Life is better on the corner, the place where great wines meet reasonable prices!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays Everyone!

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead to where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Most Wine-derful Time of the Year!

Jazz is like wine. When it is new, it is only for the experts, but when it gets older, everybody wants it. -Steve Lacy

*The info-graphic above is provided courtesy of Beringer Vineyards

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wine of the Week: 2010 Tikal Patriota

“Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They’re hallmarks of a pretentious ass.” – David Ogilvy
That's good advice and part of the reason why you'll never see me using words like that to describe the great wines I find, wines that give the consumer [vino-sapiens like me] a real bang for the buck like the one above.
Now about this fantastic wine from Mendoza, a wine which I really enjoyed so much more than the 2009 vintage. But that said, this 2010 which you will find in good abundance [but dilly-dally] at places like Costco here in San Diego, selling for just under $17 is a terrific value. I scored this wine 90 points, this is that Tuesday wine you've been looking for, so get after it.
It's a delightful blend of Malbec and and 40% Bonarda. Right now you may be thinking uh, what the bleep is Bonarda, one thing for sure it's not a grape found in the common every day vernacular of the garden-variety vino-sapien. It's an Italian grape, that found a home in Argentina. If you like to read more about it, just click here.
This wine has a lot to offer, but is best uncorked the day before and left in the pantry overnight with the cork out [trust-me]. You find that this wine has some chalk [picture a couple old-school erasers being beaten together], it has some pretty hardy tannins and it does an earthy and black licorice thing, while at the same time slapping you along side the head with crates of ripe blueberry and blackberry pie character, full bodied and a lively finish.

So you want to do some pairing huh, okay I can make a recommendation in that department as well. You could go for things like barbecue ribs, elk-burger and fries or if you've come home late from work like I did the other day, still toting half a sandwich you didn't finish at lunch, then folks you are in luck, because that [turkey/bacon half sandwich] pairing rocked [full disclosure the sandwich pictured above is just a prop]. I also grabbed some of my famous left over chili, just enough for a small bowl and healthy handful of salt and pepper chips. So as you can see from this description, this wine is an easy wine pairing champ, the sky is the limit nearly. Until next folks remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Travel Tuesday: Youngberg Hill, Oregon

We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal and then leap in the dark to our success. - Henry David Thoreau

Wayne and Nicolette took a leap of faith when they purchased Youngberg Hill in 2003, overhauling the entire estate including vineyard management, winemaking, tasting room, and hospitality area. What they have discovered is wonderful success with their fantastic Wine Country Inn [Bed and Breakfast] and gorgeous wedding venue which is attached to a real working winery, which is producing some mighty fine Pinot Noir, just a short drive outside of the town of McMinnville in Oregon.

As many of you know I spent the better part of a long weekend visiting with the great folks at Youngberg Hill and other wonderful producers who call the Oregon Wine Country home. Mrs. Cuvee and I were guests of Youngberg Hill and stayed in one the Inn's fantastic eight rooms. The views from the 2nd floor rooms are quite stunning [see picture below]. Each morning you awake with nearly a full panoramic view of the vineyards, the road leading up to the house and on a clear day you see for miles and miles. Be sure to say hi to their very friendly [out-door] cat Truffle.

In tasting a good many of their Pinot Noir offerings, I encountered two very different styles, from two very distinctive terroirs. This comes from an estate vineyard, farmed organically [Salmon Safe Certified] and biodynamically, and legally in conversion to biodynamic certification. 

The wines hailing from the Natasha’s Block which consists of 6.6 estate acres with a southeast facing; I found the nose brimming with notes of rich earth, oak, cut-black tea and not fully ripe cherry. Finely integrated acidity makes way for tastes of dark cherry and plums, which are easily enveloped in oak and savory herbs, pushing fruit to the background. I found the finish long and caressing. 

Regarding the wines form their Jordan block, it’s a completely different experience. I would dare to say that if you have a California Pinot Noir palate, one which tends to favor wines with a broader, more approachable mouth-feel, than the Jordan Block wines are for you. The Jordan Block sits on four fog-kissed estate acres facing South East at a steeper slope than the Natasha and is described as a more Burgundian in style.

Frankly, I was all about the Jordan block, when I first sampled the 2008 Jordan, which sells for $40. My first thoughts was, alright here we go, this is what I’m talking about. The next wine which really grabbed my attention, was the 2008 Jordan Block Barrel Select, one which oddly is not on their website, but it sells for $65. I scored this wine 93 points.

But let there be no doubt, in my opinion this wine is worth every penny. It's a wine you could cellar for many years, but why would you when it’s drinking ever so nicely right now. I scored two of these wines for myself to take home. For those who are curious about the clones here you go; 60% Pommard and 40% Wadenswil on American Root Stock.

The 2008 Barrel Select has the rich and charming fruit and a plethora of bright cherry and cranberry [not tart] concentration; it was truly what I was expecting from this site, but not from this vintage. You’ll find more red fruited character over the darker fruits; the wine has a succulent texture and lovely finish. Honestly what's not to like?

After purchasing the wine the morning before my departure, from the assistant winemaker [Jess] and chef, he remarked about my apparent love of oak. Ha, I guess that fits 'guilty as charged' as some may say, but wait a minute not so fast there Chef. 

Let me be clear, I do love the judicious use of oak and I firmly believe the abuse of oak by some, should not lead to an automatic knee-jerk reaction of extremely limited oak interaction or even toast levels. Honestly folks, I think that deep down we all know it's about balance, too much of anything, tends not to be a good thing; whether it's in the the vineyard or the crush-pad, balance is everything.

