Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Adventures - Readers' Favorites

2012 was a year of great adventures: From exploring new and exciting wine regions to discovering new favorite restaurants, there has been a lot to share with you readers. Your favorites for the year (based on pageviews) were:

5. Glorie Farm Winery
4. Summer in the Finger Lakes
3. Exploring Germany and Austria
2. An Afternoon at Brooklyn Winery
1. Happy Hour at Olea

Friday, December 28, 2012

How-To: Ship Wine

You may have just tried to ship a special bottle from your favorite winery to a friend or relative, only to discover that for some reason they would not allow you to.  Unfortunately for consumers, the US allows each state to control their own laws regarding wine, and there is no uniform interstate shipping regulations.

Each state has its own agreements regarding what other states are allowed to ship there.

Often, a winemaker will need to have a license to ship to another state, a cost they may not find worthwhile.

To add to the confusion, shipping companies have their own rules. Usually, a shipment of wine needs to be signed for, by an adult. And sometimes they even demand that the recipient be sober!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Quick Review: Brotherhood WInery Blanc de Blanc

US, NY, Hudson Valley, Brotherhood Winery, Blanc de Blanc 2011
+ // Sparkling // Lemon, Bread // Green Apple, Bread // Light-Medium
A quality sparkling wine in the Champagne style, with very fine bubbles.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Did You Know?... About Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wines are wines, usually white or rosé with bubbles of carbon dioxide. The most famous is Champagne from France, along with Spumante and Muscato d'Asti from Italy, though most every wine region produces their own version.

For a sparkling wine, the grapes are usually carefully selected for much different criteria than other wines. Fermentation is begun like most other wines. To achieve the bubbles, most sparkling wines undergo a process of secondary fermentation (though cheaper versions can just have the carbon dioxide bubbles injected). 

In the Champagne style, the wine is put into a heavy-duty bottle and allowed to ferment further, trapping the gas from the fermentation process. With this style, it's necessary for the winemaker to move the bottles frequently to allow the yeasts to settle (a process called riddling) then quickly open the bottle to remove the resulting sediment before final sale.

In the Charmat process, the wine is stored in a pressurized tank for the secondary fermentation, before being transferred to their final bottling. 

In French wines, sparkling wines are the only ones allowed to add sugar during the fermentation process (called chapitalization). This gives them greater control over the final sweetness of the wine, and lets them produce the full range from sweet dessert styles (Demi-Sec to Doux) to bone dry sparkling wine (Brut to Brut Nature).


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Quick Review: Lamberti Sparkling Rose

Italy, Lamberti, Sparkling Rosé, NV
+ // Sparkling // Berry, Apple, Yeast // Strawberry, Grapefruit, Yeast // Light

Monday, December 24, 2012

Festive Wines

With bubbles flowing like streams of sparkling gems, there is nothing quite like sparkling wines to put us in a festive mood.

What is it that makes sparkling wine so special?

Is it the way the bubbles catch the light? Each glass becomes its own light show.

Is it the knowledge that so much effort goes into each bottle, a careful balancing of forces within each bottle, and a careful balancing of skill and art on the part of the winemaker?

Is it the fact that sparkling wine is so flexible? How many wines stand up so well to different types of food, or even to sipping on their own, like a good Champagne?

Maybe it's just tradition. It's so ingrained in our culture that the idea of toasting with anything but bubbly now seems crazy. 

Whatever the reason, we hope you have the chance this holiday to uncork a bottle to share with the special people in your life.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Did You Know? ... About Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc

While the Finger Lakes region of New York may be best know for its Riesling, the wineries there produce many other quality wines. For example at the 2012 Indy International Wine Competition, four New York wineries were awarded silver medals for their Cabernet Franc.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Quick Review: Ravines Cabernet Franc

US, NY, Finger Lakes, Ravines Cabernet Franc 2008
+ // Fruity // Blueberry, Strawberry // Strawberry, Earth, Spice, Grassy finish // Light

Lush, very ripe fruit.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pot Roast Dinner

It's the holiday season again. Time for those homey, comforting dishes best shared with a large group of friends and family. I love cooking a complicated dish, but sometimes it's best to just prepare something simple and put it in the oven, to give yourself less time in the kitchen and more time with those you love.

