Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tasting Note: Marqués de Tomares Rioja Gran Reserva 2001

Before I layed me down to sleep
I prayed my decanter my wine to keep
If it had died before I woke
I wouldn't have found it a funny joke!

Today, New Year's Eve 2011, I tasted at 12:30PM in a gorgeous Bottega del Vino glass from Verona, Marqués de Tomares 2001 Rioja Gran Reserva. It was in great shape *phew!*, and I wrote a tasting note following the Wine and Spirit Education Trust guidlines I was indoctrinated with while practicing for my 4 tries before passing the Unit 3 tasting exam (just one less try than the number of road tests for my NYS Driver's License)

Marqués de Tomares Rioja 2001 Gran Reserva is a limited production run of 10,423 numbered 750ml bottles (today I opened bottle number 1158) and 960 Magnums. It's 90% Temrpanillo and 10% Mazuelo, a less heralded but very important grape variety that is one of four red varieties legally allowed in Rioja wines. It's known as Carignan in France, and job is to contribute a little seasoning to a blend.

Gran Reserva is a term regulated by the Consejo Regulador, and can be applied to wines made in only in very execptional vintages from the top vineyards of the region. White Gran Reservas exist, but they are even more rare than red ones. The law requires they are aged for a minumum of two years in oak barrels and they are not allowed to leave the winery until six years after vintage, although in practice they are usually treated to much more aging - this particular Gran Reserva had nine cellared years at Marqués de Tomares winery before it arrived on US shores. It rested thirty months of that time in American Oak barrels (customarily the oak of choice in the region) and spent the rest of the time louging in bottles in the cellar. The 750 ml bottles arrived in handsome wooden cases (six to a box), while the magnums were packed in individual branded wooden coffins. Wine swag!

I first tasted this wine in the summer of 2010 while considering it for purchase for the shelves at my shop, the erstwhile wineLIFE Wine Shop in New York. I retasted it in November of that year and wrote a very simple tasting note:
Appearance - Garnet (in WSET terms, garnet is more of a reddish brown, normal for old world wines and wines from older vintages, while ruby would define a red leaning toward purple or blue, normal for young wines)
Nose - Earthy, Green Pepper, Black Olive
Palate - Complex, layers of cinnamon, coffee, spice, green tea... and I wrote acidity, which in wineLIFE speak indicates that the wine's acidity was surprisingly fresh for its age (this was a tasting note jotted quickly while standing in front of the wine's importer, James Turney of Parador Selections, in my store)
I gave the wine five stars. It was a freshly opened sample, not decanted.

The next time I drank it, we were having ribs, baked macaroni and cheese and other wonderful comfort foods on July 5, 2011 for the birthday of my long time friend Wil Otero - we drank magnum number 342. It was an epic summer celebration!

So last night around 11:00PM, I gently poured the wine into a Riedel Merlot 750ml decanter* (see end note). While doing so, I remembered an interesting piece of wine history, very old, simple technology that I could see last night still works. The bottle this wine was packaged in is the traditional Bordeaux shape, that is straight sides with shoulders. The original purpose for the design of that bottle was so that while you pour, the shoulders would catch any sediment so you wouldn't have to chew on polymerized tannins in your glass while drinking. I could see this happening as I poured - the shoulders were indeed holding back the sediment!

I let the decanted wine stand in my kitchen overnight, in a shady, relatively cool corner. For lunch I had it with a grilled cheese sandwich and took a thorough tasting note a little over 12 hours after decanting. As I write this post at 4:00PM I'm still sipping it and it is still giving up lots of delish goods. Now, withouth further ado, today's tasting note on this wine:

Appearance - Deep garnet, mahogany core fading to a brownish rim

Nose - Clean, deep and intense with a bouquet of leather, sage, dried raspberry, cherry and fig, caramel, cedar/ciagr box, cured black olives

Palate - Long length with beautifully balanced alcohol and acidity, silky fine graned tannins. It reminded me of a charred sirloin steak off the grill, cooked medium rare, or jerk seasoning minus the peppery kick, and that cedar/cigar box aroma played in my retronasal passage (accessed from inside the mouth while tasting). Hints of herbal flavors of rosemary, bayleaf and green olive laced the profile and there was an underlying flavor of black trumpet mushrooms (trompettes de la mort)

The wine still gets five stars - it is in amazing condition and decanting showed me the mature side of The Dreamgirl, with all her contures. Complex, this wine is a picture of power and soul. She could hold off the Klan with a shotgun to protect her children one day and cry while watching a love story the next.

A rare and wonderful experience to end this rare and wonderful year and usher in the promise of 2012. Cheers, Happy New Year, thanks for reading. Please share, tweet, post and comment to your heart's content!

*Riedel Merlot Decanter is a model name. While its probably true that Riedel made this specific decanter with Merlot's best interests at heart (they are known for specialist varietal glassware) it still worked just fine for the Gran Reserva. In fact, I have other decanters that are wider and would have spread the wine out more, but I chose this one because while I wanted to aerate the Rioja, I didn't want to assault it with too much oxygen. This decanter kept the wine in close quarters. By the 24 hour mark, it was starting to fall to pieces.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Vino Bash at Pinot's

It’s the second-to-last Friday in December. The halls are decked, the candles are lit, and Riesling, The Cheerleader, is putting finishing touches on the holiday cookies for the Vino Bash at Pinot’s (Noir that is)! She has an apron on over her turquoise and black Diane Von Furstenberg Naomi dress. She wanted to make sure everyone would be happy, so she baked ginger snap Christmas trees, shortbread dreidels, and she couldn’t figure out what to do for Kwanzaa so she made Africa-shaped chocolate cookies. Ah, sweet Riesling!

Pinot Noir is not even home yet. She’s still at Saks trying on shoes. All day has been about hair, makeup, nails and frock, and she has not been satisfied with any of it so far. She’s just hoping Cabernet Sauvignon makes an effort not to show up in his stupid team jersey and talk about football all night! But more importantly, as host of this glam slam, she has got to outshine all the other girls – especially Miss Tempranillo, the so-called Dreamgirl. OMG its so hard to be The Princess!

She gave the job of writing the invitation to Merlot, The Poet. Judging from all the silky lyrics he has been throwing at her since they met, she knew he was perfect for the task of presenting her holiday party as the can’t-miss-event –of-the-entire-season. And that he did, for the RSVPs came back in a deluge. He’s so smooth!

