after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Archive for the ‘Wine Room’ Category

think drink pink

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t says:  g and I are always on the look-out for delicious wine – you know – the kind that you want buy over and over again because it’s just that good … and the kind that you can buy over and over again because it’s just that affordable.  Here’s our latest addition the cellar:

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it’s pink!

What you see above is a wine that manages to balance some very nice flavors.  First up, you get a plusher-than-expected lightly-sweet red fruit (strawberry, cherry) – it’s very fleeting, but a referred to it as “lollipop”.  Then it gives way to a clean citrus zip that offsets the sweet (kinda like lemon juice vs. sugar), as it goes into a nice refreshing medium-length finish that beckons you to drink more.  This is not a “really sweet” wine, but there is indeed some residual sugar in there – but I think that’s what makes it so interesting (g and I normally can’t handle sweet wines: late harvest wines, dessert wines, ice wines, etc).  Is it “complex”?  Not really – but definitely very “fun”.  I’d be willing to bet that if brought to a dinner party, people will get over it’s pink-ness very fast and drink it down.  I don’t know how many liquor stores will stock this wine regularly (i.e. it can’t be found in PA), but if you do happen to be venturing into NJ sometime, swing by our fave, wineworks, and pick up a bottle (place the online order ahead of time – it’s a buck or two cheaper).  It’s a perfect color for Valentine’s day … but it’s a great flavor for any day … (well … maybe not steak day …)

Written by afterdinnersneeze

1 February 2013 at 10:36am

corked or screwed?

with 5 comments

t says:  Not one to “just let go” of an exhausted topic, I recently found myself reconsidering [again] my stance on the age-old issue of real corks vs. screw-tops for wine bottle enclosure.  For those who are unaware, the traditional enclosure for bottles of wine has long been cork.  And, while it’s been around for such a long time, the truth is that cork is not the most fool-proof enclosure ever “invented”, as there are countless cases of compromised corks (and consequent compromised wines).  Even we here at adsz have written about near-misses as well as straight-up failures of cork – and that’s just in the past 6 months!  I’d guess (as I have no numbers to substantiate the claim) that the two biggest problems with corks are that they can dry out and shrink, thus allowing air to seep in and oxidize the wine (n.b. this does not lead to a “corked” wine) and that they are prone to contamination with TCA (which does lead to “corked” wine).  Screw tops (and other synthetic enclosures) are have less problems with this [if any].  So why put up with corks?  The two most common reasons [that I can think of] are the following:
1)  The tradition/ceremony/romance of removing a cork would be reduced to an action we frequently perform on bottles of soda (or Yoohoo).
2)  Theoretically, the synthetic enclosures would “allow in less oxygen”, therefore preventing the long-term aging/maturation of wine.

While point 1 is inarguable (as it’s an opinion – “de gustibus non est disputandum”), I feel that even with abandoning the corkscrew there remains plenty of wine ceremony with screw-tops, like decanting, swirling, sniffing, etc.  Thus, I really only favored corks because I was a staunch believer in point 2 – I thought it was fact/truth.  But I think I’ve been misled.  As you can see in the hyperlinked post above, the internet author (like many authors out there – this one just happened to pop up on google first) kind of admits that it’s controversial but then strongly states that screw-topped wines would “never” be better with age.  Here, let me copy-paste for you:
other person says:  “Although some may argue with this, I do not believe that a bottle of wine with a screw top is going to improve sitting in your wine cellar for a of couple years. It will taste the same as the day you stuck it in the cellar or perhaps worse, but never better. No oxygen is going to pass through a screw top so those subtle aging characteristics produced by a cork are not going to take place. Corks breathe, screw tops to not. I am not recommending that you shy away from purchasing wine with screw tops but that you are aware that these wines are to drink now. When you purchase wine that comes with a screw top, be sure to drink it within a year.”

