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

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.

Raising The Flag For This Flagship Wine

After two weeks in the bullpen, life is calming down a little.  The room is loud, like people on the other end of the phone ask me if I’m paying attention because there is so much noise in the background type of loud.  However, I have my own little space, so no one is looking over my shoulder at the computer screen, and I have a window behind me with a view of a tree that has beautiful pink flowers, so I can enjoy Spring (although without my beloved balcony).  I admit that with yesterday’s warm weather, I spent a lot of time longingly looking at those pink flowers. 

I think it was the feeling that spring had finally arrived that made me remember there was a bottle of Chrysalis Vineyard’s 2006 Viognier in the refrigerator.  Since I walked in the door before Hubby, I opened the bottle, poured a glass, sliced a chunk from the block of NY Sharp Cheddar in the fridge, grabbed my latest issue of Food & Wine, and settled-in at the little bistro table in our sunroom.  The windows were all open, so there was a nice breeze, and the afternoon sun was beating down on me.  It was perfect!

Chrysalis Vineyard is about an hour outside of DC and sits on the Loudoun and Fauquier County line in Middleburg, VA.  The website calls the Viognier Chrysalis’ “flagship” wine, and after tasting it, I’m not surprised.  The wine has a clear, medium gold color, and in a characteristic Viognier style, the strong fruity aromas rise temptingly out of the glass.  Immediately, I smelled stone fruits—peach and apricot—followed by a slightly less intense honeydew and pineapple.  There was also the smallest hint of lime and of flowers.

Upon first tasting the wine, I was struck by how the fruitiness faded in the mouth and there were only hints of the stone fruits that I found on the nose.  The tartness from the lime was surprisingly strong, although not unpleasant, and the perfume from the flowers disappeared completely.  I thought it was fresh and enjoyable, just crisper and more dominated by citrus flavors than I was expecting.

After a few more tastes and some note writing, I took a bite of my cheddar, opened my magazine, and settled in to read and sip away.  All I can say is WOW!  The sharp cheddar brought out such amazing flavors in the wine that I was surprised it was the same pour.  Suddenly, my mouth was full of white blossoms and ripe peaches.  The tart, citrusy wine from a few sips ago turned into an aromatic, full-bodied mouthful.  A smile spread across my face as I went in for another nibble of cheese and another sip of wine. 

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for?  At $30 a bottle, and a few more dollars for a nice sharp cheddar cheese, your money will be well spent.  Admittedly, on its own, the Chrysalis Viognier isn’t out of the ordinary, although still decent and reliable, but with the right food pairing, the wine catapulted to a glass that I just couldn’t put down.  Plus, any glass of wine that pairs well with cheese is a wine worth having in the house.

Overall: 4.5 Corks

Bubbles, Bubbles Everywhere

Sparkling wine is often seen as a purely celebratory drink, but why do you need something special to happen in order to open up some bubbly?  Sure, you might want to keep your $150 bottle of Dom Perignon for a nicer occasion, but there are some wonderful, everyday sparklers that won’t break your wallet and are worth exploring.  Granted, not everyone agrees with me. but they don’t know what they’re missing! 

There is something contagiously happy about having the bubbles dance in your mouth, which is why sparkling wine is my go-to choice both when I’ve had a rough day at work and need a pick-me-up, as well as when I’ve had one of those days where everything went right and want to have my own personal celebration.  The Canella Prosecco di Conegliano (snooth) is the perfect choice for either of these reasons.  This Italian sparkler has a clear, lemony-yellow color.  The bubbles are large, persistent, and inviting.  In the photo, you can see how clear the wine is, as that’s my countertop that you can be seen through the liquid.  You can also get a feeling for how fast the bubbles race to the top by the streaking lines inside the glass.

The Canella Prosecco has a clean smell that hints of yeast and dough.  These aromas are followed by strong, refreshing fruit smells—mostly lime, apple, and pear.  When tasting the wine, the crisp bubbles pop off the tongue.  The sparkler has a high acidity, which complements the lime and green apple flavors that fill the mouth.  Those two strong fruit flavors are followed closely with hints of grapefruit.    

Monday nights are hectic in my household, as I head to my wine class right after work.  Sometimes I can grab a quick bite of dinner beforehand, but most of the time, I don’t eat until 10pm while standing in my kitchen.  Admittedly, this past Monday night after class, I drank a glass (ok, maybe two) of this Prosecco while I was eating an American cheese sandwich.  It was a surprisingly good pairing.  The salt and creaminess of the cheese was complimented by the acidity, fruitiness, and bubbles in the wine.

Is this worth a glass after work?  It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for?  For $16, the Canella Prosecco di Conegliano is a crisp, refreshing sparkling wine that is enjoyable on its own or with food.  If you’re looking to eat something other than cheese (or a cheese sandwich) while drinking a glass of the Canella Prosecco, you can’t go wrong with a some seafood–maybe a pan-fried flounder or a shrimp scampi.  Either way, you should consider popping a cork, pouring a glass, and settling in for a delightful treat.

Overall: 4.5 corks