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My First Can of Wine

November 25, 2014 22 comments

Field Recordings Can TopNo, I didn’t lose it. The title of this post actually makes sense. To the date, I had the wine from the bottles of all forms and sizes. I had the wine directly from the stainless steel tanks and oak barrels. I had the wine dispersed by the machine. I had the wine from the keg. Yes, I had a boxed wine (and it was just fine). But – until yesterday, I never had wine from the can.

Yesterday I did. The Fall club shipment from one of my absolute favorite wineries, Field Recordings, included a can of wine. Not just any wine, but once again, one of my most favorite wines, Fiction (my personal wine of the year in 2011). When I saw a notice about the upcoming club shipment, which included a picture of the can, my first though was – hmmm, interesting. Really curious to try it.

Wine shipment arrived last week. After I opened the box, first thing I noticed was that the cans appeared a bit wrinkled. You know, when you hold the can of beer or any beverage, the surface is typically very smooth under your fingers – this was not the case, with the tiny, but noticeable ups and downs, the wrinkles (may be there is a better term to describe it, but I hope you got my point). Okay, it is the content what matters, right? It is obvious that the wine in the can is not intended to be stored or admired for the long time on the shelf – with its appearance it technically says “drink me now”.

Talking about cans, I had two other interesting observations. First, the can was 500 ml in size (somehow based on the picture I was expecting the full 750 size). And then instead of the short story which appears on the bottle of Fiction, the can’s “back label” contained the following tasting note: “Heady aromas of blueberry pie, luxurious suede couches, ham paninis and unlit menthol cigarettes. Firm tannins anchor flavors of grilled meats, cherry cola, sweet carob and black licorice chews, all cased up together conveniently in a cigar humidor. Drink tonight“. An interesting description, don’t you think? As I also got a bottle of Fiction, I was relieved to see the old a familiar story on its back label…

2013 Field Recordings Fiction Cans

Okay, let’s get to “it” – let me tell you what I though about the wine. 2013 Field Recording Fiction Red Wine Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, $10 for 500 ml can, $18/bottle, 20% discount for catalog members; 31% Zinfandel, 26% Tempranillo, 15% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 8% Touriga Nacional) – in a word, the wine was delicious. It took about 10 minutes for the wine to open up and round itself up in a glass (I didn’t dare drinking it straight from the can, I think it would eliminate half of the pleasure – but feel free, of course). I didn’t find grilled meat or suede coaches in the wine. But it had beautiful, ripe blueberries and sweet cherries, some vanilla dusting and may be a touch of mocha and sweet oak, all impeccably woven into a tight bundle of pleasure, sip after sip. This wine was on par with all the previous releases of Fiction, sans the aromatics. I couldn’t find the mind-blowing aromatics the 2010 Fiction was showing, but nevertheless, this was a silky smooth and delicious wine which I would gladly drink again. But I would honestly prefer to pour from the bottle. Drinkability: 8-

Did you have the wine in the can? What do you think about the wine you had and the concept as a whole? Cheers!

Month in Wines – February 2014

March 3, 2014 3 comments

Here we go again – a summary of the best wine experiences of the February 2014. Reminder – I rate the wines on the 10 points scale, with pluses and minuses, so the wines typically included in this summary post are those starting with 8- ratings (yes, there can be exceptions). Here we go:

2013 Paumanok Chenin Blanc North Fork of Long Island, New York (11% ABV) – I had an interesting experience with this wine. I had it earlier in January, when it was not at the proper temperature (a bit too warm), and then later on another bottle which was properly chilled – and it was outstanding. Bright, refreshing, perfect acidity, white fruit notes with the touch of minerality, medium to full body, with pleasant creaminess. Very enjoyable. 8-

1966 Louis M. Martini California Mountain Pinot Noir (12.5% ABV) – incredible. Finesse, elegance, clear profile of a classic Pinot Noir – complete surprise and complete delight. 10

2012 Fiction by Field Recordings Red Wine Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, 40% Zinfandel, 13% Tempranillo, 12% Petite Sirah, 11% Touriga Nacional, 10% Mourvedre, 8% Grenache, 6% Cinsault) – fresh meadows on the nose, perfectly elegant and balanced wine, with clean acidity and medium-long finish. 8+

2012 Contrada Santa Croce Casteltermini Sicilia Cuvée Artisanale Chardonnay Grillot (13.5% ABV) – very unique and different wine. Finesse, balance, apricot and apricot pit, clean acidity. 8+

2011 Emile Beranger Pouilly-Fuissé AOC (13% ABV) – vanilla, butter, hint of toasted oak – all perfectly elegant and balanced in effervescent, cleanly structured package. 8+