back to t:  What the crap?  I might be missing something, but where did those conclusions come from?  Is she/he sure that the oxygen going through cork that’s super-important for aging?  Or the oxygen that’s already in the bottle?  And how did he arrive at the recommendation to “drink within a year?”  As you can see, wine snobs (myself included) tend to be a [sometimes misinformed, yet] strongly opinionated bunch and tend to voice their opinions loudly (especially after a glass of wine), so it’s easy to see how such hypotheses and statements about the shortcomings of screw-tops are propagated …

BUT, that doesn’t mean they’re true.  There exist anecdotes and allusions to scientific-like studies:
https://www.cellartracker.com/new/event.asp?iEvent=13650
http://amateurgastronomer.com/index/screw-top-tasting/
http://www.atarangi.co.nz/cellaring-guide.html (at the very bottom)

And now … I’m left wondering who to believe!   On one side, the pro-cork people have “logic” … but they also require the use of “assumptions” (e.g. assuming that air entry via the cork is the most critical component for proper wine aging).  On the other side, the pro-screw people (that sounds weird …) have only some anecdotes and a couple [rather limited] studies suggestive of no difference between the two in terms of taste (and maybe some hints of the possibility of superiority for the screwtop).

The scientist in me (having awoken after a 1.5 year slumber) feels that there just isn’t enough data to take a side … yet.  It is pretty tempting to go pro-screw-top, but they’re going to need some better-controlled real-deal studies if they want to conclude that screw-tops are not worse than cork (“the absence of proof should never be considered proof of absence”).  Furthermore, the scientist in me is quite furious at the wine snob in me for being pro-cork for as long as I have, accepting and spreading the explanation as “reasonable”, “logical”, and even “truth” without the numbers to back it up; it’s dangerous and could lead to misinformation that could have disastrous effects had this been a real-life issue rather than something as frivolous as wine.  As for the wine snob in me – he’s crying after having been verbally abused for the duration of me writing this post.

Conclusion: I’m “retracting” my former statements made to friends and family about the superiority of cork … pending further evaluation by UC Davis and other such impartial investigators.  May the best enclosure win.  And yes, this means that if I meet the wine-of-my-life tomorrow, I will buy it … regardless of its silly-looking screw-top and less-than-sexy noise it makes as you open it.  I’m a changed man.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

31 May 2012 at 4:16pm

goodbye La Crele, hello Saldo

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t says:  For those that haven’t checked out “the cellar” yet, it features reviewed wines that g and I like to keep on hand.  Two of the wines in there haven’t been formally reviewed in a post in the blog, so I’m just going to put them up now.  Here we go!

First up is one of our favorite sauvignon blancs.  We are sadly down to our last bottle and no more can be found [at a reasonable price].  Truth be told, it is time to move on, as this particular white isn’t likely one that would age well (peaking now), so it’s not like if we found more, we’d continue drinking it forever.  Goodbye La Crele.  You served us well.

2009 Domaine Thomas & Fils “La Crele” (France, Loire Valley, Sancerre; $20 at Cherry Hill Winelegend; $27 at PLCB).  This is a Sauvignon Blanc based wine from the Loire valley in France.  It was recommended by a guy named Phil at Winelegend in Cherry Hill; it was “the best Sauvignon Blanc he had in the store”.  I figured, “g likes Sauvignon Blanc”, so I picked up a bottle to score some brownie points with the Mrs.  What I didn’t expect was how much I would like it … I liked it a LOT.  Gone was the petrol zip of typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs that normally put me off – instead was a pleasant herbal zip surrounded by surprisingly plush fruits and florals that kept on the pressure well after swallowing.  This was no ordinary Sauvignon Blanc.  Even Wine Spectator agrees: “Very juicy, with a delicious core of lemon verbena and straw laced with hints of nectarine, white peach and mineral. The finish is long and fresh. Delicious. Drink now. (90 Points)”  I couldn’t remember the last time I had as pleasant a white wine.  Quintessa’s Illuminations?  Dare I utter that rare unicorn of a wine in the same breath as this $20 off-the-shelf bottle?  Yikes.  I just did.  I confronted Phil the next week to ask him whether this was typical for Sancerres (certainly none that I’ve had).  He said, “No – just this one.”  I believed him.  I instantly bought 3 more, and each has been as good as the first.  My only advice is to not precede this wine with something sweet (e.g. Lillet), because it’ll make this wine taste too petrol-y.  Other than that, order that fish or salad, pull out La Crele, and hold on tight!

