Thorn Clarke – 2010 Shotfire Barossa Valley Quartage

NV_ThornClarke_Shotfire_Quartage3Some of you may already be acquainted with my love of rich, red wines.  You know the kind.  The kind that warm you up and wrap you in their deep aromas and flavors.  Perfect when the seasons start to change, and you’ve said your good-bye’s to summer’s Sauv Blancs, at least for now.  That’s the kind of wine that this evening begged for, even though the leaves haven’t changed yet.

I perused my wine rack to see what might hit the spot, and lo’ and behold, I came across this Australian lovely.  I already had a pot of thick bolognese on the stove, so (even though it’s not Italian) this would be perfect.  Perfect, but not without some effort.

Ok, a lot of effort.

After the foil wouldn’t let go for love or money, and the cork broke, and the ah-so failed to do its job, I did what any wannabe wine pro would do.  I grabbed an iced tea spoon and shoved the cork into the bottle.

So now that I’ve washed the kitchen down, and since my shirt has stopped dripping wine, I wanted to share with you a few thoughts on the wine.

In the glass this deep, opaque, leggy red was begging me to drink it.  As I turned the glass toward my nose, the rich aromas of cassis and dark currant rushed out of the glass.  I pulled my nose into the rim to discover violet and leather, with just a tiny bit of graphite swirling below.  A little cedar and eucalyptus were there, just around the edges.  The first sip was just wonderful.  Smooth and full, with black fruit and spice.  The acidity was perfect and lingering.  Just lovely.

This wine is a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Merlot.  It has an alcohol of 14.5, but no real heat, which was a  pleasant surprise.

In retrospect, the effort was worth it.  Well worth it.

Chateau Greysac – 2009 Medoc

greysacSometimes getting your first choice of something is good.  Sometimes getting your second choice is even better.  I was out with friends the other night when our second choice turned out to be perfectly delicious.

This wine is a deep and rich Bordeaux blend, roughly half Merlot, and balanced out with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  On the nose were dark fruits with leathery undertones.  Slight hints of violet and char were also noticeable.  The flavors stayed fresh and juicy.  The tannins were fairly well structured and restrained, with nicely balanced acidity, resulting in a lush mouthfeel.  The flavors opened up a little more after a few minutes, so decanting is an option.  The finish had a light spice and was moderate in length.  With an alcohol level of 14%, the wine was enjoyable with no unpleasant alcohol heat.

This wine paired particularly well with grilled filet mignon and haricot verts.  This wine is a great value and worth exploring for yourself.

Wine Wonderings – The Hills Are Alive…With Austrian Wine

What could be better than a wine dinner?  Just thinking about it makes me smile.  So when one of my favorite restaurants announced that they were planning a wine dinner, my fingers couldn’t dial the number fast enough to make that reservation.

The restaurant?  The Bavarian Inn, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.  A beautiful inn with an exceptional menu and wine cellar (one of the best in the region), that overlooks the Potomac River.  Their formal dining room is perfect for a romantic dinner, and the Rathskeller offers a more casual environment for friends to gather.  The service at the Bavarian Inn is exceptional, and I can honestly say every visit has been absolutely enjoyable.

The wines?  All things Austrian.

Klaus Austrian?  Really?

Oh, yes.  And if you haven’t had the chance to experience Austrian wines, you may just want to head to your local wine shop and explore their selection.

Our tour guide for the event?  Klaus Wittauer.  Klaus is a native Austrian who truly loves sharing his wine journey.  Klaus developed his knowledge of wine throughout his years working with some of the world’s top restaurants.  He also spent many years traveling throughout Europe’s finest wine regions, learning all he could in each.  You can learn more about Klaus at www.kwselection.com .

This wine dinner began with a variety of hors d’oeuvres, paired with 2011 Leo Hillinger First Hill White.  This crisp, dry wine is 70% Sauvignon Blanc, with 20% Welschriesling and 10% Gruner Veltliner.  The notes of passion fruit and pear on the nose were prominent, and the fruit melded with a slight spiciness on the tongue.  Nicely leesy with persistent acidity, it paired wonderfully with the selection of earthy bites, including mushroom strudel, vegetable crostini, scallops on endive, and duck confit with chestnut puree.

Next up, 2012 Tegernseerhof T 26 Gruner Veltliner Federspiel.  Think kabinett when you think about this wine.  The aromas of passion fruit and guava were stunning, and set off with just a hint of stone fruit.  The acidity was really nice, and set off by a slight pepperiness.  The finish was lovely, with a hint of minerality.  The pairing selection was fish duo that included West Virginia trout mousse on a rosti potato blini with horseradish cream.  Perfection.

BVPairOur next wine was a 2011 Tegernseerhof Gruner Veltliner Bergdistel Smaradg.  The lovely aroma of stone fruit and elegant florals was matched by flavors of pineapple and apricot swirled with spice.  The rich, clean finish offered a nice balance.  This wine paired so very well with grilled lobster atop lobster wild rice risotto with tropical fruit chutney.

And now, the reds.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, and admittedly, was just a little skeptical about the potential of Austrian reds.  But I happily pressed on.

The first red was a 2010 Leo Hillinger Pinot Noir Eveline.  The aroma was very jammy – mostly raspberry – with a slight smokiness.  A hint of herb lingered on the nose.  Not bad at all.  This medium to light bodied wine had dark berry flavors and was notably herby.  Juicy and peppery, I enjoyed this wine with a petite wienerschnitzel a la Holstein.  I would hold this wine for just a while longer to let the tannins soften, but all in all, very enjoyable.

The next red was a 2011 Leo Hillinger HILLSide Syrah blend.  This is a wine from Austria’s Burgenland, and is 60% Syrah, 30% Merlot, and 10% Zweigelt.  I found the aromas here to be just beautiful.  The plum and berry was a lovely backdrop to the tobacco and vanilla aromas that enveloped my senses.  The long finish was smooth and velvety.  This paired well with a braised short rib in a a syrah reduction.

The last wine on the menu was Leo Hillinger Secco Sparkling Pinot Noir.  Fun and enjoyable, this sparkling rose offered bright berries on the nose, including strawberry.  The flavors were delicate and balanced,  with a crisp, dry finish.  It was the perfect accompaniment to a dessert of Austrian fruit tart with raspberry flan.

BVFlightThe evening would have been a total success if it ended there.  Six lovely wines, six delicious courses.  Who could have asked for more?  But my evening was about to have an unexpected surprise.  Klaus came over to my table and we struck up a little lively wine conversation.  The next thing I knew I was being treated to yet one more wine.

This was a 2010 Hillinger Blaufrankisch Leithaberg.  One good whiff and I was pulled in.  The intense dark fruit aroma was heavenly.  The flavors of dark berries and black cherry were topped off with a light spiciness that hit my palate just right.  The finish was long and smooth, and just beautiful.

What a perfect end to a fabulous evening.

Evans & Tate – 2009 Metricup Road Margaret River Shiraz

metricup

This wine is a surprisingly fruit forward shiraz.  Juicy ripe cherry, plum and berry aromas delightfully waft from the deep ruby wine.  Those aromas carry through nicely to the flavor.  The flavor also hints of very light spice and a slight touch of cedar.  Perhaps the biggest surprise is the absence of alcohol heat, which almost invariably comes with a 14.5.% alcohol level.    The acidity is well-balanced with the nicely structured tannins.  This medium-bodied beauty has a fairly long, pleasant finish.  A good value that pairs well with a seared, peppered steak.

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.