Sharing the Pleasure – Two Cabernets for the #CabernetDay

August 28, 2014 6 comments

Yes, it is a #CabernetDay, and a post about Cabernet wines should be rather appropriate – but somehow, I was on the fence about it, until the AME opened up a little bit… When the wine give you lots of pleasure, why not talk about it? Well, this is how I felt anyway.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc make some of the very best wines in the world, both when they fly solo, and when assisted by the other grapes. Myriad of love letters err tasting notes, blog posts and articles had been written to those grapes and wines, and hundreds millions of dollars traded hands for the pleasure of owning and drinking the Cabernet wines. Yes, we love our Cabernet wines (even Miles didn’t dare to poop on them). Thus I will not inundate you with another ten (or fifty) interesting facts, and instead will simply share the pleasure I had drinking the wines.

The greatness of the #GrapeDay is in the fact that it helps to select the bottle to be open. It also makes it appropriate to break a special bottle, and so I did.

Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

The first bottle opened was 2009 Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley. What makes it special? I had only one bottle, and read some rave reviews advocating giving this wine some time – thus I was waiting for the “special occasion” (thank you #CabernetDay).

I don’t know how this works, but when I think about the wines in the terms of how I would describe them, I get some random analogies at random times. This time my brain decided to go with the athletes analogy. To give you an idea of how this wine tasted, imagine a runner, may be a sprinter – perfectly built slender body, perfectly visible muscles, everything is tightly wound and ready to spring at any moment. A perfectly looking, but minimalist body. That was the impression of this wine – restrained cassis notes, espresso, earth, plums, clean acidity, firm and perfectly structured – a great package all around. (Drinkability:8)

Neyers AME Cabernet Sauvignon

The second wine was 2005 Neyers Vineyards AME Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. What makes it special? I love Neyers wines – their 2003 Cabernet was spectacular, for instance. And I had only two bottles of the AME (I rarely buy wines by the case, so having only two bottles is rather common). I would say that this wine was special even for the Neyers – the AME constitutes first initials of the names of their 3 children – Alexandra, Michael and Elizabeth.

Going to the sports analogy, imagine the same perfectly built athlete, but make all the muscles at least 3 times bigger – still perfect body, no fat, just muscles, but much bigger frame and much bigger muscles. We are not getting to the bodybuilder sizes, but this might be Stallone rather than Schwarzenegger – I hope you got my point.

Delicious open nose of dark fruit, cassis, loads of cassis, eucalyptus, earth. On the palate – so many things happening – cassis, plums, earth, pencil shavings, dark chocolate and espresso combined, clean acidity, perfect balance, firm structure and powerful tannins – a wow wine. (Drinkability:9).

There you have it, my friends – two great wines in honor of #CabernetDay. What is in your glass? Cheers!

Last Bottle Wines Earthquake Marathon Madness – Tomorrow Starting at Noon Eastern

August 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Apologies for the second post in a day, but I just got the e-mail and I have to share it with you. Only today I told you about the WTSO marathon event coming in September, and in about 20 minutes after I pressed the “publish” button, the e-mail announcement came in from the Last Bottle Wines, another purveyor of the fine wines at the value prices.

But before I will tell you about the marathon, I want to mention the important initiative by the Last Bottle Wines. As you know, few days ago Napa Valley was affected by the earthquake. Thousands of people were affected, and as it often happens, those in need are affected the most. Last Bottle Wines donated $5,000 to the Napa Valley Food Bank, and if you want to help, you can donate as well by CLICKING HERE.

Now, starting tomorrow at Noon Eastern/ 9 am Pacific, Last Bottle Wines will run their marathon sale event called Earthquake Marathon Madness.

Last Bottle Wines MarathonThe wines will be offered at a neck-breaking speed – no notifications of any sort – you just have to click “refresh” in your browser. No minimum purchase, and all wines will ship for free (within 48 states) in a few weeks. Of course you need to have an account with Last Bottle Wines, and I suggest you will be logged in with your credit card information set, if you want to catch any of the wines which will be sold. In case you don’t have an account, I will be glad to be your “reference” – you can use this link to sign up, and if you will, you will get $5 credit – yes, I will get $20 credit as well – but next time it will be you, when you will sign up your friends…

Happy Wine Wednesday, Happy Hunting and Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, #CabernetDay – Tomorrow, WTSO Everything Goes Marathon, Crowdsourced Cabernet, World Wine Challenge

August 27, 2014 2 comments

wine quiz answers Meritage time!

