Tag Archives: White wine review

Mencos Rioja Blanco 2011

17 Aug

 

Conde de Hervías Mencos Blanco 2011, DOC Rioja (Alta), SPAIN.  12.5%ABV, SRP originally $15, found online for $12/bottle.

 

 

All Rights Reserved. Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Made from 100% Viura Grapes!

 

By Jim van Bergen, JvBUnCorked

Color is medium gold. The nose offers apricot, quince, and lychee. On the palate, the fruit is savory and muted with gentle acidity: reminiscent flavors of pear on the front palate with tart lime on the mid palate, notes of honeyed brioche and old wood, a touch of bitter almond on the finish. Subtle but refined, the wine is both fascinating and a delight to drink. I paired this with basic tapas: Spanish olives, pickled vegetables, and hard cheeses.

 

 

 

What a delight to drink, this went down easier and far faster than I intended. Each sip was a study in the wine’s evolution and I so wanted to be sharing this with friends. And for $12 a bottle, who wouldn’t?

Did I mention this is a six year old white wine, for $12/bottle? REALLY?
“Hello case sales? It’s warm and I need this in my cellar.” 

 

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2019 JvB UnCorked 2019. May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

All Rights Reserved. Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

à votre santé!!

Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Gris “Les Princes Abbés” 2014, Vin D’Alsace

31 Jul

 

 

Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Gris “Les Princes Abbés” 2014, Alsace, France. 12.5% ABV, SRP $15/bottle.

 

On a rare day off I was heading out to visit friends at their beach house. Before departing, I looked in the cellar and saw a lovely bottle of pinot gris, an enviable white Alsace wine from the Schlumberger, with some very nice age on it, so I grabbed it and popped it in my bag. That afternoon I pulled it from the fridge, popped it open, and casually poured three glasses.

We swirled, sipped, and tasted. Our eyes opened in surprise; we looked back at one another, excited. Sometimes, the wine is just perfect for the time and place. This is one of those times.

Color is a warm, medium straw. The nose offers fresh orchids, cut wildflowers, lilac and pineapple. On the palate: golden apple plus a huge citrus backbone with lemon zest and luscious acidity. How lovely on this summer day! How can a white wine be five years old, yet taste so fresh? By the third sip, I wished I could find a case of this and hide it somewhere for the future! As the wine warmed, the nose expanded, the floral notes lasted longer and permeated my upper palate.

Pinot gris is not an easy ‘go-to’ grape for many in the USA. As a matter of fact, I find it largely overlooked. But if you tasted this wine, you’d beg for a glass. Whether this was the perfect moment in this bottle’s life or just a perfect moment with this wine, I’ll never know. What I can do is appreciate the moment, the wine, the farmer, and the winemaker who crafted a gem of a bottle.

 

 

Do you drink the wines of Alsace? You’re probably thinking “No, and I’m missing out.” That is SO true.

If you don’t drink Alsace, you really are missing some premium wines that are unlike any other in the world. This is what you’re realizing- you can still find bottles like this, with this kind of maturity, for under $20/bottle. Right now, this wine is listing for $14.99 and $15.99 with a quick web search.

As for the bottle we opened at the beach house? It did not last long. We told a few stories, tasted some cheese and dried meat, and suddenly the bottle was nearly empty! None of us remember more than tasting a couple of ounces- but before I knew it, I divided up the last few drops amongst our glasses and we toasted the next time we friends would be together.

 

à votre santé!

Introducing Le Blanc de Greysac

16 Jun

Le Blanc de Greysac, Chateau Greysac, Medoc, France.12% ABV,  SRP $19/bottle.

 

As summer ripens, my palate yearns for salads, fish, outdoor cooking, and wines with clean acidity and a citrus backbone that will leave me feeling cool and refreshed. So I am happy to turn to sauvignon blanc! Enter Le Blanc de Gresysac,  a brand new release from Jean Guyon, owner of Chateau Greysac, and his first release of a new line, Le Blanc de Greysac, which is 100% sauvignon blanc from 15 year-old vines from his Medoc property in Bordeaux.

Color is medium straw. The nose offers Meyer lemon, lime zest, and a hint of tangerine. On the palate: crisp green apple, citrus, with a backbone of lemon pith, limestone, and clay. The finish is medium long and refreshing. Best served chilled for afternoon drinking, but shows expanse and greater balance as it warms moderately.

At this price point, this is a fun, enjoyable summer wine that is ideal for summer dinner parties or an afternoon by the pool. Easy to pair with white meats, salads, vegetable dishes, and cold gazpacho. I adore this wine with goat cheese crisps but my absolute favorite pairing is with these delightful salmon rillettes!

 

Of course, you can always drink it by itself and just enjoy the summer evening. Life is short, you might as well enjoy it, no? 

à votre santé!

Smith-Madrone 2015 Chardonnay

27 May

Smith-Madrone 2015 Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District, CA. ABV 14.4%,  SRP $34/bottle.

Color is pale straw. The nose offers pear, apple, lemon zest, and just a hint of oak. On the palate,  however, the fruit is beautifully pronounced: yellow peach, sweet apple, citrus crossing from the mid- to back palate, leaving a swath of mouth-watering heat from the alcohol. Secondary notes of baking spice, stone, vanilla, and vegetation with marzipan on the lingering finish.

 

 

As a wine lover, my first thought on this wine is that it’s so tasty, you don’t want to think about it. You simply want to enjoy this delightful glass of wine that is so unlike what we’ve come to expect from Napa. Smith-Madrone’s winemakers (Stuart, Sam, and Charles Smith) actually dry-farm (no irrigation) and in doing so, they develop a grape and create a wine that is closer to a Beaune-style chardonnay than the common flavor profiles that are popular with New World grapes. What does this mean to you?  It means you’re going to enjoy this wine more than you expect, and you’re going to need to buy more of it than you’d expect because like me, you’ll drink it faster, even if you’re savoring the flavors. You’re going to wish you bought a bigger bottle…or several bottles, because your mouth is going to ask you for MORE.

 

 

 

As a wine drinker who personally tries to shy away from the high alcohol content of some California wines, this is one where I take exception. The wine is so well-made, I’d easily buy a case of this to tuck into my cellar (if I only had the room!) it’s such a delicious wine that sings through warm weather and is incredibly agreeable with food.

If this is a good price point for your chardonnay drinking, (or a good price point for a special bottle) I can not recommend highly enough that you give Smith-Madrone a taste. As passionate as I am about white Burgundy, this is a wine I will remember for shattering my conceptions of Napa Valley chardonnay.

 

#WIYG?

à votre santé!

Vin d’Alsace: Zinck Pinot Blanc 2016

8 May

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

à votre santé!

Donkey and Goat at Faro, Brooklyn

24 Apr

“Isabel’s Cuvée” Grenache Gris Rosé 2018 by Donkey & Goat; Mendocino county,  McDowell Valley AVA, California, USA. 12.5% ABV, SRP $28/bottle.

The color is reminiscent of cloudy grapefruit juice. The nose offers rose bush, citrus, and apple blossoms. On the palate are rich apple and pear with strawberry, blood orange, and a lovely acidity. I did not want to put this glass down. From ancient vines planted in 1896 in soil of gravel & sandy loam comes this creamy, spicy delight on the palate. Light with a hint of fruit and spice.

Had Tracey been selling these bottles from the trunk of her car, I would have bought a case right then and there.

But there was much more to taste!

 

 

From left to right: The Bear, Eliza, Gadabout, Isabel’s Cuvée.

 

 

Over the years I have had many readers ask me to review Donkey and Goat  by owners/operators Tracey & Jared Brandt. They are passionate about their fruit and winemaking, working with sustainable, biodynamic, and organic vineyards and using as little intervention as possible. Their wines are unfined and unfiltered, so their cloudiness may take you off-guard. But taste them, and find that you may like what they are doing, and join the crowd to enjoy the luscious flavors of the fruit of their labor!

 

 

 

2017 “Gadabout” White Field Blend by Donkey and Goat; Berkeley, California, USA. 13.2% ABV; Street Price @ $24/bottle.

 

Color is a cloudy pale straw. The nose offers a theme of funk and zippy acidity. On the palate is a citrus punch blend of lemon and lime with peach, pear, and wildflowers. A mid-weight wine with an even and extended finish, I could enjoy this all day long. Yet it manages to pair with savory food; it surprised me by having enough weight to stack up to Faro’s absolutely delicious beef tartare.

 

 

 

One of two ‘starting point wines’,  for Donkey & Goat, The Gadabout features an El Dorado chardonnay which is then blended with picpoul for acidity. To add texture, Tracey says she added first vermentino, and then marsanne to add depth. Where it ends up is a tasty Rhône-style blend with nice body and mid-palate acidity.

 

From left to right: The Bear, Eliza, Gadabout, Isabel’s Cuvée. 

 

I like where this started on my first sip but it opened up more as the evening progressed. I’d be interested to taste this with more air, if I had more to taste. In general, it seems that Donkey and Goat wines will improve with decanting or a great amount of air exposure.

 

 

“Eliza” 2016 Rhône Style Blend by Donkey & Goat; Barsotti Vineyards, El Dorado AVA; California, USA. 12.5% ABV, SRP $47/bottle.

 

Color is a cloudy goldenrod. The nose offers an earthy quality, then exotic floral and jasmine tea notes. On the savory palate is a mix of Golden Delicious apple and Bosc pear with toasted almond, vanilla, lemon zest, honeysuckle and marzipan. Secondary notes include toasted oats, potting soil, and smoke. On the finish are hints of tangerine and apricot. This is a Rhône blend based on the clairette grape, with vermentino, picpoul blanc, grenache blanc, and finally roussanne. This wine is an unusual mixture, aged for ten months in oak, and the deeper one looks, the more layers one finds. Taste, aroma, and weight of the mouthfeel are fascinating the more you consider this wine, but it’s just as easy to simplify and enjoy. Your mileage may vary for street price if you can find it locally- I expect it’s far pricier in NYC than on the west coast. But this is a fun winelover’s bottle!

 

 

If you happen to be a fan of beef tartare, take note: Chef Kevin Adey’s is a must-have!
I’m lucky I was able to stop
devouring this to take a picture at Faro; it was simply that good.

 

 

If I had to get this wine into a single sentence, I’d give it this:
A Rhône-inspired savory blend with awesome acidity: a yummy, geeky wine!! This wine is a tasty gem for regular white drinkers; for oenophiles, this is a really fun glass (or bottle) to enjoy or discuss.

 

Faro’s stunning take on Gnocchi with lamb.

This wine was good with the house bread & butter, awesome with the beef tartare, and delicious with rich lamb gnocchi (see: food porn above). Did I mention Faro’s Michelin Star? Now I have. In short, Chef Adey’s Menu is fascinating, the food is fabulous, and you’ll enjoy yourself immensely!

Getting back to the wine:  Eliza can handle the food! Depending on the price I might not grab more than a few bottles, but it’s absolutely the kind of gift bottle I’d pick up for serious wine drinkers or for a meal where you want a white wine that can stand up to heavy protein. Eliza can do it…ah, you think, “maybe that’s why she’s named ELIZA?”  (Pause. If you don’t get the reference to Shaw/Pygmalion/My Fair Lady, just skip ahead, ok? -Editor)

 

Tracey Brant, Donkey & Goat

 

If you like natural or organic wines, then you owe it to yourself to check out Donkey & Goat. They are harder to find on the east coast, but that’s what wine clubs are for, aren’t they?

 

#WIYG?

 

à votre santé!

 

#OTBN 2019: R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco ’96

26 Feb

#OTBN is a wine drinker’s holiday. OTBN (Open That Bottle Night) is a concept created by wine writers/critics Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher  in which you open a bottle with significance or meaning that you have been holding for a special occasion. After years of celebrating with friends electronically, I finally got my act together and invited a small group of industry folks to enjoy together!

With wine, as in life, not everything goes as planned. I broke a cork when we got to the aged reds (this was on bottle 8 or 9 of 16, to be accurate) then I spilled some of the 1996 Smith Haut-Lafitte when decanting it! But the wine I expected to be past is prime wasn’t, and the one I thought that would hold the line, didn’t. Or so I thought.

R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco 1996, Rioja, Spain. 12.5% ABV.  

Made with 90% viura and 10% malvasia grapes, I first tasted this wine at Le Bernadin when one of Aldo Sohm’s wine team suggested it as a pairing for a fish dish served with a saffron-based sauce . Need I mention, it was heavenly? (It was!) I knew Viña Tondonia for their red wines, but the aged white blend was new to me back then, and I quickly sought out a few bottles and tasted one every five years or so. This was my last bottle, and a great choice (or so I thought) for #OTBN.

