Friday, August 29, 2008

Stop and Smell the Burgundy Pinot Noir

I ordered the Louis Latour Beaune 2002 1er Cru from Bin Ends Wine mainly because it was a half bottle and I knew we could knock it back in one night (open bottles are a problem in this house). We let it decant for about 45 minutes before tasting. The nose started off with pretty typical cherry and garrigue Rhône-type aromas which quickly evolved into more full-bodied fruit and spice. The nose on this wine is completely absorbing. As I pondered the depth of aromas, I found myself asking "can a wine smell slow?"

As the nose evolves, so do the dynamic flavors. First, comes cherry and cigar followed by this blueberry-menthe-sparkle taste sensation with a mild tobacco finish. Meanwhile, the next thing on the nose is tons of mellow licorice and wood. Then vanilla. This Pinot cycles through all these flavors then back to cherry--canned cherry to be precise. While the flavors are very definite, they are not heavy. This wine manages to be both pronounced and ethereal at the same time.

This is easily the best Pinot Noir we've ever had. I'm now in a bit of trouble for only buying one 375 mL bottle.

Louis Latour Beaune 1er Cru

Vignes Franches (Pinot Noir)
Appellation Beaune - Côte-d'Or
Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: $13.75 (375 mL)
Aromas: Cherry, cassis, garrigue, tobacco, licorice, vanilla, wood
Flavors: Cherry, blueberry, cigar, vanilla, mint

Pairings: Blues, Flamenco, anything with acoustic guitar


Thursday, August 28, 2008

There's grapes on the vine.

Just this past Tuesday, my friends at Jewell Towne gave me the run of the vineyard to shoot to my heart's content. Their grapes are coming along very well. Bellow are Aurore, Cayuga White and Maréchal Foch.

Aurore (c)2008SmellsLikeGrape
Cayuga White (c)2008 SmellsLikeGrape
Cayuga White (c)2008 SmellsLikeGrape
Maréchal Foch (c)2008 SmellsLikeGrape
Maréchal Foch (c)2008 SmellsLikeGrape


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hugel - Twitter Taste Live

Six Hugel wines were sampled tonight by members of the global wine twitterati. We being the prudes we are, only tasted two. The Hugel Gentil 2006, and the Hugel Pinot Blanc 2005. The wine maker, Etienne Hugel was on hand during the tasting under the @binendswine twitter handle. The party started out rather tame but got going by about wine #3 or so. Everyone seemed to enjoy the lively dialog and having the opportunity to ask Etienne questions about the wines. I'm partial to the following quote from Etienne Hugel for obvious reasons:

smells like grapes to me and that's the first merit of Alsace wines

The Hugel Gentil is a blend of four grapes and to me, exhibited a lot of Pinot Gris on the nose. Taster A got a little more out of the nose than I did noting fig, melon, grapefruit, mineral, hazelnut, and honey. The palate starts off with a blast of grapefruit and mineral and then dissipates to a very rich mouth feel--somewhat like toffee or butter (although I hesitate to say "butter" because it's not that oak-induced butter that one normally thinks of). There is a spiciness there as well.

I was partial to the Pinot Blanc which had nice aromas of pear, warm tropical essence and citrus, and bright flavors of citrus and mineral. Taster A also picked up some honeysuckle again which I can see too. It is just a nice round and layered thing.

We had lots of fun on this Twitter Taster Live! I could definitely get used to virtual tastings like this where I can enjoy tasting/discussing wines from the comfort of my own home. If it sounds appealing to you too, check out Bin Ends Wine for details on the next Twitter Taste Live in September.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Rosé de Saignée

pinkish of bleed. Thank you! To me the term conjures up images of dainty rows of perfect pink bleeding hearts in a dewy garden (photo credit:

Tonight it was our pleasure to sample a Rosé de Saignée. "Saignée" refers to the method known as bleeding used to derive this particular type of pink wine. Rather than trying to describe it here, allow me to point you to a wonderfully informative description of the process.

Bergerie de l'Hortus

Rosé de Saignée
Appellation: Coteaux du Languedoc Contrôlée
Vintage: 2007
Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: $14.99
Grapes: Syrah 61%, Grenache 16%, Mourvèdre 23%
Aromas: Why spoil your fun?

