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 193 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

Extra Dry versus Brut Champagne – Which Is Drier?

Mumm Champagne in the Desert - Photo: Nick Smith http://nicksmithphoto.wordpress.com/tag/mumm-champagne/

Mumm Champagne in the Desert – Photo: Nick Smith

You don’t like Champagne, I know. You’ve told me before that you don’t enjoy drinking a glass of liquid as dry as a desert. However, it could be that you don’t like dry Champagne, and there are other types of sparkling wines to be had. Don’t let the fact that brut Champagne isn’t your palate stop you from toasting with bubbles on New Year’s Eve.

The question I’m asked most often about Champagne for New Year’s Eve isn’t which to serve. I am always asked “Is extra dry Champagne more dry than Brut Champagne?” It’s confusing, because it’s EXTRA dry, isn’t it? No, unfortunately, it’s not. Another myth about wine dispelled. Extra dry is actually more sweet than Brut Champagne.  HUH?

What Does Dry Wine Mean?

When people talk about a dry wine, they’re talking about how much residual sugar (RS) is in the wine. Therefore, knowing the classifications of sweetness when it comes to Champagne will help you pick the right sparkling wine for your palate. People sometimes confuse the fruit flavors in a wine with sweetness. However, a riesling could be considered “bone dry” because it has no residual sugar, while still possessing flavors of super ripe peaches and nectarines. It can be confusing.

What Are The Sweetness Levels Of Champagne?

From most dry to sweetest the following terms express the sweetness of Champagne

Extra Brut > Brut > Extra Dry > Sec > Demi-Sec > Doux

In terms of Sugar content, Extra Brut has less than 3 grams of sugar per liter of wine, while the more common Brut Champagne has between 3 and 12 grams of sugar/liter. Extra Dry, a bit sweeter than Brut is between 12 and 17 grams of sugar/liter. Sec contains 17 and 32 grams, Demi-Sec between 32 and 50 grams, and Doux has more than 50 grams of sugar per liter. I’ve not found a lot of Doux dessert Champagnes in stores, though the sweet Demi-Sec Champagne can certainly be found.

Can You Recommend A Sweeter Sparkling Wine?

Mumm Napa Cuvee M sweeter sparkling wine

Mumm Napa Cuvee M

There are a host of Champagnes and sparkling wines that will tickle your sweet loving tastebuds! Most recently I enjoyed the Mumm Napa Cuvee M sparkling wine. For about $18, and very widely available, this 90 point Wine Enthusiast rated sparkling wine offered great fruit flavors, and a hint of sweetness.  A slight pink hue, the palate has flavors of baked apple with a little Granny Smith tartness, mixed with a touch of sweet baking spice that makes a brief appearance. The Granny Smith sweetness finishes clean and crisp, and there are excellent, persistent bubbles. While there is a warm toasty finish, this really all about fresh, ripe apples. You could pair this sparkling wine with the Harry & David inspired pear tart I created, or see what blogger Wine Harlots pairs with her Cuvee M.

Additionally, I’ve previously written about The Biltmore Pas De Deux sparkling wine. This is another sweeter sparkling wine for those who prefer a sweeter sip of bubbles. 

Now that you’re armed with an understanding of which Champagne is sweet enough for you, don’t be afraid to pop a cork or two this New Year’s Eve. Let me know what bubbles will tickle your nose as you count down to 2014 by leaving a comment below!

 

Mumm Champagne in the desert photo ‘borrowed’ from Photojournalist Nick Smith

Dessert wine paired with Harry & David’s Organic Pears + Giveaway

French Style Pear Tart using harry and david's organic pears

French Style Pear Tart

While any day is a good day for dessert, a holiday is the best excuse to enjoy it with a dessert wine. When Harry & David asked if I’d like to host a giveaway (end of this post) of one box of their organic Royal Riviera pears during the holidays, I knew it would be a great excuse to make an easy but delicious dessert, and pair it with some sweet wines. I asked friends for a pear tart recipe, something to remind me of the one I had when in Paris. My friend Linda gave me this easy, 5 ingredient recipe that came out perfectly. I then paired three different dessert wines, and euphoria ensued.

Harry and David's Organic Royal Riviera Pears are non-gmo fruit

Harry and David’s Organic Royal Riviera Pears

The most important ingredient for the tart, of course, is the pears. They need to be perfectly ripe, sweet, juicy, and healthy. Harry & David’s organic Royal Riviera pears were just the ticket. These pears are included in just about every Harry and David gift basket, and like most tree fruit, they’re not genetically modified (non-GMO). Harry & David’s 80th anniversary is next year, and they still use all natural grafting methods, instead of genetically modifying the seeds. Though Harry & David did provide the pears for this post and the below giveaway, I have been a loyal customer personally as well on a corporate level for years.

To make the pear tart, you just need five ingredients:

2 Harry & David’s Organic Royal Riviera Pears (substitute different quality pears if you MUST…)
1 sheet Frozen Puff Pastry Dough (a rectangle that is about 12 x 8 is ideal)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I improvised and did 3/4 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp all spice)

Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pasty was perfect

Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pasty was perfect

For the tart “crust”, I went with a frozen puff pastry dough from Pepperidge Farm. It was not the size and shape I wanted, but it worked just fine.

Before you start cutting and layering, mix up the sugar and spice ingredients in a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Slice the stem and very top off of the pears and then slice the pears in half lengthwise. Then, use a paring knife and cut out the core. Next, place the pear flesh side down, and slice lengthwise about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.

