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Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter Wines?

It’s almost February.  By this time last year, we’d had an uncharacteristic amount of snow and temperatures had been dipping into single digits - on Long Island, we don’t usually expect that.  But this winter, it hasn’t been nearly as cold and so far we’ve had only one snowfall.  So, while last winter it was all about heavy reds to keep me warm, this winter it’s been more about consuming lighter and medium bodied reds, dry rose, and some whites.  And the stash of heavy reds continues to grow.

I’m staring at my wine racks and seeing lots of big reds just sitting there - some Zinfandel, Durif, some Syrah blends, Tannat, big reds from Piemonte, and more Cabernet Sauvignon than I realized I had, and of course my bottle of Roc de Cambes that I’m looking for an excuse to open.  In light of last winter’s weather, a few months ago I honestly believed this would be another winter of big reds with dark fruit, bold spice, and intense characteristics and full, luscious texture.  I had tapped Stag’s Leap Petite Sirah, Chateau Gloria, Franciscan Magnificat, Villa Rosa Barolo, Freemark Abbey Cabernet, Mollydooker Maitre D’, and so many other big reds for this winter.  Yes I’ve had a few big reds over the past couple of months, but not as many as anticipated.  Pinot Noir, American Merlot, and the like, have dominated my palate lately.

I’m certainly not complaining - I’d rather have it this way.  But it looks like I’ll have to incorporate some bigger dishes and pairings into my cooking for the remainder of the winter and into the spring, because the likes of Sancerre and Chablis will be calling to me before long!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Some Good Pairings and Good Finds

Ah, Gewurztraminer - the quirky yet image-conscious wine with so many facets - and my first real love among wines.  When asked what drew me to Gewurztraminer, I usually answer that the enticing, exotic aromas leaping from the glass made it impossible for me to resist, and I was hooked.  True, that’s how it went, but there’s something more to my relationship with Gewurztraminer.  Gewurztraminer’s personality is often similar to mine, and so I readily identify with this wine.  Covering some of the acidity with complexity and fun characteristics while infinitely quirky and slightly off-the-beaten-path, Gewurztraminer and I share a similar smile, a similar personality, a similar style, and a similar approach.  For these reasons, Gewurztraminer introduced me to the wonderful world of wine with ease, we became fast friends, and never looked back.
So when I spotted what looked like an interesting bottle of Gewurztraminer while wine shopping a few weeks ago, of course I had to try it, and I decided to pair it with a dish that had been sitting patiently in my imagination bank for some time.
The wine was the 2010 Lucien Albrecht Reserve Gewurztraminer from Alsace, and the dish was sort of a goat cheese “sack,” a puff pastry filled with a mixture of crumbled goat cheese, finely chopped sauteed portobello mushroom, lemon zest, ground black pepper, and fresh thyme and chives, tied closed with a fresh thyme sprig, brushed with melted butter, and baked until golden brown.  I’m happy to report the dish was a success and the pairing was perfect.  The wine is light yellow in color with a thin rim, and characteristics of candied orange, peach, apricot (almost like a peach pie actually), pineapple, tropical fruit, and of course lychee, one of Gewurztraminer’s signature fruit characteristics, as well as some spice including fresh ginger.  The wine tastes a bit sweet but has nice underlying acidity that comes through once the wine has sat on the palate for a moment, reflecting the pineapple characteristic.  The acidity leaves the palate feeling very clean, and the finish reflects the fruit and spice, lasting some time.  I had been trying to decide what to pair with that new dish idea, considering unoaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc from Loire, or even a lighter Pinot Noir, but after deciding on the Gewurztraminer, I think the dish would serve as a perfect appetizer, and the Gewurztraminer would serve as a perfect accompaniment and aperitif.

