Saturday, August 31, 2013

DMZ Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé

DeMorgenzen DMZ Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2013
Western Cape, South Africa

This is the second rosé from South Africa I've had this season. This one is quite a bit more interesting than the last, and I can absolutely see the appeal. That being said, it's just not to my taste.

Review: This rosé of Cabernet is pretty and pink. It's dry, with nice fruity strawberries and watermelon. There are two things, though, that I don't love. The first is that the acidity is really aggressive. Perhaps when paired with some cheeses or something a touch fatty the acidity would seem more in line. The second is a vegetal note. To get a little technical, this flavor is caused by the presence of a compound called pyrazine -- most often caused by under-ripeness in the grapes. Some people really love this "green" flavor, but others see it as a fault. This rosé has some notes of green bell pepper and tomato. I can see how it could appeal to some drinkers, but it's really not my bag.

Pairing: Maybe some fried chicken -- the acidity in the wine would really cut through the grease.

Bottom Line: According to the winemaker, 2013 was a cool vintage. It seems that the grapes just didn't ripen enough for my palate. Assuming 2014 is a hotter year I would consider trying the next vintage.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2013
  • PLACE: Western Cape
  • GRAPE: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • BOOZE: 13%
  • RESIDUAL SUGAR: 3.9 g/l
  • CELLAR: Drink now

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

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Kir-Yianni Akakies Dry Rosé

Kir-Yianni Akakies Dry Rosé 2012
Naoussa, Greece

Greek wines can be intimidating. I don't know about you, but I see names like Robola and Moschofilero and I wander away in search of the French wine section. As I've slowly started to get to know Greek wines I've found that they are interesting, expressive, and worth exploration. This rosé of Xinomavro is a great place to start.

Review: This wine has a beautiful dark pink hue and a nose of ripe strawberries. On the palate this wine is dry, with perfectly bright acidity. It's hugely refreshing with tasty flavors of red fruits and flowers. This would be a great rosé for red wine drinkers -- I think they would be pleased with the intense fruit and smooth texture.

Xinomavro is a dark skinned grape that's widely planted in the northern region of Greece. The Kir-Yianni Akakies rosé is from the specific Amyndeon Appelation in Macedonia (Northwestern Greece). In fact, it is the only Greek Protected Designation of Origin for rosé wines.

This wine gets its rich color from two different processes. About 85% of the juice spends between 12 and 48 hours in contact with the grape skins. The remaining 15% of the juice is bled off (saignée method) from grapes being fermented to make red wine. The resulting blending is just beautiful.

Food Pairing: I paired it with Chinese food, but really anything would do!

Bottom Line: This is a rich and interesting rosé -- the perfect combination of dry and fruit forward. I dig it. Perhaps I would even go so far as to say that Kir-Yianni makes music even more beautifully than Yanni.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2012
  • PLACE: Amyndeon PDO (Protected Designation of Origin)
  • GRAPE: Xinomavro
  • BOOZE: 13%
  • CELLAR: Drink Now

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

Monday, August 26, 2013

Modest Monday - Wines Under $10: Edition Maximilain Rheingau Riesling

Edition Maximilain Rheingau Riesling Spätlese 2011
Rheingau, Germany

I picked up this little wine at Trader Joe's for $8.99. It's a Spätlese Riesling -- a late harvest. That means that the grapes had time to become extra full of sugar on the vine. The resulting wine is usually off-dry to medium sweet. This one is on the somewhere in the middle.

Review: I adore Riesling, but this one isn't high on my list. The Edition Maximilian is medium-dry, with some lemon flavors. Otherwise it falls a bit flat and one note. I wish it had just a touch more acidity to keep it from being flabby.

This is the "second label" of German producer Hans Lang. I may search out his higher end wines - I'm sure it's more balanced and more interesting.

Food Pairing: Something a little spicy.

Bottom Line: A light, semi-sweet wine. Not as expressive or balanced as I would like. Meh. Joe, you can do better.

Wine Geekery:

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

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Domaine Des Nugues "Made by G"

Domaine Des Nugues "Made by G" Sparkling Gamay
I have confession: I am a bit of an Aaron Sorkin nut. Not for nothing, but I think I've seen everything he's ever written. Tonight is an episode of The Newsroom that I've been looking forward to for a while. It's called "The Red Team III" -- so I just had to open up a red. And, of course, "G" is not only for Gamay grapes, but for Operation Genoa. This wine is really quite something. It's almost hard to believe this is a Gamay.  Okay, enough Sorkin-isms (for now). On to the wine! 

**Italics indicate "Sorkin-isms" for my non-Sorkin-obsessed readers** 

Review: The "Made by G" is a sparkling Gamay from France. The wine is a hoot and a half. When I first poured it, the color and size of the bubbles made me think more of Cherry Coke than sparkling wine. On the nose the wine has a hint of lavender and tart raspberries. On the palate, raspberries and red currants shine, but instead of being tart and dry like a typical Gamay, the wine is tart with a hint of sweetness. The tannins are virtually nonexistent making for a light, easy drinking glass of bubbles. 

