Wednesday’s Meritage – An Award for Women in Food, Thanksgiving Wines, Ageing of the Napa Cabs, Screw Top versus Cork and more

November 26, 2014 Leave a comment

Meritage Time!

Abundance is the word today. Thanksgiving, the holiday which we will celebrate tomorrow in United States, is usually associated with abundance. Lots’ of food and fun. And so is today’s Meritage issue – lots of interesting things to share. Let’s go!

First, I want to bring to your attention an opportunity for an award for the deserving women involved with food. KaTom, one of the largest restaurant supply companies in the world, wants to create a special award to recognize women involved with food, and it is asking for your help with this. If you click on this link, you will get to the KaTom web site, where in the upper right corner you will find the link for the video and a special award survey. Watch the 2-minutes video and then take a short survey – this will greatly help KaTom in their quest to create that special award.

Well, it is kind of late, but still worth a few minutes of your time – W. Blake Gray wrote a blog post which might help you to select the right wine for Thanksgiving. Instead of focusing on the particular wines, W. Blake Gray gives you an idea of the broad categories which might fit well at the Thanksgiving table.

Do you like aged wines? Which wines do you think can age well? If you think about California Cabernet Sauvignon wines as age-worthy, you might find interesting this article written by Lettie Teague for the Wall Street Journal. In the article, Lettie is exploring in depth if California Cabernet Sauvignon wines can actually age as well as many of us think they are. I definitely agree with one of the takeaways – it is hard to predict if the particular bottle of wine will age or not. But – I’m willing to take a chance. Anyway, read the article and let me know what do you think.

In the next interesting post, Jamie Goode, one of the very well known wine bloggers and writers, ponders at the [almost eternal] debate of wine enclosures  – screw top versus cork. This is not a theoretical debate – Jamie actually is talking about blind tasting and comparing the same wines enclosed with cork and screw top. Based on what I see in the post, cork edges the screw top – but read the comments to see all of the outcry about spoiled, corked wines. As far as I’m concerned, I’m willing to take a risk of having a corked bottle in exchange for greatness, versus screw top which just doesn’t allow the wine to age properly – but this is not the popular opinion. Anyway, take a look for yourself.

Which country do you think is a number 1 importer of Beaujolais Nouveau wines? Prepare for the surprise, as this country is … Japan! This article from Decanter magazine is exploring the virtues of the Beaujolais Nouveau phenomenon using some numbers. Japan is the biggest importer of Beaujolais Nouveau – it imports more Beaujolais Nouveau than the next 9 countries combined. Definitely some interesting numbers, well worth your attention.

Last but definitely not the least – here is another nudge regarding the the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #13. The theme is Serendipity, and you really have to start working on it now, if you didn’t have already. No excuses – have some turkey, have some wine, and get to it. Even if you think you can’t write the #MWWC post, believe in yourself, just sit down and write – you can do it! For all the rules and regulations, please take a look at this post.

And we are done here. The glass is empty, but the refill is on the way. Cheers!

 

My First Can of Wine

November 25, 2014 14 comments

Field Recordings Can TopNo, I didn’t lose it. The title of this post actually makes sense. To the date, I had the wine from the bottles of all forms and sizes. I had the wine directly from the stainless steel tanks and oak barrels. I had the wine dispersed by the machine. I had the wine from the keg. Yes, I had a boxed wine (and it was just fine). But – until yesterday, I never had wine from the can.

Yesterday I did. The Fall club shipment from one of my absolute favorite wineries, Field Recordings, included a can of wine. Not just any wine, but once again, one of my most favorite wines, Fiction (my personal wine of the year in 2011). When I saw a notice about the upcoming club shipment, which included a picture of the can, my first though was – hmmm, interesting. Really curious to try it.

Wine shipment arrived last week. After I opened the box, first thing I noticed was that the cans appeared a bit wrinkled. You know, when you hold the can of beer or any beverage, the surface is typically very smooth under your fingers – this was not the case, with the tiny, but noticeable ups and downs, the wrinkles (may be there is a better term to describe it, but I hope you got my point). Okay, it is the content what matters, right? It is obvious that the wine in the can is not intended to be stored or admired for the long time on the shelf – with its appearance it technically says “drink me now”.

