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Following Wines Til Sold Out – Anything Goes Marathon, September 2015

September 23, 2015 3 comments

WTSO logo 2012It was a while since I posted one of these, but when I saw the announcement for the Wine Til Sold Out “Anything Goes” marathon, somehow I felt inclined to collect the data and create this post. As nobody has time to constantly watch all the wines been offered, the table below presents all (I hope) wines which were included in the marathon, so you can ponder at your own leisure – sorry, that might lead to some regrets too, but I can’t help you with that.

The fact that I didn’t do this in a while shows in the quality of data below, unfortunately – quite a bit of information is missing. I had to recreate the script, and the computer went to sleep right in a middle of a data collection and I lost it all on the wake up. But I hope you will still find it useful as limited as it is. You can see below the prices, the ratings and at what time the wines were offered and for how long they lasted.

Without further ado, here is the table with all the wines offered during marathon (including super-beauty double Barolo package offered right after). If you took part in the marathon, I’m curious to know what you got. And if you missed some wines – well, you can rant in that comments space below. Happy Wine Wednesday and cheers!

Here is the guide to the rating abbreviations (this list is ever inclusive – not all of them are used below): 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, IWR – International Wine Report, TLC – The Library Collection, PR – Pinot Report, TWN – The Wine News, LM – Luca Maroni, Sn – Snooth.com.

