Tag Archives: Pinot Noir

Celebration Champagne: Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé

25 Dec

Special events. Family celebrations. Holidays.

These are the days that try my soul.

Not because I’m surrounded by family, but because I fret and stress about wines to serve.

I struggle with what people will appreciate, and who will enjoy it. I ask over and over: Will it be special? Will it be memory-making?

Enter celebration champagne. Celebration champagne is what I call the top-shelf champagne. It is the wine one selects when needing superior quality & consistency, and a buyer looks for a trusted history from a luxury brand name.  And what you get for your consideration is so worthwhile. There is a reason why we all love top-shelf champagne: It is simply divine, and can become the cornerstone in making an evening even more special when celebrating a rare occasion.

 

Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut NV Champagne. %12 ABV,  MSRP $99/bottle.

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The bottle itself reminds one of the brand’s historic maison, plus their longevity and consistency. Presented in a short, round bottle reminiscent of the glass-blown bottles of the 1600’s, the pink label completes the unmistakable design.

The wine is pale salmon in color with fervent and abundant tiny bubbles. The nose shows delightful red young fruit, baking spice, and rose bush. On the palate, the tongue is immediately refreshed by an elegant, effervescent mouthfeel while nuances of strawberry, young raspberry, and faint cherry bathe the palate. It is a distinct pleasure to taste and enjoy. 

Subtle, delicate, but complex.

Serious. Divine! GAME CHANGER!

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From a house of champagne founded in 1812, the non-vintage LP Cuvée Rosé has been made since 1968 using primarily traditional methods. 100% pinot noir grapes are picked, de-stemmed, crushed and macerated for 48-72 hours to insure the aromatics, flavor, and bright pink color from the pinot noir grapes before being bled away to cold storage via stainless steel tanks. Finally, a minimum of four years in the bottle prior to release.

I served this as the opening salvo at a holiday dinner party. It was not only one celebration but several: I was welcoming a friend, a fellow oenophile and fabulous wine writer, back to NYC after many years. She has undergone growth and change, and has not celebrated much recently other than passing huge milestones in her path. In addition to my friend Elizabeth, my daughter was back from college! So our family was together, plus my mother-in-law was welcoming two friends she has not seen for years, who are ALSO huge wine fans, living in Portland Oregon, the land of pinot noir.

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The Traveling Wine Chick shows off the color and joy gained from the LP Cuvée Rosé!

The response to this wine at dinner was perfect. Everyone who tasted this delightful, classic champagne was enthralled and captivated by its stunning flavors, gentle effervescence, and delectable balance. Even my beloved wife (who had only a sip of champagne at our wedding before putting down the glass for the night) had seconds on the Laurent-Perrier. It was light, refreshing, and breathtakingly flavorful; an angel dancing on the tongue. This is a true celebration champagne: a gorgeous example, elegant and balanced, in brut perfection.

 

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The evening’s wine lineup, including our celebration champagne, several aged bordeaux and a “unicorn” wine no longer made from retired Jura winemakerJacques Puffeney.

 

Perhaps opening a bottle of this champagne should be a celebration in itself.

 

à vôtre santé!

Pinot and Oregon’s Panther Creek Cellars

20 Jun

For lovers of pinot noir, Ken Wright is the master of Oregon vinification. Wright founded Panther Creek Cellars in 1986, and his collaborator Tony Rynders, (celebrated for his work at Domaine Serene) took the reins as consulting winemaker at Panther in 2013 when Bacchus Capital Management acquired the operation. Together, management and winemaker strive for continued growth and excellence while seeking new heights and producing multi-faceted expressions of pinot noir as Panther Creek Cellars celebrates its 30th year.

With Panther Creek’s vineyards in six of Oregon’s greatest AVAs and nine iconic territories, Rynders has both the knowledge and the tools at hand to develop stunning wines, and a taste of them is all that is required to know that Panther Creek offers serious competition in quality wines.

