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Clos Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon

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So if white wines are the lagers of wine, are red wines the ales of wine*? Alright, fine, I won't just write the inverse of Tuesday's post and will instead leave it as an exercise for the reader.

Clos Du Val Winery was founded by two Frenchmen** who were scouring the planet looking for areas where they might be able to produce Bordeaux-style wine. Interestingly enough, they settled on a particular stretch of Napa Valley known as... the Stags Leap District. I'm guessing this means that Clos Du Val is just a quick stumble away from Stags' Leap Winery (which we covered on Tuesday) and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars (which we covered last year). Anywho, Clos Du Val gained their reputation in part due to their participation in the Judgement of Paris, a blind wine tasting in which some American wines bested French wines, to much consternation. Clos Du Val came in 8th place (so it wasn't the controversial winner, but it was playing on the same field), but the same vintage would go on to do quite well at subsequent rematches, proving that their wine ages well too. A recommendation from a friend, and I must say, I really enjoyed this:

Clos Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon

Clos Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 - Pours a deep, very dark ruby red color, purple highlights. Smells great, rich dark fruits, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, and a nice oak component pitches in as well. Taste is sweet berries up front, cherries and blackberries, nice acidity followed by a hefty tannin dryness towards the finish. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, robust with a medium to high dryness that lingers into the finish, perfect for red meat. Overall, this is a fabulous little Cab. I always hesitate to rate wines, but what the hell, A-

Wine Nerd Details: 14.1% ABV bottled (750 ml corked and served slightly below room temp). Drank out of a wine glass on 2/20/16. Vintage: 2013.

Food Pairing: It was unseasonably warm on Saturday, so I broke out the grill and made a nice Filet Mignon, and the pairing went quite beautifully. Sides were sauteed mushrooms and asparagus, both of which worked fine. I tried some dark chocolate, which worked well enough, but perhaps not as great as some beer/chocolate pairings I've had.

Beer Nerd Musings: It should be unsurprising that Cabernet Sauvignon barrels are quite popular with breweries making American Wild Ales. The proximity between Californian breweries and wineries often leads to collaborations of a sort, even if some winery employees are afraid to go to breweries like Russian River for fear of picking up some Brettanomyces at the brewery and inadvertently introducing the wild yeast back at their winery (Brett, while great in beer, is apparently deeply reviled in wine, though I'd be really curious to see what a Brett wine would be like, just for yucks). Russian River's Cabernet Sauvignon barrel aged sour is called Consecration, and it enjoys a great deal of popularity, though it's actually my least favorite of Russian River's standard lineup (I suspect this has more to do with the high level of alcohol than the wine though). Other Cab aged beers that I've reviewed include Dock Street Flemish Red and Avery Tectum Et Elix. Some beers will even be aged on Cabernet Sauvignon grapes (like, say, Cascade's Sang Royal, a great beer).

So that was quite nice. Stay tuned, we've got some Bourbon and Scotch coming your way, maybe even some Vintage Port...

* Or, as Cian asked, are red wines the stouts of wine? That is a trickier proposition, but my guess is that most red wines are not very stoutlike except in more general terms of intensity or complexity or something like that. However, I did have that Carmenere last year that was distinctly stoutlike, so there is that.

** Don't say "cheese eating surrender monkey", don't say "cheese eating surrender monkey", don't say "cheese eating surrender monkey", don't say "cheese eating surrender monkey", don't say "cheese eating surrender monkey", ah crap I just said it 5 times.

Stags' Leap Chardonnay

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Is white wine the lager of wine?

The problems with using a wisdom-of-the-crowds ranking of beer are myriad, but one thing that will almost certainly jump out at you is the distinct lack of lagers. I'm as guilty of this as anyone, but I have been trying to get my lager on in recent months (heck, I even included a lager in my top 40 of 2015!) There are lots of reasons for this perceived lack of enthusiasm and I could probably spend a few thousand more words on the subject (my own theory is along the lines of people associating lagers with Beast or Natty Light or whatever cheap garbage we drank in college), but I think we can all agree that lagers get short shrift from beer nerds.

