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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“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.

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#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.

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

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#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.

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

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#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.

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#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.

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#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.

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

 

 

 

Happy New Year, Honeysuckle!

THE “OFFICIAL” COLOR FOR 2011
Honeysuckle- Pantone 18-2120

from the Pantone website:
A Color for All Seasons
Courageous. Confident. Vital. A brave new color, for a brave new world. Let the bold spirit of Honeysuckle infuse you, lift you and carry you through the year. It’s a color for every day – with nothing “everyday” about it.

While the 2010 color of the year, PANTONE 15-5519 Turquoise, served as an escape for many, Honeysuckle emboldens us to face everyday troubles with verve and vigor. A dynamic reddish pink, Honeysuckle is encouraging and uplifting. It elevates our psyche beyond escape, instilling the confidence, courage and spirit to meet the exhaustive challenges that have become part of everyday life.

“In times of stress, we need something to lift our spirits. Honeysuckle is a captivating, stimulating color that gets the adrenaline going – perfect to ward off the blues,” explains Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®. “Honeysuckle derives its positive qualities from a powerful bond to its mother color red, the most physical, viscerally alive hue in the spectrum.”

Even though I would think “Honeysuckle” would be in the medium yellow family…I have changed my WINE (in the website header) to Pantone’s Honeysuckle for some good energy to jumpstart 2011!

Festive Wines for Holiday Gifts

A friend asked me if I would suggest a great wine that also had a nice holiday label.

Wine producers do not generally create special holiday labels (halloween, valentines day, christmas, etc) because any change to a label must be re-submitted and re-approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). And nobody wants to deal with that!

Although I DO NOT recommend buying a wine just because it has a cute or clever label there are many great wines that also have holiday packaging or look like they were made for the holidays.

I am a bit of a traditionalist. Holiday wine for me is red and sparkling. When I think of holidays I think of red, green, silver and gold (and maybe white- for snow).

Here are some of my traditional favorites…

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Top Thanksgiving Wines from the USA

Because Thanksgiving is an American holiday I only included wines from the good ol’ USA. I have had all of these wines and I recommend them all. Click on the links to find them near you.

Here are my top 4, in order…

#4. Zinfandel

Zinfandel can be high in alcohol (a moderate amount is under 13%. Zin can be 15%+). No wonder many refer to it as “whiskey in a wine”. It can also be “jammy” and spicy, like fruit concentrate mixed with pepper. Any wine that is too high in alcohol will NOT go well with turkey. However, when Zinfandel is done well it is a cornucopia of flavors, many of which match the fruits and spice on the table. Although the grape is originally believed to be from Croatia it is considered by many in the wine world to be uniquely American– from the soil to the American oak barrels!

Tolerant Taster approved:
1. Dashe Cellars Dry Creek -A solid Zin that is widely available
2. Cline Cellars -for a real bargain.

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#3. Sparkling Wine

Hey it’s the holidays, let’s have some fun. Besides, sparkling wines are very food friendly and don’t have to be expensive. Most sparkling wines are made with Chardonnay and/or Pinot Noir so they are grapes you already know and love. To add some additional color to your table try a Rose!

Tolerant Taster approved:
1. Gruet -produced in New Mexico born in France
2. Chandon -Brut (from Moet & Chandon) grown and produced in Yountville, California.

#2. Pinot Noir

Pinot is so appealing because it has finesse. It is low in tannin, so it is not bitter or drying and it contains a good amount of red fruits (strawberry, raspberry, cherry), spice or even cola flavors. With a good amount of acidity it is a very food friendly wine. It is probably the best choice if you are only serving one red wine on Thanksgiving.

Tolerant Taster approved:

1. A to Z Wineworks -a family winery in Dundee Oregon.
2. Adelsheim -another great pinot from Oregon,  (try to get past the dated looking label-they are changing it.) Had it last weekend with crabcakes!


#1. Riesling

One of the most food friendly wines (and still not given proper respect) Riesling should be the wine you introduce to your friends. Many still think of it as a sweet wine, which can be true, but it can also be bone dry. Though it contains more residual sugar than some wines it has acid to give it balance. You might not drink sugar water but I bet you love lemonade! Lower in alcohol because it grows best in cool climates, so drink up.

Tolerant Taster approved:
1. Chateau St. Michelle Eroica -A collaboration between the famous Dr. Loosen (of Germany) and Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington state.
2. Dr. Konstantin -from one the New York Finger Lakes pioneers,

Let me know what you are having on your table…

*all photos are from the producers websites.

Around the World in 80 Sips- Wines of the Week

Host of the Event

The Crowd

I attended an excellent event thrown by Bottlenotes Around the World in 80 Sips. This is a great opportunity to learn while “drinking around the world”. Virtually every style of wine can be sampled in one place.

Click here to see the wines poured

Below are some wines that really stood out, for me. The exclusive retail sponsor was Continue reading