Saturday, December 10, 2011

A New Favorite in Old England

A few weeks ago, my friend, Meg, introduced me to a rioja she's been into lately - Vina Alberdi. It's hearty and somewhat smokey, but it's quite smooth with a lot of fruit and finesse. Really easy to drink by itself or enjoy with just about anything (I do not recommend taking a swig after having a Junior Mint).

Last night when I was picking out a bottle to enjoy while on my mini holiday in London, I was thrilled to find a bottle of Vina Alberdi at the Odd Bins wine store near my friends' flat. Total crowd pleaser. We drank with pizza last night and went back to pick u another bottle to have with dinner tonight. One of my friends picked up a bottle to keep at her place for a future occasion.

If you see this bottle, it's definitely worth the $20+ it will set you back.

Until, well, who am I kidding, I'm on vacation so I sniff, sip and quaff every day!

Alli M.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mulling It Over

Hello from the U.K! Why am I reporting frm a region that's not really known for wine? Well, the English are certainky known for their drinking. Plus, they tend to serve a lot of mulled wine during the holidays. And today I learned the difference between European mulled wine and the mulled wine they tend to serve in the U.S. - spirits. European mulled wine tends to be fortified with whiskey or bourbon or other spirits while U.S mulled wine tends to consist of just wine and spices. At least that seemed to be the case today. Or maybe it was just the jet lag...either way, it was an interesting difference to note.

Until the next sniff, sip, or quaff,


Alli M.

P.S. I've since learned that spirits are usually just an option for mulled wine over here. Just haven't seen the whiskey or bourbon option in the states (or maybe I've been drinking the wrong mulled wine all these years)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

When Free Isn't Worth It

I'm one of those people who tends to have an easy time staying away from open bars. It's not that I have some insane amount of will power, it's just that I'm now at the point where I can't drink crappy wine and most wine served at open bars is pretty bad. The bar at the United Club in the Newark Airport is no exception. The Cabernet and Chardonnay they serve as part of their free wine service is among the worst I've had in a long time.

I think the name of the label is Copperhead, which sounds about right because it's about a few notches more pleasant than I imagine a poisonous snake bite would be.

No real lesson to share here other than buyer beware. Oh, and stay away from Copperhead - snake, wine brand or otherwise.
Just checked the name of the wine - it's actually Copper Ridge. Oh well. The snake comparisons don't work, but you should still steer clear of this swill.
Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or quick mouth rinse,


Alli M.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Return Trip to Oregon - Kinda, Sorta

Last week I had the opportunity to attend an Oregon pinot noir tasting conducted by the Essex County Wine Society, a local club of fellow oenophiles.

Over the course of the evening we tasted 10 wines from some of the top wine makers in Oregon's Willamette Valley.  The wines were all from the 2008 vintage, which is thought to be one of the best
Oregon has ever produced. 

We tasted the wines blind so we didn't know who made them or how much they were before we tasted.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that my palate mostly went the way I would have gone had I known the labels. 
The line-up (my favorites are in purple):

Bergstrom Cumberland Reserve, Chehalem AVA - Sweet spice on both the nose and palate, not much of a finish, tight tannins, pleasant; $27

Ribbon Ridge Ridgecrest Vineyard, Ribbon Ridge AVA - Classic pinot noir notes of red raspberry and cola, Loved the nose, but it seemed to disappear on the palate; $63

Elk Cove , Yamhill Carlton AVA
- Gamey, but also bright red berry notes, One of my favorites of the night; $28 - good buy

Ken Wright Abbott Claim Vineyard, Yamhill Carlton AVA - Licorice nose but with some interesting sweet notes - floral?, Nicely balanced; $52

Lemelson Thea's Selection, Yamhill Carlton AVA - Sweet nose with spice notes, Currant, earth, a little pepper on the palate, Another one of my favorites; $26 - also a good buy

Archery Summit Arcus, Dundee AVA - Petrol on the nose, Not a fan, Only a few people in the room liked this wine, but it got better throughout the evening - still my least favorite; $91

Domaine Serene Jerusalem Hill, Eola-Amity Hills AVA - Lovely nose of red berries with a hint of smoke, Absolutely loved this wine and it was a tough choice between this and the next wine for my favorite of the night, Glad to find out that Eola-Amity is still my favorite Willamette AVA - even in a blind tasting; $90

St. Innocent Freedom Hill, Eola-Amity Hills AVA - Funky nose with a lot of game and herbal notes; Cherry, spices, savory herbs on the palate - this is my type of wine and it was my favorite of the evening; $40 - in my opinion, a good deal for an Oregon wine with this much personality and complexity

Ken Wright Carter Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills AVA - Mint, eucalyptus, smelled almost like a mint tea, More fruit on the palate, but still a lot of mint which I couldn't get past, Lots of people loved this one but I didn't really like it, When I found out it was Ken Wright, I was not surprised because I tend not to love their stuff as much as everyone else - just makes me an outlier; $52

Ken Wright Canary Hill Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills AVA - Jammy nose, Cooked berries, Seemed to disappear on the palate, but when I came back later in the evening, it had a much longer finish, Was the favorite for the majority of the attendees; $52

Ultimately, there was only one wine (Archery Summit) I wouldn't want to drink again. Yet even the Archery Summit had its fans.  There were over 70 people at the tasting and each of the wines had at least a few fans so if you get the chance to try any of these, go for it.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Michael Graves, Wine and Lettie Teague

I finally caught up with this weekend's WSJ article and it's the best I've read in years. Perhaps it has something to do with the subject - Michael Graves - of whom I am a fan. I should have known with his sense of both elegance and whimsy that he appreciates wine as well.
Definitely worth the 15 minutes it takes to read the article:

And for the record, I generally prefer Lettie Teague's columns to Jay McInerney's.  Teague puts the wine above her own wit and her background in both wine and writing put her head and shoulders above McInerney.  Plus, she's so totally right about Pinotage. 

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or good wine article,


Alli M.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chaine of Love

Despite my blogosphere silence, the rumors of my teetoling are simply NOT TRUE. I have actually enjoyed many wonderful wine moments over the past few months (many involving my "souvenirs" from Oregon) and there is so much to share.  Dinner clubs, Tastings and Thanksgiving, oh my....

A few weeks ago, I officially joined The Chaine des Rotisseurs, a centuries old food and wine club that began as a guild for French meat roasters. As you can imagine, the induction ceremony, which was also the 50th Golden Anniversary dinner of my local chapter, was a foodie and wine lover's paradise. Though the location was Jersey, the food, the wine and the presentation was all French --cand all amazing. 

Over the course of the evening, we were served eight different wines.  Though I tasted all eight, in the interest of keeping this a post and not a novel, I'll tell you about my two favorite wines of the night - a Sauternes, a varietal I love, but one which I do not drink often (enough) and a Burgundy Pinot Noir.

