Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, Wine and Biodynamics, Rioja Week in New York, Water Witching and #winechat tonight

April 23, 2014 1 comment

TribidragMeritage time!

Let’s start with the answer to the wine quiz #99, Grape Trivia – Blends, Part 3.

For the long time, the grape trivia series was focused on the single grapes. But now we are stirring things up, so all the questions in the quiz are about blends (well, even if it is a blend of one), as most of the wines in the world are actually blends. As usual, there were 5 questions in the quiz.

Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Sangiovese is the main grape used in production of Chianti. By itself, sometimes it might lack the intensity of the color. For a while, another grape was added to Sangiovese wines specifically to enhance their color. Can you name that grape?

A1: Colorino. It was popular addition for a short while, but now only very few producers still add it.

Q2: I’m blending together Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada. Which wine I’m most likely making?

A2: Cava – the Spanish sparkling wine. These three grapes are generally a classic blend for a Spanish Cava.

Q3: In the past, this white grape used to be blended into the Chianti wines, and now its use is simply prohibited in some of those Chianti wines. Can you name that grape?

A3: Trebbiano, a.k.a. Ugni Blanc, a.k.a. Malvasia Fina (be careful – just using the name Malvasia is incorrect). It used to be a required grape in the Chianti blend, which was leading to diluted, dull wines. Since 2006, Trebbiano use is banned in Chianti Classico wines.

Q4: You can say whatever you want, but Bordeaux and Burgundy are the hallmarks of wine world, and everybody try to measure up to them. Name two regions in Italy, one sometimes compared to Bordeaux, and another one to Burgundy.

A4: Tuscany is often compared to Bordeaux, and Piedmont, or to be more specific, Barolo wines, are often compared to the Burgundy. While Tuscany/Bordeaux parallel is more of the terroir/climate based, the reason for Barolo/Burgundy comparison lies in complicated Vineyard/Sub-zone/Cru/Parcel system of wine identification in Barolo.

Q5: Name the missing grape: Crljenak Kaštelanski, Primitivo, ?, Zinfandel

A5: Tribidrag. All the listed grapes are close relatives of Zinfandel, with Tribidrag being recently discovered as direct predecessor of Zinfandel.

When it comes to the results, we had a great participation in the quiz, and we have a winner – Julian of VinoinLove, who correctly answered all 5 questions! Julian get the coveted prize of unlimited bragging rights. Also Gene Castellino (no web site), Jeff a.k.a.the drunken cyclist and Mario Plazio (no web site) are all answered correctly 4 questions out of 5, and they get the honorable mention. Well done, everyone – and we are going to continue blending things up for a while.

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

Last week’s #winechat was all about Biodynamics – we were talking about the wines of Youngberg Hill, the winery in Oregon, were the wines are made using biodynamics. I understand that there is a lot of controversy surrounding the concept of Biodynamics, with all the cow horns, bladders and water manipulations – but a lot of it makes sense if you think about the whole approach holistically. I want to share with you a great article from The Oregonian, which explains in detail how biodynamics works in the vineyard.

Rioja is coming to New York City! Starting Saturday, April 26, there will be a whole slew of events taking place all over the city – seminars, tastings, grand tasting, wine and tapas event and more. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the vibrancy of the magical Rioja – here is your link for all the information regarding the Rioja festivities. I will be attending the trade tasting and seminar on Thursday – drop me a note if you plan to be there as well.

Heard of water witching? It appears that Marc Mondavi, a son of the legendary winemaker Peter Mondavi, not only makes wine in California – he also possesses special abilities to find water under ground, using set of two special rods. Whether you believe in the water witchery or not, this video and the blog post are quite interesting.

Last but least for today – don’t miss the #winechat tonight! Last from the Oregon Pinot Noir series, tonight we will be talking about the wines of J Wrigley Vineyard – #winechat is easy to join on twitter, just follow the #winechat hashtag, and they are always fun! 9 PM Easter/ 6 PM Pacific – don’t miss it!

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

Passion for Jura – The Land

April 22, 2014 10 comments

Vignobles_juraLet’s say you are talking to an oenophile. Ask her to name the major wine regions in France. I’m sure that Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne will be first. With the small pause, Loire and Rhone will follow, and then may be (may be!) Languedoc. I wonder how many of the oenophiles will mention Jura? Next question might be even more “tricky” – how many oenophiles tasted Jura wines? And the trickiest question of all – how many of you, my readers, tasted Jura wines? No, you don’t need to answer – Jura wines are almost impossible to find in US, and very difficult to find outside of France in general, so it is not surprising that they are not winning popularity contests, and thus it is really not your fault that you are not familiar with Jura wines.

We live in the times of the dramatic globalization of wine. Not only wine is exceedingly produced in the new and unusual places, but wine availability is becoming more and more global. No, Jura is not a newcomer to the world of wine, if anything, it is quite the opposite – Jura wines had been produced for more than two thousand years. The global availability is what changed – as consumers demand more and different wines, Jura wines, which are definitely unique and different, are becoming better known and more demanded.

Few days ago I was lucky to attend the wine tasting in New York City, called Passion for Jura, which was a great learning experience. The event consisted of seminar and walk around tasting, with more than 20 producers represented. Before we talk about wines themselves, lets take a look at the Jura region and many of its unique qualities first.

Jura region is a narrow stretch of land, about 50 miles long and less than 2 miles wide, in the north-west part of France, sandwiched between Burgundy and Switzerland. First mentions of the Jura region go all the way back to 80 A.D. When it comes to the different aspects of terroir, climate in Jura is somewhat similar to Burgundy, with the potential for more severe cold temperatures, especially during winter time. Soils are probably the most unique aspect of Jura terroir, with some of the shale formations aging between 200 and 230 million years – so yes, you can probably find dinosaur imprints in that soil, if you look deep enough. Overall, the difference in the age of soil can be quite dramatic, tens of millions of years between the neighboring vineyards.

