Delaying, delaying, delaying. I have so many experiences and moments to share – and literally whole September had being a dread. This September will have the least number of posts since I started to regularly write this blog. Oh well. It’s been a busy month, at work and outside, so hopefully October will be more fruitful in terms of wine (and life) writing.
Let me just sum up of some of the recent experiences. One of the very first things I want to mention is a substantial advance in the “grape count” – adding 11 new grapes (reaching total of 351) – well, yes, some of them a clones. The Clonal Project Riesling from Cattail Creek winery in Canada brings in 4 different Riesling clones. It was also possible to taste those clones individually, but at about $100 for the set, it was an expensive proposition. However this Clonal Riesling, which is a blend of four clones was outright delicious, with great harmony of fruit, earthiness and acidity – it was a great wine. Here is the list of all new grapes:
Riesling Clone 239, Riesling Clone 49, Riesling Clone 21 Young Vines, Riesling Clone 21 Old Vines – 2009 Riesling Clonal Blend, VQA Four Mile Creek, Canada
Zibibbo – Donnafugata Ben Rye, Passito di Pantelleria DOC
Pignolo – 2007 Bastianich Callabrone Rosso, Friuli DOC
Schioppettino – 2007 Bastianich Callabrone Rosso, Friuli DOC
Vranac – Rubin Vranac, Serbia
Mavrotragano – 2006 Atlantis Red, Santorini, Greece
Carignan Blanc – 2009 Pico’VDP de l’Herault Blanc
Trepat Blanc – 2007 Blanc de Montsalvat, Priorat DOC
Have to honestly tell you that all these wines were very good, each having it’s own personality and very pleasant to drink. I’m also very glad to add Pignolo and Schioppettino grapes, as those two are part of the main table in the Wine Century club application – may be one day it will be complete!
During September I was lucky enough to attend two trade wine tastings. One word to describe the experience is – “overwhelming”. I can’t do a fair representation of all the great wines we tried – Paul Hobbs, Shafer Hillside, Honig, Evening Land, Bussia Barolo, Archery Summit, Blankiet Estate, Palmaz, … – the list can go on and on (just to give you an idea, there were about 1400 wines in the first tasting, and about 700 wines in the second – of course nobody tried all those wines, but you understand the size). Here are some of the highlights, in pictures:
Paul Hobbs wines:
Evening Land Pinot Noirs from Oregon – amazing:
2001 Masi Mazzano Amarone – this is what Amarone should taste like – absolutely amazing, my personal favorite in tasting:
That’s all for now, folks. Have to go – talk to you later. Cheers!
Do you know how old tavern smells? The one were thousands of wine bottles were opened, and wooden tables soaked up all the spills and drops of the wine during many tens or may be even hundreds of years? I don’t know about you, but for me this smell means “hello, vino was here!”. This is what you get when you pour this 2007 Epaule Jete Catherine and Pierre Breton Bourguiel in the glass. You get the most vinous nose you can imagine – not a hint of sweetness, not a hint of berries – only a noble smell of the ageless wine with the whiff of acidity. On the palate you get earthiness, minerality and more acidity, all delicately balanced by the early sour cherry kind of fruit.
Once I tasted this wine, one of the first thoughts was – it reminds me of a recent experience. It was so light and transparent (noted after tasting: 12% alcohol) that it brought back memories of the natural and biodynamic wine tasting at the PJ Wine (here is the link to that post). Similar to the wines in that tasting, this Cabernet Franc wine also let the Terroir to shine through, unadulterated. After checking the web site for Domain Breton – voila, it appears that this wine is also natural, organic and biodynamic!
All in all this was a great experience – I’m not sure it will be easy to repeat it, as it was the only bottle I had (I got in Lavinia wine store in Geneva). Oh well – this wine is worth seeking and experiencing, so talk to your favorite wine store guy – I will certainly talk to mine. Cheers!
I wanted to share an interesting encounter I had on twitter few days ago. Commenting on someone’s tweet, I mentioned that I’m not a fan of one particular (quite famous) California wine, and that I would prefer a number of other California wines on any given day over that particular wine. My reason was very simple – I visited that winery a few years ago, and while I had certain [high] expectations (well, it is a problem in itself), to my demise I was unable to find a single wine that I liked. To tell you more, I was planning to get there a bottle to bring to friend’s house for dinner that night, and again I was unable to find the right bottle.
