Sunday, March 22, 2020

No Rain in Spain, but the Quality Wine Flows Cheap and Freely! (pre-Coronavirus lockdown!)

Back from a recent business trip to Spain (fortunately, my colleagues and I returned before the country went into lock-down, and health check lines were implemented at ports of entry causing extremely long waits), I am eager to report on the wines and food I sampled there.  Indeed, I feel lucky that I was able to enjoy the food and wine culture there for a brief period since none of us knows when travel bans may be lifted.  And so, onto more pleasant things -

Sagrada Familia, Facade

Roof top of Casa Mila by Gaudi
First of all, as those of you who've had the pleasure of touring Spain well know, the price of wine there is eminently affordable, even in restaurants (as opposed to most places in the US, especially Pennsylvania, where the mark-up is often as high as 3 times the retail price).  Consequently, it's a great joy to peruse the wine list to see that a large portion of the wines come in under 20 Euros a bottle, and a glass of wine - which, I might add, is poured directly from a freshly opened bottle - averages about 4 Euros.  

And so, upon arrival, for my first full course evening meal at La Bodegueta, 233, Carrer Provenca, http://provenca.labodegueta.cat/ , I was all set to order some great wines without worrying about my budget.  I started off with a lovely and lively Verdejo, with bright citrus and fruit flavors, crisp acidity that whets the appetite for some delicious tapas such patates Bodegueta, Pop Provenca (octupus) and pickled anchovies.


Finca Menade, Verdejo Ecologica 2019

Pickled anchovies

After a few glasses of the Verdejo, I washed down the rest of the tapas with a light bodied, but perky, fruity and tantalizing local Garnacha.  And to top off the tapas, so to speak, I opted for the house-made dark chocolate helado (gelato) which dazzled my taste buds to no end. I was off to an auspicious start!

The next afternoon, after touring the Casa Mila, one of Gaudi's numerous architectural masterpieces that dot the city, I stopped for some lunch-time tapas at "Artespanol"  http://provenca.labodegueta.cat/   right down the street.  The mini Manchego slider and Champinones al Ajillo (sauteed mushrooms with garlic) hit the spot.  And it's never too early for a glass of Tempranillo to pair with the tapas, especially at 4 Euros a glass!





That evening I met my new colleague and amigo, Karol, at a local hangout (Els Sortidors del Parlament   https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187497-d4987810-Reviews-Bodega_Els_Sortidors_del_Parlament-Barcelona_Catalonia.html) near the University - nothing fancy, and although it was more of brew-focused pub, it still had an ample wine list, this being Spain where the wine flows.... well, you get the idea.  I selected, and introduced to Karol, a Mencia from the Bierzo region in northwest Spain, one of my go-to reds from this D.O.





Once regarded as a simple, regional grape vinified for local table wine, the quality of Mencia has improved markedly in recent years attracting the attention of the worldly consumer.  Even in the US, it is a good value wine, typically exhibiting earthy, vegetal characteristics with notes of berry and a stony minerality.  It is genetically related to Jaen from Portugal and may have originated from this lusophonic neighbor.

By the way, the hotel where my colleagues and I resided that week was the Hotel Ayre Rousillon https://www.ayrehoteles.com/hoteles/ayre-hotel-rosellon/    located a block from Gaudi's renowned Sagrada Familia in the city's Eixample barri.  Conveniently located, it offers a fabulous breakfast buffet for a modest price (15 Euros), and a small bar serving a basic tapas menu.  Single rooms average around 100 Euros per night.  Check-in, concierge and daily room cleaning were all up to par.  My room even had a view of the Sagrada Familia.

                   
    

Tuesday evening, our work team celebrated at a neighborhood restaurant Los Bellota http://www.losbellota.com/  just down the street from the hotel with a full array of hors d'oeuvres, tapas and paella washed down with an excellent Reserva Rioja and topped off with Cava in frosted flutes.





The Ramon Bilbao Reserva 2015 is a Tempranillo blend (with Mazuelo 5% and Graciano 5%) from the Rioja region (DOCa.), and aged 20 months in American oak and another 20 months in the bottle before release.  https://www.bodegasramonbilbao.es/en/



Tasting notes: Intense nose with notes of black fruit, fresh red berries;sweet, spicy aromas of vanilla, cumin, and nuances of wild herbs tinged with menthol; fresh, intense mouthfeel with good acidity, and well balanced alcohol; lasting, bold finish with reappearance of red fruit and sweet spice; ready to drink now but with great cellaring potential.

