Friday, October 12, 2007

Checking in on the Whites

My last several posts detailed the harvest and initial winemaking steps for Three Fox Vineyard's Viognier and Pinot Grigio. As I mentioned, those grapes were harvested and fermentation initiated on September 7th. On September 8th, we received a load of Vidal Blanc grapes from a local grower for our "Appassionata" off-dry Vidal and started that in on fermentation. On September 13th, we took some Brix readings (the level of sugar - read my recent post for more info) to see how our fermenting wine was coming along. Here's what we found:

Brix at Harvest (9/7) = 23.7
Brix on 9/13 = 9.0

Pinot Grigio
Brix at Harvest (9/7) = 24.9
Brix on 9/13 = 9.2

Brix at Harvest (9/8) = 24.0
Brix on 9/13 = 10.0

The fermentation reaction takes the sugar from the grape juice and converts it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. [The generic chemical reaction for a fermentation reaction is C6H12O6 → 2C2H5OH + 2CO2 + 2 ATP, or in English: glucose (sugar) → 2 units of alcohol + 2 units of carbon dioxide + 2 units of energy (which is why the yeast are even bothering with this in the first place) ] So, as you can see after not quite one week our fermenting juice is well on the way to fermenting to dry wine (i.e., Brix is roughly zero, meaning there is no residual sugar left in the wine). Cool, eh?

Next post: First up for harvest for the reds is the Chambourcin grape. Reds undergo a slightly different process than the whites, as reds are fermented with all of the skins and seeds - not just the juice as is the case with the whites. More on that soon!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Viognier and Pinot Grigio Harvest in Virginia, Part 3

My last post left off with us finishing the crushing and destemming of the Pinot Grigio, pressing it off in the bladder press, and pumping it back to a stainless steel tank for eventual fermentation. I mentioned that Three Fox harvested the Pinot Grigio and Viognier on the same day this year, so after we had finished with the Pinot Grigio we had to turn right around and repeat the process for the Viognier!

Deja vu with the Viognier
We went through the exact same process with the Viognier as I described for the Pinot Grigio - the freshly harvested grapes were dumped into the crusher/destemmer, where the resulting mixture of juice, seeds and crushed skins (called "must") was pumped into the bladder press. As you can see from the photo, Viognier looks much more like you would expect a "white wine grape" to look - green and gold, rather than the light purple of the Pinot Grigio.

Once the press was full, we closed the top and started inflating the internal air bladder. The one slight difference between our handling of Pinot Grigio and Viognier occurred at this step: with the Pinot Grigio, we inflated the bladder slowly allowing for some contact time with the skins in the press; the Viognier press run occurred more rapidly, with less time spent in the press in contact with the skins. The Three Fox winemaker/owner tells me that the additional skin contact on the Pinot Grigio leads to a richer color and lusher mouthfeel.

The pressed juice from the Viognier was pumped back into a separate stainless steel tank. We now had two tanks full of grape juice, and we were ready to start making wine!

The Numbers
For those interested in this sort of thing, we estimated our Pinot Grigio harvest at about 5,453 pounds (2.7 tons), which pressed off to about 456 gallons of juice. Our Viognier harvest came in at about 5,080 pounds (2.5 tons), and pressed off to about 381 gallons.

A little "wine chemistry"
So, now we're back in the winery with two tanks full of juice. When you're about to make some wine, there are really just three measurements you need to take to get all the information you need to know before starting off: brix, pH and "titratable acid" or TA. I feel we've covered brix pretty extensively over the last few posts. pH is a measure of acidity on a logarithmic scale of 1 to 14 (7 being neutral water - below that being acidic, above that being "basic"). Both our Pinot Grigio and Viognier clocked in at around 3.5 on the pH scale (we took the measurement with a digital pH meter in the lab).

A reading of 3.5 is pretty good - as you may recall from my cool graph two posts ago, pH starts rising as the grapes ripen. If your pH gets too high, it'll make the wines taste flabby (after all, we often describe the "acidity" of a wine when writing it up - acidity is what makes a white wine in particular sparkle on your tongue). If the pH IS too high, you might add tartaric acid (one of the three main acids often found in grape juice, along with malic and to a lesser degree, citric) to bring the pH down again. Luckily, 3.5 is a respectable number, and we could do what most winemakers prefer to do in these situations - nothing (why stand in the way of nature?).

The last measurement tells you about the "titratable acids", or TA in the juice. I just mentioned that wines often have tartaric, malic and citric acids to them (sidenote: wines that undergo "malolactic fermentation", or "ML" convert the crisp green-appley malic acid into a smoother "milky" lactic acid; many creamy Chardonnays have undergone ML). TA is somewhat related to pH, as pH does measure acidity, but TA specifically measures the amount of organic acids in the juice/wine. TA is what gives wine its "tartness". Our Pinot Grigio came in at 0.65 and our Viognier at 0.75. Our winemaker felt that both of these levels were good, and so we could again do what most winemakers prefer to do - nothing.

Get them Whites Fermentin'
S0, we have now determined that our grapes ripened well, and no manipulation was necessary in the winery to make some great wine. The only thing to do now is to add some yeast and get the fermentation going! As I mentioned before, our winemaker likes to use Lalvin D47 yeast for our white wines. We get our yeasts from Scott Labs, and it's really worth a look at their "Yeast Strains" website to get an understanding of what a huge selection of yeasts are out there. True, the main purpose of fermentation is simply to convert the sugar of the grape juice into alcohol, but different strains of yeast produce difference nuances of flavors into the finished wine, and it's only through trial and error that most winemakers find a "favorite yeast" that works for them.

At any rate, we added the specified amount of D47 yeast to a 5-gallon bucket with a couple of gallons of juice in it. Instead of adding the yeast directly to the tank, its good to "wake them up" from their freeze-dried slumber by adding them to a (warmer) smaller batch of juice so they are not immediately overwhelmed by their conditions. In a half hour or so, once the juice starts bubbling and fermentation is underway, you can then dump the bucket into the stainless steel fermentation tank to start the process in earnest. And this is exactly what we did with our Pinot Grigio and Viognier. Next up: how quickly do the yeast beasties munch on the grape sugars and convert them into alcohol? We take measurements of the fermenting wines, and perform some taste tests as well... More to come!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Viognier and Pinot Grigio Harvest in Virginia, Part 2

So I was out at Three Fox Vineyards again for Sangiovese harvest and crush (our first red harvest! - which I'll write about as soon as I catch up with the whites), so I was able to copy down some of the relevant info about the Viognier and Pinot Grigio that I skipped in my last post! So, to continue - we had just learned about how to tell when grapes were ripe enough for harvest in a generic sense. Now, I'll tell you about our grapes in particular, and how our harvest went...