I see a similar dynamic with white wine. Keeping in mind that I'm on the outside looking in, there is a stereotype that wine nerds tend to prefer red wine, some going so far as to say they don't ever really drink white wine. I have two informal guides to the world of wine, and one of them is definitely like that. The other is not, but then, most of what I see him talk about is reds. I gather the reasons for this tend to be the same. Reds (or ales) are richer, more complex, more intense, and go better with red meat, while whites (lagers) are more subtle and nuanced. Again, this isn't necessarily true, but it's what I see looking in from the outside.

Even the reversal revelations hold a similar pattern. I used to only drink reds until one day someone sprung a particularly great white on me and now I enjoy them too. I gather food pairing has a lot to do with this, moreso with wine than beer, but the point holds. My own lager revelation was after a week of particularly intense drinking in Vermont (so lots of face-melting IPAs). I was about to go to a beer festival later that night, so I didn't want to kill myself and picked a Czech Pilsener I had heard about. It was sublime, and ever since then, I've been giving lagers a chance. Mind you, my beer diet is still primarily ales, but the occasional lager is more diverse than no lagers.

In terms of wine, I have also tended to gravitate towards reds. But the whole point of this semi-hiatus from beer that I'm currently mired in is to try new things that I might not otherwise seek out. So I took a flier on this PLCB Chairman's Selection, in part because I really enjoyed last year's Stag's Leap Merlot. Funnily enough, I see that this is not actually the same winery. Stag's Leap Wine Cellars is different from Stags' Leap Winery. Both are located in what is now called the Stags Leap District. Truly, these people know how to strategically place (or not place) an apostrophe.

I am always curious about the winemaking process and you all know I am obsessed with barrel aging, so I was happy to see that the winery provided a lot of detail. 25% is fermented and aged in stainless steel, 25% on new French oak, and the remaining 50% on "seasoned" oak (which I assume means it's not a first use barrel) for six months. I have no idea how this compares to other Chardonnays, but I do know that people tend to whine about over-oaked wine, so mayhap this isn't their bag. Or maybe that 25% stainless is enough. Regardless, I think it's time we got down to drinking this sucker:

Stags Leap Chardonnay

Stags' Leap Chardonnay - Pours a clear, very light yellow color. Smell has a nice stone fruit character going on, pears, maybe a little in the way of peach. Taste moves in a sweet direction, some oaky richness, some citrusy notes here too, maybe hints of lemon (but not really tart) in addition to the pear and peach from the nose. Mouthfeel is bigger bodied than I expected, some acidity, hints of alcohol warmth. Overall, this is a very nice Chardonnay, well balanced, sweet, tasty. Still not the revelation I was seeking, but I guess I'll give it a B?

Wine Nerd Details: 14.2% ABV bottled (750 ml corked and chilled). Drank out of a wine glass on 2/19/16. Vintage: 2014.

Food Pairing: I paired this with a pretty good grade plate of sashimi and nigiri sushi, and it worked well enough. Not a revelatory pairing, but I can picture the white wine pairing better with that dish than pretty much any red I've ever had (which might overpower some of the more delicate pieces of fish I had).

Beer Nerd Musings: I pretty well summed up my beer nerd musings above, but I will note that while I enjoyed this white, it didn't ignite a passion for exploring more whites. I do, however, think a good pilsner could pair very well with sushi, even if it's something I haven't done often (or lately). Once this hiatus is over, I may have to grab a growler of Victory's Braumeister Pils and pair it with the same meal to see how well the pairing compares to this white wine.

And that about covers the white wine portion of this current beer hiatus. Stay tuned for a red wine review later this week. Next week we'll probably hit Scotch, bourbon, and maybe a Port wine too. After that, who knows?

Carpineto Rosso di Montepulciano 2011

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One of the many things I love about winter is that I generally take the opportunity to do some slow cooking. Soups are a staple, sometimes I'll slow cook ribs or pork shoulder, but this past weekend, I made some Italian tomato sauce. There are, of course, many ways to do so, but I went low and slow, ending up with something more on the chunky side. I also managed to procure some high end sausage, meatballs, and tortelinni, so all was well with the world. To pair with this magnificent feast, I obviously had to go with Italian wine, so I pulled out this bottle I bought a couple years ago.

