With the warm weather approaching — though it never really left — we’re getting closer to bringing out the bottles of gin and other lively spirits. Some like to call them “rays of light”, “sunshine in a glass”, or “liquid pine trees”, I just like to call them good.
Gin has not always been at the top of my list of spirits to rave about. It honestly stayed at the bottom for a long time. Then the creativity set in and I fell in love with the “Old Tom” style of gin that was soon to become my favorite.
The best things about liking gin are the trinkets, mixers and liqueurs that have been solely designed to complement the beautiful botanicals that are found in the gin itself. I was unaware of these until I found myself at a bartenders’ competition where the base spirit was Bombay Sapphire Gin. Never would I have thought that hickory smoked lemons, strawberries, figs, eggs and lavender would be some of my new favorite pairings with gin. This may have been the start of my love affair with gin — OK, this definitely was the start of my love affair.
To describe my palate/taste when it comes to gin, I prefer ones that have slightly subdued juniper notes and more of the prominent citrus tones up front. I tend to go with an “Old Tom” style gin more often than a London dry or the funky gin spirits such as Bols Genevere or Junipero.
Gin is not really a spirit that can shy away from its heritage and main flavor profile, such as other ubiquitous spirits like vodka, rum or tequila that one can mix with just about anything and mask its true flavor. It can mesh and hold the solid flavors of so many different items.
For instance, an italian blood orange soda that can be found at whole Foods or Trader Joes is one of the best mixers for Bombay Sapphire. It makes the gin cocktail taste like you have mixed in 3 or 4 different components. The sparkle of the bubbles break up the piney punch that sometimes dominates your palate upon first sip. The brightness and sweetness of the fruit intermingled with the botanicals of the gin bring out these crazy flavors that range from lemon sorbet and sparkling grapefruit to sweet eucalyptus and toasted honey. If you happen to come across some sparkling blood orange soda or something like it, don’t pass it up!
Now if you want to channel your inner mixologist and experiment, using egg whites takes gin cocktails to an entirely new level. For sweeter style drinks, just add any baking spice and/or small bits of fruit – hazelnuts sprinkled with a dusting of cinammon, nutmeg, brown sugar and cardamom or figs and plums. Thinking outside the box like this leads to discovering new ideas, crazy ingredients never before considered and a way to offer new sensations to your palate.
For the last pairings, these are definitely my favorite additions to any gin cocktail I have ever held to my lips.
Hickory smoked lemon rounds ranks #1. The faint smoke you get after the initial lemon zest rounds off the acids of the lemon, and the smoke seems to give the lemon a rounder, caramelized taste. Instead of it butting heads with the bright botanicals of the gin, it brings out the above-referenced notes of figs and hazelnut that one would not expect.
Ranking second are the “juniperized” pickles — pickles soaked in juniper berries and lemons. I can’t tell you everything the pickles were brined in, but I am sure that I ate more than I probably should have. I tore into the sweet, zesty bits of goodness and found that there was a lingering flavor that came across as, believe it or not, slightly blueberry-ish.
All in all, there’s always a way to get around the basic and up-front taste of the gin spirit. As I said before, it’s never going to get too far away from the initial base flavor but can pretty much set its style in the modern contemporary feel. Don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new in life; cocktails being one of the easiest way to accomplish that. If you don’t like it, you can always make it into an Alabama Slammer!
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.
So I was able to sit down and enjoy a New Belgium Lips of Faith Cocoa Mole this past weekend, and — oh boy — it was one of the best decisions I have made. The Lips of Faith series has been very consistent with the quality of the beer that they have been putting out, but this might be my favorite thus far.
To give you an understanding of my palate, I tend to stick with higher alcohol spirits such as bourbon or scotch that exceed or meet the 90 proof mark. I feel that at times this dulls some of the “front-of-the-palate” notes that beer connoisseurs might get up front but helps bring out the deep flavors that might often get masked by the alcohol content.
Now, onto the beer!
The Cocoa Mole pours a deep, rich brown that has some nice golden pops of color in the thin little ring of bubbles that hug the top of the glass. It’s definitely not a beer that I prefer super cold, because the colder it is, the thicker the body gets, and it’s just not quite as enjoyable to me when it has a syrupy body.
Upon the first sip, you get this rush of cinnamon, spice and (yes I’m going there) everything nice. When I say everything nice, I am referring to the homemade chocolate sheath cake that my grandmother has always made for the holidays. You get a rich cinnamon bread note and a combination of spicy fruit, baking spices and a little touch of herbaceousness in there. It’s touch and go with the chili notes, having them hit your palate here and there, leaving little traces of the combination of the fruit, spice and cinnamon.
The finish rounds off malty and sweet with a nice tickle of pepper spice that goes right down the middle of your throat. It isn’t overwhelming nor is it masked by the sweetness of the beer. It is just perfectly balanced in my opinion.
