Sunday, April 28, 2013

Broadbent 10 Year Malmsey Madeira

Broadbent 10 Year Malmsey Madeira
Madeira, Portugal
I HEARTS Madeira. I was introduced to it last fall during wine school and now I just can't get enough. In fact in just a few hours the husband and I will be heading off on a European jaunt including the island of Madeira. Located some 700 km off the coast of Morocco, Madeira produces amazing fortified wines of the same name.

There are a few distinct styles of Madeira -- this one is a Malmsey. It's vinified from Malvasia grapes and made to be the sweetest type of Madeira. The fermentation process is interrupted with the addition of a neutral grape spirit (think Brandy, but it doesn't taste like anything - just booze). This brings the alcohol level up to 19% and leaves a bit of unfermented sugars. The wine is then stored and allowed to heat up. Yup, heat. This replicates the conditions the wine would have experienced way back in the day when it was shipped across the Atlantic to the New World.

Review: The result is delectable. The wine is a deep amber color and has aromas of toasted almonds. On the palate, the wine has deep flavors of dried apricots and honey. Along with the sweetness, this Madeira retains a high level of acid, keeping it refreshing instead of cloying. Overall, it has a full body and a lingering finish. Divine.

Food Pairing: This wine would be great with dessert -- just make sure your wine is sweeter than your food. Perhaps a flour-less chocolate torte?

Bottom Line: I could drink this every day. One of the best parts of Madeira is that you can open a bottle and it will keep for YEARS. I've been slowly working through this one for about 5 months now. If anything, it's even better than when  I first opened it.

Wine Geekery:
  • PLACE: Madeira
  • GRAPE: Malmsey/Malvasia 
  • AGEING: 10 years
  • BOOZE: 19.0%
  • CELLAR: Drink now or age for 25 years

Where did I get it? At wine event some months ago -- is it bad that I can't remember which one?
What's the damage? High Priced

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hunt Cellars "Inspiration" Syrah

Hunt Cellars "Inspiration" Outlaw Ridge Vineyard Syrah 2003
Paso Robles, California
Le sigh. I hate it when good wine goes bad. This 2003 Syrah was given to me as a wedding gift (thanks Steve and Claudia!) back in 2011. I was holding it for a special occasion and apparently waited just a little too long.

Review: This Syrah received 84 points from Wine Enthusiast back in 2008. They spoke of rich plum and cassis. Now, 5 years later, all of the fruit character has fallen from the wine. It's just flat, leaving some oak and spice but nothing particularly yummy. The wine hasn't oxidized or spoiled, it has just lost all of its interesting fruit flavor. It has passed its prime. **sad face**

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2003
  • PLACE: Paso Robles AVA (American Viticultural Area)
  • GRAPE: Syrah
  • AGEING: 24 months in oak
  • BOOZE: 14.1%
  • CELLAR: Oops.

Where did I get it? 'Twas a gift!
What's the damage? This vintage is not currently available from the wine maker, so I can't say.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Domaine Georg Rafael "Pour Rosie" Chardonnay

Domaine Georg Rafael "Pour Rosie" Chardonnay 2011
Napa Valley, California

The first thing I noticed about this wine was the label, with its small handwritten note by wine maker Marc Rafael. It tells the take of an un-oaked Chardonnay named for his mother Rosie. It's certainly a wine worthy of honoring one's mother -- smooth as silk and full of fruit.

Review: The wine starts with a nose of pears and melons. On the pallet, the fruit shines through with notes of briney olive and mineral. This wine see no oak, but does spend time on the lees (fancy way to say spent yeast cells). This time gives the wine a softness and full body. Oh so nice.

Food Pairing: This wine has enough acidity to cut through something creamy and fatty, but I think I would put it with something leaner -- like chicken or a roast pork loin.

Bottom Line: Beautiful, crisp, fruit forward, full bodied Chardonnay. I dig it .

