Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dynamite Albarino from Portugal for $10 or Less

I've been raving here and in the newspaper column about my new-found love affair with Albarino. It's really growing on me. Albarino is a white wine too!

Much like the last red I posted here about, I picked up this wine for a short piece I'm doing for Palate Press - the national online wine magazine which will debut in September.

I found a Portuguese Casa de Vila Verde "white wine" for $10. I bought my first at Mass Ave. Wine Shop in Indianapolis. But today I picked up a couple more at Grape Vine Cottage in Zionsville.

This wine is very refreshing and crisp. It is great by itself or with seafood. I had it with some pasta, shrimp and fresh tomatos and it was great. I'm finishing it off this afternoon by itself. Chill this wine a little more than other whites and head to the porch.

Alvarinho is the Portuguese spelling of Albarino. It's grown in both Spain and the coastal country known for Port and Cork near the coast. It has relatively high acid but low alcohol at 11.5 percent.

There is some peach and maybe green apple or something like that on the palate. I've been trying to describe this wine to friends and call it a delightful midpoint between a Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Or, big flavor with a lighter touch and higher acidity.

The Casa de Vila Verde rocks for $10. But find one from either country on any label and I think you'll like it!

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Too Much Free Time

Click on the image here ... and it will take you to Wordle and you can make your own cool word cloud!

Wordle: For the Love of Wine

Thursday, August 27, 2009

An Interesting Taste Experience From Something New

I noted several weeks ago that I would be contributing to a new national online wine magazine, Palate Press. You can see the Beta site by clicking the logo in the left column. The site goes live and public in very early September.

I'm writing a piece I'll submit about Portugal's emerging table wines. I'll keep this entry rather short since I've done all my research for that effort. But tonight I opened a Portuguese wine as part of my preparation for that effort.

Jill Ditmire, owner of Mass Ave Wine in Indianapolis, recommended I try Grilo 2007 Vinho Tinto. The grapes are a couple, I'll admit, that I've never heard of before picking up this bottle. I paid $13 for this bottle of grape juice.

The blend is 75 percent Touriga Nacional and 25 percent Alfrocheiro. The wine really improved the longer the bottle was open. It had a big lovely nose that was bigger than the bang on the palate.

It is a smooth an interesting wine of soft red fruit flavors that is unlike other grape types I've tried. The finish wasn't long but it was non-tannic, and non-acidic - very smooth drinking wine.

I'd recommend trying Portuguese red wines for that reason - it's something different. Of course, Portugual is known for its Port - sweet dessert wines. Much of the Touriga Nacional is used to make those Ports.

I can't wait to buy another Portuguese wine using native grapes. I just might do that this weekend!

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Third Time a Charm for Torrontos White

Back in May I tried my first taste of Argentina's best-known white wine, Torrontos. I wanted a name I was familiar with so I picked up a Pascual Toso. I've had the Pascual Toso Malbec and it was quite nice at a very reasonable price.

Frankly, I didn't think much of their white wine. It lacked acidity and I didn't enjoy the balance of the wine. It didn't have much of a nose and didn't hold up to lightly seasoned grilled shrimp.

I had a second bottle in July from a different label that I have since forgotten. It was too sweet and I barely drank the first glass poured.

That brings me to Finca La Linda 2008 Torrontos which I opened tonight! It was definitely the best of the three. I thought the wine had a flowery scent and nice fruity taste on the front of the palate. It reminded me a bit of a Gewurztraminer with some mild spice on the finish.

It's rather high in alcohol for a white at just over 14 percent. It has crisp characteristics and really balanced well with some grilled shrimp tonight! The wine can be found at $9-$11.

I still lean toward the Albarinos from Spain but some people who like a bit sweeter taste are going to enjoy the Torrontos.

Just get to your favorite wine shop and buy something white and different for these muggy August days!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

The 07 Castano Monastrell Even Better than 06

I've written several times about that little Spanish jewel, Castano Monastrel. I first discovered it back in May in Indianapolis. You can read my original comments here.

The 2006 got an 88 from Wine Advocate and was just an amazing glass of wine for $6.99. You'll find it in lots of wine stores under $10 and usually at the $6.99 price point.

This wine has a little stink on the nose but really opens up to a nice smooth floral and spicy wine with a little time. It sings with dark fruit and a mild mid-palate. The finish will linger while you savor a great under-$10 wine.

I repeat my comments about it here because I tried the 07 Castano tonight. Wine Advocate gave the 07 vintage a 90. They were right; it's even better than the 06.

If you see it, buy it. I consistently call this red wine the best under $10 wine I've ever tasted. I think you will too!

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Phelps 2004 Le Mistral a Classic California Wine

Very good friends were bringing pizza over tonight so I pondered my wine choice carefully. It wasn't just because we were having pizza but the gentleman and his wife are southern California residents and I knew he really enjoyed his big California wines.

