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Interesting Whites,Out on the Town,Wine Reviews

June 8, 2011

Hello, FarmCoast!

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Hi friends!  Remember when I told you about a darling little wine my girlfriend picked up at Sakonnet Winery?  Well, my other darling friend Nina (who you remember from our fantastic organic wine tasting), has recently gotten involved with FarmCoast New England and her adventures lead her right back to this Little Compton hot spot!  FarmCoast is a really cool group that promotes that best of coastal villages and farmlands in the southern New England area.  They are affiliated with a couple of wineries, Sakonnet and Westport.  We all love our imports, but buying wine locally is especially cool: it supports local agriculture in your area and no matter where you live, there are likely wineries nearby.  It is also a great way to support local economy and reduces carbon footprint since it doesn’t have to travel across the globe to get from the vine to your mouth.  :)  But enough of this talk, want to hear about their wonderful wines?  Thought you might…

Vidal Blanc 2009

The most famous of the Sakonnet wines, and with good reason.  First of all, you all know how I LOVE me a good lesser-known varietal.  This French hybrid grape stands up to the harsh Rhode Island winters (aw, I almost feel badly for describing anything Rhode Island as harsh.  It is not the cutest little state ever?  There, there, Rhode Island, never you fear, your big bad neighbors to the north will protect you from encroaching Yankee fans…) and produces a wine that is full of citrusy, tropical fruits, coconut, melon and banana.  YUM.

 

Cabernet Franc Rose 2008

Who does NOT enjoy a nice rose in the summer, I mean really?  This dry rose is light bodied with a pretty strawberry color.  The nose is marked by a delicious cinnamon that is noticeable but not so overpowering that you think you’re drinking eggnog.  Nice spice on the palate with raspberry and cranberry notes.  Trust me folks, you are going to like this one…

 

Wouldn’t a weekend tasting trip to Sakonnet be just the perfect New England summer mini break?  I think so, so get on down there and check it out!

 

(photos via Sakonnet Wine)

Chardonnay,Interesting Whites,Out on the Town,Pinot Noir,Sparkling,Syrah/Shiraz,Wine Reviews

April 14, 2011

We had more than just cheese…

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So, I told you all about the cheese tasting part, now let me tell you about the preceding dinner we enjoyed as part of Cheese Tuesday at L’Espalier…

Our first course was a salad of asparagus, pickled beets, AFS mizuna, and Shy Brothers’ Hannahbell cheese (you know, the little ones that look like thimble?  LOVE!).  It was paired with a delightful 2009 Simonnet-Febvre Brut Cremant de Bourgogne.  (Side note – Any time you see “Cremant” in a wine title you know that it is a French sparkling wine made in the methode champenoise but not of grapes grown in the region of Champagne.  Some sparkling wines just have air injected into them like a soda, can you believe it?  Guess it’s cheaper that way than letting the bubbles develop naturally in the bottle over the course of a year, but I digress…)  The wine is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and was buttery yet crisp with light acidity and a nice citrus finish.  I truly believe that one should enjoy sparkling wine every day.  It is just such a treat.  This particular bubbly was a great pairing with the salad.

 

The second course was housemade gnocci with radish puress and spring peas, topped with truffled pecorino.   Truffled Pecorino, um, yes please…  It was paired with a 2009 Maison Champy from Saint-Romain, Burgundy.  The wine is produced exclusively from Chardonnay grapes (white Burgundy = Chard, red Burgundy = Pinot Noir) and has a subtle oak nose that reflects its barrel aging before bottling.  The palate is a combination of  honeysuckle, the hallmark of the region, and toasted popcorn.  So delicious.  The perfect Chard for people who don’t think they like Chards.  No one could dislike this little beauty.

The main course was an absolutely outstanding Chartreuse of Painted Hills beef with Parmesan and root vegetable puree.  I can’t believe that I STILL cannot spell chartreuse without looking it up, even after writing it a million times as it was the accent color at my sister’s amazing wedding…  It was paired with a 2006 Domaine Les Aphillanthes, “Le Cros” Cotes-Du-Rhone Villages.  This bad boy was GOOD.  In general Cotes-Du-Rhone produces red grenache wines in this part of the valley but this Les Cros is actually 100% Syrah.  It was meaty, full, had some great vegetal flavors like beet and black olive, it was really amazing.