About my experiences at the Inn, wow is the operative word. This fantastic place is quiet and cozy, perfect for those seeking to get away from it all. Once you arrive, you may find yourself greeted my mouth-watering glasses of Pinot Noir, you arrive to a comfy, well appointed room, with no TV. 

The shower warms up real fast, the Wi-Fi works amazingly well and you just 15 minutes from McMinnville, which has many tasty spots to eat. Whether you want a pub-like experience [McMenamins] or you want to dial it up a notch or two [Thistle] there’s something for everyone.

When it comes time for breakfast [9:00am], it’s just the right amount to get your day started and the custom roasted coffee will you happily and fully caffeinated in mere moments. The Inn you will find in located right in the thick of it all, makes a great jumping off point or as I like to call it base of operations for scouring the country-side for Pinot Noir to take back home.

By the way; if you end up like I did [and it’s not hard to do] with two full cases of wine, you can either have them shipped home $45 for basic ground or if you play it smart and chose to fly Southwest, where you can check those cases for little extra out of pocket. I purchased two case boxes in town [$24], but in truth they only hold nine bottles. If you want it to fit 12, it has to be the standard Bordeaux bottle to fit correctly and you will not find any Pinot Noir in that style of bottle.

If you’d like to stay with them, the off-season is a great time to do so, in fact it's snowing there at the moment. In the off-season the winemakers have much more time to speak with you, as well as the tasting room staff, as there are few other folks up during the very rainy time of year. Okay folks, I know it has been quite a while since my last post, but I hope you enjoyed today’s article and will give the wines from Youngberg Hill a swirl for yourself, until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Napa Valley Uncorked: 2008 Franciscan Magnificat Meritage

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on! ~ Henry Ellis

This the first review written entirely via my iPhone, using the Blogger app I just down-loaded. So we shall see how it goes. In the spotlight for my wine of interest this time is the Franciscan 2008 Magnificat.

This wine was a sample sent for the review process. It has a SRP of $50, it sells at most places for just under $30, but the rumor of this wine selling under $20 is misleading at best. I scored this wine 90 points and can recommend it to you highly. Suave and sophisticated are the keywords here.

A Bordeaux [aka Meritage] style blend consisting of 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot and finally a few drops of Petit Verdot and Malbec. A wine aged for 20 months in 2nd use French oak barrels. This wine has boatloads of finesse and flavor, a hour in the decanter is recommended for maximum enjoyment.

The nose is crazy inviting, it just lures you in like a big-mouth bass on a spinner. Notes of dried herbs, vanilla, ripe plum and licorice are just a preview of the coming attractions. On the palate this wine is not shy about toasted oak and espresso but there is plenty of vibrant acidity to keep it all on balance. Sweet plum and fig join the chorus, with a few wise cracks from other dark fruits. The tannins are well integrated and nearly seamless and the finish while a bit dry sails on and on.

This wine is drinking very nicely now and will continue to do so over the next few years. I found it to be a very polished wine, with layers to it, only to be uncovered by decanting. Until next time folks remember sip long and prosper cheers!

Wine of the Week: 2008 Trione Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Life is too short not to make the best and the most of everything that comes your way everyday. -Sasha Azevedo

Life is also too short too drink bad wine, a point to which even the garden-variety vino-sapien would agree with. It's on this point, one of the reasons why I implore everyone I know and every reader who stops by this blog to catch up with the wines that make their way to my glass; to please stop going to the same well over and over [explore] and just say 'no' to mass produced chemistry set wines, commonly known as plonk.

Now that I've got my opening rant out of the way, it's time to put a wine in the spotlight that is a fantastic value, pound for pound, this Pinot Noir from the RRV is one I'm highly recommending that you run out grab a few. This was not a sample but a wine I procured recently from my local neighborhood Costco for just under $14. If you'd like you can read more of the details about this tasty example of what the RRV can offer in Pinot here.

It will need to be decanted,  [one hour] it's a bit shy and reticent about showing its ample goods, but once it's has time to relax and get to know you, then look out. Folks, this wine is just sitting in these stores, barely moving, but in my opinion it's quite a bargain for the thirsty vino-sapien. So please put down that bottle of La Crema PN [$19] this time and step up to a real-wine which really says, "you can taste where I am from" besides if you do you'll save a few bucks to boot.

Peeking back at the few notes I scribbled out after popping the cork just a few nights ago, I found the texture and mouth-feel of this wine quite impressive. It was rich and velvety and infused with typical Pinot Noir fruit flavors coming through each and every long slurp, but restrained finish told me this is no cocktail wine.

Once you pop the cork, nice bright clear crimson-red core; a fragrant bouquet slaps your nose with gently spicy berries and wet earth, these aromas easily make their way over to your palate. I scored this wine 88 solid points, it pairs ever so nicely with many poultry dishes, the sky is the limit. A wonderful Tuesday-night wine, you won't mind popping the cork and enjoying all evening. It will contiune to evolve and come alive, so until next time folks remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pinot Report: 2007 Sanctuary Pinot Noir

