30 October, 2009

Live Wine Blogging in Lisbon: Vin Noble Sherry, Fortified and Sweet Wine Tasting - European Wine Bloggers Conf.

Cool...listening to VinNoble speak in Spanish and I'm actually understanding it. Good....rust starting to go away.

VinNoble is a great conference in Jerez around sweet, fortified and sherries.

We've got 9 wines to taste...so here we go...

1st Perez Barquero Amontillado

Not a fortified wine...aged and oxidative again to deliver powerful, concentrated flavors. P. Barquero is one of the oldest producers in Montilla. Sweet nose with caramel and almonds and reminiscent of a brandy, but the taste is bone dry and finish is light and long and extremely nible for 19% alcohol

2nd - Lustau Reserva Amontillado

Also not fortified, caramel sweet nose similar, but not quite as sweet as the first. From Jerez with 100% Palomino Fino. Interesting: Aged in American Oak according to the Solera system. Longer and more acidic than the first.

3rd - VORS
Sherry. More s

4th - Quevedo Port Colheita - 1994 Vintage (bottled 2009)

Tawny style ...aged in oak. Single vintage. 1400L barrel aged. Colheita must be aged in barrel for 7 years in oak before bottling. Has more room for aging, too. Nice to hear from the produced @quevedo speaking on his wine. Absolutely delicious with very light nose, touch of sweet, cotton candy, but lovely front of cigar tobacco with delicate red berries, jellies (under 2% of total production in the Douro). Wow! This is stunning.

5th - Bacalh'o' Moscatel Roxo DOC Setu'bal (100% Moscatel Roxo)

A bit of orange, but less than a Muscato. Nice candied lemon on front. 9 Years in oak, bottled this year. Setubal is making some of the nicest Moscatels here.

6th - Justino's Colheita 1995 DOC Madeira

Tinta Negra with 5% Complexa. Beautiful, rich amber color. Minerals on the front, but I don't catch the spice that others are saying.

7th - Sandeman Vintage Porto 2007 DOC Douro

Aged 2 years in large barrels. Deep rich ruby color. A bit heavy nose ..alcohol with dirty bearries.

Only 1% of harvest goes to vintage and must be approved by port institute.

8TH and fnal - Garvey Gran Orden PX (Jerez) - 30 Years (minimum)

HUGE, long wine with SUPER big fig and honey taste. Wide, round, beautiful and powerful at the same time. This is stunning.

That's it. Next up...Douro Boys tasting in 60 mins.


Ciao from Lisbon!

29 October, 2009

Live Wine Blogging @ Cortes de Cima European Wine Bloggers Conf.

OK...we're off to the races. It's Thursday around 2:00 local Portuguese time and we're starting the pre EWBC tasting event at Cortes de Cima in Alentejo, near Vidigueira.

First up the the 2008 Charmine' White Blend.

It's a medium bodied blend of Antao Vaz, Verdehlo and Viognier.  Nice to see the Viognier blended with Verdehlo. Usually, Verdehlo brings a very crisp, green apple note to the nose and I like the moderation the Viognier brings with the addition of apricots, . The minerality is not normal for this region, so the Viognier helps there, too.
Very nice change for fall.

12.5% Alcohol
3.3 Ph
Picked earlier in the season.

Next, the Courela. It's their entry level red wine. Budget conscious. Retails for around $5 (3Euros in Lisbon)

Essentially, a MustGo blend; that is, everything in the cellar must go. It's not made every vintage and is NV. Super fruity and drinkable.

Third, the 2008 Charmine' red.

A bit up from the Courela, also a blend and is also young. Enjoyable. Decent quality and is well balanced and structured. Blackberry nose,  tighter on the nose, more acidic. This could use a bit of time in the bottle. A bit of stem on the nose. Worked better with food than in a vaccum tasting.

Fourth, the 2007 Cortes de Cima Vino Tino

Big time acid up front and really nice fruit. Certainly a less subtle wine with more structure and complexity. Blend of Syrah, Aragones (tempranillo) Cab Sauv, Petit Verdot and Touriga National.
Sharp front and a bit loose on the mid palate to the back end. Could use a bit more time.

Retail is $18 (10 Euro)

Fifth is the 2005 Aragones (Tempranillo)

100% Aragones. Nice. Well balanced, but aggressive. Likely higher in alcohol. Rich berry nose with the signature Tempranillo front and mid palate. I like this quite a bit. Very drinkable now. Would be super with salted meat dishes

Sixth is the 2005 Syrah.

Not simple, but not complex. Very even flow. Floral, easy, lot's of Syrah but without much spice and no smoke at all..

Next, the 2007 Hans Christian Anderson Syrah. More structure, good stuff. Plenty of spice but small bit of tightness in the front. Going to let it hang out for a few mins.  ..tic tock, tic, tock.

