Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Wine Diary

One of the things I enjoy sampling when I travel is the local wine (along with beer and other beverages, for that matter). And, one of the ways I like to travel vicariously when I am at home is by drinking wines from various faraway places. So, I am probably overdue launching a wine diary on this site that lists what I have been drinking, what it went well with, and other details that might be of interest to readers. I will be striving primarily to provide useful information rather than the often baffling and arbitrary comments that accompany many standard wine reviews. Listed in parentheses are the dates I and/or my wife consumed the vintage being discussed. Questions and comments are welcome!

Laetitia "Brut Cuvee," c. $16. (December 1, 2012). It has become fashionable in recent years to dismiss champenoise-style wines as generally disappointing and consumed only by bourgeois people who don't know any better. Fortunately, I am neither fashionable nor bourgeois, I do know better, and I truly enjoy a nice glass of sparkling wine, so I was glad to discover this particular vintage. This decent cuvee is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir that, as its vintner says, is "complex, elegant, and youthful," and which is fairly dry and tart, with hints of citrus. I expect it would pair especially nicely with salmon, trout, or other freshwater fish but, admittedly, enjoyed it only as an aperitif (one bottle serving me in this capacity over the course of three days).

Jumilla "El Campeador," 2011, c. $16 (November 29-30, 2012). I was looking for a nice wine to pair with homemade tapas one evening and made a good choice with this Spanish Syrah/Monastrell/Petit Verdot blend, a complex, semi-dry, medium dry red wine with a somewhat tanniny finish. Its name, "the champion," is according to the vintner a tribute to the hero El Cid (appropriate in that he was noted for striving to drive a teetotaling people off the Iberian peninsula). I think it would go well with just about any sort of Mediterranean style food, and I enjoyed it with some chick peas broiled with sesame oil and red pepper. As much as any red wine, and moreso than many, this vintage benefits from breathing a little while before drinking.

Castello del Poggio "Moscato D'Asti," 2010, c. $16 (September 2012). What is it about certain Italian white wines that they have the effect of putting me in a good mood? Maybe it is the very slight fizziness characteristic of some of them, subtle enough in the case of the vintage I am writing about here that I might not even have consciously noticed if I had not opened the opened the bottle and poured a glass myself. This delicious, full-bodied sweet white wine is superior for its type and is full of fruit flavors with an emphasis on fresh melon and hints of honey. It is wonderful as either an apéritif or a desert wine, and I enjoyed it both alone and with some ripe green grapes and think it would pair very nicely with many other sorts of fresh or dried fruit (although I would not recommend it as an accompaniment for any sort of actual meal, based on my preferences for drier vintages with most food).

Frei Brothers Reserve "Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon," 2008, c. $22 (February 25 and March 1, 2012). My wife and I cracked open this nice bottle of red wine -- which our friend Jon Reichman brought us during his recent visit to Texas -- to accompany a marinated sirloin steak that we grilled one Saturday night and enjoyed with sweet peppers sauteed with goat cheese and some white rice. We only drank about two-thirds of it and I finished up the balance of it five days later with a simple dinner consisting of it and a plate of macaroni-and-cheese.
It is a fairly dry, full-bodied wine with a complex palette of flavors and complemented both meals perfectly. I have been partial to Alexander Valley wines since about 2000, when my friend Chip Cassano and I drove through it during a road trip up the West Coast, and recommend this appelation in general and this product of it in particular.

Tangent Winery "Sauvignon Blanc," 2009, c. $16 (February 29, 2012). My wife selected this wine to accompany spaghetti with a vegetarian sauce made with artichoke hearts, tomato, onion, and garlic, and in that it was tangy and not sweet it paired perfectly. We had some dried pineapple for desert with our second glasses but, while this sort of fruit is a nice accompaniment to many white wines it was a bit too sweet to go well with this one. "This vintage is bright and racy, with flavors of passion fruit, pear, lemon and grapefruit," says Christian Roguenant. "Minerality notes, lively acidity, and green grassy elements balance the wine nicely. It finishes long with a touch of zesty lime. My favorite wine with oysters, it pairs well with most all seafood." I agree on all counts and look forward to trying this one with some fresh oysters!

Carinena "El Bombero Seleccion 15% Especial," 2008, c. $16 (February 24, 2012). This is a fun and particularly potent Spanish red grenache wine, in that it has a 15% alcohol content, as compared with the almost universal 12.5% for other vintages. We enjoyed this with grilled pork shortribs -- a fairly heavy meal -- and this full-bodied, slightly hot-to-the-tongue wine paired very nicely with them.

Tenuta Ca'Bolani "Prosecco," 2010, c. $16 (February 19, 2012). This Italian frizzante wine was, on top of everything else, a fun surprise for us, in that we were not paying particular attention and were expecting it to be a regular white wine. I had actually been feeling a bit down and felt immeasurably more upbeat just one sip into a glass of this nice northeastern Italian "champagne."
While it had a bit of a fruity finish, it was dry enough that it paired nicely with our broiled steelhead salmon (I loathe sweet wine with most food and so was sensitive to how well this would accompany a meal). For desert we had some strawberries and dried pineapple, both of which compliment many white wines in general and a decent sparkling wine in particular. According to the vintner, it is "gently pressed and vinified at low temperature to retain the lively, fresh, aromatic orchard fruit, white blossom, and sweet almond character."