Thursday, January 31, 2008

Monthly Recap

This month has been a good month for wine. I didn't get to any wineries for tasting like I had planned, but maybe next month! ZAP's Zinfandel festival came and went. I'll have to do some research and read about this year's event. Hopefully I can attend next year!

Here are some possible wineries I'd like to visit in February:

  • Bogle Winery, just South of Sacramento, is having their annual Port Weekend on February 9th and 10th.

  • On the same day I could meet more winemakers by attending the Amador Vintners Association Behind the Cellar Door event. Thirty different Amador County wineries will be on hand "for a winter wine extravaganza of barrel-tasting, great food, live music and entertaining seminars and demonstrations."

The Midtown Winers, a monthly wine tasting I attend, will be having a Cabernet Sauvignon tasting next week. We are trying to bring wines made outside of California to give us an idea of how the wine is made outside of Napa Valley. I'm going to bring a Bordeaux blend from 2005.

I contributed to my first Wine Blogging Wednesday this month and hope to contribute to my second one in February. The wine won't be a challenge, an Italian red, but the format is going to be rough: describe the wine in seven words! The description written by the host, Spittoon, says: "The finished tasting note must make sense, be grammatically correct(ish), punctuation will help of course. The wine name, type, producer, vintage do not have to be included in the 7. But a reference to aroma, flavour, length, food matching etc etc should be considered. Inventiveness is the key. I'm going to try my first Aglianico but this may be a difficult exercise!

I'll be writing a review for the first Wine Book Club book, "Vito Italiano." I'm enjoying reading this book and hope I can do it justice. I found out something else about Italy, but not in the book. My grandfather came over from Italy when he was 16. That I already knew. But I learned that he used to live in a town called Lucca in Tuscany. One of my memories of my grandfather was sitting a the dinner table and him drinking some Chianti from a regular drinking glass. I wonder if he ever worked at a vineyard. I'm going to have to learn more!

February looks to be another promising wine month. I've enjoyed my first month of blogging and it has really helped me learn more about wine. I've discovered a lot of cool wine blogs and corresponded with several new bloggers and wine lovers. I'm definitely getting more out of blogging than I'm putting in. Thanks if you've posted a comment; it's really cool to read them. Hope your January has been a good one!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Nice Barbera

Last night I got a pleasant surprise when I had a Montevina Barbera along with my steak dinner. The surprise was that a inexpensive (under $10) wine was so good. I picked up the wine because it was a local wine (grown and bottled just 40 miles from my house) from the Amador County appellation in the Sierra foothills and second it was a Barbera; a wine I've only had a few times.

The gold rush in 1849 brought many fortune seekers into the Amador hills. Some found a different kind of treasure in the hills: land that favored grape growing. So many wineries were started that by the Civil War, this region of California had more wineries than any other in the state. When the gold ran out and finally prohibition hit, most of the wineries were shut down. They would remain dormant until the 1960’s when a new kind of explorer rediscovered the potential for the Amador hills to grow great wine, especially Zinfandel.

Montevina Winery has 400 acres of vineyard in Amador County, 80 percent of which is Zinfandel. Their grapes grow around 1,500-feet elevation in very thin, rocky soils (sandy clay loam and decomposed granite) with a heavy iron content. Montevina uses drip irrigation and controls the crop yield, which is low, at around four tons an acre. These conditions cause their wines to have concentrated flavors and dark color.

This is what I found with their Barbera. It had good flavor without being sweet. There was some nice spiciness, maybe it could even be considered peppery. The tannins contrasted with the cherry fruit flavor to make the wine interesting. The pepperiness went really well with the steak. At times the wine reminded me of a Zinfandel, but there was a different flavor from the jammy, peppery flavors I expect in a Zin.

This was a good wine for their entry level wine. Montevina makes higher end wines in a series called "Terra d'Oro". Their Barbera in that series is currently sold out at their online store, so I'll have to keep my eye out for it in stores. They also sell a Syrah, Sangiovese and Zinfandel I'd like to try.

Tasting Notes:

2005 Montevina Barbera

Color: Dark ruby red

Aroma: Cherries and yeast

Taste: Cherry and pepper, nice tannins

Finish: Cherry

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Good Gravy, Good Gavi!

A few weeks ago I tried a Gavi wine made from the Cortese grape grown in Piedmont, Italy. Over the weekend I had another Gavi made by a different wine maker to try a different take on Gavi.