Hence, I love pot roasts. A great way to cook a nice chunk of meat for a group, and an easy way to include some good veggies in the dish. Add some simple spices, and just let it sit in the oven for a few hours, and you have a wonderful blend of flavors. As winter sets in, it's a good way to cook up some root vegetables, and other hardy green stuff, like radish, carrots, and even some brussel sprouts (if you add them late in the process--avoid cooking them to long). 

All told, this is an easy dish to find a good wine pairing for. Something hearty and red, with earthiness to match the vegetables and some spice to complement the meat. Nothing too fruity and sweet, but just a hint of berries can add another layer of complexity to the meal, and help us remember that summer will come again. This time around, we selected a Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc from Ravines Wine Cellars. It was the perfect selection for what we were looking for, as it matched the flavor profile of the dish. It's good to know just enough about the wine styles of a specific varietal and/or region so that you have a good idea what to expect when you want an easy, delicious meal.

Friday, December 14, 2012

How To Compare Italian Grapes

For us, Italian wines are difficult. We've learned about wine through the lens of New World wine, which shares very few varietals with Italy. But we are picking up bits and pieces, and are learning that while they might not compare directly, there are similarities to grapes we know better.

Barbera: This is a grape we've encountered from a few wineries in Napa, but its still fairly uncommon in the US. The Italian version tends towards deep, dark color with bright cherry flavor, similar to a Grenache.

Nebbiolo: Found in Barolo and Barberesca wines, Nebbiolo is Italy's most prominent grape. With big, bold flavors like mushrooms, oak, and roses, its a unique flavor. Some old-vine Zinfandels start to compare to the depth of flavor.

Sangiovese: This grape is used in Chianti and Tuscan wines, and has strong flavors of cherry and cedar. In New World grapes, it might compare most to light Pinot Noir.

Pinot Grigio: This is the rare Italian grape that can be found almost anywhere in the wine growing world. Most wine drinkers are familiar with Pinot Gris, with light fruit flavors, along with hints of honey.

Trebbiano: The most widely planted white Italian grape, and it's extensive planting has mostly relegated it's use to as a blending wine. The best versions tend towards citrus and mineral flavors, like Chenin Blanc.

Moscato: Used to make the sparkling Moscato d'Asti, Moscato is light and sweetly fruity with strong floral notes, like a Gewurtztraminer.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Did You Know?... About Italy's Umbria Region

Umbria is a region in Italy, small in both area and production of wine. It's a hilly region at the middle interior of Italy, similar in climate to neighboring Tuscany. It is most famous for wine from the Orvieto DOC, made from Trebbiano grapes, but also produces high quality reds from the Sangiovese grape, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Quick Review: Wine at Fornino

Italy, Umbria, Orvieto Classico, Tenuta di Salviano 2010
++ // Crisp, Funky // Flowers, Herbs, Ash // Green Apples, Flowers, Ash // Medium

Made from the Grechetto and Trebbiano grapes, this wine had a mixture of tart apple flavor with an undercurrent of bitter ash and smoke that added an interesting complexity to it.

Kept chilled in this wine bucket.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dinner at Fornino

Brooklyn is full of pizza joints. From corner joints with checkered table cloths to artisinal restaurants with wood burning ovens, at times it seems like you can't walk a block without coming across a new and exciting option. After spending an afternoon wandering about Park Slope, we decided to embrace the local cuisine, and try some pizza at Fornino.

Fornino is neighborhood Italian restaurant, with a wide ranging menu of family favorites, but we decided to keep it simple and share a few dishes, to complement our pizza: an arugula salad, some risotto balls, and a Funghi Pizza with tellegio cheese and truffle oil. 