Talking about cans, I had two other interesting observations. First, the can was 500 ml in size (somehow based on the picture I was expecting the full 750 size). And then instead of the short story which appears on the bottle of Fiction, the can’s “back label” contained the following tasting note: “Heady aromas of blueberry pie, luxurious suede couches, ham paninis and unlit menthol cigarettes. Firm tannins anchor flavors of grilled meats, cherry cola, sweet carob and black licorice chews, all cased up together conveniently in a cigar humidor. Drink tonight“. An interesting description, don’t you think? As I also got a bottle of Fiction, I was relieved to see the old a familiar story on its back label…

2013 Field Recordings Fiction Cans

Okay, let’s get to “it” – let me tell you what I though about the wine. 2013 Field Recording Fiction Red Wine Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, $10 for 500 ml can, $18/bottle, 20% discount for catalog members; 31% Zinfandel, 26% Tempranillo, 15% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 8% Touriga Nacional) – in a word, the wine was delicious. It took about 10 minutes for the wine to open up and round itself up in a glass (I didn’t dare drinking it straight from the can, I think it would eliminate half of the pleasure – but feel free, of course). I didn’t find grilled meat or suede coaches in the wine. But it had beautiful, ripe blueberries and sweet cherries, some vanilla dusting and may be a touch of mocha and sweet oak, all impeccably woven into a tight bundle of pleasure, sip after sip. This wine was on par with all the previous releases of Fiction, sans the aromatics. I couldn’t find the mind-blowing aromatics the 2010 Fiction was showing, but nevertheless, this was a silky smooth and delicious wine which I would gladly drink again. But I would honestly prefer to pour from the bottle. Drinkability: 8-

Did you have the wine in the can? What do you think about the wine you had and the concept as a whole? Cheers!

Celebrating New Harvest – Beaujolais Nouveau 2014

November 23, 2014 5 comments

Beaujolais Nouveau winesOn Thursday, November 20th, all wine (and probably well beyond wine) social media outlets were filled with “Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrivé” messages, pictures and videos. For more than 30 years, what was at some point a simple local celebration of the new harvest, became a big international affair. Always happening on the third Thursday in November, the wine called Beaujolais Nouveau magically appears on the shelves of the wine stores and on the restaurant tables all over the world to ring in the harvest.

This international celebration is largely a result of the efforts of one man with the vision – Georges Duboeuf, the famous french wine négociant and producer. It was his vision and hard work which lead to the event celebrated from Paris to New York to Tokyo. At some point the Beaujolais Nouveau phenomenon became oversubscribed, leading to the glut of insipid wines saturating the market, creating a bad image associated with the whole Beaujolais Nouveau idea. But with the modern winemaking improvements, the quality of the Beaujolais Nouveau wines started to improve year after year, which brought the feeling of the celebration back over the last 5-6 years.

I had been closely following the Beaujolais Nouveau celebration ever since this blog started – here are the posts from 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. While working on this post, I checked my notes on the past releases of Beaujolais Nouveau, and it looks like with the exception of 2011, all the vintages were very consistent, offering good quality, very drinkable wine which gave a lot of pleasure. I know that some people dismiss Beaujolais Nouveau as a marketing gimmick and simply refuse to drink the wines – however, I wholeheartedly disagree and I believe this young celebratory wine well worth wine aficionados’ attention.

This year, I had an opportunity to try two different Beaujolais wines – 2014 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau (12% ABV, $9.99) and 2014 Domaine Manoir du Carra Beaujolais Nouveau (12.5% ABV, $10.99). Talking about interesting experiences, for the first time I remember drinking Beaujolais Nouveau, and definitely for the first time while writing this blog, I found two of the different bottles of wine which taste nearly identical. This was very puzzling experience, as I was looking for the different descriptors, and couldn’t find any. Okay, they were not 100% the same wines, of course – but differences were very subtle, may be in the particular fruit profile being more pronounced in one wine and not in the other, and majority of the description would stay the same. To acknowledge that, I will give you a description for both wines at the same time.

Color: Bright Garnet

Nose: Freshly crushed red fruit, lavender, unmistakable aroma of the young wine

Palate: Red fruit, cherries, tart blackberries, violet, lavender, medium body with some structure, vibrant acidity, good balance, medium finish.

Verdict: a good wine, easy to drink, fresh, should play well with the wide range of food due to the substantial acidity. Yes it will do just fine on your Thanksgiving table (will be definitely on mine). Drinkability: 7+/8- for both – really hard to decide.

