Illumination Sauvignon Blanc is Awesome

I sat down for breakfast with Augustin Fransisco Huneeus, proprietor of his family’s eponymous Huneeus Vineyards a while ago. He was an energetic fountain of early-morning conversation the likes for which I was mentally unprepared. If the name Huneeus isn’t familiar, I’d point you to the family’s historic organic and biodynamic estate in the Rutherford area of Napa Valley. From that property comes one of Napa’s highest-regarded wines: Quintessa. But I was equally curious about a grape that certainly doesn’t get a lot of due that shows up in a most unique bottling: Illumination Sauvignon Blanc.

So I had Huneeus send me a sample bottle.

Illumination Sauvignon Blanc / Photo by Emma K. Morris

Illumination Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($50)

Wow, this was a dang amazing bottle. Illumination was like no other Sauvignon Blanc I’ve had. Rich and golden, with the zestiness of the grape playing more of a supporting role than dominating like in an unoaked SB. This is probably the most serious Sauv Blanc I’ve had outside of Sancerre/the Loire and Bordeaux. If you like rich white wines and looking for something that would be ungodly good with lobster, this is your wine.

And that makes sense. Per Senior Marketing Manager Laura Gabriel, Illumination started in 2006 so the family would have a wine for seafood and to serve at winery receptions. (That’s as good of a reason I can think for making a wine.)

The wine is a blend of 40% Sauvignon Blanc Musque, 53% Sauvignon Blanc, and 7% Semillon. The juice also spends time split among a wide variety of pre-bottle homes. You got some French oak barrels (6% in new, 66% in neutral). Toss in some acacia barrels (5% new). How about some concrete egg fermenters (11%)? Finally, some crispy stainless steel barrels (12%).

Illumination’s grapes come from Napa and Sonoma. Estate fruit from cooler patches on the property is supplemented with Sauv Blanc further south in Napa as well as Bennett Valley in Sonoma. (The 2017 is almost split evenly between fruit from the two regions.)

There’s a tendency for people to look at red wine as the “special” wine. The one you gift. The one you consider splurging on. The Illumination Sauvignon Blanc is a wine that makes the case for white wines being worthy of all that. And for a white wine lover like me, I’d rather spend my $$$ on something unique. There’s very little new oak so it’s not powerfully oaky but the texture it provides is luscious. Yes, it would be amazing with rich seafood but it’s a wine that’s fantastic to drink and contemplate on its own.

Another thing I like about this wine is it helps redefine Sauvignon Blanc. It can be cheap and good, for sure. Can Sauv Blanc be great? A lot of people (including fancy wine folks/somms) would say, “Nah.” But Illumination is, well, illuminating.

Also Sauv Blanc is a grape I enjoy with oak because it tames its aggression. And when well-made, the grape still peeks through to say “Hey, what’s up?” in a most welcome way.

My only beef with this bottle is…the bottle. Very heavy glass. Not a fan.

Otherwise, this is one of the most memorable, original Sauvignon Blancs I’ve ever had.

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My Favorite Bargain White Wine in the History of the World

Many highlights of being in Tacoma for Thanksgiving but one was undoubtedly being reunited with a long time Hall of Fame white wine: Domaine des Cassagnoles Cuvée Gros Manseng. This is the top white wine, pound for pound, dollar for dollar you’ll find. I haven’t seen it in New York but it has kind of a cult following in Seattle. (Which I will take some credit for from my days as a buyer.)

Domaine des Cassagnoles 2016 Cuvée Gros Manseng Reserve Selection (Côtes de Gascogne) $13

If you’re looking for bargain white wine, head to Southwest France. Particularly, the Côtes de Gascgone region, the home turf of DdC. The winery makes a blend even LESS EXPENSIVE than the Gros Manseng (which is the grape, BTW). If you see CdG on a label, just buy that dang white wine.