The wine menu was replete with Italian wines, options which still leave us slightly baffled. Normally, when eating more than one course, we might try a few different glasses to try to match the different flavors. But, we were in a bit over our heads with the wine options, and our waitress was new and couldn't offer many suggestions, so we decided to wing it, and just order a bottle. With our limited experience with Italian wine, we have had a few wines from the Umbria region with a bit of "funky" flavors which we thought might go well with the earthiness of the mushrooms and the cheese, so we ordered a bottle of Orvieto Classico.

In a case like this, all that mattered to us was that the wine wasn't corked. The first taste shocked us though, revealing a crisp white wine with a funky undertone. There were bitter flavors of flowers and ash that really complemented the bitter arugula of the salad, but were really too powerful for the risotto balls. There were the funky flavors that we had expected that matched the mushrooms in the pizza, but there was also a hint of sweet fruit that brought out a hint of sweetness from the cheese. In all, a wonderful pairing, and helped us linger over our meal.

It's wonderful when we can be so pleasantly surprised. An unassuming storefront revealed a wonderful little restaurant. And a long and complicated wine list revealed a rich and complex bottle. But we really need to work on learning more about Italian wines!

Friday, December 7, 2012

How Much Wine Do You Need for a Holiday Party?

When figuring out how much wine you need to buy for a holiday party, its important to keep in mind one basic fact. A typical bottle of wine holds five standard glasses. If you are pouring for a meal or for casual sipping that may change a bit, but this is a safe assumption and a good place to start.

So from there, it's simply a matter of multiplying your number of guests by the number of courses (or how many times you expect to pass the bottle during a family style meal) and dividing by 5, to figure out how many bottles you need.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Quick Review: Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel 2009

US, California, Ravenswood Winery, Old Vine Zinfandel, 2009
+ // Earthy // Leather, spice, black cherry // Black cherry, strawberry, black pepper // Full-bodied

Served with crispy pork (wild boar), spicy knudel, apple sauce: fruit notes come out with the apple sauce.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What Is Sediment in Wine?

What are those small dark chunks floating in the bottom of your glass of wine? Dirt? Bits of grape skins and seeds? Pieces of the cork? Unless something went horribly wrong with your wine, this is "sediment." Usually found in bottle-aged red wines, "sediment" is the pigments that gave the wine its deep, dark color when it was young. As the wine ages, those microscopic color particles clump together and settle to the bottom of the wine. They won't do anything to change the color, but they will add a grainy texture, so this is part of the reason we decant older red wines, to leave that sediment in the bottle--and out of our glass.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Quick Review: MonteVina Zinfandel

US, CA, MonteVina Terra d'Oro, Zinfandel 2003
+ // Earthy // Chocolate, Earth, Petrol // Earth, Bitter Chocolate, Unripe Jalapeno // Heavy

Not surprising with an older wine, this one needed time to breathe. We were expecting a fruitier wine, but there was a hint of sweetness buried in the deep, earthy flavors that paired well with our dinner of Mac & Cheese. We seldom look at this when we buy our wine, but as is fairly common with Californian wines, it was "hot" -- meaning a high alcohol content of 15% ABV in this case.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Homemade Mac & Cheese

With the cold weather settling in, it's time to make hearty, warming dinners, and of course to find great wines to pair with these heavier meals. It should come as no surprise that when we want something warm and gooey, we make a big dish of Mac & Cheese.

Mac& Cheese is great, because it's easy to make at home, and, if you put a little bit of effort into selecting the cheese, you can end up something very special. We find some great cheeses at our local farmer's market. This time around, we selected an aged cheddar for the main cheese, and a blue cheese for added flavor and richness. Then the trick was to find some wine to go along with it.

Both cheeses had strong flavors: sweet, salt, and a bit of funk from the blue cheese, and more sweet from the cheddar, with some nuttiness. To this end, we decided to look for a strong red wine, with some fruit notes to match the sweet cheese. Walking the aisles of our local wine shop, we spotted something interesting; a 2003 Zinfandel, and decided to give it a try. While the wine wasn't as fruity as we expected, we still made a good selection: the wine was old and rich, with deep earthy notes that held up to the rich cheese, and balanced with the sweetness of the dinner.