 

Panther Creek 2014 Pinot Gris, 13%ABV, $20/bottle MSP

I’m normally reluctant about pinot gris made in the USA but Rynder’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA is closer to the Burgundian whites than some  would admit. While the 2013 showed as slightly more lush and creamy, the 2014’s expression is elegant and crisp with notes of golden delicious apple, lemon rind and honeydew melon. The medium-long finish has a savory balance between expressive fruit and zippy acidity with no barrel aging to cover imperfections. Delightful cold but beautiful as it warms and can show complete expression. It is becoming a solid value from Oregon in the $20 and under field.

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Panther Creek Single Vineyard 2014 Kalita Vineyard Pinot Noir. 14.3%ABV, $50/bottle MSP. 

Dark ruby in color; bright raspberry and cherry nose with green herbs; brisk cherry and red plum on the palate with subtle vanilla, baking spice, mineral and vegetal notes on the medium-long finish.  This beautifully feminine expression of pinot is fruit-forward with vibrant acidity, a gentle oak backbone and a complex mineral base of sedimentary soil. The jovial, friendly and well-spoken Arthur Kalita carries a jar of his Kalita soil to tastings (featured to the left of the bottle in the photo below) which is helpful to remember the layering flavors of the wine when the fruit and floral notes that drive it forward are capable of making you forget the complexity and beauty the Kalita vineyard offers in the bottle. If I were to cellar this, I’d expect it to be even more gorgeous and refined to classic perfection in six to ten years, as the ability is absolutely there for those who have the patience. Personally, I’d drink it now as the wine pairs gorgeously with a wide array of flavor profiles from meslcun-and-chicken sausage pizza, to Sockeye Salmon, but is brilliant on its own.

 

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Panther Creek 2014 Schindler Vineyard Pinot Noir

Offering a strong contrast to Kalita, the Schindler Vineyard provides a big, brawny and masculine expression of pinot noir. Deeper in color with a nose of massive black fruit, the palate proves dark black cherry, allspice and black pepper, and powerful acidity and tannins. To me, this is a pinnacle of age-worthy burgundy that can be enjoyed now while massive in proportion, or aged to a balance of perfection. The wine drinks gorgeously alone but simply sings with food, complementing duck, ribs, and beef tartare easily, bringing out additional floral notes as well as heavy tones of earth, cedar, granite and leather. A monumental wine that offers tremendous value in being affordable for those who love world-class pinot noir.  Thinking about joining an Oregon wine club? You should consider Panther Creek- I know I am!

 

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Robert & Janet Schindler, with whom I just loved hanging out with and chatting about wine, sound, and cochlear implants. Seriously! 

 

When it comes to single vineyard pinot noir and pinot gris, it is worth your time to check out Panther Creek Cellars and specifically the Schindler and Kalita vineyard wines. Rynders is crafting great wines, and I only expect them to get better in quality. Currently, they offer excellent expression of both the feminine and masculine sides of pinot noir, are very Burgundian in style for Oregonian wines, and sell at competitive price point.

Need more proof?  Just taste it- the proof is in the glass.

à votre santé!

 

Evening Land Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13 May

Evening Land Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 2012, Sonoma County, CA. 13.5% ABV, Street Price @ $35-40 online.   

Color is deep ruby with purple center. Nose offers African violet, cherry cola, and ripe red raspberry. In the mouth, fruit-forward black cherry, slightly sour raspberry and blackberry is matched by powerful acidity. Secondary notes of wet stone, gravel, chalk and loam while the medium finish maintains valiant fruit past its completion.

 

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While digging through my cellar, I found a half case of this and had to open a bottle. I’m glad I did, but hope I can be patient enough to leave these resting until they are mature enough for the brilliant balance and depth that is possible with proper age. It tastes fun and vibrant now, but each sip screams of the potential it offers, like an angst-ridden teenager.

 

à votre santé!

