Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tasting with the Stars, Part 2

I’m always struck by how seriously actors and athletes generally take their wine, and how knowledgeable they tend to be. Every time I’ve had a chance to speak to some boldfaced name or other, and the conversation turns to wine, it generally gets technical rather quickly: Grape yields, oak barrels, flavor profiles, food pairing, and the like seem to be sources of endless fascination.

This trend continued last weekend in Los Angeles as we tasted wine with Emmy nominees and presenters. As a result, we spent a good bit more time with many of the guests than we anticipated: Michael Chiklis, for example, spend somewhere around 20 minutes bouncing between our wines and the amazing cheeses on offer by Point Reyes. Jonathan Pryce, who’s been in everything from Pirates of the Caribbean to Glengarry Glen Ross, lives in Provence, and is a serious oenophile with a deep well of knowledge about all things grape-related. Gregory Itzin, 24’s President Logan, couldn’t get enough of our reds--big, concentrated wines appropriate for one of TV’s best villains in recent memory. We also enjoyed glasses with Blair Underwood, Alan Cumming, Seth Green, Neil Patrick Harris, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and others. (We’ll post the full list, with photos, later in the week.)

And yes, that’s Henry Ian Cusick in the photo above--Desmond, from Lost. He loved the wine, and managed to stay in this dimension the entire time--no flash-sideways at all to interrupt his enjoyment. Thank goodness.

Read rest of entry

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tasting with the Stars, Part 1

I returned late last night from a three-day whirlwind in Los Angeles with Wine Chateau’s President and CEO Saurabh Abrol and 50 or 60 of the top names in television. We were out West to taste and discuss wine with more than four dozen Emmy nominees and presenters at the GBK Productions gift lounge at the breathtaking SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, where we also stayed during our time in LA.

I’ll be posting photos and video in the coming days and weeks, as well as details about who liked which wines. For now, however, it’ll have to suffice to say that the experience was unlike anything we’ve ever done before. Drinking Tenuta Valleselle’s Amarone della Valpolicella “Aurum” with Gregory Itzin (24’s President Logan), or Cakebread Chardonnay Reserve with Daniel Dae Kim and Henry Ian Cusick (Lost’s Jin and Desmond, respectively) is definitely not how we usually spend our time away, but then again, nothing about these past few days was ordinary.

And it wasn’t just the whole tasting-wine-with-Emmy-nominees part of the time that made the weekend. No, it was the entire experience, including one of the best meals we’ve ever had the good fortune to enjoy. Our hotel was home to what John Mariani named restaurant of the year 2009 in Esquire Magazine: The Bazaar by Jose Andres, where we ate Friday night.

I’ll write more about that meal in a separate post (any restaurant that serves foie gras cotton candy, a margarita with “salt air,” and a Philly cheese steak with “air bread” and molten cheese, deserves its own description), but for now it’ll have to suffice to say that this past weekend, in its entirety, was one that we’ll remember for a very long time to come.

More details to follow...

Read rest of entry

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wine Review Wednesday: Two Top 2007 Napa Cabernet Sauvignons

There are few greater pleasures in life than opening a bottle of wine from a great vintage and having it exceed your expectations. This is frustratingly rare: Too often, the wine media builds up a vintage so much that, by the time consumers have a chance to pop the cork on the wines they’ve been waiting for, the bottles tend to fall somehow short.

But once in a while you come across a confluence of vintage, region or appellation, and producer that results in a truly memorable experience. I've found this with many of the 2005 Stags Leap District Cabernets, and the top 2005s from Bordeaux haven’t disappointed me yet, either.

To this group, I’d like to add the 2007 Napa Cabernets from the best producers, including the two wines featured here today, the 2007 Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2007 Ehlers Estate St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon “1886,” both of which embody exactly why consumers should seek out 2007s from Napa and fill their cellars with them.

The Mount Veeder is beautiful right out of the gate, with round, ripe berry fruit on the nose limned with deep, dark currants, cedar, tobacco, and black cherry creme brulee. On the palate, it’s loaded with ripe black cherry and black and red currants, loads of blackberry, and a bit of blueberry. For all this fruit, however, it’s a rich, detailed wine, with dusty tannins, perfectly balanced acid, and a complicating hint of violets. I’d give it another two years to integrate more fully, but even now it’s got more than enough charm, power, and balance to win you over if you do open a bottle in the short-term, especially with dinner.

