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Friday, December 30, 2011

Not Just Wine...

It’s wine that I always write about, because it’s wine that most inspires me.  But I do enjoy vodka, tequila, rum, and, most recently, gin.  And now I tried something new recently thanks to a thoughtful gift - Junior Johnson Midnight Moon Apple Pie Moonshine.  And I loved it!
I wasn’t sure how smooth it would be or how moonshine could taste like apple pie but it’s a lot smoother than I had expected, and it really does smell and taste like a properly spiced fresh apple pie.
Trying new things is important to me but usually something “new” means a less-than-common grape type from a lesser known wine region - Mondeuse from Savoie, Petite Arvine from Vallee d’Aoste, Petit Manseng from South West France, or Nerello Cappuccio from Sicily - but the apple pie moonshine is a new favorite for sure.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Wines - Part 2

Christmas Eve dinner in our house is centered around the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes, so of course the wines are white, to pair with frutti di mare, lobster, shrimp, and assorted fried fish.

The first wine of the evening was the 2010 Grosjean Freres Petite Arvine (Vallee d’Aoste) - I know it sounds French but it’s actually Italian - and it’s lovely.  I had never tried a Petite Arvine before so I didn’t know what to expect.  The wine is a light golden color with characteristics of soft citrus and even softer orchard fruit notes, particularly peach, very soft spice, mineral, and a hint of yeastiness, with clean acidity but a slightly creamy feel and a long finish.  The wine is fascinating and fortunately very food friendly so it paired perfectly with the fish.

2010 Grosjean Freres Petite Arvine and 2009 Ferrando Erbaluce di Caluso La Torrazza

The next white, also Italian in keeping with the dinner theme, was the 2009 Ferrando Erbaluce di Caluso La Torrazza (Piemonte).  Another exciting new wine for me, it’s perhaps even more golden in color than the Petite Arvine, with somewhat rich characteristics of exotic fruit, white flowers, bitter nut, and a hint of fennel/anise with white stoniness and a crisp, clean texture and slightly bitter finish.  This wine was also an excellent pairing with the fish.

Overall, I was very happy with the white Italian selections for Christmas Eve dinner - both had just enough weight to them while staying crisp and clean and cutting through the fried fish, and both wines were fascinating and very enjoyable.
Dinner on Christmas Day was traditional lasagne, and the wine was the 2010 Mario Marengo Dolcetto d’Alba, a dark wine, purple with a pinkish rim, with rich characteristics of dark berry and lots of plum, purple flowers, and soft spice, and a nice balance of bright acidity with smooth tannins and a long enough finish.  The wine is uncomplicated on the palate and unpretentious, and perfect for pairing with traditional Italian pasta dishes.

2010 Mario Marengo Dolcetto d’Alba

To finish off our Christmas wines, we sipped the 2006 Joseph Phelps “Insignia” (Napa - 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot) - this wine is luscious with a dark, dense purple color, with characteristics of dark fruit, black currant, rich baking spices and vanilla, dark chocolate, oak, stony earthiness, and a briny hint.  The balance is excellent, with a bit of brightness but mostly soft plushness and smooth, elegant tannin, and a very long finish mostly reflecting the dark fruit and spice.

2006 Joseph Phelps Insignia

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Wines - Part 1

We began our Christmas festivities last night, and usually for holidays, I like to go with dependable wines - there’s always time to experiment and try more “unique” wines so I’d just rather stick with something I can trust on a holiday - although sometimes I can’t help but choose something a bit different.

To open last night, I chose the 2010 Domaine La Prevote Sauvignon Blanc Touraine (Loire), a light and enjoyable white to pair with cheeses before dinner.  The wine is very pale in color, with lovely aromas and flavors of white citrus and flowers and a bit of herb, and cool stony characteristics, with just a hint of a tropical note.  The best pairing for the wine from the cheeses, as I figured, was the fresh chevre, but the wine was bright and crisp and clean enough to work with all cheeses on the board.
With dinner (a delicious roast cooked medium rare) the wine was the 2008 Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa), and the pairing was perfect (and the wine was consumed a bit quicker than anticipated, as it was so enjoyable).  The wine is dark purple in color, with characteristics of cassis, dark berry, vanilla, a bit of chocolate, and smooth baking spices.  Full and luscious, the wine has a lovely texture, enough acidity to work well with the roast but would pair nicely with lots of hearty dishes, and big tannins, with a long finish.
Before dinner was over, I had to turn to a backup bottle, but fortunately there are so many to choose from - so I selected the Bodegas La Cartuja Priorat, a dark red wine with warm characteristics of dark fruit, smoke, and scorched earth, a lovely smooth texture with a bit of brightness to it, and a lasting finish.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day might just bring some “unique” bottles to pair with traditional Italian Christmas dinners and I look forward to trying some new wines and sharing my observations!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Shaw Vineyard 2007 Pinot Noir

A couple of weeks ago I admitted that I had never tasted a wine from the Finger Lakes region until I tried a Sauvignon Blanc from Shaw Vineyard and really enjoyed it.  Over the weekend I got to try another wine from Shaw, the 2007 Pinot Noir.
I’ve mentioned before that I had been spending much more time lately trying Old World wines, and my reasons being that I had been disappointed by a great many American wines from several regions, and also because of my general preference for Old World style wines.  So many of the American wines I’ve tasted have been too “big” and catering to the notion that bigger means better, and others have been thin, or lacking in expression, depth, or complexity.  Sure, there are many American wines that I really enjoy and many American producers for whom I have great respect (as evidenced in many other blog posts), but there had been so many disappointments lately that I directed almost all of my attention to Italy, France, Spain, and Germany.
And then I tried that Shaw Sauvignon Blanc and was very impressed, so I was really excited to taste the Pinot Noir, which would be the first red from the Finger Lakes that I’d ever try.  And I was even more impressed with the Pinot - and it seems I have a new favorite East Coast Pinot Noir now.

