Here I’m, continuing to report on my food and wine adventures in Portugal (here are the first and second posts from the series). Well, I guess “adventures” is really too much of a word for simply excellent food and wine experiences, but “adventures” put the things in the right prospective, isn’t it? Never mind, let’s just talk about food and wine.
On the first night we ended up at the small place called Restaurante Nova Europa. The place looked very authentic in the sense that they had a hard time to find an English menu, and our server spoke practically no English - that didn’t prevent us from having a very good dinner. Most of the people at the table ordered some version of the local fish called Bacalhau, which is a cod. It was offered in different variations – mine had a lot of potatoes:
And as I often ignore food and wine pairing rules, the wine was red:
As most of the wines from Douro, this 2010 Evel Tinto Douro, this wine is made from the “classic set” of Portuguese grapes – Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz a Tinta Barroca. The same grapes are also used as a foundation for most of the Port wines, which are made in exact same Douro region. Good body, good depth, not necessarily spectacular but easy to drink and pleasant.
Now I would like to mention two of the very local products. First one is beer. I’m not sure how many different beers are produced in Portugal (I’m positive though that US microbrewery revolution didn’t take any roots in Portugal so far). The beer is called Super Bock, it comes in lager, stout and few other versions, and it is produced in the area just outside of Porto – according to Wikipedia. I only tried the stout, which was dark, rich, smooth and creamy. I have to mention though that it is somewhat dangerous to rely on my opinion about beer – for the most of the time I prefer dark beer and on contrary to many of my friends, I don’t find Guinness bitter. And here is the picture for you – the picture was taken by my friend Kfir, not by me – but he was using my camera, so I guess I have some rights to it…
Next item to bring to your attention is a local sandwich (supposedly it is Porto’s specialty) called Francesinha. This sandwich is made out of two slices of crust-less bread with various meats (or even veggies) in between – we saw it on the menu in most of the restaurants in Porto, and it can come with steak, white meat, various ham cuts and so on. The sandwich is completely covered by melted cheese (top and all sides), and it is served with the secret sauce which is supposed to be some combination of tomato sauce and beer. I had a steak version and it was very tasty. Believe it or not, but I’m not always carrying my camera to the restaurant, so Francesinha is probably the only dish I regret not taking my picture of – but someone thankfully did on Wikipedia, so below is the picture for you, courtesy of Wikipedia:
And then there was Cufra. Pardon my little drama here, and let me explain. We saw the restaurant while walking by, checked it out on the web, and it looked appealing enough. Service staff spoke not too much of English, but the menu was possible to understand, so we all ended up with decent food – but the wine was more memorable. For the white we had 2011 Castello D’Alba from Douro, a blend of Codega do Larinho, Rabigato and Viosinho – very typical blend for Douro white wine, all indigenous grapes (Wine Centurions, take note!). The wine was very nice, with good acidity and somewhat similar to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, only with less of grapefruit.
Then we had a bootle of 2009 Quinta do Cardo Selecção do Enólogo Beiras DOC, a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca, produced by Quinta do Cardo. The wine was nothing short of being spectacular – with the exception of vintage port, during the whole week I only had one other red wine which was on the same level or may be even a touch higher – but I will talk about it in another post. Dense and concentrated, with dark fruit, plums and blueberries on the palate, all very round with the hint of smokiness. The wine was so good for the money (€14, in a restaurant!) that I even got two bottles right in the restaurant to take them back home.
When we went to the same restaurant second time, about a week later, the menu was quite different, and the wine were too. But – one of the reasons for the second visit was the desire to try the crab dish we saw someone ordering during the first time. Considering that Porto is located right on the cross of ocean and the Douro river, it is rather expected that fish and seafood should be very good – and this dish didn’t disappoint (hope you will find the below picture being enough of the proof):
I can’t say the same about wines – there was different 2009 Quinta do Cardo wine on the list (about €4 cheaper), and while it was not bad, it was not anywhere as good as the first one. All in all, if you are in Porto and if you will be in the area, Cufra is well worth visiting.
Last place I want to mention (but not least by all means) is a restaurant called Rabelos. Just to give you some prospective, Rabelos are actually flat bottom boats which were used to transport barrels of Port from the wineries to the Port house cellars for aging. Nowadays the wine is transported by the tanker trucks, and Rabelos are only used to move tourists around.
Anyway, the restaurant is actually located in Vila Nova de Gaia, a town which houses all the port cellars across the river from Porto. It is located very close to the bridge which connects Porto and Gaia, right along the boardwalk in a place which in general should be considered a tourist trap. But it was no tourist trap at all. The service was outstanding, and we got great recommendations and had great experience overall.
One of the starters was local feta cheese, dusted with Parmesan and slightly roasted with olive oil (take a note – I think it should be as easy to make it at home as it is delicious, and as a very least I’m going to try it…).