2011 Domaine Jean Ernest Descombes Morgon AOC (12.9% ABV) – excellent earthy profile, good red fruit, good acidity, very enjoyable. 8-

1998 Ceretto Monsordo Langhe DOC (13% ABV) – Mature fruit, round, inviting and seductive. I think ‘sexy wine” will go fine as a descriptor. 8

1999 Philippe Prie Cuvée Love Flowers Champagne (12% ABV) – Great example of the vintage champagne – fresh bread, yeast, toasted apples, acidity – all together. 8

2011 Peter Lauer “Senior” Fass 6 Riesling, Saar, Germany (12.5% ABV) – A treat from our fellow Riesling guru, Oliver – perfect Riesling, balance, acidity, sunshine in every sip. 8

2008 Dr. Hermann Erdener Heremberg Riesling Eiswine (7% ABV) – Another treat from Oliver – and my first encounter with the actual German Eiswein (had only NY and Canadian wines before) – perfect complexity, perfect balance, good acidity – great finish of the meal, with or without desert. 8+

2009 Fat Cat Rotie Red Wine, California (13% ABV) – this is 100% Syrah, and it is nothing short of spectacular considering the QPR ( it retails for $17.99 is you can find it). Core of dark fruit with earthy profile, mocha and espresso, very balanced. 8+

2004 Carlisle Judge Family Vineyard Syrah Bennett Valley (15.9% ABV) – This is Carlisle – need I say more? Dark, concentrated, but elegant and perfectly balanced at the same time ( don’t even think of the ABV – you wouldn’t notice it unless you read the label). 9

2010 Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (14.2% ABV, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon) – classic. Cassis on the nose and palate, touch of espresso, medium to full body, perfect balance. 8

2008 Shaya Verdejo Old Vines, Rueda DO, Spain (13.5% ABV) – one of my very favorite Spanish white wines. In general, it beats Chardonnay hands down, 9 times out of 10 – buttery complexity on the palate, roll-of-your-tongue goodness, round and perfectly balanced. 8+

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I also want to mention separately few of the rare grapes I added this month.

2011 I Borboni Vite Maritata Asprinio Aversa DOP, Campania (12% ABV) – very interesting wine which Stefano brought directly from Italy (it seems to be scarcely available in US). Made from the grape called Aspirinio –  the wine had very nice acidity, coupled with a plump body and nice lemon notes. 8-

2006 Azienda Agricola Vestini Campagnano Casa Vecchia Terre Del Volturino IGT, Campania (13.5% ABV) – another great treat from Stefano. Made from the grape called Casavecchia – very nice nose of plums with more plums on the palate, medium body, round and inviting, perfect balance. 8

2012 Sant’Isidoro Colli Maceratesi Ribona Pausula, Marche  – this wine is made of the grape called Maceratino – very nice with good acidity. I tasted it at the VinItaly expo, so no ratings.

That concludes February wine report. Cheers!

Beautiful Snow and Beautiful Wine

February 9, 2014 21 comments

There was a lot of snow here in CT over the last week. Most of the snow is still here, and considering the forecast, will be lingering around for a while. Yes, the snow is nuisance and inconvenience, it is tough to shovel, and a lot of it became ice at this point. But when sun comes out, it really becomes a thing of beauty. This snow had also a very interesting characteristic – well, may be it is me who didn’t see it before, but this snow is really glowing blue, especially as you dig in and look at it. So for what it worth, here are some pictures, snapped literally just around the house. Plus, I also included a few pictures which my daughter made with her iPhone – it is pretty amazing what that little device can do. And if you will scroll all the way down, I will also talk a bit about the wine. Here we go:

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This is one of my favorites

This is one of my favorites

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That snow and that sky…

DSC_0704What makes snow so beautiful?

Image2iPhone picture by Rina – the leaf

image3The same, only black and white

And a bit of perspective

And a bit of perspective

More perspective

More perspective

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A frozen beauty

Yes, the snow was beautiful, but it got in the way. The snow on Wednesday was bad enough to affect the trains, so I had to miss the Basilicata winemakers dinner in the city, which I was really looking for. So I decided to compensate for that by opening the bottle of new vintage of one of my favorite wines – Fiction by Field Recordings. I’m sure some of you know at this point that I’m very particular to the Field Recordings wines in general, but Fiction is so unique, it is one of my all times most memorable wines ( and it was my Wine of the Year in 2011) – here is the blog post about my first experience with 2010 Fiction.

