Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Sipping German on a New Jersey Patio (Fritz Windisch Niersteiner Spiegelberg Riesling Kabinet)

Once again, my quest to try wines of different regions (internationally as well as nationally) took me to: my mother's patio in New Jersey. Just wait, there is an international hook here.

You may remember my mother from some other articles I have written. If you don't, let me sum it up for you: the woman loves her White Zinfandel. And only White Zinfandel. I have tried to slip some lovely dry rosés to her, only to be thwarted by her sneaky ways - Winey Tasting Notes: The Crusher Rose of Pinot Noir (or: how my own mother punked me).  But on a recent visit, I found that she had discovered the joy of German Rieslings. Now, I'm not saying that this has changed her tastes totally, and that she has now moved onto big, oakey Chardonnays. That would be asking WAY too much. But, as I see it, this is one of the first wines that she has willingly sipped that was not pink. And I had just done some reading on German Rieslings, so I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised.

This visit coincided with the Fourth of July and a major heat wave. I mean major heat wave. The Winey Daughter and I headed out to the beach one day and proceeded to spend nearly the entire time in the water - forget trying to read or lay out or grab a sand nap - the air was positively dripping on us. And it was no different on my mother's patio, where we gamefully attempted take our wine and sip outside before sunset. (Not that sunset was helping much.) On a night like this, I couldn't even face a red wine (seriously, it was that hot), so when I saw the bottle of Fritz Windisch Niersteiner Spiegelberg Riesling Kabinett (2009, Rheinhessen, Germany, 10.5%), I snagged it from the fridge. 

How do you like all those names on the label? Here's a quick little translation for you: Fritz Windisch is the producer of the wine. Niersteiner Spiegelberg is the name of the vineyard. Riesling is the varietal. Kabinett (part of Germany's classification system) is one of the six levels in the Prädikatswein category, which is made up of most high quality German wines. The Kabinett wines are made from fully ripened grapes, and have the lowest sugar content of Prädikat designation. The wines are usually light, semi-sweet with crisp acidity. So, since I was born in New Jersey, my German Prädikatswein wine name would be: 1963 Winey Family Livingston Riesling Kabinett (I don't consider myself sugary, so I gave myself the Kabinett designation). Now you know how Germans name their wines and how old I am. Aren't you glad?

On to the wine now. This was a pale gold in color. I kept sniffing and sniffing, but it was hard to find much of an aroma (could have been the heat, or the fact that my mother and her significant other were watching me and laughing). It did have a lovely taste though! There were flowers and apple blossoms with a little honey around the edges. I felt as if I were sipping a springtime orchard. It was much sweeter than I expected a Kabinett Riesling to be, and as for the expected acidity, I really didn't catch it. Again, maybe the heat (no wine could stay properly chilled outside that night). But: it was oh so good on that sultry New Jersey evening.

My mother has declared this her new favorite. I am proud of her for moving on, although I'd like to see her try some less sweet German Rieslings, which tend toward the amazing category. But to start out on a whole new varietal is a major sipping step for her. I would call this the perfect patio wine as well as the perfect transitional step into getting someone away from the pink. It's also one of the less expensive German wines, so if need be, you can stock up!


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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Barnard Griffin Fumé Blanc

I remember my first trip to the state of Washington. I was actually tagging along on one of  the Winey Hubby's business trips to Seattle, but if I didn't have to make the bed, it counted as a vacation. Once the business part was taken care of, we stayed a few extra days to wander around this stunning area of our country. We hiked Mt. Rainier, rode the ferry boats, watched them toss fish around at Pike Place, went to a Mariner's game, and then we headed out for a day to some nearby wineries. Amazingly, it was a gorgeous September day in Seattle, so we saw the area in all its sunshiny best.

Thus I have been a fan of Washington State wines for a while now. And in my recent quest to drink wines from a variety of regions, I came across a bottle of Barnard Griffin's Fumé Blanc (2011, 12.8%, Columbia Valley, WA). The winery is actually southeast of the Seattle area, on the other side of the Cascade mountains, which puts it pretty much in the heart of Washington's wine growing country. Other wineries may not sit directly in wine country, but they often grow their grapes there (and bring them over the mountains to make the wine).

