Tag Archives: Sparkling Wine

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!

Treveri Cellars: Sparkling Wines From Yakima, WA!

1 Oct

Nestled in the hills above the Yakima River is a hidden haven of bubbles!  Treveri Cellars only makes sparkling wines, all with the methode Champenoise in which secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle, to develop the lovely tiny bubbles we adore from Champagne. If you like sparkling wine and can visit the Yakima Valley, I implore you to take the time to visit Treveri Cellars. It is an easy drive, a delightful place to visit, the winery is picturesque, and the sparkling wines are excellent! 

 

About a three-hour drive from either Portland OR or Seattle WA, rests the Yakima Valley, which includes Washington State’s oldest appellation, the Yakima Valley AVA. Nearby are the Rattlesnake Hills AVA, the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, the Snipes AVA, along with the Columbia Gorge Area, Prosser Area, and Red Mountain Hills Areas, among others. Treveri Cellars is located in the Yakima Valley AVA.

 

 

 New vines being trained, in front. Scores of stacked fruit bins remind us that harvest is currently underway!  

 

 

A tranquil water feature at the entry to the winery. 

 

But let’s get to the wines!

 

Two Treveri Blanc de Blancs are available:  Zero Dosage, and Brut.

Treveri Cellars Blanc De Blanc Sparkling Wine, Yakima Valley AVA, Wapato, WA.  12% ABV, SRP $15/bottle.

Medium straw in color. A delicate nose with barely a hint of apple. On the palate is green apple, bosc pear, and a touch of baking spice. The result is crisp, clean, and absolutely delightful. The Zero Dosage is perfectly dry, while Brut features a tiny hint of sugar that is only perceptible by slightly forward green apple and young pear on the fruit profile.

 

Value, Value, Value!
Did I mention that the suggested retail price is only $15?  Yes, you read that correctly. $15 per 750 ml bottle on the Blanc de Blanc. It’s a killer value that is still slightly under the radar, and it was no surprise to me to find that Treveri Cellars are carried at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, BevMo, Total Wine, and many more! For the record, their sparkling have been used at James Beard Foundation events and by the State Department. Treveri isn’t actually a secret, but you’re getting in early.

 

 

Treveri Cellars Brut Blanc De Noir, Yakima Valley AVA, Wapato, WA.  12% ABV, SRP $20/bottle.

This is a classic Blanc de Noir that stirs my soul. Made from 100% pinot noir, this golden sparkling wine share a nose and flavor palate of fresh strawberry, a hint of apple and ripe pear, and baking spices for an overall experience that is layered and complex with a decadent and creamy mouthfeel. This is what you give to the Champagne snobs in your group; they will be satisfied and appreciative.

 

 

 

Treveri Cellars Rosé of Chardonnay and Syrah, Yakima Valley AVA, Wapato, WA.  12% ABV, SRP $18/bottle.

Their house rosé is made by combining syrah together with chardonnay.  It might be a little unusual but it is absolutely delightful, blending a sense of citrus and white flesh fruit together with tart cherry and cranberry. The color is a warm coral, and the wine is immensely fun with a touch of tart, darker fruit that is unusual in a rosé.

 

 

Jenna Carino tasting Treveri Rosé at the Treveri Cellars Winery.
Photo by Dominic Barbaro

 

Insider’s Note:  if you visit the winery, there is also a Treveri Tasting Room Rosé that is only available at the tasting room. It is made with 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir; as I’m a fan (ok, a superfan) of pinot noir, I immediately took to the tasting room rosé and its pale pink shade, the perfect balance of flavors, with an overtone of brioche. If I could drive home, I’d buy this by the case.

Shhh. The Tasting Room Rosé is available in limited quantities, only at the tasting room. 
Take home a bottle and thank me later. 

 

 

 

 

Treveri Cellars Brut Syrah, Yakima Valley AVA, Wapato, WA.  12.8% ABV, SRP $20/bottle.

Color is deep purple. The nose offers dried rose petals and red plum. On the palate is a blend of cranberry and currants, beautifully, tart, elevating the top and back palates, with solid acidity and nice tannic structure, while being bathed in tiny bubbles. The tartness of this is so delightful! My friend Jenna said it aloud: “Wouldn’t this be perfect for Thanksgiving dinner?”  It really would. And I expect it will be on MY Thanksgiving table this year!

For the folks who only drink red wines, this is your jam, my friends. Take a glass and you can thank me later. 
While I’m suggesting it for the traditional Thanksgiving meal, it has enough oomph to pair with powerful flavors- I actually paired the Brut Syrah with a plate of spicy BBQ brisket while writing this post. Oh yeah, it rocked! 

