Showing posts with label blueberry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blueberry. Show all posts

Thursday, September 15, 2011

WINE COUNTRY: NEW HAMPSHIRE - MOONLIGHT MEADERY

New Hampshire is a relatively new entry to Wine Country.  The Granite State's wine industry didn't get started until 1994.  The New Hampshire Winery Association membership includes not only grape wine producers, but also makers of mead and cider.

Moonlight Meadery is based in Londonderry, New Hampshire, near the southeast corner of the state.  The town's name originated from its early settlers, many of whom were from Londonderry, Ireland.  The first American potato was grown there in 1719.

Londonderry was the birthplace of several governors and congressmen, but we'll try not to hold that against them.  San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson is from Londonderry, too.  As a Dodger fan, I'll try not to hold that against them, either.

The town is known for its apple orchards, and a meadery - Moonlight Meadery - which produces what they call "Romance by the glass."

Moonlight's mead maker Michael Fairbrother states on his meadery's website, "Mead, to me, is passion.  It's about living and love, it's about enjoyment, family and friends, and sharing."  Sounds good to us.  You can see Fairbrother in this video story from WMUR.

We have covered mead before in the Wine Country series.  Mead is wine made from honey, water and yeast.  It can range from sweet to dry and be produced as still, slightly fizzy - p├ętillant - or sparkling.  A melomel is a mead made with the addition of fruit.  A cyser is a melomel made with apples, and a pyment is a melomel where grapes are used in addition to the honey.

Fairbrother gives his meads names like Smitten, Desire and Sensual, playing off that "romance in a glass" analogy.  He supplied me with four samples of his meads for this article.

Moonlight Meadery WildThe mead he calls Wild is honey and blueberry wine made from unprocessed New Hampshire wildflower honey and mountain grown blueberries.  It carries an alcohol level of 14.2% abv.

Wild's medium ruby color allows light to pass through easily.  The nose shows a strong herbal note leading the way with blueberry aromas underneath and honey and flowers trailing.

The taste is completely dry and the blueberries really come forward on the palate. There's a strong sense of greenness on the palate, too.  Nice, gentle tannic structure matches well with a good acidity level.  It's very fresh and clean tasting.  I had blueberry wine from Florida which was much sweeter and more juice like than this honey and blueberry wine.  The Moonlight mead is much more like a red wine than a fruit juice.  I tried it chilled and not, and was pleased with the experience both ways.  The herbal finish is fairly lengthy.

Moonlight Meadery UtopianUtopian
 is the strongest of the quartet I tried at 16.9% abv.  It’s a semi-sweet, limited edition mead which is fermented and aged in Samuel Adams Utopias barrels.

The color gives a beautiful, rich, golden glow.  On the nose, the honey gets down to business.  It smells much like a dark honey, maybe chestnut honey.  There’s a bit of sherry and a bit of coffee, too, in what strikes me as quite a complex package of aromas.

On the palate, Utopian's sweetness is delicate and the mouthfeel quite viscous, like a dessert wine.  There’s a sherry-like flavor that’s pretty incredible and the finish is looong with a note of coffee mocha in it.  It's really nice paired with almonds - you could even pour this over vanilla ice cream or a have it with pound cake.  Once again a very nice acidity is present.

Moonlight Meadery DesireDesire is a beautiful deep ruby color.  The nose again has a firm underpinning of honey aroma with a pretty straightforward display of the fruit used in making this melomel - black currant, black cherry and blueberry.  The palate is dominated by the currant to the degree that it bears a striking similarity to cassis.  It's not as viscous as Wild, but it definitely sits very full in the mouth.  The 16.7% alcohol content means it's a fairly stiff drink, at least in the realm of wine.  There's good acidity here, but I don't think I could bring myself to eat while savoring the texture and flavor of Desire. Well, maybe some chocolate.  Desire beat out 352 other wines in a New England competition.

Moonlight Meadery SensualThe golden mead called Sensual shows a whole honeycomb full of honey aroma.   That’s no surprise, since it is a traditional mead, made only from wildflower honey, water and yeast.  The palate is dripping with honey, too.  Once again, a resounding acidity is present and the finish is very long and ridiculously satisfying.  The taste of pure honey is all that remains after a drink, and it’s there for quite a while.  The alcohol level for Sensual is 15.3% abv.  It's the simplest of the four featured here, but it may be my favorite.

Once again one of the American states brings mead to Wine Country, and once again I am floored by the quality.


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Thursday, February 24, 2011

WINE COUNTRY: FLORIDA - KEEL AND CURLEY WINERY

As Now And Zin attempts to travel around the 50 states in a wine glass, this time we find ourselves in the southeastern corner of the USA, Florida.  Maybe Florida doesn't immediately come to mind when you think of wine, but the Sunshine State was ranked 6th in wine American production in 2009-2010.

