Woodenhead is a small winery off River Road in Sonoma County. I definitely recommend a stop if you are the neighborhood and like Zinfandel or Pinot Noir. My disclaimer of purchasing this wine continues ;). On the nose I get cranberry, dark chocolate, blackberry jam and a touch of cedar. Flavors include the dark chocolate bordering on mocha with more cranberries followed by strawberry and blackberry jam. It finished with soft tannins and notes of earth. Quite a wine with a good bit of complexity though also a hefty 15.8% alcohol content (though I don’t taste it) and price tag at $45. If you like Zin this is definitely an interesting wine if the price point is within reach.
For the second year in the row I find myself on the East coast for a family vacation. This year brings us to Cumberland Island just off the coast of Georgia. As a cook it is a bit of a challenge in that the island has nothing in the way of stores on it so provisions for a week of cooking had to be procured as quickly as possible on the way out.
This holds true for beverages as well so I turned to Chandon Extra-Dry Riche for our first evening as bubbles are how we like to start vacations. On the nose a nice mix of lime, coconut, and unmistakable honey. On the palate this turns into a mixture of apricots with peach and again the honey. Not the most intriguing sparkling wine I’ve ever had but a nice way to start a vacation.
This is a wine or at least a winery that people should be able to find. Joseph Swan is one of ye olde California wineries and if you ever see a Pinot saying they use the Swan clone, yup Swan was one of the first Pinot producers in the state. If you haven’t been, I would definitely recommend a visit to this unpretentious winery just off River Road outside Santa Rosa. This is a 2006 Saralee Vineyard Pinot Noir. The color is an amazing light brick red with a hint of brown on the edge showing a touch of age. The nose is just wonderful. To be sure there is cherry and strawberry but there is a lot more including hints of cinnamon and black licorice. Quite complex and a joy to smell. On the palate there are berries with currants now and the licorice persists into the finish. To me a very nice wine for $25. I definitely recommend it.
I am a little loath to post this wine (especially since I have a bunch of others to post!) because this is a wine that pretty much nobody will be able to find. Selyem is one of those mailing list only wineries but it was the one my hand found as I was looking for a match for dinner. As soon as those free samples start rolling in I’m sure I will have more main stream wines for you all ;).
This has a delightful nose of what started as lime zest and what struck me as cotton candy though I also smelled green apple and chalk as I swirled the glass more. On the palate there is a splash of lemon juice bringing nice acidity to the minerals all coming together for a decently long finish. I know they ferment in cement so the minerals are not a surprise. A light a decent match for my pasta. I would recommend if it was more widely available :(.
One of our guests on Saturday reads my blog and gave me a hard time after my last party when I said I wasn’t able to provide wine reviews. She came to the party with several bottles of wine and a notebook with pink trim :). She thought I could use it to take notes during the meal for the blog. So I dutifully took some notes and here they are.
Carpene Malvolti Prosecco $? This was one of the wines my friend brought over. It was a delightful way to start the evening and brought a lot of citrus, especially pronounced orange and lemon, to the nose. One the palate it is crisp and refreshing with a flavor reminiscent of a creamsicle. For those not familiar, an American frozen confection of orange and cream.
Elizabeth Spencer Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 $? This was yet another bottle my friend brought over. For those not familiar Elizabeth Spencer is a charming little winery whose tasting room is right off the main drag (route 29) of Napa just south of St Helena. Definitely worth a stop if only because their tasting room is open later than most ;). I decanted this wine and later found a nice mixture of kir, cherry, strawberry, and a touch of menthol on the nose. The palate followed the nose with nice red fruit and the tannins which were stiff on opening mellowed with decanting though could still be felt on the inside of the cheeks.
Wind Gap Syrah Coast 2008 $36. Wind Gap is a recent discovery and personal favorite of mine. First, a confession. I was pretty down on Syrah for a long time. It always came across as overly alcoholic, too big, and too gamey for my palate. Then I started finding wineries like Wind Gap and Drew who specialize in cool climate Syrah. This is an entirely different beast. Wind Gap is named after a portion of Sonoma California where the cool wind off the Pacific blasts through the coastal range. Instead of fruit bombs you get balanced wines, especially with the hands of Pax Mahle, Wind Gap’s winemaker. I first heard about them at the Wine and Spirits Top 100 which led to a visit when I was in the hood. To say their Forestville tasting room is not presumptuous would be quite an understatement. When we pulled to the back of the non-descript warehouse in “downtown Forestville” we were greeted by Pax himself and had just a wonderful time tasting their wine. What I find amazing about this Syrah is the distinct aroma of black olives combined with dark cherry and pomegranate , just a wonderful nose. Not the typical California fruit bomb. On the palate the olives, cherry, and pomegranate continue but are joined by a hint of cinnamon and black licorice and finish with something that closely resembles black tea. A great food fine that will match all manner of cuisine. I highly recommend it or at least trying a similar cool climate Syrah if you too had given up on “hot Syrah.”
