Two Heady Reds

I picked up two new red wines from my new wine club at Fine Wine Source in Livonia.  I had a very strange week and I could hardly manage to squeeze a trip over there, because I knew that I could not do any additional wine tastings that afternoon.  I look forward to what Jim Lufty and his group are featuring, as there are usually twenty-some wines that are begging to be tasted and evaluated.  It truly is a shop that I like to linger in and talk about wines.  I felt almost ashamed that all I could do was grab the bag and go back into the fray of errands.

The first wine that I took out of the bag and will eventually open was Domaine Lafage Bastide Miraflors Vielles Vignes Cotes du Roussillon 2018.  Domaine Lafage is a major estate in the Roussillon in all shades and hues and from dry to elegant dessert wines like their Muscat de Rivesaltes.  They own about one-hundred-sixty hectares with vines that are hitting the century mark, hence “vielles vignes.” The Bastide Miraflors is a custom cuvee and is a blend of seventy percent Syrah and thirty percent Old Vine Grenache.  After six weeks of maceration the Grenache is aged for twelve months in concrete and the Syrah is aged in French Oak.  This is a deep purple wine that is made to be enjoyed immediately or in the next couple of years, and it has a heady 14.5% Proof.  I usually don’t quote ratings, but for a very affordable wine Robert Parker gave this wine 94 Points.  The owner of Fine Wine Source says “this is the best Syrah based wine you can buy for the money!  Rich yet elegant on the palate with a silky and satisfying finish.”

The second wine is even quite headier with a 15.9% Proof.  The Midnight Cellars “Nebula” Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 hails from Paso Robles in California.  A business man from Chicago retired and bought a one-hundred-sixty-acre ranch with twenty-eight acres currently planted with vines in Paso Robles in 1995 and it is the home for three generations of families that are maintaining the winery.  Midnight Cellars is the twenty-ninth established winery in Paso Robles and they are in the newly designated area known as Willow Creek District.  The “Nebula” is ninety percent Cabernet Sauvignon and the balance is Merlot.  The wine was aged for eighteen months in French Oak, the production was seven-hundred-sixty-five cases and is completely sold out at the winery.  Jim Lufty says “rich, intense and loaded with layers of complexity, flavor and a long lingering finish.”  I would say that I am looking forward to trying them both out.

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Warm or Cold

On our last evening with Ms. Yoga until her next visit, we were sitting and drinking left over wines from our adventures and noshing.  I kept trying to print up a hospitality bill to slip under the door, like we always get when we are away, but my Bride nixed the idea.  Between all the activity at the table, she was also up and down trying to finish packing.  I mention all of this, because on her business activities she was given a bottle of wine, that she left with us, until her next visit, as we all know how difficult it is to travel with wine these days.  She was also surprised, because her contact person told her that he enjoys the wine on ice.

Weinkellerei Gerstacker Nurnberger Christkindles Markt Gluhwein NV was the bottle, and depending on the market, the bottle is either labeled as Christkindles Markt Gluhwein or Nurnberger Markt Gluhwein.  Nurnberger Markt Gluhwein (Glow Wine) and this Mulled Wine is an EU protected designation and it has to be produced in Nuremberg, and it has been enjoyed for over forty years.  It is a blend of Red wine and other fruit juice, there is a white version as well, and some of the natural spice extracts that are used in the preparation are: Blueberry, Anise, Cardamom, Maces, Nutmeg, Cloves, Pimento, Cinnamon, Orange and Lemon Peel.  The manufacturer suggests that one transfer the wine to a sauce pan and gently heat (do not boil) and then ladle into heat resistant glasses or cups (and I would presume that tort attorneys have made that statement required).  Another statement from them is “It is also excellent over ice,” and that is how Ms. Yoga’s client suggested it.  I guess that this beverage is not best at room or cellar temperature.   When we have it, I will give a follow up to this article, and now we shall bid Ms. Yoga a farewell, until the next visit.