This Gamay is predominantly grown in the Beaujolais region of France. These wines range from the wackadoo Beaujolais Nouveau (think bananas, bubble gum, figs) to Terroir evoking Cru Beajolias (think intense fruit, earth, great texture). This wine is not given a place, outside of "France", but my best guess is that the grapes are indeed sourced from the Beaujolais region. This wine is made in the traditional Méthode Champenoise, but with one catch -- the wine is emptied from its bottle after the secondary fermentation (where the bubbles are made) and filtered in a large tank. The wine is then put back into bottles under pressure and sent off to market. This process saves in both time and cost -- those savings are then passed on to the consumer. It does take a bit of the romance out of bubbly-making, and account in part for the large size of the bubbles, but in a wine like this I can't say I mind.

Food Pairing: The tiny hint of sweetness makes this wine perfect for an aperitif

Bottom Line: This is a fun wine, full of berries and bubbles, both at the same time. Great from time to time, especially on a hot summer night!

Wine Geekery:

Where did I get it? Planet Wine

What's the damage? Mid Priced (but on the high side)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Muralhas de Monção Vinho Verde

Muralhas de Monção Vinho Verde 2012
Monção, Portugal

Today was a humid and muggy day in DC. When I got home from work all I wanted was something smooth and refreshing. Lucky for me, I had this bad boy chilled in the fridge and ready to go! Vinho Verde hails from northwest Portuguese province of Minho. This "verde" wine isn't green because of the color (which is near water-white), but because of the youthful nature and freshness of the wine. Often these tart wines are accompanied by a slight effervescence - fun (who doesn't like some bubbles in their table wine?)! Vinho Verde can be made of a variety of white Portuguese grapes, including Azal, Loureiro, Trajadura, Avesso, Padernã, and Alvarinho.

Review: The Vinho Verde has a wonderful nose of green apples and lime zest. On the palate this super tart, dry wine expresses more citrus, apricots, and just a hint of mint. The tiny bubbles prick your tongue as you sip. The flavors linger for just a moment, with a slight minerality. I find myself reaching for another taste trying to get just a little bit more of that beautiful mint flavor.

This wine is from the Monção subregion of Vinho Verde - known for high quality wines made predominantly from the Alvarinho grape (also known as Albariño in Spain). These grapes are blended with a small quantity of Trajadura.

Food Pairing: I had it with pan seared flounder and a spicy summer corn salad! Yum.

Bottom Line: Vinho Verde is always a treat for me. This one is a cut above the rest - hugely refreshing with a surprising depth of flavor. I love that mint!

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2012
  • PLACE: Vinho Verde DOC (Denominação de Origem Controlada)
  • GRAPES: Alvarinho and Trajadura
  • BOOZE: 12.5%
  • CELLAR: Drink now

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

Monday, August 19, 2013

Modest Monday - Wines Under $10: Artea Alpes de Haute Provence
Artea Alpes de Haute Provence Rosé 2012
Alpes de Haute Provence, France

Summer is slowly drawing to a close, but I still have so many rosés to drink! I best get to it... A friend suggested I try this bargain priced rosé and I'm quite glad I did.

Review: This rosé is a beautiful soft pink color. It has mild aromas of strawberries and honeysuckle. On the palate it is bone dry, with a light mouthfeel. The wine becomes more expressive with notes of melon, golden plums, and just a touch of lavender. It's very high in acid, making for a refreshing sip. Seriously, this wine tastes like summer.

While I couldn't find too many specifics on the Artea, I can tell you that it is a blend of Grenache and Syrah. It appears to have spent only a short time in contact with the grape skins, leaving only a touch of color.

Food Pairing: A beautiful summer heirloom tomato salad with a light vinaigrette.

Bottom Line: This little wine is surprisingly complex and tasty, especially given the $7 price tag. I dig it.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2012
  • PLACE: Alpes de Haute Provence IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée)
  • GRAPES: Syrah, Grenache
  • BOOZE: 12.5%
  • CELLAR: Drink Now

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

Sunday, August 18, 2013

HaGafen Cuvée de Noirs Sparkling Wine

HaGafen Cellars Cuvée de Noirs Sparkling Wine
Napa, California

I love bubbles. They're simply so festive and happy! If I could, I would drink bubbles every single day. This bottle was given to me and my husband on our wedding day. We waited a bit more than a year and then just had to pop the cork.

Review: The first thing to notice about the HaGafen Cuvée de Noirs is its beautiful salmon pink color and teeny tiny bubbles. The wine is highly aromatic with notes of stone fruit and a touch of biscuit. On the palate, this bubbly is dry with a perfect frothiness. It has a complex set of flavors including peaches, red berries, toast, and orange blossoms. The fruit and bread flavors linger for a nice long finish. So very tasty!

