Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Got to go back to Alba

In one of the past Wine Blogging Wednesdays, the theme was wine from the Piedmont region of Italy. I had chosen a Barbera D’Alba because I had a deep trust of the grape whenever I see it on a restaurant wine list. Unfortunately it turned out that I had just had some good experiences in restaurants, or perhaps one bad experience at home.

So I decided to try another wine from Alba, a Dolcetto 2006 from Vietti. I have complained about wineries not having useful websites and other wineries that have done particularly good jobs of expressing the information that bloggers such as myself want to find. This wineries did a good job making it available on their website (www.vietti.com), but the content looks half finished.

A for effort, C+ for presentation. However, under further review none of the recent vintages are listed on the website. They still get some points though for having the website on the back label of the bottle.

Like most wineries in Europe, Vietti claims to have been making wine for the past four generations and was one of the first wineries in Italy to export their wines to the U.S.

I really should have tried this wine for my Piedmont post. There was a nice dustiness to the nose, with some rich sweet dark fruits like blackberry and blueberry. Definitely some oak used as I picked out smells of cedar wood and vanilla. My first taste was a little rough, and a put too tannic, with sour cherry and blackberry the predominant flavors. Then, as the wine opened more, there was a lot more juiciness to it, some of that lively fruit that I love.

After I tasted this wine I sat on this post for a little while. I walk into wine stores more often than I used to and as I do I start noticing what is on the shelves instead of just looking at it all as a wall of wine. The more I look the more I pick out this label and others as prevalent in the retail stores near me (of which I frequent quite a few). It is truly amazing how they start sticking out from the walls after you have tasted them and written about them. Makes this whole blogging thing worthwhile.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wine Blogging Wednesday #56 – Fine Kosher Wine

The next Wine Blogging Wednesday has been announced! Our host for April is The Cork Dork who has chosen Fine Kosher Wine for Passover. The challenge is to find a fine kosher wine to report back on. The subject, besides being timed to be posted on the last day of Passover, was inspired by a Napa Valley Cabernet that was made in the kosher tradition.

My mother had a very defined view of kosher wine, that if it says manischewitz on the label it has no place on the table. Luckily enough, I know of a few kosher wines that my mother would approve of.

A lot of people mistake kosher as manischewitz as well as Israeli. For those that do not know, manischewitz wine is made here in the US and has nothing to do with Israeli wine.

There are more Kosher wines on the shelves than most people think. I have found Kosher wines from every part of the world and I look forward to tasting a few and seeing what others review.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Barefoot and loving it!

What does being barefoot make you think of? I think of being on a sailboat in the middle of the Caribbean islands with a tiller in my hand and my sail full of wind.

That’s rather more poetic that the Barefoot wines really deserve, but there is nothing wrong with the dream. The Barefoot PR people contacted me and asked me if I would like some wines to taste. Since I had never heard of Barefoot I of course said yes.

The moment I told my coworkers about them there was this glassy eyed response of those recalled effervescent moments in college. You know the ones I am talking about. Those moments where you and a couple older friends of yours go to the liquor store and buy whatever looks most reasonable. Usually you get the cheapest of the cheap stuff in the jug or box and bring it back home, but there are those rare moments when you want to go up that one level and bring home a glass bottle. Something that says, “yeah, I spent that extra $1.”

A while ago I wrote about how I could not believe the things that the people in the US drink, especially for just a few dollars more when they can get some quality wine. After tasting these Barefoot wines I kind of get it. Not really though, I promise.

The first thing I noticed about the Barefoot wines was that there was no year on the bottle. Anywhere. The only notice on it was a sticker that let you know that three years ago the wine won some award in some competition. It was a gold medal, eh... sticker.

