Well, warm weather is here, really here and I am feeling a bit like fried chicken and a salad on the side, of course. Today, I enjoyed lunch with two Wine.com pals of mine (Anne and Alma) and was thinking of what would work with fried chicken. Both Alma and I order the fried chicken sandwich, which was pretty good. Anne got the mussels, which she enjoyed immensely. Since I was in a meeting mode, I didn’t have wine at lunch. Nonetheless, I’d opt for an Oregon Pinot Gris with what Alma and I had ordered. It would also have done well with Anne’s mussels. King Estate Pinot Gris comes to mind, though I really love the idea of matching this dish with one of my favorite Napa Valley Sauvignon Blancs– Honig. This picture is the 2013, but every vintage is winner! #pinotgris #kingestate #friedchicken #mussels #pinotgrigio @wine_com
Wine people seem to always ask other wine people to recall their most memorable wine, or their most exciting wine pairing . I always falter with the first, being lucky enough to have had many an amazing wine memories, but the second I have nailed down. I was in Genoa, Italy with my now-husband after we’d just missed our outbound train to Nice. We had just learned that driving in Italy has a learning curve and we were very far down on it. We found a hotel nearby, wandered the streets and settled on a lovely little restaurant, where we found a most agreeable sommelier. Ordering the local steak, he suggested we pair it with a Sauvignon Blanc from Alto-Adige. Sorry? Don’t you have a more suitable suggestion that might be RED? He asked us to trust him on this. To this day, that pairing is my most memorable. Simple, grilled, local meat and a delicious, local white wine. Not the pairing you would expect, but it was one that wowed. So it makes sense that the other night I found a similar delight.
After the initial sticker shock of realizing how much I just spent on grass-fed NY strip steak at Whole Foods, my husband set out to find a suitable big, blustery Cabernet worthy of drinking with $50 steaks. But the Cabernet was just making the cut for me. So I poured some of the Sancerre we’d brought home and voila. A match. The Sancerre on its own had faltered a little too close to all grass, no fruit and a bit too acidic. One sip after the steak, the fruit coated my mouth, the acidity cut through the fat of the steak and the wine was twice as good as before. It brought me back to that time in Genoa, nearly 10 years ago, and reminded me that food and wine pairing is not a science, it is an art. And one NY strip may taste well with a Cab, but mine was shining with my Sancerre.
Wine: Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Reviewer: Alma Leon – Wine Buyer
Paired with: Super Bowl party fare – Guacamole, pretzels, dips & pizza etc.
Rating: 3 stars
Review: The smartest thing I did yesterday was to take this wine to yesterday's Super Bowl party. This VERY good California Sauvignon Blanc helped me make it through a rough 15 minutes. Don’t let the 3 stars fool you, I don’t hand out very many 4 or 5 stars, so 3 stars to me means a fantastic wine that I can enjoy without having to worry about my wine budget. It’s my version of “Two thumbs up!” The best thing about this wine is that it proves that great Sauvignon Blanc can be produced in California. My biggest complaint about domestic Sauvignon Blanc is that it can be extremely tropical on the nose, thanks to our warm climate. Meaning it can be difficult to pair with food and a bit like standing next to a person with too much perfume on a crowded elevator. Hall has managed delicate grapefruit, guava and lemon aromas in a medium-bodied wine. There is a creaminess to it that ends with fresh acidity. In short, it is well-balanced and likely to impress a wide variety of palates. Although I went for the gusto and tried it with party food, I could see this going great with lump crab meat on a buttered roll or even gnocchi in a creamy white sauce.
Read more of my reviews on my Wine.com community page
Though Spring has been here for a couple of months, it certainly has not felt like it all the time… particularly in the NW. However, temps are finally getting up there and I'm ready to pop open some wines that fit the weather. Style wise, for whites, we're talking Light & Crisp. Reds mean Light & Fruity.
In whites, three perfect choices are Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino and Chenin Blanc. My picks are:
Montes Leyda Sauvignon Blanc 2008
I recently arranged this to be the white for a rehearsal dinner party in April. People who thought they did not like white wine – or were usually beer drinkers – LOVED this wine. As did I. There was not a drop left by the end of the night (as you could see by some of the moves on the dance floor). It is wonderfully aromatic; citrus-driven, a touch of grass and herbal notes, and so deliciously crisp. The Leyda region in Chile is very cool and this wine shows how great the region is at Sauvignon Blanc.
Bonny Doon Ca' Del Solo Albarino 2008
I said it once, I'll say it again: I've not yet met a Bonny Doon wine I didn't like. And I mean really like. This Albarino is a perennial favorite. Even in the cold weather it's a delicious aperitif or pairing with seafood. But it just tastes so delicious in the spring. It's what I'd call CLEAN. Bright apple fruits, crisp backbone, citrus and some herb notes. Made with Biodynamic farming, which may be from where its sense of purity comes.
Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc 2009
Another favorite, particularly for the price. Chenin Blanc is a grape that South Africa does VERY well and Mulderbosch is makes a classic version. Again, we're talking Light & Crisp, so you're going to get citrus, and bright acid. But you also get some riper tropical fruits in this one, with kick of spice, too.
