Saturday, February 28, 2009

Having your wine and drinking it too.

I decanted my wine for Open That Bottle Night at about 4pm. My sense of trepidation prior to cutting that beautiful foil was not lessened by the knowledge that we have one more bottle of Heitz Trailside in the cellar. I felt like I was about to destroy a valuable possession. How silly.

Coin collectors don't have this problem. There is no Spend That Double Eagle day. Luckily, I don't own any collectible wines. How awful it must be to have the ability to spend tens of thousands on one bottle of wine but, not to be able to drink it...


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

$10 Tuesday: Mendoza Malbec

I got kind of burned out on super-extracted Dimetapp Malbecs last year so I haven't had one for a while. Fortunately, the Finca El Retiro 2006 Malbec isn't like that.

This Malbec is purple and fruit-forward as you would expect but, it doesn't have the concentrated fruit syrup finish you sometimes find on South American Malbecs. The label recommends decanting which is always sound advice. There's a lot of dark berry, some chocolate, and toasty almond on the nose.

On the palate we find blackberry, bramble, black cherry, raspberry, and more toasted almond. In terms of mouthfeel, I am reminded of something Temudjin's father told him to look for in a wife--"a round flat face." When paired with a marsala sauce, some anise characteristics made a brief but vivid appearance. There's also some mild meatiness on the finish.

Apparently, this wine might be hard to get in the UK. It seems that in 2002, the British importer Liberty Wines broke their commercial relationship with Tittarelli stating "we felt they no longer had a place on the UK market." We on the other hand, feel that there is always room for a new world Malbec that shows the above-average restraint in the genre that this wine does--especially, with a price tag of ten bucks.


Monday, February 23, 2009


1940 Latour courtesy of Antique-wines.netThis Saturday is the 10th Annual observance of Open That Bottle Night! Dorthy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, the WSJ's Tasting Columnists, first conceived of the event ten years ago to encourage people to go ahead and, that's right, 'open that bottle' rather than sitting on it waiting for that perfect day that may never come. We missed it last year so this will be our first. It's become a well-known event inspiring regional gatherings around the country.

Even Twitter Taste Live will be getting in on the action. If you're on Twitter, and haven't joined #ttl yet, take a moment to check out the TTL site and sign-up (or just tweet your tasting experiences with the hashtag #ttl at the appointed time (or thereabouts)).

I'm not sure what I'm going to open yet. I was hoping that Taster A would open a 2003 Barbaresco for the last WBW, but he didn't so now I have to decide whether to open that or a 2001 Heitz Trailside Cab. Maybe I'll make the Barbaresco the back-up bottle*. Or maybe we'll do Open THOSE BOTTLES Night...we'll see...

*Don't forget to check out Dorothy and John's OTBN tips.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Rioja Age Classifications

Here's Mark from Paul Marcus Wines talking to us about Rioja aging requirements. Extra credit for answering this question: Does "Reserva" really mean anything?


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Piemonte! As goes WBW, so goes SLG!

I got an email from B today exclaiming her disappointment that she wasn’t able to get the Wine Blogging Wednesday together in time and that it is for Piemonte wines. Not to worry B, I’ve got your back. McDuff’s Food and Wine Trail will have a posting from SLG!

I love Piemonte for a wine region, it is perhaps one of my favorites. The wines have been kissed by the land with wonderful herb and floral qualities that I think compare with the garrigue of Côtes du Rhône. Mind you, I’m using this as a datum of comparable magnitude, not a head-to-head comparison. That would be silly and violate the proposition that all terroir are created unequally.

I love Barbera. I love Barbera for its floral notes and its bouncy fruit. It is a wine that does well oaked or not. All of the Barbera wines that I have had have been from Sonoma. This is my first Piemonte DDOC Barbera. Let’s see how this did. Will I be happy or disappointed?

Piemonte DDOC
Vintage: 2005
Alcohol: 13%
Price: $13.99

Color: Ruby
Intensity: Moderately Dark
Aromas: Rose, ham, mushroom, raisin, savory herbs
Flavors: Cherry, strawberry, licorice, blueberry, plum
Body: Full
Acidity: Crisp
Sweetness: Dry
Tannins: Mild tannins,
Finish: Moderate

Summary: This is just a delightful wine with some dried flowers, berries and licorice. It has very mild tannins. Very drinkable with a wonderful mouth feel. There is a smokiness to it that isn’t barrel or toast, but more like caramelized ham which I wish I was having with this. After a while, the plum kicks in. As I would expect from a Piemonte, this wine has not been oaked and smoked to death. I’m just digging this wine.

