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Pork and Pinot – A Perfect Pairing


Leave a comment on the video and let me know what you want to see next!

There are some days you just don’t want to slave over a hot stove, yet yearn for a delicious, home cooked meal. Managing your time between meal prep and other tasks, work, play, whatever, couldn’t be easier once you master the art of the crock pot! Toss four ingredients in the pot, let it cook for half the day while your attention is elsewhere, and the end result is a perfectly prepared, hot meal that’s delicious. All that you have to do is pop the cork on a nice wine to make this meal fabulous. That’s where I come in, taking this crock pot pork loin recipe and pairing a delicious red wine with it, a Pinot Noir from California.

As you saw in the short video, placing a 2-3 pound pork loin in the crock pot with about 3 cups of beef broth, eight thyme sprigs, and 4 or 5 whole cloves of garlic makes an amazing meal. While we cooked it, on a low setting, for 10 hours, it would have been ready after 6-8. The meal was positively delicious, but what really set it off was the wine pairing.  Pork goes famously with white wines, like Riesling or Gewurztraminer, but we really enjoy this dish with a Pinot Noir. I selected the $30 offering from Russian Hill, their Russian River Valley 2006.

Russian Hill has been family owned and operated since 1997, and produces a number of estate Syrah offerings in addition to their estate Pinot Noir wine and an estate grown Viognier. They also offer a Chardonnay sourced from a neighboring Dutton Ranch vineyard, numerous Pinot Noirs sourced from individual neighboring vineyards, and of course, the RRV Pinot Noir discussed in the video. Winemaker Patrick Melley, who is the nephew of proprietor Ed Gomez, is largely a self taught winemaker. His online biography mentions that mouthfeel is what he loves about wine most, and that indeed translates to his wines. Silky and soft, they dance on the palate.

The Russian Hill RRV Pinot Noir is sourced from multiple vineyards, selected from several small hands-on growers who offer fruit the team at Russian Hill feel creates a wine that represents the appellation as a whole. The summer fog provides moderate temperature during the day and cool nights, which results in wines with a bright acidity and full fruit flavor as the fruit ripens slowly. I thought this wine had great fruit that was beautifully balanced with smokey and earthy notes and a wonderful acidity that finishes softly.  This Pinot Noir is aged for 10 months in 100% French oak, 25% of which was new, which contributes those toasty, earthy notes. There were 2,000 cases of this wine produced, up from 1,370 in 2005. The wine has a velvety mouth feel, rich and supple, without being flabby. While it’s wonderful to sip on it’s own, it’s great with food. The video captures the tasting notes perfectly when this wine is paired with the right meal.

Do you have a recipe you’d like for me to prepare, then pair with the perfect wine? You can email me at matt @ mmwine.me or leave a comment below and we can collaborate. I’d love to feature your recipe on the blog!

Bubbles, Bubbles Everywhere – Sparkling Wines for Valentines

Louis Roederer Cristal

Louis Roederer Cristal

If you aren’t a connoisseur of fine Champagne, there’s no doubt you heard of Dom Perignon, Cristal, or Veuve Cliquot from a James Bond movie and rap video.  Indeed, there’s no shortage of expensive Champagne poured each and every February 14th. This Valentines Day men and women everywhere will spend a decent amount of money on good Champagne, often not knowing inexpensive options exist. I’m here to let you know you can pour some fantastic bubbly, and still delight you sweetheart.

When I was asked to visit the CBS12, WPEC studio this week to talk about wines for Valentines Day, I wanted to do something different. Immediately my mind went to Rose wines, something all too often over looked. Once I settled on the Think Pink for Valentines Day segment, I was asked to fill in for a second segment, and came up with three Sparkling wines under $20. I ran into my local Total Wine, with thousands of bottles to choose from, I knew I would find some great options.

