Wine of the Week: 2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Toulouse Vineyard

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Toulouse Vineyard.

Winery

Phillips Hill Winery is a small boutique (~1,000 cases/yr) winery focused on producing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer from cool climate vineyards located in Anderson Valley. Phillips Hill Winery is located on Greenwood Ridge above Anderson Valley, in the Mendocino Ridge appellation.  I was introduced to Phillips Hill when the winery was recommended to me while I was tasting at Toulouse Vineyards earlier this year.

Phillips Hill

Toby Hill, a native California is the Owner/Winemaker of Phillips Hill. He was formally trained in the Arts.  With a BFA from California College of the Arts, Toby attributes his artistic talent to the Phillips side of the family.  His intense study and mastery of composition in the abstract has been translated into the delicate balance of making wine. From immersion as a practicing artist in New York, followed by later experience as an Architectural Color and Plaster business owner in San Francisco. In 1997 he purchased some land in the Mendocino Ridge Appellation overlooking the Anderson Valley. He built a house and adjacent art studio and kicked back for a time.

He got his start in winemaking after a local winemaker decided not to begin a brand and offered him four barrels of an unfinished 2002 vintage from Oppenlander Vineyard in Comptche in Mendocino County. Ultimately that led him to his new passion and personal re-invention in wine country.

What started as an opportunity to express his work on a wine label became a new artistic obsession for an expression not only on the bottle, but in the bottle as well – a transformation from the art of the visual to that of the sensory.

Phillips Hill wines strive for “old meets new world” style with elegance, finesse, and lower alcohol levels.  The day I visited, only reds were available for tasting. They were sold out of their Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer.  I was very impressed by the wines I tried.

All the Phillips Hill Wine bottles labels features the artwork of Owner/Winemaker Toby Hill.

The Wine

The fruit for this wine is sourced from the Toulouse Vineyard. The wine was aged 11 months in French oak (33% new, 33% 1 year, 33% seasoned).  The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered.

2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Toulouse Vineyard

2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Toulouse Vineyard

My tasting notes follow:

Ruby color with aromatic dark cherry, red plum, brown sugar, spice, damp earth aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied silky smooth and well-balanced with cherry, wild raspberry, and spice flavors. Long finish; 14.2% alcohol, 275 cases produced, $40 SRP

Rating: A-: This is an outstanding wine that is a great expression of the grape.  I wish I’d purchased more, and I can guaran-damn-tee you next time I’m in Anderson Valley I will!

Pair with: Lobster bisque, paella, or coq-au-vin come to mind!

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Wine Of The Week: 2008 Loring Wine Company Clos Pepe Pinot Noir

My Wine Of The Week for October 27-November 2 is the 2008 Loring Wine Company Close Pepe Pinot Noir.

The Winery

Loring Wine Company (“LWC”),  an urban winery is owned by brother and sister – Brian, and Kimberly Loring. Brian is the winemaker,and self-proclaimed “Pinot-Freak”.

You know how most wine lovers start modestly with “starter” wines?  Brian did not.

While in college, he worked at a wine store in Southern California where one of the owners was a Burgundy fanatic. Brian’s first experiences with Burgundy were from the some big-time Burgundy producers such as Domaine Dujac, Henri Jayer and the iconic Domaine Romanee-Conti.

After college he worked as a software engineer before getting hooked on the wine business.  He got his start working the ’97 crush at Cottonwood Canyon Winery, and ended up making two barrels of Pinot Noir.

Loring has been a darling of Wine Spectator (“WS”) for a few years now, consistently earning 90+ point scores for their wines.  That’s actually how I came to know about Loring.  When I subscribed to WS a few years ago, I was reading an issue and amazed at how many high scores Loring received.  I found out who they were, and purchased a bunch of wines from their vaunted 2008 vintage.  Subsequently, when my wife and I arranged for a private tasting  hosted by co-owner Kimberly Loring.  Brian was also on hand.  They were very gracious hosts,and we came away impressed.

While they focus primarily on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, they also produce a Cabernet Sauvignon/Mourvedre blend called Divergence which has also received critical acclaim.  It’s expensive though at $100/bottle.

The wines are sold through a mailing list and there is widespread retail distribution. Tasting is by appointment in the “Lompoc Wine Ghetto”. The tasting room is open Friday through Sunday from 12:00 to 5:00 (Monday through Thursday by appointment – 805-742-0478).

The Wine

This wine is sourced from the Clos Pepe Vineyard, an example of LWC sourcing first-rate Pinot Noir grapes from prestigious vineyards. The vineyard is located in the Santa Rita Hills AVA, an area that is ideally suited for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay Grapes.