(Do you know the story of Fumé Blanc? It's really Sauvignon Blanc, but waaay back in the early days of his legendary wine making career, Robert Mondavi decided to "rename" Sauvignon Blanc (which was being poorly made and had a not so great reputation) as Fumé Blanc. He made one great batch from Sauvignon Blanc grapes, slapped on the Fumé Blanc label and presto! Sales took off. Aside from being a marketing and wine making genius, he was very generous as well, and gave permission for anyone to use the term Fumé Blanc, thus reinvigorating an entire varietal of wine.)

So onto this wine. It's a pale gold color and gives off aromas of golden apple, lemon and just a hint of flowers on top of it all (there is a teeny bit of Semillion blended into it). The taste is mellow pear surrounded by sour citrus and lemongrass. You could just catch a breath of the flowers, if you concentrated hard, but overall this was a tart and crisp wine with a touch of acidity that made it very lively. The finish was mellow and the tartness lingered on. Sip it on its own or pair it with some of that legendary Pacific Northwest salmon (or any seafood, really). And if you'd like to come prepare the salmon for me, I will happily supply this wine (trying to stretch that vacation thing out to include "not cooking".)


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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Salamander White in the Finger Lakes

I am as guilty as the next winey person. It's very easy to fall into what I call a "regional rut" where wine is concerned. After all, here in the good old US of A, you hear wine and you think "California". But there are so many other regions that produce some great wine. So I am on a personal challenge  to branch out and sip wines from these other regions. Today I take you to the Finger Lakes region of New York.

The Finger Lakes are 11 long, narrow lakes that, when viewed from the air, look like skinny fingers. They're located in upstate New York, south of Rochester. Thanks to these lakes, and their "lake effect" weather (if you live in Cleveland, Erie or Buffalo please don't cringe when I use that expression, where grapes are concerned, this is a good thing),the Finger Lakes district is New York's largest wine producing region with over 100 wineries and vineyards lining the lake shores.

It is from here that Salamander White (12%, NV, Finger Lakes, NY) wine hails. I usually tend to avoid anything with icky (my opinion) reptiles on their labels. But this one was kind of cute in that it had yellow polka dots on it. And the wine was from the Finger Lakes, so I gave it a whirl. The wine is made at Red Newt Cellars in Hector, New York. In fact, it's made right beneath the winery's tasting room. Very efficient, huh? You'll also find a bistro that features local foods, as many of the Finger Lakes wineries are doing these days.

The label tells you that the Yellow Spotted Salamander is related to New York's own Eastern Red Spotted Newt, but is more aggressive than its NY cousin. OK, that would explain the BIG tastes in this very pale yellow wine. It starts out a bit deceptively with an aroma of flowers and mellow spices. But the taste is pure fruits: green apples, tart and fruity bursting all over your mouth. There's a hint of grass in there somewhere as well. It finishes tartly and hangs around for a bit. Very crisp, almost puckery. And oh so refreshing.

This is a great wine to begin a tasting tour of the Finger Lakes, especially given that I sipped during a brutal summer heat wave. This Salamander handled the heat very well, let me tell you. I'd put him up against a heat wave any day of the week. I'd also head back to the Finger Lakes (or at least their section of the wine store) for some more wine!

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Puttin' On My Fancy Pants (Pinot Grigio, That Is!)

I just couldn't help it. I saw the name on the bottle and wham! Took me right back to my daughter, age 2, wearing those cute little tights with the ruffled panties under her Christmas dress. I just loved those little ruffles, sitting on top those fat little leggies that were just begging to be squeezed and tickled. Yes, it was 14 years ago, but I really did have a thing for girly toddler clothes and accessories (and those leggies). It was a good thing that I indulged my fashion whimsy on her back then too, because these days, when I suggest a piece of clothing as we shop, you can usually HEAR the eye roll all the way over in the lingerie department. Sometime all the way to shoes.