I would have this wine with glazed ham, tomatoes and mozzarella or even without food. (Okay, I’m nuts, of course you should have food with this!) The fruitiness of this wine and the floral essences would be just great with bacon wrapped tenderloin. Perhaps a ratatouille, yah, that would work too. I would even go Mediterranean with eggplant salads. Oooh, tapas! Bacon wrapped dates and orejas.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

$10 Tuesday: Rioja Dry White

I wish I had some shrimp scampi or fried clams for this week's $10 Tuesday. Tonight we have a dry white Rioja made from 100% Viura grapes.

This is the kind of wine you want to pair with briney seafood period. To serve anything else is to do this wine a disservice (not to mention yourself!)

On the nose we find ample pineapple, a little mushroom, and a hint of butter (actually, it's closer to the residual memory of the idea of butter). There's also an overall citrus theme cutting straight through from the zesty attack to the orange peel pith finish. I wouldn't call the finish velvety because there's so much tongue-dancing citrus going on but, the overall texture is moderately viscous. It's supremely dry--a real tongue duster.

I don't recommend anyone buying this wine willy-nilly for an average Tuesday night. I mean you can but, I think it's a recipe for disappointment, and I hate to see a wine dismissed due to improper context. I would hope that the majority of this wine will be consumed in Spanish seaside tavernas where it can be properly married with sun, salt, sea, and copious little plates of tastiness.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Down the Hatch

Are we coming up on Fat Tuesday? This weekend we went through the bottles we opened so fast, I'm not sure I even tasted them. They were good in a celebratory gluttony kind of way. Fortunately, the wines we drank have been reviewed in 100s of blogs already!

First up, bubbles. Cava is Spain's bottle fermented sparkling wine. We had 1+1=3 Brut. Brut is smack dab in the middle of the sugar content classifications (from zero to 15 grams of sugar per litre). We don't know exactly where this bottle falls in that wide range but, it seemed on the dry side.

According to the Wines From Spain site, good Cava shouldn't be more that 11% ABV. This bottle is 11.5% ABV which is close enough (we can round down). The color is light; hay-colored. There is very light citrus and pear on the nose and a nice mineral flavor. Extremely gulpable and the price was right at around $14.

Cava was Saturday. On Sunday we finally opened that bottle of Hahn Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 that I had to buy after I missed the Hahn Twitter Taste Live event. This is another good value at around $13.

What can I say? It tastes like a California Cab. A very nice California Cab. Other than that, with four people working the bottle, it only lived about twenty minutes after being dis-corked so I didn't have much of a chance to analyze it. Luckily, at that price, I didn't have to worry about trying to stretch it out. If I ever see Hahn on a restaurant wine list, I'll order it as long as it's under $30. I'm not going to mention the other bottle that we did order at a restaurant...they didn't have Hahn on the wine list.

Two happy grapes for two happy wines.


Friday, February 13, 2009


I've been waiting so long to open this bottle of beer! It's Rogue Hazelnut Brown "Nectar" and I picked it up a couple of months ago after I saw the @winebratsf AKA Thea raving about Rogue on twitter or somewhere.

It took us a while to find the right setting for this beer. The thought of hazelnut beer conjured up Nutella-esque flavors which don't necessarily lend well to food pairings. Also, the patio has been off limits these five long months putting a big damper on our beer consumption.

So the beer: Was it naive of me to think it would taste like hazelnut? It doesn't. It smells like Guinness. It doesn't taste like Guinness. It's lighter--less molasses, but it still has a nice creaminess. It has the texture of a good micro-brewed cream soda.

Anyway, I like it. I would choose this over Guinness given the option because it's got all the flavor without the gloopiness. Actually, now that it's been in my glass a while, I can smell some toasty nutiness...almost hazelnut. Okay, yeah... I can see it. It's not overwhelming; not sweet. This beer will go just fine with bangers and mash, brisket, garlic fries, in other words, any kind of pub grub.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Leonetti Sangiovese, 2005.

