Friday, April 16, 2010

Cork Taint Strikes My Cellar

I've had a couple of Oregon rosés in the cellar that I purchased far too many years ago and haven't drunk so I decided to pull one out for dinner tonight. I was afraid that the 2003 Adelaida Vin Gris de Pinot Noir was past its prime, but what I didn't expect was the massive whiff of cork taint the emerged as soon as I pulled the natural cork. Ugh.... TCA (trichloroanisole) has finally struck my cellar. Up to now, I honestly don't think I've had an episode of cork taint from one of my purchased wines. But the law of averages has finally snuck up on me.

Too bad, I remember this wine being a lively, crisp, fruity delight back when I sampled it at the winery. Today, it was a shallow husk of a wine. No fruit and wilting under the TCA onslaught.

Let this be a lesson to you all. Drink those rosés now! They're meant for early consumption so don't wait. Find your guy/gal, grab some picnic fare from the grocery store, and enjoy a sunny spring day with a glass of rosé!


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Italian Wine Course, Class #2

Continuing my wine education, I attended the 2nd of a 6 class series on Italian wines offered by Gordon's Liquors in Waltham, MA last Tuesday, March 30. Michael Murray, one of the wine buyers at Gordon's, taught this class focusing on Puglia, Abruzzo, Marche, & Lazio regions of Italy. That would be regions #1, 7, 10, & 13 on the map (area around Rome and then the back & heel of the boot along the Adriatic Sea). The wines were paired with a Piave & a Tallegio (my favorite) cheeses from Whole Foods. Instead of doing white wines & then red wines, the class was structured by region.


The Lazio region has not been known as a region for producing premium wines because of the proximity of Rome. Production has been mostly focused on high volume, inexpensive wines to serve Rome's large population.

Tenuta di Pieta Prozia Frascati Secco "Regillo" 2008 Price: $12
Region: Lazio D.O.C.
Varietal(s): 70% Malbezio, 20% Tebiano, 10% Greco
Review: White wine. Pineapple & floral notes in the nose. Not that special on the tongue. Crisp finish. Not a memorable wine.

Compagnia di Ermes Cesanese di Olevano Romano 2007
Price: $12
Region: Lazio D.O.C. South of Rome
Varietal(s): Cesanese
Review: Red Wine. Chocolate/tobacco, cedar aromas in the nose. Cherry & diesel flavors with a tarry finish.

Marche Region

Coastal, plainer region

Borgo Paglianetto Verdicchio di Matelica 'Aja Lunga' 2007
Price: $19
Region: Marche D.O.C.
Varietal(s): Verdicchio
Review: White Wine. Honeysuckle, pears, & peaches in the nose. good mouthfeel, crisp finish. Tank fermented--no oak. A good white wine!

Pasetti Pecorino Terre di Chieti 2008
Price: $20
Region: Marche I.G.T.
Varietal(s): Pecorino
Review: Floral with hits of green apple & melon. Slightly buttery with a flat oaky finish. Big mouthfeel akin to a chardonnay. Nice, but not great.

Saladini Pilastri Rosso Piceno Superiore "Vigna Montepradone' 2003
Price: $25
Region: Marche D.O.C. (Piceno area)
Varietal(s): 70% Montepuliciano, 30% Sangiovese
Review: Red Wine. Bright cherry flavors with notes of cedar & tar. Big tannins & bright acid. Aged in new French oak barrels. I liked this wine!

Abruzzo Region

One of the most mountainous regions of Italy, Abruzzo grows mostly Montepulciano & trebbiano grapes.

Ducato di San Zeno Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2008
Price: $8
Region: Abruzzo D.O.C.
Varietal(s): Montepulciano
Review: Medium bodied wine with big cherry & vanilla flavors. Concord-like grapey finish. Simple wine that resembles the price.

Cataldi Madonna Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2007
Price: $23
Region: Abruzzo D.O.C.
Varietal(s): Montepulciano
Review: Dark raspberry, cherry, tar, & tobacco. Gripping tannins that need some aging. Very surprising to find that this wine has seen no oak. I like it!

Montepulciano Masciarelli 'Marina Cvetic' 2006
Price: $30
Region: Abruzzo D.O.C.
Varietal(s): Montepulciano
Review: Much darker flavors. Big Tannins. Cherries, vanilla, cassis. Michael pulled this off the shelf when the Cataldi Madonna 2007 didn't live up to the tasting of the 2006. By far, the best of the night!

Puglia Region

Taurino Notarpanaro Salento 2003
Price: $20
Region: Salento I.G.T.
Varietal(s): Negero nero
Review: Tobacco & tar in the nose, fruity palette. Tastes much younger than it smells. Yum!

