Wine Essentials #5 – Nor. Cal.

It was a night of the top dogs, heavy hitters, powerhouses at Wine Essentials Class #5.  We ventured through Northern California, Washington State and Oregon, experiencing some of the deepest, darkest reds I have ever tasted, and boy were they elegant and delicious!  Fortunately, I will be in Sonoma this weekend to experience these lovely wines first hand!  Take a look into our journey but beware for the high levels of alcohol within the California region! TAXI!

Tastings (wines I liked bolded)

Willamette Valley, Pinot Gris, Benton-Lane 2009 – Retails $16 (Alc. 13%)

  • Notes: Smells of bright young and fruity apple; tastes very light, clean apple-y with a very nice acidic balance to it.  A very simple wine
  • Pairings: A great wine for this warm weather!  Use as an aperitif wine or enjoy with clams and oysters

Santa Ynez, Viognier, Zaca Mesa 2008- Retails $26

  • Notes: Smells of fresh grapefruit, ripe/heavy stone fruit; Bitter and spicy in taste with little acidity, a bit peppery with a long lasting woody finish
  • Pairings: Pair with a roasted chicken with herbs or great with brie and an assortment of medium aged cheeses

Columbia Valley, Reisling, ‘Eroica’, Dr. Loosen, Chateau Ste. – Retails $23 (Alc. 12%)

  • Notes: Young green grape, fragrant with a hint of petroleum in smell; tastes light, sweet/sour with a fresh and fruity hint and strong acidity
  • Pairings: Great for an afternoon with cheese and grapes; spicy fish apps

Napa, Chardonnay, Grgich Hills Estate 2007 – Retails $40

  • Notes: Oaky with smoky vanilla and apple in smell; apple-y, pear, wood with calm acidity in taste.  A very elegantly balanced wine
  • Pairings: Roasted chicken or grilled shell fish

Chalk Hill (Russian River), Sauvignon Blanc, Chalk Hill Winery 2007 - Retails $27 (Alc. 14.5%)

  • Notes: Smells of ripe/sweet pineapple; Tastes very heavy and ripe in fruits, long lasting fruit finish
  • Pairings: Great with fish w/ butter and herb sauce; roasted chicken

Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir, Argyle 2008- Retails $24

  • Notes: Smells of light red fruits, strawberry and bright fruit; Tastes of bright cherry, little acidity a bit of tannin, strong taste but fades fast
  • Pairings: A lovely cob with a salad w/ raspberry vinaigrette on a sunny afternoon

Carneros, Pinot Noir, Acacia 2008 – Retails $22 (Pinot Noir, 2% Syrah) (Alc. 14.4%)

  • Notes: Smells of cherry, jammy, rich/dark fruits; tastes of rich wood, tannin, spicy, peppery and a little cedar
  • Pairings: Great with Duck!

Monterey County, ‘Le Mistral’, Joseph Phelps 2006 – Retails $40 (Alc. 15%)

  • Notes: Smelly of deep fruits and plums; Spicy plumy, dark fruit with light finish in taste.  A balanced wine
  • Pairings: Great with a stew, Pork Roast or lamb

Russian RIver, Zinfandel, Dolinsek Ranch, Mara 2005 – Retails $40 (Alc. 16.4%)

  • Notes: Ripe in fruit smelling; tastes of sweet/heavy fruit, blackberries, raisins, long lasting dark fruit finish
  • Pairings: Hard to pair with food but would be great with a BBQ or a nice dessert like cheesecake – nothing too sweet

Oakville (Napa), Merlot, Swanson 2006 – Retails $21 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon)

  • Notes: Smells of dark plums.berries, wood in background; tastes of dark elegant plums, candy tannin, very supple and elegant wine
  • Pairings: Pair with a steak and light sauce or heavy spaghetti bolognese
Napa, Cabernet Sauvignon, ‘Georges de Latour Private Reserve’, Beaulieu Vineyard 2007 - Retails $106 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot) – 14.8% Ac.
  • Notes: Smells of concentrated berries, very jammy; a powerhouse wine that tastes of dense berries, cedar, and strong tannins
  • Pairings: Great with steak

