Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Petite Sirah: I Think I Felt The Earth Move!

There are some common truths in wine appreciation. I think one of those is the more wine you drink, the more you're going to seek out bigger wines.

I've been drinking wine long enough now - seriously about 5 years - that I like the occasional big, big, big wine. Earthquake 2005 Petite Sirah was my latest great find .. and yes, it's spelled that way!

Even the winery has fun with the name. "It's over the top ... and it will rock your world." And as cute as that is, and as much as I hate to admit it, they're right.

This wine rocks!

Now, it certainly can be characterized as a big fruit bomb. And for those who criticize big California wines as fruit bombs miss the point. I don't want all wines to be alike. I want some that knock me over with fruit, or with structure, big bold flavor, sometimes with the tannin structure. I like the fact wines can be so different.

This is not a begginner's wine. It has big flavor and big alcohol at 15.5 percent. That usually is where I start losing interst, and you could tell it packed a wallop, but the huge impact on the palate somewhat lessened the burn of the alcohol in the throat.

This has blackberry, oak and vanilla going on. It has spice and herbs. The word I like best for this big boy is rich!

I bought this wine at Wine Styles in Westfield/Carmel for $24.95. I found it online running $20-$27.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

Here's a Great Chianti That's Easy to Drink

I've been buying up Chianti lately and found some really good ones.

On the recommendation of Ashley at Cork & Cracker in Indy, I recently picked up a bottle of Il Fiorino 2008 Chianti. It retails for around $13.

This was a really satisfying and easy-to-drink Chianti. There are lots of Chianti wines in every wine shop and even grocery stores. It's difficult, unless you really know your Italian wines, to pick one.

I think I've learned a few things in the past month. The Il Fiorino is the classic and traditional blend of 90 percent Sangiovese with 10 percent Canaiolo. The winery Poggio Romita ages the wine in stainless steel instead of oak. They keep it in the tanks just six months and then bottle.

That does two things. First the wine has very mild tannins for that smooth drinkablility new wine drinkers are always seeking out. Second, the Canaiolo is one of many native and traditional blending grapes for Chianti. In recent years, more and more wineries use Merlot to soften the Sangiovese grape.

Simply put: Yuk! It's sort of like dumbing things down.

I've clearly noticed with the traditional blends you seem to get a richer, and more interesting flavor. The natural cherry characteristics of the Chianti jump out of the glass, onto your palate and down it goes for a great wine that pairs well with simple Italian dishes.

What do you serve with pizza? Here is a great wine for that and for newbies to Chianti! By the way, I went back two days later and bought all 11 bottles left in the shop. I have a pizza party in two weeks where I was asked to bring the wine! That's what I thought of this juice!

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

Thursday, January 21, 2010

French Saumur - The Oft-Forgotten Chenin Blanc!

I've written here and in my newspaper column about following the advice of trusted wine professionals. I made a wonderful French discovery in Italy over the holidays that led me to re-discover the joys of Chenin Blanc.

The French wine in Florence was a beautiful, and aged, Vouvray but more on that in a future blog post. I went shopping for Vouvray Wednesday at Kahn's Fine Wines in Indianapolis and found one! But the young man helping me suggested I try a Chenin Blanc from the Saumur region.

So I bought a bottle of Domaine des Hauts de Sanziers 2008 Saumur for $14.95. He described it as a big white wine that would hold up to food with all the structure of red. He was absolutely right!

I loved this wine. Saumur is a region in the Loire area of France. The property has been owned by the same family for two centurries

The nose is light but interesting. On the nose and palate I found strong lemon and maybe a hint of pear. There was a wonderful minerality about this wine.

But the most enjoyable characteristic is the balance between flavor and acidity.

This is a Robert Kacher selection. He specializes in small producers from France. Robert Parker called him one of the 20 most influential wine personalities of the past 20 years.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

Sustainability A Growing Winery Trend

I'm still backed up from two weeks out of the country. I have a couple quick posts I want to write about Italy. I also have notes on a couple bottles of wine I need to write up.

