Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Eagerly Anticipating a Heady Blend of Wine Country and Bloggers

Ever since the Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma last fall, I've been looking forward to the next gathering of wine bloggers. It seems like the bloggers out in California get together all the time, but on the east coast, we are somewhat more isolated. Enter TasteCamp East: A Long Island wine country excursion planned by bloggers for bloggers! Actually, Lenn of LENNDEVOURS did all the work, and is already talking about accomodating more bloggers in another (bigger) TasteCamp East next year!

Of course, there is a full schedule of tastings designed to give us as much exposure as possible to a lesser known wine region. We'll be visiting the tasting rooms at Roanoke, Paumanok, Bedell, Lenz, Shinn Estate, and perhaps Wolffer Estate (time permitting). We'll also taste dozens of other wines over the course of a few meals. Perhaps it is also fitting to mention (given recent wine writer related maelstroms) that all the bloggers are paying their own way to travel to, and stay in Long Island, as well as for the majority of meals (I think there are two sponsored meals). Well... All, except Lenn who managed to finagle a TasteCamp in his own back yard. ...I kinda wish I was going on a junket... Anyway, I am SUPER PSYCHED about this thing and can't wait to see my old pals and meet some new ones. Look for some post-TasteCamp summary posts next week.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

$10 Tuesday: Tempranillo

This week's ten dollar wine is actually only eight bucks. What a deal! We love red wine, and we really like some of the lighter reds like Tempranillo that you can drink on a warmer day without getting cottonmouth.


Vino de la Tierra de Castilla
Vintage: 2007
Grape: Tempranillo
Alcohol: 13%

Aromas: Cherry, bramble, spice, strawberry, neroli
Flavors: Cherry, strawberry, allspice,fig

Summary: This country wine is not bad for eight bones. It's not terribly complex and it's a little shy on acidity which makes the tannins seem a little more dominant but, these are small quibbles. Really, there's not much bad I can say about an eight dollar Spanish Tempranillo (yes, I'm biased). The only thing that I didn't like about this wine was that it seemed kind of yeasty.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bodega Aljibes Visits New England

We were fortunate Friday night to be invited to a Spanish wine dinner at Zorvino Vineyard with visiting winemaker Javier Fernandez Sanz from Bodega Aljibes in Spain.

It was our first time to one of Zorvino's events and it was nice to see that there was a healthy turnout. Most of the other guests were first-timers too, so I guess the word is getting out about Chef Philip Carolan. He pretty much runs a one-man kitchen, yet still finds time to do things like blanche and peel fresh cherry tomatoes to go with the seared skewered beef, and bake 70 mini soufflés. He also grows some of his own greens and herbs on the property which I think is just awesome. I know that's pretty standard in other areas but it's pretty revolutionary in these parts.

Javier was kind enough to fly in all the way from Spain just for this event. I admit I did heard him say something about going to New York on this trip too but, I'm sure New Hampshire was the highlight of his trip.

Javier walked us through his selections starting with the 2007 Viña Aljibes Blanco: An entry-level blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. This wine was very easy-drinking and a nice blend of mineral and fruit. The acidity really sparkled when paired with a calamari salad. This was followed by the Vina Aljibes Rosado 2007 which Javier explained was developed for the Holland clubbing market (apparently, in Holland clubbers drink Rosé at the disco). The criteria for this market is pink and smells nice which it was and did--like strawberry and pineapple.

Next we had the 2004 Aljibes red: A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot (33%). I wish I had taken notes. Some found it perhaps too rustic for the average palate but, I thought it was quite graceful with deep dark fruit, layers of chocolate, spice, and tannins that tasted more herbaceous than bitter.

Finally, we had a 2006 Cab Franc paired with our chocolate soufflé and banana... Okay, can we talk about this banana for a second? I was expecting your average mushy poached banana but this thing had a delicate crisp caramelized coating, and was warmed through without being cooked to mush. Oh, and the soufflé..? We're supposed to be listening to Javier talk about this Cab Franc, and it was all I could do to not be distracted by the aroma of melty, bakey chocolate sitting under my nose. Some guests yielded to temptation and devoured all traces of the dessert before Javier had even stopped talking. I felt kind of bad for him--I hope the Chef saved him one so he left knowing that the chocolate was to blame. The Cab Franc was a great pairing with the dessert, by the way. The chocolate brought out a nice bright strawberry flavor in the wine.

