Thursday, December 15, 2011

Well, It's About That Time, Innit?

I know I promised a writeup on a vertical tasting of 2009-2011 Trader Joe's Vintage Ales, but I'm breaking that promise.  With vacation coming up, I'll have plenty of time to recount wines and beers while drinking wines and beers (and bourbon and bourbon and bourbon).  So today I'm going to indulge in one of my own favorite hobbies: ranking things.  It's become common for wine publications to publish end of the year "Top 100 Wines" lists.  I love ranking things, and I was inspired by Time Magazine's recent "Top 10 of Everything" to create some lists for Wines Over Somerville.  So, without further ado, here are some lists!

Top 10 Wines consumed during 2011:

10) 2007 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon.  I had this wine during a spring trip to NYC at Primehouse, and it did not disappoint.  Needed a longer decant than it received, but this was an old school Cali Cab that was all business and no vanilla/oak crap.

9) 2009 Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini.  This was my first Greek wine, and was not by any means my last.  Assyrtiko from Santorini has quickly become my go-to white wine to pair with food, especially seafood.  There is none of the aggressive fruitiness/herbaceous qualities that one can find in Sauvignon Blanc, and there is a beautiful saline quality that makes it perfect with shellfish.

8) 1999 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Windsor Gardens Vineyard.  The most recent entrant, having only been drunk last Sunday night.  This was a classic example of aged California Pinot Noir.  It showed plum and cranberry but had a wonderful brambly quality.  Glad I dug this out of Dad's cellar.

7) 2010 Paumanok Chenin Blanc.  Had this at Gramercy Tavern in New York and it was a revelation.  Paumanok is located on the North Fork of Long Island, and I had heard good things about their Chenin, but hadn't seen it anywhere.  Well, if you ever see this on a wine list, order it!  It was reasonably priced ($50 on a restaurant list) and was absolutely delicious.  The cool climate of the North Fork clearly is reminiscent of the climate in the Loire, where Chenin Blanc shines.

6) 1981 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Volcanic Hill.  A gift from a fellow wine geek on my birthday, this bottle was EVERYTHING that I want from an aged Cali Cab.  Good tannic structure still present, some red fruits, and tons of tertiary notes (notes developed from aging, rather than from the grapes or oak) like balsamico, mushroom, and loam.

5) 2009 Turtle Creek Winery Cabernet Franc "Conservation Hill".  What's that?  Wine from Massachusetts?  Good wine from Massachusetts?  Well, this wine absolutely rocks.  It is BY FAR the best domestic Cab Franc that I have ever tasted.  What's better, the winery is located about half a mile from where I teach.  Can't get more local, and more awesome than that.  Wait, why am I telling people about this?  Move on...nothing to see here...MA wine sucks a lot!

4) 1987 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon "Special Selection".  A birth year wine on my birthday, what could have been better than that?  Oh, right, one of the wines still to come was from that same event.  This was a wonderful Cab that has settled into a sweet spot with plenty of food and tannin left, yet a softness around the edges (like wine love handles) that comes from aging.  A terrific effort from a less than stellar vintage in CA.

3) 1980 Chateau Leoville Las Cases St. Julien.  While the price of Bordeaux may currently be skyrocketing and completely out of line with the quality in the bottle, aged gems like this show why people are so eager to buy Bordeaux in the first place.  A 31 year old wine that was at the top of it's game with so much complexity I even hesitate to mention specific flavors and aromas.  Suffice it to say, this one will stay with me.

2) 1988 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia.  Sassicaia may be my favorite wine in the entire world.  It's essentially Bordeaux (Cab/Merlot) except it's made in the Bolgheri region of Tuscany.  I keep coming up with excuses for my Dad to open this wine on my birthday, and for two years prior to this, it held the number one spot in my end of the year rankings.  This year, it's demoted to number two, despite showing amazingly.  With plums, blackcurrant, and blackberry, as well as an adequate tannic grip and good weight, this wine has several years left in it.

1) 1982 Chateau La Conseillante Pomerol.  From magnum, on Thanksgiving, with my family, in VT.  What more can I say?  I already wrote about this one on Wines Over Somerville, so I dare not repeat myself.  This was one of those "Fuck yeah" moments that I have from time to time with wine.  It reminds me that, while wine is food, it is also art.

