Barrel of Red Truck (1)

So the cute little “mini-barrel” of Red Truck wine arrives. It’s green because it’s 4 bottles in 1 container. It’s red because it’s 2007 California red wine.
We tried it last night. I also happened to have a bottle of the 2002 on hand and the two vintages tasted remarkably similar, another 5 years in bottle —  I was very surprised.

Let’s see how the mini-barrel holds up over the next 39 days…

Tasting notes Napa cabs – and more

Dozens of Napa Vintners were in New York all week, promoting their wines. Had a chance to check out current releases from a lot of wineries. Some great discoveries – and re-discoveries like:
2005 Cain Five
2006 Cliff Lede cab sauv
Cathy Corison’s 2004 cab (and some of her older vintages which she says tend to “blossom” at different times in their lives, “like a string of lights”)
Cuvaison’s 2007 Carneros chard
Darioush’s 2004 cab sauv
Franciscan’s 2005 Magnificat blend and Stylus (cab sauv)
Larkin’s several 2006 Cab Franc – and other reds
Miner Family Vineyards’ 2005 The Oracle (drink 2009-2029)
Trefethen 2007 Dry Riesling (more off-dry, to me)
Trinchero 2005 Petit Verdot (100% ?!)
Work Vineyard’s easy 2007 sauv blanc
Also following:
Bennet Lane (need more Maximus White Feasting Wine on the market – not the red, just the white, please)
Fantesca, now with Heidi Barrett as winemaker
Honig’s reds
Howell at the Moon (not just for its great label with dog Tyson howling)

Tres Sabores (some regular, some biodynamic)

Tasting what? Biodynamic wines?

Before you freak, let me just tell you my theory: you can’t be a great biodynamic wine maker unless you are a great winemaker.

If you’re a great wine maker, going biodynamic* can add a whole other dimension to your wines.  More aromatics, more flavor components, subtle structural and finishing elements.

I saw this again at yesterday’s “Return To Terroir” tasting, an annual event I attend sporadically.  There were great wines and not-so-great.  But this year, everyone seemed to feel biodynamic isn’t a gimmick any more. It’s a growing system for people who are passionate about their grapes, their vineyards and their wines – in a certain way.

Winemaker/farmer Mike Benziger calls biodynamic a natural “energy management system.”  Basically, I think he is successful by paying very close attention to his vineyards and treating them like an integral part of Mother Earth instead of like grape-growing machines.  Modestly, he claims that in starting to farm biodynamically, “the biggest change is in the farmer!”

*Want to know more about what biodynamics is – and isn’t? Jim Fullmer was at this tasting, too, bringing biodynamic bread, cheese, yogurt, etc.  He’s the exec director of the US branch of the biodynamic certifying organization Demeter

50 Great Appetizers

Attractive, easy, complicated enough to be interesting.  No, not your next girlfriend (or boyfriend) but Pamela Sheldon Johns’ new book: 50 Great Appetizers.  Part of the “50 Great…” series published by Andrews McMeel in lively colors and a satisfying small, square shape, under $15.  An opportunity to “taste lots of different little things,” as Pam says.

Incidentally, she’s on a West Coast book tour in March.  And she owns a great B&B in Tuscany, in case you’re in Italy.  Her gorgeous husband leaves breakfast outside your door every morning.  And her flamboyant little daughter is more Italian than American after 5 years in Europe.  What a life, eh?!

Backstage in the Wine World

Looking beyond the label and the tasting room for info on the wine world?

These three recent books will take you behind the scenes in the industry.

Tyler Colman writes enticingly about Wine Politics.

George Tabor illustrates current closure battles in To Cork or Not to Cork.

And fearless Alice Feiring delves very personally into the question of authenticity in making wine today: The Battle for Wine and Love, or How I Saved the World from Parkerization.

Lobster that melts in your mouth — with wine — from Navarra, Spain

The KINGDOM of Navarra: a blend of super-chef, medieval castles, good to great wines and it’s green, too: 38 windfarms generate 65% of their energy.

An ancient tradition of wines and spirits, and very modern hearty but beautifully balanced red wines, often temperanillo and temp blends.  And a few lyrical sauvignon blancs, too.

We had all this recently with the inventive yet simple food from noted chef Enrique Martinez of Hotel Maher in Navarra – who cooked at Boston’s Estragon Restaurant.

To sample each dish was to uncover surprises in the infusion of mushrooms, sprinkling of toasted chopped nuts, ribbons of herbs.  But most of all it was about texture: perfectly cooked lobster nearly translucent as tender as possible.  And fish with firmness that spoke of being taken off the heat just as it came to the exact moment of doneness.  A meal memorable for the mouthfeel as much as the taste.

For dessert, the piquant Ochoa 2007 moscadel, made from the “petits grains” muscat: aromas of flowers, orange and mint; not too sweet, balanced with a touch of citrus peel and finishing nearly dry.

After that, a sip the ancient custom of a digestif of relatively Pacharan, sometimes poured over ice, the red liquid glowing in the glass.  In September and October, people pick sloe berries and add them to some anisette liqueur they’ve bought.  Tradition says the Pacharan is ready to drink for the July fiesta, when the berries are a red carpet at the bottom of bottle, having given their color and flavor to the liquor.