The Ehlers Estate, on the other hand, is positively decadent right now, and smells of ripe, concentrated, and magnificently expressive crushed black raspberry, cherry compote, candied cherries, sandalwood, and caramel. All that sweet, beautiful fruit comes through on the palate, too, and is joined by chocolate caramels, grilled rosemary, toast, and acid that is 100% in harmony with the rest of the wine. This Cabernet boasts a life of 12+ years, though I’ve rarely felt tannins so superbly integrated and polished this early in their evolution.

Both of these wines, for all their aging potential, are awfully difficult to resist right now.

Read rest of entry

Monday, August 23, 2010

Greek Wines in Detail

The other week, I wrote about a Greek Viognier I absolutely loved. That particular wine was tasted for an article I wrote about the next generation of Greek wines for John Mariani's Virtual Gourmet. As summer draws to an end, and as the time is coming to start diving into more complex wines than we typically consume during the summer's heat, Greek wines are absolutely perfect for this transitional season. They may not be terribly familiar to most people, but they are more than worth learning about: Their range of flavor and aroma profiles, unfamiliar grape varieties, and stellar food-pairability make them excellent wines right now.

Read rest of entry

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Rating Wine

Consumers ask me about a wine's specific score every time I run a tasting. This is natural: Most people want to have some sort of metric against which to measure their own tastes and impressions of a wine, and the palates of experts is a good place to start.

The danger, of course, is when the ratings--from Robert Parker, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and others--are perceived as the final word on a wine's quality. I can't tell you how many times I've spoken with consumers who love a bottle of wine, but when I tell them that it hasn't been rated, or that it only received, say, an 87 in the Wine Advocate, they decide not to purchase it or have another glass.

Using point-scores as a reference is a good thing; using them as a crutch is not.

That having been said, I've included a very interesting video below: It's a behind-the-scenes look at how one major publication, Wine Enthusiast, goes about tasting the wines for their magazine.

Read rest of entry

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Austrian Pinot Noirs Shine in Singapore Tasting

As readers of this blog know, I’m a huge fan of the wines of Austria. From crisp whites to sweet, and from everyday reds to far more profound ones, Austria is a country whose wine industry is as exciting, diverse, and promising as any right now.

And these days, it seems as if wine lovers all over the world are discovering exactly how much these wines have to offer. From the victory of Austrian sweet wines at the Concorso internazionale di vini passiti in Italy, an international sweet-wine competition in which 9 of the top 10 wines were Austrian, to the ever-higher scores the wines receive in wine publications everywhere, word is spreading that these are wines to be reckoned with.

Now comes an award that’s nothing short of stunning. According to the press release I received yesterday from the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, “Austrian Pinot Noirs showed their impressive top class status at an international blind tasting held in Singapore on August 4th. The tasting...comprised a total of 34 international wines from the vintages 2001-2008. Of these wines, 12 Austrian Pinot Noirs placed amongst the top 20! And the competition was tough: the Austrians successfully triumphed not only over many familiar names from Burgundy, but also over wines from the New World...”

It went on to quote Willi Klinger, Managing Director of the AWMB, as saying, “For a long time, we were known around the world for our white wines only, but now we are more and more being associated with our world-class red wines as well."

Buy these wines and drink them: They’re absolutely fantastic.

Read rest of entry

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wine Q & A with Ask.com: How to Taste

It’s time to dive into another burning wine question with Ask.com, and this week, our issue goes right to the heart of our interaction with what’s in the glass. The question, then, is this: “What is the proper ‘routine’ for swirling, smelling, and sipping wine?”

Anyone who’s seen Sideways, or tasted with a wine lover, knows how detailed--and, perhaps, absurd--the tasting routine can seem. The best comparison I’ve ever heard is that it often looks like the taster is auditioning for a Listerine commercial with all the swirling and spitting. The truth, however, is that despite the apparent complexity of it, the tasting routine is actually quite simple. Click here for an excellent video from WineSpectator.com on exactly how to go about it. For a more detailed accounting of the routine, click here for a rundown by the Association of Wine Educators.