“For every beauty there is an eye somewhere to see it. For every truth there is an ear somewhere to hear it. For every love there is a heart somewhere to receive it.” ~Ivan Panin
Pinot Noir is known to many, as a grape of great depth and balance. For many producers especially in the new world, it’s known as the heart-break grape. In Burgundy its ancestral home, it has the well renowned [and may I say well-deserved] reputation for producing some of the very best wines in world and has been doing so for longer than any of us have been alive. For me, these wines do have great beauty, they speak truth in every sip, slurp and even the eventual gulp and with each bottle I confirm my love for this grape.
Just before harvest, weighing heavy upon the vine, you’ll find clusters of Pinot Noir grapes, blue to violet and still some sporting indigo colors and for me that builds the anticipation of the good things to come down the road.
Furthering that excitement, seeing Bien Nacido Vineyards on the label nine times out of ten, I’m getting the style of Pinot, which I know will make me and Mrs. Cuvee very happy, which is the reason why I purchased this wine, without a moment’s hesitation. I’ve never purchased a bottle of wine from this producer before, but knowing this vineyards reputation, I was confident that I was coming home with a winner.
Many vino-sapiens know this grape has a reputation for breaking hearts and not just those producers, but also for the consumer who hopes they can beat the odds and save a few coins by purchasing Pinot Noir’s under the sacred $10 threshold, only to find out later the good ones under that price point are the extreme exception and nowhere near the rule.
Now to that point the wine in today’s spotlight set me back $24, not a king’s ransom by any stretch. But I know for many this price point not going to be a Tuesday evening wine. I get that, but that said this wine would normally sell for upwards of $40 to grab it from their tasting room or website. In a restaurant forget about a wine like this, will sell for upwards of $70 or more. So getting a wine of this caliber for the price point I did, to me be is quite the bargain, one you should consider grabbing, if you have the opportunity. It’s well worth the price of admission, a wine I scored 91 points, a bit less generous than my pals over at WE who have ad-space to sell.
Wondering about how it tastes? Right after popping the cork, whoa an explosion of aromas pops me in the nose; juicy, young cherry-pie-like fruit its main motif. After I get this wine in the glass wow a deep cranberry colored red core. Once in the glass finely tuned smoky red and dark berries give my nose another slap.
After I go in for the first slurp, a bit sappy and gently sweet, offering broad raspberry and cherry-pie crust flavors, notes of smoked meat, wet earth play quietly in the background, with just the right pop of acidity to carry the abundant low hanging fruit.
You will find this supple; a nicely knit-together pinot sporting supple well integrated tannin, which finishes with good clarity and lift on the back-end. It would make an excellent wine for the upcoming holiday activities, including Thanksgiving, as it has many generous properties which lend its self to easy pairing options. Over the next few days, I will be reviewing 3 more outstanding Pinot Noir’s I’ve recently sampled, so stay tuned. Until next folks sip long and prosper cheers!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Chile Uncorked: 2010 Emilana Novas Gran Reserva Pinot Noir

"Compromises are for relationships, not wine." --- Sir Robert Scott Caywood

Well here we are, it's almost time for the weekend, it's now just hours away. You can feel it, see it and sense the fact that the boss-man has lost control and the possibilities are endless for what you will do this weekend. If you're lucky enough [from a weather related point-of-view] to live here in So-Cal then you know this weekend is going to be superb [epic] for whatever out-door activity you decide to embark upon.

With that in mind the chances are very good, that if you're reading these words that you'll be slurping down some juice this weekend, some looking for the serious and some just looking for the fairly quaff-able wine of the moment. But whatever it's you are looking for in the wine world, I hope you enjoy it fully, but please don't do the same old song and dance, explore something new and just say 'NO' to mass produced juice [aka, commodity wines].

The 2010 Emilana Novas Pinot Noir is another wine [sample] I encountered during the Wines of Chile Blogger tasting, which did not come dressed to impress initially. I confess I chilled it a bit as requested, unsealed the screw cap and poured a 3 ounce pour about an hour before the 'live' tasting commenced. I'm not sure if this wine just didn't travel well or what the problem with it was, but it did NOT show well that evening.

"Although several other bloggers were going gah-gah over it. It was dirty, murky and had some funky stewed aromas, which did not blow off that evening, aromas which made its dirty-shoe'd way to the wines overall flavor profile."

Now that said, I didn't pour the wine down the drain, like I know many other writers do. I took a different tact, instead I re-capped it and tucked it back into my cellar for a few days. Having just made an amazing whole roasted barbecue chicken [great pairing partner] and then seeing the poor little bottle of Emilana looking back at me, I decided to give this wine another go. I mean why not, it's already open, what the heck and I believe in second chances.

So again I poured another 3 ounce pour in the glass you see in the picture above and wow, bang-bang this wine came out of its corner like Rocky against Apollo Creed. I was hit with boat-loads of baking spices, cranberry, ripe strawberry, rich wet-earth, wrapped around polished well integrated tannins, making for some nice QPR on a Pinot Noir with a SRP of $19.

But the fact that this wine took three days to get its act together, that is really disappointing. Honestly folks, this wine did NOT show well that evening on any level and no I'm not exaggerating one bit. Even Mrs. Cuvee gave it a thumbs-down, she is no where near the snobby-grader that I can be at times. The Caveat: Perhaps, I didn't have the best bottle, perhaps I'm the only one whose wine was sick with bottle shock or is there another explanation, I confess to not knowing the answer.

"Writers about #wine should, at least on occasion, be troublesome, irritating and critical.” ~ Andrew Jefford 

Even though this wine did make a remarkable turn-around, I still can't give it a good recommendation, my score on this wine is 84 points at best. Frankly folks, there is far easier game to hunt than this elusive Pinot Noir, which may ultimately disappoint the thirsty vino-sapien. The reviews of the wines I liked from this tasting are coming up next, so please stay tuned and remember folks until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Chile Uncorked: 2011 San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

Good afternoon everyone, welcome to November. Can you believe there’s less than sixty days until the end of the year and just six more days until the election? I'm sure like you, that you're looking forward to it being over.

Now I've read and also heard it said; "the best way to be noticed and collect Internet hits is to express outrage. The outrage business, it must be said, is a growth business, thriving in the age of new media."