Our first course was a foie gras paired with Guiraud Sauternes 2005.  Sauternes and foie gras is one of the most classic pairings and though I do not care for fatty goose liver, I do love sauternes.  Sauternes are made from the Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle grapes in Sauternais, a region in the Graves area of Bordeaux.  The grapes used in Sauternes are generally infected with botrytis or "noble rot."  This rot leaves behind a greater concentration of sugar and fruit acids which gives Sauternes their lovely sweet honeysuckle notes.  The Guiraud was a golden hued sauternes with classic notes of honey and cream and a faint citrus note.  The palate was lush, but not syrupy.  It doesn't have the most wine-o-cratic price (aprox. $40 for a half bottle), but for an excellent six year old Sauternes, it's a good deal.

For our fourth course (out of seven!), we were served a Joseph Roty Gevrey-Chambertin les Champs-Chenys 2004 from Burgundy.  It shouldn't surprise any of you that this was my other favorite since Burgundy = Pinot Noir.  Unlike the pinots I was drinking in Oregon, this one had a little more age and a lot more mushroom and game notes that are common in Bugundy pinot noirs.  My favorite thing about pinot noir, though, is that if it's made well, which this one certainly is, no matter what other notes exist, you can always get bright fruit notes and this one delivered with a palate of cherry, plum and cola.  It paired perfeclty with the duck breast as well as the beef (fifth course).  I barely took a sip of another wine after this one.  Like the Sauternes, this is pretty pricey, but in the context of its age and region, at $50, it's worth it. 

As the holidays gear up and my participation in multiple dinner clubs increases, I expect to have a lot to write about going forward.  I will do my best to make sure to keep you up to date on the latest trends and smart buys in the wine world. 

The key is to keep the writing as high of a priority as the corking!

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Willamette Valley, Take 2, Day 2

A few weeks ago I wrote about a fantastic pairing dinner I'd attended featuring Evening Land wines.This morning, we had the fortune of getting a private tour of their Seven Springs vineyard, where they grow all of their fruit, followed by a private tasting with the West Coast sales and marketing manager, Ken.

I'm tempted to give you the blow by blow account, but I don't want to make you jealous (or put you to sleep - as fascinating as I am, no one wants to read a novel when they visit a blog). In a nutshell, we spent 2 hours touring some of the most beautifully pruned vines I've ever seen and then 30 minutes tasting and discussing some of the best wines I've ever had. I'm not a paid spokesperson for Evening Land (though I'd gladly take that job) nor am I embellishing. This was simply the best vineyard tour I've been on. Moreover, Evening Land is one of the few vineyards where I genuinely loved every wine I tasted. I have my favorites (La Source Pinot Noir and Mad Hatter Chardonnay), but I have yet to dislike anything they make.

On Ken's advice, we spent the rest of the morning in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, the region Evening Land is in. In Ken's completely unbiased opinion, this is the best region in Oregon and he recommended we visit Cristom and Bethel Heights.

After our fantastic experience at Evening Land, I was actually worried that no matter how great the region, we wouldn't like an other place we visited because it couldn't live up to what we'd just had. I should have known better because Ken just flat out knows his stuff. He even made the perfect recommendation for lunch.

At Cristom we tried several Pinot Noirs, most named after female members of the family who makes the wine. Among Eileen (smokey, spicy, structure), Jessie (gamey, smooth with a savory beef note), and Marjorie (pepper, cherry, very smooth with some savory notes), Marjorie was my favorite though I would like to see what Jessie is like in a few years. All were really tasty and interesting in their own way so if you stumble across one, pick it up. It's on the expensive side, but I think well worth it. I've tasted several Pinot Noirs that were as expensive and more expensive with half the complexity. It was a great tasting room experience (thanks Gerry or Jerry) and I was glad we weren't let down after our fantastic morning.

We followed up Cristom with another great experience at Bethel Heights. I also have to give some credit to my friends, Laura and Josh, because even before Ken had recommended Bethel Heights, Laura had raved about it to me so it was already on my list of hopeful visits.

Bethel Heights had a really lovely Rose, but for me, the real treat was the Flat Block Pinot Noir. It has a lot of red berry fruit on the nose and palate with some nice acid structure, though a medium finish. I'm interested to see what happens with it over the next few years. If you find me in 2013, 2014, I may just share some with you when I open up a bottle.

Unfortunately, the rest of the vineyards we visited during the day were letdowns, except for a final last minute, on a whim trip to Winter's Hill when our GPS inexplicably turned us around while searching for a different vineyard. I found their Pinot Noirs to be a bit unbalanced and too alcohol-y, but they make a wonderful and very reasonable Rose for $15 per bottle. It's got the lovely light body and strawberry notes that you look for in a good, classic Rose. they also had a really lovely Muscat. It's a dessert wine so it's sweet, but not cloying. Plus, the nose smells like a garden bouquet and who can resist that? 
As for the rest:

Bergstrom: Good $45 Pinot Noir. Too bad they sell it for $75 - $80.
Adelsheim: Nice, not great. Also, what happened to the wine pairing with chocolates?
DePonte: Sad to say that I think my palate has gotten too snobby for you. Plus, you should probably air condition your tasting room. It's not fun to taste in an 80 degree room.

Tomorrow we're going to hit a few more vineyards and then head out to the Coast. On Friday, thanks to the genius that is Wendy, we will be having dinner with Ben Thomas, the red winemaker from Montinore who was our tour guide yesterday. So even though we'll be out f wine country, stay tuned....

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff (a.k.a tomorrow),

Alli M.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Willamette Valley - Take 2, Day 1

As many of you know, I've been planning a return trip to The Willamette Valley in Oregon for several months and now here I am. My friends, Wendy, Mara, and I arrived late last night and due to our East Coast internal clocks were up at 5am raring to go. Well, maybe less "raring to go" and more in desperate need of coffee as we had to kill a few hours before making our way to our first vineyard of the day.

We finally headed out to Ponzi in Beaverton, about 25 minutes from Portland and we were still a good 20 minutes early. Luckily, they let us in anyway. If I had one word to describe Ponzi, it would be acid. This is not necessarily a bad thing because acid can be a very food friendly property of wine (just ask any Italian wine maker). Some of their whites were a bit too acidic for my taste, but they were still well balanced. My favorite Ponzi white was the 2010 Pinot Blanc which had a lot of acidity that was mitigated by a softer, somewhat rounded body because a portion of its blend had been fermented in oak. Among the reds, we all seemed to like the 2008 Reserve Pinot Noir with its smooth body, subtle tannins and spice and oak notes. The great thing about Ponzi is they make a lot of good, classic Oregon wines that are not too expensive and available in many places. It's hard to go wrong with them.

