Taster A and I were out and about just before supper time and knowing there was nothing in the house, popped into a local market to grab some chicken. What we found in addition to the chicken was some decent looking leg of lamb for a reasonable price so we decided to take a chance.
It turned out to be a good gamble. Taster A who is a little more familiar with cooking lamb than I, cut the meat into cubes, along with some red bell pepper, and Vidalia onions. He didn’t season the meat at all—just put it under the broiler for roughly 12 minutes (I think everyone has to play around with timing in their own broiler). Once the kebobs came out, and this is the genius part, he brushed the kebobs with a paste of olive oil and zhatar. For our side dish, he toasted some whole fennel, cardamom and cumin and we made some basmati rice with the spices, some olive oil, and a little bell pepper and sea salt.
I had opened up our Loire red because I wanted to get it going so I would have a couple of days to evaluate it before Wine Blogging Wednesday #44 but, it wasn’t working for us. So at the last minute I said “Hey! Let’s open up that Nemea wine!” I said that because I couldn’t remember how to pronounce Argiorghitiko (Ah-yor-yee-tiko) right at that moment. What could be better with North African style shish kebobs than a Greek wine? It was a fantastic meal.
Varietal: Agiorgitiko (also agiorghitiko)
Color: Ruby Red
Aromas: Apricot, prunes, fig, baklava, lemon blossom, olives, sage
Flavors: Apricot, strawberry, rosemary, chalky
Summary: This wine is just so Greek, which is just so good when you’re freezing and severely lacking in the tan department in New England. It stood up well to the exotic spices in our rice, and even seemed sweeter than it is with our meal. It was like a built-in dessert: Baklava and galaxy burrito all rolled up into one. Don’t let me scare you off, it’s not a sweet wine, the meal just brought out more of the richer fruit characteristics in the wine.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Taster A and I were out and about just before supper time and knowing there was nothing in the house, popped into a local market to grab some chicken. What we found in addition to the chicken was some decent looking leg of lamb for a reasonable price so we decided to take a chance.
Hey, guess what? Not all the wine from the Barossa Valley in South Australia is "big and brash." We tasted the Langmeil Three Gardens 2006 Shiraz blend yesterday at Salem Wine Imports. The wine retails for between $15-$20 and is a blend of 43% Shiraz, 37% Grenache, and 20% Mourvèdre creating a much more supple and moderately extracted wine. With blackberry and vanilla aromas giving way to subtle fruit and violet on the palate, and echoes of chocolate covered cherries on the finish, this Australian blend was a pleasant surprise. After googling it, I discovered that this wine was rated a "91" by Wine Spectator which means you better get some while the getting is good!
Friday, March 28, 2008
We spent another enjoyable evening at the Windward Grille with my co-workers last night. We had a few wine aficionados in the group and some that wanted to learn more. Our wines were all from Argentina, presented to us by Derek Ellerkamp of Ruby Wines Inc.
The dinner started off with Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes 2007. This unoaked white had notes of melon, litchi, apple, pear and a nice woody finish. This is a very clean and well balanced wine with moderate acidity. As the wine opened up, the lemon and grapefruit characteristics came through. This is a great wine that can be enjoyed on its own or with food. We had it with a spinach salad with Great Hill blue cheese.
After the salad course, we were presented with the Budini Chardonnay. Budini is the name of a wild cat from Argentina and a very appropriate name selection. The first sniff of this wine gave an earthy, mushroom smell (Uh-oh, usually not what I get excited about in a wine). Then there was a litchi-pineappley smell and something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on until Taster B said, “Banana”. Boom. Fermented banana. In addition, pineapple, banana, clove, ginger, pear, marzipan/almond and rosemary aromas and flavors evolved. This wine had a lot of discord going on, although it harmonized when paired with a stuffed portabello mushroom appetizer. This chardonnay definitely needs food.
Next we were presented Crios Rosé of Malbec which is the third rosé we've had in the past week. This Malbec Rosé was a surprise. Earth notes gave way to cranberry, pomegranate, a little bit of bacon that quickly went away, (what was that?) strawberry, black pepper, and mineral. This little wine had it going on.
A lot of folks still poo-poo Rosé. Some of us think that we are going to see Rosé come back as people let go of the past plonky abomination White Zin that scared (or drove) them off. The trick is to appreciate a Rosé for what it is. You can't compare it to a big tannic red. You wouldn’t compare French Fries to you grandmother’s lasagna, right?
Next, Derek presented us with the Bundini Malbec. Once there were 40,000 acres of Malbec planed in Argentina. During the 1970’s, the wine industry was under the suppression of the Argentinian government that was on mission to plow in the vineyards. Today, about 20,000 acres are planted to Malbec. Malbec is the grape that put Argentina on the wine map. In Mendoza, the thin skin grapes take a long time to grow and these develop into flavorful wines with the long season.
The Bundini Malbec 2007 presented vanilla, chocolate/mocha, woody notes, cherry, elderberry, allspice, anise and licorice. Definitely New World boldness with that highly extracted, almost inky color, suede tannins and nice fruit and paired nicely with Filet Mignon. This is a big wine and I’m a little surprised to be drinking a wine where the ink on the label isn’t dry yet. It might tame down in the next couple of years. I don’t think it has the bones to go much longer than that.
Finishing up the night, we had Tiramisu and Ferreira 8 yr. Dona Antonia Port. This Portuguese offering was smooth and sweet, with silky tannins and bold cherry flavor with a nutty finish. I’m not a big port fan, but this one might be good to keep on hand just in case in never warms up in Massachusetts. It paired nicely with the Tiramisu.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I was fully prepared not to love this wine. I knew there was a good chance it would display evident oak, plush “busty” fruit, and spray-tan perfection…
What did I expect? Deep down, I was secretly hoping to be blown away by this pricey bottle of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. After all, Cab is my comfort wine. I’m a displaced California girl and California wine is at the heart of my earliest experiences and love for wine. I have certain nostalgia for the full, fruity deliciousness of California wine.
