Monday, October 16, 2017

Domain Duffour 2016 Cotes de Gascogne Blanc

Domaine DuffourCotes de Gascogne is a region for French Vin de Pays, or “country wine.” A humble origin, however, doesn’t make this wine less satisfying.

Interesting Cast Of Characters

Cotes de Gascogne is in the Gascony region in Southwest France. It produces mostly white wine – but the allowed grapes are not your typical ones. That’s what attracted me to this bottle.

The permitted white grapes include: Colombard, Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng, Len de l'El, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Muscadelle, and Ugni Blanc. So sure, you’ve heard of Sauvignon Blanc – but Len de L’El, no way. The Domaine Duffour consists of Colombard, Gros Manseng and a dash of Ugni Blanc (also known as Trebbiano).

Colombard, also called “French Colombard” was popular in California jug wines in the 1980s. It also is used in France to make Cognac.

The Judgement Of Gascogne

The Colombard on the label caught my eye and so I grabbed a bottle of the 2016 Domaine Duffour from Cellar 55 in Fuquay-Varina for about $10. It was part of my wine booty to be enjoyed at a family event in upstate New York. I had plenty of reds on hand and needed to equalize.

In the French wine world, Vin de Pays is the next step up on the ladder from table wine. It can be labelled with a geographic indication, which is usually pretty broad. Unlike the top notch AOC wines, Vin de Pays can usually be had for a song.

I recall my friend Jim, who would frequently lament that people just don’t realize how much affordable good French wine is available. I must agree. Some folks are intimidated because of the French labels with the region as opposed to the grape. Certainly the top quality French wines do carry a serious price tag. That shouldn’t deter you from scoring some excellent French wines for under $15 – and Domaine Duffour is a good example. The bargains are out there.

The Domain Duffour (we can call it the Twin-D) came through in the clutch. My family members are a diverse bunch. I needed a wine that has some degree of sophistication but also delivers easy to enjoy flavors. Check and check. This wine has juicy flavors of melon and citrus. This is a dry wine, but with mild acidity. The fruit flavors come through cleanly as this is a young wine and hasn’t undergone any oak aging.

This can be classified as a PNP (pop and pour) wine and at a price point (around $10) that you can pick up a half dozen bottles for your next party. It works well with light appetizers, vegetarian dishes, chicken or seafood. In fact, we can call this Triple-D, because Domain Duffour is a Dependable pick for your next social event.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Wine, Travel & Food News From Vino-Sphere: October 13, 2017

Ruth Gruber in Alaska, 1941-43 (portrait by unidentified photographer)

The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU Presents Ruth Gruber: Photojournalist

Ruth Gruber: Photojournalist is a new exhibition on view Oct. 16 - Jan. 7 at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU in Miami Beach. It celebrates the remarkable life, vision, and heroic tenacity of a twentieth-century pioneer and trailblazer, and is the show's southeastern U.S. premiere.

Once the world’s youngest PhD, Ruth Gruber passed away recently at the age of 105. The show features more than 60 photographs including gelatin silver prints plus an archival trove of personal letters, telegrams, printed magazines, and assorted ephemera documenting the artist’s career.

The photographs in this exhibition span more than fifty years, from Gruber’s groundbreaking reportage of the Soviet Arctic in the 1930s and iconic images of Jewish refugees from the ship Exodus 1947, to her later photographs of Ethiopian Jews in the midst of civil war in the 1980s. The museum is located at 301 Washington Avenue, in the heart of Miami Beach’s historic Art Deco District.

Dunham Releases Fall Wines

Dunham Cellars of Walla Walla has announced its fall release wines. That includes 2014 Trutina, a $29 blend of 44% Merlot 38% Cabernet Sauvignon 10% Malbec and 8% Cabernet Franc. Two other reds are being released: 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon XX ($45) and 2015 Three Legged Red ($19)

Michter’s To Release $800 Bourbon

Michter's Master Distiller Pamela Heilmann has approved the release of Michter's 25 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon to the company's distributor network for sale this November. The 2017 release marks the first bottling of Michter's 25 Year Bourbon since 2008. he proof of this 2017 release is 116.2, and the suggested U.S. retail price for a 750ml bottle is $800.