Made in the Montepulciano region of Italy from 70% Prugnolo Gentile grapes (a Sangiovese clone) and 30% Canaiolo. These are both famous Italian varietals, though Sangiovese is clearly the more popular varietal, a component in numerous blends of Italian wine. This particular bottle is generally considered a "lesser" version of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, but it still holds the DOC appellation, and I must admit, the price point of approximately $13 is attractive. It seemed like it would go well with my feast, so I popped the cork and let loose:

Dinner and Rosso di Montepulciano
(Click to Embiggen)

Carpineto Rosso di Montepulciano 2011 - Pours a clear ruby red color, maybe a little of purple around the edges. Smells of fresh, ripe fruit, feels a bit straightforward, but maybe some earthy character in the background. Taste hits that ripe fruit up front, with acidity balanced out by a nice dry tannin character. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, with a well balanced acidity and dryness that makes for a really smooth mouthfeel. Dry, but not so much that you must eat something with it, it can work fine on its own. Overall, this is a very nice glass of wine, not going to make your face melt, but it's a solid choice that works well with food but can also work by itself. B

Wine Nerd Details: 13.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 2/13/16. Vintage: 2011.

Food Pairing:
As mentioned and pictured above, I made some tomato sauce (starting with San Marzano tomatoes, with onions, garlic, oregano, red pepper, and fresh basil, simmered for a few hours with Parmesan cheese rind for added flavor), served atop a decent grade Italian sausage, veal/beef/pork meatball, and tortellini. The wine went well with this meal. Not a revelation or anything, but it worked, and that's what this wine is good for. It's not so dry that you need some sort of red meat, but it's not super jammy or acidic either, so it worked fine with this meal.

Beer Nerd Musings: I'm not aware of any beer specifically aged in Montepulciano barrels or anything like that, though the ubiquity of Sangiovese means that I've definitely had some beers that incorporate such grapes (or wines). Stillwater has made some Brunello barrel aged beer, and those wines are almost always comprised of 100% Sangiovese (though I gather that there was some sort of controversy a few years ago where producers were blending in small portions of other grapes to even out the wine). This particular blend seems like it could work well with beer, whether you go for the grapes or just use the barrel for some flavor.

Stay tuned for more wine blogging in the coming weeks. I've got a few bottles to get through here, so it should be fun. Next up on the blog, though, will be a Bourbon...

TerraNoble Carmenere Gran Reserva

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Coming down the homestretch of my temporary detour from beer, we've got another wine recommendation from PA Vine Co and current PA Chairman's Selection. In last year's limited wine sampling, I went with two relatively straightforward wines: A Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir. This year, I hit up a pretty standard varietal with a Merlot, but also gravitated towards some weirder, funkier, more obscure grapes that I'd never heard of, like the Sagrantino and now, a Carmenere.

Carmenere has its origins in Bordeaux, France as one of the six original grapes used in blending, but has mostly fallen out of use. It is now primarily grown in Chile, which is where this particular bottle comes from. The grape is a member of the Cabernet family and is frequently compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, though it seems to be a little more funky and intense than I usually think of Cabernet Sauvignon being... (though perhaps that Chilean terroir is the culprit there?)