The list other wineries who have sourced grapes from the same vineyard is a testament to the quality of the fruit, and reads like a Pinot Noir All-Star line-up.  Aside from LWC, other wineries who have sourced their fruit from Clos Pepe include A.P. Vin, Arcadian, Bonaccorsi Wine Company, Brewer-Clifton Winery, Carr Vineyards, Copain, Ken Brown, Kenneth Crawford, Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post Winery, Loring Wine Company, The Ojai Vineyard, Roessler Cellars, Siduri and Tyler.

 

Stylistically, LWC wines are “New World” style.  And for that reason they can be polarizing. They tend to be unapologetically “big” ripe wines (I vividly recall Brian describing one of his Pinots as a “steak Pinot”…and you know what?…it’s true!) that some believe to overly ripe.  Although, I have seen the alcohol level trending down the last couple of years.

My tasting notes follows:

Dark ruby color with cherry, plum, cola and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s intense, fresh, medium-full bodied, and silky smooth with cherry, cola, and spice flavors. Long finish. – 91pts

Recommendation: Highly recommended, especially if you prefer a more fruit-driven (though still well-structured) style Pinot.

The Wine Geek Stuff:

Alcohol: 15.2% alcohol.

Closure: Screwcap.

AVA: > CaliforniaCentral CoastSanta Rita Hills – Sta. Rita Hills

Varietal(s): Pinot Noir

Cooperage: Unknown

Retail: $43

Cases produced: 200

Related post you might be interested in:

Seafood Gumbo and Wine Pairings for Soul Warming #SundaySupper

This week’s #SundaySupper theme is all about soul warming foods.  You know, those soups, chili, stews, and other soul warming treat we seek when the weather turns cold.

When I first saw the theme, my first thought was of “Soul Food”. I’d  bet that “Soul food” is one of those phrases that if you ask 10 people what it means, you’d get 10 different answers!  Soul Warming foods and Soul food are one in the same to me, and when I think of Soul food, the first dish that comes to mind is Gumbo!  We have a tradition in our family of making Gumbo each New Year’s day, but it’s  a soul-satisfying meal whenever there’s a chill in the air.

Since I’m a Wino with latent foodie tendencies, I decided let my foodie nature rise up, and do a dish, and wine pairings this week!

Here’s my Seafood Gumbo (we …OK make that “I”, call it “Yumbo” – lame right?..but I like it!)

Seafood Gumbo

Seafood Gumbo

For me, there are two things you’ve got to get right to make a gumbo – the “roux” (I prefer mine to be dark brownish), and you must have stock that is chock full of flavors.  Sure you could take a short-cut, and go with store-bought (I’ve done that for a  ” quick and dirty” version of this dish, but the flavors are not as complex and intense for me. If you get those couple of things “right”, it’s clear sailing thereafter!

Seafood Gumbo and Wine Pairings for Soul Warming #SundaySupper
Author: 
Recipe type: Stew
Cuisine: Cajun
Serves: 10-12
 
Adapted from Emeril’s Classic Seafood Gumbo recipe
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups finely chopped onions
  • ¾ cup finely chopped green bell peppers
  • ¾ cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • One 12-ounce bottle amber beer
  • 6 cups Shrimp and Crab Stock
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 small Dungeness crabs
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon Emeril’s Original Essence
  • 2 cups shucked oysters with their liquor
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup chopped tender green onion tops
Instructions
  1. Follow directions for cleaning and prepping crab to be cooked (click here, except remove crab legs and claws. Follow directions for Shrimp and Crab stock, except add crab shell and crab butter (roe) along with shrimp.
  2. Place an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, and add the oil. Allow the oil to heat for about 5 minutes, then add the flour to the pot. Stir the oil and flour together with a wooden spoon to form a roux. Continue to stir the roux for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the color of milk chocolate. Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery to the roux and stir to blend. Stir the vegetables for 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds before adding the beer and Shrimp and Crab Stock to the pot. Season the gumbo with the thyme, bay leaves, crabs legs, Worcestershire, salt, and cayenne. Bring the gumbo to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer the gumbo for 1 hour, skimming the foam and any oil that rises to the surface.
  3. Season both the shrimp with 1½ teaspoons Essence. Stir the shrimp into the gumbo and cook for 2 minutes. Add the oysters to the pot and cook, stirring often, for an additional 5 minutes. Taste the gumbo and season if necessary.
  4. Garnish with the parsley and green onions and serve in shallow bowls over white rice.
Notes
Recommended Wine Pairings – I paired this with the Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker, a blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. It would also pair well with Viognier, a dry Rosé, or White Zinfandel. If you elect to go with a less spicy version try a Pinot Noir!

 

Take a look at the culinary cornucopia the #SundaySupper team has put together for this week’s gathering around the #SundaySupper table! My recommended wine pairings (click on the name of the wine to find out where to purchase) are italicized.

