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Monday, April 30, 2012

Bedell Cellars

Bedell has always been one of my favorite wineries here on Long Island.  I rarely drink local wines as they just aren’t my style in general, but there are a few wineries on Long Island whose wines I really enjoy.  Bedell is one of them.

What was especially exciting about this winery visit is that I was there with my lovely friend, Chef Marney White - the talented chef behind Marneycakes, Inc.  She brought two delicious cakes for us to taste with the wines - lemon cake with lemon filling, and spice cake with meltaway caramel icing and almond buttercream.

The first wine we tasted was the 2011 Bedell Viognier.  The wine is a straw color, 11% alcohol, and shows characteristics of citrus, orchard fruit, and some tropical fruit, lots of floral notes, and nice acidity, mineral characteristics, clean feel, and long finish.  The aromas are lovely and enticing and the flavors reflected those same characteristics.  This was a perfect start to our tasting.

Next was the 2010 Bedell Chardonnay, part barrel fermented and spent time aging in oak.  The wine is a yellow gold, 13% alcohol, and shows characteristics of baked apple, pear, a bit of peach, and some clean citrus notes, and some baking spice reflecting the oak contact.  The wine’s fruit/acid balance is nice, it’s smooth and clean, and the finish is long.  It’s a fairly substantial white and the oak is tastefully done.

I was happy finally to try a Bedell rose - this was the 2011 Bedell Taste Rose - it’s 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Syrah.  And 100% fun and delicious.  It’s a salmon pink color, 11.8% alcohol, and shows the characteristics I expected of a nice dry style rose - barely ripened strawberry, raspberry, a bit of herb, white blossom, and some mineral.  The aromas are light, and the flavors are crisp and fresh, leaving the palate feeling clean.  The wine was everything I hoped it would be.

I’m a big fan of Gewurztraminer so of course I was happy to try the 2010 Corey Creek Gewurtztraminer.  It’s a light golden color, 12% alcohol, and shows the characteristics I expected - aromas of lychee, tropical fruit, some candied orange, spice, and lots of floral notes.  The flavors reflected the aromas and emphasized the spiciness of the wine, and shows nice underlying acidity to follow the fruit.

The last white of course was the 2009 Bedell Gallery, a wonderful blend of 65% Chardonnay, 22% Sauvignon Blanc, and 13% Viognier.  It’s fairly pale golden, beautiful in the glass, 13.5% alcohol, and shows characteristics of some candied lemon, baked orchard fruit, apple, cooked peach, and baking spice.  It’s a big white wine with lots of presence but while it’s rich and smooth, it has a clean feel with bright acidity.

Then it was time for the reds - first was the 2010 Bedell Cabernet Franc.  Cabernet Franc isn’t really my style generally but I had no problem with this wine.  It’s a deep purple color with a youthful pinkish rim, 13% alcohol, and shows characteristics of both dark and red fruit but leaning toward dark fruit, both fresh and cooked fruit, a hint of pepper, soft spice, earthiness, and a clean feel, smooth, fairly light, and a nice finish.

The final wine of the tasting was Bedell’s fabulous Musee - this was the 2008 - a blend of 87% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6% Petit Verdot.  It’s a very dark red with an almost black core, and a rim turning ever so slightly brickish, but it’s still young, 13.9% alcohol, and has characteristics of macerated red fruit, some dark fruit, plenty of spice, oak, a “warm” feel, vanilla, and a hint of black pepper.  The balance of fruit/acidity/smooth tannin is really nice, and based on the tannin, the wine still appears youthful, and I think it’ll continue to age nicely.

After the tasting, Steve let Marney and me taste 2010 Musee and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon - they’re really special.  The 2010 vintage on Long Island was certainly one to remember, and the wines are very promising.  I’m excited for the release of those wines - so far they’re wonderful!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Another Good Value Rhone

While the prices of Bordeaux and Burgundy continue to rise, lots of value wines are still coming out of Rhone.  This year, I’ve tried so many wines from Rhone, both red and white - Cotes du Rhone, Beaumes de Venise, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Chateauneuf du Pape, Saint-Joseph, and Crozes Hermitage.  It still amazes me how many good quality wines from Rhone can be found at such reasonable prices.

