Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bringing Back Merlot

I can’t remember the last time I drank a Merlot can you? Maybe you have, but it’s been a while since I drank one and I don’t know why. Its been so long that forgot how good it tastes. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, perhaps for me it makes the palate grow fonder.

Cannonball 2014 Sonoma County Merlot is sourced from owner Dennis Hill’s vineyard Adam & Eve in the Northern Russuan River Valley. At Cannonball they want to represent the inner child in all of us and want us to have fun. This is definitely is a fun wine.The Merlot is a blend of 91% Merlot with the remaining 9% a mix of Petite Sirah and Syrah. Fresh blueberry pie aromas escape from the glass along with plum, vanilla and blackberries. The palate is complex yet inviting. A medium bodied mouth feel with flavors of blueberry, plum, juicy black cherries rounding out with some clove and sweet tannins. This is an affordable and fun Merlot. SRP $15.99

The Merlot does have a big brother the Cannonball 2013 California Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was aged in oak for 15 months. This wine has nice tannin structure and is well balanced with aromas of cassis, mulberry and tea leaves. The palate is full of dark fruit and hints of toasted oak. Very affordable at SRP $15.99

Friday, February 17, 2017

Super Bowl Isn't All About Beer & Pizza

When I think of football I admit, I think of beer. When I was planning my Super Bowl menu this year I really hadn’t thought of the beverages, I was thinking about the food.  Since there was only going to be 5 adults and 2 kids I wasn’t going to go crazy. I planned a menu of meatballs and smoked ribs two ways along with dip, chips, cheese and crackers.

Then the Thursday before the Super Bowl the UPS man delivered this, with instructions to make homemade pizza and have wine with the Super Bowl.

OK, so I do as I’m told and I added homemade pizza to the menu with Cusumano’s 2015 Nero D’Avola. There, the beverage of choice for the big game.

Game day came and I made not one but three homemade pizzas. Not knowing what kind the girls like, and I figured they wouldn’t like pesto pizza, unsure on margherita pizza, I made them a traditional pizza along with the two others. (don’t judge me by my holiday paper plates, I couldn’t find football ones when I went out last minute)

Nero d’Avola is a native grape to Sicily and the most planted grape on the island. For the most part Nero d’Avola is meant to be consumed early. Cusumano’s 2015 Nero D’Avola is a very versatile wine.  It’s not only a good pizza wine, but paired very well with the meatball sliders, and the smoked ribs that were done in both barbecue sauce and a mustard vinegar mop sauce.

Cusumano 2015 Nero d’Avola is aged in stainless steel for 5 months on the lees. Aromas of red and black berries fill the glass that burst into juicy blackberries in your mouth.  A nice well rounded wine that finishes with layer of black pepper, baking spices and a lingering hint of licorice.  SRP $12.99

I’ll leave you with a fun pizza fact:

“Research last year revealed that 6 million U.S. adults said they would give up sex for one year before giving up pizza.”

So grab a bottle of Cusumano Nero d’Avola when you pick up or make your pizza.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Celebrate Love on Valentine's Day with Anna

Valentine’s Day, a day of love, flowers, chocolate and bubbles. Such thought goes into this day whether you are proposing, celebrating your relationship or celebrating many years together. You want the day to be perfect and it doesn’t have to break the bank, but it has to taste good, look pretty and perhaps have an element of surprise.

That is where the hidden gem of Cava comes into play. Cava is a sparkling wine made in Spain in the traditional methode where the second fermentation happens in the bottle, just like Champagne but a third of the cost. Traditionally Cava is a blend of native grapes of Spain; Parellada, Maceveo and Xarel.lo, but the Anna de Codorniu brand also produces a Rose that is made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grown in the Lleida region.

You will need to set the stage for your romantic evening, pick up a set of Luigi Bormioli Michelangelo Masterpiece Gold stemware. They do have champagne flutes, however, I chose an all purpose wine glass to capture the aromas of the sparkling wine dancing up the glass. These glasses have nice long stems and are durable but elegant so you don’t have to worry about breaking them when washing them the same evening. They are lead free and the best part, they won’t break the bank.

Anna de Codorniu Brut Rose is the perfect choice for romance. A blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay it is elegance in the glass with delicate soft strawberry color and fine bubbles dancing up the glass. Aromas of soft red fruit and fresh strawberries. Sexy and soft on the palate it dances with excitement and love. It will set the tone for the evening, smiles on faces, romance and love. SRP $14.99

If you are looking for a Blanc de Blancs I would suggest Anna de Codorniu Blanc de Blancs Brut Reserva. A blend of 70% Chardonnay, 15% Parellada, 7.5% Macabeo, 7.5% Xarel.lo. A nice pale strawish yellow in color with nice fine bubbles shooting up the glass. Notes of pineapple, citrus and a hint of apricot escape from the glass. Delicate on the palate with hints of apple, melon and citrus. SRP $14.99

For a nice romantic evening, I’ve set the stage, it’s all up to you.

