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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!

 

 

Study of Grapes, 152 at a Time

July 31, 2012 6 comments

How do you experience 152 grape varieties, all at the same time? Easy. You get a bottle of Giribaldi Cento Uve wine and … voilà!

As you probably know, I’m an enthusiastic member of the Wine Century Club – a virtual club dedicated to the grape adventures. I already talked too many times about virtues of the Wine Century Club, thus I’m not going to bore you with those details again. Instead, let me focus on only one, dare I say it, sacred bottle of wine – 2005 Giribaldi Cento Uve Langhe DOC.

What makes this wine “sacred”? It is made out of 50% Nebbiolo and the other 50% containing additional 151 (!) varieties, so it can really help you to advance in the quest for higher levels of The Wine Century Club membership (except that it doesn’t count towards the first level of membership with 100 varieties). The wine is almost impossible to find in US – except one wine shop in Colorado which actually carries it (if you are interested, the wine is available from The Vineyard Wine Shop, 303-355-8324). When I called the store to order this wine, gentleman who answered the phone, Matt, said that he is quite convinced that they don’t have any wine under such name – after checking his computer, he was surprised more than me by actually finding it. At $60 + $20 for the shipping, this was definitely worth the experience.

Interestingly enough, finding this wine and drinking it was the easiest part – the tough (seriously tough) part was figuring out what grapes I already tasted and what grapes I can actually add to my list. As this is one of the coolest parts of Wine Century Club membership ( figuring out what is what in the grape world), let me explain it with appropriate level of details.

To begin with, the web site for this wine states that it contains 152 varieties. The list of grapes is nowhere to be found on the winemaker’s web site. The only place on internet where you can find the list is at the Indian Wine Academy. Well, list is a list, you say, right? Yes, but not precisely. As I need to properly account for all the grapes I already tasted, I need to go through that list very carefully, line by line. As soon as I started going through the list, I noticed duplications (same grapes listed twice, like Gamay, for instance) – I called it a red flag and decided that the right thing to do is to contact Giribaldi, the winemaker. After 2 or 3 of my e-mails went unanswered, I decided that it is a time to … get an audience support? No, call a friend! And as I happened to have a good friend in Italy, Corrado, I asked him to help me to get to the correct list. This was not easy, but after a few conversations with the winery, he was able to get full description of the wine, including the list of grapes.

Yay? Nope. The list of grapes was … identical to the one published on the site of the Indian Wine Academy! Fine. From here on, I had to figure it out myself. I converted the list to the Excel file, and sorted it alphabetically. Then I had to figure out how to get from 156 varieties listed to the 152 which we know this wine has. It later downed on me that 156 varieties  include Nebbiolo and 4 Nebbiolo clones , therefore if we will take all 5 Nebbiolo varieties from consideration we will get to the target number of 151. Whew. Tired of me yet? No? Let’s continue.

Next step was to remove obvious duplicates, then go through the list again. For every grape I didn’t know, I used Internet resources to verify that such a grape exists (i.e., referenced at least once on one or more sites). Here is the good list of references in case you ever need to conduct a search on grape etymology (Italian grapes, if you will):

After all the cleanup, removing duplicates, fixing the spelling and checking the references, I got to the final list of 138 grapes (don’t ask me where the 14 went – let’s keep it a grape mystery), out of which I was unable to find any references for the grape called Michele Pagliari – therefore I’m keeping it on the list, but not counting towards the new grapes. In case you want to see a transition here is an excel file for you – note that is has multiple spreadsheets inside starting from full list. Here is the list of those final 138 grapes.

Legend: letter N next to the grape stands for Nero (red), B is for Bianche (white), Rs is for Rose. Showing in Bold are the grapes which I count as new grapes for my grape count.