Main Entrees: 

Pair these main dishes with Pinot Noir.  Look for the 2010 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir. It’s a silky smooth Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with a core of raspberry  and spice aromas and flavors, with caramel edge. Why it works: Pinot goes with just about everything.  It’s a white wine, in red wine clothing, which makes it incredibly flexible with dishes and methods of prep.  Pinot is sublime with poultry, and complements foods that are slow roasted, or braised.

I recommend a Chardonnay for these dishes.  Look for the 2009 MacMurray Ranch Chardonnay Sonoma Coast. It’s a medium-full bodied Chardonnay that’s undergone malolactic fermentation, that’s moderately oaked.  The oak aging brings vanilla and caramel notes to the party to go along with its ripe apple, tropical fruit and lemon cream character.  Why it works: The texture, and weight of wine complement the dish, and it has enough acidity to “cut” the dish a bit and prepare the palate for the next mouthwatering bite.

Pair this dish with a Tempranillo from Rioja Spain.  I really like the 2007 Viña Eguia Reserva. It’s shows great balance between oak and fruit with a cherry, dried herb, spice, leather and vanilla character.  Why it works: Tempranillo is an underrated food pairing partner.  It’s tends to be a light-medium bodied earthy red wine. It’s between a Pinot Noir and Cab.  It’s fruity with moderate tannins, and acidity making it a good fit for somewhat spicy fare like Spanish, Mexican and similarly spiced fare.  

Pair this classic Italian dish with Sangiovese.  Try the 2010 La Mozza I Perazzi Morellino di Scansano. It’s a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 5% Syrah, 5% Alicante, plus a couple of other indigenous Italian grape varieties from Tuscany  It shows juicy red and black berries, with some licorice and spice notes supported by soft dusty tannins.  Why it works: The food of a place and the wine of a place is always a good place to start when pairing wine and food.  On top of that, its high acidity, together with its medium-bodied character enable it to stand up to more substantial dishes.  Sangiovese is a wine that loves dished prepared with fresh herbs, rich thick soups, mushrooms and tomato based dishes

Pair this dish with an Edelzwicker, a blend of the “noble” Alsatian varietals of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris.  Look for the 2011 Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker. It’s an aromatic white wine with a stone fruit, spice, and hint of citrus character. Why it works:  The spicy character of the wine, along with some sweetness (spicy likes sweet) and acidity make a great match!

Chili/Stews:

Pair these hearty dishes with Cabernet Sauvignon.  One of my favorites is the 2010 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon “H3″  It’s from Washington State, and is a bold wine that delivers delightful floral, dark fruit, cocoa aromas followed by plum, black cherry, vanilla and cocoa flavors. Why it works: Cab works well with red meats, dishes with earthy, herbal elements.  This youthful wine has plenty of fruit which make it a nice complement to longer cooked meats and stews.

Try these dishes these with a Cru Beaujolais (not to be confused with Beaujolais Nouveau hitting the store shelfs soon), a wine from France made from the Gamay grape. Look for the 2010 Georges Debœuf Moulin-à-Vent with a wild red fruits, and white pepper character that a juicy easy drinker.  Why it works: Like Pinot Noir, the Gamay grape is naturally high in acidity, and is light-medium bodied with low tannins. It pair well with dishes with veggies,earthy flavors. Great picnic wine too! Er..but I digress;-)

Syrah is a good match for these hearty flavorful dishes.  I like the 2009 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz from Australia. It’s has a fruity core of black cherries, plums, baking spices, and vanilla that balanced by some oak.  Why it works: Syrah is an ample full-bodied wine that likes thicker, fuller dishes like slow braises, stews (especially tomato-based), and one-dish meals.

Pair these dishes with the Sangiovese noted above:
Pair these dishes with the Pinot Noir noted above:
Pair this dishes with the Tempranillo from Rioja noted above:

Soups:

Pair these soul-warming soups with a Sauvignon Blanc from the Pouilly-Fumé region of the Loire Valley in France. Look for the 2011 Patient Cottat “Le Grand Caillou” Sauvignon Blanc.  It has a lovely tropical fruit, citrus, spice and mineral character with a tangy acidity.  Why it works: Sauvignon Blanc with its “green” (gooseberries, lime, green olive, papaya character and a mineral component attributable to the terroir of the Loire Valley make this a good match for vegetarian soups, spicy (hot) fare, dishes with acidic ingredients.  It’s a very versatile food pairing partner in that it work nicely as a complement or a contrast.

Pair these satisfying soups with Pinot Gris.  I recommend the 2011 King Estate Pinot Gris Signature Collection from Oregon. It has juicy lemon-lime, stone-fruit, green apple, pineapple and spice character.  Why it works: Pinot Gris likes ethic foods, especially coconut-milk based curries. 