Wine Essentials – Class # 3 – Italia

We finally took a glimpse into a remarkable wine region where one of my favorite wines is made (Montepulciano). It is one of the most popular wine regions, the most romantic, and most intriguing winemaking areas in the world… ITALY!  Italy is an extremely powerful region due to its heavy wine influence not only in the industry but through its loyal people.  A large part of it’s credentialing is due to its vast history in wine making, it’s picturesque towns and vineyards, and proud countrymen known for drinking A LOT of wine especially to complement every meal since Italian food is so irresistible and succulent.  In fact, it’s a great thing that Italy is known for their bold and deep bodied red wines since most of their food is pretty heavy and need a sturdy wine to balance out the taste.  If you want a nice and heavy chardonnay or Pinot Grigio – go to France however, Italy does make a great sparkling wine from Prosecco!

Like France, Italy also has a classificaiton system that standardizes and enhances the overall qualities of the wine.  This will also help you choose a bottle when going into a store and most certainly will dictate the price…

Italy’s Classification System:

- Vino da Tavola – Table wine made from a local winery with little to no standards; The Italy wine you find in jugs

- I.G.T – Denotes wine from a specific region in Italy; higher quality than table wines

- D.O.C – More defined than table wine and IGT; grapes are more specifically defined

- D.O.C.G – Similar to D.O.C the main difference is the DOCG needs to pass a blind taste test!

Tastings (wine’s I liked BOLDED)

Piemonte, Campari – Retails $22 (1st used in 1860 as medicine/tonic/digestive drink)

  • Notes: Smells citrusy; flavored alcoholic beverage with a distinct bitter flavor
  • Pairings: Usually mixed with soda water, grapefruit juice etc. sipped before dinner to gain an appetite or after dinner with a nice hard cheese – I will definitely serve this before dinner at a dinner party!

Fiano di Avellino, Feudi di San Gregorio 2008 – Retails $22 (Campania, Italy – Fiano Grape)

  • Notes: Smells very fruits almost like rich fruit juice; tastes stoney, with fruity long lasting finish, Bright and fruity with lemon
  • Pairings: Since it’s a medium bodied dry and elegant wine you could drink it with any sort of Mediterranean dish!

Orvieto Classico, ‘Poggio Calvelli’, La Carraia 2009 – Retails $20 (Umbria, Italy – Grechetto, Trebbiano, Chardonnay Grapes)

  • Notes: Smells of apple and bright citrus; tastes light with acid, green apple, bitter, stoney and a very refreshing white wine
  • Pairings: Great with an assortment of medium tasting cheeses – not too intense

Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Le Rote 2009. – Retails $14 (Toscana, Italy – Vernaccia Grape)

  • Notes: Old apple, floral and crisp smell; tastes sort of like a good Cali Savu. Blanc, very acidic with over ripe fruits and a woody taste
  • Pairings: Delicious with grilled chicken, assortment of medium-heavy cheeses

Dolcetta d’Alba, ‘Madonna di Como’, Marchesi di Barolo 2009 - Retails $25  (Piemonte, Italy – Dolcetto grape: lightest Italian grape) **Alba = Truffle region!

  • Notes: Smells of light cherry and berries; tastes have tannin, light berries, sour cherry, bright clean red wine similar to a light French red
  • Pairings: This medium bodied wine that is very well balanced would go with a simple pork dish

Aglianico del Vulture, Pian del Moro, Musto Carmelitano 2007 – Retails $35 (Campania, Italy – Aglianico Grape)

  • Notes: Smells smokey, earthy, dark cherry, plum; tastes a little chewy, tannins, rich dark wood and cedar, dried plums and smoking cherry stand out most
  • Pairings: This wine would go amazing with chocolate and hard cheese, big meats

Chianti Classico, ‘Aziano’, Ruffino 2008 – Retails $17  (Toscana, Italy – Sangiovese Grape) – 13% Alcohol

  • Notes: Smells of black cherries with a hint of chocolate; Taste is a light simple red wine with astringent tannin
  • Pairings: Amazing wine with pizza, simple pasta with tomato sauce – great price for a everyday well balanced wine

Brunello di Montalcino, Cantine di Palazzo, Altesino 2004 – Retails $53 (Toscana, Italy – Sangiovese Grosso Grape)

  • Notes: Smells very woody, rich with dark fruits; considered an “ambassador” of top quality Italian wines – tastes very rich in dark fruits, full of tannins with a balance of acidity
  • Pairings: A great pairing with rich dishes such as beef stew and barbecues

Valpolicella Classico Superiore, ‘Campo Santa Lena’, Villa Monteleone 2007 – Retails $16 (Veneto Italy – Corvina Grape)

  • Notes: Smells of dark fruits, dark cherry; Tastes very rich, dark fruit with a long lasting after taste, tannin that is strong and young in taste
  • Pairings: Hard italian cheese for an after dinner bite

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, I Saltari 2001 – Retails $60 (Veneto, Italy – Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, Molinara Grape)

  • Notes: Rich smells of dried plums and dried out grapes; rich in taste, earthy, oaky, dried fruit
  • Pairings: Great with an assortment of hard cheeses
Barolo Riserva, Borgogno 1996- Retails $72 (Piemonte – Nebbiolo Grape)
  • Notes: Brandy in smell, old dry gentle fruit; Tastes full of tannin, raisin, plumy
  • Pairings: Pairs well with veal or a stew

Beaujolais – Intro to the Gamay Grape

To continue on this journey through France, take a look at this educational article from the WSJ about the Beaujolais wine region…  I actually had this wine in Wine Essentials and it was the first of this kind I had ever tasted.  It uses a “gamay” grape that has a sweet strawberry/sour cherry taste.  It is a type of wine that you drink while it is young, a casual wine to enjoy with pizza, pasta, or ceasar salad…  It has a short finish however, I thought it would be a great picnic wine as the sweetness is just right so you can enjoy a lot of it for most of the day! A great “go-to” / “multipurpose” type of wine. Here is a quick wine 101 from the… Enjoy!!

Wine 101: Beaujolais

Few red wines are as easy to drink as Beaujolais. Here’s a primer on one of France’s most idiosyncratic wine regions:

The grape: Tucked just south of Burgundy and north of Lyon in central France, the Beaujolais region is the land of the Gamay grape, a varietal that is rarely grown elsewhere in the world. A sturdy fruit that is easy to cultivate, Gamay can produce wines ranging from light and fruity to dark, bold and full-bodied. But it has its detractors: Some say Gamay produces less-refined wines than those made with the Pinot Noir grape of nearby Burgundy. In 1395, the Duke of Burgundy outlawed Gamay from the region, preferring that the land be used to grow the more elegant Pinot Noir.

Not Nouveau: Today, most associate the region Beaujolais with the young, easy-to-drink wine Beaujolais Nouveau. Released every year on the third Wednesday of November to much marketing fanfare, the wine was spectacularly popular in the 1980s, but it has been snubbed in the past decade by critics who say it is too sweet. Others criticize the wine for its “short finish” — its flavors disappear the moment it hits the palate.

Stick with the Crus: For great value and excellent drinking, look for Beaujolais Crus, a designation given to just 10 small winemaking villages in the region. Julienas, Chiroubles, Morgon and Brouilly are the better-known cru towns.

Cru-designated vineyards are known for making high-quality wines that are affordable. These wines range from the dark berry and cherry flavors of Brouilly (and go well with poultry or grilled fish) to the more full-bodied and darker wines of Morgon and Julienas (which pair well with hearty red meat dishes).