Slice then core the Harry & David Organic pears

Slice then core the Harry & David Organic pears

 

Slice the harry & david organic pears in 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide pieces

Slice the pears in 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide pieces

Once the pears are cut, unfold the dough, placing it on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

The Pepperidge Farm dough was about 9″ square, and I traced a border of about 1″ around it with a butter knife. Be sure not to go all the way through the dough. This 1″ border will cause the ends to puff up around the filling when cooking, and create edges around the pears. I would have preferred the dough’s width be about 8″, and then the 1″ border would have made for a much more narrow tart.

I was a little skeptical at first that tracing a thin border would create the puffed edges, but it really worked. WHO KNEW?!

cooking with harry and david non-gmo organic pears Trace a 1 inch border around the dough

Trace a 1 inch border around the dough

Next, begin layering your pear inside the center of the dough. Be sure the larger end of the pear is closer to the traced line, and have the pears overlap. Try to use the smaller outside pieces of pear first, as a bit of a base. That way, the longer pieces will line up nice and upright. Be sure you don’t leave too much space between the pieces.

Layer your Harry and David pears inside the center of the dough

Layer your pears inside the center of the dough

Once your pears are layered nicely, being sure not to leave too much open space in the middle, while not going over the border, sprinkle the sugar mixture on the top. Place the tart in the refrigerator while you preheat the oven to 400. It should stay refrigerated about 20 minutes.

Sprinkle your Harry and David pears with the sugar mixture

Sprinkle your Harry and David pears with the sugar mixture

After the 20 minute refrigeration, place your pear tart in the oven. Set the timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, reduce the oven temperature to 350, and set another timer for 10 minutes.

When the timer goes off, if the crust isn’t golden brown and crisp, give it a few more minutes. Once finished, remove from oven and let cool. Now, on to the dessert wine!

Dessert Wine Perfect for a Pear Tart!

Dessert Wine Perfect for a Pear Tart!

Pairing wine with sweets has one general rule: your wine must be as sweet or sweeter than your food. If not, the wine may taste muted or bland after tasting the dessert. That said, I’ve selected a trio of dessert wines to pair with the tart. They each come from a different region, and are made with different grapes. I will say that the Sauternes from the amazing Chateau Coutet pictured above was not opened for this tasting. It was a full sized bottle, as opposed to the typical 375ml half bottle you’ll find for white dessert wines. I therefore chose to open another, quite delicious bottle of Sauternes to avoid any waste of the Chateau Coutet, since I was the only taster.

Pairing Harry and David Pear Tart with Anakena Late Harvest 2008 dessert wine

Anakena Late Harvest 2008 dessert wine

Hailing from Chile, the Anakena Late Harvest 2008 ($20) was the least sweet of the three wines. However, it was still a perfect pair with the pear tart. Made with 85% Viognier and 15% Muscat of Alexandria, the Anakena Late Harvest 2008 was not heavy on the palate, and still a bit crisp. The nose and palate were delicate white floral and dried apricot, with decent acidity. It’s not as  heavy or viscus as a Sauternes, and there are no honey notes that are found in the other two options. However, this is definitely the best dessert wine pairing if you are not typically a sweet wine drinker.

pairing harry and david pear dessert with Les Petits Grains 2011 Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois

Les Petits Grains 2011 Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois

From the South of France, I paired Les Petits Grains 2011 Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois ($15) with the pear tart. Made with muscat grapes, the Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois uses the noble Muscat a Petits Grains variety of grape, different than the Muscat of Alexandria in the Anakena Late Harvest wine, though from the same family. The commune of Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois was named after it’s famous muscat wines in 1936, and was originally Saint-Jean-de-Pardailhan.  The bouquet of the Les Petit Grains 2011 was unimpressive, and perhaps a little plastic. However, the palate is much different. A very viscous wine, there are delicious floral and honey flavors mixed with spiced orange rind, and laced with dried apricots that dance on the palate. This was an excellent option to pair with the Harry & David Royal Riviera Pear inspired dessert.

Chateau de Cosse 2008 Sauternes with pear tart dessert

Chateau de Cosse 2008 Sauternes

The coup de grâce of this delicious project was pairing of Sauternes with the tart. I selected the Chateau de Cosse 2008 Sauternes ($20), which is part of the Domaines Barons de Rothschild family. The bouquet is amazing floral, sweet honey and ripe apricot. This wine is much more viscous than the previous two, providing a very rich experience. The palate is a sweet savory experience, and each sip makes your mouth water. There are amazing flavors of honey and dried apricot, mixed with hints of flowers. This was the best pairing in my opinion.

Now the exciting part. I’m happy to be giving away some of Harry & David’s Organic The Favorite® Royal Riviera® Pears. One lucky person will win 1 box of beautiful organic pears ($34.95 value)!  H&D invented the fruit of the month club. At least one shipment of these pears is sent to every member. You can savor these delectables yourself, simply enter the giveaway below. There are multiple ways to enter, so be sure to catch them all!
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This contest is open to US residents only. The winner will be chosen Sunday 12/15/2013. I will need to forward a mailing address for the winner by Monday 12/16/2013 to Harry & David!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Exciting Delivery From Harry & David organic non-gmo pears

Exciting Delivery From Harry & David

Remember that Sharing is Caring. You should not only share this post with your friends, but share some wine and pears with them!

 

The Chateau de Cosse 2008 Sauternes and the Les Petits Grains Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois 2011 were both media samples from Pasternak Wine Imports. The pears used to make this dessert, as well as for the giveaway, were provided by Harry & David. However, per my sample policy, I offer no assurances that I will use products that are samples, and that my opinion will always be honest about the products I use. I have nothing but my word and reputation, and no free wine or food will make me compromise that. 

