November 27, 2008

Flip flops Thanksgiving

Hello from the sunny, warm Texas hill country outside of Austin. Thanksgiving is here and I'm clad in a tee shirt, shorts, and flip flops. Eat your hearts out, fellow Oregonians.

With this kind of weather, traditional Thanksgiving wine matches sort of go out the window. So too with the local wine selection. After my moment in the radio spotlight telling people what they should and should not be drinking with turkey and all the trimmings, here I am with a Shiner Bock and a view that goes for miles.

There is some wine on the menu today. We have some Gruet sparkling wine from New Mexico, about as close as I'm getting to local wine. Gruet's good stuff, but most people know that by now. We'll try both the NV Brut and the Blanc de Noirs.

Later it's on to the 2005 Durand Syrah from southern France, something I found at a local shop for a decent price. How did this lone Weygandt-Metzler selection find its way into a place otherwise full of the usual domestic suspects and fabricated imported labels? This not to heavy syrah should be delicious with the dark meat, stuffing, and sweet potatoes.

For dessert, we have a gang of people bringing perhaps 10 pies, so dessert wine might be gilding the lilly, as my mom likes to say. Perhaps a sweet sherry will make an appearance. We'll see.

It's not a wine centric crowd here and, again, the weather's more summer in my book than late fall. Sometimes you just have to go with with flow and act like we're at the beach in August. A Texas beach perhaps. More Shiner Bock please.

November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Wine

It was a nice surprise last week to get a call from Anna King of NW Public Radio. Andy Perdue at Wine Press NW magazine suggested she give me a call to get some further input on a story she was putting together on wines for Thanksgiving. Read her report here or listen here.

Happily, I completely agree with Andy's suggestions as well as those of Seattle Times wine writer Paul Gregrutt. Sparkling wine is a must. It's versatile at the table and is fit for the celebration that Thanksgiving is. And this holiday isn't the time to pull out the big cellar guns or old treasures. There's usually too much happening on and around the table to focus on the most special wines.

Instead, do what I suggest, try pinot noir or gamay noir (or Beaujolais, preferrably cru bottlings from Morgon, Moulin a Vent, Fleurie, and the like). Or try a good zinfandel, America's wine for this American holiday.

If you want white wine, don't overlook riesling. I mentioned it in the phone call with Anna King, but there's only so much that gets on air. Of course there's Germany and Alsace, even Australia and New Zealand. Lots of interesting riesling out there.

However, the Pacific Northwest does a nice job with riesling. Look for producers like Chehalem, Holleran, J. Christopher, Elk Cove, and Brooks. And if you're local, check out Matt Berson's 2007 "Love and Squalor"Riesling from the Eola Hills vineyard is excellent, just off-dry riesling that will work really well with the diverse flavors on the Thanksgiving table. Matt didn't make much, but it's worth trying to find if you can.

The bottom line -- drink something interesting. Not the same old thing. Not the bottle you've been hoarding for years. But something that you think you'll like. Ultimately, that's the best wine / food match out there. Good food and good wine, with good people. You can't go wrong.

November 19, 2008

Terrific Valpolicella

I'll be the first to admit I've had mixed experiences with the red wine of Tedeschi, from the Valipolicella region of Italy. Some of the wines are really nice, others seem just a little flat, if not spritzy with bad funky aromas and flavors. There is good funk in red wine. That's not what I'm talking about.

But the 2004 Tedeschi Valipolicella Capitel dei Nicalo is a terrific wine for $15 or even less a bottle. This is really a junior amarone, not a "ripasso" wine where the pressings from amarone wine production are added back or "repassed" to regular Valipolicella wine to beef it up. No, in this case the grapes for the Capitel dei Nicalo, mostly the corvina variety typical of this region, are dried for a month before being crushed and fermented into wine. Grapes for Amarone are dried for several months, and make a powerful, concentrated table wine. Here, the short drying gives a real taste of that wine style, for much less money and without quite the heady drinking experience.

When I opened the Capitel dei Nicalo last night, I thought it might be a little bretty. Meaning, affected by certain yeast that give a horse blanket smell and taste to the wine, or something similar to the pungent, even bitter aroma of band aids. A little can add nice complexity to wine. A lot can make wine undrinkable. But with time, and now a night later, this wine shows less and less of that. Instead, there are pure spicy red cherry, almond, floral, concentrated aromas with a round, full flavor. There's some tannin and bright acidity, but the richness of the wine is perfectly balanced, the flavor long and savory.

