Archive for ‘WIne’

December 11, 2010

Size Matters: How to Make an Impression at Holiday Parties


I’m a huge proponent of going to as many parties as possible during the holiday season, particularly the parties that have full, hosted bars. There are plenty of parties at friends’ homes to attend as well. When you attend a private party, you should always bring a bottle of something to augment the host’s supply, whether they need it or not. It’s a nice gift if it isn’t served.

This holiday season, why not make a positive impression by bringing an over-sized bottle of wine to your next party? The holidays are all about excess and I know you are in the holiday spirit, so go for it.  Stand out by presenting your host with a Magnum, Jeroboam or even a Rehoboam or festive Champagne or red wine. You can’t go wrong.

There are several sizes of wine bottles. There is absolutely no reason to bring an ordinary bottle to a festive event when you can do more. Here’s a handy reference guide for you.  

Volume (liters) Ratio (bottles) Name What it means
0.1875 0.25 Piccolo It means “small” in Italian, and is also known as a quarter bottle, pony, snipe or split. It is the common size served when you order bubbly by the glass. To me this is just a novelty. Why in the hell would anyone embarrass a perfectly good wine by putting it in something so unfulfilling? The only reason to take these to a party is if you have a car-load of ‘em and you’re using them as stocking stuffers.
0.375 0.5 Demi It means “half” in French., so its cleverly known as a half bottle or split. It is a reasonable size if you want a little wine with dinner by yourself. These are completely useless at a party and will no doubt cause you to be seen as “half” a guest.
0.750 1 Standard This is your normal bottle that you see everywhere. Legend has it that the size was based on the amount an average Frenchman could consume at lunch without being too impaired to return to work. If you are absolutely common and ordinary in every way, bring this size bottle. “Oh look honey, Mr. Average is here to bore the hell out of us.”
1.5 2 Magnum The double bottle. These are relatively easy to find and affordable. It’s just big enough to make a good impression when you walk into a party. It says, “I’m not messin around here.”
3.0 4 Jeroboam Oh yeah, the “Double Magnum.” It is named for a Biblical king and has kingly dimensions. If you tote this bad boy into a party, you’ll definitely get invited back next year (unless you sleep with the host’s significant other).
4.5 6 Rehoboam This beast is about as big as you can get and still feasibly carry it to a party and pour from it without making an atrocious mess. We’re talking about an entire ½ case of wine in one bottle here. It’s also named for a Biblical king. Walk into a party with this, and you’ll be king.

There are several other sizes of wine bottles going all the way up to the 40 bottle Melchizedek. You’re not going to find the ultra-large size bottles unless you special order them. These are the bottles you see as ornamentation at fine restaurants and wine shops. Call your favorite wine shop ahead of time to see what they have on hand in a large format bottle. Your friends will love you for it.

I recently did this with a Magnum of Domaine de Mourchon 2006 “Grande Reserve” Cotes du Rhone Villages. The winery is on top of a hill in the village of Provencal Seguret, located in southern Cotes du Rhone. It’s a fairly new winery, founded in 1998 with existing vineyards. They make three lines of wine, and the “Grand Reserve” is a blend of Grenache and Syrah from old vines.

Here is what you can expect.

Look The rich purple of an advent candle burning for Christmas.
Smell The makings a fine fruit cake with nutmeg, toasty cinnamon, fennel, raspberries and plums simmering on the stove.
Taste This wine is a holiday feast of jammy black cherries, currant, white pepper and carpaccio. Its medium body moves from fruit to earth before a mid-length finish of smooth tannins.
Price $38 (or $20 for a standard 750 ml)

This is a respectable wine and downright jolly in a large format bottle. So what’s it going to be? Will you be remembered as the guest that brought the huge bottle of fantastic wine? Or will you be forgotten?

What are you drinking?