Shaw Vineyard 2007 Pinot Noir

True, Shaw’s wines are reminiscent of Old World wines and I appreciate that style, but the expressiveness of the wines allowed me to perceive something different in them, different from other American wines - and I realized why it was different.  The two Shaw wines I’ve tasted express the terroir, and since I’m generally unfamiliar with Finger Lakes terroir, I believe that’s what was unrecognizable and fascinating for me, and that’s one of the reasons why I found something different and unique in those two wines.  For me, it’s essential that a wine show me its identity, and that’s exactly what happened, especially with the Pinot Noir.
The Pinot is a fairly bright red with a clear rim and looks beautiful in the glass and the decanter.  The characteristics include bright but very smooth red fruit, especially cherry, cinnamon spice and a touch of vanilla, nice earthiness, and a wonderful balance with a smooth texture that leaves the palate feeling very clean, and a long finish that shows a lot of cherry and some more of that spice.

2007 was an excellent year for Finger Lakes reds with a dry spring and summer and an extended growing season, and this much was evident in that Pinot.
Some more information on the Shaw Vineyard 2007 Pinot Noir:
300 cases produced 
36 months in French oak
Harvest date: early October 2007
Brix at harvest: 22.1
Tons per acre: 2.5
Seneca Lake Appellation
50% estate fruit, 50% leased acreage

Friday, December 16, 2011

Champagne and Pinot Noir at The Country House

People talk about being “home for the holidays,” but it’s a good time not just to be home but also at a “home away from home” which is where I was the other night - at one of my very favorite restaurants, and I’m lucky enough to live only a few minutes away from it.  That restaurant is the Country House in Stony Brook, and Bob Willemstyn (the owner of the Country House, and a dear friend of our family) makes each dinner and event special.

The Country House - Stony Brook, NY

The other night, Bob had selected the Laurent-Perrier Demi-Sec Champagne to pair with small lobster tails in a wonderful butter sauce.  It’s been ages since I’ve had a Demi-Sec style Champagne (while Demi-Sec sounds like it should mean “half-dry,” it’s actually a bit sweet in comparison to Brut style Champagne, with a sugar content between 32 and 50 grams per litre), and Bob had recently mentioned this particular Champagne and had it ready when our family arrived at the restaurant, and I was really excited to try it.  It paired excellently with the lobster appetizer.  The Champagne is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and a bit of Pinot Meunier, with a golden color and great depth and complexity, including white citrus and orchard fruit, nut, and a bit of a baked characteristic, but the feature that stood out most for me was the sweetness, mostly floral and honeyed.  I had been expecting the Champagne to be even sweeter, but in fact the sweetness was relatively subtle and the clean feel and smooth texture made for an elegant, luxurious experience.

Laurent-Perrier Demi-Sec Champagne

With dinner (I had duck), I chose the 2006 Buena Vista Carneros Pinot Noir.  I can hardly believe that it was my first time trying a Buena Vista wine but it was, and it certainly lived up to its reputation of being dependable, expressive, and of good quality.  Very “Pinot” in color, it’s red with a clear water rim, and characteristics of bright fruit, soft spices, an almost sophisticated earthiness, and lots of smokiness, with nice acidity and good balance, soft tannin and a long finish.  The wine is lovely and very food friendly and I’m so happy I finally tried a Pinot from Buena Vista.

2006 Buena Vista Carneros Pinot Noir

Monday, December 12, 2011

2010 Guenoc Lake County Petite Sirah

Winter is finally arriving here on Long Island and I’ll be focusing on some good reds for the colder months, for pairing with hearty winter dishes, sipping by the fireplace, or both.  I don’t care much for cold weather but it does give me an excuse to enjoy some reds that are a perfect match for winter.

2010 Guenoc Lake County Petite Sirah

After Christmas tree shopping and watching the local parade last night, I chose the 2010 Guenoc Lake County Petite Sirah to sip for the evening.  Petite Sirah I always reserve for winter months.  The wine would pair up nicely to a hearty winter dish but it sips very nicely on its own.  It has a very dark color as expected from a Petite Sirah (and yes, it left my tongue and teeth purple, also expected from a Petite Sirah).  The wine showed characteristics of plum and dark berry, and freshly baked blueberry pie with a hint of wildness, a bit of soft chocolate and very soft spice, and violet.  The texture is very smooth and luscious, not too acidic and really just very full and delicious with a finish reminiscent of the blueberry pie.  A winter wine should be full, elegant, and fun, and that’s exactly what this Petite Sirah is.  Another treasure from Lake Side Emotions Wine Boutique in nearby Stony Brook, it’s a reasonably priced red that delivers, and it’s a perfect wine for a winter evening.  And remember - Petite Sirah is not to be confused with Syrah - it’s actually also known as Durif.

