Tuesday, May 27, 2008

July 19 Wine Tasting--The Battle of Gaul!

Hello everyone. I thought I'd unveil the proposed theme of our next wine tasting, as we ease back into our hectic lives after a full holiday weekend.

On July 19, our wine tasting will feature various red and white wines from France. The plan is to have most major regions represented (Burgundy, Bordeaux, Alsace, Rhone, Loire, Languedoc-Roussillon, and Provence) as well as one curve ball (keeping with tradition!). Given how well our last wine tasting went with the variety we had to sample, I am also going to offer eight wines (probably either a 5 red/3 white or 6 red/2 white combination). I'm interested in keeping the selections anonymous until our ultimate unveiling during dinner, but am not against hearing your thoughts on this approach.

We have still have ample time to consider what will be on the menu for the event, so no urgency in offering up what you'd like to prepare or bring to dinner. I plan to keep the cost of the wines in line with other wine tastings over the years (typically between $30-$40 per person, depending on attendance).

Looking forward to it!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Dinner and Wine in Colorado Springs

Despite a schedule of training during the day and catching up on work e-mails at night, I had a unique opportunity to treat myself to sampling various wines during dinnertime each night in Colorado. Specifically, I had 6 different glasses of wine spread out over four evenings, and I thought I'd share some notes I have on them, ranking them on our 1-5 scale from worst to first:

6. 2007 Il Vicino Sangiovese, from the Gruet Winery, New Mexico-this red from the Southwest was very reminiscent of cranberry juice in it's appearance and body. It was very tight on the nose, almost completely absent of odor. Upon tasting, I noticed it was very light on the alcohol, but oddly, very hot, albeit brief. There was a hint of sour and bitter elements (like accidently eating the stem with the unripened grape). It has no length whatsoever. It was an awkward selection--maybe some more time to mature would do this selection some good, but for now, especially at $21.00/bottle, the best I can rate it is a 2.

5. 2006 Jake's Fault Shiraz, from California--immediately reeking of Listerine or some type of all-purpose cleanser, I was a bit disappointed with this start, particularly after seeing it comes in at around $10.99. It appeared to have a medium body to it, and a nice purple color. It was very fruity to the taste, but lacked balance. I caught tastes of the fruit then got sideswiped by alcohol. It didn't have much of a finish and left almost like a taste of a fruit rind on my pallette in the end. Maybe some more time to age or maybe something as simple as decanting might bring some help to this wine--not terrible, but only it's price let's me bolster this effort to a 2.5.

4. 2006 Clo du Bois Pinot Grigio, from France--whites did get their chance to showcase their stuff in these dinners as well. This wine had a very light, transparent, yellow tint to it. It smelled like Jolly Rancher candies, particularly melon. There were also hints of citrus fruits on the nose as well. The taste reminded me of Reislings I've tried in the past, where they had a nice balance of alcohol and fruit tones. It ended with some heat, which was somewhat of a turnoff, but at around $12.00/bottle, the wine did a nice job, enough for a 3.0.

3. 2006 Rosemont Estates Shiraz, from Australia--This was a different experience for me, but worth discussing. It was very dark and opaque and had a medium body to it. The smell was pure unwashed vegetables, where the odor of dirt could be discerned. There was also a wood presence. The taste was an unusual mix to me of the right amount of alcohol and vegetables, like steamed broccoli or asparagus. But, as I spent some time sipping it again and again when paired with my dinner, some sweetness started to surface. Lastly, the wine had a nice length to it to end. This wasn't bad at all, and with a $9.99 pricetag retail (It wasn't that low in the hotel, however), I liked it! I didn't love it, so it's fair this wine, too, receives a 3.0.

2. 2006 Meridian Pinot Grigio, from California--It appears my penchant for always gravitating to and really liking very inexpensive wine every once in a while continues, where this <$8.00 wine crept into my #2 position. This wine had the body of a white grape juice, or even the Chardonnay that took the gold for the white wines at our South American wine-tasting. It bore a floral and sour nose, keeping pace with the white grape juice appearance. Well, after getting hammered with an initial blast of alcohol, this white calmed down VERY nicely and had a very surprising and balanced length. The taste was a fruit salad, where sour and sweet components mixed very well and seemed to overtake the alcohol after a few moments. It's ability to calm down after an initial try and subsequent tries, and it's terrific mix with my chicken dish made it a winning Place bet for me--3.5.

