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Riesling- It Lights Me Up!

When it comes to Riesling, the wine market has a split personality.   You have the people who enjoy sweet wines and love drinking sweet Riesling.  Then, you have the people who hate sweet wine and, therefore, won’t drink Riesling.  But if you are in-the-know… You can fall in love with dry but fruity, racy but voluptuous, bold but elegant,  Riesling.  The trick is standing in the aisle and figuring out which Riesling is which.

img_5801Albert Mann Riesling Cuvee Albert 2014.   Vin D’Alsace.  I bought a case of this wine un-tried and un-tasted.  Most Alsatian Rieslings are on the dry side of the spectrum, so I felt comfortable with my purchase.  Once, I opened it and took my first sip, I had this insane desire to hug the bottle to my chest and shout “Mine!!!!”  However, since I am in the business of selling wine and always love to share my good deals (clothes, shoes and good lawn care, included), I instead started pouring this wine for everyone to try.  It was universally enjoyed because this Alsatian Riesling has something for everyone.

The aromas of Albert Cuvee leap out of the glass and perform a pirouette.  There is that first whiff of diesel gasoline that whirls with the fragrance of white and yellow flowers and candied ginger.  People often call that smell Petrol, but I haven’t pumped enough European gas to know the difference.  What I do know is that the aroma is iconic to several terroirs of Riesling, particularly when aged.  Moving on to the first sip… This Riesling trumpets flavors of ripe, sweet lemon, lime, tart green apple skins, ginger.  It coats the tongue with a little lanolin and then washes the coating away  with bursting, citrus acidity like lemonade.  Who doesn’t like lemonade?  Particularly on a hot day!  The mouth-watering flavors linger for a nice, long finish.  Wow.  I enjoyed just re-living the memory of it!!  The alcohol by volume (ABV) is 12.5%… typical for Alsatian Rieslings.   They have long, dry, beautiful summer days making gorgeously ripe grapes.

So, how do you capimageture this sublime moment?  First off,  you probably won’t want to look for this type of quality wine at your average grocery story.   What you want to do vist an upscale local wine store or big box liquor store.  Often, they  will have a specific Riesling section.

Some wineries may include  the term “Dry”, on their label.  Dry can be a relative term as it is not legally defined.  Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling from the  Finger Lakes region of New York is dry  with bright flavors of lemon-lime, grapefruit and honey.  Notice the 12.5% ABV.

Some Riesling labels will have a sweet to dry scale on the back label, which is a nice idea, because the average person hasn’t memorized the Kabinett, Spatlase, Auslase, Trockenbeerenauslese of German labeling and most Riesling regions have not come up with a wine labeling plan for sweetness levels.  Dr. Loosen’s Blue Slate Riesling Kabinett  one example of  a Riesling showing  a sweetness level scale.  (I’ve included a few other examples, as well.)  Dr. Loosen  balances on the scale at Medium Sweet.  The ABV is 7.5%  The label also recommends this wine with spicy foods which is spot on for sweeter Rieslings.  Nothing quenches the fire of hot and spicy Thai curry like a sweet to medium dry Riesling.

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All the above noted ABV’s point to another tip  for making a Dry/Sweet determination.   Look at the alcohol on the label.  A 12.5% ABV can indicate that all the sugar in the ripe grapes was converted to alcohol during fermentation, so there isn’t a lot of sweetness left in the juice.  Therefore, wines with a higher ABV are usually dryer.  A 7.5% ABV generally reflects that there is still sugar remaining in the wine that has not been converted to alcohol.  Definitely sweeter.   That is a general rule.  IMG_5835

If you are new to Riesling, on a budget or just serving a bunch of your friends during a hot summer day, Clean Slate Riesling from Mosel,Germany  (ABV 11.0%) is a fun starter wine from one of the lower shelves. $8-ish.  Medium-dry and tasting of lime and stone fruit, this very inexpensive Riesling still shows some of its regional minerality.  Not remotely as complex and gorgeous as the Albert Cuvee, but I’ve shared it with friends over some everyday Asian cuisine and on theIMG_5839 patio in the summer –everyone smiled.

Another fine example is Famille Hugel Classic Riesling 2014 from Alsace.  In the $20 range, this Riesling is dry and flavorful with lime, peaches and ginger.  (ABV 12.7%)  This wine is elegant and I would love it with some grilled white fish, seafood or even sashimi.

Just to keep it interesting, I have to mention this Ulrich Langguth Riesling Trocken 2014 Deutcher Seckt.  A sparkling German Riesling from the Mosel region.  It makes a nice aperitif .  $13-ish in price.  Easy to drink and delightfully dry (ABV 12.0%).   Trocken means dry in German, so that helps.   Sekt refers to the fact it is sparkling.   Try this instead of Prosecco or Cava.  Your guests will be excited to experience a  different sparkling wine.