My second bottle of Gavi was the 2003 Broglia Gavi La Meirana. The biggest difference between these two bottles of Gavi was that the first was had a fizzy, "frizzante" bubbliness to it and the second did not. Another difference was that the second wine's flavor made it more of a distinct wine for me. Usually all whites seem like Sauvignon blanc or Chardonnay to me, but this wine made me feel like there is a definite different kind of white wine. I like trying new wines and it's really cool when I find one that tastes different, adding to the variety of wines I can enjoy.

As I said in my other post, the Gavi region of the Piedmont is in the Southern portion near the Mediterranean Sea. The earliest recorded history of wine in Gavi has to do with a bishop selling church land to farmers for vineyards in the Meirana area. In the early 1970's, Bruno Broglia bought some of the same property and founded Broglia, now one of Gavi's leading wineries. (For a great article on the Gavi wine area see this article on Dolce Tours.)

I had the wine with some fried chicken, mashed potatoes and homemade gravy. We were celebrating my oldest son's birthday in a family get together over the weekend. Most of my family is not much into wine but I was able to share the Gavi with my sister. We both liked the flavor of the wine and felt it went well with the fried chicken. This is probably not the way Mr. Broglia meant for his wine to be served, but it works for me!

Tasting Notes

2003 Broglia Gavi La Meirana ($18.99 at BevMo)

Color: Golden yellow, almost like a light beer

Aroma: Honey, grapefruit

Taste: Light mouth feel with a slight mineral flavor, a little heat, and a flavor I can't place (some reviews I read reported tasting almond)

Finish: Slight grapefruit

(Gary Vaynerchuk reviewed this wine on his epic outdoor summer tasting episode # 265)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Cardonnay Monday: Another Pouilly-Fuissé

For a while on Mondays I'll be posting on Chardonnay wines as I learn more about different styles of wines made with this grape. My first entry was on a Pouilly-Fuissé. Today I'm reviewing the Pierre Dupond.

I was not able to find out much about this French wine maker other than the fact that the family has been growing grapes and making wines since around 1860. Wines that were sold to local towns to satisfy the desire of the working folk for a light, thirst quenching wine. I think today's Dupond Pouilly-Fuissé still meets those requirements.

The first Pouilly-Fuissé I tried (the Louis Jadot) was heavyily oaked, and though the wine was good, it wasn't as enjoyable on it's own as it was with food. However, the Dupond is pleasant all on it's own. It has some oak to it too, but it isn't the main characteristic of the wine. There were more flavors, like melon and honey to be savored. The wine was slightly sweet and had a little bite from either the acidity or alcohol (though it was only 13%.)

I enjoyed this Pouilly-Fuissé more than the Louis Jadot and much more than the under $15.00 Chardonnays I am used to drinking. This bottle cost me $17.99 at BevMo. Again, I'd like to ask if anyone knows of an American wine maker who makes this variety of Chardonnay: I'd love to support them with my wine dollar!

Tasting Notes:

2003 Pierre Duond Pouilly-Fuissé

Color: Golden yellow

Aroma: Melon, honey and yeast (almost like a Viognier)

Taste: Light, light oak, tiny amount of sweetness with a little bite

Finish: An oak finish

Friday, January 25, 2008

It's Not Fair!

Whenever I hear someone utter this "childish" phrase I want to cringe. But now I'm the guilty party, so please bear with me. The source of my protest is similar to the idea, "so much wine, so little time." There are some many different wines from around the world that I haven't tried yet. I don't want to just read about Valpolicellas from Italy or wonderful white Burgandy from France or the grizzly sounding "Ox Blood" (aka Egri Bikavér) from Hungary, I want my taste buds to become experience them.

There are so many different grapes to get to know. I could become a Wine Century Club memeber three times over and still have many new grapes to learn about. As I read "Vino Italiano" it seems that Italy has a plethora of cool, unusual grapes. But right here in the US we have many grapes that I have not tried yet (like Scuppernong or Norton.)

It's a shame that in America, drinking wine is a special thing and not just an ordinary part of a meal. It would be so helpful and enjoyable to be able to drink wine with lunch as well as dinner. Most companies understandably have a no drinking policy, but what a limitation. Sometimes when I'm eating leftovers of chicken or having a pasta plate at a restaurant for with colleagues, the flavors in my mouth cry out for a tasty Chardonnay or spicy Zinfandel. I could see if Schioppettino or Nero d' Avola were just as good as Chianiti with a spicy red sauce.

