Web Accidental Wine

Friday, May 09, 2008

Friday Wines – Proxy Edition

So here I am at work and I actually have a finished post, ready to go, for my blog. Alas, the corporate powers that be have blocked access, so I can’t post. Luckily, I have a friend who can post it for me, by proxy. Here goes:

White wine under $20

2005 Lucas & Lewellen Chardonnay Santa Barbara County ($15)

Traditionally, California has relied on its extra fat, butterball style Chardonnay, a wine my father would characterize as “so fat you can’t see its eyes.” That means lots of oak, lots of malolactic fermentation and little fruit.

L&L shows California really can make Chardonnay that relies on the grape’s fruit character. Crisp aromas and flavors of green apple, white peach and nectarine shine here, with acid for great structure and texture. Light and refreshing, revitalizing even, with good balance. I’d drink more Cali Chardonnay if it were built like this.

Red wine under $20

2003 Rutz Pinot Noir French Cuvee Pays d’Oc ($12)

Rutz has produced a highly drinkable, good quality Pinot Noir with the French Cuvee. It balances cherry and strawberry fruit with spice, cola and earthiness. It has good fruit/acid balance and medium body. You can’t ask much more from a Pinot Noir at this price!

I’ll be honest – there’s little Pinot Noir worth drinking under about $25 dollars. Now that’s not me engaging in what the French call le snobisme; Pinot Noir is virtually impossible to grow and even harder to vinify so it’s just going to require extra cash to produce good ones. Think of Pinot Noir the way women think of a purse or a pair of shoes – the more you spend, the better quality!

White wine over $20

Nonvintage L’Etoile Doux Paillé AOC Banyuls Grand Cru ($36)

When you pour the Doux Paillé, it’s hard to believe it’s red wine, but it is. It looks like iced tea, but is all hazelnuts and almonds drizzled with butterscotch and maple. It’s not all candy, though – acidity balances the sugar, while minerality adds complexity, depth and sophistication.

This is the Alessandra Ambrosio, a Brazilian supermodel of a dessert wine. At first glance, she’s coolly graceful and detached. You don’t dare approach her; she’s too rare, too angelic, too volatile for you. Then, somebody cracks a joke and it breaks her pouty, I’m-too-serious-for-you model face. She smiles. Your confidence rises. She waves and you know you can talk to her – she wants to talk to you, even. Wait, was that a wink??

This will match any dessert with milk chocolate, coffee, nuts or caramel or you can pour it over vanilla ice cream. Out of vanilla ice cream? Substitute whatever part of your loved one’s anatomy you choose.

Red wine over $20

2006 Thorn-Clarke Shotfire Shiraz Barossa Valley ($25)

This wine is like a velvet glove, well, in a velvet glove. Even the aromas of blackberry, black currant, charcoal, smoke and chocolate are soft and expressive. Black currants, black cherry, spice box and licorice envelope the palate. A smoky, spicy oak slinks in behind the fruit and earthy character in the finish. It’s got power, to be sure, but this isn’t like most Aussie Shiraz – turning on the power like flipping a light switch. Shotfire powers up slowly, more like an iron. Wait: you’ll be rewarded for your patience.

That’s all from me. Make sure you buy your mother a bottle of wine for Sunday. If she doesn’t drink wine, then buy her one anyway – might as well get her started, eh?


Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Wines - the Lazarus Edition

It's been a while since I've made any wine recommendations, but it's Friday, so here they are. For those of you not used to the home version, here's how it works: I'll try to post four wines here each Friday - a red and a white under $20 and a red and a white over $20. All prices are approximate and the wines may not be available in all areas. They're just good wines in each category, nothing more, nothing less. Without further ado:

White wine under $20

2006 Ferraton Père et fils Samorëns Côtes du Rhône blanc AOC ($12)
If you want an unoaked but still full bodied white that’s crisp, this is your wine. The perfect pairing of pineapple and cream, this wine has great fruit, acid balance for crisp texture and minerality to keep it in balance. Wrap some shrimp in bacon and start up the grill, will ya?

