Thursday, February 28, 2013

Weekly Wine Review - Cabernet Franc - 2010 Reserve des Vignerons Saumur Champigny

Ahh... these French wine labels can make it very difficult to figure out what's going on in the bottle. "Reserve des Vignerons Saumur Champigny" - what the heck does that mean??? I give this week's wine much respect for putting the grape variety on the back label to help in the translation.  This week's wine is in fact from the Loire Valley of France.  I chose this red wine because this area in France is  known more for its white wines. Regions that specialize in one type of wine may provide an opportunity to find a good value wine outside of what they typically produce.  Just because an area is better know for a certain type of wine, doesn't mean there aren't great examples that buck the trend.

So... from the land of great French Sauvignon Blanc - let's try a Cabernet Franc!

Wine: 2010 Reserve des Vignerons Saumur Champigny
Region: Loire, France
Grape Varieties: Cabernet Franc
Obtained from: Purchased at Total Wine & More
Price: $13.00
Wino4Life Category: Everyday Wine
Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural Cork - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Wine is clear, dark red color at the center with a water white rim.
Aroma: Very nice  blackberry aroma with a bit of dried leaves and minerality.
Taste: Very nice fruity taste, a fair amount of acidity (mouth watering feel), and some minerality in the aftertaste. Some tannins - but overall nicely balanced.

The Grade: I give this one an A. Very drinkable, and nicely balanced - a super wine for $13. I have read that the 2010 vintage in Loire had a longer growing period, so the grapes ripened a bit more - and I think this wine benefited greatly.  Introduce your friends to something different - a Cabernet Franc from the Loire valley!!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Wine Tip of the Week - Food Pairing Series - A Pairing "Don't" (Sort of)

Food and wine pairing can be a rewarding and challenging pursuit, but is nothing to get too worried about.  If every pairing is not perfect (and what is perfect for some may not be perfect for all) - it doesn't mean the food and wine will (necessarily) be ruined and your friends and family will quickly disown you.  However, there are just a few food and wine interactions where you need to be careful. One of those interactions involves your friendly spear of Asparagus.  Asparagus contains a sulfur compound that causes wine to have a metallic taste.
This doesn't mean wine is out of the question (unless you are serving up only a big 'ole plate of Asparagus).  There are some things you can do to lesson the impact, and help asparagus pair better with  your wine:
  • Grill the asparagus to give it a bit of a char
  • Serve with a cheese, hollandaise, or other creamy sauce
  • Buy bunches with thinner/younger spears
Wines that can pair up with Asparagus - minimizing the whole metal thing:
  • Wines with herbal notes such as Loire or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
  • Versatile wines with great aromas like Gruner Veltliner (Austria), Riesling, and Gewürztraminer
Just be sure and avoid anything tannic or that has been oaked aged like Chardonnay (unoaked Chardonnay should be fine).

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Weekly Wine Review - Red Blend - 2009 Finca Flichman Tupungato

Malbec has recently become one of my most consumed wine varieties. I have found it to be great red wine to just sip and savor, and also have found it super versatile in food pairings.  All this and reasonably priced as well!  I found a great recipe for a Korean Flank Steak, and have found the fruitiness of the right Malbec can handle the spiciness of the dish (courtesy of my current favorite condiment - Sriracha).   One of my favorite go-to Malbecs is the Reserva from Finca Flichman - so when I saw this red blend from them I was very intrigued and wanted to try it - with the Korean Flank Steak!

Wine: 2009 Finca Flichman Tupungato
Region: Mendoza, Argentina
Grape Varieties: Malbec (70%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Merlot (5%)
Obtained from: Purchased at Total Wine & More
Price: $16.00
Wino4Life Category: Everyday Wine
Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural cork - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Wine is clear, dark purple in the center with a water white rim.
Aroma: Nice aromas of dark fruit like blackberry, baking spice, and a bit of chocolate.
Taste: Very nice fruit flavors with a hint of spices.  Bringing some Cab and Merlot to the party have given this wine a bit more complexity than the pure Malbecs. Still fruity enough that it matched nicely with our Korean Flank steak.

The Grade: I give this one an A. The extra complexity of the blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have a great impact on both the nose and the taste of this wine.  At $16, this one is a nicely complex wine for anyone who likes Malbecs, or even fruitier versions of Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.  Fun to say "Tupungato", and fun to drink!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Reader Poll - Tell us About a Great Bottle

What's a great bottle of wine you've recently enjoyed? Please tell us a bit about it and share the wealth!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Wine Tip of the Week - Food Pairing Series - Hot & Spicy Foods

Spicy foods such as Mexican, Indian, and Asian dishes can be a challenge to pair with wines.  Hot spices in food can interact with tannins in red wine, and wreck the flavor of the wine. Since I tend to look to red wine first whenever I can, if the food is not eye-wateringly spicy, I like a fruity red like Malbec, Grenache, or Zinfandel. Take care - as depending on the producer, these wines may contain a good amount of tannin.  One of my go-to reds for something with a bit of spice is a Finca Flichman Reserva Malbec.


Even though you may be able to find a red wine that works, your safest bet that will conquer even the spiciest dish is a good  Gewürztraminer or Riesling that have a bit of sweetness.  Not a sweet wine like a dessert wine, but a wine that have some residual sweetness along with the normal acidity level. If you are looking at a Riesling from Germany, the term Spätlese or Auslese refer to wines made from grapes that were allowed to ripen longer - and therefore had more sugar.  These grapes can be used to make a "dry" wine, but that still has a nice hint of  sweetness.

I can't tell you if these tips will help with a Ghost Chili - I don't think anything will help you there, but hopefully you can find a nice pairing to allow wine to be your beverage of choice when it's time to get spicy!!!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Weekly Wine Review - Gamay - 2011 Duboeuf Morgon Descombes

As I learned a bit about French wine, surprisingly I was quite intrigued learning about the  "other" red wine made in Burgundy, home of exquisite and expensive wines made from 100% Pinot Noir.  This other grape and the variety of this week's wine review is Gamay.  I find it interesting because of the wildly different styles of wine that this grape makes.

In November each year you may have noticed bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau wine on the shelves. This is an annual tradition in France where wine is made from Gamay grapes, but in a very different way than most all other red wines. Geeking out a bit, the process is referred to as Carbonic Maceration, and basically involves placing the grapes in a vessel,  filling it with carbon dioxide, and letting the whole grape ferment. Typically the grapes are crushed and some type of yeast added to begin the fermentation process.  This process creates a wine mostly devoid of tannins, made to be chilled and gulped rather than sipped as part of the annual celebration of creating this wine.  Carbonic Maceration can bring about aromas and flavors of candy, bubble gum, bananas - not exactly the typical red wine aromas! The wine needs to be consumed quickly as it has none of the elements that allow a wine to age are present in Beaujolais Nouveau.
Bubble Gum & Bananas - Oh My!

After all that diatribe - this weeks review is of the other style of Beaujolais.  Still using the Gamay grape, but making a more traditional red wine. Beaujolais Nouveau is sometimes called the red wine for white wine lovers, but can the more traditional style of Beaujolais play the same role? Well, let's see!

Wine: 2011 Duboeuf Morgon Descombes
Region: Beaujolais-Villages, France
Grape Varieties: Gamay
Obtained from: Purchased at Total Wine & More
Price: $15.00
Wino4Life Category: Everyday Wine
Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Real cork - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Wine is clear with a translucent red color and a water white rim.
Aroma: Very nice berries - mostly raspberry (I happened to have some on hand to smell the real thing in comparison!) with something a bit floral (I have little to go on as to what various flowers smell like, so I just stick with "floral"). Also a dry leaf and rock/mineral aroma as well. Very nice - none of the bubble gum or bananas - but for this one those aromas shouldn't be here!  As I continued to swirl, and the wine warmed a bit, the floral smell started to become more evident, and maybe a bit of licorice as well. Quite a lot going on!
Taste: Nice big fruit/berry flavor that gives way to some minerals, a nice amount of acid (mouth watering feel), and a good bit of tannins (mouth drying feel). A nice balanced finish - great to just sit back and enjoy.

