Wine Wonderings – Bubbles and All Things Briny

oysters-champagne2Sometimes you need to treat yourself to something special – just because.  And what could possibly make you feel more special than a glass of something bubbly?  Come on, you know what I mean.  You keep a bottle of bubbly in the fridge in case something “special” happens, or an unexpected important guest shows up.  Don’t you?  And for many of us, that bottle sits there, day after day, week after week, and you keep telling yourself, “One day”, but you never let YOU be that special guest, and you never let TODAY be that “special” something.  Well, my friends, that needs to change!

Recently we had the chance to indulge our palates with an evening of Champagne & Oysters at one of our very favorite haunts, The Bavarian Inn, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.  We’ve enjoyed some of the most wonderful wine and food pairings at The Bavarian Inn, and that evening, like so many others, was just fabulous.  On the menu was a selection of seven sparkling wines, and a variety of delicious dishes from the sea and land.dibon-cava-nv

We started our trip around the sparkling wine world with Bodegas Pinord Dibon Brut Reserve Cava, NV, from Spain.  The extra fine bubbles popped from this wine’s pale surface and released aromas that were filled with clean apple and just a hint of citrus.  This wine has a pleasant, reserved acidity, and the finish was short with a hint of mineral.  All in all, a very nice wine.  The citrus let this wine pair just wonderfully with curried deviled eggs.

masuretproseccoFrom Spain our wine experience took us to the Treviso hills of Italy.  We indulged in a glass of Marsuret Prosecco DOC Treviso, NV.  This wine gave us creamy feel and light apple and pear aromas that included just a hint of floral.  Oddly enough, there was a slight hint of Parmesan cheese on the nose as well.  As peculiar as that sounds, it worked very well.  This wine had a clean, short finish, and went very nicely with the sweetness of lightly friend scallops, and stood up to the herbed tartar sauce.

LSN570_NV_phMoving up into Germany, our next glass of bubbly was Loosen Brothers Dr. L. Riesling Sekt Mosel, NV.  This wine had quite a bit of pear on the fruity nose, which was so very nice.  The lingering acidity was particularly enjoyable, as was the modest finish.  The acidity made this wine a great accompaniment to the subtle saltiness of the oyster bisque.df-gruet-blanc-de-noirs_300

After spending time so many delicious European sparkling wines, it was time to try something a little closer to home.  Our hosts poured Gruet Winery Blanc de Noirs, NV, from New Mexico.  What?  New Mexico?  Really?  YES!  And it was just delightful!  This pale salmon sparkling wine is 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay, and exudes creamy pear and light berry aromas, accented by a slight bitter lemon.  This wine also lends a slight nuttiness to its earthy, modest finish.  This bubbly was just delicious with an olive and herb focaccia bread.  We since shared this find with friends, and they’ve loved it too.  It’s on our list of must-haves for parties, and is a tremendous value.

hugo_rose2009Heading back over to Europe, our trip around the sparkling wine world led us to Weingut Huber Hugo Sparkling Rose, NV, from Austria.  This wine is a lovely blend of Zweigelt and Pinot Noir, and offered up lovely strawberry and fresh raspberry aromas with just a tiny bit of floral accent.  The acidity was very nicely balanced, and counter-balanced with slight earthiness and minerality.  This wine had a modest and pleasant finish, and paired very nicely with caviar as well as fresh raw oysters.fitz-ritter-riesling-sekt

From Austria our trip took us back to Germany, with Fitz Ritter Extra Trocken Riesling Sekt, NV.  This wine comes from old vine Riesling, and offers up much of the fruitiness that we expect from an off-dry Riesling.  What was particularly intriguing, however was the distinct aroma of a creamy rice pudding that also mingled with the fruit.  It was unexpected, and delightful.  The acidity was very nice, and let this wine pair very well with fresh fruit and an assortment of cheeses.

degeorgisOur evening was quickly drawing to a close, and what would be more appropriate than to finish off with something sweet.  Our trip took us back to Italy for one final sparkling experience.  Our last wine was DeGiorgis Moscato d’Asti, 2012, from the Piedmont region.  This is a fruity and sweet wine with amazing aromas of guava and mango.  Despite its sweetness, it had a wonderful, persistent acidity that balanced the sweetness and let the flavors just shine.  This wine easily pairs with fruit and light custard, but you can enjoy it all by itself as a sweet end to a fabulous meal.

Every wine we tasted that wonderful evening was delicious in its own way, and every single one was reasonably priced, and within reach for those “special” occasions, like a Friday night after a long week, a Tuesday night after a tough day, when a friend stops by and wants to treat you to pizza, or went you want something fun to have when watch your favorite movie.  So open the fridge, grab that bubbly, and make today special.  You deserve it!

