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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

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Give Mom Something Delicious For Mother's Day!

With Mother’s Day just days away, many of us are scrambling for the right gift. If your mom is like most, she likes a glass of wine every now and then. I just tasted through a lot of different offerings and found a diverse group that, depending on your mom’s tastes, will each hit the right spot. Whether she likes aromatic whites, reds (gentle or bold), or delicious bubbles, here are some great options. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest

Gabe's 2014 Holiday Gift Guide

GiftGuideCover_AmandaJeanBlackIf you’re not sure what to get someone as a gift this year, consider a good bottle of wine or spirits —‚ always in season. Anyone who drinks alcohol will certainly appreciate a well-chosen bottle to enjoy, be it alone or with friends (my hope is that it’s with you). Throughout the year, I’ve tasted a number of the best bottles in both the wine and spirit categories and compiled a list of my 24 favorites — any of which would make excellent gifts for a variety of budgets. A few of the bottles are particularly great values, while others are luxury beverages that will really impress the lucky person who receives them; no matter the price, every selection in this guide is delicious and well made. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.

Banging Bubbly for New Years Eve

I’m a firm believer that most of us should be drinking sparkling wine more often. It can be versatile with food, often delicious on its own and quite frankly just plain fun. That said the one day we all seem to agree on when it comes to Sparkling Wine consumption is New Years Eve. With that in mind here are three that I tried recently and really enjoyed. One of them falls into the traditional category of classic Champagne. The other two are new world entries, one traditional in style and intent, and the other leaps and bounds in a different direction. Most importantly each of them is unique and delicious. Paringa - 2012 Sparkling Shiraz. This wine is composed entirely of Shiraz. The fruit was sourced from 14 year old vines. This sparkler saw a short window of time in French oak. 10,000 cases of this Sparkling Shiraz were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $17.99. Black raspberry aromas lead a huge nose that is fruity and floral. If the nose of a wine could be compared to an invitation, this one is welcoming you to a party that is fun and boisterous. The palate is studded with vibrant black fruit flavors; blackberry and raspberry are most prominent. Molasses, anise, black cherry and a mélange of spices are all present in the above average finish. The bottom line here is that the Paringa Sparkling Shiraz is a fun and delicious wine. Pair it with dessert, a burger or drink it by itself, each alternative will work.

Mumm Napa - Brut Prestige was made from a combination of Pinot Noir (51%), Chardonnay (46%), Pinot Meunier (2%), and Pinot Gris (1%). The first three grapes are the classic triumvirate most often associated with Sparkling Wine; The Pinot Gris is something out of the standard realm that they have added. Fermentation took place primarily in stainless steel. 18 months of aging on yeast followed. This widely available Brut style wine has a suggested retail price of $22. Bits of citrus and white stone fruits fill the nose this wine. This entry level selection in the Mumm portfolio and it’s a classic Brut. The palate is dry and loaded with fruit and spice. Yeast and biscuit characteristics emerge on the finish which has nice length. While the friendly price makes it an obvious choice for holiday celebrations this wine will go very well with food whether it’s paired with a first course during dinner or alongside brunch, you’ll be pleased with the results.

Perrier-Jouet - Grand Brut (NV). This Champagne was composed from a blend of Pinot Noir (40%), Pinot Meunier (40%), and Chardonnay (20%). After fermentation and racking, more than 300 wines are tasted to assemble this blend. In addition to the current vintage reserve wines from previous vintages amounting to between 10% and 20% are also blended in. The wine is then aged in their estate cellars. This Champagne has a suggested retail price of $50. Aromas of apple, ginger and lemon are all part of the gently expressive nose. Orchard fruit flavors are dominant on the palate along with a core of accompanying spices. Bits of brioche and biscuit are present on the lengthy finish along with lemon zest and white pepper spice. This is a classic example of Brut that shines year after year. It will be a fine accompaniment to lighter foods and also a terrific choice to pop open to celebrate the arrival of 2014.

Drinking more sparkling wine, Champagne or otherwise, is a fine resolution for the new year. Get off on the right foot and finish off 2013 with one or more from this trio, you can't really go wrong here.