Well, this was fun!!  Enjoy your day!

What Was in THAT Glass!?

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a Rose tasting for the trade, along with a master class on Rose led by Master Sommelier, Gillian Banlace.  I won a lunch with Gillian and other guests the following day.  While waiting for a table, I ordered Rose. The waitress suggested a Brut Rose.  We never discussed which one.  She just brought me a glass and I drank about half before the group arrived and we moved onto other wines…great wines, I must add.  But the flavor, texture, and freshness of this Rose lingered long after lunch was done…well into this week.  So, I’m back at Brasserie 19 for the reveal. Veuve Cliquot Brut Rose (NV) with  enticing flavors of watermelon, cherry and cotton candy.  Almond toast finish. Dry, but luscious at the same time.  I am feeling very indulged.  

The Cliquot Champagne house was founded in 1772 by Philippe Cliquot.  It is believed to be the first Champagne house to produce Rose Champagne (Pinot Noir).   Fine Rose champagne has since always been the Cliquot house trademark.  Barbe-Nichole Ponsardin, an educated young woman, married Philippe’s son, Francois, in 1798.  She was  left a widow in 1805.   Because she had been included in Francois’ passion for and the running of his winery, the widow Cliquot (Veuve means widow) was able to take over the champagne house.   Very unique for a woman in that day in time.   Additionally, she went on to make revolutionary changes in the production of fine Champagne that are still used today.  Fine being the key word.  Veuve Cliquot has always been about making  quality Champagne.   Thank you, Madame Cliquot.  I raise a toast to you.  

Improvise the vessel!!

My husband says our Rose choice is  wet, cold and drinks well!   I think he’s right!  What does it matter if we enjoy it in a wine glass or a small soup bowl??Scarpetta Timido Brut Rose Sixth Edition (Non Vintage).  Yeasty, dark cherries and berries with a hint of peach.    Heavier than a rose from Provence and with a bit of dry tannin.  The wine held up well to our Asian dinner of Razor Clams, Peppered Lobster and Fish Soup.  All these dishes were a bit spicy.  A little more sweetness in the wine would have been good, but that is a my pairing problem and not the fault of the wine.  Sometimes it’s just what wine you have available in the fridge. Our waitress eventually brought wine glasses, but soup cups worked just as well while we waited.  She eventually decided to try a taste of the Rose herself.  She looked around for a glass and then picked up a small soup bowl from another clean table.  We may have started a trend. 

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Italian Syrah Strikes Again!!

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There are days when you just have to say, “I love my life!!”  The wine tasting I went to last night gave me great reason to say so.  The owner/winemaker of Leuta Winery in Cortona, Italy, Denis Zeni,  was in town looking to move his distribution further west than the Northeastern restaurants that currently purchase much of his  export wine to the United States.  My life was further rewarded when I found that Leuta Wines grow Syrah and have a 100% Syrah in their portfolio (see my blog post The Rise(?) of Italian Syrah).  And even further upping my happiness ante, Denis makes kvevri wines with vines originating from Georgia (formerly of the Soviet Union).  Most people have heard of wines made in clay amphora (kvevri), but they are few and far between.  I had only recently read an in-depth article about this type of winemaking in Georgia and Portugal… and found it providence that I would meet a winemaker a week later employing similar methods for some of his very special wines.  Another future treat!!

Good wines are best served with good stories.  Denis knows that and he told his story well.  He grew up and spent large portions of his life with his grandfather in Trentino.  His grandfather was a farmer of  both food crops and grapes for wine.  His passion was for the wine.   He passed away and the land was sold.  Denis went into economics, banking, and investments for many years, but his spare time was spent pursuing his fascination with grape growing and winemaking in each hemisphere and many countries.  He eventually purchased the Cortona land that is now Leuta Winery and he is the hands-on decision maker, charting the course of his vineyards.  Denis explains that he chose the soil, the layout of his vineyards, the concentration of plantings, the winery equipment and how the grapes are grown, harvested and how wines are made.  Super organically, I might add!!   Denis is also working on making the process vegan, as well.

So, how good were the wines??  They were Very Good!!!!!  I am the frugal wine drinker, but I had no problem purchasing Leuta wines.  I am looking forward to the delivery of his Syrah, Sangiovese and Cab Franc.  The wines are very clean and modern in the best of ways.  New French oak is used judiciously, so these wines are not reeking of toasted vanilla.  The  2013 Leuta Syrah Cortona was big on blackberry, dark plum, pepper and spice with a little fresh potting soil.  The wine was refreshing.  I thought the Leuta Merlot was excellent, but I kept returning to the Syrah to freshen my palate and indulge my myself again!!  The Leuta Sangiovese was my second favorite — well crafted and elegant.

