Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What's in My Glass Wednesdays! 2010 Pinot Gris from Reuilly, France

It's not every day that you find a Kermit Lynch import while exploring for new wines to taste.  (For more information on Kermit Lynch, visit my previous blog post here that features his wine book.)  When I saw this one, I could resist!  Reuilly is a small region in France that produces Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio), Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir:

(Map from Google Images)

2010 Pinot Gris from Reuilly, France

The D-2010 Scale 
2010 Pinot Gris a Kermit Lynch Import (Reuilly, France)
Appearance (10 points possible): slight pink/brown hue, and clear - 8 points
Aroma/Bouquet (20 points possible): Bright citrus and fresh apple.  Very subdued aroma, which is typical of Pinot Grigio. - 14 points
Taste (10 points possible):  Light, acidic and full of citrus flavor.  The middle of this wine reminds me of a fresh stream with round, clean pebbles at the bottom of it.  A relatively simple wine, but with some crisp minerality and liveliness in the finish.  - 8 points
Balance (5 points possible): The acid in this wine really sticks out, which is the only part that is really out of balance for this wine. - 4 points
Finish (5 points possible): Lingering citrus and light on the finish. - 4 points
Packaging *Introduction to the D-2010 Scale*
Quality of Package (5 points possible):  Nice clear glass that emphasizes the pinking of this Pinot Grigio.  Bottled with a technical cork and sealed with a golden capsule. - 5 points
Label Marketability (10 points possible):  This is a very traditional French label, but it has the variety added, which is untraditional for French labels.  But the "Imported by Kermit Lynch" really caught my eye in the wine store! - 8 points
Other (5 points possible):  There's no extras on this bottle! - 3 points
Total Points: 84 points
Overall Thought: I grabbed this Pinot Grigio because it was pinking (and because it was a Kermit Lynch wine), which sometimes happens to Pinot Grigio.  It's not really known how this happens, although there is some speculation about the reductive processing of the wine.  And of course, the pink color has no reflection on the quality of the wine.  Regardless, I really enjoyed this wine.  Most people found it too acidic, but it was nice to have something different!
Food Pairings:  I think this wine would go really nice with some light fish or a very garlic tasting soup!
Cost: $16.99
Splurge Factor (out of 4): 2 - I can see this being a risky buy for most consumers, especially when I found most people were looking for the Cupcake or the Barefoot wines!  :)  However, it's worth a try for someone that likes to try something new.
Where to buy:  I actually purchased this at a wine store in Massachusetts, so I'm sure that you'll be able to findi it occasionally in a wine store near you.  Or visit Kermit's website!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Try a Champagne Beer by Sam Adams Brewery

If you're a beer lover, you'll probably love this beer.  And if you're a wine drinker looking to break into the beer world, here's a new one to try: Infinium by Samuel Adams (Sam Adams) Brewery.

image of bottle of Infinium™
(Photo by Sam Adams)

I had the opportunity to try this beer over the Thanksgiving holiday (thanks to one of my brothers that found it and purchased it) and found it quite refreshing!  It had a crisp golden brown color with an everlasting array of bubbles.  There's definitely a strong malt character with this beer, which is way different that your traditional American "Lite" beers you find cluttering the beer market today.  A hint of spice and fruit - especially citrus - probably made up from the hops addition make this beer an easy-drinking, soft, approachable beverage.  I really enjoyed that there wasn't a lingering bitterness that you find in so many popular IPA's today.  I especially loved the bottle, and the label is incredibly unique.

The bottle - pre-opening on the Thanksgiving Table
(Photo by author)

Super cool label
(Photo by author)

The brewery claims that this beer is in a style of its own - that no other beer exists out there quite like this one.  I'd have to say, it was quite different than anything else I ever tasted (and went incredibly well with Thanksgiving!).  It's a good product for the beer world to market towards wine consumers, even though the taste does not remind me of a traditional bottle of Champagne.

Like a fine Champagne.... but a beer!
(Photo by author)

For more information on this "wine-beer," check out Sam Adam's video explanation here.  I've added the spec notes from the brewery for those that are interested:

Flavor: Light and dry with a crisp clean malt character, and delicate fruit and spice notes
Color: Pale golden with a sparkling effervescence, 8 SRM
Original Gravity: 20.5° Plato
Alcohol by Vol/Wt: 10.3%ABV - 8.1%ABW
Calories/12 oz.: 278
IBUs: 10
Malt Varieties: Custom blend of two-row malted barley, malted spring white wheat, and malted oats
Hop Varieties: Hallertau Mittlefrueh, Spalt Spalter, Tettnang Tettnanger and Hersbrucker Noble Hops
Yeast Strain: Samuel Adams ale yeast, Belgian yeast
Availability: Limited Release Holiday 2010
First Brewed: 2010

Monday, November 28, 2011

Grape Paint Soaps for Kids by AVON

It's not every day that you can find something grape/wine related that you can share with your kids.  And then I came across these fun paint soaps...

