Oh, the government is up to it's tricks once again. We could all really lose out if this under-the-radar bill gets passed. I'm not usually one for activism, but this is just plain WRONG, so I'll raise the issue so you at least know about it (although I do hope you'll be moved to action!).
So there is a bill, HR 5034 which is essentially trying to block our right to get wines shipped directly from wineries (which the Supreme Court okayed in 2005, BTW).
That's right, say bye bye to your favorite wine shipments from California or elsewhere. Basically, the bill is from the middle-men/wine distributors who are worried they are going to lose their cut of the action if wineries ship direct to us at lower prices. This bill removes the ability of individuals to challenge state law regarding regulation of alcohol, even if that state law is in conflict with federal law. So states have absolute rule and if you live in a state that isn't alcohol-friendly (oh, like my state of Georgia), you have no recourse because you can't take your issue to Washington.
Please convey your opposition today.
Click here for an easy way to protest this erosion of consumer rights. If you scroll to the bottom and fill out your info, they will fax a message to all your congresspeople on your behalf letting them know you think this bill is crap.
Thanks and I'll keep you posted!
April 25, 2010
Oh, the government is up to it's tricks once again. We could all really lose out if this under-the-radar bill gets passed. I'm not usually one for activism, but this is just plain WRONG, so I'll raise the issue so you at least know about it (although I do hope you'll be moved to action!).
April 23, 2010
We’re having perfect spring weather but inevitably the heat will arrive soon in Atlanta. As we usher in the scorching summer, we’ll be tempted to usher out heavy red wines. But what’s a red-lover to do? You can’t stop drinking wine for 4 months!
Well, if you just don’t like white wine, and don’t want to drink Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah when it’s hot (and we don’t blame you!), there are plenty of other red options for you to try.
In this class we will taste and learn about 4 red wines and 1 rosé that are lighter in style and appropriate in hot or cool weather. We’ll discuss the wines and how to spot them on a wine list in a restaurant.
Please join us to learn about light and refreshing reds that you can drink all summer long!
Wines: 4 lighter style red wines and 1 rosé wine will be served with the Chef’s assortment of charcuterie from the Market at Parish.
Where: Parish Foods and Goods, 240 N. Highland Ave., Atlanta, GA 30307
Call 404-681-4434 to make your reservations today!
Oh, and don’t forget to wear dark clothes if you can, we don’t want any red wine dripping on your favorite white shirt…
Look forward to seeing you there!!!
April 20, 2010
I've been pretty vocal in other posts before about how disappointing I find California Merlot to be. Let's face it, to most California vintners Merlot is an afterthought. Not considered to be a flagship like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Pinot Noir, it can't command as high a price so it's relegated to the post of being a necessary part of a portfolio -- kind of like the fat guy on a bad sitcom.
It just burns me up. Why? Because the grape deserves better.
Merlot is the most widely planted red grape in Bordeaux and there it achieves heights of elegance, finesse, and delicacy that are simply beautiful. Petrus, the most expensive wine in the world, is made of 95% Merlot (and 5% Cabernet Franc). In France, the grape is given deference, respect, and cared for in a way that allows it to shine.
So how did it become so lame in Cali? In my mind, there's a very clear path that this grape took to become second fiddle to Cabernet Sauvignon and it all started in 1991.
This was the year that 60 Minutes aired something on "The French Paradox," which essentially states that even though the French eat diets high in saturated fat, they have a low incidence of heart disease... due to their consumption of red wine. Americans, looking for any easy way to justify eating horribly bad, fatty food sans guilt, went out in droves and purchased red wine. Most found Pinot Noir and Cabernet either too complex or too expensive, so Merlot was their Golidlocks choice. Soft tannins, ripe, lush fruit, and a decent price -- the early 90s saw a big uptick in purchase of this varietal.
