Friday, September 28, 2012

How-To: Pair Wine with Apple Pie

Fall is here. It's time to enjoy the fruits of the harvest. And while we wait for the wine to ferment through the winter months, we may as well enjoy the rest of the harvest.

We don't often consider what wine to pair with a dessert, but it can be worth keeping in mind, when you open a bottle for dinner. There are a range of options available if you are thinking about a glass of wine with a slice of apple pie.

A rich dessert wine with sweet fruit or caramel flavors, like a Sauternes or a Tawny Port, is an obvious choice. 

For a wine to complement both dinner and dessert, a semi-sweet Riesling, with its own apple flavors might match the pie. Or a Chardonnay that offers warm cinnamon and vanilla flavors that complement the spices in the pie can be a good pairing as well. 

Don't be afraid to ask for recommendations from your local wine seller.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Did You Know?... About the Riesling Tasting Scale

There is a perception out there among some people that all Rieslings are sweet. While the grape can make a sweet wine, it can also make an aggressively dry wine, and everything in between. To that end, the International Riesling Foundation developed a sliding scale that can be placed on the label, to help the consumer understand where a unique wine falls on the spectrum. It won't be found on all Rieslings, but is becoming more popular, to help consumers better understand what they are buying.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Quick Review: Thirsty Owl Dry Riesling 2011

US, NY, Finger Lakes, Thirsty Owl Wine Company, Dry Riesling 2011
+ // Crisp // Vanilla, Mineral, Petrol // Sweet Lemon, Granny Smith Apples, Petrol // Light

Monday, September 24, 2012

Whiskey Flights at Cornelius

With our focus on wine, its not often that we get a chance to try other sorts of alcoholic drinks. We enjoy the occasional cocktail or beer. But with a college buddy in town, Tina stayed home while we went out to try something I've had my eye on for a while--whiskey flights at Cornelius.

At Cornelius, the back bar is stocked with a wide range of whiskeys. A chalkboard calls out the availability of flights; a trio of one ounce pours of single malt, Irish, or bourbon, selected by the bartender. We had a lot of catching up to do, so we ordered a flight of single malt, then a flight of bourbon as we sat and chatted for a few hours. It was a good way to enjoy some whiskey over a long night. When just hanging out, it always seems like a couple of fingers of scotch goes down easily, and can end up making for an expensive evening, an often a rough morning the next day. Sipping from the flights was a little more casual, and let us add in a discussion on what we thought of each drink, in addition to our more serious topics.

I'm fond of whiskey in all its various forms, but I've never taken the opportunity to compare different styles like this. Usually I purchase a bottle at a time, or order a glass of something I am already familiar with for a digestif. With the flights at Cornelius, I had a chance to get a more direct comparison, and get a better idea of the similarities within a style of whiskey, and of the difference between Scotch and Bourbon. Three tastings is not a very in-depth study, but from what we enjoyed that night, I'd say that the Single Malts were peaty, smoky, and aggressive on the alcohol, while the Bourbons were sweeter and woodier.

Now I just need to wait for my buddy to visit again, so we can do more research.

Friday, September 21, 2012

How-To: Talk About Wine

Wine reviewers, sommeliers, shop-owners...we all tend to use the same sort of language when talking about wine. We've talked about this before when discussing our rating system, but it's important to keep in mind what some of these common descriptors mean, to better understand what other people think about wine (if that's important to you) and also allow you to better describe what you are looking for.

Crisp: High in acid, these wines often taste of citrus.
Sweet: High in sugar, these can wines can have a wide range of flavors, from sweet fruits, to honey, to flowers. This is pretty easy to detect.

Fruity: When the pure flavor of fruit outweighs everything else, this is a common descriptor used. The full range of fruit flavors apply here, from berry to tree fruit to citrus. Can often be confused with "Sweet" but there is a distinct difference.

Earthy: "Dark" smells and flavors are represented here; flavors and smells like dirt, forest floor, and stone.
Herbal: Savory flavors, like fresh herbs or grass.
Spicy: Usually from high levels of tannins from time spent in wood or natural tendencies of the varietal; flavors of black pepper, or other spices.
Full Bodied: An overall descriptor, to express a wine with big, powerful flavors.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Quick Review: Hosmer Riesling 2011

US, NY, Finger Lakes, Hosmer Winery, Riesling 2011
++ // Sweet // Old Flowers, Sweat // Honey, Clover, Earth // Medium

A big, full flavor, full of fresh sweetness. Simple sweet notes were balanced with a bit of funk, making an interesting complex wine.