I had the Barefoot Sparking, Pinot Grigio, and Zinfandel in front of me. I could not tell you what they tasted like. All of them were pleasant, actually very easy and enjoyable to drink. Drink, but not taste. They had no taste or at least nothing I could point out and say, “Yes, that is a taste.” But that is their point. They are not supposed to blow away a filet of salmon or an orange glazed duck. Theses are wines that are not supposed to be thought about. The Barefoot wines are the absolute frustration to a wine geek and the love of someone who just wants a glass of something in their hands while sitting on the beach. It does not matter what the something is, the wine is just to complete the picture that was in the person’s head when they were sitting at their desk at work wishing they were on the beach.

I need to figure out when my next sailing trip is.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Have you met me?

I am but a simple wine peddler, spreading a little bit of public relations love to all of the bloggers I know on the Internet. Or at least that is my modus operandi.

I really love bloggers. There are so few people in the world that truly appreciate the work you do and bloggers not only give you thanks, but then shout it from on top of their soapboxes about how you helped them.

Maybe I skipped ahead a little too far, so I will backtrack a little bit. I do PR work in the wine world. I also blog (if you have not figured that out, please stop reading and smack yourself in the head, twice). However, I will never write about any wine or winery that I currently work for in any way. For instance, I work for Wines of Chile. You will never see me review any Chilean wines here on this blog. I am just not a credible source and I do not blog to please my clients.

In my job I send out samples to journalists, charities, art shows, embassies, government agencies, restaurant owners, retailers, party organizers, theater producers, fish wranglers, snozzberry lickers, horn wagglers, and bloggers. And the most appreciative group of all of those by far is the bloggers (the snozzberry lickers just can’t get their faces off the wall paper…). The bloggers say thank you, and they say it with such feeling and poetry that I just cannot help but feel good about myself.

For instance, one of my bloggy friends sent this to me:

It's just like Christmas here! The wine arrived today, and all of Cratchits - er... I mean [editorial deletion] are beside themselves with joy. Thanks so much! I can't wait to try it.

Thanks again Santa - I mean Rob.”

How could you not love that? And that was yesterday!

However, I am certainly not the only PR person that has learned the art of putting wine into a box and putting it in the mail. Many PR companies are now scouring the Internet, looking for a blogger to send wine to in hopes of a favorable review. Some expect a review, and here is where things get sticky and really the reason I wanted to write this post.

I will never expect a review to come out of a wine I send to a blogger. My job is to make suggestions, supply information, and help all types of media (blog or print) form stories about the wines (or country) I represent.

I do not think bloggers are under any obligation to do anything with the wine I send them. If they want to drink it, give it away, or toss it out without posting on their blog about it I would understand. If they think the wine sucks and they want to write about that, I would understand. If they think I am a horrible PR flack (the term my friend at the New York Times gives PR people who bug her with stories that are completely irrelevant to the topics she covers) and want to write about that, I would understand.

However, I hope that most of the bloggers I have created relationships with do not feel that way. In fact, I hope they find me as a useful part of their society (and even a member of the blogosphere). There is definitely no greater feeling than having sent a sample to someone who then writes about how that wine changed his or her view about a certain variety or perhaps even the country where it came from.

Since I know that my blog is mostly read by other wine bloggers, I wonder how you feel about PR people? Let me know by leaving a comment below!


You’re friendly neighborhood Chilean Wine Peddler…

Yup, that's me...

Monday, March 23, 2009

A question of points

William Tish (known as Tish), at www.wineforall.com, made a comment on one of my recent posts. The post was about my experience at Total Wine and Tish had a question about what I found more influential, cards that list the number of points that the wine received or the personal notes that were written by the staff.

I started replying to the thread and before I knew it I had a whole blog post written. So instead of just posting it as a comment I thought I would post is as an article and let others see it and respond as they see fit.

Tish’s comment was:

Are you for real about the points? Why do numbers impress you? And if one rating comes from WS and another from RP and another from IWC, doesn't that make you wonder what they ratings they did NOT post were? I have been to Total Wines in several states, and have always been WAY more impressed with the hand-written shelf talkers that consciously avoid ratings.

And now the response:

Hey Tish, thanks for the comment!

