Blog Archives

Bordeaux the new Napa? Napa the new Bordeaux?

It’s no secret that while Bordeaux’s temperatures have been rising, California has been struggling for sunny days. I hadn’t thought much of France’s weather conditions, since we have been so focused on Napa given our recent trip until the topic was brought up by Juelle Fisher, Fisher Vineyards, at a recent tasting we had with them. The discussion was that if France endured warmer temperatures similar to typical Napa weather, and vice versa would we experience a stylistic flip-flop in Cabernet from the two regions?

As most of us know, there is a lot that influences the style and flavor of a finished wine: land (most importantly), grapes/clones, viticulture, winemaking, climate, and weather. So would a change in weather conditions change a wine so much that it actually reflects another region all together? I would venture to say no, but it would make an impact. How interesting would it be to see a fully-ripe, higher alcoholic Bordeaux and a restrained, complex and earthly Napa Valley Cabernet? The French (and more likely British) would surely freak out but it is full to imagine.

Yes, the weather situations in both regions are going to present growers and winemakers with problems they have only read about. Each region will have a different approach and different technologies to correct those problems, but I do expect that the 2010 and 2011 vintages from both regions will be a unique spin on the typical styles that is sure to interest the curious wine consumer.

Wine Not? Spring Mountain, Napa

I’ve dug up a video from our trip out to Napa at our visit to Barnett Winery. Here we talk about the differences in vineyard management on a hilltop/mountain vineyard versus being down in the Valley. Some beautiful views on this one! And as a sidenote, we just brought in Barnett’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which can be found here and here!

Wine Review: Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Hands of Time, 2008

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Hands of TimeStag’s Leap Wine Cellars is one of the most storied wineries in the Napa Valley, most famous for their wine in the famous 1976 Judgement of Paris. The most important tasting for American wine history celebrates its 35th anniversary this year and I thought it appropriate to feature one of Stag’s Leap’s wines in honor of the anniversary.

After their success at the Judgement of Paris (they won the Cabernet Sauvignon category with a 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet, it is the part left out of the movie about the tasting, Bottle Shock) the winery became one of the top premium producers in the valley. Through their history a number of influential winemakers, growers and industry leaders have helped shape what the winery is today. In 2003, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars celebrated those individuals through a Hands of Time memorial which showcases the hands of each at the winery.

The 2008 Hands of Time wine is a reflection of those people and is dedicated to the winemakers whom were raised in the Stag’s Leap cellars. Some notable faces include: Bob Sessions (1973, Hanzell), John Williams (1975-6, Frog’s Leap), John Kongsgaard (1977, Kongsgaard Winery/Arietta), Richard Ward (1978, Saintsbury), Ricardo Hererra (1986-1994, Screaming Eagle), Paul Hobbs (1994-5, Paul Hobbs Winery), Michael Silacci (1995-2001, Opus One), and Abe Schroener (1998, Scholium Project). Not too shabby of a list.

The 2008 Hands of Time is equally impressive. The blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, and 3% Syrah provides a solid backbone with a smooth finish. Vibrant red fruit flavors precede cocoa and nutmeg that lead to a vanilla and spicy finish. The fruit is entirely from the Stag’s Leap vineyards, often called one of Napa’s ‘first growths,’ produced in the premium style of the winery but at a very friendly price point – $30. We don’t plan on seeing this wine for long, but we will definitely take all that we can get.

Some Wine and Food Pairing Basics

With the debut of our new (and might I add fabulous) section, Cooked, I thought it would be appropriate to post a few wine and food pairing basics. While we don’t all have time to spend crafting our meals to a particular wine (which is why Cooked is only posted once a week), a few simple tips can take any meal to wine pairing stardom.

1. The key is balance.
Balance is probably the best word to describe any good wine OR wine and food pairing. Imagine your dish, will your tomato base sauce overwhelm your Sauvignon Blanc…probably. So don’t pair a light white with it. Food and wine should match each other in terms of body and acidity. Reach for a medium to heavy bodied red instead, say a Chianti?

2.  Never, ever pair oil with tannin.
A great example of this is serving a food bodied Napa Valley Cabernet with Salmon, it just doesn’t work. Again the two elements are out of balance.

3. Sweet and spicy.
I know this goes against my whole balance concept, but hey it works. The sweetness in wines (i.e. Riesling, Gewürztraminer) balances spice in most dishes and pairs perfectly with Asian flavors.

4. Think flavors, not protein.
Most pairing descriptions go something like this…”Best served with poultry and pork.” It’s a good start, but very wide open. I like to tell people to think more in terms of flavor. Pork may be great with Pinot Noir but if you sear it with a black pepper crust, the food flavors will pummel the delicious and fragile flavors of the wine. Instead of focusing on the type of protein you are serving with the wine, focus on any sauces and herbs that will be the star of the dish.

5. If all else fails, serve Pinot Noir.
It’s the most food friendly wine out there, most likely it will serve as a great compliment to your meal.

