Showing posts with label minerality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label minerality. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Make Mine Minerality

One day while toiling away among the tall buildings of downtown L.A., I received this text from my wife: "I am drinking Domaine Bois Saint Denis Sancerre. My namesake. $13 glass of Sancerre."  She followed up with a couple of notes, "soil is limestone with clay overlay.  You can taste it."  So cute, her sending me wine tasting notes.

Maybe another husband would have been upset with the wife for rubbing it in that she was lolling about with an old friend unseen for years, having a wine outdoors at the Farmers Market on a sunny day while the hubby worked.

Not me.  I really like that others can enjoy wine at times when I cannot.  It's a pleasure to read social media updates from around the world from people who obviously have a long head start on me, while I am still on my first cup of coffee for the day.  It's just as much a pleasure to know that my hard-working wife is having a richly deserved respite.  Besides, it's her namesake - although in the masculine form.

In ensuing updates, my wife promised to send me a picture - which she did, see left - and to take copious notes on her impressions of the wine.  Somehow, I figured that that those notes would fall by the wayside.  They did, and that's okay.  All the catching up required after a fifteen-year separation takes precedence over pecking away at an iPhone to record thoughts on the wine at hand.  At least that's what I am told.

The copious notes were boiled down to a single impression about the wine that stuck with her: minerality.  The sensation of minerals in wine comes across differently for different palates.  Some get wet rocks, some describe a flinty taste, some say it’s like earth, some call it savory.  Some of us like to think it’s there because of terroir, what’s in the earth where the grapes grow.  Scientists tell us we are wrong, that the mineral content of the earth is not present in the smell or taste of wine sufficiently to be discerned.

But my wife loved the “limestone-y flavor” of the Loire Valley wine she enjoyed so much at lunch.  We have both enjoyed the similar chalkiness in the wines of Edna Valley, and the ones from the oyster-shell dirt of Ancient Peak’s Santa Margarita Vineyard.  If we are not tasting the minerals in which the grapes grew, what are we tasting?

One wine writer thinks we may be talking about acidity when we talk about minerals, and that makes sense.  Acidity is what makes a wine pair well with food, and my wife’s Sancerre was just the ticket for pairing with her salad, she said.

So, if all you can remember about a wine you taste is one word, that is probably the one word you should remember.  It’s the one thing about the wine that made the biggest impression on you.  And if that word happens to be “minerality,” try wines that are higher in acidity.  You may find a whole new word to remember.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Avelino Vegas Arco de la Vega Verdejo Viura 2008

A wrought iron loveseat has been moved to a higher position in the backyard and stripped of its filthy, brick-colored cushions.  The frame actually looks great, and even better the flowers that now sit in their pots upon the iron structure, committing their riot of color.

In the foreground, an interesting, old, weathered table sits with a couple of cafe chairs bookending it.  When the eyes drift to the background, the two unopened bags of soil supplements make a statement about the gardening work yet to be done.  The yard is so much lovelier now than when we started, and yet so much lies ahead.  I can't wait to see the corn planted off to the left side of the property, twelve stalks bursting with yellow ears.

And when the work is done for the day, and when the deck and its comfy chairs beckon, there will be wine.

I always seem to wax poetic - at least that's what I call it - when a Spanish wine is opened.  I think that may be because it was actually a tasting of Spanish wines that made a wine geek out of me.  An importer had brought some Spanish wines and some pictures of Spanish vineyards.  Looking at the scrub-brush grapevines growing in the Spanish desert, and juxtaposing those images against the magnificent wines made from them, I was hooked.  I felt I had some true insight into what it is that makes a winemaker keep on working. 

Bodegas Avelino Vegas  has a wine called Arco de la Vega, which is a 50/50 blend of Verdejo and Viura from Castilla y Leon.  The alcohol level is at 12% abv, so it wears very well as a hot weather refresher.  A twelve-dollar price tag puts it in the "affordable" column.  So far all systems are "go" for a delightful summer sipper, if it's good.  Let's find out.