Jura wines were well regarded in France, with Arbois (one of the main towns in the region) wines being known for what they are since the 10th century, and Château-Chalon wines (this is where the famous Vin Jaune is made) being well known since the 16th century. Similarly to all other winemaking regions in France, Phylloxera wrecked havoc in Jura’s wine industry. Before the Phylloxera, Jura region had about 50,000 acres under the vine, with 42 grape varieties, out of which 14 were identified in 1774 as “good grapes”. Today, Jura region has only about 5,000 acres planted, and only 5 varietals are used in the winemaking. Of course everything has two sides – only the best areas were replanted after the Phylloxera epidemic, and only with the grapes which produced the best results, so yes, there is silver lining in most everything in this life.

It is impossible to talk about Jura and not to mention a few of the famous people who dramatically impacted the wine world, while living in Jura at the same time. First, of course is Louis Pasteur, whose seminal work “Studies its diseases, their causes and new preservation and aging process“, published in 1886, was really a key element of the modern oenology. While Pasteur’s name is probably familiar to many, I wonder how many people will recognize the name of Alexis Millardet, also of Jura – meanwhile, he came up with the technique of grafting French vines on the American rootstock, which allowed to restart the French wine industry after the Phylloxera devastation. And the last person I would like to mention here is Joseph Girard, a resident of Arbois, who founded INAO (National Institute of Denominations of Origin) and was instrumental in establishing the AOC system of quality, which was subsequently copied all over the world. It is probably not very surprising that the very first AOC in France, established in 1936, was … the Arbois AOC!

Let’s talk about the grapes. Now, this is somewhat of the simple task, as there are only 5 grapes growing in Jura – 3 reds and 2 whites. Here they are:

Poulsard – indigenous red grape of Jura, sometimes also called Ploussard. Most planted red grape in Jura (about 40% of all red grape plantings), and about 14% of total grape plantings. Produces bright looking wines, almost Rosé in color, which are very refreshing and age quite well.

Trousseau – another red grape of Jura, part of the Savagnin family, most likely originated in Jura. The same grape is known as Bastardo in Portugal. Has about 8% of the total planted area, and about 22% of the red grape plantings. Often blended with Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir – was introduced in Jura in 14th century. Has about 13% of the total plantings, and a bit less that 40% of the red grape plantings. Early ripening variety, thus has high degree of risk of frost damage in spring.

Chardonnay – same as Pinot Noir, was introduced in Jura in 14th century. Also known as Melon d’Arbois in the north, and Gamay Blanc in the south. Few vignerons are still growing Melon á Queue Rouge, a rare red clone of Chardonnay. Chardonnay is the most popular grape in Jura, at about 43% of total area plantings and 2/3 of the white grapes plantings.

Savagnin – most famous grape of Jura, and the only one allowed to be used in Vin Jaune. Late ripening variety with low yield. makes up about 22% of the total grape plantings and about 1/3 of the white grape plantings.

Before we get to the styles of wines and regions, let me give you a few interesting numbers. With 5,000 acres planted, there are about 300 grape growers in Jura, each taking care of about 17 acres of vineyards. There are also about 200 producers and about 100 villages in the Jura region.

With only 5 grapes, Jura produces a great variety of stylistically very different wines. Historically, Jura wine were very unique, as oxidation always played a very important role in the white wines of Jura. While oxidation is great, as the oxidized wine can be preserved almost forever, it doesn’t necessarily appeal to the tastes of the mass of the wine drinkers in the world. Starting in 1990, the style of Jura wines started to change, to move from oxidized to fresh, generally more acceptable style. As the result, there is a number of styles which you need to be aware of in order to make sure the wine will actually taste as you would expect instead of “OMG, what is it???”. Additional problem is that these styles are not necessarily clearly indicated on the from label, so sometimes you really need to look through all the information on the labels and outside in order to understand what type of wine it is. The oxidation is only relevant to the white wines, so the styles of the white wines are:

  • Ouillé – non-oxidized
  • non-Ouillé – oxidized
  • Naturé – Savagnin wine in the oxidized style
  • Tradition – a blend of oxidized Savagnin and Chardonnay

For what I understand, all it means is that if you don’t see the word Ouillé somewhere on the label or description of the wine, there is a good chance that the wine will be oxidized – if anyone who reads this post has better knowledge of the subject, I would greatly appreciate the comment!

Tired yet? We are almost done! Last part – let’s talk about wine styles and appellations. Before we get to the Jura details, one general note. Have you noticed the words AOP showing up more and more on the wine labels, especially on the latest releases of wine? This is because the French government, following overall EU requirements, is changing the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) nomenclature to the AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée), so you should expect to see the words AOP more and more on the bottles of French wines.

Jura uses total of 6 appellation designations – 2 of them are product designations, and 4 are geographical designations. Additionally, there are two wines which can be made in different appellations but they still have very specific product requirements. Here we are:

Vin JauneCrémant du Jura AOP – this is the product AOP for Sparkling wines in Jura. Made by the traditional (méthode champenoise) method, with 9 month minimum aging on lees. The wine can be produced anywhere in Jura, using all 5 varietals. Grapes should be harvested by hand and whole-cluster pressed.

Macvin du Jura AOP – this is the product AOP for fortified dessert wines. Can be made anywhere in Jura AOPs using any of the 5 grapes. The wine is made by blending of 2/3 of unfermented grape juice with 1/3 of the local brandy, called Marc du Jura, which should be made at the same property from the grape skin pomace. The wine should be aged for at least 12 month in the oak barrels before release.