Castello Monaci Primitivo Salento 2007
Price: $12
Region: Salento I.G.T.
Varietal(s): Primitivo/Zinfandel
Review: Tastes like a classic zinfandel. Big cherry & prune/stewed fruit flavors. High Alcohol. Spicy! No oak.

This class touch a nerve, so I ended up purchasing a case of wine (2 each of the 2007 Borgo Paglianetto, 2003 Saladnini Pilastri, 2007 Cataldi Madonna, 2003 Taurino, 2007 Castell Monaci, and 2006 Masciarelli. I'm looking forward to popping these wines open later.

a Wine Student

Saturday, April 3, 2010

David Coffaro Bernier's Zin 2003

Was cleaning up my desk earlier this week and came across my tasting notes from this wine. I vaguely remember opening it in early February, probably to enjoy with a nice Saturday evening steak dinner in front of the fireplace. Friends will recognize that David Coffaro is one of my most favorite Sonoma County wineries. I buy their wine through a futures program. The name Bernier's Zin refers to the fact that the grapes were purchased from Paul Bernier & Scott Sibary's vineyard which is located in the Dry Creek Valley.

David Coffaro Bernier's Zin 2003

Country of origin: United States
State: California
Appellation: Dry Creek Valley

Varietal: 75% Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah, 10% Carignan, 5% Mourvedre

Stats: 14.5% ABV, 365 cases produced
Cost: $15 (purchased through futures program)

Appearance: Dark, foreboding black red
Aroma: Cocoa, dark cherries, blackberries, more chocolate

Taste: Bright Cherries & raspberries, chocolate, mildly tart with moderate tannins. A long, pleasant aftertaste.

Yummmmm..... One bottle left...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Italian Wine Course, Class #1

My favorite wine shop, Gordon's Liquors in Waltham, MA, recently offered a new series of wine tasting classes with the focus on Italian wines. I readily admit that my knowledge of Italian wines is a little lacking, so I decided to sign up for the entire schedule of 6 classes. Italian wines are a daunting subject since there are >2000 indigenous grape varietals. Historically, the majority of Italian wines have been produced for local consumption, so production & quality standards have not been extremely rigorous. The formation of the Italian appellation system in 1963 served to simply codify existing winemaking practices that may or may not have been the best. Fortunately, globalization has begun to change this fault as winemaking practices are changed to compete on the global market.

The first class was held on Tuesday, March 23 at the Culinary Center in the back of the store. Bob Kaplan had selected the wine and held forth on regional information & wine details. This first class focused on wines from the southern regions of Sicily, Sardinia, Calabria, Basilicata, & Campania (regions #2, 3, 4, 14 & 19 in the map). These areas are less well developed than the northern regions of Italy and the wines are not as prestigious or well-regarded. Consequently, they are less expensive if you find a wine that you enjoy. The wines were paired with a Sottocenere with Truffles & a Pecorino Ginepro cheeses from Whole Foods.

White Wines

La Segreta Bianco ($15)
Region: Sicily IGT
Details: 50% Chardonnay, 10% Viognier, 40% Falanghina
Review: Peaches & citrus in the nose. Tastes of apricot with a honeyed finish. Light bodied (good summer sipper)

Cantina Gallura Vermentino 2007 ($20)
Region: Sardinia DOCG
Review: Golden color, aromas & flavors of apricots, honey, raisins, & caramel. Extremely flat sherry-like finish. Tastes like this wine has oxidized. Not good

Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina ($19)
Region: Campania, near Avelino
Review: Aromas of pineapple, peaches, apricots, & honeysuckle. Dried apricot finish.

Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo ($24)
Region: Campania, near Avelino
Review: Light citrus & honeysuckle. Short finish. Tastes similar to a viognier

Red Wines:

Planeta La Segreta Rosso ($15)
Region: Sicily IGT
Review: Dark cherries, rosemary, vanilla. Medium body with a Concord-like grapey finish.

Templum Cannonau ($20) same grape as Granache
Region: Sardinia DOC
Review: Fairly bricked in color. Black cherry, cinnamon, little chalky on the finish. Mild tannins

Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria ($23)
Region: Sicily IGT
Review: Cherries, cassis, vanilla in the nose. Big fruity flavors with dancing raspberries, mild tannins, good mouthfeel. Went REALLY good with the Pecorino cheese!

Feudi di San Gregorio Rubrato ($19)
Region: Campania
Review: Very dark lightly bricked color. Blackberries, blueberries, & chocolate with a little tobacco. Big, bold tannins & good mouthfeel.