So I went to the wine storage cooler and reached for what I think is really great and iconic California vintner. I pulled out a bottle of Joseph Phelps Le Mistral, a Syrah-blend wine, that I had brought home from a 2006 visit.

It just got better and better as it remained open but the wine certainly didn't disappoint as something really special. The 2004 Le Mistral is 70 percent Syrah, 20 percent Grenache, and small amounts of Alicante Bouche and Petite Sirah.

It is a rich, juicy, jammy and beautifully balanced bottle of juice. It's big yet smooth it has the strong and spicy finish without any harshness you'd expect from a Syray-Grenace blend. The grapes for this wine came from Monterey County.

Phelps is known for its great Cabernet and signature "Insignia" wine. Insignia is premium Napa Valley Cabernet with the price to match. I've visited the winery twice and the wines are stunning.

This is obviously not wine in the usual price range I write about in this blog or my newspaper column. But every now and then I open such a bottle and want to share the difference. This is a $40 bottle of wine that is big, rich, and smooth with great body. It reminds me why I like good wine. The Phelps' Le Mistral consistently scored around 90 with the major wine publications.

Phelps sold the brand in 2008 so its no longer their label or wine. I'm glad I had this bottle of 2004 stashed away.

You can find Phelps' Cabernet in many finer Indiana wine shops for around $55. Their Insigina blend of Cabernet is just an awesome glass of wine. It's probably the most amazing single glass of wine I've ever tasted. The current 2005 release retails around $200 a bottle.

Tonight, I'm one happy wine geek!

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dark Fruit, Nice Balance in this Cotes du Rhone Wine

There are so many choices when you look at the Cotes du Rhone wines in the French section of your favorite wine shop.

I've found several lately that I think are really nice choices. Andezon's Cotes du Rhone red wine is mostly Syrah from vines that are more than 100 years old. The Domaine uses 90 percent Syrah and 10 percent Grenache which comes from 60-year-old vines.

It has the big bold dark fruit flavors on the front of the palate with a medium-bodied, smooth taste all the way to the moderate tannins. It has a smooth feel in the mouth from start to finish.

Robert Parker gave this an 89 in Wine Advocate. It's a very nice bottle of wine.

I recently had a wine retailer speak highly of the Eric Solomon selections saying she liked everything he finds. Solomon is known for importing wines from smaller producers and bring real gems to the U.S. It's hard to argue with Andezon.

This is great table wine or even special occasion wine at the price. You'll find it under $15 at better wine shops.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Want a New Favorite White? Try Albarino

The Summer of 2009 is becoming transformative for me as I've developed a much better appreciation for white wines. I think the newspaper column and this blog have a lot to do with that. I've always felt that I need to touch on some whites to maintain a wider interest and credibilty in building my wine knowledge.

I've tried several very different white grapes this summer but the beautiful Albarino is emerging as my favorite.

Here is a great link to a blog talking extensively about the albarino grape. I trust other bloggers more than Wikipedia! Ha!

This afternoon after an afternoon in the heat working in the yard, I wanted something refreshing. I grabbed an albarino from the rack and put it in the fridge. The one I grabbed was a 2007 Burgan Albarino from Spain.

Albarino is a thick-skinned grape grown largely in the Rias Biaxas region of Spain and in the Vinho Verde area of Portugal.

The Burgans had a medium body with some lemon flavors. I picked up hint of orange as well - an unusual taste in most whites. I'd call it creamy yet still a crisp finish with some tartness.

Robert Parker liked the juice alot giving it 90 points. This wine would rock with seafood.

Almost any good wine shop will have some Albarino - give it a try. And don't ignore the ones from Portugal. The little country by the sea is an emerging story in the wine world, but more of that to come!

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Middle-of-the-Pack Spanish Garnacha Rose

I have not opened any Rose' lately so I grabbed a bottle from the rack for some left over pasta.

This was 2008 Za Za Rose' of Garnacha from Spain.It was just a little flat for my taste, the berry flavors were a tad muted and the finish undistinguished. In other words the fruit tasted bland and there wasn't much acidity on the finish.

It has big flavor and will hold up with some food okay, but with all of the wonderful choices in Rose' wines this one disappointed.

I bought in for $9.99 in Indianapolis.

I found a few online reviews that largely liked this wine and rated it in the high 80s. I respectfully disagree. It's not bad wine, it's just not really good Rose'.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Revisiting a Favorite; A Great Farmers Market

I had to use my Google site search to see if I had written about 2005 Celler de Capcanes "Mas Donis" Barrica before and indeed I did last October.

I thought it was worth a mention since it had been so long but this is one of my top two or three favorite Grenache-Syrah blends. This wine has scored over 90 points from most the of the major wine magazines and sells for under $15. I bought it last fall for $14 and picked up the bottle I opened tonight at Cork & Cracker in Indianapolis for $12.99.

