Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wine Wednesday: It's My Wine in a Box

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 7:45 AM

The days of looking down your nose at wine in a box are pretty much over. Sure, Franzia still exists and can be found stacked high at many wine shops, but the wine that vintners are choosing to release in bulk form is getting much better. In addition to the convenience of having your own wine-by-the-glass program in your own fridge, the packaging is considerably more earth-friendly than having to dispose of four heavy glass bottles. (Although those polypropylene wine udders are still problematic to recycle. Be sure to remove them before you break down the cardboard container for your blue bin.)

Other benefits of this type of packaging is the ability to pour just a half cup of red or white to add to a sauce or to reduce down for a quick bordelaise without having to open up a whole bottle. In my house we almost always have a box of Le Petite Frog ready to pour in our refrigerator. The wine inside the box is the exact same as Picpoul de Pinet, but for about $29.99 for a 3-liter box, you basically get four bottles for the price of three.

Local wine and spirits distributor Best Brands has jumped in the boxed wine game with two new products they are importing from Portugal for local wine fans. Prado Red and Prado White are made by the Quinta do Cerrado winery in the Dão DOC, a region of Portugal known primarily for red wines.

Prado Tinto (Red) is a blend of two varietals, Touriga National and Tinto Roriz (more popularly known as Tempranillo). For the money, about $20 for 3 liters, this is a surprisingly complex wine with lots of red fruit on the nose and dusty tannins on the finish.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wine Wednesday: Águia Moura DOC at 12th and Pine

Posted By on Wed, Jan 7, 2015 at 7:37 AM

Even though I first told y'all about Ed Fryer's new wine shop 12th and Pine Beverage Co. way back in October, it took me an embarrassingly long time to actually get there to visit. What motivated me was a note from their email newsletter alerting me to what Ed calls "their wine of the year." Considering 2014 was almost over at the time, I knew it would be tough to top that one.

Unfortunately, when I got there, Ed was not in the shop. But the man standing behind the counter was Ernie Paquette, so I knew I was in great hands. Ernie has always been a font of knowledge about fun, funky and inexpensive wines, especially from the Iberian peninsula. The email didn't name the specific wine, so I just asked Ernie for a suggestions for a good affordable red, and he pointed me straight to their new favorite.

Águia Moura DOC Reserva 2009 is a lovely product from Casa Agrícola Águia de Moura in Portugal, and the 2008 vintage was quite well-received by the wine press. The exact blend of grapes used in production by winemaker João Silva e Sousa is a an even distribution of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barca. Tinta Roriz is the same grape as it's more famous Spanish neighbor, Tempranillo, and it dominates the blend. But in a good way. The varietals are identified as Vinhas Velhas, which is Portuguese for "old vines." These mature vines produce grapes that offer an unexpected complexity in a wine that retails for only $16 (a buck less if you buy six bottles.)

The nose is more floral than what you would anticipate from such a dark garnet wine, especially when you start to taste the strong tannins. On the palate, the taste is more conventional with lots of dark cherry and chocolate notes. The finish is long and lingering, thanks in part to those tongue-coating tannins. I think it would be great with red meat off the grill or from the broiler, and I wish the bottle I bought had lasted until I shared some excellent lamb chops with friends last weekend.

Some reviewers have stated that this vintage could still use a little time to completely mature and suggest drinking it after 2016. Since I don't really cellar many wines, I doubt I'll ever know for sure. But at $180 a case, it wouldn't cost too much to stash some away to find out.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Biltmore Winery Introduces Vanderbilt Reserve Wines

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 2:52 PM

My first experience with Biltmore wines was a few years ago when my husband’s parents brought back a gift of (very enjoyable) Biltmore Cabernet Sauvignon after a holiday trip to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. Biltmore’s relationship with wine goes back a hundred years, but the on-site winemaking began in earnest in the 1970s, and the estate bottled its first wines in 1984.

Since those first wines (developed from grapes grown on the estate), the estate has expanded its selection quite a bit and now sources its grapes not just from its own land, but from other regions as well (other growers in North Carolina as well as Washington and California). It is with grapes grown in California’s Dry Creek Valley that the winery’s Vanderbilt Reserve wines — a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Cabernet Franc — were made. Both wines were developed in 2012 and bottled earlier this year and both are quite bold (though the Cabernet Franc is slightly more delicate). The wines were also produced in limited quantities and retail in the mid-$20 range. Vanderbilt Reserve wines would make an excellent gift for the wine-loving Vanderbilt fan on your gift list this year.

