Archive for January, 2016

Is Alphabet City next to Suffragette City

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

Another Montinore – but take heart! Tomorrow I am making pot roast and we’ll have a horizontal tasting of Abacela wines, and Sunday we plan to visit a few local wineries. This is one of Montinore’s special wines – they say it’s blended in small batches so they can use labor-intensive techniques like whole cluster, longer cool fermentations, and foot pigeage (I presume this means stomping).

2012 Alphabet City
Willamette Valley, OR
wine club (probably)
With bronzed grilled salmon (that’s when you don’t quite blacken it!), grilled leeks, steamed carrots, and sourdough bread. This one needs lots of aeration – it was better at the end of our meal than the start. The back of the wine is a little rough, with flavors of earth/tobacco/tannin; this would be gerat with a rounded fruity start, but unfortunately this wine’s start is shallow and has flavors of rust (or at least, more like that than anything else we can think of).
Ted: 2.8 Paula: 2.3, but I’d be curious to try it again and open it an hour or more before dinner.

another from Montinore

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Ted really, really doesn’t like sweet wines. Years ago in a fancy Scottsdale restaurant, we were discussing this with the sommelier, who gave us some excellent advice: look for Rieslings made in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France (the double barrelled name is because it’s gone back and forth between Germany and France so many times, and each country has their own name for it) instead of German ones, because they tend to be dry Rieslings rather than sweet ones. It’s actually kind of a weird phenomenon; usually they start out fruity, and then they feel like they’re going to be sweet as they travel through your mouth, and then at the back of your tongue where sweetness rounds out and materializes, it just …. doesn’t. Very odd. (English doesn’t have nearly the precise words for tastes and smells that we do for things we see – that’s why this is a particularly idiosyncratic review. Don’t judge me.) Rieslings, including dry ones, are particularly good with spicy food.

With US foods, you can’t go by region, so you have to look for the specific label of Dry Riesling on the label (or Semi-Sweet Riesling if you want to hedge your bets) – or in the case of Montinore, Almost Dry Riesling. We tend to keep these for spicy meals, but decided to have it tonight anyway, because we had limited white options in the house. It actually went fairly well with our food, given that the food itself didn’t actually go together very well.

Montinore, Almost Dry Riesling
Willamette Valley, OR
from the Montinore wine club
With grilled shrimp and twice-baked potatoes. (Yes, I know it’s a weird comb. But I like shrimp, and I like potatoes … and Ted cheerfully puts up with odd combinations, if it means I’m doing the cooking.)
“Almost Dry” is an accurate description. Pear, Asian pomelo (sweeter than we’ve had in the US) and passionfruit flavors in front, reaching for sweetness on the palate but stopping just short, fading to dry as it goes down your throat.
Paula: 3.5 Ted: 3.2
(Ted says I should point out that white wine, in general, is not his favorite, so this is actually quite a high rating for the wine’s quality … but doesn’t mean he loves it.)

The weekend wines

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

We’re down at our lake house this weekend, and have followed our usual routine for lake weekends – picked up pizza on the way down Friday night, grilled steaks Saturday night, and had wines with each. In this case, both were less expensive Pacific Northest red blends wines we picked up at Costco – it is nice how they make an effort to sell local wines in each store. I’m just writing up both in one entry, for convenience and because these wines have a lot in common – more than we’d have guessed both are red brands (who don’t reveal the type of grape on the label, and both are late starters – didn’t have a lot of flavor up front and the flavos bloomed as the wine progressed through our mouths.

Druid’s Fluid (Troon VInyard)
2103, red blend
Applegate Valley, Oregon
Bought at Costco
With pizza. This one is from near where Ted grew up; we’ve been to the vineyard while visiting his parents. Every year they make a unique blend they call Druid’s Fluid – apparently it was just shared among friends at first, and they began to sell it at public request. Fruit flavored grow slowly from a late start (meaning, not much flavor to start with), blossoming to a peak in the middle with flavor more of tannins than fruits, ending with flavor of leather and tobacco. This wine gets very harsh if you hold it in your mouth.
Ted: 3 Paula 3

Columbia Crest Gold Grnd Estates
2103 red blend
Columbia Valley, WA
With steak, roasted cabbage and beets, and homemade bread. Overall a smooth and subtle wine. Not much flavor up front, gains vanilla flavor in the middle, then finishes with light tannins. Unlike most wines we’ve had, this one actually gets better when you hold it in your mouth – the vanilla flavor bloom, but the tannins stay low key. Generally unremarkable.
Ted: 3 Paula: 3 – a good value as long as it’s $10 or lower.