Then we had beef carpaccio and shrimp salad – the pictures don’t do justice to those dishes, but both were delicious
Next we had two dishes made from Bacalhau in different styles – one was baked with cheese sauce and one was grilled – both were outstanding:
Again ignoring the pairing rules, we went with the red wine called 2010 Borges Quinta da Soalheira Douro Red, a blend of classic Douro red grapes, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca and Tinto Cão, made by Vinhos Borges. The wine had medium body, good acidity, nice red fruit on the palate, well balanced – perfect for every day drinking, considering you can find it.
For the desert, we had lemon cake (paired with white Port) and chocolate cake paired with simple tawny. Below are a few pictures – the first one is taken by me ( boring, sigh), and then two others taken by Kfir – I will need to learn how to really use my own camera…
And of course nobody can leave the restaurant without coffee, right?
That’s all, we are done for today folks. Sorry for all the pictures, hope you found them at least moderately entertaining. Until the next time – cheers!
About two weeks ago, on February 20th, WTSO (Wine Til Sold Out), one of my very favorite purveyors of great QPR wines, had another one of their Cheapskate events – all the wines are priced from $7.99 to $18.99, offered in the quantities of four, new wines are offered every 15 minutes or sooner, and all the notifications about new wines are only coming out on the Twitter. While I was on vacation and couldn’t take advantage of any offers, my faithful computer did its best to collect the information (which in the end of the day made me upset as I saw how many great deals I missed).
As I have done it before, I would like to share with you all the data, so you too can get upset – or not, as you can instead be happy about all the money you saved. Let me add few observations here. There were about 130 wines offered. Very few wines lasted 15 minutes, many wines disappeared in a matter of couple of minutes. I counted four very strange glitches, where the wine was seemingly offered at WTSO web site, but not showing up in the twitter stream – if you followed the event and saw that too, I would like to know what you think about it. This is definitely a first time for me observing such a discrepancy (not that this is all that essential though).
Before I will leave you with the data, here is the usual guide to rating abbreviations: WS – Wine Spectator, WA – Wine Advocate, ST – Steven Tanzer, WE – Wine Enthusiast, WRO - Wine Review Online, W&S – Wine and Spirits, JS – James Suckling, RP – Robert Parker, JHN – Jonathan H. Newman, D – Decanter Magazine, rating goes in stars ( 5 stars is max), JH – James Halliday, TRR – The Rhone Report, BH – Burghound.
Enjoy and cheers!
The title of this post is not misleading. I plan to talk about wine as an art form, which is the way I look at it. Why all of a sudden? Couple of articles, both great in its own right (I mentioned both in the Meritage post a week ago), prompted this blog post, despite my claim that I’m not going to enter this debate. I don’t know why is that, but I have a habit of saying “No” where deep inside, as soon as I finish my full and long “no” sentence I already know that, “oh it will be a yes”. Anyway, this blog post is not about me, it is about wine, so let’s get closer to the subject.
In case you didn’t have a chance to read those two articles, they were both on the beaten up (badly beaten up, I have to say) subject of cheap wines versus expensive wines. The first article, published in the Forbes magazine, provided a number of illustrations to the fact that…there are many factors affecting perceived taste of wine – temperature, label, feel of the moment, critics’ opinion, rating and many more (I’m not going to cite a full article here – it is well worth reading if you are into the wine world). I believe that one of the points of the article was to suggest that for the most of us, we can’t distinguish between cheap and expensive wines anyway, so why bother – drink any wine, be happy (I’m oversimplifying, I know).
Then Steve Heimoff took the subject close to his heart and went on to explain that there is a very big difference in taste between $15 and $150 bottles of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, that more expensive wine is always better than the cheap wine and that the the whole premise of Forbes article in Steve’s words is “man bites dog” attempt at a cheap publicity.
Let me take step aside and explain the meaning of the concept “wine = art”. When you are at home, take a look around you. I would make a safe assumption that for absolute majority of people, your home is decorated in one way or the other. You might have pictures and photos on the walls, statues big and small, flowers live and not, little (or big) mementos and many other things which surround our lives with only one purpose – to give us pleasure, set the mood or may be create lasting connections between time and memories. Taking pictures as the simplest example, they can be your kids’ pictures, copies of the works of the famous artists, works of the completely unknown artists or may be they are actual original paintings. Those pictures can be mass produced and acquired at the neighborhood convenience store for $4.99. But they also can be acquired after a long battle at the auction, where you had to put down $4.9 million to beat another guy and get that painting you always dreamed of.
Now, when was the last time you read an article telling you that you are not supposed to buy any works of art more expensive than $19.99, because you are not capable of understanding the difference between $19.99 and $199 pictures? Or when was the last time you read an article telling you that expensive painting is always better than cheap print? I can bet I’m giving you a very taxiing memory-combing exercise which will yield no results.
