Wines of Note: Our 150th Post

Before We became so focused on Our United Slurps of America project, Our wine consumption was roughly 50% France, 45% California and 5% everywhere else. Over the past few weeks, France and California have been replaced with places like Kentucky and Iowa. While We have mostly enjoyed the wines We have tasted from these lesser known wine-producing states, We are both thirsty for Our go-tos.

While grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s, She picked up several bottles of wine and some whiskey, vodka, and gin. The check-out chick asked Her if She was having a party or just stocking up. The question confused Her, as the answer was neither.

After having the Gruet for our NM post, We were curious to taste a California counterpart. Having lived in Yountville for years, She has consumed copious quantities of the local sparkler, Domaine Chandon, so We chose a Sonoma bubbly. And, oh to have some red Bordeaux…

Sonoma Brut, Gloria Ferrer NV ($19)

She said: Pale translucent yellow with fine bubbles. On the nose: yeast, golden delicious apples, hint of vanilla, hazelnuts. Has flavors of Granny Smith apple, lemon, pear, and a hint of lychee. The finish is long and creamy, like lemon curd. No overwhelming sensations of yeast or toast in the finish, but rather clean and citrusy fresh. Lovely and light, like a Spring day.

He said: Little bubbles give way to scents of Apple, pear and white grapes. Crisp, getting flavors of raisin. Long, tongue-numbing finish. Still not the best at articulating my sparkling wine notes. I’m able to note if I love or hate a Champagne or sparkling wine, and this one for me is neither of us. It’s a just-fine, drinkable bottle.

Médoc, Grand Vin de Bordeaux, Château Meric 2007 ($10)

She said: Very opaque purple garnet color. On the nose a hint of eucalyptus, tar, mushroom, and sour blackberries. The wine tastes very fresh and has obvious but unobtrusive acid. Fresh berries, licorice, long finish with vanilla, soft tannin, cassis. There is a slight sharpness that lingers in the mouth (burnt wood?) but other than this an elegant wine. Would be excellent with grilled meats. A terrific bargain and a very worthy everyday-whenever-right now table wine.

He said: Very dark and purpley. On the nose there is vanilla, cherry, toast, blackberry, maybe some butter and floral (almost soapy) notes. Light tannins and a creamy vanilla-tinged feel and taste in the mouth. Not a super heavy or full wine, but hints of fruit with a little too much heat in the finish. Yeah, it has a strange finish. Despite the finish, this is a very nice wine for 10 bucks.

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No Rest for the Wine-y

All that and football too…we had a busy, productive Sunday. So much so we only got through the Chablis and Rhône chapters of Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: 2009 Edition (although we did mange to get through two bottles of wine.) I just bought us a bottle of cheap, er inexpensive Bordeaux at Big Mac’s to sip while reading the next chapter. And it’ll be our Big Mac Monday’s selection. If I don’t finish it off before He gets home.

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Big Mac’s Mondays: Hail a Cab?

bmm

Each Monday (well, nearly everyday, actually) We trek down the hill to our favorite neighborhood liquor store to buy a bottle or two. In our quest to learn about and taste wine that is accessible and inexpensive We’ve found Big Mac’s to be a great place to spend our money. (We’re also regulars at the many local wine shops–and you should be too.)

Here are our weekly tasting notes from a bottle purchased at Big Mac’s. Although We don’t do background checks, some facts about the wine can be useful, so We provide some notes at the end of our review. As usual, We follow a basic tasting method: swirl, smell, slurp…and savor.

Granted, it’s Tuesday. Yesterday We were caught in a tropical downpour here in LA and too busy putting up tarps and moving outdoor furniture to higher ground. Her patio is now what He refers to as “The Shanty Café”. Also, We were really enjoying two days worth of Hot Buttered Rum Toddy Un-exact Whatevs.