After Ponzi, we continued our journe down into the valley with a stop at Montinore, another label I've always thought of as a good buy because their red label Pinot Noir is very tasty, available in many places and usually availabe for around $20, if not a buck or two less. Today, though, we were going to get some VIP treatment thanks to a hook up through my friend, Chaz and his excellent wife, Robin. We not only had a tour with the red winemaker, Ben, but we also got to taste whatever we wanted which included some really special Pinot Noir along with an excellent ruby port, some dessert wine that tasted like pineapple juice and a non alcoholic vermis they sell to a local jam maker, among others. Suffice it to say, I picked up a few bottles of ruby port, a few bottles of their Graham's Block 7 Pinot Noir (smooth, lush bowl full of cherries, spice and oak) and a few bottles of their Parson's Pinot Noir (mushroomy and gamey with a hint of peat moss - reminded me of a nice Cote Rotie). These are both very small production Pinot Noirs, so if you find one, just pick it up. 
From there we went to WillaKenzie, White Rose, Carlton Winemaker's Studio and Domaine Drouhin. I wish I had a glowing write up for each of them, but they didn't really stand out the way Ponzi and Montinore did.

WillaKenzie - Least enthusiastic wine room employee I've ever encountered. This woman put a damper in the entire tasting (well when she wasn't ignoring us as she surfed online). The wine wasn't great, but even if it was, I'm not sure she would have cared.

White Rose - Wines were o.k., but the best part of the tasting was the view from the winery.
Carlton Winemaker's Studio - I think we really would have liked this, but we visited right after lunch and we were full and tired and our palates were a bit tired. That said, they were pouring Retour Pinot Noir, which I've read a lot of rave reviews about. It lived up to the hype. Picked up a few bottles of the 2007. The 2008 was also really good, but completely different.

Domaine Drouhin - Coasting on their name. Totally skippable.

Our final visit of the day was to Erath, one of my favorites from my last visit. Dick Erath who founded the vineyard and still consults for them (he sold his namesake several years ago) is one of the original Oregon pioneers. They just started making a white Pinot noir which I really enjoyed.  Many purists think that white pinot noir is a gimic, but the Italians have been making it for years and I find it very interesting (and not in a "it's weird, but I feel I should be polite way.")  It drinks like a red - medium bodied, spicy, cherry - but with some more floral and nutty notes that are typically found in older whites. Really, really interesting in the best way possible. I love finding stuff like this in my travels.

Well, the lights are going down here a the Comfort Inn and Suites (we Wine-O-Crats would rather spend the $ on good wine).

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or tour (uh, tomorrow),


Alli M.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What pairs with a Hurricane (or really bad rain and a hyper 24 hour media?)

Due to the impending Hurricane, I've been cooped up inside since 10am yesterday.  After 3 loads of laundry, countless crappy movies (how and why did "Love Happens" ever get made?!?) and multiple updates of my Fantasy Football worksheet, I felt it was time to enjoy some wine.  So what pairs with a Hurricane - or even a pesudo tropical storm that the news keeps trying to turn into something so much bigger?!? 
With the intense humidity, I thought I should pick something that was crisp and cool, but with some body.  Cut the humidity; stand up to the wind.  I happened to have a good portion of a bottle of 2010 Cuma Torrontes left over from a sushi dinner that would be the perfect storm compliment.     

As longtime readers know, Torrontes, is one of my absolute favorite white grapes.  To me, it has the perfect balance of fruit, acid and body.  A part of me wants the whole world to discover this
flavorful, food friendly wine and another much more selfish part wants it to stay a hidden gem in Argentina so that it doesn't get over planted and mass produced like so many Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Grigios. 

I'd never had Cuma before, but an astute employee at Englewood Wine Merchants recommended it.  What a good call!  Cuma, from the Michel Torino estate, is one of my favorite new white wines.  It has a beautiful nose with all sorts of floral notes.  The most predominent seems to be rose.  On the palate, you get a huge hit of acid that is mitigated by the floral notes as well as some peach notes that add some nice body. 

It has a little too much acid for me to drink alone, but with some salad or sushi or most varieties of fish (even tuna fish salad), Cuma drinks beautifully.

I (almost) look forward to another day of bad weather and even worse movies so I can enjoy another glass or two of Cuma.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff (6 days until I'm in Oregon),


Alli M.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dinner with an Old Friend(s)

This past weekend my good friend and Manhattanite, Wendy, made the big trek across the river to join my monthly dinner club get together.  This month we chose Giotto because Jeff, one of the club members had never been, which the rest of us felt was just wrong for someone who has lived in Montclair for over a year. 

Giotto, like most places we choose, is a BYO so Wendy and I took a quick tour of my wine refrigerator.  As we were deciding which bottles of wine to bring to dinner, Wendy commented that she was a big fan of Merry Edwards pinot noir - one of the many things we agree upon.  Merry Edwards is one of my absolute favorite pinot noir makers and you don't have to do much arm twisting to convince me to crack open a bottle of her wine.  I grabbed a bottle of Merry Edwards 2006 Flax Vineyard pinot noir that I picked up on my last trip to Sonoma.

The wine was as good as I remembered.  Medium bodied, but with rich, yet soft tannins and a lot of great cherry and blackberry fruit.  It's a great wine for a variety of foods, which made it a natural choice for a restaurant where we'd be having everything from salads to scallops to rich meaty red sauces.  Most importantly, it was a big hit and enjoyed by all (or so my friends told me).  I sometimes wonder if they just tell me they like what I pick to prop up my wine-ego!

Regardless, it was a great dinner.  AND, unlike previous experiences at Giotto, the service was as good as the wine.  Maybe they finally recognized that at least a few of us are there somewhat regularly?!?  Either way, it was great that the quality of the service finally matched the food. 

And what's more - we actually agreed to venture out of Montclair for our next dinner club.  With an upcoming trips to Blue Hill at Stone Barns and the Willamette Valley, I'll definitely be posting before then!

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff, or venture out of Montclair,


Alli M.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Alli M. Enjoyed a Little Lamb (yes, this is a newsworthy headline)

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a wine pairing dinner featuring Mark Tarlov, the proprietor of Evening Land vineyards.

I've been looking forward to this dinner since Amanti Vino announced it in June.  Evening Land is an Oregon vineyard that makes excellent chardonnays and pinot noirs.  Evening Land's wines have been celebrated since their first vintage four short years ago in 2007.  And though I don't believe in relying on ratings alone (I'm looking at you Achaval Ferrer), I've tasted the 2008 Evening Land "La Source" pinot noir sevand I absolutely love it.  I should have written it up, but I think that was one of the nights I was shirking my responsibility as your dedicated Wineocrat!

Over the course of the dinner, we enjoyed 7 different wines (5 of Evening Land's and two from Tarlov's other vineyards).  Despite the added "competition," the 2009 "La Source" pinot noir was my favorite. It was complex, yet accessible with layers of  cherry, plum and a hint of violet (and II tend not to pick up the non fruit notes).  Though "La Source" is not necessarily in the typical wineocrat price range (mid $50s - mid $60s), it is worth the splurge.  Plus, it could have been worse, the "Summumm" might have been my favorite (approx. $120)!!!  Then again, it was a very, very close second......

