Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Côtes du Rhône Rocks

Who's with me? I love this stuff. Tonight we opened a bottle of Côtes du Rhône Rubis 2005 which we picked up after a Rhone Tasting at Gordon's in Waltham, Mass.

I was reading a post on Tom Wark's blog today where he was comparing wine evaluation to music preferences; in essence making the point that wine appreciation, like art appreciation, is subjective. I would go a step further and say that beyond just being subjective from one individual to the next, our personal reaction is volatile too. Just as a song may send chills up your spine the first time you listen to it, but not the second time, wine can come at you in a lot of different ways as this wine did.

So, here are the official 'objectively' written tasting notes:

Aromas: Cherry, cassis, blackberry, rosemary, violet, mint
Flavors: Cassis, cherry, rosemary, cedar, olive

Summary: Nice supple fruit on the nose is rounded out with garrigue garnish. Fruit hits the tip of your tongue and turns to chewy herbal flavors on the mid-palate with medium body. Medium long finish with hints of cedar and tobacco.

...and here is the review I twittered earlier this evening which is more or less an impressionistic snapshot of an aesthetic moment which occurred in the midst of an hour long interaction with this wine (IOW, how I would paint this wine with words):

Smells like grape jelly on baked red earth from Taos, w/ orange zest & granulated garlic. Tastes like thorny rose & BBQd lavendar. BAM!

Either way, great wine and spectacular value at $12.99.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Giving a Packie Another Try

Taster B wanted to do some food shopping. Most of the time she doesn’t want me along. When I shop it’s like executing a football play. Head for the produce, swing by the meat, pick up some pasta, cut over to the dairy, check for salsa sales and I’m done. With Taster B, it’s more like painting a landscape. Dabble over here, work on this section over there, and back to dabbling. This isn’t to say it should be done my way. No, we’re different. I drive her nuts. In order to preserve marital harmony, I proposed to go into the packie next door.

We’ve been to this packie several times, it’s a great place to buy beer. The last time we were in there was after our last trip to Sonoma. There was a young gal running a tasting of a couple of wines. She was keeping a smile on her face, but it was a tough crowd.

After a string of beer patrons verbalizing their dislike for the wine, I figured that she could use some good wine conversation. She was admittedly inexperienced and was fascinated with our evaluation of the chardonnay. “Hmmm…citrus, pineapple, pear, apple, oak…” I could see Taster B’s eyes roll in her head with that “there he goes again” look.

Behind the counter was a man in his early twenties. He had a Boston Red Sox cap on, a big fellow. He was interested in what we were discussing with the young lady. We purchased a bottle of the chardonnay. (It was actually nice, refreshing and good for the price.) The clerk behind the counter said, “I’m going to have to take a course.” That was last November.

When I went in, the same man was there with his Red Sox cap and we struck up a conversation. He asked me if he could help me find something. “Well, I’m interested in trying something different. I haven’t had much Malbec, what would you suggest.” Then he started to talk about the different Malbecs (with certainty and enthusiasm) and pointed out the Bundini and admitted that he didn’t know much about it. Then he pointed the Gascón Malbec and recommended this one. Something was different with this guy.

Click to enlarge. (c)2008 SmellsLikeGrape

Then we small talked a bit. Seems that his boss has been sending him to a wine course, two hours per week and he’s learning about geographical regions, soil types, grapes…wow. Kudos to this him for doing this and I’m happy this packie is taking wine seriously.

Let’s see how he did with his recommendation.

Click to enlarge. (c)2008 SmellsLikeGrapeMalbec
Mendoza, Argentina
Vintage: 2007
Alcohol: 14.2%
Price: $12.99

Color: Deep Garnet
Aromas: Pomegranate, cranberry, plum, violet, smoked meat
Flavors: Blueberry, mulberry, pomegranate, olive, charcoal, earth, anise, allspice, oak coffee, chocolate
Body: Full
Sweetness: Dry
Tannins: Leather
Finish: Long

Summary: A little tight at first but decanting opened it up. The flavors are rather striking. The dark Bing cherry, blueberry, mulberry, pomegranate and mocha are predominant. Decanting brought out the spiciness. This wine is bold in its flavors and is a little rough around the edges which decanting helped. This is a 2007 (keep in mind that Argentina harvest is in our springtime).

