30 September, 2009

Can you DRINK white after Labor Day?

Now we all know that wearing white post labor day is verboten, but is it cool to DRINK white after the first Monday in September?

Fear not, kids! I bought off the "wine-style" police and they're turning their eyes the other way, so drink up!....but just WHAT should we drink while we're on the run???

When it's about a zillion degrees in August, there's not much better to me than a California or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or an Albariño from Rias Baixas Spain right out of the chiller to quench the thirst and cool the burn. ..and when the temps thankfully turn south, it's nice to turn to other varietals that perhaps offer alternatives to the crisp, cooling whites of summer with their wider body, fuller fruit and more robust character.

Rather than focusing more frequently on refreshing, let's try and tempt the fate of the fruits originally from Burgundy in Chardonnay, Rhone in Rousanne, Viognier, Marsanne among many, from Navarra in Grenache Blanc and perhaps from Mendoza Argentina, Torrontes.

With the holidays quickly approaching, a "bigger and bolder" white is often in order and these are the source of the flavors of fall when meals turn richer, warmer, deeper.

For Chardonnay, I'm finding myself going for newer California styled offerings. These are much more like the California wines of the mid-80s before malolactic fermentation and over oaking became the "thing". Try and find a smaller craft winery focusing on organic or biodynamic production.

Torrontes is a great varietal with super flavor. Fresh, citrus, but not sharp or piercing, at all. It's a super choice with richer fish such as halibut, shark or swordfish...and there are some super bargains out there. You can easily find great quality from Argentina for around $10.

The Rhone varietals are the most elegant of the group, but are also quite approachable. They sometimes do cost a bit more, but are still very reasonable and definitely within our price point. Rousanne is more often than not blended with Marsanne so, you'll likely have more success finding a blend than a single varietal. Viognier, on the other hand, if often found as a single varietal and is very drinkable and easy on the wallet. It's a bit crisper than the '-ANNEs, but should not be disregarded when thinking about cooler weather. I really enjoy Viognier paired with roasted fowl, particularly duck. Delicious. 

Finally, there are some opposing ideas to this, but Grenache Blanc is now thought of originating from Spain as a genetic mutation of Garnacha, and is found mainly along the regions of the Pyranees, such as Navarra. It's super if you can find it and is now widely grown in the US as well as other New World regions. A good example of Grenache Blanc provides a full, wide mouthfeel and is a flavorful experience. It's a great complement to fresh cuts of pork and also with spanish beans and lentils as well as Paella.

So, while the mercury has headed south, your white wine efforts need not be shelfed. Get out there and drink some white after labor day. Focusing on the varietals mentioned here, you'll have a rich experience.

(For specific recommendations, please click on the keyword search terms on the right side of the page)

25 September, 2009

Taste test of Soiree with 2007 Quivara Grenache (video)

We had the chance to chat with Andrew Lazorchak of Soiree, and compare a single bottle of wine without, then with the Soiree bottle top wine aerator. Our thanks to Kevin Cronin and Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar in Santa Rosa, CA

Soiree Wine Aerator Taste Test w/ 2007 Quivira Dry Creek Valley Grenache from C. Jason Mancebo on Vimeo.

24 September, 2009

2007 Line 39 Lake County Petit Sirah

Here at the 20dollarwineblog.com, one of the main goals of this blog is to help our readers improve their wine experience and every once and a while we run across something that makes it easy to do just that....and we say WOW!

Recently, at this year's wine blogger's conference in Sonoma County we had the opportunity to participate in what many of us termed "speed dating", that is, several wineries presented to apporximately 10 bloggers at a table. Each winery had 5-6 minutes to present their wine and then some, but not all of the audience actually "live blogged" about the wine. At the 6 minute mark, each winery moved to the next table. One of the best times I've ever had with wine.

..and along the way, in one of those speed dates, I met Roy Cecchetti and Kathy Whaley, and they presented his Line 39 2007 Lake County Petit Sirah. Here (the original post) was what I originally blogged LIVE at the event:

"Line39 2007 Petit Sirah - Lake County --
Very nice spicy tannic PS, with very nice structure
Excellent value"

It was quick and to the point, but I knew off the bat that this was not a typical bottle of P. Sirah let alone from Lake County, an appellation that contains 5 AVAs. This appellation's got great, clear air, super volcanic and loamy soils with valleys that contain alluvial flows and benches to create varied and well drained soils for vine , but in the past has been known more for bulk and 2nd label wines for larger wineries. I don't know if that will continue, but I suspect that this wine is an example of quality wine standing proud of it's heritage in a lesser-known appellation.

Now, it should be said that Line 39 is produced by Cecchetti-Racke, a large producer and importer that will sell more than 100K cases of wine this year....and that they've created a brand focused on the appellation that is Lake County. Very cool!

Now, about that WOW...yeah. Well, I have to say, it's the stuff that makes changes the minds of non-believers...no, not the Atheist kind, the "If I don't spend at least 30 bucks, it's can't be GREAT" kind of naysayer.

