This week I did something I haven’t done in years: went through the links list; a.k.a., the “blogroll.” It’s something rarely done at most websites — webmasters / bloggers usually add a link and forget it. The blogroll can become very long and its maintenance tedious at best, insurmountable at worst. Since I neglected mine for what I realize now was several years, a little “spring cleaning” was in order. It was an enlightening exercise for many reasons. [Read more…]
Graffigna “Centenario” Malbec 2010 | San Juan, Argentina
Malbec has taken the USA by storm over the past few years; it’s becoming this generation’s Merlot. With so many examples in varying styles coming up from Argentina — and more recently, from other areas of the globe — it’s important to me, for selfish reasons, to keep track of the ones I enjoy.
Graffigna is a label I see frequently on restaurant lists, usually by-the-glass. Several times I passed on ordering it, simply because I couldn’t remember if it was a Malbec I liked, or not. Does that ever happen to you? This is pretty much the main reason I keep a blog of my tastings — because the older I get, the more my mind fails! Anyway, on to the tasting notes and review.
On the nose I get notes of black fruit, dark chocolate, some spice, minty eucalyptus, and hints of earth. In the mouth I get spice, spice, and more spice, with a quick hit of sweet blueberry, touch of tobacco, and black berry fruit. On its own, the palate bites a bit — there’s too much acidity and alcohol, especially when the wine is at room temperature (which is too warm for red wine, anyway). I chilled it down to a more reasonable temp (58 degrees) and the biting sensation went away; I recommend you chill down most red wines to between 55-60 degrees. Still, by itself it’s not a star — but it shows itself grandly with food. I successfully paired it with baby-back ribs from Houlihans (yes, I’m ashamed to admit it; but, Houlie’s is across the street from my abode, and there are few other reasonably priced take-out choices within walking distance). Though the ribs may have been a touch too sweet, Graffigna Malbec stood up well and did a yeoman’s job — mainly because of its rich, spicy flavor. Probably, a better match would have been a Zinfandel or one of those California “red blends” that are taking the US by storm lately (the residual sugar of blends would match well with the slightly sweet BBQ sauce). I firmly believe Graffigna Malbec is a solid burger wine, and will also pair well with other beef dishes (steaks, particularly flank, london broil, and skirt steaks), as well as roast lamb, blackened chicken, and rich cheeses.
What’s an ideal wine for the Fourth of July? Depends on your perspective, but my suggestion is a wine that is a chillable, crowd-pleasing quaffer that pairs with picnic plates, barbecue, and finger foods. If it’s a red, make sure it’s light on the tannins. Whites — or better yet, rose wines — should have a soft mouthfeel, with enough acidity to stand up to outdoor party dishes but not so tart that they taste sour when drunk alone. Then there is the Independence Day theme: the wine doesn’t necessarily have to be from the USA, but it would be a nice touch. At the very least, it should embody the spirit of American independence — perhaps represent rebellion.
With those factors in mind, my specific suggestions come from Macari Vineyards in Long Island, New York. American, obviously, so check that off. Independent? Check — the winery and vineyards are owned and operated by the Macari family. Rebellious? Not necessarily, but certainly, the Macaris fit the mold of what we like to think of Americans: bold, brave, pioneering, responsible, and always striving to improve. Only an American would try to grow French grapes on a potato field in Long Island — and succeed. Oh, and by the way this was accomplished naturally and organically, without pesticides or chemicals, using biodynamic methods and sustainable farming techniques.
Macari Rose 2010 | North Fork, Long Island, New York, USA
Mostly Merlot with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec blended in. The nose, to me, is expressing red wine, and similar to what I normally associate with Beaujolais — cherry, ripe overripe banana, hint of orange marmalade — but it also has some bright citrus. In the mouth the citrus fruit is most apparent; it’s a juicy, tasty flavor that resembles a mix of lemon, lime, blood orange, and a bit of ripe red cherry. Good chalky acidity holds the fruit together and makes it ideal for food matching. The finish has a nice mixture of red berry and citrus peel. I matched this perfectly with a curried chicken salad recipe found online, and it was also delicious on its own. I reckon it is equally good if paired with meaty fish, other chicken dishes, and pork, as well as just about anything coming off the grill. Hmm … the grill … it’s from New York, it’s friendly for food pairing, and guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser … I’m gonna go on a limb and say this is PERFECT for a July 4th barbecue!