Arbois AOP – geographic AOP, the biggest in terms of production. All 5 grapes are grown and permitted in production of the wines, with all types of wine allowed for production.

Château-Chalon AOP – a dedicated geographic AOP for production of Vin Jaune. Savagnin is the only allowed grape, harvested late. If any other wines are made, they are designated as Côtes du Jura. For more details, please see below.

Côtes du Jura AOP – a geographic AOP. All 5 grapes are allowed to be used, and all styles of wines can be produced.

L’Étoile AOP – a geographic AOP, the smallest in Jura, consisting of only 4 villages. Only Chardonnay, Savagnin and Poulsard are allowed. All styles of the wines can be produced.

Vin Jaune – Most famous wine of Jura, so called “yellow” or “golden” wine. Can be made only out of the 100% Savagnin, in any of the 4 geographic AOPs. The grape is harvested late, and vinified as any other white wine would. After that, the wine is aged in the oak barrels which are not completely filled up. The barrels are never topped off and never racked. Similar to the Jerez, the thin film is formed on the wine’s surface, which is called The Veil – it allows the wine to age gently. The minimum age of the wine before it can be bottled is 6 years and 3 month. The wine requires pre-tasting prior to the bottling, and it is produced only in the good years. Vin Jaune is bottled in the special bottles called Clavelin, which contain 620 ml – Jura winemakers had to endure a long fight with the authorities in order to keep the historical, but not EU standard size (750ml) of the bottle.

Vin de Paille – the dessert! Generally produced from Chardonnay, Savagnin, Poulsard and sometimes Trousseau in Arbois, L’Étoile or Côtes du Jura AOPs. The grapes are harvested early and then dried up either in the boxes or hanged up in the air for 3 -5 month. After pressing, the wine have to age for at least 3 years with minimum of 18 month in the oak.

Whew, and we are pretty much done. Believe it or not, but I think this is probably the longest ever post with the least number of pictures – if not The longest, then definitely one of the longest. Jura is unique and special region, as you will see when we will be talking about the wines in the next post, and I really wanted to give you all the information together, without breaking it into the pieces. If you are still reading it – I definitely want to thank you for your patience. I hope you learned something new here. Also, if you have an experience with Jura wines, your comments and opinion will be greatly appreciated. Hell, your comments will be greatly appreciated even if you never heard of Jura wines till today. With that, until the next time – cheers!



Syrah – Nice and Spectacular, Plus a Case Buy Recommendation

April 20, 2014 9 comments

Syrah wines have a special status in our house – this is my wife’s most favorite type of wine, so I’m always trying to keep some on hand. With the status of “favorite”, it is customary for us to open a bottle of Syrah for different celebratory occasions. Sometimes, Friday feels like a special occasion (I’m sure you can easily relate to that), so yes, Syrah it was.

I was thinking about opening this wine for a while. As I don’t employ any cellar organization systems, neither software nor paper, I simply have a general idea of the wines I have, and then I get more opportunities to touch many bottles in the search of one to be opened. I noticed that particular Syrah bottle during few of the recent searches, so I was mentally getting ready to part with it (most of the bottles I have are in the single bottle quantities, so yes, I need some mental prep to deal with that). Thus when the Friday came, it was an easy decision – it will will be a Syrah Friday (well, to be entirely honest, Syrah Friday decision was made on Thursday, but I don’t think it matters here all that much).

Saint Joseph Offerus

2003 J.L. Chave Offerus Saint-Joseph, France (13.5% ABV), a 100% Syrah from Northern Rhone appellation. Just to give a you a bit of the reference, J.L Chave (Jean-Louis Chave) represents the latest generation of the winemaking family from Northern Rhone. Their first Hemitage wine was produced in 1481. Try to remember J.L. Chave name next time you are looking for the Rhone wines, you can’t go wrong with their wines.

Talking about this 2003 Syrah – no sign of age on the color – dark, concentrated garnet ruby. On the nose, the wine had a whiff of the barnyard, which I personally find very attractive, and some dark fruit. The palate was showing more of the dark fruit, plums and blackberries, with a touch of minerality and clean acidity. Elegant, round, perfectly structured, full bodied, with spicy kick in the back and long finish. The bottle disappeared without a trace. I think “restrained elegance” would be the best descriptor for this wine. Drinkability: 8

And then there was another Syrah. About a week ago, I got an e-mail from PJ Wine,  one of the best wine stores in New York, describing “secret” Shiraz. That wine was made by an excellent French producer, Michel Chapoutier (a seventh generation winemaker himself), in Australia, and it had 94 rating by Robert Parker, while priced under $12. I generally don’t buy the wines based on ratings, and I also consider that we have a “palate misalignment” with Mr. Parker, but 94 points and $12 is definitely something to think about. When I saw the wine in my local Cost Less Wines, I simply had to get it (it was $14.99 here in CT).

