Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tempranillo Day


Last Thursday was the second annual International Tempranillo Day. This is primarily a social media event that allows wine lovers to taste wine made from the Tempranillo grape and then tweet their thoughts to other worldwide participants using the hashtag #TempranilloDay.

Tempranillo is a black grape which is native to Spain but is now grown in many other parts of the world. It typically produces medium to full bodied red wine with red berry aromas and flavors, medium acidity and medium tannins. However, depending on the clone and the climate conditions, it may display more black fruit character. Due to the grape's resistance to oxidation, it is often aged for extended periods in oak barrels which add vanilla and incense nuances.

All of the wines I tasted were provided to me as media samples. They all come from Spain and are part of the Freixenet portfolio.
2010 Tapeña (100% Tempranillo) approximately $10
Clear, medium ruby color with clean, medium+ intense aromas of cranberry and raspberry with potting soil. Dry, medium body, medium+ acidity and alcohol with medium tannnins and a medium+ length. This wine is nicely balanced and fruity. I sampled it first at lunchtime with grilled salmon kabobs and then again that evening with pulled pork, asparagus with pancetta and garlicky mashed potatoes. It worked really well with both meals and I think it would also make a great Thanksgiving Day wine. Very easy drinking.

2008 Vaza Rioja (90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano) approximately $12
Clear, medium ruby color with clean, medium+ intense aromas of cranberry and cherry with baking spice. and a bit of dirty laundry. Dry, medium+ body, acidity, alcohol, tannnins and length. This wine is also nicely balanced, fruity, easy drinking and would work with a wide variety of meals including Thanksgiving.

2003 Valdubón Crianza Ribera del Duero (100% Tempranillo) approximately $18
Clear, medium+ intense garnet color with clean, medium+ intense aromas primarily of black cherries and berries and vanilla with incense and a bit of chocolate . Dry, medium+ body, medium+ acidity, alcohol, tannnins and length. This wine is a bit bigger and more complex than the first two. It paired well with our dinner and I think it would work well with any grilled or roasted meat. 

I really enjoyed all three wines and the fun of the TweetChat while celebrating Tempranillo, Spain's most important red wine grape.
I hope you will join in next time!

Related posts:
from Vintage Texas - TAPAS Tempranillo Day 2012 – Tasting New World Tempranillos from Texas, California and Oregon
from Vine Sleuth -  #TempranilloDay

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hosting Champagne Day at Crush Wine Lounge



Crush Wine Lounge asked me to host a Champagne Day event for them on Friday, October 26. Attendees tried four of Crush's top-selling Champagnes served with paired hor d'oeuvres while learning about Champagne- the region, the method and the wines. Early arrivers started with an alternate sparkling made in a different way so as to be prepared to compare when the tasting began.

The line up for the evening included:

  • NV Henriot Blanc served with mini crab cakes
  • 2006 Louis Roederer Brut Rosé served with seared tuna
  • NV Bollinger “Special Cuvee” served with roasted chicken and chutney
  • 2004 Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque Fleur served with grilled shrimp
Of particular interest to this group:
  • Champagne's long history to protect the ownership of its name- Since 1887.
  • The cellars made from old Roman chalk quarries under the cities of Epernay and Reims.
  • The rumors of scandal surrounding Dom Perignon.
  • The riddling process as developed by Nicole Barbe Ponsardin aka Veuve Cliquot.
  • The different ways to produce Rosé Champagne- the one we tasted was made via the Saignée method. 
At the event's end, guests were treated to another pour of their favorite Champagne from the line-up to enjoy with a cheese tray and freshly baked cookies. Each guest also received a painted Perrier-Jouet Fleur glass to take home.

This event is the first in a new quarterly series of educational tastings that Crush will be offering. Stay tuned for the upcoming schedule.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

