German wine can be intimidating to anyone. Even if you speak fluent German, the label tells you almost nothing about what is inside the bottle, the names are near impossible to us non-speakers to pronounce, and they even use different … Continue reading
This week was a BIG week for wine happenings in NYC: In Persuit of Balance, Burgundy 2013 vintage previews, and the start of La Paulée. In lieu of that, here’s a pretty visual post, with some of the standouts. I’m not saying anything here is a ‘bargain’, but… this is good juice! (p.s. yes, that is the river, frozen)
Amarone is some serious wine. Made in a unique process, and creating flavors unlike any other wines in the world, it also comes with a serious price tag. Not to worry, here’s a wine that is a compromise in price, but not in taste.
Made in the Veneto region of Italy, Amarone is a wine made famous by the process of partially drying the grapes prior to pressing & fermentation, concentrating the flavors, in a theory similar to late-harvest wines. The grapes are left on large, flat palates for 120 days, reducing the weight by 35-45%. In Amarone the wines are fermented to dry, leaving no residual sugar, but leaving all the flavor, and an illusion of sweetness.
Using the same grapes as Amarone, Alanera, Rosso Veronese, Zenato, 2012, is made primarily of the grape Corvina, the same as Amarone, and grown in the same area in Veneto. The name comes as a reference to the raven (“Corvino” in Italian), Alanera translates as “Black Wing”. This wine is like a semi-Amarone – 50% of the grapes are partially dried for 45-60 days in Sant’Ambrogio, where the producer also makes its Amarone. The result is great! Even though it’s a young wine (2012), the color is a bright ruby-red wine, and while it still shows so much fresh fruit, think cherries & raspberries, it also shows more complex layers of flavor, such as tobacco and prunes. The acidity keeps it fresh, and makes you want to come back for more… as does the price, retailing at $19.95 (?!).
Buy now. Drink now. (…or save for a few years I suppose).
Wanted to share a find that I encountered this week which is such a versatile & delicious wine – MacPhail Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, 2012. Even being the Pinot-crazy girl that I am, the breadth of ways this grape changes from region to region is still so mind boggling!
While this wine comes in a little more expensive that I typically post, at $40, if you’re planning to splurge for Valentine’s Day, this will not disappoint. It’s a BIG expression of Pinot – fruit forward with lots of cherry & raspberry, with a big juicy mouthfeel. The finish is just right on the palate, with some clear tannin, but an even acid balance to keep you going back for more.
On trend with many new-world producers, there’s full disclosure on the back label, and on the website even more – including everything down to the clones of Pinot Noir used in production. A clone is essentially a cut from a vine with specific qualities, that is re-propogated – i.e. good tolerance to cold, or ability to thrive in specific soil types. The specific sites of the vineyards are also given (it’s a blend of 8 different sites). Here’s a basic map of the CA wine regions ->
By way of CA production, James MacPhail is working on a small scale, producing only 5,000 cases annually, as that’s all his permit allows – but he seems very content with that, and if the wines keep turning out like this, I am too.
This is a crowd pleasing wine, and while it’s totally drinkable alone, it will hold up again some hearty meals as well, and I’d even go so far as to say a tender cut of steak would be on point. But, whatever your Valentine’s Day has in store – wine is always welcome!
Once a year, even the wine-o’s have to ditch the fancy glassware (and our moral high-ground), and give in to solo cups and bottomless snacks… and that day is Super Bowl!
American “Holiday” = American wine, so I brought one of my go-to American classics, Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc (2013). It’d be rare to find someone who doesn’t like this wine – it’s straight forward, well-made, crisp, and fruity. Missing are the overly lychee and green characteristics of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and instead it also gives a bit of minerality and peachy fruit – so refreshing! And since we’re pairing it with all sorts of different finger foods, a more neutral-style of wine works well. The retail on this wine is about $30.
The game had it’s high and it’s lows, but in the long run we all had fun, and a bit of celebrating in the end!
To finish the night I tried the Ciderboys, Mad Bark, Hard Cider. Based out of Wisconsin, these guys are making moves in the growing cider industry in the US. While it was a bit too sweet & flavored for me (note: I’m just in general not a fan of sweeter drinks), I’m definitely in favor of promoting domestic cider, and there are some amazing ones hitting the markets recently! For a NY local favorite, check out Eve’s Cidery, based in Van Etten in the Finger Lakes.
This was the week of snowstorm ‘Juno’ here in NYC, which essentially meant impeding doom: digging boots out of the closet, facing armageddon-esque supermarket lines, and working from home. It also gave us a perfect reason to drink some wine (…not that I need an excuse).
Spanish wines are one of the best values on the market. I’ve never totally understood this, as the wines are beautiful, but I’m not complaining! Perhaps it’s the mystery of the region to us here state-side. There are lots of varietals that aren’t grown outside of Spain, and lots of different labeling terminology to any other country.
Petalos del Bierzo, Crianza, 2012 – $20. This wine has been recommended to me twice by different retailers, and it was about time to give it a try.
Bierzo is a designated region in the north-western region of Spain. This wine is made entirely of the varietal ‘Mencia’, the dominant type of grape in the Bierzo region, and once thought to be a clone of Cabernet Franc due to its peppery and vegetal aromas, and lighter-style of red wine. This wine was a perfect translucent ruby color, and has a strong mid-palate combined with complex fruit & floral flavors. If you care to look at wine ratings, this one took a 90/100 at Wine Spectator.
Unsure what to buy for that dinner party? A gift for a friend? Just something to have a nice meal with at home? I say go Spanish!