Enjoying a well made pinot noir is not surprising for me, so the biggest revelation of the evening was that, I FINALLY enjoyed a lamb dish.  I have tried lamb in many ways over the years and I have never liked it.  I've really wanted to like lamb because it pairs with so many different wines, but it has a gamey aftertaste to me.  However, I CulinAriane's lamb so very tasty.  When I complimented Chef Ariane after the meal and told her I'd never liked lamb before, she responded that I liked this lamb because," it doesn't taste like lamb."  She was absolutely correct!  It turns out she had served us a very special type of lamb that is only available 3 months out of the year.  The lambs are from a farm called Lava Lake.  They are 100% grass fed and raised on an organic diet with no antibiotics or added growth hormones.  I look for these same attributes in the other meat and poultry I eat so I was happy to find that the only lamb I enjoy is raised in this way.  It also helped that she braised the meat so perfectly and to me, a good braise is close to godliness.

As I (reluctantly) left the restaurant, I introduced myself to Mark Tarlov and told him I'd be visiting The Willamette and Evening Land in September.  He enthusiastically gave me his card and told me to e-mail him.  Hopefully I'll have a great write up from Evening Land in September.

Until the next sniff, sip, or quaff (which will be long before September),


Alli M.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A few weeks ago I celebrated my birthday with several good friends at Otto, a very good family style Italian "pizzeria" with an even better wine list.  It's actually one of Mario Batali's places and though I've been disappointed by many of the celebrity chefs' restaurants I've visited, Otto has yet to disappoint.

There were eight of us, but since it was a "school night," we only made it through 3 bottles of wine:

Almondo Arneis Vigne Sperse 2009: Arneis is a white wine that most people don't know anything about (but should).  To me, it's the wine you introduce to your friends who always force you to order a bottle of Pinot Grigio.  Almondo Arneis is fresh and crisp with a nose and palate full of citrus.  Despite the lightness, it has some nice structure and slight body which allows it to hold up to lighter dishes like salads, vegetables and other light appetizers.  Moreover, it's one of the least acidic Italian whites out there so it tends to be less "puckering" when drinking by itself (which it also does nicely).  None of the white wine drinkers at the table had ever heard of Arneis and all were asking me about it over the course of the meal.

La Spinetta Barbera D'Asti Ca' di Pian 2007: To me, Barbera D'Asti is always a good bet because it can be light to medium bodied and it is very versatile.  Unless you're going for a super light salad or appetizer or a super heavy pasta, beef or venison, Barbera will likely go well with your meal.  The La Spinetta has lovely cherry and cassis notes.  It went particularly well with the thin crust mushroom pizza we ordered and seemed to go down very easy around the entire table!

And the 3rd bottle - Moscato D'Asti of course!  I didn't catch the label, but it was crisp, sweet, bubbly and just as enjoyable as I expected it to be.  Plus, it went incredibly well with the "Black & White" (I don't even want to try to explain it - just look it up on Otto's web site and know that it was even better than described).

I really enjoyed the Arneis, the Barbera D'Asti and the Moscato D'Asti, but the best blend of the evening was the gathering of friends from various parts of Manhattan and New Jersey.  Nothing complements wine better than good company (and it sure beats Lardo pizza - the one culinary misstep). 

Until the next, sniff, sip and quaff (which I promise to write up before I turn.....well, let's just say I'm old enough to be characterized as "Old Vines" but much, much younger than the oldest vines in California),


Alli M.


Friday, June 24, 2011

6 Vineyards and a Bunch of Freaky Mannequins

It's been a long day and since my mom is the only person who actually reads my blog, I'm going to keep it brief. 
Domaine de la Poultiere (Vernou-Sur-Loire):  I can't believe I'm wine tasting at 8:45am.  Greeted by a sweet dog.  Nice wines.  Bought a lovely white for dinner.

Then I picked up my friends after having to do an entire lap around the town in a large rental station wagon (it was between that and a Smart Car and there are 3 of us).

Domaine des Geleries (Bourgueil):  Remembered enough of my French 101 fruit vocabulary to discuss the wine with the winemaker.  He was impressed enough to give us a barrel tasting.  Success!  Nice reds - preferred Bourgueil Cabernet Franc to Chinon Cabernet Franc.  Mellower and richer.

Don't remember 3rd winery (Bourgueil):  Was not great. 

Domaine Du Cedre (Bourgueil):  Yummy pink sparkler.  No room in suitcase.  Bummer.

Couly-Dutheil (Chinon):  Typically over commercialized winery though the people there were really nice.

We then visited the Chateau in Usse which inspired the writer of "Sleeping Beauty."  It is gorgeous from the outside, but it is decorated with a plethora of mannequins and wax figures illustrating French life as well as the story of Sleeping Beauty.  AND, the mannequins are dressed in costumes reflective of the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries with a little 1970s thrown in for good measure. Super freaky and totally confusing.  The above picture is from the "Tasting in the Wine Caves."  I decided to join the mannequins. 

Chateau Gaudrelle (Rochecorbon):  Great stuff.  Nice white with a little oak on it.  Lovely dessert wine.  Alas, no room in the suitcase.  Plus, the winemaker was shooting down everything I wanted to pair the wine with.  I may have a lot to learn, but he didn't have to be so snotty.  Oh well.  There are other, nicer producers for me to buy from!

Then we went back to Amboise, found the only boulangerie in the region that is open past 5pm and had a feast of bread, cheese, macarons and salami for dinner.  Still full.

Tomorrow I head to Paris where I may actually venture into wines that are not from The Loire.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff, cheese binge and/or mannequin tour,


Alli M.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Two Wineries, Two Chateaus and One Big Ass Wheat Field

Unfortunately we only made it to two vineyards today as we took our time visiting Chateaus, eating long meals and leisurely driving around the Loire.  Truth be told, we got a late start, got lost in a wheat field (despite having two GPS systems) and spent way too much time eating.

After visiting the lovely Chateau de Chenonceau where Laura and I decided it was much better to be the mistress than the Queen, we made our way to Caves Monmousseau in Montrichard.  It was a little too commercial for my tastes, BUT, we tried a really interesting sparkler called "Spicy Bubbles."  We thought it was going to have a spicy pepper taste, but what they meant by spicy, was spiced.  It tasted like sparkling wine with a few teaspoons of cinnamon and nutmeg.  It was better than I expected and tasted like something you'd have over the holidays which is why Jen bought a few bottles for her famous Christmas cookies and cocktails (and now "Spicy Bubbles") party.  You're all invited!

