Archives for 


Is Riesling Your Next Favorite Wine?

Sommelier Paul Grieco Talks German Riesling -

Sommelier Paul Grieco Talks German Riesling

Passion is contagious. When someone is passionate about a topic, they are often able to transfer that passion to you. You see how excited they are about the topic, and you get enthralled. You want to be that passionate about it. You want to be that passionate about ANYTHING. Paul Grieco, Partner and Sommelier of NYC’s Hearth restaurant and Terroir wine bars, is passionate about Riesling. And, if you have the chance to sip some with him, perhaps during the Riesling Road Trip, you may just become passionate about it too!

What is The Riesling Road Trip?

The Riesling Road Trip is a brilliant marketing idea from the PR team of Wines of Germany US. They travel up the East Coast, from Key West to NYC, stopping at various cities to meet and greet everyone and anyone who will take a moment to learn about Riesling!

The Riesling Roadtrip Mobile Wine Bar -

The Riesling Roadtrip Mobile Wine Bar

The schedule of Riesling Road Trip stops – is it coming to you?

  • Orlando, FL May 8th 2014
  • Savannah, GA May 9th
  • Charleston, SC May 10-11
  • Raleigh, NC May 12
  • Charlottesville, VA May 13
  • Baltimore, MD May 14
  • Washington, DC May 15
  • Berkeley Heights, NJ May 16th
  • New York City, NY May 19th

They’ve partnered with Paul Grieco, dubbed The Riesling Overlord, who is behind the Summer of Riesling! Short story long, Paul only served Riesling at his wine bar/restaurant for the 94 days of Summer 2008, and has continued the annual event, which caught on at over 200 restaurants. Paul is joined by Stuart Pigott, author of The Riesling Story, BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH, due out June 17th 2014, who has spent  the past 20 years studying, writing about, and living German Riesling.

Stuart Pigott - Author and Riesling Fanatic!

Stuart Pigott – Author and Riesling Fanatic!

Riesling as a very dynamic wine grape that has a terrible reputation. Maybe it’s the Monica Lewinsky of wine; it got a bad rap a few years ago, and people haven’t let it go. I implore you to let the past go, for both Monica and Riesling. They both deserve a second chance! Seriously. Riesling has this image of being a poorly made sweet wine that comes in a ridiculous blue bottle with a nun on it. I won’t get into the fact that this nun wine was probably Liebfraumilch, made from Müller-Thurgau, and not Riesling… although Paul did! He explains how Riesling has been tarnished by its past associations, and it’s up to us to forgive, and forget. Just like with Monica Lewinsky. (Seriously, people, give the woman a break, and stop writing about her, Eminem!)

In another article, I will share about the six German wines we had a taste of with Paul and Stuart at Virginia Philip Wine Shop & Academy, the West Palm Beach boutique wine shop owned by Master Sommelier Virginia Philip! However, first I want to talk a little about the grape itself, briefly cover the diversity and dynamic nature of Riesling, and offer you snippets of the entertaining and educational hour I spent with Paul and Stuart.

What Is Riesling?

Riesling Wine Grapes -

Riesling Wine Grapes

Riesling is one of the most ancient German grape varieties, with the earliest documented mention of Riesling dating back to 1435. Riesling is related to the Gouais Blanc grape, which is also related to Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, and Fermint. Think Kevin Bacon and Six Degrees of Separation, they’re easy to connect to one another! Riesling is a grape that does well in cool climates, which is why you see it not only in Germany, but New York, France (Alsace), Northern Italy, and many other cooler zones in wine growing countries.1

Riesling is a very aromatic wine, with a high natural acidity and can be made in a dry, off dry, sweet, or dessert style. Fruit flavors often found in Riesling include stone fruit (apricot, peach, nectarine), as well as citrus such as lemon and lime. White flowers and honey, or honeysuckle flowers, are often found on the aroma and palate. German Riesling is known to have an aroma of Petrol or even pencil eraser, which can be off-putting to some. This aroma does not translate to the palate.

Deciphering German Riesling Labels

I think one of the biggest barriers for Americans related to German Riesling are the labels. While my past colleagues from Europe always were great linguists, knowing three or more languages, most Americans barely know English, or American as my South African friend Kurt likes to remind me. And, if we do know a second language, it’s usually Spanish. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just a lot more familiar than German. Which, as I mentioned, seems to be a barrier to ordering their delicious white wines!

