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The un-retiring of Bernard Portet

Bernard Portet Heritance Wines

Bernard Portet Heritance Wines

When I was asked if I wanted to meet Bernard Portet for lunch, I immediately hit the internet. Didn’t the 30+ year Clos du Val veteran retire from the business? Why would they want me  to meet with someone spending his days playing cards or shuffle board, wine industry veteran or not? The first result when searching for “Bernard Portet” brought up a July 2011 Napa Register article about his retirement barely lasting a year, and his being involved in a new venture, Heritance wines. I jumped at the chance to meet Bernard, and taste his wines, even if I wasn’t getting a “scoop” story.

I met Bernard at Tryst, a trendy downtown Delray Beach, FL restaurant for lunch. As I walked in, Bernard stood, warmly welcoming me to the table. We sat, along with Tryst owner Butch Johnson, and chatted about the Heritance Wines endeavor. After only a year of retirement, Bernard quickly grew antsy when he saw grapes on the vine during 2010′s harvest, and realized none of that would be wine that bore his signature. He soon formed a venture with Don Chase, named Polaris Wines, and began buying juice he had been fond of from the 2008 vintage. Bernard Portet uses assemblage winemaking for Heritance as it has long been his signature style, where he blends different lots of wine to craft a finished wine that is greater than the sum of their parts. Bernard began his masterful blending, and we were soon given Heritance Sauvignon Blanc and Heritance Cabernet Sauvignon, two wines made in the old world style of Bernard’s native France, heralding from Napa.

Bernard said the intent of Heritance wines was originally to be a negociant, buying juice from vintners and blending and bottling himself. However, that plan changed when the wine glut of 2008 and prior dried up. Bernard said the difficult 2009 and even worse 2010 vintages had caused there to be less available wine for Bernard to purchase and blend.  This forced him to change his business plan, purchasing grapes and blending at a custom crush facility. Heritance would not give up the mission of bringing good wine to market, and quickly began sourcing grapes in Napa to continue their project.

Our discussion lead to the styles of wine we often see out of Napa today. We discussed, and all agreed that the age of big, over the top wines may be coming to the close. Bernard feels that the pendulum has swing to it’s furthest point, and is starting to swing back towards more reserved, balanced and elegant wines. Indeed, Bernard found himself wanting to make wines that were closer to his French roots, balanced between fruit, earth and acidity, and crafted with food in mind. With that, we ordered lunch and began to taste the wine.

Heritance Sauvignon Blanc 2010 review

Heritance Sauvignon Blanc 2010

First we tasted the 2010 Heritance sauvignon blanc, a blend of 91% sauvignon blanc and 9% semillion. The nose was full of fresh melon, with faint notes of citrus. The palate was soft and fresh tropical fruit, with a round mouth feel. As the wine opened, citrus notes of lime and lemon developed, and a light herbal note permeated the glass. The Heritance sauvignon blanc had crisp but not bracing acidity, and additional spice notes developed over time. It’s aged and fermented in 100% stainless steel, and has 13.5% ABV. With only 2,000 cases available, it won’t be around long. This white wine had good depth and balance, making it a great $18 white wine, good on it’s own or with food.

I had ordered the fish tacos from Tryst’s lunch menu, and was very glad. Fresh fish, with great taco seasoning, made a great pairing for the sauvignon blanc. The citrus notes balanced the heat of the taco seasoning, while the spice from the wine managed to keep the flavors lingering. I also thought the fish taco would pair nicely with the Heritance cabernet sauvignon, and I was right.

Review heritance cabernet sauvignon 2008

Heritance cabernet sauvignon 2008

The Heritance Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 is a great under $30 Napa cab. A bouquet of dark cherry and spice box waft from the glass. The palate has beautiful fruit, black cherry and blackberry mix harmoniously with a mid-palate of earthy leather. This old world leather transitions into a finish of cedar and soft spice while holding on to the fruit. The finish absolutely kicks on this red wine, bold and prominent but not overpowering. At just 13.8% ABV, the Heritance Cabernet Sauvginon 2008 is a blend of 92% cabernet sauvignon and 8% merlot, and was aged in a mixture of new and used medium-toast French oak barrels. With only 3,000 cases made, you’ll find Heritance cabernet sauvignon mainly in restaurants on their website online.