 

All in all, this was an amazing meal!  I still cannot believe they gave us all that cheese after this three-course meal.  I feel like we got away with something, like we pulled the wool over their eyes, almost guilty!  It was just THAT good and really affordable for L’Espalier!  So check it out, try to find the wines, and have a fabulous Thursday  :)

 

(photos via here, here & here)

Interesting Whites,Out on the Town,Wine Reviews

April 13, 2011

Cheese Heaven

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I don’t even know where to begin…  Last night was our long awaited Cheese Tuesday at L’Espalier.  The L’Espalier website describes the evening as follows:  ”Cheese Tuesday combines wine and cheese in a casual night featuring a three course dinner with paired wines, followed by a grand cheese tasting and musical entertainment.”  Casual night, some food to snack on, a few wine tastings, sounds great!  Friends, it was so much more than great.  After an amazing gourmet 3-course dinner with superb wine pairings (I’ll get into the dinner later), the Fromager, Louis Risoli, rolled out two big tables covered in wheels of delicious cheese.  Now, the room was packed, there must have been at least 40-50 people in there.  We though, “Cool!  We can circulate, nibble on a couple of the cheeses, try some dessert wine, call it a day!”  Oh no.  The tables of cheese were just for display during the grand cheese tasting and lecture.  Tasting of 11 different cheeses.  An entire plate of 11 cheeses to try – PER PERSON.

 

The lecture was amazing and went through the cheeses in order of intensity, starting with the curd (fresh curd made at home by Mr. Risoli himself!) and ending with the blue.   At the top of our list were the 5 year aged Gouda, the Burgundian Epoisses, and the Oregon Caveman Blue.   We were even provided with a chart on the cheesemaking process which I found very interesting.  Little Miss Muffet would have LOVED it, lots about curds and whey…  I have included a full list of the cheeses below.  They were paired with a delightful dessert wine from Sauternes (Bordeaux), a 2001 Chateau Lahonade-Peyraguey.  Great acidity, lovely notes of peach, apricot and burnt orange, a really perfect pairing that was not too sweet for the mild cheeses but not too delicate for the bolder ones.  This event may become dangerously addictive…

L’Espalier Cheese 101 – April 12, 2011

The How’s, Why’s and What’s and Yummy Yums of Cheese

  1. Fresh curd, cow, homemade
  2. Mount Vikos Feta, sheep and goat, Greece
  3. Pave Sauvage, goat and herbs, Perigord, France
  4. Hartwell, cow, Ploughgate Creamery, Albany, VT
  5. Epoisses, cow, Burgundy, France
  6. Pecorino Ginepro, sheep, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
  7. Fiscalini Cloth Bandaged Cheddar, cow, Modesto, CA
  8. Tarentaise, cow, Spring Brook Farm, Reading, VT
  9. Gouda, aged 5 years, cow, Holland
  10. Bayley Hazen Blue, cow, Jasper Hill Farm, Greensboro, VT
  11. Caveman Blue, cow, Rouge River Creamery, Central Point, OR

 

 

Interesting Reds,Out on the Town,Wine Reviews

March 15, 2011

Stella!

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Last night we met up with some friends in town for supper.  The reservation wasn’t until 7:30 so we had some time to kill beforehand.  We headed over to Stella, an adorable bar/restaurant in the South End.  All decked out in chic Italian white, this is a great place to hang out and people watch.  We selected a bottle of J. Lohr Gamay.  Kind of random, I know, but you know how I feel about lesser-known varietals.  I couldn’t recall having a 100% Gamay wine before and I was very intrigued by the soft tannin and jammy flavor.  Tons of blackberry and raspberry.  There were strong alcohol notes on the finish (I know, all wines are alcohol, but some have more alcohol essence than others, it’s a real thing in the wine world, I swear!) and overall I really enjoyed the wine.

