Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Wintery Evening for some Reds

Hey everyone. Last Saturday night, some miserable weather provided the backdrop for a chance to try out some wines over Dawson's house. Three red wines (a Merlot, Shiraz, and Other) were showcased. In order from worst to first, the results are as follows:

1. 2006 Devil's Marbles South Eastern Australia Shiraz-this nicely light bodied effort had a very sweet nose. The sweetness continued on the mid palate, accompanied by pepper, and was very dry. This was an average one for me, and a bit sub-par for Dawson. At $8.99, serviceable but not remarkable. Average Score: 2.75

2. 2007 Sicilia Rosso Dry Red Wine (other red varietal)--also bearing a fruity and sweet nose, this very smooth effort was very balanced, nice length, and nice tanins. This $9.99 bottle is certainly worth it. Average Score: 3.5

3. 2005 Rutherford Hill Napa Valley Merlot--WOW. I had this one before and was extremely impressed (2004 vintage), and wanted to showcase it this evening. This very dark gem had a light body to it, with smoky and red berry aromas to it. This ultra-smooth effort had some incredible length and complexity, offering the fruity, slightly hot, and silky properties that made it by far the best in class. At $19.99, definitely one to see out. Average Score: 4.5

More wine tastings hopefully on the way before the end of the winter season!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bring on the Holidays and the Wine

Hello All. Well it goes without saying that it's been too long since this blog has been updated. So with Thanksgiving 2009 behind us and the Holiday Season upon us, I thought it an opportune time to re-ignite our little online wine diary.

This weekend, I stopped by my local bottle king and picked up a bottle for a personal wine experience. I decided to continue my quest for surprisingly good wine at recession prices. That quest led me back to the Italian section and the Piedmonte region. It's no secret I'm a big fan of the Barolo's and just about any wine made from the Nebbiolo grape.

But this time, I thought I’d mix things up a bit and chose a Barbera based wine from Alba. Renato Ratti, Torriglione, Barbera D'Alba, 2008. Moderately priced at $12.00. This wine had a ruby red color and legs that just wouldn't quit; long and slow were these stems. The nose was no surprise and typical regarding my experience with Barbera wines, an odor of deep black cherry. However, when I let it sit for a while and took another sniff, I detected a slight bouquet of flower. Very interesting!

The taste was very dry at first but after a few seconds the sweetness of that black cherry showed up. Unfortunately any evidence of tannins ever being present was non existent. The body was very light and smooth, without the slightest hint of the burn from an alcohol content of 13.5%. The disappointing aspect of this wine was that the tasting experience did not last long, leaving me flat and wanting more in terms of complexity.

All in all, it was a decent wine for the price. I enjoyed drinking it without a food compliment and the experience did not change much after a day's aging. I give it a rating of 2.75, however, due to price point; it ranks high on my everyday wine list.

So that's my little Holiday season launching story and here's hoping we'll get some new posts real soon. Stay tuned and bring on the Wine drinking season!!!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Results of June 13 Wine Tasting

Hey folks. Sorry for the delay in getting these results out there for review.

Prior to the Dinner and Tasting, Anthony, Dawson, and Jon-Paul did take another trip to the Alba Vineyard for more tasting of wines as well as picking up some. Despite a torrential downpour on the way back to Anthony's house, the visit was a nice one.

Given the 'Chardonnay' theme for this wine tasting, lighter foods such as chicken and shrimp scampi were selected for dinner, along with typical staples such as bread and cheese, and some terrific bruschetta prepared by Anthony. Participating in this tasting were Anthony, Drew, Dawson, Joe, and Jon-Paul.

In order from worst to first (average scores of all scores using our standard 1-5 scale):

1. Byron 2006 Santa Maria Valley (California, $17.99)--This tight nosed effort showed some sweetness but with little length, was not a fave of the group--average score: 2.3

2. Guenoc Lake County 2007 Chardonnay (California, $9.99)--This effort had a medium body with sour apple on the nose. The flavor was typical of an oak storage (vanilla and cream), but was noticeably hot--may need more time to relax--average score: 2.6

3. Kim Crawford Chardonnay Unoaked 2008 (New Zealand, $17.99)--the nose was incredibly vegetal and lemony, and bore some great length, but for the majority of the group was not an appealing selection--average score: 2.6

4. La Crema 2007 Chardonnay (California, $15.99)--Having practically no aroma, the textbook flavor profile of this left no remarkable impression--average score: 2.6