2010 Lucien Albrecht Reserve Gewurztraminer (Alsace) with Goat Cheese “Sack"

The next day it snowed, and I was definitely in the mood for a big red.  Enter the 2009 Skinner Mourvedre from El Dorado, California, paired with a filet mignon drizzled with white truffle oil and accompanied by sauteed portobellos.  I had been meaning to grab a bottle of this wine and when I got to the wine shop, it was the last bottle left, so I’m glad I made it there in time to get that last bottle.  Usually I think of Mourvedre as a good “team player” to work with Grenache and Syrah in some great Rhone style blends, but it’s great to experience this grape type on its own.  The wine is a deep red with a fairly youthful pinkish red rim, and very viscous, indicating relatively high alcohol at 14.8%.  Characteristics include lots of fruit, some red but mostly dark, stewed/macerated fruit, baking spices (particularly nutmeg), dark chocolate and some vanilla, oak, lots of smoke, and roasted meat notes.  The wine has enough acidity and big youthful tannins, a very smooth feel and a very long finish reminiscent of the smoke and dark fruit.  The pairing was perfect, especially on a winter night.  I really enjoyed this wine and I’d go for it again in a heartbeat.

2009 Skinner Mourvedre (El Dorado, CA) with Filet Mignon, White Truffle Oil, and Portobello Mushroom

My mid-week pick was the 2009 Chapelle St. Arnoux Vacqueyras, a blend of 85% Grenache and 15% Syrah (lately I’m really into Southern Rhone style wines).  It wasn’t paired; it was for sipping.  The wine is a deep red with a brighter rim and viscous, with characteristics of red fruit, cinnamon, earth, and roasted meat, with nice acidity and a smooth clean feel, and a respectable finish.  At just under $20, this wine is a great buy - it really delivers and would pair excellently with most meat dishes.

2009 Chapelle St. Arnoux Vacqueyras

Monday, January 23, 2012

Some More Shaw Wines - Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon

Last week at Empire State Cellars I got to taste four more Shaw Vineyard Finger Lakes wines.  There’s something I like very much about tasting Shaw wines that’s different from most wines I try at wineries or bottles I’ve been sent.  When I visit a tasting room or receive a sample, what I hear so often is something like, “It’s really young right now.  Imagine what it will be like when it reaches its potential in a few years.”  Yes, it’s normal to have to predict what a wine’s potential is.  But that’s not the case with the Shaw wines I’ve tasted.  They’ve already got some age and they’re already showing what they were intended to be.  And they’re really good representatives of their grape types and they’re very expressive.
First was the 2005 Chardonnay - it’s got some light citrus characteristics but the orchard fruits are much more prominent, both on the nose and on the palate, and just a hint of baking spice.  The effects of the oak contact are lovely - the wine still has a clean feel while showing depth and texture, with that slightly buttery characteristic we’d expect from a Chardonnay that’s had oak contact, but it’s not at all heavy and doesn’t have that excessive caramel characteristic that happens if there’s too much oak.  In short, the aromas and flavors of clean fruit and baked fruit work very nicely together, and the texture and feel of the wine is very appealing.

Next was the 2005 Merlot, with deep red color and characteristics of ripe but clean berry and smooth baking spices, good balance and a nice feel, and a respectable finish.  The wine seems very solid and food friendly.

And then came the 2006 Cabernet Franc.  I’ve mentioned several times in my blog that I’ve never been a fan of East Coast Cabernet Franc even after trying so many over the past several years.  Why?  Well, I don’t care much for excessive green bell pepper characteristics.  And too often, East Coast Cabernet Franc has that characteristic.  So I’m always a bit skeptical whenever I’m about to try a Cabernet Franc.  But then I tried the Shaw Cabernet Franc - and I thought, Hallelujah, a Cabernet Franc I can enjoy!  Lots of fruit characteristics, somewhat bright, with very smooth baking spices, vanilla, a bit of black pepper, and an almost cool earthiness.  Where was the green bell pepper aroma and flavor?  It wasn’t there.  Wow, I thought, as I let it settle on my palate so I could further appreciate the wine’s maturity.  There’s a surprise - no green pepper, no vegetal characteristics - just honest fruit and a really good representation of what I’ve been looking for in an East Coast Cabernet Franc for the past several years.  This would be the very first time that I’d come away from a tasting and decide that the Cabernet Franc was my favorite wine of the evening.

The final wine was the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, another very solid red with fruit, spice, and earth characteristics, nicely balanced, and reminiscent of the Old World style that allows the wine to express its soil and place of origin.