So this bottle has so much easy-drinking flavor and actual texture. It’s not too searingly acidic like a lot of cheap white wines. I’d call it medium-bodied, which is remarkable for a “simple” wine. It’s not perfume-y like a Viognier or Torrontes, but is aromatically enticing. The Gros Manseng checks off so many boxes for a wine of this price. (BTW, got the price from Wine-Searcher.)

If you’re having trouble finding it, the importer is Weygandt-Metzler. So when you go to your local wine shop, let them know this is the company responsible for bringing this amazing bottle to our fair shores.

I also wrote about the Gros Manseng back in 2010. A very short, to-the-point post.

Also, if you missed the natty wine kerfuffle that recently set the insular indie wine world ablaze,  read about it (along with my thoughts) in my newsletter.

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Drink More White Bordeaux (Please)

I gotta take my own dang advice. I’m complicit, too, in spacing on these killer wines. How long has it been since I had a back-to-back salvo of white Bordeaux? It’s tough enough to get anyone to drink red BDX let alone white. One of my all-time favorite wines happens to be a white BDX: Chateau Carbonnieux. It ages well, is rich, regal, and distinctive. I have fond memories of drinking it at Le Caviste in Seattle.

Pont de Pierre in the city of Bordeaux / Photo by David McKelvey via Flickr

So when I serendipitously acquired two samples, I thought it time to wave the flag for a very good wine indeed.

White Bordeaux is going to be pretty much a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. I love these blends. (They are also particularly good in Australia’s Margaret River, where the wines are calls “SBS” because Aussies love to abbreviate things.) Sauv Blanc is zesty laser, and Semillon provides a rich roundness.

What I like about both bottles I drank is they have a good chunk o’ Semillon. One spends time in oak. WHICH IS GOOD. So let’s get to it.

A White Bordeaux Duo

Clos Floridene Graves 2013 ($30)

This is a blend of 56% Sauvignon Blanc, 43% Semillon, and 1% Muscadelle. See, this is why above I said white Bordeaux is “pretty much” a SBS blend because some clown would mention sometimes there’s Muscadelle, blah blah blah. Said individual would probably sport a corresponding profile pic: nose deep-crammed in wine glass, eyes closed in chaste, faux bro ecstasy.


With five years in the bottle the oak steps back into a chilled-out, Oscar-worthy supporting role. The color of the wine has golden-ized a bit. Info on the winery’s website opines it could last a decade or more and I agree. Also Graves is a region and a very good one for white (and red) BDX.

I have no problem with this wine being $30. Though why would I, when I got the darn bottle for free? My point is if I spend $30 on this at a wine shop, I would feel it was money well spent. Also, newer vintages are closer to $20 so I’d buy like a sixer or a case and drink one every six months/year to see how it develops. That’s how we have CRAZY FUN with wine! BUCKLE UP, PARTY PEOPLE!!!

Légende Bordeaux Blanc 2017 ($18)

Drink More White Bordeaux (Please)This white Bordeaux is quite distinguished, coming from the Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite). 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon, and (YES) 10% Sauvignon Gris comprise the wine’s makeup.

Confession: I actually thought this wine was oaked when I first tasted it. (Shows you what I know.) The Légende sent a butterscotch whiff wafting. Whoa. But after getting a touch of air, it chilled out into a lively, steely wine. Zest with a touch of plump. Racy freshness, especially in contrast to the more demure 2013.

If your only experience with Sauv Blanc is from New Zealand and you find it too over-the-top, a White Bordeaux like the Légende may change your mind about what the grape can do (for you). Especially when paired with Semillon.

Not sure it would develop like the Clos Floridene, nor is it supposed to be a wine like that, but I bet a year in the bottle would make this a champ.

But who cellars wine anymore? It’s a drink-now world. So don’t fret if you pick up a bottle THIS INSTANT.

This is actually a wine I would recommend decanting. Yes, a sub-$20 white wine. DO IT. You don’t need some fancy AF decanter that’s impossible to clean, either. A glass pitcher with do. If you don’t have a sufficient receptacle, open it like a half hour before you start drinking it.