5. Chateau St. Michelle Indian Wells 2006 Chardonnay (Washington, $13.99)--with a vegetal nose, this effort bore kiwi and creamy components to the flavor profile, which were very intriguing, but ended way too quick--average score: 2.9

6. Montrachet Pierre Chassagne 2006 (France, $65.00)--this refreshing light wine had the smell of yard and flora, with a light, acidic taste--average score: 3.0

7. Grgish Hills Chardonnay 2006 (California, $37.00)--Another tight-nosed effort, this did have some intriguing tart, sour apple, and pear flavorsaverage score--average score: 3.3

8. Mer SoLeil 2006 Chardonnay (California, $30.00)--by far, the class of the bunch, this lemony smelling, medium bodied wine had terrific balance and complexity, and incredible length. average score: 3.8

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wine Making Part III

It was a warm Friday evening in May when New Jersey's premier wine makers converged on "A Little Taste of Purple" at 68 Clinton Road in Fairfield to bottle the American Bordeaux and Old Vine Zin that have been aging in Oak for seven months. Mike, Anthony, Hany, Pete, Al and Steve were all in attendance for the festivities. The process was simple but labor intensive. First we washed the bottles. Then the wine was placed in steel drums which was linked to the bottling machine. One man filled the bottles (6 at a time) , then passed it on to the next who was at the manual corker. Next the bottle was passed to have the foil melted over the cork. Finally our own custom labels were placed on each bottle. There was only one hitch, a small one with the Old Vine Zin which will lead to Wine Making Part IV in two weeks. More to come so stay tuned.
Bottle Washing

Filling Machine


Melting the Foil

The Gang at Work

Monday, May 4, 2009

Results of April 25th Wine Tasting

Hello everyone. On Saturday, April 25, a wine-tasting and dinner to salute 5 of the many distinct wine-producing regions of Italy was hosted by Dawson Bloom. Five randomly selected wines (one from each region) were compared by Dawson Bloom, Vin Trupia, Joseph Fernicola, Anthony LaVista, and Jon-Paul Lenczuk.

Regions represented in the tasting were Calabria/Basilicata, Veneto, Piedmonte, Umbria and Abruzzo, and Sicily. Accompanying these reds for dinner were a spread of sliced meats, sausage and pasta, various hard and semi-soft cheeses, grapes, and Torellini Alfredo (I'm drawing a blank on if we had dessert or not).

In order of least favorite to most (on the traditional 1-5 rating scale), the results are as follows:

1. Lamuri Nero D'Avola (2005 Sicilia)--a peppermint and chocolate flavor came across with this, creating some initial interest. However, with mild tanins and a rapid fire finish, it was leaving us generally not overly impressed, particularly at a $23 price point--average score 2.85

(Tie for 2nd to last)--

2. Barbera D'Asti (2005 Piedmonte)--Slight black cherry aromas came from this tight-nosed red, with a high degree of heat on the palate. Though smooth, it was only an average find, but servicable for $12.00--Average score 3.1

3. Carpineto Chianti (2002) Vanilla was immediately detected on the nose, along with some minerality. A smooth, caramel, non-fruity flavor profile vanished rather quickly. It, however, was also serviceable at approximately $22.00--Average score 3.1

4. Re Manfredi (2002 Basilicata) Black licorice burst forth on the nose, with hints of smoke to complement the distinct aroma. Cranberries could be identified on the mid-palate, along with some smokiness. This was a smooth effort with moderate tanins. A quality find around $23.00 !--Average score--3.3

5. Ripassa Superiore Valpolicella (2006 Veneto) Getting the nod as the 'best of class' this evening was this gem from Northern Italy. Bearing a delightful scent of dark fruits, this tasteful vino was full bodied with intense fruity tones to it. The length was exceptional and smooth. Very good! Average score--3.5

For a 2nd tasting in a row, there was a rather narrow range of scoring. With warmer weather quickly approaching, white wines and PotLuck tastings will likely steer wine tastings into the summer of 2009. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wine Tasting "Italian Reds" Coming up April 15

The next wine tasting is quickly approaching. Most of the old crew is back together, As Vin Trupia has returned after almost a year's hiatus, although Mike DiChiaria remains missing. We have added a new member, Drew Thomas, who first joined us for our last tasting of Spain's reds.

