Books, Haikus, and Wine

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Anne mentioned that she had an extra ticket to Michael J. Gelb’s book launch, and she asked if I would like to attend with her.   The event included a wine tasting, some food, and a copy of Gelb’s book.  Combine all of that with Anne’s good company and there was no way I was going to miss the event.  So, Monday night after work, I headed to Zola Wine & Kitchen, where the DC launch for Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking: Uncork Your Creative Juices was held.

Overall, the event was fun and well attended.  There were 5 wines to taste—2 French rosé sparkling wines, 2 Sicilian red wines, and 1 French dessert wine.  There were also some delicious hors d’œuvres, which were made while we were watching, and wonderful cheeses and chocolates.

Gelb’s approach to tasting wine is differs from the traditional taste-and-take-notes approach in that it focuses on the idea of using wine as a muse.  Therefore, after we all had a chance to get comfortable and taste a few sparkling wines, he read a little from his book and then asked all of us to write wine-inspired poetry instead of traditional tasting notes (I did a little of both).  He then collected what everyone wrote and read several winners aloud.  While mine wasn’t chosen as a winner, I think that was because there wasn’t enough grape juice flowing to get my creative juices going.  That said, here is my Haiku:

Juiciness takes over,
Luscious and warm in my mouth.
Wine is perfection.

Michael Gelb reading from "Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking: Uncork Your Creative Juices"

As for the wines themselves, the night started with bubbly—a Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé and a François Billion Brut Rosé Champagne Spécial.

The Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé (vineyard, snooth) was made with 100% Pinot Noir grapes.  The sparkler was a light, salmon color with persistent bubbles.  On the nose and the mouth, there were red fruits and flowers, with a hint of toastiness.  The wine had nice acidity, was refreshing, and made for a pleasant start to the tasting.  At $20, this is definitely a sparkling wine worth looking into.
Overall: 3.5 corks

The François Billion Brut Rosé Champagne Spécial (vineyard, snooth) was a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes.  The wine was a medium pink, with a lot of small, persistent bubbles.  The sparkler had a beautiful nose, full of toast and a hint of strawberries and cherries.  In the mouth, there was toast, cream, cherries, and strawberries.  The wine had a crisp acidity, which was very refreshing.  At $55, this wine was by far the best of the night.
Overall: 4.5 corks

The two red wines were both made in Sicily from the Nero d’Avola grape—the Cossentino and the 2006 Feudo Maccari Saia.

The Cossentino Nero D’Avola (snooth) was a deep purple.  On the nose, there were big fruits, lots of wood, and some herbaceousness.  In the mouth, the wine had something “funky” mixed in with blackberries.  It was very acidic, and even at $12, it’s not a wine I would recommend.
Overall: 2 corks

The 2006 Feudo Maccari Saia Nero d’Avola (vineyard, snooth) was also a deep purple.  On the nose and in the mouth, there were blackberries, cooking spices, and lavender.  The wine had a full, luscious body, with smooth, soft tannins.  At $42, this wine offers something a little different from the better-known Italian wines.  If you’re looking for a new grape, this Sicilian red is worth considering, even at the higher price-point.
Overall: 3.5 corks

The last wine of the night was an intense dessert wine that paired beautifully with Zola Wine & Kitchen’s handmade chocolates.  My favorite was pairing the salted caramel squares with the 2007 Domaine du Mas Blanc Rimage Banyuls (vineyard, snooth).  The Rimage was a dark, inky purple.  On the nose and in the mouth, there were ripe dark cherries, raspberries, and cocoa dust.  The fuller body mixed nicely with the creaminess of the caramel in the chocolate.  At $30, this wine is a nice dessert wine that isn’t overly sweet.
Overall: 3.5 corks

I was surprised to be the only blogger at the event, but that worked out well, as it gave me a chance to talk with Gelb not only about his books, but also about wine blogging and twittering. I was also thankful that Anne was able to give me the ticket for $30 instead of the full-priced $60, as that was probably a little over priced for this event.  That said, I had a good time tasting wine, listing to other attendees’ wine-inspired writing, and meeting Michael Gelb.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts on Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking: Uncork Your Creative Juices, once I’ve had a chance to read it.  In the meantime, Kudos to Heather Freeman PR, Hooks Books, and  Zola Wine & Kitchen for putting together a good event and to Michael Gelb for publishing his latest book.

