Friday, November 30, 2012

Heron Hill 2011 Rieslings

Early this month I was able to pick up some of my favorite Heron Hill Rieslings at the New York Harvest Festival in Syracuse.  I brought home a dry, a semi-dry and a semi-sweet. All three are very reasonably priced at $14  The semi-sweet was served at our Thanksgiving dinner as an apertif and the remaining two were opened the following week at home.

One issue I have overcome, over the past three years, is what white wine to serve on Thanksgiving.  Now, it's a no-brainer; a Finger Lakes Riesling is always a hit and this year it was the Heron Hill semi-sweet.  I found lot's of floral aromas with peach, citrus and a little slate.  Nice soft peach flavors with some citrus and hints of honey were very pleasant with a smooth sweet finish.
The semi-sweet tasted much more sweeter than what I thought it would be with only 3.4% Residual Sugar and paired nicely with a tray of mild cheese and crackers.

A week later, at home, I opened the semi-dry with Shirley's Chili, made with ground turkey, diced pepperoncini and spices, dominated by organic chili powder.  As I always do, I poured a glass to sip about 30 minutes before dinner.  Aroma's were all peach with some melon and some honeysuckle and garden floral notes. In the mouth the wine was all peach and honeydew melon with a hint of pineapple leading to a fantastic smooth, balanced and white fruit finish.  Definitely one of the top three 2011 Finger Lake Rieslings tasted to date.  Now, about the pairing!!!  I have always been a proponent of "Drink What You Like."  If the wine is good and the food is good then your pairing is good.  Not this time!  The marriage between Shirley's Chili and Riesling ended in a quick divorce.  Later that night, I finished the bottle and thoroughly enjoyed with a selection of cheeses, including Brie, Cheddar and Stilton with cranberries.   I have one bottle left of the semi-dry and will save that for our next stir fry, which I know this will be a perfect match.

And finally I opened the dry Riesling with homemade quesadillas made with left over turkey and loads of jalapeno peppers then covered with guacamole and a medium hot salsa.  The dry Rieslings have always been my favorite, although I find myself purchasing more sweeter ones now.  I am also finding I enjoy a little more sweetness with peppery dishes like this one with jalapeno or habanero, but I will never shy away with the very versatile dry Riesling.   Tropical fruit aromas like guava and kiwi, with lemon, mineral, a little grass and a tiny bit of tartness.  Green apple, some tropical fruits and a dry citrus flavor were again, fantastic.  Finish was long and tasty with very small hints of slate and not overly dry.  There was a little sweetness that made this wine very delightful.

Heron Hill Winery is nestled into a hill overlooking scenic Keuka Lake in New York’s Finger Lakes region. For over 35 years the winery has set the highest standards for wine quality, customer satisfaction and tasting room experience. Since its first vintage in 1977, Heron Hill has steadily grown from a small 5,000 case winery that only made white wines into a dynamic 20,000 case production facility and entertainment destination for more than 50,000 people every year.  During the summer months you can dine at their Blue Heron Cafe and enjoy free, live music every Sunday on the terrace from 12:30pm - 4:30pm all summer long. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Cockburn's Special Reserve Porto

This is another Port wine I received as a sample for review.  I also purchased a few bottles of Port from different producers, to review later, since opening the Graham's Six Grapes on election night.  I still don't know why I suddenly developed a craving for a wine that I would never have given a second look at as late as the last three years.  I also found, at least so far, that all the Reserve Ruby Ports are very similar in color, aromas and taste and would really take a more refined palate than mine to detect any vast differences.
Aromas on the Cockburns had a little more red fruit than the Graham's with some plum and raisin. In the mouth the wine was smoother, but also a little lighter in taste with flavors of plum, cherry, chocolate and hints of raisins. The Cockburn's Special Reserve Porto ($14) finish was a bit short with taste of sweet red berries and a little spice.  I had this wine with some Gargonzola cheese and later with some cranberry Stilton cheese. The following night I found the wine to be very nice just sipping on it's own. This is a very nice introduction to Port wines at a very affordable price.  Highly Recommended!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Learning The Basics About Port

As noted in my last post, I am slowly learning and appreciating premium Ruby Port wines, so much so, I shopped this past weekend for whatever I could find in port wines, at affordable prices. I did find that some Port wines can be little expensive, so I stayed with the Reserve Ports which seem to all cost in the neighborhood of $20.  I also started to read a little about this delicious Portuguese fortified wine.  Here is some basic information about the wine and the region it comes from.  In a future post, after I have a chance to taste them all, I'll talk about the different styles of Port.

Port wine (also known as Vinho do Porto, Porto, and often simply port) is a Portuguese fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal.
It is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine though it also comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties. Fortified wines in the style of port are also produced outside Portugal, most notably in Australia, South Africa, Canada, India, Argentina, and the United States.

Port is produced from grapes grown and processed in the demarcated Douro region. The wine produced is then fortified by the addition of a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente in order to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine, and to boost the alcohol content. The fortification spirit is sometimes referred to as brandy but it bears little resemblance to commercial brandies. The wine is then stored and aged, often in barrels stored in a cave (pronounced kahv and meaning "cellar" in Portuguese) as is the case in Vila Nova de Gaia, before being bottled. The wine received its name, "port", in the latter half of the 17th century from the city of Porto at the mouth of the Douro River, where much of the product was brought to market or for export to other countries in Europe. The Douro valley where port wine is produced was defined and established as a protected region, or appellation in 1756, making it the oldest defined and protected wine region in the world. Chianti (1716) and Tokaj (1730) have older demarcation but no regulation associated and thus, in terms of regulated demarcated regions, Porto is the oldest.

The Port and Douro Wines Institute is an official body belonging to the Ministry of Agriculture of Portugal and is a key institution in promoting the industry and knowledge of making port wine.
Over a hundred varieties of grapes (castas) are sanctioned for port production, although only five (Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional) are widely cultivated and used. Touriga Nacional is widely considered the most desirable port grape but the difficulty in growing it and the small yields cause Touriga Francesa to be the most widely planted grape. White ports are produced the same way as red ports, except that they use white grapes— Donzelinho Branco, Esgana-Cão, Folgasão, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato and Viosinho. While a few shippers have experimented with Ports produced from a single variety of grapes, all Ports commercially available are from a blend of different grapes. Since the Phylloxera crisis, most vines are grown on grafted rootstock, with the notable exception of the Nacional area of Quinta do Noval, which, since being planted in 1925, has produced some of the most expensive vintage ports.

Port wine is typically richer, sweeter, heavier, and possesses a higher alcohol content than unfortified wines. This is caused by the addition of distilled grape spirits (aguardente similar to brandy) to fortify the wine and halt fermentation before all the sugar is converted to alcohol and results in a wine that is usually 18 to 20% alcohol.
Port is commonly served after meals as a dessert wine in anglo-Saxon countries, often with cheese; white and tawny ports are often served as an apéritif. In Europe all types of port are frequently drunk as aperitifs.
Under European Union Protected Designation of Origin guidelines, only the product from Portugal may be labelled as port or Porto.  In the United States, wines labelled "port" may come from anywhere in the world, while the names  "Dão", "Oporto", "Porto", and "Vinho do Porto" have been recognized as foreign, non-generic names for wines originating in Portugal.

Still have lot's to learn, but for now, I'll just pour another glass of port, dice up a little sharp cheddar or Gorgonzola and enjoy.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Port

I often wondered over the past three or four years if I would ever be able to enjoy a nice basic Port wine.  I've tried them occasionally over time, but always found them too sweet for my palate.  As late as three years ago, I was sent a sample of Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Port($20) and after opening and taking one taste, I handed the bottle over to Shirley to use in her recipes that called for Port or Sherry.  This was also a time when any sweet wine, including white wines, were not to my liking.  Of course, over time, that has changed, so after receiving another sample of the same wine, I held on to it for a few weeks, waiting for the right time to desire something sweet, yet something red.  That moment finally came last Tuesday, as I sat down to watch the 2012 Presidential election coverage. 
First glass was going to be more like a test to see if I would be wanting to pour a second glass or just place the bottle in with Shirley's cooking supplies. Surprisingly that test ended after the first sip.  I am keeping this bottle.
The color was a very dark purple.  Aromas were like dark chocolate covered cherries with plum and bramble berry.  In the mouth, flavors were much the same with some toast and spice and very smooth.  The finish was short to medium with flavors of plum and blackberry. After one glass, I diced up some extra sharp cheddar cheese to have with a second glass.  Pairing was superb. I'm not allowed to eat many desserts now, but I think I may sneak in a slice of rich deep chocolate cake with my next glass.
Watch for some future reviews of Port wines on this blog.  I will need a few more tastings before I can say I am a fan, but the Graham's Six Grapes Reserve has me wanting more.

Grahams Six Grapes is made from six Port-grape varieties, hence the name: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Amarela and Tintao Cão.
Six Grapes is bottled ready to drink after about five years of cask aging. It has a t-cap closure, which means that you don't need a corkscrew to open it and that it should stay fresh for up to two months if stored in a cool, dark place or the refrigerator. Serve it in a glass with at least a six ounce capacity so that you may appreciate the wine's aromas. Six Grapes pairs particularly well with dark chocolate, or as I found, sharp hard cheese, but is also fantastic on its own as a luscious dessert in a glass.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Red Wines From The Seeker

The Seeker Wines is a new line of carefully curated wines created for those who love to seek adventure.  The wines are sourced from iconic regions around the globe, and crafted to be authentic, easy-drinking and affordable.
The Seeker line was created by a family company that called on its 65 years of experience to source from the best family owned wineries in the world at an affordable price.
Recently, I was sent samples of their five available varietals. (An un-oaked Chardonnay from California, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, a French Pinot Noir, a Cabernet Sauvignon discovered in Chile and from the Andes Mountains in Mendoza, Argentina, a Malbec).
Last week, I opened the three red varietals with meals of grilled burgers with the Cabernet,  pork roast with the Malbec and pizza with the Pinot Noir.  Pairings went well and all three were finished later in the evening with cheese and crackers.
I found the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile, a little heavy on chocolate and spice.   The tasting notes suggested ripe black and blue berries and if present they were overwhelmed by the spices and aromas from the five months in oak.  I would have liked to keep this bottle for a few years. It should improve well with a little aging and is a decent wine at a good value($15)
Next evening, with a pork roast, I uncorked the 2010 Malbec, a blend of 85% Malbec, 10% Bonarda and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina.  This was the only wine out of the five samples that had a cork closure.  Others were twist off caps.  The Malbec was also the best of reds. Aromas were filled with red raspberries, cherry, plum and black currants. Almost silky smooth in the mouth with lots of cherry and plum leading to a medium to long finish.  This very versatile red would have paired well on any of the three nights. 
The last wine, opened on a Thursday evening with a cheese pizza while watching the NFL on the big screen, was the Pinot Noir from the Auvergne region of France.  Raspberry and cherry aromas with hints cinnamon were light, but very nice.  Nice balance on the palate with flavors of dark cherry, some plum and strawberry and a little earth.  The Malbec may have been the best of the reds, but the Pinot Noir and cheese pizza was to best pairing.
All three of The Seeker red wines are great values at $15.  They are ready to drink now, but would keep the Cabernet for a few years.  Nice wines, nice price.  Recommended.

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