Tonight, we had authentic Mexican burritos. The Malbec paired perfectly. The wine is complex enough to be interesting. The color is marvelous. It is young and brash and demands food of this nature. Enjoy it with friends.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

NY State Wine Tasting Room

Turns out there is a Tasting Room in the Hudson River Valley where you can sample wines from all over New York: Rivendell Winery in New Paltz, NY. Besides their own wines, they have 75 wines from the Hudson Valley, Long Island, and the Finger Lakes. Like all the wineries we visited, there is a charge for tasting but, here you get many more choices because all the offerings are open and available to taste. Also, they will apply your tasting charge toward any purchase above $50.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Hudson Valley Table Wines!

When last we left the Hudson Valley Wine Trail adventure, we had just got done with a dessert wine tasting and were wondering where we would find some Hudson Valley table wine…

We found it, a little further east at Millbrook on Wing Road. The approach winds us through a small hill-planted vineyard to the winery at the top of the hill where we are met by greeters-a-plenty. It was pick up day for Club members who’d purchased Williams Selyem futures hence the abundant staff on hand. We had two friendly greetings outside, and were whisked inside to the Club counter to purchase our tour and tasting tickets.

Millbrook Vineyards is on the site of a former 130 acre dairy farm and the first vines were planted about 25 years ago. Currently, Millbrook has 30 acres planted to Chardonnay, Tocai Friulano, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc. The Millbrook wine family also owns Vista Verde Vineyards in California’s Central Coast (near Gilroy), Villa Pillo in Tuscany, and Williams Selyem in the Russian River Valley AVA.

We got to taste one of the Vista Verde offerings (a Chardonnay) which exhibited tropical fruit on the nose and chalk and mineral on the palate. I would have liked to taste some Villa Pillo wine but, we did get to sample their excellent olive oil. We also tasted a Pinot Noir which featured aromas and flavors of cherry, pomegranate, and raspberry with a hint of bell pepper; a Merlot with juniper berry on the nose along with other earthy aromas, iodine on the palate and a mint/leather finish (more of that bell pepper as well); and finally a Cab Franc with aromas of smoked meat, blackberry and currant that were also echoed on the palate along with allspice and leather, and some green flavors.

Overall, the wines we tasted from the Millbrook Vineyard were very lean and expressive of the terroir. The grapes are harvested at 22 brix resulting in slightly more acidic very dry wines with many vegetal notes. We tasted several wines from the 2006 vintage which could be a tad young yet and would probably benefit from time in the bottle but, if you are a fan of Loire Valley reds, I would definitely recommend seeking out Millbrook, especially if you are in the Northeast (Think Global. Eat Local). If you aren’t a fan of lean, green, short-season wines (no budbreak yet here), then Millbrook may not be for you.

It is at this point in our journey that we notice that we have spent half a day driving around and have only managed to hit two tasting rooms. Wouldn’t it be great if there was one tasting room where we could taste all of wines from this area? Somebody really ought to do that around here…


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hudson Valley Wine Trail: Clinton Vineyards

On Sunday we scampered down the thruway from the Albany area to visit some wineries in the Hudson River Valley. After about a 70 minute ride we exited at Kingston and took the bridge to the east side of the river to head over to Red Hook. The first winery we tried to hit up (Alison Winery in Red Hook) was actually closed. Not sure if it was closed for the season or what. So we went downtown to find some lunch before heading further south.

We found a cheap/tasty lunch at Lucy's Tacos on Rte 199 (I dubbed them punk rock tacos) and headed back out to find our next target: The Clinton Vineyard which is situated off a charming tree-lined lane (The Hudson Valley in the springtime is indeed a scene of bucolic bliss).

Clinton Vineyard grows one grape: Seyval. They make a couple of wines ( a dry white, and a dessert) and a couple of sparkling méthode champenoise wines with their Seyval and claim to be the first vineyard to have planted the Seyval vine in the country. The remainder of their line up is strictly fruit wine. We made ourselves comfortable at the antique bar surrounded by a mixture of French art posters, various award medals, and autographed photos of the proprietor with Senator Hillary Clinton. We tasted the dry white, the sparkling Naturale (dry)'champagne', the Seyval dessert, a blackberry dessert wine, and finally their award-winning Cassis.