 

 

After tasting for an hour, the sky changed colors as the sun began to dip behind the mountain range- we relaxed and enjoyed the “magic hour” sunlight on our last flute.

 

Dominic Barbaro enjoying Treveri Cellars’ Sparkling Syrah.
Photo by Jenna Carino 

 

Jennifer Kozumplik enjoying Treveri Sparkling Syrah on a beautiful afternoon!

 

 

Treveri Cellars has even more sparkling wines to taste than the ones I’ve mentioned here, including sparkling Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, and Gewüztraminer, all in the same price range. There is not just something for everyone, but there are several somethings -with bubbles- for everyone.

 

 

#WIYG?

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

 

What I Drank in Taipei

16 Apr

When work calls, I go. And sometimes it means that JvBUnCorked hits limbo for a few days. One of my recent ‘limbo’ moments was a trip to Taipei, Taiwan.

Before I left, I reached out on various forms of social media to ask “What should I drink when I’m in Taipei?”

I’d hoped to hear about some wine bars or resources. But the responses were few in number. Some said “drink tea, dummy”, others said that Taiwanese people are much more into whisky. I can confirm this- any restaurant I visited that actually had a wine list, had a much longer whisky list, plus other liquors and various house cocktails. But I DID find some good wine, fellow world travelers, and I’m here to share that with you.

 

But first, I drank tea, and it was simply inspiring. My host took me to the Wistaria Tea House, where we drank four different teas- from classic oolong to an “ancient” oolong, a wistaria tea, and a pu’er tea, along with a classic tea ceremony.

If you go to Taipei, do yourself a favor, and go to Wistaria Tea House. 

 

Later that afternoon,  I found wine! We went to a Taiwanese Dim Sum restaurant called Din Tai Fung, renowned for their steamed dumplings, buns, and Taiwanese-style dishes. If you go to Taiwan, DO NOT MISS Din Tai Fung. Getting back on track we had  just finished lunch and were walking through a mall browsing with friends, when my eye spotted this bottle in a mall wine shop. I loved that the back label is in Cantonese! While I knew the bottle was (over) priced based on tariffs, I also knew this was a good option for a dinner wine to pair with Japanese food.

 

Johan Josef Prüm 2009 Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany. 9% ABV, Normally @ $24 USD/bottle; found in wine store in a mall in Taipei for $1700 TWD = $58 USD.

Color is pale straw. The nose offers starfruit, lemon-lime, and sodium. On the palate, gentle pear and apple are met with hints of gooseberry, grapefruit, and lime zest. An excellent blend of citrus with notes of peppercorn, slate, and limestone, presenting a delicate mouthfeel with aged, linear acidity,  Upon opening, I was initially overwhelmed with petrol and a little funk, which burned off with about 20 minutes of air. Paired perfectly with sashimi, sushi, raw fish, and tempura. 

I was happy to have found this bottle but the 2009, considered an excellent year for Prüm, did not bowl me over. I liked it , but not as much as other vintages I have enjoyed. Still, Prüm, a master winemaker of riesling, is always a joy to taste and was a delightful pairing for me and exciting for the Taiwanese guests at dinner who tasted this, at least one tasting riesling for the very first time.

 


I also liked the fact that the back label is printed in Cantonese; that was a first for me.

 

 

A day later after work, I visited the hotel’s executive lounge, which features both Asian, American, and European style food and drink.

 

The bar featured scotch, vodka, several types of beer, and one each white and red wines. I tried the Heartland Stickleback.

 

Heartland Stickleback White Blend 2012, Southern Australia. 13.5%ABV. Street price $8-12/bottle USD.

 

Pale straw in color with a nose of lemon zest and herbs.  On the palate: pear and starfruit, a hint of tangerine, secondary note of dried apple, with a gentle mouthfeel and moderate acidity. Easy to drink, this was food-friendly and popular in the lounge, pairing nicely with fresh cut fruit, cheese, and dried meats. Not enough acid for the zip I  prefer if you want to drink the wine by itself, but a perfectly fine vin du table on a daily basis, especially in the lower price range.

 


 

 

 

My last evening in Taipei, we went to a Szechuan Restaurant that is known for Peking Duck served three ways. But we started off with cod in spicy pepper sauce, green beans, black fungus (mushroom), whole fish in garlic sauce, prawn with chili sauce, and more. My host asked me to choose a wine, but I pulled a classic JvB and asked for two. I went with Champagne, and an Italian red blend…. because, the food, the food, the food! SO TASTY!

 

Jacquesson “Cuvée 740” Extra Brut Champagne; 12% ABV; around $60/bottle USD.