This 2004 may not be the current release, and given my experience with this producer, I will try the 2005 with some reservation. But reading other reviews of this online after a quick Google search, it sounds like this one is usually a winner in the Tedeschi portfolio. So whichever vintage you might come across, give it a try.

November 18, 2008

Vincent Pinot Noir Garage Tasting

VF Wines here in Portland is off and running. My garage tasting the other day was a terrific success. Dozens of people came by to try a barrel sample of my 2007 Vincent Pinot Noir from the McMinnville AVA as well as my 2006 Vincent Pinot Noir from the Wahle Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton District from bottle.

Thanks to everyone who came. Friends, neighbors, blog readers, coworkers…even some old friends from Seattle drove down with their kids just for the event. I did my best to be the humble winemaker, but I was thrilled, even down to the very positive reception for the label design.

It’s hard to write notes about one’s own wine, but I’ll try. The yet to be bottled 2007 is clean and lean, fitting the vintage, with some tart cherry fruit and Pommard clone earth tones. I was happy to see some people really enjoy this wine, though I wasn’t surprised to see others prefer the richer, riper 2006. That wine was a hit, as I expected, with plush ripe pinot fruit and pretty good balance. This isn’t a wine to age for years and years, but I’m pretty glad to have it as my first big effort. It’s easy to like.

I brought out some other wines for people to try, to fill out the line up and help take the focus off my little project. Those wines were:

NV Ferrari Brut from Italy was again lovely sparkling wine, a Champagne lookalike with nice yeasty apple fruit and good finesse. Highly recommended for a fair price.

2006 Elk Cove Riesling Willamette Valley was soft, simple Riesling but perfectly delicious. Lots of peachy fruit with moderate sweetness and some diesel character. The 2005 was better but this is fine.

2002 Orlando Riesling Steingarten Barossa Valley was a disappointment. What happened here. I loved this a few months ago. Now, especially next to the pure Riesling of Elk Cove, this is obviously oak aged (oaky Riesling!!! Why??) with an odd butter streak and a slight sourness. Maybe this was an off bottle, but the oak is troubling. Who knows where this wine is going.

2002 Boillot Montagny 1er Cru was really nice, maturing white Burgundy from the Côte Chalonnaise. Pretty baked apple chardonnay, lovely finesse, this is a terrific value in nice white Burg.

2006 Evesham Wood Pinot Noir Eola Amity was a bit oaky, but just as nice as I remember. Red fruits on the aroma, with good weight but nothing overdone. This is the ripe 2006 vintage after all.

1999 Burle Gigondas was one of the most bretty wines I’ve ever had. Funky on the aroma, a bit more so in the mouth and then on the finish, simply unbearable. DNPIM. That’s do not put in mouth. Not good.

2004 Elemental Cellars Syrah Deux Vert Willamette Valley was a revelation. Syrah from the Willamette Valley? Rare, yes, but I’m seeing more and more of it from this offshoot of Witness Tree as well as Cristom and Biggio Hamina, among others. After trying this wine, I’m excited. Lots of olive, pepper, and blackberry aromas with nice balance, a round but not fat texture and good length. One taster compared it to the Durand syrah from France’s Languedoc region, which is a good comparison. This is more weighty, but truly authentic syrah with some potential in the bottle. I have one more that I’ll hold a while.

Finally, I opened a magnum of 2007 Anchor Brewing Christmas Beer that I’ve had for a while. I’ve enjoyed this beer in the past, but didn’t cozy up to last year’s model on release. Now it’s maturing and in a really nice place. Sweet malt, integrated spice, a hint of sherry that I really liked. People drank this up.

All in all, a nice afternoon in the garage. We’ll have to do it again next year.

November 01, 2008

2006 Vincent Pinot Noir is ready

It's true. My first real wine is ready for release. Interested in tasting it?

Elevage readers who find themselves in the Portland, OR, area on the afternoon of November 16, come by my garage to taste my 2006 Pinot Noir from the Wahle Vineyard outside of Yamhill. I'll even have a barrel sample of the 2007 to try, as well as a few other wines for comparison. No charge, just make sure to email me at vincentfritzsche (at) yahoo dot com and I'll fill you in on the time and address. It's a drop in thing. Feel free to bring a bottle of something you like. It's going to be low key like that.

Here's the label up close and personal:

Yes, it's called Vincent. I was telling someone about it recently and she said, "that's it?" Well, yes. That's my name. She seemed to think it might be a little vain, but it was also my uncle's and grandfather's name. And it happens to be the name of the patron saint of winemakers., it seems to fit.

She seemed satisfied, but I'm interested to see what others think.

So are you going to make it? Let me know.