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Juicy fooder to whet your wine whistle over the 4th!

This week the bloggosphere has been uncorking juicy tidbits left and right. And since we all need a bit of levity over a holiday weekend (or anticipation on one on a Friday), here are some of my favorites: Dr. Vino doesn't hold back at all with this week's Sipped & Spit line-up. Bordeaux, Grateful Palate banter, Bourgogne Blanc and Brews.... Sit back and be entertained!

Next week we'll be adding some wine knowledge to your week over at Wicked Local. In anticipation of that article, check out this entertaining banter on the obscure Melon Queue Rouge varietal. Chardonnay? Or something else? Have you ever encountered it before?

While you consider your response to the above question, sip on this fine suggestion from Deb Harkness. She has your back (and BBQ needs) covered this Fourth of July weekend. Independence from decision-making = Happiness!



Respect the grape: Chardonnay

Chardonnay gets a bad rep. Some people seem to find it too mundane. Others complain about the over-oaked Chards that used to dominate the domestic market. You know things are really bad when somewhere along the way a “group” called the ABC’s came into being (Anything BUT Chardonnay). But such hate is not just unbecoming, it’s also unnecessary. Pop over to Wicked Local today to get a fresh take on this highly "controversial" varietal! Are you a Chard lover - or hater?



Sr. Juan Bengas comes to Boston

This Friday I have a bit of a treat for you! Rather than sticking to our usual format of wine news/trends article links today, I urge you to pop over to Ball Square Fine Wines' blog to learn a bit more about Argentine viticulture, winemaking and the impact of the Chilean earthquakes not just domestically, but among their neighbors just over the Andes. There you'll find a bit of video to stimulate your senses as Senor Benegas, the 4th generation grandson of the man known as the Father of Argentine winemaking, visited us in Somerville last week with his wares and his knowledge both at the ready. Enjoy! Are you a fan of the Benegas collection? Have you tasted the latest releases yet?



January's Wicked Wines!

January 2010 Wicked WinesAnd.... we're back! What better way to come back from the holidays than to find out this month's Wicked Wine picks? I figure it's worth celebrating the end of 2009 with some truly wonderful selections you can snuggle up to on the coldest nights of the winter. Pop on over to Wicked Local to see what I have up my sleeve!

Does your New Years resolution have anything to do with wine? If so, what have you decided to pursue in 2010?



This week (and next) in wine!

Santa waterskiing in Argentina?? Thanks to: eclectic array of wine news/events to share this Friday, so I'll skip to the "good stuff" and hold my pen as much as possible so you have time to investigate these for yourself. Twitter magic reveals great Decanter/YouTube video. Check out this video to discover Decanter Editor Guy Woodward's take on "the risers, the fallers and the surprises of the 2009 Power List".  It's quite tasty - even without a glass of wine to accompany it! (And remember, Twitter is a crazy, fun world where you can soak up all kinds of juicy tidbits like this one shared by @melissadobson! Be sure to follow me if you aren't already!)

Argentine's spread the "gospel of wine" - Christmas comes early! Wine & Spirits Daily reported this week that the Argentine government is investing in its small wineries. I'm not sure how hard hit Argentina is by the "global recession" but I can't shake a finger at any country ramping up their wine program - particularly when they are already on solid footing! The extra dough shows just how large a role the wine industry plays in their economy. Giddyup!

Local charity leverages it's giving power - Boston area wine event, July 25! Join Housing Family as they work to support the Rodman Ride for Kids, "an umbrella matching gift charity raising funds to help at-risk children in Massachusetts." School might be "out" this week, but giving - and wine tasting - is in! For just $15 per person you can join in the fun at the Dockside Restaurant in Malden. Call 781-322-9119 for tickets or more information.



June's Wicked (Good) Wines Uncorked!

June 09 Wicked Wines!I can hardly believe it is already June - 6 months of 2009 are behind us and only 6 more to go!  Time to officially get our beach chairs out of storage and fill up a second propane tank as "back up" for those terrific nights of grilling ahead. The only thing needed is a few good ideas for what to uncork this month... Head on over to Wicked Local today to get the skinny on four great wines you should give a (s)wirl. Some are a party all in themselves; others will help get it started (without breaking the bank).

What other wines have you tucked into this month? Any destined to become your official summer "house" wines?



