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Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Wine of the Week - Castiglion del Bosco 2015 Brunello di Montalcino

According to winemaker, Cecilia Leoneschi, “2015 was a textbook vintage.” The first thing you notice of her wine is the color - a brick red beauty, with lovely notes of raspberry, pomegranate, strawberry compote, cherry, cedar, redwood, light tobacco and great, balanced acidity. In the dry clay and pebble soils this Sangiovese is grown, what springs up through the vine itself offers a richness of fruit and an earthiness without being undefined. In short, this is a terrific bottle of wine. 24 months of aging in barrel, then another two years aging in bottle before release, sets the stage for a very pleasurable wine. ORIGIN: Montalcino, Italy PRICE: $70/750 ml SCORE: 92 POINTS

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Wine Each Week ~ Dixie & Bass 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

Proof that Cabernet need not be expensive, this delightful Cab from the Columbia Valley in Washington state clocks in at just $18. It will have you scratching your head - is it really this good? Comprised of all Cabernet with 10% Malbec, it offers notes of blueberry, boysenberry, subtle black cherry, even more subtle mocha with light, but nicely integrated, oak notes and mild tannins. The structure is solid and gives a pleasant mouth feel. What it gets right is that simple tactile pleasurable feel of drinking a wine that tastes really, really good. Aged 16 months in just 25% new American oak, the wood doesn’t overpower the wine. 1120 cases ORIGIN: Columbia Valley, Washington ALCOHOL: 14% PRICE: $18/750 ml SCORE: 90 POINTS

Friday, November 6, 2020

Wine Each Week ~ J. Lohr Estates 2019 Riverstone Chardonnay

Looking for a $14 Chardonnay that delivers? Here it is. As winemaker Kristen Barnhisel told me: “This Chardonnay is made from 9 different clones with each adding something unique. Early ripening French clones provide lushness ripe stone fruit flavors and soft acidity, later ripening clones, like 4 and 5, hold their acid and provide fresh delineated citrus flavors.” Indeed - there is a light lemon quality, along with notes of guava, lime kefir, white peach, a bit of amber resin and enough acidity to work well with food. It’s also a wine that is just very pleasant to drink. And frankly, it tastes like Chardonnay and represents the Salinas Valley quite well. Riverstone, named for the rocky dirt the grapes are grown in, shows you how complex Monterey County Chardonnay can be. ORIGIN: Salinas Valley, Monterey ALCOHOL: 13.9% PRICE: $14/750 ml PAIR WITH: Barbecue chicken pizza; shrimp scampi; Porcini mushroom risotto SCORE: 90 POINTS

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Wine Each Week ~ Tamarack Cellars 2017 Firehouse Red

It’s a perennial complaint - wine is too expensive. And certainly some wines hit stratospheric prices but there are other values always out there are often overlooked. Such is the case of this Washington state red blend from the Columbia Valley clocking in at just 20 bucks. Tamarack Cellars opened in 1998 and has certainly gained a loyal following. This wine, pretty much the quintessential “kitchen sink blend,” is comprised of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot with small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Counoise, Sangiovese, and Petite Verdot. It offers deep rich fruit of black cherry, blueberry, blackberry and boysenberry, which meld with light acidity, light tannins and moderate use of oak. There are back notes of pepper spice, herbal notes and chopped parsley. Beyond the technical, it’s a pleasure to drink and proves that value does exist in the wine industry. 12,000 cases. ORIGIN: Columbia Valley, Washington ALCOHOL: 13.8% PRICE: $20/750 ml PAIR WITH: Pulled pork pizza; rotisserie chicken; vegetarian spaghetti and red sauce. SCORE: 91 POINTS

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Wine Each Week ~ ZD 2019 Sauvignon Blanc

A Sauv is born. Yep, ZD Wines never had a Sauvignon Blanc in their portfolio, but they do now. This inaugural offering is a far cry from the grassy, herbaceous iterations out there, something ZD wanted to keep away from. Instead, this is light, refreshing and crisp - a bit of cut grass but mainly lemon zest, lime Kiefer, green apple, a bit of honeysuckle, white peach and nectarine. That’s balanced against a light minerality and pleasant viscosity. It really reflects what Napa does well with Sauvignon Blanc, which is bright clean fruit. The grapes were hand harvested at night to keep the grapes cool, and aging was a combo of stainless steel, American oak barrels and concrete tanks, and no ML. The result is a wine to be proud of. ORIGIN: Napa Valley ALCOHOL: 13.5% PRICE: $27 /750 ml SCORE: 90 POINTS ZD WINES

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Spirits of the Cervin Chalet ~ Fullbar: A Bar In A Can

In the movies, all the really cool people have tremendous cocktail bars hidden inside their wall, or inside some massive globe. Well, most of us don’t have space nor the inclination to spend wads of cash to set up a full bar, let alone stash it inside our wall.

New to the market is Fullbar, a ready-to-drink set of mixers and alcohol. Normally most ready-to-drink products are pretty weak, and Fullbar’s concept of adding a pre-formulated mixer to a spirit is not new. What is new is the quality of their products. I tasted Fullbar’s offerings and can support what they are doing. I sampled the Island Punch and rum, for example, merely pouring the mixer and rum together. I added a squeeze of orange, but the mix of 2-to-1 made a fine simple cocktail, the punch not being overly sweet and the white rum was very pleasant. The result, a very nice easy cocktail that is fresh and enjoyable. With Fullbar you can portion out what you want, more booze, less, mixer, or the other way around.

The gin and tonic (I used less tonic, which balanced it out better for my tastes) is also simple but nicely done and doesn’t need garnishes, though the beauty is that you can add in whatever is on hand. So, perhaps you don’t have a home bar that’s stocked with the essentials and weird accouterments like candied fennel, star anise or orange bitters (I do recommend these, of course), but Fullbar can get you close to making consistent cocktails which are quite satisfying considering that, at the very least, all you’re doing is mixing two cans together.

Their cocktail kit consists of 10 spirits (American whiskey, gin, blanco tequila, Caribbean rum, vodka) and 10 mixers (margarita, ginger mule, island punch, tonic, and soda water), which yields 20 single cocktails or 10 doubles. All spirits are 80 proof and come in 3.4 oz. cans, and
all non-alcoholic mixers come in 6.8 oz. cans. Simple, effective, no hassle and pretty darn good.

The complete Cocktail kit runs $54.99, but you can also mix and match and get 6-packs ($18.99 - $23.99) or even just the mixers by themselves (mixer only four packs - $5.99) if you prefer using your own booze. Since they just launched you can get 10% off the cost with this discount code for the time being: ReadyToMake

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Wine Each Week ~ Domaine de Cala 2019 Rosé

In the restaurant world, Master Chef Joachim Splichal is an icon. Splichal runs a restaurant empire, The Patina Group, comprised of 65 restaurants across the US (mainly New York, Florida and California) and even a location in Tokyo. It’s no surprise then that he wanted to make his own wines, and more importantly, make them from where he grew up – Provence. His 2019 rosé, is light in style and approach, and this wine subtly fills the palate with notes of strawberry, plum, rhubarb, with back notes of lime and sandalwood. Comprised of mainly Grenache and Cinsault, there are smaller amounts of Rolle, Syrah, Carignan and Grenache Blanc. The beauty of most wines from this region and certainly de Cala is that they are young, light and fresh wines, not manipulated and forced. This 2019 has the acidity and minerality to work with foods (something Splichal knows a lot about) or is light enough to enjoy on its own.
ORIGIN: Provence, France
ALCOHOL: 12.5%
PRICE: $17.50 /750 ml