Librandi Gravello ($35) blend of Cabernet Sauvignon & Delamonto
Region: Calabria, near the town of Churo
Review: Black cherry, raspberries, & currants. Balanced tannins. Chocolate, slightly tart finish.

Cantine dei Notario La Firma 2005 ($50)
Region: Basilicata
Review: Dark cherries, raspberries, light tobacco with soft tannins. Good, just not sure it's $50 good.

a Wine Student

Saturday, March 27, 2010

NE Coastal Wine Trail Weekend Day Two

Sunday, March 21, 2010...

The day dawned on the second day of my Coastal Wine Trail tasting adventure. After a leisurely breakfast at the Hampton Inn Fairhaven and a good work-out in the fitness facility, I checked out of the hotel , made a pit stop at the local Panera Bread for lunch, and then headed to more wineries.

Stop #1: Running Brook Vineyards
Address: 335 Old Fall River Road, North Dartmouth, MA

I didn't know what I would be getting into at this visit. I will admit that I was greatly confused when I pulled in. The OPEN flag was flying at the gate, but no one was in the parking lot in front of the barn-like structure and what appeared to be the front door was locked. I headed back to my truck and started input the address of the next winery into my GPS unit when a truck pulled up. Out hopped a man who turned out to be one of the winery's owners who quickly invited me inside for a tasting. Running Brook is a work in progress. Unlike the other wineries on the trail, this 4-yr old winery is still building it's site of operation and the tasting room is merely a counter top inside the main winemaking area. Not as polished as the other wineries, but very enjoyable since you can see every aspect of the winery--the fermentation tanks, the barrel racks, and the bottling line. The charge for tasting was $7. I think there was a suggested number of wines to taste, but after Pedro discovered that I make wine as well and had an interest in starting a winery, he started pulling out everything he had to taste, including barrel/tank samples!

2007 Chardonnay ($13): Simple dry white wine with light flavor, but a smooth sipping wine
2005 Reserve Chardonnay ($17): Unfiltered & aged for 2 years in old French oak. 100% MLF gave it a nice rich butteriness.
2005 Reserve Chardonnay Unoaked: Nice pineapple nose & crisp finish
2007 Pinot Gris ($14): Bold citrus (pineapple, grapefruit) with a nice crisp finish
2008 Pinot Gris: Unlike the 2007, this wine has not undergone malolactic fermentation, so the flavors are driven by big, green apple aromas.
2007 Cabernet Franc ($18): Finally, a good red wine on the Trial. Lighter color, but big strawberry & black pepper flavors.
2007 Merlot ($18): Very nice. Black cherry & pepper aromas with subtle tobacco. 1.5 years in French oak.
2007 Vidal blanc ($13): Apricot & honey explosion. Semi-sweet finish with a nice balance of sugar & acid (high Brix at harvest).
2008 Vidal blanc: Tank sample. Crisp, Pineapple & Grapefruit predominate.
2009 Vidal blanc: Tank Sample. Still a little cloudy, but gorgeous big honey flavors.
2007 Auslesen ($20): Late harvest vidal blanc made by the traditional German auslesen method of selecting individual high sugar grape bunches. Sweet dessert wine.
2005 Late Harvest Vidal Blanc ($20): Sherry-like with bold apricot aromas and peach & pineapple flavors. Very unique wine.

Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed my 2.5 hrs with Pedro! Learned an awful lot about his winery operations and I volunteered to come back down to help with any winemaking task that he might have. I'm looking forward to a long relationship with Running Brook Vineyard! I ended up purchasing 5 bottles to sample later. Will have to go check to see which ones I bought.

Stop #2: Travessia Winery
Address: 760 Purchase Street, New Bedford, MA

After stumbling out of Running Brook, I had just enough time to visit one more winery before heading for the wedding. I had the choice of Westport Rivers Vineyards or Travessia Winery that were close enough nearby. Since I have been to Westport before (and am a member of their wine club), I chose to visit Travessia, which is a rather unique urban winery in downtown New Bedford. I have to admit that I was very intrigued to visit Travessia since an urban winery is an option that I would consider if I were to open a winery myself. My visit was a little complicated by the fact that the New Bedford half marathon had taken place the same morning and downtown New Bedford was a still a busy place at 3:00 in the afternoon. The winery is located in a small storefront that houses both the sales room, tasting bar, and winemaking space. They have some more space downstairs for added room to make & store the wine. Without vineyards of their own (kind of hard to grow grapes in asphalt), Travessia purchases all of their grapes from Running Brook Vineyards. Marco, the owner & winemaker, was tending the tasting room that day and was pouring 5 wines for tastings ($6). The tasting bar was a little crowded, so I didn't take any notes due to lack of writing space so I'm relying on my general impressions & memory.