Next, the 2005 Incognito blend. Was produced illegally for two years. They planted it ahead of local approval. 100% Syrah. Not made every year and only when they have grapes of superior quality.  SMOOTH. Super great typical Syrah nose with pepper and spice. Would love to have this with lamb. Super quality. Even, moderated and superior.

Next, the 2005 Touriga Nacional - 100% TN. Tannin, Tannin!
New variety to Alentejo. Originally from Douro and Dow. Big structure. Evokes Earl Grey with Bergemot on the nose. Tight front, but opens up after 15 mins in the glass nicely. Give it some time and it's nice and sophisticated.

Finally, the 2004 CdC Reserva. Made only in a handful of vintages. BIG wine, but lots and LOTS of complexity. Calcium Oxide (lime) nose. Really interesting. Needs age, and to be treated well. Very Bordeaux in structure.

Mice Will Play -- Guest Blog from Elizabeth Olson

Wine Pairing 101 (aka: Wines from the ‘Hood)

I’m honored to have the opportunity to fill in for Jason with a blog post while he’s off running around Spain and Portugal, tasting a plethora off food & wine. He’d just better remember to bring us all back some great tasting notes, so we can live vicariously.           
For the last nine years, I’ve spent at least part of my week recommending and answering wine queries for a large California-based “specialty beverage” retailer. As such, some of the most common questions I get are on the topic of food and wine pairing. The “golden rule” of food and wine pairing – serve white wines with chicken and fish; reds for beef or pork – has been perpetuated for so long that most people are afraid to explore outside its limiting boundaries.
Now I confess that pairing food and wine pairing is one of my favorite pastimes. I used to get a little thrill when a friend would text me with a desperate plea for help as they stood bewildered in some wine aisle. Then it escalated. First it was debating the optimum wine for a dish with friends, but soon we were planning entire menus around the wines. Currently, we enjoy challenging on another with highly nuanced dishes, which usually results in some super-specific or esoteric wine match. But is this spiral into wine-geekdom isn’t for everyone and certainly isn’t practical for the nightly meal. There had to be some rule of thumb to make food and wine pairing easier for every day enjoyment.
And then it struck me. In most countries, people have been enjoying wine with their meals for hundreds of years. Would it not then stand to reason that the foods and wines indigenous to a region might be a natural match? In the ultimate illustration of eating only that which is locally grown, it only makes sense that early vintners would cultivate varietals that both thrived and complimented the area’s cuisine. And conversely, that its culinary specialties reflect the ingredients readily available and the region’s wines.
To put this theory to the test, one only need look at the wines of Southern Rhone. Imagine the region’s reds – blends of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsault from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Cotes du Rhone – paired with a comforting Coq au vin. Consider Southern Rhone’s white varietals – Marsanne, Roussanne and Picpoul, or stunning dry Rose’ from Taval, paired with the distinctive Provencal seafood faire.
For further illustration, we could look at traditional Tuscan wines: the acidic and firm Sangiovese of Chianti paired with tomato bruschetta, bean soup, cured meats, rustic bread and olive oil; the softer, smaller berried Sangiovese of Brunello di Montalcino married with Bistecca alla Florentina; or a crisp and refreshing Malvasia Bianca or Trebbiano with deep fried artichokes, squash, zucchini flowers and sage.
The examples are numerous: the paella of Valencia paired with Alicante (Grenache) or an aromatic Albarino; a vibrant, full-bodied Tempranillo paired with Gazpacho or Chorizo; Beef Empanadas – or any grilled beef for that matter – paired with a plum-y, sweet-earth Malbec; Salmon Grutense or mussel stew paired with a fresh Torrontes.
But does this local pairing practice work even if you aren’t globetrotting? Oregon is known for their signature salmon dishes. Just try pairing one with a terrior-filled Oregon Pinot Noir, a complex mineral-y Pinot Gris or aromatic Pinot Blanc. The light berry-fullness and cotton-candy nose of Minnesota’s indigenous Frontenac grape compliments entrees of regional game such as venison or pheasant. Regional cuisine distinctions may not be quite as well defined here in the US, given our accessibility to ingredients from all over the world, but the basic guidelines still apply.
I could go on, but I’m making myself hungry. The point is there IS a general rule that makes wine pairing more accessible. Simply consider the origin of the food being served and seek out wines native to or in the style of that same region. Certainly spice or side-dish nuances come into play if you wish to get detailed but, in general, foods like wines from their own “neighborhood” so to speak. So the next time you’re wondering which wine to pair with tonight’s dinner, consider the source.