So my question is – why wine is treated in any different way than any other works of art? Read (or talk) about the wines, read about vineyards and places, read about wine makers, grape growers, oenophiles, wine collectors – what do you get out of that reading or talking? Passion, obsession, emotions, feelings. We eat because we have to, but we drink wine because we want to, because of its ability to resonate with our beings, to create emotional response. This is my premise of “wine = art” statement. I believe that wine is a form of the renewable art, which also has a pretty unique advantage compare to a simple painting, for instance. Whatever you see on the painting will be exactly the same in 10 years or in 50 years. It will create different emotions on a different day, of course – but it will not change in principal. At the same time, even the simplest wine will change in the bottle. For better or worse, but it will change. Last weekend we shared a bottle of 1997 Toasted Head Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend (probably $9.99 or less) – believe it or not, but this wine was outstanding – it evolved, it had beautiful fruit, great balance and nice finish. It was memorable, it solicited emotions, it created mental staples for that particular moment. If this is not art, I don’t know what is.
Where am I going with this? I don’t believe cheap versus expensive is a meaningful or useful argument for the wine world. Yes, there are many reasons for the wine to be expensive – best quality grapes with very low yield, state of the art facilities, manual processes, need for aging before release, market demand, reputation and many many other factors define the price and can drive it very high up. But if you will exclude snobbery, arrogance and blissful ignorance, price is simply one of many factors which affect your buying decision – nothing more and nothing less. Yes, $150 bottle will taste different than $15 – but can we say “better”? If someone is a Pinot Grigio drinker (and enjoys it very much), will you be able to prove to him or her that $150 Cabernet Sauvignon is really better that $15? I want to see that happening. When it comes to wine, “better” is a difficult category, as the definition of the best wine is 100% personal – the best wine is the one which tastes best to you. Yes, critics matter, ratings matter – but only as a reference, as food for thought.
Wow, did I bore you to death? I truly hope I didn’t – I think this post was brewing for a very long time, slowly ripening to the point of wanting to get out. These are my true feelings, this is how I see the wine world, and “wine = art” makes it so fascinating for me.
Is this arguable? Of course (comments section is down below and only a click away). I don’t pretend to possess the absolute truth – but “wine = art” makes me open a bottle of wine with hope and excitement. No matter what anyone said about that bottle, how much it costs or what the rating is – I hope you will enjoy it and I hope it will create a special memory, a special moment – just for you. Cheers!
Aren’t you tired of reading wine reviews about “hint of apple”, “cinnamon and clove”, “coriander and last year’s rain”? Especially when you can’t find that specific flavor profile in your glass no matter what? Today I managed to come across two wine reviews which were much easier to assess and appreciate.
First, here is review of the Corison Cabernet Sauvignon (not so widely known but excellent Cabernet from Napa Valley) by Joe Roberts, a.k.a. 1WineDude (@1WineDude on twitter): “07 Corison Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Sort of like owning a trained black panther; dark, piercing & gorgeous.“. How do you like that? Is this is the wine you want to try or what? I don’t know about you, but I will be glad to meet this black panther at any time.
And the next one was a review by Adler Yarrow, who has one of the best wine blogs called Vinography. Latest two posts in that blog are on the subject which is an ultimate treasure for any wine lover – wines of Domaine Romanee-Conti (DRC, as it is typically called). DRC wines are considered best of the best, in any vintage and any time. So I think all people who are serious about wine can be divided into two categories – those who tasted DRC wines, and those who are dreaming about it. I belong to the second group ( sigh). Adler Yarrow belongs to the first, and he recently tasted full line of DRC 2009 wines – you can find his detailed notes here. But one particular review attracted my attention. It was for 2009 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grand Cru Montrachet, the only white wine produced by DRC and considered the rarest of the rare. While the descriptions there allude to the usual taste elements such as nuts and apples, one sentence I think puts that review in a totally different prospective: “In the mouth the wine has an incredible texture that I’m prompted to describe as liquid sex, and gorgeously balanced flavors that…“. Once you read this description, do you really care about the rest of the grapefruits and nuts, or do you really get one pounding question in your head: “where can I try this wine”?
I’m really glad to find those reviews – now I got a frame of reference for my own reviews to aspire to. What is your favorite wine review, the one which forced you to resolve “nothing can stop me, I will find and drink this wine”? Anyway, while you are thinking, let me go back to my dreams. Cheers!
Today I came across a blog post which stroke a chord – whether or not you are in love with whisky, this will universally apply to all of us who takes keen interest in Wine, Whisky, Beer, Rum or anything else you strive to know more about, because knowledge enhances the pleasure… Here it is:
Once again, Wine Till Sold Out (a.k.a WTSO), one of my favorite online wine stores, had its “Super Wednesday” – an event which takes place about 4 times a year where the wines are sold online in rapid succession. Compared to some of the past “Super Wednesday” events (here is the post about the one from about a year ago) WTSO changed the model slightly. Previously, during Super Wednesday WTSO was offering wines at any price range, but as of lately, the wines are limited in price up to $18.99, and therefore all the wines have the same minimum quantity requirements of 4 bottles (minimum quantity is required to receive a free shipping, you can technically buy wine in any quantity). Considering that limited cost, these events are even called “Cheapskate Wednesday” now.