All in all, a very pleasant evening with some great food and interesting wines. It was nice to have some Spanish wines introduced by the wine maker himself right here in New England...Not as nice as having them in Spain but, this was a pretty good substitute and the folks at Zorvino are fun. I'm going to keep an eye out for the 2004 Aljibes red blend in the local wine shops so I can try it again.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Golubtsy in my Glass!

What is golubtsy, or galumpkis you ask? Oh...don't ask me. Basically, they are cabbage rolls but, why there are dozens of names for this basic stuffed veg dish, I could not tell you. But, why is it in my glass? It's not! Not really...It's this crazy Cab Franc Carménère blend I'm drinking.

I was jonsing for a Greek red, or a Tempranillo or anything with some nice figgy flavors to go with our Med spread the other night. I didn't have any of that so decided to open this bottle of Oops (as in Gal-oopsie) instead. This is a pretty fun wine. The label is pretty good entertainment in itself. I recommend it for light (yet informative) reading next time you're in the Chile aisle at the wine shop.

Anyway, I was very pleased to find a touch of that fig I was looking for on the nose. But, as it opened up, it's true Cab Franc characteristics took charge of the situation. This is where the golubsty comes in. Taster A kept saying "cabbage" and I was like "that's nice dear." Then it hit me: Stuffed pepper? No. Cabbage rolls! Don't let that scare you; it's just to say it's got this meat, tomato, veg, spicy thing going on. There's also some leather, geranium, and there's the fig and some soft berry in the background.

On the palate, more tomato, a touch of dry fig, olive and citrus, and a lot of spice. This wine is just great with food which is what we used it for. If you like sipping fruit-forward wines, I'm going to warn you not to try doing that with this one--you'll be like "whaa??" Oh, and whatever you do, don't pair it with dark chocolate unless you want to see how to make a wine taste like a bitter espresso shot. The wine is a little thin on the back of the palate, but a lingering peppery/smoky finish round it out. Needless to say, it went well with dolmas.


Vintage: 2007
Growing Region: Valle Central, Chile
Blend: Cab Franc (84%), Carménère (16%)
Alcohol: 13.9%
Price: ~$12

Aromas: Fig, pepper, tomato, veggies, leather, geranium, almond, wild strawberry
Flavors: Tomato, fig, olive, citrus, dust, allspice, pepper, juniper berry, tobacco


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

$10 Tuesday: White Côtes du Rhône

We've had this label before in a Rosé and been quite pleased with it so we thought what the heck, let's try the white.

Le Pas de la Beaume
White Côtes du Rhône

Vintage: 2008
Alcohol: 13.5%
Grapes: Grenache Blanc (65%), Clairette (20%), Marsanne (15%)
Price: ~$10

Aromas: Green apple, honeydew, tropical fruit
Flavors: Green apple, lemon, mineral, butter
Acidity: moderate
Sweetness: ultra-dry
Mouthfeel: round

On the nose is crisp green apple, honeydew, and something tropical--like starfruit. But, it could be that I just have starfruit on the brain because dhonig said it...(have I ever even had starfruit?) The flavor is quite starkly mineral, with a rather incongruous buttery finish and, as one observer put it, it is "dryer than a cork." This is a food wine, and does have adequate acidity to serve that purpose.