Wine is a business. The laws of supply and demand work as well in this business as they do in the microchip biz. People wanted light, fruity Merlot and California vintners saw the second coming of the Gold Rush. Whee Haw! They planted Merlot in every nook and cranny they could find and pumped out the stuff in oceans. Producers held the prices of the other varietals and made Merlot their cash cow. Americans spent the 90s drinking inexpensive Merlot. In fact, according to the Impact Annual Wine Study, from 1995 - 1999, American consumption of Merlot grew nearly 5-fold (BTW -- I shudder to think about the quality back in the early boom years. It takes at least 3 years for a new vineyard to produce grapes that can make wine, so agriculture needed to catch up to demand. I guess that's why growth really exploded in the late 90s).
The thing that kills me is that California keeps betting on handicapped horses. Merlot is not an easy grape to grow right. It's got thin skin so it's susceptible to rot. It buds early, which means a late frost in the spring can damage the crop. It doesn't thrive in fertile soil and it's best when the vines are old. The biggest problem in a sunny area, is that the grape overripens quickly and can lose flavor and complexity in a matter of days. Pinot Noir, the more recent darling of California, has even more issues when it comes to growing. I guess they like a challenge, but I wish more winemakers would rise to when it comes to Merlot so we didn't have just a glut of non-descript red wine labeled Merlot.
Let me end my lament here, though. Fortunately, there are some producers that do Merlot right. Most notably Duckhorn and Pride Mountain. I had the very fortunate pleasure of meeting the National Sales Manager from Pride recently and he gifted me a bottle when I expressed my love for their wine and my respect for the care they give to Merlot.
Pride Mountain Vineyards sits on the county line of Napa and Sonoma, atop Spring Mountain, one of the best winemaking areas in either county. The vineyards are at 2100 feet and since 1990, the Winery has churned out amazing wines from this ideal location. It's a family operation, started by the late Jim Pride in 1989 (a dentist with a yen for farming), and Pride has a stellar, well-earned reputation.
Given how much I love this wine, I thought I'd review it. Although it's more expensive than normal stuff, it's a knockout. It will not disappoint and it's something you should experience if you want to see what California Merlot should and can be.
So here's the review:
The Wine: Pride Mountain Vineyards Merlot
Where It's From: 56% Sonoma County, 44% Napa County
The Grapes: 94% Merlot/6% Cabernet Sauvignon
Color: A dark ruby with a brown, nearly amber rim, the wine was the color of pomegranate juice. It was rich, with very big tears that stained the glass (the things that drip down the sides of a glass after you swirl are called legs or tears and they indicate alcohol content/body). This is no powder puff Merlot -- you can just see it in the glass.
Smell: Wow. Intoxicating was the word that came to mind (not in the frat boy way, in the 'ummmm that's delicious' way!). A bouquet of violets, iris, and rose petals just popped out of the glass. Ripe plum, black cherry, licorice, and cinnamon, with some dried oregano, nutmeg and a little bit of orange peel made this wine savory and sweet smelling all at the same time. Although you can sense the high alcohol (14.6%) from the burn in your nose, it's grounded by the floral, fruity and lovely earth aromas that are completely in balance. I love that on the last sniff I got a distinct note of potting soil. What a wine. I could go on for days.
Taste: Tasting it, the wine reminded me of baked plums and rhubarb pie, with cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove flavors. There was this insanely delicious sensation of rich earth, potting soil, and wet clay, which sounds gross but was just succulent.
The wine went from fruity to flowery to spicy. There was a balance between the alcohol, tannin, and fruit that made this wine firm and bold, yet sensual and silky at the same time. The finish was rich, full, and lingering and just made me want to drink more.
Food: Get something hefty for this wine -- roasted meats and veggies would do well. I also think you could enjoy this on it's own. It's spectacular either way.
Drink or Down the Sink?: If I haven't been overly effusive yet, let me get there now. This is clearly a wine to DRINK. It's not too fruity, it has lovely earth flavors and aromas (especially for California), it is smooth and enjoyable yet has an excellent tannin structure and the finish is outstanding -- balanced, lush, and intense. This is a wonderful wine vintage after vintage. Hats off to the Pride Family.
I'd love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment!