Made by AVON, these soaps are made to make bath time more fun.  They come in a variety of flavors, but I like that the grape (purple) one is highlighted up front in their product image!  Soaps actually roll on and "paint" the kids, but wash off easily for a fun bath experience!  The best part: they're onlyu $1.00 to 1.99 per soap flavor (which would make a quick and easy... and inexpensive.... stocking stuffer for some of your favorite kids this)!  Visit or for more information on these products. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Wine News You Can Use: 2011 Vintage Report

This article came through on the Wine Spectator.  I thought it was a nice wrap up of this 2011 harvest season and what to expect from the wines you will see coming to the market fairly soon.

The original article was published by Wine Spectator.  It is pasted here for your convenience.

2011 Vintage Report: United States
A first look at vintage quality in U.S. wine regions, with eyewitness reports from growers and winemakers
Posted: November 18, 2011

This is the fifth of Wine Spectator's reports on the 2011 vintage in the northern hemisphere. All this week, we'll be bringing you harvest details from winemakers throughout Europe and North America. (See the sidebar links for reports on California, France, Italy and other areas of Europe.)

The 2011 growing season was challenging on both coasts. Washington suffered a damaging freeze this past November. Oregon watched a cloudy summer drag the season out. And New York and Virginia watched storm after storm pound their vines all fall. Vineyard management was all-important no matter where you made wine. As for final quality in the bottle, it's too early to know. But here's a sneak peek.

Photo by Jennifer McCloud
Crates of grapes wait for the trip to the winery at Virginia's Chrysalis Vineyards.
(Photo from original article)

New York
Finger Lakes
Finger Lakes vintners were put to the test in 2011, as the region dealt with its most difficult growing season in recent memory. With heavy rains falling from mid-August through harvest, New York's upstate wine region struggled with disease pressures and uneven ripening that could result in a very inconsistent set of wines.

“I have seen some of the worst grapes ever this year,” said Morten Hallgren of Ravines Wine Cellars on Keuka Lake. “I have also seen beautiful, impeccably clean grapes. It is most definitely a year to evaluate growers and sites. The growers who didn't stay on top of their spray program were shown no mercy.”

The 2011 growing season started with a rainy April and May, but by June, warm, dry weather dominated and growers began to become more optimistic. “Bullet dodged, or so we thought,” said Peter Bell, winemaker at Seneca Lake's Fox Run, about the spate of dry weather that began in midseason. “But the drought was horrendous, as it didn't rain again until the first week of August and the vines had stopped photosynthesizing in early July.”

As the first rains arrived in August, they came as a relief, helping vines recover. “We saw some good sugar accumulation through mid-September,” said Bell. But the rains continued persistently through September.

“The problem was that the vineyards never really could dry out,” said Johannes Reinhardt, winemaker at Anthony Road Winery on Seneca Lake. “Acid and pH bounced around like never before as flavors and sugars essentially 'froze.' It was just a matter of time before botrytis kicked in.”

With no relief in sight from the late-season rains, growers were forced to pick early for fear of rot. The resulting wines are likely to be light-bodied and lean in style, though Riesling, the region's lead vinifera grape, could produce some successes. “Some vineyards that I source from looked pretty normal with minimal disease, showing bright, vibrant flavors,” said Dave Whiting, winemaker and owner at Red Newt Cellars on Seneca Lake. “But there was a lot of diversity from vineyard to vineyard in terms of maturity, botrytis and bunch rot.”

With the vintage's inconsistent performance, sorting in both the vineyard and winery will likely prove critical to success. “This year we found that paying the picking crew by hour, rather than by picking basket, resulted in much cleaner fruit arriving to the winery,” said Tom Higgins of Heart & Hands Winery on Cayuga Lake. "And we still hand-sorted a fair bit to eliminate anything that might have been missed."

—James Molesworth

Long Island
"No year out here is easy, but this year really wasn't easy," said Richard Olsen-Harbich, describing the 2011 growing season on Long Island's East End. Olsen-Harbich is winemaker at Bedell Cellars and has made wine on Long Island for more than 30 years. "We had a lot of rain, an earthquake. We also had a lot of heat." Despite the challenges, the year was not as dire as some prior seasons. Most Long Island vintners believe that as long as they labored hard in the vineyards, they could make good wines this year.

