Friday, April 20, 2012

Girard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 2008

I am very familiar with Girard's Artistry blend, as it was a popular sell at my Club in Chicago.  The Cab was an excellent find, but I would be interested in trying the 2008 five years from now to see how much more it matures.

Nose: Lush and ripe red fruit with spice and oak notes throughout.

Color: Very rich garnet with "melting ice" edges.

Palate: Lush front and mid palate with ripe red fruits, dark cherry, and nutmeg/cinnamon, but an unfortunate short finish.  I wanted the wine to have a full ride, but the tannins dried up and the flavor left quickly.  I imagine with a bit more time in the bottle for the tannins to refine, this will be raised from a 'good' wine to a 'great' wine. Especially for the value of approximately $30-35.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards, Eloge Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley, 2008

Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards 2008 Eloge is a magnificent work of art.  Familiar with their Napa Cab in the past, I could not wait to sample this, what I knew would be, priceless experience of a wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon 55%, Cabernet Franc 25%, Petit Verdot 10%, and Merlot 10%

Words cannot describe how incredibly perfect this wine truly is... and at 98 points from Wine Advocate, I think others will agree with me.

The nose is soft and incredibly voluptuous, with aromas of espresso, blueberries, ripe dark fruits, and graphite.

Its color is as deep as the ocean at sunset, dark royal purple and dense.

And of course, the palate: full and vibrant, from the touch of the first taste to your lips, to the crescendo of succulent berries, espresso, and light leather, to the round and sexy finish.  The tannins on the Eloge are luscious and silky with incredible structure throughout the entire experience.  It is fabulous now, but will evolve and entertain for 20 years to come.

This beautifully layered wine, at no surprise, is not your "open every Friday night for burgers" kind of wine.  This, my friends, is a treasure worth preserving.  Buy what you can, and know it is worth every penny of the $95-110 retail.  Cheers to Eloge!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Education Series: Red Wine Headaches

No, not your hangover.  Red wine headaches take many forms.  One glass of wine, and you wake up with a "cold-like" headache... two glasses of wine, and you wake up with a migraine.  Sometimes a red wine headache can start just minutes after your first few sips.  If you have had any degree of a red wine headache, this is article is for you.

When many people think of red wine headaches, they jump to sulfites as the cause.  Those who experience a wine headache assume they have an intolerance to sulfites or are even allergic.  In response, they may try to avoid sulfite-heavy wines -- go organic, search for bottles without a sulfites warning, or God-forbid, stop drinking wine.

They all contain sulfites... even if the bottle lacks this phrase.
But sulfites are probably not your problem.
Well, I'm here to be your hero... kind of... sulfites are probably not your problem.  In fact, if you're searching for a sulfite-free wine, good luck.  During the fermentation process, wine yeasts produce sulfer dioxide, making it a 100% impossibility to produce a sulfite-free wine.  However, if you are medically proven to have a sulfite sensitivity, you should probably avoid lunch meat, processed fruit juice, packaged seafood, dried fruits, and yes, wine.  Don't worry... it's estimated to affect less than 1% of the American population, according to the FDA.

Even though sulfites aren't the answer (99% likely), I want to share a quick fact I discovered from Alison Crowe's The Winemaker's Answer Book: "Many people mistakenly assume that red wines contain higher levels of sulfites than white wines.  The opposite is actually the case, because most winemakers add more sulfer dioxide to white wines than to reds.  White wines need more protection from oxygen than red wines do, and sulfer dioxide acts as an antioxident."

So what really causes a red wine headache?  Well, it is still a puzzling question, but there are several possible answers, and to be honest, it may be a personal connection to one of these that may help you.

