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An Eventful Friday – Sparkling, Port, Radio Talk Show and more

December 7, 2014 10 comments

Writer's Block Cabernet FrancAs you probably noticed, the number of posts on Talk-a-Vino is down very significantly. There are many reasons for that – different workload from my day time job, few time consuming projects we tackle at home, and of course the plain familiar writer’s block. Yep, the writer’s block – when there is lots running in your head, and you have a great difficulty to put something out on  the “paper”. I tried to address the last one using the wine, I would hope specially made for such an occasion – the wine called Writer’s Block and made by Steele Wines in California. I first saw this wine mentioned in the blog I follow, called Mrsugarbears, and as you might see in my comment to that post, “Must. Find. This. Wine” was the first thing I said. I found the wine, and I got the Cabernet Franc and Grenache to try, out of the vast variety of the wines under that “Writer’s Block” label (you can see the full line of wines here).

We opened the 2011 Writer’s Block Cabernet Franc Lake County, California (13.8% ABV, $17) – it had eucalyptus, tobacco and fresh leaves on the nose. Palate was showing a medium body, tart blackberries, green bell peppers and more tobacco. On Friday, the characteristic cassis showed up, which made me happy while finishing the wine. Not sure it helped with my writer’s block, but I will gladly drink it again. Will try the Grenache next time. Drinkability: 7+

Let’s get back to that Friday. In the morning, the shipment of Horsepower Syrah arrived. I’m not sure how I managed to get on the list for this first release of super-highly allocated wine – but somehow I did, back in May. The wines comes from the legendary Christophe Baron (Cayuse, No Girls), from the tiny vineyards in Walla Walla Valley, all farmed sustainably and biodynamically (here you can read more about Horsepower Vineyards).

Okay, so it is all great, but not my main point here. I got a shipping notice from UPS at the beginning of the week, and then I got shipping delay notice from UPS, saying that the wine would be delivered only on Monday, which would be a problem as I’m traveling again next week, and there would be good chance that nobody would be able to sign for the wine during the day. This is why the delivery on Friday was so exciting that I even decided to share it in this post. This was also the first wine I received wine in the nice wooden box – so here are some pictures for you.

The next event on Friday was a really a double pleasure. At the beginning of the week, I connected to the @TheVineWineClub on Twitter, and then I got a note about possibly joining a radio talk show about the wine. Really? Yes, I can talk wine, I actually love to talk wine, so I said that I will be glad to do it – and it instantly happened, right on that Friday. At 3 PM, I was a guest at the regular radio talk show called “Off the Vine Radio Show with Benita and Terricinia“, hosted as you can tell from the name, by Benita and Terricinia. The theme was about the sparkling wines, so to support the conversation I decided to open a sample which I recently got – Ferrari Perlé from Trento in Italy. I almost feel guilty talking about Ferrari wine just matter-of-factly – the winery was founded by the Guido Ferrari in 1902; he was responsible for bringing Chardonnay grape into Italy, and he can be pretty much considered a father of Italian Méthode Champenoise wine industry. Full range of Ferrari sparkling wines is nothing short of spectacular and again, it really deserves it own coverage in a separate blog post.

This 2007 Ferrari Perlé Trento DOC, Italy (12.5% ABV, $35, 100% Chardonnay) was absolutely delicious – fine mousse, delicate aromas of apple and hint of toasted bread, perfect balance on the palate – apples, yeast, toasted bread, acidity – just very classic wine, making you say “ahh” after every sip. Drinkability: 8+

And the radio show – it was fun all the way! Benita and Terricinia were great hosts, very knowledgeable about the wine, so we definitely had a fun conversation (I really hope I didn’t overstepped my boundaries by talking to much)! I’m not going to recite our conversation here, but if you got a bit of time, here is the link for you for the broadcast. And if you will actually listen to the program – let me know (honestly!) what you think.

And the last highlight of the day – Port and Madeira tasting!

The tasting was focused on the Graham Port wines, one of the oldest Port houses in Portugal. There were 4 different ports presented in the tasting. The first one was really special, produced in the total quantity of 500 cases (less than 300 cases imported to US). This port was produced as part of the “Six Grapes” line, but for the first time in more than 100 years, it was done using the best grapes from 2011 and 2012 vintages, which were both simply outstanding vintages (some are saying that 2011 was one of the two or three very best over the last 100 years), and this is something never done before. You can read the full story here. Well, for what it worth, here are my notes:

Graham’s Six Grapes Old Vines Port ($34.99) – young and aggressive. Needs some time to mellow down – it has a sharpness of young fruit which still needs some polishing when it comes to the Port wine. After a bit of the breathing time, will perfectly finish a meal.

