We've been on the prowl for some good ten dollar wines, and this week's selection is an interesting wine with, an arguably even more interesting website. I knew nothing about this producer when I selected the M. Chapoutier Belleruche other than that it was Côtes du Rhône, and there was Braille on the label. I thought there was probably a story there but, the main selling point was the ten dollar price tag.
It turns out that the Braille has special significance due to the historical connection to Maurice Monier de La Sizeranne, the inventor of the first version of abbreviated Braille. Under a tab labeled "Convictions," we also learn that M. Chapoutier adheres to a "demanding" biodynamic cultivation method.
M. Chapoutier Belleruche Vin Blanc
Appellation: Côtes du Rhône
Grape Varieties: hand-harvested White Grenache, Clairette and Bourboulenc
Aromas: Pear, melon, pineapple, citrus zest
Flavors: mineral, citrus, apple
Summary: Pleasant aromas give way to a nicely balanced wine with full mouthfeel and clean acidity. During dinner, I kept finding my glass empty, and I also noticed that I was refilling it often. Yes, this is a refreshing and tasty wine. All this for ten bucks? How do they do it?!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
We've been on the prowl for some good ten dollar wines, and this week's selection is an interesting wine with, an arguably even more interesting website. I knew nothing about this producer when I selected the M. Chapoutier Belleruche other than that it was Côtes du Rhône, and there was Braille on the label. I thought there was probably a story there but, the main selling point was the ten dollar price tag.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
On our last visit to Ceres Street Wine Merchants last fall, I asked David for his recommendation for a Chianti Classico. Knowing David’s reputation for carrying great wines, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.
The Castle of Verrazzano is located on a hilltop in the Chianti Classico region. The vineyards are farmed organically with mechanical weed control and hand cultivation. The vine production is kept low by culling inferior bunches of grapes through the growing season. Harvest is also done manually.
The grapes are fermented in smaller batches and aged in small and medium oak barrels. Bottles are cellared under the castle providing excellent temperature control.
Keep in mind that this is Chianti Classico, not Chianti. You will expect a much higher quality wine with Chianti Classico as we have previously discussed.
Chianti Classico DOCG
Castello di Verrazzano
Aromas: Cherry, hay, raspberry, cassis, earth, mild European oak.
Flavors: Cherry, elderberry, cassis, mineral, anise, licorice, black pepper, coffee, tobacco,
Summary: This is moderately complex wine as you would expect for a Chianti Classico. The aromas and flavors are bold and present. It stands up well with food. It has good tannin structure and should be enjoyed now and for the next three to five years.
We are having this tonight with B’s pizza. I’d have this with Mexican, grilled stake, salty foods, red pasta dishes, baby back ribs, eggplant parmesan, chocolate covered asiago, or Ciappino.
Friday, December 19, 2008
At this festive time of year with so many libation choices, it's important to remember that in many parts of the world, children don't even have access to clean drinking water. Today on Twitter, @Pistachio is running the an interesting charity experiment:
I’d be so incredibly stoked to see 12,500 tiny donations from all over the web come together to make my Well Wishes dream come true… It just takes $2. Won’t you?Well Wishes $2 You | Pistachio, Dec 2008
I donated--it's easy. You should read the whole article.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Our infatuation with the Monferrato began a year ago last October at the Boony Doon Vineyard tasting room. I remember Taster A and I both taking a sniff, looking at each other, and exclaiming "rose!" in unison. It was a striking wine. We brought two bottles home and tucked them away for a special someday.
When challenged to write up a wine in seven words for Wine Blogging Wednesday #42, the choice was easy: What better choice than a wine that I kept going back to in my memory? Again, when we came up with our Best Wines of the year list, the Monferrato was on the short list.
I was in a celebratory mood over the weekend having finally finished my holiday shopping, and also having received my new Instinct phone on the same day. Since we will be back in the vicinity of the Santa Cruz mountains soon, I proposed opening one of our dear bottles.
The Verdict: One Year Later
The rose is still there but, it has moved off the nose and onto the palate. The nose is more toward concentrated pomegranate and blackberry now. The flavor, however, from start to finish is all rose with a little mid-palate red fruit and some pepper on the finish. Alas, it's not the same anymore but, I'm not ready to demote it from the sublime list just yet. It's still an interesting wine even if it has become more subdued in some respects. The bloom is definitely not off the rose yet.
Taster A and I must go back to Boony Doon's tasting room in December and taste it there again...and replenish our stock while we're at it!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
A lot of people are asking for good wines under $10 these days and we want to give the people what they want! Hopefully, we will be able to find some good values without sacrificing on quality...
So far, so good with this Cline 2007 California Viognier. When wine is classified as "California" the grapes can be a blend from growing areas all over the state so maybe this isn't going to be a preemo example of terroir but, what do you expect for ten bucks!?
The nose is a burst of blossomy orange blossom, pear, and a hint of grapefruit zest and butter. It has a nice richness of viscosity yet refreshing acidity. It also has a pleasant amount of sweetness while still seeming relatively dry.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed sipping this wine even on a cold December night! Of course, the true test of wine is how it stands up to food and it passed the test there as well. Excellent with cheese and crackers or lighter fare such as poultry or fish. Definitely an enjoyable wine for any time of year.
Aromas: orange blossom, pear, grapefruit zest, butter
Flavors: floral, apple, pear, citrus
Three cheers for saving money!!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I had my cold a week earlier than B, so I’m back in the saddle. Tonight we are popping open a Tinto from Rioja.
Rioja was Spain’s First Rioja Denominación de Origen Calificada, a higher classification than D.O. Rioja is in Spain’s North East corner and approximately 1500 to 2000 feet above sea level. The average temperature during the growing season is 62F with approximately 18 inches of rain per years. The region has fine red clay soils.
Tonight, we tried a Tinto from this region with a simple pasta dish with olive oil, onions, artichoke hearts, tomato, toasted pine nuts, parmesan cheese and garlic bread.
