Wine Bits: A Bit on Pairing and Hosting, Part 2

 
The following is part two of a two-part series that was written for Two Dancing Buckeyes by ‘Dad’ Wolfe who is a regular ‘Wine Bits’  and TDB contributor.
 

In my last post, I wrote about wine and food pairings and made a few suggestions regarding which wines might pair well with a selection of Two Dancing Buckeyes recipes.  Now, regarding wine and hosting, I recommend having, at least, a small variety of choices at any gathering.  First of all, it’s the mark of a good host to accommodate the major differences in preferences of red or white and, within the reds and whites, of sweet or not so sweet (i.e. dry).  To thoroughly cover the bases might require six to eight choices:  a sweet, dry and middle-of-the-road red (3), the same for whites (3), a rosé(1) and something with bubbles–a champagne, a sparkling or a moscato (1), totaling eight.  And, of course, it’s a nice gesture to have some beer on hand for that person who “does not drink wine” and some soft drinks (don’t forget sugar-free and/or caffeine-free choices) or fruit drinks, as well as bottled water, for those who do not wish to drink beer or wine.  Whew!  Sounds like a pretty big job.  Not really.  All of the above can be kept on hand for quite a while (when it is best to drink various wines and how long they may be kept will be discussed in a soon-to-follow posting),  so you may find it helpful to gradually accumulate a variety of beverages to have on hand.  In this way, you will be reasonably prepared for an impromptu gathering.  The only things you may need are a cooler and a bag of ice.  No, I haven’t forgotten your friends who prefer mixed drinks.  However, to accommodate such preferences requires a great deal more inventory, expense, accessories and preparation.  You must decide for yourself how far in that direction you wish to go.  However, that’s another story for another writer.

As for wine, if you purchase what you want for a particular occasion, as you go, it can be a bit expensive.  However, if you make purchases on an on-going basis, perhaps buying a case, from time to time, of something you like and/or that may be on sale, you will gradually expand your inventory.  You may visit a winery and, after tasting a variety, bring home some bottles of something you enjoyed.  Or you might attend a wine-tasting at a restaurant or wine store and find some varieties you wish to have.  There is much less guess-work with this method.  Recently, a favorite restaurant of mine hosted a particular wine-maker for a tasting.  Such events are usually very reasonably priced and may include appetizers.  The object is to acquaint you with the wine and, hopefully, sell some to you.  It is also very interesting and informative to talk with the winemaker.  I came home with a case which included a number of varieties.  Most purchases, by the case, are discounted, depending on the applicable state laws (a case consisting of twelve bottles).  Many larger grocery stores are expanding their wine sections to include a greater variety at a wide range of prices.  Oftentimes, they will offer tastings of a featured wine for as little as $0.25 or $0.50, and that wine will be on sale that day.  This is another good opportunity to expand your reserve supply.  If you acquire a variety, over a period of time, you will be better prepared to accommodate the varying tastes of your guests or your own range of choices depending on your food and mood.

Two other ways to be prepared are 1) check with your guests ahead of time as to their preferences and 2) request guests, to a planned event, to bring one bottle of a wine they like, to share.  If you plan to serve a wine which is new to you, it’s a good idea to conduct your own tasting, in advance, to be sure it is what you expect and want.  This will also give you an opportunity to try different foods with the wine.   Sometimes, a pop-in guest will bring a bottle of wine along and say something like “let’s try this and see what we think.”  That’s a fun way to experience a new wine.  And, of course, you might do the same when you are the visitor.  Your host will appreciate it.

Having a proper place to store your wine is important in building and maintaining a good supply.  I have a friend who lives in a nice, older country home, the kind which typically has a fruit cellar (sometimes a room formerly used for coal) and his house has one.  Such places are dark and cool and usually stay at a fairly constant temperature.  Although he had been a life-long beer drinker and had little interest in wine, I was able to get him to expand his horizons to include wine.  We joined a wine club together, which gave us a good chance to taste a variety of wines, and he gradually found where his preferences lay.  He began to accumulate wines and, one day, boastfully announced (having cleaned out his fruit cellar to store his wines—temperature control being a significant point here—more on this later), “I have a WINE CELLAR, you only have a basement” (one-upsmanship being a game we tend to play).  I replied to him that, while I may only have a basement, he never seems to have any trouble finding something he likes when he goes there.  It’s all in good humor and a part of enjoying the journey.  Until next time, please do enjoy the journey.

