Let The Good Wine Flow

With the busy work period ending last week and the July 4th holiday weekend rapidly approaching this week, work has been fairly quiet. Many of my officemates are on vacation, people that I normally collaborate with from other offices aren’t returning emails, and my phone is oddly quiet. Don’t misunderstand; I’m enjoying the quiet, the slower pace, and the shorter work hours. However, it doesn’t make for an interesting workday. That said, with my opening of the bottle of Silver earlier in the week, at least my wine choices finally have moved from the average to the intriguing. The 2007 Edna Valley Pinot Noir, which I also opened this week, kept the excitement going.

The 2007 Edna Valley Pinot Noir (vineyard, snooth) was a medium ruby color and had rapidly forming legs. On the nose, there were cherry, raspberry, and pomegranate aromas mixed with a variety of cooking spices—mostly cloves, nutmeg, and vanilla. This Pinot Noir kept asking to be smelled because the fruits and spices blended so beautifully. In the mouth, the fruit and spice flavors were bold and very similar in character. The medium tannins, medium alcohol, and medium body made for a nice overall balance.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one! What are you waiting for? At $23, you will have a delicious red wine that has surprising complexity, isn’t overly fruity, and is perfect drinking with or without food. I actually spent three days with this wine, which gave me the opportunity to drink it with food, as well as enjoy the wine on its own. Both food nights were also chances for me to use our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) produce from Great Country Farms. The first night I paired the wine with a well-spiced, broiled chicken and spicy rice and kale, and on the second night, I paired the wine with a chicken, snow pea, and broccoli stir-fry. While both pairings worked well, I admit that the wine paired better on night 2 with less spicy foods. I think it would also work with salmon, gamey meats, and grilled chicken. By night number 3, the fruit flavors dominated the spice flavors, and the wine was a little jammy tasting, but it was still very drinkable and very good.

Overall: 4.5 Corks

The Search for Silver

Back in April, while I was studying for my WSET Intermediate Certificate, I would reward myself on Sunday evenings for spending the weekend studying with a trip to my local wine bar. While I was there, I had my first experience with the 2006 Silver unoaked Chardonnay. As I often emailed and twittered (@Alleigh) during these tastings, I sent a message to several of my girlfriends telling them that I had just tasted one of the best Chardonnays I’d ever had, although, at that point in my wine education, I don’t know that I fully appreciated its artistry.

My girlfriends were intrigued by my description of the wine, particularly the few that said they didn’t like Chardonnay. I was convinced that they would feel differently about this wine, and I knew the perfect time to share the Chardonnay with them. This group of 7 ladies, who all live in different parts of the USA, were planning a small get-together around this time, and while I couldn’t join them, I decided to try and ship a bottle for them to try. Admittedly, I waited until the last minute and my efforts were thwarted because, at the time, I couldn’t ship the wine to Indiana because of state restrictions. I started to panic. Finally, an email frenzy began on the day the girls were all leaving, and several started calling their local wine stores to see if the store carried the 2006 Silver Chardonnay. After numerous calls (it was difficult to find), the Michigan ladies came to the rescue. They were able to find a bottle at Papa Joe’s Gourmet Market & Catering, so on the way to Indiana, the two women (and a baby) made a quick detour to purchase a bottle. With all the anticipation, I’m sure it was hard for the Chardonnay to live up to their expectations, but the group proceeded to email me while they enjoyed the bottle. Even though I missed drinking it with them, I was definitely there in spirit.

With a history like this, I couldn’t help but turn to the 2006 Silver Chardonnay this past Monday evening. Lately, I’ve felt like everything is average. Work has been average—I‘ve accomplished what I need to accomplish and there hasn’t been anything negative happening, but, at the same time, there hasn’t been anything truly exciting either. Even more disappointing, the wine I’ve opened has been average—not bad, all drinkable, but not speaking to me either. I needed something thrilling, so I opened the bottle of Silver to see if it was everything I remembered. And it was…

The 2006 Silver Chardonnay (winery, snooth) is an unoaked Chardonnay from the Mer Soleil Winery and is only the second vintage of this particular wine. It’s a medium lemon color, with some green flecks that speak to its relative youth. On the nose, there was a delicious and unusual combination of aromas. Citrus (lemon and lime) and green fruit aromas (apple and pear) dominated, but they were met with a hint of tropical fruit scents (pineapple). There was also a nice minerality mixed in with the fruits. In the mouth, there were strong lime flavors that were moderated by mango and pineapple flavors. There was also a hint of wet stone. The wine had a nice acidity and alcohol, with a fairly long finish.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one! What are you waiting for? At $43, some may consider this a little expensive for an everyday wine. However, wine is the winemaker’s form of artwork, and the 2006 Silver Chardonnay is a true masterpiece. It combines the crisp acidity and citrus flavors of a Chablis, which is a cool climate Chardonnay, with the tropical fruit lusciousness of a hot climate Chardonnay. The result is an unusual tasting wine with a medium body and a bit of tingle/fizz on the mouth, but enough acidity to be light and refreshing. The 2006 Silver Chardonnay would pair well with food, particularly white fish, shrimp, or summery fettuccine alfredo, but is also very enjoyable on its own.

Overall: 5 Corks

TTT&T: Red Fruit? Black Fruit?

In the case of red wines, aromas and flavors are usually broken down into two categories—red fruits and black fruits. What’s key to pinpointing whether you have a red or black fruit wine is trying actually to identify a particular fruit type. For example, it’s not enough just to think that the wine smells like a red fruit. What red fruit aromas are there—cherries, strawberries, etc? This type of identification not only helps confirm that the wine is indeed a red fruit wine, but also will help hone your sense of smell. If you can’t identify a particular type of red fruit, maybe your initial reaction was wrong and it’s actually a black fruit wine. Can you identify a particular black fruit, maybe black cherries or plums?

Identifying whether you smell red fruits or black fruits can help determine the wine type, or at least the types of grapes that dominate a blend. Without boring you with a list of every red grape variety and stating whether it generally has red fruit or black fruit characteristics, I’m going to make a few recommendations and observations. I find red fruits easier to identify than black fruits. With that in mind, if you want to try fruit identification in a red wine, I recommend starting with a Pinot Noir or a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which is a Grenache-dominated blend. Both types of wine are good try for identifying red fruits because of their fruit-forward characteristics. If you want to try the identification, but rather start with a black fruit wine, I recommend a Shiraz/Syrah, particularly an Australian Shiraz, as they’re also often very fruit-forward wines.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to practice with wine that has already prepared tasting notes. It’s the perfect way for the novice wine-drinker to get help guiding his/her senses through a tasting, as well as for the veteran taster to test him/herself to see if s/he can smell and taste the same things.

Common Red Fruit Aromas/Flavors in Wine
Red currants
Red plums

Common Black Fruit Aromas/Flavors in Wine
Black cherries
Black currants
Black plums

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.