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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Wines $20 to $40

Thanksgiving Wine Conundrum

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Despite the fact that Thanksgiving is a mere six days away—and the fact that I’m a wine writer—it only crossed my mind yesterday that I needed to pick out some wines for Thanksgiving. My boyfriend, Michael, and I are hosting this year, and it’s just a small group—his parents, my parents and my sister. Seems easy enough to choose a wine, right? Well, once I started to think about it, not really.

See, Michael’s dad really only drinks caffeine-free diet Coke, and his mom can’t have wine. White wine gives my sister headaches; my dad’s palate tends toward Merlot and Malbec; and my mom prefers off-dry Rieslings and Gewürztraminers and (bizarrely enough) Lambrusco (she thinks she doesn’t like red wine, but we can trick her sometimes). So essentially, we’re all going in a different wine direction here.

But then there’s Michael. Michael is a cru Beaujolais fanatic, and this fanaticism will effectively solve the problem at hand (aside from, ahem, the caffeine-free diet Coke)—plus, 2009 was a knockout vintage for the region. There are ten crus or villages in Beaujolais: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin à Vent, Régnié and Saint Amour. All have different flavors, aromas and balance, but each will go quite nicely with the Thanksgiving menu thanks to deep, bright fruit and terrific acidity. My sister can drink it, my dad will get the concentration that he enjoys and my mom will get the fruit-forwardness that she likes in off-dry wines (this is how we trick her into liking reds.) And Michael will be beyond happy.

I’m heading to the wine shop with hopes of finding 2009s from Marcel Lapierre, Chateau Thivin and Christophe Pacalet. Oh, and a bottle of savory Donati Lambrusco to start things off.

What’s your problem-solving wine for Thanksgiving?

Wines Under $20

Today Show: Spooky Beers and Wines

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Had a great time on Today yesterday with Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford, talking about spooky beers and wines for Halloween parties. The clip is here if you're interested, but I also thought it would be worthwhile to run through the wines in Tasting Room, and add a few extra for fun. Halloween's still a few days away, so there's time left to shop.

2008 Spellbound Chardonnay ($16) Rob Mondavi, Jr. (of those Mondavis) makes this juicy, eminently drinkable Chardonnay with fruit primarily from the Lodi region. (find this wine)

2007 Bogle Phantom ($20) This is a juicy, dark-fruited blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre. Plus, it's got an eerie label that looks like a haunted forest at night, though I suspect it's actually gnarled old Zin vines. (find this wine

2006 Flora Springs Ghost Winery Cabernet Franc ($40) Flora Springs will be doing a "ghost winery" release every year on Halloween (or just before, so it can be shipped in time to arrive for Halloween). This year's is an appealingly aromatic Cab Franc with good tannic bones. So to speak. (find this wine)

2008 Edmunds St. John Bone-Jolly ($18) Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais, vinified by the talented winemaker Steve Edmunds: it's a great combination, resulting in a wine that is much more full of life (and lively red fruit) than the skeletons on the label might suggest. (find this wine)

2009 Owen Roe Sinister Hand ($24) Why not pour a wine on Halloween whose label happens to have a blood-dripping severed hand on it? Especially why not, when the wine is a peppery, berry-bright, Washington State Grenache blend like this one. (find this wine)

Wines Under $20

Weekend Today: Wines for Grilling

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It's grilling season, and consequently I'll be appearing on Weekend Today tomorrow morning—Saturday—in the eight o'clock hour with some affordable wine recommendations for everything grilled. Malbec with burgers, albariño with grilled fish, zin with ribs, and one of my favorite dry rosés that I've tried recently—the 2009 Mulderbosch Rosé ($11), from South Africa—with grilled chicken breasts. If I don't run out of time (always a risk, since three and a half minutes goes fast), I'll wrap it up with a tangerine-and-peachy, lightly sparkling, lightly sweet 2008 Michele Chiarlo Moscato d'Asti ($14) to serve with grilled peaches. Should be fun, so tune in.

Wines Above $40

Great Unknown Pinot Noir

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Well, I shouldn't really say "unknown," because Woodenhead's wines are known to some people at least—but they ought to be known to more. I've thought this for some time, and the thought came at me again a while back when I was at the annual Pigs & Pinot event in Healdsburg, CA, that Charlie Palmer puts on. I was there as a judge for the Pinot Cup—a blind tasting of fifty Pinot Noirs from all over the world—and when our top choice was revealed to us, I was both pleasantly surprised and not that surprised at all.

© Charlie Gesell
Woodenhead's Winning Wine

The winning wine—against some extremely tough competition—was the 2007 Woodenhead Buena Terra Vineyard Pinot Noir ($60), a silky, seamless combination of sweet cherry and tangy raspberry notes, with a hint of cola and a light gaminess. It's sourced from a vineyard on Eastside Road across from Rochioli (which in Pinot-land is pretty much Park Avenue), and was made, as all the Woodenhead wines are, by Nikolai Stez.

Nick started off as cellarmaster at Williams Selyem during the early days of that winery, and has kept contact with original owner Burt Williams—in fact, buys fruit from Williams' Morning Dew Ranch vineyard for another terrific Pinot. The 2007 Woodenhead Morning Dew Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir lures you in with a fragrant spice note, resolving into graceful spiced berry flavors and a tangy fresh-orange acidity.

Finally, also worth looking into is the 2007 Woodenhead Humboldt County Pinot Noir ($42), about which I seem to have written "like a twisted wire of smoky herbal notes running through sweet raspberry, then crisp at the end." Evidently I was getting alarmingly poetic at that point in my tasting. Regardless, the vines this wine came from were apparently pulled out after this vintage, so this is the last of it to be had.

Woodenhead's wines are not easy to find in stores, since production is small, but they can be ordered directly from the winery (or bought from their tasting room, an extremely pleasant place where you can also chat with Nick and Zina Bower, his partner in both the winery and life). And that Pinot Cup-winning wine is still available, I believe.

 

Pairings

Don't Jerky Me Around!

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Well, that headline doesn't actually mean much, but it was hard to resist. The point is, I've discovered my new favorite wine snack: the beef jerky that chef John Schenk (F&W Best New Chef '95) has added to the bar menu at the Strip House steakhouses in Houston and New York—and will in theory soon be adding to all the other Strip Houses around the country.

Strip House Beef Jerky

This tiny photo doesn't quite do it justice. What Schenk does is take prime strip loin, cut it into strips, pound it lightly till it's thin, then marinate it in minced garlic, ground coriander, curry powder, dark brown sugar, black pepper, soy sauce, oyster sauce, thyme, chopped cilantro, lime juice, and red wine vinegar—whew—for at least 24 hours. He pulls it out of the marinade, dries it in a 200 degree oven for somewhere up to 40 minutes or so, cools it, refrigerates it, then fries it to order in goose fat. (Because, you know, why the heck not fry it in goose fat?) And it's served with fried onions. It's slightly sweet, tender and chewy at once, excellently beefy, much more reminiscent of Hong Kong-style beef jerky than of the leathery, black, mesquite-smoked stuff I remember from being a kid in Texas. And I can tell you, it goes fantastically well with a big red wine.

If it sounds intriguing, you have two options: go to Strip House and order it, or, if you just have a general hankering for jerky, wait till our June issue when we're running a whole jerky article. Your call.

Pairings

Great Kosher for Passover Wines

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"There's no injunction in the Talmud that says kosher wine has to be sweet," explains Toronto wine writer Tony Aspler. For the seven remaining nights of Passover, wine writer Natalie Maclean  recommends these dry kosher-for-Passover alternatives:

© Tina Rupp

2007 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Cabernet Franc ($13) A rich, full-bodied wine from Israel with aromas of dark red berries, plums and smoke. Pair it with roasted eggplant, like this tangy eggplant caponata (pictured).

2004 Yarden Pinot Noir Golan Heights Winery ($27) This full-bodied Israeli wine has ripe, almost jammy, cherry and raspberry flavor. It's a great match for roasted and braised lamb, as well as grilled salmon, like this salmon dish topped with cilantro-pecan pesto.

2007 Golan Heights Winery Cabernet Sauvignon ($18) A lovely, supple Israeli wine with notes of dark raspberries and black plums. It would go well with skillet-roasted lamb loins with herbs.

 

News

Help Chile by Drinking Wine

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As everyone knows, Chile was recently struck by an immensely powerful earthquake. Among other devastation, the country's wine industry was hard hit, with some wineries nearly leveled, and many others reporting massive losses of wine and equipment, as well as damage to buildings.

