So the first winery up on this speed dating is a red wine from Twisted Oak Winery...
2007 Calaveras County.
They guy who is describing it to us is carrying a rubber chicken.. an indication of the kind of free flowing craziness of this on the fly tasting...
It's called River of Skulls because it is very close to the River of Skulls river, the Calaveras River.
It tasts full bodied to me...most of the wine is made of Mourvedre after fermentation..12 percent Syrah is blended in to enhance the backbone.
I could drink this with some red meat.
Okay, so I'm at the Wine Bloggers Conference and we're about to do a live blogging session. Since I've never done live blogging, I don't know how much info I'll actually get on this page.
Apparently live wine blogging is like the fast dating events. Several wine reps will pour their wines, and talk about them. We taste fast, and try to write something.
It hasn't started yet, right now one of the sponsors is talking about the wines of Napa Valley.
More (or less) coming up soon.
I know long time, no post. Even I can't believe how long I've been away from these cyber pages. It's sort of like exercise I guess, you stop for one day and the next thing you know weeks have passed.
So many of my friends have visited South Africa I feel as though I’ve been there—almost:) Even though I have never stepped foot in Stellenbosch, South Africa’s Napa Valley, South African wines have long been in my wine racks.
For me they are a staple,more so in these recessionary times now that I’m eating at home and turning to wines that are both food and wallet friendly.
Just a few months ago South African wines bested all comers at the world wide wine competition sponsored by Decanter, the European based wine magazine. South African wine makers walked away with awards for Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz and Chardonnay.
But for me South African wine conjures up the image of the two varietals most associated with the country---the red Pinotage and the white Chenin Blanc, what the South Africans call ‘Steen.
Not long ago I mentioned my fondness for South African Chenin Blanc to a wine steward. He wrinkled his nose and said, “for me there can never be anything but a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France. “ Believe me, French Chenin Blanc is a good sip. It’s tart with a snap crackle acidity. But I also love the crispness and melon citrus accents of South African Chenin Blanc, wonderful with seafood or a creamy pasta salad. It must be popular with lots of folks. Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted grape in South Africa, no doubt that’s why I have no trouble finding a lot of it, even in my grocery store! My latest favorites: Ken Forrester, and Seven Sisters Yolanda, and Man Coastal Region, all 2007.
Pinotage (pronounced Pin oh taage) is unique to South Africa, a blend of Pinot Noir and Cinsault. This medium bodied wine can be found on the shelves of most any wine store, and yes, in my grocery store. Pair this wine with grilled foods--South Africans drink it with grilled shrimp, and barbeque, but I think most grilled foods—including vegetables—would be a tasty compliment.
Some of my wine drinking pals complain about what they describe as the earthiness of the wine, but that doesn’t bother me. Pinotage is a good table wine, the kind you serve at a big family gathering. Anyway, at these prices, why not try it for yourself? In my wine rack right now, a 2007 Fairview that is widely available for about 12 dollars as is the 20007 Ken Forrester and 2007 Graham Beck. The 2007 Southern Right tips upward price wise to about $22. And some vintners are bottling high end Pinotage at 30 dollars and up. Pre recession, I’ve enjoyed Chocolate Block, and Diemersdal.
Whenever I finally get to South Africa, I know exactly what I’ll be sipping.
I had a full blown case of wine envy this past weekend. How could I not? There I was within finger tip reach of the rare and vintage wines that make a wine collector's heart beat faster. The occasion-- the 25th annual WGBH wine auction, a yearly fund raiser which supports the operations and programs of the Boston based station. The event featured wines donated by serious oenophiles who must have cellars stocked with multiples of the wines they donated. How else could they give away these rare vintage wines?
By my haphazard count, two couples donated about 20 bottles each! Mind boggling. Next year I think the auction organizers should talk them into donating a tour of their cellars. I know I'd pay for the chance to take a peek.
Some of the wines offered actually had a fine sheen of what I presume was antique dust.