Its already 8:30PM and the party starts at 10:00PM. Syrah, The CEO shows up early as always, ready to pitch in and help pull things together. Riesling is relieved he’s here. He grabs her checklist and proceeds to move around Pinot’s large upper east side apartment making sure all I’s are dotted. Chardonnay arrived right on his heels. She wasn’t sure what time she should come and she didn’t want to be late. Plus she wanted to find a comfy spot on the couch so she could fade into the background. She pops into the kitchen to say hello to Riesling.

“Do I look OK?” asks shyly, in sensible flat shoes, wide leg khakis and an off-white cable knit cardigan.

Riesling washes her hands. She takes Chardonnay’s hair down out of the ever-present single ponytail, removes her glasses and hands them to her. “You look great!” she says and turns back to arranging trays of snacks and cookies.

Guests start arriving around 10:30PM. Pinot Gris is the DJ for the evening. He is selecting a great mix from his own collection with a little help from Spotify. His mohawk is freshly cut and he’s in black leather from head to toe with super pointy embellished wing tips. The house is rocking by 11:00PM. But where’s Pinot Noir?

At around 11:15PM, the door flies open. It’s Moscato, The Life of the Party, with a bottle in each hand yelling “Pop Pop!!” The party erupts in cheers and two of his friends carrying a cooler full of bubbly follow him through the crowded room to the coffee table. He jumps up on to the table, opens the two bottles, shakes them and sprays the crowed with sparkling wine. Syrah is appalled. Viognier, The Supermodel, slender and aloof in her yellow satin vintage couture cocktail frock, red leather L.A.M.B. clutch and black Manolo Blahnik heels suddenly comes alive and dives behind the bar in fright to avoid ruining her dress. She just knows it isn’t vintage champagne in the air!

Around 11:30PM sexy Miss Tempranillo arrives on the arm of Cabernet Franc, the Exchange Student. Merlot cuts his eyes at them with a jealous look. “That damned Franc gets all the girls! I bet it’s the accent,” he thinks to himself. She is every picture the dreamgirl, voluptuous in knee high heeled leather boots and a well fitted black calf length cap sleeved knit dress with shimmering silver trim, conservative on her bust line but deeply cut in the back to show off her tattoo, hair immaculatelycoiffed. Franc is in a slim fit double cuff royal blue Thomas Pink shirt with a red Prada blazer and white skinny jeans evoking Lupin the Third. Viognier peeks over the bar to see if its all clear. She spots the two of them and casually eyes Franc. She plots to catch him alone later for a chat, maybe when Temp goes to the bathroom.

Merlot turns his attention to Zinfandel, The Soul Singer, who had arrived about 20 minutes earlier. It would be his first time meeting her in person, even though they have a number of mutual friends. He’s seen her in some of their Facebook photos, but the pics don’t do her justice. She is gorgeous in an off-white silk dress and matching headdress that provide a flattering contrast to her dark cocoa skin tone. He stares at her full lips thinking “baby you can sing my poetry,” as he casually make his way across the room to baby grand piano where she’s standing chatting with Viognier and Syrah.

At around 11:45 Sauvignon Blanc arrives with Verdejo. Sauvignon decides to surprise everyone and show up in modern-day Bing Crosby Christmas special swag, complete with reindeer snowflake sweater and Santa hat. But the Santa hat is black and white and the reindeer on the sweater are trampling grandma. Verdejo sashays into the room, looking for the crudite platter so he can find the snack with the least calories so as to keep his perfect physique on point. His ruby velvet jacket layered over a gray scoop neck $50 Armani Exchange t-shirt is carefully accessorized with a powder blue pashmina scarf. He’s wearing his pewter pinky ring on the hand he always holds a wine glass with – his right one.

Finally, at 11:50PM, the door opens again, an there’s Cabernet Sauvignon looking dapper in a magenta suit and perfectly matched shirt (Versace for H&M) accented cleverly with a canary yellow bowtie and handkerchief. He’s so cocky! On his arm is his lady Pinot Noir, looking as perfect as she had hoped. She settled on the Christian Louboutin black feathered Carnival d’Orsay shoes and that Stella McCartney gold sequined cocktail dress that had just arrived at Bergdorf’s earlier this month. She is accessorized with tasteful black opal drop earrings and lots of black and gold bangles on her wrists. She is smiling and making the entrance she had planned with all her guests looking on. She starts to circulate the room with all the graces of a perfect host, while silently surveying the food and bar set up. She is satisfied with it all. She knew she could count on Riesling and Syrah to make sure her fete was tight! “I have arrived,” she thinks to herself, “the party may begin now.”

In all her earlier kvetching, Pinot didn’t even consider glamour competition from Gewürztraminer, who did indeed show up unexpectedly at exactly midnight. That Diva upstaged Pinot with a spectacular, show stopping entrance into her own party in a pair of Irregular Choice Best of All peacock feather platforms. She let her white rabbit fur coat slide casually off her shoulders to reveal a fabulous sleeveless fuchsia sequined cowl neck ankle length jumpsuit and an obscenely blingy diamond and sapphire necklace with matching earrings, cocktail ring and bracelet that looked like something from a Cartier window display. All eyes turn to take in her shine. Pinot nearly popped her cork!

By 12:30AM, the party was in full swing, and everyone was blending in happy holiday spirit. Here’s to a happy and safe season. Sip responsibly and get home safely!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wine Community Pitches In for Haiti

This story of help sent to Haiti after the catastrophic January 2010 earthquake sets itself apart indeed. Design Diva Lavinia Campo, my High School bestie and the muse for my Meet Gewürztraminer – The Diva - September 7, 2011 blog post connected me to the I Am Haiti Art Scarves Project in late October.

At the behest of some concerned friends who implored him to reach into his network for donations to an orphanage in the town of Maranatha that was destroyed in the earthquake, documentarian Kevin O’Hanlon, founder of Films on Artists (follow @FilmsOnArtists on Twitter) took a unique approach to front line aid. In collaboration with Haitian born artist Richard Laurent, he brought paint, brushes and canvases to Haiti and encouraged the children of Maranatha School and Orphanage to paint the future they envisioned. Thus, in their very first artistic creations, they brought their innermost desires out front and took their lives into their own hands. Soon after, some of the works were sold at Kevin’s Rogue Space Gallery at the Chelsea Fine Arts Building in Manhattan to finance the reconstruction of the orphanage. That was just the beginning.