Wine Bits: A Bit on Pairing and Hosting, Part 1

 
The following is the first of a two-part series that was written for Two Dancing Buckeyes by ‘Dad’ Wolfe who is a regular ‘Wine Bits’  and TDB contributor.
 

Spring is upon us and thoughts begin turning toward warm weather, outdoor activities and enjoying some relaxation on our decks, porches, patios and/or in our backyards.  Likewise, cookouts and picnics come to the forefront.  Some of the recipes presented by our two dancing buckeyes are perfect for such activities, such as the salads, dips, soups, chicken dishes, desserts and on and on.  And, of course, we should have our favorite beverages, which may include wine.  Wine pairs wonderfully with the foods of picnics and barbeques.  Wine is also a necessary accessory in the grilling process. There are so many great choices of wine, at reasonable prices, and lots of flexibility for varying tastes and preferences.  Also, it is not that difficult to take a bottle or two of wine on a picnic, outdoor concert, etc.  (where legally permitted, of course).  The bottles can be chilled, in advance, and easily transported.  There are convenient carriers for one or two wine bottles which you should add to your wine accessories.

In this offering, I will suggest some wines that I believe will pair well with some of the suggestions from the TDBs.  Of course, such suggestions are just “one person’s opinions” and you must always remember: all that really matters is what YOU like.  However, there is generally some rationale to the concepts of what wines work well with what foods.  The object is for the food and the wine to complement each other.  I like to look for a wine that will not overwhelm the food and, likewise, one the taste of which will not be lost to the food.  For example, with some fresh fruit, mild cheese and crackers, something such as a chilled sauvignon blanc will do very nicely.  However, with a spicy dip, breads and various meats you may find a heartier red wine to be more suitable.  People’s taste buds vary, so it is not an exact science and achieving a balanced pairing is sometimes a difficult task.  It may require a little experimentation.

Recent food suggestions from the Two Dancing Buckeyes and my thoughts on wines to go with them:

Cucumber Crunch Salad  — a dry white, such as a chardonnay, or a moderate red such as a malbec.

Taco Layer Dip — a more robust red such as a tempranillo.

Crab and Corn Chowder — a moderate white, perhaps a viognier, or a lighter red such as a pinot noir, perhaps even a rosé, as you may wish.

Cilantro-Tomato Sauce Over Chicken — a tough one, how do you feel?  Maybe a hearty red, to balance the sauce.  There’s no right or wrong here (or anywhere, for that matter).

Spinach Salad — I would prefer a nice, chilled pinot gris with this simple, but tasty salad.

Crudité Platter — Lots of opportunity here, but how about a nice chilled rosé on a warm summer evening.

Black Bean Burgers — I’d go with a cabernet on this, while preparing the burgers on the grill.  Sounds great!

Desserts — break out the bubbly to wind down the evening.  Enjoy.

A Few Musings on Wine, the Holidays, and a New Favorite Grape

 
The following post was written for Two Dancing Buckeyes by ‘Dad’ Wolfe who is a regular ‘Wine Bits’ contributor.
 

Hello, oenophiles and anyone who appreciates wine at any level.  Well, after a bit of a prolonged absence, I’m back to chat about wine.  I hope you have used the past few months to visit wineries, try some new wines and continue the journey of finding out what’s out there and what you like.

The grape harvest season is winding down, a very busy time for vineyards, and wine shops are starting to advertise wines for the holidays.  One of the first seasonal wines is the traditional Beaujolais Nouveau, which is released on the third Thursday of November, just in time for Thanksgiving.  This is a light, red wine, made from the Gamay grape and produced in the Beaujolais region of France.  It is fermented for only a few weeks and, therefore, has very little tannin.  It is intended for immediate drinking and should not be kept for very long, as it does not age well.  In France, the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau is a festive occasion, resulting in all-night and several days-long partying.  There is a rush by producers to get the wine distributed around the world.  Check with your supplier and reserve your bottle or two.  Its fruity flavors work reasonably well with the types of foods typically served at Thanksgiving dinners.  However, don’t hesitate to have several bottles of your favorite wines, be they red or white, as you wish.

