Sunday, June 28, 2009

Alli's Annual Bacchanalia

We only made it through 8 bottles in 5 hours this year, which was a little disappointing, but to be fair, I added in a "signature cocktail" this year AND we're all getting a little older! Plus, with the amount of food, it was really hard to focus on the wine.

So, for those keeping count (uh, me), here's what we went through:

Nierano Moscato D'Asti Pitule 2007: Given how much I talk about this wine as a classic warm weather quencher, is there any surprise I'd start with a Moscato D'Asti? This was a classic moscato - sweet pear and melon notes with a floral scent and just the right amount of frizzante (plus, a nice, slight 5.5% alcohol content). My friend, Eric, (and Rebecca) and I practically finished the entire bottle ourselves.

Murphy Goode Sauvignon Blanc "The Fume" 2007: Enjoyed this wine with some of our pre-dinner cheese, crackers and pretzels.

Firesteed Pinot Noir 2007/Gruet Brut Sparkling White: While some enjoyed the smooth berry notes of the Firesteed Pinot (recommended by my friend, Rachel - thanks RK), some of us (uh, me, wih the help of the afore-mentioned Eric) made very quick work of this very dry, crisp sparkler.

Botromagno Primitivo 2005: My guests went through it so quick I didn't even get a shot. I guess it was good!

Lange Pinot Gris 2007: Lange is one of my favorite Oregon producers and we opened this white for those late-comers who wanted to start with white. Crisp, dry, with a nice hint of oak and citrus. Went fast, as did everything else it seemed.

Quinta de la Rosa 2005: For those who haven't tried wine from the Portuguese region of Douro, what are you waiting for? Awesome berry with some restrained tannins on the finish. Everyone I've introduced this particular wine to has become a fan.

Hendry Red Table Wine 2002: Traditional Bordeaux blend of Cab. Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab. Franc. I had to decant for awhile. I'm still drinking now (having opened about two hours ago) and it's finally calmed down though it's still pretty big. I opened for a different Eric and he preferred the Quinta de la Rosa. Would have been better while serving heartier food but I'm enjoying it.

So there's the round-up. Ultimately, my favorite of the evening was probably the Quinta de la Rosa. I'm just having a hard time being let down by wines from the Douro right now. They just seem to be doing everything right and aren't too big where they're over-producing crap (yeah, I'm talking to you Argentina).

Much more important than the wine, o.k., nothing is more important than the wine, maybe as important, are all of the friends who helped me enjoy my annual bacchanalia.

A special shout out goes to:

Bill H.: Even though you didn't stop by, you've been a great landlord. Thanks for the grill.

Tim B.: Thanks for being the grill master. Anytime you get "grill-sick," come on by and feel free to bring Grace!

Liz (and Nick): Thanks for the cupcakes and the cocktail idea. You are my Liz Lemon and I adore both you and the amazing Nick L.

Thanks to everyone else who made their way up from Delaware, Pennsylvania and the far reaches of Hoboken. I had a great time and I hope you did as well. I'm now thinking a January late winter blues party may be in order (especially since it means good, hearty reds and maybe a stew - Joanna, you up for that?).

Cheers and Happy Summer,

Alli M.

Monday, June 22, 2009

91, Shminedy One

Earlier tonight some friends of mine and I met up at a bar for what was supposed to have been trivia night. Since the trivia guy was out of town, we decided to leave the land of watered down pinot grigio poured from large format bottles and venture to a place that was known to have a better wine list.

Unfortunately there wasn't a lot on the list that sounded good, but after much discussion, we ended up ordering a bottle of the Achaval Ferrer Malbec. The last few times I've had malbec it has not been good (o.k., outside of the amazing stuff I tried at Paul Hobbs). I get the feeling that it's become a bit too popular too fast, and thus over planted. However, I'd never tried this particular malbec and it wasn't too pricey, so I figured why not. I don't think the bottle was bad, but the nose seemed to indicate otherwise and there was little flavor but tannins and acid in the glass. Over the course of the evening, the tannins mellowed a bit and I could get some berry goodness, but it was limited.

I came home tonight to look up the wine and found that Robert Parker had given the 2006 a 92 and Wine Spectator had given the wine a 91 (we drank the 2007). I sure hope that I was mistaken and that we got a bad bottle.

Then again, it goes to show that every palette is different and what may move the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker may not move me (or you) - even if they are the experts. Wine is a subjective taste in the best way possible so don't believe you like something because someone (like me) tells you you're supposed to. Like what you like and drink what you like (unless it's white zin in which we need to have a talk).

