Pop! Go The Bubbles: What To Pour For Your Most Sparkly Occasions

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes | Leave a comment

Whether it’s New Years Eve, Valentine’s Day, Easter brunch – or any festive holiday – sparkling wines are a wonderful way to celebrate. In fact, a good bubbly can turn even a regular ol’ Wednesday night into a special occasion.

So go on, indulge a little! This list features fizzies from $15 and up, so no matter what your budget, you’re sure to find something to sip.

La Marca Prosecco

La Marca Prosecco: ($15) Prosecco is to Italy as Crémant is to France. Except not exactly. But kinda. Sound confusing? I’ll make it easy: Just pick up a bottle of these bubbles – soft mousse, a little sweeter than traditional Champagne, with flavors of apple and honeysuckle and maybe the slightest bit of brioche. In fact, pick up two bottles, especially if you’re lucky enough to find this stuff for $11 or $12 (which you can, and I have). The pretty blue label makes it perfect for bridal and baby showers. The price makes it perfect for all of those little life celebrations, like birthdays, anniversaries, Saturday night… (100% Glera)

 

 

Von Buhl Riesling Sekt Brut

Von Buhl Riesling Sekt Brut: ($22) In case it isn’t immediately obvious, this sparkler hails from Germany. Wait, what? Yep. Deutschland is actually known for more than beer and clunky, communist architecture; in fact, there was a time when the country rivaled France as producers of the world’s most wonderful wein. If that comes as a shock, you might be equally surprised to learn that its most famous grape – Riesling – is responsible for far more than syrupy sweet Blue Nun. There are Riesling wines across the entire spectrum of sweetness levels. The one I reference here is actually bone-dry, with lots of bright, mouth-watering acidity. Although this is a vintage bubbly, it’s standard to find lots of stony minerality in the Rieslings from this region, as well as varying levels of apricot and citrus and right-out-of-the-oven baked bread. In general, this sparkler presents as light, lively and should be pretty much guaranteed to start conversations with less wine-savvy neophytes and to win major points with your more geeky companions. (100% Riesling)

 

J Brut Rose, Russian River Valley

NV J Brut Rosé, Russian River Valley: ($28) This soft pink bubbly out of Sonoma starts with an essence of strawberry seed and fizzes over the tongue with candied strawberry fruit, a bit of mineral and some citrus. The mousse is firm and frothy, there’s a peppy acidity, and the whole thing ends in a slow finish that almost seems too elegant for something so fun. (56% Pinot Noir, 44% Chardonnay)

 

 

 

 

 

Lanson Brut Black Label

Lanson Black Label Brut NV: ($30) My first experience with Lanson was at a super swanky wine tasting, where they were pouring over twenty Grand Marques Champagnes (that’s French for really fancy sparkling wine). I’d sipped Krug and Cristal, Pommery, Perrier-Jouet, Piper Heidsieck and Pol Roger, but I have a very clear memory of stopping dead in my tracks when I tasted the Lanson. The house style at Lanson Pere et Fils is tight, and I don’t mean that in the same way the kids today do. Unlike most bubblies, Lanson does not put their wines through malolactic fermentation, which means, simply, they’re very high in acid. These are great Champagnes to cellar, but the fresh green apple and citrus is so vibrant and refreshing, the bubbles so festive, the yeasty finish so long, that – provided you enjoy the style – there’s plenty of reason to just pop and pour. (35% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier)

 

Champagne Thienot Brut

NV Champagne Thienot Brut:($40) From a very old wine-producing region comes a very new Champagne house – Champagne Thienot. Yet despite being the new kid on the block at just 25 years young, their non-vintage blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier gives many of the competing, established sparklers a run for the money, especially in terms of QPR. Creamy and elegant with consistent, a delicate bead, this has flavors of peach and apple and a touch of toast. While the finish doesn’t go on forever, at that price, what you sacrifice in terms of length, you make up for in ability to actually afford a bottle (or two) in the first place (quite rare for quality Champagne). Group Thienot also owns the Grand Marques Champagne houses Laurent-Perrier (another personal favorite) and Canard-Duchêne.

