Tasting Port with Robert Bower of the Taylor Fladgate Partnership

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-14-2012

Uploaded to flickr by the Italian voice.

It’s late summer, and much of the United States is coping with sweltering heat. For wine-lovers, crisp whites or roses tend to be the go-to thirst quenchers.

But Robert Bower of the Taylor Fladgate Partnership in Portugal is trying to convince Americans to reach for a glass of port when the mercury rises.

Port? The syrupy, sweet after-dinner drink? Not exactly.

Bower and his team recently invited me to taste Croft Pink, the world’s first truly rosé port. And I must admit, it’s a fantastic summer beverage.

Croft Pink (SRP: $19.99) is best thought of as a primary ingredient for a cocktail, rather than a wine for sipping on its own. I had mine on the rocks with lemon slices and soda, in about a 50-50 ratio. It reminded me of Campari and soda, but sweeter. Bower offered that it tastes British, like a Pimm’s cocktail, and I could see that as well. Really, I could imagine it being a pleasurable accompaniment to an afternoon relaxing on the deck, on the rooftop, or dining alfresco in the city. Read the rest of this entry »

Chile’s Sauvignon Blanc & Chardonnay

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-05-2012

Credit: Flickr User kateausburn

Summer has unofficially arrived, and with it, so too has demand for refreshing white wines.

I recently tasted through a collection of Chilean Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays, thanks to Wines of Chile.

Drought may limit the skinny nation’s wine crop this year. The country’s winemakers are putting a positive spin on the challenging growing conditions, saying that the drought will “increase the quality and concentration of wine aromas” in this year’s wines.

But they also say that 2012 will not be as bad as 2011. Fernando Almeda, chief winemaker at Miguel Torres Winery, told AFP that white wines — including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewurztraminer — should be produced in larger quantities than last year.

The 2011 wines may be the ones to seek, though, as Almeda believes that the 2012 vintage will be “a little less fresh, less total acidity, a higher alcohol content and lower aromatic intensity.”

For my palate, not a great sales pitch for this vintage.

I tasted five 2011 Sauvignon Blancs and three Chardonnays (two from 2010 and one from 2009). Three of the Sauvignon Blancs scored well for me, as did two of the chardonnays.
Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly Wine Roundup: Syrahs and Sassiacaias

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 02-27-2012

Credit: Flickr User naotakem.

The Terroirist team tasted through some Syrahs and Sassicaias this week while your usual correspondent, Terroirist Greg, climbed the mountains of Illinois (?) on a ski trip. Check out full notes below.

Matt Latuchie
Despite an unusually warm winter out here in South Dakota, I had an urge this week to try some syrahs. Three wines from completely different areas produced beautiful results. It speaks to the flexibility of this grape and the diversity of flavor profiles it has.

The first bottle was a 1997 Clos Marie Simon. I am familiar with this producer from my time working at Weygandt Wines in DC but had never had anything this old from them. I found the bottle for $16 at auction so was looking forward to this little experiment. This is typical equal parts grenache and syrah, but I found the syrah elements far more pronounced. It had smoked meats, dark fruit, and nice acidity. A fine example from the Languedoc and a wake up call to me that overlooking this region is a mistake.

The second syrah of the week was a bottle of 2003 Delas Les Bessards. I had my doubts about this bottle given the vintage and my aversion to roasted fruit notes but came away impressed. It started off with dense purple and black fruits and teetered on the edge of being too fruited. With enough air, the more classic syrah characteristics emerged: smoked meat, subtle olives, blackberries, and charcoal. I’m glad I had a chance to taste this as I feared the combination of a modern producer and such a ripe vintage. Shows what I know!

My last syrah of the week was probably the best and came from the Californian Edmunds St. John. Steve Edmunds has long championed the beliefs of minimally invasive winemaking and was recently featured in the documentary Wine From Here. Sadly, my experience with his wines has been limited, but that will soon be changing. This bottle was KILLER. The flavors were so elegant, balanced, and pure that I just couldn’t get over it. It had beautiful dark fruit, smoked meat, and perfumed floral notes. Just lovely stuff that completely flew under my radar. Bravo to Steve! Read the rest of this entry »

Red Wine and Chocolate? An Evening with the Washington Wine Academy

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events, Wine Reviews | Posted on 02-21-2012

The Athenaeum in Alexandria, Va.

