Monday, April 27, 2009

Je suis arrivée!

I'm back from England and France! And what a time we had...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

France, 2009

I will be on vacation from April 16-26. Much of that time will be spent in Paris, Champagne, and the Loire Valley. Wines I discover on my trip will be relayed here after. See you in a week or so!

Gazela Vinho Verde, 2008

Vinho Verde: what wine is better for casual sipping at the beach in summer? That rhetorical question out of the way, let us focus on this showing from the Minho region of Portugal. Made from the Loureiro grape, the 2008 Gazela is a light-bodied, crisp and fruity wine showing citrus notes on the nose, primarily lemon zest and apricot aromas. In the mouth, firm acidity balances the citrus and slight hints of melon fruit, making this another decent pairing for shellfish like shrimp or lighter fish offerings, such as sauteed sole or flounder. Light carbonation makes this wine slightly effervescent. Incredible value. $5.

Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc, 2007

Sauvignon Blanc is my choice summer beverage: bright acidity, fresh and crisp, with delicious citrus and herbaceous notes, it is a picnic wine with the backbone to stand up to various types of shellfish, while also able to stand on its own. The Geyser Peak winery, founded in 1880 in the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, is one of California's oldest wineries. Here the emphasis is on ecologically responsible wine production: they use a significant portion of recycled glass for their bottles, compost by-products of their harvests, and are certified by the Fish Friendly Farming organization in recognition of their practices for waste water redistribution.

Wine and vinicultural practice go hand in hand: Geyser Peak's techniques are green, and the wine matches this in its essence. The 2007 Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc is a beautiful straw color in the glass, showing a nose of pungent grass, lime and lemon zest, and notes of guava. Glorious, lip-smacking acidity balances the forward juiciness of the fruit on the palate, including green apple, tangerine, and a slight tinge of other tropical fruits. It also has a nice long finish for a wine at this price point. $9.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bodegas Real Tempranillo, 2007

Tempranillo is the primary grape in Spanish Rioja. This grape variety is practically synonymous with Spanish wine, and I've been on a Spanish kick recently. However, not all Tempranillo is necessarily made in Rioja. Enter Bodegas Real's Tempranillo, made in the Valdepeñas, a wine region situated in the province of Ciudad Real, with 42 Bodegas, or vineyards. Here wine is a traditional family industry, and has been for decades; red wine is the primary export. The 2007 Bodegas Real Tempranillo shows a nose of dark berry fruit and slight spiciness, with more berries and oak notes on the palate, balanced to fine tannins. A good companion to hard cheeses like Manchego or Parmesan. $6.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I don't normally consider myself nearly as talented a cook as my girlfriend Lyndsey. However, last night I made something delicious enough to post (briefly) on this wine-only forum. We shared it with a bottle of 2007 Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc (not exactly appropriate, but it'll get tasting notes on here later - quite a delicious wine, and still holding up well).

Mushroom gnocchi with white onion, capers, scallions, broccoli, garlic, spinach, and smoked salmon sauteed with olive oil and white wine and tossed in a pepper cream sauce.

Sweet Jesus.

Remember, looks aren't everything! This dish was transformative.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ramon Bilbao Rioja Crianza, 2006

Why does the word "Rioja" always send me scrambling for a glass? Perhaps it's the supple, earthy, delicate nature of the wine, which generally sees more oak aging than any other. Maybe it's the bright berry fruit in young crianza Rioja, redolent with cherry, spice, and vanilla flavors; or perhaps it's the earthy lushness of reserva Rioja, with intense notes of leather and dried leaves resulting from the mininum three years spent aging - generally in American oak barrels, but sometimes French oak. Especially fine, and probably the real reason Rioja is so compelling, are the gran reserva wines, made in only truly fantastic years, showing a silkiness and elegance normally only seen in great Burgundies. These wines, world-reknowned, see a legal minimum of five years of aging in oak barrels, although the average is eight and a half years. Aging wine is the most important part of making Rioja, and it is this science I respect about it most.

