Showing posts with label Muscat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Muscat. Show all posts

Monday, October 9, 2023

A Dry, Kosher White Wine From The Greek Isles

People who are looking for kosher wines should look into the lines offered by the Royal Wine Corporation. They import wines to the U.S. from all over the world and produce wines at their winery in Southern California. They have been in business for 175 years, dating back eight generations to their beginning in Europe. Their wines are top quality, as I have found through tasting a number of their bottlings through the years.

Royal's Director of PR and Manager of Wine Education Gabriel Geller says that this year "brings an abundance of exciting releases to complement every course" of holiday meals.

Royal Wine has added kosher Greek wines to its portfolio, following the recent release of a white wine called Yamas Xynisteri ($18.99) from Cyprus. Todros offers three expressions made from Muscat grapes grown on the island of Samos: a dry Samena ($24.99), the off-dry High Peaks ($24.99), and Vin Doux ($34.99), a sweet dessert wine.

The name Todros is derived from the Greek word for "gift of God." The dry Samena is made from grapes grown on the island of Samos, actually much closer to Turkey than to Greece. The fruit came from the Samian vineyard. The $25 bottle carries alcohol at a restrained 13% abv. It is mevushal and kosher for Passover.

This wine shows a faint golden tint in the glass. The nose is floral and fruity, with perfumed scents of white flowers, pears, peaches and tropical fruit bursting upward. Those smells made me expect a boatload of fruit on the palate, but there is a surprise. This wine is very dry, and very savory. There is a strong salinity running through it and an earthy minerality which is joined by a racy acidity. I’d pair this with salads for sure, but chicken works, too.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

LBD Rosé: The Perfect Accessory For Spring

My wife tells me that a little black dress is perfect for any occasion.  That's something you learn in Girl School, I guess.  I took shop class and learned how to make an ugly key rack.  Perfect for no occasions.  I grew up to wear my shirttail out whenever possible and comfortable shoes with all outfits. I think girls were probably given much more useful information in their youth.

Little Black Dress wine is intended to be the booze equivalent of that garment, a no-brainer, easy choice that solves problems on the spot. As they say, "Good taste is your call. It's something you wear proudly and pour boldly. It's your own personal flavor. And it looks amazing."

Margaret Leonardi is the winemaker in Mendocino County.  I don't know if she wears a little black dress or a pair of old jeans, but she certainly knows how to make a wine that's right for all occasions.
The winery likes to say that "a good bottle of wine is the best accessory," and I will concur.  It's certainly a much better accessory than a tiny black purse that only holds a couple of credit cards.  It's better than a belt that's six inches wide and shiny.  It's better than shoes that hurt your feet.  Of course, pretty much everything is better than shoes that hurt your feet.

The Little Black Dress folks like to say, "Confidence turns heads and sophistication is the rule," when talking about their wines.  They are confident, and with good reason.  Even without a fancy, single-vineyard label - actually, with only "California" to describe the wine’s origin - they manage to put a really distinctive wine in the bottle.  They did it with Chardonnay, and damned if the Mendocino winery didn't do it with the rosé as well. 

The 2017 Little Black Dress is the same size this year as last, but it's made from different grapes.  The newer LBD Rosé was vinified entirely from white wine grapes, 75% Pinot Grigio, 13% Muscat, 10% Chardonnay and 2% Viognier grapes out of Mendocino County.  The wine was fermented and stored in stainless steel tanks up to its bottling.  Alcohol is a calorie-conscious 12% abv.

The color is light pink, almost an onion skin tone.  Aromas are powerfully surprising, with a great earthy presence joining the floral and fruity expression.  The palate, is as dry as a bone and luscious, with stone fruit and herbal qualities.  The wine pairs beautifully with salad or toast but is a lovely sipper on its own.

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Drink Pink: LBD Rosé Blends Red, White Grapes

This is an unusual rosé blend, in that it is made up largely of white wine grapes. The mix is 54% Gewürztraminer, 23% Muscat, 14% Chardonnay, 5% Zinfandel and 4% other white varieties. For every time I have had a beginning wine lover ask me, "So, rosé is just red and white wine mixed together, right?" I wish I had a sip of this one, which really is one of those imagined pinkies.

The Little Black Dress folks like to say, "Confidence turns heads and sophistication is the rule," when talking about their wines. They are confident, and with good reason. Even without a fancy, single-vineyard label - actually, with only "California" to describe the wine’s origin - they manage to put a really distinctive wine in the bottle. They did it with the Chardonnay, and damned if they didn't do it with the rosé as well. Winemaker Margaret Leonardi makes good juice for this Mendocino winery.

The LBD Rosé shows only a faint salmon-pink hue in the glass. The nose is defined by the Gewürztraminer, all flowery and springlike. There's a cherry/strawberry note from the Zinfandel and a bit of apricot from the Muscat, so it's really a complex rosé bouquet. On the palate the Zin hardly shows up at all, giving way to the fancy, floral white grapes with whom it is no doubt unaccustomed to working. It's off-dry, maybe even medium, but it is no White Zin - if that has you worried. The Gewürztraminer carries the flavor profile, too.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Sweet Wine: Rivesaltes

This is one of those French wines that drive typical American drinkers crazy. The appellation is Muscat de Rivesaltes Protégée. "Burgundy" just rolls off the tongue so much easier. The sweet wine - as in "dessert" - is made from half Muscat of Alexandria grapes and half Muscat Petits Grains. "Pinot" is so much less to remember. Rivesaltes is the AOC for naturally sweet, fortified wines in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the south of France. With that forgotten, let's move on to the estate.

The Cazes vineyards are biodynamically free of pesticides and insecticides, and they claim to act upon "the true expression of the soil and the plant in their natural environment." They make Vins de Pays, Côtes du Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Rivesaltes and Muscat de Rivesaltes wines at the Cazes facility.

This natural, sweet wine is juiced up to 15% abv. By "juiced up," I mean that the wine is made by stopping the fermentation halfway through by adding wine-based alcohol. That kills the yeast so that a large part of the grapes’ sugar remains, giving the wines its sweetness. This wine is six years old, but Cazes makes them with much more aging. We’ll take a taste of some of those in the future.

The Cazes Muscat de Rivesaltes 2010 smells of sweet peaches and apricots, but an earthy layer drapes over the candy-like aromas as if to try and mask them. On the palate, stone fruit is there, too, and a note of orange zest plays into a rather nice acidity level.  It's great as an aperitif, but pair it with cheese. It's nice with creamy Brie, better with smoked farmhouse cheddar. They advise matching the color of the wine with the color of your dessert.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Kalyra Muscat

A little bottle can hold a lot.  The little 375 ml bottle that holds the Kalyra Muscat dessert wine also currently holds my attention, along with my intermittent fascination with sweet wines.

I love sweet wines, but I don't love them all.  Those that I do love, I don't love all the time.  This one carries the qualities that do make me drink sweet - flavor, balanced sweetness and acidity.

Winemaker Mike Brown is Australia-born, but now operates out of Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley.  His dessert wines have been favorites at our house for a number of years, and the little bottle of Muscat pictured and written about here was purchased at the winery on our first visit there, a number of years ago.

This one is a non-vintage wine, and it appears to be slightly different than the current offering in that it has a little more kick to it.  This one hits 18% abv, while the current Kalyra Muscat comes in at 16%.  It's made from Black Muscat grapes and is fortified with brandy.  Also, this older bottle is described on the label as a "product of Australia," while the current product is sourced from Madera County, in California's Central Valley.

The Kalyra website says that the wine has been "aged in the Solero style, which is quite common practice in some regions, particularly in Australia."  Brown says it is "best paired with contrasting flavors like French Vanilla Bean ice cream or crème brulée."

The wine's color is dark brick red, almost brown, like a red with some age on it.  The nose is heavily laden with alcohol (18% abv) and raisiny caramel notes.  It smells like liqueur or sherry with a shot of cognac back.  The palate is just as rich.  Thicker, it might be molasses; sweeter, it could pass for raisin pudding.  The caramel notes are burnt just right and the acidity is rippingly fantastic.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Stepping Stone By Cornerstone North Coast Rocks! White Wine 2011

Cornerstone Cellars of Napa Valley has branched out in recent years to offer a line of everyday wines intended for immediate consumption.  Winemaker Jeff Keene has crafted another beautiful white for the Rocks! line.  Each vintage of the line can show variations in the makeup, depending upon what grapes are chosen.  The 2011 vintage strayed a bit from the 2010 lineup of Chardonnay and Muscat.  Gewürztraminer is in the mix with Chardonnay this time around, and that wonderful, spicy grape really makes itself known.  The wine strikes an alcohol number of 13.5% abv.

The white Rocks! is golden in the glass, with a nose boasting a big floral element, some huge tropical fruit, citrus, apricot and cantaloupe.  The palate shows great acidity that’s zippy and refreshing.  Spice is up front, but the citrus and tropical flavors shine as well.  The lime zest really plays it up on the finish.

Pair it with a salad, any type of seafood, or a bratwurst, even.  It’s a good everyday wine at a suggested retail price of $18.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Two Wines At Monsieur Marcel

When a nice glass of wine is available for half of what it usually costs, that’s a happy occurrence.  It makes me want to do a little Gangnam style dance on the way over to the bar.  A Gangnam style happy hour dance.

Since I have had my afternoons completely free of late, I’ve had the chance to explore various versions of happy hour.  The classic happy hour is “half off drinks and the bar menu.”  That’s how they roll at Monsieur Marcel in the Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax in Los Angeles.

I met a wine buddy of mine there who wanted to tell me all about his new business venture.  It was a nice, sunny afternoon and a couple of refreshing beverages were called for and delivered.

The 2010 Gentil, by the Alsatian producer Hugel, is normally $10 by the glass - $5 during happy hour.  This white blend, as the producer says, shows “the suave, spicy flavour of Gewurztraminer, the body of Pinot Gris, the finesse of Riesling, the grapiness of Muscat and the refreshing character of Sylvaner.”  The white fruit shares the leading role with the minerals.  It’s certainly a refreshing drink, with plenty of acidity and a very pleasant finish.

From Tavel, where all they do is rosé, the Château de Trinquevedal rosè 2010 is $11 by the glass, but only $5.50 during happy hour.  It’s a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Syrah, Bourboulenc and Mourvèdre.  That’s a lot of French grape, there, and it shows.  While the wine is refreshing and loaded with Jolly Rancher flavor, there is a funkiness that is very complex.  It satisfies like a rosé, but drinks more like a red wine.  The big cherry flavor screams Grenache, but the other grapes all make their claim at being a part of the wine.  It’s a rosé one can actually ruminate upon, if one is given to rumination while sipping.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011


Stepping Stone White Rocks!

Napa Valley's Cornerstone Cellars - as we have reported before on Now And Zin - has broadened their base.  Already known for their exquisite line of Cornerstone wines, they now have a line of more moderately-priced wines designed for everyday consumption.

Cornerstone provided me with a sample of their Stepping Stone White Rocks! wine.  Inspired by the blends of southern France, the Rocks! line takes a wine-of-the-vintage approach.  The varieties and percentages used each year probably will change depending on what the vineyards deliver.

They say, "we want to offer blends without boundaries that will excite and please the occasional as well as the day to day wine drinker."  Both the Stepping Stone and the Rocks! lines are intended to be thought of as house wines for serious wine people.  The White Rocks! blend is certainly priced for everyday use, at $15.

Stepping Stone White Rocks! is a blend of Chardonnay and Muscat, which is immediately interesting upon lifting the glass to my nose.  Aromas of minerals, lemon peel, hints of banana and apricot all play in the bouquet.  The wine smells fresh and inviting.

On the palate, citrus and zest are carried along on a blast of acidity with a refreshing minerality.  There’s some wood on the palate and a little bit of a spicy, peppery feel.  The mouthfeel is slightly oily and medium in weight.  Lime lingers on the finish.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011


Thornton Cuvee de Frontignan

While all my wine world pals seemed to be filling the Twitter timeline to the “fail whale” point about which Champagne’s cork they’d be popping on New Year’s Eve, I was chilling a bottle of California sparkling wine.  From Temecula.

Two summers ago, Denise and I visited Thornton Winery and picked up a bottle of their Cuvée de Frontignan.  We both loved the taste, and it was at a sale price well below $20.  We thought we’d ring in 2010 with it, but a rush of bubbly over that holiday season pushed it into the crowd, and there it waited patiently for the year to pass.

This Temecula sparkler is made from Muscat grapes in the Méthode Champenoise.  It reminds me of Asti Spumante - all the celebratory bubbles of Champagne, just lighter and fruitier.  It has an alcohol content of 12.5% abv, so we could enjoy several flutes without becoming tipsy.

We had secured some of our favorite snacks from Whole Foods Market - Denise calls them Lovely Little Things - and the Cuvée paired quite well with the wide variety of crackers, cheese, olives, grains and rice-based salads. 

The Cuvée de Frontignan has medium-fine bubbles that form a sparkling white froth about a half-inch thick.  The nose is full of fruit growing up against a wall of minerals.  It’s yeasty and spicy on the palate, with fruity flavors tasting so very fresh.  The creamy mouthfeel leads to peaches which linger on the finish.

The bottle lasted three days for us, and on the second day it took on a much earthier and more substantial tone without sacrificing too many bubbles.

