A summer wine to enjoy!

I miss the ‘walk around’ consumer and industry tastings!

In Covid-19 times, wineries are selling you an abbreviated selection of their collection, complete with a login so you can taste along with the winemaker via Zoom.  It is fantastic that some methodology exists where at least we can taste; however, two to six wines from the same producer (and possibly the same vintage) with the winemaker extolling the virtues of his or her wines simply leaves me wanting more.  I want to taste other wines alongside so I can sense and taste the different expressions of a grape crafted by different producers.  I want to feel the wine on my palate and sense the acid, alcohol, and fruit elements.  I want to compare the wine with bottles from various regions.  I want to discover the gem. I want to be the judge and jury.

I sat out on our back patio last night and tasted three different white wines with a friend.  (I am studying for the WSET Level 4 Diploma and she is working on her CMS Certified.) We were tasting to cement in our minds what these wines present and to determine if they were good representations of the varietals and place.  I will admit that I drink a lot more red than white, but I have been looking for white wines for warm days (coming soon) that are light but flavorful enough to begin the evening.  Not to disparage any wine, I am searching for something other than a California Chardonnay or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, wines that seem to be at every party.  I want low alcohol and subtle flavors of fruit without the phenolic bitterness some white wines can present.

Our favorite of the night was the 2018 Trimbach Pinot Blanc from Alsace ($17.00).  The wine was pale lemon in color and, as I brought the glass to my nose, I was pleasantly surprised at the unexpected intensity of aromas.  Fresh lemon, subtle character of lemon pith, lime blossom, pear, a sense of ripe, juicy white peach with a hint of white pepper and wet stones.  The alcohol was medium (13%) and the acid subtle but tightly woven with the fruit elements, presenting a wine with pleasant and lingering aromas and flavors. 

Pinot Blanc hails from many regions but its best examples are from France’s Alsace, Germany’s Pfalz and Baden, Austria’s Wachau and in Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto, Friuli, and Lombardy winegrowing regions. It produces full-bodied whites with relatively high acidity, yeasty citrus and appley aromas and flavors and hints of spice. When aged, it can present lovely, honeyed tones. 

I really enjoyed this Pinot Blanc from Alsace, France, and will have fun crafting appetizers and light meals to enjoy with this gem.  Think soft cheeses with fresh, crusty bread, summer salads with creamy dressings (use some of the Pinot Blanc to make your own special dressing), and flaky fish dishes.  Who needs a ‘walk-around’ tasting?  Plan your own tasting so you and your guests can be the judge and jury!

What are you serving with your Thanksgiving fare?

For a great start with appetizers, soup and salad, I’ll serve the La Petite Marquise Crémant de Loire Brut ($12.99 from K&L Wine Merchants).  It’s a sparkling wine made like champagne, but it sits light and fresh on the palate without the yeasty taste or a big price.  It is crafted from a blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc.

Going a bit out of the box, I picked up two Darcy Kent wines from Livermore after attending a Darcy Kent Vineyards pairing dinner at the Thunderbird Lodge in Lake Tahoe: a 2017 Gruner Veltliner from Rava Blackjack Vineyard in Monterey and a 2018 Victories Rose Malbec from the San Francisco Bay.  The Gruner is dry but flavorful with white peach, pepper and a bit of lime. The Malbec rose is lush as it was crafted with a slight bit of residual sugar which makes the wine creamy on the palate.  Both these wines will sparkle with the herbal flavors of the meal and the roasted butternut squash as a side.  Note: these selections are both low in alcohol as well.

For red wines, I am offering the Pardon & Fils Les Mouilles Julienas 2017 at $17.99 and the Domaine Pardon Cuvee Hugo Fleurie 2017 at $19.99, both from Total Wine.  Yes, this is Gamay from Beaujolais.  I love Gamay.  Not the market driven swill released in November which was nothing but a ploy to get rid of a lot of wine they could not otherwise sell.  The southern half of Beaujolais makes that inferior wine.  The northern half of Beaujolais has different soil, has slopes and the area has 10 ‘Cru’s’ which, in a fantastic year, can be hard to tell apart from a true Burgundy wine.  The two wines I have chosen are from Cru vineyards: Fleurie and Julienas. 

I will open the wines and explain what we have to our guests. I will encourage them to take small tastes of each wine before dinner. Then, all the bottles will go on the dinner table for them to revisit with the meal. It becomes an empowering game for our guests to be able to evaluate the wines and usually makes for some lively conversation because, of course, no one ever has an opinion!

For dessert, I will be serving a 2004 Château Tirecul la Gravière “Cuvée Chateau” Monbazillac. It’s 500 ml and it’s priced at $19.99 from K&L. It has some age on it and will be lucious with some Marscapone on top of that pumpkin pie.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What’s on your Easter dinner table?

Got a text from a friend asking what wine to pair with Ham for Easter Dinner. Let’s face it, most of the time, that Ham is probably from the Honey Baked Store. While I could pontificate about the coating on the outside of the Ham, remember it’s about the people that will be at your table enjoying the holiday with you. What do THEY like?

If they are into wine, it’s going to be a tough call because the Honey Baked Ham you just bought is going to wreak havoc on most juice. So, forget the Cabernet or Merlot (because the sweet coating on the Ham will make a tannic wine taste bitter). But if you know your group will expect red wine, you could go with something from Beaujolais. Perhaps a Georges Dubeouf Beaujolais Villages or a Louis Jadot Beaujolais. (I would not upgrade to a Beaujolais Cru like Morgon or Fleurie as they will simply cost more and have more structure…unless you want to put a Cru on the table for you!) These recommended wines will not break the bank, will be fruity and ‘red,’ and will be a reasonable pairing for the Ham and all the accoutrements.

Another option is a Mumm Brut Rose which has nice body, is made from Pinot Noir, and serving it in a champagne flute makes for a festive presentation. Your family will feel special!

If you have adventurous guests coming, you could always consider a Riesling or a Gewurztraminer but I’m guessing Aunt Mabel probably would like a White Zinfandel just as well.

Why not end the dinner with something fun and different? What is your family heritage? If your ancestors were French, perhaps a Sauternes; if you are German, perhaps a Beerenauslese Riesling; and if Hungarian like me, perhaps a 5 Puttonyos Tokaji. Just a few examples but fun to end with a little ‘family ancestry’ which everyone will enjoy and will embrace experiencing something from the ‘Old World’ that Grandpa may have enjoyed. The wines mentioned could be served alongside an almond tart with Mascarpone! Save those chocolate bunnies for another night!

Happy Easter!