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California Red Wine

What is the oldest wine you’ve ever sipped?

A bottle of Troplong-Mondot 1893 Bordeaux - agoodtimewithwine.com

A bottle of Troplong-Mondot 1893 Bordeaux

It often seems the world is all about youth and being young. Cosmetics promise to “stop the aging process,” and drink supplements are called “the fountain of youth.” However, wine aficionados buck this trend, and seek out the old, coveting the aged wines that have matured and evolved. It’s often quite a celebrated experience to sip wines with 5 or 10 or more years of age on them. When I reviewed The California Wine Club, I did not get into the details of their Ancient Cabernet series. I felt discussing aged wines needed a post of its own.

I still wholeheartedly endorse The California Wine Club. Some bloggers reviewed The California Wine Club Premier Series, which for $39.99 a month offers two wines per shipment. It’s also what was offered to one lucky winner of the 3-month California Wine Club subscription giveaway! They have 4 other series, the Signature Series, International Series, The Aged Cabernet Series, and the Pacific Northwest series. I was asked to review their Aged Cabernet series, receiving two wines to review. I was quite certain I would receive two no-name, long-lost wines that would be vinegar in a pretty box. Glad I was wrong.

Reviewing Martin Ray 1993 and Delectus 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon - agoodtimewithwine.com

Reviewing Martin Ray 1993 and Delectus 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon

The wines were from fairly reputable and well-known wineries, Martin Ray and Delectus. As a matter of fact, I was recently invited to a Delectus tasting here in South Florida. Of course Martin Ray Winery is owned by Courtney Benham, and you can find both of those labels in stores everywhere. The bottles seemed to be in good shape, with very little wear on the label or capsules. Of course, the fear of opening older wines is that they are over the hill, or worse, spoiled! Fear or not, I opened the wines in preparation of tasting them. I decided I would use the older Martin Ray as an opportunity to practice decanting old red wine for my upcoming Certified Sommelier Exam, even though the CA Wine Club said it would not be necessary.

Opening the Martin Ray 1993 Cabernet Sauvignon was uneventful. The cork was still firm and taut, and there was very little seepage up the cork, even after nearly 20 years of cellaring. I decanted the wine, leaving about 1/4 of a glass in the bottle with the sediment that occurs as part of the aging process. I can geek out about how the sediment forms, but just know, older red wines are likely to have sediment that you don’t want to drink. For a 21-year-old wine, it was still very taut and tightly wound, and did need to breathe a little bit.

Tasting the Martin Ray 1993 Cabernet Sauvignon  Napa Valley - agoodtimewithwine.com

Tasting the Martin Ray 1993 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

The Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon 1993 Napa Valley started off with tart cranberry and cherry, with a little wood and cough syrup. With about 20 minutes of air, it softened a little, with a bouquet of pine needles and decaying roses, cinnamon and subtle vanilla scents as well. The palate was exceptionally dry, with walnut, sour cherry, and baking spices. While it was on the decline, it was still quite drinkable, and had a good bit of life left. It went quite nicely with our Easter Dinner of Prime Rib!

Reviewing Delectus Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Napa Valley - agoodtimewithwine.com

Delectus Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Napa Valley

The Delectus Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Napa Valley give me a bit of a fit with the cork. I could not find my Ah-So opener, which is also called a Butler’s Thief. That is the two-pronged device that you wiggle into a wine bottle, and slowly wiggle out older, delicate corks. Sadly, the cork was so brittle that the regular corkscrew demolished it, and it end up falling into the bottle. However, I am NOT going to let a little cork slow me down!  I decanted the Delectus 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, again practicing for my Certified Sommelier exam, leaving as much sediment and cork in the bottle as possible. I then placed a piece of cheese cloth over the decanter, and poured it into our glasses. I would have possibly used a coffee filter, which would have been even more effective than the cheesecloth.

Using Cheesecloth to filter out the crumbled cork

Using Cheesecloth to filter out the crumbled cork

The Delectus was 12 years old and still had fresh fruit of black cherry, blackberry, and plum with coca and leather. There was a fistful of baking spices and the 15.2% ABV still packed a whallop! There was still quite firm tannins on this older cabernet sauvignon, and decanting it for air was definitely the right thing to do. Again, it worked perfectly with our Prime Rib dinner, and was a very nice bottle of wine.

I want to add that I am a Money Where Your Mouth is kind of guy. I only write favorably about the wine club and services of The California Wine Club because I feel it is good value for the money. I am also ordering some of their older bottles of wine for my cellar. I believe one will be this Clos du Val Wine Company 1981 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which was made by Bernard Portet, whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting twice. I don’t just write favorable articles because people sponsor my posts and send samples. I write because I believe in what they’re offering. I will, however, order before May 22, 2014 and use one of these California Wine Club codes:

Club25: This is good for $25 off your first box (or a case or gifts!)
Club4for2: Double your club membership: 4 bottles for the price of two

Now, I will get back to the original question in this post’s title. What is the oldest wine you’ve ever sipped? For me, it was a 1967 Chateau Haut-Brion, which I enjoyed with friends in November 2013. Not the best year for Bordeaux, it was certainly memorable!