The earthquake that struck the East Coast in August did little harm to the grapes, but the rain was a bigger challenge. Hurricane Irene did most of her damage further west, dumping a little under 2 inches on the North Fork and the Hamptons. But the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee lumbered by two weeks later, bringing another 4 inches. All the wet weather raised the threat of mildew and botrytis. "The season was very challenging with all that rain," said Roman Roth, winemaker at Wölffer Estate, Roanoke Vineyards and his own label, The Grapes of Roth.

Vineyard work was crucial. Many vintners dropped a lot of fruit to allow what was left to ripen more fully. Canopies had to be managed to allow the wind to dry the grapes and prevent rot. "This kind of vintage is kind of exhilarating," said Olsen-Harbich. "This kind of year separates the men from the boys."

It was also a very warm growing season, one of the warmest on record, which increased the chances of fungus but also helped ripen the fruit. Roth reports that his red grapes' tannins ripened quickly, allowing him to simply wait for sugars to catch up and pick when he wanted. He got to 22.5 Brix in his Merlot before a late-October frost forced the vines to drop their leaves and he sent out his pickers.

2010's ideal weather helped Long Island produce very ripe, structured reds. This year, the weather produced more elegance. "The 2010 reds were more extracted," said Olsen-Harbich. "We have more Mozart on the palate this year." He was especially happy with his Cabernet Franc and Viognier. Roth said his Merlots were rich but should be approachable earlier than his 2010 Merlots.

—Mitch Frank

For four months, 2011 vintage looked like a disaster waiting to happen for Oregon vintners. The vines produced a huge crop and it didn't look as if conditions would ever get warm enough to ripen it. It was, in the end, the latest vintage in Oregon history. Most wineries didn't start picking until after Oct. 15, and were still picking in the first week in November.

Most of the grapes were brought in under warm, sunny skies. Rain was forecast in late September and early October, but only a few showers materialized. Alcohols were low, about the same as in 2010, but color and flavor surprised vintners with their depth. They are calling it a miracle vintage.

"We were saved by an Indian summer,” said Sam Tannahill, the partner responsible for winemaking at A to Z Wines and Rex Hill. "We have not pressed many tanks yet, but the ones that we have are beautiful—fine color, great elegance, fantastic depth and moderate alcohol. Really, really nice wines.”

Not only did the late fall weather save the vintage, vintners said, but it compared favorably with any vintage of the past 10 years. Harry Peterson-Nedry, proprietor of Chehalem Vineyards, compared it to 2008, 1999 and 1993. Others concurred. "I'm very encouraged by what we see, with very little water on anything, long hang times, low but adequate sugars for low alcohols, complete flavors and acids," reported Peterson-Nedry.

In late summer the vines held very large clusters, often two or three times normal size. Fearing they would never ripen completely, David O'Reilly of Owen Roe purchased 1,000 pounds of sugar to chaptalize (which is legal in Oregon, as it is in Burgundy). "We hardly used any," he said. "I think that the hang time has contributed good flavors and the decent weather caused some shrinkage in clusters, reducing the overall cluster weights."

—Harvey Steiman

If Virginia winegrowers had to sum up 2011 in one word, they'd choose "wet." This was a growing season that tried vineyard managers' patience, as they tried to prevent mildew, botrytis and rot from destroying grapes before they could ripen. September and October brought storm after storm.

The problem was the rain," said Gabriele Rausse, of Gabriele Rausse Winery near Monticello. "The grapes' chemistry was almost right, and then a big rain diluted everything. You waited a few days and another big rain brought you back where you started. Eventually, the fruit was starting to rot and you had to give up."

The spring was warm and wet in most of Virginia's wine regions, including the Monticello appellation near Charlottesville and the area near Middleburg farther north. Summer brought sunny, warm weather, with occasional rain. But the wet weather began when Hurricane Irene passed over the region in late August and the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee came just two weeks later.

Most growers hoped that timely spraying and vineyard management, coupled with a sunny fall, could save the season. But the rain would not go away. "We had high hopes that it would stop raining and that everything would dry out nicely," said Kirsty Harmon, winemaker at Blenheim Vineyards. "We had some dry days that allowed us to pick, but we did more sorting in the vineyard than I have ever done before."

White varieties like Viognier and Chardonnay ripened early enough and were in decent shape when picked. But Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and especially Cabernet Sauvignon suffered as the rain continued. "We are most excited about Merlot and Cabernet Franc—a little less concentration but very good structure and acids were maintained," said Rachel Martin of Boxwood Winery. "Our biggest challenge was Cab Sauv—poor weather made both ripening and harvest difficult."


