The cold, snowy months of this winter have certainly left many, including me, feeling blah. But today was just what the doctor ordered – sunny and warmer, with a promise of spring in the air. What better way to celebrate than to pop open a bottle of bubbly! So pop I did! I picked up this value with a day like today in mind. Something to drink to celebrate just being happy. This sparkling wine is a blend of Chardonnay (80%), Pinot Noir (15%) and Riesling (5%). As soon as the bubbles hit the flute I just knew I was in for something special. The bubbles were plentiful and as each one popped the aromas of crisp apple and pear floated up to my nose. A hit of light citrus and honey were also mixed in. The fruit-forward flavor was quite nice, and as the bubbles eased, the flavor of peach made its way to the top. Very nice. The acidity was very well-balanced, and the finish was clean. And what could be better to pair this with than fresh strawberries with Brillat-Savarin Frais. Delightful!
Every New Year celebration demands a delightful bottle of bubbly, and this sparkling wine is just that! This pale salmon sparkling rose makes the perfect start to the New Year, and any other celebration. Made from Pinot Noir and Gamay, the aromas of light red fruit abound – cherry, strawberry, and just a bit of red raspberry, dancing with the slightest hint of green apple. The taste is crisp and refreshing, with extra fine bubbles that make this wine especially nice. Balanced acidity, but still creamy. The finish expresses a light minerality, and lasts for some time. It pairs elegantly with champagne cheese and dried fruit. I’ll be picking up more of this delicious sparkling rose for the fun times this New Year will undoubtedly bring. Cheers!
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.
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.
Our 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.
The 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.
Pinot Noir is one of those grapes…one of those wines…that fills my head, and nose, and palate with certain stereotypes of what it should be. I admit it – I’m guilty of judging a wine by what it “should” be. I’m sure you know what I mean. Anyone who’s ever seen a dog show knows – you judge it against the breed standard, not whether you happen to like it. But this week I learned that…well…tasting wine isn’t a dog show.
This wine has been eating at my brain for several days now. Would I consider it your quintessential Pinot Noir? No. Did I like it? It was good…not great…but good. I was a little surprised by just how jammy this wine was on the nose. I mean…jammy. Intensely, over-the-top, give-me-a-piece-of-toast, jammy. Deep garnet in color, but not all that leggy. The first taste covered my tastebuds with dark fruits that mingled with an interesting leatheriness. There was a hint of coffee in there too. Very full body. The finish was particularly long, with only the slightest bit of heat. It did pair well with chicken cacciatore and rustic bread. I look forward to trying this wine again in a year or two.
There are no hard and fast rules about when to decant a wine, and my tasting experience this time taught me a valuable lesson about that. I opened this Pinot Noir with expectations about that “typical” pinot noir experience. The aromas of red fruits were everywhere – cherry and currants mostly, and yet there were noticeable bursts of herb and eucalyptus. I swirled the jewel red wine a few times and took a sip, and found the wine to be spicy and even “hot”, despite modest alcohol. I was a bit surprised by the flavors, and decided that perhaps decanting would help. I was so glad I did. After an hour of so, I tasted the wine again, and to my delight I discovered beautiful smoothness in the wine. The spiciness toned down, and I was able to enjoy the fruits and fairly long finish. No heat, no edge. This wine paired very well with a juicy burger.
I am very torn about how to describe this wine. It isn’t bad at all, but in the same breath I’ll tell you that it lends to being unremarkable. The aromas are light with notes of cherry and currant. I found it to be of particularly light body – more so than most pinot noirs. The color – a jewel ruby. The finish is modest. I think that this would be a nice transitional wine for the person who is just starting to venture into red territory. It’s light, and doesn’t have a notable sharpness, either from acids or tannins. It could easily go with salmon or other similar seafood. It would tend to get lost if paired with a steak.