Sunday, March 31, 2013

Ommegang Iron Throne

Brewery Ommegang Iron Throne Blonde Ale
Cooperstown, New York

Capitalism at its finest! HBO teamed up with New York's Brewery Ommegang to produce four special, limited addition beers -- one for each of the four houses portrayed in "Game of Thrones" series. This blonde ale is for the House Lannister (teeheehee, since the Lannisters are, you know, blonde). The reception of this beer has been intense. I got nearly 15 calls at the shop today (the day of the season 3 premier) of people trying to hunt up this last minute.

Review:  So, on to the beer... It's relatively light, both on the nose and on the palate. The beer is brewed with lemon peel and grains of paradise -- the citrus and spice definitely come through. The sweet malt and touch of bitterness round out the beer overall. It's a nice soft ale. Nothing too polarizing one way or the other. This beer was clearly made to have mass appeal, still keeping the structure and nuance of a craft beer, but not going too far with flavors that could alienate Game of Thrones nerds across the country...

Bottom Line: I'm enjoying this beer. In just a few minutes I will happily be toasting the return of my friends in Westeros and those beyond the wall. However, I'm not particularly sad that I won't be able to get any more once this one is gone (it's completely sold out in DC and Northern Virginia) -- but I will be looking forward to trying next beers in the series.

 Beer Geekery:
  • BREWER: Brewery Ommegang 
  • STYLE: Blonde Ale
  • PLACE: Cooperstown, New York
  • BOOZE: 6.5%

Where did I get it?  Crystal City Wine Shop (but it's ALL gone!)
What's the damage?  Mid Priced, per 750ml bottle

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bodega Catena Malbec

Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec 2010
Medoza, Argentina

This Malbec is just so lovely. Not a helpful descriptor, I know, but it seems to fit. It's also not terribly expensive -- and you can find it at your neighborhood grocery! (I got it at Costco...)

Review: The wine has a strong nose of black fruits, like cassis and black cherries. On the palate the fruit still shines, but there's also a nice little herbal note of fennel. The wine is completely dry (only 2 g/l residual sugar), but the fruit tastes a touch sweet and jammy. There's a pleasantly long finish and super smooth tannins. 

The most interesting Argentine Malbecs are sourced from high-altitude vineyards and Catena is certainly no exception. The fruit for this Malbec comes from the family´s vineyards high up in Maipú, Lujan de Cuyo, Tupungato and San Carlos.

Food Pairing: For some reason, this wine made me want a roast turkey sandwich. With andouille sausage stuffing. Something just a touch savory. If anyone's having turkey at Easter (tomorrow), please save me your leftovers...

Bottom Line: Catena is more or less the father of Argentine Malbec, and there's a mighty fine reason. I dig it, especially at this price point.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2010
  • PLACE: Mendoza, Argentina
  • GRAPE: 100% Malbec
  • AGEING: 14 months in 70% French oak (35% new) and 30% American oak.
  • BOOZE: 13.5% 
  • CELLAR: Drink now, hold for a few years

Where did I get it? Costco
What's the damage? Mid Priced

Friday, March 29, 2013

Giornata Aglianico

Giornata French Camp Vineyards Aglianico 2010
Paso Robles, California

Review: Oooh, this is a nice one. This wine has a deep, dark inky color and bright flavors of black currants and violets, with just a hint of sage. The tannins have softened a bit with the time in the bottle, but it could probably use a touch more age. Still, the wine has a nice level of acidity that makes it surprisingly refreshing for being such a big wine.

Aglianico is generally grown in southern Italy around Basilicata and Campania (central regions towards the bottom of the boot). This wine was made domestically, in the French Camp Vineyard in eastern Paso Robles. According to the winemaker, this site provides ideal conditions for the Italian grape.

Food Pairing: I think this would go perfectly with a sandwich filled with Italian meats, spicy peppers, and hard provolone cheese.

Bottom Line: I really enjoyed this wine. A nice change up from a world saturated in Cabernet. I dig it.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2010
  • PLACE: Paso Robles AVA (American Viticultural Area), French Camp Vineyard
  • GRAPE: Aglianico
  • BOOZE: 13.5% 
  • CELLAR: Drink now, hold for a few years

Where did I get it? I bought this back in 2012 from the online vendor
What's the damage? High Priced

Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Brew Thursday: Achouffe Brewing La Chouffe

Achouffe Brewing La Chouffe
Achouffe, Belgium

Review: Okay, I'll admit it. I picked up this beer because it has the cutest little old gnome on the label. I was not at all disappointed by the contents, however. This "artisanal Belgian golden ale" is a beaut. With light citrus notes and a bit of spice, this beer is smooth drinking delight. There's a touch of bitterness on the finish, making for a balanced, quaffable beer.