Check out our review of the 2008 vintage for a comparison of how different years change the final product.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Did You Know?... About the 2011 Finger Lakes Vintage

According to the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance "Vintage 2011 has yielded very pleasant wines for current consumption; with particular strength in Riesling and other aromatic whites including Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. Wines exhibit Finger Lakes balance with lower than average acids being compensated by lower pH thus retaining the impression of crispness."

In comparison to 2010 (an ideal growing year in the Finger Lakes), 2011 seems to have been a bit complicated. A cool, moist spring developed large yields, while a dry summer forced a reliance on other means of getting the vines their needed water. A rainy fall left growers worried about rot, but those that waited it out were rewarded with a warm, dry harvest.

The vintage seems to have given growers the opportunity to continue the trend towards more balanced, expressive wines, neither too simple and sweet or too aggressively dry.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Quick Review: Lamoreaux Landing Dry Riesling 2011

US, NY, Finger Lakes, Lamoreaux Landing, Dry Riesling 2011
++ // Crisp // Lemon // Peach, Slate // Light

Quick Review: Anthony Road Dry Riesling 2011

US, NY, Finger Lakes, Anthony Road Wine Company, Dry Riesling 2011
++ // Crisp // Mineral, Floral // Apricot, Grapefruit // Medium

A deep, full flavor that lingers on the tongue. Very rare for such a crisp, dry wine, this vintage is up to being cellared, letting the flavors mellow to a fruitier edge.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A New Vintage of Riesling

It's harvest time. And that means it's also time to see new releases from last year's vintage. The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance is sponsoring a month of events to celebrate the release of the 2011 Rieslings from the Finger Lakes region in upstate NY. Among the special events was a virtual tasting; wine was distributed to media folk, and an evening of tasting was hosted, via Twitter. And given our proclivity for Finger Lakes Riesling, we jumped at the chance to participate.

With six wines to taste, and dozens of participants, it was a hectic Wednesday night on the #winechat channel in Twitter. We tasted through the wines, sharing out thoughts on each wine, and the vintage in general. We also chatted about the Finger Lakes region, those of who knew more about it sharing thoughts with people who were less familiar, even a few who had never really enjoyed a Finger Lakes Riesling before.

Comments on the wines ranged from the simple, like "Yummy", "Beautiful", and "Clean citrus" to thoughts on pairings, to some insightful tidbits about the subtle scents and flavors. Others compared the wines to previous vintages. Others wanted to discuss the wines in comparison to other regions. With each wine, we took about 10 minutes to taste, and then shared our thoughts. For me, there was a lot of conversation to follow, while I was tasting each wine, taking notes, and deciding what I wanted to add to the conversation.

It was interesting to share the experience with a crowd of experienced wine professionals. We've shared tastings with quite a few groups of people, but never with a crowd that was so willing to share their thoughts. And it reminded us that even among those who are experienced with wine, there is no such thing as a correct answer when tasting a wine, as people's interpretation of the flavors can vary significantly. But one thing we could all agree on was that the evening's wines were a great showing, and displayed the great things that are coming out of the Finger Lakes these days.

To read the entire winechat, follow this link:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Finger Lakes Paradox

Tina's had another article published on, related to New York State's Finger Lakes wines and their struggle to gain traction with consumers across the state. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Quick Review: Fox Run Lemberger

US, Fingers Lakes, Fox Run Vineyards, Lemberger, 2009
+ // Spicy // Tobacco // Cherry, Jalapeno, White pepper, Tobacco // Mediu

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Did You Know?... About Lemberger

Lemberger, also known as Blaufrankish, is a red grape, common in Germany and Austria. Given the cool climate it grows in, it is a late ripening grape, making light bodied red wines. The dark skins bring medium tanins that add spice to otherwise fruity wines, rich in dark fruit flavors.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Quick Review: Shooting Star Blue Franc

US, WA, Shooting Star, Blue Franc 2008 (bottled in CA, with Washington Blaufrankisch)
+ // Spicy // Leather, Earth, Petrol // Blackberry, Spice // Medium

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bison and Blue Franc

Summer comes to an end, and its time to start thinking about heartier reds, and the dinners that go along with them. When the weather is still nice enough to grill, steak is a great option. 

