Thursday, August 28, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: A New Take On Port

The first few things that come to my Winey mind when I hear the word "port" (in the wine sense of the word, not the nautical sense) are: English manors, dark wood libraries and men in velvet coats sipping port. Unfortunately, these men are not the Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice type guys. (A MAJOR tragedy as far as I'm concerned.) They're a bit more portly - pun intended. And they have those really weird mustaches. And they are smoking cigars. So not Colin.

bottle of Otima 10 Year Tawny PortI have had Port wine in the past with no great reaction. I mean, it's okay if you're freezing cold and it's snowing outside and there is a blazing fire in the fireplace and you've already had dinner. But, like many other food and wine, Port is an acquired taste. A bit thick and sweet but also so very warming as it goes down.

Then along comes a Port wine that tries to redefine its taste. That is what the British company Warre's has done with its Otima 10 Year Tawny Port (bottled in 2013, 20%, Portugal). Warre's has made this Port a little lighter and not so in-your-face than regular Port wine in an effort to get rid of its stodgy reputation. (I love that word, stodgy, don't you?)

It just so happens that the Winey Son is a fan of Port wine, and it just so happened that he was recently home on leave before reporting to his first round of training after graduation from West Point. So when we found ourselves camped out in front of the TV for the 9 innings of a Cleveland Indians baseball game, we decided it was time to break out the Port.

Otima tells you that you can serve this chilled or at room temp. We tried chilled first.  The wine is a pretty amber color with a nose of dark toasted oak. It tastes of dark honey, oak and has some sweet orange overtones. It ends with a warmth in your throat and a yummy nutty flavor. The Winey Son liked it right away but it took me a little longer. That's because when the Port got to room temperature, we tried it again, and this time I liked it much better. The orange was more pronounced, and the oak was tempered to more of a lightly toasted wood. You can add a lemon or an orange slice to it, and I'd go with the orange slice. The citrus cuts through the typical Port thickness and is so good!!

This is a fun one to experiment with. Let's face it, most of us probably don't drink Port on a regular basis, so it's going to be something different right off the bat. The Otima website has an intriguing recipe for the Otima Perfect Serve, which involves fresh grapefruit and raspberries and sounds like a winner to me. Serve it with dessert. It would be amazing with berry pie.  Whatever you decide, it'll be a new take on an old sip!


I was given this wine for review purposes. The opinions, however, are all my own. 
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Friday, August 8, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: The Wines of Cinque Terra, Italy

Oh to spend a day on the Italian Riviera, wandering through the streets of some of the most enchanting little towns you've ever seen, boating between the towns themselves, paddle boarding on the Mediterranean Sea. What could be better? Well, maybe if there was wine. And there was!!!

Cinque Terre terraced hills
The terraced hills of Cinque Terre
main street, Manarola, Cinqe Terre, Italy
Main street, Manarola
The Winey Family visited Cinque Terra (five lands) after spending a few days in Florence. These tiny towns line the coast of the
Mediterranean Sea on the Italian Riviera. For the record, the towns are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. To preserve their beauty, Italy has made the area a  National Park and it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
gorgeous flowers, Monterosso, Cinque Terre, Italy
Are these gorgeous???
Monterosso beach, Cinque Terre, Italy
The beach in Monterosso

We visited on a cloudless, hot day - just the kind of weather you want as you hit the Riviera. We took a bus to the city of Spezia and then a train to the seaside town of Manarola. The first thing you notice in Cinque Terre is that the air has its own special scent: basil, thyme and sea air. As you travel to the area, you can see why. The towns are all built on the hills overlooking the sea and the hillsides themselves are terraced with grape vines, olive trees, herb gardens and flower beds. We took another train to Vernazza and then boarded a boat to Monterosso, the resort town of the Cinque Terre. By this time it was very hot and we were hungry, so we found an outdoor cafe with a gorgeous view of the beach and a big umbrella and settled in.

bottles of Cinque Terre wine
Our lunch table!
This was the perfect time to try out the wine of Cinque Terre. Basically, there are two kinds: Cinque Terre is typically a dry, crisp white and Sciacchetra is the very famous sweet wine from the region. Both wines are made from a combination of the Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino grapes. The Sciacchetra is made from grapes that have pretty much been left to become raisins, hence the high sugar content (think Ice Wine).

