Tag Archives: Wine Review

Donkey and Goat at Faro, Brooklyn

24 Apr

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

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

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

But there was much more to taste!

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

Faro’s stunning take on Gnocchi with lamb.

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

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

 

Tracey Brant, Donkey & Goat

 

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

 

#WIYG?

 

à votre santé!

 

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!

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