Waiting, Wanting, Hoping for More

As a break from work on Friday, a coworker and I went to one of the best wine stores in the DC.  It’s a little distracting to know that this place is within walking distance from my office, but I try to limit my trips to a Friday afternoon treat.  On this particular visit, my friend and I focused on the Australian wines, since I said that I was looking to do more exploration of the reds from down under.  As a fan of Elderton winery, an appreciation that was shared by the wine guy from the store, my friend recommended the 2005 Elderton Shiraz (winery, snooth).

As you may have guessed, before writing up each wine, I do a little research on the winery.  Sometimes I find information that that gives a better perspective on the wine or speaks to a particular interest.  Considering the feedback in “green” wines that I received after last week’s reviews of the Benziger Signaterra wines, I thought the environmentally-friendly practices at Elderton were worth mentioning.  When I bought the wine, I was unaware of their winemaking philosophy, but I was interested to learn that Elderton was the first South Australia winery to use the Trees for Life Carbon Neutral program.  The program’s certification ensures that Elderton examines their carbon footprint and offsets their emissions by planting trees.  According to the website, in 2007, Elderton planted more than 4,000 trees with this in mind.  Additionally, the winery is in the process of switching to biodynamic viticulture and expects to release their first biodynamic Shiraz this year.  While the move towards biodynamic and organic wine is clearly still in transition, if the philosophy is something that is important to you, Elderton’s wines may be something that you want to explore.

As for the 2005 Shiraz itself, it had a medium-to-deep purplish-ruby color that signaled the complexity of the wine.  On the nose, I was excited by everything I found.  The sweet black fruit aromas—black cherry, blackberry, blueberry—dominated, but didn’t overpower.  Beyond the fruits, I smelled sweet spices—mostly licorice, cloves, and some powdered cocoa.  Hiding behind all of those aromas, a light touch of vanilla and black pepper rounded out the wine.  In the mouth, I was a bit taken aback by how “hot” the wine was, which I admit made me feel that the alcohol was slightly out of balance with the flavors, the acidity, and the tannins.  The alcohol actually seemed to take away from the juiciness of the black fruits.  Those flavors, though, matched what I found on the nose and were followed by licorice, cloves, powered cocoa, and nutmeg flavors, which added a spicy, sweetness.  The intensity of the tannins matched the intensity of the flavors, so the tightening around my gums, combined with the full-body of the wine, added to the depth.  It was the alcohol level that didn’t work for me.

Was this worth a glass after work?  Sure.  To be honest, I feel like I should be more excited about this wine.  It was very complex, offering a wide range of aromas and flavors.  However, the high alcohol took away enough that it left me wanting more from it.  That said, at $30, the 2005 Elderton Shiraz is a wine that has a lot to offer from a winery that is trying to be eco-conscious.  The wine drinks ok on its own, but is better paired with food to help tone down the alcohol.  It was with food that the wine really showed its potential.    

Overall: 3 Corks

Reds, Whites, and Bios! Oh, My!

As if working full time in a 50-60 hour a week job and taking wine classes isn’t enough to keep me busy, I’m also on the Board of Directors for my condo association. One of my BOD responsibilities is chairing the social committee, which clearly meant organizing a wine tasting! After contacting almost all of the wine stores in Arlington about holding the event, I only received responses from two—Grand Cru Wine Bar & Euro Café was by far the easier store to work with. I outlined the association’s budget, and they worked with Republic National Distributing Company wine specialist Andy Hoyle to pick out wine options for our tasting. The BOD decided on 4 wines, although Andy surprised us with several extras, including the Signaterra wines by Benziger.

While I’ll share short overviews of all the wines we tasted, I can’t help but focus on the Signaterra wines. According to Andy, Benziger has been selling limited quantities of these wines onsite, but it’s only recently that they’re appearing in restaurants and wine stores. Therefore, while the wines may not be available at your wine store yet, start asking for them. Besides being unique and tasty, Andy explained that attendees at last night’s wine tasting were among the first in Virginia to try these wines. That was a double bonus for us!