The other wine we have here is a dry-but-oh-so-fruity zinfandel – and unlike the above, it actually is available.

2009 Orin Swift Cellars “Saldo” (USA, CA; $29.99 at PLCB).  a is a big fan of Orin Swift Cellars.  Actually, he was the one who introduced us to “The Prisoner” back at Talula’s Table.  It was delightful!  We had another sampling of The Prisoner at The Wine School when the gang went for its Luxury Wines of Napa class.  Again, another beautiful showing.  Too bad the price of The Prisoner was increasing in recent vintages to $40+, which puts it out of the range that g and I want to spend on a “nice dinner out”.  This was problematic.  So recently, when g and I found ourselves in K&L during our trip to California, seeking a Prisoner-like experience but unwilling to pay that amount of money, I pulled up Orin Swift’s website to find their second-label Zin: Saldo.  For under $30, we hoped it would deliver.  And deliver it did!  There were gobs and gobs of chocolate and cherry/strawberry/raspberry preserves, with a bit of cinnamon/nutmeg and a hint of sweet (almost off-dry!).  It wasn’t as complex as The Prisoner, but that was actually quite a nice feature, as this was pure thought-free enjoyment from sip to sip.  Coupling it with some steak and dark chocolate would result in an absolutely hedonistic meal.  Unfortunately, PA’s stash of it is thin right now, so one should act quickly.  Procuring more in PA after the few bottles in the city are gone will require a Special Liquor Order but then the price is $35/bottle, which really kind of ruins the “steal” this is supposed to be.  Fear not, however, as Saldo’s pretty easily found , in Jersey (the 2008 vintage is just as good if not “better” than the 2009).

Written by afterdinnersneeze

26 March 2012 at 7:31pm

dr. loosen’s red slate loses my attention (and a Serbian wine review)

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t says:  Very recently, I wrote about Dr. Loosen’s “Blue Slate” Riesling, gushing with praise.  a fired back that perhaps I should also try their “Red Slate”, which is their dry version (at the bottom of the post) …

So I took his advice a few days later …

We had the 2010 dr. loosen "red slate" Riesling ... not the 2009 ...

2010 Dr. Loosen “Red Slate” Riesling ($13.99 at PLCB).  I got a lot of the chemical nose that the “Blue Slate” had, but not a lot of fruit.  My tongue was greeted with the zip and refreshing quality that I find desirable in a white wine … but … it was missing a very important feature: fruit!  No peaches, no apricots.  It’s all structure with no flash, no plush.  Maybe some white grape juice on the finish as the zip fades away, but that’s about it.  g didn’t feel it to be as lacking as I had found; for her it was “like the Blue Slate, but watered down”.  All in all, while better than something like a Cavit white wine, there’s not enough to motivate me to buy it again – not if I can find a bottle of Shaya “Old Vines” around.

Sorry Lord Riesling … I’m sure you’ll bring this up next time we talk wine …

In other news, drb at curiouser and curiouser posted about the first ever bottle of Serbian wine I’ve ever seen.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

24 March 2012 at 9:00pm

trust the dr. [loosen]

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t says:  a has been a fan of Dr. Loosen Rieslings for a while.  I, on the other hand, generally stay away from German Rieslings – they never do anything for me.  They’re often too sweet for my palate and make any fruit notes taste more like fruits that are preserved in sugary syrup (e.g. Dole peaches), which is heavy and overwhelming.  For dessert, great.  For eating with stinky cheeses, fine.  But for a meal or by itself, it’s just too distracting.  I even branched out to some Trimbach Riesling from France, which was supposed to be fairly iconic, but was ultimately disappointed. Why had Rieslings forsaken me?

