Tag Archives: Wine Commentary

New Year’s Bottles and my “Dry” January

25 Jan

Several close friends decided to have a dry January. Everyone understands the idea, you’re dieting off the weight that got put on over the holidays, and your liver could use a break. While I had some time off from work, I saw my doctor and had my blood work done- so I know my liver is in excellent shape, even with a glass of wine every night, sometimes a little more. But I do like to find balance, so I tried to enjoy some of the wines I’ve reviewed in the past that have lower ABV, such as vino verde, riesling, tokaji, and furmint. There are plenty of choices out there when you want to find them. And I had a “drier” January, no doubt.

But for New Year’s, I was fortunate to spend a couple of days with OTHER friends at the shore who weren’t having a Dry January…so I brought a few special bottles, because that’s how I roll. Right? I mean… you must know me by now.

 

Beware: wine porn follows. So if you are still having a Dry January, this might whet your appetite. Just to be fair…

 

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Copyright 2020 by Jim van Bergen, JvBUnCorked

 

Sparklings: The sekt riesling from Mosel was a bottle I was so proud of being able to find- a real treasure! And it was  delicious, with a hint of delicately sweet fruit. The two Cremant d’Alsace bottles were something I simply adore and love to share with friends- not too much brioche, ideal balance of fruit, flavor, effervescence and fun! The brut rosé Crémant de Bourgogne was a big winner for me- pinot noir, so beautiful, amazing color, delicious and I always wish I bought more! And then finally the brut rosé Champagne Caillez Demaire, a gorgeous Champagne that makes you just want to sit down and do nothing else but dive in to the glass you hold until the elixir is gone. YUM!

 

For me, it would not be a true celebration without some white Burgundy- that’s my wine ‘Achilles heel’, for sure!


 

The 2013 was still showing beautifully!

 

For big meals with ten friends, it takes a few special bottles to get things moving. Whites included wines from Sonoma, Burgundy, Italy, and Germany.

 

 

The red wines sourced from France, Italy, Germany, & the USA’s Washington State.

Copyright 2020 by Jim van Bergen, JvBUnCorked

This 2009 bottle of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon from Jason Moore of Modus wines, was showing exceptionally well!

 

 

One more treasure from my cellar, the only bottle of Macvin du Jura I’ve found in an NYC wine store to date! Macvin du Jura is savagnin wine fortified with brandy, it is truly unusual and delightful for an aperitif.  And oh, how special!

 

Copyright 2020 by Jim van Bergen, JvBUnCorked

 

 

And because making dinner takes a lot of energy, this is the snack for the prep zone. A tasty cabernet franc and pinot noir, respectively, with snacks!

 

So after this kind of New Year’s Eve, maybe a dry January was called for after all?

 

Did you celebrate a Dry January?

 

à votre santé!

A Few of My Favorite Things, 2019

21 Dec

Whether you’re shopping for coworkers, loved ones, family, or yourself- it never hurts to see what other people love. So here’s my list of my favorite things, or my suggestions for your wine lovers. Ready? Let’s start with the juice!

 

Cru Beaujolais

These are some of my favorite wines for high QPR (quality-price ratio) that feature gorgeous color, deliciously complex flavors of delicate fruit with strong secondary and tertiary notes.  This is not Nouveau Beaujolais, this is cru beaujolais, which is a step up from village-level Beaujolais, which itself is a big step above Nouveau. Got that?
Level 1: Beaujolais-Nouveau. Level 2: Village-Beaujolais. Level 3: Cru Beaujolais. Oui? Bon! Maintenant…

Beaujolais is made from the gamay grape, and exhibits significantly less tannin than cabernet, syrah, or cab franc. It is much paler in comparison to new world reds. One can expect structure and depth from these wines, layers of notes should you prefer to spend your time delving deep into the wine’s character, or easy to relax and just enjoy with food. If you have new world wine drinkers (yes America, this is you) then these are old world wines that are easy on the budget and surprisingly amazing in your mouth.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

Chablis.

