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.

Rose Partay part 1 (the bottom rankings)

14 06 2008

All the Rose wine from our tasting

It’s a huge shame, but this style of wine suffers a very poor reputation based on the side effects of the 80’s. What makes it one of the best types of wines out there is what a good rose represents. Quality rose wines are dry, can be still or sparkling, and are typically only good for two years, tops, after production. There can of course be exceptions to this, but that’s the general rule. The other wonderful thing about rose wines is that a good rose blends the fruitiness of a red wine with the bright acidity of a white. This results in a truly versatile wine that can play well with a wide variety of foods.

To illustrate the power of rose, we recently had a little party and invited everyone to bring a bottle. The results were varied and pretty interesting. Below I will outline the bottom five wines (these are my picks, not the group of partygoers, just to be fair and establish that I am not speaking for any of my friends.

#5: Woodbridge white zinfandel. This wine was light pink, very sweet, with not much complexity or enjoyability to it. It sort of felt like I was drinking a wine cooler instead of wine. That said, it did go fairly well with some of the spicier things we put on the table, like the curry chicken wraps.

#4: Rockbridge’s Jeremiah, the one with the cute frog on the label. Interestingly, we had wines at this tasting from Virginia, California, Pennsylvania, Oregon and France. This one came from Virginia, and whereas the Woodbridge was light and rosy and pink, the Jeremiah was a light ruby or garnet color, with some deeper fruit flavors, but it felt almost syrupy. Maybe I didn’t put this one dead last only because I am biased against Woodbridge…sorry.

#3: Clover Hill Winery near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I believe. The winery does state on their website that this wine is one of their sweeter offerings, which I can’t say I would disagree with. It has the familiar aroma and taste of North American grapes, being made from Catawba. It smelled strongly of concord grapes though, but to me that’s just what most American varietals remind me of…very sugary, but I am a sucker for the aroma of those native grapes.

least favorite selections

#2: This I might get in trouble for. E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rose. I think part of why I ranked this wine so poorly is because I am a huge Rhone fan, and so I tend to judge those wines the harshest of all. Guigal makes decent, consistent wine that is the same basically year after year. They have had some excellent productions in the past, but personally, the style is not particularly to my liking. It’s difficult because I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that I don’t like about it, but there’s just something that doesn’t appeal to me. For a rose, I felt this was a little on the bitter/tannic/earthy side of things, which could be from throwing all the grapes, sticks, and everything else into the press, or could just be the fact that it is, after-all, Rhone wine.

#1: Williamsburg Plantation Blush, the other wine representing Virginia at our little soiree. This was definitely still a sweet wine, but for me it actually had a little character to it. Most of all, it had some great body and even though it was fairly dark for a rose, it had some nice acidity that balanced out the deeper fruit quite well, making it actually very enjoyable to drink. This was the one for me to go with the southeast Asian food or other spicy options.

I am trying to make up for the lack of wine posts recently by giving you lots of wine for thought at once. This is the first in three segments on Rose, which, depending on your interest, may either come one after another, or interspersed with other posts.

Section two, “The Middle of the Pack,” should be along fairly soon.