Friday, December 5, 2014

2014 Wine Book Gift Guide and Wish List




Aside from wine, books are my favorite thing to give as gifts. Here are my top picks for a wine centric book giving. I wrote this post a few weeks ago, before Eric Asimov’s book suggestions appeared, but glad to see we have some selections in common. Note: I purchased all of the books below myself except where noted.

Jura Guide by Wink Lorch
I was a Kickstarter sponsor for this book last year and its format as a hybrid travel guide and definitive wine resource is exactly the type of book wine travelers need. I’ve never visited the Jura, but this book has moved it to the top of my wine travel list.  

Wines of California: The Comprehensive Guide by Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen
My home state has a lot to cover, but Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen manage to give every region its due in this comprehensive ode to Calilfornia Wine.

Windows on the World Course in Wine 30th Anniversary Edition by Kevin Zaraly
Windows on the World in Wine was one of the first books I purchased when I became interested in learning more about wine. The 30th Anniversary Edition offers the same approach to learning about wine in a new accessible design and layout with updated vintage notes, maps, and charts. Note: I received the new edition of the book as a review copy.

Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and Jose Vouillamoz
This definitive tome came out in 2012. It’s pricey but worth it and makes a great gift for someone special you want to splurge on.

WISH LIST -- What I’m asking Santa for this year.

Native Wine Grapes of Italy  – by Ian D’Agata
Italian wines have always held a special place in my heart and on my palate. My deep interest in wine really began after I lived and worked in Italy and I think this book looks like a great way to fall in love with Italian wine all over again.

Madeira: The Mid-Atlantic Wine by Alexander Liddell
I’ve always been intrigued by Madeira, that tiny spec of an island out in the Atlantic.  I’d like to plan a trip and to hike around the island on the levada trails by day and sip Madeira by night.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

6 Thanksgiving Wines You Probably Won’t Be Able to Find But Would Go Great with Your Meal


Thanksgiving Wines to Grace Your Table From Around the World

Why all the fuss about Thanksgiving wines every year? Well, I think it all comes down to fear and perfection. People have wildly high expectations and this leads to fear that their choice of wine will not be perfect. 

Here is my annual Thanksgiving advice:  Relax!

Perfect is not all it’s cracked up to be. Choose wines you like and let the day unfold. Odds are, unless your family and guests are extremely wine centric, no one will be talking about the wine served. Just have plenty of it, whatever it is, and everything will be just fine.

Wine is Travel in a Bottle -- so this Thanksgiving I offer you six selections from a few of the places, near and far, I visited this year. 

1. Canals & Munné Brut Nature Grand Reserva Cava-- Spain
Aged for 48 months, this blend of Macabeu, Chardonnay, and Parellada is dry and elegant, well suited to appetizers such as crab cakes or blini with caviar or smoked salmon.

2. Törley Hungaria Extra Dry Rosé -- Hungary*
Turkey or Tofurkey? Törley is the answer. This wine is Thanksgiving in a bottle! Dry and balanced with a hit of tart cranberry and pomegranate flavor that floats across the palate in a parade of tiny bubbles. 

3. Pentâge Pinot Gris 2012-- Canada
A light, bright, delight -- I had this Pinot Gris for the first time at a restaurant outside of Vancouver and could not stop craving it. I finally had to go back to B.C in person to get some, and I’m glad I did. It’s luscious lychee, peachy flavors, and zesty acidity could pair well with anything from oysters to sweet potatoes.  

4. Liquidity Viognier 2013 -- Canada
This is one of the most delicious Viogniers I’ve ever had--completely captivating with a fabulous apricot and floral bouquet, followed by peaches and cream on the palate with citrus and green apple notes. This would pair nicely with a mushroom risotto.

5. Piquentum Terre Refosk 2011-- Croatia*
Dark and griping with a flourish of full flavor, this would be excellent with duck or sausage stuffing, also good to drink alone outside as you count your blessings and hope no fights break out before dessert.

6. Tinhorn Creek Cab Franc 2011 -- Canada*
This Cab Franc is one of my favorites-- bold, balanced and enough body for any dish your casserole crazy Aunt Emma brings, as well as a great accompaniment to turkey or squab and other birds you might have flying around the house.