Louis Bouillot Perle de Nuit Blanc de Noirs Brut

Louis Bouillot Perle de Nuit Blanc de Noirs Brut

First up was Louis Bouillot (Lou-ee Boo-yoh)  “Perle de Nuit” Blanc de Noirs Brut. Their “Pearl of the Night”, this dry sparkler, made in Burgundy, is a light, crisp and delightful wine. With beautiful bubbles, the palate is light pears and fresh dough, the finish is clean, with a great cherry component. Made of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Gamay, in the traditional method, the Louis Bouillot Blanc de Noirs is aged 24 months, well past the legal requirement of 9 months. This is a great sipper, and I wouldn’t pair it with anything other than good company. I grabbed this at Total Wine for just $16, and it was well worth the price.

You may have watched Kara Kostanich ask on the CBS segment about wines being called “Champagne”. Sparklers not made in the Champagne region of France can not be called Champagnes. The appellation for the Louis Bouillot is Cremant de Bourgogne, which covers France’s Burgundy region and features dry sparkling wines. And while Champagne holds their wines to a high measure of quality, so does the Cremant de Bourgogne appellation.

Rondel Pura Raza Semi-Seco Cava

Rondel Pura Raza Semi-Seco Cava

From France, we jet over to Spain, where a blend of the three traditional Cava grapes; Xarel.lo, Macabeo & Parellada make their appearance. Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine made by the traditional Champagne method, and includes fermentation in steel tanks, then a secondary fermentation in the bottle, which gives it the bubbles we love so much. Another Total Wine selection, this $8 sparkler is great. The Rondel Brut Cava has been very highly rated by several magazines, however I selected the Semi-Seco, or sweeter, offering. I felt that for Valentines Day, you may want a slightly sweeter wine, one that is fun and easy to drink. With flavors of dried pineapple or pear, it’s a tad sweet, but not cloying. It’s crisp on the finish, and pairs perfectly with Strawberries.  If you’ve ever wanted to try Champagne and strawberries, I highly suggest trying it with the Rondel Pura Raza Semi-Seco Cava!

Our final Sparkling wine brings us back to Europe, Italy to be precise. It’s time to talk about Brachetto, a sparkling dessert wine from Italy. If your sweetheart is a fan of desserts, this bubbly will be sure to hit the spot. I selected the Sant-Orsola Brachetto D’Acqui, a delicious gem for about $16 at Total Wine! Brachetto is a red grape that is found mainly in Piedmont, the northwest region of Italy. The cherry cola red color is brilliant, and the palate of dry raspberry with a slightly sweet note is balanced with a very clean finish. The sweet berry flavors of the Sant-Orsola Brachetto D’Acqui makes it a natural pair for several desserts.

Sant'Orsola Brachetto D'Acqui

Sant'Orsola Brachetto D'Acqui

Pairing this wine with a chocolate cake, or even a piece or two of chocolates from that heart you always bring your beloved, works wonderfully. The chocolate enhances the fruit flavor, and the two  work well together. I brought a chocolate mousse tart to the CBS set, and it was a very nice pairing. I’d also happily serve the Brachetto with fruit, or alone. It’s a very nice sipper, with a fun, fruity flavor.

There are, of course, hundreds of other wine options for Valentines Day. If these Sparklers don’t tickle your fancy, and you aren’t adventureous enough to try the Rose Wines I recommended, leave a comment below and I’ll try to help you find just the right wine for your Valentine.  And, if you do use one of the QPR Wines (wines with Good Quality to Price Ratio) I mentioned this weekend, don’t be surprised if your sweetheart looks at you, slyly, having read this article, and wants a bigger present with the money on the wine!

Three Great Wines For your Valentines

Valentines Day Wine Selection

Valentines Day Wine Selection

Many guys will admit they’re not the best when it comes to figuring out what women want. Perhaps it’s because women are complex beings, requiring careful time and study, and men aren’t that patient. Or perhaps it’s because men are selfish, hedonistic animals who really only care about their own needs. To help my brethren out this Valentines Day, I’m going to offer three wine suggestions that will make it seem like they understand what their ladies want, all without investing too much time, or too much money. My theme for this year’s Valentines Day wine choices is “Think Pink”, great Rose wines, one a sexy sparkler, that wont break your bank!