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November 22, 2010

Picking the Right Wine for Thanksgiving Dinner: Shea Wine Cellars 2006 Wädenswil Clone Willamette Valley Pinot Noir


Selecting the perfect wine for Thanksgiving dinner means picking more than one wine. Bubbles are a must on the table, and after that it is a great idea to have an elegant, refined red wine. Try and keep the number of varietals served down to four: sparkling wine, red wine, white wine and desert wine. Also consider keeping the same wine for each varietal so you don’t introduce further chaos to your taste buds. That said; don’t be afraid of selecting too many bottles to have at the ready. Lots of alcohol can be good should you encounter:

Mom: “Do you remember when you were six and you recreated the first Thanksgiving using tooth picks and gum drops? So clever.”

You: “Yeah, you told that story 10 minutes ago. And last year. And the year before that. It wasn’t all that clever. We all learned it in kindergarten art class.”

Mom: “You were so bright. You had so much potential. I suppose if you hadn’t married beneath you, things may have turned out differently.”

Don’t let that dominate the evening. It’s your responsibility as host to keep the conversation flowing in a genial and entertaining way. It’s no secret that alcohol is the key to unlocking the creative story telling generator in your brain. Use it wisely.

A complex menu like what you’ll serve at Thanksgiving calls for a versatile wine. Pinot Noir fits the bill as it pairs well with so many different types of food. Its lush fruit, mild alcohol and soft tannins give it the versatility to pair with red or white meats, and just about any dish you can think of. It is a complicated and sensitive varietal. Don’t be surprised if you find a bottle of your favorite Pinot nestled away in a darkened bedroom, smoking cloves cigarettes, wearing a velvet robe, listening to Passion Pit and reading Anna Karenina by candlelight.

There are only two regions in the world that produce worthy Pinot Noir. Yes, I’m biased. Deal with it. The revered Burgundy region of France produces the standard-bearer wines and for that, they command a king’s ransom for the prestige. The second region is the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Talented winemakers have been producing brilliant Pinot’s in the hills and valleys of Oregon for more than 40 years. The Willamette Valley shares several ties with Burgundy. The both lie at the same latitude, Oregon wine makers select Burgundian Pinot root stock clones and several French houses have set up operations in Oregon.

Many award winning wines from producers such as Beaux Freres, Ken Wright, Bergstrom, Penner Ash, and Raptor Ridge made from grapes grown in the Shea Vineyards typify the Oregon Pinot Noir; bold, spicy and rich with fruit. This has become one of the region’s premier vineyards under the direction of Dick Shea. That’s true for the vineyard’s namesake Shea Wine Cellars, founded in 1996. Not only do the Shea’s have exacting control over the fruit, but they also have a unique method for creating the wine. Rather than using stainless steel, Shea Wine Cellars uses of neutral wooden fermenters, which smooths out the tannins for a longer finish. Wine made in wooden fermenter is rounder and softer than wine fermented in stainless steel.

For Thanksgiving, you have to bust out the 2006 Wädenswil Clone Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. This is Shea Vineyards signature clone. It is a blend of wines made from grapes grown in three blocks of the Shea Vineyards. After the wine is fermented in wood, it is aged 10 months in mix of new and old Burgundian oak barrels. Just enough time to impart a toastiness, but not so much as to overpower the delicious fruit.

Look The envy of a brandy-braised cranberry sauce. If only it could look as rich, deep and dazzling as a Willamette Valley Pinot in full resplendence.
Smell Don’t worry about the glorious smell of roast turkey overcoming this wine. It has an intensity that can take on the most fragrant dish on your Thanksgiving table. As complex as your meal, it has scents of the Oregon hills, lavender, spice, black coffee, molasses and black cherry.
Taste The 2006 Wadenswil is as complex as your Thanksgiving dinner. The first course is an orgy of black cherry, blackberries and plum entwined in lusty embrace with clove, cinnamon and spicy cedar smoke. The second course is the creamy, velvety round mouth feel. And the third course lingers for an incredibly long finish of soft tannins and dark chocolate.
Price $52

Like a catchy song that gets stuck in your head, this wine will wedge itself deep in the folds of your cerebral cortex. You’ll never know what will trigger it, but sooner or later this wine will come back and grab you. The next time you smell the woody earth of wild mushrooms sautéing in Irish butter, you will get a phantom taste of blackberries and spice that could only be the Wadenswil. You’ve been warned. Drink it with your Thanksgiving dinner, and dream about it the rest of the year.

