Friday, November 30, 2007

Savings the Best for Leftovers

One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving is the leftovers. Seriously. I can never get enough of my wife’s turkey, gravy and stuffing. Turkey sandwiches with stuffing make spectacular lunches. The day after Thanksgiving we all fix our own plate of leftovers for the evening meal.

This year, I tried some different wines with the Thanksgiving dinner, so I was ready for something more traditional with the leftovers: a Riesling. The wine was called Saint M, imported by Chateau Ste. Michelle from Germany. The attractive aqua bottle caught my eye and the $10 price tag sold me. I’m so glad I bought this wine.

I found the inexpensive ($9.99) wine at Cost Plus World Market when I was shopping for Beaujolais Nouveau several weeks ago. The wine is a made by the German winery estate Dr Loosen (pronounced loh-zen), a maker of fine German Rieslings for over 200 years. Ch. Ste. Michelle has been making Rieslings themselves from Washington grapes (anyone had one?) and has added to their line by importing the Dr. Loosen. I’m glad they did.

The 2005 Saint M Riesling comes entirely from the warm and sunny Pfalz region of Germany, directly North of Alsace. Summers in the Pfalz region are long and warm while rainfall is light, contributing to the region's "ripe fruit character."

The Saint M is a heavenly Riesling with just a touch of sweetness. I don’t like the styles of Riesling that have a lot of sweetness. Rieslings are more enjoyable when the minerality of the Riesling and the crispness of the acidity win out over a slight presence of sweetness. The bottle of Saint M is labeled on the back as “Qualit√§tswein,” a general term to describe wines made from late-harvest or overripe grapes. I’m not sure if the term is attributed to the level of sweetness in the wine.

The quality and price of this wine make it a winner.

Tasting Notes:

Pale straw yellow

My challenged nose could only detect something like melon.

As mentioned already, there is a slight sweetness. I don’t know how to describe the other flavors, unless it is the minerality, but they are the flavor I find in Rieslings that makes Riesling a favorite white wine for me.

The “minerality” lasts for a while after you’ve swallowed, a pleasant reminder of this enjoyable wine.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Send in the Clones

In the movie Multiplicity, Michael Keaton’s character is cloned to help him become more productive. To be even more productive, he clones his clone to add another hand. Finally, the cloned clone is cloned with diminished results! The final clone resembles the original, but is a poor substitute.

I sort of felt this way about the second wine I had at Thanksgiving, the Stone Hill Chardonel . That’s not Chardonnay, but Chardonel, a cross between Chardonnay and Seyval blanc.
Seyval blanc is a hybrid grape made from a cross of two strains of something called Seibel , a grape variety developed in France in the 1950’s.

The wine from this blend resembled Chardonnay slightly. But it left a lot to be desired in aroma and flavor. Sometimes the real thing can’t be made better!

2006 Stone Hill Chardonel Tasting Notes:

A faint yellow

Could be the Seyval blanc, but it smelled more like Viognier than Chardonnay. No pear or apple, but maybe some citrus could be detected.

The wine tasted slightly like a Viognier, without the pleasant mouth feel. There was a good amount of oak. Definitely not the oaky Chardonnay I like to have with my white turkey meat.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Seyval Blanc from Missouri

I had two wines from Missouri on Thanksgiving. Both were white and both were made with the grape hybrid Seyval Blanc. Seyval Blanc is an ideal grape for Missouri as it withstands the cold much better than classic grapes like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. This grape also buds early and early ripens early, making it even more suited to the region.

The two wines I had were from one of the oldest wineries in Missouri (almost the oldest in the US,) Stone Hill Winery. This winery began in 1847. By 1866 it was the second largest winery in the whole US and had won national and international recognition for its wines. During Prohibition, grapes still grew on the property, but they were used for jelly. The underground cellars were used to grow mushrooms! The winery began to come back to wine making prominence in 1965 and is today one of the successful wineries of Missouri.