 

NV Pierre Peters, Champagne Cuveé de Réserve Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs

NV Pierre Peters, Cuveé de Réserve Blanc de Blancs Brut Grand Cru: ($50) Mineral and grapefruit and apples and yeasty biscuits and a million tiny bubbles that go on forever. Pierre Peters is a “grower Champagne” estate, which means they grow and make their own juice, unlike many of the region’s bigger houses, which sometimes source fruit from all over the area. They’re a family-run production from the early 1900s, and as far as I can tell, there hasn’t been a bad bottle since they started. OK, that’s probably an exaggeration, but these Champagnes – made with Grand Cru grapes – are light and crisp, focused and bursting with bright acidity. Every wine geek I know is mad for them. $50 is an indulgence, but these chalky, light-golden sparklers, with slight hints of mushroom and a dry, elegant finish, are just the thing when you’re looking to take it to the next level. (100% Chardonnay)

 

NV Camille Savès Champagne Brut Grand Cru Rosé

NV Camille Savès Champagne Brut Grand Cru Rosé: ($60) I recently read a review that said this Camille Savès is the perfect thing to pour for non-Champagne drinkers, because it’s such a universal crowd pleaser. That’s probably true, but this robust, red-fruit-and-sour-cherry delight, with soft bead and hints of mineral and zesty acid, is so fruity and so fun to drink, it almost seems like a shame to share it with anyone but your closest, most Champagne-loving friends. (60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir)

 

 

 

 

Bollinger Brut Rose

NV Bollinger Brut Rosé: ($90) At a recent tasting, I sniffed this and immediately thought of French toast with strawberry jam. The brioche and berry carry across the palate, with the addition of cherry and raspberry and a hint of nuttiness on the back end. This is a full, round rosé, with good acidity, soft mousse and a wonderfully long, dry finish. It’s unbelievably precise for a non-vintage Champagne. The Bolli Rosé is a treat, and goes down almost too easily – a $90 decadence, gone in an instant. But carpe diem, as they say…

 

 

 

Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut Rosé

Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut Rosé: ($100) One of the magical properties of wine is that it can transform itself to fit the environment in which it’s being enjoyed. For example, if you ask Miles about the ~ $3000 1961 Château Cheval Blanc he gulped (along with his pride), out of a paper cup at a burger joint, the swigging, sullen Sideways character probably wouldn’t give it a very high score. But I have personal memories of sitting on a dorm room floor, drinking the finest bottle of $5 plonk in my price range, basking in the love of good friends and laughing ’til dawn. I challenge any bottle on earth to taste as good. My first experience with Egly-Ouriet happened under similar cicumstances: It was my birthday, and my best friend and I had finished an incredible dinner at one of Chicago’s top restaurants. We were ending the evening at a Champagne bar, and as a fire popped and hissed in the fireplace behind us, we gossiped and giggled our way through an entire bottle of this. Is this sparkler, with flavors of rose and red fruit and bits of spice and mineral, really that good – or was it the experience that was so delicious? Treat yourself to this distinctive grower Champagne, and see for yourself… (60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and Ambonnay Rouge)

 

Ruinart Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blanc

Dom Ruinart Blanc De Blanc: ($150+) Ruinart is the “first established Champagne house.” And although no one was intentionally producing sparkling wines way back in 1729, rumor has it that this is where the cork started to pop, so to speak. These vintage Champagnes, produced with 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay grapes, are delicious young, but have the potential to get even better with age. Typically, these wines show amazing depth, with unfolding flavors of honey and orchard fruit, cashew nuts and brioche (although each vintage shows its own colors). The mousse is typically soft and creamy, with firm acid and the kind of finish that leaves you smiling for days.

No matter what you pour to celebrate your sweetest occasions, here’s a toast to many, many more…

Cheers!

A Pause And A Chat With Pali Winemaker, Aaron Walker

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes | Leave a comment

I’m overscheduled. This should be obvious to everyone who knows me, but for some reason, I seem to keep missing the memo.