Keel and Curley Winery is located outside of Tampa, in Plant City.  The winery was founded in 2003 by Joe Keel, a central Florida blueberry farmer who had a lot of unharvested blueberries on his hands after the price fell.  He decided to try his hand at making wine with them.

Today his wines - three 100% blueberry wines and some fruit/grape blends - are popular all along Florida's Gulf Coast.  The blueberry wines come in dry, semi-dry and sweet styles. Their tasting room - unlike that of many wineries - has seats at the tasting bar, indicating you may want to stay awhile.

Keel and Curley provided me with three of their wines to sample, a dry blueberry, a sweet blueberry and a Strawberry Riesling blend.  I must admit, I didn't have much experience with wines made from fruit other than grapes and I approached these with a little bit of trepidation.

Keel and Curley Dry Blueberry WineDry Blueberry Wine

My fears were soon dispelled as I tried Keel and Curley's Dry Blueberry wine first.  Bottled in strikingly blue glass, the wine is made from high bush blueberries, according to the label.  I suppose those are preferred over the berries from the bottom of the bush.  The label also informs that the wine is fermented with the skins to concentrate the colors and flavors.  It has an alcohol content of 12% abv.

The nose - not surprisingly - shows a very pure and uncomplicated blueberry aroma. It’s not the blueberry of jam or jelly, though. It’s the blueberry right from the bush, with a hint of herbal or vegetal notes.

As I take my first taste I find this is surprisingly good wine!  It is actually off-dry, but just barely.  The sweetness is only winked at by the well-structured fruit.  It is actually just a bit hot upon opening, but let it just sit in the glass for 15-20 minutes and the heat decreases.  At half an hour open, the wine is silky smooth, but still has a good structure and tannins.
I tried pairing it with a rather spicy piece of beef, but it didn’t seem to work too well.  It was better with blue cheese, but still not a natural.  The pairing I kept thinking about - and finally tried - was peanuts.  A handful of peanuts with this wine is like an instant PB&J.

Keel and Curley Sweet Blueberry WineSweet Blueberry Wine

Again the striking blue bottle makes a good visual impression and the Sweet Blueberry Wine is a good dark purple in the glass.  The nose again shows all blueberry, but with less of the vegetal aroma present than in the dry version.

This one is sweet for sure, but it's not cloying.  It’s not even dessert-wine-sweet, really.  The sweetness is so fruity and natural tasting it seems more like a blueberry juice.  I would compare the sweetness in this wine to that of a sweet Lambrusco.  There’s a nice little acidity, but I don’t know exactly what I would pair it with.  Don't bother worrying about it - it’s a delicious wine to sip.  At 12% alcohol by volume, you feel free to sip a little more the you might normally.  I found it tastes great at room temperature, but the winery recommends serving it chilled.  It is very good that way.

Keel and Curley Strawberry Riesling WineStrawberry RieslingThis wine also utilizes non-grape fruit, but includes some actual wine grapes as well.  It comes in a clear bottle, all the better to show its pale golden hue.  The fruit on the nose is all strawberry, all the time.  It’s not a candy-like aroma, or like a strawberry candle.  It’s like a strawberry farm.  The smell of real strawberries jumps right out of the glass and into my nose.  On the label, the winery claims the Strawberry Riesling is what summer smells like.  That sounds like a good assessment to me.  The taste is sweet like ripe strawberries and mildly acidic.  I don’t know if it pairs too well with many foods - fruit salad, anyone? - but this wine could be sipped poolside all day long.  At 12% abv once more, it’s very gulpable, especially when served chilled.

Keel and Curley's Dry Blueberry strives to be a "real" wine, and comes pretty darn close.  The two sweet wines I tasted are nothing but fun by the bottle.  It's easy to see why these wines are so popular in Florida.  I think they should go well anywhere there's a pool.



So far in the Wine Country series

Monday, April 19, 2010

Edna Valley Vineyard Islay Peak Petite Sirah 2006

I have had both a Petite Sirah and an Edna Valley wine recently.  I thought I'd combine the two and jog down memory lane to a past visit to one of my favorite wine areas, and one of my favorite wineries there.  Here are my notes on that bottle:

"This is from Edna Valley Vineyard's tasting-room-only series of wines. A $20 purchase in their lovely and busy tasting room, this Petite Sirah from the San Luis Obispo area of California's Central Coast claims 14.5% abv.  There's a beautiful artistic rendering of a vineyard against the hills on the label, but no artist information.  It does look just like Edna Valley, though.

