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Pinot Noir


Rose season is upon us!

We've had uncharacteristically balmy and warm temps in Boston this week, and with May just around the corner, it's not quite premature to talk about rose wines. Or is it? You know from previous posts of mine on the topic that rose is that special pink wine that is irrefutably dry. It is also something that is released early each Spring in order to be served fresh off the presses, if you will, and keep us refreshed during the warm months of the year. There is great anticipation each year when 'rose season' will begin, a sort of unofficial statement of warmer days to come.

For better or worse - not enough data points are in yet to be sure - the last few years we've noticed a trend whereby producers, importers and wholesalers seem to be in ka-hoots (sp?) to get the first jump on rose season. Last year's (2009) roses from France (Provence being the most famous production area) offered a crisp punch, a happy marriage of minerality and ample fruit, which seemed in never-ending supply. We were grateful. Just the way we like it!

This year's batch, the 2010's, seem a bit lackluster as yet. They aren't bad wines by any stretch of the imagination. But coming on the heels of such a lovely 2009 vintage, it's hard to get as excited at the moment. We can't help wonder if our experience thus far with Provencial rose (the main disappointment) is that the wines are being released TOO early. It's possible the wines just need to settle in, get acclimated and integrated, to really deliver. But we won't know just yet.

In the meantime, if  like me you are happy for the warmer days and want to scratch the rose itch, I recommend giving Provence a little time and trying other areas. Right now I'm digging a terrific rose from Bordeaux (you almost never see rose coming from this appellation) that is a blend of two 'bigger' grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; it is from Chateau Larroque. Next up is a new arrival VERY few were lucky to get their hands on this year. It is a rose of Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley's Anne Amie made in the saignee method and aged ever so briefly in wood, which gives it a richer mouthfeel. Massachusetts was the only state outside of Oregon to get an ever-so-small allocation of 15 cases. Grab a couple of bottles now to get you over the Provencial hump!

Are you ready for rose season? Found any new favorites?



back to Alto Adige - with glee!

I've never traveled to Italy for the purpose of wine tasting and so have yet to experience the Alto Adige region personally. Perhaps just through tasting wines from this region I believe it to be one of the most romantic places on earth. The area is uniquely situated between the North and the South, benefiting from the cool air of the Alps and the warm Mediterranean sun. Micro-climates and unique soil types abound throughout. It is a situation that is set up for greatness. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of joining a few colleagues out to dinner at Upstairs on the Square. My direct colleague and I remember enjoying our respective meals, but really we found ourselves fixated on our wine experience thereafter. And so we did everything we are lucky to be empowered to do: we bought the wine we enjoyed so much and put it on our shelves.

Naturally, as diligent professionals, we hem and haw a bit before we bring in just about any wine. There are only a couple of  'slam dunks' that cross our path every month. And, in the case of our dinner wine,  we're talking about a selection that retails for $50.  This price point is an entirely different playing field. We have to be WOWed. And wowed we were! The Lageder "Krafuss" Pinot Noir is an exceptional wine, and one that I'm happy to fork over the bigger bucks for with some regularity - well, given the right company or occasion as wines of this caliber should be shared.

Last night I had a really good excuse to open Krafuss once again: my best friend's birthday. He had duck with a prune Port gastrique and I had scallops with black quinoa, prosciutto and a citrus salad.  Both worked quite well with the wine, in part because our respective meals complemented different notes in this delightfully complex wine.

Smooth and supple, it delivers a perfumed nose of roses, slightly smoked meats, and a mixture of sweet citrus, ripe cherry, cranberry and mascerated strawberry fruits - and a hint of dried ones as well. The palate translates directly, with a slight accent of orange rind and an underpinning of turned earth coming through as well. It was interesting to see how my meal with the savory prosciutto (smoked meats), citrus salad (orange rind) and black quinoa (turned earth) directed my attention to these notes particularly well in the wine while my friend experienced the dried fruits, including dates, apricots and prunes, in a more pronounced way (prune Port gastrique).

Once again Lageder's Krafuss delivered a true wine experience. It is a wine you keep coming back to, putting your nose in it, tasting it thoroughly as it continues to open and re-deliver happiness. It is one of those rare wines I have no problem pacing myself on, because the experience of it overtime, with food and without, continues to enrapture; I don't want to sacrifice one moment of it!

A few additional fun facts: Lageder has been up to such good for 175+ years. They are wholly committed to letting nature do the hard work, using modern techniques only if  they will further impress the flavor of the terroir and grapes in each of their offerings. And whatever your beliefs, this outstanding vin is also organic and biodynamic. It is part of the Tenutae Lageder line, which gathers fruit solely from their own estate.



What to do with left over bubbly? drink it!

Did you end up with a few extra bottles of sparkling wine after New Year's this year? It seems to be the normal course of things - and many people hesitate to do the obvious thing with these wines, what with official "celebrations" behind us. But corks are meant to come out! Here's how I've gone about tackling this delicious, festive, "problem": This New Year the Prosecco of choice for my friends and I was Santome. This is one I'm sure I've blogged about in the past, because it delivers lifted, just tart green apple fruit and lemon zest flavors; it's more crisp, dry nature makes it a good one to make cocktails with if that's your bag, but it is also delicious all on its own. For $12.99 you have no guilt opening bottle after bottle - and if you stick with it all night, you're likely in a hangover free zone. But on December 31st we didn't quite make it through the full case, so I anted up for game night last weekend. Santome was the perfect accompaniment to the deviled egg appetizers I whipped up.

Next, I pulled out the bigger guns in my repertoire...

