Friday, November 30, 2007

Tasting Note: 2005 Lavradores de Feitoria Douro

The Story: It's Thursday night, and it's been a long week at work. I want an inexpensive red to drink with dinner: sauteed pork chop in a sherry shallot pan sauce. I look at the options I have on hand and the most fitting looks like this Douro. I bought from Mister Wright for $11 a few weeks back because wines from Portugal have been all the rage among wine geeks recently, and I have never tried one. Tonight seems as good a night as any to test drive a Douro.

The Region: Douro, Portugal. The Douro region is in Northern Portugal. It is the same region of Portugal where Port is produced. Lavradores de Feitoria is located in Vila Real., the capital of the province of Trás-os-Montes. Vila Real, Portugal, on Google Maps

The Grape: This is a red blend. Traditionally, Douro wines include Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional grapes, among others. The same grapes are also used to produce Port.

The Look: Dark purple.

The Aroma: It takes a good amount of swirling for me to identify anything. Eventually I notice hints of raspberry, but the aroma is mostly "red wine."

The Swish: I manage to break the cork in half the first time I try to open the bottle. As I try to pull out the second half of the cork, pieces of the cork crumble and drop into the wine. A little cork never hurt anyone. I hope the cork does not absorb too much wine.

As I take my first sip, the wine tingles the tip of my tongue. This is a sensation I have never felt before. In that first millisecond when my tongue touches the wine for each sip, my tongue tingles and I briefly taste raisins. I wonder if this taste is something that the wine picked up from its sweet cousin, Port. It is a very unusual taste for a red wine, but I like it.

Once the wine passes the tip of my tongue, it is fairly one dimensional, but enjoyable. I notice hints of plums on the palate, but for the most part it just tastes like fermented grape juice. I taste more alcohol than I would prefer. I manage to swallow some cork, but it does not detract too much from the wine. Despite the alcohol flavor and the cork, the wine is easy to drink. It is full-bodied and has a nice finish for $11.

The Verdict: I still cannot get over the tingling sensation and that this wine had on my tongue when I first sipped it. One day after opening the bottle, the tingling sensation was gone, but I will remember this wine by that sensation. I've never had a dry red wine that tingled on the tongue and tasted of raisins. Do Douros usually have this characteristic? While I did not love this particular wine, I am intrigued by Douro wines. I would not buy this wine again, but I definitely will purchase other Douros.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Vinquire and A New Idea for a Wine Website

In her latest post, Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20 wrote about a new wine website called Vinquire. You can read Debs' post or visit Vinquire to learn more information about the site, but it is essentially a combination of Wine-Searcher and Cellartracker, where users can make an online price comparison of any wine as well as provide there own tasting notes on any wine. If Vinquire continues to gain popularity, with more people posting tasting notes, I think it will become a very useful online resource.

As I browsed Vinquire, I started to think about how great it would be if someone could create a site that was similar to Wine-Searcher, but was a repository for tasting notes. Between Cellartracker, blogs, forums, and professional reviews, there is a countless number of websites that have reviews of wines. It would be great if there was a site where you could search for the name of a wine and find every tasting note of the wine that is on the Internet. Does such a site exist?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cyber Monday and Proper Stemware

Today is the Monday after Thanksgiving, so-called "Cyber Monday." Traditionally (at least since the internet commerce age), today is one of the biggest online shopping days of the year. The theory is that workers return to their offices after the Thanksgiving holiday, and since late Nov. is a slow time at many workplaces, end up shopping for Christmas gifts online. Internet retailers, capitalizing on the idea, have started to have big sales on Cyber Monday to entice shoppers to waste even more of their time and money from their cubicle. If Valentine's Day is a Hallmark Holiday, then Cyber Monday is a Amazon Holiday.

While I was actually very busy at work today, I still found some time to browse for some internet deals. The best one's I came across were at Amazon, where I found some huge discounts on wine glasses. I currently have inexpensive all-purpose wine glasses that I am pleased enough with, but I have always heard that a great wine will never reach its fullest potential unless it is drunk from a quality glass. However, fancy wine glasses are quite expensive, and I rarely drink wine that is good enough to warrant a glass that costs more than a few dollars in price. With with Amazon's sales marking down Spiegelau, Waterford, and Riedel glasses by up to 50%, I decided that today was as good as any to buy some nicer wine glasses.

