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Sparkling New Year Experiences

January 10, 2014 19 comments

My brain is limited – it can only support one obsession at a time. Generally, this blog wins, but last month I got hooked on the Doctor Who series (yes, I’m a science fiction junkie), and over the last couple of days, the Doctor Who was clearly winning over the blog writing, as I couldn’t stop watching. Taking the obsession under control, I will try to switch some attention to this beloved blog.

NY WinesNew Year’s day is a Sparkling wine time for me. It doesn’t have to be Champagne, but bubbles are indispensable part of the welcoming the New Year. And then January 1st is generally the day of bubbles – we have friends coming over for the small dinner and lots of bubbles on that first day of the New Year.

The 2014 was not an exception at all – so here are some of the Sparkling wines which added sparkle to our celebration. Oh yes, of course there were few other things to drink besides the sparkling wines.

If you look at the picture above, down on the right you will see… yes, this is beer! Somehow, I felt compelled to include it into the wine line up, as I was drinking it while we were cooking the day before the New Year. Also, when I see a French beer, there is almost a calling in my head “ahh, French beer, I must try it”. This was Brasserie Duyck Jenlain Winter Ale, a seasonal brew from France, produced using three French barley malts and three varieties of the most aromatic hops from Alsace (according to the back label). In style it was an Amber Ale, so it was round and delicate, with a spicy nose and very easy to drink, without any bite – in general Amber is one of my favorite beer styles, right next to the Porter.

Coming to the New Year’s day, we started our evening with 2012 Cecilia Beretta Brut Millesimato Prosecco Superiore Coneglian Valdobbiadene DOCG, Italy (11% ABV) – yes, I already talked about this wine before (here is the post), and I think at this point this is my most memorable Prosecco out of many I tried. It is perfectly together, balanced, elegant, structured and refreshing – and unbeatable value on top of everything. Drinkability: 8-

Then we had two non-common sparkling wines – one from Russia, and one from Ukraine. The Russian Sparkler was NV Abrau-Durso Semi-Sweet Sparkling Wine, Russia (10.5%-12.5% ABV) – fine mousse, touch of sweetness, ripe apples on the palate with a hint of peach, good acidity, overall quite elegant. Drinkability: 7+

The 2010 Artemovsk Krim Semi-Sweet Sparkling Wine, Ukraine (12% ABV, blend of Pinot Blanc, Aligote, Chardonnay and Riesling) was a notch up compare to the Abrau-Durso – perfectly refreshing bubbles, supple nose of apples with touch of yeast, just a hint of sweetness on the palate with balancing, rounding up acidity. If off-dry sparkling wine is your style (or a craving of the moment), I would highly recommend this wine. Drinkability: 8

What can be better than a nice wine label? Of course, a nice wine behind that label! This was the case with this NV Tsarine Champagne Cuvée Premium, Reims (12% ABV, 34% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Meunier, 33% Pinot Noir). I was so impressed with the bottle and overall packaging, that I even had a wine quiz dedicated to this wine. I was a bit worrying that behind a gorgeous, royal, flashy label will be a so-so wine. Once I popped the cork and pour the wine, the worry went away in the instant. Perfect fizz, lots of energy in the glass. The nose shows everything which signifies Champagne to me – freshly baked bread, touch of yeast, a touch of an apple. On the palate, it had all of the same toasted bread, yeast and apple, coupled with clean, vibrant acidity – and lots of pleasure. Needless to say that this wine was gone in no time. Drinkability: 8

Tsarine Champagne

Tsarine Champagne

Our last bottle of the evening was 2005 AR Pe Pe Grumello Riserva Buon Consiglio Valtelina Superiore DOCG (13% ABV, 100% Chiavennasca, a.k.a. Nebbiolo), which Stefano generously brought over. This was an absolutely delicious rendition of Nebbiolo – brick orange hue in the glass, delicate aromas of plums and violets, with may be a whiff of cinnamon, fragrant, earthy and delicate on the palate – very un-Barolo in style, but perfectly balanced with the long finish and lots of pleasure in every drop. Drinkability: 8

Ar Pe Pe Grumello

Ar Pe Pe Grumello

And then, of course, there was food – I will give you just a few pictures – lots of traditional Russian style dishes – cold cuts, red caviar, salads, lots of pickled vegetables. I might share some recipes later on.

That concludes my report on our New Year’s extravaganza. Cheers!

Daily Glass: Wine Happenings on New Year’s Day, as well as before and after

January 9, 2013 19 comments

New Year holiday in our family always means lots of food and drinks. And it is not even New Year’s evening – all the festivities start a few days before, and continue going into the New Year’s day itself. As the result, it means that a lot of wines were opened, and I don’t even want to talk about food (I refuse to touch the scale at least for the next two weeks).