Luigi Bormioli Michelangelo Masterpiece Gold stemware $19.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond. Make sure you bring your 20% off coupon for $4.00off.

Anna de Codorniu $14.99 available in the Sparlking Wine section of your liquor store

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Truth About Prosecco Superiore

Prosecco is probably the most popular sparkling wine these days and it’s been around for centuries. What is Prosecco Superiore and what makes it different. It’s all about the classification and where the grapes are grown.

Prosecco DOC is produced in 9 provinces from Veneto to Friuli Venezia Giulia.  There are 356 Prosecco DOC producers and only 183 Prosecco Superiore producers. Prosecco Superiore is the highest level of Prosecco produced. It can only come from the provence of Treviso and the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene which is located 50km from Venice.

The growing region is very complex. The Conegliano region on the eastern hills was formed by glacial activity. They have gently sloping hills of alluvial and morainic soils that consist of small rocks, sand and clay. Over on the western side in Valdobbiadene, unaffected by glacial activity, you have steep hills defined by erosion and ravines.  This soil is shallow and of marine origin composed of marls, sandstone, compressed clay and conglomerates with marine deposits.

Made in the Charmat method where the second fermentation takes place in an autoclave (large sealed pressurized tank,) the Prosecco in the bottle labeled DOCG Superiore must be 85% Glera and up to 15% Verdiso, Perera,or Bianchetta. Also permitted in Spumante only are Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco and Pino Nero. Bottling the sparkling wine can only be done in the wineries of the province of Treviso. There is strict quality control performed by a number of organizations at different stages of the production process. The Producers Association the Consorzio di Tutela and the Chamber of Commerce inspect and guarantee the wine’s entire production process.  At the end of the inspection the official State issued bottle will have a unique identification number. Each bottle will have its own number.

Terms to know when purchasing a bottle of Prosecco Superiore DOCG

  • Brut - The driest style. Has residual sugar between 0-12 g/l.
  • Extra Dry - This is the most traditional type of Prosecco. Risidual suger between 12 and 17 g/l.
  • Dry - Dry it isn’t.  It’s the sweetest style of Prosecco with risidual sugar between 17 and 32 g/l. This is the least wide spread version of Prosecco.
  • Millesimato - Vintage Prosecco.  The wine comes from the same vintage year
  • Rive - All the grapes for the Prosecco come from one of the 43 tows or hamlets designated by the name and the term Rive.  These wines must be vintaged dated.
  • Cartizze - The grapes must come from the Cartizze subzone and be indicated on the label as “Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG”
  • Superiore - refers only to Spumante (sparkling) Prosecco DOCG
  • Spumante (sparkling) Must have 3.5 bars atmospheres of pressure made in the Charmat method.
  • Frizzante (fizzy) Must have between 1 - 2.5 bars atmospheres of pressure. This has a gentler bubbles.
  • Tranquillo (still) Grapes for this wine come from the most dennsely planted vineyards with the lowest yields. The grapes are harvested at peak ripeness.

Prosecco Superiore is very affordable.  Prices range from $15 to $40.

 Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG Brut “Vigna La Rivetta” Villa Sandi 2015 - floral notes with apricots, golden delicious apples and hints of citrus. SRP $38

Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry Rive di Manzana Fransinelli 2015 - Aromas of wisteria, hints of bread and apple leading to soft elegant fruits. SRP $15

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tips on River Cruising Down the Rhine & Mosel

Some of you may know, I owned a travel agency for 20 years so I feel it’s important to talk about traveling to these beautiful wine regions I write about. There is much more to wine than just tasting it. Visiting the region and or country is an experience outside the bottle. Not only will you taste more of the regions wines, but enjoy the food, get a taste of the culture, and take in the scenery.

Since we just finished up with German Rieslings from the Mosel region, I thought I’d begin there. Traveling down the Rhine and Mosel Rivers is breathtaking. You visit small towns, medieval villages, the vineyards, the castles. There are opportunities to take advantage of wine tasting, biking, sightseeing or just relaxing.

Most of the cruise begin in one port and end in a different port. Take advantage of pre and post stays. Cruises are from 7 days to 19 days depending on itinerary. Most meals are included but might vary depending on cruise line and the port schedule.  Depending on the cruise line, excursions are included in the price of the cruise.

