About Matt.mmwine

Sommelier, wine writer, and overall Motor Mouth, I appear on various TV shows, host local wine events, and write about wine, food, cocktails, family & more!
Website: http://agoodtimewithwine.com
Matt.mmwine has written 199 articles so far, you can find them below.

About Matt.mmwine

Sommelier, wine writer, and overall Motor Mouth, I appear on various TV shows, host local wine events, and write about wine, food, cocktails, family & more!

Find more about me on:

Here are my most recent posts

Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour

The Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Pavilion at Sunfest 2011

The Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Pavilion at Sunfest 2011

The old adage of “practice makes perfect” holds true, even when it comes to tasting wine. It’s only through experience that you’ll know what you like, and be able to buy wine with confidence. Dale Cruse believes that buying the perfect bottle of wine should be one of the easiest things you do. I agree with Dale, and so does the team at Robert Mondavi Winery and Constellation Brands. To prove it, they’re taking the winery experience on the road, and bringing the Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour to a festival near you.

I sat with the team at the Discover Wine pavilion from 6 until 9, and chatted about everything under the sun. During that time, we had the opportunity to of course sip on some Robert Mondavi Winery wines, including the fume blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. We then discussed the goal of the tour, which is not just to put a bug in your ear about Mondavi wines. It’s to provide an interactive educational experience that’s fun while being informative.  The tour was kicked off in Arizona on April 9th, and made it’s way to West Palm Beach for SunFest from April 29 to May 1st. It’ll stop in Dallas, Los Angeles, Denver, Atlantic City, Lenox, Royal Oak, Chicago, and wrap up in Philadelphia. And there’s some great things to encounter.

Robert Mondavi Essence Station

Robert Mondavi Essence Station

Upon entering the pavilion there is the Robert Mondavi Essence Station to experience. Taste is 80% smell, and understanding some of the typical scents a wine will have can help correlate the taste with the scent, and make it a bit easier to articulate what is in the glass. If you’ve never sniffed cassis or lemon grass, you may not understand some of the flavors in wine. The essence station had 12 different scents, from pear and vanilla to ceder and french oak, that help broaden your sniffing horizons. There are also signs explaining some of the usual aromatics wines have, both red and white, as well as a map with some California Wine Facts. I enjoy it when wineries have scent stations, and loved the one at Ehlers Estate, since they had a “barnyard” essence can!

Robert Mondavi uses iPads for Education

Robert Mondavi uses iPads for Education

After sniffing around the Robert Mondavi Discover Wine pavilion, you can stop over at the iPad station. Capitalizing on the ease of putting multimedia on the portable device, you can not only enter a contest, you can see photos of the winery and vineyards, and even email yourself recipes that the tour uses as food and wine pairing demonstrations. I don’t believe the iPad station was ever empty during the three hours I sat at the pavilion. With three iPads, there was never more than a few minutes wait to link up and learn! After signing up, an surfing around, it’s time to belly up to the wine bar and do the most fun part of the experience, taste the wines!

Tasting Robert Mondavi Wines

Tasting Robert Mondavi Wines

The tasting bar has multiple options to sip and savor from multiple Robert Mondavi wine lines. This is where you have the opportunity to do what Dale Cruse and I recommended earlier, taste different wines to see what you enjoy. You can start with some of the Woodbridge sparkling wine, because bubbles are always appropriate! They even serve it in nifty plastic champagne flutes, which I think added to the experience. They have a number of white wines to try, including the fume blanc, chardonnay and riesling. After you’ve tried those, you can sample their reds from the pinot noir to the cabernet sauvignon to the meritage, a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, malbec, and cabernet franc.

Matthew Horbund samples some Robert Mondavi meritage red wine

Matthew Horbund samples some Robert Mondavi meritage red wine

While tasting the wines, you can sit at the provided benches and tables and sip while relaxing. There’s live music in the pavilion, as well as from the surrounding music festival that creates a fun atmosphere. Additionally, you will have the chance to watch any of three different demonstrations, from Food and Wine pairing (and tasting), to a Wine 101 discussion. All of this is designed to not only be fun, but a little educational. It’s very much the experience you’d have at a winery, sampling what they have to offer, learning about the history of the people behind the wine, and walking away with some tidbits about food and wine to enjoy in the future.