Now, I must admit, I had a little help to select these wines. Robin, my better half, made no bones about loving the color pink. My first clue was “Can I paint the house pink”, followed by an onslaught of pink clothes and accessories showing up on her side of the room.  However, the real giveaway was our being at a Champagne event, and her gushing “Ohh, I love pink champagne.” Ding ding, clue number one just dropped, go pick it up boys. Now, Robin didn’t actually help me make the selections, but for some reason, I knew she’d love them. We started off with a Sparkling wine from South Africa, Graham Beck’s Brut Sparking Rose – NV, from Robertson SA. Retailing at only $14, this wine delivers nice quality at a great price.

Graham Beck Brut Rose NV valentines day wine 2

Graham Beck Brut Rose NV

This light and crisp bubbly had a very nice, pale pink hue in the glass. It’s made from 58% Chardonnay and 42% Pinot Noir grapes, in the Cap Classique method, where the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle.  This is of course the same method used to make Champagne, the  méthode Champenoise, and is the term used in South Africa since 1992 to denote the traditional time-honoured method of making the sparkler.  Right out of the bottle, there were strawberry fruit flavors up front, with a finish of minerals that is refreshing in a Brut (dry) sparkler. There were tons of bubbles, and it was definitely the perfect way to start off our evening. Giving this bubbly a few minutes to open up is a nice idea, because the minerals and almost tart finish blows off, and you’re enjoying nice round red fruit that is well balanced and fun.  You can serve the Graham Beck Brute Rose NV bubbly with seafood, or even rare beef or lamb, and of course the traditional strawberries will be a smash hit!

Saint Andre de Figuiere 2008 Rose Magali Cuvee Valentines day wine

Saint Andre de Figuiere 2008 Rose Magali Cuvee

If bubbles aren’t your thing, lets hop from South Africa to Provence, France and enjoy a glass of Saint Andre de Figuiere 2008 Rose Magali Cuvee. That’s certainly a mouthful, especially if your French is as bad as mine! However, it’s worth butchering the name, or saying Saint ANdre Rose if you must, to enjoy this crisp Valentines Day wine. Half of the rose wine made in France comes from Provence, and at $16 this blend of Cinsault, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache is sure to delight. It’s salmon-pink color gives way to a bouquet of sweet, ripe raspberries. It has a soft palate, very light and crisp with fresh fruit of citrus and red berries, and some beautiful minerality on the finish. Dry and well balanced, this rose will go well with a host of foods, from chicken to fish, or just sipping with a nice cheese plate.

Big Fire Rose valentines day wine 3

Big Fire Rose Wine

Bubbles didn’t blow her away, and dry French wine not her thing, well then lets pop over to the United States, and try a Rose from Oregon! R Stuart & Co’s Big Fire line has a number of nice wines at good prices, and their $12 Big Fire Rose is no exception. A darker shade of pink than the previous two wines, the Big Fire Rose has some cherry scents on the nose, but it wasn’t a very fragrant bouquet. However, the palate was definitely bursting with fruit, strawberry up front, with a medium body that bursts with flavor. There’s definitely some red cherry and other bright fruit on the wine, and the fruit flavors last an incredibly long time.  The Big Fire Rose is a blend of Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Pinot Gris, each grape bringing it’s unique and interesting characteristic to the blend. Definitely a fruit forward wine, you could enjoy this with a lighter dish, whether it’s a salad, or some simple grilled chicken.

Let me know what wine you have on this Valentines Day, and how you enjoy it. If it’s one of the three discussed here, let me know how you like it. And Ladies, don’t be shy! If you want to be sure you enjoy the wine you drink on Valentines Day, select one of these and just tell him to open and pour like a good man should!  Cheers!