Beautiful lemon-lime zest, sweet apple, white peach, brioche and chalky limestone. A nice balance of fruit, acidity, and mouthfeel; medium sized bubbles bathe the palate while the acid screams for another sip. The grapes in this champagne ( a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier) were harvested in 2012, and it was disgorged in 2017. With a supple mousse, it is easy to down the entire glass- this non-vintage wine is drinking very nicely right now, as if it were a vintage champagne.  This sells in the restaurant for $2800 TWD, about $95 USD- it retails for about $60 in stores in the USA. I found this to be an excellent mid-level champagne, low dosage, perfect for aging, but really ideal for drinking. And enjoy it, we did! This was superb in pairing with the seafood, vegetables, and white meat dishes. it did not last for long, and I will look for it again in the USA!

 


 

 

Last but not least, was a beautiful red wine!

 

Rocca Di Frassinello “Le Sughere” 2012, Maremma Toscana. 14%ABV, SRP $32/bottle in the USA.

 

Dark ruby in color. The nose offers licorice and red fruit. On the palate: cherries, red plum, and dried cranberry. Secondary notes of tobacco, dank forest floor, wet leaves, potting soil. On the finish: toasted oak, a hint of vanilla, and granite. Medium body, with a medium-length finish. My first impression is that this tastes like a classic European field blend: Sangiovese, Merlot, & Cabernet, and was a good foil to the main dishes at the Szechuan Dinner: Peking Duck three ways and stinky tofu, (which had a subtle scent of manure about it) a traditional dish that visitors should try, but one that takes a little getting used to. This wine is probably best with grilled meats, and was a touch strong for some of the Szechuan dishes but is a good choice for a red wine in Asia, with enough body and flexible flavors to handle the savory dishes. It was simply perfect with the Peking duck.

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, I truly enjoyed the many flavors and restaurants we visited in Taipei, and look forward to the continued evolution of wine in Taiwan. I hope to go back, and report on more wine and food!

Gān Bēi!

or…

à votre santé!

 

 

Won’t You Be Mine? My Valentine is Yarden Rosé 2011 Sparkling Wine

30 Jan

Yarden 2011 Brut Rosé; Golan Heights Winery, Galilee, Israel. 12% ABV; SRP $39.

 

Color is pale salmon, while the nose offers rosebuds and cherry blossom. On the palate, strawberries, tart pear and a hint of tangerine dominate the palate with secondary notes of baking yeast, almond paste, sour raspberry and a hint of chalky limestone. Excellent mouthfeel with medium sized bubbles in solid proportion and moderate effervescence. A delightful finish of balanced fruit, acidity, and tannin. This bottle lasted 2 days with re-closure and  maintained the same balance, flavor profile, and freshness over 28 hours. All in all, a delightful bottle of sparkling rosé.

Don’t let the name or the region catch you by surprise, this is a serious, world-class sparkling wine. Made of 72% Chardonnay and 28% Pinot Noir in the traditional Champagne method. Whole cluster pressed with secondary fermentation in the bottle; disgorged after five years of bottle aging. Cellar up to a decade from harvest for maximum enjoyment. I paired this with roast turkey on the first day, and grilled steak on the second- it held up beautifully to the salads, grilled and roasts meats and the vegetables, potatoes and even cranberry sauce- but this wine is simply gorgeous on its own, and needs no excuse to be enjoyed whether it is by itself or with food. Either way, you win.

This is an excellent Valentine’s Day bottle to share with a loved one, but even more, just to have on hand. A solid value in the Under-$50 range that will make your special night that much more romantic, or spice up a quiet dinner for two… or four! With the vintage rosé being Kosher for Passover, you can buy several bottles and keep something in reserve for that event as well, whether you serve this as the host, or bring it as a housewarming present.

Whether you ask “Will You Be Mine?” or “Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights”, you will be well prepared with a world-class wine that will impress whomever you serve it to: 2011 Yarden Rosé. 

 

If you want to know more about the winemaker Victor Schoenfeld, I previously wrote about him here

à votre santé!

 

 

 

Going, Going, Gone! Prosecco Superiore DOCG

16 Oct

Prosecco Superiore 4Prosecco Superiore DOCG.

There’s only one question to ask: Why aren’t you drinking more of it? 

OK, I have to admit it: every year I get emails from various garagiste-wine vendors with deals on Prosecco Superiore DOCG. And I always buy them. Why? Because they are consistent in being crowd-pleasers and excellent value. They don’t last long in my cellar. And when I open them for friends, the bottles are empty almost quickly as they started: Going, Going, Gone! 

Prosecco 101: It’s Italian. It’s from mostly glera, an ancient Roman grape that classically exhibits both floral and fruit notes.  There is less yeast flavor in prosecco than champagne, due to the fact that it’s usually made in the charmat method of secondary fermentation in steel tanks, which helps in focusing those floral and fruit notes. And a good bottle of prosecco is a bargain, a bottle will usually run you from one-third to one-half the cost of a good bottle of champagne. DOCG refers to Italian regulations, confirming the highest quality terroir and strictest regulations, which is a promise of quality- DOCG is the top level, above both DOC and IGT regulations. Unlike serious champagne which should only ever be consumed singularly, it is considered acceptable, event cool to drink cocktails made with prosecco. The Bellini started it all, but any good bartender has a few recipes up their sleeves, including yours truly (see mine below) or find several hundred ‘easy to make at home’ with a quick internet search!

Here are four DOCG proseccos that are ‘any day celebration’ bottles with SRP’s from $15-$21 that will improve your day significantly! Click the blue links for the manufacturer’s winemaking notes (you can also see how we differ or agree on flavor profiles), or you can just read mine!

 

 

Frassinelli Rive di Manzana Extra Dry 2015 

Frassinelli Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG 2015; – (ABV 11.5%; SRP: $15)

Gentle floral nose with hint of orchid. Pale straw in color with gentle, tiny bubbles. On the palate: white peaches, a hint of baked apple, fresh croissant, grilled pineapple, and clay. Highly agreeable. I offered this to friends and in moments, we had devoured the entire bottle and were ready for more!

 

 

 

 

Bortolomiol Prior Brut 2015

Bortolomiol Prior Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG – (ABV 12%; SRP $15)

Off-gold color with a tinge of green and a neutral, lemon citrus nose. On the palate: green apple, lemon verbena, &  sandstone. I enjoyed this by itself, but with a crazy whim and the help of some flowers and a mortal & pestle, I made a hibiscus & prosecco cocktail (prosecco with a dash of the juice of a hibiscus flower), and was in seventh heaven. This prosecco is absolutely delicious by itself and almost a crime to tweak, but in adding the touch of hibiscus flavor, I found a new favorite floral sparkling cocktail and I killed the bottle quickly with this tasty spritz!

 

 

La Farra Rive di Farra di Soligo Extra Dry 2015

La Farra Rive fi Farra di Soligo Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – (11% ABV; SRP $20)

Pale yellow with the slightest hint of pink. Extra dry, this prosecco features a more forward floral nose, with a much heavier concentration of bubbles from the charmat fermentation method. The expansive mouthfeel features a white flesh fruit profile of yellow apple, peach, and lime zest.

 

 

 

Mongarda Brut NV 

Mongarda Brut NV Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore– (SRP: $21), 11%ABV

Pale straw in color, gentle nose of minerals and yeast. Beautiful effervescence, a touch more acidity to balance the lime, peach, and lemon citrus flavor profile. Elegant; ideal to drink by itself or to pair with a meal. This bottle also went far too quickly for me.

 

 

 

What do we learn from these bottles? They are quite tasty,  superbly fun, with gentler bubbles making them easy to imbibe, so they finish quicker. They are delicious by themselves, and  provide a party atmosphere when mixed with a tiny bit of flavor, or paired with food. They are affordable, and a touch on the lower side in alcohol by volume.

And remember, they are just as easy to pick up at your local retailer as anything else you might find.

Share your comments and your favorite sparkling with us, below!

 

à votre santé!

 

Yarden’s World Class Wines for Days of Awe

1 Oct

Let’s be perfectly honest: twenty years ago, I would NOT have fought to serve Israeli wines from the Golan Heights for an important family dinner. But times have changed, and great Israeli wines are now available locally at competitive prices- so if you aren’t nodding with me, then take the time to read this and get both your wine game and your local wine store up to speed! I proudly served these wines to our family and guests above all else available from my cellar. So, listen up!  

Yarden Brut Blanc de Blanc 2009, Galilee, Israel. 12% ABV, SRP $30/bottle. 

This is a sparkling chardonnay made by Victor Schoenfeld, and it is world-class sparkling, made in the traditional method and aged five years with tirage yeast. Pale gold in color. On the nose: gentle star fruit and brioche. On the palate, tropical fruit, baking spices, toasted challah with a hint of minerality. Where years ago my father-in-law would break his Yom Kippur fast with an ounce of cognac, I instead opt for this- it revitalizes my blood sugar and pairs beautifully with anything- be it a Rosh Hashanah dinner with apples and honey before the brisket, or the traditional break-fast dinner of bagels, scrambled eggs and smoked fish. There are a few Israeli winemakers whose work is absolutely world class, and Victor Schoenfeld hits that mark. If you aren’t already a fan, you’re missing out.

 

 

 

Yarden’s Galilee Mountain Winery,  “Yiron” Red Wine Blend, Upper Galilee; Golan Heights, Israel. ABV 15%, SRP $32/bottle.

 

Color is deep magenta with ruby edging. The nose offers mature blue and black fruit along with forest floor and hint of toasted oak. On the palate: blackberry, blueberry, and cassis are dominant with secondary notes of mocha, kiln-dried wood, gravel, sand and granite. Demonstrating an excellent tannic backbone with strong acidity, this wine is ideal for the brisket course, but it also paired gorgeously with a toasted everything bagel topped with cream cheese, smoked sable and lox, tomato and a little Spanish finishing salt.

When you drink this, you will swear you have a classic Bordeaux blend in your hand. Winemaker Micha Vaadia worked at Jordan,  Cloudy Bay, and Catena Zapata- and it shows! The blend is 56% Cabernet, 32% Merlot, 7% Syrah and 5% Petite Verdot, and is aged 16 months in French oak barrels (hello, now we know why the vanilla and toasty oak is so dominant in the profile!) One thing that blows my mind: Looking at the stats, I’d normally shy away from a wine with this high an ABV but let me tell you, it’s un-noticeable. I experienced no heat on this wine, just tons of pleasure across the palate.

 

A Perfect Pairing with Yiron: a toasted ‘Everything’ Bagel, with a shmear of Cream Cheese, Sable, Lox, Tomato, and Spanish lava salt.

 

 

 

My pictures don’t do the wine justice. As soon as a finished a sip, my hand reached back for the glass or to re-pour another taste. This wine is surprisingly tasty, and a great value in this price range. The nose and flavor palate of Yiron are simply stunning. The best thing you can do it put a bottle in your hand, serve it, and let your mouth and your guests tell you exactly how good this is. You can thank me by inviting me over for Yiron with brisket, bagels, latkes… or all four!

 

*Special Thanks to Joe Berkofsky of Puder PR.* 

à votre santé!

 

Ruhlmann Wines from Alsace

14 Mar

Alsace: a northeastern border area of France known for its beautifully fragrant wines. A wine region that is sandwiched between the Vosne mountain range and the Rhine river, it has changed hands between Germany and France several times throughout history, and many of the wines demonstrate Germanic or Austrian influence.

As an oenophile, I have found that many Americans are largely unaware of Alsace. When they are introduced to the wines, they often become fans. If you don’t know Alsace wines, this is a perfect introduction in the $20-and-under range for family-made, classic wines with lineage and complexity that sing of their terroir and heritage.

The Ruhlmann family has been making wine since 1688 in the Alsace village of Dambach-la-Ville, where they produce about 1.2 million bottles annually, with 40% of their products exported under the watchful eye of winemaker André Ruhlmann.

Ruhlmann Crémant d’Alsace Brut NV is a pale straw color with a refined nose of peach and fresh brioche. Gentle flavors of white stone fruit and dried apricot on the palate, delightfully dry with solid acidity and a hint of sweet honeysuckle on the top palate that makes the mouth water. A blend of pinot blanc, pinot auxerrois, pinot gris, and riesling, this sparkling wine has enough body to provide an afternoon delight or pair through dinner. $20/bottle, 12%ABV.

 

 

Ruhlmann Muscat Fleur de Printemps 2015 is the color of early morning sunshine and offers a sweet, aromatic nose of wildflowers. On the palate, it demonstrates gentle citrus, with notes of lime and starfruit. Secondary hints of yellow pear, orange peel, sodium and sand evolve as the wine warms gently. This muscat is bottled quickly to retain the powerful nose and pairs nicely with Thai, Chinese, and white meats, but I would not hesitate to open this and sit on the porch to enjoy on a carefree, sunny afternoon. 100% Muscat, 11.5% ABV, $15/bottle.

 

 

Ruhlmann Gewurtztraminer Vieille Vignes 2014 offers a pale yellow color with a spicy nose of rose bush, violet flowers, clove, and a hint of jasmine. Mature and refined green apple, lemon zest, banana peel and white pear on the robust palate give way to soaring acidity. Thirty-year-old vines show their deep roots with a finish of limestone and hints of clay and slate. This wine is powerful enough to pair with foie gras, a meat entrée, or a full-bodied cheese, and will age beautifully, showing greater complexity in 4-5 years.  Around$15/bottle, with 13%ABV.