20170417_192027Breaking Ground Selected as Beneficiary at MICHELIN Guide and Robert Parker Wine Advocate Event in New York City

Michelin and Robert Parker Wine Advocate are pleased to announce that New York non-profit, Breaking Ground, will receive the proceeds from a live auction to take place on Oct. 30. The auction is a component of a gala event, hosted by Michelin and Robert Parker Wine Advocate at the Ziegfeld Ballroom. 

Attendees will have an opportunity to bid on unique travel and leisure experiences from Michelin and other participating sponsors. Since 1990, Breaking Ground has provided permanent, safe, and affordable housing and services for individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. ickets and information about the gala dinner are available on the website:  MichelinGuideGala.com

Fall surge in wine sales continues with October Signature Sale set to exceed $2 million Oct. 13-14 in Beverly Hills

More than 1,300 lots of the best of Burgundy, Bordeaux and more are poised to surpass $2 million when the gavel falls Oct. 13-14th in Heritage Auctions’ Fine Wine Auction in Beverly Hills, California, simulcast to Hong Kong. Riding the wave of momentum generated by Heritage’s September Single Owner Sale, The Romulus Collection: Rare Burgundy from a California Gentlemen which was 100% sold at nearly double its presale estimate, the October auction will feature 250 lots of First Growth Bordeaux, 40 lots of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and 30 lots of Screaming Eagle, among others.

“The Wine market has been very strong through the spring and summer, leading to some exceptional results at our previous auctions,” Heritage Auctions Fine and Rare wine Senior Director Frank Martell said. “We expect that trend to continue at this event.”

Several important private collections are featured in the October sale, including one owned by Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams. A noted philanthropist and businessman, Adams is an ardent wine collection and several lot lots such as Château Lafite Rothschild 1982 Bottle (12) (est. $22,000-30,000) are on offer.

Mysterious Musqué Clone – Once Near Extinction – Finds Its Revival

The grape growers and winemakers of the Arroyo Seco AVA, a cool climate growing region in Monterey County, California, have revitalized the once popular Musqué clone of Sauvignon Blanc, a clone which nearly fell into extinction. Today, the Musqué clone is not only surviving but thriving in the Arroyo Seco AVA, where it’s surpassed only by Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in total acreage. Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino have all taken note and are producing varietals from the clonal lines of the Arroyo Seco AVA.

The Arroyo Seco AVA benefits from a distinctive climate: plenty of sunshine and direct exposure to the Pacific Ocean, making it an ideal region for growing cool climate grapes that benefit from long hang times. he Musqué clone was imported to the area from the Viticoles d’Arboriculture at Pont-de-la-Maye in the Gironde region of France in the early 1960s by University of California at Davis’ Dr. William Hewitt. It was then popularized by Ventana Vineyards’ Doug Meador, who discovered that the Musqué clone did not show excess vegetal character in the cooler climate of Monterey County. While it was once an established variety in the area, the clone eventually fell out of popularity due to the increase of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir plantings. With 420 acres planted, 5% of the Arroyo Seco AVA is now dedicated to the variety.

Recent Heat Wave Makes for Exceptional Grape Harvest at Debonne Vineyards

The recent heat wave was a blessing for the grapes and for all the area grape farmers in Ohio’s Grand River Valley. Debonne Vineyards, Ohio's largest estate winery has over 160 acres of grapes in the region. Their team of workers began September 19th, 7 days a week until all the grapes were picked, many of those days from sun up to sun down. Gene Sigel is the vineyard manager for Debonne Vineyards and Grand River Cellars as well as owner of South River Vineyards. "The recent spell of exceptionally hot, dry weather in September has been like a gift from a fairy godmother," states Mr. Sigel. "Earlier in September we thought the grapes were on the verge of disaster with excessive acidity and low sugar creating a lack in characteristic flavor. The heat wave has allowed the grapes to dehydrate and accumulate sugar and develop the intense flavors and characteristics of our best vintages."

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Nino Franco Continues Legacy Of Premiere Prosecco In Italy’s Valdobbiadene Region

Nino FrancoYou may be familiar with Italy’s bubbly treat: Prosecco. But did you know that there is a level of high quality beyond what you usually experience? Pop a cork and read on…

Prosecco A Popular Choice

We’ve been fans of Prosecco for a long time. The main reasons are the delicious taste and a cost much lower, in general, than Champagne. You get to rock the bubbles without going broke. We had a chance to sample the Prosecco of Nino Franco during the Wine Studio educational program.

