Ste. Michelle Wine Estates at Gordon’s Featuring Antinori

On October 14th 2008 I attended another tasting/class at Gordon’s which featured some wines from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates; specifically, some from their Antinori portfolio of wines.  Ste. Michelle Wine Estates acquired the rights to sell Antinori wines approximately 2.5 years ago.  Interestingly enough, I had just watched a 60 Minutes piece on Antinori 2 days previous to the class.  The CBS site shows the segment here.  So I was naturally pretty curious about their wines.  Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, based in the Columbia Valley, Washington, represents, owns, or distributes wines from at least 18 different labels including of course Chateau Ste. Michelle.

In this class, National Wine Educator George Foote chose to highlight 7 wines from Antinori.  Generally, the wines tasted in the class are on offer at Gordon’s, and this was no exception.  However, no Guado Al Tasso nor Tignanello at the tasting; they are still on my ‘wish list’ from Antinori.  The 60 Minutes piece on Antinori stated that the winery has been owned by one family since its inception in 1385 from its home base in Tuscany.

My favorites from the tasting include one white wine and one red.  The 2007 Antinori Santa Christina Campogrande Ovieto is an affordable, refreshing white wine made from some unusual grapes: 40% Procanico, 40% Grechetto, 15% Verdello, and 5% Drupeggio & Malvasia.  It is from the Orvieto Classico DOC in Puglia.  I found this floral, fresh, fruit-forward, with a nice zingy acidity that always make me happy.  My favorite red of the evening had to be the 2004 Antinori Marchese Chianti Classico Riserva from the Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG in Tuscany.  This is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet.  I found this to be intensely fruity and spicy, yet balanced and smooth Chianti.  A real ‘double bubble’ wine – delicious now, but could be aged for 10 years or more.


October 31, 2008 Posted by | Film | , , | 2 Comments

Mike Magee of Belle Vallée Cellars at Gordon’s

On September 8th 2008 I had the pleasure of attending a tasting of 7 of the wines of Belle Vallée Cellars of Corvallis, Oregon (in the Willamette Valley appellation) with one of its founders, Mike Magee, in the very agreeable Fine Wine & Culinary Center at Gordon’s in Waltham, MA.

Belle Vallée Cellars is a smallish winery founded in 2002 specializing in Pinot Noir which grows famously well in the Willamette Valley.  Chief winemaker is Joe Wright, former winemaker at Willamette Valley Vineyards.  Mr. Magee is a self-described former beer maker with a large family (7 children) whose glassmaker wife designs the beautiful and colorful labels on the wine bottles.

Mr. Magee stated that Belle Vallée Cellars sources fruit from 16 vineyards in the area with pinot noir as the primary grape; fruit is handled gently, hand-sorted, and the aim of the wine making is to not ‘get in the way’ of the fruit.  All wines are blends from various combinations of fruit from the 16 vineyards.  In farming, they have at various points used irrigation, but not always; they like to plant more vines and have fewer grapes per vine, which is “unlike the CA model.”

On hand to taste were as follows: 2007 Whole Cluster Pinot Noir, 2007 Willamette Pinot Noir, 2006 Reserve Willamette Pinot Noir, 2005 Grand Cuvee, 2005 Southern Oregon Red, 2003 Rogue Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004 Port of Pinot Noir.  My notes (some pretty abbreviated) are as follows:

2007 Whole Cluster Pinot Noir – Their entry level pinot, all stainless steel, sees no oak, easy-drinker, quaffable, quite light in color and body, entire grape plant (seeds, stems, skins) used to provide structure, dusty tannins, rosé like, BBQ wine, serve chilled

2007 Willamette Pinot Noir – Produce about 8000 cases/year, most popular wine they sell, grapes from 8 vineyards, in Wine Spectator top 100 list in 2006.  Nose of rubber bands cherries, and earth, lots of acidity, cinnamon, butterscotch, and vanilla on palate. *my favorite*

2006 Reserve Willamette Pinot Noir – Produce about 1000 cases/year, earthy, dark fruits, intense

2005 Grand Cuvee – Produce about 350 cases/year, extracted, a bit hot, very earthy nose of forest floor, well-made

2005 Southern Oregon Red – Disagreeable nose

2003 Rogue Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – No notes

2004 Port of Pinot Noir – One of very few ports made from pinot noir in the world.  Only 6 barrels produced a year.  The nose smells of cough syrup and plastic, but sweet and rich and complex on the palate.  Quite a special aperitif (or digestif).