TerraNoble Carmenere Gran Reserva

TerraNoble Carmenere Gran Reserva 2011 - Pours a deep purple color with amber highlights, lots of legs. Smells roasty, almost charred, like coffee (or tar), it's got some fruitiness lurking in the background, but it's really that almost smoky tar that dominates the nose. The taste starts with all sorts of fruit, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, and so on, with more earthy notes hitting later in the taste, tobacco, leather, coffee, spice, also some oak playing around, and finishing back with the fruit. Very intense, lots going on, with a complex, long finish. Mouthfeel is on the lower end of full bodied, rich and smooth, dry (but not extreme), a little acidic. It's not quite the Sagrantino-level monster of funk that absolutely must be paired with rich food, but it's got a similar funkiness going on. I can drink this by itself, though it obviously pairs very well with rich foods. Overall, I like this a lot, intense complex and funky, though it doesn't feel as integrated as the Sagrantino. Also, while I love how odd and intense this wine is, my legendary ambivalence to all things coffee isn't really doing this any favors (a matter of taste, not the fault of the wine itself) I suspect age would treat this well though, and I might grab a bottle to see what happens. I'll give it a B, but it's a fascinating B and well worth a shot for the adventurous (as with the Sagrantino, beer lovers who go in for novelty and funky flavors will probably get a kick out of this)...

Wine Nerd Details: 13.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 3/20/15. Vintage: 2011.

Food Pairing: Went pretty straightforward with this one, with a pan seared New York strip, Port-Wine Mushroom Sauce, and some of that leftover risotto (aka hot wet rice) from last week. It was glorious, even if I wasn't a huge fan of that sauce that I made...

Beer Nerd Musings: This is the closest thing to a stout I've tried in wine, and I honestly didn't think I'd ever be saying something like that. Red wine barrels tend to be used for sour beers, but they're usually familiar varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. These weird, funky wines might work well with non-sours. This one in particular, with its roasty coffee tobacco notes that come out almost smoky or tarry, might work really well on its own with a big imperial stout. Would a coffee stout overpower the character of these barrels? I'm guessing it would - it would be more interesting to see if you could get the sorta coffee notes out of the roasted malt's interplay with these barrels. Maybe even a barleywine or Scotch ale could work with this. I'm sure darker sours and things like a Flanders Red would work in these barrels as well. Alas, I cannot find a single example of a Carmenere barrel aged beer.

So there you have it. If you're into novelty and love yourself some coffee stouts, this is worth a try. At $12.99, it's a pretty good deal too (if you happen to be in PA). Next week we've got some Scotch and Tea, and then our road converges back into beer!

Stag's Leap Merlot

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I've never particularly cared for the movie Sideways. It was well done and entertaining enough, I guess, but it never really resonated with me. The main character of Miles, played brilliantly by Paul Giamatti, was just not my kinda guy and as a beer nerd, he represented one of the foolish reasons why beer and wine shared some sort of supposed enmity. Or something. I never really got it, and real beer and/or wine enthusiasts are pretty comfortable with both worlds. Not being particularly knowledgeable in the world of wine (as has been frequently established during the tenure of this website, I'm the worst), I never really picked up on how insecure and ignorant the character was. It turns out that Miles isn't nearly as much of an expert on wine as he wishes he was.

So his exhortation that he will not be "drinking any fucking Merlot!", while apparently swaying the entire country from drinking Merlot for, like, 5 years, never really held much influence with me. It appears to be one of the key components in Bordeaux wines (which seem to be the most highly sought after wines in the world, commanding ridiculous prices, etc...) and wines like Pétrus (which is all Merlot) certainly didn't suffer from Miles' wanking. So when a buddy of mine recommended this particular wine to me, I was totally on board.

When I bought it, the guy at the store seemed impressed by my selection, noting that Stag's Leap was a venerable producer. Looking into it now, it seems this particular wine is not made at their vineyards, but sourced from other Napa Valley producers. Whatever the case, it turned out well enough that I'd be curious to try more from them, and it was so different from the Sagrantino I had the night before that it made for a really nice contrast.

Stags Leap Merlot

Stag's Leap Merlot - Pours a deep, dark red color, beautiful reddish purple highlights and some decent legs on it. Smell is fruit forward, lots of jammy blackberries and raspberries, maybe a hint of something herbal or spicy, a very nice oak and vanilla opens up after some time. The smell reminds me of something that I can't quite place; it's quite nice though. Taste has a sweet richness to it that is very nice, lots of fruit jam again, blackberries, raspberries, jammy, plenty of oak and vanilla character, hints of spice and low tannins in the finish. Mouthfeel is silky smooth, a little rich, full bodied, sweet. Not much in the way of dryness at all. Overall, this is pretty fantastic! Perhaps not as complex as last night's Sagrantino, but it's a very well balanced and delicious wine, and it's also something that can work well on its own (i.e. doesn't need to match with food and can be drunk by itself, though it does so just fine). I'm really glad I tried two wines that just happened to be so very different. I actually finished the whole bottle, which I think says something! A- though, again, what the hell do I know?