Browsing the selection of glasses, I realized that shopping for stemware can be just as overwhelming as shopping for wine. Each producer makes glasses for Burgundy, Bordeaux, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Viognier, Riesling, the list goes on and on. With all the choices to choose, from I decided to purchase a pair Waterford Mondavi Bordeaux glasses that were marked down to $25.00 from $50.00. All I wanted was a glass that was large enough that I could swirl a full serving of wine without spilling, and these seem like they will do the trick. I also purchased a pair of Waterford Mondavi Champagne flutes for the same price.

Since I had to keep my purchase a good deal, I selected the free Super Saver Shipping Option from Amazon, so who knows when I will actually receive the glasses and try them out. But I will definitely report back-- I think the first wine in my new glasses will have to be a Cabernet.

What are your thoughts on wine glasses? Is it really worth it to invest in good ones? What are the differences between glasses for each varietal?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Tasting Note: 2006 Les Vins de Vienne Côtes du Rhône Les Laurelles

The Story: Tired of eating meat and turkey for the last week, I decided to cook seared scallops with chorizo and lemon juice last night. I had a Gruner Veltliner and a Riesling on hand that probably would have paired decently with the dish, but I thought that a nice buttery Chardonnay would pair best. I had also been meaning to try out a new wine shop near me, Cellar 72, which is supposedly run by former sommeliers at several NYC restaurants (Per Se, Marseille, and Nice Matin). With those two thoughts in mind, I headed to Cellar 72 to pick out white wine that would go with my scallops and chorizo.

Although I my assumption was that a full-bodied Chardonnay would pair nicely with my dinner, I knew that a former sommelier would probably have more knowledge about pairings than this newbie, so I told him what I was cooking and let him take the reins. I patted myself on the back when the sales clerk suggested Chardonnay. The sales clerk gave me two options: a "smoky" California Chardonnay or a white Cotes Du Rhone, that, while not a Chardonnay, had Chardonnay-like characteristics that would pair well with the scallop dish. I have had many smoky California Chardonnays, so for the sake of being adventurous, I selected the 2006 Les Vins de Vienne Côtes du Rhône Les Laurelles, which just under $18. The clerk mentioned that this wine was one of his favorites, so I assumed that I picked well.

The Region: This wine is a Cotes du Rhone from Southern Rhone. Les Vins de Vienne on Google Maps

The Grape: This is a white blend. The back of the bottle tells me that it is composed of 50% Marsanne grapes and 50% Viognier grapes and that the wine has been aged for 10 months in tanks.

The Look: Medium-dark amber.

The Aroma: Apples predominated. I also smelled hints of lemon and fresh-cut grass.

The Swish: I am often disappointed with my first taste whenever I taste a wine. I do not know why this is; the only possible explanation I can think of is that I am thrown off when a wine does not taste as I assumed it would. Rather than becoming more interested in a wine that tastes different from expectations, I tend to be disappointed at first. This wine is no exception. Even though I was well aware that this wine was not Chardonnay, I expected it to taste like a Chardonnay. Instead, I was thrown for a loop when I noticed strong flavors of lychee-- it reminded me of a Gewurztraminer. I have tasted Gewurztraminer only once before, but I did not care for it, so I was disappointed with this wine at first.

As is usually the case with wines that I have high hopes for but disappoint me with the first taste, this wine proved itself after a few more tastes. The lychee transformed itself to pear. I was able to identify apples and lemons as well. This was a very interesting wine.