Wines for fall: Mmmm... Malbec

I spend a lot of time in the shop hanging out in our Argentine/Spanish section. Not only do our customers gravitate to that area, but I found my first bottle of love from a non-US producer in that aisle: (Altos de las Hormigas) Malbec. I was hesitant to talk about Malbec in my mini series, Wines for Fall, because there are other grape varietals (e.g. Petite Verdot, Petite Sirah) that are lesser known and lesser consumed, but no less worthy of our attention this time of year. But I realized there was no real reason to keep my personal favorite off the list - and at least once a week I introduce a customer to a bottle of Malbec, so that proves there are still some grasshoppers out there who need to know of this magical varietal!

Malbec is THE Argentine (red) grape of mass export to the US. (I tried to find the exact figure to back this up, but was unable to do so! Please feel free to comment below if you know the answer...). When I was first introduced to Malbec some years ago it was considered an 'up and coming' project in Argentina. The vines were still young (not that they aren't still now, but every year helps!) and so lacked depth, concentration and, key word, ripe berry fruit. The wines tended toward the more vegetal, or "green" flavor profile as a result. As a new wine-exporting/producing nation, there also existed a natural lack of funding, interest (from winemakers and consumers across the globe) and modern technology. These facts could make finding truly phenomenal Malbec a bit more of a challenge. In just the last 10-15 years or so however, the funding is there, Mendoza is better known and appreciated for its happy climate to grow Malbec, and even curious winemakers from all over the world are happy to jump on a plane and get in the fray.

The result? Malbecs of many shapes and sizes are in the US market offering a range of tremendous flavor.

I find it thrilling to help others navigate this range of possibilities. The undercurrant to Malbec tends to be: dark fruits (like the plumbs or blackberries you often find in Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot); spice (sometimes simply black pepper, other times more exotic spices you may play with in the kitchen); earth (think outdoors, woodsy, wet soil or even a touch of saddle leather); gentle grip (not too dry, but evident tannin); and solid acidity (mouthwatering & food-friendly). What makes each (good, non-vegetal or bell-pepper tasting) Malbec fun to expore is which of these elements is/are more evidant and - most important - what role the winemaker has played in coaxing a truly lushy, soft, velvety (or not) mouthfeel.

I've come to know and love the softer, lusher Malbecs (Melipal makes a great example); the earthier style (I'm a fan of Nieto Rsv Malbec); or the berry-forward, unreserved, slightly more rustic basic level offerings like Altos las Hormigas (their Reserva is definitely bigger, bolder and more lush than their $10/bottle offering).

As for the Fall connection? Let's turn to food pairings, of course! But, wait, what's my rule of thumb on this again? Look to the culture from whence the wine came! So, let's also not forget Argentines consumes a LOT of beef. Throw that herb-encrusted steak on the grill and, well, I think your inner child will have no choice but to emerge. Then again... anything on the grill makes Malbec a great choice. Whenever I host a BBQ, I have a case on hand. Malbecs are approachable yet intriguing and ever-so worthy of grilled fare.

What's your favorite Argentine Malbec of choice? Or do you head to France, where this grape got its start, for a Cahors selection?



food & wine, a river, a park, some bands and a good cause

Romance is half the fun in the world of wine. Every movie is chalk full of great imagery, enticing viewers to hit the riviera and sip a cool glass of rose, picnic on a hilltop overlooking the vineyard below, or dance around barefoot in a great big vat of grapes. Music and terroir are always part of the equation, too. If you thought you couldn't live a romantic food/wine life in the Boston suburbs of Medford/Somerville, here's your chance to test the theory! This Saturday from noon to seven the Mystic River Music Festival will bring together all the necessary ingredients for a fabulous afternoon - and all the proceeds from your snacking and imbibing will go towards a great cause, the Mystic River Watershed Foundation.

I spoke with Brian Lamb, full-time owner of Our Glass Wine Co. on Route 1 and part-time mastermind behind this great event. It seems that the Condon Shell (a Medford mini Hatch Shell venue, if you will) was the inspiration behind the event. A long-time lover of the site, Lamb approached Mayor McGlynn with the idea to use the Condon Shell for an afternoon of entertainment. McGlynn was more than happy to get on board. The Shell had been recently re-acquired by the city of Medford and McGlynn had hoped to bring music and the arts back to Medford. This was a perfect opportunity.