While there may be a place for “outrage” in some areas of the blogosphere [mainly political blogs and other websites] and on other social media platforms, namely Facebook and Twitter. As for me, I like this blog to stay focused on things that matter; like exploring new wine regions, uncorking countless bottles of wine and boldly seeking out new wines that have a soul. But as many of you have discovered that sometimes on the road to discovery you may run into a few bumps in the road.

Having said that, let me throw another quote at you, something to ponder and think about in the context of today's review. "Flattery, by contrast, gets us all nowhere; it’s meaningless for the flattered, and demeans the flatterers. If you have a mind, you should speak it." - Andrew Jefford

So speaking my mind is something I plan to do today, regarding the sample I received for the Chilean Wine Blogger 'live' tasting from Chile. When I encounter new wines where I simply don't get the style, I typically don't go too far out of my way to throw it under-the-bus just for the sake of "outrage". Something which some of my fellow bloggers may think I'm doing here today, regarding the San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. But even the folks over here tasting these wines with me, including Mrs. Cuvee without any coaching from me, agreed this wine was just a bit over-the-top.

Most folks know, I'm kind of a fussy-pants when it comes to this varietal, simply said for the most part I really don't like it. Please don't tell anyone, but I like to keep a bottle inexpensive SB around just to rinse out my stems and or my decanter before pouring in another wine. It really is a great for grabbing any remnant lint from the freshly cleaned glass. What I especially don't like is some producer’s tendency to elevate this varietals aggressive-side and this often happens with New World producers.

Now you may like the style I'm about to describe, but I promise I won't think any less of you, but I just may snicker a bit. That said, what I mean my aggressive is that this style is "all-up-in-your-business" from the moment you pop the cork, to the first sniff, slurp and the eventual spew. There is just no delicate way to put it, in my book the 1865 SB is everything that is wrong with new world Sauvignon Blanc.

This wine [under screwcap] gave me a sock-in-the-jaw, ouch! Ugh, I was begging for mercy in just minutes after being hit by a broadside of pungent grassy aromas and picked-to-early aromas like an upper-cut from a south-paw. Whoa, green bell-pepper, grape-fruit, intense vegetal flavors, boat loads of acid and a intense, yet odd can-of-asparagus thing going on from start to finish. I even tried this wine with a couple different food pairings, but it was just too over-whelming.

It's not that the wine was not made incorrectly or that it had any detectable flaws. This wine sell for a SRP of $19, I scored it 84 points, not a recommended wine in my book. Until next time folks remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Barbera Uncorked: 2003 Barbera D'Alba Bric Loira

I'm interested in something which is built up from within, rather than just extracted from without. - Ansel Adams

Some of you may have guessed from my tweets [if you follow me there] that I have a new place to hang my hat occasionally for work. That place is Bird Rock Fine Wine in La Jolla; a hearty stones throw the sun, surf and sand. It was there just yesterday, I had an opportunity to meet the winemaker and his wife from Cascina Chicco, his name Enrico Faccenda. 

Their winery in northern Italy, Cascina Chicco, is located on a idyllic hillside in Piedmont, where you will find that they are one of the top producers in the region. It's described as a true "family-run" operation, with many different family members pitching-in to help. 

While he didn't speak much English, what spoke to me most was the passion in his wine-making, evident and eloquent in every sip, slurp and even the eventual big gulp. Of course, I'm just kidding of course as I was spitting that afternoon, but you get the idea [too bad big-gulps in this setting are not optional].

I had the opportunity to taste through a nice swath of his portfolio and I have to say that overall I was very impressed with the wines being poured yesterday. Even the unusual late harvest wine, [called Arcass] which I sampled yesterday, produced from the Arneis grape [had me thinking of orange/apricot marmalade] was fantastically engaging wine, sporting obvious viscosity, length of flavors, with a nice pop of acid to carry the abundant dried-fruit. If you'd like to read more about this wine and take an indepth look at this style of dessert wine, here's a link to read more.

In Piedmont region, many vino-sapiens are quite aware that while Barbera may play second fiddle to Nebbiolo, which is the grape behind Barbaresco and Barolo. But that doesn’t mean locals and even the garden varitety cork-dorks in the know, haven’t embraced it as a red-wine they can drink all-year-round with all sorts of food.

Nebbiolo and Barbera are grapes where you'll find higher acidity and often sport a definite note of bing-cherry. But they part ways when it comes time to get some grape-skin in the game. You'll find many [not all] Nebbiolo based wines can have an intense tannin structure, but little color, from its skins. While on the other hand, Barbera can be a deep, dark ruby color, with medium to low tannins. 

Because Barbera is inherently low in tannins, the use of barriques has been introduced to impart some much-needed wood tannin into the wine. It’s a fairly new approach [in the context of Italian wine-making history] to enhance this wine’s structure, complexity and also a way to soften or take the burr off the saddle of Barbera’s tart acidity. So of course the operative phrase, when it comes to producing outstanding Barbera is the "judicious use of oak" simply stated too much oak, is nothing but a joke.

While it is generally agreed that the best producing area for Barbera wines is that of Asti region, the wine in today's review spotlight comes from the D'Alba region where you'll find many tasty Barolo and Barbaresco wines. But believe this wine is no slouch, when it comes to flavor, length and complexity.

The best vintages [2003 was definitely one of them] with age, tend to sport a garnet core, but this wine was still leaning toward the ruby side of the equation. The nose right away gave away the plot-line to the upcoming show; velvety, harmonious quality of considerable elegance in the dark-fruit to earth ratio.