Let’s start with the answer to the wine quiz #111, Grape Trivia – Grüner Veltliner.

This wine quiz is a continuation of the trivia series, where we are talking about individual grapes and then you get to answer 5 questions as it relates to that grape. The subject of the last quiz was white grape called Grüner Veltliner.

Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: These flavors are usually associated with red wines, but it is not uncommon to find them in the description of the Grüner Veltliner wines. Do you know what flavors are those (multiple answers are possible)?
a. Chocolate, b. Pencil shavings, c. Pepper, d. Tar, e. Tobacco

A1: While Grüner Veltliner is a white grape, some of its aromas are typically associated with the red grapes, not with the whites – namely, pepper and tobacco can be often perceived in in the Grüner Veltliner wines.

Q2: These vegetables are notorious for been a “wine killer” – in terms of successful pairing, it is. And yet Grüner Veltliner is one of the unique wines (if not the only one) which is known to be able to pair successfully with those offenders. Do you know what vegetables we are talking about?

A2: Asparagus and artichoke are notoriously difficult to pair with the wines, and Grüner Veltliner often works very well with both vegetables.

Q3: Wine Spectator calls wines rated in 95-100 range Classic (the highest and the most prestigious category). True or False: there are no Grüner Veltliner – based wines rated in the Classic category

A3: Correct answer is “false” – there are some Grüner Veltliner rates as “classic” – but literally, there are only very few, mostly late harvest Grüner Veltliner wines rated at 95 as the highest.

Q4: According to one of the well known wine critics, the Grüner Veltliner might be “the next big thing” in which wine making country:
a. Australia, b.Argentina, c. Chile, d. South Africa, e. United States

A4: Wine expert James Halliday considers Grüner Veltliner to be potentially the next big thing in Australia, so the correct answer is a, Australia.

Q5: Which one doesn’t belong and why:
a. Austria, b. Croatia, c. Czech Republic, d. Hungary, e. Slovakia

A5: All the countries in this list are known to produce Grüner Veltliner wines, except Croatia, thus correct answer is b, Croatia.

When it comes to the results, I’m glad to say that we have a winner! apuginthekitchen correctly answered all 5 questions, so she becomes our new champion and gets the coveted prize of unlimited bragging rights! I also want to acknowledge Mario Plazio (no web site), who correctly answered 4 questions out of 5. Well done!

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web!

First and foremost, tomorrow, August 28th, we are celebrating 5th annual #CabernetDay – two noble grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, countless wines from all over the world. Open a bottle, enjoy and share with the world – that’s all there is to it. You can also start celebration in style by joining the #WineChat tonight with Jean Edwards Cellars on twitter at 9 pm Eastern/ 6 pm Pacific and talking about your favorite Cabernet wines.

Wine Til Sold Out (@WTSO) is doing it again! The new Marathon will be taking place on Monday, September 8th. Only this time, it will be a very unusual for WTSO “Everything Goes” marathon. Styled after the famous Last Bottle Madness Marathons, there will be all sorts of wines offered at different prices and free shipping on any quantities (no minimums). All orders will be combined and shipped after September 22nd. The Marathon will start at 10 AM Eastern, and as usual, you will get the new wine notification only on twitter. Happy hunting!

Famous Washington State winery, Columbia Crest, recently started a new project – Crowdsourced Cabernet. You can join the group of like-minded people and become an internet winemaker for the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. 5 acres of vines, video cameras showing every angle of the grapes, the temperature, vine condition and all other information right in front of you  – and now you have to make the decision which will affect your wine – no pressure. I think this is a very cool project – if anything, an interesting learning experience. For more details and to become a winemaker, here is your link. Don’t delay, the harvest is about to start…

And the last one for today – a game. A wine education and trivia game it is, recently released by the Trinchero Family Estates. The game is called World Wine Challenge ( available in iTunes for $2.99), it will help you to learn variety of wine subjects in the interactive fashion, as well as compare your knowledge to the others in the competition format. I didn’t get a chance to download the game yet (plan to do it shortly), but in case you are interested, here is the link with all the information about the game and its features.

