It’s Friday…Pizza Day!

Friday in my house is pizza day. I’m sure it started with childhood, since both Hubby and I remember having school pizza lunch on Fridays. That nostalgia, plus the reality that by the time Friday rolls around, Hubby and I are tired from a week of work, simply makes pizza on Fridays seem like a natural choice. This week was a good one—my work project is finished and it’s the end of a busy work period, which means that when things start up again on Monday, I’ll have shorter hours—but even with it being a good week, I’m still tired and ready for the weekend. As it was such a good week, though, it probably calls for not only pizza, but also mozzarella sticks and some good wine.

There are few wines that go as well with pizza as Chianti does, as the acidity in the tomato sauce tones down the acidity in the wine. Several Fridays ago, I opened a 2005 Querceto Chianti Classico (winery, snooth) for pizza night. As you may recall from my “Let’s Talk About Labels” post, most European wine labels do not list the type of grape on the label, but rather the region where the grapes were grown. Chianti is an area within Tuscany (Italy) that is well known for wines made with Sangiovese grapes. The Chianti Classico section is the historic area within Chianti that is famous for its wine production.

The 2005 Querceto Chianti Classico was made at Castello di Querceto and was a blend of 92% Sangiovese grapes and 8% Canaiolo grapes that have aged in casks for 10-12 months. The wine was a medium-to-deep ruby color, with flecks of garnet starting to appear on the rim. On the nose, I found blackberry, black cherry, and hints of cedar and powdered cocoa. In the mouth, the cedar was more pronounced than on the nose, but the black fruits still dominated. The wine was well balanced, with nice acidity and tannins.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely! If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $14, this is a great Chianti option for an evening of eating pizza, watching movies, and relaxing. When you pick up a bottle, keep in mind that the 2005 Querceto Chianti Classico can use a little breathing time, so if you can, you should decant the wine before you drink it.

Overall: 3.5 Corks

Attention Whore Alert: I WON!!

Last week, I posted my entry for the Catavino Spanish Wine Education Scholarship competition. The scholarship covers tuition expenses for The Wine Academy of Spain’s 3-day Certified Spanish Wine Course. The winners were announced on CataVino this evening…and I’m one of them!

On August 24-26, I will at Jaleo in Crystal City studying Spanish wine. I’ll spend 3 intense days (8am-5pm) tasting more than 50 Spanish wines from various regions in Spain, learning about the Spanish Appellations, the history of Spanish wine, the various wine styles and grape varieties, the climate, the soils, etc. In addition, day #3 will be an dedicated to Sherry and Andalusia, which will be particularly interesting as my knowledge of fortified wines is pretty limited. The culmination of the class will be an exam for 2 certifications: “Spanish Wine Educators” and “Certificate on Andalusia and its Wines.”

I’m lucky enough to be part of a distinguished group of wine bloggers to attend the course on the CataVino scholarship, although I am the only one attending in DC. Congratulations to fellow scholarship winners—Erica of Bottle of Wine, Mike of Wine Economist, Pamela of Enobytes, Kevin of The Spanish Table, Neil of Wine Expedition, Ryan of Blog Oe-no-phile, and Katie of Gonzo Gastronomy! I look forward to reading about all of your experiences, particularly because the DC course is the second to last one.

I would like to give a special thanks to Gabriella and Ryan at CataVino for organizing an interesting scholarship competition and putting together such an exciting educational opportunity! I’m very excited about attending the course and look forward to blogging about the experience.

PS…if you’re interested in the course, but didn’t apply for the scholarship, check out the course calendar because there is still room available at various course sites throughout the US.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: Take 2

When I reviewed the 2008 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, which was my indoctrination into the world of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, Courtney and Mark mentioned that I should try the Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc (here is Mark’s review on Wine Life 365). While it’s taken me a couple of months to follow-up on the suggestion, I’m glad I did…and I found the perfect day to try it, too.

Tuesday was one of those days those typical DC summer days—hot and humid—and, for the first time in what feels like weeks, it didn’t rain. After a day of playing the “hurry up and wait” game at work and dealing with the hassles of the Metro commute after Monday’s tragedy, when I walked in the door of our condo, I could hardly wait to open a cold, white wine. Thankfully, the Oyster Bay SB was chilled, so I poured a glass, put my feet up, and spent some time decompressing with Hubby and watching some trashy TV. It was the Oyster Bay SB was the well-suited for a quiet, relaxing evening.

The 2008 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc (winery, snooth) was a clear, light-to-medium lemon color and had slow forming legs. On the nose, the wine had nice, classic New Zealand SB aromas—green bell peppers and green apples—followed by some pineapple and a touch of fresh cut grass. In the mouth, the green peppers were the most pronounced, but blended nicely with the granny smith apple and pineapple flavors. There were also very light gooseberry and grass flavors. The wine was had a crisp acidity that was well balanced with the alcohol and body, which made for a refreshing and enjoyable Sauvignon Blanc.

