Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wine Blogging Wednesday #40: 2005 Rosenblum Cellars Petite Sirah Heritage Clones

The Story: The theme of Wine Blogging Wednesday #40, "Que Que Sirah," is brought to us by Sonadora from Wannabe Wino. Eager to participate in my second WBW and taste my first Petite Sirah, I braved the cold and the rain and booked it on over to K&D Wines. The store only had three Petite Sirahs, only one of which was under $35. I picked up the 2005 Rosenblum Cellars Petite Sirah Heritage Clones for $17.99 and returned home to drink it with a braised lamb shank I had made the day before.

The Region: Contra Costa, California. Contra Costa is located in the San Francisco Bay area. Rosenblum Cellars on Google Maps.

The Grape: Petite Sirah, aka Durif. According to Jancis Robinson's The Oxford Companion to Wine, Petite Sirah is known for producing a "dark, well-balanced, sturdily tannic, red wine of agreeable if not highly distinctive flavor." Some more information on Petite Sirah can be found here.

The Look: Very dark, inky purple.

The Aroma: Strong odors of black pepper and blackberries. Very spicy aroma.

The Swish: At first, I was unable to get beyond the spicy taste of black pepper. Pepper is not a flavor I have come across in a wine before. Eventually, blackberry and coffee notes revealed themselves. This wine had a very thick mouthfeel and a nice, long finish.

The Verdict: Black pepper is not exactly the most pleasurable flavor in a wine, so it took me some time to decide whether or not I liked this wine. While the spice of the pepper was undeniably present in this wine, so too were the delicious coffee and blackberry flavors. The pepper notes in this wine played a similar role to the black pepper I ground on my lamb shank-- enhancing the wine without overwhelming its other wonderful flavors. This wine was perfect on a cold winter night with a hearty winter dish. I would definitely buy it, and other Petite Sirahs, in the future. Thank you, Sonadora, for a wonderful WBW theme and for turning me onto a new varietal.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Gutturnio at Via Emilia

This past weekend, I celebrated my friend Adam's birthday at Via Emilia, an Italian restaurant on E. 21st St. serving the food of Emilia-Romagna region. All of the food we ordered was excellent, especially the chicken and mushroom tortelloni with truffle oil my friend Justin ordered, but what stood out most was the restaurant's wine list. Like the food, all of the wine at Via Emilia is from Emilia-Romagna. Aside from several Cabernets and Sangioveses, there was very little on the wine list that was familiar to me. Fortunately, the list had helpful descriptions of each wine, so it was not not too difficult to pick out something that sounded as if it would suit my taste. I selected the 2006 Ferrari & Perini Gutturnio, and while I had never previously heard of the designation, I was very happy with my choice. Gutturnio is a 70/30 blend of Barbera and Bonarda. This wine was medium-bodied with roasted fruit on the palate and nice acidity. It paired very nicely with my rich tortellini alla panna. I found the 2006 Ferrari & Perini Gutturnio at Crush Wines for $20.99. You may not have heard of Gutturnio, but it is yet another esoteric Italian wine that is well worth trying.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Essential Wine Websites for Newbies

I have always wondered what it must have been like to be a wine drinker before the Internet era. How did people research wines back then? How did they track of wines in their cellars? How did they compare prices? Call me spoiled, but I can’t imagine being a wine drinker and not having the internet. Aside from the forums, blogs, and other wine-centric websites, here are three sites that everyone, especially Wine Newbies, should have in his or her tool kit:

CellarTracker: CellarTracker is an inventory tracker. While it is used by experienced wine collectors with thousands of bottles in their cellars, it is also an essential tool for the wine novice. Immediately after returning home from a visit to the wine shop, I log into CellarTracker to add my purchases to my modest online inventory. Generally, the wines I add to my inventory have already been added to CellarTracker's database, so I can quickly see all of the helpful information on the wine (varietal, desgination, region, etc.) as well as tasting notes written by other CellarTracker users. I generally avoid looking at the tasting notes until after I have tasted the wine so as not to bias my novice palate, but the tasting notes are extremely helpful when use CellarTracker to research wines to buy, which I frequently do. My favorite part about CellarTracker is that users can perform all sorts of fun and useful analyses at the click of the button: the largest cellars on the site, producers whose wines are most owned, most popular wines for the year, etc. CellarTracker is not only a fun wine tool, but it is also incredibly useful for the someone who is trying to learn more about wine.

Wine-Searcher: I follow wine forums and blogs on a regular basis, so I am always finding new wines that I want to purchase. Generally, the wines I read about online are fairly obscure and thus cannot be found at any wine shop. Fortunately, I have Wine-Searcher at my fingertips and can immediately find a store that sells the wine in my area. Even better, if multiple retailers sell the wine, Wine-Searcher will tell me which store has the best price. Wine-Searcher also serves as quite an eye opener as to how widely prices vary for the same wine from store to store.

It must have been hard times for wine drinkers before the Internet existed. How did wine snobs keep track of their inventories? Did wine drinkers have to rely on professional reviewers only for providing tasting notes? How would a wine drinker find a store that sold a wine he was looking for? Once he found that store, did he unwittingly overpay for a wine that could have been found for several dollars less at another store? Thank heavens for the Internet!

I think that both CellarTracker and Wine-Searcher should be websites in every wine beginner's arsenal. What other sites should be included?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Braising: The Best Way to Cook with Wine

Tonight, I made Tom Valenti’s lamb shanks to go with the Petite Syrah that I will post about for next week’s Wine Blogging Wednesday #40 brought to us by Wannabe Wino. I will write about the Petite Syrah I drank with my dinner next Wednesday, but today, I want to write about the technique I used to cook the lamb shanks, braising.

Braising is without a doubt my favorite cooking method. As a young professional who lives alone, what I like love about braising is that it’s easy, it's inexpensive, and it fills my tiny studio apartment with wonderful aromas of herbs, wine, stock, meat, and vegetables.

Of course the single best thing about braising is that a braise often requires a cup or two (or even an entire bottle) of wine to be added to the braising liquid. Not only does a braised dish often contain wine, but it also pairs very well with wine. In many ways, a great braised dish is similar to a great wine. It gets better with age (although a braise will age to its full potential after a or two, rather than years). A braised dish is simple, yet elegant. It’s rustic, yet refined. For these reasons, I think that braised meat is the perfect wine food. Forget about using a cheap wine to braise a dish—just crack open something good, pour a glass into the braise, then drink the rest with the meal. It's a match made in heaven.

Every wine lover should have braising in his or her cooking repertoire. It's the perfect hearty dish for winter, so why not braise some meat this weekend? Tom Valenti's lamb shank recipe was delicious, and would be the perfect recipe to start with.