Pair the rest of the soups with the aforementioned wines as noted in parentheses:

Desserts/Beverages:

Pair this Hot Fudge Pudding Cake (That Skinny Chick Can Bake) with the Terra d’Oro Zinfandel “Port”, a dessert wine made for chocolate! I like the what the Wine Enthusiast says about it…”The first duty of a Port-style wine is to be dazzlingly rich and sweet yet balanced in acidity, and this bottling is all that. Waves of blackberry jam, cassis and dark chocolate are brightened with zesty acidity

  • White Hot Chocolate with Orange – GirliChef

Join on us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper.  And join us at 7pm EST, for our live weekly #SundaySupper chat.   All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.

And be sure to check out the #SundaySupper Pinterest board. We’d love to feature your Sunday Supper Soul Warming Recipes and share them with all of our followers.

What Are The Best Types of Wines For Picnics?

Now that Memorial Day weekend upon us.  And it’s widely considered to be the unofficial beginning of summer.  And summer is primetime for picnics….well you get the picture.  Here’s a list of the types of wines that will be a good match for picnic fare, along with some recommendations to get you started!

12 Most Picnic Friendly Wines

After a couple of weeks of much-needed rain, Spring is finally getting “Spring—ish” here in Northern California. For the first time this year, temperatures in the 80s are being forecast and my thoughts have turned to warm temperatures and al fresco dining, especially picnics.

Picnic wines are different than BBQ wines. BBQ is all about bold and spicy flavors, whereas picnic foods compose a broader range of lighter foods like salads of all kinds, cold fried chicken, charcuterie, cheeses, ripe fruits etc., mostly served cold.

Great picnic wines are 1) Light and refreshing, 2) A good match for a variety of foods, and 3) Inexpensive ($20 or less).

Image courtesy of thriftysolutionsforanurbangal.blogspot.com

1. Rosé

A dry Rosé would be my first choice. Rosé combines the best of white and red wines, while maintaining their own unique charm. They possess the crisp acidity, delicacy and freshness of white wines, and the body, and flavors of red wines. Look for Bodegas Muga Rosado.

2. Cava

Cava is perfect for picnics. It’s produced using the traditional style Champagne method, which can lend a bit of complexity to it. And bubbly will add that extra celebratory feel to your picnic. Here’s another advantage of sparkling wines — Forget the corkscrew? — No problem with sparklers!! I recommend Segura Viudas Gran Reserva Cava.

3. Rose Sparkling Wine

For some vinous synergy, go with a Sparkling Rose wine. They go with virtually anything you serve for your picnic. I recommend Mumm Napa Brut Rose.

4. Vinho Verde

Vinho Verde is a wine from Portugal. Vinho Verde isn’t a grape variety. While it literally means ‘green wine”, it translates into “young wine” – as in it’s meant to be consumed within a year of bottling. It’s made in white, red, and rose styles. Vinho Verde has a hint of effervescence which is further enhances its refreshing qualities. Go with either a white or rose Vinho Verde. Look for Quinta de Aveleda.

5. Torrontés

Wine made from this grape (Argentina’s only truly indigenous grape) produces a juicy fragrant wine with citrus pineapple and spice flavors. This would be a great match for a seafood, or spicy Asian salad. I recommend the Bodegas Colome Torrontés Estate.

6. Riesling

It’s probably the most food-friendly white wine. Choose either a dry or off-dry (slightly sweet) style. Look for Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling.

7. Chardonnay

Look for a lighter style, either an un-oaked or a lightly-oaked, chardonnay because it will be a better match for a broader range of foods than the heavily oaked style. I recommend Joseph Drouhin Macon Villages.

8. Sauvignon Blanc

This is a classic picnic wine because it’s fresh and crisp, with a citrusy flavor profile and lively acidity. It’s a great match for goat cheese! Look for Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc from Chile.

9. Moscato

If your taste in wine leans toward the sweeter side, try Moscato. It’s like summertime in a glass with its fruity orange blossom, tropical, citrus, or melon aromas and a touch of effervescence. If you’ve got something spicy in your picnic basket, the sweetness will tame the heat. The best are from Italy. I recommend Martini and Rossi Moscato d’Asti.

10. Albariño

Albariño is a refreshing light, juicy and aromatic Spanish wine. I like it because, along with some citrus, it brings melon or peach to the party. Look for Burgans Albariño Rias Baixas.

11. Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir, a.k.a. the “Chef’s wine” is so named because it goes with such a wide range of foods. It’s also a red wine that takes a bit of a chill well (put it in an ice/water bath in your cooler for 10-15 minutes) if the alcohol level is not too high (preferably below 14%). It’d be great with anything with mushrooms. Look for 2008 Gloria Ferrer Pinot Noir.

12. Sangria

For a bit of home-made flavor, make your own sangria. It’s easy to make and can be made with either red, or white wine. Sangria is a great way to capitalize on the bounty of fresh fruits coming into season — and make sangria that’s all your own! Click here for some recipes.

