oe•no•phile Two Years In and "Retiring"

Hi all,

So today is the two year anniversary of oe•no•phile. I can't believe it's been two years already since I decided to sit down and really focus some energy on writing about wine. However, in the recent months I have been shamefully neglectful of my writing here given work and a number of other activities that have taken up a lot of time and left little time to write.

It occurred to me that I really have wanted to give my writing a more driven focus, and with that I'm pleased to announce the creation of Northwest Whites, a new website dedicated solely to exploring the white wines of the Pacific Northwest. Making my home now in the Willamette Valley, I realize that I came here for a reason—my passion for wine. My passion for the wines of this region, especially the under-recognized white wines, has developed quickly (and I've hardly scratched the surface in 11 months). 

You've read all about Oregon's world-class Pinot Noir and Washington Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon ... but what about Chardonnay? Riesling? Sauvignon Blanc? Pinot Gris? Gewürztraminer? Explore those and more white varieties from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia.


So thank you for reading (sporadically even) here at oe•no•phile. I really appreciate your support, and hope you'll make your way over to Northwest Whites (launching on October 22, 2010) to continue following my wine journey here in the Pacific NW. 

Additionally, you can also check out my personal site, RyanReichert.com, for general wine education information and wine consulting. And for all my wine reviews, visit my profile on Adegga.

Cheers!

WBC 2010 In Short

So the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference has come to an end. I'm back in the car, not driving, but passengering back to Portland.

I'm sure everyone is writing similar summary posts on their respective blogs, so I'll keep this brief. Aside from seeing some good friends, meeting new friends, and trying a lot of wine here are some of my highlight moments:



  • Pre-conference Willamette Valley shenanigans
  • Arriving at a mini-party immediately after arriving at the host hotel and not 10 minutes later getting a visit from a staff person to tell us (read: Thea) to quiet down. [<3 you T!]
  • Taco truck luncheon
  • Live wine blogging - whites on Friday, reds on Saturday
  • Exploring downtown Walla Walla tasting rooms via the Walla Walla Walkabout on Friday night
  • Chocolate truffle buffet at Fort Walla Walla Cellars paired with Syrah
  • One of the best domestic Sauvignon Blancs I've had from Substance Wines
  • A gorgeous lunch and view at Waters Winery on a bus tour of the area
  • Roasted asparagus at dinner Saturday night - my one criticism was that hardly any of the meals were coordinated to cater to vegetarian or vegan diets
  • Army Worm "wine" - I probably don't need to say anything more
  • Oscar Quevedo's family Ports
  • Getting. "professional" tour of the Marcus & Narcissa Whitman art gallery
  • Meg Houston Maker's 24 Theses on more effective writing
  • Amazing food and wine pairing lunch on Sunday afternoon hosted by Click Wine Group
  • Learning that the 2011 conference will be in Charlottesville, VA, which might mean a trip to DC to see my friend Libby!
  • A fantastic car ride back to Portland

I'll endeavor to go through and post tasting notes for the wines I took notes on in the next few days, but for now here is the list of some of my top local favorites.

Sweet Valley
Sleight of Hand
Forgeron Cellars
Otis Kenyon
Long Shadow
Waters Winery
Substance Wines
Fort Walla Walla Cellars

Great to see everyone this year. Thank you to all the great donors, sponsors, and organizers. And a huge thank you to the Marcus Whitman Hotel. We had a fabulous conference - looking forward to 2011!

The Road to Walla Walla

So that time of year has come again - it's time for the annual American Wine Bloggers Conference. This year we're convening in the city of Walla Walla over the Washington side of the Columbia, the same river that runs through my new home in Portland. I drove past the area on my way to the Willamette Valley, and now I'm headed back, seeing the scenery from another angle.

It's a four hour drive from Portland to Walla Walla, but well worth the trip. The views and changing landscape along the Columbia are just amazing. And since Lynnette is driving, I can type on my new iPad!

The conference will offer a chance to reconnect with many people I met last year (and more importantly make a human connection with all the Facebook/Twitter wine folks I follow).


I'm excited about this year's conference, especially given the focus on wine AND food. It seems more and more I get into wine and talk about it, I nearly always come back to discussing it in relation to food. I find this an excellent way to bridge the imaginary gap between what people want to know and what they do know. Wine isn't always an easy topic to learn about, so what better than to relate it to something as everyday and basic as what we put in our mouths?

The Marcus Whitman Hotel hosts the 2010
American Wine Bloggers Conference
in Walla Walla, WA
I'm also anxious to get exposure to the Washington wine industry. Hardly six months in the Willamette and I'm ever eager to explore the rest of the Pacific Northwest. It's amazing to me that just across the state line there are incredible warm weather varieties being produced like syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and zinfandel. I'm not by any means pinot weary, but it's a great opportunity to expand my tasting experiences.

