Review: Franc Dusak Viognier Sonoma Valley 2016

​Franc Dusak has been one of my favorite winemakers for some time, and he continues to impress. Under the umbrella of NakedWines.com, Franc produces excellent wines from a number of different varieties of grape, and some out-of-this-world blends, too. One of my favorite wines in his portfolio is his Viognier. I’ve reviewed Franc’s Viognier before; the 2015 vintage. I recently acquired a bottle of his 2016 vintage, and I was so impressed I simply had to share about it!

Franc Dusak Viognier 2016

Sporting a brand new label design, Franc’s Viognier Sonoma Valley 2016 is just as enticing, refreshing, and delicious as 2015…maybe more so! Franc reaffirms my newfound love for Viognier with this creation. In addition to being tasty and satisfying on a hot, late-spring day, it is quite versatile with food pairing and makes a terrific addition to a variety of dishes.

Currently the Head Winemaker for NakesWines.com, Franc is a third generation winemaker. The family hails from Slovenia, and Franc honors his family heritage and the original family winery on the label. In Franc’s Instagram and Facebook posts announcing the release of the 2016 Viognier, he explains:

“The new logo pays homage to the winemakers in my family and my Slovenia heritage. DVK represents Dusak Vinska Klet, which is our original family wine cellar. The mountain in the background of the logo is Triglav, (three heads) which has several meanings, but mostly refers to the impact my grandfather, uncle and father had on my wine journey.”

Today we released my 2016 Sonoma Valley Viognier with my new label! This label really encompasses everything I have wanted and worked for since I started this journey so many years ago! The new logo pays homage to the winemakers in my family and my Slovenia heritage. DVK represents Dusak Vinska Klet, which is our original family wine cellar. The mountain in the background of the logo is Triglav, (three heads) which has several meanings, but mostly refers to the impact my grandfather, uncle and father had on my wine journey. I hope you all get a chance to try the new wine! Thanks for all your support and helping me to make this dream happen! Cheers! #francdusakwines #nakedwines #sonomavalley #viognier Photo Cred @anid13

A post shared by Franc Dusak (@francdusakwines) on

I contacted Franc via Instagram chat, and asked him about his vision as a third-generation winemaker. Here’s what he said:

Franc Dusak

Photo Credit: NakedWines.com

“I think the most important thing for me is that I carry on the tradition of winemaking in my family. I make wine to enjoy and share with your family and friends. I am pleased when enthusiasts see the passion that I put into my wines, but my hope is that everyone can enjoy them. There is so much work and thought that goes into each wine, hopefully those who taste them can feel that.”

Personally, I clearly see the passion in Franc’s wines. Here’s my review of this amazing Viognier. I’ll be buying a case of this to get me through the long, hot summer!

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Another Franc Dusak hit! Franc’s Viognier is always delicious and this vintage is no exception.

Golden straw color. Aromas of nectarine and honeysuckle. This wine is florally aromatic; it smells so delightful it could be perfume. On the palate, flavors of nectarine and peach, elderflower, pear, and floral notes. Started well chilled, as it warmed some apricot started to emerge. With a round mouthfeel, tangy acidity, and medium body, this is a great wine for food. We had it with grilled miso shrimp and asparagus, with spinach salad and it was amazing!

Make no mistake: this is not a “sweet” wine. It is fruit forward and floral, which may be perceived as sweetness. But it is a dry, delicious white wine. Franc, I tip my hat to you, sir!

Available exclusively from NakedWines.com.

Angel Price $12.99

This wine is still available from NakedWines.com. If you aren’t already a NakedWines.com Angelclick here, or the banner below, for a voucher worth $100 off your first order of $160 or more! You’ll be glad you did!

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Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #33–The Results

I am truly and deeply honored to have won this month’s challenge. This is my first time winning the MWWC, and I appreciate everyone who read and enjoyed my entry, and who voted for me. Thank you!

the drunken cyclist

The results are in

Well, for the first time in what seems like a long time, I am announcing the winner of the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge by pounding away at my desktop keyboard and not sitting in a hotel bed in a far-flung wine region. Why is that important? It isn’t. Not even slightly, but I feel the need to fill this space with some sort of drivel so that I can justify being the curator (is that what I am?) of this writing challenge.