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

Finally, I’m a Convert

August 24, 2014 9 comments

Yes, this will be a post about the wine – what did you think I will be writing about? I completely changed my perception of one wine region, so convert or not, but this is what this post is all about.

Don’t know about you, but when I visit the wine region and wineries in it, I generally come with certain set of expectations, a perceived notion if you will. These perceived notions usually are very opposite and have no middle ground. Perceived notion number one – visiting many wineries, I generally expect to find a lot of wines which I will like, and a few which I will not care for. This would be true for many wine regions in California – Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbara – but not all of them (for instance, Temecula is not included in that list). Perceived notion number two – I will not care for the most wines I will be tasting, but if I’m lucky, there might be a few wines which I will like. Connecticut wine region would be a good example of this second group – but we will talk about it later in a separate post.

Of course both of this perceived notions are founded based on the prior experience with the wines of the region, both at the winery and outside. It is easy to build – just visit a few wineries, where you don’t like the wines, or buy a few bottles in the store which you will not care for, and that’s enough to label the whole region as “not my thing”. Once the perceived notion is born, it is very hard to overcome and change. I agree that this sounds very shortsighted, but this is how we are [very commonly] wired – try something once, don’t like it (think about first time your mom forced you to eat broccoli), and you might be set in your “unlove” for life. This “tried this, didn’t like it, never again” type of attitude is never practically helpful around food and wine, as it prevents us from having great experiences. This perceived notion is hard to get rid of –  but not impossible if you are willing to take an “open mind” approach – try and try again, until a specific experience will trigger the change.

Okay, done with the philosophical intro, let’s get to the conversion details. The region I finally changed my view on is Finger Lakes. During multiple visits over the few years, I kept trying and trying new wineries, only to come up to the same resolution every time – “nope, not my wine” – and that included even Riesling, which is considered the signature wine of the Finger Lakes region. Then I discovered wines of Fox Run and Dr. Konstantin Frank, which created a crack in my preconceived notion. The Finger Lakes #winechat I took part of in May, made the crack wider. But what made me to change the whole perception were the wines of Villa Bellangelo.

Villa Bellangelo is a small producer, located in a close proximity to the Seneca Lake. The family owned winery produces a number of different Rieslings, as well as Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Merlot and other wines. About two month ago, I received a sample set of wines form the Villa Bellangelo, 5 bottles of Riesling and a bottle of Chardonnay. As I mentioned in some other posts, while samples sound great (“yay, free wine!”), to me they are more challenging to deal with than the regular wines I buy. I would not crack a sample bottle just casually in the evening – I need to make sure I can give it my undivided attention and spend time with the wine – thus it often takes me quite some time to find the right opportunity. Finally, the moment presented itself and I opened the first bottle of Riesling. Pour, sniff – delicious, take a sip – wow. Clean and beautiful Riesling, perfectly fitting my definition of “classic Riesling”. Next bottle, then next – all 5 Rieslings and the Chardonnay delivered lots of pleasure, sip after sip, bottle after bottle. 6 out of 6? I think this is very convincing performance, hence the title of this post and yes, the change in the perceived notion.

For what it worth, here are the notes on all 6 wines:

2012 Villa Bellangelo Dry Riesling Finger Lakes (12.3% ABV, $19) – Color is lighter than straw pale. On the nose, great Riesling aromatics, classic, honeysuckle, pear, fresh apple. palate is dry, clean, great acidity, very light, green apple, super-refreshing, present minerality, short finish. A wine of a great quality. Drinkability: 8-/8

2013 Villa Bellangelo Dry Riesling Seneca Lake Finger Lakes (11.3% ABV, $19) – Beautiful nose of the white stone fruit, hint of honeydew sweetness. Perfectly balanced on the palate, crisp acidity, minerality, touch of green apple. Excellent overall. Drinkability: 8

2012 Villa Bellangelo Semi-Dry Riesling Finger Lakes (11% ABV, $19) – Nice straw color. Pleasant nose of white apples and touch of apricot. Palate exhibits good acidity, good balance, hint of sweetness and white stone fruit. This wine is showing better once it warms up a bit (not straight from the fridge), which I find interesting. Drinkability: 8-

2013 Villa Bellangelo Semi-Dry Riesling Finger Lakes (10.8% ABV, $N/A) – Open nose of apricot and white peaches. Palate has nice level of sweetness, supported by good acidity. Very refreshing and a pleasure to drink. Drinkability: 8-/8

2012 Villa Bellangelo 1866 Reserve Riesling Finger Lakes (11% ABV, $32) – This wine is a dedication to the Dr. Byron Spence, who in 1866 planted 20 acres of the sloping western hills of Seneca Lake with the wine grapes. This vineyard is where the Villa Bellangelo makes their best wines from, hence the 1866 in the name of the wine.

