May 27, 2006
More on Muscadine
Here's what my travel editor friend Kim has to say about muscadine, that sweet southern wine with a name that I have been pronouncing incorrectly for the past few weeks. It's musca-dyne, which I failed to specify in my past ramblings on muscadine. Who knew? Anyhow, here are Kim's thoughts on muscadine and her comments on how hard it is to get your hands on a good bottle of it.
"Muscadines are higher in antioxidants than any other grape. Our wine
expert told me that sales of muscadine concentrate are skyrocketing in
health food stores because of this. With muscadine wine, you have the
added benefit that it reduces blood pressure (ok, so all alcohol does
Sweet wines, and specifically muscadine wines, make up the vast
majority of what's sold in Tennessee. While many of them are toe-curlingly
sweet, a few are truly good. Highland Manor Winery in Jamestown, a small
town in East Tennessee, has a waiting list of ONE YEAR for a $10 bottle
of muscadine wine. It's worth the wait. I spent about a year and a half
picking up bottles here and there as I travelled through TN, and we
tasted about 14 different wines in our test kitchen (a very fun work day).
Highland Manor's was, hands down, superior to the rest. Unfortunately,
state liquor laws restrict sales to other states. You may or may not be
able to get a bottle. Call them and tell them I sent you, and see if
they'll sell you one ahead of the wait list.
Bottom line, though: If you hate sweet wines, don't go here. Most
dry-wine drinkers find them cloying and icky sweet. But if you're open to
something different, I recommend sampling with an open mind. What's truly
great about muscadine wine is that, unlike any other varietal, the wine
smells exactly like the grape picked fresh from the vine, and tastes a
whole lot like it, too. I remember picking these from a trellis as a
child. To eat them, you have to bite a little hole in the tough, rubbery
skin, then suck out the pulpy inside."
Kind of like the concord grapes I'd pick off the school yard fence when I was a kid. Yes, we did this - in between bouts of collecting caterpillars in coffee cans. These grapes were pretty gnarly. Best left for the birds. But we managed to eat a few if we could get beyond the sour skins.
May 26, 2006
2004 Fontana Candida Pinot Grigio
The PIT (Partner in Tasting) popped the cork on a bottle of 2004 Fontana Candida Pinot Grigio ($8.99 Trader Joe's) last night and filled a glass for himself, conveniently forgetting about me, the wine blogger. I demanded a glass, with high hopes, as I like many cheap Italian Pinot Grigio wines.
Pinos grigio is white wine made with the pinot gris grape. Pinot gris is the best-known "white" variant-clone of Pinot Noir, according to the Professional Friends of Wine website. Some pinot gris is grown in Burgundy. In Germany, it is known as ruländer.
I usually drink Pinot Grigio with my sister because it's the only wine that doesn't give her migraines. (Poor girl!) She wasn't missing much with this bottle. The problem wasn't how this wine tasted. No, this wine was pretty easy on the tongue -- crisp and light with nice citrus. My issues were with the before and after: it smelled like cat pee and had a rough finish. I spent a good 15 minutes trying to identify the bitter after-taste. I wound up thinking it might have been rubber mixed with dandeloin greens or something like that.
Score: 1 1/2 stars. I wouldn't dump the bottle, but wouldn't finish half of it either. I drank half a glass, wincing a tad after a few sips.
May 26, 2006
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May 19, 2006
Goats Do Roam White
First off, I love the name of this wine, Goats do Roam, which was recommended to me a couple of years ago by a guy who used to work at Dry Creek Vineyards in Sonoma. The guy's name, which I also love, was (and hopefully still is) Frankie Dice. I've had good luck with the Goats Do Roam reds, so I was looking forward to trying a white. The 2005 Goats do Roam white (a play on French Côtes-du-Rhône wine), is from South Africa and is a blend of grenache blanc, clairette blanche and crouchen blanc. It's $9.99 at Whole Foods.
Goats do Roam, like so many wines these days, has a cute critter label and a cute little story behind the wine to match. The winemaker, Charles Back, says he named Goats do Roam for a mischievous prank his son Jason and his friend Justin pulled during harvest time. Apparently, the pair let the goats out of their tower (I didn't know goats lived in towers. Thought these were reserved for princesses with long golden hair) The goats promptly helped themselves to the best grapes. Goats do Roam white tastes like lemons and peaches. It's a crisp wine with a mild finish. "Pretty good," says the PIT (partner in tasting) A nice light summer wine.
Even better, the wine's name apparently pissed off some humorless French bureaucrats at France's terroir creator and protector, the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine), who waged a legal battle to protect the precious name of France's Rhone-style wines.
Back to the wine.
This comes from From Frank Prial of the New York Times, who reviewed a 2002 Goats do Roam red: "Pinot noir also turns up in one of the most lighthearted of all summer wines, Charles Back's Goats do Roam, from his Fairview estate near Cape Town. Mr. Back is a serious winemaker with at least two wineries in the Cape, but he has a sense of humor. At Fairview he raises a small army of goats, from whose milk he makes delightful cheese....The joke ends with the name; the wine is delightful."
Rating for the 2005 white: 2 stars. Solid table wine.
May 19, 2006
May 17, 2006
Next Wine Tasting
So we're due for a wine tasting....either this weekend or next. My job at the moment is to figure out what we should taste. So far, we've tried some French wines (mostly red), some Syrah and eight or so bottles of pretty lovely Cabernet Sauivignon as a group. (I've tasted many more, of course!) I am thinking we may need to go Italian this time. Maybe include some Super Tuscans, which you can read a little about here in GQ 's wine guide. This article talks a wee bit about Super Tuscans and here's an excerpt:
Super Tuscans are outlaw wines (I love this!) first created in the early 1970s by a few producers who began using grapes that were not traditionally permitted in the Chianti region. Typically, they are a blend of Sangiovese (the primary grape used to make Chianti) and Cabernet Sauvignon. If you like Bourdeaux and California Cabernets, chances are you'll like Super Tuscans.
Here's another article from Forbes that recommends 20 Great Reds under $20 and mentions Super Tuscans. I don't have a lot of tolerance for the heavy use of gratuitous click-generating slideshows on the site, but there are some interesting recommendations. But hmmmm. I am still waiting for an Italian recommendation, since the two listed in the GQ article cost $21 and $100. BIngo!
Here's one: Sedara Nero d'Avola from Morgante Italy ($16.99). Here's a link to WineLibrary, a website that lets you search by place or type of wine. I immediately found a bunch of interesting Italian wines here, including prices. More tomorrow on when and what we'll be tasting.
May 15, 2006
Bouvet Brut Signature (Sparkling Wine)
I don't drink sparkling wine all that often. Typically, it's a wedding/New Years kind of beverage for me. But the PIT (Partner in Tasting) and I had a cold bottle kicking around from a previous wine tasting so we popped it two nights ago. It was either that or this weird dessert wine that's been sitting next to the rotting red leaf lettuce for months. This wine, a Bouvet Brut Signature (France), turned out to be right up our alley: at $9.99 a bottle at BevMo it's cheap and it's a truly lovely (cheapfun) sparkling wine. This wine is produced from 90% Chenin Blanc and 10% Chardonnay. It's dry and crisp, not all candy, cloyingly sweet like many cheap sparklings and has a light, fruity nose. Wine Enthusiast says this wine's finish "wraps you in hints of vanilla and light toast." Eek. Either that or a grape Pashmina. This wine is produced by Bouvet-Ladubay, a cellar founded by Etienne Bouvet in 1851. Etienne Bouvet is the second-oldest sparkling wine-producing house in Saumur, a which is in the Loire Valley of France. We drank this wine with pizza (DOH! DER!!) because it was what we decided to order out after popping the cork. It felt like we should be celebrating something. "Isn't champagne a beautiful thing?" I asked the PIT. Of course, this wasn't true champagne, but it bubbled over in the glass, so that counts for something. "It looks like a bubbling fish tank," I say, as I peer at my fizzy glass. We finally toast to Dallas winning a razor-close NBA playoff game -- by one point -- against the Spurs. (No, we aren't from Dallas, but we like the team, Mark Cuban's constant anxiety-ridden presence aside.) I give this sparkling wine two stars. It's a good, solid wine. And the bottle DOES get finished. As an aside, I just remembered a funny thing about sparkling wine from my friend Kim's wedding shower. We tried about eight different bottles of sparkling of all different prices so she could pick a decent toasting bottle for her wedding. All told, I think seven out of the eight of us preferred the cheapest bottle. Shows you what sticking a bag over a label can do. Or maybe we just didn't know any better. I'll try to include the name of the bottle that won in a future post.
May 12, 2006
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May 11, 2006
2003 Chateau Mayne Guyon Cotes De Blaye
The Partner in Tasting tried this 2003 Chateau Mayne Guyon Cotes De Blaye the other night and unfortunately left most of it in the bottle. This was a Trader Joe's wine that cost $6.99. This wine is from the right bank of the Girond, an area that is known for red and white bordeaux. I had seen this wine at TJs before and decided to stray from my usual picks this time and go with the French again.
I took a sniff of this bottle and decided not to taste it. I wasn't really in the mood. Sometimes you just aren't in a drinking frame of mind. I think this happens to me after I have a cold (a whopping two-weeker this time around, thanks to the toddler germ factory), but the PIT agreed to stand in for me. Warning: he is a man of few words. He either likes it or he doesn't. He is partial to bigger reds, so I was nervous about his opinion of a more restrained, lighter french wine.
But when we tasted a bunch of French wines awhile back he surprised me by highly rating a number of bottles. He definitely didn't like this one. Yes, it's cheap, he said, and it tastes it. It doesn't really taste like anything, he told me. Kinda blah. Not a lot of fruit. Not a wine I would buy again. I'd like to offer a bit more description for you all, but there's not a whole lot out there in Googleland about this wine.
The PIT gives this wine one star, a bottle you wouldn't finish with a friend or PIT. (Here's a review of the 2002 Chateau Mayne Guyon from Quaffability.com, a wine blog) Quaffability says this wine, a 2002 not the 2003, is quaffable but nothing to get excited about.
By the way, I am accepting all thoughtsfor what to do with old corks. We've got a garbage bag full of them under our sink, testament to our booziness over the past four or five years. We thought about making a wreath but I think we have enough corks to cover the National Cathedral with wreaths. Perhaps we could build a backyard irrigation system? Help!
May 7, 2006
Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc
So today was the perfect day in San Francisco for some Sauvignon Blanc. It's finally stopped raining here and the sun is out - our long-hidden friend. Can we just say that the rain this year sucked? So we toasted Monsieur Soleil by opening a bottle of 2005 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) last night ($9.99 on sale at the local supermarket). I mentioned this wine in a blog awhile back....It was actually a bottle that a Plumpjack wine shop person recommended for Valentine's Day. I am going to go back now and try to find it. Ooops. That wine was called Fresh Oyster, so I am mixing up my oysters. There's a bad joke in there somewhere. Anyway, despite all the whining about the lack of great Sauvignon Blanc, I found this wine delightful. It's crisp, fresh and fruity. It's got a grassy nose and is tart and tang- tingly on the tongue I didn't taste gooseberry, as is noted below. I've never had a gooseberry. What IS a gooseberry? Here's one answer. Supposedly they can taste as good as any great apple or strawberry and have a taste all of their own.
I thought this wine tasted like lemon and lime and was quite mineral-filled. Partner in Tasting (PIT) likes it a lot, too. Here are a few other reviews.
2005 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough (88 Points)
'Citrus skin, herbs, spices and a stony note on the nose. Firmly built and penetrating, with brisk flavors of lemon, minerals and stone. Finishes lively, firm and persistent. Very good value.'
Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar, Sep/Oct 2005
2005 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc: 'A bright, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc. Well-made with great mouth-feel. Notes of gooseberry, Meyer lemon, orange peel and lime.'
Press Democrat USA (Sonoma County's home newspaper)
I give this wine two stars because it is a very solid table wine that I'd serve to any red wine snob who deigns to drink white :) Totally quaffable.
May 5, 2006
May 2, 2006
2002 Fife Redhead Red
Fife (Mendocino, CA) was one of the first reds that I tried when I made the intelligent transition from drinking only whites to trying reds years back. I think it was a Fife Redhead that I bought in a San Francisco wine shop one day. Someone recommended it. I think that Fife is one of the reasons why I now drink red. I loved that wine. It opened up my mind and my wine world. Of course, as you drink more wine you like to think that your palate evolves and that you become more sophisticated and reject wine that you previously like. Your expectations change. What used to seem new and exciting isn't anymore. It feels a bit depressing, really.
But revisiting this Fife , the 2002 Redhead Red, was pure pleasure. First off, this wine is what it says it is: a simple, drinkable solid red wine. It's a lovely blend of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Charbono, Zinfandel, and Carignan.
It's sweet but not too sweet. It's SO easy to drink. It smells like bright cherry and black raspberry. It's a balanced wine with a fruity finish that lingers. It reminds me of the Menage a Trois table red, but it's fruitier and has a more memorable finish. Anyhow, this wine is highly rated (Wine Spectator, The Wine Enthusiast and Wine Enthusiast give it 91 points!) and CHEAP ($8.99 on sale at Trader Joe's) It's usually about $10 or $11 a bottle.
It's a solid 2 to 2 1/2 stars. I'd split a bottle with the PIT (Partner in Tasting) with pleasure, although I have the open bottle hidden from him at the moment.
Muscadine of Tennessee
My friend, Kim, an editor for Southern Living magazine who lives in Alabama, recently told me about this winery in Tennessee that's famous for its muscadine. Muscadine? Never heard of it. She quickly filled me in. Muscadine is a sweet wine. The muscadine grape, also known as a scuppernong, is native to Florida. Southerners often prefer their wine sweet to dry, according to Kim, which explains why there's a run on muscadine.
Highland Manor Winery, 14 miles north of Nashville, can't make enough cases of this white wine to satisfy the masses. It costs $9.99 (cheap, so it's up our alley), but it's a limited reserve. The winery won two gold medals for this wine in Madrid, though it doesn't say which medals on the website. I will try to get my hands on a bottle to review it, though it might be easier to get NBA playoff tickets than a bottle of this stuff, even if you do live in Tennessee.