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the leaves are falling and whites are calling!


White wines, in general, are an under-appreciated wine "category". They offer so much diversity and provide such a nice backdrop to so many a dish it's a wonder they aren't ALL we drink. Imagine our delight then when a recent client opted for a White Wine Only theme. Their trajectory was more practical given the scale of their event (200+ people): to keep the carpets clean. But nottaone guest "complained" reds weren't being served, and in fact, the lack of red "distraction" wholly encouraged everyone to just dive in and embrace what was before them. Each of the wines were held in esteem and impressed a certain 'ah-ha' moment for the depth of interest they imparted. Let's just say, guests kept coming back to see what was next in the lineup.

With the smell of autumn clearly in the air these days and especially with a warming sun still abounding, don't hesitate to saddle up to your fine wine shop's white wine cooler. Harvest fare is an excuse in and of itself to open that door!

Pumpkin Soup with a(n aged) Jura white? ROCKSTAR COMBO. A lush and lively White Burgundy would be a delight, too.

Need something to get the party started first? Westport Rivers RJR Brut (specifically) offers a cornucopia of autumnal flavors, plus an authentic toastiness and a killer mousse.

Especially as Thanksgiving beckons, don't underestimate the power of the Finger Lakes region of New York, or the Willamette Valley, Oregon, too. These regions produce killer white wines that are destined for greatness on your dining room table(and will give your carpets a break, even if your guests don't)!

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at "the end" of rose season...

This (vintage) year has been a stellar one for rose lovers. Across the board the quality has been phenomenal - and after a so-so season last year, where the fun was in the find, this year (2012's) you basically haven't been able to go wrong. Talking last week amongst ourselves, we realized also that we tend to drink more rose this time of year - at summer's end - than any other. In part it is because we are in the final throes of the season, when you realize it's a final feeding frenzy when you have to stock up on what's left in the market NOW. And in part it is because September in New England has got to be one of the most glorious times of the year for drinking this limited commodity. Days are warm (and sunny?!) and evenings are cooler.

It's warm enough to drink something with a chill without feeling it throughout your entire body. And it's cool enough to fire up the grill.

Rose and grill fare?


When it comes to grill fare and rose, one of our favorite styles is Pinot Noir. More often than not roses (from all over the world, no less) are a blend of varietals. But when it comes to Pinot Noir, we can't think of a time when a winemaker has blended it for their rose wine. The magic is in the purity. (Granted, not many winemakers dare give up this hard-earned juice for rose, but when they do? Watch out.)

This year's stand out fav, among ALL rose in the market, has been Joseph Mellot's Sincerite Rose - 100% Pinot Noir. The extra bit of body to the wine delivered with pristine limestone/flinty minerality makes it this magical balanced vin you can't help but love. AND IT IS PERFECT WITH GRILL FARE. Skewered, Cajun dry-rubbed shrimp? Done. Pork tenderloin grilled to juicy perfection? Done and done. Mama's BBQ chicken? Yep! That's a slamdunk, too.

Long story short, 'tis the end of rose season as far as what's available in the market goes. Those limited resources have largely been consumed. So gather up your remaining rose resources and stock up. We still have the best rose drinking weather in front of us, but getting your hands on the stuff only gets trickier here on out.

TRAVEL ALERT: If you're lucky to have ever visited (or are planning to, hint hint) Heinemann's property in Baden, Germany you also know his Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) Kabinett Trocken Rose is to die for. We recently cracked his 2011 offering having saved one bottle last year (remember, the harder to find rose gems vintage) and it couldn't have been better - as a stand-alone delight, let alone with a year of bottle age under its belt. (Yes, there are rose wines that can do so! Ask your local Wine Buyer for his/her pick to get you through the colder days of winter to come....)



Fun in the sun - with red wine!

It's summer in the city and yet I am drinking just about equal parts red, white and rose. What gives? The temperature - of my red wines, that is! Talking to people every day about wine I know there is a misconception out there that red wine shouldn't go in the fridge. Believe me when I tell you that's far from the truth. Personally speaking, I've found the notion is reinforced when you go out to eat. More often than not if you go to a nice restaurant they are missing the mark with the temperature they serve their wines; it is a challenge for them to keep their glass pours cold enough because they are often refilling glasses or uncorking new bottles and the wine either never goes back into the wine fridge due to the turnover, or it comes from too warm a place on the shelf behind the bar where it is easily accessible.

At home you have the 'luxury' of getting it right. Remember, nowadays room temp is higher than it used to be. And in the summer that's even higher! My house sits at about 80 degrees during the day. My cellar is around 72 degrees in the summer. Red wine (depending on the grape and region it comes from) shouldn't really be served higher than 60 degrees! Here's a chart which breaks it down fairly well.

If you're wondering if it really matters at the end of the day, it does. A wine that's served too warm is wearing a mask - none of its personality has a chance to show let alone shine. Wake up the wine by simply putting it in the fridge for 20 or 30 minutes to get it to serving temperature. That's about the time it takes me to kick off my shoes after my day, flip through the mail and get dinner started. All you have to do is grab the bottle off the rack and get it in the fridge before you start your Unwinding Process!