Time Wine Rating MSRP Price %off
12:00a Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano 2005/2007 2-Pack WA95, ST95 $520.00 $199.99 62%
11:45p Sullivan Vineyards Rutherford Estate 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon JHN93 $70.00 $29.99 57%
11:29p Podere la Regola ‘La Regola’ Super Tuscan IGT Red Blend 2008 WA93 $46.00 $22.99 50%
11:13p Achaval-Ferrer ‘Finca Mirador’ Mendoza Malbec 2008 WA96, 93WS $150.00 $59.99 60%
11:00p Col d’Orcia ‘Il Veltro’ Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2008 $50.00 $23.99 52%
10:44p Clarendon Hills ‘Liandra Vineyard’ Clarendon Syrah 2007 JH95 $85.00 $33.99 60%
10:35p Casalvento ‘Janus’ Toscana 2011 Half Bottle (375.00ml) JS93 $60.00 $19.99 67%
10:20p Giacomo Borgogno et Figli Barolo Riserva DOCG 2004 Special Edition JS93 $110.00 $39.99 64%
10:06p Chateau Luchey-Halde Pessac-Leognan Red Blend 2009 IWR92+ $95.00 $29.99 68%
9:50p Philippe LeClerc Gevrey-Chambertin Les Champeaux 1er Cru 2011 JHN92 $120.00 $49.99 58%
9:36p Champagne Tendil & Lombardi Cuvee Rose NV WS90 $69.00 $29.99 57%
9:30p Domaine de Beaurenard Chateauneuf-du-Pape Boisrenard 2011 WS93 $75.00 $39.99 47%
9:15p Eagles Trace Winery Estate Grown Napa Valley Merlot 2007 $45.00 $22.99 49%
9:00p Barolo 2009 Single Vineyard Cru Ciabot Berton Roggeri WRO94, JS93 $90.00 $32.99 63%
8:45p Marques del Puerto Bentus Reserva 2005 WE92 $60.00 $19.99 67%
8:36p Rancho Zabaco Monte ‘Toreador’ 2010 Rosso Vineyard Sonoma Valley Zinfandel WA93 $60.00 $26.99 55%
8:23p La Esquina Torrontes 2014 $22.00 $9.99 55%
8:09p Corte Campagnola Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Gli Archi 2004 WE92 $54.99 $29.99 45%
8:00p Krutz Family Cellars Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2011 $74.00 $39.99 47%
7:49p Lisini 2009 Brunello di Montalcino 93 rating and 53% IWR93, WS91 $78.00 $36.99 53%
7:34p Sancerre 2013 ‘Les 7 Hommes ‘ 100% Sauvignon Blanc By Cherrier Pere & Fils IWR90+ $39.00 $17.99 54%
7:26p Quinta Seara d’Ordens Vintage Port 2011 WE92 $90.00 $37.99 58%
7:16p Colle Lungo Campo Cerchi Chianti Classico Riserva 2006 $50.00 $24.99 50%
7:04p Domaine du Grand Tinel Chateauneuf du Pape 2012 WS91, WA91 $60.00 $26.99 55%
6:52p Robert Young Estate Winery ‘Red Winery Road’ Chardonnay 2013 $35.00 $17.99 49%
6:41p Piper Heidsieck Champagne Brut Rose Sauvage NV WRO93, WS92 $69.99 $39.99 43%
6:31p Tempranillo ‘Valnuevo’ Toro 2006 Bodegas y Vinedos Tardencuba WA93+ $70.00 $39.99 43%
6:23p Eagles Trace Wines ‘Latitude 38’ Estate Grown Napa Valley Red Blend 2011 $85.00 $34.99 59%
6:12p Gaston and Pierre Ravaut Aloxe-Corton Vieilles Vignes 2009 Cote de Beaune WS90 $70.00 $35.99 49%
5:58p Citille di Sopra ‘Poggio Ronconi’ Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010 JS97 $95.00 $46.99 51%
5:50p Encantado Rutherford 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $50.00 $22.99 54%
5:38p Ernest Meurgey-Perron Meursault Premier Cru White Burgundy 2013 JHN92 $100.00 $39.99 60%
5:24p Champagne Philippe Prie Cuvee Archange NV WS92 $95.00 $34.99 63%
5:15p Mendoza Vineyards Gran Reserva Malbec 2011 WA92 $60.00 $19.99 67%
4:58p Fontanafredda ‘Varej’ Barbera Piedmont DOC 2013 $17.99 $9.99 44%
4:48p Champagne Henri Abele Rose NV WS91 $55.00 $27.99 49%
4:42p Long Meadow Ranch Rutherford 2013 Reserve Red Blend JHN93 $100.00 $29.99 70%
4:36p Antolini ‘Moropio’ Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2010 WE93 $79.00 $27.99 65%
4:22p Domaine Roger Sabon Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Prestige 2011 WS93, WA93 $80.00 $39.99 50%
4:16p Sojourn Cellars ‘Campbell Ranch Vineyard’ Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2012 PR94 $45.00 $39.99 11%
4:08p Fattoria Scopone Brunello di Montalcino ‘Olivare’ DOCG 2010 JS95 $80.00 $36.99 54%
3:56p Super Tuscan ‘Marchesale’ Terre del Marchesato Toscana IGT 2007 WE94 $80.00 $33.99 58%
3:44p Ribera del Duero 2009 ‘Antonio Izquierdo’ Vendimia Seleccionada Bodegas Izquiredo WA93 $120.00 $45.99 62%
3:28p Keating Wines ‘Buchignani Vineyard’ Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2012 WE91 $35.00 $19.99 43%
3:14p Burgess Cellars ‘Library Release’ Napa Valley 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon $150.00 $89.99 40%
3:11p Antonin Rodet Macon-Ige ‘Le Chaillou’ Chardonnay 2011 JHN91 $35.00 $14.99 57%
2:55p Domaine Louis Cheze Cuvee ‘Anges’ Saint-Joseph AOC Syrah 2007 WS93 $75.00 $29.99 60%
2:42p Sullivan Vineyards Rutherford Estate 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon JHN93 $70.00 $29.99 57%
2:29p Bodegas Bioenos Gorys Crespiello 2010 91 rating and 72% WA91 $100.00 $27.99 72%
2:18p Fontanafredda ‘Lazzarito’ Vigna La Delizia Barolo DOCG 1999 WA92 $170.00 $49.99 71%
2:08p Guillaume Baptiste ‘L’Evidence’ 2014   Pouilly-Fume JHN91+ $35.00 $15.99 54%
1:58p Pannier Egerie Champagne 2002 WE92 $100.00 $39.99 60%
1:52p Casalvento Vineyards and Winery Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2010 94 47%
1:46p C. Donatiello Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2012 92 56%
1:34p Eagles Trace ‘Latitude 38’ Estate Grown Napa Valley Red Blend 2009 51%
1:26p Chateau Moulin de la Rose Saint-Julien 2008 WE92 59%
1:16p Clarendon Hills ‘Blewitt Springs’ Clarendon Grenache 2007 93 46%
1:08p Valentina Cubi ‘Morar’ 2008 Amarone della Valpolicella 93 59%
1:01p Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford 2012 94 43%
12:50p Tenimenti Soprani Barolo DOCG 2010 56%
12:37p Jamieson Ranch Vineyards ‘Reata’ 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 92 56%
12:24p Buoncristiani Family Winery ‘O.P.C.’ Napa Valley 2010 Proprietary Red Blend 92 40%
12:16p Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2008 93 59%
12:09p H. Blin Champagne Brut NV 91 59%
11:50a Maroon Winery Spring Mountain District Reserve 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon 50%
11:39a Prosecco Bosco dei Cirmioli Veneto NV 50%
11:24a Lisini 2009 Brunello di Montalcino 93 53%
11:16a Vintage Port Wine and Soul ‘Pintas’ 2011 96 38%
11:07a Gran Reserva Rioja 2001 Bodegas Lar de Paula Gran Baroja 90 47%
11:02a Encantado 2012 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon 62%
10:55a Joseph Mellot Vigne de la Demoiselle Sancerre Rose 2014 44%
10:47a Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco DOCG 2005 50%
10:41a Pinot Noir Premier Cru Beaune Perrieres 2007 Maison Louis Latour 90 57%
10:26a Champagne Veuve Doussot Brut Rose NV 100% Pinot Noir 90 63%
10:17a Robert Stemmler Winery Estate Grown Carneros Pinot Noir 2011 91 55%
10:08a Groth Vineyards and Winery Reserve 2010   Cabernet Sauvignon 94 36%
9:53a Barolo DOCG Cascina Adelaide ‘Fossati’ 2008 WS93 $125.00 $39.99 68%
9:44a Domaine Roger Sabon Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Prestige 2008 93 63%
9:34a Sancerre 100% Sauvignon Blanc   Vieilles Vignes 2012 Domaine Raimbault 91 62%
9:29a Cru du Rhone Gigondas Vieilles Vignes 2011 Domaine du Grand Montmirail 91 64%
9:22a Casa Brancaia ‘Ilatraia’ 2009 Maremma Toscana IGT 94 56%
9:15a Beaulieu Vineyard ‘Tapestry’ Napa Valley Reserve Red Blend 2011 54%
9:00a Piper-Heidsieck Vintage Brut 2006 92 33%