We couldn't resist walking away with a bottle of the Cassis which had complex black currant, blackberry, smoke, brandy, and vetiver on the nose, and a tart palate of mixed berry. We definitely have some delightful Kir Royales in our future. The tasting room and grounds are lovely and quaint. Though it's a bit off the beaten-path, I definitely recommend a visit if you enjoy Seyval or fruit wines.

Come back to read the next installment in our Hudson Valley Wine Adventure: Will Tasters A and B taste some Hudson Valley Table Wine?


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Springtime in New York

Taster A suggested we drive out to New York this weekend to pick up our wine shipments from his parent's house (he snapped this pic in their neighborhood) and check out some Hudson Valley wineries. I have to admit I wasn't all that excited about the trip: We've had a long winter in Massachusetts and I have developed a one track mind about getting some sun in my life. I figured upstate New York would just be more of the same gray blah. So it was a pleasant surprise to find that spring was a little further along in New York. We also got to taste some pretty distinctive wines but, more on that in the coming days...


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

So what does this picture have to do with wine?

Purple Sandpipers. Click to enlarge.(c)2008 SmellsLikeGrape.
About five years after I had my first taste of wine, I bought my first camera. It was a Minolta XE-7. I still have it. It actually still works. I had an after school job so I could afford film, well, a little film. I used to shoot ASA 64 slide film.

Later as I got interested in bird watching, I got interested in bigger lenses. I bought a used 500mm lens from my sister-in-law’s boss and some macro gear. I built a black-and-white dark room in the corner of the garage. It was a satisfying hobby.

As I got older, I could afford higher quality lenses and I became an avid bird watcher. Wildlife photography was my favorite pastime and (God help me) I specialized in wild birds. Let me tell you, photographing our twitchy little feathery friends is not an easy task. You've got to get in close and work with what light conditions are presented and you need the patience of Job.

Along came kids and other interests. Ten years went by and I wasn’t shooting much, certainly not going out into the woods. Then along came the digital age. Taster B bought me a camera for a present, one of those new fangled digital point-and-shoots. I’d take the occasional snapshot, family photos and pictures of trips and whatnot. I’d go out and see a bird or something and pull out the camera and push the button…and wait until the bloody thing focused, evaluated, focused some more and finally, click. Ah shoot, not what I expected. Shutter lag. If only I had a “big boy” camera.

(c)2007 SmellsLikeGrape

Along comes SmellsLikeGrape and the need for still life photos. What? You can take your time? You can control your light? If you need to move something a smidge, you can? The bottle won’t turn around just as you press the shutter release? This is cool! Still life photography rocks!

Well, Taster B finally got sick of my whining about shutter comm lag and threatened to serve me papers if I didn’t get “tooled up” as we engineers say. I did, and dropped the money for a great camera and a nice piece of glass.

There is something that calls to me from the past…my old passion…wildlife photography. And the cool thing about this digital age…I can shoot all I want and it doesn’t cost me a nickel. No labs, no filling the land fill with bad shots…it’s great.

Purple Sandpipers. Click to enlarge.(c)2008 SmellsLikeGrape.

What is all of this doing on a wine blog? Well, sometimes I like to relax after work and sort photos with a glass of wine. Last night I was sorting with the last of the Amorone. Tonight, it’s the Sauvignon Blanc. I’m just relaxing, sorting photos and having a glass of wine after dinner.

I took some pictures of these birds Monday. These are Purple Sandpipers. They are winter birds here in Gloucester. Yah, I know. They don’t look purple. They do have a purple sheen to the feathers around the back of the head and shoulders. You’ve heard the expression “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”? That comes from the days when birders used shot guns in stead of binoculars. You can see the purple sheen if you’re up close and holding it in your hand. (Maybe it was dried blood on the feathers.) It’s difficult to see in the field. (You want a real laugh? Look up Red-bellied Woodpecker. I guess Red-headed Woodpecker was already taken.)


