Wine Blogging Wednesday

WBW80: Dry Rosé

by Tim Elliott on August 14, 2013

Back when I first started podcasting about wine, in late 2004, there were maybe 40 podcasts in the world. But there were even fewer wine blogs and soon I discovered the monthly tasting event called Wine Blogging Wednesday joining on its eighth outing back in early 2005.

Over the years I have participated in WBW now 49 times and have hosted 6 times and I am pleased to have it return after a hiatus. The theme I chose for this outing is consistent with the wines I drink this time of year. While I do continue to drink reds, most of the time white or rosé wines are what I choose due to the temperatures outside and the food of the season. And while rosé wines such as white Zinfandel have carved out a significant presence in the market their residual sugar makes them more difficult to pair with food. So I drink exclusively dry rosé in the summer.

WBW 80 Rose WinesFor the selections made for this month’s WBW I decided to sample what is available under $10 a bottle. After looking at some local stores and big box retailers I settled on a couple of bottles from Trader Joe’s both under $6 a bottle. At this price I wasn’t looking for the best rosé but something that would complement a hamburger or taco. And I wasn’t disappointed.

The first bottle is Trader Joe’s Napa Valley Rosé 2012 ($5.99, 13.7% ABV) – It is a light ruby color in the glass with aromas typical of rosé, strawberry, cherry and citrus. There are bright grapefruit and strawberry flavors finishing dry with a touch of bitterness. I found it refreshing but a bit subdued in character but still a decent value. The varieties used were not disclosed but I assume Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon were most of the blend.

My second selection is from Spain, the Albero Bobal rosé 2012 ($5.99, 12.5% ABV) – Also a nice light ruby color the aromas here are all strawberry and grapefruit. In the glass the wine shows strawberry and lemon flavors finishing dry with nice acidity. A very pleasing rosé made from a grape I have never tried before. A win-win!

Both of these wines show how far we have come delivering value even in niches like dry rosé. I’m looking forward to reading what everyone has tried to fill out my cellar for the remaining weeks of summer. You can follow along on my Delicious feed.

Thanks also go to Lenn for asking me to host yet again who I will soon pass the baton to for hosting WBW81 next month. Look for a roundup post for WBW80 Friday or Saturday for all the rosé goodness.

Cheers!

WBW 74: Value Sparkling Wine

by Tim Elliott on February 15, 2012

Sparkling wine is thought of by most American’s as a luxury to be consumed on special occasions like weddings, graduations and New Year’s eve parties. And that’s a shame since sparkling wine is so versatile at the table, pairing with a wide variety of food, made all over the world and available at every price point. Perhaps it’s just too difficult for most wine consumers to get their heads around this wine as the best examples tend to be delicate and acidic with yeasty minerality that takes some getting used to. But the rewards are worth the effort to really get to know, and love, sparkling wine as it brightens up even the most challenging day.

This is the 5th time I’ve hosted Wine Blogging Wednesday and I’d like to write my theme was calculated to take advantage of the bubbly consumed yesterday for Valentine’s Day. It actually had more to do with my desire to find some new values in sparkling wine to enjoy this spring and summer where I intend to drink (and blog) a bottle each week. I chose the $25 price point to keep the wine selections inclusive of the entire world knowing this might be a challenge, but doable, even in Champagne. But it was the under $10 price point that most interested me since this means “everyday” to most of us.

Albero Brut CavaSo my search took me to Trader Joe’s, the value grocery store that has a reputation as a decent place to find wine values. While TJ’s might not deliver great wine values since they became the house of Two Buck Chuck, their sparking wine selection is still pretty solid. So after looking at their Crement de Bourgogne choices I have had, and enjoyed before, I picked up a Cava for just $7.99 as my choice tonight.

Albero Brut Cava ($8) is an exclusive of Trader Joe’s here in the U.S. made by Bogedas Iranzo, the oldest Spanish winery dating back some 677 years. Before you think Christoper Columbus drank sparkling wine from this estate, a quick aside to the history of bubbly.

Although wine with bubbles has existed since antiquity as a by-product of fermentation, it was only until glass blowing technology could withstand the pressure in the bottle before this style really emerged. Counter to the legend that this wine emerged in Champagne from the cellar of monk Dom Pérignon, sparkling wine was actually first made on purpose in Italy in 1622. But it was glass blowing technology developed in England in 1662 that made this country the true founder of sparkling wine almost 80 years before Dom Pérignon first drank “stars”.