Tournon Shiraz

2011 Michel Chapoutier Tournon Mathilda Shiraz Victoria, Australia (13% ABV) – screw top is off, wine is poured. Bright ruby color in the glass. First smell and the very first reaction – what is it? Really? Pepper? Wow! Yes, peppery notes are the signature of the Syrah grape – but I’m used to finding it after the sip, not in-you-face once you smell the wine. Here it was – bright, fresh black pepper, as I was smelling the pepper mill instead of a glass. The first sip extends the “wow” moment even further – it is a rare luck in my experience, when there is a full match between the smell and the taste. Here is was – freshly ground black pepper, perfectly present without overpowering the taste. The black pepper was elegantly weaved into a core of red plums and tart cherries – delicious, sip after sip. This was definitely an exciting wine – clean, elegant, alive, sexy and vibrant. The grapes for this wine were macerated for 2-3 weeks in stainless steel and cement tanks for the better tannins extraction, and then aged for 12 month in stainless steel and cement tanks (no oak!). A pure expression of a beautiful Syrah. This is the wine to be experienced – and to buy by the case. It is gone at PJ Wine, unfortunately, but according to the wine-searcher, it is still available in the number of other stores find this wine. I don’t say it too often, but I feel this is very appropriate now – this is the wine to buy by the case! Drinkability: 9

That concludes the tale of two Syrah wines. While Offerus was very classic old world version, the Tournon Mathilda was definitely an eye-opener for me – if you can find this wine, you should experience it just to get acquainted with Syrah in its pure expression – it was a very delicious encounter for me. And I guess I need to look for more Robert Parker recommended wines – either his palate is changing, or may be its mine… Cheers!


Weekly Wine Quiz #99: Grape Trivia – Blends, Part 3

April 19, 2014 17 comments

wine quiz pictureThe 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!

We are continuing our grape trivia series, focusing on the blends, even if it is a blend of 1. White, Red, Rosé, Sparkling, Still, Fortified and Dessert – all goes. Oh yes, and we will blend in some regions as well.

And now, to the quiz!

Q1: Sangiovese is the main grape used in production of Chianti. By itself, sometimes it might lack the intensity of the color. For a while, another grape was added to Sangiovese wines specifically to enhance their color. Can you name that grape?

Q2: I’m blending together Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada. Which wine I’m most likely making?

Q3: In the past, this white grape used to be blended into the Chianti wines, and now its use is simply prohibited in some of those Chianti wines. Can you name that grape?

Q4: You can say whatever you want, but Bordeaux and Burgundy are the hallmarks of wine world, and everybody try to measure up to them. Name two regions in Italy, one sometimes compared to Bordeaux, and another one to Burgundy.

Q5: Name the missing grape: Crljenak Kaštelanski, Primitivo, ?, Zinfandel

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

Categories: wine quiz Tags: ,

A Night of Great Food and Great Wine – Arezzo in Westport, CT

April 17, 2014 7 comments

DSC_0277Have you ever been in the situation where you read about the restaurant and look at the menu, and your first thought is “ahh, it’s that same thing again…”? Continuing the situation, how many times did you actually still ended up going to the restaurant, and afterwards were glad you did? My personal account – more often than I care to admit! My latest experience – the restaurant called Arezzo Ristorante & Bar in Westport, Connecticut.

Arezzo is located at the intersection of route 1 and Riverside Ave, with its patio overlooking Saugatuck river. While restaurant had been in the same location for a while, you can consider it brand new – Juan Ceballos and chefs/brothers Llanos are the new owners of the Arezzo restaurant.

What I really like in the restaurants is the diversity of the setting – this is when the restaurant inside doesn’t look “uniformly the same”. Arezzo has a number of different areas – a spacious bar, almost as a separate room, a “foyer” with soft and comfy chairs, the main dining room, huge patio – you can come to the restaurant many times and every time discover something new.

Open kitchen and huge wood-fired oven, imported directly from Italy, are definitely creating the next level of excitement for the guests – I don’t know about you, but I can stare at the tamed flames for a very long time…

We started our evening in the bar. I personally made a rookie mistake of ordering Espresso Martini as my first drink – while very tasty, this was definitely a drink to have after the meal, not before. Well, I’m still working on my cocktail culture…

As usual, a few words about the wine list. May be only two words – Very Good. While the list is not big (which is a good thing in many cases – flipping through 50 pages looking for a bottle of wine is not the fun for all), it is modern, attractive and not boring, sporting a number of unusual wines by the glass together with some safe choices. Bottle selection is also very good, and reasonably priced, which for me is always important.

The wine list is focused on the Italian wines, with some California and France. After the fiasco with espresso martini, I needed to refresh my palate, so I started with 2011 Donnachiara Irpina Coda di Volpe DOC, Campania (13% ABV), the wine made out of indigenous Italian grape from Campania, Coda di Volpe. Bright golden color in the glass, inviting nose of white stone fruit and perfectly vibrant acidity on the palate, paired with dense and round, medium to full body mouthfeel – just what I needed (Drinkability: 7+).

The red wine, suggested by Juan, was an absolute favorite of the group. Renieri is an excellent producer, making the wines in the number of regions in Italy. While I was somewhat familiar with their Brunello wines, this wine was new to me – 2010 Renieri Invetro Ross Toscano IGT (14% ABV),  a super-Tuscan blend of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet and 25% Merlot. Dark ruby in the glass, clean nose of dark red fruit, very inviting, and beautifully refreshing palate – ripe raspberries, cassis, plums, warm spices, touch of minerality, full bodied and perfectly balanced with tannins and acidity in check. Great wine overall. Drinkability: 8+.

And then, there was food.

A number of appetizers were served while we were at the bar.

Pizza Margherita ( fresh tomato, basil, homemade Mozzarella) – fresh, sweet tomato, basil – always a winning combination.

Focaccia Robiola di Arezzo (white truffle oil) – this was sublime, as anything with the right amount of truffle oil.

Lobster Arrancini (saffron aioli and Lemon) – absolutely delicious, very tasty bites!

Rosemary Marinated Shrimp Skewers – one of the group favorites – incredible balance of flavors.

Italian Sausages Skewers with Roasted Peppers – simple and very well executed. Also a pleasure to look at.