You can watch my appearance on CBS12 WPEC talking about these great wines with Daybreak News Anchor Kara Kostanich!

Wine tasting with Matthew Horbund at Himmarshee Bar and Grille

Guests at Himmarshee Bar and Grille Twineup January 2010

Guests at Himmarshee Bar and Grille Twineup January 2010

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been host to five amazing food and wine events at Fort Lauderdale’s Himmarshee Bar and Grille. The old addage “Time Flies When You’re Having Fun” certainly applies in this case.  We’ve managed to bring together some of the most fun people South Florida has to offer in one amazing place, and introduced them to gastronomic delights and wine pairings to tantalize their palates. What started out as another “Tweetup”, where Twitter users socialize face to face rather than online, has turned into an open event where anyone can experience new tastes in food and wine. Recently the subject of a Conde Nast review as a fantastic destination to eat at in South Florida, 50 people gathered at Himmarshee’s Sidebar to taste three wines that were paired with culinary creations from Chris, Himmarshee’s Executive Chef.

Brilliant Bordeaux

Bordeaux Matchmaking

Bordeaux Matchmaking

In addition to introducing you to new grapes to try in 2010, I’d like to help make wine more fun and approachable.  A great opportunity to do that was the wine event I went to in Miami, where the wineries of Bordeaux were showcasing delicious wines that were great for every day. I hope the below write up helps take some of your fear of France away.

It was a dark and stormy night. No, really, it was probably the worst storm in 2009, but nothing would keep me from making the trip from West Palm Beach to Miami. The almost two hour drive during a torrential downpour was worth it, as I was on my way to one of the most hottest parties of the year. Part of the “Life Goes Better with Bordeaux” campaign, an effort to educate people on the quality and value associated with wines from Bordeaux, France, this event was going to be spectacular.

Wines that work for your holiday party and budget

Talking Wine on CBS 12 WPEC

Talking Wine on CBS 12 WPEC

I love sharing great wine information with anyone who’s interested. Today I was on CBS 12, WPEC, in West Palm Beach, and spoke about four wines that I think work for almost any holiday party.  While we only covered two of the four wines on the segment, I’ll tell you about all four right now.

First up was Gougenheim Chardonnay, from Mendoza, Argentina. This delicious white wine costs less than $9, and is versatile enough to go with a range of appetizers, as well as a holiday ham, seafood or chicken. It’s light, fruit driven flavor will go well with most anything you serve. A lightly oaked white wine, the pear and apple fruit flavors show nicely, and are balanced with just a hint of toast and spice from the oak aging.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2009 – Not so epic

Matt at Epcot Food & Wine Festival 2009

Matt at Epcot Food & Wine Festival 2009

We always have a good time at the Disney parks, whether with the kids, or with our adult friends. Robin & I decided it was time for an “Adult Weekend”, and planned a trip to the Epcot Food and Wine festival with our good friends Tom and Scottt. As Florida residents, the discounts available to us make it a quick and usually relatively inexpensive weekend getaway. We were all very excited to try some different wines as well as interesting food creations, and just have a Magical day.

We arrived on Disney property Friday evening and made our way to the Grand Floridan for our dinner reservation at Citricos. The bartender at the hotel bar on the second floor, Tammy, is not only fun and a great mixologist, she’s a good friend of Tom and Scott. We were excited that Tammy was working, and stopped to have a drink with her.  The first non-magical moment happened when Tom went into Citricos to tell them where we were, as the host was quite rude. He wouldn’t call us if we were not in the restaurant bar, and we’d just have to wait for a table after we came in.  Mind you, they were anything but full, and this is certainly NOT the way we expected to be treated.  Fast forward through the evening, and the food was nice enough, but our waiter and the service were terrible. The appetizer and salad was delicious, and the Albarino they suggested was nice with those courses. Our main course was served late, and only after we walked up to the kitchen and saw it sitting on the counter. The food was cold, and while probably delicious, the meal was positively ruined. Even the tasty bottle of Chappellet 2006 Mountain Cuvee couldn’t save the cold fillet of beef, roasted chicken, or lamb shank we had. It was a several hundred dollar dinner that was truly terrible. We’ll never eat at the Grand Floridian’s Citricos again. We left unsatisfied, though we all looked forward to our next day in Epcot.

