Saturday, October 21, 2017

Something For Everyone

Last Thursday's tasting featured four red wines: an inexpensive Spanish Garnacha and three twenty dollar reds from Chile, France, and California.  The Spanish red was really quite good so if your need is for respectable everyday fare that Spanish bottle would be an excellent choice but if you wanted something more distinctive the latter three were exemplary.

Our Chilean option was the 2012 Terra Noble Gran Reserva Carmenere and it was a spot-on example of type down to the off-putting earthiness of the wine when first uncorked.  Carmenere is the storied premier grape of Chile first planted in the 1850's and then labelled as Merlot throughout the twentieth century before genetic testing in 1994 revealed its true identity.  It is characterized by red fruit (cherry) flavors, spice, earthiness/smokiness, with ample leather, tobacco, and dark chocolate rounding out the profile.  Our Terra Noble opened up beautifully, losing its earthy mustiness and becoming a real head turner in the second hour of the event.

Our California red was the 2014 Smith & Hook Central Coast Proprietary Red Blend.  From the back label - "Crafted from superior quality Merlot, Malbec, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon, this blend features vibrant berry, cherry, and plum flavors."  This one was just as advertised and not surprisingly, it needed no time to open up.  There was no need to ponder over this one.  It was a fun crowd pleaser with no pretension. 

By contrast our French red was one with a pedigree.  Not only was the 2014 Crocus L'Atelier Malbec de Cahor representative of the grape variety grown in the place known for that type (in France!) but it also carried the Paul Hobbs Selections moniker on the back label.  Mr. Hobbs may be the best known winemaker in the world with wines featuring his name prominently commanding high dollar prices.  This one is actually made by Paul Bertrand.  Tellingly, all of our tasting wines came with tech sheets with the Crocus carrying about five times as much information as the others.

So which one was the best?  We're not saying!  The California wine would be a great apertif or pizza/hamburger wine.  The Chilean would marry well with red meat or game on the grill.  The Crocus would be what you need for fine dining.  This tasting really offered something for everyone...unless you required white wine!

We have Europeans next week with David Rimmer bringing new French and Italian wines to the tasting table.  Forget about Ruffino, Banfi, Louis Jadot, and Louis Latour; if you want to taste real quality from Europe be here on Thursday the 26th at 5pm for the good stuff.  Count on great European cheese on the table for this one too!   

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


This is a relatively new cheese here and elsewhere since it just received its IGP place of origin protection in 2010.  Currently the cheese is made by Casa Madaio in the Basillica region of southern Italy but it really goes back to antiquity.  Raising sheep in southern Italy seems to have always been an historical way of life for mountain towns like Moliterno, one of many villages known there for their cheese.

At 2,500 feet elevation Moliterno is one of several towns in the area that were important to Italians from the southern flatlands.  It was a seasonal refuge for recreation for the flatlanders who could also utilize the cheese cellars there to store their perishables.  When necessary the mountains also provided a natural defense against invaders, allowing ousted flatlanders to rest and regroup before any counterattack was in the offing. Shepherds also took advantage of the various elevations to graze their sheep during different seasons.

Moliterno cheese falls into the Pecarino family.  It may be called Pecarino di Moliterno or Canestrato Pecarino, canestrato meaning the cheese is formed in baskets for the first twenty-four hours.  For the ensuing months of aging the cheese is repeatedly rubbed with olive oil to maintain its moisture.  If the cheese is aged just two to six months it is called "Primitive"; if six months or more, "Mature"; and if a year or more, "Extra".

While Pecarino is solidly sheep cheese, Moliterno may have up to 30% goat's milk.  If aged long enough Moliterno may be hard and crumbly in texture, a darker golden color, aromatic with rustic grassiness and sweet caramel, and having strong rich flavors and saltiness.  Locally the cheese is served with hot pepper jelly, on raw vegetables and pears, and grated on soups and pasta.  It also pairs well with the local white wines of southern Italy.

Please join us tomorrow, the 19th of October, at 5pm when Nick Simonetti presents a tasting of Burgans, Albarino, Evodia Garnacha, Crocus Malbec (Paul Hobbs), and Terra Noble Gran Reserve Carmenere.   The Moliterno will be on the table.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc was one of a dozen open sample bottles dropped off here a few weeks ago and it turned out to be the best thing in the box.  Most of the wines (including Yealands) were priced in the sweet spot (about $12.99) but that box also included a $65 French Champagne and a $50 centerpiece white from Napa.  While both of those were great, without hesitation the Yealands was the one to buy.

The reviewers say the Yealands should display "passionfruit, guava, fresh herbs, and black currant".  New Zealand typically features gooseberry and citrus in spades in the textbook flavor profile but the Yealands seemed to be more passionfruit and guava-centered with complementary stone fruit and minerality completing the picture.  All considered, this one is a real charmer.

Peter Yealands is the man behind the eponymous label and as we all know, it's always nice to have a story to tell when selling the wine.  With a motto like "Think boldly, tread lightly, and never say it can't be done", Yealands' story is one of naked business ambition while still maintaining ecological concerns at its center.  The Yealands wine endeavor began in 2008 and immediately assured its place in wine industry history by becoming the first winery ever to receive its carbon-zero certification at its onset.

Yealands had purchased his land in 2002, built his winery in '08, and assembled his sales team in '10.  In '11 he merged his winery with Ager Sectus, marketer of The Crossings label, another high quality/low priced Sauvignon Blanc.  In 2012 Yealands won the "Best Sauvignon Blanc in the World"  trophy at the International Wine Challenge and in 2014 he won the New Zealand Wine Producer of the Year at the International Wine and Spirits Competition.  In the 2013 interim he doubled the size of his winery.  Then in 2015 the Marlborough Lines power company acquired an 80% share of the company fundamentally altering Yealands' personal business ambitions.

Also at about this time Yealands ran afoul of the local environmental laws.  "Marc" is the residual skins, stems and pulp left in the fermentation tanks and elsewhere after the wine is drawn off and filtered.  This byproduct could be used to make brandy as they do in Europe or it could be worked into the soil as fertilizer or it can be fed to farm animals.  What the local New Zealand authorities do not want to see is marc running off into streams creating a chemical balance from its high levels of nitrates, sodium, and chlorine and that's what was happening in Marlborough.  An industry-wide problem complicated by the topography of New Zealand, the situation bears a resemblance to the much worse poultry industry problem here in Gainesville with its runoff into Lake Lanier.  In Yealands' case the runoff problem was complicated by his usage of his son's corporate lands for a containment pit which ultimately failed leaving the appearance of a criminal conspiracy.

Please join us this Thursday the 5th of October between 5 and 7pm when Bob Reynolds presents two from Willamette Valley Vineyards of Oregon, Cesari Mara Ripasso Valpolicella, and Baron de Ley Spanish Tempranillo at the weekly tasting.