Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Cabernet Credits" at The Vineyard, Andover, MA

This just came in from our friends at The Vineyard in North Andover, Ma. Please support them in their effort to help save two tons of glass from going to the landfill. We first wrote about The Vineyard in January.

Now you can earn "Cabernet Credits" Feb. 22- April 22 and help save Mother Earth while you're at it.

Now anybody who knows me real well also knows that I'm not a real tree hugger. But I do believe that if you have something good and can conserve it well, that's a good thing.

And so as we come up on the 38th anniversary of the first Earth Day, I was thinking about what The Vineyard could do to help conserve this wonderful planet. And then it came to me: Everybody's talking about "Carbon Credits", but what the world really needs are "Cabernet Credits".

So today I'm announcing The Vineyard's Cabernet Credits Campaign. It's a new twist on a program that we've run successfully in the past. The difference this time is that we have a specific goal in mind: we want to save 2 tons of landfill by recycling 2400 empty wine bottles between now and Earth Day, April 22nd.

The program starts today and the concept is relatively simple:

* You have empty wine bottles
* You bring them to The Vineyard (limit: 12 bottles per day)
* We give you a $1 credit for each bottle you bring in
* You use the credits to lower your cost per bottle by a buck.
* Whatever credits you don't use can be saved and used until April 30th.
* We recycle your wine bottles.
* Everybody, including Mother Earth, makes out.

It's our small effort to save the earth one wine bottle at a time.

For all of the details, please see our online Press Release.

Please join us in our effort to recycle 2400 Wine bottles by Earth Day!

Bill Dwyer
The Vineyard
554 Turnpike St. (Rt. 114)
North Andover, MA 01845


Monday, February 25, 2008

Falesco Sangiovese Umbria IGT with Tomato Pasta

Sometimes I just want a pasta dish. Tonight, I didn’t want the typical canned spaghetti sauce. How about something a little more like what Grandmother would make?

I started with three Italian sausages. Cut the sausage into one inch chunks and toss into a large pot. While the sausage is browning, cut a large onion into a dozen or so wedges. Cut up a bell pepper in one inch chunks. I want this to be a chunky sauce.

I have some huge carrots. This one could have been a prop in a whodunit movie. Yeah, it was that big. Coarsely grate this so that you have about two cups or so. When the sausage is browned, throw the onions in and brown them until tender and slightly caramelized. Peel two cloves of garlic, slice and toss them in. Throw in the carrots and let them cook down a bit. The carrot and onion will add enough sugar to the sauce to make it sweet. Add a cup of red wine, whatever you have left over.

Spice up this with oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, fresh bay leaf, and a little ground clove. Yes, a little ground clove. Grind up a teaspoon or two of fennel seed. You’re going to love it. Okay, all this goes into a big pot to simmer with a large can of crushed tomatoes. When you think you've got it ready, get your favorite pasta ready.

Why did I go through all of this fuss? Because I’ve got a bottle of Falesco Sangiovese Umbria IGT that we picked up at the Vineyard Italian tasting.

Umbria is in central Italy. It has been in the last 10 years that Sangiovese has become a varietal wine. With reduced yields, paying attention to terroir and subtle barrique-aging, Sangiovese is really becoming a well respected grape. These wines from Umbria and Tuscany can be quite rich, lush, dark purple, spicy and fruity. Add the complexity of barrique-aging and you have a tasty wine.

This wine scored 90 points Wine Spectator and 86 points from the Wine Advocate. “Holy inconsistent wine scores, Batman!” But the real question is, would you like it?