Epcot Food and Wine Argentina

Epcot Food and Wine Argentina

After a great breakfast at the Yacht Club, we arrived at Epcot for 10am and walked around a bit. When you enter the World Showcase, which is a circular track, you can go left or right. We decided to go left, where the first stop was the Desserts & Champagne stand. This was poor planning on Epcot’s part, in my opinion, as having sweets before much of the wine throughout the rest of the event would tend to make the wine taste off. Perhaps they think everyone will go to the right, and finish with this stand. We did have a glass of Moet Imperial Rose each, then made our way to the next stand. We passed on Brazil, since we still had Champagne, and made our way to Argentina. I have recently done three different wine tastings of Argentinian wines, and was excited to stop at this stand. We sat for a while and finished our Champagne, then tried the Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec and Torrontes.

The Torrontes had a beautiful floral bouquet, and a nice, crisp palate of citrus and flowers. While I felt it left a waxy feel in my mouth, like eating wax lips when you were a kid, no one else minded, though they did experience it.  The Malbec, which is a varietal that I do enjoy, was over oaked and had no spice or pepper. We did not eat the food pairings, but they both looked fantastic, and we heard reviews later from a chef that it was the best food in the event.

The Mouse Catch - Cheese at Epcot 2009

The Mouse Catch - Cheese at Epcot 2009

Across from Argentina was the Mouse Catch. This was a cheese stand hosted by igourmet.com.  I’ve had their products before and think they offer some spectacular cheeses. I was a bit let down that we had just eaten breakfast and were too full to try any of the cheese. I thought we’d make our way around the event and try them later, though in the end that didn’t happen.

We took a break to ride Soarin’, and upon our return to the World Showcase, we went to the right this time, passing on “mojitos” from Puerto Rico, and stopping at Chile. The Natura Sauvignon Blanc was our selection, and probably would have rocked with the Corn & Cheese Arapa or the Ceviche. We were still full and not eating, but everyone loved the wine. Our next stop, Greece, was an interesting one. I have had a few people tell me they weren’t fans of wines from Greece. However, since I had never had any, I felt it was time to give it a shot, and move further along the road towards the Wine Century Club!

Greek Wines at Epcot 2009

Greek Wines at Epcot 2009

I can now say I’ve tasted Boutari’s white wine from the Santorini region, made from Assyrtiko grapes, as well as Tsantali’s Rapsani Reserve, a red wine. The Boutari Santorini had a bouquet of motor oil and gasoline, and the palate wasn’t much different. None of us could handle more than 2 sips of the wine. The company’s website describes it as having a metallic taste, and I’d agree. The Rapsani Reserve is made from Greek indigenous grapes of 34% Xinomavro, 33% Krassato and 33% Stavroto. It was aged for 12 months in new French oak, and showed on the palate which was mostly blackcurrant and wood. This red would have probably paired well with some nice Roast Lamb, but alone, it wasn’t to my liking. The food offerings looked great, but it was now approaching time for our lunch in France, so we passed.

The highlight of the visit was lunch at Les chefs de France. It is, of course, an every day option at Epcot, so I really can’t give this fabulous experience any weight when discussing my Food & Wine Festival experience. We started with a glass of Pommery Brut Royal Champagne, and selected the cheese plate, meat & pate plate, and escargot to share. The bottle of wine we ordered, the Pierre Sparr Pinot Gris, was not one of their “regular menu selections”, and apparently was not kept at cellar temperature. We had to wait a good 20 minutes for it to be chilled enough to serve, so we ordered a glass of Domaine Caseneuve Cotes de Provence Rose. It was a lovely dry rose, with delicious cherries and citrus balanced nicely with chalky notes that paired well with the meats and cheeses. When the Pinot Gris was finally ready, it rounded out a great lunch. Delicious ripe fruit on the palate, off dry, the fruit was so bright it almost came across sweet. However, the wine was nice and crisp, and was sipped with abandon.

