Monthly Archives: August 2007

Tasting Famega Vinho Verde NV

Famega labelYummy goodness. Straw yellow with green reflections, it was slightly petillant (bubbly), and after the bubbles exploded in your mouth, the palate was totally dry and pleasently herbal. Tasted just like ripe yellow delicious apple with some lime squeezed over it. Very light: alcohol content is only 9%, so I quite happily drank half the bottle at our Blues on the Green picnic and drove home (don’t tell) with no ill effects. Exactly what I was looking for in a picnic wine!

This was lovely with our meal: gazpacho, green salad with feta, and a tortellini pasta salad with artichoke hearts. Also gracing the blanket: a rosemary sourdough bread, some aged manchego, and summer fruits. I also look forward to drinking this wine with seafood, fish, or a lemony grilled chicken. It’s really a good pair for almost any summer dish, with the possible exception of barbecue.

I had mentioned Vinho Verde in another post, one on Alvarino and its native region of Rias Baixas, saying how the two regions are fairly close and how I was looking forward to tasting the Portuguese version of this grape, which they call Alvarinho. Imagine my dismay when I research this wine after enjoying it so and discover that there’s no Alvarinho in it! Facestab! (I should have known, really, because of the low alcohol in the wine. Alvarinho in a Vinho Verde will bring up the alcohol content significantly.) Continue reading

Tasting Rosenblum Cellars Heritage Clones Petite Sirah 2005

Rosenblum PS Heritage ClonesThis was an impulse purchase — normally I don’t buy bottles this expensive, sticking to under $10-15, but I was meeting friends at my house and saw this in the wine store, and…

Color is dark and inky, like black blood in a movie. The aromas are warm and earthy, with some tarry characteristics. This wine is on the hot side (meaning the alcohol content is high enough at 14.4% that I can feel it burn my nose a bit), and presents vanilla oak, sweet cherry, white pepper and mocha notes. There is an interesting, elusive whiff of aged cheese or truffle or really sticky skunk bud.

On the palate, I get licorice, tobacco, and powerful blackberry jam flavors. The wine has a strong tannic grip, which makes it meaty and chewy-feeling, like it’s tight on my teeth and gums. The acidity is good, though, balancing out those structured tannins. The long, lingering finish is very reminiscent of dried blueberries. This wine is rich and delicious, very rewarding for $23 a bottle. Drink it with something equally rich: italian sausage, duck, or osso bucco. Continue reading

Pairing Perfection

Peanut butter and jelly. Car and driver. Movies and popcorn. Wine and food. Each of these pairs are lesser without the other. Sure, they can stand on their own if need be, but when joined, the whole is MORE than the sum of its parts. Case in point:

My husband and I had a lovely night out a week or so ago, stopping off at a wine bar for an aperitif, and then dining at Ciola’s in Lakeway. I had researched Ciola’s before for a potential company dinner I was asked to organize, and had wanted to go there for a while. Their menu looked interesting and their wine list was very well written. Back in my wine rep days, I did a lot of wine list analysis, and the wine list at Ciola’s shows a lot of careful, thoughtful selections.

Ironically, though, I didn’t really order wine off the list. Liberty School Cab labelOur waiter happened to be the wine steward, Tommy Williams, Jr., and once we ordered our entrees he told us about some wines he was pouring that weren’t on the by-the-glass list. One was a Vermentino, which he particularly recommended with my linguine & clam sauce, so I took the leap of faith (not a very big leap, considering the list) and acquiesced. T wanted a Cab, though, so he ordered a glass of the Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon , always a solid choice.

The calamari we ordered for starters was very well executed: the squid was tender, the breading was light and crunchy, and two dipping sauces came with: a marinara and an aioli. Both delicious, but I stuck to the marinara… there’s something semi-obscene about dipping fried food into mayonnaise sauces, even if it is fish.

T’s Rigatoni Genzano was a heck of a meal: large chunks of Italian sausage, with what looked like quartered peppers. His Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon (didn’t get the year) gave sweet oak and blackberry aromas, with some green pepper and clack cherry notes. The color (difficult to see in the very romantic lighting in the restaurant) was a nice dark red with some garnet highlights. Soft tannins on the palate with a black pepperyness, and big currant flavors. Slight taste of raspberry, as well. Overall, a rich & soft Cabernet with a very decent finish for $9 per glass. Tom liked how his wine tasted with his food; I could see how the green pepper of the wine matched nicely with the red peppers in his dish, but I thought the bite of the Italian sausage wasn’t all that flattering, wine-wise.

MY wine and food pairing, though, was phenomenal. Continue reading

Tasting Martin Codax Albarino 2006

Martin Codax Albarino 2006 labelBoy, I’m drinking a lot of white lately. I loves the red, and I believe in the Rose, really I do, but I am THIRSTY for white these days. Might that have something to do with the Texas summer having finally descended upon us, incarcerating my universe in an oven of sweaty, airless misery? Nah.

Color is a pale straw, because this wine is too cool for all your tired golden reflections. When cold, the nose presents a startlingly vivid scent of ripe pear. There are some herbal qualities, too, and it smells like it’s effervescent, but it ain’t. I see what you’re doing there… tricky.