What are you drinking?

November 16, 2010

I Think I’ll Get a Brazillian


No really; a Brazilian red wine. I had an opportunity to travel to Brazil recently and had to try some locally produced wine. Brazil isn’t known as a wine powerhouse, but it is the fifth largest producer of wines in the southern hemisphere after Argentina, Australia, South Africa and Chile. Several of the larger producers have invested heavily in improving viticulture and production techniques. It’s beginning to pay off with wines that are approaching the quality of other South American wines.  

The Miolo Wine Group is one of the prominent wineries in Brazil that is modernizing production and turning out wines that are selling successfully internationally. The Miolo family has poured gallons of dollars into modernizing the cellar with the latest equipment like stainless steel for fermentation, and French and American oak barrels, made in their own cooperage on-premises. While the family has been growing wine grapes for some time, they did not start to produce their own wines until 1994. Renowned winemaker, Miguel Almeida, and esteemed oenologist, Michel Rolland, have been instrumental in improving the quality of the wines and bringing them to prominence.  

Miolo is grows it’s grapes in the Serra Gaúcha region located in the Rio Grande Do Sul, which is dominated by a culture of Italian immigrants. It’s the most important wine region of Brazil accounting for about 90 percent of the country’s total production.

While Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the predominant varietals produced by Milo, I tried a Miolo Reserva 2009 Tempranillo. Here is how it shakes out.

Look Intense ruby red lipstick on a pouting Brazilian model sulking through yet another photo shoot.
Smell Vibrant cherry soda served at a long oak bar with soft vanilla candles burning in the background.
Taste This wine lacks the body to rate with the bodies sunning themselves on Ipanema. In fact it’s thinner and less silky than its Spanish cousins.  Bright acidity gives it a lively bounce. The timid plum and cherry fruit aren’t overpowered by the subtle tannins and stick around for a mid-length finish.
Price Real $27.00 or U.S. $17

It would take more than a couple of glasses of this wine to coax me into dancing a samba in its honor. It’s decent enough to accompany the sound of crashing waves on the beach on a lazy afternoon, but it’s not going to replace the Caipirinha as the drink of choice at the clubs in Cococabana after the sun goes down.

What are you drinking?

October 20, 2010

Prolonging Summer with Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc


God I love Indian summer. I love the toasty smell of fallen leaves, the chill mornings lit by the glow of Venus and Orion, the top-down heat of the afternoon sun that beckons me to stare into the brilliant blue of the cloudless sky just a little bit longer transported back to dreamy, lazy summer vacation days. It’s a cheat. Its summer reincarnated just weeks after it left. Don’t ya feel like you’ve been given a second chance? I do.   

This summer I wrote about my love for Sauvignon Blanc on a hot day in the post Suitable Wines for a Summer Romance. Even though summer has officially graduated to fall, this little taste of Indian summer is a perfect excuse to break out a light, crisp bottle of liquid sunshine. Beautiful Wife and I visited Cakebread Cellars last summer and stashed away a bottle of 2007 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc for just such an occasion.

Cakebread is a family joint in the heart of Napa Valley started in 1973 by patriarch Jack Cakebread. It’s known for delectable Cabs, Chardonnays and the aforementioned Sauvignon Blanc. Cakebread grows most its Sauvignon Blanc grapes in Rutherford with some sourced in other various vineyards in the Napa region.

Mother Nature has some fantastic building blocks to create tasty wine in that blessed valley in California, but it’s nothing that couldn’t be enhanced by a little artistry. Winemaker Julianne Laks blends 4% Sauvignon Musqué and 7% Sémillon in the Sauvignon Blanc for enhanced aromatics, softer acidity and brighter citrus. Cakebread further coaxes complexity and intensity from the grapes by fermenting and aging the wine in a combination of tank-fermentation and in neutral French oak barrel aging; fermentation and aging in barrel; and tank-fermentation with no barrel aging. 

