Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ridgeview Merret Cavendish

Ridgeview Merret Cavendish 2013
Sussex, England

Happy New Year! I know, I know.. you thought I would be drinking Champagne. But as much as I love love love Champagne, there's a whole wide world of amazing sparkling wine out there. And whose bubbly star is on the rise? England. I've been reading about English sparklers in British wine magazines for years, and am so very excited that these wines are starting to have a presence in the US market.

The Ridgeview Cavendish is a traditional blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay, produced using the Champagne method. The grapes are grown in Sussex, England, a region with a cool continental climate similar to that of the Champagne region of France. Cool Sussex nights ensure that the grapes retain their acidity, making for a zippy, zesty bottle of bubbles. After the second fermentation, the wine rests on its lees for nearly two years, imparting a yeasty depth as the perfect counterpoint to the bright acid. So, let's taste (and toast!)...

Review: The Cavendish is a pale gold color, with streaming, small persistent bubbles. On the nose, the wine shows golden orchard fruit and rich, yeasty pastry. The palate is bone dry with bright acid (as advertised!), a medium to full body and a generous mouse. The wine is dominated by savory toasted hazelnuts and fresh brioche, and balanced by soft Meyer lemon curd and baked golden apples. The finish is long and lingery.

I adore this wine. So well balanced, with such intensity of fruit and savory character. A home run in my book.

Food Pairing: Perfect on its own, but vibrant enough to stand up to rich foods. I'm pairing mine with some corned beef with spicy mustard.

Bottom Line: A beauty with balanced fruit, autolytics and fresh acid. I can't wait to try more British bubbles!

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2013
  • PLACE: Sussex, England
  • GRAPE: 26% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier, 34% Chardonnay
  • BOOZE: 12%
  • CELLAR: Drink now through 2018

Where did I get it? Astor Wines & Spirits
What's the damage? Premium

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Domaine Rousset-Peyraguey Sauternes

Domaine Rousset-Peyraguey Sauternes 2004
Pomport, Bergerac, France

Sauternes -- rich, luscious, sexy. I came across this beauty while out doing my Christmas shopping. I was thrilled to find an older vintage at a reasonable price (~$55). Like the Monbazillac I reviewed over the summer, Sauternes is made from late harvest and botrytized Semillon, Sauvinon Blanc, and Muscadelle.

2004 was a bit of a rough vintage in the the Sauternes region, with little botrytis. While this might prevent it from being a GREAT YEAR, that's okay in my book. The wine may be a little lighter and less unctuous, it will also be more affordable.

Domaine Rousset-Peyraguey is a biodynamic producer in the region with 50+ year old vines, taking great care with their low-intervention grape growing and wine making practices. Their Sauternes experience a slow fermentation then are aged 4-6 years in oak and acacia barrels. So, let us taste!

Review: This beauty is a pale amber color with pronounced aromas of confected citrus, apple blossom, and earthy honeycomb. The palate has a bold, full texture and is lusciously sweet and rich. The sweetness is tempered by bright acid and zippy alcohol, creating a lovely harmony. The flavors on the palate are as intense as the nose promised: honey, orange marmalade, quince paste, and a tiny bit of earthy mushroom and bitter peach pit. I love that hint of bitterness at the finish -- it rounds out the sweetness and adds a savory quality of the wine. Perfectly in balance

Food Pairing: A selection of stinky blue cheese! I paired with a classic Roquefort, creamy Gorgonzola Dolce, and a funky Ewe Calf to be Kidding. Perfection. 

Bottom Line: This is a lovely wine with great balance and precision. Could it have more intensity and spicy ginger notes from botrytis? Sure. Does it need it? Meh. It went over just fine and dandy at my holiday table.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2004
  • PLACE: Sauternes AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée)
  • GRAPE: Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle
  • BOOZE: 14% 
  • CELLAR: Drink through 2020

Where did I get it? Grape + Bean
What's the damage? Super Premium

Monday, December 28, 2015

Modest Monday - Wines Under $10: Martini & Rossi Asti

Martini & Rossi Asti
Piedmont, Italy

Every time I have a sip of the Martini & Rossi Asti, I can only think "Well, hello old friend." I know it's more or less verboden for a wine professional to like super cheap, super sweet wine, but it's like coming home for me. (This was my go-to wine in college.)