Now that I’ve tasted six Shaw wines, what’s apparent to me is the attention to detail in these wines, proper aging, and as I mentioned in my review of the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, the Shaw wines really are expressive of their “terroir.”
2005 Chardonnay
Planted: 1980 on Keuka Lake
4-6 months in French oak
200 cases produced

2005 Merlot
Planted: May 2000 on Seneca Lake
2-3 tons per acre yield
36 months in French oak
200 cases produced

2006 Cabernet Franc
Planted: 2001 on Seneca Lake
2-3 tons per acre yield
36 months in French oak
2000 cases produced

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
Planted: Keuka and Seneca Lake
2-3 tons per acre yield
36 months in French oak
200 cases produced

Friday, January 20, 2012

Bordeaux Tasting at Lake Side Emotions Wine Boutique

If there’s anything that will teach a wine drinker and keep a person’s palate honest, it’s a blind tasting.  So many people have opinions based on something they’ve never actually experienced.  While that can be irritating to their listeners, they’re actually doing themselves the greatest disservice.  Opinions that are backed by nothing tend to lead to close-mindedness, limiting a person’s ability to learn, as well as enjoy, new experiences.
Last year, just after starting this blog, I wrote a post to make a case for Merlot.  After Sideways, Merlot saw a decline in sales, all because it became trendy to knock Merlot in favor of other grape types, particularly Pinot Noir.  Yes, I’ve grown to love many Pinots from all around the world.  But I’ve been willing to stand by my very strong and favorable opinion of Merlot.  And even though I didn’t know it at the time, I was getting an opportunity to prove it - Merlot-based wines can be extraordinary.
No, that’s not why I challenged myself to the Bordeaux tasting at Lake Side Emotions Wine Boutique in Stony Brook - I did the blind tasting of Bordeaux to see just how well I did at taking tasting notes, and I did it to enjoy some spectacular wines.  I also did it to better my knowledge and give my opinions some more credibility.  But in the process, I learned that my palate is still honest - to me and subsequently to my readers.  And if I thought I enjoyed Merlot before the tasting, well, apparently I LOVE a good Merlot!
So the tasting began, and I didn’t know which wines were being poured.  All I knew was that six of the seven were from one year, and one was from a different year, and of course I knew they were all from Bordeaux.  I will not tell you the order of the wines, but I will tell you that three of them were Petrus, Cheval Blanc, and Mouton Rothschild, all from the 2004 vintage.  The other four were wines by Mitjavile - the Tertre Roteboeuf, Roc de Cambes, and Domaine de Cambes all from 2004, and the Domaine de L’Aurage from 2009.

My notes on the wines were written as I tasted, so at the time I wrote them, I didn’t know which wines they were.  My notes reflect what colors, aromas, flavors, and textures I perceived, and also how I connected with each wine, and why.