Histamine and Tyramine: "Biogenic amines, a group of naturally occurring fermentation byproducts that includes histamine and tyramine, are more and more thought to be the cause of the classic 'red wine headache.'  Biogenic amine concentrations in wine depend on microbial activity.  The higher the cell count durin a lactic acid or other bacterial fermentation, and the longer the fermentation goes, the higher the eventual bigenic amine levels in the wine... Biogenic amines can cause vasoconstriction and vasodilation, both common headache triggers in the general population." (The Winemaker's Answer Book, Alison Crowe, 2007)


In smaller, less-biology-classed words, the chemical process that produces wine creates histamines.  If you are generally sensitive to allergens (pollen, mold, etc.) and you frequently get red wine headaches, it may behoove you to try an antihistamine medication before you know you're going to enjoy a glass of wine.  Please make sure it is safe to combine the medication with moderate alcohol consumption first.

Even more so than histamine, tyramine may be the culprit.  This excerpt from Wikipedia is very helpful in understanding the role tyramine plays: "Dr. Lynn Gretowski, co-founder of, states that... 'tyramine is thought to be a vassal active substance that causes the dilation and contraction of blood vessels - the squeezing and relaxation component of headaches.'  She goes on to say that younger wines and wines that have not been extensively racked or filtered will tend to have higher rates of tyramine."  Not that I am advocating the use of over-the-counter medication while drinking wine, but if you are prone to red wine headaches and you are going to enjoy in moderation, I would suggest taking an anti-inflammatory medication like Ibuprofen in the correct dose prior to your wine consumption.  Don't take acetaminophen (Tylenol) -- alcohol may be bad for your liver in high doses, but the combination of acetaminophen and alcohol in small doses can be devastating to your liver.

Prostaglandins: Again, what?  I need to "freshen up" on my high school senior biology class.  Prostaglandins are lipids derived from fatty acids, which some people are not able to metabolize, causing pain and swelling.  Again, an anti-inflammatory medication would help in this case.  (Wikipedia)

And finally... the one I don't want to tell you about, for obvious self-branding reasons:

Tannins, like those found in these prestigious wines, may be the culprit...
Tannins: It is theorized that tannins may cause headaches.  "Tannins tend to bind starches while being digested.  These starches are needed by the body to produce serotonin.  In some people who are extremely sensitive to their serotonin levels, it appears the lack of serotonin can lead to [headaches].  It sort of 'starves' the body for this type of raw material, as much as not eating for many hours might lead this person to have the same [headache]." (  If this is the case, you may simply have a sensitivity to tannins. To disprove that you do have this sensitivity, sample a strong black tea.  If you receive the same headache that you would from drinking red wine, then you may unfortunately have a sensitivity to tannins, and there isn't much else to do but grin and bear it... because the only other option is to not drink wine, and that simply will not do!  Oh wait... you could drink white wine!

The bottom line: you must experiment to see how your body reacts to the many varieties of wine on the market.  If all red wine gives you a headache, and you cannot face the pain again, try white wines.  If it is a concentration factor, try a lighter-bodied red wine - a Pinot Noir for example - opposed to a full-bodied Cabernet.  As I tell everyone who asks: "wine is very personal... you have to enjoy what's right for you!"

Cheers to your good health!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Michigan Wine TweetUp @ Food Dance

My dear friend Dianna Stampfler of Promote Michigan recently invited me to a Michigan Wine TweetUp at Food Dance, a "local-centered" restaurant in Kalamazoo.  First of all: "TweetUp? Qué?"  That's what I said.  I imagined a live Twitter feed in a standing-room only, wine glass in one hand and smartphone in the other... balancing the glass between the ring and little finger to allow both index fingers to grasp the phone and both thumbs to Tweet.  And second: "Food Dance?"  As in dancing in a circle around a fire-lit cornucopia of food under the light of a full moon?

Wrong on both accounts.

TweetUp: noun 1) An organized or impromptu gathering of people that use Twitter.  2) An awesome marketing tool allowing an awesome group of people to showcase some awesome wine and cheese in an awesome restaurant.  All while sitting at a great table of people enjoying a slow-paced pairing.