But moving on to the offering at hand: the 2006 Ramon Bilbao Crianza is a dark violet-red in the glass. The nose reveals concentrated aromas of plum and berries, with hints of leather. Juicy and lush on the palate, the wine is rich with jammy black cherry flavor, along with chocolate and tobacco notes. Also provided a nice earthy finish showing well-integrated tannins. $12.

Chateau des Cleons Sèvre et Maine Muscadet, 2007

I believe that the Loire Valley has, year to year, some of the most exciting potential for value finds in all of France. This offering, the 2007 Chateau des Cleons Muscadet, is made entirely from the Melon de Bourgogne grape, and proved a solid example of a typical dry white Loire wine. The term Muscadet Sèvre et Maine refers to the fact that this wine is produced in the hilly area of the Muscadet region along the banks of the Sèvres and Maine rivers, two tributaries of the Loire. Most of the best Muscadet wines come from this subzone. Within Muscadet, about 32,000 acres of vines spread out in a rolling arc of tenderly cultivated vineyards, the best of which are planted in soil composed of a mix of granite, gneiss and schist.

Muscadet tends to be dry, and is known for being versatile as a companion to seafood dishes. The 2007 Chateau des Cleons Muscadet has also been produced sur lie, meaning that the wine was left in contact with the yeast lees for a period of time before bottling, adding extra flavor, richness, and some effervescence that would otherwise be missing. In the glass it shows a pale yellow with hints of green. The nose features complex citrus fruit aromas leading to a crisp, bright mouthfeel showing more tart lemon and lime fruits with hints of mineral. The finish is surprisingly balanced, considering the acidity of this wine. As noted before, this would pair especially well with shellfish, but could accompany many seafood dishes, or just drink it alone.

Why did I go on and on about this wine? Perhaps the price: $6!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Maravigna Nero d'Avola, 2006

Some wines I would recommend to anybody for all varieties of red meat sauce pasta, or pizza. The 2006 Maravigna Nero d'Avola is a must-try, a casual Italian dinner red produced in Sicily. Also known as calabrese, Nero d'Avola is a grape variety that makes robust, fruity, often concentrated reds, and is often considered the premiere Sicilian red grape. Upon pouring we came to see why this is the case. Maravigna was a beautiful garnet color in the glass. On the nose I found rich dusted berry aromas tinged with spice, leading to more juicy berries on the palate, particularly cherries, with perhaps a hint of plum. Medium-bodied, with the fruit balanced against strident acidity and some fine tannins that bit right into our spaghetti carbonera. Quick finish. $9.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Champagne

Made in the Blanc de Blancs tradition, exclusively from the Chardonnay grape, this nonvintage Champagne is perhaps the best of its kind I've acquired. Normally this wine retails at around $46 for a half (375 mL) bottle, but I obtained it at a bargain that makes it eligible for this forum.

In the clear glass bottle, apparently a replica from an 18th Century model, the wine is a pale golden color, almost a straw gold, with unmatched brilliance - like afternoon summer light on water. The nose shows slight citrus fruits, especially lime, but is balanced with notes of honey, and a full nutty toastiness that I just love in new style Champagne. This wine is extremely elegant on the palate, but with firm acidity, a creamy backdrop showing more nutty richness and round fruit. Unbelievable finish, one that lingers.

I would drink this pensively.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Errazuriz Merlot, 2007

The 2007 Errazuriz Merlot surprised me. A nose full of spicy black pepper mixed with red and black fruits, particularly cherries and blackberries, with a touch of smoke. On the palate, this wine shows structure beyond what I anticipated, and features more black fruits combined with definite toasted oak character, along with vegetal hints of green pepper, making this a very traditional offering in some respects. Fine soft tannins, decent acidity, and a smooth finish round out what ends up being a great package for $9 a bottle. Pairs well with roasts of any kind.