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2011
  • PLACE: Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area)
  • GRAPE: Chardonnay
  • AGEING: 9 months on the lees (spent yeast cells)
  • PRODUCTION: 200 Cases
  • BOOZE: 13.4%
  • CELLAR: Drink now or age for up to 5 years

Where did I get it? From a kind, like minded friend!
What's the damage? High Priced

Monday, April 22, 2013

Modest Monday - Wines Under $10: Barefoot Sweet Red

Barefoot Sweet Red

Someone's mother once said "If you're not going to say anything nice, don't say anything at all." It wasn't my mother, but someone's... So, I'll keep this short.

Review: This wine is sweet. There's some sort of raspberry flavor, but it hits really funny on the palate, sort of like cough syrup. The finish is strangely spicy and just a touch bitter. I got a chuckle out of the bottle -- they call the wine "delicious" not once, but twice! Just to make sure you know.

Barefoot is a subsidiary of E&J Gallo, just like last week's Apothic Red, who seem to specialize in uncomplicated wines with mass appeal. The Barefoot website tells the story of wanting to create a brand of wine that didn't take itself too seriously. I can understand that. I've enjoyed many a wine that have been simple and easy drinking. Despite its "delicious" labeling, I can't say I enjoyed this

Pairing: A hangover.

Bottom Line: Don't do it. Really.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: Non Vintage
  • PLACE: California
  • GRAPES: Not indicated
  • BOOZE: 10.5%
  • CELLAR: Are you kidding?

Where did I get it? Giant
What's the damage? Low Price

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Benziger Chardonnay - Certified Sustainable

Benziger Family Winery Chardonnay 2010
Graton, California
Review: This is a lovely medium body Chardonnay. It comes from the cooler Carneros region of the Napa Valley, which allows the grapes to ripen slowly, developing flavors of ripe pears, lemons and white flowers. This wine also sees six months of oak ageing, resulting in a balanced, fruit forward style with just a touch of oak. 

The Benziger Family Winery practices green farming and biodynamic techniques and meets the requirements for this wine to be labeled as a "certified sustainable" wine.

Food Pairing: This wine will go perfectly with a roast chicken. Since today was delightfully cool I don't mind running the oven. A nice chicken roasted with lemon and herbs is in my near future. Yummy. 

Bottom Line: I enjoyed this Chard. Good fruit, not overwhelmingly oakey. Nice balance. I dig it .

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2010
  • PLACE: Carneros AVA (American Viticultural Area), Certified Sustainable
  • GRAPE: Chardonnay
  • AGEING: 6 months in oak
  • BOOZE: 13.6%
  • CELLAR: Drink now or hold for a few years

Where did I get it? Crystal City Wine Shop
What's the damage? High Priced (but only just barely)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

New Brew Thursday: Abita Strawberry Harvest Larger

Abita Brewing Company Strawberry Harvest Lager
Abita Springs, Louisiana

Review: This beer is brewed like a traditional lager and then finished with fresh Louisiana strawberry juice. The result is decidedly light and fruity!  You get the fruit up front, and then it just finishes nice and smooth.  There really isn't too much to say about this beer -- it's just super quaffable.

Abita has a special place in my heart after spending four years in New Orleans -- Go Green Wave! -- so I always keep an eye out for their brews. This one did not disappoint. I could see myself knocking one back one hot sultry Louisana eve...

Bottom Line: Similar to the Son of a Peach, this beer would be great at a barbecue on a hot day. Overall, though, I think I prefer the flavor profile of the Abita. It's just a touch smoother.

Beer Geekery:
  • BREWER: Abita Bewing Company
  • STYLE: Fruit Beer
  • PLACE: Abita Springs, Louisiana
  • BOOZE: 4.2%
  • IBU's: 13

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Judd's Hill Lodi Petite Sirah

Judd’s Hill Lodi "Old Vine" Petite Sirah 2008
Lodi, California

Review: There's nothing petite about this Petite Sirah -- super bold and spicy! With grapes hailing from Lodi, California in the Central Valley (south of Sacramento), Napa Valley boutique vintner Judd's Hill makes another palate pleaser. 