The first wine I had containing Seyval Blanc was the 2006 Steinberg White .
This wine is a blend of Vidal Blanc, Seyval and Vignoles. The winery describes the wine as a “German-style white” and it did remind me of a Riesling. But the wine also strongly reminded me of Viognier. The wine didn’t have quite the viscous mouth feel of a Viognier, but the distinct flavor was there.

Tasting Notes:

Pale yellow

Viognier like, not floral but still like a viognier

Slightly sweet, light citrus but definitely reminded me of Viognier.

This wine was enjoyable with the Thanksgiving turkey, similar to the way a Riesling is. I could sip this wine by itself and enjoy it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Different Wines for Thanksgiving

Salubrious Missouri:

Guess which US state the following wine descriptions belong to:

  • The second largest producer of wine in the United States
  • Produced wines that earned medals in national and international competitions
  • Its wines “stunned critics” in Paris and Vienna
  • Was granted the first American Viticultural Area (AVA)

Would you believe Missouri? This area of the country had a thriving wine industry back in 1866, when it was ranked #2 in US wine production. Disease (like Phylloxera ), overproduction, local prohibition laws and finally national Prohibition did Missouri wineries in by 1888.

The state has made a come back starting in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Today, there are more than fifty wineries, some producing wines of outstanding quality. The harsh climates of Missouri have forced the growers to use non-classic grapes. Many unusual sounding hybrids like Seyval blanc, Vidal blanc and Vignoles thrive here. Wines made from these grapes aren’t rustic tasting off varietals, but interesting wines worthy of a taste.

I’ll be trying two of these wines today, Thanksgiving Day, at my sister's house. She went to a family reunion with her husband in Missouri this summer and brought back these wines. I’m looking forward to trying a blend of the previously mention three grapes that’s supposed to resemble a Riesling. There will also be a Chardonnay / Seyval cross called Chardonel. My tasting notes will follow in the next couple posts.

Have a great Thanksgiving Day! I hope you have some great wine.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

An Early Young 2002 Wine

Temprano: Spanish for early
Crianza: The youngest; Spanish for something that is raised or nursed

My favorite Spanish region is Rioja because of the Tempranillo grape. Wines made from this grape are somewhat light, unlike a Zinfandel which is usually grown in hot climates like Spain. The alcohol levels are low to medium. Cherries are the common flavor associated with a young, or Crianza, Tempranillo wine. Such is the case with the 2002 Montecillo Crianza I had last night.

Bodegas Montecillo was founded by Celestino Navajas in 1874 in the town of Fuenmayor. Thanks to the expertise that his son Alejandro acquired in France, the bodega was one of the first to adapt Bordeaux winemaking techniques (like aging in oak) to Spanish grapes.

Tasting Notes: 2002 Montecillo Crianza ($9.99)

Color: Ruby red

Aroma: Syrah like smell

Taste: Slight cherry flavor, not sweet or sour, just a hint of the fruit. The tannins are light. No oak detected despite the wine being aged a year in oak barrels. The medium alcohol level of 13% is well balanced.

Finish: Light tannins and a finish that lingers. The wine went well with dinner, but when sipped afterwards, the taste stayed for several minutes after swallowing. A pleasant after taste that made me want to take another sip.

I liked this wine, but then I'm partial to Tempranillos. I had the wine with a sausage soup made from mild sausage, chicken broth and tomatoes. Though a mild Zinfandel may have gone better with the soup, the pairing was alright.

If you're looking to try a nice Tempranillo from Rioja, the Montecillo wouldn't be a bad start. However, my favorite is from one of the best producers of Rioja: Cune.

My Wine Resource Directory

Below is the set of links I use as I learn about wine. I've compiled the most useful and interesting wine sites into these groups:

  • Wine Web Sites
  • Wine Glossaries
  • Wine Maps
  • Wine Blogs
  • Wine Library
  • Wine Dealers

Wine Web Sites: This collection is anything that doesn't quite fit the other areas. There is a vast amount of information about wine and these are the ones I found most helpful last year as I was just learning about wine. I've included wine education sites, tools for tracking wine, etc.