Viognier and Pinot Grigio Harvest
We harvested our Viognier and Pinot Grigio (same grape as "Pinot Gris" - just the Italian name for it) on Friday September 7th. The fun thing about harvest is that it's pretty easy for volunteers to get involved - Three Fox invited their tasting room volunteers and Vintner's Circle members to come out and grab some pruning shears and get in on the action! We also employ a team of professional harvesters, whose speed leaves most volunteers in awe, but there are still plenty of grapes to go around!

At harvest, our Viognier had a brix reading of right around 23 degrees, while our Pinot Grigio was around 24 degrees brix - nice and ripe. In my last post I described brix as the measure of sugar in the grapes, and it is this sugar that will ultimately be converted into alcohol during fermentation. A brix reading of 23 degrees will result in a wine with ~13% alcohol, so that's about typical for most table wines. We would normally also take a reading of the specific gravity of the juice using a hydrometer - this is a much more accurate measurement than the hand-held refractometer we were using to take the brix readings - however, hydrometers are fragile creatures and a well-meaning volunteer had accidentally broken our last one days before.

At any rate, harvest we did. First up was the Pinot Grigio. As you will immediately notice, the interesting thing about Pinot Grigio is that it is a pretty darn "red" grape to make a white wine. "Grigio" actually means "gray" in Italian (and "gris" means the same in French), so the name of the grape literally means the "gray pinot" grape (as opposed to the "black" pinot grape of recent Sideways fame - Pinot Noir, and the white pinot grape, Pinot Blanc/Bianco). They are thus named because while we think of wines as white and red (OK, rosé too, but that complicates my example), those wines are made from white and "black" (not red) grapes, respectively. So Pinot Grigio's name is a tip off to the fact that it occupies a slot smack dab in the middle of the white to black grape continuum, and appears dark pink/light purple in color.

So, to explain the picture above (and the harvest process) a bit: the metal box on the right is a crusher/ destemmer - as the name suggests, this machine both de-stems the grapes (separating the grapes and spitting out the stems - look at all of those stems!) as well as "crushes" them (slices open the grape skins so that the juice flows out more freely). There is a pump in the bottom of the crusher/destemmer (winemaking, I'm learning, involves a lot of pumps) which pumps the crushed grapes up and into bladder press (the big white thing on the left). You can sort of tell from the photo that the press is a large cylinder made from a stainless steel mesh.

There is a central bladder running the length of the press; once the press is full, we'll start it rotating. The simple act of rotation is enough to start the juice flowing from the press (indeed, since the grapes have already been crushed, there is quite a lot of "free-run" juice that drains out of the press before we even begin). But to really squeeze out all the good stuff, we start inflating that internal air bladder. This forces the contents of the press against the steel mesh, and allows us to get almost all of the juice remaining in the skins. From the press, the juice falls into a trough where it is captured and pumped into a waiting stainless steel tank. In a little while, we'll add a specific type of yeast to kick-start the fermentation process.

But right now we've got some serious cleaning to do - while we've been pressing the Pinot Grigio, our volunteers and field crew have been harvesting the Viognier, and we've already got over a hundred plastic "lugs" full of grapes ready to go! Since we've got but the one set of equipment, everything will need to be cleaned from the Pinot Grigio before sending Viognier through the system. I'll talk about the Viognier and initial winemaking steps in my next post - that will be the third and final Viognier/Pinot Grigio Harvest: then we're moving on to Vidal, Chambourcin (from which we make our "port alternative" Rosso Dolce) and Sangiovese!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Viognier and Pinot Grigio Harvest in Virginia, Part 1

Our first harvest of the season at Three Fox Vineyards in Delaplane, VA occurred on Friday September 7th. It was a beautiful day, but the remnants of some tropical storms were supposed to blow through later that weekend, and we wanted to get the fruit off the vine before that happened. The last thing you want to have happen right before harvest is a big rainfall: the vines suck up the water and pump it into the grapes, effectively diluting their flavors at best, and possibly even bursting the fruit on the vine and losing crop. We had tested the fruit just a few days prior (more on that in a sec) and knew we were within the "harvestable" window, so rather than take the chance with the rain we decided to harvest perhaps a few days before what may have been the optimum time. This is not at all unusual, as especially in Virginia you are at the mercy of fickle weather systems and must adapt your harvest schedule appropriately.

Determining When to Harvest
To understand the decision of when to harvest, you need to know a little bit about how grapes grow and ripen. From the perspective of a winemaker, grapes go through two phases: an initial growth phase, during which time the berry size steadily increases, and a following ripening phase during which berry growth slows, sugar levels start increasing and acidity starts dropping (pH increases) [Ignore the anthocyanin in the cool cool graph I stole from the Texas Cooperative Extension page]. The transition between these two phases is called veraison - this is a French term which means "change of color of the grape berries". The berries start softening, and their color starts changing from fresh growth green to the color appropriate for their varietal (i.e., "red wine grapes" start getting reddish purple, "white wine grapes" start getting yellow-gold). Shortly after veraison is when you want to start taking readings of the sugar levels in the grapes to gauge how the ripening process is progressing.

Sugars levels in a liquid is measured in brix. The unit of measure- ment for brix is "degrees", so when you take a brix reading of the grapes, you'll record a result of something like "19.5 degrees brix". To take a brix reading of the grapes, you first walk around each "block" of vines (Three Fox "blocks" are 30 rows long) in the vineyard, and take a random sampling of 15 or so grapes. This random sample should include grapes from the beginning, middle and end of the vines, as well as from both of the East and West facing sides of the vines (Three Fox rows are oriented N-S). You then allow the grapes to rest a bit, and cool down to 65 degrees F or so (winery temps). Then you mash them up and use a refractometer (or fancier instrument, but a refractometer gives you a precise enough reading at this point) to measure the brix by placing a couple drops of the juice on the plate and looking through the viewer and taking your reading.

So, we had done this with our Viognier and Pinot Grigio a few days prior, and knew that we were within the "harvestable" window in terms of brix levels (I don't have my notes, so I can't tell you exactly what the brix levels were, but they were in the low 20s). Thus we decided to harvest the fruit before a possible storm could negatively affect their quality.

