Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A new cellar!

Ok, so this post is only tangentially about wine, but last Friday night I finally broke down and bought a wine cooler (and no, not the classic Bartles & Jaymes fuzzy navel)!  A friend at work told me that the local Lowe's was having a clearance on a Frigidaire 34-bottle wine cooler for only $171, so I had to do it!  I got there after work on Friday and of course saw the last one with my friend's name taped to it, but there was still the display model, so a little negotiation and an additional 15% discount later and I drove home with my new fridge!  Here is the standard image, since I haven't had time to take a picture of mine yet:

It's a nice little unit, but there are certainly some quirks to be aware of, particularly if like me, this is your first wine cooler.  This particular model did not have the digital temperature settings (I highly recommend them as I think it would make operating a lot easier!) so I had to experiment with the settings which went from "Min" to "Max."  So I had to experiement with a bottle of wine I wasn't afraid to ruin, well maybe a few basic bottles of red just to see how they did.

I started with the "recommended" setting, but that ended up chilling the wine way too much, a cabernet served at 50 degrees is just plain wrong!  So I adjusted all weekend until I got to the minumum setting, and that turned out to be the right one, cooling to a nice 62-64 degrees.  Once the temperature was settled, I stocked the cooler with some of my older wines, where temperature control is much more important, and surprisingly enough, I managed to fill up the fridge!  Of course this freed up a lot more space in my usual cellar, the hall closet, so now I have no worries about stroring wine for the moment.  But you know how that is, building it and they will come, so I expect in a month or two the closet will again be at capacity!

In the meantime, a small fridge is an inexpensive method to long-term, safe storage of wines with consistent temperature and humidity, if like me, you don't live in a place with a cool, dark basement for wine storage.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

2006 D-Cubed Primitivo

What a beautiful evening!  The sun is shining, it's perhaps 75 degrees, and an ideal evening for a glass of wine on the patio before dinner.  Tonight I'm enjoying a wine that accentuates the feel of a late summer evening, the 2006 D-Cubed Primitivo from Napa Valley.

For those of you unfamiliar with Primitivo, it's a close cousin to Zinfandel (and what great Zins come from Sonoma!), and in fact DNA testing has shown that it's nearly identical to Zinfandel grapes.  The Primitivo is commonly grown in the "heel" of Italy, producing wonderful wines with bountiful fruit, and a somewhat higher alcohol content.  Now, in the mid-19th century, the Primitivo grape was brought to California where it took on the "Zinfandel" name, and today produces a great red wine, along with it blush sister, the White Zinfandel which is quite popular in the United States, though I couldn't begin to tell you why!

The D-Cubed Primitivo has a nose full of fruit, and a quick whiff will surely tell you this is a more fruit-forward red than many of the dry Bordeaux style blends.  You can smell hints of blackberry and cherry, which a bit of woody earthiness.  The taste is wonderfully loaded with fruit, so much that it almost makes you think it's sweeter than it is.  As it hits the back of your mouth, you get a great hint of spice and cedar before a clean smooth finish.  This wine would be great as a later dinner pairing with a cheese plate, particularly with some stronger cheeses (tonight I enjoyed it with a little aged swiss).  I got this one as a Wines Till Sold Out Cheapskate Wednesday selection, and I really enjoyed it.  I would rate this one a solid 8.5, particularly given the wonderful price of only $13!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

2007 Rumpus Syrah

Ok, seriously, how can you not just love a wine called "Rumpus"?!?!?  I saw this one on the WTSO cheapskate Wednesday a couple weeks back and couldn't resist, after all even if the wine was terrible, it's called RUMPUS!!!

Well, lucky for me and several friends who shared this purchase, it's not a terrible wine.  Quite the opposite, this is really an exceptional Syrah from California's Sonoma Valley.  No often times we see a syrah or "shiraz" and expect it to be lighter and a great pairing for lighter summer fare, or just sitting on the patio enjoying a glass of wine on an August evening, but this one is much more like a petite syrah, which is such a misnomer...

The Rumpus syrah is a blend of 86% syrah with the balance of Cabernet Franc, which is a blending grape that is so underappreciated in my opinion.  So in this instance you end up with a wine that is a deep ruby, almost inky color in the glass, so you get the sense that this is not the lighter side of syrah.  The nose is ripped with scents of cedar, leather and pepper, which merely whets your appetite for the wine that's to come.  The taste has an infusion of berries, with spice and delicate tannins that scream fine age worthy wine from the south of France!  But this is from California, showing that our friends outside Napa can compete just as effectively on the world wine stage.

I've been sipping this wine all evening as I've been cooking dinner, and thankfully I have a full glass left to enjoy with my summertime dinner of barbecued chicken breast, sweet potato fries and steamed asparagus.  Such a wonderful evening!  As for my rating, I would put this wine at a solid 8.5, and it was a WTSO cheapskate Wednesday selection for only $13!

2007 Catena Cabernet Sauvignon

So I was down in Dallas this week, and once a quarter we visit one of our favorite clients for their quarterly earnings release and conference call, and typically late night we finish our work then go out to dinner at Fogo de Chao, which for those of you unfamiliar Fogo de Chao is a Brazilian churrascaria steakhouse with locations around the US.  For the carnivores among us, this restaurant is paradise, as fully costumed gauchos go to each table with giant skewers of freshly grilled meat, ranging from top sirloin to bacon wrapped filet mignon to grilled lamb chops.  Every item is delicious, and rather than going up to a buffet, you simply have a card at your table, if you flip the green side up, they bring you meat, red side up means you need a little break.  It's really an amazing dining experience that everyone should try once in your life, unless you're vegan of course!

So at dinner, we typically have our host, the CEO of our client select the wine, and he has yet to disappoint!  That night he selected a 2007 Catena Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina.  Now certainly Argentina is known not for Cabernet but for the classic Malbec which has put the nation on the wine map over the last decade or so, but I must admit, I'm not a big Malbec fan and the Cab was exceptional! 

The wine had a nice nose of blackberry, leather and earth, not unlike a very nice Cabernet from Napa or the Columbia Valley.  But the taste was wonderful, very dry, with flavors of black cherries and licorice and a long smooth finish.  As for my rating, I would put this one at a solid 9, but again I was not privy to the cost which might move that rating up or down, especially given restaurant pricing!  So I learned that Argentina does more than great Malbecs and as always the high protein diet is exceptional at Fogo de Chao!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

2007 Muir Hanna Estate Muirs Legacy Bully Red

Another day another bottle of wine to try!  Not sure why I start months so strong and then lose energy near the end, maybe it's a natural cycle, or maybe it's a function of wine availability!  Last week was the WTSO Cheapskate Wednesday event, and I bought 6 different wines in the event (for those who haven't experienced it, think of a full day of all different wines on sale for a maximum of 15 minutes or until they're gone!). 

This wine is a really interesting blend for a number of reasons.  First, from a historical perspective, you can't underestimate the contributions of John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt on natural conservation in this country, plus Teddy Roosevelt is one of my favorite presidents, and both are featured on this label!  The wine for 2007 was produced with 100% grapes from the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, oohh! and it's a fine blend primarily of merlot (80%), with a lot of other grapes - 6.5% petite verdot, 5.5% cab franc, 3.5% pinot noir and the rest cabernet sauvignon.  This was a relatively small production of 640 cases, so I am happy to have a few bottles.

As for the taste, this one is a sure winner!  The nose embodies hints of leather, earth, cedar and tobacco, but interestingly the nose seems quite sedate.  Certainly it's not like some of those punch you in the face aromas of some Napa cabs.  The taste is well balanced and quite dry, I'll credit the heavy merlot influence there.  There are some hints of blackberry and spice that make this wine a really pleasant drinking experience, reminiscent of those times in Paris sipping a nice glass of medoc at a sidewalk cafe.   And since this was a Cheapskate Wednesday selection you know it was a bargain!  I would rate this wine a solid 8.0, but with a price of $11, I would add an extra bit to make it a great 8.5 value!

Monday, August 1, 2011

2007 Painted Wolf Red Cape Blend

So let's start August off with some spice to heat things up!  Tonight's wine is a wine club selection for August, so what better wine to start off the month, the 2007 Painted Wolf Red Cape Blend from South Africa.  This is my first ever experience with South African wine, and I must admit, Painted Wolves are really ugly creatures:

Fortunately the wine is nowhere near ugly like it's namesake!  The 2007 red blend is an interesting blend of Shiraz and Pinotage along with some Merlot and Mourvedre to make this a compelling red blend to battle the summer doldrums.  For those unfamiliar, the Pinotage is South Africa’s signature grape variety that is a cross between two of the most famous grapes of the Burgundy region in France, Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, that typically has a very smoky, earthy flavor.  Combining a grape that is a cross of two historic burgundy grapes with Mourvedre, a grape that produces very high tannin, high alcohol wines in the Rhone Valley of France and Merlot, a primary grape used in many Bordeaux could make this a very interesting wine. 

The wine exhibits a strong nose of cedar, leather, earth and spice.  The wine is velvety on the tongue, with an interesting taste that at first seems quite dry and then bursts with blackberry and smoky pepper flavors, with solid tannins that lead to a long, smooth finish.  This wine would pair well with a variety of meat dishes, or for me tonight, a complete vegetarian selection!  In my patio herb garden I've been blessed with an abundance of fresh basil, so tonight I am making some fresh pesto to toss with some al dente farfalle and topped with some freshly grated pecorino romano and served aside some wonderful grilled peppers, red onions, green beans and zucchini.  My mouth is watering so I must cut this short!  Oh right, almost forgot, this was a wineshopper.com selection that I would rate a solid 7, particularly given the price of just $8!  So get a taste of South Africa and enjoy the experience!  Salut!