We didn’t drink anything amazing (well, may be with the exception of one wine), at the same time we didn’t drink anything really bad, so here is a summary of what we went through (side note – I will make an attempt to produce “wine review” posts more regularly this year – call it New Year’s resolution or what).

DSC_1866 E1 LocationsE1 Locations, Spain ($20, 14.5 ABV) – This wine is made by Dave Phinney, winemaker behind Orin Swift wines, and its goal is to showcase best grapes form the best places. E1 Locations is a blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo and Carinena, all grown in three famous regions in Spain –  Rioja, Ribera Del Duero and Priorat. To be very honest with you, this is not my style of wine – it has a lot of heavy fruit ( I call it “burnt fruit”), some warm spice and hint of oak with not enough acidity – however, the wine opened up somewhat next day, showing brighter fruit and more harmony. Drinkability: 7+

Chateau Maison Blanche Medoc2009 Chateau Maison Blanche Medoc ($19.99?, 14% ABV, sorry for the picture of the ripped label) – tasting of this wine was an interesting experience. On the first day, it was drinkable, but lacked any excitement. The next day, it became plain bad – but I don’t pour wine down the drain easily, so I put it aside. Day number 3 – same story, not the wine I want to drink – and again I let it be. On the day number four, I decided to give this wine one final taste before disposing of it – and found it completely changed. The wine opened up, showing nice luscious fruit, supple tannins, good acidity and good overall balance, it became soft and round. This wine definitely needs time. And before I forget – this wine is made of 85% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc. Drinkability: 8- (either decant when serving or cellar for a while).

DSC_0028 Bogle Phantom2008 Bogle Vineyards Phantom ($17, 14.5% ABV) – Bogle Vineyards is one of my favorite producers of inexpensive California wines. While they make pretty much a full line (Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.), Bogle Vineyards Petite Sirah typically represents an unbeatable QPR – it is simply an excellent wine usually priced at $11.99. The wine we had, Phantom,  is a bit of a higher end – it is a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre. It drinks very well, showing a bouquet of warm spices on the nose, and a lot of nice bright fruit on the palate, ripe plums, touch of cinnamon and nutmeg, good acidity – quite an enjoyable wine. Drinkability: 8-

DSC_0024 Field Recordings Three Creek Vineyard2010 Field Recordings “Neverland” Red Wine Santa Barbara ($26, 15.4% ABV) – Have you ever tried any wines from Field Recordings? You know, may be I shouldn’t even talk about this wine here? Too many people will find out, it will be hard to get, do I really need all that hassle? Well, okay – feels good sharing a secret.

Andrew Jones, winemaker behind Field Recordings, was grape grower first, working with many wineries and tending to their vineyards. Later on he started making his own wines, each of them coming from the different sites, from the places were particular grapes do particularly well. This wine, called Neverland, comes form the Three Creek Vineyard site, and it is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Petit Verdot and 16% Malbec. The wine was perfectly balanced, with layered soft fruit, black currant and touch of blueberries, dark chocolate notes, very long and pleasant finish. Why I wanted to keep such a great wine to myself? Very simple – total production: 150 cases. When it’s gone, it’s gone… Drinkability: 9-

2011 Brick Lane Pinot Noir California ($?, 13.4% ABV) – When faced with the wines like this one, I always have a dilemma – do I write about them in this blog, or do I not? I don’t want to pretend to be a big critic and proudly proclaim my scores – I look at the wine rating mostly as a fun exercise. Anyway, as you probably guessed, this was not a very good wine. Thin, green, acidic, unbalanced, drinkable, but not delivering any pleasure. Drinkability: 6-

DSC_0032 Hans Von Muller Riesling2011 Dr. Hans VonMuller Riesling Spatlese Mosel ($11.99, 8% ABV) – I either don’t drink enough Riesling, or I don’t write enough about it, or both – somehow, I think Rieslings are scarcely discussed in this blog. For the Spatlese, this was a very modest Riesling – yes, it had an explicit sweetness – but it was not cloying by all means ( some of the 2010 and 2011 German Rieslings I tried had this clinging sweetness even at the Kabinett level). Sweetness was nicely balanced by acidity, and overall this was a very pleasant wine with good amount of white fruit, some apricot and may be peach, very enjoyable. Drinkability: 7+

Abrau DursoNow it is time to talk about Sparkling wines – I have a few to share with you. First, NV Abrau-Durso Semi-dry, Russia ($12.99)  – as planned, we ringed the New Year 2013 with this wine. Yes, it is not the first time I write about Abrau-Durso in this blog (it was also my wine #19 in the Top wines of 2012 list) – but I can’t help it, as the wine is good! Apple and touch of yeast on the nose, very restrained white fruit on the palate, good acidity, hint of sweetness, perfectly refreshing bubbles – you have to try it to believe it. Drinkability: 8

