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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!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, Chateau Latour, Natural Wines, Sauternes 2013 and more

October 30, 2013 7 comments

Inniskillin Cab Franc Ice WineMeritage time!

Let’s start with the answer for the wine quiz #79, grape trivia – Cabernet Franc. In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about red grape called Cabernet Franc. Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: One of the most famous wines in the world has Cabernet Franc as a major (2/3 or so) components of its blend. Do you know what wine is that?

A1: Unimitable Château Cheval Blanc uses at least 2/3 of Cabernet Franc grapes in their main wine

Q2: Cabernet Franc has a special relationship with the frost. Can you explain that?

A2: Icewine! The grapes should be frozen on the vine in order to produce the Icewine. While Icewine was typically produced from the white  grapes, Inniskillin estate in Ontario was one of the pioneers who started producing Icewine from the red grapes, namely Cabernet Franc.

Q3: Which one doesn’t belong and why:

a. Bourgueil, b. Chinon, c. Saumur-Champigny, d. Saint-Chinian

A3: Saint-Chinian. It is an AOC in Languedoc area which doesn’t make wines out of Cabernet Franc. The other three AOCs are located in Loire, and all make Cabernet Franc wines.

Q4: This unique grape grows only in one place in the world, and it is a cross between Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Do you know what grape it is?

A4: Caberlot. I admit, this was a difficult question. However, I mentioned this grape before, when I discovered it during VinItaly tasting this year (here is the link).

Q5: In Italy, Cabernet Franc is often confused for another rare Bordeaux grape. Do you know the name of that rare grape?

A5: Carmenere.

Looking at the results, we don’t have a winner today – however, both Frankly Wine and Eat with Namie get honorable mentions for properly answering 4 questions out of 5. Well done!

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

Boy, what an eclectic mix I have for you today! First, just a quick last minute reminder – #MWWC4 vote closes today. If you still didn’t read and vote, you might have your last chance to do it here.

Now, how much do you know about Chateau Latour? Same as the most, you probably heard of it as a producer of one of the most sought after wines in the world, and you probably know that it is generally very expensive. Recently, Chateau Latour made a lot of press by pulling out of the En primeur (wine futures) system, where wines are acquired by consumers before they are actually released, hedging both on saving the money and availability of the wine. Here is the link to the Wine-Searcher article, where you can actually learn a lot of interesting facts about Chateau Latour. I also want to mention that Wine-searcher web site is really becoming a great source of wine information, not just the price comparison tool.

Next subject – Natural wines. How much do you know about natural wines? What do you think of them as a category? Well, the article I want to bring to your attention is not exactly a natural wines 101 tutorial, but it is rather a rant by the Europe’s Best Sommelier of 2013, Arvid Rosengren, who is based in Copenhagen. A lot of his comments are most relevant for the local food and wine scene, but nevertheless, it makes a very interesting read.

Are you a fun of Sauternes, a sweet wine gems from Bordeaux? If you are, I have a good news for you – 2013 is a great year, and you should be looking for these wines when they will be released. Contrary to the 2012, when Chateau d’Yquem, the most coveted producer in Sauternes, decided not to produce their flagship Chateau d’Yquem wine, 2013 harvest shows a lot of botrytised grapes, which is a necessity to produce sweet wines in Sauternes. By the way, if you like red Bordeaux, 2013 doesn’t look all that great. Here is the link to the article where you can learn more.

The last piece I have for you has nothing to do with wine. It is written by Kimberly at whiskeytangofoxtrot4 blog, where she is talking about the power of the words. While her post, called Word, sounds rather personal, I think it is a very powerful writing and it definitely will worth few minutes of your time.

That’s all I have for you for today, folks. The glass is empty, but the refill is on its way. Cheers!

 

Weekly Wine Quiz #79: Grape Trivia – Cabernet Franc

October 26, 2013 8 comments
Cabernet Franc grapes, as shown in Wikipedia

Cabernet Franc grapes, as shown in 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!

We are continuing our grape trivia series, and we are back to the red grapes. Today’s subject is the red grape called Cabernet Franc.

