Loire Valley Blind Tasting

blindtastingbagsBlind tasting is a method of tasting wines when you cover, or bag, the wines to see if you can identify them. Blind tasting is a key component of many wine certifications.

Single blind is when you can see the wine being poured into your glass. You know whether it is white, red, rosé, and whether it is still or sparkling from the appearance. Also, you know something about the wine (the region, the grape or the vintage) but you can’t see the bottle label.

Double blind is when you don’t know anything about the wine other than the appearance (white, red, rosé, still or sparkling).
BlindglassesTriple or Fully blind tastings use black glasses so you don’t know anything about the wine. For wine professionals, who think they know a few things about wine, this is a truly humbling experience as it is much more difficult than you would think.

There are many different styles of wines and most wines are a blend, of more than one grape, so it is not as easy as identifying apple juice from orange juice.

Recently I attended a Loire Valley blind tasting with some wine friends (Elizabeth Miller, CSS, CSW, Margot Redmond, Gawain de Leeuw, CSW) to test our knowledge about wines from this region.

At most blind tastings I am about average identifying the wine but since I have been to the Loire Valley I hoped that I would do better than 50% (coin toss).

The wines…

Flight 1- Identify a white wine vs. red wine.

1. 2014 Coteaux du Vendomois Blanc Lieu-Dit Cocagne – Chenin Blanc

2. 2012 Pensees de Pallus Chinon– Cabernet Franc

These wines have very different (distinct) aromas so this one was easy.

Results: Everyone guessed correctly.

Flight 2- Loire Valley Whites- only Sauvignon (Blanc) or Chenin Blanc- which wine is which grape?

1. Domain Curot Sancerre– Sauvignon Blanc

2. Dame de Jacques Coeur Menetou-Salon- Sauvignon Blanc

3. 2014 Domaine de La Coche Sauvignon

4. 2011 Les Choisilles Montlouis Sur Loire– Chenin Blanc

Results: Misidentified #2 as Chenin Blanc but 3 out of 4 ain’t bad. I’ll take that.

 Flight 3- 2 Loire Valley Reds- only Cabernet Franc- could we identify the region?

1. 2010 Domaine Durand Les Coteaux Saint-Joseph (100% Syrah from the Rhone)

2. 2014 Domaine Des Deux Arcs Anjou-Cabernet Franc

3. (Bonus wine) Coulee de Serrant- Chenin Blanc- this premiere wine from Biodynamic proponent Nicholas Joly is barrel aged (most Chenin is not) so this one was very different. It would have been interesting to have this in the white wine lineup as one of the tasters thought it was an aged Chardonnay.

TastingNotesResults: Margot threw us a curve ball and inserted a wine that didn’t belong (Syrah from the Rhone valley). Although I didn’t specifically guess that there had been an imposter I wrote “Black olive, white pepper” and kept shaking my head and comparing the two wines because they were SO different.

I give myself partial credit for this one.

Flight 4- Loire Valley Reds- only Cabernet Franc- could we identify the region?

1. 2012 Pensees de Pallus Chinon- Cabernet Franc

2. 2014 Domaine Des Deux Arcs Anjou-Cabernet Franc

3. 2010 Samur Champigny “Millesime”

We had already sampled 2 of these earlier but having a complete lineup clearly demonstrates how a single varietal (Cabernet Franc) wine changes when it is from different regions. I could certainly taste the difference…but I guessed none correctly. 

Blind tasting is a fun thing to do with friends/family and is an excellent “game” for paying close attention to what is in the glass to learn about wines. If you don’t do well, don’t feel bad most wine professionals aren’t that great either.

Tips for setting up your own blind tasting from Wine Folly.

Open That Bottle Night

2006_CdBMeritageFor our first trip to the North Fork of Long Island we attended Wine Camp. With each winery, that you visit, you learn a different aspect of the wine business; from the owners or winemakers. A very personal and hands-on approach, we blended wine at one, pruned vines at another and learned alot about the region and it’s wines. It was a very special experience. And on the last night we celebrated with a wine/food pairing at Castello di Borghese.

The owners, Marco and Ann Marie Borghese were gracious hosts and true ambassadors for the wine region.

One of the rewards, of Wine Camp, is a mixed case from each of the participating wineries, including two bottles from Borghese.

Over the years we enjoyed these wines, for special occasions, and each time it brought back great memories. Continue reading

Loire Valley- Cabernet Franc with Altitude!

WineStairs_LoireShopping for some lighter bodied red wines reminded me of why the Loire Valley is such an interesting wine region. In the central Loire Valley, the predominant red variety is Cabernet Franc. That one grape produces a number of different types of wine (sparkling, still, rose, light-bodied through full bodied). These different styles are made possible by the diversity of the soil and altitude.

Tuffeau_GasnierLower elevations (nearest the Loire river) are made up of sandy soils. The wines produced here are fruity and lighter bodied. Most wines are treated in stainless steel and/or concrete to keep the fresh flavor of fruit. They are best enjoyed chilled and are great summer sippers.

ConcreteTanksMid elevation (gentle slopes) are made up of sand and gravel. The wines produced here can be fermented and aged in stainless, concrete and/or some light or neutral oak. These are middle weight wines that can be enjoyed before dinner by themselves or with food.

