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Wine Quiz #129 – Beaujolais Nouveau Edition

November 21, 2020 2 comments

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 your new wine quiz!

Let’s start with the answers to the last quiz #128. In that quiz, you had three sets of items, and for each set, you had to figure out what that set was representing, and which item (or items) didn’t belong. Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Question 1:

Adelaide Hills
Blackwood Valley
Currency Creek
Eden Valley
Hunter
King Valley
Waitaki Valley

Answer: This is a list of Australian wine regions. The item which doesn’t belong is the last one, Waitaki Valley, as this region is located in neighboring New Zealand.

Question 2:

Anjou
Chinon
Jasnières
Orléans
Reuilly
Rully
Saumur

Answer: Most of the items on this list are the wine regions in Loire Valley, except Rully, which is located in Burgundy.

Question 3:

Cayuse
Clos Erasmus
No Girls
Penfolds
Pingus
Vega Sicilia

Answer: This was probably the most difficult one. This is the list of famous producers, which all make wines out of Tempranillo grapes, except Clos Erasmus, a famed Spanish producer in Priorat, which doesn’t make wines out of the Tempranillo.

We didn’t have a lot of players, except Lynn who answered the second question correctly and definitely deserves an honorable mention.

Last Thursday, November 19th, was the third Thursday in November, and thus it was the day to celebrate a brand new Beaujolais Nouveau 2020 release. In honor of that celebration, I have a very simple quiz for you, all about the simple wine, Beaujolais Nouveau:

Question 1: True or False: Beaujolais Nouveau wines can age

Question 2: The ideal serving temperature for Beaujolais Nouveau is

  1. 46°F to 50°F (8°C to 10°C)
  2. 50°F to 54°F (10°C to 12°C)
  3. 54°F to 57°F (12°C to 14°C)
  4. 57°F to 61°F (14°C to 16°C)

Question 3: True or False: During the first half of the 20th century, Beaujolais Nouveau was released and celebrated in December instead of November.

Question 4: True or False: Nouveau wines (the wines of new harvest) are produced only in the Beaujolais region in France, and not anywhere else in the world.

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

Wine Quiz #128 – Which One Doesn’t Belong

November 7, 2020 3 comments

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!

Our last quiz was about pairings. Pairing is a very important concept around wine, so you were presented with a few of the lists of paired objects, and you had to identify proper pairings. Here are questions, now with the answers:

Question 1: Here is the list of countries and wines which are famous and unique, often made for thousands of years in their respective countries. Can you pair these countries with their wines?

1. France A. Egri Bikaver
2. Georgia B. Kindzmarauli
3. Greece C. Malaga
4. Hungary D. Retsina
5. Italy E. Vin Jaune
6. Spain F. Vin Santo

Answer: France – Vin Jaune, Georgia – Kindzamarauli, Greece – Retsina, Hungary – Egri Bikaver, Italy – Vin Santo, Spain – Malaga.

Question 2: Celebrity wines had been all the rage lately, with more and more celebrities getting into the ownership of the vineyards, wineries, and wine labels. Here is a short list of wines and celebrities behind them – can you create the right pairings here?

1. Brad Pitt A. Avaline
2. Cameron Diaz B. Armand de Brignac
3. Jay-Z C. Hampton Water
4. Jon Bon Jovi D. Maison No 9
5. Post Malone E. Studio Rosé

Answer: Brad Pitt – Studio Rosé, Caneron Diaz – Avaline, Jay-Z – Armand de Brignac, Jon Bon Jovi – Hampton Water, Post Malone – Maison No 9.

Question 3: Many wines today represent blends, a combination of different grapes in different proportions. Some of those mixes and proportions are strictly regulated by the appellation laws – for example, Brunello di Montalcino can only be made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso. Some of the rules are rather well-established practices, such as the use of Petite Verdot in the Bordeaux blends, for color and power. Below is the list of main and supporting grapes – you need to pair them properly and also name the wine or an appellation where such grapes are combined together – again, either by the appellation rules or by common practices.