The defining event of Washington's 2011 vintage occurred in 2010—a late-November freeze damaged vines across the state, particularly in the Horse Heaven Hills and Walla Walla appellations. A cool summer led to the latest harvest on record for many vintners. Despite alcohol levels slightly lower than normal, experienced vintners reported rich flavors.

"This was a very late harvest," said Chris Camarda of Andrew Will Wines, who was still waiting to finish picking his last vineyard (Two Blondes in Yakima Valley) Nov. 8. "The wines I have in barrel have good concentration and balance along with an almost muscular feel about them. They are certainly made from fully ripe fruit."

"It will be a year when consumers need to make decisions not just on [appellation], but on specific vineyards and specific wineries," said Bob Betz of Betz Family Wines. "The weather demanded precise steps by our growers: reducing yields, canopy management for light penetration and disease prevention, and even then we had [sugar] levels that were 1 to 2 degrees lower than typical. But the fruit was physiologically ripe."

"Warm years in many ways are more forgiving," Betz added. “A cool year like this one has made me appreciate even more who the really exceptional growers in the state are."

Vintners reported moderate acidity levels and low pHs, a measure of how tart the wines could be. This is an unusual combination, Betz noted. "Low total acid will give us a pleasurable balance while the low pH will provide stability and longevity.  Flavors are full, complete and rich. So much pepper in Mourvèdre, smoke in Syrah, currants in Cabernet. No greenness."

One grower, Hugh Shiels of DuBrul Vineyard in Yakima Valley, described his Cabernet Sauvignon as his most ageworthy Washington Cabernet ever. He credited cool ripening conditions after the grapes changed color, promoting flavor development while sugar accumulation was slow.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving 
from our glass to yours!  I hope you are enjoying your favorite glass of wine today during one of the most 
food-oriented holidays of the year!  

(Photo from Google Images)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What's in My Glass Wednesdays! 2008 Sangiovese by Maiolatesi Wine Cellars

How many Chianti lovers do we have out there?  Well, did you know that Italian Chianti is primarily made up of the wine variety: Sangiovese (said "san-gee-oh-vay-see")?  That's right!  Some Super Tuscans are made up with Sangiovese and then pumped up with traditional Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, but traditionally, Chianti consisted of Sangiovese. 

Many other producers around the world are now marketing their own Sangiovese varietals.  I found one in Pennsylvania that I thought was quite approachable.  Read on to find out more!

2008 Sangiovese by Maiolatesi Wine Cellars

The D-2010 Scale 
2008 Sangiovese by Maiolatesi Wine Cellars (Pennsylvania, U.S.)
Appearance (10 points possible): brick red color, with brick red edges, and clear - 10 points
Aroma/Bouquet (20 points possible): Strawberry, spice, toasted oak, dried straw/hay, and herbal. - 16 points
Taste (10 points possible):  Light bodied red wine.  Palate falls towards the middle to the back.  The beginning of the palate is somewhat missing.  Fresh flavors of fruit initially hit palate, but is then dominated by toasted oak flavor.  Tannins all fall to towards the back of the palate.  Finish lingers with a toasty, spicy oak finish.  To me, this is very Italian-style Sangiovese that has had some oak aging.  - 8 points
Balance (5 points possible): The tannin structure is a bit "angular," and you can feel this in the astringency that lingers on your palate for quite some time.  Otherwise - everything else is there and in good shape. - 4 points
Finish (5 points possible): Again, a lot of drying tannin in the back (this would be perfect for those heavy Cab drinkers that are looking for something lighter) with lingering flavors of toasted oak and spice. - 4 points
Packaging *Introduction to the D-2010 Scale*
Quality of Package (5 points possible):  Light green bottle, Nomacorc, tannish-colored label with matching gold foil capsule. - 5 points
Label Marketability (10 points possible):  Personally, I'm not sure how I feel about the label.  The white strip across the center always makes me look a second time to see if there's a white label over top of the background.  Maybe that's a good thing because the producer gets you to look twice!  However, I'm also not a fan of the gold foil capsule here - I'd prefer something that matches the subdued label.  And there's no back label.  I find myself often looking for a back label more and more these days.  It's a perfect place to add some "exrtras." - 7 points
Other (5 points possible):  There's no extras on this bottle! - 3 points
Total Points: 87 points
Overall Thought: I like the fact that this a Pennsylvania Sangiovese and it shows up to everything it should be.  (Remember, the point system is so subjective!)  There is some real varietal character in this Sangiovese and it's a nice, light red wine that can be shared among those just starting out to enjoy dry reds and those that already enjoy heavy red varietals like Cabernets, Zins, and Malbecs.
Food Pairings:  There's really no doubt about it.  This is the PERFECT pasta wine.  Every time I open this one, I'm always thinking of spaghetti, ricotta stuffed manicotti, or stuffed shells smothered in a red sauce. 
Cost: I actually don't know the cost, but I can update when I find out!
Splurge Factor (out of 4): 1 - I'm going to say that it's really not out of the budget.  :)
Where to buy:  Check out Maiolatesi Wine Cellars website for more information and future purchasing!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

If You're Desperate for Chardonnay on Thanksgiving...