Duboeuf Fleurie Domaine des Quatre Vents 2008
Do not be fooled – Beaujolias, particularly "cru" Beaujolais is good stuff! Duboeuf is a classic producer of Beaujolais, the large region in the south of Burgundy producing bright wines from the Gamay grape grown on granite soils. When you talk Beaujolais, you're talking bright red fruit, some spice and acidity, but the key term for me here is bright. It's a red wine that is light and almost crisp. Perfect for warmer weather and light foods.
Escarpment Over the Edge Pinot Noir 2008
I love this wine. Mainly because I was so impressed when I tasted it and found out it was under $15! This is a "savory" style Pinot Noir, with lots of berry fruit, some sweet spice and some spicy spice, as well as a touch of dried herbs. Just lovely all over. Good finish, great for a juicy burger or some grilled salmon.
For my Cotes-du-Rhone, I have two picks. And they are both a bit more pricey, but totally worth it I think as they are from Cairanne. Cairanne is my favorite "villages" of the CDR and I think it will the next "cru" (the way Gigondas, Vacqueyras & Vinsobres were upgraded). Your choices are:
Dom. de L'Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Cuvee Prestige 2007 or Domaine Alary Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne 2007
Both wines are full of upfront fruit and sweet spice. The Oratoire St Martin has quite a bit of Mourvedre in the blend, so you will get more peppery spice notes and some earthy tones. The Alary (which I am very partial to) is more on the rich, sweet spice side, with a silky smooth texture. Either way, you're getting great grill-friendly wines that are perfect for spring.
As a long-term member of the "majority" of
oenophiles, defined as those individuals have have never tried a vertical of any fancy
wine or have 1,000 bottle wine cellars, I have been authorized (by myself) to invite anyone who's curious
about wine to join our group, like a jogger vs. runner, the distinction
is a state a mind. Oh and just to be clear, those of us who know which
years are "good years" and what to avoid or covet in wineshop, don't
actually buy or even try every bottle of wine, instead we cheat by
attending wine tastings.
This weekend, I attended the New Zealand Wine Discovery Tasting in San
Francisco. I seldom write tasting notes but I do make mental notes of
my general impressions and star my favorites. It's not laziness on my
part, but really it's about forcing wines to be memorable for good or
bad and taking away generalities that are much more useful than jotting
down 5 descriptors. I use this info to navigate menus and select from wines I've never tasted. So,
without further ado, I've laid out below my tasting plan of attack and
the mental notes that followed to show you how I add to my wine
knowledge without trying every bottle I see.
Attack Strategy #1: Scan the winery list. You might see wines you've always been curious about.
There has been a lot of buzz lately about pinot noirs from Central Otago, so
I gave them a try. I would have liked to have found a greater breadth
of aromatics and more substance. Nonetheless, I
found that Central Otago wines tended to have more complexity than
other regional wines, consequently, they would be great better with
food and at lower price points than quality pinot noir from California,
in other words, a good value. I liked the 2008 Matua Valley Central Otago Pinot Noir. Mental note to self: Central Otago = food/wallet compatible.
Attack Strategy #2 Taste the most expensive wines. This is often the best way to make sure your aren't disappointed later on.
In this case, the higher priced wines retailed around $36. They all turned out to be pretty good in terms of quality and given the pricing, as compared to top tier pinot, a good deal. Our favorite of the event turned out to be one of the most expensive at $37
a bottle (2008 Alana Estate Pinot Noir from Martinborough). For $37 and
up you get more tannic structure and finesse (in other words, it's not
quite as fresh and fruity). Mental note to self: Martinborough is producing some excellent and nuanced higher end pinots.
Attack Strategy#3 Experiment. Try the strangest wine you see on the list. Maybe it's from an obscure place or perhaps a variety you've never heard of.
We tried a brilliant 2008 Bordeaux blend from the tiny island of Waiheke produced by Man O' War called the Ironclad. Mental note to self: Waiheke Island is on my radar for Bordeaux blends.
Attack Strategy#4 Sample different regions and vintages
We tried side by side vintages of the 2007 and 2008 Tarras Vineyards
Pinot Noir from Central Otago. I enjoyed them both. I learned later
that 2007 is a great vintage for reds in New Zealand. Given a choice, I
would go for the 2007 if only because additional age rounds a wine out. Mental note to self: Don't fret over 2007 vs 2008 vintage for Central Otago pinot.
Attack Strategy#5: Sample different price points. I like knowing what another $5-10 gets me.
For this experiment I tried three lines of Brancott wines. First, I tasted the 2009 Brancott Sauvignon Blanc Malborough ($11). I got a lot of grassiness, grapefruit and perceptible sweetness. I like my wines a bit drier, however, it paired very well with oysters. Next we sampled the 2009 Brancott Reserve Sauvignon Blanc ($15). This wine was more weighty and less obvious in the nose, making room for more complex aromas. I think this one would pair much better with an entrée than the less expensive Brancott which is better suited to more casual occasions or a hot summer picnic. Finally, I tried the Brancott Letter Series 'B' Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($24). This is very good wine with an interesting minerality on the nose and good texture in the mouth, by far the best and pairs well with seafood and lighter pasta dishes. For these wines, I think it's important to decide what you personally enjoy. Some tasters love grapefruit aromas (one taster kept raving that "the
grapefruit just punches you in the nose"), whereas, I like less
violence and more minerality. Mental note to self: These start fruity and crisp and increase in weight, minerality and complexity for just a few dollars more.
Now get out there and start exploring!