For anyone who actually reads this blog besides some supportive friends and myself I would like to apologize for not posting anything in a couple of days. I have been quite busy here in the wine and food world of the east village and haven’t had a chance to share some of my recent experiences. I will be posting some good stuff in a day or so and hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I enjoy writing it. See you soon.
Well it was time to branch out. I was in a wine shop the other day looking for a good deal. Trying to find that wine or those wines that are reasonably priced and good in quality. I went to the Union Square Wine shop’s new location. I hadn’t been to the older one in a couple of years so I was pretty stoked to check it out. I will talk about shop it self later in another post. I need to go back again. This time I was not so impressed. Not sure if it was just that day or what. I will have to go back and figure it out. It has potential to be a great source of wine experimentation. I digress. Wandering around the store for about 25-30 minutes I picked wine up and put wine down and picked wine up and put wine down. It was a very indecisive moment in time. I settled upon two Spanish wines. I had been going crazy with the Argentinean and was initially looking for a blend from there but I got to thinking, I have tried some good stuff from Argentina. Let’s go to another intriguing region. Spain is a place I am still learning about. It has a very interesting wine history and is the land of sherry and the grapes tempranillo and granacha. There are plenty more grapes to explore from here but these are the most well known.
So I bought a granacha 100% and a more unique wine from a varietal called monastrell, which I believe is Spanish for mouverde. The second one I am saving for another time. I could not wait however to open the granacha. This grape originated in Spain and was later made famous in the Rhone valley of France. It became so popular there that the french pretty much claimed the grape as their own. But nonetheless this is a Spanish original and I wanted to see what it offered in its native environment. The producer of this wine is Boraso and it is a 100% granacha from the Campo de Borja area of Spain. Something else I found interesting is that is aged in stainless steel. No oak to add vanilla flavors. Good move. This was pretty exciting. For me it always is. I just had a good feeling about this wine. I don’t know why. I bought it on a gut feeling. Of course it was only $15 but so were others in the store. It had a shelf talker saying something about Robert parker but I don’t realty listen to him too much. I just picked it up and moment I had it in my hand I had to put down the other wines. Just did. And I am very glad.
Gal (the nose) was not available for this one but Mr. Wolf was present as well as my wife and another of our tasting team with well-rounded opinions Angus. We popped the cork and right away could tell it had some muscle to it just by looking at the darkly stained cork. You could smell the wine before it was even out of the bottle. The cork itself had spice on the nose. I poured tastes in our glasses and marveled at the inkiness of this wine. Swirling and coating the glass was very easy as the wine just clung to the walls of the glass. The first nose was quite intense. The alcohol was definitely prominent and the pepper was a bit overwhelming yet pleasant at the same time. I could tell that it was only a matter of time before that intensity would mellow. It was even happening as we sipped. Mr. Wolf was in heaven because he has an affinity for the wines from Spain so I knew just by looking at him that he was digging the wine. My wife seemed a little put off at first because of the intense nature of the nose but after awhile she warmed up to it as it evened out.
Angus mentioned as we took the first sip that the pepper was going up his nose and as he was saying it I felt the same thing. Upon the first sip the pepper was so strong it rushed up my nasal passage with a full on attack. This wine was fooling us all. Why, you may ask, because through all of this intensity there was a good acidity mingling with fruit. This is the rundown. At fist there is in tense pepper, which masks the fruit. The fruit is detectable because there is a soft tannin structure cutting through the pepper letting you experience a taste of what’s to come. On the palate, in the beginning the pepper and spice is all over the place but that acidity and fruit with the tannin are also there working together as you sip to meld into something great. It is very rich and rounded with dark fruit as it starts to open up.
As it opened the spice and pepper softened and the fruit began to come out and soften the wine even more. There was still some muscle and the wine went form spicy to chewy and jammy with tannins detectable on the finish. This is a wine that changes wonderfully as it breathes but not a wine that you would want to decant. After about a half hour of talking and tasting, this wine was in its perfect place. It was where it wanted to be from the beginning. All of its components were in harmony. Not decanting it allowed us to fully enjoy the subtleties of this great granacha. In the end the wine was mellow with a good amount of dark cherry on the nose and palate with a soft tannin structure and mildly prominent spice.
