Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Malbec for Your Memorial Day BBQ

I can’t believe it’s already Memorial Day. Once March hit, time began speeding up. Well, that’s how it felt to me. Now as we big to prepare for our Memorial Day barbecues we have to think about what wines we are going to serve.
One of my go to summer reds is Malbec, especially the ones produced in Argentina as they seem to go really well with grilled or smoked food. Whether you are grilling a pizza or a pork chop, ribs or steak, think about these two Argentina wines.
2015 Colomé Estate Malbec comes from the highest vineyards in the world. What impact does high altitude have on the grapes? Grapes grown at higher altitudes offer much more sun and less UV production. Yes grapes get sunburn too. A thicker skinned grape is produced and that will deliver a more robust taste.
Colomé located in the upper Calchaqui Valley in the Salta region of Argentina has been making wine since 1831. Their four estate vineyards are blended into the Estate bottling of Malbec and sustainability a key to their farming practices. The 2015 Estate Malbec spends 15 months in French oak barrels and then 6 months in the bottle. The alcohol content is a bit high at 14.9%, but this 100% Malbec will go great at your barbecue.
Complex aromas fill the glass of the deep purple wine. Ripe juicy blackberries, black fruit, toast and hints of floral will get you excited for the first sip. Once on your palate ripe black fruit bursts with spiced oak, tannins and nice acidity and just a hint of pepper spice on the finish. Once you savor that sip and get the flavors see how it will enhance your meal. This 2015 Colomé Estate Malbec retails for $25. Try this Seared Lamb Fresh Corn &  Quinoa Soup they suggest with it.
Amalaya is another brand producing a nice Malbec, but what is different here is that it is 85% Malbec with 10% Tannat and 5% Petit Verdot. It is grown in the Calchaqui Valley of Argentina on vineyards located at 1,800 meters above sea level. The Amalaya brand began as an experiment at Bodega Colomé as they were looking for alternative sourcing and varieties for their Malbec and Torrontes blends. Amalaya means “Hope for a Miracle.” None of the land where they began planting grapes had never been planted, so it was really a crap shoot that produced some good vines. They blend the varieties so that they can reach their full expression.

The 2016 Amalaya is 14% alcohol with some nice soft tannins and acidity. Produced from the Finca Las Mercedes vineyard in Calchaqui Valley, 25% of the wine is aged in French Oak barrels for 8 months. A nice dark purple in color showcasing aromas of violets, vanillam red and dark berries. On the palate ripe blackberries stand out with black and red cherries, plum, vanilla and red fruit. There is a soft pepper spice on the finish that lingers and fades out. Very moderately priced at $16 will go with any barbecue. Try Amalaya’s Grilled Tomahawk Steak with squash and zesty watercress salad.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Winephabet Street: Season 1 Episode 11 K is for Kabinett

Welcome to Winephabet Street Season 1 Episode 11. Winephabet Street is a monthly series where Lori Budd of Draceana Wines and myself work our way through the alphabet exploring wine and wine regions on letter at a time. The show is live on the third Monday at 8pm and is free, but you must register to attend. Put in on your calendar, pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out with us.

This month we explored the Kabinett classification in Germany. Did you know it was also known as Cabinet and Kabinettwien. The term was first used with the Cistercian monks at the Eberbach Abby in 1712 and was used for their best wines.

Learn all about the classification and the two wines me and Lori opened during the program. I opened a Nik Weis Weingut St. Urbans-Hof Kabinett Riesling that had hints of petrol apricot and grapefruit on the finish. As it warms up peach flavor surface. Lori’s was much different than mine.
Sit back with a glass of wine and join us as we explore Kabinett. Watch the webinar or listen to the podcast.

Don’t miss the next episode of Winephabet Street Monday, May 21 at 8pm where we travel to Italy and learn about Lambrusco. Register here

You can find all past episodes on and don’t forget to visit our sponsor the wine club where wine experts select wines matched to your taste, personalized for you and shipped right to your door.



Thursday, May 10, 2018

Spring into Summer with Hess Select Whites

It’s that time of year when I begin to drink more white wines. In our home the saying is if it’s light outside, it’s a white. I was excited to taste some of the Hess Select whites, especially after tasting some of the reds. (see previous post here)
To celebrate Spring I brought these three Hess Select whites over to my friend Jenn’s house to be enjoyed for the first barbecue of the season. On the menu were Turkey Burgers and bean salad. I’ll let you know which one paired the best at the end.