Rioja Denominación de Origen Calificada
Tempranillo 80%, Granacha 20%
Aromas: Cherry, herb, mushroom, chocolate
Flavors: Cherry, strawberry, cranberry, licorice, anise, allspice, chocolate
Finish: Moderately long
Summary: This has a nose that reminds me of the garrigue of Côtes du Rhône. The color of the wine is not unlike the King’s purple. It is not a big wine, but it does have bold berry and spice flavors. I don’t consider this to be a wine to be enjoyed without food. It’s too acid for that. However with the right food, it will serve as a decent table wine. This is primarily a Tempranillo. At 20% the Granacha is there, but is waiting in the wings like the under utilized understudy.
The wine is not overly complex, but is bold in its spiciness.
I'd say this wine would do well with Mediterranean food, lamb, baba ghanoush, or with Mexican, Greek or something with Portuguese Linguisa. Or, perhaps some nice spicy tapas like we had with our last Rioja.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Actually, I'm still too sick to taste wine. Please check back soon...
Monday, December 8, 2008
First, please forgive the lapse in posting. I've been "out sick." Now, back to our regularly scheduled program... I read an interesting round-table discussion about yeast in a 2006 WineBusiness.com interview with Michael Terrien, Peter Anderson, and Larry Biagi. I had a few questions of my own about the role of native yeast in wine-making, so I contacted Mr. Terrien to get his thoughts. Michael is currently Consulting Winemaker with Hanzell Vineyards.
SLG: I've visited Sonoma and Napa during crush a couple of times and noticed that the entire valley seems to become saturated with the aroma of yeast at that time of year. I also noticed the same aroma coming off the nose of several wines I sampled there last October.
What can you tell me about how yeast affects the aromas in wine, and what do you make of this similarity I noted between the smell in the glass and in the air?
MT: Wine is made from grapes and yeast. Often, it is aged in barrels too. It should not surprise you to smell the aroma of yeast in the bottled wine, no more than finding it is possible to identify the ingredients of grapes and oak. The first responsibility of the yeast is to turn the grape sugars into alcohol. The wonderfully aromatic bi-products of this metabolism contribute to the identity of wine, from fruity esters to funky sulfides.
SLG: Are you aware of whether any study has been done in Sonoma County to determine which ambient yeast strains wafting through the valley during harvest/crush are dominant, and whether commercial strains are dominant outside of the cellar? If not, do you see such data as being pertinent?
MT: I am not aware of such as study in Sonoma, but Sonoma County is enormous and encompasses great diversity both in climate and soil type. If don't believe a survey of wine-yeast would turn up county-wide dominant strains that are any different than in other wine-growing regions, but it might be possible to isolate some unique ones. But I think I understand what you are getting at: have industrially-produced yeasts affected native fermentations outside the wineries that use them? I suspect so. This would only matter to those winemakers who claim their wines are unique because of the yeast.
SLG: How big a factor do you think yeast is compared to other factors such as soil, in the outcome of the final product in terms of flavor and complexity?
MT: Yeast can and do influence wine flavor (as well as color and mouthfeel) to some degree, but it isn't usually the only source of difference. An extreme counter-example is a wine that has fermented with a yeast called Brettanomyces. The aromatic compounds resulting from such spoilage can be truly disgusting, with a bouquet of horse manure. But by and large the results of fermentation with the acceptable wine yeasts in the Saccharmoyces family are modest in comparison. In my experience there are far more influential factors on a wine than the yeast: vineyard and vintage are both readily apparent in a wine more so than yeast; and certainly farming practices such as leaf-removal or winemaker decisions such as whole-cluster maceration or the proportion of new oak can be observed in the final wine while the yeast choice is at best a point of speculation.
SLG: Why do some wine-makers choose to ferment with various native strains separately and then blend later? What limitations do you see with that technique?
MT: Each fermentation vessel, be it a tank of barrel, is its own unique environment. The native flora resident in the inside surface of the vessel, or residing on the grapes will compete for the nutrients in must. Some microbes will defeat others, and flavors will diverge from what one might assume casually are identical fermentations. With these divergent fermentations a winemaker has more 'ingredients' to work with when it comes time to assemble the blend. This level of attention is more likely associated with making small batches of wine. It is not scalable.
SLG: Please tell us a little bit about your wine-making philosophy and the main differentiators between your philosophy and the philosophies at both ends of the spectrum from zero manipulation to consistency through science.
MT: Hanzell has a well-deserved reputation for cellar-worthiness, both for the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The philosophy informing the winemaking techniques through the five decades of Hanzell's history has always been in service to this reputation. I think it is particularly fascinating to understand just how technologically inclined and innovative Hanzell's founder James Zellerbach and his winemaker Brad Webb were in the 1950s when they began.
Bob Sessions, who made the wines at Hanzell for 30 years up until quite recently, embraced the science and chose to honor his forebears by only carefully diverting from their practices. The implications are intriguing in many ways, but take this one subject of yeast: Hanzell's Chardonnay has always been inoculated with an isolate from Montrachet. The sensibility of craftsmanship would seemingly be at odds with the use of just such an industrially-produced yeast. However, at the time of Hanzell's first vintage in 1957, the goal was to reproduce the singular flavors of Burgundy, a feat that had not been accomplished in California.
Their foremost pursuit was to make a wine to compare favorably with the Grand Crus. Only one or two wineries in all of the New World were pursuing this goal and certainly no market demand prevailed to differentiate their wine from their competitors by native fermentation.
A little more background on Michael Terrien: After UC Davis, Michael joined Acacia where he worked for nearly a decade before going to Hanzell. Now, he has a number of clients he consults for on winemaking while circling a close orbit around Hanzell. Before moving to California, Michael lived in Maine where he was born and raised.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
On my trip to Dundee, Oregon, we stopped into visit Duck Pond Cellars, on of the regions largest wineries. Arriving onto the grounds in late Fall, you could see the remains of the once beautiful rose garden that has been encroached upon by the ravages of the approaching winter.
Entering the well appointed tasting room and gift shop, we were greeted by our hostess who invited us to a tasting and enlightened us about the winery. The flight included their 2005 Riesling and the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon. Then our hostess put two glasses on the table and gave us a side by side tasting of their 2006 Pinot Noir ($20) and their Pinot Noir St Jory Vineyard ($40).
The 2006 Pinot Noir is blended from grapes sourced from their Washington and Oregon vineyards. It was a bright and alive wine with cherry, strawberry, cloves and licorice with a good dose of acidity to make it crisp. A fairly good wine for the price.
