Tag Archives: Review

Thacher 2016 Working Holiday: Small batch, big flavor!

18 Feb

Thacher Vineyard 2016 “Working Holiday”; Cass Vineyard, Geneseo District; Paso Robles, CA. 13.4%ABV, SRP $28/bottle. Stelvin closure.

Color is an opaque, deep ruby with a nose of mixed fruit, showing black currants, blue plum, and mature raspberry. On the palate, a tasty blend of dark blue plum leads to blackberries and a secondary melange of spice notes: thyme, white pepper, and cut greens. Medium bodied yet with full-flavor, this wine exhibits a nice acidic backbone and a solid tannic baseline. A classic Rhône-inspired  GSM with lovely Central-Coast fruit, subtle use of oak, and a real sense of “holiday” that the name implies.

A blend of 47% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 23% Mourvedre, the wine stayed consistant over the course of several days while I paired this, enjoying it at every turn with Italian pasta, a Mediterranean chicken dish, and braised red meat. This is a small (248 case) production from a talented winemaker- a classic wine approach with what tastes like a blend of modern and ancient techniques. I’ll keep an eye out to find more wines like this from Thacher and more from Paso Robles. You should do the same, as this is a solid wine that delivers robustly, and promises more in the future.

What’s in YOUR glass? 

à votre santé!

Barton Family Wines “Holiday” 2017

10 Jan

Barton Family Wines “Holiday”,  Clairette Blanche 2017, Willow Creek District, Paso Robles, CA. 13.4% ABV, SRP $32/bottle. Sample provided.

Color is clear, medium straw. The nose offers citrus and baked apple. On the palate, a gentle combination of lemon and lime zest lead into white fleshy fruit. A savory component of toasted almond follows up with a supple and full mouthfeel, quite mellow and relaxed. A pure finish, echoing with a hint of lemon pith. It is pleasing and round in mouthfeel, both satisfying and inspiring to a warm afternoon.

 

 

This is a delicate bottle that is ideal for wine-lovers who gravitate towards pinot gris or pinot grigio, but with slightly fuller body and a less floral nose. I paired this easily with baked pasta, chicken, pizza, and soft-rind cheeses over the course of a week, enjoying the gentle aroma and flavor profile.

Often known as a blending grape in Rhône white wines, clairette blanche is a grape that is known for being high in alcohol and low in acidity. It has become increasingly popular as a single variety wine in California especially, and is adored as a wine that is delicate in aroma and fruit profile.

 

 

Barton Family winemaker Ryan Pease presses the Willow Creek fruit in whole clusters and ferments the clairette blanche in stainless steel, then ages the wine for three months in neutral French oak on the lees, stirring monthly. Only four barrels were made in 2017!

 

à votre santé!

Beaujolais Rosé! Beaujolais Nouveau!

18 Nov

If you aren’t a huge fan of Beaujolais Nouveau, I understand. It’s not for everyone. OK, it is for everyone- but some oenophiles aren’t always fans. I get it- you know wine intimately, and maybe you feel that you need something special.  

Well, as a wine lover who spent decades celebrating the annual arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau, at some point in my 40’s I turned nearly entirely to Cru Beaujolais from this region. Let’s be honest, I might have even gotten a little snobby… maybe because I held a bottle of Nouveau too long (ugh), and then tried a bottle of CRU- and “damn, that tastes SO good!” After some time, when my wine merchants and friends asked me about Nouveau, I politely turned them down.

Well, not this year. Turn your attitude around, and get on the bandwagon. (I did!) This is a year to celebrate! This vintage will reward you, with great flavor, mouthfeel, and value for Nouveau. 

2018 is THE year for great gamay. And Duboeuf made a great Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé.

Let that sink in for just a moment. This rosé is the first of its kind sold in the USA.

So get thee to a wine merchant and buy some of the best gamay you may have in a lifetime. 2018 has been called “Legendary”  when it comes to Beaujolais Nouveau. So when this is a wine that you can get for $9-12 a bottle street price… why wouldn’t you? To share legendary wine that costs maybe $2 a glass? HELLO… no-brainer here.

“But what about your tasting notes?” You say? OK, fine. You got it!

Vins de Georges Duboeuf  Beaujolais Rosé Nouveau 2018,  A.O.C. Beaujolais; France. 12.5% ABV; SRP $13.99/bottle.

Pale pink in color, the nose offers rose bush and young red fruit. On the palate: notes of strawberry, yellow peach, lemon rind with grapefruit juice on the finish. Beautifully dry, with a pleasing, tart mouthfeel.  Made from 100% gamay grapes, which are pressed manually in whole bunches and fermented in stainless steel.