Okay, so you probably won’t be able to source most of these in the states, except for the * starred selections, which I purchased through Blue Danube Wine at www.bluedanbuewine.com, and the Tinhorn Creek can be ordered in the US via http:/usshop.tinhorn.com

NOTE: I tasted all the above (except for the Törley) in their country of origin and encourage you to do the same. I also bought all the wines with my own wampum, and despite rumors to the contrary... I DO NOT work for Blue Danube Wine, I just really like and appreciate their offerings.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Adernats Cava Cathedral - Come for the Wine Stay for the Hazelnuts

As I mentioned previously, here in this post, I was part of a hosted team that toured the Cava region of Spain last month for the 50 Great Cava’s Tour in the Penedès.

Above right, Lara and Kathy “lean in” for more information
Our first stop was at Adernats Vinícola de Nulles where we discovered the César Martinell designed wine cathedral--an homage to modernism with a hat tip to Antoni Gaudí. This is the place to taste Cava and ponder the elements of architecture and structure in wine.

We walked the grounds around the vineyards and examined the rocky clay and limestone soil. The vineyards have little change in temperature from day to night, but a sea breeze gives respite from the heat, and allows for good acid and sugars to develop.

Adernats is part of a co-op that was formed after the phylloxera devastation in the region. Adernats also produces other products within the co-op including a superb olive oil, honey, fruit jams and hazelnuts.

Confession: I hate hazelnuts. I think Nutella tastes like poison. The smell of hazelnut flavored coffee makes me recoil. In short; I've never met a hazelnut I liked. But my abhorrence of hazelnuts came to an end at Adernats. Cava and hazelnuts might just be the perfect pairing.

Maybe I've just never had a good hazelnut before or all the previous ones were rancid, but the nuts at Adernats were a revelation. The slightly oily and full rich flavor of the toasted hazelnut was a sublime pairing with the crisp dry Cava. Perhaps the winery should be called Adernuts!


Cavas tasted:
Reserva Brut Nature Cava DO
Reserva Brut Cava DO
Gran Reserva Brut Nature Cava DO (bottled fermented 40 months)
All were a blend of Macabeo, Xarel•lo and Parellada grapes.  

We also tasted one of the 50 Great Cavas -- The XC Gran Reserva Cava DO crafted from 100% Xarel•lo grapes and barrel fermented for five months, followed by 45 months of secondary fermentation in the bottle. 


This was my favorite Cava of them all. It had a lightness of being, yeasty with notes of spiced pears and apples and grounded with wonderful minerality. 

Our host looks a bit like Sergio Garcia here, no?  

As we popped nuts, sipped Cava and contemplated the architecture, I chatted with Ms. Lara Dunston of Grantourismo and noticed her pockets were stuffed with nuts. How they got there is anybody's guess. I suppose good hazelnuts are hard to come by in Cambodia.  

After the Cava tasting we were led up to the top of the winery for an outstanding dinner in the rafters above the tanks.

Watermelon anchovy gazpacho? Yes, Please! Watermelon and anchovy may sound weird but I loved it. I love anchovies with everything so this was a special treat, there was also some olive oil and tomato in the gazpacho to round out the flavors.


During the meal we donned blindfolds which added to the heightened sensory experience and gave the evening a slightly naughty Eyes Wide Shut tinge. While blindfolded we were given several food items on a wooden skewer including a cherry tomato, watermelon, and pineapple and asked to identify what they were. I must say trying to eat anything off a skewer while blindfolded is an accident waiting to happen. Fortunately the blindfold served as protection from getting poked in the eye.

I’m not sure what the above dish was called but it was AMAZING - a mélange of flavors with pine nuts, salmon, cream, balsamic vinegar, and my new best friend, hazelnuts. 

The winery holds dinners once a month that are open to the public. If you are going to be in the area, contact the winery and make plans to attend. The inspiring surroundings, fine fare and excellent Cava's make for a notable evening.

Resources:
Adernats Vinícola de Nulles
http://www.vinicoladenulles.com/

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Last Week in Wine -- New series!

