Monday, August 23, 2010

To WordPress and beyond!

As of this weekend, after a fine trip to the Hamptons (complete with a Bill and Hillary Clinton beach sighting and some fine glasses of Channing Daughters' esoteric blends), I have finally moved my wine blog to WordPress! Find all future entries at my new location. Been fun. All links for entries here will be forwarded there; I strongly encourage all readers to continue checking at my new location! Many crazy adventures in wine ahead.

As I hope is evident from my expression in this old photo of me taken in the Dry Creek Valley AVA in Sonoma, I am having a tough time with this move. It has been hard improving my blog in every single way, having all the fun, sipping Prosecco while choosing new backgrounds. C'est la vie! O readers, we will emerge from this stronger than ever. Join me on this second step in my climb to wine greatness/supremacy/base hyperbole. I will always be your Grape Aide.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Buitenverwachting "Beyond" Sauvignon Blanc, 2008

How long has it been since I tasted a South African Sauvignon Blanc, or any wine from this country, that caught my fancy? Too long. That it happened, and at a random tasting in Chelsea, was more than cause enough for a purchase and this subsequent post. Sauvignon Blanc, by the way, is one of my favorite white varietals. Among the other "noble" grapes, Riesling shows itself through transparency and grace, and Chardonnay makes you reel with its sensuality and layered opulence; Sauvignon Blanc, on the other hand, is the crisp, snappy, kissed-by-chlorophyll grape that hints at scents of growing things. I consider it my go-to white wine for any occasion where I'm not sure what I want.

The maker of this wine, Buitenverwachting, is based in Constantia, a founding estate near Cape Town at the very tip of South Africa. Established in 1796, this farm has been producing wine since the mid-1800's. Buitenverwachting is Afrikaans for 'beyond expectation," which certainly applies to the wine itself. Through changing fortunes, the farm remained intact, although decades passed where no wine was produced at all - until the Mueller family restored the vineyards in 1980, and started producing wines of unique aromatic quality and international acclaim (or so it is said; the one I tried was tasty at least). Cape Town being a coastal region, the climate is moderated nicely by cooling sea breezes. The vines are situated on sloping fields of deep granite soils, allowing them to take root and get to business. Speaking of which, this is apparently the choice wine for business and first class seats on several international airlines!

On to the wine itself: our 2008 Buitenverwachting "Beyond" Sauvignon Blanc is a serious value, crackling with individualistic style. A pale green-gold in the glass, the nose is loaded with aromas of lemon and lime zest, lavender, pine sap, and gooseberries, backed by pronounced herbal notes (think spearmint and sage). More citrus fruit and herbal elements, green pepper and dusty spice, complement a snappy mouthfeel, with lively acidity tingling against a touch of residual sugar. A few years have given it a honeyed note as well. Firm finish, not quite tart; right up my alley. Pair with shellfish prepared just about any way you like, or lightly herbed sautéed whitefish. $10.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bodega NQN "Picada 15" Blend, 2007

Been writing an awful lot about rosés lately. Shame, because some of my favorite summer reds are those friendly, approachable blends everyone pretends to pooh-pooh and then swigs as fast as they can when backs are turned. So! Here's a short and sweet write-up of one of my guilty pleasures.

The 2007 Bodega NQN "Picada" 15 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot produced in Patagonia, Argentina. What a country! What wines! Cooler climate makes for better acidity and more distinct character than Chile overall, while the leading grapes - Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon - are everybody's favorite, even the trendy wine Poindexters in plaid I so want to stomp.

A nice garnet red in the glass, with dusty berries and other red fruit on the nose, and some fruitcake spice to make it fun. Lush but not flabby mouthfeel, this is a round, medium-bodied treat for the big wine aficionado, the kind of man who wears denim and drinks Sonoma Zinfandel. Or Syrah from the Rhone. And fights bulls. Soft tannins, medium, earthy finish with some pepper notes. $10. Pair this with London Broil and mashed potatoes and green beans, or some juicy rare burgers off the grill.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Clos du Tue-Boeuf "La Butte," Touraine, 2009

Touraine has been on my mind this summer... but not for reasons that other attractive, cultured New Yorkers might imagine. Nevermind the numerous Renaissance châteaux dotting the landscape, once ancient strongholds of Angevin kings. Forget the fabled meeting place of Joan of Arc and Charles VII. Shove off, Descartes; run away, Rabelais. Nope, for me Touraine is the place to go for great values in wine made from Gamay. Why? Because Gamay is sexy.

Some of the great stars in winemaking, vignerons extraordinaire, do their good work in Touraine. Chief among these is Thierry Puzelat, who parties hard, dresses well, and rigidly adheres to natural vinification practices. His wines are a solid reason to stick with reds on even the hottest summer nights. I personally experienced a brief out-of-body experience, became delusional with joy, after a glass of the subject of this post. So, that's not true. But everything that follows is totally factual, almost.

