Notes’ Top 5 Wine Surprises of 2014

Notes Of Note shared feedback on all kinds of wine in 2014. Some, like any Buena Vista offering or the Laurent-Perrier, are great grapes and would class up any occasion or event. This is not a “best of” list, though, but instead a quick thumbnail of several beverages that exceeded expectations or earned a raised eyebrow upon consuming. Put any of these on your “to do” lists and enjoy the year ahead:

  • 2011 Boom Boom! Syrah. Packed full of spices and reminds me of great summer fun with friends at Lake Gaston.
  • 2012 Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s name feels gimmicky, but the wine holds its own against much pricier boutique bottles from California.
  • 2012 Mumm Napa Cuvee, M Sparkling Wine. The champagne approach is executed well and, interestingly, the celebratory beverage of the 2014 World Series champs.
  • 2011 Petite Petit. Best recommendation I received all year (thanks Winestore) and so much crazy fruit flavor in one fun-labeled bottle. Bet you go back for more after you have your first…
  • 2010 Summation Red Wine Blend. Kendall-Jackson is no small, secret “back room” operation but this blend was a gem that I’d never heard of before and knocked my socks off.

Thanks to everyone who shared bottles and good times over our glasses in 2014. Hoping your own celebrations tonight include good grapes and cheers to you all for a happy, healthy 2015.

2012 Mumm Napa Cuvée M, Sparkling Wine

There are many ways to finish off a great holiday evening. One favored in my family is a chocolate cream pie, a flaky-crusted treat layered with plenty of cream and just the right amount of dark, sweet goodness. That’s what we had for dessert tonight, capping off an enjoyable Christmas celebration, perfectly accompanied by the 2012 Mumm Napa Cuvée M, Sparkling Wine.

2012 Mumm Napa Cuvee M, Sparkling Wine, Napa, USA.

2012 Mumm Napa Cuvee M, Sparkling Wine, California, USA.

I was an immediate fan. The bubbly was great as it intertwined with the chocolate in the pie; not too sweet and not too tart. This 2012 Mumm Napa Cuvée M is the byproduct of grapes from more than 50 vineyards–surely Pinot Noir and Chardonnay among them*–that are blended only after the initial fermentation process in order to keep some of the nuances of the individual fruit. For a sparkling wine, the Mumm Napa Cuvée M was not too dry and had a very level, balanced finish.

From the winemaker‘s notes: “Cuvée M exhibits a graceful stream of very fine bubbles gently rising to a persistent mousse cordon with a light peach rose color. The aromas are elegant, rich and complex, showing fresh white and yellow stone fruits with subtle hints of wild strawberry. A light touch of fresh brioche, with hints of vanilla and honey add to the wine’s complex bouquet. On the palate, full flavors of peach and pear combine with a creamy caramel character, which lingers into a long satisfying finish.

It’s got a light, peach and citrus bouquet and taste to be sure, working effectively with the chocolate sweetness to brighten our evening. I didn’t necessarily hit the strawberry referenced above, but I am not really a fan of a strawberry and did not go pulling on this thread to separate it from the overall tapestry of taste that is the Cuvée M. Incidentally, it’s this wine that the San Francisco Giants used in both 2012 and 2014 in order to celebrate their World Series Championships. I’m less a fan of the champs, but really happy with their good luck drink that is the Cuvée M. Enjoy…

*Ed. note: Additional research reveals the actual makeup of the Cuvée M as 48% Chardonnay, 43% Pinot Noir, 6% Pinot Gris, and 3% Pinot Meunier.

Cremant d’Alsace Arthur Metz Brut Prestige

It’s Thanksgiving, and this year we can only be with our families in spirit. We send our hellos, smiles, and just a smidge of our humor to loved ones enjoying a day of celebration and reflection.

On our holiday table are classics and new adventures. We have deviled eggs; we have hors d’oeuvre consisting of pickles, meat, and cheeses. Hard apple cider is a notable addition to the food prep phase, which includes fresh veggies (i.e., Brussel sprouts, asparagus, potato, carrots), jellied cranberries, and, most notably, a Cajun spice-rubbed turducken. Yup, it’s a day for new adventures.