April 13, 2010
Hopefully you read my interview with Georgetta Dane, winemaker for Big House Wines. She was a great lady with an interesting background and produced all the wines I'm about to review.
This post is a continuation of the interview, as we tasted through the line of Big House Wines.
Big House is in the town of Soledad in Monterey County on California's Central Coast, just south of San Francisco. It's across from a jail, hence the name "Big House." The Winery's two flagship wines are their Red and White, both blends of Mediterranean varieties, which vary based on the harvest. These wines were launched by Bonny Doon, who sold the brands to The Wine Group, along with Cardinal Zin in 2008.
Apart from the fact that the flagships are blends, which is uncommon in our varietal craving country, another interesting feature of the wines is that they use micro oxygenation, a winemaking process in which oxygen is streamed into the wine as it ferments to soften it. Some feel this is cheating the traditional process (you would normally rack the wine, or move it from one barrel to the other thereby forcing air into the juice), but many others think it's a great way to improve wines by adding a measured amount of air into them to soften them. For mid-tier wines, it's just fine, personally.
Without further ado, let's get to it. Georgetta and I sampled MANY wines. The Big House Red and White, Cardinal Zin, and four varietal wines that have recently been launched by the company. Given that there are seven wines, I'll just give the Cliff Notes on each rather than going into my normal detail:
We started with 2 whites:
The Wine: 2009 Big House White
The Grapes: 56% Malvasia Bianca, 22% Muscat Canelli, 18% Viognier, 4% Rousanne
Cliff Notes: The grapes used for this wine are extremely fragrant, fruity, and floral varieties so the wine smells of melon, gardenia, pear, and peach. It's a big bowl of fruit and flowers. The palate is very soft, with lots of melon, pineapple, pear, and kiwi flavors. It also kind of tastes like honeysuckle and has a touch of sweetness.
Drink or down the sink: This is a very drinkable white, and great to keep on hand for a hot summer night when you need something light, cool, and refreshing. Georgetta's strength in harmonious blending is apparent here -- these varieties all share common threads but are generally not assembled, but this wine proves they should be! A great deal for $10.
The Wine: 2009 The Birdman Pinot Grigio
The Grapes: 82% Pinot Grigio, 8% Malvasia Bianca, 3% Muscat Canelli, 2% Viognier, 5% "other" whites
Cliff Notes: This is a refreshing, silky wine with a burst of peach, nectarine, pineapple, and apricot fruit on the nose and the initial palate. The finish is smooth, but there's a little prickle of lemony acid and a hint of spice that gives this wine a bit of umph and makes it refreshing.
Drink or down the sink: I like this better than the Big House White. It's got more flavor, I like the acid, and I found it very refreshing. As we enter the hotter weather, this is a candidate for porch wine, and you'll find me with a glass for sure.
We then had 5 reds....
The Wine: 2008 Big House Red
The Grapes: (there are 13, so I'll just list the top 4) 26% Syrah, 13% Petit Sirah, 9% Grenache, 9% Montepulciano
Cliff Notes: This wine smells Italian to me, even though it only contains smaller amounts of Italian varieties. It's a very light, simple red that would be good with a slight chill from time in the fridge. It had a blackberry character, with some sour cherry and very light tannins and acid. Although I liked this wine, I have to say that I was expecting a little more. I tried Big House Reds pre-acquisition and it had a little more flavor and body. Hopefully this wine suffered due to a poor vintage ('08 was hot) and the 2009 will be better.
Drink or down the sink: I would drink this wine, but, as I stated, with some time in the fridge. It's a nice porch wine for people looking for something slightly heavier than a Rosé. It went well with my salad, so I think it would be a versatile pairing wine as well.
The Wine: The Lineup
The Grapes: 44% Grenache, 41% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre
Cliff Notes: Dark fruit like blackberry, plum, and black cherry hop out of the glass and into your nose, not to mention a good dose of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and pepper. This wine is delicious -- it's like a berry cobbler and a cup of coffee. Georgetta sites that this wine is three different angles coming together -- "it's a wife, a husband, and their funny friend (that would be Mourvèdre)" that blend seamlessly.