Quite honestly, I like the old model more – when it comes to the unknown wines, even at a lower cost, I usually buy one bottle just to try, and then more if I like the first one – as I don’t know majority of the wines offered in the events such as this one, paying $40 to $76 for 4 bottles of wine I might not like is not a great proposition – my preference is to look for the gems (and WTSO is The Place to find them), and to get one or two bottles of the wine which looks more interesting instead of four bottles of unknown wine.But if you know the wines, then of course there are lots of values to be had – but you have to act fast – and you have to use Twitter, as it is the only place where each new wine is advertized.
Anyway, I collected information about all the wines which were offered. I used different approach this year, so between improved Twitter and automated web site snapshots, I was able to collect a lot more information compare to the previous posts. Before I will present the full table to you, here are some of the comments and notes. The whole event took about 18 hours, from 6 AM Eastern until midnight on the same day, February 15th. About 100 wines had being offered, from $7.99 to $18.99. Some wines lasted only for a couple of minutes, and some lasted for 20 minutes or a bit longer ( very few). A lot of wines had being rated on the 100 points scale. Here is a quick guide to the rating abbreviations: WS – Wine Spectator, WA – Wine Advocate, ST – Steven Tanzer, WE – Wine Enthusiast, WRO - Wine Review Online, W&S – Wine and Spirits, MS – Mari Stull, JHN – Jonathan H. Newman, D – Decanter Magazine, rating goes in stars ( 5 stars is max). And here is the table:
|Time||Wine Name||Rating||Orig. Price||WTSO Price||% off|
|6:00a||Soda Rock Winery Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006||JHN91||$35.00||$14.99||57%|
|6:08a||Bodegas Y Vinedos Pujanza Pujanza Rioja DOC 2007||WA91||$34.99||$16.99||51%|
|6:30a||Encantado (You Know The Winery!) Carneros Chardonnay 2010||$32.00||$13.99||56%|
|6:36a||I Greppi Greppicante Bolgheri, DOC 2008||WS90||$29.99||$15||50%|
|6:48a||Bodegas Silvano Garcia Vina Honda Crianza Jumilla, Spain 2006||WA91, ST90||$21.99||$12.99||41%|
|6:59a||St. Francis Winery & Vineyards Sonoma County Syrah 2006||$20.00||$12.99||35%|
|7:17a||Villa Andretti Napa Valley Chardonnay 2009||$28.00||$11.99||57%|
|7:24a||St. Francis Winery & Vineyards Claret Sonoma County Red Blend 2007||41%|
|7:28a||Toad Hall Cellars Carneros, Napa Valley Pinot Noir 2007||JHN91-92||$25.00||$14.99||40%|
|7:32a||Clos Du Bois North Coast Chardonnay 2010||50%|
|7:39a||Kenwood Vineyards Jack London Vineyard Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007||WRO89||$35.00||$18.99||46%|
|7:42a||Andre Farjon La Deveze Cotes du Rhone 2007 By Philippe Cabie||40%|
|7:47a||Thumbprint Cellars Three Some Winemaker’s Reserve Sonoma County 2008||$45.00||$17.99||60%|
|7:55a||Adobe Road Winery Alexander Valley Meritage 2005||62%|
|7:59a||Chateau Galand Bordeaux Superieur AOC 2005||$31.49||$12.99||59%|
|8:04a||David Bruce Winery Los Gatos Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay 2009||$24.99||$14.99||40%|
|8:19a||Turn 4 Bennett Lane Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008||$25.99||$15.99||38%|
|8:33a||Inman Faily Wines Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2006||ST90||$45.00||$17.99||60%|
|8:44a||Wine Guerrilla Coffaro Vineyards Block 1 Old Vine Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2009||$40.00||$17.99||55%|
|8:52a||Bouchaine Vineyards Napa Valley Carneros Estate Pinot Noir 2006||92||53%|
|8:59a||Shadowood Alexander Valley Merlot Reserve 2008||JHN92||$31.99||$13.99||56%|
|9:03a||Chateau de Lyde Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux 2009||$17.99||$9.99||44%|
|9:15a||Mario Perelli-Minetti Winery Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2007||93||64%|
|9:18a||Montes Limited Selection Leyda Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2010 #82 Top 100 2011 WE!|
|9:22a||Villa Petriolo Chianti DOCG 2008||$19.99||$9.99||50%|
|9:37a||Mathis Wines Sonoma Valley Grenache 2006||MS90||$39.99||$15.99||60%|
|9:53a||Starry Night Winery Lodi Zinfandel 2007||50%|