Wine Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 3/14/15. Vintage: 2011.

Food Pairing: I actually spent much more time working on the pairing with this than I did with the Sagrantino (though I think I probably could have reversed the wines for each meal and done just as well). I made a pan seared duck breast and hot wet rice (aka risotto), and the Merlot did an admirable job matching with the meal, though as noted above, it worked just as well on its own (no need to pair this with food) and went down quite easy.

Beer Nerd Musings: Merlot barrels have been used for a few sour beers, notably BFM's Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien beers (which include a large variety of barrels). Merlot grapes were used in Cantillon's Saint Lamvinus, along with Cabernet Franc, all aged in old Bordeaux barrels. Both European beers, but also both tremendous and well respected in their own right (seriously, just try to find a bottle of Saint Lamvinous for less than $50 in the states). I don't know of any American beers that are specifically called out as using Merlot barrels, but I wouldn't be surprised (still, I tend to see a lot more Cabernet or Chardonnay barrels than anything else). Obviously, many sour beers have a sweet, fruity vinous feel to them that matches the experience here.

So there you have it. Miles is full of shit, and that was kind of the point. That being said, I'd love to try one of the Cabernet Sauvignons from Stag's Leap (alas, they seem prohibitively expensive)...

Villa Mora Montefalco Sagrantino

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Non-beer drinking continues with a weekend full of wine, but since my wine knowledge is minimal, I looked around for recommendations. This particular selection has its origins in a Beer Lover's Guide to Wine that was posted by a friend of mine right after last year's Philly Beer Week. It seems to be a great overview of wine from a beery perspective. When he recommended a bunch of wines based on local beers, and one of the options was "Whatever's on draft at Tired Hands", I knew I had to check it out. The particular bottle recommended was, of course, no longer available, but when I spoke with the author, he mentioned that it was really about the grape: Sagrantino.

It's a pretty rare grape, only cultivated in the village of Montefalco and its surrounding areas, and is little known outside of the region of Umbria in Central Italy. It seems to be a somewhat common component in blends, but wines like this particular bottle are produced exclusively from Sagrantino grapes and feature a DOCG status designation (basically noting that the wine is produced within a specified region using defined methods and meeting a certain degree of quality). The vineyards are located in a bowl surrounded by mountains, and the soil is primarily comprised of clay with limestone and sand. The weather tends towards extremes, heat in the summer and cold in the winter, but the hardy soil protects the grapes from extreme heat and the mountains provide a cool breeze at night. The grape fell into obscurity for a while, but has received a renewed interest in the past few decades.

Sagrantino is known as an exceedingly tannic, astringent red grape. For the uninitiated, tannins in wine are derived from the grape skin and provide a certain amount of bitterness and mouth-drying feeling (similar to how hops provide bitterness to beer, though in this case the tannins are built right into the grape itself). This generally yields a very dry wine with a full body that matches well with hearty meals.

Villa Mora Montefalco Sagrantino

2008 Villa Mora Montefalco Sagrantino - Pours a deep, dark red color, beautiful highlights when held up to light, moderate legs. Smells fantastic. Sweet, dark fruit, plums and the like are certainly present, but there's something earthy and rustic that really sets it apart. Leather, tobacco, oak, maybe even chocolate. Taste starts with all those earthy notes, quickly movies into dark fruit territory, plums, cherries, blackberries and the like, then a wall of tannins hit in the dry finish along with the return of those earthy flavors. Mouthfeel is full bodied, extremely dry, and a little astringent. It goes fantastic with rich foods, but is a bit too much to handle on its own. Overall, this is indeed quite funky and the Tired Hands comparison is not entirely unwarranted. Rustic, funky, robust, and complex, I quite enjoyed it. A- I guess, though I don't know where I get off rating wines. I'm the worst.

