Label Lust: Jané Ventura Rosé Cava

Posted on: January 26th, 2015 by

Jane Ventura CavaMy never-ending thirst for all things sparkling rosé led me back to an old friend with a look that stirs up feelings: Jané Ventura Reserva de la Música Rosé 2011. It’s a Cava (the term used for Spanish sparkling wine) made from Garnatxa Negra. You might have heard of this grape by a more familiar name: Grenache. Though I’ve had plenty of Grenache-heavy still rosé, this was the first time I’ve come across it in sparkling form.

I will admit to being a bit skeptical based on the deep red color of the wine. I thought that might indicate it being sweet or heavy. But on first sip of this wine, I kind of felt like I was on the McLaughlin group, and John McLaughlin just bellowed “WRONG!” in my direction. Do you know what I’m talking about? Here’s Dana Carvey doing his impression:

jane ventura cavaAnyway, where was I? Oh yes. The Cava. It’s dry and delicious. Has a little bit of richness and plenty of red fruit flavors, but is as serious as…John McLaughlin. But unlike JMac, 1,000 times more fun. This is definitely one of the best sparkling rosés on the planet for under 20 bucks.

Oh, and about that label. From the winery’s website:

“Label symbol of the carbonic movement and rhythm also a pentagram and instruments (strings, keyboard, pipes). Colours inspired on the vineyard seasonal colours.”

Check out more of my favorite sparkling rosés:

Haywire Pink Bub (British Columbia. Sealed with a bottle cap!)

J Vineyards (California)

Tenuta Col Sandago (Italy. Made from Wildbacher!)

More Label Lust:

Minimus Vermentino (Oregon)

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Dry Riesling (Australia)

Chehalem Pinot Noir (Oregon)

Who’s as big a fan of sparkling rosé as I am? Leslie Sbrocco. Hear what this fantastic author, educator, and TV host had to say about the topic on my podcast:

How Is Wine Made? A Preview of SOMM: Into The Bottle

Posted on: January 23rd, 2015 by

SOMM, the popular shorthand for sommelier, was a documentary detailing the quest to pass what is arguably one of the hardest tests in the world: the Master Sommelier exam. How do you follow up this tale of aspiring wine experts working towards the highest honor of their profession? With “SOMM: Into The Bottle”.

dlynn proctor somm into the bottle

DLynn Proctor in SOMM: INTO THE BOTTLE. Photo: Forgotten Man Films.

Here’s a preview:

And if that’s not enough to get your grapes fermenting, how about my interview with SOMM Writer and Director Jason Wise? He was a guest on my Wine Without Worry podcast back in June of 2013. Pretty sure I asked him about a sequel at the time; I’ll have to go back and listen to it myself.

And who was that saying “It’s like a big mystery.” in the movie preview? Oh yeah, I thought she looked familiar. It’s my pal Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly. Who was also on my podcast. WHOA!

If you were directing a move about how wine is made, what questions would you want answered? Let me know in the comments.

Frappato From Sicily: A Great Dinner Red Wine

Posted on: January 21st, 2015 by

Valle Dell Acate Sicily

FrapattoConfession: I mostly drink white wine when I’m relaxing after work. Red wine is pretty much confined to when I go out to dinner. But that might be changing because every glass made from Frappato, a red grape native to Sicily, makes me crave more, often. You might recall Frappato as a grape that’s part of Cerasuolo di Vittoria. It’s another fantastic Sicilian red made beefier with the addition of Nero d’Avola.

Frappato solo, as a contract to the brawny Nero d’Avola, becomes an extremely food-friendly, lighter-style red wine. I like it to have a slight chill when it hits the dinner table. The Frappato I recently had at Seattle’s Single Shot (my favorite new neighborhood restaurant) was from Valle Dell’Acate, an excellent producer. (Specifically, their 2012 ”Il Frappato”.)

If you’re a fan of Pinot Noir or Gamay, Frappato is a grape that needs to get into your red wine rotation.

Images courtesy the winery.


