Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the November 27th, 2006

flu.jpgWell it has been over a week and I am so sorry for not posting. Actually I have been sick for most of the time and found that it is almost impossible to write about wine when under the weather. There is this preoccupation with wanting to sleep or just veg with DVDs. I actually even attempted to taste wine…which was interesting and not in a good way. When your sick it seems that all you can taste is the acidity and sourness of a wine. I even tried a couple different wines to see if was the wine or if it was me. It was me. What a nightmare.
Well I am right as rain now and ready to dive back into where I was when the bug hit me. France. Tomorrow I will post mine and my friends’ experiences with a couple more French wines before I start exploring elsewhere.
I really do not like not being able to taste wine. When I am sick and cannot do so I truly realize how much I love this artisanal natural phenomenon. This amazing product of thousands of years of trial and error. Wine carries with it a mystery and an excitement that I miss dearly when I am unable to taste it. When I go to a shop and pick up a bottle of wine it hits me. The anticipation is almost too much (Antici…..pation. Rocky Horror Picture Show anyone? No? Sorry I got carried away there. I have rent that again. It’s been too long). The guys and I usually wait until later on in the evening when we can just sit back relax and dissect the wine lovingly but that excitement stays with me from purchase to popping. I am not going to go on and on about how much I dig wine. I think it is apparent (hopefully) through my writings. But I am back in wellville and will talk to ‘yall tomorrow about this excellent fifteen dollar Bandol we tried a week or so ago. Good gift wine for a holiday dinner get together.

Hooray For Vacqueyras!

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the November 17th, 2006

vacqueyras.jpgI am on a brief French wine kick right now. I was running around yesterday and popped into a local wine shop to search out another twenty dollar and under. I decided to stay in the Rhone Valley because I wanted to see what the other appellations had to offer in this price range. This shop wasn’t as informative and interactive as Astor. It had these kiosk scanners that told you everything about the wine from varietals to tasting notes and food pairings. That is all well and good but what happened to human contact. If you have a computer telling you everything you don’t have the privilege of going back after a wonderful find and thanking your wine merchant for the suggestion and may you please suggest one for this evening. Anyway, what I am saying is that no one came up to me and asked me if I had any questions and there seemed to be a low staff count save for someone putting up wine and ignoring me and someone on their lunch break talking loudly on the phone about their friend’s significant other’s infidelity. I was on my own save for Mr. Hendrix in the speakers griping about love and cross-town traffic.
I strolled pass the Bordeaux that I will tackle one day and the rose of Provence. I gazed pass the Languedoc and headed straight for the Rhone. I grabbed a Gigondas and scanned the label under the trippy red lights of the computer…. then scanned the label again…again. Nothing. I was having some high-tech trouble with lunch-break-staffer right behind me munchin’ and yappin’ and not helpin’. I was a bit pressed for time so I put the Gigondas down and grabbed a Vacqueyras. Scan…scan…scan. Nothing. Maybe I was doing something wrong. I looked at the bottle and something in me said take it. Don’t worry about it, the voice said. This is what it’s like to be adventurous in wine. If no one is helping you then you are experiencing what the majority of wine buyers feel in a wine shop. A shot in the dark. Ok, I said to myself. Just one last try. I found inventory-stocking-staffer and asked if she had tried this wine and if not what the blend, if any was in the wine. I gave her the bottle, she looked at it puzzlingly and said she had never tried it and did not know the blend, if any, but the computer would know. She scanned the wine successfully (how did she do that) and sure enough tasting notes and food pairings appeared along with some other facts. As we both stared at the screen I asked if she could find the varietals. She could not. I looked a little closer and saw “granache” (sigh of relief). Ok, I got the varietal. Let’s do it. I left with my new bottle of Vacqueyras feeling excited and a little disappointed in the kiosk technology. “…Cross town traffic. So hard to get through to you.” (Hendrix)
Sorry about the rant. I am not a very negative person I was just a little taken back. I love talking about wine. And if I can enjoy a conversation with someone about the wine in question then I feel more confident about my purchase. Whether it is a hit or miss doesn’t matter so much as the enthusiasm of the merchant. Please let me know if I am way over sensitive or not.
Anyway, Back to the point of this post. Wine. The bottle I purchased was a 2003 Domaine La Garrigue from the Vacqueyras A.O.C. The computer said one hundred percent granache but after tasting it there might some syrah and a little mouverde in there. The wines from this appellation are predominantly granache (I believe the AOC laws state that there must be at least fifty percent granache but I am not totally sure) with syrah, mouverde and cinsaut rounding out the mix. I spent twenty bucks on this wine.
Angus, Gal and I popped the bottle and began the initial evaluation. The color was nice and deep. The wine clung to the glass walls nicely showing that it was full but not too big. The first nose was really pleasant and made me realize what I loved about the wines from this part of the world. The alcohol burned off quickly and Angus and I agreed that the aromas coming off that first sniff were mushrooms and soil. Not together but separate aromas. You could pick them out and distinguish them from each other. We swirled and sniffed a couple more times before sipping and everything in the glass started to come together. For me there is nothing like sitting back after a long day or night of work and just enjoying the evolution of a wine in the glass. Gal piped in just before we tried the wine saying he was getting raw meat with a bit of citrus. To my surprise when I stuck my down in there one more time I knew what he was talking about. The mushroom aroma was intermingling with the fruit and thickening up the nose wonderfully. That citrus was playing around with a slight note of mint. I had a good feeling about this Vacqueyras.
The sips came. Our faces crinkled and our eyebrows rose on high. And when I looked up from my glass there was an expression of genuine satisfaction on all of our faces. The palate had a nice and solid tannin structure that was very approachable. The fruit and alcohol along with the acidity settled in together at a calm pace and allowed us to enjoy a mild yet prominent finish. Gal mentioned that the finish was actually a little short but we all agreed that was a good thing. It added to the smoothness of this wine. On the second nose all that citrus and mint had melded into some very comfortable herbal notes along with what Gal described as wheat and dried fruits. And there was something else going on in the glass that we couldn’t quite place right away. There was savory thing happening here. Almost like a smokiness and then Angus hit it on the nose. Bacon. The fruit and the tannin came together to give a mild smoky bacon smell. Really nice.
This was a great wine for twenty bucks. The Rhone just keeps me coming back. The intensity of the tannins increased a bit as it opened up but the fruit was so well balanced and intertwined with the body that it was a welcome addition of strength to round it all out. If you are looking for a smooth medium to full body wine to pair with some sort of pork tenderloin dish with some kind of earthy bean or mushroom salad this is it. It is a great wine for fall seasonal dishes. I also just realized that this is a 2003. This vintage was the one with the deadly heat wave in France and it looks like the wines of the Rhone made out just fine. This is my second stab at the Rhone and I am one happy wine geek. If my spontaneity doesn’t get the best of me I will be writing about a Gigondas next. Cheers! Oh and by the way, if you grab this bottle know that it also pairs well with Jimi Hendrix.

