Did you have a good holiday? We sure did!
The holidays may have come and gone, but the cold weather seems pretty eager to stick around. All these plummeting thermostats have the Midtown Wine and Spirits night crew thinking…what kind of wine or spirit do we all want to have on hand when Old Man Winter won’t let us leave the house?
Lou: I made a great big pot of chili to last me through the cold snap, so give me a spicy red wine -preferably a Rioja like our staff favorite Vina Eguia Crianza – and I will be a happy woman!
Ingo: It’s 40 degrees below zero up in Winnipeg, so I figure that if it’s good enough to get one through a Canadian Winter, it’s good enough for me down here in Nashville. I’d go with Caribou Crossing.
Josh: I may look tough, but I like the sweet things in life — when the weather gets chilly, you’ll find me bundled up under a blanket with a warm drink that contains a healthy dash of Whisper Creek Tennessee Sipping Cream.
Travis: In cold weather, I like to put on old records and sip on a nice cognac, or maybe some Chambord drizzled on top of ice cream – but, when it’s this chilly you can’t go wrong with an island spirit like rum — preferably some Diplomatico!
Korie: If I’m snowed in, I better be snowed in with some sparkling wine. I want to celebrate my life in style even when it’s not beach weather, so I would go with something pink and glamorous, like Mirabelle Rose!
Matt: A high proof whiskey (like Old Granddad 114!) would do the trick for me. And I wouldn’t complain about a high alcohol beer with some holiday cheer, like The Missing Elf (9.5% Alcohol).
Claire: I crave spices when the temperature drops so I’ll be curling up with my cat and a warm and toasty amaro, like Montenegro. I have been eyeing the Absolut Chicago, however, so that might be my top choice — a savory vodka with Rosemary and Olive notes sounds like a wonderful way to beat the cold — don’t forget to ice it down like a Chicagoan would: in the snow!!
Eric (our next door neighbor at the Midtown Beer and Cigar): Everyone knows that winter is the best time of year for the highest of high gravity beers – this is the perfect weather for TenFiddy!
This is the perfect time of year to pair your favorite wine with fresh produce from the farmer’s market. This week, Nat has a suggestion for a vegetarian-friendly dish that will play very nicely with the Calcu Rose Reserva:
“Because this is a refined and elegant Chilean Rose with wild berries and lemon blossoms on the nose followed by crisp, vibrant, fresh notes on the palate, it works very well when paired with vegetable dishes such as risotto or rice.
Primarily Malbec with 35% Syrah and just 10% Petit Verdot (this last grape being the one that gives the wine its crisp dryness), this Rose would also be delightful with a potato salad made of tiny fingerling potatoes (very Chilean!), along with cilantro, onions, garlic, celery, and chopped hard-boiled eggs. You can also further integrate the Calcu by dressing the salad with a simple homemade mayo made of whipped olive oil, a bit of egg, salt, pepper, and a few drops of Rose!”
Rose and farmers' market fresh salad make for a light dinner that pleases your palate AND your budget!
Vina Maquis Calcu Rose, Colchagua Valley, Chile
If you have a wine or a dish that you want to try (or if you just want to learn more about pairing), please let us know in the comments — we would love to help you out!
There has been a recent renaissance of Merlot wine -making after the few years of demise brought forth by a certain Hollywood blockbuster’s quote demeaning the noble Bordeax varietal. In the years following that movie’s release, there was an obvious decline in Merlot purchasing which in turn affected production. But if you’re out there and still frightened by or just dont like those big California Merlots, give some of these a chance.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Merlot 2010 – 88 points Wine Spectator
Merlot from Columbia Valley, Washington – $19.99
I personally am not a huge fan of many reds from Washington state, but when I find myself buying something from the Northwest, its typically either a Washington Merlot or Syrah. Comprised of 80% Merlot and the rest Syrah, this is the best of both worlds. With big fruit up front from the Merlot and a strong, bold, yet subtly tannic finish from the Syrah, Ch. Ste. Michelle did some nice work on this wine that pairs extremely well with Pasta as well as Roasted Pork Tenderloin.