Friday, December 9, 2011

2006 Shafer One Point Five

Many times when I’ve decided to order steak for dinner I’ll look over the wine list and usually decide on a Cabernet Sauvignon since I never tire of them.  And lots of times I’ve considered the Shafer One Point Five Cabernet (Napa - Stags Leap District) but hadn’t had it yet, until last weekend when I chose the 2006 Shafer One Point Five.  It was worth the wait and quickly took its place near the top of my list of favorite American Cabernets.

2006 Shafer One Point Five

The wine was decanted for some time before dinner, and the aromas were so powerful that even though the decanter was on the other side of the table while I sipped my Matua Sauvignon Blanc with my appetizer, I could still catch bold fruit, spice, and wood aromas coming from that decanter.

Finally it was time for Cabernet.  The wine is a dark red with a lighter rim, not much brick and definitely still leaning toward a pinkish rim, indicating a fairly youthful wine, and it really coated the glass when swirled.  The aromas were intense - both dark and red fruit, lots of berry and a bit of wildness in the fruit, chocolate, coffee, purple flowers, spices, smokiness, wood, and earth - so many layers - and the aromas were confirmed on the palate as well, particularly the darker fruit and lovely sophisticated spice.  The wine is nicely balanced as I fully expected it to be, with plenty of acidity to accommodate the dish yet very present tannins, drying the palate and giving it a beautiful texture, and the finish is long.

I do love trying new things and opening bottles of wine that promise surprises and unexpected results, but there is something to be said for choosing a bottle from a very reputable region and producer, and the Shafer surely did not disappoint.  I really enjoyed it and after a bit of an absence from American Cabernet, it was a welcome return.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Shaw Vineyard 2008 Sauvignon Blanc

For some time now, I’ve been saying that I really need to try wines from the Finger Lakes.  And I did intend to, but somehow kept getting caught up in trying wines from lesser known producers and regions of France and got distracted from my plan to try more local and domestic wines.  Still, it’s a little ridiculous that after all this time, I hadn’t tried any Finger Lakes wines - especially since, even though I live pretty close to the North Fork region here on Long Island, Finger Lakes are still technically “local.”
Also, I hate to admit it, but I’ve been disappointed by a great many American wines over the past year or two, from many regions around the US.  So while I remain very open minded about wines from every region of the world, I’ve been noticing my strong preference for Old World style wines.  But I still wasn’t happy to admit, even to myself, that I still hand’t tried any wines from the Finger Lakes.

Shaw Vineyard 2008 Sauvignon Blanc

And on Friday evening I finally tried my first Finger Lakes wine - and I’m happy to report that it was excellent and I enjoyed it very much.  It was the Shaw Vineyard 2008 Sauvignon Blanc.  The wine is relatively light and seems really food friendly and versatile - it has characteristics of bright lemon, orchard fruit, and floral aromas, with lots of mineral characteristics, and crisp acidity and a clean feel.  The wine reminded me more of an Old World style Sauvignon Blanc with its own identity, and perhaps that’s why it appealed to me so much.  But I really enjoyed the wine and I look forward to tasting more Shaw wines, and I hope to try more wines from the Finger Lakes in the not too distant future.

Friday, December 2, 2011

2005 Sacco Barolo

I’ve been meaning to write this one up as it was quite impressive - the 2005 Sacco Barolo, which I had with my birthday dinner of traditional fresh ravioli in a meat sauce.

2005 Sacco Barolo

It’s no secret that Nebbiolo is near the top of my list of favorite grape types; in fact it’s been vying with Cabernet for “favorite red” for some time now.  I love bigger reds with a lot of character, particularly the kind that tend to age well, as I love to track their progress and compare them.  And I do have an affinity for wines from Piemonte, so this wine was perfect for a birthday dinner for me.

I decanted the wine and allowed it to breathe for at least an hour.  In the glass, the wine is very much a bright ruby color, reflective and ruby to the center with a rim leaning slightly brickish, indicating some age, although I think it’s got a bit of aging time left.  Characteristics include both red and dark fruit with lots of elegant spices, wood, and potpourri with a hint of the “dirt road” characteristic.  The wine shows nice acidity and the tannins are still very much present, which was not surprising to me.  I’d like to try this wine again (if I can find it) in a few more years, to see how well it’s aged by then.  The finish is long, and the pairing with the ravioli was perfect.

Monday, November 28, 2011

2008 Finca San Martin Rioja Crianza

There was a time when I drank plenty of Spanish wine - in fact, the first red really to leave an impression on me was Celler Can Blau.  Months back, I believe I covered a bunch of my favorite Spanish wines.  I still enjoy Albarino and occasionally, I still reach for a Jumilla or Priorat, but I haven’t had a Rioja or Ribera del Duero that’s inspired me lately - until a few nights ago, when I had the 2008 Finca San Martin Rioja Crianza.

I hadn’t seen that bottle before but a few weeks ago came home with it from Lake Side Emotions Wine Boutique near home.  Usually, the Spanish wines I’ve had are very high in alcohol, but this one was a welcome relief at only 13.5%.  The wine is pure Tempranillo, and has a fairly dark color with a red rim with characteristics of bright fruit and smooth spices, some warm characteristics, wood, and a roasted meat note, with a very smooth texture and a long finish.  I think this wine would be very food friendly and would pair up nicely with meats and cheeses, or it would sip well on its own, which is how I enjoyed it.