Summary: This is a Rosé drinkers' Rosé. Beautifully balanced and subtly complex with beguiling aromas of warmth. Like a toasty and nutty Bit O' Honey that's been warming in your hip pocket. Or, perhaps like tropical rain on a Tahitian Gardenia. Or, the smell of warm skin. Oh, I could go on and on. And that is to say nothing of the fruit: strawberry, peach, fig, passion fruit, lemon zest, appleseed...the list goes on. The flavors echo the aromas with an overarching citrus theme. The last sip from my glass tastes cool and fresh--like a lemon-mint sorbet. Ahhhh...

I suppose I've been suffering lately from a sort of wine lassitude. Yes, it's all been quaffable: Pleasant aromas, good with food, blah, blah, blah. Here finally is a summer wine that, for me offers enough dimension to support the sensory journey that is my whole reason for drinking wine. Oh, and it's good with food too.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

New England Traminette & Lobster

Living where we do, it’s hard to resist temptation. We can go around the corner to the lobster pound and pick up lobster with lots of fight in them. Our lobsters pretty much go from pot to pot.

Today, I went over to Captain Joe and Son’s and picked up a couple lobsters, brought them home and plopped them in the fridge. After putting a huge pot on the stove to start boiling I realized I didn't have all the niceties to make a proper lobster photo shoot. No garnishes on hand. Oh well, into the pot they go.

When pairing wine with lobster, I prefer not to go too dry. Lobster meat is sweet, and there is going to be sweet butter and fresh corn-on-the-cob.

We scored some locally grown corn at a neighborhood farm stand to go with our local lobster (the lobster boats literally go through our front yard). So to make this a completely local meal, we decided to go with Jewell Towne Vineyard’s Traminette. Traminette is a Gewürztraminer hybrid that performs well in our New England climate.

Jewell Towne Vineyards
Alcohol: 11%
Acidity: Moderate
Price: $10.00

Color: Straw
Intensity: Pale
Aromas: Banana, melon, vanilla, citrus blossom, earth, yeast
Flavors: Grapefruit, vanilla, citrus blossom, tropical fruit, guava
Body: full
Acidity: Moderate
Sweetness: Semi-sweet
Finish: moderate

Summary: This wine has just the right sweetness to compliment the lobster, bold enough to hold its own against it's saltiness, and light enough to be refreshing. The tropical flavors were just perfect and do nicely with lemon butter. There is an earthy-vanilla quality to it even though Jewell Towne does not oak treat their wines.

By the way, if you're interested in daily life in America’s oldest working seaport, check out Good Morning Gloucester; My View of Life on the Dock. This is one non-wine blog I check out several time per week.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Twitter and the New Tasting Sensation!

Wine bloggers have been tweeting their wine tasting notes on Twitter ever since Tim at Winecast put out the call to "Twitter your tasting notes with me" in March 2007. Recently, Bin Ends Wine has taken the concept of tasting note tweeting to the next level: Twitter Taste Live is an organized tasting event in which wine bloggers and enthusiasts from around the world pop the cork on a predetermined wine selection and hop on Twitter to tweet their real-time impressions on the third Thursday of the month!

We are very excited to be joining the fun in the upcoming Twitter Taste Live #2 this Thursday August 21st! We will be tasting/tweeting on a selection of Hugel wines and in addition to several wine bloggers from around the world, Etienne Hugel himself will be joining the event from Alsace!

Check out the Bin Ends Wine site for details on this month's Twitter Taste Live wine & blogger line-up.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

WBW #48 Roots? What Roots?

Taster B in her native Canada
This month, Wine Blogging Wednesday goes right back where it started from. WBW creator, Lenn Thompson is hosting once again and has given us a fitting assignment: Back to Your Roots. Right away I’m in trouble because I have no roots. My family has no roots. I was born in Canada, grew up in California, and currently reside in New England. My maternal grandmother doesn’t know what town her parents were born in. I stammer when people ask me “where are you from” and expect a succinct answer. But, we’re talking about wine so my itinerant personal history should be less of a factor. Let me see now…Wine roots--shouldn’t be difficult…Right, so...Scarcely over a decade since I turned 21…roots, roots, roots...I got nothin’!

Okay, maybe not nothing: I did a stint as a hostess when I was 22 working in a bistro which boasted a very extensive port collection; in fact, the largest selection of Port wine (dating back to 1896) on the West Coast—pretty impressive. I had the opportunity to taste several very good, and quite old ports while working there. So, roots? Yes, perhaps... But, when it came to shelling out $50 for a 20 year old Tawny Port for WBW, I wasn’t really feeling it.

