Thursday, August 30, 2012

Honig Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

photo by Shirley
For the few that did not know, today was the 3rd Annual National Cabernet Day.  It happened to be a very warm day here in CNY and a nice full bodied red, like Cabernet Sauvignon, is be much better suited for a chilly autumn or very cold winter day, but then again, any time is nice for a good Cab Sauv.  Dinner menu was already set, so I had to pair a 2009 Honig Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) with grilled salmon, tomato-cucumber salad and fried green tomatos, zucchini, baby bellas and stuffed zucchini flowers.
I opened and decanted a few hours before lighting up the grill, but only for Shirley to take a few photos.  That may have been a blessing, because I stole a little taste and found this was going to be an OK wine, but maybe a little too earthy or musty.  Two hours later while grilling the fish I poured a glass and found a much different wine.
The wine had a nice deep garnet red color.  Lots of dark fruit aromas of black cherry, currant, blackberry and some plum with hints of smoke, earth and vanilla on the nose.  Nice and smooth in the mouth with some spice, anise and blackberry, also some burnt wood and vanilla.  The finish was very long with some ripe tannins, dark plum and blackberry.  Very nice wine right now and will only get better with age. I'll have to get a few to lay down for a few years and maybe a few for autumn and winter of this year.
As far as tonight's pairing, the wine went very nicely with the salmon, but not so well with the fried veggies. The Honig Cabernet Sauvignon was also fantastic sipping with a few bites of extra sharp cheddar later on.  A very nice $30 wine and Highly Recommended.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bogle Essential Red 2009

I knew when I started this blog in 2008, or was at least hoping, that my very narrow wine palate was going to expand immensely and that I would or should begin to appreciate many of the wines produced in today's world.  I am happy to say that is exactly what has occurred.  The biggest surprise to me is with white wines, but I also realize that I found a new appreciation for many of the fantastic red wines and blends I would have never tried if not for this blog, especially those from California. One of my favorite wineries from California is Bogle Vineyards in Clarksburg.
Clarksburg is located in the Sacramento river delta region, east of San Francisco, and south of Napa.  In general, the Sacramento River Delta region is best known for it’s zinfandels, and a number of Italian varietals.
I have reviewed the Bogle Peite Sirah and the Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel and recently found a Bogle wine I have not seen on local shelves before. The Bogle Vineyards Essential Red 2009($10) is a blend of Old Vines Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Sounds like a very complex blend and the aromas and taste are just that.
When I think of what a red wine should look like (generically) this is it, a nice bright deep garnet red.  Aromas were at first more vanilla, tobacco, cigar box like, but after a short time I started getting lots of fruit, like plum, currant and black cherry.  This is one of those wines that just explodes in the mouth with lots of dark fruit, licorice, some boysenberry and vanilla and finished very long.
I served this wine with chicken quesadillas and later with some sharp cheddar which paired very nicely with both.  A steal at $10, this wine is very Highly Recommended.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thousand Islands Winery semi-dry Riesling 2011

If you read this blog enough, you get to understand my infatuation with Riesling and also how much I love a dinner of Salmon, whether baked, grilled or broiled.  Tonight on my way home of finalizing all of my Retirement paperwork with the Social Security Administration, we stopped at our favorite fish market and picked out a nice filet of Salmon for dinner. Pairing salmon with wine maybe the simplest choice I ever have to make.  It will always be an off dry Riesling and tonight I chose a wine I picked up last weekend at the CNY Regional Market in Syracuse, a Thousand Islands Winery semi-dry Riesling 2011($15).  Definitely not my favorite Finger Lakes Riesling and somewhat doubtful that a wine from our New York northern border can match up.  But, was I in for a bit of a surprise.
Lovely aromas of lime, peach and some honeysuckle started this wine off on a very positive note.   Nice acidity and very silky smooth in the mouth with citrus, some tropical and a bit of Mandarin orange.  I found no mineral like aromas or taste which I was expecting from a New York wine.   The aromas and flavors were more Alsatian like than what I find in our Finger Lakes Rieslings.  A medium finish was again very smooth and lemony with a hint of sweetness.  A very warm evening, a very nicely baked salmon and a very nice Riesling ended what was a very rewarding day. All the paperwork is done and now I just wait for September 1, 2012, my first day of retirement.  Oh yeah, can't forget the wine, Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Banfi Bell'Agio Chianti 2010

We all know that there is a lot of very cheap wines on the market today.  Many of them have the bad reputation and are just cheap, bad wine and many of them are unfairly criticized only because old wives tales, lack of knowledge or just the way a wines are packaged.  I know, I lived through the 60's and 70's when Chianti in a basket bottle was the  biggest fad to ever hit the wine drinking world.  Our first apartment was decorated with many of these empty bottles, topped with a candle that was lit until the wax dripped onto the bottle.  Instant Tuscan Decor!   At that time Chianti was becoming very popular and as more and more producers exported their wine in traditional bottles, the basket began to disappear. Today, only a few producers still use the fiasco bottle.
I've heard and read a few stories on how the basket came into being. The best and most logical reason follows.

When wine was first produced in the Italian region of Tuscany, and probably in many other regions, it was put into bottles that were made by glass blowing.  These bottles were round on the bottom and the glass was a bit fragile.  This was fine for the wines that stayed in the region, but as the world began to shrink and demand for the wines in far away countries became higher, the wine producers began shipping their wines by land carriers and ships.
Rough roads and heavy seas accounted for a lot of breakage.  Thus, the invention of the fiasco. 
photo by Shirley
The basket(fiasco) provides protection during transportation and handling, and also a flat base for the container. Thus the glass bottle can have a round bottom, which is much simpler to make by glass blowing.
Fiaschi can be efficiently packed for transport, with the necks of upturned bottles safely tucked into the spaces between the baskets of upright ones.
The one I opened tonight is one of my favorite Italian red table wines.  The Banfi Bell'agio Chianti 2010 ($10) and it has been at least 10 years since my last one, so this was more a trip down memory lane for Shirley and I and we found that nothing much has changed.

A little cherry with some tart blueberry and a very little burnt wood like aromas as I expected.  Nice and smooth in mouth with flavors of black cherry some spicy berry, like teaberry, ending with a short to medium finish that was smooth and berry like. In short a very plain wine, but an awful good table wine.  For dinner, with the wine, we had pasta with Shirley's homemade sauce,  a salad of tomatoes, mozzarella, romaine lettuce, artichoke hearts and pepperoncini and freshly baked garlic bread. "bel pasto, ottimo vino"  This wine will pair very nicely with Italian dishes like lasagna, chicken or seafood riggies, red meats and hard cheese (mild or sharp) and was not bad at all just sipping.
For an inexpensive red table wine, in my opinion the Bell'Agio Chianti cannot be beat.  And when the wine is done, just add a candle and start re-decorating. Highly recommended. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Clean Slate Riesling 2011

It took many years for me to even try white wines and now I do find myself drinking more whites than reds.  I have also become a very big fan of Rieslings, especially those from the New York Finger Lakes region.  So, this year I have tried a few from outside that region and more specifically, outside the USA.   I reviewed one from Alsace, but held back on a few German Riesling which were very good, but a little pricey.  That and a fact I felt they were no better than my favorite Finger Lake wines and had a  $25 average price compared to a $14-$18 price for the New York wines.  That may change, because I am always looking for that cheap price and after I retire this month, I may be looking for very cheap pricing and I think I just found one.
I found a new local wine shop recently and while chit-chatting with a young lady at the counter about Rieslings she very highly recommended a German Riesling that has become her favorite and it was very inexpensive, a Clean Slate Riesling 2011 ($10).  I have also found on-line for under $8.  For that price on a German Riesling, I will try and I am glad I did.
Color was a bright straw yellow.  Lots of peach aromas with a lemon/lime citrus and hints of watermelon on the nose.  Nice acidity with flavors of peach and some tropical fruits.  A medium finish with light mineral or slate, but still had lots of peach and a little sweetness.  I drank this while watching the Olympics and munching on some light cheddar cheese.   This is a perfect wine for spicy oriental, fish, scallops and summer salads and very enjoyable just sipping.   Very highly recommended. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling 2011

Photo by Shirley
When I shop for specific wines, either by producer or varietal, I like to at least bring home a half case or six bottles.  That was the case a few weeks ago when looking for 2011 Rieslings from the New York Finger Lakes.  The day did not start out on a positive note.  The first two shops I visited had zero 2011's in stock, but I found four different producers at Harbor View Wines and Liquors in Syracuse. I have already posted my reviews on three of them while saving the one I expected to be the best for last.  A Hermann J. Wiemer dry Riesling 2011($17)

*Hermann J. Wiemer is regarded as one of the pioneers of viticulture and winemaking in the Finger Lakes.  Hermann’s first Riesling and Chardonnay vintages won Gold in New York competitions. Over the last thirty years, Hermann’s consistency and quality have earned the winery a reputation for being one the nation’s best white wine producers. In the 90s Saveur Magazine declared that “Hermann J. Wiemer produces the finest American grown Riesling”.
In 2007, Hermann officially retired, handing  over the winery to Fred Merwarth, who partnered with his university friend, Swedish agronomist Oskar Bynke, to carry on Hermann’s legacy.
In the last 4 years, the young team has continued with Hermann’s goal of bringing the winery to the world stage. The result is that the highest quality hand-crafted wines are now made for lovers of Rieslings across the US, and in other select markets worldwide. The winery has been recognized for the last 3 years as one of the world’s Top 100 Estates by Wine & Spirits Magazine; Wine Spectator listed the winery on the top 100 Wines in the world in 2010; and critics and  connoisseurs such as Robert Parker, Eric Asimov, Stuart Piggott, consistently mention Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard as the top Riesling producer in the US.  *(

Surprisingly, I tasted my first Wiemer Riesling just about a year ago and again a few months ago I enjoyed a few glasses of the 2010 Dry Riesling, so I was very elated to find this one available so soon.
Aromas of orange zest, some citrus and a little grapefruit were very aromatic, but I failed to get any of the mineral aromas I have become accustomed to in Finger Lakes wines.  There was a hint of that mineral in the mouth with lots of grapefruit and some sugar plum and key lime pie.  A very soft mouth feel and an extraordinary long smooth finish. Not your typical Finger Lakes Riesling, but a World Class Riesling.
There have only been four 2011 Finger Lakes Rieslings so far, with many more to come, but the Hermann J. Wiemer 2011 Dry Riesling is a standard that will be hard to beat.  Very Highly Recommended