New York Wines featured at Epcot Food & Wine Festival

New York Wines featured at Epcot Food & Wine Festival

After lunch we shopped a little in France, then made our way around the rest of the event area. By 3:15pm the park was packed and each area had a queue of 20-30 people deep. None of the remaining wines really intrigued us enough to prompt us to wait that long.  I was quite surprised that Australia showed Rosemont and Penfolds Kunga Hill, grocery store wines that really don’t showcase the variety and strength of the wines of the region. New Zealand and South Africa were also lack luster with their offerings. We would have stopped at Germany, which offered Prum Rieslings, but waiting 20-30 minutes for a 2 oz taste in 88 degree weather didn’t seem appealing.  Likewise, we would have stopped in New York,  where they had several of the Finger Lake wines I have had in the past, had there not been so many people in line. Add to this the fact that people were more than happy, some falling down drunk, and it just soured us on the rest of the day.

We left the park, headed over to Cat Cora’s new restaurant. They didn’t change the decor much at all from Spoodles, save for opening up the kitchen area. There is no bar, and the drinks the waiter brought, which he most likely made, were terrible. We had appetizers, the spanakopita which was amazing, the clam appetizer we all thought was fairly nice, and the calamari that was inedible. We didn’t even consider staying for a meal, with the noise level approaching headache producing, and the food really not Iron Chef quality. We headed over to The Swan hotel and Todd English’s BlueZoo. There, we ordered oysters and the crab nachos, which absolutely ROCKED, and hung out with Deb, a great bartender, for a few hours. We had a great time, and will most likely stay at the Swan next visit.

Sunset at The Swan at Walt Disney World

Sunset at The Swan at Walt Disney World

As the sun set on our quick visit to Epcot, we recapped our trip. First of all, wear sensible shoes. My feet are killing me from the flip flops I wore. Ladies, don’t wear heels. You may look fabulous, but you’ll cry for weeks about blisters. Wear sneakers & cushy socks. Second, plan more than one day to take in an event as big as the Food & Wine Festival. Frankly, we missed things we wanted to try, and had no time for shopping. Though as a Wineaux, I was terribly disappointed with the majority of the wine offerings, I still would have liked to experience some of them, and try the food pairings. That brings us to third, don’t eat a big meal before an event that showcases a lot of food. You won’t want any, and then lament you didn’t try more. Fourth, the one day park rate is absurd, as it cost us $80 per person to enter the park, then another $50 tasting 10 wines. Had we tried the related food pairings, it would have bumped the price another $50 per person. That’s only tasting one wine and one food pairing at 10 out of over 25 opportunities. Don’t think this is a cheap proposition. You may have a lot of different wine and food presented to you, but that doesn’t mean it’s a budget trip. I may have opened this post saying Disney is typically a quick and inexpensive getaway as a Florida resident, but this event really doesn’t fit that bill.

Finally, you’ll notice I didn’t mention any of the seminars available to you at these events.  After this unflattering review of the cheese seminar, coupled with the fact that on the day we arrived, nothing really intrigued us, we passed. They didn’t seem worth the price. Perhaps someone can tell me which events they enjoyed, so we can try them next time.  And that’s where I end up folks. Though Citricos was positively abysmal, and the wine at the Food & Wine festival really didn’t leave me feeling like I was trying anything special, I will probably make the pilgrimage to The House of the Mouse in a few years. Perhaps by then Disney will realize that to put on a festival showcasing wine, they should try to offer their guests something more than just $9 grocery store juice.