Last week I had the 2007 Delas St. Esprit Cotes du Rhone, a blend of mostly Syrah and Grenache with some Mourvedre and Carignan as well.  It’s a dark red with medium viscosity (13.5% alcohol), and shows characteristics of dark fruit, wild berry, black pepper, roasted meat (I love that in a Rhone red!), earthiness, spices, and a nice fruit/acidity/tannin balance.  The texture is pleasant and the finish is respectable.  I could hardly believe this wine is only around $15.

2007 Delas St. Esprit Cotes du Rhone

Monday, April 23, 2012

2010 Colosi Nero d’Avola

I’ve been trying so many unique wines lately, some from well known regions made from well known grapes, and some from off-beat regions, and some made from off-beat grapes.  It’s a great way to learn and it’s fun for me, and makes for some interesting wine conversations.

But on Sundays, when I’m having a traditional Italian dinner, I tend to prefer more traditional wines to pair with it.

Before our family favorite became Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, we used to drink Colosi, a Sicilian red made from Nero d’Avola.  It’s been a few years since I’ve had Colosi, but it’s available to me again and last night that’s what I picked for Sunday dinner.

2010 Colosi Nero d’Avola from Sicily is a really good value wine under $20.  It’s a fairly dark red with characteristics of mostly dark fruit, including blackberry, black cherry, and some plum, herb and soft spice, a hint of purple flowers, and some nice earthiness.  The balance is good, the texture is smooth, and the finish is respectable.  It’s so good to be able to find Colosi again!

2010 Colosi Nero d’Avola (Sicily)

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Pros and Cons of Popularity

It’s no secret that Sancerre’s popularity has been on the rise.  I’ll bet that any one of us could walk into any wine shop, anywhere, and find a selection of Sancerre.  Sancerre (in the Loire Valley) has been my favorite region for Sauvignon Blanc for some time now, with its crisp citrus characteristics and cool minerality, without big pungent aromas that we might see in a Sauvignon Blanc coming from another region of the world.  It’s great to see things become popular as people become aware of them - I guess my only concern is that as demand for something like Sancerre increases, quantity becomes the priority and quality takes a back seat.  And recently, I tasted a Sancerre that was subpar at best; in fact it didn’t even look like Sauvignon Blanc in the glass.  It wasn’t that lovely pale straw color, it didn’t feel light and fresh and clean, and the characteristics of lemon and mineral were almost absent.


I’m curious to see what the next trend brings.  For whites, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc (from New Zealand and now from Sancerre), and Riesling have enjoyed an increase in popularity at different times.  I’m going to take a guess - I think Gruner Veltliner is the next big thing in white wine.  I’ve been seeing more of them in wine shops, on wine lists by the bottle, and now by the glass.  Gruner is grown primarily in Austria, and is usually clean and fresh with plenty of acidity, and characteristics of citrus as well as some orchard fruit, a hint of greenness, and mineral, and sometimes even a bit of spice.  I’d love to see this grape become more popular as it’s really enjoyable and I think because of its freshness and versatility, lots of people would enjoy it.  Yes, it’s a mouthful to say its name, but it’s worth checking out this grape type.  I would just hope that demand for quantity wouldn’t translate to compromised quality.  Already I’ve tasted a few in restaurants that weren’t up to expectations.