Last week, the Washington Wine Academy hosted a “Red Wine and Chocolate Wine” Event at the Athenaeum in Alexandria, Virginia — just before the holiday officially sponsored by the chocolate and greeting card industries, Valentine’s Day.

I was fortunate enough to attend, where I tasted nearly 20 different wines in a beautiful art gallery packed with wine aficionados from throughout the Washington area. (As an aside, if you ever have the chance to visit the Athenaeum — or better yet, attend a private event there — take advantage. The space is tremendous.)

Although red wine and chocolate are often linked — thanks in no small part to their shared status in or culture as aphrodisiacs — the two strike many as less than a perfect match. (The Terroirist-in-Chief certainly thinks so, at the very least.)

I tend to agree, and so I forewent the many chocolate candies and cakes on offer to focus on the wines.

I asked Alex Evans, the Director of Education at the Academy, why she chose to highlight the chocolate-red wine pairing. She acknowledged that in most cases, the two were not ideal mates. But very few people can pass up a smorgasbord of 20 wines and a buffet of chocolate treats.

Given the high turnout, she had a point.

Evans poured an eclectic mix of wines, including several varietals I’d never encountered. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Shop Interview: 750 WINES

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 12-28-2011

The Terroirists pay 750 Wines a visit.

As regular readers know, Terroirist regularly poses 15 questions to a wine shop owner. This week, we’re featuring David and Monica Stevens, the owners of 750 WINES in St. Helena, California.

I visited 750 WINES during a trip to Northern California at the beginning of December. The store is hidden just off the main drag in downtown St. Helena; you’d be forgiven if you walked right by it. When I entered, I felt like I had stumbled upon a secret New York-style speakeasy. The unassuming, unmarked nature of their space is by design; David and Monica work primarily on an appointment basis.

The shop is incredibly hip and reflects its owners’ sense of style. David plays in a band with several other folks in the wine industry, and Monica seems to know everyone in the Napa Valley. Original artwork hangs from the walls, and the furnishings are spare and minimalist: three or four bookcases stocked with wine bottles, a desk in one corner and a piano in another, and a tasting table prominently featured in the center of the room. Monica and David aptly describe the space as “like a loft in Tribeca.”

Because David and Monica work on an appointments basis with their clients, their service has a personal touch that distinguishes them from other retailers. Wine-lovers don’t stop at 750 on the way home from work for a bottle — they call David and Monica to source a cult Napa Cab they can’t get anywhere else or to put together a case for an important dinner. 750 also prides itself on introducing its customers to new wines and winemakers — to keep its clients ahead of the wine curve.

David and Monica poured several wines for us to taste during our visit — and chatted with us about the latest developments in the Napa and Sonoma wine scene. Our full interview with them is below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Shop Interview: Chambers Street Wines

Posted by | Posted in Interviews, Wine Events | Posted on 11-23-2011

Chambers Street Wines (Credit: Joe Benavides)

Every other week, as regular readers know, Terroirist poses 15 questions to a wine shop owner. This week, we’re featuring Jamie Wolff, one of the partners behind Chambers Street Wines in New York City.

I paid Jamie a visit at the shop while passing through lower Manhattan last week. The store is impressive, particularly given Manhattan’s space limitations. High ceilings, a few tall racks of wine forming aisles, and racks along all the walls. The scene was bustling with customers but by no means mobbed. Definitely a pleasant place to browse.

And there’s quite a bit to look at! Chambers St. has one of the most impressive collections of old, rare, and expensive wine out on the floor that I’ve ever seen. As I spoke with Jamie in one of the aisles near the middle of the store, several bottles of Italian wine from the 1960s eavesdropped on our conversation.

Jamie tells me that he’s been devoting most of his palate lately to old Italian wines — Barolos and Barbarescos especially. Chambers Street has recently sourced a good deal of old Italian wine directly from The Boot, so they’re raving about the 20- 30-, 40-, and even 50-year old Italians in stock. Jamie feels that Nebbiolos from 1978, 1982, 1985, and 1989 are peaking right now.

As you might expect, his attention to detail when it comes to tasting is tremendous. He didn’t feel that he tasted things as clearly in the late afternoon as he would say, after getting a second wind later in the evening. Air pressure today — or air pressure 40 years ago at the bottling — could have a huge impact on how we experience the wine.

