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Wines for Thanksgiving!

Schloss Mulenhoff Dornfelder 07With only one weekend before Thanksgiving remaining, no doubt wine lovers throughout the country will be out and about buying wines for the big event. Indeed, it's up there as far as important wine events go! For your drinking (and reading) pleasure, it seemed prudent to round up a few of my favorite picks for the e-roster. Wheeee!!


2007 Schloss Muhlenhof Dornfelder - This bad boy comes in a 1L size. I hosted a small affair last weekend and it could have easily been the only wine I poured (it was gone WAY too quickly!) - offering great, concentrated red berry fruit flavors (cherries, raspberries) in a smooth, sultry package. Generally speaking, this grape (Dornfelder, that is) is a German red wine phenomenon for those who like a lot of fruit, a bit of "lift" and a welcome bit of earthy, mineral-driven nuance to their wines. No lie, Scholss Muhlenhof's is THE BEST I've ever encountered (so great is my love I'm tempted to buy a full case of the stuff to have on hand "just in case..." this winter). The extra glass the 1L size offers will NOT be wasted.  Only $15!

2006 Bethel Heights Eola-Amity Cuvee Pinot Noir -  A careful blend of 6 different vineyard sites, the  is a tremendous, mouth-filling example of Oregon Pinot Noir. Think of this wine as a smooth, deeply earthy Belgian truffle, filled with cherry and raspberry fruits. Truly a well-integrated, delicious wine worth the gentle splurge. (A winner destined for my own table.) About $31.

2007 Clos la Coutale Cahors - With the (worthy) Malbec craze stemming from the success of this grape in Argentina, many consumers forget Malbec is actually a French varietal. Many more do not know that arguably the best, single bottling Malbecs in France come from the Cahors region – and are labeled simply as such. This wine is  remarkably succulent, juicy and approachable. Enjoy black raspberry and blackberry flavors complemented with fresh strawberries! A touch of earthy rusticity makes this Malbec uniquely French. This one is a "bigger" wine than "traditional" Thanskgiving recommendations and would be a particularly good match for rosemary/garlic encrusted roast hen, or the like. About $17.


Schoenheitz NV Edelzwicker - Edelzwicker means "noble blend". Indeed this wine includes as many as seven different varieties from Auxerrois to Sylvaner. The result is suprisingly coherent and delightfully flavorful. Well balanced, dry Alsatian goodness, this is another wine that comes in the 1 litre size bottle. About $15.

2006 Clos de Rochers Pinot Gris - While Alsace, France has long been the place for rich, but dry Pinot Gris, this Luxembourg beauty beats them at their own game. Ripe pears and yellow flowers abound on the nose and coat the palette while brisk minerality keeps things dry and balanced. This wine is absolutely worth the splurge – and certainly a great conversation topic if the family gets a bit unruly. (This one will also be on my own table!)  About $22.

2007 Anne Amie Cuvee A Mueller Thurgau -Leave it to the folks at well-known Anne Amie Vineyards to deliver an exceptional, if not lesser known, wine. The Cuvee A Mueller Thurgau’s tropical and floral aromas could very easily be bottled on their own and used by aroma therapists to rejuvenate clients. Pineapple, melon and white peach flavors comingle with a perky taste of fresh lemon juice. About $15.


Villa di Corlo NV Grasparossa Lambrusco - Versatile, slightly sparkling, fresh, fruity goodness. Lambrusco is pink - and the best are oh-so-dry. This is a wine for guests who deserve and enjoy a break from the norm. This particular offering shows ripe raspberry fruit backed by a coy minerality. Perfect simply when you want to dazzle without effort. About $17.

Poema NV Brut Cava - Today, if you look for it, exceptional Cava is available at a fraction of the price of Champagne. Case in point: the Poema makes drinking bubbly every day (or in a large party format) oh-so-easy and affordable! This is a fun and versatile bubbly with subtle flavors of peach, pear and warm, toasted bread. A bit of orange rind on the finish adds additional intrigue and nuance. Enjoy this one before, during or after your meal. About $11.