It's simple pairings like this that can bring us great joys. We like to experiment with trying new wines, and finding the best dish to match, but its good to know we can make simple selections, and that they will result in a perfectly wonderful dinner.

Mac & Cheese:
1 box Elbow Macaroni
4 tbsp Butter
4 tbsp Flour
2 Cups Milk
4 oz shredded Hard Cheese (Cheddar, Swiss, etc)
4 oz Soft Cheese (Blue, Goat, etc)
1 Cup Breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the macaroni and cook until al dente, approximetly 8 to 10 minutes, then drain.
  3. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter, then add the flour and stir until smooth. Add the milk and stir until the mixture thickens. Add the cheese and stir until melted.
  4. Pour the macaroni into a greased 9x13 pan, then pour the cheese over the macaroni and stir in. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top of the mixture, then bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.

Friday, November 30, 2012

How-To: Select Wine for your Holiday Gathering

Holidays are a time to spend time with family and friends, and share a bit of our lives together. But with so many visitors, it's hard to chose which bottle of wine to open. With a special meal, you want a special wine. So, how do you select the perfect wine for your perfect holiday gathering?

  • For a special guest, learn their preference for wine, then make it a great gift to share with your other guests.
  • For a large group, select an "approachable" wine--wine in a style and flavor profile familiar to most everyone. Merlot, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, and of course, a bit of bubbly can't hurt.
  • For a special meal, focus on the recommended pairing. For poultry, select something light to match the delicate flavor of the bird, like an Old World Pinot Noir or oaked Chardonnay. For ham, select something that will stand up to the saltiness, maybe the sweetness in a Riesling might work.
  • At a special meal, stick to one red and one white selection and have enough bottles on hand to make sure there is enough to go around.
  • Unless you are trying to impress your significant other's wine connoisseur parent, or sitting down with your wine enthusiast friends, do not break open your most expensive bottles. Save these for the people in your life who will truly appreciate them.
  • Yet, it's OK to splurge a little on holiday wine. Look for good discount deals this time of year, which will save you when buying for big group. Wine shops and wineries alike offer great discounts, and some will provide free shipping.
In the end, your goal should really be to simply seek out some delicious wine. Your guests are there to enjoy each other's company, not critique what you serve. Ask your local wine shop to help you if you need recommendations. Cheers!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Quick Review: Duckhorn Merlot Part 2

US, CA, Napa, Duckhorn Merlot 2003
++ // Fruity // Blackberry, Raspberry, Herbs // Oak, Coffee, Strawberry // Full
Big, bright flavors, but the tannins were starting to come through and hint that they might overpower the fruit flavors.

US, CA, Napa, Duckhorn Merlot 2002
++ // Fruity // Prune, Dried Berries, Hay // Chocolate, Cherry, Oak, Forrest Floor // Full
This was a difficult vintage, with a hot summer that seemed to come through in some over-ripe fruit flavors.

US, CA, Napa, Duckhorn Merlot 2000
++ // Spicy-Earthy // Blackberry, Cherry, Nutmeg, Fig // Pepper, Chocolate, Berry, Oak // Full
This was a great example of how a great wine can stand up to some aging. The flavors were more subtle and blended than the 2005, but were still huge in the mouth. It was just a bit more difficult to isolate any single flavor note.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Did You Know?... About Merlot

Merlot is a red grape, second only in global production to Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a fairly hardy grape, and is grown throughout the wine world, but is possibly most famous for its use in Bordeaux blends. Given its wide range of growing locations, it defies any specific flavor profile, but often results in a "smooth" wine. The wide range of flavors means a wine range of possible pairings, but the stronger New World styles can stand up to hearty meat dishes, while the lighter French style pairs well with lighter proteins.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Quick Review: Duckhorn Merlot Part 1

US, CA, Napa, Duckhorn Merlot 2009
++ // Fruity // Berry, Peach, Cola, Brown Sugar // Earth, Cherry, Currant, Fig, Oak // Full
This wine was just released, and definitely needed to spend some more time in the bottle to tone down its more astringent flavors, but it showed some great potential.