The rest of our dinner was served at the table. First, a trio of pasta:

Risotto (fresh porcini mushrooms, truffle oil) – incredible, simply incredible. If you like mushrooms, I’m sure you are not going to leave a single morsel on the plate, no matter how big the portion will be. The umami factor simply doesn’t let you put the fork down.

Short Rib Tortellini (braised us jus sauce) – why all the braised, slow cooked meat invokes such a homey feeling? This was delicious.

Cavatelli ai Piselli (home-made pea-ricotta, how and sweet sausage ragout) – this was perfectly on par with two other dishes – savory and satisfying.

Pan Seared Pink Snapper (caponata purée, fregola, vegetables) – one of the best pieces of fish ever – flaky, perfectly seasoned and cooked.

Roasted New Zealand Lamb Chop (spinach, tomato, Yukon gold potatoes) – to tell you the truth., I’m extremely picky about my lamb chop – I don’t want any fat on it, I want it to be perfectly seasoned, so it will not have that unpleasant lamb flavor – yes, I’m high maintenance when it comes to the lamb chop. So what can I tell you about the lamb chop which was served to us? In a word, wow. In another word – delicious. Seasoning, texture, taste – wow.

For dessert we had Pannacotta and Nutella Pizza – yes, it was very tasty, and I will spare you my lame attempts to describe it.

And we are done here. The only thing left to do, as usual, is to thank Juan Ceballos and Executive Chef Vinicio Llanos for the wonderful food and wine. Whether you are living in the area or visiting, Arezzo will be a perfect dining destination for you. Cheers!

Disclaimer: I attended the restaurant as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.

Arezzo Ristorante & Bar
5 Riverside Ave
Westport, CT 06880

Arezzo Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, WTSO Magnum Marathon, #MalbecWorldDay, Can Wine Critic be Objective?, Pinot Noir #winechat

April 16, 2014 4 comments

Meritage time!

Let’s start with the answer to the wine quiz #98, Grape Trivia – Blends, Part 2.

For the long time, the grape trivia series was focused on the single grapes. But now we are stirring things up, so all the questions in the quiz are about blends (well, even if it is a blend of one ), as most of the wines in the world are actually blends. As usual, there were 5 questions in the quiz.

Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: This grape was created as a cross between Cinsaut and Pinot Noir. Can you name the grape?

A1: Pinotage, the famous grape of South Africa

Q2: Take a look at this list of the grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, ?, Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris. Two questions:

a. Name the missing grape

A2a: Pinot Meunier. Listed above are the names of all grapes allowed to be used in the Champagne region in France, so the missing grape is Pinot Meunier

b. What wine is made most often by blending some of these grapes?

A2b: Champagne!

Q3: Which grape is missing?

- Tempranillo, Garnacha, ?, Graciano

A3: Mazuelo. This is the list of the grapes typically blended in production of the Rioja wines.

Q4: This dry red wine from California is related to famous Caymus, and made out of the unknown, secret blend of grapes. Can you name this wine?

A4: Conundrum. The famous Caymus wines are made by Wagner family in California. The same Wagner family produces the wine called Conundrum, both white and red, where the exact composition of the blend of grapes is kept secret.

Q5 Carménère to Merlot is the same as Douce Noir to ?

A5: Bonarda/Charbono. Carménère grape (originally from Bordeaux), was mistaken for Merlot for the very long time in Chile. Similarly, the popular Argentinian grape Bonarda, which happened to be identical to the Charbono grape in US, was actually the almost forgotten french grape called Douce Noir in Savoie region.

When it comes to the results, I’m glad to report that again there was good participation in the quiz. We also have a winner - Wayward Wine , who correctly answered all 5 questions, and thus gets the coveted prize of unlimited bragging rights. Jeff the drunken cyclist and Suzanne of apuginthekitchen get honorable mention for correctly answering 4 questions out of 5. Well done all!

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

WTSO is on it again- the time has come for the famous Wine Til Sold Out Marathon! Mark April 22nd in your calendar – it will be go big or go home day – WTSO Magnum Marathon. Starting from 7 AM Eastern until midnight, WTSO will be offering wines in the 1.5L or 3L format. Each wine will be available for 30 minutes or until it will be sold out. All new wines will be announced only on Twitter, so make sure you follow @WTSO if you want to get real time notifications about new wines.

Do you like Malbec? There is a good chance you do, as many other people around the world. Just two easy references for you – shipments of Argentinian Malbec to US increased from 1.9 million cases in 2008, to over 4 million in 2013. Argentinian wines are also most popular wines among people of 25-34 years old in UK – for more interesting details on Argentinian Malbec, here is an article for you to read. Why all of a sudden we are talking about Malbec in the news section? Because tomorrow, April 17th, is Malbec World Day! Get the bottle of your favorite Malbec, pour the glass and join the celebration! Oh yes, and don’t forget to tweet about your favorite Malbec using the #MalbecWorldDay hashtag.

With hundreds of thousands of different wines produced around the world every year, we need to have some guidance as to what is new, what might worth our attention, what might not. This is where the wine critics come into a play – to help us navigate that ocean of wine by writing the wine reviews and rating the wines. Here comes an interesting question – can the wine critic be 100% objective, or can her work be influenced by personal preferences? Here is an interesting post on Jamie Goode’s wine blog, which raises this question – be sure to read the post and all the comments, it is quite a lively discussion.

Few more updates regarding the #winechat (if you are not familiar with the concept of #winechat, here is the blog post which will explain it). Last Wednesday, the #winechat was focused on Lenné Estate Pinot Noir from  Yamhill-Carlton AVA in Oregon. Continuing the Oregon Pinot Noir theme, the subject of tonight’s #winechat is biodynamics of Youngberg Hill vineyards. The next week’s #winechat subject is wines of J Wrigley Vineyards from Willamette Valley in Oregon. All #winechat take place on twitter on Wednesdays at 6 PM Pacific/9 PM Eastern time. You can always participate using the #winechat hashtag. Join the conversation, it is fun!

