The Pregnant Palate: Tasting the wines of Langmeil

First a preface on the new series. Being nearly 16 weeks pregnant, I thought I’d try to incorporate this hindrance – and benefit – into my blog. The obvious hindrance would be my inability to drink. The benefit? My enhanced senses for tasting. It’s not easy carrying around a belly in the wine business, but it does give a different perspective!

Tasting the Wines of Langmeil

The other night at a dinner with some wine and food savvy friends, one of them remarked on the rampant mis-pronounciation of Mascarpone. Why do people say “maRscapone,” inverting the “r” before the “s.” I stared at the word. How did I miss that before? I’d be one of those people mis-pronouncing it for so long! I, a stickler for grammar and pronunciation, never noticed this. At least there aren’t that many words that I mis-pronounce like that. Or are there? I can now add a winery to this list of my mis-pronunciations (which I hope will get smaller rather than larger): Langmeil. I have been calling the winery “lang,” with a hard “a” like mangle, “meal.” Incorrect. Having lunch with the Director of Sales and Marketing, James Linton, on Monday, I learned it actually means “long mile” and is pronounced quite similarly, close to “lahng-mile.”

Now that I know how to pronounce it, I was able to taste it. Our lineup at lunch included the following:

Earthworks Barossa Shiraz – a partnership between Langmeil and Yalumba, this


Wines for the tailgate

When one thinks of drinking at tailgates, wine is not the first beverage that comes to mind. Beer probably ranks top of the list for most, though for me tailgate means bourbon & coke. Okay, maybe not anymore, but it did 10 years ago back in my days at UVA. Point is, most of us don't think wine when we think tailgate.

But perhaps we should. Look at the myriad of foods that come in tailgate parties – hamburgers and hot dogs. Crab dip and casseroles. These flavors are just screaming for wine. Maybe not all wine, but there are some wines that are tailgate friendly, and here are a few of my favorites.

Screw cap wines – this is a general category, but I think it is valid. Just as you pop open a beer, you want to reach into that cooler and just screw off the cap to pour that wine into what is most likely a plastic cup. Taking the time to use a corkscrew doesn't quite fit as you're eating baked beans from an aluminum platter.

Bubbly – I will clarify that I enjoy bubbly primarily at early season tailgates, particularly in the south, when the weather is still toasty and a super chilled bottle of bubbly is a perfect treat. My favorites are Cava, and while you cannot go wrong with Cristalino, an amazing wine for the price, I also like the Poema Brut we recently tried. Dry and crisp and great with anything salty.

Albarino– this may not be the most recognizable wine at your tailgate party (and some go against my screw cap suggestion), but it will be absolutely delicious! Crisp and clean, Albarino will go with any grilled seafood or seafood dip at the party. Favorites include the Burgans Albarino (great value at $14) and the Bodegas Fillaboa (also about $14).

Malbec – the perfect wine for grilled meats, hamburgers and hotdogs and just drinking on its own at a party. I'm going with the Ben Marco '08 Malbec here as we've got a great deal on it at $15.99 (down from $20). Mainly because this is a BIG Malbec. It's ripe and jammy with a spicy kick – it's a great match with food, but in particular, easy (maybe too easy) just sipping on its own.

No matter what you pick for your tailgates – beer, bourbon or wine, I hope you enjoy that general football season warmth – fall weather rolling in, the sound of the stadium roars and a chance to be a crazy fan. Me? I'll be watching my Virginia Wahoos as they take on the season with their new coach and new attitude. Are we in for a renaissance of Virginia football? One can only hope!

Sonoma Travels

Over Labor Day weekend I was able to enjoy two things: a weekend with old and wonderful girlfriends and a weekend away from my toddler (LOVE the child, but time away is rare, therefore glorious!).

What do 10 girls in Sonoma do all day? Visit wineries of course! While we also enjoyed long lunches and brunches, a few winery visits are worth mentioning.

I was obliged to be at the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend on Saturday, so I will mention how fantastic that event was – the wines (and food!) were excellent and the weather could not have been better. If you're looking for a great way to spend 5 hours on the Saturday of Labor Day, I highly recommend this festival. Great selection of wines from all over Sonoma, some new labels I'd never seen, as well as some new wineries. And the food… did I mention the food? From Kobe beef sliders to fig pizza, there were some delicious samples going on from the restaurants and food providers of Sonoma. While I was delighting my taste buds at this festivity, the other gals had a memorable visit with Ravenswood, and I returned to find bottles of Zinfandel lined up for later consumption. My red wine drinking friends were quite delighted in the hospitality and wine quality of Ravenswood and I was sorry to miss it.

Sunday's trip included more yummy sipping.