This was a strange month by a few measures. First, there were only eight entries, the second lowest amount since the Challenge began over three years ago (and we only got to eight after I extended the deadline by a week). On top of that, the number of votes cast to determine the winner was the lowest total since I took over the full-time administration of the Challenge…

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Once Upon a Time #MWWC33

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Once upon a time, there was a charming prince who lived in an enchanted land. Yes, I know. Fairy tales are supposed to be about princesses. This is an equal opportunity story.

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

Anyway, there was this charming prince, living in an enchanted land. When he was young, each day he would ride about the kingdom, enjoying the beauty and wonder around him. He and his friends were well known for their kindness, as well as their laughter. To be sure, the prince had his mischievous side, playing practical jokes on friends and strangers alike. Always harmless jokes, though. There’s no charm in being hurtful.

As the prince grew older, his roaming expanded and he began exploring and experiencing surrounding kingdoms. One day, he entered a neighboring land where the people were demure and quiet. The prince wondered what was wrong. As he inquired and spoke with the people of the land, he learned that there was a Fun-Sucking Dragon terrorizing the land. The prince discovered that before the Fun-Sucking Dragon’s arrival, the people were just as happy as the citizens in his land. However, the Fun-Sucking Dragon imposed upon the people a law preventing anything fun. No singing, no dancing, no running, no galloping horses, and worst of all, no wine! No wonder the people of this land were sad!

Dragon

Some of the people were actually sympathetic to the Fun-Sucking Dragon, and took pleasure in seeing the quiet and melancholy that descended upon the land. Not that these people were mean, or possessed ill intent. They actually believed that temperance in all things, imposed by this prohibition on fun, was healthy and good; that the people would live healthier, safer, more productive lives. Admittedly, before the prohibition, some of the people did overindulge in fun, and would hurt themselves or miss work. Nevertheless, those people were in the minority. Most of the fun-lovers engaged with moderation, and felt the fun enhanced their quality of life. The prince didn’t think it didn’t seem fair that the entire land should be penalized for the actions of the few people who lacked self-control. So he set about trying to find a way to defeat the Fun-Sucking Dragon.

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The prince learned that, despite the best motivations of the temperance groups, the prohibition on fun had unintended consequences. The loss of jobs in the entertainment and libation industries created a financial burden in the land. In addition, many people missed having fun, so they would gather in secret; singing, dancing, and drinking wine and other banned drinks. This resulted in a rise in criminal activity, as unscrupulous people took control of these hidden locations, and demanded money to keep quiet and not turn in the fun-lovers. And clearly, all the otherwise honest and law abiding citizens who engaged in illicit fun were now, themselves, criminals!

The prince organized a group of brave citizens to battle the Fun-Sucking Dragon. The fight lasted several years, and there were many casualties on both sides. Finally, the Fun-Sucking Dragon surrendered and repealed the law prohibiting fun. The people rejoiced, and fun and happiness once again reigned in the land.  Mostly.

Dragon Surrender

Despite the victory, the Fun-Sucking Dragon had only surrendered. The prince was unable to slay him entirely. There have been long-lasting effects of the fun prohibition, even to this day. On the one hand, the people became more aware of the risks of overindulging in fun, so this is seen as a positive. Yet nearly 100 years later, there are still residual impediments to fun in the land. Some parts of the country retained portions of the archaic law, making it difficult for the citizens in those regions to engage in as much fun as others.

The prince was happy that he could restore fun and happiness to his neighbors, but knew there was still much more work to do. Slowly, the prince’s influence continues to remove barriers to fun. The fun-lovers in the land are hopeful that one day, all the people will be permitted to engage in all the fun activities equally.

And there will be much rejoicing.

