Tag Archives: Wine Tasting

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!

McIntyre Vineyards Chardonnay and Estate Chardonnay, 2016

23 Feb

McIntyre Vineyards 2016 Chardonnay; Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rosa, California. 14.5% ABV, SRP $28/bottle.

Color is medium straw with a nose of sweet pear, and fresh herbs.  Fruit is mixed white flesh with citrus secondary, providing a good sense of mouth-watering tartness to the mouthfeel. An oak influenced wine, the woody notes offering nuance and creaminess without being too overt. 

On the high side of alcohol for a chardonnay, the wine leaves lingering heat across the top and back palate. Good balance, leading to nice complexity. Pleasing to the palate and I paired this bottle well with cheeses, pasta, chicken, and asian cuisine over a week.



McIntyre Vineyards 2016 Estate Vineyards Chardonnay; Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rosa, California. 13.9% ABV, SRP $38/bottle.

The first sip told me this bottle was right up my alley, and “Estate” for a reason. The color is medium straw with nose of golden delicious apple, bosc pear, and grass cuttings with a touch of vanilla. On the palate is beautiful white fruit, a hint of citrus introducing lovely acidity to the tongue and top palate, and a mineral backbone that follows. Lingering impression left on the palate of pineapple, limestone and loam. 

I paired this with a caesar salad, salmon, and strawberries- and would have liked to try other dishes but it did not last past one tasting + one meal. At this price point, I could drink this regularly, and as a special meal wine. Most importantly, not only did I adore this wine, but it made me want to sit down with owner Steve McIntyre and winemaker Byron Kosuge to chat about their wines and the property: after drinking this, I really wanted to learn more about what they are doing because it’s awesome. This wine tastes more expensive than it is; showing a classical, old-world approach from a nicely young bottle. There is a decisive nod to Burgundian style, but with stunning California fruit. Plus, now I really want to try their pinot noir! That will have to wait until another time.


Until then, #WIYG? What’s in YOUR glass?



à votre santé!

Francophiled, or Drink What You Like

5 Oct

I recently attended a blind A/B tasting. That means we (the tasting panel) were given four pairs of wines poured from concealed bottles, were given no information on them, and we had to compare each pair of wines against one another. The common thread was that one set was presented by a famed importer of classic old world French wines from the Loire Valley, while the other set was provided by a small, youthful winery from Santa Barbara, California. What made this most interesting was that it was a pair of brothers, born five years apart, who both work in the wine industry, pitting their wines against one another. It was a fascinating evening and enlightening tasting.

Unfortunately,  this tasting came after a month of too little wine and too much work. Stupidly, I arrived fresh from taking my daughter horseback riding- parched and on an empty stomach- which somewhat threw me off my “A” game.

I took my wine notes, choosing many of the regions and grapes correctly. But I did something I’ve never done before. Our hosts asked us to tell them which wine we’d rather drink. So after tasting both wines in a pair, I quickly made a tiny heart-shaped notation indicating which of the wines I immediately preferred, knowing nothing more than my initial nose & sip. Normally I’m in critical mode, thinking about everything BUT which wine I might prefer to drink. My energy is spent deciding what the region, grape, style, and vintage might be, before possible food pairings. This time, I spent less concern on those criteria and just let my mouth decide.

So, what did I learn, you ask?

I learned that even an old dog can learn new tricks. As an outspoken Francophile (for the newbies, in the wine world that means I prefer old-world French wines) this tasting forced me to remove my size twelve boot from my mouth (Zut alors!) and replace it with a flip- flop, Duuuude!

In not one, but in EVERY single instance, I had chosen the Santa Barbara wine. The Loire Sauvignon Blanc had more grapefruit upfront while the Santa Barbara felt muted and ergo drank with greater balance. With the chenin blanc, it was the slight petrol on the French wine’s nose that made me prefer the other wine. With the pinot noir, it was that the French wine was actually a red sancerre. With the Cabernet Franc, it was the slightly deeper color and depth of palate that made me think it was aged longer in the barrel (it was) and was tastier on its own, while the French Chinon was a tiny bit sharper (more acidic) on the palate and ultimately would pair better with food, but fooled me into thinking it was Californian.


All night long, I kept thinking there was a wine switcheroo– that the Californian wine was actually the French and so forth. I was slightly amused, and yet irritated at myself for getting it wrong, not coming to the tasting with my “A” game, drinking the wine more than just tasting it, and enjoying the process of tasting and just having fun, instead of taking it so seriously- which is, after all, really the best way to do a tasting, right?