Chateau Haut-Brion 1967 - agoodtimewithwine.com

Chateau Haut-Brion 1967

What about you? What is the oldest wine you’ve ever sipped? Leave a comment below, I’d love to know!

 

 

 

 

Behind The Wine: Lunch with Sequoia Grove Director of Winemaking Michael Trujillo

Wine is about the story. It’s not about tart cherries and blueberries wrapped in a blanket of cedar and sprinkled with generous amounts of pepper. Likewise, it’s not about making sure you’re pairing Merlot with lamb shank and Chardonnay with lobster. Sure, those things are nice, and work their way into most of my articles. However, in the end, wine is about the people behind the juice, who they are, as well as where and why they do what they do. I had the chance to meet, and have lunch with, the man behind Sequoia Grove, President and Director of Winemaking, Michael Trujillo.

Sequoia Grove Winemaker Michael Trujillo Talking Napa Red Wine - agoodtimewithwine.com

Tasting barrel samples with Sequoia Grove Winemaker Michael Trujillo

The son of a Colorado rancher, Michael has been in the wine industry for over thirty years. While in college studying architecture and engineering, Michael took a spring break vacation in California, and it changed his life. Leaving his college studies in his 20s, Trujillo packed his belongings and moved to Napa, landing a job at a vineyard that would eventually become Domaine Carneros. There, he had the chance to learn from wine industry legends such as Tony Soter and Mike Grgich, helping shape his ability to craft excellent wine.

Michael soon transitioned to working in the cellar at Sequoia Grove with founder Jim Allen, as well as consulting winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff. Here, Michael Trujillo learned quite a bit about making wine. So much so, he started his own side project in the 1990s, Karl Lawrence, using the Sequoia Grove winery as a custom crush facility. In 1998, Trujillo was appointed as assistant winemaker of Sequoia Grove, and in 2001, when founder Jim Allen retired, Michael got his call to the big leagues.

Wines From Sequoia Grove - Cambium, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay - agoodtimewithwine.com

Wines From Sequoia Grove – Cambium, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay

In 2001, the Kopf family, which had acquired 100% of Sequoia Grove, brought Michael to New York for a meeting. Meeting with “the three sisters”, Michael was rather relaxed and aloof when they started asking him questions about how he would change Sequoia Grove. He was quite candid, discussing things like improving the quality of the winemaking equipment, elevating the quality of the grapes sourced, and the fact that the winemaking facility was “like cooking for an army on a Coleman stove.” The Kopf family was impressed with his vision to improve the brand, and handed the reins over to Michael, who was made President and Director of Winemaking at Sequoia Grove. He began immediately putting into place the improvements he outlined.

By the end of 2002, the winery was buying and using only “A” quality grapes, where it had previously been sourcing “C” quality grapes. Vineyard Manager Steve Allen began replanting the winery’s estate vineyards, including the purchase of an additional 48-acre vineyard in 2006. The goal was to eventually provide 80% of the fruit for Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon and Cambium, and have that fruit be top quality. Michael brought on UC Davis grad Molly Hill as Assistant Winemaker in 2003, who was promoted to Winemaker in 2008. All of these measured steps elevated the wine from an average California wine at a good price, to an excellent Napa wine at a good price!

Pairing Sequoia Grove Chardonnay 2011 with stone crab claws - agoodtimewithwine.com

Pairing Sequoia Grove Chardonnay 2011 with stone crab claws

Back to our lunch together, which started with the Sequoia Grove Chardonnay. Beautiful aroma of vanilla and pear, with a crisp palate of Granny Smith apple, vanilla, rounded out by warm baking spice. The wine is crisp while being full bodied, seeing oak aging but no malolactic fermentation. The oak is well integrated, however, and there are no splinters in your glass, I assure you.  The acidity of the Sequoia Grove Chardonnay, which is excellent for the $27 price, worked perfectly with our Florida stone crab claws, as well as the Alaskan king crab legs.

We then took a pause from the serious look at Sequoia Grove wine, to play with… wine. Michael brought two barrel samples from the newer Sequoia Grove vineyards, 100% Petite Verdot, and 100% Cabernet Franc. These two wines show a lot of promise, and I look forward to seeing what Sequoia Grove does with them once they’ve aged.

Pairing Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon with barbecue beef tri-tip - agoodtimewithwine.com

Pairing Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon with barbecue beef tri-tip

Lunch was served, and I chose a barbecue tri-tip sandwhich to pair with my two red wines. However, Michael encouraged all of his guests to order fish or lobster, in typical “Drink what you like” fashion. Several orders of fish tacos and lobster rolls were soon paired with Cabernet Sauvignon and a blended red wine, and no one was disappointed.

Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 - agoodtimewithwine.com

Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

The first red wine, the Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, had aromas of blackberry and black cherry, and sweet vanilla scents.  The palate was beautiful red fruit, sweet spices, with a hint of vanilla and soft tannins, which were “sweet”, as opposed to dry and astringent. The  Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2o10 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from multiple appellations, aged in 100% American oak for 22 months, with 40-50% of it new oak. Absolutely lovely wine, and for about $38, definitely one to  have with food. It paired perfectly with my well seasoned barbecue beef sandwich.

Sequoia Grove Cambium 2008 red wine blend - agoodtimewithwine.com

Sequoia Grove Cambium 2008

The proverbial icing on the cake was tasting the Sequoia Grove Cambium 2008. Michael said that when blending wine, his goal is to create the perfect blend, “where you smooth out the peaks, and fill in the valleys”. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, there are only about 400 cases of the Cambium made, and it’s sold mostly in restaurants. Aromas of soft raspberry and vanilla with soft baking spice waft from the glass. The palate is a wave of spice, start to finish, with tart cherry and cranberry mixed with mocha and espresso flavors.

The Sequoia Grove Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are two wines that are well priced, and fairly available. They offer great quality, and are definitely worth trying. You should be able to find them where you live, as I saw them in both Total Wine and Publix here in South Florida. I told Michael these were “Put your money where your mouth is” wines…. wines that I may have had the chance to taste for free, but I’m happy to spend my own money on. You’ll be happy you did too.

As for the rest of Sequoia Grove’s story, it’s still being written. Michael’s goal of elevating the quality of the fruit continues, with a focus on building the estate vineyard program while nurturing the relationships he has with his current grape sources. He tools around with various grapes at the home vineyard, the Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc mentioned earlier, as well as Malbec. He said we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next. I’ll be waiting, Michael!

Behind The Wine: Tasting Clos Pepe With Winemaker Wes Hagen

Uncorking Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009 | agoodtimewithwine.com

Uncorking Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009

Nestled in the northeastern corner of the Central Coast’s Sta Rita Hills AVA sits Clos Pepe Estate. Purchased in 1994 as a horse ranch by Steve and Cathy Pepe, Clos Pepe winemaker Wes Hagen began at the Estate full-time in 1994 as well. The estate was planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from 1996 to 1998, and made the first commercially available vintage of Clos Pepe in 2000. I had the chance to “talk” to Wes Hagen during a Twitter Tasting, where a group of bloggers received samples of the Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009, tasted, and tweeted about it with Wes. A cerebral straight shooter, Wes had a lot to say about a lot of things!

“Sta Rita Hills has poor soil, wind, fog, cool temps, long hang time and passionate explorers of flavor” was one of Wes’ first tweets during the tasting. That was soon followed by “And not to be topical or anything. Dirt Does NOT Lie, and this AVA is a testament to that.” Of note is the Hashtag used during our tasting, #DirtDontLie. A hashtag, for the uninitiated, is a way to aggregate tweets (or status updates) by a subject. With all of us adding the same hashtag to each tweet about the 2009 Clos Pepe Pinot, you should able to pull together the entire virtual conversation, and follow along. The hashtag speaks volumes about Wes, and his thoughts on where the wine is made, the vineyard!

Speaking of the vineyard, The Concise World Atlas of Wine describes the poor soil of the Sta Rita Hills AVA as “a patchwork of sand, silt, and clay.” The diurnal winds and fog keep the grapes cool at night, prolonging the growing season to help the grapes reach peak maturity, and ripeness. However, Sta Rita Hills is one of the coolest wine grape growing regions, lending itself to that bracing acidity.

I noticed Wes tweeting about decanting his Pinot Noir about an hour before the tasting began. When I asked about it, he said

I decant everything I drink 5 years and younger, whites pink and red. Decanting whites and then laying the decanter on ice is a new thing for me…and it’s revelatory.

Oh, revelatory in a sentence. I feared I would need to break out my dictionary, as I do when tweet with Randall Grahm. I digress. Few Americans I know are patient enough to decant a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, no less a normally approachable and easy to drink Pinot Noir. I tried the Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir right after I pulled the cork, and was punched in the face with ripping acidity. I grabbed a decanter and gave it an hour of air.

Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009 | agoodtimewithwine.com

Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009

My first taste of the Clos Pepe 09 Pinot was strawberry, smoked bacon and the ripping acid I mentioned previously. Masculine on the palate, there is firm, assertive fruit and acidity. Think of it as a dapper, but manly James Bond. 007, in your glass. As the wine opened, flavors evolved into dark red berries, smoked bacon, great baking spices, with sea smoke on a long-lasting finish. This wine, which was four years from vintage when sampled, has the potential to age and develop nicely, in part because of the acidity. Experts like Parker/Galloni and Laube give this delicious red wine a drink window through 2020, though Wes himself feels you should enjoy your Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir by 2016!