2011 Graham’s Vintage Port ($75.99) – again, this is the port from the amazing vintage, so it needs a lot of time to develop. Young bright fruit, blueberries and blackberries, firm and powerful body, excellent balance. Give it a 20 years, it will show what it is capable of.

Graham’s 10 Years Old Tawny ($27.99) – delicious. Dried fruit all over – figs, apricots, touch of hazelnut. And I love the bottle’s look and feel – this is a new packaging for this port which I think makes the wine shine even more.

Graham’s 20 Years Old Tawny ($45.99 – great price!) – make it double delicious. More dried fruit, nuttiness all the way, extremely complex. Thought provoking and might make you forget all the world troubles if you will be left alone with the bottle. My favorite from the tasting.

Last but not least – Blandy’s Malmsey 10 Years old Madeira ($23.99 – an amazing QPR) – a bit of sweet fruit on the palate, lots of complexity between nutty and salty profiles – delicious all the way.

Here we are, my friends – one eventful Friday. Writer’s blog, be bone – I can’t deal with you. Cheers and have a great week ahead!

Re-post: Forgotten Vines: Madeira

February 28, 2013 7 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 “Forgotten Vines” 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…

Madeira Sandeman RainwaterOur first post in the Forgotten Vines series was dedicated to Jerez, a not-so-easy-to-find-but-worth-looking-for fortified wine from Spain. Continuing the series, let’s move a little bit to Spain’s west side neighbor, Portugal.

Talking about Portugal’s place on the wine map, what wine comes to mind first? Yes, of course it is Port. And while Port is single most famous Portugal wine, it is not the Port we want to talk about here (don’t worry, Port is squarely positioned in the line of “must-have” experiences, and we will talk about it later). We need to move a bit more down the map in the south-west direction, about 1000 km  (600 mi) to the island of Madeira.

Madeira wine takes its name from the name of Madeira Island. History of Madeira, which started at around 15th century, is full of accidental discoveries, glory,  overcoming of the hardship, raise and fall, and even love – if you are interested in the full story, you should take a look at Madeira Wine web site. In the 15th / 16th centuries, Madeira wine was created and transported in the barrels through the ocean to the far places such as India and China. It was found ( by accident, of course), that long ocean voyage improves the taste of wine compare to the original one which went into the barrel. After many trial and error experiments, it became apparent that prolonged exposure to the warm weather is the culprit, and then the method of heating the wine up to the 60C (140F) was invented. The process of heating up the wine is called Estufagem, and it is done after the wine is fermented in the oak barrels, same as any other wine – again, you can find more details online – you can find less colorful but more technical details on Wikipedia (click here). Just to give you a few more details from Madeira’s history, trade embargoes led to further improving Madeira by adding brandy spirits in order to preserve the wine. Barrels of Madeira left for prolonged time under the rain lead to development of the new style of Madeira wine, called Rainwater.

In the 18th century, Madeira was one of the most popular wines in the world, especially in England and United States. Madeira was used to toast United States Declaration of Independence, and was highly regarded as a drink of distinction. Unfortunately, first mildew and then phylloxera epidemic delivered way too powerful one-two punch, which Madeira wine industry was unable to overcome. Madeira subsided to nearly a cooking wine level, and was staying like that for the long time. Luckily, overall uptake on the wine industry throughout the world helps to revive Madeira industry, and now it is becoming possible to find a great drinking Madeira even in US – and you will see why. And I have to note that one of the great qualities of Madeira is in the fact that unlike practically any other wine, once you open a bottle of Madeira, it will stay the same more or less indefinitely, due to both Estufagem method and fortification with the spirit.

As we say here, time to open a bottle. Madeira comes in many different versions, from completely dry to the sweet. The Rainwater Madeira is somewhat of a simpler style, but still very enjoyable.  This Sandeman Rainwater Madeira is deep and heavy on the nose, with hint of aged cheese and sweetness (overripe apple sweetness). On the palate, it shows the same concentration of the sweet notes, which is not really supported by acidity, so the wine comes somewhat unbalanced – however, as a desert wine to have with sharp cheese (like blue cheese, for instance), it will create a heavenly combination.

Charlston Sercial special reserve_MadeiraThe next wine, Charleston Special Reserve Sercial is few levels up the previous wine. It comes as incredibly complex on the nose – nutty, with hint of sweetness and herbs, lots of herbs. Beautifully balanced on the palate with acidity and sweet delicate flavors of apple blending together perfectly. This Madeira has very long finish and can be used equally well before, during and after dinner – just take your pick. Definitely worth seeking.

Well, it is a great time to be a wine lover – abundance of experiences just grows daily. Now that you are empowered with the knowledge of Jerez and Madeira, it is time for personal encounter – find the bottle and enjoy it tonight!

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