Category Archives: Sip reviews

Two French Rosés and a Portuguese White to Enjoy This Summer

Rosé is probably the most subjective wine that catapults conversations and arguments among wine drinkers. Considered the summertime sip, there are variations on the winemaking methods and grapes used to create a ballet-pink to jewel-ruby color wine, best served chilled.

As a fan of Alsace wines, I wasn’t surprised to fall in love with a 2017 Gustave Lorentz Pinot Noir – Le Rosé, even though I prefer Grenache rosés. Pretty as a perfume bottle, its shape and label match the elegant palate of soft and supple femininity. I would suggest sipping this throughout summer, and stocking up isn’t going to break the bank, either. Depending on where you purchase this wine, it ranges from $13 up to $19.99 per bottle. It also pairs well with barbecue, roasted meats salads, light cheeses, non-spicy Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Indian foods. Win-win.

FERRY HAEDUS ROSE_trans.png

Next, a bottle of Chateau Ferry Lacombe Haedus Rosé 2017, Cotes de Provence (AOP) France sets the stage for rosé excellence. I gave this wine five stars on Vivino because of color, clarity and taste. All magnificent. Fifty percent Grenache, 25 percent syrah, 15 percent cinsault and 10 percent vermentino work for me. The soft pink/peach color leads to a delicate taste of raspberry and strawberry mixed with some freshly-picked white and citrus fruits. Served best as an aperitif, but if you must sip with food, choose white meats or grilled fish, mixed salads, paella or Thai satay. Priced at $21.99 a bottle, you’ll want to savor this one.

Now we’ll head to Portugal for a 2016 Vila Nova Vinho Verde (DOC) made with 50 percent Loureiro, 30 percent Arinto and 20 percent Avesso grapes. Priced at $11.99, you get what you pay for with this bottle. It’s a bit Vila_Nova_Verde_BFfrizz-forward upon opening, but once it relaxes, it offers a fresh, tropical fruit palate. Best served with shellfish and vegetarian dishes (sushi).

 

www.quintessentialwines.com

 

Advertisements

Two wines, Two Angels

Jacob DeBacker’s artistic interpretation of the Two Angels label of Lake County, California is a yin-yang for oenophiles; it depicts the hilarity of inebriation and the trauma of the morning after. In my own yin-yang evaluation of one white and one red, I came to the following conclusions:

#1 – Two Angels Sauvignon Blanc made from grapes grown in High Valley, California, proved to be a lovely 2017 vintage priced at approximately $15. I enjoyed sipping this fruit-forward wine and was informed that it is reminiscent of the Rhone Valley’s Crozes-Hermitage vineyards, which are in the northern region opposite of where the best Rhone grapes are grown. This French region uses white grapes as a blend in the red wines. High Valley in Lake County, California offers red volcanic soils from the hillsides while the valley floor provides well-drained beds for the vines.

What makes this wine special is the winemaking technique of leaving a percentage of sur lies, as it adds a silky-ness while keeping it crisp. I give it three stars.

#2 – Two Angels Petite Syrah made from grapes grown in Red Hills of Lake County, California is a 2015 vintage. What you need to know is that in 2015, Lake County experienced a horrific fire storm. I was eager to see what resulted in the finished product, especially knowing a bottle is priced at approximately $25.

Upon a pour, this was as inky as a petit syrah should be in color, but it fell flat after the start. It was texturally rich but with a band-aid finish, sort of like a dead end, devoid of fruit. It was an abrupt end to a good start. It was more a beverage than a wine. I give it two stars. I do look forward to the next few vintages to taste a difference.

The ‘Little Rascal’ of Northern Italy

The scent of honeysuckle thrills me. Italy thrills me. Wine thrills me. And I was able to embrace all three pleasures in a bottle of 2016 Langhe Arneis (DOC) from Luca Bosio Vineyards in Piedmont, Italy.

