30 October, 2009

Shaheen's Famous Goat Cheese and LaPorte Sauvignon Blanc

My friend Shaheen, the Urban Goat Girl rocks! Her recent hobby, which I wholeheartedly applaud and sincerely hope she commercializes is organic, raw milk goat cheese. Elusive in this country but oh so delicious is fresh unpasteurized chevre. If this is danger, sign me up! BrixChick Janesta and I enjoyed not only a fabulous Brie, but also several chevres seasoned with lemon rind and pepper, garlic chive and cumin. I won' t mention the artisan bread. Okay, I will! It was halbweis, homemade and perfect!


To go with that, what would we pair but Sancerre? I needed to visit Solano Cellars to pick up some wine, so got an awesome recommendation to go with the cheese.

'08 Le bouquet de LaPorte, Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley

At $18.99 it was a treat from the Loire Valley that was as close to the Sancerre I craved as conveniently possible. Delicious! The freshness and brightness of the wine meshed insanely well with the cheese. A very clear, pale yellow, the wine had a nice acidity and a lovely flavor and aroma. Lemon blossom, green leaves on the nose and lovely Sauvvy B charateristics on the palate. It was good on its own, but gr88888t! with the cheese. We thought of our friend @WineInkbyTia whom we knew was traipsing through the Loire, while we contented ourselves with the product of the Loire and of our delightful Urban Goat Girl friend, Shaheen!

Look at the paste she got on her brie! Yum!

14 October, 2009

Wine Blogging Wednesday #62: "You say Mourvedre. I say Monastrell" A Grape by any other name.....

The BrixChicks deep love for all things Mourvedre is no secret. So for this Wine Blogging Wednesday challenge, of course we go for a grape with many names, but all with deep color and changeable nature. Since I adore Monastrell from Jumilla, I was happy to try a Monastrell from Alicante and compare it to a "local" Mourvedre; another favorite "River of Skulls". Xandria and I completed this exercise together so I also got to sample her French Mourvedre.

But first a little about Monastrell. I thought it had three names, Monastrell (Spanish), Mataro (Italian) and Mourvedre (French) , but who knew the actual list of names makes it sound like a trendy street drug: "Other names include Alcallata, Alcayata, Alicante, Arach Sap, Balzac, Balzar, Benadu, Beneda, Beni Carlo, Berardi, Bod, Bon Avis, Buona Vise, Casca, Catalan, Cayata, Caymilari Sarda, Charnet, Churret, Damas Noir, Drug, English Colossal, Espagnen, Espar, Esparte, Estrangle-chien, Flouron, Flouroux, Garrut, Gayata Tinta, Karis, Maneschaou, Marseillais, Mataro, Maurostel, Mechin, Monastre, Monastrell Menudo, Monastrell Verdadero, Mourvedre, Mourvegue, Mourves, Murvedr Espar, Negralejo, Negria, Neyron, Pinot Fleri, Plant De Ledenon, Plant De Saint Gilles, Reina, Ros, Rossola Nera, Spar, Tintilla, Tire Droit, Torrentes, Trinchiera, Valcarcelia, Verema, Veremeta, Vereneta" this from Information and Coordination Centre for Biological Diversity (IBV) of the Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (BLE), Deichmanns Aue 29, 53179 Bonn, Germany. http://www.genres.de/idb/vitis/.

I have been most familiar with those Monastrells from Jumilla who bring with them a dusty cocoa blackberry delight, which is similar to the Contra Costa examples I have had as well, so I was also curious to see what differences I would find.

The wine I tried was :

'06 m2 Monastrell, Vinos Sin Ley, Alicante, Spain

The producers goal is to bring fresh modern wines to the market at exceptional prices. At $10.99 for this offering, winemaker Salvador Poveda is doing a nice job. It is a very opaque, dark red wine. The initial nose was banyardy, almost tarry. While the blackberry was prominent, it was more like blackberry cigarettes, with a strong mixed berry component to the aroma. The flavors had a lot of fruit, blackberry and fruit leather flavors with white pepper flashing in the mid palate. As it opened up, it was smoothed out but initially there seemed to be stronger alcohol that the 14.5% listed. All in all, this wine had great QPR and was the most likely to me to be a good tapas wine. I was curious how cool Alicante was compared to Jumilla, but could only drill down that the m2 came from "Zone 8". It was bottled in Monovar in the center of the DO, so perhaps there is a cooling breeze that brings out so much more spice than fruit?

