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In Harmony – Pasta and Harmony Cellars Zinfandel

Harmony Cellars 2008 Zinfandel

Harmony Cellars 2008 Zinfandel

Paso Robles has been getting a lot of attention for it’s wines of late. When Saxum won Wine Spectator 2010 Wine Of the Year, Rhone varietals such as marsasnne, roussane, and of course syrah from the Paso Robles area became highly sought after. During a recent press trip to Paso, I tasted many great Rhone varietal wines from Paso Robles wineries such as Tablas Creek and Denner. However, as Paso Robles is also well known for it’s zinfandel wines, I had to sip a few of them. I was fortunate to have a sample bottle sent home to review of one of those zinfandel wines from Harmony Cellars.

The View Outside of Harmony Cellars Tasting Room

The View Outside of Harmony Cellars Tasting Room

A small, family-owned winery, Harmony produces about 6,500 cases of various wines each year. Owners Chuck and Kim Mulligan founded the winery in 1989, and winemaker Chuck Mulligan still does most of the work himself. The winery sits on a plot of land that has been in Kim’s family for four generations, and Kim’s great grandfather, Giacomo Barloggio used to make homemade wine in his basement.

Though I don’t know for sure, I will assume based on his name that great-grandpa Giacomo Barloggio was Italian. Perhaps that’s why the Harmony Cellars 2008 Zinfandel is a perfect pasta wine. I’ve been making a simple bolognese sauce for the past six years, and always love pairing it with different red wines to see what works well. I’m positive that the Harmony Cellars Zinfandel is my favorite pairing so far. With a price of $19 for the wine, it makes an for inexpensive pasta meal for two.

Harmony - Pasta and Zinfandel

Harmony – Pasta and Zinfandel

On it’s own, the Harmony Cellars Zinfandel was big and jammy, with plenty of dark cherry, blackberry and a little chocolate note. There’s also a good bit of spice, black pepper and cinnamon on the palate. The wine paired perfectly with the pasta bolognese, enhancing the dark chocolate notes while maintaining a good balance of dark fruit and spice.

Pasta isn’t the only food this wine will pair well with. Zinfnadel works great with almost anything you’d cook on the grill. With Father’s Day coming up, Dad will love putting some burgers and dogs on the grill, and pairing them with a glass of Harmony Cellars Zinfandel. If BBQ ribs are your thing, then zinfandel is for you! I love the combination of a great zinfandel and BBQ ribs, and Dad will too!

Sipping something Un4Seen

Un4Seen Red Blend

Un4Seen Red Blend

Sometimes the adage “You get what you pay for” doesn’t necessarily hold true. Sometimes, you get less, but every now and then, you get more. That was the case with a sample of Un4Seen Red Wine I received recently. And while I didn’t actually spend the $10, I’d do so in a second!

With it’s hokey little name and it’s cute little label, I really didn’t expect much from this wine. However, what was in the bottle really impressed me, especially since I hadn’t heard of the ‘new’ winery from Lodi, or the people making it. I did a little research, however, and found out who I think is behind the wine. The folks at Lange Twins winery. I mean, can it be a coincidence that the 2008 vintage was done by Chief Winemaker David Akiyoshi and the 2009 vintage by winemaker Karen Birmingham, both part of the Lange Twins Team? Anyway, I digress.

What strikes you first about the wine is the blend of grapes used to make it. Clearly listed in red on the label, Un4seen is a blend of Zinfandel, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot, not necessarily four grapes you’d expect to find in one bottle. The grapes all come from Lodi and Clarksburg, California. The 2009 vintage sees the four different grapes fermented separately, then blended to create the wine in the bottle. Each of the grapes can stand on it’s own, and what happened when they came together was interesting.

Right out of the bottle, with no air, there were restrained red cherries with some leather on the nose. The palate is a dark red fruit, cherries and maybe raspberries. There’s an earthy element and light leather as well, with a slight tart finish, but I enjoy it. The tannins are soft, and it’s an easy drinking wine with some decent complexity. However, after 30 or so minutes, and pairing with a perfectly grilled steak, this wine began to shine.