... I suggest making up a Chardonnay-based gravy.  This gives you something to pair all the oakiness with while enjoying your uber-delicious turkey!  Here are 2 recipes that I've used in the past, and I hope that they will help for those that are die-hard Chardonnay drinkers!  (And remember, if someone brings a Chardonnay to share with everyone, don't make them feel stupid!  Pop it open before you start chowing down on that turkey!)  :)  Remember - there are no rules; just simply enjoy wine!

Grill-Roasted Herbed Turkey with Chardonnay Gravy
Recipe from Imbibe Magazine
Grill-Roasted Herb Turkey
1 cup unsalted butter
1 bottle (750 ml.) Chardonnay
1 12-15 lb. turkey
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp. finely chopped thyme, plus sprigs for inside the cavity
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh sage, plus sprigs for inside the cavity
2 small onions, halved
1 lemon, halved
Chardonnay Gravy (recipe follows)

Preheat a gas grill to medium-high, or prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal barbecue. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter with the Chardonnay until simmering. Remove from heat and soak a large piece of cheesecloth in the butter mixture.

Remove the turkey giblets from the turkey and reserve to make stock for the gravy. Rinse the turkey inside and out; dry well. In a small bowl, make a paste with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and finely chopped herbs. Rub the outside of the turkey with the herb paste and place it on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up. Tuck the wing tips under the turkey. Stuff the body cavity with the onion and lemon halves and the herb sprigs.

Drape the soaked cheesecloth over the breast of the turkey, covering the top portion of the leg, as well. Reserve the remaining Chardonnay butter for basting.

Place the roasting pan on the grill or barbecue and close the cover. Roast for 30 minutes, then uncover the grill and baste the cheesecloth with the Chardonnay/butter mixture, using a pastry brush. If the bottom of the roasting pan is dry, add 1/2 cup of water to keep the drippings from burning. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and roast, basting the cheesecloth every 30 minutes, for another hour and a half. Add a little more water if the bottom of the pan is dry.

Discard the cheesecloth and baste the turkey with the pan juices. Cover again and roast for another 45 minutes to 1 hour, for a total of 2 3/4 to 3 hours, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh, but not touching the bone registers 165 degrees F (the turkey will continue to cook as it rests). Transfer the turkey to a carving board, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for at least 20 minutes. Pour the drippings through a fine-mesh sieve into a 4-cup glass measure, then skim off the fat and reserve. Reserve the roasting pan/tray for making the gravy. Carve the turkey and serve with Chardonnay Gravy.

Serves 8.

Chardonnay Gravy
Reserved giblets, roasting pan, drippings and fat from Grill-Roasted Herbed Turkey
6 cups water
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 onion, coarsely chopped, plus 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 cup Chardonnay
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup Wondra flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium saucepan, combine the giblets, water celery, the coarsely chopped onion and the carrot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 hours or so, skimming the surface occasionally. Remove from heat and strain. You should have 2 cups of turkey stock. Use now, or cover and refrigerate.

In a medium saucepan, bring the turkey stock to a low simmer. Place the roasting pan/tray over two burners on the stovetop. Over medium-high heat, add the Chardonnay and turkey stock to the pan and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook to reduce the liquid by half. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a glass measure or pitcher. In the roasting pan, melt the butter with the reserved turkey fat over medium heat and cook the finely chopped onions or 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and whisk in salt and pepper. Cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot stock and cook, whisking occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until thickened.

Makes 3 cups.

