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Monthly Archives: May 2017

BottleRock Napa 2017

If you’ve never been to a three-day music festival before, BottleRock Napa is a good place to start. I wasn’t sure what to think when I decided to go, and I certainly didn’t know whether or not I’d be able to hold up for the entire weekend! I’m no spring chicken, you know! Still, the idea of spending the Memorial Day Weekend enjoying great wines, delicious food, and listening to awesome live music – at four different stages – sounded fun, so away I went. I’m glad I did!

BottleRock Napa is an amazing, high-energy event. The organizers did a great job of planning and preparing, creating a comfortable and welcoming environment for guests. The main stage area was laid with fresh sod for the comfort of concert goers, and there were plenty of places to sit and relax. The staff were all amazing, and everyone there was in a great mood all weekend. And why wouldn’t they be?

Naturally the wine was amazing! What I didn’t expect is that nearly all the food was from Napa area restaurants. This was no corn-dog-and-funnel-cake festival, folks. No, this was gourmet! (I only wish I had taken pics of the food before I devoured it!)

I had an amazing time at BottleRock Napa 2017. I’m looking forward to going again. Yet, rather than prattle on about the experience, allow me to share it in pictures; both Instagram posts and individual photos. I hope you enjoy them!

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Macklemore & Ryan Lewis poppin’ some tags!

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No, we weren’t that close. This is a pic of the Jumbotron. But still…

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Happy people enjoying wine, food, and music!

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Tom Petty, rock icon

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Winning Wine: A Review of Sauska Tokaji Aszú 2003

Some days you lose.

Some days you win.

Some days you win wine!

Back in December, Sauska Wines US and the wine blog Wine Esquire sponsored an Instagram contest. The winner would receive a bottle of Sauska Tokaji Aszú 2003, 6 puttonyos.  Entry was simple: follow SauskaWineUS on Instagram. Boom. Done. Of course, I wouldn’t win. I never win contests.

On December 27, 2016, my luck changed. (It’s been continually improving since then, but that’s another story.) I received a private Instagram message from SauskaWinesUS informing me I was the winner of the Tokaji contest! A bottle of this golden nectar would soon be on its way to me. The bottle arrived at my office a few weeks later, with much fanfare (Well, in my head anyway. My coworkers couldn’t have cared much less. Silly coworkers.)

This would be my first excursion into Hungarian wines. Ever since the winning bottle’s arrival, I’ve been waiting for just the right time to open it. Last night was that right time.

Before we get into my description of just how incredibly decadent this wine is, let’s explore the story behind the wine…

Tokaji is the most famous and popular Hungarian wine. It hails from the Tokaj region in northeastern Hungary. The primary grape varieties used in Tokaji wines are Furmint, Hárslevelű, and Muscat Blanc. Tokaji is known for its rich, nectar-like flavors and sweetness. This characteristic is the result of the use of botrytized grapes. Botrytis is a type of fungus that affects grapes. When controlled and allowed to develop, it is known as Noble Rot, and dries the grapes which concentrates the sugars and flavors. Not all Tokaji wines use botrytized grapes. Those that do are labeled as Aszú, and are further categorized by their residual sugar levels, indicated by the designation “puttonyos.” Aszú wines range from 3 puttonyos, with 25 grams of residual sugar per liter, to 6 puttonyos, with 150+ grams per liter. The bottle I received was at the top of that scale, with 6 puttonyos.

Sauska Wines is a family owned winery, with vineyards in Tokaj and Villany. Using indigenous and international varietals, they produce a varied portfolio of wines, including sparkling, whites, rosés, and reds. The Tokaji Aszú 2003 that I received was crafted from hand-picked Furmint and Hárslevelű grapes. Barrel fermented with only indigenous yeasts, it spent 36 months in new oak before bottling. At 222 grams of sugar per liter, it’s definitely sweet, but at only 10% ABV, you can sip and enjoy it all evening.

Tokaji wines have a royal history. Kings and noblemen throughout history, including King Louis XIV of France, Peter the Great, and Catherine the Great have coveted the golden elixir. With such an impressive following, I knew this must be a wine of elegance and distinction.