“Hey Arianna, can you meet the winemaker for Pali Wine Company, Aaron Walker, at Delphine, at 6:30, after you get off work at 6:00, before your dinner with Dalla Terra importer Brian Larky, at Hatfield’s, at 7:30?”

“Oh sure. I don’t see why not.”

Because I live in a magical land where I can fly through the sky, up above streetlights and LA gridlock.

And because I have holes in my head.

I screeched into the valet in front of the W Hollywood Hotel, (late, of course), where Delphine – a chic French-Med bistro, in glimmering white tile and retro-cool accents – serves hotel guests, Hollywood pre-show diners, and – this evening – Aaron and his wife, Emily.

“I am so sorry,” I told them, a plea for forgiveness amid my tempest of chair sitting, purse-shifting, notebook finding, pen preparing and shoulder-slumping. They both smiled and assured me that they were happy as clams, munching on small plates of creamy/zesty hummus and warm pita, olives, and glasses of beer (what it takes to make great wine, dontcha know). Our waiter was beside the table in an instant, setting several glasses in front of me (God bless him).

Aaron has had kind of a whirlwind, too. He never intended to be a winemaker. He was on a different journey – studying early education, at San Diego State – when he was steered toward a deep appreciation for good food, by working in restaurants. He even considered a detour to culinary school. But in 2006 he found himself working the harvest at Bonaccorsi Wine Company – interning, in order to learn more about the business and the craft. Since then, he hasn’t looked back.

He joined Pali Wine Co. in 2007, as Assistant Winemaker under Brian Loring. The next year – 2008 – Walker took the helm. And all of this, without any formal winemaking education. He’s apprenticed with some impressive people: Joe Davis of Arcadian, Stephen Dooley of Stephen Ross Wine Cellars, Seth Kunin of Kunin Wines and Gray Hartley of Hitching Post; but most of Aaron’s training has been on the job, with a few extension classes here-and-there. Score one for drive and determination – the skills Aaron considers the cornerstones of his success.

I was there to taste Pali’s two newest endeavors, at two different price points. First, a value-priced Pinot out of Sonoma, the 2009 Pali Wine Co. “Riviera” Pinot Noir. The nose was full of cherry, mixed with a little herbaceousness. On the palate, the fruit-forward, cherry sweetness was braced with zesty acidity. It had a nice balance, a “user-friendly” medium body, and was quite smooth. At $19/bottle, it was $10 less than the next wine I tried: The 2010 Pali Wine Co. “Summit” Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills. This Pinot, with fruit from Fiddlestix and Rancho La Viña vineyards, had a bit more finesse. There was some minerality on the nose, a little cola, a lot of berry. There were flavors of blueberries, raspberries and a touch of chocolate. The finish had an irony metallic-ness. The “Summit” wines are made from fruit sourced from slightly more prestigious vineyards, while still maintaining a high quality-to-price ratio (QPR).

A few bites of hummus, an olive, a couple of anecdotes back-and-forth, and a deep breath, and I was on to the next thing. Aaron and Emily said they were going to hang out for a little longer to finish their drinks and enjoy the laid-back, swanky, vacation-feel of the restaurant, and would be back on the road soon. Headed in different directions – me, south; them, north – after pausing for a moment in each others’ company.

It’s a mad world. Thank goodness for the opportunities to stop and enjoy good wine with good people.

 

 

Photo Credit: Palm Beach Enterprise

 

 