Chardonnay Gravy

Recipe from

Giblets and neck from a 16- to 20-pound turkey
2 onions (about 3/4 lb. total), quartered 
2 carrots (about 1/2 lb. total), cut into chunks 
3/4 cup sliced celery 
1 quart chicken broth 
1/2 teaspoon pepper 
1/2 cup cornstarch 
Roast turkey (16 to 20 lb.)
2 cups Chardonnay 

1. Rinse giblets and neck (chill liver airtight to add later, or save for other uses). Combine giblets, neck, onions, carrots, celery, and 1 cup broth in a 5- to 6-quart pan over medium heat; cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Turn heat to high and boil, uncovered, stirring often as liquid evaporates. Then stir giblets and vegetables until browned and sticking to pan, 12 to 15 minutes.
2. Add remaining 3 cups broth and pepper, stirring to scrape browned bits free. Cover pan. Simmer gently until gizzard is tender when pierced, about 1 1/2 hours. If desired, add liver and cook 10 more minutes.
3. Pour broth through a fine strainer into a bowl. Discard vegetables. Pull meat off neck; finely chop neck meat and giblets. Measure broth and, if needed, add water to make 1 quart.
4. In the pan, smoothly blend cornstarch with 1/3 cup water. Add broth and finely chopped giblets. Stir over high heat until boiling, about 5 minutes.
5. After turkey is done, skim and discard fat from pan juices. Add Chardonnay to roasting pan and, over low heat, scrape browned bits free. Add wine mixture to gravy and bring to a boil, stirring. Add salt to taste.

Notes: Up to 1 day ahead, make broth through step 4; cool, cover, and chill. After turkey roasts, add its pan drippings and the wine to broth and bring to a boil, stirring. For a more delicate flavor, replace 1 cup wine with equal amount of broth.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What Wine To Buy for Thanksgiving...

It's that time of year again... yes, that time when you need to choose the perfect wine to serve or bring to the Thanksgiving meal.  With most American consumers feeling incredibly overwhelmed by the thousands of choices, where does one start?!  Below is a list of things I always suggest for one of the busiest and heaviest holiday meals:

Cling, Cling!
(Photo from Google Images)

1) Always bring something you (or your guests) like.  That means that if you enjoy a pre-mixed Sangria, buy it!  At least you know you'll enjoy it which is always what the holidays are about.  If you enjoy the dry, high alcohol, fruit forward Zinfandels from Lodi, then by all means, bring it along!  If you are passionate about the wine, then your friends and family will be as well.  It's an easy talking point throughout the meal, and you can explain why you prefer this wine so, so much.  

(Photo from Google Images)

I'm a true believer in that food-pairing "rules" are just mean for people to talk about something... but that being said, there are a few other suggestions I can offer up that have been found to be suitable for anything Thanksgiving:

The 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau by Georges Duboeuf
(Photo from Google Images)

2) Try a Beaujolais Nouveau.  There's a reason this wine goes on sale a week before the Thanksgiving holiday.  It's light, slightly red, typically fruit and an easy drinking wine before, during, or after the meal.  Plus, it's easy on the budget.  You shouldn't spend more than $20 for a 2011 Beaujolais Nouvea.  To see my notes on this wine, click here.

One of Cupcake's Rieslings
(Photos from Google Images)

3) A semi-sweet or off-dry Riesling.  I think Riesling is a perfect pairing for the Thanksgiving meal.  The problem with Thanksgiving is that you have an usual pairing of many different types of dishes - some things fatty, some things with very strong spicy flavors... you get the picture.  You need something that has enough acidity to carry through the meal, but will still complement most of what is on the table, especially if you intend to drink the wine during the meal!  Need some suggestions?  How about Cupcake's Riesling?  Cheateau Ste. Michelle?  Nimble Hill?  Or a Riesling from the "German section" in your local wine store?  These are some of my personal favorites!  And remember, a touch of sweetness goes GREAT with dinner!

Korbel's Brut Rose
(Photo from Google Images)

4) Get some bubbly!  Because honestly what is more fun?  No, but in all seriousness, the crisp acidity and carbonation in sparkling wines is a perfect choice when you have varying degrees of food dishes... aka Thanksgiving.  It's a refresher beverage.  I think Korbel is still the best deal out there when it comes to American bubbly - most of their sparkling wines are fruity, nicely carbonated, and real crowd pleasers.  Plus, Korbel offers a varying degree of selection from semi-sweet bubblies to very sweet to incredibly dry and yeasty.  Just ask your wine store personnel for some help!  (I always recommend one of their bruts, but know this is on the "drier" side of you are into sweet wines.)

Try to avoid things with defined flavors - like oaky Chardonnays!
(Photo from Google Images)

5) Steer clear of oaky Chardonnays or heavy Cabernets.  I know, I know - this is everyone's favorite (and keep in mind that Rule #1 trumps Rule #5).  But in reality, these are really not the best wines to choose for the Thanksgiving meal.  Their extreme flavor is really hard to match with this meal.  However, tomorrow, I will post a Chardonnay recipe that is meant to go with turkey!  In which case, all bets are off and the oaky Chardonnay is welcome!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Wine News You Can Use: What Do Women Want?