 

 

Well, you know what’s funny?  When I looked up the wine on the J. Lohr website, I discovered that it is actually NOT a Gamay but a Valdiguié!  I hadn’t even heard of the varietal so I didn’t think anything of the fact that it was printed on the label of the wine.  I guess I figured it was something to do with the vineyard.  But anyway, I looked it up and apparently the wine makers thought it was Gamay until U.C. Davis testers determined that it was actually Valdiguié, an even lesser-known varietal with roots in southwest France.  I guess the folks at Stella didn’t get the update, oh well!  Doesn’t change the fact that we really enjoyed the wine.  We also enjoyed the price, only $28 for the bottle!  And, of course, we  enjoyed the fried artichoke hearts in a caper-laden sauce that we nibbled on while we were waiting.  Yum.

 

Out on the Town,Pinot Noir,Wine Reviews

February 28, 2011

It’s not easy being cheesy

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What a lovely weekend!  I’m not even upset that it’s Monday and that my window is being pelleted with sheets of freezing rain right now, THAT’S how great my past two days were.  We started off with a stroll through the European wing at the MFA and then had lunch at one of our all-time favorites, L’Espalier.  We got engaged at L’Espalier last year and as a wedding present we received a gift certificate (as well as an incredible custom silhouette made from a picture taken at our wedding) from a pair of our fabulous friends.  Can I just tell you what an incredible gift idea this was?  Visiting the restaurant for the first time since our engagement brought back so many memories.  I am still smiling from ear to ear just thinking about it.  And the best part is that we had a table directly across from the table where we sat on our last visit, so it was like we were observing the moment from a different perspective.  So wonderful.  Oh yes, and the food wasn’t half bad either  :)  We started out with a squash soup with seared sea scallops for me and sauteed whole body calamari for the mister.  Then we enjoyed a lobster BLT and a lamb tenderloin with beet puree and roasted winter vegetables.  Oh my goodness.  And of course, to finish things off, a cheese plate presented by the house Fromager, Louis Risoli.  I could listen to Mr. Risoli talk about cheese all day long.  We loved them all, but I think the favorite was the Fourme D’Ambert AOC from Auvergne, France.  It is actually aged in caves alongside loaves of Rye bread in the classic style.  It was incredible.  We loved the cheese so much that we actually registered for an upcoming Cheese Tuesday entitled, “Chesse 101: The Hows, Whys, Whats and Yummy Yums of cheese.”  I know, I love my life…

We also discovered a great new wine that we paid only…  wait for it… $40 for!  At L’Espalier!  The wine was 2009 Angeline Reserve Pinot Noir and it was delightful.  Plus we found it the next day at Whole Foods for only $15.99 a bottle, very good to know.  A young Pinot, it was light and fruity and paired well with our diverse dishes (finding something to pair with roasted lamb and chilled lobster is no easy feat my friends).  I kind of don’t want to stop writing about this amazing day because that would mean I’d need to return to the reality that is Monday, but I really should eat lunch as I am now starving after recalling the food and wine from this fantastic place.  So thank you Kristin & Steve for being the most creative wedding gift-givers ever, thank you L’Espalier for being so great, and thank you that it is almost 1pm which means my Monday is more than half done with!  :)

(photo credit : Martin Ray Winery)

Out on the Town

February 24, 2011

Aye, me voy otra vez…

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It’s official – the next trip to Espana is booked!  My brother in law is currently studying abroad in England and we have finally booked our flights to go see him, which of COURSE includes a long weekend in Madrid on the way home  :)  It has been 2 years since my last visit to Spain and I am in some serious withdrawal (yes, I know, I DID get to Argentina during that time, but still!).  I am so excited to share my favorite country with someone new, it’s like seeing it again for the first time.  Plus, my worldly B.I.L. is starting to really get into red wine so I want to plan some serious wine tasting!  We got a fabulous little hotel right off Plaza Santa Ana in the heart of Madrid so we will have literally dozens of wine bars, restaurants and pubs right outside.  One of my favorites is Lateral, with a fantastic little wine list and croquetas the size of your fist!  I also love wandering around in the streets surrounding Plaza Mayor and hopping from bar to bar to check out their liters of house wine.  What are some of your favorite spots in the city?  Any wine bars or must-see sights we should check out?  Estoy super emocionada!!!