My cudos again to Gordon’s for another infomative and delicious wine class.  Attendees also receive special discounts on all wines tasted, which is also awesome.

October 27, 2008 Posted by | Film | , , , | Leave a comment

The Omnivore’s Hundred: Foodie Quiz

I just got around to noticing a blog post theme that was popular a few weeks ago – the Omnivore’s Hundred.  I don’t even claim to be a foodie but this seems like kind of fun.  I was amused by the list results as posted by Thea of Luscious Lushes, whom I believe noticed it from Sonodora of Wannabe Wino, whom I think noticed it as posted by David of McDuff’s Food & Wine Trails, who took it from originator Andrew of UK food and wine blog Very Good Taste.  Some of the items on this list remind me of the TV show I sometimes catch called Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.  Andrew eats strange and disgusting things from around the globe so you don’t have to, things that are actually popular in one or more communities somewhere.  I have copied the list from Andrew’s original list which contains Wikipedia links to some of the more obscure items and the instructions.  I have added a * next to any item I haven’t had but would like to try some time, and added some parenthetical comments as well.

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

1. Venison (does reindeer count?)
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros *
4. Steak tartare (I like my steak well done… have seen too many episodes of Medical Detectives)
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding (If this is the same as ‘Blood pudding’ I’ve had it and YUCK)
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp *
9. Borscht *
10. Baba ghanoush *
11. Calamari (popular in Italian restaurants in the Nooooohth End of Boston)
12. Pho (have had and not liked, has raw beef in it)
13. PB&J sandwich (this needs a link?)
14. Aloo gobi (love Indian)
15. Hot dog from a street cart (on Landsdown St., Boston)
16. Epoisses *
17. Black truffle *
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns (in Chinatown NY Dim Sum establishment)
20. Pistachio ice cream (in every Chinese restaurant buffet I’ve been to)
21. Heirloom tomatoes *
22. Fresh wild berries (blackberries in back yard here)
23. Foie gras *
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (I value my taste buds)
27. Dulce de leche *
28. Oysters
29. Baklava (like a phone book dipped in maple syrup but I like it)
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas (Trader Joe’s)
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi (prefer Mango Lassi)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float

36. Cognac with a fat cigar

37. Clotted cream tea (had a proper tea in London)
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal (vindaloo is my hotness limit)
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more (just at a Single Malt whiskey tasting)
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala (& Katie’s fave)
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer (saag paneer)
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (I believe I call this ‘fried dough’)
68. Haggis * (As a Mac-Scotsperson it’s my duty to try at least once)
69. Fried plantain *
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe (Imported from Spain a few years ago)
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill (I’m pretty sure my neighbor roasts roadkill frequently)(kidding)(I think)
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie (blueberry my fave)
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong (had it, hated it)
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum (fond of Thai food)
82. Eggs Benedict (very comforting)
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef *
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers (I’ve nibbled clover)
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate *
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox (perfect in Manhattan)
97. Lobster Thermidor *
98. Polenta *
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (LOVE COFFEE)
100. Snake

So…. out of 100 items, I have had 43 at least once.  So I’m kind of moderately well-nibbled but certainly don’t qualify as a foodie.

October 26, 2008 Posted by | Food, Fun Stuff | , | Leave a comment

Bin Ends Wine 4th Twitter Taste Live: Steele Wines

The 4th Twitter Taste Live event created and hosted by Bin Ends Wine of Braintree, MA takes place this evening, October 23rd 2008, and will feature some of the wines of Steele Wines of Lake County, CA.  Jed Steele, the owner and winemaker at Steele Wines, will be at the Bin Ends store in person along with many wine enthusiasts for the live event.  People like me will taste along at home and we will all use the social networking tool Twitter to post our thoughts, questions, and tasting notes about the wines using the hash tag #ttl in all our posts.

Since I last wrote about Twitter Taste Live, the folks at Bin Ends have created a wonderful feature-packed web site.  There is a central window on the main page which polls Twitter for all posts with the hash tag #ttl.  Also there are places for personal pages, photos, videos, email, and a conversation forum.  I say, well done, Bin Ends!