Weingut Robert Weil Rheingau Riesling  -

Weingut Robert Weil Rheingau Riesling

Paul does go into the art of German wine labels. He hit on a few very important pieces of information:

  • Sweetness Level – Trocken means dry! You’re going to associate this more with a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or even an unoaked Chardonnay such as Chablis! Halbtrocken wines are semi-dry and may not have more than 18 grams of residual sugar per liter.
  • Ripeness Level – This can be a little Wine Geeky here, so I’m going to try to not go over to the Somm Side,which is similar to the Dark Side! The ripeness of the grape can be classified as Qualitätswein, Kabinett, Spätlese (means Late Harvest), Auslese, BA (Beerenauslese) and TBA (Trocken Beerenauslese). BA and TBA are typically dessert wines. These Ripeness levels, or quality levels, denote how much sugar (ripeness) the grapes have when picked. And while the wines can have more residual sugar (sweetness) the higher in the ripeness category they are, wines from Qualitätswien through Auslese can be made Trocken, or dry. YOU ARE NOT CONFUSED! Stick with me!
  • Origin – Where the Riesling comes from can denote a lot about the style of the wine. Getting into the 13 Anbaugebiete (Wine Regions) is a bit ambitious for this post, but we had some great Riesling from Baden, Mosel, and Rheinhessen with Paul and Stuart.
  • Producer – This one CAN be tricky. Weingut So and So means Producer So and So. Oh, and the W is pronounced like a V, so it’s Vinegoot. Yeah, we’re back to that language barrier thing. DONT LET IT GET TO YOU!  In some cases, you wont see Weingut, such as with Dr Loosen German Rieslings.
  • Still or Sparkling – Yes, there is sparkling Riesling. It usually has the word SEKT on it, or perhaps the word Schaumwein. Slightly less yeasty than Champagne, perhaps a little more mineral driven than fruity, German Sparkling Riesling, Sekt, is a fun sparkling wine worth trying.

Don’t Let Language Be A Barrier

Seriously, the language thing should NOT be a barrier between you and German Riesling. I’m a Certified Sommelier, who has devoted a lot of time to studying wine and wine regions, and I still have an issue pronouncing German wine labels. And French wine labels. And American wine labels. That does not stop me from ordering them, drinking them, and enjoying them.

In most cases, you can “sound it out” and get close enough to the pronunciation. Of course, the W in Weingut pronounced as a V throws a monkey wrench in that! But, seriously, do you think people will laugh at you, or worse, NOT SERVE YOU WINE, if you said WEENGUT instead of Vinegoot? I think not. Ask your server, Sommelier or store clerk if they can help you with the pronunciation. Or, just ask them what German Riesling they recommend. I’m fairly sure they will have a TON of great options that could make Riesling your next favorite wine.

German Riesling, Drink Now or Let It Age?

YES! German Riesling is quite approachable when it hits the market. Stuart suggested that Riesling “settles down” a bit during the first year it’s on the market, and holding them for a few months before drinking them is the best course of action. Of course, unlike Budweiser Beer, there’s no BORN ON date on your German Riesling, so this is a little difficult to figure out timing wise. However, what it does bring to mind is German Riesling can age, quite nicely.

C H Berres 2002 Wehlener Klosterberg Kabinett Riesling - Mosel -

C H Berres 2002 Wehlener Klosterberg Kabinett Riesling – Mosel

The vintage date on a bottle of wine, any wine, tells you when the grapes were harvest. Therefore, if the wine says 2013, which is the vintage of many white wines coming to market now, it means the grapes (or the majority of them) were harvest during 2013. Using that vintage date as your starting point, don’t be afraid to set a good bottle of Riesling down in your cellar or cooler for a year or so before you open it. Stuart says that screw caps, which some love and others loath, are excellent at preserving the freshness of German Riesling while allowing them to age nicely over 10 years or so. We then got into the great Cork versus Screwcap debate, which was brought back on track with “I’ve had rieslings over 100 years old, and they were delicious.”

Wines will change with age. The primary fruit notes will diminish a bit, and secondary notes take center stage. Not everyone loves older wines. So, don’t let this little paragraph force you into waiting a year before you open your newly acquired German Riesling. OR WORSE, don’t let it dissuade you from drinking it at all. There is absolutely nothing wrong with opening a bottle of German Riesling the day after it hits the store shelves. Just be aware that it will age nicely, if you want to lay it down.