Next Up: Harvest and Crush
I think this has been a rather scary post for the non-technically inclined, with lots of weird terms like "brix" and "refractive index" thrown into it, so I'm cutting this one off. My next post will detail the harvest, crush, press and yeast addition to start off the fermentation of the Viognier and Pinot Grigio, and will have cool pictures rather than boring graphs!

A Mini-batch of Chardonnay

After our final bottling of the 2006 vintage at Three Fox, there was much cleaning of tanks and re-arranging of the winery that had to occur. Since our indoor temperature-controlled space is pretty limited, we had moved several (empty) stainless steel fermentation tanks outside to make room for the oak barrels that we aged the red wines in. Now that those barrels, too, were empty after bottling, we had to reverse the process, cleaning out the oak barrels with soda ash and moving the stainless steel tanks back inside.

Easing into the 2007 Vintage
The first harvest to come in was a small batch of 800+ lbs (not quite half a ton) of Chardonnay. Grapes come in to the winery in small, sturdy plastic containers called "lugs". Each lug holds approximately 30 pounds of freshly harvested grapes. (I have since determined that lug is a very appropriate term, as you spend a considerable amount of time and effort lugging them around!) Lugs are filled to just below the top of the container such that when they are stacked, none of the grapes get squished by the container above it.

Whole Cluster Press
For this small of a batch of grapes (~800 lbs), we have to use a small 1/4 ton press as there isn't enough mass to sufficiently fill our (much nicer, faster and exceeding less messy) 3 ton rotating bladder press (I'll show you this bad boy in subsequent posts). The "technique" we used for this Chardonnay was "whole cluster press", meaning the entire grape cluster (grapes, stems and all) are all dumped into the the press. An alternate method sometimes employed for whites is to send them through a destemmer first, to gently jiggle all of the grapes from the stems, and then only the grapes are pressed. Or, you may send the grapes through a crusher/destemmer, where the grapes are first destemmed, then crushed - breaking the skins and allowing the juice to flow freely out of them - before being pumped into a wine press. This last method is the one we used for our Viognier and Pinot Grigio, and I'll describe it in a later post.

So, here's a picture of the small 1/4 ton wine press we used for the Chardonnay. Grapes are simply dumped into the top of the press, which has a large bladder in the center of it. It's a bit tricky to see the actual press in this picture as it's been wrapped in plastic, but the wine press is made of wooden slats with a small space between each slat. These had been soaked in water for a day or two prior to use so that the wood has absorbed some water and swollen in size, pressing close together. Typically, you line the inside of the press with a mesh screen, which prevents grapes and seeds and things from squishing through the wooden slats, clogging them up and making a mess. We did not have such a screen available, so wrapped the outside in plastic to catch the "burps" of grape skins and seeds that would occasionally squirt out during press.

In the center of the press a large rubber bladder which will eventually be filled with water (this is a hydraulic press - our larger press is pneumatic and uses compressed air which is much faster). As the bladder expands, the grape clusters are pressed against the wooden slats, breaking them open and forcing the juice from the grapes. The juice runs down to the bottom of the press, where it is collected in a clean bucket. We then carried the bucket to a stainless steel fermentation tank, and carefully poured it in. Voila - we're ready to start making wine! And the only thing we need to do that is some yeast.

Since we want to end up with wine and not grape juice, we employ yeast to convert the sugar in the grapes into alcohol in the process of fermentation. Yeast occurs naturally in the environment, and there are generally several strains of yeast living on the grape skins, in the winery, everywhere. It is possible (even likely) that if we did nothing at this point, our grape juice would start fermenting naturally from the "wild" yeasts of the vineyard. However, each strain of yeast has its own characteristics and ferments in a slightly different way, some proceeding faster or slower, some producing hydrogen sulfide or other unpleasantness, having different alcohol tolerances, etc etc. Thus most winemakers like to stick with a known variable and add in a specific strain of yeast rather than take a gamble and see what happens to develop.

There are numerous strains of yeast commercially available to pick from. The type of yeast we used for this Chardonnay is called Lavlin #D47, which is especially recommended for white varieties. Much like the yeast you might buy from the grocery store for baking, D47 comes in packets in a powdered form. To determine how much D47 to add, we multiply the volume of grape juice in gallons by 0.75, and the result is the number of grams of yeast to add. The yeast is not added directly into the stainless steel tank however - you must first "wake up" the yeast from their powdered dormancy. To do this, we filled a bucket with a couple of gallons of the pressed juice, then added the entire amount of yeast for the whole batch into the bucket. We stirred this up, then let it sit for about 30 minutes.

When we returned, the brew was bubbling nicely (the result of the yeast releasing carbon dioxide) and the smell you would normally attribute to baking bread was in the air. Thus we knew our yeast had taken off and were happily munching on the grape sugars, so at this point we are safe to pour the bucket of yeast into the tank full of waiting juice. And that is largely the end of the story for this Chardonnay for several weeks, until the fermentation has concluded (i.e., all of the sugar has been converted to alcohol, resulting in a "dry" wine and killing off the yeast for lack of food) and we start racking the wine from tank to tank to remove the sediment ("lees"). More on that process in a later post. Next up: Viognier and Pinot Grigio!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Makin' Wine in Virginia...

So you may have noticed my posting frequency dropped off a cliff. After a fun summer of vacations, I was ready to get back into the thick of it when an opportunity came along that I just couldn't pass up: starting in the end of August, I have been working as a part-time winery assistant for Three Fox Vineyards! Luckily I have been able to work some flexibility into my "day job" so that I can work at Three Fox on Wednesdays and Fridays (and my wife and I both continue to work periodic weekends)!

This has been an amazing learning experience for me so far - I started just as harvest season rolled around, and there certainly has been plenty to do! So I think I am going to start posting about the ins-and-outs of working at a small, family-owned winery during harvest for the next couple of months. I think this should provide whatever readers have stuck with me through my summer hiatus with an interesting and educational look at winemaking in Virginia.

Out with the Old, In with the New
One of the first things we had to do in preparation for the coming harvest was bottle up the remaining 2006 wine! We'll be needing those tanks and barrels that the wine is sitting in for this year's fruit, so time to bottle everything up. It doesn't make sense for a small (~3,000 cases per year) winery to own their own bottling equipment, and so what most folks do is rent out a "bottling truck". If you saw this thing driving down the highway, there's no way you would think it contained a mobile bottling lab!