The nose is all about the grapefruit. The taste, too, for that matter.  Not any of that Rio Grande Ruby Red fruit with the sweetness that tries to rub out the tartness.  I'm talking about the grapefruit that puckers the mouth to such an extent it seems there might not be any relief from it.  This wine is as fresh and vigorous an expression of Verdejo and Viura as I can remember.  There is some of that "wet stone minerality" to be had, but honestly, its like trying to focus on a dime in the roadway when there's a big rig barreling down upon you.  Peeking out from around the sides of that huge grapefruit explosion is a bit of lemon zest and a nice acidity.  This wine will serve well with light menu fare and stand on it own, too.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Naiades Bodegas Naia 2005

Spanish wines always seem to amaze me.  I see images of smallish vines growing out of clumps of dusty rocks set about 10 feet apart from each other so there will be enough water for them all.  It seems a miracle that they grow at all, let alone produce fruit from which such wonderful wine is made.  I purchased this wine at a Spanish wine tasting event at Santa Clarita's All Corked Up some time ago.  I ran across my notes and thought I'd post it here because I loved it so much.

The bottle is a relatively big and clunky Burgundy-style container.  The label tells us the wine is from the Rueda region in northwest Spain.   It's 100% Verdejo from vines that are 90 years old, and sold at this event for $23, although it usually runs a bit more in stores.

Naiades has a golden-green tint in the glass, it's really a beautiful wine.  The citrus on the nose is a mixed plate of lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit.  There is a strong scent of minerals in there, too.

On the palate, it's mainly a grapefruit show, but not in an overpowering way.  That's good for me, as I'm not a huge fan of grapefruit.  There's enough peach, pear and even honeysuckle coming through to make it a lively and varied taste, and the minerality keeps things crisp and fresh.  It's not a favorite wine of mine for sipping, but pair this with a woven wheat cracker and some of that strong Danish Castella cheese from Trader Joe's, and it absolutely rocks.  I'm sure seafood of all sorts would find this a good mate, too.

Acquisition disclaimer:  Purchased by the author at a discounted price during a tasting event. 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ecker Gruner Veltliner 2007

Hailed as "the next great white wine" for several years now, with the drumbeats really rolling lately, Gruner Veltliner certainly brings a lot to the table.

Some are getting so chummy with the variety they have taken to referring to it as "Gru-Vee."  I tried that at the Veranda Room at Casa del Mar Hotel in Santa Monica  recently and felt rather foolish when the waitress registered a complete blank.  I quickly recovered, ordered "the Ecker Gruner" and got the evening back on track.

The wine is widely regarded as one of the better "cheap wines."  $10 per glass is pretty cheap at the Veranda Room, and I would imagine a bottle of the stuff goes for less than that.

I liked the stoney minerality right away, but also enjoyed a floral quality on the nose and palate that complemented rather than competed with the tartness.  A nice acidity told me this Gruner won't be satisfied relegated to the porch or patio all summer.  It will want to be up on the table, if not for dinner, at least for lunch.

Variety:  Gruner Veltliner
Appellation:  Austria > Donauland 
Vintage:  2007
Alcohol Level:  12% abv
Price:  $10/glass
Acquisition disclaimer: Purchased by the author, by the glass

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tangent Ecclestone 2007

Spring starts on March 20th this year.  That knowledge plus the weather turning a shade warmer in Southern California today put me in mind of some of the wines I thoroughly enjoyed last spring and summer.  And autumn, for that matter.

Ecclestone, from the Tangent Winery in California's Edna Valley region, is one of my favorites for when the last vestiges of winter have gone away for a while.  Tangent is an offshoot of Baileyana Winery.  You might expect a winery which specializes in white wines - and which has "tangent" as its name - to vary from the mainstream occasionally.  They do.  This "alternative white wine" utilizes so many varieties, it could be named "Pinot Kitchen Sink."  Pinot Gris, Viognier, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Muscat and Albarino all combine to produce this unique and fascinating wine.