Should You Catch The Riesling Road Trip?

ABSOFRIGGENLUTELY! First, Paul is a New Yorker, and I was surprised that within his color commentary on wine he didn’t say “RIESLING, FUHGEDDAHBOUTIT” at least once. He’s a dynamic speaker, who brings Nietzche quotes to the table as easily as he does wine descriptors and German geography. Stuart, a Brit living in Germany, has an amazing amount of scientific knowledge, wine research, and practical experience that makes LEARNING about German Riesling interesting. I was quite jealous Stuart’s recollection of having German Rieslings dating from 1811, and 1893. Clearly, he’s had wines older than I have, and I’m green with envy!

Enjoying The Riesling Roadtrip -

Enjoying The Riesling Roadtrip

I’m going to talk about the six wines I had this evening, as well as a few more I have in my cellar, in a few days. So, come back soon, or even better, Subscribe to the blog! However,  if you can catch the Riesling Roadtrip, the German Rieslings, and one Pinot Noir, that you’ll be exposed to during the Riesling Road Trip will definitely impress you! Probably enough to make you consider Riesling as your next favorite wine! 


1  Wine Grapes, Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding & Jose Vouillamoz

Enjoy Delicious German Riesling with Riesling & Co Road Trip

I will confess that we don’t drink a lot of riesling in our house. We have plenty of riesling on hand, bottles from Germany, bottles from the US, and even a bottle or two from Australia. It’s just not something we sip often! However, I know there are some amazing German rieslings to be enjoyed, so, when the Wines of Germany PR team invited me to the Riesling & Co. Road Trip here in West Palm Beach next week, I accepted the invitation.

Riesling & Co  Road Trip Wine Bar -

Riesling & Co Road Trip Wine Bar

I think the coolest part of the Riesling Road Trip is the truck that brings the wine town to town! Hello, this is a shipping container that has been converted into a MOBILE WINE BAR! Then, that bad boy make stops at wine shops like Virginia Philip Wine Shop & Academy here in West Palm Beach, bringing the tastes of Riesling, and Germany, to you! It can only get better if it actually came to your house! However, if the cool venue wasn’t enticing enough to get you to come sip some Riesling, the people you’ll meet are great reasons to make it to the next Riesling & Co. pit stop!

When you come out to the Riesling & Co events near you, you’re going to get to meet some very interesting people while sipping on Riesling. I am excited to meet Paul Grieco, whose New York City restaurant, Hearth, is currently nominated for a James Beard Award. Paul is joined on the East Coast Riesling tour by Stuart Piggot, who has a book about Riesling coming out in June of this  year. And, when you join me in West Palm Beach on May 7th, you’ll probably meet Master Sommelier Virginia Philip, one of only 19 women, and a total of 135 people in North America, to earn the distinction of Master Sommelier.

banner-roadtrip2If you’re in South Florida, come to West Palm Beach and learn more about Riesling on May 7th! We can compare and contrast the  differences between Rheingau versus Mosel Riesling. Or, we can just sip on the wine and enjoy the South Florida sunshine!

On May 7th, Wines of Germany will be teaming up with Virginia Philip Wine Shop & Academy to host a unique wine tasting as part of the Riesling & Co. Road Trip. The tasting will feature a variety of German wines.

Where: Virginia Philip Wine Shop & Academy
                    101 North Clematis, Suite 150
West Palm Beach

When: May 7, 2014
6:00pm – 7:00pm

Ticket information: The event is open to the public. Call (561) 721-6000 for ticket purchase information. You can buy tickets and register online too!

Wines of Germany is the first wine board to conduct a multi-city road trip in the U.S., in an effort to bring Riesling to interested consumers, beverage directors and restaurateurs, no matter where they may be located.

Does the Riesling Road Trip stop in your home town? Are you going to attend? Let me know!

Quick Sip: Robert Weil 2010 Riesling Tradition

“People talk dry, but drink sweet.” The first time I heard that, I was interviewing the winemaker of Barefoot Wine, Jennifer Wall. It came up again during a twitter conversation yesterday, regarding a newspaper wine review saying a wine was dry, when it was technically off-dry. (Yes, splitting atoms for most wine drinkers, I know…) It seems that while we would like to think we like dry wine, in reality, many of us prefer a little sweetness in the glass. And that’s why this Robert Weil 2010 Riesling Tradition is a perfect quick sip for today’s article.

