Friday, July 22, 2016

Wine For "Play Misty For Me"

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Italian Wine: Kerner Grape

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Garnacha: Spanish Grenache

A recent "Twitter Tasting" brought wine lovers together for the sake of Garnacha. That’s what the Grenache grape is called in Spain, and I’m always up for some Spanish wine. I was invited to play along and was provided with samples for that purpose. This is one of the great Garnachas that were sampled.

Pdm Moncayo 2013

Located in the Aragon region of Spain, Campo de Borja, in the foothills of the Sierra del Moncayo, Pagos del Moncayo relies upon traditional techniques in winemaking. The grapes - from their estate vineyards - are crushed by foot, then subjected to a more modern crush after vinification has begun.

The '13 PdM Garnacha is a 100% varietal wine, aged for ten months in American oak barrels. Alcohol comes in at 14.5% abv and the retail price is $26.

This Garnacha is brawny and very dark in the glass, with a nose exhibiting blackberry, blueberry and spice galore - allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg are predominant. The palate is fruit forward, with dark berries, sage, thyme, and tons of savory spice showing. Great tannins and a super acidity lend to food pairing.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Garnacha: Spanish Grenache

A recent "Twitter Tasting" brought wine lovers together for the sake of Garnacha. That’s what the Grenache grape is called in Spain, and I’m always up for some Spanish wine. I was invited to play along and was provided with samples for that purpose. We are presently examining some of the great Garnachas that were sampled.

Garnacha Centenaria Coto de Hayas 2013 $15.99

This is Campo de Borja wine made from 100% Garnacha grapes taken from 100-year-old vines. The wine experienced just four months in French oak, and hits 14% abv on the alcohol scale.

The nose on this wine is subtle, but expressive. Dark berries and oak spice sum it up, but to leave it at that doesn't do it justice. The fruit points toward savory while the spice shows a sweet side. Vanilla, soft and gentle, mix with the sort of cinnamon you put in oatmeal. The cigar box is the one you kept lemon drops in as a kid.

On the palate we find that everything is all grown up. It's a lovely and elegant sip, a grape effortlessly shirking off the criticism that it isn't pretty enough. But even though it's pretty, it can still fight dirty. Don't expect it to punch you in the nose, but don't let your guard down, either.


Friday, July 15, 2016

Garnacha: Spanish Grenache

A recent "Twitter Tasting" brought wine lovers together for the sake of Garnacha. That’s what the Grenache grape is called in Spain, and I’m always up for some Spanish wine. I was invited to play along and was provided with samples for that purpose. Over the next week we will examine some of the great Garnachas that were sampled.

Pirineos Seleccion 2013

From the Somontano area of Aragon, the land flows from the foothills of the Pyrenees into the Ebro Valley in Spain's extreme northeastern corner.

This wine is extremely full of minerals and loaded with an oaky essence that, while a bit heavy-handed, plays right into the rustic sensibility that I love in a wine.  The oak blasts through with tobacco, clove, cinnamon, allspice and a wisp of vanilla. It’s a big, dirty red - it smells of the dirt and rocks and it tastes of it ,too. Beef, please. It has an easy-to-swing $15 retail price tag.


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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Santa Barbara Wine On An L.A. Wine List

When I see a Santa Barbara wine that I am not familiar with on the menu, I'm sold. Tatomer is a label I had not seen before, but it was the Summer of Riesling inside Kali. I tried. I liked.

I had the Tatomer Vandenberg Riesling 2013 at Kali in Los Angeles, where sommelier Drew Langley watches over an immaculately curated wine list. Does "Summer of Riesling" do it for you? It does for me, especially when they are such good examples. My wife had a German Kabinett, but I had this Vandenberg example from Santa Barbara County. They listed it as "dry and medium bodied," which is good advice for a Riesling. This one, though, has a nice touch of petrol - I mean, why order Riesling unless it has that? - along with some surprisingly extreme minerality and a muted citrus note. I paired it with the Niçoise salad to great effect. It was also a hit with the wife's roast pork, Pennsylvania native that she is.

