Wine, Words & Wednesday, No. 23

For the past half-dozen years, I’ve volunteered at a bicycle ride (not a race) called The Great Pumpkin Ride.  We’ve grown from a ride of 300 to expecting a staggering 1,250+ riders on Saturday.  For the past few weeks, my life has been consumed by Great Pumpkin planning. Guess how many port-o-potties you need for 1,250 riders??  The past couple of days have been, well . . . if you pricked me right now, I’d bleed stress.

So, here’s my motto for this week . . .

smile wine

My fingers are crossed for a smooth and successful ride on Saturday.  Even if we hit a bump in the road, I’ll just smile . . . because there’s wine at the end of my day!


Ex Post Facto: Finger Lakes Riesling Launch

Last month, the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance invited me to participate in the Finger Lakes Riesling Launch (an online conversation with dozens of wine producers and hundreds of wine consumers).  I had big plans to participate, but life happened, and logging onto Twitter wasn’t in my cards that night.  So . . . I’m adding my Finger Lakes thoughts and impressions ex post facto (nothing jazzes up a blog post like a fancy Latin phrase).


Photo Credit: Finger Lakes Wine Alliance

I can’t think without a map, so here’s a map of the Finger Lakes.  There are a total of eleven “fingers” in the Finger Lakes.  According to Native American lore, the Finger Lakes were created when The Great Spirit imprinted his hand into the land.  Apparently, The Great Spirit had a few extra digits.

The Finger Lakes is a wine region on the rise. Not so long ago, the Finger Lakes would have been considered an under the radar wine region, but it’s squarely on the radar now.  The Finger Lakes region has attracted the attention of Paul Hobbs (California winemaker extraordinaire — Forbes Magazine called him “the Steve Jobs of wine”) and Germany’s Johannes Selbach (from Mosel Valley’s Selbach-Oster).  They purchased a vineyard on the southeastern side of Seneca Lake.  Hobbs said it’ll take them three years to plant.  Wanna guess what they’re planting?  Yep, Riesling.

The Finger Lakes is also the site of the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference, and the destination for my family’s triennial wine vacation.  We had already booked our vacation before the location for the 2015 WBC was announced, so I’m not sure if I will head back up to FLX for WBC or not. Stay tuned.

The Finger Lakes and Riesling are joined at the hip, and I was super excited to taste a few bottles of Finger Lakes Riesling in advance of our trip.  I like to think of it as research.  But before I tasted, I needed to dust the cobwebs off the Finger Lakes wine section of my brain.  A few months ago, I wrote a post about Finger Lakes wine.  What follows is a revision/update to that post.  It never hurts to review.

Other than a few random bottles, I have very limited experience with the Finger Lakes wine region, so this is a great learning experience for me.  The Finger Lakes wine region in New York is often compared with the Rhine region of Germany.  Both regions benefit from the moderating influence of water — the Rhine River in Germany, and the Cayuga, Seneca, Keuka and Canandaigua Lakes in New York.  And, in both regions, Riesling Rules.  

The Finger Lakes are below sea-level, so they trap and store heat, which moderates temperatures (both winter and summer) in the region.  The moderate temperatures provide a longer growing season, allowing the grapes to ripen more fully.  The deep water lakes also cool the summers, allowing for air-flow which prevents pesky things like rot and mildew on the grapevines.

Prior to the 1960s, almost all of the grapes grown in the Finger Lakes region were Vitis lambrusca (native grapes like Niagara and Concord) or hybrids – not the European vinifera grapes needed to produce fine wines.  Vitis vinifera grapes had been nearly impossible to grow in the eastern United States because they couldn’t survive the harsh winters and brutal summers — and they had little resistance to vineyard pests & diseases found in the US.

Enter Ukrainian viticulturist, Dr. Frank Konstantin.  Konstantin is responsible for introducing vinifera grapes to the Finger Lakes region in the 1960s.  Konstantin had experience growing vinifera grapes in the brutal cold of the Soviet Union, so he was convinced he could do it here, too.  He found success by grafting traditional vinifera varieties onto hardy native American rootstock.