I think it’s time I hunt down some more Spanish wines - Rioja, Jumilla, Priorat, Ribera del Duero, and others.  I used to enjoy them very much but began to shy away on account of the high alcohol levels and just stuck with a few favorites, but this Rioja was a pleasure and I’m ready for more.

Friday, November 25, 2011


I’ve heard it’s proper to drink American wines on American holidays - however I haven’t had an American wine on any of the American holidays recently, although I do enjoy my share of American wine.  Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Columbus Day - no American wines were on the menu.  And Thanksgiving dinner yesterday was no different.  I believe in drinking what you want, when you want it - provided it’s good quality and it pairs properly with the food being served.  I consider myself patriotic in every area except food and wine, particularly with wine - I strongly prefer Old World wines.  So for yesterday’s Thanksgiving dinner, the wine selections were all French.

After taking a vote in our family a few weeks back as to what would be the Champagne for this holiday, we decided on Bollinger Special Cuvee, which was as lovely as expected.  The wine is bright and shows some characteristics of citrus and crisp green apple as well as baked apple, but really exhibits bigger notes of nut and spice and some baked bread, which is exactly the way I love a Champagne to be.  The texture is luxurious, with fine bubbles and a creamy feel, and it was a perfect start to our family Thanksgiving celebration.
The white I chose was the 2009 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling from Alsace.  I’m already a big fan of Alsace whites; I find them fascinating and exciting but not nearly to the point of being flamboyant.  In fact, some of the wines I respect the most are the ones that manage to grab my attention, but in the most mysterious ways.  This wine was a good example of what an Alsace Riesling should be, at least in my opinion.  A fairly light golden color with almost no water rim, the wine is still very young, and shows somewhat restrained characteristics of citrus including lime and grapefruit, orchard fruit, and some tropical notes, followed by a hint of spice and waxiness, and rather a long finish.  Lately I’ve come across some frivolous Rieslings that are off-balance and almost silly with their excessive fruit, almost as if they’re wearing too much makeup.  This wine was such a welcome change - it’s a very serious Alsace Riesling and was excellent with our dinner.
I knew I’d be choosing a Pinot Noir, preferably French, but gave a lot of thought to the decision, and after looking through quite a few red Burgundies, I selected the 2009 Domaine Besson Givry 1er Cru Les Grands Pretans.  Most of the Pinot Noir enjoyed by my family is American, particularly Oregon and Russian River Valley.  But I wanted something different and I could not have asked for a better pairing with Thanksgiving dinner.  The wine is a lovely ruby color, youthful but very enjoyable with characteristics of mostly cherry and berry, particularly tart cranberry and a bit of raspberry to soften the fruit, a hint of spice, and that “roasted meat” characteristic that I love so much in some red wines, that makes it just a bit rustic and perfectly food-friendly.  The wine feels so clean, with wonderful acidity and just a bit of soft texture, and a nice finish.  I was so happy with the wines for the evening.
And tonight - perhaps an American Chardonnay at last?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Birthday Barolo and an Exciting Roter Veltliner

It’s November 21...which means today I’m another year older.  But fortunately I’m still getting proofed, even after mentioning that I’m a sommelier, so perhaps I don’t quite look my age.  Tonight for my birthday dinner, I’ll be opening a 2005 Sacco Barolo, about which I’ll post my tasting notes later on this week.

2005 Sacco Barolo

Last night I tried something fun and new - it seems I can’t go to Lake Side Emotions Wine Boutique without finding something I’ve never tried before.  This was the 2009 Leth Roter Veltliner from Wagram, Austria.  I know it sounds like Gruner Veltliner, but in fact the only thing the two grapes have in common is their place of origin.  They’re not related - in fact, not much is known of Roter Veltliner’s parentage.

2009 Leth Roter Veltliner

The Roter Veltliner is a pale yellow/straw color and a bit viscous, with soft aromas and characteristics of citrus including orange and grapefruit, orchard fruit (particularly a soft apple note), but mostly tropical fruit including coconut and pineapple and something I couldn’t quite pinpoint, as well as a cool mineral characteristic and very soft spice.  The wine is a bit on the exotic and unique side and unlike anything I’ve tasted before.  It has enough acidity to feel clean and make it food-friendly, but a somewhat sweet taste that masks the acidity slightly.  It was paired with grilled mahi mahi and my own risotto recipe.  At under $20 here in NY, it seems like a good value for an exciting and elegant wine.

Friday, November 18, 2011

6th Sense Syrah

Over the past year or so, I’ve tried some less than impressive American Syrahs.  Too much fruit, or too much spice, whatever the case was, I wasn’t enjoying them.
And then, not long ago, I received a gift in the mail, which I finally opened last weekend - a bottle of the 2008 Michael-David 6th Sense Syrah from Lodi.  Already impressed with Seven Deadly Zins Zinfandel from the same winery, I was eager to try the Syrah.  Syrah based wines had been among my favorites, particularly from the Rhone and from South Australia - but those Syrah wines have not been particularly similar to the American Syrahs I’ve tasted.  And now I was ready to try another American Syrah.