Cava is the name given to sparkling wine made in Spain. It mostly comes from the Penedès region in Catalonia, just south of Barcelona. Like in Champagne only certain grapes are allowed in Cava but until recently these have only been native Spanish varieties. Keeping it old school, the Albero Brut Cava is a blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo.

The wine is golden straw color with a medium bead of fine bubbles that dissipate quickly in the glass. It has green apple, stone and baking bread aromas. Bright apple and citrus flavors finishing dry with hint of minerality and nice acidity on the finish. A nice crowd pleasing sparkler at a good price.

11.5% ABV
Natural cork closure
Rating: ★★★½☆

Thanks go to Wine Blogging Wednesday founder Lenn Thompson for asking me to host again. I’m looking forward to next month already.

WBW 73: My Wine Spark

by Tim Elliott on January 18, 2012

I first found out about Wine Blogging Wednesday in late February of 2005 when Andrew from Spittoon sent me an email inviting me to participate in WBW 7. Back then the wine blogging world was a small group of sites and we frequently commented on each others posts and traded emails. I was intrigued with the idea of a monthly virtual wine tasting event and have participated in 46 of the 72 past events, hosting 4 times. This month’s host, the writer behind the Corkdork blog, has asked us to revisit the wine that first sparked our interest in wine.

My story starts in 1979 when I was in college. At only 19, I was under the legal drinking age in California where I was born and went to school but I spent summers in upstate New York where the drinking age was 18 at the time. Over the summers of 1979 and 1980 I tried just about every form of alcohol but settled mostly on beer as mixed drinks never appealed much too me and the wine I had locally was mostly from Taylor and not very appealing. Since I was summering in Rochester, New York just a short drive to the Finger Lakes AVA you might think it was this regions’ wines that sparked my interest first but, sadly, it was not. But my early experiences while in New York did plant the seeds that bore fruit when I turned 21 and was back in California.

After a couple years studying film at UC San Diego, I transferred to California State University at Chico. This was about a 3 hour drive to Napa Valley but as college students we had plenty of weekend time and my Datsun got very good gas mileage. We also heard wineries didn’t charge anything for tasting which fit our budget perfectly. So one Saturday not long after my 21st birthday in late 1981 my girlfriend and I drove to the Napa Valley to wine taste. Back in those days I knew nothing about wine. In fact, I was so ignorant that I mispronounced most of the grape varieties (Meer-lot, anyone?). It was with this lack of sophistication we ventured up Hwy 29 and pulled into our first winery. If memory serves this was the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville where we not only got an interesting tour but a very informative guided tasting. And the wines tasted pretty good, too, particularly the whites (Mondavi Fumé Blanc is still a sentimental favorite). I also remember visits to Sutter Home (pre- “Home of white Zin” days) and Louis Martini on this first visit. We liked a lot of the wines with our favorite being the Sutter Home Muscat (now somewhat ironic given Muscat’s resurgence in popularity over the past year). Anything white and sweet filled the bill. Everyone starts someplace.

Grgich Hills ZinfandelMonths past and we revisited Napa Valley a few more times. As we gained a bit more knowledge and confidence we visited new and different wineries. One of these was Grgich Hills Cellar right off the main highway that runs north to south on the western side of Napa Valley. This was in early 1982 and the winery had only been open for 5 years. I remember entering the nondescript tasting room and tasting their Chardonnay. And while this wine was very good it was their Zinfandel that first sparked my interest in wine. Poured by a jovial man in a beret, the wine burst with red fruit on the nose and in the mouth finishing with supple tannins that seemed to melt like bittersweet chocolate. I had tried Zinfandel before but this wine was the first that truly spoke to me and compelled me to learn more about the variety. It was a couple years later that I figured out the man in the beret who poured me this Zinfandel was none other than winemaker Mike Grgich.

Four years later the second wine spark happened. By then I was working for Kodak and we had lived in Rochester, New York for a year and a half. This was the time I first discovered Finger Lakes Riesling and we spent many weekends tasting along the wine trails there. But it was not the local wines that produced this second spark but a well-known Napa Valley Cabernet. Over the previous 4 years I had read several wine books and had tasted a lot of wines. And while I still liked Zinfandel quite a bit drinking Lytton Springs vineyard as often as I could afford it, Cabernet Sauvignon was my latest obsession. I read all about the top Napa Valley Cabernets and drank Bordeaux as often as I could. I had received an award at work that was a gift certificate to a nice local restaurant with a very good wine list. I thought I might find a nice red Bordeaux to match with my prime rib as there were not a lot of California Cabernet on upstate New York wine lists even in the mid-1980’s.

