Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Groth 2002 Cab Sauv - My San Francisco Treat

Hi gang.

So I just returned from a business trip in San Fran, and overall I have to say it was quite an enjoyable trip. Then again, any trip can be enjoyable when it's 85 degrees and sunny every day. So anyway, it was my first time to San Fran, and I liked it. Of course I didn't get to see much of it, but I most certainly enjoyed the multitude of restaurants the city had to offer.

Anyway, I'll cut to the chase. On my first night there, I had the opportunity to eat at Tommy Toys restaurant. Now for anyone who's never been to San Fran, let me tell you that this place will be on any travel guide's top 5 recommended restaurant list. From the moment you step in, it is like walking into Imperial China...from the traditional and antique Chinese artifacts and hostess in a geisha doll dress to the intricate carvings on the decorative wood moldings that surround the space. If you're ever in San Fran, go there if you like Chinese food with flare.

So now to the food...all of us at the table went for Tommy Toy's signature dinner, which is of the 6-course variety. Here's is what the meal entailed, granted I don't know what they were seasoned with:

» Minced Squab "Imperial"
» Seafood Bisque Oven Baked and Crowned with French Puff Pastry
» Fresh Whole Maine Lobster Sauteed with Fresh Mushrooms, Young Chives, and a Light Peppercorn Sauce Served on a Bed of Chinese Angel-Hair Crystal Noodles
» Peking Duck Served with Lotus Buns
» Wok Charred Medallions of Beef with Garlic, Wine and a Touch of Rosemary

» Peach Mousse in Fresh Strawberry Compote


Now I know you are all reading this saying why the heck is a wine blog guy writing about a Chinese restaurant. But, I'm getting to the wine part. That night, we complemented our meal with Groth Vineyard's 2002 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon. It was my first time sampling a Groth product, which is from Napa by the way. Anyway, here is what I thought of it...

Retail Price: Approx $50/bottle.

Country: USA

Region: Napa, California

Color: Ruby, purple velvet

Nose: Moderate nose with hints of dark fruit . I particular noticed prominent notes of herbs and hay. Mild spice notes.

Mouth: Up front it was quite cheerful, with some semblance of cherry and oak, but what lingered for me were the herbal and grassy notes. Finish and pleasant, with mild tannins.

Overall I enjoyed the wine with the meal, but I generally like my Cabs to pack a bit more punch. I must also state that the herbal notes are prominent in this wine, and the fruit is muted. For $50 retail, you can do better for a Napa Cab, but with this meal, it was quite enjoyable.

The Verdict: 8 corks - very very good.

Note, this score may have been different if I tasted the wine without the meal, but for now I think it deserves an 8

Monday, October 15, 2007

Home Brew...Mmm Mmm Good!

I know many of you have heard me talk about how my family makes wine each year. In fact, several of you have even expressed some interest in traveling out to Long Island (which is where the wine is made at my parents’ house) to help out and watch the process in person. Unfortunately, we’ve never been able to line that up, so I’ve done the next best thing…captured it all on film, er well, memory card anyway.

I thought it might be fun for you folks to see some of these pictures of my dad while he was in the act of making his wine. I wasn’t able to join them this time, but I will next fall.

I should point out that the grapes that you see in these pictures were pressed into the barrels about 9 days before these pictures were taken, and have already gone through the primary fermentation process. This means that yeast has already converted much of the sugar in the grape juice to ethanol (alcohol). So what you will see here are the next steps, post crush and primary fermentation. I will do my best to give you some context or play by play of each photo. I really hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I do…and you can certainly see my dad is having a good ol’ time while my mom mans the camera.

As part of my play by play, I’ve lined the photos up in the order in which they occur chronologically. I should point out that this year’s grapes were Zinfandel and Cabernet, a bit of a change from the usual Alicante varietal we usually use. Anyway, here we go...

Here you see dad draining the wine for the barrel in which the grapes went through primary fermentation. He will take this wine and transfer it to another barrel which is where the wine will undergo secondary fermentation where the remaining sugars will.

