Saturday, June 19, 2010

Earlier today I went to the Loire Valley in France. Not really, but that is how the e-mail inviting me to a class on the wines and cheeses of the Loire was posed. I was a bit bummed when I opened the e-mail to find that my wine heros, Sharon and Will, were NOT offering a field trip to the Loire.

However, with my Advanced WSET exam less than two weeks away, I figured a brush up class on the Loire couldn't help - especially since it's the (geographically) largest wine area in France spanning the Northwestern through the North Central parts of the country. Plus, when it comes to the cheeses, goat is it in The Loire. I always love a good goat - and not just because they look like a wise old Sensei or Shaolin master.

As for the wines, The Loire's most well known regions (from West to Central) are: Muscadet, Vouvray, Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. These regions are all most known for their whites - Sauvignon Blanc in Sancerre and Pouilly Fume, Chenin Blanc in Vouvray and Muscadet in well, Muscadet. In general, the closer to the Central region you get, the more minerality and crispness you get in the wines.

Though Sancerre and Pouilly Fume are among the classic wine regions and I can appreciate the Sauvignon Blanc from these regions, these tend to be a bit too acidic and citrus-y for my taste. But, if you like this style of wine, and many true wine experts do, you will love Claude Riffault "Les Boucards" Sancerre 2008.

On the other hand, Chenin Blanc is one of my favorite whites and we had a terrific one today! Domaine Huet "Clos du Bourg" 2008 had some nice body (though nothing like an oaked Chardonnay) and inviting notes of honeysuckle and melon. I will definitely be drinking more of this over the summer.

Gamay, Cabernet France and Pinot Noir are the main reds you'll find in The Loire and in this tasting we had both a Gamay and a Cabernet Franc. They were good, but truth be told, I think the very best wines The Loire has to offer are their whites and roses (and since they make up 50% and 30% of the sales in The Loire, I think many agree with me). Of the two, I'd recommend the Gamay, Domaine Sauvete "Les Gravouilles" 2008. It was nice - light and peppery with some sweet spice and raspberry. Would be good chilled at around 45 - 55 degrees.
If all goes well, one day I will get to The Loire and perhaps I'll be able to share some great wine tasting stories as well as some fun stories about finding, or not finding, my way around the French countryside. Maybe I'll find a red up there that I love. Until then, a classroom in Montclair, NJ will have to suffice.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff (or I take my Advanced final),

Alli M.

Friday, June 18, 2010

She's Back....and Busier Than Ever

Hello wineocratics! Seems that I've been under the impression that since Congress takes the summer off, so could Wineocracy. But a few of my friends and the infamous "EllieJ" kept asking me why I wasn't writing and I was spending too much time justifying why I didn't have any time!

I have some good reasons - New Job, Travel, and (supposedly) Studying for the Advanced Final for the Wine and Spirits Education Trust - but you don't want to hear about that. As you could have figured, a lot of wine drinking figured into my travel. In typical "I've been too busy to write" fashion, I'll give you the highlights:

Philadelphia: Took a quick trip a few weeks ago and I had to make a stop at Tria, a fantastic wine bar I wrote about last November. I remember enjoying the first glass of wine I had, but apparently it wasn't that good because I don't remember the name. On the other hand, the second glass, Chateau Tirecul la Graviere Monbazillac "Les Pins" 2003, was quite memorable. "Les Pins" is a lovely, golden Sauternes style dessert wine. Sauternes, which are made in the Graves section of Bordeaux, are are often thought of as the best dessert wines in the world. Made from the Semillon grape, they tend to be sweet and exhibit a variety of flavors - apricots, honey, peaches, and sometimes nuts. If "Les Pins" were an actual Sauternes, I likely wouldn't have sprung for a glass but for $9.50, "Les Pins" was a terrific "fauxternes." And that's a restaurant marked-up price! Unfortunately that was the highlight of the weekend as the Holiday Inn sent my overnight bag to Pittsburgh and my beloved Phillies began their slide. If it weren't for Laurie DP laughing at all of my jokes, indulging my wine snobbery and splitting Crab Fries with me at the ball game, I might have "Gone Jersey" on the bell hop at the hotel! It's a good thing there's this stress reliever called wine that is readily available.

Memorial Day Weekend: Opened up a bottle of Finca Decero Malbec. Just as yummy as remembered. Bright raspberry and spice but not overly fruity. So glad I bought a 1/2 case after returning from Argentina.

Connecticut: Made my annual trip to Abbot's Lobster in the rough with a Hendry Pinot Gris, a Hendry Rose (one of my FAVORITE Roses), a Hendry Zinfandel and my two friends, Pam and Laura in tow. Those five ingredients added up to one fantastic weekend. On our way back home, we stopped at a few wineries and the greatest shock was that I really liked some of the Connecticut wines! Who new they actually grew quality grapes in the nutmeg state?!? O.k., to be fair, some of the best wines we tried were made from California grapes. That said, a good winery is a good winery and we were particularly impressed with the Jonathan Edwards winery. My favorite white was the Connecticut Gewurztraminer (crisp and grapefruit-y; dry with a hint of sweetness) and my favorite red was the Napa Petite Sirah (game-y with some nice spice and black fruit and just a touch of smoke). I was also pleasantly surprised to find I preferred the Connecticut Chardonnay to the Napa Chardonnay. I found the Connecticut Chardonnay to be more similar to a classic French Chardonnay - citrus-y and acidic with just a hint of oak.

It's too bad we didn't enjoy any Sparkling wine together because 4 days after our Connecticut winery visits, my dear friend, Laura, got engaged. A big Wineocracy Cheers to Laura and her fiancee, Joshua.

Until the next (month of) sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.