And next up, from the Southern Hemisphere and around the globe…
Craggy Range Winery Te Kahu Gimblett Gravels 2010 – 91 Points Wine & Spirits Magazine
Bordeaux Varietal Blend (80% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 4 % Malbec) — $19.99
This winery located on the Eastern coast of the north island of New Zealand. Its close proximity to the coast and the South Pole keeps the coastal breezes light and cool thus giving the winery cooler days even in the heat of the southern hemisphere’s summers. Unlike the Napa Valley Merlots that are hated in the Hollywood wine flick everyone knows too well, this is a Merlot dominated blend that stays lighter than most but the depth of flavor is dense. The bright fruit up on the front of the palate strikes you from the get go, and the light structure makes this a great wine to have as an everyday drinker. This pairs extremely well with herbal and vegetarian pizzas and bigger steak or tuna topped salads with a not too acidic vinaigrette.
Tired Of The Same Old Cab… ?
If you’re tired of trying the same old Cabernet, perhaps its time to dive into the original…Cabernet Franc! Shown by DNA evidence, the Cabernet Sauvignon grape is a product of vine grafting of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Cabernet Franc, or Cab Franc as it is usually called shows many similar characteristics of the Cab Sauv. Its deep blackish color and bold flavors show just where the Cab Sauv came from, but with its typically milder tannic structure and earthier vegetal notes make wines made from this grape fantastic for grilling season. The lighter Chinons from France pair extremely well with Pork dishes and grilled Ahi Tuna, where as the heartier domestic and South American Cab Francs can stand toe-to-toe with rich grilled flank steak or Portobello mushrooms. Here are a few options of Cab Franc available at Midtown wine & Spirits to get you into the grilling season
Bernard Baudry Les Grezeaux Chinon 2010
91 Points Wine and Spirits Magazine
$21.99, normally $24.99
This gravelly, 7.5-acre block sustains some of Baudry’s oldest vines, producing a tannic franc with black earthiness in the end. The gamey fruit has a blueberry tone, juicy enough to fill out the dry tannins and soften the finish. Age it to bring out the old-vine complexity. – Wine & Spirits
Lamadrid Single Vineyard Reserva Cabernet Franc 2009
91 points Robert Parker
The 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserva was sourced from the estate’s younger vines and aged for 14 months in 50% new and 50% second-use French oak. Herbs and spices (clove, cinnamon, potpourri) intermingle with enticing black fruit aromas to compose the bouquet of this tasty Cabernet Franc. Incipiently complex and lengthy, it has the structure to evolve for 2-3 years but can be approached now. It is an outstanding value. – RP
Vinum Cellars “The Scrapper” Cab Franc 2009
Special pricing, $19.99
This is a wine made for the open-minded, the adventurous and those who root for the underdog. It’s Cabernet Franc from El Dorado California aged in used French Oak for 22 months; truly a Scrapper. This concentrated pomegranate colored Cabernet Franc is rich with intense cassis notes and exotic spices like clove and sandalwood. On the palate, the concentration carries through with a sappy and juicy core of ripe black cherry fruit, dark chocolate and dark roast coffee notes. The wine finishes with round tannins which are approachable but well structured and will provide the foundation for ample aging. Enjoy now or cellar until 2022. This wine pairs well with nearly any grilled meat, but it is show cased well with marinated Flat Iron steak served with fresh summer vegetables or a salad served with an olive oil and tomato relish tossed in extra virgin olive oil, citrus and oregano with sea salt. – Winemakers Notes
Try these recipes for grilling season to pair with a Cab Franc:
Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Tango Sauce
Mango-Black Pepper Glazed Grilled Pork Chops
Wines from Spain are a personal love for me. I think everyone has had that one great taste of vino that makes them take a step back and go, ” Whoa! “.