Of course, the holiday season also finds sparkling wines coming to the forefront (although ANYTIME is a good time for sparkling wines).  There are many, very good selections available, at reasonable prices, and often are available at special sale prices.  Stock up while there is an ample supply.  Sparkling wines, as well as others, make excellent gifts, as well.  Incidentally, many of the larger grocery stores have outstanding wine departments, with excellent variety and reasonable prices.  They often have sales on many very good wines.  Be a smart shopper and stock up on your favorites when the price is right.

There are a lot of reasons as to why one selects a particular type of wine—type, taste, food pairing, mood, occasion, temperature, etc.  Sometimes we are simply attracted to the label.  Wineries often expend a great deal of effort and money in the design of their labels.  They are trying to attract you to pick up their bottle.  Catchy names are also a marketing tool.  Well, this past weekend, I bought a bottle of wine for no other reason than the name of the winery.  I was in a very nice wine bar and restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, called the Wine Bistro, and discovered a wine on its wine list produced by a winery named Villa Wolf.  Well, now, as my last name is Wolfe (and three generations ago was spelled “Wolf”), I thought to myself that I should have a bottle of that.  I was pleased to discover that the contents, a pinot gris from Germany, were very tasty—light and refreshing.  I will have it again, this time for the wine, not for the name of the winery.  Regardless of the reason, it’s fun to make a discovery.  I suppose you could do no worse than to close your eyes and point to the wine list.  Descriptions are also an enticement and are very helpful when selecting a wine flight to try.  Remember, wine flights are great ways to taste a number of wines without having to purchase a bottle of each until you find out which ones you prefer.

In reading some wine magazines and books, this past summer, I noted an amusing difference of opinion.  In one magazine, there was an article featuring two noted sommeliers, who both bemoaned being asked by patrons about pairing chocolate and red wine, and expressed their view that it was entirely inappropriate.  Then, in a book about wine regions around the world, there was a lengthy discussion about a winery in a resort region of South Africa that thought so highly of pairing wine with chocolate that they made it a feature of the winery.  It seems to me, if you like chocolate, that it will go with just about anything, but, for the record, put me down on the side favoring a good, dark chocolate with a deep, red wine.  Wonderful combination, in my opinion.  Not sure about that?  Try it and decide for yourself.  There’s no right or wrong answer, and the issue shows that experts do differ.  Kinda makes it all more fun that way, doesn’t it?

When last I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be), I was musing about wine clubs and the opportunity they present to try little known wines from even lesser known wineries.  One of those that I found particularly enjoyable was a wonderful white wine from Italy—Pecorino.  It quickly became apparent that I didn’t know enough about the pecorino grape or pecorino wine to write about it (but when has that stopped me before), so I took a sabbatical to do some research.  I wish I could say that I traveled to Italy for that purpose.  But, alas, I did not.  What I did do was seek out some samples of pecorino wine (not as easy as I had hoped) and, upon obtaining a few, did some tasting.  Pecorino wine is not readily available, but, if you can find it, it is well worth the effort.  I may have found a new favorite (du jour, at least). Usually ranging in alcohol content from 13.5 to 14% and aged in stainless steel, this white seems to embody all the things I like in white wines, combined.  It is fruity, with a variety of flavors.  It is full-bodied, yet balanced with moderate acidity.  It has a great mouth-feel and lingers just enough to thoroughly please the palate.  One review described it as having the essence of peach, mango and candied rose petals (although I’m not sure exactly how candied rose petals are supposed to smell), as well as the taste of bright yellow fruits, wild sage, white ginger and white pepper, along with hints of almonds and hazelnuts.  How someone is able to discern all those elements from smelling and tasting a wine is beyond me (you may sense some, all or even none of the suggested flavors and aromas, or others, for that matter—it’s all in what you, personally, perceive), but, in my opinion, this wine is vibrant, refreshing and very flavorful.  Try some and decide for yourself, but, as always, enjoy the journey.

Vinifera Potpourri

The following post was written for Two Dancing Buckeyes by ‘Dad’ Wolfe who is a regular ‘Wine Bits’ contributor.