Sparkling Wine Cocktails: Lessons From Sun Liquor’s Erik Chapman

Posted on: January 19th, 2015 by

erik chapman sun liquorIs your sparkling wine cocktail repertoire confined to mimosas? Do not fret! Meet Erik Chapman, Head Distiller and Operations Manager at Seattle’s Sun Liquor. He’s also a heck of a bartender. Chapman joins me on the Wine Without Worry podcast to share his thoughts and advice on how to get creative making cocktails with a sparkling wine base. We talk shrubs (yay!), sugars and glycerins (BOO!), French 75s, lower alcohol mixed drinks, combining bourbon and Champagne (!!!) to create the classic Seelbach cocktail, and more.

PLUS: Bonus cocktail recipe and instructions on how to make your very own Meyer lemon shrub and cinnamon simple syrup. WOW!

Additionally, this confession from me: “When I have two Manhattans I feel great about life.

Finally, my advice on what sparkling wines you should (and shouldn’t) use in cocktails. Here’s the episode:

The Brassie Fly Cocktail (The “Go Nuts” Version)

  • 1 oz Hedge Trimmer Gin
  • .5 oz Meyer Lemon Shrub *
  • .25 oz Cinnamon Syrup **
  • 2 Dashes Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters
  • 5 oz chilled sparkling wine
  • Lemon twist 

Combine gin, shrub, cinnamon syrup, and bitters together in a iced cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a chilled champagne flute, top off with sparkling wine and garnish with a lemon twist.

Easier version:

  • 1 oz Hedge Trimmer Gin
  • .5 oz Lillet Blanc
  • .25 oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • .25 oz Cinnamon Syrup **
  • 2 Dashes Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters
  • 5 oz chilled sparkling wine
  • Lemon twist

Combine gin, Lillet, lemon juice, cinnamon syrup, and bitters together in a iced cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a chilled champagne flute, top off with sparkling wine and garnish with a lemon twist.

* Meyer Lemon Shrub: Fresh squeeze 1/2 cup juice of Meyer lemons, save 1 rind from a lemon, measure 1/2 cup demerara sugar and 1/4 cup organic apple cider vinegar.  Slowly simmer lemon juice, lemon rind, and sugar for 5 mins, let cool then strain. Add vinegar to the mixture and let sit in the fridge for 24 hours. Keeps for at least six months refrigerated.

 ** Cinnamon Simple Syrup: Measure out 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup water, and weigh 1 oz cinnamon (sticks or cassia bark are fine to use). Simmer all together for 15 mins, strain and chill before use. Keeps for at least 6 months refrigerated.

Find out how to make mimosas much more magical.

Craving more gin? Check out the Penny Farthing cocktail on Grey Is The New Black.

Mount Etna Wines: What Makes Them So Special?

Posted on: January 15th, 2015 by

Pietradolce Archineri Rosso I’m crazy for wine from Sicily and especially bottles from Mount Etna. The reds are primarily made from the Nerello Mascalese grape; the white wines are mostly Carricante. Tasting these wines (and even some rosé and sparkling!) while on Vulcano Island attending “Sicilia en Primeur” as a media guest last year was one of many vinous highlights. When I returned I contacted Michele Faro of Pietradolce, whose wines I very much enjoyed there, with some follow-up questions.

(I’d also like to add that I love the wine labels. Definitely label-lust inducing.)

JF: What makes the vineyards of Mount Etna distinct from other parts of Sicily when it comes to terrain and climate for growing grapes?

MF: “Etna is a really different terroir compared to the other areas of Sicily. Etna is an ‘island in the island’ because we are on the mountain (about 900m above sea level). We have wonderful volcanic soil, we have big temperature [differences] between night and day, and we have a lot of…different valleys and difference ‘contrade’ (cru).

“We really work in an extreme area; you cannot think to produce wine on Mount Etna without a huge passion for this terroir. I was born in this area; my grandfather was a small producer of wines from Etna. That’s why I have this passion in my blood.”

Read the rest of the interview on Grape Collective

Check out some of photos from my trip. Including active volcanoes, Prohibition-era Marsala bottles, and stupendous sunsets.