The Finger Lakes wine region was just starting to take off in the early 20th century . . . and then Prohibition happened.  Prohibition wiped out most of the wineries in the Finger Lakes.  As Finger Lakes wineries slowly recovered from Prohibition, Riesling became the most successful vinifera grape variety.

Thanks to the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance for hooking me up with this great PowerPoint on Finger Lakes Cold Climate.  If you click on the link, it will download the ppt, but here’s the gist: There are over 9,000 acres of grapes planted in the Finger Lakes.  Of those, around 80% are still planted to native or hybrid grapes.  That leaves roughly 20% planted to vinifera varieties. And of the vinifera varieties planted, Riesling accounts for 46(ish)%.

Riesling Rules.

I love Riesling — especially a bone dry, mouth-puckering, acid-bomb of a Riesling.  There’s just something about the way a dry Riesling showcases the purity of the fruit.  More and more Riesling producers are using the IRF (International Riesling Foundation) Scale on the backs of their bottles.  The position of the arrow is determined by the winery, and helps consumers decide how dry or sweet a particular bottle of Riesling will be.  As my Grandpa Virgil used to say, “this is as handy as a pocket on a shirt.”

riesling scale

The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance sent me three bottles of Riesling for the Launch:


Bellangelo Dry Riesling 2013 ⭐⭐⭐/87
Seneca Lake.  100% Riesling, from three different vineyards (Gibson, Morris and Tuller).  Aged in 93% stainless steel and 7% neutral oak.  There’s such a freshness to this wine.  Bellangelo labeled this Dry on the IRF scale, and Dry it is!  Yay!!  Wet minerals, and flavors of green apple & lime.  A snappy acid beauty that needs a food partner.  My mouth is watering just thinking of the possibilities.

Fox Run Vineyards Dry Riesling 2013 ⭐⭐⭐/86
Seneca Lake.  100% Riesling, harvested from three different Riesling blocks.  (Fox Run has 50 acres of grapes, 19 of which are planted to Riesling).  0.7% residual sugar, so Fox Run labels it right on the line between Dry and Medium-Dry on the Riesling scale.  Wet rocks on the nose, which always makes me a happy girl.  Medium body with citrus and stone fruit flavors.  Great acidity.  And just like that, I’m craving tuna tartare.

Lamoreaux Landing Red Oak Vineyard  Riesling 2013 ⭐⭐⭐/85
Seneca Lake.  Lamoreaux Landing has 100 acres of vines, with 20 separate vineyard blocks. 100% Riesling.  Single vineyard.  This Riesling is labeled Medium-Dry on the Riesling scale. Fermented in stainless steel.  More tropical and lush than the Fox Run and Bellangelo, with flavors of pear and pineapple.  And maybe a jicama.  Floral undertones.  Nicely balanced.  The touch of sweetness would make this killer with any spicy Asian food.

This summer, I have a feeling I’m going to run out of time before I run out of Finger Lakes wineries to visit.  But for sure, I will be setting my GPS for these three great Riesling producers.


Wine, Words & Wednesday, No. 22

It’s high-school midterm week here at Casa de Armchair Sommelier . . . and I’m the Spanish tutor.  I speak just enough Spanish to get myself into, but not out of trouble.  I read Spanish fairly well, but speaking . . . ooof.  I speak an ugly Spanish.  I always tell Spanish speakers to speak to me like I’m a five year old — then we’re good.  I know my Spanish isn’t right, but I can usually get my point across.  People get the gist.  This is what I keep trying to explain to my boy.  Learning a foreign language isn’t really about memorizing endless lists of vocabulary and conjugations (except in high school, where it’s all about that).  Foreign language is about the gist.  Quit trying to translate everything word for word — just try and make mistakes.  People are generally pretty patient (and sometimes entertained) when you make the effort.  They’ll forgive you the mistakes.  Put the zapato on the other foot.  I have a friend from Mexico who routinely slays the English language by saying endearing things like, “I come for the store”.  No, it’s not right, but I get the gist.