Petrus (Pomerol)
Color - darkish color with not a large rim, the rim leans brickish.  Medium viscosity.
Aromas - rich, slightly stewed/macerated red and dark fruit/berry, mostly dark fruit, violet, smooth spice, a bit of ash, smells more “purple” than the others, some smoke, wood and dark fruit are more apparent than earthiness.
Flavors - raspberry, red fruit but more dark fruit, confirming the aromas, smooth spices, vanilla/oak, but mostly the big dark fruit characteristics.
Structure - well balanced with plenty of acidity but big, smooth tannins, making it have a luxurious texture.
Finish - very long, reflecting dark fruit and smoke.
Connection - I love this wine.  It feels so smooth and rich and appealing, and very elegant.  I’d like to pair it with bigger dishes or sip it on its own.
Cheval Blanc (Saint-Emilion)
Color - deep red, darker core, rim leans a bit toward brick in a relatively clear rim.  Medium viscosity.
Aromas - red fruit, raspberry and cherry, a bit of plum flesh, herb, violet, a hint of smooth spice and cinnamon, smooth chocolate, and a slightly wild characteristic with a bit of that good kind of “funk.”
Flavors - cool red fruit, some raspberry but leaning toward cherry, lots of herb, wood, cinnamon again.
Structure - lovely balance, plenty of nice acidity, very present tannins leave the palate feeling very dry.
Finish - very long, clean finish.
Connection - tasted “cooler” than I had expected after digesting the aromas, based upon flavors and texture I think it would be very food friendly, with most meats and perhaps even with some poultry.  My first reaction, which I promptly wrote down, was “wow.”
Mouton Rothschild (Pauillac)
Color - a bit dark red, dark core, rim is becoming brickish.  Medium to possibly medium plus viscosity.
Aromas - (at this point, I wasn’t feeling much of a connection to the wine) raspberry, cassis, a bit of plum, wild fruit, plenty of pepper, spice, more earth than oak.
Flavor - (I preferred the flavor over the aroma and began to connect better with the wine at this point) a lot more fruit on the palate than on the nose, herb, plenty of spice, some wood.  Seems to start off cool and end with a warmer feeling.
Structure - food friendly acidity, very dry follow-up from tannins, feels a bit warm heading toward finish.
Finish - very long and spicy.
Connection - I was not connecting well with this wine based on aromas, but appreciated it a lot more after tasting.  I felt it was a good “food wine.”
Mitjavile Tertre Roteboeuf (Saint-Emilion)
Color - dark, deep red, thin rim, transitioning to brickish.  Medium to perhaps medium plus viscosity.
Aromas - cherry, raspberry, perhaps some cassis, a hint of wild fruit and some underlying brightness in the fruit characteristics, spice, a hint of smoke, dried flowers, a bit of roasted meat, and a deep wood fragrance, with a hint of forest.
Flavors - confirmed the nose except a bit more dark fruit than red, smoke, smooth herb (but not any “green” characteristic), some very “purple” characteristics, a bit of violet, smooth spices, some chocolate, more oak than earth but a nice combination of flavors.
Structure - well balanced, smooth, clean, acidity comes through and tannins quickly follow.
Finish - very long and luscious, flavors seem to really continue.
Connection - full and satisfying wine that I liked a lot, very appealing.
Mitjavile Roc de Cambes (Cotes de Bourg)
Color - red with a big core, a big rim making a transition to brickish.  Medium viscosity.
Aromas - (at this point, I wrote “wow” and “wonderful” as soon as I took a breath from the glass) lots of red fruit but some dark as well, leaning toward fresh red fruit, cinnamon spice, light fresh herbs, smoke, tobacco, slight bit of chocolate, wood, and a hint of leather.
Flavors- (again I wrote how much I enjoyed this wine at the first sip) red fruit with a bit of dark fruit, confirming the nose, smooth baking spices, smoke, slight indication of roasted meat, and some “pencil” characteristics (I really did write “pencil,” presumably the combination of the particular wood and mineral characteristics gave that impression).
Structure - love the balance, clean from nice acidity, but dries perfectly with very present tannins.
Finish - long finish with floral, fruit, and spice characteristics, a bit of smokiness, and a very clean finish.
Connection - clearly I was connecting really well with this wine, finding lots of bold as well as subtle characteristics, I’d love it with food, particularly meat dishes, as well as for sipping on its own.  Really enjoyable.
Mitjavile Domaine de Cambes (Saint-Emilion)
Color - red, rim leaning brickish a bit. Medium viscosity, perhaps slightly higher.
Aromas - red fruit, some cherry, lots of herb, and a hint of “green” characteristic, a bit of wild fruit, spice, chocolate, and oak, with just a hint of tar.
Flavors - (I didn’t immediately connect with this wine; it took me about three sips to like it, at which time it seemed a lot more favorable) big on the palate, tastes confirmed nose, red fruit with lots of herb, some smoke and spices.
Structure - acidic but tannins make it dry very quickly, and becomes very dry.
Finish - very long finish with lots of spiciness, and ends very cleanly.
Connection - took a while to connect with this wine, but once I found that connection, I began to like it quite a lot.  Seems quite food friendly.
Mitjavile Domaine de L’Aurage (Cotes de Castillon)
Color - deep and a bit on the purple side, with a youthful pink rim.  Medium viscosity with some staining in the glass.
Aromas - lots of raspberry, mostly ripe berry with a bit of cassis and dark berry, some forest characteristics, some wild fruit, chocolate, smooth baking spices, some herb, plenty of smoke, oak, and cool stone/mineral, not at all warm on the nose.
Flavors - confirm nose, lots of raspberry, herb, chocolate, baking spice, and stony characteristic, perhaps some graphite.
Structure - food friendly acidity, plenty of youthful tannin, modest alcohol.
Finish - very long finish, reflecting berry and earth/stone, very clean after finish.
Connection - I liked the wine but it didn’t leave a tremendous impression, the flavors were big and I thought the texture would be fuller after tasting it, but the texture wasn’t particularly full.  I think it would be food friendly.