It's a bit of a tight squeeze on the inside, with a bottle washer, wine dispenser, corking machine, foil - adder - and - heat - it - to - shrink - it machine, labeler, and conveyor belts everywhere (no, I have no idea of what everything is called, but it's fascinating to watch!). And let me tell you, this thing really MOVES - we were pumping out a case of wine approximately every 10 seconds! "Frantic" only begins to describe the sense of urgency you feel as more than one bottle a second is hurtling down the line at you, to be yanked from the belt and shoved into boxes by hand - there is literally no time for mistakes. Luckily, bottling is an entertaining enough event that we had a good crop of volunteers there, so someone could step in and swap out positions once the repetition of whatever it was you were doing started getting to you.

I don't have the exact numbers right now, but we ended up bottling several hundred cases of wine in the matter of a few hours. Not bad for a days work! And now all of our stainless steel tanks are empty and ready for cleaning in preparation for fermentation.

So this final bottling run actually occurred in late August. Not to ruin the surprise, but we have already harvested our Viognier and Pinot Grigio and pressed them along with a load of Vidal from one of our growers and started their fermentations, and we've also received a load of Chambourcin grapes from one of our growers which we crushed and started fermentation. None of the other reds are ready for harvest yet, so I have a bit of a breather in which to catch up to the present with my posts. My next post will discuss how we determined when the Viognier and Pinot Grigio were ready to harvest, what goes on during harvest, and what wine chemistry we performed on the newly pressed juice prior to fermentation. So stick around - it should be an interesting next couple of months!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Summer = Vacations...

Wow, so blogging in the summertime is a tricky affair. As a government employee, I'm blessed with a low wage but copious amounts of vacation and comp time. My wife and I have been putting that to good use this summer, and the results are showing in my meager blog postings. Our latest trip was out to Portland, Oregon and through the Willamette Valley wine country - I'll cover that in my next post. This post, I want to do a couple mini-reviews on a few of the more interesting wines we've had this summer...

I arranged the bottles in no particular order, so I may as well start left-to-right...

2006 Strauss Samling 88 (Scheurebe)
I think the important things to remember from that name are "Strauss" (the winery) and "Scheurebe" (the grape). Weingut Strauss ("Weingut" is the German way of saying "winery" or "vineyard") is an Austrian vineyard that makes a variety of interesting wines, one of which is from the Scheurebe grape.

The Scheurebe is a cross between Riesling and Sylvaner, and my immediate thought upon first tasting it was if Germans were to make Viogniers, this is what it would taste like. It has a flowery, peachy sweet nose that really jumps out of the glass at you, and some of that peach comes through to the tongue, with a stony mineraliness and a nice lemon acidity to it. It's sweet yet dry, which I find refreshing in German/Austrian wines as so many of them seem to contain a hint (if not more) of residual sugar. The Scheurebe also had an appealing golden yellow color in the glass, which added to its allure. Purchased for $12 at Finewine.Com in Gaithersburg, MD, I'd say this wine had Good Quality-to-Price Ratio (QPR). And if you bought it somewhere that wasn't Maryland, you'd pay several bucks less for it which would make it a great "alternative summer wine"!

2005 Pisano Cisplatino Tannat Merlot
Always bravely going where few have gone before (vinologically speaking), I picked up a wine from Uruguay a while back. I bet most Americans would have trouble naming the appropriate continent that Uruguay is located on (South America), much less point to it on a map. But regardless of where it's located (in between Argentina and Brazil along the Atlantic Coast), the important thing here is that they make some pretty good wine!

So the real reason I picked this up is because I saw that it was made with 60% Tannat (and 40% Merlot). I have encountered Tannat a couple of times in the past: it is a major player in wines from the Cahors region of Southwestern France; it is also grown at a handful of vineyards in Virginia, particularly at Hillsborough where they blend it into their Ruby wine (all of their wines are named after gemstones). But the interesting thing about Tannat (undoubtedly named due to its high tannin levels) is that, much like Malbec in Argentina or Carmenere in Chile, it has found a perfect home in South America - specifically in Uruguay, where it is considered the national grape.

Getting on to the wine - it had a very pleasant nose, spicy, some tobacco perhaps. The wine was lighter in color than I was expecting, given the whole tannat=tannin thing. It most closely resembled a grenache, actually. On the tongue was the spice, with black pepper and bright berries. I think this wine was around $12 at Total Wine in McLean, VA, and for that price I'd give it a Good QPR - mainly because it's "different", and I always like trying new wines.

2004 Mas de Guiot Cabernet-Syrah
I'm not sure what made me pick up this bottle in the store, but it sure as heck wasn't the label - I don't believe they could make this wine appear any less interesting if they made a deliberate attempt to do so. The French seem particularly afflicted with "lame label syndrome" - one of the many traditions that I think they need to change if they want to become more competitive in a global wine market... Anyway, I'm glad I grabbed a bottle despite the label, because it ended up being really good!

The wine was made from 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Syrah, and came from the heart of Southern Rhône near Nîmes. It had a big nose of black pepper and ripe cherries. On the tongue there was the ripe cherries in front giving way to deeper blackberry and tobacco, with a black pepper / spice finish. It had great tannin structure, and excellent overall balance. Kind of gave me the impression of a superb Argentinian Cab for some reason. For $16 at Total Wine, I'd give this a Very Good QPR.

2004 Hillsborough Opal
Hillsborough is one of our favorite Virginia wineries; they produce all blends, and as I just mentioned above each is named after a gemstone. The Opal is a blend of Viognier and Chardonnay, making for a crisp, medium-bodied white wine. It had a "timid nose" (to use wine snob speak), but quite a bit of flavor: lemon citrus, red apple, pineapple, and perhaps some peach notes. It was a bit sweeter than I was expecting, but it the cornucopia of fruit pulled it off somehow.

I didn't write down a price, but being a small boutique Virginia winery I'm guessing this was in the low $20s. Given that, I'd give this wine an "OK" QPR - you could probably find something similar for less, but probably not from Virginia. I think Virginia is starting to craft really distinctive wines with certain varietals, and Viognier is definitely a grape that is starting to thrive here. So the Opal should probably get some extra QPR points simply for being an interesting Virginia wine.