Plaza Santa Ana

(photo credit via Beers and Beans – you can see our hotel, it’s the building on the right!  We’ll brign ear plugs but it will be worth it)

Out on the Town,Wine Reviews,Zinfandel

February 22, 2011

Aquitane & “Incredible Red” Zinfandel

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It’s really cold out again.  Last week I was wearing long sleeved tops sans jacket and this morning the weather map on the news was an entirely new shade of purple, boasting “feel’s like” temps in the single digits.  Whatever, I still love New England…  But the frigid temps do encourage me to spend less time outside and more time hunkered down with my kindle, my cat, and a nice glass of red.  Yesterday I had some time to kill before picking my husband up at the train station before dinner at my parents’ house.  I headed over to Legacy Place to do a little shopping.  After one store and approximatly 2 minutes outside in the cold I determined it would be a much better idea to head to Aquitane for a glass of wine than continue my wanderings.  It would keep me warm AND cap my spending at around $10 for one glass of wine, I could spend three times that in under 5 minutes at The Paper Source so this seemed like a great decision all around.  Aquitane is just so lovely.  Long marble bar, adorable little French bistro tables, and a really solid wine list.  I love the wine list because they have about a dozen red and a dozen white wines by the glass and maybe 3 times as many bottles.  Why do you need more wines by the glass?  Having one solid wine in each of the major varietals is the best way to go.  You give me five different Zins by the glass all within a $1 or $2 of each other in price and I will be overwhelmed.  Just give me the best option and leave it alone!  The Zin I tried was definitely a good option, it is called “Incredible Red,” by Peachy Canyon, a 2006 wine from Paso Robles, CA.  Smooth, spicy but not harsh.  Plus I found it online for anywhere from $9-$12 a bottle, so hopefully you’ll be able to track it down at a local wine store in the same price range!  Really nice Zin in a really nice place.  Thank you, Aquitane and Incredible Red, for making working on a holiday seem a little less terrible…

(Photo credit wine and beer lover)

Out on the Town,Wine Reviews

January 24, 2011

Belasco De Baquedano

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Ok, sorry, but for the sake of being able to move on with my story I will have to give up trying to share with you my pictures from the fouth winery of our trip, Belasco De Baquedano.  To be honest, we didn’t have THAT may great ones anyway.  By the time we got to this stop we were running 2+ hours late (we just had so much fun with our new friends at Kaiken!) and were a bit rushed through the property.  Skipping the tour, we went right into the restaurant for lunch.  Gorgeous glass walls exposed the amazing view of the massive vineyards set in front of the almost still snow-capped Andes.  Seriously, it was almost 100 degrees and some of the tippy tops of the highest peaks had just the faintest dusting of visible snow.  Crazy.  Here is a great shot of the main building as it will look in just a few months time during their fall months, isn’t it breathtaking?

And here is the inside of the restaurant, just look at that view!

So as I was saying, we started right of with lunch.  I must say, while the food was good and the wine was plentiful, the place was a bit of a factory.  I mean they moved us RIGHT along through our 6 course meal, it took maybe 90 minutes as opposed to the typical Argentine 2+ hours.  Probably had something to do with the fact that we were the last seating on Christmas Eve, oh yeah, and again the fact that we were over 2 hours late, whoops!  In retrospect it was pretty awesome that they took us at all.  We tried 5 different wines, all made from the Malbec grape.  The first was a delicious rose, then 3 different aged Malbecs and a delicious port-style dessert Malbec to wrap everything up.  The Belacso wines are labeled under Swinto, AR Guentota, Llama and Rosa and are exported to the US.  Here is a shot of the different lables so you can keep your eye out for them.

The wines were good quality and I would definitely recommend them.  It is hard to share much more detail than that as it WAS our third tasting of the day and went by rather quickly, but it was a cool experience and I wish we could have spent more time there!  So that wraps up our Christmas Eve wine tasting spectacular, I hope you enjoyed the trip!  Still so much more to share on the wines, food and people of Argentina but I am getting backlogged with all of the other wines I have been wanting to share with you so I think I’ll come back to Argentina later on in the next few weeks.  My mother told me that she has enjoyed reading about my trip but is ready to read about wines that she can find around here.  Mother knows best!

