Tuesday, January 22, 2013

In Situ Signature Wines Carmenere/Malbec Blend

I was in one of my local wine shops a few days ago doing some label research (what styles do I like, which do I hate, etc) and came across an interesting bottle of wine in the South American section.  I have a fondness for South American wine since they've only relatively recently been sprung on the wine world stage.  I love that they've adopted two kind of obscure grape varietals (carmenere and malbec) as their signature wines.  Both carmenere and malbec were once grown in the Bourdeaux region of France but were viewed as blending partners instead of star players.  After the phylloxera epidemic of the early 1900s, these varietals really died out as the vineyards were replanted with more commercially successful varieties like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc.  Fortunately, cuttings of carmenere and malbec snuck rides to the New World during the Spanish colonial period and found a new home where they were at first confused with merlot.  Some genetic testing in the 1980s cleared up the problem and now we can enjoy many offerings of carmenere from Chile and Malbec from Argentina in our local stores.  The underdog grapes that were inadvertently rescued from the trash bin of history... 

This week, I stumbled across a proudly advertised blend of carmenere and malbec from Chile, so I had to buy a bottle to try--the fact that it was on sale for $5 off the asking price didn't hurt either!

In Situ Signature Wines
2011 Carmenere 55% & Malbec 45%

Origin:  Aconcagua Valley, Chile
 Producer:   Vina San Esteban

Appearance:  Dark red with some slight bricking along edge
Aroma:  Cherry, vanilla, blackberry, pepper, cassis
Taste:  Rich mouthfeel, medium tannins, spicy (almost shiraz-like) aftertaste that dwindles quickly.  Fortunately that makes me want to drink more, but it's not a wine to savor for a long time.

I'll admit the label is not impressive.  I was drawn by the blend in the bottle, not what was on the surface.  The fact that it was on sale tells me I'm not alone in that assessment.  A decent wine meant to be drunk fairly soon without the need to cellar before opening.  In fact, I can't find a single mention of the wine on the winery website which indicates to me that even the winery doesn't think too highly of this wine.  That makes me want to drink some more in a gesture of solidarity!


p.s.  This did pair quite nicely with a chicken mole that I made yesterday and reheated tonight.  The chocolate flavor of the mole brought a lasting spicy finish to the wine. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

"Orange" Wine Tasting Research

There's been a small but fresh breeze trickling through the wine world lately in the form of "orange" wines.  No, these aren't fruit wines made in Florida, but a new class of white wines that harken back to the olden ways of winemaking.  Today white wine grapes are usually fermented after the juice has been pressed off the skins to produce today's crystal clear wines with light colors, fruity aromas, & very little tannin.  However, once upon a time winemakers crushed white grapes and fermented them on the skins to produce hearty & robust elixirs that have a tannic edge and a light orange color. There have been a few innovative winemakers who have decided to take a page from history and re-introduce these "orange" wines to the world.  Makes sense that these wines would be first re-made in the Collio Goriziano sub-appellation of the Fruili region of northeast Italy along the Italian-Slovenian border since their ancestors made wine in this fashion centuries ago.  Producers such as Movia, Radikon, Josko Gravner, & Vodopivec have re-introduced this style of wine to the world wine market.

I became interested in these wines after reading an article about orange wines from New York in Imbibe Magazine.  Seems wineries such as Channing Daughters on Long Island, Red Hook Winery in Brooklyn, and others have been experimenting with this technique.  Intrigued and in need of a tasting theme for an upcoming meeting of my American Wine Society chapter, I set out to find some orange wines.  I quickly found that getting a hold of these wines is no easy task.  Most retail shops gave me a befuddled look when asked if they had any orange wines in stock.  Buying direct from the wineries was also not an option thanks to the continuing inaction of the wonderful legislators in the MA Statehouse on Beacon Hill to pass any bill allowing for direct shipment to consumers into MA (stay tuned for a diatribe post on that topic later).  Fortunately, some Google searching finally led me to the Belly Wine BarCentral Bottle in the Kendall Square area of Cambridge, MA.  Denizens of Kendall Square have the unique opportunity to sample a variety of orange wines by the glass at Belly and then can wander down the street to purchase bottles to take home at the sister store Central Bottle.

Armed at last, the AWS chapter met earlier this week to sample some orange wines.  All of the wines purchased were from the Collio region.  Tasting within a group is a great way to sample these wines since they are definitely not cheap.

Movia Ribolla Gialla 2008  ($37)
Movia Lunar 2008  ($52)
Radikon Slatnick 2010  ($44)
Vodopivec Vitvska Amphora 2005  ($66)

The tasting results were really quite eye-opening.  Bronze colors.  Aromas of apricots and dark tropical fruits with hints of cedar, cinnamon, & nutmeg.  Rich & full on the palate, slightly salty tasting, with lingering aftertastes and only a slight tannic bite.  Interesting sippers that paired well with dried sausage, cheeses like aged gouda, and bruschettia with mushrooms & caramelized onions.

It was definitely an interesting research tasting event.  Will there be an orange wine in Aaronap Cellars' future lineup?  I'm going to remain tight lipped on that for now, but stay tuned!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Looking ahead to 2013

The end of an old year and the start of a new year always seems to put folks in a reflective mood, and I'm not different.  After a dinner of seafood paella and a glass or two of 2007 Prima Toro, I barely managed to stay awake to see the new year enter...although I seem to dimly recall someone nudging me awake just in time.  OK, I'll admit that Shawna nearly had to push me off the couch to get me awake.  However, the tables are turned this morning as I'm spending a few moments with the house to myself while she slumbers.

A lot was accomplished around Aaronap Cellars in 2012, even though we aren't quite ready for commercial production yet.  With all of the licensing complete, we are in the process of final negotiations with the contractors and hope to begin construction in the basement in January or February.  The winery should be in good shape to actually begin to ferment a thing or two in the spring and full production should be ready for the fall harvest.  We are turning a big corner as the new year dawns--with the ground work laid in 2012, the scene is set for a full sprint to commercial production in 2013.

As things are clicking along, I invite my faithful readers to stay tuned to the exciting developments.  There will be lots coming....winery unveiling, winemaking news, wine tasting events, and retail opportunities!

Happy Holidays to all and may 2013 bring peace and happiness to you!