Then I evaluated the Pinot Noir St Jory Vineyard and I finally got what Pinot Noir is all about. This wine was floral, spicy and rich with fruit and wood notes. Smooth tannins with a little less acid than the 2006. This was Heaven in a glass. I think I finally get Pinot Noir after this side-by-side comparison. The St Jory Pinot Noir is sourced from their vineyard in the hills south of Salem.
I saw that they also had a 2004 Barbera. Because they did such a great job crafting the other wines, I asked for a sample. It was excellent Barbera and my mother thought so much of it, she procured a bottle. Good job, mom.
If you are headed to Dundee, I would suggest a stop at Duck Pond Cellars. It was a fun tasting, the staff is friendly and the wines are excellent.
Monday, December 1, 2008
During the last TTL (Twitter Taste Live), we got to taste this little number - the vineyard designated Gap's Crown 2006 Pinot Noir from Humanitas. Unfortunately, my cable internet provider chose the evening of the event to have bandwidth issues so I wasn't able to tweet much about it. I think this wine would make an excellent gift this holiday season; not only because it's good wine but, because it's for a good cause. The wines of Humanitas are a delightful way to give a charitable gift that can also be enjoyed by the recipient.
On the evening of TTL, I opened the bottle and poured three ounces of Pinot into my Riedel 4400/7 about an hour before the tasting started. I found a full rich wine waiting for me when I picked it up. You have to let this wine warm up in a big round glass for a while. If you dive right in, you're likely to get a prickly reception as I did, when I poured a glass, slapdash, straight from the wine cellar the next evening. If not treated properly, this wine might remind you of the shy girl at the party that makes people say "what's up with her?" Fresh from the bottle, at 60 degrees, it is rather short, and just gives the sense that it could be a lot more interesting than it's being. But, if you let it hang out for a while, and give it some space, it starts to open up. By the last sip, there's a fully bloomed personality in your glass. Turns out this potentially dour Pinot Noir is actually a real dishy treat--full of chocolate, caramel, raspberry sauce, toasted coconut, a little violet, and even a long coffee-nip finish.
Humanitas Gap's Crown 2006
Varietal: Pinot Noir
AVA: Sonoma Coast
Price: $40 (profit goes to charity)
Aromas: Chocolate, toasted coconut, raspberry preserves, violet
Flavors: Spice, chocolate, raspberry, coffee, blueberry
Friday, November 28, 2008
I took a trip to Portland, Oregon to visit relatives. I was pleased to spend some time with my mother who flew out with me. Unfortunately, Taster B had to work and couldn’t make the trip.
Mom and I had some free time and I decided to take her out wine tasting. This was going to be an adventure because I know next to nothing about the wine regions of Oregon and have not been to the area in some 15 years.
The hotel had a Washington-Oregon wine region booklet, but I wasn’t finding much joy. I though that the graphics were nice, but that was about it. I did decide that Ponzi Vineyards might be within distance of the hotel and decided to consult the GPS. It was an 18 mile trip through Portland and should make a nice little day trip.
We arrived at Ponzi Vineyards at 10:30 in the morning. Stepping out of the car, the air was crisp and moist and the vineyards had the strange appearance of moss. This is truly the Pacific North West. Ponzi has a beautiful vineyard and a great tasting room. We were greeted by a little sign that said "please ring the bell." The voice cheerfully greeted us and the opened the tasting room. Our host was David Nielsen who introduced us to the flight and chatted with us.
The first wine was a Pinot Noir Rosato with lively flavors and very refreshing taste. So impressed was I, that I photographed the bottle.
Next was a Pinot Noir, which was an absolutely classic Pinot Noir followed by a really intriguing Chardonnay. In order to give you a reference point, I prefer Sauvignon Blanc to Chardonnay. I have had too many Chardonnays that disappointed me. This Chardonnay was so extraordinary that I forgot to photograph the bottle!
Our host David chatted with us about sniffing corks, serving wines, and wine making styles. This was among the top wine tasting experience that I’ve had and I would recommend Ponzi wines. If you are going to the area, put Ponzi on your short list.
David gave us instructions to visit Dundee, Oregon and stop into the Dundee Bistro. The restaurant is owned by the Ponzi family and is just a great place to have a fun dining experience. I had the Beer Battered Ling Cod and my mom had local sturgeon. The food was excellent, the service was great and the wine selection was fabulous. And remember, I live in a fishing village, so when I recommend a restaurant where I’ve had fish, it’s nothing to “throw back”.
I’ve learned a lot about what makes a good Pinot Noir on this trip. My former lack of excitement about this wine has been exacerbated by having lack luster Pinot Noir wines. Now that I have a good reference point, I’m more interested in Pinot Noir wines.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Let’s take a break from the holiday wine and food pairing frenzy for a moment, and look at a jazzy pairing of wine and, you guessed it, jazz (oh, did I give that away?)
First, just look at the parity between the label art and the album art here from the Verge 2006 Syrah, and the Verve very best of Christmas jazz album. The artwork alone should be enough to tell you that this is a good pairing. Then there are the names: Verve and Verge--Only one letter difference. Coincidence? Well, yes...
Verve is a cool jazz record label going way back. Verge is new cool wine label on the scene (and I’m saying that even before receiving the t-shirt I’ve been promised—also very cool, which is why I want one).
You can read all about Verge on their website but, here’s the skinny: Verge specializes in wild-fermentation small-lot hillside Sonoma Syrah from “the fringe.” I had the opportunity to sample some of the 2006 Syrah in October and I would say that Verge won the distinction of being distinctive in a room full of Sonoma Syrahs. There were herbal notes of lavender, and other scribbles I can’t make out from my notes, as well as, caramel, and orange infused chocolate. That's right--Not chocolate and orange separate. This is the chocolate orange you get in your Christmas stocking I'm talking about.
One final note: Syrah is a big jolly red wine. Santa is a big jolly man in a red suit. Yes, the parallels just go on and on... This wine and tunes pairing gets a groovy chill smiley-grape.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I’ve had several discussions with Peter Oldak, owner and wine maker of Jewell Towne Vineyards. He has a good heart and soul for what he does. He likes to make what he calls “honest wines”. Oaking and smoking wine is not his style, and in this age or formulating for wine scores, it seems that Peter is blissfully oblivious to that trend.
