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.