Next, someone noticed my tweet and replied to it saying that all I have to do is to visit that winery to see for myself that wines are perfect, and provided me with an address. I replied that I speak about the wines from experience, been there, tried the wine and still didn’t like it, but I also mentioned that it is okay to be different. The “dialog” didn’t stop there, as I got new response from the same person, telling me that he also speaks from experience, finishing sentence with “sorry but you are still wrong”.
So this brings up some questions, albeit mostly rhetorical. Are taste “impressions ” universal? Do I have to like something only because someone else liked it already? If I don’t like the wine Robert Parker is raving about, does it mean that I have to stop drinking wine, stop talking about wine or both?
I’m not going to share any details on the winery or regarding the person I had this enchanting dialog with (by the way, I didn’t know this person and don’t follow him on twitter). But I’m curious about your take on this situation – can people express their honest opinion, or do we have to share positive stuff only? And can I please keep my personal tastes and preferences, even if I’m still wrong?
Yes, it is no secret that I prefer to drink wines which have some age on them – we even discussed this in one of the recent posts. What happens when the wine ages? In one simple word, it evolves. Its taste changes – for the better. It gets to the different level of complexity – and delivers more pleasure. Sometimes, it even brings an element of awe with it – when you are drinking wine which is 30, 50 or may be even hundred years old, and it still tastes great (try to keep some food to taste good for a couple of decades – let me know if you will succeed), it is an amazing experience.
Now, if you want to drink aged wines, you got two choices. You can buy wines which are already aged (Benchmark Wine Company is one of the great sources of aged wines). It is not easy to find what you want, and aged wines are usually expensive. Another option is to buy the wine, and keep it in your cellar until it reaches the optimum drinking age. When using second option, the trick is to know when the perfect age is, right? There are few ways to go about it. The classic “collectors” way is to buy a case ( at least), and then open a bottle from time to time and see (err, taste) what is going on. This is a good way to go, but it requires storage space and money.
Then you can rely on the advice of the wine critics – when you look at wine review in Wine Spectator or Wine Advocate, very often you will see a recommended time range when the wine will be at its best. This should work, but might be a bit boring. What else? You can play with your wine. What I mean is that you can conduct a little experiment and learn with a good probability how well your wine will age. In order to do this, you will need only a minimal set of tools (one tool, to be precise), a little air, a bottle of wine and a few days of time.
As far as tool is concerned, I don’t mean any of those fancy $200 silver, magnetic and whatever else concoctions which promise to magically manipulate characteristics of wine and make it age in no time. So the tool which you will need is called a vacuum pump, like the one you can see below (this one is made by the company called VacuVin):
One of the most important components in the wine aging is oxygen. Oxygen, which makes its way in a miniscule quantity through the cork into the wine bottle, makes wine to change, to age. As soon as the bottle of wine is opened, the process of aging is started. This is why when you open a bottle of a young wine, you need to give it a little time to “breathe”, to open up, to absorb the air and subsequently, to evolve. Now, the idea is simple. You open the bottle, pour a glass, then you close a bottle with the rubber stopper and pump the air out, and put the bottle aside (no need for special storage conditions). You repeat this process the next day, then the next day and may be even the next day again! There is no science here (or may be there is one, but at least I don’t know the formula), but I think every additional day the wine drinks well means about 5 -8 years of the normal aging. Therefore, if the wine will be improving for the 4 days in the row, you can expect that it will reach its peak in 20-30 years.
Want an example? The bottle of 2007 Chappellet Pritchard Hill Napa Valley Cabernet Franc made it into my house. On the first day, the wine was not showing much except tremendous density and the color, which was more black than red. The second day didn’t show much change. On the day 3, some of the black fruit started coming out, with some spices and tiniest hint of green peppers (can be my imagination too). And then finally, on the day four, the fruit became easily noticeable, together with good acidity and nice balanced tannins. The wine was almost drinkable… but too late, as the bottle was gone at that point. I think one more day would make it amazing – but I can only hope to find out that at some point in the future.