Perrier-Jouët - 2002 Fleur de Champagne Brut

In the world of Champagne there are a small handful of truly classic names; Perrier-Jouët is certainly amongst their number. Each time I’ve had the chance to taste their wines I’ve walked away impressed with them. Additionally I’m reminded when I drink their wines that we really need to drink more Champagne in this country than we do. They can be delicious, pair well with the right foods and they’re fun to drink. So for me one of my goals in 2011 is to drink more Champagne. Today I’ll look at one of the current releases from Perrier-Jouët. The Perrier-Jouët 2002 Fleur de Champagne Brut was produced using fruit from several vineyards, several of them Grand Cru Chardonnay plantings. The blend of this wine is made up of Chardonnay (50%), Pinot Noir (45%), and Pinot Meunier (5%). Pressing took place with traditional wood presses. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel. After dosage the wine ages in bottle for 6 years. This wine has a suggested retail price of $139.

Aromas of hibiscus, fresh brioche and apple are in abundance on the nose of this 2002 Champagne. Melon, citrus and spice are all part of an incredibly generous palate that just gives and gives with wave after wave of gently intense flavor. Yeasty notes marked by flaky biscuit are apparent on the finish along with ginger, lemon, pepper, and vanilla bean. This wine has fine structure and crisp, firm acidity.

This is a tremendous example of Champagne that showcases length, depth and complexity to spare. It’s delicious today and will drink well for the next couple of decades. If you’re going to spend this kind of money on a bottle of wine, you want some assurance you’re going to get value. The Perrier-Jouët name on the bottle gives you that assurance of consistent quality over a long stretch of time.

Pol Roger - Brut Reserve “White Foil” (NV) / 2002 Brut Rosé / 1999 Brut Blanc de Blancs

The New Year is mere days away. And with it comes the annual frenzy of picking a Champagne or Sparkling Wine for the big night. Champagne is clearly a great way to mark a festive occasion but it’s also a great wine to enjoy with a meal or often times on its own as well. I recently took part in an online tasting of some Champagnes from Pol Roger. Their history in France dates back more than 160 years. Three of the Champagnes we sampled really stood out to me and I’ll provide my impressions of them. First up is the Pol Roger Brut Reserve “White Foil” (NV). This wine is a blend of equal parts Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. All the fruit was sourced in sub appellations of the Champagne region. After crushing the grapes are fermented separately at cool temperature. When the final blends are assembled at least 2 vintages are represented and the wine ages a minimum of 3 years prior to release. This offering has a suggested retail price of $55. A host of aromas leap from the nose of this Non Vintage Brut; candied ginger, clover honey, almond, hazelnut, citrus and a hint of yeast are the most prominent. The full flavored palate is loaded with character and flavors such as lemongrass, hints of peach and a nice wallop of spices. The finish is crisp, layered and gentle with light yeast notes and continued spice that lingers persistently. This is a terrific example of NV Brut that blows away its price point by a fair clip.

Next up is the Pol Roger 2002 Brut Rosé. This wine is a blend of Pinot Noir (50%), Chardonnay (35%), and Pinot Meunier (15%). The fruit for this wine was sourced in specific areas within Champagne. Each lot was pressed and fermented of separately. Final blending took place before bottling where the secondary fermentation took place. This wine has a suggested retail price of $115. This Rosé starts out with a classic and beautiful salmon hue. Aromas of candied raspberry and wild strawberry are prominent in the inviting nose. Cherry, strawberry, raspberry, pomegranate and rhubarb are all present throughout a juicy and berry-driven palate. This wine has firm structure and crisp acidity. The finish is lengthy and impressive. This wine is perfect foil for a wide array of foods.

Finally we come to the Pol Roger 1999 Brut Blanc de Blancs. This offering was produced from 100% Chardonnay sourced in Grand Cru vineyards around Champagne. Each lot is aged separately in stainless steel followed by blending and bottling. It then ages in the Pol Roger cellars for 7 years prior to release. This Vintage Champagne has a suggested retail price of $130. This wine has a gorgeous straw color. The nose is welcoming with hints of smoke, brioche and flowers. Apple and orchard fruit in general emerge on the palate which is creamy and ethereal. They’re joined by hazelnut and almond flavors as well as spice. The finish is amazingly layered and complex with minerals, spice, yeast and more. After swallowing a sip the flavors seem to continue forever. This wine is fresh and vibrant and really at the very beginning of its drinkable life cycle. There are champagnes in this price range that have bigger names, this selection from Pol Roger may not be quite as well known to the general consumer but it should be. It’s got impressive flavors, depth and complexity to spare. In short a lot of wow factor going on here. Value in my opinion is relative to quality provided. In this case the 1999 Blanc de Blancs from Pol Roger is a relative steal at $130.