Winemaker Graham Tatomer got one taste of Austrian Riesling and signed on to work there, anywhere. He brought his obsession with Riesling - bone dry Riesling - to Santa Barbara County. He says,  "The sites that excite me have been the coldest ones, lending to wines of lighter weight, nuanced flavors, and bracing acidity. Riesling is the ultimate grape to pursue these characteristics. No other grape conveys its region's character and varietal flavor with the power, focus, and beauty the way Riesling does." Amen, Graham. 

His Vandenberg Riesling - so named for the nearby Air Force base - comes primarily from the Kick-On Ranch, and the grapes are selected for their infection with botrytis, the rot that makes grapes a bit sweeter. I did not notice any unusual sweetness at all in this wine, but that’s okay. 



Monday, July 11, 2016

Petite Sirah: Dark Mendocino Nights

Edmeades is a Mendocino County mainstay since the sixties, with grapes grown in the region's rugged coastal mountains. The Jackson Family bought the acreage in 1988 and brought current winemaker Ben Salazar into the fold in 2012.

Edmeades Petite Sirah 2013

They say on the website that this wine is as "dark as a moonless night."  It is, in fact, a deep indigo with dark purple showing around the edge of the glass. The winery folks explain that the wine is made only when the grapes are right, in select vintages. 2013 was, apparently, such a year.

This dark wine smells delicious, with dark fruit challenged by oak spice, cedar and vanilla being the most prominent. The nose is complex, with notes of licorice, cigar box, cinnamon and blackberry coming forth. Tobacco and a chocolaty mocha abet those flavors on the palate. It’s 93% Petite Sirah and 7% Zinfandel, with mostly neutral oak use in the aging. Alcohol hits 14.5% abv and only 250 cases were made. It retails for $35.


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Friday, July 8, 2016

Garnacha: Spanish Grenache

The Twitterverse is full of virtual wine tasting events that are out there for your enjoyment, as well as your edification. Wineries stage them to promote their new releases and wine regions sponsor them to elevate their name recognition. Sometimes, it’s all about a grape.

The recent “Twitter Tasting” put on through Sopexa brought wine lovers together for the sake of Garnacha. That’s what the Grenache grape is called in Spain, and I’m always up for some Spanish wine. I was invited to play along and was provided with samples for that purpose. Over the next couple of weeks we will examine some of the great Garnachas that were sampled.

Beso de Vino Old Vine Garnacha

From Aragon's Cariñena region, these old vines grown rocky soil. So rocky is it, and the minerality so pronounced, they call it the wine of the rocks. It clocks a 13.5% abv and sells for about ten bucks.
Bottle poetry features a silly snippet about a bull that kissed the wine and now runs around the world telling everyone how great it is. Hey, they should have thought of that in the Toro region.

There is a very pronounced earthy streak running through this one. The cherry aromas and flavors are there, for sure, but they are struggling to burst through a heavy layer of earthy sediment. I think of it as "dirty cherry." The rustic nature actually makes me think of rusty, as in a piece of metal covered in iron oxide.The structure is a little weak, but that makes it very sippable. The minerals will go nicely with a piece of lean beef or pork.


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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Garnacha: Spanish Grenache

The Twitterverse is full of virtual wine tasting events that are out there for your enjoyment, as well as your edification. Wineries stage them to promote their new releases and wine regions sponsor them to elevate their name recognition. Sometimes, it’s all about a grape.

The recent “Twitter Tasting” put on through Sopexa brought wine lovers together for the sake of Garnacha. That’s what the Grenache grape is called in Spain, and I’m always up for some Spanish wine. I was invited to play along and was provided with samples for that purpose. Over the next couple of weeks we will examine some of the great Garnachas that were sampled.

Paniza Garnacha Rosé

Bodegas Paniza is named after their town in the Aragon region of the Cariñena D.O.P. of northwestern Spain.  The limestone-based soil is sun-drenched, with a wide swing between daytime and nighttime temperatures. The late-ripening Garnacha grape is perfect for a terroir such as this. A portion of their vines are over 50 years old, some dating back to 1906.

The Panzia Garnacha Rosé is 100% Garnacha, vinified to 13% abv. It comes in a pretty pink sleeve which, unfortunately, obscures the pretty pink wine inside the bottle.  It’s a light shade of pink, between Provence and rosado.