2005 Hacienda Araucano Carmenére
First off, I obviously need to apologize for the picture quality - it was late (and dark), I was trying not to flash out the cool watermarked image on the label, and I just snapped a single picture and hoped for the best. Clearly, the best is not what occurred. But you can see it well enough to identify it in a store sometime I bet...

So - another Chilean Carmenére: I told you before that I just love these wines! If you've never heard of Carmenere and what to learn a bit more about it, you can read my past post about Anakena, another Chilean Carmenére.

This Carmenére was also quite good. I misplaced my tasting notes, which were written on some scratch piece of paper while watching a movie, so I can't tell you exactly how it was good, but trust me that it was. :-)

This wine was purchased for $13 at Rodman's, and for that price I'd say the Araucano (like virtually every Chilean Carmenére that I've had) has Very Good QPR. It definitely gets a spot on my "buy again" list!

OK, mini catch-up post complete - more regularly scheduled wine commentary on the way!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Vote for your Favorite Virginia Winery!

I have a big long explanation coming of why I haven't had any posts in almost a month now, but I wanted to sneak in a quick announcement first: the Virginia Wine Festival is coming up September 15th & 16th at the Morven Park Equestrian Center in Leesburg, VA. They have an online poll to vote for your favorite Virginia winery, and I think it would be really cool if Three Fox Vineyards, the winery that Kris and I volunteer at, won! We really do think it produces some of the best wines Virginia has to offer, but when you factor in the overall Three Fox Experience of visiting the winery, chatting with the owners, relaxing in a hammock down by the creek or playing horseshoes, croquet or bocce out on the lawn, we think it's tops!

If you've had the chance to stop by and visit and agree with us - please click on over to the Virginia Wine Festival Voting Page, and cast your vote for Three Fox Vineyards! And if you haven't paid us a visit, or live out-of-state, you could take our word for it that Three Fox really is terrific and click on over and vote for us anyway! :-)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pesto Galore!

Basil is definitely in full bloom here in the Mid-Atlantic! Not only do we grow some basil out in the yard, but we also belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) which bestows upon us massive quantities of basil each week. And what's the best thing to do with an abundant supply of basil? Pesto of course! I'm sure I will begin to tire of fresh pesto meals, but I haven't yet. In fact, the cool thing about pesto is that if you make extra, you can place it into an ice cube tray and freeze it. Then whenever you want pesto, just pop out a cube or two and throw it in to the mix and voila! Instant pesto.

So, when looking for a good wine match for pesto, I stumbled upon this SF Chronicle article gathering the opinions of great SF Bay chefs on the classic summer dilemma of pairing wine with fresh vegetables. Virtually all raw veggies are pretty wine un-friendly, and choosing a nice wine match for a meal starring even cooked veggies can be a challenge. So I was happy to find this advice for matching wine to meals made from fresh herbs, such as pesto:
"Green herbal and grassy notes in many New Zealand and some domestic Sauvignon Blancs, and other white wines like Albarino, echo summer herbs' freshness. Wines with intense fruit can work well, provided they doesn't have too much leftover sugar.

If the herbs are used along with richer ingredients like cheese or butter, a light red may be a good option. As for pesto, its intensity requires an equally intense wine.

Examples: Albarino; unoaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay; Gruner Veltliner; dry Riesling; Sauvignon Blancs with some weight, depth and grassy or mineral notes; Italian Sangiovese; light to moderately oaked Barbera or Dolcetto."
I was fresh out of my typical stand-by for such a circumstance, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; but as luck would have it, I had a nice Gruner Veltliner patiently awaiting consumption in the cellar.

Grüner Veltliner
Never heard of Grüner Veltliner? It's definitely a grape worth remembering. As you might guess by the name, the grape is most widely grown in Austria (accounting for over 1/3 of all grapes grown there) although it is beginning to catch on elsewhere. I think of "Gee-Vee" as the Germanic world's New Zealand Sauv Blanc - minerally, crisp and fresh with a nice acidity, Gruner Veltliners are very food friendly, and are as age-worthy (if not more so) than dry Rieslings.

2005 Anton Bauer Gruner Veltliner
Tonight's wine was a 2005 Anton Bauer Gruner Veltliner. Besides displaying the typical GV characteristics mentioned above, this wine had some melon to it, and perhaps some white pepper. The overall impression though is of a fresh, clean wine which went spectacularly with our fresh pesto! (Thanks SF Chronicle!)

Selling for $11 at Total Wine in McLean, VA, I'd say this wine has a Good Quality-to-Price Ratio (QPR). I'll give it a couple extra points for variety's sake as it's an excellent alternative once you've exhausted your palate on Sauvignon Blancs and Unoaked Chardonnays during the hot summer months. If you've never tried one, give it a shot!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Vino in the BVI

So, Vinvenio has been on summer vacation for a while here, with a nice chunk of that time spent sailing around the British Virgin Islands! Kris and I chartered a 45' sailing catamaran and cruised the islands - awesome. But even in the rum-soaked Caribbean, I still found ample opportunity to enjoy some quality vino! In fact, I think the American Yacht Harbor's Marina Market in Red Hook, St. Thomas had a better selection of American wines (California, Washington and Oregon) than I can find here in euro-centric Maryland!

2005 Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc
Yee-haw! I finally get to take a shot of a scrumptious looking bottle of white wine sweating in the heat of the day to rival those of Winedeb from Deb's Key West Wine blog!

This 2005 Rodney Strong Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc was enjoyed with a chef's salad off the coast of Jost Van Dyke (pronounced "yoast van dike"), BVI. As you can probably tell by the picture, virtually any beverage is going to taste just splendid given the surroundings, but I think this wine really pulled through beyond that. This medium-bodied Sauv Blanc had a nice pear, citrus/pineapple and melon taste, with a mineral tanginess to it that refreshed the palate. I didn't record the price, but given the slightly inflated price of anything imported to the islands it may not have been representative of its US mainland cost (although I doubt it cost more than $20 even in the VI). Thus, no Quality-to-Price ratio (QPR) for this wine, but all I've mentally put this wine in my "buy again for a refreshing white" list.

2005 Estancia Monterey Pinnacles Ranches Pinot Noir
"Uncork & Unwind" says Estancia. And so we did! You definitely know you're not roughing it when you can not only find a bottle of Pinot Noir, but Port Salut cheese to accompany it! If you've never paired Pinot with Port Salut cheese, you must do so immediately - this is a match made in heaven, and you don't know what you're missing!