Happy picnicking! What are your favorite picnic wines?

This article was previously featured on 12 Most and is republished, by the author Martin Redmond

What Are The Most Food Friendly Wines?

It’s my pleasure to share this post of mine recently published by 12most.

12 Most Food-Friendly Wines

In my recent post entitled “12 Most Practical Wine and Food Pairing Guidelines”, one my recommendations for sensibly pairing food and wine is to get to know “food-friendly” wines. Food-friendly wines have three primary characteristics 1) Palate-cleansing acidity, 2) Lots of fruitiness with low tannins, and 3) Balanced components (i.e. fruit, acidity, and tannins).

Try these wines for those times you don’t want to put a lot of thought into what wine you’re having with weeknight meals, or more casual gatherings. There’s something here for everyone — Whites, Reds, Sparkling and Rosé. Keep in mind that each of the wines come in broad range of styles. Let your palate be your guide for the style you prefer.

Reds

1. Beaujolais

This wine, made from the Gamay grape is named for the region from which it hails. Think Beaujolais when you want a red that you’d normally have with a white wine. Many top crus go for around $20
Recommended Region(s): France – Cru Beaujolais (non-Nouveau)
Profile: Light-bodied with moderate to high acidity, and low tannins with aromatic red plum, cherry, raspberry, hints of black pepper aromas/flavors.

2. Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is the most well-known food friendly red wine.
Recommended Region(s): France – Burgundy, California, Oregon, and New Zealand
Profile: Light/medium-bodied with high to very high acidity with aromatic with floral, cherry, red currant, raspberry, and sometimes gamey aromas/flavors when young, aging to vegetal and mushroom when mature

3. Sangiovese (san-jo-veh-zeh)

Generally speaking, Italy makes a plethora of food friendly wines, especially reds. Sangiovese is the most planted red grape in Italy, and the most important grape used in the great wines of Tuscany. It is one of the wine world’s great gifts to the culinary world! It’s a natural for dishes containing tomatoes, or acidic tomato sauces
Recommended Region(s): Italy (Tuscany), California
Profile: Light/medium-bodied with high to very high acidity with black cherry, spice, smoky, herbal savory aromas/flavors.

4. Zinfandel

Zinfandel can go far beyond burgers and BBQ. I’ve enjoyed with Mexican, and Pakistani dishes. The style of Zinfandel is crucial for matching it with food. Look for lighter “Beaujolais” style Zinfandel at around 14% a.b.v, and “Claret” style between 14% and 15% a.b.v. for maximum food pairing versatility. If prefer “bigger” Zinfandels, then opt for pairing with richer foods.
Recommended Region(s): California
Profile: Medium/Full bodied moderate to high acidity, and strawberry, raspberry, plum, blackberry, pepper, bramble, and spice aromas/flavors

5. Syrah

Syrah and Syrah based blends do a great job of striking a balance between finesse and power. It can be full-bodied and complex like Cabernet Sauvignon, but tend to be less tannic. Cool climate Syrah is especially food friendly. And many very good examples can be found for less than $20.
Recommended Region(s): France (Rhône), California, Washington, and Australia
Profile: Medium/full-bodied with moderate to high acidity, with blackcurrant, plum, blackberry, earthy, herbal, chocolate, and violet aromas/flavors

Whites

6. Riesling

Riesling is the most well-known white food friendly wine. Thanks to its food loving nature, it’s on the upswing. If you’re looking for one wine to serve with many dishes, Riesling is an excellent choice, especially if you’re not into red wine. Look for dry and off-dry styles
Recommended Region(s): Germany, France (Alsace) Washington, New York, California
Profile: Light-bodied with high to very high acidity, and Intensely aromatic with floral, green apples, light spice aromas/flavors when you ageing to petrol and honey when mature

7. Sauvignon Blanc

Stylistically, Sauvignon Blanc tends to be the opposite of Chardonnay. That’s because it tends not to see as much oak as Chardonnay and its acidity is more apparent. It’s very versatile food wine, especially with dishes emphasizing, or enhanced with fresh herbs. Try it with guacamole!
Recommended Region(s): France (Loire, and Bordeaux), U.S., New Zealand,
Profile: Light-bodied with high to very high acidity, and aromatic, grassy, herbaceous, tropical, citrus, and gooseberries aromas/flavors

8. Grüner Vetliner

Grüner Vetliner (GROO-ner FELT-leen-ner) is indigenous to Austria, where it accounts for about a third Austria grape production. It’s a favorite of many sommeliers because of its versatility with foods. Here in the US we often reach for red wine to accompany meat dishes, but in Austria, Grüner is served with game, beef, pork, poultry and veal. Looking for a wine for tough food matches like asparagus, and artichokes? Try Grüner. And it’s great with fried chicken!
Recommended Region(s): Austria
Profile: Light/medium-bodied with high to very high acidity, with vanilla-dipped peach, grapefruit, and aromas/flavors with a distinctive spicy finish.