Wine Glossaries: Several of the sites listed in the first section have great resources on grapes and types of wines made from them. I've compiled the ones I go back to often when I'm learning about a new grape or I want to refresh my knowledge of a certain wine.

Wine Maps: Part of the fun of learning about wine is all the geography involved! Looking at maps of countries of never been to is aided by these links. These are great resources when I need to find out what grows on the right bank as opposed to the left bank of the Bordeaux region, for example. I also added links to maps of local wine regions I'm more apt to visit (like Sonoma County or Zinfandel growing regions in California.

Wine Blogs: This is my favorite and most used tab. This is my first stop of the day when I start reading about wine. There are several blogs I like to read and comment on daily, others I only visit weekly. They are all here!

Wine Library: This is overkill, but I like to have all of the Wine Library Network's links in one place.

Wine Dealers: This is where I list all the online wine stores I like. Not only do I list ones I actually buy from, but also ones I like to look at to compare prices at. I also have Wine Searcher list here to find wines anywhere.

I could just use the bookmarks feature of the browser I'm using, but it's more fun to practice my HTML skills and make my own. Besides, I get to add a label of the wine I want to get next. I'll try to include my directory below.

Do you have your own set of favorite wine links?

Klinker Brick 2003 Old Vine Zinfandel from Cellar Tracer

Wine Web Sites:

Wine Glossaries:

Wine Maps:

Wine Blogs:

Wine Library:

Wine Dealers:

Monday, November 19, 2007

Is There Still Gold in Australia?

That’s what the wine makers at Aussie Vineyards would have you believe with their line of Au wines. The attractive bottles have been catching my eye as I shop at a Sacramento area grocery store chain, Raley’s, which has an exclusive arrangement to carry the wines.

I wanted a Chardonnay to go with the roasted chicken and garlic potatoes my family was having for dinner last night. After picking selecting a bird and a tub of ready to heat mashed potatoes, I decided to try the Au. From the description on the bottle the wine seemed to be the way I like Chardonnays, with oak. At $10 I didn’t have too much to lose.

Aussie Vineyards is located in Queensland, South Australia, in the newly coined Limestone Coast. The grapes for my particular wine came from the Henty Estate vineyard in the Granite Belt region, one of the better known wine regions in Queensland. As its name implies, the soils in this area are granite laden. Its elevation makes it the coolest part of Queensland and there is relatively low rainfall. Grapevines tend to do well here and it seems an ideal place for Chardonnay.
Tasting Notes:

Light golden yellow

Oak was the predominate smell. I couldn’t detect any citrus, but just the almost vanilla aroma of a Chardonnay.

Oak again was the main flavor I could detect. There was also a lot of heat from the alcohol, even though it was only 13.8%. The bottle described this wine as buttery, but I didn’t detect it, though it did have a slightly thicker mouth feel.

The finish was awkward, a combination of the heat from the alcohol and residue of oak.

This was an unimpressive Chardonnay. However, I did enjoy it more than an unoaked version that tastes more like a Sauvignon Blanc. It went well with the roasted chicken and garlic potatoes.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fessy Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau

Here are my tasting notes:

Deep cranberry red, slightly translucent

Maybe the color influenced me, but I thought I detected cranberry. There was a Hi-C / Kool Aid type smell.

Almost no fruit. The wine seemed closed straight from the bottle. I couldn't detect flavor until I had swallowed. I could begin to taste the wine after it was in my glass about 45 minutes. My best description is "gamay."

Slight tanic feel. The flavor of the wine seem more present in the finish than when it was in my mouth.

Overall, I was disappointed with this wine. The wine may have done better if I had decanted it for half and hour before drinking, as it seemed to open up a little after a while. The 13.5% alcohol level seemed right, but the lack of much flavor was the biggest impression the wine gave.