Until the next bottle is uncorked -- Cheers,


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Who knew New Zealand could make a pinot noir I liked?

Earlier today I stopped by the Stew Leonards wine store in Clifton, NJ because they often have tastings and I just wanted to peruse and see what they had. One of the wines they were tasting was a Craggy Range "Bannockburn" Pinot Noir, 2007. I haven't liked a pinot noir from New Zealand yet but some of the other tasters were raving about it so I figured, why not?

What a pleasant surprise! It had a lovely aroma - big cherry nose with some earthy undertones. On the palette, you get the same big burst of cherry and berry fruit. The description says it has some mineral tannins, but I didn't get the mineral as much as the tannins. The wine is clearly well made and very "structured," as they say, but before drinking it, I would decant it for 20-30 minutes to smooth out some of the tannins. It's also a wine I could see laying down for a few years.

Though I'm bummed that the hike I was supposed to go on today was postponed due to what feels like never-ending rain, BUT, this was definitely a good subsitute!

Happy sipping.



Friday, June 19, 2009

Dela-where will I pick up my next bottle of wine?

My home state of Delaware recently tabled a bill that would allow grocery stores to start selling wine and beer. As much as I would like the convenience of shopping for wine and beer while also picking up my beloved microwave popcorn, I can't believe that any grocery store could have the selection or the knowledgable staff that a good local wine store offers.

Of course, Trader Joe's is the exception in terms of selection, but as much as I love Trader Joe's, a local wine store is still going to be a lot more helpful if you don't know what you want or should pick out.

Though I'm not anti-competition, I'm glad this will likely fail (there's still a chance it's considered next year) because I think it goes just a little way in supporting the education of wine consumers in the state of Delaware. Then again if all the shoppers get too educated then this column won't be read by the 10 people who currently read it and there goes my fun.....Hmmm. Maybe I need to re-think my position. Either way, it's Friday and time to get off my soap box.

To learn more about the bill:

Cheers, Happy Weekend and Love to all my Fellow Delawareans,

Alli M.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Breathing is not just for people who meditate

Earlier tonight I went to one of my favorite local restaurants, Epernay, in town. It's a French restaurant and a BYO so naturally I had to bring a bottle of French wine. I grabbed a bottle I'd had in my "collection" (a.k.a. the sad little 4 cases that keep moving with me) for quite some time. It wasn't a particularly special bottle but it was a Cotes Du Rhone from 2000 that I thought would have some nice age on it.

Upon opening, I got a hit of must and oak and I was seriously worried that the wine had been corked. Luckily, this nose quickly gave way to something a bit more fruity, though it still had some mustiness to it. Initially, I didn't get a lot of fruit on the palette, but I got a lot of tannin on the finish. As the meal progressed, the wine really loosened up. What began as something a bit puckering and without a lot of character ended up up as a lovely bouquet of berries with a mouthful of dried cherries. My parents, who loved the wine at first sip (they're under the impression that every wine I pick is perfect), were a litle too hasty in finishing their glasses because by the end, I was savoring every last sip. Then again, I should have had the restaurant decant the bottle for a bit. I should know better! Oh well. It was still worth it.

So note to self, breathing is not just for yogis and people who meditate and call it a workout. Wines like to breathe as well. I wonder if they hate free weights as much as I do too?


-Alli M.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Vive La European Commission!

When it comes to wine I don't always agree with the European Commission (don't get me started on the whole "can't call a sparkling wine made outside of the Champagne region a Champagne"). However, they made the right call when it came to protecting the sanctity of a favorite summer wine of mine, rose.

A few days ago my mother sent me an article alerting me to a law that the EU was considering that would allow wine makers to create rose out of blending red and white wines. As the French would say (and probably did say), "Zut alors!" They also probably said something about a "batard" and I'll leave you to your own devices to determine the translation for that word. Keep in mind that many bottles of rose produced outside of Europe are made this way and I'm sure many are quite good but there's something about a Provencal rose, or even a Provencal style rose, that is classic, timeless and just should not be messed with.

Luckily, this idea never gained much traction and it was scrapped by the European Commission last week.

To learn more:

Time to get off my wine box and maybe go enjoy a glass of a traditional Provencal rose.

Alli M.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sonoma, Day 4

As the only remaining wedding "guest," I had the honor of having a lovely goodbye breakfast with my friends, Jayne and Scott, the newly married couple. It was really nice to get some quality time with them and catch up about things that weren't just flower, photographer or guest list related.

After saying our goodbyes, I headed off to Failla, which had been noted in a recent New York Times article and also recommended by Sharon, the proprietor at Amanti Vino in Montclair.