For me, it was when I first sipped Petit Verdot. Petit Verdot, you say? For those of you not acclimated with this wonderful varietal, let me shed some light. Petit Verdot is one of the five “classic” Bordeaux grapes. When grown in perfect conditions, it gives off a beautiful bouquet of fresh blueberries, lavender and violet. It’s only problem is that it ripens very late, even more so than Cabernet Sauvignon, so it’s a particularly difficult character to master. This is not the case in Spain. With their extended growing seasons, light rainfall and dry, arid climate, it’s a match made in heaven. Some research has even shown that it is actually native to the regions of Tarragona, Aragon, Navarra and Rioja, and was brought to France by the Romans thousands of years ago. Other parts of the globe with similar conditions such as Argentina, Chile and Australia have seen an influx of Petit Verdot plantings in the past 20 years. But Spain in my opinion has shown just how amazing this grape can become when given proper care and attention.
Take Chapillon’s Cuvée Harmonie, rated 90 points by The Wine Advocate, for instance. Blended with 10 percent Tannat, this wine shows off scents of bright, dark berries, spicy floral components, and leaves you with a finish that seemingly lasts forever. For 15 bucks. For those of you interested in pairing ideas, all things pork are perfection, with cured meats such as Jamón ibérico being even better. Hard, nutty cheeses, preferably sheep’s milk, are fantastic as well. So do yourself a favor, put on some Spanish guitar and check out Petit Verdot. You will be more than happy you did.
Another year has gone by, and with it, we each get a little older. I still can’t believe that a person born in 1991 can legally purchase alcohol…
Anyways, we at Midtown celebrate each new year with our annual wine dinner, and 2012 may have been the biggest yet. We had more than 25 people, including our full staff and some close friends, and of course we had some of the best wine we’ll drink all year. Just like last year, The Clay Pit in Murfreesboro catered our party, providing us with another night of absolutely delectable authentic Indian cuisine.
This year we held the party in the rooftop ballroom at The Days Inn by LP Field, offering a stunning panoramic view of the stadium and downtown Nashville skyline. As tradition dictates, we got things going with some delicious bubbly, whites and rosés to go with our appetizers of assorted cheeses, crackers and naan (a handmade, oven-baked flatbread with garlic and spices).
– Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Brut Champagne
– Soter Vineyards Sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé 2006 (93 RP)
– Veuve Clicquot Rosé Champagne 2004 (93 WS)
– DuMol Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2007 (90-93 RP)
– Louis Latour Puligny Montrachet 2008
– Meyer-Fonne Pinot Gris 2006
– Trimbach Riesling “Cuveé Frederic Emile” 2001 (90 WS)
– St. Urbans-hof Riesling Laurentiuslay 2005 (93 RP)
– Poma Aurea Spanish Sparkling Cider
– Chateau de Selle Domaines Ott Rosé 2010 (90 WE)
– Contelucio Pinot Grigio Ramato 2009
Each year we always pull a bottle of the St. Urbans-hof — it’s a store favorite and we love to see how it is evolving over time. This year, it had less of the classical petrol notes you find in a fine Riesling and had much more honeysuckle. The DuMol is more than just a Chardonnay — it’s an entire meal. You can taste the 15 months the wine spent in 40% new French Oak, and it’s loaded with vanilla créme brulée. A friend of Midtown brought the Contelucio with him, and upon pouring it, we thought it had gone bad as it poured a color closer to a tawny port than a Pinot Grigio. However, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to look. “Ramato” refers to the old school Friulian style of winemaking where the grapes are fermented on the skins, resulting in the coppery color. It blew us away! And sadly, the only bad wine of the night was one we all always love — Latour Puligny Montrachet. Ain’t nothing you can do about a corked wine…
From here, we shifted into the red wines as we began to munch on spicy Vegetable Pakora (assorted vegetables dipped in graham flour batter and deep fried) and Tandoori Chicken. We tried to maintain some semblance of professionalism, tasting the lighter and older vintage wines first.
