Heading into Fall

From our Hang Time tasting on Thursday, September 17, 2015…

Summer’s warmth is still with us, but nights are brisk and come quickly.  There’s still a lot of summer produce, but squashes, gourds, and mums have made their appearance as well.  Many of us are not quite ready to let go of summer or plunge into fall, but autumn gets its official start on Sept. 23 (Yom Kippur this year).  Jacket weather is coming soon!  Red Feet has some ideas to make the transition easier.

Whites are still part of the story, but we look for rounder, lusher, more complex wines rather than pure zing.  Bodega Mustiguillo Mestizaje Blanco 2014 makes use of a little-known grape, Merseguera.  Owner-winemaker Toni Sarrión is a champion of grapes relegated to bulk-wine status, starting with Bobal in the Mestizaje red and moving to Merseguera in the white.  With careful, organic vineyard management learned by trial and error, he has crafted delightful blends.  Pair this with seafood pasta or an early autumn picnic.  What’s not to like about an unoaked Chardonnay with tropical fruit, melon, and citrus notes?  Echeverria Unwooded Chardonnay Reserva 2014 from Chile is made from ungrafted single-vineyard grapes grown organically. It’s bright and vibrant with a long, fresh finish and needs no food to show off its charms.

The cooler evenings of autumn invite red wines, not so much the cook-out wines of summer as cook-in wines for the fall table.  The Loire Valley in France is the source of a lovely, ripe Cabernet Franc, Château du Hureau “Tuffe” 2011.  Another wine made from organic grapes, this provides a complex set of aromas, ranging from cassis through smoke, coffee, earth, game, and bark.  This wine has had time to develop; the tannins are ripe, the flavors well-integrated, and the finish long and satisfying.  Pair with duck or game, eggplant or roasted fall vegetables.  Spain also provides a red, Koden de Luis Alegre Rioja 2013, a pure expression of the Tempranillo grape from this famous region.  Made in a modern style and aged six months in new French oak, it offers notes of cherry cola, spice, crumbly earth, and minerality, all lifted by vibrant acidity.  Grab a chunk of Manchego, roast some Piggery pork, or make a satisfying stew with or without meat, and you’re in business.  Italy’s Tuscany gives us a Sangiovese-Cabernet blend, Tommasi’s Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo 2012 fermented in tank and aged a year in wood.  It’s quite full in flavor and body, balanced and smooth.  Mushroom, chocolate, cherry, blueberry, and currant are supported by fine tannins.  Partner with hearty foods: a sausage and porcini ragù, osso buco, or Gorgonzola and walnut bread.

These are transitional wines for transitional times.  Bring in your menus and let the Red Feet staff help you find wines to match with autumn’s bounty.

–M.P. Rouse

New Mediterranean Arrivals

From our Hang Time tasting on Thursday, September 10, 2015…

The Mediterranean Sea was the heart of viticulture in the ancient world, from Byblos in the east to Spain in the west, from northern Italy to Egypt, and everywhere in between.  It’s given its name to a climate particularly suited to the cultivation of the vine.  Over millennia its waters have carried the fruits of these efforts in amphorae, casks, and bottles.

Today we’ll taste some recent arrivals from the shores of the Middle Sea, notably France, Spain, and Italy.  Tasca d’Almerita le Rose Regaleali 2014 is from the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily.  Made from the indigenous Nerello Mascalese grape, this is s deeply colored wine with raspberry, blackberry, cherry, and rose petal notes supported by bracing acidity, a far cry from a Provençal rosé.  Full and rich, this is a good partner for tuna, pork, or richly flavored pasta dishes.  Italy provides another wine, this from the heel of the boot.  Castello Monaci Pilùna 2013 is made from Primitivo, the same grape as Zinfandel.  It’s not as jammy as its American counterpart, showing a certain restraint while offering ripe black fruits, spice, and licorice with firm structure and good concentration.  It comes from Salento in Puglia, hot and sunny; grapes are harvested at night to keep them fresh. Pair with slow smoked dishes, southwestern foods, or a piece of Cheddar or blue-veined cheese.

