Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tasting Note: 2006 Domaine de Pouy – Côtes de Gascogne

This is one of my go to value white wines from any region in the world. Domaine de Pouy is from the Côtes de Gascogne region of France in the Southwest. It’s actually the same region where Cognac comes from. The main grape is Ugni Blanc which is also the main grape of Cognac. In this case it’s used for an affordable, dry white that packs a lot of distinct character for a great price.

The 2005 Domaine de Pouy is hay colored with floral, melon and very light citrus aroma and maybe even a hay-like smell as well. Medium bodied with mild acidity and a medium short finish. Very crisp and refreshing.

This is a C+/B- wine for me with the “extra credit” coming from a great quality-per-price ratio (QPR). It’s $8 at Sherry-Lehmann although I’ve also seen it for that price or a couple dollars more at Garnet Wine and Union Square Wines in Manhattan as well as Grand Liquors in Astoria.

PS – I’ve also written about the 2005 vintage here.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Mold in the Cellar…

… or at least on the boxes that contain some of my wine. I’m count myself incredible fortunate and blessed not only to have a wonderful wife who is very understanding and willing to put up with my wine habit but we also to have an actual cellar to keep it in. We have an unfinished basement in our house in Brooklyn which would seem ideal for wine storage and it almost is. But there are a couple of flaws.

* It can get a bit dry, especially in the winter with humidity hovering between 20% and 30% when the ideal for wine is 60% to 70%. This is partly due to the mechanics of the house which include the forced air unit to heat the house and the hot water heater. They are not near the wine but they do suck some moisture out of the air. Humidity during the summer is much better.

* The second flaw is the temperature range, moving from the 50s in the wintertime to the 80s in the summer time. However, it is a slow climb and it only hits the 80s when it’s 100+ outside.

There is also what might be considered a third “flaw” but it really is only a function of my stupidity. With an unfinished basement, there is little moisture protection on the floor. Hence, when flat objects are placed down directly on the porous cement, moisture gets trapped underneath and depending on the material (think cardboard or wood wine boxes here), mold can form.

You see where I’m going with this. (I must have missed that bio class in 7th grade when we talked about how mold forms.)

Once I figured this was happening, I pulled the three boxes that were on the bottom and checked out the damage. Two of the three boxes had mold on the bottom but none had made it to the bottles themselves. I threw out the boxes, placed the wine in new boxes and lifted them about 4 inches off the ground with bricks. I also did this with the third box but the mold had found its way onto some of the bottles.

I panicked because the wines affected were some of my favorites, namely Italian Brunello di Montalcinos. I wiped off the bottles and placed them in a new box, getting most of the visible mold off. But the bottles smelled and I was worried that the mold might have somehow made its way to the wine through the cork.

I opened one to find out. It was a 2001 Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino. I opened it and immediately poured the wine into a decanter to get it away from the affected bottle. I took the wine into the dinning room, set it down, and asked my wife to smell it. She detected nothing. All I could smell was the mold. Perplexing until I realized that I hadn’t washed my hands!!! After taking care of that, I went back to the wine and found no mold smell but the wine did seem somewhat closed. I started wondering if the mold had somehow muted the flavors of wine. I was at this point getting just a little worried. We had dinner, talked about other things, and then we went back to the wine. It had really opened up and smelled wonderful and ended up being a great bottle of Brunello! The mold had not won! The wine held up!!!

I’m still left with the unanswered question of whether the wines would have been affected if they had been left longer. Anyone?

I later checked tasting notes for the 2001 Caparzo Brunello online and read that it does indeed take some time to open up. As far as I could tell, the wine was unaffected and I don’t think I need to worry unduly about the other bottles.

So I sat back and enjoyed the bottle.

TN – One thing that stood out was that it went from being somewhat steely and minerally at first to soft and lush a couple hours later. Dark red in color. Somewhat leathery with dark fruit but also a touch of cherry to give it a little bit of brightness. Not too much but just enough. Bone dry texture with abundant tannins with a super long finish. Very well put together but it could stand at least a couple more years of age to soften up a bit more. Excellent overall. A-

Monday, January 21, 2008

How to Taste - A Great Learning Opportunity or an Exercise in Futility?

One of the crazier and completely impractical ideas I’ve had of late has been to take the book “How to Taste” by Jancis Robinson and follow it though from beginning to end and in the process… learn how to taste wine.

It’s a great book with very detailed instruction on how identify acidity, sweetness, bitterness, saltiness, tannins, etc and then apply that to wine and assess quality, imperfection and balance among other things.

If I can follow the book through to the end, I believe that my ability to assess wine will be much improved. As of right now, I think I do an ok job at it which is all fine and well but I would love to try and take the skill of tasting wine to the next level so to speak.

The book is also laid out in a really thoughtful way, splitting theory with an applied “practice session.” For example, in the section on balance, the theory section talks about the relationship between sweetness and acidity, detailing what you should notice when a wine is too sweet and out of balance, too acidic and out of balance, or when it’s just right and the two are in harmony with one another. Then it moves on to the practice section where she suggests buying a good sauternes, a less inexpensive sweet white wine, a Loire “sec”, and an inexpensive French country white and then comparing the balance of each.