In the US "Old Vine" is not a legally regulated descriptor, but will typically refer to vines of at least 25 years of age. Older, well established vines bear less fruit, but generate more concentrated flavors. You can often see evidence of the quantity vs. quality trade-off in the bottle. 

This wine has so much going on. On the nose you get dark cherries and plums. On the palate, the fruit is transformed by flavors of spicy black pepper, clove, and toasty oak. There's also a bit of a mossy undergrowth note that I find intriguing.  The wine is very well balanced, but at 14.5% alcohol, it runs pretty darn hot!

Food Pairing: This spicy wine deserves some spicy food! I'm thinking some Thai curry. 

Bottom Line: Good fruit, interesting spices. I dig it.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2008
  • PLACE: Lodi AVA (American Viticultural Area)
  • GRAPE: Petite Sirah
  • BOOZE: 14.5%
  • CELLAR: Drink now

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

Monday, April 15, 2013

Modest Monday - Wines Under $10: Apothic Red
Apothic Red 2010

I'm sure you've seen this little gem in the grocery store. I picked it up at Target for a whopping $8.99. The Apothic Red "winemaker's blend" is a combination of four grapes: Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Note that there is no regional designation for the wine -- that means these grapes can be sourced from anywhere within the great state of California.

Review: This wine has nice flavors of cooked dark cherries, cocoa, and black pepper. Given the grape blend, this wine has surprisingly light body and tannins. While this leaves me wanting a more interesting texture, the wine is quite drinkable. In order to garner a broad appeal, the Apothic Red is vinified leaving a bit of residual sugar. Apothic is a produced by the wine giant E&J Gallo -- think Barefoot and Turning Leaf. Many of their wines are made in this style, of off dry to medium sweet.

Food Pairing: I had it with some spicy fajitas! 

Bottom Line: Nice fruit, nice spice and easy to drink. Not terribly interesting and sweeter than I like my table wine, but if someone handed me a glass I would smile and drink it.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2010
  • PLACE: California
  • GRAPES: Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
  • BOOZE: 13%
  • CELLAR: Drink now

Where did I get it? Target
What's the damage? Low Price

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bodegas Carrau Tannat

Bodegas Carrau Tannat de Reserva 2010
Montevideo, Uruguay

Tannat is to Uruguay, what Malbec is to Argentina. Both are native French grapes which now serve as the flagship export grapes for these South American countries. The next time you see a Tannat in the store or on a wine list think about giving it a go!

Review: This dry, medium bodied Tannat has a dark purple hue and intense fruit flavors of plums and blackberries. The wine spends 18 months in French oak, contributing aromas of cedar and spice. The oak ageing also allows the tannins some times to mellow, giving nice smooth textures.

Food Pairing: A juicy steak or burger. Cook down some mushrooms and garlic in the wine, too, making a nice accompaniment.

Bottom Line: Good fruit, soft tannins. A good value buy. I dig it.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2010
  • PLACE: Las Violetas, Uraguay
  • GRAPE: Tannat
  • AGEING: 18 months in 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

Thursday, April 11, 2013

New Brew Thursday: Breckenridge Vanilla Porter
Breckenridge Brewery Vanilla Porter
Denver, Colorado

Review: Unlike yesterday, tonight isn't as hot as balls -- huzzah! In light of a cool, comfortable evening decided to pull out a beer with a bit more heft: Breckenridge's Vanilla Porter.

Chocolate and vanilla from start to finish, this beer has an amazingly strong vanilla and malt character. In fact, it's brewed vanilla beans from Paupau New Guinea and Madagascar. In addition to the flavor profile, I really like the weight of this porter -- it just sits perfectly on the palate.

Bottom Line: Great beer, perfect for a cool spring night or a cold winter day. I would pair this easily with a nice chewy steak or a burger.