So, despite my continuous absence from the blog-o-sphere over the past months (I actually got yelled at for not being a more active Tweeter!) I'll be making efforts to do some live updates while exploring Walla Walla. We'll be doing lots of tasting, learning about wine and food, discussing wine writing, visiting wineries and vineyards, and overall having a great time. There are bound to be things I'll want to share.

So if you're on Twitter, be sure to follow the hash tag #WBC10. Lots of folks will be using this to track their experiences. I'll also make some more updates to oe•no•phile too! Happy following, thanks to all our hosts, sponsors, and organizers, and here's to a good time in Walla Walla! And if you're able, please try and support the WBC Bloggership Fund - receiving a scholarship last year was what got me into this whole glorious mess to begin with.

Santé!

Need a wine consultant?

Wine is something that many people enjoy and I find that there are a lot of people who would love to learn more about it. Whether it's something simple like finding that perfect pairing for dinner or challenging yourself to find new obscure grape varieties there is a ton of stuff to learn about wine. What is it? How is it produced? How do you taste it? What makes all those grapes or regions or vintages so different?

Read more...

Summer looms

Despite the wet spring we've had in the Willamette there have been a handful of absolutely gorgeous, warm, sunny days. We erected a fantastic backyard canopy on our deck that provides a beautiful space for us to enjoy dinner on those warm evenings. We've even fired up the grill and enjoyed some delicious smoky fare. Lynnette has a knack for making perfect grill marks on both her chicken and the tofu Amy and I enjoy. Vegetables have made a large appearance as well: spring potatoes, red and yellow bell pepper, asparagus, and an assortment of summer squashes.

Summer is looming, and it's just a matter of weeks before this becomes our daily routine. With this all in mind I start thinking about quintessential summer beverages. For my purposes one thing comes to mind: gin and tonics.




However, there's plenty of excellent wine to quaff in the summer heat, and one of my favorites is Sauvignon blanc. With aromatics and flavors that include herbal, vegetal, and citrus qualities sauvignon blanc might just be the oenological equivalent of the G&T.

Sauvignon blanc hails from France where it is used for blending in Bordeaux, and on its own in the Loire Valley's Sancerre. Outside of France the grape has seen wide plantings around the world from South America to New Zealand to even the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Recently at Vino Paradiso in Portland's Pearl District I was thrilled to find a flight three Sauvignon blancs from around the world. And lucky me, it was the last day the flight was available. The three wines up for consideration:

2009 Willamette Valley, OR Sauvignon Blanc by Patricia Green Cellars

Appearance: clear, pale, gold with a soft green tinge
Nose: clean, medium-light intensity (perhaps it was too cold?); stone fruit, apple, grass, cut hay
Palate: dry, medium body, acidity, and finish, waxy mouthfeel as the acidity dissipates; lots of citrus, lime, stone fruit, tart green apple
2008 Reuilly AOC, FR Sauvignon Blanc by Denis Jamain

Appearance: clear, medium-pale intensity, golden yellow
Nose: clean, aromatic; grass, grapefruit, unripe cherries, citrus, lime
Palate: dry, medium-full body, medium-high acidity, long finish; fresh grapefruit and lemon
2008 Marlborough, NZ Ranga Ranga Sauvignon Blanc by Barker's Marque

Appearance: clear, medium intensity, golden yellow
Nose: clean, aromatic; grass, green vegetable, asparagus, pea shoots, citrus
Palate: dry, medium intensity and body, alcohol is slightly off balance, long finish; lemon and lime, green vegetal
Vino Paradiso via Google Maps
I have to say this was a fantastic flight (kudos to the folks at Vino Paradiso for putting together such an exemplary S.B. comparison). I kept going back and forth between each, swirling them and sticking my nose back in the glass. The aromatics alone were completely different for each wine. I've bolded those above which I think stood out the most between the three styles.

While each wine was very good and well priced—the D. Jamain maxes out as the priciest at just $20!—I have to claim the Reuilly as my favorite. This region is just southwest of Sancerre in the Loire Valley and focuses on whites made with sauvignon blanc and reds from pinot noir. The wine was knock-you-out-of-your-seat aromatic, had an amazing texture on the palate, great flavors and acidity, and a finish that had me licking my lips in anticipation for the next sip.

The Patty Green came in a close second ($18 retail) with the Ranga Ranga ($12) as my final choice.

All of these were great wines to enjoy throughout the summer on their own or with food. The classic pairing to Sauvignon blanc is chèvre but I'd quickly match these with salads, grilled veg, chicken (or tofu in my case), or anything in a light cream sauce.

So while I'm sure the limes, gin, and tonic water will be in great demand this summer I'm also looking forward to plenty more Sauvignon blanc as well.

Cheers!

Quick Sip: 2007 Vouvray, floral but searing

Château Gaudrelle Vouvray, Sec (2007)
Château Gaudrelle
Chenin Blanc
Vouvray, Loire Valley, France
Chenin blanc
Another wine from our Loire Valley tasting. Vouvray is produced from the chenin blanc grape and can be dry to sweet. Always though you'll find a floral, "sweet" smelling nose. Like riesling, this grape can produces some truly deceiving wines.