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Montes Sauvignon Blanc 2006

It’s Sunday night. This is the night that we oven roast a chicken. Going through the loft cellar, we have a bottle of Montes Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Casablanca-Curicó that we picked up at The Vineyard during one of their large tastings. This wine is stainless steel fermented and has some French oak aging to round off the sharp edges.

The wine is a blend 51% from the Casablanca Valley and 49% from the Curicó Valley in Chile. Both regions are capable of growing excellent Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc
Vintage: 2007
AVA: Casablanca- Curicó
Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: $11.99

Color: Straw
Intensity: Pale
Aromas: Lemon, grapefruit, pear, pineapple, passion fruit, orange blossom,
Flavors: Grapefruit, lemon, pineapple, slate, mineral, butterscotch
Body: Medium
Acidity: Crisp
Sweetness: Dry
Finish: Moderate

Summary: This wine’s most salient traits are the lemon and grapefruit components. There are slate and mineral characteristics that make the wine interesting and a bit of butterscotch on the long finish. This wine can present itself as crisp and dusty. The wine paired nicely with our roasted chicken tonight. For the price, this wine will make an interesting addition to a poultry or fish meal. Seek this one out for summer.


Saturday, April 12, 2008


I was reading over on Dr. Debs this morning about wine corks. It has inspired me to dust off some of my favorite cork photos. As with most SLG photos, you can click to enlarge them.

The first five photos are from Benzinger Oonapias Sonoma Mountain Red.

Click to enlarge. (C)2008 SmellsLikeGrape

Click to enlarge. (C)2008 SmellsLikeGrape

Click to enlarge. (C)2008 SmellsLikeGrape

Click to enlarge. (C)2008 SmellsLikeGrape

Click to enlarge. (C)2008 SmellsLikeGrape

I do not remember which bottle of Benziger Family Winery wine this came from. Benziger corks are great because their graphics are easily viewed without rotating the cork.

Click to enlarge. (C)2008 SmellsLikeGrape

The next two corks were more whimsical. Plus they are photogenic. Here we have two French turtles enjoying a bottle of Tortoise Creek Les Amoureux.

Click to enlarge. (C)2008 SmellsLikeGrape

Finally, we have Toad Hollow. This wine was from Taster B’s posting Weekend Wino-ers: Merlot-quacious! This was our farewell to the bad Sideways juju. We feel it is our inalienable right to enjoy Merlot--and we do.

Click to enlarge. (C)2008 SmellsLikeGrape

And what would a posting about corks be without a tribute to "Old Reliable" who has never split a cork on me.

Click to enlarge. (c)2008 SmellsLikeGrape

Sadly, there may come a when we no longer need our "Old Reliables" any more.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dill-Licious Flavors of Spring!

I was attracted by a display of all things green in the produce section the other day. As my eye wandered over fleshy green mounds of swiss chard and collard greens, my nose caught the pungent and bright aroma of something wonderful and herbaceous. It was dill: Piles of lacey dew-laden bunches of tangy dill beckoning me from three feet. "What would I do with d-" oh screw it. I'm not leaving without some of this stuff.

What to do with Dill
Cucumbers are famously well-paired with dill. So, of course, I made some tzatziki (recipe follows) but, really when you have fresh dill in the house, dill goes with just about anything.

We had some chicken thighs with a side of purple/red potatoes dressed with a little butter, sea salt, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a healthy dose of dill. Fresh dill is very mild yet tangy which makes it great with anything that you would season with lemon such as fish, like salmon.

When it comes to wine pairings, I don't think you have to be timid. We aren't talking about pickles here. I think most whites would do. Why not try an Alsace Riesling such as Domaine Zind-Humbrecht? The brightness of the wine and the dill play off eachother and heighten the citrus notes of orange in the wine and the green notes in the dill. So go ahead: Dill out!