I am not a big Pinot Gris fan so I was excited to taste the Hess Select 2017 Pinot Gris. I’m always trying to expand my palate and comfort zone. You have to realize, if you are not thrilled with a wine variety by one winery, you might be impressed by the same variety by another winery especially if it’s from a different part of the world. With that in mind I have to say I was impressed with the 2017 Pinot Gris. So impressed, I was smiling after taking the first sip.

This Pinot Gris is fermented in stainless steel with no oak influence. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed it so much. Aromas of white flowers and pineapple immediately brightened the Spring evening. Flavors of tropical fruit, pineapple and a touch of honey fills your palate with nicely balanced soft acidity. This wine is great value at $13. This will pair nicely with white fish.

Hess Select 2016 Monterey County Chardonnay was fermented in 75% stainless steel and 25% new French oak. The grapes come from Shirtail Creek estate vineyard that benefits from the cooling fog of Monterey and the costal breezes. This Chardonnay had wonderful clean expression of fruit and nice balanced acidity. Flavors of melon, pineapple and green apple expressed themselves with a slight hint of butterscotch on the finish. Another great value summer wine from Hess at $12. I can see pairing this Chardonnay with a nice fresh lobster!

Hess Select North Coast 2016 Sauvignon Blanc fermented in stainless steel has nice bright acidity and not to racy. The North Coast of California is unique with a mild Mediterranean climate and well drained volcanic and gravelly soils that allow the Sauvignon Blanc to thrive. Nice flavors of citrus and tropical notes. Another great value from Hess at $13. This would pair nicely with shellfish.

What paired the best with the turkey burgers? The Pinot Gris and the Chardonnay.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Happy Sauvignon Blanc Day

Today, May 4th is the day we celebrate the Sauvignon Blanc. A grape that is grown all over the world and produces a nice crisp and acidic wine. Some regions more acidic than others. It is the 8th most widely planted grape.
Sauvignon Blanc is the parent to Cabernet Sauvignon along with Cabernet Franc. It was first discovered in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux region of France. It is believed that the name was conceived from the French word sauvage which means wild and the vines grew like a weed when they were discovered.
In France the main growing regions for Sauvignon Blanc are Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. In Bordeaux the Sauvignon Blanc is usually blended with Semillon to create the Bordeaux white blend. I personally find the Semillon tames the acidity of the Sauvignon Blanc and makes if feel a bit more full bodied. You will find flavors of lemons, grapefruit, lime and green apple. Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are used to produce Sauternes which is a late harvest dessert wine produced in Bordeaux.
Sauvignon Blanc produced from the Loire Valley goes under the names of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume. Look for those names on the label.
New Zealand is known for their Sauvignon Blanc and was first planted in 1975. In fact it’s their signature wine. In New Zealand there are over 50,000 acres spread over 11 regions planted with Sauvignon Blanc. Although they produce only 1% of the worlds production of this wine, 86% of Sauvignon Blanc is exported every year. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc I feel is the most acidic Sauvignon Blanc. You might find some characteristics of tropical fruit, grapefruit, fresh cut grass, lime and “cat pee” jumping out of the glass.
Chile is a newer region to plant Sauvignon Blanc. It is grown in the Casablanca, Bio-Bio,Colchagua, Leyda, San Antonio, Elqui and Limari regions. You will find nice crisp soft acidity with tropical fruit and citrus flavors.
South Africa is another region with Sauvignon Blanc. I got hooked on the wine from the Stellenbosch Vineyards a few years back. It has nice crisp acidity but not racy like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It’s an acidic step down and very enjoyable.
In the United States Sauvignon Blanc is grown in California, Oregon and New York and probably a few other places as well. Charles Wetmore is responsible for bringing Sauvignon Blanc to California and planted them for his winery in the Livermore area. There was a time when California Sauvignon Blanc was a hard sell. Robert Mondavi is responsible for re-branding it Fume Blanc which he aged in oak. The oak will tone down the acidity quite a bit. Fume Blanc is still made today, so just note that it’s got a touch of oak to it.
I tend to compare Sauvignon Blanc on an acid scale where the New Zealand is 10 with racy acidity. I would rate California Sauvignon Blanc a 7 as well as New York Sauvignon Blanc.
Even though it’s the same grape grown all over the world, the tasting profile will change according to the terroir of the region. Where some you will get straight citrus, others tropical fruit, earth tones, minerality, green apple, pineapple, fresh cut grass, honey, jasmine, gooseberries, yes and the famous “cat pee”.
What is your favorite region for Sauvignon Blanc?