Kevin’s continued efforts have brought a great deal of attention to this project, including that of Frank and Caroline Fleischer, founders of the non-profit Franca Art and Fashion. Caroline, CEO of fashion industry consulting firm Talents For Fashion, envisioned a line of luxury scarves featuring the children’s artwork. Frank is the CEO of major textile manufacturers TMS Fashion, whose client list includes ESPRIT and Topshop. The scarves, which are digitally printed on the finest cashmere, will go on sale this Friday evening at the I Am Haiti Art Scarves reception in Chelsea (details below). They will sell for $100.00 apiece. Fifty percent of the proceeds – 100% of the profit – from the sale of the scarves will continue to sustain the Maranatha School and Orphanage.

Friday night’s event is sponsored in part by two generous wine providers so you can sip and shop in style:

South Pacific Wines LLC
For ten years, New York-based Kiwis Mei Fong and Michael Carr-Smith have brought a lovingly curated boutique selection of New Zealand wines into the United States from the regions of Hawkes Bay and Marlborough, with the recent addition of a Pinot Noir from the world’s most southerly wine region, my beloved Central Otago. The white wines, including a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and a barrel fermented Hawkes Bay Chardonnay from the flagship Crossroads label and the Unoaked Chardonnay and Pinot Gris that form the Curious Cove line, will be featured at this Friday’s event. Expect clean, crisp wines that have ripe fruit character and beautiful balance – even the 2007 Unoaked Chardonnay drinks like fresh juice! The author is proud to be an independent sales representative in Brooklyn and Manhattan for this importer. Contact for retail and restaurant inquiries.

Available at Harlem Vintage in Manhattan and Zap Wines and Spirits on Court Street in Brooklyn.

Follow @CrossroadsWines on Twitter

Bouké Wines
Fellow WSET Diploma of Wine and Spirit graduate Lisa Donneson DWS founded Bouké in 2007 “to satisfy the tastes of an emerging generation of American wine drinkers who share her belief that wine should be an everyday pleasure for the senses” – a woman after my own heart! I had the pleasure of stocking her wines at my erstwhile Stapleton, Staten Island store, including her full bodied, beautifully balanced red blend and the slightly effervescent, super pretty Pérlant. She is providing a mixed case of her white and rosé wines for the evening. What a treat for all of our deserving I Am Haiti Art Scarves supporters!

Available at Harlem Vintage in Manhattan and Red White and Bubbly in Brooklyn. Find more stockists at

Follow @Boukewines on Twitter

I Am Haiti Art Scarves Introduction Reception
Franca Gallery
526 West 26th Street, #417
Chelsea, NYC
Friday December 9, 6-10pm
More Documentary Screenings and Events
Saturday December 10, noon - 8pm
Sunday December 11, noon - 8pm

For more information:

Press/Media Contact:

Marie Theodore 646.529.9349/

Follow @MarieDriven on Twitter
For General Entry:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Meet Moscato - The Life of the Party

A party ain't a party until he shows up. He’s the catalyst; something about his vibe just brings fun into any room just like the character Magnitude from Community whose name is a combination of the words Magnetic Attitude. That’s Moscato. Who cares if he doesn’t always get his work done? When the clock strikes five and its time to loosen your tie or kick off your pumps, that’s when it’s most important to have a guy like him in your mix!

Moscato is the Italian name for the Muscat grape, one of the only few wine grape varieties (of the vitis vinifera species) that actually tastes grapey when made into wine. This is not to be confused with Muscadet from the Loire (made from a grape called Melon), the Muscadelle grape from Bordeaux, or the American Scuppernong grape Muscadine (which is a different species all together – no relation). Moscato is also the name of a wine style from the northwestern Italian village of Asti in the Piemonte region. What became popular in the 80’s and 90’s as Asti Spumanti – spumanti is Italian for sparkling – is now simply known as Asti. It’s the same sparkling, low alcohol, sweet Muscat wine. Moscato d’Asti is even lower still in alcohol and less effervescent. It’s usually sold in bottles that have a regular cork or screw top, unlike Asti and other fully sparkling wines that come with a mushroom shaped cork held down with a little wire cage. Pop Pop!

Muscat also makes a fabulous dessert wine, sometimes fortified to around 15% alcohol like the southern Rhône treat Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. These wines are often built to last long years and evolve into joyously mature bliss later in life. Meanwhile, in the south Australian region of Rutherglen, Muscat (known locally as Brown Muscat because it gives a high proportion of dark grapes) is a mainstay that is made into decadent mahogany colored stickies that could put the best Swiss dark chocolate to shame.

Flavor Profile
When your palate craves natural sodas and homemade sweets like tablet (a coconut treat from the French and Kweyol speaking Caribbean) or Greek Kataïfi, that is a palate that would appreciate well made Asti, Moscato and Muscat dessert wines. There is such a thing as dry Muscat, very popular on the Greek wine scene. It’s a bizarre bird indeed – you recognize the Muscat aroma, but then you get it in your mouth and it’s not at all what you expected. When your mind is on a cumin and fennel vibe, that’s a good time to reach for a dry Muscat.

Food Pairings
For a wine that is so simple, it can be a most difficult thing to pair with food. Truth is most Moscato/Muscat wines can stand alone. Have sparkling Moscato drastic as an aperitif to start your evening – at only around 5% alcohol; it’s a great way to ease into a lovely night. Finish a meal with a fortified Muscat from the south of France. As I dig deeper into my food and wine memory, I recall enjoying blue vein cheese with a good funk on it in the company of a non-fortified Muscat dessert wine. I can imagine one of those dark Rutherglen Muscats from Australia making a great connect. With a dry Muscat I like Mediterranean flavors like oil cured black olives, capers, and sun-dried tomatoes – think tapenade, humus, pita and grape leaves. It’s a party, and Moscato is on the scene!

Your Homework
Your homework for this week and weekend is to try a Moscato d'Asti, a dessert Muscat wine and, if you can find one, a dry Greek Muscat. There’s a world of Muscat wines you can get into. This trio is a good cross section – the sweet, the dry and the bubbly. Do Tweet your notes to @wineLIFE_, #MoscatoHW. Tell us which one was your favorite (please include the wine’s name, vintage and region), how much you paid for it and its best qualities. You can also post notes on the wineLIFE Facebook wall.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Meet Pinot Grigio/Gris - The Gemini

Everyone gets Pinot Grigio. This side of the Gemini's personality is very easy to understand, there are no surprises. As easy as he is to understand, he is just as easy to find. He's everywhere you are. Button-down shirts, sweater vests, khakis, clean shaven face, argyle socks, oxfords - that's a Pinot Grigio look. Just a regular guy. Perhaps he's a great looking regular guy, but you could definitely bring him home to meet the parents.

You can’t miss the evil twin - Pinot Gris. Same guy, different guise. Pungent cologne, bright red jeans, loud, artistic and bizarre - nothing you'd expect from his laced up alter ego! He and Sauvignon Blanc would get along well in theory but in practice they don’t blend! That would be far too much insanity in one room.

Really they are simply two names for the same gray-hued grape - Grigio in Italian, Gris in French, both mean gray. But as they've evolved in their respective homelands, they've evolved into two very unique styles of wine. So unlike Syrah grown in Southern France and Shiraz grown in Australia, the two incarnations of the gray Pinot are very different from eachother indeed.

In northeastern Italy, Pinot Grigio is the sweater vest. It produces light, crisp, clean wines that don’t offend. We call these kinds of wines “crowd pleasers”. From the Tre Venezie comes massive amounts of Pinot Grigio for easy drinking There are notable exceptions from Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige, smaller parts of the region that take pride in bringing the best out of the variety – floral notes on the nose, minerality on the palate – great structure in general. Nonetheless, they are true to their argyle socks.

In Alsace, the eastern French sliver of land isolated from the rest of the country by the Vosges Mountains, Pinot Gris has both his septum and labret pierced. The dry styles are funky with more body than most white wines of the world – in a way they remind me of extra virgin olive oil in both texture and aroma. The sweeter styles are rich, aromatic and complex, a wine geek’s dream indeed. Overall, Pinot Gris from Alsace (known once upon a time as Tokay Pinot Gris or Tokay d’Alsace) is unlike any other wine experience.

Based on the two benchmark regions, wines produced anywhere else in the world from this variety are named according to the style in which they produce. So you can expect Pinot Grigio from California to be crisp, clean, perhaps more fruity than the Italian version because of the warmer climate, but still simple. These wines are made for the uncomplicated palate, the baked potato set. Then when you see a Pinot Gris from Nelson, New Zealand, you should buckle your seat belt! These wines, like their French contemporaries, are for you food voyeurs who have actually thought about or even ventured a taste of monkey brains… don’t say ewwww!

Pinot Grigio and fried chicken are famous friends, much in the same way that sparkling wine and non-vintage champagne works (and interestingly, some Pinot Grigio does indeed come with a light spritz), the crisp acidity is the perfect foil for this greasy, salty summer favorite. Think potato chips, cheese nachos, over easy eggs – simple, savory, nicely salted, non-spicy, accessible standards.

You must think more gastronomically for Pinot Gris on the other hand. For starters, you can break the rule of white wine with white meat and voyage into the land of the other white meat – pork! Alsace, having been a part of Germany for a period of time, has rich food traditions that mix both cultures into a beautiful pot of proverbial stew. Think sausage with sauerkraut or a pork loin roast with winter vegetables, country or mousse pâté or even souse (braised pigs feet) on a Sunday morning tossed in a vinegar salad with onions and cucumbers, slight pepper. Pinot Gris will handle any of that like a champion for you. For those who don’t partake, duck or game meat give just as much of that rich flavor that hits you in your retro-nasal passages with a funk you hate to love for that Pinot Gris swag.

Your Homework
Your homework for this week and weekend is to try 2 Pinot Grigios and 2 Pinot Gris. Ask your favorite retailer or browse your favorite wine website for wines from the above mentioned regions. Your two Pinot Grigios should definitely be Italian – go for a $10 bottle and get a recommendation on a $20-25 one (please avoid that one overpriced brand for which you only are really paying a popularity fee – you know who you are!). Both of your Pinot Gris can be French, or you can do as Gris does and have an adventure in another part of the world. The thing is when the wine is labeled Pinot Gris its bound to be interesting! Do Tweet your notes to @wineLIFE_, #PinotGHW. Tell us which one was your favorite (please include the wine’s name, vintage and region), how much you paid for it and its best qualities. You can also post notes on the wineLIFE Facebook wall. Don’t you just love these assignments??

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Meet Tempranillo – The Dreamgirl

Killer curves. Great beauty. Tempranillo is the witty, friendly, smart, sexy lady in your life. She’s graceful like leather, herb and baking spice notes often supported on a black cherry heart. Some guys may not have what it takes to convince her, but they all want to see if there’s a chance. And she doesn’t make it easy.

Ribera del Duero is a loving home for Tempranillo. The climate there is continental, with hot summer days, cool nights and a cold winter. The Tempranillo vineyards of line the Ribera del Duero, a river that starts in Spain and flows through Portugal where it is known as the Douro. This environment makes for great 100% Tempranillo wines that often have impressive longevity. In the Rioja region, Tempranillo’s often the strong link in the chain (a blend) with Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo. This is Spain’s noble grape. In many ways, Tempranillo bears a resemblance to Pinot Noir, another beautiful wine experience.

Much like with Pinot Noir, your palate should be used to high quality foods and ingredients, including organics (as I see it, if you take the time to treat your crop with good organic love, your efforts must produce something of high quality). Your palate should appreciate purity, as it does when your diet is strictly itals. Your palate is teased with a little spice in my fave Ribera del Duero reds that I tasted just recently at Wines of Spain Great Match 2011 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan. (I shot my Rioja twitcon there, follow @RiojaWINE). I had the pleasure of vibing with both Verdejo and Tempranillo on personal level. They could be great mates in the same meal – Verdejo paired with a light appetizer like seared foie gras tourchon or saltfish with dumpling and sautéed spinach and onion. The main course could be a beautiful heritage chicken roast rubbed with Illchef #7 spice (link @iLLCH3F to inquire, and please truss that bird before roasting!) with carrots, onions, garlic and celery to compliment the Tempranillo. I suggest decanting Rioja Reservas and Grand Reservas as well as Ribera del Dueros older than age 6 (2005 or earlier).

Your Homework
Your homework for this week and weekend is to try 3 Tempranillos. Ask your favorite retailer or browse your favorite wine website for Ribera del Duero and Rioja. You can easily find a Rioja Joven or an inexpensive Crianza (under $15) then treat yourself to two Ribera wines – one around $15.00 and the other, on the older side, at $40.00 and up. Pay close attention to the varietal makeup of the Rioja. Do Tweet your notes to @wineLIFE_, @riojawine and @wines_fromspain #TempranilloHW. Tell us which one was your favorite (please include the wine’s name, vintage and region), how much you paid for it and its best qualities. You can also post notes on the wineLIFE Facebook wall. You will fall in love!