Six Bordeaux Wines Made For The Holidays!

Regardless of which holiday you celebrate, there is usually the need to have a party, or go to a party. And that means either serving adult beverages to your guests, or bringing a hostess gift to a party. If you’re hosting the party, you want to be sure that every detail is perfect, especially the wine you serve. And if you’re bringing a host gift, you want to ensure it won’t be re-gifted, along with the President Obama Chia Pet that someone else brought. A delicious French red is the perfect holiday wine idea! Here, we round up six Bordeaux red wines under $15, four of which are tremendous Quality to Price Ratio bargain wines! And make sure you check out the entire post, as I’m going to announce a giveaway this week, and you won’t want to miss it.

Planet Bordeaux for the Holidays wine tasting

Six Bordeaux Red Wines for the Holidays

As part of a media campaign, Planet Bordeaux engaged several wine writers to taste a selection of six red wines from Bordeaux. Dubbed “Planet Bordeaux for the Holidays”, we were asked to taste and tweet about the wines. The wines were all merlot dominant blends, and selected for their food friendly nature, as well as their very budget friendly price.

wine review Moutdon Cadet Bordeaux 2011

Mouton Cadet Bordeaux 2011

The most budget friendly wine of the tasting was the Mouton Cadet 2011. A scant $10, the Mouton Cadet Bordeaux 2011 is a blend of 65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 15% cabernet franc. A dark inky purple and garnet in the glass, the bouquet is black and blue fruit, cranberry sauce and spice. Not elegant or sophisticated, the Mouton Cadet Bordeaux 2011 palate is medium to full body, and is dusty dry with flavors of black tea and black pepper dominating. There are very subtle hints of black cherry on the palate, but the fruit is barely a supporting character in this play. During the tasting, my friend Melanie of Dallas Wine Chick agreed this is really more a food wine than sipping wine, as this Bordeaux red wine was very cheese friendly, and worked fine with Cabot Cheddar cheese.

wine review Chateaux de Camarsac Bordeaux 2011

Chateaux de Camarsac Bordeaux 2011

Maroon and ruby colors in the glass, the Chateau de Camarsac 2011 is a $12 blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. There were some funky barnyard scents on the nose, something I personally am not a fan of, even if they’re not terribly strong. Nothing like the bouquet, the palate was is earthy leather, with dried blueberries from the merlot integrated with earthy mushrooms. There was mild but noticeable acidity and firm tannin, which will almost disappear when paired with beef, lamb, or even cheese.

wine review Les Hauts de Lagarde Bordeaux 2011

Les Hauts de Lagarde Bordeaux 2011

The third wine of the tasting really knocked my socks off. At $12, this wine is made with organically grown grapes, and can be found in most whole foods. The Les Hauts De Lagarde 2011 Bordeaux is 65% merlot, 25% cabernet sauvignon and 10% cabernet franc, with it’s organically grown grapes hailing from vineyards in Saint Laurent du Bois, Bordeaux. The bouquet reminded me of an old, leather bound book, with organic scents mixed with cranberry and currants. The palate was medium bodied, leaning towards full, and was not dusty at all. Fine, well integrated tannin, a little blueberry mixed with black currant, there’s great oak integration on this wine. The wine is almost soft and feminine, with a lingering finish that has hints of spice. This wine will work with almost any holiday fare, and I even recommend this delicious Bordeaux red wine for Thanksgiving. Drink now through 2014.

Speaking of Organic, later this week, Wednesday or Thursday, I’ll be posting about Harry & David‘s organically grown pears. I’ll feature them, as well as a recipe and wine pairing for you enjoy this holiday season. However, the best part is that you’ll be able to enter a giveaway to win a box of the pears! So, make sure you check back later this week to have your chance at a delicious holiday gift from Harry & David. To be sure and not miss the post, subscribe to my blog via email via the form on the top left of this article!

wine review Chateau du Bois Chantant Cuvee Laurence Bordeaux Superieur 2011

Chateau du Bois Chantant Cuvee Laurence Bordeaux Superieur 2011

The Helfrich family is the proprietor of the next wine, the Chateau du Bois Chantant Bordeaux Superieur 2011.  A blend of 90% merlot and 10% cabernet sauvignon,  the Chateau du Bois Chantant is a full bodied, well balanced Bordeaux wine, and quite a bargain at $13. Similar to the Les Hauts de Lagarde, this budget friendly Bordeaux red wine was quite elegant.  The nose is much more floral than the previous three wines, with violets swirling around the glass, along with notes of cherry cola and soft cinnamon. A deep, dark purple in the glass, the full mouth feel showed elegant plum and cherry with soft, well integrated tannin all around. There was a little black tea on the finish, which leads into a nice, toasty spice which was warming like a holiday fire. While it will work with almost any holiday dish you serve, I felt the Chateau du Bois Chantant would work well with poultry, perfect for your Christmas goose. Drink now through 2014. As an aside, I had the pleasure of meeting Anne Laure Helfrich earlier this year, and have some of their fantastic Alsatian pinot blanc and riesling to talk about in upcoming articles.

