Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A strawberry colored wine for a strawberry themed meal

What do you do with a few pounds of strawberries? a strawberry themed meal of course. First start with a Strawberry and Mixed Green Salad, followed by a Strawberry Risotto. The salad is fresh and fruity and the risotto creamy and tasty and not really sweet.

Strawberry and Mixed Green Salad, and Strawberry Risotto

For the dessert, I highly recommend making some Strawberry Shortcakes, a delightful dessert that consists of round biscuits cut in half and filled with sliced strawberries and whipped cream.

Strawberry Shortcakes

Then, what do you drink with a all-strawberry meal? A strawberry-colored wine such as the 2006 Cline Mourvèdre Rosé.

The Rosé, produced by Cline Cellars, is made from Mourvèdre grown on the winery's 100-year-old Oakley ranch vineyards in Contra Costa County. Cline Cellars makes four different bottlings of Mourvèdre: two reds (Ancient Vines Mourvèdre and Small Berry Mourvèdre), a dessert wine (Late Harvest Mourvèdre) and a Rosé. The Rosé is made in the style of a white wine, the skins being removed before the beginning of the fermentation, which allows the wine to pick-up a small amount of color and tannins. Fermentation is done at cold temperatures to preserve the fruit flavors, and halted just before the wine is dry.

The wine has a bright strawberry color and a nose of wild forest berries. On the palate, it is refreshing, citrusy, and slighly off-dry. Not a bad wine at all to go with the strawberries.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A discovery: Riesling from Marin County

Marin County? A little known wine region for sure. Located north of San Francisco and just a stone's throw from Napa and Sonoma, this county has more suburbs than vineyards, with just approximately 200 acres under vine, planted to Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon.

It's a coastal region, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the San Francisco Bay to the east, with a climate marked by relatively warm winters and very cool summers. Thanks to a long growing season, the resulting wines are characterized by a high acidity, low alcohol, and bright flavors.

Winegrowers and winemakers Jonathan and Susan Pey of Scenic Root Winegrowers are pioneers in the production of wines grown exclusively in Marin County. Their Shell Mound Riesling was named after the many mounds of oyster shells left by early Americans settlers across western Marin County. The wine is estate grown in an eighteen year-old vineyard located less than eight miles from the cold Pacific Ocean. While the vines require meticulous work, very little is done in the winery. After hand-harvesting and hand-sorting, there is no oak, no blending, and no malolactic.

The 2007 Pey-Marin Vineyards The Shell Mound Riesling Marin County is only 11.8% alcohol. It had a bright color and a mineral nose with notes of citrus. On the palate, it was dry and crisp with a nicely concentrated mouthfeel and aftertaste. Try it with an Alsatian onion tart, it's delicious!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spring salad and spring wine

The other day, my daughter found a delicious salad recipe that she made for us last Sunday. The salad, a mix of asparagus, green onions, and cucumbers, combined with various chopped herbs and lemon vinaigrette, was fresh, crunchy, and bursting with flavors.

Asparagus, Green Onion, Cucumber, and Herb Salad

With the salad, I opened a 2005 Campanaro dei Feudi di San Gregorio Fiano di Avellino. Fiano di Avellino is a small Italian appellation from the region of Campania, producing white wines made from the ancient Roman grape Fiano. With vineyards located on lush, volcanic hills, about an hour from Naples and Mount Vesuvius, Feudi di San Gregorio is an acclaimed wine estate that has put a modern spin on wines made from the region's ancient indigenous grape varieties.

The wine exhibited a bright golden color and aromas of pear and citrus on the nose. On the palate, it was fresh and dry, leaving a crisp mineral finish. A perfect treat with the salad!

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tasting the wines of the Rhône Valley

How familiar are you with the wines of the Rhône Valley? Although the Rhone Valley is among France's best wine regions, we are not always aware of its multi-faceted viticulture and wine traditions.

The Rhône Valley consists of two fairly distinct viticultural regions. The Northern Rhône is characterised by a continental climate with cold winters and warm summers. It produces red wines from the native grape Syrah, which is sometimes blended with white grapes, and white wines from Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne. The Southern Rhône has a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot and dry summers. The region produces red, white and rosé wines, which are generally blends of several grapes including Syrah, the drought-resistant Spanish grapes Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Carignan, as well as Cinsault, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Clairette.

For this tasting, we had a selection of seven white and red wines from Northern and Southern Rhône. Here are the wines that we tasted:

• 2006 Crozes-Hermitage Blanc Albert Belle Les Terres Blanches: a former member of the local co-op, Domaine Albert Belle has developed a solid reputation for producing top quality wines. The estate has now 19 hectares over 4 communes and two appellations, Crozes-Hermitage and Hermitage. This Crozes-Hermitage Blanc is a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne. My notes: light golden color, shy nose, fresh and light-bodied on the palate with an oily mouthfeel. Butterscotch aftertaste. Pretty nice.

• 2007 Le Secret Ivre Domaine Pierre Gaillard: Pierre Gaillard started working in the wine business at a very young age and is now considered one of the Northern Rhone's best producers. Le Secret Ivre, which means The Drunken Secret, is 60% Viognier and 40% Roussanne. My notes: golden color, floral aromas on the nose, somewhat unbalanced on the palate. Not a crowd pleaser.

• 2005 Saint-Joseph Domaine Coursodon Silice: Domaine Pierre Coursodon is a 12 hectare estate in the Saint-Joseph appellation — the second largest appellation in the Northern Rhône after Crozes-Hermitage — growing Syrah and Marsanne grapes. Harvests are manual and vinification is traditional. My notes: 100% Syrah. Deep color, expressive fruity nose, fresh and supple on the palate, excellent with charcuterie.