– Brolio Chianti Classico 1980
– Chateau Gloria Bordeaux St. Julien 1981
– Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1995 (93 RP)
– Coppo Pomorosso Barbera d’Asti 1997 (90 RP)
– Chateau Souverain Alexander Valley Merlot 1999 (92 WS)
– Talley Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir 2004
– Bouchard Pere et Fils Beaune du Chateau Bourgogne Premier Cru 2006 (90 WE)
– Domaine Lecheneaut Chambolle-Musigny Bourgogne Premier Cru 2007
I’ll be honest — most of us didn’t expect much from the Brolio or the Gloria. Though certainly very respectable, neither of these bottlings come from absolute powerhouse producers or particularly good vintages. But on this night, we were taught the very important lesson of always tempering your expectations when it comes to opening a bottle of wine as both bottles drank impressively well!
The Brolio still had life in it, showing tart black cherry notes to go with classical sangiovese flavors of leather and tobacco. Most surprisingly, the bottle continued to taste good over the course of an hour whereas most wines this old would fade very quickly, if they even tasted good at all.
Then came the Gloria, and our prospects were grim as the cork disintegrated and collapsed into the wine as I attempted to open it. Thanks to some quick thinking on the part of one of my colleagues, we quickly poured the wine through a coffee filter and were able to salvage it. Like the Brolio, this wine impressed us quite a bit. A lot of the primary fruit had faded, but loads of cedar and spice were prevalent on the palate. It did, however, fade very quickly. After 30 minutes open, it tasted its age while the Chianti continued its life a while longer.
From here, it was time for the rockstars of the night — big, bold and rich reds.
– Robert Foley Claret 2004 (95 RP)
– Muga “Prado Enea” Rioja Gran Reserva 2004 (94 RP/WE)
– Sella & Mosca “Tanca Farra” Alghero 2004 (91 WE)
— Morgenster Lourens Rivery Valley Stellenbosch 2005 (92 RP)
– Whistling Eagle “Eagles Blood” Shiraz 2005 (95 WS)
– Durigutti “Familia” Malbec 2005 (91 WS)
– Switchback Ridge Peterson Family Vineyard Petite Sirah 2005 (95 RP)
– Tenuta Sette Ponti Toscana “Oreno” 2007 (96 WE, 95 RP)
– Cuvelier de Los Andes 2008
– M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut “Occultum Lapidem” 2008 (92 RP)
– Montes “Purple Angle” Carmenere 2008 (91 WE)
– Eberle Steinbeck Vineyard Syrah 2009
– Eugenio Bocchino “Roccabella” Nebbiolo Langhe 2009
Ah, where to begin? Well upon arrival at the party, I immediately decanted the Oreno, Purple Angel, Switch Back Ridge and Foley Claret. We gave them a good 2-3 hours decant time, and while they definitely benefited from it, they would have been even better the following morning. The Foley and Purple Angel may have been the consensus favorites, both being near black in color and displaying layer after layer after layer of flavors.
And what’s a party without dessert and some accompanying wine? We munched on Gulab Jasmun (juicy fried cheese balls dipped in honey syrup) and sipped on Quady Essensia Dessert Wine and Klein Constantia Vin de Constance Dessert Wine 2006 (95 WS/RP).
We even had a little high gravity beer appearance, in the form of the coveted Dogfish Head Bitches’ Brew, brought by one of our former employees (many thanks to Matty).
All in all, it made for one of the more memorable nights in Midtown party history. And on a final note, let us say that more than 25 of us consumed these wines over the course of more than six hours, and we also went through two 36-bottle cases of water.
Back on New Year’s Eve, my wife and I had a little soiree at our place. A few of my fellow CorkDorks came over, and one of them brought a bottle of Zenato’s “Ripassa”. It’s a Valpolicella Ripasso, made from the Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes up in northeastern Italy. And so now a few weeks later, as I watch the 49ers and Giants face off in the NFC Championship Game, I’ve decided to crack open this bottle.
Meaning “repassed”, Valpolicella Ripasso wines are passed over the leftover dried grape skins and seeds from Amarones for extended maceration. This makes the wine richer and more flavorful while also making it a little more fuller-bodied than it normally would be. These wines are often referred to as “Baby Amarones.”