wine review Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur 2010

Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur 2010

The next wine from Bordeaux in this tasting was the Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur 2010. A blend of 70% merlot, 15% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc, this $14 budget wine from France really was excellent for the price. The color was more garnet than purple, with a meaty, gamey nose that showed some fruit. It wasnt a terribly expressive bouquet, but deep sniffs bring blueberries and spice. The palate, however was elegant and refined, with fine integrated tannins. This is the wine to pair with your holiday roast, so bring on the prime rib, as the Chateau des Arras can handle it nicely. Flavors of blueberry and cranberry layered with a dusty earth component, and flavors of cherry intermingled in. This wine absolutely sung with cheddar cheese, as the tannins eased, the dried cherry and blueberry fruit came froward and there was a long, delightful finish. My final tasting note on the Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur 2010 was “loved the last sip, the fruit was swirling around my mouth, the spices were soft and so back stage, there was an earthiness to this that sung, there was nice structure $14 worth of yum.” Drink now through 2016.

wine review Domaine de Courteillac bordeaux Superieur 2010

Domaine de Courteillac bordeaux Superieur 2010

As you end your year on a good note, we end this post (and tasting) on a good note. The last Bordeaux red wine of the tasting was the Domaine de Courteillac Bordeaux Superieur 2010. The bouquet is teeming with earthy spice, and doesn’t show much fruit. Inky black in the glass, the palate is very elegant and complex. Layers of flavor start with coffee and mocha, with dark cherry and cola flavors as well. Merlot dominant, but blended with cabernet sauvignon, this $15 wine is harmonious and balanced, bringing power, length and flavor. Another very food friendly wine, it loved the cheese course, but will pair perfectly with beef, lamb, and venison as well.  My last tasting note of the evening was “This wine is REALLY so good with the cheese !!! wow!!!” Drink now through 2016.

I hope you were nice this year, and Santa, or Harry Hanukkah, brings you presents as good as these wines. I highly recommend the last four, as they offer the most quality for the price. The Les Hauts de Lagarde Bordeaux 2011 at $12 is a steal, as is the Chateau du Bois Chantant Cuvee Laurence Bordeaux Superieur 2011 at the same price. The Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur 2010 is still a budget friendly wine at $14, and a great example of what Bordeaux wines can be at reasonable prices. Finally, at $15, the Domaine de Courteillac Bordeaux Superieur 2010 may be the perfect wine for your holiday party this year!

I’d love to hear from you! Have you had any value driven wines from Bordeaux lately? Let me know below!

 

Nine Wines For Your Thanksgiving Feast

Wines to Pair with a Happy Thanksgiving

Wines to Pair with a Happy Thanksgiving

It’s a scant few days before Thanksgiving, have you finalized your menu yet? Of course you have, and you’ve paired the perfect wine with the meal, right? Well, most wine writers and sommeliers will argue that there is no ONE wine that works perfectly for Thanksgiving. I’ve written about pairing wine with Thanksgiving meals before, as well as brought three wines for Thanksgiving to CBS 12, and maintain that the variety of palates your guests have and range of flavors at Thanksgiving calls for a variety of wines to be served with your Turkey. While there are some “typical or classic wine and Turkey Day pairings”, and I’ll cover them below, there are some addition wine pairing options that you may not have considered. I’ll summarize where I bought the wines and their prices at the end of the article. However, first, let’s take a look at nine different wines, some the same grape from different regions, to offer you some great Thanksgiving wine pairing ideas.

Chandon Brut Classic Sparkling Wine For Thanksgiving

Chandon Brut Classic Sparkling Wine For Thanksgiving

If there is one thing you can safely serve at any party or big meal, it’s sparkling wine. There are of course tons of options, a true Champagne from France,  Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, or California bubbly like Chandon’s Brut Classic. A non-vintage (NV), budget friendly sparkling wine at $13, there are great flavors of green apples, peach, and a little toasted bread. These flavors work perfectly with appetizers, including cheese, fruit and even stuffed mushrooms. Champagne and sparkling wine love salty snacks, so salted nuts and even pigs in a blanket work perfectly. This is a slightly more fruit forward option, and if you like a traditional Champagne, feel confident that it’s a perfecting wine selection for Thanksgiving as well!

Chateau Megyer Tokjai Furmint 2012

Chateau Megyer Tokjai Furmint 2012

Chances are, you’ll surprise your guests with a wine from Hungary, made with a grape they’ve likely never heard of. Tokaji, pronounced Toke-eye, is a wine that can be dry or sweet, and made with one of six approved grapes: Furmint, Harslevelu, Yellow Muscat (Sargamuskotaly) Zeta, Koverszolo, and Kabar. The Chateau Megyer Tokaji Furmint 2012  is a budget friendly dry white wine option at $12. A light, clear yellow color and subdued nose leads to a palate that is reminiscent of riesling. Flavors of soft apricot, coupled with good minerality, this white wine will pair well with appetizers, as well as your turkey.  The sweet versions of Tokjai, Aszu or Eszencia, are perfect dessert wines. They are sweet enough wines to pair with the fruit pies that are common desserts at Thanksgiving.

DeBeaune Les Galopieres 2011 Pouilly-Fuisse wine for thanksgiving

DeBeaune Les Galopieres 2011 Pouilly-Fuisse

Chardonnay is a grape grown the world over. The wine can be lean and mineral driven, tropical fruit focused, or full of apple and pear ‘tree fruit’ flavors. The French styles of chardonnay are typically less focused on the burst of fruit flavors you’ll find in California wines. Additionally, if there is oak used to age the wine, it’s much more subdued than it’s California cousins. Pouilly-Fuissé is an appellation (AOC) for white wine in the Mâconnais subregion of Burgundy in central France. Pronounced Poo-Wee Foo-Say, Pouilly-Fuisse only permits chardonnay to make wine bearing the AOC’s designation. Though there is often oak aging involved with these wines, the $20 DeBeaune Les Galopieres Pouilly-Fuisse 2011 is unoaked. A lean, crisp white wine with flavors of green apples, minerals, and a beautiful finish of spice and smoke, this is a perfect all around wine for Thanksgiving. It will work nicely with your appetizers, your vegetables, your turkey and even your ham.

Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011 wine for thanksgiving

Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011

Another great $20 white wine selection is the Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011. A perfect wine to pair with ham, turkey, potato and stuffing, this oaked chardonnay has notes of vanilla and creme brulee, with a dominant fruit flavor of pear. There is a soft smoke and spice on the finish, but all of the flavors are balanced and none overwhelms the others.

Domaine Pignard 2011 Beaujolais wine for thanksigiving

Domaine Pignard 2011 Beaujolais

Beaujolais is not a revolutionary wine pairing idea for Thanksgiving. There is no doubt you’ve heard of Beaujolais Nouveau. However, it’s not the best expression of gamay, and it’s more a marketing ploy than anything else. It is not a wine I recommend or partake in. However, gamay grapes make fantastic wines, and the Domaine Pignard Beaujolais 2011 is a steal at $10. An easy drinking, fruit forward red wine, the DeBeaune Domaine Pignard Beaujolais is a great idea for Thanksgiving, as it will pair with fowl or meat. A soft palate, with flavors of dried fruits like blackberry and bing cherry, there’s a hint of oak as well. There is good acidity, which makes it a great food friendly wine. I did also try a Cru Beaujolais, the Domaine Mont Chavy 2011 Morgon. Less fruity and more earthy, this was another great French wine under $20.

Forever 2012 Pinot Noir wine for Thanksgiving

Forever 2012 Pinot Noir

I’m not the first wine writer/sommelier to recommend Pinot Noir wine for your Thanksgiving meal. I do, however, try to find new and exciting options for you to try. Like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir is found the world over. This year, my pinot noir Thanksgiving wine comes from California and Oregon, to highlight two different styles. Forever Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012 is a budget friendly $11 option. A nose of fresh berries, the palate is a mocha and strawberry mix with a hint of spice. Pork and Pinot are a favorite wine pairing, but of course turkey will work perfectly.

Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 thanksgiving wine

Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 thanksgiving wine

While tasting Clos Pepe Pinot Noir with winemaker Wes Hagen, he mentioned how Oregon winemakers are similar to their Burgundian counterparts. Domaine Loubejac offers a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir for $18 that certainly reminds me of French Burgundy. Dried strawberry and raspberry, with a nice spice on the mid palate and finish, the Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 has great acidity and is very food friendly. Your Thanksgiving turkey or ham will enjoy this wine. Feel free to pick up a bottle of Wes Hagen’s Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir as well. At $54, the Clos Pepe 2009 is a well made red wine that will work perfectly with your 2013 Thanksgiving, or sit in your cellar and age nicely until 2010. I’ll feature the 2010 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir in an upcoming article.

Dr Loosen 2012 Blue Slate thanksgiving wine

Dr Loosen 2012 Blue Slate thanksgiving wine

I don’t drink a lot of riesling. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, and I’ve tasted a few German Rieslings this year that I really enjoyed. I just don’t reach for them frequently. I’ve recommended the wines from Dr Loosen previously, and will again say that riesling is a great Thanksgiving wine selection. The Dr Loosen Dr L Riesling is a bargain at $12. A perfect wine pairing for ham, turkey, fruit and cheese, the Dr L has fresh apricot and peach flavors with a very subtle minerality through it. For a more mineral and slate focused palate, the Dr Loosen Blue Slate (pictured left) is an excellent riesling selection as well, and cost only $22. It has enough white peach fruit and floral flavor to balance the flinty minerality that is typical from blue slate soils the vines are planted on.

We have already mentioned nine, well ten wines to serve with your Thanksgiving meal. However, I recently participated in a tasting of Bordeaux Superieur wine under $15 that had some real great selections. These samples were the second part of the Planet Bordeaux wine series I had previously participated in.  You may think a merlot from Bordeaux would be too overpowering for your Thanksgiving meal. However, the Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux is bound to change your mind.

Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux 2011 merlot wine for thanksgiving

Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux 2011

I’ll feature the entire six wine Bordeaux tasting in a future article, but the Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux 2011 was my favorite of the flight. An organic Bordeaux red wine that cost only $12, the Les Hauts de Lagarde is a blend of 65% merlot and 25% cabernet sauvignon. Flavors of blueberry and black currant with nice oak integration lend themselves to this soft, elegant red wine. There was a hint of spice on the finish that brought all of the flavors together nicely. A perfect wine to pair with beef, lamb, veal and pasta, it was light enough to enjoy with turkey, stuffing, and the rest of your Thanksgiving meal. As a side note, we decanted this wine for about 1 1/2 hours.

There are a few tips to keep in mind when serving these wines

  • Serve your white wines chilled, but not ice cold. Serving wine too cold mutes the flavors
  • Serve your red wines SLIGHTLY chilled. Room temperature for red is about 60 degrees, not your typical 75 house temperature
  • Decant your red wines for at least 30 minutes before serving. Chill it in the fridge for 30-40 minutes, then open and leave on the table 30 minutes before meal time
  • Don’t be afraid to decant your white wine. They’ll open up with a little air. Just keep them cool, perhaps in an ice bucket while doing so. Simply pull the cork and leave them open 15 minutes before serving.

I purchased all of the wines mentioned today, with the exception of the Les Hauts de Lagarde and the Clos Pepe Pinot Noir, which were media samples. They were all found easily, and you should be able to pick up one or more for your own party.

