Total Pageviews

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rose Wines for the Warmer Months

I’m one of those people who can’t drink the white Zinfandel - I just can’t do it.  What concerns me is how many people think that a mass-produced white Zinfandel is a good example of a Rose, without trying so many other pink wines that are available.  For me, a Rose is an enjoyable, almost jovial wine that’s not intended to bridge the gap between reds and whites, but rather to have its own lovely identity.  I’d like to share a few Rose wines from different regions that I’ve tried, that I believe are good yet inexpensive examples of what I feel make a Rose so enjoyable.
A really smooth, warm-weather Rose from right here on Long Island is the Waters Crest Rose, made of Merlot after just a few hours of contact with the grape skin.  I tried this wine very recently without any food but I would be very happy to drink it again, preferably soon while the weather is warm, and pair it with fresh shellfish.  The wine is a light salmon-pink, with characteristics of strawberry, candied citrus fruit, white blossoms, a bit of green and cool earthiness, and even something slightly exotic.  Very fresh, light, and clean, with bright acidity and nice balance, and a very respectable finish, I couldn’t help but smile at just how enjoyable this wine is, and how I look forward to having it again.

2009 Waters Crest Rose

One of the biggest surprises I’ve experienced with a Rose was the Tasca d’Almerita Regaleali Rose, from the hills of central Sicily.  Most people think of Etna Rosso blends and rustic Nero d’Avola when they conjure up thoughts of Sicilian wine.  And after enjoying my share of reds and whites from Colosi and Corvo, the Tasca d’Almerita was something fun to try, after my parents brought back a bottle from a vacation to Rhode Island.  The wine is made of Nerello Mascalese, a very important red grape in Sicily with substance and character.  A bright, slightly bronzed salmon color, the wine has notes of bright red fruits such as strawberry, raspberry, and cherry, with just a hint of smokiness, indicative of the volcanic soil in which the grapes are grown.  The texture is soft, the acidity and the tannins are very nicely balanced, and the finish is long, leaving the palate feeling very clean.  I paired this wine with spaghetti and clams in a light sauce with herbs, and I feel this wine would go nicely with most shellfish, as well as lighter dishes of fish, poultry, and even some mild cheeses, and with pasta in a light tomato-based sauce.
One of the first Rose wines I came to enjoy was the Muga Rioja Rose during a harvest-themed party at our house in early autumn a few years back, where the main course was pork.  Normally I prefer Riesling or Chardonnay with pork, but in the spirit of trying new things, I suggested this Spanish Rose, and the pairing was fantastic.  A true light pink Rose, this Spanish wine from Rioja is made of Garnacha, Viura, and Tempranillo, and displays characteristics of almost-ripe strawberry and fresh herbs with excellent acidity and slightly less of the sweeter sensation often found in some Rose wines, with an excellent finish.  This wine is fairly easy to find and is excellent for pairing with lighter dishes as well as pork as it is dry and crisp.
The most recent Rose I’ve tried, which is generally easy to find and another great value wine from a very dependable French producer, is the E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rose.  This Southern Rhone wine is made of Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, and Syrah.  Bright pink in color with notes of strawberry, cherry, flowers, and modest earthiness, with a smooth and clean texture and crisp feel with a lengthy finish, I paired this wine with a chilled salad of shrimp, avocado, and tomato with a lime vinaigrette.  I would go back for another bottle of this wine right away as it is versatile and likable, and this was no surprise for me as I enjoy the E. Guigal wines very much.

2009 E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rose

So while the warm weather is here, I’ll be reaching for some fun Rose wines to sip out on the porch with fresh shellfish, and I won’t be going for the white Zinfandel.  There’s no reason to settle for white Zinfandel when there are so many wonderful Rose wines to try.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Some Favorite Piemonte Wines

When many people think of Italian wine, Chianti most commonly comes to mind.  I do enjoy a good Chianti, I very much enjoy the wines of Valpolicella, and for something a bit more rustic, Nero d’Avola and Nerello Masclaese from Sicily are great.  But for my palate, there’s nothing quite like the wines of Piedmont.  I’ve been a lover of Piemonte reds for some time, and recently I found a white that I enjoyed quite a bit.
Piedmont, in the northwestern part of Italy, is home to the prestigious Barolo and Barbaresco wines made of the Nebbiolo grape (from the word nebbia, Italian for fog, which descends upon the Langhe area during harvest time), where the Nebbiolo grapes are planted on the south sides of the slopes for warmth.  Nebbiolo wines are generally quite tannic when young, and if allowed to age under proper conditions, become velvety smooth with a multitude of aromas and flavors, and a brick orange color.