This Pinot had a nose of cherries, tobacco and spice. The cherries and spiciness carried through to the palate, which also displayed a nice earthiness to it. I must admit that Pinot Noir doesn't play a very prominent role in my day-to-day wine consumption. This is not because I don't like it - on the contrary, I love the versatility of a red wine that can be consumed slightly chilled (especially handy on 90 degree days), paired with fish (which goes well with my largely pescetarian diet), etc. No, the reason I don't drink much Pinot is that I'm a cheapskate. Everyone who watched Sideways now knows that Pinot Noir is a fickle grape, difficult to grow and offering lower yields (thus increasing its price). Well, I try to keep my typical wine consumption in the $10-$15 range, which in my experience excludes almost any Pinot worth drinking.

Thus my Pinot Noir palate is quite limited. But that limited palate has convinced me that there are two major styles of Pinots - velvetty and spicy. These two styles aren't mutually exclusive - there is certainly some overlap - but in general it seems to me that some Pinot makers bring out a spiciness, and others concentrate on a more subtle, smoother wine. This Estancia Pinot Noir was firmly in the spicy camp. In general I think I'm more of a "velvetty Pinot" fan, but at around $17 in the BVI, I think I'd probably buy this Pinot again. For a Pinot, I'd say this wine has a good QPR, especially if you're looking for a light, spicy wine. Me, I'd love to find some affordable "velvetty Pinots", so if you know of any please let me know!

Completely Non-Wine Related
So wine is obviously my alcoholic beverage of choice, but given my sailing/piratical leanings, I'm also a big fan of rum and rum drinks (especially while in da islands mon). Some hot summer day when you want to transport yourself to the islands, make up a batch of the best mixed rum drink ever - "Painkillers". This stuff is so good you're going to want to mix this up by the pitcher, so here's the relative proportions of the ingredients:

-4 parts (cups) pineapple juice
-1 part (cup) orange juice
-1 part (cup) cream of coconut (Coco Lopez brand at your local grocery store)
-2,3 or 4 parts rum (known as a Painkiller #2, #3 or #4)
-Pour into glass with ice and sprinkle with nutmeg

In terms of rum, I personally prefer my Painkillers made with Cruzan Rum (made in St. Croix, USVI - also a key sponsor of Kenny Chesney, who sings country songs about the Virgin Islands, but I digress). The "original" Painkiller was made with Pussers rum however, at this little beach bar on Jost Van Dyke called the Soggy Dollar Beach Bar (so-called because it doesn't have a dock, and sailors visiting the island would swim ashore thus soaking their cash). So Cruzan or Pussers - you'll be fine. As long as it's a gold rum, and not some nasty spiced rum like Capt. Morgan or something. :-) Enjoy!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Look at those Grapes Grow!

Just last week the grapes at Three Fox Vineyards in Delaplane, VA were but babes - check 'em out this week!
Our baby grapes are well on their way to being all grown up...

We won't be volunteering out there again until mid-July, so this will be our last "grape update" for awhile... I wonder what they'll look like then!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Tale of Two Rieslings

As I've mentioned in the past, I'd like to taste some more Rieslings. According to the wine goddess Andrea (Immer) Robinson, Rieslings are very versatile white wines that can pair well with food and are generally under-appreciated in the US. Since most of the food I eat on a regular basis (especially in the summertime) consists of veggies and fish, an exploration of Rieslings seems in order.

The two Rieslings I'm comparing here were not tasted back-to-back, but a couple days apart. And to foreshadow my conclusions here, neither compared to the Alsace Riesling we tasted during our "Big Six" tasting a couple weeks ago (I loved that wine!!), although one came close, and for almost half the price....

Bonny Doon vs Dr. Loosen
The two Rieslings tasted were the 2005 Bonny Doon Pacific Rim Dry Riesling and the 2005 Loosen "Dr. L" Riesling. In the traditional anti-establishment tradition of Bonny Doon, the Pacific Rim Dry Riesling was made from a blend of Washington State and Mosel (Germany) grapes; the Dr. L simply mentioned the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany
as the source. Both wines were purchased at Total Wine in McLean, VA for $10 and $11, respectively.

Bonny Doon Pacific Rim Dry Riesling
As with all Bonny Doon wines, you can tell right away just from the bottle that the wine is going to be a little "different". ("Different" doesn't even begin to describe Bonny Doon founder and wine philosopher Randall Grahm - just check out their webpage and you'll see what I mean).

So, the idea behind the "Pacific Rim" Dry Riesling is that Washington State is a wonderful place to grow Riesling as the long, cool growing season allows the grapes to fully ripen while maintaining good natural acidity; however, Bonny Doon felt that German Rieslings have a "haunting floral perfume" to them that can't be matched. So they blend in approximately 25% German Riesling into 75% Washington State, et viola - the Pacific Rim Dry Riesling.

(Just for the record, Bonny Doon Vineyard started off just outside of Santa Cruz, CA. Always looking to expand vinilogical horizons, they have spread out to producing wine from Washington State, Italy, France, and probably a couple other countries / locales).

Tasting the Pacific Rim Dry Riesling
So I wanted to highlight that word, DRY, in the title for a reason - I now know what I need to look for in a Riesling to enjoy it - it has to be DRY!

Dry is kind of an interesting word in the wine lexicon, since is doesn't have an obvious meaning. I mean, how can a liquid be "dry", anyway? A lot of red wines may make your mouth feel dry, but that is actually due to their tannins, and is not what the term refers to in wine. In the wine world, dry refers to the fact that all of the grape's natural sugars have been converted via fermentation to alcohol. (Paradoxically, a "dry" county is one that doesn't allow alcohol, so it's no wonder people get confused with this term.) Most "normal" table wines are in fact "dry". Even wines that may seem sweet (many white wines for example) usually don't have any residual sugar left in them and it's just their flavors that make them appear sweet (with the major exception of dessert and fortified wines such as port and madeira).

Getting back to Rieslings - an important thing to look for in Rieslings to clue you in to their style is either the word "dry" on the label, or more likely their alcohol content. This Bonny Doon Pacific Rim was 12% alcohol (the Domaine Trimbach Alsace Riesling I loved so much from our Big Six Tasting was 12.5% alcohol); the Dr. L German Riesling was 8.5% (and as you'll see, this was not what I was looking for). With Rieslings in particular, there are two distinct styles that crop up - sweet and not-so-sweet. The sweet wines are the ones with a lower percent alcohol than the "not-so sweet" dry Rieslings (in general).