Times are uncertain in this economy and we certainly have curtailed our wine purchases. Like many we talk to, we are spending time ferreting out good value wines. If you have not tapped into $10 Tuesday, then you should bookmark us and keep an eye out. However, we do have lots of moderately priced wines in the cellar, ranging from $20 to $50 that we bought before stuff hit the fan. It doesn't cost anything to open a bottle we already bought months ago. I had a good day at work and felt like pulling out something special.

Sorry about the buggered up label. (c)2009SmellsLikeGrape.This is the second Sangiovese that we have had from Leonetti in Washington state. An email from Eric of Salem Wine Imports last Fall saying that he had a case of this wine resulted in a hasty reply…“save me two bottles!”.

This was late September and getting into Salem, Massachusetts during Halloween Season is easy enough but parking isn’t. I had to wait until November before I could get close enough to Salem Wine Imports to pick up my bottles. I arrived unannounced. Much to our amusement, Eric looked at me and said, “I knew you would come today and I can’t find your wine!” We laughed and then he was able to locate it in the stocks.

Like the 2003 Leonetti Sangiovese, this was aged in French oak puncheons and large oval botti for 14 months, this wine has very mild European oak characteristics. The lot size is 871 cases. Syrah brings strength to the wine adding additional depth and body.

Leonetti Cellars
Walla Walla Valley
Vintage: 2005

Blend Sangiovese 76%, Syrah 13%, Cabernet Sauvignon 11%
Alcohol: 14.1
Price: $35.00
Color: Rich garnet
Intensity: Dark
Aromas: Black cherry, cassis, allspice, burnt chocolate,
Flavors: blackberry, cherry, cassis, licorice, oak, allspice, cedar, tar
Body: Full
Acidity: Crisp
Sweetness: Dry
Tannins: Suede
Finish: Long

Summary: Lots of cassis, cherry, and blackberry to start. As the wine opened up, cedar notes began to emerge. I think the Sangiovese has been masked by the Cabernet Sauvignon making this more of a bold American style wine. Very fruit forward with woody almost bitter tannins mid-palate. Very drinkable, but for a Sangiovese lover, I would hesitate to call it "Sangiovese" in the Super Tuscan sense.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

$10 Tuesday: White Bordeaux

Fruity, clean, and crisp: That about sums up this Mouton Cadet Bordeaux 2007. Chateau Mouton Rothschild sells 15 million bottles of Mouton Cadet annually. Most of it is for export. Apparently, they commissioned a consumer survey in 2003 in which they learned that the consumer wanted a more fruit driven wine; and that is what they've delivered with this wine.

We found pear, honeydew, and lemon on the nose. There is also the most subtle hint of mushroom, or is it smoke... (smoked mushroom, perhaps) but, it's really subtle--hardly worth mentioning.

The palate is clean with a crisp attack, pleasant citrus notes, and a hint of mineral on the finish. A little more mineral would have been nice. This is an easy, versatile white wine that pairs well with a variety of foods. We had it with thai peanut spring rolls over the weekend. We also served it with lemon spaghetti with shrimp in a tomato, garlic, caper sauce. The acidity in this wine holds up nicely. There is really nothing to dislike in this wine. A solid performance.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Celebrate Life Merlot fighting starvation

Here is a Press Release I received from CPR/Colangelo & Partners Public Relations today that I thought was worth sharing with you:


Marco Fantinel, President of Friuli based wine company Fantinel, presided over the opening of the NASDAQ Stock Market to commemorate the Celebrate Life campaign and recent launch of Celebrate Life Merlot.

The Celebrate Life campaign, which began in early 2008, donates 25% ($1.00) for each bottle of special edition Celebrate Life Merlot sold. "In Italy and, increasingly, around the world, enjoying wine is about sharing with family and friends," says Fantinel. "Celebrate Life Merlot was created as a means for sharing our family's good fortune as a wine producer with the world and encouraging generosity on a global scale."