RedBarrelsThe highest elevations including steep slopes and or the tops of hills are generally composed of limestone, also know as Tuffeau (too fo). This is a chalky, yellowish marine limestone that helps provide unique characteristics to some of the oldest vines and the most complex expressions of the Cabernet Franc grape. The wines from this soil are generally aged for longer periods of time in oak which provides more structure.

These wines need food.

Excellent examples of a light bodied Cab Franc (Fabrice Gasnier Les Graves) and a fuller bodied wine (Baudry Les Clos Guillot).

Gasnier_LesGraves Baudry_LeClosGuillot

#Super Bowl XLVII- BEER vs. WINE

I rarely drink wine at live sporting events.
Wine doesn’t taste great in plastic bottles and cups.  And it just doesn’t feel right.

In the privacy of your home you should drink what you want, but wines are sometimes a better match with food. Try it for yourself, beer vs. wine,  with your favorite Super Bowl dishes.

 If you normally drink lager beer…

(Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois), you are drinking beers that are light bodied, bright and crisp.

Similar white wines would be Pinot Grigio (from Northern Italy), or Sauvignon Blanc (try the Loire Valley, French version). Drink with Chips and Dip!

If you want to try some reds look for low tannin, fresh acid wines like Barbera or Beaujolais (not Nouveau, please). Great with Doritos!

Summer ale (Sam Adams) or Belgian White (Blue Moon) is your thing?

Try white wines with more aromatics like Albariño (Rías Baixas, Spain) or Torrontés (Argentina).

For a slightly more aromatic red you may like a chilled Tempranillo (Rioja/Ribera del Duero), or unoaked Sangiovese.
All great with nachos or chili!

Hefeweizen (wheat) beer fan?

For whites, try Gewürztraminer from Alsace, France. Gewürz (guh-vorts) for short, is spicy and can be dry, or have a little sweetness. Perfect with asian flavored chicken wings.

Another option is Zweigelt, a funky, spicy, but floral red from Austria.

IPA (hop) head?

You might want to try the New Zealand (Marlborough) style of Sauvignon Blanc, grassy with Juicy Fruit (the gum) flavors. Another white wine option is Chenin Blanc (French, not South African) if you want a fuller bodied wine.

“Go to” reds could include Cabernet Franc or Carmenere from Chile.
Also great with chili!

For traditional Ales/Stoudts…

Since they are full bodied there are only a few whites for you, Viognier (northern Rhone, France) or oaked Chardonnay (Burgundy, France).

On the red side, go big or go home! You would probably enjoy full bodied reds like Aglianico (Italy) or Australian Shiraz.
Save these wines for the main course…

For some of my other “Super Bowl” favorites see previous recommendations:

Super Bowl XLV

Super Bowl XLVI

 

As always, please let me know what you think…

Pre-2000 Bordeaux Blind tasting

Bordeaux Pre-2000,
Blind Tasting Dinner

Restaurant 42, White Plains
December 17, 2012

Starter wines:

2011 Hamilton Russel Vineyards Chardonnay, South Africa.
Stony, Mineral, yet with full ripe citrus fruit

1991 Havens Chardonnay,
California (Magnum).

Deep golden color with no browning, good acid with flavors of caramel, almonds. An amazing non Reserve California Chardonnay, still drinking well, after 20+ years.

 

Flight 1

1982 Chateau-Lascombes, Margaux, France.
At first aromas of iron, earth but lacking in fruit continued to open and evolve with
very strong tobacco leaf with building fruit profile. Perfectly integrated tannins.
Drinking beautifully… probably the WINE OF THE NIGHT.

1983 Chateau Pichon Lalande, Pauillac, France.
Detected aromas of mint (eucalyptus?) or cedar also drinking very well. As it sat in glass it continued to change with flavors of grilled meat and tobacco.

1989 Chateau Leoville Las Cases, St. Julien, France.
Compared to first wines, very youthful and slightly tannic- will be a beautiful wine
(has PLENTY ) of life left.

Not sure the next wines can be any better… Continue reading

​For Rosè Lovers Only

On a recent wine trip to the North Fork of Long Island we discovered a fantastic new (to us) winery, Croteaux Vineyards.

Unlike many of the other wineries in the area they do not allow larger groups (more than 8), and do not accept limos, buses, taxis, or any hired car services.

These ‘rules’ provide for a calm, relaxing vibe to sit back and enjoy delicious Rosè-only, wine.

Even though Rosè is generally given its own category, it is technically a very light Red wine.

All of the Rosès at Croteaux Vineyard are made as the final product. As they say, “Rosè on Purpose!”

This distinguishes their wines, from the majority of Rosès, which are often made as a by-product of  red wine production using the saignée (pronounced ‘sonyay’) method, which means to “bleed off”.

Basically the red wine maker has a big vat of grape juice and skins that they leave fermenting together to make a darker colored and more flavorful wine. They remove some of the liquid to let the remaining liquid and skins become more concentrated.

Normally what is removed becomes Rosè wine.

NOT so at Croteaux, where they grow Cabernet Franc and  Merlot specifically for the beautifully colored wines, of various styles, to be enjoyed by all.

The Wine Menu

Not to be outdone by the wines, the packaging of EVERYTHING- from the logo and their colors, to the bottle labels, t-shirts, and garden outside, is trendy and elegant.

Next time you are in the neighborhood I highly recommend you visit and buy someone special a gift here. Since they are fairly small production you probably won’t find them anywhere else.

I plan on making  Croteaux Vineyards  a regular stop to sip and chill…

Tolerant Taster approved!