 

Weekly Wine Quiz #62: Wine Trivia – Nebbiolo

June 22, 2013 23 comments
Nebbiolo grapes, picture from Wikipedia

Nebbiolo grapes, picture from Wikipedia

Welcome to the weekend! Your new wine quiz has arrived.

Today our subject is the Italian grape called Nebbiolo – a power grape of Piedmont, solely responsible for some of the world’s best wines, Barolo and Barbareso.

As I’m working on this series of quizzes, I’m of course learning a lot myself. It was very interesting for me to realize, that unlike any other major red grape we talked about so far, Nebbiolo is pretty much confined to the 6 or so areas in Italy, where it makes wonderful wines – its world-wide spread is non existent, not even in the form of clones, like Zinfandel. And this is all despite the fact that Nebbiolo is quite an old grape, with first mentions going all the way back to the 13th century.

Nebbiolo is a very tricky grape to work with. It has the longest ripening cycle out of many grapes – buds early, ripens very late, prone both to mutation (there are about 40 known clones) and grape diseases. But – the resulting wines, like Barolo and Barbaresco, clearly worth the trouble, with wonderful aromatics, power and concentration. Also the ageing potential of the Nebbiolo wines is almost unlimited.

Now, to the quiz!

Q1: Explain the meaning of the name “Nebbiolo”

Q2: In one of the regions outside Piedmont, the wines are produced from Nebbiolo grapes in the style of Amarone – with grapes drying on the straw mats before they are pressed. Can you name that region?

Q3: True or False: Blending is not allowed for any of the wines produced from Nebbiolo grape in Piedmont region.

Q4: White grape used to be such a traditional blending partner for Nebbiolo that it was sometimes called White Barolo. Do you know the name of this grape?