I think it’s a great approach and one that I would get a lot out of. However… there are 102 of these practice sessions within the 200+ pages of the book or essentially half of the book! In short, it’s going to be somewhat expensive and certainly time consuming if I want to take this on. But… I’m going to give it a try for a couple of reasons.

* First, I really would like to take my ability to taste and assess wine up a notch or so.

* Second, I want to expand this blog a little bit and break out from the tried and true “Tasting Note” format. Writing about the practice sessions as I go along will hopefully help with that.

* Third, I want to experiment a little bit with the idea of podcasting. It’s my hope that some of these practice sessions will show up as a podcast and add a little bit of color to the experience. I’m not promising anything, I’m just saying that I’m going to give it a try.

* Fourth and perhaps the most important is that I want to include my wine drinking friends in the process and add more voices to this blog. Podcasting fits right into this. Since I believe that listening to a one-person podcast is akin to listening to one hand clapping, I’m hoping that by bringing my friends into the process will add another whole new dimension and the element of interaction.

As far as the practice sessions go, my idea is they will take the form of both standard blog entries as well as podcasts.

I also want to mention the inspirations for this whole project. First is the book itself. How to Taste – A Guide to Enjoying Wine by Jancis Robinson. I’ve had it for a while and have just recently recognized its brilliance. Second is the idea of following a guide from beginning to end. The idea is blatantly ripped off from the Julie/Julia Project masterminded by Julie Powell in blog form which was then turned into a book. Third are all the podcasts I’ve been listening to which include the wine focuses Grape Radio and 3 Wine Guys as well as a some food focused casts with the best being Eat-Feed.

By the way, the complication to all this is that I'll be a dad in March. No better time to take on a project like this!

There it is. Lets see how it turns out.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Tasting Note: 2005 Sheldrake Point Cabernet Franc

Dr. Vino’s blog recently detailed the dividing line where the carbon footprint of a bottle wine is equal whether you buy a bottle from California or a bottle from Europe.

It was surprising to me that the line ran straight through Ohio. Even being from New York and somewhat close to Europe, there’s still an ocean to cross but it makes sense when considering that much of the European wine is shipped in bulk containers.

That said, the smallest carbon footprint is going to be found with the wine that made closest to home.

Hence the 2005 Sheldrake Point Cabernet Franc from the Finger Lakes region of New York.

The wine is ruby red in color with a somewhat oaks nose. The fruit is dark cherry and blackberry. Overall, it has a very earthy essence to it. Medium to full bodied with a soft texture and a medium long finish.

Regarding carbon footprints, the smallest print would be buying at the winery itself with can be done with a trip upstate. I can close by purchasing my bottle at Northside Wine in Ithaca, New York for $13.

Overall, this is a decent red but not an exciting one and I think it’s a C+ effort. I’m still looking for a solid red from the Finger Lakes so as of now, my opinion stand that the regions whites and especially Rieslings are standout but the red still lack.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Tasting Note: 2004 Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva

I’m a fan of the Italian winery Viticcio, a fantastic producer situated in Greve, the region of Tuscany which produces mainly Chianti. I first found them with the 2001 vintage of their Riserva.

This is the 2004 Chianti Classico Riserva. It’s nearly black in color and filled with dark berry, tobacco, possibly leather, and is somewhat herbaceous. Overall, it has a lovely earthy aroma in my opinion. The texture is still a bit tannic right now. But it really coats the mouth and with a little bit of time in the bottle, it should turn lush and velvety. Long finish. This wine is only going to get better.

I got this on sale from Zachys for $23 and Garnet has the 2003 vintage for $22.

Like I mentioned, I’m a big fan of this wine. I think the Riserva is a fantastic wine for a fair price but their entry level Chianti Classico for anywhere from $10 to $15 is also one to check out.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Tasting Note: 2003 Marqués de Riscal Reserva

The 1999 vintage of Marqués de Riscal Reserva was one of my early introductions to Spanish wines and I’ve liked it enough to follow the vintages.

The 2003 version is high in alcohol at 14%, a result of the scorching summer that year in Europe. This is mainly Tempranillo based with a ruby red color. It has strong cherry, licorice and cedar aromas mixed in with cinnamon and other spices. Very interesting nose. Smooth texture and nicely balanced with a long finish. Very nice and another solid B.

This was also the first bottle of wine I’ve purchased at the Trader Joe’s Wine Shop on East 14th St. They have it for $13 which is a nice price for a wine I’ve seen sell for as much as $20.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Resolution - Accomplished!

One of my new year's resolutions was to rework the Wine Index on the NYC Wine Notes blog to make it more user friendly.

It is now organized by type of wine - red, white, rose, sparkling, port, and dessert wines. From there, the wines are broken down by country and region.

Please let me know what you think. I'm always looking to improve the site.

Happy New Year!