The wine had a beautiful light golden color. Classic Riesling nose, with honeysuckle, white peach, apricot, all very subdued and delicate; touch of minerality. On the palate, apricot notes together with a touch of the apricot pit bite, touch of white apple, clean and vibrant acidity, present minerality, perfect balanced and nice complexity on the finish. Drinkability: 8/8+

2012 Villa Bellangelo Chardonnay Finger Lakes (13.8% ABV, $20) – Outstanding. Perfect Chablis-like, complex nose – minerality, distant hint of gunflint, touch of fresh apple. Palate is clean, balanced, with white apple and vanilla notes, vibrant acidity. Drinkability: 8

There you have it, my friends. One winery, which finally did it for me. Now Finger Lakes is squarely on my “yes, I love those wines” list. I don’t know what is your opinion about Finger Lakes wines, but if you were like me, find some Bellangelo wines and see if they will make you a convert. Cheers to the great wine discoveries!

Weekly Wine Quiz #111: Grape Trivia – Grüner Veltliner

August 23, 2014 5 comments
Grüner Veltliner Grapes

Grüner Veltliner grapes. Source: Wikipedia

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

The grape trivia series is back (tell me how happy you are about it!),  and today’s subject is Grüner Veltliner.

Grüner Veltliner is a grape which: has some Italian roots in his name; believed to be growing for a few thousands of years; had no known pedigree until 2007. The name Grüner Veltliner stands for “green veltliner”, and veltliner appears to be derived from the name of northern Italian region, Valtellina. The official name of the grape, Grüner Veltliner, seems to appear for the first time in 1855. And only in 2007, after quite an extensive DNA research, it was established that Grüner Veltliner was the result of natural crossing between Savagnin (Traminer) and practically extinct grape which even had no official name when it was found, so it received name of St. Georgener-Rebe, based on the name of the locality where it was found.

Grüner Veltliner has a “middle of the road” ripening season, growing successfully in many European countries. It is, however, susceptible to many types of grape diseases, so it requires attention in the vineyard. Grüner Veltliner generally produces healthy amount of small green-yellowish grapes, so again the special care should be taken to avoid overproduction. Grüner Veltliner is quite versatile in terms of potential styles in which the wine can be made – sparkling wines, dry table wines (both with and without oak aging) and late harvest wines are all successfully produced from the grape. In its more typical expression, as a dry table wine, Grüner Veltliner is known for its acidity and green veggies profile. Coming from the Austrian region of Wachau, home to arguably best renditions of the grape, Grüner Veltliner is also known for its expressive minerality. Often green and restrained while young, Grüner Veltliner wines can develop a considerable complexity as they age and in opinion of the experts (never tried aged Grüner Veltliner myself) can even rival some of the best Burgundies.

Austria has the biggest plantings of the Grüner Veltliner, more than 42,000 acres. Grüner Veltliner is also popular in Czech Republic, Slovakia and some other European countries. As of late, the grape also made its way into the number of New World countries – Australia, New Zealand, United States all have number of plantings of the grape and it seems to produce quite promising results in those regions.

And now, to the quiz!

Q1: These flavors are usually associated with red wines, but it is not uncommon to find them in the description of the Grüner Veltliner wines. Do you know what flavors are those (multiple answers are possible)?

a. Chocolate
b. Pencil shavings
c. Pepper
d. Tar
e. Tobacco

Q2: These vegetables are notorious for been a “wine killer” – in terms of successful pairing, it is. And yet Grüner Veltliner is one of the unique wines (if not the only one) which is known to be able to pair successfully with those offenders. Do you know what vegetables we are talking about?

