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Glass of Boğazkere anyone? How about Öküzgözü?

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Don’t let the umlauts scare you, Turkish wines may be difficult to pronounce, but they are oh so easy to drink

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As if winemaking wasn’t already challenging, imagine doing it in a country where 83% of the population doesn’t drink and the government keeps enacting ever-more restrictive measures on marketing and selling alcohol. Now add a civil war next door and an increasingly volatile political scene and you begin to marvel at the dedication and determination of Turkish winemakers.

Read more at The Alcohol Professor.

 

Earth, Wind and Fog

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Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs show diversity of terroir in Santa Lucia Highlands

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The noted Napa winemaker André Tchelistcheff once quipped that “God made Cabernet Sauvignon, whereas the devil made Pinot Noir.” With its thin skin, susceptibility to mold, rot and sunburn, this diva of the wine world is picky about where it grows. Cool climate Burgundy, of course, is the standard bearer, but in California, where it can be hard to avoid the sun, we see a range of styles. Warmer regions give us big, bold, fruity wines, while more structured wines can found in the state’s cooler nooks and crannies, such as the Russian River Valley, Carneros, Anderson Valley, and Santa Lucia Highlands.

Read more at The Alcohol Professor

A New Look for the Wine Advocate

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Robert Parker talks points, Parkerization and why this is the greatest time ever for wine lovers

 

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On April 1, the Wine Advocate’s website, RobertParker.com, unveiled a whole new look. At a recent press conference in New York, Robert Parker and editor-in-chief Lisa Perrotti-Brown, MW, announced the site’s redesign, which is the first since the publication went online in 2001. It is the latest development at the Wine Advocate since Parker sold a majority interest to Singapore investors three years ago. “The Wine Advocate had to move into the 21st century,” said Parker, who will turn 69 this year. “We had to come up with better technology. I’ve gotten long in the tooth, but our new investors are better adapted to do that.”

Read more at The Alcohol Professor

Exploring the Wines of Ribera y Rueda

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Neighboring regions of Ribera del Duero and Rueda in Spain form a delicious alliance

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“A bottle of red, a bottle of white . . .”

Three years ago my husband and I spent a month in San Sebastian, Spain, and did our daily shopping at a postage-stamp sized grocery store that carried a tiny but brilliantly curated selection of goods: freshly sliced jamon, aged Manchego, and just-picked white asparagus still covered in the red soil of nearby Navarra. The store also managed to find room for quite a few bottles of good wines, surprisingly, none of which exceeded 5 euros. A favorite among them was a Verdejo from Rueda, which I still remember as crisp and refreshing with more going on in the glass than could possibly be expected for $7 a bottle.

Read more at The Alcohol Professor.

Time for Bubbles!

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I love drinking sparkling wine all year round for any old reason, or no reason at all. But on New Year’s Eve, when the clock strikes midnight, it’s nearly obligatory to raise a glass of something sparkly. The question is, what to pour? These days there are so many options it’s possible to find a good bottle at any price point. While the grand marques of Champagne still dominate the wine store shelves, in recent years they’ve been joined by cava, prosecco, crémant, sekt, pét-nat, Franciacorta, Moscato d’Asti, and the ever-increasing number of grower Champagnes. The Alcohol Professor website has all my recommendations to get the New Year off to a delicious start.

Here’s to a happy 2016!

 

Wines Worth the Wait: Alsatian Vendange Tardive

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At this time of year most vineyards have long since harvested their grapes. However, should you happen to spot berries still on the vine, know that they’re headed for something special. Late harvest wines to be exact, and all that extra sunshine translates into added layers of honeyed richness, complexity, and delicate sweetness. A great match with apple pies or pear tarts, they feel in sync with the autumn season. One place that excels in these late-harvest styles is Alsace, where they’re known as vendange tardive. You can read all about them in my article here.

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

More than just Icewine in the Finger Lakes

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Given the crazy cold winters in the Finger Lakes wine region of upstate New York, it was no surprise to find a wide range of seriously good Icewines. Along with Niagara, this cool climate region is making a name for itself with wines made from frozen grapes. What did surprise me, however, was the variety of other dessert wines such as vin doux naturel, port and late harvest wines. What are these wines? What do they taste like? Are they any good? Find out more in my article here.