1996 Paolo Scavino Rocche dell'Annunziata Barolo Riserva


My husband had been away on a business trip for a few days. As his flight was not due in until later in the evening and it was going to be a day of planes, trains and automobiles for him to get back home, I decided to have a nice dinner waiting for his return. I went to look over my wine options. The king was returning to the castle so I decided to open "the king of wines", a bottle of Barolo to serve with grilled dry-aged rib eye steaks and mushroom risotto.
We had been holding this 1996 Paolo Scavino Rocche dell'Annunziata Barolo Riserva for awhile now and I decided that morning at 8:00 A.M. that its time was up so I popped the cork, poured myself a little taste, decanted it, and set the decanter in an ice bucket with cool water to keep it at cellar temperature. I was surprised to see that the wine had not really thrown any sediment at all, considering its 16 years of age, I expected more.
Morning Tasting note: Deep garnet color with a brickish rim, medium intense floral aromas of violets, light cherry flavor, smooth. I was looking forward to coming back to it in twelve hours.
Barolo wines are 100% Nebbiolo produced in Piedmont in Italy. This wine is sourced from the highly regarded Rocche dell'Anunziata vineyard in the commune of La Morra. The Tortonian calcareous soils of the vineyards help to form a wine that is very aromatic and that is usually a bit softer and more elegant than some of the wines produced by the neighboring communes.
A few years ago when I knew just a little about wine, I had the opportunity to pick and choose through the wine cellars of two different restaurants that had reached their end. I got some really amazing wine at rock bottom prices and this was one of those bottles. I debated whether I would even write this wine up or not as it was probably not very available. A quick online search showed me that there were bottles out there priced on average around $220 a bottle. Hmmm, maybe I should have googled it before I opened it.
That evening, I poured myself another small taste and was pleased to see that it was indeed opening up and expressing itself, I added more to my tasting note before I started cooking. Aside from my husband's slightly late arrival which lead to some slightly sticky risotto, we had a fantastic evening with an almost perfect meal and a beyond perfect wine.
Evening Tasting Note: Deep garnet color with a brickish rim, pronounced floral aromas of violets and iris, potting soil, cherry, leather and a bit of tar. Medium+ body with medium+ acidity, alcohol and silky tannins with flavors of dried cherry, raspberry, a savory note with a slightly spicy, very long and smooth finish. There was also more to the wine that just wasn't easy to define, it was definitely "complex".
So, if you have an extra $220 laying about and the ability to have wine shipped to you wherever you may be, I highly recommend that you try this wine as the 1996 Paolo Scavino Rocche dell'Annunziata Barolo Riserva is drinking divinely right now. Salute!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tasting Morellino di Scansano

 
I attended a Morellino di Scansano wine tasting and seminar hosted by the Texas Wine School along with members of the Consorzio for the region last Wednesday evening. Morellino is the name of the Sangiovese clone in this southern Tuscan appellation. This DOCG is set back from the coast in the hilly area of Maremma where the grapes achieve a high level of ripeness resulting in a rounder and sometimes more savory style of Sangiovese than in the big Tuscan appellations to the north. The wines of Scansanso can also be very fruity and easy drinking. This crowd pleasing quality means that much of it is consumed locally and not a huge amount has made it into the Houston market yet.
The wines must contain a minimum of 85% Sangiovese and is produced in three different styles: a fresh, fruity style that can be released March 1 after harvest, First Selection which has been elevated in wood for a minimum of 4 1/2 months and Riserva which has been aged for at least two years with a minimum of one of those years in wooden barrel. Most of the wines fall in the $15 to $20 price range.
We tasted seven different wines over the course of the evening and, to quote James King who taught the class, the common trait of the wines in the tasting was that "Each has character but without power and weight" making for some very drinkable wines.

Moris Farms: Morellino di Scansano 2011
(90% Sangiovese with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah) 13.5% abv
Young and fruity. Aromas and flavors of fresh black fruit- berries and cherries. Very simple yet balanced with medium- body, acidity, tannins and length.

Provveditore: Morellino di Scansano 2011
(100% Sangiovese) 14% abv
Still simple but more complex than the first. An interesting nose- iodine, forest floor and a savory note. Sour cherry flavor, medium body and silkier tannins, medium+ acidity with a longer length.

Fattoria le Pupille: Morellino di Scansano 2010
(85% Sangiovese with 15% Alicante & Malvasia Nera) 13.5% abv
Aromas and flavors of black plum and cinnamon with medium- body, medium+ acidity, ripe tannins and a medium+ length finish.

Massi di Mandorlaia: Morellino di Scansano "I Massi" 2010
(85% Sangiovese with 15% Alicante and Malvasia Nera) 14.5% abv
Aromas of wet stone, strawberry, cherry and violet. Red fruit flavor with medium+ body, grippy tannins, acidity and length. The first of the four where you sense longer oak aging.

Tenuta Pietramora di Collefagiano: Morellino di Scansano "Petramora" 2010
(85% Sangiovese with 15% Merlot) 14% abv
Aromas  and flavors of cured meat, smoke, oregano and a salty minerality with medium body, medium+ acidity, velvety tannins and a long herbal finish. This was my overall favorite.

La Selva: Morellino di Scansano "Colli dell'Uccellina" 2009
(85% Sangiovese with 15% Merlot) 14%abv
Aromas of dark berries and cherries and fennel. Flavors of plum, raspberry, licorice with medium+ body, smoother tannins and bordering on high acidity with a bit of a black pepper finish.

Massi di Mandorlaia: Morellino di Scansano Riserva 2008
(85% Sangiovese with 15% Alicante, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) 14.5% abv
Aromas of sage, leather, vanilla and cured meat with similar flavors with medium body, acidity, medium+ grippy tannins with a long meaty length.

Overall, I found each one to be interesting and drinkable and worth seeking out. Each would work well with Italian cured meats and cheeses, pizza and just about anything that you would serve with tomato sauce.