This was my first wine auction, and I worried it might be awfully stuffy. So,I invited one of my best girlfriends to join me. She,too, was curious since she'd also never been to a wine auction. Both of us are wine enthusiasts,but we mostly consume what we buy. Yes, I've got some stuff I've been saving, and some old (for me) bottles. But,no I do not have a 1961 Chateau Mouton Rothschild--estimated value $2000--for ONE bottle. And by the way, that bottle ended up being something of a bargain for the lucky bidder--it sold for a mere $1200.
But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Before the bidding got underway, attendees got a chance to get a good look at the rare bottles arranged in lots as small as 1 and as large as 5 bottles. I learned that, if this crowd was a true reflection, pricey white wine is not as highly regarded as red. That is, except for Champagne, of which there were several bottles, even a couple of magnums. There were also several vintage ports, one that dated back to 1908.
Of course, the reds were some of the finest, mostly from France's Bordeaux region( Chateau Margaux,Chateau Haut Brion), as well as from some of California's top and trendy vineyards (Caymus, Stag's Leap). Many of the reds from France were from the 1982 vintage, reportedly one of the best years ever for this wine. Fun fact: last year Oprah blogged about her love for the 82' vintage.
I love live auctions of any kind because I enjoy watching the interplay between the audience and the auctioneer. Marie Keep, Director of Fine Wines at Boston's Skinner Auction and Appraisers did not disappoint. Her deep knowledge of wine was evident, and she was compelling to watch. Alternately cajoling, charming, or coquettish, she made the sale of these expensive wines a spectator sport. I know the high bidders couldn't help themselves, and in truth, if I had had a few thousand with which to bid, I have no doubt she would have gotten it.
Tonight wine lovers everywhere will gather in large groups and intimate settings to take part in what's become a cherished ritual.
Nine years ago husband and wife wine experts Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher created Open That Bottle Night. Gaiter and Brecher wanted to give wine lovers an official excuse to open the bottle they'd been saving for just the right occasion; They knew the winey little secret of we serious sippers--the "right" occasion never seems quite right.
By creating the occasion, Gaiter and Brecher have given all of us permission to open and enjoy the wine, and most importantly, share the experience. I've been so touched by many of the stories of the bottle openings. That's probably why I always inadvertently renamed the event. To me,OTBN has always been Open That (Special) Bottle Night.
OTBN is the great equalizer for wine enthusiasts. It doesn't matter if you only have a wine rack in the corner of your closet, or an 8,000 bottle cellar--likely there is one bottle you're saving. I've got a few bottles like that including a 1994 Antori Tignanello, and a 1997 Windsor Meritage. They were both gifts from friends. I planned to open of them when I won the lottery:)
Can I open one of these special bottles tonight? Honestly, I don't know. But,the rule of OTBN is that there are no rules except that you open a bottle that reminds you of a special moment in your life, something more than your typical Saturday night supper wine.
Instead of one of my gift bottles, I may select a lovely champagne I bought for myself to remind me of a long ago wonderful weekend. No wonder Gaiter and Brecher say OTBN is an occasion to uncork special memories.
Last summer I was in Chicago for business. Prior to my arrival my friend and business colleague Gwen did a careful survey of some of Chicago’s most highly touted restaurants, matching them to what she knew about my food and wine interests. It’s what any public relations specialist worth his or her salt would do, and Gwen is nothing if not a superior pr professional. On her list were neighborhood joints, top chef restaurants, and restaurants with ongoing buzz like Table 52, owned by former Oprah chef Art Smith. In case you’re not current with celebrity trivia, it’s also the place where President and Mrs. Obama recently shared a special Valentine’s Day dinner.
Nobody’s talking about what they ate, or most importantly, drank there. (Drat it!) But if my own experience is any indication, I can say for certain that they didn’t leave thirsty or hungry. (There’s a photo of them leaving the restaurant -- Mrs. Obama is holding a carry out bag).
Chef Art Smith’s dishes are an haute cuisine take on traditional Southern dishes. His signature buttery cheese biscuits accompany all of the entrees. Though fancied up a bit, this is still comfort food, and it needs some hearty wines to go with it. That’s why I chose a Viogonier; the medium bodied white wine has long been my favorite comfort food wine. Table 52 offers Koehler Viognier Santa Ynez Valley 2006. With its melon, peach and honey notes and a little kick of acidity, the Viognier was a nice balance to my meal.
