After a brief hiatus, I’m in the process of discovering in the City of Brotherly Love. Benjamin Franklin said, “Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” I intend to find happiness in Philadelphia!
I like wine, and a lot of my posts are positively slanted toward my reviews. However, there comes a time when I drink something–often that has had a rave review–that I tend not to like. This is one of those times. And rather than label this as a “What not to drink” post, I admit, it might just be me.
On the heels of drinking a very good Côte-Rôtie, I opened a Zaca Mesa 2008 Syrah from Santa Ynez Valley (14.5%). I also recently described my love of the Santa Barbara region, and so I thought, this might be a no brainer pick. It wasn’t.
The $21.99 wine drank like a cherry cough syrup that had been soaking in fake oak. The pepper–doused with a heavy hand–finished each drink. Had I been hunting with the flu (eating beef jerky and downing it with said cough syrup) this would have been the same experience as drinking the wine.
The other dislike of the day, and I admit it pains me more than the Syrah, is the 2010 Brooks’ Riesling from Willamette Valley ($17.99). This is the wine that brought me into to the store to buy Brooks wine in the first place, and while I loved, loved, loved the elegant Pinot Noir sampled a few days ago, this one just didn’t do it for me. At 11.5% abv, I was looking for a dry, refined Riesling in a style I love of its German counterparts. But the highly acidic (which is good) prevalently sweet green apple taste of a Jolly Rancher candy bite (which is not good in my opinion–but don’t get me wrong; it is a dry wine), make me rethink Riesling from places other than Germany and Austria (I do have an upstate New York Riesling on my shelf that I’m keeping my eye on, however, so stay tuned).
Try if you like, but on my shelf these wines nevermore will go.
(But please take the poll below to help me give these wines a second chance).
Transitions have a way of focusing the attention on what’s important. Three weeks ago I gave notice at the University, and once again, will leave my home state of Minnesota for a job out East. My thoughtful coworkers gave me a gift certificate to one of my favorite vineyards, Surdyks, and because I thought it was a milestone, I wanted to buy a memorable wine (Note: singular, not plural. Sometimes, you just gotta).
The wine was a 2000 E. Guigal Chateau d’Ampuis Côte-Rôtie (cote ro TEE for those, like me, who don’t pronounce French). I’ve had one or two other Côte-Rôties in my day (and I was going for a third, but the Bacchus Wine Cellar in Georgetown apparently didn’t want to help this chick in yoga gear on a Friday night get one off of the shelf–they were too busy helping the women in heels with the done-up faces pick out $12.99 Pinot Grigios, but I digress.) Before that long aside, I was going to say that my experience has been limited with this wine due to lack of knowledge and price point. Today, however, I was going to jump in and get my feet wet, albeit in the shallow end of the pool.
Back to the wine. I decanted to the wine to bring some air into this, 13% abv and some 15 years worth of, bottled wine. A few swirls and air sucking sips later, I was in deep like of this wine and the region. Deep notes of dark cherry and blackberry fruit, the sweetness took a back seat to more savory and smoky notes of bacon and hickory wood lightly peppered with faint licorice and punctuated with wisps of vanilla. The tannins were a great support in the third row of this wine, as well; tt wasn’t overpowering but was significantly better with the smoked porked served with dinner. It was a heavyweight fighter masquerading as a gentleman in an elegant tux.
The wine was listed at $170, but I snagged for $111. The brilliance seemed to have been slightly muted, but it was only just on this side of a gentle downward trend. Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls strikes a note for comparison: “There is nothing else than now. There is neither yesterday, certainly, nor is there any tomorrow.” Sometimes you just need a quiet day, light snow and relaxing night sheltered from the winter cold and be around family and friends to find love and live life–a day on the calendar does not love make (said as this was drunk on Valentine’s Day).
The same with wine: find what you like and celebrate it, even apart from the celebrity status of certain wines, vineyards and years. Thanks, dear friends, for the push and gift that enabled this great memory.
Three years ago when one of my friends from wine class opened up a Brooks Winery Pinot Noir, I thought, “Man, I have to sign up for that wine club.” I had never seen nor heard of it before, but this is why I was in wine class–to learn beyond the boundaries of my own experience and limitations.
I like wine, because like literature, there are many stories to discover. Fast forward to a new reality series by Fox Business, “Strange Inheritance” and the wine I never saw in a store since that Sunday afternoon tasting was front and center on this series. (You can see the story on Brooks’ home page, or by Googling the winery and “Strange Inheritance story–the root of it is that at age 8, owner Pascal Brooks inherited the winery when his father and owner, Jimi Brooks, age 38, passed away.)
I found the 2010 Janus Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, 12.2%, $30-39) at Sunfish Cellars in Lilydale/St. Paul, Mn. (If you have never been, it is by FAR one of the best selections of wine in Minnesota). Chris Blanchard, M.S. will say of this wine in his tasting notes that this wine is “earthy and brooding” and I quite agree. However, apart from the deep animal and mushroom notes he describes, I find a lightness in the taste akin to its delicate color–finding black cherries and strawberries, as well as a minerally graphite flavor that add buoyancy to the wine, behind the fruit. Light in oak, almost to a vanilla tinge, Janus-the mythological god of beginnings and endings–can handle the juxtaposition of flavors in my opinion.
It’s a great story and great wine. I can’t wait to discover more in the Brooks’ line as I keep adding to my own plot.
Yesterday, I wrote about one of my favorite Santa Barbara wines, Tercero Wines, and today after rummaging the shelves at Trader Joe’s, I’m beginning to think the Santa Barbara wine country can do no wrong.
During my own time in Santa Barbara during the Wine Bloggers 2014 Conference, I found truth in claims made of the area by the Santa Barbara Vintners: “The unique, transverse nature of the valleys of Santa Barbara Wine Country provides a patchwork quilt of microclimates and terrains, resulting in one of the most diverse grapegrowing regions in the country.” After tasting the Pinot Noir, Shiraz/Syrah, Chardonnay and other wines of the area, I found that these microclimates and terrains helped shape soft, subtle, layered and tasty wines of one of my new favorite wine region in the U.S.
Because of my trip there last year, I put my faith in a wine found on the top shelf of Trader Joes–the Foggy Veil, 2012 Santa Barbara blend of 75% Syrah/25% Grenache. (The $13.99 price point made it easy to try it out, too). The low price point, even when compared to Rhone blends from France, would normally make me shy away from an unknown wine. But I thought the “fog” in the title, which I fondly remember seeing during my early morning runs at the bloggers’ conference, really would make this a drinkable find. I was right.
The wine was full of dark cherry flavors and spicy oak reminiscent of cedar-lined dresser drawers that have been aired by time and memory. Underscoring these great flavors were slight notes of green herbs. Even with a 14.2% alcohol content which I thought was going to dominate the taste, the tannins and alcohol were mellow and balanced, making for a smooth-drinking red wine you could drink any night on its own, or like we did, with a juicy steak and butter-laced mushrooms. Try it, drink it, enjoy it.
On a Saturday morning during the 2013 Wine Blogger’s Conference in Santa Barbara, California, I vowed to go light on the next round of tastings. I had had a lot of wine to taste (by normal tasting standards, it was only 11:30 am) and I wanted to enjoy lunch and have some easy-going conversations with people I had been ignoring due to the focus on wine. Then I happened upon a Tercero wine table, and I was smitten.
Crisp, refreshing and what I think are a new twist on old takes (Syrahs, Roses, White Grenaches, oh my!) I couldn’t get these wines out of my head several months later before I joined the Tercero Wine Club.
The body and taste is voluptuous but restrained, as if viewing a curvy woman in a tightly woven bodice; revealing and refrained and showing a few mysteries one drink at a time.
A just-opened bottle, the wine offers aromas of stone fruit–some would say peach or more like lychee to me, as if some herbaceous hints lay beneath the surface. With another turn of the glass and served with panko-and-parmesan breaded walleye, this wine’s lemon and green grape notes and medium plus acid complemented dinner in a beautifully balanced way. The taste lingered, but not the tartness that usually turns me off of cheaper whites.
At $25 a bottle, I would stock up on a few bottles of this wine that goes just as well with winter fare as it will summer delights. If Malcolm Gladwell is correct, and outliers are defined by 10,000 or so hours of practice, I have to believe a lot of practice went into making this wine a perfect dining (and drinking) companion.
Some days are red wine tough–what is needed is the wine with legs, guts, strength, but purity of thought and purpose that can punctuate the close of day like a final sigh that matches pace with a lingering sunset, on that has been stalling until you finally have the chance to look outside. It was waiting for you. But before you had the sunset, you had the kind of day where chaos ran the show, the bad guy wins, and you get a parking ticket on the remaining three minutes of regulated parking.
I find that wine helps in these situations.
Substitute “you” for “me” and that was my first-world-problems sort of day, but I still needed just one drink. Economically, however, it didn’t make sense to open a red, though, since my current stock seemed to run on the higher end. I reached for the one remaining white in my fridge.
The wine: Weingut Hexamer Sauvignon Blanc, 2009er, Trocken, Nahe. When I purchased this $13 bottle from Surdyks in North Minneapolis, I thought the label was wrong–I’ve never heard of Sauvignon Blanc from Germany. Riesling, yes. This? No. I was really glad I picked it up and opened it on this day.
This wine was sturdy and delicate in balance and body. It didn’t have the clasic grassy or grapefruit flavors of other traditional Sauvignon Blancs, but I felt that the austere Pinot Grigio might be its distant cousin. Credit goes to the steep and carefully cultivated Nahe region. Notes of citrus, stone fruit and rich minerality, the wine had a mellow but solid finish and medium acid. Taking away some of the high pitch notes that other Sauvignon Blanc’s exhibit when too much of the world has been added to the palette, this wine paired nicely with my stress level, post kettlebell workout and steak (yes, a white with steak!)
I got the workout in, but definitely would buy more of this wine to forge sunset salutations at the end of the day.