Ideal NYC snow situation:
Real NYC snow situation:
January can be a bummer, which makes it a great time to try something new. Since most of us choose to drink our share of big red wines in these colder months, now is a prime time to explore the Rhone Valley. On a cold walk home the other night, I stopped in to pick up a bottle, and found this: Domaine de Bonserine, Cote Rotie, La Sarrasine, Rhone, FR 2004. Wait, Cote Rotie for $19.99?! …let’s discuss…
Cote Rotie is found in the Northern Rhone Valley, where the steep slopes demand high labor costs (i.e. high prices), but create some great wines! The soils are granite-based, and erode quickly – in some cases, the producers must take the eroded soil and put it back onto the hillsides. In case this wasn’t enough to deter winemakers, the wind (the ‘Mistral’), is so strong, that the vines are planted with a teepee-esque support system around them, just so they are able to stay standing. Oh yes, and there’s the hail. Given the challenges here, the Northern wines make up only about 5% of the total production in the Rhone.
The Cote Rotie is the northern-most area, and translates directly as ‘Roasted Slope’. The grape of importance here is Syrah, which produces deep colored reds with full body, spicy notes (black pepper!), and with age show gamey aromas. This wine showed all of these characteristics, and with over 10 years on it, it was even showing chocolate and coffee aromas. The average online price for this wine was $54, so for $19.99, this was quite a deal!
Sidenote: Stumbled into the new Toby’s Estate in the West Village – such a welcoming place. How perfect was this?
This would not be my recommended time of the year to go visit Boston, but who am I to be picky – sometimes you just need friends and family by your side, and I’m so lucky I’ve got great ones!
Despite the negative temperatures, I took a visit to one of Boston’s landmark restaurants, Oak Long Bar & Kitchen (formerly the historic Oak Room), and one that I hold especially close to my heart. Following the theme of comfort, we went for a wine that’s been a staple of mine over the past few years, Au Bon Climat, “La Bauge Au-Dessus”, Pinot Noir, 2008. Winemaker Jim Clendenen has been making Burgundy-style Pinots and Chardonnays in southern California since the ’70’s, when this style was NOT in style. It’s a gentle wine, with prominent cherry flavors, but also hints of forest and earth that make it so interesting. For your non-wine-o friends who maybe don’t love the same, ‘funky’ flavors in wines like you, the ABC has enough fruit flavors to keep them happy too. You can find his wines all over lately: from the retail shelves (this one run at about $20), to private labels for Daniel and Jean Luc le Du.
For a side-note of novelty: check out the closure on this Leese-Fitch Pinot Noir (2012). A plastic plug, with a pull tab that unwinds around the top until it is able to be easily removed. For a wine that retails at about $10, this is great! You can use it to re-seal the wine as you would a cork (albeit not quite as securely), and since these wines are not meant for aging, I’d rather this to the overly-synthetic corks that are terrible to remove and can almost never be replaced into the bottle. As for the wine, it’s totally drinkable – a light-bodied Pinot with a bit of welcome complexity. No stunner, but for the price, I’d buy it again!
After spending Christmas apart, I wanted to put something nice together for my special someone… and what a great excuse to try my hand at home-made eggnog!
For the base of the eggnog, Bourbon, I decided to go with Berkshire Bourbon. Although I’m obviously biased by my home area, this Bourbon, produced in Sheffield, M.A. by Berkshire Mountain Distillers, brings a lot to the table, while still remaining understated. The clear toffee and vanilla flavors, and subdued (yet present) wood made it a good match for the nutmeg and vanilla of the eggnog. The alcohol is well integrated, and can’t wait to have this by itself as well on these chilly nights! Retail: $42
With entrees, I chose a California classic, Grgich Hills Estate. As we were having filet mignon, the Cabernet Sauvignon (2010) was definitely called for. As one of the more senior wine producers in Napa, dating back to the ’70’s. Over the last decade they’ve converted totally to biodynamic and organic practices, while still maintaining the awesome quality of their wine – no easy feat! Though this wine could still age for quite some time, it’s beautiful at the moment, with present wood, a hint of earthiness, and fresh deep red & black fruit. This is how Napa Cab should taste. $45.
So, as we head into the January doldrums, why not dress up, cook something nice, and enjoy time together at home.
Basic Berkshire Eggnog (note: contains raw eggs)
2 Tbsp White Sugar
1 Cup Whole Milk
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
As much Berkshire Bourbon as you like
Separate the egg whites and yolks into 2 bowls. To the yolks, beat until they lighten in color, adding 1 tbsp of sugar gradually. Continue to beat and slowly add the milk, cream, and Bourbon.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks begin to form. Continue beating while slowly adding sugar until peaks become more firm.
Fold the whites and the yolks together. Taste for amount of Bourbon, and add if necessary. Serve in preferred glassware & garnish with fresh-grated nutmeg. Yum!
For Christmas day I took the early (read: break of dawn) train from Penn up to Hudson, to make it home for breakfast, coffee, mimosas, and presents.
If you’re seeking gift-wrapping inspiration, see my brother’s skills (is he good or what?!):
I brought a few wine finds home to share with the family. The most enjoyable party of my career is sharing wines with people for the first time – giving them an experience they’ve never had before. The two that came with me this year were a large format of Savinnieres, and a Chianti Riserva. The fam tends to stick to the Cab or Chard standards, so these were a little different, but not too far from the comfort zone.
Domaine des Deux Vallees, Savennieres, 2009 (Chenin Blanc) – Crisp and smooth, the palate is balanced, and the acid is well integrated. Good aperitif wine for sipping before dinner. This was the magnum, but the standard 750ml runs around $13.