  • —Chandon Brut – Publix & Total Wine $13
  • Chateau Megyer Tokaji Furmint – Total Wine $12
  • DeBeaune Pouilly-Fuisse – Total Wine $20
  • —Sonoma Loeb Chardonnay – Publix & Total Wine $20
  • Domaine Pignard Beaujolais – Total wine $10
  • Forever Vineyards Pinot Noir – Total Wine $11
  • Domaine Loubejac Pinot Noir – Total Wine $18
  • Dr Loosen Dr L Riesling – Publix & Total Wine $12
  • Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux – Whole Foods $12

Cheers to you and your friends and family this Thanksgiving season. I’d love to hear what your favorite wine is this Thanksgiving, and what dish you enjoy it with. Just leave a comment below!

Tasting Three Bordeaux Wines Under $20

Planet Bordeaux Wine tasting Three Bordeaux Wines Under $20

Three Bordeaux Wines Under $20

I believe many people in the US are afraid of French wine! I feel this fear is the product of three factors, the inability to pronounce the wine’s name easily, the inability to identify the grapes readily, and the inability to be comfortable with the previous two factors given lofty prices of some French wines. Of course, the first factor, the language, is the most difficult to get over. I’ll give you that one. The second factor is changing, and you’ll see that on at least one of the three wines below, the grape varieties are right on the front of the bottle. The last fear factor of price for French wine given the uncertainty of what’s in the bottle can be overcome by learning that nice French wine can be had for $12.

When I was asked to participate in a recent virtual wine tasting on Twitter by the team at Planet Bordeaux, a group charged with educating consumers about wines from Bordeaux, I was of course interested. I’ve been doing these virtual wine tastings since 2008, and think they’re a great opportunity. It gives me the chance to try wines, and share the results with you. This increases both of our exposure to wines that perhaps we otherwise would not have tried. I knew this event, tasting three wines from Bordeaux, France under $20,  would be a hit.

Chateau de Bonhoste Bordeaux Blanc 2012 wine review

Chateau de Bonhoste Bordeaux Blanc 2012

The first wine of the evening was a crisp white wine from Chateau de Bonhoste, the 2012 Bordeaux Blanc with a suggested retail price (SRP) of only $12. A blend of three grapes, 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Semillon and 10% Muscadelle, the wine is pale straw in color. It’s bouquet is a soft, pink grapefruit, light floral scents, and a touch of honey. The palate is light, crisp and refreshing. There is nice fruit on the approach, a blend of tree fruit, stone fruit and a good bit of grapefruit that comes and wraps itself around the other fruits quickly. The wine has nice acidity, firm and zippy. This is a pleasant, inexpensive white wine, especially if you like citrus and acidity. There is a little hint of spice that seems to come on the finish, rounding out a very nice palate. For $12, it’s definitely worth trying this value focused white wine from Bordeaux. For the record, you pronounce the name Chateau de Bone-oste.

Tasting notes on Chateau Bonnet 2012 Rose from Bordeaux, France wine review

Chateau Bonnet 2012 Rose from Bordeaux, France

The second wine of the evening was a rosé from Chateau Bonnet (Shah-toe Bone-nay) Bordeaux 2012. The wines of Chateau Bonnet are made by Vignobles Andre Lurton, where vines were first planted in 1744. Made with merlot and cabernet sauvignon, two of the most prominent grapes of Bordeaux, France, this simple rosé wine cost only $15. With a dark, rich pink color in the glass, the bouquet is soft strawberry with a spicy floral floating on top. The palate is light and very soft, this is a very relaxed, laid back wine. The fruit isn’t explosive, it’s subdued strawberry and a tiny bit of dried cranberry.  The wine was a tad soft and subtle, but did show a bit more power as it opened.

Chateau Majoureau Hyppos Bordeaux Superieur 2009 red wine

Chateau Majoureau Hyppos 2009

The third wine in this tasting was the Chateau Majoureau (mah-zhohr-oh) “Hyppos” Bordeaux Superieur 2009. A big, bold Bordeaux red wine with 55% merlot and 45% cabernet sauvignon, we decanted the Hyppos for over an hour, and sampled it every thirty minutes for over three hours. There were scents of dark black fruits on the nose, as well as a cedar box component and mixed spice scents. The palate is a lot like the nose – the cedar box and spice is powerful up front, the fruit is really hidden behind the rest of the tastes. Not a “sipping wine”, we paired this with a pot roast, and with the food there is a little more harmony to the Hyppos. However, ultimately, this wine was a bit big, with a zealous amount of oak showing, and it really didn’t have the finesse I was hoping to find. This is a $20 Bordeaux red wine that will appeal to those who really enjoy the nuances that bold oak gives to red wine.

Let’s get back to those three factors that I believe cause Americans to shy away from French wine: language, unable to discern the grapes in the bottle, and price. Again, there isn’t much I can do about the language. As a matter of fact, I had to reach out to the PR firm who supplied these wines as samples, to ensure I was pronouncing them right. I wasn’t, for the record. It’s a matter of learning a different language, to whatever extent you are comfortable with. However, the second item, the grapes in the bottle, that’s changing.