Nice lemony, mineral palate, tangy rather than tart. Super clean and refreshing, with a hint of pear and/or golden delicious apple. Very long, pleasant finish: these flavors want to sit in my mouth for a while, and I’m loving it. Continue reading

Boxed in

Such an interesting article from our local Austin Chronicle this week on boxed wines! Wes Marshall writes about wine and food for the Chronicle, and organized a blind tasting of wines packaged in boxes, inviting various distinguished Austin wine geeks, including the three Austin men that won the Texas Best Sommelier Competition: Devon Broglie, Craig Collins and Scott Cameron. There were 12 tasters in all, and they tasted a total of 50 wines, giving out a prize for Best Red, Best White, and Best in Show. The winners were:

1.) Seeburger Riesling from Germany

2.) Powers 2003 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State

3.) Hardy’s Stamp Merlot from Australia

Now, you may be surprised to hear about very serious wine people enthusiastically tasting box wine. The box stuff is cheap and nasty, right? Well, here’s the thing: not necessarily. Wine is finally having a much-needed packaging revolution. Wines that would sell for $10-15 a bottle are now frequently being packaged in the “bag in box” format and purchased enthusiastically in such wine-savvy locales as Europe and Australia. According to Wes Marshall, 54% of all wine purchased in Australia is in a box. These are people who care much more about substance over form, yeh?

Why give up the good old bottle and cork? Simple: air. When wine is exposed to oxygen, it starts to go south. Specifically, it oxidizes, robbing the wine of its fruit and causing the wine to brown. Wine that’s been packaged in that vacuum bag in the box is guaranteed oxygen-free for life, and therefore can be drunk in any quantity desired, over any timespan desired, without you haveing to worry about the wine going off. Do you drink a glass of red wine a night, like it’s medicine? Then bag-in-box is your Holy Grail.

Another good reason to buy wine in a box rather than in a glass bottle is portability. Continue reading

Tasting Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina 2005

FdSG hires labelI heart obscure white varietal wines!

Light gold in color, suggesting oak aging. Fascinating nose: flowery, strong ripe banana and almond scent, with some cheery orange peel as it warmed up. The taste was almost exactly like lemon juice from concentrate: sharp and acidic, to the point of bitterness. A strong nutty flavor. Light- to medium-bodied, belying the oak aging I thought it might have by looking at the color. (Later I checked; no oak on this wine — what a great natural color, then!)

Almost Alsatian in style: a very opulent, perfumed nose contrasting with a palate nearly off-putting in its austerity. Really wish I had tried this with some food — it would so kick ass with fish. Super-interesting, though; I had been expecting appley character, as that is typical for this varietal, but really didn’t taste or smell it, frankly. Average bottle price: $20 Continue reading

Tasting HdV Napa Valley Red Wine 2003

hdvnapavalleyredwine-label.jpgUhhh, Scamp? You forgot the name of the wine.

Actually, no. This is HdV’s meritage bottling, which they did not name until 2004. The word meritage is a cross between the words “merit” and “heritage,” and it’s the official California name for a wine that is a blend of at least two grape varietals (hard to blend just one). It rhymes with “heritage,” so please don’t go all fake French on it and say meritaaahhhhggge. Give it a good, American hard G; it’ll probably push back, as most meritage blends are Cabernet Sauvignon-based.

California winemakers started making meritage blends in honor (or imitation) of the great wines of Bordeaux, which are all blended wines. Red Bordeaux wines are blended from any or all of 5 grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. White Bordeaux wines are blended from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

In the US, we usually market a wine by its varietal, and blending makes the consumer suspicious: a “Robert Mondavi 51% Cab, 42% Merlot, 7% Cab Franc” doesn’t exactly fly off the shelves. In France, they figure all you need to know is that it’s Chateau Haut-Batailley, because the winemaker tries to make the wine taste the same from year to year, blending it differently every vintage to create the same aromas and flavors that makes that wine distinctively Chateau Haut-Batailley. This is what American winemakers are going for with their meritages: a distinctive, winery-evoking character that makes you think, “Ahhhh…. HdV.”

When enjoying this HdV premium tasting at the Lake Travis Wine Trader, I was intrigued to learn that this winery with such close ties to internationally renowned Burgundy was not making a Pinot Noir, but instead a meritage blend, a la Bordeaux. Michael Apstein, in an article about HdV, says that de Villaine declined to bottle a California Pinot Noir because of the “inevitable comparisons.”

In the glass, the wine was a rich red, not jewelled with clarity, but muscley-looking. It was quite toasty on the nose, with some green pepper aromas and a very subtle black currant scent. Overall, pretty spicy/peppery on the nose. The tannins were quite astringent on the palate, with some cranberry and maybe loganberry fruit. The finish lasted about 5 seconds. I expected it to be more fruit-driven when it warmed up a little, and it evened out a little bit, but largely stayed the same. I felt there was too much oakiness present, and the wine was not really ready to drink yet. A pretty austere red blend, for Napa Valley meritage.

To be fair, some reviewers were extremely pleased with this wine, citing rich cherry fruit from the Merlot and earthy, mushroom character, but I didn’t get any of that in my tasting. This wine is probably improved by food: a nice steak or duck dish would cast the tannins in a much more flattering light. Bottle price: $67