The 2012 Fiction by Field Recordings Red Wine Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, 40% Zinfandel, 13% Tempranillo, 12% Petite Sirah, 11% Touriga Nacional, 10% Mourvedre, 8% Grenache, 6% Cinsault) didn’t disappoint. The spectacular nose of fresh meadows – this is the wine which you can’t put down – one smell requires another, and another, and another. The aromatics of this wine absolutely spectacular – I don’t know how that works, but I can’t put the glass down. The palate is very playful, with lots of fresh fruit, raspberries, blueberries, cherries – everything is in one beautiful medley, supported by clean acidity and perfectly balanced. The 14.9% ABV are absolutely unnoticeable – this is the wine of the pure harmony. Drinkability: 8+

That is all I have for you for my report on snow and the wine. Stay warm and drink good wine. Cheers!

Wine, Pick Me Up, Please!

May 23, 2012 8 comments

So you had a bad day at work. During the meeting boss kept giving you the look, you know, that one. Engineering just informed you that project delivery will be delayed [yet again]  by 4 weeks, and you are the one to come up with the third(!) apology/excuse to the customer. And actually, this Sunday you will have to be on the plane, and it will be 3rd week in a row you have to travel over the weekend and cancel all your plans. Is that bad enough, or do we need to throw in a flat tire and a speeding ticket on the way to work?

Okay, you arrive home in sufficiently bad mood. Sit down, relax, may be put on some nice music (I don’t know about you, but Stan Getz, Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett will fit the bill for me). Will glass of wine help to cheer you up? Most probably. But what bottle should you open? If your answer is “the only one I already have”, this post might not help you much…

My wine teacher Kevin Zraly always said that “the wine should give you pleasure“. So another short answer would be “the one which will give you pleasure” – and what we need to keep in mind is that the wine I would enjoy immensely might be completely not your thing. Let’s put this aside, and let’s assume that I actually had a bad day at work. Well, it would be the easiest then to write this blog post empirically and emphatically, but I’m not sure than if I actually had a bad day at work, I would be able to write a good blog post, so … did I lose you yet? Let’s get back to the subject.

Here are three important criteria for selecting the “pick me up” wine. First, it should be an “instantly on” wine. What I mean is that the wine should be ready to drink as soon as the bottle is open. This will effectively exclude lots of big Italian wines, such as Barolo and Brunello, as well as many California Cabs (unless you have something aged to perfection in your cellar and it is actually ready to drink now) – anything which needs decanting or prolonged breathing time should be avoided here.

Then I would suggest that the wine should be familiar. It should be the wine you had before and you know how it will taste like. There is nothing wrong with opening a totally unknown bottle of wine, but – you are in a bad mood already, are you sure it is worth taking chances?

The last factor I want to throw in here – I want this wine to have a great smell. I think the “pick me up” process should start from the very first whiff from your glass, way before you take a first sip. Smell has a great power to transform your mood right away – and the great bonus or a great smell is that you can smell the wine indefinitely as it opposed to drinking it.

Oh, wait, there is one more desired feature here – the wine should be good. In other words, it should give you pleasure. In my personal book it means that the wine should be balanced and as an added bonus, have sense of place.

Let me give you some examples of the wines which should be able to improve one’s mood (I’m sure they will work for me).

2010 Fiction Red Wine Paso Robles by Field Recordings. I talked about this magnificent wine a number of times already in this blog, so let me just quote myself:First and foremost, it is a smell which doesn’t lets you put the glass down. Fresh flowers, meadows, herbs, fresh summer air – it is all captured in the smell of this wine. On the palate, this wine shows bright red fruit, like raspberries and cherries, all perfectly balanced with a great finesse. Any time you want to experience beautiful summer day, reach out to that wine.”

Flora Springs Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc 2009. “One of the very best California Sauvignon Blanc I ever had. Beautiful combination of traditional grassiness with fruit forward and finesse. Outstanding!”

 

 

Rozes Over 40 Years Old Port. “My best port ever. I can close eyes and imagine the smell and taste of this wine – multiple layers, tremendous complexity and great opportunity to reflect on life when the finish lasts for 15 minutes or longer.”

 

 

2007 Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine “This was definitely the best Icewine I ever tried. Light and effervescent (not your usual descriptors for the icewine), with perfect acidity complementing beautiful fruit. True masterpiece.

 

There you have it – I’m sure either one of this wines will greatly improve your mood. However, there is an extremely good chance that any [your personal good] bottle of wine will help too. Besides, having a bad day at work is not at all mandatory to enjoy a glass of wine (or two). Tell me, what will be in your glass today? Cheers!

Top Dozen Wines of 2011

December 27, 2011 10 comments

I’m not sure I fully believe it, but time has come to sum up another year. Same as last year, I’m going to present you with a dozen of most exciting wines of 2011. I keep mentioning that quality of the wines available from all over the world is getting better and better, and it was very hard to decide on only 12 wines out of many hundreds of great wines I had an opportunity to experience throughout the year. This list is unequivocally subjective, and to make it even more subjective my criteria was the “wow” moment experienced when I tasted the wines – this is always dangerous, as depending on the circumstances of the “wow” tasting, the same wine might not be as exciting the next time. Nevertheless, without further ado, here are my twelve  best wines of 2011.