2005 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht
Alsace Riesling
Aromas: apple, butter, vanilla, lychee
Flavors: citrus, sweet apple, mineral

1/2 C of good Greek Yogurt (if you have to use sub-par greek yogurt, you're going to want to drain it in cheese cloth overnight to get rid of the excess moisture)
about 1/2 a cucumber grated (drained on paper towel for 1-2 hours)
1-2 cloves of roasted garlic, minced
dash of ground thyme
pinch of sea salt
1.5 T fresh finely chopped dill
1/2 t olive oil
serves: 2-3


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, the Forgotten Wine

Taster B made cheese lasagna tonight. We have a few Italian reds in the loft cellar. It is always a challenge to pick just one. I found a wine that neither one of us remembered buying nor how much we paid for it. Mystery wine!

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC is a wine from the Northeast region of Italy around the city of Verona Veneto. I’m having a difficult time figuring out what is in this wine so I’m not going to bluff my way through it. The principle grape seems to be Corvina with a laundry list of other possible allowed grapes. I will give you a word of warning about Valpolicella wines, the area is riddled with plonk. This is true of so many areas of Italy, so much so that it sounds like I’m getting Alzheimer’s. Classico may be a safe way to go. In recent years, Valpolicella has been cranking out some great wines so if you are a careful shopper, you can get yourself a really cool wine. So if you have a chance to grab an Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, give it a whirl.

What you will be in for is a rich red wine, strong cherry, tobacco, chocolate and earthiness, a full bodied wine that shows some great complexity. Don’t be surprised if you find an old bottle at your wine shop. These wines tend to be aged quite a bit before released.

So what was this wine like? I’m happy to present my tasting notes.

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, D.O.C.
Villa Fulvia

Vintage: 2002
Alcohol: 15.0%
Price: We Forgot!

Color: Ruby red
Intensity: Dark
Aromas: Blackberry, cherry, plum jam raisin, olive, earth
Flavors: Strawberry, blackberry, cherry, plum, current, olive, tar, stuck flint, smoky, Slovenian oak, coffee, chocolate, tobacco
Body: Full
Acidity: Moderate
Sweetness: Off-dry
Tannins: Silky
Finish: Long

Summary: Nice package of fruit and chocolate. In the late finish tar, tobacco and mocha. This wine has a bit of glycerin and has legs like Betty Grable. Taster B commented that it is a little unbalanced: heavy on the alcohol and light on the acid. I tend to agree but don’t let this scare you off. The wine is more blackberry than cherry. Yeah, I’d buy this one again.

This can be enjoyed on its own, paired with garlic bread, herbed cheeses, Tuscan steak, grilled meats and grilled veggies.


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Are there too many wines out there?

Up on the OWC, there is a conversation about the vast numbers of wine brands out there and the lack of brand loyalty. Reading through these comments was interesting. I’m not sure if there is a real problem statement here to solve. There seemed to be a common thread that there are a bazillion labels out there and there seems to be a shrinking number of staff out there to guide the consumer properly.

Wine is an agricultural product. But unlike most agricultural products, there is variation. For instance, you go out to buy a tomato. Do you like Big Boy, Beef stake, Roma or those little pink handballs that are grown in a hot house? You can get conventional or organic. Those are the choices.

With wine, there is a wide variation. Perhaps when you step away from the Yellow Tails, Gallo brands and Constellation producers, you get into a level of art. And that is why we are here. To my knowledge, there isn’t a tomato blogging community, people don’t aspire to buy a tomato truck farm in Florida to live the good life. There are no tomato snobs out there.

No, wine is a unique agricultural product. There is an art to making wine and there is a tech to getting it onto the shelves. Before that, the marketing department has to stress over which animal to put onto the label to capture the public’s attention. (I wonder who thought of a using a penguin?)

With wine, I’m rather thankful that we have this problem of which wine to buy. Come on now, isn’t it fun to figure this wine thing out?


Saturday, April 5, 2008

An introduction to wine barrels

This style of barrel is called a barrique.  It holds enough wine to make about 25 cases of wine. (c)2008 SmellsLikeGrape.Most people take for granted that wine is fermented in oak barrels. Many woods can be used to make a container. Oak has some rather unique properties that make it the wood of choice for wine. If you are going to store your livelihood in a container, the container must hold the wine, preserve the wine and not impart bad tastes to the wine. From a manufacturing standpoint, the wood must be able to be fashioned into a container, not leak, be readily available, economical and have repeatable results.