The Verdict: I really enjoyed this wine. I think the best proof of my enjoyment of this wine would be that I sipped two glasses over the course of almost an hour and a half. I did not take a long time to finish it because it was bad, but because it was so good. I tend to quaff most decent wines, but this one I sipped all the way through because it was such an interesting wine. With each sip, I tried to figure this wine out, to notice all of its nuances. I have never tasted anything quite like it. It paired very nicely with my scallop dish, and I would definitely buy it again.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Two Brief Thanksgiving Tasting Notes

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving at my brother's house in Boston. I was too busy chatting with family and friends to do a thorough tasting, but I did make a few mental notes on the wines that my parents brought to dinner:

2005 La Crema Chardonnay: An easy-drinking California Chardonnay, although I prefer Chardonnays with more oak. Nonetheless, this was nice to sip before Thanksgiving dinner-- lemon was the prevailing flavor in this wine. I enjoyed the wine, but once I saw the $19 price tag attached to the bottle, I did not like it quite as much. I have had Chardonnays that I like more for several dollars less.

2004 Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery Cabernet Sauvignon: I drank this wine with the delicious meal that my brother and his wife cooked. Initially, I was very put off by the wine, as all I tasted was alcohol. I only took a few sips over the course of the meal. However, by the time dinner was over, the wine had become much smoother and full of roasted fruit. At $18, this is a good Cabernet at a great price. I would definitely buy it again and remember to decant a couple of hours before serving.

As I stated in my previous post, Thanksgiving is all about who you spend it with, and not necessarily what you drink. While neither of these wines blew me away, they were great for Thanksgiving because I could just enjoy them, and therefore enjoy wonderful day with my family, without worrying too much about what was in my glass.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Some Thanksgiving Wine Advice from a Newbie

Most people agree that Thanksgiving, with all of it's contrasting flavors, is an incredibly difficult holiday when it comes to pairing wines with the meal. For this reason, every expert seems to have his or her own idea regarding the perfect Thanksgiving wine. Between blogs, magazine articles, and newspaper articles, I think I have seen almost every varietal out there nominated as a "great Thanksgiving wine."

Due to all of the contradicting opinions on Thanksgiving pairings, I have come to the conclusion that there is no perfect wine for Thanksgiving. As with any holiday that brings family and friends together, pick any wine that you love, and I promise it will be a perfect pairing. Whether it's a wine that recalls great memories, a wine you have been waiting forever to try, or just a simple tried and true that you like, you will have chosen a great Thanksgiving wine. There is no need to stress about whether a particular wine might clash with the sweet potatoes. All you have to do is open a few wines you love while eating a feast with with friends and family, and I can guarantee you that you will have the perfect Thanksgiving wine. Pairing advice does not get any simpler than that.

I will be traveling to Boston for the holiday, and I am not sure if I will have a chance to update the blog until Saturday, so I am wishing everyone an early Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you all choose perfect Thanksgiving wines!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Stupid Wine Blog Trick: Google Mapping Producers

As I stated in my post on wine shop websites, I find maps to be incredibly useful as they not only help me learn more about wine but also because they romanticize the experience of drinking a wine. Another thing I love is Google Earth. Although it may be creepy to some, I just cannot get enough of Googling locations all over the world, especially when I can zoom into the street view.

Combining my two loves, I have now incorporated Google Maps into my wine blog. For wines that I am able to find an address for the producer, I will include a link to Google Maps in the 'Region' section of my tasting notes that shows the producer's location. From these maps, you can zoom in or zoom out to see where the producer is in the region, where the region is in the country, or even what the region looks like by satellite. I have already added the Google Map link to my tasting notes for 2007 Jean Bererd et Fils Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau Domaine de la Madone Le Perréon and 2005 Weingut Johann Peter Reinert Kanzemer Sonnenberg Riesling Spätlese Feinherb.

So now, instead of looking up your house on Google Earth, you can look up wine producers-- who knows, you might actually learn something from Google Earth!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

TN: 2007 Jean Bererd et Fils Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau Domaine de la Madone Le Perréon

The Story: I became aware of the Beaujolais nouveau phenomenon only a few weeks ago. As November 15, the third Thursday of November, approached, I could not go a day without reading a blog post, a newspaper article, or a message board topic about the arrival of 2007 B.N. I decided that if I wanted to learn about wine, I had better participate in the B.N. party.

