Tag Archives: Wine Review

#YouHadMeAtMargaux

3 Nov

Château Des Graviers Margaux, 2014 Red Blend; Arsac, Bordeaux, France. 14%ABV, Around $29/bottle online.

 

Color is deep ruby, while the nose offers a dark and earthy melange of eucalyptus, blackberry, gravel, potting soil, and leather. On the palate: muted black and red fruit- cassis, plum, dark cherry, followed by medium acidity and massive tannins, drying the tongue and curling back the fruit. On the back palate are clay, gravel, rose bush and vanilla. Provides a long and robust finish.

 

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

 

Winemaker Christophe Landry is a fifth generation winemaker and creates a tremendous product that will taste hauntingly familiar if you are a Margaux aficionado (as I am) and you can see why wines like this dot the shelves of my cellar, then disappear far too quickly… I simply seem to not be able to help myself.   And, why, you might ask?

Well. it’s easy to answer:  once opened, the bottle improves over time and proves to be a delicious, lovingly-crafted, old world wine. This is a region and style I adore- but this wine is still a babe, capable of being enjoyed now, but it still has at least five years before hitting its prime. I paired this with red meat on day one the when it was delicious but still slightly tight; then a Comte and a Roqueforte cheese on day two when it had opened fully, and decadently. Yet this is a wine that in five to ten years, the tannins will relax to the ideal complement; hopefully the fruit and acidity will be as well in balance. As tasty as this wine is right now, the question arises:  Will I be able to wait to enjoy this and see if 10 or 15 is the best age? Indeed, that is the question.

“Probably not,” I’m thinking. I’m a sucker for this region, and any of their wines that I deem both delicious and affordable!  This fits into both categories, and drinks quite nicely at a youthful age. I’m in trouble, as I didn’t buy a case when I had the chance (no room in the cellar, the honest truth!)

 

If you didn’t figure it out before…#YouHadMeAtMargaux.

 

 

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

 

#WIYG?

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Decibel Wines 2017 Sauvignon Blanc and 2014 Pinot Noir

9 Oct

Decibel 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Crownthorpe Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. 12% ABV; SRP $16/bottle.

Color is pale straw, nose of lemongrass, tarragon and green pepper. On the palate are lime, gooseberry, and kiwi citrus up front, with a green apple on the mid-palate and lemon pith on the back. I paired this with pizza on night one, and sashimi on night two. Delicious, fresh, and fun. Every time I tasted this, I immediately wanted another sip. It’s quite simply that refreshing and delicious!

Don’t take my word for it. Grab a bottle, at these low prices, and let me know what you think!

 

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.

 

 

 

Decibel 2014 Martinborough Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, New Zealand. 14%ABV, SRP $35/bottle.

 

Color is a deep ruby with magenta edging. The nose includes aged red fruit, earthen floor, and dried rose petals. On the palate: black cherry, mature red plum, forest floor, dried leaves, and smoke with a hint of bitter fruit compote on the finish. The balance is long and satisfying, demonstrating maturity and depth. I liked this wine at TexSom on a day I tasted over 150 wines, but loved it back at my own home on its own, which was made evident by the near-empty bottle after having “just a taste” with some homemade pasta and finishing it off quickly when paired with a rustic beef stew, wishing I had more. This is a perfectly-aged bottle that is ready to go at age six; none of the green vegetation I was expecting in the under $40 pinot range- this drinks like a $60 wine, which is all you should need to pick up a bottle. Perfect to pair with dinner or enjoy by itself, all the wine needs to do is cross a palate. The wine does ALL the talking!

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.  

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Both of these wines offer great QPR and should be sought by wine lovers looking for wines with tremendous value above the price point.

Winemaker Daniel Brennan is a US-born winemaker who fell in love with NZ wines and: my, oh my, does it show! These are deftly crafted and so tasty you’ll wish you’d purchased more bottles.  I have been a Central Otago wine snob for years, but these wines are just gorgeous. Well done! Brennan has made me a fan and at these prices, I’m sure many more will follow.

 

Please feel free to share with me and other readers, not just by email but also below so others can read your thoughts on Brennan’s DECIBEL wines!

 

 

à votre santé!

Creto De’ Betti 2018 Bianco di Toscana

1 Sep

Fattoria Betti, Creto De’ Betti 2018 Bianco di Toscana, Tuscany, Italy. 13%ABV, SRP (avg) $18/bottle online

 

By Jim vanBergen, JvBUnCorked.   

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

 

Color is pale straw with a green tinge. The nose offers a delicate aroma of pineapple and citrus. On the palate are crisp apple with white pear, with secondary notes of almond and lime zest. Tertiary notes of sandy clay and lemon rind are on the finish. This is a Tuscan white wine blend comprised of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Trebbiano, fermented in stainless steel before being bottled, spending no time in oak.

 

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

 

I paired this over three separate evenings with meals of roast turkey, grilled salmon, and fusilli with pesto. In each instance, the wine stood strong and paired easily. I was surprised at the ease with with the Chardonnay -Trebbiano blend stood up to the rich grilled turkey with tart cranberry sauce. Likewise, lesser white wines would not have had both the acidity and savory qualities to handle the grilled salmon, for which I usually desire a pinot noir. But this wine had not problem staying the course and showing well throughout, with grilled peaches as a dessert one night, and nectarines the following evening.