The wine: Nicholls 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon produced and bottled at CrushPad, San Francisco. This is Nicholls’ flagship wine featuring fruit sourced from one of “Super grower” Andy Beckstoffer’s properties: Dr. Crane Vineyard. We ordered this bottle in late January out of curiosity to see what Crushpad’s clients are making. At that time this wine was retailing for $55 but, when I checked back recently it was up to
$85$65(*see comments section). The Nicholls 2005 Pinot Noir took gold at the 2008 SF Chronicle Wine Competition.
“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”
To be fair, we should have decanted this bottle. As it is, the first aroma off the first glass was oak. There was other stuff there too: cherry, cassis, vanilla, plum, blackberry, and a little pepper. This wine was certainly perfect right from the start (except for the slightly obtrusive oak). Great balance, yummy fruit, etc, yet, I felt a little like I was having dinner with a starlet: Good bones, perfect nails, hair and make-up, pleasant conversation but, is there anything else there? Are we likely to get a glimpse of the soul of this wine? [Resisting urge to insert photo of Lindsay Lohan here. You're welcome]
Coaxing or Hoaxing?
Craig Camp recently posted a great blog entry: Debating the Points: Spoofulation. The centerpiece of the post is an article by Clark Smith defending (quit deftly) manipulation in wine-making. Among the salient points are A) no wine-maker is going to let a batch go to pot if there is something that can be done to save it, and B) there is ‘spoofulating’ wine, and there is using the tools of the trade to tease out the nuances of the terroir. Ironically, I think the argument made by Clark Smith, Wine Villian could be applied to what was going on with a flight Châteauneuf du Pape we tasted last weekend. Several of the wines had characteristic subtleness of fruit which allowed the minerality to shine, and in order to achieve that result in the face of rising temps and brix in the region, the traditional wine-making technique was tweaked a bit. Conversely, we also tasted some traditionally made Châteauneuf du Pape which was getting closer to a New World style in the glass. That is to say: riper fruit, less minerality, and in some cases more oak.
I Don’t Know How They Did it
So, I tried the Nicholls again a couple of days later (and after tasting 9 Côtes du Rhône wines). Again, I noticed a sort of glossy perfection but, this time my reaction was a little different. The oak overtures had completely dissipated and I no longer felt aware of adjusted acidity, and smoothed edges. Now, there was a cool wet stone aroma and a slight wisp of mustard atop the underlying fruit. Now, on the palate, I began to notice more nuance; the balance and structure is phenomenal; maybe this fruit actually possessed some level of innate perfection to begin with before the wine-maker ever touched it.
New Age Wine
I definitely don’t want to dis this wine. It didn’t rock my world like a Sperino Uvaggio but, it was good, and it benefited me to drink it. It totally balanced my yang. This wine was like getting a dose of Chinese medicinal bark and mushroom tea. I know many of my east coast friends are going “huh?” but, you Californians know what I’m talking about…
California is Like Nowhere Man
This wine definitely brings visions of Lexus SUVs, fashionable restaurant facades, and jazz tunes (Take 5), in other words, it has a sense of place and that place is California. So, I can’t resist the temptation to bring up the question of California ‘terroir’: Has anyone done a flight of Sonoma Cabs next to a flight of Napa Cabs and been able to discern which AVA the Cab was grown and vinified in? To those who argue that California has no terroir, here is a question for you: If there had never been any AOCs, and rules saying “this is how wine will be made in XYZ Village”, would you still be able to distinguish between a wine made in Saint-Emilion and one made in say, Castillion-la-Bataille without a unifying conformity in the wine-making practices? Would these places still possess their own ‘terroir’?
Monday, March 24, 2008
Tasting Tour of the Rhône
Last weekend we went to a Rhône Tasting at Gordon’s in Waltham, MA. We meet up with fellow bloggers Richard from A Passionate Foodie who had a group from his North Shore Winers club there, and Cathy from 365 Days of Wine. Both Richard and Cathy have posted write-ups about the region and the wines that you should check out. To start us off, our tour guide Nick Cobb shared with us his sentimental attachment to Châteauneuf du Pape: This was the wine served in the home he grew up in. This was his first experience of what wine tasted like, and his sentimentality has translated into a real passion and appreciation for the area.
Global Warming and the New Châteauneuf du Pape
The Côtes du Rhône is a low-lying plain region bordered to the South by the Mediterranean and to the West and East by mountains. The premise of the flight of nine wines was to illustrate the different ways that vintners are handling the effects of Global Warming (increased average temperature) in the wines of the region. We were shown a variety of handlings for undoing the effects of higher temps, culminating with the '05 Domaine de Deurre Vinsobres which is, according to our host, the best example of what Châteauneuf du Pape was 40 years ago. The Domaine de Deurre Vinsobres is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre. The vineyard is located between Nyons and Vinsobres which is getting up into the hills a bit and is more northerly than Orange and Châteauneuf du Pape where the majority of the wines we tasted were being produced. Pair the location with the use of Grenache as the primary grape in the blend, rather than the more traditional Syrah which has not behaved as well with the increased temperatures, and you have a wine that Cobb’s grandfather would have recognized as Châteauneuf du Pape. On the nose were black cherry, marigold, lavender, animali, and blackberry. The flavors gave way to olive and more cherry. The image that flashed while tasting this wine was ruby slippers.