Bison steak, with some stewed summer vegetables, paired with a Blue Franc from Shooting Star. A lean cut of meat, with deep earthy flavors; we chose a Blaufrankisch to provide some spiciness, though the lighter red wine was a bit over-powered by the meat. Eggplant stewed in fresh tomatoes created a sweet vegetable dish, complemented by the sweet fruit flavors of the wine.

In all, this worked well. We chose a fresher, lighter wine to complement the fresh, sweet vegetables, with a spicy notes to complement to meat. Finding that perfect balance for a red wine to work with a hearty steak and light vegetables is a balancing act, but the right selection can bring out the best flavors of both.

Friday, September 7, 2012

How-To: Do a Comparative Wine Tasting

To learn more about wine, it can be useful to do a tasting of similar wines to compare and contrast.
  • A vertical tasting compares the same type of wine from a single producer from different vintages.
  • A horizontal tasting compares similar wines of the same type and vintage from different producers.
  • A comparative tasting is similar to a horizontal, comparing wines with one similar element: varietal, region, vintage, etc.

Comparing similar wines like this helps isolate the smaller differences. A trio of Rieslings, made by the same producer, in the same year, from different vineyards will end up with similarities in the flavors and aromas, but can help the taste buds recognize the subtle differences when directly compared. Generally, the wines are compared in stages: appearance, aroma, then flavor. As the wines are usually of a similar style and flavor profile, there is less concern over tasting order, as there is less chance of any one wine overpowering the flavor of the others.

During a comparative tasting, it is recommended to spit the wine. While the buzz from sipping from several glasses can be fun, it tends to dull the senses, and limit the ability to truly judge the differences.

In glassware, consistency is important. Connoisseurs say that the different shapes of glasses effect the aroma and impact of the flavors, so to compare the wines evenly its important to serve them from identical glasses. It is not recommended to do several tastings from the same glass if you can avoid it: the residue from the previous wine can influence the flavors of the current one, and a rinse will leave some water that will slightly dilute the wine.

Comparative tastings are common in the professional wine world, especially for judging wines in competition. In this case, the wines are often tasted blind; the label of the wine concealed when poured and tasted to avoid influencing the judges.

There is no defined number of wines for these types of tastings. Sometimes professionals will taste over 100 wines in one event. But, most of us will be overwhelmed by more than half a dozen tastes, and over a dozen makes it more of a chore than an enjoyable experience, in our opinion.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Quick Reviews: Castello di Amorosa Late Harvest Gewurztraminer

We tried a trio of Gewurztraminer from Castello di Amorosa with some friends.
Comparing our notes, it was interesting to see what we each found different about a trio of similar wines.

US, CA, Napa Valley, Castello di Amorosa Late Harvest Gewurztraminer 2011
R: + // Sweet // Ripe Peach // Honey // Full
S: + // Funky // Gym Socks, Cinnamon // Citrus, Funk // Full
T: + // Sweet // Apricot, Caramel // Peach, Honey // Full
N: + // Funky // Honey, Nut, Funk // Peach, Honey // Full

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Quick Reviews: Castello di Amorosa Gewurztraminer

We tried a trio of Gewurztraminer from Castello di Amorosa with some friends.
Comparing our notes, it was interesting to see what we each found different about a trio of similar wines.

US, CA, Napa Valley, Castello di Amorosa Gewurztraminer 2011
R: ++ // Fruity // Rose // Green Apple, Apricot // Light
S: ++ // Fruity // Honey, Lemon // Pear // Light
T: + // Fruity // Rose // Orange Peel, Apricot // Light
N: + // Crisp // Lavender // Grapefruit // Light

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Quick Review: Castello di Amorosa Dolcino

We tried a trio of Gewurztraminer from Castello di Amorosa with some friends.
Comparing our notes, it was interesting to see what we each found different about a trio of similar wines.

US, CA, Napa Valley, Castello di Amorosa, Dolcino, 2011
R: + // Sweet // Ripe Berry // Peach // Light
S: + // Sweet // Sugar // Citrus // Light
T: + // Sweet // Peach // Honey // Light
N: + // Fruity // Rose // Ripe Berry, Apple Pie // Light

Monday, September 3, 2012

Gewurztraminer with Friends

With the right group, a good bottle of wine is a great thing to share with friends. With the recent addition of three similar wines to our rack, we had an opportunity for an interesting horizontal tasting, with far too much wine for just Tina and myself, so we invited a couple of friends over to share, and see what they thought.