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2015 Hermitage Blanc from Michèle Luyton

28 Dec

Hermitage (Rhône) wines can be tough to acquire, unless you are in a specific income bracket. The most well-known producer is Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, which I have only enjoyed at tastings (Syrahs sold annually in the thousands of dollars per bottle range), or M. Chapoutier. And you may have noticed what a huge fan I am of Lodi’s Acquiensce Winery, by winemaker Sue Tipton, whose Rhône style wines are just luscious, and affordable!

So when I saw an offer to purchase an affordable bottle from a small winemaker in Hermitage, I leapt at the chance, and then waited for the wine to come to age.

Michèle Luyton 2015 Hermitage Blanc; Glun, France. 13% ABV; $48/bottle from Fass Selections.

 

The nose offers orange peel and apricot over a layer of honey. On the palate is a rich and full-bodied white with restrained acidity: quince and Meyer lemon, secondary notes of acacia flower, followed by subtle wood notes. The wine surprised my palate with the acidity approaching on the sides of my tongue. The restraint and suppleness, plus the savory quality of this white wine makes it quite genteel and gossamer, pairing beautifully with roast turkey, hot vegetables, and sweet noodle kugel. The following day, the wine was ideal with a savory vegetable omelette for brunch, showcasing the wine’s luxury and acidity, leaving the palate refreshed and delighted, with gentle apricot remaining on the finish.

 

 

So: do you need to know Hermitage Blanc? I would say it’s imperative for any serious wine-lover to taste and understand viognier, roussanne, marsanne, and Rhône style blends of the three. They aren’t hard to find but take a little extra work; shop one of the larger wine stores near you (or wine retailer who ships to your state) and ask for/search Northern Rhône, instead of simply Hermitage (which might freak out your wallet when the wines appear with $300 price tags). But that search should give you everything from Chave and beyond: you may be able to find wines in the low $30’s- and up (up, up!). It’s a small price to pay for wines that wine importer Kermit Lynch is quoted as saying is ” more unique and special than the red wines from the region”.  Personally, over the course of the last few years I’ve managed to find a few bottles (like the above) from Hermitage that are treats to find, but I find it quite convenient to purchase Acquiesce Winery’s bottles to share at tastings, as I love the reactions I get when I say “try a sip from a gem made by one my favorite female winemakers”, and keep my palate up to date with the grapes and styles of Northern Rhône.  

 

à votre santé!

A Few of My Favorite Things, 2019

21 Dec

Whether you’re shopping for coworkers, loved ones, family, or yourself- it never hurts to see what other people love. So here’s my list of my favorite things, or my suggestions for your wine lovers. Ready? Let’s start with the juice!

 

Cru Beaujolais

These are some of my favorite wines for high QPR (quality-price ratio) that feature gorgeous color, deliciously complex flavors of delicate fruit with strong secondary and tertiary notes.  This is not Nouveau Beaujolais, this is cru beaujolais, which is a step up from village-level Beaujolais, which itself is a big step above Nouveau. Got that?
Level 1: Beaujolais-Nouveau. Level 2: Village-Beaujolais. Level 3: Cru Beaujolais. Oui? Bon! Maintenant…

Beaujolais is made from the gamay grape, and exhibits significantly less tannin than cabernet, syrah, or cab franc. It is much paler in comparison to new world reds. One can expect structure and depth from these wines, layers of notes should you prefer to spend your time delving deep into the wine’s character, or easy to relax and just enjoy with food. If you have new world wine drinkers (yes America, this is you) then these are old world wines that are easy on the budget and surprisingly amazing in your mouth.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

Chablis.

I have openly stated my love for white Burgundy. Sadly, the high end of these wines are beyond my financial reach, but chablis is easy to find in almost any store. If you take your wine seriously, at some point you MUST up your game to try a Premiere Cru Chablis. While you can find regular chablis and petite chablis in the $18 – 25 range, for Cru designations you should expect the $30-50 range, and don’t be shocked when you see a $75 price tag. But compare that to Puligny-Montrachet that runs from $90-$600/bottle? You see my point- this you can afford, and you will love, love, love to drink. When you can afford the Puligny-Montrachet, you will enjoy it thoroughly, and then go back home to trusted chablis.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Nebbiolo, with age.

