Last night I kicked off California Wine Month by tasting at LA's new hot restaurant the Herringbone. The scene was a perfect cure for a bad case of fading summer nostalgia. The out door patio where the tasting took place set the stage for coolness, mingling,relaxation and sipping under the LA stars.
Cassandra Brown, LA's newest young hip Sommelier hosted this fabulous meet the maker opportunity. Her vision is clear, I can see already that she is going to contribute to the growth of LA's wine scene by providing space for amazing wines and beautiful people to collide.
There were two family owned wineries representing their brands; Vision Cellars and Gamble Family Vineyards. Both located in the North Coast;Sonoma and Napa Valley. I started off tasting a white and rose from Vision Cellars. The white was a unique blend of Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. It had the aroma of Pinot Grigio and the taste of Sauvignon Blanc, with a slightly tender round bite to it. Next up was the Rose poured over ice cubes! I first tried without the ice and found it very approachable. 100% dry leaning towards the darker more meaty side of roses than the usual soft and pretty side. When poured over ice it kept its bright cherry flavor and tasted more like a refreshing cocktail. (Looks like I may be breaking my ice rule in the future )
Not wanting to ruin my palate for whites I switch over to the Gamble Family table to try their barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc. Interesting! The nose was pleasant however not that upfront aromatic citrus you get from Sauvs aged in stainless steel. My first impression of taste.... Spicy. Spicy like a hint of fennel, tropical citrus like pineapple.
Over all both wineries poured a diverse selection of delicious wines. I am excited to taste next week!
While in Chicago I visited Bin36, a wine bar in the heart of downtown. I found out about Bin 36 when I Googled wine tasting classes in Chicago. To my delight Bin 36 was the site for a South African wine pairing dinner hosted by Molly Choi of Cape Classics. I love South African wines, the country is of the the oldest wine producing regions and their wine culture grown parallel to the countries social development.
When I arrived at Bin 36 I was parched. The day I arrived Chicago seemed to be on the front end of a typical summer heat wave. Ready to wet my tongue a bit I immediately sat at the bar and ordered a glass of the most unusual wine that I saw on the list, Hondarrabi Zuri from Spain. I must admit that it caught my eye because it partially has the same name as my business in it, “Zuri Wine Tasting”. The wine was delightful although it was served with a hard chill, a bit colder than I prefer. The Zuri grape did not have much of a nose, but that could be because of the hard chill. The taste was clean, crisp, tart with lots of citrus flavors, almost like a barely ripen kiwi fruit. The finish had a hint of honey. Overall a good wine, perfect for a hot summer’s day. Probably better with food because of the high acidic texture. It did make my mouth water for food and the oysters at the table next to the bar made me want for the perfect pair. I resisted as the Wine Pairing dinner was set to start in the next 10 minutes.
My habit of being a teacher’s pet and always sitting at the front of the room paid off as usual. The table I sat at was filled with a diverse combination of people; winemakers, Molly Choi the hostess, wine enthusiast and a couple people who just came for the food. I love ease dropping on all their opinions about the wine. It excites me to hear why or why not someone likes a wine. We tasted a total of 8 wines. Here is my mouthful on most of them:
1) 2012 Rose Pinotage- Kanonkop Wine Estate “Kadette” Stellambosch The first wine poured it was a Rose made from the Pinotage grape. The very first sniff was typical Pinotage. A funky tar like aroma that naturally occurs in the Pinotage grape no matter how well made the wine is. However after about 2 minutes breathing in the glass I discovered a beautiful nose filled with strawberries and a hint of cinnamon. The Rose tasted complex, lively and interesting. It reminded of a god friend who you simply feel in total comfort with hanging around with nothing to do. I loved it!
2) 2012 Sauvignon Blanc – Bayten Buitenverwachting Next up was one of my favorite white grapes, Sauvignon Blanc. I call myself a SauvBlanc snob. I am very particular, there are only a few regions outside of New Zealand’s Marlborough region that I will actually buy SavuBlanc from. The Bayten Sauvignon Blanc served proved to make South Africa a good rival to any New Zealand SauvBlanc. The nose was great, profound and distinct. The flavors were true to the characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc; grassy, grapefruit, other citrus fruits, assertive, crisp. Definitely an in your face taste of wine.
3) NV Chenin Blanc Raats Family Wines – This Chenin Blanc poured was lively and well balanced. While I enjoyed the wine Chenin Blanc is a little too modest of a grape for me. I would definitely serve it to my middle of the road wine drinking friends who sip for leisure and not adventure as I do.
