Land or Sea this Memorial Day?

If you plan to spend this weekend on a boat or in a backyars overseeing the bbq pit- this week's column has a wine for you!

http://www.news-press.com/story/life/food/2014/05/21/land-sea-wine-thee/9351037/

Julie Glenn, Special to news-press.com12:40 a.m. EDT May 21, 2014

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Three-day weekends in Southwest Florida lend themselves to two options: Take to the Gulf waters on a boat, or host a barbecue in your backyard. Whether you choose surf or turf this Memorial Dayweekend, I have some wine suggestions for you.

For the surf:

On the water it is nice to keep things light and bright and there is nothing more refreshing than a bubbly prosecco. Jonette Kessack at Sip & Send in Cape Coral says she just got in a new prosecco called "LaLuca."

At $14.99 it's a great deal for a D.O.C. prosecco from the northeastern region of Italydesignated as the best place to make this sparkler. "It's perfect for days on the water," says Jonette.

"It's a summer go-to wine."

If you want something a little sweeter, try Villa Rosa Moscato d'Asti. It's another Italian sparkler with a fabulous floral nose of honeysuckle and orange blossoms. It's a great buy at Mario's Italian Meat Market for $12.99. You'll be there anyway getting prime cuts for your barbecue anyway, right?

And that brings me to the turf.

Few things cry out for a racy zinfandel the way good barbecue does. I know, I know, sometimes zin can be like that annoying person you want to smack and tell to tone it down, but these days zin is finding a better balance.

Once overdone with huge alcohol and giant fruitiness to match, this all-American wine has been reeled in by a few skilled producers. Still there are two distinct types: fruity and spicy.

For spicy (think black pepper, currant, tart berry flavors) try Rudy zinfandel from Von Strasser Winery. Coming in at around $25, you can find this gem at the Wine Merchant in North Naples.

If you want a big, fruity zinfandel to go with sauce-smothered ribs reach for Saldo. It's from the same people who bring us the blended cult wine "The Prisoner" but it's a single varietal from choice old-vine zinfandel.

With flavors of juicy plums, black fruit and mulling spices, this zin has a smooth velvety mouth-feel in spite of its 15.9 percent alcohol content.

Contact Julie Glenn, freelance writer and president of Slow Food Southwest Florida, at julieglenn.com.

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bubbling....

I've been thinking alot about Prosecco lately, mainly because I am doing some writing for a prosecco producer (whose wines are not available here in the States yet, darnit) and I am re-familiarizing myself with the way those bubbles make everything seem right with the world.  If Pharrell's song had a wine dopelganger it would be prosecco. I submit that it is very difficult to be unhappy while doing either of the two things: eating spaghetti or sipping sparkling wine. Prosecco isn't overly serious, it is rarely overpriced, it never gets old because it isn't too sweet or too dry. Sure, there are some that suck at the low end of the price spectrum, but even when it is cheap mass-produced plonk it's still drinkable, bless its heart.  Just remember to take an advil in case it's one of the cheapies that makes headaches worse. 

Prosecco hails from Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia and is made from the recently re-named Glera grape.  It was once called Prosecco, but in Italy's never-ending efforts to confuse American consumers and to keep alive the tradition of naming wines after places rather than grapes Italy has deemed it so andthe name has changed. However, Prosecco the town is over by Trieste. So yeah, I will never understand.  

I digress.

Prosecco also begins with the first four letters of it's best friend on a plate: prosciutto. This is a pairing not to be missed in life.  I don't subscribe to the bucket-list theory as I generally do what I want without waiting- but if you have such a list, throw this on it. Prosecco and prosciutto. Do it.

 

a la Francaise

Coteaux d'Ancienis "Cour de Rohan" Gamay Rose 2012

Coteaux d'Ancienis "Cour de Rohan" Gamay Rose 2012

I don't know who invented rose wine, but I believe the French have been the first to give it a big ol' bear hug of acceptance. Ok, maybe a peck on the cheek- but that's huge love from the French. Provence (with its hot summers) is the epicenter of rose in France but it is everywhere- even Bordeaux (try Clarendelle from Chateau Haut Brion's second line @ $15-20- affordable awesomeness). 

For affordable French one must go to Loire, which is where we find Coteaux d'Ancienis Cour de Rohan. I don't know if the store I was at got a screaming deal on it or what, but I got it for $8.99. I am finding it on line for $12 ish. So I'm guessing my low price was not the usual. It's made from 100% Gamay grapes which makes it a pretty blu-ish pink color. Its strong color gives away the fact that it is a very powerful rose with tons of strawberry flavor and a bit of earthiness to soften its acidic punch. This one goes perfectly with salami, pates, and prosciutto- a.k.a. charcuterie. 