2008 Michael-David 6th Sense Lodi Syrah

6th Sense Syrah has a deep ruby color and characteristics of dark berry and cherry, jam, some smooth baking spices and vanilla, black pepper, and smoke.  The fruit and spice flavors provided an excellent contrast to the dish I chose, and the smokiness was also a good parallel to the ingredients in the dish.  The dish was a recipe I created as I prepared it - a sort of “mature” mac-n-cheese with cheddar, parmigiano reggiano, gruyere, and smoked gouda, as well as caramelized onions and pancetta.  I do love pairing Syrah with bigger flavored cheeses, and the smokiness of the wine worked perfectly with the smoked gouda and pancetta.  The acidity in the wine made it food-friendly for sure and cut through the creamy cheese in the dish, and the wine had enough smooth but very present tannin to give it a luscious texture.  The finish reflects the fruit and spice.

6th Sense Syrah with mac-n-cheese

I enjoyed this wine with dinner and throughout the evening and it’s currently my favorite American Syrah.  The flavors come together beautifully, the wine is nicely balanced, and I love the texture.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Something New - Mondeuse

In terms of wine, there are few things that make me happier than to try something new and completely different from anything I’ve had - it’s exciting and I know I’m learning something, and at the same time enjoying it.

2007 Domaine Thierry Tissot Vin du Bugey Mataret Mondeuse

Last night I tried something new - the 2007 Domaine Theirry Tissot Vin du Bugey Mataret - 100% Mondeuse.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never tried a Mondeuse before but I’m so glad I did.  Mondeuse grows in a few regions around the world but it’s far from being popular, and the region where it’s probably best known is Savoie, an Alpine sort of region in France.  Knowing that it’s from a cooler climate area, I figured it would be sleek and elegant and it was just that.  Somewhat similar to a Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir from the cool wine regions of Germany) but in my opinion more complex than a Spatburgunder, the wine is a reddish color with an almost crimson rim, not particularly viscous (indicating the 12% alcohol), it shows characteristics of red fruit, somewhat tart cherry and red plum, gentle spices, bright acidity making it quite food friendly, and a smooth, velvety texture from its soft tannins.  The wine is relatively light but has enough depth and weight to pair up even to meat dishes, but it’s also perfect for sipping.  The finish is long and continues to reflect the fruit and spice characteristics.
I really enjoyed this Mondeuse, and I’d be happy to try others.  I’ve also got some interesting reds and whites planned for the near future and will be blogging about them.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Some Online Tasting - #eTaste with @TheVirtualTaste and #LanguedocDay

It’s no secret that online wine tasting is becoming increasingly popular, particularly with global events such as days dedicated to a particular grape type, wine style, or region.  I’ve been asked why I participate in such events when I could just participate in local tasting events.  I do participate in local events but since it’s impossible to taste along with people all around the world if I keep it local, I enjoy the global wine tasting days.
Recently I’ve been participating in monthly #eTaste events with North of 9 Fine Wine/The Virtual Taste, a great source for all kinds of wine information in great detail.  Last month I covered the Masi Amarone that we tasted via Twitter.  This month we tasted the 2010 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand.  Cloudy Bay is perhaps the best Sauvignon Blanc I’ve tasted from a region outside of France, and it really does reflect its New World style, particularly that of New Zealand.  Bright and lovely, it’s a pale straw color with medium viscosity in the glass.  The characteristics are those of some citrus, including lime, grapefruit, and a bit of sweet orange, orchard fruits including soft peach and a hint of pear, and lots of tropical fruit, particularly mango and papaya - and of course the wine showed the very much expected gooseberry characteristic.  Other characteristics included herb, fresh cut grass, blossoms of fruit trees, and white stony mineral.  The wine feels cool and has nice acidity with a bright, crisp, clean texture and a long finish.  It was paired with shrimp and spaghetti in a creamy sauce with herbs.  The acidity cut through the creamy sauce and the grassy characteristics paralleled the herbs in the dish.

2010 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc - Marlborough, NZ

Yesterday was #LanguedocDay, where we all tweeted about wines from France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region.  I still remain a bit skeptical of those wines, as I’ve had plenty of good Languedocs but have also tasted my share of unappealing ones.  To be sure I tasted some unique, good quality wines, however, I made sure to go to the right wine shop - Lake Side Emotions Wine Boutique at the nearby Stony Brook Village Center.  It’s a fantastic wine shop for sure, with an excellent selection of both domestic but mostly foreign wines, generally less common and still great quality (not to mention just how beautiful and tastefully done the wine shop is).
The first wine of the evening was the 2007 Domaine Philippe Chesnelong Les Creisses Vin de Pays d’Oc, a really fun Languedoc red consisting of Syrah, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s a fairly dark ruby color with a lighter rim turning slightly brickish indicating just a bit of age, and medium viscosity that stains the glass.  Characteristics were many and included both red and dark fruit, wild berry and cherry, dark chocolate, spice and woodiness, a bit of pepper, dry flower petals, a strong note of saddle leather, dry earthy characteristics, a hint of that “animal” characteristic, some fresh tobacco, and an overall “outdoorsy” feel.  The wine is very unpretentious and smooth and easy to enjoy, and I’d say it would be quite food friendly, particularly with cheeses and meats.  It’s properly balanced, with nice acidity and soft tannins, and a long smooth finish.  I loved this wine and would go for it again in a heartbeat.

