Saturday, May 29, 2010

Three 4 Three: Memorial Day Wines

Even though Mother Nature is blasting us with heat for Memorial Day, you'll stay cool over the weekend with this trio of festive wines.

Fans of aromatic wines can set their sniffers on 2008 Big House White. Romanian-born winemaker Georgetta Dane pulls off a quirky blend that includes über-fragrant Malvasia Bianca, Muscat Canelli and Viognier finished with a splash of Roussanne. The end result is 100% pleasure – a fruity "nose candy" wine with floral, melon-laced aromas that burst onto the palate with white peach and tropical fruit flavors. Find this screw-capped lip-smacker on sale at Albertson's for around $8.

If your grill will be sizzling with burgers and 'cue, say sí sí to Crios de Susana Balbo Rosé of Malbec. Crios, the Argentine winemaker's second label, has given us plenty to crow about since our WinewomenPSP event at Ruth's Chris a couple of seasons ago. Her fresh-tasting rosé is dry and juicy with strawberry and watermelon flavors that linger on an end-note of cinnamon spice. Give it a chill for a no-brainer pairing with backyard fare. Head to Dan's Wine Shop in Palm Desert where you'll find it for just under $10. Score a couple extra bottles to serve your Thanksgiving guests next fall – yes, it's that good and versatile.

Gotta have red or expecting the party crowd? Go for Boho Vineyards 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel. Look for its octagonal-shaped packaging by Octavin Home Wine Bar at Albertson's. Each eco-friendly package holds three liters of wine, or the equivalent of four standard 750-ml bottles. A convenient pour spout makes it easy to serve a yardful of guests – or just yourself, one glass at a time for up to six weeks. It's soft, fruity and lower in alcohol than many Zins. We're sold on Octavin Home Wine Bar's Silver Birch 2009 Marlborough New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, too. Stay tuned for more about this worthwhile portfolio.

So what are you waiting for? Unscrew, uncork or flip the lever this weekend and start sharing some holiday cheer!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Five Wine Tasting Party Wines

You've heard it at tastings and dinner parties – or perhaps you've said it yourself: I only drink red (white) wine or I don't like rosé. So when a few ladies came around to wines they never expected to enjoy at a wine tutorial last week, their newfound enthusiasm made everyone's wine discovery even sweeter.

Try these five wines plucked from wine shops and grocers around town for your next wine sampling with friends. All deliver pleasure, flavor and balance with enough variety to keep everyone in the game. Best of all, with prices that range from $5-15, they're also good house wines to enjoy from now into autumn.

Zolo Torrontés 2009: A dry, light white wine with orange blossom aromas, melon and citrus fruit flavors, medium acidity and a fresh finish. Made from Argentina's signature white wine grape, Torrontés is easy drinking by itself that also pairs well with springtime appetizers, crab, seafood and Asian dishes (around $9 at Cost Plus/World Market).

Domaine de la Mordorée Côtes-du-Rhône Rosé La Dame Rousse 2009: Score another win in the war for the rosés. This Grenache-based refresher is dry and juicy with raspberry fruit, a crisp finish and a hint of spice. Uncork with cold cuts, white meats, fried fish, salads, grilled shrimp or Thai food ($15 at LA Wine Company).

Becker Estate Pinot Noir 2007: This medium-bodied German Pinot is Old World in style with cherry and cranberry fruit around an earthy core and sweet smoke on a smooth finish. A different sort of crowd-pleaser for heavier seafood, poultry, pork and lighter beef dishes; screwcap ($15 at LA Wine Company).

Epicuro Nero d'Avola 2006: Epicuro's southern Italian reds are surprisingly good values. Made from Sicily's Nero d'Avola grape, this wine has aromas of dusty earth with blackberry, dark cherry and plum fruit on the palate, food-friendly acidity and soft tannins. At these prices, pick up Epicuro's Aglianico and Salice Salentino, too ($5 at Trader Joe's).

Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon 2007: A buck cheaper than the 2006 we liked so much last year, the '07 Cannonball delivers blackberry fruit, a hint of cocoa and a perky black peppery finish. It's easily one of the top value Cabs in town. Enjoy with beef and hearty meat dishes, short ribs, barbecue, heavier pasta or pizza dishes and hard cheeses ($10 at LA Wine Company).