Soon as I got this wine from the glass into my mouth, boom, what hit my palate was a very pleasant, easy to drink wine, which oozed elegance and power. A wine I found harmonious and tasty at the same time. The finish sails on and on, while it shouts-out, I'm a chef’s dream, because it displays such exceptional versatility, when it comes to food pairing. It’s a wine that would make a nice addition to any restaurants wine-list. I scored this wine 92 points; it sells for about $35 most places, well worth the price of admission, Barbera at its best! Until next time folks sip long and prosper cheers!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Volcanic Soils Wine Tasting

“Regardless of where in Italy it comes from, good Italian red wine speaks directly to the soul, and the gut, of place and people and food and love. And that’s just the beginning; great wines embrace the head as well.” ~ Eric Asimov

Many of us already know or have already experienced to some degree or the other that Italy is home to thousands of varietals, so many in fact, that it’s  easy to lose count. It’s with that thought in mind that I bring to you today a tasting, I experienced not long ago that will take you not just outside the box, but far beyond. To the point you may just need a GPS device to find your way back home.

Yes, further than the reaches of the well known areas like Tuscany, boasting of its Sangiovese and Piedmont in the north flaunting its Nebbiolo, I’m going to take you on a mini-tasting adventure where volcanic soils dominate the palate profile. This tasting adventure, took my taste-buds on ride through two very interesting producers vineyards in southern Italy. Ciro Biondi from Mount Etna in Sicily and the other is Cecilia Naldoni from the Vulture appellation in the region known as Basilicata.

Although so-called scientists say there is no verifiable measure to identify what we vino-sapiens refer to as terroir. But you can definitely [easily] smell and taste the tell-tale signs of volcanic soils influence on the wine in your glass and I think most people can. This is a generalization, but in my experience, most of white-wines from these regions have notes of struck-flint and in the red wines, you often times think you're standing over a campfire roasting marshmallows. 

So with no further ado, you have my tasting notes below on the wines I experienced from the tasting. Now did I like every wine, well yes and no. Each wine was unique, nuanced and some may have fared far better with the presence of the right pairing-partner. 

2009 Lacryma Christi Del Vesuvio: A blend of two white wine grapes, featuring 80% Coda di Volpe and 20% Falanghina.  A very light hay color in the glass, much like a light colored Sauvignon Blanc. The vines are grown in a grey volcanic soil which closely resembles, 'grapenuts' cereal.  The nose was very flinty, abundant wet-stone and a lemon peel aroma in the background. After the first slurp, still more lemon peel and wet-stone, a distant rich citrus and spice on the finish, it left me thinking this wine would pair nicely with schnitzel. 87 points.

2011 La Sibilla, Falanghina, Campi Flegrei: Again the glass, a light hay colored core. The nose giving off citrus rinds, honey and wet-stone. After the initial splash down, honey dew melon rinds, wet sand and a drop of honey drizzled over citrus rinds. A very light bodied wine, begging for a food pairing of some kind. Perhaps a some wild caught herring in a lemon-butter, cracked-pepper sauce, hanging out with a bit of spinach rotini. This is an "organic" wine. 85 points.

Contrade di Taurasi 2010 Grecomusc' Bianco: Now this was a very interesting wine, only 300 cases of it in all the world, a wine produced from the nearly extinct grape called Roviello. This was my very first time giving this wine a swirl and I didn't really know what to expect. The color was a bit darker, than the two above, like wet-hay. Described as a drink now and drink often wine not suited for aging purposes. The nose was a bit elusive, a bit like smelling envelope that had just arrived in the mail, where it was obvious the carrier had just finished off a gala-apple before hand. A few slurps in, lots of apple peels, lemon flower, more honey-dew rinds, of course wet stone and adequately plumbed with acidity. 87 points. 

Villa Dora, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso: The Gelsonero a delightful blend of 80% Piedirosso and just 20% Aglianico. A wine made in an 'organic' farming style, but not certified. In the glass, a dark and enticing dark ruby color. The nose is crazy inviting, a hot strawberry compote or cherry filling which had drop on a hot stove, interesting florals and match stick. A few slurps later, a rich but not overwhelming flavors flow like a fountain, cherry, plum, raspberry and dark plum-skins. Just hints of pepper and clove drop by for a few moments, soft tannins join the party as well. This wine would definitely make a tasty accompaniment to meat-based pasta dishes, as on it's not too-fab on its own. 89 points.

Contrade di Taurasi Aglianico 2005: This is a 'declassified' Aglianico from Taurasi. It sports most of the distinctive flavors of the area, the blackberry and dark plum fruit balanced with fresh acidity, but missing the campfire aromas I normally associate with these wines. It did a savory character of dark fruits but a bit more distant then I like. Though it had a style I associate with volcanic soils, it was more far lean in overall flavor than most Taurasi wines. 87 points.

Aglianico del Vulture 'Damaschito' 2007: This wine is a brilliant representation of Aglianico and is certified organic. In the glass you can see from the bright nearly dark plum-skinned core, this was had additional skin contact. The nose was rich and inviting, herbal, campfire, ripe blackberries and plum. This is a beautifully "textured" wine that had me at the first sip. Nothing but well integrated tannins, framed over a medium body delivers mouth coating flavors of black cherry and cracked black pepper and the finish seems to go on and on. As you can tell from my excitement, this wine was my favorite of the day. 91 points.