What is delicate on the nose, but full in mouthfeel, flavor, and tannin? Nebbiolo! Without age, give me Sangiovese, please. But Nebbiolo is the backbone of the wines you love: the beautiful, full-bodied, Piedmont wines you adore: Barbaresco and Barolo! Here’s a link to a great piece by Vivino on this very topic. The 2010 Barbaresco in the picture below is drinking beautifully right now; these are wines that can be finicky so it’s smart to have a backup in place. I prefer to give Barolos at least 20 years in the bottle, and my cellar is home to some bottles that in my own age range (half-century) which are such a treat to enjoy with like-minded wine lovers.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

 

Wine lovers can not live on wine alone. You must have TOYS! I am constantly asked what wines to buy, and what to buy for wine-loving friends. Here are some of my favorite accessories:

Accessories:

Govino stemless glassware and decanters. These have become my daily glassware for red, white, rosé, sparkling, liquor, and yes, even non-alcoholic beverages! On Amazon, and everywhere else. They simply rock!

Vinoseal wine bottle stoppers. As opposed to cork, they open easily without a corkscrew, keep air out of the bottle, don’t break, don’t impart flavor or undesirable effects to your wine, and are easily reusable. What’s not to like?

How about sparkling wine? I hoped you would ask.  The Sapore Champagne Stopper is a well-designed and inexpensive way to save that bottle for another night, while fitting easily in your fridge.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

What’s on your wish list?

Or, please share some of your favorite by hitting the link below. #Cheers, and Happy Holidays! 

à votre santé!!

 

 

Champion Middleweight Wines for Changing Seasons

22 Oct

As the weather cools and the trees turn colors, so do our palates shift to harvest flavors- not only do we seek out pumpkin, apple, and carrot, but meats shift in our meals from leaner proteins to middle weight options like duck, turkey, pork, or monkfish. And our wine preferences move to mid-body wines, from lean and linear to more body, and an expansive palate.

As the days grow shorter, I push back on sauvignon blanc, pinot gris and chenin blanc to grab Bordeaux blends and Rhône varietals such as Grenache blanc, bourbelanc, roussanne, viognier, and clairette. And today’s champion wine is a blend of my favorite four of these: clairette blanche, Grenache blanc, bourbelanc and picpoul blanc. It’s from Acqueisce Winery and is called “Ingenue”. Similarly to very finest of white Bordeaux blends and yet entirely differently; this white Rhône blend is greater than the sum of its parts.

Acquiesce Winery: 2018 Ingénue White Rhône Blend, Mokelumne River AVA, Lodi, California, USA. 13% ABV, SRP $32/bottle.

 

 

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

 

The color is pale gold with excellent clarity. The nose offers citrus, baked apple, a hint of greener spice and fresh floral cuttings. On the palate is a beautiful lemon-lime with apple and mature pear, with a savory and round mouthfeel. Dense acidity sings across the palate but the depth and beauty are apparent. This wine can pair in any direction you might wish to go: from fowl to fish to meats, from bright summer vegetables to harvest flavors of pumpkin and squash to root vegetables. I paired this first with a rich asian stir-fry and then with Italian, finishing the bottle much sooner than I’d hoped. Last time I tried this bottle it was goat cheese all in and all out, a perfect pairing with the weather directly post-harvest.

 

 

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

 

Next up is a brilliant pinot noir from under-the-radar, one that is ideal for changing weather:

Spáter-Veit Rotwein, 2015 Trocken, Mosel, Germany. 12% ABV; $18/bottle imported by Fass Selections.

 

Color is a clear ruby, while the nose offers earth, cherry, and slate. On the palate, a rich and opulent series of flavors appear quickly and dissipate -potting soil, menthol, scorched earth-  before a tremendous cherry fruit profile begins to dominate the palate.  A robust, medium body with a full and complex mouthfeel, the wine has complexity and depth while showing some linearity and focus. This wine is special- not only reasonable at under $20/bottle, but offering solid winemaking from a small, independent producer at unusually low, nearly grocery store wine prices. This pinot noir has enough complexity and maturity to be able to pair at a higher level- if only I had purchased additional bottles (entirely my fault). I paired this with fish, asian, and southwestern fare but was probably most content when tasting the wine along delicate and medium-weight cheeses. But even as I type this, I simply want to pour another ounce and contemplate the flavor profile as this wanders across my palate.