A Little History of Weingut Robert Weil

The historic manor house at the Robert Weil estate in Kiedrich.

The historic manor house at the Robert Weil estate in Kiedrich.

Founded in 1875, the Weingut Robert Weil estate is located in the village of Kiedrich. Even at over 130 years old, it is considered one of the Rheingau’s younger wine estates. The village of Kiedrich itself has been traced back as far as the year 950. The estate is still in the Weil family, and the founder’s great-Grandson, Wilhelm Weil, is currently continuing the family tradition of making excellent German wine. The Robert Weil estate cultivates about 222 acres (90 hectares) of vineyards, which are 100% Riesling. Weingut Robert Weil was part of Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries of the year 2012 and 2013. If you’re wondering what Weingut means, it’s definition is winemaker and indicates that the wine was grown, made, and bottled on the premises. It’s similar to the French use of Chateau.

This wine was a sample sent to me by the team at Loosen Bros USA back in 2011. I was curious how it would taste with two years of age on it. Well made Riesling can last quite some time if stored properly. As a matter of fact, a friend of mine visited the Dr Loosen estate in Germany in 2012, and said that Ernie Loosen pulled out a bottle from 1973, and it was fantastic.

Tasting Notes for Robert Weil 2010 Riesling Tradition

In the glass, the color of the wine was a clear, day bright pale hay. The Robert Weil Riesling Tradition had an aroma of dried apricot and dried apples, and it really wasn’t a very expressive nose. With a medium to full body, flavors of crisp nectarine and white peach filled the palate, with a little honey, and hints of white jasmine appear on the finish.  The wine is quite balanced, it finishes crisp and clean, and even has some nice acidity.


Robert Weil 2010 Riesling Tradition wine review tasting notes

Robert Weil 2010 Riesling Tradition

Back to what I said earlier about drinking sweet even though we like to talk dry, the website speaks to that. “Produced exclusively for the U.S. market, the “Tradition” series offers the traditional range of Rieslings with sweetness, balanced by a crisp mineral structure. The Tradition QbA has a delicious array of fruits and is a pure pleasure to drink.” The Robert Weil 2010 Riesling Tradition has only 10% ABV (Alcohol by Volume), and residual sugar of 29.1 grams/liter.

At $25, I think the Weingut Robert Weil 2010 Riesling Tradition is a very good wine. If you’re a fan of sweet fresh fruit, you’ll love it. However, even if you talk dry AND drink dry, I think this is a Riesling worth trying.

What are your thoughts on German Riesling? Do you talk dry, but drink sweet? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

Seven Wines To Sip While Gnawing On Jerky

What Wine Pairs With Venison Jerky?

What Wine Pairs With Venison Jerky?

I love pairing wine with food.  When Janie from House of Jerky asked if I would like to sample their jerky products to pair with wine, I jumped at the chance. Thirteen different types of jerky arrived! A variety of meats- boar, buffalo, venison, turkey, beef, as well as seasonings from black pepper to sweet & spicy to HOT. There is so much to cover, I’ll talk about the specific jerky and wine pairings in a separate post. Here, we will take a look at the seven wines I selected to sip while enjoying  jerky.


Four Red Wines To Pair With Beef Jerky

Four Red Wines To Pair With Beef Jerky

Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz 2011:

I was drinking the heck out of the 2005 vintage of this wine back in 2008. Dark garnet in the glass, the bouquet of the Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz 2011 is mixed black and red berries, with some spice scents. A jammy palate up front, with bold fruit flavors of blackberry and raspberry. The mid-palate turns to cooking spice and pepper, but they disappear on the finish rather quickly. Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz 2011 is big jammy fruit, though there is good spice to balance, followed by a little menthol on the finish. For $16.99, it was a decent wine.
review Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz 2011

Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz 2011

Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2011:

Zinfandel works nicely with smoked meats and Bar-b-Que. The Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2011 has a dark garnet to purple color, and a bouquet of  blackberry and licorice with subdued vanilla, raspberry, and strawberry scents. The palate is full, with the spices and red fruit come on fairly powerfully at the approach. There is a great spice and pepper on the mid palate to the finish, with a very long lasting christmas spice/baking spice component. There are great notes of vanilla from the oak aging, as well as cola flavors throughout the palate. For $20, a very nice wine.
review Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma 2011

Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma 2011

Eberle Syrah 2011:

