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Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, Tempranillo Day, Beaujolais Nouveau Coming Up, The Widow Who Reinvented Champagne, and more

November 13, 2013 8 comments

DSC_0185 Retro Cellars Petite SirahMeritage time!

First, let’s start with the answer for the wine quiz #81, grape trivia – Petite Sirah.

In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about red grape called Petite Sirah. Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Name the grape: In California, Petite Sirah is a popular blending addition to ___?

A1: Zinfandel. You can find a small percentage of Petite Sirah (5% – 10%) in many Zinfandel bottlings

Q2: When it comes to the wines in the United States, there is an interesting similarity between the Petite Sirah and Primitivo. Can you explain?

A2: The similarity comes from the fact that both Petite Sirah and Primitivo were the part of the same request to the TTB (government organization in charge of labeling), to allow use of Durif interchangeably with Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel with Primitivo. It is interesting to note that contrary to the information in Wikipedia, which says that both requests were never resolved, it appears that Durif is officially recognized as a synonym to Petite Sirah, while Primitivo and Zinfandel are not – you can find the complete list of the approved names through the link to the list of approved grape names in this US government document.

Q3: Which one doesn’t belong and why:

a. Arizona, b. Illinois, c. New Mexico, d. New York, e. Texas

A3: d. New York – there is no Petite Sirah wines produced in New York (at least in the meaningful quantities).

Q4: In the bad, rainy growing season conditions in California, Petite Sirah can be a savior – can you explain why and how does it help?

A4: As the Petite Sirah is mildew resistant and provides supple tannins, color and structure, in the bad years it can be added to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other wines to improve the quality.

Q5: What love has to do with the Petite Sirah?

A5: “P.S. I Love You” is a consortium dedicated to the promotion of Petite Sirah wines.

Talking about the results, the drunken cyclist continues his winning streak, so he gets ( again) the prize of unlimited bragging rights. Well done!

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web!

First of all, tomorrow, November 14th, is an International Tempranillo Day! Tempranillo, the noble grape of Spain and Portugal, and rising star of Texas, is a source of many wonderful long-living wines, and it is definitely the grape worth celebrating. TAPAS, the society of producers and advocates of Tempranillo, lists a number of events celebrating the grape. But you don’t even need to go anywhere to celebrate the Tempranillo – just grab a bottle, may be of Magnificent Rioja (but really, any Tempranillo wine will do), pour, smell, sip and enjoy!

Now, the next Thursday, November 21st, is a third Thursday in November. Do you know what it means? Yes, you are right – Beaujolais Nouveau! Every third Thursday in November, the young Beaujolais wine of the same year’s vintage, called Beaujolais Nouveau, is becoming available in all the wine stores around the world. It is not just the wine – Beaujolais Nouveau also means celebration and fun. Don’t forget to get the bottle and join the festivities!

I’m sure you know that classic Champagne with the yellow label on it – Veuve Cliquot, which would literally translate into a “widow Cliquot”. But do you know the role the Barbe-Nicole Cliquot Ponsardin, the actual person behind that label, played in pretty much enabling the whole Champagne industry to exist, and for the mere mortals to be able to afford a bottle of Champagne? Barbe-Nicole’s  perseverance and her invention of the riddling were some of the key elements in making Champagne into what we readily enjoy today. Here is an article for you which is definitely worth reading – it is somewhat long but very fascinating and will be well worth your time.  And you might even complement the reading with the glass of Champagne in your hand – it will be very appropriate.

Last piece I want to bring to your attention is Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines of 2013 list, gradually exposed at the rate of a few wines per day at the Wine Spectator web site. There are various contests taking place right now to predict the Wine Spectator Wine of the Year 2013, including the one which Wine Spectator runs by itself. So far the Wines #10 – #7 had been revealed, and more wines will be announced every day finishing with the Wine of the Year on Friday, November 15th. The full top 100 list will be published on Monday, November 18th. Looking at the 4 of the top 10 announced so far, I can only say that I’m a bit surprised. One of the selection criteria for the Top 10 is affordability – with the wines #10 and #9 priced at $135, and wines #8 and #7 priced at $120, I feel like I missed the memo about substantial increase in my salary, as those prices are definitely outside of the “affordable” realm, at least in my book. Also, as “availability” is another factor, highly allocated Quilceida Creek (wine #10) makes it also an interesting choice. I plan to come back to this subject next week, when the full Top 100 list will be announced – but any of your comments meanwhile will be most welcome. 

That’s all I have for you for today, folks. The glass is empty – but refill is on its way. Until the next time – cheers!