Prosecco, the sparkling wine specialty of the Veneto region of Italy, is made by a different process than Champagne. Carbon dioxide gas is a natural byproduct of fermentation. Most sparkling wine undergoes a second fermentation to create the bubbly beverage. For Champagne, the second fermentation is in the bottle. Prosecco uses the Charmat method whereby the second fermentation happens in a pressurized tank. Numerous high quality sparkling wines are made with this method.

Stepping Up In Quality

In Italy, the peak of wine quality is the DOCG label. This is Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, whereby you have a whole lot of people watching your back. The higher level classification is not only controlled, but the quality guaranteed. What I didn't’ realize until our Nino Franco tasting, was the immense step up in quality DOCG Prosecco represents.

The Nino Franco winery traces its roots to 1919 when Antonio Franco founded the “Cantine Franco” winery in Valdobbiadene. Valdobbiadene is located at the foot of the Prealps, in the Venetian region, and is famous for the Prosecco vine and wine production. Nino Franco is one of the oldest wineries in the Valdobbiadene.

We had the opportunity to sample an outstanding range of wines:

  • Nino Franco Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG, SRP $27
  • Nino Franco Prosecco Rustico Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG, SRP $19
  • Nino Franco Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG 2016, SRP $29
  • Nino Franco Grave di Stecca Brut Sparkling 2010, SRP $49

SteccaPopping The Cork On Nino Franco

Leading off our exploration of Nino Franco was the Prosecco Brut Superiore. The Glera grapes for Prosecco Superiore are grown on the wild, steep hills in Valdobbiadene, as contrasted with non-Superiore Prosecco which comes from low-lying valleys. Terroir does make a difference as the quality upgrade was noticeable on the first frothy sip. This wine has crisp apple flavors with bubbles that stream and disappear quickly.

The Rustico name is connected to the old local tradition of making wine with a short second fermentation and leaving sediment in the wine. That’s no longer the technique, but the name remains. Rustico has a nice creamy froth and a balanced flavors. Like the Brut, this has an 11% alcohol content.

We continued to climb the quality ladder with the Primo Franco Prosecco Superiore 2016. “Under the hood” I got a surprise. The wine is sealed with a metal clasp called an agrafe. After a few minutes of puzzlement I pried the agrafe off with a knife – nothing could stop me from the prize! This bottle offered wave after wave of perlage (those wonderful bubbles) and had a creamy foam. This was savory and nutty adding to a delightful sipping experience.

The pinnacle of our tasting was the Grave di Stecca 2010. To add to the allure, this is packaged in a yellow cellophane wrap. Unwrapping it built the anticipation. This Prosecco stood alone in the quartet we tried. The seven years of aging ratcheted up the complexity. The bouquet combines fresh fruit and herbs.

In the glass, the Grave di Stecca offers a minerally flavor with some chalkiness. It has additional aging on the lees (the dead yeast cells) and that adds wonderful savory notes. On the palate it is remarkably smooth. It was a golden experience to be sure.

Nino Franco Prosecco has received a multitude of awards and it is easy to see why. Each bottle was crafted to produce a delicious experience. The pricing is such that opening a bottle doesn’t need to wait for a special occasion. Even the highest priced bottle we enjoyed is under $50. We highly recommend the wines of Nino Franco and want to nudge you to step up from the basic Prosecco to the DOCG Prosecco Superiore of Valdobbiadene.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Kosher Wines Breaking Geographic and Style Boundaries

Kosher Wines - Carey Nershi

If your perception of Kosher wine is fixated on that sweet bottle of Manischewitz from years ago, you should know that times have changed. It is now produced in every conceivable style and not only in Israel but throughout the world, including premium wine areas like Napa Valley and St-Emilion.

Kosher Wine Quality: Onward And Upward

In decades past, Kosher wine was associated with sweet Concord wine from wineries founded by Jewish immigrants to New York. Starting in the 1980s, the upgrading of the Israeli wine industry and a focus on producing dry, premium wines changed the picture entirely. Starting in 2000, the number of wineries in Israel doubled in just five years. Today, Israel produces nearly 36 million bottles of wine annually.

We recently had the chance to taste three bottles that show the quality and breadth of available Kosher wines. Each has a price tag of under $20.