 

Friendly Faces of the Finger Lakes

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Spend even a short time in the Finger Lakes wine region in upstate New York and you quickly realize that it’s not just the bucolic landscape or the fresh-from-the-farm produce or even the impressive wines that make this place so special. What ties it all together and what will lodge a visit firmly in your memory is the people. New York’s largest wine region comprises more than 130 wineries spread around the shores of four main lakes (out of 11 total), but after five days of traveling and tasting through the area, what quickly became clear is what a tight-knit, collaborative community it is. They lend a helping hand when needed, collaborate on making wine, and when 250 wine bloggers invade their vineyards, what do they do? Welcome them with open arms, serve them delicious food straight from the farmer’s market and generously share their wines. Here are some of the friendly winemakers who opened their doors for the 2015 Wine Blogger’s conference.

Ventosa Vineyards

Ventosa owner Lenny Cecere with his 2011 Lemberger on the night it won the Governor’s Cup award for best New York wine. At 28, Jenna Lavita, Ventosa’s winemaker is the youngest to win this award.

Leidenfrost Vineyards

Liz Leidenfrost is the third generation of this winemaking family.

Three Brothers Wineries & Estates

Erica Paolicelli poured this light, bright Riesling from Three Brothers.

Standing Stone Vineyards

Along with her husband, Tom, Marti Macinski makes a lovely lineup of wines including this Gewürztraminer ice wine.

Anthony Road Wine Company

The sage of the Finger Lakes? Certainly one of the most gregarious hosts we had. John Martini, owner of Anthony Road, knows how to captivate a wine tasting audience, and the wines are great too.

Hazlitt 1852

The handiwork of John Santos, vineyard manager, ends up in this fine bottle of Hazlitt’s Cabernet Franc.

Fox Run Vineyards

Owner Scott Osborne (top left) and winemaker Peter Bell (bottom right) treated our group of 50 to a winery tour and lunch with wine pairings. Peter’s not-so-secret passion is port made in the Australian, rancio style. This tawny is outstanding.

Hearts & Hands Wine Company

Tom Higgins and his wife, Susan (sadly not shown, she’s lovely), focus on Pinot Noir and Riesling. Their dedication shows in this white Pinot Noir Polarity.

Hermann J. Wiemer

They pulled out all the corks when our small crew stopped by unannounced for a tasting. Fred Merwarth (top right) makes an outstanding range of wines that include single-vineyard Rieslings, sparkling Chardonnay (I highly recommend the 2009), Pinot noir, Cabernet franc and botrytized dessert wines. Katie Cooke, assistant winemaker and Oskar Bynke, estate manager, (lower left) kept the wines flowing.

Dinner from Dano’s at Hazlitt 1852

That chef Dano Hutnik was a ballet dancer in Vienna was just one of the many surprises of our dinner at Hazlitt 1852. That seafood stuffed cabbage could be so delicious (paired with Gewürztraminer) was another. Alas, our Russian napoleons were served without a pirouette, but they were still delicious.

Tawny Port: When drinking with a 20-year-old is not only legal, but recommended

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In the latest issue of Wine & Spirits magazine a report on top restaurant wines found that when it comes to dessert wines the most popular after-dinner tipple is tawny port. In fact, all but two of the top ten were tawnies. This may reflect the fact that this style is a particularly attractive by-the-glass option for restaurants in that an opened bottle will keep for at least a month and these wines don’t require decanting (both good reasons to stock up at home too). But practical considerations aside, tawny ports, specifically those that have been aged for a decade or more, are a delicious way to cap off an evening. Much lighter in body than young ruby’s or mature vintage ports, tawnies have nutty, caramel-like flavors that pair well with a wide variety of desserts such as apple tarts or chocolate mousse, while their sweetness makes them an excellent choice with cheese. And although we tend to associate port with winter weather and a roaring fire, you could also do as the Portuguese and sip them in the summer, slightly chilled, all on their own.

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Of all the styles of port tawnies perhaps are the most challenging to make and are the most reflective of their shipping houses. They begin their lives the same way all ports do with red grapes crushed and vigorously macerated. Usually the best grapes are used, often from the same batch used for vintage ports since this style’s long aging requires firm tannins and high acidity. Grape spirit is then added to the must to halt fermentation, resulting in a sweet, intensely fruity wine with between 19 and 22% abv. Different houses halt fermentation at different times to obtain their own distinct level of sweetness (the earlier grape spirit is added the sweeter the wine). Wines destined to become tawnies are then aged in large wooden casks for the first few years and then transferred to smaller wood pipes. These are well-seasoned, neutral barrels not intended to impart any flavors to the wine. Instead, their purpose is to allow slow, controlled exposure to air over time. This gentle oxidation along with evaporation concentrates the sweetness and flavors and transforms the wine’s bright fresh fruit into more developed dried fruit, cinnamon, caramel and nuttiness. The color fades from bright purpley red to brownish amber, or tawny.