Suddenly, adding some beef to the equation allowed really nice fruit comes out of the glass. The notes from the wine vacillated back and forth, with a very fruit forward stance with a midpalate of black pepper. The Zinfandel definitely takes center state, with tremendous ripe, red berries. However, the mid palate and finish shows the malbec and merlot, with an earthy finish. From sip to sip, those flavors would show themselves, each battling for center stage, but in a fun, playful way.

For $10, I didn’t expect this wine to rock my socks off. However, it definitely brought some more to the table, or wine glass, than I expected. Worth the money, and then some. Throw a nice steak at it, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good $10 can taste.

What is your favorite $10 and under wine?

Drink Ribera Grand Tasting 2011 – Miami

Ribera Del Duero

Ribera Del Duero

It’s difficult to get a taste of a wine region from one, or even two different wines from that area. Luckily, the folks at Drink Ribera are hosting Grand Tastings across the country, giving you an opportunity to taste almost 100 different wines from Ribera Del Duero. I had the opportunity to attend the launch in Miami, and am glad I did.

Focused mainly on the tempranillo grape, the tiny wine region of Ribera del Duero has approximately 120 km2 of vineyards, which could fit 16 times in California’s 1,942 km2 planted area. However, the rich wine making history, going back 2,000 years as evidenced by a recently unearthed mosaic of Baccus, has a lot to offer. Recent history of Ribera del Duero wineries begins in 1848, with the purchase of the land that is now Vega Sicilia winery.

Prior to the start of the Grand Tasting, several of the attendees began with a VIP tasting of Vega Sicilia wines, both the Valbuena as well as the Unico, their premier wine. Before the tasting, we learned about the history of Ribera del Duero, including going through the 1800s and the addition of the French and Bordeaux influence to the area. We discussed the consistent quality of wines from Ribera, independent of location and proximity to the river Duero. We went over recent vintages and their “grading”, such as 2006 being a good vintage, 2007 and 2008 being very good vintages and 2009 being excellent. These grades are a function of weather and growing conditions being such that the grapes show their fullest potential to make excellent wines.

Vega Sicilia Valbeuna

Vega Sicilia Valbeuna

When we got to discussing Vega Sicilia, we learned a lot about their selective nature. They do not bottle all of the juice their grapes produce, sending some to distillation to brandy, rather than destined for quality wine. They feel that vines are at their peak of productivity between 10 and 60 years, and do not use the vines after they reach 60.  The Valbuena wines are from vines between 10 and 35 years old, while the Unico is made from vines between 35 and 60 years. The wines go through malolactic fermentation and then rest for a year in the oak vats. The Valbuena wines are then aged for three and a half years in smaller oak casks, while the Unico are aged seven years.

However, the selective nature of Vega Sicilia goes beyond a prolonged aging process. They carefully monitor the wines, particularly the Unico, before they are released. As an example, the 1970 vintage Unico was released in 1995, after spending 15 years in oak, and 10 additional years in the bottle.  Additionally, there are vintages, many, that have been skipped as the winery did not feel the grapes produced a wine worthy of the Vega Silica name.

Tasting Vega Sicilia Wines

Tasting Vega Sicilia Wines

Tasting the 2005 Vila Sicilia Valbuena, which retails for approximately $150 shows a youthful wine. Made of 80% tempranillo and 20% mostly merlot and a little  cabernet sauvignon, the nose offers leather and meat with fine baking spices. The palate offers ripe but dark fruit, with a long finish of leather and white pepper. By contrast, the 2000 Vila Sicilia Unico, which retails for approximately $350, has a nose that was 100% spice and earth focused, with little fruit. The palate was a fantastic leather and spice with an exceedingly long finish. I likened it to siting in a well appointed leather chair smoking a fine cigar. The Unico is 80% tempranillo and 20% mostly cabernet sauvignon with some merlot as well.