Peter uses all stainless steel fermentation and storage. Many of his wines are “American table wines", and I get excited about his whites and I think they are worth talking about. This is the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border we are talking about. This is ideal for cold climate grapes.
If the whites are worth mentioning, Peter expands his skills and makes a killer port and a kick-butt Vidal Ice Wine 2005. Some cold and snowy night, I’ll share the port with you, promise.
Tonight’s wine is his Vignoles table wine not to be confused with the 2007 Vignoles which we will pop open later.
Jewell Towne Winery
New Hampshire Table Wine
Price: ~$10 to $12
Intensity: Moderate for a white
Aromas: Honey, pear, straw, butterscotch, apple, litchi,
Flavors: Lemon, melon, honey, butterscotch, pear, guava, tangerine, hint of tobacco
Body: Moderately full
Finish: Moderately long
Summary: Mmmm, an interesting combination of tropical, citrus and butterscotch. It has a very round mouth feel, but also a cleanness, with explosive flavors. It is 25 deg F outside, not what I think would be white wine weather, but I’m just enjoying this. As with many Jewell Towne Wines, it is on the sweet side, think lemon sorbet. Nice and refreshing.
I heard Taster B say this would go good with spicy Asian food. I think I’m happy to have this on its own, just as an aperitif. I’m thinking about a warm fire with a cold wine and good music going. Just turn off the tube, close the laptop and enjoy.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Twitter Taste Live at the original time (third Thursday of the month) is tomorrow and this time Dr. Vino puts a green spin on things. We're drinking local and saying no to Nouveau!
Then check in on the same channel on Friday night for the Twitter Taste Live Drink Charitibly event featuring wines from Humanitas!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
This is a wine that my wine shop proprietor recommended based on my request for "something nuanced." He told me it is one of his current favorites. There's no doubt about it--this is an exceptionally well made wine. A blend of 42% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Franc, and 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, this Bordeaux-style blend is both subtle and strong. In fact, it was so enjoyable that I didn't bother taking notes so now I have to go by spotty memory...
Fall Line Winery Red Wine
Variety: Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Blend
AVA: Horse Heaven Hills
Aromas: Plum, cherry, lavender,
Flavors: Lavender, tomato, boysenberry, spice
Summary: A nicely balanced wine with layers of distinct aroma and flavor (hence the nuance). While the nose is a little bit reminiscent of a new world style Côtes du Rhône, the flavor has hints of a Loire Cab Franc. It doesn't hit the hard-core level of iodine of a Loire red but the savory tomato characteristics are there combined with woody herbs like lavender, and soft flavors of purple berry. This wine gets a smiley-grape.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Wondering what to give the wine lover in your life? There are dozens of cool wine gadgets and serving pieces to choose from, the problem is, the person you're shopping for may already have all that stuff! I'm still trying to figure out a tactful way of sending my Amazon wishlist to the people on my gift exchange list, but that's another story...
Consumables are a safe bet. If the wine lover on your list lives in a ship-to state, a gift certificate from a cool online wine boutique like Domaine 547, or a wine outlet like Bin Ends Wine is the perfect gift. Bin Ends can legally ship inside Massachusetts too--bonus!
Now here's something I really need and I wouldn't mind finding in my stocking at all: Wine Wipes! Yes, some may scoff at the idea of portable teeth/lip wipes, but I think it's brilliant! I hate trying to laugh with my mouth closed after drinking a mega-purple wine! Who wants to go around looking like an extra in one of those films set in eighteenth century Edinburough?
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Here's another goofy wine commercial vintage 1979 for Gold Seal Chablis Nature reminiscent of the Miller Lite/Reese's Peanut Butter Cups genre (you'll see what I mean). The French Wine Masters referenced in this ad were actually Charles Fournier, from Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin, and Dr. Frank. Check out this article from the New York Times archives for a little more of the history of New York wine.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
This month Joe over at 1WineDude is hosting Wine Blogging Wednesday, the monthly event where wine bloggers write on a theme chosen by the host. This month's theme is cooked wine (not the bad kind). Madeira is unique in that it is exposed to heat during the wine-making process as well as being fortified. The fortification stops the fermentation process, and raises the alcohol level making it perfect for those bothersome long sea voyages aboard a man-of-war. Oh... Perfect because it resists spoilage, of course. It was one of the favorite imports of Great Britain and her colonies in the 18th century. In fact, Madeira actually owes its style to its sea-faring past: Vinho da roda was Madeira that had made the roundtrip on a sea voyage and its transformed flavors were preferred to the stuff straight off the island. So, producers developed methods to imitate on land, the jostling and heating effect of a voyage at sea.
By the way, I had the pleasure of meeting the Wine Dude, along with Mrs. Dude and the little dudette (such a chill baby) at the Wine Bloggers Conference in October. Joe is one cool cat, so check out his blog if you haven't (which you probably have because it's notorious).
Anyway, back to the Madeira. We tried the Blandy's Verdelho Reserve. According to wikipedia, Verdelho is characterized by smokey notes and high acidity. Reserve just means it was aged for a minimum of five years and the classification is 'bottom of the barrel', so to speak. The classifications go up from there. The name pretty much says it all for the Blandy's Verdelho: Blandy. Rhymes with brandy. It has a brandy-like nutty aroma nose, and the flavor? Bland. Sorry, I guess that is to be somewhat expected with Verdelho which is a milder style but, this pretty much tasted like fancy juice-box. I didn't find it smokey and the acidity was about the equivalent of apple raspberry Juicy Juice. A little harsh maybe but, I guess I'm still a little pissed that I spent thirty bucks on this grog. Unfortunately, it was either this or a $40 bottle of Blandy's.
I could see using this Madeira for canning cherries or marinating fruit, or pouring over a fruit cake or something. At $2.31 a gallon, I could also see filling my gas tank with thirty dollars, but hey, what's done is done.