This wine is a blend of 80 percent Pinot Noir and 20 percent Chardonnay. These grapes are sourced from two of HaGafen's vineyards in the mid Napa Valley, the California Soleil and Hall Vineyards, respectively. The high proportion of Pinot gives this wine its brilliant hue.

A little surprise -- this wine is Mevushal Kosher! Given the depth of flavor and complexity in this wine, this was highly unexpected.

Food Pairing: Grilled summer peaches and goat cheese.

Bottom Line: Super tasty. Great flavors and texture. I dig it. The fact that it's Kosher is an added bonus. This would be great to pull out for Rosh Hashana next month.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2007
  • PLACE: Napa Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area)
  • GRAPES: 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay 
  • BOOZE: 12%
  • CELLAR: Drink now or cellar for a few years 

Where did I get it? 'Twas a gift!
What's the damage? Super Premium

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Wente Vineyards Merlot

Wente Vineyards Merlot

Last week I shared my thoughts on Delta's white wine offering from my flight out west. As promised, here's a red from my eastbound trip! As noted, coach domestic flights currently carry wines from California winemaker Wente. I had the pleasure (yes, sarcasm) of drinking their Merlot.

Review: At first blush the Wente Merlot is fairly innocuous. It's relatively smooth with pretty much no noticeable tannin. It has mildly expressive red fruits -- but after a moment it turns tough and stemmy. The fruit is overwhelmed by a vegetal under-ripeness. It has a super short finish, with no lingering fruit flavors.

Food Pairing: How about those little Biscoff cookies... 

Bottom Line:  While more interesting than the Wente Pinot Grigio, I still wouldn't recommend it. In the future I'll be sticking with gin for that extra bit of relaxation in flight. 

Wine Geekery:

Where did I get it?  Delta

What's the damage?   High Price

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bodega Familia Sewell Estado Natural Reserve Malbec

Bodega Familia Sewell Estado Natural Reserve Malbec 2009
La Consulta, Medoza, Argentina

Malbec is quite en vogue these days. Once upon a time it was Merlot, then we saw the age of Shiraz. Now, Malbec is king. This wine reminds me why!

Review: Beautiful! Just beautiful. This wine has strong notes of stewed black cherries, toasty vanilla, and a touch of coffee, chocolate, and earth. It's a 2009 vintage, so it's had time in the bottle to mature -- even after 12 months in oak. The balance of yummy fruit, slightly chewy tannins, and fresh acidity make this wine incredibly food friendly!

This single vineyard reserve Malbec is from the Uco Valley, south of the city of Medoza. According to Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, the Uco Valley is the most exciting part of Mendoza. If this wine is representative of the region I would definitely agree.  

Food Pairing: Steak. Rare!

Bottom Line: I enjoyed this wine quite a lot. Great depth of flavor and texture - highly recommend!

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2009
  • PLACE: Uco Valley
  • GRAPE: Malbec
  • AGEING: 12 months in French and American oak
  • BOOZE: 13.4% 
  • CELLAR: Drink now, hold for a few years

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

Monday, August 12, 2013

Merry Edwards Klopp Ranch Pinot Noir

Merry Edwards Klopp Ranch Pinot Noir 2010
Sebastopol, California

On my trip out West I recently went to Brix, a fantastic pub / wine bar / deli in Sunset Beach, California. I was in the mood for a French Burgundy, but -- being in California -- the wine selection was dominated by California wine. With the help of a kind bartender I selected the Merry Edwards Pinot from Russian River. While it wasn't quite what I was looking for, this wine is a spectacular example of full flavored New World Pinot.

Review: The Merry Edwards Pinot has a rich bouquet of dark red fruit, vanilla, and a touch of herbs. On the palate, the wine sings with cooked cherries, cocoa, and baking spices. The tannins are supple, and add a nice texture.

While Pinot can often be a light ruby, near translucent color, the Merry Edwards is a deep, inky hue. It also has a rounded body, with a medium long fruity finish. 

Food Pairing: This was prefect with a spicy, peppered pastrami sandwich!

Bottom Line: This Pinot was missing the earth and leather I wanted from a Burgundy, but the fruit and spice in this wine made up for it in spades. I dig it.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2010
  • PLACE: Russian River Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area)
  • GRAPE: Pinot Noir
  • BOOZE: 14.2%
  • CELLAR: Drink now or hold for a few years

Where did I get it? Brix
What's the damage? Super Premium Sunset Beach, CA

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Burke's Blazing Barbecue "Old Vine" Zinfandel

Judd’s Hill Burke's Blazing Barbecue "Old Vine" Zinfandel 2011
Lodi, California

I'm out in California spending time my sweetie, so I just had to review one of his favorite wines.

