Monday, September 22, 2008

A New Bottle, A New Learning Experience

I stopped by my local Bottle King this weekend looking to pick up an everyday wine for the week's dinners. Not surprisingly, a sale item caught my eye in the Italian reds section. It is no secret that my bias toward Italian wines runs pretty deep. That notwithstanding, I've been known to be quite harsh on vino from the sunny peninsula that disappoints my pallet. Well this time, not only was the wine a pleasant tasting experience, it was a chance to increase my wine Q.

The wine that I chose was called Ramitello, Molise Terra Degliosci, 2004. This is a blend of 85% prugnolo and 15% aglianico. I made my choice based on two factors, first price: on sale of $11.00 a bottle, and second on the desire to taste a wine made from a grape or grapes I did not know. The nose of this wine was nothing special or unique. I detected an odor of Black Cherry and Burnt Rubber. However the actual flavor of the wine was much more intriguing. It started out with fruit, again most reminiscent of cherry. However, once the wine crossed the mid pallet it turned bitter and had the distinct taste of black Licorice. The final round of the tasting experience was quite pleasing with a coating of dark chocolate. The tannins were in the low to medium range, which made the wine very smooth and amicable to drinking without food. And what was must exhilarating was the long lasting taste. I would say the tasting experience lasted for about 2 minutes after the wine had made its way to my stomach. Overall, I would give the wine a solid 3.5 on our traditional rating scale. It definitely made my list for repeat purchase.

But you might ask, what about this learning experience? Well this occurred after I took to the Internet to learn more about the grapes and that region that the wine came from. By the way, the town/village of origin was Campomarino. Campomarino, in the region of Molise is located on the Gulf of Taranto, The best way to describe this location is inside of the heel of the boot that is the Italian peninsula. So what about the grapes? Well I learned that prugnolo was not new to me at all. In fact it is simply another name for the Sangiovese grape that is used to describe that grape when it is grown in the town of Montepulciano. Why the different names for the same grape and why the producers chose to use this name in an area so far from Montepulciano? Well, I really don’t know and I’d be very interested in hearing anyone’s theory on the subject. In any case, despite the fact that my efforts to try a new grape were foiled, the wine drinking experience was quite enjoyable and I engaged in the proverbial practice of “learning something new, every day.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Personal Wine Making

I realized that it has been some time since this blog has been updated. Therefore, in a last ditch effort to avoid this blog fading into cyber obscurity, I thought I'd share an experience I had this past Saturday. Michael DeChiara and I spent a stormy afternoon (the remnants of Hurricane Hannah) at "A Little Taste of Purple" (formerly the Wine Room) in Livingston, New Jersey. This is a personal winemaking establishment that has been in business since 2001 and Mike has used for the last couple of years to make his very own, high quality wine. Saturday and Sunday were their tasting days. This was an excellent opportunity to taste virtually every wine the establishment offers to its customers. Throughout the afternoon we tasted wines made from Barbera, Brunello, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel,Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Grenache and various blends. All the grape varieties are grown in six California regions and shipped out to New Jersey within days of harvesting. The six regions are Mendocino County, Lake County, Sonoma County, Suisun Valley, Sierra Foothills, and Lodi.

So, all the wine we tasted was made by amateurs, here in New Jersey, with the assistance of a professional winemaker. Having tasted my share of homemade wine and its often 200 proof alcohol content, it goes without saying that did not expect much in terms of quality. Well, I'm happy to report that I was wrong. For the most part, the wines that we sampled were professional quality. I will even go as far as to say they were indistinguishable from the low to medium cost professional product that most California wineries put on the market each year. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my notepad and didn’t really feel up to rating the wines individually.

With that being said, I saw little to discourage me from participating in the winemaking experience this year. Although the cost is not insignificant, the amount of wine you end up walking away with in a year's time amounts to about $11 a bottle. I say not a bad bargain when you add in the take a way of actually having made the wine yourself. Mike and I agreed that we, along with a couple of others, would make a barrel's worth of a traditional Bordeaux blend (which was my favorite of the samples)

So, stay tuned as there will be more to come as I go through the wine making experience. If the idea of making your own wine excites you, I'd encourage you to check out one of these establishments. They website of the place in Livingston is Check it out today.