"The aromas here are very pungent, and quite nice.  I get lots of big cherry, leathery notes, licorice, and a dark vibe from the aromas.  A bit of alcohol on the nose burns off after a resting time.  It's a very jammy smell, one that I find very inviting.

"The taste comes on a little hot at first - give it some time after pouring or decanting.  The flavor profile is a powerful followup of what was present on the nose.  The fruit is very forward, and it's a big blueberry fest.  It doesn't appear as dark and forbidding as suggested by the nose.  In fact, it's  very welcoming.  The tannins are a bit strong, but the structure is good and the finish is medium long.  I had this with some
Pinches Al Pastor tacos we brought home from the restaurant on Sunset Boulevard.  It fit quite well."

Variety:  Petite Sirah
Appellation: California > Central Coast
Vineyard:  Islay Peak
Vintage:  2006
Alcohol Level:  14.5% abv
Price:  $18
Acquisition disclaimer:  Purchased by the author at the winery tasting room

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Night in The Veranda Room, Casa del Mar Hotel

What a great way to take the edge off the workweek. Denise and I met Mark and his friend Marina at the Casa del Mar Hotel in Santa Monica.  It was in the Veranda Room, my new favorite bar.  The beautiful ocean views faded to black with nightfall, but sax player Plas Johnson and band kept it ively.

I enjoyed the William Fevre Chablis along with a killer cheese plate.  the Chablis was loaded with minerals and a great lemon zest flavor.  Lovely acidity made the match with the cheese just about perfect.  A great start to a great evening.

Later Mark joined me in a Boxcar Syrah, from the Red Car Wine Company.  What doesn't go into their high-end Syrah, goes here.  It has a great sense of earth about it, and a good nose full of blueberry jam.  Peppery notes highlight the satisfying finish.  I met Carroll Kemp, the owner of  Red Car Wine Company, at a tasting in West Los Angeles a while back.  He's a great guy who makes some great wine. 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"They Got This Recession On" Wines, Part 11


Chariot Gypsy 2008

I was all set to knock off the cheap wine bit for a while and give this series a rest.  But as Denise and I strolled into Trader Joe's my eye was grabbed by a stack of unfamiliar wine bottles.  I inspected the new material and found Cab, Petite Sirah, Zin and Sangiovese involved.  My favorite suspects.  A five dollar sticker meant that even if it turned out to be horrible, it would be no big loss.

Perish the thought.  Chariot Gypsy is a very nice wine.  Yes, it's an everyday wine.  That doesn't mean it can't be good every day.

First, it pours up as a deep, inky purple.  I can barely see through it.  There's raspberry on the nose along with some bright cherry and a smokey element.  The palate features tons of fruit - blackberries and blueberries - in a rather dark but accessible fruitiness that is right up front.  Fruit bomb?  Yes, thank you.  But there's enough going on to make it an interesting explosion.

The wine has a nice acidity, but it's not overdone. Firm tannins provide plenty of backbone for food pairing.  It tasted great with chicken sausages with onions.

Chariot Gypsy is available exclusively though Trader Joe's.

Winemaker:  Jeff Hunsaker of Jim Neal Wines
Variety:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Sangiovese
Appellation:  California
Vineyard:  various in Napa, Sonoma, and Monterey counties
Vintage:  2008
Alcohol Level:  13.5%
Price:  $5
Acquisition disclaimer:  Purchased by the author

Friday, October 16, 2009

Wine at South Point on Sunset, Los Angeles


It was raining in Los Angeles, which is never good news for the drive home from work. Added to that problem was word of a power outage in Laurel Canyon. Turning west on Hollywood Boulevard from Fairfax confirmed our worst fears. Slow moving traffic up the hill. We quickly decided to jog over to Greenblatt's. That quickly began to look like a bad idea, as the parking lot was jammed and service is never that good when we're the only people in the place. A five minute wait with no attention from the servers had us up and out the door. Let's try South Point, right across the street. The crowd was much more manageable at South Point and we sat near the window with plenty of elbow room. After quite a spell without wine, South Point Argentine Grill - formerly Gaucho Grill - has finally gotten the legalities squared away. It's a nice wine list, with a good variety of Argentine wines to go along with the meaty Argentine menu items. I had the Trapiche Malbec, from Mendoza. Trapiche is widely known as a good producer, growing grapes in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. I liked the look of it, deep purple as it was. The nose brought blueberries and cherries, with a little smack of vanilla as a result of the oak. The mouthfeel was quite full and complete. Black cherry and some spiciness were the stars of the show. I had it with the chorizo appetizer - which is enough for a meal, if you ask me - and the match was quite nice. The drive home was just fine after our little stopover, by the way.