Main grape Secondary grape
1. Montepulciano A. Grenache
2. Sangiovese B. Sagrantino
3. Syrah C. Sangiovese
4. Tempranillo D. Petitte Sirah
5. Zinfandel E. Viognier

Answer: Montepulciano – Sangiovese (Rosso Conero wines in Marche, Italy), Sangiovese – Sagrantino (Montefalco Rosso wines in Umbria), Syrah –  Viognier (Côte-Rôtie, France), Tempranillo – Grenache (Rioja, Spain), Zinfandel – Petite Sirah (Turley, Carlisle, and other Zinfandel producers often do that).

Sadly, nobody attempted to answer this quiz, so once again I have to keep all the lavish prizes to myself.

Today we are going to play game of “which one doesn’t belong”. Below are lists of names – for each question, you need to figure out what is common between those names, and then find one item which shouldn’t be on that list. Here we go:

Question 1:

Adelaide Hills
Blackwood Valley
Currency Creek
Eden Valley
Hunter
King Valley
Waitaki Valley

Question 2:

Anjou
Chinon
Jasnières
Orléans
Reuilly
Rully
Saumur

Question 3:

Cayuse
Clos Erasmus
No Girls
Penfolds
Pingus
Vega Sicilia

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

Wednesday’s Meritage #150

November 4, 2020 Leave a comment

Meritage Time!

In the last issue of Meritage (#149) we talked about Italian police uncovering the crime ring focused on the production of the fake Sassicaia. While essential in its own right, this should be designated as a child’s play comparing with what’s coming. This week the wine press was overflowing with the news that the most famous wine fraudster of modern time, Rudy Kurniawan, is about to be released from jail. This article on wine-searcher is full of predictions for Kurniwan spreading his wings after deportation and doing again what he does best – making fake wine. I guess we will see, but the lovers of the first-growth and DRC should probably take notice.

Tre Bicchieri Gambero Rosso tasting in New York is one of my favorite wine events to attend – this year, it was the last grand wine tasting I managed to attend before covid took the world under its blanket. I don’t think we will have an opportunity to taste the Tre Bicchieri 2021 winners next year, but at least we can read about them in the Tre Bicchieri magazine. I can give you a few of the interesting stats – for example, 46,000 wines were tasted, 467 wines were awarded Tre Bicchieri, and 1,800 wines received Due Bicchieri Rossi award. You can also read about 12 special awards such as Bubbles Of The Year which went to 2011 OP Pinot Nero Dosaggio Zero Farfalla Cave Privée Ballabio, or Meditation Wine Of The Year which went to 1976 Vernaccia Di Oristano Antico Gregori – Contini. Don’t know about you, but I would loooooove to taste Meditation wine of the year…

When it comes to wine, is 20 years a long period of time or not? Of course, it depends. In today’s world, everything is changing fast, and while particular wine in the bottle might only barely start its aging after 20 years, the same 20 years bring a lot of change to the world of wine and wine culture at large. This article by Richard Hemming MW published at JancisRobinson.com looks into some of the changes in wine production, wine consumption, and more.

You know what time of the year this is, right? Yes, the holidays are coming! While the holidays are great, they also bring with them uneasy questions – presents. Presents are difficult and finding some suggestions always helps. If you have a wine lover in your life (and you probably do if you are reading this), here is one list I can recommend to flip through – you might find some good ideas there.

Last but not least – another grape holiday is almost upon us. On Monday, November 9th, we will be celebrating Tempranillo! Tempranillo is one of my absolute favorites, whether in its Rioja, Ribera del Duero, or Toro rendition – but Tempranillo today is one of the most planted and most popular grapes in the world, so you can look for it well beyond Spain. California, Washington, Oregon, Texas, Australia all produce delicious Tempranillo wines. Get your favorite bottle ready and make sure to share your Tempranillo experiences with the world on November 9th.

That’s all I have for you today. The glass is empty, but the refill is on the way. Cheers!

Wine Quiz #127 – A Pairing Exercise

October 24, 2020 1 comment

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!

Our last quiz was about finding the item which doesn’t belong – and providing an explanation as to why it doesn’t belong. Here are the questions, now with the answers

Question 1:

Cork taint, Maderization, Mercaptan, Oxidation, Sapidity

Answer: This is a list of the wine faults, with the exception of Sapidity, which is a flavor descriptor, not a wine fault. If you want to learn more about wine faults, here is a good article.

Question 2:

Salta, Patagonia, Jujuy, La Rioja, Atacama, Catamarca

Answer: this is a list of the wine regions in Argentina with exception of one – Atacama. The Atacama is actually a wine region in Chile. In case you want to check this further, here are the links for wine regions in Argentina and Chile.