So, what’s left then?

You guessed it: California Chardonnay.

My parents usually kept a bottle of Chardonnay in the fridge when I was growing up. Chardonnay is the first wine I remember trying. Kendall Jackson is the first brand I can remember liking.

So, I’m at the wine shop last weekend, and not feeling particularly excited about the prospect of buying a bottle of Kendall Jackson just for WBW. So I decided my approach would be to buy a California Chardonnay using the same selection criteria I would have used way back in the mid-nineteen-nineties when I first began purchasing wine. Those criteria were: a) Under $9.99 b) Attractive Name and/or Label c) Not Fetzer/Gallo.

I found a Russian River Chardonnay that met my stringent guidelines: Angeline 2006. We love visiting the Russian River by the way. We haven’t been to many of the wineries there but, Hop Kiln stands out in my memory. Also, Chai Baba chai.

Angeline Chardonnay 2006

AVA: Russian River
Color: Straw
Intensity: Medium
Aromas: Butter, pear, mushroom
Flavors: Mineral, peach, pear, butter, strawberry
Body: Full
Acidity: Moderate

Summary: The label declares a hint of oak, and they are true to their word. Some butter is there but it’s definitely not a butter-bomb. This wine has a surprisingly mineral mid-palate for a Chardonnay with a round, fruity, medium-length finish. Great with chicken; bit of a let down with cheese and crackers. Still, it’s a decent bottle for under $10 and certainly a nice alternative to Kendall Jackson or Yellowtail that I would recommend trying in place of either of those.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

WBW #48 - Going Back to my Roots.

Taster B usually handles the WBW, but I couldn’t resist doing one of my own. In the wine store, we were trying to decide what to buy. California Chardonnay seemed to be a common ground, but I cut my teeth before the influence of oak. Taster B was reaching for something buttery.

My thoughts were that going back to my wine roots may be like being like going back to high school. I've moved on to bigger and better things. Besides, the only time I go back to my high school is in a bad dream where I usually find myself in math class unprepared for the final exam and I’ve blown off all semester. But going back to my wine roots may be philosophically easier than going back to high school.

In my wine youth, I wasn’t married to a particular style of wine. It just had to be affordable for a graduate student living on a few hundred per month. I didn’t like cheap wine, but I did have a jug of Carlo Rossi Chablis in the fridge at all times. This was mainly for cooking chicken, white pasta sauces and worked well as a marinade with ginger.

I liked good wine and became a master scrounge with an eye for good wine at good prices. So, I could have chosen Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Rosé de Anjou, Chardonnay, Chablis, Chianti (in fiascos of course). What to choose? We have lots of Cabs and Merlots already. I did find a Chianti in a fiasco, but I wasn't about to pay $14.00 for bad chianti.

I really had my heart set on going to the basic foundation of my wine experience; Catawba from New York State. But that is like finding a needle in a hay stack. I did find a wine that is close to one of my early wine experiences when my mother and I shared a half bottle of Rosé de Anjou at a restaurant some 25 years ago.

We sourced this wine from Ceres Street Wind Merchants, a store famous for carrying wines that are true to type.

Château Pesquié

Vintage: 2007
Blend: 50% Cinsault, 40% Grenache, 10% Syrah
AVA: Rhone Valley
Alcohol: 13%
Price: $14.99

Color: Scarlet
Intensity: Pale
Aromas: Strawberry, cranberry, kiwi, wet stone, lavender, rose
Flavors: Strawberry, cranberry, pomegranate, citrus zest
Body: light
Acidity: Moderately crisp
Sweetness: Dry
Finish: Moderate

Summary: This is a summertime wine. The back of the bottle says Tasting 45 deg F, Aged 2 years. This has me a little confused as the labeled vintage is 2007. This is a nice dry Rosé that is bright. As the wine warmed up in the glass, there were hints of floral and zest notes. Not overly complex, but definitely refreshing fruit qualities. It stood up well to sun dried tomato and gorgonzola ravioli with red sauce. I thought that it would get lost, but it held its own.

After the glass was emptied and sat for a while, I decided to give it a sniff; rose, unmistakable rose.

The great thing about Rosé is that it will stand up to spicier dishes and be gentle enough for poultry. In the summer, I would serve this with shrimp, pork, brie, lentil salad, salmon, smoked oysters, clams, lobster, crab, anything vegetarian, baked haddock sandwich, squid, rack of lamb…I could go on and on.