Photo Credit: Ryan WombacherI’m overscheduled. This should be obvious to everyone who knows me, but for some reason, I seem to keep missing the memo.
“Hey Arianna, can you meet the winemaker for Pali Wine Company, Aaron Walker, at Delphine, at 6:30, after you get off work at 6:00, before your dinner with Dalla Terra importer Brian Larky, at Hatfield’s, at 7:30?”
“Oh sure. I don’t see why not.”
Because I live in a magical land where I can fly through the sky, up above streetlights and LA gridlock.
And because I have holes in my head.
I screeched into the valet in front of the W Hollywood Hotel, (late, of course), where Delphine – a chic French-Med bistro, in glimmering white tile and retro-cool accents – serves hotel guests, Hollywood pre-show diners, and – this evening – Aaron and his wife, Emily.
“I am so sorry,” I told them, a plea for forgiveness amid my tempest of chair sitting, purse-shifting, notebook finding, pen preparing and shoulder-slumping. They both smiled and assured me that they were happy as clams, munching on small plates of creamy/zesty hummus and warm pita, olives, and glasses of beer (what it takes to make great wine, dontcha know). Our waiter was beside the table in an instant, setting several glasses in front of me (God bless him).
Aaron has had kind of a whirlwind, too. He never intended to be a winemaker. He was on a different journey – studying early education, at San Diego State – when he was steered toward a deep appreciation for good food, by working in restaurants. He even considered a detour to culinary school. But in 2006 he found himself working the harvest at Bonaccorsi Wine Company – interning, in order to learn more about the business and the craft. Since then, he hasn’t looked back.
He joined Pali Wine Co. in 2007, as Assistant Winemaker under Brian Loring. The next year – 2008 – Walker took the helm. And all of this, without any formal winemaking education. He’s apprenticed with some impressive people: Joe Davis of Arcadian, Stephen Dooley of Stephen Ross Wine Cellars, Seth Kunin of Kunin Wines and Gray Hartley of Hitching Post; but most of Aaron’s training has been on the job, with a few extension classes here-and-there. Score one for drive and determination – the skills Aaron considers the cornerstones of his success.
I was there to taste Pali’s two newest endeavors, at two different price points. First, a value-priced Pinot out of Sonoma, the 2009 Pali Wine Co. “Riviera” Pinot Noir. The nose was full of cherry, mixed with a little herbaceousness. On the palate, the fruit-forward, cherry sweetness was braced with zesty acidity. It had a nice balance, a “user-friendly” medium body, and was quite smooth. At $19/bottle, it was $10 less than the next wine I tried: The 2010 Pali Wine Co. “Summit” Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills. This Pinot, with fruit from Fiddlestix and Rancho La Viña vineyards, had a bit more finesse. There was some minerality on the nose, a little cola, a lot of berry. There were flavors of blueberries, raspberries and a touch of chocolate. The finish had an irony metallic-ness. The “Summit” wines are made from fruit sourced from slightly more prestigious vineyards, while still maintaining a high quality-to-price ratio (QPR).
A few bites of hummus, an olive, a couple of anecdotes back-and-forth, and a deep breath, and I was on to the next thing. Aaron and Emily said they were going to hang out for a little longer to finish their drinks and enjoy the laid-back, swanky, vacation-feel of the restaurant, and would be back on the road soon. Headed in different directions – me, south; them, north – after pausing for a moment in each others’ company.
It’s a mad world. Thank goodness for the opportunities to stop and enjoy good wine with good people.

Photo Credit: Palm Beach Enterprise

Path:

Going Straight To My Head

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Cool Wine Sites | Leave a comment

 

Psst…Did you see it?

 

GrapeSmart (and, specifically, yours truly), was just featured in The Tasting Panel magazine’s November 2011 edition!

 

But enough about me. Let’s talk about me!

 

Well. Why don’t I just let you read for yourself

Cheers to GrapeSmart!
Psst…Did you see it?

GrapeSmart (and, specifically, yours truly), was just featured in The Tasting Panel magazine’s November 2011 edition!

But enough about me. Let’s talk about me!

Well. Why don’t I just let you read for yourself…

Montecillo Rioja: Great Value. Great Vino (Not Virginian)

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes | Leave a comment

I’ve been writing about Rioja a lot these days. Maybe that’s what inspired the good folks at Bodegas Montecillo to send me two bottles from their winery in Rioja Alta, Spain. I received a 2007 Montecillo Crianza ($12) and a 2003 Reserva ($18). I’m glad I did; these were great wines, and the QPR can’t be beat.