We busted out all the peppers to do an impromptu drill down on the peppery notes. Was it red peppercorns? Green? Black? White? Grains of Paradise? Sumac? Thyme? Lavender? Rosemary? Definitley white. With a little anise as well. Then we read the instructions again, and the suggestion to compare with a more familiar/local version of the other name jumped out and Xandria got me to open a

'06 River of Skulls, Twisted Oak, Calaveras County, $35

This was much more my style. It came out a lovely ruby color and though the bottle indicated 14.7% alcohol, it did not burn my nose as the Spanish (and French) offerings did. The nose had blackberry, cedar and a generous dollop of oak. When I said , "like a walk toward the beach in Bolinas," Xandria snarked, "that's a nice way to say: Lots of oak!". I loved it. And it was the third wine I poured and the first glass I finished. Mixed with a little Syrah, it had gorgeous fruit flavors (but no chocolate). The fruit came from the Dalton Vineyard in Calaveras County and guess what? They too call it "Monastrell"!

Paired with a delicious porkchop, polenta, fresh Chanterelle mushrooms it was a very fun Wine Blogging Wedensday! Thanks, Dale Cruse, for an interesting exercise!

"You say Monastrell I say Mourvedre" Wine Blogging Wednesday #62 - Part 2

Monastrell, Mourvedre, Mataro, oh my!

For this tasty little assignment the Brixchicks chose Monastrell,one of their favorite varietals, which we discovered has several aliases other than Mourvedre and Mataro*. It is true that we drink a lot of Monastrell from Spain (especially from Jumilla) and Mourvedre from California so I thought it was high time to taste Mourvedre from France. We gathered the wines a did a vertical tasting of: the the 2006 La Bastide Blanche from Bandol ($24.99), the 2006 M2 Monastrell from Alicante, Spain ($10.99) and the 2006 "River of Skulls" Mourvedre from Twisted Oak of Calaveras County, CA ($30.00.) I concentrated on the Mourvedre from France.

I searched high and low for a 100% Mourvedre which proved difficult as it is normally used for blending with other Rhone varietals (ie; Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault) to make Chateau Neuf de Pape from the South of France and other various Southern Rhone blends.

Through my thorough research I finally found the 2006 La Bastide Blanche from Bandol. Mourvedre is the most common red grape from the Bandol AOC, or wine region, which is situated near the Mediterranean Coast just east of Marseille in the region of Provence. The Mediteranean climate is perfect for the Mourvedre grape which takes a long time to ripen. Most winemakers in Bandol make blends of mostly Mourvedre. In fact, La Bastide Blanche uses at least 75% Mourvedre, according to the folks at K&L Wines, and is blended with Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan. So I was hoping this wine would give a good idea of how French Mourvedre expresses itself.

Mourvedre produces a dark, dense, intensely perfumatic wine. This Bandolian Mourvedre is the color of the darkest rubies. As soon as I poured it into the glass my nose was assaulted by the aromas of cassis and anise with underpinnings of tobacco,blackberry and cranberry. At first the tannins were overpowering but they smoothed out as I drank more. I got tangy cranberry and notes of black pepper on the palate. It is an elegant, balanced wine and not one element really stood out. Liza thought this would be the most "food-slutty" wine and it was a nice accompaniment to the fresh chanterelles she brought from Seattle.

For Liza's reviews of the Monastrell and Ca. Mourvedre go to: http://www.brixchicks.com/2009/10/wine-blogging-wednesday-62-you-say.html
In summary the Mourvedre from Bandol is like the elegant, well-dressed cousin of the complex, brooding, chain-smoking Spaniard M2 Monastrell while the River of Skulls Mourvedre is the fruity, California party-girl of this trio. One grape such different wines...