Give them a try – or ask your favorite wine merchant for something similar – and let us know what you think. Cheers!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Six Weekend Wines

Hey, it's the weekend! Check out these six weekend wines we sampled at a tasting last week. All pair well with lighter spring cuisine for not a lot of dough. We found them around town or as noted, in the $10-20 range at LA Wine Company and Dan's Wine Shop in Palm Desert.

2008 Botani Dry Moscatel: A dry, light and totally captivating Moscatel from southern Spain. A lightly floral sipper with flavors of melon and pear, crisp minerality and a clean, limey finish. Great alone or with lightly spiced foods for a refreshing change of pace.

2008 tangent Viognier: Small t but big taste. This unoaked Edna Valley cooler-climate Viognier is medium-bodied and fresh with aromas of lychee, honeysuckle and apricot on the palate. Nice with seafood, Asian foods and creamy dishes.

2009 Elk Cove Pinot Noir Rosé: A dry, cherry- and strawberry-scented Oregon rosé with a juicy finish. Enjoy with appetizers, roast chicken or even burgers and 'cue. Perfect for poolside sipping.

2006 Cantele Primitivo: Ah, terroir! This Zinfandel clone comes from Puglia and shows more earth and minerality than Cali Zin. Dark cherry and plum fruit with soft tannins, nice acidity and smoked spice on the finish. Big enough for BBQ and great for lamb, pasta and pizza too.

2006 Trinitas Cellars Old Vine Petite Sirah: A full-bodied lovely from Lodi with huckleberry fruit, cocoa, black peppery spice and toasty oak. Tannins call out for steak, burgers and other meaty dishes.

2007 Cape Rock Special Late Harvest Gewürtztraminer: A lightly sweet perfumed Gewürz from Robertson we first discovered at WinewomenPSP's South African wine tasting at Miramonte last fall. Rose petals and tropical fruit aromas with a hint of spice that goes well with ginger and caramel desserts – or as dessert by itself.

Give them a try for an extra-special treat this weekend. Salute!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Rodney Strong Vineyards: Who Knew?

Bellatrix at the Classic Club rolled out a grand welcome for our April 30th wine dinner that featured six outstanding wines by Rodney Strong. Representatives from the Sonoma County winery and director of fine wines Stefen Soltysiak transformed the desert setting into a virtual winery experience, complete with tidbits of history, tasting-room only wines and tales that made each sip all the more enjoyable.

Many wine lovers trace their wine romance with the stories – of people, earth and nature, hard luck, hard work and struggles that all come together in an aromatic glass of deliciousness. This winery has great stories.

Rod Strong was a Balanchine-trained professional dancer who fell in love with the sights and tastes of Parisian life as a Lido dancer in the 1940s. Knowing how unkind age can be for dancers, Strong sought out a post-ballet life for himself and dance partner-wife Charlotte. Read more about their remarkable journey here.

Back to Bellatrix, Executive Chef Gregg Monette turned out five delicious courses punctuated by a raspberry sorbet intermezzo for the six wines:

Sauvignon Blanc 2008, "Charlotte's Home" – Named for Rodney's wife, this grass-scented earthy white paired well with Chef's flaky mushroom tarts.

Chardonnay 2008, Sonoma County – Part barrel- and tank-fermented, this food-friendly Chard was a table favorite, despite an unconventional food pairing with goat cheese and intensely seasoned vinaigrette.

Chardonnay 2008, "Chalk Hill" – This new release is 100% barrel fermented with aromas and flavors of toasty oak. Round and rich, it was served with soy/sake-marinated halibut with lump crab crust.

Pinot Noir 2008, Russian River Valley – Aromas of rose petals with black cherry flavors and delicate clove-scented spice on the finish. More, please.

Meritage 2006, "Symmetry" – The winery's flagship wine is a hand-sorted Bordeaux-styled Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend with 10% Malbec, 8% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot aged in French oak for 21 months. A luscious pairing for grilled filet mignon with mushroom ragout.

"Gentleman's Port," 2006 Sonoma County – A winery-only pleasantly sweet and silky curtain call made from Zinfandel, Syrah and Petite Sirah served with chocolate sweets, macaroons, berry crumbles and other delicacies.

As though the restaurant's majestic setting, décor and a roomful of VIPs weren't enough, our 100-strong group also enjoyed piano music by impressive 13-year-old Colt Bosson. Thanks to Gigi Muth and our April charity, the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women campaign, the Auen family, PGA general manager Greg Rubino, Christine Paxton and all who made this evening a huge success. Enjoy their Roses and Rosé Mother's Day brunch at Bellatrix tomorrow!