PS – Different Montecillo

The 2007 Montecillo Crianza, made from 100% Tempranillo, is aged in French oak (which is a bit unusual; most Spanish wines are aged in American wood), for twelve months. The remainder of its aging takes place in bottle. The 2007 had a nose of blueberry, blackberry and plum. Medium-bodied, with a smooth mouthfeel and nice balance, and flavors of tobacco, dark chocolate, blackberry and a bit of forest floor. If, in your shopping travels, you happen to stumble upon this one, at $12/bottle, there should really be no hesitation in picking it up.

Older and Wiser

The 2003 Montecillo Reserva – a step up from the Crianza but also made from 100% Tempranillo – is aged for 18 months in untoasted French barriques (again, a twist on traditional Spanish Rioja winemaking). I picked up aromas of tobacco, cigar, clove, allspice and blackberry; and flavors fresh, wet loam, blackberry, some tertiary components like forest floor, and even a bit of oregano. Although I sensed more heat on this than the Crianza, the overall presentation was smoother and richer, with a long, lingering finish. If you’re willing to part with a few extra dollars, this one is definitely worth the money, as well.

 

In fact, this review has made me a bit thirsty. Good thing the Bodegas Montecillo Riojas are pretty easy to find

 

 

 

I’ve been writing about Rioja a lot these days. Maybe that’s what inspired the good folks at Bodegas Montecillo to send me two bottles from their winery in Rioja Alta, Spain. I received a 2007 Montecillo Crianza ($12) and a 2003 Reserva ($18). I’m glad I did; these were great wines, and the QPR can’t be beat.

PS – Different MontecilloThe 2007 Montecillo Crianza, made from 100% Tempranillo, is aged in French oak (which is a bit unusual; most Spanish wines are aged in American wood), for twelve months. The remainder of its aging takes place in bottle. The 2007 had a nose of blueberry, blackberry and plum. Medium-bodied, with a smooth mouthfeel and nice balance, and flavors of tobacco, dark chocolate, blackberry and a bit of forest floor. If, in your shopping travels, you happen to stumble upon this one, at $12/bottle, there should really be no hesitation in picking it up.

Older and WiserThe 2003 Montecillo Reserva – a step up from the Crianza but also made from 100% Tempranillo – is aged for 18 months in untoasted French barriques (again, a twist on traditional Spanish Rioja winemaking). I picked up aromas of tobacco, cigar, clove, allspice and blackberry; and flavors fresh, wet loam, blackberry, some tertiary components like forest floor, and even a bit of oregano. Although I sensed more heat on this than the Crianza, the overall presentation was smoother and richer, with a long, lingering finish. If you’re willing to part with a few extra dollars, this one is definitely worth the money, as well.

In fact, this review has made me a bit thirsty. Good thing the Bodegas Montecillo Riojas are pretty easy to find…

Domodimonti: Italian for "Natural Wine"

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes | Leave a comment

Imagine if you were from Italy, but couldn’t enjoy your country’s renowned wines. That was the case with Dr. Francesco Bellini – internationally acclaimed bio-chemist and sufferer of wine allergies.

 

But in 2003, Dr. Bellini and his wife, Marisa, were back in their native country, visiting from their adopted homeland of French Canada. During their trip to Le Marche, Italy, where they had grown up, the opportunity arose for them to purchase a little run-down vineyard and olive orchard. They jumped at the chance.

 

It took seven years to build the Domodimonti winery , but the Bellinis built their retirement dream project exactly the way they’d envisioned: State-of-the-art, with a small environmental footprint, sustainable vine growth, water conservation, and natural winemaking practices that eschew additives (including sugar), acid adjustments, etc. These are organic wines – wines clean enough for Dr. Bellini to drink; as they say at the winery: “If he can’t drink it, they don’t make it.”

 

I was recently invited to try several of the Domodimonti wines at Drago Centro, in downtown LA. The first wine I tried was the 2006 Picens, a blend of Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Celestino Drago paired it with Garganelli pasta, pork sausage, Parmesan and fennel seeds. The wine was surprisingly light in body for a blend of such big varietals. The nose of white pepper and earthy black fruit led to flavors of earthy cherry against light tannin. The pasta was all buttery richness, with layers of slightly sharp Parmesan and rich umami. I had three bowls.