If you love this blog as much as I love writing it for you, please share it. I love sharing what I’ve learned about wine and life!

With Love,

Vee Fitzgerald DWS xoxo

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Meet Verdejo - The Dancer

Meet Verdejo – The Dancer
I’ve met Verdejo on several occasions in the past – surely several times while studying for my Diploma of Wine and Spirit and we carried Valdelapinta Verdejo 2009 (imported by Parador Imports) at wineLIFE among our summer 2010 selection of wines. Last week at Great Match 2011, Wines from Spain’s annual wine and food tasting event, I had a chance to rub elbows with him and really get to know him better. And you know what? He’s a unique variety that deserves his own week to be featured!

Drinking Verdejo is like watching a ballet. Verdejo is that dude in tights, but don’t mistake his wardrobe for weakness. He is strong and lean and graceful, and all the ballerinas want to run across the stage and leap into his arms. The tights let you see his taut muscle tone. He lifts the ballerina in the air as though she were light as a feather. They move in unison. His moves are masculine and precise. Many times it seems she will just wither into his arms and he would catch her, hold her, balance her, look into her eyes… Ah Verdejo!

Rueda is Spain’s most respected white wine region, and Verdejo is the noble grape on which the best wines are based. Traditionally, as in many old world wine regions, Verdejo was the star in a duet (blend) with Palomino, but nowadays, the variety does solos regularly. It is not a difficult grape to grow, and as soon as Spanish winemakers made the discovery that with temperature controlled fermentations in stainless steel with no aging Verdejo could be a star, he took center stage!
Flavor Profile and Food Partners
Verdejo is for lovers of unique food combinations short of pregnancy cravings. With all that lovely crisp acidity, pink grapefruit and rosemary character, they tend to have an underlying nuttiness – that is it’s signature.

This past Sunday night I broke down a whole chicken and curried it with carrots, onions, garlic and flour dumplings and it was fantastic (just ask my three year old daughter, who was not just licking her fingers, but her whole hand!). It had just enough sizzle on the back palate to clear up congestion without making you lunge for a piece of bread – water only makes a burning palate burn hotter, in case you didn’t know. And the flavors were rich! I was generous with cumin and clove, salt and plenty pepper. All I could think about was my new friend Verdejo who I didn’t even have the decency to invite over for dinner! If I had, he and my curry would have become the closest of friends. His racy acidity and vivacious fruit character would have been the perfect counter point for the richly savory, sufficiently spicy curry in my pot. I had a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc instead, and that was just as lovely as I had hoped.

Your Homework
Your homework for this week and weekend is to try 2 Verdejos. Ask your favorite retailer or browse your favorite wine website for Rueda. Pay close attention to the varietal makeup. You should try one that is 100% Verdejo and another that is at least 60% Verdejo blended with other varieties. Do Tweet your notes to @wineLIFE_ and @wines_fromspain #VerdejoHW. Tell us which one was your favorite (please include the wine’s name, vintage and region), how much you paid for it and its best qualities. You can also post notes on the wineLIFE Facebook wall. Viva España!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Meet Viognier - The Supermodel

The thing about that supermodel is that she’s not just tall, skinny and pretty. She’s super because she’s in very high demand and did not need to “get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day”. Viognier is that “it” girl. As a child, she was taller than even some boys – she was a tom boy who slouched a lot and was great at sports but not so great at make-up, hair, clothing and shoes. As she came of age she realized what she was working with and inevitably ended up in the fashion world, where her height was now an asset and her additional assets set her apart from the rest.

Who is she anyway?
Viognier is one of the “white wine trying to be a red wine” grape varieties, so much so that it ended up in blends with Syrah (the CEO, see previous post). This seemingly odd blending tradition started because they dwell in the same vineyards in parts of the Northern Rhône, and ended up getting picked and pressed together – field blend. French law sanctions up to 20% of Viognier in a Côte Rôtie wine, but this fickle, difficult-to-grow, low yielding vine makes it less than possible to eek out more than around 5%, and nowadays she doesn’t even show up for work (today’s Côte-Rôtie wines are 100% Syrah). The Aussies carried on the tradition in wineries that pay true homage to the heritage of Shiraz, blending Viognier in and even saying so on the label. These blends also only contain around 5% Viognier. Nonetheless, her presence in a blend is felt.

As a soloist, Viognier’s sensual, heady perfume and full body on the palate makes for a highly sought after varietal wine. The benchmark is Condrieu (pronounced kon-dree-YOU) in the Northern Rhône, one of France’s most exotic and captivating white wines. Her other happy home is in California, under the auspicies of The Rhône Rangers, the wiley wine renegades who wanted more than just Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay for a muse. Viognier has a few things in common with Gewürztraminer (the Diva, see previous post), including an difficult-to-pronounce name – say “vee-OH-nee-YAY”. And don’t mess it up or you might get slapped!

Flavor Profile and Food Pairing
For flavor profile, lovers of great classic perfume would love Viognier. If your mother wore Channel No. 5 when you were growing up and you enjoyed the summer’s ripest peaches or you enjoy exciting things that the mainstream consider luxurious such as artisan cheeses, truffles, smoked salmon, caviar – you’re a Viognier person for sure. If you really must pair Viognier with a meal *sigh* I see filet mignon with fingerling potatoes and perhaps some wilted spinach as a nice meal. But understand that you will have to tailor the meal to the wine (that’s generally true but it is especially true for the supermodel). You will find that she is worth it indeed!

Your Homework
Your homework for this week and weekend is to try 2 Viogniers. Ask your favorite retailer or browse your favorite wine website for a California Viognier as well as something from the Languedoc (south of France). New York State also produces some Viognier – Brooklyn Oenology makes one from North Fork of Long Island grapes which was a favorite at our store. Be prepared to spend $15.00 or more per bottle – because the vines yield low, its naturally an expensive wine to make. For extra credit, treat yourself a bottle of Condrieu. Top producers include Georges Vernay and E. Guigal). Not everyone will have these in stock but most will know what you’re talking about. Do Tweet your notes to @wineLIFE_ #ViognierHW. Tell us which one was your favorite (please include the wine’s name, vintage and region), how much you paid for it and its best qualities. You can also post notes on the wineLIFE Facebook wall. That’s delicious!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Meet Syrah - The CEO

He was the senior class president, always impeccably dressed to stand out from the rest of the high school crowd. He’s into older women and they love him too. Never needing any ostentation to impress, he has instead a way of commanding your attention and respect with a deep, booming voice and eloquent, well-chosen statements. As CEO of a major corporation, he puts those skills to good use. It was either that or politics – he would have found success there too, no doubt. Shiraz for president!

