Tag Archives: cabernet franc

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.

 

Wines for Thanksgiving, 2018

10 Nov

It’s that time of year. No, not the Christmas music I’m already hearing.

It’s time to prep for Thanksgiving!

 

Thanksgiving is one of the holidays that made me start this blog so many years ago. It was the time of year in which I’d get email after email, phone call after phone call asking me “What wine should I serve for this special meal?”

 

Over the years, I’ve provided options for a variety of situations. In 2010 I explained why I think four wines is the minimum for a large Thanksgiving dinner party.  Back in 2015 I wrote Thanksgiving Wine: Street Exchange with a Beer Drinker that has become more popular over time with the working stiff crowd, especially for those who are not as comfortable with serving wine and are really looking for ONE bottle for their family’s table. EDITOR’S ASIDE: (If this describes you this year, I DO have a pick for you: the 2017 Lange Twins Rosé of Sangiovese. At $15, it serves every need you might have, and is such a delight to drink, people will think you actually know wine. Just saying.)  Back to your scheduled oenophile content:  

But as a very proud American who is also an old-world wine lover and avowed Francophile, I feel very strongly that that this holiday should be celebrated with American wines. And my suggestions will continue to reflect that!

Something that hasn’t changed: with a) a large group of people and palates to please, and b) a series of dishes that vary wildly in flavor, texture, and temperature, I still like the idea of no less than four wines: a lighter white wine, a serious white,  a delicate red, and a full-bodied red.

So here are my 2018 Thanksgiving Wines: 

 

Viognier: In the past, I used Riesling as my go-to here. But Sue & Rodney Tipton at Acquiesce Winery make such a delightful Viognier- it’s a gently flavored white wine that will please any palate, and this is ideal for the non-drinker or the delicate flower in your group. For $26/bottle, I find this a massive bargain, and a great wine to start the meal with.

Chardonnay:  I’ve narrowed it down to two possible bottles in my cellar: Harney Lane’s 2017 Chardonnay from Lodi, or DuMOL’s 2016 Russian River Valley. The Harney Lane is a beautiful expression of the grape and a wonderful California chardonnay with an ideal balance of oak- not too much, nor too little- making a creamy and flavorful balance, savory with perfect fruit and acidity, with a SRP of $28. And California’s DuMOL might tell your mouth you’re knocking back a very pricey white Burgundy! It’s soft, balanced, simply gorgeous– and a little on the high side (over $50/bottle). The downside is you have to join a waitlist to buy direct, but their wines are available at Wine.com, Wine Library.com, Sokolin.com, and many other online retailers that ship across the USA, and even some local high end retailers who carry the best of California wines. Totally worth the weight. And if we bounce through one of these bottles, I’ll open the other. No problem!

Rosé (ok, actually two of them on my lineup this year):
a) Still Rosé:
Leah Jorgensen Rosé of Cabernet Franc. When I pour this $22 bottle, people lose themselves in ecstasy. I don’t know what she’s putting in the bottle beyond the grape juice, but the wine simply sings of pure fruit, delightful acidity, and beauty. Leah is a brilliant winemaker that you should be aware of, period!

b) Sparkling Rosé: The time I spent in Yakima recently certainly influenced this year’s Thanksgiving choices! I’ll be serving an $18 bottle of sparkling rosé from Treveri Cellars. The Treveri Sparkling rosé you can buy online is made of syrah and chardonnay and is a real crowd-pleaser, while my personal favorite is their tasting room rosé, which is only available in person at the tasting room. This is half pinot noir and half chardonnay and has an old-world charm that sings to me.


Sparkling Shiraz: The pièce de résistance this year might be this wine!
 Treveri Cellars also makes a $20 sparkling shiraz that has such vibrant notes of cranberry, I immediately knew I had to serve this for Thanksgiving! My gut is that it’s going to be a smashing success. But I’ve not actually tried this wine with a savory meal yet- so I’ll make sure to report back with my annual Thanksgiving Postmortem and let you know what my guests thought of this choice- and the others! I am SO excited to hear what my guests think of this wine with the main meal!

Cabernet Franc, for my annual ‘delicate red’ wine. Traditionally it would be a pinot noir -and there are plenty to choose from from the USA- for this old world Burgundy fan. But I’ve been absolutely blown away by the beauty of balance of the cabernet franc from Owen Roe winery. So I have one bottle of $28 Owen Roe’s Rosa Mystica, a wine that totally wrecked me -in a good way- and I plan on putting this on my Thanksgiving Table. This Yakima Valley red is really gorgeous and drinks like an old-world red – I simply can’t wait to try the pairing with turkey and gravy!