Question 3:

Madeira, Marsala, Banyuls, Port, Sherry, Sauternes

Answer: These are all fortified wines, and most of them are sweet – with the exception of Sauternes, which is just a sweet wine, but not fortified.

I’m happy to see the increased participation in the quiz, and also happy to say that Jason Brandt Lewis and Dorothy Schuler almost got it right – they both correctly answered questions 1 and 3, but not question 2 – they definitely deserve an honorable mention and a nice glass of wine.

Dorothy mentioned in her reply that the last quiz was very easy. Today’s quiz might be even easier!

Pairing is one of the important concepts around wine. We like to pair wine with food, music, mood, ambiance, and people. So let’s play the game of pairing today. Here are the questions.

Question 1: Here is the list of countries and wines which are famous and unique, often made for thousands of years in their respective countries. Can you pair these countries with their wines?

1. France A. Egri Bikaver
2. Georgia B. Kindzmarauli
3. Greece C. Malaga
4. Hungary D. Retsina
5. Italy E. Vin Jaune
6. Spain F. Vin Santo

Question 2: Celebrity wines had been all the rage lately, with more and more celebrities getting into the ownership of the vineyards, wineries, and wine labels. Here is a short list of wines and celebrities behind them – can you create the right pairings here?

1. Brad Pitt A. Avaline
2. Cameron Diaz B. Armand de Brignac
3. Jay-Z C. Hampton Water
4. Jon Bon Jovi D. Maison No 9
5. Post Malone E. Studio Rosé

Question 3: Many wines today represent blends, a combination of different grapes in different proportions. Some of those mixes and proportions are strictly regulated by the appellation laws – for example, Brunello di Montalcino can only be made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso. Some of the rules are rather well-established practices, such as the use of Petite Verdot in the Bordeaux blends, for color and power. Below is the list of main and supporting grapes – you need to pair them properly and also name the wine or an appellation where such grapes are combined together – again, either by the appellation rules or by common practices.

Main grape Secondary grape
1. Montepulciano A. Grenache
2. Sangiovese B. Sagrantino
3. Syrah C. Sangiovese
4. Tempranillo D. Petitte Sirah
5. Zinfandel E. Viognier

I hope you will find this fun, and I’m looking forward to congratulating many winners!

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

[Almost Weekly] Wine Quiz #124: Numbers in Wine

September 19, 2020 1 comment

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!

Before we will start with the quiz, I want to take a moment and say Shana Tova to all who celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I wish everybody a healthy, sweet, and happy New Year 5781!

Now, back to the quiz.

Let’s start with the answers to the Wine Quiz #123. In that quiz, you were supposed to identify 7 wines by the image showing on the top of the foil capsule (or a screwtop). Below are the answers:

Sadly, nobody attempted to answer this quiz, so I will have to keep the prize.

Now, let’s talk about today’s quiz – it will be all about numbers.

Numbers are an indelible part of the wine world. How many tons of grapes were harvested? How many appellations are in China? How many bottles were produced? How many years Rioja Gran Reserva has to spend in the bottle before release? How many acres are in this vineyard? Numbers, numbers, numbers… So today’s quiz will be about numbers. Below is the set of numbers, which are all related to a particular aspect of viticulture. See if you can figure out what these numbers mean:

  1. 250
  2. 1908
  3. 360
  4. 2.1
  5. 1963

As I said, all of these numbers are related in some ways. Also, depending on the source, you might see a slightly different version of these numbers, but the deviation should be minor. Ahh, and by the way, one of the questions above has a clue. Oops – I’m wrong. Actually, there are two questions above with the clues, so you have two clues to solve this quiz.

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

[Not Weekly At All] Wine Quiz #123: How Well Do You Know Your Wines?

September 5, 2020 1 comment

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!

Yes, the wine quizzes used to be a regular (weekly) feature on these pages – however, the last one was published more than 3 years ago, so it is clearly not. Still, let’s have some fun.