Q5: In the blind tasting setting, the wines made out of Nebbiolo can be very distinguishable even before you take a first sip. Do you know what is this distinct feature of Nebbiolo wines?

Good luck, enjoy your weekend and cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage

July 25, 2012 2 comments

Hello and welcome to the special Wednesday – Wine Blogging Wednesday #79 it is, a.k.a. #WBW79.

Let’s start from the usual routine – the answer for the Wine Quiz #21 – Do you Know the King? Similar to the previous quiz, this one also had a diversity of opinion as to which wine is called a “King of the Wines”. And the answer is … Barolo!

Believe it or not, but until the middle of the 19th century Barolo was a sweet wine (it probably sounds funny for anyone who experienced the power of Barolo) due to the deficiencies of the winemaking process. In the second half of the 19th century, invited French oenologist managed to change the winemaking process which resulted in production of completely dry wine. This dry Barolo wine became so popular among nobility of Turin that it was often described as “the king of wine” (here is a link for you with more information on the subject). Now that you know the king, you can enjoy Barolo even more (but don’t forget to decant it!).

Now it is time for the wine news. Let’s start form the Wine Blogging Wednesday #79 – Summer Reading, Summer Wine. This is probably one of the more difficult WBW events, as you are required not to drink the wine yourself, but rather explain to the world what kind of wine your favorite fiction character should be drinking, and why. I’m still not decided if I will will be writing my blog post for #wbw79 – may be yes, may be no – but I’m sure it will be fun to read what the other people will have to say.

Now, all the wine lovers who like value – please pay special attention. Wine Till Sold Out (a.k.a. WTSO) Cheapskate Wednesday is coming up on August 8th. Starting at 6 am Eastern, deeply discounted wines will be offered for sale every 15 minutes or may be even faster. All the wines will be priced in the range of $7.99 to $18.99 and you will have to buy 4 bottles or more to get free shipping. These “marathon” events are usually offering great values and shouldn’t be missed – here are couple of reports (one and two) I compiled from the past events in case you want to have a frame of reference. Get your cellar ready!

Moving along. Next, I want to bring to your attention two more interesting posts. First, W. Blake Gray wrote about the results of market research of consumers’ emotional attachment to the brand (of course primarily concerning alcohol brands). This is pretty short post (here is the link) – read it, some of the results are staggering and hilarious at the same time.

Last but not least: if you love wine and live in a close proximity of Boston (remember, airplanes are known to greatly shorten the distances), there is a restaurant you must visit until the end of August. Why? Because this restaurant (Troquet) is offering mind boggling dealson superbly aged wines (1966 Bordeaux for $75? unreal…) – for more details, please read this post by Richard Auffrey who writes The Passionate Foodie blog.

That’s all for today, folks. Hope you enjoyed this Meritage, and don’t worry – the next Wednesday will be here much sooner than you are expecting, so we will be talking again. And… don’t forget to leave a comment. And – think about your #WBW79 post. Cheers!

Taste Expectations, Or Notes From The Blind Tasting

February 28, 2012 2 comments

If you had been drinking wine for a while, I would expect that you have developed certain taste expectations. As you drink the wines from the different regions, you find that the wines from the same geographic locality made from the same grapes would have somewhat of a similar taste and style (yes, of course, I just described what is properly called Terroir without using the word itself). At some point, the associations between the origin of the wine and its expected taste become engrained in your mind. Looking at the bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, you are expecting to find bright acidity and citrus flavor profile even without opening the bottle. Looking at the bottle of California Cabernet Sauvignon you are expecting to find good amount of fruit with some explicit black currant notes and probably good amount of tannins – note that I’m really trying to generalize here, but you got the point.

This is the way the wine was for a very long time. However, when you taste modern wines, do you have a feeling that your expectations no longer valid and don’t match the reality any longer? I had this experience many times lately, when Amarone didn’t taste like anything expected (you can find my rant of pain here), or when unoaked Chardonnay tastes rather like Pinot Grigio – and there are many more examples of “taste confusion”.

Recently, I had another case of “broken” taste expectations – this time it was somewhat sanctioned, as we did a double (almost) blind tasting. The theme was set a bit ambitiously, as France and Italy. The “ambitious” part is coming from the fact that these two countries on their own have such a variety of wine production that it makes literally impossible to recognize the grape or at least the style of wine (either one of those countries would provide a plentiful selection for a double blind tasting on its own). Anyway, with the main goal of having fun with the wines, we actually had a great time.