After starting off on a high note, I was excited to taste through as many of the wines from Ribera del Duero as I could. I found some very nice wines from the region, and have quite a few pages of tasting notes which I’ll share in the near future. However, what I took away from the grand tasting was not the notes on the 42 of 100 wines I tasted that day. I don’t need to recount the flavor profile of each wine. What I took away, what I loved about this tasting, was meeting Vicente Penalba from Finca Torremilanos and learning about his family run winery, and tasting the passion in each glass. In a future article, I’ll discuss the wines I tasted, but also the passion and excitement with which Vicente discussed them with me.  It was his passion that made me excited about Ribera del Duero wines.

Pairing wine with Easter and Passover meals

wine to pair with easter or passover dinner

Happy Holiday

Easter and Passover are on their way, and that means family will be getting together to celebrate the holidays. Whether your family has a tried and true menu, or likes to change it up year after year, having the right wine on the table makes everything better. Recently, I brought four wines to the CBS12 WPEC station as recommendations for your holiday celebrations.

The segment starts with two kosher for Passover wines. There is not a tremendous difference between kosher wine and non kosher wine. In general, because kosher wine is used in the Sabbath blessing, as well as holidays, it can only be handled by Sabbath observant Jews. Additionally, no animal products can be used in the winemaking process, such as gelatin or egg whites to fine the wine (remove particulates). The difference in Kosher for Passover versus Kosher wine is that they make sure no grain yeasts are used, since during Passover Jews do not eat any grains (no bread, for example). That’s it, otherwise, it’s fermented grape juice, just like any other wine. I’ve discussed kosher Chardonnay previously, and compared to a non-kosher chardonnay.


Click above to watch Matthew Horbund talk Kosher for Passover and Easter wines on CBS12 WPEC

The first wine in the TV segment above was Hagafen 2008 Chardonnay from the Oak Knoll District of Napa, California. This wine retails for $20, and is a nice Napa Valley chardonnay at this price. Irit and Ernie Weir founded the winery in 1979 with their inaugural vintage in 1980. With a total production of only 8,000 cases annually, they produce small batches of various wines including merlot, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, chardonnay, and riesling. Their wines are well made, and for this segment I tasted the merlot, cabernet and chardonnay. I selected the chardonnay as I thought it offered a nice rich and full mouth feel, having good pear fruit with the toasty spice from the oak aging. This wine sees malolactic fermentation, which gives it that rich mouth feel, often associated with a buttery quality, and a little oak which gives it the buttery taste, as well as a little spice. This wine will pair well with the appetizers, as well as any lighter fare served at the Seder such as chicken. For the record, the name is pronounced Ha-Ga-Fen, not Hag-a-fen as I said in the above TV spot. Clearly, my Hebrew needs as much work as my French and Italian. In the Hebrew prayer over grape juice or grape wine, the ending words “p’ri hagafen” translates to Fruit of the Vine.

Hagafen 2008 Chardonnay perfect for Passover Seder

Hagafen 2008 Chardonnay

For a red wine option, I selected the Baron Herzog 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Central Coast, California. The Herzog family has a long history of wine making, dating back to Philip Herzog making wine for the Austro-Hungary court more than 100 years ago. Emperor Franz Josef enjoyed the wines so much, he made Philip a Baron! During World War II, Philips grandson Eugene hid the family from the Nazis by moving them around the Slovenian countryside, and at the end of the war came out from a false wall in a friends shed to reclaim his family’s winery. Three years later they were driven from their home, and in 1948 arrived in New York. Eugene toiled in a small store front making kosher wine from Concord grapes, and instead of being paid for some of his work, was given shares in the company. All of the other owners eventually gave up their shares, and  in 1958 he became the sole shareholder. They renamed the company Royal Wines in deference to grandfather Philip, and turned the company into a success. They moved out to California, expanding in 1985, with a focus on making high end quality wine under two labels, Baron Herzog and Herzog Wine cellars.

baron herzog cabernet sauvignon for passover seder

Baron Herzog cabernet sauvignon

The Baron Herzog 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is made mostly from grapes sourced from the Paso Robles wine region. It’s aged 18 months in stainless steel, which helps retain the fruit notes. The nose of the wine has bright raspberry and red fruits, which soften as it opens up. This is a very California wine, showing more fruit than earthy or leathery notes. While a tad dry and mild tannins, the round fresh fruit translates from the nose to the palate. It will pair nicely with your Passover Seder meal, whether that includes brisket, lamb shank, or some other roasted dish. For $13, it’s a nice California Cabernet, Kosher for Passover or not.

There were plenty of other Kosher for Passover wines I could have selected. I tasted the Ben Ami Chardonnay and Merlot, and while both were a bit on the lighter and easy drinking side, they’d make a fine showing at your Passover dinner. I also tried the Hagafen Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, which showed a bit more earthy and leather notes on the palate than the Baron Herzog. Any would make a fine showing at your meal. While selecting a Kosher for Passover wine requires a little work, visiting Total Wine will help make that work a bit easier. They’ve got a tremendous selection of Kosher wines, including other US made wines as well as Israel made wines. They’ve also plenty of wines to select for Easter. Selecting a wine for Easter isn’t as restrictive as Passover, so the field is wide open. For Easter, I selected two Argentinian wines for the TV segment, and think for the price, they offer great quality, though they aren’t Kosher for Passover.

Don David Torrontes a great white wine for Easter

Don David Torrontes

With about 1,500 acres of vineyards  5,500 feet above sea level, the Michel Torino Estate is a key player in the Cafayate Valley of Argentina. The winery was founded in 1892 by brothers Salvador and David Michel, and they produce a wide variety of wines from a malbec rose to cabernet sauvignion to pinot noir and more. In the TV segment, select the Don David Torrontes Reserve 2009 as a great white wine for Easter, and for $16, it’s great any time. The nose of this wine is absolutely beautiful, with soft white flowers and a slight melon note.  The palate shows some citrus and melon, and is light and quite delicious. It will pair well with chicken, sea food and shellfish, and as I mention in the segment, Thai food.

Don David Malbec perfect for your easter meal

Don David Malbec

As a red wine for Easter, I believe the Don David Mabec Reseve 2008 will be a fantastic wine selection. Malbec is a versatile wine, and it pairs well with beef or lamb prepared almost any way, as well as ham, which covers most of the meats at traditional Easter meals. Without any decanting this wine has a palate of simple red fruit, with restrained earthy notes. As it opens, the palate is powerful fruit of red cherries and a little chocolate, and shows definitely a bit more new world with it’s round flavor profile. The more this wine opens, the more dark the fruit gets, and the more complexities come out. With a price of about $15, it’s not only worth making an appearance on your Easter table, it may be the best value wine you can get for the holiday!

Of course, everyone is looking for the best wine for Easter, and Passover, and I’ve given just a few selections here. I’ll come back in a few days to offer some more Easter wine pairings, but I’d love to hear what you plan on serving this holiday season. Easter or Passover, what’s in your glass?

What is a Rhone wine – WBW71 post

Wine Blogging Wednesday 71

Wine Blogging Wednesday 71

One of the issues many new to the wine world face is learning the grapes certain wines are made with. This is more an issue with old world wines, such as Italy and France, though it can be an issue in the US as well. For example, when I tackled today’s Wine Blogging Wednesday post, Rhone not from Rhone , I had to first recall exactly which grapes make up Rhone wines. The main ones are GSM, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, if you weren’t sure. However, there’s a great supporting cast of cinsault, petit sirah, viognier, roussanne and marsanne. For today’s WBW post I selected a Paso Robles cuvee, or a blend, of Rhone varietals and am excited to tell you about it.

By way of background, Lenn “Devours” Thompson started an initiative to corral wine bloggers, getting them focused on the same topic once a month, called Wine Blogging Wednesday. Each month a different blogger would come up with a topic, and we’d all write about it. I didn’t join the fray until 2008, years after WBW was in motion. However, it’s a great way to get different perspectives on the same topic. It shows that even the experts see grapes differently.  Today’s topic is Rhone Wines not from Rhone, brought to us by Tim Elliot of Winecast.

As I mentioned, wines made in the Rhone style include Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes. I could have selected a Grenache from Spain, or a Syrah from California for this article, however I’ve wanted to write about my dinner and interview with Austin Hope of Hope Family Wines and thought tasting his Liberty School Cuvee was the perfect opportunity. I’ll first cover the wine, then a little about Austin and dinner.

Liberty School Cuvee 2007

Liberty School Cuvee 2007

The folks at Liberty School believe that the Central Coast of California is perfect for Rhone varietals. If their 2007 Cuvee is any indication, I say they’re right. A cuvee is a blend, and this wine is a blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Viognier. I’ve often said that I’m not a fan of Syrah from California, as it comes in big and jammy, and I prefer the more restrained, earthy Syrah from France. However, at 13.5% ABV the Liberty School Cuvee is not a big wine, and it’s anything but jammy.

I taste the wine at three intervals, right after opened, after 10 minutes of air, and after 30 minutes of air. While it definitely opened and changed, it was fairly consistent throughout. The wine was a dark inky purple, and the cork bottom was almost black. At first, the nose had a very meaty bouquet, with a note of cocoa and spices. It had a great lush mouthfeel, and after 10-30 minutes there were dark berries balanced with some earth and nice leather notes on the palate. When I say leather, I could envision a well polished leather chair in a stately mansion, regal and sophisticated. The wine was definitely dry, though not tannic very tannic. Towards the end I started to taste secondary notes on the finish of spiced cherry pie and smoke, with a finish that lingered. I grabbed this wine at the grocery for $15, and it’s definitely a wine to try. We paired this wine with hamburgers, though we could have thrown a variety of grilled, roasted or smoked meats it it successfully.

What I enjoyed most about the wine was how it captured the essence of old world Rhone wines, with a touch of new world finesse and approachability. I’ve planned on tasting some more Hope family Wines and Libery School Cuvee against some Rhone wines in the near future and compare and contrast. I had taste several Paul Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage a few weeks back, and while they cost a bit more, I’m interested in the taste profiles as a comparison. I’ll be sure to let you know.  I’ll also let you know more about Paso Robles, home of Liberty School and Hope Family wines, as I’m visiting the area next week.

I hope to catch up with Austin Hope again when in Paso. He’s a great guy. very dynamic, and passionate about wine and all that it entails. My interview of Austin turned more into a dinner with a great guy, as the restaurant was too noisy to record our conversation, and we talked too quickly and about too many topics to take notes of any quality. We did, however, cover a few topics that I thought were quite interesting, such as multi-vintage wines and box wine, as well as a hot project that make change the way you look at Paso in the future.

Austin feels that the concept of multi-vintage wines needs to be looked at a bit more closely. He maintains that by using wines of different vintages, winemakers will be able to capture the youth and expressiveness of younger vintages, with the maturity and complexity of older vintages. He believes by doing this, wines will be more approachable upon release, and offer more than any young release wine can. I’m excited to see what he does with this concept. Austin also believes that he can put out a box wine of sufficient quality to carry a Hope Family Wines name. Expect a spring or summer 2011 release of his box, and I will definitely get my hands on it. I expect it to be a very approachable and affordable wine.

As for the last project, well, that one I can’t talk about yet. However, when Austin told me about it, I found myself secretly rooting for him to succeed. We’ll see soon!

Have you tried a Rhone style wine, whether from France, California or elsewhere? Let me know what you thought!

 

St Patrick’s Day – It’s not just for beer anymore

Irish Clover for St Patrick's Day

Happy St Patrick’s Day

Though St. Patrick’s Day is a religious celebration, enjoying a drink has long been a part of that celebration. And while it’s customary to have a beer or cocktail on St Patrick’s Day, enjoying a glass of wine is certainly an option. To put together a food and wine pairing piece,  I asked an Irish friend what she would eat on St Patrick’s Day. With Irish Eyes Smiling, she said “Mum would fix corned beef and cabbage, Irish lamb stew, and bread pudding.” I took Mum’s menu, and went to pairing wines perfect for Irish food and St Patrick’s Day.

Since I didn’t have Mum here to cook for me, and I was short on time to create the dishes myself, I went over to Oshea’s Irish Pub on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach. It’s been recommended for it’s food before, and it’s  menu was just what I was looking for. I picked up two main dishes, as they didn’t have bread pudding, and scurried home.  The food was still hot when we plated it, which wasn’t surprising since I live only 2 miles away. We started with the corned beef and cabbage.

Corned Beef and Cabbage for St Patrick's Day

Corned Beef and Cabbage for St Patrick’s Day

Valckenberg Madonna Riesling Kabinett 2009

Valckenberg Madonna Riesling Kabinett 2009

The briny flavors of the corned beef and cabbage worked very nicely with the German wine I selected. I wanted one with a little sweetness, and the Valckenberg Madonna Kabinett 2009 was perfect. From the Rheinhessen, the largest German wine region in both area and production, the Madonna is a blend of the grapes riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Silvaner and Kerner.  The bouquet on the Valckenberg Madonna  initially was tight, though it opened to a sweet, fruity bouquet. The palate was delicious ripe honeydew melon, with just a touch of acidity. The wine paired perfectly with the corned beef and cabbage, and for about $12.00 it’s a nice value.

Your St Patrick’s Day party may not consist of corned beef and cabbage. Or, white wine may not be your preference, and you’d like an alternative idea for your festival. I’d highly recommend finding a recipe for Irish Lamb Stew, or a Irish Beef Stew if you prefer. And then I’d recommend pairing it with a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon.

Irish Beef Stew from OSheas for St Patrick's Day

Irish Beef Stew from OSheas for St Patrick’s Day

Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Frank Family Vineyards has a history dating back to 1884 in Napa Valley, California. They produce a wide variety of wines, from Zinfandel to a Sparkling Rouge, and their Cabernet Sauvignon. The Frank Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 is a big Napa Cab. Right out of the bottle, the nose of the Frank Family Cabernet was tart cherries with notes of spice and leather. The palate was silky, with nice fruit and firm tannins, showing the tart cherry all over the palate. After about about 30 minutes decanting, the nose is more a stewed cherry and baking spice, with blackberry and bramble notes.  The palate was a full, rich red berry with warming spice. There was a green note as well, such as bell pepper, but it was a undercurrent and not a prominent taste.

However, the wine really shined when it was paired with food. With each bite of the stew, the wine took on this soft, silky approach and gained complexity. The fruit was less tart, and took on a black cherry note with cocoa flavors and warm baking spice. The wine spends 24 months in french oak, about 35% new, the remainder 1 and 2 years old. The oak is well integrated, though the tannin is firm as I said. You can order the wine from the Frank Family website as well as select stores, and it comes in at $45 from the winery, though you can find it for less shopping online.

If you want to skip the main course and head right to dessert, I have some great options for you. Rich and heavy, bread pudding is not only perfect St Patrick’s Day dessert, it’s delicious. It can be served hot, or cold, and with any number of toppings from whipped cream to a bourbon sauce. We served it cold, and paired it with an Italian white wine that can only be described as beautiful. The Saracco Moscao d’Asti is an amazing wine on it’s own, and really harmonized with the bread pudding.

Bread Pudding for dessert on St Patrick's Day

Bread Pudding for dessert on St Patrick’s Day

Saracco Moscato d'Asti

Saracco Moscato d’Asti

Moscato is all the rage now, being one of the trendy wines that people ask for in restaurants, clubs, and of course, wine shops. I don’t reach for Moscato often, as many expressions are just a bit too sweet and syrupy for me. However, the Saracco Moscato d’Asti is fantastic. The wine in the glass is a beautiful light yellow hue, and you’ll immediately notice it’s slightly frizzanti, or sparkling.  The nose is a wonderful white floral and peach bouquet, and it’s just gorgeous. The palate opens up with a sweet floral and apricot or peach note, and I can only describe it as delicious, refreshing, and sweet without being sugary. You can find it for around $16, and it’s worth buying! I’d serve this alone as an aperitif, or with dessert, or to sip on during a lovely evening with friends.

