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WBC18: Speed (Live) Tasting – White and Rosé

October 23, 2018 1 comment

In the previous post, I told you about our speed tasting session of red wines at the Wine Bloggers Conference 2018. During the second full conference day, we had a session for white and Rosé – only we didn’t get any Rosé at our table, so it was all for us (it is still 20+ different wines been presented around, but you only can taste just 10 during the allotted time.

If you read any of the previous posts or maybe attended the event, you know the drill. Snap, swirl, smell, sip, spit, share. Hmmm, next time I will call it a 6S exercise. You (1) snap a photo of a bottle. You (2) swirl the wine in your glass. You (3) smell it. Then you (4) sip it. Then you (5) spit it (well, there might be an exception to this rule, but you have to tread carefully here – if you can’t spit the wine, the wine bloggers conference is not for you). Lastly, you (6) share your notes with the world. All in 5 minutes. All repeated 10 times. There you have it.

Before I share the WBC18 wines with you now in this summary post, I will give you links to the WBC14, WBC16, and WBC17 I attended in the past, just in case you want to see what was happening there.

WBC18 speed tasting whites, here we go:

Wine 1: 2017 Desert Wind Chardonnay Heritage Series Wahluke Scope Washington (12.7% ABV, $28)

Wine 2: 2017 Bodega Bouza Albariño Montevideo Uruguay (13.5% ABV, $20)

Wine 3: 2016 Baroness Cellars Riesling Red Mountains (12.4% ABV, $25)

Wine 4: 2016 Rodney Strong Chardonnay Chalk Hill AVA (14.5% ABV, $22) – classic California Chardonnay, good wine at a good QPR.

Wine 5: 2016 Cadaretta SBS Columbia Valley (13.5% ABV, $23, 67% Sauvignon Blanc, 33% Semillon) – SBS stands exactly for Sauvignon Blanc Semillon. An excellent wine for a summer day? Well, I think I can drink it on a winter day too…

Wine 6: 2016 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay Carneros (14.4% ABV, $30)

Wine 7: 2016 J. Bookwalter Double Plot Chardonnay Conner-Lee Vineyard Columbia Valley (13.8% ABV, $40)

The next wine was presented with the statement to all of the Riesling haters – as shown here by Clifford Robben:

If you don't like riesling you are a

Wine 8: 2016 Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling GG Alte Reben Mosel (12.5% ABV, $56) – you can’t argue with greatness – this was one delicious Riesling

Wine 9: 2015 Brokenwood Semillon Hunter Valley (10.5% ABV, $22) – Hunter Valley Semillon might be one of the biggest secrets lucky attendees of WBC19 will discover. The wine might show as overly acidic when young, but with some age on it, it becomes an impeccable thing of beauty…

Wine 10: 2016 Brooks Ara Riesling Willamette Valley (12.8% ABV, $38) – another beautiful wine from the Brooks winery. From the tasting of the reds, Borrks Rastaban was my favorite wine. Now this Ara Riesling was equally impressive – and I didn’t know that Riesling was even made in Oregon. A delicious surprise.

There you go, my friends – the summary of one of my favorite exercises at the wine bloggers conference. Sorry, Chardonnay – the Riesling totally stole the crown this time. Cheers!

An Evening With Friends – In Singapore

April 6, 2018 10 comments

For years I had been following the Oz’s Travels blog, commenting from time to time on the great wine (and food) experiences described there. Over these years, we built a virtual friendship with Oz (Anthony), the author of that blog, with one recurrent theme “one day you will make it to Singapore, and then…”. As amazing as the life is, that “one day” actually happened about two months ago when my business travel finally brought me to Singapore.

Maybe you saw my very excited post about Gardens of Singapore – but the evening before I experienced all the gardens, I was able to meet, shake hands, and share a few (okay, more than a few) bottles with Oz and his friends.

Oz picked me up from the hotel with his friend Rob and we proceeded to the restaurant, where another Oz’s friend (also Rob), was already waiting for us. Then, there was food, wine, and scotch – but let’s take it all in steps.

First, the restaurant – newly open Garang Grill (a sequel to the already successful Garang Grill at another location). The restaurant allows guests to bring their own alcohol, which we took an advantage of – while restaurant provided glasses and decanters. During the course of our dinner, I  had an opportunity to experience a variety of creative dishes. Skewers of sauteed foie gras were melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Luncheon meat fries (yes! talk about creative!)  were superb with delicious dipping sauce. I since made the same dish at home and everyone loved it. Crab rillette, steak – everything was delicious and tasty. Here is an account of our dinner – in pictures.