Q3: Wine Spectator calls wines rated in 95-100 range Classic (the highest and the most prestigious category). True or False: there are no Grüner Veltliner – based wines rated in the Classic category

Q4: According to one of the well known wine critics, the Grüner Veltliner might be “the next big thing” in which wine making country:

a. Australia
b.Argentina
c. Chile
d. South Africa
e. United States

Q5: Which one doesn’t belong and why:
a. Austria
b. Croatia
c. Czech Republic
d. Hungary
e. Slovakia

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

…And Dinner Becomes an Experience

August 22, 2014 15 comments

The dinner is a dinner is a dinner. Sometimes we eat just to satisfy the basic bodily crave for energy. We put something in the mouth, doesn’t really matter what, hopefully chew on it (or not) before gulping it down, and we are done. Then there are family dinners, let’s say spaghetti and meatballs – everything is home made and tasty, but the school day, upcoming play and huge homework project due tomorrow take over the whole experience. And then there are dinners where the food is perfect, the wine pairing is spot on and the good company of friends is amazing – those dinners become the experience.

We have a tradition with our friends – an adults getaway during late summer or early fall. Find B&B to stay within 2-3 hours of driving distance, visit nature trails, little towns and museums, visit wineries, have a good dinner, have fun and most importantly, enjoy the company of each other. Simple, isn’t it? This year would be the our fourth time doing this, and most of our trips had been described in this blog to the various degree. In 2010, we had a great time in Milford, Pennsylvania, and our dinner was definitely an experience. For that dinner, we were allowed to bring our own wines, so we managed to create the special experience (you can read about it here). The next year we went to the Grafton, Vermont – of course we had a great time, but when in Vermont, the cheese is much bigger deal than wine, so it didn’t really make it into this blog, and dinner didn’t make it into the “experience” level. Last year we stayed in the little town in the area of Woodstock, NY (the town was called Palenville), and the highlight of the trip was the visit to the Hudson Distillery (nope, dinner didn’t make it again). This year, we happened to stay in my home state, Connecticut, in the town of Norfolk. We had a great time visiting Connecticut wineries and visiting places in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts (yep, you can move through all three states within 20 minutes of driving), but the highlight was … yes, you got it – the dinner.

Norfolk, a little town in northern Connecticut, is not exactly a Michelin-starred restaurant oasis. However, does the food needs to be acknowledged with the Micheline star to be good? Not really. It only takes a little bit of love and a little bit of soul. And when we take the soulful food, we can elevate it to the next level with … wine, of course (you didn’t expect me to say coke, didn’t you). And this is how you create an experience – one dish, one wine.

Once we had our plans for Norfolk set (meaning – we reserved our B&B), we reached out to the few restaurants in the area. We said that we are coming in a large group, and we asked for the special tasting menu, which we can pair with wine (preferably brought by us). Chef Heidi Dinsmore of the Wood Creek Bar and Grill offered a tasting menu – and graciously allowed us to bring our own wines without even charging a corking fee. The rest is history – one of the best dinner experiences ever, which you can see (sorry, only see) below.

Appetizers

Crostini with Roasted Pear Gorgonzola and a Balsamic Drizzle

Wine: 2009 Graham Beck Brut Rosé, South Africa

There was a nice combination of flavors in crostini, but we could probably use more pear and less cheese, and the toast itself could probably be a bit less garlic-y. The South African sparkler was very classic, with nice toasted nose, touch of yeast and fine mousse. As for the pairing, I would call it “unoffensive” – both the crostini and wine stayed in its own universe, and they didn’t collide nor complement each other.

Micro greens with Strawberries and a Lemon Vinaigrette

Wine: 2013 La Ferme Saint Pierre Cuvée Juliette Rosé Côtes du Ventoux, France

Salad was nice and fresh (what else do you want from the green salad, right?), and the wine had a nice strawberry profile. The pairing was excellent, the wine really complemented and enhanced the dish, despite the “simple salad” nature of it.

Shrimp with a Champagne Beurre Blanc

Wine: 2011 Bodegas La Cana Albariño Rias Baixas, Spain

Shrimp was cooked perfectly, and Beurre Blanc sauce was outstanding. La Cana Albariño is one of my favorite wines, and this bottle was no exception – bright fruit profile on the nose, but restrained and delicious on the palate. And the pairing? Spectacular, simply spot on. Wine’s acidity was a great complement to the sauce, so the dish was greatly enhanced.

