California Dreaming

From our Hang Time tasting on Thursday April 23, 2015…


After a snow squall this morning that turned pine trees into picture postcards up in the hills, the idea of a trip to warm, sunny California seems very appealing.  Since that’s not in the cards, we’ll have to make do with an offering of California wines in today’s tasting.

Esser Sauvignon Blanc 2013 comes from Monterey County, a cool-climate area, and a near-perfect vintage. The blend includes Sauvignon Blanc and a touch of Semillon, two grapes used in Bordeaux whites.  To preserve their freshness, grapes were harvested at dawn and fermented in tank with no malolactic fermentation.  The result is a round, ripe wine with aromas of passion fruit, melon, and citrus leading to gooseberry, white fig, lemon, and honeydew flavors.  Drink this alone or pair with fresh vegetable dishes, seafood or chicken.

Randall Graham of Bonny Doon Vineyards provides another nod to white Bordeaux with his Gravitas 2014, a side project from the Proper Claret Wine Co.  Dominated by Semillon with assistance from Sauvignon Blanc as well as a touch of Orange Muscat, this is intensely fragrant—think magnolia, orange blossom, white peach, quince, fresh grass, lavender honey, and key lime.  All these are part of the flavor profile, balanced by a savory quality and deft acidity. Pair with fresh oysters, grilled vegetables, or go big with cassoulet.

Reds are also part of the show.  Rickshaw Pinot Noir 2013 is the second label from the producers of Banshee Wines.  The label gives a hint of what’s to come: this cool climate Pinot offers forest floor and mushroom notes, smoky black cherry, and raspberry tea on the nose.  Flavors are classic, with rose petal, red and black cherry, fruit tea, and more mushrooms.  Lifted and concentrated, this is a good partner for tuna or salmon, Peking duck with hoisin, and earthy vegetables.

A new wine on our shelves the Broadside Merlot Margarita Vineyard 2013 is an intense, ripe unblended example of this grape.  Fermented with native yeasts and aged in old oak, this is a wine of balance and finesse.  Its red fruit is fresh rather than jammy, with layers of cedar and minerals.  Versatile at the table, the wine can partner with lamb or beef, grilled mushrooms, or full-flavored cheeses.

McManis Petite Sirah 2013 is a big, black, tablecloth-staining wine equally at home in the depths of winter or at grilling time in summer.  Fermented in tank and aged in oak, the wine also undergoes micro-oxygenation, which enhances its color, clarity, and stability while softening the tannins and hastening maturation.  The result is more of a large teddy bear than a grizzly, with blackberry and clove aromas and dense, dark berry flavors leading to a soft mocha finish.  Pair with cheeses or whatever you put on the grill!

-M.P. Rouse


Staff Picks

From our Hang Time tasting on Thursday April 16, 2015…

Our last staff picks tasting was about this time last year, but a lot has changed since then—not only do we have new wines, but we also have new staff.  Criteria are the same as usual: no wine over $20, and no wine that’s been poured in its current vintage or over the last six months.  Here we go!

Our newest staff member, Kristina Rose, has chosen a local white, Damiani Sauvignon Blanc 2012.  Here’s her take on this gem: “Damiani Wine Cellars maintains what owner and grape-grower Phil Davis calls ‘a natural-world based philosophy’ in both their viticulture and winemaking practices.  The grapes for this wine were hand-harvested from vines grown on the east side of Seneca Lake, and the resulting wine echoes true Finger Lakes minerality backed by lively acidity, nice weight and fresh citrus and stone fruits. Pair this with goat cheese, artichokes, or a variety of seafood.”  \

Jeff Faraday also chose a white, the elegant Handley Gewürztraminer 2013.  He says, “This beautiful aromatic wine has a lovely texture and full flavor. Its floral nature makes it a perfect match for a sunny spring day.”  This wine is great alone and also partners Asian cuisine, embracing the heat and spice of Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese food.

Kate Marshall (of singing duo Nate and Kate) chose an Italian red.  Beyond noting its unique label, Kate says, “As one of the world’s largest wine producing and consuming countries, Italy has a little something for everyone’s palate.  I love Montepulciano for its versatility, and the 2013 Rosso Dei Politici from the famous Abruzzo region is no exception; with its soft, red fruit it’s a perfect partner for weeknight pizza or pasta.  An added bonus: it comes in a one-liter bottle.”

MP Rouse also chose a red, the Gassier Nostre Païs Rouge 2011 from the southern Rhône.  She says, “I’m an aroma person, and this is just amazing—it offers cherry candy, meat, garrigue, and pencil shavings.  The palate has lovely texture, integration, and balance, with fresh red fruit and black cherry as well as savory components.  You could pair this with duck, ratatouille, mushrooms, even dark chocolate. This pick is dedicated to Elizabeth Abend, who’s kept the glasses coming on Thursdays.”

Our final wine is the choice of Morgan Scott.  “I’ll be saying goodbye to Red Feet and my friends, coworkers, and customers on May 7 and returning to my home state, California.  I figured that there’s no better way to celebrate my departure than with some bubbles!  The François Montand Blanc de Blancs Brut NV is made in the Champagne method but hails from the Jura in western France.  It’s is a great brunch partner (alone or with fresh-squeezed orange juice in a mimosa) or an at-home start to a night on the town.  It pairs well with variety of foods (frittata, fish, salads) or none at all.  Try this sparkler mixed with St. Germain elderflower liqueur for an enticing cocktail.”