I’m leaving you with a video I did a few years ago where me and my neighbors did a blind tasting of Sauvignon Blanc. It was a fun night and we tasted until the sun went down. Here is a link to the entire article if you wish to read it

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Arrogant Frog Returns

I don’t know what it is about this frog but I am beginning to fall in love with him. I don’t know if it’s his daper look or the scents he gives off. In any event, The Arrogant Frog paid me a visit with his new Lily Pad Pink which is 100% Rose of Syrah from the Languedoc region of France.
Jean Claude Mas is fourth generation grape grower and first generation winemaker at Domaines Paul Mas and he produces the Arrogant Frog label. The Arrogant Frog came to life in 2005 when Jean-Claude felt that there need to be some humor to make people feel different about the French. People saw the French people as arrogant and Jean-Claude came up with the Arrogant Frog brand to mock the French self-confidence. It’s been quite successful and how can you not fall in love with such a daper frog?
The vineyards that the Syrah for the Lily Pad Pink grow are on gravely, clay limestone hills of the Herault Valley as well as on the limestone hills overlooking Thau Lake. You can definitely taste the minerality of the limestone in the wine.
The Arrogant Frog Rose Lily Pad Pink is a beautiful soft salmon pink in color with nice acidity and aromas of wild cherries with hints of spring flowers. The palate was well balanced with flavors of cherry, watermelon and hints of orange zest. It retails for $9.99 and is a great value.
Arctic Char

Roasted Half Duck

I took the wine to the restaurant to see what dishes it would pair well with. Definitely the cheese plate but also the duck on the menu, both the Duck Cakes and Roasted Duck and the Arctic Char. A great value wine that over delivers.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Tim Tam Experience

What I love most about visiting a winery is meeting the people behind the scenes and learning new things. Bonus if it’s fun and challenging. In this article we are going to learn about the Tim Tam Experience which at first I was hesitant, but really enjoyed it and so will you.

Let me begin by explaining, last month I got invited to Old York Cellars in Ringoes, New Jersey with Lori Budd of Dracaena Wines and Dave Mullen of New Jersey Uncorked. I love it when us writers get together and get to do some tasting together, especially when it’s the first time meeting in person as it was with me and Dave. So a road trip it was on a Sunday morning and New Jersey is a pretty long state so I was unsure where I was heading at the mercy of my GPS. Ringoes is actually outside Philadelphia and surprisingly it took me on roads I knew from driving to my in-laws, so that was comforting.

About David Wolin - Owner, Old York Cellars
So often you wonder, how did someone get into the wine business, I do and I asked David Wolin that question. David, an attorney in New York, New Jersey area loves to travel to the many wine regions of the world. While visiting Mendoza in 2004 he had his “Ah-ha” moment and thought it would be nice to live on a vineyard. So the search began that took him first to Virginia then to New Jersey. He came across Amwell Valley Vineyard in Ringoes for sale that had been started in 1978 by Dr. Michael Fisher. Seemed the place was in bankruptcy and in 2008 David purchased the property. The first thing he did was call up winemaker Scott Gares and ask him if he wanted the position and then they revamp the trellis system to a VSP. The second year they rebuilt the tasting room and put the stone patio out front. The following two years they revamped the tank room and put the glass frontage so people can see the winemaker at work.

About the Property
When we arrived in the tasting room, we were greeted like royalty and handed off to Scott who brought us over to David’s home which is right next door and Laurin Dorman the General Manager joined us. On the property they grow 18 varieties, a mix of hybrid grapes and vinifera. At the beginning in 2009 they were just a 1500 case winery. This year will have them pushing 10,000 case production. Part of that production is a private label produced solely for Wegman’s under their “What Exit” label.

What the Intern Teaches You
It’s all about the intern. Every year people want to learn about making wine and come from all over to do so. One year the intern they had at Old York Cellars was from Australia and he taught them the “Tim Tam Slam.” It seems that “Down Under” there is a very specific way they like to drink red port wine. First you need the Tim Tams. You want the original. When I got home I checked out Amazon and they come in all kinds of flavors. You bite off the opposite corners, dunk the Tim Tam into the port and drink like a straw. Then eat the Tim Tam which is soft and soaked in Port. Here’s how you do it. If I can do it, you can too. Honestly, this is the most fun I’ve had at a tasting and I learned something new.