 

The 2009 Domodimonti Monte Fiore is 100% Sangiovese. It had a nose of raw beef and plum with flavors of iron and strawberry, which turned into cherry on the finish. This wine was paired with roasted venison saddle, soft polenta and red currant gastrique. The venison – with its sweet, cool center and additively salty, browned crust – was a perfect pairing. The super-sweet gastrique was balanced nicely by the soft pillows of polenta, and helped to accentuate the wine’s cherry notes.

 

My favorite wine of the evening was the 2006 Il Messia, a blend of Montepulciano and Merlot. It was all irony-earth, cherry and plum tart – although an odd pairing with Drago’s scallop agnolatti, lemon zest, chile and herbs. The wine felt a little overbearing against the oceany scallops, with their spray of crisp lemon.

 

I quickly abandoned the food to focus exclusively on the wine.

 

At $25/bottle, it pushes the upper limits of what I’d consider a value, but for those who are looking for a natural wine, with minimal interference from the winemaker, and a small environmental footprint – and especially for those who normally suffer from wine-related allergies – $25 doesn’t seem like a large price to pay.

 

 

Hard Name, Good Wine Imagine if you were from Italy, but couldn’t enjoy your country’s renowned wines. That was the case with Dr. Francesco Bellini – internationally acclaimed bio-chemist and sufferer of wine allergies.

But in 2003, Dr. Bellini and his wife, Marisa, were back in their native country, visiting from their adopted homeland of French Canada. During their trip to Le Marche, Italy, where they had grown up, the opportunity arose for them to purchase a little run-down vineyard and olive orchard. They jumped at the chance.

It took seven years to build the Domodimonti winery , but the Bellinis built their retirement dream project exactly the way they’d envisioned: State-of-the-art, with a small environmental footprint, sustainable vine growth, water conservation, and natural winemaking practices that eschew additives (including sugar), acid adjustments, etc. These are organic wines – wines clean enough for Dr. Bellini to drink; as they say at the winery: “If he can’t drink it, they don’t make it.”

I was recently invited to try several of the Domodimonti wines at Drago Centro, in downtown LA. The first wine I tried was the 2006 Picens, a blend of Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Celestino Drago paired it with Garganelli pasta, pork sausage, Parmesan and fennel seeds. The wine was surprisingly light in body for a blend of such big varietals. The nose of white pepper and earthy black fruit led to flavors of earthy cherry against light tannin. The pasta was all buttery richness, with layers of slightly sharp Parmesan and rich umami. I had three bowls.

The 2009 Domodimonti Monte Fiore is 100% Sangiovese. It had a nose of raw beef and plum with flavors of iron and strawberry, which turned into cherry on the finish. This wine was paired with roasted venison saddle, soft polenta and red currant gastrique. The venison – with its sweet, cool center and additively salty, browned crust – was a perfect pairing. The super-sweet gastrique was balanced nicely by the soft pillows of polenta, and helped to accentuate the wine’s cherry notes.

My favorite wine of the evening was the 2006 Il Messia, a blend of Montepulciano and Merlot. It was all irony-earth, cherry and plum tart – although an odd pairing with Drago’s scallop agnolatti, lemon zest, chile and herbs. The wine felt a little overbearing against the oceany scallops, with their spray of crisp lemon.

I quickly abandoned the food to focus exclusively on the wine.

At $25/bottle, it pushes the upper limits of what I’d consider a value, but for those who are looking for a natural wine, with minimal interference from the winemaker, and a small environmental footprint – and especially for those who normally suffer from wine-related allergies – $25 doesn’t seem like a large price to pay.

Talk Nerdy To Me

Posted on by Chip McLaughlin in Theme Wines | Leave a comment
Substance wines

Wines of Substance

Being a founding member of a Seattle based wine group titled “Cork Dorks,” it should come as no surprise that I have fallen in love with a brand that talks nerdy to me.