Related post at DoBianchi

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tenuta Lodola Nuova Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2007


I got interested in doing a bit of a wines of Italy review because I was considering taking the Italian Specialist Exam. That class was cancelled so I won't be doing that but I did enjoy the process. My husband and I both really enjoyed the Tenuta Lodola Nuova Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2007 by Ruffino last night with dinner.

It was a ruby red in the glass with primarily fruity aromas of ripe cherries, blackberries, plums with some dried leaves. It was medium+ body with smooth ripe medium tannins, medium+ acidity and alcohol. It had the same fruity flavors as the aromas with a black tea addition to the taste with a long fruity finish. 

As we are trying to cut back a bit on our meat intake this week after overdoing it last weekend, I served it with a Caprese type salad, potato and onion soup and pepperoni pizza. It was fantastic with each course of our meal.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano must be made with at least 70% Sangiovese from the clone known as Prugnolo Gentile and aged for at least 24 months. It comes from the hillside town of Montepulciano in Tuscany. Traditionally, it was blended with other local grape varieties, usually Mammolo and Canaiolo. Some producers are now using international varieities to create a modern style like this one. The 2007 Tenuta Lodola Nuova Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is 90% Sangiovese with 5% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Very drinkable and highly recommended. I found this
bottle at Kroger for approximately $24.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Some Affordable Italian Whites


2011 Ruffino Orvieto Classico approximately $11
Clear, pale straw color with a watery rim. Clean, fresh aromas of mixed herbs, natural almonds and pear. Dry, medium- body, mouth watering high acidity, medium alcohol with a pear flavor and a medium length lemon citrus finish.
This wine comes from the historical growing zone around the medieval town of Orvieto in Umbria located in Central Italy. It is a blend based primarily on Grechetto and Trebbiano (aka Procanico). I served it with grilled sea bass and grilled zucchini, yellow squash and red bell peppers. I had weeded my herb garden shortly after I woke up that day and when I first opened the bottle that evening, I thought it smelled remarkably like my herb garden did in the early morning sunshine. Recommended.

2011 Barone Fini Valdadige Pinot Grigio approximately $13
Clear, pale straw color with a watery rim. Clean, fresh aroma of apple. Dry, light body, refreshing medium+ acidity, medium alcohol with an apple and citrus flavor and a medium length mineral finish.
This wine comes from the sub zone Valdadige which is located in the northeast area of Italy's Alto Adige. The first time I remember having it was at the "The Merroir Experience", an oyster tasting wine event held in Houston last Spring. Since then, I have seen it on a variety of restaurant wine lists including as a wine by the glass offering at a Chindian restaurant near me. I had picked up this bottle to have on hand for its versatility and affordability. I opened it to serve with pan seared tilapia and rice pilaf. A simple anytime white, Recommended.

2011 Inama Vin Soave Classico approximately $15
Clear, pale straw color with a watery rim. Clean, fresh floral aroma of chamomile. Dry, medium+ body, medium+ acidity, medium alcohol with a green apple  and under ripe pineapple flavor and a medium length finish.
This wine is 100% Garganega and is sourced from the classic region of production east of Verona in Veneto. I served this bottle two days in a row as an aperitif before dinner, Recommended.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

2007 Two Hands "Zippy's Block" Shiraz


Three weeks ago, we had the 2007 Two Hands "Zippy's Block" Roennfeldt Road Single Vineyard Marananga, Barossa Valley Shiraz with a ribe-eye steak dinner at home. I was flipping through my notebook of tasting notes that sits on my kitchen counter when I realized that I had forgotten to post on it. It had been a busy time: the Friday before labor day, school had just started and we had just gotten our kids and our nephew settled. 
We had purchased a couple of bottles of this last Fall at The Tasting Room at Uptown Park after trying it at one of their tasings, I am not sure if it is still available there. I believe that is was priced around $75. After drinking lighter weight wines for most of the summer, this was our ode to the advent of Fall. As we are still having afternoon temperature in the low 90's here in Houston, it was more symbolic than having anything to do with an actual change in the weather.
Anyway, we both really enjoyed it. It was big and bold and everything that you are expecting in a wine from Barossa and it definitely hit the spot for that evening's desire to step out of our summer routine. Aromas and flavors of blackberry, mint, bacon and chocolate. It had a full body, medium+ acidity, very smooth medium+ tannins, medium+ alcohol and a long rich finish. Loved it! Highly recommended.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Four from France

2011 Touraine Millesime Sauvignon Blanc from The Loire Valley by Alfed Pery
Nose: Clean, medium intense aromas of lemongrass, melon, wetstone and celery.
Palate: Dry, medium body, medium+ acidity, medium alcohol with flavors of grapefruit and melon with a medium length finish.
Recommended. I served this before dinner out by the pool and it was very well recieved. Purchased at Whole Foods. 
 