But I have to wait for the evening meal to enjoy a glass of wine. Maybe the anticipation is what helps make the pairing of wine and food more special. I seldom drink enough wine to feel the effects of the alcohol, so that wouldn't be a problem at work. (Maybe I could bring a spit bucket with me and prove that I tasted but did not swallow. No, that would just be gross!)

I'll just have to be patient. Perhaps just reading wine blogs as I eat my lunch will be enough to satisfy my desire to learn more about wine.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Cabernet from Bordeaux

I began my search for a Cabernet Sauvignon from outside the US sooner than expected. (I mentioned yesterday that the theme of the next meeting wine tasting group I attend is Cabs from any where but here.) Last night when searching the wine isle at Safeway grocery store I spotted a Cab blend that could be a good candidate, the 2002 Larose-Trintaudon 2000 Cru Bourgeois Haut-Médoc. What a mouth full!

Wines from Bordeaux (located in the South-west of France) are so famous that it's very expensive to buy a top named example. Fortunately, there are many "budget Bordeauxs" to be found that help a wine newbie get in on the fun. The wine I found comes from the left bank of the Bordeaux in the Haut-Médoc appellation. Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet-Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenère are the only grapes authorized in the Médoc.

The blend I chose is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 5% Cab Franc, so it meets the criteria for our Cab tasting. The grapes are grown and made into wine at the beautiful estate of Chateau Larose-Trintaudon. This winery has been around since the 1800's.

When I tried this wine, I followed Dr Debs' decanting instructions recently posted on Good Wine Under $20. (It's a funny that when I visited the winery website, they recommended decanting the wine for an hour!) I'm glad I did because the wine changed and got more interesting after an hour (is a five-year-old Bordeaux considered young?)

I took a small amount of the wine to try before the hour decanting to compare the difference. On the first sniff I took I could smell cherry and something I couldn't place. I decided to really take my time and determine what I was smelling and finally came up with menthol or something like I had smelled in medicine before. After and hour it was more like cherries and rubber bands! When I first tasted the wine, it reminded me more of a Rhone wine with the major grape being Granache, not Syrah. I couldn't really taste the cherry I smelled, but the medium tannins were very pronounced. After decanting, there was more fruit and the tannins blended for a cool mix. I also detected something that reminded me of raw broccli, though not so much the flavor when you are eating it but the after-taste. Speaking of after-taste, the cherry and tannins lingered for a while after each sip.

This wine would be much better with food than by itself. I kept imagining that a medium-rare steak with mild seasoning would go really well. If you've had a Bordeaux blend like this, what foods have you enjoyed it with? This bottle cost $18.99 and I would buy it again if looking for a red blend. It definitely didn't have the fruit forward characteristic I've come to associate with Cabs, but I think I might enjoy a Cab blend like this more with a meal. It's going to be fun searching for Cabs from somewhere else!

Tasting Notes:

Color: Dark cranberry with dark pink edges

Aroma: Cherry and menthol, rubber bands after an hour of decanting

Taste: Slight cherry, with medium tannins, possibly broccli

Body: Medium mouth feel, some heat before decanting

Finish: Cherry and tannins

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Anywhere But Here!

Click to see another bunch.Do you recognize these grapes? These beauties are a clump of Cabernet sauvignon grapes. Aside from Zinfandel, a big, full-bodied Cab is my favorite red. Unless its a Syrah fruit-bomb, but that's not the purpose of this post.

The "Midtown Winers" is going to have a Cabernet sauvignon wine tasting in February. Only it can't be a Cab from the US. I don't think I've tried a Cab from outside the US so I hope you can recommend some good ones to try. I've read that some good candiates would be:

  • Bordeaux, the home of Cabernet Sauvignon. It would be cool to try a great wines of the Medoc or Graves. These wines are primarily Cabernet although most are blends with Merlot or Cabernet Franc. Blends are permitted, but Cabernet is supposed to be the significant part of the wine (75% or more) for this tasting
  • The Priorat region of Spain is supposed to have some good examples. I didn't even know Spain grew Cab. Has anyone had a good one?
  • Of course there are the supertuscans of Tuscany, Italy would be great to try.
  • Other lesser know (to me) areas are
    • Australia (Coonawarra)
    • eastern Europe
    • South America
    • South Africa

If you've had a great Cabernet Saubignon from outside the US, please mention it in the comments section. Include a link if you can find it. Thanks in advance!

My First Sancerre!

This is the third month into my second year of learning about wine and I've had my first Sancerre. I've had Sauvignon blanc wines before, but I was excited to try my first from France. I hoped that the French version would be more pleasing to me than the sweet, really fruity versions I'd already tried.