An introduction to Finger Lake, NY Riesling

I’ve been drinking wine a long time. I’m from New York. Given those two statements, you’d think I’d be a well versed champion of Finger Lakes wines like  Lenn Thompson. I’m going to say right now, up until this week, I had never tasted a wine from the NY state. I hereby apologize for that, and am quite grateful for the opportunity to try some very interesting wines from my home state.  I was selected as one of a few wine bloggers to receive samples of 12 wines from the Finger Lakes area of New York. Lenn decided to select all Finger Lakes Rieslings, given the heat of summer and his desire to cool us off. With the help of Morgen McLaughlin from Finger Lakes Wine Country, our samples arrived and we were off to the tastings.

I invited a few friends over to taste and discuss the wines we were about to receive, the salesman with the wine distributor that Zsazsa and Company, Inc uses in South Florida, along with his girlfriend, as well as three of the four @Swirlgirls, the wine bloggers for the Palm Beach Post.  We had very little education about the Finger Lakes wine region, and all of us had preconceived notions of what to expect.  The Swirl Girls had just done a German and Alsace wine tasting, and were expecting wines similar to those.  I too was expecting different tasting wines, perhaps a mix of New World Rieslings mashed up with German Kabinett and Spatlese Riesling. I won’t lament that I didn’t do my homework before tasting the wines, but I’ve learned that preconceived notions really don’t do any good. After really not enjoying the wines as much as I had hoped, and speaking with some Finger Lakes wine lovers, I tasted all 12 wines a second time the next night. With my new paradigm, I wanted to try them again to make sure I gave myself an opportunity to experience them without expecting Dr Loosen Dr L in each glass. Robin and I made a few appetizers, and our guests brought various dishes as well. We lined up the wines, and started our event.  First up, Ravines Wine Cellars 2006 Riesling.

Ravines Wine Cellars Dry Riesling 2006

Ravines Wine Cellars Dry Riesling 2006

European Winemaker and Oenologist Morten Hallgren and his wife Lisa purchased the 17 acre parcel of land for Ravines in 2000, after working for Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars for 6 years. The tasting room was opened in spring 2003, and they promptly won Best Dry Riesling in the 2003 World Riesling Cup and the Eastern International Wine Competition for their 2002 Dry Riesling. None of us read the bottle or description on their web page, and just tasted away.

In the glass, the Ravines Riesling 2006 ($16 retail 12.5% ABV)  had a light pale yellow color with a nose of lemon zest. There was a little minerals and sharp notes in the bouquet as well. Upon taking the first sip, there was a bit of light citrus, and then a  really big burst of it on the mid palate. This wine, and really most of the Rieslings we had this evening, had a tremendous amount of acidity. So much so, the reaction of most of the tasters was that it was a bit unbalanced.  The finish is really long, and the citrus turns a bit grassy. Most of the tasters really didn’t prefer this wine, and I likened it to a Sancerre, with a lot of grapefruit, but not as balanced and polished.

Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards Homestead Reserve Riesling 2008

Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards Homestead Reserve Riesling 2008

Next up we tasted the Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards Homestead Reserve Riesling 2008 ($18 retail 12% ABV). Founded by the late Jerry Hazlitt and his wife Elaine in 1984, the Hazlitt family has been involved in Viticulture for 151 years. Hazlitt wines have won multiple awards, and the Homestead Reserve Riesling has been awarded Silver in the LA International, Bronze in the San Francisco International, and a few gold and double gold awards.

