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Posts Tagged ‘Grenache’

Time to Celebrate Grenache – 2017 Edition

September 15, 2017 4 comments

This year, I managed to miss lots of the “grape day” celebrations. Well, life takes precedence. But – we have enough grapes to celebrate, and I’m glad to partake in festivities in honor of one of my most favorite grapes – Grenache, a.k.a. Garnacha, and sometimes a.k.a. Garnatxa (hmmm, should I also mention Cannonau?).

Grenache is one of the most versatile grapes I know, and the word “versatile” here truly has multiple meanings. Grenache does perfectly in the “old world”, producing delicious wines in France (think Southern Rhone and Languedoc), all over the Spain, and Sardinia in Italy. It reaches incredible heights in the “new world”, producing cult level wines in Australia and the USA (Sine Qua Non, anyone?). Grenache wines are delicious in its purity, made out of the 100% of the grape; Grenache also performs splendidly in a band, often known as GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre) blend, where it can play multiple roles, from leading to minor and supportive. Yes, it is one versatile grape.

Grenache from Carinena

When it comes to Grenache, especially on its special day, province of Aragon in Northern Spain deserves special mention. It is widely considered that the Kingdom of Aragon was a birthplace of Grenache, and from there the grape took on to Italy and France, before conquering the rest of the world. In Aragon, 4 wine regions – DOs of Cariñena, Somontano, Calatayud, and Campo de Borja – produce what we can call a “classic Grenache” (I guess “classic Garnacha” would sound more appropriate), boasting some of the oldest Grenache vines in the world.

We can’t celebrate with an empty glass, can’t we? For this special day, I would like to share with you the notes for 3 of the “classic Garnacha” wines, coming exactly from the DO Cariñena in Aragon:

2015 Paniza Garnacha Rosé Cariñena DO (13% ABV)
C: deep pink
N: fresh strawberries, berries and leaves
P: fresh strawberries all the way, succulent, generous and round. Perfect presence in your mouth.
V: 8-/8, delicious wine

2014 Bodegas San Valero Particular Garnacha Cariñena DO (14%ABV)
C: garnet
N: fresh plums, mocha, eucalyptus, inviting
P: tart cherries, clean acidity, fresh present tannins, touch of blackcurrant, a bit of white pepper
V: 8-, perfectly playful, very good wine.

2014 Corona D Aragon Old Vine Garnacha Cariñena DO (13.5% ABV)
C: very dark garnet, practically black
N: sandalwood, spices, dark chocolate, touch of roasted meat
P: medium body, good acidity, touch of cherries, fresh, hint of dark chocolate
V: 7+/8-, nice rendition

What is in your glass? How do you celebrate the noble grape? Happy Grenache Day! Cheers!

Fun #GrenacheDay Celebration on Snooth

September 17, 2016 2 comments

Does Grenache, a.k.a. Garnacha, deserves its own celebration? It used to be the third most planted red grape in the world (in the year 2000), and the most planted red grape in Spain; now it is 5th most planted red grape in the world, and second most planted in Spain. In this particular case, size might not matter (how many of you drunk the wines made from Airen, the most planted white grape in the world?) – what important is that Grenache is an essential part of lots of amazing wines, coming from everywhere in the world – France, Spain, California, Washington, Australia, Italy, there is really no limit here. Grenache is capable of amazing solo performances (think Clos Erasmus, Sine Qua None, No Girls), but more often than not, it is a great team player (Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Southern Rhone, Australian GSM and thousands of others).

Yes, Grenache is worthy of a celebration. Grenache wines are quite mendable at the hands of the winemaker, giving you a wide range of expressions. What is even more important, unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, even budget level Grenache wines (read: less than $10 a bottle) are very enjoyable, especially when they come from Spain. And don’t forget that under the word “Grenache” there can be three different grapes – Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris (rare), and Grenache (or Garnacha Tinta).

spanish grenache wines

A large group of “winos” assembled last night on Snooth, one of the leading online wine communities, to discuss virtues of Grenache grapes and, of course, to taste some Grenache wines. All the Grenache wines in the tasting came from Spain, two white Grenache Blanc and three of the 100% Grenache reds. Not only the wines were tasty, all of them also represented great value and great QPR, all priced under $14. The discussion was hosted by Master Sommelier Laura Maniec and Master of Wine Christy Canterbury – but to be very honest, the online discussion felt to me more like a wine bloggers conference attendees’ reunion, with lots and lots of familiar “voices” in the chat room, so I had a hard time paying attention to the presentation and was more focused on multiple dialogs taking place at the same time. Either way, it was a great fun, and wines perfectly supported the conversation.