US, CA, Napa, Duckhorn Merlot 2007
++ // Spicy // Floral, Cherry // Blackberry, Oak, Chocolate, Green Pepper // Medium
This one too seemed like it could stand a little more aging, as there was still some "spikiness" to the flavors.

US, CA, Napa, Duckhorn Merlot 2005
++ // Smooth // Hay, Coffee, Dark Cherry // Cherry, Coffee, Cinnamon, Earth // Full
Apparently this was the largest vintage they have ever produced, by volume, and a perfect season. It was also the high point of the tasting, for us, as it seemed to be the perfectly balanced wine; fruit and earth notes still balanced against a strong tannic backbone.

Monday, November 26, 2012

2012 NYC Wine & Food Festival: Duckhorn Merlot

As the last of our three tasting events at the New York Wine and Food festival, we were invited to a vertical tasting of Merlot from Duckhorn Vineyard in Napa Valley. Duckhorn was the first winemaker in Napa valley to focus on Merlot, while most everyone else was looking at Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. For the past 40 years, they have sourced grapes from the northern reaches of the Napa appellation, where the climate and soils are more conducive to Merlot.

In 1978, Dan and Margaret Duckhorn released their first Merlot, based on the Bordeaux style--more subtle flavors, with a balance of fruit and earth. Since then, they have been one of the premiere producers of Merlot in California. As demand for Californian wines grew, the demand for Merlot outstripped the supply...until the movie Sideways came along, and ruined everything. These days, the public's demand for Merlot has stabilized to be the second highest consumed varietal, after Cabernet Sauvignon, and Duckhorn continues to release a wide range of wines under a wide range of brand names (all focused on the duck theme), from simple table wines to complex and subtle single-vineyard wines.

We had a chance to try wines from one of their premier vineyards, the Three Palms vineyard, and from six vintages ranging from 2009 to 2000. Each was amazing in its own way, and we learned a few important things.

  • These wines are made to be aged; they are held for 3 years before they are released, and will generally reach their peak in 3-5 years.
  • Merlot has some big flavors, and pairs well with red meats; something simple with an older bottle, but big, strong flavors with a wine at its peak.
  • They recommend we taste our wines from oldest to youngest, as the flavors get more subtle as the wine gets older and the young ones can kind of overwhelm the palette in comparison.
This was a great tasting for us, an opportunity to get a better understanding of what the best of Merlot can really taste like.


Friday, November 23, 2012

How Long Does an Open Bottle of Wine Last?

With the holidays, it's easy to open a bottle of wine for guests, but not finish it. So it's important to have a general idea of how long a wine will stay fresh, after it's been opened.

A young, crisp white wine has a lot of volatile flavors that will dissipate quickly. Properly resealed and stored in a cool place, most can probably survive overnight, but the wine can get "flabby" if stored for much longer than that.

An aged white wine should be a bit more balanced, with a backbone of oak. With the crispness already aged out of the wine, it can hold up to a few more days in the fridge.

Much in the same vein, a young red wine has a bit more stable flavors, and will last a few days when stored properly. An aged red wine might hold up even longer.

Dessert wines have remarkably stable flavors, and can store for weeks in optimal conditions. Useful, as its a bit more difficult to drink an entire bottle in one evening without the help of a large group of friends.

While most connoisseurs would insist that a wine should be drunk right away (after its given the appropriate amount of time to breathe), most of us will still enjoy that bottle the next night, or the night after, and there is no sense in letting a good wine go to waste!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wine at Thanksgiving

At the first Thanksgiving, there was probably no wine. It took centuries before winemakers discovered how to grow Vinifera grapes in the New World, and Labrusca grapes had yet to be discovered growing wild. The Pilgrims grew barley as one of their first crops, but it's difficult to know if they had managed to brew their first beer in time for the feast. As the colonies became more settled, they began to ship over wine as a luxury good, but the tradition of sharing a bottle over Thanksgiving dinner is as new as the actual holiday itself.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Wines We Are The Most Thankful For

We are thankful for every new wine we get a chance to try, but there are a few that stand out:

The wines we tried in the Finger Lakes this year really stood out, both as an opportunity to see the continued evolution of a wine region, and as our first real chance to talk with the winemakers themselves and get a better idea of what they are trying to achieve.