The Heat is On
From here we began looking at the other side of wine-making in the Rhône: The Traditionalists making wine the way it’s always been made and allowing the wine to express less traditional attributes brought on by the change in climate such as bigger fruit and higher alcohol. The next wine we tasted was noticeably higher in alcohol: 15% to be precise. Which leads to an interesting question: When it comes to historical wine-making regions, how are the Old World traditions maintained? Is it done by adapting technique to the climate so as to produce a wine that possesses the greatest quantity of qualities in common with its predecessors? Or is it done by sticking with traditional methods, and letting the wine express new characteristics that were not traditionally an aspect of the wines of the region? Clearly, the wine-makers of the Côtes du Rhône have answered this question differently.
Traditional Technique vs. Traditional Result (AKA: Old World vs. Old World (?))
Most of the wines showcased were fermented in stainless or cement. Only three of the wines were in contact with wood, and only one of those in regular oak barrels, the other two being aged in foudres which are too large an investment to replace regularly. Obviously, stainless steel is not a traditional wine-containment material. Cement is a little closer in that it is similar to carving a tank out of rock. Cobb mentioned sites he’d been to while a wine-maker in Greece where such ancient pits are still used in traditional wine making: They just throw the whole grapes into the ground and come back two weeks later. An interesting point was made about the difference between using oak in the utilitarian sense of simple wine-containment device as opposed to using oak as flavor which is decidedly New World. While some historic wine growing regions had little access to wood and relied on earthenware or other vessels, there is certainly a long history of wooden wine containers. The difference is that the wood is rarely new in traditional applications. The last wine of the flight, an ‘05 Patrick Lesec Châteauneuf du Pape did see barrel aging but was not over-oaked, was well balanced, and fruity. After 8 unoaked subtle wines, it may not have been a fair match to suddenly flip the switch to this more intense wine, which I feel may have shown more nuance on it’s own than it did in this line up.
Thanks to Gordon’s and to Nick Cobb for this fascinating look at a changing region which also happens to be the oldest wine growing region in France.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Another wine for less than $10.00 that we picked up just for fun is Masciarelli Rosé d’Abruzzo. It has been a long time since I’ve had a good Rosé. This is my first Italian Rosé.
Rosé d’Abruzzo I.G.T.
Color: Strawberry Red
Aromas: Strawberry, currant, raspberry, pear juice, passion fruit
Flavors: Lemon, grapefruit, strawberry, raspberry, green bell pepper, mineral,
Summary: Think of field ripened wild strawberries and raspberries in a lemon juice, crisp and clean. A little green on the moderate finish. There are some spice notes and as with most Rosé wines, it is extremely light on the tannins. It has a great tartness.
This wine will be a good hit in the summer. This wine will do well served at temperature in the mid 60’s. It will be fine. This is not a serious wine so have fun with it. You can drink this with food or by itself.
Tip: Chilling Rosé is a way to hide flaws in poorly produced Rosé. The better the Rosé, the less you need to chill it.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
We had great success with the Castello Di Salle Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. I was so inspired that I grabbed another Montepulciano d’Abruzzo at a packie in just outside of Boston. This Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has appeared at all of our favorite wine shops for under $10.
The label is set up for the American market so our readers will find this easy to understand. Masciarelli is the wine producer, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo in the wine made under the control of that D.O.C. We have a great write up for Montepluciano d’Abruzzo and is a quick read if you are not familiar with this wine.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo D.O.C.
Color: Ruby Red
Aromas: Cherry, plum, currant, bell pepper, earth, rosemary, sage, smoky
Flavors: Strawberry, cherry, pomegranate, cranberry, pencil lead, anise, cedar, leather
Summary: Kaboom! This explodes in your mouth, good balance between fruit, tannins and acidity. A real rustic/austere wine. Goes spicy on the long finish. This is a good wine for less than $10.
This wine is just good stuff for an “everyday wine”. By everyday, I mean it is not expensive and you can have this any day you want. I’ve seen this in at least four wine shops and they all say the same thing. It is a great value. I enjoyed this wine, it is surprisingly complex for the price point. It is a young wine and therefore can be very bold. One would think that the four years since harvest would tame this wine, but no. If you’re into young wines and want to try something different, this is a good candidate.
Horizontally tasting Montepulciano d’Abruzzo D.O.C. wines.
Masciarelli is less expensive than the Castello di Salle and a little more impetuous. If you want something less explosive, spend the extra bucks for the Castello di Salle. If you want something young and flirtatious with some wowie-zowie, the Masciarelli will be great. Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo can also be a high end wine too, and I suggest you do a horizontal tasting that includes wines from three price points so you can see for yourself. Cantina Zacagnini Montepulciano D'Abruzzo ($17.99) is another good suggestion for a special occasion wine.
Seeing Wine Bloggers like Sonadora and Dr. Debs descending on Sonoma County this past week brought the happy memories pouring back so I thought is was a good time to post some recycled content originally posted in October 2007. This is a composite photo that was inspired by the atmosphere of downtown Sonoma...
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
This wine caught my eye at the Ourglass Wine Shop and was in some side bins under a sign announcing that it is a store favorite, and for $8.99 I couldn’t resist. Like a puppy at the pound, this bottle looked at me and said, “Take me home with you.”
Sometimes I find the back labels useful unless they start to smell 'off', like Marketingese. This back label was helpful. It gave basic information about the blend, the style, the D.O. and the importer.
I’m making spaghetti and meat sauce tonight and I was looking for something different than the 15 or so bottles of Italian that we have. Then I heard the same voice coming from that bottle, “Pick me!” I usually don’t pay attention to voices, (as Taster B will attest to) but this time, I decided. I’m kind of glad I did.
Established in 1980, the guarantee of origin and quality “Campo de Borja” has a wine-producing heritage rich in Garnachas. This wine is skillfully blended with Tempranillo to make a spicy, flavorful wine that makes me think I should start to listen to voices more often. The wines are made as varietals and blended after fermentation. Here’s what’s under the (synthetic) cork.