Which one of these is likely to grace your table? Is there another you have in mind for the big day??



Beaujolais Nouveau release at Midnight tonight!

Before Harry Potter book signing parties, there were other parties, wine parties, that came more frequently than those of the Harry Potter variety. They came every 3rd Thursday in November to be precise. And the tradition lives on.... Just one week before Thanksgiving stacks of the colorful Georges Duboeuf's famous Beaujolais Nouveau are sent out to wine shops from Beaujolais, France (think Southern Burgundy where Pinot Noir thrives). Wondered what it is? Beaujolais is a wine made from a grape called Gamay. The Nouveau style is made through a fermentation process called carbonic maceration and is released super-duper fresh, i.e. from harvest to bottle to market within mere weeks! It is intended consumers drink this wine young, and certainly no longer than 6 months. Why? Well, Gamay is a low-tannin varietal, which makes it optimal for those who prefer a light-styled, fruity, fruity wine. But even with it's naturally high acidity (another "age-worthy" component for wine), the fact that the wine goes through carbonic maceration hurts the wine's natural ability to age.

The hoopla of this catch-and-release process began in the late 1800s. Locals recognized this light-styled red wine was perfect for the transition between seasons and the unofficial 'switch' from white to red wine drinking - and they made a party of it (just imagine! pitchers of wine from the barrels were on offer!!) while the more grand Beaujolais wines were still working their mojo and evolving. The French government decided to reign in the revelry a little bit in 1938 and then in 1951 declared the "3rd Thursday in November" rule.

I don't mean to mislead you, however. Georges Duboeuf isn't the only producer of Beauojolais Nouveau; he's just the most famous because he produces so much of the stuff. Regardless who's Nouveau you select to sip, expect tooty-fruity red berry flavors. It's not my bag, though I have come to appreciate Beaujolais/Gamay when on offer from one of the premiere villages where the wine hasn't been quite as fast-tracked, e.g. Moulin-a-Vent, Morgon, Fleurie and Brouilly. Those wines tend to offer a bit more complexity - a touch of earth, a touch more depth, and a touch of tannin to offset all of that boisterous fruit! Their light style, much like Pinot Noir, is indeed a great complement to your turkey dinner.

So the question is... will you Nouveau?



Wines for fall: don't forget about white blends!

White wines aren't just a summer thang. (One of the best turkey wines is actually Pinot Gris from Alsace or Oregon!) And this time of year it can be really fun to expand your white wine horizons by looking into fabulous white blends. Think of old favorites like Evolution 9. Conundrum. Luna Freakout. The list goes on and on! The trick is finding fun white blends that have a little extra oomph to get you through the colder nights. A little residual sugar might not hurt either (think Anne Amie Cuvee Amrit!). Since last week we talked about the awsome red blend SNAFU put out by the Local Wine Company, its only fair for me to let you in on the goodness that is their white wine blend: '06 JuneHog Oregon White. Yum. Oh wait, but I'm getting a bit ahead of myself...

Ever heard of Mueller Thurgau? Mueller is another one of the man-made varietals we've talked about lately. Back in the late 19th Century Dr. Thurgau created this hybrid varietal. His goal was to create a grape with the intensity of Riesling but with the ability to ripen earlier; he used Sylvaner to achieve the latter.  He didn't quite get an A+ on his project, but he didn't do too badly either. Mueller wines are fruity, but low in acidity. They are medium sweet, too, and very smooth.  This varietal makes up the greatest component of the JuneHog, coming in at 33% of the wine's juice.

The next largest component of the JuneHog is Gewurtztraminer, or the "spicy white grape" that actually got its start in Traminer, Italy, but happens to have a German name. Go figure! Gewurtz is sweet, spicy, fruity, full-figured and has gorgeous floral aromas. (Trade "secret": Gewurtz is actually sweeter than Riesling!) This grape brings 22% of the juice to the JuneHog blend.

The third largest component of this fun blend is Pinot Gris (21%). Recall from earlier posts Pinot Gris is the genetic mutant of Pinot Noir. Alsatian-style Pinot Gris is full bodied and offers ripe-fruit sweetness on the palate.  These wines are down right lovely on their own, let alone in a blend!