So why do we taste wine like this , whereas we typically don’t engage in such activity with, say, beer or cola? The simple answer is that wine is so complex, and possesses so much detail and nuance, that we want to do everything we can to pull out as much information as possible from every glass in order to understand it as well as possible.

It may look silly to some, but if it leads to deriving more pleasure from the wine, then it’s all worth it.

Read rest of entry

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sip and Twit Tomorrow Night

Just a reminder that tomorrow night will be the second Wine Chateau tasting with Wine Twits, the largest wine community on Twitter. Earlier this summer, we hosted one that featured the wines of Iron Horse, and everyone involved not only had a great time, but learned a lot about the wines, too. Make sure to get involved tomorrow evening, Saturday, August 14th, from 5:00 - 8:00. Here’s what we’ll be tasting and tweeting about:

Voga Pinot Grigio

Voga Pinot Grigio Sparkling

Septima Gran Reserva

Artesa Pinot Noir Reserve

Artesa Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Artesa Chardonnay

Read rest of entry

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Risky Season in Sonoma

So much of what we’ve been hearing lately has been about the general high quality of wines: From 2009 Bordeaux to the string of excellent vintages in Germany to the ever-exciting wines from Austria to Argentina and beyond, it’s only natural to focus on the positive.

But once in a while, a bit of potentially bad news slips out and reminds us that growing grapes and making wine is more than tricky: It can be downright risky.

I don’t remember who said it, but several years ago I heard a winemaker remark that, unlike restaurant chefs, who have dozens or more chances each evening to achieve perfection, winemakers get but one a year. And if the weather isn’t just right, or if a rogue storm passes through a region or appellation at just the wrong time, catastrophe can result.

I write this because a recent news item on Decanter.com notes that “Wine growers on the Sonoma Coast and in the Russian River Valley face a nail-biting wait to discover if 2010 will be a great vintage – or ruined by rain.”

It continues, “A low pressure system sitting off California's north coast has created highly unusual weather conditions in the area this summer, with coastal fogs and temperatures in the 60s and 70s Fahrenheit, rather than the more normal 80s and 90s.

“As a result, grapes have ripened slowly, giving the potential for exceptional quality – but growers are concerned that they might not be able to finish the harvest before the onset of October rain.”

And this is California, where the sun is always supposed to shine and the weather is meant to be as laid-back as the lifestyle.

What a perfect reminder that, even in the best locations, great wine is far from guaranteed year after year. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for the Sonoma Coast and Russian River as the growing season continues.

Read rest of entry

Wine Review Wednesday: Umbria and Arnaldo Caprai

The wines of Umbria are too often overshadowed by their Tuscan neighbors. This, of course, is the case all over the wine world: Otherwise great regions and appellations are too often given short shrift because of the glamour and success of nearby ones that may be more familiar to consumers. Tuscany and Umbria provide a great example: Even wine novices are familiar with Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti, and Super Tuscans, but how many of them have ever heard of Montefalco, Orvieto, and Colli Martani?

Still, there are advantages to flying beneath the radar of popular wine consciousness: When consumers taste a wine they’ve never heard of before, they’re more likely to judge it on its own merits, without the interfering screen of preconceived notions that they bring to more familiar bottlings. None of us, for example, can really taste a Chianti without comparing it, on some level conscious or not, to every other Chianti we’ve ever enjoyed.

This is not the case with the wines we’re featuring this week for Wine Review Wednesday. They are likely to be unfamiliar to all but the most ardent students of Italian wine, yet their easy-to-love flavors, combined with their inimitably Italian character, make them perfect no matter what the occasion.

The Arnaldo Caprai “Grecante” Grechetto dei Colli Martani 2008, produced from 100% Grechetto, starts off with a gently waxy-nutty nose of apricots, walnuts, spice, and a hint of creaminess. All those more masculine notes, however, are lightened up by a beautiful whiff of flowers just in the background. The palate shows great texture, with almond milk, distinct minerality, spice, more apricot, a hint of un-sweet honey, and lemon and orange oil. It is thoroughly distinct, gulpable yet complex, and perfect for the warm weather right now.

The Arnaldo Caprai “Anima Umbra” 2007, a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Canaiolo, is also an excellent option for the summer, and exceptionally food-friendly, too. Berry, plum, and subtle leather aromas lead to a light- to medium-bodied palate bursting with juicy, chewy berry and cherry fruit, ample liveliness, and just enough spice on the finish to make this a dream match for everything from pizza to pasta to light meats.