D.O. Campo de Borja
Intensity: Rich medium
Aromas: Raspberry, cherry, bell pepper, earth, tar, smoke
Flavors: Boysenberry, cherry, cinnamon, clove, licorice, coffee, chocolate, nutty
Tannins: Fine and silky
Summary: Wowie-zowie! Intensely fruity, spicy wine with fine textured tannins. The tempranillo lends balance and finesse. This is great wine that I would drink now and for the next two years. It has a big wine taste without heaviness. The finish is smooth and spicy. Yea, I’m buying this one again.
I had this with spaghetti with a lighter sauce, (not my usual full blown Italian). I was Jonesing for some tapas. Some paella, lamb, pork, Moroccan, Lebanese, or fajitas, all would go well with this wine. The label says it can be enjoyed on its own, but I think it is a little too impetuous for that. Enjoy this with food. Taster B didn’t think it went well with chocolate.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Uvaggio is one of those wines that make life worth living. This wine label is a fun one to look at if you are learning how to navigate the world of Italian wine labels.
The Proprietá Sperino vineyards are located in the foothills of the Alps in Maraine (glacier deposited crushed stones and earth) soils coming down from Monte Rosa. Uvaggio is what is under the cork. Coste della Sesia is the regional DOC under which the wine was made.
Coste della Sesia refers to the banks of the Sesia River which comes down from the Alps through Peimonte. Uvaggio in Italian signifies a blend of grapes done before fermentation as opposed to Vinaggio, a blend of wines. Rosso designates this as a red wine. Paolo De Marchi is the proprietor and wine maker with his son and partner Luca De Marchi. This is the second Uvaggio since the resurrection of the vineyard and from what I've been reading, the 2005 vintage is superior to the 2004 release.
The De Marchis are now producing high quality wines from a vineyard that was abandoned in '52. One hundred years ago, there were approximately 100,000 acres of vineyards in the region. The vineyards went into decline and are now climbing back to around 2,000 acres.
Costa della Sesia D.O.C.
Blend: Nebbiolo 65%, Vespolina 20%, Croatina 15% within the rules of the D.O.C.
Aromas: Currant, rose, mint, earth, licorice, smoked meat, vanilla, chocolate
Flavors: Strawberry, raspberry, pomegranate, mint, earth tar, anise, allspice, black pepper, jasmine, coffee, chocolate
Summary: Is there such a thing as a vanilla bomb? That is what came off the glass. I expected a disappointing over-oaked wine, but was very surprised that the vanilla gave way to mint, earth, licorice and smoked meat. This wine is balanced like a fine Swiss watch. Sandalwood tannins in the long finish with spice. As the wine evolved in the glass, it became floral. We enjoyed this wine with strawberries and Humboldt Fog cheese.
This is not the first Piemonte wine that is from resurrected vineyard land that we've reviewed. I think we are seeing something exciting coming, the resurgence of Piemonte as a contender for some the worlds most interesting wines. Time will tell.
1. The sense that distinguishes the sweet, sour, salty, and bitter qualities of dissolved substances in contact with the taste buds on the tongue. 2. A personal preference or liking: a taste for adventure. 3. The faculty of discerning what is aesthetically excellent or appropriate.
I had been pondering the subject of taste as it relates to wine enjoyment and enthusiasm lately. Then, just today, I read a very good article titled Scents and Sensibility in the New Yorker that completely summed up and clarified this whole topic of taste for me. The author John Lancaster, illustrates why taste descriptions vary so widely, and more importantly, why that's perfectly ok. For one thing, taste is difficult to verbalize except by equating it to another known taste. So, someone who has experienced a similar taste in the past is better equipped to describe it later when they run into it again. Please, when you are done here go and read this article...
I recently tasted a South American Syrah that smelled exactly like someone ELSE’S grandma. In other words, it smelled like foreign grandma, which is to say, completely unfamiliar. When it comes to grandmas, familiarity is a desirable quality, therefore, this wine was quite unappealing to me. Have I ever smelled ‘unfamiliar grandma’? Perhaps, though I can’t say for sure—it was unfamiliar.
Romanticism vs. Science?
In his article, Lancaster quotes examples of “Romantic” tasting notes from Brideshead Revisited along with quotes from the pragmatic UC Davis professors Amerine and Roessler who seemed to be of the opinion that taste should be 100% quantifiable. To what end, I can’t be sure. Clearly, they are not tasting wine for enjoyment (granted UC Davis professors wouldn’t be sipping wine for enjoyment on the job). Evidently, the goal of this is to enable clear communication between wine producers and consumers as to what flavors will be found in the wine.
Yes…Do you have anything that tastes like The Last Unicorn? No? Ok, just give me a blueberry & cranberry with subtle vanilla notes--heavy on the blueberry and animali--with a finish of Ecuadorian dark chocolate (86% cacao), a wisp of smoke and a soupçon of cardamom...oh, and hold the brett, please.
From Scents & Sensibility
A trained nose can become very, very good at isolating these sensory experiences and matching them with the relevant molecules. Theoretically, every known odorant molecule could have an agreed descriptor. The descriptor wouldn't need to be in words: it could be a number, so that the wintergreen scent of methyl salicylate would be 172, say, and the garlicky odor of allicin would be 402. That would be the beginnings of a fully scientific language of taste - a joyless, inhuman prospect.
Lancaster also borrows some amusing quotes from a perfume critic which are wonderfully descriptive and I think, much more useful then a list of molecules--but, hey, that's me. So, what do you say? Is it time we 'agree to disagree' when it comes to taste?
Saturday, March 15, 2008
The other night we had the opportunity to taste Chateau Baury 2004, Margaux. As I was trying to find some information on this wine (unsuccessfully) I remembered our host from Salem Wine Imports commenting that he hadn’t had much luck pinpointing it either.