*For the other obscure names for Monastrell/Mourvedre please read Liza's post if you haven't already.

12 October, 2009

Drinking the Pink: Roses from Spain to Chile and back to California

It is officially autumn and I am continuing my summer tradition of Rose-drinking. In fact I am proposing that we drink Rose year-round because seeing the world through rose-colored glasses is quite lovely. Roses make me feel good because I love the various hues and tones of pink, orange and red. I love how they are smooth and light-bodied yet dry and crisp to accompany antipasti, cheese and charcuterie. Their affordability also makes me just giddy and delicious Roses can be found for under $20.

Now, I don't want anyone to be confused about what exactly a Rose wine is. Rose is not a grape and Rose wine is made of the juice of any variety of red grapes. The difference is in how these grapes are vinified. There are three main ways of making Rose:

1) Light skin contact - Red grapes are crushed and the skins of these grapes are only in contact with the juice for a very short period of time usually 1-3 days. This is what gives Rose its light color. After the skin contact this lightly-colored juice is then fermented in stainless steel tanks (with some exceptions.)

2) The method known as "Saignee" which comes from the French word "saigner" which means "to bleed." The wine-makers bleed out the juice from the grapes in the vats after a short time of skin contact, leaving the crushed red fruit (or must) intensified and ready to be made into red wine. The extracted pink juice can then be fermented on its own to make Rose.

3) Blending of red and white varietals to change the color of the wine. Not that commonly done except in making Rose Champagne (in the French region of Champagne, that is.)

Roses can be made of any red grape varietal and the most common are Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Grenache. They are usually drunk upon release and I have been drinking mostly Roses from 2008.

Here is a round-up of my "summer of pink" and a few recommendations:

Event #1: Spanish Rosados
One of my favorite Rose-drinking events from this year was the "Wines of Navarra, Spain" that happened in September at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Navarra is a region located in the Northeast of Spain and the city of Pamplona is located here. The major red grape varietals are Grenache, Tempranillo, Graciano, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. As for whites they grow Chardonnay, Viura and have just started producing Sauvignon Blanc. They also make a divine white dessert wine from the Moscatel grape. I concentrated on the Roses (or Rosados as they are called in Spanish) and most of them are made with 100% Grenache with a few interesting exceptions.

Bodegas Chivite, one of the oldest wine-producers in all of Spain, presented two interesting Rosados. The first one I tasted was the 2007 Gran Feudo Rosado sobre lias (aged on lees.) Yes, this Rosado spent 6 months on lees which are yeasts found in wine barrells after the fermentation process. It was fermented in oak ande stainless steel tanks which is unusual for a Rosado. The other unusual aspect is that it is a blend of Tempranillo, Grenache and Merlot whereas most Navarran Rosados are 100% Grenache. The nose of this one had pear and guava on the nose and a creaminess on the palate due to the aging on lees. I thought it pleasant and a bit unusual.

The 2008 Gran Feudo Rosado de Garnacha which is one of the driest rosados I have ever had. I mean puckery! Although it was light-bodied it had a very long linger. Definitely bone-dry.

In general I would have to say that these Rosados from Navarra were all so easy to drink, smooth and well-balanced. One sip leads to next and before you know it the bottle is empty...I will say right here and now that the wines of Navarra are a real bargain for wine-drinkers in the U.S. and hardly any of the wines were over $20. In fact, Mr. Wilfred Wong was at this tasting so you just might be seeing some wines from Navarra at Bevmo.

Mr. Tony Rivera, a distributor of wines of Navarra. He represents Bodega de Sarria who make a large variety of wines. I liked the easy-drinking 2008 Senorio de Sarria Rosado made of 100% Grenache.