You’re probably wondering at this point, what was the outcome?  Well, the wines with large percentages of Merlot took the top spots, according to my palate.  Roc de Cambes was the wine I best connected with, which is mostly Merlot with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec blended in.  The other wine to finish near the top? Petrus  - which as we know, is nearly all Merlot with a bit of Cabernet Franc.  The others I very much enjoyed were the Cheval Blanc, Tertre Roteboeuf, and Domaine de Cambes.
What was it I liked so much about Roc de Cambes?  I love the purity, the balance, and what felt like a perfect blend of fruit, earth, and wood, and its overall expressiveness.  And what did I like so much about Petrus?  It’s definitely one of the most solid wines I’ve tasted, beautiful and elegant and complex with a very clear identity of its own, and a commanding presence.
Ultimately, I learned a great deal from the roughly two hours I spent with the seven wines - a wine doesn’t have to be thousands of dollars to be wonderful, as in the case of Roc de Cambes.  But that doesn’t mean that a thousand dollars or so for a bottle of Petrus isn’t worth it - because Petrus is unlike anything I’ve tasted before - and both Petrus and Roc de Cambes absolutely blew me away.  I also learned that what matters a great deal is that each wine drinker take the time to find what’s right for his/her palate.  And while Merlot may be a bit out of style thanks to Sideways, a wine drinker has nothing to be ashamed of by having an affinity for good Merlot - in fact, the wine drinker should be proud - Roc de Cambes and Petrus are excellent examples of what a great Merlot should be.  Yes, there are some sub-par Merlots, but there are sub-par representatives from every grape type.  It’s important to be open-minded and willing to make the effort to find your match among grape types and wine producing regions and styles.  The wine drinker needs to be able to connect with the wine and be affected by it.  Wine appreciation is more than tasting notes; it’s also about the sensation and connection with the wine and the overall experience.  And for me, the best connections were with Roc de Cambes and Petrus.  I was hoping that Petrus would be everything I’ve read, and in fact it was everything I read and so much more, and I’m so happy I had the opportunity to try it.  And Roc de Cambes - well let’s just say I’m very lucky that I feel such a strong connection to it.  For my last birthday, Christophe at Lake Side Emotions picked that very bottle and sold it to my Dad as a birthday gift for me.  So I have a bottle waiting for me in my wine rack.  How lucky am I?  I’d say I’m very lucky.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Some More French Whites

I tasted a couple of interesting French whites last week.  Both were excellent quality and under $20 and very food-friendly.

The first was the 2010 Domaine du Salvard Cheverny from Loire, a blend of mostly Sauvignon Blanc and a bit of Chardonnay.  The wine is straw colored and reflective and looks beautiful in the glass, and has characteristics of bright citrus, smooth orchard fruit, melon, some tropical fruit, evergreen, and a cool minerality.  As I had expected, there was bright acidity and a clean, fresh feel, and the wine was nicely rounded out by the Chardonnay, showing just a bit more depth, a little more weight, and some texture after sitting a moment on the palate.  The finish is long and reflects both the Sauvignon Blanc and the Chardonnay.  I’ve been hoping to try this wine for some time, and it was even better than I had expected - in fact, it’s one of the most pleasing whites I’ve had in a while.