Here are my notes for what we had an opportunity to taste:

2015 Cellers Unio closDalian Garnacha Blanca Terra Alta DO (12.5% ABV, $9, 100% Garnacha Blanca)
C: pale straw
N: intense, aromatic, white stone fruit, citrus
P: white fruit, lemon, herbal undertones, good acidity, fresh
V: 7+, very nice, food friendly (many people in the chat craved oysters)

2013 La Miranda Secastilla Garnacha Blanca Somontano DO (13.5% ABV, $14, 4 month in French Oak)
C: light golden
N: intense, vanilla, freshly crushed berries, golden yellow raisins, borderline Riesling profile with touch of petrol
P: plump, good body weight (medium to full), crisp acidity on the finish, round, firm structure – outstanding
V: 8, excellent overall

2015 Castillo de Monséran Garnacha Cariñena (13% ABV, $9)
C: dark Ruby
N: intense, freshly crushed berries, young
P: sweet fruit (restrained, not overly) with surprising structure and good acidity on the finish. Distant touch of earthiness and smoke.
V: 7+, simple and pleasant

2015 Evódia Varietal de Aragon Red Wine (15% ABV, $9, 100 years old vines, high elevation 2400–3000 ft)
C: Dark Garnet
N: very intense pure nose of fresh blueberries and blueberry pie, you don’t even need to be next to the glass
P: layered, soft, velvety, roll-off-your-tongue mouthfeel, fresh black fruit in background
V: 7+, needs time

2014 Coto de Hayas Garnacha Centenaria Campo de Borja DO (14% ABV, $14, 100% Grenache, more than 100 years old vines, 4 months in French oak)
C: garnet
N: lavender, anise, cherries, fresh, intense
P: smoke, earthiness, sage, roasted meat, sweet fruit and tobacco finish, wow; added peppery notes on the second day
V: 8+, outstanding complexity, amazing value

I would like to thank kind folks at Snooth for arranging this fun tasting and providing such an excellent selection of the value Grenache wines.

How did you celebrate #GrenacheDay? What was your most memorable Grenache wine ever – if you have one of course? Cheers!

[Wednesday’s] Meritage – Grenache Day, SHARE Campaign, Discover Georgia in New York

September 17, 2015 1 comment

ANNA-SHARE-v2Yes, I’m aware that this is very much not Wednesday, nevertheless – Meritage Time!

First of all – tomorrow, Friday September 18th, we will be [once again] celebrating the grape – this time, it is Grenache, a.k.a. Garnacha. Grenache definitely is one of the wine world’s darlings, enjoying huge popularity everywhere – France, Spain, California, Washington, Australia, South Africa. Whether part of a blend or playing solo, Grenache offers tremendous range of expressions and can easily be one of the most versatile red grapes. So tomorrow, grab a bottle of your favorite Grenache wine, join the festivities, and of course, share it with the world – use tag #GrenacheDay on Twitter or Instagram. You can also check out Grenache Day website and Facebook page.

While this might be “an obsession of oenophile”, I can’t help but to notice how often wine is a subject of many “do good” initiatives – charity auctions, fund raisers. “drink for a cause” events. Here I want to bring to your attention one of such “do good” initiatives – partnership between Anna Codorniu, one of the best Cava producers from Spain, and SHARE, “a national organization that provides informed peer support, empowerment and educational resources to women affected by breast and ovarian cancers”. To support this cause, Anna Codorniu created special campaign called “Message on a Bottle” – I very rarely cite text from press releases, but let me just include this passage as a reference: “Anna de Codorníu will encourage consumers to engage with SHARE through the Message on a Bottle campaign encouraging consumers to write their messages of hope on the Anna bottle and connect with #SHAREANNA on social media. In-store displays and bottles will prominently feature information about SHARE, to access their services and become more involved. On September 21, Anna de Codorníu Brut and Brut Rosé will be served at the 12th Annual A Second Helping of Life benefit in New York City, featuring top chefs such as April Bloomfield, Anita Lo and Christina Tosi. (www.sharebenefit.org)”.

Last week I mentioned that Georgian Food and Wine event will take place in New York city on September 25-27, at Chelsea Markets – and here is the link for more information. Georgian hospitality is second to none, so if you have a slightest possibility of attending the event, I would highly recommend that you will make an effort to visit Chelsea Markets and experience #GeorgianBazaar firsthand.

And that is all I had for you for today. The glass is empty, but refill is on the way. Cheers!

 

Grenache! Grenache? Grenache!, Few Rare Grapes and a Recipe

January 27, 2015 20 comments

Grenache tastingWhat’s up with Grenache? One of the most planted grapes in the world, a star of Spain, and often a foundation of greatness in the wines of Australia, France, California and Washington. A grape with the range of expression from light, fruity and frivolous to the dark, firm, brooding and confident. Yep, Grenache is well worth an oenophile’s attention. And a special wine dinner.

The theme was set, and then the dinner’s day arrived. This time around, we were a small group (6 adults), so we decided to skip the usual formal blind tasting with the multiple glasses, and instead simply integrate the tasting (still blind) into the format of the dinner. Each couple brought a bottle of Grenache wine, wrapped in  paper bag. The wines were numbered at random and then poured one by one. All in all, quite simple.

But before we got to the Grenache, I wanted to share two special bottles. Don’t get all jumpy at the word “special” – it means different things for different people. Your idea of special bottle might be Chateau Latour, Penfolds Grange or Amarone from Quintarelly – well, if you want to share any of those with me, I’m available any day of the week. However, my idea of special is often limited to something simply unique and different, such as “rare grapes”, for instance – an opportunity to add to my grape count and reach the coveted Wine Century Pentavini (500 grapes).

Along these lines, the first “special” was the white wine from Spain, which was made mostly from Roussanne, but also contained the grape called Albillo2011 Navaherreros Blanco de Bernabeleva Vinos de Madrid DO (14.5% ABV, $14.99, 50% Roussanne, Albillo, Macabeo and other varieties) had beautiful golden color, inviting nose of white fruit, touch of vanilla. Full bodied, creamy, luscious on the palate, touch of earthiness and baking spices, touch of vanilla, good acidity. (Drinkability: 8). This was definitely a delicious way to start the evening.

The next wine was Rosé. It was not just some generic Rosé – it was actually made form the grape which is practically impossible to find, at least in US – and it was on my “target” list for the very, very long time. Just to explain – if you will look at the original Wine Century Club application, you will find 186 grapes listed there, so we can consider those 186 to be a mainstream. In that list, there are still 6 grapes which I never tasted. Well, let me take that back – now there are 5.

There is a good chance that you heard of or even tasted the wine called Picpoul de Pinet, a light, crisp white wine from Rhone made from the grape called Picpoul Blanc. Picpoul Blanc has a cousin, a red grape called Picpoul Noir, which is literally impossible to find. During one of my countless searches online, I found that Picpoul Noir Rosé was available in one (!) single store in US in San Francisco – and luckily, I had a friend there who was kind enough to get it for me. Here is what I thought of the Rosé made out of this super-rare grape: 2013 Julie Benau Pink Poul Rosé Vin de France (12.5% ABV, $17, 100% Picpoul Noir) – restrained nose with a hint of strawberries. The same restrained profile continues on the palate – limited fruit expression, medium to full body, good acidity, food friendly. (Drinkability: 7+)

Okay, now we can finally talk Grenache, which I mentioned 3 times in the title of this post, right? I think when it comes to the range of expression among 7-10 most widely known red grapes, Grenache offer the most versatility, competing may be only with Syrah. From over the top dark chocolate, tar and sweet cherries to the soft, earthy and even acidic, Grenache can showcase quite a range of winemaking styles and terroirs. Thinking more about our tasting, it served exactly as a confirmation to this statement.