I am looking forward to tasting the wines of Steele Wines.  Reading the Making Our Wines page on their web site, I’m intrigued with Steele Wines non-interventionalist approach to winemaking and the fact they source fruit from as close to next door to as far away as Washington (paraphrasing) all in the quest to make quality wines at affordable prices.  I’m all for that!

If you are into wine tasting and social networking, why not sign up on the Twitter Taste Live web site and join in the fun?  And don’t forget to tell them I sent you.

And… HAPPY 18th BIRTHDAY to the grooviest chick around, my beautiful & talented daughter Katie (yes of course I’m biased but she really is of course).

October 23, 2008 Posted by | Film | , , , , | 3 Comments

Newburyport Sunset Wine Tasting Cruise with “A Grape Affair”

On August 27th 2008 I attended a wine tasting cruise hosted by A Grape Affair around Newburyport, MA harbor at sunset.  It was a brief, nifty little tour (around 1.5 hours) around Newburyport harbor which did look beautiful at sunset in late summer.

There were approximately 25 people aboard the small boat.  I did manage to break a glass by putting it on the seat next to me.  Also the cheese and crackers flew at one point.  The wine, view, atmosphere, and our gracious host Rhonda Grady of A Grape Affair made up for lack of creature comforts, however.

There were 4 wines to taste, 2 of which I enjoyed quite a lot. The Quinta da Murta Branco Bucelas DOC Portugal 2007 is a delicate white wine made primarly from the Arinto grape.  It smelled precisely like peach chiffon cake to me (with vanilla) and had sprightly acidity to balance the peachy, sweet impression.  The Martin Ray Angeline Pinot Noir 2006 was surprisingly agreeable for an inexpensive pinot from California (retailing for around $14).  According to the web site, the crushed fruit undergoes ‘cold soak’ which mitigates some of the tannic influence.  Relatively lighter in body than some, say, Oregon pinots, it really is such a delicious summer quaffer.  In fact, I have quaffed it this fall as well already.  I have already expressed my enthusiasm for the Martin Ray Angeline Gewurztraminer in a previous post: evidently, I’m a fan of this producer and line.

So I would say this was a nice experience, especially for beginning wine tasters, and I will look for other wine event offerings from A Grape Affair.

October 21, 2008 Posted by | Wine | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wine Blogging Wednesday #50 – Fall Wilderness and Wine

So I haven’t felt particularly motivated lately to blog about anything.  But heck, WBW is here this month, and such a nice topic!  This month’s WBW is hosted by WineHiker Russ Beebe.  The task at hand is to explore your local outdoor environment and follow-up with a wine of choice.  Here in MA the fall foliage is nearly at peak and available for our viewing pleasure (and raking displeasure).  In Groton where I live is the semi-famous Gibbett Hill Castle which affords a beautiful view of the town and lots of… cows.  It’s a fun little hike to walk up to the ruins of the castle and appreciate the beauty of the New England autumn.  And following-up with a nice toasty Zinfandel, say the 2006 Four Vines ‘The Maverick’, makes for a lovely good time.  The castle, which was never actually completed in total, now exists as a shell of a building that sometimes serves as backdrop to local Arthurian/dungeons-n-dragons theatrical efforts.

Here’s the view on the path leading up to the Castle: (note cows)

Here’s a view walking up the Hill to the Castle:

A view from ‘inside’:

A few views from atop the windswept Hill:

And what more topical-sounding beverage to enjoy after a nice hike up the Hill than the ‘Maverick’ Zinfandel from Four Vines Winery?  This jammy wine absolutely warms the cockles of ones innards after a refreshing, cool autumn New England hike:

I first tasted this wine at last year’s Boston Wine Expo with winemaker Christian Tietje.  This old-vine Zin (blended with a splash of Syrah) originates from Amador County, CA.  This is a fruit bomb, but a deliciously balanced example.  The alcohol at 14.9% does not overwhelm the palate.  The tannins are firm and there is a syrah-like chewyness in the palate.  Spice and blackberry dominate the nose.  It just plain TASTES GOOD, which is never an objectionable quality in a beverage of any kind.

So, thanks for the neat theme this month, Russ.  Walking, nature, photography, wine… a few of my favorite things!

October 8, 2008 Posted by | Wine | , , | 7 Comments