We are almost done, I promise! A few more sparkling wines:

two cremantsSo here are NV Cremant D’Alsace Brut Cattin ($16.99, 12% ABV) and NV Cremant de Bourgogne Louis Bouillot Grande Reserve Perle de Vigne ($?, 12% ABV) – the reason I lump these two wines together is that they are literally indistinguishable (unfortunately!). It is interesting that grape composition is quite different between them – Cremant d’Alsace is made out of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay. Cremant de Bourgogne is a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay, and Aligoté. Both wines are drinkable – a bit of yeast, good acidity, crisp and refreshing – but not exciting. Drinkability: 7

DSC_0045 Peach CaneiPeach Canei Italy ($4, 7.5% ABV) – I guess by even mentioning this “wine” ( it is more of a wine cocktail – it is peach flavored grape wine) in this blog I have to officially renounce a self-awarded title of a wine snob and never even try to claim it again.

I told my friend Zak that way back ( about 20 years ago), when I was just slowly getting into wines, Peach Canei was one of our favorite wines. I think only a young age protected Zak from having a heart attack – he was completely shocked. So he got me a bottle of the wonderful beverage as part of my New Year’s present. As you can imagine, I had no reason to cellar it, so we decided to open the bottle right away. It had a pronounced peach flavor, with a bit too much sweetness, lightly fizzed, probably could’ve used a bit more acidity. But – it was drinkable, and we managed to finish a bottle. It is highly unlikely that I would ever crave this wine, but again, it is not that terrible as you might think. Drinkability: 6.

That’s all I have for you regarding the wines – wait, don’t go yet. New Year is usually celebrated with lots of food – here are couple of pictures which will give you an idea of how the table looked like:

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That’s all for today, folks. Did you have a most memorable New Year’s wine? Please use the comments section below and share! Cheers!

 

Second Dozen (And Some) of 2012

December 28, 2012 14 comments

DSC_1866 Battonage ChardonnayAnywhere you look, people are summing up their experiences for the year which will become history in the mere 5 days. “The best thing I did last year”, “the best thing I ate”, “the best trip I took”, “the best picture” and so on and so forth.

This very blog is not an exception to that “the best thing I had” phenomenon. I have my top dozen wines summarized for 2010 and 2011, and now it is time for 2012. But I have to tell you that this year I have an issue. Last two years I managed to identify precisely 12 wines I wanted to include in my “Top” list. This year, it appears that I tasted so many great wines, that I feel that the limit of 12 is too constraining – hence this post, where I will share with you the second dozen (or more) of wines which caused an “aha” moment, and stirred my memory and emotions. In the other words, these are the wines which I would gladly (very gladly) drink at any time. As usual, all the wines will be linked to the original posts in case such post exists, and I will provide pricing information where I can. Here we go.

26. 2011 Walnut Block Wines ‘Collectables’ Sauvignon Blanc, Marlboro, New Zealand ($11.99). In general, I like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – may be I had a few that I didn’t really care for, but for the most of the cases I really enjoy that fresh in-your-face acidity with bright fruit underpinning and fresh cut grass. This wine happened to be single best New Zealand  Sauvignon Blanc I had last year, perfectly matching the description I just provided.

25. 2012 Flat Creek Estate Winery Viognier, Texas ($NA) – that experience of drinking literally just blended wine was first and unique, and the wine was excellent. I will be very happy to get a bottle of the released 2012 Flat Creek Estate Viognier and compare the notes.

DSC_0951 Ch Ste Michelle Brut24. Domaine Ste. Michelle Cuvee Brut NV ($10.99) – one of the best sparkling wines I tasted throughout the year. It is perfectly brut, perfectly acidic and perfectly balanced. I really want to see this wine in the blind tasting, against any of the $30-$40 Champagne – so many people will lose their bets, swearing that they just tasted a perfect glass of Champagne, and finding out that it was a domestic sparkler. Next time you see it on the shelf – do me a favor, pick up a bottle and let me know what you think (you can thank me later).

23. 2010 Anakena Indo Sauvignon Blanc, D.O. San Antonio Valley, Chile ($15) – A perfect Sauvignon Blanc for my palate. Beautiful fruit and acidity combination, a touch fruitier than NZ Walnut Block, but absolutely refreshing.

22. 2005 Giribaldi Cento Uve Langhe DOC ($75) – Very much Barolo-like (no wonder  – 50% of the grapes are Nebbiolo), but they didn’t use for nothing 152 grapes to produce this wine – this is a very perfumy Barolo, with a lot of floral notes. No, I didn’t taste all those grapes by themselves, but sheer number of grapes (152) used in production of this wine is enough to put you at awe.