The first Grenache we had was that exact over the top style – dark, concentrated, firm, loaded with sweet pleasure in every sip. The second Grenache couldn’t be more different than what we experienced – smoke, mushrooms, forest floor, earthiness, herbs – a restrained beauty which I would never even think of as Grenache – but it was. And the last bottle was all too shy and closed at the beginning, showing again differently from the first two – but as it opened up, it became a younger brother of the first wine – same traits, only dialed down. The 3 bottles we chose completely at random managed to demonstrate that tremendous Grenache range. When we removed brown bags, we learned that we traveled from Spain to Washington and then to France – a very interesting journey.

Here are a bit more formal notes for the the wines, in the tasting order:

2007 Vinyes Doménech Teixar Garnatxa Vella Montsant DO, Spain (14.5% ABV, $75) – Delicious! Dark chocolate on the nose, very intense, ripe red fruit. The same continues on the palate – firm texture, dark chocolate, touch of plums, earthiness, perfect balance and long finish. 8+/9-

2008 No Girls Grenache La Paciencia Vineyard Walla Walla Valley (14.2% ABV, $65) – very interesting. Both nose and the palate show a profile of concentrated Oregon Pinot Noir. Smokey fruit, earthiness, very concentrated, touch of coffee, licorice, raspberries, sage and lavender. Very unique. 8

2012 Domaine La Manarine Côtes du Rhône (14% ABV, $16) – closed nose, similarly closed palate. Opened up after a while, just enough to show some dark fruit (plums, cherries) and a touch of chocolate on the palate. 7+

Okay, enough about wines. Now, this was a dinner, and I promised you the recipe, remember? The dish I made, and the recipe I would like to share will perfectly pair with the cold weather, and it is one of the ultimate comfort dishes ever – braised short ribs. Starting from the ease of cooking and the simplicity of the recipe, and then admiring the goodness of the smell during the long, slow cooking – this is definitely one of the ways to properly spell the word comfort.

Braised short ribs

Doesn’t it say “comfort”?

Here is the recipe:

Braised Short Ribs

Prep time: about 1 hour. Cooking time: 4-5 hours

Yield: 10 servings of two ribs each

8-10 lb beef short ribs – I don’t go specifically by the weight – I generally like to cook considering 2 ribs per person

1 bottle of red wine – Pinot Noir or Beaujolais

5 medium yellow onions

8 sticks of celery

4 large carrots

BBQ/Grilling spices – I use Penzeys spices

4 tbsp Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Serve with: mashed potatoes, rice, pasta, etc.

First of all, decide on what spices you want to use. I generally combine different Penzeys spices, but really – feel free to use anything you have:

Penzey spices

Next, take the meat out of the fridge and line it up on the prepping board, then sprinkle with the spices on both sides, add salt and pepper as needed:

Let meat warm up to the room temperature. Preheat over to 325ºF. While the meat is warming up, you can start working on your “trifecta”. Dice the onions and start sauteing them in the skillet or dutch oven with 2 tbsp of olive oil on the medium heat. Dice carrots and celery. Once onions become soft and translucent and then start gaining color (usually takes about 20 minutes), add carrots and celery and sauté all together for another 10 minutes, then set aside.

roasted carrots, onions, celeryNow, put remaining olive oil into the dutch oven, and heat it up to the high heat. Start searing the short ribs, meaty side down first. You might have to work in the batches, as you want all of the ribs to be nicely seared on both sides:

Roasted short ribsOnce all the ribs are seared, combine them all in the dutch oven, then add the onions, carrots and celery:

short ribs are doneAdd a bottle of wine, cover, put it in the oven and forget it for the next 4-5 hours (you really don’t want to rush this process). When done, you probably will find something like this:

short ribs are doneAs you can imagine, hearty Grenache is a perfect pairing for such a hearty, homey dish – but of course this shouldn’t be your only choice.

Here we are, my friends. A few rare grapes, an amazing range of Grenache wines, and winter-storm-alleviating-ultimately-comforting dish. Stay warm and drink well. Cheers!