Main Course

Poached Halibut over Spinach, Saffron Heirloom Tomato Sauce

Wine: 2012 Buil & Giné Joan Giné Blanc, Priorat DOQ, Spain

Halibut, which is one of my favorite types of fish, was done “just right”, and together with spinach and the sauce was creating just one spectacular flavor pop. And then the wine… This wine deserves a whole blog post dedicated just to that wine by itself. White Priorat, a blend of 40% White Grenache, 36% Macabeo, 20% Viognier and 4% Pedro Ximenez had stunning complexity – orange peel, white stone fruit, minerality – really an excellent wine, rivaling best Chardonnays. And together with the dish? Another spectacular, spot on pairing, complementing and greatly enhancing flavor.

Beef Tenderloin over Mashed Celery Root, Bordelaise, Tiny mini Potato au Gratin

Wine: 2010 Château de Pibarnon Bandol Rouge Les Restanques de Pibarnon, Bandol, France

Beef was perfectly cooked, and together with the celery root and Bordelaise sauce, every bite was literally divine. The Bandol wine, which is 90% Mourvedre and 10% Grenache, had a warm spice flavor profile, so together with the steak the pairing was just outright delicious.

Guinness Marinated Pork, Cherry Au Jus, Arugula, Crispy Polenta

Wine: 2011 Bodegas Caro ‘Amancaya’ Gran Reserva Malbec – Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina

The pork was melting in the mouth and the combination with cherries was excellent. The wine, made from two of the Argentina star grapes – Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, had an open nose with spicy, cherry-loaded palate. As you can imagine, cherries in the sauce and in the wine played together wonderfully, creating – yep, again – a super-successful pairing.

Dessert

Fresh-made Sorbetto - delicious, clean, refreshing. Perfectly restored the palate before the dessert course.

Chocolate Tart with Fresh Fruit

Wine: 2000 Philip Togni Vineyard Ca’ Togni Sweet Red, Napa Valley

You can’t go wrong with the chocolate, and this dessert was a great proof of that – every bite was a decadent pleasure. And the wine… What can I tell you? It was definitely a mature wine, fragrant, with some sweet cherry notes and balancing acidity. Based on the information on producer’s web site, this wine was inspired by the famous South African dessert wine Klein Constantia, and it is produced from the grape called Black Hamburg (known as Black Muscat), which is quite rare in Napa Valley  – and it is also a new grape for me (!). The wine perfectly complemented and literally added a new dimension to the chocolate tart, so our final pairing was again “just perfect”.

Chef Heidi Dinsmore

Chef Heidi Dinsmore

As we were settling into the dessert, Chef Heidi Dinsmore, the creator of the delicious experience, came to talk to us, so we had an opportunity to thank her and to tell her how much we enjoyed our evening, and how delicious the food was. If you are ever in the area of Norfolk, Connecticut, Wood Creek Bar and Grill should be on your list. Ahh, and I also have to say a very big thank you to our waitress Jessica, who did an amazing job managing our wine program, opening the bottles, changing the glasses and of course serving food – she was absolutely fantastic.

There you have it, my friends – the food, the wine and the company – a simple recipe for an unforgettable experience.  Cheers!

Wood Creek Bar and Grill
3 Station Place
Norfolk, CT 06058
(860) 542-1200

http://www.woodcreekbarandgrill.com

Wood Creek Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, #CabernetDay August 28th, Social Connect, Restaurant Tix

August 20, 2014 1 comment

Meritage time!

It’s been a while since the last Meritage post, but finally it is back. First and foremost, let’s start with the answer to the wine quiz #110, How Well Do You Know Your Wines, Part 5.

In the quiz, you were supposed to identify 6 wines, using the picture on top of the wine bottle’s cap. Here are the pictures, now with the answers:

When it comes to the results, we didn’t have a winner today (yes, it was a tough one), but I would like to acknowledge M. w. (no web site) and Duff’s Wines for correctly identifying the wine #4, Chappellet. Well done!

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web!

First and foremost – next Thursday, August 28th, is a 5th annual #CabernetDay. What does it mean for you? You get to celebrate two of the world’s noble grapes – Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are both included. How to celebrate? Here is an easy schedule for you. First, find the bottle of your favorite Cabernet wine – any country goes. Then, open it on Wednesday, August 27th, and join the #winechat at 9 pm Eastern on Twitter. Then, publish a blog post about your favorite wine on Thursday, the 28th (or share it any way you like in social media), and may be even join some of the parties taking place on August 28th all over the country. Would that work? For more information, you can start with the #CabernetDay facebook page.