It’s OK to treat an 18 dollar wine like royalty. Especially considering its pedigree.


Both of these bottles would be very good cheese wines. Frankly, white wines are more versatile (aka BETTER) with cheese than reds. The Clos Floridene with more mature, richer and/or harder cheese. Freshy-fresh goat cheeses and softer ones would be in the Légende’s wheelhouse.

There’a also plenty of good white Bordeaux in the $10-15 range. (Praise!) They offer a lot of bang for the buck. So go forth and buy buy buy!

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Choosing Holiday Wines Based on Labels with Memories (OK, Houses)

Since 2004 I’ve been talking about choosing wines for x day on the calendar, y special occasion, z oddball event. How many more arrows do I have in my dang quiver for this? What to do about holiday wines?

I was thinking about this while at Vino Volo in SeaTac, on my way to visit family in Tacoma for Thanksgiving weekend. I don’t travel with wine because checking bags is anathema to me. Frankly, I wasn’t going to bring any wine and just chug whatever was around. (I said as much in my newsletter. Subscribe! I get weirder, more off the cuff, opinionated, etc.)

Well stoping at VV and seeing an old pal from my retail days, Geoff, had me changing my tune. I picked up two bottles. Was very impressed with the selection at Vino Volo. You’ll pay a premium for retail wines. But considering I didn’t have to check a bag, retrieve it, and obsess about breakage, I call it an excellent deal.

Memory Lanes by Jenni Konrad via Flickr.

I’ll get to the dynamic duo of wines. First I want to explain choosing holiday wines by “labels with memories.” These are not some #smartlabels internally loaded with memory that can “demystify” wine and “engage” drinkers with “curated” content.

It’s rather like an old, familiar, quirky signpost whose distinctness transports you to a time, a place, a person, a table. MAYBE EVEN DOWN LOVE’S MEMORY LANE, IS THAT SO CRAZY?!?

Now these labels aren’t the slick, rad, modern graphic design-y stuff I usually dig. They have a swoon-worthy amount of ye olde* charm that completes me.

Also, I just realized both labels have houses on them. Well, calling each a house is putting it a bit simply. But I want to be shrunk to scale and transported into these tiny label houses (that are actually large) and live my tiny life drinking out of tiny cups with tiny cats. THE END. (Maybe they’re smart labels after all? Whoa.)

Anyway, the holiday wines for Turkey Day.

Abbazia di Novacella Kerner 2017 (Alto Adige, IT) [$18]

Choosing Holiday Wines Based on Labels with Memories (OK, Houses)

I first wrote about this wine in 2010 and then again in 2012 so after six years, why not make it a trifecta? It’s made at a monastery in the extremely picturesque Alto Adige wine region way up in northern Italy. That should seal the deal already. Speaking of deals, average price on Wine-Searcher is $18. It’s a white wine with a very small amount of sweetness you won’t really notice cuz it’s a mountain bomb of alpine floral refreshment. Dang, this wine is so easy to drink.

I really like the script for “Kerner” and the ornate frame for the monastery painting. The latter is so charming. I stare at it and imagine leaving everything behind. (Which would be like my IKEA bed, a bike, and a coffee table plucked from the street. Easy-peasy.)

Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly** (Beaujolais, FR) [$27]

Choosing Holiday Wines Based on Labels with Memories (OK, Houses)

What can I say about Cru Beaujolais that I haven’t already said? These are wines from ten designated sites that are like uber-Beaujolais. You can age them and they also have a complexity recalling fancy Burgundy (Pinot Noir) just north of the region. (Though Cru Beaujolais is made from Gamay.) Côte de Brouilly may not be the most prestigious of the crus but go by the impeccable producer, Château Thivin. Cru Beaujolais has gone up in price over the years, but if you love elegant reds with substance please gobble up all the CB you can while it’s sub-$30.