This is a wine I want to drink while cooking or watching football…I toasted a cheese quesadilla while pouring a glass, snacked while watching the game and looked down to realize I’d polished off TWO glasses, not one. This is that easy to drink, so don’t limit yourself to only one bottle!  This drinks beautifully by itself, with appetizers, veggies, pizza or similar light fare. For heavier protein, why not hit the classic gamay wine? (Below.) I know I would. This is a great way to start the evening and keep things moving. if you think you like rosé, you have GOT to get this in your game. But remember, it won’t last long. Nouveau is meant to be drunk young, so get it, and drink it.

Vins de Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2018,  A.O.C. Beaujolais; France. 13% ABV; SRP $13.99/bottle.

Color  is a bright, lively purple with ruby edging. The nose offers boysenberry and mixed fruit compote. On the palate are ripe raspberry, plum, and cassis. Along with a fuller body and mouthfeel, the finish has a hint more sweetness than the bone-dry rosé, and evokes a fruit bowl finish, with a touch of granite, bitter cassis, and youthful tannins. Yum! One of the most delightful Beaujolais Nouveau wines I have experienced, ever, hands-down. This is from 20+ year-old vines, cold fermented in stainless steel.

This gamay will pair with heavier proteins, from chicken and pork, to red meats and game. The hint of sweetness also links with the yam and corn from the season, or complements the leafy greens of collards, kale, brussel sprouts, even beets and  cauliflower.

Duboef reminds us on the label: “The First Wine of the Harvest!” and it’s important to remember that this is drunk by the pitcher in France upon arrival, celebrating the harvest and its completion. What could be better, in an ideal year, than to join in? You’ll enjoy it! This is a wine that calls to mind the decadence of the king’s hall from the Renaissance era, images of wines poured into a flagon and glasses always kept brimming. 2018 is definitely a year to enjoy, and imbibe. At this price, don’t miss out on one of the best values since the 2009 Bordeaux futures.

Serve these wines slightly chilled, and enjoy. Trust me, you will!  But as always, please drink responsibly.

à votre santé!

Department 66: Taking Old Vine Grenache To The Extreme

15 Oct

Ten years after buying vineyards in Maury, France (the Roussillon appellation), winemaker Dave Phinney’s release of his latest venture, called Department 66 , has finally hit the USA. These are wines that don’t taste like Phinney’s previous winemaking undertakings; to his admission they are small cluster, tiny yield (only one-half ton per acre!!) and most of the vines are from 60-100 years of age- which delivers a concentrated mouthful of flavor! 

I can hear you thinking: ok JvB, let’s get to the wines! And away we go…

Department 66’s “Fragile” 2017 Rosé of Grenache, with small amounts of Syrah and Carignan. Maury, France. 15% ABV, SRP $18/bottle.

Color is pale pink with just a hint of orange. The nose is of fresh spring strawberries. The palate is a pleasing shot of young, tart strawberry up front, showing bright acidity with a hint of bitterness on the back palate. Heat sings across the top palate from the high ABV, which I only noticed because I was looking for it- others won’t mind, as the tongue is too busy enjoying the dancing red berries and tangerine rind on the front palate. I poured this for several neighbors who, like myself, were simply enchanted by the wine on their very first sip. Best served cold due to the high ABV.

This is the rosé you didn’t think you were going to love until it hits your mouth. It is so “not Provence” that I want to call it an Anti-Rosé. If you like grenache (aka garnacha) and GSM blends, your mouth just might thank you. It is a delicious, decidedly different approach to a different peak, with an entirely different view of what it means to be a rosé. 

 

 

 

 

Department 66’s “Others” 2015 Grenache (with Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre) Catalan Red Wine Blend; Maury, France. 15.2% ABV, SRP $25/bottle.

 

Color is a dark, opaque magenta. The nose offers juicy red plum and chrysanthemum. On the palate, a mixture of dark fruit: cassis, black plum, blueberry with blackberry jam with a touch of forest floor. On the extended finish there are notes of floral herbs, oak, saddle leather, granite, and schist. A monster mouthful of juice that wants to run down your mouth like berries so plum they explode on contact.  

This is a big, full-bodied grenache that is best served just under room temperature and is perfect for smoked and grilled meats, or other powerful flavors that will stand up to bold tannin and structure.  Cabrales cheese, spicy sausage, or savory dishes with heavy sauces could be alternate pairings. The Spanish influence is quite apparent, and if tasted blind I would have suggested Northern Spain, not France. This wine possesses big and bold flavors in a way that juicy California blends have never imagined. 

