Welcome to your Black Winer Newsletter for Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Table of Contents

Good afternoon all,

I am still here, just have been busy with special projects as of late. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of two demi-sec (semi-sweet) sparkling wines from Uruguay, and hopefully they will be available in several states by the end of the year (I am also pushing the producer for a doux as well as a dessert wines; if you don't know what a doux is, you will soon).

I finally watched the movie Bottle Shock and liked it. How much of the story is true is always a mystery, but the reality is that both Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay and Chalone Chardonnay beat the pants off of every French Chardonnay in the competition.

On other news, I am bringing in a well-known Philly chef, and am aiming at first doing a television show incorporating both food and wine. We'll probably do a series of small fund raisers in order to shoot the show ourselves, which will definitely consist of some discount wine pourings, but we'll also be looking for places to film [including people's houses and we'd love to shoot on a yacht]. For those local to the Greater Philadelphia region, maybe you can be either background on a shoot, or get to participate as a test subject (we'll through food and wine at you) in an episode.

Well, that's pretty much it. Hope your holiday weekend was great.

Latest Articles

Red grapes making red wine without skin contact, rarer then you might think

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

At the last tasting I was at, Bill [the General Manager and Sommelier] through out some wines from grapes that most people over here are not ever exposed to.  One of the red varieties is called Gaglioppo which is usually compared to Barolo.  While describing the wines, Bill noted that this grape is one of the few red wine grapes that actually has red pulp/flesh, producing red wine without the need for skin contact.  As he was asked about the other ones, he mentioned to the crowd that I might know them.  Weirdly enough, I was actually able to call one of them; the Saperavi grape, of which I recently have tasted two wines from Telavi Cellars (Kindzmarauli and Akhasheni).  These wines were sweet despite being red.  

Well, these types of grapes are referred to as teinturier grapes, from the French word meaning to dye or to stain (think tincture).  And while you might rarely hear of them here, they can easily be found all over Eastern Europe, Asia and South America.  A few of them are Alicante Bouschet, Carmina, Deckrot, Dunkelfelder, Gamay Teinturier, Grand Noir de la Calmette, Kolor, Petit Bouschet, Pinot Teinturier, Royalty 1390, Rubired, Salvador, Sulmer, Tannat and Siebouschet.  If you go on to really start learning about wine grapes, you’ll actually find a plethora of grape varieties that have been derived from crossing teinturier grapes with other grapes, just as horticulturalists come up with new varieties of roses and other flowers.  

Tannat you can easily find in South America, where it is one of the most prominent grapes in Uruguay.  It is sometimes used to produced rosé and also Armagnac, as it’s also easily found in France.  

Well, that’s the article.  Not too much to say, but an interesting thing to know about wine.

Fall Wines

Sunday, September 06, 2009

This is the first time in awhile where I was asked to write an article about a particular subject, and I probably needed it.  As the seasons are changing, we are being affected by the changes in the amount of daylight and the amounts of heat and humidity, which finds us cooling off and down, but not without the all of the joys that spring and summer brought to us.  It's that time of year where our nights start to get a little colder, and even the days start to show a little bit of breeze, as even while we can see the sun, we aren't being warmed by it unless we are standing totally in it.  The seasons change, as do our moods, and we need to find some wines that will perfectly complement it.

The perfect album for this article is playing in the background (El Camino by Adriana Evans), and fall brings a time of reflection and introspection.  Thoughts of happier days, lost loves, smiles and laughs remembered.  And in that, while you're not in a gloomy mood, you are in a serene mood, a mood which should be accompanied by a nice glass [if not a bottle] of the matching vino.  Fall is that time when you can easily listen to some blues, or some laid back jazz filled with some nice horns (trumpets, trombones and saxophones… and bass clarinet if you can find it).  It's time to put away the happy wines, and start enjoying those bouquets that ready you for saving up for the winter months.  These wines will switch the mood into a more serious phase, before you have to prepare for daylight savings time, shoveling snow, scraping ice, and high heat bills.

Starting out with white wines, it's time to move beyond the regular varietals that you are used to, be they either white or red.  I would go with Viognier, Albarino and Pinot Gris for the whites, with maybe Torrentes and Chenin Blanc bringing up the rear.  Oh, yes you can still enjoy Chardonnay, but maybe try a Chablis; it's the same grape, but done in a different style.  Viognier is truly an interesting grape, but I have no seen it tamed so well as by Christine Andrew, which is a sublabel of Ironstone Vineyards out in California.  For Albarino, I would go with Codorníu, S.A's The Spanish Quarter "White", which is made of Albarino and Chardonnay.  It's inexpensive and a nice delight.

While Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape, I find Pinot Gris having much more in robust character and complexity.  I would recommend Kim Crawford's 2007 Marlborough Pinot Gris from Australia (don't get their East Coast Pinot Grigio from New Zealand), Arcane Cellars Pinot Gris 2008 (Oregon), Willm Pinot Gris (France).  However, on the flipside, I would suggest an Old Plains Fun House Pinot Grigio 2008 (Australia) to which I rated a ten.

There are some nice white blends to be considered, like Shoofly Buzz Cut (Australia), Sokol Blosser's Evolution (Oregon), Seven Daughters' White (US) and Camus Vineyards Conundrum (California).

Blush wines are really not in for the fall, unless you find something nice made from Shiraz, Tempranillo or Muscat (Crios de Susana Balboa on the latter).

With the reds, I want to actually open you up to some things that might not have had before.  I'd like to start with Tempranillo, which normally produces a dry red wine that you know as Rioja or Crianza (same grape and wine, just different lengths of aging).  If you like dry, then this is your bet.  However, there is a Spanish Quarter Red that is made with this grape and Cabernet Sauvignon; Ramon Bilboa Volteo is also a wonderful rendering of this combination.  Also, Miguel Torres Celeste Blue Tempranillo 2006 is one of the smoothest Tempranillo's that I have ever had, and I would pick up a case if I were you.

Carmenere is also a great choice, as it's not Malbec (but was confused with it in South America up until a short while ago), and with this I would recommend a Montgras 2007 Carmenere Reserva.

While I am not pushing traditional varietals, I will mention two beauties.  One is a Lapis Luna's Romanza, made of 87% Zinfandel and 13% Great Valley Sangiovese.  I need it, I love it; it is heaven in a bottle.  Mountain View Vintners 2006 Clockspring Zinfandel is also succulent.

Out there and different, but great are Telavi Akhasheni 2005 and Kindzmarauli.  Both are red wines that make you believe that you're drinking a deeper white wine.  They also make a white wine, Tvishi 2005, which is also phenomenal.  I would tell you to definitely try a nice Salice Salentino, which is from Italy, made from Malvasia Nero and Negro Amaro, and usually has an air of spice to it.  Negro Amaro is also a great grape in itself.

For all of you boss players out there, start seeking out Chinato, an Italian dessert wine made with the chinato root giving it some decadent spice.  A nice Ripasso would be nice, or you could up the ante with an Amarone.  Lastly, Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito (passito means sweet, if you don't see this on the label, then you are getting the very dry secco style).

And I can't leave out bubbly.  For this, try Marsecco, a semi-sweet sparkling red made from the Marzimano grape (Castle of Dracula is the producer, believe it or not).  I have seen a couple nice sparkling Pinot Noirs as well as Shiraz.  Gloria Ferrer's Grand Cuvee is wonderful, and put down the blanc di blancs in favor of the blanc di noirs (most people don't realize that Chardonnay is actually a descendent of Pinot Noir). Try a little Franciacorta; it's essentially the Italian equivalent of champagne with Pinot Bianco(Blanc/Blanco) grapes instead of the Pinot Meunier; their Saten is great.

Well, that's it folks.  This gives you some things to enjoy until winter, and something out of the ordinary.  You have whites, reds, blush/rosé, dessert and sparkling.  I didn't put any fortified wines in such as Port, Sauterne or Sherry, because those are best for winter.

Sorry, I'll leave you with the best Port that I have had.  Heitz Cellars Ink Grade Port.  You'll be thanking me for this one.

Latest Reviews

Blackberries, vanilla and oak

Brand NameRosenblum Cellars
Wine NameVintner's Cuvee
AVASonoma Valley
CountryUnited States
Wine ClassRed
Wine TypeCabernet Sauvignon
Alcohol Percentage14.6%
Price$10 - $20s
Site Rating9 (on a scale of 1-10)

Upon just finishing the bottle of their Zinfandel Vintner's Cuvee XXX, I now have the Cabernet Sauvignon Vintner's Cuvee to enjoy.

Immediately, I am awestruck with the tastes of black cherries, black currants, vanilla and the oak barrel aging. While not as fruity as the Zinfandel, this wine stands out all on it's own with prominent vanilla and spice.