 

 

Ruhlmann Riesling Vieille Vignes 2014 is pale straw in color. On the nose, faint lychee, lime zest, passion fruit, and hint of limestone. In the mouth, lemon-lime, pear, and lemongrass are followed by notes of clementine and lychee. Searing acidity powers through the full-bodied palate without heat ever crossing the back or top palates, while notes of gravel and clay round out the reserved finish. Delightful now, and will only improve with age. $16/bottle, 12.5%ABV.

 

And finally,

Ruhlmann Crémant de Rosé NV “Harmonie de Rosé” is 100% pinot noir, with tiny effervescent bubbles and a hue that verges between salmon and pale orange. The nose offers young raspberries and baking spice, while the palate is pure strawberry, slate and limestone. What’s not to love? $23/bottle, 12%ABV.

 

If you love Alsace already, then you should add these wines to your list or cellar. If you are new to Alsace wines, these are a perfect introduction to the region you can enjoy and share with friends. 

à votre santé!

 

Savigny Les Beaune

28 Jul

Simon Bize & Fils’ Savigny Les Beaune Aux Grands Liards 2009. Burgundy, France. Approx $40/bottle online, 12.5% ABV

Savigny Les Beaune

The color is vibrant ruby with violet edges. The floral nose is a delight of flowering blossoms and herbs, giving way to red fruit. In the mouth, a delicate balance of strawberry, cherry, red plum is met by bracing acidity and muted tannin. A delightful if not textbook Burgundy, I was unable to wait another year to drink this beauty which will undoubtedly improve with a few more seasons. Nevertheless, I couldn’t restrain myself and made a menu to pair.

We started with a caprese salad and toasted Italian bread, with a bottle of German grower Sparkling Wine: Elbling Sekt (NV) by Hild.

caprese

Hild

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main course was a duo of salmon and sesame-encusted tuna steak.

salmon sesame encrustred tuna


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sides were basil couscous (right) and a vegetable mix of snow peas, red & yellow peppers, corn, and tomato sautéed in Jaques Puffeney’s Savagnin 2011 (left).

veg basil couscous

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final course was grilled peaches with vietnamese cinnamon, vanilla ice cream and a drop of Blis bourbon syrup on top.

grilled peaches

 

But the star of the meal and the evening was undoubtedly the wine.

Savigny

Whats in your glass?

Les Tois

à votre santé!

 

What I Drank On My Summer Vacation

16 Aug

Ah, summer vacation. In childhood, we couldn’t wait for summer to romp and play, no worries of homework or responsibilities. During high school I worked, dated, partied, hung out with my friends, and traveled both Europe and the States with my family. Fresh out of college, I worked, too broke to afford to travel, until my honeymoon in France, which was fabulous and full of vigor but we were still too broke to eat or drink well. Twenty-something years later, now in middle age and trucking along our teenagers, vacation time is precious and the difficultly is making a calendar that suits our various needs.

Scotland. We escaped to Scotland, getting away from the summer heat of New York to the cool, rainy highlands and dark, foreboding castles. Or so we thought, until we arrived and found the highest heat index Scotland has had in 40 years. We had sunny days and sunburned bodies. Worn out from each day and a full itinerary, we’d collapse into a chair to review the dinner menu, and I’d search for something wonderful to drink. And so I searched.
Glen Coe

Glen Coe. I could not have felt more at home in these highlands.

 

local

A local on his way to work.

 

Brodies

Deacon Brodie’s Tavern, Edinburgh

 

Maybe you’re laughing. Was I too naïve, thinking I might find a lovely wine to accompany my travels in a land known for ‘whisky’ (that’s how they spell it, without the “e”) and warm beer served in public houses?

Perhaps I was. But I managed to drink wine most nights, regardless.

Friendship like whisky

 A popular attitude in Scotland. The sign reads:
“Friendship is like Whisky, the Older the Better
Too Much of Anything Is Bad, But Too Much of Good Whisky Is Barely Enough”

I was thrilled when we arrived in the town of Oban (pronounced: ‘OH-bun’, not ‘oh-Bahn’), for they have the famed Classic Malts of Scotland distillery of the highland malt of the same name. Tours were plentiful and cheap, plus they keep offering you opportunities to taste the wares. Who am I to refuse?

oban

Since 1794, this famed distillery has been the center of town. What can I say? I’m a fan. The Oban malts are in very high demand worldwide, with good reason. They do one thing, very well.

Oban glass

Oban’s namesake 14 year Single Malt (twice distilled and matured in second use bourbon barrels)
and Distiller’s Edition (finest of the 14 year selection is then matured a second time in sherry casks).
Shown with two “proper” Glencairn tasting glasses, the dram and pour.