 

Dave tells his story of Dept. 66 here: 

 

Dave Phinney’s wines have mesmerized me since my first taste of The Prisoner many years ago. He plays by his own set of rules, making delightful wines outside of the standards of the big winemakers, and without corporate constraint. Department 66 is a decidedly different beast, by Phinney’s own admission. He has matured, learned, and this is a new venture, seemingly a personal aspiration. I am fascinated to see what Phinney does next! 

 

To find out more about these wines, click on: https://www.department66.com/

 

#WIYG? Share with me! 

 

à votre santé!

A Surprise Merlot for Rosh Hashana!

10 Sep

Alexander Winery, 2009 Reserve Merlot, Galilee, Israel.  %13.5 ABV. Found online for $37/bottle. Ⓤ𝖯

 

 

The decade=plus of age on this bottle made me reach for it when it was time to choose wines for a special dinner to celebrate Rosh Hashana the Jewish New Year.

Of the four wines I chose (a Napa Sauvignon Blanc, a full-bodied Bordeaux Blanc, a delicate Burgundy pinot, and a full-bodied, reserve red), I was not expecting the merlot to be the breakout. But it was, hands-down, the crowd favorite.

Dinner began with slices of apple with honey to bring in a sweet new year, and then spicy flounder cakes and Israeli cucumber salad. For the main course, coq au vin with garlic-balsamic Brussel sprouts made me think that the Burgundy would be the star wine for the evening.

Not according to my guests! They loved the full-bodied yet soft mouthfeel of the supple merlot from Northern Galilee. They adored it with the fish, and sang its praises with the fowl- especially pairing with the savory dark meat and the vegetable courses.

Color is deep purple with garnet edging. The nose is a rich blueberry compote with menthol and vanilla bean. On the palate, a robust burst of blackberry, plum, and cranberry. Solid acidity leads into a firm slice of heat across the top palate. Secondary notes of mocha, toasted oak, green herbs, and a touch of clove. Succinctly dry, with a long finish. Our guests wanted more to taste, took pictures of the bottle, googled the winery and importer

I kept tasting back and forth with the wines, and personally loved this wine’s pairing with the dark meat chicken, as well as the plum cake and flourless chocolate cakes served for dessert. In the $24-40 range, it is a lovely choice for a bottle with this heritage and age (though it could certainly handle another five years!) Without a doubt this wine is a win, worthy of your table for the holidays or any day that you want to make special.

 

#WIYG?

 

Share with me- what’s in your glass, what wine is gracing your table this week? Click the link below and let us know!

 

à votre santé!

 

The Red Wine You Need for Hot Weather!

19 Aug

Cantina Kaltern Kalterersee Classico Superiore “Leuchtenberg” 2016; Alto Adige, Italy.  13.5% ABV, Around $20/bottle.

 

The lighter reds of summer. Some of my wine-loving friends drink cabernet sauvignon all year ’round, but I ache for wines with gentler body, brighter fruit and higher acidity that you can drink all night, still feeling my palate.  This is one of those delightful treats you need to have in your cellar!

Color is a translucent cerise, while the nose offers fresh ripe raspberry. On the palate, bright young cherry and raspberry are followed by secondary notes of black pepper and smoky paprika, with a medium finish and hints of oak, granite, and volcanic basalt. Made from 100% schiava, this wine is summer’s best friend! Delightfully light and fresh with plenty of bright fruit, perfect acidity, and moderate tannins make this schiava so easy to drink during hot, humid weather, and hard to resist a refill!

 

a beautiful translucent color in the glass

 

Over the course of a week, I paired this wine successfully with a spicy tomato sauce over pasta, grilled salmon and zucchini, veal cutlet and steamed asparagus, Thai noodles, southwestern fajitas, and cheeses from mild to moderate. I remember in Alto Adige how beautifully the local fare complements these delicate, high acid, alpine wines: carpaccio, speck, polenta and risotto, dumplings, and beautiful dishes that combine whatever is sourced locally– often beef or pork, wild game and fowl, cabbage, and apples.

 

 

While wines like Kalterersee Classico Superiore may be harder to find in the states, most wine stores do carry Italy’s schiava or lagrein, which are ideal summer drinks that more people need to try and share for your summer barbecue, dinner party, or just a night at home. At $20/bottle or under, schiava has enough flavor and punch to match with heavy meals, but remains delightful and fun with moderate weight and body.

