A Crisis of Identity- #MWWC18

Know Thyself.  The imperative has been circulating since the togas were in fashion and still remains an ideal.  For some of us, the desire to please, the pursuit of acceptance still trumps more often than we care to admit. For others, the footprints are well caked in the path.  Living “authentically” in each breath and decision.  There is no crisis of identity, only a daily unfolding and refining.

In the Finger Lakes, people have been making wine for decades.  It is a region where people expect to find great Riesling, and they will.  As the growers and winemakers try their hand at different grapes and processes, they are forming their own identity. With each year, the grapes share more of their story. The winemakers refine their personal style.  And yet, in the two tasting experiences I have had while here, there were some definite surprises.

Hector Wine Company began making wine in 2009.  They describe themselves as “quality-driven” with the philosophy that winemaking is equally a creative and scientific endeavor. We were surprised to see Sauvignon Blanc, and even more surprised at how much we liked it.  We sampled a Riesling that had been oaked, a collaborative wine under another label, another identity. We had a Cabernet Sauvignon with a deeply saturated color, surprising for a cold region. They are forming their identity with each harvest, experimenting and challenging expectations.

After a variety of studies, ranging from Philosophy to Plant Chemistry, Dave Breeden chose to pursue winemaking.  He has been with Sheldrake Point since 2002 and has been paring down their offerings to those that best reflect the region.  A portfolio that began with about 35 wines has been trimmed down to 16 or 17.  By the end of the year, there will be only two reds.

Breeden is committed to allowing the grapes speak for themselves, to tell the tale of the region without filter or manipulation.  The smallest bit of oak gleaned from staves in the Chardonnay is from an oak that was once on the property. Even his oak speaks of the Finger Lakes terroir.

And yet there were surprises. A Gamay, savory and bright.  A Dry Riesling and a Reserve Dry Riesling, picked from the same plot, with the same numbers, same treatment, worlds apart.  The Dry Riesling sang lovely notes, the Reserve took the aria to the next octave.

The 2014 Wild Fermentation Ice Wine would not be contained.  Picked while the moon shone bright and the temperatures dipped into the teens, the harvest was abundant.  While the Ice Wine was being made, a slow and meticulous process, a tank of cold-pressed juice became impatient.  When tested in April, it had chosen to ferment itself, the brix suddenly dropped.  It knew its path and was determined to get there.

And then I had my own crisis.  The sun was low coming through the window, time had passed more quickly than anticipated.  The wine writer in me wanted to stay and ask bottomless questions.  To sip and share and inquire.  Sitting with a writer and a winemaker, both of whom had works I was wanting to devour, and yet my children were calling.  Bedtime was looming.  Anxiety, building.

“Is there one you’d like to take home?”  One? How about 10? I could still smell the samples of Quiche, marbled with farm fresh onions and thyme.  I wanted the Gamay with that so that was the first wine I mentioned and it was in my hands before I could protest. I spent the ride home thinking about the Riesling.  That gorgeous, vibrant Riesling. I should have asked for the Reserve Riesling!

And then the larger crisis reared its head.  In less than a month, when my son goes to Kindergarten, will I still be a SAHM?  Does the Stay-at-home label still apply to moms that have children in school? Is that who I want to be?

Rebecca Barry had opened her heart, mind, and home to us.  Colorful and inviting, a home with soul. Her latest book, Recipes for a Beautiful Life was written in the place where I find myself.  The “mom” superceding the story-teller, the daily consuming the vision. And here, in her living room, tasting wine with her brother-in-law, I had an epiphany.

“Do you know what is next?”  What is next? The question that has consumed me. 

“You should stay for an hour.” We SHOULD stay! My new friend who has walked a familiar path, who has turned her love of crafting words into something that impacts many.  What wisdom could I pull from her?  And one of my oldest, dearest friends.  Surely between the three of us, if we sit and toast and share for just another hour we can figure out what direction I need to head. And yet at every turn of phrase, every new topic, the theme remained.  “You’ve got this.  You need to figure it out on your own. It has to come from within. If you listen to yourself, the answers will come in the quiet.”

My crisis of identity is simply a path. It is a path that I will take, one step at a time. I will pare down, I will choose the unexpected. I will listen and I will make my voice heard in ways that I can’t yet anticipate.