Review: This Zin is fruity and spicy! It has vibrant flavors of ripe plums, black cherries, licorice and black pepper. These notes aren't terribly pronounced on the nose, but really sing on the palate. Some Zinfandels can have a sense of reduced or cooked fruit, but this one is all about the fresh fruit. 

The Lodi AVA, south of Sacramento, experiences a large diurnal temperature swing day to night. This, combined with a warm summer really helped these flavors develop. Super yummy! The ripeness on the fruit also translates to a pretty boozey wine, coming in at nearly 15% alcohol. Luckily this is balanced by soft tannins, fresh acidity, and excellent fruit.

Burke's Blazing Barbecue Zin is named for Pat Burke, the former hospitality manager at Judd's Hill. In addition to being a wine lover, Pat is also an award winning barbecue champion! 

Food Pairing: As the name suggests, barbecue is a sure winner with this Zinfandel. The spice, fruit, and acidity in the wine will compliment your favorite sweet, savory, or smokey meats. 

Bottom Line: Full of flavor, easy to drink. I dig it.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2011
  • PLACE: Lodi AVA (American Viticultural Area)
  • GRAPE: Zinfandel
  • BOOZE: 14.8%
  • CELLAR: Drink now or hold for a few years

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

Friday, August 9, 2013

Wente Vineyards Pinot Grigio

Wente Vineyards Pinot Grigio

Have you ever wondered about the wine served on an airplane? Is it good? Bad? Just palatable enough to help the time go by (and drown out screaming children)? On my flight yesterday from DC to California I decided to find out. Coach domestic flights on Delta currently carry wines from California winemaker Wente -- I gave their Pinot Grigio the old college try.

Review: While all Pinot Grigio tends to be light bodied, it can run the gamut from full flavored to water-like. The Wente is essentially boozey lemon water -- crazy light body, with a minor note of lemon pulp and minerals. The light flavors were more or less what I expected from a non-vintage, non-geographically specific wine, but I was hoping for a better overall taste. I didn't particularly care for the Wente's finish -- the wine was fine mid-palate, but turned really harsh at the end.

Food Pairing: The Pinot Grigio has a nice acidity making it an okay pair to Delta's fruit and cheese plate.

Bottom Line:  This little 187mL bottle ran me $7 in flight -- based on my by the glass pricing this qualifies as High Priced. Under normal circumstances, this wine definitely isn't worth $7. But airplane rides are not normal, and sometimes this frequent flier needs a little something to dull the experience. On my way back east I'm going to try a red and see how it compares. Stay tuned!

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: Non Vintage
  • PLACE: California
  • GRAPE: Pinot Grigio
  • BOOZE: 13%
  • CELLAR: Drink now

Where did I get it?  Delta

What's the damage?   High Price

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bodega Chakana Maipe Malbec Rosé

Bodega Chakana Maipe Malbec Rosé 2013
Mendoza, Argentina

I don't know about you, but when I think Malbec, I don't think rosé. After trying this wine, though, my eyes are open to new possibilities.

Review: I love the deep, dark cherry flavor you often get in a Malbec. In this rosé of Malbec we get beautiful sour cherries and violets instead! The grape juice spends only one single day in contact with the skins, allowing the extraction of the light flavors and bright pink hue. It's a dry rosé -- hooray -- with bright (but not too aggressive) acidity. All in all, this wine is light, fresh, and easy to drink.

Food Pairing: A light salad. Or a spicy pizza. Or... anything, really.

Bottom Line: This rosé is all about the fruit. I can easily see drinking this wine on the porch on a hot day -- and plan to with the rest of my bottle! I dig it.

Wine Geekery:

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

Monday, August 5, 2013

Modest Monday - Wines Under $10: Pacific Rim Dry Riesling
Pacific Rim Dry Riesling
Columbia Valley - Oregon and Washington

I rarely stray from German or Alsatian Rieslings, but this cheap little wine caught my eye in the store. It has a dragon on it! A dragon, I say!

Review: For $8 Riesling, this isn't bad. As the name suggests, it's perfectly dry. It has a surprisingly full body (apparently from lees ageing), with notes of lime and white flowers. The wine also has a light minerality, reminiscent of a Mosel Riesling.

The Pacific Rim is fine, but not the greatest. I would prefer it if the acidity weren't quite so aggressive, though it does help the wine to maintain its brightness. My biggest beef is the short fruit finish -- I'm left with a little  a funny metallic aftertaste.

Food Pairing: The producer suggests Asian food, and I agree. This would be a good pair with some fresh sushi fishes. 

Bottom Line:  Not too shabby.

Wine Geekery:
  • VINTAGE: 2011
  • PLACE: Columbia Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area)
  • GRAPE: Riesling 
  • BOOZE: 12.5%
  • CELLAR: Drink now

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