Gruner Veltliner

Malbec has become an enormously popular red grape in recent years, most likely due to large producers in Argentina selling them relatively cheaply in the United States.  Some of the Argentinean Malbecs are really enjoyable; my favorite is probably Achaval Ferrer from Mendoza.  But when something becomes trendy, as Malbec has, I wonder how many people know what they’re actually drinking.  I wonder how many people will also drink French Malbec, or if they would even know a French Malbec when they see one.  Most Malbec in France comes from Cahors in the South West region - sometimes as a single varietal wine, and sometimes blended with Merlot and Tannat.  Malbec is actually a Bordeaux grape and is still permitted in Bordeaux blends, but its home in France is primarily Cahors.  The Malbec wines from Cahors still show dark fruit characteristics much like the Argentinean ones, but they show more earthiness, sometimes laced with mushroom aromas.  They’re really funky and fun, and often are in the same price range as the Argentinean Malbecs.  If you haven’t tried any Malbec from France, perhaps look for a bottle of Cahors and try it, and see how it compares with Argentinean Malbec, and if your palate prefers one over the other.

Malbec from Cahors

I wonder what the next big thing in reds will be.  I’m actually thinking of Etna Rosso wines from Sicily.  While Nero d’Avola wines are inexpensive and easy to find and have been available for some time, I’m actually guessing Nerello Mascalese blends (mostly with Nerello Cappuccio) will become more popular soon.  I’ve been seeing more of them in wine shops recently.  But what’s interesting to me is that the price on Sicilian reds seems to be increasing with the popularity of the wine, as opposed to prices lowering as they become more available and as an attempt to gain popularity and marketability.  It’ll be interesting to see where that goes!

Etna Rosso red blend

Monday, April 16, 2012

Fun (And Good Value) Wines from the Weekend

I tasted A LOT of wines over the past week or so, most of which I liked, but over the weekend it was time to drink what I wanted to drink, and I decided to pull some unique bottles from the wine racks at home.
Friday night I began with the 2010 Joseph Cattin Alsace Gewurztraminer.  As you may know by now, Gewurztraminer is and has always been one of my favorite grapes.  This one was a great value, fairly inexpensive and very satisfying.  It’s a pale golden color with medium to low viscosity, with characteristics of lychee (the telltale sign of Gewurztraminer), candied orange, white blossom, ginger, and mineral, and perceived sweetness with wonderful underlying acidity, very aromatic and beckoning, smooth, long, and delicious.  It was paired with citrus and herb marinated grilled swordfish and I was really happy with the pairing.

2010 Joseph Cattin Alsace Gewurztraminer

Late Friday evening I decided to wind down with a very inexpensive find - the 2009 Chateau de Paraza Cuvee Speciale Minervois, a wine from Languedoc-Roussillon made up on 40% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 20% Mourvedre.  It’s a dark red with fairly high viscosity, and characteristics of some red but mostly dark fruit, soft spices, earthiness, mushroom, wildness, and some “animal” aromas (leather, hide, and animal sweat - sounds unappealing but trust me on this one!).  It’s quite rustic but it’s nicely structured and smooth with a clean finish, and it’s funky and fun.

2009 Chateau de Paraza Cuvee Speciale Minervois

Saturday night was a dinner of chicken and stuffed artichokes, perfect for spring.  I wanted a wine that’s bright and fun, so I chose the 2010 Ostatu Blanco Rioja, a blend of mostly Viura and some Malvasia.  The pairing was excellent - the wine is a very pale color with medium viscosity, and characteristics of citrus, a hint of herb, and lots of mineral, bright acidity, and a clean feel.

2010 Ostatu Blanco Rioja

Saturday evening I was ready to open an exciting find - something I had never had before - a Pinot Noir from Hungary.  It’s the 2009 Pannonhalmi Aparsagi Pinceszet from an area of Hungary where vines were planted by monks toward the end of the 10th century, only to have production halted during the time of Communism in Hungary.  Fortunately, production resumed in the area in recent years.  The wine is a clear red with fairly high viscosity, and characteristics of both tart and sweet cherry, berry, and mostly red fruit, lots of baking spice, earthiness, and smoke.  It smells and tastes a bit warm, presumably from the alcohol around 14%, but it doesn’t throw off the balance at all.  It has nice bright acidity, a smooth feel, and it’s absolutely delicious.