Three Continents, Three Wines

Our trio of wines from Royal Wine Corp. included Carmel 2016 Selected Mediterranean Blend, Shomron, Israel; Herzog 2016 Late Harvest Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, CA; and Terra di Seta 2013, Chianti Classico. We have North America, Europe and Asia represented. A good thing too, because I took the bottles to a family event with a wide range of palates.

The Selected Mediterranean Blend is a mix of 45% Shiraz, 30% Carignan, 20% Petite Sirah and 5% Viognier. That’s an awesome assortment of grapes. Noteworthy is the inclusion of Viognier, a white grape, in this red blend. Adding Viognier to Shiraz (aka Syrah) is a time-honored practice in France’s Rhone region.

Royal Wines - Dave Nershi“Evaporating” almost immediately in a swarm of family and friends, the Selected blend proved very popular. It is light with a bit of fruitiness. We enjoyed it with some vegetarian spinach puffs and assorted cheeses. Shomron is is the largest wine-growing region in Israel, running along the coast from south of Haifa down to Tel Aviv. Carmel is one of Israel’s top wineries.

Chianti Classico is one of our favorite wines. Chianti is primarily Sangiovese, a luscious grape. Just thinking about it gives me the itch to find a corkscrew. Chianti Classico must contain at least 80% Sangiovese and come from the historic heart of the Chianti region.The Terra di Seta was my first Kosher Chianti, and it didn’t disappoint, with a medium body and tart cherry flavors.

Our last wine was reserved for dessert. The Herzog Late Harvest Chenin Blanc was a delightful pairing with a chocolate layer cake with white frosting, prepared by talented niece Carey Nershi – who also provided the feature photo at the top of this article. The residual sugar is 11.5%. Paired with the cake, the sweetness was tempered and made for a perfect match. The Herzog was light and balanced, not weighty and syrupy. The taste is of crisp apples and pear with a round and pleasant finish.

These wines are perfect for holiday entertaining. Jewish or not, you’ll enjoy the quality and food-friendliness at a great QPR (quality price ratio).

Full disclosure: We received these wines as a marketing sample. 


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Locations New Zealand NZ6 Sauvignon Blanc

Locations NZ 2Locations Wine has made its name by blending appellations – mixing wine from across a country’s most famous regions. Its first edition of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc comes from a lone appellation – can you guess where?

All Marlborough All The Time

We are lovers of Sauvignon Blanc. My favorite white is still Dry Riesling, but the Green Dragon has a yen for Sauvignon Blanc. She passed the tipping point a long time ago and is “all in” on Sauvignon Blanc.

We recently tried a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, which I rated quite good. Green Dragon wrinkled her nose and said, “Of course it isn’t as good as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.”

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – specifically from the Marlborough region – is one of the world’s most popular wines. Locations Wine by Dave Phinney recently launched its NZ Sauvignon Blanc, and we were at the front of the line to give it a try.

Blending Valleys

Location Wines is known for mixing up blends from entire states or countries. It’s CA red blend from California, for example, sources grapes from Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and the Sierra Foothills. In doing so, they attempt to capture the essence of California. It’s a formula that has worked, especially when their line of world-class wines is so affordable.

The Locations NZ, adorned in the familiar “bumper sticker” label, breaks the mold. They stay right at home in the Marlborough appellation. That’s fine with us, since it is one of our favorite regions.

What they do instead is blend grapes from the two major valleys in Marlborough, Wairu and Awatere, with grapes from the southern valley of Waihopai. The differing characteristics add up to a nicely complex glass.

In the glass Locations NZ is brilliant pale yellow. On the nose are the hallmark crisp grassy aromas. On the palate this 100% Sauvignon Blanc is crisp with lemon overtones. While having a nice dollop of acidity, this isn’t as biting as some of the edgier Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs. It has ample lush tropical fruit flavor notes served up with clean minerality.

Fermenting in stainless steel keeps the flavors pure and focused. While no date is noted, the NZ6 designation indicates this is a 2016 vintage. It’s designed to drink in the near term. At the SRP of $19.99, that’s easy to do – again and again.

Locations wine, including the new NZ release, is a quality lineup at a very affordable price. You can travel the world without busting your budget. Next stop? New Zealand!

Full disclosure: This wine was received as a marketing sample.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Big Six Grape Varieties

We've been travelling the globe - so while we recover from jet lag, we are republishing one of our first posts. A look at the Big Six wine grapes.

