Thursday, January 29, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - Sonoma Red Blend - 2011 Hook and Ladder Station Ten

Red Zinfandel usually isn't mixed with other grapes, or may only have a very small percent of other grapes mixed in - it stands very well on its own. I am always interested when I find Zinfandel used in a blends - especially one like this where Zin is only about one half of the blend.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Wine Tip of the Week - Like Red Zinfandel? Try this!

I am a big fan of a good Red Zinfandel, but good examples from places like Napa and Sonoma can get a bit expensive.  If you are a fan of big fruity, peppery Zins there is another option you can try - Primitivo from Italy.

For a bit of wine geek specifics, Primitivo and Zinfandel are both clones of a Croatian grape called Crljenak (I have no clue how to pronounce!).  Primitivo available in the U.S. is largely from the Italian province of Puglia, and is typically priced from $10 - $20 per bottle.

Give Primitivo a try - and let us know any good ones you find out there!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - Australian Red - 2011 Running With Bulls Tempranillo

I'm always on the lookout for something new and interesting.  Tempranillo - the grape whose home is typically in Rioja, Toro, and Ribera Del Duero in Spain - made in the Barossa region Australia... hmmmm!  Very interesting!  Barossa is more known for big bruising Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, so let's see what their take is on a classic Spanish grape... my guess is big and bruising!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Wine Tip of the Week - Wannabe Wino? Take a Class (or Two)

Have you been to a few wine tastings or perhaps visited Napa or Sonoma and enjoyed hearing about the grape growing or winemaking process? Wish you knew a bit more? Some additional wine knowledge can help make you a better wine consumer and a better wino.  

Your local wine shop may offer some advanced classes, or you can look into organizations such as the International Sommelier's Guild, International Wine Guild, Society of Wine Educators, or the Court of Master Sommeliers.  Most of these organizations offer a range of classes in addition to full-fledged certification courses.  

The Local Wine Events website is another good resource to find education opportunities in your area. You can find classes about different wine regions, about how wine is made, about food and wine pairing - there is a lot of great information out there for waiting for you!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - Spanish Red - 2011 San Alejandro Garnacha Las Rocas

Variety is important. My Total Wine store has not been offering much new in Spanish Wines, so my weekly wine shopping trip instead went to a Phoenix, AZ area gourmet grocery chain - AJs Find Foods. A nice variety of wine and very knowledgable staff, BTW (before Total Wine) I used to shop for wine at AJs quite a bit...I need to shop their more often.  A $12 Garnacha caught my eye...not the most elegant label, but hey - it's all about the flavor. Speaking of which, let's have some!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Chef's Dinner at Casa Pedro in San Juan de Parres, Spain - the Sequel!

Are you familiar with the concept of the “sophomore slump?” This happens when a sports team, a rookie athlete, an author, a film writer or countless other examples so thoroughly impresses the world upon with their debut performance in their respective field (their “freshman debut”), that they create on-going expectations that may be too high to achieve.  Think of M. Night Shyamalan, the director of the movie Sixth Sense. A film with a fantastic twist ending that pleased thousands upon thousands of movie goers, but set up the expectation that future films would not only meet the overall quality and huge surprise ending, but surpass it.  Sadly, often the expectations created are not reachable – and you have your sophomore slump.  These slumps obviously happen quite often, but there is also the concept where the higher expectations are met and even exceeded…and this is what we experienced during our second special Chef’s menu at Casa Pedro in San Juan de Parres, Spain.

My readers may recall that in A Great Gourmet Surprise - Chef's Dinner at Casa Pedro in San Juan de Parres, Asturias, Spain I described how Wino4Life Wife and I first met the Chef and his family who own and operate Casa Pedro.  A “Great Gourmet Surprise” was an understatement for that meal, and to this day it remains one of our very best foodie memories.   Naturally, when we returned the next time for a visit to Asturias – such a beautiful part of Spain – we not only dined at Casa Pedro on a regular basis for their wonderful daily offerings, but asked (OK, begged a little) if Chef Christian would be willing to prepare us another special menu. Luckily he agreed, and one night with great memories of our first encounter with Chef’s special menu, we strolled the short distance from our rental apartment to Casa Pedro. To say our expectations were huge is an understatement. So…, did we experience any signs of a sophomore slump from impossibly high expectations??? Read on to find out…

Monday, January 12, 2015

Wine Tip of the Week - Vow to be Soap-Free!

Once you've invested in some nice stemware to enjoy your wines of choice, you want to make sure that nothing gets in the way of the wines aromas and flavors.  Some dish soaps and dishwasher soaps can leave behind a soap residue that could potentially impact the wine. I am old enough to remember the Madge Palmolive commercials - and although good enough for a manicure according to Madge, you don't want your wine glasses "soaking in it". Also, crystal wine glasses may be too fragile for the dishwasher, and really need to be hand washed. A little more work, but worth the effort to ensure you enjoy your wine at its best. You do need to wash your stemware, so what do you use? 

There are several brands, but I've had good luck with Stem Shine. It can be a bit pricey, but just a drop can clean several wine glasses. Also, a cleaning brush that you use just for stemware is important to make sure no other soap gets on your wine glasses.  You may need a larger brush for red wine glasses, and a small slender brush for white wine glasses. Remember those sparkling wine flutes when picking out a smaller brush.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - California Sparkling - 2012 Sea Smoke Sea Spray

New Year's Eve this year ended up being all Napa Cabernet, so that means... we still had some Sparkling Wine to drink!  We actually enjoyed this wine on New Year's Day with a hearty Spanish stew bean called Fabada. White beans, Spanish Chorizo, Spanish Blood Sausage, Pork Belly... Mmmmmm!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Wine Tip of the Week: The Terroir of Drinking Wine

If you read much about wine, visit many wineries, or even read a few wine labels you are bound to run into the term "Terrior" (pronounced Ter-WAHR).  This term refers to the elements of the natural environment that have an influence on a wine. It is the "sense of place" of where the wine grapes were grown such as the makeup of the soil, the type of terrain, and the climate. The amount of clay or minerals in the soil, the amount of slope of the hill where the grapes grow, and the weather all contribute to the taste of the wine.  To some degree, even wine making traditions of a particular area are part of a wine's Terrior.

A similar concept can apply to the time when you crack open a bottle and take a taste.  Many factors can influence your wine tasting experience. These factors make up the "Terrior of Drinking Wine."  Change the soil, terrain or climate of where wine grapes are grown, and the resulting product will be impacted. Changing factors when you taste can also impact how much you enjoy - or don't enjoy a particular wine.  These factors include
  • Your Climate.  A big tannic red wine on a hot day will taste different than on a cooler or even a cold night.  A chilled white or rosé is better for a summer day that for a cold winter's night.
  • Your Mood.  If you have had a bad day, or your favorite TV show was just cancelled, it may not be the best timing to try a expensive, wonderful wine.  If you've had a great day, or maybe are enjoying a vacation in wine country - the wine will probably taste better than it will on any other day.
  • Wine Temperature.  In addition to the temperature you are experiencing as you drink the wine, the temperature of the wine itself will have a huge impact on the flavor of the wine.
  • Your Focus.  If you are sitting down alone or with a significant other and really concentrating on drinking wine - trying to identify aromas, levels of acidity, sweetness, and tannin, it will be a completely different experience that tasting a wine while watching a game, a movie, or at a party with friends. 
  • Your Health.  Your mouth can only detect five tastes, but when aroma is added to the mix it opens it up to thousands of flavors. A cold or even a hint of allergies will deaden your ability to enjoy a wine. Even if your nose isn't impacted, but you just don't feel well - it will impact your enjoyment of a wine.
If you taste a wine you expected to like, but found it disappointing - think about the Terrior of Drinking and consider trying the wine again in a more wine-friendly situation. You may have tried a potential gem of a wine that you wouldn't want to disregard because of a bad day or record breaking temperatures.  Also, when enjoying a vacation of wine tasting, before you buy cases and cases of a wine you liked - consider for a moment that it may be the situation that is making the wine taste better, and that the wine may never taste as good as it does today. It may be an awesome wine, just have one more drink and really concentrate on the taste and flavors of the wine - and try to block out the other factors that may be making the wine taste even better.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - Spanish Red - 2009 Muga Rioja Selección Especial

This wine has long been one of my favorite Rioja wines. We have not tried any of this lately, so decided to see how the 2009 compared to past vintages. This wine is considered a "Reserva" level by Spanish law, however Muga makes another "Reserva" wine, that while usually quite tasty - is not this "Selección Especial."