And then there was wine. What I love about Oz’s parties is the abundance of wine, and not just any wine, but nicely aged wine – and you know how much I admire the wine with a little (or not so little) age on it. Here is what went down:

1996 André Beaufort Champagne Grand Cru Ambonnay. Never had it and never heard of André Beaufort Champagne before. Meanwhile, this happens to be one of the oldest all-organic grape growers in Champagne. This 1996 was disgorged in 2014. The wine had great acidity, green apples, still perfect fizz, candied apples with a hint of cinnamon showing on the nose. Yeast showed up later. Excellent. That was a real treat.

2008 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling Clare Valley. Australian Riesling is not a simple wine. I remember trying young Australian Rieslings many years ago, and putting them into the category of “I never want to drink this again”. It takes a bit of time to understand the beauty of the wine devoid of any sweetness and instead offering in-your-face acidity and minerality. But once you turn the corner, this becomes the style you crave. This particular wine at hand was, in many ways, an encounter with the legend. You see, Clare Valley is one of the best regions for Australian Riesling. Polish Hill is one of the very best vineyards. And Jeffrey Grosset is a legendary producer, one of the best winemakers in the world. Now you add a bit of age, say, 10 years – and you almost get heaven on Earth – petrol on the nose, restrained palate, minerality through the roof, great acidity, just a pure delight in every sip.

1994 Bodegas Beronia Rioja Reserva. Behind damaged label was an excellent wine – still fresh, good fruit, good acidity, excellent. Still has time to evolve. Based on the color also still young – just starts showing age.

2005 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley. This was my contribution to our lineup. Jordan needs no introduction to the Cabernet Sauvignon wine lovers. This wine was very good, typical California Cab. The wine had an interesting amount of sweetness, more than I expected – as it showed no age, I would assume it still needs more time to evolve. I have one more bottle from the same vintage – will have to wait with that one for a bit.

2008 Standish Wine Company El Standito Proyecto Garnacha Tintorera Yecla DO. This is a Spanish wine, of course – produced by Standish Wines from Australia. Yecla is the best known for their Monastrell wines – this wine, however, was made from the grape called Garnacha Tintorera, which is also known as Alicante Bouschet, which can produce massive, dense wines. This wine was no exception – excellent, restrained, good balance, good fruit, good acidity – and still in need 0f at least another 20 years to evolve.

2005 Dr. Loosen Erdner Prälat Riesling Auslese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. You can’t finish such an evening without a dessert wine, can’t you? 13 years old Auslese by Dr. Losen – need I say more? The wine was amazing, great balance, a touch of candied plum, great acidity, fresh, simply superb.

This was the end of our dinner, but not the end of our evening. A short taxi ride took us to the unassuming building (well, it was dark, so maybe it is not as unassuming during the day) which happened to be a Rendezvous Hotel, one of the oldest in Singapore. After taking a flight of stairs up, we entered the room where my jaw literally hit the floor. The “room” was called The Auld Alliance – the scotch and whiskey bar (primarily) with more than 1,600 (!) different whiskeys available to taste and purchase. I never saw anything like that in my life, and the selection there was simply beyond words:

In addition to many whiskeys available by the glass, The Auld Association also offers a number of tasting flights – I had the one called “Smoke around the world” and it was definitely fun (I hope you don’t expect my tasting notes after 18 hours of non-stop travel and prior dinner with all the wines).

So this is my account of an amazing evening in Singapore. It was definitely a pleasure meeting Oz and his friends, and the whole evening was simply beyond expectations. Cheers!

Re-post: Affordable Luxuries of the Wine World: Sweet Wines

February 14, 2013 6 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, I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Affordable Luxuries” 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. Ahh, and I think this post is very appropriate today, as we celebrate Valentine’s Day – Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

drloosen_ba_RieslingWe are continuing our “affordable luxuries” series. In the previous posts we were comparing Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage wines, as well as Grenache and Garnacha. Today we will talk about sweet wines.

First, let’s make sure we are all on the same page. We will be talking about real wines, made out of grapes, with soul and heart – this excludes white zinfandel, as well as blueberry, peach and coconut concoctions from further consideration. Second, I deliberately avoid using the word “dessert” wines, as that creates and expectations that we will be talking about wines which should be served only after a meal – where sweet wines are just the wines which have a lot of sweetness in the taste – but they are balanced and interesting enough to be actually served at any time during the meal or by themselves. I remember how Kevin Zraly, famous American wine educator, described his dining experience in Sauternes, area in France making some of the best in the world sweet wines: while he was expecting Sauternes to be served only with desserts, quite on contrary, they were served as aperitif, with an appetizer and entrée course, and then, of course, with dessert.