M. Plouzeau "Rive Gauche" Chinon Rose

M. Plouzeau "Rive Gauche" Chinon Rose

Next I went to Chinon which is in the Loire region as well to find the M. Plouzeau Chinon Rose "Rive Gauche." Chinon is the land of Cabernet Franc, and that is the grape employed for this bottle. It is light on the fruit, more young strawberry than jam and has a finish that reminds me of men's cologne. It is about 100 times more complex than the Gamay I tried earlier so would be better with first courses like pasta and peas, bean soups, or cooked seafood dishes. Of course, with a name like "Rive Gauche" it's made for parties Matisse or Hemingway would have frequented in the Parisian heyday celebrated by the term. Coming in at under $20 and organically made, it is worth a toast for sure.

Of course no discussion of French rose is complete without pointing to the cradle of French rose: Tavel in the Rhone.  You can hardly go wrong with any rose from Tavel. Grenache and Cinsault are the grapes here, and the wine is considered the "rose of kings" as it was the favorite of Louis the 14th. It was also the go-to wine for the papal court in nearby Chateauneuf du Pape.  

P.S. In France it is illegal to make rose by adding red wine to white (except in Champagne). It is always to be made in the saignee method which means they "bleed" off the juice from red grapes, varying the amount of time they allow the skins to remain in contact with the juice. Longer contact means more color, tannin, and tartness for the wine. Some grapes need little to no contact as they have so much going on in the pulp. Others need more as the "meat" of the grape doesn't yield so much flavor.

 

 

Rosato- Rose Italian Style

Rosato e Salumi

Rosato e Salumi

In Italy, Rose is called Rosato.  And because the world is finally waking up to this finer shade of wine there are more of these beauties gracing American wine store shelves. I found the Sicilian to the right in a cute little shop called Prima Vini in Walnut Creek, CA. The producer is Tenuta Delle Terre Nere and while the wine itself is great, the winemaker's description of why he made it made me love it even more. Check it out here. Spoiler: it's because his three year old daughter loves pink. Can there be a better reason to make a rosato?

The winery is near Mount Etna, the wine is organic, it's a D.O.C. wine (for more on that click here) , and it is salmony-pink made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio grapes. Nerello Mascalese makes a super-tannic red wine due to its thick skins, and Nerello Cappuccio is a bit more velvety in its red incranation. They grow well together and play well together in the bottle as the Etna red wine. Made as the rosato (with the skins yanked out before they impart too much redness) these two grapes are just a delight. So easy to drink it could be dangerous.

Worth seeking out and worth the $23 price tag, it plays well with salumi (my favorite is Fra Mani which is becoming more and more widely available, much to my delight.)  The producer is Tenuta Delle Terre Nere and when the weather cools down I will definitely try their red wines.  

Tomorrow we go to France! Until then- drink your pink. 

Happy Rose Week!

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Few things make wine nerds happier than an opportunity to chat up the awesomeness of Rose wine, and this is the week for loving Rose. I don't know who deemed this week to be a celebration of Rose, but I did notice that my fave blogger #grapefriend indicated thusly- also the wine shop at Walnut Creek, CA called Prima Vini had no less than an entire rack loaded with pinkness front and center.  I'll call that second-sourcing.  

In honor of this auspicious week, I'll show a new one every day.  This first one is a Pinot Noir rose from the Anderson Valley of California.  It comes from the boutique winery called Toulouse which is known for making pretty amazing Pinot Noir (the straight-up red version). Their rose is an excellent example of how much power is on the fleshy insides of this grape.  Pinot Noir is not known for having a thick skin to begin with, so toss it aside in the winemaking process for rose and you still have quite a bit of yum factor to work with. The former wine growers who started Toulouse in the early 2000's made 430 cases of the 2011.  It costs $20-24 a bottle.

 

A Trip to Chateau Montelena

Happy vines along 29 highway

Happy vines along 29 highway

I always forget how big Napa Valley is, and it happened again yesterday when I decided to take a little drive up to Chateau Montelena to take a photo for an article I was writing.  Yeah, it's in Calistoga which is a solid 45 minutes further north. Luckily, it is a beautiful drive and it's always a joy to see the grapevines in their "crazy hair" stage.