Since I mentioned it in both reviews, I should explain the bit about holding it in your mouth. My friend Peg gave me a wine journal with information about wines and tasting; the author advocates holding wines in your mouth for 30 seconds to see how the fruits, tannins and other flavor balance. It turns out that this is a fairly unpleasant experience with most wines – the tannins and acid flavor threaten to take over your mouth. I get a similar result from aerating wines; not only does it sound distressingly like slurping, but most wines reveal their least pleasant flavor so when you do this. I figure they’re meant to be drunk normally, so it seems unfair to judge a wine by what happens when you do mouth-gymnastics. On the other hand, it can be educational, accenting flavor that are there but that you might have not noticed otherwise. So I do it for information, but don’t judge by the results. It was worth noting, though, that the Columbia Crest Gold was the first wine I’ve ever had that actually improved when held in the mouth for a while.

Fabla Catalayud

Monday, January 18th, 2016

Well, OK, it’s been a whole two days. I said we’d rate a wine “at least” once a week; practically speaking, what that probably means is that I’l post every wine we rate unless it’s a repeat. (Or unless I forget!)

Today’s wine is one we’ve had many times, though I think this might be our first encounter with this vintage. In 2011-12 we did a driving trip around France and Spain, and one thing we learned during that trip was that on average, we’re more likely to enjoy a Spanish wine than a French wine. This is very likely due to our unsophisticated palates – Spanish wines are definitely more approachable – but Spanish wines also tend to be cheaper than French wines on average, so we have absolutely no motivation to learn better.

During out three years in Europe we tried to drink only European wines, since we knew they’d be a lot more expensive anywhere else. When we moved to Oregon, we looked mostly to Oregon wines, but we did branch out a little. Since we knew we’d enjoyed Spanish wines, we gravitated to the Spanish section in our local Fred Meyer’s wine aisle, and early on we tried out a blend from Fabla, in the Catalayud region. At the time, this was a smokin’ bargain, about $6.99 for a decent full-bodied red, and we made it our default house wine for when we wanted a big red and didn’t have anything special. The price has gone up and is now running around $8.99, but it’s still a great bargain for a decent wine, and we still usually have a bottle on hand.

2013, red
70% Tempranillo, 305 Garnacha
From Spain’s Catalayud Denominacion de Origen
Bought at Fred Meyer
With Hungarian Goulash Soup – see notes below.
Not a huge wine, but reasonably full-bodied and well-rounded. Dark fruit flavors in front, some tannins and a hint of tobacco on the finish.
Ted: 3.0 Paula: 3.0

Food notes: I decided to try a slightly different goulash recipe, just for fun, and used this one. It wasn’t terribly far off what we were served in Hungary (except for the changes I made) but it was less spicy and not as bright red. I made changes to the vegetables, because of what I had on hand from our CSA. The recipe calls for 2 carrots, 2 red bell peppers and 1 yellow bell pepper, 2 potatoes and 2 tomatoes; I used one ginormous carrot, one huge parsnip, one large-ish turnip, 2 roma tomatoes, 1 vine-ripened tomato, and about one small pepper’s worth of green pepper strips we had frozen a while back. With all those vegetables it became more of a stew than a soup, but the flavor was still about right. Next time I will use even more paprika (I didn’t measure) and if I can find it, will use Hungarian hot rather than sweet paprika. I did try it with a bit of sour cream on top and liked it that way, though Ted didn’t have any.

Montinore, special blend

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

Right off the bat, I’m going to cheat by talking about a wine you can’t get – but if you sign up now, you can go make your own. One of the winery events we enjoyed most in the past year was Montinore’s Valentine’s Day event. They billed it as a way to “make the perfect bland to symbolize your love” but I see no reason it should be limited to couples. They gave us unblended wines from three blocks (sections of their vineyard), all from 2012, and let us blend them to get something we liked, then bottled that blend for us with a personalized label. And then, after all the tasting required to get our blend just right, they gave us a flight of their wines on top of all of that. (We were pretty well toasted – we’re thinking about getting a driver for this year!) We bought two bottles, one to drink right away and one to age slightly and drink later in the year. Since we’ve just signed up for this year’s event, it seemed like a good time to finish that second bottle from last year. Rowell is the name we’ve given to our beloved lake house, so that’s the name we put on our home blend.