The next winery was a lot more fun - Domaine Des Roy in Pontlevoy, the town next to Montrichard.  We pulled up to a small house and walked in to find a sweet older man, a long table and a bunch of white and red wines.  We tasted alongside a French couple who I believe made some jokes about young people and wine tasting.  At least I think we laughed at the right moment. 

At Domaine Des Roy, my favorite wines were the Cot (which is what they call Malbec in the Loire) and a wine they called Les Linottes which is almost 100% Gamay.  Gamay is a red that grows really well in the Eastern part of the Loire (which is where we are) as well as in Burgundy.  It's also one of my favorite summer reds because it tends to have a nose and palate full of berries and is lighter bodied (despite being a pretty dark ruby color).  Domaine Des Roy's Les Linottes is a classic Gamay and at 6 Euros per bottle, I just had to pick one up.  The Cot was also quite good, though different from Argentinian Malbec.  The Cot had a lot more Cabernet-like notes of green pepper and earth - not surprising given that Cabernet Franc is the dominant red grape in these parts.  I also picked up a bottle of the Cot. 

For those keeping count, that puts me at 3 bottles which means I'll be buying a bag to carry my clothes on the plane with me.....

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff and wine shopping binge,


Alli M.

p.s.  The above picture is what I look like while frolicking in wheat fields. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

After 5 days of beating up my liver in London and thus forgetting everything I'd want to share about the wines (and tequila and Pimm's and beers and ciders) I had, I have made my way to the Loire for a proper wine tour.  My friends, Jen and Laura, have joined me despite acknowledging their hatred of French wine.  In fact, I'm not sure why they decided to join me, but I'm happy they're here.

Today we made our way to three wineries - Domaine Huet, Les Caves de Loires and Maison Bredif.  Huet was the vineyard I was most excited about and our first stop of the day.  I've had their sparkling wine from their Clos Du Bourg vineyard and have really enjoyed it.  Today we tried sparkling and still wines from their three vineyards - Clos Du Bourg, Le Haut-Lieu and Le Mont.  Of the three, Le Haut-Lieu was my favorite.  The wines under the Haut-Lieu labels tended to be a bit simpler but with a really smooth and velvety mouth feel.  Really lovely.  Then again, I always find it hard to like the most complex wines during straight tastings without any food.  Ahh, the tough life of a self-professed wine snob.....

After Domaine Huet, we made our way to Les Caves de Loires, a collective of several vineyards in the area.  90% of their wine is sparkling and almost all of it is from the Chenin Blanc grape.  And before I move on to share what I really thought, my friend, Laura, tells me that I must share the one factoid she remembers that there is a guy who works there who turns 42,000 bottles of champagne a day.  Laura and Jen now believe this to be my career calling. 

As for me, this was my least favorite visit of the day because they not only made us wait 40 minutes for the tour, but I also found the tasting to be mediocre and the guide to be, well, typically French in her approach towards non-French tourists.  Plus, I didn't really like the tasting.  They had a nice Late Harvest dessert wine, but otherwise, it didn't sooth the savage snob. 

From there, we were going to take our exhausted selves back to the hotel, but we had one more taste in us and we ended up at Maison Bredif, which was excellent.  They have vines outside of Vouvray so they do more than just Chenin Blanc.  As much as I love Chenin, it's nic to try other things!  Though my favorite of theirs was their 2009 Vouvray (we grabbed a bottle that we ended up kicking at dinner) and their Nectar (a late harvest Chenin - one of my favorite ways to enjoy Chenin).  Moreover, the guy in the tasting room was knowledgable and helpful.  Jen also found him attractive though Laura found his ongoing ass scratching to be a bit disturbing.  All in all, though, it was a great way to rebound from Les Caves de Loire.

Earlier tonight we started planning for tomorrow's trips and we're thinking a Chateau, some tastings and ideally some walking....After tonight's dinner of bread, cheese, wine and salami (my favorite French dinner), we're going to need to find some activity that involves more than just minor bicep curls.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

If you have not yet tried Torrontes, you're missing out!

Last night I went out to Sushi Lounge, a good, local place with my friend and fellow wine lover, Sharon.  Sushi Lounge does not have a great wine list, but they have a few of the more interesting varietals such as Torrontes.  Torrontes is a lovely, medium bodied, floral white that is grown in the North Argentina.  Moreover, since it's a lot less expensive to make wine in Argentina and since the varietal is not well known (and thus not over planted - yet), it tends to be one of the bigger values on a wine menu. 

Sushi Lounge carries Lo Tengo Torrontes out of Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina.  It's slightly sweeter than many other Torrontes I've had, but delightful, and smooth with some nice honeysuckle and citrus notes.  As expected, it pairs perfectly with sushi and is also easily enjoyed on its own.  This is probably why Sharon and I went threw two bottles!!!

So the next time you're in the mood for a good, food friendly white, break away from your Savignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay or Riesling and give Torrontes a try.  I'd be truly surprised if you were disappointed.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Last night I went out for dinner in New York.  The restaurant was o.k. and the wine list was pretty pitiful.  Amongst the Yellow Tail and crappy pinot grigio, I saw they had a Cotes du Rhone rose.  I hadn't heard of the label, but it's rare that I don't like a Cotes du Rhone rose. 

The wine was nothing special, BUT, it was a good, simple rose filled with a nose and palate of strawberry.  It was a perfect wine for a brisk, spring evening and a lovely way to end the week.  Moreover, it was a nice reminder that a summer filled with Chenin and Rose and Torrontes (oh my!), is just around the corner.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Tale of Two Brunellos

Last night a few friends of mine and I went out to Salute, a new Italian restaurant in town known for its brick oven, great food, bad acoustics and uneven service.  Like most restaurants in my town, Salute is a BYO. 

Well made Italian food calls for some well made wine and I decided it was time to pull out some of the good, old stuff that has been sitting in the back of my wine fridge.  I loaded up my wine carrier with four bottles - two 12 year old Brunello di Montalcino, one 11 year old Barolo and a much younger, but delightful Pinot Gris, for my friend who only drinks white. 

This may seem excessive for a dinner with five people and two blocks into my walk to the restaurant, I would have agreed with you.  However, it's not a bad idea to bring an extra bottle or two to a BYO.  I always do - especially when dealing with larger groups and older wine I've had for awhile.  You never know if one of your bottles is bad and it's not like you can send it back and get it replaced!

Though I packed a mobile wine store (including a device that decants the wine as you pour), my focus was really on the Brunellos.  With two Brunellos from the same year and different vineyards, I thought it'd be interesting to have a "taste off."

First up:  Lambardi Brunello di Montalcino, 1999
This was a little lighter, more rustic and less refined than I expected, but it was smooth, full of fruit, dry but not overwhleming and just downright tasty.  Plus, it paired perfectly with our appetizers - bufala mozzarella and basil pizza and an egg crostini.  According to the Lambardi description, this wine is supposed to have plum and cherry flavors, but Meg and Jeff, my fellow wine connoisseurs and I, got a lot more black fruit on the palate.  The dark fruit intensifed the tomato soaked crostini and the slightly sweet, flaky thin crust of the pizza. As expected from an older wine, it had a nice long, smooth finish.