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A Fun Night

Ms. Yoga is always a joy to be around, because not only does she like wine, but she is a good egg, as we used to say.  She has a great sense of humor, and things pop up that remind us of other events.  I remember that I wrote about a wine from Duckhorn and she remembered the time I had a special invite for some tastings, before they had a tasting room, and we were in the back of semi, sitting on and cracking open crates of wine to open and to try with one of the sons.  She also reminded me, which I had forgotten, that the son had given her son a Duckhorn Duck whistle, which he still has, and he was not even in pre-school then, and now he is attending a university.  Time goes on.  The last night that Ms. Yoga was visiting we went out to eat, and I know that is not hard to believe.  She lived near where we are now and she remembers places that are long gone, one of the places that I wrote about was De Palma’s where the waiters might break out in an aria when they were not serving.  We took her to another place that did not even exist when she lived in the area, and the restaurant is owned by the grandsons of De Palma’s.

We went to Nico & Vali, a charming little bistro that has already revamped the layout to accommodate more diners without making it feel cramped.  When Ms. Yoga is in attendance, dinners are a series of plates, sometimes with no rhyme or reason and she trumps most restaurants sequence of dishes.  We munch or nosh and then she creates doggie bags, as she wants to eat some, but not a full meal of anything.  We had Beef Tartare which they prepared with Piedmontese Beef Tenderloin with Castelvetrano olives, capers, roasted red and Fresno peppers and crostini.  We had Mussels Siciliano in a tomato broth with toast Ciabatta and almonds.   There was also Ceci Bean & Tomato Jar, a chickpea spread with roasted grape tomatoes, house Pesto, shredded Parmesan and crostini.  We had Piedmontese Beef Medallions with Sage Truffle Butter over Risotto tossed with Cremini mushrooms, asparagus and Black Truffle Shavings.  A Whitefish Filet that was pan-seared and topped with Cipollini onions, tomato and caper sauce served over a zucchini boat.  We also had Gnocchi Cinghiale, house made potato, ricotta and parmigiana dumplings tossed in a wild boar tomato ragu.  Of course, we also look and listen about dessert, but normally we don’t have room.

We started off with one of Ms. Yoga’s favorite wines, which in this case was a Rombauer Carneros Chardonnay 2017.  This is still a family owned and operated winery that was established in 1980, using some shared facilities and their garage and are now well into the third generation.  The winery was founded by Koerner and Joan Rombauer, and as a side note that isn’t germane to this article, Koerner’s great aunt was the author of a best-selling cookbook that is still seen today “Joy of Cooking.” This bottle of Chardonnay is from their estate as well as from a long-term growing partner vineyard also in Carneros.  The wine spent about nine months in a mix of American and French Oak, of which a third is new.  With that combination there is the tell-tale taste of vanilla, as well as peach and the mineral traces from the terroir that lifts this wine above most of the California Chardonnay wines.  We also had a bottle of Ghostrunner Ungrafted Red Lodi 2016, a proprietary red which is the only wine that they make and it is a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah and Zinfandel.  There is not much to be found about this wine, but it was released in June 2017 and was aged in French Oak.  I keep getting impressed by the wines from Lodi, and this wine offered the deep color and the spices and the black pepper that I was looking for.  Just a great evening and we will look forward to her next visit.

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More Reflections on Virtual Tasting

Now that I have a second virtual wine tasting under my belt courtesy of Snooth, I have to say that I felt more comfortable with the concept.  The first time I had trepidations about what could go wrong and just being in a new situation.  I have to say that I have had plenty of wine tastings over the last four decades or more, but the majority have been a one-on-one situation, and unfortunately many times the person pouring the wines was not well versed in the products that they were representing.  These virtual wine tastings did not suffer from that problem, at all, as I was actually trying to absorb all that was being said, while at the same time, trying to read the remarks and questions that were scrolling on the screen.  It was just fascinating to be a part of it, and I think that it may have seemed faster and more furious, because I have never had to “work” using a computer, so my multi-tasking skills are not really computer oriented.

Thankfully my Bride was at the other end of the dining room table with her lap top, because there was two times when I lost the video and the audio portion of the tasting, but the scrolling discussions were visible.  My Bride had to bring her lap top closer to me, so that I could watch and listen, while still being able to type when necessary.  It was also funny to observe her as she was taking it all in, that she was developing a competitive drive, when she didn’t think that I was quick enough to add into the discussions.   She would also try to edit me, as she claimed that I should be terse, and that I took to long to type, but I am not a typist, and how does a Raconteur become terse?   The whole concept of a Raconteur is the ability at times to elongate and add superfluous asides.   I find that I am glibber in a natural setting, and this arrangement makes me more cautious, but it is getting better (I think).

