Birthday Bottles with JvB

3 Jul

When it’s your birthday, you can drink whatever you want.

This is how it started:

Elena Walch Castel Ringberg Pinot Grigio, 2017. 13.5% ABV, SRP $29/bottle. 

If you ask me if I like Pinot Grigio, I’d ask you “Pinot Grigio from where?” Elena Walch and her two daughters make TREMENDOUS wines- but you have to think Northern Italy, Trento, Alto-Adige DOC wines. If those words make you mouth water, then you know what I’m talking about. Medium straw in color with a nose of melon and lime. On the palate: Bosc pear, green apple, freshly cut herbs, and underlying granite/wet stone. Beautiful length on the back palate showing the linear acidity, leaving your mouth with a gossamer finish.






 

 

Domaine du Cayron 2013 Gigonda, 14% ABV. SRP? 

Southern Rhone and Gigondas, right next door to Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  One look and you know the Gigondas is going to be a GSM- Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre-Cinsault (or Carignan) blend. This is one of the best-known, most consistent Gigondas you can find, with bold and savory reds, well-maintained by the The Faraud Family, who picks their grapes from older (40-70) year-old vines and ferments each type in massive oak foudres (225-300 hectoliters). Blended expertly by the family, this vintage is said to be a cepage (blend) of 70% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 14% Syrah and 1% Mourvèdre (for color).

 

 

Color is deep ruby, while the nose offers stewed red fruit, smoked dried meats hints of earth. On the palate are burning red fruit flavors: red plum, mixed cherries and raspberries, lusciously chewy tannins with a dry backbone.   Perfect for a grilled steak, this honesty could pair with anything you want to eat if you’re in the mood for a bold, chewy red. This wine simply sings from the glass.
As this bottle was a gift from dear, dear friends, I’m not looking up the price– but trust me, it’s going to be in the range of between a “special bottle” and “what a bargain for a red this damn good.”

 

 

 

 

 

Champagne, Anyone?

 

 

How better to celebrate a birthday than with vintage champagne? I didn’t tell my guests this was vintage, or what the bottles cost. I wanted to really enjoy some special bottles that I would love, that I couldn’t wait to open.

Perseval Farge Millésime Premiere Cru 2003 Brut Champagne. $59/bottle from private seller.

So much aging on the lees! Tons of brioche and toast on this vintage! Classic and elegant, I was shocked at how delicious this was, but that my guests, new to vintage champagne and the delicacies and flavors, were only  complimentary. Did they know that NON-VINTAGE Perseval Farge costs around $90/bottle in NYC? No. But they tasted stunningly aged brioche, muted fruit, and a perfect mousse. This champagne was so delightful, it eclipsed one of my favorite vintage champagne experiences from the 1980’s.
Color is deep straw. Nose of baked bread, spice, and a hint of grapefruit. On the palate, muted peach, a hint of citrus with forward notes of toasted almond and brioche. Luscious frothy bubbles forming a perfect mousse at age 16, this could age twice that and still be a delicate, delicious bargain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yann Alexandre Vintage 2010 Blanc de Blanc Millesime 2010 Brut. $45/ bottle from private seller.

Believe it or not, my guests preferred this 2010 over the 2003 (they didn’t know I was offering vintage champagne, they just tasted and told me their thoughts!) but both were simply STUNNING. This beautiful blanc de blanc has a pale straw color and nose of tangerine and lemon lime, bright peach, touch of apricot, almond and baked bread with a touch of minerality. If only I had purchased more- this was gone in a heartbeat. It was my fault, I didn’t explain these were rare vintage champagne.

 

Owen Roe 2015 Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc, Yakima Valley AVA, Washington, USA. 14.1% ABV, $28 SRP.

If you haven’t spent time diving in deeply with cabernet franc, then you are missing out. A grape that can be so expressive and show such depth and versatility, I’ve watched many a cab lover be flummoxed and fall in love with cab franc. This is one such bottle. Color is medium purple, while the nose offers blue plum, violet, and lavender. On the palate: beautiful blackberry, young cassis, potting soil and tobacco leaf. Medium heat across the top and back palates. This is so tasty: awesome craftsmanship from Owen Roe’s winemaker Jackie Evans and her team. 

 

Harney Lane Winery’s Old Vine Zinfandel, Lizzy James Vineyard, 2015. Lodi, CA, USA. 15.7%ABV., $36/SRP

From vines planted in 1904 come tremendous grapes that are aged 20 months in French oak before bottling to become one of my favorite single vineyard wines of all time. Massive flavor without being a fruit bomb, I can drink this in the afternoon by itself or pair with a porterhouse in the evening. With such a luxurious mouthfeel, these vines sing of their tiny gnarled vines and century of desert exposure. I can’t say enough good things about Kyle and Jorja Lerner, the family who operate Harney Lane. They are the nicest people making STUNNING wine, and world class OVZ that simply can’t be beat!
Color is deep purple center with dark ruby edging. The nose offers beautifully perfumed blue and black fruit, while the palate shows blackberry compote, fresh blueberries, black cherries, stewed plum, a hint of baking spice and vanilla. The tannins are large yet manageable, and for someone who prefers lower alcohol wines, this is one I not only tolerate, but adore. The heat never crosses my mind, while the flavors expand and fill my top palate with wonder. 

 

 

à votre santé!

 

#WIYG? Please, let me know what you’re drinking. Birthday or no, we’re always curious to know what you’re really enjoying right now.

 

Ryder Estate Pinot Noir Rosé

29 Jun

2018 Ryder Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir; Central Coast AVA, California, USA. 13%ABV; SRP $17/bottle.

 


Color is salmon pink, while the nose offers fresh strawberries, lilac and freshly cut melon. On the palate is a solid red blend of strawberry, cherry and raspberry fruit with lovely acidity and a dry, mouth watering resolution after cheering up my top and mid palate. A screwtop makes for easy opening and sharing- I promise you, this won’t last long.

I began adoring this wine when it was nicely chilled but appreciated the expanded aromas when it warmed a few degrees. I paired this wine with goat cheese crostini (appetizer) and chicken with grilled asparagus (entrée) and the bottle didn’t last much longer than that. OK, I had a little help… But this is too good to let sit in the bottle when it can be in your mouth!

It IS rosé time, right? We can drink all the rosé, as long as it’s delicious.

Did I mention this had an SRP of $17? The street price has got to make this a tremendous value. My only problem is not having more bottles on hand before my birthday!

 

If you’re a total oenophile, you will want to know that Ryder Estates are sustainably farmed and the grapes are crushed, allowed eight hours of skin contact for the perfect hue, then pressed and racked into stainless steel for fermentation and maintained at 50ºF to maintain proper aromatics (you’ll appreciate that, I know I did for the duration I could keep the wine in my glass!)

If you’re a summer wine drinker, you will want to know: this is an awesome deal on a delicious wine that will be the life of your party if you like them pink, berry forward, and superbly dry.

#WIYG?
(What’s in your glass?)

 

 

 

 

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!

Adventurous summer red: Jura Pinot Noir

20 May

Frédéric Puffeney 2011 Pinot Noir, Arbois Contrôlée, Jura, France. 12.5% ABV; SRP ≃ 9€; Purchased several years ago for $25/bottle.

 

A wine to confuse your senses!

 

Color is a pale, delicate garnet. The nose offers rich, dark notes of eucalyptus, earth, black plum, and dried cranberry. On the palate this wine defies my every expectation: blackberry and cassis, bold tannins on the front palate, massive notes of soil and vegetation across the mid palate. So pastoral and rural in style, it is bound to challenge you, too! The wine confounds my brain with full-bodied notes from a mid-bodied mouthfeel; how I’d love to see how many Somms would match this wine correctly in a blind tasting!

 

 

I had prepared a meal of comfort food for my spouse: Italian bruschetta, chicken teriyaki, steamed broccoli, and a Mediterranean cucumber-tomato salad in balsamic vinegar. The high acidity in the wine would be an easy match; while I feared the dark flavors of the wine would be too much for the lighter fare, I was wrong. The wine played well off the vinegar and tomato from the bruschetta; it calmed and contrasted the teriyaki on the chicken; it felt full against the broccoli, and held well against the salad. This wine has enough oomph and body to pair with steak or even a cold weather stew, but Puffeney himself suggests terrine or cheese- obviously comté is the perfect cheese for any wine from the Jura, but I can attest that goat cheese, a creamy blue, and Dutch gouda all are delightful matches with this unusual-yet-delightful pinot noir.

 

The Jura continues to be a delightful, favorite region to me- what unusual wine region do you love to taste or  collect? Let us know!

WIYG? 

 

à votre santé!

 

Related Articles from JvB UnCorked on the Jura: 

http://bit.ly/FPTrousseau

https://jvbuncorked.com/2016/07/19/now-i-am-alone-puffeney-arbois-vin-jaune-08/

https://jvbuncorked.com/2016/01/13/in-appreciation-jacques-puffeney-winemaker/

Vin d’Alsace: Zinck Pinot Blanc 2016

8 May

Domaine Zinck 2016 Pinot Blanc; Eguisheim, Alsace, France. Stelvin/Screwcap Closure; 12.5%ABV, SRP $16/bottle.

Color is pale straw. The nose offers honeysuckle, wildflowers, and poached pear. On the palate is a beautiful citrus mix, both light and flavorful with lime, lemon, pear, apple, with tangerine zest and beautiful acidity. This is a carefully made wine that is nicely balanced. It shows delicacy yet features full fruit flavors to match with the acidity and aromas.

Served warm, the acidity is prominent and offers searing heat across the mid and back palates; while served cold the citrus is forward and the acidity is muted. So if I were to invite friends over to grill in the summertime, I’d pull a few bottles of this cold from the fridge, and start with a glass (or two) by itself as we chat, cook, and prepare a meal. By the time the food is ready, the wine is nearly room temperature and appears to have expanded the flavor palate with air and temperature to a fuller-bodied wine that is ready to pair with grilled lemon and garlic chicken, roast pork shoulder, or shellfish. So you can consider how you want this wine to present itself, and use that to your advantage. Either way, it’s win-win!

 

 

If you love wines that can work either daytime or night, in summer sun or under moonlight, this is a white wine you should seek out. I was surprised at the SRP, to me this is a steal and drinks like wines from $25 and up. Vins d’Alsace (Wines from Alsace for those who don’t speak French) are still under-appreciated in the USA, and if you taste this, you’ll understand and value what this tremendous wine region has to offer.  

If you’re planning a summer party and want a killer secret weapon, this might be it! I know there will be more of this in _my_ cellar. 

#WIYG? (What’s in your glass?) C’mon… you’re dying to share. Click the link below and tell me: Have you tasted wine from Alsace? And what’s in your glass right now? We all want to know!!

 

à votre santé!

Flattery in Wine?

30 Apr

When people make fun of your passions, or when personal and professional interests crossover, it must be a sign your blog is doing something right. Right? A friend of mine texted me today with this gem:


It was funny, in a laughing-at-Sideways kind of moment.
But now I’m suddenly feeling like a glass of merlot!

The above brevity and humor was a welcome guffaw to my work day, and an added bonus after having friends alert me to another year of being listed in the top 100 wine blogs. 

I’m honored, truly. I just want to help people find wines they will love. 

But this makes me think about flattery in general, and the number of winemakers who set out to ride the coattails of a certain wine’s success, or to make the opposite of a style of wine.

I’m thrilled in the trends I’ve been seeing- watching new world winemakers move away from overly-oaked chardonnays and red fruit bombs– although there are some brands that are the epitome of those styles, and are best doing what they do best. But when a grape can show its best, I’d much rather taste the nature of the fruit from the grower and the cultivation mixed with the terroir- this is the purest expression of a great wine to me, and why I am such a fan of single vineyard, single barrel wines. Once you have walked through a vineyard with the grower and winemaker, and understood the choices made from how the land is cared for, how the vines are grafted and trellised, how the canopy is cared for, what the water source is, what the local soil and minerals the roots are feeding from- all these are elements you can appreciate in a fine wine.

But that’s also why I like to drink regional wines with regional food, like the Georgian wines my friend Anatoli Levine, aka Talk-A-Vino, has gotten me interested in. The indigenous Georgian grape, Saperavi, creates an aromatic, full-bodied, high-alcohol wine with powerful tannin and great acidity, that is delicious by itself and really wonderful with Khachapuri, a Georgian cheese bread with an egg baked on top. Look for my review upcoming, on “JvB Hates Merlot”. Just kidding. How could anyone who knows me think I hate merlot? How could any Bordeaux fan hate merlot?

Sorry, let’s save that rant for another time…

 

#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!

 

Volage Crémant de Loire Rosé

10 Apr

Volage: NV Crémant de Loire Rosé, Loire Valley, France. 12%ABV, SRP $29/bottle,

Color is pale coral, with a floral nose. On the palate are strawberry, seashells, and young raspberry. This is superbly dry with a mineral backbone, lovely acidity and a lengthy finish of early red fruit, with a note of sour citrus as a finale.

The short & sweet take away on this is that Volage is a grower rosé crémant, the brainchild and efforts of François-Xavier Chaillou, made at Domaine du Landreau. It has a flavor palate that will please everyone from millennials to established oenophiles, with a street price in the mid-to-high 20’s. Once it hits your glass, you’ll be sold.

This is a rosé of cabernet franc from the Loire Valley. That it’s made by Chaillou should raise your eyebrows. That it’s made at Domaine de Landreau should really peak your interest- that informs the buyer that the cabernet franc grapes  are sustainably farmed, and of a very consistent and high quality.

 

 

I tasted Volage and thought how wonderful it would be at brunch, with savory and sweet dishes to pair. Yet Volage stands alone beautifully, and this is such an easily likable crémant, I could serve at any hour of the day. But it gets harder to make a sparkling that can stand up to serious food- and this wine fires on all cylinders. I tried this at dinner and paired it with first mild, then medium, then spicy flavors (habanero) with vegetables and beef, and it met every challenge I put before it. In the end, I simply wanted more. You will, too.

 

If you like champagne or sparkling wine, you’ll want to try this. If you like cab franc, you’ll want to try this. If you love rosé, you’ll really want to try this. If you are smart… you already get the picture, and this crémant is already on your list.

 

#WhatsInYourGlass?

à votre santé!

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