Matthew Horbund sips Mondavi wines with Jaki Palacios

Matthew Horbund sips Mondavi wines with Jaki Palacios

One of the things I love about the Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour is after you have sipped and sat a spell, you can get up and walk around to enjoy the festival! It was great to walk around Sunfest, listening to live music while enjoying the vendors and food. It was my first trip to Sunfest, but it certainly won’t be my last. And you can be sure that when I attend Sunfest 2012, I’ll be stopping by the Mondavi pavilion to have a good time with wine.

 

Toast The Royal Couple With Champagne

Prince William and Kate Middleton (pic:Reuters)

Prince William and Kate Middleton (pic:Reuters)

On Friday April 29, 2011 Prince William of Wales will marry Catherine “Kate” Middleton as millions across the globe tune in. Whether you are wholly uninterested, or throwing your own Royal Wedding Party at home to watch the affair, one thing that should hold your excitement is the bubbly served at the event. There had been lot of speculation about who’s sparkler will be served, but it has been confirmed that it will be a true Champagne, from Pol Roger.

As the second largest consumer of Champagne in the world, England has a long love affair with Pol Roger Champagne. Began in 1849 in Epernay, France, Pol Roger was the Champagne of choice for Sir Winston Churchill from 1908 until his death in 1965. Sir Winston Churchill was such an influencer of the producer that upon his death in 1965 they added black borders to their lables, and in 1984 they released a prestige cuvee bearing his name. The top of the line, the Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill is a premium Champagne, bold, like the man who is it named after.

However, you do not need to be a Royal or British elite to sip and savor the bubbly served at the Royal Wedding Friday. The Pol Roger Brut Reserve White Foil is reasonably priced at approximately $40 USD, but has all of the finesse and flavor you expect from a fine Champagne. Pol Roger Champagne is imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, and distributed widely throughout the country.

While I’m sure the chef’s of the Royal Wedding will be pairing caviar with Champagne, you can pair foods with Champagne that are a little more budget friendly. Salty foods go well with brut Champagne, from smoked salmon to tater tots. I’ve served “pigs in a blanket” and a spicy brown mustard with Champagne before, knocking people’s socks off. And if you’ve watched “7 Year Itch”, the delightful Marilyn Monroe educated everyone that potato chips pair perfectly with Champagne.

I’ve put up tasting notes about Pol roger Brut Reserve White Foil Champagne before. It was part of a number of sparkling wine recommendations for Valentine’s Day. However, it can clearly be served at many, and any, occasion.

The following is a press release from the Champagne Bureau, with information about the origins of Champagne.

Comite Champagne Logo

Comite Champagne Logo

Amid the hubbub surrounding the Friday, April 29, wedding of Catherine Middleton and Prince William, one detail is not to be missed: the happy couple will be honoring tradition by serving Champagne at the reception.

England is the second largest consumer of Champagne, after France and ahead of the United States, according to the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), the trade association comprised of all the grape growers and houses in Champagne. By choosing Champagne to celebrate their marriage, Catherine and William are following the custom of many other royal weddings, including that of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.

“Champagne only comes from Champagne, France, but it is consumed around the world at celebrations large and small,” said Sam Heitner, director of the Champagne Bureau, the U.S. representative of the CIVC. “Given the prestigious nature of the occasion, it is fitting that guests at the royal wedding will have the chance to toast to the couple’s good fortune with a glass of authentic Champagne. For those of us who will be watching at home, enjoying the event with a glass of Champagne is a lovely way to join in the celebration.”

Champagne is only produced in one unique region, which covers less than 80,000 acres and lies 90 miles northeast of Paris. The grapes are handpicked and processed in accordance with strict regulations and an intricate hands-on method, carefully developed and cultivated over 300 years. While there are many other good sparkling wines produced around the world, only Champagne is the traditional wine of royal weddings and coronations.