According to many sources, Cabernet Franc is first appearing in Bordeaux in 17th century, with the good chance of being around for much longer. From Bordeaux it made it to Loire valley, where it is often used to produce single-varietal wines. In Bordeaux itself, Cabernet Franc is typically used as part of the blend together with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Today Cabernet Franc is spread out all over the world, both used in Bordeaux-style blends (Meritage) and as a single varietal bottlings – Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Chile, US, Argentina, Canada are all have a good amount of plantings of Cabernet Franc. In US, Cabernet Franc is successfully grown all over the country, with some of the best wines coming from California, Washington and New York states.

Cabernet Franc is known to be a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon ( together with Sauvignon Blanc), so the typical flavor profile of Cabernet Franc is somewhat similar to the Cabernet Sauvignon, with black currant, raspberries and green bell peppers flavors being most typical. At the same time, Cabernet Franc wines often have more earthy aromatics and a little bit lighter in the body. Cabernet Franc also buds and ripens at least a week earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, and it is more resistant to the low freezing temperatures during winter, which allows it to be cultivated successfully in the colder climates.

And now, to the quiz!

Q1: One of the most famous wines in the world has Cabernet Franc as a major (2/3 or so) components of its blend. Do you know what wine is that?

Q2: Cabernet Franc has a special relationship with the frost. Can you explain that?

Q3: Which one doesn’t belong and why:

a. Bourgueil

b. Chinon

c. Saumur-Champigny

d. Saint-Chinian

Q4: This unique grape grows only in one place in the world, and it is a cross between Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Do you know what grape it is?

Q5: In Italy, Cabernet Franc is often confused for another rare Bordeaux grape. Do you know the name of that rare grape?

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

Wines, Wines, Wines – Part 2

August 18, 2013 14 comments

As promised, here is the second part of the Wines, Wines, Wines post. In the first part, we talked about great Riesling and Gewurzrtraminer wines, with some extra value wines and Prosecco. Let’s continue our “memorable wine extravaganza” with a couple of Chardonnays.

Chardonnay

It is so interesting how things work in life. You might walk past say, a picture, every day, and never notice it. And then all of a sudden you say “what is it? Was it always here, or is it something new??”, and people around you look at you like you have two heads or something. Where am I going with this? Give me a minute, I will make my point.

Couple of month ago I got a bottle of Chardonnay, accompanied by the words “try it, it is pretty good”. I’m a sucker for good Chardonnay (yeah, true, you can substitute “Chardonnay” with any other varietal – I’m just a sucker for any good wine, but this can be a subject for a different post). But this Chardonnay was from New Zealand. And New Zealand in by book is the land of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir – but not really a Chardonnay. So I finally got the bottle opened and … wow.

DSC_0418

Seresin Chardonnay

2008 Seresin Chardonnay Reserve Marlboro New Zealand (13.5% ABV, 11 month in oak).  The symbol of the hand on the label has a deep meaning. Quoting few words from Seresin Estate web site, “The hand is a symbol of strength, gateway to the heart, tiller of the soil, the mark of the artisan, and embodies the philosophy of Seresin Estate”. Here are my tasting notes for this wine: Outstanding, classic. Perfect nose of vanilla and white apples, just right. Very balanced fruit on the palate – hint of butter, vanilla, oak, good acidity – one of the most balanced Chardonnays ever. Drinkability: 8+

Oh yes, you are still waiting for me to connect to the opening sentence about passing by and not seeing things around for the long time, right? As of very recently, as I walked in the New Zealand isle in the store, I noticed all of a sudden that almost every producer now features Chardonnay in addition to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. When did it happen, how long this was the case with New Zealand Chardonnays – I don’t have any idea, but based on this experience, I definitely want to try more.