It was so hot that we went for the Cinque Terre, but got two small bottles, each from a different winery. (There was also some limoncello involved, because it's so darn good.)
Lunch was followed by a swim in the Mediterranean  and our first attempts at paddle boarding. Let me say that paddle boarding looks a lot easier than it is. Thankfully, the water was very warm (and very salty, which I discovered numerous times while squealing as I fell off the board).
Cinque Terre wine bottles
So of course I bought some of this wine home with us. I chose four bottles of Cinque Terre from different wineries.

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy
The Winey Family in Riomaggiore
Each one was crisp and juicy and alive with tart and sour flavors. Cheo winery's (12.5%, 2013) had some white grapefruit taste to it with a bit of grass on the top of it all. Sassarini's (13%, 2013) was full of minerals and  dissolved in my mouth the same was a very dry sparkling wine does. Cantina Cinque Terre  (12.5%, 2013) had the same minerality as Sassarini, but with some lime and green pepper in it as well. The local co-op's had a hint of ginger to it. (If you need a comparison for Cinque Terre, think of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. )

This wine is the perfect summer sipper, which is how I will always remember Cinque Terre: pastel buildings climbing the hills, burning sand, bright sunshine, scents of herbs and sea water and flowers everywhere. Add to that the warm, salty water and the sound of waves crashing on the shore and you have a beautiful memory.

These aren't the easiest wines to find here in the US. You may be able to order the Cinque Terre on line, but the Sciacchetra is very elusive. So consider yourself forewarned: if you ever get to Cinque Terre, bring some bubble wrap and save some room in your suitcase. Or go for it and ship some home to yourself. (Pricey option, though!)


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Friday, August 1, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Pinot Grigio in Target

Hee hee hee. I'll bet you all took one look at that title and thought, "She went to Target while she was in Rome? Seriously?"

Winey Family in front of St. Peter's Basilica
The Winey Family at St. Peter's
Allow me to let you in on our little family joke. While we were in Rome this past month, we stayed at a great hotel (Aberdeen Hotel if you are making plans) near the train station. And on the street just behind us, every time we left our hotel and headed out for the day, we saw a sign that said "Target". Well, of course, we began calling it "tar-jay", as I pretty much always do back home. And every time we walked out of our hotel, we joked about going to Target. (A bi-weekly occurrence for me these days, as I get ready to send the Winey Daughter off to college.)

bottle of Livon Pinot GrigioOn day 4 of our wonderful vacation, we spent the entire, and I mean entire day in Vatican City. (And we still never saw it all.) The Vatican Museums, the Raphael rooms, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's, climbing to the Dome (narrowest staircase ever). At one point, I was fairly sure my feet had fallen off, since I couldn't feel them. I say fairly sure because I was too tired to expend the energy to bend my head and actually look down at them, but I'm sure they were gone. It was an awe-inspiring day and we gladly decided to take the subway back to the hotel (usually we walk as much as we can in cities because you see so much more when you are walking through the neighborhoods). As we crawled off the subway, happy, but hungry, we decided that it was the perfect night to check out Ristorante Target (which was its actual name, we discovered). To add to the fun, we found it listed in our Rick Steves' Italy guide, where he told us that it was highly recommended by all the hotels in that area. And it was right around the corner from our beds.

interior shot of Ristorante Target in Rome, Italy
Ristorante Target - I loved the white
baby grand piano in the corner! Our table
is the one you see front right.
So, in we trooped. We usually ate outside in Italy, but that night, we needed a little air conditioning and quiet. After the heat and dust of the day, some Pinot Grigio sounded like heaven in a glass to me, so I chose Livon Pinot Grigio (2013, 12.5%, Italy).  The winery is located in the very northwest area of Italy, close to Austria and Slovenia and is called the Collio region. As white wines go, Italians love their Pinot Grigios and after sipping this one, I could see why. The wine itself was a very pretty golden straw color and had a faint nose of kiwi and minerals. It totally drew me in at first sniff!  The first taste was of minerals and then some fleeting flowers. It ended on a tart citrus flavor. Of course, I was taking notes as I sipped, and I now quote directly from said notes: "Wow! Loved this right away." And so did the Winey Son, who had to have some since I liked it so much.
They were good sports at the restaurant and gave us the (empty) bottle to take home (it was one of the smaller bottles...375 ml, so it was easy to slip inside a pair of socks for safe suitcase travel).

You should be able to find Livon out and about on your wine search. If you like a refreshing, tart but not lip puckering wine, you'll like this just fine. Pair it with chicken, seafood pasta or with a day of sightseeing in the world's smallest country, Vatican City.


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