Friday, March 13, 2009


Let me make a brief aside from the regular reviews I post to describe a neat little place tucked under a bridge at 322 E 59th St., between 1st and 2nd Ave. The name of this new favorite hideaway is Uncorked. It's a gem of a wine bar with interesting, engaging staff, a selective wine list crafted with extraordinary attention to providing a delicious experience at value, and a quaint, relaxed atmosphere that made me fall in love immediately. "Cozy" is the word they use to describe themselves, and they cultivate it with subtle wood tones accented by candlelight. All the while Uncorked maintains a sense of sophistication; I compare going to Uncorked to visiting a well-traveled friends' house. When paired with its affordable menu, these attributes rank it among some of the finest wine destinations in the city.

A few highlights stand out as value choices on their wine list. First among these is their rose, the 2007 Mulderbosch from Stellenbosch in South Africa. This is a highly unusual rose, with a crisp presentation of cherries and hung game on the nose followed by a nicely acidic, bright mouth of dried berries, pomegranate, and good mineral notes. Next up is their 2004 d'Arenberg "The Footbolt" Shiraz, possessed of tremendous plum and cherry aromas on the nose, with toasted oak and floral hints also immediately apparent. The mouthfeel is exceedingly well-balanced, with firm tannins and layers of cranberry, plum and cherry laced with minerality and more smoky oak. The finish is long and intense.

Also worth checking out is the food menu. With an excellent cheese selection featuring such personal favorites as a delicious Chaumes, solid Parmigiano-Reggiano, and one of the best examples of Manchego Iberico I've yet tasted in a wine bar, Uncorked presents itself to the prospective diner with considerable aplomb. Other appetizers and some chocolate desserts (the Petit Chocolate Gateau stood out) round out the food side of their menu.

Go. Drink. Eat.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Chateau Noaillac, 2005

Chateau Noaillac has a very dark presentation (purple/ruby) in the glass. Stiff tannins, but only from youth; it’s big enough to afford decanting for a half-hour, or 10 minutes of glass time. The nose consists mostly of mineral redcurrant and savory hung meat, with cassis and blackcurrants in the mouth preceding a long, round finish – maybe with a hint of rosemary or sage. Its acidity is just enough to balance the fleshy fruit, and the bite from the tannins makes it a perfect compliment to roasted meats. I really, really liked this one. I was told it’s aged in a combination of new and old French oak. Chateau Noaillac is classified as a Cru Bourgeois, which means that it is considered one of the high quality wines from the Left Bank Bordeaux regions that were not included in the 1855 Classification. While there is a high degree of controversy surrounding this label, Cru Bourgeois is still a term to look for when seeking good value in Bordeaux. This wine hails from the Médoc, one of the most famous wine-growing regions in France. With the exception of Château Haut-Brion from Graves, all of the red wines in the 1855 Classification are from the Médoc. Because it costs around $18-20 retail, I recommend trying it immediately.

Porca de Murça Douro, 2006

The 2006 Porca de Murça is from the Douro region in Portugal, the same region that is home to the producers of Port, one of the great dessert wines of the world. I am sipping a glass of it as I write this post; generally, I wait for a day to allow impressions to meld with tasting notes, but in this case I just couldn't wait to write it up. The nose is dominated by aromas of fresh cherries, while the mouthfeel is wonderful in its fleshy velvet softness, with some tannins providing structural backing for the dark plums and other black fruits. The finish is short, but features strident acidity. An excellent food wine for hearty meat dishes, like veal or lamb bolognese, or hard cheeses. $6 a bottle. Buy a case.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Royal Tokaji, 1999

Royal Tokaji! The Hungarian dessert wine of legend, Tokaji Aszú, from the region of Tokaj-Hegyalja. This is, after all, where the concept of appellations originated. It is the wine of kings and emperors, topaz or golden amber in the glass, with tangy honey nougat and caramel in the mouth. It has strident acidity, making it both sweet and dry at once. Low in alcohol, and almost syrupy in texture. This was the first wine to be intentionally made from botrytised grapes (grapes afflicted with the "noble rot," caused by botrytis cinerea, a mold that serves to concentrate their sugar). Glorious. $30 a bottle when I tried it in 2006, but well worth every penny. Definitely serve chilled. I would not pair this with anything. It is also important to note that you would be unlikely to find a bottle of this at $30 now, but there are lesser Tokaji wines that can still be found at this price point.