Isn't this the question that all men ask?  Answer to follow...

And congratulations to Pennsylvania's Galen Glen Winery for their Gewurz win in this competition!!!!

This article was originally posted at Wine  It is pasted here for your convenience.

What do Women Want in Wine?
The International Womens' Wine Competition Results
by Laura Ness

The short answer: something balanced and drinkable, enjoyable and easy to deal with. Screw the unnecessary complexities. Unless they’re Type A with a vendetta, most women are intuitive, peacemakers, and strive to keep things on an even keel: confrontation is out, negotiation is in. Subtlety is favored over absolutism.

When they open a bottle of wine, or order a glass at a restaurant, they don’t want anything that gives them lip, a hard time or a headache. For the most part, it’s not an intellectually challenging experience they’re after, (keeping the peace is far more exhausting than starting a fight and throwing punches), but an enjoyable beverage that enhances whatever experience they’re having, whether it’s catching up with the girls, having dinner with good friends, watching a movie, relaxing in the hot tub, or cajoling that exasperating, whiny client over a snore-a-bore dinner at some effete restaurant with linty linen napkins.

It’s common knowledge that women have enormous buying power when it comes to wine: they buy eight out of ten bottles of wine consumed at home. That’s why the International Women’s Wine Competition was created. Says Chairman, Debra del Fiorentino, “Our goal is to provide the female perspective to professional wine buyers and consumers. It gives women in the wine industry the choice to determine the best options available to female wine consumers. This wine competition is judged with a feminine spirit and an intuitive edge. Our job is to attract the best female judges, give them the environment they need to fairly evaluate the wines, and let the winners emerge.”

For the 6th annual competition, in partnership with Women & Wine® (, 24 wine-loving women gave up a layer of enamel on their teeth and probably a few layers of skin off their gums and lips, to evaluate over 700 wines from across this fair land, and beyond. From sea to shining sea, from Long Island to Malibu and almost everywhere in between, came brilliant examples of wine made by women – and men – who also put their skin in the game.

The Sweepstakes
Two sets of sweeps entries were judged: the Overall Competition and the Wine Made By Women Competition.

The “Best of Show” for the Overall Competition was Calcareous Vineyards 2008 Tres Violet Red Blend, hands down the Rhone Queen, garnering 20 votes in acclimation voting, followed by 16 for a Tannat.
Best Red: Calcareous Vineyards 2008 Tres Violet Red Blend
Best White: St Michelle Cold Creek Riesling
Best Rose: Tassel Ridge Winery NV Pink Catawba
Best Sparkling: Gloria Ferrer NV Blanc de Noir
Best Dessert, Late Harvest or Ice Wine: Hernder Estate Wines Vidal Ice Wine

In the Wine Made By Women Competition:

The “Best of Show” for the Women’s Wine Competition was Wilson Vineyards 2009 Molly’s Vineyard Zinfandel.

Best Red: Wilson Vineyards 2009 Molly’s Vineyard Zinfandel

(*) Best White -- Tie: 2010 Windsor Oaks Sauvignon Blanc and 2010 Galen Glenn Gewurztraminer

Best Rose: 2010 Verdad Wine Cellars Grenache Rose

Best Sparkling: 2010 Rock Wall Wine Company Blanc de Blanc

Best Dessert, Late Harvest or Ice Wine: 2006 Haak Vineyard Madeira Jacquez

(*) This was a bit controversial, since both wines received the same number of votes on the second round, and the Competition Masters (all guys), wanted a face-off. In typical female fashion, we judges unanimously insisted both wines were worthy, and why not make two winemakers happy instead of just one? If you want to understand the female brain, there is your biggest clue.

The vast majority of wines that made it to the Sweepstakes were well balanced, well under the 15% limit and built with a style more befitting Gwenyth Paltrow or Susan Sarandon than Angelina Jolie or Lady Gaga. No “statement” wines were evidenced in the Sweepstakes.

Overall Competition Entries: 726
202 Bronze (28%)
230 Silver (32%)
62 Gold (8.5%)
16 Double Gold (2.2%)
200 No Award (28%)

Women Winemaker Entries: 319
97 Bronze (30%)
104 Silver (33%)
29 Gold (9%)
6 Double Gold (2%)
70 No Award (22%)

How Women Judge
As women wine judges, we might be unfairly harsh: we’re quick to dismiss any wine that comes out with sharp elbows, too much tannin, too much acid or too much wood. And increasingly, too much alcohol. We did it to save our sisters from extreme displeasure.