 

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

 

Fattoria Betti’s Bianco di Toscana is crisp and refreshing when served cold, and maintains beauty, body, and balance as the meal continues and the wine reaches room temperature. My spouse asked me to include that she specifically enjoyed this wine, and loved the smooth finish that was crisp, yet neither bitter nor sour. The only complaint I had when tasting this wine was wanting to have another bottle on hand!

 

If you don’t recognize the grape trebbiano, perhaps you know it by its French namesake, Ugni Blanc. I think the amount of trebbiano that is in this blend is the reason why I adore it so much: it offers a fruity nose and plenty of acidity without ever being harsh. While it may be more common to see trebbiano blended with Malvasia, I think this blend with Chardonnay is a brilliant combination. Personally I know the grape better from ugni blanc’s long history in the creation of cognac and armagnac brandies- but I’m hopeful to see more trebbiano-blended wines with this success of winemaking.

If you like Italian white wines are are looking for a versatile white that is delightful alone and capable standing up to a bevy of rich proteins, this chardonnay-trebbiano blend is a bottle that you should try. You owe it to yourself to seek out Frattoria Betti’s Bianco di Toscano.

 

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

 

à votre santé!

Pazo Torrado Albariño Rias Baixas, Galicia

29 Aug

Pazo Torrado Albariño 2017, D.O. Rías Baixas, Galicia, Spain. 12.5%ABV, SRP around $11/bottle.

 


 

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

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

By Jim van Bergen, JvBUnCorked

Color is a translucent medium straw. The nose offers a luxurious floral aroma, hyacinth, orchid and pineapple. On the palate: tart green apple, lime zest, and lemon pith with a long, citrus finish. I am savoring this wine so wonderfully on a couple of summer days that range from hot afternoon to cool evenings, and the Albariño is so flexible it seems it could work with six feet of snow on the ground and subzero temps.

 

 

Last night I tasted this while prepping dinner, and slowly sipped a portion while grilling broccoli, squash, and red meat. It was so tasty I kept enjoying it throughout dinner. Yes, this paired nicely with grilled red meat, with grilled vegetables, and then on yet another evening, with fresh red fruit and soft French cheese. The acidity and fruit are light, crisp, and cheery enough to cleanse the palate of strong flavors in a delightful arc. It is bright and fun, delightful and easy-going. With a high quality-to-price ratio, what’s not to love about Spanish Albariño from Rías Baixas?

 

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

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

à votre santé!!

Mencos Rioja Blanco 2011

17 Aug

 

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

 

 

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

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Made from 100% Viura Grapes!

 

By Jim van Bergen, JvBUnCorked

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

à votre santé!!

Home Field Red Blend 2016

13 Aug

Home Field 2016 Red Blend by Sbragia Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, CA. 14.6% ABV;  SRP $25/bottle

 

Color is deep garnet with ruby edging. The nose offers a melange of red and black fruit, violet flower and wet stone. On the palate is a mouthful of back plum and cassis. This is a delicious, full-bodied wine that I did not want to put down. It did not last long; I paired it first with a steak, and finished the bottle an hour later with a soft borgonzola cheese. It is incredibly easy to drink and very food friendly.

The fourth generation winemaker Adam Sbragia is responsible for the Home Field brand. This wine is made of five grape varieties, grown in six different vineyards: a blend of 51% Zinfandel, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 8% Carignane, and 4% Petite Syrah. And wine drinkers will land on one of two sides: they either really appreciate knowing that, or they don’t care at all. Either way, they are going to enjoy drinking this wine!

This is a fun wine to drink and enjoy with friends, if the bottle lasts you that long. Had I purchased this in a restaurant, I’d have bought two or three bottles. That alone speaks volumes to the QPR and enjoyability of Home Field Red Blend, Sbragia winemaking, and the Sonoma Country fruit.

 

WIYG?

à votre santé!

 

 

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

31 Jul

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

à votre santé!

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.

 

Ryder Estate Pinot Noir Rosé

29 Jun

2018 Ryder Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir; Central Coast AVA, California, USA. 13%ABV; SRP $17/bottle.

 


Color is salmon pink, while the nose offers fresh strawberries, lilac and freshly cut melon. On the palate is a solid red blend of strawberry, cherry and raspberry fruit with lovely acidity and a dry, mouth watering resolution after cheering up my top and mid palate. A screwtop makes for easy opening and sharing- I promise you, this won’t last long.

I began adoring this wine when it was nicely chilled but appreciated the expanded aromas when it warmed a few degrees. I paired this wine with goat cheese crostini (appetizer) and chicken with grilled asparagus (entrée) and the bottle didn’t last much longer than that. OK, I had a little help… But this is too good to let sit in the bottle when it can be in your mouth!

It IS rosé time, right? We can drink all the rosé, as long as it’s delicious.

Did I mention this had an SRP of $17? The street price has got to make this a tremendous value. My only problem is not having more bottles on hand before my birthday!

 

If you’re a total oenophile, you will want to know that Ryder Estates are sustainably farmed and the grapes are crushed, allowed eight hours of skin contact for the perfect hue, then pressed and racked into stainless steel for fermentation and maintained at 50ºF to maintain proper aromatics (you’ll appreciate that, I know I did for the duration I could keep the wine in my glass!)

If you’re a summer wine drinker, you will want to know: this is an awesome deal on a delicious wine that will be the life of your party if you like them pink, berry forward, and superbly dry.

#WIYG?
(What’s in your glass?)

 

 

 

 

à votre santé!

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