Geographically, Sancerre is a town almost directly in the center of France. It is located at the tail end of the Loire Valley. "Enologically", Sancerre is Sauvignon blanc. Wines from other grapes are made in Sancerre, but the name has come to be associated with white wines. The soil of this area is desibed as "Marl Limestone" or "white soil". I was pleased to read that grapefruit is a common flavor componant of a Sancerre.

The Sancerre I tried was the 2006 Henri Bourgeois Grande Réserve Sancerre. The Henri Bourgeois web site made these notes about the wine:
"The hills and ridges separating the village of Chavignol from Sancerre are composed of clay and limestone chalk (65% clay and 35% chalk). 'Grande Réserve' comes from this terroir so long planted with vines.
Fermentation in thermoregulated stainless steel tanks at 15 - 18°c then oak-aging for 5 months on its fine lees preserves the aromatic potential of this fine wine."

The process of fermenting "on lees" refers to leaving wine with the deposits of dead yeast or residual yeast and other particles that precipitate after the yeast is done converting the sugar to alcohol. This lends a yeasty flavor to the wine. (It's interesting to note that when my wife smelled this wine she thought it smelled like beer.) The oak-aging is supposed to add more "depth" to the wine, but I don't think this is the typical way that a Sancerre is made.

I liked the result of the process! When I sniffed the wine, I detected the distinctive cat pee smell that I've come to associate with Sauvignon blancs. On the first day, I could smell yeast and some citrus but had a hard time placing it. I had to settle on lemon. But when I tasted and swallowed the wine, I knew what it was: grapefruit! The wine was dry, with just a hint of sweetness, a quality that differentiated from most Sauvignon blancs I've had. There oak in this wine is very pronounced, almost making me think it was an oaked Chardonnay. After swallowing the wine, I could really detect grapefruit. It was like I was tasting the rind of the grapefruit; a pleasant finish to me.

I enjoyed my first Sancerre with some Chinese food. I liked the dryness and grapefruit finish, but was a little disappoined by the amount of oak. I want to try another Sancerre that hasn't been aged in oak. It would be interesting to try one that has been fermented on the lees with no oak and one that has not touched either lees or oaks. Any suggestions?

Tasting Notes:

Color: Light golden and clear

Aroma: Slight cat pee, citrus, yeast

Taste: Oak, dry grapefruit peel. The wine has a slight mouth feel, heavier than a typical Sauvignon blanc

Finish: The grapefruit rind finish lingered for a while after sipping the wine.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Next Post: Tuesday, 1/22/2008

I'm going to a snow camp with the youth group at my church this weekend. There will be no drinking this weekend and if I can't have any I'm not going to write about it. Just kidding! Enjoy the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and see you on Tuesday.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

On to Piemonte

Yesterday's Wine Blogging Wednesday theme of white wines from the
Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine region reminded me of another Italian white wine I've been meaning to try: Gavi. Gavi is made from Cortese, a white grape grown almost exclusively in the Gavi DOCG
(for a good definition on Italian applellations see Dr. Deb's Italian wine post) in the Piemonte region, located across the top of the country from Friuli (see map.)

Piemonte is famous for its bold, strong reds like Barolo and Barbaresco. Most of the climate of Piemonte is continental, which means it lacks marine influence and is characterized by more extreme temperatures. However, the white wine area of Gavi located so close to the Mediterranean Liguria region which makes it more temperate. This area produces white wines that are acidic or minerally in contrast to the tannic and high alcohol level of the reds.

The Gavi I picked up was the 2005 Banfi Principessa Perlante for $12.99 at my local BevMo. The "perlante" refers to the fizzy nature of this version of Gavi, also know as frizzante. I could not find out how the bubbles are produced in this wine, but the Banfi site says the wine has a "natural effervescence." The bubbles remind me of Vinho Verde, where they are caused as a secondary malolactic fermentation. The bubbles in a frizzante wine are created by a different process than a sparkling wine, thus the different classification.

The wine also reminds me of a Vinho Verde in flavor. The aroma and flavor of yeast is very similar to dry sparkling wines I've had. There is more mouth feel than a distinct flavor for me. I was surprised that the Banfi site described the wine as "fruit-forward" because I couldn't detect any, even though I drank my glass over an hour period. There was a light after taste that lingered pleasantly. I drank the Gavi by itself last night, but I think it would have gone well with fried chicken; a favorite way of mine to drink Vinho Verde. The Banfi Gavi cost twice what I've paid for most Vinho Verdes I've tried,
so it wasn't a deal at all.