Of course, there are also wines that fall into the "Chillable Reds" category. These wines don't just loose their mask they virtually frollick in the glass once they get the 40 minute fridge treatment! Beaujolais (France - grape type: Gamay) and Loire Valley Cabernet Franc are fans of a little enclosed "AC" aka your fridge; Nebbiolo, Barbera, Sangiovese, Sciava and Frappato are Italian grapes that are also chill-loving; Spanish Tempranillo that hasn't seen a lot of oak mind it either. If you are entertaining grab the chill bucket and give the wine an ice bath for 10 minutes and you are good to go. Refill the bucket with ice and let your guests enjoy the good life - and learn a new trick!




I drink sparkling wine all year long. Happily. Oh, so, happily! This year in particular has been a fun one in the sparkler-sphere, too. We've found many wines that are unique AND affordable, so my inclination to bring them home has been even greater. Long story short, while I'd never turn down an opportunity to enjoy a few gorgeous Champagnes (that is, from the Mothership of Champagne, France itself) if you travel outside this elite sparkling region you can find some real values. Now, when it comes to the traditional time of year to pop a few corks (namely New Year's Eve), I'm super psyched to have several of these options to choose from before heading to my friends' to toast 2012. Here are a few that have caught my fancy so much so that they've inspired full-fledged wine notes. Ready? Set... GO!

Finca Flichman Extra Brut ~ Malbec is the sure-fire winning grape of 2011. But we wine nerds can't forecast a reason to make a change in 2012! This trend has every right to carry on with gusto, particularly when we can also find it in an everyday celebratory (and affordable) package! Finca Flichman serves up a pretty bubbly, with terrific florals, snappy cherry and even a dash of blueberry and black raspberry fruits on the palate. This dry, redish sparkler (a blend of Chardonnay and Malbec) certainly intrigues and delights every sip of the way. And yes, for $9.99 it over delivers on quality!

Dom. Collin Cremant de Limoux ~ This is a sparkling wine (aka Cremant) with pedigree and pizazz from the Loire Valley of France. The pedigree part is that they man behind the magic has a Champagne project, but he thought it would be fun to dabble in the Loire as well. A blend of mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (two of the three grapes permitted in Champagne) with a little Loire-tastic Chenin Blanc thrown in for good measure, the winemaking behind the wine ensures a toasty, brioche-like flavor and texture to the wine. Tiny bubbles deliver clean fruit notes (apple, lemon pith and pear) a touch of bitter almond, plus a whopping of cleansing mineral notes bringing the dry finish all the way home. Take this bad boy home for only $13.99. A party-pleaser for sure!

Selim Spumante Brut NV ~  This is perhaps the rarest sparkler I've ever encountered. Hailing from Campania, Italy it is no Prosecco – rather it is a blend of three grapes, one white (Fiano) and two reds (Aglianico and Barbera). Such a blend delivers a white sparkler with an intriguing and delicious flavor profile and texture: its smooth mousse offers up pink roses and lemon curd aromas and then delivers lifted, delightfully nuanced flavors including citrus, raspberries and bing cherries. A touch of talc provides a welcome and balancing minerality. Selim is a complex yet approachably delicious crowd pleaser for any occasion. Grab a bottle and discover what I'm so excited about! $20.99

Oriel "365" Prosecco NV - If you want something that offers a little something more in the traditional Italian sparkler-sphere, Oriel has just the thing. Their idea is to bring you an affordable Prosecco vehicle that is affordable enough you can enjoy bubbles ALL YEAR LONG, as Prosecco should be. (And yes, to answer your question, Prosecco is an Italian sparkler made from grapes of the same name.)  This not-so-simple, but oh-so-satisfying, lightly moussed wine with ample pear, lemon cream and yellow apple fruit takes a familiar experience up a notch. $17.99

Domaine Rolet Cremant du Jura Brut 2007 ~  For a non-Champagne sparkler, even with such great competition found this year in the marketplace, this wine might be the go-to Show Stopper for a pseudo Champagne. An offering from the off-the-beaten-track of Jura, France, this wine is a blend of Chardonnay, the indigenous Savagnin, and Pinot Noir. It has a luscious, rich texture yet fine bubbles and clean fruit. Specifically, quince and honeydew melon flavors offer a nice balance of tart/clean and savory/fleshy. A tangerine zip of acidity delights to no end. This bugger comes in just under $20 at $19.99. Happiness!

If you aren't on the bubbly bandwagon just yet, this weekend is a worthy one to jump on. Grab something fun and live it up! But please, have a safe, happy and healthy New Year!



turning the corner

Many people assume that wine professionals consume all styles of wine in their leisure time.  I am here to tell you this is not so. Wine professionals tend to respect all styles of wine. I.e. a wine can be well made, show all of the right varietal nuances it should as well as (what we call) a sense of place (terroir)), but it may not tickle our own fancy. Remember we are actually in the business of wine; while I don't know anyone who isn't also passionate about our field, the reality is, when we come home at the end of the day, having a glass of wine is not "new" to us - we've been working at it all day. Literally. (I'm sure I've said it before here, but there is a lot of crappy wine on the market. It is our job to suss it out and filter it out of the pipeline so that you, too, will not suffer.) As such, we are certainly apt to discriminate (possibly even more) when choosing a wine to enjoy at our leisure.