As one of the most acclaimed Old World wine regions in Italy, Piemonte (Piedmont) is located in the northwest corner, and is a region most notable for its Barolo wines. In Italian, Langhe Arneis means “little rascal”, which is a good way to describe this grape and the winemaking method where technology and rural tradition co-exist.

Valter and Luca Bosio, father and son, with Rosella, mother and wife, manage Bosio Family Estates. The Bosio’s winemaking philosophy is about sharing a heritage: “It’s our style, style of people who like to cultivate the vineyards and make wine, an old and tiresome ritual that is patrimony of everybody, as the piedmontese landscape is.”

I was ready to pour a glass. The first thing I noticed was this deep straw yellow color, which may be a result of the young winemaker’s method of 24-hour arneis grape skin contact. Next, I inhaled the aroma, and its floral scent gave way to a fruity taste of apricots, pineapple and peaches, which explains why this wine would pair well with white fish, chicken, pork and savory vegetable dishes.

I was ready to pair with dinner, but all I had was a slice of pepperoni pizza. This was not a good pairing because the red sauce heightened the acid component a bit too much for my taste. Next time, I’ll try it with white fish.

Now that I’ve sipped this Piedmont arneis, I’ve established an introduction to the Langhe region. Eventually, I hope to visit Piedmont, Italy, so that I might taste more of its wines. Until then, cheers!

Déjà vu through Cremant d’Alsace Rosé

To converse about sparkling wine, one has to be willing to share personal experiences that most often involve a memorable moment of celebration. It doesn’t always have to involve celebration, though. It could simply convey an emotion you recall when you first sipped a particular wine. Perhaps the sunshine felt especially comforting, or a particular scent permeated the air that you pick up in the wine’s aroma, or the minerality of a wine connects you to the soil and rainfall experienced during a visit to the vineyard where those grapes were grown.

Wine déjà vu is interesting, and when I opened a bottle of Cremant d’Alsace Rosé produced by Gustave Lorentz, the group who sipped this sparkling pinot noir had much to share. My personal reaction was more about Alsace, a region in France I did not get to visit during my year living in Paris. Once I tasted this sparkling brut made in “Methode Champenoise”, my desire surged for a visit to explore Alsace.

A oenophile friend among my group of tasters had visited Alsace, so it brought her the opportunity to share details of her travels and love of cremant. Another in our group is a huge fan of rosé wine, so she was thrilled once she tasted the Alsace cremant and realized a new discovery to add to her wine collection.

We sipped this refined aperitif (valued ~$30/bottle) at the start of a dinner party, and it was perfect in its reception, both in its fresh and subtle fruit taste, and in its chilled serving as a toast to a wonderful evening. This pale, straw-colored sparkling is definitely worthy of opening at the start of any dinner party, if only to see where the conversation goes.

For more information on Gustave Lorentz, visit http://www.gustavelorentz.com. 

Silver Trident wines: A blend of symphony and the sea, Old World & New World

Throughout the Napa Valley, wine novices and oenophiles associate cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay as world-class wines to explore within the 400-plus wineries in the region. But in the heart of the Napa Valley, Yountville, the small town with a population in the mid-2,000, is all about luxury boutique wineries. Silver Trident is no exception.

Open shy of three years, the Silver Trident name is a nod to Neptune, and associated with the owner’s ancillary businesses in luxury Virtuoso and Oceania Cruise line.

Private tasting roomBecause Yountville has an ordinance in place that requires wineries to offer a percentage of retail, Silver Trident is adorned with the interior design of Ralph Lauren. With its muted neutral shades of upholstery and tartan wallpaper, seemingly endless crystal accessories and framed photographs of artfully colored sea turtles and retro-glamour photographs, a tasting at Silver Trident feels like a visit to someone’s home, except that each item is priced for potential purchase, including the tasting plates. The intent of tasting in someone’s living room is to eliminate any intimidation.

