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.
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).
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.
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!
It is Wine Blogging Wednesday again! This month’s theme is Back to Your Roots. Our host this month is Lenn Thompson from LENNDEVOURS, who indeed began the whole Wine Blogging Wednesday enterprise 4 years ago! And what a fine idea it was. The theme this month requires that you revisit a wine that you tasted early in your wine tasting experience that piqued your interest enough in wine to begin an enthusiastic journey into wine appreciation. I’m a fairly new wine enthusiast, so this wine was first tasted… 8 months ago?
My choice for this wine is the 2006 Martin Ray Gewürztraminer Angeline from Mendocino County, CA. Actually, the wine I originally tasted was the 2005 vintage but that is no longer available. This is an affordable (around $12) introduction to the aromatic white wines that I continue to drink and enjoy to this day, 8 WHOLE MONTHS later!
This wine is very sweetly floral on the nose, with notes of marzipan and stone fruits and spiciness on the palate. There is light bubble action in the glass. It is eminently gulpable and I still like it. The finish is a bit short. I’ve since had Alsation Gewurztraminer from Zind-Humbrecht which I recall having snappier acidity and slightly fuller body, and an even headier nose.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the sort of wine I was drinking before beginning my wine education in the fall of 2007. Here it is – I’m not proud. I actually paid money for this. Not that much money of course. It is the 2007 Beringer White Zinfandel! Yes! I thought for yucks I would taste this. Of course I have tasted hundreds of finer wines at tastings, home, restaurants, events, and classes since having this so my palate has certainly gained at least a sort of intermediate level of competence in determining wine ‘quality’. I’m not going to get into the question of how one determines wine quality – that is an issue perhaps for more experienced oenophiles and wine cognoscenti.
O.K. this Beringer wine is a rosé although they call it ‘white’. It’s got a deeper salmon pink color than I recall from a few years back. This is an overly sweet butter bomb. I suppose you can say it is insipid (lacks nuance and complexity) and flabby (lacks backbone/structure). The primary flavor is strawberry-flavored Jolly Ranchers. It’s hard to identify any varietal characteristics of Zinfandel. At 10.5% ABV it won’t knock you out too much if you have a glass or 2 with a simple meal. Probably the main objection I have here is it is just so sweet. It’s practically fruit punch. Forget about residual sugar – we’re talking buckets of sugar. But hey, Americans really love sweet beverages so Beringer is giving the people want they want here. I used the rest of the bottle in Sangria where it’s pretty well masked with fruit juice, sparkling water, and flavored liquer.
On April 26th I attended another big mass tasting of wines at The Vineyard in North Andover, MA. This is located on Rt. 114 very nearly across the street from my Alma Mater Merrimack College (where if I recall correctly the preferred potent potable was beer, LOTS of beer). I love these big mass tastings as it gives me, as a newly hatched wine enthusiast, a chance to expand my palate, as it were, and figure out what I like. Also I’ve decided to try to join the Wine Century Club. The WCC sends you a neat certificate if you have tasted at least 100 different grape varietals (compliance is by honor system, and they do email you a nice spreadsheet for keeping track). I’m up to 56 at last count, since last November – I must be some kind of wino.
There were 48 wines there at The Vineyard to be tasted from 6 different distributors. I scoped out the wines beforehand so as not to get my palate fatigued on the less worthy stuff. For instance, I noted that the Bogle Pinot Noir received a VaynerPAZZZZZZ from Gary Vaynerchuk so pazzzed on tasting that one. I also went to the table first with the potentially most interesting selections.
I found several nice wines that pleased my tasting apparatus and went home with a few. Firstly, the Morgon Chardonnay Metallico 2006, a really delicious & crisp Monterey CA chard that I can only describe as mouth watering. Also splurged on the Clayhouse Vineyard Estate Cuvée 2004 which is a really fine “Rhone blend” of Grenache, Petite Syrah, and Syrah. This received the following review from Stephen Tanzer/IWC Sept/Oct 06 review (from Clayhouse Vineyard website):
2004 Clayhouse Estate & Vineyard Estate Cuvee Paso Robles 85
($30; 43% syrah, 43% petite sirah, 14% grenache) Bright ruby-red. Raspberry liqueur, dark chocolate and pepper on the rather roasted, exotic nose. Sweet, dense and unrefined, with a somewhat gritty element of torrefaction and a saline quality. This is stuffed with dark berry and spice flavors but comes across as rather ungiving.
I thought this cuvee was the most giving thing I tasted at the Vineyard :-). Well, maybe a year in a half in bottle since this review has made it more generous. Tanzer liked the Clayhouse Hillside Cuvee 2004 much more (91) so I feel just obliged to try that out sometime as well. Next I found the overperforming Santa Ema Reserve Merlot 2004 from Maipo Valley in Chile. At about 10 bucks, this is a must buy. In fact, if I had a ‘house red’, this would probably be it. Lastly, I fell for the very fruity Pure Love Layer Cake Primitivo 2006. The Italian varietal Primitivo has been proven via DNA tests to equivalent to the CA varietal Zinfandel. This wine was jammy and aromatically reminded me of cake batter, which doesn’t bother me. We also picked up 2 really excellent Sauvignon Blancs – the Marlborough New Zealand Dryland Sauvignon Blanc 2007 which was just about the most varietally correct, crisp SB I’ve ever had, and the interestingly fizzy & zesty Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc 2006 from Sonoma.
Saturday we attended another wonderful wine tasting – this time at Harrington Wine & Liquors in Chelmsford, MA. Available to try were 50 wines from 6 different distributors. This was a well-attended event, apparently an annual Spring happening at Harrington’s. There was no theme to the tasting – just cool new wines to try. There were grapes, cheeses, and crackers there to cleanse the palate/munch on. A few people seem to recognize me because I bring that special glass from Pier-1 to tastings. Anyway, we did enjoy this quite a bit and I wanted to note a few of my favorites. My wine of the day was: Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Nipozzano Riserva Chianti Rufina 2004. This was just the silkiest and smoothest Chianti, and so well balanced. Classy effort. Well, I’ve figured out that I’m really turned on by silky tannins and turned off by rough, grainy, or excessively mouth-puckering tannins. This is not so surprising in this relative newbie oenophile stage. Another surprise was the scarily named TAIT The Ball Buster Barossa Valley 2006. Despite the moniker this wine possesses a smooth refinement on top of the fruit-bomb flavorfulness that I really appreciate. Just deliciousness all the way. I also approved of the Folie à Deux Ménage à Trois Rosé 2006 which is a pleasant quaffer blend of syrah, merlot, and gewurztraminer. I was very impressed with the d’Arenberg Laughing Magpie Shiraz/Viognier 2006, which was a big wine with gobs of fruit and gorgeous aromatics.
Tastings are so great for trying different producers, countries, regions, varietals… expanding your palate, opening your vinous mind, and for practical consumer purposes, testing out before you buy.
Afterwards we went to Sakura for sushi that was fabulous. I’ve never had actual raw sushi before (only CA rolls).