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This is a work of fiction. All characters are made up and any resemblance to actual people or dragons is purely coincidental. It is also my entry into this month’s Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC33), the theme of which is “Once Upon a Time” as selected by last month’s winner, Mel of Wining with Mel. No dragons were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

BottleRock Napa 2017

If you’ve never been to a three-day music festival before, BottleRock Napa is a good place to start. I wasn’t sure what to think when I decided to go, and I certainly didn’t know whether or not I’d be able to hold up for the entire weekend! I’m no spring chicken, you know! Still, the idea of spending the Memorial Day Weekend enjoying great wines, delicious food, and listening to awesome live music – at four different stages – sounded fun, so away I went. I’m glad I did!

BottleRock Napa is an amazing, high-energy event. The organizers did a great job of planning and preparing, creating a comfortable and welcoming environment for guests. The main stage area was laid with fresh sod for the comfort of concert goers, and there were plenty of places to sit and relax. The staff were all amazing, and everyone there was in a great mood all weekend. And why wouldn’t they be?

Naturally the wine was amazing! What I didn’t expect is that nearly all the food was from Napa area restaurants. This was no corn-dog-and-funnel-cake festival, folks. No, this was gourmet! (I only wish I had taken pics of the food before I devoured it!)

I had an amazing time at BottleRock Napa 2017. I’m looking forward to going again. Yet, rather than prattle on about the experience, allow me to share it in pictures; both Instagram posts and individual photos. I hope you enjoy them!

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Macklemore & Ryan Lewis poppin’ some tags!

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No, we weren’t that close. This is a pic of the Jumbotron. But still…

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Happy people enjoying wine, food, and music!

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Tom Petty, rock icon

Winning Wine: A Review of Sauska Tokaji Aszú 2003

Some days you lose.

Some days you win.

Some days you win wine!

Back in December, Sauska Wines US and the wine blog Wine Esquire sponsored an Instagram contest. The winner would receive a bottle of Sauska Tokaji Aszú 2003, 6 puttonyos.  Entry was simple: follow SauskaWineUS on Instagram. Boom. Done. Of course, I wouldn’t win. I never win contests.

On December 27, 2016, my luck changed. (It’s been continually improving since then, but that’s another story.) I received a private Instagram message from SauskaWinesUS informing me I was the winner of the Tokaji contest! A bottle of this golden nectar would soon be on its way to me. The bottle arrived at my office a few weeks later, with much fanfare (Well, in my head anyway. My coworkers couldn’t have cared much less. Silly coworkers.)

This would be my first excursion into Hungarian wines. Ever since the winning bottle’s arrival, I’ve been waiting for just the right time to open it. Last night was that right time.

Before we get into my description of just how incredibly decadent this wine is, let’s explore the story behind the wine…

Tokaji is the most famous and popular Hungarian wine. It hails from the Tokaj region in northeastern Hungary. The primary grape varieties used in Tokaji wines are Furmint, Hárslevelű, and Muscat Blanc. Tokaji is known for its rich, nectar-like flavors and sweetness. This characteristic is the result of the use of botrytized grapes. Botrytis is a type of fungus that affects grapes. When controlled and allowed to develop, it is known as Noble Rot, and dries the grapes which concentrates the sugars and flavors. Not all Tokaji wines use botrytized grapes. Those that do are labeled as Aszú, and are further categorized by their residual sugar levels, indicated by the designation “puttonyos.” Aszú wines range from 3 puttonyos, with 25 grams of residual sugar per liter, to 6 puttonyos, with 150+ grams per liter. The bottle I received was at the top of that scale, with 6 puttonyos.

Sauska Wines is a family owned winery, with vineyards in Tokaj and Villany. Using indigenous and international varietals, they produce a varied portfolio of wines, including sparkling, whites, rosés, and reds. The Tokaji Aszú 2003 that I received was crafted from hand-picked Furmint and Hárslevelű grapes. Barrel fermented with only indigenous yeasts, it spent 36 months in new oak before bottling. At 222 grams of sugar per liter, it’s definitely sweet, but at only 10% ABV, you can sip and enjoy it all evening.

Tokaji wines have a royal history. Kings and noblemen throughout history, including King Louis XIV of France, Peter the Great, and Catherine the Great have coveted the golden elixir. With such an impressive following, I knew this must be a wine of elegance and distinction.

