Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Should I take 1%, 2% or Half and Half with my Port?

I can be a wine snob.  O.k., I'm often a wine snob.  But the best thing about this hobby is how surprising it can be. 

Earlier tonight I attended a BYO wine dinner.  There were 30 attendees and well over 30 bottles of wine.  A few of the diners at my table brought two port wines that they'd made:  a white apple port and a dark coffee port.  I tend not to be receptive to home winemakers, but as many of you know, I love a good port so I was really curious.  Skeptical, but curious. 

My skepticism ebbed with each successive sip of the coffee port.  The body was thick, but not syrupy and though the coffee flavor was a bit heavy, it didn't completely overpower the raisin and licorice notes of the port.  Though I can't tell you where to buy this wine or what the price point can be, tonight's experience serves as a reminder of why it's always worth it to try a wine - even if it's a style, varietal or region you don't like or a source of which you're skeptical. 

And I'm not just saying this -- next week the Essex County Wine Society is holding a tasting of South African wines.  I have yet to find a South African wine that I really like.  I've found some that are drinkable, but none I'd choose over other varietals or blends from other regions.  Maybe I'll be surprised yet again next week?  Whatever happens, I'll be sharing it here.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Priorat = Good (better than my original headline which included a play on the word priority)

Last week The Essex County Wine Society hosted a tasting of wines from Priorat, a region in Northeastern Spain that is known for it's big, bold red wines. Wine from Priorat share a lot of characteristics with the Southern Rhone because most Priorats are blends consistng mostly of Syrah and/or Grenache (or as it's known in Spain, Garnacha). Merlot and Carignan (another grape commonly found in Rhone blends) are also often blended in Priorat.
As is typical of the Essex County Wine society tastings, we blind tasted 10 wines and rated them in three different groups. Yes, that is a lot of wine, but if you can contain yourself and stick to a few sips of each wine, you'll get through it fine.  And if you can't, this is why you leave me to do the tasting and writing!

I hadn't had a lot of exposure to Priorat, but I enjoy Southern Rhone wines so I liked a lot of what I tasted.  These are big, dry wines with a lot of alcohol (thanks to the Garnacha), so you don't want to serve these with appetizers or a light snack.  Also, a lot of these wines had some interesting rubber and smoke scents on the nose.  These often dissipated after a good 10 minutes, but I could asee how this might be off putting to some.  That said, I think these are really interesting, complex and flavorful wines and worth the risk.

The three wines that were my favorite of the evening:
Ardiles Merum 2004:  Bright berry on the nose and palate; Slight rubber smell on the nose that I didn't get on the palate; Subtle mineral and herbal notes; Nice tannic structure
Salanques 2006:  Gamey nose with some cherry notes; Velevety mouth feel with bright berry flavor and savory notes
Vall Llach Idus 2006:  Bright berry nose with leather and earth notes; Nice balance of fruit and minerality on the palate; Flavors stick around for awhile (a.k.a. medium to long finish); Favorite of the evening

South Africa is the next region that the Essex County Wine Society will be tasting.  Admittedly, this is one of my least favorite regions, BUT, I will be at that tasting and I will give it my best.  Yes, this is such a sacrifice!

Before then, I expect to have at least a few other wine encounters.

Until those next sniffs, sips or quaffs,

Alli M.

Monday, January 9, 2012

When I think of athletes and wine, I either think of champagne in locker rooms or Greg Norman's eponymous label.  Given their salaries and lifestyles, I assume that there are more than a few sports stars that are also oenophiles, but you tend not to hear about thise side of their personalities.  I was pleasantly surprised to open this weekend's Wall Street Journal to find that Lettie Teague profiled one of my favorite retired baseball players, Mike Piazza, and his love of wine.

Despite my lifelong allegiance to the Philadelphia Phillies, I've always respected ex-Met Mike Piazza.  He was an excellent ball player and he always seemed to be one of the "good guys."  Plus, he had (has?) truly magnificent, uh, hindquarters.  Truly a joy to watch in every way.

As it turns out, Mike Piazza's dad was a wine importer and he has been a lifelong student/fan of wine.  Moreover, Piazza appreciates both red and white, which to me is the sign of a true wine lover. 

For the full article, check out this link:

Later this week I'll be attending a tasting of Priorat, a Spanish varietal.  I look forward to sharing all of my notes (or really the truncated version).

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

It's been a lovely 3 weeks of reds, late harvest whites and of course, plenty of sparklers. I have been remiss about posting about my latest wine adventures, so I'll just share a wrap up of my favorite Wines of 2011 Chrismukkahnewyears.

Marques de Rsical Rioja, 2002 and Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia, 2000 (I think): A few weeks ago I had a dinner club meeting that happened to be the night before my friend, Meg's birthday. Meg has been on an Iberian wine kick lately so I broke out these two Spanish wines. Both wines are made primarily frm the tempranillo grape and both were excellent, but they were very different which speaks to the importance of "terroir" or in non wine snob, the soil, climate and region in which the grapes are harvested. The Marques de Riscal was smooth with balanced notes of berry, smoke and leaher. The subtle way in which it presents its flavors is due to the time it was aged in oak barrels as well as the time I held onto it. The Lopez de Heredia was a lot bigger and more rustic, but with a lot of bright cherry notes. Lopez de Heredia is great at producing powerful wines that do not overpower most dishes.

Kistler Chardonnay: I didn't catch the year, but it doesn't really matter to me because I've always enjoyed Kistler's Chardonnay. One of the few buttery, oaky California chardonnays I like. They somehow seem to balance the fruit just right so it's right on the edge of being out of balance, but holds its ground. If you like minerally, acidic Chardonnays that show a lot of citrus or green apple, this one is not for you.

Marc Bredif Vin Moelleux Nectar 2000: I hesitate sharing this one because I bought it at the vineyard on my trip to The Loire and it's virtually impossible to find in this country. One of the best dessert wines I've had lately (and I drink a lot of good dessert wines). We drank this at the conclusion of Meg's pseudo-birthday dinner and it was the hit of the evening. As the name suggests, it tastes like fresh peach nectar without the thick pulp and tongue coating. If you get a chance to have a Bredif Nectar from any year, go for it.

Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Brut Belles Annees, NV: One of my favorite sparkling wine and for $40, you cannot do better (for those who swea by Veuve, I promise this is better). Tight bubbles, but slightly less effervescent than most champagnes. Bright fruit and acid with a lot of minerality that somehow does not overwhelm. Almost too easy to gulp, which I learned while watching Justin Bieber perform "Let it Be" on the New Year's Eve special. And I almost killed the bottle while listening to Ce-lo Green murder "imagne.". What is it with less talented musicians wanting to "honor" The Beatles by destroying their music?!?
So now it's 2012 and one of my goals is to post more consistently in the future.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff, or random musing about wine or the state of the music industry,

Cheers and Happy New Year,

Alli M.