1997 Barbaresco

The most recent Barbaresco I tasted was at a favorite Long Island restaurant, Casa Rustica, with a filet mignon wrapped in pancetta with a Barolo sauce.  The wine was lovely - a fairly young Barbaresco, the 2005 Beni di Batasiolo - it was fairly deep in color which was the first indication of its youthfulness as it had not yet turned the brick orange color, yet had a rim leaning toward orange.  The characteristics were of oak, dried flowers, tar, earth, and dark fruits and berries.  The tannins were very much present, completely drying the palate, also an indication of just how long the wine should continue to age, followed by a very long finish.  I liked this wine very much, particularly paired with that dish, and would be happy to try it again after it’s been let to age some time.
A Barolo I tried a few months back at Patsy’s in New York City was the 2005 Andrea Oberto Barolo Vigneto Albarella.  This wine I paired with veal rollatini Marsala and mushrooms, and I was very happy with the pairing.  The wine is a fairly dark red with a lighter rim leaning toward the expected brick orange, dry, with notes of both red and black fruits, oak and spice, and earthiness, and while the tannins had a presence, they were clearly softening as the wine is aging, and the finish is long.  In addition to veal Marsala, I would enjoy this wine with meats or game bird.

2006 Barolo

It’s true that many Barolo and Barbaresco wines can be a bit expensive, but both of these wines are regularly priced between $40US and $50US and are very lovely at a fairly reasonable price.
My most recent discovery from the Piedmont region is a white wine, a Cortese di Gavi produced from Cortese grapes.  The wine I tried was the 2003 Pio Cesare Cortese di Gavi, which I paired with shrimp scampi.  The wine is very pale in color, with characteristics of lemon, green apple, grass, and a bit of damp earth, it is crisp and clean with a long finish.  When tasting this wine, I tried to liken it to other whites, but it really isn’t like any other grape type and while I think it can be a good alternative to Pinot Grigio, it is unique has has its own identity and is worth trying, at only around $20US.

2003 Pio Cesare Cortese di Gavi

So the next time you’re looking for Italian wines, instead of reaching for the usual Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese, try the Cortese di Gavi and the Nebbiolo wines.

Friday, May 13, 2011

1997 Bolla Amarone

1997 Bolla Amarone della Valpolicella

This past week I had the pleasure of trying the 1997 Bolla Amarone della Valpolicella.  Amarone is made mostly of Corvina grapes, blended with Rondinella and Molinara, which are harvested and let to dry on straw mats, and only then are the grapes crushed.

Suspicious there might be a bit of sediment, I stood the wine up two days before the day I planned to enjoy it, in order to let any sediment settle to the bottom.  I opened the wine about two hours before dinner, and poured it into the decanter, which was necessary as there was quite a bit of sediment but since I was careful in decanting, the sediment posed no problem.

Amarone with Parmigiano-Reggiano and walnuts

The wine was a deep rich color, neither red nor purple but somewhere in between with a slightly lighter rim.  The characteristics were those of dark fruit, leather, earth, chocolate, and raisin, with a velvety texture indicating the wine had aged nicely, and the finish was long and so smooth.  I would say this was one of the best balanced wines I’ve tasted in quite some time.

Since this is a special wine, the menu was planned carefully.  Ribeye steak with sauteed portobello mushrooms and crusty Italian bread were the main course, followed by perfectly aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and organic walnuts.  The pairing was excellent, especially with the cheese and walnuts.

This was a very special wine and while Amarone is a bit on the pricey side, it’s well worth it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Warm Weather Wines

Shiraz on the porch

The warm weather is here and it’s my favorite time of year, sipping wine out on the porch or the dock and pairing with fresh local fish and grilled meats.

A favorite summer dish here on Long Island is the lobster roll - a bun filled with a salad of chilled lobster meat.  A small lobster roll appeared on the lobster sampler plate appetizer at my sister’s wedding last year, and for me, the choice was easy.  Stick with Champagne, as the elegant Champagne pairs beautifully with lobster and the crispness of the palate-cleansing bubbles is a refreshing followup to the bun and the mayonnaise. A non-vintage will do quite nicely, such as the Moet & Chandon Imperial, or the Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label.  Both are suave and clean, with white fruit and crisp apple characteristics, a smooth and fine texture with small bubbles, and a lovely finish.  This is a perfectly elegant lunch to enjoy in the warmer months.

Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label

One of the culinary highlights for me each summer are the soft-shell crabs, which I coat with milk and flour and saute, and drizzle with a bit of lemon juice.  The meat is fairly light and to make the dish just a bit more substantial, I like to pair with a good Chardonnay.  A Chardonnay without an over-abundance of oak works best for me, so as not to overpower the crab meat and set the pairing off-balance, so I generally lean toward French.  A good quality Chardonnay at a reasonable price is the Louis Jadot Macon-Villages.  Its classic citrus and white fruit aromas are fragrant enough to stand up to the ambient aromas of the outdoors, and its clean texture and long finish are a perfect match with soft-shell crab.

2009 Louis Jadot Macon-Villages Chardonnay

For grilling meats at home, I’ve been most satisfied when pairing with Australian Shiraz.  The bold fruit flavors and assertive spice and pepper are very accommodating with grilled steak.  A bit on the pricey side for bringing outdoors but, in my opinion, absolutely worth it, is the d’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz.  The dark, full-bodied wine amazingly manages to mirror the flavors and aromas of the steak while also approaching it from a perpendicular angle.  The smokiness and peppery characteristics of the Shiraz run with the steak, while its intense fruit and hints of spice are an excellent counterpart to the oils and slight charring of the steak, the texture is very substantial, and the finish is long.  While the wine is a bit expensive, it’s by no means pretentious and is perfect for enjoying outdoors.

2005 d’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz