Monday, December 30, 2013

Pierre Peters Champagne Brut NV Blanc De Blancs


My husband and I love Pierre Peters Brut NV Blanc De Blanc Champagne. I try to keep a few bottles in our home at any given time to cover our own spontaneous Champagne needs, we opened some on Thanksgiving and Christmas and there is more waiting for the New Year celebration. We also gave a few bottles as gifts this holiday season.

One thing that I like about this sparkling wine is that there is the sense that you are getting something a bit more special for your money than you might be getting with the big brands from Champagne at the same price point. This wine was made by an independent grape grower who used at least 95% of his own estate grown grapes in the production of this wine leading to the nickname "Grower Champagne". While this is not unusual in the world of wine, it is somewhat unusual in the world of Champagne production where less than a quarter of the independent growers do so.

The vineyards are located in the Grand Cru commune of Le Mesnil sur Oger in the Cote des Blancs sub region of Champagne. The Cote des Blancs is planted almost exclusively to Chardonnay and the grapes tend to be more expensive than the other sub regions. The Le Mesnil area is a more prestigious area within this sub region. In theory, this more defined area will produce grapes that will create a wine that is more terroir specific than the typical multi-regional blends. In particular, the belemnite chalky soil of Le Mesnil that was formed in the tertiary period should help the grapes to maintain their acidity and add a chalky mineral-like component to the wine. 

In the glass, the Pierre Peters Champagne Brut NV Blanc De Blancs is a pale straw color and it has a steady stream of pinpoint bubbles creating a lacy mousse at the rim. It has aromas of fresh pear and lemon tart. Upon tasting, the creamy texture is the first thing that you think about and then the zippy acidity. It has refreshing citrus flavors, a light toasted note and a minerality throughout the lengthy finish.

Always outstanding, highly recommended.

One of the things that I have liked about this brand is that the disgorgement date information has always been provided on the label on the back of bottle. The tasting note above was written specifically from a bottle that was disgorged in December of 2012. Disgorgement is the process of removing the lees or yeast sediment from the Champagne bottle before the final corking is completed. A Champagne producer may do this several times a year as the wine is needed for shipment to the market. I like knowing this date as it helps me to organize and rotate my non vintage bottles in my cellar fridge at home. I was interested to see that within the last case that we purchased, there were a couple of disgorgement dates and there were some bottles without that information included. I am hoping that the label without this information is not the direction that Pierre Peters Champagne is headed.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Dinner with Paolo Cantele in Houston


Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Paolo Cantele at Tony’s here in Houston. He was in town with Jeremy Parzen checking out our city and sharing his wine. I really enjoyed hearing Paolo talk about the natural beauty of his home in Puglia, Italy. Whether he was talking about the winery, the vineyards or the beaches; his pride in his home and in what they produce there was apparent.
The family has worked to reduce the environmental impact from their winemaking on the land while also working with some Italian research groups. They are studying indigenous yeast strains, the effects of Brettanomyces on wine and on working to reduce micro-toxins. This combination of caring for the land in the vineyard while staying in front of the most current research in the winery is all part of the family’s goal to create wine that is not only a fresh, wholesome part of your dinner but a wine that can also tell the story of the place from which it came.
Our dinner at Tony's was fantastic as expected. I had opted for the pansoti, a pasta dish with squash, parmesan and sage to start and the seared halibut with fennel confit and oranges for my main course. Each of these were excellent with both the Cantele Chardonnay and Rosato* current releases. The wines were fresh and food friendly. Each of these would also be a good choice for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
Paolo was gracious enough to also order some Nebbiolo for the table from Tony’s well thought out wine list, which, along with a surprise course of the new Alba white truffle soufflé, gave the group an unexpected and decidedly decadent taste of Piemonte in the midst of a discussion of American wine culture and the beauty of Puglia.
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Paolo Cantele, hearing about his home and tasting his wines. It was also a treat to enjoy this evening  with Dale Robertson from the Houston Chronicle, Amy Gross of Vinesleuth, James Brock from the Houston Press and Alfonso Cevola, aka Italian Wine Guy.
 
*The Cantele Rosato is highly recommended and is available at Whole Foods for $13.99

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Greek Master Class with Matt Stamp, MS

Master Sommelier, Matt Stamp was back in Houston for a Greek Master Class at Camerata Wine Bar for members of the Guild of Sommeliers. The focus was entirely on the white wines of Greece, their improved quality and whether Houston consumers are ready to see these wines on our local wine lists.

My own experience with the white wines of Greece was limited to some overindulgence during my college years at the Houston Greek Festival, a couple of tastings of Moschofilero and Assyrtiko in some past wine classes and in a by the glass format at some local Greek restaurants. I also went to a tasting of mixed Greek whites and reds at the Midtown Spec’s over a year and a half ago where I had a bit of trouble obtaining a list of the wines we tasted, so I am uncertain as to what all I tried.
Greece has over 200 grape varieties and most are not well known in the Houston market. Matt was unable to get any dry white from Patras in the Peloponnese which disappointed him as he feels that these are important examples of the rising quality to be found in Greek wine and it was disappointing to me as I have only had a sweet red dessert wine from this area.
In my part of town, I have not seen too much availability of Greek wine at all; not on restaurant menus though there are many Mediterranean restaurants near me , not at my local Spec’s nor in my grocery stores, which is a shame, as my overall impression of the wines that we tasted was that they were refreshing and that they would work well with our local seafood.

The Wine Tasting – Island Hopping and beyond
2012 “San Gerassimo” Robola of Cephalonia PDO (SRP $20) This wine is 100% Robola from the central Omala Valley on Cephalonia Island where there is potassium-rich limestone soil. There are only two and a half hectares of this planted so it is a very limited production made by a cooperative of fifteen growers. This wine has aromas and flavors of lemon and spearmint with a bit of salinity. It is dry, light to medium body, medium+ acidity with a lemon pith finish.

2012 Skouras Moschofilero Peloponnese PGI (SRP $15) This wine is 100% Moschofilero which is very aromatic grape. It has pronounced floral aromas of rose with fresh peach flavors. Dry, light to medium body, medium+ acidity with a bit of an oily texture a fresh peach finish.
2012 Tselepos Mantinia PDO (SRP $17) This wine is 100% Moschofilero from Mantinia on the Peloponnese Island and it has a similar profile to the previous one though this wine had slightly lighter floral aromas of rose with fresh apricot flavors and it had a slight bitterness with a rosier color from the longer pre-fermentation skin contact.  It was dry, medium body with medium+ acidity and a clean finish.
2012 Monemvassia Kydonitsa Laconia PGI (SRP $17) This wine is 100% Kydonitsa. This wine had aromas of figs, dried herbs and grapefruit with matching flavors. The nose was more pronounced than the palate. It was dry, medium body, medium acidity with a creamy, almost waxy texture and a somewhat short finish.
2012 Lyrarakis Dafni Crete PGI (SRP $18) This wine is made from 100% Dafni from Alagni in the Iraklion district. I believe that it was my first time to taste this variety, it was not my favorite in this tasting but I would try it again. It had very light aromas and low levels of flavor; minerals, lemon pith and sage. It had a medium body, medium acidity and a short finish.
2012 Alexakis Vidiano Crete PGI This wine, like the one above, comes from the island of Crete but it is made from 100% Vidiano, a grape variety that is endemic to the island. This was my preferred taste of Crete. Grapefruit, lemon pith and minerals with a medium body, medium+ acidity and a long citrusy finish.
2012 Gerovassiliou Malagousia Epanomi PGI (SRP $21) This wine was interesting. It is 100% Malagousia from Epanomi in northern Greece on the Macedonia coast. Matt Stamp feels is almost like a Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc mix. Only 25 hectares are currently cultivated but more plantings are going in. It had floral aromas of jasmine with rich apricot flavors, a medium body, medium+ acidity and a long fruity finish.
Tasting Santorini these wines are all sourced from vines grown on their own rootstock in Santorini’s volcanic aspa soils in basket or crown shapes to protect the vines from the strong winds and to help collect the sea mist for water. Matt Stamp said the rootstock could be 400-500 years old while the vines are about 80-100 years old. It is common to find Assyrtiko blended with Aidani and Athiri in Santorini but, in this line up, all the wines are 100% Assyrtiko. Matt believes this variety in its pure form is a great wine to age up to ten years to see its evolution; its aromatic profile in maturity is similar to mature Riesling. In youth, it can be austere and can be more enjoyable after a couple years of bottle age. Enjoy with seafood, Caesar salad or tomato salad.
2011 Koutsoyiannopoulos Santorini PDO (SRP $20)Aromas and flavors of lemon and thyme with a saline minerality, medium body, medium+ acidity with a medium+ length citrus finish.
2012 Santo Wines Santorini PDO (SRP $20) This wine was very similar to the wine above. It also had aromas and flavors of lemon and thyme with a saline minerality; medium body and acidity with a medium+ length citrus finish.
2008 Sigalas Santorini PDO This wine has aromas and flavors of ripe grapefruit with a saline minerality, medium body and acidity with a medium+ length citrus finish.
2012 Sigalas Barrel-Fermented Santorini PDO (SRP $20) Aromas and flavors of sweet ripe lemon with a bit of sage, a full body, medium acidity and a medium+ length creamy citrus finish.
2009 Hatzidakis Nykteri Santorini PDO (SRP $25) Lightly oxidized, aromas of baked apple pie with light citrus and apple flavors. This wine is full bodied with medium+ acidity and a long finish. Salty foods, such as mackerel or other oily fish, make a good match for wines with some oxidation.
The Final Farewell – Greek Retsina or the “Moment of Zen” per Matt Stamp
Stelios Kechris Retsina “Tears of the Pine” This wine is not labeled by vintage. It is 100% Assyrtiko made with the addition of pine resin to give it the familiar distinctive character: the resin is removed before bottling. This wine comes from the Goumenissa PDO region. I have only tasted this style of Greek wine in class settings and I probably won’t be changing that habit anytime soon. I will agree with Matt Stamp that this particular bottle had milder pine aroma and flavor than any other that I have tasted. Try it well chilled with fried food and Greek cheese for optimal enjoyment.
Opa!

related posts:
Matt Stamp Masterclasses in Houston

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tasting with Peter Fraser of Yangarra Estate Wines

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet Peter Fraser, the winemaker for Yangarra Estate Vineyard, and taste some of his wines with him over lunch. Yangarra Estate makes biodynamic wines produced in McLaren Vale in South Australia.

Peter’s parents were conventional farmers and that’s how he initially approached his work. After attending a three day biodynamic farming seminar that really resonated with him, he was inspired to move the vineyards into an organic and biodynamic condition starting in 2008. By 2012, they were A-grade certified biodynamic by Australian Organics and as of 2013, all of their wines are certified both organic and biodynamic.   

The single vineyard estate has about 250 acres of land under vine with about 170 acres for natural corridors, creeks and vegetation. Rather than tending to the grapes for a big fruit, full body style of wine, they are focusing primarily on a more elegant style of Grenache and on a more savory and complex style of Shiraz. Peter feels that this all starts in the vineyard with healthy soil. “There is stuff that we do that I can’t explain why it works but it does, so I keep doing it. There is no science.” He explained that when you first stop using the herbicides, you get inedible broadleaf weeds coming up everywhere with long tap roots pulling up nutrients from deep underground so they don’t deplete the topsoil, when these die they add back in the nutrients. It is the way the soil tries to save itself. The grasses then come back and the soil gets back into its natural cycle.
Yangarra also uses all indigenous yeast to include more of the true terroir into the wine. They handpick their grapes and they use a mechanical sorting table that eliminates raisins in warmer years to control the excess alcohol and the flavor range.
All of the wines that we tasted were well made, delicious and food friendly; I feel comfortable recommending their entire line.
·         2012 Viognier had fresh fruit aromas and flavors of apricot, melon and citrus with medium body and acidity. Peter only has 2 acres of this Viognier under vine. He avoids the concern of high alcohol and the oily waxiness that can arise with this grape variety with gentle pressing. This wine is priced at $25.

·         2011 Old Vine Grenache is made in a light elegant style that starts in the sandy soils in which the vines are grown. It has concentrated aromas and flavors primarily of fresh cherry and thyme. It has a medium body with a plush texture, balanced structure and a long finish. Peter only uses old French oak for aging this wine. I would love to have this wine at my Thanksgiving dinner table!                       The 2012 Old Vine Grenache is more available now and is priced at $32. This was a slightly warmer year which made for a slightly fruitier wine though still similarly styled.

·         2010 Shiraz had rich aromas and flavors of ripe blackberries, pepper and potting soil. It has a full body, sweet ripe tannins, clean acidity and a long savory finish. Peter only uses about 20% new French oak with a very subtle toast. He wants the terroir to be showcased rather than the barrel flavor. He feels that this is his best vintage that he has made so far. He makes this in a more Burgundian style trying for more complexity with less in your face fruit; he employs winery techniques such as cold soaking and opting to punch down versus pumping over for more elegance and to obtain greater aromatics. This wine rests on the lees for 12-15 months giving it a smooth texture and a savory note. This wine is 100% Shiraz which is sourced from sandstone and ironstone soils.
The 2011 Shiraz is more available now and is priced at $25. This was a slightly cooler year which resulted in a more restrained wine with a bit more of an herbal note though still similarly styled.

·         2010 High Sands Grenache had intense aromas and rich flavors of fresh ripe dark cherry, dried fruit, white pepper and a floral rose note. Medium+ body and acidity with smooth tannins and a long lush slightly savory finish. While this wine is high end, it is not the big powerful, over ripe style that people associate with Australia in this price range. It is grown at an elevation of 700 feet in the highest part of their beach-like sand dunes. The sand is almost 5 feet deep and the 70 old vines create a more concentrated flavor profile and its bigger structure. Peter gives the vineyard all the credit for this fantastic wine. It is aged in their best older barrel program and spends six months longer in barrel than their other Grenache. Peter considers this wine to be the most expressive of the estate’s terroir.  Only 50 cases were produced, a splurge at $90 but so worth it!

·         2008 Ironheart Shiraz has pronounced aromas and flavors of ripe black fruit, iodine, chocolate, earth and leather. Full body, clean acidity, sweet ripe tannins with a rich savory finish. This robust and age worthy wine is sourced from 20 year old vines grown on ironstone soil. Peter says this is the biggest Shiraz he has made and feels his 2010 and 2012 are more restrained. This wine is priced at $80.

·         We also tasted his 2004 Cadenzia GSM blend with its aromas and flavors of raspberry, licorice, coffee and spice, which was absolutely fantastic. The Grenache and Mourvedre dominate with the Syrah more in the background. Unfortunately for us, very little has come to the United States as most of it is consumed in Australia.

All of these wines are highly recommended!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Don Melchor Vertical Tasting with Enrique Tirado

Winemaker, Enrique Tirado, from Don Melchor, Concho y Toro’s ultra-premium label, was in Houston last week conducting a vertical tasting of this iconic wine at Galleria area restaurant, Tango & Malbec. This was a real treat for the local wine trade and media as this was only a two state tour beginning in California and ending in Texas.

Enrique Tirado has been the head winemaker at Don Melchor since 1997. The only time he worries about his vineyards is when he is not there to handle any issue that could arise, that is the worst part about traveling for him. He can deal with anything else. He likes to watch the daily evolution that is always happening in the vineyard. Hearing this reminded me of how parents talk when they are traveling and I like that in a winemaker. I like to know that kind of care and attention go into each vintage.
The vineyard area is in Puente Alto which is located in Chile’s Maipo Valley at the foot of the Andes Mountains. The vineyard is subdivided into smaller parcels based on different terroir so each vine in each area can be specially tended to based upon its needs. This enables each section to be picked at the optimal time of ripeness. There are seven parcels with each one producing a different style of wine. One parcel might produce a wine with ripe fruit and soft tannins while another one creates a very concentrated tannic wine. All of these come from same vineyard but from the different soils in each parcel. The common feature of the soils is the lack of nutrients but the site holds multiple soil types including alluvial, stony and volcanic. The vines range in age from 20-35 years. Enrique feels that the complexity of the finished wine comes from the careful blending of the wines from the different parcels.
Puente Alto has a cool climate within a warmer region; the warm days bring ripeness while the cool nights protect the grape’s acidity. While they get some rainfall in the spring and summer, irrigation is needed. Harvest typically begins in April.
In July, they taste the wines to make the final blend.  They use 100% French oak with 14-15 months maturation in barrel and a year and a half in the bottle before release. Enrique says the focus of Don Melchor is to make a wine of quality that has finesse with good concentration but with soft ripe tannins that is expressive of the terroir. I would say he has achieved his goal. All of the wines that we tasted were rich, full bodied and balanced with no overt vanilla, toast, or oaky nuances and each one was a pleasure to taste.

 

Don Melchor, Puente Alto Vertical Tasting

  • 1987 was a slightly warmer than average year with slightly lower than average rainfall.  This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and has pronounced aromas and flavors primarily of tobacco and dark chocolate with soft elegant tannins and a lingering finish.  
  • 1993 was cooler and rainier than a normal year. This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon as well. This wine was more concentrated and younger than I expected it to be with intense aromas and flavors of black fruit along with the tobacco and chocolate. It had silky tannins, good acidity and a long finish. I really loved this one.
  • 2006 was a cooler than normal year with a longer and later harvest.  This wine is 96% Cabernet Sauvignon with 4% Cabernet Franc. This wine has intense aromas and rich flavors of ripe black fruit with coffee and dark chocolate. Of the four, this wine had the grippiest tannins but still elegant with a nice freshness that I really loved and a long rich finish.
  • 2009 was warmer than normal with some spring rainfall that gave them some worry. This wine is 96% Cabernet Sauvignon with 4% Cabernet Franc. It has aromas of sweet, ripe blackberry with a bit of cocoa and tobacco with matching flavors. It has sweet ripe tannins, good acidity and a long finish.
All highly recommended for your next wine splurge!


 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Kobrand Tour d' Italia 2013 Wine Tasting

I went to the Kobrand Tour d' Italia tasting in Austin last week where they were featuring their Italian wine portfolio. I had a limited amount of time that I was able to spend there but I did enjoy tasting the new vintages and chatting with some of Italy's well-known wine producers.

I started my tasting with Roberto Pighin and his selection of three whites from northeast Italy: the 2011 Pighin Pinot Grigio-Friuli Grave which was light and easy-drinking with fresh pear aromas, the 2012 Pighin Pinot Grigio- Collio with melon flavors and a creamier texture due to some lees aging and the 2012 Pighin Sauvignon Blanc- Friuli Grave which was crisp with grassy notes and a mineral laced finish.

My next stop was at the Michele Chiarlo table where Alberto Chiarlo was pouring some Piemontese classics. I really enjoyed both of the whites; the fresh and citrusy 2012 Gavi Le Marne and the smooth, floral 2011 Le Madri, Roero Arneis. I was pleased to  be able to share with Alberto that the 2011 Barbera d' Asti Le Orme was one of my recommendations for my upcoming Galveston Monthly wine feature in October. Next, I tasted the 2010 Barbera d' Asti Superiore Nizza La Court, a wine sourced from a single vineyard. This wine was richer than the other Barbera with a more intense aroma and flavor profile. I ran through some other wines at the other tables before coming back to the Nebbiolo wines. I really enjoyed the 2010 Reyna Barbaresco, it was surprisingly approachable with its smooth tannins and black tea and cherry aromas and flavors. I then tasted his three Barolos: the 2008 Tortoniano, the 2009 Cannubi and the 2009 Cerequio. Each of them was a big wine with great fall pairing potential, I found the Cerequio to be the most intense and interesting.

I moved on to chat with Giovanni Folonari who was pouring selections from Nozzole, Cabreo and Tenuta La Fuga while sharing his family's winemaking history in Tuscany. I really enjoyed the 2011 Tenuta Campo al Mare Bolgheri Vermentino with its crisp citrus and herbal notes, the 2007 La Fuga Brunello di Montalcino with its long spicy finish and the 2008 Nozzole Il Pareto, a bold, ripe dark berry flavored 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine.

There was a bit of a crowd around Piero Incisa at the Tenuta San Guido table by the time that I approached. I made sure to taste the 2011 Salviano Orvieto Classico which was fruity and refreshing and the 2011 Bodega Chacra Barda Pinot Noir from Rio Negro in Patagonia, Argentina, which is made in a light, elegant style and was my only non-Italian wine on this day. I also tasted the 2009 Agricola Punica Barrua Isola dei Nuraghi Carignan-based wine from Sardinia, it was very smooth with plum and licorice flavors. I really liked it for an Autumn wine. I, of course, also tasted Tenuta San Guido's famed 2010 Sassicaia, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with its classic Cabernet nose and a perfectly balanced structure. 

I was feeling my time constraints at this point. I made a quick stop with Emilia Nardi to taste the 2010 Tenute Silvio Nardi, Rosso di Montalcino. I loved this wine with its bright cherry/berry flavors, smooth tannins and spicy finish.

I wound down my tasting back with Alberto Chiarlo and the 2012 Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d'Asti. This light, crisp dessert wine with citrus blossom aromas and peach and mango flavors would be the perfect ending for any meal and it was a surprisingly good follow up to the coconut shrimp hors d'oeuvres which were being served. I wish I had more time at the tasting as I know I missed some really great wines. The good news is that these wines are available. As a friend of mine has said, it is a great time to be an Italian wine lover in Texas.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Rainy Nights and Burgundy at Home

A couple of rainy evenings led to all indoor cooking and some opened bottles of Burgundy. Neither of these bottles come from "outstanding" vintages so I was interested to see how each would taste.

2011 Seguinot-Bordet Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons
100% Chardonnay wine, approximately $33 at Spec's.

Pronounced honeysuckle floral aromas with lemon and a hint of fresh asparagus with similar flavors. Dry, medium+ body and acidity with a long mineral-laced citrus finish. I really enjoyed it; it made me think about chalky minerality, electric acidity and everything that you hope your Chablis will be. I served it with jumbo lump crab cakes.




2007 Daniel Bocquenet Vosne-Romanee Villages
100% Pinot Noir wine, approximately $63 at Spec's.

My first thought on sniffing this glass was "fully developed". Aromas of leather, earth and patchouli. Dried apricot fruit flavor with a lightly spiced finish. Dry, medium+ body, tannins, acidity and length. I found this to be an interesting bottle and we enjoyed it but I'm glad that I opened it now and that I didn't hold it any longer. I served this with braised short ribs, sautéed mushrooms and mashed potatoes with chives.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Summer Whites from Italy


 
Life has not been lived entirely through Rosé colored wine glasses this summer. I have also been pouring a variety of reasonably priced lighter Italian white wines as well. In addition to being fairly wallet sensitive and easy to find, they are refreshing and food friendly, making each of these perfect for summer sipping.


2011 Bolla Soave Classico 883 Selection
I received this as a media sample but I would purchase it again. It is easy to find, it is affordable at under $10 and it is a versatile wine to keep on hand. Floral aromas of honeysuckle with lemongrass and a fresh citrus flavor. Dry, light to medium body, medium+ acidity and a mineral laced finish. I served this as a poolside aperitif before a casual early weekend supper with my brother's family where it was well received.


 2009 Tommasi il grigio Ramato Pinot Grigio 
This wine was purchased for approximately $15 at Spec's. While this wine is made from the familiar Pinot Grigio grape, in this particular wine, the juice was left in contact with the skins, as in red wine production, for 36 hours resulting in a coppery-orange colored different style of Pinot Grigio more similar to a rosé wine. Pronounced aromas and flavors of citrus, apples and berries. Dry, medium body, medium acidity with a smooth fruity finish.  I served this with an easy dinner of take-out rotisserie chicken, tossed salad and rosemary bread. 



2011 Fontana Candida Frascati Superiore Secco
This wine comes from the Frascati DOC near Rome. I think I purchased this for approximately $10 at Whole Foods. Aromas and flavors of lemon and almond with a light citrus blossom floral note. Dry, light body, medium+ acidity with a slightly nutty finish. I served this wine with grilled shrimp and rice pilaf. An easy wine with an easy meal, very nice.






2012 Banfi Centine Toscana IGT  
I received this as a media sample but it is also easy to find at approximately $12. This wine is sourced from southern Tuscany and is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. It had aromas and flavors of grapefruit and pear with a light herbal note. Dry, medium body and acidity with a soft fruity finish. I served this with grilled chicken breasts and vegetables.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer Rosé Continued

My summer of Rosé continued after my deadline for my Galveston Monthly feature on Rosé wine had passed. I wanted to recommend a few more refreshing Rosés for you to try as our hot summer wears on.

2012 Tavel "Les Eglantiers" - Tavel is an appellation in France's Southern Rhone Valley that produces Rosé exclusively. This is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. It has pronounced aromas of red cherry and citrus blossom with a tart berry and bit of peach flavor. Dry, medium+ body, medium acidity with a plush feel and a long mineral laced finish. An elegant Rosé at approximately $15 at Spec's.

2011 and 2012 La Vieille Ferme from the Ventoux appellation in France's Rhone Valley is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. I always try to buy the freshest vintage available but I couldn't resist opening these up together to see how they compared. Very similar across the board with the 2012 seemingly "brighter" over all. Floral aromas, fresh cherry flavor. Dry, medium+ body and acidity with a medium length fruity finish. Simple, food friendly and affordable. Approximately $7-8 at Spec's and Whole Foods.

2012 J.L. Quinson Cotes de Provence Light aromas and flavors of red cherry and orange zest. Dry, medium body and acidity with a medium length fruity finish. Also, simple, food friendly and affordable. I can't find a receipt on this one but I think that it was from Trader Joe's and it was under $8.
 

2012 Bieler Pere et Fils Coteaux d' Aix en Provence is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromas and flavors of fresh ripe raspberry and melon. Dry, medium+ body, crisp medium+ acidity with a long fruity finish.  $12.99 at Whole Foods  

2012 Chateau Du Donjon from the Minervois appellation in Southern France's Languedoc region is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Pronounced aromas and flavors of sweet ripe cherry and lime. Dry, medium body, mouthwatering medium+ acidity, long juicy finish. Approximately $14 at Spec's





Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tasting Bodega Ruca Malen

Bodega Ruca Malen’s wine maker, Pablo Cuneo and Chef Lucas Bustos, who oversees the restaurant at the winery, were in Houston earlier this month for the launch of the Bodega Ruca Malen wines in Texas. They are now available in Central Markets across the state. Central Market patrons had the opportunity to attend cooking demonstrations of specially prepared paired tastings by the winery’s chef while learning about the wines from the winemaker himself at tasting events that started in Houston and continued through San Antonio, Austin and Dallas.

I had the opportunity to sit down for lunch and a tasting of their wines at America’s in River Oaks before their Houston Central Market event began. We started with the 2012 Yauquen Torrontes from Salta, an area which is well-known for producing some of Argentina’s best Torrontes due to the high elevation of the vineyard area and the high UV levels they receive promoting optimal ripening. This wine was crisp and dry, it did not have that hint of residual sugar that is commonly found in this variety; it was also fruity and easy drinking. Chef Lucas says for his paired tastings at the winery, he likes to serve this with anything fried, which, of course, works here in Texas where we do fry anything and everything. Chef Lucas discussed that he tries to keep the food local and seasonal at the restaurant so he doesn’t do seafood there due to the distance of the ocean to Mendoza but he has paired this wine with the local river trout. We sampled this with an array of America’s ceviche and we really enjoyed it. It will be priced at Central Market for $11.99. His planned pairing for the tasting dinner that evening was grilled squash ravioli with a lemon fennel and green apple salad.
We followed this up with a tasting of four reds which we continued with throughout our meal. I had the grilled beef tenderloin with tempura mushroom, basmati rice and green peppercorn sauce and the wines were all fantastic with it. All of the wines that we tasted were elegant and well balanced with a good texture, fresh flavors and pleasant finishes. They are also affordably priced which makes this a fantastic new addition for Texas wine consumers.
The red wines we tasted were:
·         2012 Yauquen Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon blend. This was a well-balanced, fresh and fruity wine with ripe black fruit aromas and flavors with a spicy finish. Approximately $12, Central Market has the 2011 vintage where they served it with a goat cheese and sun-dried tomato crostini and quinoa salad.

·         2011 Ruca Malen Reserve Malbec. This was concentrated and juicy with aromas and flavors of ripe red cherry and plum with a light floral note, velvety tannins and a long finish. Approximately $17, Central Market has the 2010 vintage. They served it with olive oil cured beef with sweet corn and Malbec reduction.

·         2011 Ruca Malen Reserve Petit Verdot. This was a bit lighter with riper tannins than most renditions that I have had with aromas and flavors of red fruit, caramel and pepper with a long spicy finish. Approximately $17, Central Market has the 2010 vintage where they served it with mushroom encrusted grilled filet mignon with a pepper and chili marinade and fire roasted parmesan eggplant with sweet onion chimichurri.

·         2009 Kinien Malbec had pronounced aromas and concentrated flavors of ripe blackberry and plum with a bit of smoke and caramel. It had soft moderate tannins and a long lightly spiced finish. This is Bodega Ruca Malen’s highest expression of Malbec and it is, unfortunately, not yet for sale in Texas.
America’s owner, Chef Michael Cordua and Sommelier James Watkins also stopped by for a meet and greet with the Argentinean winemaker and chef and, of course, for a taste of the wine. We discussed the beauty of Mendoza, the winery and the terroir that makes the wine. Pablo Cuneo remarked on the consistency of the vintages and the rarity of a bad one in the Lujan de Cuyo sub region of Mendoza where the estate is located and in the Uco Valley where they also source grapes from small producers. Both of these premium vineyard areas are located at the foot of the Andes Mountains approximately 3,000 feet above sea level with warm days and cool nights, pristine water for irrigation and porous soil creating an ideal environment to produce ripe healthy grapes. Pablo feels that finding the best vineyard areas is crucial for the creation of elegantly styled wines that need little intervention during the growing season or during the winemaking process.
Each of the wines that we tasted was food friendly and had multiple pairing options. I enjoyed meeting the men who are the taste makers for Bodega Ruca Malen and I think most Texans will enjoy getting introduced to their wines.
 
 
 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Three Wines from Cantele

A friend who is associated with Cantele sent me a media sample of a few of their wines. They are produced in Puglia, often known as the heel of Italy's boot, from local grapes.

2011 Cantele Negroamaro Rosato- Aromas of cherry syrup with floral notes. Dry with a medium body, medium alcohol and medium acidity with a fresh cherry flavor. It worked well with our dinner of soft chicken tacos with tomatillo salsa. Whole Foods has it for $13.99.

2010 Cantele Primitivo- Aromas of black plum, dark cherry and licorice. Dry with a medium body, medium alcohol, medium tannins and medium acidity with flavors to match the aromas and a slightly spicy, long finish. Very smooth and drinkable. I served it with barbequed and smoked pulled pork sandwiches and it was delicious. Available at Spec's for about $15.

2009 Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva- Ripe blackberry and black cherry aromas. Dry with a medium body, medium alcohol, medium tannins and medium acidity with flavors to match the aromas. I served it with takeout pizza which I would not do again. I think it would be better with pot roast or braised short ribs.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ribera del Duero Masterclass in Houston

Master Sommelier Matt Stamp was back in town to teach a Ribera del Duero Masterclass for the Guild of Sommeliers at Pappas Bros Steakhouse. Essentially, I went in knowing some key facts about this region. I knew that it was located in the Duero Valley in Castille-Leon in Spain. I knew they only produced Red and Rosado wine primarily from Tempranillo. I knew Vega Sicilia was its most important winery having been in operation since the 19th century and I knew that Vega Sicilia had used Bordeaux grapes in their wines in the past. I knew the vineyards were at high elevations on the meseta where they received high levels of sunlight and I knew they enjoyed a wide diurnal range. I knew the Tempranillo from this area was darker colored and more powerful with pronounced aromas and flavors of dark fruit, mainly plum and blackberry, that it was  fairly tannic and could be a bit astringent.

Matt gave a good review of all of these things but he also went far more in depth with his coverage particularly with his breakdown of the provinces or sub-regions within the Ribera del Duero DOP. I hope to share more of that information in some upcoming posts.We discussed climate, soils, wine making styles and the value of 100 year old ungrafted Tempranillo vines. While there are many new young vineyards, there are also many old vines as well. Matt speculated that the heavy interest in the old vine sources will lead to more terroir driven single vineyard wines coming from this area in the near future. He had a "fun fact" that I did not know that apparently was in the wine news last summer-the parentage of Tempranillo had recently been determined to be the local white grape Albillo Major and a red grape known as Benedicto which is found in Aragon. 

Of course, no matter how interesting Matt Stamp may be, the highlight of these events is always the tasting as he always selects some amazing wines. As expected, they were all interesting and came from some of Ribera del Duero’s top estates. With prices ranging from $15 to $450, there is something here for everyone to get a taste of one of Spain’s best wine regions. 

Flight 1

Rosado, 2012 “Montecastrillo”, Bodegas Penalba Lopez  This was fresh and fruity with ripe plum and raspberry aromas and flavors. Plush feel with good acidity. Approximately $15

2011 “Mibal” Joven, Bodegas Hornillos Ballesteros  Matt said that this was a good year for elevated structure and tannins. As there was no oak aging in this wine, it was a clear,very pure expression of Tempranillo. It would be a great red wine for summer. A fresh style with a dark berry character. Approximately $20

2009 “Vina Pedrosa” Crianza, Bodegas Perez Pascuas  This wine was a bit rustic or more traditionally styled. It had a rich, spicy vanilla character. Approximately $39

2008 Reserva Tinto, Pesquera  This wine was produced from a cold, wet and rainy growing season and very few Reservas were produced this year. The wine lacked ripeness and had higher acidity than the others. Cranberry, nutmeg, coconut and dill aromas and flavors but less pronounced. The oak was not fully integrated yet. Approximately $50

Flight 2


2010 Antidoto  Lighter weight, juicy ripe black fruit, good structure, long finish. Approximately $20

2009 “Valdegatiles”, Atauta  Less fruity, more licorice, gritty tannins, full body, higher alcohol. Approximately $125

2008 “24 Meses”, Monteabellon Cranberries, baking spice, oak and hot dogs. Higher acidity, long finish. Approximately $38

2009 “Pago de Santa Cruz”, Vina Sastre  Big and rustic. A rich wine with lower acidity. Licorice, coconut, some minerality with a bit of brett. Approximately $84

Flight 3

2010 Aalto  Concentrated ripe blackberry flavor with dill and sweet oak. Approximately $39

2010 “PSI”, Pingus  More elegant and floral. Juicy ripe blackberry flavor and grippy tannins. Approximately $40

2001 Gran Reserva, Valduero  More Rioja-like. Vanilla, cherry, licorice, cedar aromas with a sour cherry and dill flavor and finish.  Approximately $100

2003 “Unico”, Vega Sicilia  Pronounced aromas of blue berries and plums with licorice and leather, juicy flavor with slightly astringent tannins and a long finish. Approximately $450


 related posts:
Napa Valley Masterclass
Wines of Germany Masterclass
Tempranillo Day

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sangiovese Tasting with Rudy Buratti of Castello Banfi

Rudy Buratti, head winemaker of Castello Banfi, was in town for a tasting and trade seminar on Sangiovese clones. For a wine journalist, this was an opportunity to meet a well-known winemaker and potentially find some good wines to recommend. For a wine student, this was an opportunity to hear a lecture specific to the different grape clones and the varying terroir throughout Montalcino, which is, of course, home to some of Italy's greatest wines. For a wine geek, the opportunities seemed endless.

We started with a clonal tasting of the three primary Sangiovese clones used in the blend for Castello Banfi's Brunello di Montalcino wines. All were from the 2011 vintage and all were grown in the Casanova Vineyard. These were not wines that you wanted to drink, the spit/dump buckets were in full use, but rather components that were just there to compare for a moment. The Janus 50 had fruity aromas and was both tannic and acidic with a medium length. The Janus 10 was spicy, very tannic and had a long length. The BF 30 clone was floral and fruity with tobacco notes and a short length. With all things terroir being equal, the importance of clonal selection is undeniable as you taste the differences between Sangiovese grapes which were grown next to each other.


We followed this up with a tasting of wines from the same 2011 vintage which were created from the same field blend of grapes with each coming from a different vineyard with different soil types to showcase the influence of terroir. The wine from the Casanova Vineyard was structured and tannic. The wine from the Poggio D'Orcia Vineyard which sits on a hill above the river seemed more mature, it was softer and rounder with an almost sweet flavor but it finished quickly. The wine from the highest altitude Podernuovo Vineyard with its calcium rich soil was tannic with interesting aromas. The wine from the Sorrena Vineyard which sits on the sandy soils of the northern most part of the estate was a bit more rustic yet still fresh and fruity. Any guest who may have arrived to this tasting questioning the validity of the concept of terroir was converted into a believer by now, as the same grapes from the same weather vinified the same way with just a terroir tweak will make for some very different wines.

Rudy Buratti has been with Castello Banfi for over 30 years and his wine making philosophy is that a producer must respect the terroir and the character of the grape while bringing the style. In addition to his zonal studies on isolating the optimal clones for the estate's micro climates, his contribution  to the estate's style is also shown in the winery with his commitment to quality control and the design of some innovative wood and steel fermentation tanks which were patented by the Banfi wine making team.

We concluded the formal portion of the tasting and lecture with three Brunello di Montalcino wines, all of which, I would recommend:
  • 2008 Castello Banfi- Pronounced cherry and spice aromas and flavors. Full body, balanced structure with a bit of coffee in the finish.
  • 2007  Castello Banfi Poggio Alle Mura- Richer with a more powerful structure, similar aromas and flavors as above but riper with a spicier finish.
  • 2004 Poggio all' Oro- Licorice, tobacco, hazelnut with a touch of balsamic, very round with a long finish.