Sangiovese Umbria IGT

Vintage: 2006
Alcohol: 13.0%
Price: $13.99

Color: Purple
Intensity: Dark
Aromas: Blackberry, cherry, slightly floral, earth, allspice
Flavors: Strawberry, cherry, elderberry, anise, allspice, clove, oak
Body: Full
Sweetness: Dry to off dry
Tannins: Leather
Finish: Long

Summary: The first thing we noticed about this wine is that it deep, dark purple. Absolutely beautiful. Fruit forward, complex, leathery tannins evolve into a long spicy finish of allspice. Very delicate oak notes here from the barrique-aging. Taster B exclaimed an approving “Oh My! This is good.” So if Taster B (generally antipathetic to my Italian wine infatuation) can get excited about this wine, well, it’s got to be good. We bought two bottles and I think that we can leave the second one for a year or so. It has the tannins and a technical cork.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bonterra Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2006

Tonight I got home late from work and needed to put something together fast for dinner. In the refrigerator there were some chicken thighs, carrots, a big sweet onion and a half cup of Pinot Grigio. I removed the skin from the thighs and browned them in a little olive oil. I peeled and cut up the carrots in bit sized pieces and quartered the large onion then tossed them them with the chicken. Then the Pinot Grigio was added and the pot was covered. For this dish, I left the onion in quarter slices to cook until tender.

Now what do I have that will go with this? Let's see, Sangiovese...no...Syrah...no...Chianti...no...Cab...Bonterra Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, that will do. This wine is made from certified organic grapes, should be light, fresh, crisp with a bit of citrus and some tropical fruit flavors. Let's get this bad boy out.

Now I know how I want to spice the chicken, let's keep it savory and not hot. Marjoram, basil, fresh black pepper and thyme were added to the simmering pot. By the time this was done, I had my tasting notes written, took a quick snapshot of the wine and cooked up some noodles to perfection. Time for dinner!

(c)2008 SmellsLikeGrapeThe Wine
Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc 2006
52% Lake County
48% Mendocino
Price: $10.00
Alcohol: 13.3%

Color: Straw
Intensity: Pale
Body: Light

The wine looked delightful in the glass, nice clear straw yellow color. The aromas consisted of grapefruit, litchi, kiwi, honeydew melon with some mushroom. The wine had citrus flavors of lemon and grapefruit and a hint of black pepper. The wine was crisp and fresh, semi-dry, just what you would expect. The long finish hung on with buttery pear flavors.

The broth was very sweet from the onion and carrot. The Pinot Grigio was really my friend here, providing some acid. A little sea salt and we are ready to eat. The wine paired well with my impromptu chicken. In my mind, this wine is a good table wine and a good value in its price range.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wine, Headaches, and Legislation

I was reading an article today titled Current Knowledge about the Presence of Amines in Wine† which explores the variability of concentrations of amines such as histamine in wine, and the factors that relate to possible regulatory legislation. Amines are basically the byproduct of the breakdown of amino acids. Amines are present in all living cells (playing an important role in the regulation of body temperature, etc) but also occur in fermentation and can be toxic in high concentrations. There is already legislation in the U.S. and Europe limiting the levels of well-known amine, histamine, in fish and cheese and apparently, some are calling for similar limits in wine.

Illegal Microbiology
I have mixed feelings about the legislation of food in general. My initial reaction to reading that there is a movement to legislate limits on an organic compound in wine was “keep your laws off my wine!” I have to admit though that when I began reading about compounds with names such as cadaverine, putrescine, and spermine (all with aroma profiles in keeping with their monikers) I was less opposed to the idea of someone removing these from my wine or inhibiting their formation altogether.

Stinky Cheese
To put it all in perspective though, the average cheese has 50 to 100 times more putrescine than the average red wine, and up to roughly five times more histamine. I was glad to see that the authors added further perspective by pointing out that there is a wide variation of histamine tolerance among individuals, and that the combination of histamine-rich foods, and/or digestive-tract uptake inhibiting drugs like AMOI blockers make it virtually impossible to guarantee that consumers won’t receive a toxic level of histamine absorption in relation to wine consumption. With histamine poisoning symptoms ranging from mild to severe (severe being migraine--ouch) it’s not exactly life threatening.

The Old Cab vs. Pinot Debate
By the way, anyone with histamine sensitivity would be interested to know that in the studies cited, Pinot Noir had higher levels of histamine than Cabernet Sauvignon. Of course, red wine has generally higher levels than white (the more contact with the lees the higher the concentration). Also, they found that the addition of bentonite clay to wine reduced the histamine by half. Do with that piece of data as you will (over the counter bentonite supplements are available.*)

The Real Cause of Wine Headache
Blog Tablas Creek posted an article earlier this year about wine-related headaches and histamines. As he pointed out, the much-maligned sulfites are not the root cause of most wine allergies and are a necessary component to wine-making for bacteria control which correlates with the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition article which cites research showing that the addition of SO2 restrains the formation of histamine.