Speaking of drink windows, I recently came across a tasting note from March 2013 discussing Wes’ 1999 vintage. The wine was a his first at Clos Pepe, a year before their commercial launch, and was unlabeled. Nearly 14 years after harvest, the reviewer said the wine was “holding up remarkable well, with primary fruit still in evidence.” This speaks not only to Wes’ wine making prowess, but also the quality of the grapes grown at the estate.

The Clos Pepe vineyard practices are sustainable, and quite straight forward: Take care of the vineyard, and the people working in it. They try to “Encourage a healthy, diverse vineyard environment by using sheep, chickens, owl boxes, raptor perches and policies that guarantee a healthy farm. Promote soil health by composting and organic fertilization, but only enough to make the vines able to support a small crop”

Likely written by Wes, Clos Pepe does “believe that organic practices that help improve our wine are worth implementing, but we do not believe in organic for organic’s sake, nor do we practice Biodynamics, which we consider (mostly) the ravings of a charlatan, and voodoo fluff/marketing fodder.”

I read somewhere that many of the grapes grown on the estate are sold to other wine makers, keeping only a fraction of what Clos Pepe grow. Only 900 cases of the 2009 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir were made. With a suggested retail price of $54, the 2009 vintage is likely sold out. The wine is mostly available online.  The current Pinot Noir release, 2010, was given 93 points by Robert Parker/Antonio Galloni.

Joe Roberts of 1winedude asked Wes for the geeky productions details on the wine. Wes replied

Geeky production details: I didn’t fuck up a perfect vintage. That’s it. I’m a farmer.

Other BRIEF geeky production details include the Clos Pepe 2009 used all 4 Pinot Noir clones grown on the estate, 667, 115, Pommard 4, and 777. The wine aged 11 months in oak, very loose filtration, no racking or fining, picked at 23.2-24.7 brix at 3.26 to 3.38 pH final TA is 6.8 g/l, 14.1% ABV

We went on about where and when terroir exists and other cerebral, wine geekery. And just plain geekery, as I believe Wes mentioned if he wasn’t making wine, he’d still be an English teacher. It was an awesome evening with a great wine lover, who happens to make great wine. You can see what Pamela, Melanie, and Dezel thought about the Clos Pepe #DirtDontLie Twitter tasting. Wes also has his own blog, definitely worth checking out!

 

Wine, Chicken Wings, and Sriracha score a Superbowl Touchdown

superbowl snacks made with Sriracha Chili Sauce

Sriracha Chili Sauce

Sriracha is the hottest thing on the internet now. No, really, it’s hotter than Matt Cutt’s rant on Guest Blogging Is Dead. And, with the Superbowl coming up, every food blogger is talking about their Sriracha Appetizers for the big game. My favorite Superbowl finger food is chicken wings! So, I found three chicken wing recipes perfect for the Superbowl, two of which are made with Sriracha. I then, of course, paired wine with them, because that’s what I do. Touchdown, Sriracha!

I went with three red wines for the Superbowl appetizers this year. I’ve previously written about Wine and Wings, and stand by my pairing of Riesling with hot wings. Riesling is the perfect white wine to pair with spicy foods, as the fruit flavors and residual sugar balances the heat perfectly. However, some people don’t want balance, they want heat. And lots of it. So, I picked red wines that keep the heat hot. We’ll look at those wines after the wings.

Sriracha Oven Fried Chicken Wings from Honestly Yum Blog

Sriracha Oven Fried Chicken Wings

The first Superbowl appetizer hails from Honestly Yum’s Sriracha Oven Friend Chicken Wings recipe. Her complete hot wing recipe calls for Sriracha, butter, jalepenos and cilantro for the sauce, and cooking the wings on wire racks in the oven. She has this nifty method for making the skin crisp while baking, and it would have been cool if I was patient enough to try it!

Unfortunately, I was cooking three different types of wings at once, and had no patience for wire racks. I threw all of my wings on a cookie sheet, cooked them for 20 minutes, drained the fat, flipped the wings, and cooked for 15 more minutes, all on 475 degrees. They may not have been as FABU as Honesty Yum’s wings, but they were darned tasty. My son absolutely loved these wings, as did I. We didn’t garnish with jalepeno or cilantro, and they still rocked. These wings are not for the faint of tongue however, because they’re seriously hot!

harry and david blood orange marmalade and sriracha hot sauce chicken wings

Strange Bedfellows – Sriracha and Blood Orange Marmalade

The second Sriracha Chicken Wing recipe comes from The Little Kitchen. She puts together a sweet and spicy sauce for her oven baked wings that I liked. While I enjoyed it, I felt it was a tad light on the heat. Had I had time, I would have messed with the ratios a little, upping the Sriracha a touch, and reducing the Harry & David Blood Orange Marmalade a touch.