The question was recently posed to me: “What is your favorite wine?”  My initial reaction was “Whoa, not fair.  Do you mean today, with this meal or what?”  “No, just your over-all favorite wine,” was the reply.  I still felt that there are too many variables to answer that question, but, upon further reflection, wondered to myself, alright, just what is my number one choice.  What is it that I will always (or almost always—see, a qualified answer even when musing hypothetically) feel comfortable with and be sure to enjoy.  Then I thought that, maybe, this wasn’t such a far-fetched question.  Perhaps it is helpful for one to try to come up with an answer.  This will help you identify the range of wines you may prefer (at this time, anyway—oops, another qualification).  As there are myriad variables, I suggest that a conclusive answer is fantasy.  But sometimes it’s fun to engage in fantasy, so let’s play the game.  What is your single-most favorite wine?  One might say, “I haven’t found it yet because I haven’t tasted every one (and even then vintages will vary).”  Get the idea that wine-drinking is an ever-changing landscape?  But I digress.  We do like something that is constant and upon which we can rely.  That’s part of human nature.  So what is it for you?  To be fair, let’s divide the question into three categories: whites, reds and others.  For this test, everyone will get a 100, as there are no wrong answers.  Okay, I won’t ask you to do something I wouldn’t do myself, so here are my choices (du jour, at least).

Whites:  I love the Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc blend, “Ariadne,” of Clos Du Val Winery (California).  Crisp and refreshing, excellent when white wine is the choice.  A close second is any good Sauvignon Blanc.  Something, perhaps, from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, but you pick the region and the winery.

Reds:  My wine-tasting journey has led me to the belief that the Bourdeaux-style reds (i.e. blends of three to five grapes) is my safe harbor, upon which I can reasonably rely.  My personal favorite is Shya Red by Pomum Cellars, Washington State.  There are many others and many wonderful red varietals from around the globe—too numerous to mention and all fun to try.  A close second for reds would be a super Tuscan (Italy).  Try one sometime.

Others:  There are a lot of specialty wines, many of which you may find appealing.  Not so much for me, but, as I have said before, it is important to keep an open mind.  However, a nice, chilled sparkling wine is good for virtually any occasion.

Okay, so much for that exercise in futility.  What did you come up with?  There are probably no two answers alike to such a question.

To close this post, here’s a suggestion for what to do with left over wine.  “Left-over wine”—qu’ est que c’est?  Nonetheless, if the party’s over and there’s still something left in a bottle or two, try freezing it in an ice cube tray.  Yeah, it works.  I tried it.  Then use the wine cubes at a later time, when wine is desired for cooking purposes.  Not a bad suggestion.  Thanks to Charmaine for the contribution.  And, as always, enjoy the journey.

The Wide World of Wine

The following post was written for Two Dancing Buckeyes by ‘Dad’ Wolfe who is a regular ‘Wine Bits’ contributor.

As we anticipate the arrival of warmer weather and being out-of-doors more often, perhaps our wine selection will vary.  As we’ve noted before, wine is a time and place thing.  It may vary as to the circumstances, the company, the food, the weather, etc.  If you like a particular kind of wine and that’s what you want to drink all of the time, that’s your choice and it’s okay.  However, there is so much more out there.  On a warm day, sitting on the patio, with some light appetizers, a slightly chilled sauvignon blanc hits the spot.  Or you may prefer a pinot grigio or even a chardonnay.  Wonderful!  Then, when you bring out the steaks, the ribs or burgers (yes, it’s fine to drink wine with burgers), you may wish to shift to a nice red of your choosing—a pinot noir, if you want something lighter or a cabernet sauvignon, if you want something more robust.  In between those choices, you might select a merlot, a malbec or a syrah.  There are some excellent reds produced in Spain and a nice tempranillo may be perfect for the occasion, especially if you prepare something like a paella.  Vary your wine selections, and the wide world of wine will begin to open to you.  Enjoy.

Wine Bits: Bits And Pieces

This ‘Wine Bits’ post was written by ‘Dad’ Wolfe for Two Dancing Buckeyes.