Appearance: Clear, light gold color.

Nose: Clean, medium intensity with honey, floral, apple, and pear aromas.

Palate: Dry, medium body, medium-high acidity, soft citrus, green apple, stone fruit.
Vouvray is produced in four levels of sweetness: Sec, Demi-Sec, Moelleux, Doux. In terms of residual sugar, that left in solution after the wine is finished with fermentation, they can range from 0 grams per litre up to 45 (4.5%). Though people might associate these smells, or even the tastes with "sugar" these wines are not always actually sweet.

That said, they pair very well with richly flavored dishes with similarly concentrated characteristics.

Cheers!

Quick Sip: 2008 Sancerre, just so you know "cat pee" is appropriate here!

Domaine André Neveu Sancerre, Silex (2008)
Domaine André Neveu
Sauvignon Blanc
Sancerre, Loire Valley, France
Borrowed from 2007 vintage.
Now for the classic Sancerre—herbal, grassy, zingy, cat pee... Yes. This is totally acceptable as a wine aroma term. Though I'll tell you, people will give you funny looks. If you ever hear anyone say "elderberry" or "boxwood" what they really mean is "Wow - where's the Tidy Cats?!" Sauvignon blanc from this region can be pungent, but is completely delightful and refreshing. Classic pairing with chèvre.

Appearance: Clear, medium-light, golden yellow.

Nose: Clean, grass, straw, grapefruit, lime, minerality, cat pee.

Palate: Dry, medium to medium-plus body, medium-plus to high acidity, long finish. Lemon, tart citrus fruit, flint, herbal.
The name, silex, refers to the predominant silica make-up in the soils where these vineyards are planted.

Quick Sip: 2008 Sancerre Rosé, finding French pinot outside Bourgogne

Domaine André Neveu Sancerre Rosé (2008)
Domaine André Neveu
Pinot Noir
Sancerre, Loire Valley, France
Image borrowed from the 2007 vintage.
Another from our Loire tasting. This is the first time I've had Sancerre rosé, a region well known for it's crisp, grassy sauvignon blanc.
Appearance: Pale, clear, salmon pink with some golden tinge.

Nose: Clean, grass, banana (carbonic maceration is used to produce the rosés of Sancerre), tropical fruit, grapefruit, fresh apple, pear, tangerine.

Palate: Dry, medium-light body, medium acidity, pear, apple, lemon, strawberry, cherry, soft red fruit and a medium finish.

Quick Sip: 2008 Muscadet, every oyster’s best friend

St. Vincent Cuvée, Sur Lie (2008)
Michel Delhommeau
Melon de Bourgogne
Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine, Loire Valley, France

The second wine from my Loire Valley tasting. These wines are excellent with oysters - and no wonder, Muscadet is right on the Atlantic!
Appearance: Clear, pale, straw color.

Nose: Clean, vanilla, honey, yeasty, biscuit, banana, grape, yellow apple, pear, bubble gum.

Palate: Dry, medium-light body, medium acidity, medium-light finish. Flavors like lemonade, refreshing, citrus, lemon.

Quick Sip: NV Crémant de la Loire – herbal yeasty goodness

Carte Turquoise Crémant de la Loire (NV)
Domaine des Baumard
Chenin Blanc & Cabernet Franc
Loire Valley, France

This is the first of a series of tasting notes from a Loire Valley focused tasting I took part in with some other industry folks recently. Enjoy!
Appearance: Clear, pale to medium-light yellow color.

Nose: Clean, grassy, herbal aromatics up front. Green pepper - definitely indicative of the Cabernet Franc.

Palate: Dry, medium acidity, medium body, and medium-light mousse. More green pepper and vegetal flavors balanced with some grapefruit/citrus and creamy, yeasty textures.

WBW #66: Your Tenderest Two-Some, Dessert & Wine

Argyle Brut Rosé (2007)
Argyle Winery
52% Pinot Meunier | 48% Pinot Noir
Dundee Hills, OR
So today is Wine Blogging Wednesday #66 which is being hosted by Jennifer Hamilton, The Domestic Goddess. Combining two of my favorite things, Jennifer has joined WBW with Sugar-High Friday for today's challenge. We were asked to come up with a dessert and wine pairing.

Desserts can sometimes be difficult to pair with wines, and I think many of us first just jump to sweeter wines. Rule of thumb there is to make sure your wine is as sweet of not sweeter than your dessert, otherwise it'll taste sour. Also keep in mind tangy/tart flavors vs. savory/milky ones in your desserts. Based on that (is it apple pie or chocolate mousse?) you'll want to pay attention to the wine's acidity.

Since I tend to gravitate towards more acidic wines, and away from overly-chocolate'd (I know, there's not supposed to be such a thing... just think, more chocolate for you!) desserts my thoughts got a little bubbly. Lucky for us, Argyle is less than 30 minutes from here!