9. Chardonnay

This most popular wine has very good “foodability” if it is not overly oaked. In fact, more unoaked Chardonnay is being produced these days. While unoaked Chardonnay may be a bit more versatile food partner, oaked (used judiciously) Chardonnay typically makes a more full-bodied wine.
Recommended Region(s): France (Chablis, and Burgundy), California, Australia, Chile, and Argentina
Profile: Light/Medium-bodied with high to very high acidity, and floral, ripe apple, pineapple, butterscotch, lemon, vanilla, and custard aromas/flavors.

10. Sherry

Hear me out on this one. I’m not referring to your grandmother’s Cream Sherry. I’m referring to dry Sherry. And thanks to adventurous wine geeks, and passionate sherry lovers, this fortified wine is gaining in popularity because of its food friendly nature and exceptional quality/price ratio.
True Sherry, is only produced in Spain’s “Sherry Triangle”. It’s a singularly unique beverage because of its terroir, and the method by which it is produced. With its unique tangy, sometimes oxidative and saline flavors, it can be polarizing. It was a bit of an acquired taste for me, but I think it’s fabulous with food!

The principles of pairing Sherry with food are like other wines, according to weight and texture. For Fino and Manzanillo think appetizers, seafood, and sushi, and sashimi. Pair Amontillado, with its rich nuttiness, with stronger flavored foods (including spicy foods) like oily fishes and chicken dishes. Serve chilled.

Recommended Region: Spain

Profile: The main styles of Sherry are light-bodied, straw colored, dry Fino, and fuller bodied darker Oloroso. Between Fino and Oloroso in body, and dryness are Manzanillo, and Amontillado.  Typical aromas and flavors of Finos are yeasty, toasted almond, green apples, and slightly oxidative.  Oloroso tend to be more aromatic with fresh mixed nuts, dried fruit, and citrus peel.

11. Rosé

Rosés (in particular dry Rosé) combine the best of white and red wines, while maintaining their own unique charm. They possess the crisp acidity, delicacy and freshness of white wines, and the body, and flavors of red wines. Rosés are diverse bunch, produced from a wide range of grapes, in various styles ranging from simple quaffable wines to complex gems in a wide palette of colors. Don’t relegate these babies to warm weather months. Because of their versatility they’re wonderful year-round!
Recommended Region(s): France, Spain, Italy, and U.S.
Profile: Light/medium bodied with strawberry, melon, and cherry aroma/flavors

Sparkling

12. Sparkling Wines

Sparkling wines are very versatile and food friendly because of their innately high acidity levels, and their palate cleansing “scrubbing bubbles” effect. They can be served throughout the day, and throughout a meal too. The driest ones are excellent as an aperitif and with shellfish and caviar. Off-dry bubbly is suitable for brunch, lunch, salads, and many dinner entrees. The sweeter ones pair nicely with fruit- based desserts.
Recommended Region(s): France, US, Spain (Cava), Italy (Prosecco)

Profile: Light to medium-full bodied, and bone-dry Extra Brut to sweet “doux”.  Typical aromas and flavors are yeast, apple, citrus, stone fruit, and cherry depending on the blend of grape varieties used

With these 12 wines in your vinous arsenal, you’ll overcome many a gastronomic challenge! Are there any favorites of yours that I left out?

Featured image courtesy of jinhai via Creative Commons.

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…NV Roederer Estate Brut

This week’s sparkler is produced by Roederer Estate, owned by Louis Roederer Champagne, which is renowned for producing the luxury Champagne Cristal.  The California operation is located in Anderson Valley, north of the Napa Valley.  My last visit to Anderson Valley was a few years ago.  I really enjoyed it.  It doesn’t have cachet of Napa, or Sonoma, but the tasting rooms are much more intimate, the locals are friendly, it truly beautiful, and there are some great wines, especially Pinot Noir, Chards, and Alsatian varietals.  I highly recommend a visit.  I’ll be sure to stop in a Roederer my next trip up. Besides various holdings in France, the Roederer group also includes Scharffenberger Cellars, another sparkling wine house in Anderson Valley.

This sparkler was the first produced by Roederer Estate in Anderson Valley in 1988.  All their sparklers are made from Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir sourced from their 580 acre estate vineyards.   Additionally, each cuvée includes some portion of reserve wines which are selected from the best wines each year and aged in French oak casks.   Since the top of the line “L’ Ermitage vintage sparkling wines contain about 4% of these reserve wine, I think it’s a safe assumption this non-vintage cuvee contains less.