I’d love to hear how you celebrate St Patrick’s Day!

Getting to know Cigales – Museum Real Reserva – WBW70

wines spain has to offer

Map of Spain

The world of wine is vast, and anyone who tells you they know all about wine is lying or in denial. There is always something new to learn or experience. There is a grape you haven’t taste, or a producer and region you haven’t explored.  It’s easy to drink the wines we know we love, staying in our comfort zone. However, the risk of getting a bottle of wine that doesn’t agree with out palate should never outweigh the possibility of taking a new adventure. When Lenn “Devours” Thompson, with Gabriella and Ryan Opaz of Catavino, asked wine bloggers to take on WBW #70: Spain, it was time to taste something new or different.

While there are some 600 grapes grown in Spain, 80% of Spain’s wine production comes from only 20 of them, including Garnacha, Tempranillo and Albarino, as well as Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada, the three lesser known grapes that go into Cava, a sparkling wine from Spain. Tempranillo is the focus of Spain’s main wine producing regions Rioja and Ribera del Duero, and I’ve covered those areas in quite a few posts on the site. However, there is a lesser known area that is producing some fantastic Tempranillo which I recently discovered.

Musueum Real Reserva red wine from Spain

Musueum Real Reserva red wine from Spain

Cigales is a wine region just north of Ribera del Duero, with approximately 2,600 hectares planted in 37 vineyards. Cigales produces about 5 million liters of wine annually, compared to 60 million liters from the 20,500 hectares and 240 vineyards of Ribera del Duero. Founded in the late 1990s, Finca Museum estate is home to about 1200 acres, or about 560 hectares of vineyards in Cigales, nearly half that over 50 years-old. The wine is sourced from old vines from some of the highest hillside vineyards in the Pisuerga Valley of Cigales. These vines have extremely low yields, and along with their age produce a grape with concentrated flavors.

While the Museum Real Reserva 2004 Tempranillo was aged 24 months in new French oak, with the exception of some mild-to-medium tannin, it’s barely perceptible in the wine. This wine needs about 30 minutes to decant or aerate, and it will continue to evolve after that. The nose has a very earthy, cherry bouquet, and the palate is light and fruit focused. Dry and tannic, there are notes of rose petals and an earthiness that elude to a Barolo. There is a medium acidity on the finish, and it’s definitely a food friendly wine. We paired this with a chicken marsala dish, and the two were very complimentary.  For about $25, this is a wine that I’d say is on your must try list.

Osborne Pedro Ximenez Sweet Sherry

Osborne Pedro Ximenez Sweet Sherry

To finish the night, I opened a bottle of Sherry I’ve had in the closet for a few weeks. Sherry comes in many styles, from dry to sweet, and this bottle of Sweet Sherry was left over from a mushroom soup recipe I made in December. I can, and will devote an entire post or two to Sherry, however I’ll give you the quick and dirty of what was in the glass. A thick and heavy palate, there are sweet plums and raisins on the palate. After a short while, it opens into a warm, luxurious palate, with an everlasting finish. There are notes of walnuts and raisins that permeate the air and coat the palate. I’ve been told that aside from sipping on it’s own, a sweet sherry like the Osborne Pedro Ximenez goes well over vanilla ice cream.

I’ve only touched the surface on Spain, and this is the first Tempranillo from Cigales I’ve had. However, it’s markedly different from those I’ve had from Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Even the newer, more fruit focused Rioja wines are not as soft and elegant as the Museum Real Reserva was. They typically are much more earthy and tannic, though that may be their intended style. I intend on doing a little more tasting and comparing, and I’ll share with you in the future.  What else would you like to know about Spanish wines? I’d love to help make Spain more approachable, and your next wine adventure.