2009 Pannonhalmi Aparsagi Pinceszet Pinot Noir

Last night during the Yankee game I opted for a wine from one of my favorite regions, South West France.  The wine is from Madiran, and I’ve had it once before.  It’s the 2008 Domaine Le Serp, 80% Tannat and 20% Cabernet Franc.  I love this wine, and it was very much the same as when I first tried it in December.  It’s a very dark red, almost black color, with an extremely dark core, and medium viscosity.  Characteristics include a bit of red but mostly dark fruit, berry, plum, and unique baking spices, wood, forest floor, mushroom, and purple flowers.  It has nice balance of fruit, acidity, and soft tannin, it’s clean and smooth and wonderful and fascinating.

2008 Domaine Le Serp Madiran

So, all 5 wines from this weekend are quite unique and different, but there’s one thing they have in common - they’re all around $20 or less.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Guild of Sommeliers Master Class - Terroir of Chile

This week I attended a Guild of Sommeliers master class, presented by Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer, at Corkbuzz Studio.  Anyone who read my post from late September 2011 on the South West France master class might know by now that after hearing MS Dexheimer speak about wines from South West France and present 12 amazing selections, knows that since then, I’ve been completely hooked on South West France wines and have a sparked interest in the grapes such as Tannat, Corbu, and Manseng, and Madiran, Cahors, Irouleguy, and Pacherenc.
This time, the master class was on the terroir of the wine producing regions of Chile.  MS Dexheimer’s presentation was just as informative, and the way he presents important and serious topics makes it fun and engaging.  We also got to hear an analysis by MS Laura Maniec, and MS Cameron Douglas who was visiting from New Zealand.
I’ll admit I’ve neglected Chilean wines a bit, so I know I have a lot to learn about it.  For starters, I had no idea the extent to which Chilean wine producers are dedicated to the study of soil, and the importance they place on it.  In fact, MS Dexheimer informed us that in Chile, soil is considered more important than climate when considering factors in grape growing.
Aside from connecting well with the way MS Dexheimer presents wine topics, and that I know I need to brush up on my knowledge pertaining to Chilean wine, the other reason I attended was that I’ve been on a sort of quest to find a Carmenere that works well for my palate.  A few grapes I have had difficulty connecting with, including American Cabernet Franc, Gamay from Beaujolais, and Carmenere from Chile.  So far, I’ve found one American Cabernet Franc that I really enjoy, and about 5 Beaujolais that I enjoy, but Carmenere was still an issue for me.  I’m happy to report that the Carmenere selected for the master class were really enjoyable, and below I’ll explain why.
What else did I learn?  I think Chile’s movement toward organic production will pay off for them, as many wine drinkers appreciate this and place value on wine producers’ efforts to respect the environment.
I learned something about my own taste as well - I generally prefer Old World style wines; however, the Chilean wines produced with a more New World style I preferred over the Chilean wines produced in a more Old World style.  This was a huge surprise to me.  I can’t quite explain it as I prefer lots of earthiness, balance, expressiveness, and a fair amount of perceived acidity.  But the ripeness of the New World style Chilean wines was so enjoyable and I found that especially easy to connect with.

Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir

The first flight was Sauvignon Blanc, and the selections were 2011 Casillo de Molina (Elqui Valley), 2011 Vina Casablanca Nimbus (Casablanca Valley), and 2011 Santa Rita Medalla Real (Leyda Valley).  The first Sauvignon Blanc reminded me of New Zealand style, very pungent aromas with lots of herb characteristics laced into the fruit.  I connected better with the other two.  They’re nicely balanced with a bit less acidity, some citrus, tropical, and orchard fruit, and perhaps just a hint of sweetness.  The third was especially luscious for a Sauvignon Blanc, with a bit of richness and weight to it, and absolutely delicious.
The next flight was Pinot Noir, and the selections were 2009 Veranda (Bio Bio Valley), 2010 Veramonte Ritual (Casablanca Valley), and 2009 Matetic EQ (San Antonio Valley).  The first was sort of a Burgundian style, with lighter coloring, characteristics, and weight, and bright acidity.  Usually this is the kind of Pinot Noir that appeals to me; however, the next Pinot surprised me with its lovely tannic structure and more concentrated fruit and smooth texture.  The third was even better, and the concentrated fruit did not mask the expressiveness of earthiness and smokiness.