Zinfandel: I have two bottles I am going to decide between: a rare and hard to gain Turley, of which I have ONE bottle (and it’s a hoarder bottle I’m loath to open) and my favorite Zin on the planet, Lizzy James OVZ again from Lodi’s Harney Lane. I could almost as easily choose their standard Zin, the Scottsboro Zin, or even their Syrah- but I am just in love with the gnarly, curled old vines and the magical fruit they produce. The wine is big, bold, yet refined and polarizing. Any time I have opened a bottle of the $36 Lizzy James, it has changed lives at the table. It’s a small price to pay, that’s all I’m saying.

 

So- let me know what you think about my picks, and what you plan to open for your Thanksgiving this year! 

 

à votre santé!

#CabFrancDay 2017

11 Dec

This year’s #CabFrancDay was full of delicious and inviting #CabFranc! If you think of cabernet franc only as a blending grape and not as a delicious varietal to drink, then you should take the plunge and try some! Cabernet Franc is actually the parent of the cabernet sauvignon grape, and while cabernet franc may be often used as a blending grape, it should not be ignored as a sole varietal that is a touch lighter in color and flavor and less full-bodied than cabernet sauvignon, while still featuring complex notes of fruits, spice, herbs and minerals. Here are the wines I tasted for #CabFrancDay and my tasting notes, with super-special thanks to Lori Budd of Dracaena Wines and all the wine makers and wineries who provided these wines for our tasting pleasure!








Benmarl Winery Cabernet Franc 2015, Finger Lakes, NY. 12.5%ABV, SRP$23.

Ruby color, nose of ripe raspberry and cherry with green, herbaceous undertones . On the palate: sharp acidity, firm cherry and young red cassis fruit with gentle tannin; medium finish with cedar and wet slate, clay, and pumice. This could last all night, will really show well with food. I still sometimes (wrongly) think of Finger Lakes as a riesling area, this reminds me that they make really good red wines, too! Click for link to Benmarl Winery .

 

 

Chateau Niagara Cabernet Franc 2016, Newfane, NY. 13.2%ABV,  SRP $29.99.

Medium purple in color, semi-opaque. The nose offers gentle purple fruit and a hint of funk. On the palate: plum and red berries, notes of earth, green cuttings, and potting soil. Medium body, matching tannin and acidity. Medium-long finish with final hints of both granite and sandy loam. This wine sits squarely in the middle of major grapes- and with food pairings, this wine can either fade, or feature, depending on the flavor profile of the dish. Chateau Niagara was among the most popular favorite of last year’s taste testers, and it is easy to see why: gentle on the palate, easy to enjoy by itself or with just about any food. I enjoyed this with a melange of flavors, including spicy black bean salad, cheese tortillas and salsa, gouda, and salted chocolate.

 

Fjord Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Franc. Hudson River Region, Marlboro, NY. 12.9%ABV, SRP $25

Bright ruby color, while the nose has a complex aroma of blackberry, plum, and eucalyptus. On the palate:  plum, berries, and red currants with secondary notes of african violet and limestone. A specific opulence with this delicate mouthfeel, a little more acidity than the others in this tasting group. In short, I found this wine spellbinding! Three times I sat down to write tasting notes and just enjoyed the pour instead. I could drink this all day, and if I had room in my cellar, I would buy a case to see how this wine ages. Flagrantly delicious, this wine is flexible in its complexity of flavors to move seamlessly from meal prep through the meal to coffee and dessert! Now we need to find some NYC wine stores to carry Fjord Vineyard’s wares!

 

 

 

 

Merriam Vineyards: Jones Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Franc 2012; Healdsburg, CA.  14.6% ABV, SRP $45

Light purple in color. Nose of black fruit and stone, with green cuttings. On the palate, black plum, cassis, some green peppercorns, with secondary notes of of clove, cacao nibs, toasted oak, sand, clay, and slate. Medium body on top of the mouth, fuller on the side and back palates with a nice balance, moderate in all things: fruit, acid, tannin, & body. Did I mention there is NO heat on the palate- I never would have guessed it is 14.6% ABV! This wine really can pair with anything, but the reserved quality of it makes it shine with foods that are not over-the-top in flavor profile, which is probably why I keep thinking of it as a vegetarian’s delight. Cab Franc seems singularly capable of handling the spiciness of tomato sauce, the bitterness of overcooked greens, the umami of porcini mushrooms, and everything from sweet peas to eggplant.