The fish taco paired nicely with the Heritance cabernet sauvignon. The spice from the wine pumped the spice from the taco, while the dark Mexican seasonings worked nicely with the black fruit. However, I think this wine would prefer beef roasted or grilled, as well as lamb, or veal.

Bernard has no plans of stopping with just the two wines currently in his portfolio. There are plans to bring another red wine to market shortly, and while I can’t mention what it is, I look forward to this South American gem gracing my glass and palate soon. Additional plans are in the work to expand past that and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Bernard Portet, Heritance and his wines.

Wine and Chocolate for Valentines Day

Rodney Strong red wines

Rodney Strong red wines

With Valentine’s Day approaching, wine and chocolate will be bought and consumed in astounding numbers. About 58 million pounds of chocolate will be purchased, and I’m sure more than a few bottles of wine will wash that down. For the past 23 years, the Rodney Strong Wine & Chocolate Fantasy event has paired wines with gourmet chocolate, inviting guests to revel in the sensory delight. The Rodney Strong twitter team asked if I’d participate in a Twitter Tastelive event, pairing three of their red wines with chocolate, and tweeting about it. I admitted that my personal palate preferred food to sweets when pairing wines, but I’d love to challenge my palate.

Rodney Strong 2009 Knitty Vines Zinfandel

Rodney Strong 2009 Knitty Vines Zinfandel

First we taste the Rodney Strong Knotty Vines 2009 Zinfandel, as well as paired it with some grilled hamburgers. Spending 16 months in a mixture of French and American oak barrels, this $18.50 zinfandel displays a bouquet of red berries such as red raspberry and even dark cherry, while the palate offers bright red berry fruit, raspberry on the front, with the flavor getting darker on the mid palate and the finish. There are notes of black pepper on the back end, and the wine has good California fruit, and is big and powerful without being overblown. It’s a perfect wine for a bbq, whether ribs or burgers, and we had to struggle not to finish it with our meal, for the upcoming chocolate tasting.

Rodney Strong Alexander Valley 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

Rodney Strong Alexander Valley 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

Next we taste the Rodney Strong Alexander Valley 2009 cabernet sauvignon, a $25 bottle of California wine. A full bodied red, the nose shows fresh dark cherry, ceder and baking spice. The palate opens nicely, showing more fruit than wood and spice, while retaining a nice firm tannin structure. With the burger, the California fruitiness of this wine tones down, and the earthy leather notes really show through on the mid and finish. It works nicely with or without food, and I was able to enjoy a glass up to three days after it was opened. It retained it’s fruitiness, while still having integrated tannins lending body to the wine.

Rodney Strong 2007 A True Gentleman's Port

Rodney Strong 2007 A True Gentleman’s Port

Finally we taste Rodney Strong 2007 A True Gentleman’s Port, from Sonoma County. A blend of 39% zinfandel, 30% touriga, 16% malbec, and 15% syrah, this wine is aged 40 months in neutral oak, after being fermented on the skins. This is a very limited release wine, available only to the winery’s Collector’s Circle members and at the winery itself. Without the benefit of air, the nose was hot and spicy, and the palate had a tremendous amount of power behind it, with plum, raisin and spice notes. However, on the second day, the Rodney Strong A True Gentleman’s Port opened to a big, full, round and silky palate, with flavors of dark chocolate, raisin, plum and fig.  There was fine spice on the finish, and it lingers quite a while.  The nose on the third day is dominated by chocolate, and the palate is even rounder, softer, more integrated, like a plum and raisin dark chocolate bar, instead of individual notes. For $30, it’s a very nice way to end a meal.