So wine legislation bodies; which is it going to be: The “Contains Sulfites” labeling or a histamine limit? How about a happy medium like a “Histamine Content” label similar the percent of alcohol by volume label? This way people with histamine sensitivities can be aware of whether the bottle they are being offered will cause them discomfort. What do you think? Should a histamine limit be imposed on the wine industry?

Addendum: Let me be clear here, I am not proposing wine legislation. I am merely pointing out that certain existing legislation may be somewhat at odds with further legislation on naturally occuring wine compounds.

†Ancín-Azpilicueta, Carmen, Ana González-Marco, and Nerea Jiménez-Moreno. "Current Knowledge about the Presence of Amines in Wine." Critical Reviews in Food Science & Nutrition 48.3 (Mar. 2008): 257-275. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO.

*I am not a health care practitioner and do not promote the use of any remedies or cures FDA-approved or otherwise.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Fontana Candida Frascati

At a party, I had an opportunity to try a Frascati DOC. Frascati DOC is white wine from Lazio (Latium) region which boasts well drained volcanic soils from 200 feet to about 100ft above sea level. Frascati is made from Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes, is primarily dry but sometimes made in semisweet, sweet and spumante styles.

Frascati is produced in large quantities by producers interested in maximizing production, finding a good bottle may take some work. The philosophy in the region is to produce and sell what you produce. In recent years, more attention has been given to quality. Where this may sound like the same old song played on a different radio, we are talking Italy here and Italy is working to change its wine image. Sometime old habits are hard to break.

Where we in the wine world may be critical of Italy for mass production, let's not forget that we Americans have a 20th century history of producing wines by the railroad car load shipped east for bottling and repackaging. California had a good economic thing going with Chardonnay which was sold to a thirsty market (by the tanker car load). When the market wanted something different, Chardonnay was oaked to the point where you couldn’t see the grapes through the trees. Now producers are offering us non-oaked Chardonnay as something new and exciting. It has only been in the last three decades that California has become a quality producer. But wine is still produced by the tanker load. My point is that Italy should not be singled out for over production and we in the New World should not complain about the mote in our brother’s eye.

So what about this bottle of Fontana Candida (the winery), Frascaiti DOC (the wine), Superiore (the marketing term)? The wine was clear, pale straw colored. The nose was of pear and violets, rather floral and little mushroom. Dry, clean and on the crisp side. Not a whole lot to report and nothing changed in the glass over time. It was a pleasant white wine best shared with breads, lighter species of fish, nothing sweet or this wine will go sour to the palate. Had this been our wine, we would have had it tonight with the Soba Noodle salad that Taster B made for dinner. Frascati should be opened within one to two years.

I would encourage you to look for this wine if you enjoy trying different grapes and experimenting. Look for Frascati DOC wine produce by Colli di Catone, Fontana Candida and Villa Simone for the best examples.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Popular" Palate

Jeff at Good Grape recently posted an interesting article on Tim Hanni and the Budometer as covered in Wines and Vines. I love Jeff’s blog by the way. I admire his ability to effortlessly weave current topics from the Wine Media into a cohesive stream of consciousness dialogue; at once off-the-cuff and keenly insightful; with a knack for expressing a viewpoint without use of soapbox or dogmatism.


Jeff points out that categorizing an individual’s palate might meet with some resentment:

I think most wine lovers, righteously, would bristle in self-defense—such is our wanton ways, not wanting to define our palates (or ourselves) while still reserving the right to pass empirical quality markers on wine.

He also astutely alludes to another human tendency which is that of presuming to define someone else’s tastes while maintaining our own anti-classification. I must admit my own culpability in this matter: I have made certain differentiations amongst coworkers at the office potluck based on who brought whoopee pies versus the butternut squash soup. And, why shouldn’t we? After all, we all have our own preferences and it’s only natural to share affinity with people of similar tastes. On the other hand, it can be all too easy to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

My lambasted ripe fruit
Why should it be that the fruit of a vine growing in a region enjoying a long ripening season should be reviled? Does it stem from our instinct to root for the underdog as Miles so influentially did in Sideways when he pontificated (by rote, I think) on the virtues of Pinot Noir?