Cuvaison – I'm quite familiar with Cuvaison – I remember they make Chardonnay and I'd recognize their label anywhere, but I could not remember the last time I actually tasted it. Since they've been around for a while, I expected an old school style winery and tasting room, but to our surprise, the winery we entered was hugely modern, with glass walls showing off the sunlight, and lots of room to move. Plus tables! A plethora of tables and chairs for guests to sit and enjoy their wine while taking in the incredible view of Carneros. All these modern-looking glass windows and panes had one more attribute – it helped the winery rely on solar power for much of its energy.
And the wine…
The entry level Chardonnay we tasted was hallmark California Chardonnay, but of the new style – meaning not overly oaked, but nicely balanced between fruit, acid and oak. It was clean, yet rich in texture. It made me remember that Carneros Chardonnay is not Central Coast Chardonnay – this wine had more crisp than creamy in the mouthfeel. We also tasted the higher-end Chardonnay, which, unfortunately, is only sold in restaurants and the tasting room. This always frustrates me as I think consumers should have equal opportunity to buy wine in restaurants and retail stores, but many wineries make labels solely for on-premise use, and the higher end Chardonnay and Pinot at Cuvaison are made in this manner. So while I do recommend – with renewed enthusiasm – the Chardonnay that is well-recognized by all, I also recommend a trip to the winery if you're next in Carneros to taste their other offerings. It was a nice surprise – both the winery set up and the wine itself.

A final added bonus – the winery is directly across from Domaine Carneros! My favorite place to sit on a beautiful day to sip bubbles. Which is exactly what we did. This winery is always worth a visit. The service is knowledgeable and friendly, and the view from the deck is incredible. Plus how can you beat an afternoon munching on cheese, sipping on bubbles and basking in the Sonoma sun?

So your stops for your next trip to Carneros? Cuvaison & Domaine Carneros.
And what you're doing next Labor Day? Sonoma Wine Festival.

Cabernet Week at WineShopper

As we come to the last day of WineShopper‘s Cabernet week, I thought it may be helpful to talk up some of the wines we’re showcasing & why these are not only fantastic deals, but also fantastic wines.

Won’t lie – Cabernet Sauvignon is not my favorite grape. I’d typically prefer Champagne, Pinot Noir or a White Burgundy over a Cab, but there are definitely times and places for a good bottle of this age-worthy and complex style of wine.

Some fun Cabernet Sauvignon facts:
– Cabernet Sauvignon is the result of a crossing between Cabernet Franc (daddy) and Sauvignon Blanc (mommy). Nice parentage – certainly explains the name!
– The grape has a high “pip to pulp” ratio, which equals high “skin to juice” ration. Since the skins of Cabernet Sauvignon have such high and concentrated phenolics, this leads to a wine high in tannins and worthy of age.
– Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted grape in Lebanon, where Chateau Musar (not the region that screams Cabernet, much less wine) makes collectible wines.

This week, a few gems we’re offering at WineShopper include:

Kenwood Jack London Cabernet Sauvignon – year after year this is one of my favorite wines. It’s one of the best California Cabernets for the price. WineShopper price this week? just $17.99.

Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Cabernet Sauvignon – always a value, but particularly a value at $12.99. Yahoo. Love a good Cab under $15! Yes, Chateau Ste Michelle is big, but their wines are consistent and this is a perfect everyday drinking Cab that holds up to food or sips well on its own.

Stay tuned for the Friday deal – it’s a Mount Veeder gem!


Diamond Creek Shines

For those of you who don’t live in the Bay Area: Lucky You. We’ve been freezing since last year. Each day I pray the forecast will predict that some ray of sunshine might make it through the fog. This, week I gambled on short sleeves and got lucky. It’s a beautiful 81 degrees and I am reminded of a warm day in July when Diamond Creek opened its doors and invited me to its Open House. It was all very exciting, I signed up for the mailing list and viola, I received a parking pass to attend their open house, ah… the feeling of privilege.

Wine aficionados have long known about Diamond Creek but for some reason it remains a relatively unknown gem. I was very excited to see the three storied vineyards up close. Diamond Creek produces Cabernet Sauvignon exclusively and has done so since 1968. Only 3 single vineyard wines are produced each year, each with a splash of Petit Verdot, they are: Gravelly Meadows, Red Rock Terrace and Volcanic Hill. Although located in the Napa Valley, these are not Napa Cabs. These are Bordeaux, through and through. The late Al Brounstein sweet talked his way into a few premier cru cuttings in Bordeaux and personally flew them (also known as smuggling) into California.
 

After swimming in all 3 of their lakes (woo-hoo!), I made my way to 2008 barrel tasting. Let me walk you though the barrel samples in three words: Dy-no-mite. Like the 2007 vintage, these wines are meant to age. In ascending order of intensity it goes from Gravelly Meadows to Red Rock Terrace and finally, the mighty Volcanic Hill. The names are completely self-explanatory and literally describe these three vineyards. Each vineyard is distinct, each an actual stones throw from the next. Like the greatest Cabs of the world, muscular deep black fruit, spice, earth and tannins balance with the underlying acidity to give grace and elegance. Fruit and oak bombs need not apply. Although these are cellar worthy wines, the 2007 Gravelly Meadows and even the yet to be released 2008 vintage can be uncorked, if only to realize how great these are even as babies. To give you some perspective, fellow picnickers were uncorking bottles from 70’s and 80’s to the delight of our hosts.

It looks like it going to be another warm day tomorrow, maybe not a Cab day, but those Diamond Creek lakes are making me restless for next year's Open House.

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