The subject of today’s quiz is about the element of the wine experience which is often overlooked – the top of the bottle. Of course, we are eager to get to the content of the bottle, so who would be paying attention to the element which typically stands between you and the delicious liquid in the glass. Meanwhile, you can often instantly identify the producer just by a quick glance at the top of the bottle. Below you will find pictures of the tops of the bottles – and your task is to identify the producers of these wines. As a hint, I can tell you that majority of the wines are produced in the US, and few of the producers are quite famous. Here we go:

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

Wednesday Meritage – Festivals Galore

June 12, 2019 Leave a comment

Meritage Time!

It seems that June is everyone’s favorite month for wine and food events. I guess it makes sense – the schools and colleges just finishing the year, the weather is generally great, and the vacation season didn’t fully start yet – so all the event organizers are trying to pack as much as they can into that one month. No matter what the reason – the end result is an abundance of choice when it comes to the different events focused on food and wine lovers.

I wanted to share with you three of the events which look interesting. Two of the events fall on the same weekend, so you will have to make some decisions, but having a choice is better than having none, right?

Let’s start with the event which will be taking place around the country – a Black Truffle Festival 2019. Who doesn’t like truffles? Well, actually, I know some people who don’t, but outside of those few, the majority is easily excited at the prospect of having a dish – pasta, risotto, steak – all covered with generous shavings of black truffles and exuding the aroma which alone makes you hungry. From June 14th until June 23rd, top chefs in New York, Miami, and San Francisco will help you celebrate the prized mushroom. By the way, until I started working on this post, I had no idea that truffles can also come from Australia – it appears that truffles are not limited to Piedmont only. See, I already learned something – check the information at the link above to see how you might enjoy some pungent beauty.

June 22nd, which falls on Saturday this year, is known as Summer Solstice – the day with the longest duration of the daytime and shortest night. The summer solstice is an important day in the biodynamic viticulture, where the sun’s cycle plays a key role in the whole program. Thus it is only appropriate that Summer Solstice 2019 will be celebrated with the Natural Wines Festival. Hosted at the Burnt Hill Farm in Maryland, the Natural Wine festival will have 25 wineries from Maryland, Virginia and DC pouring more than 100 wines – of course, the food, art, and music will be a part of the festivities as well. For more information and tickets, please click here.

Now, you can follow that Summer Solstice celebration with more wine the very next day. On Sunday, June 23rd, wines from the Côtes du Rhône region in France, which includes Côtes du Rhône Villages, Vacqueyras, Beaumes-de-Venise, Rasteau, Saint-Joseph, Condrieu, and Cornas will take over Manhattan. Okay, this might be an exaggeration, but still, Côtes du Rhône Wine Festival will take place right in the middle of Manhattan. The festival consists of both press/trade portion, and consumer portion. In addition to all the wines, the festival (expectedly!) will offer food, music and lots more. For more information and tickets, please click here.

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

Quick Trip Around The World

December 20, 2018 3 comments

Travel might be the biggest joy of human existence. Okay, if not the biggest, it is still one of the most essential ones. Travel leads to new experiences – and experiences are the moments which comprise our lives. I’m sure the joy of travel is not universal, but I’m equally sure that it actually is for the majority of the readers of this blog (hoping that there is at least someone reading it?).

Travel typically requires two things – resources and preparation. Heck, with unlimited resources you need no preparation – you can finish your work day, say “I feel like dining at Le Cinq tomorrow”, have your limo take you directly to the airport and off you go. For many of us, this would be just a scene from the movies – which doesn’t make it impossible, right?

For most of us, successful and happy travel would require a bit more effort – find the deal on the airfare, find the deal on the hotel, find out that your passport expired just a week before you need to get on the flight, then listen to the boss complaining that you are leaving without finishing all your important tasks, finally, throwing everything you need but mostly what you don’t into the suitcase 30 minutes before leaving for the airport and starting your so long anticipated travel totally exhausted. More or less, this is the picture, right?

Then every once in a while, there is something even the unlimited funds can’t buy. Time, I’m talking about. When you finish work at 6 in New York, there is no way to be in Madrid in time for dinner. This is where you need a magic trick – and I can offer you one. Actually, you don’t need any magic to travel instantly to many different places – all you need is … well, I’m sure you know it is coming … yes, all you need is wine. The wine has this capacity. Once you look at the label and see it says France, Spain or California, your imagination can easily do the rest. A well-made wine has a sense of place, so once you take a sip, you are instantly transported to the place where wine was made. And if you ever visited the winery or the region where the wine came from, I’m sure you can be instantly overwhelmed with the emotions and memories. No, it is not the same as simply been there, but I’m sure it will still do the trick.