Hailing from Paso Robles, California, but very French in style, the Eberle Syrah 2011 has a dark garnet color, with a very subdued nose; spice and tobacco along with raspberry blueberry on the bouquet. The palate has great depth, earthy tobacco and leather wrapped around dried spiced berries. There is a beautiful warming spice on the palate that offers a very lengthy finish. Another very nice wine at $20.

review Eberle Syrah 2011 Steinbeck Vineyard

Eberle Syrah 2011 Steinbeck Vineyard

I was fortunate to meet Gary Eberle when I visited Paso Robles in 2011. He is a bear of a man, in size and in presence. His stories captivated the group, from bringing French vines to California in the 1970s to flying his own plane. It was an honor to meet him, as well as Steve Lohr of J Lohr, Ken Volk of Kenneth Volk Vineyards, and Stephan Asseo of L’Aventure.

Chatting with Gary Eberle About Wine

Chatting with Gary Eberle About Wine

Domaine Mas Du Bouquet Vacqueyras 2010:

The fourth red is from Vacqueyras, an appellation in the southern Rhone Valley of France. Domaine Mas du Bouquet 2010 Vacqueyras is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre, or GSM.  A soft bouquet of dried red and black berries, the palate is very soft, dried blueberries, and violets. This $19 wine was given a  90 point rating by Wine Spectator, though I don’t find it as intense and racy as their notes suggest. I find it a bit more floral and feminine, and perhaps there is a bit of bottle variation to consider.

review Domaine Mas du Bouquet 2010 Vacqueyras

Domaine Mas du Bouquet 2010 Vacqueyras


After trying some of the spicier jerky from House of Jerky with the red wines, I decided we needed a bit of white wine in the mix. The red wines would often keep the heat going, which is great if you LIKE heat. I, however, like to balance the heat with the fresh fruit and florals of the white wines I selected. The white wines in this article were provided as samples. As always, my reviews of wines are not influenced by the fact they were provided to me.



White Wine To Pair With Beef Jerky

White Wine To Pair With Beef Jerky

Biltmore Riesling (NV) American

The Biltmore Riesling

The Biltmore Riesling

I’ve paired Riesling with spicy foods in the past, it works nicely. There is a host of delicious riesling available, from all over the world. For the HOT and Sweet & Spicy Jerky pairings I went with The Biltmore Riesling. This wine had a nose of peaches, with slight citrus aromas. The palate was thick, honeyed with gentle peach and nectarine flavors. There was a little acidity on the finish, but not sharp by any means. For $10 at Total wine, it was a pleasant wine. The semi-sweet palate would appeal to those who are not fans of dry white wines. While there was no vintage on this wine, it was harvest in 2010. Wines labels with an American appellation are not permitted by law to carry a vintage date on the label.

review Tenimenti Ca'Bianca Moscato D'Asti 2010

Tenimenti Ca’Bianca Moscato D’Asti 2010

Tenimenti Ca’Bianca 2010 Moscato

I was absolutely enthralled by this $16 bottle of Ca’Bianca 2010 Moscato. I was at first dismayed that the nose was rather non-expressive. However, this slightly frizzante wine has a crushing palate! Cascading flavors of white peach, white flowers, and sweet honey dance all over the tongue. There’s no noticeable acidity, and the frizz is fun. This light and crisp wine is perfect for those who like fresh fruit, or prefer sweet wines. The Ca’Bianca 2010 Moscato was perfect with the spicier jerkys.

Leitz 2009 Rudesheimer Berg Rottland Spatlese Riesling

review Leitz 2009 Rudesheimer Berg Rottland Riesling Spatlese

Leitz 2009 Rudesheimer Berg Rottland Riesling Spatlese

The last wine of the wine and jerky pairing is another Riesling, this one from Germany. The Leitz Weingut 2009 Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland Spätlese is a brilliant hay yellow in the glass. A zippy nose of petrol and peach/stone fruit. The palate is medium bodied, with ripe peach and apricot, and a hint of acid that’s playing hide and seek with the super fresh fruits in the glass. The Leitz 2009 Riesling is heavier than the other whites, though less sweet, even though it’s a late harvest wine. This $33 wine was cellared for two years, and that likely toned down some of the acidity and freshness.

These wines all work well with a variety of foods, or on their own. Coming up, you’ll see which of the House of Jerky products the wines compliment best.



