Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays to all of our readers! We're off celebrating, but we will be back with more stories to tell and discoveries to share on January 6th. Enjoy your New Year celebrations!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Quick Review: Domane Wachau Loibenberg Riesling 2011

Austria, Wachau, Domane Wachau Loibenberg Riesling 2011
+ // Smooth, Crisp // Apple, Stone, Vanilla, Petrol // Petrol, Grapefruit, Pineapple, Honeysuckle // Med

Monday, December 23, 2013

Saving a Bottle for a Special Day

Most of the time, the only reason a bottle of wine stays on our rack for any length of time is because we have a case of it in our pantry to deplete first. Every once in a while, though, it's worth setting aside a bottle for a special occasion. Maybe its a bottle to commemorate a special event, or a great wine you discovered that you want to enjoy down the road.

We have a tradition around celebrating our anniversary: we set aside a bottle at anniversary time to open the following year. It helps remind of us of where we have been in our journey together over the last year. This year, we opened a bottle we picked up on our trip to Austria, a reminder of what might be our last big trip abroad of a while. Of course, a special bottle requires a special meal, so we decided to relive our dinners in Germany and Austria with a big plate of meat and potatoes, with a few tweaks to suit us.

The wine was as crisp as we expected from a cool climate white wine, with a hint of petrol and vanilla to give it a bit of a smoother, creamier mouth feel. With cream of broccoli and cauliflower soup, the wine was a bit too vibrant, and overwhelmed the light earthiness of the veggies. The soup was accompanied by potato dumplings spiced with jalapeno, which is always a good pairing with crisp Riesling. And of course, the meal needed some pork: chops with a lemon scallion relish needed a crisp wine to cut through the rich fattiness, and the citrus flavors matched the relish. There is something to be said for matching a wine with its native cuisine.

Is it vital to set aside bottles of wine? Most of the time, no. Most wine is made to be drunk right away. But, sometimes, you might save something to help mark a special occasion. Sometimes, you might find an amazing wine that you want to share with friends down the road. And, sometimes, you find a wine that you think deserves to be aged. The wait is worth it every time.

Friday, December 20, 2013

How Long Can You Keep an Open Bottle of Wine?

With guests coming and going, you may wonder how long you can keep that bottle of wine you opened but didn't finish. There are no hard and fast rules, but the general guidelines fall on a spectrum:

You milage may vary, depending on the wines and how sensitive you are to the taste of bottle, but it never hurts to keep the bottle. Worst case scenario, you pour it out tomorrow and open a new one.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Quick Review: Finger Lakes Tasting -Part 2

US, NY, Finger Lakes, Thirsty Owl Cabernet Sauvignon Ice Wine 2012
++ // Sweet // Nutty, Cherry, Berry // Raspberry, Cream // Full

Raspberry Ice Cream in a glass. The result of a happy accident, as the winemaker tried to make the best of a nvintage.

US, NY, Finger Lakes, Standing Stone Vidal Ice 2011
+ // Sweet // Cardamon, Almond // Honey and Blue Cheese, Peach, Hint of that Noble Rot funk // Full

US, NY, Finger Lakes, Wagner Vineyards Riesling Ice 2012
++ // Crisp/Sweet // Delicate, Old Flowers, Cloves // Perfect summer peach, Hint of Forrest Floor, Petrol, Salted Peanuts // Full

Balanced flavor, between sweet and crisp.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It's Time to Buy Some Bubbly!

With the holidays ahead of us, its time to stock up on your favorite sparkling wines. While it's reasonable to grab a bottle from your favorite French Champagne house, it's useful to remember that there are other great regions for sparkling wine. The bonus: you can get a great bubbly for a whole lot less. We tried a few wonderful ones from the Finger Lakes, and just learned that one of our favorite Finger Lakes producers, Heart & Hands, just released their newest Blanc de Noirs for the season. So find yourself a great bottle, and celebrate!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Quick Review: Finger Lakes Tasting -Part 1

US, NY, Finger Lakes, Goose Watch Winery, Brut Rose
+ // Crisp // Candied Red apple, Cherries, Bread // Bread, Macoun Apples // Medium

A good starting wine, gets the taste buds flowing. Red fruit and fall flavors makes for a good cool weather wine. Made from Pinot Noir. The $18 price point makes this an exceptional deal for a sparkling wine.