Vive la France au-dessous des dollars tenty!

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the November 11th, 2006

lespeyrouses.jpgOk. It is time for me to re focus. I have been all over the place with these posts. I have gone from the highest end to the lowest end starting with the long post about Stag’s Leap and ending with my third installment of the Trader Joe’s experiment. I must admit I have strayed a bit from the everyday twenty dollars and under values. Well, people I am back on track and in a very exciting way. Thank you for being so patient. I was walking down Fourth Street yesterday on my way back from running some errands and as I began to cross Lafayette Street I felt this pull. It was almost magnetic. This force, if you will, held me there on the corner for a moment and I turned to the left to see what was calling me and there it was. Astor Wine and Spirits. My old friend in a new place.
I love what they have done with the new location and when I really think about it I have been to a lot of wine shops in this city scouring for values and there are a select few that I feel have a great staff. Astor is at the top of that list. What I love about this place is that you are not browsing more than five minutes and there is someone strolling up to greet you with a smile and ask if you need any help. Now this may happen anywhere but here the staff is on your level. And with the selection being so huge and varied with regions and prices it is a good place to get a smile and some sound advice.
I have been buying and drinking and writing about a lot of South American and Spanish wine. I have an obsession with these wines that continues to this day but I thought it was time to broaden my horizons. It was time to challenge myself in an area I am really not too familiar with. France. I know France on the surface and have always been under the impression that I wouldn’t be able to find a good deal because you really need to know your producers and if you are not careful you could spend a pretty penny on something less than stellar. That is, of course, unless you trust your wine merchant. If this is the case then you’re golden. And even if they miss a hit here and there you have developed a relationship that will last.
This is important to me because the last two attempts I took at French red wine were misses. I went to little wine shops in the city that I had heard had great boutique selections and trusted the merchants right away buying wines based on recommendations. I hate to say it but of the seven or eight bottles of wine I bought only one or two were really good. The others weren’t bad but there was something missing. So I stayed away from France for a while. And yesterday when I was roaming the aisles of Astor I found myself in the Rhone section. Man, am I glad I ended up there.
Just as I explained above, I wasn’t there five minutes when an employee came up and asked me if I needed any help. Yes, I said and explained my French dilemma. I said that if I was going to take a chance on a valued French wine I figure I would start in the Rhone. I love the grapes in the area (syrah, granache, cinsaut and mouverde) and I wanted to dig through there first. I asked him if he could recommend a Rhone that was under twenty bucks that he enjoyed. He had an immediate answer and it was in my hands in seconds. I checked the price tag and smiled; fifteen bucks. Nice. Because this guy was so confident in his decision I couldn’t help but take the chance. I thanked him and off I went quite excited and a bit nervous about exploring this new focus of mine.
The wine is a northern Rhone Valley one hundred percent syrah from the Cornas AOC. It is estate bottled by Domaine Alian Voge and is a 2004. The title of the wine is “Les Peyrouses.” I am not sure what that means but I am looking into it. And after a little research I found out that this wine was ready to drink.
Gal, David, and myself popped this Rhone with a couple of industry acquaintances and dove right in. I could tell right away on the first nose that this was going to be a great wine. It was a bit tight but the alcohol was burning off quickly to reveal really nice concentrated cherry aromas with a nice smokiness on top. As I swirled and sniffed and swirled and sniffed that smokiness became more pronounced and mingled with the cherry to form a kind of slight bacon aroma. Oh this was going to be good. We took our first sips and all looked at each other with genuine satisfaction. This was an awesome wine. The palate was very approachable with that fruit settling into the background making room for the prominent yet balanced tannin structure. Everything was in balance. Is this what I can expect from more under-twenty-dollar-French Rhone wines? I don’t know but I am definitely going back to Astor and continuing this journey. What made this wine so awesome for me was that it was powerful but subtle at the same time. The tannins were there the entire time keeping the smoky cherries in check and even show a little bit of licorice on the nose. It was an amazing balance.
As we finished the wine everything was still in harmony. Grilled meats? Oh yeah. Cheese? Oh yeah. This wine will compliment both. But also it was nice just sitting back and enjoying it. If you are going to a dinner party this holiday season please consider this one. It is a home run and people will go nuts over it. It is one of those wines that can please a crowd. Meaning that It doesn’t have too much of one thing. I am on my way to the store to take another chance on France. Vive la France au-dessous des dollars tenty.