To set the stage for this wine-tasting experience, please know that the winemaking style of Silver Trident is Old World, but with New World grapes.

Lori and Cheryl - CheersMy trio headed to the larger dining room to take our seats for a wine/food pairing experience that began with a tasting of pinot of rosé made in the Provence style. Ooh la la, it was perfection, and I was surprised I loved it even though it wasn’t made with Grenache. Next, a taste of spring: A sip of 2017 sauvignon blanc with the label Symphony No. 9 (named after the owner’s love of music), paired with a small spoonful of goat cheese and fresh yogurt, courtesy of Sarah Scott, the winery’s chef and caterer.

Taking things up a notch, a Dijon, France clone of pinot noir grown in the Russian River in Sonoma County is a label Silver Trident calls “Benevolent Dictator”. The 2015 is a taste of some of the most sought out fruit in Sonoma. Sipping this wine felt like rose petals falling on my palate. Yes, the tannins were that soft.

A 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon labeled “Twenty Seven Fathoms” mimics marine depth. We enjoy this 100% varietal with an aged Gouda, butter and sea salt biscuit.

It’s no wonder there is a long list of wine club members who receive shipments of the eclectic wines of Silver Trident Winery. Please visit http://www.silvertridentwinery.com for more information.

Best of Santa Barbara Wine Tasting Party

Distinguished university Professor Kirshenblatt-Gimblett described wine tasting as an event: “It matures over the years and changes even in a few hours. It is an event. Even a single taste can be like an act in a play that is as long as the life of the vintage.”

Perhaps wine opens doors of communication relative to taste and travel, and with discussions revolving around Old World and New World wines, it’s the stuff of wine tasting parties. Have you ever been to a blind tasting party? If not, now is your chance to create your own with help from Boutique Wine Club. Its Boutique Wine Sampler features 6 ultra-premium, small-production wines in small bottles that serve 2.5 glasses each.

I enjoyed a sample pack of wines from Santa Barbara, one of my favorite destination spots in California. I would recommend most of the 6 bottles I sipped, and I would recommend setting up a tasting party of up to 12 (one-ounce pours). Once each taster has breathed in the wine’s aroma, a taste and swirl around the mouth and over the front and back of the tongue is next, followed by a swallow to consider the tastes that surface. The best part is the discussion.

While I might believe E11even, An Andrew Murray Production of Chenin Blanc 2016 from Santa Ynez Valley with its rich and luxurious texture and melting flavors of melon and citrus fruit was the best wine out of the pack, it could also be argued that Blair Fox Cellars 2016 Petite Sirah of Santa Barbara County, with its luscious dark berry flavors and finish of earthy herbal notes performed best.  Or perhaps the 2017 Larner Rosé of Santa Barbara County was a favorite for anyone who loves raspberries and a crisp wine on a warm day.

Once I tasted all six wines, I realized that my personal taste preference is for wines of Santa Ynez Valley. I loved that Chenin Blanc, as well as the 2016 Carr Cabernet Franc with elements of white pepper and spice mixed with raspberry. Did I mention that all of the wines in the sampler pack have been rated 90+ points within Santa Barbara? And there’s more. With each pack, you get a 12-page full-color tasting guide profiling each wine, winemaker and region, plus food pairing tips, recipes and tasting notes, a tour guide map to Santa Barbara County and its unique wine growing areas, and a custom placemat with instructions for hosting your own wine tasting party.

Visit BoutiqueWineBox.com and join the Wine Club so you can begin receiving shipments on a regular basis to plan your wine-tasting parties!

A glacially-refreshing bubbly

During Napa Valley Restaurant Week, I visited four Up Valley restaurants to see what the chefs have been up to, but at Acacia House in the new Las Alcobas resort located in my hometown of Saint Helena, I also took advantage of a local perk: if you live in town, you are waived a corkage fee.

To celebrate, I brought a bottle of Pata Negra (a Spanish term that translates, “highest quality”) Cava, made with organic grapes in the traditional Champagne method. This cava is now available in the U.S., by the way.