|9:59a||Bodegas Ondarre Reserva Rioja 2004 #58 Top 100 Wines 2010!||WS91, D****||$22.99||$11.49||50%|
|10:18a||Kingsford Manor Winery Napa Valley Rose Wine 2010||JHN88||$18.99||$8.99||53%|
|10:33a||Chateau Pavillon Bel-Air Lalande de Pomerol 2006||91||55%|
|10:38a||Sergio Mionetto Valdobbiadene Extra Dry Sergio Rose N/V||$14.99||$12.09||19%|
|10:55a||Oriel Wines Sygnet McLaren Vale Shiraz 2004 93WE!||93||73%|
|10:58a||Chateau De Ribebon Bordeaux Superieur 2009 By Aelie Aubert||WS89||$18.99||$10.99||42%|
|11:15a||Spicerack Vineyards Punchdown Sonoma Coast Syrah 2008||ST88+||$29.99||$13.99||53%|
|11:30a||Soda Rock Winery Alexander Valley Chardonnay 2009||$28.00||$14.99||46%|
|11:45a||Bodegas Rejadorada Rosum Joven 2009||$12.99||$7.99||38%|
|12:00p||Pessagno Winery Idyll Times Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007||WE90, CG90||$40.00||$17.99||55%|
|12:05p||Brancott Estate Classic Range Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010||WRO91||$13.99||$8.49||39%|
|12:15p||Veraonte Winery Ritual Casablanca Valley, Chile Pinot Noir 2007||40%|
|12:22p||Grupo Bodegas Olarra Ondarre Cava Brut Millenium N/V||$21.99||$10.99||50%|
|12:43p||Rouvre Saint Leger Laudun Cotes du Rhone Villages Blanc 2009 by Philippe Cabie||$30.00||$17.99||40%|
|12:57p||Kunde Faily Estate Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007||WS87||$20.99||$9.99||52%|
|1:15p||Azienda Agricola Piancornello Rosso di Montalcino DOCG 2009||90||45%|
|1:21p||Terre Domini Solare Prosecco N/V||$12.99||$8.99||31%|
|1:38p||Infinity Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009||$24.99||$12.99||48%|
|1:53p||Thumbprint Cellars Winemakers Reserve Four Play Alexander Valley Red 2009||JHN91-92||$45.00||$17.99||60%|
|2:09p||Juslyn Vineyards Spring Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2008||WA87||$34.99||$14.99||57%|
|2:17p||Bodegas Poesia Clos Des Andes Malbec Reserva 2006 92 WA! 90-92 ST!||WA92, ST90-92||$36.99||$16.99||54%|
|2:33p||Nord Vineyards Estate Wines Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004||90||68%|
|2:37p||Boisset Faily Estates Lyeth Sonoma County Meritage 2008||$19.99||$10.99||45%|
|2:52p||Petizos Mendoza Malbec 2007||$14.99||$9.99||33%|
|3:00p||Bodegas Beronia Rioja Rosado Tempranillo 2010||$21.99||$10.99||50%|
|3:15p||Mockingbird Hill Winery Sonoma County Chardonnay Reserve 2010 By Zach Long||JHN91+||$27.00||$12.99||52%|
|3:27p||Chateau Le Gardera Bordeaux Superieur Grand Vin De Bordeaux 2008||WS89||$15.99||$8.99||44%|
|3:36p||Sola Winery Napa Valley Zinfandel 2006||58%|
|3:41p||Clos des Miran Cuvee Speciale Cotes Du Rhone 2009||$15.99||$9.99||44%|
|3:51p||The Barrister Sonoma County Red Wine 2010||JHN92||$35.00||$14.99||57%|
|4:04p||Bodegas Resalte de Penafiel Pena Roble Ribera del Duero Joven 2007||90||56%|
|4:13p||Maxwell Creek Winery Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009||$22.99||$11.49||50%|
|4:18p||Chateau Tanesse Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux 2009||$20.99||$10.99||48%|
|4:33p||Doolittle Farms Moniz Vineyards St Helena, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008||JHN92||$40.00||$17.99||55%|
|4:38p||Noyes Wines Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2007||JHN91-92||$34.99||$18.99||46%|
|4:54p||Bodegas Poesia Pasodoble Mendoza Proprietary Blend 2007||WA89||$15.99||$9.99||38%|
|5:09p||Lincourt Vineyards Santa Rita Hills Unoaked Chardonnay 2010||JS90||$19.99||$12.09||40%|
|5:23p||Yokayo Wines Buteo Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007||50%|
|5:31p||Pope Valley Winery Eakle Ranch, Napa Valley Red 2007||JHN91||$30.00||$13.49||55%|
|5:38p||Cline Cellars Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2007|
|5:42p||Villa Rocca IGT Pinot Grigio 2011||$15.00||$9.99||33%|
|5:56p||Orentano Wines Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2005||$36.00||$17.99||50%|
|6:14p||Fitch Mountain Cellars Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 by Mike Duffy||pp|
|6:18p||Cantina Pieve Vecchia Chorum Montecucco Sangiovese DOC 2007||WE88||$18.99||$9.99||47%|
|6:36p||Madonna Estate Carneros, Napa Valley Pinot Noir Reserve 2008||JHN92||$40.00||$17.99||55%|
|6:52p||Conti Serristori Chianti Classico DOCG 2007||$19.99||$10.99||45%|