As Syrah, this thick skinned grape lives a happy life in France’s Rhône Valley, situated toward the south, working solo in the Northern Rhône (sometimes blended with a bit of the Viognier that resides in the same vineyard). From Côtes Rotie in the north to Cornas in the south, he’s the main event. In the Sourthern Rhône Syrah’s in lots of great company with Grenache, Mouvedre, Cinsault, et al. The region’s signature wine, Châteauneuf du Pape, can legally contain up to 13 different listed red varieties, all together or in any combination. Syrah is almost always in the mix and is usually detectable in the blend, the head fruit in charge. Take the Rhône all the way down to the Mediterranean and you will find Syrah still reigns in many quarters – the people’s choice!

As Shiraz, Australia has built a reputation on his shoulders, from the very cheap, animal-adorned party juice to the very rare and collectible music-in-a-glass. Like the Rhône, Australia has lots of hot sunny climes for Shiraz to thrive under – thick skinned grapes can stand more heat to develop more sugar and offer greater pigment and tannin for the making of very full bodied wine.

It’s the perfect wine for the typical American palate: think grape Blow Pops, Bazooka Joe, Sour Power, Swedish Fish and all kinds of fast food. Did I forget to mention chocolate? This is where Syrah goes in a different direction in flavor profile – not for the Snickers bar set. If Syrah were chocolate, it would be 70% Dark and Swiss or Belgian. Nonetheless, Syrah is very approachable, just be ready for your mouth to be taken over for a little while by a commanding presence.

Because it is so high in tannin and relatively low in acidity, Syrah not the greatest food wine – a glass can be a meal in itself! Nonetheless, your city’s best burger with the works and a side of fries would be a great mate for a glass of Syrah. Along the same lines, a good steak and a baked potato would work well. In fact, I always recommend Syrah wines for Thanksgiving, because that’s the ultimate flavor frenzy and this wine can handle it all! (Caution: Syrah may also help your turkey to cause all around drowsiness and you may find the football game watching you, but you’ll give thanks nonetheless!)

Your Homework
Your homework for this week and weekend is to try 3 Syrahs. Ask your favorite retailer or browse your favorite wine website for something from the Northern Rhône – St Joseph wines are the most accessible in profile and in price, but feel free to splurge on anything from Cornas or Crozes Hermitage splurge big on the venerable Hermitage itself. You will easily find Australian Shiraz in any wine shop or liquor store you enter. Try a cheap one that you can get under $10.00, and then find one over $15.00, just so you can clearly see the quality difference. My favorite wine region in Australia for Shiraz is McLaren Vale for that over $15 bottle. For extra credit, find a Syrah from California. You will impress your wine retailer with your knowledge of the name Rhône Rangers. It may very well serve as your password to gain access to some goodies from Paso Robles winemakers dedicated to Rhône Valley grape varieties – this could be lots of fun! Do Tweet your notes to @wineLIFE_ #SyrahHW. Tell us which one was your favorite (please include the wine’s name, vintage and region), how much you paid for it and its best qualities. You can also post notes on the wineLIFE Facebook wall. That’s delicious!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Meet Pinot Noir - The Princess

Everything I know about Pinot Noir says princess. She’s that girl who demands and gets everything she wants. She’s stunning with a great figure, and she is generous to those who fulfill her desires – but she is definitely not easy. Her shoe and handbag styles are always on point. Her wardrobe is a collection of designer originals and runway fashions from the most recent shows in Paris, Milan and New York. When she’s fully decked out with high-end jewelry to accent it all, she’s absolutely fabulous. Just one look and you know she’s worth all the trouble.

As a grapevine, Pinot Noir is demanding. It is difficult to grow and disease prone. Thin skins make growing and harvest timing a serious matter – thin out the vine’s leaves too much or let them hang too long on the vine and the grapes may sunburn, or if there’s rain, they can swell, split and rot. In the winery, she’s no less challenging. Anyone who takes on the duty of ushering Pinot Noir from grape to glass must have a great deal of love and patience for the variety. Those who do are able to coax its characteristic red berry aromas and flavors to the fore are a special breed indeed. With judicious use of oak, they bring out other treats, including cola and smoky bacon or barbecue notes. The thing that makes Pinot Noir so amazing is structure. On the palate, the worst Pinots are anemic, but the best exhibit precise balance and substance – just enough tannin, acidity, alcohol and amplitude of fruit character to make each mouthful a nearly religious experience.

Purchasing Pinot Noir is almost as tricky as growing and making wine out of it. Burgundy is the French bastion of Pinot Noir. It is very rarely blended here, so any red Burgundy (or properly, Bourgogne) is 100% Pinot. This is where the easy part ends. When it comes to Burgundy, or most Pinot Noir in the world for that matter, knowing the producer and his/her style is paramount. Even in tiny villages in the Côte de Nuits, two wines made from the same vineyard by two different producers in the same vintage can taste greatly different – both can be amazing in general, but one may appeal to you more than the other. The only way to find out is to taste them both. Buying Oregon Pinot Noir posses a similar challenge. Willamette Valley is Oregon’s most famous region, and Pinot is its claim to fame, but not all Willamette Pinot is created equal, and since the 2004 film Sideways popularized the varietal, prices of Pinot Noir from Oregon and California have increased much faster than other wine prices, but the quality has not increased in tandem in many cases. The one source for consistent Pinot Noir, surprisingly, is the Marlborough region of New Zealand. In this realm, prices are reasonable, and you can almost choose blindly to get the glass of wine you want every time no matter the producer. New Zealand’s Martinborough and Central Otago regions produce more noteworthy Pinot Noir, although they present a similar predicament as Burgundy and Oregon – purchase by producer.

And did you know...
Pinot Noir is a component of champagne? Yes, that which we pop is made from a blend of white wine grapes Chardonnay, and red wine grapes Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (not fermented on skins so no pigement for non vntage brut - they are left in to make rosé).