Falling For The Alluring Ondine

2004 Oriel Ondine Sauternes

Friday was a fairly quiet day at work.  I had a few meetings, but, for the most part, I was able to spend the day reading emails, returning phone calls, and just generally catching up on the work that I put aside over the last two crazy weeks.  For as unusually quiet as my workday was, my night at home was even quieter, as Hubby went on an overnight trip to Atlantic City with some of his guy friends.  Therefore, on my way home, I stopped by Harris Teeter to grab dinner for myself and the local wine store to buy a bottle that I thought would be perfect for a quiet night with a good book and a girlie movie.

The 2004 Oriel Ondine Sauternes (company, snooth) was 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc grapes and had a beautiful, dark gold color.  On the nose, there were lemon, smoke, caramel, and honey aromas, followed by a touch of pink grapefruit, apricots, and hand-wipes.  In the mouth, there were canned mandarin oranges, apricots, lemons, and a touch of burnt caramel.  The wine had a voluptuously full body with nice acidity to keep it tasting fresh.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for? At $30 for 375 ml, the Oriel Ondine was a luscious dessert wine that lives up to the stories of the mythological water nymph that it’s named after.  While I drank most of the wine on its own, it paired nicely with the fried chicken breast I had for dinner, as the sweetness balanced out the grease and salt in the chicken.  As someone who generally drinks regular wines instead of dessert wines, the Oriel Ondine was a nice break in routine and definitely a wine that I would buy again.

Overall: 4.5 Corks

Endings to the Spanish Wine Course

The last regions we covered before taking our exam on the final day of the The Wine Academy of Spain’s Spanish wine course were Condado de Huelva, Málaga & Sierras de Málaga, and Montilla Moriles. After going over the slides on each area, we had our final two tastings.

Tasting #3 on Day 3
(sorry that there are no pictures!)

3 Corks

2006 Veleta Tempranillo VdT (winery)
90% Tempranillo, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot
Ruby with purple flecks
Medium-to-high Acid
Medium body

2006 Veleta Cabernet Sauvignon (winery, snooth)
Very ruby
Ripe cherries and plums
Medium tannins and acid
Medium body

2006 Veleta Nolado’s (winery)
40% Cabernet Franc, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Tempranillo
Ruby with flecks of purple
Strawberry, blackberry, fennel, and rose petals on the nose
Violets, Strawberry, and blackberry in the mouth
Low-to-medium tannins and acid

2005 Finca Moncola Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah (winery)
70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah
Ruby with a purple tinge
Strong green and black olive aromas, followed by black plums, black currant, and spices on the nose
Lots of olives and black fruits in the mouth
Medium tannins, low-to-medium acidity

Tasting #4 on Day 3

2008 Botani Moscatel Seco (winery, snooth)
Grapy, floral, blossoms, & rose petals
Bitter on the finish

Toro Albalá Fino Eléctrico (winery, snooth)
Pale gold
Almonds and something bitter on the nose
Almonds and salt in the mouth
Not as elegant as the Sherry

2006 Jorge Ordóñez & Co Selección Especial (winery, snooth)
Bright, medium lemon with gold flecks
Orange blossoms, dried apricots, honey, lemon peel, and nectarines on the nose
Very Sauterne-like
Honey, white flowers, and nectarines in the mouth
Nice balance between the sweetness and the acidity
Full-bodied, a little syrupy
Long finish

Toro Albalá Cream PX (winery)
Brown with an amber rim
Raisins, prunes, brown sugar, toast, toffee, and caramel on the nose
Raisins, prunes, nuts, and burnt sugar in the mouth
Not too thick
Good balance

1982 Don PX Gran Reserva (Bodega Toro Albalá) (winery, snooth)
Very dark mahogany with an amber rim
Raisins, prunes, coffee, chocolate, licorice, soy sauce, and molasses on the nose
Burnt sugar, raisins, and prunes with a hint of chocolate and licorice in the mouth
Sweet with very high acidity
Body is think and syrupy

Sherry, Sherry Baby, Sherry

The second Sherry tasting on the final day of the The Wine Academy of Spain’s Spanish wine course was comprised of sweet, complex wines. Unlike the first tasting, where most of the Sherry were not my style, each Sherry in this tasting was more delicious than the next. In fact, the last one we tasted (the Nectar PX 7 Years Old) left me wondering what it would taste like poured over warm French toast.