Leading to point number two: Food Dance is a PHENOMENAL dining experience from start to finish.  The environment is welcoming and creates the message of sustainability upon walking through the door.  The staff is positive and friendly and the atmosphere upbeat.  And to top it off, a retail market where boutique food items, wine, cheese, and even boxed lunches can be purchased!  I can't wait to return for a full dining experience!

Tweeting up around the table were, of course, Dianna Stampfler of Promote Michigan, Alex Beaton and Kristin Coppens of The Awesome Mitten, wine expert for the evening Mark Pollack from Great Lakes Wine & Spirits, Karel Bush of the Michigan Grape & Wine Industry Council, cheese guru Megan from Food Dance, and our host for the evening, Michelle, Growth & Development Manager at Food Dance.  Erica and I felt incredibly privileged to be tweeting up with these fantastic representatives of the hospitality industry.

Photo courtesy of Dianna Stampfler
First up, Black Star Farms' Arcturos Late Harvest Riesling 2010 was paired with Swiss Valley Farms' Mindoro Blue Cheese.  This Sutton's Bay wine graced us with ripe white fruit aromas and a pale, crisp-looking color.  Wonderful notes of baking apples and "peaches & cream" on the palate made this light-bodied wine a great opener.  The feel had a slight syrup presence, as most Michigan Rieslings do, however, the finish was clean with no high-residual sugar mouthfeel.  It was surprisingly refreshing, and a great starter for the evening.

Enhancing each other, the Swiss Family Farms' Midoro Blue Cheese was an excellent pairing for the Arcturos.  With dense marbling and a pungent buttery aroma, the Blue was actually very creamy and fresh tasting.  (Didn't think mold could taste fresh, did you?)  

Photo courtesy of Dianna Stampfler
Second in the series was the Fenn Valley Capriccio blend of Cabernet, Cab Franc, and Chambourcin of Fennville.  The color was light ruby, slightly deeper than a traditional Pinot Noir color, but not inky like a traditional Napa Cab.  The nose contained hints of ripe cherry and a full aroma of raspberry infused chocolate.  The flavor of the wine, front- to mid- to back-palate, was bursting of cranberry juice.  The tannins were light, but the wine puckered in the middle, and cut quickly at the end, leaving an easy finish.  We discussed at the table how this may be an excellent wine for those just breaking-in to the red wine world.

Megan from Food Dance made an excellent choice in pairing Zingerman's Manchester semi soft cheese from Ann Arbor.  Not only did it look like a mini slice of cheesecake, the flavor was that of a smooth, creamy New York cheesecake with amazing aromas of lavender - its scent reminded me of the aromatherapy present in a spa.  It was fantastic!  So much so, that Erica and I had to traverse over to the market to purchase a small wheel.

Photo courtesy of Dianna Stampfler
A refreshing finish to our evening was made possible with L. Mawby's Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine from Leelanau.  A light yeast and soft apple nose complimented the hint-of-beige colors in the glass.  Tiny bubbles gave Mawby's sparkling wine making style away... natural bottle fermentation... the true Champagne way.  The palate was slightly sweet with hints of fresh sourdough bread, and dry, easy finish that cleansed my palate elegantly.

Paired with the sparkler was Evergreen Lane's Chevre from Fennville.  This fresh goat cheese was deceptive.  At first glance, the "dollop of whipped cream" looking cheese showed little scent and a traditional young goat cheese flavor.  However, when matched with the L. Mawby sparkler, the cheese came alive and burst with a rustic, artisan punch, both sweet and savory profiles.  It was a match made in Heaven... Heaven found at Food Dance!

The evening was spectacular, and I want to thank Food Dance for being such a phenomenal host, and of course Dianna for the wonderful invitation!  Cheers!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Merryvale Starmont, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 2008

While at Bar Divani in Grand Rapids, we enjoyed several 2008 Napa Valley Cabernets, the first of which was Merryvale Starmont.