I think that's because you have a strong bias against ratings to begin with. I agree that it made me think about what the other publications gave the wines that had ratings tags, or why there weren't ratings on every wine. But they were names I trusted. Perhaps it is the special position I have in the industry, but if Michael Schachner at WE rates a wine or Josh Raynolds from the IWC I have a higher chance of buying that wine because I have tasted wines they have rated and I have agreed with their ratings (for the most part).

And do not get confused between trusting and being impressed. I am not impressed about which wines are rated what, it is simply a matter of trust. I trust wines that have the names of WS, WE, W&S, IWC, WA associated with them. And why shouldn’t I? That is why these publications exist! However, I trust my own taste buds MUCH more!

Which brings me to the point about the staff at the store. I don't know them, and I do know that the main goal of the storeowner and staff is to sell wine. Sure they have the incentive to recommend a good wine so that I come back for another recommendation, but because I have not tasted with them I do not know if I should trust their recommendation.

It would be much different if I visited Total Wine regularly and got to know the staff and taste with them during their free in-store tastings, but since it was a one time visit (and maybe again in the future if I get back there) I trust names I know.

At the end of the day, I did not buy a single wine that I knew was highly rated unless I had already tasted it. I purchased wines from producers I had little experience with or regions that I had not tasted as thoroughly as I had others. I completely ignored the signs left by the staff and made my own choices on whatever criteria my brain came up with that day. I might have been buying with a few articles that I had read in mind, or perhaps a wine by the glass I had at a wine bar that someone had recommended that I found enjoyable. But I still found it comforting to know that there were wines that were rated there.

Friday, March 20, 2009

TasteCamp East

Yesterday, TasteCamp East was announced on LENNDEVOURS and I am honored to be one of the participants. Living in New York City, I have wanted to get out to Long Island more often and this is the perfect excuse to take a mini vacation to do so.

I have tasted a few New York wines and I have worked with Bruce Schneider, the winemaker of Schneider Vineyards and consulting winemaker at Onabay (or at least I think that is what he is doing there), both of which hail from Long Island. They have been pleasant and interesting and a few Cabernet Francs have definitely made me pay attention.

TasteCamp was created by Lenn at LENNDEVOURS (I seem to mention him a lot lately) as well as fellow bloggers, including Melissa at Family, Love, Wine Blog; Erika at StrumErika; John at Anything Wine and Becky at Smells Like Grape. The idea behind TasteCamp is to have an event where bloggers can come together and meet other bloggers and taste wine with each other.

According to Lenn (and he should know) TasteCamp will happen as follows:

The festivities will start Friday, May 1 with a reception and dinner at Raphael, co-sponsored by Raphael and the Long Island Merlot Alliance. The plans are still forming, but it looks like we'll be the first to taste a couple single-vineyard Sauvignon Blancs from Raphael and also get a preview of LIMA's 2006 Merliance as part of a three-year vertical of that co-produced wine.

The plans for Saturday, May 2 are still coming together, but it looks like we'll be making visits to five different wineries, including lunch at Shinn Estate Vineyard, which will featured the wines of and be co-hosted by Shinn Estate Vineyards, Jamesport Vineyards and Macari Vineyards. After lunch, hopefully, in conjuntion with the Long Island Wine Council, we'll be able to taste the wines from wineries that we won't have time to visit.

Sunday May 3 we'll be shooting down to the South Fork of Long Island, aka the Hamptons, to visit Wolffer Estate and Channing Daughters Winery as well. For the beer lovers in the group, we may even stop off at Southampton Publick House on our way back west.

I am also excited about this because my girl Leah will be coming with me to taste through the wines. A big shout out to her for being on the cusp of finishing Med School and getting into New York Presbyterian for her residency!

Logo Credit: PJ Sedgwick created the TasteCamp EAST logo.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wine Blogging Wednesday #55 - Why the North is better than the South

Seriously, there needs to be a longer lag time between one Wine Blogging Wednesday and another. They expect me to put together a post once a month. Ok, really I am just a slacker and need to get my act together and do more thinking ahead of time and less putzing around.