Bodegas Godelia Compra Online

Bierzo, Spain. Source: Bodegas Godelia website

Let’s take wine and let’s travel – how about a quick trip around the world? Let’s start in Spain, in the region called Bierzo, located in the North East part of Spain, close to the Portuguese border. As with many places in the old world, the viticulture originated in the region in the times of the Roman empire. Today, Bierzo is best known for the red wines made out of the grape called Mencía, and Godello and Doña Blanca are the two primary white grapes in the region. Bierzo is known for its special microclimate, conducive for the grape growing, which can be characterized as the continental climate with ocean influence. Bierzo has today about 2,000 grape growers, 75 wineries, and produced about 9 million bottles of wine in 2017.

Two wines I want to offer to your attention come from the Bodegas Godelia, about 86 acres estate in Bierzo. The winery was created in 2009, however, their vineyards are much older, from 20 to 90 years old, depending on the grapes, and located at the altitudes of 1,600 to 2,000 feet.

2015 Bodegas Godelia Blanco Bierza DO (13.5% ABV, $17, 80% Godello, 20% Doña Blanca)
C: light golden
N: intense, pear, guava,
P: lemon, honeysuckle, crisp acidity, medium + body, delicious
V: 8-

2012 Bodegas Godelia Mencia Bierzo DO (14.5% ABV, $19, 12 months in oak)
C: dark garnet, almost black
N: warm, inviting, medium+ intensity, a touch of barnyard, spices
P: cherries, baking spices, medium body, violets
V: 7+ on the 2nd day, needs time. Mencia is known to produce massive, chewy wines, so this wine is no exception. 6 years of age is nothing for this wine – it might start opening up after at least another 6.

Tuscany

Hills of Tuscany. Source: Barone Ricasoli website

Where should we go after Spain? How about Italy? Let’s visit Tuscany, where 2015 vintage was simply outstanding. Of course, Tuscany is best known for its Chianti wine. At the heart of the Chianti region lays a much smaller region called Chianti Classico – this is where the Chianti wines historically originated from. Inside Chianti Classico, let’s look for the winery called Barone Ricasoli – one of the very first producers in the region, taking its history since 1141. Barone Ricasoli property has a grand looking castle, where some of the stones are still original since 1141, 600 acres of vineyards and 65 acres of olive trees. While Barone Ricasoli is mostly known for the reds, they also produce a few of the white wines, a Rosato, grappa, and of course, the olive oil.

I want to offer you two of the classic Chianti wines from the Chianti Classico area (pun intended):

2015 Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG (13.5% ABV, $18, 80% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon)
C: Garnet
N: Tar, leather, sandalwood, tart cherries
P: Tart cherries, plums, clean acidity, sage, a touch of tobacco, medium plus body, good structure.
V: 8, was excellent from the get-go, got more complexity on the second day.

2015 Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG (14% ABV, $23, 80% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon)
C: Dark garnet
N: Cherry, Sage, Rosemary, leather, medium plus intensity.
P: Supple berries, tart cherries, firm structure, young tannins, a touch of tobacco, good acidity, tannins on the finish
V: 8, great potential. Right now needs food. While perfectly drinkable now, with time will become a truly delicious sip.

Languedoc image

Languedoc. Source: Languedoc-wines.com

We need to complete our old world portion of the tour, so I think the stop in France is a must. How about a quick visit with Paul Mas in Languedoc? Languedoc is the largest wine producing region in France, located in the south, producing a tremendous range of white, sparkling, Rosé and, for the most part, red wines. Domaines Paul Mas is one of my favorite producers I have written about many times. What I love about the wines of Domaines Paul Mas is that you literally can’t go wrong with any of the wines produced at the domain – Sparkling, Rosé, white or reds. Not only the wines taste great, but they are also priced very reasonably – Paul Mas wines saved my wallet at the restaurants on multiple occasions, so they definitely deserve some respect. Here are the wines I want to bring to your attention:

2016 Paul Mas Estate Single Vineyard Collection Chardonnay Saint Hilaire Vineyard Pays d’Oc (13.5% ABV, $12.99)
C: Light golden color
N: Meyer lemon aromatics, hint of white peach, Bosc pear
P: Crisp, tart lemon on the palate, ripe Granny Smith apples, clean, refreshing. Good mid-palate presence, medium finish.
V: 8-, very good.