The Beaune Ultimatum

9 Mar

Paul Croses Côte de Nuits-Villages 2011 Grand Vin de Bourgogne; Beaune, France. 13%ABV; $20/bottle from Garagiste.com. 

Color is a translucent and bright ruby with a rose center.  The nose shows cherries with a touch of funk, notes of fresh earth with sandstone. In the mouth the palate is rushed with bright acidity, young red cherries and raspberries with a hint of green vegetation, chalk, marle, limestone and cedar plank. The lengthy finish is surprising with multiple notes across the palate: minerality, young wood, dried fruit, and finally some beautiful floral notes that appear almost as an afterthought. A bright, delightful and young Burgundy that to my mouth feels adolescent yet tastes expensive.

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After a few minutes of air and a third sip, the nose has burned off the dark and earthy notes while the bright, fresh fruit remains. This is a classic, finely made burgundy capable of aging and ready for enjoyment or pairing, still at a far-below-market value, when competitive wines are fetching 2.5-5 times the price. If only I had purchased a case and not a few bottles. C’est la vie, more bottles to taste for my readers, no?

Et voilà, this wine has already made me start thinking in French. Malheureusement, il ne pas durera pas longtemps. On y va…

If you adore a delightfully bright and focused Burgundy with great potential to age, snap this up or come over and convince me to put a few planks of salmon on the grill and open my last bottle.

A vôtre santé! 

 

Youngberg Hill Vineyards

16 Apr

Winemaker Wayne Bailey is a quiet, warm, and unassuming man. His radiant smile beams like the afternoon sun when he talks of his children: both of his daughters and his wines. He’s a farmer at heart, a man who loves the land, lives to grow great fruit, and who respects the earth- insisting on sustainability, biodynamics, and organics across the board. When I hear those three words together, it often makes me wonder if there might be a trade-off in quality to maintain the lofty objectives. Youngberg   In this case dear readers, I can attest that I experienced a greater appreciation for his lofty goals and dedication to sustainability, biodynamics and organics because the wines pay off in the mouth. And if like me, you are also a French wine snob, these wines might actually remind you of wines from Burgundy. Let me wax poetic another time, and let’s get to the wines!

Youngberg Hill 2014 Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, McMinnville, Oregon.  ABV 13.5%, MSRP $25/bottle.

Color: pale straw with a slight tinge of green. On the nose, I detected an initial smokiness that dissipated quickly (probably from travel) and a few moments later had gone with no lingering trace, instead my nose filled with melon and white pear. On the palate, bosc pear, apricot, and kiwi fruit meet solid acidity in a savory blend with a gentle rolling finish that shows hints of vanilla, fresh cedar, and clay. Overall, it drinks like a mature savory white with a neutral barrel sense, not buttery, and delicate enough to drink on its own but stellar when paired with food. Obviously fish or salads would be an easy pairing, but this Pinot Blanc stood up to spicy meatballs and gnocchi in a truffle cream sauce. I have to admit, I fell a little bit in love with this pinot blanc and wanted to steal the bottle to take back with me.  If you are  new and perhaps a little afraid of pinot blanc, this is THE wine to taste to try it out: a shining example of the grape that will make you want to drain your glass over and over again. IMG_1146

 

 

Youngberg Hill 2012 Cuvee Pinot Noir,  Willamette Valley, McMinnville, Oregon.  ABV 14.5%, MSRP $30/bottle.

Color is light purple with violet edging. On the nose: iris, rosebush, and a hint of black fruit. In the mouth, young black plum, black cherry, with a medium finish showing notes of pepper, clove, oak and silty clay. I was expecting a pinot with much brighter fruit and thought this wine is ideal to drink right now. Wayne explained to me that for the Cuvee, he made single vineyard barrels of two different grape clones with six- and seven-year old vines and blended the barrels together to make a wine that was approachable upon release (requiring less age). It works- it’s a “drink me now” wine that shows the fruit with a sense of maturity, good acidity and tannin. It sang with rich and savory dishes but I could also see this being great to watch the sunset on a picnic with a fruit and cheese basket while the kids play nearby, and lasting across dinner and with dessert.