This tasting will be very interesting, as we will be tasting wines from many of Italys regions, not just the most popular ones of Piedmonte and Tuscany. Other regions include Umbria, Abruzzo, Calabria, etc. It has been quite some time since we focused on Italy and Im excited to be taking a look back, especially with most of the focus these days on South America.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dinner with Friends and oh, a Birthday!

Hey folks. While unfortunately this post is a bit late, I thought it was high time to recap dinner in Hackettstown, NJ. in celebration of Anthony's birthday.

A nice time was had on Saturday, March 7 in West Jersey, as the normal cast of characters met up at 'The Prickly Pear' for dinner, catching up on everyone's lives, and enjoying each other's company.

A number of wines were brought to this dinner, and I wanted to take a moment to highlight a few of the ones that really stood out:

1. 2001 Silvio Nardi Brunello Montepulciano--this was a very old world style wine, to the nose and taste. Great length, great balance. (ABV 14.0%)
2. 2006 Ravenswood Vintners Blend Petite Syrah--this had an enjoyable profile to it, fruity, but not overbearing at all. (ABV 13.5%)
3. 2008 Kimberly Crawford Sauvignon Blanc--an amazing white, very grapefruit and apricot components to this well made effort (ABV 13.0%)
4. 2007 Ridge California Sonoma County Three Valleys--this was a solid find, the hottest to the pallate, and had a nice length to it. (ABV 14.3%)

Given each of the pricepoints of the wines above (highest was around $27), the PQR (per GV) certainly warrants repeat purchases of each up the road!!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Winemaking Part II

Although this took place back at the end of October. I'd thought I'd bring you up to speed on the second part of the wine making process. The first part consisted of crushing, putting in the enzymes and super food and punching it down. Then we came back two weeks later for the pressing. Below are some pictures. Wow what a messy process. When that hydrolic press goes to work, grape juice goes everywhere, including the ceililng. The next step will be tasting the wine after is has been in oak for 5 months. Really looking forward to that tasting.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Results of the February 28 Wine Tasting

Hey folks. After a lengthy holiday layover, we finally managed to put together another successful wine-tasting and dinner, had at Anthony LaVista's home. This tasting's theme was wines from Spain.

In an effort to keep things interesting for our tastings moving forward, Anthony did some recruiting to incorporate new tasters into the mix. From two prospects emerged one new attendee, Drew. In attendance otherwise were Joe Fernicola, Dawson Bloom, and me.

Available to start off the dinner were various Spanish Cheeses with a quince spread (the only type of cheese I precisely recall was Manchego, but there were about 4-5 varieties in total). They went over VERY well, with everyone devouring all but the rinds. Also available for dinner was a delicious London Broil and a huge tray of Paella Valenciana. Not faring as well on the popularity scale was blood sausage and chorizo, which had been inadvertently burned during cooking. For dessert was apple pie.

While I ordinarily post the results with ranking, score, and pricetag, I just realized that I don't have the scores, just the ranks--we can append this post with these scores (which I know we have). Also, since the pricetags of each of the wines all hovered between 11 and 20 dollars (with the exception of the Tabernero, which was $7.99), no dollar amounts are mentioned below--
In order of rank, from worst to first, here are the results:

7. Tabernero Borgona 2006 Demi-Sec (Peru)--Each tasting of ours is always known for having a curve ball in the mix. This one, brought by me, was no curve ball--it was more of a wild pitch. Aside from the extreme sweetness which would make it a better fit for a dessert wine tasting, it did not go over well with the tasters, expect for Dawson who professed some level of tolerance for it, as did I.

6. Menguante Seleccion 2004 Garnache--Having an oak and toffee aroma, this was somewhat awkward and hot. It wasn't bad, but beating out only the demi-sec isn't saying much.

5. Mas Donis Barrica Celler de Capcanes Montsant 2005--this was a rather sweet-smelling, floral effort. The dark fruit taste came though and had a decent length--more preferred by Dawson and me than the others.

4. Marquis de Olivara Tinto Crianzo 2004--the nose was a pronounced medley of red berries. Tasting presented some firm tanins, a lot of heat, but balanced in a solid manner.

3. Montecillo Rioja 2005 Grianza--This had a very sweet nose, and it's taste had components of once frozen, now thawed black/dark fruit--very smooth and had a medium length.

2. Ramirez de la Piscina Reserva 2001--this nose was an intesting mix of earth and hints of fruit. It was incredibly smooth to the taste and had a nice length to it.

1. Marquez de Riscal Reserva 2004--by a wide margin, this effort bore an oaky and very grape jolly rancher nose. The firm tanins in this heavier, jammy effort were complimented by a nice length with only a hint of heat--nice job!