We blind tasted 5 wines, which happened to be 4 reds and one white. For what it worth, here are my notes as we were moving along:

#1 – Very nice, a bit too sweet. I think Italy, Super Tuscan/Barbera/Dolcetto

#2 – earthy, nice, little green bell peppers, roasted notes? Bordeaux?

#3 – France, nice bright fruit, good sweetness, noit enough acidity? No idea about the grape.

#4 – interesting, lots of fruit, very nice – no idea.

#5 – great, round, good fruit – no idea.

While I understand that these a rather limited wine descriptions, would you try to guess what was what? Well, you can see the answers below in the picture (wines are set in the order we tasted them, left to right):

 

Here is an actual list: 2007 Comm. G. B. Burlotto Barolo Verduno; 1995, Chateau Haut-Corbin Saint-Emillion Grand Cru; 2009 Petracupa Greco di Tufo;  2005 Pascal Marchand Pinot Noir and L’oca Ciuca Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – now compare that with my guesses above…

In case you are curious – of course we voted for the favorite – Brunello (#5) was a clear winner, with Greco de Tufo (#3) trailing it closely behind (one point difference).

Where is the case of broken taste expectations? Fruit forward, bright and loaded wine with well masked tannins and almost non-existing earthiness, bright purple in color – 2007 Barolo? I’m very far from Barolo expert, but this doesn’t match my expectations of Barolo, albeit well decanted. Even winning Brunello was quite uncharacteristic, lacking earthiness and tartness, the traditional Brunello bite. I can’t comment on Greco do Tufo (it was actually quite nice), and the only varietally correct wine was 1995 Bordeaux. Am I making too big of a deal from varietal correctness and taste expectations here? It depends. On its own, both Barolo and Brunello were good wines, but if I would order either one in the restaurant with the goal of pairing with food, that could’ve been quite disappointing…

Okay, I can’t leave you with this sad impression of disappointment – it was not that bad at all. Also, we had a great cast of supporting wines, even with some pleasant surprises.

First, two sparkling wines. Chevalier de Grenelle Cuvee Reserve Saumur AOC, a blend of 90% Chenin Blanc with 10% Chardonnay was very good, full bodies sparkling wine, with good notes of apple and toasted oak. In addition to good wine, this was also a very special bottle – a magnum with metal imprinted label. Second sparkling wine was even more unusual – Abrau-Durso Semi-Dry – a sparkling wine from Russia, made by reincarnated famous producer of sparkling wines for Russian Tzar (original company was created in 1870). This wine had just a hint (a whiff) of sweetness, lightly toasted apple and nutmeg on the palate. Very refreshing and delicate. I suggest you will find a bottle and try for yourself – there is a good chance you might like it.

And for the last surprise – 2002 Fontanafredda Barolo DOCG. Why surprising? If you will look at the Wine Spectator’s Vintage Chart, you will see that 2002 was regarded as a very bad year for Barolo, with the rating of 72 and recommendation of wines being past prime. I decanted this bottle at some time in the late morning, and by the early evening, when we actually drunk it, it opened up very nicely – while it was lacking powerful tannins, otherwise it was quite enjoyable wine, very balanced with quite a bit of finesse.

Play with your wine, get friends together and do the blind tasting – I guarantee you will learn something new about your palate, your wine preferences and may be even your friends!

Cheers!

Wine and Time

January 10, 2012 3 comments

Of course time had being here forever, always moving, and always in one direction (someone, please prove me wrong!). Wine had being around for about 8,000 years, first appearing in the ancient Georgia (no, not the one down south, but the one from the Caucus region, on another continent). Wine is one of the few products literally not changed for such a long time in its form and its production methods – sans reverse osmosis machines, electrical presses and micro-oxygenation boxes. Considering such a long history, you can imagine that relationship between wine and time is very complex, and you would be right.