I’ve stated more than once that I’m not interested in writing “educational” pieces on wine yet, I find myself about to do just that. Actually, this is really for my own benefit: After all, I had to do a little research so I wouldn’t sound stupid, and I couldn’t leave it up to Taster A because he recently saddled me with the task of “figuring out France” (no small task).
The difficulty with this particular Chateau Baury bottling is the fact that it’s apparently a brand name produced by Chateau Brane-Catenac but, it is not listed as a “second” or “other” wine in any of the reference books. Going to the Domaine Lucien Lurton & Fils La Passion des Terroirs website, I discovered that besides distributing first and second labels from the families eleven estates, the company has become a wine merchant specializing the distribution of Classified Growth, second wines, Crus Bourgeois, etc from all over Bordeaux.
So, the one thing we know from the label is that the this wine is bottled at the second growth Brane-Cantenac estate, which is in Cantenac south of the commune of Margaux in the Margaux appellation and most likely contains the following:
Cabernet Sauvignon 70%
Cabernet Franc 15%
Petit Verdot 2%
Now for the tasting notes!
This was a very pleasant and evolving wine which started out with raspberry, smoked meat, blueberry, and a certain ‘roastiness’. The wine is well-balanced on the palate and has nice mildly spicy long finish.
Later I found cassis, cake, and a wisp of tobacco.
“Cake?” you ask?
I’m not sure that dissecting every flavor in a wine (or a dish) is necessarily complimentary. I still have Ratatouille fresh on my mind…Take French toast for example: What does French toast taste like? Does it taste like eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, bread and butter? Or, does it taste like French toast? I think it tastes like French toast and I’m glad. So, rather than saying “vanilla and sweet spice” for this wine, I’m going to call it cake.
A Good Introduction to Bordeaux
I’ve noticed a tendency among wine professionals to start Bordeaux newbies off with an “introductory” wine in the $10-$15 range as a good gradient for training the palate to pick up and appreciate the more subtle nuances of this Old World style. I think sometimes this approach can backfire if the bottle is unspectacular. The Chateau Baury 2004 is an interesting and accessible wine in the $25-$30 range and I think it makes an excellent introductory wine.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Taster A is on a rant about fish over at OWC. Find out what he's on about now.
Posted by Taster A at 8:04 PM
The cool thing about Argentina and Chile is that they are not locked into one type of aging. Whites are fermented in stainless steel and aged in used oak. Yum. We tasted wine that had an obvious oak influence with smoke and toast. We tried the next wine and it is reminiscent of a Piemonte blend aged in Slovenian oak. It’s just a fun region to explore. I had tasting notes on some 23 wines, which ones I liked, which ones I didn’t, which were balanced, and which were oaky-smokey. As Taster B pointed out, I left the notes on the counter. My atonement is to open one of the bottles I was “saving for later” and get some tasting notes going.
Pasucal Toso Cabernet Sauvignon is produced on the Las Barrancas Estate in the Mendoza region of Argentina. This a an exciting wine to try because 2006 is an excellent year for Argentina. As Taster B reported, we tasted this wine at The Vineyard in N. Andover. Both Taster B and I enjoyed this at first sip. The color is rich, dark ruby red. This wine was a little tight, but after breathing for a while, it opened up. It was certain that we were not leaving until we secured this wine.
The South American wines are a blend of the New World and Old World. The immigrants are French, Italian and German. They bring with them the old world techniques. I’m really excited to have this wine, it is a good bridge between both worlds. It is suggested to drink this throughout 2008, but I think it can go another year.
Maipu Vineyards, Mendoza, Argentina
Color: Ruby Red
Aromas: Strawberry, cherry, raisin, struck flint, smoked meat
Flavors: Strawberry, raspberry, pomegranate, cherry, earth, vanilla, coffee, allspice and cedar.
Sweetness: Moderately dry
Summary: This New World wine is fruit forward with a a perfection of oak-vanilla notes and berry flavors. There are nice cedar tastes and allspice in the long finish. This is an excellent wine for its price. It may not be the biggest or the most extracted but that is the charm of this wine. This is the Old World influence at work. It goes well with food without dominating it.
Tonight, we are having a pot roast that Taster B put into a crock pot earlier. This is an ideal pairing with this wine. This would go great with fajitas, burritos, beans and rice, Cajun, and lamb. A little dark chocolate after dinner makes a nice ending to the day.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
The Vineyard's "Big Taste of South America" tasting on Sunday, March 9th featured 24 wines from Chile and Argentina. I want to start out by stating that this was a very organized tasting: We were provided with a handy price list to refer to throughout the tasting which also doubled as an order sheet for efficient check-out at the counter. Taster A was very thorough with the note-taking (on the back of the price list). After we tasted everything we took our price list to the counter, had our order filled, and walked out…without Taster A’s notes (which we discovered after we got home much to his chagrin)! So, now I am writing up the event instead of him since I made a point of making mental note of the highlights (because I wasn’t taking notes).