Then there was the wine, as I wondered how my Bride would respond to the German wines, as we normally don’t have them, because they are currently scarce on the local restaurant horizons when it comes to wine selections.  I have had more German wines compared to her, and I think she was expecting sweeter wines, more akin to some of the white wines that we encounter on a local level here in Michigan.  I think that she was totally surprised and quite happy with these new wines to her.  While she was having trouble verbally describing the wines to me, so that I could add her into the discussion, she was thoroughly enjoying what she was tasting, especially after the wines warmed up a bit and revealed more layers of interest.   She originally wanted to order another four pack, just like we had for the tasting, then she said, lets double it, and finally she said, not lets just get a case.  While her descriptors might have failed her, her ability to decide on adding to the cellar was quick and decisive, and we have been enjoying the balance of the wines since the virtual tasting.  As we both get more comfortable with the process, we both are hoping for more opportunities and the ability to try new wines

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Two More German Whites

The balance of the virtual wine tasting conducted by Snooth with the guest Matthew Kaner who was really into German wines.  Matthew is the wine director and partner in several wine bar in the Los Angeles area, and I imagine that it might be difficult trying to feature European wines in California.  We were half way though the event and we were having fun, especially after I had given myself a quick bit of research on the German wines.

The third wine of the evening was Weinreich Basisweiss Grauburgunder Trocken 2017.  Grauburgunder is the local name for Pinot Gris, which make sense if you break down the German name into two parts.  If you notice the first three wines all had the term trocken, which just means dry, as the wine has not been sweeten, which can be done.  This wine was another Qualitatswein and it is from the Rheinhessen.  The Rheinhessen starts where the Pfalz ends and between the two districts, it accounts for almost half of the vineyard acreage of Germany, mostly shipper’s blends as in Liebraumilch.  The winery is located in the village of Bechteim and they have fifteen hectares of vines.  I found the wine to have a soft straw color with a soft nose.  The wine as it warmed up a bit, it opened up with some layers of interest, with some good acidity and a nice long finish.  My Bride agreed with my observations, but she described the wine as crisp and refreshing.

The last wine of the evening was Weingut von Winning “Winnings” Riesling 2015 which was a Qualitatswein from the Rheinpfalz.  Weingut von Winning was established in 1849 and they are one of the founding members of the VDP (Verband Deutscher Pradikats -und Qualitatsweinguter or The Association of Germany Quality and Pradikat Wine Estates).  Weingut von Winning has sixty-four percent of their production in the Pfalz and sixty-six percent is in Riesling, so it is a grape that they know quite well.  As in the other wines of this tasting this wine was also a soft pale straw in color.  The nose on this wine showed a bit of the terroir or some influence as there was a trace of petrol, but not in a manner to turn away from.  I found this wine was very easy to drink with a nice finish that was enjoyable.  My Bride was just taken aback in a good way, as she is not partial to Michigan Riesling wines and she thoroughly enjoyed this wine.  She hadn’t expected such a big difference and she was quite happy.  There was some discussion that I found interesting that they felt that this wine could enjoy some extended time in the cellar, and I was of the opinion that only the Pradikat wines had long life.  All in all, we were very happy with the wines and the experience and we discovered an area that definitely enjoy some further exploration and I thank Snooth for the experience.

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A Night with Matthew Kaner

My second adventure with a virtual wine tasting through the auspices of Snooth.  I would hardly say that I am an old hand at it, but it was another learning experience.  The guest speaker for the evening was Matthew Kaner who is a wine director and partner at several wine bars in the Los Angeles area.   We were going to taste and discuss four German wines, and I have to be honest, I went and did some basic reading on the wines of Germany, because I really don’t encounter them that often.

