Should This Be My Secret Wine?

I know I skipped TTT&T yesterday (sorry!), but my brain was fried. I had my WSET Advanced test on Monday night, so I spent all day Saturday, Sunday, and Monday studying. By the time Tuesday rolled around, my head felt like mush and I was exhausted. Unfortunately, it was also a fairly busy day at work, so I couldn’t sit at my desk trying to lay low and recover, but rather had a lot of reading, several meetings, and some e-mails all hanging over me. When I finally walked into the condo last night, Hubby looked up at me and just laughed, asking “What happened?” Clearly, I was a pitiful sight. He immediately suggested that we go out for dinner, which I greedily accepted. You would think that after dinner and with all the wine studying that I wanted anything but another glass of wine. However, I couldn’t help myself. I was craving something refreshing and light, almost like a palette cleanser to wash away the memories of studying like a madwoman.

The 2007 Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre Chablis (vineyard, snooth) was exactly what I needed. The Chablis is 100% Chardonnay grapes and is unoaked, so there is a light, fresh feel to the wine. It had a clear, medium lemon color and immediately visible legs. On the nose, there were medium-intensity aromas that spoke to the wine’s youthfulness—limes and lemons mixed with stones. There was also just the slightest hint of white peaches. In the mouth, the lemony-lime flavors dominated, followed by the pleasant stony-mineraliness. The wine had a crisp acidity that was balanced with the alcohol, and there was surprisingly long finish.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely! If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $26, the 2007 Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre Chablis offers classic Chablis refreshment without the high prices. Honestly, I think the wine is a steal and am a little concerned about sharing it because I would hate to drive up the price. It’s a wine that drinks well on its own, but probably could pair well with food—think traditional white wine foods like seafood and chicken, maybe even some goat cheese.

Overall: 4

Wanting To Learn More About Spanish Wine (& Win The Catavino Scholarship)

Two and half years ago, Hubby and I were married in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  As part of the planning process, I participated on The Knot’s Destination Weddings message board hoping to find some creative ideas and learn about other people’s experiences with destination weddings.  When I first started posting on the DW board, I had no idea that I would meet an amazing group of women from all of the world.  The wedding is long over, but I still keep in touch with more than 40 of those women—most through email, some as a group on e-mail threads, some on a private discussion board, some through Facebook and Twitter, and some on The Nest.  Amazingly enough, I’ve even met most of these women.  With only a handful living in the DC area, the fact that we’ve met is a testament to how close the group has become over the last 4 years.

These ladies have been very supportive as I started my wine education. Next to Hubby, they were the first to know that I was taking the WSET certification courses.  When I started my blog, they were my first readers—one friend actually offered to send me her favorite wine from a local Kentucky winery because I can’t find it Virginia, but she wants to know my opinion.  Because these ladies and I are so close, once I saw the Catavino Spanish Wine Education Scholarship competition, which would cover tuition expenses to attend the Wine Academy of Spain’s 3-day Spanish Wine Education course in DC, I started sending out e-mails and posting on messages boards to ask my girlfriends why they thought I would want to learn about Spanish Wine.  I explained what they already knew—that I’m loving learning about wine, that my thirst for wine knowledge has become insatiable, and that the idea of an immersion course in one country’s production sounds like fun, but I also admitted that writing a post with these reasons for wanting a scholarship seemed unoriginal, trite, and unexciting. 

I was stunned at the responses.  Instead of crazy ideas for blog posts, most of the women said that they had little-to-no experience with Spanish wine and that they didn’t associate Spain with winemaking.

Courtney (in Canada) said, “I was going to say that I am not a fan of Spanish wines, so I’d skip.”

Carmen (in DC-Metro area) said, “I def don’t recall having any Spanish wines that were very memorable….when I think of wine, CA and France originally come to mind.

Emily (in Maryland) verbalized what I was discovering, “that there’s so much attention given to French wines that places like Spain get skipped right over.”

Although Marcie offered a bright spot by boosting my ego a little when she said, “Girl…you and your wines make my mouth water!”

After some personal reflection on my own experiences with Spanish wine, while fairly limited, they have been positive.  However, I’m certainly not as comfortable with Spanish wine as I am with French, Californian, or Virginian wines.  Part of that is probably because the WSET advanced certificate book covers Spanish still wines in 9 pages, while French still wines are covered in 40 pages.  Part of that is also because until taking the WSET course, I’m not sure that I ever had a Spanish wine.

The fact that my girlfriends (and I) had such little exposure to Spanish wine makes me think that they’re probably not the only ones who read “A Glass After Work” who that are missing out on Spanish wines.  It’s natural to gravitate towards our comfort zone.  Since starting my blog, I’ve tried to push past the wine regions I’m familiar with and explore wines from all over the world, and I’ve discovered a couple of exciting and enjoyable Spanish wines available at very reasonable prices—some of which I’ve already reviewed.  Ultimately, though, my Spanish wine knowledge is still fairly introductory.  I would love to know more so I can find the Spanish wine “gems” and be a better resource for my readers.  As my friend Amanda said when I asked for ideas, Me, I know NOTHING about Spanish wines, and seriously probably would never try one without some direction/education.  I like the idea that you want to learn so you can pass on knowledge to the rest of us.”  And, what better way for me to gain that knowledge than to learn from the best and earn the “Spanish Wine Educators” and “Certificate on Andalusia and its Wines” through the Spanish Wine Education Program.

WBW: “And just like the ocean under the moon, well, that’s the same emotion that I get from you…”

*** I received this wine as a sample***

As I mentioned in a previous post, I just received my first wine sample. I was nervous about reviewing my first sample because I didn’t want to have to post something negative coming right out of the gate, but at the same time, I wanted to be honest in my thoughts. The moment I smelled the 2008 Torbreck Cuvée Juveniles (vineyard, snooth), I knew that I not only had nothing to fear, but also that this would be a great wine for Wine Blogging Wednesday (#58).

This month’s WBW, which is hosted over at Gonzo Gastronomy, is about how music can influence the wine drinking experience. As a music lover who has played the piano since she was 5 years old and the saxophone since middle school, music has always been a part of my life. I played both instruments throughout college and graduate school, and still have a piano in my home, even though Hubby and I live in less than 800 sq ft. These days, my iPod is chock-full of everything from Rachmaninoff to Lady Gaga. That’s part of what made this WBW both exciting and daunting. In the end, I found myself with an enjoyable wine on a sing-along treasure hunt in my iTunes library.

Before I could start tasting the 2008 Torbreck Cuvée Juveniles with music, though, I wanted to set a baseline. So, I read the materials that accompanied the wine and tasted it without any music. The background information explained that Dave Powell, founder of Torbreck Wines, was inspired by a glass of Beaujolais he had while at Tim Johnston’s Juveniles Wine Bar in Paris. Powell left wanting to make a Beaujolais-esque wine at Torbreck, but since Gamay grapes are not easily available in the Barossa Valley, he opted for a blend of 60% Grenache grapes, 20% Syrah grapes, and 20% Mataro grapes.

The wine was a medium purplish ruby with very noticeable legs. On the nose, there were luscious, ripe red fruits—strawberries and raspberries—followed by a hint of cinnamon. In the mouth, the first taste had the hotness I’ve come to expected from Australian red wines. After the initial surprise of hotness, juicy red fruits—strawberries, raspberries, and cherries—emerged, followed by a touch of white pepper and cinnamon. The wine had lower tannins and acid, which makes it nice and light, and it was definitely reminiscent of a Beaujolais.

I actually drank this wine on two different nights, and the second night tasted very different. With a little more time, the Cuvée Juveniles was more jammy than juicy, and the raspberries were more prominent than the strawberries. On the second night, the wine actually reminded me more of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape than a Beaujolais. Readers who have been with me since the beginning know my love for C-d-P, so even though I really enjoyed the wine on the first night, the second night with the 2008 Torbreck Cuvée Juveniles was nearer to my heart.

Once I had tasted the wine on its own and with dinner, I started trying to find different songs to listen to while drinking the wine. Darker finds, like Carrie Underwood’s Before He Cheats, and sultry songs, like Chris Issak’s Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing, dominated because the wine seemed to fit so naturally with these more moody musical choices. I could listen to them and just sink deeper and deeper into the flavors of the wine and the music.