Drink or down the sink: This was hands down my favorite of the entire line. A wine with great fruit, complex flavors that isn't too heavy. This is a wonderful wine and a great example of what the Central Coast of California can offer for a great price.
The Wine: The Slammer
The Grape: 100% Syrah
Cliff Notes: Muted dark fruit, raisins, and bitter tannins with lots of saddle leather. The wine was slightly out of balance with a bit too much tannin and not enough fruit to weigh it out. It lacked a bit of the complexity that I enjoy in a Syrah.
Drink or down the sink: Sorry Georgetta, this would probably be a down the sink for me. My love of the Lineup outweighs my distaste for this wine, which I found lacking in plush fruit, spice, and general power that I like in my Syrah.
The Wine: 2006 The Prodigal Son (nice play on words since Petit Sirah was kind of cast aside in France as being too rustic, but has returned and been welcomed home in Cali. See the Wikipedia article to learn about the Prodigal Son and get the reference)
The Grape: 100% Petit Sirah
Cliff Notes: Georgetta described this wine as "dark, rich, and attractive" and she's right. Petit Sirah is a brawny wine, and this one proves that, but it also has a certain delicacy to it that I really liked. A simpler Petit Sirah than many I've had, this wine had nice chocolate notes and black, ripe fruit that burst forth from the glass into your nose and delivered on the palate. I liked the vanilla and caramel hints too -- this is from the American Oak the wine sits in for 12 months.
Drink or down the sink: For hamburgers on the grill or barbeque/grilling out, this is a great casual wine and should be on the list.
The Wine: Cardinal Zin
The Grapes: 80% Zinfandel, 10% Mourvèdre, 8% Carignane, 2% Petit Sirah
Cliff Notes: I had this wine years ago and remember it being a big, rich, spicy, fruity Zinfandel. That's the kind that I love because if you're going to be have something fruit forward go big, or go home. Although I liked this wine, I just didn't think there was enough brambly raspberry, blackberry, and ripe plum fruit. The wine fell a little flat for me. I didn't find it fruity enough, nor did I find it spicy enough.
Drink or down the sink: This is a good wine and a great pairing for grilled meats. That said, I think I'd rather drink "The Lineup" listed above than drink Cardinal Zin. Maybe they could use a little more Zin in future vintages? I think the wine would benefit.
All in all I was very happy with the wines that I tasted with Georgetta Dane. Big House makes some great values and make high quality stuff.
The reason for the press tour is the launch of the Big House Octavin, an octagonal box of wine that holds about 4 bottles and stays fresh for about 6 weeks. It reduces emissions by 55% and waste by 92%, so it's environmentally friendly and great for those of us who are frequent sippers and sometimes forget to stop off to pick up a bottle. I encourage you to try a few of these and let me know what you think! And for $25, you can be sure that I'm going to pop an box of The Birdman in our fridge for the hot Georgia summer that's inevitable...
April 11, 2010
I've met a few winemakers in my time. They are a funny bunch -- some really down to earth, some completely snotty, some as dull as watching paint dry -- just like any other group of people.
The thing that has always been slightly hilarious and perplexing to me, though, is the marketing of winemakers as if they are celebrities. For instance, the large winery for which I used to work spent time and money making over winemakers, giving them new hairstyles and new clothes (and breath mints where needed) to make these half-artisan/half-chemist types into something their audience could relate to. I'm not sure this was the best use of time or funds -- as a public, I have a feeling we'd rather see them as they are and enjoy their wines based on the merit of their taste rather than some image the marketing department has conjured. May just be me though.
So when I had lunch with Georgetta Dane from Big House Wines/The Wine Group -- another big company -- I was, honestly, kind of wary. The wines are named so because the winery is across from a jail and the bottles feature very colorful labels. The web site is interactive and very marketing oriented. I wasn't sure what to expect. I was just hoping that I was going to have a pleasant lunch where I wasn't being told that Big House had better wines than Bordeaux, and Georgetta was a wild and crazy winemaker that everyone should love.
Wow, was I pleasantly surprised.
I arrived at the French-American Brasserie (great ATL restaurant, BTW) to find a young, attractive woman in great outfit (she had on a scally cap!) and a lot of class. This woman is cool, real, and smart as a whip. I loved her, and objectively, thought most of her wines were ridiculously under-priced and stuff that I would drink and recommend for casual sipping to anyone.
I didn't take a tape recorder, so I'll chunk this post out by topic and you can pursue whatever seems of interest...
Growing up in a USSR satellite and the role of wine
Georgetta is Romanian born, and while she was growing up, the country was a satellite of the USSR. Although technically the country had sovereignty, it was really behind the Iron Curtain and was, for all intents and purposes, part of the Soviet Union.
The wines of Romania have historically been made of native grapes. Sadly, during Communism the focus moved from these beautiful indigenous berries to hearty hybrids that could pump out nasty bulk wine to feed the drunken masses.
With the breakdown of the Berlin Wall, Romania (which has a lot in common with Western Europe. In fact, Romanian is a romance language, which Georgetta told me was close to Portuguese and Italian) was in the process of figuring out how to produce premium table wines once again. In fact, before Georgetta left Romania, she and her husband had a wine-related business focused on boutique wines, so it seems there is a glimmer of hope that in the post-Communist era and there may be some cool stuff coming out of that country in the future.
How did Georgetta get to the US and come to work at Big House?
With a degree in food science from a prestigious Romanian university and an entrepreneurial spirit, Georgetta found herself working for a winery in southern Romania. Things were going well.
On a fluke, Georgetta's husband, also a winemaker by trade, entered a lottery for a green card to the US, thinking he didn't stand a chance of winning. He did.
And a few weeks after Georgetta's daughter was born, the family packed up and moved to Monterey, CA, the only place in the US where they had a Romanian friend of a friend. Georgetta spoke no English, only a bit of French, and travelled with her husband and newborn around the world to her new life in a small apartment.
Arriving in the fall, right in time for harvest at Kendall-Jackson, Georgetta's husband started there and worked his way through the chain at several large wineries, exhibiting skill in the craft of winemaking. Georgetta got a job at KJ as well. Her ambition, smarts and creativity allowed her to shine. She quickly showed proficiency and a "je ne sais quoi" for blending wines. She was working at The Wine Group when Big House and Cardinal Zin wines were purchased from Bonny Doon Vineyards in 2008. She became the lead winemaker on both these brands.
What an American story!
Georgetta's winemaking philosophy
Big House Red and White are each blends of multiple varietals. Georgetta told me that at her first harvest, there were 42 grape varieties to choose from to go into the red and white blends (Big House Red & White).
That's an overwhelming number of wines to combine for most, but Georgetta relished the challenge. She has a very sensitive nose so that makes it easy for her to identify components that will combine in the recipe for a great product.
"Everybody brings something to the party," Georgetta says of her blends.
Georgetta's take on the differences between male and female winemakers
Georgetta cites that men and women can come at winemaking differently -- men view it as a science with precision and process, whereas women may view blending, especially, as more of an art. She joked that she tells the men at her winery "let me do the cooking!" which, given the value to quality ratio of the wines, seems to be good advice.
Talking Turkey: How does Georgetta feel about making wines at a lower price with kitschy marketing?
Maybe I shouldn't have asked this question, but I was curious and she was cool, so I did it (yikes, was that too harsh? I thought you guys may want to know this).
Her answer was simple: she loves wine, and she couldn't work for a conventional, staid brand that made the same varietals year after year. She loves Big House because it allows her expression -- she gets to throw in a dash of this and a pinch of that into her blends and it's different each vintage. She is a little funky and eccentric herself and feels the brand is a great match for her. She's quite proud that they are such great value for the money. Making Merlot and Chardonnay year after year with no degrees of freedom would seem stifling to her.
I loved my few hours with Georgetta and thought she was terrific. I thought it would be a little overwhelming to post my mini-reviews of the wines here, so I've posted it in the next post. Please click on that one to learn about the wines!
For more information on Big House, please see their site: http://www.bighousewine.com/
April 5, 2010
This is so gratuitous, but there is a wine blog award that I would be so honored to win! It is the Best New Wine Blog category and if you like my wine blog, I need your vote!
Please go to:
In the comment box, copy and paste my blog info:
Wine For Normal People: http://winefornormalpeople.blogspot.com/
Last Wednesday, March 31, I did a tasting at Parish Foods & Goods on Alternative Red Wines. It was a good event (prevented from greatness because some people didn’t make it due to ATL traffic, oh joy!) and we tasted five great wines, all which elicited strong reactions from the crowd.
Here’s the rundown and my take on the wines…(which I didn’t offer at the tasting since I TRY to be objective when teaching!)…
Wine I: Sierra Cantabria Rioja Crianza, Spain, 2005
Hopefully you’re already drinking copious amounts of Rioja. It’s a great wine when made well, although I’d advise against the $10 ones – they kind of suck because the wine needs oak aging to be any good and that costs $$, so the producers pass on those costs to us. Well worth the extra dough though -- it’s warm fruity, spicy goodness when its good.
Rioja is made mainly from the native-to-Spain Tempranillo grape, with Garnacha (Grenache in France), and two other native grapes Graciano and Mazuelo. Tempranillo gets its name from “temprano,” which means early in Spanish. Why? The grape ripens early (not really rocket science). It’s full bodied, low in acid, and tastes like plums and blackberries.
The wine is named after the Rioja region, in north-central Spain, where it’s usually grown at high altitude in both warmer and cooler vineyard sites to get a range of ripeness/flavors in the grapes. With an assortment of flavors to choose from, the winemakers make wine that has depth and complexity in the fruit. Rioja drinkers will concur that the fruit plays a supporting role to the real star of the wine, the spicy, sweet-vanilla character from the oak. The wines can be a little rustic and robust, and they make great pairings with strong flavored dishes.
Sierra Cantabria is made in a modern style, and is fruitier than traditional Rioja. 2005 was a solid vintage for Rioja, but this wine was really tight. It’s a Crianza, which means it is required by Spanish law (yup, the government controls winemaking) to spend at least one year in an oak barrel, and can be released to the market after two years of maturing. This one had four years in the bottle, so it should have been mellow. Maybe I should have decanted this, but I didn’t and I found this wine to be really astringent – the tannins overpowered the fruit, but jealously held on to the warm vanilla-oakiness I’d expect from a Rioja. I think you could do better than this one, which is around $16.
Food Pairings: I like pairing things with foods from the place their made. I think Rioja is awesome with tapas (tortilla Español is awesome), jamón, and other rich food.
Wine II: Damilano Nebbiolo d’Alba, Alba, Italy, 2006
Nebbiolo is a grape native to the Piedmont in Northwest Italy. There are competing theories on where it gets its name, but the most viable one is that it’s from “la nebbia” or the fog that settles on the area during harvest. This grape makes BIG A** wines that can’t be consumed for years because they are way too tannic, acidic, bitter, and nasty until they’ve had some time in bottle penitentiary to calm themselves and transform into truly rich and beautiful wine. It’s the grape of Barolo and Barbaresco and can produce wines with powerful aromas, big tannins, and complex flavors of spice, smoke, tar, and tobacco.
Not all Nebbiolo is destined to a life of an expensive, giant wine. Given the economics of the wine biz, the producers needed to figure out how to tame the beast and sell something in the short term to pay for cellaring all the expensive stuff. Enter Nebbiolo d’Alba, made with modern techniques (colder, shorter fermentations, taking the stems off before crush) to create less complex wines that still have the calling card of a true Nebbiolo -- a bold, firm structure that tastes a little like roses and tar. The best part of these wines: Nebbiolo d’Alba is right next to Barolo and the soil and vineyards are similar – this is an enormous value if you can find a great producer.
Like from Damilano, which has aromas and flavors reminiscent of roses, violets, and plums this wine was a delicious Nebbiolo. Floral, lightly fruity, with great but not-too-harsh tannins, this wine was simply gorgeous. Delicate and powerful at the same time, with a little of the petrichor scent that I just love so much! 2006 was a rough vintage for Nebbiolo, but Damilano still managed to churn out an awesome wine. For $18, this is a steal. Love it. My fave of the night, for certain.
Food Pairings: To continue the theme, I'd pair these with Northern Italian fare. I think roasted and grilled vegetables and meats, tomato-based dishes, or hard cheeses would be ideal!
Wine III: Finca La Linda Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 2008
I’ve waxed poetic on Malbec before so I’ll give just a short overview here and say that the grape although originally from Bordeaux and Southwest France, the best is now rich, silky, fruity Malbec from Argentina.
Malbec grapes, grown in the northwestern Mendoza region near the Andes Mountains, are from vines with small berries that make dark colored wines with velvety, intense plumy fruit and they are an awesome value.
The Finca La Linda Malbec was not anywhere close to the quality of the Kaiken I reviewed, but it was half the price ($12) and a great wine. The wine was full of bold cherry, plum, spice, and vanilla-oak aromas and flavors. I liked it and thought it was a great weeknight wine.
Food pairings: With grilled meats and vegetables and hard cheeses this would be an great pairing.
Wine IV Rosenblum North Coast Zinfandel, California, 2007
Like the Malbec, I’ve talked about Zin before too so this is the short recap. Zinfandel is California’s workhorse grape, and grows in 10% of all the state’s vineyards. It’s originally from Croatia and related to Primativo from Italy, but its best expression is really in California. Not to be confused with the powder-puff, sweet, pink, White Zinfandel, red Zin grapes produce rich, robust wines that taste like a raspberry briar patch and are jammy, minty, spicy and complex.
I can’t believe I’ve never reviewed Rosenblum’s North Coast Zinfandel, since it is such a great Zin. It’s a blend of grapes from Mendocino and Sonoma Counties. Mendocino is an up-and-coming but little known area by most. It's mainly hotter than Hades but there are a few spots with very cool climates that are great for high quality vines and these are the valleys from which Rosenblum sources.
The areas in Sonoma where the vines are cultivated are steep, cool, and are known for old vines. This wine was a great Zin – it smelled like brambly blackberry and cherry with vanilla and baking spices and tasted like juicy berries and warm spices. For $14, this is killer.
Food pairings: I’d put it with something like ribs, blackened fish, lamb chops, and eggplant dishes
Wine V: Mettler Petite Sirah, Lodi, California, 2005
This is a grape I’ve written little about, but I’ve got a few in the queue to review (excuse the rhyme) so I’ll do a summary here and get poetic elsewhere. To give a super short summary, Petit Sirah is a dark, acidic, full, and tannic grape that is very fruit forward. It’s related to true Syrah from the Rhône Valley of Southern France, and is a hybrid of this grape and another more obscure variety (Peloursin for you wine dorks).
It really has found a home in Cali, where it smells and tastes like fresh herbs, black pepper, plum, and blueberry. Compared to Syrah, it is less complex, and fruitier.
The Mettler Petite Sirah is from Lodi, an area outside of Sacramento. This is a BIG A** wine -- inky with aromas of dark berries, coffee, and chocolate. By far this was the heaviest wine and was great, but almost like drinking liqueur -- the blueberry, blackberry and spice flavors and the jammy, floral notes were strong and the alcohol was high. It’s a great wine for people who like huge wines and at $20, it packs a lot for the money.
Food Pairings: Heavy stuff -- beef, duck, and barbeque – everything else it will overwhelm.
I wish you were at the tasting to experience the wines! Come see me on April 28th for my next tasting if you're in town!
April 2, 2010
This year, I had the opportunity to work with the lovely folks at the High Museum and help with wine logistics for their wine auction. It was an interesting event, with lots of moving parts and I learned a lot from the experience. It's quite different from the events I've worked at before when working for the large (unnamed) winery in CA that employed me for four years, and it gave me a feel for a segment of the Atlanta market.