The Grade: I give this one a A. A very nice light bodied wine that still has a nice bit of complexity. A nice transition wine for white wine lovers who want to venture into the red wine world (while very light bodied, a Beaujolais Nouveau may be too bizarre and scare away some white wine lovers).  As I continue to sip, the wine tastes better and better to me.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Weekly Wine Review - Cabernet Sauvignon - Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells

This past fall, on our way to a cruise to Alaska, we spent a great couple of days with friends in Seattle.  Besides other great Seattle sites like the ultra-awesome Pikes Place Market, we visited the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery. I had really only known them for white wines, but our tasting at the winery showed me they were no slouches on the red wine side.  This Indian Wells series of wines has gotten some good press, so since this week's blog postings were Cabernet Sauvignon focused - I thought I give this one a try.

Wine: 2010 Chateau Ste Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon Indian Wells
Region: Columbia Valley, Washington State
Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon
Obtained from: Purchased at Total Wine & More
Price: $13.00
Wino4Life Category: Everyday Wine
Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural Cork - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Dark purple/red with a water white rim.
Aroma: Not much on the nose - mostly just fruit. It would be tough to identify this as Cabernet Sauvignon if tasting it blind. As I keep up my swirl, I am starting to get a hint of spice and some black licorice - but very faint.
Taste: Taste was mostly fruit, but overall very mild flavor. After the fruit goes away, a bit of spice taste lingers. Just a hint of tannins (mouth drying feeling), and a bit of acidity (mouth watering feeling).  It may open a bit in aroma and taste with some time out of the bottle. I will save some and comment tomorrow if there is anything worth noting in the wine after a day open.

The Grade: I give this one a B.  Nothing wrong with it specifically - so it gets a thumbs up, but not a Cabernet Sauvignon I would try and pair up with a good steak.  It could serve as an everyday drinking wine or wine to serve at a party, but there are some better examples of everyday wine out there for about the same price.  Not enough of the distinctive aromas and more complex flavors that I look for in a Cab at any price point.  For less expensive Cabs, I would recommend trying Chile or Argentina as an alternative - you may be able to get more for your money.

Let me know if you've tried a bottle - and what you think of it!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Wine Tip of the Week - My Series on Food Pairing Dos and Don'ts

Wine and food pairing can be a complex endeavor that professional Sommeliers tackle as part of their chosen career.  However, armed with a few easy to remember dos and don'ts, you can become your own Sommelier. In my Wine Tip of the Week Food Pairing series, I will identify key rules that will help (the dos) and a few things that will hurt (the don'ts) your success in pairing wine with food.

This week's tip is my favorite, and probably the most well known - even if not everyone knows why.  Simply put - big red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel with red meat. Part of the "big" in a big red wine are the Tannins. Tannins cause the dry mouth feel after tasting wine, and are one of the reasons some wines need to be aged in order to soften the tannins. Tannins in a wine will be softened when combined with protein and fat, so the pairing of a steak with a big red wine will actually enhance the wine, plus the wine can help accentuate the taste of a good char on your steak - also improving your enjoyment of the steak. This type of pairing is the ultimate payoff - where both the food and the wine are enhanced by pairing the two. To make sure you get the most out of both - your steak should be medium rare. Any more done and the proteins in the meat are impacted, any more rare and the fat in the steak isn't cooked enough to get the desired affect. Still a tasty pair no matter how your steak is cooked, but I believe medium rare is the ultimate.
Steak Au Poivre
Remember - it is both protein and fat that impact the tannins, so if your favorite steak cut is leaner like a Filet Mignon - a "less big" wine would be a better match, while a New York Strip or another cut with more fat can team up with a monster red wine.  To further enhance a big red wine - try a pepper crusted steak or an Au Poivre sauce. The bitterness of the black pepper will also react favorably with the tannins in the wine.