Event #2: "The Blind Tasting"
I also attended a blind rose tasting in September. Out of the eight roses the winner was a Rose of Malbec from Chile, beating roses from Provence, Carneros, South Africa, Columbia Valley, Washington and the Basque Country of Spain. The 2008 Viu Manent Rose of Malbec, Valle de Colchagua, Chile is one of the prettiest wines I have ever seen with a core of bright pink and a clear rim. The nose is beautiful and full of candied grapefruit, kumquat, nectarine and a bit of tangerine. Dry yet smooth with a lingering finish of slightly-bitter citrus zest. All of this for $5.99.

#3: A favorite California Rose

As I write this on a chilly October evening I am blissing out on a 2008 Husch "Vin Gris" from Anderson Valley, CA. But that is gray wine not pink you say. Actually Vin Gris is a Rose made specifically of Pinot Noir (and sometimes Gamay) that is very pale due to very light contact of the grape skins with the juice of the red grapes. In fact this Husch Vin Gris had only 24 hours of skin contact resulting in a wine the color of light amber with orangey/grayish tinges. The nose is very fruity with strawberry, watermelon, and guava notes. This is lightly-flavored with strawberry and the mouthfeel is smooth with a crisp finish. Dry but not bone dry. Love it with my fresh Chevre.

ROSE NEWS ALERT: I just learned that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This means that drinking pink this month can be a very significant act. Fleming-Jenkins Winery in Los Gatos, CA are selling their "Roses for Research" with partial proceeds going to Breast Cancer research. Check out their website at www.flemingjenkins.com for more information on their Victories Rose. And yes, Fleming as in Peggy Fleming, Olympic champion and breast cancer survivor.

A votre sante and keep drinking those Roses!

09 October, 2009

Something Wicked this way comes - Review of new Inspired by Starbucks locale

Wicked good! So, sometimes people do not so much love the Starbucks. For blogger ethical disclosure I have to admit that I am currently in a serious relationship with Starbucks; I would marry them if I could. Their consistency is as reliable as death and taxes and if you roam at all, you will find that someone's beloved local coffee hangout is some one else's bitter, reach for the prilosec moment or someone else's vibrant arts cafe is someone else's scary urban experience. Not Starbucks! On Hampstead Heath, Nolita, or lovely Modesto, I know what I am getting with my double tall nonfat no whip mocha. And I love that!

On a recent jaunt to Seattle, I was in desperate need of coffee and wifi, so you do the math. But a BrixChick never likes to do the expected, so I thought I would try the latest "Inspired by Starbucks" location, 15th Ave Coffee and Tea Initially they had me at "artisan pastries". To my delight, free wifi is just part of the service! So nice, too. They individually grind and prepare using several methods. My server recommended a Clover drip method which made the aromatics leap out of the cup. They discuss several other brewing methods on their website . The location is stunning! Decorated with repurposed items and materials, the feel is like Anthropologie for coffee. Everything was gorgeous and comfortable. The pastry did not disappoint--as tender and buttery as the best NorCal has to offer with a hint of lush pastry cream and perfect Washington apples. The Puerto Rico coffee I was helped to select was perfect as well. Inky and rich without being bitter. Yum! My only regret was that I did not get to sample the wine! Ha! Well a handy scheduling error on my part put me on a flight that DEPARTED at 8:40 pm ( I really thought it said ARRIVED), with the afternoon free and no shortage of my need for free wifi, I jaunted back to 15th Ave for wine and a cheese plate. Beecham's Cheese very nice and local no less. As well as a lovely Goose Ridge G3 Red Table wine. Great together! I spoke to someone who said that this is a pilot venture. Starbucks places a lot of emphasis on making the location blend into the local neighborhood like 2% of cofermented Viognier can soak into Syrah! So this location is also an
expression of the neighborhood at 15th Ave. A second location which will be called Roy's will open soon. While 15th Ave also brings art and blues to its space, Roy's will also take its name from its address, but a different location driven entertainment venue is planned. Now, my only regret is that they do not have a similar venture planned for Northern California. Starbucks, if you're listening, please consider "Rockridge" or "Temescal"