Yet another Beaujolais Nouveau day becomes a history. Well, of course not so fast – the wines will be available for a while, and while they are not meant for aging, overall textural presence of the two wines I tasted suggests that these wines can last for the few years – but this is definitely not what you want to do. And than that mind boggling similarity between the two totally different wines – I don’t know what to think of it, except that may be the similar winemaking methods used, like carbonic maceration and such, lead to the similar results for the two totally unrelated wines. Perhaps this is not a very solid explanation, so I would love to hear your theory if you got one.

Did you already have the Beaujolais Nouveau 2014? If you did, what kind and what did you think of it? Cheers!

My #ZinfandelDay experiences – [mostly value] Zinfandels

November 22, 2014 9 comments

I like to celebrate grape holidays in a close proximity of my wine fridge – there is always a good chance that I have a good bottle of the appropriate celebratory wine. So if I would’ve been next to my cellar for the #ZinfandelDay, I would be able to chose between Turley, Carlisle and St. Francis – not too shabby, right? Only I wasn’t. I was traveling, so it was the whole different game.

Once again, I was in California. As it was mentioned many times in this blog, when I’m in a close proxomity of Trader Joe’s which sells wine, then Trader Joe’s it is. So I went to Trader Joe’s and bought 3 different Zinfandel wines – two of the Trader Joe’s own labels, and Ravenswood. Literally next door to my hotel, on my way back, I saw a store called Grocery Outlet, which I never heard of before. So I had to stop by and check it out. Interestingly enough, the store also had a wine section with the number of very interesting bottles, with prices starting from $2.99. When I saw another Zinfandel at $5.99, it was also quick and easy decision. And now, there were four.

Below I will share with you my notes on the wines, which ranged in prices from $4.99 to $9.99. Some of the takeaways were quite interesting, as I tasted the wines over a few days, but I will let you read through my notes as they are. And there was one more Zinfandel to mention. Here we go:

zinfandels2012 Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel Vintners Blend California (13.5% ABV, $7.99) – Crushed red fruit on the nose, touch of earthiness. Palate is a little thin on the finish, first showing a burst of dark fruit and smoke, but again, the finish was disintegrated with sharp acidity. This was the end of my notes on the first day – as you can see, I didn’t really like it. At the end of the second day, however, the wine showed a lot more round, integrated and balanced – dark fruit, spices and touch of herbs (sage). Drinkability: 7+

2013 Trader Joe’s Zinfandel Growers’s Reserve Paso Robles (13.5% ABV, $4.99, made with organically grown grapes) – Touch of fresh berries on the nose. Smoke, clean fruit, blueberries and blackberries on the palate. Clean, simple, easy to drink. Opened up even more at the end of day 3 (!) – smoke, sandalwood, round with nice open complexity. My favorite out of the 4. Drinkability: 7+/8-

2012 Trader Joe’s Reserve Zinfandel Lot #92 Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County (14.5% ABV, $9.99) – dark fruit on the nose with touch of blackberries. Hint of smoke and roasted notes on the palate, blackberries, restrained, somewhat round, but need more substance. This was the end of the day 1 – an okay wine (I’ve been nice here), but not anything interesting. At the end of the day 3 (!), very noticeable tannins came out with smoke and dark fruit, overall much better than before. Needs time? Drinkability: 7-/7+ (on day 3)

2009 Parallax Zinfandel Amador County, Sierra Foothills (15.1% ABV, $5.99 at Grocery Outlet)  – touch of fresh blueberries on the nose, just a touch. Round, clean, blackberries on the palate. Touch of earthiness. Finish somewhat lacking, need more complexity – this was an initial assessment at the end of the day 1. At the end of the  day 2 – nice complexity, spices, lots of blackberries, very noticeable tannins. An excellent steak wine, good balance, more dark fruit. Very impressive. Drinkability: 8-

So what do you think? A very interesting experience, if you ask me. It took these wines a few days to change and open up – the biggest winners were Parallax Zinfandel and Ravenswood, which improved quite a bit, from barely drinkable to pretty much delicious. And the most interesting wine was probably the least expensive Trader Joe’s Grower’s Reserve Zinfandel, which tasted fine from the very beginning and even throughout the three days. Considering its taste profile, it would make it a perfect Thanksgiving wine, as it will match a wide range of flavors.

