Viewing entries in


November's Wicked Wines Uncorked!

Wicked Wines Nov 09Thanksgiving is a time to gather with friends and family and celebrate the little things in life. Some folks are inclined to do so by picking out one very special bottle of wine to share with friends; for others it is a time to uncork several celebratory bottles (and keeping the average price a bit lower doesn’t hurt). Pinot Noir and Gamay (Beaujolais Nuveau) are the darlings of Thanksgiving reds, offering a delicious pairing with turkey and cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts and other earthy, root vegetables. But with the Pour Favor mini-series on Pinot Noir about to hit full stride Monday's this month, it seems only fair to give a few whites (and one incredible rosé) a fair shot at gracing your dining room table! Head over to Wicked Local to find out where the fun begins this Thanksgiving!

Which one of these selections most catches your attention? Will it contribute to your festivities this Thanksgiving?


1 Comment

H1N1... Wines?

mexico (wine) fevahOk. Bad joke. (I can't take full credit as one of my best friends, fellow foodie and wine lover actually fed it to me.) What can I say? Sometimes a little levity is needed!And it was Cinco de Mayo yesterday.... Mexico is actually the oldest wine producing country in the New World. Who knew? (Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson, apparently. There are two full columns dedicated to Mexico in their most recent edition of the World Atlas of Wine.) I was intrigued - but not surprised - to learn the Spaniards got the ball rolling in the 1500s; but there was a significant interruption in 1699 when "the King of Spain banned new vineyards in Mexico, fearing competition to Spain's wine industry, thus halting the development of a wine culture in Mexico for three centuries." Egad! 3 C's? No wonder no one really knows about Mexican wine - and the country is better known for tequila and refreshing cerveza.

It wasn't until the 18th Century that vines started to get a little local love. Grenache, Carignan and even Pedro Ximenez (used in the production of a yummy, rich Sherry) varietals landed on the scene. Somehow, someway, "they" also figured out that Baja, Mexico was quintessential vine country, er... wine country. Only 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, Baja has a terrific climate and mineral-rich soil ideal for viticulture. Today innovation seems to be setting in - albeit slowly.

If you caught the recent "Diary of a Foodie" episode on PBS, a work of Gourmet magazine, none of this is news to you. Rather, Casa de Piedra Winery is synonymous with innovative, tasty Mexican vino.  Piedra plants a range of "uncommon" Mexican varietals and their philosophy is to keep yields small while employing a "simple technique". The episode reports they plant Grenache and Mission grapes for the reds, and Palomino for the whites. Further research on their website suggests their repertoire of varietals is much greater: Tempranillo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel are additional red varietals planted; Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are some of the whites grown. That's certainly a diverse lot! I applaud their willingness to experiment.

Unfortunately I've never had the (dis?)pleasure of sipping on a Mexican wine offering. But by Robinson's account, while "Mexican tastes and drinking habits have long lagged behind the increasingly exciting achievements of Mexico's modern vineyards and wineries", they are worth checking out.

Are Mexican wines even available in your market? Have you had a chance to sample them?

1 Comment


the world's most versatile white wine? Albarino uncorked.

Thanks to: you think of Spain's geography as the shape of a bull's head, you realize it doesn't have much of a western coast. Portugal actually comprises much of that area - with only the tippy-top of Spain's left "bull horn" having ocean boundaries. It is in this northwestern area, Galicia - and perhaps more notably, the D.O. Rias Biaxas (said Ree-as Byay-shas) - where arguably the most versatile white wine is created: Albarino. With its northern location and proximity to the sea, it won't surprise you to learn Albarino has its work cut out for itself to avoid rot and ripen fully. (Or, well, maybe the high, spread out trellising by the vineyard managers has something to do with it, since the wind can more easily pass through the vines and help dry things out....) Whether natural selection is at play or not, Albarino fortunately has developed very thick skins - which impart the strong, beautifully floral aromas you should associate with this particular vino.

Actually, Albarino is often likened to two other grapes we've discussed now and again: Riesling and Viognier. It is associated with Riesling for its mineral characteristics and Viognier for the stone fruit and floral aromas that often float from the glass. It also has very low alcohol and high acidity. These factors make Albarino so versatile. (Low alcohol allows it to pair well with spicy dishes too, for example; the heat of the alcohol does not fuel the flames of spicy cuisine while the residual touch of glycerin adds a robustness that complements richer foods' texture. ) And it's not just that Albarino's innate characteristics make it a good match for these "trickier," spicy foods! The wine is also enhanced by the flavors found in these dishes: it tastes even more distinct than when it flies solo!

Albarino is a go-to wine for me particularly around holiday meals. It is so refreshing, has that extra bit of roundness to it texturally, complements so many dishes and is one even red wine drinkers can appreciate. With Easter a few weeks back, I brough home a bottle thinking I would save it for our feast. It never made it that far.... The Vinum Terrae's Agnus Dei Albarino offered such a lovely bouquet of peaches and apricots, it was love reignited. It delivered the same apricot-peachy goodness on the palate and was further enhanced by a serious squeeze of lemon citrus "juice" and a bit of wet-slate minerality. With its low alcohol, it quenched my thirst as I prepared the meal.