But I came across a news story today that I found interesting. There is much ado about "sustainability" and "green" farming in the wine industry.

Here is a MSNBC story on "Eco-Wineries.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pairings near Castleton Another Great Wine Shop

With a background in the newspaper business, I knew Grape Sense would not get a lot of feedback from the column. The column runs regularly in eight Indiana newspapers with a reported combined circulation of about 90,000.

When I do hear from readers, it's usually questions on where I buy wine. I always try to point out in blog postings where I bought a particular bottle. I buy about 90 percent of my wine in Central Indiana locations.

But I want to introduce you to another shop I've mentioned before but not written extensviely about. Pairings - Where Food and Wine Meet at 4040 E. 82nd St. is another great place to buy wine and gourmet food items.

Phil Van Deusen is the proprietor wanting to specialize in making you feel comfortable buying wine.

"I recognize there are lot of places to buy wine around town and now even more so with online sites and other things," Phil told me. "What I’m able to offer is personal service and the ability to listen beyond what your telling me, to really understand what you're looking for, and to match the right wine with the right person.

"It's not that it’s the most expensive bottle for me to sell, it’s more important for me to build relationships. If I get something I think a person will like, I might call them and say, 'I got a case of this under the counter.' "

Phil's shop in a strip mall on 82nd is filled with carefully selected, great value wines. When I told him I liked earthy Rhone wines, he introduced me to Patrick Lesec's "Bouquet" - which was my favorite value wine of 2009.

Phil is taking his personalized approach a step further. He asks customers to fill out a wine profile to help him guide customers to things they'll like.

"I'll have new customers fill out a wine profile and register likes and dislikes and wines they’ve liked in past," he explained. "That will help me make more and better recommendations."

Phil also has a nice selection of fine wines at a higher price point. During my first visit, I discovered he carried Lange's better Pinot Noir bottlings. I was sold on his cred after that!

If you like reading about Central Indiana wine shops, drop me a note at the e-mail address below or leave a comment. I could easily do a bit more on each Central Indiana wine shop I frequent.

I realize not all readers are from Central Indiana, but hopefully others will enjoy reading about good wine shops as well.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Video Posted From Visit to Italian Winery

I've mentioned my trip to Italy and have more coming. I really lucked out on my day into Tuscan wine country.

New Jersey native Anthony Finta, now a five-year Florence resident, used his personal car to take me and two students for visits at two small wineries. We had lunch in Greve, the heart of the Chianti district.

My newspaper column will be up tomorrow on my other site. I did a brief overview for the newspapers. I'll have more here on a couple of my Italy experiences in the next few days. And, I have a piece planned for Palate Press on a business Anthony is trying to start bringing small winery wines to the U.S.

Finta currently oversees several websites. He has two Florence websites. The Florence Journal and Florence On-line.

Anthony has posted a short video on Florence Journal of places to stay when visiting Tuscany. The video features me asking Arianna, of Corzano e Paterno, questions about their guest quarters. Check it out here.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Silky Malbec with a Disappointing Finish

I was out of the country for two weeks and couldn't really blog with work responsibilities. I do have some things I want to write about my trip to Italy and hope to get to those in next couple days.

Meanwhile, it's back to updates on the wines I'm drinking.

Last night and tonight I drank a bottle of Lorca 2008 Malbec Fantasia. Obviously, it's a very young wine. I found it very smooth with fine fruit but not a lot of depth. It was really easy to drink but with enough structure to hold up to food. This might be really great wine if it was given a couple of years to get happy in the bottle. But I don't buy wine under $15 to age it.

I had it with some spicy (by my rather mild standards) chili I had made and enjoyed it. The wine comes from respected young winemaker Maricio Lorca. It is all Malbec with 30 percent aged in oak.

This wouldn't make my top 3-5 Malbecs by any stretch, but it is good wine.

I paid nearly $15 for this at an out-of-state wine shop. You can probably find it cheaper in other locations.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com