Roy's made a Petit Sirah that is wide and soft with a lively mouthfeel that's gentle and robust at the same time. It's balanced, fruitful, acidic with moderated tannin. A very pleasant nose of raisins, black cherries and dried plums (when I was a kid, they called these prunes) and the front continues with the black fruit notes. It finishes wide and smooth with no discernible bite.

So, yes. WOW! Believe it or not, Roy Cecchetti has figured out a way to retail this quality bottle of wine for around $15. And at that price, I suggest you buy several bottles and try Petite Sirah with several different meals. Pizza, burgers, chicken, pork... all would be complemented, and nicely. Excellent value, as stated before.

2007 Line 39 Lake County Petite Sirah
Retail: $15
Grade: A+

21 September, 2009

Harvest 2009 - Pickin' Zin @ Lencioni Vineyards (video)

I was lucky enough to be invited by Fred Ginn of Lencioni Vineyards, to come up and shoot a bit a couple weeks ago when he was hand harvesting several acres of dry farmed Zinfandel fruit in the Dry Creek Valley. Here's a quick video.....Enjoy the view!

16 September, 2009

2006 D'Argenzio Winery Sonoma County Chardonnay - Wine Blogging Wednesday #61 -- Old Skool Chardonnay from Humble, Local Roots.

It's WBW #61 and all the world (at least the wine blogging world..and is there really more than that?) is abuzz about today's theme blog, titled "At the Source." The plan for bloggers participating was to visit a winery, taste their wine, and blog about it. Bonus points if you taste with the winemaker or vineyard manager." Lenn Thompson of Lenndevours is the theme master for this month and his idea was to get people local and...at the source.

We're extereeeemly lucky to live within a 2-3 hour drive of several great wine growing regions in California. Paso Robles is 3 hours to the south, Murphys and FairPlay are 2-3 hours to the east, it's quite wet just 2 mins west, but 90 mins to the North is Santa Rosa in the heart of the Sonoma. The source is close and we're certainly appreciative of that.....every weekend!

We met Ray D'Argenzio the proprietor and winemaker of D'Argenzio Winery about two months ago while dining at a Santa Rosa restaurant and immediately I was interested in his craft. Ray produces very small lots (some less than 100 cases) of some interesting varietals and sources all his fruit from very local vineyards. I believe all his fruit is from Sonoma or Mendocino, the vast majority from Russian River Valley. This is LOCAL! I'm guessing that nearly all the fruit for Ray's wine is grown within 25 miles of the winery.

Recently, we stopped by and visited with Ray at his winery in Santa Rosa, and tasted several of his wines. While all were enjoyable, many are not in the "about $20 dollar" price point that we focus on and of those that are, I was drawn to this Chardonnay. Now, I'm really not a Chardonnay person, especially from here in CA, my home state. I think we've (and by we, I mean the statewide we, that is the large winemakers who sell the crack they call Chardonnay) gone WAY too far in stylizing something. We use heavy oak, overuse malolactic acid in fermentation in the attempt to create wines that follow the pack. My grandfather often told me "Just because they make it, it doesn't mean it's good, and just because you CAN, doesn't mean you should."

Perhaps Ray's father told him that as well?!

This Chardonnay will never be confused or mistaken for a White Burgundy, but it's certainly not a recent typical California style coming out of those folks on the Silverado Trail. It's balanced, pleasant at a reasonable temperature and a very relaxed wine.

The nose it quite pleasant and filled with herbs and citrus. The front end provides enough acid and green apple to ensure you don't confuse it with others and it's broad mid-palate finishes long and true with nutty and bready goodness. While Ray did use ML on this wine, he did so with a very restrained hand. I certainly don't mind the ML used here, in fact, in reminded me of several great vintages in the mid-late 1980s that we superior, balanced and delivered something new. I suspect this is a return to a recent past of California styled Chardonnays.

I'd love to have this with aged Gouda cheese, or a lobster roll on a summer's day here at the beach.

2006 D'Argenzio Winery Sonoma County Chardonnay
Grade: B+
Retail: ~$19 (available on the winery's website)

05 September, 2009

Grillin' w/ Portugese Vinho Branco Ribetejano for WBW# 60 (video)

So, there's was grillin' to be done on a warm day getting ready for WBW #60 . @sonadora was the hostess for this month's version and she set the theme as Zin and Grill. So, we did.

The full blog entry is here if you're interested.

Here's how we do it, coastside style...

20dollarwineblog.com - Chicken for WBW #60 from C. Jason Mancebo on Vimeo.

04 September, 2009

2007 A to Z Oregon Pinot Gris


I love summer and the bounties of summer....well, I love living where it's not hot in Summer. No more than 70 degrees and I'm happy. Fog is good. On the other hand, stonefruit needs heat, and lots of it. There's not much better than a ripe white nectarine or peach that's been soaking up the sun and engaging in lots of photsynthesis. Mystical.

Wine grapes are also fully engaged in photosynthesis, even more so after Veraison. More incredible are the flavors of fruit that develop during fermentation. In this case, stonefruit.

