El Jefe (Jeff Stai) of El Bloggio Torcido (the Twisted Oak Winery blog) has presented an interesting Wine Blogging Wednesday theme this month: Wine for Breakfast! Or, more accurately, Wine with Breakfast Food. No sparkling wines, nor dessert wines are allowed – only dry red or white table wines. I do love breakfast foods of all sorts but don’t generally think of the wine pairing possibilities. I decided to make some sort of omelet (which may end up being scrambled eggs, depending on which pan I’m using) and didn’t have any idea of suitable wine pairing so I decided to use the Wine & Food Matcher applet on Natalie MacLean’s site, Nat Decants. I plugged in Eggs, then Omelet, and out popped its matching wine: Frascati. Cool – um, what is Frascati? Ah, a nice Italian white wine made in the environs of Rome, Italy! And quite conveniently my most local of local wine stores, Groton Market, had a very reasonably priced example for $7.99, namely the Cantine San Marco Frascati Superiore Secco “CRIO 10” 2007. And what grapes are in this wine? Well, some unusual, indigenous grape varieties…
“Da uve Malvasia Puntinata del Lazio, Bellone, Trebbiano
Toscano e Malvasia di Candia con percentuali più consistenti per i primi
due, autoctoni tipici di questa regione.”
There is a nice map of the Frascati DOC on Wein-Plus.com. Zoom out on the map to see its proximity to Rome. Frascati the white wine that has been made for a *very long time* from grapes grown on volcanic soils near Rome. It can be dry or sweet, still or sparkling. My example is dry (Secco) and still. So how well did this wine and food pairing fare? I think, quite well. The wine is quite light-bodied but full of citrus flavors and acidity, and perfect with ‘light’ dishes such as my red pepper and cheese omelet with cranberry-orange scone. This wine is quite a bargain and I do recommend it!
I’m excited to report that I will be attending the Boston Wine Expo again this year. Last year was my first time attending and I wrote up a pretty detailed blog post about my experiences. This year I will be volunteering on both days of the event taking tickets at Seminars. This makes me quite happy as I am very into wine education (evidenced by my frequent blog postings about wine classes at Gordon’s Fine Wine and Culinary Center). I consider this a plum volunteer assignment. I also was gratefully able to garner a Press Pass for Sunday, thanks to this here (mostly wine) blog, but this will be redundant with my volunteer duty that day. Still, I may sport my Press Badge as a unique wine-writer accessory.
I hope to see many of my fellow Boston-area wine lovers there!
This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday theme is hosted by Tim Lemke of Cheap Wine Ratings (“Good Value Makes Wine Taste Better”). The theme is affordable red wines from Chile (South America). Tim offers a nice overview of this theme in this post in his blog. I enjoy reading Cheap Wine Ratings as it relates more to my wine-buying reality at this point than, say, Unidentified Appellation. But I adore reading that blog too.
My most recent experience tasting red wines of Chile was at a tasting at Gordon’s Fine Wine and Liquors a few months ago of some of the wines of Viña Haras de Pirque, which is a gorgeous winery/horse stud farm in the Maipo Valley, Pirque subregion, Chile. We tasted mostly Cabernet Sauvignon wines that were probably more than $20 per bottle. They were tannic powerhouse wines suitable for aging.
For this Wine Blogging Wednesdsay, I chose from my wine unit the Viña Chocalan Carmenere Selección Maipo Valley 2006. This cost about $11.00 at one of my local wine stores. Carmenere is a grape that was confused with Merlot for quite a while in Chile. This wine received a score of 90/100 from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate (Jay Miller rating). I remember watching Gary Vaynerchuk who was not so impressed and gave the wine an 84/100 on Wine Library TV. So, how would I feel about this wine?
The answer to that question is: I feel that Gary’s tasting notes and review are spot-on and I know exactly where he is coming from. For me, this ended up being half a good wine experience. I found the color to be a beautiful dark cherry/plum, and the nose to be quite enchanting. The nose is a wonderful combination of wood, dirt, herbs, spice box, vanilla, and maybe even a little chocolate. The mid-palate is sort of like… watered down pepper. The wine goes in your mouth and there is just not a lot there. There is very little finish at all as well. I found this wine to be strange. How did the great nose turn into nothing on the palate? Well, at least it doesn’t interfere with food, is the best you can say.
