Vacation Vino

A quick trip to Hawaii earlier this week was quite delightful. Beautiful weather, great views, long swims in the ocean. And due to resort prices,sunset we shipped ourselves some vino from the site. In between Pina Coladas and the occasional Mai Tai, here are three wines we tried (and recommend).

Bodegas Berroja Berroia Txakoli 2008 – Deliciously refreshing wine from Spain, with aromas of flowers, citrus and minerals. Palate has some excellent acidity but with a very round texture. Excellent summer wine and aperitif. About $18.

Bieler Rose Sabine 2008 – This may be my new favorite rose. I loved this wine! Dry, mineral-driven, but with excellent red fruits that make it a beautiful well-balanced wine. I may have been in Hawaii drinking it in a plastic cup, but for a moment I felt like I was in Provence. Drink as an aperitif or with olives and cheese or other appetizers. And only about $12

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2007 – Um, yeah, this wine rocks. Pinot Noir from South Africa? You bet. And it’s darn good. Hails from the Walker Bay area where Burgundian style soils and a cool sea breeze make for an excellent Pinot Noir breeding ground. Has that typical South African smokiness, but very well tamed by the delicate fruit and spice. Recommend with some venison or other game perhaps. This was a splurge wine for us, at $45. 

Happy drinking!

Wine Education Wednesday: Côte Rôtie

Posting Wine Education Wednesday on a Thursday… because I’m a day late and because I wanted it to coincide with the great deal Wine.com has on a fantastic Côte-Rôtie wine –the Domaine Duclaux 2004. Delicious stuff, usually $50 and on sale for $24.99. But first, a bit about the region:


Region: Côte-Rôtie

Appellation & Country: Northern Rhône region of France, near the town of Ampuis, a bit south of the larger city of Lyon.

Grapes: Syrahtee pee vine is the only red grape permitted, but up to 20% of Viognier can be blended in during fermentation.

Climate & Soils: Côte Rôtie translates into “roasted slope,” which accurately describes where the grapes are grown for these wines. The steep,  terraced hills of Côte-Rôtie are indeed roasted during the summer due to their facing south. The soil is primarily schist, and picking grapes can be a challenge due to the steepness and the rocky terrain. I’ve climbed these slopes before trying to get some good shots of vines, and trust me, it’s tricky. Can’t imagine trying to pick grapes from each vine. So, while most pickers are more adept than I, other options like pulleys and such are occasionally used.

The main two slopes are the Côte Blonde and the Côte Brune. Aptly named as the slope of the Côte Blonde has mainly granite, with a limestone element that makes the soils more white. On the other hand, the Cote Brune has more schist and an iron content that darkens the soils making them more brown in color.

How does the wine taste? Since the grape is Syrah, you’re going to get some concentrated dark fruits and a definite element of spice. But, Côte Rôtie is known for being one of the more elegant appellations of the Northern Rhône. Unlike Hermitage or Cornas, Côte Rôtie wines carry descriptors like “finesse” and “feminine.” These characteristics have some to do with the soil  and climate, but also with that small percentage of Viognier that is added during fermentation. The co-fermentation of Viognier with Syrah increases the aromatics of the wine, while deepening its color and softening the texture. Though up to 20% is permitted, most producers include about 3% – 5%. Typical notes for a Côte Rôtie include raspberry & blackberry, violet & other floral notes and a touch of spice. Tannins are  refined, texture is soft but also rich and round. Wines from the Côte Blonde are described as more elegant, while the wines of the Côte Brune are known for a bit more power and backbone. Age-worthy, wines are also often approachable while young. Not to say these wines are lightweights! They can be quite powerful in their seductiveness. And quite addictive, too. guigal

Notable Producers: Guigal is by far the most well-known producer in Côte Rôtie. Established in the 1940’s, Guigal owns many vineyards in the appellation and makes some of the most sought-after wines of the region – the “La-Las” – which are La Mouline, La Landonne & La Turque. Get a hold of these three wines to experience the powerful finesse Côte Rôtie can offer. Other producers to note include: Vidal-Fleury (which is owned by Guigal), Chapoutier, Jaboulet and Duclaux. If you can find them, Ogier, Clusel-Roch and Jean-Michel Stéphan are quite delicious examples of what Côte Rôtie offers.