 

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, Chardonnay Day, Wine Appellation Earth?, Best Blogging Tips and more

May 22, 2013 12 comments

Meritage Time!

wine quiz answers First and foremost, let’s start with the answer to the wine quiz #57, Grape Trivia – Grenache. Below are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Name two grapes which are traditional blending partners of Grenache

A1: Yes, we are talking the famous GSM blends, and the blending partners of Grenache are Syrah (Shiraz in Australia) and Mourvèdre (known as Monastrell in Spain and often called Mataro in Australia).

Q2: Below is the list of countries which use Grenache in the winemaking. Sort the list by the area of Grenache plantings, from the highest acreage to the lowest:

A. Australia, B. France, C. Italy, D. Spain, E. United States

A2: The correct answer is France, Spain, Italy, US, Australia (so it will be BDCEA). The culprit here was Italy, in my opinion, there Grenache is known as Cannonau – I didn’t expect that Italy grows so much of it… Here is my source of data – an article at Wine Folly’s web site.

Q3: One winery in US is often credited with spearheading the success of  Grenache in US. Can you name that winery?

A3: Tablas Creek winery in California – they imported Grenache cuttings from France to the US in 1990, and it was the beginning of great Grenache wines in US. Here is an excellent article about Grenache on Tablas Creek’s web site.

Q4: A few centuries ago, Grenache was a popular blending addition in one of the regions in France, until it became illegal by the AOC rules. Do you know what region was that?

A4: Actually, it was Burgundy, where addition of Grenache was popular way to add body to otherwise finicky Pinot Noir wines. Of course it is illegal practice for the long time.

Q5: Same as for the number of other grapes, Grenache exists in three different grape variations – Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris. There is one wine where it is absolutely legal to use all three grapes as the part of the blend. Can you name that wine?

A5: Châteauneuf-du-Pape! Well, I should’ve post the question as “type of wine” – but in any case, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (CdP for short) AOC rules allow inclusion of all three different Grenache grapes into the same wine. I always thought that CdP allows 13 grapes to be blended together in production of CdP wines, but it appears that the rules has recently changed, and now there are 18 grapes which are all allowed for use as winemaker desires.

And the winner is…(drum roll)… The Drunken Cyclist with five correct answers! He is definitely on the winning streak for a while and once again he gets unlimited bragging rights. I want also to acknowledge The Winegetter, Red Wine Diva and Eat With Namie who all got 3 out of 5 questions right – definitely a commendable effort.

Now, to the interesting stuff around the web vine – boy, there is plenty to share!

First, sorry for the late notice, but tomorrow is 4th annual Chardonnay Day! Well, Chardonnay is not such a hard wine to get, right? You still got time to make sure you will celebrate in style, whatever your style is – Burgundy, Chablis, Big California, California-pretending-to-be-Chablis, I-am-unoaked-and-almost-like-Pinot-Grigio-chose-me  – anyway, any kind of Chardonnay goes. And if you want to officially assert your participation, here is a link to the event page where you can officially join the ranks of Chardonnay aficionados.

Next, I want to bring to your attention an interesting post by Mike Veseth of The Wine Economist fame. The post is titled Is This the Beginning of Juice Box Wine? and it is talking about true globalization of wine in terms of production – one of the new wines from Barefoot called Impression and it is produced from the juice sourced from all over the world, so the wine doesn’t state any appellation on the label. What do you think of such approach to winemaking? Will this be a fluke, or will we see more of the wines from appellation Earth?

As you know, I’m a big fun of Stéphane Gabart’s blog, My French Heaven. I find his food pictures as some of the most incredible I ever come across, in the blogs or on Pinterest. Now Stéphane was very kind to write a blog post called “20 tips for stunning food photography“, which definitely worth your attention if you want to master your food picture taking skills. Also, as this is not the first time I refer to some of the “best tips and practices”, I decided to create a dedicated page for the Best Blogging Tips, where I will be collecting all the references like this one. If you have any suggestions as to what should be included in that “Best Blogging Tips” collection, please let me know – I hope to make it into a very useful resource for all.