2007 Domaine Philippe Chesnelong Les Creisses Vin de Pays d’Oc

The second wine of the evening was the 2004 Domaine Philippe Chesnelong Les Brunes Vin de Pays d’Oc, a more serious wine than the first.  It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvgnon, Syrah, and Mourvedre, and is very dark in color with a brickish color setting in, both on the rim and throughout, very viscous and stains the glass quite a bit.  Characteristics include lots of plum, a bit of raisin, dark cherry skin, a bit of dark chocolate, a hint of herb, and lots of wood and spice including anise which stood out a lot to me.  The wood characteristics are more noticeable than earthiness.  The wine is really well balanced with enough acidity for food pairing but bigger tannins than the first wine, and I believe this wine would continue to age gracefully.  It’s really dry on the palate, feels warm, and has a very long finish.

2004 Domaine Philippe Chesnelong Les Brunes Vin de Pays d’Oc

Some of the virtues of online tasting events, for me at least, include being able to compare tasting notes and opinions on specified topics with wine friends and acquaintances all around the world.  While they do not replace real tastings where we all taste from the same bottle and make a more literal analysis of tasting a wine, online and virtual tasting have become lots of fun for me and I look forward to more online tasting events.  Next week I will feature some tasting notes of the upcoming online event for Beaujolais Nouveau Day.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Trinchero Wine Dinner at Casa Rustica

Last week I attended a Trinchero Wines dinner at Casa Rustica here on Long Island.  The food at Casa Rustica is consistently excellent and this dinner was very enjoyable.  Some of the wines were very nice as well but some were less than what I had expected.

We began with the Trinchero Mary’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc paired with a mushroom strudel (wild mushroom, puff pastry, and goat cheese).  The pairing was good - the wine is a pale straw color with lots of citrus including lemon and grapefruit and underlying mineral characteristics.  However, I often find that some of the California Sauvignon Blancs are lacking in identity a bit in that I can’t quite pinpoint a particular characteristic that defines them.  While I liked this wine, nothing really stood out about it.
Next was the Napa Cellars (Trinchero’s second label) Pinot Noir, paired with fettuccine with butternut squash and lobster.  The dish was excellent but the wine was unimpressive to me.  Red and showing characteristics of some cherry and very light spice, the wine seemed very thin - the acidity was there but there was almost no texture.  When drinking a Pinot Noir I generally expect a soft, velvety feel to accompany the acidity, and I wasn’t feeling that at all.

We then went back to white with the Napa Cellars Chardonnay, paired with pan seared scallops in a sweet corn puree, and both the dish and the wine were very enjoyable.  The Chardonnay is very much a California wine but done so tastefully and not at all heavy or overoaked.  The wine is a somewhat light golden color with characteristics of citrus and a lot of orchard fruit (apple, pear, and a bit of peach), some soft baking spices, a bit of vanilla, and a smooth buttery texture that keeps the wine feeling smooth yet the acidity comes through and keeps the palate feeling clean, making this Chardonnay particularly food friendly.  Just before the long finish, there is just a slight taste of caramel, one of my favorite characteristics in properly made American Chardonnay.  I would go for this wine again anytime.
In my opinion, the star of the tasting was the Trinchero Meritage, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc, paired with veal tenderloin in a Madeira sauce.  The wine is dark in color with a bit of a reddish rim, and characteristics of both dark and red fruit and lots of blackberry, with soft spices, a very smooth feel, and a wonderful balance of acidity and tannin, with a long and smooth finish.  I was especially pleased by this wine.

We finished the dinner with the Terra d’Oro Moscato paired with a pumpkin creme brulee.  The pairing was fun and delicious and I enjoyed the Moscato.  It’s pale in color with lots of peach aroma and flavor, and nice acidity behind the sweetness.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Lenz Winery

Last week while out east I stopped at Lenz Winery.  I had actually never been to that winery but I’ve had their wines before - my favorite has always been their Gewurztraminer.  And, not surprisingly, the Gewurztraminer was probably my favorite in the tasting room, or at the very least in my top three that day.

We began with the 2008 Blanc de Noir - 100% Pinot Noir - a very light and pale wine leaning toward Rose, with soft characteristics of white citrus, tart cherry, a bit of berry and a hint of earthiness.  The wine has bright acidity, making it food friendly (although I’m not so sure it would stand up to more than light fare), I think it would pair nicely with local seafood.  The finish was respectable.

Next up was the 2007 Gewurztraminer, a slightly golden colored wine with characteristics expected from a Gewurz - lychee, peach, apricot, mostly tropical fruit with some orchard fruits, white blossom and a lot of floral notes, elegant spice, nice underlying acidity, and a long finish.  I do realize that I might be slightly biased as I have always been an admirer of Gewurz, but this is a lovely wine and I was so happy to enjoy it yet again.

I then tried the 2005 Cuvee, 100% Pinot Noir.  The wine is not overly aromatic, with characteristics of lots of citrus, mostly the bright acidic juice of a freshly squeezed lemon, crisp green apple, and not much of the baked bread characteristic that I had almost anticipated.  While the sparkling wine is food friendly due to its bubbly nature and crisp flavor, it might be a bit too acidic for my taste, as I generally prefer some more floral, nut, and bread characteristics incorporated into a sparkling wine.
Next was the 2007 White Label Chardonnay, another of my favorites of the tasting.  A light golden color, the wine is mostly done in stainless steel but with a bit of oaked Chardonnay blended in, and the result is very nice.  Characteristics of white citrus, green apple, and baking spice with a hint of butterscotch come through with a somewhat buttery texture but a clean and crisp feel, a nice finish, and overall I really enjoyed this wine.