There are several Albarino's on the market, probably the most widely distributed being the Martin Codax. Have you enjoyed this varietal before? Which was the offering you tasted?



Friday wine news: Health, Religion, Technology & Travel

Cow Teeth - Thanks to: few headlines crossing myriad academics, if you will, caught my attention this week. Here's what rose to the top of my reading list: Wine & Health - While this may be a "duh" moment for some readers, I thought it was worth bringing this article from WebMD to your attention: white wine can also be responsible for teeth staining. Grape tannin (or shmutz) leaves its mark on your teeth, whether you are drinking wine made from white or red grapes. Of course, red wine's impact is more direct or immediate. But white can leave a mark too. Click on the link above to discover why! Is this news to you?

Wine & Religion - With Passover coming up, this is the time to be buying your Kosher wines. Gaiter & Brecher break down a few of their favorite Kosher Riesling offerings, a terrific varietal to enjoy with an important meal.  Remember, these wines get a bad rep for being sweet, when more often it is the ripe fruit and florals that require a little mind over matter to appreciate the actual dryness of the wine. Which Kosher wines do you enjoy each year?

Wine & Technology - This article actually bugs me a little because of my ying/yang reaction to new technologies available for wine making. (Of course, I really just don't want to see robots roaming the world doing everything for us.) But anyway, apparently there's a new technology available that will "tell winemakers when their wine has finished aging", reports Sophie Kevany of Decanter. Click on the link to learn more. Does this development irritate you, too?

Wine & Travel - or Wine & Laws, depending on your perspective. France hit the wine headlines multiple times this week, but this one seemed to be the most pertinent as summer vacation approaches. On July 31, 2009, France will ban outdoor consumption. I simply cannot imagine a vacation in France, sitting in their many cafes withOUT a glass of wine, a beer or a cocktail in hand. It is an oxymoron. And it outrages me.  Do you even think this move will ameliorate France's drinking "problem"?

Please comment below! Lots of interesting fodder this week....


1 Comment

the main event: holiday wines!

Earlier this week I saw an email thread asking recipients to pick their top wine of the year. I can't think of a more impossible task! If you've been reading the Pour Favor blog for awhile, I'm sure you know exactly why I feel this way: wine is an experience! Without context - friends, family, laughter, tears, food, bistro, bar, fireplace, porch, picnic blanket, a night "in"....- wine is just juice in a fancy bottle, with a special closure. Well, maybe not quite but you get my drift.... Since this will be my last post before the New Year, I've decided to offer a nod to the year past. I'm going to throw out a few wines I've found this year, which are particularly worthy of a good excuse to open, which I've not yet shared.  We'll start with white, then red, then bubbly, and then - just for good measure - a dessert wine. Fasten your seat belt! These are a few of my 2008 YUM wines:

WHITE:     2007 Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon Macon Milly Lamartine

I've rediscovered my passion for White Burgundy this year, first during the spring and then again and again this fall as it has gotten colder and I still crave a wonderful white. Dominique Lafon has long been revered for producing wonderful, concentrated wines in Meursault. His innovative edge and desire for a challenge brought him to the Maconnais - a region he recognized as under-appreciated, simply needing a bit of TLC. This wine is clear evidence exceptional insight, wine making and viticultural practices yield amazing results. The Les Heritiers has an intensely aromatic bouquet of pear, honeysuckle, citrus and jasmine. Its intoxicating minerality is complemented by rich pear and orange peel flavors. Such vibrancy and complexity is delivered in a memorably mouth-filling package. Delicious!

RED:     2005 O'Shaughnessy Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

It is rare for me not to write my own wine notes, but in the case of this wine I'm always left speechless (an amazing feat, I know!). Fortunately, the winemaker's notes capture the absolute explosion of well-integrated layers that ravish my taste buds and wrap me in a lovely cocoon of happiness! Ripe cherry, blackberry, smoke, tobacco leaf, coco bean and dark chocolate aromas are framed by sweet vanilla oak. Elegant but concentrated flavors of espresso bean, graphite, raspberry and strawberry preserves are followed by a long complex finish with silky tannins and good acidity. An extracted wine that is rewarding. A worthwhile splurge for Christmas dinner, for sure!

SPARKLING:    2001 Westport Rivers Imperial

This winery proves Massachusetts is capable of producing tremendous wines - and bubbly at that! Just imagine yourself on the Cape, beach book in hand, foaming waves rolling onto the shore and fresh, juicy peaches, pears and apples in the cooler nearby. Add a spritz of sea air and you have the Imperial in your glass. It has a full, frothy mouse of tiny, tiny bubbles that deliver a tremendous, floral nose. Just a touch of citrus is evident on the palate - a welcome crispness to offset its wonderfully lush character. Just a touch of sweet, ripe fruit lingers on the finish. Salud!