Table One: Gary Ballard, Classic Wine Imports
Bodega Lurton Pinot Gris, Mendoza Argentina
Santa Ema Sauvignon Blanc 2007, Chile
Santa Ema Chardonnay 2006, Chile
Bodega Lurton Torrontes, Mendoza Argentina
Santa Ema Cabernet 2006, Chile
Colonia La Liebres Bonarda, Mendoza Argentina
Altos Las Hornigas Malbec, Mendoza Argentina
Michel Rolland Clos de Los Siete 2006, Mendoza Argentina
Santa Ema Reserve Merlot 2004, Chile
Table Two: Joe Nardone, Classic Wine Imports
Montes Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Casablanca-Curico, Chile
Montes Chardonnay 2006 Curico Valley, Chile
Montes "Cherub" Rose of Syrah 2007Colchagua Valley, Chile
Montes Merlot 2006 Colchagua Valley, Chile
Montes Cabernet/Carmenere 2006, Chile
Kaiken Malbec 2006, Mendoza Argentina
Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza Argentina
Montes Alpha Syrah 2006 Apalta Vnyd. Colchagua, Chile
Table Three: Prescott Hobson, TGIC Imports
Pascual Toso Sparkling NV, Mendoza Argentina
Pascual Toso Sauvignon Blanc 2007, Mendoza Argentina
Pascual Toso Chardonnay 2007, Mendoza, Argentina
Pascual Toso Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Mendoza Argentina
Bodega Norton Reserve Cab 2005, Mendoza Argentina
Pascual Toso Reserva Malbec 2005, Mendoza Argentina
Bodega Norton "Privada" 2005, Mendoza Argentina
A lot of very nice wines in the $8-$25 range were shown. I won't do a comprehensive review of every wine poured at this event as I didn’t take notes but, here are some highlights:
One of the bottles we walked away with was the Montes Sauvignon Blanc 2006. This was an exemplary Sauvignon Blanc with lemon and grapefruit on the nose. The palate echoed the citrus notes found on the nose and was crisp and without the mushroom notes often present in Sauvignon Blanc. Joe told us that they employ judicious use of neutral oak on this wine just to take the edge off. There was no detectable oak, just a lack of sharpness that is often found in 100% stainless steel Sauvignon Blanc.
Torrontés is a representative grape of Argentina and well known, however, this was our first sample of the floral white grape. I got lilac along with citrus notes on the nose.
Another bottle that came home with us was the attractively priced Colonia La Liebres Bonarda ($8.99 after our $1 Cabernet Credit). This was our first sample of Bonarda and we found it shared some characteristics in common with ruchè, with rose (among other things) on the nose. This wine definitely had some Italian-like characteristics which made it very popular with us--of course!
So, we were standing at Station 2 working on some Malbec, when we heard a fellow taster nearby quip “I wonder if it’s micro-oxygenated.” Taster A and I were wondering what she detected in the taste that told her it was micro-oxygenated...then we looked at our sheet and realized that she was already working on the Michel Rolland Clos de Los Siete 2006. This is note-worthy to us as it was our first knowing sampling of Michel’s wine-making technique. Whatever might be said about this well known consultant, the guy knows how to make a tasty wine, and yes, it most certainly must have seen micro-oxygenation. By the way, this wine received a 90 point score from Robert Parker.
While we didn’t go home with any this time, the Kaiken wines were quite good. The Malbec 2006 holds the distinction of being the first Malbec that Taster A (not a Malbec fan) liked. The Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon had a nose reminiscent of a Port, and was surprisingly structured on the palate.
The third and final bottle we took home from this event was the Pascual Toso Cabernet Sauvignon 2006. I think my exact words were “this is my comfort wine.” For those of you who’ve seen Ratatouille, when I took the first sniff of this wine, I was like Anton Ego after his first bite of Remy’s Ratatouille: *whoosh* right back: in my case to a California winery (in Ego’s case, to his mother’s French country kitchen). I’m not going into this one any more than that because Taster A’s consolation for missing out on doing this write-up himself is that he gets to do a full-length post on this Cab.
Taster B (that’s me) also picked up a few items from the selection of Gourmet goodies. A good time, and many a good wine, was had by all!
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Back in January we posted a survey that asked the question:
You've just won a lifetime world-wide Wine Country travel pass: Where do you go first?
Burgundy and Tuscany tied for the top spots--each taking roughly 20% of the votes. Actually, Tuscany pulled ahead by a nose at the last minute. Piedmont took the number three spot with New Zealand a close fourth. [47 respondents]
What does this mean you ask? Who knows.
The truth is, I was thinking about planning an Italian wine trip, so I posted the survey to see what destinations were popular among our blog visitors. Turns out that it's kind of all over the map (literally). Surprisingly, no one picked California. Or maybe not surprisingly, since the question did imply that you would be able to take all the trips you want and this was simply a survey of what your first desination would be if cost wasn't a factor.
I guess the survey should have also asked "Why?" Is it for the wine, or the place itself? I enjoy Italian wine almost as much as Taster A but, when it comes to traveling to Italy, it would be as much for the place and the experience as for the wine. If I were to pick a region to visit soley for the wine and furthering my wine education, it would have to be France. Not just Burgundy, or Bordeaux but a good three to four weeks in each Appellation...Not gonna happen, and sadly, neither is the trip to Italy this year as we later discovered we'll have to take vacation time in summer instead of spring. California, here I come (right back where I started from).
We are considering a short trip to the Finger Lakes in New York in April. Any good tips on where to go/where to stay?
Our first taste of this wine was over the 2006 Labor Day weekend in Knoxville, Tennessee. I was alone in Oak Ridge for 50 weeks while Taster B was still working in Colorado waiting for our house to sell in a depressed real estate market. Taster B came to Tennessee for the long week end and to celebrate our anniversary. This was one of the three times that we saw each other during that period.
My friends, Kevin and Judy invited us over for a dinner. The first wine they broke out (I love visiting British wine lovers) was Mad Dogs and Englishman. Kevin and Judy had this awesome moon flower plant that had large showy morning glory blossoms the size of your hand. These blossoms would open up at dusk over the course of five minutes. Kevin put together a spread of shrimp scampi, barbequed chicken and grilled vegetables to go with our Mad Dogs and Englishmen. This wine is born in the HOT climate of Sothern Spain, so hot that only mad dogs and Englishmen would go out in the noon day sun (see video clip below).
This is a Spanish wine from the Jumilla DO is in Murcia, a hot hilly region known for their Monastrell. These Vineyards of Jumilla have never been affected by phylloxera and most of their vines are ungrafted. Monastrell is very smooth, fruity and aromatic and tend to age well. The Mad Dogs and Englishman is best drunk young as it is fruity.