Know Thyself. It is also a warning.  It says, “pay no attention to the masses.” It is a proverb that encourages. It is an ideal. And as the region refines its identity, as each grape tells its story, it is gaining a voice, a voice that deserves to be heard. I understand.

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This was written as a delayed entry into the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge.  Since I am on the road and the story only came to me after last night’s tasting, it is late.  However, the wines of the Finger Lakes will be highlighted in the coming weeks at Wine Bloggers Conference.  I wanted to whet the whistles of fellow writers before I got back off the grid.  I will share more detailed tasting notes in the near future.  Thank you, Rebecca for opening your home.  Thank you, Emma, for your cheerful, knowledgable service.  Thank you, Dave for the gift of delicious wine and your time-an experience I won’t forget. Cheers!

 

 

 

The Test of Time-Emilio Moro Wines

“Winemakers who wax poetic about wines from a new vineyard hope the qualities they see early on will continue throughout that vineyard’s life. Others believe that the truest expression of a vineyard comes when it has endured the test of time. I believe both viewpoints may be correct.”

-Kirk Grace, Vineyard Manager at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Two weeks ago, we compared and shared three wines from Ribera del Duero with dear friends from down the street.  A virtual interview was taking place that night, three bottles were to be opened.  As with many things, the pleasures derived from a glass of wine are increased exponentially when shared. And like many things, the complexity and value of these wines increased with age.

The tasting coincided with one of my oldest and dearest friends’ birthday. Toasting with new dear friends, I began thinking of the layers or friendship, the value of those old and new, and how they correlated with the wine.  I found the above quote while reading about how the age of the vine impacts complexities in wine and as I read, I found myself replacing the subject, friendship for wine.

Like a new love, a new connection with a friend injects a vivacity into your life; every story is new, each perspective refreshing. And we find ourselves hoping to maintain the connection.  In turn, one that has remained, one that has not been shaken by the elements, but persisted and weathered life provides each person a haven to be their truest selves.

Emilio Moro Wines are not given the classic distinctions of Tempranillo based on the time in the barrel, Rioja to Gran Reserva.  They are given unique names based on the age of the vines from which they came.

IMG_5657The Blossoming Connection-Finca Resalso 2014 ($15)

It presents itself as mature and bright, a little spicy.  Intriguing.  When you finally connect, you realize that there is more than meets the eye.  Fresh and inviting, but with layers. Cedar and spice, black plums, bright violet hues, easy to drink.

 

Tried and True-Emilio Moro 2012 ($25)

IMG_5656Depth of color, classic notes; I know what to expect.  No matter the mood or pairings, this wine will show up.  Classic Cherry-cola, menthol, plum.  No need for big surprises, this wine can slide effortlessly into any dinner party. Complex and comforting, sturdy and supple. Each aspect integrates to create an elegant experience.

 

The Rare and Wonderful Lifetime Connection-Malleolus 2011  ($45)

IMG_5655One taste and you are transported. Scents of home. Burned sugar and anise. A baked plum tart. Like curling up in a favorite blanket, it conjures a coziness and deep appreciation.  Layer upon layer, richness and wonder. No matter where you are, literally or figuratively, a lifetime friend can make you feel at home. Each subtle nuance or quiet glance conjures a story.  Each story contains sub-plot and references that can’t be fully explained.  It is a deeply rooted story, years in the making, told without a single word.

 

José Moro shared his thoughts of what makes the wines from his region shine. Their approach combines “tradition, innovation, and social responsibility.” Moro believes “the fruit is the essential protagonist of the wine… Aging is a secondary protagonist. The root going down, taking minerality—that’s what we like to express…Minerality is the expression of the soul of the wine.”

As the fruit grows, it gleans its unique qualities from the soil.  The struggles, the elements affect the yield. The growers prune and support. The winemaker helps the fruit shine. Each step in the process impacts the outcome.

Each person comes to the friendship with their unique gifts, products of nature and nurture.  Our struggles and successes create and close opportunities. Each person chooses to feed and support or allow for uninfluenced growth.  Sometimes our choices yield more fruit, others cause the vine to wither. Each step influences growth.

I asked Moro if he had a favorite style of Tinto Fino or if, like me, it was a matter or mood, season, and pairing.  He emphatically agreed with the latter.  Each wine has its own personality. He later added, “I never drink wine alone – I am always with my wines every night, talking to them!”