The event will feature music from local bands, grilled fare provided by Whole Foods, crafts by local artists, and other local vendors committed to all things Green. Perhaps most noteably (from my perspective), the wines on offer will all be organic selections.... and there are some TRULY phenomenal ones in the mix.

Here's a quick preview of just three of the many wines available on Saturday:

2007 Jelu Torrontes ~ Everyone knows Argentine Malbec. Well... Torrontes will have the same U.S. following as the leading white wine varietal coming from that part of the world soon enough! Not bitter at all (as some Torrontes can be) this wine is the PERFECT summer sipper. It offers gorgeous ripe fruits, healthy acidity and a nice medium body allowing it greater food pairing versatility. A welcome treat. The Cafe Europa team is responsible for bringing this little number to the event's wine roster.

2007 Mas de Gourgonnier Rose ~ If you've tasted the standard red Mas de Gourgonnier (in the crazy, 'fat' bottle with the long neck) you know you're in for a treat with this rose. This vineyard has been making organic wines before organic was "in". And this rose is one of the best out there. It offers fabulous summer strawberry and raspberry aromas and flavors, but is refreshingly crisp and dry (as all great rose should be). A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre, Cinsault and Cab, it can hold up to serious BBQ magic, too. Ideal Wine Imports are responsible for bringing this to a store near you and will be donating this selection to the event.

2005 Vinos Pinol Sacra Natura ~ This is a red wine blend from the Terra Alta region of Spain (near Priorat, south of Barcelona) where the soil lacks optimal nutrients; this causes the vines to 'work harder' and results in fewer bunches but more concentrated fruit. The Sacra Natura in particular hails from a vineyard boasting 95 year old vines (read: even more concentrated fruit). A robust blend of Cariñena, Merlot, Cab Sauvignon, Syrah and Tempranillo, this wine does not hold back. Ole Imports & Ruby Wines will be donating this bad boy.

Rain or shine, the Condon Shell should be your local event stop this weekend!

So, what are you waiting for? Do you plan to be 'romanced' in Medford?



Embracing your own palate: Rethore vs. Vaynerchuk

I alluded earlier this week that my take on the 4 wines Gary Vaynerchuk tasted out at the Boston Book Signing/Wine Tasting event (to air tomorrow, June 26) was a bit different than Gary's. This doesn't mean either Gary or I is "right" or "wrong". Wine Tasting is an individual sensory experience so much so that there are no strike outs in Wine Tasting. Rather... this is where the fun truly begins! I've decided to post my own tasting notes for the wines at the event for the sake of helping any skeptical readers embrace this idea. If you weren't able to attend, I hope you've had enough time to go out and purchase/taste the wines for yourself! If not, I encourage you to do so and then return for a little look-see at what I have to say about them.

For those of you who just can't help yourself and want a preview of my own insights, I've composed my notes with a touch of flourish - much like you might see on a "shelf talker" or on the back of the bottle. And I think it is worth restating that for me, the context of the wine really matters. Knowing more about the "behind the scenes" of where/why/how (etc.) the wines were produced influences my appreciation of them.

So without further ado...

2007 Vina Aljibes White

Albacete, Spain (Castilla la Mancha)

This delightfully surprising wine is a luscious blend of Sauvignon Blanc (84%) and Chardonnay (14%). In the glass it is a light golden color and offers an intriguing bouquet of creamsicles. On the palate the Chardonnay blend contributes creamy, almond flavors while its greater partner, Sauvignon Blanc, offers refreshingly crisp, citrus fruit. Easily enjoyed on its own, the Aljibes white’s fruitiness, medium-full body and mouthwatering acidity also makes it a food-friendly selection. Pair with poultry, fish or grilled veggies seasoned with olive oil, garlic and lemon.

2007 Vina Aljibes Rosé

Albacete, Spain (Castilla la Mancha)

The Aljibes rosé is made from 100% Syrah grapes, not Granacha like many of its counterparts throughout Spain. It is made from free run juice that only sees three hours of skin contact. Immediately you notice the watermelon jolly rancher color of the wine and are intrigued by its earthy, rosy nose. Ripe strawberry fruit and subtle dry tannins grace the mid-palate. A lively, juicy finish completes this wine’s symphony. The Aljibes rosé pairs with just about any dish you can imagine and could very well be the perfect answer on a hot day.