For this edition of WBW, our host is Remy of The Wine Case with a challenge to compare a wine from the North with a similar wine from the South.

The goal is to take two wines that are made from the same type of grape and compare one from a more northerly region with one from a more southerly region. That could mean a Cabernet made in Texas vs. one made in Washington, or a Pinot Noir made in Burgundy vs. one made in South America, or a Sauvignon Blanc made in New Zealand vs. one made in California.

I had a hard time with this topic, mostly because I had too much freedom to choose which wines to use. My natural response is to pick California and Chile. There are so many good comparisons between the two, especially with the wide range of wines that both produce. But, I still feel like that is a conflict of interest, so I did something a little more interesting.

A little while ago I received a Riesling from Michigan. This was a return gift from a friend of mine. Actually, I did not so much give him a wine as force it on to him. As a few of my twitter friends (@Sonadora and @winebratsf) have told me, I am becoming somewhat of a wine pusher. So, he went back to Grand Rapids, Michigan and he and his family picked out a bottle of Chateau Grand Traverse Riesling 2007 and sent it to me.

Edward O’Keefe founded the CGT in 1974. The winery is situated on the Old Mission Peninsula of Michigan, located in the very northwest corner of Michigan. The peninsula actually holds several wineries, all of which make white wines with some red wines.

So I figured this was the perfect opportunity to taste it and compare it to something more mainstream. A German or Austrian Riesling would have been perfect, but would not have fit the criteria of the challenge, so I went with a Riesling from Australia. I had tasted a few Aussie Rieslings before and had found them to be quite pleasant. Riesling gets a little tricky sometimes because of the sweetness factor in many of them. For this tasting I tried to scout out something dry, since I knew the CGT to be a dry Riesling (said so on the label). The bottle I chose was the Thorn Clarke Terra Barossa Eden Valley Single Vineyard Riesling 2008. It says on their website that the Terra Barossa range of wines was made specifically for the US, which actually worried me a little.

The result was rather mixed. The Chateau Grand Traverse was very pleasant, with a floral apricot and honeysuckle on the nose and a bright green apple, sweet peaches with a strong mineral melody running through the taste. The Thorn Clarke was so perfumed that for a moment I thought I had put my nose in a Viognier or at least a Muscat. The flavor was rounder and richer with more apples and pears. I had these wines with some fabulous Chinese food from Grand Sichuan and the combination was perfect. I felt that the Thorn Clarke was better with the food, but I really loved the Chateau Grand Traverse as an aperitif.

So which side won? Both! No, this is not a cop out; I am making one of those points about wine that people sometimes get wrong. How a wine presents to you is a lot about what is in the bottle, but the moment also needs to be accounted for. I could probably think that this plonk was absolutely delicious if I decided to drink it on my wedding day, but I am not even talking about the euphoria of certain events. Here I have two wines, both with different strengths. I think if I were just drinking the wine alone I would prefer the Michigan Riesling. However, with food I preferred the Australian Riesling. Even my two companions that I was dining with split in their decisions on which one is better.

So wine is not just about what is in the bottle (although that is most of the battle), but also where you drink it and whom you are with and what the occasion is. Are you having it with food or alone? All things to think about the next time you open up a wine.
Still, I am partial to the North in just about everything else…

Monday, March 16, 2009

Total Heaven

How many different types of gum are in the world? Maybe 100? Maybe even 200? At most, in our wildest dreams, 1000? It would look somewhat impressive if all of that gum was put on a retail wall in a store, but you would expect there to be other products in the store too, right?

I have made mention of how many wines there are in the world on other posts, but I think every wine loving person should have the experience I had this weekend.

As a birthday gift my mother took me into Total Wine for the first time on Saturday. It was a rather intense experience. Total Wine is the equivalent of a Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s for wine. It was almost specifically made for people who just want to explore aisles and aisles of wine. Really, it is a bloggers’ paradise. I almost salivate at the idea of attempting to try every single wine in the store. I am sure I could ask the good people at TW for the number of SKU’s they have in their stores, but just from walking the rows I would say that the number is certainly over 1000, and possibly over 3000. And that might be underestimating it.