 
 


2011 Domaines Ott Cotes de Provence
Nose: Clean, medium intense aromas of apricot and red fruit.
Palate: Dry, medium body, medium+ acidity, medium alcohol with flavors mirroring the aromas with a medium length mineral tinged finish.
Recommended. I have had this twice this month. I purchased a bottle at Top Shelf Wine and Spirits in Sugar Land for $22 to bring to a friend's Labor Day party on Galveston Island where it was a big hit. Then, my husband and I had it again last Friday at Aura French Restaurant in Missouri City with the Trout Provencale. That was a great meal, great pairing and priced at $29 on the wine list, a great deal.
related post:
Domaine Ott in Bandol

2008 Les Trois Fitou by Mont Tauch (from the Languedoc region)
I have had this one three times in the past two months. One bottle was absolutely fantastic at home with take-out pizza:
Nose: Clean, medium intense aromas of red fruit, roasted meat and sage.
Palate: Dry, medium body, medium+ acidity, , medium tannins, medium+ alcohol with flavors like the aromas with a medium+ peppery finish.
Three weeks later with take out pizza again, another bottle was just acid and alcohol. We opened something else that night. I tried it again the next day but it had not improved. I ended up dumping it out. Next, I tried it by the glass a week and a half ago at Max's Wine Dive, it was acceptable. Same profile as at its best but with low intensity aromas and a diluted flavor. As it has been inconsistent, I am not recommending it. Approximately $25.

2009 Domaine Faiveley Mercurey
Nose: Clean, medium intense fruity aromas of red berries, cherries and white pepper.
Palate: Dry, medium body, medium+ acidity, medium alcohol with smooth medium tannins; flavors mirroring the aromas with a medium+ length finish.
Recommended. Approximately $30 at Whole Foods.
related posts:
2007 Domaine Faiveley Mercurey
Dinner at the Mockingbird Bistro

Monday, September 17, 2012

Clos du Bois Rouge paired with Recipes from Katie Lee

I was a guest last month for the Clos du Bois Rouge launch at Cirque du Soleil-Kooza where I met Katie Lee, cook book author and ambassador for Clos du Bois Wines. In addition to talking about the show, our mutual love of Rosé wine in the summer and the new release of the 2010 Clos du Bois Rouge, she shared with me that she had paired some of her recipes with this new wine.
  
As I am always looking for something new to cook to change up our at-home dining, I was interested to hear that one of her favorite dishes with the wine was her BBQ chicken. If that wasn't intriguing enough, she also offered up a cookie recipe to go with the wine as well. As a native Texan, I am pretty sure that I know BBQ so I was curious to see what her recipe would be like as she is from West Virginia but now lives in The Hamptons. The marketing team was kind enough to send me a bottle of the wine and the dinner plan was on.
I had most of the ingredients already in my pantry so there wasn't too much shopping that I needed to do other than to buy dried cherries for the cookies and to get the chicken, both of which I got at Whole Foods along with some of their smoked potato salad and some fresh corn on the cob for the sides. I made the cookies, mixed up the dry rub and made the BBQ sauce in the morning so my evening would be a little bit smoother.

Later that evening, I got the chicken cooking, set the table and opened the wine. The 2010 Clos du Bois Rouge had pronounced aromas and flavors of fresh ripe plums, mixed berries and cherries with cocoa. It had a medium+ body, smooth ripe tannins and medium+ acidity. The wine was fresh and fruity and tasted great, especially for the approximately $15 price.

I took the chicken out of the oven as my husband walked in the door and dinner was served. We both agreed that this was a well done pairing by Katie Lee. If you are wondering why this red wine worked so well with chicken, it is because her BBQ sauce recipe had a really nice flavor balance, it was a more tangy style than the sweet  and spicy that is so common around here. The tangy flavor is primarily from the acidity of the apple cider vinegar in the sauce which made the wine taste a bit more rich and the fruit flavors seem sweeter.  

It was also really nice with the dried cherry and chocolate chunk cookies after dinner because the wine and the cookies both had a similar flavor profile and the slight bitterness of the dark chocolate and the sour cherry flavor in the cookies kept them from being overly sweet so that they did not detract from the wine's natural fruitiness.

I would recommend both the wine and Katie Lee's recipes, I found the directions easy to follow and felt that it would be affordable to do for a small group or just to have as I did for a nice dinner at home for two. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cameron Hughes at TTR City Centre


I don't shop at Costco so I was not that familiar with the Cameron Hughes brand. Costco was the first major retailer to carry these wines. I just met Cameron last week at The Tasting Room at City Centre where they were hosting both a wine tasting and a wine dinner featuring his selections. Cameron grew up in California and worked for a short time as a cellar rat before deciding to go into the sales side of the business. His business strategy has been to buy up excess wine from well regarded wine regions and producers who have a surplus. He then bottles it as his own and sells it for a significantly reduced price. The key thing being that he does not disclose his sources only the vineyard location. He buys small high end lots that he numbers rather than names due to the often one-off buying opportunities. Two days after this event, I saw a display of his wine set up at my local Kroger grocery store. His wines are becoming more available as he is now moving over 250,000 gallons of wine a year.
 