End of tangent - now for the tasting notes.

The 2005 Bonny Doon Pacific Rim Riesling had a big nose of pear, maybe lemon and a hint of floral. On the tongue it was nice and crisp, but not overly acidic - very well balanced. There was a hint of crisp apple, with some pear and citrus coming through. Overall we thought this wine had a Good Quality-to-Price Ratio, and will go down on our "buy again" list! We paired this with Indian cuisine and it worked fairly well.

Dr. Loosen - "the Man" of Riesling
So I wanted to do some research here to be able to tell you how important Ernst Loosen (loh-zen) was to world-wide Riesling production, but I couldn't find any pages detailing his influence. So you're just going to have to trust my memory in that I'm pretty sure he's taken his years of experience in Germany and has helped vineyards get Riesling get established in both New York State and Washington State (probably elsewhere as well). So when it comes to Riesling, I think Dr. L is something of "the Man".

Tasting the Loosen "Dr. L" Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Riesling
So the big downer here is that I should have looked at the label before popping this one open for dinner - having recently experienced the joys of dry Riesling, I thought this may go well with some grilled salmon we were having for dinner. D'oh! That 8.5% alcohol meant sweet sweet sweet - definitely nothing you'd want to mix with salmon. So I was a little annoyed at this wine for tricking me from the get-go, so may have been less objective in my analysis...

The Dr. L had apricot, citrus, and perhaps cut grass on the nose. On the tongue it was fruity, maybe with some pineapple, had a bit of gravel to it and had only a bit of acidity. Since it was so sweet I think this wine would need to be paired with really spicy foods if it had any chance to pair well. It had a very nice finish though.

Overall impression here is that if you like sweeter whites, you'd probably like this wine - I could tell it was crafted fairly well, but it just wasn't at all what I was looking for at the time so I couldn't really get into it. We Vacu-Vin'ed it and popped it back in the fridge, but even drinking it on its own the next day just wasn't doing it for me. Again - I'm just not really into sweet wines, so I think this is simply my palate versus any fault of the wine.

In Search of Dry Rieslings
So now that I know the importance of finding dry Rieslings, I'm in search of good examples under $20 (preferably under $15!). Anyone have any favorites? I'd love to hear about them, as I plan to continue my Riesling exploration as the mercury continues to rise this summer! In the meantime, I'm now going to be sure to check out alcohol content on each bottle before I buy it, and try to find some 12.5+% Rieslings to enjoy!

A Quick Foodie Post-Script
So I've gotten comments from folks wanting to know more about the food Kris and I have made to pair with some of our different wines. Well, as I mentioned before we were hoping for a dry Riesling to pair our salmon with the Dr. L Riesling, which didn't end up happening. But here was our meal nonetheless...

The salmon was pretty easy - we just cooked it on the grill in a foil packet with some onions and green garlic from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture - I love the food we get each week!!) The side was a Sweet Corn and Black Bean Salad - a recipe we picked up from Whole Foods. This salad rocks!! It's a cold salad with corn, beans, onions and red pepper and a simple rice vinegar, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper dressing. This is a great summer salad, and I recommend anyone living in a remotely warm place this summer check it out!

And the grand finale of the meal was a raspberry rhubarb pie, again made from super fresh CSA produce! I'm a big fan of rhubarb, and look forward to rhubarb pies each summer. I also made a strawberry rhubarb pie with berries we picked ourselves down the road at Butler's Orchard, a pick your own fruits and veggies place. Overall, I think the raspberries blend better with the tarter taste of rhubarb than strawberries do, which I think are more traditionally used. But both pies rock!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Chilean Merlot - while I still can! (by Kris, not Nate) :-)

Upon much prodding from Nate, I have decided to chime in and add my 2-cents for a wine blog here and there. It seems only appropriate that I start with my latest fascination, Chilean merlots! As June progresses and the summer continues to heat up, I relish the nights where it cools down below 70 degrees and I can still sneak in a glass of red wine (or two!). Nate and I have discovered the fantastic flavors and values of Chilean merlots and have been enjoying trying different bottles, to find a favorite.

We have somewhat recently adopted the Carmen merlot as our "house red" which we buy by the case and keep around for everyday drinking, a great second bottle, or just a guilt-free open. At only $6, this merlot is fantastic, (and has a high QPR, as Nate would say). :-) If we haven't written it up already, we should and will... However, recently we decided to experiment and see what a few more dollars would buy you from Chile.

Tonight's bottle is a 2005, Santa Rita Reserva Merlot from the Maipo Valley. The aromas are fairly intense, dark berries, currant (I have a story about that in a second) and distinct tones of vanilla. On the palate it is bursting with fruit, but is immediately balanced by the tannins and a hint of spice. I think this could be a red that could please both the "big-fruity" people as well as those liking their tannins and a bit more complexity. It's very enjoyable just sipping, but also went well with a polenta-veggie-lasagna I made tonight. What this Santa Rita has taught me is that while it is good to have a safe, $6 house read wine, when you want a treat, you don't have to splurge much more to get a large, lush and tasty merlot. This bottle cost $11 and I would definitely buy again when I want something a bit more special.

Now, since Nate always goes on tangents, I feel as though I need to follow suit....about currants: I had always seen wine described as having aromas or flavors of currant, but never had seen nor had a currant - we discussed whether this was an "old world" fruit that no longer is relevant as a wine descriptor today.... But, not more than a couple days later, while shopping at Trader Joe's, we happened upon a bag of dried currants and had to try it! To eat our words, (somewhat literally), we popped open the bag and tried our first currents! The flavor is intense, much like I would imagine a dried blackberry, mixed with a blueberry, and maybe a cherry too. Its tart, but also sweet, and definitely a flavor I have had in wine before. I really do think there is currant in the Santa Rita, although I admit to being a bit eager to find it in a wine - I guess I'll just need to eat a few more, and sip a bit more to be sure!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Grapes are Growing in Virginia!

As I've mentioned before, my wife Kris and I volunteer in the tasting room at Three Fox Vineyards in Delaplane, VA. We were just out there this last weekend, and I thought I'd post a picture to show you that the grapes are starting to take form in Virginia!

More updates as the growing season progresses! I'm missing out on bottling next week or I'd document that for you, but hope to have pictures from different aspects of the winemaking process as it comes up!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

We Have the Facts And Are Voting Pink!