Many factors influence the taste of wine: winemaker techniques such as aging in oak barrels as well as climate and soil. Nothing, however, is more important than the grape itself. Here is a brief description of the top six grapes, also known as the “noble grapes."

White Wine

Chardonnay:

The top selling varietal wine in the world. Usually fermented or aged in oak barrels. For those who do not like the oaky taste, try unoaked Chardonnay aged in stainless steel vats. Has a fruity taste with a flavor of apples, peaches or tropical fruit. Oak can give a buttery taste. Most popular in California, the Burgundy and Champagne regions of France, Northeastern Italy and Australia. For an introduction to Chardonnay, try Chateau St Jean Chardonnay or one from Columbia Crest Grand Estates.

Riesling:

Light bodied and loaded with tangy apple, floral, lime, melon or mineral flavors. These wines can range from very dry to sweet, so experiment to try one that suits your palate. Germany is the traditional source of great Riesling. Also popular in the Alsace region of France, Austria, the Niagara region of Ontario and the Finger Lakes region of New York. Good for every day drinking but classy enough for special events. For an introduction to Riesling, try a Clean Slate Riesling from Germany. To truly rock, try Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes).

Sauvignon Blanc:

Sauvignon Blanc can have a vastly different flavor depending on where it is grown. Look for zesty flavors of grapefruit and citrus or herbal tones. This grapes popularity is on the rise and some outstanding values can be had for under $15. In some areas of California the wine is called Fumé Blanc. Most popular in New Zealand, California and the Bordeaux region of France. For an introduction to this grape, try Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc or Dry Creek Vineyard Fumé Blanc.

Red Wine

Cabernet Sauvignon:

Cab is one of the most popular red grapes. It is used to produce more wine than any other red grape and is frequently blended with other grapes. Some of the most famous Cabernets come from Bordeaux in France, Sonoma and Napa in California as well as Washington State and Italy. There are some great values coming from Chile. Known for a dark berry flavor (black cherry, blackberry) as well as earthy tones such as cocoa, leather even tobacco. These flavors are often blended in complex layers. Usually aged in oak barrels. For an inexpensive introduction, try a Blackstone Cabernet or a Columbia Crest Vintner’s Reserve. For a mountaintop experience, try a 2003 Jordan Cabernet. Medium to full body.

Merlot:

Medium body with soft texture. Notes of plum and berry fruit flavor. Prevalent in Washington State, California (Napa and Sonoma) and Chile. Most Merlots are modeled after wines from its home of Bordeaux. Most Merlot growers blend in Cabernet Sauvignon or other grapes. The price can range widely. For an introduction, try a Kenwood Merlot or one from Beaulieu Vineyard Coastal Estates. For a great Merlot, try California's Duckhorn. Has a similar taste to Argentinean Malbec.

Pinot Noir:

The Pinot Noir grape is difficult to grow, but when grown well, they make some of the world’s best wine. Popular in Burgundy (France), Australia, Oregon (Willamette Valley) and California. It makes a medium to light bodied wine with flavors of red berries (cherry, raspberries) also plum. For an introduction, try a Sterling Vintner’s Reserve or an A to Z Pinor Noir from Oregon. Ken Wright Cellars in Oregon produces top flight Pinot.
These are admittedly just thumbnail sketches, but hopefully a launching point for you if you haven’t yet sampled all of the Big Six.

Photo by ndrwfgg

Monday, September 25, 2017

Aila 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley

Aila Sauvignon BlancChile stretches almost 3,000 miles in length. Although Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted grape variety by far, cool climate areas are producing classy white wines.

A Need For Balance

Around Vino-Sphere world headquarters (aka our house) our wine stash can get out of balance. We’re probably not unique. The reds, in general, can be laid down for a year, sometimes several, to reach their prime. Whites, on the other hand, aren’t usually designed to age.

As a result, the whites are chilled down and consumed before the bottle can gather any dust. In our new state of North Carolina, there has been a great deal of heat – and a crisp white refreshes more than a heavy red. With this thought in mind, I decided I needed to add a few whites to our stockpile.

Going Down South To Chile

Seeing a Labor Day clearance sale on the Invino flash site, I spied the Aila 2015 Sauvignon Blanc from Chile  for about $11 – almost half price. I decided to pick up three bottles.