When planning an 18-person adventure to Han Dynasty, I needed to bring multiple bottles of wine that would make everybody happy (we were celebrating birthdays, including g’s!).  a once again chimed in with Dr. Loosen.  Although hesitant, I figured that if I’m looking for a crowd-pleaser, semi-sweet wines are easier than dry ones.  After I did some research/googling, I found that Dr. Loosen is a pretty famous name when it comes to German Rieslings … however … there are quite a few different bottlings to choose from! I only needed one!  What to choose, what to choose?

This is what I did …  First, I had to re-learn the German “ranking” system for their wines (my CSW knowledge was a little fuzzy).  ‘Ze Germans put their wines into four different tiers of “quality”:
Tafelwein (table wine)
Landwein (‘country wine’)
QbA (‘region-specific wine’)
Pradikatswein (‘superior quality wine’ … from a specific region)

There’s a lot that goes into these different quality levels.  The one that I focused on was sugar.  “Sugar” in wine is important, but not for the reason that you might think (i.e. not just because it makes wine sweet).  Sugar in a ripened grape serves as the food for yeast during fermentation into EtOH.  So, the higher the sugar in the beginning (i.e. the riper the grape), the higher the alcohol in the end.  In a land with cooler climate, one could imagine that maybe it would be tough to achieve enough grape ripeness/sugar to allow for enough alcohol in the finished product.  This is the “challenge” for some of German wines.  As a result, Tafelwein, Landwein, and QbA are allowed to have their producers add sugar so the final wine can achieve enough alcohol (this process is called chaptalization).  While I absolutely do not want to say that there are no good Tafelweins, Landweins, or QbA wines, I have to say that I can see how chaptalization is a little like cheating (although I’m not as up-in-arms about it as a lot of the fanatical home-wine-makers are about it).  Interestingly, in the superior Pradikatswein designation, this process is not allowed.  I kinda respect that – it’s like an extra challenge.  Ok, so therefore I needed So I needed a cost-conscious Dr. Loosen Pradikateswein … but wait!  There’s more …

The Pradikatswein designation includes further subdivisions, which tend to correlate with the residual sugar levels in the finished product:
Kabinett (often semi-sweet, but can be dry)
Spatlese (semi-sweet)
Auslese (sweet)
Beerenauslese (sweeter)
Eiswein (sweeterer)
Trockenbeerenauslese (oh-so-sweet)

There are more subtleties in these designations have to do with how the grapes are picked in order to achieve higher levels of sugar, but that’s just overkill for this blog.  The point of all of this is that I wanted to pick a Pradikatswein with the lowest level of residual sugar because I was worried of getting something too sweet; a little bit of sweet would be desirable to go with Han’s spicy food, but I didn’t want the syrupy honey sugar-rush – especially because g has had eisweins, noble rotted wines, and late harvest wines but did not like them.  So I was hunting for a Dr. Loosen Kabinett (n.b. all Kabinetts are Pradikatswein by default).

So I surfed the usual websites to see what was available:
PLCB website
Winelegend
Wineworksonline
TotalWine

Ta-da!  Spotted a Dr. Loosen Kabinett at wineworksonline.  I proceeded to buy several bottles for our dinner party and brought it with us to Han.

Holy.  Crap.

It was delicious!  Figuring it was a fluke, g and I have gone through 2 more bottles on other occasions.  Yup!  Each was as good as the last!  We were so impressed that this Dr. Loosen will be added to our cellar.