Appearance: Clear, bright, soft to medium intensity salmon pink color

Nose: Clean with lots of bright, fresh fruit including fresh apple, cherry, strawberry, citrus and tropical fruit; softened by a very subtle yeast aroma; some minerality

Palate: Very crisp, dry, medium+ acidity, medium body and finish, tons of bubbles and a vigorous mousse; mimicking the fruitiness from the nose, lots of cherry, fresh picked apples, strawberry and citrus
So the dessert then? Homemade pineapple galette! My housemate Amy crafted a beautifully rustic tart using fresh pineapple, cinnamon, and an obscenely butter-laden crust recipe. Wow.

The wine was amazing with this - the acidity matched with the tartness of the pineapple, but also helped with the buttery crust. The bubbles scrubbed that fatty texture off the palate and prepped the tongue for the next bite. I kept thinking, getting slightly light-headed on the bubbles, that this was the ultimate pairing of Tropical Meets Rural. Warm weather fruit paired with fresh, crisp apples. Perfect.

To make matters... worse?... we broke out a jar of Lynnette's freshly-made strawberry basil preserves to see how that would taste on the galette. Um - *expletive* fantastic. It's unfortunate we didn't think of it sooner!

So, when it comes time for dessert what wine are you thinking of? Maybe just an ice-wine or Port on it's own or something paired with dark chocolate cake? Comment with your favorite combo!

Cheers!

New site has launched & stuff


So my attentiveness to my writing here has been horrible this month. I've got some interesting wines to try tonight that I'll take some notes on, and tomorrow I'll be joining a bunch of other bloggers for Wine Blogging Wednesday. We're pairing wine and desserts, which I'm super excited about.

In other news, I've launched my personal website - www.ryanreichert.com. This will be a central place for me to showcase all my writing (concerning wine, food, travel and whatnot), photos, and to post news about what's going on in my life. I hope you'll all check it out soon and please let me know what you think.

Here's to drinking more wine and writing about it!

Cheers

Ryan

Fast and Dirty… I mean, Dark & Delicious!

Okay - so this is sort-of, kind-of last minute... but I've got two tickets to give away for Dark & Delicious, a super fantastic event featuring Petite Sirah (with an I!) put on by PS I Love You.

The event is taking place on February 19, 2010 from 6-9p PST at The Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda, CA (just outside Oakland). If you're a) a local or b) are going to be in the area then I would highly recommend going! 41 different producers are being featured alongside 26 SF/Bay Area restauranteurs and caterers. Tickets are $60, so this prize is worth $120 total.

So here's the deal - to qualify you must head over to Twitter and send a message (140 or less!) about why you (LOVE) Petite Sirah. Make sure to send it to @oenoblog so I see it. Given the crunch on time though, I'm going to limit this to entries through Sunday February 14th 2010 (Valentine's Day). This way I'll have time to mail the tickets to the winner.

I'll assign each entry a number as it comes in and use a random number generator to get the winner.

Good luck!

Other stuff:
1) You must be 21 to attend
2) No ticket refunds or exchanges
3) Please drink responsibly! (because abusing good Petite Sirah is a crime!)

Patz & Hall Twitter Taste Live: Pinot, Chard and Tofu!

Patz & Hall
Chardonnay & Pinot Noir
Sonoma Coast, California
Last night was the launch of the Patz & Hall Winery page on Twitter Taste Live. They divided the country in two and had bloggers on both coasts do a tasting of two of their soon to be released wines. I was really pleased to see how seamlessly the upgraded TTL is working, and we had an enjoyable time tasting the wines.
2008 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Appearance: Clear, medium+ intensity, straw yellow.

Nose: Clean, top notes of vanilla, yeast, biscuit; citrus, orange, yellow apple, oak, and honey - the alcohol was pretty strong after first opening the bottle.

Palate: Dry, full bodied, medium acidity, medium+ alcohol, medium-long finish; butter, vanilla, yeast, citrus, orange, banana, some tropical fruit, and a creamy mouthfeel.
I'll be the first to tell you I'm not really into oaked Chardonnay. I really prefer mimimum oak characteristics, and will go for 100% stainless steel any day. That said, I'm all for striking balance too, and I did enjoy this Chardonnay.

This release was aged in 40% new French oak for 10 months in addition to being on the lees with weekly stirring. After yeast cells "expire" they will autolyse (go boom) and continue imparting creamy, biscuit characteristics to wine if not filtered out. Creamier than I'd choose on my own, but not a total oak bomb either. This wine also underwent 100% Malolactic Fermentation (MLF) which helps to smooth out the acidity in the wine, converting malic acid to lactic acid. Think of the acidity of a green apple versus the acidity of milk.

General consensus was that the other bloggers tasting really enjoyed the Chardonnay. Some raved about the racy acidity, though I think that perhaps it was perspective moving their palates from what they'd normally think of California Chardonnay with the huge oak and butter notes. Since my taste is approaching from the opposite end, it didn't seem too zingy to me. As always perception makes wine tasting with groups like this a lot of fun!