This wine is wonderful, and I could see it fitting nicely with some sliced cured meats, curry beef (I made curried steak last week), or spiced poultry. This actually also might be great with some spicy Asian cuisines as well.

Rosenblum Cellars is definitely stoking my interest and now I will be on a quest to try the rest of their releases.

Nice and smooth with almost a little cocoa on the back end

Brand NameRosenblum Cellars
Wine NameVintner's Cuve XXX
AVASonoma Valley
CountryUnited States
Wine ClassRed
Wine TypeZinfandel
Alcohol Percentage14.6%
Price$10 - $20s
Site Rating9 (on a scale of 1-10)

Lately, I have been transitioning to trying more Zinfandel wines as I was floored by the Clockspring Zinfandel as well as the Lapis Luna Romanza (funny thing: I was out in a restaurant, and I ordered a glass of Zin and a glass of Port; the guy immediately brings me White Zinfandel). It's a great red, and it's truly unfortunate that most novice wine drinkers don't really get introduced to it.

Anyway, this is my second wine from Rosenblum Cellars, and while it's not the most expensive wine that they have, it is a lovely thing to behold. The only fruit flavor that I detect in this wine is dark plums; there is no discernible flavor of raspberry or strawberry to me, and not even any currant (okay, there might be a hint of Black currant).

The very smooth tannins in it, though somewhat noticeable -- and by this I mean slightly -- almost give it a leaning towards a nice strong spice like nutmeg or even the faintest hint of cocoa, which is an interesting direction.

While this wine hasn't totally wowed me, I changed my rating of it from an 8 to a 9 based on the reality that it did have an interesting twist to it. (Next I will be reviewing one of the Cabs).

Steel the oak, then out comes a nice red

Brand NameMaison l'Aiglon Saint-Chinian
Wine NameGrand Reserve 2007
Quality/GradeGrand Reserve
Wine ClassRed
Wine TypeCarignane, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz
Alcohol Percentage13%
Price$10 and Unders
Site Rating8 (on a scale of 1-10)

Truthfully, I steer away from French wines just because of the attitude that the French are the 'end-all/be-all' in wine. This is not to say that they're not great at winemaking, nor that there are a ton of French wines that I love drinking, but I am more inclined to search out something different from another part of the world.

However, as the weather is changing, I find myself picking up more red wines than in the summer months. And in that, I chose to pick up a French wine made from Carignan, Grenache and Syrah. This wine show mild levels of tannin, and has a nice understated taste filled with dark plums and maybe just a little bit of raspberry.

It's perfect for someone that likes dry wines, and not bad for someone that can stand just a little bit of dry.

A wonderful white meritage (also, the first one ever that I had)

Brand NameConundrum Wines
Wine NameConundrum
CountryUnited States
Wine ClassWhite
Wine TypeWhite Blend
Alcohol Percentage13.5%
Price$20 - $30s
Site Rating10 (on a scale of 1-10)

I told my buddy (Chef Al Paris) about Conundrum wine the other day, as he really doesn't have an affinity for white wines, preferring the strength that reds behold. Well, his curiosity got the better of him and he chose to pick up a bottle and bring it over. He was actually impressed to hell with it, as it's a wine with a heavy body and a wonderfully complex taste.

While the winemaker won't admin what's in it, I am guessing at least Chardonnay, Viognier and Chenin Blanc. However, other wines that have similar aspects are Sokol Blosser's Evolution and Clayhouse Adobe White.

I would recommend this wine for all to taste, and it's necessarily something to pair with a meal. This is to be enjoyed all on it's on.

Pears, pears, pears

Brand NameWillm
Wine NamePinot Gris
Wine ClassWhite
Wine TypePinot Gris/Grigio
Alcohol Percentage13%
Price$10 - $20s
Site Rating9 (on a scale of 1-10)

This wine is 100% Pinot Gris and is phenomenal. it's filled with the taste of preserved peaches, but Al detected the faint taste of a Yellow/Golden apple. And I had to actually agree!

This wine has a medium body that borders on light, and the taste is composed equally of both the flavors that I previously mentioned that fight for dominance on your tongue. The reality is that you actually get a combination of both of them that would go well if the wine was served by itself. This wine might be great with any top of salads, especially anything with chicken or seafood.

Now we see why the Germans fought over this contested region of France.


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