Now, which winery do you think has the most influence in social media? This week, it is Chateau Ste. Michelle from Washington. Okay, I’m sure you are not terribly surprised – Chateau Ste. Michelle is one of the biggest wineries in the US, so it makes sense. Care to guess number 2 this week? Think about it before you will continue reading. Done? Okay. And the #2 winery among most engaged in the social media is… Biltmore winery from North Carolina! I understand these are the social media engagements we are talking about, but still – I didn’t expect that. All these data are available through the VinTank service called Social Connect – of course it is intended for the wineries interested in tracking their full social media standing and engagement with the consumers, but the Social Media Index scoreboard was quite interesting to check. Play away!

And the last one for today. I’m sure you heard that instead of taking reservations, some of the restaurants sell tickets for the dinners. Particularly, Alinea and Next, two of the restaurants of the famous Chef Grant Achatz in Chicago, are both selling tickets, with the price vary based on the day of the week, dinner time and number of people in your party  and there is no such thing as party of one at the moment). The ticket system was born out of the need, as phone reservations were just failing miserably, trying to cope with demand of all the guests desiring to score a reservation. Here is the blog post detailing creation of this restaurant ticket system, which is quite sophisticated. Warning – the post is very long, and has terrible color scheme – but still might worth your time. Selling tickets reduced the number of no shows practically to 0, and made sure that the restaurant is always filled to the optimum capacity. I understand this side of things. And I understand that great dinner is an experience, thus selling tickets for dinner is not very different than selling tickets for concert, performance or Broadway musical. But – at the same time, it is only a dinner, right? What do you think? Would you gladly buy tickets for your next dinner?

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

The Wine I’m Willing To Drink For The Next Ten Days – Marcus by Marco Sambin

August 19, 2014 10 comments

Yes, you read it right, and it is a pretty bold [personal] statement. “I will be glad to drink this wine over the next 10 days” was the first emotional reaction as I took a sip of this wine. The reason for this bold statement? Simple. The wine was ready to drink from the get go. You know how often you take a sip of wine and say “well, I think it needs to breathe a little”, or “nice, but let me give it some time”? This wine didn’t need time. Fruit, body, acidity, tannins – all present in a cohesive, as I often call it, “together” package. Instantly available. Instantly delicious.

What makes this “bold personal statement”? My reaction to the first sip was “ahh, I will be glad to drink this every day. Period”. I never experienced this before – with the best wines I had, I would still pick something else to drink the next day, even if that “best wine” was still available. With this wine – yes, I would gladly keep opening the same bottles day after day. Well, possibly that was a reaction to the fact that this was my one and only bottle.

This bottle was actually a sample, and before I will continue talking about the wine, I want to share my frustration with samples. I don’t actively solicit samples (as a general rule – but yes, with exceptions), but then I don’t refuse samples either; I always warn the submitters that the review will be posted only if I happen to like the wine. When the sample arrives, especially if it is a red wine, the frustrating cycle starts. On one hand, I need to open it sooner rather than later, as the sender is awaiting my feedback. On another hand, I treat samples same as the regular wines – I wouldn’t open wine just to take a sip and dump the rest, even if it is only a sample. And I would also make an effort to involve my wife into the tasting, and as she generally prefers the red wines, it becomes difficult to find the right time to open the bottle. All in all, I’m getting torn between the need to open the bottle and the desire to still find the right time for it. There, I let it out.

Now, this particular sample has its own story. Back in April I was contacted by the winery called Marco Sambin from Italy, inviting me to come and taste their flagship wine, called Marcus, at the Vinitaly expo in Verona. When I mentioned that I will not be attending the Vinitaly, they offered to send me a sample – however, they could deliver it only inside Italy. You know, I already said it many times in this blog – having good friends is one of the most important things in life. My dear friend Stefano, who is constantly in between US and Italy, was able to get this bottle for me (it took only about two month for the bottle to get from the Italy into my hands). It then also took me about 6 additional weeks for find the right moment to open the bottle – hence my rant about samples (see above).