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My thanks to Bill & Stephanie Lloyd for including us in your gathering and to Christin Hartung for being a lovely hostess.  Leuta Wines have a wine club (a very wise business plan) that has nice benefits, especially if you are in the Cortona area.  I think Denis picked up quite a few new members (as he should!) from this gathering!  Check out the website leuta-wines-cortona.com    Although Leuta is a small, boutique, estate winery, you will see that Denis has used his business background to promote his beautiful wines in a very organized, user-friendly way.  As an American capitalist… I love it.

 

 

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Cuvaison:  First Words? Butter Bomb!!

Standing in the grocery store looking for a Chardonnay to go with my chicken breasts browned in butter with spices and a little lemon.   And thinking, “Huh?!  I never drink Chardonnay any more.”  So I looked at the selection and discovered I am truly a top shelf girl…at least at this store, anyway!

I chose Cuvaison because I’m thinking, “Carneros.   A cooler climate.  They grow grapes for sparkling wine there.   Shouldn’t be too oaky.”   Well, I was wrong there!!  It’s oaky.  It’s buttery.  It’s bursting with flavors of crisp fresh pineapple , lemon juice, vanilla.  It has enough crisp acidity to give the wine a good backbone so it’s not just a flabby, buttery, pineapple sledgehammer.  This has slightly more restraint!

The wine comes from 44 separate vineyards, harvested and vinified separately.   Then the wines are blended together to make a sum greater than its parts.  The wines are aged in oak barrels for eight months, with 25% of the wine aged in New French Oak.   About 66% of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation .  This is a second fermentation that introduces a special bacteria (think good bacteria!!)  that converts crisp tartaric acid to softer  lactic acid.   Lactic acid is found in milk and sour cream.  This fermentation also creates a organic chemical compound called diacetyl.  This is the compound that makes butter taste like butter!!  If you love buttery wines…malolactic fermentation is your friend.  Malolactic fermentation is used in virtually all red wines  but it is sometimes used in white wines to make the  pH less acidic, make the body of the wine fuller, and impart buttery or butterscotch flavor.

So although I find this wine to be a butter bomb, those of you who like buttery Chardonnays will LOVE IT!  I don’t love it because I am the girl who enjoys tartaric acid in my white wines, but I appreciate how it Cuvaison is crafted and the crispness that still shows through.  You don’t have to always love something to appreciate it.    $18-20.

Tinsel, Pine and a Nice (Cheap!)Red Blend

Christmas has waned and the post-Christmas blues are waxing.  What to do.  My answer is to try something new!!

img_0001The 18th Man Red Blend vinted and bottled by Familia Nueva Vineyards just might do the trick!!  This 2013 Red Blend of Syrah 60%, Petit Verdot 19%, Malbec 19% and Cabernet Sauvignon 2% seems to hit the spot.  This blend comes from Paso Robles (which means BIG WINES!!) and seems fill up the post-Christmas void.  I get a total and complete Blackberry pie or cobbler which means you can just drink the wine and skip the dessert.  There is also a nice waft of cigar box– which I was happy to identify prior to reading the label.  Yea me!!

You don’t need to pair this with a meal.  This wine is heavy enough and rich enough to stand on its own.  It has the weight of some residual sugar to fill up those spaces in between your ribs.    But if you feel you need a little something…. the label recommends “aggressive appetizers in the form of nachos, corn dogs or even bacon wrapped jalapenos.”

For all my folks that contacted me about the Apothic wines, I would tell you to give this one a try!!!  I found it at Trader Joes and it was < $10.  Enjoy.   And be sure to let me know what you think!   I love your feedback.

Just to keep you in the loop, we drank Altamura, Caymus, Schafer, & Thumbprint for Christmas… but I couldn’t stop to talk.    They were all pretty big, too.

 Time to catch a Cab

I recently stepped out to have lunch at Ruggles Black with my good friend, Kaylina, a wine rep.  I arrived at the restaurant first!  The blustery cold weather screamed hearty Cabernet!!  First option was a little weak and insipid (but I won’t name names!). Second option appeared pricy, as I don’t normally plunk down $60 for lunch wine.  But my tasting pour said “Yes!”   Perfect for winter weather and NOT so big and over oaked to be…well, boring.   Chateau Montelena 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Calistoga was my choice to enjoy while waiting on my friend.  I sent her a text to let her know what wine I had ordered for lunch.  I think it may have hurried her along.

Although this wine had a big blackberry presence, it had both sour and baked pie flavors. The sour acidity kept the oak in check and made every sip a pleasure.  The wine was smooth without being flabby.  I enjoyed teasing out notes of blueberry,  vanilla, eucalyptus, licorice and tobacco.   Perhaps because I had time to sit and relax, I found it to be a wine worthy of contemplation versus mindless consumption.  It kept me in good company until my friend arrived to enjoy it with me.

This solid performing wine can be picked up at your wine or liquor store for $40-50.  So $60 out for lunch is still a bargain.