Frédéric Gueguen Chablis

Frédéric Gueguen Chablis

2005 Frédéric Gueguen Chablis Les Grandes Vignes (13% ABV) – I don’t have a lot of experience with Chablis overall. I had a few bottles of Chablis here and there, but never was really impressed with it (I never had Chablis of a Grand Cru or even Premier Cru level). I don’t know what possessed me to get this wine from the Benchmark Wine Company, I guess it was in the right price range ( under $20), and somehow caught my attention. Then I read somewhere, that Chablis requires on average about 10 years of age in the bottle to really start transforming and going past the initial “steely acidity” flavor profile to get to the next level. And then I tried this Frédéric Gueguen wine – wow. Here are my tasting notes: some darker yellow color, but not quite golden yet. Amazing nose, reminiscent of Côte-Rôtie – almost a touch of sulfur (think freshly burnt matches), or even more of a smell of a hot piece of granite on a summer day, a “roasted rock”. Side note: pardon my naive definition here – I recently learned that professionals call it a “gunflint” – but I will not use this term as it doesn’t lead to any associations for me. Perfect complexity on the palate – white fruit, vanilla. Lots and lots of minerality. Full bodied and very balanced, excellent wine overall. Drinkability: 8+

Pinot Noir

And we are moving along to the Pinot Noir wines – both of the wines below were excellent:

Siduri Pinot Noir

Siduri Pinot Noir

2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma County (13.1% ABV) – perfectly clean California Pinot – good smokey nose, with a touch of red fruit aromas. Light cherries on the palate, hint of earthiness, medium body, perfect acidity, very clean and balanced. Drinkability: 8-

Carmel Road Pinot Noir

Carmel Road Pinot Noir

2008 Carmel Road Pinot Noir Monterey (14.0% ABV) – outstanding. Bright ruby color in the glass, raspberries and hint of smokiness on the nose. Raspberries, cranberries and cherries on the palate. Medium to full body. Excellent acidity, overall perfectly balanced. Drinkability: 8+

Cabernet Franc

I have only one wine for you here, but it was mind blowing.

Field Recordings Cabernet Franc

Field Recordings Cabernet Franc

2010 Field Recordings Three Creek Vineyard Cabernet Franc Santa Barbara (15.9% ABV, 90% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec, 18 month in French oak) – spectacular. If you read this blog on the regular basis, you know that I’m very impartial to the wines of Field Recordings – but this is not my fault, it is Andrew Jones’ fault ( Andrew Jones is the winemaker behind Field Recordings). This wine had beautiful garnet color in the glass. The nose was clean and open, withhint of black currant and other red fruit. The palate is stunning with black currant, cherries, touch of black pepper, dark chocolate, perfect acidity, soft and supple tannins, all in the format of full-bodied wine. Perfect balance of fruit, acidity, tannins and alcohol – which is pretty amazing at 15.9% ABV. Drinkability: 9

Last, but not least – Syrah

Villa Pillo

Villa Pillo Syrah

Appearance of the large amount of Italian Syrah wines is also somewhat of a revelation, similar to the one I mentioned at the beginning of this post. All of a sudden I start noticing that there are more Italian Syrah wines showing in the wine stores, and people are just talking more about them, in the blogs and otherwise.

2010 Villa Pillo Syrah Toscana IGT (14.5% ABV) – we got this wine when we visited Millbrook Winery in New York (this will be a subject of a separate post), as they are importing this and a number of other wines from Italy. Tasting notes: Dark garnet color in the glass. Nose of dark fruit and dark chocolate. Outstanding on the palate – hint of pepper, cherries, plums and raspberries, more dark chocolate. Full bodied, with the velvety texture weaved over firm structure. Drinkability: 8

Whew, we are done here! Enjoy the rest of your weekend and cheers!

Re-Post: Best Hidden Secrets Of The Wine World: Underappreciated Regions

March 14, 2013 2 comments

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project closed and  even web site is down, but as I still like the posts I wrote, so I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” you see here – I will continue re-posting them from time to time.

Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

After spending some time looking at hard-to-find-but-worth-seeking wines (Jerez and Madeira posts can be found here and here), let’s go back to the “hidden secrets” series. We agreed at the beginning that in this “secrets” series, we are looking for great wines which will bring a lot of pleasure – but will not require one to dip into pension savings to enjoy them pretty much every day. We talked about Rioja, second labels, French Sparkling wines and wines of Languedoc. Where should we go now?