First, time is a necessary part and an attribute of the wine making process. For the vast majority of wines, if you read winery’s description of the wine, you will see something like “aged for so many month in …”. Sometimes the wine is aged in stainless steel tanks. Sometimes the wine is aged in clay vessels (very popular in Georgia now, the vessels are called Kvevri and produce very distinct wines). Lots of red wines are aged in oak barrels – American oak, French oak, Hungarian Oak, new oak, old oak – variations are endless. For many wines, duration and the type of the aging is a sole decision of winemaker (no pressure, but this decision will greatly affect quality and the taste of wine, and will define success and failure for it). For some of the wines, aging in a specific type of barrels is mandatory before the wine can be released – Rioja Gran Reserva should be aged for a minimum of 2 years in oak barrel and 3 years in the bottle to be officially designated as Rioja Gran Reserva. Barolo must be aged for 3 years, at least two of them in the oak barrel, and Barolo Riserva should be aged at least for 5 years. During the aging process, the wine is changing. Oak imparts very specific flavor, which we, humans, tend to like. Oak aging also acts as a preservative and helps wines to live long life.

Once all the aging is complete (in the tanks, barrels and bottles – whatever the aging was), wine is released – and this is when the second phase of the wine and time relationship kicks in.

This second phase is as tricky, if not trickier, as the first. Have you heard the phrase “needs time” in relation to the particular bottle of wine? If you will look at the wine reviews in Wine Spectator or any other publication which provides wine reviews, you would often see one of the phrases “Drink now”, “Best 2014-2020”, “Best after 2013” – these are the suggestions for how long the wine should be kept in the cellar before it should be consumed.

Why is that? What with all this aging? Why not open the bottle right away and just drink the wine? What was discovered at some point (don’t ask me when, but it was long time ago) is that wine actually changes its taste as it spends time in the bottle (the aging). And it doesn’t just change the taste arbitrarily, it tastes better. Young wines are often sharp, or somewhat single-toned in their taste – you might get pronounced acidity, or only sweetness, or lots of white apples – but only white apples. During aging, trace amounts of air are making its way into he bottle, and they lead to the wine changing its taste, improving to the better in majority of the cases – it becomes complex, bite softens up, bright and diverse fruit tones compensate for the pronounced acidity and the wine brings a lot more pleasure compare to the young wines. Mature wines deliver more pleasure – this is the whole philosophy behind wine aging.

Simple and easy, right? Well, this is were everything becomes complicated and confusing – as not all the wines should be aged (do not try to age Beaujolais Noveau, please) and also it is very tricky to make sure you would drink the wine at its peak – as whatever comes up, goes down in mother nature. This is where time transforms from the friend to the foe – and as a foe, it is merciless. After reaching maturity and staying there for a while, the wines are typically starting their decline in the taste (wine loses fruit, become very acidic, may be oxidized – and it stops delivering pleasure). Different wines made in the different styles will have different peak times and different lifespans. Some of the Jerez, Madeira and similar wines can go on literally for the hundreds of years. Good Rioja, Barolo or Bordeaux can be perfectly aged for 50 years or longer. Simple Cote du Rhone might only last for 3-5 years, same would be true for many of the Chardonnay wines. There is not crystal ball telling you precisely how long the wine will last and when will it taste the best – human trial and error is the best way to find that out. Of course there are many factors which might help you to decide whether to age the wine and if yes, for how long – the winery, the winemaker, the region’s wine style, success of the vintage and many others – but in the end of the day you would need to do the work (err, I meant the wine drinking) as the wine ages to find out when it tastes best to you.

So, does it worth to age wines if you don’t know what will happen to them in the end? For anyone who is into wines, and who had an opportunity to try a mature wine, the wine which reached its optimum taste, I’m sure this is a no-brainer question – yes, of course, and please, please give me more.