Today She sent Him to Big Mac’s for a bottle of wine and some stopgap olive oil. He saw the weird shaped bottle of FFC’s Encyclopedia Cabernet Sauvignon for $9.99 and thought it would be the perfect bottle for a Big Mac’s Mondays. Away We go.

Francis Coppola Encyclopedia, Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux) 2006 ($9.99)

She Said: When He brought home the wine I thought it was a gigantic bottle of balsamic vinegar (to go with the olive oil that was also on the shopping list). Ugh, the packaging is bad, bad. Hideous, actually. And it’s hard to pour because the mouth is so big. But not to judge a wine by it’s looks…here’s the straight review. Color: deep purple, almost opaque but swirling shows it is fairly thin. Nose: burnt wood (American oak?), licorice, prunes, burnt raisins. Nothing bright or fresh about it. First sip: yuck. Just nothing going for it. Tastes stewed or cooked. No obvious fruit flavors. Light tannin in the finish but otherwise light bodied and very little structure. Could it be oxidized? Tastes like the bottle was unscrewed five days ago. Could only manage two slurps. The rest of the bottle is all His.

He Said: Deep purplish in color with anise, tart cherry and old wood on the nose. There is also a weird aroma, like someone getting a perm or dying their hair. Totally uncomplicated in the mouth, a little chalky with a nice level of tannin; hits me right away in the middle of my tongue and the top of my mouth. Kind of a weird hot aftertaste. I don’t love it and wouldn’t buy it again (and really couldn’t recommend it) but I don’t hate it at all. (Her first response when she took a sip was “Ugh!”. Ha! That’s for making me drink hot wet trash last week.)

Facts: From the FFC site: “From how it’s made and where it’s made to why we drink it when we do, wine is not just wine. With this in mind, our winemaking team traveled the world in search of varietals that best represent the culture and traditions of different winegrowing regions. Packaged in a custom shaped bottle with an oversized screw cap, Encyclopedia Wines begins a journey into understanding how geography, history, food and religion, to name a few, all determine how and why wine is made and enjoyed.” She says: whooey.

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Quizzical

In response to her previous post:

I am a huge proponent of education by repetition.  To a wine newbie like myself (and millions of others) it isn’t inherent knowledge to know what grapes are the primary grapes of which regions.  To me, it is one of the most confusing aspects of wine.  But really fun to learn.  So, teacher, here are your answers:

“What are the three major white wine grapes of Loire Valley?”
Sauvignon blanc, Chenin blanc & Cabernet Franc.

“What is the difference between Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-Fuissé?”
Pouilly-Fumé is an AOC in the Loire Valley which produces Sauvignon blanc, Pouilly-Fuissé is Burgundy and therefore Chardonnay.

“What is the major white wine grape of Bordeaux?”
Sauvignon blanc.

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The Ritual

Some days we’re more vigilant than others on The Wine Education.

Take yesterday. It was 90 degrees outside, the day after a boozy, spooky Halloween night, and there was a whole bunch of sports was on tv. Which to say: it wasn’t a serious day. We drank gin.

But on the serious days we typically buy a bottle of wine (nothing too fancy or obscure) from the growing region we’re studying in Kevin Zraly’s excellent book for beginners, Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: 2009 Edition. With the unopened bottle in front of us, he’ll slowly and deliberately read out loud.

I tend to interrupt every few sentences with asides or examples. “That makes sense, right? The wine is made near the sea so of course it will go well with the local food: oysters, shellfish, fish.”

After the chapter is finished we’ll review the major facts and then I’ll quiz him.

“What are the three major white wine grapes of Loire Valley?”

“What is the difference between Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-Fuissé?”

I’ll also throw in some questions from previous chapters to make sure he’s retaining the info.

“What is the major white wine grape of Bordeaux?”

“That wasn’t in this chapter.”

“Come on… we read about it last time.”

“Arrgh… Chardonnay?”

“Nooooo. Come on, you know this.” Et cetera.

The reward for all this reading and quizzing and sometimes frustration: opening the bottle sitting in front of us.

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