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Did the Wine Santa Delivered? Mine did!

December 25, 2014 16 comments

wine santaHey secret Wine Santas and their equally secret gift recipients, are you there? I know that the secret Wine Santa mission was once again orchestrated by The Drunken Cyclist (here is the secret post about it). If you are not familiar with the “Secret Wine Santa” operation, it works as any secret Santa game often played in the offices, only better, because there is no chance of getting wine themed underwear, you can only get wine.

All the participants provide their addresses to the Secret Wine Santa headquarters, i.e. Jeff aka The Drunken Cyclist, who then magically assigns the Santas with their respective recipients, and voila – the wine magically appears at your door step, sent directly from the North Pole and delivered by the reindeer, or something like that. Anyway, you got the idea.

I put on my Santa’s hat and send two bottles of wine – 2007 Krupp Brothers Black Bart Marsanne Napa Valley and 2011 Michel Chapoutier Tournon Mathilda Shiraz Victoria, Australia. I can tell you that my work was only 50% successful – my recipient, who will remain secret, doesn’t like white wines with the oak on them, so Marsanne didn’t really work. However, for all I understand, Mathilda Shiraz became a nice surprise, as it was for me, with its pronounced peppery qualities. All in all, I think I did okay as a Secret wine Santa, but there is definitely a room for improvement.

The best part of the Wine Santa game is that it is a two way street – you send wine, but you also receive wine! I don’t know if this was an accident or a deliberate decision, but my “secret” Santa was Chef Mimi – who was my wine recipient last year. The wine, which arrived a while back, was accompanied by a very nice letter, explaining why Chef Mimi have chosen this wine for me – it is one of her favorite wines. The letter also gave me the story of the people who make this wine, who are Chef Mimi’s neighbors.

Erba Vineyards Proprietary Red It took me a while to find a good moment to open the wine, and finally I did. I used my trusted VersoVino to help the wine to breathe a little faster, but with or without it, what a treat it was!

Erba Vineyards is located in the Napa Valley at a high elevation site (1100 – 1500 feet above sea level) near Atlas Mountain. The vineyard was planted in 1998 with 5 of the Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot) and Syrah, with majority of plantings (70%) been Cabernet Sauvignon. First commercial release of Erba Vineyards wines was in 2003.

The wine my secret Santa have chosen was 2007 Erba Mountainside Vineyards Proprietary Red Wine Napa Valley (14.8% ABV, $55, definitely a Bordeaux blend but composition is unknown). On the nose, the wine had beautiful, very fragrant bouquet of cassis with touch of herbs. One the palate… How should I describe the palate to you… Polished? Elegant? Textbook? Yes, all of that and more. Layers of fruit, cassis and blackberries, ripe and succulent, but not overripe at all. Underneath of the fruit, layers of herbs – sage, eucalyptus, may be a touch of mint. All interweaved  together into a beautiful, firm package with clean acidity and perfect, impeccable balance. A textbook Bordeaux blend and one very beautiful wine, which was gone in no time. I generally don’t like to rate presents, but if I have to – Drinkability: 9-

There you have it my friends. If you had been on the either side of our wine Santa game, I hope to read about your experience. And if you had not, I hope you will join us next year, it is fun! It is so much fun that I’m even thinking we should have a summer mid-year rehearsal.

Thank you very much Secret Santa Chef Mimi for the delicious wine! And to all of you who celebrates, Merry Christmas! Cheers!

 

 

Playing Wine Secret Santa

December 30, 2013 23 comments

wine santaA few weeks ago, Jeff, a.k.a. the drunken cyclist, came up with the idea – how about making whole bunch of people happy and excited, just in time for the holidays, by exchanging a few bottles of wine – in secret. As the typical “secret Santa” game goes, we (all participants) have to send one or two bottles of wine to someone – of course nobody has any idea who is sending wine to whom, as all the recipients are set at random. We also were asked to include a little note about ourselves and how did we chose what wine to send – for all detailed rules and regulations you can look here.