2007 Jenkins Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Appearance: Clear, medium+ intensity (for Pinot Noir at least!), garnet color to clear rim.

Nose: Clean, top notes of violet, spice, smoke, cinnamon; red cherry, cranberry (the literature says "pomegranate"), soft licorice, slightly dried fruit, floral, alcohol is noticeable but not overwhelming or out of balance with fruit; cranberry is definitely dominant.

Palate: Dry, medium to medium-full body, medium acidity, medium alcohol, medium finish and gentle tannins. Sweet cherry, red fruit, strawberry, plum, ripe fruit, vanilla, cranberry-but not tart like you'd expect from the nose-and soft oak.
With the second wine I felt almost as though all the bottles of Oregon Pinot sitting on the counter had turned to glare angrily at me - somehow able to tell that I was enjoying the California wine. Probably not the case though.

In Oregon, 2007 is snubbed by many - though people are starting to realize that the 2007 vintage is starting to show really nicely after some time in the bottle. Hopefully those people who skipped right to '08 will leave more for the rest of us. That's neither here nor there though as in Sonoma it was predictably beautiful in 2007. Slightly smaller than expected harvest for many, but that definitely didn't hurt quality. This Pinot included, I think it had a very fruity personality. Again, not a huge amount of acid, and this one as well went through 100% MLF with 40% in new French oak. I would easily drink this Pinot, though I think I'd be hard pressed not to find one in my backyard that I liked just as much if not more.



We enjoyed both the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with dinner, our first run at tofu & mushroom stroganoff. You can use that Whole Foods recipe as a jumping off point, and then check out this Baked Tofu recipe and use it in place of the tempeh. We tossed ours over penne instead of rice. Hm, I might have to write about this now over at veggielantes!

Both wines were enjoyable, and I want to thank the folks at Patz & Hall for hosting and tasting along with us. Looking forward to the next Taste Live event. You can check notes on Twitter by searching for the #TTL and/or #patzhallwines hashtags.

Cheers!

Seven of Hearts – Part 3: "Estate Grown Pinot Noir" or "The Pinot Clone Wars"

In a late-coming third part conclusion (see part 1 and part 2) here are my final notes from our visit to the Seven of Hearts tasting room in Carlton. These last two wines are both estate-grown from Byron's Luminous Hills Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton District AVA. Pommard as well as clones 667, 777 and 115 are used...

Wait, wait, wait - what clones? Makes wine sound like some kind of science-fiction plot from Lucas Films, right? And just when you thought all you needed to know were some basic French (noir, blanc, gris) color words to get you through Pinot.


Yes clones! In fact there are thought to be thousands of clones and mutations of Pinot noir around the world. The grape itself is highly prone to mutation given it's surroundings and external circumstances, so just as little as moving vines from one location to another can trigger a change over time. There are certain clones that produce better wines than others, and so these are the ones that growers have tried to propagate and reproduce. Some have names like Pommard, referring back to one of the Burgundian Pinot Powerhouses, but others are just left with strings of numbers - as is the case with 667, 777 and 115.

Both 667 and 777 are considered top level Dijon clones (Ack! so many Burgundian references! You'd think they had something to do with wine!) They are blended primarily to create long-aging, well-structured wines. These 115 and Pommard are what Seven of Hearts uses for the Luminous Hills label.
2008 Estate Grown Pinot Noir Luminous Hills - Yamhill-Carlton
Appearance: Clear with very slight haze, rose or cherry red to a clear rim

Nose: Clean, spice, cayenne, dark fruit, perfumed, spiced fruit, saffron

Palate: Dry, medium acid and tannin, red cherry, strawberry, cranberry, some dried fruit, black raspberry, long finish
This wine is made from a blend of Pommard, 667 and 115. It really intrigued me with some of the spice characteristics that it offered. Byron explained how the fruit was drive by the 667 which is grown at higher elevation on volcanic soils while that spice we noticed was from the other two clones grown at lower elevation on more sedimentary soils.

2008 Estate Grown Pinot Noir, Lux, Luminous Hills - Yamhill-Carlton
Appearance: Clear, medium cranberry to clear rim

Nose: Clean, green vegetal, minerality, ripe red fruit, black cherry, herbaceous

Palate: Dry, medium acid and body, medium-low softer tannin, red fruit, strawberry, vegetable, raspberry, black cherry, spice, long finish
The Lux is then a blend of Pommard and 777 clones. The former is grown at lower elevation on sedimentary soil and the latter at higher elevation on volcanic base. Here I enjoyed the earth-driven minerality along with the tighter green vegetal characteristics.


So while it may be more of a clone party than a clone war (Sorry Mr. Lucas, we won't be needing you after all. Dolly was cheaper), Pinot Noir clones definitely all offer some specific advantages and characteristics. I'd be really keen on a situation where you could taste each clone side by side, and if I ever find somewhere to do so I'll be sure to write all about it.