But as I've said before, when asked about this tasting these wines, I found them all to be a bit esoteric, but don't take my word for it, check them out for yourself. These wines were featured as part of a tasting by Oliver McCrum Wines an importer of fine Italian wines. Until next time folks sip long and prosper cheers!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Gadget Review: Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator

"Most wines…are known to enjoy mingling with oxygen after having been corked up! But newly freed vino thus unfurls its charms by being poured from one container to the next for an invigorating rendezvous with aeration." ~ Andrea Immer Robinson

Many thirsty vino-sapiens out there on the purple paved highways and byways ask the age-old question do you really need to ‘decant’? For many it’s an easy answer and still for others if they must, then they would prefer a short-cut, after all we live in an “App” oriented culture today, which is just the fancy way to say it's a shortcut. Face it we live in a culture today that wants fast cars and fast foods, one that wants everything in a microwaved minute. So it should not be any surprise that alternatives to traditional 'decanting' have come on the scene.

First let’s examine the basic well known purpose or reason behind the supposed need to decant wines. The simple reasoning behind pouring wine from the bottle into a larger vessel is done for the purpose of allowing the wine to “breathe”.

But what does that mean; it’s a way to bring out the wines rich aromas and hopefully mellowing tannins, to hopefully create a smoother finish and a better experience. This is said to be accomplished, by allowing the wine to have more room to interact with oxygen, far more than just by uncorking the bottle.

Now the claim by Vinturi the [short-cut] wine aerator, is that it supposedly achieves the ideal mix of wine and oxygen with each pour, no fuss and no muss. Just pour the red wine of your choice through the device from the bottle into your hopefully clean and lint free stem and you're ready to go.

Vinturi does offer separate models for red and one for white wine and now even one for spirits oh-my. Claiming it’s for the purposes of optimal aeration for every sip, slurp and maybe even the eventual gulp. While testing this product over the last 60 days on many different bottles of red-wine I really didn’t see a measured result that would make me think ‘wow’ this is the product I’ve been waiting for, my days of decanting are over, woo-hoo.

But on the other hand I did see a small, but appreciable difference between the wine that had been through the Vinturi and wine that had not gone through it at all, so there is something to it. Even Mrs. Cuvee gave it her “good” rating. Speaking of good, it’s well to remember, when holding the Vinturi, try not to put your fingers over the holes, otherwise it just defeats the purpose. Second, don’t let it fall into your stem or you’ll be picking up a lot of glass later.

While I won’t be tossing my decanter aside anytime soon, I will still be using the Vinturi for some of the simpler reds which I think could still benefit from a bit of “instant aeration”. But that said, I think big red wines like grand, aged Barolo for example, may need to be opened the night before and poured into a traditional decanter. The reason being; so that the wine can be decanted several hours before it's even close to being ready or risk a wine that's just too tight to want to come out and meet you. 
Other places and or moments where I think this product [I'm sure there are more] would come-in very handy would be on picnics, backpacking and even those impromptu entertaining moments which many of us call tailgating. 

What comes in each package, the Vinturi Aerator I received as a sample comes with a convenient stand to store in between uses [but don’t forget to clean the well out often]. It also comes with a screen to grab any sediment which may attempt to make its way to your glass, a good thing unless you like crunchy wines.

This product cleans up easy and is easily transported. They also offer it in a smaller size for the savvy vino-sapiens [ladies] who’d like to keep one in their purse. The prices for this product can be widely different; I’ve seen it for as much as $60 all the way down to $30. If you can find one in the lower price range, I’d recommend grabbing one for the arsenal of other wine gadgets you may already have. Until next time folks remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dreams Can Come True: An American in Burgundy

"The nature of a wine production is first influenced by the ground, then the skies, then by mankind." ~ Louis Bouillot
Ray's wines like the 2009 Maison Ilan Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru, sell for $175.00. It has been said about his efforts there in 'The Pour'; "The wines are elegant, fresh, structured and graceful — astoundingly so, given they were made by a novice".
If you liked the video and want to read more about his story, here's a write-up I found in the NY Times, An American Hears the Call of Burgundy. I hope you enjoyed this video and Ray's story as much as I did, until next folks remember sip long and prosper, cheers!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wine and Food Pairing of the Week: Treana White and Chicken Piccata

"Learn how to cook -- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun."- Julia Child

Here it’s Thursday the launching point for whether or not you’ll have a successful weekend or perhaps not so much. I mean on Thursday’s you can see the weekend from where you’re seated, standing, gyrating or what ever it’s you do while at work. The point is; it’s nearly here and it’s time to figure-out and or firm up those plans that you may or may not have.

Seeing it’s nearly the weekend, you don’t want to have to fuss too much about tonight’s dinner plans; you're most likely hoping for something quick and easy, but what? Well I have something [an idea really] that will make you look like a freaking super-star chef, something that could even make the wild-eyed Chef Ramsey slow down his fist-pumping and wagging tongue for just moment possibly.

Okay, maybe not. But I would like to think so for a moment, so don’t go getting all ‘judgey’ on me, by being a buzz-kill. Just take this ride with me a moment and you’ll see that even the most slack-jawed vino-sapien in the audience can rock this recipe with class and style. Okay, so here’s the very simple Thursday night recipe, it’s Chicken Piccata. It’s a dish which will pair marvelously with the 2010 Treana White Central Coast Rhone Blend, a sample I [inadvertently] received from my new friends at Jarvis Communications and Hope Family Wines.

Now if you don’t happen to have access to this wine and you happen to have some Sauvignon Blanc lying around, you may want to go in that direction for this pairing, but I wouldn’t go with anything too grassy, I think a Sancerre would get the job done nicely.