And here's the Cava that topped off the regalia, courtesy of the restaurant owner:




It's a typical blend for Cava, including Macabeo, Xarel-lo, Parellada with a touch of Chardonnay.  Aged 2 1/2 years on the lees, it is produced in the méthode champenoise.

Tasting notes: fresh, dry, clean with a nose of citrus, white flower, mineral, anise, and croissant; pairs well with sauteed shrimp, fried calamari, cold asparagus salad, Manchego cheese, Serano ham, cold. (Indeed, we actually should have started off with this sparkler to accompany our tapas!)

The following evening, after an especially long and intense work day, my colleague Pedro and I took the metro down to the Barri Gotic to check out the Cuisines Santa Caterina next to the newly renovated Santa Caterina market. 

              



 In this sprawling space under the undulating wooden superstructure of the market, the restaurant and tapas bar is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and features an eclectic array of fusion cuisine, including Mediterranean, Asian and vegetarian dishes served on sleek counters and long wooden tables.  After superabundance of meats and cheeses at repasts in the previous few days, veggies, greens, salads and fresh grilled fish were a welcome alternative.  We opted for a zucchini salad, sauteed vegetables and grilled calamari with asparagus. 

               




 The rustic, whole grain and sour dough breads were also absolutely scrumptious. A bright, fresh and crisp couple of glasses of  house Verdejo also did the trick. (The restaurant website link appears to be broken, but you can direct your browser to this Barcelona website for more info.  https://www.barcelona.com/barcelona_directory/restaurants/catalan/cuines_santa_caterina )


For my final night in Barcelona, Karol joined me for a delicious and abundant repast at another neighborhood restaurant that caters mostly to locals (I spied only a few other turistas in the dining space).  Meson A Veiga,  just up the street from the Hotel Ayre Roussillon on Carrer de Sardenya, features Galician style cuisine in a relaxed, convival setting with friendly, welcoming service.  https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187497-d5768278-Reviews-A_Veiga-Barcelona_Catalonia.html

                   



It was obviously a very popular neighborhood spot as it quickly filled up (it was a Friday night) so we were fortunate to get there early and grab an open table for two.  We started off with a large goat cheese salad and fried calamari which I attacked with gusto as I had skipped lunch that day to build up an appetite after the breakfast buffet.



For the wine, I selected a Godello from the Monterrei D.O. (Denominacion de Origen) in Galicia.  (Godello is the star white wine in the neighboring Valdeorras D.O. and its top producer is Godeval.  Please see my previous blog post touting this wine which is one of my all time favorites and a Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2016  https://phillywineguy.blogspot.com/2017/06/   )

                 



This 2018 Galvan, a 60/40 blend of Godello and Treixadura, originates from the Adegas Daniel Fernandez, "adega" being the local term for winery or estate, as in neighboring Portugal.  http://bodegasdanielfernandez.com/

At 13% alcohol, the Galvan is delightfully crisp and expressive, exuding an intense fruity bouquet with notes of citrus, white flowers and fragrant green herbs.  It paired most excellently with the whole grilled sea bass I enjoyed as a main course and held forth with a persistent fruity finish.  (And not to belabor the point, but at just 14 euros, you would be hard pressed to find anything remotely close in value in a Stateside restaurant.)

               



So there you have it, folks - what may be my last trip to Europe for the foreseeable future.  I hope you are all well-stocked with fruit of the vine to see us through these trying times.  (As far as I know, you can still order wine online while the brick-and-mortar wine and spirit shops are shuttered.)

Take care, stay safe and enjoy a glass of vino to take the edge off. Salud!












Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Pennsylvania Wine Tasting Redux


Given the success of my most recent classes on Pennsylvania wines,  I suggested this theme to a group of wine friends who meet semi-regularly.  They were game to throw caution to the wind and heartily embraced the idea.  Ergo, I now present to you a summary of the dinner's libations which turned out to be a surprise hit.  The "carte à vins" include selections from my last class as well as a few new additions.




We started with a comparison taste test of two Gruner Veltliners - one from Stargazer (the preference of most imbibers), the other from  Galen Glen.  This was followed by a newcomer - an Albarino from Maple Glen, courtesy of my good wine friend and confidante Mary Lou.