Have you ever been somewhere, with a little time to pass, and wanted to get a glass of wine, and perhaps a snack, while you had the chance (such as waiting in an airport), but the variety of establishments was limited, and the wine selection was not very extensive? Recently, I was in an airport, all checked in, and had about an hour and a half until my flight. It was close enough to lunchtime, so I decided to get a sandwich and asked for a wine list. There were about six choices and none of what I would like to have had. On this occasion, I desired a white wine. The menu listed a pinot grigio and a chardonnay. I was hoping for something in between those two. Preferring several varieties of white blends (varying percentages of different white grapes mixed together, as the winemaker may determine), I decided to make my own blend. The price of a glass of the pinot grigio and a glass of the chardonnay were the same (although it shouldn’t be much problem to do the math if there was a difference in prices–add the two together and divide by two), so I asked the server to mix a glass of half pinot grigio and half chardonnay. It worked fine. Be sure you have some idea about what you are mixing because if you don’t like it, you bought it anyway. The server said that no one had ever asked to do that, but had no problem accommodating me. Be sure to tip well, when making a special request. I suppose, if you are thirsty enough, that you could just order a glass of each and an extra glass and do the mixing for yourself.

A favorite white grape of mine is “Semillon.” I also like “Sauvignon Blanc.” Lo and behold, a couple of years ago, I discovered an ideal wine—a semillon and sauvignon blanc blend. It is excellent and will be good, slightly chilled, on a warm evening, with some fresh fruit and cheese. The name of this nectar is Ariadne, made by the Clos Du Val winery in Napa Valley, California. There may well be other similar blends out there, so, if you discover something else to your liking, go for it. The winery tasting notes for Ariadne describe it as follows: “This proprietary blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc takes its name from Ariadne, wife of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. Like its namesake, Clos Du Val’s Ariadne is rich, intense and elegant. Pale gold in color with a green tinge, the wine displays aromas of melon, fig and a hint of passion fruit. On the palate, Ariadne is consistent with intense tropical flavors of passion fruit, guava and citrus. Subtle oak tones make for a rich creamy mouth feel, while firm acids keep the finish crisp and light. Great for food pairings.” Mmmmm. I think I hear a bottle calling my name, now. Reasonably priced at $21.00 per bottle. Generally, Clos Du Val is better know for its reds. By the way, the Clos Du Val winery label depicts the daughters of Zeus– Splendor, Mirth and Joy. They are referred to as The Three Graces and throughout ancient Greece were known for dancing, singing and being the life of Olympian parties. You didn’t know that, in addition to learning about wine, you were also going to get information on Greek mythology, did you? Surprise. Remember the name Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. There will be a quiz later. In the meantime, enjoy the journey!

Several More Ways To Taste Wines At A Reasonable Cost

This ‘Wine Bits’ post was written by ‘Dad’ Wolfe for Two Dancing Buckeyes.

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In addition to winery visits, wine bars and wine festivals, there are a number of other ways to enjoy a wide range of wine tasting at a reasonable price.

Many larger grocery stores which sell wine, and usually have reasonably good wine selections, will have tastings, usually to promote a particular wine of the week.  The cost is ordinarily nominal.  Good opportunity and it helps make the grocery shopping trip a bit more enjoyable.  Likewise, wine stores will frequently schedule wine tastings, perhaps once a week or once a month, most often on a Friday or Saturday.  Cost may vary (I have seen them anywhere from $5.00 to $20.00), but these are good opportunities to many times taste some higher end wines.

Another way to taste a wide variety of wines is to get together a group of like-minded people (i.e. those who are interested in tasting wine) and have a wine tasting party.  Ask each guest to bring a bottle of his or her favorite wine or an unfamiliar wine that the guest has been wanting to try.  Open them all and let everyone taste.  A few appetizers and you have a great theme party.  You can vary this idea by specifying a certain area of the world from time to time.

Wine clubs (mail order wines) are a way to broaden your tasting experiences, although this will involve a bit more expense and full bottles of wines.  I have participated in several and have been satisfied with them.  There are a number out there.  Scrutinize them carefully and find one that fits your desires, if this is something you want to try.  Be sure that you can select the general categories (white, red or mixed) that you receive, that you can determine the frequency of deliveries and that you can quit at any time.  I had a bad bottle only once and with a phone call it was quickly replaced, no questions asked.  Continue the journey and enjoy.

Wine Bits: Broadening Your Tasting Experience

This ‘Wine Bits’ post was written by ‘Dad’ Wolfe for Two Dancing Buckeyes.

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How do you try different wines, especially ones with which you may be totally unfamiliar, without the risk of getting something you don’t like and spending a lot of money in the search?  I’m going to tell you about three ways, which are great for the experienced wine-drinker, as well as the novice.