Well, to top it all off, I need to include one more Zinfandel here. On the exact #ZinfandelDay, we had dinner at the 71 Saint Peter restaurant in San Jose, and as you can imagine, I wanted to start the dinner with the Zinfandel, just to properly acknowledge the holiday. Out of only three Zinfandel wines available on the wine list, 2012 Peachy Canyon Westside Zinfandel Paso Robles (14.5% ABV, $22 winery, $45 at the restaurant) was highly recommended by the staff. You know, when you drink the wine in the restaurant, you don’t have a luxury of playing with it for 3 days to see what will happen… The wine had ripe blackberries on the nose, and was dark, firm and concentrated on the palate, and also had some nice black fruit. I think it would open up more if it was given a chance, but it was gone way too quickly, so in the interest of fairness, I will not rate this wine.

There you have it, my friends – my [mostly value] Zinfandel experiences, with some interesting outcome, when even the inexpensive wines can evolve and surprise you. How was your #ZinfandelDay? Cheers!

 

Wednesday’s Meritage – #MWWC13 Reminder, Zinfandel Day, How To Start A Blog, WS Top 100 and more

November 19, 2014 11 comments

MWWC_logoMeritage Time!

Lots of things to share – let’s  get to it! First of all – the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #13. The theme is Serendipity, and I really hope the theme is intriguing enough to see a lot of entries in the contest! For all the rules and regulations, please take a look at this post.

Last week we celebrated Tempranillo, and yet another grape holiday is upon us. On Wednesday, November 19th, we are celebrating an iconic American grape – Zinfandel! The Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Syrah wines are made pretty much everywhere in the world – but Zinfandel, in its pure form, is a real representative of an American winemaking culture. It is very easy to celebrate Zinfandel – just find a bottle of your favorite Zin, open it up and say “wow”. That’s all what is required.

When it rains, it pours. Wednesday is a Zinfandel holiday, but on Thursday, November 20th, we are going to celebrate the new grape harvest! November 20th is a third Thursday of the month of November, which means … yes, Beaujolais Nouveau time! I know, Beaujolais Nouveau often gets bad rap from the wine aficionados, but to me, the wine considerably improved over the last 5-6 years, and now it is a real wine which gives you real pleasure. I’m very much looking forward to tasting the 2014 Beaujolais Nouveau. And don’t forget that this new wine is celebrated all over the world – from Paris to New York to Washington to Chicago, you can find many events celebrating new harvest and life – just use the faithful Google, it will help you find the live event if you care to attend one.

On Monday, November 17th, Wine Spectator released its annual Top 100 Wines List for 2014. 2011 Dow Vintage Point was declared the wine of the year. What is amazing to me is that my friend Zak (wine store owner), predicted this exact wine to be the wine of the year in 2013 – and now it is, only one year later – that is very impressive in my opinion. The list looks quite diverse, with entries from all over the world. One of the interesting facts is that 3 out of the Top 10 wines are from Portugal. The least expensive wine on the list is priced at $10 (Bodegas Montecillo Rioja), and the most expensive one is Ornellaia at $240. You can analyze the list in many more ways – here is the link for you. Note that you can also go through the past 25 years of the Top 100 lists using the same link.

Recently I came across a blog post which provides excellent tips for the beginner bloggers about the content, dealing with social media, promoting the blog and all other related issues. I’m sure many of my readers already know most of this, but it never hurts to go through a refresher course – there is a good chance of finding something new. And for the people who are contemplating to start their own blog, having that good of an advice might be a tipping point. Here is the link to the post. I will also make it available on my Resources page.

Do you want to know in advance when the wine holidays are taking place? Me too – and this is why I’m glad I found this calendar, which lists most of the wine holidays in a very easy to understand format – here is the link so you can see it for yourself.

Last for today is a note of the new service called CorkSharing. If you plan to visit a winery, you can use the service to book your tasting in advance – when you arrive at the winery, you can just proceed to the tasting without waiting for it in line. The list right now includes 11 countries and 166 participating locations. I think this is an interesting service, especially if you plan your winery visit in advance.

And we are done! The glass is empty – but the refill is on its way. Cheers!

Restaurant Files: Oyster Bar, One Of The Best Hidden Dining Secrets Of New York

November 16, 2014 7 comments

Oyster's selection at Oyster Bar NYLet me ask you a question – do you think trains and freshest possible seafood have anything to do together? Here is another question – thinking about train station, what kind of food would you expect to find there? Does the word “gourmet” easily associates with the train station?