I loved the “Oban Whisky & Fine Wines Shop” across from the distillery. They did have wines I recognized, but in the same relation to the whisky as shown in the circle on the wall, demonstrated below. Perhaps a quarter of their inventory was wine.

Oban Whisky Shop

The Oban Whisky & Fine Wine Shop. Here, it’s quietly suggested that you purchase the whisky.

I found my answers (and my options, many were good) and enjoyed our travels to sunny isles and castles, lochs and churches. I drank cool ciders when the wines were scarce or suspect, and visited distilleries to taste the local whisky. Some nights we ate like the locals in the evenings, thought we tended to stay with fish & chips and not the favored haggis. We requested & took the local recommendations for food, seeking out (much to our surprise) small Italian restaurants to provide all of us with perfect comfort food and most importantly, good wines.


Papilio

Our better meals were in small Italian restaurants like this one, which sat 27. 

Thanks to #WBC14 I had recently tasted more wines from regions of Italy, Portugal, Greece, even Croatia, so I had an eye for more than just the popular Vinho Verdes, Barolos and Montepulcianos, or the wines of northern Italy and the Alto Adige that I adore, especially Lagrein.

The rare heat was perfect to drink sparkling wines, sparkling and still rosés, and on the coolest night I splurged for one rare Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo that I couldn’t resist. Most of my choices, like this lovely rosato pictured below, cooled our bodies, refreshed our palates and cut through salads and sauces, leaving us satisfied, happy, and ready to continue our journey.

rosato

 One of my favorite wines from the trip, Bortomolio Rosato Frzzante- crisp, dry, delightful. 

While I didn’t discover a great many new wines to share, the post-#WBC14 break for my palate allowed me to enjoy the local spirits helped me to indulge in the Scottish experience, returning refreshed and ready to explore all new wines to share with you in the near future.  Until then…

à votre santé!

and a few more shots from Scotland:

isla mullBeautiful Blue Skies over the Isle of Mull.

ForeWell

“Water was either suspect or in short supply here. We suggest you drink the whisky.”

Mug His Lordship

“Would you care for a sense of entitlement with your morning beverage?”

barrel rev2

The Oban Distillery tour was incredibly informative. A shot prior to barrel tasting!

sunset

Sunset, Port of Oban

Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle Ruins on Loch Ness

inverness

Dusk, Inverness

toes in water

a relaxing opportunity to cool my heels and enjoy Loch Lomond

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Where have you journeyed lately, and what did you drink on the way? 

à votre santé!

Dinner With Friends- #MWWC11

10 Aug
Note: This post is 1) different that what I normally write, 2) about a recent wine dinner, as well as 3) a response to my friend Jeff ‘s request for submissions to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, #MWWC11 which if you really want to (if you blog & want to write about wine)  you can see here.  Or if you ride or like comic writing, you should check out my favorite  section of  Jeff’s blog, which I really enjoy. I hope you enjoy this post! Feel free to comment and let me know -JvB
wine-stain1-3

A friend I’ve not seen for 28 years was in town for a family wedding- his! So I invited Joe & Kaz to come to our home for dinner while they were in NYC, visiting from Osaka Japan. Joe has lived in Japan for almost two decades and I knew we’d have a lot to discuss. I was a little nervous about making dinner since our Western meals are quite different than those in the East, so I enlisted my (much) better half to help create a solid dinner plan, while I, as in classic form, worried and worried about what wines to serve.

I stared into my cellar, pondering choice after choice, changing my mind several times. Finally I settled on a small- production petite sirah I’ve been holding for a special occasion to pair with beef, and a vinho verde I love on hot summer evenings. I grabbed a bottle of Chateau de L’Aulée AOC Méthode Tradtionelle brut sparkling wine from Touraine, France so we could toast the wedding. And just for fun, I selected two half bottles of dessert wine, a port and a sauternes. I felt prepared. No, really I felt terrified, but at least I had wine!

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Since both my wife and I are freelancers in the arts and work a lot of (ok, almost all) evenings and weekends, we rarely get to entertain. We also didn’t know how busy we would be prior to our dinner. As my schedule got increasingly hectic, she agreed to shop while I was working. Our menu plan included several cold salads that I could help prep and she could execute while I was grilling the entrée. The butcher didn’t have the cut of meat I wanted available, so she purchased several shoulder steaks and we agreed to make kabobs to allow us to serve efficiently.