Valentine’s Day Wines Made Easy

Wine for a Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

Everyone likes options. While I tossed out a few great picks in my latest CBS Segment on Valentine’s Day and Superbowl Wines, some friends asked for a few more selections. Of course, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of perfect wines for the day of love. However, these are a few wines that I’ve sipped in the past few months that will work well for most of your Valentine’s Day needs.

Whether starting your night with a sparkling wine or pairing a Champagne with your meal, I’ve got three selections that I absolutely love. The first two are under $20 and widely available, and hail from the Alsace. Domaine Lucien Albrecht is one of the oldest leading Alsace family owned estates, tracing its roots back to 1425. The Albrecht Brut and Albrecht Brut Rose are two lovely sparklers from France, the Brut crisp with tart apples, the Brut Rose has notes of plums and tart cherries. Both of these sparklers make a great aperitif, and pair nicely with a cheese plate perhaps with goat cheese or Brie.

Lucien Albrecht 2009 Sparkling Gift Box

Lucien Albrecht 2009 Sparkling Gift Box

If you’d like a sparkler from Champagne, the Pol Roger Non-Vintage Brut White Foil is a great option. It cost approximately $40, and is delicious. Though a brut, meaning dry Champagne, I found the palate a little softer and fruit forward. It wasn’t as dry as perhaps the Pol Roger Pure Non-Vintage, another $40 option that is delicious. Again, perfect as an aperitif, and a beautiful pairing with fruit, cheeses, or even popcorn. Yes, popcorn! Champagne loves salty foods, so popcorn, potato chips and oysters are a natural pair. For those who’s French is as poor as mine, the name is pronounced pawl roh-ZHAY.

Pol Roger Non Vintage Brut White Foil

Pol Roger Non Vintage Brut White Foil

If you’re looking for a big, bold red wine for your evening of love, look no further than Mount Veder 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon or Trefethen Family 2004 Oak Knoll Cabernet Sauvignon.

A $40 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon that definitely is worth it’s price, Mount Veder Cabernet Sauvignon has a nose of black cherry and a medium palate with medium tannin. There is great fruit burst up front with nice complexities, including a little vanilla, a little cocoa, a little pepper and spice. I think it’s well balanced, and good on it’s own or with food. If you are looking to pair a red wine with your Valentine’s Day dinner of grilled or roast meats, whether it’s beef, veal, even pork, this wine will do the trick.

Mount Veder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

Mount Veder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

I’ve been in the Trefethen Family wine club since 2008, and love the surprises they send me every few months. I enjoy their regular Cabernet Sauvignon quite a bit, which retails for about $50. For a special occasion I open the Trefethehn Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, which for $100 is a very special wine. Whether pairing with prime rib, rack of lamb or sipping alone, the big bold tannin grabs you, and the delicious black cherry and spice keeps hold of you.

Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon

Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon

Zinfandel is for lovers, or at least I think so. It’s a warm, cozy wine, and it pairs well with anything from pasta to ribs to steak. Titus Napa Zinfandel will run you about $25, but it’s well worth it. Big and bold, like your love for your Valentine, there are fantastic flavors of ripe red berries, offset by huge pepper and spice on the finish. This wine needs some air to open up, though the second you pop the cork you will will instinctivly pour a glass and enjoy the powerful flavors this wine offers.

Titus Napa Zinfandel

Titus Napa Zinfandel

Not quite the powerhouse that Titus is, the Paso Creek 2007 Zinfandel is very round and approachable. Jammy berries, chocolate notes and even some caramel, this wine is a perfect sipper for under $20. Perfect alone, or with food, this wine will make your Valentine feel the love.

Paso Creek Zinfandel

Paso Creek Zinfandel

If you have questions about other wine options for Valentine’s Day, food and wine pairings, or anything in general, feel free to leave a comment below! I’d love to play cupid, minus the diaper!