83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc

Nose: A beautiful aroma of cooking spice, cedar, purple flowers, and rich cherry.
Color: Lush ruby color with crystal clear edges.
Palate: Mild to hot mid-palate, bright cherries, lighter body than expected, cocoa powder, long sweet leather finish.  The tannins evolve within the glass to become very elegant - reducing the initial heat after first poured.

This is a very elegant wine valued at approximately $25 per bottle.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tulip Time Comes Early This Year...

Just had to share these pics from a walk down Holland's boulevards... in theory, it could snow tomorrow.  Wish these would stick around for the Tulip Festival, but it will probably be a Stem Fest.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tannins: Intense, Bitter, and Yes, Juicy

Wine tannins come from the skins, seeds, and stems of the harvested grapes.

Lesson One: Tannins – As a person passionate about any subject, I have studied tons of material, purchased countless books, and been educated by some of the best people in the business.  Every definition is slightly different, as any author would want it to be, so I have tried to incorporate some of the best definitions (and some long, monotonous ones too) into a mildly full definition.  Yes, “full” means long… but it’s, in my opinion thorough, and hopefully enjoyable.  And so, let us begin:

Tannin: Think of a natural pond in the late Autumn or early Spring.  Notice all the leaves accumulated in the bottom of the pond, and the water appears somewhat brown.  Mmmm… yummy.  The water has evolved into a tannic acid solution – water, which is slightly acidic, draws the essence of the leaves into its own substance.  By definition “a tannin (… a type of bimolecule…) is an astringent, bitter plant polyphenolic compound that binds to and precipitates proteins and various other organic compounds including amino acids and alkaloids.”  (Tannin, Wikipedia, accessed 4/8/2012)  When applied to wine, which is naturally much more acidic than water, tannin profiles result from grape juices extracting the essence of the grape skins, stems, and seeds; also from the wooden barrel as the wine matures.  This is how red wine is made: grape juice is naturally white, no matter what grape color.  Think about it: when you bite into a red grape you purchased at the grocery store, what color is the inside?  White… well it’s kind of grey/green… but for all intensive purposes, it’s white.  Therefore, in order to produce red wine, the juice must rest with its skins (primarily), extracting the tart, sometimes bitter flavors, and yes, its color in the process - tannins.  This is the wine equivalent of tannic acid, and the reason red wine has its color, intensity, and in young red wines, a “puckering” sensation.  Tannin is also present in tea, beer, herbs, and even on the surface of wood-smoked meats.

Tannic acid present in a natural wetland setting.
While this next excerpt is lengthy, I think it is extremely valuable: “The quality and quantity of tannins in red wine vary.  Quantity depends partly on the grape: thicker-skinned varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah contain more of these preservatives, and thus have a greater capacity for aging.  The vintage (a dry summer produces thicker skins and correspondingly more tannins) and the work of the winemaker also play a role, however, because low yields, long skin-contact times and barrel-aging enable larger amounts of the compounds to be extracted.  At least as important for the development of a wine’s flavor is the quality of the tannins.  Only tannins that were fully ripe when the grapes were harvested will integrate harmoniously into the overall taste of a wine after years in the bottle.” (Wine, Andre Domine, 2008)