2016 Paul Mas Estate Single Vineyard Collection Pinot Noir Saint Hilaire Vineyard Pays d’Oc (13.5% ABV, $12.99)
C: Dark ruby
N: Fresh raspberries and cherries on the nose
P: Soft, supple, fresh berries, crisp, fresh, perfect acidity, excellent
V: 7+/8-

2016 Paul Mas Estate Single Vineyard Collection Malbec Saint Hilaire Vineyard Pays d’Oc (13.5% ABV, $12.99, 90% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Franc))
C: Dark garnet
N: Fresh raspberries and blackberries in the nose, nicely inviting
P: Soft, supple, fresh berries, crisp, fresh, perfect acidity, excellent
V: 8-

How is your day going so far? Feel like traveling somewhere? How about we will take a trip to sunny California? California is a big place, so to narrow it down we are actually heading to the Santa Barbara County. Here is a perfect example of the wine being a connector and an instant transporter – as soon as I hear “Santa Barbara County”, the brain instantly serves up the memories of the first Wine Bloggers Conference I attended, WBC14, which took place in Santa Barbara County. Moreover, one of the best experiences of that trip was a visit to the small town of Solvang, which is an incredible place for any wine lover. While visiting Solvang, we tasted the wines produced by Lucas and Lewellen – thus seeing that name on the label was an instant memory trigger.

The wine I want to offer to your attention today is perfectly representative of the capabilities of the Santa Barbara County wine growing region, and at the same time is very non-typical for California. Lucas and Lewellen produce the line of wines under the name of Toccata, which are all Italian varieties and blends, all grown in California. This Toccata Classico was a perfect enigma – varietally correct Tuscan beauty, only made from start to finish in California. In a blind tasting, my guess 100% would be “Chianti!”.

2015 Lucas & Lewellen Toccata Classico Santa Barbara County (14.1% ABV, $29, 50% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Freisa, 5% Petit Verdot, 18 months in French Oak, 346 cases produced)
C: Garnet
N: Fresh cherries, touch a leather, medium+ intensity
P: Ripe cherries on the palate, bright, firm structure, fresh, crunchy, touch of leather, excellent complexity, nicely integrated tannins
V: 8+, an excellent rendition of the old world wine in the new world.

vista trinidad ventisquero

Trinidad Vineyard, Chile. source: Viña Ventisquero website

Hurry up or we will be late for our last destination – Chile. About 25 years ago, Chile was mostly known as a “one-trick pony”, offering bargain-priced Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay. Today, Chile is one of the leading wine producing countries in the world, offering a substantial range of perfectly executed wines, from Chile’s own trademark, Carménere, to Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, and many others.

Today we are visiting Viña Ventisquero, the winery which started only 20 years ago, in 1998, and now offering a diversified set of wines, coming from the different regions and made with the finest attention to detail.

Vina Ventisquero

2017 Viña Ventisquero Grey Glacier Single Block Apalta Vineyard Valle de Colchagua (14% ABV, $18, 62% Garnacha, 19% Carinena, 19% Mataro, 6 months in French oak)
C: Ruby
N: Fresh raspberries, medium plus intensity, beautiful
P: Restrained, dark fruit, medium body, minerality, clean acidity, tart raspberries
V: 8-

2014 Viña Ventisquero Grey Glacier Carménere Trinidad VIneyard Maipo Valley (14% ABV, $19, 18 months in French oak)
Dark garnet
A perfect nose of Carménere – mix black currant berries with blackcurrant leaves
Medium to full body, soft, silky, fresh blackcurrant present, anis, good acidity, good balance, very pleasant overall
8/8+, excellent wine

That concludes our trip, my friends. Wasn’t it easy to travel with wine, in the comfort of your living room? Cheers!

Argentina Beyond Malbec with Achaval-Ferrer and #WineStudio

April 26, 2017 4 comments

Achaval-Ferrer Cabernet FrancOf course, Argentina wine industry can’t be subsided only to Malbec  – Torrontes and Chardonnay for the whites and Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon (and Bordeaux-style blends, of course) for the reds comprise an absolute majority of Argentinian wines available at any given moment. You can find some Argentinian Bonarda, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, but they don’t carry the full recognition of the 4 main grapes.