Pairing Wine With A Crockpot Chili Recipe

slow cooker crockpot chili and wine pairing

Easy to make slow cooker chili

As the weather gets cooler, people are looking for easy, hearty meals for fall. I’ve seen a lot of people searching for chili recipes, and the wine to pair with them. Chili in our house is a very hot topic, no pun intended. Robin used to make this interesting “tomato soup” that she called chili. I didn’t love it. I was given an award winning chili recipe that I loved, but it made most people cry from the heat. So, when I found this slow cooker chili recipe, I had to make it. And, of course, pair wine.

During my trip to Oregon with Harry & David, I had the chance to meet 12 awesome bloggers. The 11 women and 1 other guy were all super talented at both writing and photography, and have inspired me to amp up my blog! I decided a fun way to do that would be to take their recipes, make them myself, and pair wines with them. This is the first of such projects, and I hope you enjoy it. Brenda’s crockpot (slow cooker) chili recipe on A Farmgirl’s Dabbles is fairly easy to follow and make. She found it in a magazine, played around to make it her own, and it’s been her “Ole Faithful” ever since.

When making her recipe, for the chili powder, I went with 3 Tablespoons from her 3-6 TBS range. I also went 2 chili powder and 1 chipotle powder, since I wanted some smoke and depth to the flavors. I’d probably use 3 TBS of chili powder and 1 TBS of chipotle powder next time. Other than that, the recipe is pretty easy to follow. So, lets talk wine and chili pairing!

clean slate 2009 riesling mosel germany

The Clean Slate 2009 riesling from Mosel, Germany

I know you’re saying “Matt, wine with chili? No way! It’s beer!” I assure you that while a nice craft beer goes well with chili, wine can go equally as well. There are a few wine option for chili pairing, and in general they are zinfandel, shiraz or syrah, riesling, malbec and tempranillo.

The first wine I paired with the chili was the 2009 Clean Slate riesling from Mosel, Germany. This wine was a sample I received over a year ago. It had a screw cap, and I was concerned that after a year, it would be “done.” However, many German rieslings can age for quite some time, and still taste fantastic. This $10 white wine is actually two vintages old now, and was crisp and fresh and full of flavor. The bouquet had feint petrol and river rock scents, and the palate shows nice stone fruit (apricot and nectarines), with really nice acidity. Acidity comes across sometimes as citrus flavors in white wines, and this German riesling had a hint of lime that turned immediatly into peach nectar. However, the finish was a flinty minerality that kept it from being too sweet or syrupy. Well done at $10, definitely a buy, and available in grocery stores (at least in Florida).

Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2010 Shiraz

Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2010 Shiraz

People often ask “How can I tell a wine is good just by looking at it?” This wine answers that question, “You can’t.” While you can form general ideas about a wine if you know the grape, the area, and the producer, there’s NEVER a guarantee that you’ll have a good wine in the bottle. Forget the fact that wine can be cooked, corked, or dead, it’s a fact that the same grape, from the same area, even in vineyards separated by only a road, can taste completely different. When I grabbed this $22 bottle of Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2010 Shiraz at the grocery store, I figured I’d be ok. Penfolds is a fairly big name, Shiraz is a grape that Australia does well, and I’m a sommelier. I know my stuff. Right? Well, sort of. I know my stuff because I taste a lot of wines, and this was one I hadn’t had before.

The Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2010 Shiraz nose was sweet spice from the oak, more than any fruit notes. What fruit was there was dark, blackberry and plum. The approach was just dry, sweet wood, without much else to it. Frankly, this wine is a disappointment. Too much oak, not enough fruit, and no spice to speak of. Definitely not what I expect from an Australian shiraz. I pressed on.

Gnarly Head 2010 Old Vine Zin

Gnarly Head 2010 Old Vine Zin

The third wine I had with my chili was the Gnarly Head 2010 Old Vine Zin. This is a grocery store wine I often have on hand. I was turned on to it in 2008 by a twitter friend, Duane, while I was doing an event of 5 other grocery store zinfandels. For the price, which is $10, it offers great fruit, nice spice, and has not disappointed me in four years. Sure enough, this red wine and chili pairing was perfect. The wine had plum, prunes and blackberries with a sweet spice element to it. The finish was a hearty burst of black pepper, and all in all it stood up very well to the chili.

A Farmgirl's Dabbles crockpot chili hit the spot

A Farmgirl’s Dabbles crockpot chili hit the spot

Happily, this chili and wine pairing was a success. Even though one wine disappointed, two of the wines absolutely rocked, especially at $10. Brenda’s slow cooker chili is a cool weather meal we can make fairly easily, and enjoy for a few days. And, of course, pair wine with.