Seeing that much wine and knowing nothing about them is daunting. Repeatedly, I was caught by the shelf talkers (the little signs and notes that retailers put near the bottles to give you a sense of what it is you might be buying). One note that did a particular good job at influencing me was the number of points the wine received.

There were plenty of signs, handwritten by the staff that said they had tried the wine and it was delicious. There was even one that said, “if you want to love this wine, let it breath.” These show that a particular amount of thought goes into each sign and that the staff does care that you get the best experience possible. Again and again there was a sign that said “Bob’s Choice.” I knew nothing about Bob, but I assume he was the wine buyer or manager of that particular store. Really it is no different from what Gary Vaynerchuk does at Wine Library.

But back to the points issue. I was really affected by them. It was comforting to know that in this sea of choices, someone out there that is an authority on wine could tell me that this particular wine was good enough to be rated 90 points. Someone I did not know recommended the wine and thought it was good. No wonder that points are in such demand!

The one thing that trumps points every time is a personal recommendation from someone standing there next to you. It could be an employee at the store (and believe me, it was almost a challenge to move from one aisle to the next without someone asking me if I needed help) or as I found out this weekend, it could be just some Joe Schmoe.

The store was laid out by grape variety, which works until you hit France or Italy, so they received special treatment with their own sections. I was standing in front of the Petit Sirah and thinking that I needed to taste more of them when someone next to me pointed to a bottle and said that it was his wife’s favorite. Immediately I picked up the bottle and put it in my cart, whether to be polite or because I truly believed this man’s wife had a palate I could trust I am not sure. Just like that, no second thoughts, no questions, just a hand-sell. The winery or the store should have given him a dollar off for his troubles.

So, at the end of the day my mother and I filled up the cart with 18 bottles and paid the register clerk their due. It was a great experience and it only makes me want to go back for more. Although I think I need to drink through some wine first.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Another year, successfully navigated. Not much else to say than that. Thank you to everyone who decided to read my posts here. I very much enjoy the discussions we have had and the topics that people have brought to me. I look forward to trying new wines in the next year and making new friends while continuing to laugh with the old ones.


Friday, March 13, 2009

What happens when you just don’t dig the wine?

Nice people are everywhere. I have even been accused of being a nice person from time to time (shhhh, do not tell anyone!). There are even nice people in the wine world, lots of them. And nice people make it very hard to not like their wine.

I will name the winery in a few paragraphs, but I want to go deeper into the how simple courtesies make such a difference in how you view the products of a company. It’s one of the reasons why so many people are so adamant about how wine publications should taste all of their wines blind. I think for a true professional, they are so used to being treated well that it really only sticks out in their minds when hospitality is lacking.

A major example of this was when a few bloggers went to go visit Domain Chandon. The experience was posted by WineDiverGirl, and then joined by her friends at Shana, and the Luscious Lushes. It then kept rippling with other bloggers, such as the Wannabe Wino, with mentions and notes about how Domain Chandon treated their friends. Domain Chandon then did their best to correct their mistake with WineDiverGirl, which is really the least they could do. I would bet there was a pretty serious meeting with the tasting staff after that (and it goes to show just how bloggers can shake up the world a little). There was a similar incident that happened with the writers of the Wall Street Journal wine column, when they visited some of the best restaurants in New York and were almost completely ignored and rushed out the door.

But enough giving shout-outs to other bloggers that I read (and you should too), and back to the problem of nice people. A PR representative contacted me and asked me if I wanted to stay at a hotel in Napa on their dime in order for me to review my stay on my blog. A very nice offer, but since I have no plans to be in Napa anytime soon, nor do I really have the means to take a spur of the moment vacation right now, I declined. Being the good PR person, he said no problem and then actually read what I write about (ok, so he was good but not a great PR person) and asked if I would like some samples from a winery client of his. I said of course and he then sent me three desert wines from Quady Winery.