First of all, visits to wineries are a good way to taste a variety of wines.  Winery visits can be very interesting experiences.  Wineries vary greatly from very simple to very elaborate, so keep an open mind.  Most will offer small tastings at a very nominal price.  If you taste something you like, make a note of it and buy a bottle, if you wish.  Many wineries will offer light snacks to full meals.  Many also have gift stores which enable you to become more familiar with the range of wine supplies that are available.  Sometimes, the winery will have a pre-set group of tastings (usually 4 to 6), known as a flight, often three whites and three reds.  This is a very good way to experience a range of wines.  The only drawback is that all the wines are from the same winery.  The solution is to visit other wineries.  Sometimes an area or state wine association will sponsor the visiting of a number of wineries, within reasonable proximity to each other.  This is sometimes referred to as a “wine trail.”  The trails usually have a theme and involve appetizers, tastings and a gift at each winery, for a blanket price.  I have done such trails several times and have found them to be very enjoyable and reasonably priced (eg. $45.00 per couple to visit fourteen wineries over two, two-day weekends).  This way I become aware of what the wineries have to offer and have found a number that I wish to visit again, such as for dinner and musical entertainment.  A great way to spend a day.

A similar way to expand your tasting experience at a reasonable price is visiting wine bars, if you are fortunate enough to have any in your area.  I recently visited one, nearby, and found it very enjoyable.  It had a nice atmosphere, offered some excellent appetizer plates for a reasonable price and had several different six-wine flights on the menu.  The great feature of this is that the flights are planned to fit together in general categories and include wines from different wineries all around the world.  I tried the “South American” tour and discovered a wonderful malbec.  I bought a bottle to take home and it was sold at retail price, not the higher restaurant price, and cost only $10.00.  I must get more of it.  This is the kind of wine that I refer to as a good value—it tastes good and the price is good.  The wine was Trivento Reserve Malbec.  It is described as a powerful mix of typical red fruits like plum and cherry with vanilla hints from the oak. It is from the Mendoza region of Argentina.  Some excellent wines are produced in South America, and this is just one example.

A third way to taste a wide variety of wines are wine festivals.  These events are usually in the nature of a one or two day activity, including a variety of wineries and often food and entertainment.  Most times, for a set admission price for the day, you may avail yourself of numerous tastings.  If you want to relax with some food and enjoy the entertainment, you can purchase of glass of a wine that you may particularly like.

These are several ways to taste a wide variety of wines at a reasonable price.  Enjoy the journey.

A Fortuitous Wine Find

I recently visited a restaurant which was new to me.  The restaurant did not appear to be particularly “fancy” or “up-scale,” but was very pleasant and, reportedly, served good food.  Upon asking for a wine list, I found it not to be particularly extensive, but it did have several wines that caught my eye, including a couple with which I was completely unfamiliar.  My dining partner and I decided upon chicken marsala and beef tenderloin as our entrees and shared both with each other.  The soup of the day was a crab chowder, which we both ordered.  Thus, we were having seafood, chicken and beef.  Having chosen our food, the more challenging task was to select a wine that would be compatible with the wide variety of food.  I noticed a wine, the type of which was totally unknown to me, but the description sounded very appealing, and it appeared to be a wine that would be suitable for both entrees.  And, it was reasonably priced ($42.00).  I usually avoid experimenting with new wines in restaurants, unless highly recommended by the sommelier or wine steward, but this wine turned out to be a delightful surprise.  It was an Aglianico (a what?).  Aglianico is the type or grape varietal.  It is a red wine.

