Tag Archives: Wine Review

Jean Foillard Morgon 2016 “Côte du Py” Beaujolais

6 Mar

Jean Foillard Morgon 2016 “Côte du Py” Beaujolais. 13% ABV, Purchased @ $38/bottle from Crush Wine Co’s advance offer.

 

The color is bright, translucent ruby, while the nose is stunningly floral with ripe cherry blossom, rose bush, and violet. On the palate, bright cherry, strawberry, and sweet raspberry blend with stunning acidity. One sip reminds me why I collect Morgon, why every bottle is a treasure to me. Another sip, the flavors and balance make my eyes close halfway and it puts me on the hills outside Lyon, France. An unmistakable scent of the land, visions of the rolling hills, the low, un-trellissed vines, brown earth dotted with chunks of granite and schist that you remember from tasting in the glass. Small memories bring back larger ones, from the gentle rivers and byways to my first tasting of gamay then an actual Cru Beaujolais, compared to a serious Burgundy– and realizing what the differences and similarities are between these, and what everyone else thinks of: Nouveau Beaujolais. And how vastly different true Beaujolais is!

Getting back into the glass! Behind the fruit and sheer wall of vast acidity is a complex series of notes, hints of forest, leather, and earth hide underneath the fruit with chewy tannins exposed after more air. 

 

I steer myself away from the glass and open a laptop. Pull up the invoice from the seller and hit their online store: Gone. Trying a wide search shows decent amounts of the vintage available, as well as why it is harder and harder to find: scores of 96 from Suckling, and two 95’s from RP’s Wine Advocate and Vinous yet STILL under $40/bottle? Damn. I only bought a couple of bottles on the offer, and opened this tonight thinking I should let the 2013 get another two years to be perfect. THIS wine is going to be simply unbelievable in ten years- but my bottle will never grow that old. I’m too much of a sucker for great Gamay. It will be done in quick time.

I can just hear my friend and fellow wine blogger, Thea Dwelle say, “Well JvB, you should have invested in a Coravin.” You’re right, Thea, but at least I’ll have a few nights to really enjoy this fabulous gamay and empty this bottle, thoroughly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a decade, this wine will be unbelievable. The structure will be stunning, the fruit diminished and gossamer, the feel will be glamourous. But right now, this is a live performance at the Academy Awards: tasting raw emotion, a little terror with lust and joy and expression of starlight and rainbows and darkness and anger all at once. The wine is stunningly lovely, yet raw- just an adolescent full of emotion and SO MUCH TALENT. If you can wait ten years, then wait. If you can’t, you’ll enjoy every single note. A moment of brilliant mouthfeel, and series of unbelievable flavors. Raw beauty, unfiltered, aged vines, showing  intimacy, depth, and what is to come. An entire story shown in a fleeting moment.

 

What’s in YOUR glass?

 

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? 

 

Thacher 2016 Working Holiday: Small batch, big flavor!

18 Feb

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

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

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

What’s in YOUR glass? 

à votre santé!

Barton Family Wines “Holiday” 2017

10 Jan

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

à votre santé!

Domaine Ostertag 2016 Les Jardins Pinot Noir, Vin D’Alsace

28 Dec

Domaine Ostertag 2016 Les Jardins Pinot Noir, Alsace, France. 12.5% ABV, SRP $27/bottle (sample).

Color is ruby with magenta edging, slightly opaque from no filtration. The nose is a blend of red fruit: black cherry with plum and a hint of young raspberry. Aromas of eucalyptus and gravel entice the first sip. On the palate: black and red cherry battle for the forefront, strong clay influence is secondary. followed by notes of brettanomyces and smoky dust. A long, lingering finish atop a column of red fruit: exquisite with defined tannins, showing refinement and balance in the structure, and leaving a strong send of appreciation in the wake.

This is a #winelover’s wine; a geeky wine delight; an oenophile’s treasure.

 

In spite of wanting to savor the aromas of this wine slowly for a week, instead I paired the bottle nicely with roast turkey breast, Japanese sashimi, and orrichette with broccoli rabe over several days. The mixture maintained solid structure and linearity throughout from simply re-corking and refrigeration.