Dark Chocolate to taste with wine

Dark Chocolate to taste with wine

Now that we’ve taste the wines, how does the chocolate factor in? First, we had five different chocolates to try, including some 72% cocoa bits from Peters’ Chocolates from Sebastopol, CA, as well as 55%, 61% and 72% cocoa dark chocolate from Chocolate By Numbers. I also added a little Brix chocolate later on, which is supposidly chocolate made especially to pair with wine. We’ll cover that after the cover the first four chocolates.

Frankly, I’m still not a dark chocolate fan, and still don’t like chocolate with my wines. I found pairing 72% dark chocolate from Peters’ Chocolates with the Rodney Strong Port was my favorite pairing of the night.  The wine took some of the heat out of the finish, and brought out the chocolate notes in the wine, of course. However, there were tons of oohs and ahhs about the pairings, with other wine writers loving the different wines with different levels of cocoa. Everyone’s palate is different, and there are different sensitivities to sweet, salty, and sour. So don’t let my preferences influence yours too much. You can try some Rodney Strong wines and chocolate and attend the Wine & Chocolate event Feb 4, 2012 at the winery, and form your own opinion.

Brix 54% Cacao Dark Chocolate

Brix 54% Cacao Dark Chocolate

Back to the Brix Chocolate. The Brix was 54% cacoa and surprised me in terms of taste, in a positive way. Supposedly made with pairing wine in mind, Brix chocolate claims to pair well with Champagne, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Vintage port. At $10 for 8 ounces, it’s about double the price of a bag of Dove chocolate, which you can get in the grocery store. While I felt it was pretty good chocolate, and I felt it paired really well it with port, I’d have a hard time recommending you buy it just because it pairs with wine.  I’ve not paired it with anything other than port, and have a bottle of Prosecco that I’ll try it with later this week!

What are your thoughts on chocolate and wine? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Do you want to try it? Let me know your thoughts, leave a comment below!

 

All of these wines, and chocolates, were provided as samples to taste and discuss honestly with you. Nothing affects my opinion of the wines or products I write about, not even getting them as free samples.

Wine Gift Ideas For The Holidays Part 1

Great Wine Gift Ideas

Great Wine Gift Ideas

I’m sure you’re making your last minute rush to get gifts for everyone on your list as I write this.  I’m sorry this didn’t get to you sooner, but I’m here to offer three great ideas for wine gifts for everyone on your list.  I’ll post the video, which has all of the information you’ll need. However, I’ll also put some quick highlights below the video for you to cut and paste into your wish list.

Seven Peaks 2009 Pinot Noir

Seven Peaks 2009 Pinot Noir

First up was a $9.99 option from California. The Seven Peaks Pinot Noir was one of my Thanksgiving recommendations, and it carried over to the Holidays. I feel for $10, it offers a nice, fruit driven pinot noir that most wine drinkers and non wine drinkers alike will enjoy. I mentioned previously that this wine was made by Deloach Vineyards. The Seven Peaks label is owned Jean-Charles Boisset, also the owner of Deloach vineyards. The winemakers are Bill Arbios (Lyeth – Sonoma County) and Dan Cederquist, and are not tied to Deloach that I can see.

Pascal Jolivet 2010 Sancerre

Pascal Jolivet 2010 Sancerre

The next option for $20-25 was Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2010. This wine can be found in most retail shops, and like the other two options here today, can be found at most Total Wine stores. A great white wine for any time of the year, this crisp, lean expression of Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, France is fantastic. It has excellent citrus notes and good acidity  with nice minerality. It’s perfect with seafood, salads, appetizers or just sipping alone.

Chateau La Nerthe 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape

Chateau La Nerthe 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape

Finally, an incredible wine for $50-55, the Chateau La Nerthe 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This wine is a gift for anyone who likes wine, loves wine, or wants to love wine. From one of the oldest Chateau’s on record in the area, with evidence dating back to 12th century, this historic winery produces amazing options. This wine shows beautiful dried fruits with amazing earthy and leathery mid palate notes. The wine is perfectly balanced, with nice acidity, restrained fruit, and perfect earthiness that typifies the region. While this will harmonize perfectly with your beef, lamb or any roast meat dish for the holidays, it’s perfect to sip on alone. It’s a definite great gift for the holidays.

