Excellent summer white wines! Memorial Day Part Deux…

Two years ago I setup a Rosé wine tasting for family and friends to see if we could all agree on a summer favorite. Click to read.

The group asked if we could do it again, with white wines, so I was happy to oblige.

The 5 wines I chose are all wines that I recommend to people on a regular basis for these reasons:

They are inexpensive, all under $15, and a few under $10 on sale.

All are relatively easy to find- they are carried in most wine stores in the country.

They are consistent-not too much variation from vintage to vintage.

Granted, these wines aren’t going to blow you away with layers of complexity, but let’s be honest… summer wines should be simple, well chilled, and refreshing.

*All wines were tasted blind with tasting sheets for the drinkers to circle flavors, grape variety, country of origin and to write comments.

So here are the wines with some “professional” tasting notes along with comments from all of us non-professional wine drinkers who just want a great summer white…
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Is Old Wine Better?

To join in the fun of Open That Bottle Night  I decided to open a wine special to me- a 1986 California Cabernet Sauvignon (this was the year I graduated High School).

Since I am often asked, “Are old wines better?” AND I had a younger   Napa Cab downstairs in the “cellar”- I opened them both.

2006 Atlas Peak (L) / 1986 Beringer (R)

About Older wines… Approximately 95% of wines are made to be consumed within 1 year of their release (when they are first on shelves).

As a general guide, the wines that usually reward aging are the robust reds – the better Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhones from France, their counterparts (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah) from the New World; sturdy Italian reds like Brunello and Barolo; and the rich, strong dessert wines like Port, Sauternes and the fine late-harvest Rieslings from Germany.

 On to the wines…

As you can see from the corks above there is a big difference in the color of the wines. Whites wines get darker as they age but red wines actually get lighter and less saturated (less colorful) as they age.

The 2006 Atlas Peak in the glass, was purple and opaque but the 1986 Beringer was more transparent and brick orange-red in color.

Tasting the wines proved they tasted as different as they appeared.

Atlas Peak 2006 is still a young wine and has some noticeable tannin that will soften as it ages. It had VERY ripe flavors of dark fruit (blackberry, currant), almost jammy, with noticeable OAK.

Made from Cabernet Sauvignon from different Napa Valley mountain vineyards it is a great wine for the price (around $25).

The 1986 Beringer, Knights Valley was much more subtle and restrained. As wine ages in barrel,   the tannins, imparted from the grape skins and stems, become less apparent. The flavors of this wine were less ripe fruit, but still darker fruits, like currant and black cherry, with some earth and iron. Although this wine still had some life left it was nowhere near as  fruit forward as the Atlas Peak.

So which is better?

Kinda like comparing your niece and your grandmother. One is youthful, carefree and full of life, the other has experience/wisdom and has “mellowed” a bit with life and age.

But you love them both.

 

Why don’t Americans drink Chianti?

I recently attended the launch of the Slow Wine Guide as well as the Italian Wine Masters class on Tuscan wines.

One of the wines that we tasted and discussed, was Chianti.

Forget everything you know about straw basket Chianti. The main grape of Chianti, Sangiovese, with it’s high aciditiy, produces some of the most affordable, food friendly, versatile wines that I enjoy.

Also, because Chianti can be made in so many styles you are sure to find one that suits your tastes.

So why don’t we drink Chianti, more often? STRAW BASKETS!

It is probably due to Americans past negative experiences with Chianti…

1. Originally the laws for making red wine in Chianti were very restrictive:

•  Wines needed to include a white grape, Malvasia (they don’t anymore)

•  Producers had to match the “recipe” or established percentage of each grape set in the mid 19th Century (now vast improvements have been made by winemakers)

2. Quality of wine exported to the United States was not very good. Producers focused on quantity, for exports, and kept the best wines for the local market (Italians)

3. The main grape, Sangiovese, doesn’t grow well outside of Italy so we are not as familiar with it as we are with other California staples like Cabernet and Merlot.

NEW, IMPROVED Chianti… On to the wines

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Super Bowl XLVI – Great wine for a Great Game!

SuperBowl XLVI is this weekend and I am here again to help with winning wines for the Big Game. If you are in the mood for full bodied red wine you should check out last years picks.

Many football friendly recipes (chicken wings, chili, etc) are spicy and high in acid. This year I am suggesting Riesling wines- they are lower in alcohol and will cut right through the spice, cleansing your palate and getting you ready for the next course.

Riesling grapes are best grown in cooler climates. Some of the best Riesling wines come from Germany and Alsace, France. There are also really good Rieslings produced in the Pacific Northwest, the Finger Lakes of New York as well as New Zealand.

High in acidity, Riesling wines are very food friendly. Most people think that Rieslings are sweet but many of my favorites, including the ones recommend here, are not.

The first wine, Donhoff is from Nahe, Germany. The best German Rieslings are very expensive  ($50 to several hundred dollars). This one is from a premier producer yet can be found on sale for under $20. Look for “trocken” (German for dry) if you don’t care for wines that have some sweetness.

