Tag Archives: Wine Commentary

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? 

 

Lucas & Lewellen

26 Dec

Lucas & Lewellen Estate Vineyards 2017 Sauvignon Blanc; Santa Barbara County, Buellton, CA. 13.9% ABV, SRP $18/bottle.

 

Color is pale straw; the nose shows lemon and grapefruit with a hint of salty sea air. On the palate this is a textbook Central Coast California sauvignon blanc with citrus up front: pineapple and lemon-lime, crisp apple and young pear with a medium short finish of lemon zest. 

 

I paired this over a series of evenings one week with baked cod, chicken, and a quiche- each meal demonstrating that the pairing was solid, bringing out elements in the food that might have been understated otherwise. Straightforward and to the point, this is a sauvignon blanc that shoots right down the line and stays the course. A twist-off top makes it easy to chill and re-open for several nights if it lasts that long. Poured among a few friends, this bottle would empty quite quickly, it’s so easy to drink and refreshing to enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucas & Lewellen Estate Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir; Santa Barbara County, Buellton, CA. 14.1% ABV; SRP $20/bottle.

 

Medium ruby in color with a nose of bright red cherry and strawberry. The palate reflects the nose with red fruit up front: cranberry, strawberry and cherries with secondary notes of toasted oak, sodium, silt and sandy loam. Fruit is from Santa Maria and Los Alamos Valleys, and matured for 10 months on the lees in oak, maintaining a neutral balance so the fruit stays the focus. 

 

Pairings worked easily with lamb, Indian curry, Asian stir-fry, Washington State salmon, and a range of European cheeses. Plenty of acidity and fruit was maintained over the course of a week of tasting notes and the wine stayed fresh using a RePour replacement cork.

Winemaker Megan McGrath Gates is crafting these wines as straightforward and classic example of what Central Coast fruit offers, straight and simple, with sustainable farming, taking the time to harvest by hand. For readers who are looking for a textbook example of sustainable California Pinot and Sauvignon Blanc wines at a daily drinking cost, you can point them straight to Lucas and Lewellen;  LLWine.com.

 

à votre santé!

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!

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