A Sneak Peak Inside the Process
Here’s an inside look at a few wines and how my panel approached a verdict. Erica Mandl is a sparkling winemaker at Korbel and heads a 14-person team: she’s been there 15 years. Carolyn Mulas is a partner in Alta Vista Vineyards and has been North Coast Wine Manager for the largest and most respected distributor in the US, Southern Wine and Spirits, for over 20 years. She tastes hundreds of wines every week.

A Sauvignon Blanc – 
Erica – oooh, this smells like tropical B.O., kinda sexy sweaty guy smell.
Laura – you mean, like the cabana boy?
Carolyn – OMG, it smells putrid!
Laura – nice-looking resort, but don’t walk around the back where the dumpsters are
Carolyn – it’s stinky and has no acid
Laura – plus it’s kinda flaccid
Erica – not good in a pool boy!
(No medal)

A Claret – a term we won’t be able to use too much longer, as the French are putting term limits on this one, just as they slammed the hammer down on “Champagne.”
Erica – this is so piney and green: I can’t get past the tannins
Carolyn – I love this wine! This is classic Claret! I love the woodsy menthol, minty thing
Laura – Chocolate mint! it’s got a big dose of Cab Franc – maybe it’s East coast?
Erica – I don’t have any experience with East coast. You guys decide.
Carolyn – I love it! Let’s give it a Gold.
All – Gold! (Again, that’s how women work.)

A Lemburgher 
Carolyn – OMG! what is this stuff? it smells like (crap)
Laura – it’s a native grape – non-vinifera. It smells and tastes like Limburger cheese
Erica – I’m afraid to taste it. 
Laura – no, go ahead, it tastes like it smells. Really, try it.
Doug (our fearless panel coordinator) – I want try it. (Sniffs. Tastes. Eyebrows rocket skyward) Wow! That does taste just like Limburger – I’m from Minnesota!

A wine with huge VA 
Erica – This wine is off. It’s got huge VA!
Carolyn – what do you mean? acetone?
Laura – actually, it’s more like nail polish. Doug, you might not know what that smells like.
Doug – oh, no, actually, I’ve had a few pedicures!
Girls – really! smell this wine – does that smell familiar?
Doug – Whoa! Yeah, nail salon! I hate it when those little Asian gals go to work on my cuticles. Man, does that hurt!
Girls – That’s what wine is for!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy Beaujolais Nouveau Day!

Today is the 3rd Thursday of November, which means it's Beaujolais Nouveau Day!  (Pronounced: Boh-joh-lay New-voh)

(Photo from Google Images)

Location of Beaujolais in France
(Map from Google Images)

Each harvest season, the appellation of Beaujolais (a sub-region of France's esteemed Burgundy region) produces quick-to-drink Gamay wines produced by a process called carbonic maceration.  The Gamay variety is a red grape, traditionally grown in Beaujolais.  A portion of the Gamay harvest is set aside for carbonic maceration: a fermentation process in which whole grapes are fermented under a high carbon dioxide environment.  The fermentation process, unlike traditional wine fermentation, takes place inside the berry (where the sugar and juice is located), and as fermentation progresses, gravity will force grapes at the bottom of the fermentation vessel to pop open, which allows for further, traditional fermentation.  This process creates a very fruity, floral, low tannin (light bodied), lightly colored red wine - Beaujolais Nouveau.  The whole process from harvest to bottle may take about 6 weeks - unlike traditional Beaujolais wine, which may take several years to put on the market [from harvest to bottle].

Gamay Grapes
(Photo from Google Images)

A Pictograph of the Carbonic Maceration Process
(Photo from Google Images)

Small scale Carbonic Maceration
(Photo from Google Images)

A close up of Carbonic Maceration
(Photo by Google Images)

In the U.S., Beaujolais Nouveau is released for sale on the 3rd Thursday of November - right before the Thanksgiving holiday.  It's a beautiful starting wine to kick off the holiday meal.  The most recognized Beajolais Nouveau label is by Georges Duboeuf, the producer that popularized this wine style.  Here's a look at his 2011 label that you may find available in a wine store near you!

(Photo by Google Images)

The best part?  Most of these wines are all going to be priced between $10 to $20.  That's definitely not breaking the bank this holiday season!  Be weary of buying these wines after the month of December.  Due to the way they are processed, they are fragile and meant to be drunk early (as in, within a few months of hitting the market).  But when they start to go south, you'll see a lot of wine stores try to sell them for under $10.

But don't stop there!  Many local wineries may have "Nouveau Day" features!  And the wines for sale are probably perfect for a holiday festivity!  Check your many wine blogs to find some local features... or visit these widgits on the left side of my blog for suggestions!