The 2009 Clos du Tue-Boeuf "La Butte," made entirely from Gamay, is the kind of wine you'd want to order on your third date, preferably one of those cultured New Yorkers mentioned previously. It isn't expensive, and it doesn't have the cachet of big-name Burgundies made from the ever-sensual and potently loamy-luxurious Pinot Noir. Swirl the glass, however, and you will stop everything else you are doing. You will cease to pay attention; you will risk your rapport with the new girl/boy, and you will sniff. Plump berries, cherries and raspberries with a nice tangy snap, will waft upwards. Swirl, sip, and the acidity comes into play, rocketing you to the wine's next dimension. By now your date is either going very well, as your girl/boy gets into the action in his/her glass, or you have been dumped. Who cares? Beautiful balance, quenching finish. Goddamn.

Put a chill on it. Day or night, open this and say something romantic. It'll work. $13.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rouge Madon, Touraine, 2008

Sometimes, I want to let loose and try wines based purely on the recommendations of strangers. On those rare days, I imagine strolling into a shop and ambling along until some helpful salesperson catches sight of me. "Oh," I would respond offhandedly do their polite offer of assistance, "I was looking for a wine that smells vaguely of rose petals, cherries, and ferret." A truly courageous connoisseur would look me dead in the eye and ask me: "Ferret, or weasel?" That, or they'd slowly back away and leave me to my browsing. More productive sessions of this sort would almost always land me with an interesting bottle for the weekend.

While this has never once in fact happened, I would like to try it. If I did ask for wine showing berries, roses, and faint notes of animal, it might well net me a bottle of the 2008 Rouge Madon, from genius natural winemaker Christian Venier; Madon is the hamlet in Touraine where he produces his wines. On pouring this wine into a glass, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful color, a pale garnet: perfect for a wine made entirely from Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais. Delicious aromas of, yes, cherries, cranberries, gamy musk, and slight floral notes dance a little dance. Then you find out, on tasting, that this is simply an ethereally beautiful woman cleverly disguised as a bottle of wine. Bright, excellent acidity zings like juicy lightning, red fruits, tender finish. Unbelievably tasty, and affordable: $16. Drink this with a slight chill, pair with thinly sliced salami, or prosciutto.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mulderbosch Rosé, 2009

It's still hot out, and this week will be beach week, so why not review another rosé? Few other wines hold my attention so well in the heat; no other wine satisfies quite like rosé usually does. I have found Mulderbosch's take on this summer classic to be usually one of the great values in wine, performing far above its price point - depending on your palate. It has enough depth to keep it from getting boring should you buy it by the case, while being approachable enough to pour for everyone you know.

The winery of Mulderbosch hails from Stellenbosch in South Africa, the premiere wine region in that country. Located in the Western Cape province, and known primarily for Pinotage and delicious Cabernet Sauvignon, along with Sauvignon Blanc, Stellenbosch is the spot to watch if you're buying from South Africa at the wine shop. As a whole the region produces about one billion liters of wine every year. Mulderbosch consists of 48 hectares of well-managed farmland, of which nearly 22 are planted with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, from which this particular rosé is made. The other half is left wild, ensuring as natural an environment for the vines as possible. Particular care is taken in the cellar to avoid bruising of the fruit, and production is kept low to keep quality as high as possible.

In the glass, I found the 2009 Mulderbosch Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon a deep rich pink, nearly salmon in color. At first approach, I was gratified by quintessential rosé aromas: cold cherries, summer strawberries, cranberries, hints of violet, along with a distinctive sort of animal musk. In the mouth the wine is dry, not overly so, just perfect... acidity is balanced perfectly to the forward fruit. It has a snappy finish, bright, with a peppery note that is completely awesome. I would readily quaff this with BBQ, cold cuts, or a platter with heaps of fresh garlicky hummus.$9.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Labrusca" Lini 910 Lambrusco Rosé, 2009

With a totally different style of rosé the subject of my previous post, why not delve into another here? This wine is a frizzante style as well, meaning that it has some effervescence - in the manner of all Lambrusco wines from Emilia-Romagna in Italy. The producer, Lini Winery, was founded in the town of Correggio in 1910, and is gaining momentum across the United States as a known producer of fine sparkling wines. They strive to keep the philosophy and traditions of their forebears at the core of their wine-making; the outcome speaks for itself, because this just tastes great.

A rich salmon red in the glass, much darker than most other rosé wines I have tried. Strong cherry and cranberry aromas on the nose lead to some floral notes: lavender, lilac. Bold and fruity in the mouth, but light-bodied, with a zingy acidity to match the fizz. Totally surprising, completely delicious. We paired this with ribs roasted in a clay pot after being covered in home-made dry rub and slathered in BBQ sauce, home-made potato salad, and sautéed greens. $15.