Syrah and Carmenere

The next flight was Syrah, and the selections were 2008 Cono Sur 20 Barrels (Limari Valley), 2007 Kingston Family Bayo Oscuro (Casablanca Valley), and 2010 Perez Cruz Limited Edition (Maipo Valley).  The first two were delicious, with lots of dark fruit, smoke, spice, pepper, and good structure, but the third I absolutely loved and it was my favorite of the flight, and one of my favorites of the tasting.  While the second reminded me of Rhone style and I appreciated the aromas quite a bit, the third, with more New World style, had the best flavor of the three, with great balance and structure.  At $20, I felt the Perez Cruz was the best value of the tasting.
The final flight was Carmenere, and this was what I was most curious about, since I’ve had a difficult time properly connecting with Carmenere.  The selections were 2009 Casa Silva Los Lingues (Colchagua Valley), 2008 Terrunyo (Cachapoal Valley), and 2009 De Martino Alto De Piedras Single Vineyard (Maipo Valley).  While the first had a bit of green bell pepper in the aromas, it did not get in the way of the ripe fruit, and the other two showed almost no green pepper at all, just a lot of ripe rich fruit, spice, and excellent balance and structure.  The Terrunyo was probably my favorite wine of the tasting, and at last, I enjoyed Carmenere.
The final wine, poured on its own, was the 2008 Neyen Espitu de Apalta (Apalta Valley), a blend of Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was my other favorite of the tasting, and the consensus at the class was that this wine is fantastic.  The Cabernet really comes through, and the aromas and flavors of the wine are wonderful; it’s delicious, very well balanced, has lovely structure, and a big presence.
I was really impressed by these Chilean wines and I’m excited to try more and learn more about the regions.  Most of the Chilean wines I had tasted before the master class were less than inspiring and after trying 13 very good examples from many growing regions, I’m ready to explore more Chilean wines.  I was most impressed by the structure and length of the wines, indicating good quality, and the expressiveness of terroir and identity of each of the wines.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Wines

I always like to select dependable yet unique wines for holidays, so for Easter, to pair with spring dishes, I chose a white and two reds.  I also try to go with wines that are medium to low in alcohol, as several wines are going to be poured.
With appetizers that included mostly cheeses with herb and fruit flavors, I selected the 2010 Domaine Cheveau Macon Solutre-Pouilly, a white Burgundy under $20.  The wine is very food friendly - it’s a straw color with medium viscosity, with characteristics of lemon and a hint of orchard fruit, minerality, and a crisp, clean feel with bright acidity.  It was a nice light crisp start to dinner, and the acidity cut through the cheeses perfectly.
With lamb and its side dishes, the wine was the 2009 Castiadas Rei Cannonau from Sardinia.  Cannonau is actually Grenache, produced in Sardinia.  It has a medium red color with a clear rim, medium viscosity, and characteristics of mostly red fruit and nice bold spices, with bright acidity and a clean feel and respectable finish.  Usually my pairing for lamb is Chateauneuf du Pape, which is also Grenache based, so to change it up a bit, it was still Grenache, but from Italy instead.
The wine selected for traditional ravioli was one that’s fairly easy to find in wine shops and relatively inexpensive - the 2009 Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  It’s dark red with medium viscosity, and characteristics of both dark and red fruit, lots of baking spices, bright acidity, wood, earth, a long finish, and a clean feel.  This wine is perfect for pairing with traditional Italian dishes.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Drink What You Like, Get Your Own Style

