Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"After Dark" Sips for the Summer Eclipse

The Great American Eclipse takes place this Monday, August 21. During the afternoon, the sun, moon and earth will line up to give some of us a rare glimpse at a total eclipse – in other places, we’ll see a partial eclipse, which still means a great show!

A total solar eclipse is a unique visual occurrence and not only is North America in the path, Western Europe, Northern and Eastern Asia, Northern and Western Africa, a large section of South America and the Arctic along with islands in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans will experience the eclipse in some form.

Solar eclipse parties are planned around the world and Frontera saw the perfect opportunity to celebrate with their After Dark wines. Parent company Concha y Toro is Chile’s best-selling wine brand, and the company is now targeting directly to millennials with a new look on the shelf. The classy black and gold label is appealing and stands out in a sea of typical wine labels. In fact, the dark trend has registered an almost 30% sales increase over traditional white and cream labels, so look for store shelves to become more intriguingly mysterious with those darker labels. The new Frontera tag line says it all: “The day starts to come alive at night!”
My tasting panel, which included two millennials, sampled two of these newly released wines, both bearing names that befit the coming lunar event. 
After Midnight
This wine is a blend of Cabernet (55%) and Syrah (40%) with a hint of Merlot (5%), and is very approachable for the new wine drinker.
True to the name, the grapes are harvested after midnight when temperatures are lower to preserve the flavors of the grapes. The juice is aged in stainless steel and then put into oak barrels.
The wine is dark purple in the glass with berry and cherry on the nose. This medium-bodied vino was a bit sweeter than I expected, but appealed to my millennial tasters and that’s the market its targeting, so kudos. Dark berries on the nose with a flavor profile of cerise and elderberry along with a hint of vanilla and spice. A lingering taste of strawberry rounded out the experience. Great with burgers or pizza. Or plan to enjoy a glass during the darkest part of the eclipse.
This white blend is comprised of mainly Moscato with a small amount of other white grapes. (Possibly Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris?) Again, the grapes are picked at night when temperatures are cool.
Moonlight is a straw-colored semi-sweet wine with a fruity, floral aroma. The palate consists of ripe fruit in the mouth with a touch of honey and a citrusy finish. This was a bit too sweet for me, but the younger crowd loved the wine. Serve with a nice curried chicken to balance out the sweetness, or revel in it and enjoy with pork chops.
Another idea, pour a glass as the eclipse starts and watch the show unfold.
Both wines are very budget-friendly and retail around $6 a bottle, and are available at wine shops across the country.
~ Joy

And a note: My new book The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide will be shipping out next Tuesday for early orders. Click here for more.
(Editor’s note: Both wines were received for media review.)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Hotcha Summer Nights with a Glass of Red Wine

August is a month that sizzles, thanks to high temperatures, lots of greenery, a healthy dose of sunshine, and long, languid nights. But if you’d like to ignite a lustful late summer rendezvous then pop open a bottle of red wine and see what develops.

Hands down, red wine is said to be the drink of seduction. A study performed at the University of Florence discovered that red vino may actually increase sexual desire in women. The report indicates that by heightening blood flow to erogenous areas, women may become more amorous. And the study reported that red wine tends to stimulate desire in women in their forties, fifties and sixties more than those who are younger.
Red wine also affects men by increasing blood flow and escalating testosterone levels. But keep in mind, too many glasses of red wine and the libido takes a nosedive.

Your Brain on Wine
Another explanation for the erotic kick red wine supplies may be linked to the stimulation of your brain’s hypothalamus, which controls body temperature, hormone levels and basic human functions including your sex drive. Either way, this aphrodisiac works best in moderation with a max of two drinks, which works out perfectly if you’re sharing that bottle of red wine. 