One more thing you will find is that it goes down easily, and leaves you wanting more. That’s my kind of summer wine.

 

 

 

What is in your glass this summer, while you fight the humidity and try to beat the heat?

Let me know below!

à votre santé!

 

 

Scheid Vineyards Grüner Veltliner 2016: When Getting It Wrong IS Getting It Right!

6 Aug

Scheid Vineyards Grüner Veltliner 2016, Riverview Vineyard Monterey, Ca. 14.5% ABV; SRP $24/bottle; stelvin/screwcap closure.

 

This estate-grown grüner veltliner took me entirely by surprise. The bottle was turned around in my cellar’s tasting queue, and I was running late. I ignored the label and tasted it quickly, identified the grape correctly and was sure it came from Wachau, Austria. I jotted down color and fragrance notes (that you’ll find below), re-capped it and brought it to dinner with family up the block. During dinner, a family member said “this tastes just like the wines we enjoyed in Munich” and I was about to reply when I looked at the label up close. I almost choked as my mind exploded: This is from Monterey, CA?? I’ve gotten the region wrong- but the winemaker got it SO right! 

Color is pale straw, while the nose offers tropical fruit, a hint of green vegetation and pepper. On the palate: starfruit, grapefruit, and lemon-lime. A mid-weight mouthfeel, this is lush, yet crisp, leading into a warm finish of white pepper with a touch of heat on the back palate that leaves an air of lemon rind across the top palate. This is so nicely made: aromatic, fruit-forward with high acidity and lots of spice, that it’s a wine I could drink all year round. This is an excellent alternative white wine to chardonnay or sauvignon blanc, with far more body than pinot gris.

 

This wine paired nicely with baked flounder and steamed vegetables, and then again with chicken on a second night, providing plenty of acidity against stewed tomatoes and savory white meat. The Scheid Vineyards Grüner Veltliner is a terrific representation of the grape, with gentle fruit, firm acidity, a strong backbone and mouthfeel. You might think you’re drinking a single vineyard grüner from the Wachau- but you aren’t!  It just happens to taste that great. The differences are subtle, but unless you are tasting bottles head to head, you might make the same mistake I did.

You’ll be surprised how delicious this is and how quickly the bottle is empty; everyone who tasted it with me asked for a refill. Seek this out, enjoy, and let me know what you think.

 

à votre santé!

Modus Operandi’s Bacchipectus 2011- The Amphora bottle!

30 Jul

Modus Operandi 2011 Bacchipectus, Napa, California. 14.5% ABV,  found online for $119/bottle. Two Barrels Produced.

 

This wine came in a Modus Operandi Wine club shipment as a club-only selection, and sat in my cellar for years while I waited for a special occasion to open it. It wasn’t until after shock of a loved one’s passing, during a social media blitz that I asked followers to carpe diem, and Open That Bottle!, that I finally took this treasure from its dusty slot on the shelf and tasted it, that I immediately wished I had waited for a BETTER special occasion and friends to share it with. So here you are!

In a bottle with an oversized mouth, sealed in wax, and that has tiny arms that look like amphorae handles-  comes a sauvignon blanc like none I have experienced before. Winemaker Jason Moore used 100% sauvignon blanc grapes and fermented the juice on the lees, with skins and seeds in French oak, then barrel aged for THREE YEARS. You can tell the difference immediately, this does NOT taste like traditional sauvignon blanc!  

The color is a rich, golden hue- and it has a turbid level of clarity; tiny particles the eye can see, help to make this wine the stunning experience that it is. The nose offers honeysuckle, apricot, orange peel, and clay. On the palate, this seven-year-old sauvignon blanc has baked apple and mature lemon rind with a supple, luxurious mouthfeel. Robust acidity prevents the palate from any oiliness. It is luscious, with lip-smacking acidity on the front palate, beautiful tartness across the mid-palate, with a sharp slice of heat on the back palate. And as soon as the wine is swallowed, the finish lingers beautifully, hanging in the air like low fog across a mountain range, while my mouth begs for the next sip.

I paired this with pasta, with fresh seafood, and a stunning goat cheese with an ash rind. Each bite was improved by the wine, no doubt. But truly, the star of the show is this beautiful wine, that needs no food to appreciate the brilliant modern, classic, and historic techniques merged In its creation. 

 

“Regrets, I’ve Had a Few” 

I hope that’s not the case, Jason. Not with this wine, this is brilliant. I only wish I had more to share with friends.  So to you, I’ll send you off with deep respect, and the Chairman of the Board. Thanks for doing this your way.