If anything, we are living through a wine renaissance period right now. Wine is very popular as a beverage among people of all ages and all walks of life, everywhere in the world. Wine is also made nowadays almost everywhere in the world – from China and India to downtown Chicago (I’m serious – you can read about it here). Does it mean that you can universally enjoy wines made anywhere in the world? Of course not (not yet? May be, but I can’t predict the future). Taking out of equation exotic wines made in exotic regions, what are we left with? There are a number of well know wine making regions – Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Rhone in France, Piedmont and Tuscany in Italy, Germany (as one big Riesling-making region), Rioja, Ribera Del Duero and Priorat in Spain, Porto in Portugal, Australia and New Zealand (often taken as a whole), United States with Napa and then Sonoma being most prominent, and hopefully Washington and Oregon being also well known outside of the US, and Chile and Argentina, as still relative newcomers in the wine world. How did I come up with this list? Before someone gets upset for his or her favorite regions not being mentioned, or all 70+ regions of Australia not being accounted for, let me explain the logic here – it is simple. Each of the regions listed above (even with the whole country lumped as one) makes tens or may be hundreds of the wines which are in a high demand. How can we estimate the demand? When wine is in demand, it typically starts going up in price. Each one of the above mentioned regions has many wines priced in the hundreds or thousands of dollars per bottle (anyone who wants to check is welcome to look for Screaming Eagle, Chateau Petrus, Krug Champagne or Vega Sicilia on wine-searcher).

Yes, you are absolutely right – not all the wines produced in Bordeaux or any other famed region cost hundreds of dollars, there are many which cost between $10 and $20. True, but in many cases consistency of those wines might be in question – meaning, you never know what you are getting for your ten or twenty dollars. Of course probability of finding very good and reasonably priced wine is getting better and better in today’s world – but you can even further improve it by stepping out of familiar circle and looking for wines from under-appreciated regions.

So what are those under-appreciated regions? As you can imagine, there are lots of them. Again, all the exotic places aside, for each famous wine region, the same countries have tens of “under-appreciated” regions, consistently making good wines for hundreds of years, with majority of those wines being also reasonably priced. In France, great wines are made in Loire, Provence, Jura, Languedoc-Roussillon (we already talked about them) and many other places. In Italy, excellent wines are made in Umbria, Sicily, Lombardy, Marche and again in many other regions. Rias Baixas, Bierzo, Jumilla and La Mancha in Spain; Long Island, Virginia and Texas in United States, South Africa, Israel, Lebanon, Greece, Georgia and Hungary… There is no limit to the places where now we can look for consistently good wines.

As usual, time to open a bottle, right? Let me give you a few examples from the regions which I believe are under-appreciated.

Rosso Conero Marche 2006Let’s start in Italy, in the region called Marche, which is located on Adriatic coast of Italy, near Ancona. There are a number of great wines produced in that region, which is still staying off the radar for the most of the wine lovers. Particularly, white wines made out of the grape called Verdicchio, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and Verdicchio di Matelica are excellent white wines, with balanced acidity and fruit, perfect for summer day. The red wines are made mostly out of Sangiovese and Montepulciano grapes.  This particular 2006 Casal Farneto Rosso Conero IGT is made of the blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese, and it is an excellent red wine with lots of layers and luscious red and black fruit on the palate (think of blackberries and sour cherries), perfectly balanced.

VouvrayLet’s move from region Marche in Italy to France. Here is our first wine, coming from Vouvray region in Loire valley. Loire is home for many different wine regions, all producing interesting but lesser known wines, may be with an exception of Sancerre (I might be really stretching this “may be”). Vouvray wines are made out of the grape called Chenin Blanc, which produces wide range of wines from very dry to very sweet. This particular 2009 Domaine de Vaufuget Vouvray AOC is very nice and pleasant, showing some sweetness (probably equivalent to Spatlese Riesling). It is easy to drink and should be great accompaniment to many summer meals.