Is it possible that one person could have the breadth of sensibilities to find virtue in both ripe fruit-forward New World style wine, as well as a trim and sophisticated Old World wine?

Taste and Wine
What makes great wine? Obviously, there is the basic potential in the juice derived from growing conditions, wine-making technique, etc. There is also the sensory aspect of it; the flavors and aromas; also textures. Then one can delve deeper into those elements to look at the basic chemical structure and the order and gradation of a limited set of flavonoids that are present in wine. Depending on the amplification, and order within the series of each flavor component, you get this flavor profile or that flavor profile. So, is that it? A series of flavors brought about by a particular soil/climate profile, and wine-making technique?

Divine Wine
Dr. Vino recently featured an article by Mike Steinberger The Greatest Wine on the Planet: An evocative piece on the ‘47 Cheval Blanc. Oddly enough, this legendary wine came about from a technically “defective wine from an aberrant year.” Also fascinating, is the fact that this vintage was a vast departure from the usual Bordeaux style as Michael notes in his article:

David Peppercorn, a British Master of Wine and Bordeaux specialist, first tasted the '47 Cheval in 1952 and says it was sublime even then. "It was delicious as a young wine," he told me, "with a wonderful sort of opulent texture that was very unusual for a Bordeaux in that day." The voluptuousness was a function of the 14.4 percent alcohol content, which at the time was off the charts for a Bordeaux.

A taste of the ’47 Cheval Blanc eludes Mr. Steinberger at first but, by the end of his documented adventure, he finally samples the lauded elixir and finds to his surprise that despite his heightened expectations, this wine is beyond comparison with any earthly wine in his experience.

Back to the question of what makes good or great wine: Perhaps wine is more than just a flavor/aroma profile, a technique, and a geographical origin. It could possibly be described as a sensory experience that goes beyond what we find on the palate. And to use a term bandied about by our laughable Sideways hero, a great wine is transcendent.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Seven Flowery Words (WBW #42) Boony Doon 2005 Ferraris Piemonteses Blend

Victoriana is now and it is rose-scented.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Tomaiolo Riserva 2003 Chianti DOCG

(c)2008 SmellsLikeGrapeI spotted this wine in a little wine shop in Somerville, MA. The label caught my eye because it had “Riserva” and it is a Chianti DOCG. So one would think this would be a sure bet, right? Well, it could be swill.

As a quick label tutorial, Tomaiolo is the Brand and Riserva is an designation of higher quality, mainly because of additional aging. The vintage is 2003 and Chianti DOCG, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Guarantita is what's under the cork.

Now what I’m going to write isn’t expounded on in Vino Italiano, The Regional Wines of Italy. It is from Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia, 4th Edition. Tom Stevenson has allocated about eight column inches to this story. In a nutshell, alas, DOCG is supposed to be a higher standard, but when the Tuscany DOCs were being hammered out, DOCG status was given to all Chianti producers, not the cream-of-the-crop. Politically, the Chianti bulk producers had a good deal of clout, so quality lost to quantity. (Note that this discussion does not include the Chianti Classico DOCG which is a different wine and different DOCG.)

Chianti (other than Classico) must contain between 75% and 80% Sangiovese plus the possibility of 5% to 10% Canaiolo Nero, 5% to 10% Trebbiano or Malvasia and up to a maximum of 10% of Cabernet or any other specified black grape varieties.

So how is this wine? I’m please to present to you my tasting notes for Tomaiolo 2003 Chianti Riserva.

(c)2008 SmellsLikeGrapeChianti DOCG 2003
Price: $9.99
Alcohol: 12.5%
Color: Garnet
Body: Full
Tannins: Silk
Finish: Moderately long

This Chianti was aged in Slavonian oak for two years. The nose has hints of strawberry, blackberry, cherry, elderberry, plum, jam and raisin. Earth, hay and mushroom components are very prevalent in a sweet-smoky aroma mix. The taste is berry-cherry, smooth finish with flavorful and nice mid palate feel. The taste is slightly smoky. The Slavonian oak makes for mild oak and toast aromas that are so complimentary that I only mention them here as a technical point.