In order to age wine, one of three factors must be present in the wine: tannin, acid, or sugar.  As this is a story on tannins, we will come to acid and sugar later.  “Full-flavored wines with high levels of tannin, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, are usually meant to be aged.  As they get older, the tannins drop out of the wine as sediment, making the wine seem much smoother and mellower with age.”  (The Sommelier’s Guide to Wine, Brian Smith, 2003)  As red wines age, and become more full, lush, and palatable, the tannin literally breaks down, and becomes oversaturated within its container, and can be seen as sediment in the bottom of the bottle (or ideally on the side of the bottle, because properly stored wine should rest on its side).  This is why older wines should especially be handled with care; I recommend giving each aging bottle in your cellar a quarter turn each month to avoid sediment accumulating along the side of the bottle.  No wine should be “shaken,” but you can’t avoid movement when pulling a bottle from the cellar up to your dining room.  After you have made your way upstairs, it is best to allow the bottle to rest a moment before opening and decanting.  In a nutshell, decanting performs two processes: it allows maximum exposure to oxygen in order to break wine down even faster, “speeding up” the aging process and providing a more palatable experience, and it allows you to “filter” the sediment from the wine.  Before opening, you allowed the bottle to rest a moment, yes?  Gravity pulled all the sediment to the bottom of the bottle… so as you are pouring the last quarter of the bottle into the decanter, and you begin to see sediment, you can cease pouring, and avoid lovely chunks of sediment in your glass.  We will revisit the decanting process in a later Juicy Tannins Wine 101.

Try to avoid sediment - the byproduct of tannins breaking down - in your glass.
 Now, please take into consideration that 90-95% of all bottled wine is actually meant to be enjoyed shortly after bottling.  Only about 5-10% of Cabernets, Cab Francs, Merlots, Syrahs, and other intense red wines are meant to be aged.  How can you tell the difference?  Quite honestly, the fastest way to tell the difference is price.  A more expensive wine, in general, should have a bit of age to it.  How old depends on your preference – the longer you are able to age it, the more breakdown in tannins that occurs… however, wait too long, and the bottle may spoil.  Aging wine can be just as much of a gamble – or an art – as playing the stock market.  For some prestigious Red Bordeaux and California Bordeaux Blends, you can enjoy the wine, after it has been properly cellared, for as much as 20 to 30 years.  If you ever have the chance to read The Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace, I highly recommend it.  It is a fantastic journey of the world’s oldest bottles of drinkable, and unfortunately some spoiled, wines with price tags to match their fame.

Again making generalizations, younger palates tend to enjoy big, tannic wines; more experienced palates prefer a wine that has had the chance to break down and become more elegant in the bottle.  This is certainly not true of everyone, but just for the everyday wine drinker, this is generally the case.  When buying wine at the grocery store, or ordering a bottle in your favorite restaurant, don’t be afraid to ask the wine buyer or steward when he or she would drink the bottle you are purchasing.  Some examples of wine to cellar (age) would be: Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour, Beau Vigne, Chimney Rock, Opus One, and almost any flagship Bordeaux and Borolo wines.  Most second label Bordeaux bottles are ready for consumption upon release (such as Chateau Gruaud Larose’s Larose de Gruaud).

Chateau Grauad Larose is a fantastic wine to be aged.  Aging allows the
breakdown of tannins, and produces a more elegant, luscious wine.
For the other 50% of the world’s wine production - white wine - the skin contact process simply does not exist.  White wine production generally only utilizes the juice of the grape, not the skins.  Therefore, white wine primarily does not contain tannins, and should generally be consumed within the first few years of the bottle’s life.  I say “generally,” because there are always exceptions.  As we will learn in later Wine 101 posts, some of the world’s oldest wines are whites, but due to a completely different aging factor: sugar.

So what are “juicy” tannins?  Tannins can take on other properties in a bottle of wine, depending on the varietal, what climate conditions existed during the wine’s vintage, and how the wine has evolved in the bottle throughout the aging process.  Tannins are juicy when they exhibit full, almost sweet qualities.  It’s a “balance” descriptor that jumps from tannins to body to flavor… "it’s juicy!"  Tannins can be luscious, silky, sexy, or gracious.  The robust, somewhat bitter, presence is still there, but the wine has evolved so that each contact with your palate bursts like a “Gusher” gummy fruit snack.  You know… juicy!

Juicy Tannins Wine 101: Introduction

ZD Wines' Vineyards, Napa Valley - March 2011

The silky tannins of a plump Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.  The fragrant, white rose bouquet of a Corton-Charlemagne Chardonnay.  The grapefruit acid notes of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  And the leather qualities of an aged St. Estephe Bordeaux.