Unlike the frizantte Moscato d' Asti I reviewed a few months back, the Asti is fully sparkling (at 5+ atmospheres of pressure). This stylistic difference in the two categories makes the Asti, perhaps, a bit less delicate, but no less delicious.

Review: The Asti has a soft, pale straw color with boldly effervescent bubbles. The pronounced aromas of white flowers, peach and apricot jump from the glass. The palate is richly sweet, but with enough acidity and zippy bubbles to cut through. Flavors of ripe stone fruit and honey linger for just a moment, leaving you with a short, but fresh finish.

Food Pairing: A fun and festive libation! I remember ringing in the new year with a magnum of Martini & Rossi Asti, circa 2004!

Bottom Line: Fresh and sweet. And cheap! I got this at Wegmans for $8.99. Can't beat that for some sweet and fun bubbles.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: Non Vintage
  • PLACE: Asti D.O.C.G. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita)
  • GRAPE: Muscat
  • BOOZE: 7.5%
  • CELLAR: Drink now

Where did I get it? Wegmans
What's the damage? Low Priced

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Pierre Gimonnet Blancs de Blancs Cuis 1er Cru Champagne

Pierre Gimonnet Blancs de Blancs Cuis 1er Cru Champagne
Côte des BlancsChampagne, France

Happy day after Christmas! This time of year is always full of celebration. And what's a better way to celebrate than with bubbles? With any luck, folks will be rediscovering the joy of sparklers throughout the holiday season and incorporate them into their daily lives. Because what is better than Champagne Tuesday?

The Gimonnet is one of my favorite Grower Champagne producers. They make wine from a series of grand cru and premier cru parcels throughout the Côte des Blancs region of Champagne. This particular wine is from premier cru plots in the village of Cuis.

Review: This Gimonnet is pale lemon color with small, persistent bubbles. It has fresh aromas of golden apple, slate, mineral, and brioche. On the palate the wine is quite dry with racing acid and a generous mousse. The mineral notes stand out the most for the on the palate, with apple and quince peeking out at the finish.

I particularly enjoy the near bracing levels of acidity in this Champagne, plus the ripe fruit and hint of autolysis. This level of flavor development, integration, and freshness makes this wine an excellent value (roughly $45).

Food Pairing: Food is welcome, but personally I like this wine to stand alone as an aperitif!

Bottom Line: Bright, fresh, lively and linear. And good value for your dollar.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: Non Vintage
  • PLACE: Champagne AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée)
  • GRAPE: 100% Chardonnay
  • BOOZE: 12.5%
  • CELLAR: Drink now

Where did I get it? Astor Wines & Spirits
What's the damage? Super Premium

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

François Chidaine Les Bourains

François Chidaine Les Bourains 2013
Montlouis Sur Loire,

I'm a huge Chenin Blanc fan. The grape is so versatile: dry, sweet, clean, savory, still, sparkling. You name it, there's a style of Chenin to suit your palate. 

I was excited to come across this wine at a recent tasting group. It hails from Montlouis Sur Loire, a commune within Tourine, directly across the Loire River from Vouvray. 

This Chenin is made by producer François Chidaine, a champion of biodynamic viticulture. The Les Bourains vineyard, named for the particular type of limestone here, is planted on -- you guessed it, limestone! And some clay, too.   

Review: This Chenin has a soft gold color and expressive aromas of honey suckle, white peach, and mineral. The palate is dry, but with the softest bit of sugar to round out the texture and balance the bright acid. Ripe peaches dominate the flavor profile, and are complemented by green melon, minerals, honeycomb, and saffron. The finish is delicate, but long lived. 

Food Pairing: Perfect with a cheese plate. The bright acid and slightly earthy, savory character would complement a soft ripened cow or goat's milk cheese. 

Bottom Line: This is a gorgeous, clean presentation of Chenin Blanc: bright and fresh, driven by fruit and minerals. I dig it.


Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2013
  • PLACE: Montloius Sur Loire AOC  (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée)
  • GRAPE: Chenin Blanc
  • BOOZE: 12%
  • CELLAR: Drink now through 2020

Where did I get it? Sampled at tasting group! But I bet you can order from a wine shop near you.
What's the damage? High Price

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Albemarle CiderWorks Brut D'Albemarle

Albemarle CiderWorks Brut D'Albemarle Cidre Bouche
North Garden, Virginia

Last month I went touring and tasting in central Virginia and got to visit my favorite local cidery. I was thrilled to find that Albemarle is now making a Champagne-style cider. The Brut D'Albemarle is a bottle conditioned Cidre Bouche (fancy talk for cider under cork) made with Pippin apples. So, what's under the cork?

