Thursday, April 24, 2014

Quick Review: Madrona Vineyards Chardonnay 2012

US, CA, El Dorado, Madrona Vineyards Chardonnay 2012
++ // Smooth // Vanilla, Butter, Pear // Grapefruit, Pear, Honey, Orange rind // Full
A roller coaster of a wine. Big, bright acidic grapefruit to start bringing you to a great height of flavor, with a crest of of sweet pear and melon, with a plummeting drop of bitter orange rind bringing you home.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What Makes a Bad Wine?

We've talked about wines that are corked, that have been left open too long, or that are simply spoiled. There are other reasons wines might be considered "bad." Sometimes the winemakers themselves make a mistake or don't have the right ingredients to work with, and the wine is flawed before it even goes into the bottle. Here are some terms that help describe these wines.

  • Austere: Aggressively acidic, with no balance of flavor
  • Flabby: Soft and weak, with absolutely no acidity
  • Green: Under-ripe grapes, leading to under-ripe and under-developed flavors
  • Tight: Elusive flavors, but unlike the others, this might just be temporary. This can sometimes be remedied by decanting a wine to let it "open up."
  • Hot: Sometimes you can smell the alcohol wafting off the liquid. Not good. Hot is a term for "high in alcohol content".

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Quick Review: Lamoreaux Landing Chardonnay 2007

US, NY, Finger Lakes, Lamoreaux Landing Chardonnay 2007
++ // Crisp // Butter, Citrus, Vanilla // Green apple, Really ripe pineapple, Vanilla // Light-med

Smooth finish. Not too heavy, a blend of complex, delicate flavors. Other end of the spectrum from the big, buttery Californian chardonnay. 2007 is known as a "good year" in the Finger Lakes, and when friends gifted this bottle to us, we were thrilled.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Time for Chardonnay

Chardonnay is a contentious wine: some people drink nothing but Chardonnay, while others will drink anything but. Like everything else in the wine world, we are pretty flexible about it. It's not often that we drink it, but there is a time and a place for a good glass of Chardonnay.

Chardonnay is a wine where it is important to know a little about what you are getting. Like Riesling, which can vary from a sweet, unctuous wine to a dry, acidic version, Chardonnay can vary wildly in its flavors, depending on how it was treated. In this case, its as much dependent on how the wine was aged as the nature of the grapes. An "oaked" Chardonnay, where the wine was aged in oak barrels, will pick up characteristics of the wood; smooth toast and butter flavors evening out the crisp acidity of the grape. An "unoaked" Chardonnay, aged in stainless steel, will keep those bright acidic flavors.

For us, the right time is when you are looking for a white wine with a big flavor to go with a big meal. Other white wines can serve as a counterpoint to big, spicy flavors, but its not often that they can present anything other than bold, crisp flavors that dissipate quickly. With fatty bacon pot pies with a grilled corn and tomato salsa, most white wines might get lost, or be so acidic that they would cut through the flavors of the food. But a Chardonnay, even when it is crisp, can offer a smooth blend of flavors that is hard to find elsewhere; delicate enough on the palate to be refreshing, but bold enough to catch your attention.

Some people can't stand Chardonnay, but we're not among them. Like all wine, chardonnay has its time and place, and can bring something wonderful and unique to a meal.

Friday, April 18, 2014

How-To: Pair a Wine with Multiple Courses

A good way to save a bit of money at restaurants is to buy your wine by the bottle. The price is still marked up higher than if you bought the bottle at a wine store, but significantly less than if you bought as much wine by the glass. The downside with this approach is that its tough to find a wine that will pair well with multiple courses, including dishes for several people.There are a few things to keep in mind if you are going to try:

  • Plan ahead: If you are selecting wines by the glass, you have time to choose while you select your dinner options. But it's difficult to pick a bottle if you have no idea what your entree will be.
  • Keep the food similar: It's tough to find any wine that will pair with both fish and beef.
  • Ask for recommendations: The restaurant may have wines specially selected to be served with multiple courses.
  • Keep the wine flexible: Avoid wines that are too light, too big, or that have simple flavors that need specific foods to bring out their best points. Flexible wines like Pinot Noir, Merlot, Semi-Dry Riesling, or Pinot Grigio can help you with a range of food choices.
  • Find something everyone enjoys: You might have to bow to the pickiest drinker at your table. Some people are just certain they don't like a certain type of wine or always and only drink another type. That's OK. Maybe this time you acquiesce, but your next dinner out, you push the envelope a little.
What does this look like in reality? Tina often chooses a delicate starter and then a heavier entree, or, vegetables at first and then meat to finish. She'll often select a light Pinot Noir, or, when feeling gutsy, a very rich, buttery chardonnay. She finds both quite flexible for this sort of pairing.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Quick Review: Bogle "Phantom" 2010

US, CA, Bogle "Phantom" 2010
+ // Smooth  // Chocolate, Leather, Cherry, Cloves, Nutmeg // Maraschino cherry, Leather, Pepper, Dark chocolate // Full

This is a Zinfandel. Whereas Italy has its Primitivo, California has the sister grape, the Zinfandel.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Did You Know?... About Wine Vintages

When winemakers release a new wine, they are careful to label the year the grapes were picked. That way, we wine drinkers can understand a little more about the wine. In addition to the natural characteristics of the varietal, the terrior of the growing region, and the style of the winemaker, the year the grapes were harvested gives us some clues as to its character. In this case, it all comes down to weather. An unseasonably warm year can result in extremely ripe grapes, giving bigger flavors than usual. An uncommonly rainy harvest season may mean that the grapes were harvested early, leading to under-ripe, tarter flavors. In most cases, it won't matter much. You will seldom find two different vintages of the same wine on the shelves of your favorite wine shop. In fact, you might be weary if you do find a wine more than 4 or 5 years old on the shelf, it's possible that wine didn't sell and might now be "off". But, some of the most impressive restaurant wine lists might have several vintages of the same wine to suit different situations. A less renowned vintage might keep the price point down on wines from famous producers, giving less discriminating drinkers the chance to try something, possibly still amazing, at a more approachable price point. When in doubt, as always, we'll advise that you ask lots of questions, just like we do.