There is a very modern flair to the label with clean lines a crisp design. Remember those descriptive words.  They'll come in handy later when describing the wine.

Ecclestone's nose is gorgeous.  It's full of flowers.  It has one of the most intensely floral bouquets I can remember.  Orange blossom is billed, but to my nose it's more like honeysuckle with a splash of orange.  If you recall the intensity of the smell when walking near a honeysuckle, the first sniff of this wine is much like that.  Try to serve it only moderately chilled, as those floral notes really explode when not fully refrigerated.

The flowers don't quit after you smell them.  There is a floral carpet laid upon the palate as well, one which I welcome each time I experience it.  Citrus notes are here, along with a clean and crisp minerality that braces and refreshes.  There's a stony quality to the minerals that comes through, as opposed to chalky.  I love this wine on the deck on a nice warm afternoon.  It refreshes in much the same way a cold, hoppy ale does.  It just seems made for the sunshine. The acidity is certainly there, too, so don't think this is just a sipper.  Serve it with salads, Kalamata olives, mild cheddar or a nice plate of scallops.

Variety:   Pinot Gris, Viognier, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Muscat and Albarino
Appellation: California > Central Coast > San Luis Obispo > Edna Valley
Vintage: 2007
Alcohol Level: 13.5% abv
Price: $20
Acquisition disclaimer: Purchased by the author

Friday, March 5, 2010

Las Colinas del Ebro 2008

Las Colinas del Ebro is a Grenache Blanc made in the Spanish highlands of Terra Alta in southern Catalunya.  It is said to be made from grapes that are hand-harvested from 100 year-old vines, some of the oldest vines in the nation.  Stainless steel fermentation promises a crisp and clean taste.

The nose certainly smells fresh.  There's a good, clean whiff of minerals, but along with that comes a fruity and flowery aroma profile.  It's actually sweet smelling - not sugary sweet, but rather like honeyed fruit.

The palate shows that fruit well.  I imagine honeydew melon mixed with nectarines.  A good sense of minerality comes along about halfway through and delivers a very nice tang.  I initially felt the acidity could be a bit higher for me, that despite all the good things happening aroma- and taste-wise, the wine fell just a tad flat for lack of a backbone.  However, remembering the Argentine chicken and zucchini in the refrigerator, I decided to give it a shot.  Rather surprisingly, the wine paired quite well with the dish - as well as with a few stray sauteed mushrooms.

It's quite possible that Las Colinas del Ebro could very well have a spot on my deck all summer long - and at my table year-round.

Winemaker:  Luis Marin
Variety:  100% Garnacha Blanca (Grenache Blanc)
Appellation:  Spain > Catalunya > Tarragona > Terra Alta
Vintage:  2008
Alcohol Level:  13% abv
Price:  $12, but it appears it can be had for $9 in a lot of places
Acquisition disclaimer:  Purchased by the author

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Santadi Vermentino 2008

Denise and I recently had lunch with our friend Guido at Sprazzo on Westwood Boulevard.  Well, that was the plan, anyway.  The wires got a little crossed, and when Guido didn't show in his usual timely manner, we started without him.  Guido arrived about the time we were getting up to leave, so we hung around and watched him eat a Caesar salad.   It worked out fine for me - I got to have lunch with my wife, visit with our pal, and have one of my favorite Italian grapes.

Vermentino is a specialty of the island of Sardegna, and Santadi is a winemaker's co-op there.  The wine is a beautiful golden color with a greenish tint.  It looks wonderful in the glass.  It smells great, too.  There's a floral scent that is laced with an overriding minerality, sort of like flowers that have been trod into some wet rocks.  Pears and melons are on the palate, but again it's the minerals you really notice.  The taste is almost salty or briny.  Perhaps that's only to be expected from grapes grown in Sardinia.  Their seafood staples are a natural match for this wine.  I had it with a salmon salad but would imagine it's even better with marinated calimari or scungilli.