Banfi makes another Gavi that is not fizzy called the "Principessa Gavia" which I'd like to try. According to Vino Italiano, one of the good producers of Gavi is Broglia whose wine is supposed to have "more apple and peach flavors." Another version I'd like to try is one made by Villa Sparina whose Gavis are supposed to be more "rich and extracted." Fortunately, there is a bottle of each at my local store, so I'll be trying these out and sharing my take in a future post.

I enjoyed the Banfi Gavi and look forward to trying some other examples. However, if they don't turn out much better, I'll stick with the Portugese Vinho Verde as it's a better deal! If you've tried a Gavi, especially one of the wine mentioned today, please leave your comments. How would you compare Gavi and Vinho Verde?

Tasting Notes:

Color: Golden yellow, lots of bubbles!

Aroma: Yeast, straw (reminds me of Champagne or Vinho verde)

Taste: Yeast and minerals, more of a mouth feel than a flavor
Finish: Light, dry aftertaste that lingers

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wine Tasting Wednesday: Friuli-Venezia Giulia

This is the first time I am participating in Wine Blogging Wednesday. (Gosh, they’ll let anyone participate!) This virtual wine tasting event picks a theme each month which bloggers post an entry on all on the same day. This months topic is white wines form the Italian wine region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the North-eastern most wine region in Itay.

According to “Vino Italiano” in Friuli there is a distinction between white wines similar to the distinction we make between red and white wine. There are the fresh wines, wines that are fermented in stainless steel resulting in clean wines with high acidity. Then there are the barrique wines, wines fermented and aged in oak resulting in heavier wines with lots of “character.” While the fresh wines (like Tocai Friulano and Pinot Grigio) would go well with lighter fare like a shrimp dish, the barrique wines can stand up to richer foods like an herb-filled ravioli. The barrique wines have also been called the “super whites.”

I tried one of the fresh wines, the 2005 Sirch Tocai Friulano. This grape is thought to be related to the Sauvignon blanc grape, which is what the Sirch reminded me of. It was a little light in flavor, but it had nice acidity. I also read in “Vino Italiano” that some of the cold fermentation went too far and “stripped the wines of any real character.” I wonder if this is what happened to the Sirch. It may just be my inexperienced palate, so I’m going to have to try some more Friulanos to compare.

The Sirch was $13 from WineLibrary (episode 254, I couldn’t find one in any wine stores in the Sacramento area.) I would prefer a Vino Verde from Portugal for a similar light wine that is less expensive. I’m not writing off the Friulano, just wishing it was easier to find some to try.

There are so many different wines from Italy I like to try, but finding them locally is difficult. Even a local wine store that specializes in Italian wines didn’t have any Friuli-Venezia Giulia wines. How do others of you find wines made from less popular grapes? I would really like to try one of the “super-whites.” If you know of a great Italian wine store in or around the Sacramento / San Francisco bay area, please let me know!

Tasting Notes:

Color: Light yellow

Aroma: Slight citurs smell, almost like a Sauvignon blanc

Taste: Light flavors, almost like a Sauvignon blanc with nice acidity

Finish: No real finish

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What Would You Do Differently?

People who write wine blogs are great group of people. They are friendly, informative and very helpful when it comes to learning about wine. I’m impressed by the knowledge and willingness to share that I’ve experienced as I visit various wine blogs around the web.

Last year I posted a question to several wine bloggers and wine forums that I thought would help me learn more about wine. I asked,

“If you were able to go back in time to when you were first getting into wine, what would you do differently?”

I thought I could pick up some wisdom if I got a long time wine lover to think about the “mistakes” they made in the beginning or opportunities they missed because they were newbies.

I got a lot of cool advice like:

  • Don’t pay attention to ratings

  • Develop a relationship with a wine merchant in your area

  • Don’t get stuck in a rut, try everything

  • Don’t read too much at first, experience the wines first hand and then learn.

I expected a few emails (which I got) but I was blown away when one blogger included my question in their blog post. It was Tim Elliot of Winecast. Tim does a podcast on various wine topics. On episode 72, he interviewed Bill Wilson who does the blog Wine for Newbies. Tim asked Bill several questions and then they discussed mine. It was cool to hear these two bloggers answer my question! They gave some great answers and I still visit their blogs from time to time to learn more.