And yes for crying out-loud even Mrs. Cuvee gave this pairing her highest recommendation, saying it was “good”. Which if you don’t know her, that is indeed high praise. So now you have just grab a few things to do in order to be ready to make this wonderfully easy and tasty dish. Either you know you have the needed items at home and ready to go or you may have to pick-up a few things on the way home, either way this is still easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

So here again is the recipe; the one which I followed and since I almost always have these items on hand, there was no need to rush here and there. I just added a bit of prep work the night before and bingo I was ready to make an easily executed Thursday night meal. Personally, I went a bit lighter on the capers than the recipe calls for, but that is just my personal preference. And oh on the sauce, the recipe seems to skip over the point about heating it until most of wine is evaporated and feel free to plate with the fettuccine pasta of your choice.

Now about the wine, it’s a blend of two Rhone varietals, half Marsanne and the other half Viognier which was partially barrel, fermented. Now with just half of the blend being Viognier, no doubt accounting for much of this wines dramatic exotic tropical fruit aromas and flavors, which bounce like a quarter on freshly made army-cots. There’s a definite lemon blossom thing going on, front to back, with just a drop of honey.

On the palate you’ll find this wine full bodied and round in the mouth without being at all flabby, with a crisp, clean, lingering finish. A wine made to easily pair with food, a wine that is a team player. I scored this wine an easy 90 points and can highly recommend giving it a swirl. It has a $21 SRP but the savvy shopper can find this wine price below $18. Until next time folks remember sip long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Travel Tuesday: Carlton Winemakers Studio

Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. ~Leonard Cohen

If you find yourself out and about on the Orgundian Wine Trail, looking around for a great place to visit while in the Carlton area, then may suggest a visit to the off-the-beaten path Carlton Winemakers Studio. It could be described as the breeding grounds, where some the very best wine in Oregon is coming to fruition.

In having visited this great little spot to get my wine on in a big way a few years ago with the fetching Mrs. Cuvee; I'm reminded of the many pioneers in the wine biz who have gone before with nothing more than a few dreams in their back-pocket with only the sheer determination and pure resolve to see them realized.

In fact there was a poem written in 1874 called "Ode" by the English poet Arthur O'Shaughnessy the line "We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams" which I think best sums up for me the styles of wine one can expect to find from a visit to one of my favorite spots in the Carlton area.
Now I can't say you're going to like each and every wine you encounter here, but you should expect the unexpected. I say that because in this uniquely "green" [not in color] building, neatly tucked away in the town of Carlton [a winemaking hub], lies a humongous cooperative winemaking facility founded by Eric Hamacher, where you'll find as many different styles of wine as the winemaking itself.

It's a shared-facility which often houses 10-12 different artists or as some people like to call them winemakers and to be fair; everyone’s wines are featured on a rotating basis in their tasting room which you see above.

All of them sharing a space under one roof, one which has produced many of my favorite Oregon producers. It's also where, one its long time residents Andrew Rich produces so many tasty wines it would be difficult to name them all here. But please click here to see a list of his current offerings from the Northwest inspired Rhone-Zone collection and other favorites.

Lest you think the Rhone-Zone is his only bread and butter; Mr. Rich also has a deft-hand when it comes to Oregon's signature grape. Check out the 2008 Andrew Rich "The Knife Edge" Pinot Noir or his 2009 Andrew Rich Prelude Pinot Noir for example, a wine which recently made the Portland Monthly coveted "Top 50 Wines” list.

I like how the Seattle Times Wine Advisor describes this unique winemaking studio; "It's a great one-stop opportunity to taste through some of the newest and rarest of the region's offerings, and a lesson in green engineering to boot.” Of course you're going to find great Pinot Noirs, Pinot Gris, but like I said earlier expect to find a few other nice surprises along the way, remember the words of Coco Chanel who once said; "There is no time for cut-and-dried monotony."

Now unfortunately for me, even though I did visit Oregon earlier this year, I'm still a bit behind on who's who in the studio these days, but don't let that stop from paying them a visit the next time you find yourself in the area. Until next time folks, remember life is short, get out there, discover and find something new. Until next time, continue to sip long and prosper cheers!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Paso Robles Uncorked: Nuts and Bolts 2010 Syrah

It has been said that, "[proposing] lofty goals without specifying the nuts and bolts of how they are to be achieved" (Village Voice) can be a fool hardy proposition. I would have to say after tasting more than a few of the wines from Herman Story in Paso Robles, that whatever goals Mr. From may have, lofty or not, that when it comes to making wine, which makes me and many other folks say, “WOW” I must conclude he has exceeded them in spades.

If you are a big fan of wine from the Rhone-Zone [aka, Paso Robles] like I am, then do yourself a favor and check into Herman Story. You can find them on the other side of tracks in Paso Robles, which is something I’m sure really agrees with Russel P. From, their winemaker and proprietor. If you find yourself in the downtown area, drive down 13th street toward the 101 and then make a right left on Paso Robles street, don’t go too fast or you’ll drive right by them [and yes its street parking].
Once in the tasting room, remember you’ll like everything [no I'm not kidding], so I’d advise you to buy more than you’d normally would to avoid any regret later [you know what they say about regret]. These wines are quite voluminous especially in the ABV area, so if you can’t handle fully hedonistic wines that make no pretense, I’d advise you look elsewhere or may have your delicate sensibilities offended [just saying].

Now regarding this wine in the review spotlight today, the 2010 Nuts and Bolts, it was decanted about 30 full minutes before dinner and from the first slurp to the last drop which I fought Mrs. Cuvee for, wow is the word. This wine is seamless, it never drops off, it hits you at each and every angle with a full throttle presentation, but nicely tuned for perfect balance.