Mad Dogs and Englishmen
Bodegas y Vinedos de Murcia
Jumilla Denominacio'n de Origen
Blend: Monastrell 50%, Cabernet Sauvignon 30%, Shiraz 20%
Price: $8.99 (Discount liquor store price.)
Color: Ruby red
Aromas: Strawberry, raisin, mint, earth, cinnamon, black pepper, cedar
Flavors: Wild strawberry, wild raspberry, choke cherry, cherry, jam, raisin, mineral, slate, allspice, cedar, coffee, chocolate
Summary: It took a few minutes to open up the aromas, but when it did, it was one of those wines that came off in layers. The nose was minty with fragrant cedar, cinnamon, black pepper, mineral slate and wild berry flavors. Behind that was the chocolate and espresso. The long finish developed into a nice spiciness.
This did well with pizza, but I prefer this type of wine with grilled steaks and veggies. This wine can be very complex for this price and well worth picking up.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
This month’s theme for Wine Blogging Wednesday is Comfort Wines. (yay!) It sounds like our busy host is due for some indulgence in comfort and relaxation with a new baby and launching OpenWine Consortium in the same month--Whew! So, here’s to our host Joel—Cheers!
[Attention Grammar Police: The following post is rife with incongruous parenthetical comments, ellipses, and creative grammar. That’s how I communicate. Try to roll with it.]
So, what wine do I like to unwind with? It doesn’t really matter what wine, as long as it’s what I’m in the mood for, although, most likely it is red and contains some Cabernet Sauvignon.
This is where I like to unwind; in my kitchen (as pictured above in the moonlight) with Taster A of course. We’ll sit here in the evening, each with our glass of wine, and swirl – sniff – swirl - sniff. Actually, "sniff" isn’t quite accurate; it sounds too dainty…
The Art of the Nasal Pull
Its not unlike Tai Chi actually: A deep inhalation in through the nose, then exhale out through the mouth.
“…all the way out…just let all the tension and worries of the day go as you exhale...” aaahhhhhh (a line from my Tai Chi DVD)
Actually, when I'm all stressed out, I need to unwind with some form of exercise before sitting down with a glass of wine. I like to be in a good mood when I crack open a bottle.
[Warning: The following paragraph contains sci-fi references of a geeky nature. Reader discretion is advised]
I definitely enjoy a good 'sniffing wine'. I find a good nose on a wine can be more intoxicating than drinking the wine itself. Sometimes when I dip my nose below the rim of a glass of wine it’s like putting a hand through the veil (and here I have a vague recollection of an episode of the Twilight Zone) into a different dimension.
“A dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity...”
…and, yes, when I am relaxing with a great comfort wine, these are the kind of thoughts that go through my mind.
Monday, March 3, 2008
We read a lot of wine blogs yet, oddly, we rarely purchase the wines that our fellow bloggers recommend. It's not that the reviews aren't intriguing, it's just that either a) I'll never remember the name b) I'd have to order it and get it shipped to relatives in a neighboring state or c) my wine cabinet is already full. Oh, and d) we want to experiment and post blog entries about new wines!
However, last time we were at the Vineyard, we spotted a bottle from David Coffaro which we recognized from a post by Dr. Debs on Coffaro Winery futures. We are not in a place where we are going to be buying wine on futures but, this bottle was there, and we were there so we said "let's try it!"
Escuro California Red Table Wine
90% 2004 10% 2003
Lodi: 30% Alvarelhão & 12% Touriga Nacional
Dry Creek Valley: 40% Cab Sauvignon, 11% Petite Sirah & 7% Zinfandel
Production: 220 Cases
I don't know when I've ever taken a whiff of a red wine where the first aroma to hit me was bread before this wine. Bread, and then some vanilla, and some strawberry, and then chocolate, and then hay. On the palate we get some strawberry, then metal (first sip), and then a longish finish with cinnamon/allspice and chocolate.
I like the balance of this wine: It's lush but not overly fruity. It's dessert-like but not sweet, and it's warm but not hot.
The image that comes to mind drinking this wine is a strawberry, dusted in cinnamon and toasted over a fire on a metal skewer like a marshmallow, and then right as you're about to pop it in your mouth, it slides off the skewer into the ashes for a second. The other image that comes to mind is the Benzinger vineyard in Sonoma for some reason (just throwing that out there).
You don't need to eat food with this wine but, I had it with some chicken and it worked. Let's face it: When is the last time you made prime rib or duck at home to go with your wine? I don't want to have to drink white wine every Sunday just because I'm having chicken. Chicken goes with everything (that's my story and I'm sticking to it!) I also had it with chocolate--that worked too.
By the way, if you are interested in the 2004 David Coffaro Estate Cuvee, check out A Passionate Foodie's review.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
We came away with a bottle of the 2001 which was perhaps not a popular favorite but, which I found intriguing because it was the most different among the three. This wine had a lot of wood-like character but with absolutely no detectable oak thanks to neutral Slovenian oak barrels. It is still very young and we will be saving this bottle for a couple of years.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Spunky Mommy’s husband and I are engineers at the same company. A group of our friends went to a wine dinner at the Windward Grille in Essex, Massachusetts on the 28th of February. The wine portion was hosted by Ross Lochrie of Horizon Beverage Company, Avon, MA. Ross is from Australia so it was fun to get his perspectives on the wine.
Australian wines can be very interesting. We all have seen the mass produced wines from Down Under, but just as with any other region, there are wineries that produce unique wines, some regional and some single vineyard.
The common denominator for all of the wines we had at this tasting was that the growing conditions are tough. The weather is hot, dry and the soils are poor. Grapes produce high quality fruit in these conditions. All of the wines were intense, full of flavor and very bold.