US, NY, Finger Lakes, Glenora Wine Cellars, Brut 2003
++ // Smooth // Apricot, Peach // Nectarine // Medium-Full

Creamy with delicate bubbles. Maybe a hint of bitterness from the stems. The price point ($25) is slightly higher but another exceptional deal.

US, NY, Finger Lakes, Fox Run Vineyards Hedonia
+ // Sweet // Lemon // Lemon meringue, a hint of bitterness // Full

A big, grapey wine, but a undercurrent of other balancing flavors. The winery recommends you serve it like a fine whiskey - on the rocks. To be even more festive, add a slice of orange, lemon, or other citrus. This is a fortified wine made from the Traminette grape and comes in at 20% ABV. The price point is a surprise: $9.99 for a quality wine.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday Wines: Sparkling and Dessert

With the holidays upon us, it's useful to have a stockpile of simple, accessible wines around the house for the wide range of tastes your visitors might have. A few bottles of Merlot for the red wine drinkers, a few bottles of Chardonnay for the white, and you are set for most everyone who might swing by. But what about those extra special guests? You might be able to get away with just a few glasses of this sort of "table wine" for that uncle you only see once a year, but what about the special friends joining you for your annual New Years celebration? These special times with friends and family can call for special wines.

We recently tasted a few such wines out of the Finger Lakes. Everyone thinks of "Champagne" for New Years and other big days, but it is useful to remember that other wine regions produce some great--and, better yet, more affordable--sparkling wines. While they can't use the "Champagne" name, many New World producers are making sparkling wines in the "Methode Champenoise" and creating some wonderfully complex and balanced wines. And with the new found success of Pinot Noir in the Finger Lakes, they are creating versions very true to they French style.

This year, considering branching out and trying other types of dessert wines. Dessert wines are great sip and savor with your special guests. Ice Wine is one such example. New York is known for its Ice Rieslings, but the region is experimenting with other dessert wines as well. The Vidal Blanc grape is well-suited to the cold weather in the Finger Lakes and creates bright, fruity Ice Wines. Even grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon are being turned into Ice Wine. These are great holiday wines, as a bottle can be opened to share and will keep in the fridge for the next visitors: these big, rich flavors last much longer than other wines, and an open bottle can keep for days if stored properly. That is, if you manage to have any of it left once you start sipping.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Did You Know?... About "Floral" Wines

Sometimes, you will hear a wine discussed as "Floral". This means what you think it means. It is used to describe wines that have a scent of flowers, often like a lady's perfume. This can sometimes translate into the flavor of the wine. Probably not the best wine to pair with a red meat dish, but they can make for refreshing sipping wines or accompany dishes with a citrus element.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Quick Review: Castello di Amorosa Gewurztraminer 2012

US, CA, Napa Valley, Castello di Amorosa Gewurztraminer 2012
+ // Crisp // Floral, Lychee, Orange // Apricot, Grapefruit, Lavender, Rose // Light

Bright and floral with Thai food. Brings a lot of similar flavors

Monday, December 9, 2013

Comparing Vintages from Castello di Amorosa

Being fairly new to the world of wine, we are still working on learning about different vintages of wine--meaning, the year the grapes were harvested. While a basic knowledge of regions and varietals provides a baseline to understand a particular wine, knowing the differences in vintages gives you an even better understanding--even if it requires a very specific knowledge base. You need to know the details of the weather in the wine region for the year in question, as well as what that means for the wines.

While we get a chance to sample Finger Lakes wines year over year (they tell us 2007 was a great year, as was 2009, and one year we traveled through and all the new Rieslings had a hint of peach in them), we don't often get to compare different vintages of the same wine from other regions. So when we get the chance, we jump on it.