Rarely have I taken the barometer into account when cracking open a bottle, but he’s got a point. And those variations are part of what makes tasting wines — particularly old ones that may have changed so much in the bottle over the years — fun.

The rest of our interview with Jamie is below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Shop Interview: Bin 604 Wine Sellers

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 11-09-2011

Every other week, as regular readers know, Terroirist poses 15 questions to a wine shop owner. This week, we’re featuring Susan Glass, the general manager of Bin 604 Wine Sellers in Baltimore, Maryland.

I first learned about Bin 604 after a visit to Charleston, a wonderful restaurant with an incredible wine list and tasting menu in Baltimore. The owner of Charleston, Tony Foreman, is also the force behind Bin 604. It was named best new wine shop in the country by Food and Wine magazine in 2002.

I found Bin 604 especially interesting for two reasons. First, the store offers a $99 case-a-month program. Always a pleasure to have an educated shopkeeper introduce a person to interesting wines he or she might not otherwise try. The shop also has a rewards program, which does not seem to be common among wine retailers. As someone who compulsively collects frequent-flier miles and spends a bit too much on wine already, I’d love to see programs like this proliferate.

Susan has a background in the wines of Oregon in particular and has also worked the harvest in Beaujolais, in France. She’s also got several credentials through the International Sommelier Guild. Check out our interview with her below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Getting into Gruner-Veltliner

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-08-2011

Gruner-Veltliner vines with Vienna, Austria in the background. (Credit: Flickr user simononly)

Last week, the Austrian Wine industry’s trade group “hosted” a virtual tasting of five different bottles of Grüner-Veltliner, the white varietal most commonly associated with Austria. Several of the Terroirists participated, as did nearly 200 Twitter users throughout the world.

Grüner is a varietal that has thus far evaded my collection. Widely reputed to be high in acidity and extremely food friendly, I tend to associate Grüners with German rieslings (even if the connection is one born of ignorance). The food pairings are certainly similar — Grüner is trying to make inroads into the conversation on what to pair with Asian food.

Interestingly, Vienna bills itself as the only world capital producing significant amounts of top-flight wine — and that wine is Grüner-Veltliner. It certainly is a bit odd to see vines in the foreground and tall buildings behind.

To see the Terroirists’ tasting notes, check below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Leading off September with Tempranillo

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures, Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-06-2011

Our tasting lineup.

As we pointed out last week, September 1 was International Tempranillo Day, a holiday of sorts promoted by TAPAS — the Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society.

To commemorate the occasion, three wine-loving friends — @zmwang, @gtownjason, and @brianmehlerjoined me for an informal tasting of six bottles of Tempranillo.

Tempranillo is most commonly associated with Spain, but the grape is now grown and produced all over the world, as far afield as Turkey and Thailand. The varietal is becoming more popular in the United States; TAPAS estimates that between 1,500 and 2,000 acres are devoted to it in America. Steve Heimoff reports that California hosts 957 acres worth of Tempranillo.

The six bottles we opened were all from the United States. We tasted them in chronological order — one 2005 bottling, followed by two from 2007 and three from 2008. We decanted the three 2008 wines and popped and poured the other three. And of course, because good food makes every tasting better, we noshed on sausage-and-caramelized-onion pizza and an assortment of meats and cheeses. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy International Tempranillo Day!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews, Wine Where? | Posted on 09-01-2011

Today marks the beginning of September. But it’s also the first annual International Tempranillo Day!

Tempranillo is the legendary Spanish grape native to Iberia that’s at the heart of Rioja and Ribera del Duero wines — and is increasingly grown throughout the world. The grape has some 60 regional synonyms; during a trip to Portugal last summer, I fondly recall quaffing quite a bit of Aragonez, the Portuguese equivalent.

TAPAS — the Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society — sent Terroirist a few bottles of Tempranillo to celebrate the occasion. So we’ll be hosting a tasting this evening, with Spanish meats and cheeses to boot. I’ll be live-tweeting the tasting, so be sure to follow @robbyschrum for up-to-the-minute coverage. We may not break any news — but we may help you pick out a bottle of Tempranillo to enjoy tonight! If you want to join the fun on twitter, the hashtag for tonight is #TempranilloDay.