I then tried the first of the two reds I selected (and this wine was also among my favorites of the day) - the 2007 Estate Selection Merlot.  The wine is a ruby color with a bit of a lighter rim, and displays characteristics of cherry, raspberry, and chocolate.  The aromas would indicate sweetness but on the palate the wine is dry, smooth, and has bright acidity, making it very food friendly, and has soft tannins as well, giving it a nice texture, and has a respectable finish.  I’d like this wine especially for the cooler months and for pairing with dishes that have bolder flavors.

The last wine was the 2002 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon, a nice wine beginning to show its age in a positive way.  The wine has a deep color and shows characteristics of currant and red fruit with a bit of plum and gentle spices.  It’s a fairly sophisticated wine with a nice texture and a long finish and would also be a nice choice for pairing with heavier dishes.
The tasting room staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and the winery itself is beautiful.  What I liked most about Lenz - the wines are not too young to be enjoyed now, as most of the wines I tasted had aged a bit.  When tasting at a winery, usually I try really young wines and sometimes they appear immature and occasionally a bit awkward - but not these wines, as they had already spent some time nearing their full potential.  Another positive about Lenz is that the wines are generally made of a single grape type, instead of like some of the blends I’ve tasted at Long Island wineries.  I do appreciate creativity when blending a wine, but sometimes I feel that grapes that should not be together are in the same bottle and tend to produce a wine that does not properly express Long Island’s terroir - it’s hard to learn much about what our climate and soil can produce if too many grape types are blended together.  Lenz is doing a very nice job of creating wines that express Long Island soil and climate, and I was pleased with their wines.

Monday, October 31, 2011


It’s Halloween, probably my least favorite holiday of the year.  It’s not because there’s no festive dinner to enjoy wine with, or because I despise candy corn, or because I don’t care much for wearing a costume.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Sometimes, if we’re very lucky, we meet people who change our lives - truly special people.  I was lucky to meet someone unique, in that considering his young age, he was very much loved and valued by so many people and touched a great many lives, on account of his being kind, considerate, fun, generous, and sincere, but to a degree unlike anyone else I know.  It’s near impossible to describe a person like him, simply because they’re so rare, and interestingly enough, he didn’t perceive himself as someone so different, because he was only doing what came naturally to him.  I was so fortunate to call him my friend for years, and when I finally began to set aside some of the fears and concerns as well as bad habits I’d picked up in the past, I was able to see him differently - something very different from an ordinary friendship.  It was something I had looked for in a guy for a long time, something indescribable that somehow made me feel very valued, very special - even though I was afraid to admit it - and that failure to really act on it is something I’ll probably regret forever.
Move ahead to Halloween morning, 2009 - I learn that this very special guy, someone I cared for immensely, was killed in an accident during the night, at age 27.  No more nights together, we’d never eat together, watch a game together, and laugh for hours, ever again.
It isn’t so much the holiday of Halloween that bothers me - it’s just that I’m not ready to celebrate that holiday yet.  Two years may seem like a long time, but when recounting that experience, it feels like only yesterday.
An open minded guy, he knew I loved wine and while he didn’t have a lot of knowledge of the topic, he still enjoyed it.  He liked going to the wineries out east here on Long Island, and he liked his Italian reds, which would be a perfect pairing with his excellent Italian cooking.  One day, years back on a special day for me, he brought a bottle of Ruffino Modus to the house (among other gifts).  It was before Modus got very popular and when I drink it now, instead of thinking of color, aromas, flavors, structure, and finish, I think of him.

And just a few weeks after he passed away, his mother took me into his apartment.  We touched his clothing, his bed, the things he used just hours before he died.  While she searched through the apartment to find things to give to me that were his, we came across a bottle of Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo which my dad had just given him that week.  The bottle was only half finished.  And I was only half finished showing him just how special I knew he was, and how much I cared for him.  An angel on earth had been called home, and I do believe that angel still watches over me and over all those whose lives he touched.

Riposa in pace, Emilio.  Sempre tu rimani nel mio cuore.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Champagne and Sekt

I know it’s Global #ChampagneDay and there’s a bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte ready for tonight.  And a few nights ago, Taittinger made an appearance - the non-vintage really is nice.  But after the Champagne was finished that evening, I decided to open a bottle of Deinhard Lila Riesling Sekt - German sparkling Riesling.  I had never tasted Sekt and had a difficult time finding a bottle but my parents found the Deinhard Lila for me while on a trip to Newport, RI.
The wine is a lot lighter in color than the Taittinger.  The aromas and flavors are similar to that of a regular dry Riesling - citrus, crisp apple, peach, apricot, white blossoms, and just a bit of honey - but the wine isn’t sweet.  It’s a fun sparkling wine and very food friendly.
The NV Taittinger Brut Reserve is more golden in color with characteristics of a bit of citrus, crisp green apple, baked bread but not a strong yeasty characteristic, and a long finish reflecting honey and rich caramel.  The texture is smooth but the bubbles are assertive, and the Champagne is really enjoyable.  I’m looking forward to trying the Nicolas Feuillatte tonight for #ChampagneDay!

