A high-alcohol fortified wine in the middle of a summer heat wave? Okay, I am drinking mostly rosé and white wine, with a few light reds, but at the end of the evening, I still enjoy a glass of port with a piece of dark chocolate. The LBV here stands for Late Bottled Vintage. True vintage port is only produced in years that are declared as such. The decision is made two years after the harvest, and if a vintage is declared, it then goes into bottle where it slowly ages. LBVs are also from a single vintage, but they spend from four to six years in cask, allowing them to mellow and to be ready to drink upon release. However, not all LBVs are the same. Some are cold-stabilized and filtered and topped with a cap like you find on Tawnies. They are meant to be opened within a few years of bottling. Others are unfiltered and cork finished. They drink beautifully once bottled, but can age well, evolving over some 10 or 15 years. This Menéres is in that later category, and while all LBVs are among the best values in ruby port, this one is an exceptional bargain. It opens with aromas of caramel, chocolate, cherry and candied plum. The flavors are silky smooth with creamy chocolate and ripe berry that linger nicely on the long finish. We were so impressed we decided to buy in and stack it (I bought a case for myself—it’s that good.)
Not only is this nice, crisp, South African wine sustainably farmed, but Indaba is also the cornerstone of a philanthropic movement to bring early childhood education to those most in need in their Cape Winelands community. Considering that my education and background is in the early childhood field, that fact alone appealed to me. This almost clear colored Chenin Blanc opens with a fragrant green apple and honeysuckle bouquet. On the palate, it is medium bodied, well balanced and easy to drink. The flavor profile offers gentle green apple with nicely integrated, mild minerality. I also detected hints of lemongrass. The finish is dry, and its flavors quietly fade away. This is a very versatile and food friendly Chenin. I paired it with a chicken dish from the grill, with roasted cherry tomatoes and peppers. A great value.
I was anxiously waiting for the new vintage of this to come in and it finally arrived. It’s been one of my favorites for the last few vintages, and this one does not disappoint. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Riesling, it has notes of crisp Meyer lemon and melon flavors accented by lime zest and ruby grapefruit notes. A hint of honeysuckle comes through on the sturdy finish. Dry, bright and refreshing, it’s the perfect patio wine for the summer.
Plenty has been said about the 2014 vintage for white Burgundy. The word most used to describe the vintage is classic. I’m having a hard time staying away from any white Burgundy from the 2014 vintage, so when I saw this one come through the door, I figured why not write it up. The wine is produced by Chateau-Fuisse, which dates back to 1604, and has been in the Vincent family for five generations. Chateau-Fuisse specializes in white Burgundy with over 100 acres of vineyards in southern Burgundy, spread across five appellations (Pouilly-Fuisse, Saint-Veran, Macon-Villages, Bourgogne-Blanc, and Julienas). The Tete de Cru is blended from approximately 20 different vineyard sites in Pouilly-Fuisse, with the Chardonnay vines averaging 30 years in age. The wine is aged 40 percent in stainless steel tanks and 60 percent oak barrels, 25 percent of which are new. On the nose, the wine shows notes of lemon and a bit of minerality. On the palate, it has wonderful texture, supported by great acidity, and continues to show lemon, lemon curd, chalky minerality and just a touch of oak and spice. This wine has great structure and will continue to develop for many more years. A great value from a great vintage!