This label. I love the color scheme. With the rusty-orange mountain and roof, green trees, and yellow-y cream, it’s a label I can spot from a mile away. It’s not a color scheme that should work but it’s absolutely perfect here. The font for “Château Thivin” really does something for me, too.

I’m also transported back to Beaujolais, where I recall a dinner with a handful of winemakers who brought large pots of assorted rib-sticking dishes and we hung out a winery over long tables. It was, in fact, a dinner at Dominique Piron’s and Claude Geoffray from Thivin was there as well. (Also Jean-Paul Brun. Wow, that was a Beaujolais geek’s dream.) So this label is extra-special and MEMORABLE and that’s how I’ll choose my holiday wines FOREVER.

*“Ye Olde” Is Fake Old English (And You’re Mispronouncing It Anyway)
**The bottle was drained and dumped before I could jot down the vintage. Prolly 2016.

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Amplify Your Rosé Life

There’s a fried chicken place in Manhattan called Dirty Bird to Go on 14th that also, surprisingly, houses a natural wine bar called Verre de Terre. This is where I discovered the Amplify Wines “Pink Flag” Rosé of Counoise

My methodology of choosing this wine consisted of seeing three rosés on the bottle list and randomly choosing one that sounded interesting. (Very scientific.) When the Pink Flag arrived I thought, “Cool label.” My other thought was, “Oh, this is all cloudy. Is it going to be super-funky and not in a good way?”

Amplify Wines “Pink Flag Rosé of Counoise (Santa Ynez Valley, CA, 2017)

Well, dear reader, I was wrong. File this pink wine from Amplify Wines under the category/mantra of NO BORING ROSÉ. It had a lot of texture and flavor instead of just being watery, shrill, and non-descript.

I drank it with numerous chicken fingers. Though fried chicken on the bone is superior, the tenders allow you to eat with one hand and drink with the other. Thus, elevating your food and wine pairing experience. (Also, do you call them chicken fingers or tenders?)

I added a squirt of hot sauce to the buttermilk ranch dipping sauce and have to say the Pink Flag handled the heat, crunch, and dairy combo with aplomb. This is a fantastic, versatile rosé with depth and a little heft. Don’t get me wrong, it is still refreshment central.

Perhaps I’d call it a winter-weight rosé? It offers your palate more of an embrace/warm hug rather than an acidic liquid laser.

Let me provide another (endless) reminder to drink rosé year-round and, since it’s the season, alert you to it’s mega-awesomeness with Thanksgiving dinner. Especially if your meal is the traditional 50 Shades of Beige. Nothing like some pink color on the table for a lively, festive contrast.

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Champagne Henriot Makes for an Illuminating Evening

As a sparkling wine fan(atic), pretty easy to say “yes” to a media event involving bubbles. And downright simple when it involves the finest of fizz from a producer I have been a longtime fan of: Champagne Henriot.

I have to say, it’s nice to be able to walk to an event. In this case, at National Sawdust in Williamsburg. I was there a couple years ago for a concert but I certainly wasn’t drinking Champagne. Anyway, this space is super space-age luxe. 

As we gathered in the lobby, our first sips were from a magnum of Champagne Henriot Blanc de Blancs. I love 100% Chardonnay Champagnes like this. They have a briskness perfect for kickstarting an evening/afternoon/late breakfast. Also, Champagne folks are gaga for drinking magnums. When in the region a couple years ago, one winemaker referred to the standard 750-milliliter bottle (somewhat derogatorily) as a “half-magnum.” Wine in mags ages more slowly and evenly because there is a larger juice-to-air ratio inside the bottle. AND THEY ARE JUST COOLER, PERIOD.

The star of the show, and the reason for the season, was Champagne Henriot Cuveé Hemera* 2005. It’s the first prestige cuveé for the winery’s cellarmaster Laurent Fresnet, who’s been with Henriot since 2006. This Champagne was luxurious, rich yet refreshing, and a great match with a monkfish dish served with lots of vegetables ON AN ILLUMINATED PLATE.