Wine Nerd Details: 14.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 3/13/15. Vintage: 2008.

Food Pairing: I didn't quite realize how important the food pairing would be with this wine, but I did have two separate things that went reasonably well. The first was a stromboli with Italian sausage, green peppers, and basil (along with the typical red sauce and mozzarella) that was quite hearty and matched well with the wine. Later, I had some charcuterie of wild boar that actually worked well too (supposedly, wild boar is a regional pairing, so it seems I chose well on this particular occasion). From what I can understand, this wine would go very well with various grilled red meats, so that's also an option.

Beer Nerd Musings: I don't know of any beers aged in Sagrantino barrels, though I'd be really curious about the result of such an endeavor. What effect would the high tannins have on the finished beer? I could see these barrels working for both sours and non-sour beers (though given the relatively exclusive nature of the grape, I imagine access to the barrels would be somewhat limited - perhaps there's some enterprising Italian brewers taking advantage of the situation). Obviously there's a parallel between tannins and hops, though it's not really a one to one comparison. Still, the earthy, funky components of this wine do really demonstrate just how extreme the differences in red wine can actually be (it wasn't quite so clear until Saturday, when I opened a Merlot that was exceedingly different from this wine - more details on Thursday).

So there you have it, a very interesting wine. I've already snagged a couple bottles for my cellar and plan on aging them a while (supposedly the high tannin content is actually very conducive to this sort of thing).

My short yet Grand Detour (pun intended!) to the swanky world of wine continues with this well-regarded Sonoma Pinot Noir from a veteran producer. As mentioned yesterday, I know very little about wine, so to make this choice, I relied heavily on the fine folks over at PA Vine Company, who reviewed this a while back and clearly steered me in the right direction. Once again, please excuse the beer nerd simplifications I'm about to subject you to, I'm just not as familiar with this world as I am with some of the other detours I've been taking lately.

Pinot Noir is a red wine grape originally associated with the Burgundy region of France, though it's obviously caught on elsewhere, notably in northern California and the Willamette Valley in Oregon (also known to beer geeks everywhere as home to some of the finest hop farms in the country). By all accounts, Pinot Noir is a finnicky variety, thriving in cooler climates, but sensitive to wind and frost and vulnerable to several viticultural issues. Wikipedia has a great quote from a famous winemaker saying "God made Cabernet Sauvignon whereas the devil made Pinot noir." Well, to be fair, it seems that the devil knows his stuff, as Pinot Noir is very popular. While it is difficult to cultivate, it can yield some of the "finest wines in the world." I'm also told that it is highly reflective of its terroir, sometimes producing very different results depending on the geography and weather.

This particular bottle comes from the Sonoma Coast in northern California. It seems the proximity to the Pacific Ocean presents a favorable environment for Pinot Noir ripening. There website includes some notes on the fermentation process that made this beer dork raise his eyebrows:

All of the pinot noir grapes are hand-harvested into half ton bins and sorted in the vineyard. They are then re-sorted at the winery to ensure only the perfect clusters make it to the wine. The clusters are destemmed with 15% left whole cluster, which imparts a complex structure and spicy notes to the wine. The must is then cold soaked for five days in open top fermentators to enhance the color and flavors.

That last bit caught my eye, as it sounds like a spontaneous fermentation. Indeed, the label on the bottle sez that it is fermented "using only wild yeasts." To the beer nerd, this screams Brettanomyces, something I know winemakers consider an anethema (cue stories of winemakers refusing to visit the Russian River brewery for fear that hardy Brett beasties will attach themselves to clothing and hitch a ride back to the winery, where they can infect the wine with reckless abandon). Of course, that's not strictly the case, as it appears that some vinyards often try to cultivate more favorable wild yeasts, including "ambient Saccharomyces" and the like. I have actually wondered if there were any winemakers who dare to play with Brett. It seems that some beer brewers are able to tame it, but then, there is certainly a consistency issue with those beers.