I am hopeful that since my notes are a bit more abbreviated than normal, any attendees to this dinner could perhaps fill in any gaps or augment this post as appropriate.

As always, we look forward to the next tasting event!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Santa Cristina versus Rutherford Hill

Hi folks. I used a family gathering as a backdrop for a comparison of two reds, the first of it's kind for me this year.

In one corner was a Santa Cristina 2005 Toscana (Sangiovese, Italy), ABV 12.1%. In the opposite corner was a Rutherford Hill 2004 Merlot (Merlot, California), ABV 14.2%.

The Santa Cristina had a rather tight nose to me, with only earthy, woody, almost asphalt-like tones. After some swirling I began to catch a floral aroma. The taste was moderate tanins with some presence of dark fruit. To my disappointment, the finish was abrupt and left my mid-pallate feeling unsatisfied. The sudden finish had me wondering if the product was slightly watered down, not sure. For $12.00, I've had better--Score: 2.0

The Rutherford Hill's aroma was very, very fruity. There were sweet, creamy hints to it (suggesting oak played a part in it's development), with an obvious dark berry component to it. The high alcohol upon taste was very quickly masked by the balance of the fruits, vanilla/caramel hints, and very firm tanins. This lit up my entire mouth, and stayed around for a long time--I was floored by the terrific taste of this--I am sure this will be a tough one to surpass this year for me, particularly for the reasonable $17.99 price. Score: 4.5

Monday, February 16, 2009

Terrorism in the Wine Industry: The CRAV are No Sons of Liberty.

As an American who believes in personal liberty, I can’t help but look back with pride at many of the events of the American Revolution. One such event strikes a cord: the Boston Tea party, where the Sons of Liberty, dressed as American Indians, boarded a British ship and dumped tons of English tea in Boston harbor in protest of British taxes. But just for a moment imagine that tea being wine, that harbor being in a Mediterranean port, and those Indians being black ski masked shadows. However, replace the noble cause of liberty, with the goal of bringing about more socialist government regulation of free trade. This, in a nutshell, is the story of CRAV, France’s Wine Terrorist organization. But as you will see, the CRAV is anything but a modern day Sons of Liberty.

I was fascinated to recently learn that there was an outlaw organization in existence that used acts of terror in an effort to allegedly “protect” the wine industry of France. I for one would think that after hundreds of years of leading the wine world, that French wine would not require any type of extreme violent action to protect its future. Well, certain wine producers in the Languedoc-Roussillion region seem to disagree.

Little is know about the Comité régional d'action viticole(CRAV) or, the Regional Committee for Viticultural Action, other than what it claims to stand for. The CRAV first emerged sometime in 2001 and 2002. They claim to be a group of nameless but small wine producers in the south of France who have been driven to violence by a combination of declining prices, droping demand in France, less expensive imports from Spain and Italy and global competition from new world wine areas like Australia and South America. The Comité Régional d'Action Viticole is a shadowy organization which has publicly claimed to have an estimated 1,000 members and an unknown number of sympathizers who believe the French government is not doing enough to protect small wine producers from globalization.

It has claimed responsibility for bombing a grocery stores, a winery, agriculture ministry offices, hyjacking a tanker and destroying large quantities of non-French wine. On March 6 , 2006, more than 120 ski masked men armed with crowbars attacked the Mediterranean port city of Sète in France's Languedoc region. They broke into two wine merchants' warehouses and dumped thousands of gallons of wine onto the ground. Then in May of 2007, the group even went so far as to release a video which threatened that “Blood would flow” unless action was taken to raise the price of wine. But the CRAV is no joke, they are said to be influenced by Corsican and Basque separatists. Both of these known terrorist organizations, have taken many lives and at times caused wide spread econmomic distruption.

In my humble opinion, the CRAV have done nothing but hurt the wine industry of southern France. In this day and age, where terrorism has caused so much harm to so many people throughout the would, I would expect that their actions have turned wine consumers interest away from the Languedoc region. This is quite a shame since I have nothing but good experiences with wines from that region.

Instead of resorting to violence in an effort to bring about more government control, perhaps these producers should switch gears and work for less regulation and freedom. With less regulation and government control, these producers could adopt a more cost effective business model that will produce quality wine which could compete with external competitors. In the end, how ironic is that this organization was created to fight the free market when a freer market is what will ultimately solve their problems.