Come back tomorrow for my top 10 albums/songs/beers of 2011.  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hooray Beer!

While the focus of this blog is obviously on wine, beer holds a special place in my heart as well.  I probably consume as much, or more, beer as I do wine.  I'm lucky to be surrounded by friends that are as passionate about beer as I am about wine and who have introduced me to many different styles.  While I know my way around the basics of beer, there's only so much room in my brain, and if I truly learned my way through beer it would likely be at the expense of something important, like Drive-By Truckers lyrics.

So, on to the agenda: I've had some noteworthy beers in the last few weeks, each of which is interesting for a different reason.

First up is one of my favorite beers in the world: Duchesse de Bourgogne.  Brewed by Brouwerij Verhaege in Belgium, this is a Flemish Red Ale.  What is most noteworthy about this beer is that it is perhaps the seminal example of a style of beer that is regaining popularity: the sour beer.  Sour beers get their sourness by intentionally allowing bacteria or yeast to enter the beer during the fermentation.  Brewing usually takes place in a sterile environment to avoid exactly this scenario.  One of the yeasts most often used to make sour beers is Brettanomyces, long an enemy in wine production where it is the cause of excessive "barnyard" aromas and flavors.

The beer itself is unique and food friendly.  It has a nose of balsamico, sour cherries, and and red wine vinegar.  On the palate the red wine vinegar notes persist, but are joined by hints of molasses and cranberries.  This is my favorite accompaniment to any barbecued meat, and is at its best with pulled pork.  I recommend seeking this beer out if only as a gateway drug to sour beers in general.

The second beer I want to share with you is Heady Topper, brewed by The Alchemist Brewery in Waterbury, VT.  This is an American Double India Pale Ale (DIPA).  IPAs originated in England and are characterized by intense citrus and fruit aromas as well as bitterness due to their use of large amounts of hops during brewing.  A Double IPA is more alcoholic and has more hops than a regular IPA.  This beer is packaged in a tall-boy can.  Cans have been increasing in popularity in recent years, and I, for one, am a huge supporter of this trend.  Not only are cans lighter, and therefore more environmentally friendly from a carbon footprint perspective, but they do not allow any light to enter the beer, thus preventing the phenomenon known as "skunking".

This beer is available only at The Alchemist's cannery in Waterbury.  They also owned a brewpub in the center of town but it was taken out by Hurricane Irene, so they've shifted 100% of their production to the cannery.  I picked some of this up over the Thanksgiving holidays and am really glad I was tipped off to this.  The beer shows intense tropical fruit and pine sap aromas when opened, and on the palate is intensely hoppy, but completely in balance.  The hops balance the sweetness and the bitterness is in check.  This is pretty close to perfection from an IPA perspective, and a beer that I'd be happy to drink anytime.  I'd pair this with seafood, such as mussels steamed in white wine, or something like fried chicken.

My favorite thing about this beer, though, might be located on the back of the can:

That's all for this installment of Beers Over Somerville.  Check back in a few days for a writeup of a beer tasting I recently did: a vertical of the 2009, 2010, and 2011 Trader Joe's Vintage ale.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Housekeeping Part 2

For those of you who missed Part 1, check it out if you're interested.  Housekeeping part 2 will focus on three more wines, and will finally deliver what I've promised since I started this blog: wines that are excellent QPR picks.  The danger of drinking a lot of wine (apart from cirrhosis of the liver) is that only some of the wines are truly memorable.  These tend to be (though it's by no means universal), the more rare, more expensive wines.  While, as I mentioned before, there's no direct correlation between price and quality, there is a loose correlation.  While a $15 bottle is probably not going to be distinctly "better" than a $12 bottle, a $150 bottle is hopefully going to be noticeably better than a $12 bottle.  The three wines that follow here are excellent value plays, and the most expensive was $18 (a splurge for me). 

First up is the 2009 Clos de la Vierge Jurancon Sec.  As I've mentioned before on this blog, don't be intimidated by confusing/obscure names or regions in your wine choices!  AOC Jurancon is located in the southwest of France, near the Pyrenees and Spanish border.  The region is most famous for its sweet wines made from botrytized Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng, and Corbu grapes.  This wine, however is completely dry, which we can discern from the word "sec" on the label.  This wine is primarily Gros Manseng, a grape that is seldom grown outside Jurancon.