How one can experience aged wines? You got a few options. First, you can age it in your own cellar. Second, you can buy aged wines, either in a good wine store, such as Cost Less Wines in Stamford or Benchmark Wine Company. Note that you have to buy aged wines only from the trusted source – not aging the wines in the right conditions will simply ruin them, so you have to trust your source. Third option is to attend a wine tasting, such as PJ Wine Grand Tasting, where you can taste really amazing wines. However, you don’t have to wait of the Grand tasting, which takes place only once a year. If you live in a close proximity to Stamford, CT, you can attend a wine tasting at the Franklin Street Works gallery on Thursday, January 19th at 5:30 pm (here is the link for RSVP). The event is free and open to all. Here are the wines which will be presented in the tasting (the list might change at any time):

2003 Riesling, Mosel Saar River, Germany

1998 Merlot, Italy

2009 Stag’s Leap Hands of Time, Napa Valley

2009 Stag’s Leap Hands of Time, hyper-decanted using Nathan Myhrvold’s methodology.

So you should come and experience the relationship between time and wine for yourself – there is a good chance that you will even enjoy it! Cheers!

Long Overdue–Notes From Michal Skurnik Wine Tasting

April 13, 2011 1 comment

Yes, this post is long overdue, as I hinted that it’s coming a while back. Better late then never, right? Here it is.

Let’s say in you are in a wine store. Bottles, bottles are everywhere. Sometimes you know exactly what you want. Sometimes you don’t – and this is when it becomes challenging. How do you know if that bottle of wine is any good? Price is really not an indicator of quality. You can’t try the wine ( at least in majority of cases). Yes, you can ask for the advice – then it really depends what store you are at (some of the store advices should be avoided at all costs). So, what do you do? Of course using your iPhone is always an option, but this is not where I’m going right now. One possible solution is to look at the back label, which all the wines in US have to have. Look for the name of the importer. And if it says “Michael Skurnik” or “Kermit Lynch”, you should smile, because you just learned that chances of this bottle of wine being good just increased dramatically.

Why, you are asking? Michael Skurnik Wines is so called “importer” (they are also a wholesaler, but this information is typically not advertised on the label). It means that Michael Skurnik Wines company (MSW) works with thousands and thousands of wineries and other wine merchants all over the world to find the wines which will pass through their rigorous selection process and will be represented by Michael Skurnik Wines.

The wines chosen to be carried in the portfolio might not be all your favorite – but they all will be quality well made wines. It means that MSW folks are doing all the hard work of selecting the best wines for you, and all you need to do is to enjoy the fruits of labor.

Few times a year wine importers and wholesalers organize special wine tasting events to present their portfolio to the trade. I was lucky to attend Michael Skurnik Wines Spring Grand Tasting, and I would like to share some of my personal highlights.

First and foremost, my personal “Best of tasting” is Peter Michael wines. Four 2009 Chardonnays were presented in the tasting (“Mon Plaisir”, “La Carriere”, “Belle Cote” and “Ma Belle-Fille”) – tremendous, all four are the best Chardonnays I ever tasted. Finesse and absolute balance – vanilla, toasted oak and butter all being present, but in absolute harmony with bright acidity, fruit and silky smooth tannins. I would put drinkability for all four at 9+. Just so you know, these are the cult wines, which affects the pricing and availability. These wines are available only through the mailing list or through select merchants – you might be able to find them at Wades Wines and Benchmark Wine Company.

The next highlight was amazing line of Barolos. Mix of 2005, 2006, 2007 Barolos from Azella, Manzone, Renato Corino, Marengo, Altare, Clerico, Cavalotto – one was better than another, all beautiful and powerful wines. Anyone of the names I mentioned are worth seeking.

While the Barolos were great, they had a group of contenders, which were literally as good. Wines of Aldo Rainoldi come from the area in Lombardy region called Valtellina. These wines are produced from the same grape as all Barolos – Nebbiolo, with all the vineyards located at the very high altitude of 600+ meters (1800+ feet). I tried four different Aldo Rainoldi wines – 2007 Sassella, 2005 Crespino, 2006 Inferno Reserva and 2007 Sfursat Classico – all being truly outstanding and very comparable with great Barolos, but at the half price as the least.

In addition to all the wines in the tasting (about 700), there were some stronger spirits as well. One of the surprises was Calvados I tried. Calvados is a brandy which is made out of apples in the Calvados region of Normandy in France. Typically, I can drink it, but it is not something I would be seeking out. However, two of the Calvados presented at the tasting – Camut Calvados 6 years old and Camut Calvados Resreve 12 years old were simply incredible. Soft, smooth, elegant, great aroma of fresh apples, very delicate balance. They will not be easy to find, but I would highly recommend you will make an effort. You can try your luck at D&M, and believe me, you will not be disappointed.