The French wine today comes from French Catalonia not far from the city of Perpignan.  Penya Rouge 2014 is a blend of grapes from low-yielding vines averaging 40 years old and is completely unoaked. It offers plums, cherries, smoke, and a hint of bacon. It’s a great picnic wine and delights in classic Mediterranean fare like ratatouille, cassoulet, or stuffed tomatoes.

Spain provides two libations, a red and a bubbly.  Alicante, on the southeast coast, is known for hearty, rustic red wines.  Enrique Mendoza La Tremenda Monastrell 2012 is more elegant than most.  This single-vineyard wine comes from older vines.  The wine spends six months in American oak that adds toast and sweet spice to the fresh black cherry and red berry fruit.  The vineyard approach is biodynamic, reflected in the purity of the wine.  Beef and lamb are good partners, but so are parmesan-crusted asparagus, duck with olives, or dark mushrooms.  We’re ending with a Cava, Spain’s answer to Champagne and made the same way.  Castillo Perelada Brut Reserva NV blends the three classic Cava grapes into a bubbly with taste and personality.  It hails from Penedés, about 40 km south of Barcelona, the source of most of Spain’s Cava.  Elegant, bright, and refreshing, it’s fabulous with sushi, fried fish, fresh figs, tapas of all sorts, Cabrales cheese, good friends, and the end of a busy day.  Put a little sparkle in your life!

Join us next week, when we’ll be Heading into Fall even if we’re not quite ready to let go of summer.

–M.P. Rouse

The Party Formula

I’m having a summer blow-out bash and need to figure out how much wine to buy.  Is there a formula that I should use?

Here’s how we do it:
1. Figure out how many wine drinkers are actually coming.
2. Figure out how many hours your guests will actually be drinking.
3. Allow .70 glass of wine per hour for each guest.
4. Divide the number of glasses by 5 and you’ll know how many bottles to buy.
5. Choose if you want to get half white wine and half red wine or split the types of wine in another manner. Do you want 2 different varieties of each color, or a big assortment?

Here’s an example calculated with the rules above.
20 wine drinkers x 4 hour party = 80 x .70 glasses per hour = 56 glasses of wine divided by 5 glasses per bottle = 11.2 bottles. You should probably get 1 case of wine (12 bottles) for your event.

Savor South America

From our Hang Time tasting on Thursday August 20, 2015…

South America produces a lot of wine—about 800 million gallons a year.  Argentina leads production, followed by Chile; both make more than Australia. Grapes came with colonizers as early as 1541, first to Chile then over the Andes to Argentina; a decade later both countries were making wine.  Argentina developed commercial wineries first, in the Andean foothills around Mendoza.  Adapting Inca irrigation practices, with underground channels using snowmelt, they made robust wines able to endure the long, rough transport to markets in the eastern part of the country.  Chile, on the other hand, was a fruit grower’s Eden, with cooling breezes and ample water.  The dry heat in both countries keeps vineyards free of pests and disease, so growers have little need for pesticides or fungicides.  Even though not certified, many wineries practice organic viticulture.

Following Argentina’s independence in the 1820s, waves of immigrants from France, Spain, and Italy brought new varieties, new techniques in vineyards and cellars, and a strong wine-drinking culture. The result was an exciting mix of grapes, wines, and styles.  Worldwide political and economic decline in the 1920s crippled wine production and consumption, and domestic conditions remained shaky until the mid-1990s.  Winemakers looked abroad for new consumers and hard currency.  Drawing on their strengths, producers replanted with high-quality varieties. The warm, dry climate, long growing season, ungrafted vines, and well-developed irrigation all played a part in the rebirth.  Argentina’s main white grape, Torrontés, lies somewhere between Gewürztraminer and Viognier, offering both spice and flowers with moderate acidity.  Dos Minas Torrontés 2014 is a fine example, pairing well with shrimp, crab, and Asian food.  The country’s signature red is Malbec, and the KEO Malbec Roble 2013 is a big, bold example, with smoky, toasty notes to go along with the fruit and tannin; it’s also certified Fair Trade.  Grill a steak or portobellos with this one.  Another big red, Jelu Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2010, is a complex mix of red and black fruits, spice, and well-integrated tannins and acidity.  Pair with a rich beef stew, lamb, or roasted eggplant.

