Why coffee? First, this is the answer to the last “What is it” post – it is actually Kona coffee berries (picture taken at Greenwell Farms in Kona, Hawaii). The reason to chose that picture was simple – I was fascinated by a number of similarities in coffee production and wine making – in both cases I’m talking about very good coffee ( Kona is one of the best coffee types in the world) and very good wines. Coffee berries are picked by hand, and also they are picked selectively – only individual ripe berries are taken from the bunch, and the rest is left to ripen. Coffee beans have their skin removed (sounds familiar?), and then they are left to dry under the sun (same as the grapes used for production of Amarone, one of my favorite wines). Once the coffee beans are dried and cleaned, they are left to rest for at least a month or two, before they will be roasted – and this is the step which is enforced by the years of experience and tradition, and nobody asks for explanations – this have to be done just because it has to be done. Again, the same element of mystery and tradition as in production of a good wine. And last, but not least – complexities of the final beverage. Good coffee, similar to the good wine, has layered complexity and brings a lot of pleasure. Anyway, I will look for more obvious picture for the next “what is it ” game.
Now, let’s talk about updates. First, the Treble certificate from the Wine Century Club has finally arrived! Not that I want to brag, but let me share the picture with you:
‘nuf said – getting to the Quattro level will not be too easy, so don’t expect to see a picture of another certificate any time soon.
Lastly, I’m continuing writing posts for The Art of Life Magazine. Last two posts were in “Forgotten Vines” series, talking about Jerez (Sherry) and Madeira, both wines are hard to find, but worth seeking – you can find posts here and here.
That’s all for now, folks. Cheers!
Can you guess from the title alone what this post will be all about? If you are not new on this blog, I’m sure you got it figured out, and if you didn’t spend much time here before, you can check this post, it will give you a hint. Yes, you got it right – I got to 300 different grapes, and now can officially apply for the Treble level at the Wine Century club! For anyone interested in seeing the copy of that application, you can find it here: Application_WineCentury_Treble.
This “Treble Journey” was interesting. It required complete focus: entering the wine store, you are on the mission. You are not looking for a nice bottle of reasonably priced Cabernet Sauvignon – instead, you are looking for the wine from most obscure place (of course it is also located in the corner of the store you’ve never being to before), hoping it is made out of grape you didn’t try yet.
Reaching this 300 grapes level was big and often simply a communal effort. My friend Patrick was finding and bringing wines from Switzerland. My friend Zak, owner of Cost Less Wines and Liquors, was going after all of his suppliers asking for rare grape recommendations. I had to spend a lot of time trying to find unusual wines on the budget, sometimes bringing them from across the country or half way from across the world (for instance, Emerald Riesling, which grows only in Israel). A lot of time went also into “grape research”, making sure that grape is unique or at least an officially recognized clone, and not just a different name for the grape already accounted for.
Anyway, here I am. 301. The grapes which helped to cross into the treble world were Findling (swiss clone of Muller-Thurgau), Coda di Volpe (Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio), Pigato and Pugnitello:
Both Findling and Lacryma Christi were nice wine (which is not always the rule when you are going after rare grapes), but the great thing was that Treble Journey finished in style, thanks to Pigato and Pugnitello wines. This 2009 Punta Crena Pigato Vigneto Ca da Rena from Liguria in Italy was one of the very best white wines I ever had – full body, great balance of fruit and acidity, with fruit taking back seat and letting polished roundness to shine – outstanding (Drinkability: 9). And 2006 San Felice Pugnitello from Tuscany was also outstanding, earthy and pungent, very balanced with long finish (Drinkability: 9-).
Well, the Treble Journey is over. Am I done with this [tedious] process of grape discoveries? I don’t think so. The next level called Quattro, and it requires… yep, 400 grapes! Anyone cares to join? Let’s go!
When I restarted this crazy “grape quest” in May of 2010, I had no idea that I will be able to move from about 210 grapes to almost 300 in 7 month. But it’s actually happening – after this report, I will be 3 grapes away from 300. And those 3 additional wines (grapes) are simply waiting for its moment, quietly resting in the cellar. Looking back, yes, I had to use some clones, but in any case I was able to advance here without use of a secret weapon, the wine with 152 grape varieties in it!
Last big group of new grapes was largely based on varieties from Georgia. This latest group consists of 3 grapes from Italy, one from Hungary and one from Israel. Another interesting detail is that 4 out of 5 are part of the main application table – I really hope that main table will be complete one day!
Schiava – 2009 Elena Walch Schiava Alto Adige DOC, Italy – nice soft red wine, medium body, has a little gaminess.
Ruche – 2005 La Mondianese Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato DOC, Italy – Nice, gamey wine, very earthy and well balanced.
Erbaluce – 2008 La Torrazza Erbaluce di Caluso DOC, Italy – very acidic while cold, and showing some fruit when warms up, but not very distinguishable overall
Portugieser – 2008 Gere Villany Portugieser, Hungary – Again, gamey wine, very tight initially. Opened up after two days, became quite drinkable. Will beneft from a few years in the cellar.
Emerald Riesling – 2009 Teperberg Terra Emerald Riesling, Israel. It is not the fiurst time I write about Teperberg wines. This Emerald Riesling was a bit sharp on the edges and a bit dryer than you would expect from “semi-dry white wine”, but it was drinkable nevertheless.
The Treble Journey is nearing it’s finishing line. Will there be a Quattro Journey? Well, you will be the first to know…
Previously, we discussed how expectations affect the taste of wine (you can read about it here and here). Sometimes, it is probably better to have no expectations at all! You don’t get upset, and you don’t get too excited if you simply have no expectations at all and just take life events one by one as they come up – oops, let’s stop this philosophical spur, I might not dig out of that hole or get beaten up.