Eager to get on to the next bottle, we did not linger over the Lambardi as we should and we moved on to....

Batting Second:  Banfi Brunello di Montaliucono, 1999
This had more body, more oak and more tannins than the Lambardi so it worked out well that this was the #2 wine.  Usually I'm not a big fan of tannin and oak, but on an older wine, these tend to be much less pronounced and add structure, balance and body to the wine rather than aggressive flavors.  I loved everything about this wine.  The rich, spicy, somewhat earthy, berry flavors that enticed my nose were even better on the palate.  And with a risotto that was half cheese, it was the best wine I've had in a long time.  I was drinking the wine long after I was far too full to eat another forkfull of risotto or steal another perfect gnocchi from Meg's plate.

Suffice it to say, these wines aren't priced for the average "wineocrat."  Even when young, Brunellos run well into the $40 and $50 range.  But this was a place I'd been looking forward to trying for a long time and I knew it was the perfect place to break out the wines I'd be longing taste.

How about we just pretend I was breaking them out in honor of mothers everywhere and as we all know, most mothers deserve a lot more than the niest bottle of wine you own!  At least the mothers I know do (if this were a blog about my pre-teen, teenage and college years, you'd know why).

Cheers to an excellent dinner with terrific wine and even better company.  And cheers to moms on this beautiful Mother's Day.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff,


Alli M.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Scallops and Truffle Oil and Chenin, Oh My

Mother Nature went back to her bi-polar ways this weekend - well, for those of us in the East.  Despite the chilly temperatures and seemingly spiteful wind, I headed to CulinAriane, one of my favorite local restaurants, on Friday night.  I already knew I was going to be getting the scallops with a fragrant, earthy, melt-in-your-mouth mushroom and truffle oil sauce. 

Though the wind was calling for a rich and hearty red, my palate was screaming out for a dry white with some good acid.  Time to break out the Chenin.  Or more like Le Chenin, which is the bottle Will at Amanti Vino convinced me to try.  Wine Advocate gives it a 90 and says something about musk, animal scents, white peach, chalkiness and lime.  As mentioned in previous posts, my palate may be on the "short bus" because I got both a nose and a mouth full of citrus (guess that would be the lime).  I did get the minerality and chalkiness, which I usually do not like, but in this Chenin it was smooth, not overly aggressive as I find in a lot of more minerally whites (many people love this quality - just a personal taste thing). 

If you've been reading me religiously, as you should, it may seem like I like every wine I drink.  The reason for this is that I eat out at a lot of BYOs which means the wine buying is at my discretion and I buy most of my wine from knowledgable people at very good stores.  You do not need to be any sort of wine expert to drink good wine, you just need to find people who know what they're doing and can be the experts for you.  So finda store nearby that can serve as your personal wine experts.  And if you can't, e-mail me and I'll try to help you.

Before I sign off, please vote for my blog - often!

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Forget Aurora, just go for Borealis

For those of us in the Northeast, it feels as though spring is never going to uh, spring.  For every 60 degree day, we seem to get a week's worth of Canadian "air masses." 

So when a friend gave me a a bottle of Montinore Estate's 2010 Borealis, a crisp white blend of traditionally German grapes, I thought it would be months before I opened it.  But this past Saturday it was sunny and warm and I had dinner plans at a restaurant known for it ceviche and the Borealis was calling me.

Truth be told, I'd been wanting to open the Borealis since the moment my friend put it in my hot little hands.  I was intrigued that Montinore, a terrific winery out of Oregon, a region where Pinot Gris is the predominant white grape, made a German blend out of Muller-Thurgau, Riesling and Gewurztraminer.  There is a good amount of Pinot Gris in there as well (15%), but it drinks like a good drier Riesling.  It has an aromatic nose filled with melon, pear and a hint of apple and these are the notes you get on the palate.  It has a slight sweetness to it, but not enough to characterize this wine as semi-dry.  It has a nice amount of acid, but not an overwhelming amount, which is good because ceviche is basically seafood marinated in acid.  The pairing worked out beautifully and this was the first time in a long time that I kicked a bottle of wine at dinner with just one other person (I'm a heavy wine taster and buyer, not a heavy drinker).

As I gear up for spring and summer, I checked out Borealis on to see if it's locally available and I found a few stores near me that carry it.  I was also pleased to find that at $10 - $15, it could make a good everyday white.  Moreover, with its medium body and good acidity, it's something that could pair with something a little heavier than seafood. 

So look for the "Northern Whites" as Montinore calls them, at a wine store near you.  At this time of the year, I'd much rather enjoy this Borealis than trek up north for Aurora.  I've had just about enough of sky masses from Canada.

Until the next sniff, sip quaff or half bottle,


Alli M.

Monday, March 28, 2011

This past weekend was my nephew's 2nd birthday and in my skewed wine view of the world, I decided that I should bring a sweet dessert wine to pair with the birthday cake.

A few weeks ago Wes at Amanti Vino convinced me to pick up a bottle of Echeverria Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, 2007.  He knows I love a good dessert wine and assured me this was worthwhile.  Not only was the bottle sold in an elegant tube package, but at $19.99, what did I have to lose?  And as I was walking out the door to the birthday party, I remembered the bottle and threw it in my cooler bag (along with my fruit salad and sparkling water - I'm not completely blinded by my wine-colored glasses). 

Wes did not let me down.  Though it's made from the usually citrus-y, sometimes flinty Sauvignon Blanc grape, this dessert wine is lush and sweet with notes of honeysuckle and apricot.  It lingers on the palate for a nice long time and it goes down easy with both berries and traditional white birthday cake.  I don't think a 2 year old has the palate to appreciate this wine, but the adults in the room sure did!

If you're looking for a good dessert wine or only drink really sweet wine, this is the bottle for you.  Plus, a sauternes-style dessert wine for $20?!?  You cannot find this good of a dessert wine at this price point from any vineyard in France, Italy, California or practically anywhere.  This one is from Chile, a country that has a lot of great wine values to offer.

Even if you don't have a 2nd birthday partry to attend, I'm sure you can find some way to enjoy this wine.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or child's birthday party,


Alli M.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Who needs a world when you've got an ocracy?

For the second time this week, I took my mother's advice and I read Eric Asimov's wine column in today's New York Times.  Asimov wrote about a a recent wine event in which a renowned wine maker, Adam Lee (Siduri Vineyards), switched labels at a wine tasting to dupe the tasters and prove his point that high alcohol content does not necessarily lead to an unbalanced wine.  Asimov goes on to say that he did not feel that Lee's stunt proved much of anything.