This particular ripasso pours a dark crimson color with an inky, black core. On the nose there’s a touch of tobacco leaf, green tea, stewed black cherries and barbecued meats. It’s medium to full-bodied on the palate, and ripe cherry jumps out in front. The tannins coat the palate fully on the finish, letting you know this wine is made for food. A tart cranberry note lingers on the lengthy finish, along with a hint of cocoa powder.
This isn’t one of those wines where you just pop the cork, pour it and drink it. It demands cuisine, and the beef and ground bison pasta I had with it paired beautifully. Now I’ll admit I’m a little biased — a confessed lover of all things Italian — but I’d rate this wine a solid 91 points. Throw some rich food in the mix, and it jumps up to a 93.
Tell us about your favorite wine pairing…
Each Thursday, we select a new Midtown Wine of the Week. Typically under $20, these are wines we think will be palatable to everyone out there — from the discerning connoisseur to the wine novice. This week we went with Santa Ema’s Reserve Merlot 2008, which rated 90 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.
I decided to take a bottle home to try last night, as I hadn’t had it in quite a few years, and it was just as excellent as I remember.
It pours a deep purple with a dark crimson edge. On the nose it offers up a bouquet of cocoa powder, a tinge of sweet vanilla from the oak and a slight hint of alcohol. It’s medium to full-bodied with soft tannins that just barely layer the palate, though as the bottle remains open for a few hours, the mouthfeel takes on a bit of a fleshy characteristic. The milk chocolate tones come out stronger on the mid-palate along with ripe blackberry jam. There’s a hint of spice to go with the acidity, and the smooth finish goes on for a solid 20+ seconds.
What makes this wine even more impressive is the price — $13.99. Quality bottles at affordable prices have become the norm out of Chile and Argentina, and they are more and more readily available as well.
What’s your favorite bottle of South American wine?
It has been quite a few months since our last blog post, and for this I must apologize. The months of October, November and December (or simply “OND” as this time of year is lovingly referred to in the retail wine industry) represent the very busiest time of the year.
But now it’s 2012, and things have quieted down a touch after the hustle and bustle of Christmas and New Year’s Eve. As such, it seems like as good a time as any to get back into the blogosphere with this recap of my Labor Day weekend trip out to Napa and Sonoma.
First off, if you haven’t had a chance to visit these two beautiful valleys — easily the most famous wine producing regions in the United States — I’d urge you to do so if and when you can. Each time I’m fortunate enough to head out to the west coast, I’m always awed by its sheer beauty. The Mayacamas Mountains run north-south and serve as the divider between Sonoma County on the west side and Napa County on the east. You could spend weeks on either side of the Mayacamas and never visit the same winery twice. And the knowledge and experience one can attain while visiting these wineries is invaluable.
My 2011 trip began with the lengthy flight from Nashville into San Francisco, followed by the drive north to wine country. Note — don’t trust Mapquest! Instead of taking us on the simplest route — north on Highway 1, over the Golden Gate Bridge onto the 101 and through San Rafael — it took us off the highways, through downtown San Fran during rush hour before getting onto I-80 and over the Bay Bridge into Oakland before finally heading north through Richmond and then back across the bay again. Next time, I’ll spend the extra money and get the Garmin GPS in the rental car. Ok, off that tangent now.
Anyways, since all the restaurants I wanted to hit up and half of the wineries at which I had appointments were on the Sonoma side, I was staying in Sonoma this year, at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn — an excellent little resort in Boyes Hot Springs, just north of Sonoma proper. If you want a place with lots of glitz and glam and super fancy and/or high-tech amenities in your room, this place is not for you (though the large flat screen TV was a bonus). However, if you want a quaint and quiet hotel with a wonderful and highly-rated restaurant on-site in a cute little town, check it out.
Dinner on the night I arrived — Cyrus Restaurant — definitely set the stage for the entire trip. A prestigious winner of two Michelin Stars, the eight-course prix fixe menu was absolutely stunning. The optional wine pairings were eclectic and paired perfectly with each dish, making it a must-visit spot for any foodies/winos heading out to CA.