4) 2013 Chardonnay – DeMorgenzon Estate “DMZ” Stellambosch - Soon after I tasted my third sip (of this Chard) this is what came to mind; beautiful, complex, settle, honey, toast with a citrus finish. I know you are thinking how can a wine be complex and settle at the same time? Well, the flavors were so well balanced that they softly danced over my tongue. The liveliness made me think of stainless steel aging however there was a classic and heavy finish that typical of my favorite oak aged Chardonnay. I had to know the make up! The winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain who happened to be sitting right next to me summoned over the winemaker of the wonderful Chardonnay. His fellow winemaker Carl Van Der Merwe was nice enough to explain that 70% of the Chard was aged in stainless steel and the remaining 30% in oak barrels. He lingered around for a bit and we chatted about apartheid, race, politics, the social state of America, South Africa and wine. An interesting conversation indeed.
5) The Cabernets….. A horizontal tasting of three. As you can tell from my brief descriptions. By the time the Cabs arrived I was distracted and my note taking suffered. I do remember having a great, enjoyable experience with them however.
a. 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Glenelly Wine Estate- Youthful fun fruity in taste and smell, hints of tobacco on the finish. A crowd pleaser!
b. 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Morgenster Estate – Aroma sweet, mild fruit, green pepper, tobacco.
c. 2009 Bordeaux Style Blend (Cabernet Sauvignon,Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot ) Lingering finish, more spices than fruit, smooth and complex
Fun facts about South Africa:
South Africa has one of the oldest wine growing region, more than 300 year old history, even older than France.
Pinotage is a hybrid of Pinot Noir and Cinsault. A scientist cross pollenated the two grapes and created Pinotnage. Today the rootstock is grafted to grow the grape Pinotage directly from the vines.
South Africa is 7th in the world’s wine production, however did not have any presence in the USA until the 1990’s after apartheid ended. #sanctionswork
In South African wineries are referred to as wine farms.
Major South African wine regions are: Stellenbosch, Constantia, Mossel Bay
Black winemakers in South Africa: Seven Sisters, M'hudi, House of Mandela for more info visit http://www.heritagelinkbrands.com/wineries
A guest blog from my London counterpart, Gilbert in the UK
Different types of Wine Tasting in London
Wine tasting is the evaluation and examination of wine according to its taste and the types of ingredients used in it. Specialists have been evaluating the wine on different criteria like tasting, sight, sniffing and aroma. Wine Tasting London helps to judge the quality and the flavor of the wine. Usually wines have different characteristics, like the wine is complete, complex, evolved, balanced or harmonious. Tasting a sip of wine will help you to either choose it for drinking or not? Sometimes, it guides the drinker on how to choose their wine to drink. These characteristics are listed below;
A balanced wine
A balanced wine is the one that is made up of good proportion of components especially the basic flavors. Our taste buds are able to detect the sour, salty, sweet and bitter tastes. There are two most important components of wine that is bitter and sweet. Bitter resulting from the tanins and sweet from the sugar content. The balanced wines shows the perfect mix of flavors of alcohol, acids,tannins and sweet. Such taste of the wine can’t be judged by smelling it only by taste.
All the wines are made up of different formulas, so it is very important to maintain its balanced flavor. If the wine gives you only one taste rather than the combination of tastes (sour, sugar, bitter, hot, astringent) then it will not be a good wine.
A harmonious wine
A harmonious wine is the one that contains all the ingredients that are important to make a wine. The proportion or the style to mix all the ingredients may vary. Tasting a harmonious wine gives you different flavors on the basis of ingredients used in it.
A complete wine
A complete wine is the one that gives you a pure taste and satisfy the finishing stage of a wine maker. Such wines offer you the full pleasure and relaxation.
A complex wine
A complex wine is the one that is very difficult to find the basic ingredients. It may include many components or the proportion of the components may vary. Tasting the wine and find out its basic ingredients can be handled by an expert. He is the one who used to take wine in a large quantity more often usually daily. Such enthisiastic people can tell you the ingredients by tasting it simply. Wine tasting in London is very popular because people living there are used to drinking wines and other hard drinks more often in their parties. They know the taste and sometimes the smell of different kinds of wines. So they can easily find out the nature of the wine even if you do not mention that.
A good taste of the wine is very important to make the people enthusiastic about it. If the taste of the wine is good then the beginner will drink it for sure without thinking anything about its ingredients. By tasting a sip of wine, a drinker can conclude either he liked or disliked the drink. It may also depend upon the mood, but generally it depends upon the taste and occassion for the drink.
There are basically three options after you open a bottle of wine; Just Pour, Aerate or Decant.
1) Pour from bottle directly to glass. This is the most popular option and great for your everyday ready to drink wines. Wines you usually buy in the grocery store and common wines available on restaurant menus.