NV Roederer Estate Brut

NV Roederer Estate Brut

Region: California>Napa Valley

Variety – 60% Chardonnay, and 40% Pinot Noir

Dosage – 1.2% residual sugar

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;  Aged a minimum of 2 years on lees

Alcohol by volume: 12%

Cost: $18 (on sale) Retail: $25

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Light golden straw color with plentiful persistent stream of tiny bubbles

Aromas: Sweet yeast, fresh-cut green apples

Body:  Medium-bodied with soft texture, and zippy acidity

Taste: Between dry and off-dry with sweet green apples, a bit of pear, hazelnut and vanilla

Finish: Short

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their pairing versatility with a variety of foods.  This one would be a very nice aperitif, and also pair with nicely with wide variety of foods.  Pair with Sole Meunier, Fish and Chips, or Sushi/Sashimi. This would make a good sparkler for your Thanksgiving table too!

This is a very good sparkling wine, especially for a non-vintage.  It has a bit of complexity, is very enjoyable, and it’s widely available.  I’ll buy again whenever I find it only sale, which is frequently. I’m looking forward to trying the Rosé!  (89 pts).

“May your glass always be filled with warm memories, and the taste of a life well lived linger on your tongue” – Unknown

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…NV Charles Baur Crémant d’Alsace Rosé

This week’s sparkler is from Alsace region of  France.  Alsace is located on France’s eastern border and on the west bank of the upper Rhine adjacent to Germany and Switzerland.  The region definitely has Germanic influences.  It is most well-known for it still white wines including Gewürztraminer, Riesling, and Pinot Blanc.  This sparkler is 100% Pinot Noir which represents about 10% of the regions plantings.

When one thinks of French sparkling wines, of course Champagne is top of mind , but sparkling wine is made in many regions of France, including Alsace,  using the same techniques deployed in Champagne.  When it’s not specifically made in the Champagne region, it’s referred to as Crémant.

The Crémant d’Alsace AOC was established in 1976.  Crémant d’Alsace is the market leader in at-home sales for sparkling wines in France.  The vast majority of the wines are exported to Belgium and Germany.

This wine is first vinified as a dry Rosé, and then undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle. According to the Baur website…“Armand Baur makes one batch a year so this is effectively a vintage sparkling wine, though it is not noted on the label, as vintage sparkling wines are required to age in the cellars for at least 3 yrs before release“. This wine was aged for 2 yrs, thus the non-vintage (“NV”) designation.

NV Charles Baur Cremant d’Alsace Rosé

NV Charles Baur Crémant d’Alsace Rosé

Region: France>Alsace>Crémant d’Alsace

Variety – 100% Pinot Noir

Dosage – Unknown; Brut Style

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;  Aged for 12 months on less

Alcohol by volume: 12%

Cost: $20

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Pretty light salmon color with small dispersed bubbles

Aromas: Brioche, and sweet red fruit of strawberries and raspberries

Body:  On the palate a somewhat creamy mousse, between light and medium bodied, dry with zippy acidity.

Taste: Strawberry, raspberry, vanilla and a hint of citrus rind, and mineral flavors

Finish: Short-medium finish

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their pairing versatility with a variety of foods.  This one would be a good aperitif, and also pair with nicely with a variety of foods.  I enjoyed it with a Filipino dish, Chicken Afritada, a tomato-based stew introduced to the Philippines by Spaniards.

This is an elegant, very nice Rosé sparkler.  It’s a very good value for under $20.  I recommend!

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…NV Mumm Napa Cuvee M

Mumm Napa is a joint venture between G.H. Mumm & Cie, of France, and Joseph E Seagram & Sons.  G.H. Mumm & Cie was founded in 1827, ironically by the von Mumms, German winemakers who trace their ancestry back to medieval times. The Napa location was founded by in 1979 by Guy Deveaux, who passed away in 1995. Mumm produces an upscale line of “DVX” sparkling wines in his honor.  They have a pretty diverse lineup of sparkling wines, that includes a sparkling Pinot Noir, and a Santana Brut, which is collaboration between Mumm and Carlos Santana.  They also produce Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay still wines.  Mumm sources their fruit from both Carneros, and the Yountville AVAs.

This cuvée was aged 18 months on lees.  It contains a proprietary dosage of late-harvest Muscat and Pinot Noir.  It’s the dosage that determines the sweetness of the final product.  In the case of this sparkler, it’s produced in the “sec” style, or what I considered to be the upper end of the “off-dry” style.

 

Mumm Cuvée M - Photo courtesy of Mumm Nap;a

NV Mumm Napa Brut Rosé

Region: California>Napa Valley

Variety – 48% Chardonnay/43% Pinot Noir/6% Pinot Gris/3% Pinot Meunier

Dosage – 3.1% residual sugar

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;  Late harvest Muscat and Pinot Noir added en tirage

Alcohol by volume: 12.5%

Cost: $15 (on sale) Retail: $22

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Light straw color with tiny bead of bubbles

Aromas: Brioche, stone fruit, and a bit of citrus

Body:  Easy, light-bodied, with moderately aggressive mousse, clean and slightly sweeter than off-dry.