Another common trait I have found is the minty characteristics of many Australian wines. The vineyards are generally near eucalyptus trees which will impart their flavors and aromas to the wine. This is part of the Australian wine scene and adds an interesting layer of complexity that many regions just cannot replicate. I’ve seen this in a few single vineyard wines from California, but don’t expect this from New York or French wines!
To start things off, we were served a baby spinach salad tossed with Portobello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, crispy bacon and balsamic dressing topped with Great Hill Blue cheese. Although this dressing had balsamic vinegar, it was not a vinegary dressing making it compatible with the wine.
Ross served us Water Wheel Memsi White. Ross tells us that the vineyard is planted in red, dusty clay soil and is flooded once in the spring. This is the only water the vines get so the grapes are very concentrated. Memsie is stainless steel tank fermented.
Blend: Sauvignon Blanc 40% Semillon 30% Roussanne 21% Chardonnay 9%
Residual Sugar: 11.8
Pale straw yellow, honey, pear, litchi, apple, lemon. Sweet, crisp, with a buttery mouth feel. Long fruity finish. I got a little black pepper in the long finish. This will go well with sea food and white meats. This is a good wine that I would enjoy chilled on it's own on a hot day. The viscous mouth feel is interesting and the fruitiness is refreshing.
The next course was a Portobello Stuffed Mushroom. The mushroom was stuffed with crabmeat and topped with mozzarella cheese.
Ross noticed that I was taking tasting notes. Jokingly, he commented, “there is one in every crowd.” “One! Heck Ross, there are four more engineers at this table!” Then he broke out the Longwood 12 Stave Shiraz/Grenache. The Grenache component came from 60 year old bush vines in McLaren Flat. The Shiraz is estate grown at Longwood. All fruit is fermented in 1 and 2 ton open tanks. Ferments are hand plunged three times daily. Wine is basket pressed directly to oak to complete malolactic fermentation then racked 3 times prior to bottling. The wine is aged in French and American Hogs heads and Bariques for a total of 18 months.
Longwood clearly is making a high quality product for the retail of $16.99. The yield is kept down to a very low 2 tons per acre. T-bin fermentation and hand punch downs are very labor intensive and I think the effort showed in the wine. (This style of wine making is in our earlier article.
Appellation: McLaren Vale
Varietal: 60% Shiraz, 40% Grenache
Cases Produced: 500
Filtration and fining: Zero fining. Minimal filtration prior to bottling.
Alcohol %: 15.2
Total Acid: 3.58
Residual Sugar: 0.8
The wine has a mildly smoky nose, cherry, blackberry and elderberry. It has nice tannin structure from the French and American oak combination. Chocolate, mint and eucalyptus. This is a very good wine today and will lay down for up to 8 years. It would be interesting to grab a case of this and taste it over the years.
Next came Lobster Ravioli in an arugala tomato cream sauce. Rather than shredded filling, this ravioli was filled with chunks of lobster. Very good, and remember that we have lobster boats in our front yard, so when I say it is good…
This was a funky pairing. Ross brought out a Craneford “Allison Parsons” Shiraz. An interesting point about Craneford is that they use a old basket press. This is clearly old school but the way it treats the fruit, you get really nice soft, fine tannins. The yield from the sourced vineyards was about four tons per acre which is a good yield for a wine in this price point. The vineyard is located on the edge of the desert resulting in very concentrated fruit. The wine is aged in American and French oak for 12 months.
Allison Parsons Shiraz
Appellation: Barossa Valley
Yields per Acre: 4 t/acres
Cases Produced: 2,000
Wood treatment: American & French Oak
Length of barrel maturation: 12 months
Alcohol %: 15.46
Total Acid: 6.95
Residual Sugar: 0.51
Color: Dark purple
Summary: Blueberry, strawberry, pomegranate, sandalwood, and eucalyptus. A very flavorful, fruit forward wine that will do well with some aging. The comments from the table were that it was easier to perceive the fruit characteristics without the oak getting in the way. I feel that the oak treatment was spot on with this wine.
The main course was Cranberry Balsamic Duck Breast. Oven roasted duck breast served sliced over butternut ravioli tossed with pine nut, spinach, butter and brown sugar. I’ve tried to cook duck, it has its challenges. This duck was done to perfection, flavorful, moist and you could cut it with a fork.
Ross brought out Tait "The Ball Buster", an inky dark Shyraz blend. Tait Wines is located at the southern end of the famous Barossa Valley, in a town called Lyndoch in South Australia, and overlooks the spectacular Barossa Ranges. The grapes that make up the Ball Buster blend are sourced from different vineyard locations throughout the Barossa. Vineyard sites are chosen to ensure that the resultant fruit is intense and that cropping levels do not exceed 3.5 tones an acre; typically these are clay soils on the fringes of the Barossa. The age of the vineyards that make up the 2006 Ball Buster Blend vary between 7 and 40 years.
Appellation: Barossa Valley
Blend: 78% Shiraz, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot
Cases Produced: 15,000
Wood treatment: Used (3 to 5 year old) American (80%) and French (10%)
Length of barrel maturation: 12 months.
Alcohol %: 16.0
Total Acid: 6.7
Residual Sugar: 1.2
Color: Inky purple
Summary: The first thing you notice about this wine is that it is highly extracted and you cannot see the stem of the glass. The wine is cherry, blackberry, menthol, chocolate and blueberry with spicy clove, lemon zest, allspice, sandalwood tannins. Very concentrated flavors, a real fruit forward wine that would hold up in any Rochambeau contest.
This was a fun night with great foods and wines. Taster B and I are happy we made Ross’ acquaintance and will be looking for his wines. All of the wine have Stelvin closures pointing to the retirement of “Old Reliable”.
We ended the evening with Tiramisu and Benjamin Port.