Quady is a family owned and operated winery and has been making wines since 1975, and only dessert wines. When I tasted the wines I was struck by the very manufactured feeling in the wines. I feel like these were an attempt to create a wine instead of allowing the fruit to show through. I tasted the wines with a group of coworkers and when we tasted the Orange Muscat wines not a single person could come up with a fruit to describe the wine. In a dessert wine you should always be able to pick out some type of fruit! In fact, that could probably be said for any wine. All we could find was notes of fruit roll-up and other artificially flavored fruit snacks. It then got a bit weirder as we tried one that had been infused with mystical plants and aphrodisiacs. Definitely not wines for me, although someone else might like them.

The one I liked was the Black Muscat, the Elysium. It was a breath of fresh air after the other wines, with fruit that showed through, some cherry and raspberry. It was something that would have gone quite well with a piece of chocolate cake, or a dark chocolate mousse.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Countess of Montecillo

There are few things I enjoy more than sitting around and chatting about wine with a winemaker, especially a winemaker that has been making wine for over 30 years. There is such a sense of ease and enjoyment that comes from a wine where the winemaker knows that she does not need to over work it.

I had the privilege of attending a lunch with Maria Martinez-Sierra, who has been making wine for the past 34 years. She has been working with the Osbourne family, the owners of Bodegas Montecillo in Rioja, since they started making wine. The Osbourne’s took over ownership of Bodegas Montecillo in 1973, at first producing only sherry and brandy. The winery itself was founded in 1874 and is the third oldest winery in Rioja, or so it claims.

Maria was one of the first women winemakers in Rioja as well as one of the first winemakers to make her wines with 100% Tempranillo. In fact, Maria has a particular devotion to indigenous Spanish varietals, such as Tempranillo and AlbariƱo. With the rise of demand for Tempranillo from Rioja, it seems that Maria is a visionary, with more surprises on the way. During the tasting Maria brought out a tank sample of a 2008 AlbariƱo from Rias Baixas and it was beautiful. The wine was fresh, crisp and so sippable that I could probably have finished off the bottle by myself – luckily there were others that were there to hold me back. This is the winery’s first vintage of white wine and I am glad that they let Maria talk them into it.

Those of us that attended the tasting were able to sit around very informally and just chat with Maria about her philosophies. Her views on vintages were really interesting to me. When asked about how she decides to make her wine into a Crianza, a Reserva, or a Gran Reserva she said, “When the vintage is not up to the standards, I won’t make the wine.” By this she meant that the grapes needed to be a certain standard in order to last under the aging treatments that come with a Reserva and Gran Reserva, a very respectable philosophy of winemaking. Looking at past vintages, Maria did not make a Gran Reserva in 2002 and did not make even a Reserva in 2004.

When asked about her production volume, she noted that it changes frequently. “When the grapes are of a good quality and the conditions are right, I will make as many bottles of wine as the Osbourne family pockets can make.”

I thought that was a damn good answer.

When we tasted the red wines they were very enjoyable. My favorite of the three was the Gran Reserva 2001. It was beautifully young and juicy with red fruit on the nose and got more floral the longer it would sit in the glass. The taste was smooth and silky with cherries and blackberries on the taste. I think what I most enjoyed was that the oak used did not overwhelm the fruit. There was a great balance. And at the price of $25 a bottle, it’s a great deal!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Everyone is crazy on Argentina

It really is incredible how the everyday drinker latches onto a grape. In the US, Merlot had a good run (with plenty still on the shelves) and gave way to Pinot Noir after Sideways knocked over a few bottles. Now the grape of the moment: Malbec!

Even though I think this is a fad that will one day be replaced by another fad (although it may stick around… when are people going to leave White Zinfandel and Chardonnay?), there is one major difference: Malbec from Argentina is damn tasty.