Loire Chinon Cab FrancLast but not least for today is red wine coming again from Loire Valley, from the region called Chinon. As many other red wines in Loire region, Chinon wines are made out of the Cabernet Franc grape, with an addition of some other grapes. Cabernet Franc is typically used as a blending grape in Bordeaux and California, but it also produces great wines on its own, in all the different regions throughout the world. This 2007 Epaule Jete Chinon required extensive time to open up, but after three days, finally became drinkable, showing earthiness, fruit and acidity, all in harmonious balance.

 

Not sure if I was convincing enough, but next time you are in a wine store, look for unfamiliar wines from unfamiliar places – it is possible that you will make a great discovery. As subject of under-appreciated wines is almost endless, I will give you many more examples of great wines from no-so-well-known places. Until then – let’s drink to fearless wine tasting and great discoveries.

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Daily Glass: Domaine Breton Bourgueil, A Vinous Vino

September 22, 2011 1 comment

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!

Celebrate Two Noble Grapes in One Day – What Are You Drinking Tonight? #CabernetDay and #TempranilloDay

September 1, 2011 Leave a comment

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!

Experiencing Wines of Canada

August 28, 2011 9 comments

Coming back to the memories of “ahh-so-distant-by-now” our Canada vacation (it’s being almost a month!), I need to share my wine experiences with you. You might remember two earlier posts (you can find them here and here), which I prefer to refer to as “picture reports”, which gave you visual expression of the food and some of the wines in Canada. However, we had an opportunity to spend some time in one of the Canadian wine countries, surrounding small town of Niagara-on-the-Lake – and it was an eye opening experience for me.

Until this trip, my idea of Canadian wines was very simple – Icewine. I knew for a while that Canada makes some really famous Icewines, which compete with German and Austrian Icewines. Outside of Icewine, my only reference were wines of Finger Lakes region in upstate New York (general direction of Canada). While I wouldn’t claim that I visited mass amount of wineries in Finger Lakes, in a few places we visited the only drinkable wines were Rieslings, and all the red wines were plain bad. Therefore, these were my expectations for the Canadian wines.

I decided to start from the winery with the name at least I heard of – Inniskillin, and of course the only wine I knew “of fame” there was an Icewine. As a side note I want to mention that the winery had a playroom for kids – which is very important factor in letting adults to enjoy a wine tasting, even during family vacation. The first wine we tried was 2010 Two Vineyard Riesling – very clean, good tropical fruit expression, all paired with beautiful acidity, nice finish. This was a great start of the tasting. The next wine completely blew me away – 2009 Legacy Series Pinot Gris. First, I didn’t expect Pinot Gris to be produced in Canada. But is not the main factor. Very complex, with explicit minerality and spicy bouquet on the palate, this wine still puts a smile on my face when I think about it.

After having a great start with the whites, my level of expectations increased for the reds – and rightfully so. 2009 Montague Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir was very nice, varietally correct with precise expression of smokiness and red fruit. Again, I would never expect to find a Pinot Noir of such clarity at a winery located so high up North – but I did. 2009 Shiraz Cabernet had perfect acidity, good minerality, just a right balance of dark fruit. 2009 Cabernet Franc was simply my favorite red wine – perfect, very balanced, with clearly expressed green peppers and explicit minerality (you might think that I’m abusing the term – but minerality was one of the key characteristics of all the Inniskillin wines we tasted, so I can’t help myself but to call it out).

As you might expect, sweet wines were next. We are not talking about some arbitrary late harvest wines – we are talking about Icewines, which have the highest sugar concentration out of all sweet wines, as the grapes are ripening on the vines until the frost reaches –8°C (about 17F) – then the grapes are harvested while being frozen and pressed right away – which yields tiny amount of super-concentrated grape juice – this is why the wines are called Icewine (also such a low yield explains high price of the Icewines). First we tried 2010 Sparkling Vidal Icewine, which was very light and delicate. 2007 Cabernet Franc Icewine was a real star though. I have to mention that Inniskillin was the first winery to produce Icewine from the red grape. Also, Inniskillin worked together with Riedel, leading wine glass maker in the world, to produce a specially shaped Icewine glass which enhances aromatics of the Icewine.