Sriracha Spicy and Sweet Chicken Wings

Sriracha Spicy and Sweet Chicken Wings

You definitely want to check out her blog, because she prepares the wings by boiling them first, then oven baking them. She claims it makes an awesome, crispy skin, and I am sure it does! Again, I didn’t do that, since I was pressed for time.

Though any old orange marmalade will do, I was very glad that I had a jar of the marmalade left over from my 2012 visit to Harry & David in Oregon. The quality ingredients made these Sriracha Spicy and Sweet chicken wings rock.

Garlic and Olive Oil base for Parmesan and Garlic Chicken Wings

Garlic and Olive Oil base for Parmesan and Garlic Chicken Wings

The last recipe that I made tonight was From Gate to Plate’s Parmesan and Garlic Boneless Chicken Wings. Oh. My. GAWD! Hands down, these were everyone’s favorite wings tonight. It wasn’t just the fact that they were boneless wings, because I used the same chicken in all three sauces. The sauce just rocked, and everyone agreed.

Roasting Garlic in Olive Oil for Chicken Wing Sauce

Roasting Garlic in Olive Oil for Chicken Wing Sauce

The Parmesan Garlic sauce required you to bake 8 cloves of garlic for 20 minutes, then mix together a number of ingredients with that garlic, like mayo, corn syrup, apple cider vinegar and more. I short circuited the process by using a small disposable aluminum baking pan, instead of a big cookie sheet for roasting the garlic. Worked perfectly. The house smelled AMAZING, like my Italian grandmother was cooking for the family. If I was Italian, that is.

Frying Chicken Breast Chunks for Boneless Chicken Wings

Frying Chicken Breast Chunks for Boneless Chicken Wings

This recipe has you frying boneless chicken breasts that you coat in flour, rather than actual chicken wings. I was a bit skeptical at first, because I don’t fry things. Ever. Not even eggs. Sunny side up, sure, but not fried. I digress!  I don’t have a deep fryer like she recommends, so I filled a cast iron skillet about 2/3 of the way with vegetable oil, put the burner on medium high, let it warm for 8 minutes, then began frying my chunks of chicken. I turned them once or twice, and cut into one after about 8 or so minutes frying. PERFECT! I call it beginners luck. So, after you fry up the boneless chicken breasts, toss them in the sauce, and mangiare. That’s Italian for EAT!

Pairing Wine with Parmesan Garlic chicken wings

Pairing Wine with Parmesan Garlic chicken wings

Now, what about the wine? I went with three very different red wines. One was a Garnacha from Spain, another was a Petite Sirah from California, and the third was a Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre blend from the Southern Rhone in France.

Spellbound 2012 Petite Sirah paired with spicy hot chicken wings

Spellbound 2012 Petite Sirah paired with spicy hot chicken wings

Though perhaps not the best example of Petite Sirah in the world, the Spellbound 2010 Petite Sirah from California was the best wine to pair with the hot wings. The fresh California fruit really balanced the heat from the Sriracha hot wings perfectly. The Spellbound Petite Sirah was a “Grocery Store Wine” that cost around $15. The aroma is ripe red raspberry, with hints of chocolate, and is very inviting. The palate is soft silky red fruit, not super complex or super structured. It’s definitely a California porch sipper, but I think it’s a nice wine and the hot wings are perfect with it – all fruit balances all heat!

Domaine de la Maurelle 2010 Gigondas red wine

Domaine de la Maurelle 2010 Gigondas red wine

The Domaine de la Maurelle Gigondas 2010 was a very nice, but very different wine to pair with the chicken wings. This blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre has a spiced black and blueberry aroma. The palate is medium mouth feel, dominated by earthy leather on the palate with dried red and black fruit, with firm tannin, as well as some menthol rounding it out. Old world wine all the way, yet nice with the wings. This Southern Rhone red wine cost $25.

Las Rocas 2009 Garnacha red wine from Spain

Las Rocas 2009 Garnacha red wine from Spain

Finally, we had Las Rocas 2009 Garnacha. Disappointed. This was a wine that in 2008 I was singing praises of. Now, I’m just going to say, skip it. The aroma is subdued red raspberry with hints of a leather bound book. The palate is fresh and ripe fruit, with some earthiness. However, there’s a green celery component that really is NOT pleasant. The $15 wine was too simple and yet too awkward to really get behind. However, I believe a nice Spanish Garnacha (Grenache) would be perfect with the Sriracha chicken wings, or the parmesan and garlic wings.

So, there you have it, three, well two wines that pair perfectly with chicken wings for the Superbowl. Whether you go for Parmesan Garlic or Sriracha hot wings, you’re sure to score with the three recipes I linked above. So, tell me, what’s your favorite wine for the Superbowl? And what are you pairing it with? Let me know below, just leave a comment! 

