Thursday, March 25, 2010

Drink Well, Do Good Tour Hits DC

Last night I had the privilege of attending a tasting of South African wines, made by black South Africans. This tour is hosted by The International Society of South Africans in Wine (ISAW) whose mission is to build sustainable communities through viticulture. ISAW aims to reduce poverty through the socioeconomic development of African grape farmers in existing and emerging wine industries. Why is this important? Blacks account for about 90% of the population, yet own less than 1% of the wineries and vineyards.

The Drink Well, Do Good tour is an effort to raise $150,000 for a viticultural training center on the property of M'hudi Vineyards for South African vintners, and coincide with the historic 2010 World Cup being held this summer for the first time in Africa.

Heritage Link Brands, an importer of wines made by Black vintners in Africa and other parts of the world, founded by Selena and Khary Cuffe provided the wines tasted for the event. Rita Blackwell and Helynn Nelson were the wine educators on hand to present 4 wines to us for tasting.

Seven Sisters 2007
Bukettraube Odelia
Slightly sweet with hints of peach and florals on the nose. Great acidity balanced with flavors melon and honey.

M'hudi 2006
Sauvignon Blanc
A very refreshing white wine with notes of pineapple and tropical fruits.

One World 2009

Chenin Blanc
A light hint of peaches on the nose with a creamy palate of tropical fruit and banana.

One World 2008

My fav of the nite! Rich, spicy aromas of red fruit. Strong tannins were balanced well with flavors of plum and dark cherries.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How Sweet It Is

The GrapeVine Tasting Club was back on Sunday! And what a beautiful day it was...the weather was around 70 and the sun was shining bright. Perfect for the deliciously sweet wines we would be tasting. People often ask me about sweet wines, or dessert style wines so I figured the only way to learn about them is to taste them. How Sweet It Is - a tasting of dessert, fortified, and just plain sweet wines - is recapped below.

I started the afternoon off with a cocktail. Dow's White Port with tonic and a twist of lime. Refreshingly perfect for the warm weather. A couple of ladies sat on the porch out front to sip this cocktail. Once we got the dessert bar all set up, it was time to really get into the tasting.

Up first, Jackson-Triggs Vidal Icewine.
Icewine is produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, allowing a more concentrated grape 'juice' which lends to a more concentrated, very sweet wine. Unfortunately due to the process of making this wine and the amount produced, icewine comes in 375 mL bottles.

Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos
Hand picked Aszu berries are macerated with top quality base wines. The resultant Aszu wines mature at different sweetness levels, generally 4, 5 or 6 puttonyos.
A medium golden amber colour, on the nose showing orange peel, mint, figs and cinnamon. The palate is sweet and rich with cinnamon, apple, coupled to grapefruit aftertaste.

Keo St. John Commandaria
Harvested grapes are spread out in the sun to dry until they achieve a higher sugar density. Once achieved, the grapes are crushed and fermented until the process stops naturally due to the high sugar content. The must is then aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two years.
Reddish-amber in color, this sweet wine has a powerful bouquet filled with dried fruits, spices and oak. It is luscious and full-bodied. We tasted this one by itself in the glass, then I had a special treat for the guests. We poured this over ice cream...and the crowd went wild :-)! OK, maybe not wild, but it was delicious and they did love it.

Bodegas Gutierrez
Pedro Ximenez Sherry
PX as it's called for short is made by drying the grapes under the hot Spanish sun, concentrating the sweetness, which are then used to create a thick, black liquid with a strong taste of raisins and molasses thast is fortified and aged in a solera. This one we served over angel food cake, berries and ice cream. Another hit!

On the dessert bar we had angel food cake, lemon pound cake with and w/o glaze, chocolate chip cookies, 3 creamy cheeses, baguettes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and apple tarts. The desserts, cheeses, and fruits offered the guests the opportunity to taste the differences in the sweetness levels of the wine when paired with different items and showed them that you don't just have to think of sweet wines as a drink for dessert. They can be used used in a cocktail, an aperitif, or mixed in with the dessert.

So glad I had some of the PX left, I can't wait to make an adult sundae later...