Curious about the history of Sicily and its wines? Listen to my podcast with Frances di Savino and Bill Nesto MW, authors of “The World of Sicilian Wine”:

A Most Unique Champagne: R. Dumont & Fils Solera Reserve Brut

Posted on: January 12th, 2015 by

Solera. So good: R. Dumont et Fils Solera Reserve Brut #Champagne Chardonnay #delectableapp

When someone says “solera” I think Sherry, not Champagne. That’s what makes the R. Dumont & Fils Solera Reserve Brut so fascinating. What is a solera? Here’s a diagram showing how it works when it comes to Sherry. It’s not in English, but you get the idea:

Sherry Solera

 As Sherry is drawn off and bottled, some wine from the casks above gets extracted and moved down a level. The highest level gets topped off with new wine. So the Sherry on the bottom levels is a mix of many vintages. Actually, in many ways Sherry is like non-vintage Champagne: a blend of multiple years where each vintage contributes something the final product. The wine is influenced by not only the characteristics of each year, but also by the winemaker.

So how is this done regarding Champagne? From the importer of R. Dumont & Fils, Wine Traditions:

“Bernard Dumont has dedicated one stainless steel tank to the project which was first filled in 1991. He works exclusively with chardonnay for this cuvée and has been adding to the tank every year, making it at present, a blend of approximately 20 vintages. This solera system produced its first release in 2010. One of the most striking features of this champagne is the different effect created by producing a champagne from aged wine (the aging occurs after the first fermentation) followed by the typical duration of two years ‘sur lattes’ as contrasted with a champagne produced from relatively young wines which are aged for a long time after the secondary fermentation and thus remain in contact with the lees ‘sur lattes’ for an extended period.”

The Champagne doesn’t taste like Sherry. But it is bracing and lively like, well, a fino Sherry. It has a certain distinctness that’s hard to describe but, when you drink it, you will know what I mean. So go buy a bottle! (Please.) Average national price on $47 (This is a great deal for a Champagne of this quality. My cost was in the low $50s at Seattle’s Metropolitan Market.)

Would you like to learn more about Sherry? Here are a few posts to peruse:

How To Overcome Sherry Anxiety

10 Things You’ll Learn at a Sherry Seminar

Podcast: The Versatility of Sherry With Master Sommelier Chris Tanghe Solera diagram via Wikimedia/Denkhenk

Beet and Apple Mimosas at Juicebox

Posted on: January 7th, 2015 by

Beet and apple juice mimosa juicebox seattleNo offense to OJ, but the mimosa can use more sizzle. And you’ll find that at Seattle’s juicebox. I’ve taken their creative and fresh blends home and created my own mimosas, but I highly recommend visiting their charming location in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood (the place I call home) to enjoy a refreshing, fizzy delight on premise.

I am fond of a current mimosa offering with beet and apple juice for its mesmerizing color as well as the glassware used to convey this brunchtime liquid delight. But also (duh) for its flavor. Beets add a nice savory component while apples lend a fruity perkiness. An unusual yet unusually awesome combination.

I’d also be remiss not to mention the food at juicebox. It’s not just about juice! I’m in love with the tuna confit sandwich on housemade flatbread, which additionally contains yukon gold potato, taggiasca olive tapenade, soft boiled egg, preserved lemon, salsa verde, and lettuce. One of my favorite sandwiches in the city.

Further juicebox adventures: Watermelon, Key Lime, and Carrot Mimosas (whoa!)

(Above post back from summer of 2012 when juicebox was a farmer’s market fixture. Congratulations to Brandin and Kari on their success.)

More: The best tuna sandwich ever–if not the best sandwich ever, period–is in Victoria, BC.

My Ideal Day in Seattle

Posted on: January 6th, 2015 by

seattle spring capitol hill cherry treesAh, Seattle in spring. Can’t get here soon enough. The folks at Murmur, an app they describe as “a refreshingly human platform to find great restaurants and bars” akin to “word of mouth with a jet pack”, contacted me for an interview. My assignment? Describe my ideal day in Seattle. It involves plenty of eating and drinking, some water towers, looking at plants, and magazine reading. (Pretty wild, huh?)