2010 Domaine du Salvard Cheverny

The other white was the 2008 Ogier Caves des Papes Cotes du Rhone Heritages Blanc from Southern Rhone.  It’s a blend of Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, and Viognier, and once in the glass, it immediately behaves just as I had anticipated - a bit wild and energetic, and bursting with countless aromas.  It’s a pale yellow/gold with a clear rim, and shows characteristics of a bit of citrus (particularly tangerine), but mostly cooked orchard fruits such as pear, apple, and some peach, and notes of ripe pineapple come rushing forward, followed by smooth spice and butterscotch, making it seem just a bit rich.  It’s got nice acidity and just a bit of a buttery feel, but it has a long finish that ends cleanly.  I also enjoyed this wine very much.

2008 Ogier Caves des Papes Cotes du Rhone Heritages Blanc

Friday, January 13, 2012

Champagne Taste Is A Year Old Already!

It’s hard to say how it all started...I wish I could say it started when I was 11 years old and made my own red wine for my 6th grade project for the annual science fair at Sts. Philip and James School - crushing grocery store grapes in a sauce pot with a potato masher, pressing them with wooden paddles and a cheese cloth, and bringing the bottle of wine to the science fair, to win first prize one winter night.  But I didn’t start actually drinking wine until some years later when a glass of Gewurztraminer beckoned me to have a taste, and I was spellbound.  Not long after that experience with the Pierre Sparr Alsace Gewurztraminer, a red called to me - Celler Can Blau, from Montsant, with its dark fruit characteristics laced with notes of cool slate.  I was enchanted - and I was hooked.

Pierre Sparr Alsace Gewurztraminer

Celler Can Blau Montsant

Then began the constant research and desire to learn more about wine, about different grapes, regions, producers, history; and then I wanted to learn to pair them to my cooking.  I just couldn’t stop learning.
At one point, a few years ago, I was discussing a particular Australian Cabernet online and became engrossed in a wine conversation with someone who would become a friend.  This friend finally asked me why I didn’t write my tasting notes and experiences for others to read, but I didn’t think much about that.  After all, I thought, who would want to read my opinions on wines?
And then when this friend suddenly left my life, I realized I missed discussing my wine experiences with someone, so I began posting photos of labels and tasting notes on Facebook for my family and friends to read, and I wondered if anyone was actually interested.  And that’s when it occurred to me, why not start a blog about my wine experiences?
This weekend marks one whole year since I started the Champagne Taste Wine Blog.

Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay - Loire

I can hardly believe it’s already been a year.  Sometimes I still wonder who is actually reading about my wine experiences, but my blog statistics indicate I’ve got readers all over the world.  I’m so happy I’ve been able to connect with fellow wine lovers everywhere - after all, why confine my findings, notes, and experiences to myself and to so few people?  I’ve also met a lot of fascinating people via my blog, especially after joining Twitter and connecting with people who have similar interests to mine.
This journey that began with the start of the blog has encouraged my passion for wine, and it even inspired me to take the level 1 exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers.  So, after lots of research and the consumption of countless bottles within the past year, I’ve learned quite a bit and I’ve had opportunities to share and connect with others, and as the Champagne Taste Wine Blog enters its second year, I look forward to many new experiences with wine and sharing them with others.

Pinot Noir - Finger Lakes

Monday, January 9, 2012

Out of the Ordinary

Let’s just say I have a really hard time for settling for “ordinary” - things that are mainstream just don’t appeal as much to me as things that are less-than-common do, especially in terms of wine.  So this past year, I started making an effort to hunt down some off-the-beaten-path wines, to keep it as exciting as it’s always been, and to better educate my palate.  And one of my New Year’s resolutions is to continue to seek out these unique wines and keep on learning - but it’s also important to me to introduce these finds to others in the hopes of helping them find wines that are especially interesting to them and have that “wow” factor that I’m always searching for.

Domaine Le Serp - Madiran, South West France

Some exciting finds for me this year include finally tasting a few wines from the Finger Lakes, particularly from Shaw Vineyard, which were very impressive.  Other finds have come from around the US - I tried some wines from Virginia this year, including some good surprises and some disappointments as well.  But the majority of my exciting new discoveries came from Italy and France, and a few more from other regions.  And sampling lots of different Champagnes has proven to be fascinating as well.