Taittinger and Deinhard Lila

Monday, October 24, 2011


I’ve posted before about my love for Gewurztraminer and how it was my first real love in the wine world.  It was the beckoning aromas of tropical and orchard fruits, including lychee, peach, apricot, pineapple, and fresh flowers and spices, and its flavors including those tropical and orchard fruits as well as a touch of honey and spice, accompanied by bright acidity.
Recently, Argentinian Malbec has been leaving its mark on me with its lovely texture and dark characteristics of blueberry, chocolate, purple flowers, and others.  This weekend I enjoyed another Argentinian wine, but the Malbec is waiting until later on in the week - this time it was a Torrontes.  Torrontes makes for a fascinating wine, and often similar to Gewurztraminer - so it stands to reason that I’d enjoy Torrontes.  The wine was the 2010 Diseno Torrontes from Salta, Argentina, and it was paired with grilled Cajun salmon.  Straw colored and aromatic, and displaying characteristics of tropical and orchard fruit similar to Gewurztraminer, followed by some honey, flowers, gentle spices, and bright acidity with a bit of tangerine just before a lengthy and enjoyable finish, the wine was refreshing and lovely but fun.
Torrontes will not replace Gewurztraminer of course, but it’s a nice alternative and a good way to keep it fresh and exciting.

2010 Diseno Torrontes

Friday, October 21, 2011

An Evening of Networking, Cake, and Wine

This week I took part in a networking reception for wedding professionals and vendors.  The event was hosted by my lovely friend Chef Marney White of Marneycakes Inc., and my goal for the night was to choose several wines to pair with cheeses and four of Marney’s cakes.  However, I had a couple of other goals - to learn a bit about the guests’ wine preferences, and then to encourage them to step out of their wine “comfort zones” and try something different.

The cheeses I selected were fresh goat cheese, brie, cheddar, and bleu cheese, and the wines for the cheese pairing were the 2010 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Louis Jadot Macon-Villages Chardonnay, 2009 d’Arenberg The Stump Jump Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvedre, and 2008 Edge Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.  Most people I know outside of the wine industry tend to lean toward Sauvignon Blanc as their white wine of choice, and I find it interesting how many of them shy away from Chardonnay.  So I decided on both a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonnay that I consider dependable and reasonably priced.
Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, a bright, crisp white with both tropical fruit and herbal characteristics that we’d expect of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, was already a favorite of many of the guests.  But I explained that they’d like the Chardonnay because it’s an unoaked white that shows a lot of clean citrus, orchard fruit, and chalky notes and consequently is a bright, clean Chardonnay instead of having heavy, baked, overoaked characteristics that have turned them away from Chardonnay.  And sure enough, I poured more Chardonnay than Sauvignon Blanc.  I hope that the guests will reconsider Chardonnay when wine shopping or ordering a white wine in a restaurant after realizing that not all Chardonnays are the oaky kind - in fact many are not.
Several guests also told me they are not red wine drinkers.  I actually love when someone tells me a thing like that, because it gives me a chance to try and persuade the person to try a red.  And I did just that - for the regular red wine drinkers, there was no problem having them try both the d’Arenberg The Stump Jump (a last minute addition to the lineup and interestingly one of the favorites of the evening) and the Edge Cabernet.  But for the non-red drinkers, I asked them to taste the d’Arenberg, explaining that it’s a blend that’s not particularly heavy and has fascinating characteristics of red and dark fruit, spice, and earthiness - a good quality wine from a dependable producer at a very reasonable price (here in New York it’s about $12).  I was so happy to hear their reactions to the wine - “it’s not a harsh red,” “it’s a red I can drink,” “it’s only $12?”  I do hope these guests continue to find red wines that they enjoy.  As for the regular red drinkers, aside from enjoying the d’Arenberg, I was happy to introduce them to Edge Cabernet, as none of them had ever tried this Napa red before.  Big and bold with characteristics of dark fruit, spice, and vanilla oak, it’s one of my favorite California Cabernets around $25, and I was not at all surprised at how well it was received by guests.

Marney served her delicious cakes - the lighter cakes were a vanilla cake with blood orange liqueur, and a spice cake with pear brandy and cinnamon-vanilla filling, and the darker cakes were a chocolate cake with apricot and Grand Marnier, and a chocolate gluten-free cake with chocolate ganache.  For the lighter cakes, I chose the 2009 Dr. Hans Von Muller Auslese Mosel Riesling, with characteristics of peach, apricot, and pineapple, and I explained that while many of our guests are familiar with dry Rieslings, this Riesling was on the sweeter side as the grapes are picked later (and I’d say this wine was the favorite of the evening).  For the chocolate cakes, I chose the 2004 Pindar Vineyards Cabernet Port from right here on Long Island.  The wine is a smooth, fortified wine with characteristics of cooked fruit and berries, a hint of caramel, raisin, and a bit of earthiness, and paired perfectly with both the chocolate cakes, and the truffles provided by Afresh Approach.  Most of the guests were familiar with the wines from Long Island wineries, but few had tasted this dessert wine before, and it was very well received.
I was so happy to have an opportunity to pair wines with Marney’s amazing cakes, and I was also really pleased that the guests kept an open mind with all of the wines and enjoyed them as much as they did.