Winemaking has a long history in Argentina, starting in the 16th century and entering an international trade in the second half of 19th century. If we will take into account that most of the grape plantings in Argentina are at high altitude, with climatic conditions and terroir overall ideal for the grape growing and providing protection against many grape diseases, such as phylloxera, we will quickly realize that Argentina is home to some of the best and oldest vineyards in the world. However, it is only during the last 20-25 years Argentinian wines start receiving a full international recognition they deserve, with Malbec been the brightest shining star.

Achaval-Ferrer winery was founded in 1998, and over its relatively short history, became a leading winery in Argentina, garnering numerous awards and high critic scores for its wines. To the great pleasure of wine geeks, wines of Achaval-Ferrer were also a focus of April #WineStudio educational program, allowing us to experience some of the very best wines Argentina is capable of producing – Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blend called Quimera. But for the last April session, Achaval-Ferrer and #WineStudio took us on the trip in entirely new direction with the inaugural vintage of the Cabernet Franc wine.

I guess it is time to reveal one of my (no, not darkest) deepest wine secrets – I have “a thing”, an obsessive passion for the Cabernet Franc wines. I can’t explain to you why or how. I don’t know how it happened that out of most grapes, the words “Cabernet Franc” make me literally jump. No matter how tired I am at the end of the large tasting, say to me “let’s go try Cab Franc” and I’m ready to run. Thus you can imagine how excited I was at this opportunity to try a new first release of Cabernet Franc.

There was a lot of excitement around this wine, seems everybody really enjoyed it. As for all the wines of Achaval-Ferrer, the grapes for this Cabernet Franc came from the high altitude vineyards (3,280 ft above sea level) in the Uco Valley, mostly sustainably farmed. Here are my tasting notes:

2015 Achaval-Ferrer Cabernet Franc Mendoza Argentina (14.5% ABV, $24.99, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 months in 3-year old French oak barrels)
C: Dark garnet
N: intense, baking spices, dark fruit, mint, dark chocolate
P: medium-full body, fresh cut-through acidity, mint, hint of cassis, touch of white pepper on the finish, smooth, long finish with tannins kicking in at the end and lingering.  Needs time…
V: 8, nice, can be drunk on its own, will be great with the food, and will evolve with time – at least 10 years. The wine opened up more on the second day, and I’m sure will further improve on the 3rd.

Definitely an excellent wine which will be hard to find – 1,400 cases total production, and a lot of this wine went to Morton’s steakhouse (so if you plan to visit Morton’s keep that in mind) – but it is well worth seeking. If you will score some of these bottles, lay them down in the cellar and let them evolve. At least this is what I would do.

This wine concluded a delicious #WineStudio experience with the Achaval-Ferrer wines, and to sum it up, I want to leave you with the twitter quote from Tina Morey, the host of #WineStudio:

I can fully sign under every word here – beautiful, expressive wines, well representing what Argentina is capable of. Salud!

Evening With Friends

April 22, 2017 8 comments

I confessed it many times, and I’m glad to do it again – one of my most favorite parts of blogging, and essentially the most important one, is people. Interacting with people is the most prized element of any published blog post; meeting fellow bloggers and finding new friends is a huge cherry on top. I don’t know if the wine has any special qualities, but I have a great personal experience with meeting fellow bloggers face to face for the first time and feeling like I knew them for my whole life.

When I got an email from Jim, an author of JvbUncorked blog, offering to get together a few weeks ago, I knew I had to make it work. When I arrived 20 minutes late to Aldo Sohm Wine Bar in midtown in New York, Jim, Lori (a blogger and the winemaker behind Dracaena Wines) and Lori’s friend, Donna, were already there.

Anatoli, Lori and Jim More often than not, when I know what restaurant I’m going to, I like to check the wine list in advance. Aldo Sohm Wine Bar was opened by Aldo Sohm, the Chef Sommelier at Le Bernardine, a world-famous dining destination in New York City. Aldo Sohm is also known for winning numerous Sommelier competitions and was crowned multiple times as “Best Sommelier in Austria”, as well as “Best Sommelier in America” and “Best Sommelier in the World 2008” – you can imagine that the wine list put together by such a wine Pro requires some homework. I don’t know about you but I love and always do my homework, especially if it is connected to wine at least in some way.

