Riesling Rules: Three Bottles, Three Countries

Posted on: August 28th, 2014 by


Can we send you three bottles of Riesling? Uh, YOU BET! Three samples of the Best White Wine on Earth arrived for my consideration and, specifically, for a twitter tasting known as #winechat that takes place every Thursday from 6-7pm PST.

The three contenders?

  • Kamptal, Austria: Brandl Riesling 2011
  • Alsace, France: Paul Blanck & Fils Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2010
  • Rheingau, Germany: Schloss Schönborn Riesling Kabinett Erbacher Macrobrunn 2011

What did I have to say about the three of them? To the Twitters!

My favorite of the night was the Brandl:

Tasting note? OK:

The German Riesling?

Note that the Schloss Schönborn is low in alcohol and has some zip to it. Perfect brunch/late morning wine. Or after mowing the lawn on a hot day. Or in lieu of lawn-mowing.

What about the entry from Alsace?

I continue to be stymied by Alsatian Rieslings (and the region’s whites in general) for this reason. This is a much richer version of Riesling; serious stuff you could put in the cellar.

Want more of The Riesling Story? Check out my interview with author Stuart Pigott on Grape Collective.

A note on glassware: I was sent two wine glasses (the “StandArt” and “Gold Edition”) by Gabriel-Glas, which I first took for a spin during this tasting. Usually I’m a jelly-jar type of wine drinkin’ guy, but was impressed with the modern shape of Gabriel-Glas’ well-designed bowl. The mouth-blown Gold Edition is astonishingly light. Like featherweight; I couldn’t stop holding it and waving it about. (Sans wine for safety, naturally.) The StandArt is machine-molded and heavier, but no heavyweight. Both are intended to be a universal glass (as in, you don’t need another); the StandArt goes for $29, the Gold Edition for $55. I’m really enjoying drinking out of both of them on a regular basis. Have a look:

gabriel glas

Find out what Ben Carter thought about these Rieslings (and the Thirty Years’ War) on Benito’s Wine Reviews.

Pairing White Wine With Steak

Posted on: August 27th, 2014 by

One of the many things I love about Dabble Magazine is that my ace editor lets me get a little wild with the pairings. I can do things I dared never dream, like suggesting white wine with steak.

Yup, you read that correctly.

Well, ok the dish is actually steak in in raw form aka tartare. But still a plate full of intrigue when it comes to wine, no?

Find out the method to my madness in the latest issue:

Lovely photo by Simon Burn:

steak tartare

Le Caviste: Behind the Scenes of a Seattle Wine Bar

Posted on: August 26th, 2014 by

le caviste seattle

Are you in Seattle right now? Downtown? Excellent. Head to Le Caviste and get some vino. It’s a totally fantastic wine bar. And since I get the privilege of yammering with owner David Butler while he works, I thought I’d give him a chance to talk in the pre-opening hours about his place on my Wine Without Worry podcast.

So what if you’re not in Seattle? That’s cool. You can learn a lot about French wine on this episode. Because Le Caviste is 100% about the wines of France. You dig Beaujolais, love on some Gamay? Want to explore all ten of the crus, the superb wines from the tip-top sites? You’re in luck; David’s got representatives of each. Always two by the glass and the rest in bottle.

le caviste seattle

Come on in, the Cru Beaujolais is fine.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise to say David’s passionate about the delights of Beaujolais. He’s also cool with serving red wines cool. (What I call “castle temperature“.) Not just Beaujolais but also the red wines of my beloved Loire Valley. (xxoo, Loire Cab Franc.) Conversely, don’t murder your expressive white wines with an arctic chill.

We also talk about rosé and confront my prejudice/mania when it come to drinking the the most recent vintage. But not in a manner akin to an episode of “Intervention”.

What wine regions deserve more love? Marcillac, responds David. You’ll find a red wine from this region made from the Fer Servadou (yikes, that’s obscure) grape grown in soils that are (as David says) “Canyonlands orange” in color. Also the red wines of Savoie made from Mondeuse.