I often tweet out what wine I’m drinking during the week and highlight various wines from my region as well as from regions around the world, but I don't always have room in a tweet to elaborate on each wine. So I’ve decided to collect them in occasional posts called Last Week in Wine. Catchy title right? I got the idea from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

I doubt I will post this every single week, but this will be an ongoing series, a round-up of the wines I tried and some brief notes on each. Unless noted all wines were purchased with legal tender by me.


Here are the wines from the past week of November 2nd -8th, 2014

Stark Primitivo 2012
I’m not a big Zinfandel drinker, but I loves me some Primitivo. (Incidently both Zin and Primitivo are clones of the Croatian grape Crljenak.) This Stark wine from the Damiano Vineyard in the Sierra Foothills is just the ticket to send you on an Italian reverie (or perhaps a Croatian reverie considering the source) without the need to get on a plane. $38

Gloria Ferrer “Hands on Harvest” Pinot Noir 2010
This wine is not widely available. It was made as part of a Hands on Harvest event I attended in 2010 and the finished wine was sent to the participants. I’ve been holding on to these and this bottle showed some deeper characteristics from aging since the first bottle I tried in 2012. In my original notes I found it to be dry and spicy, but now it is much more lush, fuller, with rich dark fruit flavors and more balanced structure overall. Very nice indeed! (Priceless.)

Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda Argentina 2012 
I first came upon this wine when I was living in Florida and cruising the local Total Wine aisles for some decent wine to take my mind off the fact I was living in Florida. Anyway this wine did the trick. I love Bonarda (aka Charbono in California) and this one is a great value and a true representation of how lovely Bonarda can be-- dark in color, light tannins and good acidity with a hint of mint, dark cherry and concentrated plum flavors. Brambly and delicious. I bought it at Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa for $7.99.


Dingač Vinarija Pelješac  2012

Darker and richer than its sister wine, the Plavc, the Peljesac is has a medium body with a slightly sweeter base note on the palate. This is a bargain at $12.95. Buy a mixed case of this and the Plavac and see which you prefer. I think I’m leaning toward the Plavac, but it depends on what day it is. ;-)


Resources:
Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda Argentina
http://www.colonialasliebres.com/

Blue Danbue Wine Dingač Vinarija -
http://www.bluedanubewine.com/winery/dingac/

Stark Wine
https://starkwine.com/store/item/2012-stark-primitivo

Monday, November 3, 2014

Talking Wine, Travel, and Writing on VinVillage Radio

Last week I had the chance to chat with Rob Barnett of Vin Village Radio about my blog, my recent travels to Spain and Latvia, and the upcoming season of writing retreats for Writing Between the Vines.

I was just back from my trip to Spain, jet-lagged and fighting off a bad cold, so it's amazing I did not cough once during the entire interview, but I do sound rather congested!

Listen in by clicking on the link below: http://filesource.abacast.com/wsradio/vinvillageradio/102914/segment3102914.mp3

Below is the page from VinVillage Radio page with the link to the audio file as well.


Marcy Gordon - Founder and Executive Director of "Writing Between the Vines" - Vineyard Retreats for Writers - A literary arts foundation providing residencies for writers on vineyard estates around the world 
 
Marcy Gordon's background is in consumer marketing where she worked to launch and position several start-ups including Travelocity and OpenTable. That experience, and her love of travel and writing, led her to become a freelance travel writer, who is currently the Forbes Travel Guide Correspondent for Napa and Sonoma. Along with her blog, "Come For The Wine" Marcy is also the Founder and Executive Director of "Writing Between the Vines" - Vineyard Retreats for Writers - A literary arts foundation providing residencies for writers on vineyard estates around the world.
 
 
Click HERE for Segment-3
 
 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Canals & Munné Approaching 100 Years of Cava Production


Next year, Canals & Munné will celebrate 100 years of Cava production. Recently I visited the cellars and tasted their award winning Cava’s as part of the sponsored 50 Great Cava's Tour.

During our tour of the facility the charming Oscar Medina Canals demonstrated the manual corking equipment and showed us how the cage and cap was attached to the bottle.

video

In the tasting room we tried several of the Cava's including an organic offering, Dionysus Brut Nature, and my personal favorite the Insuperable a blend of 40% Macabeau, 30% Xarel•lo, and 30% Perellada—a lovely balanced Cava with a floral nose, bright fruit flavors, and a bit of spice on the finish.