Whether you need a gift for Christmas, a gift of Hanukkah/Chanukah , or just a gift for someone who deserves something special this holiday season, these three wines will make perfect options.  I’ll be back shortly with a few more options at various prices making your holiday wine gift ideas simple!

Some of the wines presented here were offered as media samples. That, however, does not influence my decision to include them in posts, television segments, or recommendations. I only recommend wines I believe offer great quality for the price, and stand behind each offering as something I would, and usually do, spend my own money on.

Talking Turkey – and Wine

Wine Ideas For Thanksgiving

Wine Ideas For Thanksgiving

With the cornucopia of food on your Thanksgiving table, finding one wine that works with everything being served is impossible. As I mentioned in my previous Thanksgiving wine article, drink what you like is a popular response to “what’s the best wine for Thanksgiving”. However, I have some additional recommendations that will work not only with a typical holiday meal, but any food or occasion. In the video that follows, I chat with CBS12 anchors Suzanne Boyd and Eric Roby about three wines, with more detail on each below the video.

Gewurzstraminer Hugel 2009

Gewurzstraminer Hugel 2009

Gewürztraminer is a grape often recommended on Thanksgiving. The palate is typically light to medium bodied, and the flavors work well with not only Turkey, but much of the side dishes you’ll find at a holiday feast. While grown around the world, I prefer gewurztraminer from the Alsace, such as the Hugel 2009 Gewürztraminer. For about $15, this white wine offers fantastic value. What I love about this wine is its light palate, dominated by white floral notes such as jasmine and honeysuckle. The finish brings a nice spice flavor, and leaves soft peach and apricot notes that linger. However, the acidity is firm, lending a tiny citrus note to the palate, and that works perfect with turkey, yams, and even fresh fruit. It is important to note that this wine will change as it warms and gets air while in your glass. You’ll notice the flavors more prominent and it becomes a little less crisp and a little fuller bodied. I recommend popping the cork 5 or 10 minutes before you’re ready to eat, and letting it breathe just a little bit.

Rodney Strong 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Rodney Strong 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Pinot noir makes an appearance twice in my holiday recommendations, as I feel it’s a versatile, food friendly wine. Rodney Strong 2009 Russian River Pinot Noir delivers a stunning red wine for only $20. A beautiful, light garnet color in the glass, this is a wine that wasn’t over extracted or over concentrated. With fruit from estate vineyards, meaning the fruit is from Rodney Strong Vineyards or from vineyards they control, manage the growing practices, and have long term contracts with, this Pinot is every bit old world in style as it is new. There is big flavor in the bottle, with tons of raspberry and dried strawberry. However, the palate is a mix of California and Burgundy, as it delivers the right amount of new world fruit perfectly balanced with old world earth and tobacco. This pinot noir will benefit from some breathing time, so pull the cork and let the bottle sit for about 20 minutes before serving, or decant and let aerate for 10 minutes. This will allow the wine to open a little, allow you to more fully enjoy the wine. While I was quite happy sipping this on it’s own, look for this wine to pair with almost any meat you put on your thanksgiving table. From turkey to pork to beef, this Pinot rocks them all.

Potel Aviron 2009 Julienas Cru Beaujolais

Potel Aviron 2009 Julienas Cru Beaujolais

Finally, though I have absolutely no love for Beaujolais Nouveau, I’m a fan of wines from many of the 10 Cru Beaujolais areas. These areas are designated due to their superior conditions for growing grapes in comparison to other areas within Beaujolais. While both are made from the gamay grape, Cru Beaujolais wines are more structured, typically aged before release, and are nothing like their bubblegum Nouveau wine cousins. Each of the 10 Crus brings something different to the wines, and this wine from Julienas is no exception. The wines of this area tend to have a rich, spicy character coupled with fruity qualities of gamay. The palate of the  Potel Aviron 2009 Julienas had notes of dried dark cherry, with an old world, earthy component as well. This wine definitely needed to decant for about an hour before serving, and could age for a year or two and still show nicely. For fans of old world wines, created to pair with a meal, this $25 wine will be a treat.