|7:08p||Vina Almirante Albarino Vanidade Rias Baixas 2010||WA90||$23.99||$12.99||46%|
|7:19p||Mumm Napa Carneros Pinot Noir 2007||$32.99||$16.49||50%|
|7:26p||Bell Canyon Cellars Napa Valley Estate Vineyards Red Blend 2009||JHN91-92||$27.99||$12.99||54%|
|7:33p||Bodega LuzDivina Aigo Vinademoya Mencia 2006||WA90||$21.99||$9.99||55%|
|7:54p||Mazzocco Winery Mendocino County Hopland, California Sauvignon Blanc 2009||JHN88-89||$16.99||$9.99||41%|
|8:04p||Massimo Rivetti Serraboella Barbera d’Alba Red Wine 2005||91||65%|
|8:09p||Thumbprint Cellars Winemakers Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009|
|8:11p||Ottimino Ottimino Vineyard Russian River Valley Zinfandel 2006||WE89||$32.99||$13.99||58%|
|8:27p||Abadia da Cova Ribeira Sacra Barrica Mencia 2008 93 W&S!||W&S93||$28.99||$13.99||52%|
|8:43p||Stonehedge Winery Terroir Select Pallini Ranch, Mendocino Zinfandel 2006||JHN90||$30.00||$13.99||53%|
|8:56p||Vinedos de Villaester Taurus Toro Tempranillo 2005||WA88, ST88||$14.99||$8.99||40%|
|9:15p||Maison Alain Paret Valvigneyre Cotes-Du-Rhone Viognier 2009||WS88||$22.00||$10.99||50%|
|9:27p||Abelis Carthago Lui Selection Castilla Leon Red 2005||WA90||$28.00||$14.49||50%|
|9:50p||Jermann Venezia Giulia IGT Sauvignon Blanc 2008||WA88||$35.00||$15.99||54%|
|10:06p||Oriel Wines Midnight Rabler Rutherford, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006||WS88, WE87||$35.00||$16.99||51%|
|10:16p||Carles Andreu Cava Brut Nature Reserve N/V||WA87||$33.00||$13.29||60%|
|10:31p||Benessere Vineyards Napa Valley Rosato 2009||JHN88||$18.99||$8.99||53%|
|10:47p||Trinity Hill Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2007||89||58%|
|10:53p||Passalacqua Heritage EstateGia Domella Cabernet2006 by Nick Goldschmidt||WE90||$39.99||$14.99||63%|
|10:57p||St. Francis Winery Behler Vineyard Sonoma County Estate Merlot Blend 2005||JHN92+||$45.00||$18.99||58%|
|11:04p||Bodega Catena Zapata Catena Malbec Mendoza 2009 #58 Top 100 Wines 2011 WS!|
|11:10p||Croix de Basson Cotes de Provence Organic Red Wine 2007||$16.99||$9.99||41%|
|11:26p||Bodegas Vistalba Tomero Malbec Mendoza 2010||$19.99||$9.99||50%|
|11:33p||Valley Gate Vineyards Versada Vineyard, Napa Valley Chardonnay 2009||JHN93-94||$39.99||$15.99||60%|
|11:49p||Sonoma Acres Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2009||JHN92+||$29.99||$13.99||53%|
|11:55p||Fattoria Vignavecchia Chianti Classico Riserva 2007||91||53%|
Happy analysis! Enjoy! And don’t forget to grab a glass of your favorite wine while you will be at it. Cheers!
- Patience: I think this is single most important quality of the oenophile – one have to be able to wait. Mostly we are buying young wines, when they are released. If you want to truly enjoy the wine, you want to drink it when it is at its peak – which in turn means that you have to put that wine aside and wait for it to reach its best form. For example, it is considered that California Cabernets need about 13 years to reach their peak of maturity – can I rest my case? Patience has another virtue. Before you can start waiting for the wine to reach its peak, you have to get that wine. Have you heard of the mailing lists? This is how you get many great wines – Cayuse, Alban, Harlan, Bryant Family and many hundreds of others – are available only through the mailing lists. What’s a big deal about the mailing list (sounds so routine, right?) -not much, just keep in mind, that there is a list to get onto the mailing list…
- Passion: Have you ever talked to oenophile about the wine? The eyes would lit up, and information will be flowing – grapes, growing season, winemaker, the rain and the heat, the taste, the emotion, the experience. Wine is a form of art – and the same way as poetry, music, paintings, photography, architecture – it solicits emotion and passion.
- Quick decision-making: when opportunity presents itself, oenophile have to be able to decide on the fly. Is this the wine I want? Is that a good year? Is that a good price? Sometimes, all this information should be processed within split seconds – if you ever tried to get a great true bargain at WTSO.com, you would understand. Spend a bit longer figuring out if that was a good vintage – and it is not relevant anymore, as the wine is gone.