So instead of coming away with a set of killer tasting notes, I had a blast. I really enjoyed eight wines, and based upon minutiae, I selected four that I’d rather drink – and in every single case thought I’d chosen the old world French wines of my youth. Instead, I found myself having selected the Santa Barbara competitor time and time again. That, my friends, was the switcheroo.


Towards the end of the evening, I found myself chatting with a lovely couple across the tasting table. The wife admitted to me apologetically, “I know nothing about wine,” and I kept reminding her that the historic wine rules are no longer valid or in force. “As long as you know what you like, that’s what matters,” I preached. For this evening, I can do nothing but take my own advice. As an avowed Francophile, I am tipping my hat. For at least this one night, I am now California Dreamin’.


Knowing what you like means I have the best of both worlds. I can drink what I like from the new world, and I can also buy, hold, and drink what I hold so dear: those old world French wines.

My thanks to James Parisi and Xavier Wines for hosting this event. And both my thanks and respect to brothers Lyle Railsback from Kermit Lynch and Eric Railsback from Lieu Dit Winery for the astounding evening of great wines that I seriously enjoyed.

Know this, gents: I’m a true fan of all of your work and will continue to enjoy all your brands, drinking both what I like at the moment, and what I have loved my whole life.

À votre santé!

Summerland Wine

10 Jul

While visiting Santa Barbara, I had an opportunity to do a tasting with Summerland Wine. Winemaker Etienne Terlinden seems to be quite busy, as they already have six wines from 2013 that include an orange muscat, a sauvignon blanc, a grenache rosé, a viognier, two pinot noir, a syrah, and a cabernet sauvignon, each of these wines is made from local grapes sourced from either Montery, Santa Barbara, or Paso Robles. In addition, they have a library of vintages from 2006-2012 that includes several single-vineyard chardonnay and pinots, a sparkling, and zinfandel. Here are some shots from my tasting, more notes are below!

grenache rose








Here is my hands-down favorite:

Summerland Cabernet Sauvignon,  Santa Barbara County, 2012. 


Deep purple color with violet edging. Nose of blue and black fruit, the scent of  alcohol burns off with more exposure to air, revealing vegetation and fresh cedar. In the mouth, the cab features boysenberry, blueberry, and black cherry fruit along with notes of dark chocolate, licorice, and a hint of potting soil on the upper and back palate. The nice, lingering finish is one more element of this wine that complements food well. Note: all of the Summerland wines have high alcohol content, the cab is no exception with 14.1%ABV.


I was also impressed by two other wines, the 2012 single vineyard pinot noir from Wolff Vineyard, as well as their 2012 “Trio”, a mix of syrah, grenache and mouvedre grapes, which is Summerland’s take on the classic Rhône style wine. Summerland has a little of something for everyone, it seems. I’d love to see their Cab or Trio in a 3L large format bottling, which seems to be popular for their single vineyard pinots. A note for pinot lovers, I much preferred the older vintages I tasted,  -they felt settled, while younger vintages seemed like they still needed time to blend- so age may be a determining factor in your enjoyment. YMMV.

wolf pinot trip


à votre santé!


In Vino Veritas 2014. Vinho Verde!

28 May

I attended another “In Vino Veritas” group in NYC in which everyone brings a bottle (not the same one, hopefully) of a grape varietal or style of wine. I suggested several possibilities for summer wine options to group’s host,  Jimmy. A few days later I got an invitation via email, and the wine of choice was Portugal’s Vinho Verde.

I’ve been to Portuguese wine tastings before. One at a high-end wine store in Manhattan where I had found the vinho verde choices just not quite to my personal liking at that moment. I hoped to fare better at this one, and knew at least I’d bring one that I enjoyed.

The day of the tasting came and we found ourselves around a table with five bottles of vinho verde, from five different manufacturers, several of which cost under $10. They were quite different in style: some were lighter in color, body, and depth while others had some savory notes and a more yellow hue instead of the pale green I’ve come to associate with them. Not all the wines were sparkling/carbonated, and interestingly enough as a group we all seemed to choose different bottles as our favorite of the set. The tasting process became a great overview of a variance of style and flavors.

My apologies for the lack of specific individual reviews, as I was determined to actually enjoy this tasting and not make it “work”, so I left my notes for the next tasting, and am sharing only the overview today.