2009 dr. loosen "blue slate" kabinett

2009 Dr. Loosen “Blue Slate” Riesling ($14.98 at wineworksonline.com).  A peculiar nose that smells like honey and fleshy stone fruits as well as a waft of petrol/chemical/rubber – very intriguing.  On the palate, there’s honey-kissed apricot and peach up front that are very pleasant before giving way to some citrus and Sauvignon Blanc-esque zippiness.  It finishes very cleanly, making for a very  refreshing off-dry/semi-sweet wine – not at all overwhelming.  It worked beautifully with spicy food and has only 7.5% EtOH, meaning you can just keep drinking and drinking …  I do wish it had a little less sugar so I could justify drinking it by itself (with its sweetness, I kind of feel like it works best when accompanied by something savory), but other than that, I feel like it’s a solid $15 wine.

a says:  I have something to add to this post.  You should try the Dr. Loosen “Red Slate”. ($13.99 at PLCB)  We’ve had it – it’s great and it’s the”dry” version of the blue slate – it’s crisper.  It still has good feel, not heavy, but coats the palate.

t says:  I saw that at the local PLCB store the other day.  I didn’t know enough about it, so I didn’t go for it because (1) I’ve seen a lot of reassuring Blue Slate ratings but only a few for the Red Slate and (2) I originally wanted the sweetness to go with Han’s spice.

a says:  Ratings smatings!  The Red Slate is good and would be fine with spice.  Good Rieslings can do anything!  ANYTHING!

t says:  My sincerest apologies Lord Riesling.  I’ll put it on the list!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

19 March 2012 at 9:23am

pie for supper at Supper’s pi day!

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t says:  I just got back from dinner at Supper.  It was pi day!!  Get it?  “Pi” day, as in 3.14, as in 3/14, as in March 14.  Pretty cool, right?  Yea it is.

So Supper brought out some awesome pies, savory and sweet:
Ritz-and-crab pie
Veal tongue pie
Rabbit pot pie
Pork pie
PB pie
Mississippi mud pie
Pecan pie
Apple pie

Now, it should be noted that these weren’t just “pies”.  Supper actually had far fancier names for these, so it’s probably not fair for me to call them all “pies”.  But whatever …

Another awesome little coinkidink was that pi day happened to fall on a Wednesday … which means that it’s BYO night at supper!!  So not only was there a two-pies-for-$20 deal, but we could bring our own wine!  Boo-yah!  I immediately signed up the usual crew to go and notified them via email.  There was some attrition, so only a, v, and I were able to go.  That’s cool – more wine for us!

We didn’t take any pictures and we didn’t get all super-critical, but had a blast.  I went with the veal tongue pie which was prepared more like a chili poured on top of a layer of frito’s.  It was quite tasty – like the best meat-based tortilla chip dip ever!  The one drawback was that cilantro was still served with the stems on – I hate that.

a’s rabbit pot pie was homey and delicious.  v’s crab pie was more like a crab cake, but at least a very well done one.

And all of the dessert pies we sampled were quite delicious: the peanut butter one was a densely whipped PB cream with a peanut crust, the Mississippi mud pie was like a moist brownie with a pie crust, and the pecan pie was exactly that – a well-done pecan pie.

In all, aside from the cilantro stems, we really had no complaints with Supper’s pies.  For $20 a head, we were full, and our mouths were happy.  It was quite a deal!  The server was a little weird/awkward, but maybe it’s because customers aren’t spending much moo-lah on pi day.  Whatever.  He warmed up some by the end of the meal.  By the way, can you imagine what’ll happen on 3/14/15?  That’s gonna be SUPER-[nerdily-]awesome

OH … and the wine!

I brought two bottles of pinot noir not from what I feel are traditional pinot noir countries: Italy and Argentina.  a picked out the Argentinian one.  I was excited because the reviewers had nice things to say about it:

“Dark ruby red in color, it reveals a charming bouquet of smoke, spice box, raspberry, and cherry. Silky, sweet and savory on the palate, this elegant, concentrated effort displays impeccable balance and length. It is an excellent value in quality Pinot Noir.”  -WA 91 pts

“Quite good and honest, with full raspberry, cherry and tea aromas along with a hint of grassiness. The palate is dark and full-bodied, with toasty cherry and herbal tea flavors. Finishes long, full and several steps ahead of most of the competition. Drink now.” -WE 88 pts