The first wine of the evening was from Weingut Borell Diehl Muller-Thurgau Trocken 2017.  This wine is a Qualitatswein from the Rheinpfalz.  Qualitatswein is the Second Tier of German Wine Classification and about seventy-five percent German wine falls under this designation and the wine must come from thirteen official Andaugebiete (wine regions).  The grape for this wine is Muller-Thurgau which is a cross between Riesling and Madeleine Royale, created in 1882 by Dr. Herman Muller of Thurgau, Switzerland.  Known for a peach aroma and low acidity, it has suffered the ups and downs of popularity, because there is more current interest in planting Riesling.  I found the wine to have a pretty soft straw color leaning towards a bit of gold.  As the wine began opening up, I found it to have some hints of peach and green apple, which was refreshing, especially as it was the first wine.  I also found it to be chewy, which may not be a current acceptable wine term, but one that was bandied around when I was being introduced to wines, and I found that the wine had more acidity than I had expected and it had a nice long finish.  My Bride described it as delicate and light and thought she would we enjoy it with Whitefish, the very popular dish here in Michigan.  She also remarked that the bottle looked bigger, which I didn’t think much of it, but it was pointed out that the bottle did actually contain one liter of wine, so it was a bonus serving.  She kept going back to it.

The second wine of the evening was Weingut Koehler-Ruprecht Weiser Burgunder Kabinet Trocken 2016.  The label was reminiscent of the old Germanic lettering from the last turn of the century, but only for the name of the winery.  This wine had the Pradikat of Kabinet which is the first tier in the pecking order for a finer wine designation and back in the day, it was felt that the winemaker thought that this wine had more to offer compared to the basic crop.   When I was a kid, first learning about wines the Rheinpfalz was the largest wine producing district in Germany and produced the bulk of current consumption wines in Germany.  Landwein (like Vin du Pay or IGP) and Deutscherwein (table wine) with sixty percent white wines and forty percent red wines.  Weiser Burgunder is the German name for the grape known as Pinot Blanc and genetically it is related to Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.  I found the wine to have a pale straw color, with a light floral nose and a scent of lime.  As the wine opened up it kept getting more interesting with some layers of spice to make it a fun wine to pair with some dishes that would have some heat to them.    My Bride who is like me, has even more trouble using descriptors, but she thought it was fresh and crisp, and she thought it reminded her of tea.

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A Virtual Wine Tasting of Some German Wines

I have another virtual wine tasting this evening under the good graces of the wine site Snooth.  This is the second virtual wine tasting that I have been invited to participate in, and I now have a much better idea of what to expect.  Even if you are not participating in the tasting, one can watch the event in real time by going to Snooth.com.  The event will begin at 8:30 EDT and the host this evening will be Matthew Kaner, a wine director and partner at several wine bar in the Los Angeles area.  Mr. Kaner will be discussing the wines in sequence and those of us involved in the virtual tasting will be responding and typing our notes during the tasting and they will appear on a side bar, so that all can read and appreciate the observations of the others.

I have to admit that I went back and did some studies about the wines of Germany, as I do not encounter them that often.  In the old days when I first started learning and teaching myself about wines; France, Germany and Italy were the three main players that one would encounter in wine shops and in restaurants.  In the 1960’s and the 70’s the three largest selling German wines were Liebfraumilch, Blue Nun and Zeller Schwarzer Katz.  The first two were from the Rhine regions and the latter was from the Moselle-Saar-Ruwer.  As I was unpacking the wines I was trying to find a common denominator as the wines were from different wineries, and the only commonality was that the four wines were from the Rhine region, three from the Rheinpfalz and one from the Rheinhessen.  The varietals were all different as well.  Three of the wines were Qualitatswein, which is the second tier of German wine classification and then the wines must come from thirteen official wine regions; this classification probably accounts for the bulk of wines that one finds routinely.   The fourth wine is a Qualitatswein mit Pradikat, or fine quality.

The wines will be tasted and discussed to reflect the weight of the grapes from light to heavy.  We will begin with Weingut Borell-Diehl Muller-Thurgau 2017.  The next wine will be Weingut Koehler-Ruprecht Weisser Burgunder (Pinot Blanc) Kabinett 2016.  The third wine will be Weinreich Basisweiss Pinot Gris 2017 and then followed by Weingut Von Winning “Winnings” Riesling 2015.  I am looking forward to the evening and the following hashtag #TasteTheNew will be used on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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