My wife, Mr. Wolf, Angus and myself were quite pleased with the experience. I personally loved this wine and want to somehow buy a case and just have it around. I wasn’t able to eat with it but I could imagine some sort of marinated chicken dish with sautéed spinach and a tomato salad of some sort. What I really liked about this wine was that it sees no oak whatsoever. It is aged in only stainless steel. It sees a long maceration period, which would explain the deep rich dark color. Man…this wine was enjoyable. At $15 you just can’t go wrong. Buy a couple of them and just have them around for a night with friends or a dinner with your significant other. Both scenarios go well with this wine.
Since the experience with the Los Hormigas Malbec reserva I have been keeping my eyes on Argentinean wines. There is a little discount wine shop on Ave A between 12 and 13th that looks like a serious place until you walk in and look around. The décor is nice with hardwood floors and a clean atmosphere. But when you begin to assess the wine situation you immediately find that it’s just another discount wine shop with the usual Cali wines for too much and sub par French labels. But that’s not to say that the place is bad. The help is not informative but…helpful. The guys in there are there to make money not talk about their passion for wine. That being said, these types of shops are great for southern American wine exploration since the owner probably buys his inventory focusing on price more than quality. And it just so happens that South American wine is usually a great value for good quality.
I walked into this place and quickly passed all other regions and headed straight to the South American section. It wasn’t actually the South American section; there were two sign headings one that said Chile and one that said Spain. I am almost ready to start going nuts with the Spanish wines and still thinking about how to approach Chile but right now I want to delve further into the Argentinean juice. I looked around this small five or six shelf selection and found that of these shelves only one was Argentinean. They had lumped the Chilean and the Argentinean together and labeled the section Chile. Oh well, no big deal (it is a discount wine shop by the way) I wasn’t expecting much anyway.
Then I saw it. Of the eight Argentinean wines offered there was one that was the same vintage as the Los Hormigas (2004) and, like the Los Hormigas was a reserva. It was also a 100% malbec. But what got me all worked up is that it was $9.99. Cool! I can buy this here wine and compare and contrast with the Los Hormigas and if it is horrible I’m only out ten bucks. No prob. So I grabbed it and off I went to taste it with myself, Gal and (ladies and gentleman…introducing) Mr. Wolf.
The wine is a 2004 Bodegas Nieto Senetiner Malbec Reserva and it just so happens that Mr. Wolf was familiar with it. He had had a bottle of the 2003 reserva and said it was a monster with the tannins and needed to be decanted for a while. We were all about the decantation but we wanted to investigate the first pour before jumping to any desicions of that matter. Pop went the cork and the beautiful sound of wine splashing out of a bottle and into a glass at good temperature followed.
Right off the bat Wolf was a bit surprised. The wine was softer than he remembered and alcohol had replaced the tannin in the monster department. That alcohol really needed to burn off but still, we were not ready to decant. The tannin structure of this wine was definitely softer than the Los Hormigas but it had all the spice I remembered. The difference was that the balance between the two was opposite. In the Los Hormigas the tannin structure was mature with a good strength, which kept the spice or pepper at bay. This wine, the Nieto, has the same amount of spice but because the tannin structure is softer the spicy pepper is more prominent, in a pleasant way though. Also, once the spice mellowed a bit, which was a result, in part of the alcohol evaporating a plumminess started rising to the surface from the center of the wine that was picked up by Gal and Mr. Wolf.
So all in all when the bottle was finished (always a good sign) the verdict was in. This was a great wine for the price. We never decanted it by the way. It was smooth enough that we could just enjoy it as we poured it from the bottle. If it was to have been a couple of dollars more maybe not so much but where it was at was just fine. Yet another example of where Argentinean wine is headed. I can’t wait to taste more of these wines and dissect them with the dudes. Next I want to check out some of the blends. By the way I know the pic of this wine says 2003 but it was the only pic I could find. The 2003 Is much harsher according to Mr. Wolf. So if you happen to pick up this vintage instead of the 2004 if you can, decant for a while.
I love New York City. It’s a love affair that continues day after day and gets better and better. This town has it all…wait…maybe not it all. I also love Philadelphia. The home of Rocky, The Roots, G. Love and Special Sauce and the some of the best public art in the country. My wife (who I also have a love affair with and gets better day after day) and I like to go to Philly (illy) once a year and enjoy what the city has to offer. We walk up and down South street and soak it all in. But what really tops off every trip is the journey to south Philly to stand in line either at Gino’s or Pat’s and scarf down some of the best cheese steak in town. Whether we make it there in the daytime or a 2am the area is always packed. The line moves fast though and there is nothing like sitting among the locals and dinning on some of the best. So maybe NYC doesn’t have it all…oh…wait a second. Maybe it does.