That seems like a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

Look Harvest moonbeams in a glass slipper, staying at the party well past midnight.
Smell Flinty oyster shells and lemon rind left on the plate after a picnic. Plenty of grapefruit and kiwi left for desert.
Taste Intense as an Indian Summer that knows its days are numbered. A rich harvest of melon, grapefruit, lemon zest and honeysuckle with a nice balance of crisp mineral with an undertone of vanilla oak for a lasting finish.
Price $26

Yankee haters across the nation, put on you rally caps because we are going to stretch this summer into extra innings.  If you want to hold on to that summer ease for just a little longer, give this Cakebread a try. You’ll feel like going for a swim in the lake before you finish the second glass.

What are you drinking?

October 8, 2010

Oscar Worthy: Rubicon Estate CASK Cabernet Sauvignon


Translator: The general would like to know if you will drink a toast with him.

Patton: Thank the general and tell him I have no desire to drink with him or any other Russian son of a bitch.

Translator: [Nervous] I can’t tell him that!

Patton: Tell him, every word.

Translator: [In Russian] He says he will not drink with you or any Russian son of a bitch.

Russian general: [In Russian] Tell him he is a son of a bitch, too. Now!

Translator: [Very nervous] He says he thinks you are a son of a bitch, too.

Patton: [laughing] All right. All right, tell him I’ll drink to that; one son of a bitch to another.

Francis Ford Coppola has made a ton of great movies like Patton, The Godfather trilogy, Virgin Suicides, American Graffiti, etc. He also makes some kick ass wines. The Niebaum Coppola Estate Winery (they changed the name to Rubicon Estate in 2006) has been around since 1975 when Coppola bought the Inglenook winery, and makes both prestige and affordable wines.  He borrowed part of the name from Gustave Niebaum, the founder of Inglenook. I’ll drink to that.

Beautiful Wife and I visited the winery several years ago. It’s a gorgeous estate and worth a visit the next time you are in the Napa Valley. We brought along Argyle Nuthouse Pinot Noir that I bought with my employee discount to trade for some excellent Niebaum Coppola wines. With a trade, we were lucky enough to score a bottle of 1998 Rubicon Estate CASK Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the prestige wines.

The wine stands out with the 1800 style label printed on thin cork. Pretty cool. Coppola first made the CASK Cabernet Sauvignon in 1995 as a wink and a nod to the hearty Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon. CASK Cabernet is made from 100% organic Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in the storied Rubicon Estate vineyards, Cohn and Chateau, in Rutherford, Calif. These vineyards first started producing fat Cabs in 1871. CASK is aged for 28 months in 500-L American oak puncheons to round out the hearty fruit.

We opened the ’98 CASK to celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary and drank this as the sun quietly set over our little rental house on Lake LBJ. We felt a little sentimental drinking it as this wine was bottled the same month we met, 12 years ago and we had also honeymooned in Napa. Ah love. It goes well with a great wine. Ah wine. It goes well with a great love.

Look Dark, inky purple as dark as the Nung River just after sunset in Apocalypse Now.
Smell Fragrant blackcurrant and rosehip like a Sicilian vineyard in late fall in The Godfather.
Taste Big dollops of black cherry jam, raisin, tobacco and cocoa came on as seductively as Johnny Depp in Don Juan DeMarco. It had a nice long finish with smooth tannins and gentle oak.
Price $70 (a hell of a lot cheaper if you can trade for it)

This was a fitting wine for a special occasion. While I like Coppola’s films, I’d choose this over any of them any day.

What are you drinking?

September 16, 2010

Red Wine from Red China: Grace Vineyard


Wine is made in most countries in the world that can sustain grape vines. Those gnarly creepers are pretty hardy, so there aren’t many places that can’t produce wine. I’ve never seen Chinese wine in the shops in the U.S., but in fact there are about 400 wineries there. The Chinese like their drink as much as anyone, so of course there is a market for fine wine. Some estimates suggest that China is the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, with the vast majority of it consumed in the country.

I had the opportunity to go to Beijing this week and of course I had to try the local wine. I ordered a couple glasses of 2008 Grace Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany my lunch.

