Harvest Wine Tasting

28 09 2008

Last Saturday (September 20th) we hosted a wine tasting focusing on wines perfect for fall foods like roasted root vegetables, pork loin with fig and apple chutney, and pear and gorgonzola tarts. The wines were full-bodied whites and light reds. We started with Pascual Toso 2007 Torrontes from Argentina, a lighter, acidic white that is best with end of summer foods like tomato salads, and spreads like pesto with its rich parmeggiano base. Plus, at only $7.99 it was an excellent deal.

From the lighter Torrontes, we moved to two different Viogniers, one from Washington State and one from Australia. The Washington State Viognier was from Kestrel–a little expensive, coming in at $22.99–and I did not feel it was worth the price. A little creamy and full-bodied, but it was definitely past its maturity. The Rolf Binder HOVAH from the Barossa Valley was a better value, although here the wine was a typical Australian, a little sweet on the palate with all fruit and no complexity. At only $12.99 however, I would certainly rank it the better value of the two.

At this tasting, the reds were the real stars. All three reds were excellent and matched very well with the foods they were paired with. The most delicate and lightest of the three was a Jaboulet-Vercherre negociant-produced wine from the Gevrey-Chambertin Cru of Burgundy in the Cote d’Or. Coming in at $31.99/bottle, this was the most expensive wine of the evening, but certainly well worth it, as its nuance and complexity were enjoyed by the glass sniffer camp, and the fruit forward folks could still appreciate the accessibility of aromas and flavors presented.

The next red was the 2005 Domaine du Grand Bouqueteau Chinon from the Chinon appellation in the Loire Valley, France. Cabernet Franc, one of the two parents of Cabernet Sauvignon, is the only varietal used in this wine. It is soft, delicate, and very aromatic, with lots of luscious violets, soft tannins, and a very pleasing overall mouth-feel. Plus, at the price point of $14.99, this is the wine I am most likely to want to revisit out of everything tasted that evening.

The final red wine was a slightly bigger red: Tenuta di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva vintage 2004. This wine was a little dirty, which I think is great. It was far more robust than anything else that evening, but matched very well with the rustic roasted roots vegetables I had prepared. It also went smoothly with the pork and the simmered mushrooms. The Sangiovese so prevalent in this blend gave it a great earthiness, and as a classico it certainly captured more of the true Tuscan style and profile. A slightly more expensive wine selling for $21.99, this would still be a great choice for a nice dinner at home, or as a bottle to take to your favorite Italian BYOB place. It would probably go well with even heavier dishes, such as game, but would work nicely with any kind of roasted fowl, or any food that accents the rusticity of the wine.

We finished our evening with some full-bodied Pinot Gris from Eola-Hills in Oregon ($13.49- and certainly a good value). We also had a comparative tasting with a Gewurztraminer–Banyan from the Central

California Coast ($11.99)–and Trimbach, from Alsace ($19.99). The Alsatian wine had many more of the traditional characteristics of classical Gewurztraminer, with petroleum, roses, and spicy aromatics heavy in the glass, thick body, and a lot of minerality. The California version was much lighter in body but had a pleasing combination of citrus rinds blended with some floral touches that came perhaps just shy of smelling like roses that the tasting group as a whole found very pleasant.

All in all a wonderful night of wine, and we look forward to the next one.

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Rose Partay: Middle of the Pack

1 07 2008

Sorry it has taken me so long to get to part two of our rose review. The middle group was dominated by wines that had a great overall quality but didn’t quite amaze or overwhelm. Many of these wines are all really solid and very enjoyable.

#4: Red Bicyclette French Rose– This Gallo produced wine from France is made from grenache, syrah and cinsault grapes, the French trifecta of rose grapes. The grapes are sourced from various parts of the Languedoc region, the worlds largest grape producing area. Some people feel that the Languedoc produces really low-end grapes, but if you seek them out, there is some top-quality fruit to be had at bargain prices. I don’t quite think of this as top quality. However, it’s definitely solid juice, with a nice overall balance, a very fun and easy-going wine lacking a little on the acid side of the equation, but definitely with some enjoyable fruit.

#3: Marquis de la Tour sparkling Rose- This producer from the Loire valley in France started out as the Remy Pannier negociant in the 1800’s. As the link will inform you, this company has been held collectively by the vineyard and winery owners since 2002, which I think is pretty cool. As an additional plus, it’s a bubbly wine for under $10 that actually tastes pretty good. The grapes going into it are: Cabernet Franc, which is widely grown in the Loire region (famous as Chinon…but that’s another entry…), Grolleau, Syrah and Grenache. Altogether, this is another highly enjoyable wine for when you’re looking for something a step or two above that frightening bottle of Andre, but you’re not interested in paying $35 for a starter bottle of French champagne. Very Fun Bubbles.

#2: Vin Gris de Cigare– Mm-Hhmmm…so this wine comes from Bonny Doon Vineyards, just outside of San Francisco. The winery owner and wine-maker are known to be unusual even within the wine trade, which is truly saying something about them. Unorthodox to the maximum, the website features whimsical alien/spaceship designs–a major focus of their label design and packaging. Back to the wine though. Gris refers to grey, usually reserved for certain types of “black” grapes that end up producing white wines. Here, though, they use a considerable amount of Grenache Blanc to soften the other darker fruits that tincture the wine. It has great fruit flavors but not much complexity. Overall that’s the main thrust behind most of the wines in this category: great fruit, easy-going, but not much in the department of complexity. But hey, Rose is a fun, easy-going kind of wine meant to be flexible, tasty, and highly quaffable.

#1: Vanda Rose-This wine from Cherry Hill winery in Willamette Valley, Oregon is a pinot noir single varietal rose. This 2005 vintage bottling is still holding up quite well, and the fruit comes across very nicely. It was a favorite among our friends as the party. Very bright fruit, but because the wine has been in bottle for a while, the acidity and structure are somewhat minimal. Still an excellent wine that’s very enjoyable. This was also one of the higher priced bottles we had, with everything being between $9 and $18, this particular one came in at $15.

Overall, the wines in this middle group are all very enjoyable with solid fruit and good balance across the board. Some of them were pleasant surprises, like the Red Bicyclette and the Marquis de la Tour, but the Vin Gris and the Vanda were definitely good contenders for the top block. This time I promise to deliver the final selection of top rose from our little partay soon.