Review: The Brut D'Albemarle is a gorgeous pale gold color with bright aromas of sweet apple blossom, fresh apple, and toasty pastry. It is bone dry on palate, with fine pin-prick bubbles and zippy acidity. The floral and pastry notes from the nose come through, along with bold apple flavors. It also has a touch of savoy mushroom providing a perfect counterpoint to the tart fruit. The finish is long and lingering.

Food Pairing: Great on a chilly night with chicken and dumpling soup. The slight mushroomy character is enhanced by the fresh herbs in the soup, and the bright acidity cuts through the richness of the dumpling. So very complementary.

Bottom Line: Bright and fresh, with a soft creamy texture. Simply perfect.

Beer Geekery:
Where did I get it?  Albemarle CiderWorks Tasting Room
What's the damage?  Premium

Friday, December 18, 2015

Alaverdi Monastery Cellar Rkatsiteli
Alaverdi Monastery Cellar Rkatsiteli 2010
Kakheti, Republic of Georgia

Last year I had the pleasure of visiting the Alaverdi Monastery in the eastern region of the Republic of Georgia. The monks here have been making wine since the 11th century, using ancient methods of wine production -- fermentation in clay pots (called Qvevri) buried in the ground.

Alaverdi Monastery

I brought this particular bottle back with me from my visit! It is made from Rkatsiteli grapes in the traditional method: fermented with stems and skin in Qvevri for 3 to 6 months. This produces an amber colored with full of tannic grip and rich flavor.

In Georgia, these skin fermented white wines are called "amber" wines. The rest of the world seems to be calling them "orange" wines. I shall bow to peer pressure and also call them orange.

Tasting at the Monastery
Review: This Rkatsiteli has a deep orange color with hints or amber. It has complex aromas of ripe apricot, sweet fruit cocktail, honey, earthy minerals, and an odd mature note of dusty book jacket. On the palate it's dry with moderate acidity and grippy, slightly astringent tannin. While the apricot and honey notes are still present on the palate, I find myself tasting much more savory notes of dried thyme and washed cheese rind.  The finish is medium in length. 

This is probably the best made orange wine I've had. There is a clear interplay between the fresh fruit and savory sides of the wine, all set upon a bright, yet slightly astringent backdrop. Particularly with food...

Food Pairing: Roast pork with lemon and thyme. This will play up the brightness and herby quality in the wine, and play well with the earthiness.

Bottom Line: Complex and compelling. Not necessarily an everyday wine for me, but definitely something I'm happy to have experienced.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2010
  • PLACE: Kakheti, Georiga
  • GRAPE: Rkatsiteli
  • BOOZE: 13%
  • CELLAR: Drink Now through 2020

Where did I get it? Alaverdi Monastery Tasting Room
What's the damage? High Priced

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Barkan Vineyards Classic Chardonnay

Barkan Vineyards Classic Chardonnay 2014
Dan, Israel

At the end of September I tasted the Barkan Pinot Noir -- now let's try their Chardonnay! This one comes to us from the kibbutz of Dan. The grapes are sourced from the Upper Galilee and Jerusalem Mountains.

Barkan Vineyards has a long wine-making history in the region, dating back to the beginning of the 19th century. In 2000 the winery was overhauled, becoming a modern center of wine-making in Israel.

Review: This Chardonnay is a pale golden yellow color, with ripe aromas of sweet meyer lemon, golden apple, and a hint of pineapple. On the palate the wine is dry, but with the tiniest hint of sweetness. A moderate level of acidity lends balance to the round body. The flavors from the nose come through on the palate with a short citrus finish. Unfortunately, there's a bit of bitterness that does linger on. 

Food Pairing: The freshness in the wine begs for a fresh, bright salad.

Bottom Line: Not my favorite Chardonnay -- that bit of bitterness is a bit too much! That being said, I enjoyed the fruit flavors and the structural balance of the wine. Not a home run for me, I respect the effort.



Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2014
  • PLACE: Upper Galilee and Jerusalem Mountains, Israel
  • GRAPES: Chardonnay
  • BOOZE: 13%
  • CELLAR: 2014

Where did I get it? Crystal City Wine Shop
What's the damage? Mid Priced