I understand there are fine Reserva and Gran Reserva offerings from this winery that undoubtedly offer more oomph and I will surely try some of those at some point.
On Friday, December 5 2008 I attended another great wine class at Gordon’s Fine Wine and Liquors in Waltham, MA. As previously mentioned in my last post, I was quite impressed with the ‘house’ cuvee of Champagne Henriot, the Brut Souverain NV, at a wine tasting at The Spirited Gourmet. Not that I am any great champagne expert, mind you. I just know what I like.
The class was given by Champagne Henriot New England Sales director Mark Bell. Mr. Bell was formerly a sommelier at Jean Georges, a very fine restaurant in New York City. Clearly he has opened a couple few thousand bottles of champagne in his career(s). He even demonstrated how he would perform Sabrage, which I had never even heard of. This is the art of opening a champagne bottle with a saber. Don’t try this at home. You could shoot your eye out. (Just watched ‘A Christmas Story’ a few days ago).
Photo at left is of Mark Bell, Gordon’s Wine & Culinary Directory Lindsay Cohen, and her assistant at the door. In this class Mr. Bell discussed champagne making at Henriot, and we tasted 5 champagnes from the venerable House. They are a family-owned winery in Rheims, Champagne, France, and have been making champagne since 1808. In France you can only label sparkling wine as champagne if it is from a winery in the Champagne apellation, France, and is created by the Méthode Champenoise, a labor- and time-intensive process. This is described pretty succinctly in this web page, Making Champagne, by Alexander J. Pandell, Ph.D. Those poor yeast cells literally spill their guts so that we may detect that toasty yeastiness in our champagne.
The winery in Champagne (the region) is located some 95 miles northeast of Paris. The weather is not warm and the wines before fermentation(s) are low in sugar and quite high in acidity. They are so acidic as to be basically unpalatable. The soil in the region is full of limestone chalk and this chalkiness and minerality is reflected in the champagnes. Three types of grapes are used in making Champagne (the drink): chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot munier. Henriot however chooses not to use any pinot munier in their champagnes. They also do not use any wood at all to age the wines in: all toastyness comes from the lees (champagnes aged on lees/sur lie). All champagnes are aged in stainless steel.
The 5 champagnes we tasted are as follows, with some of my notes:
Brut Souverain NV: “House” style champagne, reflects the approach, style, and taste of the Maison Henriot. Aged 30 months on lees. Blended from 35 crus, from several vintages, 40% chardonnay, 60% pinot noir. Light, crisp, toasty, redolent of brioche and stone fruits. Lovely.
Blanc Souverain Pur Chardonnay NV: 100% chardonnay (blanc de blancs), aromatically more intense and interesting than Brut Souverain, also fuller bodied and rounder in mouth. My personal fave. Fabulous.
Rose Brut NV: 42% chardonnay, 58% pinot noir. Still pinot noir part of blend to make color pinkish-orange, saignee method not used. Dried red fruits, spice and earth.
Brut Millesime 1996: 48% chardonnay, 52% pinot noir. 1996 was a great vintage in Champagne hence this vintage effort. Primary notes of truffles and fig.
Cuvee des Enchanteleurs 1995: The house “tete de cuvee”, their top of the line cuvee. Majority of blend is chardonnay. After 13 years of aging, this shows great richness and complexity. The nose is port-like and smells *very* strongly of truffles. Personally, I prefer the brighter, younger, crisper, not very aged champagne style.
So this was very fun and Mr. Bell was very entertaining and a gracious presenter. Kudos yet again to Gordon’s for offering such a variety of fun wine classes.
