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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.