This was another Chairman's Selection, and while I wouldn't consider it a cheap bottle (around $25), it certainly seems like a value when compared to the triple digit prices of Pinot Noirs from Burgundy. Still, given that I'm only really spending one week on this stuff, I figured it was worth a stretch. Let's see if it paid off:

Landmark Grand Detour Pinot Noir 2011

Landmark Vineyards Grand Detour Pinot Noir 2011 - Pours a deep, dark ruby color with beautiful highlights. Smells of bright fruits, strawberries, cherries, and (naturally) grapes, maybe even some oak and something earthy way down there. Taste has a nice sweet jammyness to it, bright fruit up front, again with the strawberries and cherries, that oak and vanilla emerging in the middle, with something earthy, like tobacco, towards the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, a nice creamy richness, not super dry, a little pleasant acidity, and some welcome alcohol heat. Overall, this is one damn fine wine, really happy I splurged on a bottle. Again, giving a rating at this point seems rather unwise, but hey, let's say A-

Wine Nerd Details: 14.2% ABV bottled (750 ml corked, slightly higher than cellar temp). Drank out of a wine glass on 3/22/14. 2011 Vintage.

Food Pairing: I made one of my favorite winter dishes (a little late in the year, to be sure, but cut me some slack, it's still in the 30s this week), Beef Bourguignon. I tend to not follow that recipe exactly (for instance, usually less beef, more mushrooms, and a few other proportions are off), but you absolutely need to do the overnight marination step, and for this particular batch, I used a cheap bottle of Pinot Noir I had laying around (it was a 2012 Cartlidge & Brown). I even made a Vine of the process, if you want to watch some hot wine on beef action. The dish turned out very well and the Cartlidge & Brown worked well (this may not be the best batch I've made, but it is a damn sight better than that time I used a Coppola Malbec, which was clearly not up to the task, though it's not like it was inedible or anything). Anyway, it was a nice dish to pair with the Landmark Pinot Noir. 5 stars, would do again.

Beef Bourguignon

Beer Nerd Musings: While not the same thing, I sensed a very strong correlation with this Pinot Noir and oak-aged Flemish Reds. I kept thinking how this reminded me of various Rodenbach expressions (mostly the Grand Cru or Vintage versions, not so much with the Caractère Rouge), though obviously stuff like Red Poppy and Oude Tart are similar. I mused yesterday that sours might be a good entry point to good beer for wine lovers, and indeed, I think that the easily found Rodenbach Grand Cru would be an ideal choice for that purpose.

As you might expect, there's no shortage of beers aged in Pinot Noir barrels. Like with the Chardonnay barrels mentioned yesterday, these often skew sour. Notably, my favorite Russian River sour, Supplication, is aged in old Pinot Noir barrels (along with cherries). Well worth seeking out (and if you're looking for a pairing, it goes exceptionally well with BBQ brisket, ribs, and the like). To my mind, Pinot Noir seems to also work equally well for non-sour beers too. Deschutes likes to blend small proportions of Pinot Noir aged beer into The Abyss (a big RIS) and The Stoic. Local brewers from Dock Street used Chadds Ford Pinot Noir barrels for their barrel aged Barleywine and Imperial Stout, to great effect (they had a fantastic barrel character, but I should say that I wouldn't have picked them out as wine barrel aged).

So that just about wraps up the wine I'll be writing about, though there's still a few weeks left in my little detour from beer, and who knows where that will take me.

Aviary Chardonnay 2012


This is a beer blog, but as explained recently, I'm going to be spending some time getting to know other beverages. So far, I've covered Bourbon and Port Wine, both of which I'm reasonably familiar with. What's more, they are both reasonably approachable in terms of what they are and what is available. Last weekend, I pulled the cork on a few wines, which is probably the subject I'm least familiar with. It's not like I've never had wine before or anything, but I've never really nerded out on wine the way I have on beer, and looking at it now, it's a bit overwhelming.