–M.P. Rouse

Wines to go with Seafood

From our Hang Time tasting on April 9, 2015…

Seafood encompasses a lot.  There are shellfish—clams, mussels, scallops, and oysters—and finfish, ranging from the delicate (sole) to the meaty (swordfish) and everything in between.  Don’t forget crustaceans—shrimp, crabs, and lobsters and critters with tentacles, like octopus and squid.  What wine goes on the table?

The adage “White wine with seafood” is a good starting point. However, the cooking method, sauce, and side dishes, as well as personal preference, also play a role in wine choice.  Certain wines should generally be avoided, such as heavily oaked Chardonnays and tannic reds (e.g., Chianti, Cabernet, big Merlot, Syrah).  White fish, shellfish, and crustaceans pair better with white wine.  Grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Albariño, Picpoul, Vermentino, Grüner Veltliner, and Assyrtiko are great partners, as are wines from Chablis and Muscadet; their bright flavors and lighter weight complement rather than overwhelm seafood. If red wine is a must-have, choose heavier fare—tuna, swordfish, salmon, octopus, or squid; you can also use spices and flavorings that are hospitable to red wine.  Spicy fried calamari or clams love fruity reds like Sicily’s Frappatto, and salmon and Pinot Noir is a classic pairing. And of course, there’s always rosé…

We’ll taste three whites.  The 2013 Grüner Veltliner from Forstreiter’s Kogl Vineyard is minerally, crisp, and fragrant, with both savory and lemon notes.  Grüner is one of the few grapes that pairs well with asparagus, bitter greens, and artichokes; it also loves shellfish and strong-flavored whitefish.  Asian spices, from Thai basil and tamarind to cardamom and coriander, are happy additions.

The Licia Albariño 2013 is a classic version of this Spanish grape, with quince, red grapefruit, fresh herbs, and green apple leading to a long finish.  This is another wine for white fish (try grilled) or shellfish (try Thai spices).  If crab or lobster is on the menu, think bigger.  Sonoma Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay 2013 has seen both oak and malolactic fermentation.  It offers an alluring toasty buttery flavors along with cool-climate apple and pear and warm-climate pineapple and lemon. The round Chardonnay texture balances the fruity freshness.  Partner with crustaceans, or dilled salmon, salmon cakes with herbed aioli, or curried shrimp with crème frâiche.

Rosé is great with Mediterranean seafood, from anchovy tart to bouillabaisse.  Try the Isle Saint-Pierre Rosé 2014, a dry and savory blend of five grapes; pair with grilled or fried shrimp and fish, amply spiced.

We’ll end this tasting suggesting a classic pairing—Oregon Pinot Noir and sockeye salmon.  Stafford Hill Pinot Noir 2012 from Holloran Vineyards is made in a Burgundian style from grapes grown in organic unirrigated vineyards, harvested by hand and fermented in small lots, bottled unfined and unfiltered.  Both aromas and flavors offer intense purity; food-friendly acidity and structure support the lightly floral finish.

-M.P. Rouse

Not the Usual Suspects

From our Hang Time tasting on March 3, 2015…

Today’s tasting celebrates off-the-beaten-track wines, grapes, and places.  It’s a chance to release your inner wine geek and explore the world of liquid geography.  We’ll taste wines from four European countries.

What makes the Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Blanc 2014 unusual is the inclusion of Terret.  It’s a member of an ancient family of grapes that has mutated over the centuries and contains blanc, gris, and rouge members, often in the same bunch.  It buds late, ripens early, and maintains high acidity.  Most plantings are located in Languedoc-Roussillion, especially in Hérault; much production is used to make vermouth or distilled, but it’s also used as a blending grape to make crisp white wines.  This wine offers white peach, Meyer lemon, and apricot notes, along with enticing minerality and a long finish.

Our other white comes from the Peloponnese in Greece. Dom. Skouras Zoe White 2014 contains Roditis and Moscofilero, two indigenous varieties known for their intense fragrance and crisp freshness.  The name of the former suggests its deep pink color; that of the latter reflects the extent to which it attracts insects to its floral perfume.  The wine is spicy and floral, with orange and lemon blossoms, a touch of jasmine, and clean acidity.  Both these wines are good as aperitifs or partnered with seafood.

We have two reds.  Buchegger Blauer Zweigelt Weitgasse 2012 comes from the Kremstal region in northeast Austria.  Zweigelt, developed by a researcher of that name in 1922, is a crossing of Blaufränkisch and St-Laurent.  It ripens earlier than the former and buds later than the latter.  Zweigelt maintains the bite and spice of Blaufränkisch and adds the richer texture and Pinot-Noir-like flavors of St-Laurent.  Austria’s most widely planted red grape, it pairs well with spätzle and schnitzel, roast chicken, and Edam or Gouda cheeses.

Confidencial Reserva 2010 hails from Casa Santos Lima in the Lisbon region of Portugal.  It’s a blend of over 10 varieties, both local and international.  While the exact blend remains a secret, the wine most likely contains at least Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Touriga Nacional, Sousão, Castelão, Tinto Roriz, Camarate, and Trincadeira.  Pair this rich wine with hearty meats and stews.

The most unusual wine today is the Langmann Schilcher Frizzante NV.  Schilcher is a type of wine made only in the Austrian region of Weststeiermark (one of Europe’s smallest growing regions).  It uses the Blauer Wildbacher grape, is usually a rosé, and can be made in still or sparkling style.  The grape is known for its strong acidity, radiant color, and strawberry aroma; it’s said to contain alcohol compounds that induce wild inebriation (hence its local nickname “rabid pearl”).  Pair this gem with a selection of cold Austrian cured meats and enjoy!

–M.P. Rouse