Over the course of the evening, I tasted eight of his offerings. My top picks of the night:
  • Lot 288 Sauvignon Blanc sourced from Clear Lake in Lake County north of Napa- Served with the salad course at dinner which had cucumber, frisee, watercress, radish, toasted almonds, watermelon and vanilla vinaigrette. The wine had a pronounced melon characteristic that really complemented the salad.
  • Lot 272 Tempranillo 2009 from Rioja, Spain ($12)- Cameron called this a modern style of Rioja but I would somewhat disagree with that assessment. I actually felt it was more of a bridge between the modern and traditional styles. It was modern in the fact that it was fruit forward with more fresh red cherry/raspberry flavor than you might find in a traditional style Rioja but it had been aged in American Oak, which is very traditional, rather than French Oak which I think of as part of Rioja's modern style. This imparted toasted coconut, smoke and baking spice nuances to the wine. This was paired with a spice rubbed diver scallop served in a pool of grilled corn veloute which I have to say was ridiculously good. I will admit that when I read this pairing on the menu, I was sceptical about how well it would work. It turned out to be a fantastic match where I made certain to take a sip between each bite so as not to lose any of the magic.
  • Lot 335 Oakville Meritage 2010- My favorite wine of the evening. Raspberry/Blackberry, nutmeg, damp earth, soft ripe tannins. Very smooth, balanced and easy to drink. It was served with brisket style short ribs which were a little bit too charred for my tastes.
  • Lot 285 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($24)- I had this one at the tasting prior to dinner. Blackberry/Red Currant/Cassis, smooth tannins, nice acidity.
I also wanted to compliment Chef Raymond on his Amuse Bouche, a crispy potato latke with the house cured salmon, creme fraiche, pickled red onions and micro dill, absolutely delicious. I also wanted to acknowledge his Peaches 2 Ways dessert which was also nicely done. I have attended numerous tasting events at The Tasting Room over the years but this was my first time to attend one of their wine dinners, although I didn't love the short ribs, I thought that everything else was very well done and I would recommend that you check out their future events.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wines of Germany Master Class

The Wines of Germany and the Guild of Sommeliers hosted a Master Class at Pappas Bros Steakhouse taught by Master Sommeliers Matt Stamp and Laura Williamson.  I was excited to attend this class because I think this is probably my weakest area of knowledge when considering the major wine producing countries. I am happy to report that this was a fantastic class with a great tasting.

The first flight was a grouping of wines made from the Sylvaner grape from Franken. Sylvaner is a natural cross between Traminer and Osterreichisch Weiss. Its higher acidity makes it a good food wine particularly with salty foods- cured meat, smoked cheese, fish and asparagus. Franken, in Bavaria, is called the spiritual home of Sylvaner. Franken Sylvaner typically has a fuller body with more texture and light floral and fruity aromas.

The wines we tasted were:
Juliusspital Kabinett Trocken 2010- the softest of the three with more floral and saffron notes.
Wirsching "Dry" Iphofer Kronsberg 2010- the lightest body of the three with seemingly higher acidity, very citrusy and mineral driven.
Castell Kugelspiel 2009- The fullest body of the three with a more herbal/lemon verbena quality.

The second flight were wines from Pfalz which is the second largest wine region in Germany. I learned that this is "Ground Zero for the best Pinot Blanc (known as Weisburgunder) in the world". In addition to two Pinot Blancs, we also tasted one Riesling. The common characteristic in the three wines was a saline quality that was particularly noticeable in the finish.
The wines we tasted were:
Friedrich Becker Reserve Pinot Blanc 2005- I found this to be surprisingly fresh as I always thought Pinot Blanc was best consumed while young. On my tasting note, I had written almond and apricot with a citrusy, salty finish. Laura said it had hazelnut and pear with a salty minerality. This was my most divergent tasting note when the MS's went over the wines after we had written our own tasting notes, just an interesting side note that I thought I would include.
Rebholz Grosse Gewachs Im Sonnenschein Pinot Blanc 2007- A light tropical fruit aroma, very mineral driven.
Christmann Grosse Gewachs Idig Riesling 2007- Smoky nose, slightly creamy peach finish. Slightly fuller body than the previuos two, more medium+ while the others were medium/medium-.