Signaterra uses organic and biodynamic viticulture methods. Biodynamic viticulture is based on the ideas of Austrian philosopher/scientist Rudolf Steiner, and The Wine Anorak has an interesting and thorough explanation of the process, if you’re looking for more information. The Signaterra website describes the philosophy well, though, as they say the wines are about “integrating the right resources of the Earth, the inescapable forces of Nature, and the attentiveness of Man into a distinctive wine. Admittedly, I’m skeptical about the idea that biodynamic methods produce better quality wine, but regardless, all three of these are delicious. I actually ended up buying a bottle of each at the event.

With that introduction…let’s talk about the Signaterra wines—the 2007 Shone Farm Sauvignon Blanc, the 2007 Bella Luna Pinot Noir, and the 2006 Three Blocks.

2007 Benziger Signaterra Shone Farm Sauvignon Blanc
This Sauvignon Blanc had a clean, medium lemon color. On the nose, there were strong fruit aromas—particularly grapefruit, although there was also some lime, peach, and apricot. I found the same fruits when tasting the wine, and they were joined with a hint of wet stone mineraliness that kept the wine from being dominated by fruit. The wine also had a bright, pleasing acidity.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely! If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $35 a bottle, this wine is not only environmentally friendly, but also palate and food friendly.

Overall: 4 corks

2007 Benziger Signaterra Bella Luna Pinot Noir
The Pinot Noir was hands-down the favorite wine of the night.
Several people came up to me to say that they normally don’t drink Pinots, but that this one was very flavorful and enjoyable. At the same time, I also had a couple of people tell me that they were big Pinot fans and that this was among the best they’d tasted. I thought it was interesting that the Bella Luna was able to straddle the Pinot/Non-Pinot lover line.

The color of the wine was a nice intensity that matched the robust strawberry and red cherry aromas. The red fruit was followed by a hint of white pepper and an earthy depth that gave the wine character overpowering the other aromas. In the mouth, the flavors matched what I found on the nose. The medium tannins and low acidity resembled what you would expect from a Pinot, although the wine had a slightly more substantial body and finish than I anticipated.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one! What are you waiting for? At $55, this wine is a little more expensive than many of the “every day” wines that I review, however, it’s worth every penny. This wine is so smooth and inviting that it’s great for drinking on its own, but also would pair nicely with seasoned meat like a pork tenderloin or with a grilled salmon.

Overall: 5 corks

2006 Benziger Signaterra Three Blocks Bordeaux blend
The Three Blocks Bordeaux blend was my least favorite of the Signaterra wines, although I wonder if I needed more time to really sit and think about the wine, as there was a lot happening with it. The Three Blocks is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon and 36% Merlot, with a deep purplish-ruby color. The wine had strong dark fruit aromas—mostly plums—followed by the smell of powdered cocoa. In the mouth, I found similar plumy flavors, although the cocoa turned into more of a sweet spice taste. The wine had strong tannins, although it was well-balanced. There were some tartrates in my glass, which had some attendees concerned, but, as I mentioned in this week’s TT&T post, tartrates are nothing to worry about.

Overall: 3.5 Corks

The other wines we tasted:

2006 Paso Creek Zinfandel, which I reviewed in March.

2006 Valley of the Moon Barbera (vineyard; snooth), which I will review in a separate post, as I was able to take a leftover bottle home with me.

2006 Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon (vineyard; snooth)
This wine had aromas of burnt tar and blackberry. In the mouth, there were strong tannins that pulled on your gums, but helped contribute to the balance between the bitterness of the tar flavors and the sweetness of the blackberries. This was a big, juicy Cab and would be great with a steak and potato dinner.

Planeta La Segreta Rosso (vineyard; snooth)
This wine had an interesting mix of flavors and aromas, as there was a mix of red and black fruits. The wine is a blend of 50% Nero d’Avola, 25% Merlot, 20% Syrah,5% Cabernet Franc, and had medium tannins and a nice body. Overall, it was good. Not the best wine of the night, but something that is definitely drinkable.

Erath Pinot Gris (vineyard; snooth)
This Pinot Gris smelled and tasted of ripe melons and grapefruit. In the mouth, there was also a hint of mineral. Overall, it wasn’t terribly complex, but it was enjoyable.