Of course I’m not talking about an average train station in the town with population of 10,000. The tricky part of my question is that we are talking about New York, and the train station is the famous, beautiful Grand Central Terminal. Still, let’s say if you are visiting New York, how many of you would set the restaurant at the train station as your desired dinner destination? Well, if you like seafood, especially if you like oysters, Grand Central Terminal might be a very wise choice, as since 1913 (!) it houses, on the lower level of the station, one of the best if not the very best seafood restaurant in New York, called Oyster Bar and Restaurant.

As you enter into the restaurant, you get the feel of the authentic diner from the 30th. Nope, I’m not that old, but this is an impression from the movies. Red checkered cloth definitely adds to the ambiance. And once you get to your table and given the menu, especially if you are a seafood aficionado, you understand that you are literally in the heaven. The menu is presented as unassuming large piece of paper. The reason for this is simple – the new menu is printed every day (!), as  the bulk of the menu is a fresh catch. Nope, they don’t offer the coveted but equally anonymous “oysters on the half shell”, where you get whatever single kind of oyster there is. You can pick and chose from the daily selection of about 30 (!) different oysters. Overall, Oyster Bar has a 5 pages long oyster list which includes about 250 (!!) different oysters – here is the link for you to take a look. Of course the menu goes well beyond oysters offering all kinds of fish and seafood. Here is a fragment of the menu from November 15th:

Oyster Bar menu fragmentOysters, fish, lobsters and more – whatever your seafood lover’s heart desires. And don’t forget the soups! New England Clam Chowder at Oyster Bar is my perennial favorite. One of the very best and very consistent. As Grand Central Terminal generally is my link to New York, from time to time, I like to stop by the Oyster Bar for a quick bite to eat – at $6.95, the bowl of clam chowder is literally the best value one can get in New York – definitely beats any deli.

Tokaji Hétszölö Dry FurmintAs we were planning for the oysters to be the main dish, the appropriate wine was in order. One of the traditional choices for the seafood wine is Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine, with its steely acidity. But that is exactly the point – this is a very standard and traditional choice, and we wanted to try something new and different. Conveniently, wine list at Oyster Bar listed few very nontraditional wines as the winners of the popular choice as oyster’s accompaniment in the section called “Oyster Wine Pairing Champions 2014″. One of those wines was 2011 Hétszölö Tokaji Dry Furmint from Hungary, which we decided on. This happened to be a great choice, as wine showed not only acidity, but also a wonderful salinity (I can only guess – attributed to the volcanic soils in the vineyard), all together making it practically an ideal pairing for the various oysters.

And then, of course, there were oysters. There is not a lot I can tell you about them, except that the selection included 8 different oysters (you can see the list in the picture above), which were one better than the other, both in the taste and in ability to support the conversation.

Oysters at Oyster BarThere you have it, my friends – now you know about one of the best seafood destinations in New York – lunch, dinner or a quick bite on the way – Oyster bar will serve you well. Oh yes – and reservation is highly recommended if you plan on dinner.

Did you know about Oyster Bar before? Have you ever been there? If you have, what do you think? Cheers!

Oyster Bar & Restaurant
Grand Central Terminal
New York, NY 10017
P: 212-490-6650

http://www.oysterbarny.com/

Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Pleasures of the #GrapeDay – Delicious Tempranillo

November 15, 2014 15 comments

2004 Viña Mayor Ribera del Duero Once again I’m confessing my love for the “grape holidays” – knowing that the day has a special dedication to the specific grape variety makes selection of the wine to drink a much easier process. It also creates a feeling of the “special moment”, thus forcing you to open that-special-bottle-saved-for-the-special-occasion. Last grape holiday, the #GrenacheDay, prompted me to open a special bottle which was a lucky occasion, as the wine was about to turn over the hill.

Two days ago we were celebrating Tempranillo, a noble grape of Spain. Tempranillo is the most planted red grape in Spain, with the best and most famous wines coming from Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Toro regions. But over the last decade, Tempranillo lost its status of Spain’s exclusive treasure – it spread all over the world, with Australia, Texas, Oregon, California, Washington and other regions producing world-class wines.

Now, to select the bottle of wine for the proper celebration, one have to go to their own cellar or the local wine store – of course, with the exception of the lucky ones who live in a close proximity of the right winery. Unless you actually live in Texas, Oregon or Washington, your chances of finding those Tempranillo wines in the store are pretty much non existent. So for me, the choice was simple – Spain. I love Spanish wines, especially Rioja – and my cellar shows that. For the most of the day, my plan was to open the Rioja bottle in the evening – I was thinking about 2003 La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi, which I had before and it was outstanding, despite a very difficult growing year. But then many of the twitter friends stated that they plan to open Ribera del Duero wines – and it got me thinking – do I have any options? Not a lot, but I do have a few bottles of Ribera del Duero, so actually, why not?