My mistake on #OTBN was to open this fifth position. We had already tasted stunning wines with powerful fruit and acidity, and this wine showed slightly flat and dull in comparison. I was disappointed. Of course, in retrospect, I did not decant. I should have decanted, and I should have given this bottle more time to air. Because on day 2 of this bottle being open, I tasted it again with tahini and grilled chicken and was very impressed by the flavor profile and thought, “did I simply miss this yesterday?” On day 3 of being open, the nose was present, the acidity and umami notes were right where I had hoped they would be (but weren’t) on opening!

 

 

 

Color is dark gold. Aromas of toasted almonds, sherry, and dried herbs make themselves known over time. On the palate, dried fruit and lavender are dominant with a strong acid backbone. As the wine resolves in the mouth, the savory and umami notes appear, pushing more sherry notes into the nasal passages. This is a wine that is beautiful to pair with lightly cooked fish, fresh salads,  avocado, and mediterranean dishes like eggplant, tahini or hummus, or by itself with a range of cheeses and fresh fruit.  

 

In retrospect, I realize that I had initially not giving the bottle a chance to really show its true colors. I tasted it right away and thought, “Yeah, its Viña Tondonia, but it might be past it’s prime. Maybe it had poor storage before it got to my cellar?”  Well, that’s not the case now. The wine is showing beautifully after a) getting enough air, and b) when my palate is fresh. And I still have another full pour left in the bottle to try tomorrow!

We live, and we learn. Remember that wine is a living, breathing, constantly changing entity.

 

And pour more slowly if you decant through a very fine strainer. Some fine wines require time to express themselves properly.

 

à votre santé!

 

Oh- as for the spilled wine…

I only spilled a half an ounce. But still, it felt like a crime, as this 1996 Smith Haut Lafitte was delicious!
Tonight I drank the last few ounces with grilled steak and was in absolute heaven. 

 

#WIYG? And did you #OTBN? What did you open? 

 

McIntyre Vineyards Chardonnay and Estate Chardonnay, 2016

23 Feb

McIntyre Vineyards 2016 Chardonnay; Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rosa, California. 14.5% ABV, SRP $28/bottle.

Color is medium straw with a nose of sweet pear, and fresh herbs.  Fruit is mixed white flesh with citrus secondary, providing a good sense of mouth-watering tartness to the mouthfeel. An oak influenced wine, the woody notes offering nuance and creaminess without being too overt. 

On the high side of alcohol for a chardonnay, the wine leaves lingering heat across the top and back palate. Good balance, leading to nice complexity. Pleasing to the palate and I paired this bottle well with cheeses, pasta, chicken, and asian cuisine over a week.

 

 

McIntyre Vineyards 2016 Estate Vineyards Chardonnay; Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rosa, California. 13.9% ABV, SRP $38/bottle.

The first sip told me this bottle was right up my alley, and “Estate” for a reason. The color is medium straw with nose of golden delicious apple, bosc pear, and grass cuttings with a touch of vanilla. On the palate is beautiful white fruit, a hint of citrus introducing lovely acidity to the tongue and top palate, and a mineral backbone that follows. Lingering impression left on the palate of pineapple, limestone and loam. 

I paired this with a caesar salad, salmon, and strawberries- and would have liked to try other dishes but it did not last past one tasting + one meal. At this price point, I could drink this regularly, and as a special meal wine. Most importantly, not only did I adore this wine, but it made me want to sit down with owner Steve McIntyre and winemaker Byron Kosuge to chat about their wines and the property: after drinking this, I really wanted to learn more about what they are doing because it’s awesome. This wine tastes more expensive than it is; showing a classical, old-world approach from a nicely young bottle. There is a decisive nod to Burgundian style, but with stunning California fruit. Plus, now I really want to try their pinot noir! That will have to wait until another time.

 

Until then, #WIYG? What’s in YOUR glass?

 

 

à votre santé!

Outset Sparkling Wine & Blueberry Tea!

13 Feb


Outset Sparkling Wine, Genesis Wine Group, Between the Lines Winery, Niagara-On-the-Lake, ON

Vidal grapes, sparkling wine 10% ABV, 250ml, $5/CAN.