Shaw Vineyard Pinot Noir - Finger Lakes, New York

Probably the region I’ve been giving the most attention to within the past few months is South West France, and I’ve realized just how much I enjoy Tannat, as well as discovering my preference for earthy French Malbec over those from Argentina - and I’m sure it’s no secret to my readers and Twitter friends that I was absolutely blown away by late harvest Petit Manseng.  The Petit Manseng I had the privilege of trying at my first Guild of Sommeliers tasting event this past year, and it’s the only wine that I actually “drank” at any tasting this year.  Yes, it’s that amazing.  And for a Sauternes lover such as myself, it’s a great find at a fraction of the cost of a Sauternes.  I’ve tried so many unique wines from South West France this year and I can’t wait to find more of them - they possess something so different and so mysterious, and I’m so drawn to them.

Celliers Contemporains Cinsault Rose - Languedoc-Roussillon

Other wines from France that were unique and left a lasting impression on me include a dry rose Cinsault from Languedoc-Roussillon that’s probably my current “go-to” dry rose for the warmer months, a Mondeuse from Savoie that’s so elegant and light and lovely, and a funky blend of Chardonnay and Savagnin from Arbois that pretty much left me smiling but scratching my head.

Bugey Mataret Mondeuse - Savoie

Tissot Selection Blanc - Arbois, Jura

As for Champagnes, I tried a lot of them this year, but the two that left the most lasting impressions (and were radically different from each other) were the Philipponnat Brut Royale Reserve, a big, “viney” Champagne, and the Demi-Sec by Laurent Perrier, that has just the right amount of natural sweetness laced into its clean characteristics.

Philipponnat Brut Royale Reserve - Champagne

Demi-Sec Laurent Perrier - Champagne

It’s also no secret that I spent quite a bit of time trying to locate a good German Sekt, but this year, my parents brought me a bottle that they found while on vacation, and the Deinhard Lila Riesling Sekt was just what I had been looking for.

Deinhard Lila Riesling Sekt

A dessert wine that I had never tried but tasted a few months ago is the “Alcyone” from Uruguay, the first wine from Uruguay that I’ve ever had - what makes that wine interesting is that it’s a late harvest and so it tasted nothing like any Tannat I’ve had before.  It’s fantastic and worth trying.

Vinedo de los Vientos “Alcyone” Late Harvest Tannat - Uruguay

And I can’t forget an Austrian Roter Veltliner that’s lovely, fruity, clean, and while it may be from the same area as Gruner Veltliner, the wine was very different from Gruner and very much has its own identity, and I could not have predicted how much I’d enjoy it.

Leth Roter Veltliner

Italian wines are special to me as they pair so well with the style and flavors of my cooking at home, and after spending plenty of time focusing on whites like Pinot Grigio and Cortese di Gavi, and reds like Barolo, Barbaresco, Chianti, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and Sicilian reds like Nero d’Avola and Nerello Mascalese, my attention turned toward Dolcetto d’Alba and some fascinating whites from Northern Italy.  I’ve decided that Dolcetto is one of the best choices for pairing with traditional Italian cuisine, and after trying both aged and young Dolcetto, I like it very much.  As far as the unique whites go, Erbaluce di Caluso from Piemonte and Petite Arvine from Valle d’Aoste were the wines we had on Christmas Eve with the Feast of the Seven Fishes.  Food-friendly, crisp, and complex, these Italian whites were a revelation and I’m so happy to have tried them.

Pio Cesare Dolcetto d’Alba - Piemonte

Grosjean Petite Arvine - Valle d’Aoste and Ferrando La Torrazza Erbaluce di Caluso - Piemonte

And today, I looked in my wine racks and noticed that aside from a bottle of the Uruguayan late harvest Tannat and a few more bottles of unique French red wines, I couldn’t find any more “oddballs,” so it’s time for me to get back to the wine shop.  And perhaps one of my best discoveries in the past year is the newest wine shop in town - Lake Side Emotions Wine Boutique.  People ask me where I manage to find so many wonderful and unique bottles, and my answer is usually Lake Side Emotions.  I’m so pleased to have a local place to go, to find wines that are from so many unusual regions and made of unusual grapes - not to mention how much fun I have every time I go into that wine shop.
I’m looking forward to another year of wine discoveries and I’m so happy to be able to share them with family, friends, and readers.