In addition a to the substantial wine list, we had another interesting challenge – Donna liked mostly white wines with the nice buttery component to them – but, she was willing to try new wines, which was very helpful, but – the challenge was on.

Being late by 20 minutes had one lucky consequence – the first wine was already chosen and about to be poured by the time I situated myself at the table. We started with 2013 Kuentz-Bas Riesling Cuvée Tradition Alsace ($40) – and it was outstanding. Perfectly bright and intense on the nose, with a whiff of honey and apricot; on the palate, it was live and vibrant, crisp and playful, continuing honey and apricot flavors, supported by clean acidity. An outstanding wine and a great value at a restaurant wine list at $40. Bonus – we got “thumbs up” from Donna – you know how we, wine geeks, feel when someone says about your recommendation “ahh, I like this wine” – the top of the world feeling. Well, kind of, anyway.

As we were pondering at the next wine, it was really hard to decide, especially trying to make everybody happy again. While we were looking at Italian options, feeling “yeah, might be, but really, yeah?”, I took the advantage of my list studying and suggested to try a California Chardonnay. Not just something random, but a very particular Chardonnay – 2012 Sandhi Chardonnay Santa Barbara ($80). Earlier in the year, I had my first experience of Sandhi wines with Sandhi Pinot Noir. Sandhi winery was founded by Rajat Parr, a world-renowned sommelier, a partner at Sandhi winery and one of the founders of IPOB (In Pursuit Of Balance) movement for dialed-down, balanced California wines. The Sandhi Pinot Noir was incredible, which made me really curious about the Chardonnay – and it didn’t disappoint. This 2012 Sandhi Chardonnay had generous, intense, open nose with apples and vanilla, and on the palate, this wine was simply a riot – I experienced similar Chardonnay wines only a few times, mostly from Burgundy, when they get incredible intensity and brightness of golden delicious apples, vanilla and honey, supported by just a hint of butter and clear, vibrant acidity. This was truly a treat. And – yay – we got “thumbs up” from Donna again. Two out of two!

It was the time to move to the reds. While previously looking at the list, I noticed a 2001 Santenay for $77 at the end of the Burgundy section, right after 2001 DRC Romanée St. Vivant for $2650 (need an expense account, anyone got one we can share?). At first I thought there might be a mistake either with the price or a vintage in the online copy (had such experience numerous times), but no – the same Santenay was there on the wine list at the restaurant, for the same $77, so it was not very difficult to convince my partners in crime to go for this wine.

2001 Paul Chapelle 1er Cru Gravière Santenay ($77) was earthy, dry and pretty closed on the nose despite quick decanting. It took the wine a while to start showing some dark fruit, with earthy, minerally notes prevailing at the beginning. I think it took the wine about 45 minutes to give us some dark fruit notes and become a bit brighter. This 16 years old wine still has a lot of life left in it, and it is definitely a food friendly wine. By the way, do you care to guess of Donna liked this wine? Yes, you got that right – no, she didn’t. 2–1.

As our evening was progressing, we got a pleasure of meeting Aldo Sohm in person – he came to our table and introduced himself, so we were able to chat with him for about 10 minutes about all the fun geeky stuff oenophiles enjoy so much – how uneasy it is to find good wines at the good prices, especially when it comes to the Burgundy, with the combination of terrible weather and Burgundy’s love on the upswing around the world. Talking to Aldo was definitely one of the highlights of the evening.

It was getting somewhat late, but the challenge was still in front of us – we managed to score with the white wines for Donna to enjoy, but we had to find the proper red. After going back and force we settled on 2007 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Rioja Reserva ($75). La Rioja Alta doesn’t need much introduction to the wine lovers – one of the very best producers in Rioja, making delicious wine year after year. Of course, this wine was still a baby, but within the reasonable price range, we thought that it would have the best fruit representation, which, again, we were hoping would win Donna’s vote. The wine was every bit as expected – nose of cigar box and vanilla, dense cherries, vanilla and eucalyptus on the palate, touch of sweet oak, full body, noticeable, but well integrated tannins. This was an excellent wine, but … Nope, we didn’t win this one. 2–2. But one super-fun evening.

It was late, and it was the time to go home. But I really hope we are going to do it again. And again. And again. To all the friends – cheers!

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