The Celebrate Life campaign was conceived by Marco Fantinel, a UN Goodwill Ambassador, to support the Intergovernmental Institution for the use of Micro-Algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition (IIMSAM), a UN Permanent Observer, in their fight to eradicate global malnutrition through the use of Spirulina. The sustainable, nutrient rich-algae used effectively in developing countries to combat severe malnutrition, which most commonly affects children. Contributions made by the Celebrate Life campaign directly supports the production and distribution of this vital nutrient to populations across the globe.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ice Wine... (flowing through my mind)

I'm really relating to this vid today. Lots of commonality of experience and all that. Anyone care to translate?


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

$10 Tuesday: Navarra Tempranillo Garnacha

We were in the $10 section of the package store and zeroed in on some Garnacha blends. There were three or four to pick from and I picked this one. Why? That's right: It was the awesome label. I admit it. That's what the label is for... Besides, I have to photograph a lot of wine bottles so aesthetics count! But, enough justifying my purchase decisions...

I never pass up a Garnacha. I love the way the aroma of Garnacha twists toward fig and bbq peach, and the flavor is so light and easy. This Garnacha Tempranillo blend sounded like a sure bet for $10, and it was. The nose has nice dark berry fruit with a spicy mole aroma going on in the background. It has refreshing acidity, more of that deep berry mid-palate, and then a nice spicy finish--very peppery capsaicin finish. The tannins and acidity are nicely balanced and stand up to a meal.

This wine would be a great choice for tapas involving chorizo or things wrapped in bacon. It also passed my olive test: It held it's own with both the feta stuffed, and the garlic stuffed olives. We just had plain old spaghetti but, the wine inspired me to add a little chili powder and cayenne pepper to the sauce. I would serve this wine with chili too...or a nice earthy mole.

Red Guitar

DOC: Navarra
Grapes: Tempranillo %55, Garnacha 45%
Price: $9.99
Alcohol: 14%
Aromas: Blackberry, earth, peach, mole
Flavors: Blackberry, blueberry, black cherry, chili pepper

In case you couldn't tell, we liked this wine.


Monday, February 2, 2009

You Say Foxy. I Say Candy Corn

Before we begin, please press play on the music video below to begin the soundtrack for this post.

Flag Hill Winery & Distillery, Lee NH
We visited another local New England winery over the weekend. Flag Hill has over 20 acres planted to several cold hardy hybrid and native grape varieties. Among them, Seyval, Cayuga, Niagara, Marechal Foch, and Chancellor. Flag Hill also has a cool brand new (but antique looking) brass still where they make their General Stark triple-distilled vodka from New Hampshire apples. They are also getting ready to bottle their first run of barrel-aged apple brandy.

So, getting back to the foxy theme...
We sampled the Niagara Reserve which was our first taste of the Niagara grape. Wow. Talk about your distinctive varietal. As I later tweeted, this wine reminded me of Halloween in olden-day New England. It just has a real harvesty aroma. I guess there is a word for this: Foxy (or in the common vernacular: Foxy mamma jamma). I couldn't quite put my finger on exactly what food item it reminded me of--the closest I could come was candy corn.

...and now for something completely different...

There is a lot of Seyval Blanc in New England. If you're going to drink local wines around here, you have to learn to like it. I have come to appreciate the fruit character that can be achieved with this grape in our northern climate.

Flag Hill does theirs differently than Jewell Towne in that they let it see some American White Oak. I generally like a clean steel-fermented Seyval Blanc, but I can still give Flag Hill props for this version. The oak does not mask the fruit and it lends a really nutty component to the palate so you find all kinds of almond notes, running the gamut from toasted almonds, to almond extract, to marzipan. We enjoyed it enough to bring a bottle home ($11.95).

Flag Hill is definitely a New England winery (is there any other kind in New England?). What I mean by that, is they aren't afraid to blend the traditions of wine-making with the traditions of the northeast.

Besides table wines, they are doing fruit wines, Sugar Maple liqueur, apple spirits, and dessert wines. They even produce a red dessert wine blended with maple syrup... I know... We tried it though, and it actually was well done. The off-dry Dechaunac is probably the most marketable of the reds. I actually found their fruit wine quite pleasant. I am not usually a fan of fruit wines. Flag Hill doesn't try to make their's something it's not by making a dry wine from fruit; it is sweet and it tastes like the fruit it is made from.

It's definitely worth the trip to Flag Hill Winery to sample some of the flavors of New England's heritage.