Thanks again to 1WineDude for hosting this month's theme. I'm sorry I couldn't pick a winner Joe, but I hope you are enjoying yours.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Grape Variety: Nero d'Avola
Aromas: blackberry, bramble, floral, smoked meat
Flavors: cherry, blackberry, fig, blueberry, tomato
Summary: This is a fun wine. There are lots of yummy layers of fruit and spice on the nose along with a floral component that reminds me of Bounce dryer sheets. The flavor is really savory like tomato but also has lush fruit components, and just the right balance of tannins (I'm so burned out on tough wines right now). The finish is long and playful, with pure blueberry aftertaste. I love this wine. This wine makes me happy. You can't put a price tag on that.
Monday, November 10, 2008
(Forgive me, having a little illumation moment there...) A really big Twitter Taste Live event is scheduled for November 21st. What is Twitter Taste Live? It's a monthly (sometime bi-weekly, sometimes weekly) virtual live wine tasting event, and it is the brain-child of Bin Ends Wine.
Who can participate in Twitter Taste Live? You! Me! Everybody!
This is a really special TTL because Humanitas Wines, LENNDEVOURS.com, Twittermoms.com, and drinkcharitably.com have joined to bring Drink Charitably to Twitter Taste Live! The wines for the event can be purchased directly from Humanitas for $45 and include:
2006 Sauvignon Blanc-Monterey
2007 Chardonnay "Oak Free"-Monterey
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon-Paso Robles
Who will benefit from your participation in Drink Charitably? Humanitas donates all the profits from their wine sales to chapters of America's Second Harvest, Habitat for Humanity and Reading is Fundamental in the wine purchaser's local region! So, the beneficiaries of your participation are your local community and YOU!
What do you have to do to participate? You will need a free Twitter account, and you'll want to follow @LENNDEVOURS, @twittermoms, and @binendswine at a minimum (oh, and @smellslikegrape!) You can also track all the hip hashtag action on the live #ttl stream over on the official Twitter Taste Live site. There's also a complete list there of participants to follow on Twitter. Alright, this post is positively lousy with links so, I'm going to stop now. Just one last thing: These events are fun, fun, fun! Where else can you taste wines with a bunch of cool bloggers and wine lovers from the comfort of your own home?
Saturday, November 8, 2008
This Albariño is also from the Rias Baixas region of Spain. Very similar to the Burgaño and equally as appealing so check out that post for trivia. I would recommend this wine. It’s a bit pricy but remember that the Albariño grape needs some extra T.L.C.
Rias Baixas Denominación de Origen
Aromas: Melon, lemon, passion fruit, apple, litchi, mushroom, hay
Flavors: Lemon, grapefruit, fig, hazelnut, butter, wet stone
Summary: This is a very refreshing wine with a citrus-Granny Smith quality. Nice and tart. The wine then mellows in the mouth with a buttery quality. This is very palate cleansing, much like a sorbet.
I would serve this with lightly seasoned food. I would just love to have some Baked Haddock right now. Or some Crab Louie or Snow Crab claws, red snapper, lox and capers or perhaps, pasta primavera. Another dish that would be fun to have with this is Chicken Picante, or shrimp cocktail, and maybe if you want to go nutso-cuckoo, antipasti.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Another book by power wine blogger and professor Tyler Colman (AKA Dr. Vino) is hitting the shelves just in time for the holidays. I had the opportunity preview A Year of Wine this week. My initial impression of A Year of Wine is that it is like a print version of a wine blog, except rather than being organized by region or grape variety, it's organized by season and month.
There's a little bit of everything in this book--all pretty basic stuff for the most part but, not without its interesting tid-bits. Wish you knew what to serve at your Super Bowl party? Flip to February. Looking for the perfect hot-dog pairing? Flip to June. The book is laid out and formatted like a textbook oriented around the months of the year, and provides plenty of room in the margins for taking notes!
I liked Colman's emphasis on context for drinking wine. The following passage from the introduction sets up the focus for the rest of the book: "...too often, a wine itself is taken as fixed and unchanging because of a numerical rating that a critic gave it and that it carries with it from meal to meal, year to year." The text is also spiked with several one page Sommelier Surveys that reveal a variety of viewpoints on wine drinking context, and seasonal wine pairings to keep this theme in focus.
Besides specific wine recommendations for each season, Colman throws in a lot of his practical tips and advice on everything from wine accessorizing to bargain hunting. He also makes mention of a number of online wine resources that wine lovers may not be familiar with if they haven't spent much time reading wine blogs.
The book is written in a breezy somewhat "bloggish" style which is a departure from the style of Wine Politics. I think confirmed wine enthusiasts will get more out of Wine Politics than they would from A Year of Wine. Still, fans of the Dr. Vino blog will certainly want to have this book around for a handy reference, or buy it as a gift for the wine newbie on their list.
In closing, and by way of offering a small preview, below is my favorite bit of jauntiness from A Year of Wine which is actually a heading from the February chapter:
"Rose Champagne: It's not just for heart-shaped jacuzzis anymore" -Tyler Colman, A Year of Wine
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Oh boy, it's time for the agonizing over what wine to serve with turkey again! What is it about turkey that makes us sweat the wine pairing? Is it just the combination of white and dark meat on the same carcass? The hefty weight of tradition, perhaps? Or, maybe it's just the anticipation of impending scrutiny. Will you serve the old standby Beaujolais Nouveau? Or, something more trendy, like a Pinot Noir? I cannot advise you in such delicate matters. In some cases, lives may be at stake.
Speaking of white meat/dark meat, last month in Sonoma County I tried a dry Rosé of Sangiovese. It kind of made me think of turkey actually: It had the firm richness of a Sangiovese, and the juiciness of a Rosé. Okay, time to talk turkey:
Alexander Valley Vineyard
AVA: Alexander Valley, Sonoma County
Aromas: Peach, vanilla, amaretto
Flavors: Grapefruit zest, peach, melon
Would have liked to spend more time with this wine than I did but, there were about 50 others to taste. It has nice aromas, flavors and mouthfeel and I would definitely buy a bottle or four of this Rosé for a relaxed family gathering over an ecclectic holiday spread.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I find pretty much all wine advertising cheesy but, if this ad is any indication of what TV viewers in France have endured, why should legislators stop at banning alcohol advertising on the internet? I wouldn't blame them if they banned wine ads completely! Si vulgaire! ;)
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
We picked this bottle up last spring when we visited the Hudson Valley. It's actually a Long Island wine but, Rivendell sells wines from all over New York and we'd been happy with a Cab Franc we had from this producer before.