Weekly Wine Quiz #81: Grape Trivia – Petite Sirah

November 9, 2013 13 comments
Petite Sirah in Bloom. Source: Wikipedia

Petite Sirah in Bloom. Source: Wikipedia

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

We are continuing our grape trivia series, with the focus again on the red grapes, and today’s subject is Petite Sirah.

Petite Sirah was created by the French botanist François Durif as a result of accidental cross-pollination between Syrah and little known Rhône varietal called Peloursin. To honor its creator, the grape was originally known under the name of Durif, but Petite Sirah happened to stick as a name, so it is a rarity to the see the name Durif on the bottle. While discovered in France, the grape is literally non-existent there, and it is growing primarily in United States, Australia and Israel, with the number of other countries starting to experiment with it.

Petite Sirah came to the United States at the end of the 19th century, but it is only recent that its popularity started to increase rapidly. Just to give you some numbers, in 2002 in California there were about 2,000 acres of Petite Sirah planted, and 62 producers made wine from it. In 2013, the plantings increased more than 4 times, to more than 9,000 acres, and about 1,000 producers joined the suite, bringing the total number of Petite Sirah producers in California to more than 1,060. At the same time, most of the Petite Sirah production is small, typically a few hundred cases, which explains why you see only a very limited number of Petite Sirah wines in the stores.

Petite Sirah (and the name Petite here relates to the size of the grapes) produces small dark-skinned berries, with very high skin to juice ratio, thus bringing a lot of tannins to the resulting wines. But it is not only tannins – Petite Sirah often shows quite an exuberant fruit, with blueberries and raspberries being in the forefront. One important feature of the Petite Sirah grapes is resistance to the mildew, which definitely helps, especially when it rains during the harvest. Petite Sirah is used both for blending and, increasingly, on its own, where it makes very concentrated, powerful and long-living wines, capable of ageing for a few decades or more.

And now, to the quiz!

Q1: Name the grape: In California, Petite Sirah is a popular blending addition to ___?

Q2: When it comes to the wines in the United States, there is an interesting similarity between the Petite Sirah and Primitivo. Can you explain?

Q3: Which one doesn’t belong and why:

a. Arizona

b. Illinois

c. New Mexico

d. New York

e. Texas

Q4: In the bad, rainy growing season conditions in California, Petite Sirah can be a savior – can you explain why and how does it help?

Q5: What love has to do with the Petite Sirah?

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

Daily Glass: Take Your Journey, Any Time: Odisea Wines

August 23, 2013 6 comments

One of the most fascinating aspects of wine is its ability to change your emotional state. Best steak in the world will only pick you up during those 15 minutes you will spend enjoying it. Yes, if the meal was “an experience”, it might stay with you forever, but still, it is very hard, for instance, to enjoy your steak during 2 – 3 hours of quiet time in the evening (never mind five evenings in a row).

Wine is different. You can start from admiring it in the glass – color, nose, legs – and then slowly move on to the first sip, and go on from there, simply observing and enjoying the transformation for a while. But this is not all. Wine, unlike many other foods, very often comes with the stories. Stories of the people who made it, or who started making it 500 years ago. You can learn about their dreams, their aspirations, their hard work. Yes, there was a lot of hard work involved in making of that steak – but it is very hard to make a unique and emotional story out of it.

What is the point of this rambling? Let me explain. Over the last three days we undertook a journey, right in the comfort of our living room (okay, actually, we were mostly sitting outside on the deck, but this is besides the point). Not just any journey, an odyssey. Lead by the Odisea Wine Company out of California, we traveled through unusual grape varieties and unique sensual expressions. Odisea Wine Company was created in 2004 by two friends, Adam Webb and Mike Kuenz, and it is focused on making the wines from “Rhone and Iberian grape varietals grown in California”.

Here is my account of this odyssey:

2009 Odisea Veritable Quandary, California (13.5% ABV; 25% Syrah, 17%Grenache, 17% Tempranillo, 14% Petite Sirah, 12% Field Blend, 12% Alvarinhao, 3% Carignane; 850 cases made) – dark garnet color, nose of dark fruit and touch of dark chocolate. Velvety palate of plums, touch of warm spices, profile of a classic Spanish Grenache, only slightly more restrained. Round, soft, perfectly balanced. Drinkability: 8

2009 Odisea Devil’s Share, California (13.9% ABV; 48% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 14% Mourvedre, 6% Petite Sirah, 2% Viognier; 335 cases made) – dark garnet color. Needs time to come to its senses (slightly disjointed on the first sip with acidity going sky high). Cherries and herbs on the nose. Spices, hint of barnyard, sage, dark fruit, raspberries, may be a touch of tobacco notes – very round, balanced and pleasant, with the long finish. A dangerous wine once it is opened… Drinkability: 8