Chile is long and narrow, with a length of 3,000 miles, but rarely more than 100 miles wide. It has three major geographic divisions, Costa (Coast), Andes (for the famous mountain range) and Entre Cordilleras (between the mountains, for those areas between the low coastal range and the Andes). A number of rivers slice the country horizontally running from the Andes west to the sea.

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The Leyda Valley is a zone within the San Antonio Valley in the south part of the Aconcagua region. Leyda has granite-based soils and a windy climate. It’s known for producing highly regarded white wines. That’s what caused me to pull the trigger on this trio of wines.

Aila: The Sacred Word

In the Mapuche dialect, Aila is a sacred word meaning nine. The Aila winery, in order to “balance the universe” and honor the Mapuche legacy, planted their vineyard nine miles from the coast and divided it into nine blocks of nine rows each. The winery focuses on two cold climate varieties: Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. It is an enterprise of Santa Ema wines, one of the top wineries in Chile.

With our wine properly chilled, we were ready to see if my three-bottle gambit paid off.

In the glass the wine is light yellow with an aroma of cut grass, a hallmark of Sauvignon Blanc. The body is light, but that’s where the similarity with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc comes to an end.

The flavor profile offers grapefruit and Meyer lemon. It also has an unusual and engaging aftertaste. Green Dragon and I tried unsuccessfully to categorize it.

I pulled out my Les Nez Du Vin aroma kit to try to pin it down. The winner? blackcurrant bud, although Green Dragon didn’t fully agree. It has a unique freshness, with ample minerality and a satisfying juiciness.

The verdict from me is two thumbs up. Green Dragon is still wedded to her New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, so it may take the second or third bottle to fully win her over.

We’d recommend wines from Chile, and specifically Leyda Valley, as great values and well-crafted flavors. Stock up in quantity!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Wine, Travel & Food News From Vino-Sphere: Sept. 23, 2017

Rioja VineyardRioja Wine Harvest Festival

What could be more exciting than a Spanish festival where people parade around in costumes with monstrous heads as the town celebrates with music, fireworks, dancing and tapas? Adding gallons and gallons of extraordinary Rioja wine to this already fun-filled event! Logroño is the site of this famous festival, which took place this week. Visitors are treated to plenty of Rioja wine as it takes center stage during the entire week. On Saturday night during the event, musicians, children and people wearing big-headed costumes, also known as the Cabezudos, all gather at the Town Hall. From there, they parade to the Gran Via, the famous wine fountain that spews “wine” high into the sky in honor of Saint Matthew. But don’t be fooled, the fountain isn’t actually spitting wine into the sky – that would be a waste! It’s actually water dyed red, pink and white to symbolize the different wines of Rioja.

Esterel SofitelSofitel Los Angeles At Beverly Hills Wine Days

Now through October 31st, Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills will celebrate elegant French culture through traditional wine harvesting in partnership with Trinchero Family Estates and Kobrand Corporation, with their sixth edition of annual wine and gastronomy festivities held at all properties of the French hospitality chain.

Riviera 31, Sofitel Los Angeles’ iconic bar lounge, has an exclusive Sofitel Wine Days fine wine selection featuring a Charles & Charles Art Den Hoed Riesling (WA, USA), a Louis Jadot Chardonnay (Burgundy, France), a 815 Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon (CA, USA) and a Villa Nozzole Classico Docg 2014 Chianti (Tuscany, Italy). A delicious wine pairing menuis available at Esterel Restaurant, Sofitel Los Angeles’ signature California-French bistro, featuring exclusive dishes highlighted in the new fall/winter menu. It incorporates strong autumn flavors with garlic and truffle, and seasonal ingredients like root vegetables and squash.

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Tiamo Receives Coveted IMPACT Hot Prospect Award for Second Consecutive Year

For the second consecutive year, Tiamo, an Italian wine brand made from organically farmed grapes imported by Illinois-based Winesellers, Ltd., has been awarded the prestigious IMPACT “Hot Prospect” from M. Shanken Communications, Inc. for 2016.  The achievement is based on multi-year sales growth and performance in the U.S. market and follows the brand’s recognition in 2015. “Tiamo is an innovating and modern brand that is constantly creating exciting varieties that showcase the rich diversity of Italian wines,” said Jordan Sager, VP of Winesellers, Ltd.