Two different 2013 reds from Karamoor, a Cabernet Franc (the clear winner of the evening) and a Meritage (Bordeaux-style blend) led us into the second half of the dinner, topped off by a Saperavi from Fero Vineyards of Lewisberg, which was also a crowd pleaser.

Though still a fledging in the world of quality wines, Pennsylvania has nevertheless come a long way since I began conducting wine tastings with much promise for the future.




Galen Glen Gruner Veltliner 2018 http://www.galenglen.com/

                                     

Origin: Lehigh Valley
Varietal: 100% Gruner Veltliner
Production/Tasting Notes: Second oldest Gruner planting in the US; aromas of white grapefruit, passion fruit with sweet minty herbal note; bright acidity; subtle creaminess on palate; long, honey-tinged finish
Food  Pairing: aperitif; seafood, sausage, schnitzel
Alcohol: 12%

Stargazer  GrunerVeltliner 2015 http://www.stargazersvineyard.com/


                              

Origin: Chester County
Varietal: 100% Gruner Veltliner
Tasting Notes: Citrus aromas and mineral flavors complemented by stone fruit and fresh vegetal notes and the variety's trademark hint of white pepper
Food pairing: Traditional Wiener schnitzel; Wasabi and tuna salad; Zucchini quiche
Alcohol:  12.5%

Maple Springs Alabarino 2018


              


Origin: Bechtelsville,  Berks County
Varietal: 100% Albarino
Tasting Notes: Fermented cold in stainless steel to bring a pure expression of the fruit; after fermentation the wine was kept cool and allowed to clarify on its own; bottled after  three months,  with minimal intervention; peach fruit, citrus, mineral, subtle salinity, and mouthwatering acidity (Placed in the top three wines at the PA Sommelier Judgement Day competition.)
Food Pairing: Seafood; Paella with lobster and chorizo; Green-lipped mussels grilled with parsley butter
Alcohol: 13%

Karamoor Estate Cabernet Franc 2013 https://www.karamoorwines.com/


                           

Origin: Ft. Washington, Montgomery County
Varietals: 100% Cabernet Franc
Production/Tasting Notes: Huckleberry, moss and savory aromas are accounted with light berry flavors, clove and peppercorns leading to a medium bodied, soft tannic finish
Food Pairing: Grilled Italian sausage; stuffed portabellas with smoked cheese; prime rib; eggplant parmesan; pizza
Alcohol:  13.9%

Karamoor Estate Meritage 2013 https://www.karamoorwines.com/


                            


Origin: Ft. Washington, Montgomery County
Varietals: 35% Merlot; 27% Cabernet Franc; 23% Cabernet Sauvignon; 15% Petit Verdot
Production/Tasting Notes: Aged for 16 months in 65% French oak, 20% American oak, 15% Hungarian oak, of which 30% was new oak; plums, currants, and traces of dusty leather carry to opulent, dark fruit on a silky textured palate; well-managed tannins create velvety mouthfeel and allow for aging potential.
Alcohol:  13.7%

Fero Saperavi 2017 http://www.ferovineyards.com/


                          

Origin : Lewisberg
Varietal: 100% Saperavi
Production/Tasting Notes:  18 months aged in oak; primary grape of the Republic of Georgia; 
extremely dark grape skin and juice due to red anthocyanin pigment; 
fragrant, fleshy, grapey, floral; creamy vanilla; faintly herbal meaty notes; 
moderate acidity; long finish

Food Pairings: Stew, lamb
Alcohol: 13%


Winery Notes

STARGAZERS Vineyard and Winery was founded by Alice and John Weygandt. The Vineyard was first planted in 1979; the winery was established in 1996. The Vineyard overlooks the Brandywine Creek from its south facing slopes just north of Unionville, PA in Southern Chester County.
The Vineyard is near the "Stargazers Stone" which marks the location of the observatory Mason and Dixon used in surveying the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland. They were known as "the stargazers" because they used celestial navigation to correct their measurements over the ground. For more about the Line see www.mdlpp.org
We have an excellent vineyard site in the heart of southern Chester County on a south-facing slope with heat retaining, well drained, schisty soil. Situated on a hill above the Brandywine Creek, Stargazers Vineyard has its own special environment and microclimate.