About the Champagne Bureau

The Champagne Bureau is the official U.S. representative of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), a trade association which represents the grape growers and houses of Champagne, France. The bureau works to educate U.S. consumers about the uniqueness of the wines of Champagne and expand their understanding of the need to protect the Champagne name. For more information, visit us online at www.champagne.us. Follow us on Twitter at ChampagneBureau.

Rodney Strong Vineyards – Changing the world one bulb at a time

Rodney Strong Vineyards Green Light

Rodney Strong Vineyards Green Light

Earth Day was April 22nd, 2011, and leading up to it was a wine blogger tasting of Rodney Strong Vineyards wines. The idea behind the tasting, besides trying four of their wines, was to learn about the earth friendly initiatives Rodney Strong Vineyards have been participating in. As part of their Rodney Strong Vineyards Green Light program, which I’ll talk a bit about below, the folks at Rodney Strong Vineyards provided each of with with a CFL blub to start our own earth friendly initiatives. Oh, and the wine was pretty good too.

Rodney D. Strong founded the winery in 1959 as the 13th bonded Sonoma County winery. The Klein family, a fourth generation California agricultural family, are the current private owners. The family has implemented some environmentally friendly initiatives, such as installing a solar electric system on the top of their barrel warehouse in 2003. The system generates enough energy to power 800 homes, and their dependence on the power grid decreased by 35%. Additionally, they have installed a lighting system that uses motion sensors and energy efficient light fixtures to reduce energy use, minimizing heat output, and optimize light quality. They also own the distinction of becoming Sonoma County’s first carbon neutral winery in 2009.

Rodney Strong Vineyards Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc

Rodney Strong Vineyards Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc

While the environmentally friendly projects are exciting, we were equally excited to taste the wines. The wine tasting was a mix of two white and two red wines. First up was the Rodney Strong 2009 Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc. With a retail price of $13.50, this crisp white is all estate fruit, from a vineyard planted in 1971 in honor of Rodney Strong’s wife, Charlotte. This white wine, as well as the chardonnay I will talk about next, needed time to open up. I’m finding more white wines lately that need to sit and breathe, or aerate, to really express their nuances. Initially the wine was very grassy and green on both the nose and palate. However, after 15 minutes of opening in the glass, the nose was still a bit grassy, but tropical and grapefruit notes began to show. The palate of of the Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and light, with grapefruit and a touch of herbaceous or grassy note.  About 10% of the wine sees French oak when fermented, with malolactic fermentation giving it a rounder, more full mouth feel. The remainder of the wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks with no malolactic fermentation, retaining it’s crisp taste. An interesting wine, especially if you don’t want a fruit salad in your glass.

Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2009

Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2009

Next up was the Rodney Strong Vineyards 2009 Chalk Hill Chardonnay. In 1965, Rodney Strong was the first to plant chardonnay in what would later be recognized as the Chalk Hill American Viticultural Area (AVA). Made from 100% estate chardonnay, 86% of the wine sees malolactic fermentation and French oak aged 10 months. This gives it the rounder mouth feel and buttery quality while still retaining a portion of crisp chardonnay for balance. The nose is a buttery tropical fruit salad, and the mouth feel was indeed round, fully and silky. Up front, the palate was a subtle papaya with a tinge of oaked vanilla and spice on the finish. After over 20 minutes in the glass aerating, the palate was a bit more fruit forward, and the spice well integrated, with vanilla highlighting the fruit, rather than competing with it. Again, the Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay benefited from opening and breathing, just like the sauvignon blanc. Right out of the bottle, I would have passed on both of these whites. However, with time to open, they became very interesting and enjoyable.The Rodney Strong 2009 Chalk Hill Chardonnay retails for about $20, and while this isn’t necessarily a budget white wine, it’s certainly interesting enough to try.