Take advantage of our deal on the Domaine Duclaux 2004! It’s a steal!

The Wine Academy of Spain

As a fan of Spanish wines, I was lucky enough to attend a three day intensive Spanish wine course in San Francisco last week. It was offered by The Wine Academy of Spain, which is dedicated to the education of wine professionals and enthusiasts, and the promotion of Spanish wines.

They offer courses all over the country, so keep an eye on their schedule for next year.

spain mapThe Academy’s president is Pancho Campo, the first Master of Wine in Spain and a member of Al Gore's Climate Project. The class instructor was the very passionate and knowledgeable Esteban Cabezas, who is a partner in the Academy and founder of the Wine Business School, and a Master of Wine student. You couldn't help but get excited about Spanish wine listening to him speak! The class was filled with wine geeks and wine lovers of all kind: retailers, wine radio personalities, specialized Spanish wine shop folks, sommeliers, distributors and importers.

We studied in depth the many wine regions of Spain, along with its important producers, and learned a great deal about the culture through Esteban's anecdotes about the food and his travels. We also tasted 50+ delicious wines. I was particularly intrigued by the section on Sherry. I knew a bit about the production of Sherry, but had tasted very little of it. It can be an acquired taste. Spanish people drink it much more than Americans do, but I encourage any wine lover to read about it and give it a try. There are so many styles, you are bound to find one you love. For a dry Sherry, I suggest trying Gonzalez Byass Amontillado Sherry, and for those with a sweet tooth I recommend Alvear Pedro Ximinez 1927. This one is excellent with vanilla ice cream.

Spanish winemakers produce many varied styles for all budgets, and each region is pretty unique. If you are a fan of lighter whites with refreshing acidity, try a Txakoli from the Basque Country, like my latest favorite, Bodegas Berroja Berroia Txakoli 2008, made predominantly from a grape called Hondarribi Zuri. Don’t worry about pronouncing it, just drink it. It’s delicious. If you like a red with some intensity and concentration, try a yummy Garnacha and Carignan blend from Priorat. If you are the more traditional type, grab a Tempranillo from the Rioja, which typically has more wood ageing and is great with all kinds of food. Or you can sip what many young Spaniards drink, “calimocho,” a mix of red wine and Coca Cola. I’m not too sure I’d like this (it sounds like a hangover waiting to happen), but Esteban told me not to knock it until I try it.

Salud!

Wine Quotes for the Weekend

May your weekend be filled with wine & merriment. Enjoy some of these quotes and please share some of your own!

“I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.” – W.C. Fields

“Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine so that I may wet my mind and say something clever.” – Aristophanes

“One of the disadvantages of wine is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts.” – Samuel Johnson

“I love everything that’s old: old friends, old times, old manners, old wines.” – Oliver Goldsmith

“It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend; one’s present or future thirst; the excellence of the wine; or any other reason.” cheers
– Latin Proverb

“Here’s to the man
Who owns the land
That bears the grapes
That makes the wine
That tastes as good
As this does.” – Omar Khayyam

And my personal favorites, as I love Champagne and Thomas Jefferson

“I drink champagne when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I'm thirsty.” – Madame Lilly Bollinger

“Wine is a daily necessity for me.” – Thomas Jefferson

Wine Education Wednesday: What is Veraison?

A slightly dorky education Wednesday, but a good word to know since it’s what was just happening in many Northern Hemisphere vineyards! Veraison (pronounced, veh-ray-zuhn) marks the stage in vine ripening when the grapes go from little, hard green berrieveraisons to softer, colored grapes. A few things happen in this process:

First, the sugar and acid ratio switches. When the little berries begin, the acid content is much higher than sugar. During verasion, the sugar content increases and acid decreases, making the berries softer and plumper, looking more like actual grapes.

Second, the color changes. Till now, the grapes looked like little green peas. Verasion takes them from this stage to actual grape stage. For white varieties, this means that they become a softer, transparent yellow-green color. For red varieties, it’s more obvious, taking the grape from bright green to red or purple.

Veraison is quick for the particular berry, lasting only about a week, but it can be sporadic from berry to berry and vine to vine. It usually occurs in the summer time, anywhere from early July to mid-August. From this point on, the berry just keep ripening to become the perfect grape for your future wine!

The Official Wine.com Blog