Tawny vs. Tawny

IMG_1889Not all tawny ports are created equally. It’s not uncommon to see generic “tawny” ports without an indication of age. These wines, however, have usually spent no more than a few years in barrel and are often blended with white port to replicate a true tawny. Those aged for seven years in barrel are labeled reserve tawnies and although a few good examples exist these are attractive mostly for their low price. Top quality tawny ports give an indication of age on the label: 10, 20, 30, or 40 years, which represents an approximation of the age of the component wines (they are blends of vintages). Each shipper aims to maintain a house style and may use anywhere from 10 to 50 different wines. One element of some tawnies is called “Duoro Bake” and refers to wine that has been aged in barrels kept in the hot, sunny Duoro valley rather than the cooler, coastal village of Vila Nova de Gaia. The higher inland temperatures cause more evaporation and quicker aging and give more pronounced “rancio” or carmelized flavors.

The longer the wine spends in barrel the deeper the concentration, the more developed the flavors and, of course, the more expensive it becomes. About 1- 2% is lost to evaporation every year (3% in the Duoro). Ten-year tawnies average around $20 per bottle retail, while 40-year tawnies are around $140. Hitting the sweet spot of a full array of tawny notes at a reasonable price are the 20-year tawnies, considered by many port aficionados to be the pinnacle of tawny ports. The style exhibits the transition between the vibrant fresh fruit of its younger self and the more mature, developed nutty notes and are slightly sweeter than the 10 year olds. Of those eight favorite tawnies, five were 20 year olds. Here then are some recommended 20-year tawnies and the restaurants where you can find them.

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Recommended 20-year-old tawnies and where to drink them by the glass:

Ferreira “Duque de Braganca” 20 year old Tawny Port. Elegant and rich with distinct notes of walnuts, toffee, dried cherry and orange peel. $69.99 retail, $22/glass at Gramercy Tavern, 42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003, (212) 477-0777.

Fonseca 20 year old Tawny Port. Fonseca may be known for its vintage ports, but its 20-year tawny is top notch. This wine was my favorite of the three for its smooth and silky texture and its complex notes of stewed plums, dates, dried cherries, and candied pecans, which lingered for a good long time.  $49.99 retail, $18/glass at Aldea, 31 W 17th St, New York, NY 10011, (212) 675-7223.

Taylor Fladgate 20 year old Tawny Port. This wine took top honors as the most popular dessert wine. Although I preferred the other two, this is still a delicious, bright and refined wine with notes of raspberry jam, dried cherry, and cloves. $50.97 retail, $20/glass at Bar Boulud, 1900 Broadway (at 64th Street) New York, NY 10023, (212) 595-0303.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortify Your Blizzard Survival Kit

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Will the snow ever end? It’s all the East Coast is talking about. Personally I love a good winter storm­ and how the whiteness (while it lasts) brightens the skeletal trees and the city becomes a little less frenetic. Cold, snowy nights like these call for an extra dose of something to take the chill out, like an oloroso sherry. Sherries have made a comeback in the last few years, but while finos and manzanillas have drawn most of the attention olorosos remain mostly out of the spotlight. In fact when I went searching for a bottle in my local shops there were few to choose from.

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Made from the courser base wines, olorosos are often more textured and fuller bodied than finos and amontillados. While they still make for a fine apperitif, the style lends itself to pairing cold-weather fare such as stews or game dishes. Oloroso means “fragrant” in Spanish and these are potent, hearty wines, usually a dark amber color with nutty, dried fruit flavors. This comes from aging entirely oxidatively in barrels with no time spent under a layer of flor (yeast), which is how finos, manzanillas and amontillados are aged. Over the years some of the wine evaporates, concentrating the flavors and increasing the level of alcohol, which can range from 18 to 24%. This may leave an impression of sweetness although most oloroso wines are dry. A truly sweet oloroso will have had some Pedro Ximenez added and labeled a cream sherry.

This oloroso comes from a former almacenista, who used to sell his wines to big producers such as Gonzalez Byass, but now bottles them under his own name. The bodegas of Gutiérrez Colosía are found in the coastal town of El Puerto de Santa María and therefore feel the influence from the Atlantic winds. The saline quality of this oloroso is prominent, but is accompanied by notes of toasted walnuts, raisins, and a touch of iron. And, since it has already been exposed to oxygen, once it’s open it’ll keep in the refrigerator for a couple of months.

Gutiérrez Colosía Oloroso dry sherry, 750 ml, 18% abv, $34.99.