Going back to Cabernet France Icewine, it was incredible, one of the best ever dessert wines I ever tried. Why am I saying that? Balance. Ultimate Balance was first and foremost characteristic of this wine. Beautiful balance, perfect lingering acidity and literally unnoticeable sweetness – great wine. All in all, it was an outstanding line up of wines at Inniskillin, I can’t recommend high enough each and every wine I tried.

Next stop we made at the Cattail Creek Family Estate winery. One of the reasons to pick that particular winery was the fact that they have a few wines with the grapes I didn’t have before, like Chardonnay Musque, or different Riesling clones. I’m glad we stopped by, as we found more great tasting wines, plus most of the wines are made in a very small quantities, so many are available only at the winery itself. First, we tried 2008 Catastrophe White, which was perfectly refreshing, with good acidity and good amount of the white fruit. Then we tried 2009 Catastrophe Red, which had very good balance, nice red and black fruit expression, soft and pleasant. It is interesting to note that Catastrophe wine series labels depict real cats who lived at the winery. Last but not least was 2009 Chardonnay Musque – very nice, with good acidity, good reflection of what Chardonnay is, good subtle tropical fruit expression, more as a hint. This was yet another great experience.

Our last stop was Chateau des Charmes. This winery had the most impressive building of all:

The wines here were also very impressive. We started with 2007 ‘Old Vines’ Riesling (I wanted to experience “old vines” Riesling) – and to my complete surprise, this Riesling had a Petrol nose! I was always under impression that Petrol nose is a property of only German Rieslings – and here we go, Riesling from Canada with full classic German Riesling expression. In addition to Petrol nose, it also had very good fruit, medium body and perfect balancing acidity. Next were more of the very impressive Pinot Noirs. 2007 Pinot Noir had a beautiful nose, and lots of tannins on the palate – it was unusually muscular for the Pinot Noir, probably in need of a few years to open up, but still, it was very good. 2007 ‘Old Vines’ Pinot Noir  was also very big and powerful, with very clean smoky nose, but also needing time as the previous wine.

Last but not least was 2008 Gamay Noir ‘Droit’, which happened to be a clone of Gamay and therefore it accounted for an additional grape for my “counting grapes” project. This wine had very unusual herbaceous nose, and was nice and light on the palate – definitely a food friendly wine.

That concludes the Canadian wine story, as we didn’t have time to visit more places. But even based on this experience, if before I knew of only Icewines from Canada, now all the Canadian wines are squarely on the “to find and drink” list for me – and I highly recommend that you will make an effort to find them and try them as well. The challenge is – I didn’t see that many Canadian wines on the shelves of the wine stores here in Connecticut. Oh well, hopefully we can change that. Cheers!

Wine, Aged Beautifully

July 12, 2011 4 comments

Let’s talk about aging. No, that’s not what you think – not people aging and not the world problems with the aging populations. Let’s talk about aging of the wine. By the way, it appears that second time in the row I’m taking upon popular subject – in previous post we were comparing the wine glasses (post can be found here), and now the wine aging.

With all due respect (based on this phrase, my friend Kfir would tell you right away that I’m about to blast something), I completely disagree with majority of the popular opinion on the subject of wine aging. Open a wine book, read a wine blog, or ask a question on Quora, and for the most part you will get an answer that 95% of the wines are not supposed to be aged and should be consumed within a year or two from the release date.

Based on my personal experience, I disagree with this viewpoint. I can’t put a percentage or a quantity on it, but I believe that well in excess of half of the wines produced in the world (not by the volume, but by the variety of the actual wines) can age very well for 5 to 10 years – and “age well”  means “to improve with age”. My biggest problem with aging of the wines is … space. If you want to drink aged wine, you either need a lot of space, or you need [typically] lots of money, as most of the aged wines increase in price. If you have cool and dark area with constant humidity, you can buy wines as they are released.  store them and enjoy them later as they evolve and mature. Otherwise, you need to have money and reputable source of the aged wines (improper storage conditions will ruin any wine in no time). Once you solved your space problem, the rest is easy.