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Youngberg Hill 2012 Jordan Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, McMinnville, Oregon.  ABV 13.4%, MSRP $40/bottle.

From a four- acre plot planted in 1989 comes the single-vineyard “Jordan” Pinot Noir. Color is bright violet, while the nose shows gentle black cherry, vegetation, and hints of truffle and leather. In the mouth, fruit forward cherry and red raspberry with a better initial balance blend. I noticed significantly less spice than the Cuvee, while the finish is showing more complexity and more notes overall- with spice box, sandalwood, green pepper, slate and loam. The Jordan pinot is a wine to lay down and enjoy in 6-10 years when it will have subtle fruit and tons of complexity. This is a young thoroughbred that needs time to come into its own and will pay off beautifully down the road, but will require patience to get there. 

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As an independent winemaker, Wayne Bailey is someone to keep on your list of people to watch. Without fanfare and pomp, he simply demonstrates how much he loves the time spent in the vineyards by producing great fruit that in turn are used to make delightful wines. I’m glad I got to spend time with him and am looking forward to enjoying more of his products in the future, both in the short and long run.

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Have you tried Youngberg Hill wines? Please comment, and share your experiences with us! 

à votre santé!

Sanford Wines- Tasting Passion in the Bottle!

12 Jul

Over the last few days I’ve been tasting a great deal of wine. So when I came across a winemaker that made a serious impression on me, instinctively I wanted to know more. Here’s the story:

Sanford Winery was the last tasting of the day for me in Santa Barbara, CA, a town loaded with local winemakers that have shops and tasting rooms dotting the town. At Sanford’s tasting room, I noticed a level of complexity and depth in the wines I was tasting– an impression that showed a great level of care, as my palate began to compare these new world wines to old world wines, finding more in common than most of the wines I’d found from this region.  I needed to find out more.

 

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A few calls later and a nice trip up the Pacific Coast Highway found me in the beautiful hills of Lompoc.

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Sanford Winery (owned by the Terlato Wine Group) has a lovely tasting room, but fortune had smiled upon me. Not only did I get a chance to see the grapes up close, but they were bottling and I was able to see the process from vine to bottle, in its entirety. IMG_0458

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For the wine lover, it’s a huge (and incredibly rare) treat to be able to walk through a winery with the employees, see everything from the vines to the hoppers, crushers, stainless steel fermentation vats, filtration tubs, french oak barrels, the cold pressing and filtration systems, and top it off with bottling!

But of course, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Every single person I met at Sanford was both happy and passionate about their work. Everyone smiles, wanted to shake my hand and chat about their work while they continued their jobs- with fire in their eyes and love for the process. I noticed as we walked through the property… this person had been here for ten years, this person, twelve… 18, 20, even employees who have been with the company for over 24 years. Its impressive!

That passion and love for making a great product shows. Not only can you see it in the eyes and faces of the employees, but you taste the difference in their wines!

Maybe you noticed that I didn’t bother giving you any tasting notes about these wines. In the last week, I’ve tasted hundreds of wines. While some were lousy and some were great, many were nice but very few of them made a serious impact on me. The people and the products from Sanford Winery made an impact on me, and after meeting them and seeing their operation up close, I knew that tasting notes would not be what I wanted to share with you. Instead, I wanted to share with you the passion I experienced in drinking their wines, because that same passion was apparent in every person I met at Sanford and every element of my experience visiting the winery.

Tasting a beautiful wine might make you question your adoration for wines from other world regions.  For this wine lover and reputed French wine snob, I was duly impressed by a current club-offering pinot which compares beautifully to northern burgundy, in the nose, color, palate, and finish. If you are an oenophile, you might know what that means to me, and what high praise it is. It’s why I wanted to take the trek to walk among the vines, touch the grapes, meet the people behind the magic in the bottle at Sanford- because they made a significant impression on me, and that’s why I needed to share Sanford with you. I have seen it ever so rarely: Passion, in the bottle. 