Yes the size of this wine container is three liters (that’s four bottles)! IT’S A BOXED WINE! Oh get over yourself; remember when everyone held their noses at screw caps? Truth be told it is actually wine in a bag and the bag is in the box. It is actually the best way to enjoy wine that has been opened already. It is O2, after all, that turns wine into vinegar, so the air in any unfinished bottle will have a detrimental effect on your wine. Wine in a bag in a box however doesn’t get O2ed. As the wine goes out, the bag shrinks. Zero oxygen! Boxed wines are great for camping, river rafting, picnics, and even just hanging out in the kitchen filling up the random glass. Boxed wines also have gone from, “Not too bad?” to, “This is really good.” This one is really good. Hailing from Portugal, the Lisboa Region (in coastal, central Portugal), this blend of 70 percent Aragones (aka Tempernillo), 20 percent Syrah, and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon is a bit of a lighter style red, perfect for these hotter days. The Aragonez shows itself with cherry and cedar notes, the Syrah and Cab bring the weight up a bit and flesh out this wine with darker fruits and baking spice flavors. No oak, either in fermentation or aging. This is not a wine you have to think about. This is not a wine to ponder whether to pair it with porcinis or portabellas. This is a wine for the summer patio and anything off the BBQ! And you really have to work at it to empty a three liter box. Remember though it’s always good to have goals.
Lately, the law of randomness has been assisting me with my monthly wine picks, such as when I dropped a bottle & decided to write it up after becoming intrigued by the aroma and body during clean-up. Split Rail’s Daft Pink Brut Rosé caught my attention by another unplanned event, but this time it was not from my clumsiness. Several days ago, a few customers tasted some of our featured selections during a Friday tasting event and I brought up “Daft Pink.” My description of this fizzy, pink sensation intrigued the customers so much that I decided to buy a bottle and open it up to allow them to taste it. They were so impressed that all four of them cleaned out our current inventory and I took the rest of the original bottle home. Later that night, when I tried it again, the intense berry-blast of the sparkling strawberry, rhubarb and cherry drenched flavors lured me into finishing the entire bottle. Split Rail states that they use the “method-non-traditional” by deliberately injecting the carbonation, so perhaps that’s why they named it Daft, however, since that experience with the customers, Daft Pink has become so popular that we stacked it, and I’m restocking it twice a day. Daft Pink might not be an elegant Rhône-style or sophisticated Provincal rose like so many of the others, but if you want something fun and tasty and not-so-serious fizz in your mouth (like berry-flavored pop-rocks), punk-out with Daft Pink but be careful, you’ll want more!
It’s August now and it has been a brutal summer. So I asked myself, why has it been so long since I’ve written about rosé? After all, that is about all I’ve been drinking for the past couple of months. So here is Maris, a winery whose many products we have championed ever since we discovered it several months ago. We love the conscientious back-story of this winery: certified organic by Ecocert, Certified Demeter Biodynamic (the most stringent sustainable farming recognition), the winery itself is biodegradable, energy self-sufficient and has a negative carbon footprint. Even the bottles are recycled glass and the labels recycled paper. With all of those incredible eco-friendly credentials, my co-worker Bob swears that if you drink this wine, you will shave off half your time in Purgatory.
Me, I just like to drink the wine. One hundred percent Grenache Noir, the strawberry and orange zest notes on the nose are subtle but persistent and also make an impression on the palate, with fresh minerality keeping the refrain lively through the finish. This dry, berry-inflected rosé is perfect with a wide array of summer fare, and is definitely a cut or two above the casual quaffers. Come to think about it, it is comforting to know that this is a healthy byproduct of people who really do care about our planet!
One of my all-time favorite dry white wines is Muscadet from the Loire region in France. When I was last in the Loire, we drank this wine for lunch almost every day, usually with a big pile of fresh steamed mussels, which were in season at the time. The problem I run into in the shop is that when I recommend this wine, people counter that they do not like sweet wines. So, I then explain that this is not Muscat or Moscato, two wines that are usually made with some sweetness, and that Muscadet is the place, not the grape. The grape is Melon de Bourgogne and the wine is closer to Pinot Blanc in style, bone dry.
Dry, crisp, bright melon and lime fruit and fresh, lively acidity make this a great wine with any shellfish dish, but I served it with a cheese course and it was a big hit there as well. Made from old vine fruit and aged Sur Lie (on the yeast) in stainless steel tanks to add more complexity to the mid palate. If you have not tried Muscadet in the past you will be hard pressed to find a better choice than this to be your first, as 2015 was an excellent vintage. If you are a fan of Muscadet already then you should just come in and buy a case while you can, this is a bargain.