Viewing entries in


Next Episode of "What She's Drinking"

I realized I haven't posted in ages about what I've been sipping on. The last several months, it's felt a bit like a marathon - not of exorbitant consumption, per se, but of keeping up with the many new vintages hitting shelves this summer. Yes, my colleague and I (largely) enjoy  our "Homework", which consists of bring home new finds or new vintages of old favorites to 'check in' on a particular wine and perhaps most important, have it in the comfort of our own homes, with friends/family (or sometimes solo)  and 9 out of 10 times, with food. Sure, you can taste 60+ wines per week, but there's something to be said for getting a little bit of a reality check, or perspective on what the average wine consumer experiences. Where to begin? Naturally we'll start with rose, since that's what I'm most inclined to take home right at the moment. I don't know what it is, but as soon as it gets warm all I want is a good rose. And now it is H-O-T.

As you may recall from my late Spring post, fresh out of the gates, things were looking a bit unsettled in rose land; wines had not yet come into their own.

But now they are singING!

I'm still a huge fan of Chateau Larroque, the Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend I last wrote about. Contending alongside it for my everyday rose-sipping affections is... Le Fraghe "Rodon" Bardolino Chiaretto rose. Now here's something equally unique (perhaps why there are so many apparent 'names' on the bottle). Bardolino by definition connotes a light styled Italian red, one you might chill. Ok, it's hot outside. Tell me more! The grapes in this lively rose (not that you can tell from the label, ironically) are Rondinella and Corvina - two of the flagship varietals that make up the bold Veneto wine Valpolicella. The grapes see about 6 hours on the skin, giving it a dark rose/light light red wine color. The finished wine actually matures on the lees in stainless steel tanks. This process give it a richer texture but also a zesty punch. I love it for it's uber-dry, quenching qualities - and the fact that there is a surprising, but welcome bit of spice on the finish! I think it is that little extra kick that sets it apart from other roses (particularly the kind I typically gravitate towards, those from Provence).

It's definitely been a fun summer so far! If you want to spend a few extra bones and can get your hands on any, keep an eye out for another vierdo rose - one from County Line in Anderson Valley. This bold wine is a 100% Pinot Noir offering.

What are you drinking at the moment?



January is short change wine month

What's on my table this January? Everything good n'cheap! It's amazing what you can get your hands on after the New Year in particular, when wine buyers are particularly keen on discovering great wines for short change. Note that savvy buyers often can find wines that are in their prime but are offered by wholesalers for a reduced rate, who are busy trying to move out "old" inventory what with new vintages due in the coming few months. These professionals also appreciate that consumer's credit card bills will have been maxed out during the holiday gifting spree, but that while they still want some vinous love on a chilly night, quality should not be compromised. (Who wants to re-live their New Year's hangover?!) Of course, here in Massachusetts the liquor tax has been repealed. So as of the first of the year, we're "saving" 6.25% to boot!

Curious what am I sipping specifically?

Let's start with last weekend, when I was uber-happy to uncork the 2007 Chateau Les Tours Seguy Cotes de Bourg (Bordeaux, France). This is a wine that is chock full of French-tastic terroir (barnyard aromas and a hint of leather and checked earthy appeal on the palate) and supple blackberry, black currant and even some red fruits. It has great balance, but like most Bordeaux is better with food (game meats, hard cheeses, even pasta with meat sauce like lasagna - hell, I had it with Chicken Mushroom soup because the brussel sprouts and leeks in the dish brought savory earthy appeal to deliver a great match for the wine). We are pretty convinced this is a wine that is in it's prime right here, right now with just light, dusty tannins, good lift and integration. Even better, this is a wine that should retail in the high teens, and it is worth every penny; but because it was one of those wines cluttering up the  wholesaler's warehouse when new vintages are coming in,  it was available for a super low price, which the shop was happy to pass on to customers.  For $8.99, I'm one happy (repeat) customer!

What values are you finding out there so far this Winter?



(aged) Bordeaux wine delights

Back to the wines we tasted at the Bordeaux wine dinner, folks who attended wanted to know my favorite in the mix. Here was the prestigious line-up to "choose" amongst: First Course: Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte Blanc 2003 (Pessac-Leognan)

Second Course: Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste 1997 (Paulliac)

Second Course: Chateau Lynch-Bages 1997 (Paulliac)

Third Course: Chateau L'Arrosee 1986 (St. Emilion)

Third Course: Chateau Cos d'Estournel 1986 (St. Estephe)

Fourth Course: Chateua Doisy-Vedrines 2000 (Barsac-Sauternes)

Not bad, eh?

You can see from this list that we had a few charges, if you will, among the reds.  For example, the second and third courses were set up to allow us to sample wines from the same vintage, same appellation - followed by wines from same vintage but different appellations. What was so much fun was that each of the wines showed very differently from each other so you really could relish either the variation in styles Chateau to Chateau or in vintage years. I could write for days about their unique qualities. Truly, these were red wines to behold and when paired with the cuisine Chef meticulously prepared, they continued to deliver even more flavor and depth as you might expect.