Pinot Noir for Your Palate
If you grew up eating high-end food made from high quality ingredients and fresh meals cooked frequently then Pinot Noir is right up your alley. A palate that has been reared on or become accustomed to fresh, high quality ingredients is geared to appreciating the fine nuances of this wine. If you have been and still are constantly inundated with the up front flavor of instant gratification foods, you might miss the point. Nonetheless, you should pick a night to relax, spend $18 on a bottle of Pinot Noir, and cook something simple for dinner. You can enjoy Pinot Noir with tuna and salmon seared rare or sashimi style (hold the soy sauce). Cheese choices include a lighter cheddar, gouda or gruyere – you’d be surprised to enjoy a glass with an omelet. I also love Pinot Noir with pork, particularly loin.

Your Homework
Your homework for this week and weekend is to try 3 Pinot Noirs. Ask your favorite retailer or browse your favorite wine website for a Bourgogne Rouge. You will easily find Pinot Noir in any wine shop or liquor store you enter, but I strongly suggest that you spend at least $15.00 per bottle. Pinot Noir under that point has been consistently disappointing. Find yourself Pinot Noirs from Oregon, California and New Zealand. Do Tweet your notes to @wineLIFE_ #PinotNoirHW. Tell us which one was your favorite (please include the wine’s name, vintage and region), how much you paid for it and its best qualities. You can also post notes on the wineLIFE Facebook wall. Enjoy!

Pictured: Hospices de Beaune Volnay-Santenots 2005 1er Cru and Treleaven Pinot Noir 2009 Cayuga Lake AVA New York, retailed at wineLIFE for $17.99

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Meet Merlot - The Poet

When I think of Merlot, I remember the guy who at first glance didn’t really stand out in a crowd, but could lace you up with lyrics if given the chance. He’s average height and he’s actually kind of cute. His silky voice delivers great poetry right from the tip of his tongue. With that, he gets the girl every time.

Merlot is so smooth! He blows raspberry and cherry notes out of his saxophone – easy listening. Usually a band accompanies him – Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in a melodic blend. But in some specific sites in the old and new world, Merlot is rich like bass, with impressive tannic texture on the palate by itself.

Bordeaux is where the world’s most expensive Merlot has been produced for centuries, and these are two of the world’s most expensive wines. Chateau Petrus and Chateau Le Pin grow ancient Merlot vines on a subsoil of ferrous clay on the right bank of the river Gironde. The wines made from these vines are special and rare things indeed. Another other great bastion of Merlot is in Washington State. Leonetti Cellar has been making wine since 1905 in the Walla Walla Valley appellation, where the summer sun is generous and Merlot ripens happily into something of substance.

If you are a basic meat, potato & string beans kind of person, Merlot is for you, because it doesn’t demand much at all for you to enjoy and understand. As far as food pairings, we could talk about what to avoid – abundant spiciness and pepper or acidity in food will over speak Merlot’s smooth, placid, poetic voice. Keep it simple.

Your homework for this week and weekend is to try 3 Merlots. Ask your favorite retailer or browse your favorite wine website for a right bank Bordeaux or any Bordeaux in which Merlot is dominant. You will easily find Merlot in any wine shop or liquor store you enter. My suggestion for the other two is to try one that is around $10 and another one that is closer to $30. That way you will see a definite quality difference. Do Tweet your notes to @wineLIFE_ #MerlotHW. Tell us which one was your favorite (please include the wine’s name, vintage and region), how much you paid for it and its best qualities. You can also post notes on the wineLIFE Facebook wall. Enjoy!

Pictured above: Thomas Henry Merlot 2007 Napa Valley, retailed at $15.95 at wineLIFE Wine Shop. Tasty berry and cherry fruit and silky tannin, drinks nicely, finishes dry.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Meet Gewürztraminer - The Diva

When I think about Gewürztraminer (pronounced ge-VIRTS-trah-meener), I recall the early-bloomed exotic beauty that struts the halls in stiletto boots. She has legs for days and a rude attitude that makes her even more intriguing. Dudes offer her gum just so they can watch her pouty pink lips move when she chews. Those who hate her secretly study her swag so they can learn how to command the kind of attention she gets.

Literally translated as the spicy Traminer – Tramin is the place in northern Italy from which the grape hails, gewürz is the German word for spicy – this variety is unique indeed and is beloved by those who truly understand it. Think ginger spice, just think about that funk and sizzle that ginger gives you on the nose. You can expect a wine with a lot of body and that’s rather perfumy, often smelling of rose petals and lychee fruit. In the glass Gewürztraminer tends to have deeper color than some other white wines as a result of contact with its blushing skins during fermentation – the perfect tan. Sweeter versions give you more of the tropical fruit characters, but still the signature heady aroma. In general, Gewürztraminer smells sweet but tastes dry (all the sugar is fermented out).

Gewürztraminer’s homeland, if not its motherland, is Alsace, the almost German region in eastern France. Usually it comes 750ml size Alsace flute, the same tall slender bottle Riesling comes in. It is grown all over the world with happy digs in the Nelson region of New Zealand, Germany, Austria and various New York AVAs. It’s used in some well known blends from California and Oregon. No matter how many other grapes are in the blend, Gewürztraminer stands out as a striking presence.

Comfort foods that remind me of Gewürztraminer include Christmas rum raising cake, Easter hot cross buns and ginger snap cookies. Having said that, I just love dry Gewürztraminer with Thai curry noodles, or on a different vein, tuna or salmon sashimi – juicy acidity rolls itself happily around the rich oily fish on the palate.

Your homework for this week and weekend is to try 3 Gewürztraminers. Start with one from Alsace – luckily these are the French wines that are labeled by grape. Then see if you can find a local one, as well as one from New Zealand. Don’t be surprised if you’re left speechless after she first passes your lips. Do Tweet your notes to @wineLIFE_ #GewurzHW. Tell us which one was your favorite (please include the wine’s name, vintage and region), how much you paid for it and its best qualities. You can also post notes on the wineLIFE Facebook wall. Go get ‘em!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Meet Sauvignon Blanc - The Rebel

When I think about Sauvignon Blanc, I remember that guy who went against every imaginable grain. He didn’t play sports or join clubs because it was too normal – he was an individual. If everyone was wearing red that year, he wore blue or black. Instead of a letter jacket, he rocked a
tough leather and perhaps some chains. When all his friends were listening to pop and hip hop, he preferred grunge and painted his fingernails black. A true rebel. Not the boy next door.