- Good memory: In the simplest form, it supports previous quality – quick decision making. You need to remember good years and bad years (for instance, Bordeaux 2000 and 2005 were amazing, and 2002 is better be avoided), you have to remember the exact name of the wine (Peter Michael makes four Chardonnay wines designated as “Estate Vineyard, Knights Valley, Sonoma County” and distinguished only by name like “Belle Côte” or “Ma Belle-Fille” – you better remember which one did you liked more yesterday at the party). But good memory goes further than remembering only simple words or numbers – how about remembering the taste of your favorite wines? I believe oenophiles will be able to describe the taste of the wine they had 10 or 20 years ago – if it was memorable enough.
- Desire to share: We want to share our joy, we want to share our experiences, we want to share our best wines – with the people who will appreciate it. I don’t mean to sound snobby – but oenophiles often start from trying to convince the whole world that this particular wine is a pure joy – and the beer drinking part of the world might not see it like that (love the beer myself – there is nothing here against beer drinkers, they just prefer different beverage). Then oenophiles start to understand that they better share their experiences with like-minded people. But – once you strike the cord, everything is open and available. Soliciting “wow” from someone who just had a sip of what you deem one of the best wines on Earth (or at least in your cellar) – priceless.
How far off do you think I am? If you acclaim yourself as a wine lover (aficionado, connoisseur) – do you associate with any of these traits?
Please comment, and – Cheers!
If you are drinking wine only in the restaurant (and only because you have to) or twice a year at the parties, you can safely skip this post. For those of you enjoying the wines on more occasions (and without any occasion too) – please read on and tell me what do you think is real and what is the result of my inflamed imagination.
Would you think that there should be any fears associate with wine? That the fear is lurking around those shiny bottles? Actually, if you think about it, I believe there are quite a few. Let’s take a closer look.
1. “Spoiled wine” – I think this is the mildest of all – except when this is the last bottle of your favorite wine or a special bottle you proudly brought to someone’s house. Many different things can constitute spoiled wine – wine can be corked (musty, wet basement smell and painfully sharp taste with the similar musty flavor profile), or oxidized, or vinegary in taste. In general, it is considered that about 8% of all wine is corked – this is a very sad number if that hits you. Discovering that the wine is spoiled is an unpleasant surprise – but in many cases the problem can be easily addressed (get another bottle from the cellar or you tell your wine steward in the restaurant that the wine is spoiled, and you would typically get a new bottle of wine).
2. “is this wine ready to drink, or should it wait for a little longer?” Many wines improve with age. If you ever read wine reviews by Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate and the likes, you probably noticed phrases like “Drink Now”, “Best before 2015″ or “Best 2015 to 2024″ – these are wine critics’ recommendations for the particular wines to be at their pick, to be the most enjoyable. But most of the wines we buy (definitely the most of the wines I buy) don’t have any critics recommendations associated with them. So when is the right moment to get the most pleasure from the bottle? There are some general rules, like “California Cabernet reach their pick at about 13 years of age”, but in the end of the day you would need to have a good understanding of the wine regions and particular producers to reduce this fear factor.
3. “is this occasion special enough for this bottle?” Pairing the wine with the occasion can be very tricky and fearful. You are reaching out for that special bottle of Latour, but what if one of your guests will decide to add a little coke to her glass as the wine is too dry for her? Will this group of beer drinkers appreciate the 1964 Rioja Alta which you were planning to open just for this great occasion? Whether you like it or not but you have to address this fear by knowing the preference of your guests and then resolving that you will be happy with your wine selection no matter what.
4. “is this bottle special enough for this occasion?” This is almost the same as the previous one, but with a slightly different angle. Vey often, we are waiting for a “special occasion” to open that special bottle. Every time we don’t know if the occasion is special enough. We keep waiting, and waiting, and waiting, fearing that the right occasion still didn’t come. We definitely don’t want to end up like the main character of the movie “Sideways”, who had his 1961 Cheval Blanc with the hamburger at a fast food place, drinking the magnificent wine from the Styrofoam cup. If anyone remembers “Tastings” column in the Wall Street Journal written by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher (the column which I dearly miss), they created an event called OTBN (Open That Bottle Night), where they were encouraging all the wine lovers to reach out for that special bottle and open it on a designated date. I think this is the best solution to address the “special bottle” fear – we need to create special moments for our special bottles, and then everything will magically fall in place.
5. “will I enjoy this bottle as much as I did last time?” I think this is my personal biggest fear associated with wine. Sometimes, I get carried away by the glass of wine – it creates amazing memory of the fiery of taste, it comes through as truly exceptional experience. Once this happens, the next time I’m reaching for the same bottle of wine, the first question in my mind is: “what if it doesn’t taste that great”? What if something was wrong with me last time – special occasion, special surrounding, special atmosphere? What if this wine will not be as magical as last time – did something happened to the bottle or something happened to me, and if it is something which happened to me, then when? The previous time or now? There are all sorts of emotions involved here, and sometimes this specific fear is keeping me away from that special bottle of wine. The best antidote of course is trying the wine, and discovering it to be as good as the last time – that is the special moment of joy, I guess, for any oenophile (works for me for sure).
So, is there anything here you can attest to, or is it all caused by too much free time on my hands? Let me know you thoughts.