Casal Garcia


Quinta de Azevedo


Gazela Branco


Muralhas de Mancao


Most importantly at this tasting, everyone found a wine (or three) they enjoyed. For most of the group, it was their first time tasting this delicious and refreshing treat just in time for summer. For all of us, it was a great time with friends, trying something new and exciting, learning and enjoying, and having a wonderful summer evening.

vinho-verde-portugalHave a favorite Vinho Verde or a great story to share? Tell us about it!

à votre santé!

Wine School with the NY Times!

17 Mar

Have you ever wanted to attend wine school? I have. There are so many resources available in Manhattan, but my schedule tends to compete with all of them. So I was intrigued to see Eric Asimov’s post in the NY Times on March 12th: Get Out Your Corkscrew / Wine School by Eric Asimov. In this article (click on the above link) Asimov introduces his casual, online/in print wine school has no pre-requisites or even in person attendance. As a matter of fact, the only cost is buying the wine. This month, he provides an introduction to the concept of wine school with the goals and terms involved. Tasting homework from this month is from the famed Bordeaux region with three wines to try (expecting readers to try one, maybe two) from the stunning 2009 vintage in the $30-60 range.


Asimov’s post explains succinctly the goals of wine school which should ease the minds of most of the wine lovers out there. This is no haughty, heady, sommelier’s wine discussion. Rather, Asimov has created this monthly column “to help create an atmosphere of pleasure, attentiveness and curiosity about wine that will lead to knowing what you like, what you do not and why.” Seems straightforward enough, and removes the daunting feeling so many people have when faced with a massive tome of wine at a restaurant or the smug smile of an ancient sommelier looking down his nose at the unwitting diner looking for a reasonable, pleasurable glass or bottle.

Most importantly, Asimov has removed the stress from the tasting by 1)citing that the process is to enjoy these wines by drinking & enjoying the wine & food pairing experience, as opposed to simply tasting a wine , speculating and spitting; and  2) not putting pressure on the reader to speak out or answer in a public forum unless they want to. Readers are encouraged to post responses, and the list is already lengthy with cheers and some jeers from those who find even $30 bottle too pricey. Those readers do seem to ignore that they get the entire bottle to enjoy at home, compared to what would be a much more expensive hour for a wine lecture, parking, and a one ounce tasting pour in a New York City tasting environment, but you know what they say: Everyone’s a critic.

While my cellar has cases of 2009 Bordeaux laid down to rest, I’ll be seeking out a bottle to match this conversation and open without regret, since I was taught at a young age that a great Bordeaux vintage should be at least ten years old to fully appreciate it. While those lessons and wine rules have all but been tossed by modern society, I still fear the pangs of regret- so buying new it is for me! I’m ready to enjoy, and am thrilled that Asimov has taken the cup to the people.

These are the three moderately-priced Bordeaux wines Asimov has selected for the tasting, with the prices he paid and sellers where he found them:

CHÂTEAU BERNADOTTE HAUT-MÉDOC 2009 $32 (Sherry-Lehmann Selections/Le Reine Importing, New York)

CHÂTEAU CANTEMERLE HAUT-MÉDOC 2009 $53 (Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York)

CHÂTEAU SOCIANDO-MALLET HAUT-MÉDOC 2009 $62 (Frederick Wildman & Sons)

Are you ready to taste with us? Join in, if you have the slightest inkling- I think it will be fun! 

à votre santé!

Wine Around Town? In Vino Veritas!

21 Jan

A friend and business associate invited me to an informal wine tasting based on grape. I’ve been to tastings, but this was really a fun get-together of friends called “In Vino Veritas” (translation from the Latin: “In Wine, There is Truth”, attributed to Roman philospher/naval commander Pliny The Elder). It was a modern, intimate social media event. Jimmy (the host and event creator) wrote about the get-together to the (closed) group in his invitation:

I admit I know very little about wine, but I know what I like, and the reason I know what I like is I put as many versions of the same grape in front of me and sample them all. This is what this event will do. We’ll get together and all bring a bottle of the same type of wine (merlot, syrah, pino, etc) with you. Everyone will hopefully bring wine from different vineyards and of different vintages, so we can get a large sampling. The more people come, the more wine we get to taste. And don’t feel pressure to spend lots of money: if the wine is great AND cheap, it makes it that much better a find! If you want to pair up with someone and go in on a bottle together, please do!