Something else to consider, sniffing red wine might be considered foreplay. Wine aromas stimulate that hypothalamus and certain smells trigger the libido. For women, it’s the aromas of earth, wood, cherry and licorice that can fuel desire, so serve her a rustic Zinfandel, an earthy Barbera or a musky Pinot Noir. For men, it’s more baking aromas (seriously) like caramel, butter, orange and vanilla that prove to be arousing. Pour him a glass of Syrah, Moscato or Tawny Port to sip and savor for a provocative August evening.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Reviewing the Chateau Carbonnieux 2015 Grand Cru Classé de Graves

Located in the Pessac-Léognan region of the Graves, Chateau Carbonnieux is known for its production of red and white wines. Thanks to the clay–limestone terroir, this area produces some of the best dry white wines in the Bordeaux region.

The chateau was built in 1380 during the Hundred Years War and overlooks one of the largest vineyards in the Graves region. The Bordeaux Hospices originally owned it. From 1519 to 1740, the Ferron family and then the Councillors at the Parliament of Guyenne resided there. In 1740, the Benedictine monks from Sainte-Croix abbey in Bordeaux purchased the property, renovated the estate, replanted the vineyards and began making wine.

Marc Perrin purchased the estate in 1956. He and his son Antony, who now manages it, have spent time restoring the Château, upgrading the vineyard and modernizing the working areas. The estate now grows 111 acres of red grapes varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc along with 106 acres of the white grape varieties of Semillon and Sauvignon grapes.

The Chateau Carbonnieux, Grand Cru Classé de Graves is a straw-colored light bodied wine. The “cru classé,” batches of Semillon and Sauvignon grapes are blended to create structure from the Semillon grapes, and the Sauvignon grapes provide the vivid floral notes. The Grand Cru Classé de Graves opens with a citrus and floral nose followed by a light fruity flavor profile and a hint of vanilla on the finish. The wine is barrel aged for ten months before bottling.

Legend has it that the wine was served to the Sultan of Constantinople’s palace in the 18th century. In order to slip past Islamic law, the wine was called “mineral water from Carbonnieux,” which everyone could then enjoy.

This wine is a standout when chilled well and paired with fowl or seafood off the grill, or served with a fruity dessert. May be cellared from 4-7 years. Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Grab a Bottle (Any Bottle) Of JaM Wine for Summer

Reviewed by Joy Neighbors

If you're looking for an affordable wine that flaunts exceptional aroma and flavor, then JaM Cellars is a great go-to.

John and Michele Truchard
John Truchard grew up in the wine business. His parents, Tony and JoAnn Truchard developed Truchard Vineyards in 1974. It was 2003 when John and his wife Michele started John Anthony Vineyards. From there, the Truchard’s, along with winemaker Rob Lloyd created JaM Cellars in 2009. They wanted to offer wine drinkers something enjoyable, and affordable, and it appears that they have succeeded. Today, Jeff Kandarian is JaM's winemaker.

The 2007 JaM Red Blend was the first release in 2009 with Butter Chardonnay hitting shelves in 2010. In 2014, JaM Cabernet Sauvignon was released, and now, non-vintage Toast Brut Sparkling is available. For this review, I tried all three.

2014 JaM Cabernet Sauvignon
The 2014 JaM Cabernet is, well, jammy. This medium bodied Cab is crafted from Napa Valley grapes, and it does not disappoint. Aromas of berry, cherry and leather lead into a flavorful explosion of cerise, blackberry, and a hint of elderberry. Although I would have liked the apple and tobacco finish to linger, this vino was a hit when served with burgers, and with venison steaks.

2015 JaM Butter Chardonnay
Suffice it to say, this is buttery! If you’re into rich Chards (and I am), this will be a top pick. The nose is stone fruits with hints of toasty oak. Get ready for BUTTER on the tongue with an exceptional creaminess and a long vanilla finish. JaM cold ferments the grapes with a unique blend of oak for a luscious Chardonnay. I served it with grilled chicken. Nice.