Don Reha, Thornton’s winemaker at the time this Cuvée was bottled, has moved on to  R.Merlo Estate Vineyards.  He had been with Thornton since 2003.  David Vergari is now Thornton’s winemaker.  He interned at Napa’s Sonoma-Cutrer and the Hess Collection after studying Enology and Viticulture at UC Davis.  Working abroad for a bit, Vergari now returns home to California, although somewhat south of his native Sonoma County.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tangent Ecclestone 2007

Spring starts on March 20th this year.  That knowledge plus the weather turning a shade warmer in Southern California today put me in mind of some of the wines I thoroughly enjoyed last spring and summer.  And autumn, for that matter.

Ecclestone, from the Tangent Winery in California's Edna Valley region, is one of my favorites for when the last vestiges of winter have gone away for a while.  Tangent is an offshoot of Baileyana Winery.  You might expect a winery which specializes in white wines - and which has "tangent" as its name - to vary from the mainstream occasionally.  They do.  This "alternative white wine" utilizes so many varieties, it could be named "Pinot Kitchen Sink."  Pinot Gris, Viognier, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Muscat and Albarino all combine to produce this unique and fascinating wine.

There is a very modern flair to the label with clean lines a crisp design. Remember those descriptive words.  They'll come in handy later when describing the wine.

Ecclestone's nose is gorgeous.  It's full of flowers.  It has one of the most intensely floral bouquets I can remember.  Orange blossom is billed, but to my nose it's more like honeysuckle with a splash of orange.  If you recall the intensity of the smell when walking near a honeysuckle, the first sniff of this wine is much like that.  Try to serve it only moderately chilled, as those floral notes really explode when not fully refrigerated.

The flowers don't quit after you smell them.  There is a floral carpet laid upon the palate as well, one which I welcome each time I experience it.  Citrus notes are here, along with a clean and crisp minerality that braces and refreshes.  There's a stony quality to the minerals that comes through, as opposed to chalky.  I love this wine on the deck on a nice warm afternoon.  It refreshes in much the same way a cold, hoppy ale does.  It just seems made for the sunshine. The acidity is certainly there, too, so don't think this is just a sipper.  Serve it with salads, Kalamata olives, mild cheddar or a nice plate of scallops.

Variety:   Pinot Gris, Viognier, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Muscat and Albarino
Appellation: California > Central Coast > San Luis Obispo > Edna Valley
Vintage: 2007
Alcohol Level: 13.5% abv
Price: $20
Acquisition disclaimer: Purchased by the author

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dessert Wines of Monterey County

The holidays always call for special wines.  You can bring out all the heavy-hitting Cabernets, big Bordeaux blends and dry-as-a-bone Rieslings you want.  The wines that create the biggest stir and the ones that make the biggest impression on your guests are dessert wines.  Sweet and delectable, dessert wines fit in with the holiday mood almost as well as cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.  As a matter of fact, they fit right in with the cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.  The Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association supplied me with a small treasure chest of these sweet delights and asked me to pass along my impressions.  The following wines were provided to me at no cost for the purpose of review.  All of them are in 375ml bottles - except the Potbelly Port, which is in a 500ml bottle - and the prices were provided by the MCVGA.

J Lohr Vineyards Late-Harvest White Riesling ($25) -  The 2006 vintage was the first White Riesling crop since 1995 for J Lohr's Bay Mist vineyard in the Arroyo Seco region of Monterey County.  It's a 100% varietal wine with 12.3% abv and a luscious 10.3% residual sugar.  Don't write this one off by sniffing "sweetie" and moving along.  The sugar belies a wonderful acidity that makes this wine great for pairing with desserts.  You may like it with an apple tart and vanilla bean ice cream.  You may also like it all by itself.  There's a nose of honeyed fruit and, on the palate, that wonderful "bitter with the sweet" sensation one hopes for in a Riesling.  A beautiful, rich golden color looks great in the glass, too.

Joyce Vineyards Pudding Wine 2007 ($28) - The Johannesburg Riesling grapes for this wine came from the Franscioni Vineyard.  Luscious to look at - it's a deep, rich golden color - the aromas and the flavor remind me of a very fine sherry.  It should go very nicely with a pumpkin or pecan pie.  If your sweet tooth isn't shouting for attention, you may find that it makes a fine dessert on its own.  12.5% abv may be a tad high for some, in a dessert wine, but you could minimize the effect of the alcohol by doing as the Monterey wine people recommend - have a pear poached in Pudding Wine.

Paraiso, Souzao Port, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County NV ($25) - Listed as a "tasting room only" wine on their website, this 18.5% abv port-style wine is made from the Souzao grape, which is a Portuguese varietal but now becoming more common in California.  The Paraiso Estate features only about three acres of Souzao, but they managed nearly 600 cases of production.  The wine is aged in French and American oak for two years before bottling.  Quite viscous and very full in the mouth, it's got a rich nose full of candy cherry aromas and an explosive taste that reminds me of raisins and chocolate-covered cherries at the same time. It's a bit rough and over-the-top, so don't expect too much subtlety.  Serve this with chocolate and score big with sweet-toothed guests. 