Karamoor Estate's vineyard is 27 acres of densely planted, immaculately maintained vinifera vines.  The vineyard was designed and architected by Lucie Morton  who was highlighted in Vineyard & Winery Management's "Top 20 Most Admired People in the North American Wine Industry".  In 2003 (when she began working with Karamoor); she chose the varieties of vinifera grapes that we would plant here and she chose where they would be planted.
Lucie is a big advocate of high-density planted vineyards.  The normal vineyard may have about 600-800 vines per acre, but the vineyards that Lucy designs on the east coast have an average of 1600-2000 vines per acre.  The reasoning behind high-density planting is that it promotes even and full ripening by asking the vine to produce less fruit (esentially, making the vine do less work, allowing it to concentrate on fully ripening a smaller crop).
In 2006, the first 10 acres were planted, in 2008, an additional 5 acres, and in 2013, the final 10 acres were planted.  As far as varieties of grapes; we grow Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Malbec, and Pinot Gris.




Maple Springs Vineyard

The selection of our varietals at Maple Springs Vineyard has been made with close attention to each specific vineyard – their soil makeup, climate influence, elevated hillside locations, and our growing understanding, season by season, of what makes them produce the best wines.

We planted our first vineyards in 2008 on four acres on Maple Springs Farm, two acres on two different sites on the Farm. We started the project with all Chardonnay vines as it's the varietal we drink most often! We have proven it's possible to develop estate grown vinifera vineyards in Pennsylvania that produce high quality, dry, Burgundy-style wines.

Our wines include classic Burgundian-inspired Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Albariño, Grüner Veltliner, and Syrah, as well as a Rosé and Cuvee 30 dessert wine.


Galen Glen Winery

Trips to Germany and wine from Hawaii via Galen's best friend collided to inspire Galen and Sarah to leave corporate jobs and acquire the Troxell family double century farm. Galen brought with him years of experience as a mechanical engineer combined with a natural ability to grow things from his youth. Sarah worked as a chemist, packaging liquid drugs, and transitioned to a new product, wine.

Land
Our heirloom property is named after Galen and our terrain, a glacially carved 'U' shape or 'glen'. The tasting room is located high on one hillside with vineyards, the cellars are tucked into the base of the glen and more vineyards are on the other hillside.

Stick
This cherry sapling symbolizes our perseverance. Chopped down by Galen, our first vineyard was planted using it for row to row spacing, creating meandering grapevines.


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Wine Tasting - Pennsylvania!

When I first started conducting wine tasting classes over ten years ago, I never dreamed that one day I would feature Pennsylvania wines.  My experience had been that they were either too sweet, too thin, too rough, or too harsh and not at all interesting or complex, most of them produced from native varietals or hybrids that just did not compare with the vitis vinifera European styles.

Lo and behold, over the years, the quality of Pennsylvania wines has noticeably improved and there is now a growing number of wineries that are producing quite respectable European style wines (in addition to the sweet, fruity, native varieties).   Not only that, but the wineries themselves have become very pleasant and picturesque destinations for day trips, often featuring live music, special events, and tutored tastings.  Indeed, I visited each of the wineries listed below and can highly recommend a visit without hesitation.  Although prices for the top quality wines may be a little dear,  you can take heart that you're supporting local businesses and ensuring a bright future for a burgeoning industry.


Galen Glen Gruner Veltliner 2018 http://www.galenglen.com/










Origin: Lehigh Valley

Varietal: 100% Gruner Veltliner

Production/Tasting Notes: Second oldest Gruner planting in the US; aromas of white grapefruit, passion fruit with sweet minty herbal note; bright acidity; subtle creaminess on palate; long, honey-tinged finish

Food  Pairing: aperitif; seafood, sausage, schnitzel

Alcohol: 12%

Stargzer Arneis 2015 http://www.stargazersvineyard.com/









Origin: Chester County

Varietal: 100% Arneis

Tasting Notes: "Delicate aromas and flavors of pears, with a hint of almonds and a lingering finish" (Winemaker's notes)

Food pairing: spaghetti with garlic and olive oil; calamari; Waldorf salad

Alcohol:  12.5%

Karamoor Estate Meritage 2013    https://www.karamoorwines.com/












Origin: Ft. Washington, Montgomery County

Varietals: 35% Merlot; 27% Cabernet Franc; 23% Cabernet Sauvignon; 15% Petit Verdot


Production/Tasting Notes: Aged for 16 months in 65% French oak, 20% American oak, 15% Hungarian, of which 30% was new oak; plums, currants, and traces of dusty leather open up to opulent, dark fruit on a silky textured palate; well-managed tannins create velvety mouthfeel and allow for aging potential.