The third flight was all Rheinhessen Riesling. Rheinhessen has been thought of as more of a bulk wine region in the past but is now considered to be a very dynamic and improving region with a new generation of well-educated winemakers (Message in a Bottle Producers) who are identifying the better vineyard areas while also investing in both their wineries and vineyards. "All three wines were fermented with ambient yeast". This comment elicited quite the debate from not only Laura and Matt but also from Drew Hendricks-MS of the Pappas company with an attempt to pull in commentary from Guy Stout-MS who was also present. I am not going into all of that here but the gist being- Can you call it ambient (aka natural or indigenous) if you have used cultured yeast in the past, whereby that now makes up part of the "natural yeast" in your environment? Great fun for all the wine geeks present but not something I am going into in depth here, feel free to check out some of the natural wine bloggers on-line. These three wines also had a common salty mineralty and were fuller bodied when compared to the prior Riesling. 
The wines we tasted:
Thorle Saulheimer "Kalkstein" 2010- Peach aroma, medium+ acidity,  creamy texture, grapefruit finish with a bit of a Hops note.
Wittman Grosse Gewachs Morstein 2010- Apricot and mushroom aroma, medium+ acidity, creamy texture, peach flavor, grapefruit finish. My favorite Riesling of the day.
Keller Grosse Gewachs "Abts E" 2009- Earthier, truffles, talcum powder, high acidity, rich texture, apricot flavor with a grapefruit finish.

The fourth flight was Pinot Noir, known as Spatburgunder in Germany, from three different places.
The wines were: 
Meyer Nakel Blue Slate 2009 from Ahr which was the least expensive of the three and it also was my favorite. Aromas of red Bing cherry and leather, medium acidity, medium- tannins, a cherry cordial with a bit of mushroom flavor.
The common factor of the other two Pinot Noirs was the use of new French oak which wasn't fully integrated and which I found to be a bit overpowering. It will be interesting to taste these again in a few years to see how they age and if they become more approachable.
Furst Grosse Gewachs Centgrafenberg 2009 from Franken- Vanilla and spice, very little fruit on the nose or palate, medium acidity and tannin.
Huber Grosse Gewachs Sommerhalde 2009 from Baden- Pronounced leather aroma, medium+ tannin and acidity, vanilla flavor with a bit of a dried cherry finish.

The final wine was the only one with any sweetness. It tasted somewhere in between off dry and medium. The wine was Gunderloch Rothenberg Auslese Riesling 1997. It had a kerosene aroma, medium acidity with a fruit cocktail finish. A very nice ending for the tasting.

Other topics of interest to me from the class lecture and discussion:
Vintage variation- For instance, 2009 was a very ripe vintage while in 2010 vintners were faced with the side effects of the volcano eruption in Iceland which had created a gauzy, filtered light which slowed grape ripening.
The rise of organic and bio-dynamic wines in Germany and the decreased use of synthetic agents even by conventional growers. For example, the Rebolz wine from the Pfalz flight became bio-dynamic certified in 2009, two years after the vintage we tasted.
Global warming influence- Most German wine-growers do believe in this based on temperature increases over the past twenty years which have led to their growing riper grapes, more extreme weather throughout the year they must deal with and the increased problem of new vineyard pests arriving from warmer regions.

*I am a bit late posting on this as I attended this event right before I went to France, I misplaced my notes during my packing and I had only written up half of my experience before I left. Anyway, I cleaned up my desk yesterday and I found my notes which I was quite delighted about as it was a great event and I wanted to include it in my blog. I expect to get back on track posting events in a more timely fashion.

Monday, August 27, 2012

More on Bandol


Bandol, one of Provence's oldest wine growing regions, is located near the Mediterranean Coast. Driving through the region, you see medieval villages, terraced vineyards on the hillsides and glimpses of the sea. It can only be described as picturesque. In general, the topsoil is gravel and stone dominated lying over clay, limestone and sandstone. Mourvedre is the most important grape when thinking about Bandol Red and Rosé wine. The climate is Mediterranean and during my time there, the locals actually apologized for what they felt were unusally high temperatures but, of course, it was not even close to the brutal heat of Houston in August. While I was in Bandol, it was blue skies and sunshine with gentle breezes making for a most beautiful day.
After a couple of extra spins through a roundabout, we finally made it to the Chateau Romassan estate of Domaines Ott. This estate lies at the foot of the village of Le Castellet in the center of the Bandol appellation and it has about 150 acres in use for wine production. The Ott family set up shop here in 1956 and family members are still involved today though it is owned and managed by Champagne Louis Roederer. We tasted their Rosé Coeur de Grain which is comprised of 55% Mourvedre, 30% Cinsault and 15% Grenache. In addition to the expected berry flavors, this wine had a distinct fresh peach character. It was refreshing and fruity with good acidity and a bit more body than some of the Cote de Provence Roses we had been enjoying. It also seemed to have a bit more minerality. As it was approaching lunch time, we headed outside to look over the estate and vineyards before going to eat. The grounds are absolutely beautiful with the seemingly endless rows of vines and olive trees. The building dates back to the 18th century.

We went into La Cadiere d' Azur, a medieval village, located in the heart of the Bandol wine country. After a bit of sight seeing, we sat down at Restaurant L' Arlequin to have a pizza, seemingly a staple food group along the coast. My husband and I were talking when I noticed the couple next to us blatantly eavesdropping. After a bit of laughter, we all got to talking. They were local and they were very interested in our take on their beautiful country. We ended up sharing a bottle of 2010 Chateau de La Noblesse Rosé with them over lunch. This was a wine that they chose so it was interesting to see what the residents of Bandol would pick to have with their meal. The wine was tasty and we had a lovely time. She shared many ideas on what we should do when we returned to Bandol for our next visit.