I would imagine that the conversation with the Finca sounds different than that with the Malleolus.  There is a time and place for each, and even both. And times when only one will do.

A quick browse of the wines I’ve saved and you’ll find an older magnum of a Sonoma blend and a small bottle of Barolo.  I have a high-end Napa Cab and a recent Texas Rosé. But nothing mass-produced.  My friends, as varied as my wines, run the gamut of beliefs and backgrounds, current situations and previous dreams.  Each brings such value to my life, each a source of support and laughter. And I am hopeful that each will endure the test of time.

{These wines were provided by Gregory White PR to participate with a virtual tasting and interview.  No other compensation was provided. Thoughts and opinions are my own.}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Surprise in Any Package-Monday Wines with Banfi

One of the joys of writing about wine is, indeed, the packages that arrive requiring a signature.  Some are expected, others are not.  Each time, it is a little like Christmas.  You may have a good idea of what is inside, but there is always a little flutter of expectation with the slicing of the tape.  Sometimes the surprise comes, not with viewing the bottle, but what happens when you open it.

I recently received three wines from Banfi: a Rosso di Montalcino (always a bit of comfort), a Prosecco (always a bit of fun), and something unexpected. I read the description of 2013 Fontana Candida Terre dei Grifi Frascati DOC and thought, hmmm.  Composed of  50% Malvasia Bianca di Candia, I thought it may be a little a little sweet for me.  I read on.. 30% Trebbiano Toscano, 10% Greco, 10% Malvasia del Lazio.  I love Trebbiano, great acidity and citrus usually.  I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was recommended with Thai or Asian (read sweet) but described as dry.  Now I was really confused.

And that, my friends, is why I always try to taste with an open mind.

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I brought it to my parent’s as an appertif (as recommended) for my father’s birthday. That way, if it were indeed too sweet, I had just the people there to enjoy it. It turns out, that was everyone.

Light and tropical, fruit forward without too much residual sugar.  It was bright but not biting, refreshing and easy to drink. And at around $13 it is great for summer parties with a little something for everyone. Surprise!

The Rosso and the Prosecco were as expected. The Maschio Brut Treviso is festive, citrus and stone. 100% Glera it is classic Prosecco in style and composition and another great Monday wine ($13). The Rosso is fruit, and spice, and everything nice.  Just enough tannins to give it structure while remaining versatile. I never say no to either.

Let’s face it, I don’t say no to wine very often.  I always like to try something new.  Sometimes it is hard to check my expectations at the door. But, now I know, even more definitively, that surprises come in all sorts of packages and packaging.

Balance, Bubbles, and Bertolucci

Nearly two decades ago, a film set in the Tuscan countryside provided my first wine-related epiphany.  Not through her teenage prattle or any life-changing plot, but through one scene in particular.  The rich golden rays on a rustic table, wildflowers and clinking glasses, laughter and debate beneath the branches. I remember so clearly thinking: THAT.  That is what I want in my life.

Perhaps the memory is idealized, it has been half a lifetime ago, but the sentiment remains strong. It is a moment I’ve chased, and caught several times.  Outside of Rome, on the hills of Sonoma, the Hill Country of Texas, and even whispers of it in downtown Austin.

Whether it was the breadth of the table, the diversity of the group, the lively conversation or the Old World wines, something about a recent wine lunch reminded me of that movie. Gregory White PR held a lunch at Second Bar and Kitchen with representatives, writers, and winemakers from some of their brands: Codorniu, Scala Dei, and Artesa.

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I was familiar with the Cava of Codorniu, a staple for everyday value and one I’ve recommended before, so it was a pleasure to meet Bruno Colomer Marti.  Marti has been the head winemaker there since 2008 and his dedication to quality is evident.  Before the lunch, I had only sampled the entry-level wines ($8-12) and was blown away by Reserva and Vintage Pinot Noir sparklers.  Delicate, fresh, complex.  The Gran Codorniu Pinot Noir was a favorite with the fresh berry notes and long, lively finish and at an excellent value at $20. (It is in my refrigerator now, in fact.) Effervescent, approachable, and complex: a reflection of the winemaker.