The La Chouffe is an unfiltered blonde, very nearly the same color as Miss Elizabeth Bennett. She did not particularly enjoy her photo op...

Bottom Line: I enjoyed this beer. It's both light and easy to drink, while still complex and satisfying. I dig it.

Beer Geekery:
  • BREWER: Brasserie d' Achouffe
  • STYLE: Belgian Ale
  • PLACE: Achouffe, Belgium
  • BOOZE: 8.0%
Where did I get it?  Crystal City Wine Shop
What's the damage?  High Priced, per 11.2 oz bottle

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Domaine Millet Sancerre
Domaine Millet Sancerre 2011
Loire Valley, France

I love Sancerre. Made from 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc and hailing from France's Loire Valley, Sancerre is known for it's characteristic flinty notes and gooseberry flavors. 

Review: This Domaine Franck Millet, however, had much more tropical fruit notes than I was expecting – a bit of passion fruit and guava instead. Additionally, it has a stronger herbaceous note than what I usually expect from a Sancerre. This grassy finish is instead closer to a New Zealand style of Sauvignon Blanc. It was dry, nice and refreshing, but missing the flinty flavors I was looking for.

Food Pairing: The high acidity in this wine would make it perfect to pair with a cheese plate.

Bottom Line: Pretty tasty, but not my all time favorite Sancerre. At this price, I would pass.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2011
  • PLACE: Sancerre AOC (Appellation d'origine contrôlée)
  • GRAPE: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
  • SOIL TYPE: Limestone Clay
  • BOOZE: 13.0% 
  • CELLAR: Drink now, hold for up to 2 years

Where did I get it? Total Wine
What's the damage? High Priced

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Judd's Hill Merlot
Judd’s Hill Swig Vineyard Merlot 2009
Napa, California

Review: Oh, how I adore Merlot. With it's super soft tannins and tasty dark fruit flavors, it's an easy drinking pleasure. This wine has delicious notes of black currants, plums, and dried violets. There's also an interesting herbal note of eucalyptus.

Judd's Hill Swing Vineyard Merlot 2009 won a Silver Medal at the San Diego International Wine Competition this year (March 2013). I have to agree with the esteemed judges -- this wine is a winner.

Food Pairing: I think this wine pairs with pretty much anything. I had it with a bison and black bean chili! 

Bottom Line: Super yummy, smooth and balanced. I dig it.

Wine Geekery:

  • VINTAGE: 2009
  • PLACE: Napa Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area)
  • GRAPE: Merlot
  • BOOZE: 14.2%
  • CELLAR: Drink now or hold

Where did I get it? Judd’s Hill Wine Club Shipment
What's the damage? Super Premium 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Benton Lane Pinot Gris
Benton Lane Pinot Gris
Monroe, Oregon

Review: I love Pinot of all color -- black, white, or gray. This Pinot Gris is certianly no exception. With amazing flavors of white peaches, pears, and soft white flowers, with bright light wine is easy drinking and refreshing. It's bone dry with high acid and surprisingly high alcohol (13.55%) giving the wine a big bold mouth feel. It finishes with long lasting citrus notes, and is simply delectable.

I had the pleasure of sitting with Steve Girard, the owner of Benton-Lane, back in 2012. He kindly took an hour out of his day to chat with me, a curious business school student and wine lover. He explained that the land of his vineyards (which used to be a sheep farm -- sheep poop is excellent for the soil!!) are maintained with a combination of sustainable, biodynamic, and organic methods. The care put into the grapes is evident in every bottle.

Food Pairing: Great on a hot day, sipping on the porch. Or on a cold day with your Bubbeh's motzah ball soup. Any way you serve it, make sure it's chilled but not ice cold, so that the flavors will be expressive!

Bottom Line: One of my favorite white wines. I may or may not have a case squirrelled away in my basement...

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2011
  • PLACE: Willamette Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area)
  • GRAPE: Pinot Gris
  • BOOZE: 13.55%
  • CELLAR: Drink now, hold for up to 1 year

Where did I get it? Special Order -- call your local wine shop today!
What's the damage? Mid Priced

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ty Caton Petite Sirah
Ty Caton Petite Sirah 2009
Sonoma, California

Review: I picked up this wine in Sonoma back in 2011. I've been holding it for a special occasion and opened it up this past weekend. It was completely delicious. With flavors of dark, ripe blackberries, cocoa powder, and just the tiniest  herbaceous touch of little mint, this wine was a total crowd pleaser. It has a rich, full body with super soft tannins and a medium long fruity finish. 

Food Pairing: This dry red would pair perfectly with something lean and a little rustic like a venison stew.