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

When The Vines Work Hard – #WineChat with Lenné Estate

April 14, 2014 4 comments

Lenné_Estate_Pinot Noir“You’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to work hard, if you want anything at all” – one of my favorite lines from the song by Depeche Mode, a popular electronic music band from the 80s. Yes, the notion of ‘working hard” is half banal, half extreme, and half misunderstood (I’m sure you are admiring my math skills here with three halves, aren’t you). People often (mostly?) achieve the best results when faced with adversity, when they need to overcome something, work against difficult circumstances, work hard. Give people everything they want – and they stop growing. Vines are like people. When water and sun are plentiful, the vines can produce a lot of grapes – but those individual grapes can be pretty dull. When the vines need to fight for survival, those much fewer grapes the vines will bear, will have the flavor and finesse almost unachievable in the “nice and easy” setting.

When Steve Lutz, the proprietor and winemaker at Lenné Estate in Yamhill-Carlton district in Willamette Valley in Oregon, planted the Pinot Noir vines for the first time back in 2001, 35% of those vines died. Ever heard of Peavine soils? In today’s age of internet, you can easily learn anything you want – so if you want the exact definition of Peavine, you can find it here. But, in a simple terms, Peavine is a mixture of clay and rocks – yeah, not your ideal agricultural setting. So the vines had to work hard to survive, go deep in the soil to find water and nutrients. The payback for all the hard work? A great fruit, the grapes which render themselves to the complex and intriguing wines.

Last Wednesday, April 9th, I participated in my second #winechat – a guided virtual tasting which takes place most of the Wednesdays at 6 PM Pacific/9 PM Eastern, in the Twittersphere next to you. The theme of the wine chat was, as I’m sure you guessed already, the wines of Leniné Estate. Steve Lutz was participating in the #winechat, explaining about Peavine soils, talking about his Pinot Noir wine and answering numerous questions (#winechat conversations get generally quite active, with #winechat being among top trending topics on Twitter).

In addition to been able to talk to the passionate people with vast knowledge of the subject, what I personally like about the #winechat is that I get to spend dedicated time in my grape geek setting, my grape laboratory. I get to play with the wine and take detailed notes. Coming to the Lenné Pinot Noir tasting, I read in the technical notes that the wine is expected to age well for the next 8-12 years. To me, the immediate thought was – let’s decant!

DSC_0375I decanted a small amount of wine about 2 hours before the tasting and put as cork stopper into the bottle.

2 hours later, we started the #winechat – 2010 Lenné Estate Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Oregon (14% ABV, $45). I started with the wine in the bottle, which was at 21°C/70°F.

Color: Dark Ruby

Nose: Smoke, raspberries, touch of mint, nice, open

Palate: Beautiful sweet fruit in the back, touch of dark chocolate.

Next, I made a big mistake. I decided that I need to chill my Pinot Noir slightly, so I put the wine chiller on. Of course I got carried away with the chat twitter stream, so when I said “oh, crap” and removed the chiller, after about 5 minutes on the bottle, it was already too late. At 12°C/53.6°F, the nose became completely muted, and wine became mostly sweet with some acidity, but the complexity was gone. For the rest of the chat, I kept waiting for the wine to come back to me – chilling is easy, but you can’t play any tricks with warming the wine up, you just have to let air to do its [slow] magic. At 16.2°C/61.1°F , the classic nose came back, together with the palate of cherries and ripe strawberries. Meanwhile, the decanted wine also played in somewhat of a strange way – the wine was showing smooth and elegant – but every sip was leaving me wanting more acidity.

The #winechat was over, so I pumped the air out with VacuVin (my standard routine) , and put the bottle aside, to be continued the next day. And the next day – without decanting and any temperature games – the wine was shining! Beautiful nose of cranberries and cherries, with touch of smoke and barnyard – call it funkiness or earthiness, I call it barnyard – just a touch. Beautiful palate with acidity, strawberries and cranberries in the front, then soft, but very present tannins started to gently grip the front of the mouth, and mocha and sweet cherries showed in the back, with pleasant minerality. The finish was lasting almost a minute. Overall this was the perfect example of balance and finesse which may be only Pinot Noir is capable of.

Verdict: this was beautiful wine, which can be enjoyed now (just don’t do anything stupid with the temperature), but will deliver even more pleasure with time. Drinkability: 8+

That’s all I have for you for today. Now you know – Wine Wednesday is always better with #winechat – join the conversation! Cheers!



Weekly Wine Quiz #98: Grape Trivia – Blends, Part 2

April 12, 2014 12 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!

We are continuing our grape trivia series, with the focus now on Blends. All the questions below are focused on the grapes which work well in the blends – and occasionally on those which do not. White, Red, Rosé, Sparkling and not, dry, sweet and may be even fortified – all goes.

Let’s proceed!

Q1: This grape was created as a cross between Cinsaut and Pinot Noir. Can you name the grape?

Q2: Take a look at this list of the grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, ?, Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris. Two questions:

a. Name the missing grape

b. What wine is made most often by blending some of these grapes?

Q3: Which grape is missing?

- Tempranillo, Garnacha, ?, Graciano

Q4: This dry red wine from California is related to famous Caymus, and made out of the unknown, secret blend of grapes. Can you name this wine?

Q5 Carménère to Merlot is the same as Douce Noir to ?