Rodney Strong Reserve Pinot Noir 2008

Rodney Strong Reserve Pinot Noir 2008

This brings us to the red portion of our program, starting with the Rodney Strong Vineyards 2008 Reserve Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. With a suggested retail of $40, this red wine needed about 30 minutes of decanting, or really aerating, to show it’s full potential. The nose has great dark strawberries and a hint of cocoa on it. I loved the complexity of the wine’s bouquet. There is delicious red fruit on the palate, a burst of it at first, followed by dark and earthy on the midpalate. It was not sweet, but it was just beautiful and fresh fruit. There were secondary notes of smoke as well, which added to the complexity and enjoyment. The Rodney Strong Reserve Pinot Noir had great acidity as well, and I would happily pair this wine with anything from salmon to steak, as it truly would work with that range. The wine is aged 10 months in 100% French oak barrels, has 14.9% Alcohol by Volume, and is certainly a big, but delicious RRV Pinot Noir.

We finished up the evening of wine tasting strong, pun intended, with the Rodney Strong 2007 Symmetry Red Meritage. First, meritage is pronounced similar to heritage. The inclination is to add some French accent to the word, but don’t. Wine geeks will quickly point out the error. Second, meritage is a proprietary term used to denote red and white Bordeaux-style wines without infringing on the Bordeaux (France) region’s legally protected designation of origin. The Rodney Strong 07 Symmetry is a blend of 85% cabernet sauvignon, 10% malbec, 3% merlot, 1% cabernet franc and 1% petit verdot. It’s aged 26 months in French oak barrels, and has 15.1% ABV.

Rodney Strong 2007 Symmetry Red Meritage

Rodney Strong 2007 Symmetry Red Meritage

Now that the wine geekery is behind us, this wine was fantastic. At a suggested retail price (SRP) of $55, it’s hard for me to say you must try this wine, as it may be outside of the budget of many wine lovers. However, if you find yourself looking to splurge, or if $55 is in your wheelhouse, swing for the fences and try this wine, you’ll thank me. The bouquet of the Rodney Strong 07 Symmetry Red Meritage at first is perfume and floral, which blows off shortly and shows dark red cherries and briar or brambles on the nose. The palate shows complex layers of blackberry, coffee, dark chocolate and spices. Tim Elliot of Wine Cast reviewed the wine recently and felt the oak was a bit generous and made a strong appearance. However, he mentions that with aging, the oak will integrate well. Perhaps our palates are different, as I felt the oak was nice on this, and didn’t need to pull any splinters from my tongue.

Overall I thought the wines were well done, and enjoyed what they had to offer. I also enjoyed the follow up from the team at Rodney Strong Vineyards, saying that their Compact Florescent Light initiative had tremendous success. They had over 85,000 pledges to switch from an incandescent bulb to a CFL, and caused the program to end over two week earlier than originally expected.  I’m a big believe in CFL bulbs, and have replaced all but 4 bulbs in my house with them. I did not use the CFL that the nice folks at Rodney Strong Vineyards sent me as part of their project, and will instead find a nice home for it in a family member’s home. We all need to do our part!

Drink Ribera Grand Tasting 2011 – Miami

Ribera Del Duero

Ribera Del Duero

It’s difficult to get a taste of a wine region from one, or even two different wines from that area. Luckily, the folks at Drink Ribera are hosting Grand Tastings across the country, giving you an opportunity to taste almost 100 different wines from Ribera Del Duero. I had the opportunity to attend the launch in Miami, and am glad I did.

Focused mainly on the tempranillo grape, the tiny wine region of Ribera del Duero has approximately 120 km2 of vineyards, which could fit 16 times in California’s 1,942 km2 planted area. However, the rich wine making history, going back 2,000 years as evidenced by a recently unearthed mosaic of Baccus, has a lot to offer. Recent history of Ribera del Duero wineries begins in 1848, with the purchase of the land that is now Vega Sicilia winery.

Prior to the start of the Grand Tasting, several of the attendees began with a VIP tasting of Vega Sicilia wines, both the Valbuena as well as the Unico, their premier wine. Before the tasting, we learned about the history of Ribera del Duero, including going through the 1800s and the addition of the French and Bordeaux influence to the area. We discussed the consistent quality of wines from Ribera, independent of location and proximity to the river Duero. We went over recent vintages and their “grading”, such as 2006 being a good vintage, 2007 and 2008 being very good vintages and 2009 being excellent. These grades are a function of weather and growing conditions being such that the grapes show their fullest potential to make excellent wines.

