Bolla Pinot Grigio Venezie IGT 2009

Once again I beleive I’ve come to the end of the “under $10” Sauvignon Blanc wines available in my area. While I’ll revise my initial “liked best” list in that price range, I’m moving on to “under $10” Pinot Grigio since it fits my style better than Chardonnay.

This weeks selection is Bolla’s 2009 Pinot Grigio Venezie which I picked up on a trip to one of our local supermarkets. Going out of the bottle, it is clear and pale in color – nearly colorless. At first I though I over-chilled it when I got next to nothing on the nose. Even with a slight 10 minute warming, the only smells were faint wisps of citrus. The palate however showed moderately crisp acidity accompanied by light-to-modest notes of green apple, grass and lemon. There was a touch of minerality to it but nothing distinctive or harsh and a finish that was pleasantly longer than most other whites.

While it is better lightly chilled, I was underwhelmed by the light nose and rather single dimensional character. A stronger bouquet and a bit more complexity would make this a much better wine. Given that this is (nearly) my first Pinto Grigio I’m hesitant to score this. Still it could have been better so I don’t think a 79 on the enjoyment scale is too out of line.

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Quick Sips :: 9 Côtes du Rhône Style Wines

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending another great wine tasting this time at Windham Wines in Brattleboro, VT. Sheila McGovern of Vineyard Brands presented 9 Côtes du Rhône style wines produced by Perrin & Fils including La Ville Feme, Tablas Creek, and Chateau de Beaucastle.

From my readings, Côtes du Rhône style reds are primarily Grenache and Syrah with smaller amounts of other varietals blended in. There are no required percentages for Rhône style wines, just that all the grapes are grown in the Rhône Valley. Rhône whites use Grenache Blanc, perhaps Viognier and other grapes.

Over the course of the 2 hours Sheila verbally guided us through the different Rhône style wines of France and also of California where the Perrin family’s Tablas Creek is located. I don’t have scores for these so enjoy the notes:

  • 2009 Perrin Reserve, Côtes du Rhône, Blanc – a musty, floral nose. Very, very light but not watery. Moderate acidity accompanies the mineral-ness. A slight bitter note on a modest finish. A bit too light for my taste but nice.
  • 2007 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Esprit de Beaucastle, Blanc, Paso Robles – Vanilla notes on the nose. Nearly Chardonnay like in its buttery taste. Not syrupy sweet like a Chard and not oaked. Interesting wine.
  • 2009 La Vielle Ferme, Ventoux, Rosé – pale red. Floral and delicate on the nose, the palate got light strawberry sweetness. Nice balance of sweetness and acidity. A pleasant wine, however rosé isn’t my style.
  • 2009 Perrin Reserve, Côtes du Rhône, Rosé – floral smells with a deeper body and less acidity than the 2009 La Vielle Ferme Rosé. Still not a rosé person.
  • 2007 Perrin Reserve, Côtes du Rhône, Rouge – Inky red in color with a very nice cherry/berry nose!! Peppery and spicy with fine modest tannins.
  • 2007 Perrin & Fils, Gigondas, “La Gille” – Strong alcohol nearly over powered the black cherry and berry nose. Rich body, peppery with the same fine tannins.
  • 2007 Perrin & Fils, Chateauneuf du Pape, “Les Sinards” – Darker than the Côtes du Rhône. Leather and pepper with a smoky tint. Stronger fine tannins.
  • 2008 Tablas Creek Vineyards, Esprit de Beaucastle, Rouge, Paso Robles – Sweet cherry/berry and herbage nose. Fruity with more pronounced tannins.
  • 2007 Chateau de Beaucastle, Chateauneuf du Pape, Rouge – deep dark fruit – currents, raisins, figs. Very, very smooth with ultra fine tannins. There is great balance right away. No wonder this is $109.

I’ve really liked the Chateau de Beaucastle, Chateauneuf du Pape, Rouge but purchased the Perrin Reserve, Côtes du Rhône since it was within my modest wine budget. While I wasn’t much on the Rhône white or rosé wines, the reds I can see myself drinking with hardier fare – steaks and other meats with hardy sauces come to mind.