Red wine under $20

2004 Poggio Salvi Morellino di Scansano DOC ($15)
Aromas of smoke, cherry and tar rise out of the glass, followed by flavors of deep, rich cherry fruit, complemented by dried leaves, smoke, vanilla and orange peel. Medium bodied with good mouthfeel and balancing acidity. Pssssst! Wanna know a secret? This is made with Sangiovese Grosso – the same grape used to make Brunello di Montalcino. Affordable luxury!

White wine over $20

2005 Falesco Ferentano Roscetto Lazio ($37)
Rich, full bodied and intense, the Falesco Ferentano is one complex, sophisticated glass of juice. Made from an obscure and ancient white grape called Roscetto it shows aromas of orange peel, honeyed apples, wet stones and frost are followed by a palate of pineapple, lemon, cream, lemongrass, pine and minerality. Snappy texture from the acid holds it all together. This is a steak white if I’ve ever seen one.

Red Wine over $20

2002 Cottonwood Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Colorado ($40)
Colorado! Home of Quaking Aspens, Pike’s Peak and…Smashmouth Cab?

If the Cottonwood Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon is any indication, then yes! Aromas of cherry, plum, black currant, cedar, cigar box and mocha start things off. Dense fruit dominates up front with black currant and black raspberries taking the lead. Spice holds the midpalate together, while big, firm tannins and toasty oak guard the long finish. This is as big as most California Cabernet at this price point (and as good, too!)

This wine is drinkable now, if you have it with food (Buffalo tenderloin, anyone?), but ideally it needs another six months to a year age. The good news is all that tannin will help this wine age 10 years or so.

That's all for me. I'm going off to Stacy's for some dinner and maybe a bottle of wine!


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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Finding thePerfect Food and Wine Pairing - Accidentally

Last summer, while courting my honey, Stacy, we began a fun little tradition of sneaking a bottle of wine into the theater to enhance our cinematic experience. It makes the movies a little more fun and slightly naughty and we do it fairly often (more on this in a future post). But this Autumn, we accidentally ran across the perfect wine and food pairing. And I mean perfect.

Forget goat cheese and Sauvignon Blanc. No comparison.

Give up on ribeye steaks and Cabernet Sauvignon. Oil and water.

Lobster with drawn butter and Puligny-Montrachet? Awful stuff.

I'll end the suspense: the perfect pairing is...

Gummi bears and Asti.

Stacy and I don't normally buy Gummi bears at the movies (or in this case, Gummi stars). For us, movie candy generally means chocolate - M&M's, Whoppers or Milk Duds, for example. But on this occasion, chocolate wouldn't work with a sweet, bubbly wine like Asti. So in an extraordinary situation, we turned to Gummis.

Honestly, I don't really drink Asti either. I prefer Moscato d'Asti, a lighter, more delicate wine that's a ballerina compared to Asti's boxer - lighter, more delicate, less fizzy. But as Stacy's been on a sweet, sparkling wine kick lately, I was happy to oblige her. But I didn't think it was going to work with Gummi bears.

I was wrong. Dead wrong. Asti matches Gummi bears perfectly. After a great deal of puzzlment, I think I've figured out why.

Sure, Gummi bears are fruity and very sweet, but Asti is made from Muscat , so sugar is no problem and neither is fruit. Asti tastes like peaches, honey and melon and that's certainly compatible with the bright fruit you get in Gummi bears.

The Gummi bears' texture is what had me worried.

They're chewy (um hence the name Gummi bears?) Not only that, long after you've swallowed them, they coat your mouth with a sticky, hard to scrape off film. Know how you can't get the taste of some jammy, out of balance, flabby Zinfandel off your palate? That's exactly what I'm talking about. That's really what I thought would make the Gummi/Asti marriage fail. I should have known better.

Acid, duh.

Good Asti isn't only sweet, it has a fair amount of acid in it, and that works in three ways to create this pristine, perfect food and wine pairing. First, it balances the sugar in the wine, making it not too sweet, nor too tart. Second, it gives the wine its snap, it's crisp texture. Third, it acts to slice right through the candied mouth coating you get from the Gummi bears and scrub it clean from your palate, leaving a clean, fresh finish to the wine.

That's perfect balance, perfect harmony in a food and wine match - you don't taste too much sugar, fruit, acid in either the food or the wine. Textures match in both the food and the wine. You don't taste one element over any other and they all work seamlessly.

Yin and Yang meet.

There are three lessons to be learned from this little exercise. First, when you're pairing sweet wines and food (or any wine for that matter), it's just as important to pay attention to the acid in the wine as the fruit or the sugar. Acid ensures balance among all the other elements in the wine.

Second, it's as important to consider the interaction between texture and flavors in both your food and your wines. The food's texture here demanded a very crisp wine - softer, less acidic wines would have made the candy unbearably sweet and only added to the richness of the mouthfeel in the wine. You'd never get the candied fruit out of your mouth!
Finally - and oh so appropo to the title of this very blog - we found this pairing accidentally. We broke our normal patterns and tried two things we didn't normally try, even though I was more than a little ambivalent about its chances for success. This is the most important thing you should take from this tidy little blog entry - accidents can be happy!

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Monday, August 13, 2007

The Second Best Wine Value I've Ever Tasted

This entry's going to be quick - just wanted to tell you all about a wine that might be the second best value wine I've seen in my short 65 months in the wine business. Like I said, this is going to be quick, but you'd best be quick too. I know I've said this before, but -

This one really won't last, so I'll cut to the chase. This is a $7 dollar wine easily worth $20.

If I'm going to drink American Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, it's going to be from Washington. Here's why:

There's more sunlight during growing season there than in California. This makes for wines that carry the same or better ripeness than their Cali counterparts.

The mornings and evenings are cooler in Washington. That drives up the acidity in the wines, which is desperately needed in riper wines, to balance the fruit.

There's usually less rain during growing season in Washington. Less rain means, believe it or not, better grapes for wine. If you grow grapes with ideal rain, you get wines that taste more like the abundant leaves you get in wet conditions than like fruit.

In short, with big ripeness, higher levels of acididty and more stressed vines, you get better balance in your wine.

Sure, you sacrifice a little body and richness for this balance, but let's face it - this is Cabernet Sauvignon - it's never going to be light bodied, low tannin wine. While Napa/Sonoma wines might be characterized as more opulent, Washington wines might be better seen as elegant.

And I'll admit it, I'm biased. Taste this wine:

2002 Rosa Ridge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Yakima Valley ($7)

and you'll see why I hold this bias.

The purple/black color foreshadows the pleasure that's about to come your way. Aromas of black cherry, cola and black raspberry rise from the glass up front. Two swirls of your glass and the earthy aromatics will show themselves: espresso, raw cocoa and the faintest innuendo of caramel.

Then the flavors snake in, one at a time: black raspberry, black currant, blueberry and sour cherry fruit, followed by smoke, bitter chocolate spicy oak, and cigar box. Acidity keeps the fruit fresh and uplifted and while there's considerable tannin here, it's well integrated. I bet you could age this for another 5-7 years.

Oh, one other thing to note - this is the 2002 vintage. Most Washington wineries are on the 2004 vintage, including Roza itself.

All this in a $7 dollar package? Believe it.

Best get on the move now, though. You should be buying it by the case and we only have 24 left.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Question Time

I know it's been a long time since I posted here, but the summer's been incredibly busy. Have no idea why, but it has been. Oh yeah - my computer was down for a long while but thanks to some very nice people (you know who you are) I now have a more modern computer. It's still technically not up yet - need to buy a virus protection program - but I'll soon be back up and running.

You might also notice that I have a new tagboard over there ------------>>. That's also due to someone very nice to me (you know who you are, too). You can actually put a comment in once and it will show up only once when you hit the "send" key!