Vega Sicilia Valbeuna

Vega Sicilia Valbeuna

When we got to discussing Vega Sicilia, we learned a lot about their selective nature. They do not bottle all of the juice their grapes produce, sending some to distillation to brandy, rather than destined for quality wine. They feel that vines are at their peak of productivity between 10 and 60 years, and do not use the vines after they reach 60.  The Valbuena wines are from vines between 10 and 35 years old, while the Unico is made from vines between 35 and 60 years. The wines go through malolactic fermentation and then rest for a year in the oak vats. The Valbuena wines are then aged for three and a half years in smaller oak casks, while the Unico are aged seven years.

However, the selective nature of Vega Sicilia goes beyond a prolonged aging process. They carefully monitor the wines, particularly the Unico, before they are released. As an example, the 1970 vintage Unico was released in 1995, after spending 15 years in oak, and 10 additional years in the bottle.  Additionally, there are vintages, many, that have been skipped as the winery did not feel the grapes produced a wine worthy of the Vega Silica name.

Tasting Vega Sicilia Wines

Tasting Vega Sicilia Wines

Tasting the 2005 Vila Sicilia Valbuena, which retails for approximately $150 shows a youthful wine. Made of 80% tempranillo and 20% mostly merlot and a little  cabernet sauvignon, the nose offers leather and meat with fine baking spices. The palate offers ripe but dark fruit, with a long finish of leather and white pepper. By contrast, the 2000 Vila Sicilia Unico, which retails for approximately $350, has a nose that was 100% spice and earth focused, with little fruit. The palate was a fantastic leather and spice with an exceedingly long finish. I likened it to siting in a well appointed leather chair smoking a fine cigar. The Unico is 80% tempranillo and 20% mostly cabernet sauvignon with some merlot as well.

After starting off on a high note, I was excited to taste through as many of the wines from Ribera del Duero as I could. I found some very nice wines from the region, and have quite a few pages of tasting notes which I’ll share in the near future. However, what I took away from the grand tasting was not the notes on the 42 of 100 wines I tasted that day. I don’t need to recount the flavor profile of each wine. What I took away, what I loved about this tasting, was meeting Vicente Penalba from Finca Torremilanos and learning about his family run winery, and tasting the passion in each glass. In a future article, I’ll discuss the wines I tasted, but also the passion and excitement with which Vicente discussed them with me.  It was his passion that made me excited about Ribera del Duero wines.

Backsberg Wines Kosher For Passover or Anytime

Happy Passover

Happy Passover

For years my Jewish friends have been conditioned to drink the “foxy” concord grape wine pumped out by the Manischewitz company during the holidays. During a recent CBS12 WPEC TV segment, while bringing some well made wine for Passover Seder to your attention, anchor Ben Becker asks “Why no love for Manischewitz”? Drink it if you like, but I’m here to offer freedom from the slavery to  high octane grape juice with two more Kosher for Passover wine selections.

I recently received samples from Backsberg Estate Cellars , which was founded by  family of Jewish refugees from Lithuania in 1916. Backsberg is located in Paarl, a town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Today, the Back family owns 110 hectares of vineyards located at the slopes of the Simsonsberg Mountains. These vineyards are dedicated to the production of their traditional line, as well as the kosher wine line. Both of the wines below are 100% Kosher Mevushal (pasteurized) and are made under the certifications of the Cape Town Beth Din and OU (Orthodox Union) of the United States.

Backsberg has become the first wine producer in South Africa and one of only three in the world to gain Carbon Neutral status using carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration is a process of removing carbon from the atmosphere and depositing it in a reservoir. The Back family is committed to preserving the environment through tree planting, conversion to bio fuel, and other initiatives including lighter weight bottles. They are not only stewards of the land, doing their part to ensure the next generation can enjoy the land, they are also humanitarians. In the wake of recent natural disasters they are participating in a program called ShelterBox, which provides emergency supplies and tents to people in need. A good family making good wine.

Backsberg 2010 Chardonnay Kosher for Passover

Backsberg 2010 Chardonnay

The first selection is the Backsberg Kosher Chardonnay 2010. This wine definitely benefited from some aeration and time to open. As soon as it was uncorked, the nose was buttered popcorn. However, after just a few minutes of swirling and aerating, nice tropical notes developed on the nose. The palate was crisp, with great fruit. Pears on the attack, and a mid palate that was a little buttery and a finish that was a bit spicy and toasty.  It has a short finish, but some residual spice lingers. Interestingly, there is no oak on this wine, so the spice and toasty notes are a characteristic of the grape and where they were grown, rather than the barrel process.  Again, with time to open, more tropical notes came through on the palate, and for $14 I would recommend the Backsberg Kosher Chardonnay 2010 for any time, regardless of religious persuasion.

Backsberg 2008 Merlot is a great wine for Passover or anytime

Backsberg 2008 Merlot

For a red wine option the Backsberg Kosher Merlot 2008 is right on the money. Again, for just $14, this wine is perfect for anyone, anytime, kosher or not. The bouquet was rather tight, showing a little dark fruit. The palate showed restrained black fruit up front, with a nice mid-palate transition to a finish of woody smoke and some pepper spice. The wine has nice integrated tannin, not overly dry, this will rock with your brisket, lamb shank, or any other roasted meat meal.

Backsberg has a large line of wines, and I’d love to hear if you’ve had any of them. Kosher or not, Backsberg should find it’s way into your glass.

Learning About Sake with Team Ty Ku

Mixologist Paul Sevigny Works with Ty Ku Soju

Mixologist Paul Sevigny Works with Ty Ku Soju

Sake is an amazing beverage you have to try. My twitter friend Richard Auffrey will likely forget more about sake than most people will ever experience in a lifetime. I’ve always been impressed with his knowledge and understanding of the drink and the region that provides it to us, Japan. When Richard decided to use Wine Blogging Wednesday 72 to not only explore sake, but help Japan in the wake of the natural disasters affecting the region, I couldn’t help but hop on board.

I was very fortunate to be a guest at the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America conference in Orlando this week. I was able to experience dozens of wines and spirits from across the globe, and am very energized about the information. One of the most exciting parts of the conference was meeting the folks at Team Ty Ku, and learning about their company and sake. I interviewed Tara Fougner from Ty Ku, and we covered everything from the process of making sake, to the different levels of sake, why sake should be served cold, and what to pair sake with. The video is informative and exciting, and will open your eyes to the wonderful world of Sake.

In addition to the Ty Ku, I did have the opportunity to try  sake from other producers at the WSWA conference, including Tenryo Koshu, Imperial Landing “vintage sake” as well as Junmai Sparkling Sake Ai No Hime Beno – “The Princess of Love”, which was a beautiful pink sparkling sake. Both of these excellent sake won silver medals at the WSWA.

Junmai Sparkling Sake - AI NO HIME BENI

Junmai Sparkling Sake - AI NO HIME BENI

Speaking of winning, the newest of the Ty Ku Sake line, Ty Ku Silver, won the Hot New Now Award for 2011 at the WSWA. They can now add that to the awards their Ty Ku White Junmai Dai-Ginjyo sake has earned.

Team Ty Ku with their Hot New Now 2011 Award

Members Team Ty Ku with their Hot New Now 2011 Award

I will have other videos regarding Ty Ku Sake, including mixologist Paul Sevigny creating to fantastic sake based cocktails. In the mean time, you can join Team Ty Ku on Facebook, and follow Team Ty Ku on Twitter!

Now that you are excited to try Ty Ku Sake, and other sake as well, I would like you to be equally as excited in helping Japan and donating via the American Red Cross. As you can see from the link, there is a specific way to donate to support the disaster relief in Japan. Please do what you can, and remember, as Tara mentioned in the video, each bottle of Ty Ku Sake purchased in April and May 2011 sends $1 to Japanese Relief efforts.

KAMPAI!