The wine's nose comes on just like a wonderful rosé, with baskets of fresh strawberries still on the stems. There’s a fairly strong cherry note as well. In the mouth, I couldn’t really tell it was pink - it was so full and weighty it could easily have been a red. The palate offers beautiful red fruit and a laid-back acidity. It will be perfect on the porch this summer, and it will pair well with salmon or grilled pork chops.


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Monday, July 4, 2016

Uruguayan Wine: Sauvignon Blanc

Uruguay is notched between Argentina and Brazil, with the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires to the southwest, right across the wide mouth of Rio de La Plata. Uruguay’s latitude puts them right in line with other wine growing areas as portions of Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Wine grapes are grown over most of the nation, with Tannat serving as Uruguay’s calling card. The Tannat grape hails from South West France, the Madiran region specifically, where it produces a wild and tannic wine. The juice there is so harsh that the French are said to have invented micro-oxygenation to try and tame it. The Tannat grapes of Uruguay, while still notably tannic, are much milder and user-friendly. They also grow Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, and white grapes like Chardonnay, Semillon and Riesling.

Bodega Garzón is in the Maldonado area, in Punta del Este on Uruguay’s southernmost tip, just 18 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The vineyards are on thin and rocky soil which drains well and is rich in minerals.Their sustainable, hilltop winery makes nearly half its energy needs through wind and sun..

The Garzón Sauvignon Blanc 2015 carries a lively acidity at only 12.5% abv, perfect for summer sipping. The pale straw-colored wine offers a zippy and citrus-laden nose, with tons of wet-rock minerality. There is a grassy element, but not a pungent one like that found in New Zealand. It’s more of a South African-style minerality that comes across. The palate is as fresh as can be, with a fruity tartness and a suggestion of sweetness. It's a great match with a seafood salad. Crab or Shrimp Louie hits it just right, as do peel and eat. 


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Uruguayan Wine: Garzon Albariño

I have had the pleasure of tasting only  a few wines from Uruguay, but they have been memorable. The South American country is notched between Argentina and Brazil, with the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires to the southwest, right across the wide mouth of Rio de La Plata. Uruguay’s latitude puts them right in line with other wine growing areas like portions of Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Wine grapes are grown over most of the nation, with Tannat serving as Uruguay’s calling card. The Tannat grape hails from South West France, the Madiran region specifically, where it produces a wild and tannic wine. The juice there is so harsh that the French are said to have invented micro-oxygenation to try and tame it. The Tannat grapes of Uruguay, while still notably tannic, are much milder and user-friendly. They also grow Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, and white grapes like Chardonnay, Semillon and Riesling.

Bodega Garzon is in the Maldonado area, in Punta del Este on Uruguay’s southernmost tip, just 18 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The vineyards are on thin and rocky soil which drains well and is rich in minerals.Their sustainable, hilltop winery makes nearly half its energy needs through wind and sun..

The Garzón Albariño 2015 is a 100% varietal wine that hits a ripe 14.5% abv on the alcohol scale. It was aged for six months in stainless steel, in contact with the spent yeast cells to give a full mouthfeel.  Winemaker German Bruzzone works alongside enologist Alberto Antonini and viticulturist Eduardo Felix to fashion this invigorating white wine.

The wine offers a light, golden hue and the aromas we want with the Albarino grape. The honeysuckle is right up front, followed closely by pineapple and tangerine. An earthy note shows on the palate, a minerality that goes far beyond citrus zest.  There’s a bright acidity that will support a Cobb salad or chicken breast just as well as it does a handful of walnuts


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Monday, June 27, 2016

Sangria: Wine Concentrates From Colorado

Decadent Saint describes themselves as "Colorado’s Craft Winery," and they claim to be pioneering the American craft wine market with a revolution in a bottle. Small batch produced, their 20.5% abv wine concentrates can be diluted to make up to five bottles of a wine and fruit juice mix. Retail is about $20 each, so you’re making sangria for $4 a bottle. The concentrates are made with wine, real fruit and fresh spices, and contain no flavorings. They say they stay fresh for six months after opening without refrigeration.

Enologist and owner Michael Hasler says, "nothing on the shelves compares with them for taste, value or utility."

Decadent Saint was formerly What We Love, The Winery.  The concentrates come in three flavors: White Sangria, Fire or Ice Sangria and Mountain Rescue. based on a homemade recipe that Hasler created while he owned a ski lodge in New Zealand.