Don’t be afraid to play with your wine – after all, it is only another kind of food, right? Ooops, this might not sound too well. Anyway, experiment – and uncover new amazing taste. And remember that little age is always good (you just need to define “little” ). Cheers!
If you follow social media, especially Twitter, I’m sure you’ve noticed big amount of #WW tags in the messages on Wednesday. This abbreviation stands for Wine Wednesday or Whisky Wednesday, depending on who and when is using it, and it means a special dedication to one’s favorite beverage of the day.
What is so special about Wednesdays and wine ( or whisky for that matter)? I honestly have no idea. I think any day is a good day for a glass of wine (or whisky), but may be people feel like they need a special declaration of sort “I will be drinking this Wednesday, instead of waiting for Friday”. Anyway, my take a simplistic one – any day is a good day for wine or whisky, as long as it tastes good. Sometimes, even that can be “bettered” – that is when you have a tasty treat and learn something new.
So on Tuesday (!) I tried very good Scotch and made a discovery (fine, not by myself, I was simply educated by my friend Zak). Until Tuesday, I thought that single malt scotch can come only from Scotland or Japan. Then I learned that it can also come from … India (ha, I’m sure you didn’t expect that).
Enters Amrut, the only Single Malt Scotch from India. Word Amrut means “Elixir of Life”, and actual scotch which I tried, was quite lively. Amrut scotch is produced in Himalaya, at about 3000 feet above sea level. The combination of the high altitude and tropical climate doesn’t allow for extended barrel aging – the scotch evaporates at much higher rate than it matures. Despite that, even in the young form, it really tastes like an actual Scotland classic.
I had an opportunity to try four different Amrut scotches, and here are my notes:
Fusion – nice and relaxed, very reminiscent of a Highland scotch, such as Glenlivet. Feels like it is 12 yeras old, while it is not
Cask strength – on the nose, first is a sensation of pure medicinal alcohol. Then it is very nice on the palate, with good oak notes. Feels like it has a lot of glycerine oils, I guess due to not being chill filtered.
Peated – feels like pure charcoal on the nose and the palate. It is different from Islay Scotches, I would call it “liquid fire”. Of course it is not surprising that the smoky component feels different, as I’m sure that Islay peat exists only on Islay – nevertheless, this was probably best of tasting Scotch.
Peated cask strength – it seems that “cask strength” should be the only difference with the previous one, but it appears to be an entirely different scotch – lots of sweetness on the palate, wood power comes only in the back – it doesn’t even feel peated. Again, substantial mouth feel of glycerin oils.
Amrut is making it’s way to US – if you like Scotch, I highly recommend you will make an effort to find it and try it. And let’s toast great discoveries, any day of the week – cheers!
Celebrate Two Noble Grapes in One Day – What Are You Drinking Tonight? #CabernetDay and #TempranilloDay
I’m honestly puzzled, but somehow September 1st had being declared an international #CabernetDay and #TempranilloDay – it feels like there are not enough days in the calendar to properly celebrate all the grapes? Anyway, it is what it is, right? And the celebration is on, which means … oh boy… you have a reason to have a glass (or two or …) of wine tonight!
To celebrate Cabernet Day, all you need to do is to open a bottle of your favorite (or better yet, the one you never had) Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc wine (and of course Cabernet blend will do quite well too), and then tell the world how great it was (if you will only tell your neighbor, that will also count). With abundance of choices from Bordeaux, California, New York, Washington, Australia, Canada, Italy, Argentina, Chile, Spain, Israel and pretty much everywhere else, you will have no problems finding a good bottle of Cabernet to enjoy. And instead of giving you any particular recommendations, I would like to simply reflect on some of the past experiences:
Next, we definitely should acknowledge Tempranillo, a noble grape of Spain. While this grape is slowly trickling into other winemaking regions, it is a true star in Spain, where it shines in Rioja and Ribero del Duero regions, making some of the most beautiful (and age-worthy) wines in the world. You can also find it producing good results in Portugal, however, under the names of Aragonez and Tinta Roriz. Again, no particular recommendations as to what wine to open, just some reflections here for you:
Whatever bottle you will end up opening, the routine is not new – all you need to do is to enjoy it. And if you will be kind enough to leave a comment here, I will be glad to enjoy it together with you. Cheers!