Wine Essentials – Class #1

So, I started this blog not only because of my affinity towards wine but because I wanted to use it as an opportunity to teach myself and learn the value and treasures of the ‘ins and outs’ of wine and the industry.  I started reading ‘wine for dummies’ and realized, it’s just not all that fun “studying” wine without tasting and getting to know how to taste and match foods without an expert giving you a hands on experience…. So, as an investment, I signed up for a Wine Essentials class at ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) in NYC.  My first class was last night and I had the most amazing time listening about wine’s “accidental” creation and how regions were suddenly created as secrets for wine making were not shared and each “region” had to come up with their perfect balance themselves.  We started slow and with background and the wine making process (Location, harvesting, cursing, fermentation, storage, bottling) then went into the fun stuff… TASTING!

Here are a few FUN FACTS from the class along with wines we tried w/ my reco’s…

Fun Facts:

- Port if fortified before it is finished. It is spilled into a barrel that contains brandy
- Alcohol helps wine age more slowly hence why port has a very long lasting life

- Red wines fade as they get older hence the sediment at the bottom of your glass – wine is dropping/loosing it’s color so drink up!
- Red wines get lighter as they age (Purple – Red – Brick – Brown) Don’t drink it if it’s Brown!

- White wines get darker as they age (Green – Yellow – Gold – Brown) Don’t drink it if it’s Brown!
- Wines that taste ‘buttery’ have been fermented in an oak barrel, wines that taste ‘stoney’ are unoaked and most likely are stored in stainless steal!

Last Night’s Tastings (Wine’s I liked BOLDED)

Dolomiti (Trentino-Alto Adige), Pinot Grigio, Alois Lageder 2009 – Retails $22 (Northern Italy)

  • Notes: Fresh/Vibrant and ‘oaky’ in scent; Light weight, Bright acidity, ‘mineralness’, tinge of apple
  • Pairings: Very light and simple fish – Clams, oysters, chicken w/ mushrooms dish – Great sipping wine before dinner

Hawke’s Bay, Chardonnay, Babich Wines 2009 – Retails $18 (New Zealand)

  • Notes: Ripe fruit smell; sweet, ripe plum and cherry flavor with a hint of caramel
  • Pairings: Seared meat, Duck, pasta with a creamy/lemony sauce

Alsace, Pinot Gris, ‘Reserve Personnelle’, Trimbach 2001 – Retails $40 (France)

  • Notes: Smells fruity, heavy weight, earthy flavors ‘acidicly’ rich, smooth finish
  • Pairings: Aged goat cheese, roasted veal, salmon

Champagne, Brut, Nicolas Feuillatte, NV. – Retails $30 (Northern France)

  • Notes: Fruity smell; rich in weight, creamy, soft avidity, oaky, smooth well rounded finish
  • Pairings: Aged goat cheese, Brie

Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, J. Vidal-Fleury 2008 – Retails $32 (Southern France)

  • Notes: Smells of very ripe fruit; Tastes like apricots, peach, less acidity ‘syrupy’ fruitiness.  More alcohol than Champagne
  • Pairings: Salty nuts, dried apricot, apricot or peach tarts

Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir, Benton Lane 2008 – Retails $22 (Oregon)

  • Notes: smells of berries, sour cherry and strawberry; LIght some acidity, sour cherry, fades fast, simple red
  • Pairings: fish, chicken, brie, grilled salmon, light pasta dishes

Medoc, Cru Bourgeois, Chateau Greysac 2006 – Retails $19 (France)

  • Notes: Oaky, cedar smell; heavy in weight, dark fruit, tannins, taste of oak
  • Pairings: An elegant red wine that is delicious with beef, lamb (heavier meats)

Valle de Uco, ‘Numina’, Gran Corte, Salentein 2006 – Retails $45 (Argentina)

  • Notes: Heavier in smell than Medoc, ripe fruit smell (no oak); Fruity tannins, sweet, ripe plum and cherry
  • Pairings: Seared meat with a sweeter/richer sauces

Porto, ‘Six Grapes Reserve’, Graham’s, NV – Retails $30 (Portugal)

  • Notes: Dark cherry and plum smells; dark cherry, heavy vintage style, dark fruits – 18% Alcohol
  • Pairings: Great at the end of a meal paired with a rich, nutty or chocolate dessert as well as strong cheeses

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