What does this have to do with Wine, Words & Wednesday?

A few years ago, I was vacationing in Chile with my girlfriend, who is from Chile.  Visiting a foreign country with a native speaker is the bonus of all bonuses.  You get the insider’s track to food & drink, people, and places.  One afternoon, she and I were walking through a tiny craft bazaar in a speck of a town called Algorrobo (home of the world’s largest swimming pool, btw). I got so excited when I saw this sticker — I bought it instantly, and I wasn’t even going to haggle (but my friend said that’s simply not done, so I think I ended up paying something absurd, like 43 cents, for it).  I bought it not just because it was about wine, but also because I actually understood 95% of it, and I was feeling pretty proud of myself.


Basically, it means this:

If you came into the world, you came to drink wine.
And if you don’t drink wine, then why the hell did you come?

I had to ask my friend about the cresta part.  Cresta is Chilean slang, which is like saying crap. So technically, my sticker says, why the crap did you come?  Now that I think about it . . . I like that version even better.

I’m going to pour myself a glass of vino and head back into conjugation Hell.  Wish us luck!


Wine, Words & Wednesday, No. 21

medium_8625773833I’ve got cider on my mind.

Yesterday marked the start of a new, month-long series on #winestudio.  The focus this month is Virginia Hard Cider.  I’ve lived in Virginia almost all my life, and I love cider, so I’m particularly excited about this study.

And I’m not the only Virginian with a love for fermented apples.

Thomas Jefferson’s love for (and relationship with) wine is well documented.  However, Thomas Jefferson was also a cider aficionado.  Jefferson may have failed to successfully grow European wine grape varieties at Monticello, but he did experience great success with his apple orchard.

During the War of 1812, Jefferson was unable to import his favorite European wines (because the British Royal Navy blockaded the entire Atlantic Coast of the United States, bringing trade to a grinding halt), so he turned to cider.  Jefferson made his own cider at Monticello, and served cider as his “table drink” with most meals.

Jefferson insisted on a very specific recipe of apples for his cider-making.  Jefferson’s apple orchard focused on only four varieties, all cider apples — Hewes Crab,  Taliaferro (which Jefferson called “the best cider apple existing”),  Newtown Pippin (later called the Albemarle Pippin) and Esopus Spitzenburg.  Before last night’s #winestudio, if you asked me to name apple varieties, I would have struggled to come up with anything beyond Red & Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and maybe Gala.  An important takeaway from last night:  Eating apples make terrible cider, and cider apples make terrible eating.  Clearly, Jefferson preferred to drink his apples!

A few weeks ago, I was browsing through a used bookstore (some people go antiquing, I go used book-storing), and I found a copy of John Hailman’s book, Thomas Jefferson on Wine.  It’s a meticulously researched Jefferson history told through the lens of wine.  And, bonus . . . it was five bucks!


There’s a short chapter in Hailman’s book on cider, so I went back and re-read it to help me prepare for last night’s #winestudio.  We tasted three crisp, elegant ciders from Foggy Ridge Cider in Dugspur (southwestern Virginia).  And I could not get over the Champagne texture of the ciders — light-bodied and lean, with layers of complexity.  The versatility potential is off-the-charts!

And apparently, TJ and I are on the same cider page . . .


By 1700, cider was the most popular beverage in the United States.  Our Founding Fathers loved the stuff.  And William Henry Harrison won the Presidential election of 1840 by running on a “log cabin and hard cider” (appeal to the common man) platform.  But by the early 20th century, cider had nearly fallen off the national radar.  Why the decline?  A perfect storm of reasons, really.  German immigrants arrived in America with a taste for beer, along with the methods to make it quickly and efficiently.  And then there was that whole Prohibition nonsense.  Prohibitionists burned cider apple orchards to the ground and replanted them with sweet, eating apples.  After Prohibition, it took years to convert the orchards back to cider apples.