Another cool piece of advice I got was about Bordeaux futures. One member of a wine forum (I can’t remember which one) said he wished he had bought Bordeaux futures the year he first got into wine because it was a great year. By the time he became familiar with Bordeaux wines, that vintage was too expensive to buy from wine shops. He recommended buying 2005 futures even if I didn’t know if I liked Bordeaux wines. I took his advice and I have two bottles which I'll receive in June of this year. It isn’t much, but I thought it would be a great way to get my feet wet even though I’m only getting two bottles. I have tried some Bordeaux wines of a different vintage and enjoyed them, so I’m looking forward to getting my own 2005 Bordeaux wines.

I may still be able to take advantage of the wonderful 2005 Bordeaux vintage. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal last Friday on the 2005 Bordeaux, “Looking for Value in a Prized Vintage” by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher. Their focus is on affordable 2005 Bordeaux that can be found on market shelves today. It seems the supply is hit or miss and goes pretty quick. If you find a bottle, better pick it up. Good values can be found for between $9 and $15: what a deal!

I’d still like to get answers on my question, so please post a response: If you could go back to when you were first learning about wine what would you do differently?

Monday, January 14, 2008


CONTENT NOTE: Chardonnay Monday:

On Mondays, I'll be posting about wines made from Chardonnay. For awhile these will be wines from the various regions in France (ex. Chablis, Pouilly-Fuisse, Beaune, etc.) that produce different types of Chardonnay wines. I'm curious about the different ways the Chardonnay grape is made into wine, especially in France.

When I stared learning about wine a little over a year ago, I was disappointed with Chardonnay. They all seemed too sweet or had too much citrus flavor for me. I thought maybe I just didn't like the Chardonnay grape. So it was with a little reluctantance that I focused on the Chardonnay wines of France. Gary Vaynerchuk at Wine Library TV has been expounding the virtures of French Chardonnay for a while and so I thought I finally learn more about them. I'm glad I did!

The first French Chardonnays I tried were from the Pouilly-Fuisse (Poo-yee Fwee-say) appellation from the Macon region of Burgundy, France. The growing villages of Pouilly-Fuisse are clustered in a roughtly cointiuous area of about 1,400 acreas located 20 miles west of Mâcon.

One of the more well known vinyard owners / negociants in the area is Louis Jadot. I've seen bottles of Louis Jadot wine in all the wine shops I frequent and in most of the grocery stores in my area. Louis Jadot started making wine in 1859. In 1985, the US wine and spirit corporation Kobrand bought Louis Jadot, becoming the first American company to buy a Burgundy producer.

The important part of all this to me is how the wine tastes. When I took my first sip it reminded me of the flavor I assosciated Chardonnay: oak. I know that its popular now to prefer a more natural untouched expression of the grape, but I grew up with oaky Chardonnays and that's the flavor I anticipate when I think of the grape. It may not be the best pairing, but Thanksgiving turkey and an oaky Chardonnay go hand in hand for me! The Louis Jadot was dry, too. I did detect apples on the nose, but there was no sweetness or citrus flavors that had turned me off to Chardonnay before. The Louis Jadot was $26 at my local BevMo, so if you know of a local wine that has the same dry, oaky flavors of this wine and costs less, please let me know. But even at this price, I'm happy to drink Chardonnay again!

Product sheet at

Tasting Notes:

Color: Light bonde, almost champagne colored

Aroma: Yeast, apple and OAK

Taste: Nice dryness; medium mouthfeel; oak

Finish: Slight acidity and the flavor lingers

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Favorite Organic Red

My favorite red wine I tried at the Midtown Winer's organic wine tasting was a Rhone style wine. Before I comment on the wine I thought I'd share about my notes taken during the wine tasting. Looking back at the notes, I noticed that as the evening progressed, my notes were less and less helpful. This was not the result of alcohol effecting me as I was spitting every sip I took the whole night. (It its interesting to note that I sipped and split an amount of wine worth half a 750ml bottle that night.) There were so many wines (21) that our pace was fairly quick. Plus, it was more fun to talk about the wines with my table partners than to write. I think I'll change the format of my tasting notes sheet and practice with them whenever I drink a new wine to get in better practice.

I really liked the 2005 Beckman Cuvee. This wine is a Cote du Rhone-like blend of 53% Grenache, 34% Syrah, 8% Mourvèdre and 5% Counoise. Syrah is my favorite grape of the bunch, but the blending made for a much more interesting wine. When I first sniffed it, it smelled like cabbage or spoiled green vegetables! When I sipped it, the flavor of vegetables was still there, but it combined with the fruit in a good way. This wine would be really good with food.