Pinot Blanc clocks in at 16% of the June Hog blend, which gets finished off with just a touch of Riesling (5%, if I've done the math right). I'm not sure how much time we've spent on Pinot Blanc together. But the thing to know is when winemakers don't oak it, or stir it on the lees or otherwise "interfere" with it, PB offers terrific apple and almond flavors. As such, it can be one of the softest yet lightest (read: high acid) white wines on offer. A treat on their own and perhaps even better in some blends.

What do all these various components mean for the JuneHog experience? Let's put it this way: this is the wine I want to drink on a cool fall day when I'm sitting in my Adirondack chair on some beach or even on my front porch - glass of wine in hand, a blanket at the ready and my book propped on my lap. Something mouthfilling yet clean you don't have to think twice to enjoy. Warm sun, crisp air, relaxation. (Snacks optional - but with this wine you won't go wrong with the pairing you choose!)

What's your favorite fall white (blend) this year?


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Turkish wine

I first had the opportunity to vacation on the lovely (Turkish) Cyprus island two years ago when my friend invited me to stay with her family for a couple of weeks.  Whether it was because Turkey is largely a Muslim nation or because my friend's parents don't imbibe very often, drinking wasn't a big part of that trip. I tried Raki once - a strong, clear brandy that tastes of anise - but was not a fan, as my nephew would say. I also remember trying a glass of red wine at a Beer Garden there and found it almost undrinkable. It was so acidic and unbalanced I was happy to stick with the thirst-quenching Effes beer that dominated nightspot venues. This summer we were visiting for the same friend's wedding celebration and decided to spend a few days in Istanbul on the way. The first night we were there we saddled up to a local mezze joint and selected a half bottle of wine from the restaurant's wine list. I should also mention doing so was a rather bizarre task....

Turkey is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world.  It is also fourth in grape production. But something like only 2% of these grapes are used for wine, the majority consumed as fruit or raisins themselves. Most of their grape varietals are also indigenous; and you've probably noticed subconsciously the US does not import Turkish wine - or at least not for mainstream consumption. I easily admit I knew nothing of Turkish wines beyond my one attempt to drink a Beer Garden offering two years prior. This trip I really wanted to dig in - and it was so hot it was easy to long for a cool glass of white or rose to quench my thirst.

My task was not an easy one however, as in Istanbul we discovered right away wine lists were not terribly helpful. They provided the Turkish Producer and Turkish Wine Name (both having no meaning to me), followed by a brief, generic description (e.g. Dry, White; Dry, Red; etc.), not the grape varietal or a sense of flavors present in the wine. Wait staff were not fluent in describing the wines either, even if their English was quite good. The sum of these parts was a recipe for a hit/miss wine-selecting approach. Fortunately, I was open to experimenting.

That first night I pulled a David Ortiz. My random selection of the Kayra Buzbag Beyaz white hit it out of the ballpark. It was medium bodied and fleshy, full of gorgeous, succulent fruit flavors and citrus. It had a touch of minerality, too, but was not spicy. This was the ultimate blind tasting: I had no idea which grape varietal it could possibly be or could be related to as a potentially indigenous varietal or, better yet, if it was a blend. All I knew was that it reminded me of Semillon or perhaps Vouvray (Chenin Blanc). I took down some notes and vowed to research the wine once home.

I was happy to discover I wasn't terribly far off when I found these wine notes: “Selection Beyaz” is produced from Narince and Semillon grapes selected in their respective vineyards of Tokat and Trakya. Well-structured, citrus fruit, fresh quince and coconut taste. It goes well with chicken and fish with sauce.

Not too shabby! My only regret is we never found this bottle of wine again. We discovered another restaurant in Istanbul with truly phenomenal cacik (apologies for the lack of accents), hummus, and chicken shish (kebabs) and a dynamic Maitre D we couldn't help but return to - though their wine list offered the more mainstream (completely drinkable) wines produced by Doluca.

Have your summer adventures take you to new wine frontiers?

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