I have openly stated my love for white Burgundy. Sadly, the high end of these wines are beyond my financial reach, but chablis is easy to find in almost any store. If you take your wine seriously, at some point you MUST up your game to try a Premiere Cru Chablis. While you can find regular chablis and petite chablis in the $18 – 25 range, for Cru designations you should expect the $30-50 range, and don’t be shocked when you see a $75 price tag. But compare that to Puligny-Montrachet that runs from $90-$600/bottle? You see my point- this you can afford, and you will love, love, love to drink. When you can afford the Puligny-Montrachet, you will enjoy it thoroughly, and then go back home to trusted chablis.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

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Nebbiolo, with age.

What is delicate on the nose, but full in mouthfeel, flavor, and tannin? Nebbiolo! Without age, give me Sangiovese, please. But Nebbiolo is the backbone of the wines you love: the beautiful, full-bodied, Piedmont wines you adore: Barbaresco and Barolo! Here’s a link to a great piece by Vivino on this very topic. The 2010 Barbaresco in the picture below is drinking beautifully right now; these are wines that can be finicky so it’s smart to have a backup in place. I prefer to give Barolos at least 20 years in the bottle, and my cellar is home to some bottles that in my own age range (half-century) which are such a treat to enjoy with like-minded wine lovers.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

 

Wine lovers can not live on wine alone. You must have TOYS! I am constantly asked what wines to buy, and what to buy for wine-loving friends. Here are some of my favorite accessories:

Accessories:

Govino stemless glassware and decanters. These have become my daily glassware for red, white, rosé, sparkling, liquor, and yes, even non-alcoholic beverages! On Amazon, and everywhere else. They simply rock!

Vinoseal wine bottle stoppers. As opposed to cork, they open easily without a corkscrew, keep air out of the bottle, don’t break, don’t impart flavor or undesirable effects to your wine, and are easily reusable. What’s not to like?

How about sparkling wine? I hoped you would ask.  The Sapore Champagne Stopper is a well-designed and inexpensive way to save that bottle for another night, while fitting easily in your fridge.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

What’s on your wish list?

Or, please share some of your favorite by hitting the link below. #Cheers, and Happy Holidays! 

à votre santé!!

 

 

Thanksgiving Wines, 2019

23 Nov

Thanksgiving. Get the whole family around the table and celebrate the most American of holidays! It is a day of thanks for the past and present, with hope for the future.

A holiday that is all about family, thankfulness, harvest, and food. Where do I sign up?

Thanksgiving is the biggest reason why I started this blog so many years ago: it’s the time of year where my phone rings, texts fly, emails arrive, and I get stopped on the street to discuss the same question over and over: “What wine should I serve with Thanksgiving Dinner?”

You KNOW I love the entire world of wines. But I think we should celebrate an American meal with American wines! We’re using turkey, corn, squash, green beans, pumpkin- how about US grown wines? You’ve got dozens of regions to choose from, so please, grab that Texas Hill Country Wine, the Virginia and Finger Lakes wines, the Michigan and Oregon wines. Don’t be shocked that many of my suggestions are from California’s Napa, Sonoma, and Lodi. No offense, ok?

If you are doing ONE wine, then you should think rosé or pinot noir. But you SHOULD consider at least two wines, a red and a white, for flexibility with the family meal and the multitudes of guests.

There are links provided to help you find a wine if you’re interested in my suggestions. But to find them close to your home, point your web browser to wine-searcher.com, vivono, wine.com, or one of the many other wine access sites available to see what provider close to you might have these wines in inventory, to save time and shipping costs.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.
(This is the legal reminder not to try and duplicate my site again to pretend it’s your content, you hack!)

 

Sparkling
Yes, America is FULL of great sparkling winemakers: Gloria Ferrer, Schramsberg, Balletto Vineyards,  Domaine Carneros, Roederer Estate, my list goes on and on, across the $25-$125 range. For the budget conscious: Underwood’s Sparkling Rosé for $15. At my house, we’ll be starting off this year with Treveri Cellar’s Tasting Room Rosé, a brut sparkling that is bright pink in color, made of 50% each of pinot noir and chardonnay. Sadly, this is only available for purchase in their tasting room- but their half-dozen other sparking wines are shippable, also delicious, and all in the $15-$25 range!