If you're into trying New York wines, I think this bottle is worth the $10.50 we paid. Do I sound a little hesitant? Okay, the truth is, this isn't a stellar example of varietal character. I got Long Island wine blogger Lenn Thompson's (from Lenndevours.com) take on it: He asked me what vintage it was, and whether the label said "North Fork" on it. I replied that it was a 2004 and it did say "North Fork." He explained that in 2003/04 Palmer had to get a lot of fruit from California because of a poor harvest, and that it was a cool year. He also said the Palmer wines sells for around $20 at the winery. Good to know--I'm glad I consulted him.
So, what we have here is a true North Fork vintage, but from a cool year. Luckily, it wasn't $20, it was $10.50 which is only a few dollars more than you'd pay for a homogenized, mass-produced fermented grape-juice product. Here are the tasting notes:
Palmer 2004 Merlot
Aromas: Cranberry, cherry, smoked meat, barnyard
Flavors: Tart cherry, veg, licorice
Summary: This wine isn't particularly Merlot-esque and I guess the cool 2004 temps are partly to blame for that. It's a little brighter and more vegetal than what you'd find in a typical soft and rounded Merlot. The nose on this wine is a blend of tart red fruit and herbal notes with some barnyard in there as well. On the palate there is quite a lot of cherry: Tart cherry on the front, and canned cherry on the moderate finish with a hint of black licorice that almost goes toward petrol. Good balance of acidity and tannins that mostly carries through to the finish. By the second day, I pick up some tomato on the nose, and some of the tartness and finish has dissipated. It's definitely ready to drink now--some visible oxidation can be seen at the edge in the glass. I haven't had many New York wines, but this seems pretty true to type for the region if not the variety. A solid NY wine for the price.
Monday, November 3, 2008
...Or maybe it means what you think it means, and I don't know what it means. So, what is the word, and what does it mean?
At the Wine Bloggers Conference the last weekend of October, I tasted a lot of wines and talked to a lot of winery people. There was a term being bandied about quite a bit with regard to some of the Syrahs and Pinot Noirs. The term?
Okay, I know that we can probably infer the meaning of this term. Since I was tasting the wines as they were being described, my inference was that high toned means more or less the same thing as when I say a wine tastes bright. I also heard someone say "high toned red fruit" with strawberry as an example. But, I want to know if there's anything more to it. Is this the same thing as talking about top notes in perfume? According to Tanzer's Wine Glossary, and the Wine Lover's Page, "high toned" refers to a low level of Volatile Acidity (AKA aroma of vinegar) that, in excess, is a flaw but that in low levels can heighten the fruity aromas of a wine.
What about that strawberry taste? I looked that up too on Plant Physiology (Thanks AbleGrape!) and it tells me that strawberry (in addition to most fruit) flavor is a Volatile Ester.
So, maybe there's a slight distinction to be made between "high toned" and "high toned red fruit." You could have high toned purple fruit, for example, although nobody ever says that (wonder why?). Anyway, I think we get the gist.
I mainly bring this topic up because there is a tendency to use jargon in any field, and jargon has a tendency to proliferate by inference rather than by explicit definition. When it comes to wine consumers, wine jargon is part of the intimidation factor with wine. So, does asking the definition of a wine term make me or you a wine noob? Maybe, but who cares? The only way to become knowledgeable is to learn, right?
p.s. The title of this post is a quote from Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride (1987).
Sunday, November 2, 2008
A little bit about what is happening in my life. Folks that follow Taster B on Twitter probably know by now that she went to the Wine Bloggers Conference without me. There have been rumors that I have branched out on my own splitting off SMU and ditching Taster B for the more profitable Outdoor/Wildlife photography blogging scene.
Well if the truth be known, the semiconductor equipment industry is in a cyclical downturn, spurred on by the housing-credit card-bank bail-out macro-economic situation. I’ve been forced to take vacations during scheduled shutdowns and didn’t have the extra time to take in October.
What most do not realize is that the teenage market has been saturated with Play Stations and cell phones, thus the chip market has become glutted, prices have dropped and the chip manufacturers are not buying capital equipment. Yes, my job exists to enable teenaged girls to text each other.
With that said, I owe all an apology. One year, three days, four hours and 26 minutes ago, I promised you that I would review the Imagery Sunny Slope Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Sorry to keep you all waiting so long. (If you can wait for the Squirrel Nut Zippers Hell to finish, I think Dave Brubeck’s Blue Rondo a la Turk is on queue. That should be more appropriate music to accompany the evaluation this wine.)
Rather than repeat myself (this makes Taster B nervous, thinking that I’m loosing it), you can read about Imagery in our earlier post.
Imagery Estate Winery
AVA: Sonoma Valley
Aromas: Roses and violets, cherry and cassis. Hints of coffee, stone, vanilla, hay, mild oak.
Flavors: Cassis, dried cherry, raisin, licorice, coffee, tobacco
Sweetness: Off dry
Summary: This wine is not overly complex, but what is there I really like. The wine just smells like a garden on a hot summer day conjuring images of bees flying around. This has developed a cassis cordial quality. The cherry is there, but think of dark, dried cherries. I like the Imagery concept and enjoy their wines.
I’m just happy to sit here and drink this wine without food. However, I would pair this with dark chocolate, roast beef Wellington, game dishes such as venison or wild boar.
Post Script: No really, where the hell has Taster A been?
I heard that folks were asking about me in Sonoma and I am touched. In the last few weeks, I have been working on photo projects, one culminated in a posting of 17th and 18th century head stonesfor Halloween. It was tastefully done and folks have responded very well to it. Stop by, if you have a chance.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Tonight Taster A and I will observe our annual tradition of watching Sleepy Hollow followed by Mad Monster Party. I don't have any spooky wine so, we'll just have to play it by ear!
Please enjoy this short Animagic clip featuring creepy cooking. Happy Halloween!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Yeah, that title is sensationalized--I do that sometimes. I actually have to give props to Gary Vaynerchuk for flying out to Sonoma for the Wine Bloggers Conference on his own time (think he was in the area for one day) to give a keynote to us rabble rowsers. His actions truly are as inspiring as his words (if not more). He's just a hard, hard worker, bottom line.