Looking at other woods, you can make containers out of beech, pine, spruce, poplar, redwood or even willow. Most of these woods will impart a taste that is bitter, too aromatic or even a smell like turpentine. Maple would be a good choice, but for anyone out there that has worked with maple knows that it is a dang hard wood that doesn’t form well.

Oak has been used for cooperage for a reason. It is easy to form into staves, it splits well and has a tight enough grain to hold the product. Oak has some flavorful oils that impart a pleasant vanilla characteristic that is complimentary to wine. It also helps with tannin structure. This is why we have a long tradition of storing wine in oak barrels. They are rugged (much harder to break than fired clay jars) and they give a level of insurance that the product will arrive in one piece (literally).

Wine makers have a choice of cooperage. There are many species of oak used to make wine barrels. In America, (and I’m not going to bore you further with Latin names) we have American White Oak. This oak will impart a stronger, more pungent wood characteristic to the wine. In Europe we find Brown Oaks. These are more tight-grained, have finer tannins and a lighter vanillin make up.

Barriques like those shown below are used for high end wine. They are expensive. An American barrique costs about $450 and a French oak barrel can go for around $850.
A mixture of barrels at custome crush winery shows different barrels.  Some are French oak, some American and some are a mixture of both. (c)2008 SmellsLikeGrape.

Another choice the wine maker has it is the degree of toast the barrel has. Wine barrels are intentionally charred, scorching the surface of the oak changes the aromatic oils and cellulose on the surface to complex compounds. This can impart pleasing characteristics to the wine if done correctly.

The age of the barrel will have an effect on the wine. New barrels will have the largest effect, imparting strong flavors. Used barrels will allow the wine to age with gentler affects. Some wineries will age part of the vintage in new oak, some in old oak and make a blend to get the most balanced composition. Likewise, a wine maker may decide to make part of the vintage in French oak and part in American oak. There are all sorts of stylistic decisions to make.

A final decision is the size of the barrel. The smaller the barrel, the larger the surface area to wine ratio. This means more surface contact for the wine and a greater influence the oak will have.

Oak has become so popular that there are products for wine makers to impart oak characteristics to wine without using expensive barrels. Yes, there are wood chips, staves and “shelves” that can be used to manipulate the wine. These products are often added to stainless steel fermentation tanks to help add structure.

Volume producers have been using oak chips since the early 1960s. The oak chip has been a covert fact. These chips are available in different toast levels and can even be used in old barrels to produce that new barrel taste.

This is all important to wine appreciation because you will have oak preferences. My suggestion is that you set up a horizontal flight of wines to tastes the differences. You can talk with your wine shop proprietor to help you select some wines with different oak influences.

The Tonnellerie Quintessence site has an excellent video that shows the barrel making process from forest through shipping. It includes interviews with wine makers.

Another good learning resource is this page from T. W. Boswell.com that gives a list of barrels and toast levels and the influence intended on the wine.

With all this knowledge, you will know more about the wines you have a preference for. I hope it has been of value to you.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Ahhh Toscana

Taster B emailed me at work with instructions that when I got home I was to take the pizza dough out of the refrigerator. We’re having pizza tonight. She made a pizza sauce and topped the pizza with fresh mozzarella, tomato slices, red pepper and onion. It was up to me to pick a bottle and do a quick photo shoot.

There were several wines that I could have gone with, but I settled on a Toscana that we picked up back in January at The Vineyard in January. Wine can be a fickle friend. In January, we got notes of tobacco, rose and coffee. That was in the middle of tasting 23 wines. It goes to show how perceptions of wine can change with different foods and following other wines.

Nevertheless, this is a great wine for the price and worth looking for. We’ve talked a little about Toscana IGT wines before and if you are new to Italy, you can learn about the style and how to read the labels.

Toscana IGT
Santa Cristiana Antinori
Vintage: 2006
Blend: Sangiovese 90%, Merlot 10%
Alcohol: 13.0
Price: $11.99

Color: Ruby Red
Intensity: Medium
Aromas: Strawberry, cherry, smoked meat, tobacco
Flavors: Strawberry, raspberry, cherry, curry, mineral, anise, sage, licorice, vanilla
Body: Full
Sweetness: Off dry
Tannins: Silk
Finish: Moderately long

Summary: Nice berry wine, smooth tannins, with mineral dried berry/cherry finish. In the long finish, spicy licorice and anise notes develop. We really enjoyed this with our moderately-topped juicy veggie pizza. We were very glad we picked up this wine and would buy it again.