Yesterday I discovered a little bit of Philly in New York City. On 3rd Avenue between 12th and 13th street there is a joint by the name of 99 Miles To Philly. This place id great! Upon entering you are greeted with exposed brick walls and the small of cheese steak and onions. There are framed photographs on the wall of old-world Philly and a flat screen TV playing sports on the wall. But what really makes it Philly for me is the Original Rocky Poster framed on the wall paying homage to not only one of the best movies ever made but to a city that provided the background (I have ran up those steps with the Rocky Title song racing through my brain and am happy to admit it).
I ordered the Cheese steak (of course) with American cheese and onions and a side of fries. On the table they have all the right accompaniments; ketchup, BBQ sauce and hot sauce. The wait is not long at all (unless your really excited about this whole experience as I was) and the result is exceptional. The roll, the way the steak is cooked, the onions, everything about this sandwich is reminiscent of the original. Not some bastardization of the title “Philly Cheese steak.” Now, Nothing will beat the two big guns residing in South Philly. If it weren’t for Gino’s and Pat’s well….I don’t even want to think about it but this is a great substitute that will hold us over until my wife and I journey to the city of brotherly love once more. Thank you 99 Miles to Philly ( I put a link in the title of this post for map) for giving us the some of the best your hometown has to offer.
I haven’t tried many malbec wines and when I have tried them it has been in restaurants and I have often struggled to find the wonderful nuances this grape has to offer. Maybe I just haven’t ordered the right vintage or the right producer. I have always had a feeling though that when I found the right one it would be enjoyable. Last night after some intense dialogue and experimentation I think I found it. It was time to pop the Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Reserva 2004. This wine took us on a journey of flavor and aroma. At first we just poured a little in the glass, as is par for the course when tasting a wine. Just put a taste in the glass, agitate it a bit, coat the inside and stick your nose down in there and get a good initial whiff. Then swirl it a bit more, sniff a couple more times and take that first sip.
The first nose was a bit unpleasant and I couldn’t quite place it. My tasting partner, we’ll call him Gal, hit it on the nose, if you will. He said it smelled like metal. Whether it was the power of suggestion or not on my next whiff I was hit with metal. The good thing was that I was noticing some promising things going on in the first palate. Even though the metal was a bit overwhelming I could definitely sense that there were better things to come. The tannin structure was quite soft and berries began to mingle around underneath. There was also a pepperiness on the nose and palate. After the first taste we poured a bit more and were more positive. Although the metal was still there the berries were creeping up to the top and they were deep.
Our idea in the beginning was not to decant the wine and let it open up in the glass but because every time we poured a little more the metallic thing took over we decided we probably should decant it. Now everything came into focus. The deep berries came to the forefront and the pepper mellowed into the fruit. I also liked that the tannins still remained soft. This was a smooth wine and I was definitely beginning to like it. Gal was also coming around to it as well. The metal had really thrown him off. At this point we started to just enjoy the wine for where it was. Me personally, I was impressed. This malbec was taking us on a journey. Then without warning another pleasant aroma made itself known. Smokiness. Gal said he smelled smoked wood and I could picture a smoldering campfire in the fall. This was great. The smokiness did something else that was cool. It blended with the pepper and the fruit which, for Gal brought out a licorice aroma. This was hard for me to find but then again my nose is not as refined as my palate. Gal’s nose on the other hand is a workhorse for aroma. He can smell gunflint a mile away in a wine. That’s why he’s a good tasting partner. We have two different approaches to wine coming together for a full report.
Every once in awhile though I surprise myself with my own nose but I rely on Gal to confirm. I say this because in the end as the decanter emptied I smelled something I just could not place but knew oh so well. Candied……….something. What was it? Then it hit me (and this may sound weird), marzipan. Everything had mellowed together and after five minutes of thought it came to me. My wife loves marzipan and therefore I have had my share. Now, it wasn’t an overwhelming aroma. It was lingering but I know I was right because I got a resounding “You got it” from Gal. We also noticed that towards the end the tannins were strengthening. But that was fine by me because through the entire experience of this wine they were pretty chill.
In Conclusion, this wine was great. I spent about $20 on it and was impressed with the quality to price ratio. I had some lamb with it in the beginning and it went wonderfully with this wine. Finally. Now I know what a good malbec tastes like. Argentina is on its way to greatness and this producer is on the same path.