2008 Unoaked Chardonnay ($14): Decent, fruity chardonnay with crisp finish.
2007 Chardonnay ($16): Partial MLF & barrel aging gave this a nice mix of crisp & softness, butteriness & fruit flavors.
2007 Vidal Blanc ($13): Essentially the same semi-sweet Vidal that I tasted at Running Brook. Liked it there and I liked it here, too!
2007 Trapeze Zinfandel: Nice, fruit forward with soft tannins. A good everyday drinking zin.

Many of you are probably scratching your heads that someone is growing zinfandel in MA. Well, they are not. Marco is starting a second line of wines made from grapes grown in CA and shipped to the winery for vinification. I didn't purchase any wines while I was there due to time constraints, but I did sign up for their wine club. First shipment should be in the coming week after they release a couple of new 2008 wines.

At this point, I bid a sad farewell to the Coastal Wine Trail and headed to Sandwich for the wedding. I would have to say that Day 2 was my favorite thanks to the wonderful hospitality & generosity of Pedro at Running Brook Vineyards. I will have to repay him with some physical labor when I go back to help bottle or pick grapes. I hope that my faithful readers take advantage of the proximity of several very nice wineries & make their own trip along the NE Coastal Wine Trail.

a Wine Student

A weekend along the New England Coastal Wine Trail

I decided to get out of town last weekend and take advantage of the fact that I had a wedding to attend in Cape Cod on Sunday, so I decided to head down on Saturday and do some tasting along the Coastal Wine Trail. For those that don't know, the Coastal Wine Trail is made up of 8 wineries along the southeast New England coastline, stretching for east of Providence, RI to the very tip of Cape Cod.

This is still a little early in the season, so a couple of wineries were closed, but I wanted to get to as many as I could on Saturday afternoon and then hit a couple more on Sunday before heading for the wedding in Sandwich. This is the story of my tasting:

Saturday, March 20, 2010
Stop #1: Newport Vineyards
Address: 909 East Main Road, Middletown, RI

Saturday was such a gorgeous early spring day that I was not the only one to decide to go wine tasting. After pulling into the crowded parking lot off the very busy highway, I was a little dismayed to see so many people at the winery. I had to stand in line to buy a tasting glass ($9 for 5 tastes) and then stand in line again to find room at the tasting bar which was simply too small and too understaffed for the amount of foot traffic that day. Trying to savor aromas & flavors is a little hard when you've got people standing behind you waiting for their turn. Overall, the wines were pretty good. Whites were much better than the reds which were generally very vegetative & full of harsh green pepper flavors. I chose to try the following wines from their extensive tasting menu:

Sauvignon Blanc ($19): Good stuff, lot of pineapple & floral notes with a crisp acidic finish.
Newport Chardonnay ($15): Crisp, barrel-fermented Burgundy style with strong mango & pear flavors.
Pinot Noir ($19): Light color & body. Strong cherry with grass & green pepper.
Cabernet Franc ($19): Light color. Blackberries with grass & green pepper
Newport Merlot ($19): Medium garnet color, bigger black fruit flavors with good tannin structure but still pretty green tasting. Fruit came forward the more I swirled.
Port ($30): Rich mouthfeel with lot of alcohol, but that green flavor is still there.

Yeah, you counted right, I got to sneak in a 6th taste thanks to being friendly & wine knowledgeable! I did buy a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc for more in-depth analysis later.

Stop #2: Greenvale Vineyards
Address: 582 Wapping Road, Portsmouth, RI

After the madhouse at Newport, Greenvale was a breath of fresh air! Located down some country roads and a winding narrow gravel lane, the winery is housed in a restored historic barn. Beautiful, rural setting with views of the bay and very friendly staff. The tasting bar is small, but the winery was not crowded when I arrived. Just me and a newly engaged couple with both sets of parents on their get-to-know-the-inlaws trip! Greenvale appreciates that the NE climate is not well suited for red vinifera varietals so they focus mostly on white wines with a token red blend from estate-grown grapes. I paid $9 to taste the full line-up of 6 wines.