Monday, August 4, 2008

If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get out of the Packie

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

We received a phone call from our neighbor. “There is a package for you down stairs”. We couldn’t figure out what it could be because neither one of us had ordered anything. It turned out to be a shipment from a wine club…in mid summer??? What are they thinking?

Later that evening, we decided to take a walk. We were strolling by the local packie and decided to see if we could find something suitable for next week’s Wine Blog Wednesday. We walked into the store and much to our disappointment, it was just as hot inside as it was outside.

Both of these practices are perilous to wine. Shipping wine by common carrier in the middle of summer is asinine. Having an inventory of four thousand wines and not running the air conditioner because of some foolish sense of economy is jut plain backward thinking.

Tip of the day. Stop by the places where you buy wine on a hot summer day. If the climate is not controlled properly, stop buying wine there. Period. No reputable wine merchant will sell spoiled wine.

Read more about how to tell if your wine has been cooked.

9 Aug 08
Post Script. We decided to bake a pizza last night and opened a bottle of the wine shipped to us last week from one of our clubs. What we are experienced was that the wine had an okay nose, but tastes rather flawed. What we get is a week fruit behind the tannins, the oak is there but then the finish dies off leaving a bitter center palate. Yup, it’s cooked.


Leonetti Sangiovese 2003

Leonetti Sangiovese (c)2008 SmellsLikeGrape
We have not had many Washington State wines. This is certainly the first Sangiovese that we have had from Washington. On a visit to see Eric of Salem Wine Imports, he was quick to point out this wine to us as being something different. This was a must for us to try.

Aged in French Puncheons and 30 hectoliter ovals for 14 months, this wine has bold European oak characteristics. The lot size was 719 cases. This wine is a good value when you want something special. The Syrah brings strength to the wine adding additional depth and body.

Leonetti Cellars
Walla Walla Valley
Vintage: 2003
Blend 78% Sangiovese, 22% Syrah
Alcohol: 14.1
Price: $30.00

Color: Rich ruby red
Intensity: Medium
Aromas: Black cherry, cassis, allspice, toast, coffee, chocolate, rose
Flavors: Strawberry, blackberry, cherry, plum, cassis, black pepper, licorice, oak, cedar
Body: Full
Acidity: Crisp
Sweetness: Dry
Tannins: Leather
Finish: Long

Summary: Very wood and toast forward with plenty of cassis, cherry, strawberry to back it up. As the wine opened up, the cedar notes took the edge off of the fresh French oak. Buried in this oak is a wonderful rose that one would expect from a quality Sangiovese. This is not an Italian style Sangiovese, perhaps a hot Tuscany or Sicilian climate could product grapes this bold. Spicy long finish, good balance of acid, flavor and tannins. This is a bold American style wine.

We plucked this wine out of the loft cellar because we are having spaghetti with meat sauce tonight. This wine will stand up to rich tomato based dishes such as cioppino, shrimp scampi, pizza and lasagna. I would also have this with steak fajitas, roast beef and red deer Wellington.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Burgers and Côtes du Rhône Red

Burgers are a rare treat in our house, but tonight we indulged in a couple of big juicy burgers with caramelized onions on St. Joseph's rolls--and yes, they were rare, and all the better for being made from local grass-fed beef. Of course, we could have had them with beer but, as I said, this was a special meal and called for a little more thoughtful pairing. Definitely a red, but nothing too heavy. A Côtes du Rhône Grenache/Syrah blend fit the bill.

Louis Bernard 2006
Côtes du Rhône
Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: $11.99
Color: Plum
Intensity: Dark
Aromas: Blackberry, smoked meat, anise, coffee, garrigue
Flavors: Black currant, chokecherry, prune, anise, allspice, tobacco
Body: Full
Acidity: Moderate
Finish: Long

Wine Spectator usually rates this producer in the 86-87 range but don't let that deter you from trying it. Wines under 90 points are inexpensive and are often a steal compared to their higher-priced >90 point counterparts.

This wine benefits from at least 45 minutes of decanting to let the aromas open up (just don't let it get too warm). The flavor is fruity on the front-end, and quickly progresses to a dusty tobacco/spice/blackberry finish. It was a good pairing with our meal: Enough panache to complement our flavorful burgers but, casual enough to drink with burgers and fries. Gretchen over at Everyday Wine found this wine also pairs well with bleu cheese. This wine is a solid value at $11.99.

Read more about why grass-fed beef is better.