I was sitting at Bar Divani's wine social the other evening, and as we were discussing the qualities of the first glass, someone asked the definition of 'tannins.'  I suddenly realized that I had missed out on an opportunity for the blog.  I write Juicy Tannins to a broad audience: those who are experienced in the world of wine, those who order the occasional bottle at a restaurant, and those who waning off Boone's Farm and Arbor Mist to take the next step in 'true' wine appreciation.  It occurred to me on that day, that while I enjoy pairing adjectives and descriptors to each wine I sample, some of my readers may not know the character differences between a Cabernet and a Merlot at first glance, let alone how the wine makes it from the vineyards to their glasses.  So I have decided to start a few Wine 101 educational posts detailing the basics of wine... components, descriptors, regions, aging, and more.

I want this to be both fun and educational, and would love comments/questions about the content and ideas for future posts.  Please let me know what you want to know about!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Food & Wine's Wine Guide 2012 - Featured Favorites
I just picked up a copy of Food & Wine Magazine's Wine Guide 2012 after seeing a few favorites inside.  It has a great selection from all around the world and I recommend it for your library and entertainment.

In the book, I first discovered a friend from Alsace, the Trimbach family of wines.  Featured in the book are Pierre Trimbach's 2007 Pinot Blanc and his 2004 Cuvee Frederic Emile Riesling.  I had the opportunity several years ago to be introduced to Hubert Trimbach, and just last year be entertained in the company of the lovely Anne Trimbach, who now represents the family's legacy.  All of the Trimbach wines are incredible, and I ask that you view my post of this fantastic Alsace producer at this link: Trimbach Tasting.

Continuing in the book, I found Olivier Leflaive.  While at the Club, I purchased more bottles of Olivier Leflaive in one season more than any other cases combined... well, that's an exaggeration, but it was pretty darn close.  The Olivier Leflaive Les Setilles is hands down, the greatest value Bourgogne Blanc in France, and dare I say Chardonnay in the world.  It is not featured in the Wine Guide, but I had to say so.  What is represented in the book is equally impactful: the 2009 Puligny-Montrachet, and 2009 Les Folatieres Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru.  Both phenomenal Burgundies with handsome costs, however, worth every dime.  I have in fact sampled both wines of the 2009 vintage, which I encourage you to see at this link: Olivier Leflaive Tasting.

While I don't want to give away the whole book, and I'm sure Food and Wine wouldn't be happy about that either, one last name I would like to bring to your attention in the 2012 Wine Guide is Bibi Graetz.  Yes, the man responsible for the greatest stories ever told in wine, that Bibi Graetz.  While Soffocone is mentioned in the article, it is not featured, however, two of Testamatta's siblings are represented: the 2010 Casamatta Toscana Rosso and the 2008 Grilli del Testamatta.  Both are fantastic wines, the Casamatta being the entry-level brand of 100% Sangiovese and very fruit forward, and the Grille a more refined palate of fresh dark fruits and structured tannins.  Bibi's Soffocone di Vincigliata review can be seen here: Soffocone Story.

The 2012 Wine Guide has many more fantastic labels reviewed.  From Caymus to Far Niente to Paul Hobbs, I recommend picking up a copy today from Amazon or your next trip to the bookstore.  Cheers!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wine Social at Bar Divani - Demystifying France

Photo by
Last Wednesday's Wine Social at Bar Divani featured a great selection of France's wine-growing regions.  Rimple displayed a few of his favorites, and they were very well-received!

Hugel, Gewurztraminer, Alsace, 2006 - Sweet, rich pineapple filled the nose with amazing white rose petals and pale flowers.  The palate contained a big rich feel of ripe fruits and honey, but it was very apparent how quickly if cut short in the mid-palate.  The end lingers with citrus and lemon peel.  This "cut" in the middle would amazing pair with Thai food to compliment the oriental spice.