So I saw Fancy Pants Pinot Grigio (2011, 13%, Napa County, CA, Trinchero Family Estates) and I just had to get it. (I did NOT squeeze it, in case anyone of you are wondering.) I'm so glad I did, because this turned out to be one of my favorite types of Pinot Grigio - crisp and light and full of flavors. It's a near colorless wine that sends off aromas of citrusy peach. It tastes of mango at peach at the center. There's a little lime lurking around the edges and a mineral zest on top of it all. That mineral taste really ads a crispness to the taste - a little snap of life with each sip. The finish is crisp and lushly lingering. This is where the citrus stays on a bit and finishes things up.

If you are in a mood and  craving a bit more lime taste in your wine, I have a pairing suggestion that little Miss Fancy Pants herself came up with. You see, in addition to being a near clone (except for the girl stuff) of her father, Miss Fancy Pants also inherited his deep and passionate love for ice cream. I swear to you that it's in their DNA. (Doesn't help that the Winey Hubby worked scooping ice cream from the time he turned 16.) Anyway, it was Father's Day and of course, the ONLY way to cap off a celebration of a day devoted to her ice cream loving father was with an ice cream cake. (Yes, I know her taste buds also benefited from this gift, but hey...he really loves his ice cream cakes too.) And that's when I found out that if you take a bite of the ice cream cake and then a sip of Fancy Pants Pinot Grigio, the lime flavors in the wine really sing out!!

So now you know about my weakness for fancy pants on cute little toddlers, my family's weakness for anything ice cream and that Pinot Grigio goes great with ice cream cake. Education never ends, does it?


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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: Wowing Me With Wine Sisterhood Chardonnay

I drink a lot of wine. Hello, I write a wine blog, okay? And while I wouldn't call myself jaded or blase about wine, I have found that the longer I travel this winey road, the harder it is to be wowed by a wine. Do not get me wrong...there are many, many good wines out there. And while they're made by wonderful people with vast wine knowledge, they might not "wow" my taste buds. So when a wine comes across my lips that does "wow" me, I am one very happy Winey Mom.

Such is the case with Wine Sisterhood and their Savvy Chardonnay (NV, 13% Napa, California). Before I tell you the specifics of this particular vino, let's talk about Wine Sisterhood. They are actually an on line community of women who love to talk about wine and travel and food and life. Sounds like a place for every one of us, huh? They have a family of wines that include some of my favorites (PromisQuous, for one). One of the new lines is Wine Sisterhood, which not only wowed me with their Chardonnay, but wowed me with their commitment to women (and families) in need. In fact, money from each bottle sold is donated to such causes.

So about that wine. My first wow came as I took a whiff of it in my glass. It was sheer raspberry - I mean out in the summer sun-drenched field raspberry. A very heady framboise aroma that made me check to make sure I hadn't opened the liqueur bottle by mistake.

Next up was the sip. And that second wow. The crisp acidity hits you right away, then tastes of peach, grass, sunshine and those berries again. (The berries are the last taste that rolls across your mouth - kind of like bookending that whole raspberry thing.) It finished crisply and it was impossible to not go back right away for another (big) sip. I was in danger of making a fool of myself, to be perfectly honest, because I kept saying "Wow" and the only other person in the kitchen with me was the dog. (The Winey Hubby was in the next room, but only half listening since the Cleveland Indians were playing...and a good thing for me they were.)

This is a Chardonnay after my heart. OK, my taste buds. No big assault of oak, as so many Chardonnays seem to think they need these days. This was a celebration of the fruit in the sunshiny vineyard in all its glory.

I will be sipping this one again. Hopefully I won't be exclaiming "Wow" to the dog so much. (I do have a reputation to uphold in the kitchen, after all.) But I'll be saying it to myself, you can be sure of that!


Happy Winey side note: You can currently find this wine at one of my favorite stores: Target! It gives the phrase "pick up a bottle of wine" a whole new meaning. Doesn't it?!

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