Thanks for reading, and thank you to the Dooleys and Seven of Hearts for the great wines.

Cheers!

WBW #65: Snow Day Wines – Bodegas El Nido 2003 Clio Jumilla

Clio (2003)
Bodegas El Nido
Monastrell 70% | Cabernet Sauvignon 30%
Jumilla DO, Spain
This month's Wine Blogging Wednesday topic (No. 65) hosted by Michelle Lentz was choosing a wine that you'd enjoy drinking during a full out precipitous attack of the white stuff. Thankfully, since moving to Oregon I've only had to "endure" the snow once, while I know back in Ohio and most of the Midwest in general they got pretty much slammed. Thanks Lake Erie!

That said, I think I had a pretty good idea as to what kind of wine I was in need of - big body, dried fruits, and a warmer level of alcohol. My first choice? Port of course - and I think a lot of people turned there at first. But then something shiny caught my attention. A bottle from El Nido (The Nest) winery in Spain. The pearlescent label was really familiar, and it turns out I sampled another of their wines in my Spanish Wine course last year.


This blend has, yet again, our friend Monastrell/Mouvèdre paired with some Cabernet Sauvignon this time. The region of Jumilla is located in southeastern Spain where Monastrell makes up 85% of the wine produced there. Check out the Wines of Jumilla site for more great producers to check out.

So without further delay, here are my notes. I hope you'll understand why this is my current Snow Day wine pick!
Appearance: Deep garnet red to a faded mahogany rim

Nose: Clean, full aromas of dried fruit, jams, licorice, blackberry, spice, oak, caramel, Port (quelle suprise!) cinnamon, cherry and raspberry

Palate: Dry, medium-full body, medium acidity, medium-high tannin, coffee, cherry, spice, oak, raspberry, plum, long smooth finish

We enjoyed this wine with dinner, but continued to do so long after the food was gone. The flavors are definitely at a peak or near there. I would recommend trying to find some (or at least the current vintage). The bottle in my class (which was the opposite blend) was suggested retail around $120. This one in particular my roommate Lynnette recalls getting for around $30. Checking Google you'll find available bottles everywhere from $40 to $130 though. So definitely watch out for price disparity. Regardless, totally worth it! I love Spain. Gracias!

Cheers!

Spanish Wine Dinner at West Cafe

Tuesday night I headed out with some friends to Portland's West Cafe. There we enjoyed a six course dinner paired with different Spanish wines. Our group had two vegetarians (me included) and one vegan. So we really got the full gamut of offerings at our table. Overall the pairings were very well done, and so I'd like to share the menu with you and some of my comments.

Starter: Asparagus, Arugula & Butternut Squash Crepe with Garlic Cheese Spread paired with Francoli Non-Vintage Brut Cava
Cava is Spain's sparkling wine, produced in a number of regions throughout the country. Unlike Champagne, Cava can be produced in any region that qualifies. Most of it however is made in the region of Catalonia (around Barcelona). The standard grapes used are Macabeo (Viura), Parellada and Xarel-lo. The Francoli is a 50/50 blend of the first two.

For $14 (per the distributor rep) I think this was an excellent Cava. It was crisp and refreshing, and had just enough complexity via yeasty aromas and flavors. It was a great pairing with the starter - and honestly I would have been happy just drinking that the rest of the meal!
1st Course: Garlic & Pecorino Romano Toast Bruschette with Basil, Shrimp (Tofu) & Tomato Sauce paired with Bodegas del Rosario 2007 Monastrell
Monastrell is also known as Mouvèdre in southern France and Motaro elsewhere in Spain. It is the second most planted red variety in Spain (the first is Garnacha or Grenache). Primarily used for blending in other regions it adds color and structure to wines. This one in particular seemed somewhat flabby (lower acidity) but had a nice raspberry aromas. Some found production notes indicate no oak was used.

Food wise, this was probably my favorite course of the whole meal. Instead of shrimp I got tofu, though I heard the shrimp was very good. You can't go wrong with cheese and garlic broiled onto bread.
2nd Course: Caesar (Red Pepper Dressing) Salad with Romaine & Leaf Spinach topped with Anchovy & Grilled Chicken (Beets and Apple) paired with Protos 2007 Ribero del Duero Roble Tempranillo
Tempranillo, perhaps the most well known grape of Spain, is called many different things throughout the country. In Ribera del Duero, where this wine is from, they call it Tinto del País. This particular bottle saw very little oak aging, referred to by the producer as Joven Roble. Joven means young, and indicates a wine that has little aging (often minimal oak) and is very fruity in style. Definitely the case here as well as bright refreshing acidity.

Tempranillo is a grape which similar to Pinot Noir and Sangiovese can offer lots of bright red fruit and can be very versatile with food pairings. If I liked fresh beets I imagine it would have done very well with this course.
3rd Course: Pan-Seared True Cod (Maple Tofu) over Sliced Tomato with Black Olive Tapanade paired with Bodegas Lozano 1998 Gran Reserva Tempranillo/Cabernet
This next wine is a blend that comes from La Mancha region in central Spain. It is a blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon, and labeled as a Gran Reserva which indicates the length of aging - five years, 18 months of which must be in oak. The producer of this wine indicates 24 months were spent in oak for this blend.