At this point, my notebook is pretty filled with notes, so I stuck to my favorites at each winery.

10:30am, Failla
St. Helena Viognier 2007: The best viognier I've ever had. It had a delightful caramel corn nose and a light lemon color. Citrusy with some nice acid and a longer finish than most whites. Unfortunately now that I've tempted you, I should tell you that they're sold out of this but should you come across a Failla Viognier in the future, give it a try - even if you're one of those that "only drinks red."
St. Helena Phoenix Ranch Syrah 2007: Dark royal purple color with a lovely nose of white pepper and smoke. Smelled slightly like charcoal briquets (that's a good thing). The wine itself tasted quite peppery and as the wine evaporated, the pepper flavor lingered.

At lunch, I met up with a friend, Linda, from my last company. It had been a few years and it was great catching up with her and hearing all about her wonderful life living in Napa. She had the fortune of going to the annual wine auction this past weekend (one of Napa and Sonoma's biggest events) and gave me something else to aspire to!

4pm, Murphy-Goode (Yes, 4pm, 5.5 hours later)
Due to traffic, construction and an old map, it took me awhile to get to Murphy-Goode, but when I did, they took very good(e) - I had to - care of me and they even gave me a complimentary tasting and bottle of Fume Blanc for the crazy 2 hour trip it took me to get to them!!! Of course, their wine also helped make it up.
Claret "All In" 2004: I probably should have picked up a bottle of this because it was quite good. It had an intense pepper nose, but it was very sippable and quite mellow. Now I have yet another excuse to come back to the area! Plus, as a Texas Hold 'Em fan, I'm wondering how I can get in on the games David Ready, Jr. (the winemaker) is known to have with his staff.

4:40pm, Seghesio
Seghesio is a favorite of my friends, Kelly and Keith, and I had told them that if I got the chance, I'd make my way up there. Well, it turned out the Murphy-Goode tasting room was less than a mile from Seghesio so I knew I could just fit it in and I'm glad I did. I've had Seghesio's Sonoma Coast Zinfandel at home but the Zins they had in the tasting room are even better!
Saini Zinfandel 2005: My favorite of the tasting. Classic zinfandel with a yummy, berry taste and a nice dry finish. I don't have as many notes on this as because I drank it too fast! Plus, the women working at the tasting room had some fun evening plans and I didn't want to overstay the 5pm closing time. I ended up picking up a few bottles of the Saini and I look forward to a fun dinner with Kelly and Keith.

By the way, earlier today I received a lovely e-mail from Ben Edwards, Merry Edwards son. He had read my blog and thanked me for complimenting Merry's wine. I was so excited to hear from him and it really makes me feel good to know that my feelings made it back to those responsible for the wines - especially since I'm such a fan of their work.

I guess my mom isn't the only reader!

Well, I hope for those of you who aren't my mom, you've enjoyed keeping track of my Napa/Sonoma adventure.

Until I'm back in the Garden State, cheers,

Sonoma, Day 3

Last night's wedding was great and I woke up exhausted and achy, but I was on a mission so by 10am, I was at my first winery. We all have our crosses to bear and in order to create such in depth and interesting articles for you all (er, my mom), this is what I must do.

10am, Paul Hobbs
Paul Hobbs is a craft winery and one of those places you have to make an appointment. They don't have an ornate tasting room like many of the other wineries, but the proof is in the glass and Hobbs makes beautiful wines.
My condensed notes:
Chardonnay: Like something out of France and not California (read, not over oaked and buttery); Crisp, acidic with notes of tart fruit - think a crisp green apple or under ripe pear
Pinot Noir Lindsay Estate: Light, thin, but juicy; Cherry on the nose but tastes of plum and jam, after sitting for about 20-30 minutes it had a nice strawberry note on the finish
Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley: Classic California Cabernet; Thick, fruity, but with restraint, lots of acid and a long finish, I bought 2 bottles: one for me and one for my newly married friends as an early 5th year anniversary gift because that's how long I plan to lay it down
Cabernet Sauvignon Stage Coach: Thanks to a lovely couple from Long Island who are also loyal members of the Hobbs wine club, we got to taste the Stage Coach Cabernet Sauvignon. Rich, big, lots of fruit. If a chef were in the house I'd have ordered a medium rare filet mignon -- and I rarely eat red meat. I'll just have to aspire to buy a case of this wine one day.
Malbec Marchiori: Dark, dark, inky purple in color. Smoother than you'd expect given all the pepper on the nose. Also notes of perfectly toasted oak with a long finish.