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

Few Updates From Michael Skurnik Portfolio Tasting in Connecticut

April 10, 2014 Leave a comment

Michael Skurnik Wines generally needs no introductions – one of the best wine importers and distributors in the country, with the great portfolio of wines and spirits from all over the world. A few days ago I attended a small trade tasting event here in Connecticut, and I want to share a few highlights with you. These are the wines which are either already available or about to be available in the wine stores near you, so if our palates are aligned, you might want to look for them : )

As usual for the trade tastings, my notes are short, and the ratings are done in “+” signs, from “+” to “+++”, but of course, the exceptions make our life more interesting, so “++-|” and “++++” are also  possible. Also, I will list prices for all wines as SRP (suggested retail) in CT, so your local price might be different.

Here we go:

2012 Charles Smith Wines ‘Eve’ Chardonnay Columbia Valley (SRP: $12.99) – ++, nice minerality, very much Chablis-like. Not the best in the world, but excellent value.

2012 Charles Smith Wines ‘Boom Boom’ Syrah Columbia Valley (SRP: $16.99) – ++, surprisingly balanced, simple, round and spicy. Again, great QPR.


2012 Joel Gott Riesling, Washington (SRP: $13.99) – ++-|, fruit forward, nice, balanced, good acidity

2011 Joel Gott Alakai California (SRP: $18.99) – ++-|, nice Rhone-style blend with very explicit Grenache notes – nice plumpness, very round

2011 Joel Gott Zinfandel California (SRP: $16.99) – ++-|, nice, smokey

2012 Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon California (SRP: $16.99) – ++-|, very scaled back, good balance

2010 Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (SRP: $47.99) – +++, classic Bordeaux style, perfectly round and clean.

2012 Charles Fournier Gold Seal Vineyard Riesling, Finger Lakes, NY (SRP: $14.99) – +++, creamy, delicious

2012 Charles Fournier Gold Seal Vineyard Chardonnay, Finger Lakes, NY (SRP: $13.99) – +++. It seems that winemakers on East Coast start getting their vibe with Chardonnay. Dry, mineral, with clean acidity – Chablis-style and very well done. And QPR? Unbeatable value!

2012 Charles Fournier Gold Seal Vineyard Cabernet Franc, Finger Lakes, NY (SRP: $17.99) – +++. I’m a sucker for a good East Coast Cabernet Franc, and this was a perfect example – bell pepper, cassis, soft and round. Try it!

2011 Januik Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley (SRP: $28.99)- +++. Classic Cabernet Sauvignon, perfectly expressive and round.

2012 Ramsay Pinot Noir California (SRP: $13.99) – ++-|, nice fruit, smokey and round.

2011 Robin K Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley (SRP: $15.99) – ++-|, nice and light

2012 Owens and Vaughn Cabernet Sauvignon California (SRP: $14.99) – ++-|, good fruit, cassis, acidity. Might be the best California Cabernet the money can buy under $15.

2010 Chateau Saint Julian Bordeaux Superieur (SRP: $12.99) – ++-|, nice, round, and great QPR

2012 Petit Chapeau Macon-Villages (SRP: $13.99) – ++-|, perfect Chardonnay, round and supple, and outstanding QPR

2012 Petit Chapeau Bordeaux Blanc (SRP: $12.99) – ++-|, refreshing, clean, great acidity – perfect for a hot summer day.

2010 Chateau de Clotte Cotes de Castillon (SRP: $16.99) – ++-|, classic Bordeaux at a great price

2011 David Duband Bourgogne Rouge (SRP: $22.99) – +++, excellent, classic Burgundy at a great price

2011 Domaine de L’Enchantoir Saumur Blanc (SRP: $12.99) – +++. Very unusual and interesting wine, great minerality mid-palate. Definitely worth experiencing, especially at such QPR

SkurnikTasting_RiojaAltaAnd of course I saved the best for last.

2007 La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Rioja Riserva (SRP: $19.99) – ++++. In a word, spectacular. In another word, wow! Such a perfect balance of fruit, structure, power and earthiness which only Rioja possess. Amazing wine, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing which can beat it in the under $20 range. Go try it (I mean buy a case) and send me a thank you note…

2001 La Rioja Alta 904 Rioja Gran Riserva (SRP: $47.99) – ++++. Stunning. Same as the wine above, but mature, with different level of fruit expression. At a price? Great value in my opinion. And don’t forget that 2001 was one of the best years ever. This wine will give you lots of pleasure for many years ahead.

2010 Bodegas Cepa 21 Hito Ribera Del Duero (SRP: $14.99) – +++-|. Outstanding. Fruit and power combined  – delicious rendition of Tempranillo. At $14.99? No further comments.

And we are done here. Whether you tried any wines listed here or not, I would love to know your opinion. Cheers!




Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, 25 Top Selling Restaurant Wines?, Winery of the Future, #MWWC9 Theme, #winechat and more

April 9, 2014 1 comment

Meritage time!

Let’s start with the answer to the wine quiz #97, Grape Trivia – Blends, Part 1.

While this quiz is still a part of the Grape Trivia, it is slightly a new twist on the grapes – the questions are centered on the concept of blends, to stir things up a bit. Despite the fact that we are almost at a hundred of posts in the quiz series, it was still a learning experience for me – not from the point of view of the content, which is always a part of the learning exercise – but from point of view of being able to state the questions correctly to make sure there can be only one correct answer to that question. Read on, and you will see what I mean.

Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Which grape is missing?

- Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, ?, Petit Verdot

A1: This was a very easy one – yes, this is a classic Bordeaux blend, so the missing grape is Malbec.

Q2: Wines of this region, made out of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, considered some of the best white wines in the world. Can you name that region?