I tasted the Bouchard Aine Beaujolais Nouveau yesterday along with the Fessy. The Bouchard was sweeter and the Fessy in the store seemed more flavorful than the one I drank last night. Maybe it was that I had tried the sweeter wine first or that they had had their wines open longer, but the Fessy seemed better at the store yesterday!

I'm going to have to taste the Fessy over several nights and see if my impression changes. Now I want to get the Bouchard and see if it is what made the difference in the tasting.

The Beaujolais Nouveau is such a young wine, it's hard to expect much from it. If I had it with a meal, though, I think I'd be disappointed because there is hardly any flavor. One interesting thing: I've never seen such a pristine cork in a bottle of wine. I wonder how many days (as opposed to months or years) the cork had been in the bottle before I popped it!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Beaujolais Nouveau Time!

Look at the cool card I got from!
I did send this card to myself, bit it was still fun to get. I have received several emails this week announcing the arrival of this year’s version of the Gamay Noir grapes most hyped wine.

Gamay Noir is the official name for this main grape of France’s Beaujolais region. These grapevines bud early, flower early and ripen from early to mid-season (they lend themselves to making the first wine of the harvest.) The clusters and berries of Gamay Noir are large and it is a relatively easy variety to pick, with relatively thin but tough skins.

The wines made from Gamay Noir are light in color. Don’t miss out on sniffing these wines, as they can be very fragrant, full of fruit and flowers. You often get a taste of sour cherries, especially in the finish. These wines have more tanginess then tannins.

I picked up two wines made from Gamay Noir during my lunchtime and I’ll be sampling them tonight (look for my first tasting notes tomorrow!) The first bottle is the 2007 Beaujolais Nouveau from Henry Fessy ($14.99 at BevMo.) To get an older impression of what this grape has to offer, I picked up a 2005 Chateau De La Chaize Brouilly ($13.99.) In episode 241 of WineLibrary TV, Gary Vaynerchuk reviewed several Beaujolais wines and challenged us to try them out. I couldn’t find any of the wines he sampled, but I hope the de la Chaize is a good substitute. I’ll let you know tomorrow.

I learned an interesting fact while researching today’s post. The Gamay Beaujolais wine has disappeared from the United States this year! Actually, the grape Valdigui√© grown in the USA was mistakenly called Gamay Noir. Wines made from it were labeled Gamay Beaujolais. But that all ended in April (see full story at Professional Friends of Wine.)

If you have a favorite wine made from Gamay Noir leave a comment. Have you tried the 2007 Beaujolais Nouveau? Give us your impression in the comment section!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

First Post: My Second Beaujolais Nouveau!

Tomorrow is the release date of the 2007 Beaujolais Nouveau! This event inspires excitement and anticipation in some, boredom and shunning in others. For me, it’s a sort of anniversary.

It was this time last year I was contemplating what wine to get for Thanksgiving. As I was working out in my company fitness room, a segment on wines came on the noon news. They talked about what wines to pair with the turkey and cranberries and I made some mental notes. Then, they ended with a discussion about something I had never heard about: Beaujolais Day! Apparently November was known for another wine event: the annual release of the first wine of the harvest.

My mental notepad was full, so I decided to look up Beaujolais Nouveau on the Internet when I got a chance. This act of investigating a wine I knew nothing about began what I hope is a life long pursuit of wine knowledge. I soon found wine blogs and education sites of a caliber I had not known in coin collecting, astronomy or guitar (some of my other interests.) When I stumbled on WineLibrary TV and watched a couple of episodes featuring Gary Vay-ner-chuk, I was hooked.

I hope to share my pursuit of the purple liquid (and white.) I don’t know what value I can add to a wine world that has so many great contributors. But maybe as I stumble along, you can share your knowledge and passions about wine and we’ll both learn together.

Can’t wait to try the 2007 Beaujolais Nouveau! Can’t wait for another year of wine drinking!!!

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