I loved the maturity of this wine which provided an elegance that made me adore it and think about buying other cab franc just to cellar. I would buy this at a restaurant without hesitation for the elegance and beauty of this wine, plus the flexible pairing cab franc offers. A great pairing that surprised me was Indian food- Chicken Tikka Saag! The wine constantly complements, and never overpowers. You’d be foolish to ignore this beautiful Sonoma County wine with a half-century of age, and at this price, it’s still an excellent buy, just probably not your weekday pairing. It’s worth checking out Merriam Vineyards, and maybe their cab franc is the perfect Christmas gift for your favorite vegan?

Don’t you think it’s time you bought some cabernet franc to share with your family and friends? 

à votre santé!

Get #Franc’d Up with #CabFranc

12 Dec

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Here’s the thing:

I’ve liked cabernet franc for a long time. I’ve enjoyed it primarily as a blending grape, and secondarily as a single vineyard varietal, as a wine that I sometimes offer at Thanksgiving. But as a grape, it never bowled me over, that is, until #CabFrancDay.

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For #CabFrancDay, I tasted seven bottles of cab franc in great detail. I spent copious time with each one.

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Sometimes I came away with tremendous tasting notes. Sometimes I just wanted to sit and enjoy the flavor and fragrance of the wine, much like the title character in Munro Leaf’s book, “Ferdinand the Bull”.

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Some things dawned on me while I sat and smelled cabernet franc, taking tiny sips and noting flavors.

 

And what I found out about cabernet franc wasn’t earth shattering knowledge. But it was incredibly valuable and made me think about how I pair wines and food.

The cabernet franc grape is the thin-skinned father to the bold, bodacious, massively-flavored cabernet sauvignon grape. In comparison, Cab franc is restrained, genteel, even moderate. While it features flavors of dark berries, cassis, bell peppers, leather, forest floor and licorice, these flavors are subtle and mild, and the wine’s acidity and tannins are equally muted. These are what helps make cab franc an excellent blending grape. On the other side of the equation, for a winemaker who develops the grape with intent of making a great single varietal bottle of cab franc, sometimes they are able to create a wine that has class, maturity, and depth in only three or four years, with characteristics that I often wait a decade for in Old World wines.

I want to share my tasting notes from #CabFrancDay. And I still might, but it’s more important to me to peak your interest and whet your appetite on the GRAPE. It’s a bit of a challenge to find a great cab franc, but it is also highly worthwhile.

So today, no tasting notes. Instead, I’m going to tell you what I FELT about these wines.

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I felt that these wines showed beautiful expression: they were delicate, reserved, graceful. In general, I found that the East coast cabernet francs were more subtle with slightly higher acidity. The Oregon and California Cabernet Francs were more expressive, more powerful, still reserved but passionate. While I really enjoyed the expression of the East coast cab francs,  the West Coast Cabernet Francs haunted me. I dreamed about them. I talked about them constantly. I searched my social media feeds to see if there were associated experiencing the same thing.
There were. There are.

Some of my friends preferred the East Coast wines. But we all were impressed, if not blown away. Some, however, had powerful experiences like myself.

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There is a new movement afoot. To get #FrancdUp does NOT mean to get drunk, but instead, to hedonistically enjoy a beautifully made #CabernetFranc. 

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Find your #Franc. Get Franc’dUp. Trust me. And feel free to tell me about it.

You can thank me later!

 

à votre santé!

The Valentino of Red Wine

7 Jun

Campo Al Mare Bolgheri 2010 IGT

Sample Provided by Wine Chateau, $21/bottle (reg $35) 14.5% ABV

A dark ruby color and nose of black plum and spice. In the mouth: tart black fruit with licorice and a hint of spice, a medium long finish that becomes more acidic as the tannins close in on the back palate. I was left with a remaining flavor of violet-laced licorice, some clay, and new oak. I was surprised at how Bordeaux-like this felt to me, as if it were a blend of several grapes (and it is, I quickly found out!) Lovers of both classic Italian and French wines will enjoy this, and those who champion “new world” reds will still appreciate this very classic winemaking blend with excellent results.

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With a blend of 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, no wonder it reminds me of French wine blending.  I was impressed by this wine, to be honest. I enjoyed it more than I expected to, and the wine stayed consistent over five days with no special treatment. It drinks well on its own and complements proteins and carbs nicely; it was stunning with a single-pot chicken, tomato & green bean dish my wife makes. The more I thought about this wine, the more it reminded me of the Italian film star and sex symbol of the 1920’s, Rudolph Valentino, famous for his dashing Italian looks and soft, gentle charm. To me, this wine embodies some of the best characteristics of European winemaking, and it would be an excellent gift or wine to stock in your cellar that can pair with many food options or be enjoyed on its own, providing quality and a solid value at this price.

You can access the link for the winemaker’s website if you want more information about the Folonari Family of winemakers,  and you can purchase this wine directly from Wine Chateau’s website.

à votre santé!

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