We recently sampled the newest release of Gewurztraminer from Castello di Amorosa. We looked back at our notes because we knew we had tried an earlier vintage, as well. In both cases, the characteristics of Gewurztraminer shone through: bright, aromatic, crisp and floral. In the newest vintage, it seemed like there were more tropical flavors, with hints of lychee on the nose that we didn't notice last year. Why? We don't know. The vintage has an effect on the wine, we know that much, as sun and rain inform how the grapes ripen. But there are so many variables, and its difficult to follow the weather patterns from year to year.

Of course, comparing two vintages is imprecise unless you have the training and experience required. After all, this is the stuff that actual sommeliers do for a living. We can look back, however, see what our thoughts were at the time, but we can never directly compare two vintages because even in a vertical tasting, you have to account for the aging process that changes wines a little each day as they sit waiting to be enjoyed. Yet, knowing that a particular year was a "good year" in a region can help you direct your wine choices in the meantime. How do you find that out? You ask. Good luck!

Friday, December 6, 2013

What Do We Mean By a "Tight" Wine?

"Tight" isn't usually used as compliment for a wine. Like most wine terms, it doesn't have a perfectly defined meaning, but generally it indicates that a wine doesn't "reveal" itself easily. There many not be much on the nose, or maybe there are a range of smells, but they all assault your nose at the same time.
The other end is an "expressive" wine. These wines "open up" and invite the nose, revealing all their details. Often, an aged red wine will start off a bit tight, and open up as it is given a chance to breathe. An expressive wine is preferred because we sense wine with our nose almost as much as with our tastebuds, so a tight wine limits our experience of the wine.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Quick Review: Imagery Lagrein 2007

US, California, Paso Robles, Imagery Estate Winery, Lagrein, 2007
+ // Earthy // Leather, petrol, spice, green pepper, cherry // Petrol, cherry, hay, strawberry // Medium

With this level of petrol, we wondered if the wine had sat too long on the rack. Still a delicious favor, but overwhelming petrol notes.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Did You Know?... About the Alto Adige Region of Italy

Alto Adige is a region in northern Italy in the Alps, on the border with Germany and Switzerland. The wines of the region have as much in common with German wines as Italian, stretching from the warm Mediterranean to the cool foothills of the Alps. The Gewurztraminer grape is originally from the village of Tramin in Alto Adige.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Quick Review: Elena Walch Lagrein 2011

Italy, Alto Adige, Elena Walch Lagrein 2011
+ // Spicy // Raspberry, Cedar, // Blueberry jam, Cedar // Medium

Monday, December 2, 2013

Wine and Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving dinner leaves most of us with a lot of leftovers. Turkey, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole--but seldom any wine. The wine you carefully selected to accompany your holiday meal is long gone before you have grown weary of your food. So in the days following, it's a struggle to find ways to repurpose those leftovers. Just because you're re-purposing doesn't mean you shouldn't find a good bottle of wine to go along with them.

For us, we decided to re-purpose some of our leftovers in a soup: turkey, pumpkin, and turnips, with a bit of cheddar cheese and sage. It was served up in a freshly baked bread bowl flavored with coffee, molasses, star anise, and orange rind. Big, crazy flavors, thankfully far removed from yet another day of leftover Thanksgiving flavors. Definitely not suited to a delicate, fruity red wine. Instead, we looked for something with some big fruit flavors, hopefully with some spices of its own.

Of course, right now our wine rack is full of Italian wines, in an attempt to learn a bit about some unfamiliar wines, so it was a tough choice. We picked a bottle of Lagrein from the Alto Adage region because we've had a few glasses of Lagrein before and thought it might give us what we wanted. In this case, it didn't work out as well as we had hoped. The wine had the flavors we were looking for, but since we didn't know enough about the wine, we didn't give it time to breathe, and it was a bit too "tight" on its flavors. There were hints there of what we wanted, but the wine wasn't "big" enough to let us really get all of the flavors when compared to the exuberant flavors of the dinner.