The Wines

2016 Barrel Sample Cabernet Sauvignon x 2
Yes we were treated to two barrel samples of Cabernet Sauvignon both grapes were sourced from South Jersey. Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Sample 1 was sourced from South Jersey. Crushed and put into a tank for fermentation. On skins for 18 days to extract the color and tannins. I found this Cab a bit light on the palate, soft acidity with flavors of black cherry, plum and dark fruit.

2016 Barrel Sample Cabernet Sauvignon 2  is aged in second use French and American oak for 10 months used 2nd year. Was picked at 25.5 brix sourced from South Jersey. It’s only 3/4 of the way through malolactic fermentation. Lots of red fruit on the nose and black and red fruit on the palate highlighting blackberry and Bing cherry. Went nicely with the chocolate cherry truffle.

Southpaw White
This is a blend of Ravit 52 and Riesling. Ravit was new to me. It typically is a grape that has tropical flavors and melon. It’s a cold hardy grape with thick skin and is related to Vignoles. This blend is 50% / 50%. It’s a sweeter wine but balanced with an RS of 3%. Sweet apricot flavors with a nice long finish.

What Exit Red
Traveling the Garden State Parkway often I can totally relate to this label. What Exit Red is a blend of 66% Petite Sirah and 34% Merlot. I found this a bit light on the palate but the Petite Sirah definitely stood out with hints of blue and black fruit.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Exploring Hess Collection Wines

My first experience with Hess Collection Wines was at the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2009 and I remember having lunch on their Mount Veeder estate with the goats. Now looking back, that was their first year with the goats, having purchased 24 goats in 2008 and they all turned out pregnant. I remember them telling us the story and we were eating with the offspring. Those goats play an important part of vineyard management during bud break. They help with the weed control, minimizing the use of the tractors and tilling. I totally enjoyed the wines then and still do so today. The only thing I do want to do my next trip to Hess Collection (besides taste the wine) is see the art museum, it is suppose to be amazing.

In the meantime, we can explore their wines. For this article we are going to visit the Hess Collection 2015 Napa Valley Chardonnay, 2015 Hess Collection Allomi Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley and Hess Collection Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley. Next month we will explore some of the white wines of Hess Collection.
A little quick background on Hess Collection. Donald Hess came to California from Switzerland in the mid 1970’s. He wanted to expand his Swiss based bottled water company but instead fell in love with Napa Valley and the wines. He purchased 600 acres of land on Mount Veeder because he felt the best grapes grow on mountains, hillsides, ridges and bench lands. In 2011 Donald Hess retired and the fifth generation of Hess Family took the leadership rolls.
Label note: The tiger on the label signifies the three different generations of the Hess family.

Hess Collection 2015 Chardonnay $22
This Chardonnay comes from the Su’skol Estate Vineyard in Napa. It is located in one of the coolest growing regions in the area. The vineyard is named after the native Su’skol people who used the area as a meeting place and valued the areas resources for fish and game. The vineyard is on a site of ancient seabed with shallow, sandy soils that Chardonnay grapes love.
Tasting notes: An elegant complex Chardonnay that has been aged 9 months in barrels. Layers of apple, pear, honeydew melon and pineapple seductively work their way through your palate. Enjoy this next to fireplace and have a romantic evening.

Hess Collection 2015 Napa Valley “Allomi” Cabernet Sauvignon $32
This comes from the 210 acre Allomi Vineyard that has 35 six different Cabernet clones which add to the dicersity of flavors in the wine. The wine has 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petite Sirah and 2% Petite Verdot and was aged in oak for 18 months. Twenty-five percent of the oak was New American oak.
Tasting notes: A complex wine full of dark fruit, back cherry, currant, tobacco, vanilla, cocoa, nice integrated tannins.

Hess Collection 2014 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon $65
This comes from their estate Veeder Hills Vineyard. This cineyard has steep slopes and elevation ranges from 600 to 1,120 feet with sedimentary clay and shale soil. The berries are small with intense fruit flavors. The wine is a blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Malbec and 3% Petite Verdot aged for 22 months in barrels with 80% in New French oak.
Tasting notes: Strong aromas hit your nose as you decipher the layers of black fruit, plum, leather, blackberry and cassis. Strong layers of black fruit on the palate, a very robust wine, strong and powerful with polished tannins that integrate nicely but stand their ground. Some nice mocha spice on the finish.