(photo credits via Trout & Wine, Trip Advisor, f2-8)

Out on the Town,Wine Reviews

January 20, 2011

Bodega Kaiken

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So I’ve been sick pretty much 3 out of the 4 past weeks.  I am SO over this unshakable illness that keeps manifesting itself in different ways so that one type of medicine never quite manages to alleviate the symptoms.  Ugh.  Good thing today’s post is about my absolute favorite wine tour on our trip because otherwise I may not have been motivated to sit down and write through watery eyes, a stuffy nose and a horse-like cough.  Bodega Kaiken was just brilliant.  I had not heard of the wine prior to the winery tour, but now that I have tried it and LOVED it I have noticed it on a few wine lists at local restaurants!  Our guide was Tiffany, a French Canadian who has been living and working in Argentina for the past 7 years.  I loved how she would float between English, Spanish and her native French throughout the tour, perfect blend of languages for a wine expert  :)

Upon our arrival at the Bodega, we were shown into the amazing wine tasting pagoda overlooking the vineyards and the Andes mountains.

We started our tour in the vineyards where Tiffany explained the difference between the French and Italian growing systems.  The French plant in long rows running north to south so that as the sun rises and sets the grapes are given equal exposure ensuring more consistent growth and development.  An example of the French system is pictured below, the plants covered in hail shields to ward off the occasionally wacky Andes weather.

The Italian system is called the “Pergola” system, the vines are planted in square plots and grown up and then across to one another, creating a canopy or “pergola” above.  This system is considered flawed by some as the shade created by the pergola prevents all grapes from even sun exposure and it also increases the probability of diseased vines attacking their neighbors.  Doesn’t this image look like Italy?  I loved the view of the mountains, really spectacular.

We next moved on to the wine cellar to see where the wine was stored.

And of course the tasting  :)  We tried the Kaiken Rose (superb!  Sweet nose but smooth dry finish), the Malbec Reserve (delicious) and the Cabernet Sauvignon Ultra.  Again, to our surprise, the Cab was our favorite and not the Malbec!  Cherry and blackberry, soft tannins, this Cab was truly spectacular.  So good we have actually managed to save it, I can’t say the same for the majority of the case we ended up bringing home from our trip…

Kaiken now exports approximately 90% of its wines so it should be popping up all over North America soon if it’s not around already.  I highly recommend you try it, and then go visit the vineyard and take this delightful tour!

Out on the Town

January 19, 2011

Clos de Chacras

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Today feels like a Monday.  Anyone agree?  Its was borderline impossible to get out of bed, all the while knowing that I would have to face icy, treacherous roads and poor drivers.  Ugh.  Well, at least I have a delightful story to tell you of our second stop on our wine tour, a lovely little place called Clos de Chacras.  We woke up bright and early on Christmas Eve and met our driver, Marcello, at our hotel at 10:00am.  One thing I love about Mendoza is how easy and cheap it is to arrange a private driver for the day to transport you from tasting to tasting.  These guys aren’t just drivers, they are historians and can tell you fascinating stories about the region.  So we get on the road just after 10:00 and arrived at Close de Chacras at approximately 10:03am.  It was just down the corner, a long winding driveway off the main road, but it felt a world away.   Our guide, Peter, was a really interesting guy.  He walked us through all 7 steps of the wine tasting process and let me tell you – I learned a LOT.  Plus I loved his accent, he was born and raised in Chacras de Coria but spent time working in Europe with wine professionals from Australia, very charming combination.  Peter had us taste three levels of wine, the Gran Estripe Malbec, Chacras de Coria Cabernet Sauvignon and the Cavas de Crianza blend.  Forget the fact that it was only 10 something in the morning – we were dizzy from how delicious the wines were!  To our surprise, we liked the Cabernet Sauvignon the best.  Well, I may have liked the blend the best but we selected the Cab to bring home because the Cavas de Crianza line was mucho dinero.  Anyway, enough talk, here are some pictures from this adorable boutique winery!

There wasn’t time for a tour so we went right into the wine tasting

Cheers, honeymoon win!

Old tower used to store water in the old days.

Tomorrow we are off to Bodega Kaiken, can’t wait!  See you all then…