Our journey through the world of wine is all about the adventures they encourage. There was no one glass of wine that stood out, but sitting down for a glass in Lindau to start off our trip to Europe stands out.

Sometimes something close to home is just as special. After a hard day pounding the Brooklyn streets, finding a chance to slip into a local institution like Franny's for a few glasses of wine and some excellent pizza reminds us why we chose to make our home here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thankful for Wine

There are many things in life to be thankful for, but wine gives us so much.

We are thankful for a glass of wine with dinner. There are few beverages that do so much to add to the enjoyment of a nice meal. A good glass of wine can elevate a casual dinner to something special.

We are thankful for wine at the end of a hard day. Wine is also a great way to wind down for the evening. Opening a bottle for dinner, then sharing the remainder as we relax in front of the TV is a great way to close out a hard day after work.

We are thankful for all the experiences wine brings us. Wine tours are a great excuse to visit the countryside and escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Learning about wine has been a reason to try new and interesting foods to pair with the new and interesting styles of wine. And, as we explore around home and afar, looking for the best wine bar has been the source of countless adventures.

We are thankful for those who share our wine with us. Wine is wonderful as a sharing experience. Opening a few bottles with friends over the course of an evening. Chatting with people about wine. Sharing our expanding knowledge with you readers and those who've attended our wine events. It's a way to share a common experience, and get a little bit closer.

We are thankful for those who bring us our wine. One aspect of wine that seldom gets talked about, we are thankful for the way it captures the hard work of our farmers. It's often easy to gloss over the effort that goes in getting food to our plates, but wine is a great way to show the value of the effort and skill of those who spend their days making sure we have these wonderful things to enjoy.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Quick Review: Gerard Bertrand Legend Vintages Part 2

1945 Rivesaltes
+ // Funky // Roasted Nuts, Salted Caramel, Cinnamon, Old Fruit // Honey, Cola, Caramel, Overripe Peach // Very Full
This one seemed a bit astringent.

1936 Rivesaltes
++ // Funky // Hay, Nuts // Bitter Chocolate, Caramel, Cherry // Very Full
This one seemed more "hot" than the others.

1929 Maury
++ // Funky // Hay, Brown Sugar // Bitter Cherry, Chocolate, Caramel, Grass, Cola // Very Full

The last two were our favorites. Maybe because we had been sampling such strong wines all morning, but lets assume its because there was a balanced complexity to the flavors.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What Is?... Port Wine

Port is a style of fortified wine made famous from the city of Oporto in Spain and made popular through the British. During the fermentation of a normal wine, brandy is added, killing the yeasts and stopping fermentation before all the sugars are consumed. This creates a wine with a high alcohol content with sweeter than usual flavors. Wine like this can age for a very long time in barrels, useful when the British were sending wine from Spain back home via sailing ship.

There are wide ranging styles of Port, but most commonly they can be classified at Ruby, made from deeply red colored grapes, or Tawny, made from lighter colored wines. Both wines tend to be sweet, but can pick up more complexity as they age, and given the high alcohol content they can age for a long time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Quick Review: Gerard Bertrand Legend Vintages Port Part 1

1974 Rivesaltes
++ // Sweet // Floral, Nutty // Carmel, Honey, Berries // Medium

1969 Rivesaltes
++ // Sweet // Nutmeg (subtle), Nutty, Brown Sugar // Cola, Cinnamon, Caramel, Sweet Cherry // Full

1951 Banyuls
++ // Funky // Flowers, Fruit // Bitter Flowers, Tart Cherry, Brown Sugar // Full

Monday, November 12, 2012

2012 NYC Wine & Food Festival: Gerard Bertrand Legend Vintages

The first thing that hit us when we walked into the tasting room was the smell. It was as if someone had filled the room with caramel and nuts, and the smell was so thick it felt almost solid. We darted into our seats, surrounded by glasses that looked like arcs of amber, anxiously awaiting the chance to try something truly special.