Eventually we arrived at what is possibly the most stunning vineyard I've seen in America. Off Tubbs Lane there is a non-descript little driveway with a sign one could easily miss. The trees around the buildings are tall and mercifully shady on a 110 degree day. 

 

Once out of the car we caught a glimpse of the iconic structure immortalized in the movie Bottle Shock which recounts the Judgement of Paris in which Chateau Montelena's Chardonnay defeated French competitors in a blind tasting. (An American Cabernet Sauvignon won as well: Stag's Leap's 1973 vintage)

Beautiful Chateau Montelena in Calistoga, CA

Beautiful Chateau Montelena in Calistoga, CA

I've sold Chateau Montelena wines in the past but never really had an opportunity to try them so, after such a long drive I decided I should investigate.  Happily I had the opportunity to try the Estate Riesling which is very crisp and Alsatian in style, meaning it is not sweet or overly fruity, but more acidic and suitable for food pairing.  The Chardonnay is described in the tasting room as Burgundian in style- which means it is not oaky or buttery (California style). The Chardonnay is more acidic than many, but is undeniably rich. The balance is where it's at with this wine. 

In the red category we tried the 2010 Estate Zinfandel (which was incredible- I bought a bottle) the 2010 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2009 Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.  Of course, they were all fab and very much worth the drive. The tasting room staff was not stuffy at all and make it feel like you're stepping back in time to an era before gigantic scores and snobbery.  They're proud of the winery's successes but the staff is gracious and explain it all so that the beginner and the well-versed are equally comfortable.

The 1973 Judgement of Paris winner with the 2010 current release

The 1973 Judgement of Paris winner with the 2010 current release

Happy Fourth!

Let's drink to America's contribution to the wine world- This week's column looks at the history of wine in North America: from the days when Scandinavians called it "Wine Land" through Chateau Montelena Chardonnay's defeat of the French in 1976. 

Check it out Here. 

Chateau Montelena's Battle of Paris winning 1973 Chardonnay alongside the current 2010 release

Chateau Montelena's Battle of Paris winning 1973 Chardonnay alongside the current 2010 release

Al Fresco at Concannon

Reserve Viognier at Concannon's Picnic Yard

Reserve Viognier at Concannon's Picnic Yard

One nice thing about California wine regions that are *not* Napa Valley is this: it is a hundred times more laid back and it is a thousand times less expensive. I love Napa, don't get me wrong. But sometimes I wonder if I'm going to be charged a tasting fee for breathing the rarified air of the valley. I know it's a business, and pouring rivers of wine down tourists gullets is not the way it is any more now that Napa is, well, Napa. So it is a welcome relief to my price-conscious wine-loving self to venture afield to places like Livermore.  

About a forty minute drive from San Francisco and maybe twenty minutes or less from anywhere in the East Bay you'll find Livermore along I-580 with its rather ugly name but a town full of people who could care less bustling around on First Street. There are dozens of little independent shops and restaurants and a super-festive Thursday night farmer's market complete with local wines to taste.

Make your way to Tesla Road and you'll be treated to a convenient collection of wineries with open tasting rooms. The big players are Wente and Concannon, both founded by local families way back in the day. There are smaller wineries, too, many of which sell only directly to consumers. This means they don't distribute their wines around the country- they'll ship to you- but you buy direct from them.

My favorite thing to do these days is pack a picnic and head to Concannon. I've fallen in love with their reserve Viognier- and for the retail price of that bottle I get to sit among the old vines and perfectly manicured grounds. They provide the glasses and offer to open the bottle and everything. It is just the cheapest, most glorious way to spend a Friday afternoon.  

Picnic at Concannon

Picnic at Concannon

Dim Sum at Steam, Palo Alto, CA

I have been trying to get my Italian husband to open his food mind for the past several years and today we had a breakthrough.  Strolling along University Avenue in Palo Alto he liked the decor of Steam, a Cantonese restaurant that had opened three months prior.  He looked at the menu for a good five minutes before suggesting we eat there.

Siu Mai goodness

Siu Mai goodness

Hallelujah!

Lucky for me the restaurant was better than any Chinese place ever, so the Italian is convinced that the "other" noodle cuisine is not bad at all. After three rounds of little dumplings and rolls, I did mu shu out of nostalgia. He did the five-crop rice.  He's making plans for our next visit.

Steam is at 209 University in Palo Alto.

Five Crop Veggie Rice

Five Crop Veggie Rice

Mouthfeel, by Julie Glenn