After a good night’s sleep, the winery tours began, starting with Sonoma giant Kenwood Vineyards. If you want to see how things work at a large production winery, Kenwood is a good place to start. You can stroll through some of their estate vineyards planted directly in front of the tasting room or head into their barrel room and see the giant wooden beams they had to install to reinforce the building after the disastrous earthquake of 1989. They’ve kept all kinds of library wines, many of which are available for purchase if not to taste in the tasting room, including many vintages of the highly-rated Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon. When I was there, they were offering a great deal on the 2003 vintage of their Jack London Vineyard Cabernet. Definitely came back to Tennessee with a few bottles of that.
We wrapped things up at Kenwood a little early, and so we decided to make an unscheduled stop — Martinelli. If you like big, rich and extracted style Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, visit Martinelli. If you can manage to find a bottle of their Jackass Hill Vineyard Zin, buy it and don’t look back.
Next stop — Williams Selyem. This winery, perhaps more than any other, put top-shelf California Pinot Noir on the map. They were recently featured in the Spectator, and the hype and desire for these wines continues to grow. Add on top of that the fact that more than 90% of the wines they produce are for winery club members only, and you’ve got some of the hardest-to-obtain wines in the United States. They only recently opened their brand new winery and tasting room, which is an absolute site to see. Their appellation designated wines, mainly Pinot Noir and Zinfandel with a little Chardonnay, are second to only their vineyard designated bottlings. And winemaker Bob Cabral was just named Wine Enthusiast’s Winemaker of the Year!
I wrapped up my day of winery tours in Sonoma at one of my new favorites — Chalk Hill. Located in the appellation of the same name, this winery produces more than 20 different wines, and their Estate Red might be the most impressive of the bunch. The extremely attentive staff sat us at a table on the patio, where we were served a flight of their reserve tier wines paired with various cheeses. Afterward, we toured proprietor Bill Foley’s private family cellar in the basement of the winery, the hidden entrance to which is secreted behind a James Bond-esque moving bookshelf. Definitely ask to tour this amazing private collection of wines from all over the world!
We capped the night off with dinner at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen, winner of The Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence in their 2011 Restauraunt Wine List Awards Program. The coriander crusted Sonoma duck with a bottle of 2009 A. Rafanelli Dry Creek Valley Zin was a beautiful pairing.
Next up — Day 2!
So harvest season has almost come to a close, and Fall is upon us. At this time of year, I love to talk about Bordeaux. Today in particular — the 2006 Chateau Gloria.
Chateau Gloria, founded in 1903, lies west of the Gironde River in Bordeaux, France. Not quit a grand vin, but for the money, you can’t beat this wine. In my opinion if you wanted to get your feet wet in the region that is known for its classic clarets, Chateau Gloria is where you would want to start.
People ask me all the time, “Why would I pay $30-$40 for an ‘entry-level’ Bordeaux when I can get so much more from other parts of the world?” The answer for me is simply longevity. Bordeaux is a creature that will change around every corner and will give you something different every time you try one. Bordeaux is a wine that will last for years. Some Bordeauxs that were bottled in 1961 still taste absolutely amazing, even after 50 years!
The Chateau Gloria I tasted will last for 12 years, if not more. Yes you can get other wines cheaper, but will they last? With the Gloria I think you can go with both sides of the coin on this one. I opened it at 7:00 p.m. and it was, for all intents and purposes, closed down. I waited — and let me tell you that this was the hard part — for an hour and tasted it again at 8:00p.m. Then it started to do what I get so excited about when it comes to wine — evolve.
It morphed into this wine that exhibits dark red fruits and berries, cassis and cedar. On the palate, this wine has fantastic structure, great tannin and very well-balanced acidity. I had two glasses and then put an unwilling cork in it at 10:15 p.m., wanting to see if the wine would last with just a cork over night.
When I arrived home the next day at 7:15p.m., I was curious/scared to see what the night and most of the day had done to the wine. Impressively, this wine was showing an out-of-this-world smoothness and still going very strong.
Chateau Gloria, $35.99 at Midtown, is a steal and a peek into what true Bordeaux has to offer in a world of both bargain and expensive wines. If you have any questions about wine or Bordeaux specifically, we would love to hear from you.