Our server opened the bottle shortly after we drank a sample glass of the bar’s signature margarita, which lived up to the rumored hype of this frothy-topped tequila goodness.

As I dipped my toast point in a bowl of creamy, salted cod, I followed with a first sip of the Barcelona-produced Pata Negra cava. One word came to mind: glacial. For the price point of $14.99 a bottle, this Catalonia cava is a refreshing teeny tiny bubbly choice for sipping a dry, slightly acidic Macabeo varietal. It paired well with our appetizer and again with a mushroom risotto topped with scallops. I would like to try another bottle with some manchego cheese.

Rooted in Spanish culture and tradition, the Barcelona-based Pata Negra winery is located atop a hill that slopes gently toward the Mediterranean Sea. Today, the winery is surrounded by an estate of 309 acres containing cabernet sauvignon, merlot, tempranillo and chardonnay vineyards. I do hope to taste their tempranillo soon.

About that label: Although it would seem the fractal label design was inspired by a giraffe, it is actually fashioned after the gate of Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Mila in Barcelona. The building is an architectural masterpiece with an undulating stone facade with twisting wrought iron balconies.

Available in Brut Reserva, Brut Rosé, Organic Brut and Organic Brut Rosé varietals, Pata Negra Cava is available online and at select retailers.

Kosher Psagot Merlot with Hanukkah latkes

Move over Manischewitz! I’ve discovered a wine that pairs best with your Hanukkah latkes, especially if you make them with lots of veggies and cheese. What goes best with these Judaic delights is Psagot’s 2014 Merlot. This wine label with the image of a Second Temple-era coin adhered to the label is produced in Israel and made from 100% Merlot grapes, aged for 13 months in French wood barrels. The bottle itself is a nice decoration for the table, with a label written in both Hebrew and English.

Flavors of dark berries and aromas of plum, cherries and leather offer a hint to what’s next… that long and lingering blackberry finish. This mellow merlot’s distinctly Israeli flavor profile also pairs well with meat dishes and will make it a unique addition to any meal. (SRP $26)

With only two nights left before Hanukkah concludes, be sure to serve a bottle of Psagot with those latkes! Happy Hanukkah to all…please enjoy this shared message of the meaning of Hanukka:

When the rabbis of Talmudic times asked, “What is Hanukkah?” their answer focused on the purification of the Temple and the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days, despite the fact that there seemed to be oil enough for only a single day. As a new spiritual leadership dealing with the religious challenge of Jewry’s survival after the loss of Jewish sovereignty and power, the rabbis stressed the divine miracle to the exclusion of military and diplomatic acts and the sovereignty exercised by the Maccabees after their victory.

Similarly, medieval Jews focused on the divine miraculous activity in Hanukkah, projecting their own sense of helplessness and their longing for the messianic redeemer to do it all for them.

By contrast, modern Zionists saw in Hanukkah a reflection of their agenda: They celebrated Maccabee military prowess and political achievement. An early secular Zionist song proclaimed that “a miracle did not happen to us, we found no cruse of oil.” To these Zionists, the Maccabees’ state-building was the eternal message of the holiday.

For modern liberal Jews, Hanukkah became the holiday of religious freedom. The Maccabee fight was presented as the uprising of a religious community against suppression. The Festival of Lights was a victory for, and a living model of, the religious tolerance that Jews sought in the modern world. To uphold this view, liberals had to filter out the fact that while the Maccabees fought for the right to practice their own religion, they were hardly pluralist. In fact, the Maccabees fought Hellenizing Jews–those who were assimilating into Greek culture–to the death and suppressed them as they achieved power.