Most folks don't regard pizza as a great meal. Pizza is very commonplace and is usually only a phone call away. The Hut has slipped in quality over the past 30 years and most pizza tastes about the same as the box. One of the tricks is getting the crust right and today, pizza dough is available at many delis.

Well made pizza is always a hit. In my younger day, perhaps 10 pounds ago, I would have put a pound of mozzarella and another pound of cheddar on a pizza. Today, I’m just as happy with one third of a pound.

Having good wine to go with a good pizza is a must. Sangiovese is a great compliment. This wine also goes with lamb, duck, cold cuts, Cioppino and hard cheese.


WBW #44 Loire Lovefest...or not.

the blogger behind the table grapesWow! This WBW comes on the heels of a Wine Blogging firestorm concerning the sudden appearance on the scene of meta-wine-blog spoof WINE-ING 2.0. Efforts to ascertain the identity of the mastermind behind the site carried on throughout the weekend and into Tuesday amidst swirling accusations. Earlier speculation seemed to point to our own WBW Founder, Lenn Thompson but, the exposé turned out to be another red herring. At the time of this writing, it is not clear if any further investigation is being pursued as wine bloggers began to realize late Tuesday that they might prefer not to learn the author's true identity.

In light of recent developments, I’m sure I’m not the only member of the wine blogging community who found it difficult to get off social-networking app turned real-time newsfeed, Twitter and get down to the business of writing up a kick-ass WBW post that would show well beneath the glow cast by Wine 2.0 Brand Giant, gary vay•ner•chuk. Powered by Viddler

Another thing that made this WBW difficult to write is the fact that I couldn’t find many nice things to say about the wine I selected. Gary is such a positive person, and I really wanted to echo that positivity. Gary gives so much and I wanted to return the flow so, to that end, I put together this collage to salute our famous WBW #44 host.

Sorry about Corky Gary. You understand I don’t think it’s too late for him I just thought this might be what you needed to see right now to help avoid such a fate for potential Killer App, cork’d™. (For anyone not familiar with Tenacious D & the POD, the evil-looking green horned thing actually symbolizes the magical quality that transforms mere mortals into Rock Stars)

Now for the wine which was a Jean-Marie Raffault Les Galuches Chinon 2005. This wine actually would be really good in a blend. I could see blending a barrel of this wine with say, sixteen barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon and 3 barrels of Merlot; that would be good. It would also be okay to use this bottle, which retails around $13-$18, in a stew. Other than that, the best thing about this rather unattractively labeled bottle of Chinon is the photo I took featuring my Pysanky eggs.

It was very difficult to find a Loire red wine in my area and this was actually the only bottle available in the 4 wine shops we visited. I wish we could have found another one to compare it to. We have had good Cab Franc but it was from Long Island . I wish we’d had time to buy the WBW Sampler Pack from Domaine547 [ "ripping cute!” –gary vaynerchuck, WLTV]. We sampled this wine three different times over the course of three nights. We tried it paired with lamb, with chicken, with hard cheese, with steak. Gary? Was this French Cab Franc theme your April Fools joke? The wine tasted like burnt strawberries: If you took a piece of unripe fruit and completely carbonized the outer layer, that’s what this wine tasted like. Was the wine corked? It didn’t have the musty aroma or vinegary flavors that I would normally detect in a corked bottle. Actually, out of curiousity, I looked up some tasting notes from Wine Advocate: “beef broth” (yep) “iodine” (yep) “faintly saline on the palate” (mm-hmm)... This was not the worst bottle of wine I’ve ever had. It was simply the worst bottle (IMHO) that I’ve ever had to post on my blog.

Thanks again to our affable host Gary Vaynerchuck for bringing the Thunder to this month’s WBW. It was fun! We don’t have a WLTV badge link to Wine Library TV on Smells Like Grape for the simple reason that everybody else does. However, I'll make an exeption in honor of this momentous occassion.