Anyway, it was a pretty bonkers evening. Harpists. Theremin-type action. Flutes. (Though, not Champagne flutes. Le bummer!)

We also drank the Brut Millésime 2008, a celebration of Maison Henriot’s 200th vintage. You definitely drink Champagne when you reach a couple hundred vintages, no?

Champagne Henriot Brut Souverain NV

Champagne Henriot Makes for an Illuminating EveningBut the Champane Henriot bottling that has a special place in my heart is the Brut Souverain. Yes, it was a distinct pleasure to be among the first folks to taste the Hemera. But the Brut Souverain, Henriot’s non-vintage blend, is a great introduction to the house and its style. It transports me back to selling it as a wine steward at QFC Broadway Market in Seattle. (Here’s a crazy story about those days, BTW).

Henriot was my go-to** recommendation for people just getting into Champagne and looking for something different than the usual suspects. It’s also important to note there are a lot of wineries with very expensive, prestige wines, but their “regular” offerings are disappointing. Not so with Chamapgne Henriot! This blend of 50% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, and 5% Pinot Meunier is all killer, no filler.

But even if you don’t have a harp accompaniment and a plate of monkfish, I promise you will enjoy Champagne Henriot. Consider it for all your dang holiday eating and drinking and then make your New Year’s Eve resolution (too soon?) to drink more high-quality sparkling wine all dang year long and FOREVER.

*Greek Goddess of Daylight

**Other go-to NV Champers I feel the same way about: Laurent-Perrier, Gaston Chiquet, Pierre Peters

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How to Enjoy RAW WINE New York for a Week…and Beyond

Hey, it’s time for RAW WINE New York! It’s the renowned natural wine fair created and organized by Isabelle Legeron MW, taking place again in Bushwick, Brooklyn. It’s like natty wine’s prom, Super Bowl, and college reunion all rolled into one. If you can make it to the event Sunday or Monday (11/4 and 11/5), that’s awesome! I’ll be there the former day via a comped press pass. As you can see in the photo below, it gets kinda crazy packed.

RAW Wine New York / Photo by Katie June Burton

Besides the big ol’ tasting at RAW WINE New York, there are some pretty cool seminars, too. Whoops, I mean Speakers’ Corner events. “Seminars” sounds very dull and un-natural. If you’re there, step away from the tasting tables and grab a dang chair for these natty brain morsels:

11:30-12:30 What’s a pet nat and why should I drink it?

1:00-2:00 Montréal – A Taste Journey

2:30-3:30 Natural Wine 101

4:00-5:00 Cider 101: more like beer or more like wine?

But what if you’re spending Sunday watching football and drinking beer? Or doing hot yoga then eating donuts? Hiking? Going to IKEA and afterwards putting together a dang cabinet-type thing? And you have to go to work on Monday? OH NOS!!!

Fortunately, there are events going on all week in New York. It’s #rawwineweek y’all. Which is actually TWO weeks, from October 31st to November 14th. Why? Because the LA edition of RAW is November 11th and 12th. So there’s a lot of bi-coastal natty nuttiness. (Also the fair in Montreal is 11/1.)

I’m not going to list ALL the events here in NYC, just the ones that I am particularly excited about because of the venue, the wines, the people, or a combo of all three. (Here’s the complete lineup, FYI.)

Suggested RAW WINE New York Events

Swick Wines 

I’m confident Joe Swick is the only natty winemaker who is equal parts Michael Bolton and Michael McDonald fan. Swick Wines are made from Oregon and Washington grapes with out-there blends and lesser-known grapes. Like Touriga Nacional. Ok, he does Pinot Noir and you’ve heard of that. Some of his wines are also creatively named. Like, “Wyd, U up?”

Find Joe and his bottles at Wine Therapy 11/1 at 6pm and at Thirst Wine Merchants 11/18 (ok, #rawwineweek is more than two weeks long) from 3-5pm. (Sidebar: Thirst has really cool custom wine shelving.)