This all said, we are human, too. Our preferences can shift, just like yours. And respect can turn to personal appreciation.

For my part I've turned the corner this year in a few areas. One particularly worth noting as fall begins to knock on our door is Beaujolais. Beaujolais is a village in France that is part of Burgundy making a style of wine by the same name from a grape called Gamay. That's right - while Burgundy should be directly associated with Chardonnay (on the white side of the spectrum) and Pinot Noir (on the red side of the spectrum), Beaujolais itself is an area that is just north of the Rhone. Its climate is its own, one where Gamay has its optimal home.

Beaujolais is perhaps known best for the unique winemaking style they employ there - carbonic maceration. Long story short, this process means that the grape juice ferments inside of the grape skins. This process creates a style of wine that is much higher toned, bursting with fruit and few tannins. Apply this process to an already fruity, high acid, light skinned grape (Gamay) and you have a wine that surely follows suit.

For a long time I could respect these wines but struggled to get on board despite the fact that there is actually a fairly dynamic range of flavors/styles within the Beaujolais category itself. (I'll save those differences and why for another post.) Suffice it to say, I've turned the corner. We've encountered several wines of late that have less of the funky circus peanuts meets bubblegum flavor profile I find off-putting - so much so I've not only enjoyed several Beaujolais at home, but I've even found myself opting for it off of a wine list full of other desirable options!

My point today, dear reader, is you never know when you're going to have a new appreciation for something even after years of being in your 'rut'. So keep tasting, keep exploring, and keep an open mind! You are apt to discover new friends.



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?



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?



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?



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?



TW Food does it again - wine dinner featuring the Jura region

I can't remember the last time I wrote a restaurant review. I do have a list of places on my 'to talk about' list, though; some of these spots are more remote or 'hole in the wall' than others and I selfishly find I like to keep these hidden gems to myself before I dig deep to overcome my personal/professional block and write about them. The good news for you, dear reader, is that when I do finally 'break down' and share my impressions of certain fine establishments around town, you know my writings are heartfelt.

Time and again my experiences at the somewhat off-the-beaten path TW Food restaurant in Cambridge are exceptional ones - so much so that it was the "Something New" gift card I imparted on two of my best friends earlier this fall as part 2 of  their wedding present (part 1 being "Something Old" - a gift card to the spot where they had their first official date). The recent special tasting of Jura wines with food pairings by the ever-meticulous head Chef/Owner Tim Wiechmann that I attended was no exception. A small, talented team (maybe just Tim, his attentive wife Bronwyn and their knowledgeable Sommelier Jillian Marini?) in a small, cozy/romantic space seems to be all you need to create an unusually thoughtful, unobtrusive experience for guests. An artisanal approach doesn't hurt either...

Jillian's personal wine curiosity means that TW doesn't just deliver an amazing gastronomic experience, but that you are in for a treat when you also opt for the wine pairing as part of their prefix menu. I don't think there is a more reasonably priced meal around town - let alone one that will allow you, already an 'explorer' by virtue of the fact that you sought out TW Food in it's Cambridge nook, to further discover several distinct parts of the wine world and delicious flavor combinations at one sitting.

TW is also committed to the local/seasonal movement. This means that their wine list, though small, packs a real punch and is always fine-tuned to work with the fare of the season. Right now they are rock'n a largely Jura wine selection. The Jura is a tiny, lesser explored wine region bordering Burgundy and Switzerland. Wines from these regions share a certain similarity with one another - but as I always find is the case in these parts, they have their own chutzpah and personality, too. In the Jura their focus is on lesser known varietals like Poulsard and Trousseau (reds), and Savagnin and Chardonnay (whites). It can get beastly cold there, so yes, it is right to guess the reds tend to have a levity or lighter-bodied quality to them. Minerality (terroir) cuts through and distinguishes the wines in a such a distinct way that I can only analogize to say, it reminds me of a chilly winter day when it smells like snow is coming -  you just know it to be what it is.

During dinner we enjoyed Peggy Buronfosse's Cremant Rose of Pinot Noir Brut (a lively, delicious, finely bubbled sparkler with raspberry and blueberry intonations) as well as her 2006 Savagnin/Chardonnay blend called "Les Belemnites, which reminded me of an aged Chablis for its richness, truffle tones and caramel nuttiness you can get from an aged wine. Stephane Tissot's old vine Poulsard (2007) reminded me of a Gamay/Pinot Noir blend - and was a fine match for the seared tuna at hand. Dessert need not have come for the tremendous Vin Jaune by Jacques Puffeney (1999) was treat enough for me; Vin Jaune is considered a specialty of the Jura and one not to miss when the occasion presents itself.

At last check, each of these wines is available right now at TW Food. They are certainly ones I consider "nerd wines" - perfect for the wine curious explorer. And 'tis the season for giving and indulging! Head over to TW Food and you won't be disappointed.

Have you had the pleasure of dining at TW Food? What is it that keeps you going back?