First, though, I was asked to say a few words about myself and this blog:

Murmur: Tell us about yourself and starting Wine Without Worry…

Me: “A decade ago, right before I left Chicago for Seattle, someone said I should start a wine blog. My first question was, ‘What’s a blog?’ Once it was explained to me (via hand puppets), I embarked on a journey fueled by my hyper-enthusiastic, self-deprecating style of wine appreciation. And since I was concurrently working in the retail wine business, there was plenty of grist for the mill. Or rather grapes for the press.

“Equal-ish parts love, stubbornness, and insanity have kept my blog alive since 2004. Jeez, I’m like a dinosaur of blogging. Thankfully, wine keeps me supple and I don’t have T-Rex arms. Which would be an impediment to blogging.”

Discover the plethora of stops on my ideal Seattle day, plus even more picks when it comes to restaurants, bars, and coffee:

Murmur: Jameson from Wine Without Worry — Seattle

BTW, these are the stairs that I like to run when I talk about my perfect day:

Stairs. Capitol Hill, Seattle. howe street

Now that’s a workout.

Pie School and Dessert Wine: A Piecast With Kate Lebo

Posted on: January 5th, 2015 by

kate lebo It’s a bit of a therapy session for the pastry-phobic when I sat down with Kate Lebo to talk about her book, Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour, and Butter on my Wine Without Worry podcast. Not that people are afraid of pastry, but rather making it themselves from scratch. Then filling, topping with crust, and baking. For many, this experience is not “as easy as pie”.

It’s a lot like wine. We enjoy it. And love when someone shows up at our home with it. But when it comes to being confident in our ability to learn about it and share that knowledge, that’s when the anxiety kicks in. Fortunately, Kate is a thoughtful, engaging, and encouraging instructor. Our discussion about pie, wine, and life covers these topics:

  • Pie: The Original Tupperwarepie school kate lebo
  • Cream Pies: Dare I Speak Their Name?
  • Barometric Pressure And You
  • Faith and Dough
  • How to Freak People Out at a Party
  • Dessert Wines and Unctuous Viscosity
  • What Wines Pair With Pie?

The episode was recorded at the charming wine bar in Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood: Bottlehouse. I enjoyed a cool glass of bubbles from Oregon’s experimental and creative Minimus Wines (read my take on their Vermentino) while Kate had a white Rioja. The latter being one of the most underrated regions for high quality, reasonably priced white wines. The Tempranillo-based red wines from Rioja get  the lion’s share of attention, so be sure to ask for one the next time you’re at a wine bar and/or shop. Like Bottlehouse.

Here’s the show and don’t forget to listen the end of the for my pie-friendly (and life-friendly) wine pick of the week. It’s indestructible!

Wine and The World of Senses: Remembering Serge Hochar

Posted on: January 2nd, 2015 by

Serge Hochar of Lebanon’s Chateau Musar died while on vacation in Mexico. To call the story of his family’s winery, as well as his wines, astonishing would be an understatement.

I got the chance to meet Hochar over two years ago and it was one of the most memorable encounters I’ve had in my years in wine. He led a seminar where I was one among many eager tasters of older vintages of Chateau Musar reds and whites going all the way back to 1980. As a person and a personality, Hochar was unforgettable. Demonstrative, intellectual, thoughtful, engaging, and also possessed with a great sense of humor.

For Hochar, his wines were a companion to join you, side by side, as life progressed. “They are wines to age with you.” He reasoned, “You are changing, the wines are changing.” What makes a wine memorable? Hochar was not into getting too clinical about what was in the glass, but rather more philosophical: “The way it lingers. A wine that has the ability to stay, to become infinite.”

Just as Hochar was a conduit for Chateau Musar, so were his wines a vehicle for discussing broader feelings and emotions. “I am using wine to talk to you about the world of senses,” Hochar explained. Each vintage of Chateau Musar tasted that day–imbued with Hochar’s words, experiences, and labor–illustrated what he believed made wine transcendent: its ability to ”transform the taste into memory.”

Serge Hochar, the memory of you is infinite.

Alder Yarrow and Jancis Robinson have penned tributes to Hochar, two voices among many remembering him.

You can read a recap of my afternoon with Hochar and his wines on Foodista.

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