Anyway, Joe, this is for you:

Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels

Compangie is a classy, dark-ish, plush, couch-y/chair-y spot with a very nice bar. They are putting on a few wine boot camps that sound cool: Drinking RAW WINE in the USA on 11/1, Let’s Talk About Farming on the 6th, and Pet-Nats on the 12th. Each class has a 6 and 7:30 time slot but check with Compagnie to see what’s available.

Dandelion Wine

This is a great shop in my beloved neighborhood of Greenpoint. Head to Dandy for a tasting of Purity Wine with Noel Diaz, who makes wines from grapes in California’s Sierra Foothills, on 11/2 from 6 to 8.

Two Shepherds

I’ve known William from Two Shepherds for years now and his wines keep getting better and better and they were pretty damn good to start with. Most recently I had his 2017 Carbonic Carignan “Wiley” (named after a cat and with felines on the label…hey, remember this cat wine?) and it was a chillable, chuggable red. YUM! Find him at Whet Whistle 11/2 from 6-8 and the next night (11/3) from 6-7:30 at Winey Neighbor.


This narrow, cozy space in the East Village is a new favorite. I love tiny bars! There’s a BTG takeover on 11/7 from 6pm to midnight, featuring the wares of Winemonger. Get a stool at 5:59.

Delinquente Wine Co

I am a huge fan of Delinquente. The first time I had their stuff was at Somm Time, falling for a Nero d’Avola rosé from…South Australia!!! Then I tried a Pet-Nat made from…Bianco d’Alessano?!? WTF!?! It was a fizzy, refreshing delight. So Delinquente’s deal is Southern Italian grapes coming from South Australia. Dime a dozen wineries doing that, right? Find winemaker Con-Greg Grigorou at Corkscrew Wines 11/3 from 5-7, at a fried chicken dinner at Grindhaus 11/5 8pm, and another dinner at Uncle Chop Chop the next night (11/6) at 7pm.

The Ten Bells

It will be loud, packed, and you probably will stay too late. This natty wine bar in the LES is celebrating 11/3, 11/4, and 11/5 from 8pm to “very late.” You will see lots of winemakers here for sure.


I love Ops so much!!! TLA! It’s a charming pizza place with literally tiny menus, natty wines but no list, and the square pizza is amazing. They are having a day one (Sunday) afterparty with Zev Rovine Selections from 7-11. Noel from Purity will be there 11/6 starting at 7.

June Wine Bar

Speaking of places I love, June is such a gorgeous spot and this wine bar serves some of the best food in the city. Like Ops, they have a great brunch, too. Check out Cabin Wine with Super Glou. It will be your first chance to taste wines from this portfolio, so go and get your bragging rights from 5-7 on 11/7. (Sidebar: Super Glou is an amazing name for a wine and spirits importer/distributor on so many levels.)

Racines NY 

Stop by and Eat/Clink/Drink with Pascaline Lepeltier MS (who is managing partner and sommelier at Racines) and Alice Feiring (wine writer…and beyond…extraordinaire). Winemakers, wine flights, wine pairings, and a special prix fixe menu are all available. (But you can just chill at the bar, yo.) Starting at 6pm on 11/4.

Henry’s Wine & Spirit

If you are at RAW WINE New York, stop by Henry’s. This retail shop is like a 15 minute walk, no excuses. You’ll get 10% off any purchase with your wristband on the 4th and 5th and they stock bottles from a lot of the producers pouring at RAW.

Finally, what if you don’t live in Montreal, New York, LA and can’t go to RAW WINE? Explore the Wines and People & Places sections of the dang website. Learn yourself some natty wine, for real! Then go forth and demand satisfaction from your vino merchants and local restos. THE END.

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Blind Tasting Syrah in Reno with Mom

You ever fly across the country just to conduct a wine tasting? Well now I can say I have. I jetted to Reno to lead my mother and about a dozen of her neighbors through an evening of blind tasting Syrah. Of course the main reason was to see my mom, duh, because I am a (pretty) good son (at times). This goes in the plus side on The Ledger of Life.