Bottom Line: Interesting, ripe fruit, balanced tannin. Well worth lugging back from California in my checked luggage. I dig it.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2009
  • PLACE: Sonoma Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area)
  • GRAPE: 100% Petite Sirah
  • BOOZE: 14.5%
  • FARMING PRACTICES: Certified Sustainable
  • PRODUCTION: 241 Cases
  • BOTTLED: December 15, 2010
  • CELLAR: Drink now or hold for a few more years

Where did I get it? Ty Caton’s tasting room in Sonoma 
What's the damage? Premium

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Mauro Veglio Barolo
Mauro Veglio Barolo Castelletto 2006
Monforte d’Alba, Cuneo, Italy

Review:  This Barolo was given 93 points by Wine Spectator, with a drinking window of 2015 – 2035. I decided to pop the cork a little early to see how it was coming along. Unfortunately, I should have waited… Even with light aromas of sour cherries, tobacco, and oak, this wine was not terribly expressive. 

I opened this puppy up at a classy wine party, but even after 5 hours in the decanter the tannins were still grippy. I poured it back into the bottle to bring it home (the sensible thing to do, no?), and by the next day it had finally mellowed out. However, it would have been best to hold the wine for a few more years. In the meantime, I'm planning to make a nice tomato sauce with the rest of the wine. When life gives you prematurely opened wine, make pasta!

Food Pairing: Like most high acid, high alcohol wines, this one definitely needs food. Something savory... perhaps a juicy steak with melted blue cheese.

Bottom Line: Meh. I wanted this to be a bigger wine, more interesting, especially with the Borolo price tag. Hopefully in a few years it will be!

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2006
  • PLACE: Barolo DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) 
  • GRAPE: 100% Nebbiolo
  • AGEING: 24 months French oak, 1/2 new and 1/2 used, followed by 18 months in the bottle before release
  • BOOZE: 14.5%
  • CELLAR: Hold. For reals

Where did I get it? Total Wine and More
What's the damage? Premium

Thursday, March 14, 2013

New Brew Thursday: Butternuts Moo Thunder

Butternuts Beer & Ale's Moo Thunder Stout
Garratsville, New York

Review: This is a beautiful dark, malty milk stout. It has a little bit of cocoa on the nose and a smooth, light body on the palate with yummy flavors of chocolate and coffee. While the body isn't a heavy as you would think for a stout, I have to give this beer props for a positively silky texture. The beer finishes dry, with a lingering coffee note.

What is a "milk stout" you may ask? Why is there a flying cow on the beer can? Milk sugars -- lactose -- are added to the beer to give it a smooth texture and a hint of sweetness.

Bottom Line: While some stout purists might find the Moo Thunder a little thin, I really like it. Great malt characteristics and a smooth drink. I dig it.

Beer Geekery:
Where did I get it?  Crystal City Wine Shop
What's the damage?  High Priced, per 6 pack

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bandwagon Chardonnay
Bandwagon Chardonnay 2010
Monterey, California

Review: With softly aromatic notes of golden apple and pineapple, this Chardonnay comes across as clean and crisp. I like how the fruit is complemented by a round mouthfeel. I originally thought the body was from a partial malolactic fermentation (often just called ML – the conversion of sharper malic acid to softer buttery flavored lactic acid). I could have sworn I tasted some dairy notes, but according to the winemaker’s remarks, the wine doesn’t go through any ML. Instead, during stainless steel ageing the wine is left in contact with the lees (fancy wine talk for spent yeast cells).

Food Pairing: This wine would go nicely with seafood – like a fish taco with a spicy, creamy remoulade. Mmm, yummy.

Bottom Line: I really like this Chardonnay. It’s light, but still has body and complexity from the lees ageing, making it more interesting and fun to drink. It’s a touch on the pricey side, but I’d say worth a few extra monies. I dig it. 

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2010
  • PLACE: Monterey Appellation
  • GRAPE: Chardonnay
  • AGEING: Stainless Steel, on the lees
  • BOOZE: 13.9%
  • CELLAR: Drink now or hold for a few years

Where did I get it?  Crystal City Wine Shop
What's the damage?  High Priced

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

di Lenardo Ronco Nolé
di Lenardo Ronco Nolé 2010
Friuli, Italy

Review: This wine is a blend of three grapes: Merlot, Cabernet, and Refosco (an ancient Italian variety I had to look up in Sotheby’s). It has dark and spicy flavors of cooked black cherries, leather, and eucalyptus. Combined with a slight vanilla note from the oak ageing, and silky soft tannins, this wine is definitely a winner.

I didn't know what to expect from a Refosco blend, but I’m very impressed with this little wine.