To drastically simplify Bourbon, it's all about the malt bill and age. Port Wine has elements of terroir and grape selection, but is also very much about the aging process. Wine appears to be all about the grapes and the terroir. As a beer guy, Bourbon and Port Wine are approachable, but Wine's focus on terroir is somewhat new territory. To be sure, there is terroir involved in beer, most notably with hops. Once again I find myself reaching for a simplification, but if you plant the same hop in different places, you will get slightly different results, and the terroir matters too (a good year in the US Pacific Northwest may not be very good for UK or Czech Republic or New Zealand). Indeed, a couple years ago Victory planned an event called Terroir des Tettnangs, wherein they took their Braumeister Pils recipe and made five batches using German Tettnang hops. The only variable that changed in each of the five batches: the specific field in which the hops were grown. I had a couple of these and, sure, there were not dramatic differences, but there were differences. And one only need look at the US focus on citrus and pine hops, as compared to the more woodsy, earthy, herbal, spicy hops of Europe or the juicy tropical fruit notes in New Zealand and Australian hops (again, dramatic simplification here).

So the concept isn't completely foreign to me, but it is still something of a mystery. What I know about this particular wine is that it comes from the Napa Valley (and it looks like Aviary contracted out to several vinyards for the grapes - the contract brewer of the wine world?) and uses the Chardonnay grape variety, which appears to be nearly ubiquitous. According to their website, 2012 was a good year weather-wise in Napa, and this was aged for 5 months on oak. I picked it mostly on a whim, only noting that it's a current Chairman's Selection in PA (I guess the PLCB does some things right, as these are apparently pretty good deals). I could certainly see myself getting into wine at some point, but given the depth and breadth of selection (all those grapes and geographies and vintages!) I think it would take me a while to get up to speed in terms of true nerdery. On the other hand, perhaps I don't need to geek out on everything I've ever drank. For now, let's drink some wine:

Aviary Chardonnay 2012

Aviary Chardonnay 2012 - Pours a very light, crystal clear yellow color. Smells of vinous fruit, pears, and the like, maybe some vanilla. Taste starts off sweet, quickly moves into a fruity realm, pears, banana, grapes and the like. I don't get oak, though from what I understand, that's a good thing. On the other hand, I do get a hint of vanilla here, which may very well be from that oak aging. Mouthfeel is light and refreshing, bright, maybe a hint of richness, but on the dryer side in the finish. Overall, it's a nice, solid white wine (sez the beer guy). I probably shouldn't be rating these things, but hey, let's give it a B

Wine Nerd Details: 13.6% ABV bottled (750 ml corked and chilled). Drank out of a wine glass. 2012 vintage.

Food Pairing: The other thing people always talk about with wine is pairing it with food. I know the general rule of thumb is white wine with fish, red wine with meat, but I'm sure that's dumbed down for the likes of me. Still, I drank this with a meal of sushi and it worked really well, with one possible exception. Nothing dramatically bad, mind you, but Eel (Unagi) was maybe not the perfect match. Eel comes grilled, and it's a fatty, rich fish, you might even say meaty, and it comes drizzled with sweet and salty eel sauce, so I'd be curious to see how it matched with a red wine rather than the white (which got the job done just fine, though maybe the red would be better?)

Beer Nerd Musings: I've already gone off on beer terroir, so I'll note that there are many beers aged in old Chardonnay barrels. Most of these tend to skew to the sour side, as barrels provide a good environment for the wild yeasts and bacterial beasties that are key to those beers. A great example that is usually available in the Philly area is Russian River's Temptation, which is delicious. Some of Cisco's Lady of the Woods occasionally makes its way down here as well, and that is well worth seeking out. There are some beers aged in Chardonnay barrels that don't go the sour route, like Victory's White Monkey, which is solid, but perhaps not really my thing.

One other thing I'll mention is that it took me a while to get into sour beer, but on the other hand, I seem to have great luck blowing people's minds with sour beer at beer club. I suspect sour beer would make a good entry point to the world of beer for wine drinkers.

So there you have it. Stay tuned for a look at a rather nice Pinot Noir (both in my glass and in my meal).


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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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