DESSERT:    2007 Bouchaine Bouch D'Or Late Harvest

For me, this wine was love at first sip! It is an opulent, seductive dessert wine made of 94% Chardonnay and 5% Riesling - not a late harvest often found. It has an enticingly floral nose, followed by apple fruits layered with honey flavors. A gentle touch of minerality is well-integrated. Not for the lighthearted, this wine is deliciously decadent!

I hope you and yours have a safe, happy and healthy New Year! Be sure to pick up a bottle of something fun this holiday season. And please, share what you've selected!

1 Comment


No need to stress: Tips for Turkey wine success

I'm cooking a harvest-themed feast for a few friends this year and couldn't be more thankful to avoid the madness of travel including, but not limited to: airport delays; someone else's Aunt Tilda and her generous supply of lipstick and perfume; and the screaming baby in the seat across the aisle. I'm not a Bah Humbug for Christmas, but I've lived through too many challenging Thanksgiving trips to want to head elsewhere for the otherwise great event.  An entertaining parade that inspires nostalgia, football (no matter how bizarre the match-up), a feast chock full of friends and good humor and a great bottle of wine (or two or three) are all the ingredients I need for a lovely day of giving thanks. If you haven't made it to your wine shop to select a bottle of wine this year, today might be a good day to drop by. It will only get trickier to navigate the aisles as mid-week approaches. And if you don't already have a favorite Pinot Gris, Riesling, Beaujolais Villages, or Pinot Noir picked out, remember to consult your shop's wine buyer. There are some fun things on the market this year you won't want to miss. (Two that come to mind are the Michlits Frizzante Pinot Noir (the winemaker made it for her wedding a few years ago and it was so amazing, her importer asked her to make it a regular in her repertoir) or the Clos de Rochers Pinot Gris, a very cool, slightly sweet Pinot Gris from Luxembourg - you don't see that everyday!) No doubt having a little one-on-one help will certainly ease your pre-holiday stress.

But even if you wait to the last minute or the wine managers on duty are helping other customers, for heaven's sake, don't panic! There is too much parking lot drama at every grocery store and fine wines shop this time of year, you don't need to add a little something I like to call "Bottle Stress" to your life. Even if you are meeting your boy/girlfriend's family for the first time, here are two stress-reducing strategies for Thanksgiving Wine-Selecting Success:

Option A: Simply stick to one of the classic Turkey varietals I listed above. You'll be A-OK on optimal food pairings.

Option B: If those varietals aren't your bag, select a bottle or grape YOU like; it's probably just the balm you need! (Eric Asimov and his eno-friends recently reiterated the point beautifully (and comically) at The Pour....)

For those of you ahead of the rest, won't you help your friends with a little insight? What do you plan to pour this Thanksgiving?



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?



Reeling in Riesling....

I want to share information, musings and happenings from life padding around a wine shop, tasting and learning about wines, planning events and otherwise staying on top of the latest wine news and trends. But I'm all about efficiency. So I'll attempt to save my random musings for Mondays and reserve Wendesdays for a more "educational" take. (You'll just have to wait until Friday to find out what that day's all about!) In the meantime... welcome to the first of many Wine Wednesdays!

In part I'm inspired by last week's discussion on Wine Blogging Wednesday about Old World Riesling. But I'm also just inspired. I've even been known to bust out my little "Rebecca dance" upon first sniff of a Riesling! (Note: This dance is way cooler, and way better than Elaine's on Sienfeld.) Everyday I'm noticing that the word is starting to spread... MOST RIESLINGS ARE NOT SWEET. They only have that reputation from post WWII days when German wines were intentionally made sweet to appeal to American GI's and to locals, who were malnourished and craved something sweet. Needless to say, this is some of the best, most-gorgeous, mouthwateringly delicious wine to sip (with practically any food you can imagine)!

A question I often field is: how can you tell from a label what makes a German Reisling less (or more) sweet?

Germans clasisify Rieslings using the Pradikat system, which indicates the ripeness (read: sweetness) of their grapes at harvest. This does not necessarily tell you how sweet the wine ends up being.

You may be familiar with everyday or QbA wines - the basic level of less expensive, often perfectly tasty Riesling. The next levels in the German quality spectrum are QmP wines (from normal to super ripe): Kabinnett, Spatlese and Auselese. Then Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauseles, and Eiswien (dessert). But a winemaker can do whatever he/she pleases when crafting the wine, resulting in varying levels of actual sweetness in the finished product.

Here's a tip: Check out the alcohol content posted on the label. The lower the level, the sweeter the wine. If a bottle is listed at 7% it is sweeter. If you see the maximum (for a Riesling) of 11%, it's gonna be its driest.

Question of the day: How do you like your Riesling?