Food Pairing: This wine is just begging to be paired with a spicy salami or salty prosciutto. 

Bottom Line: This wine is just simply yummy. It’s also a great value, especially given the level of complexity. I dig it.

Wine Geekery: 
  • VINTAGE: 2010
  • PLACE: Friuli, Italy
  • BLEND: 50% Merlot, 25% Refosco, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • AGEING: 12 Months, American oak
  • BOOZE: 13%
  • CELLAR: Drink now or hold for a few years

Where did I get it?  Crystal City Wine Shop
What's the damage? Mid Priced

Monday, March 11, 2013

Domaine Mucyn Vin de Pays

Domaine Mucyn Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes 2010
Rhone Valley, France

Review: This Vin de Pays (fancy French for Table Wine) is from Collines Rhodaninnes – hills in the Northern Rhone Valley. It’s a nontraditional blend of Syrah and Gamay. The Gamay is noticeable right from the start with tones of bright, tart raspberries, moving into fresh red currants and a touch of spice. Overall, the wine has a nice fruit, a light body, and light tannins. 

Food Pairing: I would pair with lighter fare – possibly grilled chicken or pork with a balsamic glaze.

Bottom Line: If you’re looking for something easy drinking and a little different, this is your wine.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2010
  • PLACE: Collines Rhodaniennes PGI (Protected Geographical Indication)
  • GRAPES: 60% Syrah, 40% Gamay
  • SOIL: Granite Slopes
  • BOOZE: 12.5%
  • CELLAR: Drink now

Where did I get it? Crystal City Wine Shop
What's the damage? Mid Priced

Saturday, March 9, 2013

J. Bäumer Riesling
J. Bäumer Riesling 2011
Rheingau, Germany

Review: This off-dry Riesling is a surefire crowd pleaser. The slight sweetness is paired with refreshing acidity and crisp fruit flavors of lemons and tart green apples. The wine has a surprisingly long finish of lingering lemons.

Food Pairing: Traditional pairings of spicy Asian foods would be a good bet – or try it with a nice cheese platter on a picnic. Can you see it? You and your sweetie, a blanket, a beautiful sunny sky, tulips blooming along the Potomac, and a basket of cheeses, charcuterie, and wine... le sigh.

Bottom Line: Nice wine with good fruit character. A good value buy. I dig it.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2011
  • PLACE: QbA Rheingau  (QbA - fancy German for quality wine from a specific region)
  • GRAPE: 100% Riesling
  • BOOZE: 9.0%
  • CELLAR: Drink now, do not hold

Where did I get it? Crystal City Wine Shop
What's the damage? Mid Priced

Thursday, March 7, 2013

New Brew Thursday: Delirium Floris Apple
Delirium Floris Apple
Melle, Belgium 

Review: This Lambic-esque Belgian noses like a cross between an apple cider and a soft pale ale. A touch of sweetness and a slight sour finish are almost rounded out with acidity. Unfortunately, for me it more or less falls flat. One note.

Brought to you by the glorious makers of Tremens and Nocturne, I was expecting a bigger beer – something to sink my teeth into. This just isn’t that. I think I’ll stick with either a sincere Lambic from another brewer or with a classic Pachyderm on Parade.

Bottom Line: Meh. Unless you’re trying to introduce someone to beer for the first time, or want something apple-juicy for a hot day, I wouldn't recommend it.

Beer Geekery:
  • BREWER: Brouwerij Huyghe
  • STYLE: Fruit Beer (Wheat beer brewed with apple juice)
  • PLACE: Melle, Belgium
  • BOOZE: 3.6%

Where did I get it?  Crystal City Wine Shop
What's the damage?   High Priced, per 4 pack

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hope Estate Shiraz
Hope Estate Shiraz 2009
Hunter Valley, Australia
Review: Unlike some of those tired, over jammy, fruity bombs from down under, this Shiraz is elegant with crisp acidity and tones of plums, cocoa, and earth. Twelve months in French oak give this wine a soft yet full body.

I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but Hope's classy label doesn't disappoint. This wine is refined and graceful -- and makes me rethink poopooing Australian wine for so many years!

Food Pairing: This wine would easily be paired with anything from a hearty stew to an elegant leg of lamb.

Bottom Line:  Easy to drink, smooth tannins, good fruit and secondary flavors. A good value buy. I dig it.

Wine Geekery:

  • VINTAGE: 2009
  • PLACE: Hunter Valley Appellation, Estate Grown
  • GRAPE: Shriaz/Syrah
  • AGEING: 12 Months, French Oak
  • BOOZE: 13.5%
  • CELLAR: Drink now or hold for a few years

Where did I get it?  Crystal City Wine Shop

What's the damage?   Mid Priced