A2: This is the questions which was supposed to be phrased better. I believe my expected correct answer will work here, but mostly as a technicality and not because it is squarely one and only answer. So the correct answer here is Pessac-Léognan, a region in Bordeaux, which produces both white and red wines, but their dry white wines, made out of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, are long living and spectacular ( and equally expensive).  Number of people put Sauternes as an answer for this question. Technically, the wines in Sauternes are made out of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes – thus technically, Sauternes is not the right answer. However, most famous Sauternes, Chateau d’Yquem, is made only from Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc, thus it is hard to say that Sauternes is a wrong answer. Have I asked about  “some of the best DRY white wines”, Sauternes would have to be excluded.

Q3: This wine might be the biggest officially sanctioned blend of the grapes in the world. Do you know what wine is that?

A3: Again, precision was a bit off on this question. Yes, the correct answer is Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a region in the Southern Rhone in France, which allows up to 18 different grapes, both red and white, to be blended together, and there is a number of producers who do exactly that. Again, the word “dry” would help, as one of the answers was Port, where technically 82 varietals are allowed to be used in the appellation – however, the best Port is typically made only out of 6 grapes as the most, so Port is not the right answer here. Another suggested answer was Valle d’Aosta, a region in Italy which allows 19 different grapes to be used in production of the wines – however, the question was about grapes blended together, not just allowed to be used in the appellation.

Q4: This simple wine is classified as a field blend. This is probably best known European white field blend wine. Now:

a. Can you explain what field blend is?

A4a: Come to any (almost any) vineyard, and you will be able to see the rows of vines, all clearly identified – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, etc. All the grapes harvested separately, pressed and fermented separately, and then blended together into the final wine as winemaker deems necessary. And then there are exceptions to this separate processing of the grapes. Such an exception is a field blend. Different grapes are growing together, sometimes without clear separation between different vines and grapes. All those different grapes are harvested together, pressed and vinified together, so don’t ask for specific percentages on the label, or even for the names of the individual grapes. Such field blends can be found in Portugal (many of the simpler Port wines made as field blends), Austria, Alsace and probably other places.

b. Can you name this wine?

A4b: My intended answer was Gemischter Satz – a white wine, a field blend produced from the vineyards in the Wiener Gemischter Satz DAC, which is located within the city limits of Vienna, Austria with the total vineyard area exceeding 1,700 acres. This is a dry, simple white wine, which should be made from at least 3 different white grape varieties, harvested and pressed together. It seems that Gemischter Satz wines are getting more popular as of recent, so here is the link where you can read more about them. Some of you said that the answer is White Port, which can be also made as a field blend, so again, I should’ve being more careful with the wording of the question – but right now, White Port also is an acceptable answer.

Q5: This wine, one of the most famous in the world, is often made from 70% Cabernet Franc and 30% Merlot. Do you know what wine is that?

A5: Chateau Cheval Blanc, one of the most famous Bordeaux wines in the world, uses Cabernet Franc and Merlot to make their wines. The ratio is not always 70/30, but conceptually it is enough to help you to come up with the right answer.

When it comes to the results, I’m glad to report that there was a very good participation – the subject of blends definitely was less intimidating than those rare single grapes we got into. We have two winners today – the drunken cyclist and Connoisaurus both answered all 5 questions correctly, so they get the prize of unlimited bragging rights. Well done!

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

Wine & Spirits magazine compiled the list of 25 top selling wines in US restaurants. According to that list, the #1 top selling restaurant wine in US is Cakebread Cellars with an average price of $86.48, followed by Jordan  ($101.57) and then Duckhorn ($90.29) – here is the link for you to find more information. I would be really curious to know how many of you would consider ordering any of these wines in the restaurant especially at these prices (I wouldn’t). It will be also interesting to understand how the list was compiled, as the claim is that the information comes form the wine directors of the restaurants, and how many restaurants employ wine directors? Anyway, it is always interesting to take a look at the numbers.

We all know that winemaking is an art. But there is nothing wrong in bringing the technology to help the artists to make better art. Wines and Vines published a very interesting article, talking about the tools which are either already available or might be available to the grape growers and winemakers to help them make better wines.

Are you afraid of any wines? Do you get butterflies in your stomach as you open the door of your wine cabinet? Do you think any of the wines in your cellar hold some scary secrets? Is your hand trembling when you pull the cork out of the bottle, as you don’t know what might be hiding behind that cork? Well, it might be the time to face your fears – Jeff, a.k.a. The Drunken Cyclist, announced the theme of the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #9, and as you probably guessed it, the theme is … Fear. Please take a look at this post for all the important dates and rules.

It is so interesting how far the wineries and wine consortia would go to protect their names. In majority of the cases, it is the big guy going after the small guy, like Duckhorn Vineyards from California suing Duck Walk winery on Long Island, or the French INAO going after Fairview winery in South Africa to protect Côte-Rôtie  against Goat Rotie. Latest case – now all local in France – is Mouton versus Mouton. Château Mouton Rothschild, first growth from Bordeaux, is suing winemaker Laurent Mouton from Burgundy, who had being making wines under Domaine Mouton label for 4 generations, to stop Domaine Mouton from using their own name on the label. Why now? I have no idea, but  – for more details, here is the link for you.

Last but not least for today – there is an interesting #winechat talking place tonight, in the Twittersphere next to you, at 9 PM Eastern time/6 PM Pacific, and your participation is greatly encouraged. If you are not familiar with the concept of #winechat, here is the blog post which will explain it. Today’s #winechat is the first out of three talking about the wines of Yamhill-Carlton AVA in Oregon, and the wine which will be discussed today is Lenné Estate Pinot Noir. Yes, I know, short notice – but, if you have time, join the #winechat and learn more!

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


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,676 other followers

%d bloggers like this: