Local Wines to Beat the Cold

From our tasting January 22, 2015…….

This has been a bone-chillingly cold winter, but there’s a reason to get out and about this weekend—the fifth annual Winter Village Bluegrass Festival is in town, with events running from Friday to Sunday at a number of venues.  Director and performer Rick Manning and La Tourelle manager Scott Wiggins are the founders, and again this year they’ve expanded the range of events.  There’s a big show at the State Theatre on Saturday night as well as workshops, concerts, and jamming at La Tourelle; a local wine, beer, chocolate and cheese tasting paired with music at newly-opened Coltivare restaurant; and music during the dinner hour Saturday at Moosewood and Coltivare.  Today, Red Feet welcomes the return of the foot-tapping music of Grassanova and the flavors of Finger Lakes libations to kick things off.

We’ll start with a local classic, Wiemer Dry Riesling 2013.  This winery was a pioneer here in the Finger Lakes and continues to produce outstanding wines from estate-grown fruit, fermented slowly at cold temperature, and bottled without fining or filtering.  The aromas are spring-like, the minerality is distinctive, and the fruit is ripe and succulent.  Pair this with Asian food, poultry, or seafood.

Our second white is an off-dry spicy blend of Vidal, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer.  Silver Thread Good Earth White 2013 is also made from estate fruit sustainably grown on steep slopes on the east shore of Seneca Lake.  Owners Paul and Shannon Brock took over the property in 2011 and make about 3,000 case of wine annually.  This offering is dry enough for the table and fruity enough to drink on its own.  Pair with appetizers, and bring out the spice!

Both of our reds come from the excellent 2012 vintage.  Red Tail Ridge Pinot Noir 2012 comes from a sustainably farmed estate and the first LEED® gold-certified winery in the state.  Fermented in tank and aged 10 months in older French barrels, it offers stony minerality, hints of earth and forest floor, and brambly cherry and strawberry mingled with smoke.  Try this with salmon or smoked pork.

Ravines Cabernet Franc 2012 is made from grapes hand-harvested from three vineyards, fermented in open-top containers with a long maceration on the skins, and aged in oak (20% new).  Deeply colored, it offers spicy, earthy plum and red berry fruit, soft texture, and good concentration.  Pair with hearty, earthy foods—lentils, mushrooms, stews.

Cider is also a player on the Finger Lakes scene.  South Hill Old Time Cider is made from wild trees and abandoned orchards using heirloom apples.  Just off-dry, it’s fully sparkling and fruity with a soft finish.  Steve Selin has made cider for over a decade, but only began commercial production in 2013.  This is one of his three ciders and he also makes a Pommeau. It pairs well with pork and friends.

–MP Rouse

Budget Wines (Now that You’re Broke)

From our tasting January 15…….

This is the eighth tasting of wines that reflect the strain the holidays can have on the budget!  Four of these wines have graced Red Feet’s shelves for several vintages; one is entirely new.   They’re budget boosters, ranging from $9 to $11.

The price of a wine is driven by tangible production costs—land, vines, labor, equipment, water and power, transport, and marketing.  Some of these are one-time or infrequent expenditures some occur regularly.  Other costs are less tangible—risks associated with weather, international currency fluctuations, and changes in taste.

The last 30 years have seen a real globalization of the wine industry.  New regions—Australia, Argentina, Chile, southern France, Portugal, South Africa—have entered the market with both every-day and fine wines, giving us a great array of selections. Agricultural advances have spread, affecting varietal, clonal, and root stock selection, as well as growing methods.  Winemaking technology and practices have improved, resulting in better wines, especially at the entry level.  A new generation of world winemakers, many school-trained, has combined new and traditional practices to produce high quality wines at low prices.  Of course there are lakes of cheap, mass-produced wines, but there are also many inexpensive wines that are true expressions of both their grape variety and region.  Red Feet believes wine can offer “correctness” (reflecting grape varieties and place of origin), personality, and a low price.  These wines are made by folks who know what they’re doing.

South Africa provides two of our wines.  Riebeek Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2014 is a nifty expression of this grape.  It’s not as wild and crazy as a New Zealander, as minerally and austere as one from the Loire, as rich as a Californian, or as grassy as a Chilean wine, but it shares a touch of each of these styles.  Drink on its own or partner with seafood, sushi, and lighter fare. Bob’s Special Delivery 2012 blends Cabernet, Merlot, and Shiraz to make a hearty, balanced red at home with steak or burgers, root vegetables or pasta.  Ten percent of the proceeds go back to the help the local community—drink well and do good!

Santa Alicia Carménère Reserva 2013 hails from Chile’s famous Maipo valley.  Think of this grape as Merlot with a touch of herbs and a dash of pepper added to soft blackberry fruit.  Nicely structured and medium bodied, it can partner dishes with olives, salsa verde or gremolata, even bitter greens like spinach or broccoli rabe.  Try swordfish, tuna or bacon-wrapped shrimp—a rare red that can do all this.

Laurent Miquel Père et Fils Syrah-Grenache 2013 is a perennial favorite for its dark fruit, juiciness, and spice.  Part of the entry-level line from a family that’s been making wine in the south of France since the French Revolution.  It pairs well with game and fairly spicy dishes as well as mature cheeses.

The Lisbon area of Portugal is home to Casa Santos Lima, maker of LAB Red 2013, now available in a 3-liter box.  It’s a blend of three local grapes and Syrah grown on a family estate.  Aromas are ripe, flavors are dark and juicy, tannins are fresh and fine, and there’s a touch of spice and licorice on the finish.  Pair with hearty foods or nothing at all.

–MP Rouse

Top Selling Wines of 2014

From our tasting January 8, 2015…….

Last year’s top-five list is unusual in many ways—three (actually four, but more in a moment) were never featured as a Red Feet “Wine of the Moment” (WOM), which provides a big boost in sales, three are newcomers to the charts, and a bubbly made the list for the first time. Let’s take a look and a taste.

Leading the pack by a good margin was Honoro Vera Garnacha 2013 ($9), which is still going strong.  Made by the Gil family, several of whose wines Red Feet carries, this is a big, bold former WOM.  Made from 30-40-year-old vines, its ripe fruit is enhanced by minerality from the stony soil, and the juice was aged two months in French oak.  The textured, modern label is as attention getting as the wine itself.  Pair this with the chill of winter, a bowl of thick lentil soup, hearty pasta, or roast meat.

Second place went to Prima Perla Prosecco NV ($12) from Treviso in Italy’s Veneto.  Made from 100% Glera using the Charmat process, this bright bubbly offers orchard fruit (pears, white peaches), green melon, and citrus.  It’s great as an aperitif, a perfect accompaniment to Sunday brunch, or the vinous base for a Mimosa.  Raise a glass and toast 2015!

The Original Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon 2012/2013 ($10.50) took third place, down from second last year.  This is a wine originally made for Trader Joe’s but now in wider distribution.  Deep notes of coffee and chocolate enhance the spicy blackberry and cherry fruit, all supported by firm tannins.  This is a mouthful to get you through cold weather or accompany summer grilling.  Pair with burgers, meat or veggie.

Fourth place went to New Zealand’s 90+ Sauvignon Blanc 2013/2014 ($12), which also made last’s year’s list.  Bursting with grapefruit and gooseberry aromas and flavors, this packs enough punch to be a cold weather buddy.  It’s great with stir-fries, seafood, or goat cheese and will put a little sunshine in your life.

The fifth slot went to Tortoise Creek Les Charmels 2012 ($11), alas no longer with us.  A sample of the new vintage just arrived, and if it passes muster, it will again grace the Red Feet shelves.  Clerget Côtes du Rhône 2011  ($9) was promoted to fifth, another former WOM and newcomer to the list.  A classic Rhône blend of Grenache and Syrah, this is part of Clerget’s Terroir series of wines.  As Côtes du Rhône goes, it’s medium-bodied, making it a good partner for pork and chicken, hearty soups, or even spicy Mexican food.

Rounding out the top ten are Crosby Cabernet (WOM and newcomer), Pellehaut Blanc (#2 last year), Santa Julia Malbec (WOM and new), and Chapelle-St-Arnoux Côtes du Rhône (new).  Number 11 was a newcomer, too, and our first rosé to do so well—Laurent Miquel Rosé, still available.

–MP Rouse


Great Gift Ideas

From our tasting December 18, 2014…….

As the gift-giving season hurtles toward us, we face the challenge of finding the perfect present.  What size?  What color? Does it fit the décor?  Do they already have one?  Does it have to be dusted?  Never fear, Red Feet is here!  We suggest gifting wines or spirits, and today we’ll taste some of our suggestions.  We’re also sharing some food ideas to pair with your choice.

St. Cosme Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2012 is a blend of five varieties fermented in small casks and aged on the lees.  2012 was a fine vintage in the Rhône, and the grapes achieved both ripeness and freshness.  The intensity of the Viognier is remarkable, and the wine shows strong mineral notes as well.  Try this with lobster ravioli, cheese, curries, and dishes with cream sauces.

Katherine Goldschmidt Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 is all Cabernet, all barrel fermented, and all aged 18 months in French oak.  The grapes come from a cool vineyard in California’s Sonoma County, benefiting from long, slow ripening in an excellent vintage.  This is a Cabernet of finesse rather than sheer power, with red cherry and blackberry along with touches of toasty oak, tobacco and vanilla, all supported by supple tannins.  Pair with aged, blue, or “stinky” cheeses like Brie; try roasted beef or lamb, steak, or eggplant.

Cellers Unió Llicorella Clàssic 2007 is a hearty wine from Spain’s famous Priorat region.  This blend of four grapes, all grown on llicorella (slate) soils and harvested by hand, has been aged in both barrel and bottle for quite some time, but still has room to grow.  A rack of organic lamb or a rich mushroom-based dish pair well, as does the menu at Istanbul.

Since we won’t have a New Year’s Eve tasting, we’re pouring a lovely bubbly from, of all places, New  Mexico!  Gruet Blanc de Blancs 2010, made using the Champagne method, is all Chardonnay.  Following the French practice for vintage Champagne, the wine goes through a minimum of 36 months tirage (secondary fermentation in the bottle), adding creaminess and deepening the flavors.  Caviar, oysters, smoked salmon, and sushi are good partners.

For the locavore in all of us, we have a special treat from Steve Selin at South Hill Cidery: Pommeau.  This is made from two-thirds naturally sweet cider and one-third cask-strength apple brandy both produced in upstate New York.  This sweet libation has no added sugar at all, but it’s a perfect foil for desserts (especially those with apples or pears), aged cheeses, or even chocolate.  Think of it as a dessert cider with a kick!

For your last-minute gifts, think Demi Sac!  Red Feet has three this holiday season, each with five still wines and a bubbly and guaranteed to please.

–MP Rouse


Wines to Celebrate the Holidays

From our tasting December 11, 2014…

Whether you’re celebrating Chanukah (25 Kislev, sundown Dec.16-24 this year), Christmas (Dec. 25), Kwanzaa (Dec.26-Jan. 1), or unofficial holidays like the end of the term, food and drink will be part of the party.  Cultural and religious traditions provide us with time and space to reaffirm history, hope, and community.  Festivities stretch out over several days, giving us a chance to try both old and new delights.  Here are some wines for your get-togethers and holiday meals.

Talbott Vineyards Kali Hart Chardonnay 2012 is a lovely wine from a great vintage, fermented in tank and aged on the lees, with a small percentage seeing a kiss of French oak.  Bright and balanced, it offers pineapple and honeydew notes along with refreshing acidity, minerality, and a round texture.  This wine can stand alone, pair with nibbles, or sit at the table with a creamy shrimp or chicken meal.

Reds are stepping up the action for the holidays.  Jelu Pinot Noir 2012 hails from Argentina’s cool Patagonia region.  Enticing plum, blueberry, and mulberry fruit join hints of thyme and minerality, all supported by moderate acidity.  Partner with salmon or tuna, game birds, (even duck), cheeses of all sorts, even tomato-based sauces.

For heavier fare like brisket or a rib roast, reach for the Angulo Innocenti Malbec 2012, another Argentine winner.  Dark, opaque and purple in the glass, its color hints at the dark fruit and violet aromas and flavors.  Fresh and supple, with mineral undertones typical of the La Consulta region, this is also a good match for slow-cooked root vegetables.

An even bolder wine with a lot of smokiness sets the stage for grilled foods large and small.  Surani Heracles Primitivo 2012 is an intense ruby color, with licoricey red fruits and pleasant tannins.  If you’re the type to fire up the grill even when there’s snow on the ground, this wine is for you!  It also pairs with aged cheeses, spicy soups, lamb, and eggplant.

What’s a holiday without bubbly?  Try the delicious, refreshing Per Ora Prosecco NV from Italy’s Veneto.  Its pear, melon, and tropical flavors dance across the palate whether you’re raising a glass to toast, sipping with hors d’oeurves, or making a Bellini.  This is the perfect brunch wine!

This is a busy time of year.  If your brain is tired or you just have too much to do, grab a six-pack of “Elves’ Favorites,” “Santa’s Stash,” or our local wines Demi-Sac, all easy solutions for holiday entertaining and gift giving.  You can also bring your menu and let the Red Feet staff help you with wine pairing.  Happy holidays!

–MP Rouse

Party Ideas

From our tasting December 4, 2014…

As the year winds down, parties ramp up. Red Feet has some suggestions for crowd-pleasing wines that leave the shopping budget intact. If you’re hosting or bringing something to share, we’ve got some food ideas, too. How about a fondue event? For five, you’ll need a cup of simmering white wine in the pot, a half-pound each of Swiss and Gruyere, two tablespoons of flour, a big pinch of nutmeg and salt, and loaf of crusty French bread. For the wine, we suggest the Labbé Abymes 2011 from near the Swiss border, dry and reminiscent of a meadow, made from the Jacquère grape.

Another white suggestion is the La Ferrandière Chardonnay 2013. It hails from the south of France but tastes like it came from the south of Burgundy. It’s clean and crisp, with lovely apple, pear, and passionfruit elements and a soft texture. You could use it at a meal with fish dishes or partner it with nibbles like shrimp, goat cheese, artichoke dip, or chicken skewers.

In the red department, try the St. Cosme Little James Basket Press Red, a blend of half wine from 2013 and half from a solera that includes 1999-2012 vintages. It’s all Grenache, quite spicy, with cherry and smoky notes. Pair this with sausage bites on skewers, a cheese plate with Brie, Morbier, and garlicky Boursin, or crostini with rustic pâté. Artisanal pizza or flatbread would also partner well—add some olives, feta, or eggplant to the topping.

South Africa is the source of Thelema Mountain Red 2011. Its cassis, bramble, spice, and white pepper notes are supported by a firm enough structure to stand up to something substantial. This blend of six grapes could partner beef sliders, lamb meatballs a la Istanbul, spicy falafel, barbecued ribs, samosas, or your favorite chili. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could try a hosting a braai, South Africa’s own form of barbecue (though December hardly seems the season!).

And then there’s our “happy hour” wine, Portado Winemaker’s Selection 2011. Another complex blend, this comes from the Lisbon area in Portugal. Its ripe berry fruit is tasty and balanced. This is good as a complement to Mexican nibbles, pizza, pasta hot or cold, or jiaozi with a spicy dipping sauce, but it’s also delightful all by itself.

Red Feet has a new group of Demi-Sacs ready to go, full of holiday cheer, for home or gift-giving:

Elves’ Favorites ($60), Santa’s Stash ($90), and a Have Yourself a Merry Local Christmas (also $90). Check them out, and join us next week, as we taste more Wines to Celebrate the Holidays.