Pink is definitely shaping up to be THE color for wine this summer. Both Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast have run cover stories on rosés, and the general media at large have picked up on this trend and run stories in newspapers across the US, so rosé - your time is now!

Catavino's Virtual Rosé Wine Tasting last month really piqued my interest in pink, and I plan to continue my exploration of rosés this summer. As I mentioned in my previous rosé tasting notes, I'd been a bit traumatized by White Zinfandel in the past, so it's taken me a while to come around to the notion that not all pink wine is wretchingly sweet. Once I overcame that roadblock, I've really started enjoying rosés!

The bottle
So I admit, I bought this wine for no reason other than it had a really cool bottle. Seriously, check that out - how cool is that?! I'm all for more interesting bottles, as long as they still fit within a wine rack, and just as importantly, fit within a refrigerator! (I'm frequently annoyed with Rieslings and Gewurztraminers in their tall skinny bottles that only fit cock-eyed in the fridge).

So anyway, I really liked the shape bottle. I did look beyond the bottle shape enough to note that this wine came from Côtes de Provence, France before purchasing it - I figured the French abhor sweet table wine, so I was pretty safe in avoiding anything remotely resembling White Zinfandel. Plus, Wine Enthusiast claimed that 8% of all the world's rosé was produced in Provence, so I figured they'd be a pretty safe bet.

But back to the bottle - not only was it a funky shape, it also had a raised sun and palm tree on the glass: again, trés cool. I've mentioned before that I'm a total sucker for wine bottles with raised images... See, I wasn't kidding. We're going to have to keep this one and make it into an oil candle or something.

The Label
Besides stating that it was from Provence, in typical French style the label was very unhelpful in conveying any useful information about the wine (grapes used, brief tasting notes, pairing suggestions, etc).

What I'd really like to start seeing on wine bottles is a website address! In a recent post, Winedeb mentioned that she found a web address on the cork - perfect location! If you're in a restaurant and you find something you like, you can just take the cork home with you as a "business card" of sorts. Why don't more wineries do this?? I'm sure the corks must cost a little more, but I think the cost would be more than offset by increased sales as people would be much more likely to be able to find the same wine again. I think this would be particularly helpful with French, Spanish or Italian wines - I always have a tricky time trying to Google for particular wines from non-English speaking countries, so having their web address would really help (even if I had to have Google translate the page, at least I'd be starting off in the right spot!)

Since its label was so unhelpful, I went online hoping to at least find out if this wine was made from
Grenache, Cinsault, or Syrah grapes - all of which are likely given its Provence appellation. But alas, a few minutes of searching turned up no pertinent information, so I'll just have to live in ignorance...

Tasting the Pink
This 12.5% alcohol 2006 Roque Martin rosé was purchased for $10 at Rodmans. As you can kind of tell in the photo, it was a nice dark salmon color. My first impression was that there wasn't much on the nose - this may have been because it was too cold, as I started getting notes of light berries, maybe strawberry, afterwards. First impression of the taste was similar - it made me think of Dr. Deb's recent description of a wine as "gravel with a twist of lemon". This wine was very minerally, with nice acidity and a slight citrus edge to it. It hardly had any fruit (although I started tasting berries a bit later) although it still came off with a hint of sweetness.

Overall Recommendation
This wine was thankfully not too sweet, so would work as either a summer sipper or paired with light fare, maybe even fish. I was not overly impressed by this wine though, and for $10 I would have to say it has just average quality-to-price ratio. I'm going to have to keep looking for the "perfect pink", and hopefully can find a favorite or two by the end o the summer!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Virtual Albariño Wine Tasting!

The good folks from Catavino are at it again! The theme of this month's "Virtual Wine Tasting" - Spanish Albariños! As with all Catavino Virtual Wine Tastings, you don't need a blog to join in on the fun - just grab a bottle that falls within that month's category and post it directly to Catavino's website.

So - Albariño. I'd heard of this white wine before, even have tasted one or two in the past, but didn't have any distinct recollections to know what to expect, or to steer me in my wine selection. So I did a quick search of what Total Wine in McLean had to offer, and my "choice" became quite simple - they only had one in stock. Thus I ended up with a $15 2006 Val Do Sosego Albariño from the Rías Baixas region of Spain.

Albarino and Rias Baixas
The Albariño grape (called Alvarinho in Portugal) is grown predominantly in Galicia in Northwestern Spain, as well as just across the border in the Vinho Verde region of Portugal. As seems to often be the case in the world of wine, Albariños coming from these coastal regions are said to pair quite well with food common to such a locale; in this case, that means seafood. The Rías Baixas DO (Denomination of Origin) is particularly well-known for its Albariños (and not surprisingly, it's seafood!). For additional background info/chatter, check out the Catavino forum set up for this month's tasting where you can read about it directly from the Spanish wine experts (Ryan and Gabrielle).

Tasting Notes
The 2006 Val Do Sosego Albariño from the Rías Baixas was light gold in color with just a hint of green to it. This immediately made me think of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, and that association was just strengthened by the nose, and again by the palate.

On the nose, I picked out lemon grass and green apple, and Kris was adamant about pear. On the tongue, the lemon-grass came through, and it had a very nice minerally-ness to it. It had a higher-than-average acidity, which made this medium-bodied wine nice and crisp. I've read this phrase a lot, but I think I'd like to use the term "racy acidity" here to describe it - it just seems to fit.

So, given that Albariños are supposed to pair perfectly with seafood we probably should have attempted to cook up some fish for dinner, but that wasn't in the cards for tonight. On a tip from some blog or another, we instead paired this Albariño with Indian food and I must say - it worked really well. It's always a bit tricky to pair Navratan Korma or spicy lentils with anything wine-related, so I was pretty happy with how to find a wine that could do it.

Overall Recommendation

This wine was *very* similar to many New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs I've had. I was a little disappointed, not because it wasn't good (it was), but because it wasn't that different from other wines I've had. This wine had a very nice acidity to it, but none of the smoothness or slight creaminess I have heard attributed to Albariños, nor did it have the supposedly-distinctive apricot or peach nose. So at $15 a bottle I thought it was a great wine, but I could pay a couple dollars less and get a very comparable Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that would do the same thing for me. Perhaps I need to try again in case this was an atypical Albariño, although this was the only one carried by my usual wine shop so I'd have to hunt around a bit. But from what I've read from others posting their tasting notes on Catavino, it may be well worth my effort!