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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!

Wine for Super Days – Valentine’s and Super Bowl

Intense battles will be won, or lost, in both love and football. With The Super Bowl today, and Valentine’s Day next week, having the right wine will help you be on the winning side for both special days. I visited CBS 12 WPEC this week to offer a few wine options to make sure you’re scoring on the big day. In the following clip, we’ll first talk about two Valentine’s Day selections, and then, two Super Bowl Sunday selections.

Biltmore Estate Pas de Deux Sparkling Wine for Valentine's Day

Biltmore Estate Pas de Deux Sparkling Wine for Valentine’s Day

The first wine is a delicious sparkling wine from Biltmore Estate in NC. A sweeter option, in the Sec style, this wine has a fruity nose of pears and dried apricots, and a fruit forward palate of ripe and fresh fruit. Almost as sweet as your Valentine, this option will be perfect as an aperitif before dinner, or with desserts such as fresh fruit, strawberry cheesecake, or even chocolate truffles. I’ll have an easy recipe for Chocolate truffles at the bottom of this post.

The Biltmore pas de Deux is made with 100% Muscat Canelli grapes, which are sourced from Monterey CA, Arroyo Seco AVA. It retails for around $19, and can be purchased from Biltmore Estate directly, or at your local wine shop.

J Vineyards Nicole Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008

J Vineyards Nicole Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008

Looking for a wine for your Valentine’s Day dinner, whether out at a fancy restaurant, or with a delicious home cooked meal? Look no further than J Vineyards Nicole’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008. Available at “White Tablecloth” restaurants nation wide, or direct purchased from their website, this $50 option is spectacular. The wine has soft and silky palate, with complex layers of fruit, chocolate, and light smokey notes. The winemaker suggests pairing with venison, bison burgers, wild pig or salmon. I paired it with a horseradish crusted brisket and it was fantastic. I’ll have a separate post in the coming days on this wine and the brisket itself.

Valserrano Crianza 2006 Rioja

Valserrano Crianza 2006 Rioja

When it’s time to pair your big, bold flavors at your Super Bowl party, you may want to look for Valserrano Crianza 2006 Rioja. Made from the Tempranillo grape, this old world style wine has a little new world flair to it. Crianza means the wine was aged for at least two years, with at least six months in oak. It will appeal to fans of dry wines, with earthy flavors of tobacco and leather, and a bit of red berry fruit as well. Perfect for roast dishes, whether a roast pig or a roast beef, this wine is definitely food friendly. It should also do pretty well with your chili or even wings at your party.  It cost about $15 at your local wine store, and is an interesting wine to try. It will appeal to fans of dry, earthy wines, Super Bowl game or not.

Sobon Estate Rocky Top Zinfandel

Sobon Estate Rocky Top Zinfandel

The final selection can be enjoyed on either special day, or any day. It’s Sobon Estate Rocky Top Zinfandel, and for about $16 it’s awesome. Their grapes are farmed organically, and wine megastore Total Wine often features Sobon Estate wines in their “Green and Earth Friendly” category of wines. It’s bouquet is somewhat floral, and the palate is pleasant ripe, round berries, dark plums and raisins. I love the backbone of spice this Zinfandel has, and it makes this wine perfect for everything you serve at your Super Bowl party. We enjoyed it with just burgers and grilled Italian sausage, but it’ll go nicely with everything from wings to chili to steaks and cheeses. Sobon Estates Rocky Top Zinfandel is available nation wide, and is part of a family of red wines I’ve recommend in the past.

If you’re even remotely coordinated in the kitchen, these chocolate truffles are easy to make, and delicious. I added just a small amount of ground cinnamon and loved the flavors. It worked nicely with the Biltmore Pas de Deux, but also worked lovely with the Sobon Estate Zinfandel. I’d love to hear your thoughts

Decadent Biltmore Truffles

Winemakers Suggestion: Enjoy with Biltmore Estate® Blanc de Blancs or Pas de Deux sparkling wines for a festive and decadent treat. 