Next subject is … beer! Yes, even in the wine blog there is a place for a beer. When you hear about the beer called Nuclear Tactical Penguin – is that the beer you would want to try? Well, okay, I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely interested. But turns out that this beer is practically impossible to get in US, so the best thing one can do is to enjoy it vicariously. This is what I did when I read this post at Wayward Wine blog. Outside of just great description of the beer, you can also learn about Frozen Beer category and how those beers are made – I think this reading will be well worth the time. Also, while looking for another beer from BrewDog company, this one called Sink the Bismark, I came across the list of 10 most expensive beers in the world! Now I want to try BrewDog’s The End Of History (55% ABV and still a beer!), but considering that it costs $765 for 330 ml, I will need a sponsor… anyone?

And last, but not the least subject for today – Wine Blog Awards finalists are finally announced. No, I didn’t make it to the list of finalists (sigh). But I would like to congratulate Jeff a.k.a. The Drunken Cyclist as he got into the finals in the Best Writing category. Anyway, this week is the public voting week, so you can cast your vote for the best blog here.

That’s all I have for you for today, folks. The glass is empty – but more wine is coming. Cheers!

Weekly Wine Quiz #57 – Grape Trivia: Grenache, a.k.a Garnacha

May 18, 2013 18 comments
Grenache_Noir Wikipedia

Grenache Noir picture from Wikipedia

And we are continuing the Grape Trivia series – today’s focus is the red grape called Grenache (also known as Garnacha and Garnaxta in Spain).

Grenache is one of the most planted red grape in the world. It is a late ripening variety, which typically produces spicy, juicy, berry-flavored wines with high alcohol content. In the number of regions, such as Priorat in Spain, Châteauneuf-du-Pape in France or California and Washington in US, Grenache produces outstanding single-varietal wines, but more often than not it is used as a blending companion, adding juicy component and structure.

And now, to the quiz!

Q1: Name two grapes which are traditional blending partners of Grenache

Q2: Below is the list of countries which use Grenache in the winemaking. Sort the list by the area of Grenache plantings, from the highest acreage to the lowest:

A. Australia

B. France

C. Italy

D. Spain

E. United States

Q3: One winery in US is often credited with spearheading the success of  Grenache in US. Can you name that winery?

Q4: A few centuries ago, Grenache was a popular blending addition in one of the regions in France, until it became illegal by the AOC rules. Do you know what region was that?

Q5: Same as for the number of other grapes, Grenache exists in three different grape variations – Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris. There is one wine where it is absolutely legal to use all three grapes as the part of the blend. Can you name that wine?

Enjoy your weekend, have fun and good luck! Cheers!

Re-post: Affordable Luxuries of the Wine World: Garnacha versus Grenache

September 20, 2012 3 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, but I still like the posts I wrote, so 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.

If you are interested as to “why now”, it is simple – Friday, September 21st is International #GrenacheDay – and I don’t have time to write the whole new post. I think this re-post will fit the bill quite well. Here it is.

So far we talked about and compared Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage wines, as well as sweet wines in our quest for “affordable luxuries” of the wine world. If you remember, Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage are made out of the grape called Syrah. Today we are going to talk about Syrah’s brethren (totally unrelated, though), the grape which is often blended together with Syrah – we are going to talk about Grenache.

Grenache is one of the main winemaking red grapes in the world. It used to be the most planted red grape in the world, with biggest planting area being in Spain (Spain actually has the biggest area planted with grapes in the entire world). Grenache, which is known under the name of Garnacha in Spain, lost its “biggest plantings” status in Spain as a lot of vineyards were replanted with other grapes, such as Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and France took “the most planted” helm now.

Grenache is used in winemaking both by itself and as part of the blend. In Spain, Grenache, or rather Garnacha, is main ingredient of the blend in wines of Priorat, many of which have cult status, such as Clos Mogador. In another region, Campo de Borja, it produces amazing single grape wines, for instance, at Bodegas Alto Moncayo. In France, it is a key ingredient in wines of Southern Rhone, with Chateauneuf-du-Pape being most famous – there it is typically blended with Syrah. It is also used in production of Rose wines in Provence. In Australia, it is used in so called GSM wines, where GSM is simply an abbreviation for Grenache Syrah Mourvedre, three grapes used in production of the GSM wines. In California, it is very successfully used in production of the Rhone-style wines mostly in the Central Coast area, with many of the wines also achieving a cult status (which simply means that production is limited and wines are very hard to get – of course because they are good). As usual, you can take a look at the Grenache article in Wikipedia, which provides great depth of information.