Note: Sign ups are now open for this year’s Valentine event, in case you want to make your own blend.

Montinore – Rowell House Blend
2012, Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, Oregon – Chehalem Mountains AVA
Bought at the vineyard
Consumed with pan fried salmon (made by Ted – sauteed in lots of butter, with hot peppers and spices, and scallions added at the end), asparagus and sourbough bread with herbed olive oil for dipping.
Aromas of alcohol and warm spice. Cocoa flavors up front, transitioning to shallow fruit flavors with a hint of earth. Still some alcohol flavors in the finish – the beginning is better than the end.

Ted: 3.6 Paula: 3.7

Embarking on a wine adventure (een avontuur van wijn)

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

Inpired by our friend Brett’s Beer A Day project, our own desire to have our wine ratings in a more portable place and my mom’s amusement at watching us discuss our wines, we’ve decided to start a new project for 2016: A Wine A Week.

At least once a week in 2016, we will post our description and ratings of a wine we’ve tried. These will be purely subjective; as Brett said about his project, our ratings are mostly for our own reference, so there’s no incentive for us to be anything but brutally honest. For each wine, we note the vineyard, the varietal and vintage (or NV if no vintage is given), where it’s from as best we can tell from the label. (Sometimes they only list the country, sometimes the region. In Oregon where we live, the AVA – wine region – is divided into six sub-AVA regions, which may or may not be discernible) and where we bought it. Wine changes a lot depending what you eat it with, so we always note that down – I may give or link to some recipes. We make subjective comments and use whatever words seem right to describe our wines – a true sommelier would probably drop his corkscrew while laughing at us.

We argued a bit on what the real “wine people” meant by aromas; here when I use the word I’m only talking about how it smells. Wines generally transition through a range of flavors as they pass through your mouth (especially if you hold them in your mouth for a few seconds) so we talk about front and back or beginning and end flavors.

We each rate the wine – our ratings have been much closer since we adopted this system, with an explicit description of each number. We don’t always agree on the details, so I will note if an observation is only from Ted or only Paula – if it’s not noted, assume we agree.
I’ve got a lot more to say about this (that I’ll write up sometime) but here is the ratings system we use:
0: Couldn’t even finish one glass. Avoid at all costs.
1: Wouldn’t buy again – might drink one glass if someone else is buying
2: Drinkable. Would buy again when limited options are available.*
3: Look for more of this at the right price (sometimes we will note what price we’d pay)
4: Go out of our way to get this, or pay more for it
5: Superlative. Buy a case – or two.

Those comments about paying more deserve some explanation. We don’t believe wine has to be expensive to taste good. Most of our wines come from our local supermarket, Fred Meyer, which has a great selection of local and imported wines. Other local grocers like New Seasons and Whole Foods, also have large selections with not that much overlap with Freddy’s, and our local Costco also stocks lots of local wines. For the first year or two we lived here, we set a price limit of $10 per bottle at the market, and we tried to stick mostly to Oregon wines, though we did drink a few others – the Spanish Fabla Catalyud was our ‘house wine’ for a while, for being a tasty red at a great price. Lately we’ve upped our price limit and will pay up to $15 at the supermarket. We will pay a bit more, say $25, if we find something we like while visiting one of our many (many many) local wineries. Also, we belong to four local wineries’ wine clubs: Ardiri and Montinore (very palatable and close to home, with great views (Ardiri – the picture on their home page doesn’t do it justice) and fun events (Montinore); Gran Moraine (a bit more pricy and slightly farther, excellent wines and great events) and Abacela (in Southern Oregon – we try to stop in when we head down that way to visit family). The first three specialize in Pinot Noirs (Pinots Noir?) though they do make other varietals; Abacela adds some balance to our wine collection by specializing in bolder, heartier Spanish styles. Their specialty is Tempranillo, though they also make Merlot, Syrah, and some less common varietals like Malbec, Dolcetto, and some others.

We don’t drink wine for any reason other than pleasure, so we drink the wines we like. We think our state has a lot of superb wineries and we enjoy the varietals grown here, so you can expect to see a lot of Oregon wines in our ratings. Also, we tend to prefer reds to whites, so you’l see more of them – but we do drink and rate some whites, rose wines, and even sparkling wines, whenever those see like they’d go better with the food we’re having. Neither of us like sweet wines, so you won’t see any of those, except for Paula’s occasional venture into a glass of port.

And away we go!