Grace Vineyard is a family-owned winery, based in Shanxi province, south of Beijing. It was started by Chan Chun Keung with the first plantings in 1997 in 168 acre vineyards and the first vintage was 2001. It is now run by Chun Keung’s oldest daughter, Judy Leissner, who studied at the University of Michigan – and I hold that against her. The winery produces Bordeaux style wines which are aided by its location in spirit at least as its situated approximately on the same latitude as Bordeaux.  OK, so they don’t speak French to the grapes, the climate is cold in the winter and hot and wet in the summer, and the soil is more loamy, but they at least grow some of the same grapes that are prominent in that famed French region including Cabernet Franc (24%), Merlot (30%), Cabernet Sauvignon (38%), oh and also Chardonnay (8%).   

Grace bottles nine wines categorized in three quality levels: Flower Series, aka Vineyard Series (Rosé, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon); Bronze Series (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Winemakers Selection – a Bordeaux blend); Gold Series (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot). They produce about 700,000 bottles a year. I tasted the ’08 Vineyard Series Cab, which is made to be drunk young. Hmm, young and drunk. Rings a bell.

Look Dark ruby with a tinge of age at the edge like the smoggy midnight sky in Beijing.  
Smell A box of raisins left in the sun a lunch box for a few days: warm with aged sweetness.
Taste A front of soft plum, quickly followed by prune on the mid-palette and slipping away in a fast finish with mild insinuations of oak.  
Price 45.00 RMB/ glass or about $6. Bottles go for about $28 retail.

Did I buy a few bottles to bring home with me? Nope. Would I drink it again in my next visit to China? Yep.

What are you drinking?

September 11, 2010

The Right Wine for a Tweet-Up: Arroba Winery


I’ve been hearing enough about Arroba Winery that I felt compelled to try its 2007Cabernet Sauvignon from the Sonoma Valley.  Arroba is linked with Deerfield Ranch Winery, where veteran craftsman winemaker, Robert Rex, produces delicious Zins and Syrah. The winery has a reputation for producing solid cabs and had introduced a line of affordable wines.

The first thing I noticed right away about the bottle is the ampersand featured prominently on their logo. Shrewd marketing perhaps? Using an @ just has to be a nod to the ridiculously popular social media tool, Twitter. Twitter users call out other people on it by putting an @ in front of their screen name. For example, I’m @MattMcGinnis on Twitter – adroit name huh?

Drinking this wine was just like going to a Tweet-up for me (don’t ya feel a little ridiculous saying the world tweet-up? It’s just stupid). Here is a wine that I know about by reputation, that I want to get to know better and that I have a chance to meet in person. That’s the whole concept behind Tweet-ups. They are gatherings of people that know each other online on Twitter who want to meet the real person behind the 140 character tweets. Do the people match their online personas, or is it hype? Who is that guy with the witty snark about the Austin music scene? Who is the person that posts a zillion lol catz and other memes? Who is the clever writer reviewing great cocktails and the accidents that happen after she drinks them? Who is the girl with the really hot profile photo?

There is a big Tweet-up in Austin that I go to sometimes called the Big Ass Twitter Happy Hour, or #BATHH. More than 300 people get together each month, slap their Twit name on their chest and mingle with other Twitter users. I’ve met several people that I stay in contact with off of Twitter. They are like decent wines that I’d known by online reputation that I’ve tried, like, and now buy and keep in regular rotation. I’ve met other people at BATHH that are nice enough, but aren’t nearly as interesting in person as they online. If they were wine, I wouldn’t buy them again. We’ll stick to being Twitter friends. And well, there are others that I’m getting out of the BATHH to avoid. I’m de-friending them as soon as I’m back online. I’d dump that bottle down the drain.

Let’s see how this Cab from Arroba Winery fares at a Tweet-up.

