Champagne for the Holidays…

DavidBowlerChampagne “insider” secrets:

Attended a recent Champagne tasting at PJ Wine. Meeting with some very knowledgeable reps provided some great wines and some new (to me) “insider” information.

Basics:

The primary grapes used for making Champagne are Chardonnay (white grape), Pinot Noir, Pinot Menuier (red/black grapes).

Most Champagnes come from a blend of all three. Meunier gives fresh fruit and energy, Pinot Noir gives body and backbone, Chardonnay, high in acid provides the ability to age.

Champagne made with only  Chardonnay (or very rarely, Pinot Blanc) is called Blanc de Blanc– white (wine) from white (grapes).

Champagne made with 100% Pinot Noir, 100% Pinot Meunier  or a mixture of the two is called Blanc du Noir– white (wine) from black (grapes).

Now for the Advanced…

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Thanksgiving wines! It’s that time of year, again…

Tomatoes shriveled on the vine

Thanksgiving is one of the toughest meals to pair with a single wine. At a traditional meal you have savory elements (stuffing/gravy), and sweet elements (cranberry dressing), as well as a good amount of fat (flavor) but also delicate white meat.

In addition, throw in some items that are hard to pair with anything (Brussels sprouts, turnips) and you have a challenge on your hand.

 Challenge accepted!

First off, Thanksgiving is really about your loved ones, around the table, and you should serve wines that your family/friends enjoy drinking.  Secondly, the food is really the star, and in my opinion wines should take a backseat.

 Safe Bets for Thanksgiving if you can only serve ONE wine… Continue reading

In Pursuit of Balance Wines 2013

I virtually “attended” In Pursuit of Balance Wines which was held in San Francisco.
Basically this is a group of California winegrowers who aim to produce great wines (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir only, for now) in the vineyard and in the cellar by keeping all of the components of a wine (acidity, alcohol, fruit) in balance.

When a wine is in balance it pairs well with food and is very easy to drink.
If you had some bad experiences with poorly made California wine (too buttery, oaky, alcoholic fruit bomb) then you might consider trying some of the wines on this list.
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Beaujolais- you should be drinking it more than once a year…

“Introductory” Beaujolais is labeled Beaujolais Nouveau. All Beaujolais is made from 100% Gamay grapes, but Nouveau (which means new) is specifically produced to be drunk young (within a year of release).

Hint: If you buy Nouveau make sure it has the current vintage year on the bottle, older is definitely not better with this wine!

What many don’t realize is that Beaujolais is actually part of Burgundy (where all those great Pinot Noirs are grown). Pinot lovers should give them a try!

The wines of Beaujolais are produced in levels- the lower level vineyards produce generic Beaujolais and Beaujolais Nouveau. Next up in elevation, and quality of soil is the Villages designation. These wines are better, although often mass-produced. At the top of the hierarchy are the Beaujolais Cru wines.

For serious, food worthy, and age worthy wines, look for one of these Cru regions on the bottle: Moulin-A-Vent, Chenas, Julienas, Morgon, Fleurie, Saint-Amour, Cote-de-Brouilly, Chiroubles, and Regnie.

Because Gamay is fruity and lower in tannin, these are great wines for white wine drinkers switching over to reds.

Georges Dubœuf is probably the king of Beaujolais wine producers, these wines are a good value, well made, and easy to find.

Here are a couple (both under $15) I can recommend for your Thanksgiving table…

Georges Dubœuf Morgon Jean Descombes

 

 

 

 

 

Georges Dubœuf – Moulin-à-Vent Domaine des Rosiers

 

If you have a quality wine shop near you, the best Beaujolais are brought in by the following importers: Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, Louis/Dressner, Alain Junguenet, and Kermit Lynch-look for their names on the bottle (usually on the back).

Picking Pinot with a Master of Wine (MW)

“God made Cabernet Sauvignon, whereas the Devil made Pinot Noir,” a quote from America’s most influential winemaker, André Tchelistcheff.

I recently attended a fantastic event at Astor Center with Christy Canterbury, MW.

Master of Wine is an IMPRESSIVE title, there are currently only 30 Americans who have it. The program takes a minimum of three years to complete, and most never achieve the certification.

I am often asked to recommend a great, affordable Pinot Noir. This is usually an oxymoron.  Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned grape which means it is susceptible to frost, wind, and too cold or too hot temperature. It is also a very low yielding grape which means you get very few grapes per vine.

All of these factors make Pinot Noir very difficult to grow and therefore it is expensive to turn into wine.

Most agree that the best Pinot Noir comes from Burgundy, France but they are also some of the priciest. I have found some really good, affordable Pinot from Washington State and Central Otago, New Zealand that I recommend to others.

I was curious to taste all 8 expressions of Pinot Noir and also to hear how “the Master” would handle the challenge.

Her Pinot Selections…
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American Thanksgiving wines- “Red”, White, and Orange?

Everbody has their opinions about which are the “best” wines for the Thanksgiving table. I love Old World wines (Spain, Italy, Germany, France) but this is an American Holiday, so my choices for Thanksgiving are usually all-American.

All of this years interesting selections came from a recent visit to the North Fork of Long Island, New York.

THE “RED”
2010 Shinn Vineyards- Anomaly. White Pinot Noir? Yes, you can make a white wine from a red grape. Just like champagne the reason this wine is not red is because the juice is not fermented with the skins (which would give the wine a pink/red color).
http://www.lenndevours.com/2009/05/anthony-nappa-wines-2008-anomaly-.html

THE WHITE
2007 Lenz Winery- Gewürtztraminer- often referred to as Gewürz which means “spice”. It is a pink-red grape which produces a white wine that goes great with white meats, like turkey, as well as Asian food!
http://www.lenzwine.com/Home.htm

THE ORANGE
2010 Channing Daughters, Ramato- “Orange Wine”-made from Pinot Grigio or “Gray Pinot”- wines produced from this grape vary in color from a deep golden yellow to copper and even a light shade of pink. All grape juice is clear, but this particular wine is called “orange” due to the color it picks up from from being kept in contact with the skins.
https://www.channingdaughters.com/wine_order/index.php#2010%20Ramato

By the way, the “best” Thanksgiving wine is whatever is on the table with family, friends and food.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Red Wine Headaches…A Holiday Tradition?

As the weather turns cold, I drink BIG red wines.
Numerous people have asked me, “what causes red wine headaches?”
Although the possible causes for red wine headaches (RWH) are different, it is probably not due to sulfites.

There are widespread misconceptions about sulfites. Here are some that I have heard… along with the facts.

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