Non-Vintage Toast Brut Sparkle
There’s always a reason to celebrate and Toast makes it fun. It may be crafted with traditional Champenoise techniques, but there's nothing stuffy about this wine Pop the cork and inhale notes of melon, lemon and cheddar. The flavor profile includes pineapple and melon with a toasty finish. This light crisp sparkle is great for a celebration, (We toasted the New Year with it!), or for no reason at all.

Kudos to JaM Cellars! Rarely do I find all of the wines from one producer to be something I'd purchase, but your wines hit all of the marks.


JaM Cellars wines can be purchased from a variety of stores, from small wine shops to your neighborhood grocery store. The wines are available in all 50 states and Canada.

Here’s just a sampling of grocery stores carrying these wines:
Cost Plus World Market
Food Lion
Giant Eagle
Super Target,
Trader Joe’s
Whole Foods
And more

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Reviewing Noble Vines

By Joy Neighbors

The vinos of Noble Vines come from family-owned vineyards in Lodi and the San Bernabe Vineyard in Monterey, California. Sustainable farming practices are adhered to for each vineyard, and a talented team stands behind the brand.

Nobel Vines offers six wines including Cabernet, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a red blend. The Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot are reviewed here.
242 Sauvignon Blanc
Noble Vines Sauvignon Blanc is named for block 242 of the San Bernabe AVA vineyard in Monterey, California. The grapes are harvested and pressed before the juice is transferred into stainless steel tanks. Special yeasts are then added to enhance the aromas and flavors of the wine.

The 2014 242 Sauvignon Blanc has great balance and acidity. The aromas of light honeysuckle and citrus lead you to the mellow flavors of melon and green apple. The finish has a slight minerality. Drink now, cellaring is not advised. (Pairs well with fish.)

181 Merlot
 "Moderate summer weather and warm temperatures just before harvest allow the grapes to ripen gently, delivering outstanding fruit. The juice is fermented at moderately cool temperatures to balance the acidity with big fruit flavors."

 I love a good, classic Merlot and the 2013 181 is exceptional. The aroma of black cherries and warm spices captures you at the start and leads to a robust, tannic wine that is well balanced. The flavor of lush red berries and cherries slide across the tongue followed by a hint of cedar and tobacco. My only disappointment was in the finish – it didn’t linger nearly as long as I would have liked. Cellar at least one more year. (Pairs well with venison and mushrooms.)

 The Team
Winemaker James Ewart
Winemaker James Ewart was the son of an Australian winemaker. He is only a handful of winemakers to receive a graduate diploma in grape growing from the University of Adelaide in 1999. Ewart's experience includes Mountadam Winery and his family’s estate in the Adelaide Hills. A brief stint at Noble Vines in 2000 turned into a career thanks to his vineyard-based philosophy.

Viticulturist Charlie Hossom
Viticulturist Charlie Hossom joined Noble Vines in 2012. Hossom is developing groundbreaking water saving technology for sustainable farming. Prior to Noble Vines, he managed vineyards for Stags Leap Wine Cellars, Ste. Michelle Estates and the Inglenook vineyards.

Have a wine you’d like me to try? Contact me here. I’m always looking for a new favorite to share.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Industry Notable Who Passed in 2016

By Joy Neighbors

Once again, it is time to look back on the year and remember those in the industry who have passed. Salute!

Bob Oatley
He was well known for his Rosemount Estate wines but Bob Oatley was also one of Australia’s richest businessmen. Oatley died January 10 in Pittwater, New South Wales, Australia. He began in the wine industry in 1968 with Rosemount Estate and continued until he sold the winery in 2001 for $1.4 billion. Robert Oatley Vineyards became the next step in the Oatley family winemaking dynasty.  Their wine empire boasts about 40 wine brands including Robert Oatley Signature Series, Wild Oates and Bare Foot.  Bob Oatley was 87 years old.