MAXIM and Skyy WSWA Party

MAXIM - Skyy Spirits - WSWA Party

MAXIM - Skyy Spirits - WSWA Party

I am fortune enough to be covering the 68th Annual Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America convention & exposition. I’ve already found an incredible Sake for $9.99 retail, an amazing tequila I can’t wait to tell you about, an awesome vodka that’ll rock your socks off and a host of other things to share. However the first day of the conference ended with a little party hosted by MAXIMSKYY Spirits, and the WSWA. The DJ was pumpin out the jams and everyone was having a good time.  I’ll be giving you some fun and interesting information about wine and spirits over the next few posts. However, for now, check out the fabulous people at the MAXIM – SKYY – WSWA party and enjoy the photos.

Maxim Skyy WSWA Party lounge

The Lounge was Skyy Blue

MAXIM Go Go Dancer

MAXIM Go Go Dancers

Lovely Ladies of Maxim

Lovely Ladies of Maxim

Serving Shots Of America Honey

Serving Shots Of America Honey

Ladies Enjoying The Party

Ladies Enjoying The Party

Kissing at Maxim Party

Kissing at Maxim Party

Lovely Ladies at the MAXIM SKYY Spirits WSWA Party

Lovely Ladies at the MAXIM SKYY Spirits WSWA Party

MAXIM Skyy WSWA American Honeys

MAXIM Skyy WSWA American Honeys

MAXIM SKYY WSWA Party Girls

MAXIM SKYY WSWA Party Girls

Having Fun with MAXIM SKYY and WSWA

Having Fun with MAXIM SKYY and WSWA

The Girls of MAXIM at the MAXIM SKYY WSWA Party

The Girls of MAXIM at the MAXIM SKYY WSWA Party

I’ll return you to your regularly scheduled wine, and spirits information shortly.

Pairing wine with Easter and Passover meals

wine to pair with easter or passover dinner

Happy Holiday

Easter and Passover are on their way, and that means family will be getting together to celebrate the holidays. Whether your family has a tried and true menu, or likes to change it up year after year, having the right wine on the table makes everything better. Recently, I brought four wines to the CBS12 WPEC station as recommendations for your holiday celebrations.

The segment starts with two kosher for Passover wines. There is not a tremendous difference between kosher wine and non kosher wine. In general, because kosher wine is used in the Sabbath blessing, as well as holidays, it can only be handled by Sabbath observant Jews. Additionally, no animal products can be used in the winemaking process, such as gelatin or egg whites to fine the wine (remove particulates). The difference in Kosher for Passover versus Kosher wine is that they make sure no grain yeasts are used, since during Passover Jews do not eat any grains (no bread, for example). That’s it, otherwise, it’s fermented grape juice, just like any other wine. I’ve discussed kosher Chardonnay previously, and compared to a non-kosher chardonnay.


Click above to watch Matthew Horbund talk Kosher for Passover and Easter wines on CBS12 WPEC

The first wine in the TV segment above was Hagafen 2008 Chardonnay from the Oak Knoll District of Napa, California. This wine retails for $20, and is a nice Napa Valley chardonnay at this price. Irit and Ernie Weir founded the winery in 1979 with their inaugural vintage in 1980. With a total production of only 8,000 cases annually, they produce small batches of various wines including merlot, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, chardonnay, and riesling. Their wines are well made, and for this segment I tasted the merlot, cabernet and chardonnay. I selected the chardonnay as I thought it offered a nice rich and full mouth feel, having good pear fruit with the toasty spice from the oak aging. This wine sees malolactic fermentation, which gives it that rich mouth feel, often associated with a buttery quality, and a little oak which gives it the buttery taste, as well as a little spice. This wine will pair well with the appetizers, as well as any lighter fare served at the Seder such as chicken. For the record, the name is pronounced Ha-Ga-Fen, not Hag-a-fen as I said in the above TV spot. Clearly, my Hebrew needs as much work as my French and Italian. In the Hebrew prayer over grape juice or grape wine, the ending words “p’ri hagafen” translates to Fruit of the Vine.