 

Why did I think this one would be better? It tastes like someone spilled a splash of ginger ale in your sauvignon blanc.
OK, that’s harsh, but I actually liked it. The entire time I was drinking this wine in a can, I enjoyed it.

It’s way better than a warm beer. There’s a hint of citrus. A tiny note of spice. (Ginger. She was spicy, right? She just wasn’t a Spice Girl…. let’s see:  Sporty Spice, Scary Spice, Kinky Spice, & Trashy Spice? I’m missing someone.)

Maybe it’s that real wine makes me feel like an adult with a palate, and this goes down like a wasted twenty-year-old who doesn’t know what they are doing. But you remember that person, and you adored them for trying so hard. And you brought them to a party the next weekend and let them try again afterwards.

This is a guilty pleasure wine. I could drink four of these while playing a game of golf, or lounging by the pool. Or while fishing off the coast of Miami, the beer was NOT helpful then, I can sadly confirm. This Outset would have been great.

This is another wine in the can that I can stand behind. At the right time, in the right place, this is awesome. 
There’s a time and place for everything. This was one of those things that happened in Canada.

 

Speaking of things that happened in Canada, have you ever heard of Blueberry Tea?

I had not, until I went with friends for a Sunday Brunch in Canada and saw on the menu, ‘blueberry tea’. This should be Ceylon orange pekoe (but mine was English Breakfast, who knew?) in a tea pot. And served alongside that teapot is a snifter with half Amaretto and half Grand Marnier (three quarters or an ounce of each)to be  blended with the tea, and garnished with an orange peel. Mix to your own delight. When you drink it, it tastes reminiscent of blueberries and is highly warm and inviting. With a little help from the interwebs, a slew of variant recipes pops up but the key points are the same. Orange pekoe tea with Amaretto and Orange liqueur. BOOM. Delicious, and made me want more, more more, as the Billy Idol song went.  More of the booze, more tea, more everything. Please, sir… I want some MORE!

(Above) The “before” picture. 

(Below) The “after” picture. 

It’s too good, if you’ve not had it before.

 

What’s in YOUR glass? Are you taking risks, and getting out of your comfort zone? I certainly hope so, for life is too short to the same wine (even the best wine) every day. 

à votre santé!

Hidden Bench Fumé Blanc 2016 (organic, Canada!)

4 Feb

Hidden Bench Fumé Blanc 2016, Rosomel Vineyard, Beamsville Bench VQA, Ontario, Canada.   13% ABV, SRP $29.95/bottle.

 

Medium straw in color with a nose of lemon rind and a hint of chalk. On the palate, granny apple is the dominant fruit with a citrus-driven acidity crossing the top and back palate, followed by notes of toasted vanilla and flint. Bright, fresh, crisp, and delightful.

 

I normally prefer chablis, champagne, or muscadet with my oysters. But I asked the server what had a strong, linear acidity and was sold by the glass. He poured me a taste, and then told me, “this one’s local”. That hit me. A local Canadian wine that tasted like this? I was in! Maybe a standard sauvignon blanc would not have has the same impact, but this, my friends, is fumé blanc: a dry, oak-aged sauvignon blanc, a style made famous by Robert Mondavi in the late 1960’s. In that very same style: old world grape, new world approach in their winemaking.

Ready to take it to the next level? This is a certified organic sauvignon blanc that is hand-harvested and sorted, aged first for ten months in stainless steel, and then another eight months in oak.

This fumé blanc was a really nice match for a dozen raw.

 

Rodney’s has product of such high quality that there is no need to load up your oyster with hot sauce or mignonette. You can choose your crab or lobsters in the tanks in the lobby! Plus, Rodney flies in the freshest oysters from their own farms here in Canada and from across North America. Not to be ignored, the shuckers working behind the bar are tremendous! They pick great quality product, shuck with care, and arrange beautifully with fresh horseradish. I suggest a tiny squeeze of lemon, and the brine of the oyster itself. The insider’s tip is to ask for “shucker’s choice” for your oysters, and as the plate arrives, they’ll tell you what each group is and where they hail from. If you choose the right wine, you’ll be in heaven, every time.

Oh, did I mention they have a really nice wine list, including some lovely champagne? Well, they do.
And that’s why it’s my favorite place to visit in Toronto, hands down.

 

à votre santé! 

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