Beer Geekery:
  • BREWER: Breckenridge Brewery
  • STYLE: Porter
  • PLACE: Denver, Colorado
  • BOOZE: 4.7%
  • IBU's: 16

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mas de Cadenet Rosé

Mas de Cadenet Sainte-Victoire Rosé 2012
Provence, France

I love rosé. Love. The second the temperature gets above seventy degrees, it's all I want! Please don't confuse rosé wines with blush wines, though. Rosé wines, particularly those from Provence, tend to be bone dry, with beautiful long lasting fruit flavors. I once had a wine school instructor refer to rosé  as the Gatorade of Southern France. Oh so refreshing. Blush wines are... not. Think White Zinfandel -- sweet, one note, kind of icky.

Review: This rosé is positively amazing. It's deliciously dry and refreshing, with intense flavors of strawberries, raspberries, and lavender. The fruit lingers on your palate, providing a long finish.

This wine is a blend of three grapes: Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah. The pink color comes from the "saignée" method. When the grapes are pressed, the early juice that has experienced only a short period of skin contact (the skin is where all of the color is) is drawn off, or "bled", and vinified separately. The result is this pretty pink and salmon colored wine with very little tannin.

Food Pairing: This wine would go perfectly with a light meal of grilled chicken or fish. Or, just kick back with a glass on your porch after a long day and watch the sun go down. 

Bottom Line: I really enjoyed this wine -- dry, fruity, refreshing. I dig it.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2012
  • PLACE: Appellation Cotes de Provence Sainte Victoire
  • GRAPES: 40% Grenache, 40% Cinsault, 20% Syrah
  • BOOZE: 13%
  • CELLAR: Drink Now

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

Monday, April 8, 2013

Modest Monday - Wines Under $10: Floriana Grüner Veltliner

Vintage Update: 2015
Tasted 10/24/16

At the urging of a reader, I decided to revisit this little Grüner. I have to say I was impressed! The wine was still mild, but with a soft citrus that I rather enjoyed. No, it's not concentrated or complex, but it was bright, fresh, and easy. Simple, but pleasantly so -- and only $5.99.

Floriana Grüner Veltliner 2011
Tolna, Hungary

Grüner Veltliner is a white grape primarily grown in Austria. This cheap buy came to me (via Trader Joe's) from Hungary.

Review: This wine is not terribly aromatic or flavorful -- I was able to discern some notes of lemon but that's about it. All in all, it's pretty watery with a light body. I found myself wishing there was a touch of residual sugar to balance out the high level of acidity. It's just not very interesting. Or a very good example of how yummy Grüner Veltliner can be.

Food Pairing: Some light fare, perhaps something salty and snacky? Just nothing spicy, or else the acidity will be overwhelming. Best yet, add some fruit, sugar, and brandy and make yourself a little sangria.

Bottom Line: For a $6 bottle of wine, not awful. Would I buy it again? Nope.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2011
  • PLACE: Tolna PDO (Protected Designation of Origin)
  • GRAPE: Grüner Veltliner
  • BOOZE: 12%
  • CELLAR: Drink now

Where did I get it? Trader Joe's
What's the damage? Low Price

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Finca San Blas Blanco

Finca San Blas Blanco 2011
Valencia, Spain
Review: This wine is an interesting one with a nice, full body. It's a blend of three grapes: Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Merseguera -- a Spanish variety widely planted around Valencia. The result is a dry wine with flavors of ripe green apples, white flowers, almonds and toast. The grapes are each vinified separately, with the Chardonnay spending three months in French oak. The wine is well balanced, with high acidity making it not only food friendly, but also great for warmer weather.

Food Pairing: Seafood all the way. The wine has briny note that just begs for a light, flaky white fish. 

Bottom Line: I liked this wine. It was nicely balanced and had some interesting flavors. I would have preferred it to have been just a tad less oak, but overall it was nice.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2011
  • PLACE: Utiel Requena DO (Denominación de Origen)
  • GRAPE: 40% Merseguera, 30% Chenin Blanc, 30% Chardonnay
  • AGEING: Chardonnay is aged 3 months in French oak
  • BOOZE: 13%
  • CELLAR: Drink now or hold for up to two years

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

Thursday, April 4, 2013

New Brew Thursday: RJ Rockers Son of a Peach

RJ Rockers Brewing Company Son of a Peach
Spartanburg, South Carolina

Review: Holy fuzzy peaches, Batman! Right off the bat this beer gives you a huge hit of peaches on the nose. On the palate it's lightly fruity with lots and lots of bubbles -- boldly effervescent I would even say. For me, though, the peaches drop off really quickly, giving the Son of a Peach a quick finish.