 

If you like the unusual pinot that screams of terroir and shows character in biodynamic and organic approach, this is an excellent wine for you!  It will complement and pair to your heart’s content while having a unique attitude and position- unlike other pinot noirs you have tasted and forgotten. Once you have spent some time with the wines, Vin D’Alsace will never let you go entirely.

You’ll be hash tagging #DrinkAlsace before you know it.

#DrinkAlsace

à votre santé!

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!

Macari from Long Island; Lapandéry from Loire!

16 Dec

Macari 2015 Estate Chardonnay, Mattituck, Long Island, NY. 13.5% ABV, SRP $22/Bottle (Sample)

Color is medium straw. The nose offers Bosc pear, Granny Smith apple, and white flowers. The palate features rich and savory soft white fruit with brioche, from a lengthy time spent on the lees. The end result is a luscious and creamy chardonnay with a medium body and satisfying mouthfeel.

Every time I find a delightful Long Island wine, I imagine where blind tasters would think the wine is from. I never think the wine is from Long Island, which means I’m still coming to terms with the quality wines from the North Coast of Long Island and have more to learn! So: I enjoyed this wine by itself and accompanying soft cheeses, then over the course of four meals with Italian, Mexican, Chinese, and American cuisine basically, anything I put near it fared well! This is another North Fork of Long Island wine to put on the list and keep in mind for both a) quality winemaking and b) a fine example of what Long Island has to offer!

 

 

Francisque Lapandéry Blanc Vin, Récolté à la main; Saint-Haon-le-Vieux, France. 12% ABV, Purchased for $19/bottle from Garagiste.

 

Color is medium straw with a hint of pink!  (Really- see the image below!) The nose is heavy of citrus: lemon-lime zest, followed by lemongrass. On the palate, this sauvignon blanc is clean and crisp, linear with a stony, granite minerality on the lip-smacking finish. I could drink this all afternoon.

I wish there was more information on this wine beyond the region being Northwest of Lyon, and that the grapes are hand-harvested & de-stemmed before crush. But it is a lovely bottle of wine to enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

 

#WIYG?

à votre santé!

 

Zeitlos by Markus Wine Company

10 Dec

I love drinking Syrah in the wintertime. So it was no surprise to me that I had held on to a sample from Markus Wine Company and ‘found’ it months later, not where I’d expect it with my tasting queue, but rather hidden within my rack of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and similar Rhône delicacies. It made me wonder, “Why did I hide this from myself?” But after months of road travel and an opportunity to walk in my cellar and pick a bottle to drink and enjoy, that bottle is where my eye landed. And I thought, “Based on the reds I have tasted from Markus, this wine would really be best in ten years”, but I will have to pick up a case to make that happen, now that I’ve opened and tasted it. Because whoa, this is so delicious that this bottle will not last the night!

 

Markus Wine Co. 2015 Zeitlos; Lodi, California. 14.6% ABV, SRP $39/bottle(Sample).

 

Color is ruby center with purple edging. The nose offers blue and black fruit, violets, and red pepper. On the palate is a beautifully proportioned sense of fruit: blue plum and blueberries on the front palate, blackberries on the mid-palate, and red plum on the top/back palate. Some green herbs, sage and fresh oregano are evident, with a very long finish that shows beautiful cranberry/raspberry with loam, silt and sand. This wine is beautifully balanced and the tannins are FIRM. My mouth tells me that not only do I want another sip, but the fruit flavors are very long-lasting on the tongue.

 

The Zeitlos blend is 76% Syrah, with small amounts of Viognier, Carignan, and Petite Syrah. 

 

Zeitlos reminds me a LOT of the famous (also hard to get and incredibly pricey) Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hemitage, a famous Rhône blend for those who don’t know it, only with a touch more blue fruit and more herbal and mineral notes. But that beautiful fruit and tannin makes this wine ideal for grilled meats.