1. 2007 Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, from New Zealand--I had a bad experience with Sauvignon Blanc in the past, but was willing to try it again. With a high recommendation from the waiter given my Spanish Chicken dish I was planning to order, I went for this $14 wine (again, higher at the hotel). The color was a pale yellow color with an overwhelming citrus nose to it, overcoming any other scents that surfaced (which included lemon drops or lemon meringue pie). The taste was almost that of a perfectly mixed drink of Ocean Spray Grapefruit juice and alcohol. The alcohol was kept at bay but competed well with the tart nature of the citrus components. It had a very long length to it and stayed consistent with it's taste from start to finish. I was very pleasantly surprised, and also found it rather redeeming this wine was a Wines & Spirits and Wine Spectator 91. What a highly unusual taste for a wine, but what a terrific job! 4.5!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Vernaccia : A Dry Italian White Worth Noticing

Hello All,
As we approach the warm months of summer, it only stands to reason that wine lovers will begin looking towards whites to accompany the lighter meals of the season. One such white wine worth looking into is Vernaccia from Tuscany. I recently picked up a bottle of 2006 Vernaccia Di San Gimignano, from Le Rote winery/vinard. I was again pleasantly surprised that this $10.98 bottle of wine was quite interesting and delicious. This wine is a DOCG or super Tuscan and is made up of the Vernaccia grape. It should be noted that DOCG guidelines do allow for this wine to be made up of 10% Chardonnay. When I popped the bottle and poured I noticed a natural effervescence in a wine of light yellow color. It contained quite an interesting nose of sweet lemon/lime with a slight hint of pear. Such an ordor would normally prepare one for a wine sweet as candy, but the surprise happens once it hits your pallet. There was just a hint of sweetness at the onset which quickly dries out. The mid pallet is bitter but slowly fades into a slight lingering taste of vanilla( could be that 10% Chardonnay coming through...who knows). If there is a noticeable flaw it is that the bitterness lasts a bit too long on the mid pallet. But, it is a minor flaw that I can certainly live with. I would rank this a 3.5 on our 4 scale. A winner in my book and I can definitely see myself going out of my way to buy a few more bottles for the summer 3 day weekends. Check it out of if you can.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Review of a Montepulciano D'Abruzzi

For this Wednesday's entry I thought I'd continue the trend of sharing my experiences with the everyday wines. This week I opened a 2004 Antonio & Elio Monti Montepulciano D'Abruzzi and I must say I think I found another winner that falls into the under $10.00 category. I picked up this bottle at Bottle King for $8.98. This wine is obviously from Italy, the Abruzzi region in the South East portion of the peninsula. It is made entirely from the Montepulciano grape, which is a major variety in southern Italy. Using our customary 4 point scale, I would rank this bunch of grapes at a 3.5. Let me explain my rationale. Lets begin with color, this is a deep reddish brown wine with medium body. By no means a big heavy red that might be confused with the Barolos or Brunellos. The wine has decent legs upon swirling. The next order of business is the odor or in the words of Gary the "sniffy sniff". I observed a strong odor of leather and earth, with a slight hint of cherry. Not very exciting or interesting, but if you can get past this little disappointment, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. The tasting experience began with a smooth dryness, with hints of mocha or dark chocolate. There is some bitterness on the mid pallet, but it fades quickly. Tannins are medium to low. Virtually no fruit taste or sugar for that matter. To me, a lover of the dry earthy wines of Italy, this is perfect. The kicker is the overall smoothness of the wine, which is very high on my enjoyment scale. Finally, in terms of longevity, it is also a winner, I opened the bottle on Sunday and the wine held together Monday and Tuesday being stored at room temperature after being hand vacuumed pumped. I were to take a guess, I would say JP would be won over by the smoothness. Hard to say how the rest of the gang will fall, but at $9.00 “Bones” (Gary again) a bottle, why not try it this weekend. Anyway, that's my thought for the day.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pics of the South American Wine Tasting

Very cool time and some very cool wines. Who would have thought that we would find so many good wines from Chile and Argentina. I will post the tasting notes soon, but I wanted to get the pictures up tonight. Next time, I'll have to remember to get myself in the picture and take a few more.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Portugal's Alentejano Region Wines

If you are like me and trying to take advantage of the health benefits of wine, you try to drink at least a glass a wine a day, typically with dinner. Once you incorporate VINO into your daily routine, you'll find the quandary that you will face is how to pick “decent” quality wines that are also cost affordable. I've found that the wines of Portugal offer a very acceptable solution to this dilemma. Recently I purchased a little gem by the name of Monte Velho from the Alentejano region (located in eastern Portugal south of Tejo), 2006 vintage. The winery is Herdade Do Esporao. This delightful Red is a blend of 3 grapes indigenous to Portugal: Periquita, Trincadeira & Bastardo grapes. The wine has an interesting bouquet of Blackberry/Back Cherry and strikes a nice balance between fruit and the dryness that I love. This is a bit of a high alcohol content at first, which I have found can be easily weakened with 4 hours of decanting. The suggested retail cost is $7.99, however I picked it up on sale for $4.50 at Bottle King. An unbelievable bargain if you ask this humble consumer. I would strongly suggest you continue to expand your pallets in a way that won't break your wallets and the best way is to look for less popular and less known grape varieties and regions. Portugal is a shining example of one these areas that can provide quality wines despite a ridiculously inflated EURO to Dollar ratio.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

In Preparation for May 10 Winetasting

The wines have arrived....we have 6 red and 2 white.