Alcohol:  13.7%


Stargazer Cabernet Franc 2015




Origin: Chester County

Varietal: 100%  Cabernet Franc

Production/Tasting Notes: Aromas of violets, flavors of bramble-berry; expansive, deep contours on the palate; soft tannins

Food  Pairings: roasted game; broiled salmon

Alcohol: 13.5%






Penns Woods Novi 2018 https://www.pennswoodsevents.com/



Origin: Chadds Ford, Chester County

Varietals: 100%  Merlot

Production/Tasting Notes: Unoaked; carbonic maceration; nose of plump red fruit, banana; light body; dried fruits, soft tannins on the finish; best served chilled

Food Pairing: Soft, creamy cheeses, brie, comte, fresh goat cheese, mild cheddar; ham, pate, charcuterie; roasted turkey with pomegranate and cranberry sauce; smoked salmon


Alcohol: 12.%






Fero Saperavi 2017 http://www.ferovineyards.com/









Origin : Lewisburg, Union County

Varietal: 100% Saperavi

Production/Tasting Notes:  18 months aged in oak; primary grape of the Republic of Georgia; 
extremely dark grape skin and juice due to red anthocyanin pigment; fragrant, fleshy, grapey, floral; 
creamy vanilla; faintly herbal meaty notes; moderate acidity; long finish

Food Pairings:  beef stew, lamb, khachapuri (Georgian style bread)

Alcohol: 13%


Winery Notes


STARGAZERS Vineyard and Winery was founded by Alice and John Weygandt. The Vineyard was first planted in 1979; the winery was established in 1996. The Vineyard overlooks the Brandywine Creek from its south facing slopes just north of Unionville, PA in Southern Chester County.
The Vineyard is near the "Stargazers Stone" which marks the location of the observatory Mason and Dixon used in surveying the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland. They were known as "the stargazers" because they used celestial navigation to correct their measurements over the ground. For more about the Line see www.mdlpp.org
We have an excellent vineyard site in the heart of southern Chester County on a south-facing slope with heat retaining, well drained, schisty soil. Situated on a hill above the Brandywine Creek, Stargazers Vineyard has its own special environment and microclimate.

Penns Woods Winery is the result of Gino Razzi's lifetime of experience in the world of wine. A respected importer and distributor of wine, Gino is an Italian immigrant from Abruzzo, in southern Italy. He settled in the Delaware County area in 1962, where he was fostered by the area's Italian-American community. Gino served four years in the United States Marines then attended college in California. After graduation, he returned to Pennsylvania to rejoin family and friends. With three decades of success as a wine importer, in 1995, Gino turned his experience towards the craft of winemaking.  He finished his first wine in 1997. Symposium, a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo was his first commercially released wine, and was awarded 95 points by Wine Spectator Magazine.  This publication recently honored this wine again with its inclusion in the retrospective article "Italy's Golden Vintage - the 1997 Harvest" in 2007.
Gino's pursuit of perfection led him to his own back yard. In 2002, he began to craft wines from Pennsylvania–grown grapes. To his surprise, he found that great wines can be made in Pennsylvania.

After a two year search for an ideal vineyard site, Gino decided to purchase the Smithbridge Winery, in 2004, to take advantage of its 25-year-old vines. Gino is convinced that Pennsylvania has the capability to produce world-class wines, and hopes to contribute to the legacy of hard work and artistry of his predecessors. As a symbol of these aspirations, one dollar from the proceeds of each bottle of Penns Woods wines will be used to further wine and grape research in Pennsylvania.     



Karamoor Estate's vineyard is 27 acres of densely planted, immaculately maintained vinifera vines.  The vineyard was designed and architected by Lucie Morton  who was highlighted in Vineyard & Winery Management's "Top 20 Most Admired People in the North American Wine Industry".  In 2003 (when she began working with Karamoor); she chose the varieties of vinifera grapes that we would plant here and she chose where they would be planted.
Lucie is a big advocate of high-density planted vineyards.  The normal vineyard may have about 600-800 vines per acre, but the vineyards that Lucy designs on the east coast have an average of 1600-2000 vines per acre.  The reasoning behind high-density planting is that it promotes even and full ripening by asking the vine to produce less fruit (esentially, making the vine do less work, allowing it to concentrate on fully ripening a smaller crop).
In 2006, the first 10 acres were planted, in 2008, an additional 5 acres, and in 2013, the final 10 acres were planted.  As far as varieties of grapes; we grow Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Malbec, and Pinot Gris.