Oh, and Hobbs served the most aromatic wines I've had with some of the best noses.

12pm, Gary Farrell
Enjoyed the wines and ended up picking up a few bottles of their Ramal Pinot Noir (very fruity nose, but light on the palette with some dryness and a little bit of acid). The best reason to visit Gary Farrell is that the tasting room has an amazing view - it's up on a hill and overlooks one of the many gorgeous mountains in the area.

1pm, Rochioli
I'd heard amazing things. I had also been told that they had a reserve pinot that you could only get at the vineyard and each person could only buy 3 bottles at most. Either that only happens at certain times of the year or they've changed their tasting because I only received an estate sauvignon and an estate pinot noir, both of which are available outside of the vineyard and neither of which was great.

2pm, Ridge Lytton
Their wine is widely available, but they always make good stuff and I thought it'd be interesting to visit. Staff was great, wine was a bit underwhelming. It's nice to know, though, they really are sending a lot of their best stuff out and not just holding it at the vineyard.

3:30pm, Mauritson
It was recommended by the proprietor of Amanti Vino, my favorite store back home, so of course I had to go. I wish I'd gone earlier in the day because I'd barely eaten all day and my palette was pretty shot. I really enjoyed a bottle of their Rockpile Zinfandel 2007 and picked up a bottle to enjoy with some good friends back in NJ. Ready to drink now, but could be laid down for a few years.

One note - I wish more wineries would offer food. So many of the wines I've been tasting would be even better with food and I'm such a sucker the wineries would make that many more sales. I'm just saying......

In any event, hope everyone is having a good week.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Things I forget I miss/don't miss about California and other non wine related things

As some of you know, I spent 3 1/2 "formative" years in L.A. back in the late 90s, early 00s. Everytime I come back to California, there are always things I find that I miss - and several that I don't. Here are a few of my favorite/least favorite things!


-Great hair days due to dry weather

-Salsa always comes as a condiment with breakfast and they're really used to special orders (not not every place charges more for egg whites)

-Everyone's laid back attitude

-Local, fresh produce almost year round

Don't Miss:

-Everyone's laid back attitude - while driving

-Los Angelenos who think that every good idea and every good thing originates in L.A.

-People who's first question is "who are you with" (meaning, which studio, t.v. network or talent agency do you work for; I'm about to start telling people I'm the heir to the Oscar Mayer wiener fortune)

Oh, and on a completely un-related side note, I ended up getting a VW bug as my rental car and though it doesn't have as much pick up as my actual car, it sounds like the muffler could use an upgrade and it has a tough time cornering around the twists and turns in the area, it's been fun to drive and seems to suit me for this trip. Wouldn't work for me back in Jersey, though! The potholes would devour the pour bug.

Thanks for letting me share!


Sonoma, Day 2

Today I went tasting with my friend, Kristi, and the groom's cousin, Melissa. Kristi and Melissa are both partial to sweeter, white wines and though I'm partial to reds, I certainly have my favorite whites (Moscato D'Asti, which I'm always raving about). Plus, I'm always willing to try something new because I never know what I may stumble upon. In any event, I picked a few places that were known to have some good dessert whites - Trefethen and V. Sattui. We also stopped in at VJB where I had a free tasting coupon and Wellington which the woman at VJB recommended for their whites.

11am, VJB
It looks like more of a tasting room than a vineyard property. We specifically asked for lighter, sweeter whites and they were very accomodating. The last wine we tasted was a fragrant, slightly sweet, floral white port. Though port is usually fortified with brandy and tends to have a long, sweet, alcohol-y finish, this port didn't have any of the brandy taste. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes dessert whites and/or wants a nice after lunch or after dinner wine on a warm day or evening.

11:30am, Wellington
It also looks more like a tasting room. Again, my favorite wine was the white port. This one was also very light and sweet and had a nice nuttiness on the finish. The guy behind the counter told us he enjoys it with cashews.

12:30pm, Trefethen
Thanks to the little woman in the GPS, we ended up cutting through one of the mountain passes to get to Trefethen. Despite the stomach turning drive, we were all ready to taste when we got to Trefethen. They had some lovely wines. My two favorites:
Quandry: A white wine blend of riesling and viognier and some other grapes I can't recall. Light and mellow with a little sweetnes, but a nice dry finish.
Late Harvest Riesling: A very sweet, somewhat viscous, though not too syrupy white that when chilled properly would be a great after dinner drink. Late Harvest Rieslings make great dessert wines and can be really fun - even for someone who loves their reds, like me!