However, in the interest of full confession, neither my guest nor I are fans of super sweet wines. Although we were excited to experience such a majestic and noble wine, we were also a little apprehensive when opening the bottle. As soon as I pulled the cork and took my first sniff, all apprehension evaporated. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill sugar bomb. This wine has depth, character, and complexity beyond anything I’ve experienced in a dessert wine.

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Rich, golden color in the glass. Opened cold (+/- 40F) and allowed to open as it warmed. Initial aromas on ripe apricot and honey. While sweet, this is so much more. There is an incredible complexity on the nose that entices and invites one in. On the palate, the mouthfeel is rich and creamy, almost syrupy, with flavors of apricot nectar, honey, overripe peach and pineapple, and golden raisin. This wine is dessert unto itself. The finish is sweet and lingers for several minutes. Very impressive, indeed!

I’d once again like to thank Sauska Wines US for their generosity in offering this incredible wine prize, and Wine Esquire for sponsoring and promoting this contest. For those of you who haven’t experienced the magic of Tokaji Aszú, I encourage you to seek it out and give it a try. Even if you think you don’t like sweet dessert wines, I think you’ll like this!

Cheers!

Review: Château Bélingard AOC Bergerac Rosé

Summer is the traditional season for Rosé wine. There is a movement afoot to encourage wine lovers to enjoy Rosé all year, and I’m all on board. I do enjoy Rosé wine year around. Nevertheless, lighter bodied, crisp wines taste best to me (any many others) when the weather is warmer. Poolside, lakeside, or parkside, a refreshing Rosé is a great way to enjoy a summer afternoon.

Rosé wine comes to the plate with two strikes against it. First of all, many people I know still think all Rosé wine is like the syrupy sweet White Zinfandel popular in the 80’s and 90’s. This is simply not true. The reality is that a good many of the Rosé wines available today are crafted in the classic, Provençal style: dry, crisp, and refreshing. Still, some simply aren’t willing to give dry Rosé a try. I say their loss is my gain: more for me!

Strike two is that there are a lot of low quality Rosé wines out there, lacking in flavor, interest, or character. I suppose this is to be expected when a product suddenly becomes as popular as Rosé has in recent years. Everybody wants a piece of the action; to ride the wave while it is high. So they’ll rush to put something, anything out there to enter the market before the tide turns. (I’m detecting a surf theme here. Appropriate, given that Rosé is a great beach wine!)

Fortunately, there are also many excellent Rosé wines available! I found one of them recently at my local Total Wine & More store. Château Bélingard AOC Bergerac Rosé (Retail: $11.99) is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. As one might expect from the use of these two big, bold red grapes, this Rosé has a bit more body and heft than most. Make no mistake, though; this is still a dry, crisp, refreshing wine!

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Founded in 1820, Château Bélingard is located in Southwest France, in the Bergerac appellation, east of the more famous Bordeaux region. While Bergerac wines are made predominantly with the same varietals as those of Bordeaux – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based red wines, and Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon based whites – Bergerac wines are often considered softer and less serious. I don’t take this as a criticism in any way! On the contrary, these are high quality, value wines! Not everyone is a collector or connoisseur, and there is definitely a need for affordable, easy-drinking, everyday wines.

In addition to this Rosé, Château Bélingard produces an impressive portfolio of reds and whites, including a Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon/Muscadelle blend, and several levels of Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends. Below is my review of the Rosé, which we recently enjoyed as a cool refresher on a 102°F Sunday evening.

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IMG_2342Salmon, almost orange color. Aromas and flavors of tropical fruit including mango and passion fruit, with a hint of mandarin, along with light red berry flavors of strawberry and ripe raspberry. Dry with medium body and a soft, round mouthfeel and lively acidity make this a refreshing wine, yet big enough to pair with grilled tri-tip steaks or other summer BBQ fare.

We really enjoyed this wine! I rated it 4.5 out of 5 stars (92 – 94 points).

Check your local retailer and seek out some of this amazing Rosé wine! You’ll be glad you did!

Cheers!