The bottle I pulled was 2004 Viña Mayor Reserva Ribera del Duero DO (13.5% ABV, ~$20). I was under impression that I wrote about this wine before in this blog – nope, I didn’t. The 2004 was an excellent year in Ribera del Duero, and Viña Mayor is an excellent producer. You put two and two together and what do you get? Five, of course! I love it when my wife takes a sip of the wine and says “wow” – one thing is to enjoy the wine by yourself, and it is totally different experience when someone else shares your enthusiasm – and it is not easy to impress my wife that much. Beautiful dark fruit on the nose, touch of herbs. The palate is just “wow” – multiple layers of fruit, touch of espresso, firm, dense, perfectly present, youthful, fresh, excellent acidity and overall very balanced. I’m glad I have another bottle – but it will have to wait for a while. Drinkability: 8+

There you have it, my friends – another successful grape holiday. How was your #TempranilloDay? Share your special moments, don’t be shy!

By the way, in case you are wondering – the next grape holiday is coming! #ZinfandelDay is on November 19th – luckily, you still have a bit of time to prepare. Cheers!

Month in Wines: October 2014

November 9, 2014 Leave a comment

Ahh, the ever accelerating pace of the days, weeks and months flying by like a runaway train, as we are getting closer to the holidays… Another month becomes a history, and as usual, it is the time to summarize the wine experiences. Typically, this is not a very difficult task with may be 12 -15 wines which would be typically mentioned in this “month in wines” posts. It seems to be a challenging undertaking for October 2014, as it included a trip to Washington with 7 excellent wineries and lots of great wines. Well, I will do my best to control of size of this post and not to inundate my readers with repetitious details. Quick reminder: only the wines rated 8- or higher are included into this post (yes, with possible exceptions).

Let’s go:

2013 Mark Ryan Viognier Columbia Valley – Perfumy, bright, with crisp acidity and medium body. Delicious overall. 8

2012 Sparkman Cellars Enlightenment Chardonnay French Creek Vineyard Yakima ValleyElegant, with a touch of the Chablis-like gunflint on the nose, and enough of butter, vanilla and substance to make it a soulful wine. 8

NV Ayala Champagne Brut Majeur (12% ABV) – One of my all time favorite Champagnes. A full package – yeasty nose, freshly baked bread, toasted apple, perfect mid-palate weight. One of the best QPR for Champagne that I know of. 8

2013 L’Ecole No 41 Chenin Blanc Old Vines Columbia Valley (13.5% ABV) – I read it many times that acidity is often brought up as a primary characteristic of Chenin Blanc – but my experience doesn’t support it. This wine,. similar to some of the best Vouvray wines I ever had, was showing a bright white fruit, medium to full body, ripe apples and balancing acidity. 8

2011 Tikveš Barovo Red Wine, Macedonia (14.5% ABV, 65% Kratosija, 35% Vranec) – we can call this wine the “dark power”. Almost black in the appearance, with tar and espresso at its core, ripe blackberries and soft tannins. Vranec is considered one of the most heart-friendly grapes. And Kratosija adds one more grape to the collection. 8-

2011 Field Recordings Petite Sirah Edna Valley (15% ABV, 100% Petite Sirah, Crocket Hill Vineyard) – ripe blueberries, packaged into the soft frame, with bright nose saying “drink me” and blueberries all the way on the palate. Round, smooth, elegant – a “dangerous wine” – it is gone before you notice. 8-

2008 Henri Cruchon Gamaret Morges AOC (13% ABV) – Restrained, delicious old world wine. Earthiness and minerality, somewhat muted on the nose. Touch of blackberries and smoke on the palate, more earthiness, soft tannins and excellent balance. 8-

2009 Chateau Greysac Médoc AOC, France (14% ABV) – Chateau Greysac is one of the Bordeaux staples – always reasonably priced, and very consistent, year after year. Good dark fruit on the nose with a touch of earthiness, blackberries. More blackberries on the palate with a touch of cassis, refreshing acidity, well integrated tannins and medium to long finish. 8-

2012 Laplace Madiran AOP, France (14% ABV) – a rare breed – Tannat from its place of origin, France. Dark, dense, concentrated, with tar and ink on the palate, but showing fresh fruit surprisingly well. Full bodied wines, very dense and present. 8-