Look She carries herself well in a group setting, with rich, deep purple that could pass for opulent in a darkened bar. A great first impression at a Tweet-up.
Smell Pleasant, but not particularly well balanced with spicy raspberry, but just a little too much alcohol. On first meeting at a Tweet-up, you could see this going either way. She smells decent enough to have promise, but is that load of alcohol on her breath an indication that she doesn’t quite have it all together?  
Taste Now for the conversation. Here’s where we discover that she doesn’t measure up to the hype. Thin mouth-feel without the velvety lushness expected. The fruit is weak, unripen blackberries. She has enough alcohol to make me choke a little when I trilled the wine. She had a short finish without much to say.
Price $12

How do I break this to you Arroba Winery? It’s not you, it’s me. No, actually it’s you. You are a decent wine to serve at a Tweet-up where there is a big mix of people I don’t know all that well, some of whom don’t deserve good wine. Your snazzy packaging at least gets you in the door and your twist top makes you immediately approachable. Alas, you are not a wine that’s going to graduate from my interest in your reputation to a wine that I put in rotation at home. You’re just not that remarkable.

If I ever serve this wine to you at my house, it means that I’d prefer we stick to being just online friends. No really, you can take the rest of the wine with you in a plastic cup. There’s no reason for you to stick around any longer because you’re just not that interesting in person. See ya on Twitter.

What are you drinking?

August 26, 2010

Special Occassion Wine, 2005 Chateau Franc La Rose


When I was single and I had a big date, I used to put on special underwear. You know, the nicest pair in the drawer. Ever since I’ve been married, I just buy all special underwear, because, well every night could be a big date.

As an aside, this reminds me of the proper way to shop for lingere. Men, you do know how to shop for lingere don’t you? Go to the best shop you can afford. Ask for a sweet sales person to assist you. Have her select the sauciest number possible – I’m talkin ’bout one that would raise Monsieur Eiffel from the dead. Once she finds the right one, rip it from her delicate perfumed grasp and toss it to the floor. Survey it for a moment laying prone on the rug, then declare, “That looks  perfect. I’l take it.”

OK, back to the topic. Now when it’s going to be an exceptional night, one with a reason to celebrate, I pick a distinctive wine. What could be better than a classified red wine from Bordeaux, the most celebrated wine region in the world?  Last year I grabbed a several 2005 bottles to hold on to as it was a pretty good vintage. The sad thing is I can’t seem to leave them alone. I keep drinking them.

Last night we decided to celebrate one of life’s important moments and opened up a 2005 Château Franc La Rose Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. It is produced by Jean-Louis Trocard, a family that has made wines since the year 1620. Saint-Émilion is the oldest area of Bordeaux and produces arguably the heartiest wines in the region. This particular wine is a blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc grapes grown on 40 year old vines. It’s aged for 18 months in new French oak to round out the tannins.

My mouth was watering as I decanted the Château Franc La Rose. This is special underwear wine.

Look A royal amethyst ring of deep garnet with ruby edges.
Smell Intense woody, cocoa, spicy and bold blackberry. Fleshy enough to put a nice curve in her most special underwear.
Taste After the anticipation brought about by the wine’s heritage and the luscious nose, I expected an audacious, rich wine. What I tasted wasn’t the dark blackberries and cocao. It was more like reserved raspberries and the saline peck of meaty blood. A much less voluptuous wine than I expected, although it had the courtesy to have a long, vanilla and oak finish.
Price $28

It turns out that this was decent underwear wine. The kind you wear when you’re not exactly sure you’re going to get lucky, but think it might be a possibility. For the money, I think I’d buy a different bottle the next time.

What are you drinking?

August 19, 2010

Wine Tasting is for Snobs


The whole concept of a wine tasting sounds forced and stuffy. When you hear the term, don’t ya just picture a bunch of pretentious snots trying to out-do each other with pompous descriptions like, “I detect herbaceous notes,” and “the musky, mushroom mid-palette speaks to the terroir,” and other such nonsense?  

 Why does it have to be so complicated? Why can’t we just enjoy drinking the wine? Of course I’m going to taste it when I drink it. Do I have to call it a tasting?

 OK, so I don’t wear an ascot, but I do like a wine tasting. Surprise. A genuine wine tasting is a great way to find new wines, explore the true characteristics of a wine in a semi-structured way, have fun with friends and. . . it doesn’t have to be affected. I actually go through the whole tasting process in my head when I’m trying a new wine at home, so why not do it with a bunch of fun people?