You can find our food and wine pairing section, Cooked, here every Wednesday. Cooked is written by Jackie Poole, Decanted’s Marketing & E-Commerce Manager (and my sister). She has been into food and crafting custom recipes for as long as I can remember, although I did not inherit any of that talent!

Top 5 takeaways from my wine certification course

Wine & Spirits Education TrustI recently finished up the Intermediate Level of the Wine & Spirits Education Trust’s (WSET) certification course. What does that mean? I have made a habit of telling people who I now have a piece of paper that certifies my drinking habit. All kidding aside, I learned a lot from the course that I didn’t already know about the beverage industry. Many of the facts that were new to be were based on spirits – as I am not a spirits drinker – but I did also pick up some tidbits about wine that I did not already know. Here were the top 5 ‘surprises’ to me:

5. Glera is the real name of the grape used for Prosecco. Although, Prosecco is still the popular named used for the grape that produces Italy’s sparkler, Glera is the proper name.

4. Some inexpensive German ‘Rieslings’ are actually blends of the Riesling grape and another inexpensive German varietal – Müller-Thurgau. Some of these wines are even 100% Müller-Thurgau.

3. Per British standards, women should only consume 1-2 units of alcohol per day (equivalent to one, medium-sized glass); men 2-3 units per day (equivalent to one, large-sized glass).

2. Argentina has actually been producing large quantities of wine for hundreds of years. The reason for the increase of Argentinian wines in the U.S.? They recently just discovered that they can make money producing quality wines, not just ‘jug’ or inexpensive table wine.

1. Even after much reading and studying I have found that German wine labels still not only confuse me, but confuse me even more so after trying to understand them!

Summer’s hot new white grape….Torrontes

There is no doubt in the wine industry that South America is the new ‘hot’ (in terms of popularity) growing region of the world. One of my favorite finds has been not the signature Malbec, but a relatively unknown white grape – Torrontes. See the details below and taste my recommendation at our Century Club Tasting this Thursday.

Grape Name:  Torrontes

Pronunciation:  Tor RON taze,

Color:  Green skin grape, produces white wine.

From:  Torrontes has recently become the standout white grape from Argentina – namely Mendoza. It can also be found in small quantities in Chile, as it is successful growing at high altitudes.

History: Torrontes is actually a general name used for three different varieties:  Torrontés Riojano,  Torrontés Sanjuanino, and Torrontés Mendocino. Torrontes Riojano is the most common and has come to be referred to as simply ‘Torrontes.’ This is the majority of the white wine that you will see in the U.S. All three varieties are native to Argentina from the Criollas grape family, an American born family with roots from the European species -vitis vinifera. Recent DNA testing has found that Torrontes is a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and the Mission grapes.

Climate: Torrontes prefers a high altitude climate with dry and windy conditions.

Characteristics:  Torrontes can produce two very different styles of wine: crisp and light or full-bodied and fruit forward. The crisp and light style is most similar to an Italian Pinot Grigio with amble acidity, citrus flavors and a light body. The second style features flavors of honey suckle, tropical fruits and citrus. It is most comparable to a unoaked,warm climate Chardonnay.

Pairing: Depending on the style, this wine does best with seafood and poultry with light sauces that are lemon or white wine based.

Recommendation: Goulart Torrontes, $15

What confuses you about wine?

Today’s post is more of an inquiry, as we are finishing up some updates on decantedwines.com for a site relaunch (shhh!), I’m working on a new section to be announced to help individuals weed through the information about wine and beer.  So I ask, what confuses you about wine? I’m looking for honest questions which will be kept completely anonymous. There is really truly no stupid question, especially when it comes to such a confusing topic.

You can post your answers here, on Facebook, DM us on Twitter, or send an email to info@decantedwines.com.

Beer Review: Dogfish Head Theobroma

We were sitting at Amis in Philadelphia last weekend waiting for my sister, husband, and in-laws to join us for dinner. Grabbing a drink at the bar we thought best to order some local brews. Al spotted one of our favorite beers (not available in Florida) – Allagash White Belgian Ale – and decided on that. I spotted an unknown DFH beer (at least to me) brewed with cocoa and ancho chiles? Now I had to try that. After a sip of each beer, Al was holding the Theobroma hostage from me.

For those unfamiliar with Dogfish Head, they are the epitome of what makes craft beer great. They push the envelope, do things others wouldn’t, and are slightly crazy. But all great creations come from people that are just a little nuts. Dogfish Head got its start in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware serving microbrews and great food to summer vacationers in 1995. It wasn’t long before those vacationers craved the beer at home – mainly in the Philadelphia and DC areas. Year after year, they grew. Soon enough they were nationally recognized and distributed, their 120 minute IPA even created a phenomenon of its own. Today you can find DFH in 25 different states, although the majority of their brews stay at that Brewpub in Delaware.

Now about Theobroma…whose story may be more interesting than the beer itself. To quote the Dogfish website,

This beer is based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras which revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink used by early civilizations to toast special occasions. The discovery of this beverage pushed back the earliest use of cocoa for human consumption more than 500 years to 1200 BC.

Pretty deep for a beer, huh? Based on this discovery, Theobroma which means “food of the gods” is brewed with Aztec Cocoa Powder and Cocoa Nibs. Honey, ancho chiles and annatto (fragrant tree seeds) are added to the mix which deliver most of their flavors on the end of the palette. The beer is medium bodied with a low-hop, smooth finish. We paired this with a spicy pasta dish with jalapenos and sun-dried tomatoes. The sweetness from the cocoa balanced the spiciness of the dish on the front but didn’t overwhelm it because of the chile kick in the beer on the finish.

Overall, an interesting and complex beer and not surprisingly one of our new favorites. Want to know more? Check out this video DFH created about the beer, informative and fun!

Wine Review: Mad Hatter

Mad Hatter CabernetI’ll start this post with a quote from my sister, Jackie, (and fellow blog contributor for the ‘Cooked’ section), “that wine was so good, but it went so fast.” The true sign of a good wine? It is consumed fast and fights break out over the last drop. It has happened on more than one occasion between Al and I, but I’ve never seen it occur with more than a group of four. Now I won’t call it a fight but over dinner with my sisters, my sister’s new husband, his parents, Al and I all seven of us did reach for that last drop.

The Mad Hatter is the second label of Dancing Hares. Dancing Hares Vineyard is an impressive team with Andy Erickson (Screaming Eagle, Favia, Leviathan) at the helm as head winemaker with assistance from Michael Rolland and renowned vineyard manager David Abreu. The 2007 Dancing Hares Proprietary Wine is an exquisite blend of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 37% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, at about $125 per bottle. Exquisite, yes but not quite your every day drinker.

The Mad Hatter is a similar blend at a friendly price point – about $60 per bottle – that is if you can find it. The vineyard itself seems to produce impeccable Cabernet Franc and Merlot which balance each other perfectly in the blend and give only the best characteristics of each varietal. In taste, the Cabernet Sauvignon almost seems subdued and restrained allowing the other varietals to come through. Erickson says, about the wine:

“The 2008 Mad Hatter is a bold, ripe expression of the vintage.  Those lots from our estate that show upfront fruit, soft tannins, and immediate appeal form the core of this wine.  This vintage is enjoyable from the outset, with plump, ripe fruit character and a lingering intensity.  Notes of darjeeling tea leaves, ripe blueberries, brown sugar and cream lead the way for this hedonistic wine.”

It’s a wine worth grabbing, enjoying and fighting over if the situation presents itself. And, I am proud to say I did get the last drop.

Gewurztraminer, or Gewurz for short

Gewurztraminer WinesI’m often asked ‘what is your favorite wine in the store?’ The truth is I never have a favorite, maybe a favorite at the time but not one overwhelming wine I’m in love with. Now, it may be different for some but I am not a creature of habit. I like to travel, to explore and that spills over to my wine selections. Sure I love a good Napa Cab and even more a Oregon Pinot Noir, but once in a while I crave a Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Teroldego, or some other unique varietal. In preparation for our Century Club Tasting (coming up on the 21st) I’m going to explore some of my favorite unique grapes….today’s topic Gewürztraminer.

Grape Name:  Gewürztraminer

Pronunciation:  guh-VOORTS-truh-MEE-nur, audio link here .  Also can be called “Gewurz” for short

Color:  Pinkish skin graped, produces white wine

From:  Probably most famous is the Gewurz grown in Germany & Austria, but it is also produced in Australia, Canada, France, Italy and the USA as well as some lesser known wine growing regions (Bulgaria, Hungary, Luxembourg, Czech Republic).

History: The grape was originally found in the Alsace region of France (which is known for more German style varietals and wines than French) along the Rhine River.  The name translates to “Spice Traminer” for its spicy character and family history in the Traminer variety, an ancient green grape. Through a number of different (and confusing) mutations, the grape variety came to be what it is today just after the phylloxera epidemic in Europe when a single variety/mutation was selected and then grafted on phylloxera immune vines.

Climate: Gewurz is rather a moody vine. It hates chalky soil and is very prone to disease. It also buds early increasing the chance of frost affecting its growth and in a warm and dry summer climate ripens late. If over ripened (in a warm climate) the sweetness of the grape gets out of control, whereas under ripening inhibits aromas and sugar.

Characteristics:  Gewurz is a highly aromatic varietal often with strong floral notes (roses) and sweet fruits (lychee, passion fruit).  It can be made either in an off-dry (slightly sweet) or dry style.

Pairing: One of the few perfect wines to pair with Asian cuisine, it balances anything spicy as well and does well with smoked salmon.

Recommendation: (my favorite Gewurz) Villa Wolf Gewürztraminer, Germany, $15