Today, cider is experiencing a revival in the United States, and Virginia is at the center of that revival.  Virginia Cider Week is November 14-23 — there are ten cideries and/or craft cider makers in Virginia — all with fun events and opportunities to learn about fermented apple juice.  If you’re a cider aficionado (or just want to learn more), please join the Virginia cider conversation with #winestudio — Tuesdays in October from 9-10pm.


Carpe Vinum: The Napa Valley Challenge


Mondavi, circa 2006.

Our question for this month’s Carpe Vinum was this:  Can you taste a difference between Napa Valley sub-appellations?  

(My background post on Napa Valley and its sub-appellations can be found here).

My husband, Mr. Engineering Guy, says to get a true answer to that question, we’d need to conduct an experiment with set control variables, and a much larger sample size.  We’d need to use the same grape variety, the same vintage year, and the same winemaker (with identical winemaking processes, equipment and storage).  And we’d need to taste in a blind, or even a double-blind format.  He said some other sciency stuff, too, but by that point, I had tuned him out.  Kill joy.  😉

Winemaker style is the wild-card variable — you’d have to equalize winemakers across the board to get a true read on the sub-AVA differences.  And I’m not sure that’s even possible. (Lots of cooks, lots of kitchens).  The closest attempt I’ve been able to find is this:  Back in 2007, winemaker Jeff McBride of Conn Creek Vineyards, attempted a Napa AVA experiment.  He made wines from all of the (then) 14 Napa sub-appelations, using identical winemaking processes.  His goal was to arrive (eventually) at distinct flavor profiles for all of the Napa sub-appellations.  Unfortunately, I can’t find any follow-up information about his results, and whether he’s continuing his experiment.

So, right from the start, I acknowledge ours was an imperfect experiment.  What can I tell you? The world’s an imperfect place — screws fall out all the time (nod to The Breakfast Club).  My personal goal was to see if I could tell the difference between the Cabernets from the Napa Valley floor vs. the Cabernets from the mountain (altitude) AVAs.  Speaking in wild generalizations . . . Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley floor is supposed to be more powerful and fruit forward.  Cabernet Sauvignon from the mountain area AVAs is supposed to tend toward a leaner style, with great acid and savory and/or spice elements taking center stage.  Which Cabs did we taste, and did they match the Napa Valley generalizations?

Unum Wine Cellars District Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ⭐⭐⭐/88
The vineyard is at 1,300 feet in the Vaca Range of the Atlas Peak AVA.  The nose on this wine reminds me of my mom’s cedar chest.  Man, I love that smell.  Flavors are cherry and tobacco with vanilla and nutmeg on the finish.  Loads of acidity, delicately balanced.  $40.

Paired with a Roasted Vegetable Tart made with Diane’s Flaky Cheddar Cheese Pie Crust
This is a great veggie tart recipe, but the genius is in the crust.  I loathe making pie crust.  My recipe involves buying a box of Pillsbury ready-made crusts.  But my friend, Diane’s recipe for cheddar cheese pie crust makes me want to make pie crust.  It’s that good!

The Pairing 👍
The vegetable tart definitely amplifies the tannins in the wine, making them seem even more powdery.  The wine works beautifully with the eggplant & mushrooms, as well as the Roquefort cheese (and I don’t even like Roquefort cheese).  The char on the veggies played very well with the Cabernet.  I can’t explain it, but I found myself craving tomatoes in this tart. Maybe something to do with the higher acid in the wine??


Beaulieu Vineyard Clone 6 Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford 2003 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/92
I love the age on this wine — it’s had over a decade to chill out.  The tannins are well integrated now, very smooth, even elegant.  Rutherford Dust is a phrase originally coined by BV winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff.  The microclimate in Rutherford AVA allows grapes to ripen just a bit longer, so tannins tend to be softer, or “dusty”, with flavors of cocoa.  But is this winer really dusty?  I get flavors of blackberry and currant, and absolutely no doubt — eucalyptus. And I just happen to have some eucalyptus growing in my backyard, so I brought some inside for comparison.  Ding! Ding! Ding!  Eucalyptus.  And there’s definitely some cocoa on the back end.  But I don’t know whether I’m really tasting dust, or simply a reflection of terroir.