After lunch, we did our tour of Domaine La Suffrene which I wrote about in my prior post. After we left there, we decided to just go to one more winery, Domaine Le Galantin. The Pascal family started this winery and continues to run it with daughter Celine now in charge. While the facility was not as much of a showplace as the other two that we had visited, the vineyards are organically farmed on clay and sandy soil on old restanque terraces and the winery has been modernized. There seemed to be a continuous stream of locals coming in to purchase wine while we there. We tasted their 2011 Rosé and two different bottles of red wine, the 2009 and the 2000. Again, the Rosé was more full bodied, it was crisp with a fresh berry character. The reds seemed to have more of the savory, meaty character, particularly the 2000 which was made by Celine's father, Achille.

Overall, we enjoyed our day in Bandol and left realizing that we had not see or tasted nearly enough. There does seem to be a basic similarity to the wines that gives you a sense of the place from which they came. They are not producing anonymous wines that could be from anywhere, the uncommon grapes and the terroir driven style make for wines that are uniquely Bandol. I am looking forward to trying some of the red wines that we purchased many years down the road to see them at their best.

We were back in Cannes in time for our dinner reservation at Gaston Gastounette looking out over the harbor. We ordered the one bottle of Bandol Rosé that was on the menu to enjoy while we talked about our day and what we would do on our next trip. Salut!



Related posts:
Wine in Provence

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Day in Bandol - Domaine La Suffrene

During our recent vacation on the French Riviera, my husband and I decided to rent a car and drive to Bandol which is located about an hour down the coast from where we were staying in Cannes. Bandol is one of Provence's oldest wine growing regions and is considered by many to be the most important AOC in the area especially when looking at the Mourvedre-based red wines. The region is known for its terraced vineyards called restanques built from the local river stone. The climate is Mediterranean as the region lies close  to the sea with long sunlight hours. The Mistral winds and mountain breezes protect the grapes from rot and cool things down at night.

I was interested in visiting Domaine La Suffrene as it is very available in the Houston market. Winemaker Cedric Gravier took over his grandfather's business in 1996 and when he heard that I was in town, he was kind enough to show up himself to taste with me and give me a tour of his winery and cellars. Domaine La Suffrene is one of the top five producers in Bandol.

The vineyard area has approximately 125 acres between La Cadiere d'Azur and Castellet with a majority of old vine Mourvedre, Grenache and Cinsault though he also has small amounts of Carignan and Syrah as well as some young vine Clairette and Ugni Blanc. The soils in his vineyard are comprised of sand, silt, limestone chalk and clay. Cedric was expecting harvest to begin in September based on the current state of the maturity of his grapes. All the grapes are hand harvested in bunches and then are sorted twice, once in the trailer and again at the wine cellar.

We tasted the 2011 Blanc first which is 75% Clairette and 25% Ugni Blanc. The vinification method involves low temperature fermentation with grape skin maceration and the blocking of malo-lactic fermentation. This technique creates a smooth, yet crisp mineral driven white wine with a light herbal character. 

The 2011 Rosé was up next which is a blend of 40% Mourvedre, 30% Cinsault, 20% Grenache and 10 % Carignan. This was a fuller body Rosé with nice acidity and flavors of fresh berries and apricot. We followed this with his special selection 2007 Rosé "Cuvée Sainte Catherine". This wine is only made in certain years and is a blend of 95% Mourvedre and 5% Carignan. Almost five years old, it was a bit more structured with significantly less fruit, more minerality and a bit more earthy character than the prior wine. 

We then tasted through a few vintages of the Rouge starting with the current 2009 release then going back in time through 2006 and 2003. The blend was made up of 55% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache, 15% Cinsault and 10% Carignan which is aged for 18 months in large old oak barrels without fining or filtering. The result is a firmly structured, rich, spicy, ripe black fruit flavored wine with a light earthy character. Cedric also poured his special Rouge the 2009 "Cuvée Les Lauves" followed by the 2000 vintage allowing us again to see how his wines progress over time. The blend on the Rouge Cuvée is 95% Mourvedre and 5% Carignan which is also aged for at least 18 months in large old oak barrels and bottled without fining or filtering. These two wines showed heavier spice, licorice and a bit more of the earthy component.

The wines became smoother and more complex with an additional savory character as we journeyed back through past vintages yet still remained fresh and flavorful attesting to the age ability of Bandol's red wines. All of the wines were absolutely fantastic and some of the best of Bandol that I have tasted both during our vacation and here at home when compared to others I have found in the Houston market.

The winery/cellar is a modern air conditioned facility with temperature controlled stainless steel and concrete tanks for fermentation, an isothermal tank for debourbeage and numerous large oak barrels in a variety of ages for the maturation of the different wines.