There is a lot of wine flooding in from Argentina these days. In fact, Argentina is now the fourth largest importer of wine into the US, behind Italy, Australia, and France. However, more than half of that wine is bulk wine.

What is bulk wine? Let’s think about how wine in brought into the U.S. for a moment. When shipping overseas, most producers put their wines on very large tankers. They have to bottle the wines, put the appropriate labels on them (do not get me started on labeling laws), put them in boxes, and then deliver them to the appropriate port where a ship will take the wines on board and drop them off in a port in the U.S. where customs the opens the boxes and looks to make sure all importing laws are being upheld.

Have you ever lifted a box of wine? It is heavy, which adds cost in the shipping. Well, what if you decide to simply put all the wine into large plastic containers and bottle the wine wherever you decide to send it. That would save money on shipping and you can bring more wine in at the same time. The problem is that the wines almost never have the interest and the life that a bottled wine has. You can find bulk wine from every country, especially right now when producers are doing everything they can to keep prices down.

But, I digress. We are talking about the good stuff here and there is not much better than the Bodegas Salentein Reserve Malbec 2006 from the Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina. This wine was very good, with a beautiful deep velvety purple color. There was a very nice vibrant freshness in the wine when I stuck my nose in the glass, accented by ripe red fruits. The vibrancy continued in my mouth where I found some cherry, black raspberry and cranberry flavors. Towards the end of the finish there was some nice spicy richness to it.

I looked up what the experts said, and I found that Jay Miller at the Wine Advocate gave this wine an 89. Finally, a wine I can post on the 89 project! Michael Schachner at the Wine Enthusiast gave this wine a 90. Wine Spectator gave this wine a 75. I was confused because I did not think the wine publications posted anything that was given less than an 85. When I saw the notes it looked like the Wine Spectator received a few bad bottles when they were doing their review. A real shame, because I think this is a great wine. On wine-searcher.com I found this wine between $17 and $22.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It’s all Greek to me

When I started this blog I wanted to focus on wine regions that I had not tasted as extensively as I have the wines of my clients. Recently, I have been exploring connections I have made through ProfNet, kind of a help line for journalists to connect to the PR people that make the story happen (ok, I am biased).

The good people at LENNDEVOURS have been preaching drink local for a while now, joined by other journalists one of which is Dave McIntyre, now the columnist at the Washington Post. I have been talking to some of the people representing Ohio State wines, North Carolina wineries, Texas Wineries, and a note about Arizona’s wine country. That might not be drinking local, but its closer than I’ve gotten so far (besides a few Long Island wines).

But back to the topic at hand: Greek wine. Greece was in the group of places that I really never thought would have wine, but could not think of a good reason why it wouldn’t. You have some hills, cool breezes, maybe some hot summers, but sure, let’s see what the wine’s like.

I received a bottle of Boutari Moschofilero (mo-sko-FEEL-ero) 2007 from the people at Terlato Wines International. Yiannis Boutari founded the Boutari Winery in 1879. The original winery, outside of Naoussa, has a 124-acre vineyard. There are also five other wineries located throughout Greece in Goumenissa, Attica, Mantinia, Santorini, and Crete. This Moschofilero comes from the Mantinia region.

The wine was a pale gold when it came out of the bottle. On the nose there was a strong presence of petrol, almost like a dry Riesling. As it opened more I found pear and sugared yellow apple. I even left it in the glass for a while and as it opened up more there were more sweet white fruits, guava, a little perfume. At the end of the evening the wine started giving a bready aroma.

When I stuck it in my mouth there was weighty and rich characteristic to it with spicy acidity. In fact, after the wine had left my mouth there was a HUGE continuation of the acidity zipping along my tongue, almost ripping any other tastes from my mouth. As I continued to taste the wine there was more green-apple, a little bit of saltiness, and white pepper. The last few times I tasted the wine there was a Welch’s grapiness to it.

After review, the petrol notes of this wine turned me away from it. There were some good qualities to it, and I would love to have drunk it on a sailboat in the middle of the Greek islands, but for now I’ll go back to grapes I can pronounce.