2) Aerating is the another option. This is used for young wines that may need to open up. Usually when wines are age worthy, meaning you can enjoy for a number of years after the vintage date the wine making style may include lots of tannin. When these high tannin wines are opened within the first 5 years of the vintage date aerating make be required to reduce the strong tannin impression. There are a few ways to aerate wine. Simply taking the cork out and leaving the bottle open will not work. My favorite method is Splash Decanting. Splash decanting is swiftly pouring wine into a decanter straight down ensuring that the wine hits the bottom of the decanter and splashes up around the edges. The splash effect ensures that the wine moves around a lot and maximizes the air contact with the wine. After the wine is poured in the decanter leave and let it stand for at least 45 minutes before serving. This method ensures that as much air as possible comes in contact with the wine thus aerating it. If you are pressed for time use a aerating pourer. There are many on the market and range in price from about$15 to $65 depending on the brand. My two favorites in the $20 price range are the Soiree and the Metrokane Rabbit.
3) Simple Decanting is an option reserved for older wines. In this method you slowly pour wine over a strainer to collect sediment that has formed in bottle. Never allow the wine to sit for more than 15 minutes. Contrary to popular beliefs older wines do not need time to breath. Older wines are gentle and should be consumed immediately after opening. Too much exposure to air can ruin your older wines.
Remember aerate young wines and slowly decant older wines!
Sent: Monday, December 16, 2013 9:15 AM
To: Tuanni Price
I am visiting Canada over the holiday and thought to bring a good California Wine. I’m thinking red. Would you happen to know something to bring and where to purchase?
From: Tuanni Price
Sent: Monday, December 16, 2013 9:22 AM
Subject: RE: Suggestion?
Definitely take Zinfadels, it's California’s wine. Like Malbec is to Argentina. Here are other suggested varietals that are Cali fav's with the best regions:
Syrah- or GSM blends- Santa Ynez (Santa Barbara, Los Olivos, Solvang)
Cabernet- Napa Valley
Zinfandel- Paso Robles and Napa Valley
Viognier (Vi-ohn-yay)- Santa Ynez
My favorite places to shop for wine:
Barsha- Manhattan Beach
K&L in Hollywood
Wine House- West LA
Let me know if you want to go wine shopping!!!
My night at Graycliff! Some things you do in life you have to be determined, excited and sometimes alone. On a recent trip to Nassau, Bahamas that is exactly how I felt about having dinner and wine at the Graycliff. The experience was simply amazing. I was so excited on the taxi ride there I barely noticed my surroundings. As we drove past the governor’s mansion I saw the entrance to this large historical looking home. I was quickly greeted and seated in the cocktail reception area. The first drink I ordered was a celebratory champagne cocktail. It was sparkling wine with grand marnier, orange juice and a splash of liquor. It was yummy!
The wine list was like reading a best seller from the NY Times top 5 list for me. Of course it included some of the best Bordeuax’s from France ranging in price from $60 a bottle to $20,000 a bottle.
Alex the sommelier who attended to me for the night was awesome and promised me a personal tour of the wine cellar after dinner. Alex also introduced me to “Rico” the owner. I had no idea that he was the owner when we met. A nice down to earth guy who knows his wine and his cigars. We chatted shortly about wine after he asked about the Rideau Mouvedre I gifted Alex. After he asked if the wine was made by an African American he very proudly told me that he carried Pinot Noir from Vision Cellars. Wow, I was in love.
In true Bahamian style I was seated for my 7:30 reservation at about 8:15pm. I enjoyed the wait. In the reception area a jazzy pianist/singer belted classic rat pack tunes like “Love me tender”. I was in good company. Across from me were two gentlemen who flew in town just for a Superbowl party, a large section with local politicians and lawyers. The energy in the room was amazing, vibrant, happy.
I was seated at a small table. I was excited and being alone did not bother me at all. I quickly found new friends as I usually do when wine is involved. Alex delivered a gift from the owner, a bottle of Barrandica-a Bordeaux style blend from Mendoza Argentina. It was a blend of Merlot, Cabernet and Malbec. I truly enjoyed the wine. It was fun, smooth, fruity very new world and not earthy as French Bordeux. I actually thought the major grape was Malbec when I first tasted it. It was not until I read the label and discovered only 10% Malbec. It paired well with the shrimp and duck salad I ordered.
After desert and sharing dessert , Alex finally grabbed me and took me on my private tour of the wine cellar.
I don’t know where to start. Never in my life have I been in a cellar filled with such a diverse and old wine collection. The oldest wine was a Riesling from Germany, 1942.
What an awesome night!
Tuanni Price, the owner of Zuri Wine Tasting. A wine Enthusiast and adventurer, loves everything about the wine experience