Being a 1998 it was interesting to compare this wine to some of the newer vintages at the dinner. Spanish wine makers have a long tradition of aging wines for a very long time, though I felt this one was just past its prime. Little fruit was present, though it had nice herbal, oaky characteristics. The aromas were actually one of the best parts, that was until the cod started coming around, at which point I think the wine was muted by that smell. It paired well with the tofu I got which had been marinated in a maple syrup mixture. Sweet and savory.
4th Course: Steamed Quarter Artichoke with Grilled Lamb Sausage (Portobello) & Saffron Aiolo paired with Protos 2003 Ribera del Duero Crianza Tempranillo
Finishing with another Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero the Crianza classification dictates that this wine was aged at least two years, six months of which in oak. The producer chose a blend of wine aged 12 months in both French and American oak, and then an additional 12 months in bottle.

Lots of fennel on the nose with this wine, which I imagine paired very well with the sausage served. It was a good accompaniment to the mushroom as well. Nice tannins and a good level of structure on the palate with more oak than the Joven Roble bottle served earlier.
Dessert: Cinnamon, Ginger & Pecan Bread Pudding with Café Crème Anglaise paired with... no wine sadly.
No wine pairing? I think this was the only disappointment of the meal for me. The dessert itself was a good balance of savory and sweet, and would have easily paired with a sweeter Sherry.

Overall I had a wonderful time dining at West Cafe, and am interested to see what future wine dinners they offer. I think the price was fair ($35 + gratuity per person) for the number of courses and wines served. While I may have changed a few things here and there, the pairings were very well done, and had beautiful presentation.

Cheers!

Twitter Cheap Wine Challenge

So this week Wine Ophelia (Raelinn Schmitt) proposed that a bunch of bloggers all post notes for one of their favorite under $10 bottles of wine. Then after everyone has posted, we should gather (locally) to do a big blind tasting via Twitter (à la Twitter Taste Live) to share these great buys with our friends and followers. So it took me a while, going through some of the notes that I have from the past year, and I was able to narrow my selection down to TWO bottles.


The first, Clean Slate Riesling I know I got at Whole Foods back in Ohio. I've seen it elsewhere, and typically it ranges from $8-12 a bottle. I'm going to count it because I definitely know I paid less than $10, sale or not. Here are my notes:
2007 Clean Slate Riesling (Mosel, Germany)
Appearance: Clear, pale lemon yellow with a little pétillance, or effervescence.

Nose: Clean with light to medium intensity. Youthful aromas including green apple, lemon, lime, pineapple, slate, and anise star.

Palate: An off dry wine - 2.8% residual sugar - with medium acidity, body and light alcohol. Intense fruit flavors characteristic of the variety including apple, citrus, and lime. Also some pear, orange, and floral notes finished with a soft minerality.
My second choice is one of the best rosés I tried over the summer in 2009. The Torres Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé. I found this bottle at a tasting at the Cellar Door/American Wine School, Cleveland and was able to get a few bottles for around $8 or $9 a piece. I've seen it in many large/national retailers as well at comparable prices. Here are my notes:
2008 Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé (Central Valley, Chile)
Appearance: Clear with medium+ intensity. Definitely darker/deeper than many a rosé - somewhere between rose and cranberry juice pink.

Nose: Just shy of being incredibly aromatic, the youthful aromas definitely jump out. Included are grapefruit, citrus, lemon, cherry, strawberry, very soft vegetal, and floral notes.

Palate: Dry wine with medium+ acidity, body, and alcohol. Each sip leaves your mouth watering, making for a very refreshing wine. Flavors are medium in intensity and make me think of cranberry, sour cherry, lemon, green apple, pineapple and other tropical fruit, and bell pepper - thank you C.S.
The plan (locally) now is to meet up next Thursday in the Portland area with Mary Cressler from Vindulge and some other happy winos and tweet about all the different cheap wine favorites we taste.

To take part, and watch the tasting live just check out the original post here: Wine Ophelia: Twitter Cheap Wine Challenge and check Twitter for the #cheapwinechallenge hash-tag.

Cheers!

Seven of Hearts – Part 2: Exploring Burgundy & Pinot noir

Hopefully you enjoyed the first part of this series of posts on Seven of Hearts.

Today we'll explore four different Pinot noirs which we tasted in their Carlton tasting room with owner and wine maker Byron Dooley. As mentioned, Byron's focus is to create wines that reflect the old-world French styles of Pinot noir from Burgundy. So let's start by briefly exploring this famous French region.

First and foremost, I love maps, and this is a useful one showing most of Burgundy.