2007 Pinot Gris: Very nice, light & fruity with a pleasingly crisp finish.
2007 Chardonnay: A 50/50 barrel/stainless steel fermentation blend with apricot & pineapple flavors. An OK wine, the blend of barrel/SS fermented wines just seemed like a jarring mismatch to me.
2007 Select Chardonnay: 100% Barrel fermented. A smoother and more balanced wine with the same apricot & pineapple flavors.
2007 Vidal: Lightly sweet tasting finish on a dry wine. A fruity sipper. Very nice version of a dry Vidal.
Stepping Stone White: 90% Cayuga/10% vidal. Good patio wine with a sweet finish, but not overpowering. Fruity & floral.
2007 Hermitage: Blend of merlot, cabernet franc, and malbec. Light red & green.

I ended up purchasing the pinot gris & Select Chardonnay for further evaluation.

Stop #3: Sakonnet Vineyards
Address: 162 West Main Road, Little Compton, RI

My final stop of the day was at Sakonnet Vineyards. Very far off the main highway, I loved the rural, secluded setting. The driveway was like going through the woods to grandmother's house for a wine tasting! The parking lot was full when I arrived and there was evidence that they see a lot of foot traffic in warmer months. They do have a good 4-sided tasting bar set-up for serving a lot of people, but they need a sign or something to tell people to pay for the tasting first before proceeding to the tasting bar. Standing in 2 lines is frustrating. Cost was $8 for 6 tastes.

2008 Vidal Blanc ($13): Initial strong fruity burst with an incredibly tart finish
2007 Gewurztraminer ($19): Dry, nice spicy midsection, but weak fruit & floral notes with a short bland finish. Left me wanting more.
2007 Fume Vidal Reserve ($16): Smooth, well integrated oak with honey, apricot, & lychee flavors. A very nice wine.
2007 Chardonnay ($14): Stainless steel fermented with good apple & melon flavors. Soft finish, but still crisp. Good wine.
2007 Reserve Chardonnay ($19): Crisp finish, only lightly buttery (no intential MLF) with very slight oak shading. Nice.
Rose ($10): A dry, crisp Cabernet franc rose. Notes of cedar, strawberries, & plums. Would be a good summer sipper.
2007 Winterwine ($25 for 375 ml): Rich & powerful. Intense apricot, honey, & peaches aromas with a nice spicy finish. A very nice late harvest vidal made in the ice-wine style.

Ended up buying the Rose, Fume Vidal, Chardonnay, & Winterwines for later further evaluation.

It was past closing time at this point, so I took the back roads to New Bedford & my hotel. After finding a local seafood take-out joint for some fried clams. I popped open the Greenvale Pinot Gris to enjoy during the evening. A wonderful way to end the day!

a Wine Student

Monday, February 15, 2010

An Evening of Wine & Chocolate at L'Espalier

It's been a long time since I posted something here. My apologies to my faithful readers (who am I kidding)! I had the opportunity to attend one of the regular Monday night wine-food pairings at L'Espalier in downtown Boston with my singles social group. I went expecting a Winter Wines theme, but instead discovered that the menu was chocolate based.

First Pairing:
2008 Ransom "Selection" Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Cocoa nib consomme with shrimp & blood orange topped with a fennel salad

The wine was nice--fruity with nice citrus twist & a slightly sweet finish. The soup/salad was interesting. Together, this pairing was amazing! The cocoa gave the wine a nice earthy undertone & complemented the sweetness.

Second Pairing:
2006 Michelotti Barbera D'asti
Monkfish braised in red wine & Menavana chocolate over Puy lentils

The wine was a little acidic with cherries, vanilla, some spice/pepper notes, & moderate tannins. The fish was excellently cooked (my fish portion was a little small) & the lentils were to die for. Could have eaten them all night. I liked the wine & fish separately but wasn't real crazy about the pairing. Just didn't jive for me.

Third Pairing:
2007 Maurodos "Prima" Toro
Pork taco with Hacienda lara Plantation mole beside a radish & daikon slaw

The wine was a big, earthy Tempranillo with lots of oakey vanilla goodness. Bold & powerful.
The tacos were tasty. Kind of weird to be eating tacos while wearing a suit, but the mole was heavenly. A decent pairing.

Fourth Pairing:
2008 Banfi "Rosa Regale" Brachetto D'acqui
St. Lucia chocolate gateau with praline powder, grapefruit & jalapeno marmelade & Meyer lemon coulis

The wine was a soft & sweet dessert wine. Effervescent. Grapey with notes of strawberries
The chocolate was amazing, although I could have done without the praline powder. The marmalade gave it a nice kick.

This dinner was a lot of fun. There was only 8 of us, so conversation got pretty lively, especially as we got more lubricated. The food was excellent and the wine top notch. My favorite pairing was actually the first--the pinot gris with the chocolate soup. The others were OK, but I often liked the wine & food separately.

a Wine Student