To me, the most alarming part of the article is its beginning in which the switcheroo is described as having
"evoked both claims of vindication and cries of ourage throughout the wine-drinking world."  Apparently I'm not part of the wine world as I knew nothing about this event.  In fact, I didn't even known that a big wine pow-wow known as the "World of Pinot Noir" was going on in Pismo Beach.  And I love Pinot Noir.  The only thing I know about Pismo Beach is the reference Alicia Silverstone (though she will always be known to me as "Cher Horowitz") makes in the movie, "Clueless."  Well, I guess I have a new goal rather than expanding my readership - officially become part of the wine world.  Then again, I already have my own Wineocracy, so who needs a world?!?

If you'd like to read the article:

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or piece of motherly advice,


Alli M.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I can't think of a more clever title. Try Evodia.

A few weeks ago I ran into a classmate from one of my wine classes.  He works for a wine distributor and happened to be hosting a tasting at a local shop.  Though I wasn't in the mood to drink, it doesn't take much to twist my arm and a garnacha (or as the French would say, "grenache") touted as balanced, full of fruit and a great value, well, I couldn't pour it fast enough!

Garnacha (Grenache) is a grape primarily found in the Southwest of France and in Spain.  It grows well in hot climates, but because of this, it also means that it can easily become unbalanced and too high in alcohol content.  This is why it is also often blended with Syrah.  A 100% garnacha is not something you see often in the U.S., and a good one is even more rare - especially at $9.99.  The Evodia Garnacha has a nose of strawberries with a hint of fragrant florals.  On the palate it is medium bodied with a smooth finish that is hard to find at this price point.  And it's incredibly versatile when it comes to food.  If you find it, buy one for yourself, one for your favorite wine lover and one to bring to your next get together.  You will not disappoint nor will you be disappointed. 

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or random wine tasting,


Alli M.

Monday, March 21, 2011

First Day of Spring?!? The Devil is Ice Skating and I Should Consider White Zinfandel a Wine

If this is the first day of spring, then why am I tempted to crack open a port like wine and sip it by the fire?  By the way, for Argentina wine fans and/or port style fans, you can only get this bottle at Achaval Ferrer in Argentina.  I had the pleasure of tasting this when I was down there last year and it was lovely.  SOOOO, if you should somehow come across it up here or find your way to Argentina, I highly recommend purchasing a bottle because it truly is special. 

Back to the weird weather because it's truly ruining my wine schedule.  I was looking forward to returning to my summer love - Chenin Blanc.  Guess the groundhog might have been a bit off in his "short winter" prognostication.  Thanks Puxsutawney Phil.  I hope Bill Murray (or my friends, Sara and Steve) find you and exact NO MERCY.  You're like the White Zin of garden pests. 

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or weather-related outburst,


Alli M.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Listen to your Mother!

My mother wrote me about a wine she had with dinner tonight and it sounds like a good value.  Since I'm
always on the lookout for a good value and I trust this particular palate, I thought I'd share.

Here's what my mom had to say:

"I had a wonderful glass of Spanish wine called Marques de Tomares. It was very full-bodied and went well with my roast beef."

When I heard the words "full bodied" and "Spanish" my immediate thought was tempranillo which meant that it was likely from Rioja or Ribera del Duero.  My instincts were right because this wine is about 90% tempranillo and it turns out it's from Rioja.  Most people think Rioja is a varietal and not a region, but if you like Riojas and/or Ribera del Duero (also a region in Spain that primarily uses tempranillo), it sounds like you will like this wine.  Moreover, I looked it up on and in my neck of the woods, it retails for about $12 - $18 (a wide range, I know, but I'm in the NYC Metro area so this is typical).  I'm guessing outside of New York you'll find it around $15, possibly a little less.  Definitely something worth taking a chance on.  I know I will when I see it in a store.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or mother's recommendation,


Alli M.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Christmas in February - kinda, sort, o.k., not at all

A few weeks ago I was invited to attend a tasting of Italian wines at Eataly in Manhattan, NY (in case you were thinking Kansas). It was a last minute invite and as I'd already committed to hanging out with an adorable 23 month old vintage, I asked my classmate and friend from my WSET classes, Jen F., if she woould attend the tasting and be so kind as to write up her notes. Jen braved a sinus infection and New York City traffic (not to mention the foot traffic at Eataly) to deliver.
As it turned out, two out of the four wines she tasted were those that I was sent to taste over Christmas. When Jen told me, it made me that much more interested to see her write-up and compare it with my thoughts.

Here's what Jen had to say about the two wines I hadn't tried:

"Grecante Grechetto dei Colli Martani DOC I'm always interested in trying new white varietals from Italy and this Grecante did not disappoint. This wine is made from 100% Grechetto grapes. I thought it was delicious. The color in the glass was an intense straw yellow, which I learned is one of it's characteristics. It was soft and well balanced, very fruity with some floral notes. I really enjoyed this wine and would definitely drink it on its own, but it would also pair with seafood.

Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Year DOCG

This is their jubilee wine, that was produced for the first time in 1993 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the winery, but has kept the name ever since. Again it is made from 100% of the very best, carefully selected Sagrantino grapes. Very similar color, nose and taste as the Collepiano - but everything is just more intensified! Very good!!"

And the two wines that I'd already tasted:

"Montefalco Rosso DOC

This is one of the wines that I noticed on your blog that you were able to try as well. Beautiful rich ruby color with notes of ripe red fruit and a little vanilla from the oak. It's a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino (the grape that this winery is best know for) and 15% Merlot. I agree with you that it was slightly thin, fairly dry and a little acidic, but the red berry fruit really came through. This wine, as with all Italian wines, are best enjoyed with food. You were definitely right with your pairing of this wine with prosciutto and salami. That is actually the serving suggestion that the winery itself was recommending for their Montefalco Rosso.

Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano DOCGThis is the other wine that you tasted as well. It's made from 100% Sagrantino. According to their brochure, "Collipiano represents the "renaissance" of Montefalco as a wine region and the Sagrantino as a unique variety grown only in Montefalco." Very dark ruby, almost garnet color with notes of rich red fruit, as well as some spice and vanilla from the oak. The rich red fruit came through on the palate as well, it was very smooth with a slightly bitter aftertaste. I'm not a big fan of bitter things, but I could see how this wine would shine more with food, especially meat. Once again your pairing with the filet was right on!"

When I read Jen's write up I was thrilled to see that she got a lot of the same things out of the Montefalco Rosso and Sagrantino di Montefalco that I did.  I promise we did not compare notes before she wrote up her thoughts.  