If you've never tried a Vermentino with seafood, you really should do yourself a favor.  You'll be pleased.

Winemaker:  Cantina Santadi
Appellation:  Italy > Sardinia > Vermentino Di Sardinia
Vintage:  2008
Cost:  $11 per glass at Sprazzo
Acquisition disclaimer:  Purchased by the author

Monday, September 7, 2009

Il Poggiale Trebbiano 2007

The Bottle: The front label proudly proclaims this Tuscany White Wine to be a product of Italy, with an abv of 12.5%. It's imported by Casa Torelli of Santa Monica.

The Nose: There's a lot of minerality in the aromas, producing a fairly pungent nose to go with the pale golden color. A faint fruitiness or even a floral aspect is present, but definitely in a supporting role to the aroma of wet rocks. Nice!

The Taste:
This wine feels very good in the mouth. It's got a some heft and a good, clean taste that carries a bit of smoky nuttiness along with the minerals and fruit. It's great with Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Gaetano D'Aquino Orvieto Classico 2008

The Bottle: It may come in a Bordeaux bottle, but this white wine is all Italian. Made from Trebbiano and Grechetto grapes, this Umbrian mainstay is named for the Village where it was made. The abv is 12%. I seem to remember it was a real steal, right around $5.

The Nose: Orvieto has a warmer climate in central Italy and chalky, limestone-laden soil that imparts a serious terroir to the wine. If you are a fan of dry whites that have minerals to spare, an Orvieto may be a good choice for you. I get a nose full of minerality when I smell it
, along with a hint of citrus. By the way, coloring is very pale and there are a few bubbles clinging to the glass.

The Taste:
Very earthy and tangy, this Orvieto is a basic, no-frills Italian white wine. Dry as a bone and quite refreshingly crisp, it's a wine that begs for food. Let me correct that. It's a wine that begs for scallops in a butter sauce. It's a wine that begs for shrimp scampi. It's a wine that begs for crab cakes. Sure, you could sip it on the porch and it would serve you very well. But look around you. Is the grill nearby? Fire it up and throw some skewered shrimp on there. The Orvieto will thank you.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Tasting Room Notes: Vendome Wine & Spirits

Southern California drinkers know Vendome as a great place to find what you are looking for. If you're not looking for anything in particular, you can browse until you find something that strikes your fancy. Their many locations make for a convenient stop, but I do not believe that all Vendome locations schedule wine tastings.

Vendome of Studio City, 11555 Ventura Boulevard, does have regular tastings, on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The tasting I'll write about here was on Saturday, July 25th, 2009. For $15 I tasted 6 wines of the Loire Valley.

Let me apologize for the lack of an image to accompany the piece. I ran a bit short on time (always a negative in the tasting experience) and forgot to get a picture before leaving. I'll try to grab a shot the next time I'm in there. It's doubly unfortunate that I have no image, because their tasting bar is actually a small shack-like structure in the west end of the store. Unique and interesting, the bar seats a half-dozen or so with a couple of tables nearby.

Yves Breussin Vouvray 2006 - Only one grape is used for making wine in the Vouvray appellation. That's the Pineau de la Loire, which we call Chenin Blanc. This wine is a pale yellow in the glass, with a strong and somewhat funky scent. Minerals and a nutty quality are present on the nose and palate. Good acidity, and it finishes well.

Domaine de Chatenoy Menetou-Salon 2007 - The vineyards of Menetou-Salon are sloping, mineral-laden fields which border those of Sancerre. This wine is a Sauvignon Blanc with another funky nose. Nice aromas of citrus and wet rocks dominate. The taste is quite smooth, a little lacking in acidity but a pleasure to drink nonetheless.

Jean Tatin Quincy 2006 - Funky noses were the order of the day. This wine had the strongest yet, the kind referred to as "cat pee." It's a Sauvignon Blanc with a ton of minerals on the nose and palate. Well balanced with a good finish.

