Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wine Wednesday - Proof

Still on vacation of sorts, figured I'd catch up with other friends that had time off. I met them at Proof, a wine bar in downtown DC for lunch. Proof has an express prix fix lunch where you order off a special menu and then get a glass of house red or white...for only $12! Clearly I ordered off the special lunch menu. Had the shrimp burger, which I was told was like a shrimp cake on a bun. I'm thinking that I love crabcakes so this should be pretty tasty. UM well, let's just say that I won't order this menu item again. The house red wine was a grenache blend from southern Rhone. WOO HOO, I've hit the jackpot, I love grenache! Very ripe black fruit flavors on the nose, plum and black cherry. My dining companions laughed at me as I swirled and then put my nose in the glass. Unfortunately the wine fell a bit flat on the palate. Very light tannins and no acidity left a juice-like taste.

Luckily I've been to Proof before and know what they can do and the outstanding wine list they have to work with. I'll be back again and will just try something else on the express lunch menu. I did get the honeyed goat cheesecake for dessert which made up for everything :-)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wine Wednesday - Family & Friends

Games, good food, and gruner are how I spent this Wine Wednesday. My entire immediate family was in town and I invited over a few friends. First bottle opened was a Gruner Veltliner. Very crisp with a bright acidity, mineral and citrus notes on the palate. A perfect aperitif. Dinner was a hodge podge of food, shrimp & grits, turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, zucchini, etc. Dessert was french silk pie, and 4-layer delight. And delighted we were!! After dinner we sat around and chatted with a Bordeaux Rose. A bright pink wine with aromas of fresh strawberries and a tart finish. Once the games started, the Grenache was opened. From Campo de Borgia, Spain, this red was big and bold. Flavors of earth, minerals and a hint of smoky black fruits swirled in my glass and my mouth. There is no better way to enjoy wine than amongst friends!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wine Wednesday - CSW Edition

I don't usually blog about certifications I'm studying for or exams I'm taking because clearly that is a jinx...but this CSW has taken over my life the last 2 weeks! I've been reading the book, reading my flashcards, drawing maps, giving myself quizzes...I can't update my blog AND I can't drink anything today, I have to keep my mind free and clear.

Why does Spain have so many different names for Tempranillo?! I drink loads of wine from CA, I'm not sure which AVA has the highest elevation or is the hottest. And the German map of wine regions....boy oh boy. Guess I need to get back to my studies. If anyone has any tips, bring 'em on, LOL!

Exam is on Saturday at 10AM...WISH ME LUCK!!!

Not So Common Cava

I search the internet quite often looking around for wine articles, books, hot topics in wine and such. Through a search I came across the book, The Bubbly Bar - Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails. How cool! Not too many books out there about the topic, and you usually have to get a general cocktail book to find the 3 recipes they have for champagne. The book was written by The Bubbly Girl, Maria Hunt who has a blog and website of the same name. And her book has taken off! She's been on various tv and radio shows promoting the book and was on a book tour, which stopped by DC. Clearly I had to attend.

The event was sponsored by the American Institute of Wine & Food's (AIWF) DC Chapter and was a tasting of Spanish Cavas at Commonwealth in Columbia Heights, DC. Maria greeted me soon after I walked in, and I realized that her title of Bubbly Girl didn't just refer to her love of champagnes. She thanked me for attending her event and gave me a quick overview of what we'd be tasting that evening. 9 cavas!! Then she made her way around the room to greet guests and chat before the wines were poured.

Tasting notes were provided for all the wines from the tasting, but of course I took my own and will give you my 3 faves below.

Paul Chenau Cava Brut

Very complex in flavor with great acidity, this wine also showed melon and citrus on the palate. Great honey finish. Super cool label.

Juve y Camps Pinot Noir Rose

I didn't have big hopes for this one at first, I'm not the biggest rose fan. This was one of the few cavas of the evening where I got pronounced fruit aromas. Scents of strawberry and raspberry and the chalky minerality on the palate made me find favor with this rose.

Castilla Perelada Cava Brut Rosado Cuvee Especial 2007

Big Red is what I thought when I first put my nose in the glass. Ripe flavors of raspberry on the palate along with a slight hint of spice. A bit of residual sugar in this one balanced the crisp acidity. I think I found my New Year's sparkler!

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Girls Night in France

My favorite kind of tasting are the ones I do in homes. This 'girls night' tasting was no different. A group of 7 women that just wanted to chill out and taste some wines of France. Since most people have tasted official French Champagne, I started this tasting out with a Blanquette de Limoux. A very light crisp sparkling wine from the South of France, made using the traditional method from the mauzac grape. A bit different in taste from Champagne, a lot of people noted a hint of salty-ness in the sparkler. I suggested they try a little bit of camembert cheese then try the wine again. Got a couple of fans, but I think this was a moscato d'asti crowd so anything else would be a hard sell. The only other white I served was a Vouvray, with its hints of peach and honey...the crowd was pleased. We took a cheese break (fleur verte, camembert, epoisses) and then started the reds.

A 2006 Bordeaux from Rothschild was rich with p
lum, blackberry, and black cherry fruit. Heavy tannins made this one a delight for the red wine lover. For those that like a bit lighter of a wine, I made note of Bordeaux regions that make a great white and also discussed Sauternes (wine made from botrysized Semillon).

One of my favorite grapes is grenache, and where better to g
et that in France than in the Rhone Valley. But instead of the ever popular, and oft expensive Chateauneuf du Pape, we tasted a Gigondas. I had a map of the area along with a profile of Rhone Valley wine aromas and tastes. Out of the entire group, half of the people loved the ripe red fruit and smooth flavors, the other half thought it was way too dry. This thing was split down the middle. Next up was a Banyuls, a vin doux naturale made from the grenache grape but fortified for a sweeter flavor. That same group that didn't care for the Gigondas, filled their glasses with the Banyuls. Then I served pieces of chocolate and the hostess had brownies....the official tasting went on hold for about 20 mins while everyone raved about the Banyuls. They were writing down every word on the label, taking pictures, I loved it. But before everyone got too crazy and stopped listening entirely, I served a La Coume du Roy from Maury - made from grenache and from the south of France.

What I found funny was that the people that loved the Gigondas couldn't take the sweetness of the Maury, did a little better with the chocolate and Banyuls...and those that loved the Banyuls and Maury didn't care for the Gigondas. After explaining how the same grape can taste completely different...I had a new batch of wine lovers! That was my favorite part of the tasting. And that there was more Gigondas & Bordeaux left for me ;-)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wine Wednesday - Sippin' With Santa

Well, not actually Santa...but hosted a tasting for the holidays. I think someone even had on a Santa hat, or at least something red. The Rutgers Alumni Association in the DC area held a holiday wine tasting at Carafe WineMakers and I added a little education on to their tasting. We went through 3 whites, everyone loving the gewurtztraminer because of its spicy and citrus-y notes. The red favorite was a new wine at Carafe, the Old Town Zinfindel. I really liked this one and the crowd did too. This wine is perfect for the holidays with smoky cherry aromas and flavor reminiscent of cherry cola. Perfect for that stew or roast that is served for Christmas.

I always like to add something a special for the host of any wine tasting where I speak. Since Rutgers is in New Jersey, for this tasting I ended with a raspberry dessert wine from a winery in NJ. The alumni group was so excited! Once in the glass the wine smelled of ripe fresh picked raspberries. On the palate, not the crowd favorite. But, a suggestion to pour this wine over ice cream or possibly use it as a sauce for chocolate cake was met
with cheers. Nice save!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wine Wednesday - Enology

After hearing about the 'American' wine bar for months, I thought Wine Wednesday would be a great time to try it out. I met up with a friend of mine and we headed to Enology on Wisconsin Ave NW. Enology has an all-American wine list with a surprisingly vast selection of American wines by the glass.

My first sample was the Adelsheim Auxerrois from Willamette, OR. This caught my eye because auxerrois is a grape typically grown in France, and it's a grape I hadn't yet tasted so I could check it off on my Wine Century Club list. The Adelsheim smelled of pear, apple, peach with a hint of honey, but had flavors of herbs on the palate. I still got the honey flavors but none of the fruit that I smelled in the glass. Not to worry though, I like herbs and I definitely liked this glass of wine.

Next sample was of Trenza 'Bianco' from Edna Valley, CA. This albarino-grenache blanc blend's fruity bouquet of kiwi and vanilla wafted from the glass as soon as the waiter set it down on the table. The Bianco was a bit more consistent on the palate as I tasted vanilla along with hints of pepper and minerality. This went exceptionally well with the rockfish that I had for dinner.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Discovering Bordeaux

Finally, another trade tasting! And this one was for Bordeaux so I was doubly excited. 'Discovering Bordeaux' was a wine tasting just for the trade and held at the Hyatt in Bethesda. There were 9 companies present to exhibit their Bordeaux offerings along with 3 seminars discussing various Bordeaux topics. I attended the 'Mastering Medoc' seminar. Medoc is a famous commune just north of the city of Bordeaux and includes the popular Pauillac and Margaux. While I did learn quite a bit about the soil, climate and vineyards that make Medoc great, I am quite far from being a 'master' :-).

OK so for those that aren't familiar with Bordeaux, it is a city in Southwest France divided by the Garonne River. The west side is the Left Bank and the east side is the Right Bank. Most Bordeaux wines are blends of several different grapes which allows Bordeaux to highlight the best of each varietal in order maintain a consistent high quality of wine from year to year. The reds are blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. The whites are blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Now, on to the tasting!

As much as I would have loved to taste through every wine at every table, I was actually working this event so I tasted at the end...what was left. My favorite of the evening was the Chateau Paret Beausejour Cotes de Castillon from William Harrison Imports. The deep red showed of black fruit and had a chewy, plummy texture. Very smooth tannins with hints of minerality added complexity to the finish of this wine. I'm told that this is a great alternative (meaning less expensive I think) to Saint-Emilion. Since the comparison was made to Saint-Emilion, I've got to taste one. The Chateau Haut Piquat Lussac-Saint-Emilion fit the bill, and the palate. Aged in oak for 18 months, this wine had very earthy aromas followed by a bouquet of raspberries and cherries. And what a silky, elegant finish.

As the tasting came to a close, I figured I'd finish off with something sweet...a Sauternes. Sauternes is a Semillon-based dessert wine from Bordeaux. Due to a climate of misty mornings and sunny days, a fungus called noble rot will cling to the Semillon grapes. This fungus dries the pulp inside the grape resulting in a concentration of the sugars inside the grape which will then produce a very concentrated sweet juice once the grape in pressed. Sweet in taste, they typically have a honeyed, vanilla aroma. Can be served with as an appetizer, with dessert, or as dessert. The Chateau Sahuc Lestour from Country Vintner was an outstanding example of Sauternes. With its flavors of apricot, caramel and toasted nuts, I couldn't wait for dinner!