Thursday, June 30, 2011

Life after Red: Going into the White Lights

When I'm tasting accumulated wine samples assembled by chance and for no particular article, I usually taste in ones and twos, keeping good notes so that I will have plenty of ammunition if I'm called upon to write about 10 fantastic barbecue wines or great wine pairings for Arbor Day (what really goes best with oak, not just in it?)

But sometimes I'm faced with a Fedex-borne tsunami of bottles, which happens when wine publicists suddenly wake up one Monday morning and all individually make mental notes to themselves as they brush their teeth - "Today is the day to get out those samples!" And just when I've cleared my entry hall of the first wave of fortified boxes, here comes UPS with the second wave.

So early this week, I woke up and suddenly proclaimed as I brushed my teeth, "Today is the day to taste all those summer white samples." In fairness, I waited until my teeth were properly dirty again and absent any taint of the dreaded "minty mouth" before I started tasting, around 11. I get up at 4, so seven hours without wine is a long time.

I combined for the tasting (1) Pinot Grigios from northeast Italy, (2) Assyrtikos from Santorini, (3) Rieslings from Germany and (4) three Pacific Rim Rieslings from the Columbia Valley. Overall, the wines were all reasonably well-made, none were fantastic and a few stood out in a positive manner.

My favorite among the PGs was the 2009 Bollin Trentino, which I found to be juicy and rich, a touch bready as PGs from that area tend to be, but with more zesty and minerally than the others. Fruit flavors? Most of the Grigios had a pleasant but not snappy flavor of plum pulp.

On to the Assyrtikos. Assyrtiko is one of the most popular white grapes in Greece, and much that we drink in the U.S, comes from the isle of Santorini, although a crisper version from northern Macedonia is coming into its own. The two that appealed to me most were the 2009 Argyros, which iss big, juicy, fruity, well-balanced with good acidity and just begging to be taken to the table, and the 2010 Sigalas, which is juicy, spritzy, with a slight Sauvignon-like vegetal note. Neither was particularly complex, but both are good drinking for now.

The Rieslings - 10 of them - are all from P.J. Valkenberg, known especially for its value wines. I did find the very dry, very basic ones left something to be desired, but I've always felt that trockens faced an uphill battle against the contradictions of Riesling being at once demure and opulent. But there were five Rieslings that I though particularly stood out.

Although my wife, who did a walk-by sipping of my top 5, disagrees on this one, I was most taken by the 2009 Baron zu Knyphausen Erbacher Michelmark Rheingau Riesling Erste Lage. [Where are those damned diacritical marks in this program?] It has a lovely, clean nose that doesn't foreshadow the complexity that lay beneath, which is marked by brulee and apricot essence. There is excellent firmness, great minerality and light tannins. It is the kind of drink that shows its presence without being aggressive.

The 2009 Johannishof "Charta" Rheingau Riseling has nice stone fruit flavors with tastes of pear and apricot skins, is slightly juicy, well-balnaced and long on the palate. The 2010 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Piesporter Goldtropfchen Piesporter Riesling is rich and rounded with good balance, stone-fruit nectars with good minerality and light tannins. The light-alcohol (9.5%) 2010 Schloss Saarstein Riesling Kabinett reminds me of an apricot cider - juicy, tangy fruit skins, good minerality. Finally, the 2010 Graff Graacher Himmelreich Mosel Riesling Spatlese (8%) is very focused, high on the palate and having a combo of tart apples and light apricot flavors.

As for the Pacific Rim Rieslings are concerned, the brand has always provided the pleasant, basic fruitiness of American Riesling as an attractive price, but they won't take you much beyond that. They make a dry, an off-dry and a sweet.

Until next time,

Roger Morris

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cognac & Bordeaux: The Tesseron Touch

How lucky can one man be - to own a respected Bordeaux chateau and a Cognac maison? My interview with Alfred Tesseron in the July issue of Wine Enthusiast.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Brandywineries Promote Local Food

From the July issue of Delaware Today.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Next Big Destination: Pan-a-ma!

You've done Costa Rica. But have you tried Panama? My overview below in USA Today's new travel magazine.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Whatever Happened to the Garagistes?

Ten years ago, garagiste winemakers were all the rage - especially in Bordeaux. Where are they now? Has Bordeaux mainstreamed them, or have the garagistes radicalized Bordeaux? I report on this in the June issue of Drinks Business, reprinted below.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Touring & Dining along the Brandywine

Copies of Intermezzo are available at Borders and Barnes & Noble. A more-recent restaurant that should be added to the list is Twelves in West Grove, a great place to dine for lunch and dinner.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Spanish Lust for Tomato Bread

I recently returned from a trip to the Carinena region of Spain where I renewed by interest in tasty, affordable Garnacha and my unquechable lust for tomato bread. Both were available for every lunch and dinner, and the tomato bread was there for breakfast as well.

Tomato bread is one of those simple pleasures in life - at its most basic just freshly squeezed juice from tomatoes (forget about commercial, concentrated tomato juice) and a sliced piece of bread. It can be served with the juice already on the bread or with a demure bowl with spoon next to it. If you like variety, you can toast the bread and, as it was served in Seville where I first encountered it a few years ago, rubbed with fresh garlic and olive oil before the juice of the tomato is applied and finally topped with a few flakes of sea salt.

I've perfected tomato bread, which I have with a tall mug of dark-roasted coffee every morning when I get up at 4 a.m. It's what's for breakfast. My version is this: a thick slice of rosemary foccacia from the local bakery with a drizzle of olive oil, another sprinkle of dried rosemary and then a topping of slightly spicy commercial tomato. Gently brown in a toaster oven.

But it was good to get back to basics in Carinena. I was not able to convince my traveling partners - fellow writers David Rosengarten, Michael Franz and John Stroker - to convert to tomato bread as a breakfast food. Or that 4 a.m. is a sane rising time with you been out tapas dancing the night before.

They did buy into the Garnacha part.

Until next time...
Roger Morris

Recently Published
In the current issue of Intermezzo, dining along Canada's Atlantic Rim and traveling through the Brandywine Valley. In Beverage Media, an article on how Prosecco sales are still bubbling. In Signature Brandywine, an update on the legacy of artist Andrew Wyeth. In, a report on those Garnachas from Carinena and (coming soon) spirited gift ideas for Ol' Dad. And in, how the Queen Mary 2 keeps its food service afloat.