Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Back to Work!

Back from France, kinda over my jetlag...I had to get back into the swing of things! I usually attend Robert Kacher's portfolio tasting as a guest, their to decide what wines to put on various restaurant lists that I work with. But this time I was on the other side of the table, I was pouring the wines. I poured for Table #4 and had the pleasure of pouring beside 2 French winemakers. Another sign that I'm supposed to be learning French and working with a winemaker in France SOON! But anyway....

I worked with Lionel Lavail of Cazes-Lavail from Languedoc-Rousillon and Joel Delaunay of Delaunay Wines from Loire Valley. It was a pleasure to meet Lionel Lavail as I am very familiar with his wines, Cotes Catalanes Blanc and Rouge are already in regular rotation in my wine rack. New to me where his Carignan, loved it's earthy dark cherry flavors; Rivesaltes Ambre, a honeyed, baked apple taste; Muscat de Rivesaltes, peaches; Maury red and white dessert wines. More of his wines will definitely be added to my own personal portfolio.

Joel Delaunay poured Touraine Blanc "Le Bois Martin" 2009, 100% Sauvignon Blanc with floral aromas and light citrusy flavors; and Touraine Rouge "Les Cabotieres" 2006, 75% Cabernet Franc, 25% Malbec (I just can't get away from that Malbec, LOL) with ripe berry flavors and medium tannins.

There were easily over 50 wines here to taste, and I really only tasted the ones at my table and some of the dessert wines. Oh yeah, and the champagne :-) But with being behind the table, I got to get another experience by speaking personally with the winemaker and also meeting all the retailers, distributors, restaurant owners, and others that attended the tasting to make their selections for their respective businesses. All in a day's work!

Notes From A French Winemaker

While at the International Malbec Days event in Cahors, France, we had plenty of activities to keep us busy and sipping. We had morning seminars and guided wine tastings, but I really wanted to see the vineyards, where the grapes are grown, feel the soil. Luckily I was able to have that opportunity. One of the guys that was on the trip with me, Fred Minnick spoke with Phillipe Vincens of Chateau Vincens and he agreed to take us to his vineyard to give us the grand tour and maybe even sample a few.

As we rode to the vineyard with Philippe, Fred was interviewing him in the front seat. Clearly I was able to hear what he was saying and I was able to learn quite a bit about Chateau Vincens and their winemaking process. One thing of note is that there seemed to be a new generation taking over the vineyards of Cahors. The parents are passing down the winery operations to their children, which is infusing the wine and also the region with newer winemaking techniques and innovative labeling and marketing ideas. Chateau Vincens is right on with that trend, Philippe Vincens is 29 yrs old and has only been in the wine business for 2 years. He studied business and finance at a school in Paris and learned winemaking in Bordeaux. Him and his brother now run the vineyard that they inherited from their father, who inherited it from his father. And although some of the winemaking techniques are new things that Philippe is trying, most of the techniques that he is using come from his grandfather.

Chateau Vincens makes 4 wines using mostly Malbec grapes, Le Prestige is 20% Merlot. The vineyard is in St-Vincent Rive d'Olt and sits on 36 hectares of land. The vineyard is settled on a hillside on a 300 meter plateau which allows for better water drainage and sun exposure. The ground between the vines alternates between grass and soil (ie, grass, vine, soil/rocks, vine) because too much grass makes the vines suffer by taking minerals and nutrients away from the vines. But, the vines and the ground still need the grass for water retention and heat hence the alternating. Chateau Vincens is not a certified organic vineyard but minimal pesticides are used for grape growing. Grapes are picked by mechanical harvest but sorted by hand. Grapes are then fermented in stainless steel tanks and put into new and old oak barrels for aging. The oak comes from different makers and also different barrels in order to impart a distinctly different flavor into each style and vintage of Chateau Vincens wines.
After the tour of the vineyard, winemaking facility, cellar, and bottling area, Phillipe gave us a barrel sample from the 2009 simple Malbec. This particular wine was meant to be young and sees no oak. Very earthy and leathery on the nose with a strong fruit flavor of dark cherry. Strong gripping tannins and full body melt into a great fruit flavor. This is a great expression of Malbec and I can't wait to import this to DC!

Philippe walked us into a room that overlooks the cellar to taste a few of the wines he currently has on the market.

2009 Rose
If this were in the states right now, it would sell like hotcakes. More malbec producers should push their roses into the market more to get Americans to buy into their heavier tannic malbecs. This is a great one to start with! Salmon pink in the glass, crisp and refreshing to the taste. Not fermented to dryness, this wine has a bit of residual sugar which lends to a sweeter more honeyed peachy flavor.

2007 Le Prestige
Truffle, earth, dark berry fruit on the nose balanced by medium acidity and dark berry fruit on the palate. May need another year or 2 for this wine to fully develop into complete magnificence, but you can drink it now if you can't wait.

2003 Prestige
Light tobacco notes on the nose with ripe cherry and black currant on the palate. Such a strong fresh fruit flavor that was not overpowered by the oak aging.

2002 Les Graves de Paul
A little tight at first, but after a few minutes in the glass a few swirls...this malbec opened right up. Fresh fruit and licorice met strong tannins to finish in a perfectly round and well balanced wine

I had an amazing afternoon touring the vineyard, learning about winemaking techinques, and sipping wine with new friends. I can't wait to import Chateau Vincens wines to DC. Look out for them in a store near you soon!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Land of Purple Teeth

I've talked about the dark Malbec wines of Cahors, France and I just had the opportunity of a lifetime. I just came back from a weekend in Cahors tasting the wines!! It was such an amazing place! The beauty of the chateaux, the vineyards, the food...foie gras anyone. I'm still trying to overcome a bit of jet lag so my brain isn't functioning enough for a full post. But please believe me there will be a couple of posts, pics included, about my trip. I even spoke with a couple of winemakers and will highlight their wines.

Stay tuned!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Drink It, Read It

When thinking about how to pass the time during my 7 1/2 hr flight to London, and then my 6 hour layover at London's Heathrow Airport...I knew I would need plenty of reading material. I grabbed a the latest issues of InStyle and Lucky magazines but then picked up the book 'Love By The Glass: Tasting Notes on a Marriage' by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher.

This couple wrote the popular Wall Street Journal 'Tastings' column for several years. They gained a large and diverse audience, that normally didn't even read the Wall Street Journal, due to their light, effortless candor and their honest and understandable views on wine. The whole idea of their column was basically just to tell people what they drank, what they thought about it, and possibly what it pairs with. Straight to the point!

But the book wasn't actually about their column, it's their marriage-and-wine memoir, an account of their life together by the bottles they discovered, shared, and enjoyed (or didn't) over time. I mean, they went back to when the couple met on their first day at the Miami Herald newspaper. Talk about love at first sight! The love shared between these two even from the very beginning leapt from the pages as I read through their first date and the wine they drank. Their first wine was Cold Duck! That goes to show you that even the professionals have to start somewhere ;-)

What truly amazed me about this book was the recollection of so many events in their life. Even before they started taking copious wine notes and building their wine collections, there is so much detail about the wines they drank, the event they were attending, and how much (or little) they enjoyed the wine. If I tried to write a book about the wines I drank this month...I don't know if I could capture everything! I think it's so amazing the places they've gone and the wines they were able to enjoy before they became the powerhouses they are today. With so many wine drinkers out there today, there aren't as many hidden gems out there, nor will I find some of the deals they were able to find. I think I recall a $1.99 bottle of French wine!! Today, you'd have to be lucky enough to be there as soon as the case came out of the back room.

There were plenty of takeaways from this book, but the thing I will remember the most is how engaging sommeliers, winemakers, wine shop owners, were once Dorothy and John engaged them in a bit of conversation. People just wanted to talk to them and share new wines, cute anecdotes, anything! This was a fantastic read that I carried me to London, Toulouse, Cahors, Chicago, and back to Washington, DC. A book I'd recommend for anyone that likes a good romance story with a quite a bit of wine on the side.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Learning a Thing or Two

I've been hosting The GrapeVine Tasting Club for about 6 months now. Each month I know to expect a different crowd, with different tastes, different levels of knowledge. But for North vs South, I got a nice little surprise....

One of my faithful tasting club members was very interested in a wine I ended up not using for the tasting and so she asked to try it. I can never say no to someone who wants to try a new wine! So I gave it to her with the condition that she provided me with a few tasting notes. I think she's been actually paying attention to me these past few months ;-)

Not bad for a $9 wine!! Definitely has a lot of tannins. I like that. Dark fruity taste. Nice dark color. Peppery. Smelling it brings to mind smoke. I tried it when I first opened the bottle. Then tried it with an aerator. I like both ways. Stronger when first opened. After with the aerator, lighter. Something to drink with red meat but I would like it with a spicy Arrabiatta sauce (insert Homer's drool). Definitely wouldn't have picked this out of a line up.

What can I add to that? Only that she's talking about the Pisano Cisplatino from Uruguay 60% Tannat, 40% Merlot. Thanks for the great review!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

The GrapeVine Digest

Give It A Swirl

Need an idea for Mother’s Day, maybe Mom will like these. Enjoy!

Sparkling – Cavit Lunetta (Italy) Prosecco

Fine bubbles with enticing aromas of peach and apples. A refreshing dry wine that finishes crisp and clean with wonderful fruit.

WhitePaco & Lola (Spain) Albarino

A brilliant yellow straw color and a highly diverse aroma with a floral base aroma, fine notes of fruit such as citrus and green apples and touches of herbs such as basil.

RedBogle (California) Petite Sirah

Luscious boysenberry with touches of black pepper and herbs, and has an inky color that fills the mouth with rich ripe berries.

Wine Tastings

Venturing out to taste a few wines at these tastings is a great way to find out way you like (and don’t like!)

Friday May 7th5pm – 8pm

Join us in celebration of Mother's Day for our free wine tasting this Friday featuring Sparklers, Rose and other surprises sure to please any mom this Mother's Day! Try before you buy! Bell Wine & Spirits also carries an assortment of gift bags and will gladly wrap up your gift purchases for those much deserving mothers.

Bell Wine & Spirits | 1821 M Street NW | Washington, DC 20036

Saturday May 8th - 2pm – 4pm

A complimentary rosé wine tasting where guests will have the opportunity to compare rosés made in different methods from various regions and grape varieties. Butcher’s Block store manager, Salena Zellers and BRABO wine and beverage manager, Leah Dedmon will be on hand to lead the tasting and help guests pick out the perfect rosé to share with mom on Mother’s Day.

Butcher’s Block | 1600 King Street | Alexandria, Virginia

Save the Date

Upcoming Wines Event of Note

May 15th – Drink Well Do Good Tour DC

Drink Well DC is an evening reception, featuring wines produced by indigenous African vintners, courtesy of official tour sponsor Heritage Link Brands. Wines will be paired with delicious Afro-centric cuisine prepared by nationally renowned chefs. Drink Well DC will also feature Afrobeat music by local sensation DJ Underdog, along with an art exhibition and silent auction. Guests will have the opportunity to bid on artwork, wine tastings, and other unique items.

May 16th – The GrapeVine Tasting Club – Battle of the Americas

Who has the best wines, North America or South America? This month’s tasting will pair up wines from the good ole USA against some of the best wines coming out of South America. This will be a blind tasting and guests will vote for the best wines of the afternoon. Any bets on who will reign supreme?? $30 per person

The Intown Uptown Inn | 4907 14th St NW | Washington, DC

Wine News

Female wine drinkers overtake men — who still get the wine list

Only 13 women are certified as master sommeliers out of 130 worldwide.

Bloomberg News

By John Mariani

I was surprised to read that 53 percent of wine drinkers in the United States are women, according to the Wine Market Council. And last year, women matched men as "core drinkers," those who drink wine at least once a week.

That trend may accelerate if women heed the results of a recent survey of 20,000 women over 13 years by Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. The poll showed that women who regularly drink a moderate amount of alcohol, particularly red wine, are less likely to have long-term weight gain than non-drinkers.

Nevertheless, when a man and a woman sit down to dinner in a restaurant, it's usually the guy who grabs or is handed the wine list and chooses the bottle.

Click here to continue article.