It was quite straightforward. First I got the invite, then the indication of which grape was- tempranillo! Then, the location and time. Finally, the day arrived. I fretted about choosing the wine to bring, and settled on a Rioja I picked up from Morrell Wine, which is a shop that has a nice variety and is conveniently close to my current work. I went and looked at their selection of tempranillo wines, narrowed it down to three possible bottles, and then asked a salesperson for help. I showed them my choices, and explained that 1) I was looking for a good value on a great drinking wine, 2) did any of these wines fall into that category, and 3) were there other bottles I should consider?

The salesperson was very nice, expressed approval at my choices and described the qualities of two of them they had tasted. I chose a wine whose name is as much of a mouthful as the wine is itself:  La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Rioja Spain 2001. On the shop’s website, this wine boasted a Robert Parker rating of 94 points with a review calling it “medium-bodied, velvety-textured, and already complex” and sounded like a mature wine I’d appreciate that might be very different than what others were bringing. Off I went to the gathering!

I arrived at the appointed location and was quickly introduced to those I did not know. As is always a good idea when tasting both to cleanse the palate and assist the body’s ability to process wine, we got some food and water along with our wine glasses and then opened the bottles one at a time to taste. Yes, just to taste, as in sample, not drink! There were five bottles in total, each of a different vineyard, and varying vintages. What fun!

We poured a sample, passed the bottle, looked in the glass at color, smelled the bouquet, tasted, and shared our thoughts openly. It was great fun to attend a tasting when you have no clue where the bottle came from, who bought it or what it cost, and no pressure to buy the wine, or to even enjoy it! A couple of sips and some discussion, and we were on to the next wine. I have to admit that it was even more fun not knowing what kind of stores these were from, or the price range. Everyone had their own personal reactions, some people dumped glasses quickly, others sipped delicately, thoughtfully. No one left drunk or even tipsy. Here’s the list of the wines we tasted, with a tasting note and a link for your enjoyment. I’m including my terrible camera-phone pictures for label reminders.

1. Zumaya Ribera del Duero Crianza Tempranillo 2003

Garnet color with brown edge. Zingy nose with acid and sugar- like a cherry cola, to me indicating possible TCA (aka trichloroanisole, or cork taint). Very fruit forward, overly ripe cherry on the palate– but seems the wine is tainted or at least, turning, possible in the bottle from lack of temperature control. Overall, this was our least favorite wine. $17/bottle.



2. Termes, Numanthia 2009

Deep red in the glass with a nose of black fruit and menthol. Blackberry and black plum, touch of leather & oak. Nice texture, tannins were slow to kick in with a long, lingering finish, making the wine feel slightly provincial, thought I sense a lot of care and thought went in to making this wine. I will try the 2009 in a year, and decant first.  $30/bottle



3. Vinaguerena Denominacion de Origen Toro Barrica 2008

Nice ruby color, nose of cherry and green grass, hint of cedar. In the mouth, the cherry is forward with some raspberry and a hint of red cassis. Decent acidity but a short finish due to tannins being tight.  $16/bottle



4: La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Rioja Spain 2001

Garnet color, nose of cherry, red plum and a distinct odor of dill. In the mouth, the cherry and plum still mix together with black plum, spicy pepper, black cassis and a long finish with oak, spice box, a hint of smoky mint- perhaps cardomom. This wine does show differently than the others due to age (and the flaw in the Zumaya wine being turned) $32/bottle from Morrell, as low as $25/bottle online.



5. Grupo Yllera Tempranillo 2006

Bright ruby color with a browning edge, nose of fresh red cherry, strawberry, and sour raspberry. Hints of cacao, and oak.  Structure is good, finish is balanced. I went back for another taste (twice). $11/bottle



Of the five wines, I personally enjoyed #4 and #5 the most, but I do wonder if it was partially my palate and the process of tasting the three wines prior to #4 that assisted in that development. No matter, as I truly had a great time- this was a lovely evening and I felt honored to be brought into this group of like-minded people who all enjoyed the method of tasting and discussing without drinking to excess on an early work night. If I didn’t work most evenings, I’d want to set up an evening like this in my neighborhood, and I highly suggest that you try this with friends. The idea of tasting several bottles of a specific type of grape makes for a lot of fun, as well as being educational. It gently takes people away from their comfort zones into a playful area of exploration with no pressure to buy anything or answer to anyone in a safe environment. To me, the enormous success of this evening proves that Jimmy chose the name accurately.

In Vino Veritas Est! 

à votre santé!

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