Paired with Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Sage & Sweet Potato Puree with Garlic, Thyme and Balsamic Vinegar
These are both recipes from Andrea Robinson.  When I first saw the recipes I thought, “Is she crazy?  Who pairs brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes with a Cab?”  But she’s Andrea Robinson, she knows what she’s doing — I had to trust her.  Both recipes are beautifully simple and satisfying — and they scream Thanksgiving dinner!

The Pairing 👍
Color me surprised!  This is a delightful pairing . . . but, the balsamic vinegar is the key.  Without it, the paring falls flat on its face and reverts to being crazy.  I can’t believe how well the Cabernet plays with the balsamic vinegar.  And the sage & thyme bring out the herbal notes in the wine.  I never would have thought!


Black Stallion Howell Mountain Barrel Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/92
A special wine that was created specifically to celebrate the Year of the Horse.  Only 24 barrels produced.  My girlfriend called the winery directly to order this wine, and was blown away by their level of customer service, so shout-out and kudos to Black Stallion!  Soft and approachable tannins, continues to evolve and develop once it’s open.  Loving the acids in this wine.  Fruit definitely takes a back seat here to flavors of tobacco, cedar and ground spices — and I’m really digging this wine.  So many layers of complexity — each sip was a little different as the wine warmed and opened up.  14.5% ABV.  $98.

Paired with Meatballs with Pomegranate Currant Sauce
This is a recipe from St. Francis Winery in Napa.  The pomegranate currant sauce was an interesting flavor contrast with the meatballs.  It’s made with something called pomegranate molasses, which I’d never heard of before.  Imagine going on a hunt for that ingredient. Wegmans to the rescue!

The Pairing 👍
The Dijon mustard is a bit of a bully in this dish.  The meatballs were a bit salty and tart on their own (not sure exactly what was pulling my focus), but with the wine those flavors tamed quite a bit.  This would be a great wine for anything on the grill . . . or just to sit and drink all by itself.


St. Clement Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2011 ⭐⭐⭐/88
This wine is from the broader Napa Valley AVA.  According to the St. Clement website, it’s a “classic example of Napa Valley, combining valley floor terroir and mountain fruit power.”  Fruit-driven — plums and blackberries mingling with cloves.  Some faint mint and vanilla on the finish.  Smooth, approachable, easy.  $40.

Roots Run Deep Winery Educated Guess Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ⭐⭐⭐/87
This is actually 87% Napa Valley, 8% Paso Robles, and 5% Lake County.  And it’s 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.  So we can’t really count it in our already weak sample.  😉  Very plush with lots of fruit, kind of reminds me of a chocolate covered cherry.  And for $20?  Can’t beat it.

Paired with French Dip Sandwiches
This recipe is one of my friend, Kari’s go-to meals for busy nights (you know, when there are too many kid-activities and not enough time to cook).  You toss a handful of ingredients into the Crock Pot (all hail the Crock Pot) and walk away.  And when you return . . . Voila!  Dinner.

The Pairing 👍
Both wines are friendly and approachable enough to work well with just about anything — hamburgers, pizza, heck, even a grilled hot dog would be good with these guys.


Given our rather unscientific approach to our question, realistically, my goal was only to see if we could tell the difference between the Cabernets from the Napa Valley floor vs. the Cabernets from the mountain(altitude) AVAs.  And I’m happy to report we achieved that goal. The fruit forward power vs. savory spice and acid restraint was very noticeable.   But a difference between Howell Mountain and Atlas Peak?  I feel like I’m splitting hairs there.  Both were excellent wines, but I sure as heck couldn’t isolate the magical Howell Mountain or Atlas Peak gene.  I’m not even sure I could extract the storied Rutherford Dust in a blind tasting.
I guess I’ll have to keep tasting and tasting and tasting these Napa Cabs!