2010 Odisea Unusual Suspects, California (13.9% ABV; 50% Carignane, 25% Tempranillo, 15% Grenache, 10% Cinsault; 600 cases made)  – dark ruby color in the glass. Fresh raspberries on the nose, with the hint of tobacco. Some raspberries on the palate, but then green, almost vegetative notes (not the tree brunches, more of a hay, dry grass style), supported by tobacco and a savory profile. Warm feeling on the palate, good acidity in the back, very soft tannins over a medium finish. This wine begs for food, but nothing as sharp or as powerful as steak – it would be good with a veal roast, a slow cooked beef stew or roasted eggplant. Drinkability: 7+

I bought these wines online a while ago at the Wade’s Wines, I guess mostly based on the unusual names – and most of them are still available, at $16.99 or so, in case if you are interested in taking the journey for yourself. In any case, I’m glad I had mine. Cheers!

Wine. That. Transforms.

April 23, 2013 9 comments

If you followed this blog for a while, you know that I have a tendency to get excited around wines. May be “overly excited” is even better way to put it. Especially when I come across the wines which wow. Like this time.

Field Recordings wines are no strangers in this blog (2010 Fiction by Field Recordings was my 2011 wine of the year). Produced by Andrew Jones, grape-grower-turned-wine-maker, these wines are his personal accounts of people and places – every label on his wines will tell you where exactly the grapes came from, and who grew them – you can see an example above. And his wines have tremendous personality associated with them. What these wines do the best – they don’t leave you indifferent. Like this 2010 Field Recordings Petite Sirah Crockett Hill Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley (15.9% ABV, $22).

The very first smell of this wine just takes you away. Away from the day that passed. Away from all the little things which (of course you knew it), in essence, are not important at all. It is clean. It is powerful, It is beautiful. You can imagine any happy picture you want – the smell will support and carry it. Yes, it is pure fruit forward California wine – but it presents itself in such a bright and uplifting fashion, that this might be the way to spell “happiness” with wine.

The wine appears almost black in the glass. It is dense, it is concentrated, it is powerful. Blueberries, blueberry jam and blueberry pie all together – but without sweetness, all in very balanced, round form. You can have food with this wine – but what you really want is just this wine by itself. From the smell, the happiness continues in the glass.

Then your glass becomes empty. But you sit there, still smiling. Still carried away. To the happy place.

Is this an overly emotional account? You bet. But I invite you to find this wine and experience happy journey in the glass. Of course your personal happy wine might be different. I hope you will discover it. And I will drink to that. Cheers!

Daily Glass: Before Its Time…

October 14, 2012 3 comments

It’s been awhile since I posted in the Daily Glass category, and by design of this blog the plan was actually to have the posts exactly as it said – daily. Well, we all have plans, and then we have the reality – whether we like it or not.

A couple of months back, I got an email from Benchmark Wine Company with an offer to buy the wine. It was about Petite Sirah, and the way it was written, it was hard to resist (besides, Petite Sirah is one of my favorite wines in general) – so I got  a few bottles of Retro Cellars Howell Mountain Petite Sirah. To be more precise, I got one bottle of 2004 and 2 bottles of 2007.

I was visiting a good friend and decided that today would be a good day to open the 2004 Retro Cellars Howell Mountain Petite Sirah (14.2% ABV, $35). From the moment the wine went into the glass, it was very clear – the wine was opened way before its time. In one of the wine classes I learned a simple way to find out if wine is ready to drink – you pour the wine in the glass, and hold the glass tilted above some text written on the white paper – if you can read through that glass, the wine is ready to drink. This Petite Sirah was practically black – very concentrated very dark garnet color, without any possibility of reading through. On the palate, the wine had lots of sour cherries, ink and a touch of very dark chocolate – almost a baking chocolate level, the one which practically has no sweetness. Firm tannins. structure and perfect acidity were completing a very balanced package. This definitely was a great wine – drinkable now, but in reality, needing probably another 20 years to shine fully. Drinkability: 9-

That sentiment (needs time!) was also confirmed when I turned the bottle over – it was made by Mike Dunn, the son of Randy Dunn, one of the best winemakers in the Napa Valley. known for making Cabernet Sauvignon wines which require a very long aging period (some stories about Randy Dunn were mentioned in the last issue of Wednesday’s Meritage).

I definitely enjoyed the wine – but when it comes to the 2007 which I still have, patience ( and a lot of it) will be my best friend. Cheers!

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