But what if you’re a “tough guy” who doesn’t want his friends seeing him drinking pink wine at the picnic? Luckily, Macari also makes a Merlot that you can bring to the party.
Macari Merlot Estate 2008 | North Fork, Long Island, New York, USA
Bright, ripe strawberry, raspberry, and cherry aromas jump out of the glass at first sniff, with some hints of earth and mineral. The palate is wide open and full of sweet strawberry and cherry upfront, followed by a dry cranberry and pleasantly sour black cherry flavor in the finish. Tannins are there but understated and mild; acidity is also fairly mild but enough for food matching. This reminds me more of Pinot Noir than Merlot, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, particularly if you don’t like the bell pepper aromas and flavors typical of Merlot (that element does not exist in this wine).
This is a 2008 vintage, and it may be peaking right now. It’s delicious on its own, but I found it more enjoyable with simply roasted turkey. Try it also with other poultry (grilled chicken drumsticks!) and full-flavored fish such as salmon. This wine is really well done and is a great ambassador to the red wines of Long Island.
You can also learn more about these wines and the winery by visiting the Macari Vineyards website.
Disclosure: I received these wines as press samples from the winery.
Estancia Sauvignon Blanc Pinnacles Ranches | Monterey County, California
Sauvignon Blanc means different things to different people. For some, it means grassy, herbal aromas. For others, it means tropical fruit character. And, there are people expecting musky aromas and strong mineral notes (i.e., Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre). For me, it means all of those things, and then some — what I’m expecting is for the grape to reflect its origin in some way.
Estancia is one of my “safe” brands — meaning, it’s a widely available name that I trust to provide solid quality for value and at least a hint of “sense of place,” regardless of grape variety. Do I expect to have my socks knocked off? Not necessarily. Do I expect to get what I pay for, and maybe a little more? Yes. Did this wine meet that expectation? Yes.
Clean, bright nose emitting lemon and lime citrus fruit and a distinct green element that most people associate with gooseberries — a strong, unripe, sour fruit odor that is typical of the Sauvignon Blanc grape. Some describe the smell as “cat pee,” and since I have yet to see/smell a gooseberry, but have known many cats, well … you can guess which description relates to me. It’s something you either appreciate or don’t like at all. Me, I appreciate that smell.
In the mouth, Estancia Sauvignon Blanc is clean, fresh, and expressive, with ample acidity. Flavors are similar to the nose, but dominated by fresh lime upfront and finishing with lemon peel on the back end. It has a zingy character on its own, and is much more enjoyable with food. I enjoyed it with broiled flounder and scallops; it will be similarly well-matched with other white fish, sushi, mildly seasoned chicken and pork dishes, salads, and vegetarian cuisine.
I picked this up for under ten bucks and for me, that’s a good deal. A good food wine.
Apothic Red 2009 | California
Usually I drink wine with food. I almost always eat food with wine. Sometimes, though, I like to have a glass of wine with nuttin’. In those cases, the “cocktail wines” are an ideal choice. And on this particular night, I wanted a “cocktail red” — something to sip on its own, that wouldn’t be too tannic, but have some richness and flavor. Oak wouldn’t be a major issue, because generally speaking, oak tastes good when food is not present. So I opened up this bottle, which was sent to me by a very nice PR person.
Apothic Red is a blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, and Merlot. It helps to know that, but I really do believe I can taste all three varietals in the blend. The nose is a pleasant, inviting blend of vanilla, butterscotch, red berries, and black cherry — for me, the butterscotch is dominant in the aroma. Strange, I know — since when does a red wine smell like butterscotch? When it’s been whacked with American oak (barrel or chips? who knows? who cares?). In the mouth it has sweet flavors of ripe raspberry, chocolate, maraschino cherry, and boysenberry syrup (like what you get at IHOP). However, it finishes dry, with a balanced level of mild tannins and puckering acidity. It was exactly what I was seeking on this particular evening. I’m not sure I’d try to match it with food — I don’t know where I’d begin. Maybe General Tsao’s chicken or a similarly sweet dish from the Chinese take-out menu? It’s not sweet like a Yellow Tail or Hob Nob wine, but it’s not all that far from it, either — I would say it is a good stepping stone from critter reds to more “serious” ones, because it does finish relatively dry and it has nicely integrated tannins and acidity. Without question, a crowd pleaser — bring it to your next party where people will be drinking wine as though it were a cocktail.