Then I made the mistake of organizing my list by year. Before I knew it, I found finding myself detouring through the 80’s hair band section singing to Bon Jovi’s You Give Love A Bad Name, Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again, and Poison’s Fallen Angel. Of course, a look at the hair bands also meant some quality time bopping with Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and Stacy Q’s Two of Hearts, as well as with boy bands Color Me Badd’s I Wanna Sex You Up and New Kids on the Block. I listened to far too many NKTOB songs, both from back in the day and from this year. Admittedly, though, while fun, none of the songs made the wine speak, or vice versa. G. Love & Special Sauce’s Baby’s Got Sauce got me back on track, as the song mixed with the strengths of the wine—hot and a bit spicy, which helps bring out a little bit of attitude.

While most of the evening was bits and pieces of songs, the following 5 songs are the ones that I really sat and listened to while trying to experience both the wine and the music together. In order of level of success (from least successful to most successful), here was my evening of music and wine:

Ok, I don’t know what wine would go with Shaggy—I actually tried several of his songs (Mr. Boombastic, It Wasn’t Me, That Girl, Angel)—and I just couldn’t get the wine and the music to meld in my mind. I enjoyed the wine and the music individually, but I felt I was experiencing each one its own and that the two were entirely disconnected from each other.

Smetana— Má Vlast: Die Moldau
Má Vlast is a symphony made of 6 pieces about Bohemia.
Die Moldau is one of these movements and is about the Moldau River and its growth from two small springs into a single river as the water travels through woods, meadows, and farmland of the Bohemian country side, over rocks, past the castles, and finally swirls and widens as it reaches Prague before vanishing into the Elbe River.

What I found most interesting during this listening experience was that Die Moldau followed my experiences with the wine. The melody started off light and flowing, while hinting at the dramatic, which is how the Cuvée Juveniles tasted. The fruit forwardness matched the playfulness of the melody, but the spicy, richer flavors in the wine’s finish match the fuller, serious tones of the music as both continued unfold.

Meat Loaf—Paradise by the Dashboard Light
I was surprised how my attitude towards the wine changed with this song. I actually put this song on because I saw it in my playlist and it reminded me of 8th grade dances where the boys stood on one side of the gym singing the boy’s part and the girls stood on the other singing the girl’s part. The song is fairly bee-bop with a honky-tonk piano, some drums, and a guitar—typical Meat Loaf. The wine translated from the serious brooding music I’d been listening to, to the zippy, flirtatious feel really well.

Ani DiFranco—Not A Pretty Girl
The wine fit nicely with the dark and stormy mood of DiFranco’s aggressive guitar.
Both the music and the wine really allowed for relaxation combined with a little bit of contemplation. The music isn’t sexy, so it doesn’t emphasizes that part of the wine, but the emotions of the song match the wine without either being too intense or too depressing.

Santana (featuring Rob Thomas)—Smooth
When I tasted the Cuvée Juveniles, it screamed of a sexiness, so I immediately thought of pairing the wine with Santana. I actually started with this song and backtracked from there because this wine just tasted like the warm, sensuous atmosphere I associate with Santana’s music. Both the wine and the music make you want to light some candles, close your eyes, and breathe deeply before bringing out your best Latin moves and sinking into a steamy evening.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely! If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At the suggested retail price of $25, you will have a good, versatile bottle of wine. The 2008 Torbreck Cuvée Juveniles is a good summer red, and I drank it with a grilled chicken marinated in a red wine and herbs, as well as with pepperoni and sausage pizza. Both pairings were good, although, all you really need to enjoy this wine is a bottle of it, a glass to drink it out of, and some Santana to complete the atmosphere.

Overall: 4 corks

***Special thanks to Katie for hosting a great WBW!***

TTT&T: Smelling the Flaws

When determining if a wine is flawed or not, there are certain smells that typically signal a problem. The level of problem really is dependent upon the drinker him/herself, as burnt match aromas might be ok with me, while band-aid aromas might be ok with you. However, by at least knowing what to look for, you can have a better idea of whether the wine is “just not your style” or if it’s actually flawed. If it’s flawed, definitely bring it back to the wine store or let your server know, if you’re in a restaurant. If it’s just not your style, well, you know not to pick that wine the next time.