Beckman Vinyards is in the Santa Ynez Valley AVA in Santa Barbar, California. The Beckmans chose a hillside location to plant their vineyard, which they called Purisima Mountain Vineyard. The soils of the area include clay and clay loam soils and even a rarely seen type in California: limestone. The combination of elevation, moisture and soil allow Beckman Vineyards to grow great Rhone varietals such as Syrah (the predominant grape,) Marsanne, Rousanne, Grenache, Counoise and Mourvedre. The entire property is farmed biodynamically.

Another nice thing about the Beckman wines is their affordable price. The Beckman Cuvee costs around $16 making it an affordable as well as enjoyable Rhone style wine.

Tasing Notes:

Color: Dark red

Aroma: Cabbage and some red fruit

Taste: Vegital (in a good way), cherry, nice tannins.

Finish: The finish was nice and the taste lingered for a while

Friday, January 11, 2008

My Favorite Organic White

On Tuesday I attended an organic wine tasting. Of the 21 wines sampled, eight were white wines, 1 Pinot Blanc, 1 Riesling, 2 Chardonnays and the rest were Sauvignon blancs. My favorite of the whites was a Sauvignon blanc, but a different SB than the group as a whole voted favorite.

I don't know if it was a result of the organic nature of the wines, but most of these whites were a pale yellow, much ligther than the colors I'm used to seeing. The flavors ranged from mild to good to one dimensional to bad. The most expensive wine of the group ($30 Grgich Chardonnay) was the most disappointing. All I tasted was oak!

My favorite was made by organic wine maker Bonterra. Bonterra practices organic and biodynamic farming. They produce affordable wines that I like to drink. I tried their Chardonnay before the wine tasting and enjoyed it. (I decided to bring the Grgich Chardonnay to the tasting because I thought someone else in the group might bring the Bonterra as they are well known as being an organic wine maker.)

The Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc is in a style I like: more minerally than sweet with not much citrus. I have heard that the New Zealand SBs are great and that the French Sancerres are the classic, but I have not tried either of them yet. One thing I like in a SB is what has been described as "cat pee." I don't like the SBs because of the cat pee ordor, its just that they tend to taste the way I prefer. I wonder that I can't pick up the pleasant odors people describe in wines like flowers or blue berries, but I can definitely detect the unpleasant ones!

If you're looking for an affordable organic wine, Bonterra is the way to go.

Bonterra label - Click to see their wine notes.

Tasting Notes:

Color: Very pale yellow, almost clear

Aroma: Earthly, cat pee

Taste: Minerally, nice acidity and not sweet like some SBs

Finish: Not much of a finish

This Sauvignon blanc is definitely a nice wine to sip but it's flavors are stong enough to enjoy with food.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Organic Wine Tasting

I attended a wine tasting last night hosted by the Midtown Winers, a group of friendly wine loving people in the Sacramento area. Our theme last night was Organic Wines. 18 people attended last night's tasting. We were exposed to 21 different wines from all over the world (only 8 were white.) Our theme wasn't defined narrowly, but we were to do research and explain what made our wines "organic." Aside from a very tired and purple tongue, I also got grapes # 40 (Carignan) and 41 (Black Muscat) in towards my century club membership!

In my research about organic wines I came across several arguments that organic wines don't taste good because they are low in sulfites. Sulfites are a natural occuring by-product of fermentaion, so they are present in all wines. However, most wine makers add additional sulfites to help preserve wines. Almost all the wines sampled last night had extra sulfites added, but the one that didn't was really bad tasting.

I also came across an article that argued that biodynamic farming might be the best way of producing "wines of terroir" or wines that express the true expression of the area they are grown in. I'll have to leave that argument to those who have a lot more experience and a much better palate than I do!

There were several great wines, some okay wines, and some defenite stinkers. My favorites were the Rhone blends and the Sauvignon blancs we had. I'll give my tasting notes and impressions in future postings. My over all impression of last nights tasting is that there are a lot more organic growers than I thought there were and that an organic wine doesn't guarentee that the wine will be bad or good. You just have to taste and see what you like!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

News and Another Douro

Today's post includes some news about a busy January for wine events and another Douro wine. I periodically attend a monthly wine tasting group in my area. This group of people meets every 1st Tuesday of the month (except for holidays.) This month's theme is organic and biodynamic wines. I hope to go to more meetings this year as the tastings always expose me to more wines than I would find on my own and the people in the group are very friendly. Plus its nice to actually meet face to face with people who share a passion for wine! If you live in the Sacramento area, feel free to join the Midtown Winers (email me if you'd like more information.)