If you’ve been reading my blog, you probably know I’m from Long Island.  You’ve probably also read some of my posts and reviews of local wines, and know some of my favorites.  You can also view my favorite local wines on the list called “Jac’s Picks” toward the right side of the blog page.
You’ve probably also noticed by now my strong preference for European wines - some of my favorite regions being Piemonte, Bordeaux, and South West France for reds, and Loire, Burgundy, and Alsace for whites.
Yes, I’ll drink wines from Long Island, and from other regions in the United States as well.  I’ve got a few Long Island favorites, plus some from Napa, Sonoma, and Willamette.
I’ve done some asking around lately, just out of curiosity, as to whether wine drinkers prefer Old World style or New World style, and overwhelmingly signs point to a preference for Old World style - lower alcohol, terroir expressiveness, etc.
So my question became: Why am I still getting “the look” from lots of wine acquaintances because I prefer European wines over American wines?  Where’s my love for California wines?  And my favorite - Where’s the local love?  My answer: Sorry guys, I can’t call it local love.  I do have some favorites from Long Island, those being several of the wines from Bedell, Macari, Shinn, Raphael, and a few from Pindar and Waters Crest and Wolffer.  Yes, I’ve got some more Long Island wines to try, and I keep an open mind.  But it’s just not local love for me, as the wines from the region where I live rarely have much impact on my palate and my senses.

Invariably, I’ve got lots of locals telling me what I should like - from Long Island and from the other New York region, Finger Lakes.  I’ve already got some favorites, like it or not.  I’ll continue to taste, and I’ll still look to learn and enjoy.  But my palate has its own style, and that style happens to be Old World.  I find it’s easier to pair to my cooking as well as what I select from restaurant menus, it’s lower in alcohol, and I find them more fascinating because it’s easier to detect their expression of terroir, so the wines can tell us a story about their place of origin.  Kevin Zraly, in our WIndows on the World wine class, recently read us a quote from Sideways - it’s about how wine is alive and tells us about itself, about what the vintage year was like, the weather, and the people who grew and harvested and produced the wine.  Yes, of course there are plenty of New World wines that express themselves to the drinker (including some of my favorites from Long Island, Finger Lakes, and the west coast), but it’s easier to distinguish wines from different European regions, and for me that makes it more fun and better for educating my palate.
I’m going to be honest - I’m tired of having my taste questioned.  I’m tired of being told I should be drinking more American or local wines.  I’ll drink what I want.  And so should you.  And we should be proud and happy that our palates develop a preference and a style - that’s an indication that we’re learning and we can tell one wine from another.  But it’s awfully hard to learn when you’re being told what you should be drinking.  I suggest giving everything a chance at least once, probably several times, keep an open mind, and always remember there’s an infinite amount to learn.  And don’t worry - I won’t question your taste, ever.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Preparing for Dry Rose Season

As the weather gets warmer, we can start to think about sipping dry Rose outdoors or pairing it with spring and summer dishes  April is when we begin to see a selection of dry Roses in wine shops and on restaurants’ wine lists.  What amazes me is how many people still associate pink colored wine with sweet, poor quality wines, or with the thing that makes me cringe - white Zinfandel.

Dry Rose

Recently in a wine shop I heard two people come in and ask for a “pink wine” and they said they wanted to pay $4 for it.  The kinds of pink wine that I’m looking forward to this spring and summer are not the $4 kind.
Many wine drinkers agree that the best dry Rose wines are produced in Provence - the wines are made primarily from red grapes including Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, and Syrah.  The dry Roses from Provence that I’ve tasted have been delicious, light delicate, and perfect for enjoying on the porch or with fresh seafood, salads, and cheeses - ideal for spring and summer.

Dry Rose from Provence

There are dry Roses being produced in so many other parts of the world as well, and lots of them are good quality.  Some favorites include Celliers Contemporains Cinsault Rose from Languedoc-Roussillon, Louis Laurent Rose d’Anjou from Loire, Tasca d’Almerita Regaleali Le Rose from Sicily, Muga Rose from Rioja, and several others from the United States.  My favorite local dry Rose on Long Island last summer was produced by Shinn Estate Vineyards - bright and clean with characteristics of under ripe strawberry, raspberry, watermelon, white blossom, fresh grassy herb, and cool mineral.




I look forward to tasting and writing about more dry Roses this summer, as it’s becoming easier to find good quality Roses in local wine shops and the warm weather is just around the corner.