If you look at the sweet wines in general, you will find wide variety of styles, with differences a lot more pronounced than, for instance, between classic Burgundy and fruit forward California Zinfandel. It would make it a fun project to classify the sweet wines of the world (hmmm, note to self), however, it would never fit in the format of the entertaining blog post, so let’s defer this for some other time, and let’s just lay down some basic facts.

Essentially, sweet wines can be made from absolutely any grape used in the wine making. There are some grape varieties, like Muscat, which are known to develop very high sugar levels and thus used more often in production of the sweet wines. Nevertheless, grapes are always harvested when they contain enough sugar to be made into the wine of particular style, whether it is Rioja, or Burgundy, or California Cabernet Sauvignon or anything else. Once grapes are harvested, they undergo a process of fermentation – that’s when sugars are converted by the yeast into the alcohol.

What makes wine to taste sweet is the amount of sugar left in the wine after fermentation is complete (it is called “residual sugar”). So in a very simplistic way, when we make sweet wine, we want grapes to have as much sugar as possible – which can be achieved by late harvesting the grapes, or by drying grapes under the sun, almost making them into raisins before the fermentation (this process is called passito), or by letting grapes to shrivel on the vine as the result of noble rot, or by letting grapes freeze on the vine and then making wine out of the frozen grapes. Whew, so much information in a single sentence! If you want to actually learn more about the same in a slow down form, take a look at the Wikipedia article on the sweet wines.

In order to retain sugar in the wine, we need to stop fermentation before all the sugar is converted into alcohol. There are two ways to do so. One is by adding pure alcohol, which kills all the leftover yeast and therefore fermentation stops. This is how Port wines are made, for instance. Another way to stop fermentation is by lowering the temperature of the liquid, which will technically achieve the same result as adding the alcohol (yeast stops converting sugars into alcohol), and then filtering the yeast out. This is how Riesling wines are made, for instance. There will be of course a difference in the amount of alcohol in the resulting wines – Ports typically have 19%, and Rieslings typically are ranging from 7% to 12%.

Now, after all this technical details, we are supposed to be talking about affordable luxuries, right? We learn to like (and crave) sugar from the moment we are born, so it is very easy to like sweet wines. But – it is not maple syrup we are talking about – it is a wine after all. The idea of a great wine is that it gives us pleasure – and pleasure of wine is dependent on the balance, whatever the balance would mean to you. Therefore, sweet wines are not been an exception at all – we want them to be balanced, same as any other wine we enjoy drinking. You want the balance of sweetness, acidity, fruit, minerality and alcohol – in other words, you want sweet wines to have sense of place and being well made.

Same as for any other wines, you will find sweet wines at full range of prices. Legendary Chateau d’Yquem from Sauternes will get you anywhere from $600 to $2000 per bottle, depending on the year and availability. At the same time, you can enjoy Haut Charmes Sauternes (Number 12 on my 2010 Top Dozen wines list) for $17. You can find Ruby Port for about $10 ( not necessarily very enjoyable), going to Rozes over 40 years old Port for about $100 (amazing, Number 2 on my 2010 Top Dozen) and then to the Taylor Fladgate Scion 155 years old (dream) at $3000 per bottle – if you can find it, of course.

d'Arenberg sticky chardonnaySo for this post, let’s compare 2008 d’Arenberg Stump Jump Sticky Chardonnay from Australia (about $10 for 375 ml bottle) with 2006 Dr. Loosen Riesling BA ($20 for 187 ml bottle, so it is 4 times more expensive).

This sticky Chardonnay is a very nice wine, showing lots of peach, ripe apple and honey notes on the palate, with good acidity. When you try this wine by itself, the perception is “very good” – you just need to forgive some rough edges, a little sharpness on the palate.

So one would be technically quite happy with this Dessert wine – at least until he or she will have a chance to try the Dr. Loosen Beerenauslese Riesling. Light and beautiful, effervescent, with exposed minerality, smooth and balanced, with clean acidity and light sweetness. Very easy to drink and without any heavy aftertaste (as some sweet white wines can do). While d’Arenberg Sticky Chardonnay is quite drinkable, Dr. Loosen Riesling is definitely few notches above in terms of delivering pleasure.

Well, it is time to conclude. I hope you got a few ideas to explore – and don’t be afraid to experiment and look for your own personal wine pleasures – the reward is well worth it. Cheers!