 

Wine, Steak and The Godfather Part II

review wine pairing napa cellars merlot 2007 and steak

Napa Cellars Merlot 2007

On Sunday night, we like to get ready for the work week ahead, have a comfort meal, and watch some TV. This weekend, AMC ran a Godfather marathon, which seemed perfect to watch while eating steak and drinking red wine. With The Godfather Part II as a backdrop, we grilled some delicious porterhouse steaks, and popped the cork on a wine that’s been in my cellar for a few years. Sipping the Napa Cellars Merlot 2007 with Michael Corleone was a perfect way to end the weekend.

How Do We Grill Our Steak?

We’re steak purists. This is not to imply we don’t like interesting and exciting preparations for our steaks. I’ve have some amazing steaks with sauces that could blow your hair back. However, when we pull out the Weber charcoal grill, we only season our steak with two ingredients. Those ingredients are salt, and pepper. We grill the steaks over a high heat for about 5-7 minutes per side, and pull them off medium rare. Then, we pour the wine.

Grilled Porterhouse Steak with Sautéed Mushrooms paired with Merlot  red wine

Grilled Porterhouse Steak with Sautéed Mushrooms paired with Merlot

Tasting the Napa Cellars Merlot 2007

Part of the Trinchero Family Estates portfolio, I’ve written about Napa Cellars wines in the past. This bottle was a sample that I received in 2010, so it’s been sitting in my cellar a while. I opened the Napa Cellars Merlot 2007 about 30 minutes before we were ready to eat, and poured 2 ounces or so into a glass. This allowed the bottle to open up a little, and I was able to sip on some of the wine while grilling the steaks. The wine was an opaque purple to garnet color in the glass, with an aroma of fresh blueberry and brambles. The palate was full, having great layers of blueberry and vanilla, with wonderfully integrated oak in the form of warming cedar and spice that is noticed on the mid-palate and finish. This wine really benefited from the 30 minutes of air, and certainly evolved over the next hour as it was slowly sipped.

Napa Cellars Merlot 2007 Pairs Perfectly With Steak

Napa Cellars Merlot 2007 Pairs Perfectly With Steak

Wine Pairing With Steak

We do tend to eat a lot of red meat, steak being on the menu at least twice a month. While we usually pair a Cabernet Sauvignon, we’ve been known to break out an Italian red wine for steak before. Merlot does not make it into our glass often, but not because we aren’t fans. Rather, it’s a wine we just don’t seem to grab from the shelves often enough. However, as the Napa Cellars Merlot shows, Merlot a great wine time and time again.

At $22, the Napa Cellars Merlot 2007 is aged in new and 1-year old American Oak barrels, is 100% Merlot and is 14.5% ABV. When Fred from Norcal Wine reviewed the wine in 2010, he recommended it, saying it would drink through 2013, though it’s doing fine in 2014 in my opinion. While you’re not likely to find the 2007 vintage in stores, I would not hesitate to try the current, 2011 vintage of this wine. Napa Cellars wines deliver time and time again, and at a price that’s more than reasonable.

What are your thoughts on Merlot? Let me know below!

 

Quick Sip – Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc 2008

Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc 2008

Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc 2008

Confession: I put a bottle of Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc 2008 in my wine cellar, and left it there for almost two years. I told Craig Camp, the managing parter of Cornerstone Cellars, the sister label for Stepping Stone, that I did it. He understood. It wasn’t really a function of the wine needing to age before it was enjoyed. Some other wine writers were blogging about the 2008 vintage of Stepping Stones Cabernet Franc in 2010, and it was good. I simply wanted to see how a $30 bottle of Cabernet Franc held up after two years in the cellar.

matthew horbund wine review Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc 2008

Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc 2008

Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc 2008

Earthy vegetables and herbs give way to ripe, lush berries and black cherry on both the nose and the palate. There are sweet spices from the oak aging on the finish.  Even with two years in the cellar, there are still firm tannins, and fair acidity. A blend of 96% Cabernet Franc and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a great wine to pair with food, though the Stepping Stone 2008 Cabernet Franc is also a very nice sipping wine. The 2008 vintage was $30, while the current 2010 vintage of this wine is $35.

I’ve previously enjoyed wines from Stepping Stone. In 2012 I took sips of Stepping Stone Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, and in 2011 I took a look at their white wine called Stepping Stone ROCKS! 2010. I have a bottle of the Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon that has also been sitting in the cellar for about two years. That wine definitely was young and tight when I received it, and I think it’s almost time to pop the cork.

What wine have you been holding on to that you think it’s time to open? 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.

WHAT RED WINE DID WE PAIR WITH THE 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.

WHAT WHITE WINE DID WE PAIR WITH THE JERKY?

 

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.