However, in the interest of full confession, neither my guest nor I are fans of super sweet wines. Although we were excited to experience such a majestic and noble wine, we were also a little apprehensive when opening the bottle. As soon as I pulled the cork and took my first sniff, all apprehension evaporated. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill sugar bomb. This wine has depth, character, and complexity beyond anything I’ve experienced in a dessert wine.

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Rich, golden color in the glass. Opened cold (+/- 40F) and allowed to open as it warmed. Initial aromas on ripe apricot and honey. While sweet, this is so much more. There is an incredible complexity on the nose that entices and invites one in. On the palate, the mouthfeel is rich and creamy, almost syrupy, with flavors of apricot nectar, honey, overripe peach and pineapple, and golden raisin. This wine is dessert unto itself. The finish is sweet and lingers for several minutes. Very impressive, indeed!

I’d once again like to thank Sauska Wines US for their generosity in offering this incredible wine prize, and Wine Esquire for sponsoring and promoting this contest. For those of you who haven’t experienced the magic of Tokaji Aszú, I encourage you to seek it out and give it a try. Even if you think you don’t like sweet dessert wines, I think you’ll like this!

Cheers!

Review: Château Bélingard AOC Bergerac Rosé

Summer is the traditional season for Rosé wine. There is a movement afoot to encourage wine lovers to enjoy Rosé all year, and I’m all on board. I do enjoy Rosé wine year around. Nevertheless, lighter bodied, crisp wines taste best to me (any many others) when the weather is warmer. Poolside, lakeside, or parkside, a refreshing Rosé is a great way to enjoy a summer afternoon.

Rosé wine comes to the plate with two strikes against it. First of all, many people I know still think all Rosé wine is like the syrupy sweet White Zinfandel popular in the 80’s and 90’s. This is simply not true. The reality is that a good many of the Rosé wines available today are crafted in the classic, Provençal style: dry, crisp, and refreshing. Still, some simply aren’t willing to give dry Rosé a try. I say their loss is my gain: more for me!

Strike two is that there are a lot of low quality Rosé wines out there, lacking in flavor, interest, or character. I suppose this is to be expected when a product suddenly becomes as popular as Rosé has in recent years. Everybody wants a piece of the action; to ride the wave while it is high. So they’ll rush to put something, anything out there to enter the market before the tide turns. (I’m detecting a surf theme here. Appropriate, given that Rosé is a great beach wine!)

Fortunately, there are also many excellent Rosé wines available! I found one of them recently at my local Total Wine & More store. Château Bélingard AOC Bergerac Rosé (Retail: $11.99) is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. As one might expect from the use of these two big, bold red grapes, this Rosé has a bit more body and heft than most. Make no mistake, though; this is still a dry, crisp, refreshing wine!

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Founded in 1820, Château Bélingard is located in Southwest France, in the Bergerac appellation, east of the more famous Bordeaux region. While Bergerac wines are made predominantly with the same varietals as those of Bordeaux – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based red wines, and Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon based whites – Bergerac wines are often considered softer and less serious. I don’t take this as a criticism in any way! On the contrary, these are high quality, value wines! Not everyone is a collector or connoisseur, and there is definitely a need for affordable, easy-drinking, everyday wines.

In addition to this Rosé, Château Bélingard produces an impressive portfolio of reds and whites, including a Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon/Muscadelle blend, and several levels of Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends. Below is my review of the Rosé, which we recently enjoyed as a cool refresher on a 102°F Sunday evening.

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IMG_2342Salmon, almost orange color. Aromas and flavors of tropical fruit including mango and passion fruit, with a hint of mandarin, along with light red berry flavors of strawberry and ripe raspberry. Dry with medium body and a soft, round mouthfeel and lively acidity make this a refreshing wine, yet big enough to pair with grilled tri-tip steaks or other summer BBQ fare.

We really enjoyed this wine! I rated it 4.5 out of 5 stars (92 – 94 points).

Check your local retailer and seek out some of this amazing Rosé wine! You’ll be glad you did!

Cheers!

