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Mas Passamaner

Mas passamaner for websiteMas Passamaner,a boutique hotel and spa with a high-end style restaurant,out in the Tarragona countryside near the wine regions of Priorat and Montsant in Spain, just about in the middle of nowhere.

Eating barrels of Fries-Frites-Chips

2 weeks of non-stop french fries — aka frites aka chips! That’s what I did on my summer vacation in the north of France and the south of England. With salt, with ketchup, with mayonnaise. Because it was during a heatwave, miraculously all the calories evaporated!

testing wine gadgets

With the help of several excellent wines, I’ve been testing fun wine toys: wine enhanchers, an instant wine chiller, and even red wine cleaners.

Having had the red wine version for a while, I love the sound the Vinturi makes when you pour wine through it into your glass.  Vinturi’s new white wine enhancer works if the wine is intended to improve with age, like J’s 2007 Russian River Chardonnay. (It immediately looses some of the pop vanilla, and the flavors start to mature.)

This week, Mike Phillips and his wife gave me a bottle of their 2006 Earthquake Zinfandel.  The Earthquake line is designed to age, so I tested it with the Vinturi for red wine, Philip Stern’s elegant little crystal and glass wand, and the Soiree glass aerating bulb…

Read more in this fall’s Intermezzo Magazine [issue #23]

Red Truck update: it works

So, this cute min-barrel of red wine sits on your kitchen counter day after day, patiently waiting for you to try it –again. You’ve already sampled it several nights in a row, and found it “quaffable” as they say.  But it’s allegedly good for 40 days, so you wait and you wait.  Day 35 you give in: it’s still the same!  And it hasn’t been refrigerated.  Day 39, day 40: the same.  Something actually works the way “they” said it would.  Another point for American ingenuity — or at least American wine; this wine is from Sonoma.  Day 41 test? uh-oh, no wine left.

Chile extends itself in geography and quality

News from Chile’s vineyards and wineries: quality, identity and value

At this week’s Wines of Chile tasting in New York, the winemakers proved they have not only found their country’s best terroir, but they are making wines that express it too.  Long known for the international varietals such as sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon, Chilean producers are coming to the table with plenty of carmenere and malbec, too.

Sauvignon blancs were uniformly good, with a range of nice herb and sweetgrass aromas, and plenty of acidity and minerality.  Global warming is affecting these grapes, and the winemakers are being careful, for the most part, to see that they plant these vines in cooler areas so the wines don’t become insipid or flabby.

They area also opening up new territories far to the north (in higher altitudes) and south of Santiago.  Some valleys, like Elqui and the (fun-to-say) Bio Bio are so small and son new they have only one major winery so far: Vina Falernia in Elqui and Veranda in Bio Bio. Fruit and the white pisco grapes have been grown there, already, so people understand the climate and soils enough to plant wine grapes appropriately without wasting a lot of time.

More and more wineries in Chile are starting to farm organically.  When asked why, they reply: “Because we can.”  The climate is so dry they don’t have problems with mildew and pests.  In fact there is no phylloxera in Chile, so at Demartino in the Choapa Valley, for instance,  they actually  plant on their own rootstock.

At our house, we seem to go through a fair amount of value wines from Chile, including Los Vascos’ cabernet sauvignon and Santa Rita’s sauvignon blanc.  I can now add the Luis Felipe wines to the value category I’ll look for in stores. I wouldn’t hesitate to try any of the Chilean sauvignon blancs, carmeneres and malbecs.  And I’d look to Chile for more value-oriented cabernet sauvignons.

Retasting wines I haven’t experienced since I visited Chile some years ago, I notice that overall quality has either remained high or improved.  Notable wines I looked at today include: Errazuriz (all the current releases), Cono Sur’s 2008 organic cabernet sauvignon- carmenere, Terra Andina’s 2007 Reserve carmenere and carmenere-carignan, and Viu Manent’s single vineyard malbec.

solaire shines on my table

On one of my first wine trips in California, we flew over some Central Coast land that Robert Mondavi had purchased.  It was maybe 20 years ago, and everyone thought he was crazy to get involved with anything south of Napa. His Central Coast wines were OK when they debuted, then they became too lcd (for me as a wine snob).  But I like to try everything, so when I recently received samples of Solaire by the Robert Mondavi company, I casually opened it and poured some in a glass — and was very pleasantly surprised.

The Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon is nicely balanced, with some fruit in the midst of a bunch of structure and tannins: a great deal of flavor that complements food without tasting like fruit juice. The same is true of the Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay.  I thought of Bordeaux and Burgundy, not California, as I was drinking the wines.  And that is what Robert Mondavi hoped to accomplish when he set out to make fine wines in California in the 1960s, and everyone thought he was crazy.

What is crazy about Solaire is the price — $15 to $17.  I only hope that winemaker Rick Boyer isn’t pressured to cut corners and take the quality down when people start buying Solaire en masse.