The mid 19th century saw major changes in Chile’s wine culture as well.  The economy prospered; it was fashionable for wealthy families to build country estates and produce wine in the French style.  With the onset of phylloxera and powdery mildew in France, there was a steady stream of “refugees” who had the know-how to run these estates and make wine.  Despite centuries of Spanish dominion, France most influenced Chile’s wine industry.  Cabernet, Merlot, Carmenère, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc are the main grapes.  The 1980s saw Chile enter the world stage as a major wine producer, starting with simple, inexpensive quaffers and moving to more expressive, complex offerings at all price points.  No place in the world makes Carmenère like Chile, and the Odfjell Armador Carmenère 2012 is a ripe and intensely flavored example.  Pair with smoked or grilled foods, barbeque sauces or dishes containing black olives. Leyda Pinot Noir 2013 is a cool-climate version of this grape, silky and cherry inflected, with distinct minerality.  You could partner this with dilled salmon, mushrooms or duck, even an array of cheeses.

Go on, savor South America!

–M.P. Rouse

Rosé Parade 2015, Round 2

From our Hang Time tasting on August 13, 2015…

Rosé has increased dramatically in popularity over the last few years, especially as a summer wine.  Most of the gain has come from the dry side of the category, and most rosé in the US is imported from Europe.  France leads the charge, but Italy, Spain, Austria, Argentina, and Portugal are also players.  In 2013, rosé represented 16.5% of French wine, some 240 million bottles; three-fourths of that was dry (in contrast, 70% of US rosé and blush production was sweet, though that proportion is decreasing).  Today’s wines are all dry.

Just a quick review of how rosé is made.  Most red grapes have white flesh; the color of the wine comes mainly from the skins.  The longer the juice is in contact with the skins, the darker the color.  Of course, some grapes are higher in anthocynanins (the color chemical) than others; a rosé of Pinot Noir will never be as dark as a rosé of Malbec. Most rosés are a blend of grapes, made by pressing and fermenting the juice (like a white wine) from the start or by bleeding off the juice after a short time on the skins (saignée) and then fermenting it.  The wine does not go through secondary (malolactic) fermentation, so it retains a fresh brightness.

France provides two of today’s wines, both from the southern heart of rosé country.  Triennes Rosé 2014 is a blend dominated by Cinsault, reflected in the salmon color of the wine.  It’s from Provence, the epicenter of French rosé, and is made using the saignée method.  It is a lovely aperitif and a good partner for salads, fish, and vegetable dishes.  Chateau la Sable 2014 hails from the southernmost part of the Rhône, Luberon.  It, too, is a blend but dominated by Grenache, giving darker color, deeper fruit, and fuller body.  This could pair with BBQ or stand alone.

Italy offers a single-variety rosato, Muri Gries Lagrein 2014 from the Alto Adige in the northeast.  Here, both the fruits and the color are darker (plum, blackberry, red currant) and there is notable minerality and depth.  Its heft and acidity allow it to partner mortadella, speck, and sausages as well as pasta.

The Finger Lakes region also produces rosé; the most common grapes are Pinot Noir and Cabernet France.  Barry Family Cellars is a micro winery (625 cases a year) founded in 2011 and releasing its first wine in 2014.  The Rosé of Cabernet Franc 2014  offers bing cherry and bright acidity as well as the minerality of Finger Lakes terroir.  The fruit comes from a single vineyard on Keuka Lake and provides savory herb as well as lightly fruity notes.

Portugal is known for Vinho Verde, a slightly effervescent, low alcohol wine that also comes in pink.  Vera Vinho Verde Rosé 2014 is a blend of two indigenous darkly pigmented grapes from 30-50-year-old vines.  Wild strawberries, lemon zest, and pink grapefruit balance the crisp minerality—a perfect antidote to a humid day!

–M.P. Rouse