After the tasting we went to the Cava centric town of Sant Siduru d'Anoia to the original location of Canals & Munné, which is now a restaurant and there we commenced upon a long lunch and paired traditional foods of the region with several more wines.


The highlight of the meal were the calçots --fresh green onions that are barbecued six minutes on each side, then the center shoot is pulled from the long green outer leaves, dipped in salsa de calçots and eaten by throwing your head back and dropping the onion into your mouth and hopefully not down your shirt. Fortunately plastic bibs were provided to keep everyone pristine.



Export manager Natalia de la Calle Zancajo showed us how to prepare the traditional Catalan appetizer Pa amb tomàquet which consists of tomato, garlic and olive oil on fresh toasted bread. She cautioned us not fill up on too much before the main meal but it was hard to resist. In addition to the fabulous calçots, the lunch included plates of fresh salad greens, artichokes, white beans, roasted peppers and eggplant, lamb and sausage with potatoes and the signature dessert Creme Catalan. The wines served were the Canals & Munné 1915 blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Xarel*lo and Macabeu. Alos the Reserve de L’Avi, and the Gran Duc Cava in the distinctive flared bottom bottle.

DETAILS:

Canals & Munné
Plaça Pau Casals 6
08770 San Sadurní
Barcelona, Spain




Monday, October 27, 2014

World Capital of Cava -- Sant Sadurni d’Anoia


In October I went to Spain on a whirlwind trip through of Cava Country, hosted as part of the Wine Pleasures 50 Great Cava Tour. One of the stops was in Sant Sadurni d'Anoia, the epicenter and world capital of Cava, located just outside of Barcelona.

In Sant Sadurni d’Anoia we visited the Centro de Interpretación de Cava – La Fassina de Can Guineu where an excellent multi-media presentation, on large interactive touch screen panels, told the story of the region and the history of Cava production. One of the most interesting sections depicted the many adverts and posters, beautiful examples of graphic design, promoting Cava Festivals over the years.


But the true focal point of the museum pertains to phylloxera. Most people think of phylloxera as a devastating pest that destroys vineyards, but from the perspective of Spain it was an economic opportunity to capitalize on the misfortune of France.



There is an entire exhibit room devoted to the phylloxera festival that's held every September 7 & 8 in Sant Sadurni d'Anoia. A short film shows the annual Phylloxera Festival as it celebrates the tiny bug in a lively fashion. Part Mardi Gras carnival, and part folk festival, the phylloxera is honored with a giant replica of the aphid and the whole town joins in a parade with many people wearing paper mâché bug heads that are quite horrific looking, or gruesome vine head masks that resemble the angry apple trees from the Wizard of Oz.


For a more profound experience, you can get up close and personal with a 3D phylloxera insect from larvae state to full-grown creature that will look you right in the eye as you stand before an interactive display. This is best experienced after a glass of Cava, or for those in a good state of mental health. If you are prone to nightmares I suggest you skip it.



The rest of the Centro de Interpretación de Cava has plenty to see including a 3D film on the region and wine making process.  The film ends with the motto: "the offspring of a feeling" --which I suppose can be open to all sorts if interpretations --but many in our group thought it evoked a double entendre. Well, not many in our group just one who shall remain nameless but here's a hint –“butter fingers” with an iPhone. Okay, enough insider information. On with the tour--


The museum was a previously a distillery, and in the basement, a former tank room, you can watch a light and sound show projected on the walls and ceiling that depicts the primary elements necessary for the production of Cava— earth, water, wind, fire/sunlight and of course, time. The room shakes with surround sound and a gentle breeze blows on cue to give you the feeling of total immersion in the vineyard. Afterwards you will be panting for a taste of Cava.

Luckily for us we only had to trot up a few flights of stairs to a conference room where we tasted several Cava's from the small artisan producer, Celler Vell. In the tasting line-up was the Estruch Brut Gran Reserva 2009, the Celler Vell Extra Brut Gran Reserva, and the Celler Vell Brut Nature Reserva --all awarded in the list of 50 Great Cava's of 2014.

Sant Sadurni d’Anoia is an easy day trip from Barcelona. The town square is just a few blocks from the train station and easy walking distance to the museum, shops, and many Cava tasting rooms.

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