Elizabeth Olson is a wine specialist for Beverages & More. When not pouring and recommending wines, or throwing down pairing challenges to her friends, she spends her time as a marketing & PR consultant. She can be found on Twitter @EbethO.

27 October, 2009

EWBC - Spain & Portugal : Day 1

Had a decent flight from SFO to JFK and then from JFK to Madrid. We actually had a relatively decent dinner on the JFK to Madrid flight.

I picked three wines for dinner/dessert. I'm not seeing a need to formally review these as I'm unclear of the distributors/availability. If I can confirm that, I'll put up formal grades and links.

First, the 2007 Occhio al Vento (Eye of the Wind). Made from 100% Vermentino, it's a light, crisp varietal lending it's melon, caramel and red delicious apples to the mix, it was nice with a starter of hummus with caramelized onions & spinach salad with goat cheese.

Next was the 2005 Belguardo Serrata. This Tuscan bottle is comprised of a

unique blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Alicante, a fairly uncommon grape to the US market that's a genetic mutation of Grenache. This bottle brings a very mineraly, tobacco laced nose and black cherry and plum to the front end and paired nicely with beef tenderloin.

Finally, dessert was the best of the flight, a sweet white from Juracon near the Pyranees,  that brings a great deal of caramel, green apple and straw, which  works super with cheese like cabrales, manchego and aged gouda. This is a super bottle. Try and see it out at your LWS!

We landed in Madrid and headed to the hotel. More to come shortly.

See you soon,

J. Mancebo

26 October, 2009

Spain for the sake of Spain -- 2004 Vicuana Rioja and 2007 Atecca Garnacha

As you may have heard, the 20dollarwineblog.com crew is heading to The Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) for the European Wine Bloggers Conference in Lisbon next week and as a preview to that, I thought we'd post a double feature on a couple of treats we recently came across. 

First, the 2004 Vicuana Rioja from Bodegas Bilbainas is a wine in the style you'd find on the modern Spanish table. It's a new stylistic approach to Rioja and as such, was a bit of a challenge for me. Not in the wine, but in the style...it wasn't expected, but it certainly was enjoyed. Much as the new world, expecially California, often puts it's own fingerprint on a style of wine the D.O. of Rioja has a long established style that I've become accustomed to. It's bold and beautiful and very much it's own thing. Tempranillo as you likely know is the main red grape of La Rioja, and its tannic and fruity character has led the way in determining the style. Super!

I'd heard musings recently, that things were changing a bit in Rioja and that some exporters we're asking for a bit of a more modern style from their producers. This seems to be the case for this wine with it's moderated, but vivacious fruit leads the charge in the nose and the front abounds with dark berries but is toned with nuances of tobacco, wood and moss. Certainly a new thing! I recently heard this wine described by someone saying "..it has impressive tenacity". I'd have to agree with that one. I'd like to enjoy this with grilled lamb or a burger.

2004 Bodegas Bilbainas Vicuana Rioja Tempranillo
Retail: $14
Grade: B+
If you're asking "how do grades work?" please see the post on "grades."

Next, the 2007 Bodegas Ateca Calatayud is quite a different creature. I'm pretty certain it's been created for the foreign market (it's from Jorge Ordonez) with it's more juicy highlights, brighter profile and leaner body. It brings some nicely presented anise and dusky dark berries on the nose with a mellow, round finish. It's clean & bright and I can't stop from thinking that when the winemaker created this, he was aiming for "HAPPY." Of course, with Old Vine Garnacha producing the fruit here, we enjoy the concentrated, but brisk flavors that deliver  without an overbearing tone and without force. I can't see anyone drinking this and being anything but happy. Seafood, especially in a paella, would pair wonderfully here.

2007 Bodegas Ateca Atteca Calatayud Garnacha
Retail: $17
Grade: B+

17 October, 2009

2006 Tandom Winery "Peloton" California Red Wine

In general, I'm not a fan of blends. A main with some added blend varietals or a GSM Rhone style blend? OK, Sure. But Meritages...or several? No..... No thanks!

The 2006 Tandem Peloton (and for those of you who are not familiar with cycling, the word "peloton" is French and defines a group, or collection of cyclists.) is strangely convincing me that I'm a bit too wrapped around the axle, as they say, on whether I'm a fan of something or not. We all can benefit by opening up our minds to the possibilities.

I know....It's tough when you're presented with several choices. Which is good? Which one to try? Yes, Yes.... but that's what the 20dollarwineblog is for: To get you to have More Great Wine!

We met Tandem winemaker Greg LaFolette at the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa, CA where he introduced us to some sexy Chardonnay he was releasing and while that was awesome, it was beyond our target price point. This red blend, however, is right down our alley for the price point and is a composite of several varietals...8 to be correct and the vast majority of the wine spent 15 months in neutral French oak and under 10% was aged in new barrels.