2006 Trapiche Broquel Malbec Mendoza, Argentina (14% ABV) – no sign of age – fresh, approachable, touch of sweet oak, dark fruit, well noticeable tannins and perfect balancing acidity. Delicious. 8

2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma County (13.1% ABV) – classic, classic, classic – dark smokey fruit on the nose, same on the palate – cherries, hint of mushrooms and forest floor, vibrant acidity, more smoke on the palate. 8

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And here are the [red wine] highlights of the Woodinville trip (lots of them) – for the tasting notes, please click on the wine name:

2010 Elevation Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley – 8
2011 Elevation Cellars Jammin’ Red Blend Red Mountain and Columbia Valley – 8-
2010 Elevation Cellars Merlot Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley – 8-
2009 Elevation Cellars Monolith Bordeaux Blend Hedges Vineyard Red Mountain – 8+
2011 Pondera Entwined Columbia Valley – 8-
2011 Pondera SVS Number One Columbia Valley – 8-
2011 Pondera Malbec Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley – 8+
2009 Pondera Prima Donna Columbia Valley  – 8
2010 Des Voigne Cellars Montreux Syrah Columbia Valley  – 8-
2010 Des Voigne Cellars “Untitled” Columbia Valley – 8-
2011 Des Voigne Cellars The Composer Wahluke Slope – 8-
2012 Sparkman Cellars Ruckus Syrah Red Mountain – 8
2011 Sparkman Cellars Rainmaker Cabernet Sauvignon Yakima Valley – 8+
2011 Guardian Cellars Gun Metal Columbia Valley – 8
2011 Guardian Cellars The Informant Syrah Wahluke Slope – 8
2011 Guardian Cellars The Rookie Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain – 8
2011 Fidelitas Boushey Vineyard Red Wine Yakima Valley – 8-
2012 Mark Ryan NumbSkull GSM Walla Walla – 8
2012 Mark Ryan The Dissident Columbia Valley – 9-
2012 Mark Ryan Long Haul Red Mountain – 8+
2012 Mark Ryan Dead Horse Red Mountain – 9-
2011 Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley – 8-
2011 Leonetti Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley – 8+

And we are done here. So, what were your wine discoveries for the past month? Cheers!

Few Last Words About Washington Wines

November 5, 2014 9 comments

All the good things come to an end – so did my trip to Washington and the series of the blog posts about Woodinville wineries (if you missed the series, here is the link to the first, “MWWC-award-winning” :) post – you can explore it from there).

What is my main outcome of that trip? First, at the “duh”  level – great wines are made in the state of Washington. Yes, yes, I understand how pathetic this revelation is. However, outside of Chateau Ste. Michele, Columbia Crest and may be  Cayuse and Quilceda Creek, how many Washington wineries can you name if put on the spot? Meanwhile, the wines I tasted in Woodinville, where literally one better than another. When it comes to the focused winery visits and large tastings, I do have a bit of experience – 7 wineries, about 40 wines, and not a single wine wine I really didn’t care for? That is a serious result in my book. Couple that with most of the wines reasonable priced in the $25 – $50 range, and the picture gets even better. Spectacular Bordeaux blends with such elegance and finesse – these Washington wines definitely worth seeking out. Well, today you would have to mostly travel to the area if you want to experience the wines – but this is the only problem you might have with the wines. Bottom line – I was very happy with my discovery of Woodinville and its wineries, and in the words of the Terminator, “I’ll be back”.

So you think we are done here? Nope. I still have a few more Washington wines to mention – thanks to Vino Volo. I wrote about Vino Volo a number of times in the past – the company manages wine bars in [mostly] various airports around US and Canada. While good wine at the airport is the most welcome development of the past 5 or so years of the flying experience, my favorite part about Vino Volo is that whenever possible, the bars offer tasting flights of local wines – you should expect to find Texas wines in Austin, California wines in San Francisco and of course, Washington wines in Seattle!

I had about 2 hours before my flight back to New York, and when I saw the Vino Volo sign, that was a happy “Yes!” moment. A number ofthe Washington wine flights were offered, but when I saw the one with Leonetti Cellars Cabernet, I had to go for it – I only heard the name before and they considered to be an excellent producer, so I was definitely curious.

Washington Cabernet Flioght at Vino Volo in seattle

The flight consisted of 3 different Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Washington.

Washington Cabernet description at Vino Volo

Here are my notes:

2010 Pepper Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, Walla Walla Valley – Raspberries and blackberries on the nose. On the palate, great depth, cassis, blackberries, pencil shavings, medium to full body, sweet tannins, elegant. Drinkability: 7+/8-

2011 Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley – herbal nose with sage and lavender, touch of cassis. On the palate – dark chocolate, earthiness, nice mineral profile, good acidity, elegant. Drinkability: 8-

2011 Leonetti Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley – Rich and concentrated nose, with the hint of forest floor, herbs, eucalyptus and great complexity. On the palate – round, spectacular, herbal profile with nutty aftertaste, more eucalyptus, long finish. Drinkability: 8+

Well, now it is the time to conclude the series for real. What can I tell you? If you are looking for the great wine experiences, put state of Washington, and Woodinville in particular, on the top of your  list. For those of you who can experience the Woodinville wines and wineries at any time – lucky you. For the rest of us? Well, at least we know where to find them. Cheers!

Woodinville Wineries: Mark Ryan Winery

November 2, 2014 12 comments

Mark Ryan Long Haul BoxesThis post is a continuation of the series about my winery experiences in Woodinville, Washington. Here are the links for the first four posts – introduction, Elevation CellarsPondera Winery, Des Voigne Cellars, Sparkman CellarsGuardian Cellars and Fidélitas.

…walked towards the tasting counter, only to find out that the tasting room was closed for the day. I was told that there will be a special event in the tasting room, and they have to close earlier to prepare for that event, and unfortunately, I would have to come back to taste their wines. The tasting room itself looked very appealing, with the large format wines and wooden crates (the visual aspect of the “wineappeal” is so fascinating), I was really disappointed with the prospect of just walking away and finishing the great day on such a low note, especially after a so-so tasting at Fidélitas. So I used my last resort  – I explained that I’m a blogger, and that I traveled from another coast, and it would not be possible for me to returned for the tasting any time soon. It worked! I was told that if I don’t mind sitting outside at the table, they will be glad to bring me all the wines to taste – but of course, thank you very much!

At Mark Ryan Winery

Tasting Room at Mark Ryan winery – aren’t does bottles look great?

The weather was beautiful ( it was not even raining! :)), and tasting outside was just an excellent proposition. The first wine which was brought to the table was  2013 Mark Ryan Viognier Columbia Valley (100% Viognier). I’m generally a bit worrying about Viognier wines – when they are good, they are absolutely spectacular in all aspects, from nose and the taste to the mouthfeel and the body. But when they are bad, they can be really daunting. Starting form the nose, Mark Ryan Viognier was spectacular – perfumy nose, perfect acidity, creamy mouthfeel, excellent balance and overall delicious. An interesting fact – this wine was partially aged in the concrete egg, which, according to the winery description, enhances the texture. I concur. Drinkability: 8.

The next wine was 2012 Mark Ryan NumbSkull GSM Walla Walla (58% Syrah, 26% Grenache, 16% Mourvedre) – beautiful ruby color, open nose of fresh berries (mourvedre dominated), blackberries, raspberries, thyme, earthiness – another delicious wine. Drinkability: 8

2012 Mark Ryan The Dissident Columbia Valley (54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 12% Malbec, 11% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot) – cassis all the way! Texturally very present (my original note says “phenomenal texture”, but I don’t think “phenomenal” would be a universally recognized descriptor), round, clean and delicious. Drinkability: 9-

2012 Mark Ryan Long Haul Red Mountain (49% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot) – cassis again! Hint of green bell pepper, noticeable tannins, nice herbal component, round and delicious. Drinkability: 8+

2012 Mark Ryan Dead Horse Red Mountain (82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petite Verdot) – wow! Dusty tannins, cassis, big body, eucalyptus, delicious by all means. Drinkability: 9-

I guess you can tell that this was one exciting tasting – from my experience, this is quite a rare occasion when all the wines in the tasting are literally one better than the other. This was the second winery where I just had to buy the wine (got a bottle of NumbSkull and The Dissident). I’m really thankful to the kind folks at the Mark Ryan for being able to accommodate me despite their prepping for a special event – and I’m glad to be able to finish the day on such a high note.

This post essentially concludes the series about my short 3-hours run around the Woodinville wineries, but before I left the state of Washington, I had an opportunity to taste a few more interesting wines – we will talk about them in the next post.

To be concluded…

 

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