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à votre santé!

The Red Wine Party Challenge: Part 2/Conclusion

12 May

In Part 1 of The Red Wine Party Challenge, I provided mini-reviews of eight possible wines under consideration for a catered meal where I needed to choose one red wine for a very large group of people. The criteria included: 

1) Ideally a French wine

2) Must pair with: pasta with a variety of sauce options, poached salmon, roasted vegetables, & sushi.

3) To speed bar service, require alternative enclosure, or to be available in 1.5L bottle.

4) Lower price range ($7-$15/bottle) to stay in the party budget. 

As a refresher, at a local wine store I found these eight wines as possibilities:

La Vielle Ferme (Rhone, France) $7

Rosemont Estate Cab/Merlot Blend “Soft & Smooth” (Australia) $7

Rothschild Mouton Cadet 2012 Bordeaux Blend (Gironde, France) $9

Duboef Beaujolais-Villages Gamay  (Romaneche-Thorins, France) $9

PepperwoodGrove Pinot Noir (Valle Central, Chile) $9

Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve, (Rhone, France) $10

Chateau La Freynelle 2010, Merlot/Cab Blend (Bordeaux, France) $12 

Drouhin LaForet Pinot Noir (Beaune, France) $15 

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Round One: I started by removing the wines I thought had limited pairing ability- even though they might have paired wonderfully with one specific dish from the meal, after tasting them I had to find that one wine that will stand out on its own AND pair well with all the foods being served- salad, poached salmon, pasta (tomato sauce, pesto, garlic & oil, primavera) as well as a sushi station. Well, it’s called a challenge for a reason, right?  I took three out of consideration after my initial tasting:

-The Rosemont Estate felt smooth and a tiny bit sweet- not right for this pairing.

-While La Vielle Ferme is often a wine I enjoy, this year’s selection was only OK.

-I thought a gamay selection offered good potential, but this bottle of DuBoef felt too astringent.

Round One left me with five remaining wines: two Bordeaux blends, one Rhone, two Pinot Noirs to decide among. 

Round Two is going to be difficult! These wines all drink very well and are delicious, great bargains with no obvious faults.

Time to compare the two pinots and the two Bordeaux. This is not going to be easy, but I’m determined to make it fun!

For the pinot noirs and this meal, the Pepperwood offers more pairing options and is easier to drink by itself. Reluctantly, I had to put the Drouhin to the side. While it is a lovely complement for the salmon and sushi, it did not offer enough body to pair well with the spicier pasta sauces.

-The Mouton Cadet is an easy vin du table that is so incredibly consistent but I preferred the Chateay La Freynelle when considering the entrees being served. I put the Mouton Cadet to the side.

-I compared the Freynelle and the Perron Rhone. I tasted, spat and tasted, and then tried each with a medium cheese. The Famille Perron Rhone has a darker palate yet was more harmonious to the dairy, while the Bordeaux blend was crying out for meat. I’m not serving meat. I put the Freynelle to the side.

 

Round Three! I’m down to Perrin Red Rhone Blend and Pepperwood Pinot Noir.

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Either of these wines would be a wonderful complement. The Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir, a Chilean wine that drinks like entry-leve Burgundy from a top producer (at a fraction of the cost) would also be a great example of options to my guests who EXPECT French wines from me. It’s super easy to drink by itself or almost any food. Add the Zork enclosure, and this wine is a killer bargain at $9. Any nay-sayers would be stopped by the list of accolades on the label.

Yet the  Côtes du Rhône is a beautifully-made red that is the epitome of great, inexpensive French red wine, with more body and a longer finish.

I debated and debated. I sipped and spat, swirled, sipped, and swallowed. I had to choose one.