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

White
Unless you have a chardonnay on the un-oaked and leaner side (think Chablis or Meursault, or in the USA, like Sonoma’s highly prized and rare DuMOL estate chardonnays) then you are better off serving something lean and acidic. Think Picpoul Blanc, Albariño, and Sauvignon Blanc! I love Acquiesce Winery‘s Picpoul Blanc ($28), and  Modus Operandi’s Sauvignon Blanc ($35). Plus, the Galician grape Albariño generates what I consider to be “easy home run” wines from Lodi, absolutely delicious and perfect pairing from manufacturers like Bokisch Vineyards ($18), Harney Lane ($20), and Klinker Brick ($15) just to name a few.

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

Red
In the past I usually added a full-bodied red for a few guests who preferred massive fruit and tannin. This year I’m cleansing my palate and sticking with what really works: Pinot Noir. What pairs best with savory gravy, herb-filled dressing, dark meat and cranberry sauce? Pinot Noir. What cleanses your palate best if you have duck or a roast? Pinot Noir!
Patton Valley Vineyard from the Willamette Valley ($40), yes, that’s a 2010 from my cellar. Au Bon Climat is a Santa Barbara County mainstay that will pair so perfectly you’ll wonder what hit you ($24 and up, my favorite is the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard). A cellar treasure I’ve held for this year is the Rivers-Marie 2015 Silver Eagle Vineyard ($55).    Want the awesome budget pinot: Try District 7’s Monterey Estate Pinot Noir ($14).

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Rosé
You KNOW I had to include rosé. Insanely popular (especially with my family’s millennial ladies) it is always refreshing on the palate, and there is SO MUCH great rosé available these days! So I have two of my favorites in the world from my cellar: Acquiesce Winery’s Grenache Rosé ($25), this wine is so tasty, I’ve seen people fight over the last glass!  And lastly, Modus Operandi’s Rosé of Pinot Noir (currently sold out), which is so perfectly dry, I find it tremendous- which winemaker Jason Moore makes only because his clients BEG for it, and it’s often sold out as soon as it’s available.

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

So, what do you think of this year’s lineup? What are you planning for YOUR Thanksgiving Feast?

à votre santé!!

Champion Middleweight Wines for Changing Seasons

22 Oct

As the weather cools and the trees turn colors, so do our palates shift to harvest flavors- not only do we seek out pumpkin, apple, and carrot, but meats shift in our meals from leaner proteins to middle weight options like duck, turkey, pork, or monkfish. And our wine preferences move to mid-body wines, from lean and linear to more body, and an expansive palate.

As the days grow shorter, I push back on sauvignon blanc, pinot gris and chenin blanc to grab Bordeaux blends and Rhône varietals such as Grenache blanc, bourbelanc, roussanne, viognier, and clairette. And today’s champion wine is a blend of my favorite four of these: clairette blanche, Grenache blanc, bourbelanc and picpoul blanc. It’s from Acqueisce Winery and is called “Ingenue”. Similarly to very finest of white Bordeaux blends and yet entirely differently; this white Rhône blend is greater than the sum of its parts.

Acquiesce Winery: 2018 Ingénue White Rhône Blend, Mokelumne River AVA, Lodi, California, USA. 13% ABV, SRP $32/bottle.

 

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

The color is pale gold with excellent clarity. The nose offers citrus, baked apple, a hint of greener spice and fresh floral cuttings. On the palate is a beautiful lemon-lime with apple and mature pear, with a savory and round mouthfeel. Dense acidity sings across the palate but the depth and beauty are apparent. This wine can pair in any direction you might wish to go: from fowl to fish to meats, from bright summer vegetables to harvest flavors of pumpkin and squash to root vegetables. I paired this first with a rich asian stir-fry and then with Italian, finishing the bottle much sooner than I’d hoped. Last time I tried this bottle it was goat cheese all in and all out, a perfect pairing with the weather directly post-harvest.