But, wait, there’s more! Like cheese, sparkling wine, and soothing classical music. Listen and enjoy:

Stuart Pigott on The United States of Riesling

Posted on: August 21st, 2014 by

stuart pigott riesling

Attention Riesling fanatics! Get yourself a copy of Best White Wine on Earth: The Riesling Story by Stuart Pigott. The book is a personal and compelling love letter to the grape in all its forms from all over the world. And you’ll find notable producers and bottles from each Riesling region revealed, including Pigott’s Top 100 Global Rieslings. Start building that wish list!

Read my interview with the author on Grape Collective. Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve lived in Washington State for the last ten years. Can you give me a State of the Riesling Address? What does the future hold?

There now is a United States of Riesling, which there wasn’t at the turn of the century. By this I mean the sales of domestic Rieslings grew very considerably as did the production and the proportion of the wines that are good to great. America is now the 2nd largest Riesling producer following Germany, having overtaken Australia and France (now 3rd and 4th respectively). Without all that I couldn’t have written BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story!

Quady North: A Snapshot of Southern Oregon Wine

Posted on: August 20th, 2014 by

Who doesn’t want to get to know a winery that’s involved in a love triangle…with grapes? (Get your mind out of the gutter.) Herb Quady of Quady North has a thing for Viognier, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc. Let’s head to Southern Oregon and explore the Applegate Valley and Rogue Valley.

That’s right, I’m talking Oregon wine with nary a Pinot Noir nor the Willamette Valley in sight. (Note: I love those two things, I just want to see other people. Whoa, now it’s sounds like I’m in a love triangle!)

The Applegate and Rogue Valleys stretch way down into Oregon, practically touching California. If you want to visit Herb in Jacksonville, it’s about 4 1/2 hours from Portland and only 5 1/2 hours from the Bay Area.

As a guest on my Wine Without Worry podcast, Herb and I talk about his location and Southern Oregon terrain. It’s a rugged, bucolic, and pastoral land.

southern oregon ava map

The Rogue and Applegate Valleys: Almost California.

(Note Two: This this is not the first time I’ve explored Oregon beyond the Willamette Valley. You can check out my conversation with Clive Pursehouse from Northwest Wine Anthem as well.)

So let’s meet in Southern Oregon through the magic of podcasting. Find out how Herb’s love of pink wine was born via afternoons pondering pétanque and poplar trees. And how to turn an (unsanctioned) motocross track full of rusting vehicles into a vineyard.

Get Wine Without Worry on iTunes.

Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon: Smashing Stereotypes One Vintage at a Time

Posted on: August 15th, 2014 by

Maybe “smashing” is too strong a word, but when I sat down with Aurelio Montes Jr., winemaker for Argentina’s Kaiken Winery, he did want to make a point regarding Cabernet Sauvignon.

To defy the preconception that Argentine Cabernet tends to age in a manner akin to falling off a cliff (cue Aurelio making a dramatic swoop of his hand to demonstrate the concept) to its death, he brought along a bottle of the 2007 Kaiken “Ultra” Cabernet Sauvignon for me to taste. It’s the kind of wine at a very interesting and exciting point. Just enough bottle age to start waking from its youthful slumber but still in all possession of fruit-forward charm and freshness.

Aurelio and I talked about the ubiquitousness of Malbec in Argentina and he shared with me the three “battles” he’s fighting to get people to know and appreciate a diversity of red wine grapes. He’s got his gloves on for Bonarda, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. (Stay tuned.) Discussing the latter grape, which you’ll find in his 2011 Malbec-based “Terroir Series” blend that also includes Bonarda, he called it “the rugby player”. Which I think is the most awesome description of Petit Verdot, ever.