How easy is that? How can we know if that bottle of wine will age well – read: improve with age? There are way too many factors affecting aging of the wine, and being able to predict age-worthiness of the wine (age-worthiness means that wine will evolve and taste better in the future) is more art than science. As an example, Matt Kramer, one of my favorite wine writers identifies age worthy wines using characteristic of the mouth-feel, a mid-palate weight of wine in the mouth. Here is my take on the subject. First, yes, of course, some of the wines are meant to be aged – for instance, Beaujolais Noveau is released in November and should be consumed by May of next year. Outside of the wines which are designated by winemakers as “do not age”, majority has some aging potential. I believe the biggest dependecy here is on the winemaker and what she or he want to acheieve with particular wine – if wine is well made,  there is a good chance that it will also age well.

Some wines are helped by their “DNA” – under which I mean from what grape and where in the world the wine is made (of course good/bad year matters too). California Cabernet Sauvignon expected to [typically] reach maturity at around 13 years. Bordeaux easily age for 30-50 years. Syrah-based wines, whether from Australia or France, can live for 50 years. Many 50-years old Riojas are fresh and vibrant as being just made. But “DNA” alone is not enough – wine should be well made in order to age well.

If you are still reading this post, I guess you might be tired by now by this prolonged escapade into the wine aging, and you might be wondering why, why is all that wine aging might be important? Well, I can’t answer this question. At least not before you will find the wine with a little age on it, which will blow you away. Yes, it is an acquired taste. But once you will actually acquire that “mature wine”taste, this is what you are going to crave, I guarantee you.

Let me share some recent and exciting discoveries. Let’s start with 1995 Flora Springs Chardonnay Napa Valley. This wine is made out of 100% Chardonnay. While nose was not very expressive, the level of complexity of this wine is unimaginable. Yes, considering dark golden color, this wine might well be past prime, and without that “acquired taste” for the aged white wine, you might be even upset after the first sip. This wine was exhibiting notes of vanilla which almost moved up to some sort of the almond paste, still showing some acidity. Next are savory notes, almost to the level of saltiness, which was increasing the complexity even further. The wine was in a very stable shape as it tasted the same on the second day as well. Will this wine evolve further? Who knows – but I would be very happy to taste this wine again in five or may be ten years. Drinkability: 8

Next wine is 1992 Domaine de Thalabert Crozes Hermitage from France. Crozes Hermitage wines are made primarily out of Syrah, typically with very small addition of Marsanne and Rousanne grapes. As we mentioned before, Syrah wines age quite well, and this was an excellent example of the well aged Syrah wine. This wine was very playful and soft, with lots of red fruit on the nose and on the palate, very good acidity and good level of tannins. This wine probably will continue evolving for the next five to ten years, and again I will be glad to help you share the bottle later on – if you will have one. Drinkability: 8-

 

Going back to California, 2001 Lolonis Petite Sirah Redwood Valley. In short – outstanding. This 10 years old wine was completely fresh and beautiful. It is made from organically grown Petite Sirah grape. The wine showed perfect dark fruit, good acidity, full body, excellent tannins and perfect overall balance. This wine might be evolving for the next 10-20 years – again, the trick will be to find it.

Drinkability: 8+.

 

Last, but not least, 1991 Justin Cabernet Franc, San Luis Obispo County. This was the “wow” wine, that exact mind-blowing one. First, while I like Cabernet Franc wines, I had no idea they can age so well. I can literally guarantee that in the blind tasting format, very very few people would be able to guess the age of this wine. Deep garnet color, not a hint of age (no brownish overtones at all). Perfect fresh fruit, soft and luscious, perfect balance of tannins and acidity. This wine was the oldest in the tasting, and it was definitely best of tasting. Considering how good is was now, I can’t even guess how much time it has left – but I would be very glad to find a few more bottles to be “wowed” again in the future. Drinkability: 9-

One note before we conclude – this was a rare case of someone doing all the hard work, and me enjoying the results – I got all wines from Benchmark Wine Company and each one of them had been less that $20.

