May 19, 2008

Fire up the grill - Wines for Barbeques

With the official beginning of the pool and barbeque season just a week away (aka Memorial Day), I thought it might be relevant to talk about wines that you can pair with all-American fare. For the next six days we'll give you great picks to go with cookout cuisine and hopefully you'll find a little inspiration for planning your Memorial Day gathering. And since we're talking about wines for a crowd, we're going to try to keep our suggestions close to $15 or under (no promises).

Let's start with actual BBQ, my personal fave for big cookouts because nothing is better than long and slow. You can marinate and pre-cook BBQ ribs and brisket the day before so you're not in the kitchen when you should be by the pool. And then just finish everything on the grill when guests arrive. The meat will be fork tender and slathered in your sauce of choice. And the best wine to serve with these sticky, sweet and spicy treats? A big, bold zinfandel or a rich petite sirah. Both will have the intense ripe fruit and spice to complement the sauce and stand up to the meat. Two of our favorite barbeque zins:

clineancientzin.jpgCline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2006 $15.99
Dusty raspberry, blackberry, white pepper and spice, with coffee and chocolate characters. Ripe fruit and soft tannins make this a mouth-coating rich vintage. Aging in new and used wood has lent this wine a subtle vanilla quality that nicely complements the explosive fruit notes. (from

ravenswoodlodi.jpgRavenswood Lodi Zinfandel 2006 $12.79
Ancient vines in alluvial soil where roots grow very deep make this a ripe, lush Zin that's also concentrated and intense. Soft, round, spicy and jammy with voluptuous overtones of plums and blueberries, this wine lives large. (from

You could also do a wonderfully rich petite sirah. You'll get a similar jammy intensity, but not as much of the punch of spice. One real winner is the Vinum Pets. You can check our our previous review of that little gem.

Read More in: Red Wine | Wine Advice

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Sartori Pinot Grigio 2006

sartoripg.jpgVARIETAL: Pinot Gris (It. Grigio)
REGION: Veneto, Italia
PRICE: $10-$12

Although I am completely enamored with pinot gris, there are only a handful of pinot grigios that hold my interest. What is the difference, you ask? Well, the varietal is the same but growing conditions and harvesting practices are quite different and the resulting wines are like fraternal twins. Their flavor profiles are diametrically opposed: pinot gris - soft, lush, ripe, subtle floral and rich fruit aromas and flavors; pinot grigio - light, crisp, acidic and all too often (in my opinion) flat, thin and watery tasting. I had a real dilemma on my hands when I ordered this wine - a horrific and uninspiring list of whites to go with my delicate seared scallops and grilled shrimp dinner. I was unfamiliar with the Sartori so I decided, in desperation, to give it a try. As you can probably ascertain from my tone, my expectations were fairly low. So when the first sip passed my lips I was pleasantly surprised that I sensed hints of soft peach and melon on the nose and on the palate. Crisp and clean but decently balanced and not at all the devoid-of-flavor pinot grigio I was expecting. It was pleasantly soft as well as refreshing and it went perfectly with my dinner. I think I might even give it a second tasting in the future.

Read More in: White Wine | Wine Tasting Notes

Noël Wallace Permalink social bookmarking

May 13, 2008

The Drops of God piques wine interest and drives sales

dropsofgod.jpgTalk about wine appreciation reaching the masses. In Asia, a new graphic novel is introducing wine knowledge and interest to a whole new fan base. Check out this bit from the May 12 BusinessWeek:

In Asia, Comics Uncork A Wine Boom
A graphic-novel series with an oenophile hero is whetting Asia's appetite for wine. Kami no Shizuku (The Drops of God), a Japanese manga comic written by a brother-sister team under the pen name Tadashi Agi, has sold 1.9 million copies in Japan, and wine distributors are harvesting the benefits. Japanese distributor Mercian even hired the series' illustrator to design a new label for some of its bottles of imported Beaujolais Nouveau. In 2007, Mercian sold 127,000 cases, with the manga-labeled bottles helping to boost sales by 18% from the year prior. Translations of the books are creating wine lovers elsewhere in Asia, too. In Taiwan, sales of Colli di Conegliano Rosso Contrada di Concenigo rose 30% after the wine, produced by Italy's Umberto Cosmo, was mentioned in one volume. And some Koreans use the series as a kind of wine guide. Now a bigger test awaits: In April, the comic books were launched (as Les Gouttes de Dieu) in France.
-Ian Rowley and Hiroko Tashiro in Tokyo

Content and image from Business Week

Read More in: General News | Wine News

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May 6, 2008

Saludas Rose 2006

Thumbnail image for IMG_3599.JPG
VARIETAL: Tempranillo
REGION: Somewhere in Spain (possibly near Castilla)
PRICE: $4.99

Egads--where to begin? As I have mentioned once or twice previously, I am a fan of good roses. On a recent outing to Fresh & Easy I was intrigued by a few of their private label selections and decided to take a few home. The Saludas, a tempranillo from Spain, looked promising and I couldn't resist the price tag. My knowledge of the vinification and origins of this wine is limited--see above. But what I can tell you is that I wouldn't buy it again if it was on sale for 50 cents. When I first poured myself a glass I thought it smelled a little off. Maybe just a little past its prime. I was sorry my curiosity could not be quelled before the first sip. Sour, tart and off-putting are the first words that come to mind. Not fresh, lacking flavor and substance are terms that might also describe my experience. I would not recommend it to my cheapest friends with the worst taste in wine. And I certainly will not be buying it again.

Read More in: Rose Wine | Wine Tasting Notes

Noël Wallace Permalink social bookmarking

May 1, 2008

Cheap swill or swanky pour? It's all in your head.

Here is a delectable little tidbit from the April 28 issue of BusinessWeek:

ba17008.jpgYour Taste Buds Are In Your Wallet
Is that Rubicon Estate cabernet worth the $80 you may have paid? The answer lies within the folds of your medial prefrontal cortex. A recent study conducted by researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Business and the California Institute of Technology concludes that when people know a wine is expensive, the pleasure they get from it is enhanced in the area of the brain where such sensations are processed. In the study, published online earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, students were placed in an MRI machine and given sips of red wine--including the same one presented twice, with two different price tags: $5 (the actual bottle price) and $45 (a fiction). The subjects all said they liked the "expensive" wine better--a preference mirrored by increased activity in their prefrontal cortexes. The lesson, says Baba Shiv, an associate professor of marketing at Stanford: "There's a temptation among marketers to keep reducing prices. We're saying be careful before you embark on that strategy." -Steve Hamm

Fascinating stuff. You're brain may be telling you that the more expensive one tastes better, but the fact is the $5 vino wins the day. All the more reason to buy cheap and taste blind!
Content and image from Business Week

Read More in: General News

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