To be an ale, it certainly carries big, bold flavors, and it’s nice that it keeps the lighter body style so it doesn’t make you feel like you’ve gained 10 pounds after drinking it. If you are a chocolate, spice or beer lover, be sure you get a chance to try this beer before it’s all gone!
Cocoa Mole 22 oz bottles are $9.99 at Midtown.
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.
A few weeks ago, a legend and pioneer of the wine world passed away. Very early on Saturday, September 17th, Joe Dressner died after a three year battle with cancer. Of course, if he were still around to read this, he would think it absurd that someone would call him a legend or that he was part of any kind of wine movement. Joe Dressner, famous importer of French and Italian wines was, intentionally or not, a crusader and founder of the natural wine movement here in the United States.
The Extraordinary Joe Dressner
What is “natural wine” and what is this movement I speak of? Well… it is actually somewhat vague. The truth is there is no real definition of natural wine. Years ago when Dressner was first starting out in the world of wine, he came to the realization that a lot of the wines he enjoyed had similar characteristics. They came from wineries and vineyards that had extremely low yields, used natural yeasts for fermentation, and used very little, if any, chemicals both in the vineyard and in the winery. Dressner came to believe, as many of these vignerons already did, that the wine maker was merely a shepherd, converting grapes into wine with as little interference from human hands as possible. A herder of grapes so to speak.
This basic, vague, but real philosophy became the foundation for what came to be known as natural wine. Most are organic or biodynamic, but many are not officially certified as such. A majority of them use natural yeasts, but not all. The only firm rules for Dressner are that these wines have character, a sense of place, are manipulated as little as possible, and they are really good.
Based on this realization, he developed a portfolio of producers that he imported, supported, and fervently argued for on his blog and tastings. Dressner was a pioneer of wine blogging and a lot of his company’s success was based on his now famous blogs. They were honest, often hilarious, and sometimes brutal on those who didn’t share his philosophy on what constituted good wine. He did not care if wine critics supported his wines or not, although many do. If people wanted to drink his wines and come along for the ride, the more the merrier. If not, well they could go fly a kite (I’m paraphrasing here). And if you haven’t had a chance to check out his blogs, we’d highly recommend it. They’re still available in their entirety — you can find them on two different pages, here and here — and not only do they provide insight into many of his wines, but they are also inspirational for his amazing positive attitude in battling cancer.
Of course, because of the low yields and production level of the wines his company brings in, a lot of the wines are not readily available in many parts of the United States. In fact Louis/Dressner wines just came into the Nashville market last fall. As in most markets where his wines are available they have taken off. Sure, most customers may not of heard of producers like Eric Texier, Theirry Puzelat, or Agnes et Rene Mosse, but once they taste them they are hooked. And that’s all Joe Dressner ever wanted.
Some of Dressner’s wines available at Midtown:
2009 Domaine Pierre de La Grange, Muscadet — $14.99
2009 Donati Camillo Lambrusco — $21.99
2009 Damien Coquelet, Beaujolais Villages — $19.99
2010 Clos De La Roilette, Fleurie — $19.99
2009 Eric Texier Cotes du Rhone “Brezeme” — $24.99
2009 Mosse, Anjou — $29.99
This blog was originally meant to be an article in The Tennessean’s weekly “On Wine” column, but sadly, someone else beat us to the punch, featuring Joe Dressner and some of his wines just before we submitted this. What can ya do?
Another week of voting in the books, and Chardonnay and Valpolicella came out on top. Never before at our tastings have we had two sets of wines so vastly different, in the sense that everyone knew the name Chardonnay but very few had ever heard of Valpolicella. It turned out to be a great pairing, however, as people enjoyed tasting two different styles of America’s most popular white wine while learning about a fun winemaking region of northeastern Italy.
Four Vines “Naked” Unoaked Chardonnay 2009 (Santa Barbara)
Everyone is accustomed to the big buttery oak bombs so often produced in California, so we thought we’d start things off with our most popular unoaked Chard. Fermented in 100% stainless steel, “Naked” doesn’t go through malolactic fermentation — the process by which malic acid is transformed to lactic acid, creating the buttery flavor and texture — thus this wine is lighter bodied and crisper than your typical Chardonnay. The fruit really shines, displaying apple, peach and pear notes, with bright minerality and acidity on the finish.
$11.99 / 750 ml
Liberty School Chardonnay 2008 (Central Coast)
Next we decided to show a more typical representation of California Chardonnay, this time from Liberty School, the one-time second label to Napa powerhouse Caymus. While this Chard doesn’t go through malolactic fermentation either, it does see some significant time in oak. As such, it’s a more full-bodied representation of Chardonnay with a much creamier mouth-feel. It showed big green apple and pear notes along with a hint of vanilla.
$12.99 / 750 ml
The Veneto wine region.