This would go good with fresh tomato pasta, white sauce pizza, minestrone, Portobello mushroom and Gouda cheese.

It is worth noting that Taster B (not a big Sangiovese fan) enjoyed this wine. I’m pleased to say that this wine was quite a find, and gets a "Ya, I'd buy this one again."


Cheap Date: Bargain Bin Zin & Wine Poached Dessert

old old vine zin One of our local markets has a $5 off-vintage wine bargain bucket that Taster A can't resist rummaging through. Most of these wines weren't stellar to begin with and are past their peak but, still make good cooking wines. Our most recent find was a bottle of Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel which still had a good deal of life left in it.

Occasionally I come across a recipe that calls for a bottle or two of $18 wine to be dumped into a pot or a marinade...I can't do it. This is a bottle I wouldn't have any qualms about sacrificing for poached peaches.

Unfortunately, I didn't have any peaches to hand tonight so, I made zin-poached mixed berries served over almond pancakes instead (inspired by the amaretto, and strawberries n' cream aromas/flavors in this particular bottle).

cross my heart perfect poached pearsSweet Nothings - Leftover Wine for Dessert
I recently had a glut of open Pinot Grigio to contend with. One solution was to use it as poaching liquid in the dessert pictured on the right which shall be gratuitously dubbed: Vanilla Cross My Heart Perfect Poached Pears (in exploitation of Valentine's Day). I haven't come up with a Valentine inspired name for the poached berries dessert yet...Ideas I'm toying with: Old Vine 'tine Poached Berries; Zintillating Berry Delight; but, I think I'm going to stick with the simple and direct: I Love You Zin Poached Berries (there's just no way to work the almond pancakes in there). Speaking of almond pancakes: Anybody out there looking for ways to use the almond pulp byproduct from their almond milk production? No? Well, you may be asked someday so, just in case, here is my almond pancake recipe:
1.5 T butter (or veg. oil)
1/4 C Xylitol
1 T brown sugar
1 egg
1/3 C Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
1 t xanthum gum
1 t baking powder
pinch fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 C almond pulp (from almond milk production)
1/3 C almond milk
1/2 t sea salt
1/4 t almond extract
sliced almonds for garnish

Combine flour, xanthum gum, baking powder, and sea salt. In separate bowl, cream butter, sugar, egg, and almond extract. Mix almond milk into almond pulp to form dense batter consistency. Add half flour mixture to wet mixture, alternating with half of almond paste mixture. Stir until mixed. Add more milk if necessary. Texture will be like muffin batter.

Heat griddle and add 1 t butter or oil. Spoon out pancake batter and place several sliced almonds over top. Cover and let cook on low (about 4 min.) Flip with spatula and cook other side for about 3 minutes or until done. Top with zin-poached berries (frozen berries, zinfandel, sugar or xylitol). Makes 4 pancakes.


Fork and Bottle's Biodynamic List

Dear Diary,

Taster B and I are fans of sustainable wine producers. This morning I was reading in Wines and Vines that www.forkandbottle.com has a comprehensive list of Biodynamic wineries.


Friday, February 8, 2008

Busy wine tasting weekend on the North Shore.

Hey North Shore Boston. This weekend has some important tastings coming up on Saturday for those of you not up for the big Boston Wine Festival.

The Vineyard is having a large tasting featuring 52 wines. I’ve had a look at the list and see some nice Merlots if you are ready to shake the bad juju from Sideways. The Vineyard is in North Andover and their tastings are a great time. Read more about The Vineyard in an earlier post.

Read the reveiw on this wine purchased from the Beverly Wind and Beer Co.For those of you that live within a good Tee Off from Beverly, drop by the Beverly Wine and Beer, Co. This is a wine shop with a great selecton. Taster B and I pop into this wine shop and never leave without something under our arms. A few of the wines we have reviewed are from this shop including the Sonoma Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2005.