The Elegance of Montepulciano

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the November 2nd, 2006

zanna.jpgMontepulciano is an interesting grape. When handled well it is a beautiful, deep, dark, fruit and spice forward, medium to full bodied wine with a pleasantly thick mouth feel that is almost meant for a rack of lamb or porchetta. When not taken care of or mass-produced it unfortunately results in a watered down version of what I just described. Offering not much more than a wine feel. For me wine feel is when you sip a wine and that is all you taste: the wine. No character to speak of other than the fact that you know you are drinking a wine. Usually the nose is always nice but on the palate of the vino just slips down your throat and you don’t really miss it. This is a generalized statement. I have tasted a lot of Montepulciano and I love the varietal. This is just what I have experienced.
The there is another category: elegance. This category is not often associated with southern Italian wines. But there is one producer that I love that has achieved this. Illuminati. Just so you know these wines can be a bit costly but they are in the category of if you are willing to splurge a little bit than go for it. This producer has a healthy line of Montepulciano from entry level to the highest end. And right smack dab in the middle is this beauty they call Zanna. It is a one hundred percent Montepulciano aged for two years sometimes a little bit more depending on the vintage in Slovenian oak. I was invited recently to an informal tasting of seven vintages of this wine from 1979 to 2001 in celebration of the most recent vintage receiving an honorary award. We all gathered at an amazing restaurant in the east Village called Il Buco tucked away on the cobble stoned bond street. It is a beautiful place with a homey rustic feel of an Italian market.
As we ate lunch and paired all the vintages with amazing courses of salumi, chucks of parmeggiano drizzled with a balsamic reduction, polenta and porchetta I was just taken aback to the consistency of elegance in this particular wine. The 1983 was almost a light wine that may have gone past its peak but I could taste the balance nonetheless. The 1985 was just out of this world with notes of coffee and chocolate on the nose and a well-aged palate that was smooth yet deep with just a hint of vanillin to cut through the fruit. We continued through the years and enjoyed them all. The vintages that stuck out for me though were the 1985 and the 1991. These years showcased for me the reason this tasting was arranged. Elegance. You can feel the rustic characteristics of fruit and spice in the wine but within those characteristics are the fine nuances of the chocolate and coffee I just mentioned that bring a velvet quality to the balance. They are deep and dark and full of flavor just waiting to be married with a country style Italian meal.
This wine geek was in heaven. I must say this was a high end tasting and my mission to talk about approachable prices has been swayed but only fort a day. I just had to pipe in and talk about how amazed I was that this rustic style wine could achieve such elegant heights. I believe if you look around you can find the most recent vintage of Zanna for about thirty bucks. So if you are having a special dinner on a cold night with some good friends or if you are really into southern Italian wines and want to find one you can age this is a nice choice. Thank you, Andrea for the opportunity to sample some great vintages and share lunch with a group of very nice, wine loving people.