I picked out six wines, two from the west coast of the US and four bottles of international vino. Here’s the unveiled lineup:

Blind Tasting Syrah in Reno with Mom

Blind Tasting Syrah: The Wines Revealed

  1. Tenet Syrah 2016 The Pundit (Washington) $25
  2. Fess Parker Syrah 2014 (Santa Barbara County) $24
  3. Montes Alpha Syrah 2013 (Chile) $19
  4. Mollydooker Shiraz 2016 The Boxer (Australia) $21
  5. Nobles Rives Cave de Tain Syrah (France) $13
  6. Mullineux Syrah 2015 (Swartland, South Africa) $35

This is also the order the wines were poured. I thought about slotting the Mollydooker last because it would stick out so much with its juicy fruit and alcohol and oak, etc. But then I supposed it would be an interesting/jarring contrast to the more subtle wines following. Seems kinda counter-intuitive to have this fruit bomb detonate on your palate then follow it up with some chill juice, but we had a lot of food and took our time in between wines so no biggie. Wasn’t one of those tastings where you have six glasses in front of you and haul ass.

Post-Blind Tasting Syrah Thoughts

Tenet is a collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington, Costières de Nîmes winemaker Michel Gassier and enology consultant Philippe Cambie, who has a Châteauneuf-du-Pape HQ. The Pundit, a blend of 90% Syrah, 4% Grenache, 4% Mourvèdre, 2% Viognier (co-fermented with Syrah) was my second-favorite wine. Very elegant and balanced. Impressive.

The Fess Parker was deep, dark, and oaky. Monolithic. 15.5% ABV

The Montes had very appealing minty, eucalyptus notes, and was the oldest wine in the group at five years post-vintage. Kind of reminded me of Carménère, which is a little nutty. But none in there: 90% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Viognier.

The Mollydooker. Holy cow, 16% ABV, some sweetness. I remember when these wines set the world on fire in the heady heyday of Aussie Shiraz. “GOBS OF FRUIT!”

Damn. I just realized I asked for the Nobles Rives Cave de Tain Crozes-Hermitage but got the plain ‘ol Syrah. Whoops. Not sure what the vintage was, either. Sorry! Well this was…meh. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. Snooze fest. This is a private label for Total Wine, BTW. Anyway, if you are looking to dip your toe into Syrah form the Northern Rhône get a bottle of Crozes-Hermitage. (And scrutinize the label rather than being oblivious me.)

My favorite wine was the Mullineux. It was pretty good when first cracked but really blossomed after a couple hours of air. Excellent stuff with a balance of fruit and other non-fruit stuff (earth, pepper, etc.) that I want from Syrah. Very little new oak here and a lot of large barrel usage for less wood influence on the wine.

In a tasting like this I also recommend going back and trying every wine again. After they’ve been open for a few hours you will be a witness to change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

Thanks to Mom, winemaster Keith, and everyone who stopped by the clubhouse to hang out, chat, learn, and drink wine.

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Hungarian Rosé Six Pack is All I Want, Forever

I was introduced to the Dúzsi Tamás winery and its Hungarian rosé menagerie thanks to fellow Greenpoint resident and ace wine entrepreneur Athena Bochanis. (We were introduced by Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly fame. Thank you, MP!) Athena started a company called Palinkerie Fine Hungarian Imports in 2o13, forgoing a career as a lawyer. I’d say ’twas an outstanding decision. Not that Athena couldn’t be a lawyer of great renown. But the wine thing is really working out.

CASE IN POINT: I attended a Palenkerie portfolio tasting, at the Hungarian embassy no less! Athena was showing not one not two but six (!!!!!!) Dúzsi Tamás single-variety rosés. Or, rather, rozés. Winemaker Tamás Dúzsi actually makes eight single variety rosés, of which Athena imports seven. Tamás also crafts three rosé blends that are not imported. A la This is Spinal Tap, it’s a lineup of Hungarian rosé that goes to 11.