After getting past the initial fruit, this drinks like a basic wheat ale. I really wanted the fruit flavors to linger. I expect it would be more pleasing with food, probably good at a barbecue where the bubbles would help cut through a juicy burger or some ribs.

Bottom Line: I liked this beer well enough, but unless I was grilling out with folks, I wouldn't seek it out. I have to give props to RJ Rockers for this brilliant name, though. Go ahead, say it out loud. SON OF A PEACH! Wasn't that fun?

Beer Geekery:
  • BREWER: RJ Rockers Brewing Company
  • STYLE: Fruit Beer, wheat ale brewed with peaches and added flavor
  • PLACE: Spartanburg, South Carolina
  • BOOZE: 5.8%

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

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Don Guillermo Pinot Noir

Don Guillermo de Mendoza Pinot Noir 2012
Mendoza, Argentina

Today is the last day of Passover -- let's talk Kosher wine. There really are some good, high quality producers of Kosher wine out there. Even though sweet red kiddush, or holy, wine was traditionally produced in the eastern Mediterranean, modern Kosher wines are not all that sickly sweet stuff your Zayde would chill down in the freezer before dinner.

Review: So, what about this Argentine Pinot Noir? It's not half bad. With surprisingly dark ruby color, the wine has mild aromas of cherries and violets. On the palate, it's bone dry and pretty thin, without much tannic structure. This isn't surprising as the wine is Mevushal. Any chance this wine had at being nuanced or complex has been boiled away. All in all, the wine falls a bit flat. That being said, though, there are no real faults. The fruit is not under ripe, the wine is not out of balance, it doesn't taste bad -- it's just not interesting.

Food Pairing: So, it's no secret I'm a bad Jew. I paired this Pinot with some pork sausage and roasted squash. Oops. Don't tell my Bubbe... 

Bottom Line: If I needed to bring something red to a party where people were observant of Kosher rules (or to next year's Seder) I would feel comfortable bringing this. Would I buy it again to drink on a Tuesday night in my apartment? Nope.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2012
  • PLACE: Mendoza
  • GRAPE: Pinot Noir
  • BOOZE: 14%
  • CELLAR: Drink Now -- this will NOT age well
Where did I get it? Crystal City Wine Shop
What's the damage? Mid Priced

Monday, April 1, 2013

Jesús Díaz Tempranillo

Jesús Díaz Joven Tempranillo 2011

Madrid, Spain

Since yesterday was Easter I just had to open up a wine from Spanish producer Jesús Díaz. Possibly not very politically correct, but it made me chuckle.

Review: Well, the wine is certainly no laughing matter. This Tempranillo is just chalk full of fruit flavors -- intense plums, cherries, and black berries. Since this wine is done in the "joven" style, where it sees little or no oak ageing, the wine doesn't have those leather, licorice, or vanilla flavors you might expect. Instead, the fresh fruit lingers on the palate with just a bit of cocoa. Overall, it has a nice medium body and good juicy fruit. At a medium price point, I thought this was a good value buy, too!

Food Pairing: Maybe it's because spring is very nearly here, but I thought this Tempranillo would be fabulous with nice, saucy barbecue. If it's still too chilly out, though, a steak under the broiler would be a fine substitute. With Worcestershire sauce. And a touch of horseradish.

Bottom Line: I really enjoyed this wine. Nothing too complex -- just fruit forward goodness. I dig it.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2011
  • PLACE: Vinos de Madrid DO (Denominación de Origen) -- Madrid Designation of Origin
  • GRAPE: 100% Tempranillo
  • AGEING: Joven (no ageing)
  • BOOZE: 14%
  • CELLAR: Drink now

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