Pascal Jolivet, Sancerre, Loire Valley, 2010 - The nose was beautiful and crisp, filled with grapefruit and lemongrass.  An equally crisp palate was flavorful of green grapes, lemon zest, and approachable acidity throughout.  It represented Sancerre's earthy terroir very well, and would pair wonderfully with a splendid French goat cheese.

Vincent Girardin, Volnay, Vielles Vignes, Bourgogne, 2008 - Excellent juicy aromas laced with the terroir of Burgundy; further swirls of the glass release barnyard and black cherry.  Less intense than I would have originally thought on the palate, with calm fruits, again, black cherry, and an old world tribute to the terroir of Volnay.  Great pairing with duck or coq au vin.

Domaine Bressy-Masson, Cote du Rhone Villages, Rasteau, Rhone, 2009 - Notes of earth and dark fruit evident on the nose with a light spice additive.  The palate was again easier than expected; spice driven and rustic with a medium body and rip cherry finish.  It lingers with some dry tannins, and would be a good accompaniment to beef or lamb.

Chateay Rochermorin, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, 2009 - Solid tobacco, cedar, and stonefruit on the nose, followed by big, ripe, dark fruit in the palate.  The tannins are big, ripe, and lingering on the finish.  It is still very tight, and would benefit from decanting now, or 5+ years in the bottle, drinkable up to 15+ years I'm sure.  This Bordeaux would compliment beef or a robust dish of any kind.

Chartogne-Taillet, 1er Cru, Brut, Merfy, Champagne, NV - I would not consider Champagne at the top of my lists.  In general, and I say that with emphasis, the yeasty flavor of traditional Champagne does not mingle with my palate.  However, the Chartogne-Taillet is special.  At about the same price as Veuve, it hands down is one of the best Champagnes I have ever sampled.  The nose is classic sourdough bread, where the palate is rich with crisp orchard notes and sweet Challah bread start to finish.  It reminds me of my Grandpa Tidey's apple pie, and it made me crave a slice.  Fantastic growers Champagne through and through.  A+++

As a treat for the evening, fellow patron of the Wine Social and independent distribution representative, Stan, treated us to a special bottle that had us all in the palm of his hand.  Cuvee Paul Emile, Rasteau, 2010 was perhaps the crown to a very special evening.  The nose presented with a slight alcohol scent, and developed into light red fruits and blackberries.  The palate was jammy and full of dark fruit juices and medium body and tannins.  It was truly excellent from start to finish.

Overall, a fantastic evening, and cheers to Bar Divani!  Very well done!  I'm very much looking forward to tonight's Wine Social: Guess the Grape!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wine Social at Bar Divani - Featuring California

Now living in Michigan's Greater Grand Rapids, we needed to find a new hobby... and did we find one!  Bar Divani in Downtown Grand Rapids hosts a Wine Social every Wednesday night through May, and our first experience was amazing!  We can't wait to make it a weekly event.  This week, six California wines were featured by our host, Rimple, owner of Bar Divani.  A compilation of Central Coast, Sonoma, and Napa, the six wines were for the most part a great representation of California's juice.

More so than the wine, the company was phenomenal.  Everyone around the table had a unique background and a story to tell.  And the stories got better as the night went on... not that the wine had anything to do with it... :)
The first wine to bring our interests together was the 2008 Arrowood Chardonnay from Sonoma County.  The nose consisted of light butter, apple pie, and I could detect the scent of steel barrel fermenting entwined.  It's palate was acidic with green grape juice and a green apple mouth-feel.  The structure was sharp and the overall flavor a tad underwhelming.
Next on the menu was Laetitia Vineyards Pinot Noir from the Arroyo Grande Valley, vintage 2009.  I have had this phenomenal Pinot in the past, and am always impressed with its elegant structure for its reasonable price.  For this tasting, I noted a wonderful bright raspberry and cherry nose with mild herbs.  The palate was equally bright with gorgeous fruit, and an easy, almost effervescent feel.

