could Albariño be your turkey or ham pairing wine for your holidays? Could you conceive this?

It actually can be. you just have to be open to the possibility!

 

 

 

Color is pale gold. The nose offers a gentle citrus blend and limestone. On the palate: white pear, white peach, pineapple, starfruit, a citrus blend. On the medium short finish: dry extract, limestone, clay and sodium.

This wine, in warm weather, I would classify as a wine perfect for shellfish or raw fish dishes. In cold weather, however, it is ready for savory. This wine can pair with pork, fowl, root vegetables, soups, cheeses, and seafood. The limestone and sodium  give a slightly different perspective to the tongue, and allow the wine to cleanse the palate, then act as an additional spice to the primary flavor- so it could even pair with spicy grilled meats. Believe it or not, it works! But don’t trust me- get a bottle and try it with some quality, dried charcuterie. That will open your eyes, and let you see the start of your expanded possibilities of the albariño from Rias Baixis in your glass.

Holiday wine? Cold weather wine? Absolutely- once you expand the possibilities of your mind for the wine in your glass.

à votre santé!

Elena Walch Castel Ringberg Sauvignon 2016

24 Aug

Elena Walch Castel Ringberg Sauvignon 2016, Alto Adige AOC, Tramin, Italy. 13%ABV; MSRP $17/bottle.

 

Color is goldenrod. The nose offers a complex balance of grapefruit, gooseberry, tall grass and a hint of sandy loam. On the palate, gorgeous peach is primary, followed by starfruit, lemon zest, and a hint of hay. The long finish leaves beautiful citrus lingering after the tart completion, with tiny notes of salty, sandy limestone echoing like choirs of angels singing the beauty of the terroir of the Alto Adige.

 

 

Impeccably dry with lovely acidity, this wine is a delight for those who enjoy complexity in a white wine: it has depth of flavor with inspiring acidity to cleanse, along with a excellent ability to pair with food -fish, salad, vegetable, or pasta course- but is of course, stunning when served by itself in the afternoon sunshine or dockside. I’m consistently impressed by the wines of Elena Walch. She delivers elegance and complexity in her world-class wines, and I heartily suggest that when you see her wines, snap them up to enjoy a great value in a higher-tier delights that can be enjoyed immediately or aged gracefully in the cellar for a few more years.

 

 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

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