Biltmore wines are available throughout the Nashville area, including Midtown Wine and Spirits and Frugal MacDoogal, but you may want to check first on availability or to see if they can be ordered since the wines are limited editions.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Think About Italian Bubbles for the Holidays

Posted By on Fri, Dec 12, 2014 at 7:55 AM

The festive holiday season is, of course, the perfect time for sparkling wines. While French Champagne and California sparklers usually get all the attention for New Year's, I've discovered a really nice new Italian prosecco that is suitable for pairing with lots of traditional holiday dishes or for drinking on it's own as the ball drops.

Prosecco Spago Nero from Riondo is a product of the Prosecco D.O.C., which means it must pass the stringent manufacturing laws of the governing bodies that monitor the Italian wine industry. Prosecco Spago Nero is made from 100% glera grapes from the Veneto region of Italy, and this ancient varietal is reputed to have been cultivated in early Roman times and may have been the noted vinum pucinum praised by Pliny the Elder around the turn of the calendar from B.C. to A.D. (Yeah, I know, they weren't aware of the change at the time. Stick with me here.)

Fast-forward 21 centuries, and Riondo is now using the glera varietal to produce a floral, light-bodied sparkling wine that pairs really nicely with a wide range of foods from seafood to creamy pasta sauces. It also holds up to spicy foods, which is a nice change of pace for folks who aren't necessarily fans of the sweeter rieslings that generally get the nod when trying to match wine with peppery Thai food and the like.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Spodee Wine & Shine Now Available in Nashville

Posted By on Mon, Dec 1, 2014 at 7:17 AM

  • Spodee Wine on Facebook
Over Thanksgiving weekend, I spent some time pointing out some old haunts to my husband as we drove through the neighborhoods where I grew up. The mall, places I used to work, the parking lots where friends would gather before driving en masse to yet another parking lot, where we’d buy alcohol. There was this one store, just outside the neighborhood, yada yada yada, and we’d spend the evening drinking Mad Dog and Night Train (not familiar? Here’s all you need to know).

Though I haven’t had any Mad Dog in years, I don’t doubt I’d still like it. Maybe. My palate has improved quite a bit, so the extent of my experience with fortified wines over the last 20 years has largely been with “dessert wines” such as sherry and port and with vermouth; y’know, hard wines for classy folks.

Now there’s a fortified wine that exists in that world between “red grape wine” of the States and the more respectable fortified wines developed in Europe: Spodee, a brand of wines fortified with moonshine ("wine & shine"). The company claims the inspiration was "Depression-era hooch that mixed up homemade country wine with garden herbs, spice and moonshine." The brand was launched in the North Atlantic region a couple of years ago and is now making its way south.

Much like vermouth, Spodee is intended to be a cocktail mixer, and the producers offer up a number of recipes for both the red and the white version.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Brighten Up Thanksgiving With Light, Acidic Wines

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 12:42 PM

If you ask some people, “What kind of wine is good for Thanksgiving?” the answer would be “any, as long as there’s plenty of it.” But if you’re actually looking for something a little different — maybe something to offset a heavy and big meal — try some lighter, acidic wines that will be refreshing and bright (as in, will perk you up without filling you up). Rieslings, sauvignon blancs, and even rosés can help lighten up a day of marathon eating … and help save room for more food. Here are a couple of wines that are worth trying that taste great and are budget friendly at less than $15 per bottle.

Tariquet Rosé de Pressée. This French wine is well-suited to pair with turkey as well as the many side dishes. While acidic, it’s not terribly tart, so it won’t get you in the jaw if you have a sip with your cranberry sauce. Best served chilled, it is mildly spicy with strawberry, raspberry and floral notes and feels a bit spritzy on the tongue.

Mulderbosch Steen Op Hout Chenin Blanc. This South African white should also be served chilled and has an array of fruity notes, including lime, pear, guava and passionfruit, as well as floral notes from honeysuckle and orange blossom. It would pair well with a variety of foods but also be just as good on its own between plates; it's quite refreshing. And at nearly 14 percent alcohol by volume, it will also get the job done, if you know what I mean. And what I mean, of course, is make Thanksgiving time a little tastier and possibly more entertaining than without it.

Both wines are available throughout the Nashville area.

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Miraval Wines: Brangelina's Latest Baby

Posted By on Mon, Nov 3, 2014 at 7:26 AM

Apparently between getting married, shooting movies, collecting children and being generally ridiculously good-looking, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have found the time to get into the wine business. Ordinarily, I tend to shy away from celebrity-brand alcoholic products. (I'm looking at you, Ron Jeremy. Well, actually I'm not.)