But since we don’t live by red wine alone, I also got the chance to try the 2013 Kaiken Torrontes. It’s a very floral, aromatic grape that can become soapy and perfume-y when it gets too ripe. Gross. Not that I have anything against the finest of hand-milled soaps or the most sublime of fragrances, I just don’t want them in my wine. The secret to Aurelio’s zesty version? He picks the grapes early so the wine isn’t heavy or flabby.

One final thing I learned has to do with food. The 2011 Kaiken “Ultra” Malbec was a really nice match with some chicken liver pâté dabbed onto toast and topped with a touch of mostarda. (The interview took place at Seattle’s Sazerac Restaurant, BTW.) Actually, all the red wines went well with it. The rich and creamy spread was a nice compliment to wines that displayed both power and drinkability.

So the moral of the story? Argentina: MORE THAN MALBEC.

(But the Malbec can be really good.)

See what Aurelio had to say during a Twitter chat earlier this year.

Aurelio explains how Feng Shui keeps his wines happy over on Vindulge.

Understanding Sustainability in the Winery and Vineyard

Posted on: August 13th, 2014 by

wente vineyard livermore valleyWhat does it really mean to say you are a sustainable winery, from the vineyards that bear the fruits of your labor to the building where you ferment your grape juice?

I posed this question and more to podcast guest Karl Wente, Fifth Generation Winemaker and Senior Vice-President of Winemaking at Wente Vineyards (sponsor of my Wine Without Worry show). When it comes to day-to-day operations of the winery (and in the vineyards, too), Karl states, “First and foremost is water.” At Wente they recycle 100 percent of the water used for process tasks (like cleaning tanks) which, after going through a two-stage filtering system, allows it to be used in the vineyard.

So what about mitigating water use outside? Let’s get high tech. Wente has sap flow sensors that tell how much water the grape vine itself is using. Soil moisture probes? You bet. Measuring pre-dawn leaf water potential? Of course. And weekly aerial images of the vineyards to see where more water might be needed (or not)? Absolutely.

[Find out more about Sustainability Practices at Wente Vineyards.]

Karl Wente

Karl Wente checks the grapes out and gets the Led out.

We also shift gears and talk about another of Karl’s passions besides wine: music. “I love playing my guitar and I try to touch it every day,” he reveals. Karl also tells me he could press “play” on his online music collection and go 263 days without repeating the same song. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the music playing in the winery is diverse: Mozart, Little Feat, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, Mumford & Sons.

And what’s the first step to resolving a wine blend that just isn’t coming together? Karl will tell his staff, ”Well, we gotta change the music!”

Let’s rock! And roll on with the show:

Massolino Barbera d’Alba With Tagliarini and Meat-Free Sauce

Posted on: August 11th, 2014 by

One of the signs of a great producer is their more humble offerings are as an impressive achievement as the top wines commanding well-deserved and earned prestige along with a concordant price.

Case in point? One of my favorite wineries for Barolo: Massolino. Barolo, as well as Barbaresco, is tucked up among the particularly prestigious parcels of Piedmont in the northwest corner of Italy.

What’s the difference between Barolo and Barbaresco? Find out.

But rather than a place (like these two heralded addresses I just mentioned), let’s talk about something else from Piedmont that stars with a “B”: a grape, Barbera. I recently enjoyed the 2012 Massolino Barbera d’Alba at Seattle’s Staple and Fancy and it was a knockout. A pure and elegant red with a combination of being easy to drink yet hard to forget. Though not a Barolo (which is made from a different grape, Nebbiolo), the Massolino Barbera provided a window into what a great producer can craft even in a sub-$20* wine.

The dish I most enjoyed with this wine was notable not for what it had but for what it didn’t: meat. I was invited to a media dinner sponsored by Quorn, a meat alternative. What’s in it? How is it made? I turn to their website:

The main constituent of Quorn™, Mycoprotein, is a naturally occurring, high quality, healthy form of protein. Quorn™ is produced using a fermentation process very similar to brewing; only we harvest the solid as opposed to the liquid. 

The mycoprotein in Quorn is converted from “a tiny member of the fungi family”.