I went to Astor Wines and Spirits to select my Beaujolais nouveau. The store had a nice selection of B.N. along with tasting notes from a (supposed) blind tasting the employees did. Among the B.N. at Astor, the only name I knew of was Georges Duboeuf, and since I have made it a personal rule to never buy a bottle of wine that looks like a candy wrapper, Duboeuf was out of the question. That left me with a bunch of B.N. ranging from about $9 to $16, so I did what any newbie would do and put my trust into the Astor employees, selecting the B.N. that had scored best in their blind tasting, the Domaine de la Madone. Of course, this wine was the $16 B.N., which made me wonder how blind the blind tasting was, but I purchased the wine anyway.

The Region: Beaujolais, France (duh). Beaujolais is actually located within the Burgundy region. Beaujolais-Villages is in the northern part of the Beaujolais region. Domaine de la Madone on Google Maps

The Grape: Gamay. The Gamay grapes that go into B.N. are fermented for just a few weeks, which is a very short time.

The Look: Very light purple. Translucent.

The Aroma: If one was to ferment a bag of Skittles, you would probably end up with a concoction that smells just like this wine. The aroma smells of artificial cherries, with hints of other candy-like fruit flavors.

The Swish: With the candy aroma, I expect this wine to taste extremely fruity, and in the artificial fruit flavor way, not the delicious fruit bomb way. To my surprise, this wine is not overly fruity at all; even more surprising given that it is a Beaujolais nouveau, which by name I assumed was always ultra fruity. In the first few tastes, I identify mostly cherries (real, not artificial).

Strangely, I also taste banana, which I notice in a surprising number of red wines, most notably young Old World Pinot Noirs. Banana is an odd description for red wine, so I cannot help but wonder if I am just confused by another flavor in the wine that I identify as bananas. Whatever it is, it's not a bad taste, just another flavor to add complexity to the wine.

The wine is light-bodied with a decent finish. It does not blow me away by any means, but it is a nice wine.

The Verdict: Eventually, I stopped trying to determine the flavor notes in this Beaujolais Nouveau. The wine is enjoyable and nothing more, but I realize that that's what B.N. is all about. No one is ever going to call B.N. the greatest wines, but a nice B.N. is a great wine to quaff with friends. I will not go out of my way to buy another 2007 B.N., but I will definitely seek out a B.N. on Nov. 20, 2008. While I am sure that this wine is a superb example of B.N., I do not think that B.N. is ever worth paying $16 for, so I will probably scratch Jean Bererd off the list for 2008 unless the Dollar gains some ground on the Euro in time for the crop of 2008 Beaujolais nouveau.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wine Shop Websites

The other day, I received an email from the folks at Tinto Fino, a terrific wine shop in the East Village specializing in Spanish Wines, announcing that they had finally set up their website. I say finally not because it was a ridiculous wait (I assume setting up a wine shop website does take some time), but because I had been eagerly waiting to see Tinto Fino's inventory on paper. It was well worth the wait, as I am very impressed with the website. While the website is not perfect (I would like to see at least some tasting notes on their wines, many of which are difficult to research, and there are none), what I really liked is the home page. The first thing a visitor to Tinto Fino's website sees is a large map of Spain showing all of the country's wine regions. Even better, clicking on each region on the map will show all of the wines that Tinto Fino carries from that region.

I wish other wine shop websites had a map feature like Tinto Fino's website. While most people, including myself, do not need a map to tell you that Cataluna is in the northeast corner of Spain and Andalucia in southern Spain, there is something about seeing the region on a map makes me appreciate where the wine was made even more. It makes me wonder about the climate in the region, the lives of the people living there, and the food they eat. For me, a map romanticizes the experience of purchasing wine.

The concept of a clickable map on Tinto Fino's website made me think even more about wine shop websites. I rarely order wine online. I tend to buy at most two bottles at a time and as a novice and I usually require the assistance of a knowledgeable salesperson. However, I do enjoy surfing the websites of my favorite wine shops. I find that shop websites can be great learning tools. Since I tend to purchase small production wines, any information offered on websites is extremely helpful to me since I am unlikely to see the same wines elsewhere.

I love to research the wines I purchase, so it would be great when I can return from a wine shop with my purchases, visit the wine shop's website, and find all information I want to know on the wine: information about the producer, the region, the vintage, and the wine itself. Unfortunately, I have yet to find the perfect shop website, but my dream wine shop website would combine many of the highlights of certain websites. My dream wine shop website would be full of detailed maps, regional histories, tasting notes, and food pairing suggestions. It would be a one stop shop for everything I would ever need to know on the wines I have purchased from the shop.

What is your favorite wine shop website? What would your the wine shop website of your dreams look like?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wine Blogging Wednesday #39: 2004 André Bonhomme Viré-Clessé

The Story: What better way to learn about wine than to share experiences of particular category of wines with people from all over the world? Hence commences my first Wine Blogging Wednesday (WBW). WBW is the perfect wine tasting: pick a particular wine theme, let everyone choose a wine(s) that represents the theme, and let everyone, from wine novice to expert, share his or her experience with the wine that was chosen. The only improvement would be if all of the bloggers could taste the wonderful-sounding wines they have chosen for the event. Alas, I will have to wait until Web 3.0 for that enhancement.

For WBW #39, Neil from the excellent Brooklynguy's Wine and Food Blog has chosen the theme "Silver" Burgundy. Neil has suggested that we choose the more affordable affordable Burgundies of Côte Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais.

Taking Neil's suggestion to heart, I ventured out to Moore Brothers and asked the salesclerk to suggest a Mâconnais under $25. As is usually the case at Moore Brothers, the helpful clerk quickly had a suggestion after I gave him my criteria. He selected the 2004 André Bonhomme Viré-Clessé ($23). The helpful clerk told me that without Bonhomme, none of the Mâconnais appellations would exist. Deciding that I could do no better than to choose a Mâconnais from the so-called master of the Mâconnais, I purchased a bottle and returned to my apartment eager to participate in my very first WBW.

The Region: The Mâconnais region is in the southern part of Burgundy, west of the river Soane. This particular wine carries the appellation Viré-Clessé, which is in the northern-most part of the Mâconnais district.

The Grape: Like most white wines from the Mâconnais, this wine is a Chardonnay. As the shop does for all wines it sells, Moore Brothers provided me with a handy tasting note for the wine. From this tasting note, I learned that one third of the cuvee is aged in oak, which sounds good to me because I like buttery Chardonnays that are not too oaky.

The Look: Moderately golden.

The Aroma: I am unable to pinpoint the aroma of this wine. It does have a powerful aroma, but my untrained palate cannot figure out what I smell. If I had to guess, I would say I smell floral (lilies, perhaps) with a hint of lemon.

The Swish: I am disappointed with my first taste. The wine seems extremely thin; I do not taste much going on. Fortunately, as my glass warms up a bit, I begin to enjoy the wine more and more. I am fairly certain that there are floral notes. I taste apples and a splash of lemon, too.

The Verdict: I was thrown off at first by this wine because it is very subtle. As a wine newbie, I think I am turned off by wines that are not "in your face." I need to remember to be patient and learn to enjoy the nuances of wines produced in the Old World styles. I need to remember to keep challenging myself with subtle wines as my wine education continues. I also need to remember that when I want a great Chardonnay, to look for something from André Bonhomme because this wine was terrific.

Thanks for choosing a great WBW theme, Neil!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tasting Note: 2005 Weingut Johann Peter Reinert Kanzemer Sonnenberg Riesling Spätlese Feinherb

The Story: As I stated in my Wine Schedule post, I acted according to plan tonight. With my dinner of Chengdu Braised Pork with Daikon Radish (from Molly Stevens's terrific All About Braisinging), I drank this Riesling from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany. I bought this wine with a mouthful of a name for $22 from Moore Brothers. At $22, it is more expensive than what I would usually choose, but I was having a meal with Asian flavors, and even a wine novice knows that Riesling is one of the few varietals that can be successfully paired with spicy Asian dishes.

The Region: According to LovetoKnow Wine, "the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer produces Rieslings of exquisite clarity. Slate soil is the driving force, creating lean wines with piercing acidity and aging potential." Aging potential? I wonder if I should wait a few years before drinking this one, but unfortunately, I had already marked it down in my wine schedule, so I must drink it. Weingut Johann Peter Reinert on Google Maps

The Grape: Riesling Spätlese is a late harvest wine. Spätlese means that this wine is riper than a Kabinett and not as ripe as an Auslese. I do not see "Trocken" in the label, so it is not a dry Reisling, which is just as well since a sweeter wine will pair best with my spicy dinner. Still, I hope it is not too sweet.

The Look: Fairly dark yellow.

The Aroma: Like most Rieslings, this one smells of apples. Crisp Granny Smiths, to be exact. Maybe a hint of lemon, too.

The Swish: I taste apples. It's pretty acidic, and not too sweet. Most of the non-Trocken Rieslings I have tried in the past are syrupy sweet and full of raisin flavor, but this one has a nice balance with no noticeable raisin notes. Interestingly, there also seems to be a slight fizz to this wine that tingles my mouth as I sip it. It is delicious.

The Verdict: $22 is a little bit too expensive for me to buy this wine for everyday drinking, but I would certainly buy it again. I will have to try some more of the sweeter-style Rieslings in the future...

Monday, November 12, 2007

My Wine Schedule

Spontaneity frightens me. On Sundays, I need to have a good sense of what lies in the week ahead: how far I will run each morning, what big meetings I have at work, what body parts I will work out each night at the gym, my I will eat each night for dinner, and what social plans I have to look forward to. As I have become interested in learning about wine, I have begun to plan ahead for the wines I will drink during the week.

Below are the drinking plans I have made for the week:

Monday: Returning from trip to Tennessee early in the morning. Will be tired. Takeout Chinese. Beer would pair best, but a glass of the Riesling I have planned for Tuesday will do.

Cooking Chinese Style braised pork shoulder and daikon. Should be a spicy dish. Perfect! I have a Riesling I picked up at Moore Brothers about a month ago.

Wednesday: It's my first Wine Blogging Wednesday (WBW #39). The theme is "Silver Burgundy," so I'll pick up a Maconnais from Moore Brothers. Will pair it with pan roasted chicken breast and roasted butternut squash.

Finish up the Maconnais.

Running a 4 mile race on Saturday morning, so will have my usual pre-race meal of linguine with shrimp in a white wine sauce. I have a Gruner Veltliner on hand, so will go with that.

I agree that sometimes the most enjoyable thing about wine is it's spontaneity. After all, what else can beat popping open a sparkling wine to celebrate good news or randomly uncorking a California Cab to have with friends? However, I live alone and do not have an extensive wine cellar, so I cannot always guarantee that I will have the right wine on hand at the right moment. Planning out my what I will drink over the course of the week keeps my wine education on track. Check back tomorrow for a tasting note of tonight's Riesling-- my planning was very successful!

Does anyone else have a wine schedule?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Heading down South

I will be heading down to Tennessee tonight to spend the weekend with my girlfriend. Since every minute together in a long distance relationship counts, I probably will not be taking any time to write blog posts this weekend. I hope you all have nice weekends and drink lots of great wine!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Tasting Note: 2004 Bodegas Alto Almanzora Monastrell Almeria Este

The Story: So shoot me: I like inexpensive, jammy, alcoholic wines. Many of the wine experts whom I respect the most say that fruit bombs are all that are wrong with the wine world, but in the last few weeks, I have had three Monastrells, all under $15, all bursting with fruit, and I have loved each and every one of them. Tonight was no exception. The 2004 Bodegas Alto Almanzora Monastrell Almeria Este was $9.99, 13.5% alcohol content, and the perfect wine to have with leftovers on Hump Day of a very busy work week.

The Region: After inputting this wine into CellarTracker, I see that it is from Andalucia, Spain. This surprises me, as I did not know that dry wines from Andalucia were imported into the US. Andalucia, of course, is Sherry country, but when I was there this past spring, all of the red wines I tasted were mediocre at best. At least I only spent $10... Bodegas Alto Almanzora on Google Maps

The Grape: Monastrell. This grape is known as Mourvedre in France. Wines from Spain tells me that this grape is a "red, very sweet and productive grape. It produces wines with a deep colour and considerable alcoholic content."