On the afternoon of Saturday, November 15, 2008 I attended the 2nd annual Holiday Grand Tasting at The Spirited Gourmet in Belmont, MA along with some members of the Boston-area wine interest group North Shore Winers. Richard of The Passionate Foodie who runs the Winers had indicated that this store has a carefully selected inventory of fine wines and that this tasting would be a treat. And indeed it was! At large tastings I make it a point to dump pours that I don’t enjoy so much so as not to fatigue my palate and liver on mediocre wines – I was having trouble wanting to dump any pours at this tasting. Also on hand were some yummy nibbles and a very conscientous clerk who threw away my tasting notes when I put them down to nibble (they were later retrieved).
There were 5 tables with 11 distributors representing. My favorite tastes are as follows:
Horizon Beverage – Helfrich Gewurztraminer 2007, Small Gully The Formula 2004, Nita Priorat 2006, Pirie Tasmanian Pinot Noir 2005
Classic Wine Imports – Henriot Brut Souverain NV. I LOVED this CHAMPAGNE. It just about knocked me out. Coincidentally Gordon’s in Waltham is having a free wine class on December 5th presenting champagnes of Henriot and I feel it my duty as an amateur wine blogger to attend.
Cafe Europa – Santome Prosecco X-Dry, Jelu Mendoza Torrontes 2008, Anne Amie Willamette Pinot Noir 2005
Boston Wine – Gisselbrecht Pinot Gris 2006, Ramos Loios Alentejano 2007
M.S. Walker – Qupe Chardonnay Bien Nacido 2005, Zantho St. Laurent 2006, Ratti Barbera d’Alba 2007
Vineyard Road – Fairhall Downs Sauvignon Blanc 2007, Richter Riesling Kabinett 2007, Eclipse Carneros Merlot 2006, Scholium Project Gardens of Babylon Tenbrick Vineyard 2006
Charles River Wine Company – Il Cuore Chardonnay 2007, Mills Reef New Zealand Merlot/Malbec 2007
Gilbert Distributers – Clautiere Mourvedre 2004
Spirited Gourmet provided a lovely shiny sheet listing the wines with sufficient space for tasting notes. I’m sure I will be returning to this beautifully arranged store some time soon before the holidays to pick up a few of these and other choice wines.
On Saturday November 15th 2008 I will be participating in another Twitter Taste LIVE event. Twitter Taste LIVE is the brainchild of the folks at Bin Ends Wine of Braintree, MA. Wine bloggers (and their guests) taste wines and post tasting notes, thoughts, and questions on social networking site Twitter at a predetermined date and time. The theme for event #5 is “The Bloggers Take Over.” Each blogger decides which wine or wines to taste and will post to Twitter. Others can purchase the same wine or wines and post along if they would like.
For this event I chose the 2005 Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards Right Bank. I purchased this wine online a few months ago. I can’t say whom I purchased the wine from as I don’t want them to get in trouble from the interstate shipping police, or be subject to a wine.com sting. I purchased the wine for a number of reasons. I only purchased one bottle as it cost $42 plus shipping as I am of modest means. Firstly, I was just curious about any wine produced from the capable hands of Todd Anderson, he of Ghost Horse World cult winery fame. The wines at Ghost Horse World cost from $500 up to $5000 PER BOTTLE so obviously I am not going to ever purchase those. I mean, even if I won the lottery I would never spend that much money on a bottle of wine. I have previously perused the 27-page thread in Marc Squires Bulletin Board on eRobertParker.com (concerning the Ghost Horse World web site) and found it to be *wicked funny*. In his work at non-cult winery Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley, CA, Todd Anderson produces quite a few very highly regarded wines included this Right Bank.
In Fact the 2005 Right Bank earned a 95-point rave from Robert Parker in Wine Advocate #174 December 2007. I’m an online subscriber so have access to the review but don’t want to get in copyright trouble by reprinting it, but I can say that Parker called it many nice things including a “total hedonistic turn-on”. Yeah, Baby! I’m up for some of that. In fact, I have never tasted anything rated above 92 by anyone, so this should be interesting.
Another thing that intrigues me about this wine is that it is a Château Cheval Blanc homage. Of course this is a Bordeaux Grand Cru that I would certainly like to taste some day but… in the mean time, I will be happy to try this American homage. Like the original, it is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc with smaller percentages of other grapes. Miles in Sideways was obviously confused about the fact that his prize bottle of Cheval Blanc has a sizeable percentage of $%#@ Merlot in it.