Monday, March 2, 2009

New York Wine Expo Recap

Friday night I went to the New York Wine Expo with a few friends of mine. It is a fun event that takes place at the Javits Center each year, where you can buy tickets for $85. The people at the NYWE were nice enough to give me a press pass so that I could come and talk to the different producers and winery representatives.

One of my favorite wine educators was there, Kevin Zraly. Kevin is the founder and teacher of Windows on the World Wine School and is a great speaker. If you have the chance to listen to him, I would suggest you do so. I have met Kevin on a variety of occasions, even being invited to speak to his class about Chile a few times. He makes wine so much fun and helps people understand that the world of wine is not meant to be scary and overwhelming but that it is meant to be explored the same way food is and meant to be drunk the same way bud light is. Well, ok not quite the same as Bud Light, but my point is that no one should feel that they cannot walk into a wine story and pick something up for dinner. Also, once he has taught you to say “Sangiovese” you will never mispronounce it again.

I am always really impressed when a winemaker comes to one of these types of events. The New York Wine Expo is definitely a consumer event where avid wine enthusiasts can come in and taste to their hearts’ content. An export manager, brand sales representative, or public relations representative can handle most of the questions that everyday wine drinkers will have. However, when a winemaker is there you can get such a great view of what goes into the bottle and it gives the wine life and a history, not just a taste.

One such winemaker was Rainer Karl Lingenfelder of Wiengut Lingenfelder Estate, based in the Pfalz region of Germany. Rainer was excellent to talk to and was the perfect introduction to the NYWE for the friends I was with. When he handed his card to me, it made me smile to see his title as Grapegrower in the Age of PostChardonnism. We listened to him talk about his wines and you could really feel that this winery was in his family for the past 15 generations. When asked about his philosophy on winemaking he said that while some winemakers are craft masters and artists, he and his family are really simple grape growers. His wines are made using natural yeasts found in the vineyards, and their technique is to do as little as possible to change the natural expression of the grapes. He says, “True wine comes from the soil.” The efforts that he and his family put into the soil are readily evident in the wines, which have such character and enjoyment when tasted. The wines he was showing were a single vineyard Riesling and a single vineyard Pinot Gris. Both have great minerality and acidity. The Pinot Gris was nicely creamy and rich. Definitely wines to look out for.

I read a lot of coverage about the state of New York wines, thanks to the great people at LENNDEVOURS (I am sure they will put me on their blog roll one day…), and since I was at a New York wine event I figured it would be wrong to not taste through the local wines.

I started with the Brooklyn Oenology, since what could be closer to me than Brooklyn? It turns out that they source their wines from Long Island, but that is still closer than Germany. For each of their wines they hire a local Brooklyn artist to design the label. Each year every label is different, allowing for more artists to have their work put on the bottle. And even better, the labels peel off like a sticker, helping those of us who like to keep the labels from going through the length process of peeling it off ourselves. I was only able to taste one of the wines from BO (oy, that’s an unfortunate acronym), their current release Viognier. It had that classic, lovely perfumed nose that makes me just want to keep my nose in the glass all day long. The taste was a little disappointing, not quite living up to its aroma, but certainly good enough to make me want to explore their other wines.

I also had the opportunity to taste a few Finger Lakes wines, two from Lakewood Vineyards and one from Atwater Estate Vineyards. The Rieslings I tasted from each winery were quite good. Both had very nice minerality, with the Lakewood Riesling having a more floral nose and the Atwater presenting more petrol notes. I also tasted the Lakewood Chardonnay, which was very nice. Chad, representative from Lakewood, told me that 33% of the Chardonnay was fermented in New York oak. For me the wine had a very interesting orange citrus taste, very fresh with a hint of vanilla richness towards the end.

Those were my highlights of the evening. I did not even come close to my personal best of tasting 100 wines, but I had a great time doing selective tasting. I hope my friends enjoyed themselves as well, and everyone else who went to taste through the more than 100 producers represented.
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