Classic flavors of lime, slate and sweet petrol. Drink this one with your main course or with your heaviest appetizer.

http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/donhoff+trocken/1/usa

The next wine, Pacific Rim hails from Columbia Valley, Washington State. Not as complex as the Donhoff, this wine has lots of fresh fruit flavors like apricot and peach. A real bargain- under $10 and easy to  find in most wine stores. This wine goes well with Super Sunday brunch, Huevos Rancheros, fruit and BACON!

http://www.rieslingrules.com/

The third value Riesling, Kung Fu Girl, is also from Wahington State. Charles Smith is making some really great wines, with some funky labels that everyone is sure to remember.

Great fruit flavors, with some minerality, this is another all purpose wine that will pretty much go with whatever you decide to cook, or buy, for Super Bowl snacking. Try it with Seven Layer dip or Chicken Chili.

http://charlessmithwines.com/wines.php

Enjoy the game.

Please let me know if you enjoy these wines or have your own game day favorites.

“Top 100” Wine Values 2011

Every year at this time the wine world waits for the Wine Spectator to release their opinion of the top 100 Wines of the Year. Just because a publication rates and ranks them for you doesn’t guarantee you will like them.

However I think this list is a great place to search out value (under $20) wines/producers that you may not have tried.

Here is the short list of value wines from their list. There is something here for every wine type-why not try a few over the holidays?

#21 (94 Rating) 2009 Georges Duboeuf- Morgon Jean Descombes- $15. (Pictured here) If you like Beaujolais Nouveau you will love this wine! It is 100% Gamay grapes but has a little more body since it is a “higher” level wine. Tolerant Taster approved for the holidays.

Find it …

#23 (93 Rating) 2004 Bodegas Resalte de Peñafiel Ribera del Duero de Restia Crianza Selected Harvest- $15. I haven’t had this wine but I like the producer. If you like Spanish wine, this is a 2004 so it is probably drinking really well right now.  Why not give it a try?

#33 (92 Rating) 2008 Château Tanunda Shiraz Barossa Grand Barossa 2008- $18– Australian wine is still a great value. If you like Syrah it’s the same grape. This is on my list to try.

Find it …

#42 (90 Rating) 2008 Quinta de Cabriz Dão- $9. A full bodied Spicy red for under $10. Zinfandel or Cabernet alternative.

Find it …

#43 (90 Rating) Gruet Blanc de Noirs New Mexico NV (Non vintage)- $14. One of my favorite inexpensive USA sparkling wine producers. Made in New Mexico? Yes! And it is excellent, for the price. Tolerant Taster approved for the holidays.

Find it …

#59 (90 Rating) 2008 Bodegas Dinastía Vivanco Rioja Selección de Familia Crianza- $18. Spanish white that is an alternative to the common white wines.

Find it …

#60  (90 Rating) 2008 Allegrini Veronese Palazzo della Torre- $20. I know I said “under $20” but Allegrini makes great value Italian wines. Amarone lovers will enjoy this easy drinking red. Tolerant Taster approved for the holidays.

Find it …

#68 (90 Rating) 2009 Buehler Zinfandel Napa Valley- $18. Any wine with Napa Valley appellation listed on the label costs more (it’s true). Great value for Zin lovers.

Find it …

#70 (90 Rating) 2009 Morgan Chardonnay Monterey Metallico Un-Oaked-$20. The only Chardonnay on this short list. If you like a cleaner style chardonnay (crisp, fruity) this could be a great find.

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#71 (90 Rating) 2010 Bodegas Godeval Valdeorras Vina Godeval 2010-$18. I had to google this one… 100% Godello (native Spanish grape varietal). Sauvignon Blanc lovers should try this as it has similar flavor descriptions (grapefruit, minerality).

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#72 (90 Rating) 2009 Ravines Riesling Finger Lakes Dry-$16. Domestic, dry Riesling should go well with almost all foods including Chinese/thai takeout.

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#73 (90 Rating) 2007 Fratelli Oddero Barbera d’Alba-$20. Barbera is one of my favorite everyday red wines-due to it’s high acidity it goes really well with pizza, pasta. Chianti alternative. This is on my list to purchase.

Find it …

 As always, please let me know if you like these wines…

 

 

 

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.

Wines of Pompeii- Death, Destruction and the Tears of Christ…

I Recently attended the Pompeii exhibit at Times Square. Unfortunately, the last time we were in Italy we did not have time to see Pompeii/Mt. Vesuvius in person. But we like to have reasons to return!

Bodies frozen on the stairs

Pompeii was a bustling, developed metropolis at the base of Mt. Vesuvius before it erupted in 79 A.D. and buried the entire city under 12 ft of volcanic mud, soil and ash.  Over time they excavated the site and unearthed perfectly preserved human bodies (a little spooky) and the remnants of a modern society. They found pottery, cooking ovens, fashionable jewelry, and plumbing that looks more sophisticated than I have in my 1926 home.

The people of Pompeii enjoyed themselves…they had dice and other gambling games, along with prostitution, and over 200 wine bars!

One of my favorite relatively unknown red wines from that region (Campania) is Lacryma Christi or “Tears of Christ”, which is made from Piedirosso grapes grown on the volcanic soil of Mt. Vesuvius. There are several interesting stories about the religious reference…
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