That being said, I'm afraid this video by Tim Zahner stole the show, just a little bit. Check it out. (Warning: If you've never watched Wine Library TV, you won't get it)
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Having read about Saralee's Vineyard over a year ago, I was pretty excited to have the opportunity to visit during the Wine Blogging Conference. She's kind of a big deal in Sonoma County. Saralee greeted us and gave us the lay of the land and then handed us off to wine-makers Rod Berglund, and Daniel Moore to lead a hike. They both source grapes from Saralee. Daniel gets the coveted Roller Coaster Ridge Pinot Noir and Rod takes the Pinot Gris from Turkey Hill. Rod does loose some fruit to the wild turkeys if you were curious.
As we walked, Rod and Daniel talked about the local soil types, and the fog patterns that set the Russian River Valley AVA apart stating "fog is the one unifying factor." They also both talked at length about the controversial Gallo petition to expand the AVA. The Russian River Valley Winegrowers Association is taking no official stand on this matter, and I'm sure I don't blame them (*see Wine & Politics). A full write up on this petition before the TTB has been posted at Appellation America.
We were served a tasty spread including homegrown heirloom tomatoes (in homemade wine vinegar), homegrown figs, sandwiches and homemade aioli and mayo. Of course, both wine-makers poured us some of their wines as well.
As we enjoyed our lunch, Saralee came to our table and our Zephyr guide coaxed her into telling us (humbly) of her work volunteering with the student vineyard for El Molino High School. The students grow the grapes and local wineries take care of the vinification and sales. All the proceeds go back into the program. Last year, they sold 50 cases of their Lion's Pride label to the Bohemian Club which I thought was quite something. Some of us at the table were ready to re-enroll in high school! It's just really cool that kids in the valley have the opportunity to be immersed in the wine growing industry that surrounds their community.
image courtesy of Russian River Valley Winegrowers Foundation
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I don't know why it's always surprising to learn of the profound influence of politics over our lives. From the title, I thought I was in for a rehash of circumstances I was already somewhat familiar with but, I was definitely in for a surprise. For a summary of Wine Politics by Tyler Colman, the subtitle says it all: How Governments, Environmentalists, Mobsters, and Critics Influence the Wines We Drink. However, whatever opinion you form about what that content entails is most likely influenced by an understanding of the wine industry that has been shaped by PR to some degree, no matter how much of the sordid history of bootleggers and liquor lobbyists you are familiar with already. In short, this is stuff you probably did not know.
What I found in this book were many stories that I was aware of already from reading Matt Kramer and the like but, with an added layer of detail that illuminated everything from the formation of the French Appellations, to how distributors maneuver in an entirely new light. The author, Tyler Colman (aka Dr. Vino) weaves together many observable and oft discussed conditions in the wine industry with little-known catalysts to form some pretty stark revelations.
He admits in the Forward a tendency toward a dry academic tone but, compared to the book I'm reading right now for a course, I found this book to be a breath of fresh air. It's also short, which makes it an easy read. I am recommending this book to anyone interested in learning about wine.
Thanks to Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20 for both choosing this book for review, and for founding the Wine Book Club.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Wow! I can't believe this is the first chance I've had to post anything about the weekend I just had! I just rolled into Boston this morning at 6:45am from sunny Sonoma County where I attended the first North American Wine Bloggers Conference.
I can't even begin to go into everything that happened in the two and a half short days of the conference, but the biggest highlight for me was definitely meeting a lot of wonderful wine bloggers and industry people who I've only known by avatar up until this point. I just wish there'd been enough time to meet and get to know everyone. There are several people that I respect who's hand I never actually got a chance to shake.
And, what would a Wine Bloggers conference be without wine. As this week progresses, I will post about some of the over two hundred wines (no I didn't even come close to sampling them all) wines on offer that stood out for me. But, for now, I'm closing in on 25 hours since I slept in an actual bed, and I'm looking forward to going to sleep in my own timezone. Nightie-night!
Friday, October 17, 2008
Good Albariño is grown near the sea on the Atlantic Coast. Rias Baixas is located on the Northern Portugal boarder. This offers Atlantic breezes to cool the grapes during the evening. The Albariño wines are softly perfumed, have real depth and interest. The grapes are grown on a system where the vines are strung overhead in a canopy fashion with the grapes hanging down. This keeps the blistering sun off the grapes and allows good circulation. Albariño vines tend to be low yielding and the wines may tend to be a little pricy. This bottle is not a concern. I’m happy to pay the price for what we received.
A minor factoid; this Albariño started out on the western coast of Spain on the Atlantic. Taster B and I are enjoying it on the eastern coast of Massachusetts. Pictured here is the Albariño with a background of the Atlantic with the peach colored sunsets that we get here this time of year.
Rias Baixas Denominacion de Orixe
Aromas: Melon, peach, pear, guava, vanilla, mushroom, ash, hazel nut, pineapple
Flavors: Lemon, grapefruit, nutmeg, kiwi, passion fruit, guava, peach.
Sweetness: Off dry
Summary: This is our first Albariño. It is crisp, light, bright, zesty and complex. It is like a Pinot Grigio/Gewürztraminer blend. The flavors and aromas explode out of the glass. This is a really fun wine.
Tonight we had this with dirty rice. I would recommend this with salmon, haddock, seared tuna, chicken picante, or pasta primavera. This would also do well with cheese and crackers. A very versatile wine.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
It's hard to believe that one week from tonight I will be en route to the first North American Wine Blogger's Conference in Sonoma! It's been a year since Taster A and I were last in Sonoma. I'm really excited to meet all the wine bloggers that I've been getting to know on Twitter for the last ten months. Sadly, Taster A has to stay home and work but, the good news is I get to share a room with Sonadora from Wannabe Wino which should be a blast!
Technically, the European Wine Bloggers Conference at the end of August was the first conference of wine bloggers. That conference was held in Rioja and a lot of wine bloggers watching from this side of the pond started to get really excited about the upcoming conference in Sonoma when we saw how much fun they were having! The conference agenda is packed and guest speakers Gary Vaynerchuck (last time I checked) and Alice Feiring definitely have attendees all fired up! I hope to learn a lot and come back with lots of ideas about how to make this blog *even* better.