2007 Vaca Chardonnay
The Vaca Chardonnay had a strong buttery, tropical fruit smell and tasted like buttered, ripe banana and vanilla. There was a hint of green apple in the finish, but it was very faint. Oaky chardonnay is NMS, so I wasn’t a huge fan. However, the wine was a good quality and had a nice balance, so if it’s a style you like, this is a wine you should check out.

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TTT&T: Clarity in Your Wine

When you try to determine the clarity of your wine, you’re really looking for two things—how clear the wine is and if there is any sediment. 

First, and this may seem obvious, your wine should be clear.  Depending on the depth of the color of your wine, this may be difficult to determine, but make sure that you are judging the wine on whether it is dull or murky looking and not on the depth of the color.  A clear wine can be deep colored.  However, if a wine is cloudy, you know it’s likely flawed. 

If you’re having trouble determining the clarity of your wine, remember to tilt your glass.  As you do that, look through the liquid that is closer to the rim, rather than looking through the center of the glass.  You should be able to determine clarity with the wine glass in this position. 

Second, you should check your wine for sediment, not because the sediment is a bad thing (it’s not), but because it gives you some information about the wine.  The most common forms of sediment are caused by aging (mostly in red wines), by lack of filtration, or by tartrates (mostly in white wines).  As wines age, there is a breakdown of pigment and tannins that collect at the bottom of the bottle.  This sediment, which is like the sediment you will find in an unfiltered wine, can be bitter tasting, but is completely harmless.  If you have crystals that look like shards of glass in your white wine, or like red sugar crystals in your red wine, don’t panic!  These are tartrate crystals and indicate that the wine was exposed to cold temperatures after it was bottled.  These crystals are also harmless.  As a slight aside to help with your next game of Trivia Pursuit, these tartrate crystals also form on the inside of barrels during the wine making process.  When this happens, they’re scraped off and turned into cream of tartar.  

Singing with My Grüner Veltliner

Last week was an exciting workweek for me.  Sure, the recent flood of meetings continued, but a little excitement was interjected into it all when I went to a mid-week, early-morning briefing.  I admit it; I was grumpy when I was handed the invitation to the breakfast.  Immediately, I noticed that I had to wake-up earlier than usual and schmooze with people before I had a chance to have coffee number 3 for the day.  Plus, the topic of the briefing really was only tangentially within my area of expertise, so that of course made me a little edgy (one doesn’t want to look stupid in front of her colleagues).  It wasn’t until I arrived and the first speaker was introduced that I realized Goldie Hawn was one of the panelists!  Luckily for me, part of why I was there was to talk to one of the other panelist, so when I went up to say hello to him, he quickly introduced me to Ms. Hawn.  In an effort to remain professional, I didn’t have a chance to take a picture with her.  Truthfully, I didn’t have a chance to do much more than shake her hand, but it was still an exciting and out-of-the-ordinary way to start the day! 

Since my day started with a twist of something different, I decided that I wanted to end it with a wine that continued the trend of being out-of-the-ordinary, or at least out-of-the-ordinary for me.  Being that it has been incredibly hot here, the 2007 Laurenz und Sophie Singing Grüner Veltliner (vineyard, snooth) looked like it would be both something different and something refreshing. 

The Singing Grüner Veltliner was a clear lemony yellow. The wine had fresh, wet stone aromas that were followed by hints of green apples and green grapes.  In the mouth, the wine had very minerally flavors, with only a touch of fruitiness—some apricots, along with the green apples and green grapes I found on the nose.  A crisp acidity played well with the dryness and the alcohol to give the wine a pleasant balance.  The flavors lingered in the mouth a little longer than I expected, particularly because the wine was so light. 

Is this worth a glass after work? If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed.  At $14, this wine is a nice, easy drink.  In the description on the back of the bottle, there is a question about why the wine is called the Singing Grüner Veltliner, although the question is left unanswered, saying that the drinker should come up with the reason.  After experiencing this wine, I think that it’s called the Singing Grüner Veltliner because it leaves your wallet and your taste buds singing for joy because you didn’t have to spend a fortune on a quality, approachable, and enjoyable white wine.

Overall: 3.5 Corks