Taste: Pear and vanilla

Finish: Short finish

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their pairing versatility with a variety of foods.  This one would be a very nice aperitif, and also pair with nicely with fruit desserts, or because it’s sweeter, spicy foods.

I found this to be interesting.  It has some sweetness, but it wasn’t overly sweet, and it was “clean”, meaning it didn’t have a cloying aftertaste.  I think this is definitely a wine for folks who want a sweeter sparkler.  And if you’re a fan of Moscatos that seem so popular, particularly among Millennials, these days, you’ll enjoy this.  It was easy, enjoyable, and it’s widely available.  I’d buy again whenever I find it only sale, which is frequently, especially if I serving friends who prefer their sparklers with some sweetness. (86pts).

“May your glass always be filled with warm memories, and the taste of a life well lived linger on your tongue” – Unknown

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…NV Mumm Napa Brut Rosé

Mumm Napa is a joint venture between G.H. Mumm & Cie, of France, and Joseph E Seagram & Sons.  G.H. Mumm & Cie was founded in 1827, ironically by the von Mumms, German winemakers who trace their ancestry back to medieval times. The Napa location was founded by in 1979 by Guy Deveaux, who passed away in 1995. Mumm produces an upscale line of “DVX” sparkling wines in his honor.  They have a pretty diverse lineup of sparkling wines, that includes a sparkling Pinot Noir, and a Santana Brut, which is collaboration between Mumm and Carlos Santana.  They also produce Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay still wines.

Mumm sources their fruit from both Carneros, and the Yountville AVAs.  This sparkler was formerly known as Mumm Blanc de Noirs.

Mumm Napa Brut Rosé - Photo courtesy of Mumm website


NV Mumm Napa Brut Rosé

Region: California>Napa Valley

Variety – 85% Pinot Noir, and 15% Chardonnay

Dosage – 1.2% residual sugar

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;  Pinot Noir added en tirage

Alcohol by volume: 12.5%

Cost: $16 (on sale) Retail: $24

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Salmon color  with fairly persistent stream of tiny bubbles

Aromas: Yeast, strawberries, and cherries

Body:  Between light and medium-bodied with soft texture, crisp, fruity yet dry, and a bit cloying on the back end.

Taste:  Strawberry, and cherry

Finish: Approaching medium finish

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their pairing versatility with a variety of foods.  This one would be a very nice aperitif, and also pair with nicely with wide variety of foods.

This is a very good entry-level sparkling Rosé.  It was easy, enjoyable, and it’s widely available.  I’ll buy again whenever I find it only sale, which is frequently.  If you’ve not tried a Rosé sparkler, give this one a try! (87 pts).

“May your glass always be filled with warm memories, and the taste of a life well lived linger on your tongue” – Unknown

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…NV Blason Cremant de Bourgogne Blanc De Noirs

This week’s sparkler hails from Burgundy region of France.  It is produced by Blason de Bourgogne.  I picked it up at Trader Joe’s on a whim because I recognized the Blason name.  It’s a name I associate with value wines.  According to the Blason website they represent 800 wine-growing families throughout Burgundy.  Beside this Blanc de Noirs, they also produce a Rosé, an Extra Brut, and a Brut Reserve, all from Pinot Noir and Gamay grapes.  Of the four Crémant produced, this one is aged the longest.  And interestingly, all are made from Pinot Noir and Gamay grapes.


NV Blason Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc De Noirs

Region: France>Burgundy>Crémant de Bourgogne

Variety – Pinot Noir, and Gamay

Dosage – < 15g/L

Production method: Méthode Champenoise; Aged 16-18 months on racks

Alcohol by volume: 13%

Cost: $11

My tasting notes follow:

Color: Light golden-yellow with copper tinge

Aromas: Brioche, and red fruits – cherries and strawberries

Body: Light-bodied with dispersed small bubbles that dissipated quickly

Taste: Strawberry, cherry and toast

Finish: Short-medium

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their pairing versatility with a variety of foods.  This one would be a good aperitif, and also pair with nicely with wide variety of foods.  Try this with roast white meat, seafood with light sauces, or enjoy as an aperitif along with goat cheese.

This is a value sparkler.  It was easy, enjoyable, and since it’s sold at Trader Joe’s, availability should be good. I’m a fan of Blanc de Noirs (“BdN”), and you’d be hard pressed to find a better BdN at this price level.  This is a case where $2-$3 more dollars (Chandon, and Gloria Ferrer come to mind) would probably deliver more.  But, I recommend if you prefer BdN and you want to save a few bucks.  (86 pts).

“May your glass always be filled with warm memories, and the taste of a life well lived linger on your tongue” - Unknown