 

 

Nine Wines For Your Thanksgiving Feast

Wines to Pair with a Happy Thanksgiving

Wines to Pair with a Happy Thanksgiving

It’s a scant few days before Thanksgiving, have you finalized your menu yet? Of course you have, and you’ve paired the perfect wine with the meal, right? Well, most wine writers and sommeliers will argue that there is no ONE wine that works perfectly for Thanksgiving. I’ve written about pairing wine with Thanksgiving meals before, as well as brought three wines for Thanksgiving to CBS 12, and maintain that the variety of palates your guests have and range of flavors at Thanksgiving calls for a variety of wines to be served with your Turkey. While there are some “typical or classic wine and Turkey Day pairings”, and I’ll cover them below, there are some addition wine pairing options that you may not have considered. I’ll summarize where I bought the wines and their prices at the end of the article. However, first, let’s take a look at nine different wines, some the same grape from different regions, to offer you some great Thanksgiving wine pairing ideas.

Chandon Brut Classic Sparkling Wine For Thanksgiving

Chandon Brut Classic Sparkling Wine For Thanksgiving

If there is one thing you can safely serve at any party or big meal, it’s sparkling wine. There are of course tons of options, a true Champagne from France,  Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, or California bubbly like Chandon’s Brut Classic. A non-vintage (NV), budget friendly sparkling wine at $13, there are great flavors of green apples, peach, and a little toasted bread. These flavors work perfectly with appetizers, including cheese, fruit and even stuffed mushrooms. Champagne and sparkling wine love salty snacks, so salted nuts and even pigs in a blanket work perfectly. This is a slightly more fruit forward option, and if you like a traditional Champagne, feel confident that it’s a perfecting wine selection for Thanksgiving as well!

Chateau Megyer Tokjai Furmint 2012

Chateau Megyer Tokjai Furmint 2012

Chances are, you’ll surprise your guests with a wine from Hungary, made with a grape they’ve likely never heard of. Tokaji, pronounced Toke-eye, is a wine that can be dry or sweet, and made with one of six approved grapes: Furmint, Harslevelu, Yellow Muscat (Sargamuskotaly) Zeta, Koverszolo, and Kabar. The Chateau Megyer Tokaji Furmint 2012  is a budget friendly dry white wine option at $12. A light, clear yellow color and subdued nose leads to a palate that is reminiscent of riesling. Flavors of soft apricot, coupled with good minerality, this white wine will pair well with appetizers, as well as your turkey.  The sweet versions of Tokjai, Aszu or Eszencia, are perfect dessert wines. They are sweet enough wines to pair with the fruit pies that are common desserts at Thanksgiving.

DeBeaune Les Galopieres 2011 Pouilly-Fuisse wine for thanksgiving

DeBeaune Les Galopieres 2011 Pouilly-Fuisse

Chardonnay is a grape grown the world over. The wine can be lean and mineral driven, tropical fruit focused, or full of apple and pear ‘tree fruit’ flavors. The French styles of chardonnay are typically less focused on the burst of fruit flavors you’ll find in California wines. Additionally, if there is oak used to age the wine, it’s much more subdued than it’s California cousins. Pouilly-Fuissé is an appellation (AOC) for white wine in the Mâconnais subregion of Burgundy in central France. Pronounced Poo-Wee Foo-Say, Pouilly-Fuisse only permits chardonnay to make wine bearing the AOC’s designation. Though there is often oak aging involved with these wines, the $20 DeBeaune Les Galopieres Pouilly-Fuisse 2011 is unoaked. A lean, crisp white wine with flavors of green apples, minerals, and a beautiful finish of spice and smoke, this is a perfect all around wine for Thanksgiving. It will work nicely with your appetizers, your vegetables, your turkey and even your ham.

Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011 wine for thanksgiving

Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011

Another great $20 white wine selection is the Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011. A perfect wine to pair with ham, turkey, potato and stuffing, this oaked chardonnay has notes of vanilla and creme brulee, with a dominant fruit flavor of pear. There is a soft smoke and spice on the finish, but all of the flavors are balanced and none overwhelms the others.

Domaine Pignard 2011 Beaujolais wine for thanksigiving

Domaine Pignard 2011 Beaujolais

Beaujolais is not a revolutionary wine pairing idea for Thanksgiving. There is no doubt you’ve heard of Beaujolais Nouveau. However, it’s not the best expression of gamay, and it’s more a marketing ploy than anything else. It is not a wine I recommend or partake in. However, gamay grapes make fantastic wines, and the Domaine Pignard Beaujolais 2011 is a steal at $10. An easy drinking, fruit forward red wine, the DeBeaune Domaine Pignard Beaujolais is a great idea for Thanksgiving, as it will pair with fowl or meat. A soft palate, with flavors of dried fruits like blackberry and bing cherry, there’s a hint of oak as well. There is good acidity, which makes it a great food friendly wine. I did also try a Cru Beaujolais, the Domaine Mont Chavy 2011 Morgon. Less fruity and more earthy, this was another great French wine under $20.