This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday theme is hosted by 1 Wine Dude blogger Joe Roberts. This fun theme is “baked goods”, literally wines that have been maderized (or heated) such as Madeira. The theme has been extended to include wines that have been fortified as well. I have chosen this month the Campbells Rutherglen Muscat, which is a dessert wine made from the Muscat grape (fortified with grape spirits). Rutherglen is an area in Northeast Victoria, southeast Australia that is famous for distinctive fortified Muscat and Tokay dessert wines. Campbells has been in the winemaking business since 1870, which is impressive.
I purchased this 375ml bottle a few months ago at a New Hampshire State Liquor Store in Nashua for about $15. Was I attracted to the fine old Scottish name on the bottle? Perhaps. Was I lured in by the big Decanter Gold Medal label on the front? Sure. Do I appreciate a delicious fortified sticky? Absolutely.
According to the Campbells web site, the wine is made using the Solera system, that is, from a blend of wines from several vintages, hence there is no vintage on the label. The alcohol by volume (ABV) is a relatively modest 17%. This wine recently received a 91of 100 from tough wine critic Stephen Tanzer of International Wine Cellar, which says to me it must have some special qualities.
I have to be honest- I only had a small glass of this before a guest quaffed the whole thing. It just really tastes good, especially if you have any kind of sweet tooth. I’m always happy to be a good host :-). But I did take down some tasting notes. The nose reminded me right off the bat of plum pudding and hard sauce that I used to have sometimes on holidays as a child. It’s so funny that on Campbells web page describing the wine they state that it pairs well with plum pudding and hard sauce. That made me chuckle. Also prominent on the nose are candied raisin and burnt caramel. I sensed also on the nose something that reminded me of cognac, but more unctuous. The finish is good and very pleasant. I’ll probably try to round up another bottle of this at some point!
On October 29th, 2008 I attended a tasting of several of the wines from La Casa de las Vides winery from Valencia, Spain. This tasting occurred at Melissa’s Bistro in the town of Stoneham, MA. That is actually my hometown, that is, the town where I grew up. It’s funny how some things in the square have changed, while other landmarks are still hanging in there.
This tasting was a special event for local bloggers and was also broadcast via web-cam on the Twitter Taste Live site by Craig Drollett, who was in attendance as well. On hand from La Casa de las Vides was Export Director Emilio Saez van Eerd, who generously provided us with some appetizers from Melissa’s. The winery currently sells only in the Valencia DO in Spain; they are looking for importers/distributors for their wines in the U.S. Though only in their 4th vintage of independent wine production, they have been a vine nursery and supplier for 50 years. Winemaker Ana Martin Orzain, who is a well-known wine consultant in Spain, is involved with the production of the wines.
4 wines were tasted at the event. The first was a white wine called Vallblanca made with Verdil, a grape indigenous to eastern Spain, and Viura, known elsewhere in Spain as Macebeo, with Gewurztraminer added for exotic interest. I found this a really fine and refreshing white wine which should do very well here in the U.S. at its modest price point. The next was a rosé wine called Rosa Rosae which was an unusual blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha (Grenache). It had a nose of strawberries, was dry, and was a fine, if somewhat standard, rosé. The 3rd wine tasted was a red called CUP and was a blend of Tempranillo and Syrah. It was quite good with a heady nose of spices and pepper. The 4th wine was a red called ACULIUS and was a blend of Tempranillo, Syrah, and Monastrell (Mourvedre). This was my favorite as harmoniously blended elements of oak used in aging with fruit and aromatic elements of the fruit for a balanced and intense result. Bravo.
There was some discussion about wine bottles and labels that could possibly appeal the most to U.S. tastes. The following are some photos. I seem to have not gotten any pics of Jenny Meacham from Baystate Wine Co., but all others included (and except me, the photographer). I wish Emilio Saez van Eerd much success in his efforts to distribute these fine wines in the U.S.
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.
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.