Marco Sambin Estate Villa Contarini in Valnogaredo

Villa Contarini in Valnogaredo, from the Marco Sambin presentation

Never mind all of that. What important is that I was able to experience a great bottle of wine. Marco Sambin winery (Azienda Agricola Marco Sambin), a small 10 acres estate, was founded in 2002 in Euganean Hills area in Veneto by Marco Sambin, Full Professor of Psychology at the University of Padova. I don’t want to recite all the information from the web site – you can read it for yourself here, and these are just some of the interesting facts. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah are all growing at the estate. The estate is farmed using organic and biodynamic principles. All the harvest is done by hand, and once the grapes are sorted and destemmed , they are gently crushed and fermentation process starts using only natural yeast, each grape variety fermented on its own. After the fermentation, which lasts for about 15 days, the wine is pressed and goes into the French oak barrels (both new and used), still each variety on its own; the wine will age in oak for the next 12 month. Only then the final cuvée is blended and bottled. Once bottled, the wine will still spend 6 -12 month before it can be released. On average, only 6,000 bottles are produced every year.

And now, here are my notes about the wine itself. The 2010 Marco Sambin Marcus Veneto IGT (14% ABV, Cabernet Sauvignon 45%, Merlot 40%, Cabernet Franc 10%, Syrah 5%) had very dark garnet color in the glass. On the nose, it showed concentrated red fruit, cassis, pencil shavings, baking spices and lavender, very complex and inviting. The palate delivered delicious fruit, perfectly present but not over the top, clean acidity, supple tannins and impeccable balance. Long finish, and every sip was leaving you craving another one. Drinkability: 9

Here you have it – the wine I’m willing to drink for the next ten days. Except it was my one and only bottle, and this wine is not available in US (if you are an importer who is reading this by any chance, the winery is looking for representation in the US – you can contact them using the information on the web site, or drop me a note, I will be glad to connect you). Is there a wine you will be glad to drink day after day after day? Cheers!

Weekly Wine Quiz #110: How Well Do You Know Your Wines, Part 5

August 16, 2014 7 comments

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

I hope to get back to the regular posting schedule for the wine quizzes, and before I will get to the grape trivia or any other long series, I thought one more round of capsules would be quite appropriate. So below are the pictures of the tops of the wine bottle – can you name the winery which produced that wine?

1. DSC_0500

2. DSC_0526

3. DSC_0529

4. DSC_0530

5. DSC_0531

6. DSC_0534

In this group, we got California, Chile and Portugal. There are no superstars, but there are some well known wineries.

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

Wines of the World – A Sequel Challenge

August 15, 2014 4 comments

Yesterday I posted about the challenge of trying the wines from all 50 states in US and visiting wineries in those 50 states. One of the comments had a suggestion – how about the wines of the world? Really, how about it?

It is not that simple even to create the list of wine-producing countries of the world. Considering that the wine is at its peak of popularity, many countries are entering the winemaking arena. Yes, of course, there is a core of the wine-producing countries – about ten or so – but based on the data in Wikipedia (which also differs between different articles), about 60 countries produce the wines in the world today, give or take a few.

I wanted to find a good map to illustrate the wineries concentration around the world, but that didn’t happen, so here is the map of the winemaking areas according to the Wikipedia article:

Map of wine making areas in the world

Source: Wikipedia

Now, how many of you tried the wine from Algeria or Thailand (well, I know that Oliver did)? I’m sure those are not easy to find in your local wine boutique. I would argue that the typical [good] wine store in US would have the wines from about 15 countries; some of the best stores will probably account for about 20 at a time. Thus if you really want to try the wines from many different countries, you will have to make an effort.

Is that a worthwhile effort? That is strictly a personal question. I’m genuinely curious how the different wines taste like, so I’m excited to try the wines pretty much from anywhere. Should you expect to find great wines? You definitely will – I had many mind-blowing wines from Serbia, Croatia, Lebanon, Israel, Georgia and other lesser known wine-making countries. Of course you will encounter a lot of plonk along the way, that is also given.  So, should you take upon this challenge? I can’t answer that question – as I said, this is strictly driven by the personal interest, so you be the judge.

If you are curious where do you stand now, use this word document to track your progress. As a reference, I can tell you that at this point, I tasted wines from 36 different countries out of 58 listed in the document, and visited wineries in 6 (yeah, need to travel more…). What would be your score?

Below is the table showing my exact list of wines and wineries per country.Challenge yourself! Cheers!

Read more…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,682 other followers

%d bloggers like this: