April 29, 2008

Regaleali Rosso 2005

regalealirosso.jpgVARIETAL: 90% Nero d'Avola, 10% Perricone
REGION: Sicily, Italy
PRICE: $16

Italian wines, for me are incredibly food specific and when I choose one, it is usually a food driven choice. That said, there are so many interesting varietals, particularly in southern Italy and in Sicily that thrive in the hot arid climate and produce wines that are riper and rounder than many of the north's more acidic styles. The Regaleali Rosso is a prime example. It hails from a noble estate that produces a number of higher end wines and that is certainly reflected in this blend. It possesses a stunning garnet hue that perfectly complements the crushed, ripe cherry and berry scents. But the Regaleali isn't just about the fruit. You do get crazy notes of dried varieties including currants, dried blueberries and dried cherries, along with a current of crushed sage and a hint of vanilla. This would be outstanding with roast venison or if you are a little more traditional, with stracotto (Italian pot roast made with about a bottle of wine and earthy porcini mushrooms). However, I'm throwing caution to the wind and having it with a kalamata olive and crumbled sausage topped thin crust pizza.
Give it a shot: Regaleali Rosso

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April 25, 2008

Ceago Vinegarden - A Little Green Heaven on Earth

Since I'm still in Earth Day mode, I decided to incorporate one of my favorite biodynamic producers into this week's swanky post. When Jim Fetzer sold his eponymous winery in the early 1990's he decided to go green. He founded Ceago Vinegarden with the intent of making superior quality hand crafted, limited production wines that are pure expressions of their varietal make-up and terroir. The family's philosophy on farming and winemaking and history, for me, is the ideal. But really, I continue to buy because they continue to produce wines that are outstanding.

It was tough for me to choose a single wine to review here so I chose three. I give you my notes on all three, but also the technical specs from Ceago's website. You try to find them at your local wine shop, but if you have a tough time, you can also buy through Ceago's online store (depending, of course, on whether or not your state allows shipping).

2006SauvignonBlanc.jpg2006 "Kathleen's Vineyard" Sauvignon Blanc $20
The beautiful golden hue of this wine just hints at the deluge of bright aromas emanating from the glass. I get a nose full of ripe grapefruit, casaba melon and bosc pear. These scents ring true at first taste and mingle with juicy golden delicious apple and just a twinge of creamy pineapple. A whole fruit salad in one sip. And though it is incredibly layered and wonderfully fruity, it is also subtly herbaceous which gives it a super clean, crisp finish.
100% estate grown, "Kathleen's Vineyard" on our Biodynamic® farm in Lake County, California. The grapes were hand-harvested from September 12th-22nd, 2006 at 23.4° Brix. The grapes were grown and certified Biodynamic® by Demeter and Organic by Stellar. Our Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with most spring and summer foods including salads, vegetable dishes, light pasts and seafood. (from Ceago Vinegarden)

2006SyrahRose.jpg2007 "Del Lago" Syrah Rose $20
So, it is no secret (or at least it won't be for long since summer is almost here) that I am a big fan of roses. Sometimes you require a little something more substantial that a white, but really want the refreshment of a chilled wine. Enter the incredibly food flexible and palate friendly rose. And the Ceago syrah has just about everything that I love and then some. Bright summer berry fruits, without cloying sweetness, and a bit of structure and body and even a hint of the creaminess that you might get in a red syrah. It is dry and crisp and full flavored enough to enjoy on its own or to serve with just about anything.
Our Syrah Rose was 100 % estate grown and hand harvested from our Biodynamic® farm in Lake County, California from September 28th to October 7th, 2006 at 24.8° Brix. The grapes were grown and certified Biodynamic by Demeter and Organic by Stellar. Our Syrah Rose pairs well sliced meats, cheeses, spring salads, and spicy summer dishes. (from Ceago Vinegarden)

2002Merlot.jpg2002 "Camp Masut" Merlot $30
This is one of those wines that satisfies all of my senses. Super dark and inky with voluptuous viscosity and intoxicating scents of black cherry and damson plum with a subtle whiff of saddle leather. It is ripe, rich and chewy with cherry-chocolate undertones accentuated by a creamy vein of vanilla and shots of spice. Good golly, I have died and gone to heaven.
The grapes used in this wine were 100% estate grown "Camp Masut" Merlot. Camp Masut, located on the headwaters west of the Russian River in Redwood Valley, once was home to a tribe of Pomo Indians. The grapes were hand harvested on October 10th, 2002 at 25 Brix, and were grown and certified Biodynamic by Demeter. (from Ceago Vinegarden)

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April 24, 2008

Brampton Sauvignon Blanc 2006

VARIETAL: Sauvignon Blanc
REGION: South Africa
PRICE: $10

The Brampton is a tough little wine to find. They are the value arm of Rustenberg Winery, but you'd never guess it. This sauvignon blanc has a whole lot going on and tastes way better than most $10 pours. Right upfront you get a blast of fresh cut grass and zesty citrus on the nose. Then the lemon-lime zinger gives way to a rounder palate bursting with soft, juicy honeydew, passionfruit and lychee. I love that it is super refreshing but also substantial and constantly changing as you swirl it over your tongue. This wine makes a great warm weather quaffer and is also well suited for light seafood dishes and salads.
Get ready for summer: Brampton Sauvignon Blanc

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April 22, 2008

Organic Wine Primer - Red & White and Green All Over

In honor of Earth Day, I have been scouring all of my reference materials as well as a ridiculous number of online sources in search of a Reader's Digest condensation of the ins and outs of organic wines. The fact is, finding a good "organic" bottle has become a confusing and stressful affair as labeling and certification requirements have changed what wines are truly considered organic versus ones made from organic grapes or biodynamically farmed. Personally I prefer the latter two categories as they produce much more drinkable and durable wines. If you want a straightforward resource that marries relevant factual information with great advice, check out this primer from The Organic Wine Company:

What is Organic Wine?

Following the recent creation by the USDA of a National Organic Program, an organic wine is now defined as "a wine made from organically grown grapes and without any added sulfites". By this unfortunate restriction, the vast majority of what you and I have been calling organic wines must now be referred to as "wines made from organic grapes" (or organically grown grapes), as they are allowed to contain up to 100 ppm of added sulfites.

While we support the effort of some winemakers to explore avenues to eliminate the use of sulfur dioxide, the truth is that wines without added sulfites are very few in number and very unstable in quality, giving the public a negative perception of what an Organic wine can be! The wine industry has therefore the dubious honor of being the only one that cannot call its product "organic" even though it is made with more than 95% of organic components. [With the higher permissible level of 100ppm SO2 present in the wine, the percentage is still 99.99% organic!].

This is detrimental to the winegrowers who seek to market a consistently drinkable product and yet are discriminated against in an absolutely unprecedented way. It is also confusing to consumers and merchants alike who did not need more categories to confuse them! Moreover, a wine without sulfites should not be equated with an organic wine, since it is quite possible to make a sulfite-free wine with conventional (non organic) grapes.

The excessive attention given to this matter is perfect to distract the public from much more important issues like soil depletion and erosion, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, ecological impact, resistance to pests, chemical dependence, and product standardization to name just a few!

In all cases, however, an independent body of certification, itself duly accredited by the almighty USDA, has the responsibility to control each winegrower, once or twice a year, to verify his adherence to the standards for organic farming, now internationally recognized. The fundamental idea behind organic wine is that making wine from grapes grown without chemical fertilizers, weed killers, insecticides, and other synthetic chemicals is better both for the planet AND for the wine drinker because all of these things can damage the soil and the plant, and can end up in the wine as residue.

grapes.gifThere is no doubt that growing under organic conditions protects the environment and the people that work in the vineyards from the adverse effects of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. Organic is more than simply a way of farming. It is also a philosophy. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said

"We did not inherit the Earth from our forefathers, we are borrowing it from our descendants."

How does Conventional Winemaking differ from Organic Winemaking?
In the cellar, "organic" suggests minimal processing and no use of chemical additives. Organic winemakers pay particular attention to three factors: the use of yeasts, the filtration/fining method, and the use of sulfur dioxide. The need for cultured yeasts in organic winemaking is reduced by the farming practice itself, for wild yeasts remain present, unperturbed by weed killers or insecticides. Therefore their use is limited to difficult weather conditions which would threaten the harvest. The physical treatment of the wine (like filtering and fining) is kept to a minimum. However temperature control during the winemaking process is widely used since it is only a physical process.

Minimizing the use of sulfur dioxide as an antioxidant is stringently observed. It's rather difficult to make a wine that will keep well without adding at least some additional sulfites to those naturally produced. This is particularly true of white wines, which ferment apart from grape skins. Red wines ferment with juice and skins together, providing them not only with their color but with various tannins, a natural preservative.

All of the wines imported by Organic Wine Company are "Certified Organic" by ECOCERT or BIOFRANC and contain only a minimal amount of sulfur dioxide.

After educating yourself, if you like what you read, check out the Organic Wine Company wine club. As organic wine clubs go they are quite reasonable. You get three bottles (red only or mixed) for $49.99 per month.

Images and content from The Organic Wine Company

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April 18, 2008

Pretty in Pink - Globalight Champagne Holder

globalight.jpgWell, it doesn't get much more swanky than this. Created for Rose Chamapgne, which tends to be swanky on its own, this little number is so extravagant that I am at a loss for words. Check out this bit from
Cool Hunting:

Launching [this week] as part of Milan's furniture festivities, the latest collaboration with leading designers and the second with blob lord Karim Rashid and Veuve Clicquot is this reinvention of a chandelier in the form of a glowing pink champagne holder that doubles as a cooling tote. The design, an asymmetrical sensual ellipse, was the result of Rashid's initial scribble after asked to meld the immaterial and the material like he'd done with his first project for Veuve, the loveseat. Realizing his doodle was "the idea in itself," the Globalight literally circles the champagne and adds ambient illumination that plays off the pink hue of Rose champagne, for which it was designed. Bringing lighting experts Zumtobel into the project, the lamp-cum-basket uses technology to light up without heating and in fact keeps bottles at the ideal temperature for up to two hours. Limited to a run of 500 (only 50 of those will be available for the U.S. market), the Globalight will be available on Eclicquot in May for $4,000.

Obviously only a select few can, and will, splurge on this accessory. Just don't think of it as a wine cooler. Think of it as art.
Image and excerpt from Cool Hunting

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April 16, 2008

A Shot of This, a Vial of That ... Test Tube Wines for Tasting

wineside.jpgLeave it to Springwise to find all of the truly fascinating business ventures in the world of wine. The latest buzz is from a French company called WineSide that has come up with an idea that might incite the next revolution--in wine, that is. They are marketing trial size tubes of wine which, in theory will make choosing just the right bottle a little less scary:

WineSide offers both sweet and classic wines in patented, flat-base glass tubes with screw tops carefully engineered to protect the wines' flavour. The sweet wines--which include Sauternes and Muscat, for example--are available in 6cl tubes, while the Pomerol, Chateau Neuf du Pape and other classic wines can be purchased in 6cl or 10cl sizes. WineSide's collection represents a range of appellations and producers; tubes are available individually or by the box, which can be chosen to provide an introduction to a variety, year or region. Kicking off retail sales, the products are available exclusively at Colette in Paris this month.

In addition to giving consumers a new way to sample and discover wines, WineSide's tube format also promises to give vintners new tryvertising capabilities at relatively low cost. The French company's website is still under construction, but it says it is looking for distributors.


content and images from Springwise

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The World Atlas of Wine


If you're looking for an atlas on wine - there is only one that we know of - The World Atlas of Wine. Hailed by critics worldwide as “extraordinary” and “irreplaceable,” there are few volumes that have had as monumental an impact in their field as Hugh Johnson’s The World Atlas of Wine: sales have exceeded four million copies, and it is now published in thirteen languages. It’s a truly incomparable book, and an essential addition to every wine lover’s or professional’s library.

At The World Atlas of Wine: Completely Revised and Updated

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April 11, 2008

Rapid Ice Wine Coolers - Deep Chill Wine


Original Rapid Ice wine coolers from Vacu-Vin with a new vineyard design give the impression of drinking a glass or two at the vineyard itself. Serve chilled white wines and icy cold beer or soda at a moment's notice. You can also store Rapid Ice in your freezer, slip it over the bottle for 5 minutes, et voila! it's ready to drink. Rapid Ice keeps drinks ice cold for up to 3 hours without messy ice.

At Rapid Ice cooler Vineyard

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April 7, 2008

Adventures in Wine Tasting

logorightwine.gifToday I have been daydreaming. My new Food & Wine arrived and feeling a little bit of the Monday blahs, I poured over it . . . for hours. One of the tasty tidbits I uncovered was in the News & Notes section. Just a brief paragraph about wine travel and a company that specializes in wine "adventures," and since I haven't actually taken a vacation since my honeymoon, I just had to check out Zephyr Adventures for myself:

wineadventures2.jpgWine country travel is extremely popular and for good reason. The beautiful scenery combined with excellent lodgings and restaurants makes for a great vacation. However, most visitors to wine areas spend more time on their rears than we like in a vacation, as they shuttle from hotel to winery to restaurant. We've added a whole new element to wine touring, as we stay active - on foot, bike, horseback, and canoe.
At the same time, these tours are as much about the wine as the activities. We have private wine tours, conversations with local vintners, exclusive walks through the vineyards, and other opportunities to intimately get to know the wines of the region.
You need be neither a strong athlete nor a wine expert to enjoy these adventures, as we have tailored them for almost all audiences. And you can't go wrong with the [following] seven wine regions, so pick your favorite and join us in 2008!

Burgundy Walking June 8-13, 2008 $2300
Oregon Multisport August 10-14, 2008 $1900
Sonoma Vineyard Walking August 24-28 and October 26-30, 2008 $1900
Spain Multisport September 7-13, 2008 $2600
Italy Hike & Bike September 26 - Oct 3, 2008 $2700
South Africa Hiking October 10-18, 2008 $3200
Chile & Argentina Multisport Novem. 8-15, 2008 $2700

All Adventures include double occupancy lodging, dinners, breakfasts, guides, van support, local transportation, a Zephyr souvenir, and a Pre-Departure Packet. Trekking Adventures also include most lunches but one dinner is often on your own. Most trips include instruction in the activities on that adventure. Equipment is included for some activities: mountain biking, kayaking, horseback riding, and river rafting.

Though most of my travel incorporates some outdoor activity--and all of my travel includes wine tasting, I think this is an innovative and exciting way to really focus on both and to more fully experience a country or wine region. So, where shall I go next?

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April 4, 2008

Riedel Tyrol Cabernet Glasses

tyrol_pop_links_logo.jpgI have FINALLY found my perfect glasses. Unfortunately they don't fit into my perfect budget, but we'll have to work on that. Don't misunderstand, I love my Riedel Vinums, but I don't like that they break easily and they don't fit into the top rack of my dishwasher. Add to that my spastic propensity for knocking them over and you have the trifecta of irritation. The Riedel Os are ok, but I like a stem to swirl and I don't like that my hands heat up the wine. Enter the Riedel Tyrol line. Clean lines, stunning design, a sturdy stem, and all of the fantastic attributes that you get with Riedel. Check it out:

tyrol_cabernet_405-0_popup.jpgCasual and elegant, this Riedel Tyrol Cabernet glass is part of a brand new glass series introduced in Spring 2007. This glass stands on a solid half sphere, offering amazing light reflection, while each bowl is developed for the enjoyment of popular grape varieties and beverages. The Tyrol series is made of lead crystal, which lends itself to a solid base with great stability, while giving it never ending sparkle. The name Tyrol commemorates the Riedel Family's new beginning 50 years ago in Austria in the federal state of Tyrol. These glasses come in a set of 2 and are designed to enhance the enjoyment of full-bodied red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. (from Amazon)

They are slightly more affordable than the vinum line, but are still a little swanky at $39 for a pair. My vinums should really watch out . . . it is a long fall from the bar to the tile. Accidents can happen.

Check out the full line and pick your faves: Riedel Tyrol Cabernet Glass, Set of 2

Images from

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April 3, 2008

Is it a Cabernet Franc ... or Chinon ... or both?

Hmmm . . . I am famished and I'm feeling a little bit naughty tonight. I'm tired of salads and seafood and cooking things that look pretty and are fairly nutritious. Tonight I want a cheesesteak. Soft, fresh bun with tender, paper-thin sliced sirloin, gooey cheese and the sweet and savory kick of sauteed peppers and onions. So here, my friends is my dilemma . . . am I in the mood for an herbaceous yet fruity Cabernet Franc from sunny California or an earthy and spicy Chinon (aka Cabernet Franc) from the Loire Valley? I just might have to taste a little of both in order to decide.ironstonecabfranc.jpg

Ironstone Cabernet Franc 2004 $11
I can't say that I'm a huge fan of Ironstone wines in general, but I can tell you that this wine consistently knocks my socks off for the money. While Cabernet Franc is a little off-putting to some, I think most people who try the new world incarnations are expecting something quite like a Cabernet Sauvignon. However, I love that you get a mouthful of ripe, juicy dark cherry fruit contrasting with layers of fresh cut dill and peppers and laced together with a current of creamy vanilla and toasty oak. Sounds a little weird, I know, but somehow it really works because it isn't too fruity, or too vegetal or too creamy.

bredifchinonlabel.jpgMarc Bredif Chinon 2005 $16
One the other hand, the Marc Bredif Chinon (which is 100% Cabernet Franc), is much more restrained, or shall I say less overt, but no less interesting. The fruit flavors are intense, but they are distinctly dried--blueberries, strawberries and cherries--rather than fresh notes of those fruits. And you definitely get a lighter, tighter and spicier feel on the palate.

It is a tough call, but I think I'm leaning toward the Ironstone tonight. That vegetal kick will really work well with the peppers and onions. Then again, I do love Chinon. Perhaps I'll have just a little more of each before I decide . . .

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April 1, 2008

Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2007

VARIETAL: Chenin Blanc
REGION: Stellenbosch, South Africa
PRICE: $11

It has been a while since I've brought home a South African wine. I don't know why that is. I adore South African wines and this one is the perfect example of a great value new-world wine. Over the past five or six years the vintages have been pretty consistent so I pretty much know what I'm getting myself into with the Simonsig Chenin Blanc
icon It is just an easy-going, no-brainer white. The lovely golden yellow hue is a sunny introduction to all of the summer fruit sensations you get with this wine, beginning with the sweet bosc pear and melon on the nose. It seems pretty fresh and light and crisp at first but rounds out with lush tropical fruit, bright apple and a touch of honey on the palate. You could serve this with shellfish for a great match, but tonight I'm enjoying it with a grilled vegetable salad.

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