Hagafen 2008 Chardonnay perfect for Passover Seder

Hagafen 2008 Chardonnay

For a red wine option, I selected the Baron Herzog 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Central Coast, California. The Herzog family has a long history of wine making, dating back to Philip Herzog making wine for the Austro-Hungary court more than 100 years ago. Emperor Franz Josef enjoyed the wines so much, he made Philip a Baron! During World War II, Philips grandson Eugene hid the family from the Nazis by moving them around the Slovenian countryside, and at the end of the war came out from a false wall in a friends shed to reclaim his family’s winery. Three years later they were driven from their home, and in 1948 arrived in New York. Eugene toiled in a small store front making kosher wine from Concord grapes, and instead of being paid for some of his work, was given shares in the company. All of the other owners eventually gave up their shares, and  in 1958 he became the sole shareholder. They renamed the company Royal Wines in deference to grandfather Philip, and turned the company into a success. They moved out to California, expanding in 1985, with a focus on making high end quality wine under two labels, Baron Herzog and Herzog Wine cellars.

baron herzog cabernet sauvignon for passover seder

Baron Herzog cabernet sauvignon

The Baron Herzog 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is made mostly from grapes sourced from the Paso Robles wine region. It’s aged 18 months in stainless steel, which helps retain the fruit notes. The nose of the wine has bright raspberry and red fruits, which soften as it opens up. This is a very California wine, showing more fruit than earthy or leathery notes. While a tad dry and mild tannins, the round fresh fruit translates from the nose to the palate. It will pair nicely with your Passover Seder meal, whether that includes brisket, lamb shank, or some other roasted dish. For $13, it’s a nice California Cabernet, Kosher for Passover or not.

There were plenty of other Kosher for Passover wines I could have selected. I tasted the Ben Ami Chardonnay and Merlot, and while both were a bit on the lighter and easy drinking side, they’d make a fine showing at your Passover dinner. I also tried the Hagafen Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, which showed a bit more earthy and leather notes on the palate than the Baron Herzog. Any would make a fine showing at your meal. While selecting a Kosher for Passover wine requires a little work, visiting Total Wine will help make that work a bit easier. They’ve got a tremendous selection of Kosher wines, including other US made wines as well as Israel made wines. They’ve also plenty of wines to select for Easter. Selecting a wine for Easter isn’t as restrictive as Passover, so the field is wide open. For Easter, I selected two Argentinian wines for the TV segment, and think for the price, they offer great quality, though they aren’t Kosher for Passover.

Don David Torrontes a great white wine for Easter

Don David Torrontes

With about 1,500 acres of vineyards  5,500 feet above sea level, the Michel Torino Estate is a key player in the Cafayate Valley of Argentina. The winery was founded in 1892 by brothers Salvador and David Michel, and they produce a wide variety of wines from a malbec rose to cabernet sauvignion to pinot noir and more. In the TV segment, select the Don David Torrontes Reserve 2009 as a great white wine for Easter, and for $16, it’s great any time. The nose of this wine is absolutely beautiful, with soft white flowers and a slight melon note.  The palate shows some citrus and melon, and is light and quite delicious. It will pair well with chicken, sea food and shellfish, and as I mention in the segment, Thai food.

Don David Malbec perfect for your easter meal

Don David Malbec

As a red wine for Easter, I believe the Don David Mabec Reseve 2008 will be a fantastic wine selection. Malbec is a versatile wine, and it pairs well with beef or lamb prepared almost any way, as well as ham, which covers most of the meats at traditional Easter meals. Without any decanting this wine has a palate of simple red fruit, with restrained earthy notes. As it opens, the palate is powerful fruit of red cherries and a little chocolate, and shows definitely a bit more new world with it’s round flavor profile. The more this wine opens, the more dark the fruit gets, and the more complexities come out. With a price of about $15, it’s not only worth making an appearance on your Easter table, it may be the best value wine you can get for the holiday!

Of course, everyone is looking for the best wine for Easter, and Passover, and I’ve given just a few selections here. I’ll come back in a few days to offer some more Easter wine pairings, but I’d love to hear what you plan on serving this holiday season. Easter or Passover, what’s in your glass?