Cremant d'Alsace Arthur Metz Brut Prestige, France.

Cremant d’Alsace Arthur Metz Brut Prestige, France.

The champagne–Cremant d’Alsace Arthur Metz Brut Prestige–fits into that same vibe. It is an odd mix both pale and gold, and it’s packed full of pear smells and fruits that you can detect on the nose and certainly on the palate. Compared to other bubbly that occasionally graces our celebrations, the Cremant is much sweeter in taste. Presumably more of a sugar profile than, say, a Veuve (which we’d prefer for its finish and its slightly drier taste). We’d hoped the Cremant might be a more affordable champagne option than Cliquot, and though it is less expensive than our go-to champagne it is certainly lesser in quality.

This isn’t a food blog, so I won’t spend too much time on the turducken–but it was delicious. I really enjoyed its soft, spicy goodness (not too rare or overdone but just right) and its unusual stuffings. It might have another seating soon, but the Cremant has run its course at our place. We’ll try another champagne in the future and hope for more Veuve.

2010 Laurent-Perrier Champagne, Maison Fondee 1812

Some tastings on Notes emphasize the grapes; others focus on the experience. Others, like this 2010 Laurent-Perrier Champagne Maison Fondee 1812, are an amazing combination between the two. This magnum we broke out tonight to help celebrate our wedding anniversary, and it was a great part of the evening.

2010 Laurent-Perrier Champagne Maison Fondee 1812, France.

2010 Laurent-Perrier Champagne Maison Fondee 1812, France.

Special thanks to the GDog for this gift. I am sure it was not inexpensive, both on the size of the bottle and the merits of the grapes themselves.  We made our way through the magnum, one flute at a time, as we savored slices of cucumber–fresh from our own backyard, lightly seasoned with both mayonnaise and salt–and sushi (our favorite rolls) from a local takeout joint. I’m going to refrain from tasting notes on this occasion because they’d only diminish how much I enjoyed the entire evening. Good food, good dockside ambiance, better wine, and best company.

The memories will keep.

The Ones That Got Away

We enjoyed a number of fine adult beverages through the 2013 holidays and into March of 2014.  In light of an aggressive travel schedule, however, I’ve neglected to review several great reds and whites that graced our table in this time frame.  Tasting notes will have to wait another sampling but thought you’d enjoy a quick depiction of our “travels” through wine country domestically and abroad.

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut Yellow Label

We’re a family that celebrates milestones, and we do it best when we have a great bottle of something special to share together.  This bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut Yellow Label, a gift from my best friend, was just such a bottle–sent to congratulate us for our relocation to North Carolina.

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut Yellow Label, Champagne, France.

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut Yellow Label, Champagne, France.

We’ve been here nearly two months now, but with the Veuve on hand decided we would celebrate anew on this Sunday night.  Check out the delicious vittles that graced our table: Mustard-encrusted chicken breasts, fresh-cut green beans, and portabella mushrooms.  The Veuve, always a favorite of my wife, really accented the succulent food.  Its bubbles and inherent apple goodness complemented the flavors Becca wrangled from this light, healthy fare.

These guys have been producing champagne since 1772, so you know they’re doing more than one or two things right.  If you’ve had for yourself, you’re nodding in agreement.  If you haven’t had Veuve Cliquot yet, what are you waiting for?

Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label

Anniversary dinner–commemorated with Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label to celebrate the occasion.  Always love its crisp peachy goodness and, enjoyed on the patio with my family around me, this one is right on target.  The combination is pretty had to beat.  It’s a favorite of my wife’s; a smile on her face and a full glass in her hand are all this man needs.

The Veuve preceded Chicken Limone, served with a light pasta and Italian bread, courtesy of Rosario’s.  Wish the bubbly had lasted a bit longer but all good things, right?