I thought it would be fun to peruse the Table 52 wine list and guess what President and Mrs. Obama drank while they dined. But, while the wine list is posted on the restaurant’s website, a note indicates that there is a reserve wine list (code for pricey and rare) available upon request. If I were the President of the United States and it was Valentine’s Day, I would choose from that list. I don’t have to guess about the kind of service they received. Even for folks like Gwen and me, the service at Table 52 is Commander in Chief outstanding.
On another note, I love it when I make a new wine discovery. One of my latest was Inauguration Day when I sipped the wines chosen for the Inaugural luncheon. I was particularly taken with the sparkling wine, Korbel’s black label natural cuvee. Before the inauguration, I’d never seen or heard of it. But, now it’s a new favorite. It’s light--the vintners describe it as delicate--and crisp and yummy. Once I popped the cork, I came dangerously close to breaking the rule about not drinking alone:)
Apparently this sparkling wine is known to those in the know. I caught a glimpse of it being poured on Bravo’s hit program, Top Chef. The final contestants for Top Chef—Carla (my girl!), Stefan and Hosea –toasted their advancement into the finals with this Korbel bubbly. The shot went by fast, but it looked as though they had a few bottles on ice. The folks at Korbel must be somewhere clinking crystal flutes themselves—from the tables of Washington power brokers to the millions of cable viewers --nice marketing plan, indeed. And at under twenty dollars a bottle, this is a sparkling pick me up for economic hard times.
Sometimes I broke pattern and paired dessert wine with chocolate. I've become more knowledgeable about dessert wine since I've been buying dessert wines for my beloved Aunts. For them the only kind of wine is one with a pronounced sweetness. Whether it's a Late Harvest Sauterne, or an Ice Wine like Inniskillin chocolate and dessert wine is a satisfying experience.
Most wine buffs say this is the best pairing because the chocolate should be as sweet or sweeter than the wine. Dessert wines may also be a superior pairing for chocolate because the intense sweetness calls for slow sipping. And I've learned that chocolate is at its best when allowed to melt slowly on the tongue.
My college chum Alecia says red wine and chocolate is a heavenly match. She would know. As part of an annual Christmas ritual, she works her way through various combinations of chocolate and red wine. There are the truffles, and nut filled chocolates clothed in gourmet dark and milk chocolate. BTW, the purists say chocolate with nuts is a no no. Alecia does not agree.
Cabernet Sauvignon, with that hint of cocoa and earthiness matched with dark chocolate peps up my taste buds. Cabs like Rodney Strong, Grigich Hills are a fine match. Please know there are some who insist this combination makes the chocolate sour tasting. That has not been my experience, but I'll allow that my palate may not be as finely honed as those who find it offensive. Besides, scientific studies have confirmed the health promoting properties of dark chocolate and red wine. This is health food after all:)
Port and chocolate is a dazzlingly delicious combo. Port is what's known as a fortified wine because of the added Brandy. Port has a near 20 percent alcohol content, and an intense rich flavor. There are two kinds of ports, ruby and tawny. I prefer the toffee nutty tasting tawny Port with my milk chocolate. And I'd pair it with with nutty, caramel chocolates like Turtles. I don't like fruit in chocolate , but I'm told Port is a good match for those chocolates as well. Port is not cheap stuff, but you can find reasonably priced bottles. I must say once you've had the 20 year aged liquid gold it's hard to go back. (And no, I haven't bought any, just savored it at a recent tasting) Try these if you're prepared to go off budget for your sweetie: Dow's 20 year old Tawny Port $50-60,Taylor Fladgate $60, Colheita $100. Say your love can't be bought? Try the less expensive ports like Australia's Hardy's or Jonsesy.
If you really want to try a unique chocolate and wine combination, try a chocolate dessert wine. Rosenblum's Desiree Chocolate Dessert wine is a mix of chocolate and port wine. You can sip it or guild the Lilly and pour it over ice cream.
Like all food and wine pairing, it's all about what you like. As for me, once I open up all of my Valentine cards, I'll settle in for a chick filck and my wine and chocolate. A good glass of wine is a sweet companion for chocolate, even if it's Hershey's kisses.