 

 

à votre santé!

 

Mastroleo Negroamaro 2012

24 Jul

Ok my Italian Wine Lovers, start your engines! 

Mastroleo Negroamaro 2012, Puglia, IGT, Italy. ABV 13%, $15/bottle at Wine & Spirit Company, Forest Hills.

Color is a deep garnet with maroon edging. The nose provides a floral mix with black plum and fresh earth. On the palate is a nice melange of black fruit: black cassis, plum, dried fig, and prune; a lively acidity with moderate heat across the mid-palate. Secondary notes of forest floor, potting soil, sodium, toasted oak, and granite. A moderately-long finish that returns the fruit back to the palate, with a tiny hint of pleasant bitterness after the finish completes which re-awakens the mouth for another bite or sip. This wine really reminds me of my trip to the Mediterranean last year, with beautiful dark flavors. The acidity in this wine makes it a great balance now at a median age but I feel it could easily age another four or five years. And while it was $15 near me, a quick search online showed it commonly sells for $12/bottle- a good deal for a nice Italian food wine! Still, I feel $15 is a bargain for a nicely aged Italian red that would be a great gift wine or dinner wine. The label looks far more expensive!

 

 

Food pairing was simple with a spicy chicken fajita dish on the first night, another evening with grilled steak and asparagus, and a third day with a mix of cheese from mild to heavy. I’d love to pair this with a spicy tomato sauce, but perhaps a perfect pairing might be game: wild boar or venison- this is a wine designed to pair with food and friends! I’d love to add this to my cellar for times when you want a wine that has beautifully dark flavors and tones without the massive fruit of Cabernet sauvignon or syrah. This is a real conversation wine as well as a delightful and inexpensive bottle that can age well– I have found several of my cellared wines to be closed at the age of six, but this negroamaro is in excellent stride.

Thanks to  my friends and fellow wine writers  Debbie Gioquindo,CSW and  Lodi Budd for “Winephabet Street” ,their monthly online chat about a different grape each month which got me out of my “nebbiolo” comfort zone to try out Negroamaro! 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

Lasorda Family Wines 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

14 Jun

Lasorda Family Wines 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, CA, USA. 13.5% ABV; SRP $24/bottle.

 

 

Color is deep magenta with purple edging. The nose offers boysenberry, eucalyptus, and dried black fruit. On the palate is  blueberry and boysenberry, with secondary hints of raspberry and cherry, followed by notes of forest floor, mocha, cedar plank, and granite. There is considerable heat across the front palate, followed by dried blueberry, black plum, and stone across the  tongue; residual heat shifts along the rear of the top palate on the lengthy, fruity finish that features moderate acidity and medium-to-large tannins.

Winemaker Terry Culton has crafted a modern cabernet with a nose and mouthfeel that nod to old world cabernet style, while the flavor profile is unmistakably Paso Robles- that’s a great thing!  And it goes with food, let me tell you! In addition to pairing with American fare, this wine will sit happily along Italian, Spanish and French meats, game, and savory dishes. It is medium bodied with a warm, enveloping and gossamer mouthfeel. I paired this over a five day period with Italian, Mexican, Chinese, burgers, grilled chicken, and steak and I was pleasantly surprised every single time. This is a delicious, food-friendly wine that drinks nicely alone and pairs beautifully with American fare and, like the game, gets along with all others.

Did I expect to like it? No preconceived notion. 

Am I Impressed? Yes.

Would I buy it again? Yes!  

Would it be the perfect wine or gift for your friends & family who are BASEBALL FANS?  Oh HECK yes! 

Editor’s note: If you didn’t automatically THINK about Tommy Lasorda when you read the top lines of this post or saw the baseball diamond on the bottle, ok- you’re not a baseball fan, & here’s the skinny: Tommy Lasorda was a major league baseball pitcher and went on to become a Major League manager. For two decades he managed the LA Dodgers, and was one of the top managers in baseball history. His name is synonymous with professional baseball, regardless of who you root for. Yes, this is his family’s namesake wine. Tommy Lasorda, at 90, is currently the oldest living member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. 

 

 

This wine is an absolute HIT. make no mistake about it, I expected a gimmick, and got scored on.

 

Surprised? Don’t be.
I AM a Yankee fan, after all!

But for any baseball fan, this is a treat! Take this bottle to the park. Or give it as a gift. You’ll thank me. 

 

à votre santé!

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