What is your favorite beverage to drink with chili? Let me know below!

Talking Turkey – and Wine

Wine Ideas For Thanksgiving

Wine Ideas For Thanksgiving

With the cornucopia of food on your Thanksgiving table, finding one wine that works with everything being served is impossible. As I mentioned in my previous Thanksgiving wine article, drink what you like is a popular response to “what’s the best wine for Thanksgiving”. However, I have some additional recommendations that will work not only with a typical holiday meal, but any food or occasion. In the video that follows, I chat with CBS12 anchors Suzanne Boyd and Eric Roby about three wines, with more detail on each below the video.

Gewurzstraminer Hugel 2009

Gewurzstraminer Hugel 2009

Gewürztraminer is a grape often recommended on Thanksgiving. The palate is typically light to medium bodied, and the flavors work well with not only Turkey, but much of the side dishes you’ll find at a holiday feast. While grown around the world, I prefer gewurztraminer from the Alsace, such as the Hugel 2009 Gewürztraminer. For about $15, this white wine offers fantastic value. What I love about this wine is its light palate, dominated by white floral notes such as jasmine and honeysuckle. The finish brings a nice spice flavor, and leaves soft peach and apricot notes that linger. However, the acidity is firm, lending a tiny citrus note to the palate, and that works perfect with turkey, yams, and even fresh fruit. It is important to note that this wine will change as it warms and gets air while in your glass. You’ll notice the flavors more prominent and it becomes a little less crisp and a little fuller bodied. I recommend popping the cork 5 or 10 minutes before you’re ready to eat, and letting it breathe just a little bit.

Rodney Strong 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Rodney Strong 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Pinot noir makes an appearance twice in my holiday recommendations, as I feel it’s a versatile, food friendly wine. Rodney Strong 2009 Russian River Pinot Noir delivers a stunning red wine for only $20. A beautiful, light garnet color in the glass, this is a wine that wasn’t over extracted or over concentrated. With fruit from estate vineyards, meaning the fruit is from Rodney Strong Vineyards or from vineyards they control, manage the growing practices, and have long term contracts with, this Pinot is every bit old world in style as it is new. There is big flavor in the bottle, with tons of raspberry and dried strawberry. However, the palate is a mix of California and Burgundy, as it delivers the right amount of new world fruit perfectly balanced with old world earth and tobacco. This pinot noir will benefit from some breathing time, so pull the cork and let the bottle sit for about 20 minutes before serving, or decant and let aerate for 10 minutes. This will allow the wine to open a little, allow you to more fully enjoy the wine. While I was quite happy sipping this on it’s own, look for this wine to pair with almost any meat you put on your thanksgiving table. From turkey to pork to beef, this Pinot rocks them all.

Potel Aviron 2009 Julienas Cru Beaujolais

Potel Aviron 2009 Julienas Cru Beaujolais

Finally, though I have absolutely no love for Beaujolais Nouveau, I’m a fan of wines from many of the 10 Cru Beaujolais areas. These areas are designated due to their superior conditions for growing grapes in comparison to other areas within Beaujolais. While both are made from the gamay grape, Cru Beaujolais wines are more structured, typically aged before release, and are nothing like their bubblegum Nouveau wine cousins. Each of the 10 Crus brings something different to the wines, and this wine from Julienas is no exception. The wines of this area tend to have a rich, spicy character coupled with fruity qualities of gamay. The palate of the  Potel Aviron 2009 Julienas had notes of dried dark cherry, with an old world, earthy component as well. This wine definitely needed to decant for about an hour before serving, and could age for a year or two and still show nicely. For fans of old world wines, created to pair with a meal, this $25 wine will be a treat.

Dr  Loosen 2006 BA

Dr Loosen 2006 BA

At the end of the TV segment, Eric and Suzanne ask about dessert wines. I’m a big fan of port, but believe beerenauslese riesling is a better pick for Thanksgiving. This riesling is a little lighter than a port, and after a big meal, is the right wine for that touch of sweetness you may crave. A lover of Dr Loosen wines, their 2006 Beerenauslese will offer the rich, sweet honeyed apricots and nectarine flavors that end the evening perfectly. It will pair with many of the fruit pie desserts served during Thanksgiving, or be perfect on it’s own. This high quality, low quantity wine will fetch about $25 for a 187ml bottle or $50 for a 375ml bottle, which is half the size of a “normal” wine bottle. There are many late harvest riesling option available at a lower price, but they won’t necessarily be the same the quality of Dr Loosen’s BA.