#WIYG?

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

 

 

 

 

My Game Night Beer is Meursault!

15 Sep

Finally I have a Sunday night off to watch football!  While my brethren choose their game night beer, I’ve been hoarding a bottle I can’t wait to open.

 

 

En Truffière 2014 Meursault, Grand Vin du Bourgogne, Burgundy, France. 13%ABV, Unknown SRP (gift bottle).

Color is a translucent  pale gold. The nose offers wysteria and orange blossom, white pear, apple, lemon rind, and toasted oak. On the palate, a beautiful lemon-lime citrus with apple and a hint of lychee, firm acidity on the front palate, a swath of light heat across the mid palate, followed by tertiary notes of sodium, marl and limestone finish- simply delightful. 

 

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.

 

 

This bottle was a gift from a co-worker. We’re opening a new venue this year, putting on some crazy shows and working long hours. The entertainment business is often creating illusions, making minor miracles, and then acting like it’s all in a day’s work- because it is. When an associate brings you a gift with such great thought, it becomes a very dear gift. The white burgs in my cellar I consider off-limits unless it’s a special occasion- but once I finally found a night in which I could enjoy this, all bets were off. I am glad I did, because my goodness, does this wine deliver! 

 

 

For “Game Night” I paired this with football fare: a cheese quesadilla, spicy olive mix with hot peppers,  a spinach and feta cheese boureka (phyllo dough triangles popular in Greek, Turkish, and Russian cuisine) and then finally, a chicken breast. Score, score, score! 

Most football food is secondary to the star, aka The Game. But instead of the game, the star here is the Meursault. The perfect balance of barrel and brine, this is why I geek out so much over Bourgogne’s chardonnay. So nicely balanced, the wine exhibits elegance and delicacy across the palate.

I hope you have a business associate who tracks down wines from a region you enjoy. Everyone deserves a night like this for your version of game night.

I wish you fabulous bottles with friends who appreciate you. #Cheers, and please click below and share with us!  What’s In Your Glass? I always want to know!

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

 

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!

Beat the Heat With high value Spanish Wines!

31 May

When summer begins to swelter, we find ourselves reaching for something to cool off with. Most people go for a light white wine, some people prefer a chilled rosé. But when I toured the Mediterranean and was impressed with how refreshing the wines of Spain can be in the heat!

Spain is covered with grape vines, most of which are quite old. Age means deep vines, which which equates to small grapes with a robust flavor profiles: rich, acidic reds, and delicate, herbaceous whites.

 

Start with Albariño. In several years of tastings, Paco & Lola from Rias Baixas have consistently been in the top picks. There run from under $20 to low $30’s for aged Albariño. The 2012 pictured below, right, is gorgeously concentrated and a stellar aged white for serious oenophiles.

 

The bright polka dots of Paco & Lola are easily distinguished in a wine store. Take a bottle home and tell me if you don’t adore it!

 

 

 

 

Garnacha Blanca (White Grenache) and Verdejo are two wines that are lesser-known in the USA, but extremely popular in Europe. Some of Spain’s finest wines are made from Verdejo, with delicate flavor and beautiful structure.

 

 

Viura-chardonnay blends like the one below from Faustino are easy to find, herbaceous with bright white fruit, tasty in the heat, and easy on the wallet – around $15/bottle.

 

 

Bright, delicious reds like these old vine ’15 Garnacha and 2016 Cariñena (below) are delicious by themselves slightly chilled, and pair with food easily. Believe it or not, they can often be found for under $10/bottle, but drink well compared to other bottles you might find for twice the price.

 

 

Last but not least, you can often find aged Rioja and Gran Reserva wines that are beautifully aged reds, in the $30-70 range. These offer rarity and great age at a tremendous value.

 

 

Try wines from Spain’s Rioja and Cariñena regions this summer- slightly chilled to beat the heat- and let me know how you like them, and what your favorite pairings are!

 

 

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!

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