Don’t know if got the desire to seek well aged wines – I hope you will one day. For now, I can only wish upon myself, my family, all my friends and all of you, my readers, to age as beautifully as this Justin Cabernet Franc does. Cheers!

 

Long Island Wineries Trip – Great Weather, Great Wines

October 11, 2010 3 comments

Talk about being lucky. Last year in October we had a great trip to Long Island wine country, enjoying great weather, 2 hours long lunch with good food, wine and company. We started planning second annual Long Island Wine Country getaway about 3 month ago – we set the weekend, but who can know about the weather? This is why I’m talking about being lucky. Beautiful weather – just look at the picture of the grapes (accidental leftover after the harvest), against beautiful blue sky… Immaculate.

And there we went. The plan was simple – visit 3 wineries, taste the wines and have  lunch with the wines we like. We started with the Lenz Winery, as it was far-most in our plan. Two things were interesting about Lenz Winery – they are well known for their Sparkling wines, and Lenz Merlot was compared with Petrus, one of the best regarded and equally expensive wines in the world (here is the link if you want to read more about Chateau Petrus, Bordeaux wine from Pomerol). The 2004 Sparkling Cuvee, made from 100% Pinot Noir, was nice, yeasty and balanced. Does it worth $30/bottle? Comparing to actual Champagne – may be, comparing with good California Sparkling wines like Chandon or Mumm, or Gruet from New Mexico – probably not. As for 2002 Old Vines Merlot, the one which should be compared with Petrus – I never had Petrus, so I’m not qualified to make any comparisons. I can only state that I didn’t like that Merlot at all.

The next stop was Jamesport winery. One of the driving forces behind our choice of wineries was a post in Wall Street Journal wine blog by Jay McInerney, where he was talking about tasting great Petit Verdot and other good wines at Jamesport and Paumanok wineries. Since we were planning to have lunch at Paumanok anyway, and Jamesport was around the corner, it was easy to decide that we want to taste the same wines.

I’m glad we stopped at the Jamesport. I chose Estate Series tasting flight out of many others available, and I can tell you that it was one of the very few experiences where I liked each and every wine in the flight. Reserve Chardonnay 2007, Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2007, Riesling 2009, Pinot Noir “Sarah’s Hill” 2007, Estate Merlot Block “E” 2005, Syrah MTK 2007 and Melange de Trois 2005 – all were  very good wines. One minor disappointment was the fact that Sauvignon Blanc 2009, highly regarded in the James McInerney’s article,  was sold out. As we were explained , 2009 was a difficult vintage, and only 350 cases of 2009 Jamesport Sauvignon Blanc were produced, so it is not surprising that it was sold out. But then I have to mention an absolute highlight of the trip. We decided to try Petit Verdot Reserve 2007 – at $100/bottle, the tasting of this wine costs $10 for 3 oz pour, but still, looking for the experience we decided to go ahead and try it. This was one of the best $10 spent on the wine ever – luscious, multi-layered fruit, amazing balance of tannins and acidity and great mid-palate density! Considering my rating system, this was definitely a 9 – and I wish I would have a budget to put a few bottles in my cellar – this wine will evolve amazingly over the next 10-15 years.

The next stop was Paumanok winery, where we finally had our lunch.

We didn’t do tasting flight there, as everybody were already quite hungry, instead we got a bottle of Rose, and bottle of Riesling, and Paumanok Cabernet Franc 2007. Unfortunately, we couldn’t escape our dose of disappointment here as well, as Paumanok Petit Verdot 2007 ($60), lauded the most in Jay McInerney’s article, was sold out! At least the Cabernet Franc 2007, also highly mentioned in the article, was available ( good value at $24.50). The Cab Franc was very nice, with refreshing tartness, layers of restrained fruits and medium body – it was simple and pleasant to drink.

The grapes are already harvested on Long Island, so the new vintage will be on the way.

The weather is still warm so you can enjoy yourself in the Long Island Wine Country. This year, or the next year, and many years after – the wines are only getting better. Get your friends together and go out and play…

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