The event was definitely worth the $25 price of admission which included some really excellent food pairings. If you are in the Brattleboro, VT area, the Windham Wine store is definitely worth your time even if they are not having a tasting event.

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As the Worm (gear) Turns

Lest you think this blog is all about wines, I have another kitchen repair story to tell:

3 years and countless baked goods ago, I got a KitchenAid Pro 600 stand mixer. I’ve used it to mix up countless pastries, and at least once a week it is used to combine and knead ingredients for bread.  It is a real workhorse in the kitchen and up until a few weeks ago, never gave me any problem.

As it was kneading a rather dense ball of whole wheat loaf with the bread hook, it started to chatter in place. After shutting it off I finished kneading the loaf by hand, set the dough aside to rise and examined my wounded friend. Clearly one of the gears inside had some teeth missing since the hook would stop part of the way around. I could advance it by pushing it past the flat spot, but it was not going to go all the way around on its own. Since it was out of warranty I opted to try and fix it – how much worse could I make it? If I really screwed it up I was no worse off than I was now.

Taking it apart was easy: 1 screw on the back removed the thin metal band and exposed 4 screws that when removed allowed the top housing to come off. Removing 4 more screws around the gear box housing exposed the gears themselves. While it was obvious which gear was missing teeth, it wasn’t obvious how to get it out. After discovering and (with much effort) removing a retaining clip on the main shaft, the top gear came off. That exposed a locking pin that when removed with a toothpick allowed the damaged gear to come off.

After some hunting around on the Internet I discovered that what I damaged was a worm follower gear. I found replacement parts at The Mending Shed – worm gear was $6, retainer ring, $4, new grease $17 (large can). Once I got the parts the messiness began – old grease out, new grease in, gears aligned with slippery hands, trial runs, adjustments, a quick trip to Home Depot for a retaining ring spreader ($21), etc, etc.. After about an hour of fiddling I finally got all the gears to line up and the gear box cap to go on correctly.

It sounds good as new and after adjusting the beater head height feels like it is ready for at least another 3 years. All together the repair cost me $61 – $27 in parts, $13 in shipping and $21 for a speciality tool – which while pricey is cheaper than replacing the mixer. Should it happen again I have the retainer tool and lots and lots of grease.

Now back to cooking and drinking wine!

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Pinot & Popcorn :: Cono Sur Bicycle 2009 and Matua Valley 2008

While our selection of  wine hasn’t been the best, it is obvious that my friend and I enjoy different styles of Pinot Noir. Compared to other reds, Pinot Noirs are generally lighter in color, texture and tannins than say a red Zinfandel. But even within the Pinot Noir category there is a fair amount of variation. My choice in Pinot Noir tends to be more on the darker, higher texture and tannins side with minimal (if any) residual sugar. My friend enjoys more the other end – lighter texture, tannins and a bit of residual sugar. It has been interesting to watch this contrast in style taste develop over the last month or so. Enough about the wine, let’s see what we have.

I was excited to see the bottle of Cono Sur’s 2009 Bicycle brand Pinot Noir. I’ve had their Sauvignon Blanc, enjoyed its refreshing citrus style and have been anxious to try their reds. With a price point in the “under $10” range it has the potential for good value. The Matua Valley was new to me  and in the “over $10, under $20” range. From the pour I could have predicted which my friend would like better.

The Matua was ligher purple in color and that carried right on through to the nose of subtle cherry and strawberry notes. The Cono Sur was darker and semi-opaque by comparison with a nose of cherry,  blackberry and some herbal tones. Both had modest amounts of acidity with the Matua carrying in a small amount of residual sugar and the Cono Sur heavier on the tannins. Toward the finish both exhibited a slight acidic bitterness with some steeliness from the Cono Sur and mineral hints from the Matua. Neither exhibited a great amount of complexity and both were more or less balanced  – although there
wasn’t a lot to get out of whack. I did end up decanting
the remainder of the Cono Sur and it did much better after an hour or so. The tannins were tamer and the fruit stood out more.