Maiden + Liberty Releases New Cabernet Sauvignon

Family-owned and operated Long Island winemakers, Maiden + Liberty, has added a new bottle to its catalogue presenting a 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in stainless steel with oak chips and made from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and 15% Syrah grapes. With intense dark fruit flavours of blackberry and blackcurrant with a note of violet, the wine produces a unique combination of flavour intensity and freshness – typical of the altitude at which it was grown on the hills north of Montpellier, France. The bottles retail between $15 and $25.

In addition to increasing its catalogue, Maiden + Liberty has continued to grow its presence in the Long Island and New York City wine community. Along with participating in several tasting events throughout the fall, M+L has been continuing its philanthropic, donating more than $4 million to support innovative research and education.

knapp production teamMeet the Knapp Winery Production Team

Knapp Winery in the Finger Lakes has announced their new production team. Joining the Knapp winemaking team is “professor of winemaking,” Steve DiFrancesco, and new winemaker- Rachel Hadley, and Vineyard Manager, Chris King (not in picture-out tending the grapes). In addition, they have a new cellar worker in Scott Van Patten. 

Harvest Report from Alsace: Domaine Paul Blank & Fils

“The crush kicked off on Monday the 4th of September with the Pinot Noir grapes, racked 10 days later. The grapes were healthy and well-ripened with good acidity. They were followed by the very nice Auxerrois vineyards, the extracted juice of which was less than usual. Some parcels of Gewurztraminer were picked mid-September, in light of their superb maturity and limited number of berries due to frost, followed by the early ripening varieties - Chasselas and Muscat. The cool nights and sunny mornings allowed the fruit to gradually mature. The must is fruity and boasts nice freshness. The traditional Pinot Gris grapes (Patergarten) were healthy and did not mind the quick outbursts of rain (short showers, sometimes hail). Their impressive density associated with superb acidity will ensure balance, thereby producing fine wines, well suited to food. The Crus were followed by the Riesling Grands Crus - terroir wines which are auguring well for the future. Stay tuned… The springtime was tormented. Wind and fluctuating temperatures at the end of March damaged the vines, which were affected by frost, moths and uprooted shoots. Light rain following the high peaks of temperature during the summer were beneficial for the vineyards of Alsace, thereby avoiding the drought. The vintage is early and beautifully made, despite the small harvest” explained Philippe Blanck.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Crocker & Starr 2008 Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley

Crocker & Starr CorkCabernet Franc is a parent grape of Cabernet Sauvignon (along with Sauvignon Blanc). This is one of our favorite red grapes and we may love it more than its offspring.

A Vintage Cabernet Franc Treat?

Occasionally the Green Dragon can be demanding. My wife got the nickname because she sometimes breathes fire – especially if she doesn’t have wine. “Do you have some wine to open?”

Well, of course I do. Although my wine collection is in a bit of disarray after our relocation to North Carolina this summer. In Ohio all my bottles were neatly organized into wine racks in the cellar (although the Dragon may dispute “neatly”). The bottles were all cataloged in Cellar Tracker.

In our new home there is no basement and, alas, no actual cellar. I’ve got a wine room, but the delivery of my wine fridge has been delayed. So at this point, the wine is mostly stacked in cartons. Heeding the call to action, I reached blindly into a box and pulled out this 2008 Crocker & Starr Cabernet Franc.

Crocker & StarrYou Can’t Always Get What You Want

I bought the bottle at Zinful, when the wine bar was still located in Waterville, Ohio. They closed that location and were selling some appealing bottles at great discounts. I picked this one for $50, which was a savings of more than $10. It was good news all around because Zinful later opened in downtown Perrysburg and is doing exceedingly well.

Green Dragon and I wanted a premium Cab Franc experience. But the Stones nailed it when they sang, “you can’t always get what you want.”

Upon opening, the wine was fairly “hot” then settled down with swirling and a bit ‘o time. On the palate I was hoping for a revelation of flavor, but all the notes were muted – like a trumpet being played through a box of Kleenex. Up front there was a bit of earth and dust with an ultra-smooth texture.

The mid-palate had fading red berries. The finish was non-existent. It was like a skyrocket that fizzles on the launching pad.

Looking back at my notes, I see this had a drinking window through 2017. That’s only a guide, and many wines go well beyond their suggested “drink by” date. Not this one. While not spoiled or bad, it was simply unremarkable.