Let’s talk about wine, for which I had no expectations whatsoever. On the Treble Journey road, you come across many different wines. Some of them make you regret you ever touched the bottle, and some of them make you feel really happy you did. This wine, Le Cousin Rouge from Anjou region in France, made out of the grape called Grolleau, definitely belongs to the second category.
The reason? This wine is unique and different. Not because it is bio-dynamic wine – this is great, but not enough. It is simply different from majority of the wines I ever had, and has very unusual flavor profile. In one of the earlier posts, I called the wine I had a liquid steak ( and I said it was the most unusual). I didn’t know that the “unusual” wine will have competition – and it does, as I would like to call this Grolleau wine a liquid salami. Yes, you read it correctly. It has such a balance of acidity, earthiness and pungent feeling it leaves on the palate that I can only compare it with nice Italian salami. You don’t have to believe me – just find this bottle of wine, try it and let me know what do you think.
And of course the great thing is that I’m inching forward towards that 300 number, which gets closer and closer. I’m glad to make such discoveries along my Treble Journey – and I wish to your palate many happy experiences!
When I restarted my Wine Century Club crazy grape adventure in the May of this year, I had no idea how long will it take to get from about 200 grapes (was not so easy to get even there, trust me) to the 300 grapes, which are required to achieve Treble level.
I started documenting the journey from Doppel to the Treble level with one of the very first posts in this blog. On July 20th, I was talking about grape number 240. It is middle December now, and I’m crossing into the last ten. The last advance, from #283 to the #291 was mostly made due to the Georgian wines, where a lot of authentic grapes are used. So in no particular order, the latest group includes the following grapes:
Kisi – from very nice white wine Marani Kondoli Mtsvane Kisi 2008, Georgia
Mujuretuli – red grape used in the famous Georgian wine called Khvanchkara
Aladasturi – red grape used in another Georgian wine, Alaverdi Me and You 2002, Kakheti – nice and round wine
Tsolikauri – white grape used in Georgian wine called Tvishi (Teliani Valley Tvishi 2005) – the wine was surprisingly good, with a hint of sweetness, good fruit and acidity
Tsitska and Chinebuli – white grapes used in the Bagrationi sparking wine I wrote about in my previous post.
In addition to these Georgian grapes, two more wines added 3 grapes:
Picolit and Malvasia Istriana – used in white Italian wine Jermann Vintage Tunina 2006. This was one of the most unusual white wines I ever tried, full bodied, with the tart fruit expression and pronounced sense of place.
Roter Veltliner – white grape from Austria (wine was called Ecker Roter Veltliner 2008). I’m not sure I would be able to distinguish Roter Veltliner from Gruner Veltliner, but at the same time I never tried…
All together that brings us to the number 291. And to put the final target within the reach, more wines are waiting to be tried, which will add Coda di Volpe, Erbaluce, Portugieser, Ruche, Grolleau, Schiava and Pigato – you do the math.
So the fun journey continues, and I will make sure to report on it. As they say on the radio, stay tuned…
Clones are looked at somewhat skeptical when it comes to wines – simply because in some cases, the origin of the grape is not easy to establish, and then all sorts of claims can be associated with particular characteristics of the grape. Well, when you on the hunch to get to the Treble level, even the clones will help – especially if they are certified by UC Davis.
This Flora Springs Sauvignon Blanc is a blend of two clones of Sauvignon Blanc: Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Musqué clone. It is a beautiful wine, combining finesse, the grassiness of traditional Sancerre and fruit-forward style of California wines, perfectly balanced. This is one of the very few California Sauvignon Blanc wines which I actually enjoy, as in general my preferences are on Loire and New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc. I will put drinkability rating on this wine as 8+, and these are the two new grapes.
Then come two more wines, which are adding two more grapes, both grapes being in the main Wine Century Club application table from the beginning. One is Petite Arvine, a grape from Switzerland, which is hard to find in US. I got the wine directly from Switzerland with the help of my friend Patrick, and it was 2009 Valiciana Petite Arvine du Valais – simple and herbaceous, working well as aperitif.
And the last grape for this update was Garnacha Peluda, also known as Ladoner Pelut, or Grey Grenache. And even as Wikipedia simply lists all of the clones of Grenache as one and the same grape, as we are counting clones, this is perfectly suitable grape to be counted by itself. It was a part of the blend in wine called 2007 Sexto Terra Alta from Spain – an interesting wine with some dark fruit notes showing up after the wine breathes for a while – it would be an interesting wine to try in 3-4 years.
That’s all for now – and more to follow, as the wine adventures never stop…
Well, my “secret” post will not be happening – I was hoping to attend a big tasting event and try wines from Staglin, one of the “cult” producers from California, but that didn’t work out, hence it is only a quick update on a progress of a Treble Journey.
Two new grapes – one of them is called Caino Blanco, and it is an indigenous grape from Spain which is sometimes is blended with Spanish great white grape called Albariño. Albariño makes very nice white wines, with good acidity and fresh citrus notes on the palate, perfect for summer day and wide variety of food. This Do Zoe Albariño 2009 from Rias Baixas in Spain is a blend of 5 different grapes and it is no exception in the “nice wines” group.
Another wine is white wine coming from the CottonWood Creek Cellars in California. CottonWood Creek Cellars White Table Wine 2009 is 100% certified organic wine, made from the blend of 3 different organic grapes – Sultanina (59%), French Colombard (34%) and Muscat (7%). It was a very interesting wine, delivering different expressions at a different temperature, and it was even more interesting at a room temperature, delivering fresh grapes aromas with the good depth.
All in all, I’m advancing further towards the goal, and have a good chance to cross soon into “last 30″.
Until the next time – cheers!