Monday, July 30, 2012

Rudy Ray Moore, eat your heart out!

 I taste a lot of wine for work. Hundreds, maybe into the four digit range per year, and a surprising amount of them are at best uninteresting and at worst just plain bad. The upshot is the good, and rarer yet, truly special wines I taste at the store.

And thus we segue in a most unsubtle way into the wine of Elisabetta Foradori. Elisabetta is a producer based around the Dolomite mountains in Alto Adige (sometimes referred to as Sudtirol or South Tyrol) in Italy. Having never been there, I can only gather so much from photos and information about the region, but it seems like an idyllic Alpine setting; of course I investigated how the climbing looks, and it looks good. Single & multi-pitch sport routes, short approaches... I digress.

Elisabetta has been in the work of growing grapes and making wine essentially for her entire life; she was born in a house surrounded by vineyards and took over as winemaker after an education at a local enological school and the untimely death of her father when she was only 20 years old.

Her bread & butter wine is made from the local grape teroldego. She has 18ha (44.5 acres) of this red grape that makes fresh, bright, and fruity red wines that have a natural high acidity and would undoubtedly pair well with the local speck (salt cured & smoked ham flavored primarily with juniper.)

What we decided to crack open the other day was her nosiola. Nosiola is a local varietal that was close to being forgotten, but she is taking efforts to keep it alive. She has but two hectares of nosiola, a 9th of teroldego plantings, but according to an interview with her, she has real fun with her white varietals (the other is manzoni bianco) because they’re relatively unknowns with “a lot of personality.”

Most of the time, when making white wine, the juice is pressed and removed from the skins of the grapes. Ms. Foradori however, leaves the juice on the skins in clay amphorae for 8 months which creates a wine with a slightly hazy appearance, a hint of pear-skin like tannins on the finish, and some freakin’ delicious flavors.

The wines aren’t cheap, the manzoni bianco is in the mid $30’s and the nosiola is about $54, but if the nosiola is any indication, Elisabetta makes truly special wines that are worth every penny. Now I just have to track down some of that teroldego.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Brux & Branca.

 Brux & Branca, by which I refer to two disparate but intriguing items. Item one: the collaboration beer between Sierra Nevada & Russian River Brewing co. Item two: the Italian liquer Fernet Branca which takes its name from the eponymous amaro. They are completely unrelated, but I liked the alliteration.

I recently had the opportunity to sample Brux which is a self title "Domesticated Wild Ale." They do the initial fermentation with a Belgian yeast strain followed by a secondary fermentation in bottle courtesy of Brettanomyces Bruxellensis. This particular strain of brettanomyces, or brett, is native to the Senne valley near Brussels (Bruxellensis.) I tasted it with my friend, and assistant brewer to Iron Hill Wilmington, Andrew.

It appears that this strain of brettanomyces, a yeast long known to produce rather... unique, flavors in beer and wine, is the same one used by the Trappist brewery Orval. They brew what I consider to be a very well made and iconic Trappist ale; needless to say these 'merican boys have some stiff competition. Taking that into consideration we tasted the beer, and we were quite impressed.

The flavor profile is marked with spice and a certain freshness, while being a very well balanced beer. Frankly, the beer was delicious and I think it has some very interesting aging potential (plus the $15 or so dollar price tag is fairly reasonable for what you get out of a 750ml beer.) All I can say is snag it while you can find it as the beer is on limited release.

As for the Fernet Branca part of the equation, like I said unrelated, but it was brought back to my attention twice in as many days. One occasion was the appreciation expressed by one Alfred Pennyworth in the Dark Knight Rises, the other was a particularly good article from the NPR food and wine blog describing this digestif as having a divisive and cult like following by mixologists in the know. I had my first experience with Fernet on the rocks at a bar in the Mallorcan tourist town Can Picafort, it was an invigorating experience to say the least. The article explains it in greater detail, but it's time to join the club if you've never tried it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

New zealand wine tasting, or, Shackleton's Revenge!

 Personally I find it difficult to get real jazzed about wine from New Zealand. I think there's loads of potential for very interesting wine, but as of yet it's not the first wine region I go hunting for on a wine list. But in with the goal of keeping an open mind we had a tasting at the store the other night, here's the list:

1. Oyster Bay 2011 Sauvignon Blanc
2. Dog Point 2011 Sauvignon Blanc
3. Craggy Range 2010 Kidnappers Vineyard Chardonnay
4. Craggy Range 2009 Te Muna Road Vineyard Riesling
5. Spy Valley 2011 Gewurztraminer
6. Peregrine 2011 Pinot Gris
7. Matua 2011 Pinot Noir
8. Wild Earth 2008 Central Otago Pinot Noir
9. Craggy Range 2010 Te Kahu Bordeaux style blend

The stand out winners for me last night was the Craggy Range Riesling and the Peregrine Pinot Gris. The pinot gris was done in a richer, drier, more (dare I say) Alsatian style. The riesling had a touch of petrol to the nose, which some found alarming, others endearing, and pleasant floral fruit qualities on the palate. These two wines show what I consider to be some real regional potential.

It might even be worth qualifying what I mean by potential rather than just letting that statement hang out there in space. A lot of the literature I've read on these winery's websites and on wine makers in NZ in general is that they tend to favor planting on flat land for easy mechanization. Some of the great wine regions in the world make such fantastic wine due to their precipitous vineyards; think the Mosel or Hermitage, you would have to be nuts to plant vines there.

But the insanity in planting leads to great wine in the bottle, maybe New Zealand needs to get a little crazier to make some really great wine.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gini Salvarenza with lasagna: an evening of deliciousness .

 The other day Beth & I were struck with the desire for lasagna and I was looking for an excuse to open this bottle of 2008 Salvarenza from Soave producer Gini. So with a little extra bechamel and a lighter hand than usual on tomato sauce, we concocted a recipe that would allow for both.

Soave was much maligned in its history due to a period of time (thankfully before I began drinking wine) where output of the white wine based on the grape garganega was produced for quantity in lieu of quality. My faith for the wine was inspired when I had the fortune of sampling in 2011 one of their Soave bottlings from the late '90s - it was fresh, youthful, and mind bendingly good!

The grapes for Salvarenza come from a 5ha vineyard with a southeast exposure, and the average vine age, 80 years! The wine was round and loaded with flavors surpassing primary fruit into a mix of hay, flowers, and stones. It's when I taste wines like this for under $30 that I find myself floored by what people will spend on wines that cost a stupid amount of money but have no chance of being 83 times as good.

Oh well, c'est la vie.