Here dad takes the wine he just drained from the primary fermentation barrel and puts it in a clean barrel where it will undergo secondary fermentation.

Here he take the grape skins, or pomace, and puts it into a presser where he will squeeze the remaining juice out.

Dad cranking the presser, and you’ll notice the flow of remaining juice draining into the bucket.

He removes the pomace after squeezing every last drop out.

Proud papa stands next to his babies, which he will likely begin consuming in about 3-4 months.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Deep Freeze, and Wine Is Born

Hi Gang,

So my wife and I recently celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary with a wonderful dinner, and yes, you guessed it…some wonderful wine. After that wonderful dinner, we both had dessert…I had this raspberry cheesecake that was just great. But anyway, > the host at the restaurant brought us over some complimentary dessert drinks. Much to my surprise, he brought over an ice wine.

I say much to my surprise because prior to that day I had never tried it before. I know I know, I should be embarrassed but I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how much I love Port as an accompaniment to my dessert.

And I have to say, I quite enjoyed it. It was pinkish in color, and the nose was light, very fruity and aromatic with scents of green apple and honey. Medium-body with a slight touch of tartness at first in the mouth, but overall it was sweet, very smooth on the finish, and clearly lower in alcohol content than Port wine (at least this one was). If I had to equate it in taste to another beverage, I would honestly say it was like a glass of grape juice with some lemon and honey squeezed into it.

I know quite a few people who say they don’t like the alcohol burn or fume after drinking Port, so this may be an alternative for you to consider. Unfortunately I lost my note with the vintner name on it, but I do know this particular ice wine was from Germany.

Anyway, enough with my thoughts…I’m sure some of you are still saying ‘what the heck is ice wine?’ Well, let me give you some detail from my own research into it.

Ice wine is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, so the result is a concentrated, often very sweet wine. The most famous (and expensive) ice wines are German Eiswein and Canadian ice wine, but apart from these, ice wine is also made in the United States, Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Australia, France, New Zealand and Israel in smaller quantity.

The high sugar level in the must leads to a slower than normal fermentation. It may take months to complete the fermentation (compared to days or weeks for regular wines) and special strains of yeasts should be used. Typical grapes used for ice wine production are Riesling, considered most noble grape in Germany; Vidal, highly popular in British Columbia and Ontario, Canada; and, interestingly, the red grape Cabernet Franc. Many vintners, especially from the New World, are experimenting with making ice wine from other varieties: whites such as, Chardonnay, Gew├╝rztraminer, and Pinot Blanc; or reds such as Merlot, Pinot Noir, and even Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ice wines from white varieties tend to be pale yellow or light gold in color when they are young and can maderise (acquiring a deep amber-golden color) as they age. The red varieties tend to have a light burgundy or even pink color like that of ros├ę wines.

Ice wine usually has a slightly lower alcohol content than regular table wine. Some Riesling ice wines from Germany have an alcohol content as low as 6%. Ice wines produced in Canada usually have higher alcohol content, between eight and 13 percent.

I would love to hear your thoughts on ice wine if you’ve tried it. Do you prefer it to Port wine with dessert? Did you not like it when you tried it? C’mon let me hear from you.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Autumn is Here: Time to dust off the Port

Hey gang,

Autumn is here, and if you're anything like my wife and I, you've been enjoying the wonderful crisp nights. I'm not sure why, but we tend to spend more time outside on our deck at night in the fall enjoying some adult beverages. With that in mind, chilly autumn nights are absolutely perfect time to enjoy some Port wine.

If you recall, a while back I wrote a post on the different types of Port wines, as well as some delicious little treats to enjoy with each. To revisit that post "Port Wine. Nature's Candy?", please click here. Since I've been on a diet lately, I won't be enjoying Port with any treats, however, I have been loving it with a nice cigar. I'm sure my friend Matt from the Daily Doormatt can tell you just how great this little libation is with a cigar.

In addition to my post on Port, you may also enjoy this entertaining video by Gary Vaynerchuk, director of operations at Wine Library. Gary pairs some different Ports with blue cheese, and provides commentary as only he can. Check it out.

Anyway, I just wanted to get you guys thinking about another option for you as you take advantage of these delightful Autumn nights. Enjoy it while it lasts!


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Pop the Cork - Ravenswood, Sonoma, California

We visited the Ravenswood Winery recently during a trip to the west coast, where we shot up to Somona County and Napa Valley. One of the wineries we especially enjoyed was Ravenswood right outside of Downtown Sonoma. Surrounded by beautiful scenery and staffed by knowledgeable, UNintimidating staff that makes you feel very comfortable and welcome.

If I remember correctly, this wine was sourced from a local Sonoma vineyard owned by Barbara and Patricia, hence the name Barricia.

The wine: Ravenswood Barricia Zinfandel Sonoma Valley 2004

Country: United States

Region: Sonoma Valley, California

Category: Zinfandel

Vintage: 2004

Price: $26.00

The color: Ruby red,

The Nose: Nice cherries and currants, red fruit

The Tasting Notes: Not what you might be expecting from a zinfandel. A well rounded subtle wine, with lush dried cherry and other red fruit flavors. A well rounded wine that would pair very well with food. The finish could be a bit longer, but a very classy wine. The label gives unquie facts like the picking date (Sept. 9, 2004), bottling date (April 19, 2006), total cases (1220) and total acidity (0.65g-100ml).

The Verdict: High 8 corks

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Genome Project - Vine Style

Listen, we all know that your DNA is what makes you who you are. For instance, my DNA has dictated that I will be a pitiful 5’-6” tall for the rest of my life, with a head the size of a compact car. There’s no changing it…take a sample for my blood or saliva, and you can map it for yourself. We all have a map, and they contain somewhere in the range of 20,000 genes.

Now, every miserable time you take a look in the mirror and see “that thing” looking back at you, you can thank hundreds of years of history for that marvelous creation you call INSERT YOUR NAME HERE. All facets of nature have a genetic structure…humans, animal, plants, etc. But, for the first time ever, scientists have identified the genetic map of a fruit. Care to wager a guess which fruit that was? I’ll give you a hint…if you drink red Burgundy or Champagne you’re drinking its juice.

That’s right, French and Italian researchers have mapped the genome of the pinot noir grape. And - you ready for this – it’s more complex than the human genome. The pinot noir grape has about 30,000 genes in its DNA. Ain’t that something?

So, what does the map tell us? The team said its research had confirmed that the grape has an unusually high number of genes whose job it is to create flavor. More than 100 of its genes are dedicated to producing tannins and terpenes — compared to about 50 for other plants. Even more exciting for us wine drinkers, is the fact that the mapping of those flavor-producing genes could be a first step toward developing new flavors in wine by allowing scientists to breed different varieties to create precise new tastes.

The research also showed what most of us already know – pinot noir is extremely sensitive to where they are grown, which illustrates why we have different flavors in wines from Burgundy, California, Oregon or New Zealand.

Now some of you might be sitting here saying ‘who the hell cares?’ But these scientific breakthroughs will undoubtedly have a significant impact on wine production and viticulture in the years to come. Imagine the ability to develop new flavors based on genetic manipulation, or to have the ability to enhance the vines defense from mildew and insects. The opportunities appear endless, and even YOU may be able to taste it in your wine glass ten years from now.

Amazing what science can do, isn’t it? To think this tiny, tasty, juicy, delicate piece of fruit that so many of us take for granted has a structure as complex as ours. Centuries of evolution that end up in our glasses, and ultimately enhance our meals. Next time you pop open a bottle of wine made from the pinot noir grape, remember to pay homage to the more superior organism. Just kidding.

Let me know what you think of this discovery...

For a complete AP story on the research findings, please click here.