So if you see either of these wines and you're having hearty meats, you've now heard from two of us that these are worthwhile to check out - especially the Montefalco Rosso which retails in the low $20 range.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Wendy N. from the cold countryside

Although I still wish I'd found a way to stowaway in Wendy's luggage, one of her recent e-mails makes me feel (slightly) better:

"Before you get too jealous, I'm not having the best time here. Stuck in the country, where it's freezing and rather boring...Thang God for the wine. We paid big bucks for this bottle at a restaurant (20E - about $30) -- a very good, balanced Pinot Noir. It's probably more than I've paid for any wine on this entire trip. This must subsidize wine production in Europe! Can't believe I ever paid $10 for a glass of wine in NYC."

In my experience, $30 is a very good price for a balanced bottle of Pinot Noir -- especially from a restaurant. Moreover, I doubt a $30 bottle, which the restaurant probably paid about $10 for, is subsidizing a lot of wine production. However, I'm conditioned by the U.S. wine market and wine is one of the few things that we pay more for in the U.S. than in Europe. Of course when I looked this up on wine-searcher, I found that Domaine D'Antugnac Pinot Noir 2008 costs around $13 - $15 in some of my local stores. Of course a restaurant here would likely charge around $35 - $45 (as I've complained in previous posts, I've noticed that the mark-ups at restaurants have been creeping towards the 200% plus mark-up level).

I've been thinking about my own wine travels for awhile now and Wendy's e-mails helped encourage me to plan my big 2011 trip. In mid-June, I'll be heading to England for a few days (Taste of London, The Ascot, Wimbledon) and then I'll be going to Paris and The Loire valley. If anyone has any tips, thoughts or advice on touring wineries in The Loire valley, please post them up.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or Wendy e-mail,


Alli M.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wendy N.'s Back (well actually she's been writing the whole time....)

My friend and current foreign correspondent, Wendy N., has been reporting in from Europe. Unfortunately, I've been doing a bit of travel of my own (for work, so no big exciting wine stories) and have not had time to share her thoughts.

A few weeks ago, she wrote about the wine pictured above:

"This is a white from the vineyard here in town. It tastes like a Chardonnay, but not overly oaky or buttery. Very delicious, and only 7E (approximately $10). The other white that is famous in this region is the Blanquette de Limoux. It's rather sweet and I guess the region just got its AOC (official Appelation designation)."

As with the previous wine, I couldn't find this bottle on That said, she probably was drinking a Chardonnay as that is a classic French white. Moreover, the French tend to like their Chardonnay with a lot less oak and butter notes than Americans.

If you're looking for good, acidic, grassy, dry Chardonnay, you should forego California and look to France. You may just find a lovely $15 new favorite.

Until (Wendy N.'s) next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Wendy N. reports in from France

In my previous post, my friends and I were toasting my friend, Wendy N., who was on her way to a 6 month sabbatical in Europe. She recently sent some notes on her latest tastings, which is good because I seem to have forgotten how to write my own content.

Wendy and her husband, Gabe, are currently in the Aude/Languedoc-Roussillon region in France. The French have been making wine in this region for hundreds of years yet only recently has it emerged as a hot "new" wine region. But I think Wendy says it best:

"So we've been enjoying all the good, cheap wine in France. We're staying in Couiza in the Aude/Languedoc-Roussillon region. To the northeast of us a small region called Minervois, and they blend some good reds. We went to this fabulous one-star restaurant (1 Michelin star/20 Euro prix fixe) and they gave us a half bottle of a Minervois red (we didn't get the full winery name -- Jean something might be the guy who runs it) for all of 5 Euros ($7). So we bought the bottle in the pic at the local grocery store for under 3E, and it was pretty good table wine. It's a mix of grapes -- very mild. They have great descriptions on the back of bottles here (I'll take a pic next time)."

I looked up the wine on and unfortunately I could not find it anywhere in the U.S. based on the name I took off the label. In some ways, though, that's one of the beautiful things about enjoying wine in the country where it comes from. You're likely to come across something you can't get in your home country which makes the experience even more special.

Why didn't I try to pack myself in Wendy N.'s suitcase?!?

Before I sign off, please take a moment to vote for my blog at I'd love to have it move up the list! And for my retired friends, you know you have the time to vote often - very often.

Until Wendy N.'s next sniff, sip or quaff (she's on sabbatical and I've been super busy at work so she'll definitely be sipping sooner than me!),


Alli M.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A (slightly overpriced) toast to a friend

This past weekend I went out with a bunch of friends to Jane, a restaurant in New York City. The wine list was overpriced - bottles were generally 3x more than retail, which is, sadly, becoming more common.

Typically in this case I'd go for something in the mid to higher price ranges because the higher up the list you go, the lower the mark-up. However, even Jane's mid-priced wines weren't that amazing (A to Z pinot noir, a solid $20 bottle, for $64?!?). So I figured why not go lower down the list.

My friend, Rachel, had a half finished glass of Les Chamins de Bassac 2008, the least expensive Pinot Noir on the menu. She offered a taste. It was light bodied, yet juicy with some nice cherry notes. It was far from complex and didn't have a whole lot going on, but, it went down easy and I knew we would all enjoy it.

Ultimately, though, this was not a meal about wine (though we did go through 2 bottles), but a celebration of our friend, Wendy N. And it was nice to find that there are well crafted lists with a variety of price points (even if they were a bit overpriced). So maybe next time I encounter an inflated list, I'll look to the "value" end again.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wall Street Journal write up on Amanti Vino

As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of Amanti Vino, my local (Montclair, NJ) wine shop. In several past articles I've mentioned its proprietor, Sharon, and/or manager, Will. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote them up and I feel it's my civic duty to share. Plus, this article may give you a little insight into why I love them.

Oh, and for my friends who never seem to want to leave Manhattan, please note that Sharon may be opening a store on your little island in the coming year. Obviously there will be details to come.
Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or write up of another favorite wine store,


Alli M.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Go Oregon! Or Better Yet, Try Oregon (Wines).

As an avid Pinot Noir fan, Oregon's Willamette Valley is one of my favorite places in the U.S. and as an avid football fan I find myself naturally rooting for Oregon in tonight's college football championship. I also find myself thinking about some of my favorite wines from Willamette.

If I were an actual graduate of Oregon and my team were in the championship, I might celebrate with Evening Land Seven Springs Pinot Noir or Beaux Freres The Vineyard Pinot Noir. They are classic examples of elegant, yet accessible Burgundian style pinot noirs - slight minerality, a little bit of earth and great black currant and berry notes.

However, my college team is currently without a coach and my pro team just got knocked out of the playoffs so I don't foresee uncorking a celebratory wine any time soon! To that end, I'd go for something in the "Value" range of $20 - $25: an A to Z Pinot Noir , a Four Graces Pinot Noir or a Lange Pinot Noir.

Whatever I choose to drink, I know I'll be able to find one of these at a local wine store because Oregon wines are readily available across the U.S. and usually at a variety of price points. So, if you haven't tried an Oregon Pinot, what are you waiting for? I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Oh and if Oregon ends up as the champion and you'd like to toast them, check out an Argyle Brut.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or inspiring football game,


Alli M.