 

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Next up is a brilliant pinot noir from under-the-radar, one that is ideal for changing weather:

Spáter-Veit Rotwein, 2015 Trocken, Mosel, Germany. 12% ABV; $18/bottle imported by Fass Selections.

 

Color is a clear ruby, while the nose offers earth, cherry, and slate. On the palate, a rich and opulent series of flavors appear quickly and dissipate -potting soil, menthol, scorched earth-  before a tremendous cherry fruit profile begins to dominate the palate.  A robust, medium body with a full and complex mouthfeel, the wine has complexity and depth while showing some linearity and focus. This wine is special- not only reasonable at under $20/bottle, but offering solid winemaking from a small, independent producer at unusually low, nearly grocery store wine prices. This pinot noir has enough complexity and maturity to be able to pair at a higher level- if only I had purchased additional bottles (entirely my fault). I paired this with fish, asian, and southwestern fare but was probably most content when tasting the wine along delicate and medium-weight cheeses. But even as I type this, I simply want to pour another ounce and contemplate the flavor profile as this wanders across my palate.

#WIYG?

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

 

 

My Game Night Beer is Meursault!

15 Sep

Finally I have a Sunday night off to watch football!  While my brethren choose their game night beer, I’ve been hoarding a bottle I can’t wait to open.

 

 

En Truffière 2014 Meursault, Grand Vin du Bourgogne, Burgundy, France. 13%ABV, Unknown SRP (gift bottle).

Color is a translucent  pale gold. The nose offers wysteria and orange blossom, white pear, apple, lemon rind, and toasted oak. On the palate, a beautiful lemon-lime citrus with apple and a hint of lychee, firm acidity on the front palate, a swath of light heat across the mid palate, followed by tertiary notes of sodium, marl and limestone finish- simply delightful. 

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.
May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

This bottle was a gift from a co-worker. We’re opening a new venue this year, putting on some crazy shows and working long hours. The entertainment business is often creating illusions, making minor miracles, and then acting like it’s all in a day’s work- because it is. When an associate brings you a gift with such great thought, it becomes a very dear gift. The white burgs in my cellar I consider off-limits unless it’s a special occasion- but once I finally found a night in which I could enjoy this, all bets were off. I am glad I did, because my goodness, does this wine deliver! 

 

 

For “Game Night” I paired this with football fare: a cheese quesadilla, spicy olive mix with hot peppers,  a spinach and feta cheese boureka (phyllo dough triangles popular in Greek, Turkish, and Russian cuisine) and then finally, a chicken breast. Score, score, score! 

Most football food is secondary to the star, aka The Game. But instead of the game, the star here is the Meursault. The perfect balance of barrel and brine, this is why I geek out so much over Bourgogne’s chardonnay. So nicely balanced, the wine exhibits elegance and delicacy across the palate.

I hope you have a business associate who tracks down wines from a region you enjoy. Everyone deserves a night like this for your version of game night.

I wish you fabulous bottles with friends who appreciate you. #Cheers, and please click below and share with us!  What’s In Your Glass? I always want to know!

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.
May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

Birthday Bottles with JvB

3 Jul

When it’s your birthday, you can drink whatever you want.

This is how it started:

Elena Walch Castel Ringberg Pinot Grigio, 2017. 13.5% ABV, SRP $29/bottle. 

If you ask me if I like Pinot Grigio, I’d ask you “Pinot Grigio from where?” Elena Walch and her two daughters make TREMENDOUS wines- but you have to think Northern Italy, Trento, Alto-Adige DOC wines. If those words make you mouth water, then you know what I’m talking about. Medium straw in color with a nose of melon and lime. On the palate: Bosc pear, green apple, freshly cut herbs, and underlying granite/wet stone. Beautiful length on the back palate showing the linear acidity, leaving your mouth with a gossamer finish.