But as so often is the case, it seems whatever is first in any given wine lineup gets lost. (There is probably scientific research that backs up my informal assessment accordingly.) After marinating in my experience for a few days, I knew for certain it was the Smith-Haut-Lafitte that I kept thinking about. There's just something so captivating about aged whites, particularly from regions that produce wines that can age. It's rich texture, still-singing acidity and solid core of fruit was just so appealing! Particularly delighting was the bruised apple meets cheese rind rusticity the wine delivered. You just can't get that kind of depth of tertiary nuance from a "fresh" wine. It is something magical that happens in the bottle when you can be patient enough to just... wait for it.

Do you enjoy white Bordeaux? Have you ever tasted an aged one?



Bottle variation - Fact or Fiction?

I had the great pleasure of attending an exceptional wine dinner featuring older vintages (1986, 1997, 2000, 2003) of Bordeaux wines last weekend. The company was delightful, the venue memorable (Menton, Barbara Lynch's latest venture), and the wine superb. Yes, I am happy to make such a blanket statement about the vin even though the group found there was some bottle variation among the wines on offer and there was some discussion of the merits of each selection. (More on the specific wines tasted in a later post....) I realized in retrospect that "bottle variation" is a topic that isn't really discussed in the mainstream. Folks might grab a bottle off the shelf - or buy a case of something they had a tremendously good experience with once - and discover the next bottle is "still good, but doesn't taste quite the same". This can happen for a number of reasons.

When dealing with smaller production wines meant to age like those I tasted Saturday, how the wine is handled and storage condition are critical to preserving a wine. Factors like exposure to heat and light and how well the cork holds up over time can significantly impact it. Back in the day when wineries conducted assemblage (the process of blending a wine) more organically, or when winemakers would siphon off certain amounts from each barrel and bottle each bottle individually, in/consistency bottle to bottle literally happened in the moment. But today and since roughly the 70s, stainless steel tanks allow winemakers to blend at once and then send the wine through a bottling line.  Among the more elite wineries with the funds/equipment et. al. necessary to create a consistent wine bottle to bottle and with a careful attention to detail regarding shipment, you can imagine things should be pretty dang consistent. True, you never know what happens behind the scenes as the wine is handled from importer, to distributor, to you. But still....

My take is that when all parts are created equal and particularly when we're dealing with high-end stuff that has the best chance of any to be treated properly in transition from winery to table, bottle variation is the result of something I call "bottle personality". Maybe I'm coining the phrase, maybe I'm not. But we in the trade largely agree that wines can show differently on any given day simply due to tides, atmospheric pressure change and the like. What's not to say a wine can't have an off day? It is an organic creature after all and, like us, can feel inclined to pout - or strut its stuff  - accordingly.

I'm not one for change in general, but I do find it absolutely fascinating in the case of wine. It's one of the reasons I'm in this business: the experience is almost always unique, and therefore uniquely fulfilling.

What's your experience with bottle variation?



This week in wine

Nose image care of: wine? Got a good cause? What about an insured nose (Robert Parker's) and debate about its efficacy - or at least the question of mind over matter? Yes, yes; it has been another nerdy week in wine! Biz Stone and his partner in crime at Twitter are first to bat in my lineup this Friday. They are teaming up with the folks at Crushpad and Room to Read to bring The Fledgling Initiative to bear. Check out this video describing the project to learn more!

Bringing home the runners is Jonah Lehrer (and friends). His philosophical diatribe over at ScienceBlogs provides a more "scientific" perspective on the art and science of blind tasting. He uses errors Parker made recently retasting 2005 Bordeaux (as explored by Dr. Vino, who was present for the moment in question, and further discussed by Felix Salmon) as his premise.  Lehrer's piece question whether wine experience or our senses dictate wine enjoyment. It's not a perfect piece of blog journalism, science or philosophy; but all of the above links are sure to stimulate your mind this Friday morning and worth investigating for yourself.

Have you ever tried to blind taste wine? What was your experience doing it and what was the occasion?



September's wicked wine picks!

Poland, OH : Poland Little Red School House Museum care of much as we may hate to admit it, the smell of autumn is in the air. September offers a great opportunity to embrace wines of all shapes and sizes, regardless of a specific need to celebrate. Sometimes simply unwinding at the end of a long day is the way to go. This month we offer some bubbly for just such an occasion, as well as a cool white that could fly under the radar screen if not given proper attention and a dynamic duo of opposing, but equally enticing reds. School may be back in session, but September is absolutely not a month for “Time Out” in the wine world! Pop on over to Wicked Local for this month’s roster of recess-worthy picks.

What else are you sipp'n on this month?