Saturday's flight will be:
1. 2005 Cambria Chardonnay Katherine's Vineyard; Santa Maria Valley, California ($22.99)
2. 2006 La Crema Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast; Sonoma, California ($27.99)
3. 2004 Bodegas Alto Almanzora "Este" Tinto; Almeria, Spain ($9.99)
4. 2006 Tormaresca Neprica; Puglia, Italy ($12.99)
These wines will be discounted 10% during the tasting.
Get onto their email list if you are into tasting/pairing dinners.

Check out A Passionate Foodie for another tasting in Sagas scheduled next weekend at Ourglass Wine Company. Wine, Blues and pleanty of friends.

New to tasting?
If you are new to wine tastings, have a look at Getting the Most from your Tasting Trip. I talk to many people who drink wine but are afraid to go to a wine shop or a tasting. If you are feeling intimidated, I understand, but don’t be. Everyone there will be willing to help you have a great experience. Tastings are fun, you learn a lot and meet great people.

Be sure to check the wine shops' web sites for details.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

New Wine Shop, Adonna Imports and New Friends Tasting Italian Wines

There is a new wine shop in Salem, Massachusetts that our Passionate Foodie friend from the North Shore turned us on to. On the fifth of February, Eric of the Salem Wine Imports hosted an Italian wine tasting featuring seven of the wines from Adonna Imports. We even got to meet fellow North Shore Blogger Richard, ring leader of The North Shore Winers.

Eric talks about a Gamay from Switzerland. (c)2008 SmellsLikeGrapeThis was our first visit to the new wine shop located on 32 Church Street in Salem, Massachusetts. The store is beautifully set up with a stunning offering of wines. Eric felt that Salem was right for a niche wine shop. There are lots of packies in the area, but having a wine shop where patrons can come in on a Tuesday night, have a tasting, socialize and procure some mighty fine wines is what Eric wanted. Salem Wine Imports has a great selection of Italian, French, Californian, Spanish wines as well as a wonderful selection of wines from Oregon and Washington.

Taster B checks over the Italian section. (c)2008 SmellsLikeGrapeIf you are looking for the unusual, the unknown, the hard-to-find; but most importantly high-quality wines at a good price, scamper on over, that’s exactly what you will find. Now, I’m a bit hard boiled when it comes to value. I saw some very good wines for the less than $20.00. How unusual? How about a Swiss Gamay? When was the last time you saw one of those? I'm not a Gamay fan, but this one had me taking another look. He also has wines in the $50.00 price point and above for those special occasions.

Eileen Write of Adonna Imports talks about her unique portfolio of Italian Wines. (C)2008 SmellsLikeGrapeThe Tasting
Eric invited Eileen Wright of Adonna Imports to present a flight of six Italian wines from the Adonna portfolio.

Conte Vistarino 2004 Pinot Nero
Conte Visterino also from Lombardy has a long history of working with Pinot Nero dating back to the 1800's. The vineyards are located on The Count's vast Estate (mid 1500's) in the Oltrepo Pavese on the banks of the Po river. The winery is now run by his daughter Ottavia. Her objectives remain the same as her ancestors; create elegant, authentic wines that express their terroir. The Conte Vistario 2004 Pinot Nero is a lightly smoky, tannic little extra acid that one would expect from the region.

La Piane 2004 La Maggiorina
Le Piane is located in the Boca region of Italy in the lower Alps of the Piedmont.
The La Maggiorina is a Colline Novarsi DOC, district of Novara. The wine has a mixture of Croatina, Uva Rara, Vespolina and Nebbiolo. The name of the wine comes from the traditional Maggiorina system, where four vines are arranged in the four cardinal points, forming a cup. This is a newer DOC (1994) that also has a white wine made exclusively of Erbaluce grapes. The Maggiorina is a pleasant drinking wine with fruity and spicy aromas. The alcohol level is at 12% which I find to be typical of the Piedmont region. The wine maker Christoph Kunzli bought the property in 1988 from Antonio Cerri one of the last local wine growers of this almost forgotten region. The label states “dry red wine” which leads me to believe that it is the Rosso which would be Nebbiolo 30% min, Uva Rara max 40%, Vaspolina and/or Crotina max 30%. Yup, we brought one of these puppies home.