So we poured the wine into Supper’s nice a big glasses, gave it some swirl-action, and then got to it …

2008 Alma Negra Pinot Noir (Mendoza, Argentina, $21.98 at wineworksonline.com).  The nose was interesting in the beginning – smelling a lot like earth and chocolate and tart red berries.  As it opened up, the nose developed into more like a cranberry apple pie.  On the palate, it had some tart cranberries and sour cherry and this hint of something … different.  In retrospect, I honestly think that it was indeed that “herbal tea” flavor – you know – it’s what you get when you order tea, but instead someone gives you a cup of some sort of fake Rooibos crap.  It wasn’t something I was ready for and it caught me offguard.  Overall, it tasted kind of weird but it wasn’t like a restrained, elegantly balanced French pinot, and it wasn’t fresh-and-fruity like new world pinots.  It just didn’t quite taste like a pinot.  v called it a “heavy beaujolais”.  Quite right!  And, while it improved with food for sure, ultimately, I don’t think I’ll be venturing any more Argentinian pinots in the near future.  Darn.

I wonder what the Italian one will taste like?

Written by afterdinnersneeze

14 March 2012 at 11:10pm

another reason to be suspicious of wine “perfection”

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t says:  Ok – so from the last post, you know that I sought out some wine from the PLCB based on a pretty strongly-worded review.  Well, this past Friday, I put that wine to the test:

what a Snooki-shaped bottle! (before the weight loss)

What I didn’t mention previously about my purchase is that the bottle is a pretty silly shape.  It’s short and stout.  It won’t fit in any wine cellar/refrigerator that I’ve seen, including the one that I own.  And it’s not particularly pretty when lying down next to other bottles.  Actually, it’s not pretty in any orientation.  All in all, pretty silly if you ask me – but what do I know?

So I got to decanting the wine for a half hour or so and eventually poured it into the glass.  I reviewed The Wine School’s note:
Luxurious, like a velvet cushion of dark sweet fruit. The only fault is its perfection –round, sexy, slick perfection– which takes away some of the pleasure of drinking a Umbrian wine.”

I braced for “perfection”.

I didn’t find it …

2009 Falesco Tellus (Umbria, Italy, $13.99 at PLCB)Sweet-smelling dark fruits on the nose, like blackberries.  On the palate, there’s some initial pleasant fruit but a surprising lack of the spice or pepper that I normally think of when I think “shiraz” (I guess I’m used to Australian Shirazes).  There’s a medium body.  The finish is kind of short – shorter than I’d expect from a shiraz.  However, it’s also silky-smooth, with only trace tannic bite and only a tidbit of alcoholic heat.  It’s a dry wine, but it goes down really easily.  As far as flavors are concerned, it’s a little one-dimensional. a’s review was similar to mine: “A ‘berry-e’ nose, good fruit up front, not much on the back. Certainly NOT perfection, unless ‘perfect’ means ‘enjoyable’.”

In my mind, the Tellus lost in a head-to-head against a Cali Cab (PLCB Product Code: 000514628) that I had also pulled out that night – one that I had purchased for $10 in NJ.  a disagreed, though, feeling that the Tellus was more interesting of a wine with a fuller, more inviting body.  I felt the opposite.  Knowing that a can handle some criticism, I told him he was “wrong”.  He informed me I was misinformed and requested that I re-taste the Tellus to ensure we were tasting the same wine.  I did.  Nope – it was the same Tellus, so I wasn’t budging.  I suspect it’s because he has higher expectations from a California Cabernet Sauvignon than an Italian Shiraz.  Despite not agreeing after a few more seconds of debate, it didn’t come to fisticuffs, as we agreed that no matter which way we sliced it, this wine is definitely not “perfect” in any aspect: bottle shape, nose, flavor, finish, etc.

In summary: It’s smooth and pleasant and it won’t disappoint anyone at a party … well … unless they’re expecting “perfection”.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

11 March 2012 at 8:38pm

Posted in PLCB-approved, Wine Room

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