As you get ready to smell the wine, remember that you don’t actually have to smell the cork. You may not be able to tell anything from the cork, and anything that you can discern can be discovered from sniffing the wine itself. So, grab your glass and swirl your wine. Don’t be afraid to put your nose into the glass, and then take a nice, deep breath through your nose.

Do you smell wet cardboard or a musty basement?
This is one of the more common types of wine flaws, and it’s often referred to as cork taint or as being corked. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done to “uncork” a corked wine. Having pieces of cork floating in your wine is not cork taint. Can it be unpleasant? Definitely, but it’s a flaw of the person who opened the wine, not of the wine itself.

Do you smell burnt match, rubber, cabbage, garlic, onion, or rotten egg aromas?
This type of flaw is also one of the more common flaws, and often indicates some type of sulfur-related issue. Sometimes the aromas can be removed by aerating the wine, so definitely don’t give up on it immediately. Try swirling the wine around in your glass or letting it breathe a little to see if the unpleasant aromas dissipate, and if so, decanting the wine will help you deal with the problem. I’ve also read that putting a penny in the wine can help, but I haven’t tried that trick. I usually just decant the wine.

Do you smell barnyard, band-aid, metallic, or rancid aromas?
If you do, and you find these aromas unpleasant, there is little that can be done to remove them and make it more palatable. The wine probably has a brettanomyces problem, commonly referred to as Brett. Brettanomyces is a yeast that in small doses can actually add nice aromas to a wine, but in large doses will spoil it.

Do you smell vinegar, nail polish remover, mouse-y, wet wool, or spoiled cheese aromas?
These smells indicate various bacteria problems, and there is little that can be done to remove those characteristics from the wine.

If you only smell the yummy, goodness of wine, then you have nothing to worry about, or at least no flaws to worry about. Drink up! Cheers!

2 Brothers, 1 Great Cause

Last week, the temperature and humidity in the bullpen made it feel like I was working in a tropical rain forest. It was bad enough at the beginning of the week, when it was actually hot outside, because the air conditioning wasn’t working in my office. However, by the end of the week, the heat was on in the office, even though the temperature outside was a fairly reasonable upper-60s/low-70s. Wearing a suit in those types of conditions is just not fun, and it certainly doesn’t make for the best work environment. By the time I got home, I was practically suffering from heat exhaustion. All I wanted was some light food and some cool, crisp wine.

With that in mind, I opened the 2006 2 Brothers Riesling (winery; snooth). I purchased the wine without realizing that the 2 Brothers Winery, which is a partnership between two real-life brothers—Erik and Alex Bartholomaus—donates 50 cents to certain breast cancer research and hospice care charities in honor of their mother, Liliana S. Bartholomaus, who lost her battle against cancer in 2000. The project began in 2002, and by mid-2007, the 2 Brothers Winery donated over $1 million. Since then, they have continued to grow and hope to donate another $1 million by the end of 2009.

As I opened the screw top on the 2006 2 Brothers Riesling, I could smell the pronounced aromas immediately. Then, while pouring the wine into the glass, peach and apricot aromas came wafting up. Thankfully, the intensity dissipated quickly, leaving a medium pronounced smell of stone fruits—peach and apricot—and lime. There were also minerally aromas and a hint of white blossoms. Because the smells were so captivating, I dove right into them without checking the wine’s appearance. So, I had to go back and examine it, and I found the wine to be a pale gold with very slow forming legs. In the mouth, the mineral flavors dominated, but didn’t overpower the peaches and apricots. There was a hint of lime, honeydew melon, and blossoms on the finish. The wine could have had a little more crisp acidity to counter the juiciness, but that is more my preference rather than an actual complaint. Don’t be fooled by fruity descriptions, though, as the wine is not overly sweet.

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 $15 a bottle, you’ll not only be helping a good cause, but also be drinking a good wine. In terms of food, the 2006 2 Brothers Riesling would be nice to have with anything grilled. I drank it with grilled lemon pepper chicken, where the citrus from the chicken combined nicely with the citrus flavors in the wine. The Riesling also went well with hot dogs and mac & cheese, as the wine is light and crisp enough to help cut some of the grease from the hot dogs without overpowering them. If you’re looking to just sit and sip, the Riesling doesn’t have to be paired with food, as it is quite enjoyable on its own.

Overall: 3 Corks