Divided into five major districts - Chablis (not shown above), Côte d'Or, Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais, and Beaujolais - you'll find mostly Chardonnay and Pinot noir being produced. Gamay is grown as well, but primarily in Beaujolais, famous for those bright red, bubble-gum first wines of the year released in November. Chablis and the Mâconnais are renowned for their Chardonnays, but you'll also find Chard alongside Pinot in the Côte d'Or (meaning golden slopes) and Chalonnaise. The terroir of any of these regions is characterized by many things including the climate, weather, soils, and growing conditions.

The climate of Burgundy is classified as continental and the region experiences harsh winters and hot summers. Weather is largely moderated by the range of mountains to the west, the Massif Central. This range offers protection from inclement weather leading up to harvest season. Regarding soil you'll find predominately calcium rich clay, lime based marl, and granite. Chardonnay, Pinot noir, and Gamay are focused on these respectively.

Vineyard location is a driving force behind these wines, and over the centuries they have been bought, sold, bequeathed, and divided. For this reason, much of the wines are produced by co-op cellars or négociants who accumulate smaller plots from owners and combine their harvests under one label. Naming convention reflects where the fruit was sourced, and varies from region wide Burgundy AC, to Districts, and Communes. This is comparable to how we indicate Oregon wine versus that from the Willamette Valley or from the Yamhill-Carlton AVA.

Focusing on the Pinot noir, wines possess rich fruit characteristics in youth (strawberry, cherry, plum) and are considered age worthy (some 15-20 years!), allowing more complex floral, smoky, vegetal, mushroom, earth-driven attributes. Because Pinot noir is a thin skinned grape it is sensitive and difficult to grow. Also, with low tannin levels, stems are sometimes included in vinification to give additional structure. The region's climate is responsible for a wide range in quality year after year. We'll see this and more plays an equally large role in Oregon Pinot noir at Seven of Hearts.
2007 Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills AVA
Appearance: Clear, pale strawberry red to clear rim

Nose: Clean, light intensity, cherry-vanilla, light earthiness

Palate: Dry, light body, medium-low acid, short finish, light cherry cola/cough syrup, rhubarb, strawberry


This was the first Pinot noir Byron poured us. It is a blend of two different vineyards from the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. One vineyard is from the southern end and planted on Nekkia soil, and the other is located at the northern end of the region planted on Saum soil. It definitely is lighter in style but had almost a sweetness in the fruit flavors. There was a nice balance between the fruit and the oak, though the finish was not extremely long given lower acidity and tannin.



2008 Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills AVA
Appearance: Medium-pale cranberry red to clear rim

Nose: Clean, dark fruit, ripe cherry, smoky - like cured meats, soft spiciness

Palate: Dry, medium-low tannin, dark cherry, medium-low alcohol, strawberry, spice, subtle finish


This is the same AVA as previous wine, though the quantities from the two vineyards are slightly different given the harvest. With more of a smoky character this wine offers a little more personality than the 2007, perhaps because 2007 was not seen as a great vintage? The fruit was a bit more intense, and it was an interesting comparison between the two vintages. As a side note, Byron pointed out that more whole cluster fermentation was possible in this vintage, which may have helped impart some of the more smoky characteristics on the nose.



2008 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley AVA (Eola-Amity Hills and Yamhill-Carlton)
Appearance: Clear, medium-pale cranberry to clear rim

Nose: Clean, medium intensity, cranberry, cherry, vegetal, red fruit

Palate: Dry, medium body, medium alcohol, medium-low tanning with soft grip, full red fruit, cherry, raspberry, ripe strawberry, medium-light finish
Though this wine is labeled as being Willamette Valley Byron informed that the fruit was only soured from two vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA and some from his Luminous Hills Vineyard (Yamhill-Carlton AVA). Given state wine laws however, you cannot list a specific appellation/vineyard name on your wine unless a certain proportion comes from that location. Additional tannin gave this bottle a little more structure, and I could definitely see it aging well. Probably the best balance between fruit and vegetal/earth attributes.



2007 Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills AVA - The Cost Vineyard
Appearance: Medium-pale, cranberry-amber color, slightly faded rim

Nose: Clean, earth, dark fruit, bold aromas, toasted, medium high intensity, caramel, cooked milk and sugar

Palate: Dry, medium acidity, medium-low tannin, smoky, spice, light red cherry, cranberry, soft finish
The last Pinot noir in this flight (though we'll have two more featured tomorrow which are estate grown, second labels) this bottle is soured from a particular vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Presenting a nice balance between fruit, earth, and oak this wine showed some really interesting characteristics (the caramel especially).

I think each of the four wines we sampled here definitely pay homage to the classic wines of Burgundy - fruit and earth, finesse and structure. Though I also think they exemplify the beauty of Oregon Pinot noir - offering easy to drink, fruit forward wines that are not bold or over the top. Pinot is a delicate but fickle grape. However it does well growing in both the Côte d'Or and the Willamette Valley, where wine makers are working to reflect the best wines they can. Seven of Hearts is doing a good job striking a balance between old and new world.

Cheers!