All dinner parties should have a few surprises.  Ricard Rofes of Scala Dei took on that role. Perhaps it was the language barriers, perhaps the size of the group, but he seemed to be more of a quiet observer at first. Friendly and warm, but reserved.  However, when it was time to discuss his beloved Priorat and his wines, his passion was evident. He explained the history, the unfamiliar grapes, the process and soils. And when we tasted, we understood.  We tasted a Garnatxa and two blends, Prior and Cartoxia. Each wine was intense, but balanced.  Deeply saturated color which is typical of the region. The Cartoxia was strength and spice, incredibly elegant. Powerful, but subtle. Sound familiar?

Representing the domestic line was Artesa from Napa.  The Chardonnay was fresh citrus and baked apple.  The Pinot Noir had great clarity with red berries and spice. Very tasty wines. If asked about what wines from Carneros taste like, this would be a top contender for examples.  Well made, well-balanced, and a classic representation of the region.

The name “Scala Dei” translates to “Ladder of God.” This rings true to me on many levels.  The region’s beauty is dramatic and awe-inspiring.  The fruit it produces tastes like a gift from above. Most importantly, the collective enjoyment of the resulting products brings people together in a unique way.  Sharing a glass leads to sharing a story. Sharing stories brings connectivity. Connectivity provides the rungs of the ladder; it is what this life is about.

Many thanks to Patricia Clough at Gregory White PR and Aveniu Brands for inviting me and the opportunity to meet such wonderful people. Thank you Bruno and Ricard for taking the time away from your families and your work to share your wines. Thank you to each person that brought a piece of yourselves and shared with us all.  I will always drink to that. Cheers!

BTW-I made a last minute jump into the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge with this piece.  If you liked it, please vote. I haven’t entered in over a year!

{I was invited as media to this lunch.  I received no additional compensation.  Thoughts and opinions are my own.}

Taste the Memory- Brunello di Montalcino and Snooth Virtual Tasting

I had been once before.  My parents and I weaved and wandered through Umbria to the hills of Tuscany.  It was the year 2000.  They carefully planned our route to highlight loves from their previous visit. Assisi, Montepulciano, to Montalcino.  We nibbled on Ricciarelli as we combed the cobbled streets.  Although we visited a few tasting rooms that day, I did not know much about what I was tasting.

When I returned seven years later, I came with both a husband and a love of wine. Not an abundance of knowledge, but a well established affinity.  Our course was defined by both a desire to share what I had seen years before and epicurean exploration.  When we entered the medieval walls of Montalcino, we were met with crowds and signs indicating and food and wine festival that was about to begin.  Luck was on our side.  When the booths opened, there was one thing I wanted:a glass of Brunello di Montalcino.   We found a bench overlooking the hills of Tuscany and toasted.

In 2007 with Brunello di Montalcino

In 2007 with Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino is 100% Sangiovese grown in one of the warmest, most arid climates of Tuscany.  It is fermented  and held in Slavonian Oak.

Fattoria dei Barbi was established as a winemaking estate in 1790 making it one of the oldest estates to continually produce wine in the region. Colombini is the 20th generation heir. With new technology and respect for tradition, the name continues to well represent the region. These grape are hand-harvested and given a “cold-soak” for 48 hours before fermentation.

Tonight I will join Gregory Dal Piaz, Snooth’s Editor-in-Chief and Fattoria dei Barbi’s owner Stefano Colombini to discuss five examples of Brunello that are currently available.

When the invitation to participate in tonight’s event came, I was thrilled.  When I opened the shipment, I was taken back.  As I turned over and inspected each label, I couldn’t help but smile.  One of the bottles we will be tasting tonight is from the 2007 vintage.  The same grapes that were just breaking on the vine as we meandered through the back roads of the region, were potentially the grapes in the bottle I was holding.  And I can’t wait to taste them.

Join us tonight, April 27th at 8:30est, 5:30pst for a discussion of Brunello.   We will be tasting:

  • 2013 Brusco dei Barbi
  • 2011 Rosso di Montalcino
  • 2008 Brunello di Montalcino
  • 2008 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
  • 2007 Vigna del Fiore

For more information on tonight’s tasting, please visit Snooth and grab a bottle of Fattoria dei Barbi to join the discussion.  Salute!

 

Spring Forward

 

One thing that is consistent about Texas weather is its inconsistency. Fifty degree swings in 24 hours are not unheard of.  In fact the week before Spring Break we had freezing temperatures, the weekend it began we hit the seventies, the second weekend was chilly and raining.

Another consistent for Spring break is daily drinking with friends. There were plenty of opportunities to do some sampling, and those bottles were as varied as the temperatures.

The week before, I participated in a Snooth Twitter Tasting with Ruffino‘s line of Chianti*.  They ranged from the 2013 Chianti DOCG ($9) with bright red fruit and plenty of acid to the 2010 Riserva Ducale Oro ($28), a rich, layered, brooding example of what Sangiovese can be.  One thing remained true throughout.  These are well made, balanced wines that are priced to benefit the customer. It was a pleasure to hear from the winemaker, Gabriele Tacconi, about both the history and winemaking process and the participants always entertain.  If you haven’t joined before, we will banter again on Monday April 27th,

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Malbec is a grape I enjoy more in cooler weather so I made it a point to open a sample from Rutini** ($18) before the temps changed.  This 100% Malbec from Argentina is held in 50% French, 50% American barrels.  The fruit was deep, rich, intense and has a smooth and spicy finish.  I paired it with a ratatouille with turkey sausage, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, onion, tomatoes, and herbs.  I finished the sauce with some of the Malbec and let it simmer for a couple of hours.  It turned out really well and paired nicely.

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Later that week we opened the Rutini** Chardonnay($18).  Chardonnay is generally not my go-to white, but when the oak is subtle and the fruit has a starring role, I am in.  This wine had tropical fruit notes and honey balanced with abundant acid.  50% goes though Malolactic fermentation and it sits in New French Oak for 10 months. I rarely make recipes anymore but as I was thumbing through my mom’s Country Living magazine, I found this for Pancetta and Brussels Sprouts linguine.  Since I had the ingredients (sub bacon for pancetta and pasta) I gave it a try.  Lovely together.

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By mid-break I was in the mood for Sauvignon Blanc and so I invited a neighbor over to sample with me.  These two SBs from Chile were vastly different. Outer Limits by Montes($30)*** is a series that explores grapes from new regions.  This bottle yields from the Zapallar vineyards in Chile, 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean.  This came as no surprise to me as the first sip tasted like the ocean.  A great deal of salinity, tropical fruit, and citrus with a touch of oily green.  The color reminded me of an unripened banana, yellow with hues of green.  Although not my preferred style of SB, it was a food-friendly, complex, and interesting wine.

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The second Montes wine was Montes Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc ($15)***. Grass, white peach, and floral notes on the nose and in the mouth.  Crisp, fresh, floral and delicious.   Grown in the Leyda Valley, this was exactly what I am looking for when I open a Sauvignon Blanc.

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They say if you don’t like the weather, wait.  By Friday, it was chilly and rainy.  I had previously caramelized onions for French Onion Soup and then frozen them.  I knew it might be our last chill of the season so I decided to finish the process.  With one more sample that was predominantly Malbec looming, I knew what I had to do: call in the hubs for red meat reserves. When the wine suggests decanting for at least an hour, you know you’re dealing with a big one and the soup just wouldn’t cut it.

The 2011 Achaval Ferrar Quimera**($38) is a Bordeaux style blend but the predominant grape is Malbec. 60% was aged 12 months in 1-year old French oak barrels, 40% 12 months in new French oak barrels. The color was a deep cherry plum, the nose conveyed spicy dust and sun-warmed fruit.  A surprising amount of acid at first, it faded as it opened.  Black fruit and alpine herbs with sturdy structure and a long finish.

There are some wines that I receive as samples that, in my mind, need to be held for a bit.  It pains me to open them, but it hangs over my head if I don’t. This was one of those wines. In retrospect, I would have paired it a little differently (stinky cheese?), decanted more, and held it a little longer.  It was clearly well-made and has potential, but I think I missed the mark with this one. Now I know.

Sometimes price point is not an indicator of how much you will enjoy the wine.  Yet another reason to taste before you judge and  review with an open mind.  In each of these samplings, for whatever reason, I found myself enjoying the wines that were less costly. Now if only that were true with shoes…clothes…hotels…

Wishing my friends up north a jump towards spring and for my friends in Texas, a lengthy one.  Cheers!

*These wines were provided as media samples for Snooth Virtual Tasting and I received no other compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

**These wines were provided as media samples by Gregory White PR and I received no other compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

***These wines were provided as media samples by Feast PR and I received no other compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

 

 

An Enchanted Weekend

This past weekend, we kicked off Spring Break with a camping trip to Enchanted Rock.  It was a plan that originated nearly a year ago, apparently the required lead-time for a spot over this crowded weekend.  Our friends and neighbors made the reservation, we divided meal responsibilities, and we headed west.

On the menu for Friday was pulled pork.  Tempranillo was just the wine to fit the bill.  I had a sample from Rioja and another from Texas.  The plan was to open both and compare. To me, comparing wines with other regions, producers, or years is a great learning tool.

We opened a 2012 Viña Zaco* from Rioja and a 2012 Duchman Family Wnery Tempranillo from the Bayer Family Vineyard.  They may have begun thousands of miles apart, but when opened, there was much less distance.

Both were medium to fuller bodied with good structure, a blend of fruit and spice.  Each wine complimented the smoky pork and held up to the acid in the sauce and slaw.

The Viña Zaco began with a pop of red fruit, then faded into floral spice with a touch of smoke.  Or maybe it was the campfire? Either way, it was delightful. This wine spent nine months in barrel with a mixture of equal time in French and American oak.

The Duchman Tempranillo was slightly more fruit-forward, tempered with earth and spice.  They choose to use neutral oak.  This wine could go in several pairing directions.  But is there a better match for Texas wine than BBQ and sunset at Enchanted Rock?  I think not.

Enchanted Rock is a magical place.  The red granite meets the blue sky, arid terrain and springs highlight the path.  The beauty is in the contrast.  Much like a good Tempranillo, the soft floral notes meet the weighted spice, the fruit is tempered with earth and leather. The result?  A wine that shines, no matter the scene.  But this dinner, with these friends in this space?  That’s a hard one to beat.

For more information on how other Texas producers are doing with Tempranillo, follow Texas Wine Journal for an upcoming report.

*{This wine was provided as a media sample by Gregory White PR.  I received no other compensation.  Thoughts and opinions are my own.}

 

 

Reflecting Vision- Coppola Winery

In film, the Director’s Cut refers to a version of the film that best reflects the vision of the Director.  It is the best representation of what he or she was trying to create.

The Coppola family was seen on the big screen long before it was found on the wine shelf.  That doesn’t mean they are new to wine.  Winemaking was part of the family culture for generations before Francis Ford Coppola chose to expand his vision and share it with the world.  To best reflect winemaker Corey Beck’s vision, they produced a line of wines aptly named “Director’s Cut.”

I recently received a sample of the 2012 Director’s Cut Zinfandel($27) sourced from the Dry Creek Valley.  In my eyes, you’d be hard pressed to find a region the better exemplifies Zinfandel’s potential than Dry Creek Valley.  The region consistently produces grapes that have a concentrated depth of flavor without being overly heavy.  With the addition of 20% Petite Sirah, Beck added structure and dimension.  Together, the create a beautiful scene.

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This year we took our Valentine’s dinner in a slightly different direction in more ways than one.  We decided that our children, at 5 and 7, were old enough to participate and were an integral part of our “love story.”  We all dressed the part, I had gifts for all of them, and the evening was less about romance and more about true love.

I planned their favorites: grass-fed steak, fingerling potatoes, a salad. I planned on opening one of our “special” bottles of Cab and bought a bottle of 07 Mumm DVX to begin the night.  But as I was prepping dinner, I made a change of plans that required a change of wines. Gorgonzola sauce.

Bubbles for Everyone

Bubbles for Everyone

Take 2: New sauce, new scene.  The Cab just wouldn’t be right.  The gorgonzola is big and tangy and needed a bolder counterpart.  I looked through the extras and decided on the Director’s Cut.  I’m glad I did.  Black and red fruit, spice and cocoa, it held up and shined.

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A change of scene often requires other adjustments.  To counter the sauce, I changed the salad to frisee, arugula, and pear with pecans and a fig dressing.  The sweetness of the fig and spice of the greens were great with the wine as well. I added some Balsamic vinegar to the potatoes to give them a glaze.