Taken as a lot the Champagnes from Pol Roger are an excellent collection. When considered individually you’ll find a lot to like about each of them. If you drink Champagne regularly (and why wouldn’t you) keep the Pol Roger wines in mind, they’re worth your attention and your dollars.

Tasting The Wines of Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne With Hervé Deschamps

PJWhat is it about Champagne that causes so many Americans to relegate it to celebrations? Don’t get me wrong I think it’s a perfectly fine wine to toast with. That said I think so many people are missing tremendous experiences when they don’t reach for it more often. Champagne like many other kinds of wine is made in an array of styles. And depending on what you’re going to have for dinner, lunch or brunch it's a pretty solid bet that there’s a Champagne that will match your meal. Last week I had the opportunity to taste the wines of Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne alongside Hervé Deschamps, their Chef de Cave. In the history of Perrier-Jouët, which is closing in on 200 years, he is only the seventh Chef de Cave. In speaking with him about his tenure, which started in 1983, it was interesting to note what his goals are. For many Winemakers taking over where a long history exists they yearn to leave their stamp on the wines. This is a bit different in Champagne. The style and quality at Perrier-Jouët has been both high and consistent for almost 200 years. So Hervé’s goal was not to change it but rather to maintain the integrity of the house style and overall quality of the wine.

Tasting through the current Perrier-Jouët offerings it’s apparent that the goal has been met. The wines are of high quality, consistent in style, lovely, and also quite importantly, distinct from each other.

The current releases we sampled were as follows:

Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut NV – This wine which is composed of Pinot Noir (40%), Pinot Meunier (40%) and Chardonnay (20%). The non-vintage cuvee is the most widely produced and available of the Perrier-Jouët wines. For a suggested retail price of $45 it’s also their entry level offering. However the quality of this wine is anything but entry level. This is a serious Grand Brut with citrus aromas and flavors followed by flaky biscuit and brioche. It has an excellent finish and this wine is likely best suited for the widest array of cuisine in the portfolio.

Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé NV – This Rosé is made up of Pinot Noir (40%), Pinot Meunier (30%) and Chardonnay (30%). This selection has a suggested retail price of $75. The non-vintage Rosé was one of my favorite selections in the portfolio. I enjoyed the length of its finish as well as the firm structure it showed off. If I was going to drink one of these on its own, this would likely be my choice.

Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne Brut 2000 – 50% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier make up this vintage release. This offering has a suggested retail price of $139. I found this wine to be terrific now. Full, round mouth feel and hints of creaminess and toasted nuts on the finish are amongst the highlights. That said I expect this selection to evolve and improve for quite a few years. The best is yet to come for this wine. A solid bet to put away for a special occasion or holiday meal.

Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne Rosé 2002 - This selection is a blend of Pinot Noir (55%) and Chardonnay (45%). The suggested retail price for this vintage Rosé is $349. This wine starts impressively from its brilliant pink hue. Berry flavors intertwine throughout the palate and the finish which is impressively lengthy is soft, lush and delicate at the same time that it is layered and complex. This is an absolutely brilliant selection that deserves to be both enjoyed for its beauty and contemplated for its complexity.

Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2000 – This offering is a single vineyard selection composed exclusively of Chardonnay. The suggested retail price for this wine is $399. While I mentioned above that Hervé’s goal was to maintain the integrity and quality of the wines during his tenure, this offering is his singular mark on Perrier-Jouët. This is a selection that wasn’t produced previous to his tenure. It’s only made in exceptional vintages. I really enjoyed the nose of the offering. A hint of candied ginger and honey really come through. The palate of this wine is perhaps the gentlest and most alluring of these six wines. The finish lingers and echoes well after the last sip.

Tasting these wines side by side over several hours I went back to each of them more than once. As I mentioned I was struck not only by the quality but also by the distinction. Each of these wines stands on its own and provides a unique drinking experience. Whether you’re picking up the Non Vintage Grand Brut for everyday drinking or putting the Fleur de Champagne Rosé away for a special meal you really can’t go wrong with the wines of Perrier-Jouët. This is a classic Champagne House, 200 years into its history, that keeps on keeping on. In a world where change for the sake of change is often embraced, it’s good to see stability and consistency. Happily I can highly recommend these wines across the board.