 

 

Domaine du Cayron 2013 Gigonda, 14% ABV. SRP? 

Southern Rhone and Gigondas, right next door to Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  One look and you know the Gigondas is going to be a GSM- Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre-Cinsault (or Carignan) blend. This is one of the best-known, most consistent Gigondas you can find, with bold and savory reds, well-maintained by the The Faraud Family, who picks their grapes from older (40-70) year-old vines and ferments each type in massive oak foudres (225-300 hectoliters). Blended expertly by the family, this vintage is said to be a cepage (blend) of 70% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 14% Syrah and 1% Mourvèdre (for color).

 

 

Color is deep ruby, while the nose offers stewed red fruit, smoked dried meats hints of earth. On the palate are burning red fruit flavors: red plum, mixed cherries and raspberries, lusciously chewy tannins with a dry backbone.   Perfect for a grilled steak, this honesty could pair with anything you want to eat if you’re in the mood for a bold, chewy red. This wine simply sings from the glass.
As this bottle was a gift from dear, dear friends, I’m not looking up the price– but trust me, it’s going to be in the range of between a “special bottle” and “what a bargain for a red this damn good.”

 

 

 

 

 

Champagne, Anyone?

 

 

How better to celebrate a birthday than with vintage champagne? I didn’t tell my guests this was vintage, or what the bottles cost. I wanted to really enjoy some special bottles that I would love, that I couldn’t wait to open.

Perseval Farge Millésime Premiere Cru 2003 Brut Champagne. $59/bottle from private seller.

So much aging on the lees! Tons of brioche and toast on this vintage! Classic and elegant, I was shocked at how delicious this was, but that my guests, new to vintage champagne and the delicacies and flavors, were only  complimentary. Did they know that NON-VINTAGE Perseval Farge costs around $90/bottle in NYC? No. But they tasted stunningly aged brioche, muted fruit, and a perfect mousse. This champagne was so delightful, it eclipsed one of my favorite vintage champagne experiences from the 1980’s.
Color is deep straw. Nose of baked bread, spice, and a hint of grapefruit. On the palate, muted peach, a hint of citrus with forward notes of toasted almond and brioche. Luscious frothy bubbles forming a perfect mousse at age 16, this could age twice that and still be a delicate, delicious bargain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yann Alexandre Vintage 2010 Blanc de Blanc Millesime 2010 Brut. $45/ bottle from private seller.

Believe it or not, my guests preferred this 2010 over the 2003 (they didn’t know I was offering vintage champagne, they just tasted and told me their thoughts!) but both were simply STUNNING. This beautiful blanc de blanc has a pale straw color and nose of tangerine and lemon lime, bright peach, touch of apricot, almond and baked bread with a touch of minerality. If only I had purchased more- this was gone in a heartbeat. It was my fault, I didn’t explain these were rare vintage champagne.

 

Owen Roe 2015 Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc, Yakima Valley AVA, Washington, USA. 14.1% ABV, $28 SRP.

If you haven’t spent time diving in deeply with cabernet franc, then you are missing out. A grape that can be so expressive and show such depth and versatility, I’ve watched many a cab lover be flummoxed and fall in love with cab franc. This is one such bottle. Color is medium purple, while the nose offers blue plum, violet, and lavender. On the palate: beautiful blackberry, young cassis, potting soil and tobacco leaf. Medium heat across the top and back palates. This is so tasty: awesome craftsmanship from Owen Roe’s winemaker Jackie Evans and her team. 