 

Decision time:

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In the end, I went with the Perrin Family Côtes du Rhône. The beefier body, the long finish, and the multiple specific notes from the wine make this the ideal red to serve. It will satisfy those who don’t know anything about wine (who will simply enjoy it with whatever they choose to eat) and equally well it will satisfy the oenophiles who will break down the elements, discuss the fruit, acid and tannins that I do so often in this very space.

So: decision made. For those who wonder what white wines were served, I will make good on that promise!

I started everyone off with the Gazela Vino Verde 2012 $6/bottle from Portugal, whose touch of fizziness reminds the drinker of sparkling wine while being lower in alcohol, light and delicious, making it really fun to drink.

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For a full-bodied white, I chose the Yalumba Unwooded Chardonnay 2013 at $11/bottle from Southern Australia. The Yalumba is a vegan and vegetarian-friendly wine that uses no animal-based fining agents as well a being a predominant winemaker who uses both organic, biodynamic and sustainable winemaking practices in their work. Beyond that, it simply tastes delicious (green apple & white peaches) with notes of stone and spice on the crisp, clean finish. Very satisfying.

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Please share with me YOUR experiences and trials in trying to find the “right” wine. I look forward to hearing from you!

à votre santé!

 

A Whole New World…Down Under!

28 Feb

New Zealand.

I confess I have never spent much time thinking about New Zealand.

Sure I’ve been fascinated by Māori culture with movies like Whale Rider and The Lost Warrior. And I’ve wanted to visit what is obviously a lush, beautiful country with rich history in the same way that I want to visit many places in the world I have yet to see first hand.

But wine? No. To be succinct, I never really thought about New Zealand wine. I’ve tasted a few in the $9-12 range which were good wines – nice, every day wines that are totally fine, just not mind-blowing. 

That has all changed. I attended a tasting that enlightened me, and now I’m finding myself daydreaming about the wines of New Zealand.

Do I have your attention yet? Well, I should. You already know that I’m a classic French wine snob with great appreciation for all European wines: Italian, German, Spanish, Austrian and even a few Greek wines. And then after a decade I started to appreciate what could be found at home in the USA, with great work being done not only in California but also quality wines found in Oregon and a few small producers around the country whose work can actually compare to the Europeans.

Many times it took a visit to a location to taste something to spark my interest. Sometimes by accident I tried a wine from an unusual region and had to investigate (Argentina, Chile) or was handed something I had no interest in and fell in love with (eiswein, white rioja).

Don’t do what I did and wait for someone to push you on the fine wines of New Zealand. Take the plunge. I’ve now spent a considerable amount of time investigating and can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt: if you appreciate fine wines, you want, nay, you NEED to know about the quality production being done in New Zealand’s Central Otago region.

Here’s the inside scoop: Do you like the quality of the wines that are created on the 45th Parallel? (The wines of Oregon, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhone, Lombardy, and Piedmont, for example.) Central Otago is on the SOUTHERN 45th Parallel, along with great wine country in Chile and Argentina. Great winemaking isn’t just about location- they are made, not born. But to make a great wine, the location is the first major point. Location, location, location.  Bill Daly from the Chicago Tribune did a great story on the 45th Parallel. It’s worth a read. But I’m here to tell you that, after tasting these wines, there is no denying that Central Otago has something serious going on.

Here’s the one that really impressed me:

Mount Difficulty Pipeclay Terrace 2010; a single vineyard pinot noir and a screwtop closure. My tasting notes: nose of blackberry and hints violet and lavender. Gentle red and black fruit, sumptuous, lithe, delicious. Secondary notes of spice, oak, and clay. Huge on the mid-palate, strong finish with great tannin-feels like powerful reserve while being kept in check, like a Porsche 928 at only 50mph. Reminds me of Grand Cru / Cote de Nuit.

Did you re-read that last part? It’s no joke. This wine floored me. It was “oh, that’s good. Wait…that’s really impressive. Let me taste that again!”  

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And it’s not just the Pinot. Another wine that left a great impression was a chardonnay from Felton Road. 