While in Atlanta recently, I was fortunate to have dinner with several life-long friends. We drank wines that cost two to three times this wine’s SRP at well-known steak houses, but I wish this wine had been available. And after opening this bottle to try with chicken wings and hot sauce, this wine begged for prime proteins so much that I wanted to put both a rack of lamb in the oven and a porterhouse on the grill. Easily said: Zeitlos made me want big, bold flavors which could be translated into meat, or perhaps grilled portobello mushrooms (if you happen to be vegetarian). If you’re looking for that perfect holiday bottle to pair with winter vegetables or a roast, Zeitlos may be the ideal choice. Made in small batches (only 75 cases), each bottle is individually numbered, made with passion by an independent winemaker. So the bottle is rare to find and absolutely unforgettable once you’ve tasted it! It’s a perfect holiday gift bottle, if you can hang on to it for that long.  I might bring this to dinner as a gift, but I’d insist the host open it so it could be enjoyed immediately. 

 

Currently, Markus is selling his 2016 Zeitlos in pre-release. If you are a Syrah fan, this is a wine that you’d wat to snap up, enjoy, and cellar a few extra bottles. If you invite me over, I’ll bring the meat, and my serious thirst for Zeitlos.

 

Note: If you are one of those people who does not really care for red wines, then you should check out Markus Niggli’s line of white blends and varietals. I was impressed highly when I first tasted them in Lodi, and when I managed to spend a little more time with his wines, I was entirely blown away by his winemaking style and the flavors and elegance he evokes from his creations! They are ethereal and gorgeous, and offer great value in comparison to wines that would drink as well. Trust me- your mouth will thank you, and you can thank me later.

 

#WIYG?  (What’s in YOUR glass?)

 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

Drink the Old Stuff: Lafon Bourgogne 2011

30 Nov

Having a cellar is a double-edged sword.

 

I love having wines to cherish, wines to age, wines to hold for the future. But there is also a downside.

 

Sometimes I hold a wine for too long. I have wines from the 80’s that are past their prime, but I love to drink them just the same, to remember those years.

Here is a lone bottle I found hiding in my cellar, the hang tag was correct on but my eye glossed over it because it was on a lower shelf and I passed it by too often: A seven year-old white Burgundy!

 

This is a delicate chardonnay that has pleased me many times in the past, I know immediately while looking at the label that this has been resting in my cellar for too long, recalling that the last bottle showed fading fruit and acidity. “Corked, oxidized, or simply undrinkable?” I wonder.  I prepared myself for the worst as I removed the foil and extracted the cork.  Fortunately, I need not have worried.

 

Dominique Lafon Bourgogne Blanc 2011, Beaune, France. 13% ABV; Purchased in bulk from Garagiste years ago- currently as low as $32/bottle online.

 

Color is a robust, fall hay/warm gold tone. The nose offers delicate white fruit and hints of floral essence. On the palate is a creamy blend of white fleshy fruit, white peach and apple, gently muted, and low acidity. The finish has a pleasing but languorous lemon pith with hints of rosemary and lavender.   

This bottle would certainly be classified as “past prime drinking window” but I have to say, the restrained strength , the muted acidity and delicate fruit are fascinating qualities that were fun to taste! As I have enjoyed a case of this wine over the years since I purchased it, the evolution has been delightful and it’s no different from driving a classic car or watching a beautiful sunset dip below the horizon. As a witness, one can enjoy it even more because they have seen it grown up, they appreciate the evolution, and understand the entire circle of life.

The gold remaining in the glass!

 

 

I was happy this bottle had not oxidized or faulted, but instead, demonstrated the original balance, even past maturity and into retirement. I wish I had another bottle to share with fellow oenophiles and compare with decades old Bordeaux and red Burgundy.

 

I did not want to pair this with food, as I was too enthralled and simply had taste after taste of this bottle until I put it away for a second day’s tasting. On day 2, it had not changed a bit, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, to completion of the bottle.

 

May you and I be so lucky to mature with such refinement and grace.

 

Perhaps this post can serve as a reminder to have a look in your cellar, and see what treasures you might want to open before they no longer provide the drinking pleasure they are designed to provide.

 

à votre santé!

Beaujolais Rosé! Beaujolais Nouveau!

18 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

à votre santé!

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