Martilde 2006 Bianco IGT "Gelo"
Italic Riesling grapes producing a still dry white wine with a simple profile is what's under the cork. The low yield and the advanced age of the vineyard guarantee the right level of ripeness (with grapes tinged with gold), resulting in a good structure and very mild acidity, which make it pleasantly full. Color a warm bright yellow, ample and compound nose, faintly citrusy. You can have it for the whole meal, with starters, first courses, or main courses of fish, poultry or white meats. (I’m thinking lobster.) On the label, is their male sheepdog "Gelo" in one of his favorite postures.

Martilde 2005 BonardaMartilde 2005 Bonarda is made entirely from Croatina grapes. A genuine, straightforward wine, ruby colored and with a simple clean nose, pleasantly reminding of small red fruit. This wine is not barrel fermented and will do well for enjoying now up to three years. It pairs well with soups, roasted meats, vegetables and light grillades.

Solatione 2004 Chianti Classico
Solatione is located in the heart of Chianti Classico region. The winery gets its name from the great exposition of the sun. The Vineyard is thirteen hectares, family owned and operated since 1972. Until 1991 the wine was sold to other vintners but in 1992 Fabio and Francesca (brother and sister) decided to bottle their own wines. The Chianti Classico is aged in Slovenic oak barrels for 12/16 months. This wine was definitely very delicious, well structured and firm tannins and very Sangiovese. Other Chianti Classico lovers were ooooing and aw-ing over this one. Taster B was also pleased with this offering with the only disappointment that it was sold out by the time we were ready to leave. (This is the one that got away!)

Redondel 2005 Teroldego
This winery is located in the Trentino owned and operated by a young winemaker Paolo Zanini He has a long family history in his vineyards. The vineyards are full of naturally maintained older vines with low yields and a small production. The wine comes from the Mezzolombardo in the Rotaliano plain.

A little about Adonna Imports
The company was started 3 years ago by Jeannie Rogers and Eileen Wright. Jeannie also owns Il Capriccio restaurant in Waltham, Massachusetts. Their portfolio consists of small winemakers who work well in the vineyards as well as the winery. Most of their producers are either 100% organic or working towards that goal. Jeannie has known most of the producers they work with for over 20 years. Jeannie also travels back to Italy frequently to source new winemakers. (I want that job!) Their portfolio 95% Italian but they do work with a few Austrian and one California winemaker.

Talking with Eileen, she tells us that they are having great success filling a niche market, catering to smaller wine shops and restaurants. The wines the get are from small producers and many (including some of the wines we tasted) are exclusive Adonna imports. Working with small lot producers and quality wines gives them the feeling of personal customer service and allows them to work closely with their clients.

Because their producers are small, many of their selections come in by the tens of cases, which is much too small of a quantity to be of interest to the large chain discount houses. Eileen tells us that she enjoys her work and particularly likes the idea of promoting the smaller, high quality producers.

As someone looking from the outside in, I get excited when I do business with folks like Eileen and Eric. Personalized service, quality products and I walk away with a feeling that we made some great friendships.

I also want to shout out to the Passionate Foodie for turning us to this. As a reward for getting through this posting, here is a tip. Eric is planning on having tastings most Tuesday nights. Check out his blog for details. The tip??? Salem Wine Imports encourages you bring your favorite tasting glass!


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Weekend Wino-ers: Merlot-quacious!

Okay. Everybody whose wine-buying habits weren't affected by the opinions of Paul Giamatti's character in Sideways, hats off to you. The rest of us: Let’s not beat ourselves up about it. Maybe we were naïve; maybe the times made it seem right; who knows. The point is, we can change our minds. After all, it wasn’t Merlot that changed, it was us...

Taster A and I decided it was time to remind ourselves what Merlot was all about with a horizontal tasting of three Merlots from Sonoma County. We opened three very nice single-vineyard bottles, and compared them side-by-side. All had typically soft tannins, plumy nose, and subdued character. Of course, we did wind up with our favorites.