But with Miraval, Brangelina's new line of French wines from the Rhone Valley, I'm willing to make an exception, because this is a pretty spectacular wine. The couple has partnered with Famille Perrin, a noted producer of wines at their own Chateau Beaucastel. The resulting flagship product is Miraval Rosé 2013 A.O.C Côtes de Provence which has received several 90-plus scores from the wine press.

I'd have to concur. Since entering the market recently, Miraval has fairly flown off the shelves at local wine stores, even with a relatively high price point of the $30-$35 range. The distinctly designed bottle contains a lovely pale pink wine that exhibits delicate floral, citrus and red-berry notes on the nose.

In the glass, Miraval is probably best served somewhere between the traditional temperatures that you would use for white and red wines. Take it out of the refrigerator and let it rest, warm and open up in the glass for about a half-hour and you should be good to go. After opening up, the wine offers a soft and round mouth feel and highlights elements of all four blending grapes used in its creation: Cinsault, Grenache, Rolle and Syrah. Delightful minerality perks up your tongue as you detect more of those red berries and just a touch of saltiness from the limestone.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Enjoy Natural Wines at Rumours in the Gulch on Oct. 7

Posted By on Fri, Oct 3, 2014 at 9:57 AM

Organic, biodynamic and natural are all buzzwords in the world of wine lately. These confusing (and often overlapping) terms refer to cultivation and production methods of both Old and New World wines.

The folks at 100% Italiano have planned a tasting event this Tuesday, Oct. 7, at Rumours 12th and Division in the Icon building which will aim to straighten out some of the confusion. At the very least, you'll get to enjoy some nice French and Italian wines along with light hors d’oeuvres from 6:30 until 8 p.m.

The event is $30 per person plus tax and tip. Reservations are requested, so call (615) 432-2740 to let them know you're coming.

Here's what they'll be pouring:

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sommelier Pete Holland Leads New 'Wine 101' Class at The Skillery

Posted By on Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 12:53 PM

Accomplished sommelier Pete Holland is teaching a new introductory wine class this week as part of The Skillery's offerings. "Wine 101: An Introduction" takes place tomorrow evening at The Skillery's teaching and co-working space in Germantown.

Holland is certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers. He started learning about wine at Tom Colicchio's Craft Los Angeles, and is a veteran of the Michelin-starred Quince in San Francisco, where he worked under Italian wine giant David Lynch. Currently he runs the acclaimed wine program at the Capitol Grille at The Hermitage Hotel (his teaching schedule is not affiliated with the restaurant).

Here's the class description:

This beginning class will take a broad view of the world of wine: what's out there, why it costs what it costs, and how to decode labels to find what you like at a price you can afford. You'll leave armed with the knowledge and confidence you need to become a savvy wine consumer (as well as with a 15% off coupon for the Wine Shoppe of Green Hills).

While this class is will not be focused on tasting, we will be tasting some wines, of course. Please bring an ID.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Look to Italy for Some Excellent Wine Bargains

Posted By on Wed, Sep 17, 2014 at 7:08 AM

I've always been a sucker for Italian wines. The innate acidity of Sangiovese, the dominant varietal of Italy, has always tickled my palate and makes for easy food pairings. Plus, since I finally started to make my own pasta (it's so freakin' simple thanks to the recipes in this book) I cook Italian food at home all the time.

So when I was offered the chance to sample some new Italian wines, I jumped at the opportunity. While not all of the bottles I tried were no-brainer winners, I did discover some really nice finds in the $20-$30 range, which is much cheaper than lots of cult California reds. One problem I've always had is not being able to remember the name of new favorite Italians, since they tend to be named after the family who owns the winery and the location rather than the traditional American nomenclature of the grape varietal and some cutesy name like Fat Bastard or Arrogant Frog.

But once you discover a winery or a region that you like, it's fun to experiment with different expressions of their products. Again, Sangiovese is the primary grape in many Italian wine blends, but you probably won't see it listed explicitly on the label. Wines that feature this dark-cherry-tasting grape are primarily produced in Tuscany and Umbria and include Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Vine Rosso di Montpulciano and Brunello di Montalcino.

Thanks to Italy's stringent wine regulations, some winemakers prefer to opt out of the DOCG and DOC-certification systems and create blends called Super Tuscans and other wines simply called Rossos, Italian for "red."

One nice example of a red blend that I sampled was the 2011 Perticaia Montefalco Rosso, a wine featuring 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino and 15% Colorino to produce a medium-bodied wine that is exceptionally food-friendly. Dark ruby red with aromas of wild berries, Perticaia Montefalco Rosso actually does qualify under DOC regulations of 18 months of aging, a year in steel vats and 6 months in bottles. Retailing at around $28 a bottle, it's a wine I enjoyed even more than some other higher priced wines in my Italian odyssey.

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