I really liked the idea from the very beginning – being able to share the wine with someone and an anticipation of the surprise of the wine someone have chosen for you was definitely exciting. As the idea was discussed further, both in Jeff’s blog and in the e-mail, the main problem surfaced. Legally, you have to have a liquor license in US in order to send wine to someone. The creative ideas were exchanged – ask winery or a store to ship the wine you selected to your recipient; print the label at home and drop the box at UPS or FedEx – they will not ask the questions; ship the wine via US mail – but don’t tell them you have anything liquid inside (this is what I did). With this main problem out of the way, the next key question was: what to send?

Choosing the wine for such a secret mission is very far from simple (sorry, laugh all you want – we, wine snobs, like to complicate things). You want the wine to match the preferences of your recipient. Okay, so may be I’m complicating things for no reason – most of the participants should have a blog, and in that blog they probably talk about wine, so it should be not that difficult, right? Hmm, let’s see.

Finally I got the e-mail – my recipient was Chef Mimi. I went to Chef Mimi blog, which boasts beautiful pictures of food (I’m a sucker for the beautiful food pictures) and tons of recipes. I read the About section, I searched for the word “wine” in the Chef Mimi’s blog – and I couldn’t find any clues to what she might like! So I put my thinking cap on (just kidding – no cap – I just stare blindly into the computer screen). I went through Chem Mimi’s blog posts, thinking – what would I pair with this or that dish? Finally – yes, I got it – Riesling would be one, because it would perfectly pair with these sliders, and, and, and … a Merlot, middle-of-the-road-and-often-great red wine? I have a few bottles of this great Riesling, of course with the name only Oliver can pronounce, 2007 Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg Riesling Kabinett Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (I talked about Spatlese from the same producer in this post, but I chose to send a Kabinett). And for the Merlot – as I live close to Long Island, and I recently was on the trip there and immensely enjoyed 2005 Estate Merlot from Jamesport, this was kind of a no-brainer decision for the wine which is unique and different. Done and done. The rest is history – you can read about it in the Chef Mimi’s post.

A few days after, my wines arrived.

wines from SantaInside the box, there was a handwritten note from @NewfD90, explaining the preference for the Italian wines hence the selection sent to me – Sangiovese from California and Primitivo from Salento “just for fun”, as the note said.

I decided to start with 2010 Menhir Salento Quota 31 Primitivo Salento IGT (14% ABV). I have a limited experience with Primitivo wines. While Primitivo is a close relative of Zinfandel, and Zinfandel makes some of my most favorite wines, the Primitivo wines I taste in the past were nothing close to the Zinfandel, and shall we say it, not that great. So you can imagine that my expectations were not that high. Open the bottle, pour, sniff, swirl, sip – wow, this is great! I have to honestly say that this was the best Primitivo I ever tasted – and outside of the Primitivo category, this was simply an excellent wine. Ripe raspberries profile on the nose, dark dense fruit on the palate, with more raspberries and blackberries, good round tannins, overall very balanced. Medium to long finish. A very pleasant wine overall.

Cosentino is the well known producer from Napa Valley in California, making a wide range of wines from Chardonnay to Cabernet Sauvignon to Zinfandel. This was my first experience with Cosentino Sangiovese. This 2011 Cosentino Sangiovese Il Chiaretto Napa County (15.5% ABV) opened up nicely with the nose of leather and smoke, generally resembling Pinot Noir a lot more than any Sangiovese wines I tasted in the past. On the palate it showed touch of tobacco and licorice, with a bit too much of a sweet fruit and then black pepper in the back. It also showed some noticeable tannins. What this wine was lacking was balance and harmony – all the components stuck out on their own. I decanted some amount of the wine, but 3 hours in decanter didn’t help it. I really tried to fall in love with this wine, by tasting it little by little over the next four days – to no avail. While the wine was changing day to day, and it was still drinkable on the day 4, it didn’t come to greatness. I had much better Sangiovese wines from Temecula valley, where the grape quite popular, so may be Napa Valley is just not the place for this grape to shine. But – tasting new wines is always a fun challenge, so I”m glad I had this experience.

That concludes the Secret Wine Santa report. This was definitely fun, so I would like to thank Jeff for coming up with the idea and I’m already looking forward to the next year’s Secret Wine Santa project. Hmmm, that’s a long wait, isn’t it? May be we need to extend the idea to the Secret Wine Admirer? That would be awesome! Cheers!

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