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild wine from Bordeaux, France

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild wine from Bordeaux, France

It used to be the case that unless you studied the wine regions of France, you had no idea what grapes made the wines. If you didn’t learn that Burgundy reds are largely pinot noir, and Bordeaux left bank is predominantly cabernet sauvignon while right bank is predominantly merlot, you had no idea what you were drinking. That, of course, could cause  someone very particular about what they’re drinking to steer clear of these enigmas. However, recent changes in french wine labeling laws are allowing the grape variety to be printed on the label. While you probably won’t see them on all of the wines of France any time soon, you’ll definitely see them more often. And, if you’re ever wondering what grapes are in a bottle, feel free to ask me! I’ll do my best to answer right way!

The last factor, the price of French wines being prohibitive, is likely no longer a concern. Sure, you’ve heard of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild going for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. And I’m sure you’ve walked into a store and seen the bottle of Petrus for $2,500 and more. However, you’ve now seen how French wine can be found under $20.  There is a wide array of wines coming from France, and they span the price spectrum. And  I hope we can explore that wide world of wine together! Let me know the last French wine you had by leaving a comment below, as I’m very curious about your experiences!

Cheers!

Funk

Wine Music and Funk

Wine Music and Funk

Funk is all around us. It’s in music, as a funky bass line. It’s in wine, as the funky, barnyard scent found in some wines. And of course, it’s in our head. We all get into a funk from time to time. For some, it’s mere moments in a day, while for others, it can last weeks, months, even years. Some would say “Pick yourself up by the bootstraps and get on with it.” Yeah, thanks for that sage advice. Remind me to put you on the next suicide prevention call rotation. I don’t know if there is a sure fire way to break yourself out of a funk, but I’ll explain how I broke out of mine. However, before I talk about my funk, and why there’s been no content on the site for a while, I’m going to talk about the funk in wine.

There is no doubt that some wines just smell like funk. The wet band-aid or even barnyard scent can be subtle or strong, and you can love it, or hate it. I’m in the later camp, and really do not enjoy the scent when sipping wine.  The technical term for that funky smell is Brettanomyces, or Brett. It’s considered a flaw in wine, and while some people will hardly notice it, others, like me, are very sensitive to it and can smell it in a bottle is uncorked across the room. (Ok, slight exaggeration!) People can enjoy it, of course, feeling it adds complexity and a certain nuance of terroir (tehr-wah, French for the earth or where the wine is from, the locale and it’s essence). However, I’ve experienced first hand that funk is not always considered good.

Chateau Cantin in Saint Emilion, Bordeaux

Chateau Cantin in Saint Emilion, Bordeaux

I was in Bordeaux in April, and had the most amazing two days visiting the vineyards and a chateau or three. The last stop was Chateau Cantin, where my wife Robin and I met the winemaker, Mr. Vincent Cachau. Sipping on some of his wine, and enjoying small talk, I started to compliment him on the wine. I had said a number of complimentary things, but added the word “barnyard” to my notes. The winemaker’s reaction to the mention of “barnyard” is forever ingrained in my mind. He looked aghast, and took a sharp breath in. He said “No, really?” I said “Oh, not that funky barnyard, but more like an earthy, organic scent.” With relief, he said “Ah good, because the term for that barnyard is…” and he thought of how to say the word in English. “Brett, or Brettanomyces, and it’s terrible.” I offered. Smiling, he said “Brett, Yes. It’s a flaw. I hope you never experience it in my wines.” And we continued to sip happily.

Now, I am sure some people will disagree, stating that Bret is not a flaw, or they find it charming or interesting in a wine. And, I can clearly remember a tasting of some wine from St Joseph where the “barnyard” was tame, and it indeed was an interesting trait of the wine. However, as controlling the level of Brett produced making the wine is difficult, and guaranteeing those low levels is near impossible, Brett in wine is typically considered a flaw. All of that leads up to this: The next time you’re sipping on a wine, and you think you’re rolling around in Trigger’s barn stall after a wet day, don’t be ashamed to say the wine isn’t for you, and ask for something different. You don’t need to like that Funk!

In a Funk

In a Funk

Now, the funk in our head, that’s a flaw as well. Things can set us off, whether a life altering event or a minor change in our routine that throws us off. I have definitely been in a funk for the last year or so. My funk came about due to a number of odd factors, none terribly bad. My sister, who had been in the hospital since May 2011 and near death a few times, was finally doing well and getting ready to leave the hospital and go “home”. A good thing, you say – except family for me is sometimes stressful. While I was overjoyed with her health returning, the stress from logistically situating her was a bit overwhelming, especially regarding our extended family. Additionally, while work was good, I knew there was trouble brewing. A project or two was postponed or cancelled, ultimately ending in a 60 person layoff, which I was part of. Those factors, with a few other small things going on, added up to a funk that kept me from doing the things I enjoy, and just grinding day after day away.

So, how did I break out of the funk? I think getting laid off was part of it. After getting my resume together, and focusing on new opportunities, I started to get excited for the possibilities ahead of me. I started doing some more consulting in the wine field, which I absolutely love. I began networking with some great people, who helped me stay focused on the positive things. I also started to donate my time to a few charities that need my help, helping those who couldn’t help me. And, finally, after being together for eight years, Robin and I were able to get married, since we no longer worked together due to my layoff! All very little things that helped me get out of my own way and get back on track.

For me, I enjoy wine most when I’m sharing it with people. Therefore, I plan on getting back to sharing it more often with you. I may be sharing a few shorter posts at first, giving you some of the wines I’ve had recently, along with simple tasting notes. Once I get the words flowing again, we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled ramblings.

And all that said, I leave you with some GOOD funk….. Open up a big bold red, dim the lights, and let the bass transport you!