Peter Mondavi
Napa Valley Wine pioneer Peter Mondavi died February 20 at his home in St. Helena, California. It was Peter, and his brother Robert, who convinced their father to purchase the dilapidated Charles Krug winery in 1943. The brothers took Krug and established it as an early industry leader of quality wines in Napa Valley. But resentment began to build between the two and in 1965 they parted ways. Peter was known in the wine industry for innovating the process of cold fermentation to keep whites fresh longer, and creating a more sterile filtration system, which helped prevent spoilage. The brothers reconciled in 2005, just three years before Robert died. Peter said his greatest accomplishment was keeping Charles Krug Winery whole. Peter Mondavi was 101.

Henri Bonneau
Henri Bonneau, one of the most regaled winemakers of Chateauneuf-du-Pape died on March 21 in Marseille, France. Bonneau was an expert at blending other grape varieties with Grenache, creating stunning wines that captivated the palate. Bonneau had little time for upkeep and sterile facilities, his love was in the creation of the wine, which showed in the masterful vinos he produced, albeit in small batches, which only made them all the more desirable. Bonne died of complications due to diabetes. He was 77 years old.

Manuel Lozano
The industry lost one of the world’s greatest fortified winemakers in April. Manuel Lozano died April 26 of complications from a medical procedure. Lozano was the head winemaker and chief enologist for Bodega Lustau Sherries and Brandies, joining the company in 1999. Lozano preferred working with Sherry and had been named “Best Fortified Winemaker” seven consecutive times at the International Wine and Spirit Competition. In 2014, he also garnered the title of “Best Sherry Producer.” Manuel Lozano was 61 years old.

Donn Chappellet
Napa Valley lost another industry legend on May 22. Donn Chappellet, founder of Chappellet Vineyards and the pioneer vintner for Pritchard Hill died at his home on Pritchard Hill. Chappellet left the coffee industry to become a winemaker in 1966. He told the New York Times in 1971, “I think I had subconsciously wanted to become a winemaker for years.” In 1969, the winery released its first cabernet and Chappellet’s talent for crafting rich, powerful Cabs was revealed. In 1980, his best cabs were released under the Signature label with small batch releases coming under the Pritchard Hill label during the 1990s. Chappellet was 84 years old. Chappellet Vineyards will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2017.

Denis Dubourdieu
The wine industry mourned the loss of Denis Dubourdieu on July 27 from brain cancer. A man of many talents, Dubourdieu was a winemaker, vineyard owner, and professor of enology, but best known a the “Pope of White Wine.” Dubourdieu devised techniques for crafting an elegant and fresh white Bordeaux. His techniques won the praise of critics’ worldwide. In 2009, Dubourdieu assisted in creating the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences at the University of Bordeaux. In 2016, Dubourdieu was made a knight of the Legion of Honor for his contributions to the wines of France. Dubourdieu was 67 years old.

Greg Walter
Greg Walter spent his life celebrating the virtues of Pinot Noir. Walter died September 2 of colon cancer. Walter began in the wine industry in 1980 as a reporter for the Wine Spectator where he rose to become senior editor and then spent seven years as president. Walter left the magazine in 1994 to pursue other writing opportunities. He wrote for SmartWine Magazine, Wine Country Living Magazine, Appellation Magazine, and the Sonoma Valley Sun. In 2001, he began the PinotReport, a respected website and newsletter that touted the grape he was passionate about. The PinotReport won the James Beard Award for Newsletter Writing on Food, Beverage, Restaurants, and Nutrition in 2005. He continued with the website and newsletter until earlier this year. Walter was 58 years old.

Annegret Reh-Gartner
Annegret Reh-Gartner was known as the Riesling ambassador in an industry heavily controlled by German men. Reh-Gartner took over the vineyards of Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt estate in 1983. The estate has some of the regions best known vineyards located in Mosel, Saar and Ruwer valleys. Reh-Gartner and her husband, restaurateur Gerhard Gartner owned the Michelin starred restaurant, Gala. Reh-Gartner died of pancreatic cancer. She was 61 years old.