Halfway through the glass of Laetitia, the small plates we ordered arrived.  A great cheese and charcuterie plate lined with prosciutto, figs, grapes, and an excellent selection of cheeses, and an order of fries fried in duck fat... mmmmmmm.
Moving on to the third wine in the tasting, the 2008 Girasole Zinfandel from the Redwood Valley in Mendacino, we found it with a very soft and mild scent, but almost the same in palate.  Unfortunately it was a touch bland, but would be an excellent transition for those inching into the red wine world.  Girasole is a 'vegan' wine, meaning animal products have not been used in the filtering process.
Fourth in the evening, Melville's Verna's Estate Syrah from Santa Barbara, vintage 2009.  It was fantastic!  And not just because I've been to Melville, but the 2009 Verna is truly a wine drinker's dream.  The nose is supple and fruity with amazing smoke and luscious berries.  The palate is equally sexy with blackberries, chocolate covered cherries and most of all, juicy tannins!  I loved it so much, I bought a bottle for home.
Next on the list was Terra Valentine's 2009 Cabernet from Napa.  Despite still being young with a potential 10 years left in the bottle, this cab was great!  The nose was very elegant with deep fruits and cedar and the palate was full with mocha, cola, and cocoa.  The mouthfeel was tight due to its young age, but it had a great presence and long finish.
Last was EOS Private Reserve Petite Sirah from Paso Robles, 2006 vintage.  This wine was big!  The biggest of the night.  Its strong aromas of deep plum and other dark fruit was a great introduction to the wine.  The palate was rich with juicy blueberries and currants.  It was still a tad tight, but an excellent experience from start to finish.

Before the festivities could end, one of the social patrons in the group, Stan, had arranged a seventh bottle for us to sample.  Not yet available in the market, Stan's friend who produces the wine allowed us to test the bottle and provide our thoughts.  Conclusion: we want more!  Zuma Vista Syrah from Paso Robles, vintage 2009, was phenomenal.  The nose was rich with luscious berries and sage with a complimentary palate following.  Flavors of mixed berries and dark fruit laced with hints of smoke could easily be enjoyed for the next ten years, increasing quality with age.  With proper decanting, it can most certainly be enjoyed now, and quite honestly, I would like to get my hands on more!  As it has not officially been released, there was no price tag attached to the bottle, but educated guesses around the table put it at a retail of $40-$60.  Great bottle Zuma Vista, and thank you Stan for sharing!

Overall, it was a fantastic night, and I highly recommend the experience for those in Metro Grand Rapids.  The night is very reasonable at $15 per person on an average night (special nights are $5-$10 more, but still worth every penny).  Next week (02/22) is a snapshot of France's wine growing regions (can't wait!), and the following week (2/29) is "Guess the Grape" for a night of blind fun.  We're very excited to make this a weekly event.  Cheers to Bar Divani, and thank you to our host, Rimple!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cline, Zinfandel, Ancient Vines, California, 2010

Over the sounds of Christmas carols in the background, aromas of Bacon-Wrapped Dates and Stuffed Mushrooms in the oven, and blue skies glistening in the reflection of the ice-cold, placid lake, I took a moment to relish this fantastic find from a wine tasting earlier this year.  I liked it so much, I knew I had to add a few bottles to my collection.

This Ancient Vines Zin starts off with a surreal cracked pepper and sage aroma, mingled with grape jelly and cranberry juice.  At first sip, the richness of berries and vanilla comes forward, followed by subtle spices and hints of strawberry.  This Zin is very easy to drink with smooth tannins, and a lighter-side of medium body.  Garnet juices are halo-ed by a very apparent crisp, clear edge.  It's a fantastic buy that I have seen at Costco for $10.99.  A dear friend of mine also commented on what a consistent bottle Cline Zin is vintage to vintage.  Don't waste any time... grab a few bottles for your New Year's Celebration!  Cheers!