• 2005 Cornas Eric et Joël Durand Empreintes: Cornas, a Celtic word that means burnt earth, is one of the smallest appellations in the Northern Rhône. The production is only red wine from the Syrah grape. Domaine Eric et Joël Durand is located in the southern part of the Saint-Joseph appellation and is also making wine from the neighboring Cornas. My notes: 100% Syrah. Dark color, peppery and blackberry aromas on the nose, full-bodied, great texture on the palate, multi-dimensional. Very classy, a big favorite of the evening.

• 2006 Lirac Domaine de la Mordorée Cuvée La Dame Rousse: Lirac is located along the right bank of the Rhône river, opposite Chateauneuf-du-Pape, in the southern Rhône Valley. Domaine de la Mordorée is named after the poetic local nickname used for the woodcock that flies over the region during its migrations. The domain produces wines from the Châteauneuf du Pape, Lirac, and Tavel appellations. The Dame Rousse cuvée is half Syrah, half Grenache from 40-year-old vines. My notes: deep color, sweet fruit on the nose, but after the Cornas, seemed aggressive in the mid-palate. More detractors than amateurs.

• 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine Chante Cigale: Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the most renowned appellation of the Southern Rhône Valley. Its terroir is characterized by a soil covered with galets or pebbles. The pebbles retain heat during the day and release it at night, which accelerates the ripening of the grapes. It also retain moisture in the soil during the dry summer months. Thirteen grape varieties are allowed to be used in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape of Domaine Chante Cigale is a blend of 65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre and 5% Cincault. The average age of the vines is 50 years. The vinification is traditional and ageing is done with a combination of foudres, new barrels, and cement tanks. My notes: deep color, aromatic nose, rich and full-bodied on the palate, tasty finish, another favorite of the evening.

• 2005 Gigondas Domaine Raspail-Ay Réserve: Gigondas is one of the best appellations in the Southern Rhône. The production is mostly Red with a small amount of Rosé. The place has been renowned for the quality of its wines since Roman times when it was named Jocunditas, which means joy or pleasantness in Latin. Founded in 1854, Domaine Raspail-Ay is a respected 18 hectare property around the village of Gigondas. My notes: a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Deep color, ripe berries on the nose, full-bodied, bigger than the Châteauneuf, slightly more rustic but good.

For our next meeting, we'll be pairing wine and cheese, so don't miss it!

Previous wine club tastings:
•  Pinot Noir Tasting
•  Second "Guess The Wine" tasting party
•  Wine and Cheese pairing

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A taste of Sonoma from St. Francis Winery

Founded in 1971, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards is a winery located in the heart of Sonoma Valley, in Santa Rosa, California. It was named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi in recognition of the saint's love of the natural world. The Saint is also credited with bringing European grape cultivation to the new world.

The winery's President, Christopher Silva, is a fifth generation Sonoma County native that believes that the best wines can be grown in Sonoma County. His mission is for St. Francis Winery to become the premier producer of Sonoma wine. He is also seriously engaged in green practices such as water and energy conservation, wild life and natural resource preservtion, and use of solar energy.

I recently received a sample of the winery's new releases sent to me for review by Kobrand Corporation and so here are my tasting notes:

• 2005 St. Francis Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County: made from grapes coming from five Sonoma County appellations: Sonoma Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, and Rockpile. My notes: dark red color, black and wild berries on the nose, firm backbone on the palate, young but well balanced, good acidity, food-friendy. Try it with a Southwest Blackened Beef Rib Eye.

• 2005 St. Francis Merlot Sonoma County: the fruits come from selected vineyards through out Sonoma County, with diverse micro-climates ranging from the hillsides of the Mayacamas Mountains to the cooler Sonoma Valley floor. My notes: dark color, sweet berry and vanilla on the nose, softer and sweeter on the palate than the Cabernet, smoky finish. Try it with Pork Chop with Caramelized Onion

• 2006 St. Francis Zinfandel Old Vines Sonoma County: comes from head-trained and dry farmed vines that must be at least 50 years old, with many as old as hundred years old. My notes: medium garnet color, sweet red fruit on the nose, berry compote on the palate, juicy, pleasant finish. I am usually not too crazy about Zinfandel but this one was actually very tasty and food friendly in spite of its 15.5% alcohol content. Try it with Sonoma Sausage Sauté with Peppers and Mushrooms

Wild Oak by St. Francis is a new line of hand-crafted, limited production, varietal wines, named for Sonoma's Heritage oak trees.

• 2004 Wild Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County: according to the winery's notes, the fruits for this wine come from diverse locations: Lagomarsino Vineyard in the Russian River Valley for generous power and luscious mouthfeel, the red volcanic soil and high altitude climate of Nuns Canyon Vineyard for firm structure, dark color, rich berrylike character and ample tannin, the McCoy Ranch in the Mayacamas Mountains for intense Cabernet and firm chewy Merlot, more Merlot coming from the estate Behler Vineyard, and a touch of Rockpile's Petit Verdot to deepen the color and expands the texture and finish. My notes: dark garnet color, blackberry and wild berry on the nose, rich, firm, and oaky on the palate with some good acidity, promising but needs more cellaring time. The wine was actually better the day after opening. Try it (in a few years) with Braised Lamb Shank Osso Buco

• 2005 Wild Oak Merlot Sonoma County: according to the winery's notes, the grapes coming from the 35-year-old estate Behler Vineyard in Sonoma Valley bring intense, rich, fleshy fruit typical of Merlot grown on cooler valley floor vineyards. Additionally, a small amount of Merlot and Cabernet from Nuns Canyon Vineyard located along the Mayacamas provides the mountain grown fruit possessing the tannins needed to give the wine structure and complexity. My notes: deep purple color, sweet berry and tobacco on the nose, full-bodied on the palate, quite young and oaky right now. Try it with Five Spice Spare Ribs

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