In my bubbly archives, I discovered I somehow still had one bottle of the 1999 Pierre Morlet Brut. With good friends who enjoy good wine, why not pop a cork? They are meant to come out after all, so what more of an occasion do you need? And this wine had already been in bottle for more than a decade. So as the pork tenderloin rested and the cinnamon scented butternut squash mashed potatoes cooled a little, we popped the cork on this bad boy, too. It had a lovely mousse, with just the right amount of toastiness, red and yellow apple fruits, and a lithe lemon cream texture. A wild accent of hazelnuts mid-palate made this wine a favorite among the group.

After savoring Pierre, we finished our bubbly spree with the very dry, mineral-laced Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut. Another winner, we enjoyed the texture of this wine also, with fine bubbles bringing pear and red apple fruit flavors quickly to bear. This wine was particularly memorable for the previously mentioned minerality - a clean, wet pebble/chalky essence. Delicious vin!

Remember, you don't need an official celebration or Real Occasion to enjoy sparkling wine. It is the most food friendly option available, pairing with every possible food, and delicious all on it's own. As you begin to dig your heals into 2011, I beg you to take sparkling wine with you on your travels more frequently! Why not make an easy night in with friends that much more enjoyable?

How often do you drink sparkling wine?



Full day of wine blog fodder and news

It's amazing what happens when you have 30 minutes to catch up on your Google reader feed! I found some gems in the wine bloggosphere and newsfeed I can't help but share. Good Friday, indeed! I've narrowed the playing field to just 3.5 for you to soak up: 1. A new take on the "nature" of wine - click! For all of my photographer and scientist/nerd friends and followers out there, I bring to you this very cool concept for a wine book... Seeing is believing!

2. The "Ick Factor": smoke taint in wine. I found the timing of this article too perfect as just a couple of weeks ago my colleague and I had the chance to meet Dianna Lee of Siduri; she had been lamenting the challenge she and her husband faced making great Pinot Noir in a year inundated with forest fire. She said they ended up tossing wine made from certain vineyards where they source fruit (so you don't have to worry about any of the Siduri gems tasting like an ashtray as they'll never hit the market). Check out this WSJ article... Something for you to bare in mind when shopping for 2008 Anderson Valley Pinots this year!

3. Trader Joe's latest "wine trick", lol. I'm a bit cynical, it's true, when it comes to national chains taking on such large scale wine projects to pass on great "value". (Shop local, people! You'll find great value, smaller production, artisan wines if you have a great wine shop.) But I am legitimately interested to hear if you've tasted this wine - and your impressions. (And yes, next time I land at TJ's I'm going to see if there's still a bottle on the shelf for me to bring home.) In the meantime, weigh in using the comments thread below!



Give thanks for this affordable Pinot!

Terre di Gioia 07 Pinot NeroHow quickly Thanksgiving has crept up on us this year! It seems like we were just talking about how great Pinot Noir is in the fall, in addition to gracing your Thanksgiving table. And yet, the big day is nearly upon us! Not to worry. For a celebratory holiday where more than one bottle is certain to be opened (and Pinot Noir is the darling dinnertime grape), we have trekked to Italy to find a real steal... Head on over to Wicked Local today to get the skinny on this week's Pinot pick!

Are you familiar with Italian Pinot? Which one have you tried?



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??



Another "under $20 Pinot" Uncorked!

Seven Terraces Pinot Noir 2007We set the bar high for our Fall ‘09 Under $20 Pinot Noir Series a couple of weeks ago with an exploration of the wow-worthy 2007 Becker Pinot Noir, a German offering (and a lovely, rare treat). This week it seemed prudent to continue our search for solid, under $20 Pinot by continuing to look in places that seem to play hide and seek in the American market. Head on over to Wicked Local to head down er-yonder, to the Southern Hemisphere's Pinot capitol: New Zealand!

Have you noticed New Zealand Pinot is starting to take off, too? Do you have a favorite?



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?



Pinot Noir that will WOW you

Becker Pinot NoirThere’s no time like the fall to start your Pinot engines. And there’s no reason to wait for Thanksgiving to enjoy these wines for their food-friendly attributes and elegance. Today over at Wicked Local we're starting a new mini-series on great Pinot Noir for under $20; and we've started the fun with one of the finest examples  on the market today! Check out today's article to learn more about the wine that absolutely WOWed me - and which country produces this hidden gem....

Have you discovered a secret "trick" to finding delicious, recession-proof Pinot?



Friday wine musings

TV rabbit earsGood news! This week there was much more wine fodder to catch my fancy. So, let's jump right in! First, from the tasting "room":

Gaiter and Brecher over at The Wall Street Journal are continuing their plight to find domestic wine deals. I'm not convinced my taste test would have produced the same outcome on their American Cab-off, but their banter and findings are worth checking out here. And they are right on this point: you should ask your local wine guru what deals they have in stock. 'Cause they're definitely out there!!

Last but not least, Dr. Debs has had her own challenge at play: finding good Pinot Noir under $20. I argue it's nearly impossible to find anything drinkable under $15, but there are some good ones in the $15 to $20 range. I may have to join her efforts and supply the wine curious out there with a few of my own Pinot Noir recs. Too good to miss those, too!

And now, from "Hollywood":

New wine movie in the making: "The First Big Crush" is being made into a movie, reports Decanter. What's better than a visual tour of New Zealand, wine making - and wine drinking? Here's hoping the premier allows a bit of that...

New wine show in the making?? I have to say, the New Zealand headline also reminded me that "The Winemakers" reality show should have premiered by now. Granted I'm not much of a TV watcher, but I thought I would have seen more fodder in the wine world prompting me to turn on the tube! Noth'n. Has anyone seen this yet? Day/time??