A 2014 or 2015 Cabernet Franc from the Finger Lakes or Ontario would have delivered Cab Franc goodness for less than half what I paid. This is a highly rated wine, so perhaps our bottle simply reached the end of its trail.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Brewery Bhavana Bolsters Raleigh Dining Scene With Curious Blend Of Food, Beer And Atmosphere

Brewery BhavanaDo a brewery, bookstore and florist shop belong together? Heck, yes! Brewery Bhavana has burst on the Raleigh dining scene as one of the country’s best new restaurants.

A New Triangle Destination

One of the reasons we relocated to the Raleigh area is the great dining and entertainment scene. So we were delighted when friends Linda and Eric invited us to check out Brewery Bhavana, the hottest new eatery in North Carolina’s Triangle region.

So difficult is it to get reservations, that our reservations were at 5:15. So funky is Brewery Bhavana that arriving at an early hour with time to browse around is a good thing.

Brewery Bhavana, owned by brother and sister duo  Vanvisa and Vansana Nolintha, combines a tap room, flower shop and book store. The restaurant opened in March and has been named one of the top new restaurants (number 10) in the United States by Bon Appétit. The Nolinthas are the team behind the popular Bida Minda Laotian restaurant next door.

Floating Zen Garden Of Tranquility

Now, I’m not sure there is such a thing as a floating Zen garden of tranquility – but that’s what the interior design of Brewery Bhavana brought to mind. It has a clean aesthetic with round lighting globes and an organic looking chandelier. Even the tap room has smooth granite lines with tap handles protruding from the wall sans tacky beery advertising. The flower shop and book store blend seamlessly into the dining space, bringing strikingly beautiful flowers and quirky and fascinating books into the dining experience.

Brewery Bhavana dinnerWe enjoyed the chic but not ostentatious setting while waiting for Eric and Linda. They got hung up in traffic, and so we browsed the book selection and ordered a couple of beers.

Beers at Bhavana are brewed under the guidance of Patrick Woodson at their private production brewery down the street. They have 10 core beers and a slew of provisional beers to round out their 40 taps.

I started with Plow, an American Pale Ale that they term a “gracious pale ale.” The Green Dragon opted for the Sow, a Belgian Pale Ale. These were fresh and frothy, just what we needed to take the edge off a long day.

Dim Sum Dynamics

The specialty of Brewery Bhavana, aside from its beer, is dim sum. Dim sum is Chinese “small bites” usually served in steamer baskets or small plates. In other words, they are perfect for tapas-style sharing.

When the rest of our party arrived, we ordered a first round of dishes. When visiting tapas restaurants, we’ve found its good to order a few dishes to start – if it’s obvious that everyone is famished and the food is disappearing rapidly, you can order more. What we like about dim sum and tapas, is that it is more social. Everyone is trying the same thing as opposed a meal where everyone gets one dish and someone might get stuck with a bummer entrée.

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Our first volley included pan-fried shrimp and corn cakes with ginger and a chive sauce, edamame and ginger dumplings, chicken curry bao and Jiaozi chicken dumplings. Perfectly hydrated with ample beers, we began to sample the cuisine. All the dishes were impeccably plated and our eyes enjoyed the artistry before we dug in. We gamely tried the chopsticks, but for some of these dishes, they needed an assist from the knife and fork.

Bhavana Brewery decorThe shrimp and cork cakes were winners as was the chicken curry bao dumplings. The chicken curry dish offered a pop of heat at the end, and so was a great match with our beer (who knew?). Eric is a fan of heartier beers and his selections included the Imperial Stout, deep and dark with a slightly sweet taste. Linda tried the Wilt, a cherry-smoked quadrupel beer with an enchanting smoked flavor.

We had a second round of dim sum and this time our choices included spinach curry puffs and my favorite of the evening, scallion pancakes with oxtail in bone marrow and coconut-soy jam. This latter dish pushed all the right buttons. The marrow was artfully blended with the jam to create an explosion of flavor that was a spot on pairing with the pancakes. The pancakes provided a contrast in flavor and textures.

The food, service and décor of Brewery Bhavana strikes the right balance of being upscale, but accessible – a cool place for outstanding craft beer after work, or the destination for a special dinner out. We raise our chopsticks in salute and give our hearty recommendation.