Toad Hollow
2005 Merlot Reserve
Russian River Valley
Richard McDowell Vineyard

Price: $19.99
This was the most oaky of the three but, not offensively so. Slight herbal notes of basil on the nose and bright berry fruit on the palate. The oak fell to the background once introduced to food.

2004 Merlot
Sonoma Valley
Rose Ranch

Price: $37
Taster A found the nose disappointing but the flavor redeeming. I had sort of the opposite reaction: Found the nose pretty interesting with plum, floral, earth, and chocolate notes but, found the wine to be vapid on the palate. No acid to speak of. The palate improved with food.

Bartholomew Park
2004 Merlot (blend: 15% Cab)
Sonoma Valley
Desnudos Vineyard

Price: $32
Most interesting of the three: Refined leather and lots of floral notes on the nose; stewed plums, boysenberry, elderberry, etc. on the palate. The scent in the bottom of the glass had Taster A reminiscing of pine boards being ripped by a buzz saw.

We had a fantastic food pairing for Merlot Night: Stuffed Portobello mushrooms with scalloped potatoes and baby spinach topped with a warm bacon-Bordeaux dressing. We talked about the wine throughout dinner. Merlot definitely has some stiff competition for attention among other varietals yet it has a special character all its own: Sort of a quiet beckoning. Can you hear it calling?

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms:
2 Portobello mushrooms
3 T Olive oil
1/3 C breadcrumbs
2-3 cloves of garlic
3 T red wine
2 oz smoked Gouda
2 oz mozarella
2 t. Oregano
Sea salt to taste

Wash Portobellos and remove outer skin if desired. Pat dry. Turn on broiler and rub outside of cap with olive oil. Place on pan under broiler for about 5 minutes gill side up.
Remove pan from oven. Cut stems from caps and set aside.

Dice mushroom stems and garlic. Heat a pan on the stove and add 1 T olive oil. Add breadcrumbs, a teaspoon of oregano, and a pinch of salt. Allow breadcrumbs to brown then remove to bowl. Add another T of olive oil to pan on low-heat, add garlic, pinch of salt, and 1 teaspoon more oregano. Allow garlic to sauté for a few moments, then add diced mushrooms and toss. Pour about 3 T red wine over the mixture, cover and let cook until tender (about 4 min). When wine has reduced remove to bowl. Add about half the breadcrumbs and mix. Place one half of mixture onto each Portobello cap. Top with half Gouda / half mozzarella and remaining breadcrumbs. (Smoked Gouda is a good accompaniment Merlot but, can be too strong. Cutting it with a mild cheese like mozzarella will help keep the flavors from overwhelming the wine)
Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes or until top is melted.


Wine Cabinet Purchase Update

Well, the VinoView wine cabinet has been installed in our living room/study for about 3 weeks now, so I just wanted to post a quick update on our satisfaction so far.

It is advertised as a 35 bottle wine cabinet, and it does in fact hold 35 bottles!

Temperature Control
So far, we've found the contents are kept at a consistant temp within a +/-1.5 degree F variation from top to bottom. The technology is capable of both cooling and heating but the unit's documentation doesn't specify whether such a configuration is in place. Only way to find out would be to open all the doors and windows and, uh...not gonna happen.

Noise Factor
The unit is quiet. I can hear it run if I listen for it but, normally, I don't hear it. The fan on our furnace in the basement drowns out any noise that the wine cabinet might make. In other words, the ambient noise in our apartment is higher on the decibel scale than the wine cabinet.

For the sake of objective review, I will outline the slight drawbacks of this unit. For us, these are hardly worth mentioning but, they might be important considerations for some:


  1. Wire shelfing is a bit tight: Have to be careful not to scratch labels.
  2. Interior accent LED lights cannot be turned on/off: Thank you Monkuwino for pointing out what was in our owner's manual all along!
  3. No dual-zone temperature control: Again, not an issue for us. This is first and foremost a wine storage unit and if we need to bring down the temperature of a bottle before serving it, we've got a device for that.
  4. No self-leveling feet: Being that we are in a 150+ year old building, the lack of adjustable feet is kind of a bummer but, we just used some shims.

So far we are happy with our purchase. We will post future updates should any issues arise.