As she sliced a butternut squash and put that into the oven, I cubed the beef and dumped it into a bowl for the marinade- then diced fresh garlic, onion powder, cracked 4-color pepper mix, and ground some Himalayan salt on top. I added two heaping tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, then raced to the cellar to get a bottle of my ‘everyday’ red table wine– a bottle of 2011 Los Vascos from Colchagua, Chile which is managed by none other than Baron Eric de Rothschild.

los vascos

This wine is one of the best values I keep in my cellar at about $10 a bottle, and is great to drink but doesn’t break my heart if I need a lot of it to make a meal taste wonderful. I poured it on the beef and mixed my marinade happily, putting the bottle aside as a backup to the Petite Syrah, then covering the marinade bowl and sliding it into the fridge to continue the prep.

Annette and I chopped Israeli cucumbers and diced roma tomatoes, parsley and scallions for a cucumber/tomato salad that could be dressed quickly with oil and balsamic vinegar. As I washed vegetables for the kabobs, she cut yellow and red peppers for me, moved to prep an avocado salad that had to be made at the last minute, then put sweet peas and water into a pan to cook while I scraped & preheated the grill.

Thirty minutes had passed and we were moments away from our guests arriving, so we enlisted a daughter to set the table while I aerated and decanted the petite sirah, using a True Fabrications Aerating Pour Spout to pour into the decanter. The petite sirah was a gorgeous, near-black purple in color, delightfully aromatic with the scent of african violets, and exciting even to pour. I was happy that the spout had caught some sediment as well as aerating. I rinsed it and set it aside, then pulled the meat out and built the kabobs for grilling, using mushrooms, onion, cherry tomato, yellow and red pepper, and of course the marinated steak cubes.

true

 

Joe and Kaz arrived and we greeted them, opened the bubbly and toasted their wedding, and I took them with me to the backyard to grill the kabobs while Annette completed the salads and vegetable courses.

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The grill ran about 550 degrees and while kabobs require about five minutes a side for medium well (turning over once), I prefer to turn them every three minutes as neither the vegetables nor the meat always turns as one wants. After a quick sear, I moved several kabobs to a higher level to grill them to medium rare over the same duration. We chatted about their trip, enjoying the sparkling wine until it was time to take the kabobs off the flame.

Following our guests into the dining room with a plate of burning hot skewers, I noticed that Annette had made a couscous (when did she find time to do that?) and also managed to plate the butternut squash rings so that they enclosed the steaming hot green peas, a neat little visual I didn’t know was in her repertoire! I refreshed flutes with sparkling wine and poured the petite sirah, as Joe gave a quick Japanese blessing, “Itadakimasu” or いただきます.  A few bites in, Joe exclaimed his joy at the wine, which made me beam proudly and take time to explain my choice, ignoring the earlier requests from my 13-year old daughter who had begged me not to wax poetic about wine tonight…sorry, sweetheart!

Modus Operandi is the Napa, CA home of winemaker Jason Moore. I was introduced to his wines by a fellow oenophile who INSISTED I try Jason’s cabernet sauvignon- I loved it, noting the depth and complexities of flavors, with an unusual bonus: chocolate covered strawberry notes on the finish. I quickly joined the Modus wine club and have been a fan ever since. Jason may not be the first of the independent winemakers that I decided to champion and support, but he is highly accomplished and we share an affinity for passion in the things we do. His work is exemplary.

Back to the dinner table: Joe noted the sirah was more black in color than red, more floral than fruity on the nose, and deeply complex. I agreed, and explained that it was made in very limited quantity (only two barrels produced) and that I chose it specifically to complement both the meat and array of vegetables due to its flexibility to pair so well with grilled foods. I have a full review of the ’09 sirah here.

 

IMG_0348 IMG_0349

The meal I had been so worried about had been a success, and we talked late into the night. After a small intermission we cleared dinner, I made coffee while Annette served berries and some small pastries I’d picked up at Financier for dessert, and I brought out the dessert beverages to our guests. These included the 2006 Chateau Doisy Vedrines which is showing beautifully right now, a tawny port from Kalyra Winery, from Santa Barbara, CA that I just tasted recently on my Wine Blogging trip, and a calvados: Christian Drouin Coer de Lion “Selection”, a delightful digestive that offers apples, spice, and cinnamon-all the best parts of apple pie- in the glass.

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We sampled sips of all three, and a little XO courvoisier that was a gift from a client.

My fears of failure seemed to have been conquered by paying great attention to detail. Fresh, flavorful, and colorful food well-paired with tasty wines and made for a lovely, memorable evening with old friends and our spouses. While I don’t know when I’ll see my friend Joe again, I hope that Annette and I will work harder to entertain more guests at our home sooner, rather than later.

à votre santé!

 

 

 

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