Also one week from tonight is the fourth Twitter Taste Live featuring Jed Steele! I have to miss it because I'll be in-flight but plenty of tweeps in the wine 2.0 community will be participating and if last month's event is any indicator, it should be a riotous good time. Anyone can participate but time is running out to order the packs from Bin Ends. Even if you don't have the wines, it's still fun to tune into the twitter-stream and watch the progression of tipplings and tweets.
Monday, October 13, 2008
AVA: Venezie I.G.T.
Aromas: Peach, lemon, pineapple, pear
Flavors: Lemon zest, pear, tangerine
Summary: This wine seems a bit austere. There is a citrus aspect to this wine but it didn’t quite make sense to me until the chicken came out of the oven. This wine needs food to bring out the qualities. With dinner it smoothed out and took on a more floral and vanilla quality. We had it with roasted chicken, and Basmati rice with greens. The acidity provided good palate cleansing. Will this be the last Pinot Grigio until next summer?
Thursday, October 9, 2008
I've had a few really good technically perfect wines, and they always remind me of the body of a sports car; smooth, fluid, luxurious and seductive but, likewise, slightly impenetrable in their high-gloss gleam. They're nice, but for me, they don't necessarily provide what I'm looking for in a great wine. I suppose you could call what I'm after "character" but, then again, I don't want to say a Ferrari wine doesn't have character. Although, I did say on Twitter the other day that in terms of wine, I'd prefer a gypsy housetruck to a Ferrari... I guess what I'm really looking for in a great wine is the unfolding of a narrative hitherto unimagined. I prefer a mystery machine.
I know I’m not the first one to ponder perfection versus personality in wine (or art) but, I think the notion bears repeating. I’m sure a lot of us have heard similar comparisons drawn between wine and music, such as, what is more stirring, a technically perfect execution of a Mozart concerto, or an emotional interpretation? I guess it's debatable. The other night on NPR for example, classical music critic Tom Manoff praised pianist Andras Schiff for not "wallowing" in emotion and for letting Beethoven's music shine through...
Anyway, I’m all for perfection in machines and other man-made structures; cars, blenders, architecture, government, etc. Yeah, I know wine is “man-made” to a point, but I prefer to think of a winemaker more as the steward of the grape’s transition from soil to fermented juice, and less as the designer--even if economic pressures render that vision somewhat compromised in reality. Ideally though, the job of the winemaker is to facilitate this transformation, with the goal of allowing the wine to achieve its fullest expression without training it to some predetermined blueprint. Oh sure, intervention may still be called for if the juice hits a crisis along it’s way, but other than that, it’s allowed to be who it is, and who it is is for it to know, and us to find out. That's what I really mean when I say I prefer a one-of-a-kind rambler of a wine to a precision performance wine...
Or maybe it's just that, deep down, I'm a sucker for a sweet tricked out conversion van.
Image by: Nambassa Trust and Peter Terry
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
For those reading in on Shooting My Universe, Wine Blogging Wednesday is a monthly tradition where wine bloggers all over the world blog on the same topic. Our WBW host this month Russ, from Winehiker Wititculture wants us to come up with a hike and a matching wine for this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday.
On Harry Chapin’s first album Heads and Tails, he had a song Dogtown. Dogtown is an actual location in Gloucester Massachusetts. Harry liked to write songs that told stories. Taxi, Cat’s in the Cradle, Mr. Tanner, Thirty Thousand Pounds of Bananas just to name a couple.
Well, Dogtown is a song about a woman who is widowed in Gloucester and it gives a little history about the area. I didn't understand the song when I first heard it, but when I rediscovered it after moving to Gloucester, I had an epiphany.
Today, Dogtown is set aside for a watershed and for hiking, horseback riding and biking. You can read about this interesting chunk of land on the Dogtown Massachusetts page on Wikipedia.org.
During the depression, a man named Roger Babson commissioned out of work stone cutters to carve inscriptions in rocks in Dogtown. These have become known as Babson Rocks.
I’m still clearing out the effects of the flu that hit me last Friday. My sensory capabilities are not up to speed yet. I had a wonderful Heitz wine picked out for this posting, but we’re saving it for when my nose isn’t in a sling and my tongue isn’t on crutches. I do have a wine that I bought two bottles of last January. I’m going to have a glass while I sort through some photos I took in Dogtown.
Domaine Le Pigeonnier 2005
Côtes du Rhône
Color: Deep Ruby-Purple
Grapes: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre
You can read about Domaine Le Pigeonnier 2005 on our earlier post.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Okay, you guys, I need your help with this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday. Our favorite Wine Witiculturalist Russ, from Winehiker Wititculture wants us to come up with a hike and a matching wine for this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday. Russ conducts Wine Hikes in California and I can't think of anything more perfect than a nature walk in wine country followed by a great local wine. I think this month's WBW theme is a great idea and great way of getting Wine Bloggers out on the trail!
We got out on the trail but, here's where we need help: See, it's Fall here in New England, and it's, well it's not truly cold yet, but it's crisp. When considering what beverage we would enjoy after our nature walk, we weren't sure but we thought it should probably be from a thermos--and hot. We were coming up with things like mulled cider, or cocoa, but we just couldn't think of a wine for our walk. So, I'm asking you, dear reader, to look at the photos below from our walk at the Parker River Wildlife Refuge and give us some suggestions on what wine you could imagine yourself drinking in this setting. Russ is giving extra credit for local wines (local for us would be Massachusetts) but, anything goes!
The Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is located on Plum Island which lies between Newburyport and Ipswich, MA. It is separated from the mainland by an estuary. Our friend, a wildlife photographer from Florida was in town so we met up with him so the guys could do some bird photography (that's them on the trail above).
There aren't that many bird species hanging around this time of year but, a good time was still had by all. We saw dozens of Monarch butterflies gorging on what we believe was goldenrod. They were really tolerant and afforded us some great close-up views. The Plum Island light was erected in 1898 next to the site of an older "Bug" light which had been moved several times due to shifting sand dunes. The lighthouse is accessible without entering the Wildlife Refuge.
Don't forget to add your wine suggestions for a Plum Island nature walk in the Comments, and thanks for your help!