That’s all, folks. There were many many more great wines, but you got to stop somewhere, right? Until the next time – cheers!

Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

November 29, 2010 3 comments

As promised, this is follow up post to compare Thanksgiving expectations with experiences.

When it comes to the food, the star of our table was dish called Turducken. First time I read about turducken in the late nineties in the Wall Street Journal. Since then we made it a few times for Thanksgiving. The dish is somewhat labor-intense, but absolutely delicious when done right. The word turducken comes from the fact that the dish consists of partially deboned turkey, with fully deboned duck going inside of turkey, and then deboned chicken going inside of a duck. The idea of enclosing birds into each other during cooking is not new, it had being done in Europe for centuries. Turducken specifically is considered to be originated in New Orleans – and one of most popular cooking styles for it is Cajun.

The process of preparation starts from deboning of chicken, duck and then turkey (turkey is only partially deboned with legs and wings left untouched). Next very important step is brining. As critical as it is for smoking, brining helps to retain the moisture in the meat during long cooking time. Brining typically takes 12 hours, so you need to plan your time accordingly.


After brining, the process of preparation starts from laying down the turkey, adding spices (or stuffing) on top, then putting in the duck, repeat spices again and then chicken, plus you can put any desired stuffing as the last layer (we used smoked sausages in our case). The next step is to sew the turkey together and place it in the oven for about 5 – 6 hours. The resulting bird is very moist and flavorful, and – may I add – very easy to carve.

So what about wine? Turducken and all the side dishes, such as yams, pumpkin and wild rice stuffing, are very flavorful, so it is hard to tell apriori which wine will work the best – therefore it is an opportunity to experiment. We tried Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau – this wine was completely lost next to turducken. Next one was Claraval, Spanish Grenache/Tempranillo blend – this wine well complemented the variety of flavors.

The winner was Serradenari Barolo 2005. It was decanted for 3 hours prior to the dinner (as always suggested for classic Barolos), and the wine showed beautiful layers of fruit and earth, which worked very well with turducken and other dishes at the table.

Of course we shouldn’t forget about desert. No, there was no pumpkin pie at the table. Yes, it is violation of the tradition, but when nobody likes the dish, it is hard to justify getting it on the table. Instead, Pecan pie is one of traditional staples of the sweet portion of our Thanksgiving dinners:

You are saying that coffee or tea would be the best match for such a dish? You are right, however, there are some exceptions here. We were lucky to have Rivesaltes 1936, a desert wine produced in Roussillon region in South of France (courtesy of my friend Zak). This is a natural sweet wine, made out of Grenache grape and produced in the same style since 13th century. This wine has luscious layers of nuts, honey, cloves and other spices, without overpowering sweetness of many of the ice wines. It drinks as a very light wine (despite high alcohol content) and perfectly complements many different deserts.

So, I told you what was on our Thanksgiving table. Now, I would love to know what was your most memorable dish and wine?

Expectations: Thanksgiving Dinner

November 25, 2010 1 comment

Thanksgiving day – friends, family, lots of food and wines. Culinary delight is definite part of the holiday – every possible ( and impossible) web site is full of new recipes to try and recommendations on what to serve.

I would love to write the blog post right after the dinner – but this would be literally impossible, as desire to sleep after a big meal will interfere. Therefore, let me just share my quick expectations. The staple dish for tonight is turducken – chicken inside duck inside turkey, all de-boned, of course, except turkey legs and wings. That is already in the oven and holds a big promise of the tasty meal ( pictures and details – in the later posts). There will be a lot more of traditional fall flavors – squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes – all taking part in the feast.

Variety of flavors is expected of the food, and it is hard to tell which wine will work the best. Therefore, when in doubt – experiment! We plan to have Beaujolais Nouveau ( Joseph Drouhin), Barolo, Zinfandel and Claraval (Spanish red).  Which one will pair the best? Hopefully one of the wines on the table. And if not – wine program for tonight also includes Rivesaltes 1936 and Bruichladdich 12 – expectations, expectations…

What will be on your table tonight?

Until later – Happy Thanksgiving!