As expected my friend opted for the Matua while the more tannic Cono Sur suited my style better. For the price, the Con Sur was the better value in my opinion. I scored it 84 while the Matua came in at a 83 on the enjoyability scale. I think we’re both hoping to find better Pinot Noirs. Perhaps we need to take a trip to Burgundy…

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Bogle Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2009

I’m hoping that all this white wine tasting will pay off big time as spring moves into summer. I have visions of myself sitting with good friends on a Friday evening enjoying a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc and soaking up the end of a grand New England summer day. Perhaps Bogle Vineyards’ 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, this weeks “over $10, under $20” pick, will be chilling on the table.

Its clear, pale yellow-to-light green color gives off a nose full of green apple and grass. Softer fruit undertones of melon and pear follow a rush of acidity showing off the apple and herbage notes. All that fades into a pleasant citrus and wet stone mineral-ness on a longer than usual Sauvignon Blanc finish. The pear and melon provide a nice roundness.

A wine like that is in the running for my ideal mid-summer New Hampshire evening. The wine’s complexity moved my enjoyability meter to 86 points. Even more enjoyable was the $2 off the $12 retail price. Can’t wait for a summer evening wrapped around it.

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Santa Ema Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Time to turn the page, as it were, for Sauvignon Blancs originating in the southern hemisphere. With the 2011 vintage in production, the 2009’s from the lower half of the globe are getting harder and harder to find regardless of price point. To kick off the southern 2010’s, this week’s “under $10” pick is Santa Ema Sauvignon Blanc.

Clear and lightly straw in color in the glass, my nose got modest amounts of apple, grass and citrus which as a NZ Marlborough SB fan was a nice change of pace. A decent amount of acidity gave way to an interesting progression of fruit: green apple, then citrus then pear. Despite its light structure, the finish was a bit longer than most Sauvignon Blanc wines I’ve had. It’s better lightly chilled and served with lighter fare – it would be overpowered by strong tasting food.

A great value for the price and an interesting twist on the up front citrus, I’ll have this again. It scored 84 points with my enjoyability meter.

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Pinot & Popcorn :: Kris 2009 and Sensi 2009

While the company and movie are usually good, the wine selection hasn’t been great. This week I opted to check out two 2009 vintage Italian Pinot Noirs that were on sale at our local state liquor store. Both were under $13 on sale.

Of the two the Sensi was better, but that’s not saying a lot. Darker and richer in color, the nose was mostly grapes. On the palate the fruit was there but lacking in any kind of depth or complexity. The tannins were moderate and the finish was rather pedestrian. Hoping for better things from the lightly red tinged Kris, I got a feint nose of indistinguishable light fruit – nearly nothing – an almost that on the palate. By far the wateriest wine I’ve ever had. I questioned it being wine. My drinking companion got some strawberry tones at some point but that was about it. Little to no acidity, hardly any tannins and nothing on the finish.

Rules of Pinot and Popcorn say we have to drink it, so I opted for the Sensi. I can’t give it anything higher than about a 78 on the enjoyability scale. The Kris gets no score – it was hardly wine. Needless to say I didn’t enjoy either of the wines and won’t be thinking about them any time soon. I’m including bottle shots so you’ll know what to avoid.

We drowned out popcorn with them while we watched “The Fighter“. Next week is my friends turn. Perhaps we should try some place that actually knows how to grow Pinot Noir.

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Quick Sips :: Fast Thoughts on 10 Wines

Usually I write about a single wine at a time and score them as I like (or dislike) them. However, I’m a bit back-logged mainly due to a monthly tasting at a wine club I belong to and our Final Four party. So, rather than write at length about all 10 wines, here’s a quick round up of what I had, some fast thoughts and scores. Here goes:

  • Terre D’Alteni Moscato 2007 – a clear, yellow, low alcohol fizzy wine with apricot and honey notes. Nicely sweet – 86 points.
  • White Oak Russian River Chardonnay 2008 – clear, golden and a bit on the earthy side, with vanilla notes. More acidic with some Brie. Finish was slightly bitter. Have had better Chardonnays – 83 points.
  • Luna Beberide Reserva Tinto 2002 – dark, opaque, rich and juicy berries with smokey undertones. Modest tannins. Liked it enough to purchase a bottle – 91 points.
  • Eternum Viti Tempranillo 2007 – dark, opaque fruity berries with bold tannins. Lighter than the Luna and not as complex – 86 points
  • San Roman Tempranillo 2005 – Deep rich smokey blackness with great berries, and light tannins and acidity. Nicely balanced with a hints of chocolate on the finish. Easily the best of the bunch, but at a fairly steep price. The Luna is a better value for the money but this one is a solid 95 points.
  • Ladera Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 – Cherry and berries with some leather notes. There’s a creaminess that drips off the tongue through the finish. Very nice at 90 points.
  • Angels Landing Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – on the rich side with berries and sour cherries. Soft tannins. Lighter that the Luna – 85 points
  • Macchia Mischievous – Notes say Zinfandel but that may not be correct. Lighter in color and semi-opaque. Rich, thick, sweet cherry smokey notes with a raspberry finish. Would be good with dessert – 85 points.
  • Layer Cake Primitivo 2008 – Evidently a Zinfandel genetic match, quite dark and rich. Lots of luscious berry notes with soft tannins. Was not prepared for how good it was. Eventually I’ll have this again and do a proper write up. Very enjoyable at 88 points.
  • Cline Cellars Zinfandel California 2009 – lighter in color and density. On the sweet side of the Zinfandel family with cherry and raspberry notes and light tannins- 83 points.

From the list I really enjoyed the Luna. It was close to the San Roman for about 1/3 the price. I’ll enjoy it again soon. The other surprise was the Layer Cake Primitivo. I picked it up to have with hot wings and chili at our Final Four party and couldn’t have been more pleased. Zinfandel can come off sweet and this one exhibited some real complexity without the overriding sweetness. If you told me it was a Zinfandel I would have doubted you. The Terre D’Alteni Moscato was very interesting. It would be a great fizzy wine to have on hand. Yet another area to explore.

Now back to slower pace…


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Rivarey Tempranillo Rioja Crianza 2006

So what’s a newish wine lover to do when repeatedly confronted with Tempranillo based wines? Go with the flow, which is usually what I do when I find myself unintentionally in a trend. After all, there must be a reason for it, right?

My first exposure to this came as a wine shop sample – dark, rich and tasty the blend was nice but I wan’t about to plunk down $25 for it on just one taste. Next week, another sample, this time a 2008 Bodegas Alto Almanzora Este – a Monastrell/Tempranillo+ red blend that, while rated high, didn’t quite punch all my buttons. At my monthly wine group, we sampled three different Tempranillo based wines (more on that later). So on Friday when I was hunting around for a red wine to round off my evening, I opted for a 2006 Rivarey Tempranillo Rioja Crianza. I’m glad I did.

The Rivarey Tempranillo was dark and opaque going into the decanter a couple of hours before consuming. Once in the glass it had a rich nose of sweet cherry and berries along with an earthy undercurrent. The fruit came right through on the palate with light tannins, a slight sweetness, and background smoke. The balance is OK – tannins predominated while the remainder was even. There was some chocolate hints hanging around on the moderate length finish.

While I’m new to this varietal I can see myself exploring it in more detail. It may become a part of my Friday wine selection. Given my newness, I’m unsure if 86 points is too high or low. Guess I have to start somewhere. It was better than the Este for my money – all $9 of it.

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Starborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009

I’m on a roll in the “over $10, under $20” Sauvignon Blanc category as my last two or three selections have been quite enjoyable. This week was another great pick with Starborough 2009 Sauvignon Blanc.

Clear and on the green side in color going into the glass, the Marlborough, New Zealand style citrus smells came out after a swirl or two around in the the glass. Interesting that when the wine settled down in the glass, grassy and green apple tones came out and the citrus moved into more of a background roll. I’ll have to check a wines “quiet nature” more often. Although puckering-ly acidic in the mouth to start out, it quickly tones down so the citrus and herbage come out. It ends up on the pleasantly balanced side of the score card after 10 seconds or so. Some wet stone mineral flavors hang around during the short but very pleasant finish.

A very nice wine that I would have no problem buying again at a $13 price point. 87 point on the enjoyability scale. I certainly hope the wonderful trend of terrific weekly Sauvignon Blancs continues.



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