Is this wine worth a glass after work? Definitely! If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $12, this wine is surprisingly good. It drinks very well on its own, but if you’re looking for food to go with it, I think that it would pair well with a salad, chicken stir-fry, or, ironically, oysters. Also, while it still has the classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc bell pepper flavors, it offers more fruity and less vegetal characteristics than the Kim Crawford does. And, for the money-conscious, it was also less expensive.

Overall: 4 Corks

Did I Just Drink Bourbon or Chardonnay?

My office generally has 3 interns a semester and, usually, they’re very willing to help in any way they can, regardless of whether or not the project is exciting. That’s not to say there haven’t been times when I regaled my friends with stories of outrageous intern behavior—the intern who would sit at his desk in his wife-beater instead of his suit, the interns who were caught smoking pot during lunch and subsequently dismissed, and the intern who would put his head on his desk after lunch to take a 30-minute nap every day—but those types of interns tend to be the exceptions, not the rule. Our 2009 summer interns are memorable in a different way. Last Thursday was a busy day, as big projects must be completed by June 26th or wait until after the July 4th holiday. There are several projects, one of which is mine, that have been fast-tracked to be finished before the break, and I found out about this last Thursday. Last Thursday also happened to be the annual staff appreciation ice cream social for the three office buildings where I work. So, while others went out to get bowls full of ice cream on a ridiculously hot day, several of us were stuck at our desks in the bull pen. Our amazing interns, though, brought ice cream back to the office for those of us who were missing the social, and they brought back enough for us to have flavor options! That, combined with the significant progress I made on my work project, left me feeling like Thursday was an auspicious day.

Since I was so lucky, I thought it was the perfect day to try the 2006 Clos Du Bois Calcaire Chardonnay (winery, snooth) from the Russian River Valley. Generally, I’m not a Clos Du Bois fan, even though I feel like I should like the wine, but this wine was given to me by a friend so, I was hoping that the luck from the rest of my day would continue into the evening. Plus, with The Wine Spectator describing the wine as “elegant, refined and focused,” I thought this might be the wine to change my mind about Clos Du Bois.

The 2006 Clos Du Bois Calcaire is 100% Chardonnay grapes and was aged in French oak. The French oak made the wine lighter and less complex than the oaky 2005 Robert Mondavi Chardonnay, but gave it more body than the unoaked 2007 Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre Chablis. The wine was a medium yellow with slow forming legs. On the nose, I initially found green apple, lemon, ginger, and a light toasty-oakiness. The more the wine breathed, though, the more it developed boozy aromas that overpowered the fruit scents. In the mouth, I found green apple, lime, and ginger, which had perfumey undertones that became more pronounced and overpowering as the wine breathed.

Is this worth a glass after work? This is a hard question to answer because on Night 1 the wine was just “eh”, but by Night 2, it was almost undrinkable. Some Internet searching shows the average price to be around $24. At that price, it’s not worth dirtying a perfectly clean wine glass. When drinking the wine on its own didn’t work, I tried to pair it with pan-seared shrimp in chipotle sauce from Cooking for Two: 2009, The Year’s Best Recipes Cut Down to Size. Unfortunately, that didn’t make the wine any better. The best I can say for the 2006 Clos Du Bois Calcaire is that it tasted more like drinking a watered down Bourbon than it did like drinking a Chardonnay, but that was just not working for me.

Overall: 1.5 Corks

Spain, On My Mind

Writing Monday’s post for the Catavino Wine Education Scholarship to attend the Wine Academy of Spain’s 3-day Spanish wine course in DC left me thinking about the Spanish wines in my wine rack—a white Rioja and a red Rioja. Unfortunately, things have still been a bit busy at work and I’m still coming down from the test craziness, so Hubby and I aren’t getting as many home-cooked, sit-down dinners as we would like, but we’re trying. All of that combined with the humidity hitting the DC area with full force and the white Rioja—a 2007 Marqués de Cáceres White Rioja—was calling to me as I put together dinner the other night.

The 2007 Marqués de Cáceres White Rioja (vineyard, snooth) was made with 100% Viura grapes. The wine had a light gold color with legs. On the nose, all of the aromas were fairly light, but I found grapefruit, green apple, and floral scents, with the smallest hint of peaches. In the mouth, the wine was more flavorful than the aromas let on. I found white blossoms, grapefruit, lime, and apple mixed with some mineraliness. The wine was light bodied and neutral tasting with a medium acidity, so it was pleasant and refreshing without being overpowering.

Is this worth a glass after work? Sure…you won’t be drinking anything out of the ordinary, but you’ll definitely have a decent, reliable glass of wine. For $9, a bottle of the 2007 Marqués de Cáceres White Rioja provides a good quality-price-ratio. The wine won’t knock your socks off, but if you’re looking to save a little money without sacrificing quality, this is definitely a wine worth considering. The Rioja is a nice sipping wine while sitting around outside on a hot summer day, as well as a good wine to have with food. I paired the wine with Chicken Curry, and while both the food and the wine were good, they didn’t go well together. However, because of the high acidity and neutral flavors, if you paired the 2007 Marqués de Cáceres White Rioja with seared scallops, grilled fish, or shrimp cocktail, I think you’ll have a nice match.

Overall: 3 corks