On the first night of tasting, my notes were very brief. I noticed the bouquet had a bit of pear, there was a lot of lemon with  grassy notes on the palate, and the finish just left you with a gripping acidity that overwhelmed your mouth.  When I revisited the wine on the second night, I smelled a lemon poppy muffin in the glass, but the acidity was actually showing up and burning my nose. There was a light floral thing going on up front on the sip, sort of white flowers, that transitioned into nice stone fruit.  Stone fruit, if you aren’t sure, resembles peaches, nectarines, etc. The finish still is so acidic that it leaves a harsh citrus flavor that wipes away the stone fruit. I do not want to give the impression this is a bad wine, however. You just need to strap yourself in for the acidity on it, and most of the others. This wine, along with one I’ll discuss later, was a favorite of Robin’s 25 year old assistant, who was happy to sample some of the remaining wines on the 3rd day.

After the first two wines, we all started trying some of the food we had prepared. We hoped the food would cut the acidity and perhaps soften the flavors up a bit. Remember, we didn’t understand that the terroir of Finger Lakes would bring flavors that Evan Dawson likens to “wrapping a river rock with a lime peel and taking a bite. Which, to me, is freaking wonderful.” All of the dishes went very nicely with all of the wines, from the Shrimp with Orzo made by Swirl Girl Sweet (Libby) to the shrimp satay sort of thing Joelle created, to mock Shortbread cookies with Cabot Hot Habanero cheese that we emulated. However, they didn’t change the experiences we had with the wines. And that isn’t a bad thing. We pressed on.

Anthony Road Finger Lakes Riesling

Anthony Road Finger Lakes Riesling

The next wine made most of the guests cringe when they sampled the bouquet on the first night. I implored them to let it open a bit, swirl, and see if the odor blew off. I felt it did, showing some fresh made margarita on the nose. It was off dry with medium acidity and body, showing ripe peaches. The finish was called “unsettling” on the first night, but not unpleasant. The Anthony Road Wine Company Semi-Dry Riesling comes in at about $15 retail and 12.6 ABV, and was not a crowd favorite. When I sampled it the second day, I noted it was a tad syrupy, but not overly so. The peaches and nectarines were dominant, but the acidity compared to the others was underwhelming. It was as if I would have liked to cut the acidity from the first two wines, and put them into this one.

Anthony Road Wine Company owners Ann and John Martini moved to the 100 acre parcel of land overlooking Seneca Lake in 1973. They opened the winery doors in 1990 with the 1989 vintage, and they produce a wide range of Finger Lakes wines. The 2007 Dry Riesling & 2008 Semi-Sweet Riesling won Gold at the Riverside International Wine Competition.  I definitely think the wine opened up on the second day, and perhaps just needed to sit for a while on the first night.  It was actually the 4th ranked wine by the wine distributor rep who was with us.

Dr Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars

Dr Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars

The next wine invoked a good bit of conversation, as Dr Konstantin Frank is credited for not just revolutionizing wine production in New York State and the East Coast, but also producing world class wines. As Lenn Thompson said, “How could you not include Dr Frank in a Finger Lakes Tasting.” The wine distributor was more than excited to discuss how Dr Frank revitalized the New York wine industry after his idea to graft European grape vines on local NY root stock allowed the more delicate grapes to grow in the harsher NY weather, to expand the options available to winemakers.

Of the four wines we had tasted so far during the evening, we all agreed Dr Frank 2007 Dry Riesling at $17 retail was the most enjoyable; the  fruit,  acidity, and minerality are all restrained, balanced, and elegant. While the finish was disappointing compared to the other elements of the wine, it was not bad, just not up to snuff. It was the second favorite wine of the entire night for our wine distributor guest.  Tasting this wine the second night, the bouquet was tight, mostly yeasty scents coming through. The palate is medium weight, and some what elegant. There’s a decent bit of tree fruit here, with an underpinning of yeast, though it’s a bit light on the finish. You get a mixture of citrus and grass with tree fruit and yeast.

If you’ve made it this far, give yourself a hand; this has been a long post. I’ll write up another four of the 12 wines in the coming days. I’ll leave you with this though: Have an open mind and a wandering palate and try some Finger Lakes NY Rieslings when you can. They’re different than what you’d expect, but something you may thoroughly enjoy. Until next time, have a good time with wine!