Forever 2012 Pinot Noir wine for Thanksgiving

Forever 2012 Pinot Noir

I’m not the first wine writer/sommelier to recommend Pinot Noir wine for your Thanksgiving meal. I do, however, try to find new and exciting options for you to try. Like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir is found the world over. This year, my pinot noir Thanksgiving wine comes from California and Oregon, to highlight two different styles. Forever Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012 is a budget friendly $11 option. A nose of fresh berries, the palate is a mocha and strawberry mix with a hint of spice. Pork and Pinot are a favorite wine pairing, but of course turkey will work perfectly.

Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 thanksgiving wine

Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 thanksgiving wine

While tasting Clos Pepe Pinot Noir with winemaker Wes Hagen, he mentioned how Oregon winemakers are similar to their Burgundian counterparts. Domaine Loubejac offers a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir for $18 that certainly reminds me of French Burgundy. Dried strawberry and raspberry, with a nice spice on the mid palate and finish, the Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 has great acidity and is very food friendly. Your Thanksgiving turkey or ham will enjoy this wine. Feel free to pick up a bottle of Wes Hagen’s Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir as well. At $54, the Clos Pepe 2009 is a well made red wine that will work perfectly with your 2013 Thanksgiving, or sit in your cellar and age nicely until 2010. I’ll feature the 2010 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir in an upcoming article.

Dr Loosen 2012 Blue Slate thanksgiving wine

Dr Loosen 2012 Blue Slate thanksgiving wine

I don’t drink a lot of riesling. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, and I’ve tasted a few German Rieslings this year that I really enjoyed. I just don’t reach for them frequently. I’ve recommended the wines from Dr Loosen previously, and will again say that riesling is a great Thanksgiving wine selection. The Dr Loosen Dr L Riesling is a bargain at $12. A perfect wine pairing for ham, turkey, fruit and cheese, the Dr L has fresh apricot and peach flavors with a very subtle minerality through it. For a more mineral and slate focused palate, the Dr Loosen Blue Slate (pictured left) is an excellent riesling selection as well, and cost only $22. It has enough white peach fruit and floral flavor to balance the flinty minerality that is typical from blue slate soils the vines are planted on.

We have already mentioned nine, well ten wines to serve with your Thanksgiving meal. However, I recently participated in a tasting of Bordeaux Superieur wine under $15 that had some real great selections. These samples were the second part of the Planet Bordeaux wine series I had previously participated in.  You may think a merlot from Bordeaux would be too overpowering for your Thanksgiving meal. However, the Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux is bound to change your mind.

Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux 2011 merlot wine for thanksgiving

Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux 2011

I’ll feature the entire six wine Bordeaux tasting in a future article, but the Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux 2011 was my favorite of the flight. An organic Bordeaux red wine that cost only $12, the Les Hauts de Lagarde is a blend of 65% merlot and 25% cabernet sauvignon. Flavors of blueberry and black currant with nice oak integration lend themselves to this soft, elegant red wine. There was a hint of spice on the finish that brought all of the flavors together nicely. A perfect wine to pair with beef, lamb, veal and pasta, it was light enough to enjoy with turkey, stuffing, and the rest of your Thanksgiving meal. As a side note, we decanted this wine for about 1 1/2 hours.

There are a few tips to keep in mind when serving these wines

  • Serve your white wines chilled, but not ice cold. Serving wine too cold mutes the flavors
  • Serve your red wines SLIGHTLY chilled. Room temperature for red is about 60 degrees, not your typical 75 house temperature
  • Decant your red wines for at least 30 minutes before serving. Chill it in the fridge for 30-40 minutes, then open and leave on the table 30 minutes before meal time
  • Don’t be afraid to decant your white wine. They’ll open up with a little air. Just keep them cool, perhaps in an ice bucket while doing so. Simply pull the cork and leave them open 15 minutes before serving.

I purchased all of the wines mentioned today, with the exception of the Les Hauts de Lagarde and the Clos Pepe Pinot Noir, which were media samples. They were all found easily, and you should be able to pick up one or more for your own party.

  • —Chandon Brut – Publix & Total Wine $13
  • Chateau Megyer Tokaji Furmint – Total Wine $12
  • DeBeaune Pouilly-Fuisse – Total Wine $20
  • —Sonoma Loeb Chardonnay – Publix & Total Wine $20
  • Domaine Pignard Beaujolais – Total wine $10
  • Forever Vineyards Pinot Noir – Total Wine $11
  • Domaine Loubejac Pinot Noir – Total Wine $18
  • Dr Loosen Dr L Riesling – Publix & Total Wine $12
  • Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux – Whole Foods $12

Cheers to you and your friends and family this Thanksgiving season. I’d love to hear what your favorite wine is this Thanksgiving, and what dish you enjoy it with. Just leave a comment below!