In an effort to immerse myself in the wine blogging world, I'm taking part in Wine Blogging Wednesday #41, a virtual wine tasting where wine bloggers all over the world pick a wine based on the theme and share their tasting notes. This month's theme is wines from the Italian region Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Northern Italy. I've had a Tocai Friulano before, but I want to try something new, so I've lined up a red wine made from the Refosco grape. Even if you don't have a blog, you can participate by posting your tasting notes at the Wine Blogging Site before Wednesday, January 16th.

Dr. Debs from Good Wine Under $20 has formed a new blog group for reading and reviewing wine books. Similar to Wine Blogging Wednesday only with books, we'll all be reading the same wine book and sharing our opinions. Only the "meetings" are every other month to give you more time to read the book. This is a good thing because the first book is "Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy", a 544 page book on the vast and varied wine regions of the second largest producer of wine in the world! Reviews are due February 26th. You can read all the details over on Good Wine Under $20 or on the host for the first event at McDuff's Food and Wine Trail. I've ordered my copy of the book (surprisingly affordable at $18 including shipping for a used copy) and it will arrive soon. (This means I've got to finish the book I started while on vacation, "Enemy at the Gate" about the battle at Stalingrad in World War II. I'm half way through the book and the Russians have just launched a counter offensive against the German invaiders. It's the beggining of winter on the Russian Steppe and I can't leave those poor soldiers waiting while I read a wine book!)

I hope to attend my first barrel tasting at the end of the month at a couple Fair Play wineries in the El Dorado foothills. I'll have a lot of material for wine blogging, but let me talk about another Douro wine first.

Yesterday I posted my pleasant experience with a 2005 Valtorto Douro. I had previously had another Douro and wanted to try it again to see if it too would resemble the taste of Port if left to breathe for awhile. Unfortunately, I did't get the same results. I don't know if this is because the wine has one more varietal than the Valtorto had (Tinta Barroca) or because of the different vintages. The wine was a nice wine, especially given it's $7.00 price, but it didn't have the same spicyness I enjoyed in yesterday's wine.

Charamba Tinto 2004

Tasting Notes:

Color: Ruby red

Aroma: Cherry (smelled like similar to a tempranillo)

Taste: Mild fruit with light tannins

Finish: Slight

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Douro: Great wine from "Port" grapes

I'm Back!

Sorry for the prolonged absence and silence. I was on vacation for two weeks. I also changed internet providers at home and was not able to access the internet from home.

Thanks, Dr. Debs, for mentioning this blog in your Good Wine Under $20 blog. I hope you weren't disappointed when I didn't post for so long. I promise to keep up with my posting now that I'm off break. You have been a great encouragement, both in learning about wine and in blogging.

I don't drink much Port, but I do like the wines made from the grapes that go into Port. I'm a big fan of Portuguese wines because of the price and the taste. I had a real treat over my vacation when I had the 2005 Valtorto Douro. It took a little while to fully appreciate this wine, but I learned a cool lesson.

Douro is the region of Portugal where Port is produced. The land and climate seem barely capable of supporting grape vines. Several other wine growing areas have steep hills, but they started out with ample soil. In many Portuguese vineyards, soil had to be carried in to augment the schist and granite. Terraces were built after workers chipped away at rocks and added organic matter. (See the "Vineyard of the day" for an example of a terraced Douro vineyard.)

This area is known for Port, but the grapes that are used to make Port can make a great table wine, too. One of these is made by the Port shipper Wiese & Krohn. They have blended Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo) and Touriga franca into a nice table wine that has some of the distinct flavor of Port without the strong sweetness or alcohol.

When I first tasted the wine it reminded me of a Tempranillo. But when I let the wine sit in my glass for about half an hour it transformed into something different! After it had a chance to breathe, I noticed a plum aroma that I hadn't earlier. When I tasted the wine, I was surprised and pleased by the port like flavor! The next day I drank the wine, I decanted it for about half an hour got the same result. I'll have to see if decanting helps produce the same flavors in other Douro wines I've tried in the past

Tasting Notes:

Color: Ruby red

Aroma: Plum and raisins

Taste: Tastes like Port, but not as sweet. Much less alcohol than a Port, too. The wine has a flavor that resembles the spiciness of Zinfandel and goes with foods like Pizza and spaghetti with spicy sauces.

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