Tommasi Valpolicella Classico Superiore
If you’re not familiar with Valpolicella, don’t worry — you’re not alone. Like many old world wines, such as Chianti or Bourgogne, Valpolicella is actually the name of the region where the wine is made. Located in northeastern Italy in the Veneto region, Valpolicella sits just a little northwest of the city of Verona, due west of Venice. Amarone della Valpolicella, the high-end wine that gets all the attention, has made this area famous. Your everyday Valpolicella is produced from the same grapes that go into Amarone, though it doesn’t go through the same vinification process.When labeled with the “Classico” designation, that means the grapes came from the old, original Valpolicella zone, and when labeled “Superiore”, the wine has been aged at least one year in oak barrel.
We tried both the 2009 and 2007 vintages, and ’07 definitely won out. Medium-bodied with nice acids, these are always excellent food wines. This one was loaded with black cherry, spice and a touch of leather.
$16.99 / 750 ml
Zenato Valpolicella Superiore 2009
While we enjoyed the Tommasi, the Zenato outperformed its competitor this weekend, despite not coming from the “Classico” sub-region, which typically has the better grapes. The Zenato was more on the full-bodied side, with a richness the Tommasi didn’t possess. With finely-grained tannins, bright acids and layers of flavor, we ranked it #1 for the weekend.
$19.99 / 750 ml
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I must apologize for the gap in blog posts, missing out on tasting notes from Labor Day weekend. I took advantage of that holiday weekend to travel out to Sonoma and Napa (look for an upcoming series of blogs recapping that trip), and as such, I missed out on our in-store tasting. By all accounts, however, the wines were showing very well. Viognier came away the winner, and we hope you were able to swing by to try ‘em.
This past weekend, however, your votes from our e-newsletter and Facebook page took us in a completely different direction. Maybe the slight change in climate, indicating that fall is near, led you away from whites and into the reds. Or maybe you just wanted to change things up. Either way, Sangiovese and Red Blends won out.
These selections gave us a wide range of options, so we were able to spread things out a little bit, tasting wines from vastly different regions.
A map of Chianti.
Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2007
What better way to represent the Sangiovese grape than to pick a good Chianti Classico? Many people know the name “Chianti” but don’t realize that it’s actually the name of a region, not a grape. Located in the broader region of Tuscany in central Italy, Chianti is most famous for their sangiovese-based wine. By law, to put “Chianti Classico” on the label, the wine must contain at least 80% Sangiovese, grown in the Chianti Classico production zone. The wine must also have a minimum ABV of 12% and be aged no less than seven months in oak barrel. And now onto the wine in question…
The ’07 vintage may have been the best since the famed ’97 in Tuscany, and this affordable, everyday red shows why. With just 30 minutes or so of breathe time, the wine opened up beautifully. I called it a “Wednesday wine”, great for your every day pizzas and pastas. Medium-bodied, it had some of the classic Sangiovese traits — leather, cedar and a touch of tobacco — along with ripe red cherry notes and a touch of spice on the finish. The bright acids made me crave some meaty lasagna.
$13.99 / 750 ml
Bliss “Schoolhouse Red”
The Bliss wines from Mendocino, California, are brand new to Midtown, and this one represents great quality for the money. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Syrah, the winery notes describe it well, saying “it has a nose of dark berries, followed by a rich mouth feel bursting with fruit; the finish is long with good structure.” It’s medium-bodied and layered with flavors. I’d compare it to the Apothic Red, Stephen Vincent Crimson or Menage a Trois Red, though it doesn’t finish with the slight touch of sweetness that some of those do. It’d make a great party wine when you want something enjoyable for a mixed crowd of people or when you just want an easy-drinking red after a long day at work.
$8.99 / 750 ml
Goldschmidt “Fidelity” 2009
This has been one of my personal favorites for the last year or so. The Goldschmidt family is most well-known for their $70+ single vineyard offerings of Cabernet Sauvignon, but they’ve since expanded with a line of under $20 wines that show off just how good the fruit is in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley. “Fidelity” is a blend of 73% Merlot and 27% Cabernet, and it’s definitely closer to the full-bodied side of things. The Wine Enthusiast calls it “rich and satisfying. And at this price, a bargain for a full-bodied, Bordeaux-style wine.” They’re dead-on, but I delve a little deeper into this one. Like it’s sister bottlings Katherine Goldschmidt Cabernet and Chelsea Goldschmidt Merlot, it’s got fine-grained tannins and a fleshy mouthfeel, making it an ideal pairing with burgers and steak. This one was, without a doubt, my favorite from the weekend.
$14.99 / 750 ml
Crios Syrah-Bonarda 2008
And we wrapped things up with this fun blend from Mendoza, Argentina. Native to Italy, Bonarda is a grape seldom seen in our market, yet this marks the Bonarda we’ve had at a tasting (Lamadrid Bonarda Reserva, from our first ever in-store tasting), even if it’s only a blend of it. The winery notes describe this wine as “Dark reddish/purple color. Intense aroma of black raspberries… very lively wine has loads of ripe red plum and black raspberry flavors with a slightly spicy character and a long, juicy finish.” We poured it last because it’s the meanest, spiciest, smokiest and earthiest of the bunch — and those are all good things.
$13.99 / 750 ml
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