2006 Sur de los Andes Cabernet Sauvignon

Mendoza, Argentina

Sur de los Andes takes a risk in producing this 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendoza, Argentina, an area better known for Malbec. As it opens, aromas reminiscent of a recently trodden damp, forest floor lift from the glass, followed by hints of leather and cooking spices. Ripe blackberries emerge on the mid-palate and are followed by a juicy, peppery finish. Seeing only four months in oak, this is a medium-bodied Cabernet that delivers a more refined result than one might expect. Pair with red meats or even grilled eggplant and portabella mushrooms.

2005 Palacio Quemado “PQ”

Ribera del Guadiana, Spain

The 2005 PQ is another 100% Syrah selection on this flight, but this is no rosé! This wine is a striking, deep violet color. The nose immediately delivers distinct, sweaty saddle and herbal aromas. Blackberries and other red fruits fill your mouth and dance on your tongue as the benefits of six months in French oak impart just a touch of mocha and an alluring, full body. The finish has just a kick of spice. Pair with hard cheeses, lamb or BBQ fare.

Survey says...? What's your take on the wines? Any favorites on the wine flight?


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Viva the Unusual Vinos! Gary V came, saw & tasted...

Last Thursday night 150 some odd Gary Vaynerchuk friends, fans and wine lovers attended his Boston Book Signing and Thunder Show tasting event at the Hotel Commonwealth downtown. The event certainly brought "the Thunder" featuring: a live filming of Thunder Show episode #494; a chance to meet Gary V while picking up a signed copy of his book; and - most impressively - a sample taste of the wines reviewed during the show. Attendees then headed downstairs to the Foundation Lounge for a special welcome cocktail, appetizers and their choice of libation (with wines from the show once again available at the bar). I must admit, though everyone gasped or groaned when Gary rated the wines between 86 points and 90 points, I was pretty impressed with the wines selected for the show given the regions that produced them. Four solid wines each having at least one unusual characteristic (hence the theme "Unusual Suspects") were on the wine flight. Vinha Alijibes winery in Albacete, Spain (Castella la Mancha region) took care of two of the wines, one a Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay blend and one a 100% Syrah rose.

What makes these selections so unique? First of all, Castilla La Mancha isn't one of the foremost wine making regions in Spain. You're probably more familiar with Rioja, Ribadera del Duero or Penendez (where Cava comes from). Second, when it comes to varietals used in each of these wines, these winemakers are definitely putting themselves out there. While Chard is a grape that can grow pretty much everywhere (albeit infrequently in Spain), Sauvignon Blanc is more often produced in the Loire Valley, California and New Zealand. As for the rose, Tempranillo and Grenacha are the dominant red grape varietals in Spain, with Grenacha often used for their rosado (rose) wines. Syrah is a relative new kid on the block in Spain and when used, is more often blended.

As for the reds, the 2006 Sur de los Andes Cab is, well... a Cab! From Argentina? Um, right. That's the thing. Gary may have been a bit misleading on the show, but Argentina is better known for its Malbecs; Cab's made there tend to really leave you wanting - a big glass of something else to wash away the green bell pepper flavors! At best, it is considered an 'up and coming' wine varietal there. But this Cab was a fan favorite among those that attended. And for $10, your near-impossible, under-$10-Cab search could end altogether.

Last but not least, the 2005 Palacio Quemado "PQ", another 100% Syrah attempt by Spaniards, but this time the full figured red kind. This selection is from the Ribera del Guadiana region, another lesser known wine producing region in Northish-Western Spain that essentially overlooks Portugal.

After the show ended Gary asked the crowd the following question: Do you like 1) mangos, 2) escargo and 3) sliders from White Castle? If you answered "yes" to ALL THREE of those, then you have the same palate as Gary. I answered yes to only one, mangoes. But Gary and I certainly share a similar philosophy about wine: get out there and taste!

Here's your "homework" then for this week: head out to The Wine Gallery or your local shop to pick up these wines. Taste them and then check out Gary V's episode featuring them. I'll post my own tasting notes later this week, too, for additional comparison. I'll look forward to your comments!

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