Read more, courtesy of BeliefNet.com

 

The Upshot of Rodney Strong

Northern Sonoma County, especially Knights Valley and Alexander Valley, produce some of the best dark berry fruit for wines. Both winegrower Ryan Decker and winemaker Justin Seidenfeld have created Upshot, a Rodney Strong red blend at a reasonable price of $28. The label is a circular calendar highlighting the back story in the making of this wine, and the tagline, “Life Simply Does Not Blend Itself” is playful and approachable to wine novices and oenophiles.

Speaking of back story, the Rodney Strong story published on their website is quite interesting:

“Our story begins over 55 years ago, when a celebrated American dancer named Rod Strong settled in Sonoma County to pursue a second lifelong creative passion: winemaking. Rodney Strong Vineyards was the 13th winery bonded in the newly discovered Sonoma County wine industry. A trio of winemaking paths crossed when Rick Sayre joined the team as Winemaker in 1979, and again when the Klein Family, 4th generation California farmers, purchased the winery in 1989 and initiated a renewed commitment of modern artisan winemaking. Through the years, Rodney Strong Vineyards has earned the reputation for critically acclaimed Single Vineyard and Reserve wines, stand out Estate releases and best-in-class Sonoma County varietal wines.”

Upshot actually means, “the final or eventual positive outcome or conclusion of a discussion, action, or series of events” — and this red blend is a collaboration of the winemaking process from the 2015 harvest to the 2017 release.

Five grapes were involved in this blend: zinfandel, merlot, malbec, petit verdot and …wait for it….riesling! Says winemaker Justin Seidenfeld,

“The Upshot of blending these varietals is a wine that was made to underscore my passion for blending wine, a place that I love, and my enjoyment for this amazing life I get to live.”

I found this wine enjoyable without being pretentious… simply a good table wine priced at a great value. Just as taste sensations change in different contexts and situations, it’s interesting to note that there are white wine characteristics that come through within the deep blackberry and dark cherry burst of flavor, especially on the nose, as well as in the light tannin structure. And I enjoyed this with a variety of popcorn snacks and a turkey burger!

Visit https://www.rodneystrong.com/wines/upshot/ for more information.

Martha shares her palatable wine picks

True-to-form, Martha Stewart excels as the DIY queen for home-bodies who seek to simply decorate their surroundings or add pizzazz to dinner parties. So, it would make perfect sense for the gal who continues to experience a career as a television personality, author, publisher — not to mention her former real-life role as a white-collar criminal and amazing ability to get back in the game — to assert her notoriety and jump on the bandwagon of a trendsetting wine company!

Her website: marthastewartwine.com offers a guide for matching her suggested wines with the flavors on a dinner menu. Her tips keep in line with her brand’s mission, which is to celebrate the art of creative living, simplified. For example, she includes “Easy-to-Find cheeses That Will Work Every Time”, listing:

  • Double Gloucester
  • Sharp Cheddar
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Gouda
  • Manchego
  • Chevre
  • Brie
  • Havarti

Martha claims to have personally tasted each and every wine she’s selected from worldwide vineyards. With every order she includes a pairing chart for reds, whites and sparkling wines to highlight four choices of food pairings.

The old adage, “you get what you pay for” rings true, but there’s really nothing wrong with that if you’re seeking sips that won’t break the bank, yet are acceptable — even enjoyable.

My palate was poised for 4 bottles that included 1 Arbos Bianco of Italy, 2 French whites and 1 2014 Le Vassal De Mercues Malbec Cahors. Of the four, I would re-order the 2016 Cuvee Joelle Mauzac, a white wine from South West France that wasn’t too dry or sweet — an easy wine to drink, and absolutely order the A D’Arche White Blend Bordeaux (50% Semillon and 50% Sauvignon Blanc), a diamond in the rough with a lovely floral and citrus nose and flavor that highlights its terroir of Bordeaux minerality. I’d recommend enjoying both of these wines with smoky cheese and charcuterie.

With the holiday season swiftly approaching, giving the gift of a Martha Stewart Wine Company box is affordable and fun! You can order holiday gift packs of 4 bottles for as low as $59.95.