Wine Blogging Wednesday #54 – Wines of Piedmont, Italy

This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday theme is Wines of Piedmont, Italy and is hosted by David McDuff and his excellent blog, McDuff’s Food & Wine Trail. This is a great theme as there are really a great variety of interesting wines, some very well known and some not so well known, available from this north-west region of Italy. Just a quick perusal of my wine book  Wines of the World (Eyewitness Companions) which is handily arranged by country and region leads me to consider some of my options: Barolo and Barbaresco (Nebbiolo), Barbera, Dolcetto, Gavi (Cortese), Moscato (still and sparkling), Arnies, Asti (sparkling), to name a few of the well-known offerings.

I chose for this assignment an affordable ($11.99) wine from producer G.D. Vajra, the 2007 Langhe Rosso, Langhe D.O.C. appellation, purchased from Groton Market.  Groton Market has a relatively rich selection of Italian wines from small producers as they work with New England importer Adonna Imports, as do a number of fine wine stores in the Boston area.

This is the newest vintage of this blended red wine from G.D. Vajra.  Each vintage represents an entirely different blend of grapes from the vineyards under the pervue of this producer in different areas, and as such has to be labeled Langhe D.O.C.  It was difficult for me to find out exactly what is in this wine as the G.D. Vajra web site is quite… larval.  I found a reference to this 2007 vintage on the website of Cambridge, MA gourmet food & wine store Formaggio Kitchen, here. This blend according to this writeup is composed of Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera, Freisa and Merlot (not sure of percentages). There is a nice writeup of G.D. Vajra  in a web site devoted to producers of Barolo, here. This is an great writeup of the 2006 vintage of this Rosso and other wines on… McDuff’s Food & Wine Trail (hi, David!), here. This is apparently a great Piedmont producer.

I don’t have a lot of experience drinking wines from Piedmont.  A few weeks ago I did enjoy a Nebbiolo varietal wine from producer Vietti quite a bit. This Rosso from G.D. Vajra has some Nebbiolo so I expect to detect the famous ‘tar and roses’ from that varietal.  Tasting notes – color is a lovely mid-raspberry, would make a fantastic lipstick color. Body is light-medium. On the nose are wafts of woodiness, perfume and sour cherry and… roses? The mouthfeel is pleasantly sour-acidic mouthfilling while maintaining some roundness.  The finish is good and reminds of red licorice.  I do like it quite a bit.  It is light and somewhat refined and would probably go with a variety of foods as is not too alcoholic (13.5% ABV).  Not a powerhouse, but well-made.  So, this is a great WBW theme.  We could probably have a Piedmont WBW every month and be able to post about different great wines for years if we were so inclined!

UPDATE March 21, 2014
Anna from G.D. Vajra has helpfully pointed me to their new beautiful web site and the fact sheet for this wine which lists the grape varieties blended into this wine: Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera, Albarossa, Freisa, and Pinot Noir.

G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso 2007 - FrontG.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso 2007 - Back

Nebbiolo on Foodista


February 17, 2009 Posted by | Wine | , , | 4 Comments

Wine Blogging Wednesday #53 – Wine for Breakfast!

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
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  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!

Cantine San Marco Frascati Superiore Secco 2007Omelet

January 13, 2009 Posted by | Food, Wine | , , , | 6 Comments

Wine Blogging Wednesday #52 – Value Reds from Chile

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?

Vina Chocalan Carmenere 2006 Front

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.

December 10, 2008 Posted by | Wine | , , , | 2 Comments

Wine Blogging Wednesday #51 – “Baked Goods”

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.

Campbells Rutherglen Muscat FrontCampbells Rutherglen Muscat Back

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!

November 12, 2008 Posted by | Wine | , , , | 3 Comments

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

Wine Blogging Wednesday #48 – Roots of Wine Enthusiasm

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.

August 13, 2008 Posted by | Wine | , , | 3 Comments

Wine Blogging Wednesday #47 – Sharon Sips Sangria Made with Shiraz on a Sunny Sunday with her Salad

This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday theme is ‘brought to you by the letter S’, and is hosted by Grape Juice, A Wine Blog. The letter S should figure prominently in the wine name, country, varietal, producer, appellation, vineyard, or really in any way at all!  I assume the folks at Grape Juice are fans of Sesame Street, brought to you by PBS since 1969.  Here is one of my fave bits from Sesame Street.  James Earl Jones sounds particularly Darth Vader-like at ‘Y’.

So being Summer and all, I thought it would be cool to make a nice Sangria.  And why not with a Special varietal like Shiraz/Syrah?  I chose the Torbeck Woodcutter’s Shiraz 2006 and used this recipe for Sparkling Cranberry Orange Sangria which looked pretty yummy from  Except I didn’t use the Cranberry liqueur as I don’t have any in-house.

The Shiraz by itself is meaty, fruit forward, well-made, concentrated, with smooth tannins and a good finish.  The Sangria is mostly fruit juice and it super refreshing.  I used pulpy O.J. and cranberry-pomegranate juice (100% juice) as I avoid any juice with high fructose corn syrup in it.  I used this over-the-top decanter I bought at Pier 1 a few months ago.

I’m late with this posting.  I actually imbibed another S-intensive wine on Wednesday but didn’t write down the tasting notes at dinner.  OopS.