I almost forgot!  I made Bourbon Salted Caramels for dessert.  They pair with absolutely none of these wines, but September was Bourbon Heritage Month, so I had to make them!


This month, Carpe Vinum will tackle Celebrity Wines!


My Italian Wine Renaissance


He’s just a big teddy bear . . .

Italian wine intimidates me.  Not in the same way Michael Corleone intimidates me, but it’s daunting, nonetheless.  I’ve spent a lot of time trying to learn about Italian wine, but it just never seems to jell.

So, I was super excited for the latest #WineStudio series, which focused on Italian wines, specifically those imported by our guest-host, Justin Gallen of Rinascimento Wine Company. Rinascimento means Renaissance in Italian.  I speak almost 18 words of Italian, so this was new (and timely) knowledge for me.

Because I could use an Italian wine Renaissance.

For the uninitiated, #WineStudio is a live, 4-week long, wine tasting and education series that takes place each Tuesday evening from 9-10pm EST on Twitter.  It’s hosted by  Protocol Wine Studio, and usually focuses on a singular theme, but wines and/or wineries change each week. Wine Studio participants are always well-prepared and enthusiastic.

Justin is probably the most down-to-earth wine importer I’ve ever chatted with — not that I chat with just tons of wine importers.  Justin has a true passion for wine and the winemaking process.  In fact, Justin says, “passion runs the wine business”.  Passion, and more than a little moxie.  Justin has twelve producers now, and selects them based on two criteria, “they need to be cool and have good wine.”  I really, really hope that’s on Justin’s business cards.  What did I tell you about the down-to-earth thing?

This is where I repeat one of my personal wine mantras:  Every bottle of wine is an opportunity to learn something.  Here’s what we tasted . . . and what I learned.

Agricola CiDSCN5669relli Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo 2013 ⭐⭐⭐/89
This is a dry Rosé, made with 100% Montepulicano.  And whoa, the color on this wine — it looks like a sunset! Benjamin Moore should have this color in their paint deck.  My husband doesn’t know it yet, but I’m pretty sure we need an accent wall this color!  Great texture and heft to this Rosé.  So often, people stop drinking Rosé once the calendar says fall, but this Rosé would be a great transition to cooler months.  I’m thinking Thanksgiving aperitif.  Tart watermelon and cherry flavors — reminds me of a Jolly Rancher.  Creamy finish.  Changes beautifully in the glass as the temperature warms up.  12.5% ABV.


This color will really tie the room together . . .

What did I learn?  Montepulicano Rosé and sunsets use the same color palette.  Also, summer doesn’t have the monopoly on Rosé.

Musto Carmelitano Aglianico del Vulture DOC “Serra Del Prete” 2010 ⭐⭐⭐/89
100% Aglianico.  Definitely a brooder when first opened.  SUCH a powerful wine.  Protocol Wine Studio for the win:  “How bad-ass is this wine?!?”  Loads of black licorice, tobacco, smoke and chocolate flavors.  And some more smoke.  Justin says this wine “tastes like a burnt volcano.”  🌋  File that under Best Wine Descriptions ever.  Desperate for decanting, and time in the glass.  I was in a fall mood, so I chose a great fall dish — Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash, Sausage and Fried Sage to pair with this wine.  I loved this with the roasted flavor and the hint of anise in the sausage.  And the fattiness of the sausage really helped tame the tannins in the wine.  Jeff Burrows summed up the Aglianico-food relationship perfectly: “Smoke and leather, but unleash it with food and it is so well behaved.  Surprising!”