So I did. I led a wine tasting for a group of friends to share experiences of three Italian wines. We took a casual approach to our tasting and figured picking wines from one country is enough without needing to get extremely specific the varietal. This was our Nordstrom Rack tasting – you know, same great label at a discount price. I selected wines from producers that make prestigious wines and also affordable, anytime drinkin wines. We had a 2006 Masi Campofiorin, a 2008 Rosso Di Montalcino and a 2008 Langhe Nebbiolo.

We used tasting sheets to guide our assessment of each wine on the basics: look, smell and taste. We checked out the color and clarity. We swirled and sniffed to describe the nose, complexity and intensity of the aroma. And finally we drank them making sure to trill and chew the wines to get the full flavor. We rated their complexity, texture and weight, balance and the duration of the finish. Here is a summary of our tasting.

Masi Campofiorin

This is our budget Amarone. It’s a really interesting Valpolicella wine from the in the Veneto region in Northern Italy. It’s made through a cool process of introducing a second fermentation by pouring the over dried Amarone grape skins. This gives it more heft and a bigger aroma.

Look Warm and lush, deep red like a bruise on Sophia Loren’s thigh.
Smell Black cherries drying on a rustic wood bench.
Taste The swagger of Sylvester Stallone in Rocky I with bold cherry and a hint of tobacco. The affable beginning gave way to moody tawny port with a mid-length spicy finish.
Price $13.75

 Rosso di Montalcino

This Tuscan made with Sangiovese grapes is a running mate of the prestigious Brunello di Montalcino. It’s from the same vineyards and same Denominazione di Origine Controllata designation. The difference is that it is turned out of the house at a younger age, while the Brunello lays around on the couch eating mom and dad’s food for a few more years. Less aging means its less set in its ways and costs less for us to buy.

Look As brick red as that brick house we all know and love.  
Smell Violets and spice spiked with a friendly wink of alcohol.
Taste Vivacious, medium curvy build yet tight enough to remind you of your youth. This one hands over a blackberry to be bitten off vine and lets the flavor linger for a long time.
Price $22.50

Langhe Nebbiolo  

I previously reviewed this wine and you can read about it here.

The favorite of the night? The Rosso di Montalcino. The consensus was that it was a more complex and enjoyable wine than the other two. The runner up with a nod to the great price was the Masi Campofiorin. I’ll buy all three of them again.

What about you? Are you turned off by a wine tasting? Or do you want to try it and you’re not quite sure how to go about it. Give me a shout, I’m happy to come over and guide you through it with a group of friends. 

The wines we tasted were purchased at Austin Wine Merchant.

What are you drinking?

July 27, 2010

It takes two to make a thing go right


It takes two to make a thing go right
It takes two to make it outta sight
Hit it!
I want some wine right now
I’m not Rob Base, but I came to drink down

Sometimes Beautiful Wife sings ‘80s pop songs to me, because she’s sweet like that. Tonight I got some silly song stuck in my head and it made me think about how the wine I’m drinking was made. A stretch? Maybe.

How do small vineyards growing Nebbiolo grapes in Barbaresco in the Piedmont region of Italy compete with the guys growing Nebbiolo in Barolo? Join forces in a cooperative. And that’s what happened in 1894 and continues today with nine classic premium sites from Barbaresco: Asili, Rabajà, Pora, Montestefano, Ovello, Pajé, Montefico, Moccagatta and Rio Sordo. It takes nine to make a thing go right.  

Produttori del Barbaresco makes an affordable, easy drinking wine out to the cooperative; Nebbiolo Langhe. A young wine made from grapes grown on young vines is ready made for nights when you want to dance your young ass off. This isn’t a throw-away wine, but it also isn’t a pretentious wine that needs some uptight DOCG designation. Go ahead, open this one up and dance the Cabbage Patch.

2008 Langhe Nebbiolo

Look Ruby red sipper wearing ruby red slippers.  
Smell Fennel spiked jam. Jam on it.
Taste The first steps are raspberry and cherry transitioning into smooth tannic black tea for a pucker-up dip to end the song.  
Price $22

 If you want all the classic moves of a Barbaresco, without the price of the VIP room, grab a Langhe Nebbiolo.