Cedric's passion for what he is doing is undeniable and it is exciting to imagine the future of the wines of Domaine La Suffrene. This line of wines from Bandol is definitely worth seeking out in the Houston market.



Related post:
Tasting Provence

I will be writing more about Bandol in my next posting.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tasting some Wines of Provence

My husband and I have recently returned from the French Riviera in Provence where we, of course, drank buckets of rose wine in between sight seeing, sun bathing and eating. We also sampled some of the local red and white. Despite all of my wine studies, I really had not had that many wines from Provence. It seems to be a somewhat overlooked region when it comes to the various wine classes and I admittedly had not sought out much of the wine on my own. 
I was on vacation so I didn't spend my time writing up tasting notes but I did try to take pictures of the different bottles that we liked or make a note of what we drank. Originally, I was not intending on writing up this portion of my trip in regards to the wine. We did spend some time in Bandol and I will be writing that region up more in depth in my next posting. My husband is not one to get all geeked up at the thought of pink wine so it was interesting to see how quickly he got on board with all the rose drinking moving rapidly from "It's not that bad" to "This is pretty good" to "I wonder if they have this in Houston." 
Of course, when you are lying on Nikki Beach in St Tropez and eating fresh seafood at La Plage des Jumeaux, the scenery and the food take center stage and I actually forgot to make a note of what we drank on that day though I do remember that it was pink and that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I believe it was Chateau Minuty which was a wine that seemed to make it onto many wine lists.
A majority of the wines that we tried were from the Cotes de Provence AOC which is the largest appellation in Provence covering about 50,000 acres. Due to its size, it is fairly diverse as far as soils and climate as some of the vineyard area is close to the coast and some is further inland. This appellation produces the majority of Provencal wine. White wine is made primarily from Clairette, Rolle and Ugni Blanc. Red and Rose are blends comprised of Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Tibouren and Syrah.
. After spending the morning sightseeing around Monaco, we stopped in at little cafe near the Prince's Palace to have some local seafood and this was the rose that our waiter recommended. We were getting hot and we had been walking all morning and we found it to be very refreshing. I later learned from some fellow travelers that the La Chapelle de Sainte Roseline Rose comes from a winery that is located at a former abbey which is surrounded by vineyards. They thought they were doing a winery tour and tasting which was a small part of their excursion but the highlight of the tour turned out to be seeing the exhumed intact body of Saint Roseline on display who died in 1329. Their tour may not have been all they expected but we enjoyed the wine. It is one of only eighteen estates that is classified as Cru Classe.

That evening we had dinner in Cannes at L'Auberge Provencale. We had both the white and the red from Chateau Hermitage St Pons. We had a glass of the white with our spring salad and a bit more of the red with our beef filet. I think we both enjoyed the red more than the white.

During our day at the beach in Cannes, I know we had Chateau Minuty Rose which is also one of the 18 Cru Classe wines. Interestingly, this wine was one that we were served several different times at lunch spots and patio bars in the evening but it is one which I apparently never took a picture of the label. I do know that we always enjoyed it. Another Cote de Provence rose that we enjoyed that I didn't take a picture of was the St. Julien d'Aille Cuvee Praetor.

One evening we had gone to dinner in Mougins, a medieval village just a short ride from Cannes, at La Brasserie de la Mediterranee where we tried one of the local specialties, John Dory fish fillets along with asparagus risotto, and we had both the red and white from Domaine Berthoulet.


After returning home, we opened a bottle of Chateau Miraval from the Coteaux Varois en Provence where the terroir is less variable in respect to the chalky limestone and clay soils found throughout. The variation is in the altitudes but on average it is at about 1,200 feet. It is surrounded by mountains that add a continental influence to the Mediterranean climate. It includes twenty-eight towns in the heart of Provence. The wines from this area are thought to be a bit more powerful with greater structure. I wasn't sure what to expect as this wine is also known as being "from the vineyards of Brad & Angelina". The American culture of celebrity worship is alive and well in Cannes. This bottle had been a gift not something that we chose but we absolutely enjoyed it while we looked through all of our vacation photos. 

Overall, we enjoyed everything that we tried of Provence from the unknown pink by the glass at a pizzeria at lunch to the Cru Classe bottles to our celebrity bottle back home. The rose common denominators- all dry with good acidity, each was very fresh (most was from the 2011 vintage) with flavors of fresh berry (some riper/some more tart) and some had a bit more spice while some had a bit of the herbal garrigue note (more noticeable in the reds).

In retrospect, maybe I should have taken more notes but as it was my first time on the French Riviera, I really was just enjoying indiscriminately soaking up the atmosphere and letting it impress upon every cell of my being so that when I think back upon my time there... I just feel warm sunshine with a pleasant breeze and a glass of cool rose in my hand with the sense of the hills behind me and the Mediterranean in front of me.
Au Revoir Cote d' Azur until we meet again.