I don't know, I wasn't all that inspired by this one. It's a decent good table wine that goes well with food, but I don't have much to say about it. I know people who like this wine. I think I prefer the Rosé. I couldn't remember having a Grenache Blanc before but, checking back, I see indeed we have, and it seems we enjoyed that one a bit more.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

$10 Tuesday: Perrin Côtes du Rhône

Perrin Reserve
Red Côtes du Rhône

Vintage: 2006
Alcohol: 13%
Grapes: Grenache (60%), Syrah (20%), Mourvedre & Cinsault (10%)
Price: ~$9

Aromas: Bramble, wet stone, garrigue, violet, pepper, raspberry
Flavors: Cherry, orange, coffee, pepper
Acidity: moderate
Mouthfeel: suede

Summary: This is great everyday table wine with plenty of CdR character. The great thing about a cheap Côtes du Rhône is it has so much more interest than a similarly priced mass produced new world wine. It is not as plush and may take some getting used to if you are accustomed to something more homogenized but, I really recommend getting out of your comfort zone and trying something like this with a meal. Personally, I find a lot of the mass produced wines give me heartburn, whereas, a wine like this has the opposite effect. Overall, this is a pleasant, not overly complex or bold wine with a velvety peppery finish.
You can read more about the 2006 harvest over at Beaucastel Blog.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Wine and 'za

After a long (reeeally long) week, what could be better than coming home and flopping on the couch with some homemade pizza and a big glass of red wine? I ask you. Pizza doesn't require anything fancy but, tonight we went a little uptown with this bottle of Isole e Olena 2005 Chianti Classico. As a side note, our friend and fellow blogger Richard, from A Passionate Foodie is a big fan of this wine, and also met the wine maker, Paolo De Marchi earlier this year.

Isole e Olena
Chianti Classico DOCG

Alcohol: 13.5%
Grape: Sangiovese (blended with less than 20% Syrah depending on the vintage)
Price: $19.99

Aromas: Sandalwood, cherry, tomato, violet
Flavors: Anise, allspice, pomegranate, cherry, tomato, sandalwood
Acidity: Tangy
Mouthfeel: Clean

This is an unusually light-bodied Sangiovese but, flush with floral aromas with deep woody bottom-notes. If I were a man, I'd splash this stuff on as aftershave. On the palate, bright red-fruit flavors are subdued by mouth-filling savory notes giving the wine a mellow tang--it definitely has the umami goin' on. It did fine with the pizza, but I think with the delicacy of flavors we have in this wine, it actually was better to drink it on it's own after the pizza had been devoured.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

$10 Tuesday, Zorvino Winery

Those of you that follow this blog will remember that I just had a jones this spring. I just had to go back to my roots and get to a maple sugar house and stick my head into the steam. I found a sugar house up in Chester, New Hampshire one Sunday that was sugaring and I just had to go. B was doing homework and I was on a mission to find an arc, feel the heat on my jeans, smell the sap boiling and after 30 years, just find someone else that just understands what it means to sugar.

Driving up the back road in Sandown, New Hampshire, just five miles from my target I saw a sign by the road that said, “Wine Tasting”. I almost sprained my ankle jumping on the breaks. What is this, I’m in the middle of Southern New Hampshire? Well, let me fill you in about Zorvino Vineyards.

I walked into the tasting room and got a cheery, hello and welcome from Rue (right) and Sally who were operating the tasting room. We sat down and started to chat about the wines and the vineyard, and what I learned rocked my universe about business models for making wine.

This part of New Hampshire is not buffered by the ocean like Jewell Towne is, so the weather is, well New England weather. Thus it is difficult to find a grape to produce quality wines. But you are Jim Zanello, and you have a heritage of wine making. What do you do? You source your grapes. You source your grapes from Tuscany, Northern California and South America. Check this out, it’s like having two harvest seasons! Right off the bat, I have affinity for this winery. But can they make wine? Yes.

Zorvino Vineyards makes small batches in stainless steel. They are using modern techniques, to make wines in a style that are very flavorful, full bodied, beautifully extracted and just great values.

They are very open about where the grapes are sourced. On the tasting sheet, they list the growing region. They do not barrel age, but they do use chips. The result is a very mildly wooded wine that is similar to the styles of Chile, Argentina and Italy.

I brought two bottles home, the 2007 Chardonnay made with grapes sourced from the Curico Valley of Chile and the 2008 Carmenere, grapes also sourced from the Curico Valley of Chile.

