Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Upside of Heartburn

Last week I could not make it to class as I was out of town for a trade show (for Whole Foods - I probably should have written up my "tasting notes" from the show - highlights were visits to the Vita Coco, Cabot Cheese, Lake Champlain Chocolate, and Stonewall Kichen tables - yum).

Tonight we learned about the Loire, Rhone and Southern France regions. It was a great class and we tasted wonderful wines, but since my favorites were not so "wine-o-cratic" ($50+), I figured I'd skip the tasting notes. As you have probably figured from the title, I'd like to dedicate this column to the silver lining of my heartburn.

I've discovered, and a few fellow sufferers in my class have backed this up, that my heartburn helps me determine when there is a relatively high amount of alcohol in the wine we are tasting. If there's a high alcohol content, I immediately get a flare up in the back of my throat and in my chest. Annoying, yes, but hey, if it helps me be a better taster, then we all benefit!

Well, there's my PSA for today. Oh, and for the record, the Rhone region, specifically the Cote Rotie region in the North and Chateauneuf Du Pape in the South, is still one of my absolute favorites. Not so shockingly, these tend to produce the most expensive Rhone wines.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff (which may not be for a little while since I'm doing a 5K this weekend),


Alli M.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Raise a glass to the 'burbs!

This past weekend two of my favorite Manhattanites, Pam and Laura, sacrificed their Saturday to the suburbs. Hoping to impress, I shared the bounty of good food and wine that is "my" New Jersey. Naturally this meant brunch at Raymond's accompanied by a bottle of Pierre Gimmonet Champagne.

Following brunch, we stopped over at Amanti Vino for their weekly free tasting. Of the 4 wines we tasted, my favorite was the Cascina Ca'Rossa Nebbiolo 2007. Generally I find Italian wines a little too acidic, dry and "dusty" for my palette, but this one was delightful - light with bright notes of strawberry and hints of spice. I picked up a bottle for later (been meaning to go back to a great restaurant around the corner called Osterio Giotto).

We then went on to Stew Leonard's where we tasted a few more wines. The most surprising was a red from the Southern Rhone that was primarily Cabernet Sauvignon (very rare for the Southern Rhone where Syrah and Grenache are the main varietals). I wish I remembered the name or thought to write it down! We then made our way over to Shopper's Vineyard where we just missed the weekly tasting (as exhausted as we were, I don't think any of us were upset by this). We stopped by one more wine store (mostly to show off the beer section on behalf of Laura's brother - a foamophile - my newly coined phrase for been lovers!) and then made our way to the ginormous Whole Foods in West Orange to forage for our dinner ingredients.

We paired said ingredients (warm salad with baked beets, sauteed mushrooms and onions, roasted red pepper, pepitas, avocado and a touch of shaved goat cheese) and ended the day with one of my favorites - a wonderful bottle of 2006 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir from the Flax vineyard. I'm hoping that alone was worth the trip!

Here's to the 'burbs. Manhattan is not the only place serving up some terrific wine and food experiences. As my friends get sick of me saying, "Jersey effin' rocks."

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff (in Jersey or beyond),


Alli M.

Friday, April 9, 2010

New World, Old World - Whatever the mood or the food

We didn't have class this week so a couple of us met up to hold our own practice tasting. We tasted several different Pinot Noirs - 2 from Burgundy, 1 from Oregon, 1 from California and 2 from Australia (Central Otago).

The collective favorite seemed to be the Mt. Difficulty Pinot Noir 2006 from Central Otago which one of my classmates picked up as an after thought because he liked the name!!! See, even we wine "experts" can be swayed by a good label or clever name. It had a lot of cherry fruit and a nice bit of funk and earth. It definitely was not what I expected from a wine from Australia. I'd expect a ton more fruit and less earth. Plus, for under $30, it was quite a find.
One other note - as I was tasting last night, I was reminded that I'm likely the only person in my class who likes the fruit forward "new world" style of the American, South American and Australian wines. I also love the funky, earthy "old world" style of the French and Italian wines. As I like to say, it's all about my mood and the food. Sometimes I want something restrained and austere, sometimes I want something big, fruity and simple. Unfortunately, the biggest drawback of my class is that the WSET has an old world bias as do many of the people in my class.

To that end, I sometimes find myself in the minority when tasting. I also feel that my class completely under represents wines from outside of France - and this is coming from a Francophile. My point is that I often hear friends or acquaintences say, "I don't know much about wines, but I know what I like." When all is said and done, this is the most important thing. If you like really oak-y Chardonnays or Merlot with large amounts of fruit, don't let the wine snobs like myself dissuade you. We're probably dealing with others who look down on our tastes.
Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,
Alli M.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Alsace, Burgundy and labeling, oh my!

With the lovely weather we've been having, it's been hard to force myself to sit down and write about this past week's class. I hope my fellow Northeasterners understand!

This past week we covered Alsace, a great and often overlooked region and Burgundy, one of my favorite regions.

Alsatian wines are primarily made of Riesling or Gewurztraminer, though they tend to be very dry representations of these grapes. I love these Rieslings and Gewurztraminers. They are generally dry, elegant and so very food friendly. We tasted two great Alsatian wines: Marcel Deiss Riesling 2007 and Charles Schleret Gewurztraminer. As expected, the Riesling had a lot of honeysuckle notes while the Gewurztraminer had a classical Gewurz nose of rose water wth some lovely fruit and florals on the palette. Both had me craving Thai noodles.

As mentioned before, Burgundy reds are made primarily of Pinot Noir or Gamay and Burgundy whites are made primarily of Chardonnay or Aligote (much less common). The hardest thing to master about Burgundy wines is understanding the labeling and to be honest, I have a long, long way to go. If I even tried to lay it out here I'd end up confusing all of us. Perhaps one day I'll be able to explain it clearly. Until then, I'll just have to talk about the wine itself.

We tasted one white and three reds. I'd had the white at a tasting dinner a few months ago and though I tend not to love the very dry, mineral-ly whites from Burgundy, I really liked this particular one: Camile Giruod Beaune "Lulunne." Would have been even better if we'd had some scallops!

And of the reds, we had one Beaujolais, made from the Gamay grape, and two Pinot Noirs. The Beuajolais was a tasty, young wine with a mouth ful of strawberry and pepper. The first Pinot Noir was another wine I'd had before. It was the Domaine A. et P. De Villaines "Bourgogne Rouge" 2008 that I raved about after last Saturday's tasting. The final Pinot Noir (and final wine of the evening) was a Domaine Fourrier "Vielle Vignes" 2007. It was very tasty with a ton of strawberry fruit and a nice degree of tannin making it something I'd lay down for a few years (actually, if had the money I'd buy a few bottles and lay them down).
All in all I really liked the tastings though the class reminded me I have my work cut out for me. For the first time since grad. school I'll be making some flash cards.
This week we have no class, but who knows what I'll be corking this week.
Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,
Alli M.