Even better? You can buy these rosés in a six-pack. Whatever holiday wine list you have, PUT THIS AT THE TOP. STEP ASIDE, EVERYTHING ELSE.

You get one bottle each of Hungarian rosé made from:

  • Kadarka
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Shiraz
  • Pinot Noir

Look at this dang thing. Aren’t you in love? You’ve probably heard of all the grapes above except for numero uno, Kadarka, which is an indigenous grape. I’m partial to the Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir, but those are grapes I love as red wines so no surprise there.
Hungarian Rosé Six Pack is All I Want, Forever

Go Forth and Explore Hungarian Rosé

If you can’t get this sweet box I recommend tracking down more than one bottle of these rosés to compare and contrast. This is a really cool learning experience. Each rosé has a different color, intensity, aroma, and flavor. Also it would make for an amazing tasting (aka drinking) party, preferably not full of navel-gazing, serial Zalto swirlers.

Athena was kind enough to put me in touch with Tamás Jr who along with his brother Bence, helps out in the cellar. Here’s what he had to say about these rozés:

Actually we wanted to try all of our red grape varieties in rosés, and we did it over the years. After that we have chosen among them the 6 best varieties beside the Kékfrankos to produce the first selection rosés in 2007. We specialize in rosé wines and wanted to show that rosé wines can be as great as great reds and whites, and that they can also be terroir products. They show the pure varietal notes of a certain grape variety without tannnis as it would be in reds.

The selection box allows people (and also us :)) to taste these single vineyard, single variety rosés in different vintages. It is always a good experience. As these rosés are ageable, we can even taste the different selection rosés from the different vintages to compare them to each other. Actually they develop with time, many of them showing late harvest notes in the nose, and ripe fruits.

Ok, you have your marching orders. Make the rest of this year, and from 2019 to eternity, all about the rozé.

For more on Athena, read this profile on SevenFifty Daily.

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Luzón Verde is a Go-To Organic Spanish Red Wine Bargain

Sometimes when I go to a big wine tasting event like Spain’s Great Match, it’s all about cramming as many new wines into my maw as possible. (RESPONSIBLY.) But often the most memorable tastes are when I revisit an old vinous friend. I fondly recall selling the Luzón Verde, a Spanish red wine made from organic grapes. It was over a decade ago at QFC when I first encountered this wine, thanks to one of my sales reps. It has a great label and comes in a case box replicating said label. That means you can:

Stack it High and Watch it Fly

Which is my favorite retail rhyme next to “If it’s cold, it’s sold” for beer/soda/wine.

Let’s take a closer look.

Old vines at Bodegas Luzón. Pretty amazing, huh? And that rocky soil, damn. / Photo via winery FB page

Luzón Verde Organic 2017 (Jumilla) $12

Luzón Verde is a Go-To Organic Spanish Red Wine BargainBrought to you by Bodegas Luzón, this red is made from the Monastrell grape. You might be more familiar with it as Mourvèdre, which is what the French (and folks beyond) call it. Visiting Australia? (Lucky you, BTW.) Well it could be referred to as Mataro. You gotta love learning about wine!

It’s a rich, juicy red but with enough snap not be overwhelming. Very crowd-pleasing and pleasurable. Even this nerd who loves weedy see-through low ABV Loire Cab Franc (IT ME) digs the Luzón Verde. I mean, what more do you want from a dang 12 dollar wine? It’s tasty, has a bright, fun label, uses organic grapes, and is made from a non-ubiquitous grape variety.

If you see Monastrell from Spain, particularly hailing from Jumilla or Yecla, you’re going to find delicious bargains. Probably from old vines. When it doubt, go for it. I’d also say the same for Garnacha (Grenache) from Spain.

What’s your favorite inexpensive, surprising red wine? Let me know in the comments.


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