 

Harney Lane Winery’s Old Vine Zinfandel, Lizzy James Vineyard, 2015. Lodi, CA, USA. 15.7%ABV., $36/SRP

From vines planted in 1904 come tremendous grapes that are aged 20 months in French oak before bottling to become one of my favorite single vineyard wines of all time. Massive flavor without being a fruit bomb, I can drink this in the afternoon by itself or pair with a porterhouse in the evening. With such a luxurious mouthfeel, these vines sing of their tiny gnarled vines and century of desert exposure. I can’t say enough good things about Kyle and Jorja Lerner, the family who operate Harney Lane. They are the nicest people making STUNNING wine, and world class OVZ that simply can’t be beat!
Color is deep purple center with dark ruby edging. The nose offers beautifully perfumed blue and black fruit, while the palate shows blackberry compote, fresh blueberries, black cherries, stewed plum, a hint of baking spice and vanilla. The tannins are large yet manageable, and for someone who prefers lower alcohol wines, this is one I not only tolerate, but adore. The heat never crosses my mind, while the flavors expand and fill my top palate with wonder. 

 

 

à votre santé!

 

#WIYG? Please, let me know what you’re drinking. Birthday or no, we’re always curious to know what you’re really enjoying right now.

 

Beat the Heat With high value Spanish Wines!

31 May

When summer begins to swelter, we find ourselves reaching for something to cool off with. Most people go for a light white wine, some people prefer a chilled rosé. But when I toured the Mediterranean and was impressed with how refreshing the wines of Spain can be in the heat!

Spain is covered with grape vines, most of which are quite old. Age means deep vines, which which equates to small grapes with a robust flavor profiles: rich, acidic reds, and delicate, herbaceous whites.

 

Start with Albariño. In several years of tastings, Paco & Lola from Rias Baixas have consistently been in the top picks. There run from under $20 to low $30’s for aged Albariño. The 2012 pictured below, right, is gorgeously concentrated and a stellar aged white for serious oenophiles.

 

The bright polka dots of Paco & Lola are easily distinguished in a wine store. Take a bottle home and tell me if you don’t adore it!

 

 

 

 

Garnacha Blanca (White Grenache) and Verdejo are two wines that are lesser-known in the USA, but extremely popular in Europe. Some of Spain’s finest wines are made from Verdejo, with delicate flavor and beautiful structure.

 

 

Viura-chardonnay blends like the one below from Faustino are easy to find, herbaceous with bright white fruit, tasty in the heat, and easy on the wallet – around $15/bottle.

 

 

Bright, delicious reds like these old vine ’15 Garnacha and 2016 Cariñena (below) are delicious by themselves slightly chilled, and pair with food easily. Believe it or not, they can often be found for under $10/bottle, but drink well compared to other bottles you might find for twice the price.

 

 

Last but not least, you can often find aged Rioja and Gran Reserva wines that are beautifully aged reds, in the $30-70 range. These offer rarity and great age at a tremendous value.

 

 

Try wines from Spain’s Rioja and Cariñena regions this summer- slightly chilled to beat the heat- and let me know how you like them, and what your favorite pairings are!

 

 

à votre santé!

Flattery in Wine?

30 Apr

When people make fun of your passions, or when personal and professional interests crossover, it must be a sign your blog is doing something right. Right? A friend of mine texted me today with this gem:


It was funny, in a laughing-at-Sideways kind of moment.
But now I’m suddenly feeling like a glass of merlot!

The above brevity and humor was a welcome guffaw to my work day, and an added bonus after having friends alert me to another year of being listed in the top 100 wine blogs. 

I’m honored, truly. I just want to help people find wines they will love. 

But this makes me think about flattery in general, and the number of winemakers who set out to ride the coattails of a certain wine’s success, or to make the opposite of a style of wine.

I’m thrilled in the trends I’ve been seeing- watching new world winemakers move away from overly-oaked chardonnays and red fruit bombs– although there are some brands that are the epitome of those styles, and are best doing what they do best. But when a grape can show its best, I’d much rather taste the nature of the fruit from the grower and the cultivation mixed with the terroir- this is the purest expression of a great wine to me, and why I am such a fan of single vineyard, single barrel wines. Once you have walked through a vineyard with the grower and winemaker, and understood the choices made from how the land is cared for, how the vines are grafted and trellised, how the canopy is cared for, what the water source is, what the local soil and minerals the roots are feeding from- all these are elements you can appreciate in a fine wine.