When it comes to “affordable luxuries”, there are plenty of wines which can be compared. As this is Grenache versus Garnacha battle, let’s focus on pure Grenache wines. Of course blends would be fun to look at as well, but finding some of the better ones is a challenge in itself, so let’s stay our course.

So today’s contenders are: 2009 Bodegas Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha Campo de Borja from Spain and 2009 Domaine du Grand Tinel Cuvee Alexis Establet Chateauneuf-du-Pape from France. It can’t get any better than that – we have here if not two of the best, then at least two of the most classic areas to produce Grenache wines. Both wines are 100% Grenache – which is very unusual for Chateauneauf-du-Pape, where blend can contain up to 13 different grapes.

Let’s start with 2009 Domaine du Grand Tinel Cuvee Alexis Establet Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The wine is unfortunately way too young (give it 8-10 years, if you have enough patience, of course), but it was very drinkable from the get go – at least you get a punch of tannins at about 10 seconds after the first sip. It is very classic Grenache, with purple color, violets on the nose, and perfect balance of fruit and acidity. Don’t want to repeat myself, but it will be gorgeous – given enough time to mature.

2009 Bodegas Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha Campo de Borja is a full bodied wine, with hint of earthiness on the palate, with lots of dark fruit and hint of pepper. You can also detect violets, hint of cedar, spice box and tar. With supple tannins and medium finish, this wine is more approachable now than the previous one, but will also improve with time.

Is one of those wines better than the other? It is very hard to tell. And for the affordable luxuries, Tres Picos Garnacha costs about $12, and Domaine du Grand Tinel is about $70, so make your choice. And while you will be deciding, I’m going to raise my glass to the pleasures of wine discoveries – cheers!

Daily Glass: Claraval, Another Dangerous Wine

October 9, 2010 2 comments

In one of the previous posts, I came up with the term “dangerous wine” – the wine which is so smooth and so good, once you start drinking it, you pretty much can’t put the glass down until the wine is all gone.  Here come the second wine from Spain which I also have to declare “dangerous”.

It is called Claraval and it is coming from the Calatayud region. This wine is a blend of four grapes – Garnacha (50%), Tempranillo (20%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) and Syrah (10%). The wine has sour cherries on the nose, and it opens up into a beautiful array of spices and fruit, with earthy notes coming through, all complemented by balancing acidity and tannins. If anything, this wine is reminiscent of good Southern Rhone wines (which is not surprising as it shares the same main grape, Grenache, known as Garnacha in Spain), but it definitely has its own character. Judging by the mid-palate weight and tannins, this wine will also do well in the cellar – and I was glad to see that Robert Parker think the same, giving this wine 91 rating and saying that wine will evolve all the way into 2020.

So, how much do you think such wine should cost? Nope, it is not $30, which would not be surprising at such a level of quality, it is only… $11.99, so it definitely has very high QPR. This is definitely the wine to buy by the case.

And now, it is time for the verdict (of course you already guessed it):

Drinkability: 8

What is next? The trip to Long Island wineries, which is almost a annual tradition by now – a trip to Long Island wineries in the Fall, when it is already not hot, and still very beautiful. Off we go (well, the team members have to wake up first). Report to follow…

Stew Leonard’s Wines: Meeting Winemaker Chester Osborn

September 28, 2010 1 comment

A few times lately I have come across blog posts talking about too many wines on the shelves of the stores and poor consumers being intimidated and having troubles to find what they want. Quite honestly, I find this annoying – I believe convincing consumers that they should be intimidated is the wrong thing to do. Why am I annoyed with this? Very simple. Today, you need a very few things to navigate the world of wine and feel comfortable. One is desire to learn (if someone doesn’t want to learn, it makes no sense to complain that one can not). Learning about wines simply means trying them and making an effort to remember what you like and what you don’t. Another helpful thing – finding a good wine store.