1- Carmenere
1-Cabernet Sauvingion
1- Cabernet/Merlot/Cabernet Franc

2 - Chardonnays ( 1 Chilean, 1 Argentinean)

The cost per person will be $33 per person for the wine,

Since we will be tasting some wines which may not be familiar, I wanted to provide the following information on some of the wines:

CARMENERE (Red) [car-men-YEHR]Also known as Grande Vidure, this grape was once widely planted in Bordeaux, but is now associated primarily with Chile. Carmenere, along with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, was imported to Chile around 1850. According to Chilean vintners, Carmenere has been mislabeled for so long that many growers and the Chilean government now consider it Merlot.

MALBEC (Red) [MAHL-beck]Once important in Bordeaux and the Loire in various blends, this not-very-hardy grape has been steadily replaced by Merlot and the two Cabernets. However, Argentina is markedly successful with this varietal. In the United States Malbec is a blending grape only, and an insignificant one at that, but a few wineries use it, the most obvious reason being that it's considered part of the Bordeaux-blend recipe.

BONARDA (Red) Many know that Malbec is a famous varietal in Argentina but fewer know that the Bonarda varietal is actually the most widely planted grape in Argentina. And it has only been recently exported out of Argentina. The origins and nature of Bonarda are a bit controversial. Some feel it originated in Italy but there are actually three different Bondarda types in Italy, and it is unsure whether Argentina Bonarda is the same or not. Some also think Bonarda may be the California Charbono.

MERLOT (Red) [mur-LO]Merlot is the red-wine success of the 1990s: its popularity has soared along with its acreage, and it seems wine lovers can't drink enough of it. It dominates Bordeaux, except for the MÉdoc and Graves. Though it is mainly used for the Bordeaux blend, it can stand alone. In St.-Emilion and Pomerol, especially, it produces noteworthy wines, culminating in Château PÉtrus. In Italy it's everywhere, though most of the Merlot is light, unremarkable stuff. But Ornellaia and Fattoria de Ama are strong exceptions to that rule. Despite its popularity, its quality ranges only from good to very good most of the time, though there are a few stellar producers found around the world.
Several styles have emerged. One is a Cabernet-style Merlot, which includes a high percentage (up to 25 percent) of Cabernet, similar currant and cherry flavors and firm tannins. A second style is less reliant on Cabernet, softer, more supple, medium-weight, less tannic and features more herb, cherry and chocolate flavors. A third style is a very light and simple wine; this type's sales are fueling Merlot's overall growth.
Like Cabernet, Merlot can benefit from some blending, as Cabernet can give it backbone, color and tannic strength. It also marries well with oak. Merlot is relatively new in California, dating to the early 1970s, and is a difficult grape to grow, as it sets and ripens unevenly. Many critics believe Washington State has a slight quality edge with this wine. By the year 2000, vintners should have a better idea of which areas are best suited to this grape variety. As a wine, Merlot's aging potential is fair to good. It may be softer with age, but often the fruit flavors fade and the herbal flavors dominate.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON (Red) [cab-er-NAY SO-vin-yon]The undisputed king of red wines, Cabernet is a remarkably steady and consistent performer throughout much of the state. While it grows well in many appellations, in specific appellations it is capable of rendering wines of uncommon depth, richness, concentration and longevity. Bordeaux has used the grape since the 18th century, always blending it with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and sometimes a soupçon of Petite Verdot. The Bordeaux model is built around not only the desire to craft complex wines, but also the need to ensure that different grape varieties ripen at different intervals or to give a wine color, tannin or backbone.
Elsewhere in the world—and it is found almost everywhere in the world—Cabernet Sauvignon is as likely to be bottled on its own as in a blend. It mixes with Sangiovese in Tuscany, Syrah in Australia and Provence, and Merlot and Cabernet Franc in South Africa, but flies solo in some of Italy's super-Tuscans. In the United States., it's unlikely any region will surpass Napa Valley's high-quality Cabernets and Cabernet blends. Through most of the grape's history in California (which dates to the 1800s), the best Cabernets have been 100 percent Cabernet. Since the late 1970s, many vintners have turned to the Bordeaux model and blended smaller portions of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot into their Cabernets. The case for blending is still under review, but clearly there are successes. On the other hand, many U.S. producers are shifting back to higher percentages of Cabernet, having found that blending doesn't add complexity and that Cabernet on its own has a stronger character.
At its best, unblended Cabernet produces wines of great intensity and depth of flavor. Its classic flavors are currant, plum, black cherry and spice. It can also be marked by herb, olive, mint, tobacco, cedar and anise, and ripe, jammy notes. In warmer areas, it can be supple and elegant; in cooler areas, it can be marked by pronounced vegetal, bell pepper, oregano and tar flavors (a late ripener, it can't always be relied on in cool areas, which is why Germany, for example, has never succumbed to the lure). It can also be very tannic if that is a feature of the desired style. The best Cabernets start out dark purple-ruby in color, with firm acidity, a full body, great intensity, concentrated flavors and firm tannins.
Cabernet has an affinity for oak and usually spends 15 to 30 months in new or used French or American barrels, a process that, when properly executed imparts a woody, toasty cedar or vanilla flavor to the wine while slowly oxidizing it and softening the tannins. Microclimates are a major factor in the weight and intensity of the Cabernets. Winemakers also influence the style as they can extract high levels of tannin and heavily oak their wines.