But that’s also why I like to drink regional wines with regional food, like the Georgian wines my friend Anatoli Levine, aka Talk-A-Vino, has gotten me interested in. The indigenous Georgian grape, Saperavi, creates an aromatic, full-bodied, high-alcohol wine with powerful tannin and great acidity, that is delicious by itself and really wonderful with Khachapuri, a Georgian cheese bread with an egg baked on top. Look for my review upcoming, on “JvB Hates Merlot”. Just kidding. How could anyone who knows me think I hate merlot? How could any Bordeaux fan hate merlot?

Sorry, let’s save that rant for another time…

 

#WIYG?

à votre santé!

#WIYG? March, 2019 and #OTBN 2019

18 Mar

 

Here’s a sampling of what’s been in MY glass while I’ve been quiet:

 

A rich and savory old-vine chardonnay from Burgundy: Haut Côtes de Nuits, 2016 from Julien Cruchandeau. 13% ABV. $29/bottle street price.
#wiyg? #wineo #winetasting #winelovers #winestagram #burgundywine #whiteburgundy #wineoclock

 

Getting my #cabfranc and getting #francdup with this Fulkerson red blend of cab, cab franc and noiret.
Delightfully soft and dry, nice smoky cherry, tobacco leaf and toasted vanilla. 12% ABV, Street price $12/bottle. 
I’ve enjoyed the Spanish Tarima Monstastrell, a HUGE QPR with a $9/bottle Street price;  not to be outdone:
this lively and crisp white from Tarima is the essence of Spanish wines, quite a bargain at the $8/bottle price point!
Huge citrus with herbs and white flesh. Awesome tapas or mid-afternoon wine.

Now: check out the color before you scroll down.

What wine do you think this is?

Ready? 
It’s a 1971 Nebbiolo d’Alba. And it drank gorgeously. This was the highlight of 16 bottles opened by a small group in my home for #OTBN (Open that Bottle Night) 
The cork was extracted cleanly using an Ah-So corkscrew. Upon opening, it showed luscious red fruit and great acidity with a luxurious mouthfeel. After 30 minutes, the wine shifted enough that the fruit dissipated so that tannins and acidity were dominant. This was incredibly exciting as it was still an amazing wine, but entirely different than what we’d been tasting previously! The flavors dissipated as we finished the bottle. I believe if we’d aired it 90 minutes and then tasted it would have been nearly undrinkable. It was a great experience, and a wonderful highlight for #OTBN2019!
Well, after that, what can you say?
I’d say we found a few more things to mention…
…Like the 1995 Kistler Russian River Valley Chardonnay that drank like an absolute dream!
That’s correct, a ‘95 @kistlervineyards chard, still showing fruit and acidity. Just stunning and such a joy to have enjoyed with @anatoli.l @dracaenawines @stefschwalb and @drinks.i.drink on #OTBN! #cheers
Not so old, but one of the best values out there in Puligny-Montrachet (unless I keep telling people, perhaps)
you can get is from Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey.
He only makes Le Trézin rarely and when I can find it, I buy what I can afford.
Worried about premature oxidation, it was time to open this bottle from 2013- but no worries!
It drank beautifully, and was such a joy to share!
This ’96 Smith-Haut Lafitte took time to open. I mean more than a day, even after decanting.
But when it finally opened up, it was worth the wait. Monstrously ripe, succulent, and ripe with big black and blue fruit.  
Drinking this is like driving a seatbelt-less 1969 Porsche.
You hold the steering wheel in your hands, and you not only own the road, You ARE the Road! 
Last for this post, but not least…this 1996 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco Reserva. Succulent, savory, this is a wine that is timeless and can pair so gorgeously with eggs, fish, tapas, and all kinds of lighter fare.
You have to taste an aged Rioja blanca at least once in your life.  
And with that…

What is in YOUR glass?

Share your thoughts, your wines, your #OTBN treasures or your dream wines, in the space below!

 

 

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? 

 

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