Dr  Loosen 2006 BA

Dr Loosen 2006 BA

At the end of the TV segment, Eric and Suzanne ask about dessert wines. I’m a big fan of port, but believe beerenauslese riesling is a better pick for Thanksgiving. This riesling is a little lighter than a port, and after a big meal, is the right wine for that touch of sweetness you may crave. A lover of Dr Loosen wines, their 2006 Beerenauslese will offer the rich, sweet honeyed apricots and nectarine flavors that end the evening perfectly. It will pair with many of the fruit pie desserts served during Thanksgiving, or be perfect on it’s own. This high quality, low quantity wine will fetch about $25 for a 187ml bottle or $50 for a 375ml bottle, which is half the size of a “normal” wine bottle. There are many late harvest riesling option available at a lower price, but they won’t necessarily be the same the quality of Dr Loosen’s BA.

I look forward to hearing what wines you pick for your Thanksgiving day meal. And no matter what you drink, I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving!

 

-These wines were provided as media samples for review. However, my opinions are my own, and not influenced by samples or the people who provide them -

Thanksgiving Holiday Wines on By The Glass Show

Guest Appearance on By The Glass Radio Show

Guest Appearance on By The Glass Radio Show

As the holidays approach, more and more people are asking what wine goes best with turkey for Thanksgiving. The standard answer most wine writers are giving is “Drink what you like.”  Indeed, the idea of “Thanksgiving wine pairings” is rather overdone, and for many reasons. First of all, a Google search will bring up thousands of articles from past years, all giving the same wine pairing advice. Secondly, with the large amounts of food on the Thanksgiving table, spanning the taste spectrum from savory to sweet, it’s impossible to say one wine goes best with everything. Therefore, the new stock answer is drink what you like.

That’s all well and good if you know what you like. However, some people may not be sure what wine they like, or perhaps aren’t looking for the wine that pairs with turkey, but rather a new wine to try they haven’t thought about. That’s where I come in. I hope to offer a few different options in this and the next few posts that help  make your wine pairing more fun for the holidays. Under the guise of talking about the 2011 vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau, I visited Brett Hubbard and his By The Glass radio show to talk turkey, and wine.

Debeaune Beaujolais Nouveau 2011

Debeaune Beaujolais Nouveau 2011

The show took a quick look at Beaujolais Nouveau, which is the marketing gimmick from the 1970s designed by négociant Georges Duboeuf, along with others, to generate cash flow and move the wine that wasnt necessarily the best that the Beaujolais region had to offer. It worked, and year after year they pump out around 49 million liters of grape juice, exporting about half, and we buy it. It goes against almost everything France stands for. It’s flashy, with whacky bottle designs, and it’s young, going against all of the age requirements wines are held to in every other region.

Beaujolais Nouveau 2001 from Georges Duboeuf

Beaujolais Nouveau 2001 from Georges Duboeuf

First was Jean-Claude Debeaune 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau. It was horrible. Two of us choked when we took our first sip! It reminded me of a jelly donut with way too much powdered sugar. The only reason you should drink this is if someone is holding a gun to your head. It had no merit, what so ever.

Next up, the Georges Deboeuf 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau. The packaging was pretty funky, with a Parisian cafe scene on the bottle. It was really eye catching, and my photo doesn’t do it justice. And, amazingly, the wine inside wasn’t horrible. It was simple, easy to drink, there was a little structure there, and at the price, which was under $10, it would be good for more than just putting out a fire. While it wouldn’t be a wine I serve for Thanksgiving, or really at all, I wouldn’t turn a glass away.