July 13, 2008 Posted by | Wine | , | 3 Comments

Wine Blogging Wednesday #46 – Rhone White Varietals

This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday is hosted by Dr. Debs over at Good Wine Under $20. The theme this month is summery white wine varietals generally associated with the Rhone Valley in France, to quote:

“The varieties that I think best exemplify summer are white varieties associated with the Rhone: Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains, Picardin, Picpoul, Roussanne, Ugni Blanc, and Viognier.”

The varietals can be combined in a blend or not, and don’t need to actually be grown/vinified in the Rhone Valley. So this month on one of my recent trip to Gordon’s in Waltham (my wine class Mecca), I selected the 2006 Domaine Roger Perrin Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc for this month’s assignment. This is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Clairette, and Roussanne.

This wine is very pale yellow in color, and also is light-bodied and crisp. It is citrusy and simple. This would be excellent sitting on a deck outside with a nice lobster dinner. If I were a wine critic using a 100-point scale I’d probably give it an 86 for general competence, but for $23.96 it’s not the greatest QPR in the world.

A ‘New World’ wine with white Rhone varietals I had a few months ago that rocked my world a bit more was the 2006 The Black Chook VMR McLaren Vale & Langhorne Creek (Viognier, Marsanne, and Rousanne blend). This wine had quite a bit more going for it in terms of aromatics, fruitiness, finish, and overall deliciousness, and I agree with Stephen Tanzer’s 90 points on the 100-point scale.  In fact, I recall in January when I opened this bottle I didn’t manage the sort of reasonable restraint a petite lady should strive to maintain when enjoying a potent potable :-).

June 11, 2008 Posted by | Wine | , , , | Leave a comment

Wine Blogging Wednesday #45 – Old World Riesling

Once again it is that time of the month. The time for all good wine bloggers to devote their analytical skills and palates to the Wine Blogging Wednesday vinous theme. This month’s theme as presented by Tim Elliott of Winecast is Old World Riesling… the noble white grape as grown and vinified in the old world countries of Germany, France, and Austria. For this task I chose from my wine unit a wine I picked up in December from Colonial Spirits in Acton, MA., namely the:

2005 Langwerth Von Simmern Hattenheimer Nußbrunnen Riesling Kabinett

Weingut Langwerth Von Simmern has been making wine in the Rheingau region in Germany since 1474, according to their web site. That’s a LOOOONG time – can’t get much more Old World than that! The Rheingau region is situated just north of the Rhein (Rhine) river right before it bends southward towards Baden. The Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen vineyard is described on the web site:

1,6 ha
8-12 degrees southfaced
The deep, sandy to loamy soils of this southfacing hillside bring forth racy to full-bodied wines that are rich in aroma. Our estate owns ca. 40 % of this excellent vineyard, a source of distinctive Riesling wines.

2005 was a great year for Riesling in Germany, according to all reports. This wine is also a very pleasing example. It has 11.5% alcohol and is rated as a Kabinett, which means the grapes were picked at ‘normal’ ripeness. On the label is the “Grosses Gewachs” hawk-like symbol which is used as a quality indicator for wines from the Pfalz and Rheingau regions in Germany, meaning the vineyards are relatively low-yield. The wine is also marked Gutsabfullung, which indicated the wine was bottled by the producer.

Light lemon in color, the wine exhibits a racy acidity with actual bubbles emanating to the surface of the glass initially. The flavor is off-dry with a sweetish citrus impression and mouth-watering fruity floweryness. The nose is flowers and petrol, but not obnoxiously petrolly as some Rieslings I’ve tasted. It went well with my Trader Joe’s Chicken Gyoza potstickers and veggies (WITH the tangy TJ’s General Tsao sauce). It’s really quite delicious.

I found later that this great wine was chosen as a Daily Wine Pick at Wine Spectator, where it received a 90 point score, which sounds entirely fair.

I thought I would include a pic of my fave wine bottle opener. Happy. Happy has sideburns and think’s he’s Clint Eastwood:

May 6, 2008 Posted by | Wine | , , | 6 Comments

Wine Blogging Wednesday #44 – French Cabernet Franc

Wine Blogging Wednesday

This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday entry is hosted by an obscure wine store owner named Gregg Vandercharles or somesuch? heh no, Gary Vaynerchuk of course the ridonculously popular host of video blog Wine Library TV. This month’s theme is Cabernet Franc from France. I had some help selecting a wine during my visit to Wine Library this past weekend from an accommodating distributor whose name I didn’t catch. I was aware that this varietal had a reputation for having overly vegetal flavor characteristics and wasn’t wild about drinking liquid broccoli, so he selected one for me where the fruit was generally expected to be more forward. Not sure if that has to do with the appellation of Saumur-Champigny in general or the producer Thierry Germain in particular. The wine he picked out for me: 2005 Thierry Germain Saumur-Champigny. 100% Cab Franc. Saumur-Champigny is an appellation in the Loire Valley. Label says: Mis en bouteille a la propriete pour Thierry Germain Selection (49).

Cabernet Franc

So I took the bottle out of my handy new 28-bottle wine refrigeration unit, popped and poured it. I think I know what broccoli and bell pepper smell like, but I don’t sniff any here. More like black cherries and maybe leather and perhaps a bit of minty herbal eucalyptus. Mouth drying tannins but not too much. Medium-bodied, or maybe a little lighter. Nice drink. I’d give it an 87 in CellarTracker.

Thanks to GV for an interesting choice.

April 2, 2008 Posted by | Wine | , | 5 Comments