12. 2005 Maisuradze Wines Mukuzani ($NA) – power and more power. This wine is a monster powerhouse, and you are hypnotized by that power and don’t want to put your glass aside. Tremendous tannins, complemented by acidity and good fruit. Very big wine. Will be very interesting to lay it down for 10-15 years. Transformation should be remarkable, if you can wait, of course.

11. Bodegas Hidalgo Pedro Ximenez Viejo Triana ($24) – first, there is an element of awe when you drink this wine, as it is 250 years old ( at least in the trace amount, thanks to the Solera method when the new wine is added to the barrel which was never emptied completely for the last 250 years). Then the taste is spectacular – liquified fig jam, but very light and balanced with nice acidity.

10. 2009 Montalbera Laccento Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato ($30) – the wine opened up with a nice earthy smell, with fresh unadulterated grapey taste on the palate, somewhat similar to Beaujolais Noveau, but then quickly evolved to deliver the  power punch of big voluptuous wine. This wine needs lots of time, but in the end, it will be glorious, multi-layered beauty. If you can find it, put a few bottles to rest and experience later for yourself (ability to wait is required).

9. 2009 Bodegas Shaya Habis Rueda DO ($28) – this wine is made out of old vines Verdejo (100+ years old vines). This is one of the most unanticipated wines I ever had, as while you are expecting Verdejo wines to be somewhat simple and easy, this wine delivers complexity of a top-class Chardonnay, with toasted apple, vanilla and hint of butter on the palate, all with the great balance.

8. 1982 Chateau Prieure-Lichine Margaux ($130) – This was a 1982 Bordeaux! Do I need to say anything else? A Bordeaux from Grand Cru producer from legendary year – it doesn’t get much better than that. The wine was beautiful,  fresh, with great fruit and great balance of tannins and acidity. I rest my case.

7. 1993 Lopez de Heredia Vino Tondonia Rioja Blanco  ($33) – it is rather expected that 1976 Vina Tondonia Rioja Gran Reserva would be good, but 18 years old white Rioja? Hmmm, I couldn’t imagine that – but then came 1993 Vina Tondonia Rioja Blanco, and it was beautiful, fresh and acidic, coming through as a very youthful wine, with lots of fresh fruit. You can still get it at PJ Wine, and I believe it’s worth every penny.

6. 2009 Wente Vineyards Small Lot Grenache Livermore Valley ($35) – opens up with a nose of ripe plums, continuing into plush, soft, round wine with velvety mouthfeel, very balanced. Very similar to great Spanish Grenache wines, like Alto Moncayo Aquilon, only coming from California. This wine is available only at the winery, but definitely worth a trip if you are in the area.

5. 1991 Justin Cabernet Franc, San Luis Obispo County – ($25) – this was a gorgeous wine, great structure, ripe fruit, balance and finesse – without showing any sign of age. The only problem was that I got only one bottle from the Benchmark Wine Company…

4. 2009 Peter Michael “Belle Cote” Estate Chardonnay – ($80) – this Chardonnay was a beautiful song, or may be rather a dance of impeccable synchronicity. Absolutely stunning in its balance of fruit, acidity and minerality, with the hint of white peaches and golden delicious apples on the palate, but just a hint – not a single element taking over and pushing others aside. From the moment I tasted this wine, it became my golden standard for what Chardonnay should be – you can even see it throughout my posts.

3. 2007 Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine ($130) – This was definitely the best Icewine I ever tried. Light and effervescent (not your usual descriptors for the icewine), with perfect acidity complementing beautiful fruit. True masterpiece.

2. 2001 Masi Mazzano Amarone della Valpolicella ($130) – this was an Amarone I’m constantly looking for and can’t find. Stunning nose of the raisined fruit, a dried fruit extravaganza – with powerful, structured and balanced body – not a glimpse of overripe fruit which is so common in the nowadays Amarone. Truly beautiful wine for the special moments.

1. 2010 Fiction Red Wine Paso Robles by Field Recordings ($20) – First and foremost, it is a smell which doesn’t lets you put the glass down. Fresh flowers, meadows, herbs, fresh summer air – it is all captured in the smell of this wine. On the palate, this wine shows bright red fruit, like raspberries and cherries, all perfectly balanced with a great finesse. Any time you want to experience beautiful summer day, reach out to that wine.

For what it worth, these are my favorite wines of 2011. I’m sure 2012 will bring many more exciting discoveries – it is great to be an oenophile today! What were your favorites of 2011? Please share it here! Cheers!

Music, Recorded in the Vineyard

December 4, 2011 9 comments

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!

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