Various people in the wine world have been chronicling the results—there are some vivid images on Jancis Robinson's site here—but it seemed also worthwhile simply to ask people to help support everyone down there by going out and purchasing a bottle or two of Chilean wine. To that end, here are a few good ones I've tasted recently:

2008 Maycas de Limari Chardonnay ($23) This new project from Concha y Toro is located in the Limari Valley, about as far north as you can go in Chile and still produce wine (and probably one of the areas least affected by the quake). Befitting its cooler-climate origins, this is crisp and zesty, with a distinct citrus-lemon character—it would be a great wine for wild salmon, for instance this recipe from Restaurant Eve's Cathal Armstrong.

2008 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenère ($11) There's a lot of spicy depth to this red, especially given the moderate price, and to my mind it has a bit more personality than the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from the same range. Concha y Toro, I've been told, effectively lost three of the eleven winemaking facilities they own (the company is vast); nevertheless, they still plan to start harvest next Monday, bringing in white grapes from their vineyards in Casablanca.

2007 Chono Reserva Syrah ($14) This is a small, artisanal producer whose winemaking is headed up by Alvaro Espinosa, one of Chile's top winemakers as well as the country's foremost proponent of biodynamic viticulture. Dark, sleek, and spicy, it's an impressive bottle for a modest price; also look for Chono's equally good Carmenère-Syrah blend, which unfortunately is made in much smaller quantities.

2008 Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir ($18) California winemaker Paul Hobbs consults on this substantial, dark berry-fruited Pinot. Veramonte sources the fruit from the Casablanca Valley, a cool, breezy region close on the Pacific Ocean.

2009 Viñedos Emiliana Natura Gewurztraminer ($10) Made entirely with organically grown grapes—Alvaro Espinosa consults here as well—this is a dry, intensely spicy Gewurztraminer, showing a lot of the grape variety's floral/dried rose/jasmine character but without at all going over the top.

2009 Apaltagua Reserva Chardonnay ($13) Cool climate Casablanca Valley fruit defines this appealingly non-blowsy Chardonnay: it has a pleasant citrus peel and pineapple character, with lively acidity and not too much oak.

 

 

Wines Above $40

Tasting 2007 Bordeaux

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Anyone in the NY area and inclined to buy Bordeaux might want to check out the Union des Grands Crus tasting tomorrow, held at The Four Seasons restaurant, a few blocks away from Sherry-Lehmann, which is presenting the event (tickets $75/$125). I stopped by today at the trade version of the same tasting to get a read on the 2007 Bordeaux vintage, which seems to be neither as dire as some reports would have nor as wonderful as the chateau owners might prefer we all thought. 

Basically, the sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac are lovely in '07, with layers of nectar-like flavors and distinct botrytis character (that distinctive honeysuckle-to-bitter-honey note). Standouts at the tasting included Chateau Coutet, Rayne-Vigneau, and Doise-Daëne.

The white wines of Pessac-Leognan also show well in '07, at least more consistently than the reds. Standouts at the tasting included Domaine de Chevalier, Château de Fieuzal, Château Larrivet Haut-Brion, and Château Smith Haut-Lafitte.

The '07 Bordeaux reds that I tasted were a mixed bag. The best—Domaine de Chevalier and de Fieuzal again, Pape Clément, Pontet-Canet, Léoville Poyferré, Lynch-Bages—weren't flashy, but were balanced, appealing wines supported by ripe tannins, with a kind of sneaky depth to their flavors; the not-so-good were marred by green notes and an hollowness in the midpalate that isn't particularly pleasant now and seems unlikely to improve with age, too. Of course, I tasted only a percentage of a percentage of the '07 Bordeauxs as a whole, so take any broad generalizations cautiously. Or, even better, go to the tasting and see what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

On Jan. 23 in New York City, Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits, presents the Union Des Grands Crus Bordeaux Tasting. This is a rare opportunity to sample the 2006 and 2007 Vintages from more than 80 of Bordeaux's greatest châteaux. Winemakers and châteaux proprietors themselves will be pouring the wines.  VIP ticket holders will be entered into a Special Raffle in which 6 Signed Magnums from a selection of featured Châteaux will be awarded to 6 lucky winners (Raffle Commences at 2:30pm).  For VIP tickets ($125pp before Jan. 20; $150 after) and Grand Tasting tickets ($75pp before Jan. 20; $95 after); sold online at: http://www.sherry-lehmann.com/events; 212-838-7500. Event takes place at 583 Park Avenue in NYC.

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