Abate Franco Alba – 2009 Cuti Nero D’Avola

Cuti

When the cold, wet weather hits, a warm red is always in order.  This Sicilian wine echoes the hot, dry climate of the Italian island.  Dark ruby with modest legginess.  The dark cherry on the nose blended with a bit of plum and prune.  A hint of spice touched the aroma as well.  The taste was very nice, with a pronounced cola flavor that blended beautifully with cherry undertones.  The finish was long with persistent acidity.  I did get an expected punch of tannins, but pairing this wine with pasta in rich olive and onion marinara turned those tannins into a velvety, lush experience.   I look forward to revisiting this wine in a year or two.

Wine Wonderings – Kevin Z. and the Brunellos

Zraly Brunello

Kevin Zraly is, by most accounts, the master of wine education.  Yes, the premier rock star of the wine education world.  So when I had the opportunity to participate in a master class that he was teaching, I jumped at the chance.

The wines?  Brunello di Montalcino.

Ah.  It just rolls off the tongue.  Brunello di… Mon..tal…cin…ooo.

Heaven, I tell you.  Heaven.

For anyone who has isn’t familiar with Brunello di Montalcino, this is a wine from the town of Montalcino, a small medieval village in the Tuscany wine region of Italy.  Brunello di Montalcino is one of Italy’s most famous wines, made with 100% Sangiovese grape, and it tends to be some of Italy’s most expensive wine.  The hot, dry days under the Montalcino sun bring the grapes to ripe perfection earlier there than in other regions of Tuscany.  The result?  After fermentation and over 4 years of required aging in the bottle, Brunello di Montalcino is a lush, deep, intense wine, that maintains its acidity.

And the wines from that amazing class?  All 2007’s.  They are:

1.  Brunello di Montalcino Poggiolo

2.  Brunello di Montalcino Fanti

3.  Brunello di Montalcino Nicale

4.  Brunello di Montalcino Castiglion del Bosco

5.  Brunello di Montalcino Pertimali Livio Sassetti

6.  Brunello di Montalcino Fuligni

7.  Brunello di Montalcino Nardi

8.  Brunello di Montalcino La Casa Caparzo

Brunellos

As in any wine tasting, there is a certain subjectivity involved, especially with a room filled with wine wonks.  But sometimes wines stand out, for any number of reasons.  There was, in short, the good, the bad and the ugly.

The ugly?  With such beautiful wines?

Yes.  Even a lineup like this offered up at least one that was, shall we say, funky.  Lost its mojo.  Maybe never had it.  Bottle shocked?  Corked?  I don’t know.  Funky.

And how about the bad?  Well, maybe not bad as much as perhaps just not ready.  And that’s ok.  We’ve all had those wines that were still developing.  Maturing.  Toning down.  You have them today – yuck, or maybe just meh.  You have them a year from now – delicious.  So yes, we had a few that needed some time.

But ah… the good.  The good were very good.  Mmmm…

One stand-out, for me, was Brunello di Montalcino La Casa Caparzo.  It had a beautiful fruit and spice balance.  Heavy, dark wild berries mingled with cassis.  Full and luscious, with an amazing finish.  Kevin noted that this wine “smells like Brunello”, and oh how right he was.  If this was everything a Brunello di Montalcino is supposed to be, sign me up.

The other notable wine, for me, was the Brunello di Montalcino Castiglion del Bosco.  Dark red and black fruits were simply beautiful.  The fruit danced with flavors of anise and spice, and the acidity was perfect.  The long finish was beautiful.  Very nice.  Very nice.

As the tasting went along I could have just closed my eyes and imagined a Tuscan sunset.  Every sip brought me that much closer to tasting the Tuscan terroir.  What a perfect day.

Kevin noted that Brunello di Montalcino is considered to be a best value of the great wines of the world.  How very true.  The wines we tasted ran anywhere from $40 a bottle to $70 a bottle.  Not an every day range, but very accessible.

I do have to offer a special thank you to Kevin Zraly, who opened my eyes to wine education through his book, Windows on the World Complete Wine Course, all those years ago, and who gave me one of the best wine experiences ever in this master class.  You can learn more about Kevin on his website, http://www.KevinZraly.com.  I would also like to thank my dear friend, Wendy Dubit, for making my experience with Kevin possible, and whose amazing work can be read in Windows on the World Complete Wine Course.  You can also learn about Wendy on her website, http://www.TheSensesBureau.com.