Now, on to the real Thanksgiving wine pairings. I selected three wines that are all safe holiday pairings, based solely on the grape and the region. I had never tasted them before, but felt they were safe picks. One of them was a favorite region in Burgundy, another was from a producer with a great history with the grape, and the last was a winery that I’ve reviewed and enjoyed for years and it was my failsafe pick, I knew it wouldn’t suck!

Domaine Chatelain 2010 Petit Chablis

Domaine Chatelain 2010 Petit Chablis

When people tell me they hate chardonnay, my first response is to pour them a glass of Chablis. Often called the truest expression of the grape, Chablis is typically unoaked, does not see malolactic fermentation that would wine that buttery mouthfeel and palate, and is crisp, clean and mineral driven. The Domaine Chatelain 2010 Petit Chablis is a great example of that. For $18, this wine offered a great expression of Chablis, with notes of pear and apple, or what we described as orchard fruit on the show, with a medium body and good acidity which comes through on the palate as a citrus note. The wine had a nice, long finish, which meant after you swallowed, you still had some of the flavors in your mouth, and that would interact nicely with your next bite of food. The body of the wine will stand up to the rich Thanksgiving day feast, and the acidity makes it very food friendly. It’s well balanced, and it will be a welcome addition to your holiday meal. I picked this wine up, as well as the next two, at Total Wine and More in South Florida.

Seven Peaks 2009 Pinot Noir

Seven Peaks 2009 Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a wine that works well with almost any meal. It’s typically light enough to go with white meats, but acidic and heavy enough to go with beef if you want. The Seven Peaks is produced by Deloach, makers of fine Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. The Seven Peaks had good fruit, berry and strawberry, with a little spice on the finish. It probably isn’t going to wow Burgundian pinot noir fans, it was a bit concentrated and jammy for my palate, the weight and acidity, again, make it a great wine for your Thanksgiving feast. Additionally, for only $9.99, this is a wine that not only works for a holiday meal, but also works for every day. It did open and soften a little with air, and I think your experience will change, in a good way, as you sip this throughout the evening.

Sobon Estate 2009 Hilltop Zinfandel

Sobon Estate 2009 Hilltop Zinfandel

Finally, we looked at the Sobon Estate 2009 Hillside zinfandel. One of the lower priced Sobon wines at $9.99, there is a lot of value in the bottle. A mix of estate fruit and purchased fruit, this zinfandel is rich and jammy, offering big berry fruit, while not being over the top. At 14.5% alcohol by volume, it’s alcohol restrained and balanced, offering a very nice glass of wine for the price. It’s medium to full bodied, and has a nice finish of spices that balance the fruit on the front end of the palate. While not my favorite Sobon Estate Zinfandel, as I prefer the slightly more expensive Cougar Hill or Rocky Top for $16, this red wine is going to work nicely on Thanksgiving. As a matter of fact, Jason from the By The Glass Show team said it was going to be his pick for the holiday meal. It’ll work nicely with turkey, pair with cranberry sauce, and probably stand up to any heavier foods you serve as well. It’s also a very nice sipping wine, and you’ll enjoy it long after the meal is done.

I’ll be back tomorrow with three more wines for Thanksgiving that I’ll be talking about on CBS12. Only one grape is a repeat, and it’s a very different wine, so be sure to come back and check it out! You can also catch my By The Glass Show visit online!

In Harmony – Pasta and Harmony Cellars Zinfandel

Harmony Cellars 2008 Zinfandel

Harmony Cellars 2008 Zinfandel

Paso Robles has been getting a lot of attention for it’s wines of late. When Saxum won Wine Spectator 2010 Wine Of the Year, Rhone varietals such as marsasnne, roussane, and of course syrah from the Paso Robles area became highly sought after. During a recent press trip to Paso, I tasted many great Rhone varietal wines from Paso Robles wineries such as Tablas Creek and Denner. However, as Paso Robles is also well known for it’s zinfandel wines, I had to sip a few of them. I was fortunate to have a sample bottle sent home to review of one of those zinfandel wines from Harmony Cellars.