Roses and Rosé for Mother’s Day

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Today is Mother’s Day in the United States. I am fortunate, in that both of my parents are alive and healthy, in their early 80’s. What’s more, they live in a beautiful retirement apartment complex just a few minutes from my home. Over the years, we have not always lived so close; so many Mother’s Days were spent remotely. So I’m pleased to be able to celebrate this day over a meal and wine with both my mother and dad.

Contrary to popular belief, at least by me, Mother’s Day is not just another “Hallmark Holiday.” Indeed, the day we know today was started in 1908 by Anna Jarvis, to honor the sacrifices mothers make for their children. Hallmark wasn’t founded until two years later in 1910! In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a declaration establishing Mother’s Day as the second Sunday in May. Yet celebrations of motherhood date much further back than that. The ancient Greeks and Romans held festivals honoring the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. More modern Christian celebrations of “Mothering Sunday” eventually evolved into the holiday we enjoy today.

I like to refer to the community where my parents live as a “land-based cruise ship.” It’s pretty much all-inclusive, with three meals a day, housekeeping services, social activities, recreation, and a shuttle bus for day trips and running errands. In fact, the apartments themselves don’t even have kitchens! Management is always gracious and invites guests for special occasion meals. Mother’s Day is no exception! Lunch is the big meal of the day, and there is always a main entrée, as well as an alternate in case you don’t care for the main. Mind you, these are chef-prepared meals so they’re always enticing and tasty!

Today’s main entrée was marinated flank steak with hoisin sauce, with arepas and artichoke timbales. If you’re not feeling like beef, the alternate was crab cakes with papaya pepper puree and citrus dill aioli. When I come over for special meals, I always like to bring a bottle or two of wine to pair with the meal. After all, I am a wine guy, so my folks appreciate my recommendations! I went in assuming we would all want the flank steak, so I brought a Cabernet Franc; the Le Pré Vaujour Chinon 2016. However, it was possible that my mom would surprise me and order the crab cakes. Besides, this is Mother’s Day, so we have to have a Rosé, right? As you can see in the photo above, we had several Rosés to choose from. In keeping with the Cabernet Franc theme, we opted for the Château De La Roulerie Les Camelias Rosé 2014, a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Roses and Rosé for Mother’s Day! 

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OK, props to dad, too. Without him, she wouldn’t be my mother! 

As expected, the meal was delicious! We started with a salad of spring greens, micro greens, and Belgian endive with peach-basil vinaigrette. Although we all ordered the flank steak, we opened the Rosé for the salad course. It was an amazing pairing! When the main course arrived, we chugged the remaining Rosé in our glasses to make room for the red wine. Honestly, I was a little apprehensive. I hadn’t realized until I got the bottle home that the Chinon was a 2016 vintage. The grapes in the bottle were on the vine only a few months ago! I needn’t have worried, though, as the pairing was heavenly! For dessert we enjoyed homemade tiramisu and sipped on the last of the Chinon. Yum!! It was a very pleasant and enjoyable way to celebrate the sacrifices my mother made in raising my sister and me. Mainly my sister. (Just kidding, sis!)

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The Wines

Château De La Roulerie Les Camelias Rosé 2014

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​Salmon color in the glass. Aromas and flavors of strawberry, red raspberry, and red currant. Bright acidity with medium body. Light and lively. Red berry, including cranberry on finish. Excellent pairing with the spring and micro greens salad with endive.

4.0 Stars (88 – 91 points)

Le Pré Vaujour Chinon 2016

Yes, 2016. ​Very young, but very good! Bright purple color in the glass. Aromas and light mouthfeel are reminiscent of a Beaujolais Nouveau: Fresh raspberry, red currant, and violet, with some spice, and a bit of freshly tilled earth, with just a hint of oak influence. Surprisingly soft and smooth for such a young wine, with lively acidity and medium body. The acidity made it perfect with the flank steak, and led to a long, pleasing finish. Very good now, with aging potential for several years.

4.0 Stars (88 – 91 points)

My hope is that each of you enjoyed celebrating your mother as much as I did mine. Let me know in the comments what you did with your mom, and what wines you paired with it!

Cheers!

 

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