Monday, November 24, 2008

Alamos Malbec 2007

As I am studying the wines of South American my study companion tonight is Alamos Malbec 2007 from the Mendoza region of Argentina. Truth be told I wasn't sure what to expect for $10 but being the adventurous types (and always on the lookout for a bargain) I picked up a bottle. A native of the Cahors region in France Malbec has come to prominence in Argentina (which for those of you who didn't know it is the world's fifth largest producer of wine). The wine is dark and inky as you would expect. The nose is interesting... ripe black fruits (especially plum) with a hint of spice, leather, and I would swear a little "tar". Once in the mouth you get a light/medium bodied wine with wonderful raspberry and currant flavor, very sweet tannins and nice acidity that makes the mouth water. The finish is quite nice, medium/long in length, not weak at all.

Well made wine plus excellent price = a fantastic introduction to the wines of Argentina.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Food Friendly Wines For The Holidays At Mellow

Tuesday night was a special Thanksgiving tasting at Mellow. I've written about going to Mellow before and I enjoy the place. I went with my friend Elbert to taste what looked like a good line up of wines (if you saw my basic wines for Thanksgiving list it matched up pretty well). Unfortunately, though the company was enjoyable overall the wines were unimpressive:

Veuve du Vernay Sparkling Brut. It's interesting hearing people talk about this champagne but alas, it's technically a sparkling wine. Although it is from France, it is not from the Champagne district. A very pretty sparkling wine, beautiful bubbles, a little yeasty on the nose but it had no taste at all to either of us.

Willm Gewurztraminer 2007. Another offering from France, this one was more to my liking. Touches of apricot, honey, and spice. Although it is a dry wine we both detected a touch of sweetness. Not a lot of acidity, seemed a little thin but not bad, would make a good simple introduction to Gewurztraminer but not a showcase example of what you can do with the grape.

Morton Estate Pinot Noir 2004. We move from France to New Zealand here, Hawkes Bay to be more precise. This Pinot was rather dark in color and reminded me of a chocolate-flavored brandy. It seemed a bit "hot" in the mouth and it just didn't do much for me. I'd like to try this again, but it really didn't excite me like I thought it would.

Ventana Pinot Noir 2006. This one suited me more. This U. S. offering from the Arroyo Secco AV around Monterey was lighter in color, more the traditional cherry color, delivering milk-chocolate and cherries with a touch of earthiness I like in my reds.

La Tunella Verduzzo 2006. We finish up with a Friulano (Italy), amber in color, honey and apricots, sweet but not too sweet. Not a bad wine but the nose dissipated very quickly. I think it would go well with pate de foie gras.

If I had to make any recommendations out of this list I would suggest first the Ventana Pinot Noir and then the Willm Gewurztraminer and the La Tunella would be an adequate dessert wine.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Gainey 2006 Limited Selection Chardonnay

Last night in trying to figure out what to serve with my soup to the dinner crowd I selected Gainey 2006 Limited Selection Chardonnay. It was a hit with this non-white-wine-inclined group. This is not some wimpy little wine. In their 2006 Limited Selection Chardonnay Gainey pilled out the stops. This wine is bold, wearing its oak barrel fermentation proudly. In aroma and taste we got creamy goodness, somewhat like apple pie with ice cream and a touch of butterscotch. Big, round, smooth, comforting are the words that come to mind. I didn't get quite as much acid as I would have liked but all-in-all a very fine wine for seafood (nice complement for a creamy bisque or chowder) or poultry.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wine, Food and Thanksgiving

I miss summer... not only the warm weather but the general simplicity of the food that lends itself to most types of wines. In the fall and winter we have two of the biggest headaches for people when it comes to wine selection, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. People have been trained "red meat, red wine" and "fish, white wine", but what the heck is turkey? The problem is not so much their learning a red wine/white wine rule but the lack of understanding what it means. First, it isn't a rule and as you gain more exposure to more wines (especially wines with food) you find out that the world is far more open than that simple rule.

What's wrong with the rule? Simply put, it doesn't do enough with the information about the food. The actual food product is but one part of the pairing equation, you need to think about how it is prepared. Baking, roasting, BBQ, boiling all change the basic flavor of the food (Raw tuna and grilled tuna have different flavors and different textures). How the food is dressed needs to be taken into account as well. What spices are present in the preparation? Is the food "hot" or mild? Are there heavy sauces present? The list goes on and on...

Afraid now? Don't be. You can cut through a lot of this with some simple augmentation of the basic "red wine red meat" rule. Rather than that rule, learn these simple guidelines:

  • Pair lighter-bodied foods with lighter-bodied wines. You don't want the wine to overpower the food and you want to be able to taste the wine "through" the food.

  • Think of counterbalance (say, spicy food and a sweeter wine) or compare (say a sweet wine with a dessert).

  • Acidity is one of the best keys for wine pairing. Acidic wines go well with acidic foods, fatty foods (one of my favorite pairings), and even salty. This is why you see Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir very common recommendations. In fact, when in doubt these are three very good "go to" recommendations for almost any meal.

  • As you grow in wine you can augment and change these rules to make your own. Let's see how we can use them for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Here we have tart (cranberries), fatty (mashed potatoes and gravy), slightly sweet (yams with or without marshmellows), roasted fowl (turkey). What to pick? How can one wine go with all these flavors? Two very traditional picks are the Riesling (leaning toward a dryer domestic or a German Kabinett) and a Pinot Noir. You won't go wrong with these and here you have a white and a red offering. Here acidity is king and the lighter bodied, higher acid, and in the case of Pinot Noir lighter tannins make these two the wine equivalents of "universal donor". Want something a little more off the beaten path? Consider the following:

  • Beaujolais. Even the best "cru" are not very expensive and can add a little flair to the meal. Beaujolais tend to be lighter bodied and relatively high acidity (note the theme here) with good, straightforward fruit.

  • Merlot. The chameleon of wines, a good "cooler region" Merlot like those of Washington state are light/medium bodied, good acidity, fruit forward (almost Pinot-like in its characteristics). Ignore the rantings of Miles from Sideways and pick up a good Washington Merlot.

  • Gewurztraminer. I love a good Gewurztraminer. These wines tend to be somewhat "perfumey" and have a hint of spice that goes well with most roasted poultry dishes. I love these wines because they often have a little "kick" to them and they provide another white wine to add to your list.

  • Those are the basics. You'll find some people will like more spice, more pepper and offer a Syrah while other keep the elegance flowing with a good brut sparkling wine (the exploration of sparkling wines is a joy... you will find out they go with a wide range of foods). In the end the key rule the the rule you should always follow when buying wines, that is, buy what you like and don't let anyone make snide comments about your selection. After all, you're the host and they should be gracious guests at your table.

    Wednesday, November 5, 2008

    Norton Malbec 2007

    Since I am getting up to speed on Chilean and Argentinean wines I thought it a good time to pop open a bottle of Malbec. I decided on Norton Malbec 2007. Not bad. Deep inky-red in color, almost like melted dark cherry candy in the glass. The nose is blueberry with some earthy hints and just a touch of peppery spice that delivered on the tongue. The body is a little lighter than I expected, medium-light at best but with a good balance of acid and tannins it delivered a great value for the price (less than $10 for the bottle). A nice, approachable introduction to the Malbec of Argentina.