Ingredients:

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
Cocoa powder or semi-sweet chocolate, as needed
Optional additions: 2-3 tablespoons liqueur, roasted chopped nuts, chopped dried fruit, toasted coconut, fruit jam, peanut butter, sweet potato, caramel topping, chopped toffee or cookie pieces, extracts or flavorings.

Method: To make the ganache, place chocolate into a bowl. Bring the cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Stir together until all is combined and chocolate is melted. Mix in any additions (see above for suggestions) to the ganache you desire. Let the ganache set and scoop into portions and place onto parchment or wax paper. Refrigerate for 10–15 minutes then take out and round into balls. Roll into cocoa powder or coat in semi-sweet chocolate and serve.

Makes about 20 truffles.

Quick Picks – Superbowl Wines

SuperbowlWith the Superbowl approaching, everyone’s planning their party snacks and drinks. There’ll be a lot of beer poured, and I’ll partake for sure. However, I’ll be visiting the good folks at CBS12 to talk about some nice wine selections for your Superbowl Party. I’ll post the entire segment as soon as possible, but here are the picks, plus a few more.

I’m a big fan of all of the foods that are served at Superbowl parties! From ribs and burgers, to hot wings and quesadillas. The foods are usually fleshy and flavorful, and need a big, bold wine to stand up to them. For me, zinfandel gets the call for the first string at these parties.

Sobon Estates Rocky Top Zinfandel Wine

Sobon Estates Rocky Top Zinfandel Wine

I’m a big fan of Sobon Wines, and have spoken about them before. The first-string call for Superbowl Sunday goes to Sobon Wines Rocky Top Zinfandel. At just $16, there’s no reason this wine shouldn’t show up at your party. Great fruit flavors, berries and nice spice, it works amazingly well with anything you toss on the grill. That means your beef sliders, your grilled chops, or your steaks will taste even better with this wine. It’s also big enough to stand up to grilled pork, like sausages. Toss some cheese and it catches it for a touchdown.  And those hot wings, they’ll just be hotter with this great wine. Give it a shot!

Titus Napa Zinfandel

Titus Napa Zinfandel

Other Zins in the first string line up include a favorite of mine, Titus Napa Zinfandel. Big and bold, this wine will fight for every yard at your game. It’ll work with the same foods, or on it’s own. It’s about $25, and worth every penny of that Superbowl salary. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the Titus brothers, and they are not only working the same farm their parents did, their kids are in the picture. It’s a family business, and one that tastes great!

Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel

Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel

Want another option for your Superbowl wine? Take a look at Ravenswood Zinfandel. There are a variety of levels, but the entry level Vintners Blend for $9 will kick your field goal. Fantastic for the price, I’ve served this with smoked ribs, steaks, and even prime rib. Yes, prime rib. You can find it at any grocery store or wine store, and you know you’ll get a great bottle of wine for the sub $10 price.

Not a fan of red wines. I’m a lover of Riesling for parties. I think it’s fruit forward flavors will go well with a bunch of things on the table. More importantly, I think it’s a great compliment to hot grilled chicken wings. There are some GREAT rieslings available, from New York, Washington, and of course Germany. If you cant find the Dr Loosen Dr L in the wings post, look for almost any other riesling, and let me know how it goes.

Short and sweet, I’d love to know what you’re drinking during Superbowl Sunday!

Pass the Pali Pinot

Pali Wine Company

Pali Wine Company

Don’t we all wish we could take what we are passionate about as a hobby, and turn it into a business? That’s just what entrepreneurs Tim Perr and Scott Knight did in 2005; they founded a winery that was focused on producing small lots of pinot noir that they loved to drink. Named Pali Wine Company, after their home town of Pacific Palisades, they set out to focus on producing wines that represent the areas in which the grapes are grown, as well as being varietally correct. I was sent samples of their Riviera Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast, CA and Alphabets Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, OR, and they’re doing something right.