Gerard Bertrand is a cheerleader for Southern France. Despite the fact that the region, sharing the border with Spain, is the largest wine producer in France, it sees far less press and prestige than some of the country's other regions. The award winning winemaker is doing his part to showcase the unique potential of Southern France, so when a local winemaker stumbled across a lost cache of Port style wines, he jumped at the chance to distribute them as yet another way to show exactly what the region is capable of.

The region produces a rich dessert wine in the style of Port, crafted from the three styles of the Grenache grape: Noir (black), Blanc (white), and Gris (grey) Granache. The grapes are blended to achieve a desired flavor profile, and during the fermentation process alcohol is added to stop the fermentation process before the yeast consumes all the sugars, leaving a sweet, highly alcoholic wine that can stand decades of aging. Left to age in barrels and then forgotten, these wines have been aging for decades in wood, only transferred to bottles 18 months ago. To say that they were rich in flavor doesn't begin to do them justice.

Our host eschewed the usual tasting banter, the comparing of smells and flavors, to instead let us sip each wine while he regaled us with pop trivia tidbits from each vintage. As we delved into the a world of powerful smells and flavors, we were reminded of the world that each vintage grew in. The 1969 grapes were harvested the year of Woodstock and the first man on the moon. The 1945 vintage captured the end of World War II. The wine from 1929 survived through the Great Depression. Each liquid jewel captured a moment of time, from moments in history that most of us have only ever read about. It was such a treat to sample these wines, an experience that would be almost impossible to replicate anywhere. And it didn't hurt that they were amazing wines as well.

Friday, November 9, 2012

How-To: Cleanse Your Palate During a Wine Tasting

To truly compare wines in a tasting, it's important to remove the lingering flavors from the last taste. There are a handful of tricks to letting your tongue rest between tastes of wine:
  • In a tasting of a wide range of wines, try to move from lightest to heaviest.
  • Rest. Taking breaks between sips will allow your taste buds to recover a bit more.
  • Rinse your mouth with water between wines.
  • Nibble crackers, preferably unsalted.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Quick Review: Fontanafredda Barolo Vigna la Rosa Part 2

The oldest three from the Barolo tasting with Fontanafredda.

++ // Earthy // Dried Fruit, Leather // Tobacco, Leather, Sweet Cherry, Chocolate // Full
A full bodied wine, with some big flavors, but maybe reaching its peak. The flavors lacked the pop of most of the other vintages.

++ // Fruity // Barnyard, Truffle // Dried Fruit, Tart Cherry, a hing of Leather // Very Full
A huge body, but a fairly subtle taste

++ // Fruity // Earth, Tobacco, Mushroom // Cherry, Tobacco, Truffle, Chocolate, Oak // Huge!
And enormous flavor for such an old wine, but perfectly balanced between all the notes.

The older ones (on the right) went down faster...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Did you know? ... What is Barolo Wine?

Barolo is a small village in the Alba region of Italy. The village has given its name to a style of wine, which is crafted from the Nebbiolo grape. Barolo almost always tends towards big, vibrant wines, rich in tannins and acidity. Plum, flowers, liquorice, and truffle, the huge flavors easily stand up to long-term aging, and the naturally strong tannins most often need at least a few years to mellow out.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Quick Review: Fontanafredda Barolo Vigna la Rosa Part 1

Three from the Barolo tasting with Fontanafredda.

+ // Fruity // Petrol, Fruit // Cherry, Tobacco, Oak // Medium
A little astringent, heavy on the oak. Maybe could use a bit more aging.

++ // Fruity, Earthy // Grass, Cherry // Cherry, Earth, Tannins, Chocolate // Medium-Full

++ // Earthy // Truffle, Mushroom, Toast, Hay // Cherry, Mushroom, Leather, Liquorice // Full
Compared to the younger two wines, this was starting to reach its maturity. The flavors were starting to balance out.