The View Outside of Harmony Cellars Tasting Room

The View Outside of Harmony Cellars Tasting Room

A small, family-owned winery, Harmony produces about 6,500 cases of various wines each year. Owners Chuck and Kim Mulligan founded the winery in 1989, and winemaker Chuck Mulligan still does most of the work himself. The winery sits on a plot of land that has been in Kim’s family for four generations, and Kim’s great grandfather, Giacomo Barloggio used to make homemade wine in his basement.

Though I don’t know for sure, I will assume based on his name that great-grandpa Giacomo Barloggio was Italian. Perhaps that’s why the Harmony Cellars 2008 Zinfandel is a perfect pasta wine. I’ve been making a simple bolognese sauce for the past six years, and always love pairing it with different red wines to see what works well. I’m positive that the Harmony Cellars Zinfandel is my favorite pairing so far. With a price of $19 for the wine, it makes an for inexpensive pasta meal for two.

Harmony - Pasta and Zinfandel

Harmony – Pasta and Zinfandel

On it’s own, the Harmony Cellars Zinfandel was big and jammy, with plenty of dark cherry, blackberry and a little chocolate note. There’s also a good bit of spice, black pepper and cinnamon on the palate. The wine paired perfectly with the pasta bolognese, enhancing the dark chocolate notes while maintaining a good balance of dark fruit and spice.

Pasta isn’t the only food this wine will pair well with. Zinfnadel works great with almost anything you’d cook on the grill. With Father’s Day coming up, Dad will love putting some burgers and dogs on the grill, and pairing them with a glass of Harmony Cellars Zinfandel. If BBQ ribs are your thing, then zinfandel is for you! I love the combination of a great zinfandel and BBQ ribs, and Dad will too!

Sipping something Un4Seen

Un4Seen Red Blend

Un4Seen Red Blend

Sometimes the adage “You get what you pay for” doesn’t necessarily hold true. Sometimes, you get less, but every now and then, you get more. That was the case with a sample of Un4Seen Red Wine I received recently. And while I didn’t actually spend the $10, I’d do so in a second!

With it’s hokey little name and it’s cute little label, I really didn’t expect much from this wine. However, what was in the bottle really impressed me, especially since I hadn’t heard of the ‘new’ winery from Lodi, or the people making it. I did a little research, however, and found out who I think is behind the wine. The folks at Lange Twins winery. I mean, can it be a coincidence that the 2008 vintage was done by Chief Winemaker David Akiyoshi and the 2009 vintage by winemaker Karen Birmingham, both part of the Lange Twins Team? Anyway, I digress.

What strikes you first about the wine is the blend of grapes used to make it. Clearly listed in red on the label, Un4seen is a blend of Zinfandel, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot, not necessarily four grapes you’d expect to find in one bottle. The grapes all come from Lodi and Clarksburg, California. The 2009 vintage sees the four different grapes fermented separately, then blended to create the wine in the bottle. Each of the grapes can stand on it’s own, and what happened when they came together was interesting.

Right out of the bottle, with no air, there were restrained red cherries with some leather on the nose. The palate is a dark red fruit, cherries and maybe raspberries. There’s an earthy element and light leather as well, with a slight tart finish, but I enjoy it. The tannins are soft, and it’s an easy drinking wine with some decent complexity. However, after 30 or so minutes, and pairing with a perfectly grilled steak, this wine began to shine.

Suddenly, adding some beef to the equation allowed really nice fruit comes out of the glass. The notes from the wine vacillated back and forth, with a very fruit forward stance with a midpalate of black pepper. The Zinfandel definitely takes center state, with tremendous ripe, red berries. However, the mid palate and finish shows the malbec and merlot, with an earthy finish. From sip to sip, those flavors would show themselves, each battling for center stage, but in a fun, playful way.

For $10, I didn’t expect this wine to rock my socks off. However, it definitely brought some more to the table, or wine glass, than I expected. Worth the money, and then some. Throw a nice steak at it, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good $10 can taste.

What is your favorite $10 and under wine?

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?