Before I list my "Top Highlights" I do want to posit one quick thought regarding the event. Although I do like California wine, I was disappointed with the lack of representation in the tastings from international wineries, or wineries outside of California for that matter.
I have heard that the High requires winemaker participation, and that limits the ability of European, Aussie, Kiwi, and other winemakers to participate. In terms of exposure or providing a full wine experience, I guess that as a wine lover I would have felt a little cheated had I gone as a patron. But that may just be me... although I'm hoping it's not. For my part, I sought out the International wines and as many as I could find outside of Cali -- there's only so much big Cab a girl can take.
1. 2006 Cos d'Estournel. This wine is considered some of the best Bordeaux in the world. It was luscious, earthy, firm, and rich and the most delicious wine I've ever tasted. Yes, it's $100 a bottle, but YES it's worth it. I'm blessed to have tried it.
2. 2006 Château Lynch-Bages. There was a ranking system of Chateau in Bordeaux in 1855. Cos d'Estournel was in the second tier, Lynch-Bages was in the fifth. Nevertheless, this wine was wonderful and had a floral, earthy, firm quality that I would happily drink, even for the $95.
3. 2007 Pride Mountain Merlot. I really don't like the way California does Merlot. Only two exceptions to this rule. Duckhorn, who didn't show for this party, and Pride Mountain, which I simply adore. Elegant yet bold, I just love this wine. It's what Merlot should be.
4. Relic's 2008 Ritual "Rhône" blend. As I told the sweet winemaker (really nice dude, Mike Hirby), this is an AMAZING wine -- herbs, brawn, and animal-barnyard reined. Damn. It's awesome. Strangely I would not call this a Rhône-style blend even though it has Mourvedre, Grenache, and Syrah -- the classic Rhône grapes. This is so different from a Rhône wine, although absolutely gorgeous in its own rite. At $50, it would be on the list to bring when I'm heading to a fellow wine dork's house, but I put it on. Why? Because they only make between 100 and 300 cases of each of their wines, so you have a better chance of seeing a jackelope run across the road than finding one of these in your wine shop.
5. Jim Clenenden of Au Bon Climat actually kind of yelled at me when I suggested his Chardonnay tasted like a Meursault from Burgundy (which is also 100% Chardonnay. And it does, BTW AND it's good). He correctly argued that only Meursault can taste like Meursault and told me about the 50 trips he's taken there to prove his point. Yeah, he's eccentric and a little brash, but I loved his passion. And ultimately he's right...there's only one Meursault. It's nice to see respect for the motherland of Chardonnay.
6. I love finding new stuff. My wine goddess friend Melissa told me to head over to try Oregon's Torii Mor Pinot Noir. The absolutely WONDERFUL, sweet, knowledgeable, and down-to-earth Margie Olson (owner/founder) was pouring and busy speaking to a patron. I stepped next to her while waiting and tried a competitor from Oregon. When I tried her Pinots, which were the same price, I nearly dropped my glass. This was so much better! Serious Pinot -- complex, yet fresh, and intoxicatingly aromatic. What a wine. Try it. Their base tier is $25 and it's delicious.
7. Also discovered Morlet Cabernet Sauvignon. Luc Morlet is a French winemaker who has worked in Bordeaux and Burgundy. He's got great respect for the vineyards and grapes and does low-intervention winemaking (he doesn't tinker that much!). And can you ever taste it in the Cœur de Vallée Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc blend! This is a gorgeous wine and may be the best Napa Cabernet I have ever had. From Oakville, this $175 (!) wine is a showstopper, with the ripeness of a California Cabernet, without all the over-oaked intervention. Love this wine and I highly recommend it if you have the coin.
So ends the tour of my tasting at the High Museum. It's great to go to expos like this to learn more about brands you may not have known, and to talk to winemakers and find out if they are really as described or figments of the wine marketers' imaginations (I've pulled that trick out before...).
In the next few weeks I'll review the Pride and the Torii Mor, so look out for more detail coming your way!