Tasting #2 on Day 3

Apostoles Palo Cortado Muy Viejo (winery, snooth)
VORS (at least 30 years of aging)
Palomino and Ximénez
Medium brown with an Amber rim
Flan, toasted caramel, vanilla bean, with a touch of raisins and prunes on the nose
Almonds, hazelnut, caramel, with a touch of raisins in the mouth
Very complex

Matusalem Oloroso Dulce Muy Viejo (winery, snooth)
VORS (at least 30 years of aging)
Medium-to-dark brown with an amber rim
Pronounced aromas—almonds, raisins, and prunes
Almonds and raisins in the mouth
Sweet, with a slight bitterness on the long finish

Nectar PX 7 Years Old
Deep Mahogany with amber rim
Pronounced aromas—strong raisin, fig, and prune with hints of caramel and brown sugar
Dried apricots, raisins, and prunes with a hint of caramel and brown sugar in the mouth
Like drinking liquid velvet
Very long finish

Oh, Sherry

The third, and final, day of The Wine Academy of Spain’s Spanish wine course was particularly intense because there was an exam looming over all of us. After 6 ½ hours of class, we had an hour to complete our Spanish Wine Educators and Andalusia Wines exam. The exam included blind tasting 8 wines and answer 5 questions about each wine (including identifying the wine), followed by 50 multiple-choice questions. It felt like Extreme Spanish Wine.

Before the exam, though, we went through an introduction to Andalucía, which included a fascinating history of the region, before learning about the history of Sherry and the viticulture and vinification practices.

For those who might be unfamiliar with Sherry, it is a fortified wine from Jerez, Spain. To make Sherry, winemakers start with a base wine, which is then fortified by adding pure grape spirit. The level of fortification determines the aging process, as the lighter Fino Sherry allow for the development of a film of yeast (called flor), which protects the wine from oxidation, and the darker Oloroso Sherry are heavier, darker, oxidized wines. There is a 3-year minimum aging requirement for Sherry, and the aging system (the Solera system) that is used to blend and age Sherry is very important.

Jesus had a wonderful slide that explained exactly how the Solera system works. While the slide only had three levels of botas (the special barrels used to age the Sherry), there are generally 4 levels. A portion of wine is taken from the bottom bota and bottled, leaving space for an equal amount of wine to be transferred from the 3rd level of botas. Once the wine is taken from level 3, there is space for wine from the 2nd level of botas to be added. After the wine from the 2nd level is transferred, the wine from the 1st level of botas replaces it. This leaves space in the 1st level of botas for the addition of new wine.

Tasting #1 on Day 3

Tio Pepe Fino Muy Seco (winery, snooth)
Pale, lemon yellow
Pronounced smell
Almonds, green apples, toast, and salt on the nose
Salt, nuts, and granny smith apples in the mouth
Very dry
Very bitter
Long finish
Could pair with ham, almonds, cheese, asparagus, artichoke, and calamari
Not my style

Viña Ab Amontillado (winery, snooth)
Medium, liquid gold
Stone fruits, nuts, and spices on the nose
Nuts, caramel, and dried apricots in the mouth
Very dry
Not my style

Alfonso Oloroso Seco Palomino 10 years old (winery, snooth)
Amber color
Nuts, dried apricots, vanilla, and cinnamon
Dry, but smooth
Long finish
Might pair nicely with gamey foods
Not my style

Solera 1847 Oloroso Dulce (winery, snooth)
Medium brown with amber rim
Raisins, prunes, figs, walnut caramel, burnt sugar, and candy licorice on the nose
Raisins, burnt sugar, and toffee in the mouth, with a very nutty finish
Sweetness is balanced nicely by the acidity
Very nice!