Felton Road “Block 2” Chardonnay 2011

Pale straw color, subtle nose- gentle citrus, white flowers. In the mouth, a focused effort of white stone fruit and citrus with good minerality, soft wood in the background. Complexity without any cover-up. Tough to discern specific fruit flavors might be one of the features that is so compelling. Very direct acidity and great balance. I’d never guess this to be NZ, as it feels like a concentrated California wine in the style of great Burgundy. While that sounds like a knock, I love this wine. Amazing with appetizers and fish course. A great, mineral-driven, home run of a wine.

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I tried nine wines this tasting from the Central Otago. None of them would have landed in the under-$20 range, but every one had solid backbone and quality, without the requirement of a decade of age to have refinement.

For example, check out these tasting notes from this unassuming Quartz Reef Pinot Noir 2010:

-Decanted for two hours. A complex nose of red fruit entices, while a blend of elegant cherry, blackberry and red plum bathe the soft palate with gentle acidity as velvety tannins rise slowly. I enjoyed this wine three nights in a row, with the same responses each time. The wine is well made: developed, mature, and refined. My tongue lolled as my brain raced. If I didn’t know better, I’d be placing this totally wrong. It feels distinctly European to me. Never has being so wrong felt so right. Not long ago, I was have sworn this wine was Burgundy. I’m so happy I know better, and hats off to the winemaker!

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Following the tasting, I tried several other Central Otago wines and in the process I discovered that one of my biggest wine suppliers carries many of the wines I had tasted. This is a supplier I trust with providing great European wines and choosing ideal vintages. Imagine my surprise to see a list of  names, similar or matching  to the ones I’d tasted? It’s not coincidence. They knew. Now I know. And now YOU know.

New Zealand. It’s a whole new world of wine for you.

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à votre santé!

Popping the Zork on Pepperwood Grove

16 Feb

Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir 2010.Chilean grapes, vinted & bottled by Pepperwood Grove Winery, Napa. 13% ABV. List $10/bottle, $9 direct from winery, seen locally as low as $7/bottle.

Always on the lookout for a good value, I saw a shelf talker that mentioned this wine was a Wine Enthusiast Best Buy and Wine Spectator Best Value. OK, at this price, that’s enough to give it a try. I got home and realized they used a zork for bottle closure, and I wanted to taste Pepperwood Grove’s wine, even if only for the use of the Zork and their trademark “Groovy Green Bottle”. On the back of the bottle, they have two sliding scale markings, placing this closer to “Dry” than “Sweet”, and medium bodied, to help customers decide if this wine might be to their liking. That was a third thing I liked, and I haven’t even tasted the stuff in the bottle. Someone is a savvy winemaker. But here we go, unwrap and pull the zork:

Color: violet body with light edging. Nose: ripe plum, cut flowers and toasted almond. In the mouth, cherry and plum, a touch of spice. Modest fruit meets modest acidity and  tannins, medium finish. I’d serve this for an afternoon party in a second, it’s easy going down, gentle enough for everyone but enough body to please the cab lovers, carefully built and sleekly packaged. At this price, what’s not to love? No wonder it has the accolades. Smart winemaking that will garner a big chunk of marketplace.

Don’t take my word for it. Crack the zork and try it yourself.  Whoa, I just saw that they sell this by the BOX! While I haven’t tried boxed wine before, I guess I will now. Keep an eye out for my box wine review…

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à votre santé!

Alto Adige: Northern Italy’s Powerhouse Wines

12 Jan

I recently had an opportunity to get up close and personal with some amazing Alto Adige DOC wines, and I was impressed with the quality, the flavors, and the prices of these wines.  They will have a regular place in my vocabulary and cellar from here on out, and it’s time we looked closely at them. Trust me, you will be glad you did!

AA 1st schava

Cantino Valle Isarco Schiava DOC 2011, Sample Provided by Alto Adige Wines.  ABV 12%. No MSRP listed.