Graff Family Vineyards, Chalone, July Muscat 2007 ($16) - Billed as a sweet table wine, this is made from grapes grown in the Chalone appellation.  It's 100% July Muscat, quite a rare grape variety developed in the '50s at UC Davis.  Its 10% residual sugar and 11.3% abv level gives a soft and aromatic wine with strong floral notes.  It's an amazing accompaniment to an apricot or pear tart.

Ventana Vineyards Orange Muscat 2008 ($18) -  Tropical fruit and vanilla greet the nose, while the flavors of peaches dominate on the palate.  The alcohol level is 15% - quite a bit higher than most Muscats - and residual sugar is 7.2%.  You can serve this chilled as an apertif, or alongside a biscotti.

Mer Soleil LATE Late-Harvest Viognier 2004 ($36) - Botrytis-influenced Viognier gives a warm, golden color in the glass and the aromas are as sweet as honey.  The taste is sweet, too, but with a good level of acidity that sports a nice hint of orange peel.  Expect a lush and long finish.  Pair this with Foie Gras or with warm blue cheese-stuffed Mission Figs for a delightful dessert.

Pessagno Late-Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2006 ($25) -  Fully Botrytised grapes from the Arroyo Seco appellation clock in at 13.8% abv and 18.4% residual sugar and spent five months in wood, making this a dessert wine lover's dessert wine.  This Sauterne-style wine is dessert all by itself, but you can drizzle it over fruit or let it make a Creme Brulee memorable.

Kendall-Jackson Late-Harvest Chardonnay 2006 ($25) - Floral and cinnamon aromas lead to candied fruit flavors in this lush drink.  The winemaker calls it "the nectar of the gods."  He may be biased, but he does know what he's talking about.  This sweet Chard really dresses up a plate of butter cookies.

Mission Trail, Potbelly Port ($36) - Maybe the unflattering name arises from the fact that this wine is jammed full of grapes.  There are six Portuguese grapes here - Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cao, Tinta Roriz, Souzao, Tinta Madeira and Tempranillo.  Brandy was added halfway through the fermentation.  The result is a Port that is jammy and rich, with flavors of chocolate-covered cherries, black pepper, anise, tobacco and clove.  Top off your feast with this portly port and a chocolate bread pudding for a dessert as memorable as the holiday.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tasting Room Notes: Summerland Winery

Why had we never gotten off the 101 freeway in Summerland before? Maybe it's because when we pass that way we're usually headed for either Santa Barbara or the Santa Ynez Valley, and it seems we should just press on and get where we're going. Maybe it's because we never knew there was a really great little highway grocery there. Maybe it's because we never knew about the Summerland Winery.

Well, this time we were headed for Pismo Beach, so it was actually perfectly positioned as a stopping place. We needed to pick up a few things at a market of some sort. The Summerland Winery just happened to be there, in the right place at the right time.

The tasting room is in a tidy little building in the seaside community of Summerland, between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. There's a bay window upstairs and a flag adorns the front, flapping in the cool ocean breeze. I had imagined it would look more like a boutique and less like a tasting room inside, but I was wrong. Ample bar space beckoned, so I picked up a tasting menu and got started.

I had just sampled Summerland's wares at the Ojai Wine Festival a week earlier - my pourer recognized me - so I knew there were good wines here. The tasting fee is $8, $12 to keep the glass.

Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Barbara County, 2007 - A pungent aroma leads to tropical flavors and grapefruit. The acidity is quite nice, so I would guess it's a good wine to have with food. It's very crisp and refreshing, so you could just sip it if you like.

Pinot Gris, Santa Barbara County, 2008 - More tropical flavors, and a nice clean finish.

Chardonnay, Rancho Santa Rosa, 2007 - 10 months in oak left its mark on this one. It's very oaky, although with a clean taste and finish.

Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, 2007 - Brilliant aromas and flavors in this one - black cherry and clove all over the place. This is not subdued - it's a very lively Pinot Noir.

Grenache, Paso Robles, 2006 - This medium-bodied Grenache surprised me. It tasted a lot spicier than I expected. Fairly nice, but I can think of several other Grenaches I like better.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, 2006 - The black currant profile is very strong here. French oak for 14 months gives a nice effect, but the wood is rather restrained.

Orange Muscat, Santa Barbara County 2008 - This dessert wine isn't sappy, it's nice and crisp in fact. The sweetness is there, it simply isn't overdone.