I look forward to hearing what wines you pick for your Thanksgiving day meal. And no matter what you drink, I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving!


-These wines were provided as media samples for review. However, my opinions are my own, and not influenced by samples or the people who provide them -

White Wines from the Alsace – Helfrich

Helfrich Wines from Alsace, France

Helfrich Wines from Alsace, France

While the rest of the country digs out from snow, spring has sprung in Florida. The weather reached a high of 84 degrees, and after a day in the sun I was looking for something refreshing to drink. I decided to open white wines from the Alsace region of France that I have had in my cellar for a number of months. While information about the producer is nearly non-existent on the web, and various articles site different longevity information about the producers, one thing remains constant. The riesling, pinot blanc and gewurztraminer from Helfrich are pretty darn good.

Several writers have met with Anne-Laure Helfrich the sister of Frederick Helfrich and note in their writeups that she is the sixth generation Alsatian, while others note her father is third generation in the wine business.  Regardless of how long they’ve been in Alsace, or the wine business,  Helfrich offers two levels of wine, the noble variety (entry level) which all retail for $15 and the Grand Cru which are single Vineyard offerings which retail for $25. The Alsace wine region, which is in France on the border of Germany,  is one of the smaller wine producing areas in France. The region typically produces dry riesling, while the other notable varieties pinot gris and gewurztraminer are typically off-dry, with some residual sugar left after fermentation.

Helfrich Riesling 2008

Helfrich Riesling 2008

The first offering that I tried was the Helfrich noble variety Riesling 2008. The nose, or bouquet is stone fruits and petrol, with mineral notes. The palate comes across as tart green apples, citrus and is very mineral driven. Though not very acidic, some acidity is definitely noticeable on the mid-palate and finish.  With some time, and air, the wine opens up nicely. The flavors round out a little, becoming a little less tart green apple, and more focused on citrus flavors. The wine comes across very dry, and can remind you of a sauvignon blanc. The winemaker’s suggested food pairings are sushi, white meats, Alsatian tarts and smoked salmon.

Helfrich Gewurztraminer 2008

Helfrich Gewurztraminer 2008

The second wine from Helfrich was a the 2008 gewurztraminer, which I just popped and poured. The nose is a little floral, with melon notes coming through as well. On the palate, it’s a medium weight with white flowers upfront followed by a burst of sweet stone fruit. There is a sprinkling of white pepper on the finish, but it’s lost amongst the flavors of flowers and peach. Typically, gewurztraminer has a nice spicy component, and the name actually means Spicy Traminer (a grape). However, after 20 minutes in the glass, the wine warmed up a little and with air has opened a lot. The palate is much more white flowers now, with a nice vein of spice on the finish. I really enjoyed this wine, especially as it opened up. It has a nice bit of sweetness that will appeal to many, while the structure and balance make it a good buy at $15.

Helfrich Pinot Gris 2008

Helfrich Pinot Gris 2008

Finally, the Helfrich pinot gris 2008 rounded out the tasting for the day. With a mineral driven nose of stone fruits such as nectarines and peaches, this white wine from the Alsace region of France has a delicious bouquet. Slightly viscous with a medium mouth feel, the initial approach of this wine is super ripe stone fruits, particularly apricots. There is a honeyed fig component as well, and this wine is very reminiscent of the late harvest semillion I had from Apex recently. The Helfrich pinot gris comes across a little sweet, however its finish leaves crisp and clean and purely fruit driven. Again, aerating this white wine opened it beautifully. After 15 minutes in the glass it’s become a bit more balanced, the sweetness is a bit more tame, though prominent, and the spice little bit more noticeable throughout the palate.

The Helfrich gewurztraminer 2008 and pinot gris 2008 were both off-dry wines, what most people would think of as “sweet”. The sweetness, and fruit forward nature of both of these wines make them a perfect pairing for spicy foods, as well as the typical “Asian” food pairings. The pinot gris may go well with pork, perhaps slow cooked with onions. All of these white wines were refreshing on a hot day, perfect summer sippers, and food friendly. At $15 each, there’s no reason to avoid them, so let me know what you think.

These wines were provided as trade samples for me to taste and review honestly.