The wine is 85 percent Garnache (Grenache, if you prefer French) and 15 percent Syrah. It is a Spanish wine made in the style of the great Cotes du Rhone wines. It has a big nose of dark fruit and gets eight months of oak. So you get big fruit on the front of the palate and bold tannins on the finish.

This is a great wine for $12.

A Farmers Market Worth a Visit
Many communities have strong farmers markets and if you're not going, you should be. First, there is much to be said about the nutritional value of fresh produce. Second, there is even more to be said about buying it when it's locally grown. All of that is a rant for another time and place.

Crawfordsville, where I live, has a great Saturday morning market. About a half hour south of here near Rockville, there is a great Amish farmers market. But this past Saturday I visited the northern Indianapolis suburb of Zionsville for their farmers market.

In Zionsville it's clearly a community event. I arrived mid morning and it was packed. There were plenty of bakers and fresh produce suppliers, but there also was a popcorn stand, hand-crafted olive oils, the Mennen family which lives near the Clinton-Boone county line had pork products. Trust me, their bacon-flavored pork burger should probably be illegal it's so good.

There was a lady selling fresh-made pasta! I had some tonight and it was great.

It was just a fabulous farmers market where people come together and celebrate locally made and grown products! I was impressed! Support your local market and local producers. But if you have a free Saturday sometime soon, check out Zionsville! It's a great Saturday morning trip!

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Latest Column Lists 10 Great Value Wines

My last newspaper column was a list. I generally don't like lists of things but had a couple of editors and a few readers request a list of 10 or 12 great value wines.

So I turned the last newspaper column into just that! Here is a link to the blog where I post just the newspaper columns!

As always, thanks for reading!

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

An "OK" Grenache-Syrah Blend from France

I have returned to the Cotes du Rhone region for my taste in really good wine the past few weeks. I've not been disappointed.

Tonight I opened a bottle of Domaine Fincham's 2005 Red Note wine which is a 50-50 blend of Grenache and Syrah. I bought this $15 bottle at Pairings in Indianapolis in the Castleton area.

This was a smooth and medium bodied wine that didn't have the pop some of my more recent selections. It was rich and smooth with dark fruit flavors and a just a wee bit of tannins on the finish.

After the wine was open for awhile the nose really came around to a fragrant and earthy French wine. It's a nice introduction to French wines without the power of some others.

Fincham is an interesting guy who married into a wine family apparently. He wed the daughter of a winemaker at Domaine de Pagau in Chateaunef-du-Pape region. This is the southern Rhone valley area.

You'll find the wine up to $19 in some shops. It's a nice bottle of wine but if you can find Patrick Lesec's Bouquet, go with that one!

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Donna's Pick-of-the Week a Great California Sauv Blanc

I've mentioned shopping at the Village Bottle Shop in W. Lafayette several times in this blog and finally met wine guru Donna Lattanzio just this week.

Donna had a long career on the distributor's side and has managed the Bottle Shop for nearly a dozen years.

I've been buying there since the first of the year and couldn't resist picking up her "Pick of the Week" a Rutherford Provenance 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. The deal was $9.99 for a wine I found online for up to $18-$19!

This is a beautiful and soft Sauv Blanc. I got notes of peaches, pear, with light mineral qualities and a pleasant acidity on the finish.

Wine Spectator gave this wine an 88 rating. You'll normally find this nice California wine for around $15.

I had the wine with a pan-seared piece of salmon. I think it would be great with most seafood.

So if you get near W. Lafayette, on the 52 bypass, stop in and say hi to Donna. She will steer you to some great wine buys.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Photos Up; Reflections of Two-Day Visit

I've now posted all the photos in the two blog entries about my two-day visit to Southern Indiana's wineries and drive along the Ohio River.

When thinking back about the experience the one thing that sticks in my mind is that Indiana's wine producers are getting better at what they do. I remember just a couple of years ago the wines were so sweet they were hard to digest.

There still are some of those around but I found more of the sweeter wines made in a light and fruity style that would still please those who like sweet wines but without killing the taste with sugar.

I also found some well-made wines that fit my usual palate. I thought Winzerwald's Rose', Turtle Run's Syrah and Summer Solstice were the outstanding wines of my trip. But there were plenty of other really good ones too.

I have always been reluctant to be too negative in my wine writing. I did have a couple bad experiences. That is the exception now days which is great news for Indiana wineries.

I didn't include Huber Winery in my visit because I've been there so many times before. You could easilty do Huber, Turtle Run, and perhaps Best Vineyards on a one day trip if you're in the Indiana-Kentucky area. If you're a little farther west, I'd recomment Winzerwald. If you're up for a drive, go to Blue Heron Vineyards and enjoy the view. Their wines show promise too!

I believe I included a link to every winery's website in the two posts below.

I do have more material from this trip which will surface as a newspaper column soon. I had a fun interview with Jim Pfeiffer at Turtle Run.

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