Decadent Saint White Sangria

This one features "White Wine, Real Fruit, Fresh Spice," as the label says. ."Tastes like freshly blended tropical fruits!" That’s truth in advertising, right there. They promise aromatics of mango, passion fruit, peach, guava, grapefruit and spice, and it's all true. Just add water, although I liked it better with seltzer. Prosecco makes a nice mix, too. The bottle of concentrate makes three to five bottles of white sangria.

It’s really viscous right from the bottle, more so than orange juice, but about the same color. The aroma, undiluted, is like a concentrated orange/tangerine/pineapple juice blend. It tastes like OJ, as well. I did a one-to-one mix with seltzer water and found it was still fairly thick and very much like a mimosa, with a little alcohol at the back end. So, they really do mean it when they say to dilute three to five times.

Decadent Saint Fire Or Ice Sangria

As the name suggests, you can drink it hot or cold, like a sangria or a mulled wine, depending on which holiday you’re celebrating.

Decadent Saint Rocky Mountain Rescue

This concentrate includes red wine, dark chocolate, decaf coffee, berries and spice. Again, there’s no stipulation on temperature. Drink it hot or cold, they say. The Rocky Mountain Rescue leads off with a dark chocolate raspberry note, smoothly transitioning to a rich mocha before giving way to the full spice cacophony.

While sangria is nearly always a limited color in my wine palette, I can say these concentrates make some decidedly good ones.  I found that I liked them best with one-to-one or two-to-one dilution, but at that point they are still very viscous and concentrated. Follow the recipe and you'll have enough refreshing sangrias to get through a good part of the summer.


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Friday, June 24, 2016

Two Great Washington State Red Wines

There may not be another American Viticultural Area named so poetically as the Horse Heaven HIlls AVA in eastern Washington state. With images in our heads of wild stallions leaping over grapevines, we turn to the Mercer Family for some wine befitting that waking dream.

The Mercer Estate Winery has a five-generation legacy of sustainable farming, not just for grapes, but other foods as well. A Scottish Highlander came to America before the Declaration of Independence was signed, and his descendants headed west and settled in what is now the Horse Heaven Hills region a hundred years later, growing cattle, sheep and wheat.

Don & Linda Mercer planted the family’s first grapes in the early ‘70s and started making wine about eleven year ago. Winemaker Jessica Munnell considers herself lucky to have access to the fruit of the Horse Heaven Hills in the Mercer’s seven vineyards

Samples of two of the Mercer Estates wines were provided to me for the purpose of this article..


Mercer Estates Malbec, Horse Heaven Hills  2013

304 cases of this wine were produced, and the bottles retail for $24.  The blend is simple: 76% Malbec and 24% Cabernet Sauvignon and it has alcohol at 13.7% abv. The grapes for this wine came primarily from their Spice Cabinet Vineyard, sitting on a southeast slope above the Columbia River. It aged for 24 months in French and American oak barrels.

It’s a dark wine, inky. The nose is full of blackberry and spice, and to a lesser degree, earth and smoke. It smells, and tastes, a bit like Bordeaux - which I would guess they’d be pretty happy about in Washington State. In the sip there is dark fruit and plenty of it, but a savory aspect joins in for a really balanced approach. The tannins are capable enough to match up with tri tip, but they don't irritate if you just want to sip a good Malbec. A really good Malbec.

Mercer Estates Sharp Shisters Red Blend, Horse Heaven Hills 2013

They made 2,725 cases of this wine that sell for $24 per bottle. The kitchen-sink blend shows 47% Merlot, 41% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Sangiovese and 1% Petit Verdot. The Merlot and Cab came from their Princeton Vineyard, Syrah came out of the Dead Canyon Vineyard while the Sangiovese and Petit Verdot are from the Spice Cabinet Vineyard. The wine spent 20 months in French and American oak.

All those months in wood show up as soon as the glass is under the nose. Ripe red fruit and sweet oak notes explode in a showy perfume. There’s more. Smoke, forest floor and a boatload of spices - cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg. On the palate we have amazing fruit, and why not? The Merlot and Syrah handle that heavy lifting well enough. The Cabernet Sauvignon gives structure and focus. Additional complexity from the Sangiovese and Petit Verdot equal an embarrassment of riches.


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