Joseph Mellot Sancerre 2007 - This Sauvignon Blanc had the strongest nose of the day. It also had the most character. The minerals were right up front, the balance was great and the finish terrific.

Domaine Taille aux Loups Montlouis 2007 - A dry Chenin Blanc, this wine was full of minerals and an unusual quality I couldn't put my finger on. Maybe I was beginning to feel the pressure of my time limitations. Anyway, it was my favorite wine of the day.

Nicolas Reverdy Sancerre 2007 - A red wine from an appellation known for its whites, this Pinot Noir is very full of flavor. Medium-red in color, it features very strong strawberry notes with some clove and cinnamon.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Route 128 Viognier

The Bottle:
A sleek Rhone-style bottle tinted brownish-green bears a label showing a color drawing of a winding, two-lane blacktop road. The road cuts through vineyards, much like the actual Route 128 which connects Sonoma and Napa Counties at the northern reach for both. The ABV for this wine is a staggering 15%, much higher than I expected it would be. The Opatz Family Vineyards Yorkville Highlands, between the Alexander and Anderson Valleys, is the source for the grapes.

The Nose: The aromas are hard to figure. Pear and an unusual sort of floral scent are in there. The floral is not overwhelming, though. Abundant minerals are also present.

The Taste: This wine's acidity is pretty high as you would expect at 15%. The alcohol does not dominate, though. The pears are joined by a white pepper spiciness that hits the right notes. This should be a really wonderful food wine.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Raymond Burr Sonoma County Chardonnay 2006

The Bottle: A classic Chardonnay bottle - meaning "just a little too wide for my wine rack" - bears a label with a painting of the head of Bacchus and Raymond Burr's signature. Burr was part owner of the vineyards and winery before his death. Now his partner, Robert Benevides, carries on the business. Winemaker Phyllis Zouzounis came on board in 2006. It's 100% Chardonnay and was aged 11 months in American oak. Only 515 cases were produced. The abv is listed as 14.4% and it cost $28 at the tasting room. The appellation is Dry Creek Valley, and the winery and tasting room are in Geyserville. Mr. Benevides was kind enough to sit with my wife and I on our visit there, out in the front area, with a cool breeze, a glass of wine and a beautiful view to go along with his wonderful company. We are indebted to him for that enjoyable time.

The Nose: Golden in the glass, the wine smells like apples and minerals. It promises a very clean and crisp tasting white.

The Taste: There is a strong mineral presence amid the apple cider flavor. This is not an oak-bomb at all, but there is a hint of wood the flavor. It's crisp, not buttery, and there is a small trace of spiciness. The wine would be a great match with a cold shrimp salad or just a loaf and some cheddar. It goes great with some nice conversation on a warm afternoon, too.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Tangent Paragon Vineyard Riesling 2007

The Bottle: For me, no trip to Edna Valley is complete without a stop at what may well be my favorite winery anywhere. Tangent's "alternative whites" are a big attraction to me. This one is no exception. This wine cost $20 at the winery, a price I was happy to pay. But I'll get to that later. The abv is 14.1%. The back label offers a bit of exposition about the grape; the best-known varietal from Germany and the most prestigious from the Alsace region of France. They promise that the Edna Valley version will offer vibrant minerality and flavors of melon and peach. The wine is unoaked and did not go through malo-lactic fermentation.

The Nose:
The minerals come through quite strongly in the aroma, like rain-wet gravel. Minerality is what Edna Valley wines are all about, and nowhere more than at Tangent. I get some white peach notes and a restrained citrus aspect, too.

The Taste: The acidity grabs me right away. This is a great food wine. Dry and succulent at the same time, here are the peach and melon flavors they advertised. The finish is quite lengthy and there's a very enjoyable aftertaste. I tried this with with a tofu ceviche, California roll, spinach and ricotta calzone and some brie and hummus - a real multinational dinner - and it was an unqualified winner with all.