IMG_0266When I chose the wine, I did so only with the sauce in mind.  As I looked into the wine a little more, I realized how appropriate the change was.  When Francis Ford Coppola was building his winery, he did so with families in mind. In the vision statement he writes:

“I’ve often felt that modern life tends to separate all the ages too much. In the old days, the children lived with the parents and the grandparents, and the family unit each gave one another something very valuable. So when we began to develop the idea for this winery, we thought it should be like a resort, basically a wine wonderland, a park of pleasure where people of all ages can enjoy the best things in life – food, wine, music, dancing, games, swimming and performances of all types. A place to celebrate the love of life.”

Perhaps one day, my family and I can enjoy his wonderland, but our dinner with my loves of all ages was a good start.

Thank you to Erica at Nonni Marketing and 42West for sending the wine and this great short film about moviemaking and winemaking from the Coppola Family.  Cheers!

{This wine was received as a media sample.  I received no other compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own.}

Conversation Wines: What Message are You Sending?

I met my husband at the end of 2001.  We casually dated over the holidays; neither of us were looking for a relationship. So when February 14th was approaching, I decided to diffuse it rather than cause either of us unnecessary stress.

” I am not one to buy into the mass marketing commercialism of holidays.  Especially ones that try to force people to spend quadruple the price on flowers, etc.  However, I do think Valentine’s Day is a good excuse to spend time with someone you are kinda in to sooo… what do you think of making dinner together tomorrow night?   Just an excuse to drink a nice bottle of wine and hang out.”

Simple, non-committal, casual.  I made filets, potatoes, salad.  Easy, tasty, a little special but not crazy.  But I made a critical error in my “low-key” approach.  We opened this bottle of wine.

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I had brought it back from my trip to Italy in 2000.  A small producer, Francesco Mollaioli,  I found on the streets of Assisi.  Even though I didn’t know too much about wine at the time, this wine had a story. I’d saved it for the right occasion, I couldn’t easily replace the bottle. Cover blown.

Your approach to this holiday sends a message.  The wine you choose punctuates that message.  If the relationship is new, the wine should convey that.  If you are getting super serious about this person, you need to step it up. In a long-term relationship? Well, that’s up to both of you. There is the freedom to keep it low-key or the excuse to show your significant other what a treasure he or she is, and drink some dang good wine. I always opt for the dang good wine, even if we drink it in comfies on the couch.

I recently participated in the Boston Wine Expo Twitter Tasting featuring Hope Family Wines*.  Three wine samples were featured. The names of the wines naturally lend themselves to my Valentine’s wine choice theory. Allow me to demonstrate.

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Liberty School Merlot ($16)

You’ve spent some time together, but are focused on your freedom. You don’t want to send a message that conveys anything but so stay under $20.  Even if the evening is a total bust, you aren’t out too much. Black fruit, spice, a good Merlot for the price point.  this would be great with a pork dish.  I recently made a Chinese Five Spice Pork with horseradish sweet potatoes that would’ve paired really well. Or chocolate. Love Merlot with Chocolate. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of good wine.

Troublemaker ($20)

Ok, maybe you weren’t looking, but this person is taking up way too much of your brain space.  You find yourself thinking about them. Involuntary smiles at the sound of their voice. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Zinfandel, I described this wine on twitter as Boysenberry cobbler with a smoked crème anglaise. A little sweet, a little sassy. Your favorite kind of trouble.

Treana Red ($45)

Hope Family calls this their benchmark blend: the wine by which all others are measured. If you have one of these in your life, you do what you can to hold on.  It’s beautiful on the outside, multi-faceted on the inside. A blend of Cab and Syrah, this wine meets its match with something equally complex. Filets with bleu cheese, braised short ribs, think big and rich. A memorable wine for a memorable evening.

 

We would both say that, even though we don’t donate to Hallmark, Valentine’s will always be special for us. Over the years we’ve had swoons and laughter, tears and silence. We’ve had dinners in which I put on a new dress and one when held a four-day-old bundle in sweats. But one constant is recounting our first special bottle together while enjoying another.

So, maybe the wine choice blew my cover. But, maybe the risk was just what we needed because we were rarely apart after. Whether you are opening something special to treat yourself, a new interest, or your benchmark in life, think about the message your wine could be sending. Cheers!

 *{I received these wines to participate in a #BWETaste Twitter conversation. I received no other compensation. thoughts and opinions are my own.}

 

Scandalous Thoughts

I’d heard the buzz about Scandal and the ensuing buzz from wine-drinking Scandal watchers but I’d never watched.  Until last October when I was hit with the proverbial blessing in disguise.  Yes, if you are a mom, you can’t call in sick, but you can spend the day in bed if it gets that bad.  And it got that bad. But that meant that I was able to get acquainted with Ms. Olivia Pope and her gladiators. Yes, I watched 2 seasons in 3 days.  Shameful, I know, but if you have to be in bed, might as well be “productive.”

Ok, so it wasn’t productive, but it was really addicting and now that I have caught up, I’m ready for tonight’s winter premiere.  And I have a few thoughts on Ms. Pope and her wine habits.  Inspired by a post earlier this week by Doug Trapasso, I decided to look at other wine folks’ ideas on the show.  It wasn’t surprising to me that some fellow Women Wine Writers were all over it. Here are a few “hiccups” that only we wine-snobs…I mean, aficionados.. I mean, lovers might get annoyed by…I mean, roll our eyes at… I mean, notice.

1) Where is the ritual?

She dumps expensive Bordeaux in a Burgundy glass and glugs it. What?!? This is a woman who was supposedly reared by a wine expert father. Said wine expert is an extremely controlling, extremely powerful man who drinks extremely expensive wine AND HE NEVER TAUGHT HER HOW TO EVALUATE IT? Or fully appreciate it? Or is she just so spoiled by “good wine” that she blows it off the way she blows off murderous affairs? Possible.

2) ’94 doo bah-lay

New York Times calls it ” du Bellay.” Bon Appetit calls is “Duvillet.” Jet Mag calls is “Doublé.” Whatever you call it, it ain’t real.  She says the wine will change your life, but how much change do you need when your life is on a beautiful island with a beautiful man and plenty of everything you need?  Do you NEED five bottles of this crazy rare wine? Your whole life was tracking people down, finding evidence. You changed your name but not your habits and you got busted.  Cheers!

3) So why not choose a real wine?

Mary Cressler of Vindulge was recommending wines for Shondaland return but had to guess…”we can assume it’s really ‘fine’ wine, similar to the wine her evil dad introduced her to years ago. My guess is really good Bordeaux, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, or expensive California Cabernet Sauvignons.” No, California Oak doesn’t exist either, and even if it did, I’d skip on name alone.

Doug Trapasso wondered, “…does it surprise you that no wineries have jumped on he connection and advertised on the program?” He’s heard the idea of cost but wonders if it is a matter of tradition.  I would say both.  If they are big enough to pay for the spot, they probably don’t need the advertising and aren’t exclusive enough for Ms. Pope.  If they are exclusive and wealthy, they probably don’t have the supply to reach potential demand.  Or maybe they just don’t think the show is wine-savvy enough to create the link?

 

Don’t get me wrong.  I love the show.  Obviously, or I would not have binged on it.  As Jo Diaz of Wine-Blog says, “No wine consultant is on the set is the most logical conclusion… Someone making set decisions and loving the large globe, but never having experienced wine glasses 101.”  It is a recurring theme in the series so you might as well do it well. I nominate Jo.

On the other hand, there is also the push to make wine more accessible, enjoyable, less formal. So if she wants to drink it straight out of the bottle at the end of the day, (and who wouldn’t at the end of those crazy days) have at it. If she has the means to buy new white cashmere and couches if a spill occurs (which is likely when you hold the glass like a toddler), good for you. If she has enough good wine to drink it like it is like it Kool-aid, enjoy.  But don’t think that we wine-lovers won’t roll our eyes(a little) or feel a slight punch in the gut when you do.  Respect the vine. And next time you want to hide out, order something a little less obscure.

Will you be watching tonight? With popcorn or without? Do you have your Camille glasses ready? I won’t judge no matter what you put in it. Post a pic of what you open as we cheer on our favorite fixer! And follow Grapefriend for weekly wine recaps. Cheers!

 *Photos found under “free to use and share” license on Bing.  If there is any discrepancy, please notify me and I will change immediately.