Roses and Rosé for Mother’s Day

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Today is Mother’s Day in the United States. I am fortunate, in that both of my parents are alive and healthy, in their early 80’s. What’s more, they live in a beautiful retirement apartment complex just a few minutes from my home. Over the years, we have not always lived so close; so many Mother’s Days were spent remotely. So I’m pleased to be able to celebrate this day over a meal and wine with both my mother and dad.

Contrary to popular belief, at least by me, Mother’s Day is not just another “Hallmark Holiday.” Indeed, the day we know today was started in 1908 by Anna Jarvis, to honor the sacrifices mothers make for their children. Hallmark wasn’t founded until two years later in 1910! In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a declaration establishing Mother’s Day as the second Sunday in May. Yet celebrations of motherhood date much further back than that. The ancient Greeks and Romans held festivals honoring the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. More modern Christian celebrations of “Mothering Sunday” eventually evolved into the holiday we enjoy today.

I like to refer to the community where my parents live as a “land-based cruise ship.” It’s pretty much all-inclusive, with three meals a day, housekeeping services, social activities, recreation, and a shuttle bus for day trips and running errands. In fact, the apartments themselves don’t even have kitchens! Management is always gracious and invites guests for special occasion meals. Mother’s Day is no exception! Lunch is the big meal of the day, and there is always a main entrée, as well as an alternate in case you don’t care for the main. Mind you, these are chef-prepared meals so they’re always enticing and tasty!

Today’s main entrée was marinated flank steak with hoisin sauce, with arepas and artichoke timbales. If you’re not feeling like beef, the alternate was crab cakes with papaya pepper puree and citrus dill aioli. When I come over for special meals, I always like to bring a bottle or two of wine to pair with the meal. After all, I am a wine guy, so my folks appreciate my recommendations! I went in assuming we would all want the flank steak, so I brought a Cabernet Franc; the Le Pré Vaujour Chinon 2016. However, it was possible that my mom would surprise me and order the crab cakes. Besides, this is Mother’s Day, so we have to have a Rosé, right? As you can see in the photo above, we had several Rosés to choose from. In keeping with the Cabernet Franc theme, we opted for the Château De La Roulerie Les Camelias Rosé 2014, a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Roses and Rosé for Mother’s Day! 

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OK, props to dad, too. Without him, she wouldn’t be my mother! 

As expected, the meal was delicious! We started with a salad of spring greens, micro greens, and Belgian endive with peach-basil vinaigrette. Although we all ordered the flank steak, we opened the Rosé for the salad course. It was an amazing pairing! When the main course arrived, we chugged the remaining Rosé in our glasses to make room for the red wine. Honestly, I was a little apprehensive. I hadn’t realized until I got the bottle home that the Chinon was a 2016 vintage. The grapes in the bottle were on the vine only a few months ago! I needn’t have worried, though, as the pairing was heavenly! For dessert we enjoyed homemade tiramisu and sipped on the last of the Chinon. Yum!! It was a very pleasant and enjoyable way to celebrate the sacrifices my mother made in raising my sister and me. Mainly my sister. (Just kidding, sis!)

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The Wines

Château De La Roulerie Les Camelias Rosé 2014

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​Salmon color in the glass. Aromas and flavors of strawberry, red raspberry, and red currant. Bright acidity with medium body. Light and lively. Red berry, including cranberry on finish. Excellent pairing with the spring and micro greens salad with endive.

4.0 Stars (88 – 91 points)

Le Pré Vaujour Chinon 2016

Yes, 2016. ​Very young, but very good! Bright purple color in the glass. Aromas and light mouthfeel are reminiscent of a Beaujolais Nouveau: Fresh raspberry, red currant, and violet, with some spice, and a bit of freshly tilled earth, with just a hint of oak influence. Surprisingly soft and smooth for such a young wine, with lively acidity and medium body. The acidity made it perfect with the flank steak, and led to a long, pleasing finish. Very good now, with aging potential for several years.

4.0 Stars (88 – 91 points)

My hope is that each of you enjoyed celebrating your mother as much as I did mine. Let me know in the comments what you did with your mom, and what wines you paired with it!

Cheers!