Let's put it to good use, shall we?

Please use it to ask me any question you have about wine, my wine preferences...or my wine experiences. Anything regarding wine, really...

OK, who's got questions?


PS: Real blog posts will occur in the near future

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Friday Wines - Where Have You Been? Edition

Greetings, gentle wine drinkers:

As someone - ahem - you know who you are - told me, it's been almost three weeks since I last blogged. I thought you might like to know where I've been.

The weekend of the 15th-27th, I attended my niece Olivia's graduation from a very prestigious boarding school in New Jersey and it was a great trip. Friday night, I toured the campus where she attended school and had a dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the whole world - Tiger Noodle - a haunt from two summers I taught a program at Princeton.

Saturday, my brother and I took another niece, his youngest daughter Madison, to the Big Apple for the first time ever. We had a blast! After about 5,000,000,000 blocks of walking up and down the length of Manhattan, we caught a late train back to Princeton for yet another round of fabulous food from Tiger Noodle.

Sunday was graduation and we couldn't have been prouder of Olivia. She excelled in both athletics and academics and is going on to a stellar career at Williams College in Massachusetts.

Two days later, I was hacking and coughing and not feeling so good. MAN, sit on an airplane next to the wrong guy just once and your whole life changes. I spent both my days off that week in bed, not getting up for anything but the basics. Almost two weeks later, I'm finally beginning to get over the whole thing.

In fact, I'm feeling chipper enough to recommend a few wines for your weekend! Try one of these bottles to maintain your good health and stay off airplanes:

White wine under $20

2003 Galhaud Viognier/Muscat Vin de Pays Cotes Catalanes ($10)
WOW! Classic aromas and flavors of Viognier flash themselves up front - ginger, apricot and honeysuckle flowers. Don't get used to it because soon the Muscat dominates like the Chicago Bears' Mike Singletary.

Some will be scared by the Muscat. They'll think delicate, lacy, sweet wine like Moscato d'Asti or pancake syrupy rich wine like Australian stickies. This is dry Muscat - a completely different animal. With not a trace of sweetness, this wine has infinite fruit - yellow peaches, grapefruit, guava, lemon and tangerine zest. It's perfumed - white flowers, apricot, clove and crushed rocks. An though this is a white wine with considerable age on it (4 years), there's still plentiful acidity to balance the creamy texture and fruit. Body? Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra and Angelina Jolie would curse their anorexic, stick-figured bodies in comparison.

Don't waste any time buying this one. We bought the last 20 cases. With quality this high and price this low, it won't last.

Red wine under $20

2006 Jacques and Francois Lurton Hacienda Araucano Pinot Noir Central Valley ($13)
I recently admitted I don't think Chile is Wine Utopia, but that doesn't mean you can find some keepers here. The Araucano Pinot is something of an unusal find - good quality Pinot Noir that's under $15 dollars. You'll get a big nose of cherry, vanilla and Christmas spices. Cherry is the dominant fruit on the palate, with layers of cola, dark chocolate, smoke and earth following. Light to medium bodied with silky, easy tannins make this wine an affordable pleasure.

White wine over $20

2003 Costa de Oro Chardonnay Reserva Dorada Gold Coast Vineyard Santa Maria Valley ($35)
I love this Chardonnay. Delicate and refined like white Burgundy but with the concentrated ripeness you get from California wines. Peaches and honeyed pears define the nose here, with spicy notes and nutty oak. The flavors are more citrus and apple driven than the nose but buoyed by acidity until honey and cream appear in the finish. If you're tired of Chardonnay that tastes like buttered toast or just curious about the range of wines made from Chardonnay, please try the Costa de Oro.

Red wine over $20

2003 Spann Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 24 Barrels Mayacamas Range ($35)
Speaking of wines produced in California with French sensibility, I give you Spann Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine isn't your typical California Cabernet - a one-two punch of a bonk on the head of fruit followed by a fat lip of oak. Instead, Peter Spann made a wine with the sleek mineral elegance of Bordeaux combined with luscious, juicy, ultraripe California fruit. The nose is blessed by black cherries and a faint echo of strawberry fruit, followed by cedar, tobacco and cigar box. You'll find black cherry flavors up front but the wine eventually runs more toward blackberry and black currants. Herbal notes of cedar and mint flesh out the midpalate but acidity and mineralilty in the finish fence in the wine admirably.

The only thing more ridiculous than the tiny production size (600 cases) is the equally diminutive price. 35 dollars is a third the price you would pay for more popular wines (notice I didn't mention wines like Caymus and Silver Oak? Isn't that diplomatic of me?) made in amounts literally thousands of times larger. Don't be stupid. Spend your hard earned money on wines like those made by Spann. You'll be guilt and remorse free!

That's all I have for you. I hope you enjoy your weekend!


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Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Wines - Can You Believe This Weather? Edition

Tuesday night, I came out of my apartment and somehow it was 65 degrees, so I decided to go on a 5 mile walk. Did a little thinking about Friday wines and that's how I arrived at these selections. Try one of these wines to see if that walk did me any good.

White Wine under $20

2004 Mount Cass Reserve Riesling Waipara Gravels Wairapa Valley ($19)
The 2004 Mount Cass demonstrates just how luscious Riesling can be. Dry, but with sufficient ripeness for some to think it's sweet, with an intense core of lime fruit rippling with pineapple and apricot. After the waves of fruit, frosty minerality and an acid rush. Then, something very special- a tingle of resiny spiciness in the finish. Where's this come from? About 10% of the grapes used in this wine had Noble Rot - botrytis cinerea - a fungus that eats some of the water in the grape, leaving behind higher concentrations of fruit, acidity and its own unique flavor. The real thrill of this wine? - balance. Fruit, acid, minerals, concentration, extraction, structure and finish - it's all there.

Red Wine under $20

2004 Chapel Hill 85%Shiraz/15%Grenache McLaren Vale ($16)
Shiraz/Grenache is one of my favorite blends. Think of this as an out of control oil spill on your palate - a big, shiny slick of black currant and blackberry flowing everywhere you give it a chance to go. Just when you think it can't be contained, a layer of strawberry, cherries and white pepper surrounds the black mess, defining its boundaries. The texture here is lush and soft and decadent but the acid keeps it from becoming fluffy.

There's a weird notion out there that the only good wines are ones made from a single grape. Don't you believe it. Done well, blending creates wines that exist outside nature.

White wine over $20

Non-vintage Laurent Perrier L-P Brut Champagne ($40)
With aromas of lime, freshly baked bread and a touch of vanilla, this is a beautiful Champagne - dry and creamy without being oaky and crisp without being too acidic. Don't linger on the nose - flavors of lime custard topped with fresh whipped cream and dusted with hazelnuts await. If you're used to drinking Veuve Clicquot and Moet White Star, L-P Brut will give them a run for their money.

It's May and in Texas that means graduations. Now I'm all for drinking Champagne as a celebration, but I think it's wasted if that's the only time you drink it. Personally, I think the perfect time to drink Champagne (or any sparkling wine) is because today is a day that ends in the letter "y."

Red wine over $20

2004 Nicholas Cole Cellars GraEagle Columbia Valley ($27)
This is a wine made in the St.-Emilion model - a blend of 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Cabernet Franc and 12% Merlot and there's plenty to like about it. As a Washington wine, it's a more elegant and lighter than wines made in California. Sweet black cherries and raspberries show up in the first act, with a lilty, earthy green peppercorn spice making an appearance in the second act. The big finish of the show is a hint of black currants and some grippy tannins. What do you have with this bad boy? Classic Steak Frites - a big plate of thin, crispy fries and some blood-rare sirloin sliced on the bias. No salad necessary.

This weather's not going to last. Grab a bottle or two of these wines in the evening and have a little dinner on your patio, back porch, balcony or verandah. Soon it'll be Africa hot.


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