Monthly Archives: April 2013

Drinking Tonight: Berton Black Shiraz

A 2011 Barossa Shiraz, $10 from Trader Joe’s – recommended by one of my old buddies there.

Color: Purple-red throughout, not too dark.

Aroma: A little closed – blackberry fruit, then the eucalyptus comes on.  Not too spicy or oaky on the nose.

Taste: This has a lot of extraction – almost syrupy fruit up front, then more of the eucalyptus, then black pepper spice and some earthiness on the finish. Thick textured throughout.

A very good deal for $10.

Geography: Loire Valley vs. Ohio Valley

I’ve long maintained that winemakers in the Ohio Valley – from the eastern stretches of Kentucky to the Mississippi River – should look to the Loire in France as a model for winemaking.  Here’s why.

Both rivers run along the boundary between a glacial plain and an uplifted limestone region, with outcroppings of harder igneous and metamorphic rock scattered throughout.

Both regions are continental in climate, with some maritime/lake influence. Thus they both have summers that are hot and humid, winters that are cold and wet, and concerns about frost in the spring.

Given that, it’s no surprise that the best vitis vinifera red in the Ohio Valley is Cabernet Franc. Brown County, Ohio has 3 award-winning Cabernet Franc producers (Meranda-Nixon, Kinkead Ridge, and La Vigna). Huber Winery in southeastern Indiana provided the initial plantings for Cab Franc growers in Lodi, and still provides library wines to them today.

So my challenge to the wineries in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois: show me what you can do with Chenin Blanc!

Cheese Spotlight: Pont l’Eveque

One of the all-time greats of the gooey, stinky cheese world! I’m having it this evening with Glen Carlou Chardonnay from Paarl, South Africa – a very-lightly oaked Chard in the style of Pouilly-Fuisse. 

Pont l’Eveque is creamy in texture and coats the mouth.  But it has a certain sharpness that doesn’t hit you until you’ve been chewing it for a while.  The Chardonnay has enough body to stand up to the fat of the cheese, and the apple/pear fruit provides a nice contrast to the sharpness.


Drinking Tonight: Joel Gott Alakai

Joel Gott’s Rhone-style blend from California, 2010 vintage – this runs about $17.  I’m having this with a homemade pizza – spicy sauce, 4-cheese Italian blend plus chevre, chicken sausage, onions, peppers, and mushrooms. I’ve never been disappointed in his wines.

Color: Very much a purple-red color, appropriate to the young age of the wine and high proportion of Grenache (77%).

Aroma: Candied fruit (berries and plum) with some spice

Taste: Pretty full and intense – not a fruit-bomb, but fruit-forward for a Rhone style.  Big texture.  Spice is moderate until the very end, when it comes on with some licorice notes.  A good hand with the oaking; no vanilla or woody notes but enough barrel time to give it some roundness.

Overall quite nice.  Something to have in that Rhone-style slot in the cellar.

Drinking Tonight: Floriani Gruner Veltliner

Purchased this the other day at my local Trader Joe’s for $8, vintage 2011.  I didn’t notice until I got home that it’s actually from Hungary, not Austria! I’m having a glass while I make mushroom risotto.

Color: very pale straw yellow with a hint of green

Aroma: quite herbal – lemon verbena and basil, followed by straight citrus

Taste: perfectly dry, with an initial acidic hit followed by minerality and a clean finish.  I overchilled it and will give it a few minutes to warm up.

OK, now I’m picking up more citrus on the nose, and the feel is creamier.  The citrus taste notes last through the mid-palate into the finish.

For the money, this is an excellent deal.  I’ll stock up on this for the summer – I can see this with my grilled Caesar salad, shellfish, or goat cheese pizza.



The Hundred-Bottle Cellar

Here’s the highlights of how to put together a hundred-bottle cellar – this will set you up for any dinner and any occasion.

  • Chardonnay: 12 bottles total of 3 different styles.
  • Semi-Sweet: 8 bottles of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Torrontes.
  • Light-Bodied Whites: 4 Sauvignon Blanc, 4 Pinot Grigio, 2 White Bordeaux, and 2 Albarino.
  • Full-Bodied Whites: 4 bottles of Viognier or White Rhone.
  • Italian Reds: 1 Amarone or Ripasso, 3 Chianti/Sangiovese, 2 Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo, and 2 of either Aglianico, Nero d’Avola, or Barbera.
  • Pinot Noir: 6 bottles.
  • Merlot: 4 bottles.
  • Rhone Blends: 4 bottles.
  • Australian Shiraz: 4 bottles.
  • Pinotage: 2 bottles.
  • Tempranillo: 4 bottles.
  • Bordeaux/Meritage: 6 bottles.
  • Cabernet: 6 bottles.
  • Zinfandel: 2 bottles.
  • Malbec: 4 bottles.
  • Rose: 4 bottles of dry rosé.
  • Dessert: 1 bottle each of Tawny and Ruby Port, and 2 bottles of Ice Wine, late harvest, or botrytis white dessert wine.
  • Sparkling: 4 bottles of Cava.

Check out the forthcoming ebook for further details.