French Sparkling Wine and Champagne from $15 to $40

French Sparkling Wine And Champagne for New Years

French Sparkling Wine And Champagne for New Years

While New Year’s Eve is not the only time to pop a cork on some bubbly, it’s certainly the most popular night for it. If you were ever unsure of what to pour in your glass while you toast to the New Year, I’ve got you covered. I visited CBS 12 WPEC and brought three French sparkling wines that are affordable and delicious. Whether you prefer a true Champagne, or a more affordable Cremant d’Alsace or Cremant d’Bourgogne, these three options will delight you and your guests on New Year’s Eve or any time.

 

I have previously recommended Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne, as I feel it’s a French sparkling wine that offers great quality for the price. The Perle d’Aurore Brut Rose is a Burgundy wine made from 80% Pinot Noir & 20% Gamay, and is bottle fermented for at least 24 months, much longer than the legal requirement of 9 months. This enables the lees, or yeast used in fermentation, to add both aroma and complexity to the palate. I mention the flavor profile in the tv segment above, and for $15.99, I feel this is a bottle of bubbles to have on hand for any occasion that calls for a toast, such as making it through another Monday!

Louis Bouillot Perle d'Aurore Rosé Brut French Sparkling Wine

Louis Bouillot Perle d’Aurore Rosé Brut

The Albrecht family has been cultivating vineyards since as early as 1425, with major developments beginning in 1930 after the phylloxera crises. Lucien Albrecht lead the family estate and has been assisted by his son Jean Albrecht since 1980. Albrecht sparkling wines have been recommendations of mine previously, and I believe they continue to offer great quality for the price. At only $19.99, the Brut Reserve makes a great budget friendly alternative to Champagne.

Jean Albrecht Brut Reserve French Sparkling Wine

Jean Albrecht Brut Reserve French Sparkling Wine

While Eric Roby and I discussed that the French sparkling wines will be close to the Champagne in the above TV segment, there is still indeed a difference. Champagne is not only about a name, or the premium soils in which the grapes are grown. It’s about hundreds of years of tradition making only Champagne, focusing talents and honing the skill to produce a premium product. There are some amazing Champagne houses producing excellent bubblies, and Mailly is indeed one. Their vineyards are Grand Cru, some of the top quality soil to produce Champagne grapes. Made from 75% pinot noir and 25% chardonnay, this non-vintage Champagne is a combination of wines of one single crop, with reserve wines more than 10 years old. The blend then ages in French oak barrels up to 15 years old. The result is a dry, elegant sparkling wine that has beautiful notes of yellow apple with green apples on the finish. Elegant sophistication for only $38, which I purchased at my local Total Wine store.

Mailly Grand Cru Brut Reserve Champagne

Mailly Grand Cru Brut Reserve Champagne

I hope your New Year’s Eve toasts all come true, and hope you toast with some of these French sparkling wine options. These and the other budget friendly sparkling wine options I recommended on CBS this week are available at Total Wine. You can follow Total Wine on twitter, and find their website on their profile.

Let me know what you serve this New Year’s eve!

 

Toasting The New Year On A Budget

Instead of Champagne toast New Year's Eve with these budget friendly Sparkling Wines

Celebrate New Year’s Eve with Sparkling Wine

Looking to toast to your family and friend’s good health and happiness this New Year’s Eve, but not spend a fortune? There are plenty of sparkling wine options available if you don’t want to splurge for Champagne. I visited CBS 12 and chatted with Eric Roby and Michele Wright to talk about three sparkling wines under $13 that are perfect for ringing in the New Year, or any time!

While the Gruet family started off making Champagne in France, in the 70s they migrated to New Mexico, and after meeting other European wine makers, started making sparkling wine. Over 4,000 feet above sea level, their vineyards are cool at night, prolonging the growing and ripening periods, offering great fruit for their various sparkling and non-sparkling wines. The Gruet NV Brut costs only $12.99 at Total Wine, and many other wine retailers, but doesn’t lack the flavors of more expensive bubblies. Made from 75% chardonnay and 25% pinot noir, this non-vintage sparkling wine offers great flavors of green and yellow apple, with slight toasty notes.

Gruet NV Brut Sparkling Wine For New Years

Gruet NV Brut Sparkling Wine For New Years

If you like more dry styles of sparkling wine, Cava is a great option. With less fruit and more tart flavors, the Conde de Caralt Brut is a good option at $7.99. Made by Freixenet, I like the dry, tart style of this sparkler. There are some notes of apples, and some citrus, but the fruit is very faint. This is a good sparkling wine to mix cocktails, especially if you like making mimosa as it doesn’t end up being too sweet! Cava generally has a budget focused price point, and I’ve recommended Rondel cava in the past.

Conde de Caralt Brut Cava

Conde de Caralt Brut Cava

Prosecco is a light, delicious sparkling wine style from northern Italy. From Treviso, located in the Veneto region of Italy, the Luna d’Or Prosecco is made of Glera grapes. For $12.99, this refreshing sparkling wine has fruit forward flavors of melon, apricots, and citrus, and is perfect for those who like a little more fruit in their sparkling wines. Prosecco is a great option for a toast on New Year’s Eve. I’ve recommended Lemberti’s Prosecco in previous New Year’s Eve segments!

Luna d'Or Prosecco for your New Year's party

Luna d’Or Prosecco for your New Year’s party

Check back later on, as I’ll be posting another CBS 12 segment on French sparkling wine and Champagne that won’t break the bank. I’ll also have some other options for bubbles that I’ve had in recent weeks that have been fantastic, such as the Barons de Rothschild Champagne that for $99 at Total Wine is a great classic Champagne from a prestigious producer.