Aglianico N Michele Pagliari N
Albarola N Montepulciano N
Albarossa N Moscato bianco B
Aleatico N. Moscato giallo B
Alicante Bouschet N Moscato nero di Acqui N
Ancellotta N. Moscato Rosa Rs
Arneis B Muller Thurgau B
Avanà N Nascetta B
Avarengo N Nebbiolo  N.
Baco Nero N Nebbiolo ( Bolla) N
Barbera bianca B. Nebbiolo ( Rosè) N
Barbera N. Nebbiolo (Lampia) N
Becuet N. Nebbiolo (Michet)N
Bianchetta Tevigiano B Negrette N
Bianchetta Veronese B Neretta cuneese N.
Bombino Bianco B Neretto di Bairo N
Bombino Nero N Nero Buono N
Bonarda Piemontese N Nero d’Ala N
Bosco Nero N Nero d’Avola N
Brachetto N. Neyret N
Bracciola N Pampanuto N
Brunello N Pecorino N
Bussanello B Pelaverga (di Pagno) N
Cabernet Franc N Pelaverga N
Cabernet Sauvignon N Pelaverga piccolo N
Canaiolo B. Petit Arvine N
Canina N Petit Verdot N
Cannonau N Pigato B
Carica l’Asino N Pignola Nera N
Carignano N Pinot bianco B
Catarratto comune B Pinot Grigio G
Catarratto Nero N Pinot Nero N
Chardonnay B. Plassa N
Chatus N Pollera 1 N
Ciliegiolo N. Portugieser N
Colorino Nero N Primitivo N
Cornalin Prosecco B
Cornarea N Quagliano N
Cortese B Raboso Veronese N
Corvina Nera N Rebo Nero N
Croatina N Refosco da Peduncolo Rosso N
Crovassa N Riesling B
Dolcetto N Riesling italico B
Doux d’Henry N Riesling Renano B
Durasa N Rossese bianco B
Durasca (Dolcetto di Boca) N Rossese N
Enantio N Ruché N
Erbaluce B Sangiovese N
Favorita B Sauvignon Blanc B
Franconia N (Blaufränkisch) Schiava Gentile N
Freisa di Chieri N Schiava grossa N
Freisa di Nizza N Schiava N
Gamay N. Sylvaner Verde B
Gargiulo N Syrah N
Grechetto N Teroldego Nero N
Grignolino N Timorasso B
Grillo B Tocai Friulano B
Incrocio Manzoni N Tocai Rosso N
Lambrusca di Alessandria N Torbato B
Lambrusco Maestri N Traminer aromatico Rs
Lumassina N Trebbiano Toscano B
Maiolica N Uva di Troia N
Malvasia di Casorzo N Uva rara N
Malvasia di Schierano N Uvalino N
Malvasia Istriana N Veltlimer Fruhrot  N
Malvasia nera lunga N Verduzzo Trevigiano B
Manzoni bianco B Vermentino B
Marzemino N Vespolina N
Merlot N Zweigelt N
Grand total for the new grapes – 67. I think it is a pretty good leap in my grape counting adventure.

What is left to tell you? The tasting notes, of course. Considering that this wine is very close to Barolo (uses the same main grape, Nebbiolo), we decanted the wine prior to the tasting for about 3 hours. The wine showed considerable dry, very balanced, good tannins, sour cherries (we are going nicely alongside of typical Barolo, right?) and the showing flowery undertones after the sip – not your typical Barolo anymore. I guess those 151 grapes affect the taste, at least a little bit. All in all, this was a very nice wine. Drinkability: 8.

That’s all for now, folks. Consider starting your own grape adventure – the fun is all yours. Cheers!

Father’s Day Escapades

June 19, 2012 6 comments

This Father’s Day was one of the best ever, so I decided to share with you some of the experiences – as you can imagine, mostly in the form of the pictures.

The day started with the cards from the kids – this is always a great beginning. Then the weather gradually changed from overcast to a beautiful clear sunny day with just the right temperature (don’t know what is your idea of a great summer temperature, but for me 75F and a light breeze is almost ideal). From there on,  there was great food, great wine and … some interesting new experiences.

Here are few pictures to give you an idea about cooking (well, yes, not so much cooking, mostly grilling).

Grilled chicken tights:

Kebab, on the grill:

And the same kebab, off the grill:

I don’t know why, but potatoes fry the best on the side burner of the grill (we have electric stove in the kitchen):

And then mushrooms… I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to eat mushrooms any time and any day:

Enough about the food. Let’s talk about the drinks now.

First, we had some [very lazy] cocktails. Just take it out from the freezer, squish in the glass and voila! 8 different flavors are available in the store – and Mango Daiquiri was the best out of the four we tried:

Then we switched to Champagne – errr, Sparkling wine. We had Marques de Gelida Cava Brut Reserva, which is Rose (Pinot Noir based) – very nice, round, medium bodied and refreshing (Drinkability: 7+) :

The best part about this sparkling wine was… opening of the bottle. Despite the fact that I told you not to saber a bottle of Champagne at home, I decided to ignore my own recommendation and try to saber the bottle (you should know that deep inside I’m a 10-years old, masquerading as an adult). Sabering was an absolute success, as I managed to do it from the first attempt. I have even a short video of that process, but it will require time to process, so for now, I can only show you some pictures which will illustrate  what happened. Here is the top of the bottle:

And here is the very top of the neck – the glass top was completely separated during  the opening, cork and glass together:

The only problem is – Sabering was so much fun, now I want to do it again!

Then we had a very nice red – 2009 Cave de Tain l’Hermitage Crozes-Hermitage Les Hauts de Fief (13% ABV, $17.99)- earthy nose with some roasted notes, same on the palate – deep concentrated ( but not jammy) fruit, great acidity, touch of spices, round tannins, very balanced (Drinkability: 8).

Then we had scotch – 41 years old Lonach Glendarroch (from Highlands, distilled in 1967) – absolutely amazing. I can’t even try to describe complexity of that scotch here – it will take a few tasting sessions to figure that out (my wife said that it was by far her favorite scotch ever):

Now last, but not least – my Father’s day present – 2005 Giribaldi Cento Uve, Langhe, Italy:

In case you are wondering what’s so special about this wine: it is made out of 152 grape varieties (you can read more here), so it will mean a serious progress of my grape count.

That’s all folks. I’m very happy with my Father’s day. How was yours? Cheers!

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