What did I learn?  Burnt volcanoes score a home run with roasted squash and sausage.  😉


G.D. Vajra Barbera D’ Alba DOC 2011 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/91
100% Barbera, aged in new oak.  I love Barbera — it’s such a great segue wine.  #WineStudio hit the nail on the head with this observation:  “Barbera is an excellent transition wine to take people into high end Italian varietals.  You gotta work up to the big boys!”  Not that there isn’t bigness in Barbera — it’s just different big.  This wine is lot more opaque in color than the Barolo — kind of a cloudy garnet.  The nose on this wine reminds me of incense. Which made me think about Monty Python’s Life of Brian – “Don’t worry too much about the myrrh next time.  All right?”  I’m out there, I know.  But the nose knows.  Flavors of chocolate covered cherries, minerals, and rose petals.  Loads of acid, needs food to really start shining.  I made Spaghetti Bolognese for dinner — a great paring for this higher acid Barbera.  $25ish.

What did I learn?  Barbera is the transitions lens of Italian red wine.

G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe DOCG 2009 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/90
100% Nebbiolo.  Ahhh, Barolo.  Sometimes I think Barolo is actually an anagram for “give it time”.  Justin must be on the same wavelength, because he commented, “Barolo at 5 years old can be kind of a crybaby.  Open for a day adds 10 years.”  And boy if that wasn’t true.  This bottle was far more approachable on Day 2.  The color on this wine is a little deceiving — it’s a pale ruby color in the glass.  An observation that didn’t go unnoticed by many #WineStudio participants.  The always articulate, Dezel Quillen, offered, “People generally equate opacity with assertiveness.  But when it comes to Barolo, I say don’t let the color fool you!”   Jeff Burrows followed up with, “I think Barolo is the ultimate fooler.  So much power in that pale color”.  Bingo, Dezel and Jeff!   The nose on this wine kind of caught me off guard — lavender!  It’s almost relaxing just to sit and inhale it.  There’s so much going on in this glass — loads of spice, tobacco and tar.   Some seriously dense tannins, yet the wine manages to stay focused and elegant.  Aged in Slavonian (Croatian) oak.  Wine-searcher prices vary from $28-41, but anywhere in that range is a bargain for this Barolo.

What did I learn?  Just because you’re pale, doesn’t mean you aren’t powerful.

Thanks again to Justin Gallen of Rinascimento Wine Company for sharing his time and his wines with all of us, and to our tireless organizer, Protocol Wine Studio.

Next month on #WineStudio, we’ll be taking a look at Virginia Hard Cider . . . I can’t wait!!


Wine, Words & Wednesday, No. 20

Rock-star sommelier, Aldo Sohm, opened a new wine bar in New York City last month — the eponymous Aldo Sohm Wine Bar.  I have no idea why I know this.  I don’t live in New York, and I rarely find myself in New York City.  Any familiarity I have with The City That Never Sleeps comes from watching every episode of Sex and the City.  This shouldn’t even be on my radar.
And yet . . . I know there’s a new wine bar in The Big Apple.

If you’ve never heard of Aldo Sohm, he’s the Wine Director at Le Bernardin, one of New York City’s swankiest restaurants.  I’m only familiar with Le Bernardin because Carrie Bradshaw said their chocolate soufflé is one of the only things a New Yorker will wait for.  If you want a dinner table at Le Bernardin, you’ll need to make reservations months in advance.  Or be Carrie Bradshaw.

The Aldo Sohm Wine Bar is supposed to be much more casual (and much less expensive) than Le Bernardin.  Aldo Sohm celebrates Champagne Mondays and they open a different magnum of wine (for sale by the glass) each night of the week at 10pm.  That’s getting awfully close to my bedtime, but I’ll figure out a way to keep my eyeballs open for a magnum of Champagne! Wine is the main attraction at Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, but Sohm’s partner, Eric Ripert, is overseeing the lunch and dinner menus.  I glanced at the dinner menu, and something called a Foie Gras Lollipop jumped off the page.  I feel very strongly I need to experience one of those — and a glass of Sauternes to go with it.

While reading about the opening, these words caught my eye:


This kind of puts a fork in pretension, doesn’t it?  A “good wine” is any wine you like.  Find a wine you like . . . fun will follow!

I now want to make a pilgrimage to New York City.