Aglianico may be of some interest to our Dancing Buckeyes, as they have connections to Greece and Italy through their spouses.  The Aglianico wine originated in Greece and is believed to have been brought to southern Italy by Greek settlers.  It is not prevalent, but is found in southern Italy, Australia and California.  This Aglianico was produced by Amador Foothills Winery, in the Shenandoah Valley, Plymouth, California.  The bottle label described the wine as “southern Italy’s most prestigious native grape” and said it “is thriving in our estate vineyard.”  It further said “this wine displays intense ruby color, spicy aromas and concentrated boysenberry flavors.”  I agree with this statement, particularly as to the color and aromas.  It further described it as “great with grilled lamb, pizza or robust and spicy Italian dishes.”  This was enough versatility for me, and it turned out to be great, also, with crab chowder, chicken marsala and beef tenderloin.  By the way, the food was excellent, as well.  Remember, a wine should not over-power the food, nor should the food over-power the wine.  In this instance, the food and wine worked very well with each other.  The wine was very easy to drink from the outset, was full-bodied (but not too powerful or overwhelming) and had a nice, graceful finish (mouth-feel).  I was very pleased to discover this wine and heartily recommend that you try it if you have the opportunity.  Of this vintage (2007), Amador only produced 203 cases (i.e. 2436 bottles), so happy hunting.  Ask your favorite wine merchant to check with distributors to see if it can be ordered or contact the winery directly.  But, as always, enjoy the adventure.

A Particular Wine Will Not Necessarily Be Exactly The Same Year After Year

If a certain winery makes the same kind of wine year in and year out, shouldn’t it taste the same each year? The answer is “not necessarily.” If the same type of grapes, grown in the same area, are used, and the same process to make the wine is used, perhaps even by the same wine maker, the end result should be pretty much the same from year to year—especially for larger producers. However, there are many factors which can influence a particular “vintage” (the harvest and resulting wine of a particular year). Such factors include, but are not limited to, amount of rainfall, when the rains occurred, heat and dryness, nighttime temperatures, plant diseases, pruning methods, harvesting, barreling, fermentation, alcohol content, aging in the bottle, etc.

One must marvel at the final product when one considers all that goes into putting wine in a bottle and onto your table. Likewise, it can be an economic mystery of sorts when you see a bottle of wine on the store shelves for even $8.99 (sometimes half as much) and think about the fact that the grapes had to be grown and harvested, the wine made, barreled and bottled, labels produced,  the product shipped, and that a profit can still be made, especially when you think that wines come from all over the world, literally. Certainly, many wines are more expensive, likewise, for a lot of reasons. However, back to the question ‘du jour”—why will the same wine vary from year to year?

I have previously mentioned Pomum Cellars and listed the percentages of grape varieties in its Bordeaux-style blend called Shya Red for the 2004 vintage. To recap: it was 51% cabernet sauvignon, 32% merlot, 11% cabernet franc, 4% malbec and 2% petit verdot. The alcohol content was 13.7% and most, if not all, of the grapes came from the Columbia Valley AVA. 2280 bottles were produced. Let’s compare that with the 2006 and 2007 vintages, 2007 being the current vintage. 2006—45% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot, 22% cabernet franc, 2% malbec and 1% petit verdot; Yakima Valley AVA; 14.7% alcohol, 3720 bottles produced. 2007—47% cabernet sauvignon, 28 % merlot, 13% cabernet franc, 5% malbec and 7% petit verdot; Yakima Valley AVA; 14.7% alcohol and 5880 bottles produced. Notice that from 2004 through 2007, the grape varieties have remained the same, but the percentages used have varied slightly. There is some difference in alcohol content and grape growing location and production has gone up each year. The latter point tells us that this winery is becoming better known and its wines are growing in popularity.  To get specific information about a particular winery, you should look for its website. Most wineries have websites and provide detailed information about their wines, including prices.

Along the same line, if you like a particular variety of wine, will all wines of that type taste the same? Absolutely not; sometimes not even close. Well, come on, man—a chardonnay is a chardonnay is a chardonnay. Not so. When talking with a new wine drinker, I always caution the person to be prepared to taste some wines which he or she may not like, but not to let that deter one from continuing with the tasting journey. Wines vary—from type to type, from winery to winery and from vintage to vintage. You have to find the ones that consistently please you more than others. Just because the same type of grapes are used, there may be great differences in the end products. Such factors include the items mentioned above, as well as the terroir (soil conditions), growing regions, barreling (oak-what kind?; stainless steel, how long), and differences in the wine-making technique. Several years ago, I found that I didn’t care for chardonnay as much as I used to because I found it too buttery and too oaky. Just about that time, a number of wine-makers were shifting to stainless steel barreling, causing the wine to be much less oaky, and, to me, more pleasing. If, on the other hand, you prefer the buttery and oaky flavor, there are still plenty of chardonnays made that way. It’s all about finding what suits your individual preferences. It’s a continuing process. Enjoy the journey!