Heitz Cellar Marthas Vineyard Cabernet 1974So imagine my surprise when I saw Heitz Cellars Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet from the 1974 vintage on the list. And it was even available by the glass at the absurd price of $25 for a small pour ($52 in 2012 dollars according to WolframAlpha). It took me only a millisecond to order this glass since we were spending Kodak’s money and I couldn’t imagine ever seeing this wine by the glass again (I haven’t). And the wine didn’t disappoint. I still remember the aromas of mint and eucalyptus that this vineyard is known for along with tobacco and a pleasing earthiness. In the mouth this wine defined Napa Cab to my developing palate. Cassis, blackberry, and spices finishing long with great balance. I can’t remember the level of tannin but I think they were still settling down as the wine was only 12 years old at the time I tasted it.

I would have liked to have revisited one or both of these wines but I’m afraid the Heitz Cab is selling for $800 a bottle and I would bet the current vintage of Grgich Hills Zinfandel is vastly different than the 1978 or 1979 I tasted at the winery. But I don’t think this matters much as these wines live in my memory as turning points that made me want to learn more about wine. Eventually this led me to start this blog in order to have a place to send friends who were always asking about which wines to buy.

Without Wine Blogging Wednesday I probably would not have told this story. Thanks go to the Corkdork for hosting and for a great theme. A lot has changed in the nearly 7 years I have participated in Wine Blogging Wednesday but there is nothing like it. Hopefully this will again be a monthly feature here if we get enough bloggers participating.

WBW 71 Wrap-up: (Mostly) New World Rhones

by Tim Elliott on March 22, 2011

It has been nearly three years since I last hosted Wine Blogging Wednesday but my choice of theme was easy. Wines made from Rhône varieties are among my personal favorites and I was hoping to learn about many more new wines from participants this month. There were 25 bloggers posting reviews from all over the world. Thanks again to all who took the time to participate and here they are in the order I learned about them:

  • The first post came two weeks early from Karla at Sol Wine & Film. An overview of the Curtis Winery of Santa Ynez Valley in California, the subject fit the theme perfectly but somehow didn’t mention WBW. But Karla used the WBW hashtag so is included in this roundup.
  • New entrant Rags, the Kenyan Wine Brat, posted his video review of CrossRoads Winery Syrah from Texas. While he is no Gary V, his use of “refrigerator smell” to describe the Syrah near the beginning made me think of the famous New York Jets fan. Nice start, man; looking forward to more!
  • Next up was Lisa from Wine Muse posting a review of a 2009 Rutherglen Estates “Shelley’s Block” Marsanne Viognier from her native Australia. Made from 70% Marsanne and 30% Viognier, the wine sounds wonderful and a great value at $15AUS.
  • Joe the Suburban Wino posted a long and somewhat rambling post about Rhône styled wines that begins with a rant about how difficult the circumflex over the “o” in Rhône is but then uses that word about a hundred times. No review here but there is some serious Rhône knowledge thrown down within Joe’s hilarious rant prose.
  • Another video review was posted by Aleksi who selected two wines for his tasting. The first is the Bellingham, The Bernard Series, Grenache Blanc Viognier (no vintage mentioned) which proved to be an interesting wine despite some metallic flavors. His second selection seemed more successful, 2006 Spinifex “Papillon”, a red blend made from Carignan, Cinsault and Granache.
  • Next up was Bob from 2001 Bottles – A Wine Odyssey with a 2006 Church & State “Coyote Bowl” Syrah from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. It’s not surprising to me that such a nice Syrah could come from Canada as most of the best examples of this variety come from cooler sites. Also tasted was 2009 Twisted Tree Rousanne/Marsanne which was also a winner.
  • Richard, The Passionate Foodie and next month’s WBW host, tasted a 2007 Sutton Cellars Carignane “Piferro Vineyard” and found it to be an, “easy drinking wine, but with appealing character, and would be an perfect pairing with burgers, pizza, or even pasta.” Count me in to pick up some of this to try soon.
  • First time WBW participant Jason from The Ancient Fire Wine Blog was next with a 2007 Penfolds Bin 138 GMS blend. Made from Grenache, Mourvedre and Shiraz, the wine proved to be, “assertive, but not abusive.” Hope to see you next time, Jason!
  • The VA Wine Diva was next with a trio of Rhone-styled wines from Virginia. The first was a 2009 Veritas Vineyards Viognier which was overall a nice wine marred a bit on the finish with a touch of heat. This was followed up by an earthy and leathery 2005 Ingleside Vineyards Syrah. The tasting was capped off with a 2008 Pollak Vineyards “Mille Fleurs” fortified Viognier dessert wine.
  • Andrew from Spittoon, the bloke who got me first into WBW back when he hosted, was next with a 2009 See Saw Shiraz-Mourvèdre. Although information about the wine was hard to come by, it proved to be a winner for under £9.
  • Matt posted next over at A Good Time With Wine tasting a 2007 Liberty School Cuvee, a blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Viognier. Although Matt prefers the leaner French style in his Syrah, he did like this California wine.
  • Next was Magnus posting a bi-lingual review of a 2007 Annie Camarda Syrah from Washington State, quite a find in his native Sweden. And the wine was, “Well balanced, big and juicy with a nice acidity that bring excitement and sophistication – this is good and I am willing to buy me some bottles for the summer as well as for the future.” Magnus was the only person this month to accompany his review with an Iron Maiden video, a trend I’d like to see continue ;-)
  • Ryan from Catavino in Spain posted next tasting a 2006 Cellar Malondro red blend. A blend of 50% Garnacha and 50% Cariñena from D.O. Montsant, I recalled my trip to the region in 2007 which Ryan commemorated with an archive photo on the post.
  • Next was Michael, The Wine Undertaker, who tasted a 2008 Sterling Vineyards Roussanne from Carneros. The wine was the first taste of Roussanne for him but will not be his last given how well this bottle performed.
  • Colin from Grapefan passed along a tasting note on Adegga as he took a week long vow of no wine. The wine sounds like a winner, though, a 2006 Syrah from Napa Valley’s Hyde de Villaine.
  • Frank from Drink What You Like posted another Virginia Viognier, this time from Jefferson Vineyards. From the 2009 vintage, the wine sounds very interesting and one Wine Blogger Conference attendees will no doubt taste as it’s made in Charlottesville, the site of the 2011 event.
  • Next up was Sebastien at downcellar who posted a pair of Mourvèdre from the New and Old World. First was a meaty and dark Spice Route Mourvèdre from Swartland, South Africa. The Old World entry is a 2007 Juan Gil Monastrell from Jumilla, Spain. Both sound like excellent examples of Mourvèdre from outside The Rhône.
  • My own entry was next, a tale of two Rhone-styled wines from California. In the end, the Steele “Writer’s Block” Roussanne delivered the goods for a steal of a closeout price.
  • William from Simple Hedonisms was next with a review of Wesley Ashley “Intelligent Design Cuvee” Red Rhone Blend. The blend of Carignane, Grenache, Cinsault, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre sounds outstanding.
  • Next was Remy at The Wine Case who posted a nice write-up of a 2009  Edmunds St. John “Wylie” Syrah. The effort from this venerable producer of California Syrah proved very nice but made Remy wish he had a bit more patience to see what the wine would evolve to with further cellaring. That’s why you buy more than one bottle, man ;-)
  • Andrea from Wine Skamp posted next with a review of 2008 Santo Cristo Garnacha, a decent sounding quaffer from Spain’s Campo de Borja.
  • Megan was next from the Wannabe Wino blog with a review of a 2009 Hahn GSM blend which sounded like another winner from California.
  • Rain followed next from Teach Us Wine with a cautionary tale to always check the seal on your bottle particularly if it’s a screw-cap. Her tale is full of fail but I’m sure she will come back strong next time.
  • On Wine Blogging Thursday, WBW founder Lenn Thompson posted his entry; a well-chosen 2005 Doon Vineyards “Cigare Volant.” And it seemed worth the wait.
  • And last, but certainly not least, the fabulous Thea posted her entry at Luscious Lushes, a tribute to winemaker Kevin Hamel. She pulled a bottle of 2002  Hamel Wines Syrah, Westside Hills from her cellar to share but also recounts experiences with the 2001 vintage and some other favorite Syrah’s.

So that’s it. I count 25 bloggers and 28 wines tasted. Most of these were red but 8 whites were also reviewed. If I somehow missed your entry, please let me know in the comments and I will update this post.

Thanks again to Lenn for letting me host once again. And without further ado, I pass the baton to Richard from The Passionate Foodie for a very special edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday next month.