Here are some of the cruise lines to check out for your river cruise. Please note, I am not endorsing these lines, they have some great itineraries for this type of travel.
A few tips on traveling:
  • Best rates are in the spring and fall.
  • Don’t forget the cruises during the Christmas Markets in December.
  • Always purchase travel insurance.
  • Make sure your passport expiration date is at least a year out.
  • Bring binoculars to view sites on the riverbanks up close while cruising.
  • Pack good walking shoes.
If you find yourself in Germany they have some wonderful wine festivals throughout the year. These are just a brief listing of some of the festivals. For a full listing visit http://www.germany.travel/en/index.html
  • Ahr Wine Market in Ahrweiler in June. Taste over 200 wines and sekt from the Ahr region in the Ahrweiler market square. The festival culminates with the coronation of the new Ahr wine queen.
  • Rudesheim Wine Festival(The Riesling Festival)This happens the third weekend in August. Taste rieslings and pinot noir frm the vineyards of the Rheingau.
  • Rheingau Wine Festival in August- This is a 10 day wine festival where you will be able to taste over 100 wines from Rheingau riesling and sekt and regional foods.
  • Middle Moselle Wine Festival end of August beginning of September. This is the biggest wine festival in for the Middle Moselle region. There is a vintners’ parade, floats, marching bands and fireworks. Taste rieslings from over 30 wineries.
  • The Durkhein Wurstmarkt Wine Festival in September. This is the world’s largest wine festival according to the website. It began as a market for farmers and winegrowers in the 15th century. It has now grown to a large festival highlighting 85km of German wines found on the German Wine Route. Over 300 wines and sparkling wines poured during this nine day festival.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Traveling Down the Mosel: Weingut Max Ferd. Richter

In keeping with the theme we are traveling down the picturesque Mosel and the next stop is Weingut Max Ferd. Richter Winery. Germany is full of so much history!  Weingut Max Ferd. Richter was founded in 1680 but not as a winery, as a wine export company. In the 1770’s the family began purchasing vineyards and producing their own wine. Today at the helm is Dr. Dirk Max Ferd. Richter ninth generation and his son Constantin (tenth generation.)

All grapes are hand harvested and because of the steepness of the vineyards the vines are accessible by very narrow stairs that are carved into the hillside. These stairs are called Treppchen.  Forty-eight acres of vines in the Middle Mosel Valley that are planted with 95% Riesling and 5% Pinot Blanc. The average age of the  vines are 40 years old and they employ small crop sizes and sustainable farming practices. After the grapes are harvested they are fermented in 1,000 liter old oak barrels called fuders. The barrels are neutral so you aren’t going to taste any oak, and range in age from 5 years to 45 years old.

Two rieslings were tasted from two distinctly different vineyards. Each vineyard has it’s distinct terroir that is reflected in the wines.

2015 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett grapes are grown in the Brauneberg (brown mountain) Juffer vineyard, which is one of most prestigious vineyards in the Mosel. Here the rich reddish brown soils of Brauneberger trap the heat which allows for the spicy flavors.

Some nice mineral notes in the glass with with hints of honeysuckle, petrol in the distance and fresh ripe peaches. On the palate it’s quite complex. At first flavors of ripe pineapple, orange, lots of citrus notes and as the wine opened, white peaches dominated with nice acidity. SRP $22

2015 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett grapes are from the Graach Himelreich where the soils are shallow laden with the famous blue slate. You can taste the hints of slate in the wine itself. Lots of citrus in the glass, tangerine, orange and fresh lime with lively acidity. SRP $22

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Naked Rieslings of Karthauserhof

This month it’s all about German Riesling. Honestly, I haven’t had a lot of German Riesling. When I think Riesling I think of the racy acidity of the Finger Lakes Riesling. When I opened and tasted the first two German Rieslings from Karthauserhof for #winestudio I was blown away at the difference. Not just in taste, but they were missing the front labels, they were naked or so I thought.
The Karthaeuserhof Rieslings are from the Mosel region of Germany. The Mosel river is a winding river that flows from Trier in the northeast to Koblenz where it joins up with the Rhine being fed by tributaries Saar and Ruwer rivers. It is lined with vineyards on its steep slopes. Because the Mosel banks rise so sharply these vineyards are among the steepest in the world and are known for their blue slate soil that retains the heat for the vines. Some vineyards are planted at a 70° grade and are hand harvested.
Karthaeuserhof is located in Eitelsbach, a small village on the Ruwer which is a tributary of the upper Mosel near the town of Trier. When I received the wines I wondered why there were no front labels. Usually German wine labels can be quite confusing. Rumor has it that they would chill the bottles in the river and the labels would fall off. They stopped putting the labels on the bottles.

The first Riesling was a 2011 Mosel Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg Riesling Trocken. Trocken means dry. This bottle had the initials GG on it. After some research I found out what GG stands for. It stands for Grosses Gewachs which are the best dry wines. For some reason they aren’t allowed to spell it out on the label. These vineyard sites have stricter regulations than the others, all grapes must be hand harvested, have minimum weights and lower yields.
This wine is a very delicate wine. Soft delicate hints of petrol escaped from the glass with orange, peach and wet stone. This is a Riesling like I’ve never had, with just a hint of sweetness to balance out the grazing acidity. The alcohol level clocked in at 13%. The SRP is $85
The 2015 Mosel Karthauserhof Riesling is a nice young vibrant wine with aromas of peach, citrus and white flowers. I could pick up on the sweetness in this wine where it was fruit forward with apricot, peach, blood orange and stone fruit. After the wine was open for a while and warmed up a bit the apricot and peach flavors just exploded in your mouth. This was a lower alcohol wine at 10% and SRP is $30.
A little tip: The lower the alcohol the sweeter the wine.