When I put my nose into a great glass of Sauvignon Blanc, my reaction is usually “What the funk???” Because it gives you what you wouldn’t expect from a wine – freshly cut grass, green bell pepper, scallions, etc on the nose, and if it isn’t a lower end Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, or something similarly new world, you will be shocked and appalled by the austerity on the palate! And that’s the way he wants you to react when he enters a room. Just like he wasn’t interested in team sports or clubs in school, he’s not for corporate – he owns his own Harley Davidson shop so he can dress however the funk he wants and talk bikes all day. Sancerre, located at the inland end of the Loire Valley in France, is the official homeland of Sauvignon Blanc. It is also grown in Bordeaux, and when blended with Semillon and sometimes Muscadelle (not related to Muscat, Muscadet or Muscadine) it is Graves (pronounced Grahv) the official white wine of the region. Sancerre set the standard for grassy Sauvignon Blanc, that beloved “cat’s pee” swag that true Sauvignon fans look for in their glass. From these wines you can experience citrus flavors, particularly lemon or lemon zest and grapefruit, and they’re invariably bone dry.

On a different vein, Sauvignon Blanc proliferates in the Marlborough region of New Zealand’s South Island, brand new world. More audacity – of all the random places to take root! Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc can be grassy with that cat’s pee vibe as well, but on the palate they take on a distinct passion fruit flavor, with less austerity than their French contemporaries. They’re much more user friendly, in their own rebellious way.

In general, because of characteristically high acidity, Sauvignon Blanc is a great food wine. I like it with fried foods, anything salty or creamy like baked macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, fried clams, fried fish, French fries, eggs benedict – yes, why not have a glass of wine with breakfast, it’s a wonderful way to start a day! Also I love Sauvignon Blanc with dried sausage or cured meats, and semi-soft cheeses (avoid blues, the acidity in those cheeses will clash with the high acidity in the wine).

Your homework for this week and weekend is to drink six Sauvignon Blanc. You are excused from this assignment on Thursday, as September 1 is #CabernetDay, but then you must dive back into your devoirs! Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé (the other Loire Valley Sauvignon benchmark) are highly recommended. Quincy is a less expensive alternative to these, not quite like the authentic article but at least you will be drinking from
the same region at about half the price. Marlborough is also a must. These are ubiquitous and plentiful – shop in the US$13-$18 range, you can almost pick blind because they are so consistent! If you can get a Graves or another white Bordeaux called Entre-Deux-Mers, grab one for a unique experience. Then see what is produced near you. Sauvignon Blanc can pack up and move anywhere to thrive, so you’ll find wines from various US States, Austria, South Africa, Italy, Chile and various other locals in your store or on your fave wine website.

Then just for kicks, treat yourself to a Sauternes. This is the celebrated dessert wine of Bordeaux, the only place in the world famous for making sweet Sauvignon Blanc (blended also with Semillon and Muscadelle). You deserve dessert! Do Tweet your notes to @wineLIFE_ #SauvBlancHW. Tell us which one was your favorite (please include the wine’s name, vintage and region), how much you paid for it and its best qualities. You can also post notes on the wineLIFE Facebook wall. Bottoms up!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Meet Cabernet Franc - The Exchange Student

When I think about Cabernet Franc, I recall the first glimpse of that new, foreign countenance I had never noticed before. As soon as his name is discovered (It’s pronounced Frahnk), it is whispered on the lips of many others around him. He’s handsome in a unique way – lean and taut with a slender face, a prominent nose and an uncommon haircut that all suit him quite well. His style of dress is unusual but cool nonetheless, and if he does play a sport, he plays soccer and calls it football.

His speech is accented, and this works like a charm on anyone whom he encounters. Sometimes he is a little difficult to understand. Nonetheless, people who know he’s in the building want to know more about him. They approach him with a measure of awe, and they endeavor to partake in a cultural exchange that will enrich their lives in ways they haven’t even thought of yet. And when they do dig in and find out what he’s about, they become his newest fans.

There is a specific type of wine drinker who enjoys Cabernet Franc. That palate is stimulated by something rather unexpected – a red wine with the acidity and herbaceousness of a Sauvignon Blanc (they are from the same family) that is lean with hints of fruit but overall quite austere even when it is grown in warmer climates. This variety is not as widely grown as some others, by the way, but that’s what fascinates me and other Cab Franc-ophiles. Those who decide to grow and make wine from it are instant specialists who lay a keen eye on making sure it is true-to-type, because Cabernet Franc drinkers know exactly what they’re looking for and they never want to see him lose his accent and adapt.

His homeland is in the Loire Valley in France, specifically the village of Chinon in the Touraine subregion. The climate here is on the cooler side, being a northern location that is too far inland from the Atlantic coast to benefit from the maritime influence. As an interesting side note, it’s relatively dry in this region, so organic and biodynamic viticulture are easy choices and more prevalent than elsewhere. As far as food is concerned, think paté (goose or pork rillettes) and Andouille sausage, or you can use some Chinon wine to make Coq-au-Vin and then you have a perfect pairing at your table!

Its hard to say what comfort foods remind me of Cabernet Franc, because as a wine, its outside of many peoples’ comfort zones. If you grew up eating and loving lots of green vegetables you could dig Franc, especially if you grew up in Europe where traditional cooking does not exhibit very bold flavors in general. Or if sushi was always one of your favorite things, then you’ll appreciate the purity of this wine like you enjoy the purity of a piece of salmon sashimi without the help of soy sauce or wasabi.

Your homework for this week and weekend is to try 3 Cabernet Francs. Start with one from the Loire – look for Chinon or Bourgueil on the label. Then get your hands on a bottle of Schneider Vineyards Cabernet Franc from the North Fork of Long Island, NYS (look online). Bruce Schneider is one of the best Cab Franc specialists in the New World, and while I’m on the subject, I think the North Fork is the PERFECT home for Cabernet Franc and should produce much more of it than it does Merlot! For your third one look elsewhere in the New World wine sections (Old World is Europe in winespeak). California has a fair amount of Cab Franc for you to try.

And please avoid blends. Although it is one of the grapes blended in Bordeaux and is used in other parts of the world as a blending grape for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, give yourself a chance to cut through his accent and cultural differences and get to know him. Do Tweet your notes to @wineLIFE_ #CabFrancHW. Tell us which one was your favorite (please include the wine’s name, vintage and region), how much you paid for it and its best qualities. You can also post notes on the wineLIFE Facebook wall. This is going to be fun for YOU!