Chardonnay 2007
Zorvino Vuneyards

Alcohol: 12.3%
Price: $10.00

Color: Straw Yellow
Intensity: Pale
Aromas: Vanilla, melon, honey, butterscotch, malt, oak
Flavors: Lemon, mango, butterscotch, oak, mineral, stone, lime zest
Acidity: Moderate
Sweetness: Dry
Finish: Long

Summary: This is a rather refreshing experience. Here in central, southern New Hampshire, I have found a chardonnay that I actually like. I’m not a big Chardonnay fan, I prefer Sauvignon Blanc. Here is a Chardonnay that is moderately buttery, mildly oaked, ever so slightly toasted that was very enjoyable. Nothing in this wine is overpowering. It is not trying to be the world’s best Chardonnay. Like a good friend that stopped over to shoot the breeze, it’s just a pleasurable experience.

We are having this tonight with baked potatoes. This will go good with anything you’d serve Chardonnay with, and you’ll like it.

Back at the Vineyard, I tasted the Dry Mascato, Pinot Grigio, the Chardonnay (above), Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Merlot. Chatting with Rue, I told him about my Italian heritage and how I have Sangiovese in my blood. At that point, he took me back to the tank for a special barrel tasting of the Sangiovese that Zorvino is making. It’s going to be real gooood and I’ll have to make a trip up when it is released.

Zorvino Vineyards

Vintage: 2008
Alcohol: 12.5
Price: $15.00

Color: Garnett
Intensity: Dark
Aromas: Cherry, blueberry, smoked meat, black pepper, hay, American oak, rose
Flavors: Cherry, chocolate, licorice, tobacco, allspice, cinnamon, blueberry,
Body: Full
Sweetness: Dry
Tannins: Soft
Finish: Moderately long

Summary: This is a big surprise. Who would have thought that a good carmernere could be made in New Hampshire. We opened this wine with a tomato based vegetable pasta dish. It complemented the spicy dish very well. The flavors are bold even though the aromas are a little tight. Once it opened up, it became floral. The wood notes are complimentary, not dominant, meaning that it is not overpowered oak and smoke. This leaves the flavors and aromas unfettered by over oaking.

This is a good valued table wine made by an emerging winery, right here in New England.

I would have this with Mediterranean lamb dishes, Italian tomato or roasted meat dishes, pizza or Mexican. It is an easy wine to have with heavier foods.


Monday, April 6, 2009

C. Donatiello Rosé

Last fall I had the opportunity to visit C. Donatiello Winery at the site formerly occupied by Belvedere, with fellow wine bloggers Lenn, Sonadora, Spoon, Joe, Thea, Nick, and Patrick. Chris presented us with an awesome flight of his estate Chardonnays and Pinot Noir. The Rosé which I had not tasted before last night, was a parting gift which I brought home and tucked away to save for warmer weather. Last night, I decided to follow Sonadora's advice and open it with bbq chicken wings, cornbread and cole slaw.

C. Donatiello

Vintage: 2007
AVA: Russian River Valley
Alcohol: 14.5 %

Color: rose
Intensity: medium
Aromas: pine nut, orange blossom, strawberry
Flavors: raspberry, strawberry, mandarin, vanilla
Body: light
Acidity: moderate
Sweetness: dry
Finish: moderate

Summary: C. Donatiello specialized in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir so, this Rosé is likely made from Pinot Noir grapes. Upon opening the bottle, I instantly recognized the aroma of Sonoma. It has very enticing notes of cream which sink back into citrus and pine nut. The flavor is somewhat citrus forward finishing with sparkling raspberry and strawberry notes. The alcohol content is surprisingly high--tasting it, I would not guess that it was above 13.5%. This wine pairs nicely with food with plenty of palate-cleansing acidity. Unfortunately, the winery does not sell their Rosé but if you stop by in person, you might be able to sample it.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tish's New Project

Don't miss the new collaborative "wine-style" site Dregs Report organized by W.R. Tish which launched today.

...okay, that's all--git over there! With forty odd contributors, there's lots to read!