There are quite a few good wine stores where I live – I do plan to write a separate blog post (or may be a few) covering some of those in more detail. One of such good wine stores is Stew Leonard’s Wines in Norwalk, CT. What makes the wine store “good”? It is easy to navigate, it has helpful and knowledgeable personnel,  and it is helping you to learn about wines. You got all of that at Stew Leonard’s Wines – easy to navigate, helpful staff and great education. What do I mean by education? When it comes to wines, education consist of learning about wines and tasting them. One of the ultimate forms of “education” then is when you can learn from the best and taste excellent wine – and did I mention that it is usually free? Yep, it is free and available, almost every Friday and Saturday, again, thanks to the folks at Stew Leonard’s Wines. Every Friday and and Saturday, you can come to the store for the wine tasting, and if you are lucky – you will also learn from the winemaker, as it was the case last Friday, September 24th , when Chester Osborn, winemaker of the famed Australian winery, d’Arenberg, was presenting his wines.

d’Arenberg produces quite a few different wines in the McLaren Vale region in the South Australia, of course with Shiraz being a star grape. Five different wines were presented at the tasting. First, Lightly Oaked Chardonnay – it is actually very nice and simple, with clear fruit and light oak expression. Then comes The Stump Jump 2008, which is also should be known at GSM. GSM stands for Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre, and it is a blend modeled after wines from Southern Rhone. It is also interesting to note that Friday, September 24th was the First International Grenache Day which was proudly stressed by Chester holding up the bottle of GSM. Stump Jump is a very nice and approachable wine with great and powerful fruit expression. The next wine was classic The Footbolt Shiraz 2007 (Footbolt actually was the name of the horse), nicely showing spicy bouquet of MacLaren Vale’s shiraz (need my rack of lamb wit that one). And then the flagship Dead Arm Shiraz 2006 – great wine which will need another 15-20 years to be enjoyed fully, very earthy and dense, drinkable now, but boy, will it evolve! In case anyone wonders, the Dead Arm has nothing to do with human body parts – the name is related to the grapevine disease, which can kill part of the plant, producing “dead arm”, or a “dead branch” – in this case the grapes on the surviving part have very high flavor concentration.

And  last wine presented was Sticky Chardonnay – beautiful desert wine, made from Chardonnay grapes, exhibiting honey and white peaches notes, all with nice minerals, acidity and green apple bite. At $9.99, the wine of such quality is a pure steal. All in all, it was a pleasure meetings Chester d’Arenberg Osborn, learning from him and experiencing his wines.

To complete the story, I would like to include a picture of the great folks from Stew Leonard’s Wines, including Stew Leonard Jr. himself:

Going back to where we started – it is not difficult to learn about wines today – all you have to do is make an effort. As one of my teachers was saying, when the student is ready, the teacher will come…

Daily Glass: Arnoux & Fils Gigondas Vieilles Vignes 2007

August 21, 2010 Leave a comment

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Gigondas is a small appellation in Southern Rhone in France, which produces the wines somewhat similar in style to the famed Chateaneuf du Pape.  Absolute majority of the wines are red, and main grape is Granache (up to 80% in the final wine based on AOC laws), with Syrah and other grapes adding up. Grenache is a very versatile red grape, used in a wide range of wines all over the world.

Considering that Robert Parker gave 2007 vintage in Southern Rhone a 98 rating ( of course this rating is generalized for the whole region and nobody expect all the wines to achieve the same rating), I had good expectations for this wine as well ( as I had already a number of great generic Cote du Rhones from 2007 vintage). Unfortunately, that didn’t play out. The problem with this wine was related to alcohol. Yes, yes, the wine is alcoholic beverage, duh, of course. But it is the balance which I’m looking for in wine. While at 14.5% ABV it doesn’t stand out in today’s wine world as super-loaded, somehow the alcohol in this wine was not integrated at all. Burning sensation of alcohol was overpowering all other smells on the nose, and burning sensation of alcohol was absolutely prevalent on the palate, even on the second day. While it was possible to catch a glimpse of leather and pepper, which is a characteristic of Southern Rhone wines, this wine didn’t achieve great deal of balance. So the rating is:

Drinkability: 7-

Well, I guess I have to keep trying…