Saturday, December 10, 2011

Taking the Port Out of Portugal

An obscure European import with an intense following. A little bombastic, not the type you could hang out with every day. While I could be talking about the film director Werner Herzog, in this case the topic is port.
I don't know why he came to mind as I was taking my first turn with an American port: the Terra d'Oro Zinfandel Port. It had the rich raisin scent usually found in port, along with a distinct hit of chocolate, but the taste delivered a measure of the heat that zin is famous for. It's not overly sweet or heavy (19 percent alcohol, about $24 a bottle).
Zinfandel is not one of the grapes normally associated with this style of wine, but I am happy to see port being pushed in new directions. It's still a niche market, but it seems port is gaining ground here, with five dozen California wineries now producing the fortified wine.
Herzog left Germany for Los Angeles; port migrated from its origins in the Douro Valley of Portugal to the vineyards of California. Here's to more mixing of Old Europe with "the New World."

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Kicky Kiwi

I am usually a fan of New Zealand wines, and the 2008 Sacred Hill Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (about $15, 12.5 percent alcohol) was no exception.
It was a zesty white, a little grassy and slightly smoky, with a clean, crisp finish. Of course, sauvignon blanc is known as a great "food" wine, and the Sacred Hill was an amiable companion to last night's fresh pasta salad. The label bills it as having "tropical" flavors, which I didn't especially notice.
This wine seems to have made friends and enemies: The wine writers of the St. Petersburg Times named it a Wine of the Week in mid-July ("Given its exuberant fruit and exquisite dryness, this wine enters our pantheon of refreshing summer wines..."), while Tim's Wine Blog, based in the U.K., said it lacked "depth and complexity."
I thought it was somewhere between those two poles: a nice, easy-drinking summer wine, perhaps made more enjoyable by the fact that the season is quickly slipping away here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hinky Pink

Summer. Specifically, the dog days of August. The swampy humidity has given way to perfect warm (but not too warm) weather.
It's dinnertime, and Nicoise salad is on the menu.
The ideal wine is usually rose ... but not this one.
The Barton & Guestier Rose D'Anjou (2010) is about as cloying as they come. Sweet wine makes my skin crawl, and this one was simply over the top. I don't recoil at sweetness in other forms; bring on the cake and ice cream, I say. But wine is a different story.
(It reminds me of a trip to the South; we were in Little Rock, I think, and the choices of bottled iced tea at the grocery store included sweet and extra sweet.)
Verdict: To be avoided unless you like your wine to give you sugar shock.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Back to School Special

I wanted to post this email I received from my wine guru, Kevin Zraly. If you live in the tristate area and can afford to take this class, I highly recommend it. Zraly is so knowledgeable -- and hilarious. This price is a bargain, too; I paid almost $1,000 for the class two years ago. He once said that the fall semester of 2011 would be his last course (the 10th anniversary of 9/11). I wonder if that's still true?

Kevin Zraly is pleased to announce the
35th Anniversary of
the Windows on the World Wine School!

To celebrate this milestone Kevin is offering a one-time price for alumni and their friends for the Fall 2011 semester only. We have deducted $35 off of each individual class and the Fall semester price will be $720 per person. This offer
expires on September 1st. Friends will need to be recommended by an alumni to take advantage of this price.

Monday, September 12 – White Wines of France

Monday, September 19 – White Wines of California, New York, and Washington

Monday, September 26 – White Wines of Germany and the Component Tasting

Monday, October 3 – Red Wines of Burgundy and the Rhone

Monday, October 10 – Red Wines of Bordeaux

Monday, October 17 – Red Wines of California and Oregon

Monday, October 24 – Red Wines of Spain and Italy

TUESDAY, November 1 – Champagne and Port

For more information, please call Michelle at 845-255-1456 or email at Please visit our website at

Kevin Zraly
Windows on the World Wine School
P.O. Box 847
New Paltz, New York 12561
2011 James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
author and educator of Windows on the World Complete Wine Course
@kevinzraly on twitter
Become my friend on facebook

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

I ran across an interesting article, "Wines That Favor Balance Over Power," in The Wall Street Journal from June 18.
The subject of the story, David Ramey, said he "was driving on a dusty road through the land of tequila and mezcal when he had what he describes as his "coup de foudre"— otherwise known as his road-to-Mexicali moment — and realized, improbably, that he wanted to make wine. "I suddenly thought, wine makes people happy," he says.
Amen to that! (His "eureka"moment is coincidentally the subtitle of this blog.)
The author, Jay McInerney, so far hasn't grabbed me like the previous WSJ wine writers, Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, who were splendid. Of course, I will give him a few more chances ... I wonder if (paid) wine writer is the dream job it appears to be?
In any case, this is my 100th post. Here's to 100 more, or 1,000.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

O.Z. (Original Zin)

Wednesday night's wine was the 2007 Ridge Old School Zinfandel (Sonoma County, California). This vintage had a very limited production -- just 51 barrels were made ($30 a bottle).
If this wine were any more fruit-forward, it would be a glass full of grapes. Despite a high alcohol content, at 15.2 percent, there is no heat, just a plush, untannic flood of zin flavor. I found it cherry-sweet for a zinfandel -- I usually get more spice from this grape.
One review said the Old School has a "port-like taste," which might not marry well with food, and I agree. This wine yearned to be a stand-alone drink. And that's OK -- it's just not something I could drink every day.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cork Conundrum

Austrian whites are buzzworthy these days -- I had my first Grüner Veltliner about this time last year -- but I had never had an Austrian red until Bud dropped by bearing one a couple of weeks ago.
I was puzzled at first by the 2007 Steininger Zweigelt Novemberlese (Kamptal Österreich), and not just because of its multisyllabic name. What grape was this? (Zweigelt, it turns out, harvested in November, just like it says in the name. I guess it's time to learn some German.) And how on earth do you get into the bottle? Under the foil I found my first glass cork -- huh? Slice off the foil, then nearly slice off a digit getting a sharp knife under the stopper. Does this wine come with health insurance?
After some struggling, we finally got it uncorked. The wine had a peppery bite that evoked zinfandel, except lighter on the palate, and strong notes of cherry. It was medium dry (13.5 percent alcohol), a pleasant but not showstopping red.
At about $18, this was a wine I enjoyed but would hesitate to buy unless someone else is cracking it open.