The Look: Very dark purple. I cannot see my fingers on the other side of the glass-- an auspicious sign for a lover of big reds.

The Aroma: Fruit bombs are a wine newbies best friend because it is easy to discern the fruits in the aromas. There is no question with this wine; with one deep inhale, I smell cherries all the way to my lungs.

The Swish: It is jammy alright. A definitely cherry bomb with a nice long finish. My mouth is coated with the wine long after my first sip. I think this means that the wine is tannic, but I will have to look that up in one of my wine books later. At $10, I do not expect a very complex wine, and this is not complex at all. Nonetheless, it is very enjoyable.

The Verdict: Once again, I find success in the under $10 category once again with this fruit bomb. At $10, I do not expect a very complex wine, and this is not complex at all. Nonetheless, this one was very enjoyable. I will have to taste a Mourvedre soon and compare it to the Monastrells. A blind tasting will soon be in order.

I have now had luck twice in a row in the under $10 category. I am not going to test my luck, so I promise that the next wine I taste will be above $10. Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

TN: 2006 Domaine de Fenouillet Vin de Pays de Vaucluse

Following up on yesterday's lesson about wine importers:

The Story: A few weeks ago, I went to my local wine shop (Mister Wright on 3rd Ave. between 89th and 90th) and come across the above Southern Rhone blend that is selling for $8.99. I usually, I do not buy wines less than $10 unless a respected salesperson recommends it because I have usually been burned in the category. However, I looked at the back of the bottle and see that it was imported by Rosenthal, so I put my liver in the hands of Neal Rosenthal and decide to give it a try. Fast-forward two weeks and it I have a perfectly modest wine to go with my Sunday supper of herb roasted chicken.

The Region: Southern Rhone, France. This region is in Southern, France. Wikipedia informs me that this region has a "mediterranean climate with milder winters and hot summers." Domaine de Fenouillet on Google Maps

The Grapes: This is a red blend. I am not sure what grapes went into this wine, but wines from the Southern Rhone valley generally contain a combination of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan, and/or Cinsaut.

The Look: Dark purple and with little transparency. I can barely see my fingers through the glass.

The Aroma: Fruity. Cherries, maybe?

The Swish: This wine does not do much for me on the first few tastes; there is just not much flavor to me. Did I get what my 9$ paid for? Am I too stressed about getting dinner on the table to be able to have a discerning taste? Or does the wine just need some time to open up?

Fortunately for my $9, it was the latter. I begin to enjoy this wine after I have let the glass sit for about 30 minutes. It's medium-bodied and fruity. I wish I could say what fruits I taste, but I am not far enough along in my wine journey yet. All I can say at this point is that I like it, and that's all I can ask for at $9.

The Verdict: This wine is perfect for a modest Sunday night or weekday supper. For $8.99, I think it would be difficult to do much better.

Wine Lesson: Know Your Importers

One of the best lessons I have learned so far in my wine education is "when in doubt, choose a trusted importer." The wine import industry is huge with most of the big players in the liquor industry (Seagram's, Moet Hennessey, etc.) trying to win the business of every big producer or wine store. Like any savvy company, the average wine importer is much more concerned with the bottom line rather than the quality of wine they import into the U.S; most importers would rather win the contract to export a mass produced and marketed (and unfortunately, loved by many) wine like Yellowtail than an obscure wine such as the Nosiola I reported on a few days ago. This is not to say that the big importers do not import some great wines-- some of the most reknowned wines are imported by the big importers-- but it certainly a gamble to go into a wine store and randomly pick up a wine imported by most importers.

Fortunately for wine experts and novices alike, there are a handful of importers who travel all over the world to try pick and choose every wine that they want included in there portfolios. These producers can be trusted to pick wines that are generally of great quality. Additionally, since these importers often search out rare, small production and rare wines, the wines are priced favorably and usually not boosted by ratings from the major publications. The importers I trust most include (this is not an exhaustive list):

Eric Solomon (European Cellars)
Rosenthal Wine Imports
Tempranillo Inc.
Polaner Selections
Fleet Street

When in doubt and in no mood to seek the advice of a sales clerk at the wine shop, it is always a good bet to go with a wine that has been imported by one of the above companies. Their portfolios contain wines in all price ranges, and in my limited experience, I have never had an undrinkable wine from any of the above importers. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for most other importers.

Tomorrow, I will report on an under $10 Southern Rhone red that I chose based on the name of the importer on the back of the bottle. Stay tuned...

Friday, November 2, 2007

My First Tasting Note: 2006 Bolognani Trentino Nosiola

The Story: Choosing a fairly esoteric Italian white varietal is an odd choice for the first tasting note on a novice's wine blog, but this was the wine that I had on hand that I thought would go best with the dinner I made: pan roasted chicken in a vermouth, shallot, and thyme sauce. I had picked up this wine at Moore Brothers for $18.00 a week ago when I had asked the salesperson for a "full-bodied Pinot Grigio." Normally, I think of Pinot Grigio as watered down plonk, but I had heard that P.G. could be reach great heights as a full-bodied wine and wanted to give it a try. The salesperson picked out a Nosiola rather than a Pinot Grigio, and stupid me did not notice the mistake until I got back to my apartment. Nonetheless, I was very satisfied with the mistake.

Here follows what will be the format of all my tastings, which I hope will evolve as I learn more about wine:

The Region: Trentino Alto Adige, Italy. Looking at a map, I see that this region is in the middle of the northern-most part of Italy. Bolognani on Google Maps

The Look: Very pale yellow. Fairly clear. Similar to a Pinot Grigio. I wonder whether the salesperson not only got the varietal wrong, but also did not hear my request for a full-bodied wine?

The Aroma: Very fresh. Grassy, similar to that of a Sauvignon Blanc, but not quite as strong.

The Swish: I pull the bottle out of the fridge too late, so it is too cold at first. However, I want something to drink with dinner, so I have a glass anyway. In my first swish, while the wine was only slightly above fridge temperature, I notice a very subtle fizz, and not much else due to the wine being too cold. Once the wine warms up a bit, I enjoy it much more. It's definitely fairly full bodied (one point for the salesperson!), but keeps it's fresh taste. I do not notice much more to this wine, but I enjoy it. It really coats my mouth long after I sip... I believe this is what wine experts call a "long finish."

The Verdict: I tend to like full-bodied wines, and I certainly like this one. I will definitely buy it again if I want a full-bodied Italian white.

Post Tasting: As they do with every purchase, Moore Brothers gave me a handy sheet of paper that included tasting notes on the wine and the history of the region where the wine is made. From this sheet, I find out that the word nosiola is derived from the Italian word for walnut, and that the wine has walnut and citrus flavors. I swish around another few sips and still do not notice any walnut. The citrus is slightly apparent to me, but not by much. I guess I have much more wine to drink before I can identify these flavors...

Welcome to OeNo!

I know what you are thinking: "Just what the Internet needs: another wine blog..." The difference between OeNo! and all the other wine blogs is that I know next to nothing about wine. Yes, just what the world needs: a wine blog by someone who is an idiot when it comes to wine.

I began my foray into wine at the beginning of this year. While I have learned a decent amount about wine in the last 11 months, I am still very much a novice. I know I enjoy Italian reds, Old World Chardonnays, most things from Spain, dry Rieslings, and small production wines, but my tongue has only tasted the tip of the vine. I am unable to identify the notes of blackberry in a Syrah, tobacco in a Ribera del Duero, or cat's pee in a Sauvignon Blanc (actually, for some reason, cat's pee is the one flavor I have ever successfully deciphered, no idea why...). I have spilled wine when I swirl it in a glass, coughed when an acidic wine hit the back of my throat, and mispronounced countless numbers of wines that I have asked for at wine shops and restaurants.

I am launching this blog to track the progress of my wine education. On the journey, I will post everything that I taste and learn. I invite other to read along, join me in learning more about wine, and post comments to further educate others and me on the wonderful world of wine. Let the journey begin!