Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Did you know? . . . about Burgundy Wine

The Burgundy wine region ("Bourgogne" in French) only grows two grapes: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

This knowledge is useful when you are staring at an extensive wine menu, or picking out a bottle of wine for a gift and want to impress with something that sounds good. If you like either of those grapes, chances are you won't go wrong if you select a bottle of Burgundy. The wine will, however, have specific traits having been grown in that specific region in France, but most of us wouldn't notice the difference, anyway...and that's OK. If you don't like those grapes, you know chances are you won't like wines from Burgundy. That's OK, too.

Next time you're choosing wine, keep an eye out for the word "Burgundy" or "Bourgogne" on the wine menu, or on the labels. Remind yourself, "that's just Chardonnay!" or "that's just Pinot Noir!" Makes the whole wine experience less intimidating, right?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Did you know?....What "Funky" Wine Means

"Funky" is a funny descriptor. Recently a friend mentioned someone had described a wine to her as "funky," and she didn't know what that meant. I thought about it, and then I realized: people say "funky" when they don't know what else to say. The wine is so different that they can't easily describe it. Funny...but true.

Perhaps it's nicer to say that "funky" means "unusual" or "unexpected," in a way that makes the wine hard to describe. Wine experts do have lots of training, after all. Regardless, having read this, you now get to chuckle a little every time you hear a waiter or wine salesman describe wine in this way. Don't let this descriptor throw you. It sounds complex but really isn't.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Glass of Rose for Summer

We've said it before, and we will say it again: Rose is an amazingly versatile wine.

A new restaurant has opened not too far from us, Pacifico's Fine Foods. We liked the look of the menu: finely crafted dishes with a South American bent. But with an international menu, we didn't expect much in the way of local wines. It was a pleasant surprise then, when we found two different glasses of wine from Channing Daughters on the menu--a white and a rose.

When we are looking for a complicated bottle of wine to linger over, we often turn to red. When we want something simple we can just sip, a light white is in order. But when we are looking for something that blends the two--that has some complexity but is still light enough that it goes down easily--we seek out a nice rose. And Channing Daughters manages to deliver. Making just a few hundred cases of their Rosato's each year, we've started to look forward to catching these wines wherever we can each summer. So as fall approaches, it was great to find yet another chance.


The South American cuisine was an interesting twist for us. The menu was small, with only half a dozen entrees, and even fewer appetizers. Since we were starting with our wine choice and working from there, it limited our choices even further, but it seemed easy enough to find some good pairings. Pork and yucca seemed to fill the menu, along with some spicy sauces. Hoping for a bit of crisp to combat the heat of the sauces and the fat of the pork, with maybe a hint of earthiness to match the yucca, we were optimistic.

In this case, it worked, but maybe not much more. The wine was great. The food was great. In combination, they worked. It wasn't a sublime experience, where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. But that's okay. We were looking for a good, casual dinner and we got that. Maybe there were subtle flavors that didn't mesh, or maybe we were just more focused on our evening out than analyzing the complex interactions of our food and wine. We enjoy that, but sometimes just enjoying a fun night out is enough.

Friday, August 15, 2014

How-To: Tell What Wines are in a Blend

Americans like to know what wine they are drinking. While the Old World labels their wine based on region, sure in the knowledge that everyone knows the grape that ends up in a Burgundy or a Barolo, in the New World we want our wines to be labeled by the varietal.

In most cases, that's easy enough. But when it comes to blended wines, its not always so straight forward. A blend may be made up of a range of grapes, so the wine makers will often use a proprietary name useful for marketing, but not always informative. But there are tricks you can use to help pick out the grapes.

Look for typical styles: Bordeaux or Meritage blends are typical, made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Champagne will be made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Labeled: Since Americans demand the info, many wine makers will include the list of varietals used. It may be hidden on the back label, but especially with New World wines it may be there.

Guess: If you know a bit about wine, you can start to guess what grapes make up a blend. In a red wine, soft red fruit flavors might be a high percentage Merlot or Pinot Noir, while a buttery white wine might be based on a Chardonnay.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Quick Review: Castoro Cellars "East Meets West" 2012

US, CA, Castoro Cellars, East Meets West Reserve 2012

+ // Spicy // Clove, Old leather, Tobacco, Dried cherry // Cherry cola // Medium to full-bodied

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Quick Review: Tess Winery Red & White Blend

US, CA, Napa, Tess Red&White Blend
++ // Spicy - Sweet // Maraschino cherry, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Clove, Candied apple // Cinnamon, Cherry, Rose petals // Medium