1pm, V. Sattui
I've had V. Sattui's wines before and have always enjoyed them, but I've never visited. I've heard they have a great deli and a good picnic area for lunch so we decided to grab a bite and then do a tasting. Unfortunately since it's the weekend, the place was ridiculously crowded, but we still enjoyed a nice lunch of cheese, bread and almonds. Then we went in for the tasting and the wines didn't disappoint. Their Gamay Rose has always been a favorite of mine. It's like drinking chilled, liquified strawberries with a hint of sugar. The guy pouring surprised us at the end when he gave us a "white port" that upon tasting I said tasted more like a Moscato D'Asti. He smiled and then pulled out the bottle and showed that he had poured us their new release muscat. Of course I loved it and woul dhighly recommend it! V. Sattui is available in a lot of places so look for it.

O.k., I better get ready for the wedding because that's why I came here in the first place! Off to Chateau St. Jean.

Cheers and happy Sunday,

Hello from Sonoma, Day 1

Good evening to my mom, my other 5 followers and whomever else stumbled upon this blog looking for something else. As some of you know, I'm in Sonoma for the next several days to attend my friend, Jayne's, wedding as well as get in some much needed rest and relaxation which for me involves visits to several wineries.

Today I made it to 7 (which, actually is so-so for me - my all time best was 13 in one day in Oregon). I could probably write several pages about my day, but then I'd lose the few readers I have so I'll be brief - well, I'll try to be brief.

9:30am, Merry Edwards
It's almost a pity that I started the day with Merry Edwards because ultimately it ended up being my favorite. Of course the cards were stacked in its favorite as Merry Edwards is known for pinot noir, which is my favorite varietal because of its versatility and food friendliness. Merry Edwards requires an appointment, but the tasting is free and well worth a quick phone call. I tasted with Leslie who was knowledgeable and un-pretentious. We tasted 6 pinot noirs. My favorites were the Tobias Glen and the Flax, both froom the 2006 vintage. The Tobias was light ruby with a lovely orange ring around the top of the pour, denoting its age. It was jammy and smooth, with a slightly tannic finish. I was envisioning a firm pork tenderloin while drinking this. Thinking of a tenderloin at 9:30am is not something I do often. The Flax is jammier and a little thinner, but quite smooth with just a hint of tannins on the finish. I also got a burst of flavor about 10 seconds after sipping. It was a really lovely and elegant pinot noir that would pair with almost everything. I bought two bottles of each and I'm going to attempt to hold on to them for 4-5 years.

Now that I've gushed about Merry Edwards, I promise I'll try harder to be brief.

11:30am, Gloria Ferrer
They're known for their sparkling wine, which is readily available at most places. So I decided to deviate and try some of their non sparkling wine. I tried 3 pinot noirs. They should stick to sparkling wine. They also should check their bottles before they pour a sample because one of the wines I tasted clearly came from an aerated bottle. They might have been able to recover from this had the non-spoiled bottle actually been good!

12:30pm, Arrowood
Nice Rhone style wines (lots of Grenach/Syrah/Mourvedre). A little slight, but generally enjoyable. They also ended up comping my tasting and giving me an additional pour of the reserve Cabernet, which was lovely. Very smooth, just the right amount of dryness and a hint of fruit.

1:30pm, Imagery
My second favorite of the day. Bought 3 bottles of the Pallas which was a Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec blend. Crazy nose of burnt caramel but the wine tasted very smooth and not sweet at all. Light fruit with some tanins on the finish.

2:00, Landmark
The first two wines, both Chardonnays, had a nose of cat urine. Seriously. I tried them anyway and they tasted better than they smelled, but neither were very good. Didn't really enjoy the reds either. Some people love this place, though, so perhaps a cat just peed in my wine while I wasn't looking and that ruined the whole experience for me.

3:00, St. Francis
Pretty good. Nothing wowed me, but I enjoyed the Petite Syrah and the lovely Australian couple and their daughter who I met while tasting.

4:00, Ledson
Had a great time and ended up getting a tour of the beautiful castle-like house. I really liked the Petite Syrah and was going to buy a few bottles, but I'm starting to get annoyed with places that don't comp your tasting after you decide to buy their product. I think it's only fair that they not make you pay for a tasting if they end up making a sale. Therefore I won't be taking any Ledson home this trip.

5:00 Back to the Hotel to get ready for the rehearsal dinner and plan my tastings for Sunday.

Until Sunday night, cheers,

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The countdown is on.....

72 hours until I'm in Sonoma
I look forward to blogging through the weekend and early next week. Here's hoping I take good notes/remember a few things (even if there were WiFi in the tasting rooms I'll keep the writing for the hotel room).