The wine pours a light golden color and shows honey, pear, and lemon peel on the nose.  The palate shows a honeyed characteristic as well, wrapped around citrus fruits and wet stone.  There is a viscous, oily texture that I associate with white wines from the Rhone, which makes this unique.  This wine is perfectly at home as a stand-alone sipper or with food.  I could see this pairing well with anything from cider braised pork shoulder to seared scallops.  It's a very versatile wine.  For those in the Boston area, I sourced this bottle from Brookline Liquor Mart on Commonwealth Ave in Allston.

The 2009 Domaine de Fenouillet Beaumes de Venise "Terres Blanches" (link goes to the 2010 vintage) was another affordable gem that I dug up recently.  Beaumes de Venise is located within the Cotes du Rhone Villages AOC in the Rhone Valley.  The Villages system means that the French government has determined that certain sites within the Cotes du Rhone make wine that is unique enough to warrant them placing the name of the village on the bottle (overview here).  This can be tricky for consumers, because unless you have memorized all the villages, you won't necessarily know that you're buying a wine from the Rhone.  I picked this oddball up from Winestone, and didn't know what I had until I asked Patrick, the owner to tell me whether I wanted the wine.

The blend is a typical southern Rhone GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blend.  In the Rhone valley, the southern end makes wines dominated by Grenache, and the northern end makes wines dominated by Syrah.  2009 is universally lauded as being a terrific vintage in the Rhone (along with 2007), and the wines are drinking very well even now, so quickly after vintage.  This wine showed typical Rhone characteristics of saddle leather and dusty raspberry fruit with smooth tannins and some acidic presence.  There were some notes of bacon fat from the Syrah, and a good peppery finish from the Grenache.  My friends and I enjoyed this wine with carnitas, fried plantains, and mustard greens simmered with linguica.  It was a wonderful match.

To go on a little tangent inspired by this wine, it's incredibly hard to pick up a basic Cotes du Rhone or Cotes du Rhone Villages that won't be an excellent wine for the price.  It might be the single greatest area (besides the Loire of course) for values, and it's also a reasonably simple area to navigate.  So, drink more Rhone wines!

Lastly for this housekeeping, I bring you the 2009 Domaine de Veigneau-Chevreau Vouvray "Cuvee Silex."  Vouvray is located in the Loire Valley and is, by far and away, my single favorite region for white wine in the world.  Even better, it's dramatically underappreciated, allowing one to buy stunning wines, like this one, for under $20.  The AOC Vouvray stipulates that wine must be made from 100% Chenin Blanc, which along with Sauvignon Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne, is one of the 3 major white grapes of the Loire Valley.  In my opinion, the best examples of Vouvray are fermented in stainless steel tanks, allowing the pure fruit and piercing acidity of these wines to dominate.

This wine poured a very pale gold and showed a huge nose of meyer lemon, fresh limes, and some honeysuckle.  The palate matched the nose, with screaming acidity and a long finish of meyer lemon that made it a perfect match for a dinner of Trader Joe's crabcakes on greens.  This wine is seafood's best friend and would be amazing with raw oysters, sushi, or even something like old-school baked cod.  It's incredibly versatile.

So, three examples of wines that, in my estimation, over deliver for their price.  In the case of the Jurancon, the price is low because there isn't much name recognition for Jurancon.  In the case of the Beaumes de Venise, the fact that the grapes are grown outside a more famous appelation such as Gigondas, Vacqueyras, or Costieres de Nimes makes it a strong value play.  And the Vouvray, as so many of them are (thank goodness), is just dramatically underpriced.

I'll be back soon with a write-up on some beers I've been drinking recently (yeah, yeah it's a wine blog, but I do what I want, so there).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Recent Wine Roundup

I'm thinking of this post as being "housekeeping" in the sense that I have a backlog of wines that I want to write about and a finite number of blog posts that my fives or tens of readers will pay attention to.  So welcome to the roundup of the wines I've enjoyed in the last week or two.  Many of these were excellent QPR bottles that I'm looking forward to trying again.

First up is the 2009 Martilde Oltrepo Pavese Barbera.  This retails for around $12 in the Boston area.  Barbera is the grape, and is one of the most widely grown grapes in northern Italy.  Most Barbera is grown in the regions of Alba and Asti, but this wine hails from Oltrepo Pavese in Lombardy.  Lombardy is a region that produces a lot of wine, very little of which makes its way to the US.  It is most famous for the sparkling wines of Franciacorta, which are some of the best outside of Champagne.

Barbera is a very food friendly grape, as it makes wines with good fruit but also solid acidic structure.  I find that it pairs well with almost anything, from pasta to pizza to burgers to chicken.  this was an excellent example of Barbera and showed good red fruits and juicy acidity.  This wine could likely age another year or two, but in my opinion Barbera is best drunk when young and vibrant.  Bottom line is that this a wine I'd recommend seeking out, but more than that, drink more Barbera (especially Barbera d'Asti, but that's another blog post).

Next up is the 2006 Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino. Had this with some awesome pork ribs and the pairing was tremendous.  As with all BdM, we're working with 100% Sangiovese.  Sangiovese is the most famous grape of Tuscany and provides it's signature dusty cherry flavors to the wines not only of the Toscana IGT, but of Chianti Classico as well.

Brunellos are known to be long aging wines, and opening this bottle was a bit of infanticide, but after an hour in the decanter this wine was rocking.  It had a strong sangiovese core of cherry fruit and earth and incredibly deep and complex flavors.  I find Brunello to be best enjoyed with food and I'd recommend this with something like a roast chicken or, of course, any sort of Italian cuisine.

Third in line is the 2008 Truchard Vineyards Cabernet Franc.  Truchard is a small winery in the Carneros district of Napa Valley.  I've previously had and enjoyed their Cabernet Sauvignon, Rousanne, Pinot Noir, and even their Chardonnay, so I was very excited to taste this.  Cabernet Franc is my favorite red variety, but I've had negative experiences with most Cab Francs from California.  The grape's spiritual home is the Loire Valley in France, where it is vinified into a light bodied, high acid red wine that screams to be drunk with food.  Those are some of my favorite wines in the world.  Too often in California (and Bordeaux), it is treated like Cabernet Sauvignon (it's son) and smothered with oak in an attempt to create a soft, opulent wine.  Those wines suck.

This was somewhere in between the Loire style and Cali style and was very enjoyable.  There was an oak presence but it was firmly in the background, letting raspberry and some blackberry fruit take center stage.  I'd say this was one of the most successful CA efforts I've had.  It needed about 3 hours in the decanter to be approachable at all, so I'd recommend giving this one significant air time or holding it for a few more years if you've got a bottle.

I still have three more wines to talk about, but I've probably rambled enough already (shocking).  I've got to go get ready for a wine and cheese party, where I may or may not be bringing a 2008 Couly Dutheil Chinon "Baronnie Madeleine" to continue my cab franc chronicles.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Drinking, Off the Beaten Path

I love wine for two wholly disparate reasons:
          1) It is delicious
          2) It is interesting

While reason #1 has gotten the most play on the relatively short life of this blog, today I want to talk about reason #2.  I first got into wine the way most people do: someone pours you a glass of something good and you have that tremendous "Oh shit!" moment (this was mine, a 1994) when you realize that whatever is in your glass is special.  The pleasure of drinking wine is what hooks us.  For me, what made wine more than something I like to drink now and again was the intellectual aspect of it.  And that, in a nutshell, is why I am completely addicted to trying wines from regions I've never tasted from before.  This is what I'm referring to when I say "Drinking, Off the Beaten Path."

There are two ways that this concept manifests itself in my wine buying and consumption.  The first is that I seek out bottles that are from regions I have never heard of, though they are located in "traditional" winemaking countries.  An example would be finding a wine from a region like Irouleguy in the very southwest of France.  Though I have drunk a lot of French wine, I have never found an Irouleguy.  Right now my goal is to find wine from the Canary Islands--a goal that is likely suspended until my next visit to NYC.  The second, and I think more fun, way to drink off the beaten path is to try wines from countries/states you've never had wine from.  I almost can't help myself when I encounter a wine on the shelf that's from Slovenia, Uruguay, or Lebanon.  It's almost a given that that wine is coming home with me.  Why?  Why not just stick with the wines you know you like?  It's a fair question, since often these mystery wines end up down the drain (like an absolutely horrid 2001 Amadeu Tannat from Brazil), but I love the idea that I am getting a tiny glimpse into life, or at least the viticulture, of these places.  It's like traveling only less expensive (and more delicious).

At last count I've tried wine from 22 countries and 10 US states.  And there are plenty more I want to try.  On the international side, I can't wait to try the up and coming sparkling wines from England, or the Koshu wines from Japan.  As for the USA, there are wineries in every state, and while I have hit CA, OR, WA, NM, VA, WV, MA, CT, VT, and NY, I still want to check out the wines from Idaho, Texas, and Arizona.

So, what's the purpose of this post?  To talk about an awesome wine that I recently had, obviously!

The 2001 Wolffer Estates Merlot "Estate Selection" hails from the Hamptons on New York's Long Island.

I've previously had Wolffer's Cab Franc (in fact if you look carefully you can spot it on the banner picture of this blog), and absolutely loved it, so when I found this bottle in my Mom's basement, I decided that it should be opened.

We're on a bit of an unintentional Merlot kick here at WOS, but it seems appropriate given the disregard shown to the grape by the masses.  This wine was NOTHING like your typical California Merlot with it's syrupy, jammy fruit and vanilla oak. This wine showed the structure and minerality that comes from the cool climate of the Hamptons.  While this wine had plenty of fruit left, it was drinking at maturity and was better with food than it was alone (to me, the sign of a well-made wine). 

So, go forth and try wines from places you've never considered before!  When you see that bottle of Georgian Rkatsiteli, Slovenian Tokai Furmint, or Pineau d'Aunis from the Loire Valley, buy it and drink it!  It'll probably be delicious, and it'll definitely be fun.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is a time to step back and appreciate all that we have in our lives.  I'm thankful for more than normal this year.  I have a supportive family, friends that I love, and a fulfilling job.  But for all of these "big" things I'm thankful for, I'm just as thankful for the "small" things, and last night's Thanksgiving feast provided more than a few of these "small" things.

I alternate Thanksgivings between my Mother's and Father's houses.  It's yet another of the benefits of having divorced parents.  It's hard to get tired of the same old Thanksgiving when everything is alternated.  This year my dad, stepmom, sister, brother, and I decamped to Waitsfield, VT.

It might just be ingrained in me as someone who grew up in the city, but there's nothing I love more than escaping to the country.  Until this year, I didn't even get cell service within 5 miles of our house.  While I can now text, tweet, and instagram to my heart's delight, I miss the days of turning my phone off as I pulled into the driveway and not turning it on again until I left.

This year's Thanksgiving consisted of a locally sourced Turkey (a mere 20 lbs.), Italian sausage and bread stuffing, carrots with cumin and crushed red pepper, curried cauliflower, and cranberry and onion relish.  Everything turned out delicious, and there was something nice about a Thanksgiving with no mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes to sit heavily in my stomach for the rest of the day.  My family has always eaten Thanksgiving at "normal" dinner time, rather than at midday like many people do (a custom that I've never quite been able to wrap my head around).  This gives us the whole day to do things like walk the dogs, drink Chapin recipe bloody marys (which, after you have tasted them, completely change your bloody mary frame of reference), watch football, and drink beer (yes drinking was in there twice).

Wine this year, after a little nudging from me, was a magnum of 1982 Chateau La Conseillante Pomerol.  As with most right-bank Bordeaux, this one was predominantly Merlot (80%) with the remainder Cabernet Franc (20%).  While Merlot might be going though a bit of a down period domestically, following this incident, no one seems to have made the connection that some of the most expensive and highly regarded wines in the world (Petrus, Angelus) are merlot based.

Anyway, for a wine that is 29 years old, this was absolutely spectacular.  I decanted this wine through a sieve to catch some particles of cork (as the cork had disintegrated and was pushed into the bottle during opening), about an hour prior to dinner.  By the time we sat down to eat, this wine was absolutely rocking. It was medium ruby in the glass with slight bricking toward the edges, but looked several years younger than it was.  The nose was pure Bordeaux, showing blueberries, plums, and graphite along with a subtle herbal character.  On the palate this lived up to the nose.  Subtle notes of coffee, blueberry, and plum worked in harmony together.  This is why we age wines, and yet so many wines (especially Bordeaux) aren't being made in a style today that will last for 30 years.  Given the choice between an up-front, in your face wine that's soft and oaky enough to be drunk (and receive Parker points) on release, or a wine that is difficult to taste at first but settles down into a wine this beautiful with age, I'd choose the latter every time.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from Wines Over Somerville.  Pop a special bottle next time you're with friends or family and give thanks for everything you have!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

QPR Done 2 Ways

I watch way more Food Network (and HGTV) than I should probably admit, and one of the things that chefs like to do, especially on shows like Iron Chef, is prepare the secret ingredient "two ways."  So "Duck  2 Ways" could be a Cognac & Duck Liver Pate served alongside a Confit Duck Leg.

Today we're going to explore what I'm terming "QPR 2 Ways."  QPR is, again, Quality/Price Ratio, and basically determines whether a wine over or under delivered for the price paid.  One of the most interesting things about wine is that people universally, when the tastings are not conducted blind (that is to say, when people know which wine they're tasting), prefer more expensive wines to less expensive wines.  It's a phenomenon that has been proven and disproven enough times to have grown tiresome.  Yet, while a $100 bottle of wine may taste better than a $10 bottle of wine more often than not, what's more interesting to me is determining which $10 bottle of wine is going to give me the most enjoyment for my $10.

So, with that, we move to the first wine of the day, the 2009 Castillo de Fuenmayor Rioja "Gran Familia." I sourced this wine for $12 from Winestone, arguably my favorite Boston area store.

According to the importer, this wine is 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano.  Tempranillo is the most famous grape of Rioja, and in many of the finest wines, comprises the entire blend.  Graciano is a traditional blending grape in the region, often used to contribute structure and minerality.

Rioja is a funny wine for me to love (and I do love it) because almost all Riojas see extensive aging in American oak.  Those who know me and my palate know that I hate nothing more than feeling like I'm licking a tree (or a vanilla ice cream cone, or chocolate milkshake, or coconut smoothie, all side effects of oak aging) while I'm drinking.  This wine spent 4 months in American oak, and then 4 additional months in French oak before bottling.  Tempranillo, in my opinion, is one of the few grapes that can take a heavy dose of oak and still retain varietal characteristics.

This wine, served alongside roasted chicken and root vegetables, was excellent as always.  The nose showed typical Rioja characteristics of stewed red and black fruits, as well as a core of wet earth.  There was an oaky component, but it was in the background, supporting the fruit.  The palate was much the same, with an attack of raspberry/blackberry compote, some cinnamon, and an autumn leaf component that was very interesting.  I'd say this wine is a fantastic QPR, and would be delicious with most fall/winter cooking.  Put this alongside some pork chile verde, and it would be a superstar.

Our second wine of the day represents the other end of the QPR scale.  It's the 1980 Chateau Leoville Las Cases St. Julien.  I have a friend who is just as interested in wine as I am, and we have been giving each other escalating birthday presents for a while now.  Last year I gave him a couple bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape, and he responded by gifting me a bottle of 1981 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Volcanic Hill (which was absolutely rocking).  So, this was my answer.  For a 31 year old Bordeaux, I was able to source this (also at Winestone) for a "mere" $90.

This wine was everything that an aged, classic Bordeaux should be.  I decanted it just to avoid pouring sediment into our glasses, but it actually, despite its age, opened up even more when given time to breathe.  The nose showed delicate plum, cassis, and blueberry, combined with tertiary components (components derived from aging, not from the grapes or the oak) such as loam, mushrooms, and a delicate pine-needle aroma.  The palate matched up perfectly.  The fruit had not diminished too much, and there were notes of blackcurrant and plum to match up with the forest floor notes.  There was still enough tannin left in the wine that it paired perfectly with grilled ribeye steaks.  This was one of the wines that keeps me coming back.  If you clicked on the link to this wine, you'll see a bunch of people saying "past it's prime, yada yada yada," and they're entitled to their opinions.  With wine of this age, they say, there are no good wines, only good bottles.

Now, people not appreciating the subtlety that aging brings...well that's a whole other blog post.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Welcome to Wines Over Somerville

Yep, another wine blog.

As someone who reads many other blogs, it's with mixed feelings that I start my own.  I know that there are a multitude of more established choices out there, and that the likelihood of people willingly coming to this tiny corner of the internet is rather unlikely.  It's especially daunting because I'm starting from scratch.  In fact, as I type this, no one even knows that this blog exists (well, except me of course).  But, having tossed this idea around in my head for a year or so, it feels like time to start.  Why?  Because I have a lot of things to say.  So let's start off with some background on who I am and why you should read this blog.

My name is Deacon Chapin, and I live in Somerville, MA.  I live just around the corner from the venerable institution Wings Over Somerville (which incidentally delivers delicious wings very quickly), hence the name of this blog.  I teach 7th grade math to students with Dyslexia, and in my free time I drink wine, beer, and spirits, cook and eat food, and do myriad other activities not necessarily related to a wine blog (like exercise).  In addition to being a teacher (and therefore making slightly less money than your average tollbooth worker), I am also a graduate student at Boston College, pursuing a Masters degree in education.  So, as you might have worked out by now, the focus of this blog (though by no means will it be exclusive) is on relatively inexpensive wines, or wines that provide an outstanding QPR (quality/price ratio, not Queens Park Rangers).  QPR is a nebulous topic, as a wine can have outstanding QPR and cost $5/bottle, or $300/bottle, but it makes sense in my head.

Anyway, lets start this thing off properly with a bottle that I enjoyed this weekend with friends over a delicious dinner.

2010 Domaine Clos des Vignes du Maynes Macon-Cruzille Cuvee 910

Well, how about that for starting off with an easy to understand name?  This is a very obscure wine that I purchased at Chambers St. Wines in NYC when visiting there in September.  I asked the incredibly helpful clerk for 6 bottles under $25 that I wouldn't be able to find in Boston.  This, he said, was likely the most obscure.

The AOC, Macon-Cruzille, is so small that there is no Wikipedia entry for it, nor is it in any of my wine books.  From the "Macon" part, this wine is obviously from Burgundy, and from the Maconnais, more specifically.  I was able to determine that this wine was an attempt on the part of the vintners to make wine the way it would have been made in the year 910.  That means all the grapes were crushed, by foot, together and aged in wooden vats.  There is no added SO2, and the winery is certified biodynamic by Demeter.  The blend is roughly equal parts Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Chardonnay, a blend that I can confess I have never seen before.  All it was missing was a bit of Aligote and every major and minor grape from Burgundy would have been included.

I opened this wine to go with a casserole of awesomeness prepared by a friend of mine, and four of us settled down to eat and drink.  The wine was popped and poured into my everyday glasses.  The first thing that is noticeable about this wine is the appearance.  Owing to the fact that there is a substantial amount of Chardonnay in the blend, the color of this wine is far from your average red wine.  It is more like a deep rose.  Also, due to the fact that it is completely unfiltered, there is a beautiful cloudy quality to it.  The nose was the first clue that this wine was going to challenge my definition of what "wine" is supposed to taste like.  While the nose showed bright red fruits (cranberry, cherry), it also showed a distinctly barnyardy component, as well as something that I can best describe as "sour dirt."  That said, it was a beautiful nose, and was not off-putting.  On the palate, this was as close to some Flemish Sour ales and Lambics that I've had as it was to your average California Cabernet.  The overwhelming flavor was of sour cherry with a green apple component (I assume from the Chardonnay) and undertones of sweet plum and blackberry.  There was good acidity and the fruit was juicy but not cloying. 

If you're lucky enough to live in NYC or anywhere that you can buy this wine, and you like unusual, funky blends, I suggest you try this out.  My favorite thing about wine is trying the wines that are "out there," and this surely qualifies.

I hope you continue to read this blog in the future, and I'll endeavor to keep it shorter, and sweeter, than this one!