Wines of Substance is a Washington winery stationed in the south sector of Walla Walla.  With branding based off of the periodic table and packaging that is geek sheik, this is surely a brand that all nerds, geeks and dweebs can get behind.

Beyond the alluring packaging and savvy branding concept, Substance makes some killer juice with a not-so-wallet-killing pricing structure, (whites range between $15 and $18 while reds range between $18 and $20).  With a dozen varietals to chose from, it would be easy for any wine lover to find something that they would surely enjoy.

Today’s pick is a two-for-one.  With the beginning of autumn, I would like to have one last hurrah for a summer favorite of mine: Sauvignon Blanc.  The Substance Sauvignon Blanc, (Sb) from years’ past have always been something that I have enjoyed, but I can honestly say that I was blown away with the 2010.  In the past, the Sb was very New Zealand-esque, but with the 2010, the crew from Substance clearly ripped a page from the book of Sancerre.  I love Sancerre style Sauvignon Blanc, so one can only imagine the excitement that came over me when I found something similar from my home state.  With stunning aromas of lemon zest, lemon grass and fresh cut grass, I couldn’t believe that this wasn’t Sancerre.  The flavors on the palate surely don’t disappoint either; fresh citrus, stone fruit, screaming acid and stoney minerality, the Substance Sb is definitely one of my favorite white wines from 2010.

Now, onto part two of our double feature.

Realizing that all good things must come to an end, I am embracing the autumn season with arms wide open.  When I think of early autumn wines, I think of red wines with great acidity that aren’t too heavy or over extracted.  Substance Counoise (Co), enter stage left.  I will admit that I love obscurity in most aspects of my life, and the same definitely stands true with wine.  Counoise is a grape that many may not be familiar with, so let’s have a quick little history lesson, (there may or may not be test at the end of this post, so be sure to pay close attention).

Counoise is a dark skinned grape grown primarily in the Rhône Valley region of France.  Although it is primarily used in blending to add notes of pepper and to bolster acidity, it can definitely make for a fun wine by itself.

The 2009 Co is a great example of what Counoise can do on its own.  Being harvested from the Forgotten Hills Vineyard within the Walla Walla AVA, one familiar with the site can expect some serious terroir funk.  Aromatically, this wine is expressive, inviting and bright.  Right away, you will smell bing cherry, peppercorn and wet cobblestone.  On the palate, the Co dances around beautifully with great acidity and flavors of cherry cola, iodine and white pepper.  This wine is definitely going to be different from much that you have had in the past, but it is well worth the exploration.

Fear not, there is no test.  However, I employ all of you to head to your nearest wine shop and ask about Wines of Substance.

Live long and prosper!

Viva Veneto

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes | Leave a comment
Viva Veneto image from Jarvis Communications

Viva Veneto image credit: Jarvis Communications

For all of its culinary popularity, Italy’s wines seem to struggle to enjoy the same kind of international obsession. It’s not that they aren’t loved – quite the contrary; after several thousand years of fermenting grape juice, the Italians have learned a thing or two. That’s as evident on the shelves of collectors as it is in the glass.

But for every Barolo or Brunello enthusiast, there are scores of ordinary wine lovers who seem reluctant to go there. Maybe it’s overwhelm at the thought of learning a fraction of the country’s 3,000 or so varietals. Maybe it’s too much bad Chianti in college, or maybe it’s a general lack of awareness, combined with the country’s complicated viticultural designation system or DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) – similar to France’s, but with way more vowels.

Conegliano_-Scuola-Enologica-Treviso1

To tackle this last challenge, a number of Italian consortiums (consorzi) and organizations have hit the road, educating the wine drinking public on what their regions/wines are all about. One of these groups – Centro Estero Veneto, along with five Chambers of Commerce of the Veneto region – have embarked on a US tour, to teach us Americans a thing or two about the wines of Veneto, in Northern Italy.

Home to some of the country’s best-known destinations, like Venice (canals), Padua and Verona (Romeo and Juliet), and the splendor (and skiing) of the Dolomites in the Alps, Veneto is also home to some of Italy’s best-known wines. Prosecco, Soave, Bardolino and Amarone all hail from here. In fact, this region is Italy’s leading producer of DOC-grade wines; it’s Italy’s third largest region in terms of wine production; and wines from Veneto make up 20% of national output.

The Veneto consortium recently landed in Los Angeles and put its top sommeliers, wines and recipes on display at tastings, dinners and seminars. The opening gala, held at 31 Ten Lounge, in Venice, was attended by representatives from the LA Mayor’s office and Italian dignitaries. There were tastings at Upstairs 2 at The Wine House and Pourtal Wine Tasting Bar, and an all-day educational event at the Skirball Cultural Center, where tables – loaded with imported wine and food – kept both professionals and enthusiasts munching and sipping and smiling for hours. A select few were also treated to a late-night dinner at Terroni restaurant, where owner Max Stefanelli cooked regional dishes and used the area’s wines in both the recipes and the pairings.

The Veneto events revealed layers of a culture that’s rich in food and wine, but was more a celebratory springboard than a complete course. Luckily, there are rumors that the consortium will be back again next year. In the meantime, if you’re craving polenta or risotto, or maybe a non-Veneto Italian treat, consider braving those vowels or varietals and drinking an Italian education.

Colbertaldo_-Strada-del-vino-bianco1

image credit: Jarvis Communications

Viva Veneto image credit: Jarvis CommunicationsFor all of its culinary popularity, Italy’s wines seem to struggle to enjoy the same kind of international obsession. It’s not that they aren’t loved – quite the contrary; after several thousand years of fermenting grape juice, the Italians have learned a thing or two. That’s as evident on the shelves of collectors as it is in the glass.
But for every Barolo or Brunello enthusiast, there are scores of ordinary wine lovers who seem reluctant to go there. Maybe it’s overwhelm at the thought of learning a fraction of the country’s 3,000 or so varietals. Maybe it’s too much bad Chianti in college, or maybe it’s a general lack of awareness, combined with the country’s complicated viticultural designation system or DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) – similar to France’s, but with way more vowels.

To tackle this last challenge, a number of Italian consortiums (consorzi) and organizations have hit the road, educating the wine drinking public on what their regions/wines are all about. One of these groups – Centro Estero Veneto, along with five Chambers of Commerce of the Veneto region – have embarked on a US tour, to teach us Americans a thing or two about the wines of Veneto, in Northern Italy.
Home to some of the country’s best-known destinations, like Venice (canals), Padua and Verona (Romeo and Juliet), and the splendor (and skiing) of the Dolomites in the Alps, Veneto is also home to some of Italy’s best-known wines. Prosecco, Soave, Bardolino and Amarone all hail from here. In fact, this region is Italy’s leading producer of DOC-grade wines; it’s Italy’s third largest region in terms of wine production; and wines from Veneto make up 20% of national output.
The Veneto consortium recently landed in Los Angeles and put its top sommeliers, wines and recipes on display at tastings, dinners and seminars. The opening gala, held at 31 Ten Lounge, in Venice, was attended by representatives from the LA Mayor’s office and Italian dignitaries. There were tastings at Upstairs 2 at The Wine House and Pourtal Wine Tasting Bar, and an all-day educational event at the Skirball Cultural Center, where tables – loaded with imported wine and food – kept both professionals and enthusiasts munching and sipping and smiling for hours. A select few were also treated to a late-night dinner at Terroni restaurant, where owner Max Stefanelli cooked regional dishes and used the area’s wines in both the recipes and the pairings.

The Veneto events revealed layers of a culture that’s rich in food and wine, but was more a celebratory springboard than a complete course. Luckily, there are rumors that the consortium will be back again next year. In the meantime, if you’re craving polenta or risotto, or maybe a non-Veneto Italian treat, consider braving those vowels or varietals and drinking an Italian education.

image credit: Jarvis Communications

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Shortcodes in guest posts

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Check out this video

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Just posted video check it out