Now, while it's not typically hot here in Half Moon Bay, It's frequently warm enough to mandate outdoor grilling and white wine. Just was the case when I decided to open this bottle of the 2007 A to Z Oregon Pinot Gris to pair with a spinach and goat cheese salad with grilled white nectarines and spicy shrimp. Sweeeeeet, well, not dessert wine sweet, nor even high residual sugar sweet, but fruit galore!

Grilled stonefruit is something to behold. Not much better than that with some baby spinach and almonds with Laura Chenel chevre.

So, let's deal with some confusion here before we go much further (or is that farther?). Pinot Gris vs. Pinot Grigio. It's the same, but different, that is, the same grape varietal, but quite different in style and taste. That is, in Italy, and around the world, when winemakers craft Pinot Grigio, their aim, stylistically, is a lean, crisp, refreshing wine that's light in color. Conversly, Pinot Gris is crafted with a much more medium body, carries a richer color and consequently brings many more flavors and more character to the party. So, same grape varietal, with different grape clones, (different clones carry different local and regional characteristics) but a different goal as the final style produces a very different result.

So, now that we're straightened out Gris v Grigio, let's talk more about this bottle of wine.

The yellow gold tone is initially striking. It's rich and conveys a bit of both mystery and substance. The nose is quite dissimilar to the color, in acutality. Interestingly, it's quite forward with mineral and shale, with light citrus notes. The first taste presents an even more interesting treat to the palate in meyer lemon and zest. After leaving this to rest for several minutes things changed significantly.

The nose now brought the peach and pear notes and tasting now, especially with the grilled nectarines and shrimp was delightful. The stonefruit in the salad was ultimately enhanced by the stonefruit in the glass, and vice-versa. It's big, bold and rich in nectarines supported by peaches. Now, please don't worry that there's not enough acid to support the richness. There certainly is! A to Z Wineworks brought 16 lots of grapes from varying appellations and completely different parts of the state together for this. From the Willamette Valley, far cooler growing conditions to help with acid and from Southern Oregon near the Umpqua and Rogue Valleys, for richer, more developed fruit.

Now, I'm not one for tasting sheets by winemakers for anything other than technical information, typically, but in this case it's spot on when it they say "The length of the wine is spectacular...." It certainly is and that leads for a very pleasant wide and deep mouthfeel for a very crisp wine.

So, the next time it's warm and you're interested in something other than a burger or steak, please grill some stonefruit and perhaps pair it with this Pinot Gris that will complement and support chicken and fish on the grill. This wine is widely available both in grocery stores in states where wine is sold, as well as your LWS.

2007 A to Z Wineworks Oregon Pinot Gris
Retail: $13
Grade: B+

03 September, 2009

2007 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir Rose

I recently saw a post asking why we (I'm inferring the author was addressing those of us in the U.S.A.) have a less than enthusiastic view of Rose. It brought me back to the first time I seriously bought a bottle of wine many years ago. I was searching for something that someone who didn't really know wine would enjoy and it was for our first date.

It was a Pinot Noir Blanc and thinking about that really made me notice how much the question about Rose was poignant. That is, if we'll drink Pinot Noir Blanc, but we may not drink the same wine if it's labeled Rose of Pinot Noir, then we're certainly shorting ourselves...and why?

I suspect that we're further along in our view of wine now than we were when I bought that bottle several years ago. I think I am, but if that question still exists and we need an answer to it, then I think the best thing I can do, is to try and give my point of view of Rose.

Well, just like any other wine, it's great or it's not. There's nothing more difficult about enjoying a great bottle and there's noting special about Rose in itself. You've got to dig a bit to find the good stuff...so, dig we do.

Now, in typical French style, Rhone varietals and blends of Rhone varietals are what constitutes the vast majority of Rose and is what's considered proper in France. OK. Cool. Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mouvedre. Mmm. Starting to sound good, no?

But in the new world, we're not much for tradition, at least in the Rose world. Rather than focusing on the Rhone varietals, we're happy to do Rose with several varietals of diverse appellations. So, in typical fashion and in trying to do what we say, I opened this bottle of Rose of Pinot Noir on a Wednesday night with pizza. Yes, Pepperoni and Sausage Pizza.

This pleasant, refreshing Rose is pale pink in color, slightly sweet with a fair balance of acidity and a pleasant, even mouthfeel. It's not restrained or raw, nor is it an enthusiastic example. It's very fresh nose is effervescent with strawberries and roses. The finish is delivered as expected with citrus and pomegranate brightness. Etude used good quality Pinot fruit from Carneros and while there's not alot of Pinot in Napa, let alone Carneros, it CAN be used to make some fine wine and in this case, this is a perfect example.

Now, the often heard issue with Rose is the propensity for a very dry wine. If you're into dry rose, then great, but, this is not the bottle for you. If you shy away from Rose because you are not a fan of dry wines, then please, please try this bottle. If you can't find the 2007 version, then the 2008 may be more available. I've not tried this, but I'd expect a similar, but not exact taste and feel from the newer vintage.

Perfect with salmon, chicken and of course Pizza, this bottle is very versatile and a good value.

2007 Etude Carneros Rose of Pinot Noir
Retail: $23
Grade: B