In the glass, a dark ruby core knocks on the side of the glass just to get your attention, once the first slurp is in you’re gonna make an “O” face. You’ll find a wonderfully expressive bouquet teasing and taunting you, on the palate bountiful blackcurrant, dark cherry, while sexy florals and spice nuances slay you with wonderful complexity.

This wine has focused flavors which are clear, deep, and abundantly evident, a wine that is complex and lingering from start to finish. Are you thinking about pairing options? Well the sky is the limit, a great wine which will easily pair with barbequed St. Louis style ribs or even tangy barbequed chicken. I scored this wine 93 points, it really is stellar. Until next time folks remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Flights of Fancy: Domestic Carriers not so Much

"Compromises are for relationships, not wine." --- Sir Robert Scott Caywood
Welcome to the weekend, it's nearly four o'clock here on the west coast so it's time to pop some corks and whip-up some great meals to share with the one's we love. Wow, things [not weather] have finally cooled enough for me to turn off the AC [ferocious power bill, ugh] and open the windows again.
But now that we are officially into fall I know some folks may have plans to fly in the coming months and having done quite a bit of flying over the pond in the last year, I've noticed one thing about whether or not wine and or beer will be served to the denizens who fly coach, yes those who can't pay the more than double price to fly in business class or god-forbid first-class which seems to be especially true to the folks that on domestic transportation.
The one exception to that rule I can think of [thanks to the Matt] it appears our good friends at Horizon Air, do offer a beer or wine of your choice and featuring local brews or wine for in-state flights in Washington and a few flights in California as well. Horizon Air in California will even take it a step further offering to allow up to a case a wine to be carted in the cargo-hold for no extra charge.

Now I had put this question out there on my FB page, but the response was a bit tepid at best [But to be fair, I did have two great responses]. But hey, I know with all that's going right now, there are a few more important topics [like the upcoming election] to think about at the moment. So questions like whether or not a airline carrier should or shouldn’t offer passengers in coach gratis free beer and or wine pales in comparison.
Some guy wrote for Esquire Magazine "The days of free miniature bottles of booze are long gone, but on increasingly more flights, you can order cocktails (and pay for them, via credit card) directly from the console on the seatback in front of you." While that may apply to many domestic airline flights, whether they're flying domestically or internationally, that is not true when it comes to international carriers like British Airways, because you can still get a free glass of wine or beer even if you're flying coach.
So that said, I will put the question to you; which one of my smart and savvy readers out here knows the reason why non-domestic carriers offer [talking coach here] wine or beer to passengers at no additional charge and are not stingy about it either, but all the domestic carriers don’t offer any unless you want to pay for it?
I look forward to hearing all your answers and reading your comments. Until next folks, remember to sit back, relax and sip long and prosper cheers!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wine Wednesday: 2000 Bodegas Faustino I Gran Reserva

“With the economy, nobody’s drinking wine in Spain,” said Kerin Auth
While in Spain the folks there may be drinking far less wine than they use to in the past, here in America we are just now waking up to what many [myself included] an everyday luxury.

Thinking about this from the context of time, I mean hell, there are Bodegas in Spain which have been around longer than the United States has been a country. So think of this way; they've been drinking fab, wonderful wines for a very long, long time so perhaps they [collectively speaking] just want to give it a rest. Perhaps it’s like the lyrics from one of Led Zeppelin’s more well known tunes, “I can't quit you, baby So I'm gonna put you down for a while”. Either way, their loss in appetite for great wines is our benefit here in the states.

I count myself one of the lucky ones, someone who has had the blinders removed from my eyes; something which I owe much of to my darling Mrs. Cuvee. Back before we were married, she slapped me aside the head, knocking my rose-colored glasses to the ground, figuratively saying; “look there’s a big wonderful wine-world out there take a look”.

As a result I've become someone who now likes to explore, I don't like to settle for the tried and true, so much wine and so little time as they say. So with it being Wine Wednesday and I all I decided it would be a great time to profile one of the wines I brought home with me on my last trip to the UK, yes this one of the wines I purchased in the duty free shop at Heathrow’s terminal five.

Part of the reason I purchased this wine was because we had a direct flight and I could bring it right onto the plane with no hassles what-so-ever and the second reason was because this wine was on SALE for just 10 pounds or $16 usd. How I could resist such a good deal, was beyond me, thus I carted two of these beauties home in my carry-on.

Now that said, I do love Spanish wines, so much so I’ve been lucky enough to make three trips there within a year’s time. So when I saw the 2000 Bodegas Faustino I Gran Reserva, Rioja DOCa I knew I just had to have it. The bottle comes packed in the classic wired body, with their signature clouded glass. While I didn’t think this wine was really representative of a true Riojan style, one that could have frankly beat the tar out of most wines sold here in that some price point. But unfortunately one thing kept that from being true. I have hope for the second bottle.

The wine was bright, rich and still full colored in the glass, sporting a vivid dark garnet core, with just a tinge of brick along the edges. Nosing this wine is where my “brett” meter went off the proverbial scale, I was like whoa, whoa what do we have here? It’s something which occurs almost exclusively in red wines and typically it’s a barnyard type of funk which in small quanities, it's not so bad. If you’re not familiar with the term, I’ve included a link to a page which I think thoroughly explains the subject in a scientific method and a link to another page which takes a slightly easier to understand approach, so here you go.
I could still taste all the wonderful flavors and nuances behind the “funk” but all in all it was just too much to overcome. So sadly, I let the rest of it go the way of many other wines that I won’t review go, right down the drain [ugh, so unhappy]. But if the wine had not had that fault, it's my guess it would have been quite a nice bottle of wine, oh well. Until next folks please remember to sit-back, relax, sip long and prosper cheers!

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