Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Crianza (2011) Wine Review

Tempranillo. It’s a varietal I’m growing increasingly fond of. Since moving to AZ  I’ve sampled Tempranillo from the Sonoita wine trail and have been delightfully impressed – more on that later. This week however, for our Wine Wednesday feature, we go to the native land of Tempranillo – Spain! The 2011 Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Crianza is from the Rioja region.  Crianza on the label is an indication of how long the wine has been aged. Spanish wines can be labeled Crianza, Reserva and Grand Reserva, Crianza being the youngest of them in terms of aging. Crianza red wines must be aged for a minimum of two years with at least one year in Oak and one year in the bottle.  

This wine is a blend of predominantly Tempranillo (85%) along with 10% Garnacha Tinta (Grenache) and 5% Graciano. On the nose -  notes of raspberry, strawberry and licorice and after a few sips - on your palate (roof of the mouth) – hints of chocolate and subtle coffee.  I found it to be a full bodied sturdy wine with ample fruit and acidity with moderate tannins - great for food pairing. We enjoyed it one night with a grilled ribeye and even more the next night with pizza.  Even better, priced as a “weekday wine”, it took the doctored up frozen pizza to another level. It seemed to love the tomato sauce on the pizza. Try also with my New Orleans style “red” Jambalaya or my Homemade Marinara. Be sure to open the wine 30 minutes prior to serving for the best experience. Click the links below to print or save the recipes. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Airlie 7 (2011) Wine Review

Whenever someone says to me, “I don’t like wine”, my response is, “then you haven’t tried the right one yet!” However, I understand completely where they are coming from because at one point, I felt the same way. It was at a wine tasting in Oregon where I tried that pivotal wine for me, the one that turned me into an appreciator of wine and fueled my curiosity for further exploration.  That wine, was Evolution by Sokol Blosser – a blend of 9 varietals . Up until then I had tried mostly single varietal wines and sort of walked aimlessly into a wine shop hoping for the best. That single taste of Evolution put me on a path. I wanted to try all 9 of those varietals – some I was unfamiliar with.  This then lead to greater discovery and the realization that I did like wine and it guided me toward the types of wine I prefer. See my video on this blog or at this link: Discovering Wine Specifically Blends.

This week’s Wine Wednesday feature brought that momentous occasion back to mind. The 2011 Airlie 7 is also an Oregon wine and also a blend, this one a blend of 7 different varietals.  It is unique but equally brilliant as if it was blended specifically to suite my taste. As I tasted, I attempted to guess the varietals and managed to guess all but one. Ironically, the one I didn’t guess, the one I’m least familiar with, is the one that is the majority of the blend, Müller Thurgau. Müller Thurgau is a cross of Riesling and Madeleine Royale. I should mention that "7" is a blend of 7 different varietals but also 7 different wines. The approach here is that each of the 7 is fermented separately and made into a single varietal prior to blending.

The other varietals in order of most to least are Pinot Gris, Viognier, Gewürtztraminer, Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc.  On the nose, the scent of pineapple, orange blossom, stone fruit and herbal notes. On the palate, juicy well balanced acidity, spice and a crisp clean finish.  The things that stood out to me most were the subtle sweetness (though this is not a sweet wine) a lovely acidity, the spice that I’ve come to associate with Gewürtztraminer and the herbal notes I love in Viognier. The Chardonnay along with the Viognier likely contributes largely to the structure and being a huge fan of Oregon Pinot Gris, I love everything it brings to the table.

It should be mentioned that each vintage of this wine is unique. I’ve noticed the blend for 2014 is slightly different and I’m anxious to explore that as well.

Like my first love, Evolution, this wine has now found a special place in my heart and a permanent position in my wine fridge! It’s one I’ll reach for when I just want to sip on a glass of wine, but also an extremely versatile choice for food pairing and what I perceive as a crowd pleaser.  This may be my Thanksgiving 2016 choice! I’ll enjoy it a few times between now and then just to be sure.  We honestly, didn’t pair this with anything this time. We enjoyed it by itself as we relaxed by the pool one evening. I’m anxious to try it with Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps or Tempura Fish Tacos as well as Grilled Shrimp with Wasabi Remoulade. The subtle sweetness should make this a great pairing with spicy foods - thus Thanksgiving with the various spices and richness in all those magnificent side dishes. 

Click the links below to print or save the recipe pairing suggestions.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d' Abruzzo (2011) Wine Review

To my knowledge, I don’t have a drop of Italian blood running through my veins but something seems to come over me when I enjoy a glass of Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo.  Just saying the words is hard to do without a contrived Italian accent.

Today’s Wine Wednesday feature is the 2011 Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo. Montepulciano is the name of the grape varietal (and also a town in Southern Tuscany). Abruzzo is the wine region where today’s feature is from, located (if you can picture it) about mid calf on the boot of the Italian Peninsula.  The pronunciation, say it with me and don’t forget the accent, is mon tae pul chee AH noh dah BRUTE so. Notice the words on the bottle “il vino dal tralcetto”. This translates as “the wine from the little bunch”.  A nice branding/marketing touch is the addition of a small twig of grapevine fastened to each bottle.

Being a lover of great Chianti, I’m reminded I should reach for Montepulciano more often.  I made homemade marinara the other day and used it in the sauce where I normally use Chianti. With a price point of around $15 I had no reservations (only cook with wine you want to drink) and we enjoyed the rest with the sauce and Italian sausage over spaghetti for dinner that night. 

On the nose; plum, black cherry, a touch of cedar, vanilla and as you slowly breathe in (don’t stop, keep inhaling until you almost can’t anymore) a wonderful cloak of violet.  On the palate; fruit forward with a pleasant acidity and mild to moderate tannins. I found it a little less edgy than most Chianti in this price point but also perhaps a little more one note on the palate with not a lot of evolution.  Sip on this by itself too.  I think it’s a great summer red. Serve at about 62° Fahrenheit.

Try with appetizers like my Grilled Bruschetta or with Greek inspired dishes like my Portobello Pitas with Bulgur Salad. Click the links below to print or save the recipes.