So, back to the 8 blends, I think you could certainly say that Greg has an interesting and innovative philosophy and technique to winemaking. An insteresting note I learned: He does fermentation in milk tanks rather than traditional wine tanks as the wine tanks are larger and the cap that's created on the top of fermenting wine is thinner and easier to punch down.

In this case, he's focused on Pinot Noir as the main component (nearly 60%) in the Peloton and it's certainly out on the front of the group. At the same time, it's moderated by a fair amount (30%) of Zinfandel. The Zin brings more fruit, spice, acid and crispness to the grupetto. The others, Carigane, Pinot Meunier, Sangiovese, Syrah, Gewurtraminer and Chardonnay (yes, that's a bit of two WHITE wines) all are adjustment blends, each bringing it's own bit of practicality and necessity to the recipe.

Being a Pinot fan, I enjoyed the light raspberry nose and was very appreciative of the structure the added Zinfandel conveys. The mouthfeel is pleasant..not too full, with some tannin carrying a nice finish of cherries and bitter chocolate. Bring on the Holidays! Peloton would be a super choice for dinner with game hen, duck, squab as well as the always solid turkey or even ham.

Kudos to Greg LaFollette for taking us outside of our box. Here, he's doing something some might consider a Frankenstein wine, but I don't see it that way. Greg's too much of a thinker and has too much confidence for that. This is about something new, a different way of thinking and creating a very interesting and delicious wine by building structure and notes. It's about craft.

(disclaimer: This wine was sent to me at no cost for my review)

2006 Tandem Winery North Coast California Red Wine
Retail: $24
Grade: B+

15 October, 2009

Double Feature: 2006 Robert Foley Napa Valley Charbono and 2008 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Bonarda. For Wine Blogging Wednesday #62

Wow...this Wine Blogging Weds snuck up on me in a BIG WAY!

The cool Dale Cruse  from drinksareonme  is hosting this month's WBW#62 and set the theme very creatively. Titled "A Grape By Any Other Name" prompts us to try the alternate common name of a varietal. For example, instead of a Syrah, try a Shiraz, or vice versa, depending on where you live :-) Also of great interest are BONUS POINTS that are often awarded in WBW. This month, Dale's offering bonus props for tasting wines of BOTH of the synonyms as well as the uber geekdom prize for most obscure grape. We'll, I don't think we'll get that one here, but both Bonarda and Charbono are not common to California or the US for that matter. 

Essentially, as we mentioned in a previous review of a Charbono from Summers, it's planted to only 80 acres in the US. Yep. That's it. Interestingly, Bonarda is planted to thousands of hectares and is the 2nd most popular varietal grown in Argentina. So that begs the question: Which is the more common of the synonyms?

While you stew on that one, I'll drink the wine.

The 2006 Robert Foley Napa Valley Charbono is a deep colored wine with a pleasant and sophisticated nose leading down the path of rich grape and dark stone fruit with a very round and supple mouthfeel. It's base is extremely supportive of a very comprehensive flavor layer profile including anise, chocolate and earth. It's a perfect selection for red meat with dark vegetables such as beets or legumes or duck with a berry/wine sauce. Again, sophistication is the key. Additionally, I recommend decanting this wine to fully enjoy its potential.

2006 Robert Foley Napa Valley Charbono
Retail: $27 (seen for $26.99)
Grade: A

The 2008 Espiritu de Argentina Mendoza Bonarda on the other hand has a much more youthful approach to life. It's ready to go, spirited and one could easily compare this as a young paint stallion to the above Charbono as a dressage Hanovarian. Both are wonderful stock, but differ in their attitude.

This Bonarda brings a free-flowing bright blackberry nose, with hints of tobacco. The front is neither round, nor too sharp and it brings a much lighter mouthfeel. It does a good job of ensuring that you have a pleasant, stress-free and fun time with it and will pair much more widely than others. Chicken, darker fish, sausages, pizza, burgers...all would go great with this Bonarda. Buy some, drink it with a great dinner, have a great time! It surely brings the "Spirit of Argentina" to the table.

2008 Espiritu De Argentina Mendoza Bonarda
Retail: $10
Grade: A

So, theyre' you go. Get out of the box, do something completely different and enjoy a Charbono/Bonarda. It's a super varietal, in all of its of styles and attitudes.

Disclosure: This wine (Bonarda) was sent to me as a sample for my review.

11 October, 2009

A Few Minutes With: Tom Gamble

The 20dollarwineblog spent some time with Tom Gamble of Gamble Family Vineyards recently. In this episode, Tom talks about his 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and organic farming of his wine grapes.

A Few Minutes With: Tom Gamble from C. Jason Mancebo on Vimeo.