And as this is the time of the Holidays, Happy Holidays and Cheers!
There had being a number of studies made about the ways people buy wine. One of the known facts is that women often buy the wine based on the appearance of the label. I witnessed dialog of mom and a little son in the wine store – she tells the kid “Mommy will buy this wine, because the label looks pretty” (by the way, if you are curious, the wine was Avalon – I wouldn’t ever look at that label).
I don’t know how the man collectively make wine buying decision, but for me personally one of the important factors is the name of the wine or the winery. Of course some of it is due to the fact that once you know ( tried or read enough about) particular wine, the name produces instant reflection – I wonder how many wine lovers’ hands will not sweat while admiring Alban, Harlan, Bryant Family or Petrus. But then even for the wines I never heard of, some of the names trigger instant reaction – hmmm, that sounds intriguing, I wonder how this will taste like.
When I got a note from the Benchmark Wine Company talking about wines coming from the Field Recordings, that caught my attention. Field Recordings? Hmmm, sounds interesting. The price is reasonable (under $20), so why don’t I try one? Done. The bottle arrived (I have to mention that in this particular case I like not only the name of the wine, but the label as well, and I would definitely look at such a bottle in the store if I would see one), and then the day came to open it.
Wine is a form of art. When you smell it, when you taste it, it solicits an emotional response. Same as a music, same as a poetry, same as a painting, same as a movie, same as practically any other thing in life, when done well, it will move you. This 2010 Fiction Red Wine Paso Robles by Field Recordings was definitely one of the best wines I ever tried. I don’t remember ever smelling the red wine like that. Meadows. Beautiful full blown meadows, in a middle of flowering, compacting heavy and heady aromas of a warm summer day – all in one whiff, one breath of air. After the first smell, you don’t want to drink the wine. Not yet. You need to smell it again. And again. And again. And you don’t want to let go of that feeling of freshness and warms.
The same freshness continued on the palate – lots of fresh red fruit. Ripe red fruit, yes – plump and juicy, but not overripe, just perfect fruit with enough acidity and body to make you think of a perfection. Perfect balance. I can’t say anything more. You if are reading this blog for a while, you know that the balance is something I value the most in wine – and this bottle of Fiction got it just right.
This was an amazing experience, and I would gladly repeat it – the only problem is that Benchmark is all out of it, and wine-searcher can’t even find it in the country. Oh well – if you will be lucky enough to come across this wine, remember – there is a beautiful music recorded in that bottle. Find it and experience it for yourself. Cheers!
Yesterday, I was doing my usual search for the bottle to open – happens every time if I don’t have a plan upfront. May be this one? No, probably too young. That one? That’s a last one, may be not now. Ahh, this one? No, not now – need a special moment. Then I finally reached out and grab a bottle of 2005 Castelmaure Grande Cuvee Corbieres Rouge – one of the two bottles I had. I was thinking about opening it many times before, but somehow the decision was always to wait until some other time.
This wine is a blend of mostly Syrah and Grenache (45% each) with addition of Carignan. Opened the bottle, and the wine is beautiful from the get go – deep, concentrated, showing good dark fruit, some cedar box, nice peppery mid-palate, great acidity and very balanced overall (Drinkability: 8). Next thing I’m going on Twitter to post the message about this wine and there I catch a glimpse of something while scrolling through the updates – Languedoc? #LanguedocDay?
It turns out that on November 10th, the world of social medial celebrated a Languedoc Day – Languedoc is a wine region in the South of France. The wine I opened, Castelmaure, comes from Corbieres, which is one of the appellations within Languedoc! Great thing about Languedoc wines is that the appellation rules allow making of the wide variety of wines from wide variety of grapes, and due to the fact that the region is not as famous as Bordeaux or Burgundy, lots of great wines are available at a great QPR. I even wrote a post about Languedoc wines at The Art Of Life Magazine in the “Best Hidden Secrets of the Wine World series”.
Now, let’s go back to the subject of the post. At any given moment, I have about three hundred bottles of wine in the house, very few of those are from Languedoc (may be 2-3 bottles at the most). I had no idea about #LanguedocDay before I selected the bottle. What is the probability of opening a bottle of wine from Languedoc specifically on that particular day, considering that we drink wine literally every day? I believe it is very (did I say “very”?) small. I don’t know how this worked, but somehow it did, so we happened to enjoy right bottle of wine on the right day.
If you got any good “coincidences” stories, please share them! And no matter what was in your glass yesterday and what will be in it today, I hope you enjoy it. Cheers!
P.S. Don’t forget about PJ Wine Grand Tasting, which will take place next Friday, November 18th – if you want to taste Dom Perignon, Cristal, Krug, 2006 Cheval Blanc, 2000 Chateau d’Yquem, 1990 Mouton-Rothschild, 1985 Chateau Haut-Brion, 1952 CVNE Vina Real Gran Reserva and many other incredible wines, all in one night, click here to get your tickets and don’t forget to use your $10 discount code Talk-A-Vino.