I’ve written about pinot noir a few times, and I love the various expressions you’ll find. The red wine can show flavors that range from ripe fresh fruit of strawberries to earthy and organic, and everything in between.  It’s found in both the New World and Old World, and is quite a food friendly wine.  It can be found in nearly every wine growing region, including France, New Zealand, Chile and of course, the US.  Pinot Noir is often a red wine I recommend to people who are looking to dip a toe in the red wine world, as it’s often soft and approachable, and an enjoyable glass.

Pali Wine Co Riviera Pinot Noir

Pali Wine Co Riviera Pinot Noir

The Pali Wine Co Riviera Pinot Noir 2009 bears the Sonoma Coast appellation on the label. This means that the grapes are not sourced from any specific vineyard, but rather from one more more sources within the Sonoma Coast AVA. This allows Pali to change it’s suppliers, should the grapes not be up to standards from one or another vineyard. As soon as it was uncorked and poured, the nose was chocolate covered strawberries, with some spice notes as well.  The palate was light, and bursting with fruit. Round and easy to approach, there were cherry flavors, and were almost reminiscent of the cherry cough drops you’d eat by the pack, cough or not.  After airing for about thirty minutes, the palate was still quite similar. It was perhaps a bit heavier, and showed a bit of tannin I didn’t previously notice.

The tannin could be a function of  aging 10 months in barrels, 20% of which is new French oak. It didn’t have gripping tannins, but some where noticeable. The Riviera pinot noir is not an over the top fruit bomb, and not terribly high alcohol, clocking in at 14.5% ABV. However, it’s round, fruit forward profile made this an easy sipper. While certainly a round, California red, the Pali Riviera Pinot Noir will make a good food wine. The acidity isn’t racing, but it’s somewhat noticeable. I think it played nicely with a bit of grilled Italian sausage and hamburger, and wouldn’t hesitate to pair it with a variety of foods.

A quick hour flight north of Sonoma takes us to Oregon, where we visit the renown Willamette Valley wine country. I was indeed fortunate enough to visit Oregon in May 2010, and enjoy some fantastic Willamette Valley and Dundee Hills pinot noir, including J Christopher, Cameron, and Ponzi. Oregon produces some world class pinot noir, and has been compared to Burgundian pinot noir time and time again. Burgundy, of course, largely produces old world pinot noir, where the flavors are more earthy, organic, and less fruit driven. While not a RULE, it’s indeed the case that many of the wines I’ve been enjoying from Oregon are made in this old world style. I believe that the Pali Wine Co Alphabets 2009 Pinot Noir is indeed ones of these wines.

Pali Wine Co Alphabets Pinot Noir

Pali Wine Co Alphabets Pinot Noir

The nose of the Pali Wine Co Alphabets 2009 opens up as bright raspberry and strawberry, and is very intense. While also aged in 20% new French oak for 10 months, and made from pinot noir grapes, that’s where the similarities with the Riviera end. The palate, right out of the bottle without any air, is medium, with lighter fruit notes. With thirty minutes decanting, the nose is still strawberry, but a bit darker, if you can imagine that. The palate, however, is much darker, and the fruit as “blown off”, leaving a very earthy, organic flavor that is mushroom like. The terroir, or earth where the grapes were grown, really shows in this wine. It’s markedly different from its fruit forward, approachable cousin. While still easily enjoyed, the Alphabets seems a bit more of a food wine than the Riviera. It definitely liked the hamburger and Italian sausages I made on the grill, and even brought out some of the fruit when sipped after a bite.

What I enjoy most about these wines was the price. At $19 each, they’re an affordable way to sample two distinct styles of the same grape, and from the same wine company. You can order Pali Wines Pinot Noir online, or ask your local wine retailer to order them for you. If you have had them, or have them in the future, I’d love to know your thoughts.