So while the wines of Umbria may be less familiar to most consumers, they are more than worth the effort to find and taste. After all, when wines are as food-friendly, fun, and downright interesting as these, you’d be foolish to miss out on the chance to drink them. They’re exactly the sort of wines that bring a real sense of texture and discovery to your wine life.

Read rest of entry

Monday, August 9, 2010

Margaux in the Heat

This time of year, I often find myself growing a touch tired of the light, “fun” wines of the season. And while I’ll be the first to admit that less-demanding bottles are more appropriate for the days when all we really want is refreshment, there comes a time when a more serious, complex wine is called for.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece on the wines of Margaux (both the appellation and the famous Chateau), and it seems as if this is a perfect time to give them renewed consideration. After all, these wines are often overlooked this time of year, when in reality they’d be supremely well-appreciated right about now: The change they offer from the past several months’ routine is desperately needed these dog days.

As for why the wines of the Margaux appellation are so well-suited to this time of year, the article’s author, Jay McInerney, writes that “‘Margaux wines are recognized to be the most feminine wines of the Bordeaux region,’ according to Thomas Duroux, the winemaker at...Château Palmer. ‘They show less power than the wines of Pauillac or St. Éstephe but more delicacy, more precision.’”

In other words, they’re exactly the sort of Bordeaux that we all should be drinking and loving in the heat. And despite all the drama over the 2009s and their prices, there are still plenty of great wines from other vintages that are both available, affordable, and drinking beautifully right now.

This is not to say that fruit-forward, bright and juicy wines aren’t charming in the middle of August; they most certainly are. But sometimes, you just need a bit of Bordeaux in your life. And right now, Margaux seems to fit that bill perfectly.

Read rest of entry

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dolcetto Time

Dolcetto is one of the great underrated grape varieties of Italy. Which, of course, often makes it a uniquely excellent value when you're looking for something both drinkable and, occasionally, depending on who's making it, unexpectedly complex.

John Mariani, in this week's edition of his excellent Virtual Gourmet, delves deeper into Dolcetto, and covers its history, current manifestations, and exactly why the name is so misleading. Click here for the full story, then pick up several bottles to taste for yourself: As Mariani puts it, "Dolcetto is unlikely ever to achieve the status of barolo and barbaresco [its Piedmontese brethren], but for a dry red wine that complements the complete range of meats in summer and winter, dolcetto has come a long way at a price level that makes perfect sense right now."

Sounds good to us!
Read rest of entry

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wine Chateau at The Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival

Last weekend, Wine Chateau traveled to the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival. We had the opportunity to participate in the full range of activities, from sampling an astounding array of dishes to meeting some of the brightest stars of the culinary universe to even appearing on-stage with a former White House chef and sharing a great bottle of No. 3 Opera with the audience. Check out the video below for highlights.

Read rest of entry

Monday, August 2, 2010

Wine Q & A with Ask.com: Wine Past Its Prime

Q: How can I tell when an opened wine is no longer fit to drink?

A: The obvious answer, of course, is “when the bottle is empty.” That little tidbit of obviousness aside, however, there’s a bit more to it when you have leftovers. And, for most people, this is an issue that causes no small amount of confusion and trepidation.

If you do nothing else but re-cork your bottle and place it on the kitchen counter, you’ll likely notice a real difference in the wine’s overall taste and quality 24 hours later. If you re-cork it and place it in the fridge (yes, both reds and whites), you should be okay 24 hours later. And if you purchase one of those handy vacuum systems (VacuVin is one of the main brands, but there are others) and refrigerate the wine, your bottle should easily last for two or three days.

But that’s not the question. So, to get back to the main Ask.com issue this week, the answer is this: The wine is no longer fit to drink when it’s no longer appealing to you. It will likely take on a sour note, or become overly astringent. The acid may start to overwhelm every other aspect of wine, throwing it out of balance. The fruit may grow less expressive. It may begin to taste flat.

In this as every other aspect of your wine life, trust your palate above all else.

Read rest of entry

My Blog List

Uncork Life! Blog Copyright © 2009 Powered by WineChateau.com WineChateau.com