21. 2009 Craggy Range Te Kahu Hawkes Bay, New Zealand ($25) – Craggy Range is an area in New Zealand which became a source of the great wines, and it also know for the cost of land being dirt cheap about 30 years ago, and becoming absolutely unaffordable nowadays. This wine is an excellent Bordeaux blend, except that you don’t need to wait for 15-20 years before you can enjoy a glass – you can just open and pour. Perfect fruit and perfect balance – if you didn’t try this wine before, and you like Bordeaux style, you just owe it to yourself to find the bottle and enjoy it.

20. 2008 Torres Atrium Merlot, Penedes, Spain ($26 in the restaurant) – this was total surprise – the wine was suggested to us in a restaurant in Florida, as previous two choices were unavailable. We didn’t have much expectations – until the first sip. Dark fruit, soft, supple and round, perfect acidity, long finish. The second surprise came when we saw the bill – I never had a wine of this quality in the restaurant for $26. My only issue – this wine is only available for restaurants, and even my friend Zak who owns wine store, can’t get this wine. If you can – send me a note…

19. Abrau-Durso Semi-Dry NV, Russia ($12.99) – Never heard of this wine until this year, and it appears that this is a very old Russian “Champagne” house which was supplying sparkling wines for Tzar. Didn’t have much expectations before trying this wine – and it was delicious. Touch of sweetness, perfectly refreshing and supple – this actually will be the sparkler I plan to pour to ring the New Year in.

18. 2009 Wente Small Lot Petite Sirah, Livermore Valley, California ($35) – Wente Small Lots Grenache was #6 on my Top 2011 list. This year I opened Petite Sirah – an absolute beauty, silky smooth, dark fruit, perfect acidity and tannins, very balanced. It is unfortunately only available from the winery or through the club, but if you are in the area, don’t miss it.

17. 2009 Sant’Elena Pinot Grigio, Friuli, Italy ($18.99) – Yes, I’m a wine snob – as the result, Pinot Grigio is typically not the wine which would be served in my house. And Pinot Grigio is usually not the wine I would include into any of the “high regad lists”. Except when it is truly outstanding. And this wine is exceptional. Yes, it is called Pinot Grigio – but this is only due to the grape used in production of this wine. Otherwise, this is an “orange wine” – dense, concentrated, with dark white fruit, very complex and thought provoking.

DSC_0182 Achaval Ferre Quimera16. 2008 Achaval-Ferrer Quimera Mendoza, Argentina ($24.99) – I wanted to try wines of Achaval-Ferrer for a very long time, but they are not exactly affordable on a given day. Thanks to WTSO ( who else?), I was able to get few bottles of this Bordeaux blend called Quimera, and boy, was that a great wine. Dense and powerful, with lots of dark fruit, very delicious. And – it will definitely improve with time, so I’m glad I still a few bottles left.

15. 2009 Beaulieu Vineyard Reserve Tapestry Red Blend Napa Valley ($60) – it seems that I discovered so many worthy great Bordeax blends this year, from all the different regions. Yet this BV Tapestry squarely hold place on its own – dark, robust, classic, with all the cassis and eucalyptus flavors you want, it rolls on your tongue and delivers pleasure, as you expect your wine to do.

DSC_1866 Laetitia Pinot La Colline14. 2006 Laetitia La Colline Pinot Noir, Arroyo Grande Valley, California ($24.99) – I can’t believe I didn’t put this wine into the top dozen. When you take a sip of wine, it usually generates a reaction. It can be “hmm, this is nice”, “hmm, I should let it breathe”, “hmm, I need some food”, “hmm, now I need steak”. And then there are wines where you reaction has no hmms in it, it is “I need a refill now, before this deliciousness is all gone”. This Laetitia La Colline Pinot Noir is exactly that type of wine – round and delicious from the get go, you just want you rglass to last for long, very long time.

13. 2008 Kovacs Nimrod Battonage Chardonnay, Eger Winery, Hungary ($20.99) – I love Chardonnay – and I so rarely get to enjoy it, unfortunately. I don’t have any deep cellars of Burgundy, and a lot of wineries in California and outside are trying to make Chardonnay to taste like Pinot Grigio – beats me. Luckily, not this Chardonnay from Hungary. This wine greets you the nose with vanilla and butter, and perfectly supports that round package on the palate – more vanilla, more butter, toasted oak, golden delicious apples – just the Chardonnay I want to drink.

That’s all for today, folks – will be happy to hear your thoughts. Have you tried any of the wines above? Did you like them? And yes, my Top Twelve of Twelve is coming out very soon. I’m not going to spoil a surprise for you, but I’m sure you will find my Wine of the Year choice a bit unusual (if you want to guess, write your ideas down in the comments section). Cheers!

 

 

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