This schiava is bright ruby in the glass with a nose of young cherries. On the palate, very delicate- the softest of the reds I tasted, light with gentle tannins. With balanced acidity and tannins, this wine pairs best with pastas, appetizers or a meat & cheese plate.  This is a tasty and light summer red. Though not easily found,  it is available in NYC through the distributor: www.panebiancowines.com.

This wine warmed me up for the next three heavy hitters:

Eppan Pinot

St. Michel-Appan 2011 DOC Pinot Noir. Sample Provided by Alto Adige Wines. 13% ABV MSRP $13.

Color: Pale ruby with clear edging. Nose: hints of red fruit, raspberry and cherry blossoms together with a note of old wood.  On the palate; a fresh young blend of blackberry, cherry, and cassis is delicate going down. Harmony is demonstrated by matching young fruit and the right amount of acidity together with supple tannins for a very enjoyable experience.

It paired beautifully, after opening, with basic rigatoni pasta a garlic and olive oil, and side of steamed broccoli. Ideal to cut the garlic from the palate, leaving my mouth refreshed. This would also be a great appetizer wine, with the lush fruit and crisp acidity this is a sommelier’s pairing dream. A very strong competitor against both US pinot noir and Burgundy, I was surprised at how good this wine is for the price, and I kept finishing my tastes early- the bottle was gone far too soon.

In NYC, you can find this wine at Gotham Wines & Liquor .

Galea Schiava

Nils Margreid Galea Schiava DOC 2011. Sample Provided by Alto Adige Wines. 13% ABV, MSRP $19

Color is pale ruby center with garnet notes, translucent with clear edging. A delicate nose of ripe red fruit, ancient wood and a hint of limestone. In the mouth, it expressed more body and depth than I expected, fresh fruit and nice crisp acidity with gentle tannin. Instead of  layers of flavor, I experienced singularity of flavor and location. This wine screams Tyrol, and reminds me of hiking in the mountains and taking an early dinner with thinly sliced meats, a house salad, a side of pasta, and fish. This pairs delightfully with each of those, and is just as nice by itself.

When you buy this wine, whether its for yourself or a friend, don’t stop at one bottle. It goes down so easily, you’ll open it while you’re cooking and finish the bottle before dinner is ready.  It took all the patience I had to save enough to try this with fajitas, stir-fry, burgers, and pasta and this wine went the distance with each one.

In the NYC area, this is available from NJ-based www.trainoswine.com .

Andrian Gewurz

Kellerei-Cantina Andrian Gewürztraminer DOC 2012. Sample Provided by Alto Adige Wines. 14.5% ABV,  MSRP  $16.

Color: pale straw. Nose: a delightfully aromatic wine, slightly perfumed, touch of citrus and jasmine with underlying floral blend.

On the palate, If there ever was a wine that came close to a handmade salted caramel, this might be it. Lychee is the initial fruit, followed by notes of toffee and butterscotch, and an amazing blend of sweetness, acidity, and salinity that made it difficult to put the wine down from either my nose or mouth. Addictive.

This is a 90+ point wine all day long, and it was so tasty that I kept this bottle for a several weeks, rationing tiny sips just to keep reminding myself how delicious it tasted. Every time, the aromatic wine with sweetness and a noticeable salinity just knocked me out. I did several searches for this wine locally and found consistent ratings in the 90-92 point range, prices $20 and under, and limited availability (usually only several hundred cases per year in the USA). So you won’t find it on grocery store shelves, but when you do find this, buy me a bottle- I’m good for it.

Yes, it’s just that darn good. And each of these is something special. Look for wines of the Alto Adige region (also known as Suditirol) to start popping up in the least expected places, on wine lists you love, in your wine stores.  Why? They are a Powerhouse region, providing  solid wines with great value, my friends… this is the next big thing in wine.

à votre santé!

*Special Thanks to Cornerstone Communications!*

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