Saturday, May 31, 2008

Dry Creek Co-op

I spent the last few days meeting with grape sources and crush alternatives and did a healthy dose of field reseach bellied up to winery tasting bars around Sonoma County. Michelle Baker was our gracious hostess with the mostest at Family Wineries in Dry Creek Valley. With 8 wineries under one roof (including my personal favorite Collier Falls who recently got that best of show trophy you see on the bar) it really reminded me of our own little co-operative effort in Austin. As we chatted with her Michelle revealed that she is not only a friendly face behind the Family Wineries tasting bar but also writes about wine for Wine Country This Week, Spotlight’s Wine Country Guide and Jane magazine. It was a great stop and I highly recommend it as you work your way through Dry Creek on the way to the Dry Creek Grocery for picnic supplies, water to rehydrate and toothpaste to get scrub your zinfadeled teeth. Cheers!

Monday, May 26, 2008

wow - patience rewarded

I was reminded this Memorial Day weekend about the benefits of aging and breathing to a big red wine. Like this 2002 Napa syrah from Novy. A good fruit forward syrah in its youth, it has gained even more smoky, gamey complexity with a few cellar years. But it took being open a couple hours for the really great stuff to kick in. Glad I waited (well for part of the bottle anyway).

Saturday, May 24, 2008

wow - pinot of a different color

Related to pinot noir, little green pinot blanc grapes make a great refreshing white that is a tad more serious and complex than you average quaffer but still not as heavy as most chardonnays. Tart and tangy, these grapes thrive in Alsace France and into Germany (call it "weissburgunder") and also do quite well in the cool Willamette Valley in Oregon. Great seafood wine or a complement to creamy sauces or cheese. On the healthy side, it really brought out the lemon in a lemon-pepper roasted chicken. Or just sip it on a hot day - yum! I picked this 2006 Adelsheim up at Austin Wine Merchant - 17 bucks.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

wow - unAmerican white?

Pine Ridge makes this crisp delicious dry white using 80% chenin blanc and the rest viognier. Now do you ever see such a wine on a menu or at a tasting? You would in France and certainly would in South Africa where, sometimes called "steen", chenin blanc is one of the most widely consumed wines. Stateside, however, chenin blanc has a bad rap as something that should come in a big green jug. All because the grape was never raised carefully for flavor but was instead turned into a workhorse of Central Valley California bulk wine where it flourishes but becomes unremarkable. At probably its most lofty form, French Vouvray can be $100 a bottle chenin blanc that can age well for decades. This much more humble Pine Ridge ages just fine on the front seat of the car on the way home from Whole Foods where I picked it up for $9. As Texas winegrowers search for grapes to grow that fit our hot climate, they would do well to consider this high-acid grape that can produce great refreshing wines ranging from dry to sweet.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

wow - one swede pink

Here from Italian producer Letizia, another really good dry rose ("rosato" in Italian) from a pretty interesting Italian, well Sicilian actually, varietal: nero d'avola. This variety does well growing in the Sicilian heat (Texas grape growers should take note!) and can produce big barrel-aged reds, but in these grapes give heft to a very full flavored aromatic pink that is great with prosciutto and a sliver of sharp cheese. Yet another terrific summer quaffer! I was sipping this wine with lunch in Sweden (!) but don't go that far for a bottle - look for a nero d'avola rosato near you.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

w.o.w. think pink

As summer approaches you just gotta think pink. I know all the pushback: pink wine is sweet, pink wine is not "real" wine, and of course my favorite: real men don't drink pink....ANYTHING. Well, set aside those cliche's for a minute and consider, there is a LOT of dry rose out there that is not the least bit sweet - just as dry as a chardonnay or sauvignon blanc but with more heft and complexity. So while whites may do fine, something like, say, a good spaghetti carbonara with that bit of egg and pancetta (hmmm... Asti comes to mind), is a whole different dish with a dry rose. Like this UNTI 2007 Rose: 65% grenache 35% mourvedre, all farmed at UNTI's own vineyards in Dry Creek Sonoma. Now that is real wine. Can't find UNTI at the store? Order direct like I did - go to the link above and you are a few clicks and a credit card away from having some wine within a week. Hurry though - this is not a wine to have shipped in the heat of the summer. So now, should I address that real men drinking pink wine issue? Guess not, as coming from someone that likes pink wine it might sound defensive.