For Friday night pizza night I turned to Italy and Amantis Sangiovese 2006 $22. This is a very interesting wine. When I first opened the bottle it was incredibly floral with a strong Jasmine smell. As it opened up the floral component almost completely disappeared. If you have never done it I would highly recommend tracking how a wine changes over the course of an hour or more by at least smelling it, if not tasting as well over time. After the pizzas were done the floral smell was replaced by what I can only think of cherry cough drops and milk chocolate with a hint of cinnamon. The palate is incredibly similar with the cherry cough drops, chocolate, and cinnamon leading into what tastes and feels like black tea. A very interesting wine with a bit of age that definitely mellows it.
So I was talking to my parents this evening. Apparently they had somebody to the house and they asked something to the effect of “Does he really taste (smell?) those things?” Despite my natural cynicism I will treat this as a real question ;). When I smell and taste wine I smell and taste things that remind me of other smells and tastes. I find that trying to put a name to those things is an interesting intellectual endeavor and one that actually increases the enjoyment of that wine. Complex wines will make you think of many different things simple wines, not so much. Thinking of what the wines tastes like makes you examine the taste more critically. Taking notes is extremely nerdy but will actually make you a more active taster over time. I told my parents to get a wine and then look for a review on the web. There will be tasting notes. Open your wine and let it breathe for at least 1/2 hour and then see if you smell and taste the same thing. You may agree on some of the notes and disagree on others. Your journey has begun!
Which brings us to tonights wine. Abrente 2010 Napa Valley Albarino $25. This is a combo effort of Morgan Twain-Petersen (Bedrock Vineyard!) and Michael Havens (yeah THAT Havens). I am a big fan of Bedrock Syrah but more about that another time. California Albarino, interesting! I’m on the bedrock mailing list so I got an email about this and since I like the winemaker and I like the grape I had to try.
After giving it some time I started to smell what I can only call bubble gum (I kid you not) and cantaloupe with a hint of lemon zest on the nose. In other words, very interesting. On the palate there was a touch of effervescence but a lot of lemon, yellow peach, what feels like peach skin on my tongue and a mineral dry finish. A very interesting wine for me. At the price point it seems a bit expensive but I will say it is worth trying if you like Albarino.
Tonight’s pairing was a Muscadet. This is a white from the Loire region of France made from a grape called Melon de Bourgogne interestingly enough. The price points are usually very attractive. I haven’t had Muscadet before and it was on the hit list. The Loire is known for Sancerre and this wine had a lot in share with a Sancerre (made with Sauvignon Blanc) even though it was a different grape. This was a Muscadet Sevre et Maine sure lie 2009 $13. Sur lie means it is left on yeast lies in the barrel. The nose was interesting with mainly apple and lemon zest but also melon and a hint of minerals. In the mouth it was quite tart and bright with a lot of lemon and mineral. Not terribly complex or long though. The normal pairing here is seafood or specifically oysters. It actually did quite well with the Vietnamese chicken and even the dessert cutting through the richness. I would definitely recommend the wine for the price if you are looking for something incredibly bright and light.
Disclaimer: I paid for this so I might want more/less from it
Tonight’s pick for pizza pairing was a Quivira Syrah blend called Elusive. An exciting nose of strawberry, grape jelly, and a hint of cinnamon. On the palate fruit then what I call oregano, leather, and finally earth for a dry finish with soft tannins. For the $28 price point I would say worth it. I should mention this is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre, and Petite Syrah where the first three varietals dominate the blend and are very typical of a Rhone blend. Petite Syrah, however, is not a usually found in the Rhone though.
A white wine you don’t hear that much about is Albarino which is a shame because it is a great wine, especially with food. It comes from Spain and is typically a bit lower in alcohol and quite dry. This is another one I got from my local wine club 2009 Pazo Senorans Albarino. I keep waiting for those complimentary bottles to start rolling in ;).
The smell is delightfully complex reminding me of dried apricot, papaya, minerals, and something else that I will have to call coconut. On the palate its feel reminds me of a viogner bringing lemon, some Sauvignon Blanc like grass and minerals and a finish that reminds me of smarties. Really quite a bang for the buck and a great match for my market dinner. I think I will need to get more for summer!