Wine 101 – Introduction to Gamay

Gamay Grapes

Gamay Grapes

The Gamay grape has a history dating back to approximately 1360, and it is thought to have first appeared in the Village of Gamay, it’s namesake. It’s nearly synonymous with Beaujolais, the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) in which it is most abundantly produced. What does all that mean? Well, The short two minute video here tries to explain a little bit about the grape, the styles of wine you can expect from Gamay grapes, and the main geography it is produced in.

There are several regions, or appellations, of Beaujolais, and each produces a different style and quality of wine made from Gamay grapes. The Beaujolais AOC is considered the first quality tier, and is likely what you think of when you have Beaujolais Nouveau each November. Beaujolais wines are meant to drink soon after bottling, and are typically fruit forward and easy drinking. They also, perhaps, have a bad reputation of being too simple and barely a step up from sweetened fruit juice. While masterful marketing in the 1980s has made Beaujolais Nouveau a wine people anticipate each year, it has also perhaps hurt the reputation of a grape that could produce great wines.

The next step up in quality is Beaujolais-Villages (Vill-ah-zche). While the wines produced here are also meant to be consumed young, like Beaujolais, they typically have lower yields, or smaller crops, which in turn produce more intense grapes and a smaller amount of more intense wines. There is not, typically, a tremendous price difference between wines from Beaujolais vineyards versus Beaujolais-Villages, and trying wines from each area will help understand the differences and similarities.

Finally, there are the ten Cru Beaujolais regions, each with it’s own characteristics that are imparted upon the wine, and can be broken into three categories. The Cru’s that make the lightest style of wine includes Brouilly, the largest Cru, Regnie, which was upgraded from a Beajolais-Villages are in 1988, and Chiroubles. The Cru Beaujolais producing medium bodied wine, which some experts recommend at least a year of bottle aging before approaching, include Cote de Brouilly, Fleuire, and Saint-Amour. Finally, the four Cru’s that typically produce the fullest bodied wines are Chenas, Juliénas, Morgon, and Moulin-a-Vent.It’s difficult to summarize each of the Cru’s, so I’ll expand on them in future posts.

Now you have an opportunity to add your thoughts! While I mentioned cheeses like Munster, Emmental, and Brie, as well as chicken or turkey, I barely covered foods that pair well with Gamay, or Beaujolais. What are some of your favorite food and Gamay wine pairings? After watching the video and reading the post, leave a comment below. I’m curious your take on Gamay, Beaujolais, and related topics.

Some information about the Syrah grape

Shiraz Grapes

Shiraz Grapes

You may have read some of my recent articles and thought they were amazingly interesting, save one little thing. I have gone into great detail on what the wine taste like, where it came from, and how it was fermented, but I didn’t explain the grape itself. For all you knew I was talking about pickles from Mongolia turned into wine. Therefore, I’ll give you some basic information about the grapes in the wines I talk about, starting with Syrah.

A dark, almost black grape, with a thick skin, Syrah creates a wine that offers many expressions. It’s a grape that takes on the characteristics of the terroir, the earth that the grapes come from, and will be different depending on where it is grown. While more than half of the world’s Syrah vineyards are in France, the grape can be found in “new world” areas such as California, Washington, South Africa, and Australia.

Called Shiraz in Australia, the wine will typically have dark fruit flavors with an intense, peppery component when grown there. In contrast, Syrah you’ll find in California often can be round and fruit focused to jammy. French Syrah, used to make many Rhone wines from appellations such as Cote Rotie (pronounced Coat Row-tee) , Hermitage , and Chateauneuf de Pape, is often considered intense or strong when young, with great potential to age. These are of course generalizations, and the wine can have a very “old world” style while made in California, for example.

Syrah is a great food wine, and is definitely at home around a backyard BBQ. Paired with grilled meats, whether steaks, hamburger, sausage, or lamb, a nice Syrah from Washington will work well. Syrah (or Shiraz) can work well with other foods, such as pizza, game such as venison, boar, or pheasant, cheeses such as cheddar, aged Gouda, or Roquefort, and even duck or chicken if it’s grilled or barbecued.

Please feel free to add some comments below about Syrah or Shiraz!