While there was Quorn in both nugget and patty form, the most successful integration of this product into a dish came via tagliarini made with a a ragù of Quorn grounds, marscarpone cheese, and mint. The grounds integrated seamlessly into the dish, pulled together by the creamy cheese and enlivened with mint. The latter ingredient perked up herbal notes in the wine, too.

This is not the first time I’ve sung the praise of a Barolo producer also making a knock-out Barbera. Though more expensive and with an eye on longer-term drinking, get to know Giacomo Conterno’s Cascina Francia Barbera d’Alba. I enjoyed a 2004 earlier this year and dubbed it “one of the most fantastically delicious and surprising bottles of red wine in ages.” Discover why.

*Average retail price on WineSearcher is $19.

Top Affordable Wines From Around The World

Posted on: August 7th, 2014 by

back of a ten dollar bill

I love talking about cheap wines. They are what I drink the most. Mary Cressler over at Vindulge asked me for my go-to picks costing less than ten bucks. You’ll find I’m a fan of:

  • Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. Pretty much all of it.
  • White wines from the Côtes de Gascogne in Southwestern France.
  • Red blends a la “CMS”: one from Italy where S is for Sangiovese, one from Washington where it’s Syrah.

As a bonus, Mary also solicited recommendations from five other wine bloggers and, of course, added her own. I magnanimously didn’t poach a certain Spanish wine with a big “C” on the label because I knew Mary would want to use it. Who says bloggers are selfish?

It’s quite a diverse list, though Cava is well-represented. How did I not pick any bubbles? Sheesh. OK, I’ll add it here and keep the Cava love flowing: Mas Fi Brut.

Find out the specific wines I chose, as well as all the others:

Best Cheap Wines Under $10

Photo: “US $10 Series 2004 reverse“. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Wine Photo Tips: Get The Best Out of People and Places

Posted on: August 4th, 2014 by

vineyards eastern washington

You may remember Photographer Richard Duval from a previous post on how to make, as he likes to say, “memories, not mug shots” when taking photos of people. With my interest piqued to explore the topic more, we met up at Barrage Cellars (thanks, Kevin) in Woodinville, Washington (where Richard is currently exhibiting some unique photos) to record an episode of my Wine Without Worry podcast.

So how about three simple things to remember, even if you’re just shooting with your smart phone, that will make your vineyard photos distinguish themselves beyond the typical “I was there” point/shoot/move on technique. Here you go, via Richard:

  • Slow Down
  • Get Low
  • Get Close

Also discussed? The first photo Richard sold and how that catapulted him into pursuing photography on a professional basis. (Spoiler alert: It involved wildflowers.)

Read Richard’s detailed post about Wine Country photography on Grape Collective.

grapes in tuscany

Grapes in Tuscany.

And though Richard takes numerous photos on a variety of subjects (as you’ll see below), he’s carved out quite a niche for himself in the world of wine, particularly here in Washington.

Additionally, I also shoehorn in some recommendations on vintages in Washington, specifically my thoughts on 2009 versus 2011.

Finally, in a moment of pathetic insecurity, I  ask Richard not to photograph my visible bald spot.

cinque terre morning

Morning in the Cinque Terre.

One thing about all these photos that’s unique? Normally Richard isn’t one to undertake much post-production work, but here he’s “indulged” himself and done something a bit different: adjusting color, manipulating detail. Furthermore, you really appreciate these photos in person as each image is printed on metallic-coated paper fused to an aluminum sheet. (Shout-out to Seattle’s The Color Group for the printing.) As the light changes in the room, and while you stroll around, the images become altered in a most hypnotic way. Sip on some wine from Barrage Cellars and watch the perspective shift before your eyes.

Now give your ears some shifting perspectives. Listen to the show:

Wine Country Photography 101: How To Take Great Pictures in the Vineyards

Get Wine Without Worry on iTunes

All photos courtesy Richard Duval. Find out more about Richard and his work:

Duval Images
Vine Lines